Thursday, May 11, 2006

Small Plate Smorgasbord: Tapas Chez Moi

When my parents come visit me here in New York, it’s standard practice to splurge a little—eat some fancy food, maybe do a little shopping, take the occasional taxi. With that agenda in mind, it’s my scheme to begin the visit by preparing them an outstanding meal; that way, they can subsequently eat five-star Manhattan cuisine and know that their little graduate is every bit as good a chef!

We picked them up at The Hotel on Rivington (which harbors a restaurant called “THOR” where my mother had a meal she described as being “three bites”) and took them on a whirlwind tour of the LES as we gathered our groceries. Our first stop was the Chinatown vegetable and seafood markets, where my mother exclaimed over the prices and my dad ogled the heaps of lobsters and blue crabs, the cleverest of which enact brave escapes across dunes of glassy-eyed fish; after that we hit Essex Street Market for hard-to-find produce and cheap cuts of prosciutto. On the way home we stop by the green market and one overpriced specialty shop to pick up the couple of remaining items we couldn’t find previously (mascarpone cheese, flax seed bread); we grab a nice bottle of Napa white on the way home and the gastronomy begins.

Mom and Dad poke around my 430 square feet of apartment while J and I get cooking. I’ve done a reasonable amount if prep work (shelled the fava beans, marinated the artichokes overnight, sugared the lemons and made the shortbread dough into long rolls swathed in wax paper and refrigerated), and we planned to menu to be easily preparable (nothing that takes more than 15 minutes), but we’re running behind schedule due to hotel complications and only have an hour and a half before we have to hit the pavement for a show, so after the table is arranged and the guests are settled, dinner begins.

(I’d also like to make a note that this meal is, in part, an ode to the influence of my lovely fellow bloggers—Tea, Ivonne, Vanessa, and Sarah, in particular, as I borrowed and fussed with their recipes—but to all of you who have contributed to my culinary growth over the last few months. Thanks, friends!)

Course One
Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad
With Lemon-Infused Olive Oil

Straightforward enough. The favas I shelled last night are rich and tangy, beautifully complimenting the bite of pecorino and my homemade lemon olive oil (thanks once again, Ivonne!), which I decanted this morning after the requisite three weeks’ infusion. With freshly cracked pepper and coarse sea salt, this dish is a simple delight.

Course Two
Marinated Baby Artichokes
With Garlic and Basil

Again, simple, straightforward and delicious. I love that baby artichokes are in season—they’re one of my favorites! The garlic-basil combination, along with salt, pepper, and a very flavorful extra-virgin olive oil, was perfect.

Course Three
Fiddlehead Ferns
With Brown Butter and Prosciutto

I’ve been reading about seasonal fiddleheads in a lot of blogs and magazines recently, and was delighted to find them in a specialy market (along with the Meyer lemons from the previous post). They were so fun to cook and had a yummy asparagus-artichoke thing going on, but with a bite all their own. I served them in the brown butter over folds of prosciutto.

Course Four
Pan-Seared Sesame Tuna
With Wasabi Mascarpone Cream

I’ve made the tuna before (the addition of smoked salt makes this transcend regular seared ahi), but the mascarpone cream was a shift from my previous wasabi aioli. I liked it a lot better—it was rich and spicy with buttery, sweet undertones.

Course Five
King Crab and Stone Crab Claws
With Ginger-Soy Glass Noodles

Many thanks to Vanessa at she craves for the inspiration for this recipe. I tweaked it a little (used glass noodles instead of rice noodles, etc.) but retained its simplicity and assortment of piquant flavors. I had actually intended on using lobster instead of crabmeat, but they didn’t have any tails at the market, and I didn’t want to carry live ones around for another hour and a half while shopping. The substitute king- and stone crab legs turned out to be delicious but very messy…I don’t have any cracker-things…so there I was, hitting claws arranged on a cutting board with a hammer… This was the first non-stir-fried-vegetable-thing to ever be prepared in my wok!

Course Six
Meyer Lemon Vanilla Bean Marmalade
On Flax Seed Toast

The first-ever sampling of my marmalade. I put one little teeny jar in the middle of the plate and served it with four teeny flax toasts. Hooray marmalade! Delicious!

Course Seven
Lemon Ginger Ice
In Sugared Lemon Cups

Holla to Sarah at delicious life for this recipe. I saw your beautiful photograph of these and have been waiting to try them ever since. What a success they were! You were right—cleaning out the shells was pretty hard…how did you do it without tearing holes in the bottom? They were so pretty! And the lemon ginger ice was scrumptious.

Course Eight
Warm Lemon Coconut Shortbread

Let me tell you how these came about: I was gifted a package of organic shredded coconut (thanks, Linda!). One day last week, I decided I really wanted macaroons. I’ve never made macaroons before and didn’t really consider what their constituents might be before spying a recipe on the back of the package (I know, what was I thinking?) for coconut cookies and assuming they must be macaroons. Wrong! After already adding two cups of flour (macaroons are, of course, more or less flourless), I realized my mistake, and also realized that the back-of-the-package recipe was completely yucky (two tablespoons of sugar? With two cups of flour and unsweetened coconut? You call that a cookie?). So I improvised to the best of my ability (a weird ingredient that made its way into this recipe: homemade lemonade) and ended up with a zesty, very agreeable little shortbread.

* * *

So that was the meal. The kitchen was littered with crab shells and I unknowingly got wok oil on my jacket and wore it subsequently in every single picture over the course of the entire weekend…but it was worth it.
Coming up next...dining out reviews, and a bizarre serendipity at Lucien!


Barbara (Biscuit Girl) said...

Wow, what a spread. Sounds like you all had a great meal. Were you able to get the oil stain out of your jacket?

Mom said...

I can almost taste this delectable meal! It was inspirational to watch you (and J) prepare beautiful and delicious food. It was so well planned and orchestrated! You have a way of finding fabulous recipes with a new flare and a taste experience far from my ordinary. You even handled ‘Well’, the rush to the theater. Thank you for such a special evening!!!

Love the new picture.

Me said...

Hi, I have been reading your blog. Your love for cooking, and your love for the good things in life is infectious. By the way, your herb garden looks good =) Keep writing and cooking!

Kate said...

barbara - that remains to be seen...a wash didn't do it, but hopefully a dry-cleaning (yuck, chemicals) will.

mom - thanks. =) we had a ton of fun cooking for you and i can't wait to do it again!

me(you?) - thanks for reading pie in the sky, and for linking to me on your lovely blog! i always get really excited when new people start commenting ;) you're clearly enthusiastic for food as well! i hope we can learn from each other!

tabehodai said...

congrats on your graduation!
I've never been to NY but I see that you are very happy there, so it must be a wonderful city.

I had fiddleheads for the first time recently! I am impartial to it. What about you?

I'm inspired by you to keep my two pots of herbs going this spring.

Looking forward to your next post!

Jennifer said...

Congratulations, and welcome to the world of college grads (I still refuse to use the world adulthood. Pure denial!). Your tapas feast looks and sounds absolutely divine and celebratory. Fiddleheads are so very cute!!

Kate said...

I actually really enjoyed the fiddleheads a lot. Is it true that, if cooked improperly, they can make you sick? They *are* really adorable. Who knoew vegetables could be cute?

TOR said...

OK Kate- here is a tip before you send the jacket to the cleaners- if it is washable- you may need to wash it a few times for the oil to be removed completely but if you put a bit of Tide (it is a very good detergent and you can buy a small bottle if it isnt' in your price range all the time) and sort of scratch it into the spot so it has really worked into the spot - usually two and sometimes it takes three washings - it works all the time for Phil's spots - which LOL come so frequently I only laugh at him now-

Kate said...

J too! I'll keep your advice in mind for next time, since that jacket has already gone to the cleaners. Thanks =)

sarah said...

i'm your holla back girl ;)

what an amazing meal! and congraduations!~

vanessa said...

what a feast! glad I could inspire something good :) ha!