My favorite quarantine recipes Final issue

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Melon soup with butter-poached shrimp

As threatened, I stuck to my challenge (like ants to a syrup dribble down the side of a bottle) to never repeat the same home-cooked meal twice as long as the lock-down lasted. But now, as the deep-freeze starts to thaw on the city’s restaurant scene, where bountiful boxwood hedges and hoards of hydrangeas encroach further and further into Manhattan’s avenues, the time has come to hang up my apron, put away my knives and switch my support from grocery stores to the slowly re-emerging culinary industry. As I curiously wait to see which establishments open now, soon, later on or never again, one thing is certain – it’s going to feel downright amazing to hold a (sterilized) menu in my (sanitized) hands as I listen to the specials from a (masked) waiter who refills my water with (gloved) hands! Laissez les bons temps rouler à nouveau. Here though are my final week’s home-cooked recipes.

 

SUNDAY

Many a good cut of meat gets re-butchered by well-meaning home cooks. But to be fair, the odds are against us: There are so many ways to ruin a steak, but only 1 way to cook it perfectly. This is all you need to know…

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Perfectly seared steaks with Green Peppercorn sauce

PERFECTLY SEARED STEAKS

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 filet, strip or sirloin steaks, 1″ thick
  • kosher salt
  • ground black peppercorns

DIRECTIONS

Preheat an oven to 200 degrees, middle rack.
Trim the steak of any excess fat around the edges. (They won’t cook long enough for the fat to soften).
Salt them on all sides and let them cook in the cool oven until they reach and internal temperature of 100 degrees. (About 45 minutes).
Rest the steaks for at least 15 minutes.
Heat a cast iron skillet and sear the steaks for just 1-2 minutes per side. Remove from the heat and season with fresh black pepper.

GREEN PEPPERCORN SAUCE

INGREDIENTS

  • 2 Tblsp. Green peppercorns
  • 2 Tblsp. Minced Shallots
  • Olive Oil
  • 1 Cup Beef broth
  • 3 Tblsp. Brandy
  • 2 Tblsp. Low Fat Sour cream
  • 1 Tsp. ground black pepper
  • corn starch

DIRECTIONS

Sauté the minced shallots in a little olive oil until they are soft. Add the peppercorns and ground pepper and cook while stirring regularly.
Add the beef broth and bring to a boil until the liquid is reduced by about half.
Add the brandy and simmer for 10 mins on low heat.
Add prepared corn-starch in cold water to thicken – if necessary.
Remove from heat and add the sour cream and serve immediately.

 

MONDAY

Over the years I have amended and tweaked this fairly fool-proof recipe for a spectacularly refreshing, relatively classic and utterly yummy Chinese Chicken salad.

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Chinese Chicken Salad

CHINESE CHICKEN SALAD

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 lb skinless and boneless chicken breasts
  • 1 Tblspn Asian sesame oil
  • 1 Tblspn Chinese chili garlic sauce
  • 1 Tblspn finely minced garlic
  • 1 Tblspn finely minced ginger
  • 2 tspn fresh lime or lemon juice
  • 1/4 savoy cabbage (tough outer leaves removed) cored and thinly sliced
  • 1/2 radicchio cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 oz raw snow peas, thinly sliced
  • 6 scallions (including 3 inches of green) sliced on the bias
  • 1/4 red bell pepper, thinly slivered)
  • 1/4 cup chopped cilantro leaves
  • 1 separated mandarin for garnish
  • 3 Tblsp roasted, unsalted peanuts (roughly chopped) for garnish

For the Dressing:

  • 1/4 cup rice vinegar
  • 3 Tblspn peanut oil
  • 2 Tblspn sesame oil
  • 1 Tblspn smooth peanut butter
  • 1 1/2 Tblspn honey
  • 1 tspn Dijon mustard
  • 1 tspn Soy sauce
  • 1 egg yolk
  • salt and freshly ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

Combine the chicken, sesame oil, chili sauce, garlic, ginger and lime juice in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours, tossing once.
Prepare the dressing. Place all the dressing ingredients in a blender. Process on high speed until smooth. Refrigerate until well chilled.
Cook the chicken on an oiled, rimmed baking sheet and bake at 375 degrees for 18 – 20 minutes until the thickest parts register 165 degrees.
Cool slightly and then cut into strips. Place in a large bowl. Add the cabbage, snow peas, scallions, bell pepper and cilantro.
Toss the salad with 1/2 of the dressing or as much as desired.
Dress with the mandarin pieces and chopped peanuts.

