Archive for the ‘Eating Outdoors’ Category

Midnight Feast

Baby octopus (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There are few things for which I will willingly stay up late. Pork belly is one of them. Of course, as I trekked through the slushy Brooklyn night I had no way of knowing that a thick and streaky slab of raw pork belly was waiting for me just past the Bedford stop.

I was on my way to a midnight cooking feast. In two weeks of schedule scouring my friend Ben and I didn’t have one overlapping free hour to cook. And all we really wanted to do was cook. So lets cook at midnight, we said, and that’s how I found myself struggling to stay awake on an empty train, kicking myself for having agreed to something as ridiculous as not being in bed at midnight.

Our plan was to let ourselves be inspired. To not plan a single recipe until we looked at what we had. During his 11 pm grocery run, Ben bought whatever looked pretty and cost less than $2 a pound.

I felt like I was on Iron Chef, watching as he pulled each ingredient out of a Whole Foods shopping bag and laid it on the counter. Lemons. Eggplant. Baby potatoes. Red and yellow beets. Pork belly. Parsley and cilantro. Jicama. Tangerines and grapefruit. Fennel. And lastly, a small, brown paper-wrapped package. “Guess,” he said. “Chorizo,”  I guessed. “Stranger than chorizo.” “Tripe,” I guessed. “Less strange than tripe,” he said and unwrapped a tangled mess of baby octopi.

We threw around ideas for our meal – should we do an Asian-inspired glazed belly or slice it up and cook it like bacon – should we roast vegetables or frittata them – could we do anything without vinegar? (No, was the answer, and Ben made a quick run to the corner store for two bottles of vinegar.) We settled on belly flash seared and then braised in a citrus glaze and a jicama and roasted beet slaw. » Continue reading this post...

Where Manhattan Meets Dinner

Bread salad (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

I can see Manhattan from my roof. There is the dazzling slope of the Chrysler Building, the geometric cascade of the Empire State, and further to the left, the spanned wires of the Williamsburg Bridge. I was going through a rough patch a while back, and my favorite place to sit was on the roof, staring over the rooftops of Brooklyn at the Manhattan skyline and thinking of all the other people who were struggling with me. Each light representing a life. I’d sit alone, cradling a plate of pasta or bread with jam, balancing a glass of wine on the rooftop, and be silent and breathe. There was one bad night, where I wanted nothing but stillness, that I made myself a bread salad to eat on the rooftop. I had some leftover, almost stale baguette, and there’s nothing I’d rather do with stale baguette than add cherry tomatoes, basil, cucumbers, garlic, olive oil, rice wine vinegar, salt, and pepper to it. I put in extra garlic. There are advantages to eating alone.

The roof is a good spot in times of peace, too. The skyline is stalwart whatever my case may be. There is the noise of the basketball games in the park, the ever present cacophony of sirens, planes, Latin music from the bodega on the corner. But underneath the calm of an unobstructed sky, the frenzy is at a comfortable remove. Tonight, I made a bread salad with French bread and plenty of garlic, even though I’m meeting people later. I took it up and watched the sun set.

Bread salad with olives (Eat Me. Drink Me.) A composition (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

There’s a nook on the roof, a joint where the ledge covered in poorly spackled silver paint butts against the building’s edge. I sit here, my back against the wall, my feet propped up, gazing at the skyline as tacky and beautiful as a velvet painting. » Continue reading this post...

I Came to Picnic: Eggplant & Sun-Dried Tomato Spread

4th of July picnic (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

When the sun is shining and the weather balmy, I enjoy nothing more than packing a picnic basket and a blanket and heading into the great outdoors to eat. I love eating outside, and since the sun has been generous this summer, we’ve had dinner outside almost every day. There’s something special, however, about a picnic. A picnic requires planning, preparation, and packing. First, you must decide where to go and what to make. You have to decide whether you’ll be close enough to transport warm food or if your brie will melt before you get where you’re going. You have to figure out how many utensils and napkins you’ll need, since you can’t just run back to the house to grab them, or which container will work best to sneak red wine into the 4th of July Celebration in Washington DC.

