Fav Nashville Eats: Noshville

Noshville, Nashville

Noshville, Nashville

I can’t remember ever eating matzoh ball soup in my 30 years of living in NYC. But it’s my standard order at Noshville here in Nashville. And it’s delicious.

matzoh ball soup w tuna sandwich

matzoh ball soup w tuna sandwich

Here’s the sad part. Noshville on Broadway in Midtown is closing by the end of the year. A high-rise is going to push over the popular, busy, comfort destination– grabbing its footprint, and the rest of the buildings on the block, including Manuel’s former design headquarters, and JJ’s Market (a cafe full of relaxed people gazing at their computers while sipping coffee or beer amidst the eclectic collection of tables and chairs).

bye bye Noshville's block

bye-bye Noshville’s block

Do I need to mention that Midtown is already overly-jammed with businesses and cars (without parking spaces)? And now more opportunistic landscape transformation will wave bye-bye to history and old friends. They do say that Noshville will return in the new grand 17-story tower– but it will take about 3 years. I’ll believe it when I see it. Noshville in Green Hills will still thrive– 1/3 the size of its more bustling sibling. Here’s what I’ll miss: I’ll miss sitting at the counter hearing the latest from one of our favorite servers, Linda. At that counter we’re usually elbow to elbow with Vandy students and professors on a Sunday afternoon sipping mimosa’s or bloody mary’s with eggs over easy, toasted bagels, and reuben sandwiches.

Noshville counter

Noshville counter

I’ll miss that standard order of mine: Noshville’s “soup & sandwich”…matzoh ball soup (small bowl comes with 1 large matzoh ball) and a half tuna sandwich on rye toast. It’s a perfect meal.

tuna on rye toast

tuna on rye toast

I’ll miss the mini potato pancakes that accompany eggs (mine, scrambled soft with Canadian bacon). And Duane and I have a new favorite: the “salad sampler” with scoops of coleslaw, tuna salad, chicken salad, or egg salad.

salad sampler at Noshville

salad sampler at Noshville

Another of Duane’s regular orders is the chili dog. My mom goes for the hot pastrami sandwich. My sister, the open turkey sandwich with gravy on the side (French fries for her, instead of mashed potatoes). I’ll miss the “amuse bouche” pickles that we always feel funny troubling our server to bring us, until we discovered a couple of months ago that we can go get them ourselves from the huge bin of pickles with stacks of bowls and tongs nearby. We crunch and slurp up a bowl of these once-barreled-on-Delancy-Street favorites.

pickles

pickles

I’ll miss the wall photos of the Statue of Liberty, Grand Central Station, Sinatra and Sammy and Dean, and NYC-centric movie posters.

breakfast at Noshville

breakfast at Noshville

I’ll miss the slabs of lox and the carousel of cakes. I’ll miss our usual hang. Our comfy place. Our old reliable. When Noshville is reborn in a new modern building in some year in the future I wonder if (and hope) it can bring back all the spirit and personality it has naturally originated over the years.

Noshville booths

Noshville booths

Yes, we like the food. But it’s the atmosphere, too, that makes us want to be there.

Noshville tables

Noshville tables

St. Joseph’s Day Cakes

St. Joseph cake

St. Joseph cake

March 19th is Saint Joseph’s Day. Time to move on from Patrick and celebrate Saint Joseph and anyone whose name is Joseph. This is your day!

For the last few years I’ve been wanting to make Saint Joseph cakes. Individual-sized pastries luscious and creamy. But then March 19th would come and go and there I’d be with no cake. Not this year. I wasn’t going to let that happen again. I’ve eaten them in NY, where you can find them at Italian bakeries. But how do you make them?

I scanned the Web for recipes. I discovered there’s more than one way to make a St. Joseph’s cake. Most recipes used a pate a choux batter. But you can fry the cakes or bake them. Stuff them with whipped cream. Or ricotta. Or a combination of both. Or stuff them with custard cream. Which one is right? Which one authentic? I couldn’t find the answer. Maybe they’re all correct. Each baker with their own authentic recipe.

