bake this: mixed berry tart!

mixed berry tart So I’ve gone a bit mad today, delirious over the fact that temperatures crept past fifty degrees. The cashmere scarf and wool hat? Shoved deep into my bag. And daylight at 5:30pm? Be still, my rapidly beating heart. It’s all I can do to not throw open the windows, heat up the oven, and mix myself some tarts and blisteringly beautiful pie. Luscious deep blue and red berries nestled on a cloud of white cream, with only the slight crunch of the crust to make the complexity of flavors and textures complete. I make a mean berry pie, but I feel the tart deserves its due. So I’m pulling out all the stops by fixing a mixed berry tart recipe this weekend, but I wanted to give you the recipe NOW.

Tart Shell
pie weights or raw rice/dried beans for weighting shell
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
7 tablespoons cold, cut unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice (please! use a fresh lemon)
2 1/2 tablespoons chilled water

Filling: uncoooked pastry cream
1 cup mascarpone cheese (about 8 ounces)
1/3 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1/4 cup sugar
3 cups assorted berries (I use blackberries, blueberries, and raspberries)
2 tablespoons apricot marmalade
2 tablespoons dark berry liqueur such as blueberry, blackberry, or cassis (if you don’t have liquor in your house, you can disregard this. you can either add the heated marmalade to the fruit, or feel free to go without and simply add the fruit sans topping)

1 9-inch tart pan
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eat here: klong nyc

eat here: klong nyc In Thai, klong means canal. Many of Thailand’s klongs are relaxing sites of refuge and escape from the frenetic city streets and their accompanied stresses. Located in the heart of the crazed East Village, St. Mark’s Place, home to tattoo shops, punk music and down-home pub grub, Klong is an underground oasis of tranquility and savory fare and the owners wouldn’t have it any other way, modeling their restaurant after their childhood experiences in 1970s Bangkok. I’ve been know to be a food “pusher,” and after forcing all of my friends to inhale Sugar, Sweet, Sunshine cupcakes, it’s a requirement that they sample Klong’s fare.

Once inside, you’ll experience a labyrinth of simulated waterfalls, an undulating gold steel ribbon traveling the walls of the entire restaurant, slick lounge music, and the delicious smells of Pad Thai, papaya, and mussels steaming from the kitchen. And, oh, yes, then there is the food, the yummy food, and the vast selection of it. All vegetables are naturally raised. Fresh fruit, seafood and meats are purchased daily and while normal Thai restaurants serve up the usual, bland Pad Thai, Klong differs, offering you authentic Bangkok cuisine. From cumin-seasoned shrimp in a tasty lime sauce to tofu served with crushed peanuts to the Southern Thai specialty, Mussaman Curry, your palate, and did we forget, your wallet? With lunch specials that are a wallet-friendly $6, and some tempting happy hour cocktail specials, you will be satisfied.

For the fancy decor, don’t expect to hit the ATM hard. Appetizers run in the $4-$5 range (and they certainly don’t skimp on flavor and portions) while entrées are affordable in the $10-$13 range.

eat here: petey’s burger in astoria, new york

petey's burger in astoria: a must-visit! For Brooklyn-ites, Astoria has always been this mythical land to which we rarely travel. When I was a teenager, a very good friend of mine lived in Astoria, and we spent our days trolling Steinway, trying on Fabco shoes we couldn’t afford, eating dollar slices, and sipping on Gatorade. But as I grew older and my friend and I grew apart, I didn’t have much of a reason to ride the N train other than infrequent visits to the Beer Garden. So when I spied a writer, who, in the latest issue of Time Out NY, boldly claimed that he’d found the best burger joint in New York, I fell off the StairClimber and trekked from Brooklyn to Petey’s Burger in Astoria. Because as a woman who loves her Five Guys and grilled cheeseburgers, I couldn’t resist.

And I’m glad I didn’t. Reminiscent of the flavors of famed In ‘N Out Burger (one of the best things about the west coast), the cheeseburgers are grilled to flavorful perfection, smothered in gooey, unctuous cheese, and accompanied by crisp, perfectly seasoned, homemade fries. The fare is definitely shades better than Five Guys (and I LOVE Five Guys) as the burgers have a little bit of a kick, an added spice in which I couldn’t identify, but rendered the burger infinitely more delicious than its rivals. I’ll be bold and say that it could stand proud alongside In ‘N Out. And the price is definitely right! A full meal and drink set me back about $7, and I’m still full.

And it’s a block from the 30th Avenue N/W train stop!! You must go! NOW!

