Thursday, June 24, 2010

New Amsterdam Market is Back! Also this weekend: Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic!

Looking for something to do this weekend?

The New Amsterdam Market makes its triumphant seasonal return to the South Street Seaport this Sunday, June 27. Here, you’ll find everything you need for the perfect picnic: breads from Amy’s Bread, Balthazar, and Eli’s Bread; a huge variety of cheese from cheesemongers like Beekman1802, Cellars at Jasper Hill, and Cooperstown Cheese Company; along with plenty of fresh fruit from local farms. Also keep an eye out for ice cream from The Bent Spoon, and chilled bottles of hard cider and wine – just what you’ll need to keep from swooning in this latest heat wave!

If you want to make a full day of it, get to the New Amsterdam Market right at 11 am so that you can make an early beeline for the ferry to Governors Island, where you can enjoy your picnic among the 19th century former military forts and barrack housing. Sound a little too tame for you? Then, don your fanciest summer garb, and head over to the Third Annual Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic!

Ladies, wear your biggest hats and be sure to bring a pair of binoculars so you can see the polo match up close and personal. The people-watching isn’t bad either – Prince Harry will be competing again this year, and last year’s celebrity attendees included Madonna, Kate Hudson, Marc Jacobs & Lorenzo Martone, and LL Cool J. The match begins at 3 (rain or shine!), but the event starts much earlier (and ferry lines for Governors Island are notoriously long). The event is free to attend, and food and drink will be available for purchase (champagne by Veuve Clicquot and concessions by Blue Smoke, Box Frites, and El Verano Taqueria).

New Amsterdam Market: 11am – 4pm, cash only, South Street Seaport,

Veuve Clicquot Polo Classic: Governors Island, 3pm-4pm, Governors Island ferry is free (schedule and directions)

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Grilled Vegetables

Does the term “pasta salad” make you cringe? Does it conjure up flashbacks to hot, summer potlucks, and that one neighbor who always showed up with some gloppy, mayo-laden disaster?

The truth is, pasta salads are perfect for summer - light in calories, high in flavor, and they’re even great cold! But don’t stop at using only pasta as a base, try branching out to other whole grains, like barley, couscous, or quinoa (a Mediterranean grain that’s one of very few complete protein sources from plants). The secret to keeping these salads light is to rely on vegetables to round out your grain, and use spices, citrus juices, and heart-healthy olive oil to punch up the flavor.

Today’s recipe for Thursday’s Terra Treats is one that’s perfect for experimentation: marinated chickpeas are tossed with cooked quinoa, and the rest is up to you! Feel free to play around with the seasonings and the vegetables, following whatever your tastes want.

Write in with your favorite variation!

Mediterranean Quinoa Salad with Chickpeas and Grilled Vegetables

Directions (adapted from recipe):
1 15-oz can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained
3 tbsp lemon juice
5 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
4 garlic cloves, peeled
2 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp turmeric, divided
1 tsp smoked paprika, divided
2 cups water
1 cup quinoa (about 6 ounces), rinsed well, drained
1 tsp coarse kosher salt
4 medium zucchinis, trimmed, quartered lengthwise
2 medium red bell peppers, cored and quartered
½ medium white onion, cut into ¼-inch thick rings
1 ½ tsp ground cumin
4 green onions, thinly sliced
¼ cup chopped fresh Italian parsley
  1. Combine chickpeas and lemon juice in large bowl; add 3 tablespoons olive oil. Using a garlic press, press garlic (or very finely mince with a knife), add to bowl and stir to combine. Let marinate at least 45 minutes, or up to 2 hours. While this is marinating, rinse and drain the quinoa well to remove any excess starch.
  2. In medium saucepan, heat 1 tablespoon olive oil over medium-high heat. Add cumin seeds*, ½ teaspoon turmeric, and ½ teaspoon paprika; stir until fragrant, about 1 minute, being careful not to let spices burn. Add 2 cups water, rinsed quinoa, and kosher salt; bring to simmer, stirring occasionally. Reduce heat to medium-low; cover and simmer until all water is absorbed, about 16 minutes.
    *Whole cumin seeds are preferable, and can be found at Indian and Mexican specialty stores; in a pinch, ground cumin can be substituted in equal amounts.
  3. As quinoa cooks on the stovetop, prepare grill (medium high heat) or broiler. Place zucchini, red bell pepper, and white onion on rimmed baking sheet. Drizzle with 1 tablespoon oil. Sprinkle with ground cumin, remaining ½ teaspoon turmeric, and remaining ½ teaspoon paprika. Toss to coat evenly, and sprinkle with generous amount of salt and pepper. Grill until tender and browned on all sides, 10 to 12 minutes.
  4. Remove zucchini from heat, and cut crosswise into ½-inch pieces. In a separate bowl, add grilled zucchini, sliced green onions, and chopped parsley to quinoa; then add the chickpea mixture and toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper, if desired. Serve outdoors, with good friends!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Poll of the Week - 6.21.2010