So I made an executive decision (being the CEO of my own kitchen). I’m gonna use my pate a choux recipe and my custard cream recipe and make St. Joseph cakes!

First make the custard since it needs to be chilled. 5 egg yolks 3/4 cup sugar…

egg yolks and sugar

egg yolks and sugar

Beat with the paddle attachment until pale and thick…

pale and thick

pale and thick

Beat in 3 tablespoons of corn starch. On the stove heat 1 1/2 cups of milk to scalding. Slowly add hot milk to the egg mixture while machine runs on low. Then return the whole mixture back to the pot and heat on medium, stirring with a wooden spoon, until thick. About 5-7 minutes. Stir in 1/2 teaspoon vanilla and about 1/4 cup rum. Pour into a bowl and place plastic wrap on top of the custard surface. Chill in the refrigerater until cooled.

custard

custard

Now make the pate a choux.

pate a choux ingredients

pate a choux ingredients

In a medium saucepan heat 1 cup of water, 6 tablespoons of butter and a healthy pinch of salt. Bring to a boil. Then take off the heat and whisk in 1 cup of flour till combined well. Put pot back on the heat and switch to wooden spoon. Stir rapidly until dough is dry and leaves the sides of the pan easily.

dough in pan

dough in pan

Transfer the dough to the bowl of a stand mixer and mix on low for a few minutes to cool down the dough. Then add 4 eggs, one at a time until each is incorporated.

pate a choux batter

pate a choux batter

Now the fun part. Get out your piping bag with a large star tip. Pipe a 2-inch circle and swirl back into the center.

piped dough

piped dough

Bake at 425 for about 15 -20 minutes until puffed. Turn down oven to 350 and bake until deep golden, about another 10 minutes. Once out of the oven I poke each pastry with a toothpick to allow steam to escape. Let cool completely. Then cut in half horizontally and fill with custard cream. Sprinkle some powdered sugar on top.

St. Joseph Cake with custard cream

St. Joseph Cake with custard cream

Yes. You’re allowed more than one. Especially if your name is Joseph.

Making a Good Thing Better – Italian Shepherd’s Pie

Italian Shepherd's Pie

Italian Shepherd’s Pie

Well. It’s arguable. Is this better than the original? Maybe they’re 50-50…equally wonderful. All I know is you get some tasty meat topped with something creamy and you probably can’t go wrong. The original Irish Shepherd’s Pie starts with a layer of ground seasoned beef, dotted with peas and carrots, topped with creamy mashed potatoes and baked in the oven until the potato top gets golden. Good, right?

Here’s my version (since it seems I only have Italian ingredients in my kitchen). And I’m obsessed with cute, small portions, so these are done in 4-5 oz. ramekins–individual servings.

ramekins for Italian Shepherd's Pie

ramekins for Italian Shepherd’s Pie

 

Cook up the ground beef, but add some broken up Italian sausage, too. And sautéed onion.

Sausage and onion sautéing

Sausage and onion sautéing

Yes, add the peas, but also add some diced tomato (Italian, remember?). That’s your bottom layer.

Sausage, onion, beef, tomato & peas mixture

Sausage, onion, beef, tomato & peas mixture

The top: no potatoes. Instead, RICOTTA. (I can’t stay way from the stuff). Mix ricotta with some diced or shredded mozzarella, add some grated parmigiano, salt & pepper, and an egg yolk. Mix well.

Ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiano, s & p, egg yolk

Ricotta, mozzarella, parmigiano, s & p, egg yolk

Top your meat with this swirly, swoon-worthy concoction. Sprinkle some grated cheese on top. Bake till golden.

Italian Shepherd's Pie

Italian Shepherd’s Pie

The Irish becomes Italian right before your eyes.

