Sandy's Aftermath :: Regrouping, Relief and a Bit of Reading
I am finally back in front of my laptop this week, in my office that has heat and power, aiming to return to a semi-normal schedule after Sandy's wrath tore through NYC and surrounding areas. Honestly, I don't think things will really return to "normal" for quite sometime. My neighborhood, the East Village/Alphabet City, was hit hard -- businesses are slowly regrouping and rebuilding, friends are picking pieces up of flooded apartments. Only through images and blog posts can I even begin to contemplate the damage incurred and lives displaced in areas like Staten Island, Red Hook, the Rockaways and Long Beach, LI. A friend's restaurant in Dumbo, Governor, was completely washed out by Sandy, but I have no doubt will return and reopen stronger than ever. A family member's medical practice gone, at least in the brick and mortar sense. There are thousands of examples, and there are 40,000 New Yorkers without homes as the temperatures continue to drop. And there are endless ways to give back and donate and volunteer, see below. I've never seen New Yorkers as resilient and resourceful as I have in the past week. It's heartwarming and heartbreaking all at once, but this city has insane heart and I'm grateful to call it home. All this said, the past week has got me thinking how food keeps us connected. Sharing a meal is such a basic way of showing love, care and communicating. Hot meals are an indulgence for many right now, and it makes me appreciate the act of cooking and eating together around a table, or a makeshift one, that much more.
With that said, I turned to the Edible Selby, another Fall 2012 cookbook/food photography book I've been meaning to feature. Now seems, in an odd way, the perfect time. Flip through the gorgeously photographed and brightly illustrated pages and you'll see the life and atmosphere that food can create - it comes streaming through. The book provides a beautiful sense of warmth and inspiration and intrigue in each subject/restaurant/shop that Todd Selby features. I've been lucky enough to taste the craft of many of the subjects (like Occhipinti wine and Mast Brothers chocolate), and eat at a handful of the restaurants highlighted (like Ralae in Copenhagen and Le Chauteaubriand in Paris). All of them remind me of a special place in time with friends -- old and new -- that are part of my extended family. And if there's one positive that came out of Sandy, it's the reminder that there's few things more meaningful than sharing a meal with friends and family.
My good friend and colleague Allison and I are in the process of organizing a fundraiser, DRINK.DONATE.HELP BLACK OUT SANDY, next Thursday 11/15 to raise donations for food-related causes and those impacted by Sandy. More info to come...keep an eye on our Twitter feed as well: @DrinkDonate
In the meantime, here are just a few ways to help relief efforts:
Occupy Sandy via Amazon
GOLES (Good Old Lower East Side)
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Fall Cookbook Series :: Jerusalem
If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you have most likely heard me fawn over Yotam Ottolenghi and his culinary empire of London takeaway shops aptly named Ottolenghi, his three cookbooks, his newest restaurant Nopi and most of all, his beautifully inspiring recipes. Somehow I knew nothing about Ottolenghi until a visit to London nearly 4 years ago, and a completely chance encounter with his adorable jewelbox of a shop in Notting Hill, the first Ottolenghi location, there are currently 4. I spotted the shop from across the street and made a mad dash. And then walked inside and nearly had a heart attack. It was almost as though my vision of food and philosophy around eating had spawned into a brick and mortar shop, with a distinctly Middle Eastern accent. Ottolenghi places a huge amount of emphasis around vegetables in his cooking and at his shops...and it pays off. His cookbook Plenty is devoted to veg and was a massive best-seller. And thus we come to Jerusalem, the newest book from Ottolenghi and his business partner and childhood friend, Sami Tamimi. Shocker, it's a doozy. The two grew up together in Jerusalem, one on the west and one on the east, Jewish and Arab sides respectively. The book weaves in the wonderful mixture of countless cultures and historical events that have influenced the city's cuisine for centuries. When you can connect a story or meaning behind a dish, that's when magic happens around the table and that's when barriers can be broken. I love all the snippets of childhood memories and mini history lessons sprinkled over the pages of Jerusalem, amongst 120 approachable recipes - both vegetarian and non-vegetarian, but all oh so enticing.
A few of my favorites that I'll definitely be testing out...
