Friday, August 5, 2011

Farro Salad with Avocado Dressing, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Balsamic Red Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, and Microgreens

This hearty salad makes a lovely summer meal all by itself. Served at room temperature, it has a variety of flavors and textures, a beautiful presentation, and plenty of substance. The farro is boiled and coated in mashed avocado, then dished out onto individual plates and topped with the tomatoes, onions, mozzarella, and greens. Another way to do this, which isn't nearly as pretty but is easier if you plan on making a lot, is to cut the tomatoes, onions, and mozzarella into pieces and toss them directly with the farro. 

Roasting the tomatoes and onions takes forethought, but what I like to do is just make up big batches of these tomatoes and onions, as well as other versatile ingredients like basil oil, and then keep them in the fridge until I need them. They are so easy to incorporate into a variety of dishes that they are well worth having on hand. For instance, roasted tomatoes work great with pasta, salad, on toasted baguettes, drizzled with balsamic as a tapa, as an accompaniment to roast chicken or lamb chops, or simply eaten right out of the tupperware (yes, I have done that on a few occasions). So my recommendation is to buy a big bag of super ripe tomatoes at the farmers' market, eat a few of them fresh, and then roast the rest for use throughout the week. Same goes for basil oil (see my other blog posts for ideas) and balsamic red onions (but the farmers' market part is optional; I can't say I taste a difference in flavor in onions).

In addition to being a perfect elegant luncheon dish or even (in smaller portions) a nice start to a dinner, this salad makes excellent leftovers.

Farro Salad with, Avocado Dressing, Slow Roasted Tomatoes, Balsamic Red Onions, Fresh Mozzarella, and Microgreens
serves 4

1 cup uncooked farro
Kosher salt
freshly ground pepper
1 very ripe avocado, diced
about 12 roasted tomato halves (see recipe below)
about 1 cup balsamic red onions (see recipe below)
2 balls fresh mozzarella, sliced
1 cup micro greens (I suggest sunflower sprouts--they have a delicious nutty taste and some nice crunch)
1/4 cup basil oil (see recipe below)

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil over high heat. Add the farro and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 30 minutes, and then pour into a strainer and rinse with cold water. The farro should be fully cooked but still have some chewiness to it. 

When the farro is close to room temperature, toss with the salt and pepper in a large mixing bowl. Add the avocado, and use your (clean) hands to work the avocado into a sort of dressing. You should be squeezing the avocado around the farro, so eventually the farro is all coated. If the avocado is less soft, add a bit of olive oil to complete the dressing.

Arrange the farro mixture on four plates. Build the salad up by layering the tomatoes, onions, and mozzarella slices on top of the farro. Drizzle the basil oil equally on the four salads. Top with the greens, and serve immediately.

Roasted Tomatoes

2 pounds small fresh tomatoes, halved lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon to 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons sugar (add more if the tomatoes aren't sweet)
1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

Preheat oven to 225 degrees F. Toss all ingredients to coat the tomatoes. Arrange the tomatoes cut side up in a shallow baking dish. Roast for 3 hours.

Balsamic Red Onions

2 pounds red onions, thinly sliced (slice in rings, or slice root to tip--whatever you prefer the look of)
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground pepper

Preheat the oven to 450 degrees F. Toss all ingredients together in a shallow baking dish to coat the onions. Roast for 30 minutes or until the onions are soft.

Basil Oil
makes around 1 cup

2 big bunches fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil, approximately
salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves until they are chopped. Start adding the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixtures reaches a texture much looser than a pesto. Adjust the amount of olive oil based on how thick you want the basil oil to be. When the texture is right, add salt and pepper to taste and process for another few seconds or until smooth enough.

Let the oil sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. After this, basil oil keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days to a week (after this it will still be good, but not as flavorful).

Thursday, August 4, 2011

My Birthday Party

I covered the coffee table with platters of food, including the (if I do say so myself) lovely arrangement of Sungold cherry tomatoes, bing cherries, and blackberries on the top left.

People always argue with me when I say that I'm cooking for my own birthday party. They say, "let someone else cook for you this time," like that would be a treat for me. It's a nice thought, but I love throwing parties and I love cooking for lots of people. And, being a bit of a control freak, I like doing all the planning myself.

My birthday was on July 27th, and I ate a wonderful meal at Truffles to celebrate that. On Saturday I had the party, which involved about 15 people, dinner, dessert, and drinks. (I did let Mitch do the music.) I also went to the Cardinals game at 3:00, so most of the cooking happened before the game.  

We had a great time, the food was a hit, and too much of it even got eaten. I was not focused on photography since I was actually enjoying the party, so these pictures are not all inclusive nor are they perfectly composed, but I'm thinking it was worth it. Missing from the photos are: pita bread with tzaziki (Greek cucumber and yogurt sauce), red pepper hazelnut dip, and roasted tomato and walnut dip. Maybe I will dig up some of those pictures and add them later.

Comment if you want any of these recipes and I will write a separate post about it!

Mini Ciabatta Sandwiches with Herbed Pork Tenderloin,  Baby Spinach, and Roasted Red Pepper and Hazelnut Spread 
Deviled Eggs with Smoked Salmon, Chives, and Smoked Paprika

Roasted Figs with Chevre, Bacon, Thyme, and Honey

Smoked Trout Toasts with Chives and Parsley

more of the roasted figs

Cucumber, Canteloupe, and Jalapeno Gazpacho with Jamon Serrano
Lemon Pots de Creme with a Blackberry; Dark Chocolate Jasmine Pots de Creme with a Raspberry

Watermelon Basil Daiquiri, and Cucumber Mint and Lime Vodkatini

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lavender Scented Lemonade

I've already written about my trip to Bald Mountain in Napa, CA in my post about seared prosciutto wrapped scallops, but I didn't mention the lemonade. We had some pretty hot weather while we were there, but none of that sticky heat we are stuck in here in St. Louis (and, as I understand, the whole Eastern half of the country). Still, it was good weather for lemonade. And right out the kitchen door in the rock garden, there was a beautiful, flowering lavender plant all covered in honey bees. Instead of leaving all the good stuff to the bees, I took my scissors out and cut off some fresh fragrant buds to steep in simple syrup.

