Tag Archives: Scallions

Sweet Roasted Tomatoes

So plane travels used to be for watching crappy-yet-oh-so-distracting movies, stuffing your face with horrible-yet-oh-so-distracting food, while drinking your tomato juice. Bref, planes used to be your own little space, where one could do all the horrible stuff one is not supposed to do past the age of, say, 12.

But here I am, with my new MacBook Air, a flawless wi-fi connection, low-calorie vegetables dips and organic roasted almonds. Where is the fun all gone?  So I have no choice but respecting my newborn healthy resolution and catching up on my blog.

And what a better topic than tomatoes to combine all the issues at stake here:

  1. Like the vast majority of the population, I drink tomato juice only when flying;
  2. In case you hadn’t noticed, tomatoes are healthy. Because it is a vegetable (oh, sorry, a fruit), it is light and you can eat a lot of them. Also, it has a lot of vitamin C;
  3. And it is definitely one of my must-haves. Fits into my blog.

The only problem I have is that tomatoes are tasteless. I mean, not in general. Just lately. And this dates back to before I moved to this wonderful country. Yes, even in my douce France, good tomatoes are difficult to find. Usually rare and expensive. And the sad thing is, one tends to forget the taste of good tomatoes after a while.

Luckily for you, I found a nice solution. Nice nice nice. Very happy about it. Granted, it certainly does not replace a nice ripe juicy tasty tomato. But it certainly does the trick. I roast them: put them whole in the oven (250F), on a baking sheet, with a little drizzle of olive oil, thyme, salt & pepper.   For two hours. Or longer if you want. Let them cool a little, peel them, get rid of the seeds. And there you go. Nice tomatoes, to use in salads, sauces, gaspachos, whatever you like.

Granted, this does not make a tomato juicy tasty and fresh. It tastes different. And this does not prevent you from selecting organic tomatoes, and decent looking ones. But still. It works well in the following salads I tried:

  1. Tomatoes + roasted peppers* + mozzarella di buffala + scallions + basil + salt + pepper + olive oil + balsamic vinegar;
  2. Tomatoes + roasted peppers + potatoes (be careful, don’t cook them too much or it will turn out mushy) + salt + pepper + pitted black olives + scallions + parsley + olive oil + balsamic vinegar;

* One day I will have to spread my love of roasted peppers too. Red roasted pepper, that is.

A Perfect Dinner…ou presque

Homey & Designy Little Giant

Homey & Designy Little Giant

So here we are at Little Giant (Lower East Side). The sun is actually shining this time. A perfect Saturday evening is unfolding before our eyes (I know it is a perfect day when I sing Lou Reed’s “oh it’s such a perfect day, I’m glad I spent it with you” for myself – no kidding).
I love the decor of the restaurant, there is a table on the terrace and Florent and I can sip our cocktails there – and we end up eating there as well. The menu sounds promising, all the more that there are some ingredients I quite don’t understand – and one in particular that pops up almost everywhere in the menu: RAMPS.

“Euh, excuse me, miss, please – what are “ramps” ?
“It’s a wild leek – tastes between a leek and a scallion.

Niiiiiiiiice, I thought: the sweetness of the leek with an onion twist.

So, as I said, it all started well, with a truly homy yet designy decor.  Florent, his cousin, his uncle and I ordered some of the “nibbles” well, to nibble on. The deviled eggs were a bit too dry for me, not enough mayo, quoi. I liked the ricotta in the braised artichokes: very rich. The artichokes were not very tasty though. I really liked the warm spinach & feta dip. I couldn’t quite taste the feta in there , but it reminded me of a dish I loved when I was a kid. My mother’s ex-boyfriend’s mother (my mother’s love life is…complicated) used to make it for me for Sunday lunch. That’s how I learned to like spinach:  it was a very rich and creamy spinach gratin, with the spinach du jardin and a nice thick bechamel. Delicious. And Little Giant is right to serve this as a nibble. It is pretty heavy, as you can imagine. So, Little Giant: for your Spinach Feta Dip – I am eternally grateful.

The Menu looked appetizing too

The Menu looked appetizing too

So far so good – or at least OK. I can’t say I was hugely impressed by the appetizers (besides the Feta dip, that is), but I was in good company and I liked the waitress (efficient but not in your face). In fact, we were in such a good mood that we barely noticed that 30 minutes had passed and our entrees were still not served. Let me be clear here: I hate, HATE when you are barely done with your appetizers and they already serve the entrees. I may have a big appetite (and I think Florent tends to think that my appetite is really too big these days) but I need time  between my dish, so that I can look forward to the next dish. Donc, a good 45 minutes after we finished our “nibbles”, entrees were served. And that’s when disappointment arised. Big time.

We had a ramp theme going on on our table. I was rooting for the “ramps & orrecchiette, with ramp puree & braised ramps, poached organic egg & bread crumbs” but was keeping a close eye on Florent’s “veal shortribs, all-natural milk-fed veal, sauteed ramps stone-ground grits, roasted cherry tomatoes”. Let’s start with my dish:

  • the pasta was al dente – much to my liking;
  • braised ramps. What? Braised ramps? Where? Believe me I looked. But I couldn’t find them. So I asked:

“Excuse me euh sorry to ask but, where are the braised ramps please (and sorry again)? Well, they are in the sauce. Ah, ok”*

I was not convinced by her answer. Don’t mention braised ramps if they are not visible on my plate.

  • and then the taste.  Well, let’s just say ramps are very, very powerful, more on the garlic side than the leek side of the family. And that’s something I would have liked to know before ordering. Second, I am a firm believer of using garlic & onions in reasonable amounts. Florent doesn’t like garlic or onions so I have to play tricks. Here, I couldn’t finish my plate. Which is highly, highly unusual (to Florent’s great despair). Since then, I did a little research. Turns out it is a wild leek – which smells & taste half way between garlic & scallions and looks similar to scallions. It’s harvested in the Appalachians and apparently they go crazy over that little thing there. There’s a Ramp Festival, and even an entire website dedicated to wild leeks recipes.

Let’s focus on Florent’s plate now:

  • Sauteed ramps? Check . And it was not nearly as strong as my ramps puree (or maybe my palate was numb after the orecchiette)
  • Stone-ground grits. Ok, that definitely sounds cool and natural and fancy too. But does it imply that I can actually feel the grains of grits under my teeth? Well, not in my world. In my world, polenta – and grits are all about creaminess, smoothness and tenderness. Ok, there might be some graininess involved too. But these grits were not cooked enough.
  • Veal shortrib : tenderness? Check. But the ribs were white. I mean there was no color or crispiness there. It was a bit sad.

Ramps by Adrianne Picciano

Ramps by Adrianne Picciano

So yes, I was disappointed. Luckily the desserts made everything better. I am not usually not a fan of desserts but I would give a big high five for the sticky toffee pudding. And the lemon-ricotta fritters with lemon curd were also very light and the tanginess of the curd was nicely counterbalanced by the ricotta…

Sadly, the bill came. L’addition etait plutot salee.…$90 per person (we did order two bottles of wine though).

Would I go back? Well…maybe. First because I completely trust Catherine’s tastes, (she recommended the restaurant) and I am pretty sure that she had a very nice meal when she went there. Also, they change their menu all the time (they are all about seasonality, organic, all-natural, etc.) and I certainly commend them for using unusual ingredients. And, they made me want to try and cook ramps (if I ever find any).

*I have to say that, to my despair, I am not the most assertive kind of gal. I hate scandals and people yelling and am usually a perfect well-behaved costumer.
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