Detroit's Agnes Street

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In the heart of Detroit’s West Village is Agnes Street home to The Red Hook cafe, Vegan Soul, Craftwork Restaurant and Bar and a beautiful  Ouizi mural on the Parkstone Garage (between Parker and Van Dyke).

Take a self-guided tour of Ouizi (aka Louise Chen)’s murals—starting on Agnes Street where you’ll also spy one on the ceiling of The Red Hook cafe across the street which offers great coffee and pastries.

Next door, even our carnivorous friends revel in Detroit Vegan Soul’s menu of “soul food made from whole food” like cornmeal battered “catfish” tofu, broccoli/corn medley, redskin potatoes & onions, and hush puppies.

And Vegan Soul’s neighbor,  Craftwork offers a great menu for appetizers and drinks. Pull up a stool to enjoy a nosh of house-made ricotta with olives, cheese, reduced balsamic vinegar and warm flatbread. And top it off with an Agnes Lemon Drop—Hendrick’s, St. Germain, Chartreuse, and lemon.  (There is parking in the back beyond which Villages Bier & Weingarten benefits local nonprofits and across the street from which Paramita Sound sells records).  

Rose's Oh-so-fine Fine Food, Detroit

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Rose’s Fine Food is an authentic diner whose living-wage-paid staff is continually making and serving delicious, homemade food from locally sourced ingredients.  

Rose's aspires to be “the ultimate diner” but you will never see a semi unloading frozen food into the back of their kitchen. The atmosphere is lovely. And even their sides—housemade toast, organic grits, herby beans, flapjacks, griddled potatoes, cultured butter deserve center stage. Be forewarned that it is impossible to pass up dessert, even at breakfast, with beauties like a chocolate beet layer cake seducing you from the counter.

Apple Lemon Clafoutis

In a traditional clafoutis, black cherries of the LImousin region of France are put into a dish — pits and stems intact—then covered with a flan-like batter and baked. The pits themselves lend an almond-like flavor to the dish. Eduoard de Pomaine's delightful 1930 French Cooking in Ten Minutes: Adapting to the Rhythm of Modern Life includes the classic recipe.

In this apple lemon clafoutis—apples, spices and brown sugar are topped with custard, baked in a jelly roll pan, and then doused with fresh lemon juice.

Embracing the spirit of de Pomaine, we've been experimenting wildly - baking a banana clafoutis baked in a Spanish cazuela. For dramatic effect, you can bake the clafoutis without fruit, watch it dramatically expand like a soufflé and serve topped with fresh berries, lemon juice, and a few teaspoons of sugar.

Apple Lemon Clafoutis

Preheat oven to 450F

Slice four apples

Blend together:

  • six eggs
  • 1 Tablespoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1.5 cups flour
  • 1.5 cups milk

Put jelly roll pan with 8 Tbs unsalted butter into preheating oven. Once butter is melted, layer apple slices on pan, sprinkle with roughly 1/4 cup brown sugar, 2 Tablespoons mixture of cinnamon, clove, ginger, nutmeg.

Pour batter on top of fruit. Bake in oven 20 minutes or until the sides pouf up.

Add juice of one lemon to the top of the finished clafoutis (and a sprinkling of sugar if you like). 

 

Foraging the Union Square Green Market

New York City's Green Markets started out as an experiment in 1977.  John McPhee's New Yorker article "Giving Good Weight" describes the then twelve-month-old experiment in exquisite detail.

Today the Union Square Market alone brings fresh produce to the city from dozens of farms four days a week. In one week, our urban 'foraging' might result in:

  • a breakfast of sunny-side-up eggs with olive oil and thyme, sliced baguette with butter and fresh strawberries
  • a lunch of garlic cheddar cheese, pesto & ripe tomato sandwiches on a baguette  with cucumber spears and a peach

  • a dinner of tri-colored pasta, cherry tomatoes and goat cheese

  • a dessert of greek yogurt with strawberries and honey

It is entirely possible to stock your home entirely from the Union Square Greenmarket which operates four days a week (and where you can compost your kitchen scraps). Some favorite purveyors include:

 

 

The ever toothsome bucatini with artichokes and capers

Bucatini's long, hollow, toothsome noodles are so satisfying. They make a great spaghetti aglio, olio, e peperoncino (Italy's answer to chicken soup).

