Saturday, September 25, 2010

A Simple Summer Supper

It's been a while since I've written. I know. And a lot has changed!

My last post recapped some of my favorite places on a recent trip to California, as I was at the time looking to relocate out there. Since then, an internship I had in a test kitchen in New York ended, and just as it did (with a massive thunderstorm, complete with tornadoes), I got a job offer from an exciting new start-up in New York that will be a go-to food "mega-site." More details to come on that front over the next couple of weeks.

I find it interesting that everything -- internship, job, and who knows what else now -- has seemingly worked out on its own just beautifully. One thing ends and seamlessly transitions to another. I'm a huge believer in whatever happens, happens for a reason, and at the most perfect and elegant time. Like, right now, I'm working on finding and apartment. It's stressful, as you don't see places you like, then you do, and you have to put together the package, and are waiting on others for quotes and references. I'm tensing up just writing about it.

So, needless to say, I haven't been in the kitchen at all recently. However, I did cut myself pretty badly with a super-sharp chefs knife last week. Ok, not cut. Stabbed. Yup. Stuck the fleshy part of my hand between my thumb and forefinger pretty deeply with a 10" knife. I was so used to 8" knives that I spaced that one out. Don't recommend spacing out in a kitchen. Bottom line, a not wielding knives, hot pans, and lots of dishes was needed (and the cut healed perfectly on its own, thank goodness).

So, last night marked the first cooking venture in a while. I had some late-summer market treats that I wanted to use. Fresh baby arugula from Satur Farms on Long Island. This stuff is more tender, and rare I find, than their wild arugula. A small red onion from the greenmarket. Some basil pesto (did you know their formula is nut-free?!) from Bear Pond Farm, in Glastonbury, CT. And the last of the delicious and bright red tomatoes grown in my parents garden in Rhode Island. What was on the menu? Simple: cheese-stuffed spinach tortellini tossed with pesto and Satur Farm's baby arugula, topped with a mixture of garden tomatoes, garlic, and red onions, some toasted pine nuts, and a grating of gruyere.

The recipe itself is simple and can be tweaked however you wish.

6 smaller red tomatoes, sliced or rough chop
1 small onion, finely diced
1 garlic clove, minced
Salt, to taste
Handful of pine nuts, toasted
1/2 package or 1 serving fresh spinach tortellini
Large handful arugula
1 heaping tablespoons pesto
Freshly grated gruyere (I didn't have parmigiano!)

Combine the tomatoes with the onion and garlic in a bowl, season with a pinch of salt, and let sit for an hour to let the flavors meld. NEVER store your tomatoes in the fridge! It kills the flavor.

Bring water to a boil in a large saucepan for the pasta. While the water boils, toast the pine nuts. Add the tortellini to the salted water and cook until they float, or however your package indicates. While the pasta cooks, place pesto in a large bowl. Drain the pasta, saving about 1/4 c pasta water to thin the sauce if you desire. Place drained tortellini in the bowl with the pesto. Add the arugula and toss. The heat of the pasta will slightly wilt the arugula.

Plate the pasta-greens mixture, and top with a heaping serving of the tomato mixture. Garnish with pine nuts and cheese. Eat immediately =)

Saturday, September 11, 2010

One of my most favorite places...

has become the San Francisco Bay Area.

As most of you know, I ventured out there this past week for some interviews, meetings, and, of course, to see some of my Middlebury friends who are living out there. My week's schedule was jam-packed down to 15 minute intervals, so there was not a lot of time for fun in the sun (or fog, as the first half of the week was graced with puffs of fog rolling in off the Pacific) like my trip two years back (The first of four posts is here) and our whirlwind of a weekend in wine country. However, I did have a chance to visit many new finds, and some old favorites. I couldn't resist not sharing them with you!

Tuesday: A whirlwind day of meetings on the peninsula, but some time for lunch and shopping in Palo Alto was a must. The perfect end to a delightfully (yes, I love the fog) foggy day? An inaugural BART trip, followed by dinner and drinks in San Francisco.

