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Thursday, July 27, 2006


Recently, I’ve been in a salad rut. This no-brainer side is quick to whip up and goes with practically anything; as a result, I end up making one at least twice a week. And, as far as salads go, mine are pretty good. But even though I mix it up a bit—varying the lettuces, using different types of vinegars, adding a grating of ricotta salata, a sprinkle of nuts, sliced avocados, orange segments, or whatever’s on hand—at the end of the day, it’s still pretty much the same ol’ salad. And week after week, that gets boring. In fact, it took a heat wave to reacquaint me with how fabulous a salad can be.

I don’t mind cooking on the hottest days—we do have air conditioning in our apartment—but, like most people, I tend to crave food that’s cooler, lighter, more refreshing. On a particularly brutal evening last week, a main dish salad fit the bill perfectly. I decided to go with a fairly straightforward Salade Nicoise for one very good reason: it’s filled with so many of the things Brian and I love to eat—eggs, tuna, anchovies, green beans, olives. But, of course, salads are great when improvised, too. Just make sure it’s filled with stuff you love to eat.


Tuna steak, about 1 ½ inches thick
Vinaigrette (I made mine with shallots and white wine vinegar)
Baby potatoes
Hard-boiled eggs, peeled
Green beans
Nicoise olives
Anchovy fillets
Baby arugula (or green of your choice)

Season tuna with salt and pepper. Sear for about 1½ minutes on each side. Halve scrubbed potatoes and cook until tender. Season still-warm potatoes with a little salt and pepper and toss with some of the vinaigrette. Cook trimmed beans until tender, then plunge into ice water to stop the cooking. Dry and toss with a little vinaigrette. Cut eggs in half. Slice tuna. Mix arugula with some of the vinaigrette, and arrange on a serving platter. Place everything else on top of the greens. If you want, spoon some of the remaining vinaigrette over the tuna and eggs.

Wednesday, July 19, 2006


Perhaps the heat had something to do with it. Or maybe I’m just crazy. But recently, after reading an article in The New York Times on cold roasts, I decided to buy a 7-pound butterflied leg of lamb. Keep in mind my household consists of all of two people. But, being highly suggestible and not particularly rational, I just couldn’t help myself. To complicate matters, Brian and I hate leftovers. This has less to do with how food tastes on its second go-around than with the fact that, for us, the making of the meal—the chopping, the sizzle, the building aromas and, of course, the anticipation—is probably 75% of the pleasure. Eating something pulled straight from the fridge or the microwave is a huge letdown. Almost not worth eating at all.

But back to the lamb. After the initial meal, I wasn’t going to let this $60 prize hunk of meat go the way of so much of the other leftover food in our kitchen: that is, from the pot to the Tupperware to the fridge to, three weeks later, the garbage can. We were going to eat it. The whole thing. We were going to enjoy it, too. So my challenge was this: could I serve the lamb several nights in a row without both of us keeling over in boredom? And here’s what happened:

DAY 1:
Squeezed sausagelike into its packaging, the lamb looked encouragingly compact. But when I turned it out onto a sheet pan, it filled the whole damn thing, even threatening to hang over in spots. I blitzed some herbs, garlic, salt, and olive oil in a blender and spread the resulting mixture all over the meat. I roasted it and let it cool for a couple of hours. That night, we ate the lamb sliced, at room-temperature, sprinkled with a little fleur de sel and drizzled with olive oil. We accompanied it with cold asparagus. Verdict: tasty!

DAY 2:
Just as everything tastes better wrapped in bacon, I believe pita bread and tzatziki sauce can make any food shine. Okay, I’m exaggerating. But I do love these two things, and we all know lamb is a natural partner for them. So I decided to bake homemade pita bread, and I stirred grated cucumber, garlic, salt, and a little lemon juice into plain yogurt for an impromptu tzatziki sauce. I stuffed the warm pita with thinly sliced lamb, cucumber rounds, red onion, and drizzled the tzatziki over the top. Verdict: even tastier!

DAY 3:
I had on hand a few pita breads that hadn't properly formed their pockets. And they weren't quite large enough to do the wrap-around thing. Hmmm . . . pizza, anyone? We brushed the pitas with olive oil, topped them with finely chopped lamb, red onion, tomato, fresh oregano, and feta cheese. We then popped them under the broiler. Verdict: almost as tasty as the pitas!

DAY 4:
When I was growing up, my mom rarely made pot roast, but when she did, my favorite part of the experience was the hash she would make with the leftovers. So, hash seemed a natural conclusion to our leg o’ lamb experiment. I had planned to use regular potatoes, but Fresh Direct, our online grocery service, delivered sweet potatoes instead. Undaunted, we forged ahead and made a hash with sweet potatoes, lamb, onion, green pepper, and thyme, topped with poached eggs. Well, I’m not much of a sweet potato person to begin with, and this didn’t help their case. The lamb was a little too chewy, the potatoes a little to sweet. Verdict: edible, but definitely not a winner.

At the end of day 4, there was still some lamb left, even though I had also been bringing it to work with me for lunch. I chucked the remainder into the freezer, probably, realistically, to suffer a drawn-out death by freezer burn. Will I be buying any more oversized roasts for the two of us? Probably not. But I did learn how to make a killer lamb pizza.

Thursday, July 13, 2006


But we'll have a new post for the week of July 17th.

Wednesday, July 05, 2006


That's not to say the food at Le Sans Souci, a cozy French bistro in Queens, is bad. It's actually pretty good. But it’s not why we go there. We go there because the place is so damn adorable. Even the outside, with its embroidered awning and cute little porch, beckons you in. The interior features craggy stone walls, exposed rafters, and rustic wooden floors and furniture—a French farmhouse on Astoria's Greek row. The food is straightforward and for the most part done well. That is, you can get a good steak au poivre, a perfectly reliable salade nicoise, and a super-juicy pork chop. Not to mention housemade pate—how can you argue with that? But this isn’t cuisine that will dazzle, surprise, or, in all likelihood, bring The New York Times knocking (though we’ll wait and see).

Of course, that's just fine with us. Brian and I love Le Sans Souci. Once we sit down, we feel like we could stay for hours. Sometimes we do—and the waiters are always happy to let us. One may swing by to chat about her upcoming trip home to Brittany, and another to suggest we try the new rose they’re offering, but they’ll never hover or rush us out the door. As much as we enjoy checking out new places in Manhattan with their pedigreed chefs, spots like Le Sans Souci—welcoming, comfortable, and totally laid back—are the ones we tend to return to, again and again.

44-09 Broadway
Astoria, NY
(718) 606-1126
“R” or “V” train to 46th Street stop