And that is the secret to amazing lemonade. Fresh lavender steeped in the syrup. Of course, you can try other herbs too. Rosemary works in the same way. Basil is good, but you don't want to cook it all, so you can just stir in strips of basil leaves.

But back to lavender. If you grow it, of course use it fresh, when the buds are not yet opened. Also pick off some of the flowers that already budded and set them aside for garnish. To really make it pretty, I like to slice a lemon really thin and put in the lemonade at the end.

One more thing: ALWAYS use fresh lemons in lemonade. And in everything. Just keep a bag of lemons in the fridge. Seriously, that bottled pre-juiced stuff is more expensive and tastes like plasticky vinegar, compared to the tart fragrance of fresh lemons.

This lemonade is an elegant and delicious thirst quencher on a hot summer's day. And if it's getting further towards evening and it's still lemonade weather, a splash of vodka is just what this lemonade needs.

Lavender Scented Lemonade
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons dried lavender, or small bunch of fresh sprigs
3 or 4 cups cold water
1 cup lemon juice, approx.
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
fresh lavender flowers, for garnish

Heat the sugar and water to a simmer so that the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lavender, remove from the heat, and cover. Let the syrup steep for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain the lavender out and let it cool completely (you can stir in ice if you want, just reduce the water accordingly.

Stir together the syrup, the water, and the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the sugar and lemon to your taste. Fill a pitcher one third full of ice, add the lemon slices, then pour the lemonade over the ice and lemons. Top with the flowers.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Tomato, Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella Salad

After "Bacon Day" at Infuz, I needed a light dinner. Turns out there's really only so much bacon you can eat in one day before it becomes too much. So I got home and put together this salad as dinner. I had a ripe avocado, some tomatoes I got from the Tower Grove Farmers' Market, a couple balls of mozzarella, some arugula, and a lot of basil. I figured all those together plus dressing would be a good meal. Because of the richness of the avocado and mozzarella, this salad can hold its own as a main course. (Of course in smaller portions it can also be a side dish or an appetizer.)

I decided to use the basil not as whole leaves or chopped bits, but as basil oil. For those of you who read this blog regularly, you will notice that I have been using a lot of basil oil recently. That is because it is delicious, easy, versatile, and keeps for about a week in the fridge. Also because I recently bought Skye Gyngell's book A Year in my Kitchen (surprisingly, this is not about the trials and tribulations of a poor woman trapped in her kitchen for a year, as the title might lead you to suspect--it's actually just a cookbook organized seasonally). Her book uses a lot of basil oil, which is what got me going on basil oil.

To round out the dressing, I added some balsamic reduction. If you don't already make balsamic reduction, try it out. Especially with cheaper and newer balsamics, reducing it by simmering in a small pan for about 10 minutes can really add to the flavor by concentrating it.

I also make a different version of this salad as any easy lunch at work. I just pack a big tomato, an avocado, a mozzarella ball, a ziplock baggie of herbs from my garden, and mini tupperware of oil and balsamic dressing. Take everything out, cut it, and arrange it on a plate. I love this type of lunch--it's healthy, filling, fresh, and feels like summer. On top of all that, it's very easy to get together in the morning--a huge benefit for someone like me, who is definitively not a morning person.

*A note on tomatoes: If you can help it, never refrigerate a tomato. It ruins the texture and can harm the flavor as well.

Tomato, Avocado, Arugula, and Mozzarella Salad
serves 2 as a whole dinner, or 4 as a generous appetizer

3 or 4 small very ripe tomatoes, or 2 or 3 large very ripe tomatoes, sliced
1 ripe avocado, sliced
1 bunch arugula, washed
2 balls of mozzarella, sliced
1/4 cup basil oil (see my chilled tomato soup recipe for directions)
3 tablespoons balsamic reduction (not reduced too too much), or 2 tablespoons aged balsamic traditzionale
salt and pepper

Spread the arugula out on a large platter. Arrange the tomato slices, avocado slices, and mozzarella slices on top of the arugula. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, and drizzle the basil oil and balsamic reduction over top of the salad. Serve immediately, at room temperature.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Bacon Day at Infuz (Best Job Ever)

For those of you who don't know, I work at a digital agency called Infuz. One of the many reasons it is awesome is Summer of Random, which is basically a whole summer of completely random and never expected events that range from elegant (champagne cocktail party) to fun (magic show) to kind of creepy (clown and mime). But a couple days ago was the random day to top all (so far)--BACON DAY. Mosaic Modern Fusion catered a whole day of bacon. First came a breakfast that easily convinced me it was a good idea to have two breakfasts. 

Breakfast Menu (with my notes):

Bloody Mary Bacon Salad, Heirloom Tomato, Celery, Pickled Carrots, Bacon Vodka Dressing
This was a pretty solid tomato salad--not mind-blowing, but solidly good. I always love tomatoes at breakfast, whether in a salad or as the roasted tomatoes typical in English breakfasts.

Pig in a Hole: Bacon Toast, Farm Egg, Bacon Hollandaise, Pea Shoots
I only had a bite of this, but yum! Bacon hollandaise might be one of the better foods created. The bread was Companion Bakery brioche bread, I believe. The eggs had good flavor, but were cooked a little more than my liking. All in all, a delicious dish!
Duroc Bacon and Brown Sugar Grits, Caramelized Apple
This was my favorite. (Confession: I have been eating the leftovers for breakfast the past two days.) The salty bacon contrasted perfectly with the sweet apple, and the grits were creamy and delicious. It was sweet but not overly so. If Mosaic ever starts serving brunch (or if they do at another location already?), this ought to be on the menu.

Bacon and Corn Pancakes, Smoked Maple Syrup
Again, only had a bite, but as good as it sounds.

Bacon "Infuz'd" Melon
This one was a little weird. The melon was good, but the texture was slightly changed since they used a compressor to infuse it. And as much as I love bacon, I'm not sure it goes with melon. That said, I wouldn't have had it otherwise for Bacon Day. It's kind of awesome that even the fruit had bacon in it.

And there was plain bacon as well, in case we needed more. Which clearly we did, since it was on everyone's plates.

