Dalmatian-style Dinner

On Sunday, I was treated to a lovely dinner, made Croatian-style. Cooking fish has long been one of my worst phobias, one I inherited from my mother. I am always afraid of the fillet falling apart or over-/under-cooking the tender flesh. However, fish is a staple of Mediterranean cuisine, especially for countries along the coast.

Toni went to the source for the perfect recipe – his mom and grandmother. We then paid Whole Foods a visit to pick up ingredients: whole branzino, red potatoes, vegeta (a vegetable-based seasoning from Croatia), parsley, and garlic. I also picked up frozen blackberries for dessert.
We began by making potatoes dalmatian style – krumpir na dalmatinski način – which were essentially pan-roasted red potatoes. These we thinly sliced sliced and layered in a small saucepan, which was lightly coated in olive oil. In between layers, we added parsley, garlic, and vegeta. We covered the potatoes with a bit of olive oil, a bit of white wine, and water, then set to simmer over medium heat until the water evaporated.

Meanwhile, I prepared a blackberry cobbler while Toni set to work on the fish. He salted the exterior and, after slicing it open down the sternum, sprinkled the inside with sea salt and pepper as well. The fish was placed in a pan covered in aluminum foil and lightly coated with olive oil. Both were set in a 350 degree oven to cook – the fish for 10 minutes each side, the cobbler for an hour. 
I paired the meal with Florian Mollet’s Sancerre, a beautiful, delicate, crisp Sauvignon Blanc – in fact, one could call it perfection in a glass. The minerality perfectly accented the sea-salty goodness of the branzino, and I was sad when I finished the last drop. We cleaned our plates, making sure to eat even the cheek meat… I had never thought to do so before, but apparently it’s the most tender part of the fish. After an heirloom tomato and avocado salad, we finished the meal with a still-bubbling cobbler and bourbon vanilla whipped cream. Summer has arrived!

Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream

What’s an amazing way to spend a beautiful Sunday afternoon? A walk over the Williamsburg Bridge to grab some ice cream at Lulu & Mooky’s. I’d read about this hidden gem last year, but never made it that far south to try it. Now that Bowery has become my new transportation hub since moving across the river, I had no excuse.

Lulu & Mooky’s brightly colored store front…
“over 10,000 flavors”

Within the industrial space, customers are greeted by a large list of various fruit purees and flavor essences, rather than the traditional vats of ice cream or gelato that one expects to see when walking into an ice cream store. Two pink standing mixers sit on the short, steel countertop, fitted with bowls of water. And here’s why it gets so entertaining – once you choose your flavor combination, the ice cream man becomes a scientist. He adds an eyedrop of your chosen essence (lemon) and a precisely-measured squirt of puree (coconut) that he pulls out of his refigeration unit. Once combined, he adds a cup of liquid (I assume the actual cream mixture) to the bowl.

Yes, it does say liquid nitrogen ice cream

And then (the suspense is building), he sets the bowl over the water bowl in the mixer and turns it on. Once everything appears scientifically combined – or perhaps just when the ingredients are well-integrated – he whips out a giant measuring cup, which he proceeds to fill with a certain amount of liquid nitrogen… I could not see how much because liquid nitrogen is obviously so cold that it creates a fog around it.

If you can’t tell already, I am extremely excited at this point. The liquid nitrogen was added to the mixer, and suddenly everthing was surrounded by steam. As it subsided, I saw that the liquid in the bowl had solidfied. The scientist returned to his role of ice cream man, scooping out the freshly-made deliciousness, filling my cup with two giant scoops of lemon-coconut ice cream. Now, I need to go back for the chocolate…

It’s the same consistency as Dippin’ Dots – dream come true!

Celebrations: Chicken Tagine and Birthdays!

Even before I left for South Africa, my friends Stevie, Alexxa, and I had been trying to get together for a dinner to celebrate our birthdays, which all fell within weeks of one another. This past Thursday, we were finally able to make it happen. We gathered at my house to cook and drink wine. Not a bad way to celebrate for three food-lovers.

 The lovely ladies
We’d decided to make an impromptu chicken tagine – Alexxa found an easy-to-execute recipe that used a lot of the ingredients that we already had lying around in our kitchens. She went to pick up three thighs at the Meat Hook, as well as some ginger and onion. Chez moi, we browned the chicken in my clay pot (thanks to my brother’s lovely Christmas present, I knew that clay was necessary for emparting a few key characteristics to the slow-cooked flavor of the dish), then removed the meat from the heat. We then threw in some white onion and garlic and let them simmer until soft. Then we added the spices – cumin, curry, coriander, cinnamon and shredded garlic – letting them coat the vegetables. In went chopped pineapple, which I had lying around the house. Next, San Marzano tomatoes and chick peas went into the pot, along with some homemade chicken stock. Finally, we added the chicken back to the dish and some farro and let everything meld together over medium heat for about a half hour.
Stevie and I had each paired a wine with the meal. She had brought a 2008 Kabinett riesling from Schloss Lieser, inspired by Eric Asimov’s recent article on the vintage.

Schloss Lieser, available at Crush Wine & Spirits :)

I served up a Glen Carlou 2006 Grand Classique, a Bordeaux blend from South Africa, gifted to me upon my visit to the winery last week!

 At Glen Carlou
 The 2006 Grand Classique, the winery’s flagship wine, 
a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Cab Franc.

The riesling was a lovely wine leading up to the meal – easy drinking, light, a bit of acidity, and the aromas of the wine blended nicely with those coming from the pot on the stove. However, with the tagine, which we served with preserved lemon and parsley, the Carlou won hands down. The meat-y quality of the wine, which opened up into a smooth, almost chocolate-y dish of itself, was the perfect complement to the protein-and-fruit-heavy tagine.

The final dish

Happy birthday ladies!