A Favorite Corner of Rome

A Favorite Corner of Rome

Individual Italian Shepherd Pies

3 tablespoons olive oil

1 medium onion, diced

2 Italian sausages (mild or hot, your preference)

1 lb. ground beef

1 15-oz can diced tomatoes

1/2 cup peas

1 lb. ricotta cheese

1/2 lb. shredded mozzarella(use a box grater)

1/4 cup grated parmigiano

2 egg yolks

salt & pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Heat the oil in a large sauté pan, then add onion and cook 2-3 minutes until softened. Cut the sausages in half and push out the meat from the skins. Break up in sauté pan and cook with onion, 2 minutes or so. Add ground beef. Break up in pan and cook thru until the meats are browned. Add the tomatoes and peas. Season with salt & pepper. Cook 5 minutes more.

In a medium mixing bowl, stir together the cheeses and egg yolks. Season with salt and pepper.

Divide the meat into 10 or 12 ramekins leaving 1-inch open on top. Divide the cheese mixture on top of the meat. Smooth gently to cover meat with a spoon. Place ramekins on a sheet pan. Bake until golden on top, about 20 minutes until golden.

(If you try it, let me know how it goes!)

 

Butternut Squash Gnocchi w Sun-Dried Tomato Sauce

Making gnocchi in class

Making butternut squash gnocchi in class

Better hurry up. Spring is sneaking up on us and soon the very sight of a butternut squash will look passé, an anachronism, winter in the middle of spring: “what are YOU doing here?”

But the supermarket still has ‘em and I’m still buying them and still relishing in butternut squash gnocchi. We just made some in class last week. Once we sat down to eat…after all the cooking and prepping and bustle in the kitchen, a newly poured glass of wine dosido-ing with the dinner plate, ready to play…I stuck my fork into one of those pillowy gnocchi and took a bite. Ah, yes. Wasn’t that little dance in the kitchen so worth it? Ah, yes. Yes, yes, yes.

making butternut squash gnocchi in class

making butternut squash gnocchi in class

They are not hard to make. Just one little tricky part. You never know how moist your cooked butternut squash will be. So the flour amounts in the recipe can change. This should be no problem. Just try to add as little flour as you need, but as much to get a nice soft dough, not too sticky, but a little tacky is okay.

I trim my squash of top stem and a sliver from the bottom. Cut the squash in half at the point where it just begins to widen. Be careful cutting this odd-shaped beauty. It’s pretty dense with no straight sides. Cut each half in half lengthwise. Scrape seeds from the bottom quarters. Lay the pieces cut side down on a sheet pan with about a 1/2 inch of water. Roast until tender, let cool, then scrape out your squash.

butternut squash gnocchi

butternut squash gnocchi

We paired the gnocchi with a simple tomato sauce flavored with sun-dried tomatoes, sage, and butter. If you try it,  let me know how it goes!

sun-dried tomato sauce

sun-dried tomato sauce

Fresh Butternut Squash Gnocchi in Sage-Sun-Dried Tomato Butter Sauce

For the Gnocchi:

2 cups cooked butternut squash, mashed smooth

½ cup ricotta

¼ cup grated parmigiano cheese

½ teaspoon nutmeg

¼ teaspoon hot pepper

salt & pepper to taste

2 cups flour

For the Sauce:

4 tablespoons butter

1 small onion, diced

1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes, minced

2-3 sage sprigs, leaves minced, stems discarded

1/4 cup white wine or vermouth

1 28-oz can crushed tomatoes

salt & pepper to taste

Make the Sauce: Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the onion, sun-dried tomatoes, sage and sauté until onions are softened, about 5 minutes. Add the wine or vermouth. Let sizzle and almost evaporate. Add the tomatoes. Season with salt & pepper. Simmer for about 15 minutes or more.

Make the gnocchi: In a large bowl, mix together the squash, ricotta, grated cheese, nutmeg, hot pepper and salt & pepper. Add 1 cup of flour and gentle mix in with a large spoon making sure the mixture is smooth and any small chucks of squash are mashed.  Add more flour until you have a dough consistency. Knead until combined. It may be a little sticky – that’s okay.