Chermoula eggplant with bulgur and yogurt
Saffron rice with barberries, pistachio and mixed herbs
Watercress and chickpea soup with rose water and ras el hanout
Stuffed eggplant with lamb and pine nuts
...and cardamom rice pudding with rose water and pistachios - for my dad who loves rice pudding
To give you a sneak peek at just one of the incredible recipes in the book, below is Ottolenghi and Tamimi's recipe for roasted butternut squash and red onion with tahini and za'atar.
Roasted Butternut Squash and Red Onion with Tahini and Za'atar
Serves :: 4
1 large butternut squash, cut into ¾ by 2 ½ inch wedges
2 red onions, cut into 1 ¼ inch wedges
3 ½ tbsp olive oil
3 ½ tbsp light tahini paste
1 ½ tbsp lemon juice
2 tbsp water
1 small clove garlic, crushed
3 ½ tbsp pine nuts
1 tbsp za’atar*
1 tbsp coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
maldon sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
*za'atar is a Middle Eastern spice mix and can be found online or in many specialty markets.
Preheat the oven to 475F.
Put the squash and onion in a large mixing bowl, add 3 tablespoons of the oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and some black pepper and toss well.
Spread on a baking sheet with the skin facing down and roast in the oven for 30 to 40 minutes, until the vegetables have taken on some color and are cooked through. Keep an eye on the onions as they might cook faster than the squash and need to be removed earlier. Remove from oven and leave to cool.
To make the sauce, place the tahini in a small bowl along with the lemon juice, water, garlic and ¼ teaspoon salt. Whisk until the sauce is the consistency of honey, adding more water or tahini if necessary.
Pour the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons oil into a small frying pan and place over medium-low heat. Add the pine nuts along with ½ teaspoon salt and cook for 2 minutes, stirring often, until the nuts are golden brown. Remove from the heat and transfer the nuts and oil to a small bowl to stop the cooking.
To serve, spread the vegetables out on a large serving platter and drizzle over the tahini. Sprinkle the pine nuts and their oil on top, followed by the za’atar and parsley.
Images via Jerusalem by Jonathan Lovekin and via Telegraph.co.uk
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Fall Cookbook Series :: What Katie Ate
With much delight, it's indeed that time of year again. It's like the holidays hit a few months early. I've been lucky enough to have received some phenomenal fall cookbooks, a little elf just happened to sprinkle them in my mailbox. Thus, I'm devoting this week, and likely most of next, to sharing some splendid, mouth-watering books with you...these babies are definitely worth adding to your holiday wishlist.
First up, What Katie Ate. I don't even know where to begin with this one (which just hit bookshelves last Thursday). I've been following Katie Quinn Davies's Aussie food blog, What Katie Ate, for a few years - inevitably drooling over the gorgeously photographed and styled recipes. Katie's like a creative bandit let loose in a kitchen full of impeccably fresh ingredients and the best vintagey cookware and tableware you could ever dream of. The book is chock full of inviting, homey, cozy, crisp, vibrant dishes and will make you want to host an impromptu dinner party in a flash...no matter how big or teeny your kitchen is. Not so easy to choose just one recipe to feature here, but someone had to do it. For all you salad skeptics out there, this one's for you. Perfect for fall and winter...
Many thanks to Katie and Viking Books for sharing!
Red Cabbage and Fennel Salad with Tarragon and Lemon Yogurt
Serves :: 4
*recipe from What Katie Ate by Katie Quinn Davies, pictured above
1 cup pecans
4 blood oranges
1 large bulb fennel
¼ red cabbage, cored, leaves very finely sliced
7oz soft goat cheese
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
tarragon and lemon yogurt
small handful tarragon leaves, finely chopped
juice of 1 lemon
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
handful fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
1/3 cup plain Greek yogurt
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
Preheat the oven to 400F. Spread the pecans out on a baking sheet and roast for 7-10 minutes, then roughly chop and set aside.
To make the yogurt dressing, whisk all the ingredients together in a small bowl and chill in the fridge until needed.
Cut the top and bottom from each orange. Place on a chopping board and, working from top to bottom, use a small, sharp knife to cut away all the skin and pita. Take the fruit in your hand and, holding it over a large serving bowl to catch the juices, carefully cut each inner segment away from the membrane, letting the segments fall into the bowl – they should be free of any white pith or seeds.
Add the fennel, cabbage and pecans to the bowl and toss to combine. Crumble over the goat cheese, then drizzle over the yogurt dressing, season and serve.