Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Tibetan New Year, Jackson Heights, Queens & The New York Times

A couple weeks ago I received a phone call from the photo editor at The New York Times to shoot a new story. She wanted me to visit two Tibetan restaurants and capture everything about their special dumplings - momos - handmade all night and stuffed with a variety of fillings for Losar, the Tibetan Lunar New Year celebration. The story printed just in time as festivities began.

Needless to say it was an exemplary experience worth repeating! In fact, I am eager to return to Phayul Restaurant, pronto. The quality of their food - and the owners who were so obliging and sweet - is worth getting to know better. Humble people with some really special things to share...

Dawa Lhamo, one of the owners, makes dumplings like these for much of the night

Hand-rolling the dough - supremely meditative to behold

Each kind of momo has a different shape

The red sauce is sepen - a homemade garlicky, fiery chili sauce. Foreground (cup) is a flavorsome beef bone broth

Left: Tsak sha la kor hot, a beef-daikon creamy broth that packs a punch...!

This scene tells the feeling well

Norling Tibet Kitchen, the second location for my shooting that night, is literally across the street from the Jackson Heights subway hub. Until recently is has been Chautari Restaurant, so if you know it by that name, you have found the right place. :) They're doing a variety of inspired foods - obviously Tibetan, but also some Indian to go with the dominant flavor of the neighborhood, and Nepalese cuisine as well.

Right: crispy vegetable pakoras with sepen

This scene looks like a still from a movie, I thought...

How lucky am I that I can go to amazing restaurants here in New York City, and some of the best international cuisine lies just a wee bit further in an oasis like Queens?? Take the train and do it now. And then write me and thank me once you have gotten your fill of momos and tingmo and all that is deliciously Tibet.

Monday, February 20, 2012

From Lithuania with Love

I was recently interviewed for Llamas Valley, a gorgeous online journal all the way from Lithuania, and the issue is now out. Please get yourself a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, settle in, and have a look. My feature begins on page 116, but you may find yourself spending the afternoon leafing through the whole thing... sooooo many beautiful images and stories!

It is an honor to be in such creative company. Thank you Alge! Our many back and forth communications getting everything set up properly for the debut worked out beautifully.... :)

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

I think you could say I may have gone a little overboard. I love romance and sentiment, and so I've cooked up some goodies that you'll love, I think, no matter if you're embracing Valentine's for one, two, or a party with all your peeps. In the spirit of L-O-V-E, I have also updated my banner. It was time, and I hope you will enjoy all the little nooks and crannies in the new display! :-)

If you're still on the hunt for something special for yourself or your sweetie, go for some gorgeous blooms at Graceful Gardens - all the flowers in these images were graciously selected and arranged by the lovely ladies Grace and Francesca, at their floral shop in Brooklyn. Rarefied or classic, they have just what you seek.

Whether or not you have plans to celebrate, there is a lot of pleasure in the confections you're about to see. I will confess I found some good inspiration from recipes I've just discovered in Donna Hay while thinking up what might make for a sweet story. Don't be surprised if you find yourself in full swoon, repeating "be mine, be mine..." after the aching temptation brought on by viewing these treats.

Here's to Love Day...

Raspberry Mascarpone Creme stuffed Double Chocolate Cookies

For the cookies:
3/4 lb good dark chocolate, chopped
1 1/2 oz pastured butter
2 pastured eggs
1/2 cup caster sugar
1/4 cup all-purpose flour, sifted
1/4 tsp baking powder, sifted
1 tsp vanilla extract

for the creme:
1 cup mascarpone
1/4 cup confectioners sugar
1/2 cup raspberries, chopped

Place two-thirds of the chocolate and all the butter in the top of a double boiler to melt over medium heat. Be sure not to let the water spatter, turning the heat down if necessary. Place eggs, vanilla, and sugar in a large bowl and using a stand or hand mixer, beat until light and creamy - think the color "buff"- about 10 minutes. Stir in all remaining ingredients: the flour and baking powder mixture, the stirred chocolate-butter mixture, and the remaining chopped chocolate. Let stand for 10 minutes, and preheat oven to 350 degrees(F).

Spoon tablespoonfuls onto parchment-lined baking sheets. Bake for 8 minutes or so, until tops are puffed and cracked. Allow to cool completely on trays before making into sandwiches. To make the filling, stir together mascarpone, sugar, and chopped berries. This can be done ahead of time and re-refrigerated. For the sandwiches, spread a nice layer of the mascarpone creme on one cookie, and sandwich with another. The perfect combination of not-too-sweet berry-creaminess, and decadent-airy chocolatey-ness, these will not last long...

