My friend J called to say she would be in the neighborhood to see her husband play in a band. While we keep in touch every day on email, IM and text messages, we don't get that much time to see each other IRL (in real life). J lives on the other side of Brooklyn which because of the way the subways run, might as well be the other side of the moon.
We've been helping each other along with cooking conundrums for the past couple of years and I thought it would be fun to cook something that shared a little bit of what we'd learned. Plus, with R* traveling through the UK and away for almost a month, cooking away for J would be a great distracting.
I started at the Grand Army Plaza farmer's market and finally, after a long winter, found real local farmer's market offerings. Bye bye apples and pears, later potaters. This week, along with the asparagus and spinach that had been in for a couple of weeks, they had strawberries and sugar snap peas. Neither of them were part of what I had planned to make for our supper, but after I stole a taste, they were too great to pass up.
I left the farmer's market with a pint of strawberries, half a shopping bag of snap peas and some cheese. R* and I don't usually like to wait in the cheese line, but I decided I'd wait patiently and read flyers about how the mom-and-son-cheese-team raise their 25 cows in CT.
Walking toward the butcher, I keep tasting a strawberry and then some peas and then another strawberry and then a pea. I was impressed with how great both of them were.
Sesame oil and soy immediately came to mind for the sugar snap peas. I couldn't shake that idea. But these peas were too good to be hidden under all that sort of take-out style flavoring. I wanted something fresher.
I switched to thinking about the strawberries. Short cake would be the way to go. I thought about sneaking some Bisquick to make the biscuits in a split, but then I decided I wanted this all to be from scratch, "real" cooking that still left me most of the day to wander around Park Slope.
Then I remembered Clotilde's yogurt cake from Chocolate and zucchini. I decided it would be great under the strawberries with some home-made whipped cream from my new Kitchen Aid. By that time, I made it to the butcher.
The butcher was oddly empty. I guess when the weather gets better, people don't go to the pork store or something? I asked for the broccoli rabe sausages, which R* and I got last time were were there. The guy slicing prosciutto in the back called out, "That's special order. We can make it but we need 24 hours notice." Since they had had the broccoli rabe sausages the past couple of times I was in there, I was surprised that they said it was special order. The guy behind the counter suggested the parsley and cheese sausage.
I had seen the parsley and cheese sausages at the butcher for a couple of years, but I never tried one. They are a tight circle of thin sausage, wound into a circle and stuck into place with 4 dowels. They showed huge circles of sausage in the case, but they came up with one that was smaller, just right for J and me.
Another guy started loading up the fresh mozzarella bin on the top of the butcher case. Just made it, he said. I told him how much I liked there cheese, but said I wasn't up for it today. "It's still warm, makes a big difference. You'll see." I said no but then I caved and got the cheese and the sausage and got out of there, but not before they also had me try the balsamic ravioli -- which is cold ravioli with sun dried tomatoes in a balsamic sauce. I was surprised how dry it was and the dried tomato was tough and stringy. I thanked him for the taste and left.
Next up was the wine store Red White and Bubbly, Park Slope's entry into the overwrought wine store trend. Most NYC neighborhoods have a few regular liquor stores and then, popping up all over are these higher concept wine shops with tasting rooms and chandeliers and witty O. Henryesque descriptions attached to some of the wines.
It was Rose Day at Red White and Bubbly. Once I figured out what they were talking about, I realized I hadn't had pink wine since Bartles and James were around, so I decided I'd try. Light, fruity, served chilled in tiny little stem glasses. The tastes were fine, but I never know quite what to say to the reps pushing the wines in these snooty shoppes. I tried to make them feel appreciated, muttering out an "It's more bubbly" in response to one of the tastes.
The rep was quick to correct me. That "bubbly" was not the word, and she repeated some out wine term that means taste bubbly but isn't really carbonated. I can't remember what she said anymore. She pissed me off. She should have been glad I was paying enough attention to notice that her wine was more bubbly than what the other guy had. Then she waxed on about how some rose was from Israel, some from California.
Those tastings make me feel guilty, like trying 5 tablespoons of wine obligate me to buy some. When I first got in the store, I had read the story about one of the rose wines -- perfect for outdoor grilling on the terrace. I liked the picture on the bottle and it was $12, so I grabbed it in the spirit of Rose day though of course I don't have a terrace or a grill. The fruit, sweet, acid in all of the rose wines seemed like it would go with the sugar snap peas and the strawberries. I also got some orange bitters and a few other bottles. I can never get out of there for under $50.
I hauled my stuff home, started to look for sugar snap pea recipes and . . . fell asleep. I woke up with a lot of laundry and less than two hours until J was set to arrive.
I started the potatoes boiling for the German potato salad, then I mixed up the yogurt cake (i didn't take time to sift, just stirred it all up in a bowl and hand mixed and it was fine. better than fine!) for the strawberries and then boiled some water to blanch the peas. I had to pull the strings out of all of those peas. Then while the peas were blanching, I made an ice bath for them, as I had learned from my quick Google for sugar snap pea recipes. These peas, they say, need to be blanched very quickly and then plunged into cold water to keep their bright green color.
I tucked the peas into the fridge, took the cake out of the oven, changed the laundry and ran to the store to get bacon and parsley for the potato salad and cream for the whipped cream.
I made it to the store in back in 7 minutes, just as J arrived. We started talking and J somehow started organizing my spice drawer -- a project I hadn't tackled in the six months since the new kitchen was done -- while I sliced the strawberries and then tried to figure out how to shave Parmesan into the sugar snap peas. I couldn't find the cheese slicer and the slice thing on my grater didn't work well either. Remembering a tip from some food tv show or magazine, I used the vegetable peeler to get nice thin slices of Parmesan to go on top of the cold sugar snap peas. They were delicious.