Must-try cafe for lunch in Palo Alto: Cafe Epi, 405 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

My most favorite store on University (and the source of this year's Christmas presents for my family): Dolma Handicrafts, 278 University Avenue, Palo Alto, CA

For dinner, we were going to try the wonderful gastrotavern, The Tipsy Pig. We walked in the the delightfully warm and friendly space, hoping for a cozy spot in from the cool breezes blowing in off the bay. However, despite there being a large table open (we figured only 1 waitress?), we were informed of a 45 minute wait. Discouraged, but not in despair, we went to the next stop we were torn between: Tacolicious! Much to our delight (and my hungry tummy's relief) we were seated immediately, and quickly presented with a pitcher of the margarita de la casa and multiple baskets of chips and perfectly spicy farmers market fresh salsa.

As someone who has a sensitive relationship with dried corn products, I was a bit wary of the menu. Yet, my fears were quickly allayed with the delightful array of farm-fresh produce filled dishes. I decided on the Marina Girl salad, heavily bolstered by homemade chips, salsa, and guacamole. As partial vegetarians, my friends fiance got a side of the Drunken Beans and my friend and I split the Heirloom Beans. Our Heirloom Beans blew the Drunken ones out of the water...perfectly warm and cooked just right. What a meal! And it wasn't just my next drink, the Fillmore Paloma with Elderflower and Grapefruit, that made it so good.

The perfect nightcap? A trip to Monaghan's for some tennis and white russians!

Wednesday: Another busy day, capped off by a rosé Mumm to celebrate my friends' engagement and my visit to CA, and of course the Federer vs. Soderling match on DVR. We followed this by a wonderful sushi for dinner in Milbrae: Zen Bistro, 420 Broadway Street, Milbrae, CA

The evening's nightcap? A bit of tasting at 750 mL: 227 South San Mateo Drive (@3rd), San Mateo, CA. Still thinking about the wonderful Malbec I had there...

Thursday brought a farewell to my friends in San Bruno (thank goodness the horrible explosion that night did not impact them, or their apartment, and all are safe) as I ventured off to San Fran for many meetings (with a quick adventure to the Ferry Building) before heading up to Berkeley for the night. I have three close friends all at business school at Haas, so what would a visit be to CA without stopping by to see their amazing home, sharing an amazing meal, and an introduction to "Speed Scrabble."

I've heard SO much about the Cheeseboard Collective in Berkeley all this summer, and my visit coincided perfectly with the North Berkeley Farmers Market. Two farmers marketing loving foodies, Amy and I easily agreed that a home-prepared meal with farmers market finds and the day's Cheeseboard pizza would be the perfect dinner. And the menu?

Local mesclun greens and edible flowers, with cucumbers, heirloom tomatoes and a balsamic dressing

Cheeseboard pizzas: local zucchini with red onion, mozzarella, feta, and pesto (this was AMAZING)

Super-sweet and juicy organic Berkeley peaches with Ici's rum-cinnamon-candied almond ice cream (too good to be true, again)

Friday: I had to wave the Bay Area goodbye (for now...) and head back to Manhattan. After a homemade breakfast of scrambled eggs, local Berkeley bread, and some homemade RI raspberry jam, it was off into the car. But, of course, my trip would not be complete without a stop at Berkeley's own Blue Bottle coffee brewer, Guerilla Coffee (and my friend Tyler's favorite).

Back in New York, I miss CA, all of my dear friends, and gracious hostesses, already very much (and the cooler weather!), but I have a feeling I may be back there, very, very soon...

Monday, September 6, 2010

California bound

So, Hurricane Earl has knocked on the door (hello massive waves in the SouthCoast MA/RI area) and ran away with his tail between his legs. Yup, not much of a storm Friday night. But, no complaints. We had a magnificent weekend to follow in his path (complete with a 45 mile ride, a sail on an old America's Cup 12 Meter boat, Weatherly, and a early morning 30 miler today) and Westport Rivers Pinot Noir harvest will remain on track (read on here for more info).

Not much cooking in the kitchen this weekend, and now I'm off en route to sunny and cool California (San Francisco, to be exact) for a week. I'll be back Friday, with maybe some cooking in my future Saturday. Certainly foodie news! No wine tasting in my agenda this week, but there might be big changes to come, so stay tuned for more information and news!

Happy September!