July 10, 2011

A Quick Note...

If you used to receive my blog entries via email... in other words, if every time I posted a new article it came directly to your email inbox, you will have to RE-ENTER that information in the new blog. This is one thing we could not transfer. It is very easy, though. On the upper right hand part of www.duchessinbrooklyn.com is a box that says "Subscribe by Email." Simply put your email address in that box and click on subscribe. A small box will pop up asking you to type in a security word. Shortly after, you will receive an email asking you to confirm your subscription by clicking on a link that will be provided for you in said email. Click on the link and you're done! As soon as I post a new entry on www.duchessinbrooklyn.com, you will get the article in your email inbox.

Also, if you have yet to check out the new blog, come and check out my new post No-Bake Fruit Tart.

July 4, 2011

A Fresh Start

Dearest Readers,

As an early birthday gift, my talented, patient, and wonderful husband gave me the gift of blogging. He has re-vamped, re-tooled, and re-invented my blog. I am happy to announce, that as of today, July 4th, (isn't that apt?), you can find me at www.duchessinbrooklyn.com. I will no longer be blogging via blogger.com. I sincerely hope you'll join me at my new home.

Just a couple of things: if you signed up with this blog via feedburner, in other words, if my posts come to you via email, you will have to re-enter your email information at the new site. It was a little detail that we couldn't transfer. It's the same exact set-up though. On the right-hand side of the blog, under "Favorite Posts" is the email prompt box. Simply enter your email, follow the directions, and wait for your confirmation email.

Also, only the first ten blog entries will be shown on the home page. If you want to see past blog entries, either use the "search box" or click on the word "blog," immediately to the right of the blog title on the home page.

Thank you again to every single reader. If it weren't for you, this wonderful change would not have been warranted.

Goodbye for now and see you soon at DuchessInBrooklyn.com!

June 27, 2011

Hot Time in the City...

It's hot. I don't like heat. I turn into a vampire come bright, sunny, hot days. I stick to the shade, I wear hats, and glop on the SPF 52. Living in an apartment in Brooklyn - an old apartment at that - means that only one room in your place is air conditioned and it ain't the kitchen. I become a master strategist when eighty degrees hit. I plan my meals around least amount of heat emitted. I would invite you to my closet of a kitchen, without a window, without AC, in the ghastly NY humidity, but something tells me you're going to take my word on this.

Sunday lunch was so lovely, though. It was well planned, well executed, and enjoyed in our air conditioned bedroom over TV trays. I will be making versions of this meal all summer long. It's easy, it's delicious, and most importantly, it requires me to be hovering over a hot stove for no longer than 15 minutes. Good deal, man... good deal.

Deconstructed Guacamole Salad
(My full guacamole recipe is much more involved, has more ingredients, takes longer, and while utterly worth it, is better for a crowd)
1 ripe, medium avocado, cubed
1/2 cup+ quartered grape tomatoes (about equal amount tomato to avocado)
1 small garlic clove, minced
Juice of 1 small lime
1 teaspoon hot sauce
Salt to taste
Cilantro for garnish (optional)

-Combine everything in a non-metal, non reactive bowl. Adjust seasoning to liking. Mix carefully with a fork, you don't wan tot mash the avocados as you would in a guacamole, you want everything whole. Refrigerate to let flavors meld, then serve.

Dill Havarti Melts
Very thinly slice chicken cutlets
Corn starch
Roasted red peppers
Dill Havarti cheese
Dijon mustard
Salt & Pepper
Olive oil
Flat bread

-Salt and pepper the chicken, dredge in corn starch, pan fry in olive oil. As long as your cutlets are truly thin enough and your oil is hot enough, this will only take 3-4 minutes per side for a truly crispy cutlet. Set aside and go cool off in the AC.
-Preheat oven to 375 and place flat bread, (I like using Pepperidge Farm Deli Flats),on a silpat or parchment-lined baking tray. Let bread warm up in the oven to toast lightly, then remove.
-Spread a very thin layer of both Dijon and mayo. Cut cutlets to size, place on bread, and cover with red peppers that you have patted dry. (You could also use sun dried tomatoes or even fresh tomatoes if they were thin enough).
-Cover sandwich with very thin slices of Dill Havarti cheese, then place in oven for 6-8 minutes or until cheese has melted. Serve immediately.

