Spiegel

spiegel

A restaurant doesn’t have to be fancy or expensive to offer a great meal. In fact, these days, with a small baby, going out some place fancy will be few and far between. A place like Spiegel, nestled in East Village/Lower East Side, is perfect for a delicious meal in a casual setting, without compromising on quality and taste.

I’d consider Spiegel to be a casual restaurant that is open early (7 am) until late (1 am). The mornings feature amazing coffee and house made croissants, best enjoyed around the semi-circular bar. And your lunch and dinner rangers from a tasty burger with crispy fries to a schnitzel plate with rice and a side of your choosing (go for the cumin roasted beets).

A little more on the coffee. Owner Shmulik Avital brings in coffee from California roaster Verve, which boasts rich, somewhat sweet coffee, that is only available on the east coast at Spiegel (for now anyway).

The friendly and inviting environment was on full display in my visit. Many around the bar knew each other, or if they didn’t, they were already friends. Spiegel seeks to be a neighborhood spot where you can gather to watch soccer or tennis on the big screen, while peering through into the open kitchen below. The beer and wine selection is also quite nice, with many of my favorites in the brew departments (Dale’s Pale Ale and Guinness).

I sampled a number of appetizers, salads, entrees and sides, as well as several desserts cooked up by the chef. I’ll dive into some of my favorites…

The baked feta comes out in a warm skillet with a smokey, spicy tomato and eggplant sauce with olives, served with warm pita. This is a nice sharing plate for you and your friends. The zucchini fritters were lightly battered and very flavorful paired with tzatziki sauce and a small arugula salad — you know, to make you feel like the fried food is more healthy. The salad I enjoyed most was the kale salad, which featured a number of other fresh veggies and a pomegranate vinaigrette.

As for the entrees and the accompanying sides, the grilled salmon with crispy potatoes, roasted fennel and tomato chimichurri was a winner. I might prefer the salmon rare, but the potatoes were how I like them. The schnitzel plate is enormous, as is EVERYTHING (whose complaining there) and the chicken is perfectly crisp and adds a touch of spice. The sides include cumin roasted beets, Moroccan carrots and broccoli with tihini. Each one is quite large, so order accordingly.

The dessert that I favored most was the baked apple pie/tart. It is full of apple and cinnamon goodness surrounded by a warm crisp crust. Add ice cream and I think I could eat it forever.

If you’re in the mood for an inviting casual restaurant, where everyone will know your name (well, in due time), then Spiegel is the place for you. And if you really love the best espresso around with a fresh croissant, then this is definitely the place for you!

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Sous Vide for the home chef

anova

Photo from Anova Precision Cooker®

I love kitchen gadgets, especially ones that make tasks easier or produce things that you are used to seeing at a restaurant. I don’t know what I’d do without my Benriner Japanese Mandoline Slicer , microplane or Cuisinart Immersion Blender. One thing I have always wanted to do at home was cook sous vide.

This is the method of cooking foods, sealed in a bag, under a temperature controlled water bath. This way of cooking enables you to take a beautiful NY strip steak and cook it to a perfect medium rare throughout. Or, you can cook some asparagus or an egg to a perfect creamy yolk center. The possibilities are endless.

Most high-end restaurants use an expensive, large version of this tool, such as the sous vide supreme. These are expensive and bulky, not really useful for a home chef, especially one who lives in New York City. The size and price of this technology is starting to come down, with options available for as little as $200 from Sansaire and Anova. These new versions fit right into your pot and are fairly easy to use.

And then it happened. Just yesterday, J. Kenji Lopez-Alt, of Serious Eats’ Food Lab column, posted about a new model from Anova, the Anova Precision Cooker. This particular version, available to the public in the Fall, was being sold via Kickstarter, with prices as low as $99 for the first 1,000 backers. Currently you can still get one for $145, less than retail, but it wont last long. I swooped in and was able to get one at the $99 price, hoping it will be shipped in the September/October time frame they’re promising. As with most kickstarters, having learned from personal experience, there are usually unforeseen delays. Fingers crossed that I have this sucker by Thanksgiving.

This new model will bring about a new standard for home cooks looking to try sous vide. The new system will even be bluetooth enabled, letting you select recipes from your phone and program the unit with the swipe of a finger. The source code will be available, letting developers create new apps and recipes for the anova cooker.

If you’re looking to get one early with this kickstarter, it’s worth a shot. If not, this will sell to the public for $169 once released. I know I can’t wait.

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Duck Prosciutto

duck ham

I know what you’re going to say. You live in New York. You are posting a recipe for homemade charcuterie. Hell, you’ve even posted about making your own Old Fashioned. You must be a hipster. If that means I like to eat delicious things, own a pair of Ray-Ban Wayfarer Sunglasses and more than 2 plaid shirt from J Crew, then I’m guilty as charged.