Another favorite is a one-skillet Bucatini tossed with olive oil, garlic, capers, and artichokes straight from the jar. 

In a large, deep skillet, bring the following to a boil over medium-high heat-stirring occasionally for eight minutes until the sauce thickens:

  • five cups water
  • 1 pound bucatini
  • 2 Tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 sprig of lemon thyme
  • 1 clove garlic
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
  • 2 teaspoons sea salt

Stir in the juice and zest of one small lemon, two eight-ounce jars of artichoke hearts (drained) and 3 tablespoons salt-packed capers (drained and rinsed).

Serve immediate with more red-pepper flakes, freshly grated parmesan and bread crumbs (if you are carb loading).

 

A Plant's-Eye View of the World

Michael Pollan has written more than a half dozen books on humans' essential relationship to plants. But my favorite remains, The Botany of Desire: A Plant's-Eye View of the World.

In The Botany of Desire,  Pollan looks at four epic tales—the Irish Potato Famine, Johnny Appleseed, the Dutch Tulip mania and the ongoing debate around marijuana. And he illustrates just how these particular plants thrive largely because of their successful domestication of us!

Our mutually beneficial relationship with these plants has helped them thrive sometimes at our own expense: our reliance on a monoculture of potatoes, for example, caused a mass famine and emigration from Ireland;  the planting of crab apples in America encouraged alcohol consumption among early settlers;  tulips leveled the 17th century Dutch economy;  and marijuana still sparks political debate.   Pollan is a thoughtful and accessible writer. His Food Rules - especially as illustrated by Maira Kalman - is another great read.

Summer's tangy orange-rhubarb compote

Our friend Luise once turned her rhubarb harvest into a beautiful rhubarb feast - rhubarb squares, rhubarb-pops, rhubarb compote. Last time we rode the train together on a Friday night she told me this recipe and my guests were licking it off their plates that Saturday night. Serve it with scones, crepes, vanilla ice-cream, a lemon-ricotta tart or just a spoon.  

Serves 6

  • 8 stalks rhubarb
  • 2 oranges (zest and juice)
  • .5 cup sugar
  1. Preheat oven to 450F.
  2. Scrub rhubarb and orange clean with vegetable brush under running water.
  3. Trim edges of rhubarb, cut into 2 inch lengths, toss into roasting pan.
  4. Zest oranges, juice oranges, add to rhubarb.
  5. Sprinkle rhubarb with .5 cup sugar (or more depending on how tart you like it).
  6. Roast for 20 minutes or less (until rhubarb is soft but not has not collapsed).

Lemony Sweet Corn and Sweet Pea Salad

This is a tart twist on the three bean salad that includes farm fresh summer corn, sweet peas and lemon thyme.

Julienne two cups of sweet peas lengthwise. Remove kernels from one fresh ear of corn. Mix with 15 ounces of chickpeas and 15 ounces of black soybeans (either drained and rinsed from a can or freshly soaked overnight).

Put the juice of one lemon (roughly 1/2 cup) and an equal amount of olive oil in a jar with a tablespoon (or less) of dijon mustard and a tablespoon of fresh lemon thyme leaves. Shake to emulsify. Add sea salt and fresh cracked pepper to taste.

Toss together vegetables and vinaigrette and chill for about an hour before enjoying. You can also throw the last few servings of this into a summer salad or gazpacho.

Spicy Cold Shéchuán Noodles with Tahini

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The first New York City street food I ate at 15 was a bowl of spicy cold noodles somewhere off Union Square. Few restaurants do them justice today having removed the bite and replaced fresh Tahini with routine peanut butter.

For the Tahini - blend two cups of toasted sesame seeds with about two tablespoons of sesame oil (you’ll have plenty left over to spread on your morning toast).

