Sunday, April 25, 2010

A Quick Tomato Sauce

Needing something quick and easy for dinner earlier this week, I decided to throw together a quick tomato sauce that turned out to be pretty good.  The idea here wasn't to try and rival my Sunday sauce, which takes a few hours to do properly, but rather to do something relatively light and easy that wouldn't take very long.  I had some canned diced tomatoes on hand, so that's what I used.

Brian's Quick Tomato Sauce


3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 tsp red pepper flakes
2 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp ground white pepper
1 tsp oregano
2 cans (or 1 28 oz can) diced tomatoes


Combine the olive oil, garlic, and red pepper flakes in a pot and turn on the heat to medium-high.  Stir frequently while it heats up, making sure not to brown the garlic.  Add the white pepper, and after 3-4 minutes add the tomatoes and stir to combine everything.

Add the oregano and stir.  Bring the sauce to a soft boil and reduce the heat to low.  Let simmer for 30-40 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Serve over pasta.

That's all there is to it.  It needs to cook for at least half an hour so that some of the water boils off and the tomatoes start to break down a little.  If you were to use crushed tomatoes or even canned tomato sauce, the cooking time could be shortened.  I like using diced tomatoes so that the sauce remains chunky.  Not in the recipe but pictures is some sea salt with black truffles that I added for a little kick.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Poppa's Place Review

Despite some relatively kind words in the past, I was never really a huge fan of Red Bamboo's fake meat food. I'm not against vegetarian and vegan fare in general - quite the contrary - but I'm much less a fan of "this vegetable protein has been mushed into a shape that looks and almost tastes like something similar to beef!" But that didn't mean I was happy when Red Bamboo closed up shop. It was a really great space, despite what seemed like a constant basketball game on their projector, and I had absolutely zero complaints about their bar.

I knew Red Bamboo had departed, but I'd apparently overlooked the fact that there's now a great new soul food-ish place as a replacement. I'd actually set out the other night to try the newly re-opened Kif, but their inability to take credit cards led me across the street to try Poppa's Place for the very first time.

The space isn't markedly different from Red Bamboo, but they have made a few changes, pretty much all for the better. Gone is the incessant basketball on projector, for instance. It's not terribly well-lit, but it makes for a pretty cozy feel even if it also makes for a difficult place to take decent pictures.

The bar is as well-stocked as ever (Woodford Reserve bourbon is always a good sign) and like Red Bamboo they offer a good selection of specialty cocktails. Now, I'm not usually one for these kinds of liquor shenanigans, but Poppa's Place won me over in two ways. First, all of their specialty drinks are named after local streets - The Lafayette, The Waverly, etc - which is pretty cool. Second, the first two drinks I saw had Maker's Mark in them. Nice.

We tried a few different ones, but by far our favorite was the peach iced tea with Maker's Mark and muddled lemon. Seriously, if you do nothing else this summer, stop in to Poppa's Place and try this drink while sitting in the sun outside. I promise you won't regret it.

The food turned out to be as good as the drinks. It's a soul food restaurant with some really clever twists on a few classics. They do have a basket of buttermilk fried chicken, which was extremely tempting and I'll be trying soon enough.

We started with a veggie tower that had deep fried eggplant, squash, and gruyere among other things (they don't have a full menu online, so I can't look it up). Accompanied by both green chili and tahini dips, it was a great little appetizer, though I think next time I'll get something more veggie and a little less fried.

We both tried specials for our entrees, Olivia the red snapper served over a rice pilaf, and me with a BBQ pulled pork sandwich served on a brioche roll. Yeah, you read that right.

Here's the snapper. It was tasty, and in the absence of the pork sandwich, probably would have been scored very good. The problem was that while she was eating, she was staring at this:

A pulled pork sandwich on a brioche roll with apple cider vinegar barbecue sauce and a side of red cabbage slaw?  Yes, please. It's really good. If they have it the night you're there, order it. That's all I have to say.

For a restaurant that seems to have sprung up out of nowhere, Poppa's Place has rocketed towards the top of my list of favorites. I imagine it'll be one of my favorite hangouts this summer, and I can't wait to try the rest of the menu.


Poppa's Place
271 Adelphi St.
Brooklyn, NY

Google Map

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Parchment Baked Mahi Mahi

My wonderful new job affords me the luxury of working from home a lot of the time, so I've begun to try and make myself some tasty lunches while remaining relatively healthy. One of my favorite things to do lately has been to take a piece of mahi mahi and either lightly fry it in vegetable oil with some Cajun spices, or in this case bake it in parchment, similar to how I made tilapia a little while back.

Parchment Baked Mahi Mahi


Mahi mahi filet
1 cup sliced green pepper
1 cup sliced red pepper
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
1 tsp kosher salt
1 tsp black pepper
Other seasonings to taste


Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Place the ingredients one one half of a large piece of parchment paper and fold in half and crease around the edges.

Bake for 30 minutes.

That's it, really! I like to serve this over white rice. It makes for a quick and easy lunch that's not very expensive and relatively healthy.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Sour Cream Cheesecake

If you're a regular reader then you know I have a severe and almost crippling fondness for baking cheesecakes. If I'm making something for a special occasion, in all likelihood I'm going to end up making some sort of cheesecake. For the Superbowl, it was a key lime cheesecake. For @EmilysPearl's housewarming party, a red velvet. For Easter last year, I made my first ricotta cheesecake, and with an invitation to another big family Easter dinner this year, I was on deck for a cheesecake once again.

For all the cheesecakes I've made, be they pumpkin or pumpkin chocolate, I've never made a classic cheesecake without any kind of nonsense going on. That struck me as a pretty incomplete way to go through a cheesecake-loving life, so this year for Easter I decided to rectify that in the most forceful way I know how: make Alton Brown's recipe.

