Sunday, January 23, 2011

Brrrr. Haven't Seen the Sun (chokes) for Days.

Italian Treviso on the left, American Treviso on the right!
After much anticipation, followed by a bit of procrastination, I waited until the coldest weekend of the year thus far to research my first published article outside of my blog. It turned out great, thankfully, but Friday was certainly one frigid Brooklyn adventure.

As I hopped around Brooklyn on bus, train, and foot, seeking cozy spots for cold weather dinner and drinks, I saw some exciting and some not-so-exciting spots and feel like I may have uncovered some gems, as well as personally black-listed some holes.  I finished my day meeting friends for dinner and drinks in Bushwick, Brooklyn WAY off the beaten path at a hip little cabin-style joint called Northeast Kingdom.  It did make the article based on great ambiance and decent food, but mostly because of the nifty little salad that follows below.  Then, today, while 80% of this country was glued to football, I bravely ventured out in the 17 degree temperatures to hit Eataly, Mario Batali's new(ish)  Italian enclave which is a gorgeous and vibrant indoor marketplace with an Italian-style bustle. Adventurous, aren't I?  What a weekend!

Look at this stuff! Am I in Manhattan in January or Italy in June?
Eataly was certainly the highlight of it all, though it wasn't what I was writing about...I was just there for my own benefit, really.  From the moment I entered, Eataly wowed me with the bushels, baskets, and mounds of gorgeous produce displayed in a very European fashion. They had an exhausting assortment of fruits and squash, sun-dried tomatoes (both red and yellow), exotic citrus including citron and bergamot, and any continental specialty item you can dream of.  The Italian soda/juice department was just as tempting as the wine section.  The shapes and colors in the pasta aisles were astounding.  The cheese...the cheese...more varieties of fresh mozzarella than I can count on both hands...the cheese...
Egg Pasta

Just one of many tempting pastry cases.
I managed to maintain some level of decorum and only bought a few affordable items I know I will use in the near future.  The charcuterie, meat, and fish sections were tempting but I knew not to even start or I would leave with more than would be eaten at my house this week.  This place is seriously food paradise.  I spotted a huge gluten-free import section which is useful for some, tons of handmade sauces, pastas, desserts, and more.  In the manner of a real Italian marketplace, there were cases of teeny tiny beautiful desserts and pastries, not to take home, but to stand at one of the many counters and enjoy with a properly pulled espresso.

The crowds moved at an Italian pace, which strangely didn't make me nuts here.  Anywhere else, that would have evoked my classic New York 'sidewalk rage'.  Not here.  I moved leisurely with the crowd and was able to navigate my way just fine.  Even the crowded counters with people sucking mussels and sipping Montepulciano in the middle of the pathways only added to the truly European feel that Eataly provides.

There are also various restaurants, an Italian bakery, a gelateria which took all of my self control to bypass, and a serious Lavazza espresso presence as well as aisles of chocolates, jams, sauces, and condiments everywhere.

When I got home, all I wanted was a glass of wine and some simple, Italian-braised veggies to be eaten with leisure.  I had some basics and one killer cheese.  Isn't that what a simple Italian meal is all about?  What a glorious day of goodness!

While there, I was able to pick up a bag of sunchokes and some red endive, something I normally wouldn't even attempt to find.  In order to duplicate our best dish of Friday night, I needed them and they just came to me.  I am meant to duplicate this salad. return to Northeast Kingdom on Friday night, I wanted to mainly research the place and be able to write a good
Another day, another wheel of Parmigiano Reggi
blurb about it's coziness.  We met some friends there and ordered a small assortment of goodies.  It was all fine and fairly decent, but the shining star of this meal, everyone agreed upon.

Roasted Sunchoke and Roasted Red Pepper Salad with Fourme d'ambert dressing and Red Endive.

I know.  Get out of here.  Yes, that is what we ate and it was amazing.  Thank goodness Eataly provided me with those sunchokes and red endive.  It was indeed a salad meant to be at my table.  Here is my version of what we had.  If you have trouble finding the red endive, substitute regular green endive.  Texturally, you could substitute the sunchokes (aka Jeruselum artichokes) for fingerling potatoes, but flavor-wise the sunchokes are an integral ingredient.  Try to find them if you can.

Roasted Sunchoke and Roasted Red Pepper Salad 
with Fourme d'ambert Dressing and Red Endive

1/2 lb sunchokes/Jeruselum artichokes, well-scrubbed
2 medium red bell peppers
1 T+1T extra-virgin olive oil
sea salt and black pepper
1 t minced garlic
2 red endives, end trimmed off and leaves halved once into 2 square-ish pieces (halved the short way)

about 1/4 cup Fourme d'ambert cheese (or good gorgonzola if you can't find it)
1/2 t minced garlic
2 t fresh lemon juice
1 t honey
2 T white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 t sea salt
freshly ground black pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Halve sunchokes the long way and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Rub with 1 T extra-virgin olive oil, garlic, and a bit of salt and pepper.   Transfer to a baking sheet and arrange on half of it.  Rub the red peppers with the other tablespoon of olive oil and arrange on the other half of the baking sheet.

Roast 30-40 minutes, until sunchokes are tender and red peppers are soft and skin's blister.  Transfer peppers to a mixing bowl while still hot and cover with plastic wrap, tightly.  Set aside for 20 minutes.  Let sunchokes cool and transfer to a mixing bowl.  Add prepped red endive.

Make dressing while waiting for peppers to finish resting by blending ingredients in food processor or blender.  Set dressing aside.

After about 20 minutes, peel skin from red peppers and de-seed.  Slice into long elegant strips about 1/4 inch wide.  Add to endive and sunchokes.  

Toss with dressing, starting with about half of it.  Add more to your personal taste and grind a bit of fresh black pepper on top.  Serve immediately.

No comments: