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I am missing summertime in NYC. I miss strolling down to Cafe Habana or the Corner Bistro and tucking into their muy deliciouso corn on the cob. Sweet corn, salty cotilla cheese, a tangy squirt of lime, and the smokiness from the grill. Plus it's messy and delightful. You cannot have just one serving because of the mess factor. Once you're invested into getting dirty for your food, it almost seems wasteful not to have seconds. Or thirds. Here I am recreating it and it's good enough when you can't find yourself in NoLita in August.
Mexican Grilled Corn (Elote)
- fresh corn on the cob, unshucked about 5 ears.
- 1 cup-ish cotilla (aka cotija) cheese, crumbled (found in your fresh Latin food section at the grocery store)
- 1 lime, halved
- about 2-4 tbs. mayo or crema fresca or creme fraiche
- cayenne, paprika, or season salt, and pepper to taste
Method: soak shucked corn for about 15 minutes in cold water. If not soaking, just throw the unshucked cobs on the grill. Turning often, grill the corn until dark brown spots start to form and immediately take off heat. You can leave the unshucked cobs on a bit longer, so plan accordingly. In the meantime, combine the mayo or creme fraiche in a bowkl with the crumbled cheese. Slather on shucked, hot corn, squirt the lime juice on top and season to taste with the cayenne, paprika or season salt.
Mexican off the cob corn (Esquite)
- leftover cooked corn on the cob (I used about three ears)
- about 1/4 cup crumbled cotilla cheese
- about 2 tbs. mayo or crema fresca or creme fraiche (I used mayo)
- 1/2 lime (or to taste)
- season salt to taste
Standing the corn up on the fat end, cut the corn off the cob with a knife and then run the blunt side of the knife down over the cob again to milk it.This is done best over a bowl or a bundt cake pan to catch everything. Top the corn with the mayo and cheese and squirt on the lime and seasonings. Mix everything up and eat with a spoon. the corn juices combine with the toppings to make a sauce/dressing that is unreal. Use the sweetest corn you can find and you will be rewarded. You can eat this hot or cold or room temperature, depending on how you are feeling.
I went to Present for supper today. It was good and bad. When it was good, it was quite tasty - when it was bad it physically hurt!
The good: I was seated right away, in a booth. The service was very nice. The ambiance was rather high-end. I can totally see taking parents and in-laws here. The food: very fresh. From the herbs and bean sprouts garnishes to the shrimp and everything in between, you can tell that the ingredients were all top-notch. The nuoc mam was more on the sugary as opposed to tart side but I guess that's a personal preference. They only gave me one lime wedge to make things right. I ended up finishing a whole huge plate full of banh cuon (without the ground pork filling) and it was heaped over steamed bean sprouts, and dried shrimps, fried shallots and chopped fresh mint. It was really delicious - each rice crepe was delicate but didn't tear apart too much when I picked it up with my chopsticks. The pork roll accompaniment was acceptable. I only finished one shrimp-fried turnip cake. My iced coffee with milk tasted more like espresso as opposed to the expected Vietnamese drip variety. It had distinct notes of caramel, and was very sweet.
The bad: I was strongly urged to get the "autumn veil" cha gio by my waiter as opposed to the goi cuon garden rolls I normally order. They arrived very prettily plated, two per order, for 3.95. Instead of the regular eggroll wrapper, they come in a lacy net looking wrapper that looked like it was made of thin noodles pressed together. It was attractive and different. I took a bite and promptly grated the roof of my mouth into hamburger. ouch! I wrapped up the rest of the rolls in lettuce and shredded pickled vegetables hoping that it would be less sharp and continued to abrade the inside of my mouth. Ow Ow Ow! Perhaps it was a good thing that the nuoc cham was not tart. That could have really really hurt if it was much more acidic! The taste itself is not anything to write home about. Of course, my mom's cha gio are the best in the land, so why even bother comparing? I'll skip these next time I go. The other thing my waiter urged me to get was the Canh Chua with squid. It's a sour soup with seafood and my mom (again) makes a pretty good one so I was interested in trying their version, especially since it came so highly touted. It arrived in a big bowl with a side dish of sprouts and herbs to customize. I took a sip of the broth and found it to be way too spicy for me. On one hand, I was glad to see that they aren't completely watering it down for non-native palates. (practically the whole time I was there, I was the only Vietnamese customer) on the other hand, it was so spicy I couldn't stand much more than a few bites. I had them pack it up and saved for later. The aromatics were there -- even my en fuego palate could detect the lemongrass and other fresh herb-y notes but it was just too hot. Someone who can stand spicy food better than I would have loved it... the only minor quibble is that while my squid pieces were admirably tender and fresh, my shrimp in the soup were a little tough and overcooked.
Overall though- a beautiful space. The lotus stalk salad I ordered to go has been delcious, the few bites of it I've had so far. The names of the dishes are a little too flowery and poetic - it gets kind of annoying. I'm trying to decipher who they want their clientele to be. I will be back, but only for occasions where I will be with a mixed, high-end crowd. This is not a hole-in-the-wall with cheap good food. The prices are not astronomical, but perhaps I am just a little sore mouthed - when my mouth heals, I'm sure all will be forgiven and I'll go back again.