Now, I'm an Alton Brown fan. My fried chicken recipe is based partly on his, and that particular episode of Good Eats was what inspired me to make it in the first place. For my birthday this year my good friend Kate bestowed upon me Alton's book, Good Eats: The Early Years, and I've been remiss for not making something from it well before now. Thankfully, he's got a recipe for a Sour Cream Cheesecake that fit the bill perfectly. Here it is:

Sour Cream Cheesecake
Adapted from Alton Brown's Good Eats: The Early Years


33 graham cracker squares, crumbled
4 ounces (1 stick) unsalted butter, melted, plus additional, for brushing the pan
1 tablespoon sugar


20 ounces cream cheese
1 1/4 cups sour cream
1 cup sugar
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
2 eggs
3 yolks
1/3 cup heavy cream


Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Brush some of the melted butter around a 9 by 3-inch cake pan. Adhere parchment to the bottom. Place a casserole dish filled with water on the lower rack of the oven.

In a small bowl, combine crumbled graham crackers, the remaining melted butter, and 1 tablespoon of sugar.

Press 2/3 of the mixture into the bottom of the parchment-lined pan. Place remaining crumbs on a sheet pan and bake both the crust and the remaining mixture for 10 minutes. Cool. Reserve additional crumb mixture for sides.

In a mixer with a paddle attachment, beat sour cream for 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and sugar and mix on low for 30 seconds and then turn up to medium. Scrape the bowl.

In a separate container, combine vanilla, eggs, yolks, and heavy cream. With the mixer on medium, slowly pour the liquid mixture in. When half of it is incorporated, stop and scrape. Continue adding the mixture until the rest of the ingredients are incorporated.

Once completely combined, pour into the cooled crust.

Bake for an hour with a casserole dish filled with water placed on the bottom rack. Turn the oven off and open the door for one minute. Close the door for one more hour. Remove the cheesecake and place in the refrigerator for 6 hours to completely cool before serving.

When ready to serve, slide a knife carefully around the sides of the pan to separate the cheesecake. Remove the sides of the pan, then slide the parchment and cheesecake off the bottom on to a cutting board to slice.

To slice, place your knife into a hot water bath and wipe dry each time you make a pass through the cake.

This was an almost perfect cheesecake, and was the prettiest and tastiest I've ever made.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

My Scrambled Eggs Addiction

Friends and acquaintances alike have grown tired of my incessant blather about how much I've grown to love scrambled eggs recently. Now, I've always been fond of them, but an interesting bit of serendipity led to completely change how I go about preparing this divine dish and now I'm completely addicted.

A few weeks ago while trolling Youtube for video recipes, I stumbled across Gordon Ramsay's version of his scrambled eggs:

Those certainly looked good, but I was more intrigued than hooked. After looking at a few other recipes, I found this one by Antony Worrall Thompson:

Similar technique, but a little more manageable, I felt. I've personally been using 1% milk in place of cream, and the result has been spectacular. I've actually put off writing this post for a while, hoping to do a real step by step. In the end, that Youtube video does a much better job than I ever could, so all I'm doing is evangelizing someone else's cooking (though the ones pictured are my own). They're yummy, go make 'em.

Mr. Coco!

I'm behind on a number of posts, so pardon me while I catch up. A couple of weeks back while walking down to a friend's new place on Myrtle, I passed by this new grocer that was having its grand opening, Mr. Coco.

I stopped in to snap a few pictures and chat for a moment with the owner, who was very friendly and welcoming.

The place is clean and well-lit, with a decent selection of high-end stuff for a neighborhood bodega. This isn't quite on the scale of some the better Fulton markets like Greene Grape Provisions or Fresh Market, but it looks like a great little addition to the area.

Anyone else been?


Mr. Coco
414 Myrtle Ave
Brooklyn, NY

Friday, April 9, 2010

A Tale of Three Brunches

Very late in getting this post up (or any posts, really), but better late than never, I suppose. Last weekend was Easter, and what says Easter more than brunches? Well, maybe church and eggs and chocolate bunnies, but frankly I'm way more partial to the brunches than anything else.

On Saturday I ventured up to Westchester for brunch at the beautiful new home of my cousin Tara and her husband, Jim. As is customary for a family get-together, there was plenty of food, most of which I've documented here. I have no idea who made what, so apologies for not giving proper credit to the chef(s).

Toasted bread with gruyere

Crab salad puffs

Shrimp cocktail

Shumai (Japanese shrimp dumplings)

Pigs in a blanket

Dinner consisted of spiral-cut ham, Cornish game hens, macaroni and cheese, spinach, sauteed mushrooms, corn, apple sauce, and an amazing loaf of bread.

Not fully-stuffed just yet, we moved on to dessert.

Of course, I had to bring something, and what's better than a cheesecake? I'll have a whole separate post for this one, but here are a couple of shots. I think this was my favorite out of all the cheesecakes I've made.

Sunday brought forth another two brunches for me. My friends Kate and Nick had a massive Easter extravaganza to celebrate the opening of their fabulous back yard. If Kate sends along a picture of the spread, I'll be happy to post it, but I didn't end up taking any pictures myself.

So where's the third brunch? Well, because I was up so early I decided to have a light brunch on my own before heading over to Prospect Heights. I first tried the Square Root Cafe, but after sitting down and being ignored for ten minutes, I got fed up and left. I ended up at Anima, where I had a great little brunch of coffee and antipasto.

I'd also be remiss if I didn't mention how great Brian and the staff at Gnarly Vines was this past weekend. Brian recommended a fantastic sparkling rosé to go with the cheesecake, and it ended up being a big hit. Next time you're in, ask him about the Bulle.