Regardless, making your own homemade charcuterie has become very popular. I’m just moments away from picking up Michael Ruhlman’s book on the subject (Charcuterie: The Craft of Salting, Smoking, and Curing). Some appear much easier than others, especially ones that don’t require several weeks and a temperature controlled room. Duck prosciutto takes a week or so, and you can do it in your fridge, despite some recipes that say you should hang it up wrapped in cheese cloth. Terroir Wine Bar (locations in Manhattan and Brooklyn) has an even better version than mine, but maybe one day mine will be as good as the one served by chef Andy May.

This is definitely the gateway charcuterie. Here goes nothing:

Ingredients:

1 duck breast – remove part of the tough skin, but not all the way down to meat
~ 1-2 cups Kosher Salt
1 tablespoon dry sage
2 teaspoons cracked black pepper
2 cloves dried bay leaves, crushed or ground

In a small tupperware container, or even a plastic bag, enclose duck breast with mixture of salt, sage, pepper and bay leaves. you want the entire breast to be nicely coated.

Seal container and place in refrigerator for about 5-7 days. You can check it around 5 days. You will see liquid in bottom of container or bag. This is normal, as the liquid is being pulled from duck breast.

After about 6 days, the duck breast should weigh about 30% less than at start.** When the duck appears to be thinner and hard, rinse off all salt and seasonings and dry. You can now thinly slice your duck breast. Serve on it’s own or with cheese and crackers. It will be salty, but will mellow over a few days in fridge.

**You can weigh duck at the start and keep track to see if you’ve reached that point

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Apple and Cranberry Crisp

crisp

I love apples, but I really do not know why I bother buying them in the Spring. The apples are left from the Fall and are really hit or miss. They seem to turn quickly. To counteract this, I decided to make an apple crisp to go along with some delicious Blue Marble ice cream.

Apple crisps with oats don’t do it for me, so I search for some different recipes that didn’t use them. What I came up with is basically apples coated in cinnamon and sugar with a layer of brown sugar, butter and flour on top. I even used a little ginger powder and dried cranberries. What came out was gooey delicious apples with a crunchy sugary topping.

Ingredients:

4 apples – peeled, cored and cut into 8 wedges each, Slice each wedge in half the short way
1/2 cup flour
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
1/2 stick butter, slightly softened and cut into small bits.
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1/4 cup apple juice (optional)

Heat oven to 350, with rack in middle of oven.

In small bowl, mix together flour, brown sugar, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, nutmeg, butter and ginger. Mix with a fork, or alternatively use food processor, until well combined.

In an 8×8 or 9×9 shallow baking dish, add apples, apple juice, 1 tablespoon cinnamon, and sugar. Mix well to combine. Toss with half the cranberries. You want apples to fill entire pan, as they will shrink some. Top apples with topping mixture and remaining cranberries.

Cook for about 30 minutes, until top is crisp and apples are soft. Enjoy with ice cream, whipped cream, or just on its own.

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Pasta with Roasted Cauliflower, Dried Cranberries and Pine Nuts

cauli 2

Yes, in case everyone was wondering, this is still a blog with new posts. It has been quite a while, but with upcoming arrival of the baby Carnivore (or vegetarian), things have been hectic. I have still been making and eating nice meals, but now I’ll finally get a chance to tell you about one of them.

Over the past 3 or 4 months, I have seen a lot of restaurants offer cauliflower side dishes that have had some sort of dried fruit, a nut, usually pine, and some delicious vinaigrette. The key to all of this is the roasted, charred, cauliflower. Roasted cauliflower is one of my favorites, and while I usually roast them whole, it takes a while…and sometimes you just want to eat faster.

Here, I roast the cauliflower broken up in a pan, toss it with pasta, dried cranberries, toasted pine nuts, sherry vinegar, oil and goat ricotta cheese. You get a creamy texture from the cheese and a bite from everything else. Yes, this is starchy, but damn if it’s good anyway.

Ingredients:
Loosely based on Serious Eats
Serves 2

1 head cauliflower, stem removed, broken up into large florets
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil divided
1/4 cup ricotta (goat or cow)
1/4 cup pine nuts – toasted
Kosher salt and pepper
1/4 cup dried cranberries
6 oz penne or similar pasta

Heat oven to 400. Toss cauliflower with 1 tablespoon olive oil, salt and pepper and add to a lined sheet tray or oven safe pan. Shake cauliflower around every 10 minutes or so. Roast for about 20-25 minutes until browned and softened.

Meanwhile, bring salted water to boil and cook pasta. While pasta and cauliflower are cooking, mix remaining oil, vinegar, cranberries and toasted pine nuts* and a little salt and pepper.

*to toast, add to a small, dry skillet and cook on medium for about 5-7 minutes.

When pasta is cooked, reserve 1/2 cup pasta water, and drain. Add back to pot with cheese, cauliflower, vinaigrette and a little pasta water if necessary. Toss to coat and serve!

Posted in Cauliflower, cheese, main course, nuts, pasta | Leave a comment

Frying Pan Lasagna with Mushrooms and Eggplant

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I’m not sure what compelled me to make a lasagna in a large 3.5 quart pan, but I have seen a recent influx if single portion lasagnettes and thought, “why not make one of these, but in a pan.”

I used fresh lasagna sheets from the store, but you could probably use the other boil ahead sheets. I don’t know if the no-boil sheets would work here, unless you went really heavy with the sauce. This one was with a béchamel sauce, mushrooms and roasted eggplant. You could easily add even more veggies like red peppers and zucchini. I opted for no tomato (sauce), my preference for lasagna.

If you have a big 10″ skillet, that’s at least an inch deep, you’ll be fine making it in the pan. If you’d prefer to just use a lasagna pan or round, shallow casserole dish, that’s fine too. Don’t feel tied to the frying pan. I simply dirtied one less pan and wanted to do something different.

Serves  2-4 as main dish.

Béchamel:

3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons flour
3 cups milk
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped

For Lasagna

1/2 – 3/4 lbs mushrooms, sliced, mix variety
2 baby eggplant, sliced about 1/4″ thick
olive oil
1 tablespoon butter
4 fresh lasagna sheets, or 4-6 of the boil ahead noodles
1/2 tablespoon fresh thyme
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic, finely minced

Place sliced eggplant into a colander and sprinkle a healthy pinch or two of salt. Mix to coat and let sit for 15 minutes, then rinse with cold water.

Meanwhile slice heat water in deep bottomed skillet (or stock pot) with about 1/2 tablespoon olive oil and a pinch of salt. Boil fresh pasta sheets for about 30-45 seconds each, one or two at a time, rinsing with cold water and placing on wax or parchment paper to cool.

Heat broiler to high, with shelf in upper third. Scatter eggplant onto baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and a pinch of salt and ground pepper. Cook under broiler for about 10 minutes, checking regularly to avoid burning. You want to slightly char the eggplant without burning. Set aside

Preheat over to 375.

In same pan you used to cook mushrooms, heat 1 tablespoon butter and a little olive oil over medium heat. When hot, add mushrooms and a pinch of salt. Let mushrooms cooked undisturbed for about 2-3 minutes until they release liquid. Add garlic and thyme, mix and cook until all are browned. Set aside.

While mushrooms cook, or when they’re finished, make béchamel. In a small sauce pan, add butter over medium heat. When butter is close to browning, add flour. Whisk and cook 3 minutes until it begins to brown. Add 1 cup of milk and whisk until combined. Add remaining 2 cups milk and stir regularly until sauce thickens, about 5-7 minutes.

Assembly:

In same pan you used for mushrooms and pasta, or other oven safe dish, rub butter or cooking spray on bottom. Add a layer of noodle and then cover with béchamel sauce. Add 1/3 of mushrooms and 6 slices of eggplant, top with a bit more béchamel. Add another pasta layer and repeat until all are used up. Top the final layer with any remaining béchamel and sprinkle over with Parmesan cheese.

Cook in oven for about 10-15 minutes. If desired, turn on broiler and cook an additional 2 or 3 minutes to brown the top. Serve and enjoy!

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Gordon Ramsay’s Perfect Scrambled Eggs

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Everyone has probably made scrambled eggs at some point, I know I have many times. They are always palatable, but I wouldn’t ever say I’m proud of those eggs. Now I lean more towards making a fried egg or an omelette, but once I started making Gordon Ramsay’s scrambled eggs, there is really no reason to waste your time with watery, overcooked scrambled eggs ever again.

These eggs do requires an ingredient you probably don’t usually put in your eggs -crème fraîche. This however is what makes these eggs so awesome, creamy and perfect. The main points that Ramsay makes are:

  1. Don’t add salt to eggs until they are cooked
  2. Don’t scramble them ahead of time — scramble as they cook
  3. Stir constantly like it’s a risotto

If you follow all of these rules, you will have amazing eggs and this is how.

Ingredients:

2 Eggs
1/2 tablespoon butter (approximately)
1 teaspoon crème fraîche
Salt

Optional Ingredients:

3 tomatoes still on vine
2 or 3 small shiitake mushrooms caps
thick piece of toasted bread – sourdough would be ideal

Crack eggs into a medium size pot. In a separate small skillet, add a touch of oil, add tomatoes on vine and mushrooms, Season with a pinch of salt and cook in medium low heat. Also, toast bread at same time.

Meanwhile, add pot of eggs to a burner over medium heat. Begin to stir eggs with a spatula. Continue stirring for a minute or two, or until they are well mixed. Remove eggs from heat and stir for about 30 seconds and place back onto heat. Continue stirring until eggs begin to set and clumpy, but are not completely cooked. Remove from heat again and stir for another 30 seconds and then fold in crème fraîche.

Serve immediately with mushrooms, tomatoes and toasted bread. Season with a pinch of salt, and pepper if desired. Enjoy!!

 

 

 

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