 

TUESDAY

I devoured the most delicious Avocado soup in a Viennese bistro many decades ago. But all the waiter would tell me was that “if you cook the avocado, the dish will be ruined.” It took me quite a while to recreate it, but it’s a whole lot easier than you might think.

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Avocado soup

AVOCADO SOUP

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 ripe avocados.
  • 4 cups of good vegetable stock (home-made preferably)
  • 1/4 cup of cream
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 6 slices of white sandwich bread
  • 2 cloves of garlic
  • 3 tablespoons canola oil

DIRECTIONS

Prepare the croutons first. With a long, sharp bread knife, cut the bread into 1/4 inch cubes. Crush the garlic and toss into a large frying pan with the heated oil.
Fry the croutons over medium high heat by constantly stirring them. If the oil dries up too quickly, add a further 2 tablespoons.
When all the cubes are toasted and golden brown, scoop them onto a paper towel and drain.

For the Soup:
Warm the vegetable stock in a saucepan.
Season with salt and pepper.
Add the cream to the soup and simmer at low heat while whisking. Only minutes before serving, blend the avocados and whisk them into the heated soup. DO NOT COOK THE AVOCADOS! Serve immediately with the croutons.

 

WEDNESDAY

Like any Wienerschnitzel or Veal chop Milanese, adding a side of Lingonberry jam brings some rich sweet-and-sourness to an already luxuriously decadent meal.

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Veal chop Milanese

VEAL CHOP MILANESE

INGREDIENTS

  • All-purpose flour, for dredging
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tablespoon milk
  • 1 1/2 cups panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
  • Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  • Four 1-inch-thick veal rib chops
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 1 lemon sliced into wedges
  • Lingonberry preserves or jam for serving

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 350°. Put the flour in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs with the milk. In a third shallow bowl, toss the panko with the lemon zest.
Season the veal chops with salt and pepper, dredge them in the flour and shake off the excess. Dip the veal chops in the egg mixture and let the excess drip off. Coat the veal chops with panko, pressing to help the crumbs adhere.
In a large skillet, heat the olive oil with the vegetable oil until shimmering. Add 2 of the veal chops to the skillet and cook over moderately high heat until they are browned and crisp on the bottom, about 2 minutes. Reduce the heat to moderate, turn the veal chops over and cook until they are browned and crisp on the other side, about 2 minutes longer.
Transfer the veal chops to a large rimmed baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining chops.

Bake the veal chops for about 15 minutes, turning them once, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the meat near the bone registers 140°. Serve with Lingonberry preserves and lemon wedges on the side.

 

 

THURSDAY

This Spinach Salad is another mega-favorite of ours from Yotam Ottolenghi’s collection. What makes this dish so more-ish are the crispy, crunchy, spicy, umami pita chips and almonds.

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Spinach Salad with dates and almonds

BABY SPINACH SALAD WITH DATES AND ALMONDS

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 Tblsp white wine vinegar
  • 1/2 medium red onion thinly sliced
  • 100g pitted Medjool dates quartered lengthways
  • 30g undalted butter
  • 2 Tblsp olive oil
  • 2 small pitas roughly torn into 1 inch pieces
  • 75g raw almonds roughly chopped
  • 2 tap sumac
  • 1/2 tsp chilli flakes
  • 150g baby spinach leaves, washed
  • 2 Tblspn lemon juice

DIRECTIONS

Put the vinegar onion and dates in a small bowl. Add a pinch of salt and mix well with your hands. Leave to marinate for 20 minutes, then drain any residual vinegar and discard.
Meanwhile, heat the butter and half the olive oil in a medium frying pan. Add the pita and almonds and cook them on a medium heat for 4 – 6 minutes, stirring all the time, until the pita is crunchy and golden brown. Remove from the heat and mix in the sumac, chilli and 1/4 tsp of salt. Set aside to cool.
When you are ready to serve, toss the spinach leaves with the pita mix in a large mixing bowl. Add the dates and red onion, remaining olive oil, lemon juice and another pinch of salt.
Taste for seasoning and serve immediately.