Update: A Twitter tipster alerted me to Sanford’s, the sister restaurant to Petey’s, which I’ll have to check out.

eat this: true yogurt

eat this: true yogurt I used to eat plastic. You heard me: plastic. Five years ago, before I got into the habit of studying food labels, I tossed tubs of Dannon, Yoplait, and other fruit-flavored yogurts into my cart without giving a second thought to the contents under the lid. The consistency reminded me of a watered-down Jello, the flavor a semblance of the fruit it purported to be, and the sugar. Oh. My. God. Five years ago I learned about high-fructose corn syrup, preservatives, and the fact that strawberry yogurt should contain actual strawberries! But the transition was tough. Initially, I balked at the low-saccharine taste of Stonyfield, Horizon, and Fage, because a woman wants her plastic! Her syrup! Her faux berry! But soon I became accustomed to the taste of real food, and it reminded me of the instance where I had a glass of Diet Coke after years of abandoning soda and I nearly spit out my drink it was so awful. Because once you’ve tasted real, unblemished food, you can’t go back to processed, preserved, and fake.

I adore yogurt. It’s my morning staple, and it helps me get in my Vitamin D and dairy, considering I loathe milk (it’s a long story, which involves a milk scare of 1985). Whether mixed with roasted granola, or slathered over chunks of fresh fruit, yogurt is cooling, refreshing, and absolutely delicious. And although I have my favorites, I’m always willing to venture out and sample new brands from local or small farms. So whilst doing some food shopping in Whole Foods, I was tickled to discover true yogurt.

Based in Vermont, true yogurt is low fat, and lactose, gluten, and gelatin free. It’s organic with probiotic (the healthy bacteria) cultures. The ingredient list is short and contains items I actually can pronounce (shocking!) rather than newfangled, multi-syllabic chemicals (aka garbage). I sampled the vanilla and strawberry varieties, and the taste is absolutely delicious. Rich, creamy, thick, and utterly flavorful, this is a yogurt you’ll want to stock up on.

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get ready to lick the screen! we’re talking pancakes.

pancakes and bacon this image should be labeled not safe for work because you are probably licking your computer screen this very instant. don’t deny it, i am. last week when i was about to properly shove my head in the oven, i opted instead to fix the breakfast of champions: pancakes and maple apple bacon, courtesy of two culinary goddess: nigella & ina. the pancakes are thick, spongy and buttery and the maple syrup lathered on the bacon is bliss on the palate!

i know what you’re thinking. who has the time to fix such a breakfast when oatmeal or a cereal bar is a realistic option. well, believe me when i say this breakfast is a cinch to make, and it’s even better when you make the batter the night before! get ready to pant, kids!

Pancake Recipe from Nigella Lawson’s How to Be a Domestic Goddess: Baking and the Art of Comfort (makes 6-8 cakes)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
1 tablespoon baking powder
pinch of salt
1 teaspoon sugar**
2 large eggs, beaten
2 tablespoons butter, melted and cooled
1 1/3 cups milk***
butter for frying

*I used unbleached flour
**I used cane sugar
***I used 2% milk

Directions: My advice? Put all the ingredients in a food processor or stand mixer and blitz! I recommend letting the batter stand for at least a 1/2 hour, preferably overnight. I ladle out small portions of the cakes onto a buttered, non-stick skillet. When you start to see both the edges and the center bubble (about 1-2 minutes), the cakes are ready for flipping.

Now, on to the bacon. Ah, there’s nothing better than pig on a rack, I tell you. I purchased Apple Wood smoked bacon and lined six pieces (for two people) on a rack that will rest on top of a baking sheet. Insert the bacon into a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. After 20minutes, brush the tops with real maple syrup. Cook for another 5 minutes until crisp. After following Ina’s recipe for cooking bacon on the oven rather than frying in a pan, the bacon was less greasy, crip and delicious!

Serve immediately!

cult favorite: Kee’s Chocolates

Kee Chocolate - cult favorite in SohoKee’s Chocolates was formed in 2002 by Kee Ling Tong, who left her job in the corporate world to pursue her dream of opening a shop for flowers and chocolates in New York’s SoHo area. After a year, Kee’s reputation for making fine chocolates overshadowed her flower business, and she began to concentrate on her hand-made chocolates full time.” – So begins Kee’s auspicious bio and a thriving business that focuses on quality over packaging and concept. A friend of mine, who’s friends with the owner, tipped me off to this cult favorite tucked away on Thompson Street in Soho, and basically threatened to impale me if I didn’t go (I’m just kidding). Anyway, since I’m a chocolate fiend, I couldn’t resist, and I rushed the following day to sample the tasty fare.

And was I impressed. Kee’s Chocolates aren’t your dime store truffle. The shoppe is spare in decor, but heavy on scintillating options. Using the finest ingredients sourced around the globe, Kee focuses on delightful taste combinations and the richest chocolate. I sampled six truffles, and was not only floored by the quality and unbelievable flavor, but for the fact that the confections are not overly sweet. You can taste the complex flavors of each truffle rather than being overwhelmed by any one ingredient. While dark chocolate is normally bitter, Kee’s variety is bold but still creamy – completely complex. And although I’ve always loathed white chocolate, Kee encouraged me to try to toasted almond truffle, and I was delighted. The saltiness of the almond was a distinctive and welcomed contrast against the rich chocolate which wasn’t saccharine sweet (a remarkable feat)! She also offers a pistachio version, which is equally tasty.

