Monday, October 26, 2009

Poll of the Week - 10.26.2009

Halloween is this Saturday, which means this week should be full of pumpkin carving, last-minute costume ideas, and ... buying new Halloween candy because you’ve already eaten all of the candy you bought last week!

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks, what is your favorite Halloween candy?

This week, Little Scarlet is throwing in an extra poll, just for kicks (David & Meghan, this is for you!): What’s your favorite scary movie of the 1980’s?

I love Halloween, it’s such a fun time of year, whether you’ve got a great costume ready or are planning a devilish party or spooky feast.  Tell Little Scarlet your monstrous plans - and Happy Halloween!!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

Halloween is less than a week away - have you carved your pumpkin yet? If you’re looking for ideas, check out Martha Stewart’s “Pumpkin Personality” quiz!

Boo! Little Scarlet is an “elaborately designed pumpkin”, according to Martha Stewart’s quiz, but this goofy-grinner won LS over!

One of my favorite things about carving pumpkins is roasting the seeds afterward.  Here's a quick, simple recipe you can use to make sure your roasted pumpkin seeds turn out eerily good!

  1. As you carve the pumpkin, preheat the oven to 350º F.
  2. Scoop out the pumpkin seeds into a bowl. Do not wash the pith off of the seeds, but do clear off any major chunks of pumpkin.
  3. Toss pumpkin seeds with 1-2 teaspoons of oil (olive oil or canola oil work well here). Spread seeds in a single layer on a tin foil-lined baking sheet.
  4. Top with kosher salt or Old Bay seasoning, and bake for about 10 minutes, with a watchful eye to prevent burning.
Let these seeds cool just long enough so that you don’t burn your fingers - these pair perfectly with your favorite scary movie!

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Hungarian Goulash

Hungarian goulash is probably the country’s most famous and popular dish to be prepared outside of Hungary, but no two families cook it exactly the same way. My grandmother has her version, my mother has her own (which always came with spätzle), and I have my own. True, authentic Hungarian goulash is a beef dish somewhere between a soup and a stew, made with paprika (lots of it!), potatoes, and onions. But for my version, spätzle are more work to make than I typically feel like investing, so I’ve taken an easy way out with extra-wide egg noodles, covered in butter and caraway seeds.

Hungarian goulash, topped with sour cream

3 lbs beef chuck, cut into 1-inch pieces
½ cup Hungarian sweet paprika or Hungarian hot paprika (or a mixture of both)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 large onions, chopped
2 large russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch pieces
4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
1 14 ½-ounce can pure pumpkin
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 bay leaves
Extra-wide egg noodles
Butter and caraway seeds, to taste
  1. Place chuck, paprika, salt, and pepper in large Ziplock bag; seal bag and shake.
  2. Heat oil in large pot over medium-high heat. Remove meat from spice mixture, reserving spice mixture for Step 3. Add meat to pot and brown, cooking about 5 minutes.
  3. Place onions and potatoes in bag with spice mixture, and seal, shaking to coat. Add paprika-coated vegetables to pot; cook 5 minutes, turning occasionally.
  4. Add broth, pumpkin, garlic, and bay leaves. Bring to boil, then reduce heat; cover and simmer until potatoes begin to fall apart, about 1 hour. Add additional salt and pepper to taste.
  5. Meanwhile, cook extra-wide egg noodles in boiling salted water, stirring occasionally.
  6. Drain noodles; return to pot and toss with butter and caraway seeds.
  7. Top noodles with goulash, and sour cream.

Be advised, too much hot paprika can make this dish flammable, so it’s a good idea to start out with a high sweet-to-hot paprika ratio. Cayenne pepper can be used to punch up the spice later on, if needed.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Poll of the Week - 10.19.2009

The weather around here has gotten decidedly colder, windier, and rainier during the past week or so.  This is awful for wanting to spend time outside, but it’s fantastic for another autumnal tradition - stew!  I’ll take any excuse I can to eat long-simmered meat and potatoes, but summer is just too hot for that kind of food, so I get very excited when it’s finally cold enough to find a lazy weekend, dust off those cookbooks, and let the stove do all of the work.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what is your favorite kind of stew?