Champagne with Spiced Cranberry Sugar Cubes

In a food processor, combine:
1 cup fresh or thawed cranberries
juice from 1/2 an orange
zest from one orange
2 tbsp brandy
1 stick cinnamon

Pulse until all ingredients are well combined. Add a cinnamon stick and seal in a jar, refrigerated, for a day or two for flavors to meld. On the day before you want to use the sugar, place however many sugar cubes you'd like to use in a small dish, and cover completely with the cranberry mixture. Be sure that all sides are covered, ensuring better saturation. After about an hour, check to see color absorption. Do not let sugar cubes sit in the mixture for longer than a couple hours, as they will begin to dissolve... Remove cubes from the dish scooping with a fork and dry on a wire rack. Store in a sealed container after dry.

When you are ready, place the cube (you can use more than one, but I don't like it too sweet) at the bottom of a glass, and pour Champagne, Prosecco, or Cava (all delicious sparkling wines - choose one that is crisp more than sweet) over. The sugar will fizz until it completely dissolves, leaving a sweet-tart cranberry finish to your drinking pleasure!

Sea Salt Ganache Tartlets

Makes 6
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 1/3 ounces of good semi- or bitter-sweet dark chocolate, chopped
Large flake salt, like Maldon

Prepare dough for 1/4 portion pâte sucré and roll out to 1/8 inch thick - similar to pâte brisée but with the addition of egg yolks and a bit of heavy cream. Check here for the recipe if you need, and scroll to the galette recipe.... Using a 2-inch cookie cutter, cut rounds and carefully mold into lightly greased tart tins and re-refrigerate. Preheat oven to 350 degrees(F). Line tart shells with parchment and fill with baking weights or rice, and bake for 8 minutes. Remove the paper and weights and bake for another 5 minutes or until golden, and remove from oven, setting aside. Full disclosure ~ once baked, my tart crust overlapped just enough along the edge of the tins that I could not dislodge them without them crumbling. Keep that in mind as you form the edge of your dough.

In a small saucepan over medium heat, bring cream to a boil and remove from heat. Add chopped chocolate and whisk until dark, creamy, and glossy. Allow to cool slightly, and pour or spoon into the baked tartlets, and top with sea salt flakes. Can be eaten warm, room temperature, or chilled. Pure seduction.

Grapefruit - Strawberry Sips

for the strawberry syrup:
1 cup strawberries, cut into wedges
1/4 cup cane sugar

for the drink:
Natural grapefruit soda - I used Gus
Wide strips of orange peel - be sure to trim off any bitter white pith
Chilled gin, vodka, tequila, or other spirit, to your liking

Pour enough water in a small saucepan to just cover the berries and sugar, and turn flame to medium-high. Stirring occasionally, bring to boil and then skim off any foam which forms. Skim and stir intermittently, for about 10 minutes, checking for color saturation in the cooking liquid. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly. Pour liquid through a sieve and mash fruit with the back of a spoon to extract their juices, discarding the pulp. Chill and store for up to one week. Can be added to ice cream as well as beverages...

Mix fruit soda and syrup in a measuring cup to taste. I used 1 tbsp syrup for every 12 ounce soda bottle. Pour into glasses. Thread orange twist onto cocktail stirrers, add spirit and stir to enjoy.

Barely-Done Brownies with Pomegranate Seeds

Makes 6
4 pastured eggs
1 1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks pastured butter, cut into cubes
12 ounces good semi-sweet dark chocolate, chopped
Seeds removed from 1/2 a fresh pomegranate
Preheat oven to 350 degrees(F).  Using a double boiler, melt half the chocolate and all the butter. Be careful that the water doesn't bubble up into the top saucepan as you do so. In a large bowl, thoroughly combine the eggs, sugar, and flour. I used a fork for this, but you could use a mixer if you like. Add the slightly cooled melted chocolate mixture and the remaining portion of chopped chocolate, stirring to combine all. Line a square or small rectangular baking tin with parchment and pour the mixture in. Bake for 20 minutes or until a skewer comes out almost clean. If you jiggle the tin, the center should move just a little. Cool in the tin, cut into squares, scatter the pomegranate and enjoy the combination of gooey, molten-like chocolate heaven and bright, juicy sweetness of the fruit.

Whatever February 14th means to you, live it to the fullest. You never know when something crazy might happen, so take time to savor this life with those you love! Thank you all for reading with me and for indulging in all the sweet fun. :-)