Friday, 9 October 2015

5 Things & 3 More

5 happy things from a sunshine-filled week:

1. Running over Brooklyn Bridge with the sunrise
2. Crunchy apples
3. Champagne on the Upper East Side
4. Working in the afternoon sunshine on our little patio
5. Leaving the dentist

3 things to read over the weekend:

1. Questions about the bombing of a hospital that need to be answered.
3. The mystery of the real cappuccino.

I hope your weekend is filled with coffee and wine and sunshine. 


Thursday, 8 October 2015

Early October at Union Square Greenmarket

Fall has arrived in New York: the days are shorter, the air is cooler, there's a breeze blowing in the trees, and gradually, gradually, the leaves are changing colour. With this change in season, comes a change in the food I crave. Suddenly making a soup or roasting something in the oven has become an attractive thought, and apple crumble has made its way back onto the dining table every weekend.

The Farmers' markets are one day sheltering from wind and rain and the next day basking in the warm sunlight. The produce is slowly becoming more and more autumnal, but hints of a glorious summer which has come to an end are still visible in small heaps and piles if you search for them.

Squash and pumpkins in all shapes and sizes are the centerpiece of the October market. There's butternut squash and acorn squash, the less tasty spaghetti squash, and stripy ones and long bendy ones I don't know the name of. There are also pumpkins which are perfect for carving, which I will do as soon as I embrace this American obsession with Halloween (I'm still rather wary at the moment), as well as gorgeous striped, bumpy decorative gourds which will soon be replacing the wild flowers as the go-to apartment decoration.

The stalls that aren't squash-centered are covered in crates of apples and pears. I can't explain how happy apple season makes me. My poor shoulders which have to haul all the kilograms of apples home after every market trip would probably tell a different story. No scented candle will ever come close to smelling as heavenly as apples cooking on the stove, simmering away in butter and a sprinkling of brown sugar. 

The concord grapes smell sweet and look like beautiful little gems nestled in their turquoise punnet. I'm too lazy to bother with deseeding them and all the other fiddly bits that goes with cooking them, but I still pause to think about it for a little while, and admire the others who do pick up a punnet to go home and wrestle with in their own kitchen.

Bunches of greens of all varieties attract the kale enthusiasts from far and wide. Leafy, crunchy, and tied up in huge bunches; kale, cavolo nero, broccoli rabe, spinach, and collard greens are on rotation at our little dining table this week.

You have to be fast to grab a punnet of the last of the tomatoes. Juicy and almost overripe, these beautiful heirlooms are dragging their feet into Autumn, unwilling to leave the market for another year.

Garlic has also begun to show its face in the last couple of days. You can smell it from the the stand next door: sweet and strong. The bulbs sit next to the greens, their proximity forcing you to remember how fabulous these two things will taste when tossed together for a couple of minutes with a dash of olive oil. 

And last but not least, the potatoes are here. All colours, shapes and sizes have made an abrupt entrance. The weather needs to turn cooler soon so there's enough of an excuse to roast, bake, boil, mash, and steam all of them, always with a lot of butter and just enough salt. Thinking about it has got my tummy rumbling already. 

This weekend will be filled with potatoes, cavolo nero, a few squidgy tomatoes, pumpkins, and lots of apples. I couldn't be more excited.

Union Square Greenmarket, East 14th Street, Park Avenue South & Broadway, New York, NY 10003

Tuesday, 6 October 2015


I seem to walk past Rucola most evenings, and whether I'm on my way to a 6pm yoga class, or on my way back from a pottery lesson at 9pm, there's always a buzzy, warm, happy atmosphere exuding from the doors and windows of this Boerum Hill restaurant. 

After a long, rainy Saturday of being snuggled up inside, we finally got dressed out of our pyjamas and braved the weather to walk one block down Dean Street for a date night at Rucola. We wiggled into two seats on the long sharing table which fills the center of the room, trying hard not to elbow our new neighbors in the head as we sat down. A very serious life-discussion was going on between the couple next to us, and the other on our other side couple just stared at me with disdain when I trapped to snap photos of every dish - so apologies for the slightly fuzzy photos. They had a scary stare.

We toasted to 5 months of married life with a negroni and a beer, and nibbled on focaccia and olive oil, balsamic roasted beets and the crispiest, perfectly salted, fried cauliflower.

Rucola focuses on using the finest, seasonal ingredients to create a concise, North Italian style menu. There's a vegetable-focus, with salads taking up as much of the menu as the mains entrĂ©es. The food is served simply, on plates and in bowls intended for sharing, as all the best food is. 

Pumpkin crostino consisted of two juicy slices of pumpkin nestled on top of a slather of spicy 'nduja butter with a sprinkle of oregano. The meaty 'nduja butter added just the right amount of depth and spice: B was super sad that he had to share this.

A simple rocket arugula, shaved radish, celery seed vinaigrette and parmesan salad was crunchy and bright: the perfect antidote to the rich crostino.

B was insistent on ordering the tagliatelle, and I was only happy to oblige. I will never say no to a bowl of homemade pasta, especially when each strand of the tagliatelle has been perfectly coated in pancetta, cream, black pepper and thyme. Proof that perfect pasta needs little decoration to turn it into a beautiful and satisfying bowl of food.

But the showstopper of the evening was the flank steak. Served on a small plate, the red meat was hiding braised kale which had been tossed with sweet currants and pine nuts.  When you stuck your fork in to lift up a mouthful, you discovered a gorgeous melting slice of gorgonzola piccante underneath: Saturday night perfection on a fork.

All this food had been accompanied by a quartino of a delicate Gargenega, and a quartino of soft, and far too easy to drink Montepulciano d'Abruzzo. 

Eventually, we donated our seats to a couple from the long line of hungry people, and rolled back down the block, grateful to live in the same beautiful Brooklyn neighbourhood as this welcoming restaurant, which serves up the most comforting Italian fare 3 meals a day, 7 days a week.

Rucola, 190 Dean Street, Brooklyn, NY 11217