Use a pound of Chinese egg noodles or regular Italian spaghetti - just boil until al dente and reserve a half cup of the warm pasta water. Toss cooked noodles with a few tablespoons sesame oil and let cool to room temperature (don’t refrigerate or they will stick together).

For the sauce, mix half cup of the warm pasta water with:

  • 4 Tablespoons Tahini
  • 2 Tablespoons sesame oil
  • 4 Tablespoons ponzu sauce (soy sauce made brighter with yuzu)
  • 2 Tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar
  • 1 Tablespoon sugar
  • 2 teaspoons freshly grated ginger
  • 2 teaspoons freshly minced garlic
  • 1 teaspoon hot sesame oil or paste (depending on how much heat you like)

Let your guests garnish with shredded daikon radish, chopped scallions, toasted sesame seeds and Japanese Shichimi Togarashi*.


*includes sesames, uzu peel, chilies,  nori seaweed and more

 
 
 

Marinating Bocconcini in spring herbs

Marinated bocconcini is a year-round favorite because it lasts and lasts and lasts (until we devour it!).

We bake it into focaccia, melt it on pizza, toss it with cherry tomatoes and vinegar and call it a salad.

Readily available at just about any market (but more delicious if purveyed locally), it's super easy to marinate with whatever flavors you have on hand - lemon zest, black peppercorn, rosemary. This week we combined lemon thyme, parsley, spicy nasturtium, sea salt and red pepper flakes.

Simply rinse your bocconcini, put it in a sterilized glass jar, add herbs and enough olive oil to cover the very top of the cheese. Keep it in the refrigerator and eat it any which way you can as fast as you can! 

Bouquet Garni

 

The classic French bouquet garni is a bundle of fresh thyme, parsley, and a bay leaf tied with string. We tied this one with a tiny white carrot we found in the garden.

If you’re growing your own herbs you can bundle them at the end of the season and let them dry in anticipation of making stockBundle them with butcher’s twine and dry on a drying rack (ours doubles as a pizza tray). Or cinch them into a small square of cheesecloth and add a teaspoon of whole black peppercorn, star anise and two cloves of garlic.

You can also liven up your bouquet by adding other herbs like rosemary, basil, tarragon, or savory. Throw in some Asian accents like lemongrass, lemon verbena or kaffir lime. 

 
 
 
 

Making Vegetable Stock

 

A tetrapak of vegetable stock is a pantry staple - but homemade vegetable stock is almost effortless to make - especially if you are a dedicated composter. Compost is so loaded with the stuff of a hearty vegetable stock, you can easily divide your compost bin in two - dedicating one to 'stock'.

Just save your washed, chopped vegetable scraps in the freezer throughout the week - no cover necessary. Avoid stinky brassicas and red beets. Throw in ginger, lemongrass or kaffir lime if you want to make an Asian broth. Look for a ratio of 2 cups veggies to 1 cup stock.

Once you have about four cups of scraps - including the equivalent of least one onion, two carrots,  three celery stalks, and four cloves of garlic - you're ready to begin. Other great vegetables to toss in include:

  • asparagus
  • beet greens
  • bell peppers
  • carrots
  • celery
  • fennel
  • leeks
  • lettuce
  • mushrooms
  • potatoes
  • squash
  • tomatoes

To make stock,  you can either roast or boil your vegetables.

To roast,  toss your scraps with olive oil and sea salt on a parchment paper lined baking tray and roast at 450F until tender (about 45 minutes). Then put them in a blender with enough water to cover them.

To boil - consider using an asparagus pot with a built in strainer. Include a bouquet garni,  a teaspoon of whole peppercorn, a tablespoon of sea salt, two cloves of garlic and some star anise. Add enough water to cover and simmer over low heat for at least an hour - stirring occasionally.  

Whichever method appeals to you, when finished, strain through a cheesecloth lined colander to separate out your now compostable veggies from your broth. Stock freezes well in plastic containers and/or big ice-cube trays if you expect to need smaller amounts for a risotto, for example. Cool before freezing.