Break off a small handful of dough and roll into a log about a ½-inch thick. (Coat with more flour if too sticky to handle.) Cut log into ¼-inch pieces. Press each piece lightly against a gnocchi board or the tines of a fork. Toss with flour on a flour-dusted baking sheet. Try not to let them touch to keep them from sticking to each other. Repeat with the rest of the dough.

Finish dish: Bring a pasta pot full of water to a boil. Season with salt.  Drop in gnocchi.  Cook until they float to the surface, about 2-3 minutes, then let cook for about one minute more. Remove with a slotted spoon to a serving bowl. Gently coat with sauce.

making butternut squash gnocchi

making butternut squash gnocchi

Riviera Roasted Potato String Bean Pie

Baked Potato-String Bean Pie

Baked Potato-String Bean Pie

Mmmmm….good.

I learned this recipe many years ago from a fearless, adventurous Ligurian woman named Bianca. She lived in a charming pink villa high atop the hills overlooking the Mediterranean on the Levante side of the Italian Riviera. The villa’s sweeping terrace presided over the sea and from that vantage point you could see the small peninsula of Portofino in the short distance.

Bianca's Villa

Bianca’s Villa

I had the fortunate honor of staying there for a full month. And every day of that month I gravitated to the kitchen to see what Bianca was cooking. I spent the other hours mining her Italian cookbook collection and sitting at a cafe in the nearby seaside town of Zoagli, translating captivating recipes into my notebook.

This potato-string-bean “cake” is one of hers. This is her exact recipe. The pie is great as a snack, a side, a picnic dish, or a full meal if you like at any time of day.

Peel and quarter 4-5 medium gold potatoes. Boil till tender. Drain & mash.

potatoes boiling

potatoes boiling

Boil till tender about 2 pounds tipped green beans/string beans. Drain. Pulse in a food processor until broken up but not pureed.

green beans boiling

green beans boiling

Peel and dice 1 medium onion. Simmer in a little milk diluted with water until tender. Drain.

onions simmering

onions simmering

In a large mixing bowl, mix the potatoes, string beans, onion, 3 eggs, and 1/2 cup grated parmigiano. Season with salt and pepper. Mix well to combine. Butter a 9 x 13 inch sheet pan. Coat butter with breadcrumbs and shake out excess. Press mixture into pan evenly. Press the top with the tines of a fork to make a pattern. Sprinkle some more parmigiano. Drizzle a little olive oil.

ready to bake

ready to bake

Bake in a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until golden.

baked potato string bean pie

baked potato string bean pie

Let cool before cutting into squares.

Riviera pie cut into squares

Riviera pie cut into squares

I learned recently that the villa Bianca I lived in is now open for vacation rentals. Looking at the pictures on the new website representing the house wows my memories. Everything looks the same. Everything as beautiful as my memories. Villa Bianca

Riviera Potato & Green Bean Pie

4-5 medium gold potatoes

1 1/2 – 2 lbs. green beans (string beans)

1 onion, diced

1/4 cup milk

3 eggs

1/2 cup grated parmigiano, plus extra for sprinkling

1 tablespoon butter

1/4 cup breadcrumbs

salt & pepper to taste

olive oil for drizzling

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the potatoes and quarter them. Boil in salted water until soft and cooked through. Drain and mash potatoes. Boil string beans until cooked through. Drain and pulse them in a food processor until they are broken up but not as far as pureed. Heat the onion in a small saucepan with the milk and a 1/4 cup water. Cook till softened. Drain.

Mix together the mashed potatoes, pulsed beans, cooked onions in a large mixing bowl. Add the eggs, and cheese, season with salt & pepper. Mix well. Butter a 9 X 13 sheet pan. Coat with the breadcrumbs and shake out excess. Press in the potato mixture until flattened and even. Using the tines of a fork press a pattern on the top. Sprinkle with parmigiano. Drizzle a little olive oil.

Bake for 20-30 minutes until golden. Let cool before cutting into squares for serving.

