Fresh, Healthy Dinner, with a peppery kick

Dinner last night was a late affair—I got home around 9 after a book reading at McNally Jackson. And by book reading I should say cheese tasting. Liz Thorpe from Murray’s Cheese Shop in NYC has recently published a book on cheese, and to elucidate her findings, she brought snacks. Brilliant. But more on that another time.

Because it was late, I wanted to throw something light and healthy together, without taking too long. Looking in my fridge, I came across egg whites left over from a custard I had made for ice cream a few days before, corn which I had steamed and cut off the cob a few days before, cherry tomatoes that were beginning to turn, and very (almost too) soft avocados. Knowing that fresh produce stays fresh for, oh, a day, I realized I had let one too many days pass. I had to act fast.

I began by whisking up the egg whites and letting them heat slowly over a low flame. Meanwhile, I got to chopping. I halved and scored the avocado and set aside. Then, I plopped the corn into a large bowl and sliced my way through the tomatoes, some jalapenos, a handful of cilantro, and a red onion. I tossed them in a bowl and added some fresh ground salt and pepper. At precisely that moment, my eggs looked about cooked through, so I added the avocado pieces to the pan and took them off the heat.

Somehow, I had managed to salvage the goods, with enough of everything to go around for five (friends had come over post cheese tasting). A splash of peppery Domaine des Corbillières Touraine Rosé went perfectly with this simple, fresh meal with a kick – don’t forget, I’d thrown in a jalapeno or two. Score one for summer produce.

Sundaes and Cones

I could live on ice cream. It’s my hands-down favorite thing in this whole world. When my brother and I were little, we would scarf down our dinner in order to get to dessert–a bowl of Breyer’s natural vanilla ice cream with Hershey’s chocolate syrup. Sometimes, with strawberries on top. I would eat my scoops quickly, while they still held their perfect shape, trying to divide my chocolate sauce evenly between the bites of vanilla. My brother, on the other hand, would swirl it round and round, even letting it sit for awhile and warm up until it became soupy. Then, he’d slurp it down with his spoon.

Summer camp brought on the advent of Mayfield ice cream sandwiches. After rest hour, we’d all run to Store to grab our treat for the day, and in the hot heat of Alabama, we always went for something cold—an icey soft drink, frozen skittles, or in my case, most likely the ice cream sandwich. I remember licking it evenly around the edges, gently compressing the chocolate wafers until my fingers left their prints, and then with just a little bit of ice cream left, I would bite into the sandwich. Of course, I’d finish it off by licking the extra chocolate from my fingers.

To this day, ice cream is one of the few things that makes me truly happy–most likely because of these memories. And although I am still a die-hard fan of vanilla ice cream with chocolate, I’ve branched out. In France, nothing beats the combination of 2 boules de glace, two tiny scoops of the famous Berthillon ice cream in Paris; I always go for the combination of rich chocolate and slightly tart raspberry sorbet. Italy’s gelato, however, is obviously the best in the world, especially if you wander away from the tourist sites and into the neighborhoods. G is from Rome, and his family lives in an area well outside of the city, whose main piazza has a gelateria that makes the most wonderful Ferrero Rocher gelato.

However, if you aren’t heading to Europe any time soon, or if you need a quick fix to hold you until you get there, you should try Sundaes and Cones, a Japanese ice cream shop on 10th street between 3rd and 4th avenue. They mix up their creamy goodness in-house, and the selection is amazingly varied. You can pick anything from normal (I use that term loosely because it sure beats Baskin Robbins) mint chocolate chip or strawberry to moka chip, tiramisu, or coconut; and if you really want to get adventurous, there’s sesame, corn, red bean, and green tea. And these are just some of my favorites—there are about 30 flavors to choose from at a time.

Prices are more on par with the European treats than with Blue Bunny, but every bite reminds you that it was worth every penny… especially when it’s really hot outside. You can sit inside or out, and if you need a caffeine boost, they serve Oren’s Coffee (for those of you familiar with the coffee shop on Broadway near Columbia).
1 scoop: $3.18
2 scoops: $4.38
3 scoops: $5.54
**prices are for wafer or sugar cones, without tax, although I prefer the waffle cone. It’s also made in house, and its flavor is melt-in-you-mouth delicate.

To Live by Bread & Cheese Alone

I used to spend my summers in the south of France—my mother’s childhood friend had moved there to study painting, fell in love with a man, and never left. So, we obviously went to visit. From a very young age, then, I was introduced to the simple lifestyle and eating traditions of Provence. Simple salads. Fresh food that came straight from the market. Baguettes bought that morning. And Roquefort… I have been a bread and cheese lover ever since. In fact, I think there is no better meal if you are looking for something quick and delicious, especially on the go.

Today, G and I prepared a picnic that he brought to Bryant Park at lunch time. It was a perfect day—not hot, not chilly, no rain, a little breeze. We sat under the birch trees and set the table. This morning I had packed up my little cooler with a small cutting board and a paring knife wrapped on a dishcloth that ended up serving as our tablecloth. G added the fresh-bought baguette from the store around the corner, salami, apples, and the cheese—gorgonzola dolce and parmigiano. He sliced the bread and the salami and began to make little open-faced sandwiches, while I ate each separately, savoring their individual flavors. It was a perfect summertime meal: crisp, fresh, simple. When it was time to go, we shook the breadcrumbs from the cloth, rewrapped the knife, and packed the cooler, leaving it much lighter than it had been when he arrived.