For lunch, we were also treated to five amazing bacon dishes. I was not as prepared with my camera, so you'll have to wait and see if pictures get posted on in the next few days. But I can tell you the menu.

Truffle Bacon Soup, Crisp Speck, Pea Shoots
This was delicious. It was a white soup, I'm guessing potato thickened though I'm not sure. It was subtly flavored with bacon and truffle oil. I didn't notice any speck, so I wonder if that was left off after the menus were written.

Pork Belly BLT, Heirloom Tomatoes, Bibb Lettuce, Spicy Bacon Mayo
Not my favorite. I love pork belly, but this was a little too tough to bit for a sandwich, which led to some messes. The tomato was good, as was the lettuce. The mayo was good, but not very spicy. (I feel a little bad critiquing this, since it was such a treat to have all this food, but I'm doing it anyway. If anyone from Mosaic is reading this, know that I absolutely loved the whole thing, despite a few minor critiques!)

Bacon Confit Potato Salad, Malt Bacon Dressing, Soft Quail Egg
I'm not a big potato salad fan, so this didn't speak to me. The egg was good, and for a potato salad the whole thing was good.

Bacon Bolognese, Linguine, Shaved Parmesan, Fennel Pollen
Yum!!! Great bolognese. I didn't notice the fennel pollen, but it wasn't necessary for the dish.

Bacon Rice Crispy Treats, Salt Caramel
Turns out bacon is a perfect addition to rice crispy treats. It adds that salty, fatty goodness that they otherwise lack. Great dessert!

So, are you all jealous? It was, after all, a pretty awesome surprise. For once in my life, I am not craving bacon--I've had enough for the week. Watch for salads in the next couple days.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Prosciutto-Wrapped Caramelized Scallops on Rosemary Skewers

Last week Mitch and I went to California and stayed at my family's vineyard in the hills between Napa and Sonoma valleys (take a look some more of my pictures. Be jealous, or just come with me next year.). I had bought some scallops from Sunshine Grocery the day before, and I had some prosciutto and basil oil and the fridge, so I decided to combine those elements into a dish to serve alongside the chilled tomato soup I posted about the other day. But something was missing. A quick foray into the rock garden outside the kitchen gave me the answer--rosemary.

The view from the pool at Bald Mountain (the vineyard)
I learned to use rosemary sprigs as skewers during my time at The Herbfarm, and I have loved them ever since. They look elegant as well as imparting a delicate but not overpowering rosemary scent to whatever is on them. And there is the added benefit of crunchy amazing fried rosemary once you have eaten whatever was on the skewer. It's like the savory, more practical, and more delicious version of chocolate straws.

What you need to know about scallops: 
Bay scallops, sea scallops, day boat scallops, diver scallops, dry scallops, wet-packed scallops... It can be confusing to select scallops if you don't know what all that means. So here is the first key distinction: bay scallops are small and sea scallops are big. Both are good, but they shine in different types of dishes. Bay scallops tend to be slightly sweeter, so they work very well in ceviche or other raw dishes, as well as with some pastas. Sea scallops are meatier and have a more pronounced flavor. They are the ones you want to sear (bay scallops would overcook quickly and be nearly impossible to handle because of their size).

Sea scallops are often referred to as diver scallops or day-boat scallops. Diver means that divers collect them as opposed to a boat just using a net on the sea floor, which is bad for the sea environment. Day-boat means that the boat goes out and comes in in one day, therefore the scallops may be fresher (but no guarantees on how long it took them after the boat docked to get the scallops to the store). It's not easy to tell just from "diver" and "day-boat" which scallops to choose. In part it's just a style thing--"day-boat" scallops are very in right now.

The last distinction is between dry and wet packed. You want dry. What wet-packed means is that they are soaked in a phosphate solution as a preservative (which also implies that they are less fresh). The solution turns the scallops mushy and over-saturated with liquid, making them less pleasing to eat and much more difficult to sear. One more (obvious) point--always try to buy fresh seafood over frozen.

Prosciutto-Wrapped Caramelized Scallops on Rosemary Skewers
makes 12 scallop skewers (serves 6 as hors d'ouevres or 3 as part of a main course)

6 slices (very thinly sliced) prosciutto, about 3 ounces
12 large sea scallops, about 1 pound
12 woody rosemary sprigs, about 3 or 4 inches long
3 tablespoons olive oil
basil oil (see previous post for recipe) or balsamic reduction, for serving

Prep: Carefully tear each slice of prosciutto in half lengthwise, making 12 long strips. Don't worry if a few come apart--you can just layer them on each other. Prepare the rosemary skewers by stripping the leaves off the bottom 2 inches of each rosemary sprig. If the ends are rough, cut the tips off on a bias to create sharp ends.

Skewering: Take each scallop, and wrap one strip of prosciutto tightly around the outside. Take the rosemary skewer and push it through the wrapped scallop, securing the prosciutto in place.

Searing: Heat the oil in a large skillet over high heat (avoid the temptation to use a nonstick pan--it will not let the scallops caramelize as well). When the oil barely begins to smoke, use tongs to lower the scallops into the pan. let the rosemary skewers either sit in the oil or go up the edge of the pan (uncooked rosemary is prettier, but it tastes delicious when it fries). Make sure to space them out well enough, and if you make a double recipe consider doing two batches. If they are too close together, liquid will not evaporate and they will braise instead of sear. After at least 3 minutes, flip them over and sear for another 3 minutes on the other side, or until both sides are well browned.

Serving: Serve with dabs of basil oil or balsamic reduction.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil Oil

This is one of the simplest recipes I will post, because recipes don't get much simpler than this. But, like many simple recipes, everything depends on the quality of the ingredients. In this case there are only three ingredients in the soup--tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil. The tomatoes especially must be perfectly ripe and juicy. You want big red tomatoes that have ripened past the point of being too firm, are are naturally full of flavor and sweet. If you don't grow beefsteak tomatoes or the like, try your local farmers' market. If all you have are supermarket Roma tomatoes, I can give you other recipes that will make those tomatoes delicious, but skip this one. This soup is a vehicle for flavorful tomatoes to shine. And, let me tell you, the results are heavenly when the ingredients are good.