June 20, 2011

Fried "Green" Tomatoes

You might notice, both in the title and the picture, that there's something off with my "green" tomatoes. Well, problem is, it's really hard to find them in NYC! I'm not whining, (well not too much, anyway), but its a shame. A green tomato is a wonderful thing. In hindsight, I suppose I could have used tomatillos, but that wasn't really the point. The point was keeping it real... really American, that is.

I won't bemoan the tomato issue any longer though because these came out spectacularly. Instead of green, I found the hardest, most unripe tomatoes I could find. You might think this means a tasteless fruit, but that's not entirely true. A green tomato has a slightly lemony tinge to it. Also, the hardness of a green tomato makes it easy to fry, of course. So although neither truly ripe, nor truly green, the inbetweeners came out lovely. Slightly sweeter than green tomatoes and slightly more acidic than a ripe one. It was a perfectly acceptable replacement.

Fried "Green" Tomatoes
Green tomatoes (or as close to green as you can find)
Coarse cornmeal
Cayenne Pepper
Oil, for frying

-In a heavy bottom pan, (preferably a cast iron pan), heat up oil. About 3-4 tbs worth at a time. You want to pan fry the tomatoes not deep fry them.
-Cut tomatoes into 1/4" thick slices.
-Combine cornmeal, salt, and cayenne. Be as generous as you want with the salt and as daring as you want with the cayenne.
-Dip tomato slices into buttermilk, then press into the cornmeal, shaking off excess.
-Pan fry in oil until deep golden brown, approximately 6-8 minutes per slice. Line your serving platter with brown paper bags and serve immediately. They're best right out of the oil, but they still taste damn good even room temperature.

June 14, 2011

My Favorite Tarte

This is for all of those Tarte Tatin lovers out there. If you're like me, you're no fan of making things off-season. In other words, since it's not December, your not munching on clementines right now. A few summers ago, I was in the country and came across the most divine peaches. I knew exactly what I wanted to do the moment I saw them. 

The most classic French Tarte Tatin is made by nestling apples in buttery caramel, covering them with pastry, and baking. My Tarte Peche does the same exact thing. Of course, I simplify things and avoid slicing the peaches. Two reasons for that... 1) it saves sanity and time, and 2) peaches are soft, they would disintegrate if you tried. Once or twice I've added some candied nuts or drizzled on some caramel, but other than some vanilla ice cream or creme fraiche, you don't need a thing.

Tarte Peche
4 ripe peaches (do your best to get them perfectly ripe, too soft and they fall apart, too hard and the flavor isn't there)
1/4 cup butter, (half stick, 4 tbs) unsalted butter
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar (1/3 cup if you like things a little sweeter)
2 tbs white sugar (again, 3 if you like things a little sweeter)
1 tbs vanilla extract (you could also use brandy or even a peach flavored liquor)
Egg wash (1 cracked egg, whisked with 1 tbs water)
Pate Sucree (nothing wrong with buying it at the supermarket instead of making it at home! Just make sure you get the kind you can unroll and not the one that already comes in a tin)

-Preheat oven to 375.
-Slice around each peach and carefully pull apart from the pit. Remove pit from peach half. If it's being stubborn, use a small spoon, melon baller, or even a grapefruit spoon to remove. Try to not remove too much flesh, though. 
-In an oven-proof, non-stick pan, melt the butter. Add brown sugar and vanilla, and heat until bubbling. Add the peach halves cut-side down into the sugar. Place in a circle, with one half in the center. Let cook in the pan until just the edges of the peach halves get a good, dark brown, caramelized color.
-Turn off the heat and place the dough directly on top of peaches. Using a wooden spoon or heat-proof spatula, tuck the extra dough around the edge of peaches. This does not need to be perfect. Brush the back of the dough with egg wash and sprinkle on the white sugar. This helps with the stability and structure of the tart, as well as taste.
-Place pan in oven for approximately 30-40 minutes or until the dough is cooked and golden brown.
-Immediately, while the sugar is still warm and hasn't hardened, flip the tart onto a serving platter. If an errant peach half sticks to the pan, simply pry it off and place it in its appropriate spot. Let cool, then cut and serve. 