 

FRIDAY

Believe it or not, Cucumber Gazpacho debuted decades before anyone had access to tomatoes. This is another cobbled together restaurant remake which miraculously takes the edge off of a sweltering summers day.

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Cucumber Gazpacho

CUCUMBER GAZPACHO

INGREDIENTS

  • 4 cucumbers—peeled, seeded and roughly chopped
  • 2/3 cup seedless green grapes
  • 1 small garlic clove
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3 – 4 Tblspn distilled white vinegar (to taste)
  • 1 cup of unsweetened almond milk
  • Salt to taste
  • 1/2 cup roasted Marcona almonds
  • Chili oil for serving

DIRECTIONS

In a blender, combine the cucumbers, grapes, garlic, olive oil, vinegar and almond milk; puree until smooth. Season with salt.
Strain through a fine sieve to remove any solids. Chill for at least 2 hours.
Garnish with a few droplets of chili oil and toss in a few Marcona almonds. Serves 6.

 

SATURDAY

My Sesame crusted Pork tenderloin is probably one of the oldest “keeper” recipes in our collection. I have upgraded several times the sauce over the years, but I have never been able to substitute the (salt-free) Mrs. Dash’s spices. Don’t mess with it. Just trust me on this one. It works.

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Sesame-crusted Pork tenderloin with Port wine reduction sauce

SESAME-CRUSTED PORK TENDERLOIN WITH PORT WINE REDUCTION

INGREDIENTS

For the tenderloin:

  • 1 pork tenderloin
  • 1/2 cup honey
  • 1 cup low sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoon Mrs. Dash herb seasoning
  • 6 tablespoons sesame seeds

For the Sauce:

  • 2 Tblsp shallots, chopped fine
  • 2 tblsp olive oil
  • 1 cup port wine
  • 1 cup demi-glace or low-sodium beef broth
  • 2 tsp corn starch
  • 1 tsp cold water
  • Fresh ground pepper

DIRECTIONS

Using your hands, spread pork loin with honey. Mix soy sauce with Mrs. Dash garlic and herbs seasoning and place in a zip lock bag, add pork loin and marinate in the refrigerator for 2 hours or up to 8 hours, turning from time to time.
Preheat barbecue or oven to 400 degrees and place a cast iron skillet in the oven. Place sesame seeds on waxed paper and roll tenderloin in sesame seeds until completely covered. Do not discard the marinade.
Briefly sear all sides of the loin over direct heat on the barbecue and then move to indirect heat. Alternately, sear in the now hot cast-iron skillet on the stove-top and then return the skillet to the oven.
Cook for approx. 25 – 30 minutes (depending on size of loin) until internal temperature reaches 145 degrees. Allow the loin to rest under tin foil for 10 minutes.
In a small saucepan heat the oil and sauté the shallots until soft. Add the residual tenderloin marinade and bring to a boil. Reduce by half and add 1 cup Port wine and reduce by half. Add 1 cup beef stock and reduce by half. Season with fresh ground pepper to taste. Continue to cook on medium-low for 10 minutes. Add Corn Starch and water slurry to thicken – if necessary.
Carve the loin into medallions and serve with the sauce.