I made this soup because we had about a quart of sliced tomatoes leftover from 4th of July. The tomatoes were wonderful, but since they had already been sliced they were losing their texture and letting out juice. So to take advantage of that, I stuck them in the blender with some garlic and olive oil, chilled the soup, and served it with some basil oil. Yum!  But if you don't have tomatoes pre-sliced sitting around, what I would advise doing is slicing them a few hours beforehand, salting and sugaring them very lightly, and letting them sit at room temperature to let them macerate. Then come blending, chilling, and dressing the soup with basil oil (or pesto, if that is on hand).

This makes a fabulous starter soup for the summer months, especially at the beginning of an outdoor meal.

Chilled Fresh Tomato Soup with Basil Oil
serves 2 to 4, depending on serving size

4 cups thinly sliced perfectly ripe tomatoes
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon to 1 tablespoon sugar, depending how sweet the tomatoes are (they should be sweet if you are making this soup with them)
1 clove garlic
3 tablespoons olive oil
basil oil (see recipe below), pesto, or thinly sliced fresh basil leaves

Toss the sliced tomatoes with the salt and sugar in a non-reactive (ideally glass or ceramic) mixing bowl. Let them macerate until they have softened some.

Put the tomatoes, garlic, and olive oil in a blender. Blend for 30 seconds to 1 minute, or until the soup is perfectly smooth. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour in the same non-reactive bowl, covering the soup with plastic wrap.

Garnish the soup with the basil oil, pesto, or thinly sliced fresh basil leaves, and then serve immediately. 

Basil Oil
makes around 1 cup

2 big bunches fresh basil leaves
3/4 cup olive oil, approximately
salt and pepper, to taste

In a food processor, pulse the basil leaves until they are chopped. Start adding the olive oil in a steady stream until the mixtures reaches a texture much looser than a pesto. Adjust the amount of olive oil based on how thick you want the basil oil to be. When the texture is right, add salt and pepper to taste and process for another few seconds or until smooth enough.

Let the oil sit at room temperature for 15 minutes to allow the flavors to meld. After this, basil oil keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days to a week (after this it will still be good, but not as flavorful).

Monday, July 11, 2011

Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Ratatouille

The other night Mitch brought home an eggplant, a zucchini, and a big ripe tomato from the farmers' market. That combination of vegetables made me think ratatouille, but I didn't have a long time to make it, so I skipped the totally oven-roasted one I usually like. This combination of flavorful summer vegetables, red wine, and basil can't be beat. It would be a wonderful side dish with grilled flank steak or even barbequed chicken.

Eggplant, Zucchini, and Tomato Ratatouille
serves 4

2 tablespoons plus 2 tablespoons olive oil
8 cloves of garlic (less if you don't like garlic, I suppose)
3 shallots, finely chopped (or 1 small red onion, diced)
2 small eggplants
2 zucchini
2 large tomatoes
1/2 cup red wine (any wine will do, including one that has been open too long to be good drinking anymore--the vinegar works in this recipe)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1/2 cup basil, thinly sliced
2 tablespoons chopped parsley, for garnish
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmigiano

Cut the zucchini and the tomato into 1/2 to 1 inch cubes. Score the flesh of the eggplants without piercing the skin, then use a sharp spoon to remove most of the flesh while keeping the skins intact. Set the skins aside, and dice the flesh.

In a large skillet or saucier, heat the 2 tablespoons olive oil over medium-high heat. Add the garlic and shallots and saute for 2 minutes. Add the eggplant and zucchini, and saute another 5 minutes. Add the tomato, wine, and vinegar and bring to a simmer.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Stir together the bread crumbs, remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil, and parmigiano in a small bowl. Simmer the vegetable mixture until all the veggies are soft and the flavors are melding, about 20 minutes. Remove from the heat, and stir in the basil.

Place the eggplant skins in a baking pan, empty side up. Using a slotted spoon, transfer as much of the veggie mixture as you can into the eggplant skins. Cover the rest of the vegetables (the ones that don't fit in the skins) and keep them for leftovers--they only get better the second day. Top each eggplant filled with veggies with the bread crumb mixture, and bake for 15 minutes, or until the topping is browned.

Serve each person one eggplant half, sprinkled with the parsley.

Saturday, July 9, 2011

Sour Cherry Gin Cooler

I bought sour cherries at the farmers' market with no concept of what to do with them. I have used them before in a wonderful Jerry Traunfeld recipe in The Herbal Kitchen for pasta handkerchiefs with goat cheese, sage, and sour cherries. Of course the standard use for them is in pies, but this time I wanted to do something different. I decided to boil them down into a juice to use in a gin drink. Lime emphasizes the tartness of the cherries and also balances their sweetness. I love a good tart gin drink on a warm evening or a hot late afternoon. It's like grown-up lemonade. I'm sure as the summer progresses I will be posting even more recipes for refreshing summer drinks, so keep an eye out!

Sour Cherry Gin Cooler
makes 8 drinks

1 cup gin
1/4 cup maraschino
1/4 cup triple sec
1/2 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 cup sweetened sour cherry lime juice
1 tray of ice

Stir together all ingredients in a pitcher. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve, and then serve over ice with a lime wedge or a sprig of mint.

Sweetened Sour Cherry Lime Juice
3 cups sour cherries (no need to pit them)
3 halved lime rinds (what is leftover after you squeeze the juice out)
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup water

Stir together all ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a boil, then cover and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes at least, or until the cherries are falling apart and fully cooked.

Place a strainer over a bowl, and strain the pits and lime peels out of the juice, pressing as much of the pulp through the strainer as possible. Let the juice cool before using it in the Sour Cherry Gin Cooler.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Sesame Soba Noodles, Korean BBQ Pork, and Cucumber Salad

This is more of a meal suggestion than a recipe, since each part is pretty simple. But together they make a great meal, and not a difficult one at that. These are the sort of recipes that you just have to put as much of each ingredient in as you think tastes good, so I left out the quantities--you'll have to figure out for yourself :)

Korean BBQ Pork

Marinade from my Korean Pulled Pork recipe
Thinly sliced pork tenderloin

Coat the pork in the marinade and let it marinate for at least 1 hour, or up to a day, in the refrigerator. Heat a charcoal or gas grill. Grill the meat, turning once, until it is cooked through.