 

Broiled Citrus with Honey and Candied Ginger

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Years ago one of our favorite cafés served a modest desert of orange segments drizzled with honey, dotted with candied ginger and briefly tucked under the broiler. It has been one of our dead-of-winter tricks ever since. This time we used slices of eight different varieties of citrus with their peels, julienned the candied ginger and drizzled liberally with honey before broiling. Then we insisted on using our fingers to ritually pull it apart and share each piece.

Endless Citrus

 

 

 

The variety of citrus available today is dizzying. We enjoy it for its juice as well as the fragrance of its rind.  This week we took advantage of the diversity and served up blood oranges, cara cara oranges, cocktail grapefruit, heller peak season grapefruit, noble shiranuhi tangerine, minneola tangelo, ugli fruit, kumquats and mandarin oranges any way we could.

We juiced them, ate them raw, broiled them with honey and candied ginger and candied their rinds.

In the Spring we'll preserve blood oranges as marmalade. In the height of summer, we'll muddle limes into Brazilian Caipirinhas and whisk lemon zest into birthday pound cakes. In late December, we'll float slices of yuzu in a hot bath to celebrate the winter solstice (the shortest day and longest night) and ward off winter colds as we learned in Japan.  In early February, we'll score bright orange seedless tangerines with their green leaves attached in Chinatown - to ensure good luck and longevity for the Lunar New Year.  

 

'70s Suburban Mac 'n Cheese

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I imagine this mac 'n cheese - with a crunchy topping of wheatgerm - was born somewhere in the wilds of the suburban New Jersey in the 1970s. I can only tell you that we found it instantly addicting in the early '80s and it became the standard mac 'n cheese in our house.

 

  • 16 oz. ziti or penne
  • 8 oz. grated sharp cheddar
  • 12 oz. Heinz chili sauce
  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 1/4 cup toasted wheatgerm

Preheat your oven to 350F and line a small jelly roll pan with parchment paper.

Cook pasta until al denté (do not overcook!). Drain the pasta, and return it to the warm pan. Toss the pasta with chili sauce,  sharp cheddar, and unsalted butter until cheese and butter are melted. 

You can bake the pasta in a 9x12 glass or ceramic baking pan or, if you prefer it crunchy, on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Drizzle with 1/4 cup milk. Top with wheatgerm.

Bake at 350F for twenty minutes (or until desired crunchiness is attained).

Arugula Pesto

 

The classic Italian basil pesto with extra-virgin olive oil,  garlic, toasted pine nuts and mediterranean sea salt is incomparable.  But what do you do when summer basil disappears from the farmer's market before you've stashed some in the freezer?

Substitute greens!

Basic pesto ratios are easy to remember:

  • two cups greens  
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • ½ cup grated parmesan
  • 2 Tbsp toasted nuts
  • 1 tsp salt

You can add the juice of a lime to add some zest, substitute pine nuts with garbanzo beans for a nut-free meal, or throw in some fresh mint when it has overtaken your garden.

When basil is scarce,  substitute another leafy green like kale or arugula (which won't turn dark green like Basil). Try doubling the garlic to compliment the kale or adding a knob of ginger to draw out the peppery flavor of the arugula. 

Always make your pesto the day you acquire your herbs or you will be disappointed by its bruised appearance.

And never make just one batch. Simply withhold the cheese and freeze it in ice-cube trays for future use. It defrosts quickly to be spread on toast or added to eggs. Toss four frozen cubes into a ½ pound of warm pasta along with ½ cup of freshly grated parmesan and some freshly toasted pine nuts for a taste of summer in the dead of winter.

 
 
 
 

Cold Protein Bowl

 
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Looking for a quick, cool, protein-rich lunch? This tofu - almond bowl is inspired by Korean bee-bim-bop without the rice.

Simply start with half a block of tofu, dress it with a 1/2 a teaspoon sesame oil, a tablespoon of  seasoned panko crumbs, a dozen cracked almonds, a tablespoon of black sesame seeds, and a chopped scallion. Spice it up from time to time with sliced French radishes, shredded Japanese daikon, carrots or hot sesame oil. 

The sesame seeds and oil really give it an amazing aroma and flavor - but they also increase the cholesterol-free fat. Another approach might be to make some sesame seed infused olive oil!