What I Buy at Trader Joe’s – Part 2

Oh, this list can go on forever, but I’ll try to fill in the blanks little by little, each time with a new list of goodies. I have fun at Trader Joe’s. I have fun at supermarkets period. At farmer’s markets. At Costco. At foreign supermarkets, outdoor markets, little food stores. Seeing food on display, deciding what you want, imagining recipes, discovering new products, sampling, happy to see the season’s new crops…I love all of that. It’s my idea of a good time.

New List of My Trader Joe’s Favs:

Fresh Artichokes – 4 medium artichokes to a pack – cheap money

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe's

Fresh Artichokes at Trader Joe’s

I am an artichoke junkie. I love the Italian word for artichokes: carciofi. Finding fresh ones, consistently, that aren’t the size of tractor trailers, that are human-sized, that you can cook up in the many ways I love to cook them (here’s one recipe), is sometimes the equivalent of obtaining the Holy Grail (yes, I exaggerate). But these are gold-like to me. And TJ’s is the only place where the packages are stacked high and easy to buy. I grew up eating them “Italian-style” then shared an apartment on LI with a California friend (hello, Castroville, CA, American capital of artichoke growing) and learned her way of eating them and then we came up with a recipe we both adored: boil or steam them till the heart is tender. Make a dip of mayo, lemon juice and soy sauce. Umami-central.

Olives (Picholine)

Trader Joe's Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s Picholine Olives

Trader Joe’s has 3 different olives that I love. Picholine is one of them. Perfect acidity, soft but al dente, goes with ANYTHING. My other favs are their pitted Kalamata and the green Jaques Lucques olives–oh, yum.

Red Argentinian Shrimp

Trader Joe's Argentine Shrimp

Trader Joe’s Argentinian Shrimp

These are in the freezer section. Raw, shelled. And are not always available. They SELL OUT. Something unusual about this shrimp. They are pink while raw, and they are soft when cooked. It’s an odd, pleasant, and luxurious sensation to bite into one, like you’ve been invited to the high gourmand table.

Trader Joe’s Italian Shelled Fava Beans

Trader Joe's Frozen Fava Beans

Trader Joe’s Frozen Fava Beans

This product is a boon to mankind. How often do you run across fresh fava beans? I do, sometimes. Sometimes in the regular supermarket. More often in the Asian market. But not always. THESE are out of their pods, but still in their individual shells. I just discovered them in TJ’s freezer section last month. LOVE. I give them a quick blanche, then peel each shell away to reveal that startling green lovely, so lovely, fava bean. My fav recipe: Sauté some sliced onion and diced pancetta in some olive oil. Add beans, add a bit of wine. Cook for just 5 minutes or so (TJ’s are young beans, so don’t need to cook too long). Add some salt. LOVE this.

Walnuts, Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe's Walnuts Halves & Pieces

Trader Joe’s Walnuts Halves & Pieces

So when I usually buy walnuts they are whole. Supposedly, that’s preferred. If you’re snacking on them I’m sure that whole is more satisfying. But if you’re cooking, I end up breaking them between my fingers (since on a board with a knife they tend to have a flight life all their own). Trader Joe’s sells them broken. TJ’s nut department– no, not the employees — nor the shoppers — but the nuts as in walnuts, pecans, pine nuts, cashews, peanuts, almonds is EXTENSIVE. It’s a pleasure just to peruse the shelves and marvel at the variety. Yes, you can get whole walnuts, but I like these broken ones…ready to go. Same with pecans, whole or broken, candied or salted, raw or roasted. And the list goes on…leaving an irresistible trail for you to follow …nibbling all the way.

Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe's Cocoa Powder

Trader Joe’s Cocoa Powder

I love this package. And I love this cocoa. What more could you want?

