Saturday, March 15, 2003
excuse me while i interrupt . . .
our regularly scheduled programming. i know, i know, there's so much coffee news, with all the recommendations in this month's gourmet for cute little coffee places in rome. . .
but i've come to understand that the huge news of the moment is the fate of the hbo series, the sopranos. it seems contract disputes with star have temporarily put production of the show on hold, and millions of loyal fans appear to be suffering at the prospect of sitting through more of the same old re-runs.
what can i do in this crisis? only 1 thing: present you with my own personal recipe for that soprano staple, the baked ziti. eat it on sunday nights and weep in lieu of watching the show.
some ziti recipes have meat, bechamel cream sauce. . .all kinds of weighty stuff. not this one. it's simple, has few ingredients. . .the way it should be. this means you have to buy the best pasta, the best cheese, the best tomatoes, fresh herbs, and take care making the stuff, ok?
i have a 2 sauce option -- less for those who like a more cohesive, almost fluffy dish, as it all bakes together light and crisp. but some prefer a moister ziti with more sauce. as you like it. just take care not to make a greasy, heavy tummy bomb:
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 medium onion, chopped fine
3-5 cloves garlic, crushed in a press or minced
28 oz. crushed organic san marzano tomatoes or extra sauce option: same 28 oz. can, plus 14 oz. can diced tomatoes
3 tablespoons wine (optional)
1/2 to 1 cup fresh basil, finely chopped
1 tablespoon to 3 tablespoons fresh oregano, finely chopped
1-1/2 teaspoons to 1 tablespoon fresh thyme, finely chopped
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoons crushed italian hot pepper (optional)
big pinch ground cayenne pepper (optional)
1 teaspoon salt
fresh black pepper to taste
in a large saucepan over medium heat, saute onion and garlic in oil for 5 minutes. add tomatoes, bring to slow boil. add wine, if using. cook for 5 minutes. add herbs, salt and peppers. cook for 5 more minutes. and it's done! pre-heat oven to 400 degrees. grease a large baking dish, oh, 13 x 9-ish. i use a huge white corning wear monster that's about 4 inches deep.
1 lb. de cecco (flash) or trendy latini ziti
1 lb. absolutely fresh and lovely mozzarella cut in 2: 1/2 cubed, 1/2 sliced
1/2 cup absolutely top-quality freshly grated parmesan, divided in half
1/4 cup absolutely top-quality freshly grated romano
cook ziti 1 minute less than package suggests, which usually means about 7 minutes. drain. place in large baking dish. mix in sauce, 1/4 cup parmesan, all the romano, and the cubed mozzarella. toss so it's all distributed evenly.
smooth the surface nicely and use the sliced mozzarella to cover the top. sprinkle with remaining 1/4 cup parmesan. bake for 30-35 minutes until nicely browned. let cool at least 15 minutes before slicing. serves 8, if you make a side salad of arugula or curly endive.
this recipe is dead simple and you can easily put the whole thing together in 40 minutes, counting the cooking time for the sauce. so the whole thing can easily be done in about an hour and a half.
Friday, March 14, 2003
long-time readers know i am devoted to them and make a great effort to post every single day. forgive me for missing yesterday -- but it was just too busy.
first, since mark prince has broken the news first, let me say how honored i am to have been asked to join the scaa's consumer committee. i hope everyone knows that i am intent on telling as many people as possible about coffee, esp. high-quality specialty coffee, the kind you buy freshly roasted and delicious from your local independent roaster/coffeehouse.
please note that this is not a paid position. i'm not shilling for anyone, just supporting a group of people who believe in the same principles i've long talked about here.
as if that wasn't enough excitement yesterday, then i hurried myself to the opening bash for the breathing project. i have to say some of the coolest people in all new york were present. (including another fellow bakelite collector -- i think even long-time readers may not know about my bakelite fixation. . .)
perhaps the highlight of the party was the incredible performance by david hykes and friends, the core members of the famed overtone singing group the harmonic choir. this form of singing, made popular by groups from tuva, and familiar to those with interests in tibetan culture, is amazing.
it's similar in feeling to gregorian chant, or the music of hildegard von bingen, but while traditional gregorian music immerses you in a gently lapping bath, the harmonic overtone singing slowly penetrates your bones. you feel it in your body in an interesting way; the entire room hums with crystalline sounds of a tibetan singing bowl.
of course i had to buy a cd; i asked david hykes to choose one of his oeuvre -- and even tho' we had never met before that evening, he uncannily selected his disc that combines elements of harmonic singing with those of classical middle-eastern music. ah, world music! of which i've been a long-time fan. let me say i highly recommend hykes' music.
the breathing project's space is clean, spacious, and pleasant, and generally resembles that of the iyengar insitute, from which it is only 2 blocks away. i think everyone who has been practicing even a few months might benefit from the experience of what they are calling madras-style practice. . .
