Thursday, April 29, 2010

Potato-Corn Chowder

Chowder is such a delightfully luxurious meal. Rich and creamy, what’s not to love about this hearty, satisfying soup? Unfortunately, chowder is usually made with tons of butter and heavy cream, making this a rare indulgence - until now.

Thursday’s Terra Treats brings you a recipe for potato-corn chowder that’s thickened with a simple corn purée instead of heavy cream. Smoked chipotle peppers provide extra body and depth of flavor, and you won’t even notice that there’s no meat or fish. If you don’t want a spicy soup, only use one pepper and be sure to mince it as finely as you can, but if you’re not afraid of a little heat, add the second pepper!

Try this soup with parmesan pumpernickel toasts on the side, and get ready for seconds!

Serves 4

Potato-Corn Chowder

2 tbsp unsalted butter
3 carrots
3 stalks celery hearts
1 medium onion
½ tsp kosher salt, plus extra kosher salt and fresh ground pepper to taste
½ tsp garlic powder
½ tsp paprika
¼ tsp chili powder
2 cups chicken broth
16 oz sweet white corn kernel, frozen
2 medium potatoes
½ green bell pepper
1-2 smoked chipotle peppers, finely minced
½ cup light cream
  1. Chop carrots into bite-sized pieces, and finely dice celery and onion into thin slices. In large pot, melt butter over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion; sauté for 1 minute, stirring as needed. Add kosher salt, garlic powder, paprika, and chili powder; stir well. Continue to sauté until carrots and celery are tender.
  2. In a blender, purée 1 cup corn and 1 cup broth. For extra thickness, slowly add ½-1 extra cup of corn to the purée. Add purée to pot, along with 1 cup broth and remaining whole corn kernels.
  3. Wash potatoes well, and cube into bite-sized pieces, leaving the skin on for a rustic, earthy texture. Chop bell pepper into bite-sized pieces, and add potatoes and bell pepper to pot. Mince 1 smoked chipotle pepper, and add to the pot (for a little more heat, add the second chipotle pepper). Add light cream and stir well, adding extra salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Bring pot to a boil; cover the pot and reduce to a simmer. Simmer for about 30 minutes, and serve warm.

Monday, April 26, 2010

Poll of the Week - 4.26.2010

New York was cloaked in a drab raincloud this weekend, complete with rolling thunder and cold, misty fog - perfect weather for cozying up indoors! Spring’s beautiful, warm, sunny days are some of the best things in life, but sometimes an April thunderstorm can be a blessing, too. Maybe it gives you the motivation to finally get around to that spring cleaning (who wants to scrub the kitchen when it’s a beautiful day outside?) or perhaps you get to spend a luxurious day doing nothing but reading the paper or finishing that book you’ve been reading in fits-and-starts.

Rainy days can be great for getting things done, but there’s also something about the doom and gloom that can turn the most active and ambitious of us into temporary couch potatoes. Between multiple TV channels, Netflix, OnDemand, Hulu, and innumerable other websites, it’s become all too easy to spend the better part of a day stuck on the couch - and couch-potato-itis can strike any one of us!

Whether you’re drawn to high-brow BBC documentaries or the lowest of the low (any reality TV series on MTV, for example…), it’s almost impossible to be a real couch potato without something to snack on. So today’s “Poll of the Week” wants to know, what’s your go-to couch potato food?

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Introducing: Thursday’s Terra Treats!

Happy Earth Day!

Today marks the 40th anniversary of Earth Day, a day for recognizing our country’s environmental challenges and calling for action, no matter how small, to preserve our planet’s incredible natural resources. Even small things you do can help - whether it’s planting a tree, walking to and from work, writing to your Congressman, or switching to energy-efficient light bulbs and appliances.

A simple but significant way you can help is by making smart choices about what you eat. During World War I, the U.S. Food Administration called on civilian Americans to help the war effort through modest changes in their eating habits. The government encouraged people to plant victory gardens, use less wheat and meat, and cut down on waste by both serving less and using up leftovers.

While America is no longer facing the same struggles and shortages that we were almost 100 years ago, these lessons still hold merit today and can be a great way to make an impactful change in your life. Get involved in a community garden space (like any of GreenThumb’s urban gardens, for example), or plant your own herb or vegetable garden. Seeds are inexpensive and can be purchased at many local nurseries or hardware stores, and can also be bought online - Little Scarlet is partial to the beautifully packaged (and historically accurate!) seed collections from Beekman 1802 (heirloom vegetable and tomato seeds).

If you’re interested in using less wheat and meat and cutting down on waste, there’s an easy approach to both of these changes - try incorporating one meat-free day a week into your diet. I know, I’m the last person to voluntarily give up my pulled pork sandwiches, ribeyes, and roast chickens, but what good are these dishes without their wonderful vegetable accompaniments? Making a conscious effort to forgo meat for one day out of every seven is a small concession that comes with high benefits. Vegetables are generally much cheaper than their meaty counterparts, and they also contain more fiber (which keeps you feeling fuller longer) and fewer saturated fats. The American Heart Association recommends a diet high in fiber and low in saturated fats because of its indicated positive effects on cholesterol and the risk for heart disease.

We’re fortunate enough to live in a country with incredible variety in our produce, and vegetables have such wonderful flavors and textures, it’s really not much of a sacrifice to allow them to shine on your dinner table once a week. Whether you do it for ethical reasons, your health, or your budget, something about a little bit less meat just feels right.

And so today, Earth Day, Little Scarlet is introducing a new weekly feature: Thursday’s Terra Treats!

Each Thursday, Little Scarlet will bring you a new vegetarian recipe. And if there’s a particular vegetable you’re curious about or want to see featured, send me an e-mail - I’d love to include it! The first recipe to be featured in Little Scarlet’s Thursday’s Terra Treats is a well-loved Martha Stewart recipe for Spicy Black Bean Cakes.


Spicy Black Bean Cakes

The first recipe to be featured in Little Scarlet’s Thursday’s Terra Treats is a Martha Stewart recipe for Spicy Black Bean Cakes. These cakes are full of heart-healthy black beans and sweet potatoes rich in anti-oxidants. Try them with a generous serving of Lime Sour Cream (recipe also listed below) and a simple green salad for a full meal.

Recipe yields about 24 black bean cakes

Directions (Everyday Food, September 2004):
Black Bean Cakes:
2/3 lb dried black beans (yields 4 cups cooked beans)
2 tablespoons olive oil
4 scallions, thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, pressed
1-2 jalapeños, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground cumin
Coarse salt and ground pepper
1 large sweet potato, peeled and coarsely grated (2 cups)
1 large egg, lightly beaten
½ cup plain dried breadcrumbs

Lime Sour Cream:
½ cup sour cream
2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
1 small jalapeño, finely minced
Cumin, garlic powder, and coarse salt, to taste

Black Bean Cakes:
  1. Pick over beans to remove any debris or withered beans, then soak beans in water overnight. Drain and rinse beans. In a medium covered pot, cook beans in boiling water over medium heat until tender, about one hour. If you decide to use canned beans, use 2 cans low-sodium black beans and rinse them well before proceeding.
  2. Heat broiler. In a small skillet, warm 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium heat. Cook scallions until softened, 1 minute; then add garlic, jalapeño, and cumin, cooking just until fragrant (about 30 seconds). Transfer to a large bowl.
  3. Add cooked beans to bowl; mash with a fork or a potato masher, leaving about ¼ of the beans whole; season generously with salt and pepper.  Using clean hands, gently fold in grated sweet potato, beaten egg, and breadcrumbs. With your hands, create lacrosse ball-sized mounds (slightly smaller than a tennis ball), and flatten into patties. Be careful not to make the mounds to big, or else the cakes might fall apart when you flatten them.
  4. Line a baking sheet with tin foil and brush foil with remaining oil; place patties on sheet, ½ inch apart. Broil 4 inches from heat until golden brown, 8-10 minutes. Carefully flip cakes with a thin metal spatula, and broil about 2-3 minutes more.
Lime Sour Cream:
  1. In a small bowl, combine sour cream with lime juice and jalapeño; add a light dusting of cumin and garlic powder, stir well. Add coarse salt and stir well. Increase amounts of lime juice or spices, as desired.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar - 6th St & 2nd Ave

Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar
101 2nd Ave

Mermaid Inn casts a pretty big shadow over its stretch of 2nd Ave in the East Village, but be careful not to overlook its competition. Nestled in between an old-fashioned drugstore and a long empty space-to-rent is an unassuming, albeit charming, sliver of a seafood restaurant that is much more deserving of your attention.

Make sure you don’t pass by this hidden pearl of an oyster bar!

Jack’s Luxury Oyster Bar (given the unfortunate moniker “JLOB”) has enough tables to seat 24, but try to get a seat at the eight-person raw bar, if you can. It’s a fun experience, watching the chefs prepare food for the evening, and when you spot something particularly delicious, it might help winnow down the menu’s fantastic choices for you.

The menu offers an assortment of small plates, divided into five categories: Raw Bar, From the Garden, From the Ocean, From the Field & Air, and Dessert. Six dishes should make a pleasantly filling meal for two, and it’s worthwhile to sample from each menu category.

Start with Six Oysters Two Ways, a selection of East and West coast oysters, before waltzing through the rest of the menu. JLOB’s salads don’t disappoint, but for a true delight, try the Kabocha Squash soup. Its wintry description belies a light and surprising soup, where a hearty, cheddar cheese foam rests atop a savory soup, lightly sweetened by the presence of crisp, chopped apples and little studs of maple candy. The selections “from the Field & Air” are good, like a roasted suckling pig on one occasion, but the true standouts at JLOB are as they should be - from the Ocean.

The clams and chorizo are served in a cast iron skillet with a roasted tomato-garlic broth that will leave you asking for more bread - and wishing you’d ordered a second round! A butter-poached lobster is fantastically tender and as delicious as it sounds, and the artic char confit is wonderful, marrying tart, Greek yoghurt with spicy shishito peppers and root vegetable “crisps”. It is through no coincidence that the chef’s tasting menu spends most of its time in this section.

The desserts are simple with playful flavor combinations, as with a ricotta beignet served with basil and lavender-soaked strawberries. The cheese plate offers a fine selection of hard and soft cheeses, but its accompaniments (spicy nectarine jam, pine nut butter, and actual honeycomb) make it a necessary part of the meal - buck tradition and ask for this to follow your oysters.

If you’re looking for a wonderful seafood dinner in the East Village, try not to be distracted by the reputation across the street - settle in for an evening at JLOB and enjoy yourself!

Monday, April 19, 2010

Poll of the Week - 4.19.2010

I don’t know who was the first to come up with this piece of oyster folklore, but it has long been said that oysters are only to be enjoyed in months with “r”s in them - January, September, March, etc. This “rule” likely dates back to a time before refrigeration was commonplace and there was a good chance that oysters would spoil during transport in the warmer months. Fortunately, most parts of the United States can now enjoy oysters all year round (especially if you live near the coast), but for the Nervous Nellies out there, April is the last “r”-month until September.

With that in mind, this week is “oyster week” here at Little Scarlet!

 That’s right, that is a mammoth oyster fritter - on Wonder Bread, naturally!

Check back later this week for reviews of two new oyster-bearing restaurants, and be sure to follow Little Scarlet on Twitter all this week for a slew of oyster trivia. This week’s “Poll of the Week” dives right in to the heart of the matter, asking the most important oyster question of all: what’s your favorite oyster dish?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

100th Blog Post!

Hello readers!

Can you believe it was only just over nine months ago that Little Scarlet ran its very first post? Today, I am so proud to say that Little Scarlet has finally reached 100 posts!