 

BONUS RECIPE:

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Grilled Peaches

GRILLED PEACHES

INGREDIENTS

  • 3 tablespoons white sugar
  • 3/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black peppercorns
  • 6 large fresh peaches with peel, halved and pitted
  • Vanilla ice cream

DIRECTIONS

In a saucepan over medium heat, stir together the white sugar, balsamic vinegar, and pepper. Simmer until liquid has reduced by one half. It should become slightly thicker. Remove from heat, and set aside.
(If the peach halves are still hard, you can microwave them for 1 – 2 minutes until they soften in the center. Let them cool completely before continuing.)
Preheat grill on medium-high heat, (or preheat a ridged cast-iron griddle pan until searing hot.)
Lightly oil the grill grate. Place peaches on the prepared grill (or griddle pan), cut side down. Cook for about 5 minutes, or until the flesh is caramelized and nice dark lines are burned in. Turn peaches over. Brush the top sides with the balsamic glaze, and cook for another 2 to 3 minutes.
Transfer the peaches to individual serving dishes, and drizzle with remaining glaze. Sprinkle with vanilla ice cream.

Stay safe, stay sane and support our re-emerging culinary industry.

 

 

ABCV – review

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Roasted Cauliflower, ABCV

In my mind, there’s a good reason why beige gets such a bad rap. As a color, it’s neither brown, nor cream, nor yellow, nor orange, nor white. It’s refusal to take a stand one way or the other locks it into the nethersphere of indifference. I also find it timid, inconsequential and perhaps even lazy. In fact, the only thing going for beige is its invisibility. After months of trying, I finally landed a spot at Jean Georges Vongerichten’s much-fussed-about 3rd act within the Flatiron district’s ABC Carpet & Home. After the inextinguishable farm-to-table success of ABC Kitchen, followed by his mostly-Iberian bistro ABC Cucina, he then tripled-down with ABCV, a robust commitment to vegetarianism that I can best describe as…beige.

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ABCV

The white-washed techy space is the brightest of his ABC’s with a few vague, non-comital splashes of pale colors here and there: pale pink, pale green and of course – pale beige. Even the wait staff seem to have been hand-picked for their pasty skin tones – which against their faded-pink T-shirts makes them all appear to be headed for a slumber party at the Langone Hospital emergency room at the end of their shift.

 

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Heirloom Tomatoes, ABCV

As expected, aside from a few cocktails and a limited wine selection, the non-alcoholic libations include an array of smoothies and veggie juices with a litany of promises, from a healthy heart to a clean spleen. But what did surprise me was the illustrated vegetable encyclopedia for idiots, which I found both startlingly unnecessary and oddly insulting. (I know what an eggplant is. It’s an emoji metaphor for a man’s endowment!)

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Avocado Lettuce Cups, ABCV

 

After the first few bites of the Avocado Lettuce Cups It became brutally evident why that darling little antique salt-boat containing vegan hot-sauce was waiting patiently in front of me. I figured that if the only discernable flavors were the total sum of the ingredients listed on the menu, I should still be in good shape flavor-wise with the cumin, serrano and lime, but all I got was a mouthful of fresh and crunchy beige.

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Wok Fried Ramen noodles, ABCV

I won’t bore you with repetitions, but suffice it to say that the next few dishes including Heirloom tomatoes with figs, Roasted Cauliflower with turmeric-tahini, Roasted baby Artichokes with green olives, Wok fried Ramen noodles with marinated cucumbers all left the kitchen fervidly vying for “dullest dish of the decade” – and frankly, it was a very close call. I’d happily argue that my vegetarian meal kit delivery service leans into its flavors with more conviction. Heck, even Langone Hospital offers more flavor off their heart-healthy iPad menu. And although I have yet to vouch for them, I’m told that Old Mother Hubbard Classic Country dog-bone shaped treats promises irresistible pumpkin flavor too. Let’ s just hope they’re any color other than…you know…

Cosme review

While much of New York had been in a state of near apoplectic delirium as it anticipated the opening of Mexico City master-chef Enrique Olvera’s newest dining sensation Cosme, I have to confess that I also smooshed my nose against the glass on more than one occasion as I’d walk past the former sleazy strip bar (or “gentlemens club”) to witness the progress. Thankfully the space bears absolutely no resemblance to its former existence. Instead Olvera’s team has created a sleek and moody, dark gray, L-shaped room with sparse lighting, bright wooden surfaces and eye-level racks of wine. In the off chance that there might still be an open ear for improvements, I would make a plea for some desperately needed sound-absorptive materials. Hidden fabric ceiling panels, cushions, rugs…anything to facilitate hearing some of the intricate preparation details from the authentically accented wait staff.

I think it’s imperative to point out that if you’re expecting a typical taco/burrito/quesadilla dinner, you wouldn’t be reading a review by me. Chef Olvera’s menu is the culmination of homegrown authenticity combined with unexpected and unusual international preparations that elevate Mexican cuisine into the culinary stratosphere. The flavoring is bold – but not blunt. The dishes are diverse – but not random. The presentation is full of bright contrasts, but still very appetizing and approachable.

Occidental Heirloom Blue-corn Tortillas with Pumpkin seed and Habanero butter - Cosme

Occidental Heirloom Blue-corn Tortillas with Pumpkin seed and Habanero butter

Instead of bread and butter, they serve a heavenly (yet modest) portion (I was obliged with three subsequent follow-ups) of Occidental Heirloom blue corn Tortillas, that have been dried and freshly fried until they deliver a deeply earthy and dark purple crunch with a curry colored paste of pumpkin seed, garlic, habanero peppers and butter – the perfect introduction to the dozen or so appetizers ranging from sea urchins to eggplants.

Seafood vuelve a la vida - Cosme

Seafood vuelve a la vida

I am a huge fan of ceviche, but no one ever served me a Seafood vuelve a la vida (comes back to life) inside an avocado before. The combination of sweet tomato and horseradish, with morsels of fish inside the cocoon of a creamy avocado is utterly simple, remarkable and wonderful. We had to try the much bleated about Burrata with salsa verde and “weeds”, which is another confident combination of simple flavors and fresh textures that might crisscross multiple borders, but delivers flawlessly nonetheless. The only disappointments to the daily printed menu were the Chicharones which were quizzically sold out by 7:00pm, and our first two wine choices were both temporarily un-locatable, but the main courses proved to be fierce distractions.

Back garlic rubbed NY Strip Steak - Cosme

Back garlic rubbed NY Strip Steak

It was a fairly close call for the Broiled Red Snapper with a Hoja Santa salsa and plantains, but I ended up settling on the magnificent Black garlic rubbed New York strip steak. Hiding between the rare seared domino sized medallions of tender steak was one of the rare appearances of guacamole in the entire establishment. I had no idea that the über-popular green dip was such a red-headed stepchild, that it needed to be disguised as “avocado purée”! Velvety smooth and finished with tarragon and spiked with wasabi, who cares what they called it – to me it was absolutely delicious.

Duck Carnitas - Cosme

Duck Carnitas

The most popular dish has to be the Duck Carnitas – and with good reason. The boneless breast of succulent, salty duck literally tears apart with little more than a suggestion, before being inserted snugly into warm, fresh tortillas along with white onions and a citrusy salsa verde. They describe it as a sharable dish, but that depends on the familiarity of your fellow diners.

Husk Meringue - Cosme

Husk Meringue

Olvera’s contra-ordinary prowess shifts ceaselessly into the desserts. His two fluffy Husk Meringue halves are actually made from dried, ground corn-husks, which are separated by a surprisingly light and airy mound of corn and mascarpone mousse (although a dose of liquid nitrogen can even make me light and airy) but the dominant sweet and subtle savory combination is the work of a flavor maestro who knows what he’s doing. Also taste-worthy is the unpronounceable yet utterly caramelicious Nixtamalized Carrot paired with a cinnamon cake and sweet-tart cream-cheese ice cream.

Nixtamalized Carrot with Cinnamon Cake - Cosme

Nixtamalized Carrot with Cinnamon Cake

Even though Enrique Olvera named Cosme after his favorite obsession – the cosmos, in my mind the man wasn’t just reaching for the stars –  he seems to have clutched a few fistfuls before bringing them down to the Flatiron district to share with the rest of us.

http://www.cosmenyc.com/