Follow by Email, sign up to receive my newest post

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Flowers and Dinner

My husband (yes, the workoholic carnivore) just turned 40, and to commemorate his four decades on Earth, a great miracle happened: he took the day off.
We packed some bagels (the patriotic thing to do in NYC) and brownies I'd baked (if you were wondering... They did have beans in them) and the four of us rode the train to The New York Botanical Garden. We'd never been there, and a beautiful day with gorgeous surroundings, delicious scents and the most marvelous views welcomed us and made us very happy to be there and then.

To be honest, I don't really like frogs, but it was pretty cool to hear them (they make a sound of a bass cord being played) and eventually find them

My daugter and I got a bit carried away photographing the flowers (she used my phone, which is currently saturated and barely working) and I used the camera, which is in the same situation. Somehow I got obsessed with the bees in action and I kept chasing them as I repeated over and over to my kids about pollinization, honey, hives...until my five year old told me: "I know. I know," and ran away from my lecture.

It would have been amazing to try a bit of the honey from the Garden's hives...
When our little one was about to freak out from exhaustion, we understood the not very subtle hint and came back to the City.
Our baby sitter came and my husband and I headed to Brooklyn (Bronx, Manhattan, Brooklyn...all in the same day, oh my, we're so cool!) to eat dinner at Pardes restaurant.
I know we were celebrating my other half, but this half doing the typing, had an amazing time as well...
Let me first mention that I was not raised in a religious family and that my kosher observance was a gradual process that kept changing (and becoming stricter) throughout the years. Therefore, I can say that I've tasted pretty much everything. Both of my parents loved eating, and I was raised to love food.
When we moved to NY and I did my Food Studies master's, worked at James Beard and attended pastry school, I still ate at non kosher restaurants. I didn't eat any meat or shellfish, but I would have ovo-lacto-vegetarian dishes or kosher spicies of fish.
I have incredible food memories of meals past. I've kept notes from dinners I attended to and I would read restaurant menus as if they were Russian novels. I loved looking at a beautifully plated dish and I would try to guess what the ingredients were. It was thrilling to taste sauces and discover combinations I'd never tried before. I found it so amazing to be able to engage my sight, smell, taste, touch and even hearing when eating and enjoying. 

Then, about eight years ago, I decided I'd only eat in kosher restaurants. Do I miss eating out? You bet!!! Do I regret it? Not for a second. I'm convinced of what I'm doing, and I believe in it, but it's not easy.
What I miss the most is the real dining experince.I miss being surprised, intrigued and impressed with food in an interesting environment where the plates work as vessels for something pretty, full of flavor and different textures, where the dish tells me about the season and satisfies what I crave depending on the weather.  I miss meals worth of interrupting the conversation to enjoy completely and coment about them.

I know I shouldn't complain because there are a couple of nice kosher restaurants in Manhattan, but it's hard to find places with their own soul where food is loved, and admired. That's what I loved so much about Pardes.

At the end of our meal, where I alone had eaten enough food for a family of 10, I approached the chef (and owner), who was handing out every single dish out of his open kitchen. I mentally first thanked G-d for Sara Blakely's existence, as her Nobel Prize-deserving invention--SPANX-- kept my body from bursting into a million pieces due to oversaturation after the glorious meal I had shared with my husband. Treviso salad, fried sweetbreads, fried chicken with liver mousse, waffles and berries (INCREDIBLY DELICIOUS, crunchy, unctuous, sweet, sour!), a bite of my husband's huge steak and the peach-bacon crisp for dessert. Ah! Did I mention his beet amuse bouche with CHIA???? I owed this man a couple of words (and if we were in another world, those would have been hugs!).

Once I approached this super gutsy individual (who else would ever open such an innovative restaurant for the most traditional of crowds?). C'mon! He changes his menu often, he uses fruits, vegetables and grains most people have never heard of (on the table next to us, a diner ordered fried okra, thinking okra was fish), he's there making sure every single dish comes out exactly as he conceived it. You do taste his passion, and yes, it's not diet food as he loves his fryier, but he uses it with plenty of creativity (and shmaltz).
So, once I got near him, I told him: "Chef, I stopped eating out about eight years ago," he looked at me. "I thought my dining experiences were dead," I said. "But you just resucitated them. Thank you!" He gave me a sweet big smile, as if he understood exactly what I was talking about.

Here's a salad inspired by the one we had that night, although I added a bit of ground dried lavender and chamomile to celebrate our day at the Botanical Garden and its incredible blooms. This is not Pardes' recipe (that one, as appears on the menu is made with fresh Mission figs, honey dew, Treviso (radicchio), vanilla/fig vinaigrette, and almonds), but my interpretation of it. So they are different, but both are delicious and gorgeous!

The bitter, wine-colored radicchio paired with the unctuous, sweet and crunchy fresh figs, which are making their seasonal debut, is an intriguing combination. I had a couple of blackberries in the fridge and I threw them in for more texture, more color and even more antioxidants, vitamins and fiber. The caramelized almonds add a nice, sweet crunch, more fiber and a bit of protein.

  • Vegan
  • Free of: dairy, gluten, eggs, soy
  • Super ingredients: radicchio, figs, blackberries, almonds

1 medium head of radicchio rosso (purple)
5 fresh figs
½ cup blackberries, blueberries or chopped honeydew
1 cup sliced almonds (preferably skins on)
1 tablespoon coconut nectar (or honey or pure maple syrup)

1 teaspoon ground dried lavender and chamomile flowers (culinary grade)
1 tablespoon coconut nectar (or honey or pure maple syrup)
1/2 vanilla bean
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon roasted walnut oil
Coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste


1. Preheat oven to 350 F.
2. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Place on it the almonds and drizzle in 1 tablespoon coconut nectar. Mix with a spatula (or your clean hands) until almonds are evenly covered and spread them all on one layer.
2. While oven warms up, wash, and pat dry radicchio, figs and blackberries.
3. Break the radicchio leaves apart and quarter figs. Place them in a serving platter along with the blackberries.
4. Roast almonds for about 5 or 6 minutes (if you are using coconut nectar, which gives an amazing flavor, make sure you're vigilant, as it can burn faster than the other sweeteners), until golden.

While almonds cool, prepare dressing:
5. Grind dried lavender and chamomile in a spice grinder until they become a coarse powder.

6. Split vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape seeds with the back of a knive. Place in a small mixing bowl.

7. Add ground flowers, 1 tablespoon coconut nectar and lemon juice, in to the bowl with the vanilla and whisk. Add in walnut oil slowly, while still whisking. Season with salt and pepper.

8. Sprinkle salad with the almonds and then drizzle in the dressing.

Serves 4


1 comment:

hotel Treviso Italy said...

First of all I wanted to say that it is really great that you had an opportunity to spend such a wonderful day. The photos are really interesting, but it is this salad that absolutely impressed me. I liked everything about it, the ingredients, the look. Trying it is one of my priorities now.