In honor of this milestone, I’m introducing a new feature to Little Scarlet - an “About the Author” section! The new “About the Author” page includes a FAQ section that will offer a little more insight into the person behind this blog and how it all got started, as well as showcase all the different ways to get in touch with me and follow what’s happening here on Little Scarlet.

I’ve added a new link to this page under “Little Scarlet’s Pages” (in the sidebar to the right) and I hope you’ll check it out! In the meantime, here’s a reminder of all the different ways you can keep tabs on Little Scarlet:

• Subscribe in your RSS reader!

• Follow Little Scarlet on Twitter - @Little_Scarlet!

• Be a fan of Little Scarlet on Facebook!

And you can always e-mail any questions you might have to littlescarlet (dot) blog (at) gmail (dot) com, and don’t forget to keep checking back for a new “Poll of the Week” every Monday!

Friday, April 16, 2010

World’s First Food Truck Drive-In Movie

How many times have you killed the last few minutes before lunch by stalking your favorite NYC food trucks online? (thank God for Twitter!) You know, checking to see if they’ll be in your neighborhood that day or if they’ve already run out of your favorite special dumpling/burrito/ice cream? How often do you find yourself walking home from work or the gym, and you spot Schnitzel & Things or the Big Gay Ice Cream Truck stopped at a red light and it’s all you can do to keep from banging on the passenger window and holding up traffic while you get your fix?

If any of this sounds familiar, then Little Scarlet has great news for you! This year’s NYC Food Film Festival is introducing “The World’s First Food Truck Drive-In Movie”.

On June 26th, the “largest collection of the region’s food trucks ever assembled” will meet under the Brooklyn Bridge for a drive-in movie. Except this time, it’s the food that will drive in – everyone else will be showing up on foot. Just picture it: all of New York’s most fantastic food trucks all in one place, all day long!

Food service starts at noon and the movies (all food-themed) begin at sundown. Admission is free, but luckily the people over at NYC Food Film Festival know how out-of-hand an event as awesome as this can get and are using a gentle crowd-control tactic – you’ll need a ticket to get in.

There’s a limited number of tickets, but they really are free (although donations to the Food Bank for New York City are welcome when you “purchase” your ticket), so act quickly! Here’s the link, and hope to see you all there!

Rumor has it the founders are hoping to have at least 50 vendors show up, but they haven’t released any names yet. While we’re waiting, tell Little Scarlet what your favorite NYC food truck is! Leave a comment for your fellow readers about what makes it so great - and be sure to check back here later for a full list of expected vendors once it’s made available.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Poll of the Week - 4.12.2010

Have you ever looked in your refrigerator and seen food, but nothing to really make a meal out of? Half an onion, one plum tomato, and some leftover cheese and olives may not sound like much, but on a day when your cupboard’s as bare as old Mother Hubbard’s, these are the perfect ingredients for a great pasta dish. When you don’t have much to work with, pantry staples like pasta, orzo, couscous, and rice can be your best friend. One of my all-time favorite ways to use up leftover odds-and-ends, though, is to make risotto.

Risotto is made from high-starch rice (like Arborio rice) and is cooked slowly over low heat until it has a rich and creamy texture. Most risotto recipes build upon a standard list of ingredients that includes onions, butter or olive oil, white wine, and Parmesan cheese, but risotto’s strongest appeal is the dish’s great versatility.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what’s your favorite risotto addition?

Monday, April 5, 2010

Poll of the Week - 4.05.2010

We’re cruising into our third official week of spring and everything is finally starting to come into bloom! A visit home over the weekend for Easter showed daffodils and crocuses peeking out of the earth, cherry trees and magnolias filling the air with perfume and their pink and white blossoms, and forsythia’s wild, yellow branches popping out against a bright blue sky. It was so nice to be out of the city for a little while, walk around on the grass, and eat outside in a warm, sunny backyard!

Spring marks a clear departure from the foods of winter, and we get the first real taste of this during the Passover and Easter feasts. These holidays have traditions that run deep, with food taking on especial significance since many menu items are chosen for their religious symbolism. This week’s “Poll of the Week” wants to know what did you enjoy at your holiday table this past week?