I just made one of these stews this past weekend - look for the recipe to come later this week.  And as always, please let me know in the Comments section if your favorite isn’t listed!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

“Best Cocoa Brownies”

A painful tooth sensitivity to sugar seriously limits the number of desserts that appear on Little Scarlet, but a lazy afternoon and a craving for brownies created the perfect opportunity to post a new recipe. I grew up in a house of “fake bake” - light, airy cupcakes made from a box mix with just eggs, oil, and water added - which I loved. While Duncan Hines makes delicious brownies, I figured that, with the right guidance, Little Scarlet could post something just as great, but made from scratch.

I can be pretty careless when it comes to baking - I frequently misread baking amounts and directions, often execute steps incorrectly, and generally make a big mess of things whenever I try to bake something other than cookies (remember the key lime pie disasters? and yes, that’s plural disasters). I tried to be painstakingly careful while making these cocoa brownies, but when they had been baking for 20 minutes and had about a half inch of butter bubbling above the brownie mixture, I was convinced I had somehow managed to completely ruin them! I baked them for an extra ten minutes, and then turned off the oven, thinking I’d let them cool off before throwing them away and cleaning the pan. Apparently, the “butter layer” didn’t do any damage, and the recipe turned out beautifully, with the richest, most dense brownies I’ve ever had.

They’re very sweet, but the Dutch cocoa powder gives them a pleasant bitterness. The crust on top has a candy-like crackle to it, and the interior is closer to fudge than the cake-like brownies of Duncan Hines or Betty Crocker. Eating them over the course of the last week, I wonder if it might be possible to use a little bit less butter - maybe it could be reduced by 1/4 stick without altering the outcome too significantly. If anyone tries it with less butter than what’s posted below, please let me know how it turns out!

Directions (modified from Alice Medrich’s BitterSweet):
10 tablespoons (1 ¼ sticks) unsalted butter
1 ¼ cups sugar
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)*
¼ teaspoon salt
½ teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs
½ cup all-purpose flour
½ cup walnut pieces (optional)
*recommend using the best quality cocoa available, but these turn out divinely even with a no-name generic brand cocoa!
  1. Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of the baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.
  2. Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl and set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water. Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.
  3. Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously for 40 strokes with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula. Spread evenly in the lined pan, and sprinkle walnuts on top. Walnuts can also be incorporated into the batter, if desired, after it has been beaten for those 40 strokes.
  4. Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes (25-30 if using a gas oven). Let cool completely on a rack.
  5. Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into squares.

In Medrich’s BitterSweet, she explains that, “cocoa brownies have the softest center and chewiest candylike top ‘crust’ of all because all of the fat in the recipe (except for a small amount of cocoa butter in the cocoa) is butter, and all of the sugar is granulated sugar rather than the finely milled sugar used in chocolate.”

I hope you give these a try - I promise, they’re well worth the effort!

Thursday, October 15, 2009

Sigiri Sri Lanka – 6th St & 1st Ave

Sigiri Sri Lanka
91 1st Ave.

Sigiri Sri Lanka, one of the few Sri Lankan restaurants in Manhattan, is nestled in between two Indian restaurants just off the East Village’s Curry Row. Sri Lankan cCurries and biriyanis bear a resemblance to familiar Indian dishes, but Sri Lanka’s culinary identity is found in dishes like Pork Black Curry, Chicken Lamprais, and String Hopper Kotthu. The menu descriptions of these items (found below the jump) sound promising, but are ultimately disappointingly bland and completely forgettable.

Dim lighting can be effective in certain settings, but being able to see food is an important part of tasting it, particularly so when trying food from a new country. Sigiri Sri Lanka is incredibly dark, and when eating the Chicken Lamprais, it is hard to tell if your fork had found a piece of chicken, fish, or plantain (sadly, a larger slight to the food than to the lighting).

Sri Lankan food is rumored to be spicier than Indian food, which I find hard to believe based on my experiences here and with Indian food, but if this is true, it is not artfully done at Sigiri Sri Lanka. It is difficult to discern individual spice elements within a dish and also across the different dishes - the overall impression is of an amalgamation of spices dumped into the pot with too heavy a hand, and with no attention to balance.

Sigiri Sri Lanka has received popular reviews for their food on websites like FoodieView and Citysearch, but there is a bevy of similarly priced restaurants in the area that serve better food. I don’t know if Sigiri Sri Lanka was having an off night or if I just don’t like Sri Lankan food, but I doubt I’ll give the bland darkness of this restaurant and its food a second chance.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Poll of the Week - 10.12.2009

Happy Columbus Day, everyone! For some of you, this means time off work or time off school, and for most people.... it's just another Monday - lucky for you this means Little Scarlet is posting another poll of the week!

Little Scarlet’s “wedding season” ended this past weekend with the marriage of my sister’s best friend from college. It was a beautiful day with a ceremony to match, and wonderful food. But what wedding would be complete without cake? This weekend’s happy couple had an amazing cake (beautiful, moist, and not too sweet!), and so this week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what is your favorite kind of wedding cake?

I’ve been noticing a rising popularity in cupcakes and dessert tables at weddings lately, in lieu of the traditional cake, and Little Scarlet wants to hear your thoughts in the Comments section!

And congratulations to Kristine and James!

Monday, October 5, 2009

Gourmet Magazine to Close at Year’s End

Today, true tragedy strikes both print media and food lovers everywhere - the end of 2009 will lighten coffee tables across America as publication of Gourmet magazine ends.  Almost 70 years after its creation in 1941, a decline in circulation and magazine advertising has been cited for the magazine’s closing. Condé Nast will instead focus its efforts on Bon Appétit, although Gourmet recipes will still appear on  As part of a company-wide review of Condé Nast’s magazines, parenting magazine Cookie will also close, along with wedding magazines Elegant Bride and Modern Bride.

The closing of Gourmet magazine comes as a great disappointment (although, sadly, less of a shock) to Little Scarlet. Gourmet could always be counted on for accessible, yet impressively elegant, meals and was a wonderful resource for entertaining. Through its expert prose, accomplished home cooks were able to elevate making dinner into a kind of craftsmanship, and beautifully photographed holiday spreads inspired both beginners and unsuccessful veterans to enter the kitchen and try to turn out a masterpiece.

It’s hard not to hear the death-rattle of print media with the fall of this once-great giant, and I’m sure the rest of the food-loving community - chefs, writers, home cooks, and eaters alike - will join me in raising a glass, and hoping that Bon Appétit will meet with greater success.

The full internal Condé Nast memo appears after the jump, courtesy of Gawker.

**update** - For a look at Condé Nast's very first issue of Gourmet, click here (from “Serious Eats”).

Poll of the Week - 10.5.2009

Today’s “Poll of the Week” is inspired by yesterday's review of Luke’s Lobster. As the weather gets colder and people start digging sweaters out of their summer hiding places, I always think of the leaves turning in New England - and who can think of New England without thinking of lobster and other shellfish?

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what is your favorite shellfish?

I’d love to hear more - tell me how you like to eat your favorite shellfish in the Comments section!

Sunday, October 4, 2009

Luke’s Lobster - 7th St & 1st Ave

Luke’s Lobster
93 East 7th St

On a recent visit to Caracas, I noticed that the empty retail space in between Caracas-Take Out and Caracas-Dine In had been papered over and “Luke’s Lobster”, a new lobster joint, was moving in soon. I didn’t think much of it until Tasting Table and Thrillist began reporting on some fantastic lobster shack soon to open in the East Village, where the lobster rolls would be sold at a price about half that of New York’s other lobster rolls - already Luke’s was shaping up to be more than just your average hole-in-the-wall seafood dive. As if the price wasn’t attractive enough, Luke’s gives Red Hook Lobster Pound some competition for freshest seafood, as their lobster is brought in directly from Maine in a matter of hours and the meat can be traced back to the harbor where it was caught.

Luke’s is a walk-in establishment with only a few bar stools and a steady line out the door once the afternoon hits. Behind the counter, the walls are stacked high with top-split buns and Cape Cod potato chips, and a staff of three piles giant pieces of claw and tail meat into the toasted, buttery rolls.

“A Taste of Maine” platter: Lobster, crab, and shrimp rolls, a pair of Empress crab claws, chips, and drinks.

Luke’s lobster roll - sitting proud and pretty, with large, identifiable hunks of claw, knuckle, & tail meat!

