Chilled Lettuce Soup with Cucumber ‘Croutons’

Butter Lettuce, one of the simplest of Summer greens is pureed with chicken stock, low-fat ricotta cheese and tender potatoes. Then, rather than ordinary bread croutons, lighten things up with pure blocks of sliced cucumber, to act as a ‘crouton’. Lower in calories, gluten-free and frankly more elegant.   

CHILLED LETTUCE SOUP with CUCUMBER ‘CROUTONS’: Melt 2 tablespoons
of butter in a large saucepan, and add 6 scallions, white part only, finely sliced. Sauté until softened. Add 8 new potatoes, peeled and diced to pan, stir well, then add 7 cups of chicken stock. Bring to a boil, then reduce to low, and simmer until potatoes are tender, 15 minutes. Add 1 pound of Boston or Butter lettuce to the pan, and stir until it is wilted. Remove from heat, and allow it to cool until no longer steaming. Using a blender and, working in batches, purée soup until it is smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl, and add 1/3 cup good quality low-fat ricotta and salt and pepper to taste. Stir until smooth, and adjust ricotta and salt as needed. If soup is to be served chilled (it may be served at room temperature), cover bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate. Serve with diced pieces of Cucumber ‘croutons’. Serves 6-8.

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PHOTOGRAPH: Johnny Miller. PROPS: Carla Gonzalez-Hart.
(Food concept/styling & Art Direction: Dimity Jones)

This recipe was inspired by a Nigella Lawson recipe that appeared in Australian Delicious magazine. (November 2006). 

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3 (more) dishes I’m obsessed with right now.

THE SPICY WONTONS at M SHANGHAI BISTRO & DEN: I love you peanut, I really do. You held my hand, firmly, but gently, through my first foray into Asian food, in the late 70′s as I gobbled down copious sticks of Chicken Satay in Peanut Sauce, proud that this adventure into (ultimately not very adventurous, or even spicy) food, was in my mind my first mastering of Asian cuisine.

Cut to now, and I still love you, and I’m firmly addicted to the succulent pork wontons, covered in a rich, smooth peanut sauce at M Shanghai Bistro and Den. A buttery, pure velvet stream of peanut silk, with a big hit of Chili Oil.

You know when you’re heading home after work, and you start thinking of dinner, and a dish pops into your head— and you can’t do anything but drive off the highway and head right there? This is one of those dishes. Have it with the Crispy Duck in Plum sauce, (it’s called the Crispy Duck Erik Parker style) with Rice to soak up the sauces, and a cold glass of white. I’m convinced you could make this dish at home too… perhaps try melting down your favorite Peanut Butter… Add Chili Oil… Throw in your favorite dumpling… Toss! (I’m going to try it).

For more info on the M Shanghai Den, check here. 

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THE LOBSTER ROLL from RED HOOK LOBSTER POUND: I’m not from Maine. Not even close. I have no idea what a traditional Maine lobster roll is meant to taste like. I hear it has Mayo, chives and a chiffonade of fresh Basil? So I call Scott DeSimon. He’s a friend, a food writer and editor  (he works at Bon App), and he’s from Maine. For me, I want to squeeze a tiny bit of fresh lemon on this lobster roll from Red Hook Lobster Pound, and a tiny bit more mayo, but that’s me. I’m not connected to Maine, at all. Clueless, really.

Scott tells me that there are traditionally two versions of roll from Maine. The first kind is the traditional Mayo “lobster salad” version. It generally just has Mayo…and that’s it. No veggies or chiffonade. (Remember, he points out, until about 10-15 years ago lobster rolls were not “fancy”. The fanciness has come in the last decade or so). The other version (the kind his mom loves) is one he remembers seeing more of as a kid. It’s essentially a bunch of lobster meat in a grilled bun, served with a side of melted butter that you dump all over the thing before you eat. Jesus! Sounds incredible! Both, however, are always served on split, New England-style hot dog rolls, buttered and grilled. Mayo-style Maine Lobster rolls generally get a sprinkle of paprika before serving. As does the Red Hook Lobster Pound roll and personally, I’d possibly flick the green (sliced scallions?) and scrape the red paprika stuff off the top, and have it without, but that’s just me. (Me, not from Maine). The bun though, Oh my god. Whatever young soul is responsible for crisply frying this blanket around the spongy pods of lobster, should be sainted. I think that’s the key with the Red Hook Lobster Pound roll; eat it whole. Resist the temptation to pick off the lobster chunks (like I did) and be left with the bun. All the combinations work best—together.