May 24, 2011

Did You Hear?

I am happy, proud, and excited to say that I am the featured blog on Foodista.com today. Foodista is  "a collaborative project to build the world's largest, highest quality cooking encyclopedia. With your contributions, we can create a free resource that helps millions of people learn how to cook everything and anything." Besides being a wonderful foodie resource, Foodista is also an IACP (International Association of Culinary Professionals) member and has been featured in Time Magazine and The New York Times to name a few. I am so honored and would like to welcome any new readers to my little corner of the foodie blog-verse. 
*On the main page, on the right had side, you will see my blog under "Featured blog of the day" with a happy, shiny gold star next to it ;-)

May 23, 2011

A Taste of His Childhood

My husband was born in the Philippines. He and and his family moved to the States, (Queens, New York to be exact), when he was four. He hasn't held on to many of the traditions or cultural influences from his childhood, except for a few well-loved flavors and dishes... isn't that always the way, though?

His favorite traditional dish, is Filipino BBQ. Every once in a while, as if pulled by a tether, he makes his way to his old neighborhood in Queens and buys enough BBQ to last a few days. This isn't BBQ as us Americans consider it. Instead, this is the global version of  "BBQ," otherwise known as: meat-on-stick. You can find meat-on-stick in every country on the planet, from the tiniest islands, to the most metropolitan cities. The Filipino version is garlicky, sweet, (thanks to 7-Up, it's ALWAYS 7-Up), and well charred. Usually made with a very fatty cut of pork, the meat marinates overnight, is skewered, then grilled over flames. As you can imagine, it's fabulous.

I wanted to try my hand at this at home. Of course, we don't have a patio, a backyard, or any outdoor space to grill on, but I do have a oven that broils! Also, I opted for a leaner meat option; some beautiful beef cutlets that I had picked up from the butcher the day before. I enjoyed it immensely, he missed the "real thing," but admitted this was a good way to tide him over in between runs to Queens. That was the best reaction I could hope for.

If at some point this summer we have access to a real grill, honey, I promised we'll try it again with the classic cut of pork... okay?

Filipino-Style BBQ (at home)
1.5 lbs lean, chicken, pork, or beef cutlets
1/3 cup soy sauce
1 cup 7-Up
1/3 cup tomato ketchup (if you have access to it, use banana ketchup)
1/4 cup lemon juice
2 teaspoon white or brown sugar
1/2 tsp black pepper
about 3/4 -1 head of garlic or approx. 3/4-1 cup garlic cloves

-Crush most of the garlic, but thickly slice about 5-6 cloves.
-Combine garlic, soy, 7-Up, ketchup, lemon juice, sugar, pepper, in a container with a tight fitting lid and whisk well.
-Add meat, close container, and shake to coat evenly. Refrigerate overnight but no less than 5 hours.
-The following day, soak skewers in water for approximately 15-20 minutes. Remove the container from the fridge and slice the meat in approximately 1.5 - 2" strips. Weave the strips of meat onto the skewers and place on a tin foil-lined, broiler-safe tray.
-Broil the meat until cooked through and slightly charred. For beef, this will be about 8 minutes. Baste the meat half way through cooking with remaining marinating mixture. Make sure to add some of the sliced garlic to the tray as you broil to add to the serving platter. Serve immediately.

May 20, 2011

The Divine Miss "N"

My Grandmother was a tough woman to love. She made being a participant in her life complicated, often maddening, and difficult… I don’t think she would have had it any other way.

