Bacon, lettuce, avocado & tomato sandwich, with rosemary mayo.

Thanks to Julia for the inspired idea for the mayo... mix a generous amount of chopped fresh rosemary into mayo, with a dash of black pepper. Use on sandwiches, or, well anything. I used my leftover mayo as a dipping sauce for french fries, and it was amazing.


west village treats

Taking advantage of an unusually mild winter afternoon, my sweetie and I went on a little stroll through NYC's West Village. A little fresh air, sunshine, shopping... and of course treats along the way.

First stop—a glass of wine and snacks at I Tre Merli on West 10th St.

Creamy, tangy buffalo mozzarella:

Beef carpaccio with arugula and shaved parmesan:

Then, after a little more shopping, hot chocolate and a croissant at Jacques Torres on Hudson Street.
This is their "wicked" hot chocolate—a wonderful rich, chocolaty (but not too sweet) concoction, with a blend of spices (including chili peppers) that give it a nice, spicy warmth.


my stinking valentine

Since my darling and I share a love of garlic, I decided to prepare an all-garlic tasting menu for Valentine's day. While this might not be the first choice for a romantic dinner menu for most people, for us it was perfect.

We start with a trio of toppings for a nice loaf of ciabatta:
Garlic-infused olive oil: gently heat olive oil in a pan, with a couple of roughly smashed garlic cloves. I declared it done when I dipped a piece of bread in, and it had a subtle garlic flavor.

Roasted garlic: chop the top off a garlic bulb, so that the tops of the cloves are exposed (peel away excess paper from the outside). Place on foil, douse in olive oil, and seal the foil around it. Bake at 400 for at least an hour.

Herb-garlic tapenade: mix together the following: chopped fresh basil, parsley & mint, a few cloves of minced garlic, minced capers, zest & juice of 1 lemon, salt & pepper, and then add enough olive oil to coat.

White bean & garlic soup (recipe here). I garnished with chopped chives and a drizzle of the garlic oil.

Roasted tomatoes with garlic: Cut plum tomatoes lengthwise in thirds, place on a baking sheet, season with salt, pepper & dried basil. Top with very thinly-sliced garlic, and drizzle with garlic oil. Bake at 400 for about an hour.

Shrimp with garlic-white wine sauce: heat pan with garlic oil, and sauté shrimp and sliced garlic (season with salt). Take the shrimp out when it's done, but leave the garlic. Add white wine (I used sauvignon blanc), and simmer until it reduces. Then stir in a squeeze of lemon juice, pat of butter & chopped fresh parsley.

Sautéed spinach with garlic: heat garlic oil in a pan, and add sliced garlic. Just before it starts to brown, add the spinach and wilt. Season with salt, pepper & a pinch of red pepper flakes. Finish off with a squeeze of lemon juice.

Strip steak with garlic-red wine sauce: heat pan with just about a TBSP olive oil. Season both sides of the steak with salt & pepper, and cook to your liking (I prefer pretty rare). When the steak is done, take it out to rest (cover in foil to keep it warm), and add red wine to the pan (I used syrah). Scrape up any delicious meat bits from the pan, and bring the wine to a simmer. Add minced garlic and rosemary. When the wine has reduced, stir in a pat of butter, and season with salt & pepper to taste. Spoon over the meat.


lamb chops, cous cous & asparagus

I tend to gravitate toward pretty standard meat+starch+green vegetable meals (that's just how I roll). Here, we have:
-lamb chops with basil & kalamata olives (recipe here)
-roasted asparagus (tossed with olive oil, salt & pepper, and cooked at 450 until it looks done)
-cous cous with dried apricots, toasted almond slivers, & chopped fresh mint leaves (make cous cous according to the package instructions—using chicken stock as the liquid for more flavor—then just mix in the other ingredients after it's cooked).


spice rubbed pork tenderloin

...with spicy peas and garlic-parmesan polenta

The pork:
-Coat the tenderloin in dry spices (I used a pork spice rub that was a gift from my friend Sandra).
-Sear the outside in an oven-proof pan, in just a little bit of olive oil. Then finish cooking it in the oven (my tenderloin was about 1 lb, which took about 25 minutes at 400).
-When the pork is done, put it on a plate to rest, but keep the pan (for the peas).

The polenta:
-Melt a TBSP of butter in a saucepan, add a minced garlic clove, and cook for a couple minutes (just til it gets a little soft, but not brown).
-Add 1 cup chicken stock and bring to a boil, then whisk in 1/3 cup polenta. Keep stirring pretty frequently til it's done (when it gets nice and thick).
-Stir in some parmesan and a pinch of black pepper.

The peas:
-Deglaze the pork pan with a splash of liquid, and scrape up the yummy spice bits from the pork.
-Add some frozen baby peas, and sauté til they're heated through. They'll pick up the flavors from the pan, so seasoning probably isn't necessary.