Eat the Lobster roll with the Maine Lemon Lime Root Beer also available from the truck. Wow. What a perfect combination!

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For info on how to get a Maine style Lobster roll from the Red Hook Pound Lobster Truck - check here. (Have I mentioned I’m now diligently following around the truck, and it’s rolls, on Twitter?)

To read some of Scott DeSimon’s work, check here. 

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THE BURGERat DINERSTH WILLIAMSBURGBROOKLYN: With all due respect, when Killian Fox, from the Observer in London named Little Owl restaurant in New York as having the best burger in the world. I had to ask if he was possibly drunk, (or at least a bit tiddly?) Diligently though, I headed off to Little Owl and tried the burger. It was 16 bucks, it was raining outside, but it was way over-salted inside that burger and to add insult to injury it was covered with a slice of plastic yellow processed cheese. Barely melted. Deep yellow, cloying, the kind that sticks to the roof of your mouth.

It’s true, I have not eaten every burger in the entire world. Not even close. (Although I’d surely like to!). But I’d hasten to add that if you want to try something that in my mind might come pretty close, it’s the Burger at Diner, Williamsburg, in Brooklyn. The grass fed meat, the seasoning, the bun, the chips, the crunchy tangy pickled onions, the homemade Mayo and the melted cheese (a Cabot Extra Sharp Cheddar). It’s glorious! Sidle up to the bar, have Julia pull you a chilled local Beer and indulge. Then write a postcard to Killian (they give you a free postcard when you get your check), and let him know where you are, and what you’re eating, (and that you’re not even the slightest bit tiddly, and not even close to being drunk).

Info on Diner can be found here.

Japanese food magazines

Japanese food magazines have always been an inspiration to me. Although I woefully cannot may read one word, their graphics are always inspiring, cool and linear, and they always make me see food in a new light.

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In New York, you can spend a fun half day picking up Japanese products, food stuffs, as well as supping on great Ramen at Mitsuwa, New Jersey, (they even have a shuttle bus that will take you there from Manhattan). Or elsewhere, you can order their cookbooks and food magazines online, (single copies or subscriptions)>>  from here.

Salt Lick Ribs, Brisket and Sausage (from Texas to New York)

My good friend Jen Smith called me last Saturday, she told me I must come to Timshell Rivers’ place. She said Timshell, (a native Texan) had had a craving for Texas BBQ, and so had Fedexed a bunch of ribs, brisket and sausage from the famous Salt Lick BBQ from Driftwood, Austin, up to New York, and we had to come and help her eat it. Help her eat Salt Lick BBQ? I’ll be right there. What she didn’t mention was that Timshell is an Interior Designer of note, an awesome cook, a generous host, and her place is eclectic and fun.

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With thanks to Jen Smith.

INTERIOR DESIGNER, TIMSHELL RIVERS:
https://www.facebook.com/pages/Timshell-Rivers-Studio/114344405309002

(Photographs: Dimity Jones)

Cherries

Nothing says beauty, in all it’s simplicity like the gorgeous work of Andrea Gentl’s.

Here is a shot of the Sour Cherries, she found at New Amsterdam Market, from the Hudson Valley.

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Check out Andrea’s new blog here:
http://www.hungryghostfoodandtravel.com/

And her work (Gentl & Hyers) here:
http://www.edgereps.com/

For info on New Amsterdam Market press here.

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Copyright © 2011 Andrea Gentl all rights reserved

Cool, Chocolate Chip Cookie Icebox cake

Firstly, I want to wish everyone an amazing July 4th weekend! Where ever you are… whoever you are with. I hope you are eating, drinking, incredible things, with people you love—family and friends.

We shot this story, over 2 months ago. Elizabeth Colling concepted 4 recipes from one cookie dough base, and they were all great. But the one we loved the best was the baked cookies layered up into a cake with lots of mascarpone in between. You can pick up the whole story in the current July Issue of Martha Stewart Living, which is on newsstands right now. It also includes a recipe for a gorgeous tart that uses cookies crushed into a crust (instead of the usual Graham crackers, so smart!) and then a rich chocolate ganache is poured over the top. Delicious!

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THE COOKIE DOUGH STORY: Was shot by Iain Bagwell. Concept and styling by Elizabeth Colling. Props: Tanya Graff. (Art Direction: Dimity Jones)

HAPPY 4TH!