Sesame Soba Noodles

soba noodles
toasted sesame seeds
chili oil (or omit the chili oil and sesame seeds, and use some Japanese 7-Spice or Togarashi)
sesame oil
thinly sliced green onions
salt or soy sauce

Cook the soba according to package directions. Rinse them with cold water, and then toss with the rest of the ingredients. You can taste and adjust the seasonings as you want. Serve hot, at room temperature, or cold--whatever you are in the mood for!

Cucumber and Radish Salad

English cucumber
a few radishes
rice wine vinegar

Thinly slice the cucumbers and radishes, and dress with the vinegar and salt before serving.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Beet Greens, Prosciutto, and Ricotta Bites, two ways

Baked bites
I had a lot of beet greens leftover from beets, and I wanted to try something new with them. I also really wanted to make fresh ricotta, so I thought I would try combining those two ingredients. Part of this idea came from how much I like Pi Bites at Pi, which are fontina and prosciutto rolled in bread crumbs and baked. I thought ricotta and beet greens, blended together and then mixed with some prosciutto might work well in a similar format. I'm sure they would also be good deep fried... but when something is good enough without being deep fried I try to resist the urge to add that much extra fat to it.

Pan-fried bites
Beet Greens, Prosciutto, and Ricotta Bites

1 cup fresh ricotta, handmade or store-bought
1 bunch beet greens
6 ounces prosciutto, in a small dice
lemon zest from 1 lemon
salt and pepper, to taste
bread crumbs

Steam or saute the beet greens until they are fully cooked. In a food processor, puree the greens (they will look more red than green if they came from red beets).Add the ricotta and lemon zest, and blend just to combine. Add salt and pepper to taste (be light on salt since the prosciutto is salty), and then some bread crumbs if it seems too thin to form into balls. Stir in the prosciutto, and refrigerate the mixture so that it firms up some.

1 cup fresh bread crumbs
1/2 cup parmigiano, optional
2 tablespoons olive oil

Combine the bread crumbs, cheese, and olive oil on a plate. Using two spoons, take a piece of the dough and drop it into the bread crumb mixture. Roll it around until it is coated, and then, put it on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

Pan-fried bites
For baked bites: Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Bake the bites for 10 to 15 minutes, or until browned and hot through. Serve warm, on a bed of greens if you like.

For pan-fried bites: Heat 3 tablespoons of olive oil in a large skillet. Press the round balls into flatter cakes. Add the bites to the hot pan, and fry for a couple minutes on each side, making sure both sides are browned. Serve warm, on a bed of greens if you like.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Salume Beddu Bacon and Farm-Fresh Eggs (mmmmmmm... bacon!)

This really shouldn't be a whole blog post, but I just have to say how very much I love bacon. Normally I prefer the cheap, thinly sliced stuff, but that was until I discovered Salume Beddu's bacon. It's amazing. Not too thick, crusted with herbs and black pepper, flavorful, crisps very nicely when cooked... Yummy. Seriously, try it.

And eggs and bacon is delicious. Everyone already knows that, but I had to reiterate my support for the concept of eggs and bacon as a weekend breakfast. Scrambled eggs, fried eggs, both are good. But I have noticed that I can tell the difference in taste between different eggs. I think it has everything to do with what they are fed, because some have a really orange yolk and a lot have light yellow yolks. Orange yolks taste better, I think. Totally unnecessary to have the fancy eggs for using in baking and stuff, but for plain breakfast eggs they can be nice.

With a good glass of orange juice, or better, a mimosa, eggs and bacon make a great morning.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari, Snap Peas, Lime, Serranos, and Mint

To celebrate my getting a job, Mitch and I ate at Liluma. Even though it's really close to our apartment, we hadn't been before. Partly that had to do with prices, but also with the fact that everyone in the restaurant looked over 70--but when we did go we sat on the patio, so it didn't seem so crusty. I forgot my camera, so no review of that one, but I will tell you that, though it was no Niche, Liluma was delicious. But what I'm getting at is that Liluma had a chilled calamari, lime, and chili salad on the menu. I thought that looked great, and I spent half the next day thinking about how I could turn that into a whole meal.

What I came up with was this--a seemingly odd but quite delicious fusion of Southeast Asian flavors and Italian cooking. It's great for a hot day and would make a good lunch for company. Also it takes a very short time to prepare, making it a perfect week-night meal.

If you can't find squid ink pasta, don't worry--any pasta will taste great even if it won't look as striking.

Squid Ink Pasta with Calamari, Snap Peas, Lime, Serranos, and Mint
Serves 2-4, depending on appetites (usually closer to 4)

1 pound squid ink pasta
2 cups snap peas, sliced diagonally into 1/2 inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3/4 pound calamari, sliced into rings
1/2 cup lime juice
2 tablespoons fish sauce (optional, but adds a delicious saltiness and fullness of flavor)
2 serrano peppers, finely chopped
1 small bunch of mint, leavers thinly sliced

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Put the snap peas in a strainer, and lower the strainer into the boiling water for 1 minutes. Lift it out of the water and rinse the snap peas with cold water.

Cook the pasta in the pot of boiling water, following package instructions for timing.

While the pasta is cooking, heat the olive oil in a skillet. Add the calamari and cook for a minute or so, until it is fully cooked. Add the lime juice, fish sauce, and serranos. Bring the sauce to a simmer. Add the snap peas. Using a slotted spoon, lift out the calamari and peas and place them in a separate bowl. By this time the pasta will be done. Strain the pasta in a colander, then toss it in the sauce. Toss the mint with the pasta, and then serve the pasta with the calamari and peas on top. 

Skip the cheese on this one--if you must have something like that use bread crumbs toasted in olive oil.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

Apricot-Lavender Cream Cocktail

Apricots are one of my favorite summer fruits, so I started to look for ways to incorporate apricots into cocktails. I made one delicious one with muddled apricot, lemon verbena, and gin (now I'm wishing I had taken a picture--I promise I will next time I make that). I've had apricot drinks at bars using apricot liqueur, and, while those are good, I miss the textural richness of the apricot when it's just a clear liqueur or apricot brandy.