So if you’re in NYC, I implore you to stop by Kee’s.

celebrate black saturday with english toffee…

english toffee I’ve never been fond of Valentine’s Day, even when I was in a relationship and was able to celebrate it in the way that Hallmark, 1800 Flowers, and Godiva wanted me to. You should love and celebrate your family and friends every day of the year, not just some random day in February where one is forced to overspend on roses, candy, and jewels. Give me peonies in the spring and you’ll find a brighter, surprised, and grateful smile on my face.

But I digress. As I walk around Manhattan, I’m already spotting Valentine’s Day Dinner Specials for you & that special someone. Windows are festooned with saccharine hearts and plump pink teddy bears – inviting you to spend! spend! because you have to show the person you love that you love with them with a t-shirt that reads: I heart you. Forget it.

Every so often, I fix special treats for my loved ones. Whether it be my significant other, my best friend, or my pop, I like to surprise people with tins of homemade sweets and fancy eats. And lately I’m thinking this has to be about English toffee. And when I left Vosges yesterday, catalog in hand, wouldn’t you know that would be the first image I would see in its glossy pages? Okay. Time to make the toffee.

2 sticks unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups sugar
3 tbsp light corn syrup
3 tbsp water
2 cups (8 ounces) toasted almonds, chopped & divided*
12 ounces semisweet chocolate, tempered and cooled, or melted

Butter a 12X8 pan and line with buttered foil. Have ready two large cutting boards or cardboard pieces covered with parchment or wax paper. Melt butter in saucepan. Remove from heat and stir in sugar, corn syrup, and water. Cook, stirring occasionally, until mixture reaches 300 degrees on a candy thermometer. Remove from heat, still in 1 cup chopped nuts and pour into foil-lined pan, spreading it with the back of a spoon or an offset spatula to fill pan.

When candy is just firm enough to handle, turn out onto one parchment-covered surface, peel off foil. Allow to cool completely. Wipe top of candy with paper towel to remove excess butter, and allow to dry.

Use small offset spatula to spread half the chocolate quickly over the candy. Scatter half the remaining nuts over chocolate. Cover with parchment or wax paper, and place second parchment-covered surface on paper. Turn candy over onto second surface. Remove top board and paper, and quickly spread remaining candy with remaining chocolate and sprinkle on the rest of the nuts. Refrigerate 20 minutes to set chocolate.

Break candy into 2-inch pieces, pack into container with tight-fitting top; use parchment or wax paper to separate layers. Candy will keep at cool room temp for up to a week. Yields 3 pounds.

image via

eat here: kalustyan’s, nyc

Desperate to jet off somewhere exotic? Maybe Armenia, Bangladesh, Belgium, Bulgaria, Egypt, Greece, Guatemala, Holland, Indonesia, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Lebanon, Malaysia, Morocco, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Sri Lanka, Syria, Tunisia, Turkey, Vietnam, West Indies, Yugoslavia, but you’re short on cash and you haven’t renewed your passport? Try Kalustyan’s. Opened in 1944, the market is the eminent destination for premium Middle Eastern, South Asian, and Indian herbs (no kidding: they carry 4,000 variety of spices, herbs, sweets, coffee, tea and healthy snacks and over 180 variety of imported tea and 50 variety of imported coffee.), stocking a comprehensive array of condiments, dried fruits, prepared foods, lentils, dal, beans and more. Indian chutneys, Mujjaddara, hummus, wrapped grape leaves, falafel – if your mouth isn’t watering yet, trust me, it will.

The small, but impeccably tidy shop boasts a colorful array of those fresh, hard-to-find ingredients to make that ultimate passport dinner. On the second floor is the cafe where the energetic proprietor, well into his late 60’s, will urge you to try everything, and he means business. You purchase a little sausage, he will spoon-feed you his otherworldly Mujjaddara (lentils and onions fried in olive oil and other spices) or his impressive selection of Mediterranean olives. Succulent does even encapsulate the flavorful food made with care. Warning, the food isn’t for the timid as portions are huge (I’ve had my two item plate for lunch and dinner, and trust me, I can put it away). But for the budget-minded gal, this is a treat for most dishes don’t exceed $7. And service is quick and friendly to boot. The staff is incredibly knowledgeable and can guide you through the complex, yet delectable inventory.

Tip: Not in New York but want the experience? Kalustyan’s offers easy and convenient online shopping all with a mouse-click.

Also: Check out Desert Candy – a terrific Middle Eastern foodie blog – your mouth will water over the recipes.

Image courtesy of Desert Candy