Thursday, April 30, 2009

Salsa Verde Recipe

I had nothing in the house today and was starving. Writing a paper about the struggle between the secular and the spiritual in the age of Geoffrey Chaucer can really tire a girl out. No time to shop, I was on a deadline, so I scrounged around and like any good wanna-be Mexican, was able to come up with an entire dish using only some old tortillas, tomatillos, a few jalapenos, cilantro, cheese, and by scraping out the last bits in the container of sour cream. Enchiladas! I didn't even have garlic or onion for the salsa (oh what kind of Mexican will I be?), but found an old shallot rattling around in the produce bin, popped it in the blender, and voila, salsa verde. Easiest thing to make, and my lunch was complete. No protein, and not much veg, but it was fast, good, and filled me up. I really need to go shopping.

To make a few cups of salsa verde: Take 5 or 6 tomatillos, husk and wash them, put them in a pot with water. Add 2-3 jalapenos, stem pulled off. Bring to a boil then simmer until the tomatillos lose their bright green color and are soft to the touch. Remove them from the water and place them into the blender, add 1 jalapeno, a handful of cilantro, a clove of garlic and a chunk of onion. Blend, taste, add salt, and add the next jalapeno if it isn't spicy enough. I like to add them one at a time because some are hotter than others, and you can always add but can't take away. Blend until smooth, and it's ready to use in a myriad of recipes. This is just the beginning building block to many a Mexican meal.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Doing it Mex-Style in Flushing Meadows

In the almost 90 degree weather this Sunday it seemed like the perfect day to open picnic season. I got up early, went to 103rd and Roosevelt to shop, walked to the old house, and started cooking. For the full menu, and report, see David's blog at
Here we have a picture of what's known as chicharron preparado, a delightful invention of fried chicharron made from flour, not pork, topped with any variety and combination of the following: sour cream, cueritos (pickled pig skin), tomatoes, avocado, cabbage, hot sauce, and of course a squeeze of lime. Sounds weird? Sounds good. Crunchy, chewy, creamy. Spicy, salty, sour. I like the sound of that.

What do you eat for breakfast when you live in Elmhurst?

Why Pho, of course! I have nothing to say that hasn't already been said about this amazing bowl of deliciousness. I always go overboard with the sriracha and the sambal, I just can't help myself. This here is one of the best, cheapest, and most filling one-bowl meals, period. My local branch:
Pho Bang, 8290 Broadway, Elmhurst.

And maybe a spring roll or two.....

Monday, April 27, 2009

Kadaif, or why we love Hummus Place

Kadaif. Hummus Place. Our, and I mean my brother David and I, favorite HP is the one on St. Mark's. We will generally go out of our way to get there. Although we both suffer from a complex unique to non-Hebrew speaking Israelis when confronted with the accented waitresses and the Israeli hippies with dreads that tend to hang out on that block right above Tompkins Square Park, we bravely face the fear and walk under the bright yellow awning each time because we love it. Ah, Hummus Place. I am not going to talk about how creamy and smooth the hummus is, or how for some reason the pickles and olives taste so much better there than the exact same ones I buy in the can from kvuzat yavne or beit hashita and eat at home. By the way, the pickle and olive platter used to be free but now cost 75 cents. We could talk about the fresh mint tea, or the perfectly grilled eggplant, but I won't. Not today. Today I will talk about kadaif.
the house dessert dry Kadaif topped with vanilla infused ricotta cheese, halva and honey date $3.95

That's what they say, such a simple way to describe a true masterpiece of a dessert and I am not being facetious. Crisp, buttery shredded filo, creamy ricotta cheese, the melt in your mouth sesame-sweet shredded halva, and the caramel-y honey date sauce combine into a full experience. It is not sticky-sweet or cloying, like baklava can be, or overly creamy, or too rich, like a piece of halva. It is a rare thing to find, the near perfect dessert. Seriously good.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Molten Chocolate Cake, and How I Lost My Job

While this is a very good recipe for a dessert that was at one time incredibly popular (almost annoyingly so), from now on, to me, it is a symbol of dishonesty. Why? It was the warning sign, the canary in the coal mine, if you will, the screaming siren that alerted me to the fact that I was about to lose my job.