I've been on a cooking jag -- probably to avoid writing cover letters and applying to jobs...but I have to say, some of the things coming out of my kitchen are pretty damn good...The cookies all came out different batch by batch, but every one of them taste good. I underbaked a few to send but I still love the crisy crunchy cookies best. Even the most baked cookies aren't rock-hard considering all the butter I put in them. The salt really adds a touch, and the coffee flavor accents the chocolate beautifully. It was a very hard, stiff dough to work with, but all in all, a good cookie. I think that using whole wheat flour lends the cookie a sort of graham cracker-y taste, but I don't mind. The recipe I used, and the fact that I used a mini-scooper to drop the cookies yielded a LOT of cookies, like almost 100. I'm still eating them but C. is too, so it's not all going to wind up on my gut.
I made Jose Andres' gazpacho from his Taste of Spain cookbook, even straining it (was a pain in the ass to strain) and eating the thick stuff that was left behind in the strainer but I have to say the end result is silky and creamy. Spanish olive oil is distinct from Italian in taste! I can actually discern the difference! And I used balsamic vinegar instead of sherry but it still turned out really good. Sweet and tart and very refreshing.
On the other end of the spectrum, I fried some portobello chicken and turkey sausage in bacon fat. I tried this new brand of sausage (to me) and I really love it! I remembered reading about Mr. Aidell in one of Ruth Reichl's books. They turned out a little salty from the bacon grease so I poured myself a little gazpacho to wash it down. There's no such thing as too much salt on a tomato for me. I also added a bit of butter and fried some baby potatoes I had lying around. This was while two pans of veggies were roasting in the oven. In the end, my send off dinner to C. was fresh portobello sausages and sliced baby yukon gold potatoes sauteed in bacon fat with sweet hot mustard and roasted onions, carrots, red peppers and potatoes. And homemade chocolate chip cookies for dessert.
I am late to the party but I'm basing these cookies on Jacques Torres' recipe that appeared in the New York Times. The article was about the perfect chocolate chip cookie and the consensus was: let the dough rest in the fridge for 24-36 hours before baking, a warm cookie is a good cookie, don't be afraid of a little salt, and use the best ingredients you can get your hands on. I need to bake some get-well cookies for a friend and my dough is chilling in the fridge. At 3 am tomorrow, it will have been 24 hours so I will be baking in the morning! My version uses the flour that I already had in the house, dark chocolate chips instead of semi sweet, and I mixed in some coffee flavored chips to accent the chocolate. I also added an extra teaspoon of vanilla because I was almost out and wanted to get a fresh bottle of vanilla extract. I might have fudged a bit on the brown sugar - I used dark instead of light because my light brown sugar is a brick and I don't have any apple slices to nuke it with. I ended up making a dark brown sugar sludge by adding a little water to my brown sugar and I really hope it turns out ok.
Anh's-TBD penultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough
- 1 1/2 cups unbleached white flour
- 1 1/3 cup unbleached whole wheat white flour
- 1 1/4 tsp baking soda
- 1 1/2 tsp baking powder
- 1 1/2 tsp sea salt
- 2 eggs
- 2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened.
- combination of dark brown sugar and cane sugar to make 2 cups I used more brown than white...
- 1 tsp vanilla paste (I like the little specks of vanilla in my baked goods)
- 2 tsp vanilla extract (I only had bourbon vanilla)
- 1 3/4 cups mini dark chocolate chips (for better distribution)
- 1/4 cup mocha, cappucino or otherwise coffee flavored chips
Sift the flours, salt and baking soda and powder together in a smaller bowl. Cream the butter and sugars together, beat in the eggs one at a time. Add the dry ingredients and mix until all is incorporated, stir in vanilla and chips last. Press plastic wrap and chill the dough in the refrigerator for 24-36 hours. I think I will be baking them in a 350 degree oven for about 12 minutes or until golden brown (I love the crisp edges of a cookie more than the gooey middle part)
I used to buy this all the time when I lived in portland and Trader Joe's carried tubs of it. After a little trial and error, I came up with my own version.
Scratch Tomato Cucumber Tzatziki
(makes a big bowl to serve as dip for a party, or for two or three people as appetizer, or in my case, one lunch salad)
- one seedless cucumber (the shrink wrapped kind I best) partially peeled and sliced very thinly
- one small container of greek style plain yogurt (I used nonfat)
- about five campari tomatoes, sliced (it's not fully tomato season yet and these taste best) chopped
- a good palmful of dill
- small clove of garlic minced
- dash balsamic vinegar
- torn fresh mint leaves if you have it
Slice the cucumber as thin as possible, salt lightly, and drain in a colander lined with paper towels for a few minutes. If you skip this step, it's fine, but the yogurt will break down and get watery but it shouldn't affect the taste. Add the tomatoes and cucumbers to a large bowl and salt lightly again. Toss with the garlic and the rest of the ingredients until the yogurt covers everything and season to taste. It should be cool and crunchy with a little sweetness from the tomato and tartness from the yogurt and vinegar.