Nita, (no one was allowed to call her “Grandmother”), came from another world and another time. Hers was a life of exquisite couture clothing, glamour, and hats. As a testament to that fact, I have two hand-drawn and signed birthday cards, depicting my Grandmother in said exquisite clothing, from none other than Yves Saint Laurent himself. Glamour indeed.

When I was a child, she taught me things that little girls growing up in America in the 1980’s, simply didn't learn. Things like: how to set a table properly, how to write a letter, how to walk properly, (there were teacups and books involved), how to answer the phone, how to speak to one’s elders. In essence, she put me through finishing school. I didn’t get it at the time. And while I didn’t dislike it, I longed for a different kind of Grandmother back then. Where was my cookie-making, story book reading, cuddly Grandmother? All my other friends had one?

It wasn’t until I was in High School that I got it. No, she didn't bake or cuddle, but Nita taught me things that I keep with me to this day. I look around me and see slouched shoulders and shudder. Anytime a cup of hot water arrives with the tea bag on the side, I send it back. Hot water goes over tea, not the other way around. I know where the oyster fork goes, how many people can say that?

Regal is a state of mind. I learned that from Nita. There wasn’t a royal bone in her body but you wouldn’t have known. She held herself like a queen. She ruled her kingdom with a fierce adherence to manners, decorum, and political prowess. Her court was visited by the powerful, beautiful, and popular. With a cold vodka in one hand, a monogrammed handkerchief in the other, no one could deny that she was, in fact, more divine than the Queen Mum could ever hope to be.

Today is Nita’s birthday. She left us for the big dinner party in the sky four years ago at the age of 100. Three beautiful, stylish, and talented women - my mother, auntie “rabbit,” and auntie “Mame” - will be toasting Nita with vodka and caviar tonight; glamour indeed. Sip gracefully ladies, she’ll be watching.

Happy Birthday Nita, wherever you may be, you taught me to be a Duchess and I’ll always love you for that. 

May 19, 2011

Did You Say Football-Sized Cacao Beans?

Here is the original Time article
Yes, yes I did.

I would be a very bad foodie indeed if I didn't share this exciting bit of news. An ancient cacao bean, thought to be extinct, was recently found in the wilds of Ecuador by a group of adventurous Americans. This bean is "the most genetically pure expression of cacao ever found." Apparently, when roasted, this bean gives the least bitter, yet most chocolaty flavor possible.

It's going to be incredibly expensive, I'm sure. There wont be any brownies or chocolate chip cookies, made with the stuff... actually scratch that. I have every confidence that the king of chocolate, Jacques Torres, will be offering ancient chocolate ship cookies for $10 a pop.

And yes, I'm just enough of a chocoholic to give in and get a bag.

I don't know when it will hit our shores, or in what form it will arrive, but here's hoping that Jacques will leave the masses enough to try it for themselves.

May 10, 2011

Holy Cream, Batman!

My friend, Dara, brought back Pretzel Cream Cheese ice cream one day from lunch weeks ago. It was heavenly; inspired, even. Said ice cream came from a hole in the wall shop on Ninth Avenue and 53rd street, (no website, sorry), close to our offices. Since that fated day, we've been promising to go back together. It's more than just homemade artisan ice cream, you see. Holey Cream offers something so insane, so over-the-top, so damned genius... the Donut Ice Cream Sandwich. Today was the day we went. 

*The following should be illegal.

The interior wall with instructions: 

Three of us chose two different unholy concoctions. Chocolate donut, with Guatemalan Truffle ice cream (made from Guatemalan coffee with chocolate truffles), Black and White Hotel ice cream (made with rum, dark chocolate and white chocolate bits), Dark Cookie Cream (dark chocolate ice cream with cookies), and  an array of neon sprinkles. 

Please enjoy the food porn:

The second donut was vanilla, with some more traditional ice creams. 
We topped it with Oreos, sprinkles, and mint chips.

I don't think I need to bore you with how delicious it all was. The pictures speak for themselves, no?
I will say this, Ambrosia has a run for it's heavenly money. 

The aftermath: