Thursday, December 13, 2012
In the wine world, the term terroir is something you hear a lot. The concept itself is the basis for the delineation of French wines and their system of Appellation d’origine controlee, which has been the model for most wine laws around the world. It is the idea that one specific place and only that place, that land, the soil thereof and the way it interacts with the vines lends remarkable and unique characteristic to the resulting wine. It is, essentially, the taste of place. It’s a concept that I think is wonderful and romantic and truly, accurate in many ways.
I found myself thinking about the idea of the taste of a place when strolling around Arthur Avenue in the Bronx on Sunday on the drive home from a dear friend’s wedding in New York. And even though it’s not quite the same idea, I thought to myself that this physical place, the blocks of Arthur Avenue in the Belmont section of the Bronx has a strong taste of place for me. And that taste is mostly pizza. And also prosciutto.
It’s easy for most any of us to wax nostalgic about a particular place where we once lived, where we have happy memories and knowledge of how to get around. But Arthur Ave., in my life, in my mind and in my memory is of epic proportions. Living off campus senior year was the first time in my life I really began cooking for myself. The first place I explored grocery stores and markets and branched out beyond just pizza and chicken rolls (although I ate my fair share of them both). It was the first place where my friend Stevie and I paged through cookbooks for fun on a Saturday afternoon (for the record we are both still unashamed food geeks) and made an event of going to get bread. It was in many ways where Porky Dickens began.
So I was thrilled to share this place with Paul. To walk around and hit up the Madonia Brother bakery for olive bread, fennel raisin bread and delicious biscotti. And to go to Tino’s- arguably my favorite place to get lunch on the planet- to grab prosciutto, aged provolone, sun dried tomatoes, spicy olives and sacks of farro. The stuff we gathered we spread out later on that night for a snack. The bread baked that day, the prosciutto sliced perfectly thin and the sundried tomatoes, so ridiculously good that I’m almost positive someone’s Nonna dried them out on her patio in Tuscany. It’s the kind of food that’s so good it almost makes you mad you can’t get it every day. You just can’t beat it.
New York has a LOT of AMAZING food to try. From sweet roasted nuts on the street corner and super cheap dogs at Gray’s Papaya to the height of haute cuisine. But for me: Arthur Ave. is it. The day prior we explored Eataly, Joe Bastianich and Mario Batali’s Italian food and wine megaplex and it was impressive (and crowded) and I’d be lying if I said that I didn’t toss back a giant Sicilian slice with ease there. But I didn’t buy one thing. Because I knew the next day I could hit up good old Tino’s and get the exact same food at lower prices with a dose of awesome Bronx style hospitality. If you have never been to Arthur Ave. or even heard of it: do yourself a favor and go. It’s the best place I’ve ever tasted.
To explore Arthur Ave. check out the neighborhood website. My personal recommendations are the Arthur Ave. Retail Market (not open on Sundays), Madonia Brothers Bakery, Tino's Deli and Catering, Full Moon Restaurant and Full Moon Pizzeria. Also, for full dinner Pasquale Rigolettos, Domenick's or Giovanni's are awesome as well. It's all good.
Posted by Jess at 9:08 PM
Thursday, December 6, 2012
Well there’s nothing all that sexy about today’s dish, folks. This is just a straight up, simple to make, slightly spicy root vegetable soup. It kind of looks like baby food but I promise it tastes quite nice indeed. This was one of those occasions where I just sort of chucked a few ideas together and added stock to call it a soup. I was talking with my sister recently about how it’s fun to do that sometimes when it comes to soup.
She admitted she likes to be a bit of a renegade when it comes to soup making but added how sometimes not having a plan can really blow up in your face. I have plenty experience in that department as well. With exploding soups that is. No just kidding, with soups that come out kind of crappy. Thankfully, this was one of those times when things worked out just fine. No explosions or crappiness of any kind. The resulting soup is quite spicy- so if you’re not a fan of heat dial down the cayenne.
ROASTED ACORN SQUASH and SWEET POTATO SOUP
with WALNUT and ROSEMARY PESTO
FOR THE SOUP
1 whole acorn squash
1 large sweet potato, diced
2 small shallots, minced
1 medium sized yellow onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 pinches cayenne pepper, divided
2 pinches brown sugar
3 cardamom pods, crushed
1 tsp. cumin
1 tsp. garam masala
1 (32 oz.) container chicken or vegetable stock
FOR THE WALNUT and ROSEMARY PESTO
½ cup walnuts, toasted
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
Leaves from 1 small sprig rosemary
Juice from half a lemon
¼ cup olive oil
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Half and seed acorn squash and rub 1-2 tablespoons olive oil onto the cut flesh. Sprinkle with one pinch cayenne, brown sugar, salt and pepper. Set to roast in the oven for 30-40 minutes, or until completely tender. While the squash roasts prepare the onion, shallot, sweet potato and garlic.
Heat olive oil (about 2 tbs.) in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add shallots and onion and sweat until fragrant and translucent (about 5 minutes). Add garlic and spices and a generous pinch of salt and pepper and toss together for another minute. Add sweet potato and top with stock. Raise heat to high, bring to a boil and then reduce to a rolling simmer until sweet potatoes are cooked through (about 15-20 minutes). Reduce heat to low until all other ingredients are ready.
Remove squash from the oven and let cool for a few minutes. While the squash cools, place the walnuts in the oven to toast for a few minutes, until they are warm and fragrant (only about 5 minutes since the oven is so hot). Scrape the squash out of its skin and add to the soup pot. Puree everything together using an immersion blender, or in batches in a conventional blender (taking care not to overfill- hot liquids expand when blended). Let the soup simmer on low while you prepare the walnut pesto. Taste and adjust seasonings as desired. I wanted a real kick so I added a touch more cayenne, cumin, salt and pepper until it was to my liking.
In a small food processor combine all of the ingredients for the walnut pesto and pulse together completely. Taste and adjust seasonings as necessary. Because parmesan is so sharp and salty and the walnuts are a touch bitter, I found a big pinch of sugar, a touch more lemon juice and some salt and pepper improved the taste quite a bit after the first processing.
Serve soup hot and spoon in a heaping teaspoon full of walnut pesto on top. Yields: about 6 servings.