Putting together a picnic basket is one of my favorite pastimes. Much of this is probably due to my love of cheese and cheese’s conduciveness to being transported in a basket. But there are a number of other delicious dishes that lend themselves to picnicking – some that aren’t specifically intended for such a meal.

A few weeks ago, Dickinson College (right around the corner from my house) hosted its annual Bluegrass on the Grass festival. My dad packed up our lawn chairs while I modified a dinner of salmon cakes with fennel slaw for transportation. I think I’ve mentioned before that I’m not very good at frying things (a great loss), so my salmon patties were less patties than hunks of salmon spiced with lemon, chives, and cayenne and threaded through with grated zucchini. All for the best, however, since this made them easy to stuff into buns then packed tightly in aluminum foil to retain heat. I packed the fennel slaw with grainy mustard, mayonnaise, and more lemon in a Tupperware and then threw some Ritz crackers, brie, and leftover chocolate-marshmallow no-bake bars in the basket for good measure. » Continue reading this post...

Big Man at the Grill: Homemade Barbecue Sauce

Grilled trout (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

Let’s play a game. It’s a warm evening. The pre-dusk glow is thick, and a soft breeze carries the smell of freshly cut grass. Children shout, dogs bark, the night’s first firefly sparks faintly against a blue sky. Smoke, scented with sweet barbeque sauce and pork fat or seared fish and bell pepper drifts under your nose. Someone stands at the grill, deftly grasping a pair of tongs in one hand and a cold beer in the other. Who do you see?

Chances are, if you’ve ever felt the stirrings of the American Dream, you see Dad, out of his suit and tie, tossing Fido a nugget of meat from the grill and watching his two and a half children tumbling through the yard. Or maybe you see a bunch of bros, throwing back Miller High Life and slinging burgers on buns loaded with ketchup and onions.

Whatever you see, chances are good that it’s not me, a petite, fresh-out-of-college woman (gasp – no) pushing hair out of her face with olive-oil greasy fingers and flinging steaks on the grill with panache, all the while swigging from a bottle of Newcastle. If that’s not what you see now, I hope it is soon. Men have steered the grill for far too long, and I’m taking back the tongs.

My goal for this summer is to become a grill master. Lamb chops, eggplant, pizza crust, whole fish, you name it, I’m going to grill it. In facing the grill, a beast I just learned how to turn on a few days ago, I will also come up against one of my other culinary fears – meat. I’m not sure why cooking meat scares me. Vegetables and grains can be taste tested as they cook, so I know exactly when they’re done or whether they need just a little bit more pepper. » Continue reading this post...

Tis the Season…To Go Outside (a post by Josh): Sweden Meets America Burgers

Burgers (Eat Me. Drink Me.)

The sun is finally shining through the April showers, and shorts are more than appropriate. Now a few weekends ago (oh how the time has flown on my adventure through the South), my house christened our new grill. Our house came with a few downers – the electricity, water and gas all getting cut off within the first week of us living there – but a few uppers too. We have a porch, some rocking chairs, a spacious kitchen and a grill. We had all taken advantage of one of those perks except for the grill until that weekend. It was only fitting though, for us to have a bunch of people over to enjoy the luxuries of our massive grill. We wanted to fill up the grill with as much as possible.

We planned on starting the festivities early afternoon, around three o’clock, to bring the weekend to us even sooner. It was a sunny, breezy, Southern day where the grass was growing a bit too high and the condensation from our water glasses couldn’t cool us off enough. But we prevailed, somehow.

This wasn’t our first ever cookout in our lives, but probably the first one that we, specifically, held. So we felt like the pressure was on. But the one thing we knew was that we needed foods, propane and above all, people.

We never really thought about what we were going to have, rather that we were just going to have a cook out. I mean, everyone knows what a cook out is, right? Well, I quickly found out that it was regional. We had differing opinions – barbeque, burgers, vegetables, watermelon? It as all fair game, and that was part of the problem.

Friday noon rolled around and we still only had a grill and a determination to provide for our future guests. » Continue reading this post...