Wednesday, March 12, 2003
upswing in coffee
a great piece today on the recent las vegas coffee fest. hot new trends appear to be more coffeehouses serving fresh orange juice and brazilian palmberry smoothies, according to the article.
this stopped me short. what's a palmberry? i've never had a palmberry, but it's said to taste like chocolate with a wine-ish aftertaste. . .altho' others describe the taste as nutty.
must find palmberries a.k.a. acai (and here) as soon as possible. . .but i don't think it's going to be easy to find here in new york!
currently the scaa estimates that are about 1,200 independent local coffeehouse/roasters in the u.s.a. but that figure seems set to grow, if the brisk business at the coffeefest is an accurate harbinger. after a recent lull, "[the opening-your-own-coffeeshop trend] seems to be gaining momentum in the past year-and-a-half," said coffeefest show manager david heilbrunn.
more better coffee could be coming all our ways, if he's correct. there's little doubt, i think, that if current independent coffeehouses keep tightly focused on improving the quality of their java, we could see a steady increase in coffee consumption for years to come.
i also found the screamingmanglobal (flash) "what don't you understand about no decaf?" mugs pretty darn funny. . .read the entire article here.
and, on a holiday note, purim is basically here. we at bccy believe in celebrating everyone's holidays, as long as it's with chocolate. (as a side note, if i skip an interesting holiday that offers an excuse for an outrageous chocolate indulgence, please email me immediately, preferably with a traditional recipe.)
for those deep into a chocolate fix, check out this recipe for a yummy nut pastry with a chocolate-coffee glaze. looks pretty easy to make too.
Tuesday, March 11, 2003
new espresso shop
what an exciting week! we have upcoming free yoga classes from the new breathing project.
and we have a new espresso shop in the east village that's trying to devote itself to quality. will it equal ken nye's higher grounds at 9th & c?
who knows! you'll all have to rush down there yourselves to the new kudo coffee at 1st ave between 2 & 3 st.!
Monday, March 10, 2003
drink your coffee without fear. . .
today's just a plethora of great coffee news. according to new research from tokyo university hospital, drinking coffee reduces your blood sugar, and can prevent adult onset diabetes.
the study reported that those who drank about a cup of coffee a day, or at least 5 cups a week -- men and women both -- were less likely to get diabetes. researchers also studied different types of tea. tea was of no help, whereas coffee definitely showed a protective effect.
the researchers reported that they didn't think caffeine was the helpful chemical in this situation. instead they believed two other compounds, the naturally ocurring magnesium or the cholorgenic acid, were most likely the effective agents. cholorgenic acid and magnesium both are generally thought to be phytochemicals that help contribute to coffee's "bright," or tongue-dancing tingly, taste.
as readers know, adult diabetes is on the verge of becoming an epidemic in the western world. combined with a sensible diet, and an energetic yoga practice, it now seems as if a cup of coffee a day can help spare you this difficult disease.
i'm glad to hear this because after the recent study saying pregnant women shouldn't drink large amounts of coffee -- meaning 6 or more 10-oz. cups a day, a new study today reaffirms that moderate coffee consumption, or a switch to decaf, is fine for the expecting. investigators found that caffeine consumption did not increase the risk of low birth weight or preterm delivery, and had no effect on fetal growth in the womb.
smoking is by far a greater danger. but i recommend that women trying to conceive limit themselves to 2 or 3 6-oz. cups of coffee a day. the expecting should probably keep it to 1 or 2 cups of half-caf, if they don't want to make a temporary switch to decaf. . .luckily, there are many very tasty decafs now available. you can find them all at coffee review.
the culture of better coffee is now definitely a global phenomenon. we should remember that right now scandanavia, vancouver b.c., and new zealand are the coffee hotspots. further proof of this is that one of the netherland's up-and-coming baristas is a new zealander, kevin bunge, who's currently working in a dutch cafe called coffee connection.
so if you're dutch, or just travelling thru amsterdam, run over there and get a cup from kevin. . .
Sunday, March 09, 2003
they do it again. . .
there's no doubt no that the best cup of coffee in canada comes from the cafe artigiano in vancouver (review).
they've won the barista competition now two years running from the recent coffee fest.
that vancouver is still a growing coffee hotbed seems proven by the fact that another vancouver barista from the robson st. bistro took second place (why don't either of these places have their own websites?!?).