Until just an few years ago, I thought that split-pea soup was made with regular green peas that had been… split. I didn’t give much thought to how they were split; maybe they were mashed up, maybe they just split when they got cooked in the soup. Imagine my surprise when I discovered that there is a specific legume known as the split-pea. I found a bag of them at my local bodega; dried they resemble lentils, and like lentils they are a great source of protein. Also, like lentils, they’re small and flat enough that they don’t require any soaking before cooking. The other night I made a pot of simple split-pea and vegetable soup. Here’s how I did it:
In a large pot I put a cup of dried split-peas and covered them with about 4 cups of water. I covered the pot abnd brought it to a boil. When it came to a boil I lowered the heat to a simmer and removed the lid. The directions on the package of split-peas said they needed to cook for about an hour, so I set a timer. Meanwhile I prepared the vegetables: carrots, celery root, onions, celery, parsnips, and cabbage; I chopped them into rough chunks. I also chopped up some dill and some parsley. After the split-peas had cooked for about half an hour I added the vegetables to the pot, along with a splash of olive oil, some salt, and some black pepper. I cooked it all together for the last half hour. During the cooking process the split-peas break down a bit, adding adding the signature color, texture, and flavor to the broth.
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Tagged cooking, soup
On the first really cold day in November I found myself way down at the south end of Park Slope around lunch time. I stopped by Korzo, the Eastern European bar and restaurant on 5th Ave, for some hearty fare to warm me up. There were lots of things on the menu I wanted to try, but with Thanksgivukkah right around the corner there was only one thing I couldn’t pass up: apple-raisin potato latkes, topped with mushrooms, zucchini, and creme fraiche. The latkes were crunchy on the outside, moist and chewy on the inside. The mushroom-zucchini-onion topping bordered on too salty, but it was tempered by the sweetness of the apple chunks and raisins and rounded out by the richness of the creme fraiche (flecked with dill). Washed down with a tall glass of Köstritzer Schwarzbier, it was the perfect lunch for a cold and windy day.
Korzo — 667 5th Ave
I had first heard about Foodswings, another vegan diner in Williamsburg, way back in 2011, when I covered the First Annual Vegetarian Festival for SE:NY. I kind of forgot about it for a while, but then I read a story on Super Vegan about how Foodswings was for sale. The article mentions that the current owners of Foodswings are the owners of Lucky 13, a horror movie/metal bar here in Park Slope, a place I’ve been several times but had no idea had any vegan connection. I decided I had to check out Foodswings, so back in September I paid them a visit. The menu, like at Champs, is fairly extensive and has a lot of traditional diner food (that happens to be vegan). I settled on the Chik’n Parm, made with breaded mock chicken and covered in tomato sauce a vegan mozzarella “cheese.” Although I enjoyed the fries quite a bit, the sauce was under-seasoned and as a whole the dish was underwhelming. I enjoyed the ambiance of the restaurant; there are quotes painted on the walls from luminaries like Albert Einstein advocating a vegetarian diet. Too bad the food didn’t live up to my expectations.
Foodswings — 295 Grand St
The first time I had vareniki was at Karloff, for the first ever post on this very blog. They were delicious, but I haven’t come across them since. Cut to late September, when I made a trip to Brighton Beach to try the Georgian Bread place everyone raves about. To my dismay, the bread place was closed. So that the trip wouldn’t be a total waste, I decided to head to Brighton Bazaar (no trip to Brighton beach should be without a visit). On my way down Coney Island Ave I passed by Cafe Glechik, and promptly decided to stop there for a meal, having heard good things about this Ukranian eatery. There’s not a lot of vegetarian food on the menu but there are vareniki — small boiled dumplings — that come with a variety of veggie fillings. I ordered the ones filled with potato and mushroom, which came topped with fried onions and mushrooms and an optional side of sour cream. Although the vareniki at Karloff were better, these were still quite good; thick dumpling skins gave way to a smooth, flavorful interior. The fried onion topping added a nice textural contrast, and the sour cream was a creamy acidic counterpoint to it all. I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to try the Georgian bread, but Cafe Glechik was a nice consolation prize.
Cafe Glechik — 3159 Coney Island Ave
Sure it’s November, but ice cream is a timeless thing, am I right? Back in October I stopped by Ample Hills, the much talked about ice cream shop in Prospect Heights. It was actually a re-visit for me, and something of a re-match. I had been to Ample Hills before, but I wasn’t impressed with the ice cream I had. Everyone I spoke to told me the same thing: I should have gotten the Salted Crack Caramel flavor! It’s the flavor they’re known for, and the one that people swear by. So I was back to give it a try. As I approached the counter I noted lots of other delicious sounding flavors, but I was focused. I ordered a single scoop of the Salted Crack Caramel… and the man behind the counter gave me a look. “Have you had it before?” he asked. I said I hadn’t. “I’m going to recommend you try it first,” he said, and handed me a tiny spoon of the ice cream. I was prepared for the salt, but not for the deep, almost burned flavor of the caramel. Was it good? Yes. Did I want a whole cup of it? I did not. I thanked the man for his advice — he told me that a lot of people come in for the Salted Crack Caramel, which is by far their biggest seller, and insist on getting it. When he recommends a taste first they refuse, but then they complain they don’t like it. I asked for his recommendation and he gave me a few, including one I had been eying before — Ooey Gooey Butter Cake. Ooey gooey butter cake is a St Louis specialty, of which I had only recently become aware. At Ample Hills they chunks of this rich, crunchy-chewy dessert into creamy vanilla ice cream, and it’s a great combination. I’m happy that I finally got a taste of the Salted Crack Caramel, but I’m even happier that I ended up with the Ooey Gooey Butter Cake.
The moral of the story: Always take the advice of the guy who works at the ice cream shop.
Ample Hills — 623 Vanderbilt Ave
I arrived at Pok Pok NY about ten minutes before my friends Jess & Garrett, who I was meeting there for dinner. We had all heard stories about how hard it can be to actually get a table there; they don’t take reservations, they don’t seat anyone before the entire party is there, and there’s constantly a line all the way down the block. Well there was no line when I arrived, early on a Monday evening, but the host wouldn’t even take my name until all three of us had arrived. I waited semi-patiently as a few other people arrived: typical Brooklyn hipsters, yes, but also a woman with a few kids fresh out of karate class, and a few middle aged couples. I worried about whether a line would form, and could I stand in that hypothetical line even though my entire party wasn’t there? As Jess & Garrett arrived, another woman approached the host before us. She was meeting a friend but was extremely hungry. Could she be seated, and order food, even though her friend wasn’t there? No she could not. “But I’ll be ordering and eating!” she pleaded. No dice, though she was more than welcome to wait at the affiliated bar on the corner where she could order some hot wings. When I told the host that we had all arrived, she called someone over a wireless headset, made an undecipherable mark on the laminated seating chart in front of her, and directed the three of us up the unremarkable alley alongside the restaurant. Toward the back of the alley was the door to Pok Pok NY’s back garden, protected by the clear plastic hanging strips you see at butcher shops and grocery stores. We pushed through the plastic to find ourselves in the beautiful back yard, where only a handful of the tables were actually occupied. This is dining at Pok Pok NY.
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It’s been about eight months since my last Four & Twenty Blackbirds post — it’s high time for another. This early fall nectarine pie was truly delicious; it was as if they made a traditional apple pie (complete with cinnamon and other spices), but used the more acidic, softer nectarines inside it. Although I generally prefer the custard pies at Blackbirds, this one is a strong argument for their seasonal fruit pies.
Four & Twenty Blackbirds — 439 3rd Ave