Sunday, April 15, 2012

Review: Bathtub Gin

Bathtub gin used to refer to homemade alcohol during the prohibition, but today Bathtub Gin is one of the coolest spots in downtown New York City. What exactly is today's Bathtub Gin? Somewhere between speakeasy - supper club - brunch joint - coffee shop, I just like to think of it as the gift that keeps giving.

Most of the cocktails are gin-based and well, glorious. They have some interesting custom cocktails but they really nail the classics - negronis are always spot-on and I had one of the best Pimms Cups ever here.

Bathtub Gin cocktail

Since they opened about a year ago, they've branched out to entertainment (burlesque shows every 3rd Sunday of the month), dinner and now brunch. And the food is surprisingly good. For 20$ their prix fixe brunch is reasonable and includes a bloody mary or mimosa. They bring an adorable basket of mini-pastries to the table with some sort of sweetened whipped-butter and raspberry jam. My lovely friend raved about her omelette and my kobe beef sliders were very good - they may have been perfect if it were not for the lame white bun. 

Bathtub Gin brunch - mini croissants, muffins and pain au chocolat

Bathtub Gin brunch - kobe beef sliders and garlic fries

I'm so glad that Bathtub Gin is getting one thing right at a time before moving to the next - they are doing a fabulous job. I will keep coming back for cocktails and now the food also!

Bathtub Gin
132 9th Avenue, btwn 18th and 19th (through the secret door in Stone Street Coffee Company)
New York, NY 10011

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

How to Use a Knife

I recently took a course at the Institute of Culinary Education in New York City called Knife Skills 1 - one of their most popular classes (it's full for the next two months). I recently finagled my way into a Sunday morning session and at the risk of sounding cheesy, the course really revolutionized the way I use and think about knives. The instructor, Brendan McDermott is fantastic - super knowledgeable and entertaining to boot.

I've never been so proud of cut up carrots in my life.

Turns out most of us have been doing everything wrong, not only slicing with them but buying to holding to even storing our knives. We spent the class watching Brendan explain and demonstrate the techniques then practicing by slicing dozens of carrots, onions and stalks of celery (to be used by the culinary students for stock). After 3 hours we had re-learned how to hold and slice with a knife properly! I really think anybody who uses a knife - ever - should take this course. But if you can't, take a look at Brendan's YouTube videos where he talks through the basic techniques.

Here's my favorite one, How to Slice an Onion and there are many more on TheBrooklynKitchen's channel.

P.S. A good knife makes a huge difference - the Wusthof 10-Inch Wide Chef that they let me use was amazing!!

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Review: FreshDirect's Dolmeh (Stuffed Grape Leaves)

I love FreshDirect  (the NY metro area's online grocer) - super convenient, reasonably priced and they have a fantastic line of their own brand of prepared foods. I am addicted to their ready-to-bake pizzas - I buy three at a time and stock pile them in my freezer. But most recently I tried their dolmeh (also known as dolma or stuffed grape leaves) and was blown away by how good they are. They are light, small enough to be eaten in two bites and deliciously TART, thanks to the lemon and dill. Yum! I ate them for lunch but they would be perfect as a cocktail appetizer.

FreshDirect dolmeh (stuffed grape leaves)

The dolmeh are rice, dill, lemon, and spices stuffed in tangy grape leaves.

At about $4 for 6 of them, it's a great deal and will definitely be added in to my normal FreshDirect order rotation!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Recipe: Makhbouz

There's not a whole lot on the internet about Makhbouz, and what I do know about them is what I have heard from my family. Growing up in California, any visit to NY to see my grandparents was punctuated with a big bag of frozen makhbouz to take home. My grandmother made these treats by the dozens and they never lasted on a plate for long. According to her, it's an Iraqi Jewish pastry but it might just be a Sephardic dish which was originally served at Purim. It can be filled with jam (typically apricot), dates, or my personal favorite: cheese.

Since those days, I've moved to NYC and spent a lot more time with my now older grandparents. I've always wanted to learn how to make makhbouz and after seeing how poorly documented it is, I decided to take it upon myself to give it a go. (Note: there are many other similar dishes to makhbouz like sambusek or pierogy) After a couple of failed attempts, I went to visit my grandmother, iPad in tow, and documented her instructions word-for-word. It paid off. They came out delicious and I now am the proud owner of a little mountain of makhbouz.

Mountain (or hill?) of makhbouz

Makhbouz Recipe

- 2.5 cups all-purpose flour
- 0.5 cup of warm water
- 4 tablespoons melted butter
- 1 egg
- 1 tablespoon baking powder
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 1 teaspoon sugar

Cheese filling:
- 1/4 pound of feta, grated (pick your favorite feta... I like Bulgarian)
- 1/4 pound of a salty, medium-hard cheese (I used sharp cheddar), grated
- 1 egg
- pinch of salt
- 1 tablespoon minced dill (optional)
- 1 tablespoon minced scallions (optional)

Egg wash:
- 1 egg

1. Make the dough by combining all the ingredients except water, and adding the water bit by bit while mixing until it forms a nice ball that's not too sticky (you should not have residue stuck to your hands if mixing by hand).

Makhbouz dough ball
2. Let the dough sit for 30-45 minutes on the counter (cover it with something so it doesn't dry out). While it's sitting you can start the filling.

3. To make the filling, combine all the ingredients and 'mush' with a fork (sorry, I couldn't think of a better word than mush!) until it's all mixed and not too lumpy.

Makhbouz cheese filling
4. Once your dough is done sitting, roll it out on a floured surface until it's about 1/8 of an inch thick. If you're like me and don't have a rolling pin, cover a soda bottle with plastic wrap and get to rollin'.

5. Once you're all rolled out (your triceps should be a bit tired), grab a 3" inch round cookie cutter, or if you're like me and don't have a cookie cutter, use the top of a glass cup (hey, it's NYC, kitchen space is limited!) to stamp out the dough.

6. This is when you'll want to crack that last egg for the wash and beat it 10-15 times and have it on hand for filling.

7. Grab your first dough circle, paint half of the edge with the egg wash (like a half circle), then dollop about a teaspoon of filling in the center. This is where it gets a bit laborious so listen up.

8. Pinch the edge of your makhbouz all the way around so that the pinched part is stretched out and thinner than the rest. Then, swipe one side of the pinched edge with some more egg wash - this is important as it will help adhere it.

9. Then, go around the makhbouz and roll a little bit of the pinched edge over at a time, so that it gets a scalloped look to it. Not only does it look cute, it serves to keep all that delicious filling in while baking! When you're all done (I think this recipe produced about 24 makhbouz), you should have something that looks like this

Makhbouz: ready to be baked
10. Brush each makhbouz with more egg wash to give it a shiny coat and that nice golden brown color, and pop them into an oven that's been preheated to 375 degrees.

11. Bake for 20-25 minutes (remove as soon as they are golden brown), then ENJOY!! Note: they can be frozen and reheated, but they taste best fresh.

Makhbouz - not always perfect-looking, but always delicious.

Please excuse my bare nails but take a look at this 'beaut.