diner, brooklyn. an inspired brunch (in instagram).

Last week we went back to New York City for a 10 day trip. Our little homecoming coincided with my dad's milestone birthday and the wedding of a very close friend at the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.
It's always great going home. We love seeing our family and many of our closest friends still live in the area. Sadly, since moving to Colorado almost 2 years ago, we don't get to see everyone as much as we used to. But I do think there's something special about these gatherings now since we don't see people day-to-day. We really cherish the time...  
On this trip we got to have a little vacation within our vacation. My in-laws watched the boys for the weekend and Matt and I spent Friday and Saturday night eating a lot, laughing a lot and (possibly) drinking way too much. I have to say, it was awesome. 
We also got to do something that we rarely do: we brunched! On Sunday morning! It was truly amazing. 
We went to one of my most-favorite spots in Brooklyn, Diner in Williamsburg. Since Diner can get really crowded, we made an early break for it and headed over around opening time. 
Walking through the streets of b-burg, which at 10:30 a.m. were practically empty, I was reminded of an internet show my husband once joked about starting called "Good Morning, Williamsburg." The show would have opened with a line that went something like, "Good Morning, Williamsburg. It's 1 p.m. on this rainy Sunday..."-- which is kind of a joke since people in this part of town don't really get started with their day until after noon.  Youth.
Anyway, the company was fantastic. So was the food. Diner is just one of those places. I want to recreate each and every dish, but it will be hard. This place is pretty much perfection. Thank you for the awesome brunch, Diner. See you again next year... 
1. coffee 2. lemon scones with devonshire cream and strawberry jam 3. zucchini blossoms stuffed with homemade ricotta, radicchio and mustard sauce 4. poached egg 5. the table 6. friends 7. frittata 8. duck egg with spring vegetables 9. us

Tarry Lodge Inspired Pizza: Goat Cheese, Pistachio and Truffled Honey

Most of the time I follow the recipes from my favorite cookbooks or food blogs.  On occasion I adapt them to better suit my taste preferences (or those of the more discerning Señor Otis).  Here, however, I tried to recreate the pizza I ate a few months back at Mario Batali and Joe Bastianich's (yes, son of Lidia) Port Chester eatery, Tarry Lodge.  
The pie is pretty much adaptable once you have the following ingredients: good quality pizza dough (home made or store bought), olive oil, red onion, chopped pistachio nuts, goat cheese, salt, and honey (admittedly truffled honey is the way to go, but I used the store-bought kind...you know, the one in the little plastic bear with yellow top).  
I pre-heated the oven to 475 degrees and put the pizza stone in the oven.  It took about 1/2 hour for the stone to get hot.  Then I divided the dough so that I had enough dough for 2 small pies (each the size of a traditional pizza stone) and sprinkled it with a generous amount of flour.  After flattening the dough and stretching it onto an oiled mesh disk, I drizzled it with olive oil and honey.  I brushed the edges of the pie with additional olive oil. 
Then I put the red onion (very thinly sliced) and pistachios on the pie and sprinkled it with some salt.  
Into the oven it went on my pizza stone...
After about 7 minutes, I took it out of the oven and drizzled it with a bit more olive oil and honey.  Then I put the goat cheese on top of the pie.  I cooked it for about 3-4 more minutes and then dinner was served. (Pie should be slightly golden.)
Thanks for the inspiration, Tarry Lodge!

Waving Goodbye: Wave Hill, A Scalloped Tomatoes Post and Departures

"Times they are a-changin'..."  
Summer is coming to an end and fall is in the air.  
We are leaving Brooklyn after 7 years and relocating to Colorado (see previous post for more). We have packed up the contents of our apartment and all of our earthly belongings are on a truck heading west. My second son is now 5 1/2 weeks old and the first one is turning 2 later this month. And in addition to motherly duties, I have published 121 posts since I started this blog, one year ago.  
I may not be in the big leagues of the blogging world, but that was never the point. I started this blog as a means of documenting our journey as a family. I also wanted (needed) to have something that was mine (something I could nurture) that didn't involve children. A hobby of sorts. And here it is... 
So let me say thank you to my family and friends who have encouraged me to pursue blogging while I juggle motherhood.
I have appreciated the comments and the emails more than you know. Be well and I'll be back in this little corner of the internet soon- posting from our new home in the city of Denver, in the great state of Colorado.
Here are a few photos I took from our favorite spot in New York City-- Wave Hill--during our last week in our hometown. 
{Wave Hill is where I got married and only a few blocks away from where I grew up. You can find more about the gardens here.}
Wave Hill, September, 2011:

* * *
We no longer live in our Brooklyn apartment, so I'm staying with my parents until my flight to Colorado on Sunday night. Lucky for me my mother is in a CSA this summer (did I inspire her? I'll take some credit here...) and we have great vegetables for the weekend.  There's arugula, golden beets, summer squash, butter lettuce and 6 pounds of tomatoes. We've got a lot of tomatoes.  
I decided to look back at some of the recipes I made around this time last year.  This one, for scalloped tomatoes, was a real hit when I made it last season, so I'm going to make it again.   
This is my repost:
This recipe for Scalloped Tomatoes is fantastic.  It pops with flavor and color. I have made this dish twice and my only caveat is that you should make it on the day you want to serve and eat it. Subjecting the delicate boule bread to a cycle of refrigeration and re-heating makes it a little mushy. Also, the parmesan crust on top of the dish doesn't reheat well. So, make this dish a few hours before you want to consume it and all your guests will rave about how delicious it is! Promise.
SCALLOPED TOMATOES (Adapted from Ina Garten, Barefoot Contessa)
Serves 6
  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 2 cups (1/2-inch diced) bread from a French boule, crusts removed (Remove the crust from the entire loaf before you start slicing) 
  • 2 1/2 pounds of tomatoes, cut 1/2-inch dice 
  • 1 tablespoon minced garlic (3 cloves)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 cup julienned basil leaves, lightly packed
  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese


Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large (12 inch) saute pan over medium heat. Add the bread cubes and stir to coat with the oil. Cook over medium to medium-high heat for 5 minutes, stirring often, until the cubes are evenly browned.
Meanwhile, combine the tomatoes, garlic, sugar, salt, and pepper in a large bowl. When the bread cubes are done, add the tomato mixture and continue to cook, stirring often, for 5 minutes. Off the heat, stir in the basil.
Pour the tomato mixture into a shallow (6 to 8 cup) baking dish. Sprinkle evenly with the Parmesan cheese and drizzle with 2 tablespoons of olive oil. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the top is browned and the tomatoes are bubbly. Serve hot or warm.

Weekly Mash Up: Brunch Inspiration, CSA Bounty No. 1, Wave Hill and a Picnic Pasta

We have entered the final countdown.  I'm full-term in a few days and that means the arrival of No. 2 is just around the corner. Eek. Yay. Eek. 
This past weekend Otis spent a night with his grandparents so that my husband and I could use a gift certificate for The Grocery in Carroll Gardens. We had a leisurely three hour dinner and the meal was delicious.  It had tons of local, seasonal ingredients that were bursting with flavor. Some highlights included: a chilled potato leek soup and hot potato croquettes; a fabulous radish salad with white beans, radicchio and an amazing vinaigrette; a seafood bread salad and a guinea hen for my husband; a seasonal mixed vegetable plate that would have taken me ten hours to assemble and fried artichoke. Wondering about dessert? Buttermilk panna cotta with hibiscus sorbet and citrus slices. I was stuffed! 
On Saturday we picked up our first CSA share. YIPPEE!
We got arugula (I'm going to make another batch of this pesto), garlic scapes (perfect in hummus), radishes (I'm going to recreate The Grocery salad mentioned above), bok choi, kale (perfect for Heidi Swanson's Kale and Farrow Salad) and a big bag of baby lettuce. 
After picking up our CSA bounty we decided to go to our favorite brunch spot-- Diner.   The 'Scone of the Day' was sliced in half and served with Devonshire cream and strawberry rhubarb compote.  It was delicious.  The Omelette of the Day was packed with market spinach and a garlic scape herbed goat cheese.  I nearly died and went to heaven!
Then it was off to The Renegade Art Festival.  I made a few purchases for No. 2 and purchased some tea towels I just had to have...
On Sunday, on the way to my father's birthday dinner, we made a little stop to Wave Hill for some late spring blooms...
[Some of you might recall that this is where I got married.  I also grew up a few blocks away. It's one of my favorite places in New York City.  Maybe even the world :) ]

For more Wave Hill photos click this post and this post:  
Now it feels like summer has really arrived: gardens are blooming, farmer's markets are full of the season's bounty and our CSA has started up again. This pasta salad is perfect for a summer picnic. It has lemon zest, arugula, asparagus and simple seasoning with salt and pepper. Enjoy!
Gemelli with Asparagus, Ricotta, Arugula and Lemon Zest (Courtesy of J. Kenji Lopez-Alt for Serious Eats in a Food Lab article on 'New Ways to Cook Pasta.')   
Serves 6
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound asparagus, trimmed, peeled, and cut into 1-inch pieces
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound of gemelli, fusilli, rotini or any other medium-thickness short pasta
1 cup fresh ricotta cheese
1 tablespoon zest from 1 lemon
2 cups loosely packed baby arugula leaves
2 ounces finely grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more for serving tableside