Blood Oranges (when they have them)

Trader Joe's Blood Oranges

Trader Joe’s Blood Oranges

I almost fainted when I saw this bag of blood oranges at Trader Joe’s this past January. They’re a rare commodity. They aren’t there now. But you never know. And that’s the thing about Trader Joe’s. They come up with seasonal stuff. (Like a 2-foot branch of Brussels sprouts. And their burnt-around-the edges-but yummy matzoh crackers only in around Passover.) And then it’s gone. Grab it when you can. These blood oranges are so delicious, not as sweet as “orange” oranges, but the tartness elevates the flavor. They’re so pretty and remind me of my student days in Rome. My other fav TJ’s orange is the Cara Cara.

That’s it for now. Stay tuned for Part 3. Because there’s always something cool to get at TJ’s. Don’t be shy about trying stuff. You will likely not go wrong. (They ain’t paying me for this.) (Maybe they should!) :)

TJ's Blood Oranges

TJ’s Blood Oranges

Hearts For Your Valentine (or for YOU)

Heart Tarts

Heart Tarts

Valentine’s Day can be fun, warm, and exciting…or major stress. Sweethearts stress over WHAT TO DO that is EXCEPTIONALLY romantic. And loners can’t bear another Kay Jewelers ad on TV.

My advice? Relax. If you love someone, you’re loving them every day. Just because they SAY this is the BIG day of love you don’t have to stand on your head over it. Just be together. That should be plenty. If you’re not with a sweetheart, then this is the day to love YOURSELF. Give yourself a gift. Treat yourself with tender care.

In any case, a nice easy heart-inspired sweet red dessert may be just the thing. Here’s mine. Mini-Heart-Tarts. They’re smile-producingly cute. Small bites of tasty pleasure. And tickle you while you bake.

Start with a defrosted sheet of puff pastry. And 2 heart cookie cutters…1 bigger than the other. Mine were 2 inches and 1.5-inches (borrowed from my mom’s cookie cutter collection).

cutting out the hearts

cutting out the hearts

Don’t have hearts? Find 2 other shapes, one smaller than the other. Doesn’t have to be hearts; this is your day to shape as you please. Cut out 2 larger hearts, then cut out a smaller heart from the middle of one of the larger hearts.

smaller heart

smaller heart

Brush egg wash on the larger heart and place the cut-out/stencil-looking larger heart on top so you have a small heart-opening. Brush the top with egg wash. Brush the little cut-out heart with egg wash, too.

hearts on sheet pan

hearts on sheet pan

Place them on sheet pan. Cut up some strawberries into small pieces, and/or raspberries, add some sugar and mix up in a mixing bowl…

Cut-up strawberries

Cut-up strawberries

Fill the smaller heart opening with your berries…

ready to bake

ready to bake

Sprinkle some sugar on top of each. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden in a 375 degree oven.

baked heart tarts

baked heart tarts

The border will puff up and the little hearts will puff up, too. Serve as is or add a dollop of whipped cream over the berries, and top with the little heart. A sprinkling of powdered sugar looks nice, too.

A heart for your heartthrob, a heart for a pal, a heart for your mom or sister, or dad or brother, a heart for you. Keeping the love pouring in all directions.

I Heart You

I Heart You

Strawberry Heart Pastries (makes about 8)

8 strawberries, or 12 raspberries, or combination, cut into tiny pieces

2 teaspoons sugar, plus extra for sprinkling

1 sheet puff pastry, thawed

1 egg, beaten for egg wash

1 2-inch heart cookie cutter

1 1.5 -inch heart cookie cutter, or smaller

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Mix the berry pieces with the sugar until well combined.

Lay out the puff pastry sheet on a lightly floured surface. Using the larger cookie cutter, cut out 2 hearts. Using the smaller cookie cutter, cut a heart within one of the larger hearts, leaving a border all around. Brush the whole large heart with egg. Place the heart with the cut-out over the large heart lining it up the borders to fit exactly on top. Brush top with egg. Fill open heart cut with pieces of strawberry. Place on parchment lined sheet pan. Brush tiny heart that you cut out with some egg wash. Place next to large heart on sheet pan. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Sprinkle the pastries lightly with sugar. Bake for about 15 minutes until golden.

Serve tiny puff pastry heart with each larger pastry, Optional: add a dollop of whipped cream.