Molten Chocolate Cake
Recipe makes 35-40 individual 4-ounce cakes

3 pounds of butter
2 pounds of bittersweet chocolate
16 whole eggs
11 oz. egg yolks
1 pound and 12 oz. granulated sugar
8 oz. all purpose flour, sifted
1 ½ teaspoons salt

4 ounce molds, buttered or sprayed

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Melt butter and chocolate together over a bain marie. In a very large bowl, mix eggs and yolks together well, add sugar, flour and salt to them. Add melted chocolate and butter mixture to the egg and flour, combine well. Fill each mold almost to the top, bake for 10 minutes. The cake should rise and pull away from the sides, but should be raw in the middle. Serve warm.

It was Good Friday, around noon. No customers on the books, I had spent the day stocking up the freezer with dough. I made a candied ginger cookie, some scone batter, perhaps even some chocolates for the petit fours plates. Details are unimportant. The sous-chef was off, the chef spent all day in her office, things were as normal as they could be in a place that was falling apart. Rumors had been flying for the past month that the Club could be shut down any day, that the contract wouldn’t be renewed, the executives didn’t have the budget anymore for their high class dining room. By 2:00 pm, I had nothing left to do, and was helping Yasmine measure out dry ingredients for tempura batter kits, bags and bags of white powder spread out across the stainless steel island in the middle of the kitchen. I had noticed the chef poking around on my station earlier, but thought nothing of it. She had my recipe binder open, and was leafing through it, but slammed it shut immediately when she realized I was watching, and scurried out of the kitchen again. Strange, but then again, she was not particularly normal, and really, who of us are in this profession? Concentrating on trying to remember which bag I had already measured salt into, suddenly there she was again, asking me if I wouldn’t mind letting her look at my recipes. “Why?” I asked, not quite rudely, but not that nicely either. She stammered “Well, I have a recipe for molten chocolate cake but yours is different and I wanted to look at them and see how they compare, or what the difference is, or if they’re the same”. “O..K..” I said, thinking how ridiculous that sounded. She grabbed my book, and began searching. “It has a tab on the..” I began to say, “I know where it is!” she snapped back. Well, she knows where everything is in my recipe book, interesting. I had a tablespoon of baking powder about to go into the last bag, when, from across the island, I saw her hand scribbling away, copying down my recipe. “Yasmi,” I whispered, “I think I’m getting fired today.” “What are you talking about?” she said. An hour later, Chef asked if we could talk for a minute, I nodded, followed, and she led me into a private party room where a woman from HR was sitting at a shiny wooden table with a stack of papers in front of her. The manager of the club was sitting to her left, and the chef sat down to her right. Neither of them looked at me as the woman began. She shook my hand, asked me to sign something, apologized. The economy, money, part-time workers, job listings, I saw her mouth moving, something about being escorted to my locker, and it was over, I darted out of there, ran to my locker, tore my apron off, was changed and packed in under a minute. I walked back into the kitchen to get my knives, my cutters, my recipes, a year’s worth of work. Did I have time to throw out all of the chocolates that I had made? Suddenly she was at my side. “I suppose you need a bag?’ “That would be nice.” I looked up, she had disappeared, Family meal was almost up. “I’m leaving” I said to Yaz. “What, you’re not eating lunch?” “I mean I’m leaving forever, I got laid off.” “No way, I’ll call you during family.” I left, my bag heavy, the last elevator ride down from the 35th floor. Chocolate, butter, flour, sugar, eggs. A week later she used my recipe to make the dessert for a big party. They didn’t come out right, but she served them anyway.