Monday, August 22, 2011

How to make any market veggie taste good: baby eggplant

This post is just a quick post, mostly for those who wander the farmers market, wanting to bring home something beautiful but wondering what in the world to do with those weird-looking greens or a new variety of squash.  I love wandering through the stalls, and always end up picking up something new to try at home.  Invariably, while I try to make new dishes, I always fall back on my trusted combination of ingredients to make any vegetable shine.  All you need is a little high quality olive oil, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, pepper and a squeeze of fresh lemon. 
What you'll need:
Something new from the farmer's market! (I started with a half pound of baby eggplant)
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp red pepper flakes
1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste
Step 1:
prep the veggie by cleaning, and then chopping into manageable pieces.
Heat olive oil in a pan, and when hot, add garlic.
Step 3:
As soon as the garlic begins to cook and fills your kitchen with wonderful smells (this will just take a few seconds) add the red pepper flakes, and saute for another few seconds.
Step 4:
Add your veggies!  Clearly every vegetable has a different cooking time, so you'll have to taste as you go along.  Eggplant, to me, should be soft but not totally collapsed.  Greens like spinach should be reduced but still have some girth (and should not be totally soggy).  Squash should be crisp-tender meaning soft but still with a little crunch.
When the veggies are almost done, squeeze the lemon over the pan.
Add salt and pepper and serve immediately.  To bring any dish to the next level, sprinkle fresh parmesan on top.  Enjoy!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Ricotta Crostini: 2 ways

Today I had the luck/time/lunch buddy to go to Torrisi for lunch.  Torrisi Italian Specialties is a cute Italian hole-in-the-wall in Nolita that is a deli by day and a restaurant by night.  Their roast turkey sandwich has been considered among the best in NYC for a while now, and their prix fixe dinner is apparently unbelievable, as well as a great deal for NYC ($50 dollars for dinner--but they don't take reservations--be prepared to wait on line for a few hours!).  I, of course, had to try this famed turkey sandwich (and it did live up to the hype) but I couldn't keep myself from ordering some of their fresh ricotta to take back with me.  MAN is it good!  It is creamy, salty, smooth and I was eating it by the spoonful when I opened it up.  Once my self-control caught up with me I realized I needed to eat something else for dinner besides cheese, however delicious it was.  Crostini is the perfect vehicle, and ricotta pairs so well with salty and sweet I just had to create two types, to get the full effect.  These mini open faced sandwiches are you have the perfect way to use the freshest produce you have in your fridge (have you tasted the nectarines or peaches lately!?) and really epitomize the Italian way of cooking--the best ingredients don't need much to taste good.  Perfect for appetizers at a party, or for a whole meal if you're hanging by yourself, here are two suggestions for ricotta crostini that I hope you'll enjoy while it's still warm out.
What you'll need (serves 2 for appetizers):
1/2 baguette
Ricotta cheese

Crostini 1 (non-vegetarian):
2 ripe nectarines
1/4 pound good prosciutto/serrano ham/iberico ham

Crostini 2 (vegetarian):
Good olive oil
Grape tomatoes

Cut the baguette at an angle, so you have long, pretty pieces.
Spread 1 tablespoon ricotta cheese on each piece.
 Cut tomatoes lengthwise and place atop the ricotta on your vegetarian pieces.  Lay one piece of ham on the other slices.
Drizzle the tomatoes with olive oil, and place thinly sliced nectarine atop the ham.