About a week ago I got home from work feeling like I needed a drink, which had nothing to do with having had a bad day (I love working at Infuz, so that's not a problem). I think the problem was that I had had too much caffeine late in the day and I got anxious from that. Anyway, the point is that I wanted a drink, and we had some perfectly ripe apricots in the fruit bowl. I decided to make a blended drink since I wanted to keep all the richness of the apricot. Inspired by Taste's delicious use of mascarpone in drinks, and in order to emphasize the creamy texture of apricot, I added a few spoonfuls of mascarpone to the mix, along with lemon juice, orgeat, lavender, triple sec, and rum. Blended over ice, this mixture emerged as a deliciously smooth, cold, and nicely flavored cocktail. It's more filling than a typical cocktail because of its thickness--part smoothie, part milkshake, and part cocktail. But don't be fooled, it still has plenty of alcohol to classify it as a cocktail.

Apricot-Lavender Cream Cocktail
makes 2 drinks

1 apricot
a pinch of dried or fresh lavender, of a few spoonfuls of lavender syrup
1 splash of orgeat syrup (add more to taste)
2 tablespoons mascarpone
juice of one lemon
4 ounces of rum
1 ounce triple sec

Blend everything together for 30 seconds, then pour into serving glasses.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Seared Scallops over Summer Vegetable Crudo

According to my parents, I loved scallops before the age of five. I don't remember that. What I do remember is hating scallops up until my early teens, when I finally started to warm to them again. Now I think they are delicious, so long as they are the big kind, not overcooked, and not steamed or something.

I had a delicious scallop dish at Niche, and so I had scallops on my mind when my mostly-vegetarian friend Amanda Perry came to town. Straub's had some lovely looking big scallops, so I picked them up and thought through how to pair them with some of the fresh veggies I got from the market the weekend before. I settled on a sort of raw vegetable salad, centered around summer squash and ripe red tomato. I love the colors, and so I added some crisp green beans as well. To bring all the flavors together, emphasize the sweetness of the veggies, and also bring a little acid into the dish, I added a balsamic reduction. Then I seared the scallops, sliced them horizontally (as Niche did), and placed them on top of the "crudo."

This dish is light and summery--perfect for an appetizer or as a light lunch if served with a soup or some bread. It doesn't take long to prepare and yet looks beautiful when served.

Seared Scallops over Summer Vegetable Crudo
Serves 2

1 ripe tomato
4 large scallops
small handful thin green beans
1 summer squash
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Make the balsamic reduction by boiling the balsamic vinegar for about 10 minutes or until it is as reduced as you want it to be. Let it cool.

Using a mandoline or other slicer, very thinly slice the summer squash lengthwise. Place the squash in a strainer with a few big sprinkles of salt. Let it sit for about 15 minutes and then press out some of the water.

Slice the tomato into very thin wedges. Cut the green beans into half inch pieces. Arrange the squash and tomato on two plates, alternating and overlapping them in a line in the middle of each plate. Sprinkle the green beans on the sides of the plate.

Heat the olive oil in a skillet over high heat until the oil is very hot. Lower the scallops into the pan with tongs (the oil might splatter). Sear on one side for a few minutes, or until it is browned. Turn over and brown the other side. Remove the scallops from the pan and slice them lengthwise. Arrange them on top of the squash and tomatoes, and drizzle the balsamic reduction on the side before serving.

Monday, June 20, 2011

Sorrel Fettuccine with English Peas, Hazelnuts, and Brown Butter

I love green pastas, so I decided to experiment with using sorrel instead of the more traditional spinach. It gives the pasta a subtle lemony flavor that I enhanced with a little more lemon zest.

This dish is a variation on a pretty traditional pasta dish with brown butter, peas, sage, and prosciutto. I used hazelnuts because they emphasize the nutty flavor of the brown butter, and added chives because of how well they complement sorrel.

Try adding morels to the mix. I didn't have any, but I wish I had--I think they would have rounded out the flavors and textures nicely.

Sorrel Fettuccine with English Peas, Hazelnuts, and Brown Butter

1 bunch sorrel
9 ounces flour (about 2 cups)
1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon lemon zest
2 eggs
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 tablespoons water

2 cups English peas
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 stick butter
1/3 cup hazelnuts, crushed in a mortar and pestle
2 tablespoons sage, coarsely chopped
3 tablespoons chives, coarsely chopped
freshly ground pepper

For the pasta: In a food processor, blend the sorrel, salt, lemon zest, and the flour until the sorrel is finely ground and the flour is green. Add the eggs and olive oil, then process for about 10 seconds or until it begins to look like coarse cornmeal (except green, of course). Add the water, and continue to process until the dough bounces into a ball. Add a little more water if the dough is too dry. Take the dough out and put it on a layer of plastic wrap. Wrap it up and let it rest for 15 minutes. Divide the dough into thirds, and roll it out in a pasta maker to the second- or third-thinnest level. Before the last round through the pasta maker, dust each sheet with rice flour and cut it in half if it is too long. Cut each sheet into fettuccine, then hang them to dry out a little.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. While it's heating, melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium-low heat. Keep cooking the butter until the foam subsides and it reaches a golden-brown hue. Remove the pan from the heat and add the more finely ground hazelnuts and the sage. It will sizzle a bit and then calm down. Set this aside.

Place the peas in a strainer. When the pot of water is boiling, dip the strainer into the water so that the peas cook for about 2 minutes, or until tender. Lift the peas out and drain.

Carefully drop the pasta into the water. Cook for about 3 minutes, depending on the thickness of the pasta, and then drain in a colander. Leaving some moisture on the pasta, transfer it to the pot of butter. Add the lemon juice and gently toss everything together to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve, topping each dish of pasta with plenty and peas, some of the remaining hazelnuts, and a sprinkling of chives.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Grenadine Poached Rhubarb and Rose Geranium Cream "Tart"

I love the idea of tarts, but I often don't like the tart shells. I'm one of those odd people who like pie filling better than pie crust (except if the pie crust is still dough, in which case I think it's delicious). So I'm always looking for less traditional types of pastries to use as tart shells. I have some favorites--for instance, an almond pastry shell from The Herbfarm Cookbook (if you don't own it, buy it--it's probably my favorite cookbook of all time). Brandy snaps are a new favorite for me. It holds desserts well, adds some buttery sweetness and some crunch, and looks beautiful while doing it.