  • Heat oil in large heavy-bottomed sauce pot over high heat until just starting to smoke. Add asparagus pieces and cook, stirring occasionally, until tender-crisp and lightly browned. Season asparagus to taste with salt and pepper, transfer to bowl, and set aside. Do not clean sauce pot.
  • In a medium saucepan, bring 2 quarts of water and 1 teaspoon kosher salt to a boil over high heat.  Add pasta and stir immediately.  Allow to return to a boil, stir once vigorously, cover pot, and shut off heat.  After one minute, stir one last time. Recover pot. Follow timing on box as a general guide for cooking time—start checking pasta 2 minutes before suggested cooking time and continue checking every minute until proper al dente texture is reached.  Pasta should be fully softened, but retain a slight bite in the center. Drain pasta, reserving 2 cups of cooking liquid.  Immediately transfer pasta to empty sauce pot from cooking asparagus. [* This is a great way to cook pasta.  It came out perfectly.  I'm a convert!] 
  • Add asparagus, ricotta, lemon zest, arugula, grated cheese, and a few big twists of black pepper to the pasta. Add 1 cup pasta water and stir until all ingredients are combined and arugula has wilted. Continue adding pasta water until desired consistency is reached (the ricotta should turn into a creamy sauce that coats the noodles). Season to taste with salt and pepper, and serve immediately, passing more grated cheese at the table.

5Pointz, Long Island City, Queens and Pizza Margherita

On the day the world was supposed to end (May 21, 2011), we hopped on the subway and headed towards Queens. I really wanted to check out 5Pointz, a graffiti/street art project on the facade of a 200,000 square foot factory building in Long Island City. It had long been on my list of places to visit, so I was glad we finally got to see it.  
At 5Pointz, artists get permits to "tag" and paint; it's all completely legal. Most of the work is ephemeral and only lasts a few weeks before it is painted over, but the really good stuff stays around for a bit longer...

Matt, Otis, a very pregnant yours truly, and our dear friend  Andrew (a supremely talented modern classical composer who's working on a piece called Otis!) decided that before we took in all the street art, a pilgrimage to Jackson Heights' Delhi Palace was in order. With bellies full of delicious Indian food, we then set out 


* * *
It was a nice weekend and nothing could cap it off better than some homemade pizza.  I was craving a DiFara style pie, but not wanting to wait 2 plus hours in Midwood, I decided to make the pizza myself by adapting a recipe I saw in Saveur. 
Cook's Tip: Use high-quality, fresh mozzarella and slice the cheese into 1/4 inch rounds. Place the cheese in between 2 paper towels. Put a plate on top of the covered cheese and weigh it down for 20 minutes.  You can use a large can of tomatoes or some other canned product for the weight.  This will get the moisture out of the cheese so you don't have puddles on your pizza!   

Yields 2 11-inch personal pies
1 ball of dough (I purchased a ball of pizza dough from Union Market and it was excellent.  Another good option-- your local pizza shop.  Many will sell you a ball of dough for a buck or two.)
Extra-virgin olive oil
San Marzano tomato sauce (recipe follows)
One large ball of mozzarella di buffala (it's expensive but worth it)
Basil leaves
Salt and pepper
Remove dough from the refrigerator and let it come to room temperature.  Put a pizza stone on the lowest rack in the oven and heat oven to 500 degrees; heat for at least 40 minutes.  Working with 1 piece of dough at a time (I divided my ball into two), dust with flour; using your hands, stretch and shape dough into a 11-13 inch circle.  Transfer dough to a sheet of parchment paper or an oiled pizza mesh(I use the mesh).  Drizzle oil around rim of the dough.  Spoon about 1/2 cup tomato sauce onto dough leaving 1/2 - 3/4 inch border. (Original recipe had 1/4 cup of sauce on the dough.  I used more.)  Season with salt.
Arrange mozzarella di buffala evenly over pizza.  Drizzle pizza with more oil.
Using a pizza paddle or grasping the edges of the parchment paper, transfer pizza to pizza stone.  (I used a pizza paddle.)
Bake until golden brown, about 13 minutes.  Keep you eye on the pizza.  One Saveur commenter noted that his pizza was ready in 8 minutes.  Our oven took 12-13 minutes and it was perfect.
Slide pizza back onto the paddle and transfer to a work surface.  Top with basil, drizzle with more olive oil, if you like (and I do!), and put the pizza back on the stone for 1 minute.  Remove pizza from oven.  Slice.  
Repeat with remaining dough and toppings.  Reserve remaining sauce for another use, such as pasta. 

Basic Tomato Sauce
(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen, inspired by 101 Cookbooks)
2 tablespoon butter or olive oil
2 large shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
1 clove garlic, chopped
A couple glugs red wine
1 28-ounce can San Marzano tomatoes
1 15-ounce can pureed tomatoes
A handful of julienned basil (optional)
Zest of one lemon (optional)
Melt butter in saucepan over medium-high heat until foam subsides. Add shallots, red pepper flakes, salt, and garlic sauteing them together for a few minutes until the shallots are translucent and beginning to color. Add the red wine, letting it sizzle and cook down slightly, then the whole and pureed tomatoes. Breaking the whole tomatoes up with a wooden spoon, let the sauce simmer for a few minutes. Season to taste. I used an immersion blender to puree the sauce, but if you like a thicker texture, leave it as is.