So something funky was happening with my polls last week, but Google seems to have fixed the problem, so let’s make up for it this week with tons of votes!

I’ve been experimenting with different breakfast ideas over the last few weeks, and the best way to escape boredom seems to be with oatmeal. If you’re not a fan of oatmeal (amazingly, some people just don’t like it!), that might sound kind of weird – I mean, what’s to like about a bowl full of gray, lumpy stuff? But oatmeal has a great chewy texture and you can dress it up with just about anything: add a teaspoon of unsweetened cocoa powder and Grade A maple syrup, and you’ve basically got a bowl of Cocoa Puffs! Add some Craisins and chopped walnuts, and you’ve just graduated to a very adult breakfast cereal. Or you can add just milk or cream, with a sprinkling of brown sugar on top, and pretend you’re having porridge with Mary and Dickon in The Secret Garden.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks, what’s your favorite way to eat oatmeal?

Sunday, June 20, 2010

2010’s 8th annual Big Apple BBQ!

Last weekend, 120,000 hungry barbecue enthusiasts came out to Madison Square Park for New York’s 8th annual Big Apple Barbecue Block Party. Little Scarlet was lucky enough to be sent to cover the Big Apple BBQ as a Foodie Correspondent for Foodbuzz, and that media pass was certainly put to good use!

The delicious smell of smoked meat was thick in the air as 17 of the country’s most talented barbecue pitmasters churned out mountains of brisket, pork, ribs – even mutton! Heartland Brewery had its beer garden up and running around the Madison Square Park fountain, right next to the music stage where blues and country twangers like Secret Country and The Derailers were rocking out.

As a newly minted KCBS Certified Barbecue Judge, the best way to become a better judge is to eat as much barbecue as you can and really pay attention to what you’re eating. With this aim in mind, I rallied together a crew of like-minded barbecue lovers to help eat a plate from each vendor over the course of the weekend, so that Little Scarlet could pick favorites for brisket, pulled pork, and ribs.

Best Brisket: Jack’s Old South
Pitmaster: Myron Mixon

Pitmaster Myron Mixon is a fierce competitor on the barbecue circuit, and his brisket is a reflection of that dedication to barbecue. Hill Country’s brisket gives Jack’s a run for its money, but ultimately Jack’s brisket delivers just what you want: it’s tender, juicy, and full of great fatty, beef flavor (although it would be preferable if the brisket were not sliced with an electric knife). The baked beans had a nice dash of heat, though the addition of sliced peaches made them a little too sweet for this Northern girl.

Best Pulled Pork: Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q
Pitmaster: Chris Lilly

After Pitmaster Chris Lilly’s pulled pork brought him eight World BBQ Championships, it should come as no surprise that Big Bob Gibson had the best pulled pork at the Big Apple BBQ. Lilly takes whole pork shoulder, a cut that includes the butt and the picnic, and injects it with an Worcestershire sauce-apple juice liquid, and then rubs the shoulder all over with a dry spice mixture. After the meat spends 14-16 hours cooking in a rotisserie smoker at 225° F, Lilly chops the pork and serves it up on a bun with a side of brightly colored coleslaw. This pulled pork is juicy and fatty, and flavorful enough that it doesn’t need anything extra, but Big Bob’s terrific sauces have brought home Championship titles, too – you really can’t go wrong!

Best Ribs: Pappy’s Smokehouse
Pitmaster: Skip Steele

As you might expect, Pappy’s Pitmaster Skip Steele is also well-known on the competitive barbecue circuit; his team, Super Smokers BBQ, has done particularly well at the Memphis in May competition, consistently placing in the Top Ten. (Fun trivia: Steele’s Super Smokers BBQ catering business counts country legend and heartthrob Randy Travis among its clients!) These St. Louis-style ribs were the talk of the Big Apple BBQ, and they did not disappoint. Prepared with a brown sugar-based dry rub that caramelizes during the low-and-slow barbecuing, they have a beautiful shine to them, and the meat pulls easily from the bone without falling off.

Crowd Favorite: Jim ‘N Nick’s Bar-B-Q
Pitmaster: Drew Robinson

These smoked sausages are a true Southern delight, right down to the Duke’s mayonnaise used to make the pimiento cheese. The sausages are smoked over hickory for an hour and then finished on the grill for that perfect snappy bite – to get the full effect, spread a liberal dose of pimiento cheese on top of a Saltine, then top with a generous bit of sausage and a slice of Serrano pepper. You’ll be craving these all the way until next year’s Big Apple BBQ!

To see other pictures from 2010’s Big Apple BBQ and to read about Little Scarlet’s interview with Chris Lilly, click on the “Read More” link below!

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Basic Cheese Grits

The first time I ever heard of grits was while watching the movie My Cousin Vinny, as Joe Pesci cross-examines a witness about his grits.

(start around 7:00 for the grits interrogation)

Then, the first time I ever actually ate grits was at a wedding in Virginia when I was about ten. I was hesitant to dive in to the cream-colored pile of mush, but an elderly Southern lady sitting next to me drawled, “Now honey, you can’t come down here and not try grits.” So I ate a nervous forkful and realized they weren’t that bad at all, and happily devoured the rest of them.

Now, fast-forward almost 15 years without grits, and I suddenly can’t get enough of this polenta-like dish, also made from coarsely ground corn. I’ve tried them at Mara’s Homemade (fine and creamy) and at Back Forty (coarse and chewy), and finally decided I needed to try making my own. This edition of Thursday’s Terra Treats offers only a basic recipe for grits because you can really add whatever you want. Shrimp is one of the more traditional choices, but I’ve had wonderful grits with roasted or grilled corn, artichoke hearts, ramps, or even German sausage!

At the end of the day, though, sometimes simplicity is best. And when it comes to grits, it’s pretty hard to beat the simple addition of cheese and a buttery biscuit to go with it.

Basic Cheese Grits

1 cup uncooked grits
2 tbsp butter
1/3 cup freshly grated aged Gouda cheese
Salt, fresh ground black pepper

  1. Cook grits according to package instructions, which typically involves a 1:4 grits-to-water ratio, a period of constant stirring, and a covered simmering until desired consistency is reached. Set aside and keep warm until any desired add-ins are ready to be included.
  2. If adding extra ingredients, add them to warm skillet along with any desired seasonings. While these add-ins are warming up, stir cheese and butter into grits, until melted all throughout. Any kind of cheese can be used, but I like to use a hard cheese with some bite to it, like the aged Gouda used here. If the cheese is salty, there’s no need to add extra salt, but if you want, you can add a little bit to taste while stirring in the butter and cheese.
  3. Spoon grits onto plates, and grind fresh pepper over top. Serve immediately, with warmed additional ingredients on top.

*Note: as we all know, no self-respecting Southerner uses instant grits – and neither should you, no matter what part of the country (or world) you’re from.

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

Malaysian Restaurant Week hits NY Metro Area

Sam Sifton (Chief Restaurant Critic at The New York Times) has introduced a new feature to The New York Times’ online Diner’s Journal called “Hey, Mr. Critic!”, where he answers readers’ pleas for help finding restaurants for special occasions, often involving specific criteria. One lucky reader was answered last week in a quest to find curry laksa, a Malaysian chicken soup that was new to me. Mr. Sifton’s excited response pointed to a previously published New York Times article about Malaysian food in New York. The article’s title, “From Asia, Rapture in a Bowl”, really says it all – after reading the piece, this fragrant, spiced, “curry noodle soup” has immediately catapulted to the top of my “must try” list!