Other than the brandy snap variation on a normal tart shell, this is a pretty typical tart. It layers cooked fruit on top of pastry cream. But the flavors really take it to the next level in my opinion. Rose geranium is an herb with a lovely rose scent, and I recommend planting it if you can. But assuming you don't already have all the obscure herbs I like to cook with, you can substitute rose water, which is available at specialty food stores and Middle Eastern grocers.

Grenadine Poached Rhubarb and Rose Geranium Cream "Tart"
makes 6 

For the pastry cream:
1 1/2 cups whole milk
10 rose geranium leaves or 2 tablespoons rose water
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons flour
2 tablespoon cornstarch

2 large or extra-large egg yolks
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Heat the milk and half the sugar to almost boiling in a small saucepan. Add the rose geranium leaves, remove the pot from the heat, stir to submerge the leaves, cover the pot, and let it sit for 30 minutes to infuse the milk. Remove the leaves, squeezing them to extract as much milk as possible.

Slowly heat the milk back up. Meanwhile, whisk the yolks with the remaining sugar  until the yolks turn pale yellow. Add the flour and cornstarch and continue beating. While constantly whisking, add half the hot milk to this mixture. Then pour that back into the pan with the rest of the milk and whisk everything together. Cook over medium heat until the custard begins to boil, all the while whisking vigorously. Let it boil for 30 seconds, then use a rubber spatula to transfer the cream to a bowl. Place plastic wrap on the surface of the cream and refrigerate it until cool.

Right before serving, whip the heavy whipping cream. Fold this into the pastry cream mixture to make a lighter custard.

For the rhubarb:
1 pound rhubarb
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup grenadine

Cut the rhubarb into 1/4 inch slices. In a large bowl, toss it with the sugar and grenadine. Let it macerate for 20 minutes. Heat some water in the bottom of a double boiler. Place the rhubarb in the top of the double boiler (or just put a stainless steel bowl on top of a small saucepan). Let the rhubarb cook slowly for about 15 minutes, or until it is soft. Let it cool slightly before serving.

To assemble:
6 brandy snap baskets (see  previous post)
pastry cream
mint, for garnish

Place a brandy snap basket on each plate. Divide the cream between the baskets. Top the cream with the poached rhubarb, and garnish with mint.

Brandy Snaps

I recently was remembering my time working in the kitchen at The Herbfarm Restaurant. I assembled salads, blanched green beans, made chocolate truffles, peeled fava beans, made mussel skewers, and helped out with a lot of other random tasks. But one routine job of mine was making ice cream cones. The cones were made from brandy snaps, which had to be rolled around cones while they were still hot out of the oven to shape them. They were then placed in a paper cone wrapper to keep the ice cream from leaking out the holes in the lacy cookie.

I decided to try making brandy snaps* again, even though I had forgotten the recipe. They traditionally use golden syrup, a sugar syrup produced in the process of refining sugar, kind of like a pale version of molasses. Honey could be substituted, though the cookies might be a little different.

Since I do not happen to have little metal cones sitting around my house, I decided to make these cookies into baskets, which are a good size for holding ice cream or another dessert (see upcoming rhubarb "tart" or previous lemony-herb ice cream). While ramekins work fine for shaping these baskets, I actually prefer the big end of a beer bottle, because they are a bit smaller.

One thing to watch out for is humidity. These cookies will only stay crisp for a few hours in humid climates unless they are kept in an airtight box. If your home is very humid, it is really best to make them soon before serving.

Depending on what you are serving these with, or on what you are in the mood for, play with the spices or substitute a different liquor for the brandy--who says brandy snaps have to contain brandy anyway?

If you aren't making these as part of a bigger dessert, trying rolling them into cigars or just keeping them flat. They make a great snacking cookies.

*See Lemony-Herb Ice Cream for a picture of a brandy snap. I forgot to take pictures of them alone--sorry!

Brandy Snaps

1/4 cup unsalted butter
3 tablespoons sugar
3 tablespoons golden syrup (or honey)
1/4 cup flour
a pinch of salt
flavorings: 1/4 teaspoon ginger, 1/4 teaspoon cinnamon, 1/4 teaspoon lemon zest, 1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon brandy

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Get a few empty beer bottles, small ramekins, or little cups out for molds, placing them upside down on a flat surface.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter, sugar, and golden syrup. Let them simmer together for a couple minutes, then remove from the heat and quickly stir in the rest of the ingredients with a wooden spoon. When the batter is smooth, let it cool for 15 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Place spoonfuls of the batter on the baking sheets, making sure they are very spread apart. There should be about 4 per sheet, though it can vary some. Bake one sheet at a time for 10 minutes, or until the cookies are spread out and golden brown. Let them cool on a rack for one minute.

Using your hands or a thin spatula, lift the hot cookies off the paper and place them on the upside down beer bottles. If you want, push the cookie farther toward the bottle to make a more upright cup. Let them cool there for 5 to 10 minutes, or until they hold their shape on their own. Repeat the baking and molding with the other sheet of cookies.

When they are cool, place them in an airtight container lined with parchment paper until you are ready to serve.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011


I'm a food opportunist. I'm always looking for ways to eat well. Usually that means looking for good deals at grocery stores, delicious recipes that use cheaper ingredients, or hole-in-the-wall restaurants with great food. But the other important category of food opportunism is finding the best possible restaurant that might be outside my budget and making reservations there for the weekend my dad is in town. (Don't worry--this is no secret. My father enjoys the meals as well, and I enjoy the time I spend with him even more than the meals.)

