Second Chance

Sometimes I make life difficult for myself. Take the little brussels sprouts they sell at Citarella. Each little sprout is about the size of a "shooter" marble, and is a tight, tight bud of cruciferous goodness. They come in a little mesh bag, which you can absent-mindedly fling into your shopping basket, never noticing how much you're paying for those little gems.

I bought them once, and, thinking that I had to clean each stem and peel off any tarnished leaf, it truly wasn't worth the effort. I had a heap of stem ends and tiny leaves to discard, and not much solid sprout to show for my work. I would bet that I probably cursed.

If I'm anything I'm hopeful, so just this Saturday (years away from my first baby sprout encounter) I flung another mesh bag of them into my basket. This time I had a plan: wash them really well, dry them, drizzle with some olive oil, sprinkle w/ salt and pepper, roast at 325 for however long it takes. I decided to go with a slowish oven to make sure that they were nicely cooked through. When they were just done I cranked the oven up a bit to ensure a nice brown crisp.

Oh my. These were some of the best brussels sprouts I had ever made. They were tender inside and then caramel crisp on the outside. I thought about taking a picture for this post, but I swear...I couldn't stop eating them to go get the camera.

They are good hot, cold, room temperature, and if you feel like it— you can eat these like popcorn.


Not Really About Dinner

Café La Fortuna is closing this Sunday. Lora sent me an e-mail with the news, and there it was in the Times. Café La Fortuna, home of the Iced Cappuccino with Chocolate Italian Ice, the place SFMomofOne showed me before she was a mom or lived in SF, home of so many great conversations and calories, a place so cool even John Lennon hung out there, a symbol of everything that the Upper Westside Side once stood for (before boutique cosmetic shops took over) is closing.

It feels like a really good friend who likes opera is leaving town.

I am devastated.


Morning Coffee

Sometimes you can tell a good friend by how much they listen to you and remember. I got a surprise in the mail the other day. It was the kind of gift that only someone who really knows me would send:a can of Ricoré. For those of you who don't know, Ricoré is a French instant coffee, and I suppose I like it because it is French and because it helps me relive fond, fond memories of days in France. My friend who sent it to me thinks of it kind of like French Sanka, the kind of coffee kids drink when they are just starting to like coffee--kind of like what a Frappuccino is to our teenagers today. For me, though, it is very different.

I heat up some skim milk in my favorite little sauce pan. Add two Tablespoons of the fine, fine Ricoré powder to my special cafe au lait bowl along with one knobby sugar cube. Pour and stir in the hot milk. Then I read the New York Times on line or work the crossword puzzle as the coffee helps me wake up.

Ricoré, as far as I'm concerned, is only for the morning. And since you have to work really hard to get it in the U.S. (Nestle, who makes it, refuses to sell it here) it is a rare and beautiful thing.

Thanks, C., for sending it to me. I promise a more personal expression of gratitude très bientôt.


Lunch at Savoy - or - Behold the Parsnip

Trust me, this will tie in to dinner.

I informed My Girl after dance class today that she was taking me out to lunch. It could be a Valentines Day lunch or a late B’day lunch, it didn’t matter. We had a free all day park spot on the Upper West Side, and I was long, long longing to go to one of my favorite restaurants: Savoy in SoHo. My Girl was kind of against the idea because it involved taking the subway (she’s much more of a bus girl), but she put on her game face, clutched my hand and trooped down the stairs to the downtown track.

We got a nice little table (with a view of the fire place and Salman Rushdie) and were quickly overcome with choices. The woman at the next table was digging into the duck confit on polenta, which looked awfully tempting. They had a pork loin special that sounded good too. One of the best things, though, about the Savoy menu is the “little plates.” I suppose they are kind of like tapas. We chose: caramelized brussels sprouts with lardons; a salad of dates, ginger and carrots; and roasted beets with grated horseradish and orange. When we saw parsnip soup on the menu (with gruyere croutons) we knew we had to get that too. I had white wine and My Girl had lemonade, and we savored every bit. For dessert we shared a Meyer lemon tart with elderflower sorbet. My Girl didn’t like the sorbet, and I was glad because it was amazing (like eating flowers in the snow).

During the lunch, I confess, to being awfully proud of My Girl. I know when I was her age I would have avoided anything parsnip-like at all costs. I think she's game because we recently had pureed parsnips at home—and you can too. And you should because they are unbelievably good and super easy to make.

Here’s how:
Steam some skinned parsnips and skinned carrots until tender. (Many more parsnips than carrots)
•Put the cooked pieces in a food processor (or if you have a good friend who has recently moved to Paris and gave you her immersion blending stick because of the different Euro electrical current use that.)
•Add some butter and process or blend.
•Add some salt and pepper.
•Serve to your friends and family to their utter amazement.