These aren’t so much “lobster rolls” as piles of lobster loaded into a roll. The cool, sweet lobster meat sits on top of a warm roll with just a smear of mayonnaise - the lobster itself is seasoned only with a light sprinkling of oregano, celery salt, and thyme, in lieu of the traditional mayonnaise, diced celery, and lemon juice. With their late hours, and at $14/4-oz roll, this is a fantastic deal - perfect for those late night cravings where you need a little piece of Maine!

(open 11 am - midnight, Sunday-Wednesday; 11 am - 2 am, Thursday-Saturday)

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Locanda Verde - Greenwich St & N. Moore St

Locanda Verde
377 Greenwich St

Almost three years ago, I had the ricotta cheese at A Voce, and still haven’t been able to get it out of my head. When news broke that Andrew Carmellini had left his chef position at A Voce, I was worried that he’d take the recipe with him and I might never be able to enjoy it again, that I’d missed my chance!

Carmellini did take this recipe with him, but fortunately for me, he’s back in the kitchen at Robert De Niro’s new restaurant, Locanda Verde, and he brought his amazing ricotta with him! Situated in the same space where former disaster Ago was located, Locanda Verde is a family-style restaurant in TriBeCa that is more “dark wood and fire”-Italian than “checked tablecloths”-Italian, with a menu that’s truly built for sharing. Salty focaccia topped with fresh tomatoes and herbs is served in lieu of a bread basket, and tastes even better with a little ricotta spread on top!

I’ve mentioned this ricotta three times now, so I think it deserves some description - a sheep’s milk ricotta with sea salt and herbs, this amazingly light, fresh cheese is fantastic when sprinkled with just a little olive oil and thickly spread over slabs of grilled country bread. If Locanda Verde were closer to home, I might stop in and eat this every day!

The menu reflects Locanda Verde’s heavy Italian influence, with many dishes listed in Italian and the menu broken up into cicchetti (appetizers), antipasti (first course), pasta, secondi (second course), and contorni (sides). Particularly notable appetizers include the lamb meatball sliders and (of course!) the ricotta, but the grilled octopus appetizer is cooked perfectly (no rubbery calamari tendrils here!) and an order of lightly fried artichoke hearts is well complemented by a side of yoghurt and mint.

Carmellini’s hearty and passionate cooking has helped to earn him his well-deserved reputation as a pasta genius. His maltagliati, a roughly-cut, flat pasta, is served with pesto, heirloom tomatoes, and olives, and is finished with a sprinkling of parmesan cheese. It is so fresh and the colors are so vibrant, eating this dish really tastes like walking through a garden.

Maltagliati with pesto and parmigiano-reggiano

The extra-wide pappardelle noodles with lamb Bolognese are topped with a generous portion of ricotta, and the gigantone (huge, thick, al dente tubes of pasta) is drenched in “Sunday night ragù”, thick with stick-to-your-ribs pork.

Left: Pappardelle with lamb Bolognese, mint, and sheep’s milk ricotta; Right: Gigantone with Sunday night ragù and provolone picante

Secondi plates are seafood dishes like halibut and scallops, and meat dishes like duck, veal cheeks, and porchetta. The fire-roasted garlic chicken for two is the real stand-out, though - it’s a whole roasted bird with crispy skin and loads of garlic and herbs. The table next to ours ordered this and the wonderful smell of sweet, roasted garlic turned the heads of every diner it passed on its way out of the kitchen!

Desserts here are not to be overlooked - pastry chef Karen Demasco has crafted a wonderful menu, void of cliché tiramisus and full of beautifully rustic desserts like almond semifreddo, chocolate torta, and a pistachio brown butter cake with seasonal fruits and pistachio gelato.

Pistachio brown butter cake, with plums and nectarines, and pistachio gelato

Locanda Verde has a strong selection of cheeses, but the waitstaff should be more knowledgeable about them - when asked for a recommendation for a semi-soft, earthy cheese or “anything that’s not blue cheese”, they pointed us toward the Gorgonzola Cremificato and the Blue di Moncenisio... two blue cheeses. We made a lucky guess, though, and stumbled across a fantastic cheese that was exactly what we were looking for.

Meadow Creek Dairy Grayson, a washed-rind, semi-soft cheese, with sweet and nutty tones - served with raw honey, spicy nuts, and fruit-and-nut bread

A visit to Locanda Verde is like eating with your Italian grandmother - you’re served more food than you can possibly eat, but you find yourself devouring every last bite. I can’t wait to be back!