My dad visited me in St. Louis for the first time this past weekend, and I selected Niche as the above-my-budget-and-very-delicious-looking restaurant at which to make a reservation for us. For those of you unfamiliar with St. Louis' dining scene, Gerard Craft, named a Best New Chef by Food and Wine Magazine in 2008, is the executive chef at Niche. I know his work from his other two ventures, both of which are in my neighborhood--Brasserie and Taste (look forward to reviews of Taste sometime soon--I'm a huge fan of the cocktail list). So I had high expectations for Niche, and I was not let down. Niche impressed us all with excellent and innovative food, superb service, and a nice atmosphere. 

Once inside, Niche is reminiscent of a New York City restaurant both because of its gracefully decorated interior and its small size. We sat down at our table, which featured a view of the kitchen. I loved being able to see the hustle and bustle in the kitchen throughout the evening.

Before we ordered food, my dad got a glass of white wine and Mitch and I each had a cocktail. Niche makes one of my favorite drinks, the "Last Word," as well as another good one with grapefruit juice, lemon, and elderflower liqueur. The drinks were good, though nothing to rival Taste. Niche is more of a wine place, so once we finished our first drinks, my dad selected a 2006 Falcon Napa Valley Sangiovese. It was delicious, but for me no wine can outshine outstanding food, and that is what we had coming.

I looked at the list of six appetizers and decided I wanted them all. But my dad and Mitch (my boyfriend) did not think I could actually have all six, so I decided on the Day Boat Scallops. The scallops were seared and then sliced and placed on a bed of morels and poached snap peas. Two tabs of rhubarb puree surrounded the scallops, and the dish was topped with micro greens and brown-buttered ground hazelnuts. Every element of the dish was perfectly constructed, from the perfectly poached snap peas and the delightfully tart rhubarb puree, to the just-browned tender scallops and the buttery morels. Textural contrast really makes this dish, which combines crunchy, powdery, soft, and crisp. The flavors were also beautifully balanced--it was an unexpected combination that worked wonderfully. I'll be trying an at-home variation on this dish sometime soon I'm sure.

Mitch ordered the Tuna Crudo, which came with yuzu (a Japanese citrus fruit similar to a lime), black rice, baby artichokes, and basil. To my taste, the tuna was a little too thinly sliced, since I like to get more of tuna texture, but that would be my only complaint. The flavors worked quite well and everything tasted wonderfully fresh.

My dad got the English Pea Soup. The waiter poured the sage-scented creamy hot pea soup over lavender, chive blossoms, and goat cheese. I only got one bite, but that one bite was delicious. The cream didn't overwhelm the light springiness of the soup. The texture was perfectly smooth. The predominant flavor was the peas, which is as it should be. Though not the most exciting dish of the night, it was nonetheless delicious.

Then it was time for the main course. I ordered the lasagna--an exquisite combination of fresh pasta, ramp bechamel, spring onions, wild mushrooms, and a farm-fresh egg. Instead of one slice from a full-size rectangular lasagna, this version was round and individual-sized. The wonderful thing about this is it allows for a combination of typical lasagna-noodle texture and the texture of the crisp pasta edges after they bake in the oven. The fontina and ramp bechamel were layered between thin sheets of pasta, and all was topped with a perfectly cooked, flavorful, sunny-side up egg. The yolk was runny but not liquidy, and there was none of that slimy raw egg white I so hate. Surrounding the lasagna were wild mushrooms--buttery with perhaps a hint of lemon. For those of you who don't know me, I adore mushrooms. To me, butter and mushrooms are impossible to do wrong. But Niche did it even more right than usual. And then, to top everything off, there was an vibrant combination of fresh spring herbs, most notably fennel and shiso. Although everything we ate was delicious, this lasagna took the prize for me.
My dad did what my mom usually does and ordered two appetizers as his entree. The first was paparadelle with smoked pork shank, mascarpone, apples, and olive oil. This was the only dish I didn't care for. To me, the combination of smoked meat with the sweetness of the apples tasted like barbeque sauce, and barbeque sauce on pasta didn't do it for me. That said, my dad enjoyed it so it can't have been too bad.

His next entree-appetizer was lobster with brown butter hollandaise (they seem to really like brown butter at Niche, and who can blame them?), apple, togarashi (Japanese 7-spice) candy, tarragon, and celery. Since I only had a bite I can't tell you too much more about it than that it was very very good. It played up the subtle flavor of lobster and did a good job providing complementary flavors and textures.

Mitch ordered the chicken, and that is the dish I remember the least about (only because I had very little of it). The chicken itself was deliciously browned, flavorful, and juicy--what chicken should be but so rarely is. I never order chicken at restaurants because it tends to be boring, but from what I recall of this dish it was far from dull. It was served with a balsamic reduction and a combination of quinoa and polenta.

And then, as if we had not already had enough outstanding food, we ordered dessert. My dad and Mitch got the cheese plate, which featured Prairie Breeze aged cheddar, Humbolt Fog, and a Petit Basque. All were very good, though I have had better cheeses of the Humbolt Fog type, for instance the Baetje Farms "Bloomsdale," available at farmers' markets in St. Louis. With the cheeses were spiced nuts, thinly sliced toasted baguette, and some fig preserves.

I followed our waitress's suggestion and tried the lemongrass semifreddo. In reality it is about 4 desserts rolled into one. The semifreddo is topped with hibiscus sorbet. Around it is rhubarb sauce with tapioca pearls. Next comes balls of (I think I am remembering this right) lemongrass cheescake. On the side is mint syrup. The tapioca pearls were a perfect vehicle for the tart rhubarb, and the lemongrass semifreddo was exquisite in texture. Every element was delicious, but I think I could have used a little more simplicity in this dish.

Overall I was very impressed by Niche. In this economy, a restaurant this fancy and also pricey needs to work hard to deserve its place, and Niche certainly does. The menu was innovative, and the food was both beautiful and delicious.  Niche is not just good for being in St. Louis or something--I believe it is a great restaurant in the context of the whole country. I'm looking forward to seeing what Gerard Craft does next, since he mentioned an Italian place with a focus on pasta. Given my love of pasta and the time I have spent in Italy, I am truly looking forward to it.

*As a tip for anyone trying to dine at Niche, make sure to book well ahead. They are (justly) very popular and fill up quickly.
Niche on Urbanspoon