The article Mr. Sifton cites (written by Julia Moskin) names a couple of places to visit in Chinatown and Queens, but if you’re hoping to find curry laksa a little closer to home, you’re in luck – if you act fast!

Malaysian Restaurant Week is here in New York (who knew??), and it ends on Sunday, June 20. Various restaurants in the New York metro area are offering special Malaysian menus, highlighting this country’s unique cuisine – brightly colored and highly flavorful, Malaysian food brings together the best of Chinese, Indian, and Malay cuisines.

Take a look at the list of participating restaurants here – and if you try anything fabulous, be sure to mention it here on Little Scarlet!

Monday, June 14, 2010

Crab Boil at Back Forty Returns!

Tomorrow starts the third year of Back Forty’s weekly Summer Crab Boils!

If your favorite thing about summer is lining tables with newspaper, rolling up your sleeves, and getting covered in Old Bay, then make Back Forty your new summer home. Back Forty’s weekly crab boils will happen every Tuesday night from June 15-August 31, with a special end-of-the-summer bash Sept 1-3. Tickets have to be purchased in advance ($42 per person, not including drinks, tax, or tip), and go on sale at 10 am the Wednesday prior.

Tickets can only be bought through Brown Paper Tickets, and you buy your ticket for a particular time slot between 6:30 and 9:30 pm. The 6:30 and 8:30 time slots are for seats out in the garden, which I highly recommend.

In addition to piles of hard shells, your ticket includes buttery, garden sides, corn bread, and cobbler for dessert. And if you need something to wash it all down with, Back Forty has a great selection of draft and bottled beers from local breweries.

Back Forty, 190 Ave B (near 12th St), 212.388.1990

Poll of the Week - 6.14.2010

Whether you buy your fish from your local fishmonger or prefer to go out and have your favorite restaurant handle all the dirty work, whole fish are an impressive (and surprisingly simple!) way to serve fish. They can be prepared any number of ways: roasted or steamed, stuffed with shrimp and crab or doused in lemon and butter, or even baked in a thick, sea salt crust.

Preparing fish whole works well with lots of different kinds of fish, so this week’s “Poll of the Week” asks what’s your favorite fish to eat whole?

If you have a favorite way to cook whole fish (or any secret tips), share it in the Comments section!

Saturday, June 12, 2010

Big Apple Barbecue Block Party!!

The countdown is almost over! The Big Apple BBQ is about to begin! Just 30 minutes to go!

The BBQ runs from 11-6 both today and tomorrow, rain or shine, in Madison Square Park. Last year, the streets around Madison Square Park closed down as tens of thousands of people came out for some of the best professional barbecue in the country, for $8 a plate. Barbecue vendors from all over America set up their stands on the park’s perimeter, while desserts from Blue Smoke are sold inside the park ($4) along with a variety of beer, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages ($2-$6). Snapple (a sponsor of the Big Apple BBQ) gives out free (non-alcoholic) drinks throughout the day, though, so if you time it right, you’ll never have to pay for a drink.

The best strategy is to gather a group of friends, pick up a map of the event from one of the information booths, choose your first target, and hop in line. Get one or two orders of whatever that vendor is selling, and go directly into your next line, eating while you wait. If things work out, you’ll be able to happily graze all day!

Now, it’s true that today’s weather forecast calls for scattered thunderstorms, but you know what that means? Shorter lines!

Check out some pictures from last year’s event, and get ready for an awesome day of drinkin’ beer and eatin’ hog!

Chris Lilly, of Big Bob Gibson Bar-B-Q (you must eat here!!)

Ribs, ribs, ribs!

Peace, love, and barbecue: the ultimate trifecta!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

Farfalle with Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

Pesto is a simple way to add bright color and huge flavor to everything from pasta to mashed potatoes to risotto. Full of earthy basil and toasted pine nuts, it’s fresh and satisfying – and perfect for summer! All that parmesan cheese and olive oil makes pesto pretty rich, which is why some people like to add a squeeze of lemon. But my sources tell me that lemon in pesto is not traditional, so I’ve added some oven-roasted tomatoes on top – they cut the pesto’s richness and brighten all those fresh flavors.

Plus red and green look so pretty together!

Makes 4 servings

You can use pesto with just about any kind pasta, but I prefer one with a good shape like farfalle, with lots of little nooks that are perfect for catching the sauce (campanelle and fusilli would also work well here).

Farfalle with Pesto and Roasted Tomatoes

¾ cup pine nuts
6 cups fresh basil, well rinsed and loosely packed
¾ cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
1 garlic clove
¾ cup olive oil
1 pint grape tomatoes
12 oz farfalle
  1. In a large skillet, toast pine nuts in 2-3 batches over medium heat, to prevent overcrowding and even toasting. Stir constantly for about 5 minutes, or until fragrant. Set aside and let pine nuts cool completely.
  2. In a food processor, combine basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic clove, and pine nuts; slowly add olive oil and process until smooth. Alternatively, you can combine basil, Parmesan cheese, garlic clove, and half of the pine nuts. Slowly add olive oil and combine until smooth; add remaining pine nuts and pulse until nuts are coarsely broken.
  3. Pre-heat oven to 350° F. Line a baking sheet with tin foil, and add 2/3 pint halved grape tomatoes and 1/3 pint whole grape tomatoes (tip: make a small incision in each whole tomato so that the juices don’t explode out while cooking – or in your mouth!). Add a light drizzle of olive oil and some freshly cracked pepper; roast in the oven with a watchful eye for about 30 minutes.
  4. While the tomatoes are roasting, cook farfalle according to package directions. Top farfalle with a generous dollop of pesto sauce and roasted tomatoes, and serve with a light, green salad and crusty roll.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Pie Flight at Four & Twenty Blackbirds

There honestly isn’t much I love more in this world than a piece of really great pie. Except for maybe three pieces of really great pie!

Brooklyn’s Four & Twenty Blackbirds bakery is offering pie flights this week, through Friday: three pieces of homemade pie for $10.

“Sing a song of sixpence a pocket full of rye / Four and twenty blackbirds baked in a pie...”

And not just your generic apple pie, either. Sisters Melissa and Emily Elsen learned the art of pie-making from their grandmother, and have opened Four & Twenty Blackbirds with a repertoire of close to three dozen varieties of pie! These butter-crust dessert pies are made using seasonal ingredients, so make sure you get there before your favorites are gone. Selections vary daily and are available mostly by the slice (whole pies can be ordered ahead), but with summery choices like peach berry, lavender blueberry, and blood orange & rhubarb, it’s hard to go wrong! Savory pies and tarts will be added to the lineup soon, making Four & Twenty Blackbirds a one-stop shop for all your flaky, buttery pie needs.

*Note: Cash Only, closed Mondays; open T-F: 8-7, Sat: 9-7, Sun: 10-6

Four & Twenty Blackbirds, 439 3rd Avenue (at 8th St), Brooklyn NY, 718.499.2917

Monday, June 7, 2010

Poll of the Week - 6.07.2010

First, I want to issue a big apology for the lack of post on Thursday – basically, looking for an apartment and calling moving companies took over my life last week, and everything else kind of fell by the wayside! I’m sure you all missed Little Scarlet tons, but don’t worry, everything’s back on track now, and Little Scarlet will be publishing on schedule once again. On to the “Poll of the Week”!

I haven’t been back to Virginia in almost two years now, but every once in a while I get huge cravings for two things from my favorite Colonial Williamsburg sandwich shop, The Cheese Shop. The first is their Virginia ham sandwich, which is so good you’ll never be able to eat “Virginia ham” from anyplace else ever again; it’ll just be too much of a disappointment. And the second is a local favorite called “bread ends with house dressing”, which is exactly what it sounds like: any leftover bread ends that aren’t used for sandwiches are sold for dipping into The Cheese Shop’s famous house dressing.

Whether you’re dunking bread ends or chicken nuggets, the right dipping sauce can make all the difference. This week’s “Poll of the Week” asks, what’s your favorite all-around dipping sauce?