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the sweet scoop
the sweet scoop
Yesterday, I had a fantastic lunch at Houseman restaurant in Hudson Square with a bunch of food industry friends, and the meal was a knockout—from the double-decker burger with caramelized onion and roasted mushroom relish to the French onion soup sandwich, and everything in between. One particular dish stood out as it was like nothing I’ve ever tasted before: the roasted-squash salad. Wow.
Tender, sweet kabocha squash gets coated with a vibrant dressing of herbs, pistachios, feta cheese, and vinegar-plumped currants—creating a bold flavor-texture punch that beautifully showcases the season. If you can’t get to Houseman to experience the real thing soon, lucky for you, Sam Sifton published the recipe for this vegetarian stunner in the Times so you can recreate it at home. Enjoy!
Houseman’s Roasted-Squash Salad
Originally published in the NY Times
Step 1: Put the currants in a small bowl, and pour the white-wine vinegar over them. Allow them to macerate for several hours or overnight, though in a pinch you can allow them to plump up while you prepare the squash. Heat oven to 450.
Step 2: Cut the squash in half, scoop out the seeds, peel both halves (if you like: the skin of the kabocha squash is edible) and slice the squash into 1/4-inch half moons. Dress the squash lightly with 1 to 2 tablespoons of the olive oil, and season with the salt. Place the squash on a parchment-lined sheet pan, and roast until soft and caramelized, approximately 15 to 20 minutes, turning the pieces once or twice during the process. Remove the squash from the oven, and set aside to cool.
Step 3: Meanwhile, in a medium-size bowl, combine the fennel seed, sumac and coriander, then
add the parsley and cilantro, and stir to combine. Add 1/3 cup olive oil, and stir to combine. You want a wet mixture and may need to add a couple of extra tablespoons of oil to get it.
Step 4: Drain the currants, reserving the vinegar, and add them to the green sauce. Add the lime juice, pistachios, cheese, 6 tablespoons olive oil and 5 teaspoons vinegar from the pickled currants to the green sauce. Taste, and add more lime juice or vinegar if you like, along with a spray of salt.
Step 5: Place squash on a warm platter, and spoon the dressing over the top.
In Provincial France, a Mas is known as a country farmhouse that grows all the products to nourish the estate onsite. Though located in the heart of the West Village, Mas (la grillade) seeks out seasonal ingredients from small, organic and sustainable farms in communities surrounding New York City—thus forming its “estate.”
Since 2004, chef Galen Zamarra has been a leader in farm-to-table dining at Mas (farmhouse), his first WV establishment. Utilizing his years of experience, farmer connections and sustainable approach to fine dining, Galen opened Mas (la grillade) in late 2011. He showcases a seasonal menu of locally grown, sustainably raised foods cooked solely over fires of oak, apple and other hardwoods. When you open the Seventh Avenue South doors, you’ll be greeted by the sweet fragrance of smoky, burning wood. A small bar and glass-walled wine room open into an elegant split-level dining room filled with wood tables, white tablecloths and a bright skylight ceiling.
The prix fixe and à la carte menu debuts fresh starters, like a salad of sliced roasted beets, pickled onions, marinated cucumbers and velvety smoked ricotta. Precise fire-grilled preparations let the flavors and beautiful qualities of the ingredients shine in each dish. An entrée of grilled duck presented succulent smoky medallions, rimmed with a thin layer of fat beneath the skin, plated over tender Swiss chard. Perfectly seared scallops laid atop a bed of grilled fennel and spring greens, drizzled with vibrant saffron-dill aioli. A subtle smokiness permeated every element on the plate; it was lovely.
Grilled vegetables, like wild ramps and hen of the wood mushrooms, along with fruit-based desserts, artisanal cheeses and house-made ice creams complete the menu. Creamy ricotta and local honey ice creams were already melting when placed on our table; nonetheless, they provided a tangy, refreshing finish to an overall wonderful meal.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2013 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of Mas (la grillade).
For one of the most autentico Italian experiences around, get your appetite ready and head to Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria. NoHo’s rustic market, salumeria, bakery, wine bar and restaurant is an extension of former chef Ignacio Mattos’s original Il Buco, located on adjacent Bond Street.
In the front Alimentari grocery section, you can purchase artisanal dry goods, cured meats, and freshly baked bread to enjoy at home. Or settle into the warm, cozy Vineria and restaurant to sample seasonal specialties featuring organic, local produce and proteins from eco-friendly farms—which chef Justin Smillie precisely crafts using traditional Italian methods. Varied individual and high communal tables invites sharing the love with friends—or making new ones. Belly up to a spot by the open kitchen for a front row view of the staff busily churning out delicacies.
While the atmosphere charms, the simple, straightforward cuisine is most likely to entice a repeat visit. Served with crusty, chewy Italian bread, the house-made ricotta is a must have starter. A pillow of soft curds garnished with sugar snap peas, toasted pine nuts, mint, granola and a swirl of honey offered an inviting sweet-savory sensation. Another knockout appetizer of Manila clams arrived resting in zesty roasted pepper and garlic broth, thick cubes of pancetta sprinkled throughout.
Vegetable contorni, charcuterie and fresh pastas, seafood and meats complete the menu. Try the delicate twirls of “busiate” pasta coated with almonds, anchovies, sun-ripened duana tomatoes and capers. For a heartier entrée, the signature spit-roasted short ribs presented large chunks of tender, peppery meat edged by darkened, chewy bark. They were both exceptional mains.
Offering breakfast, lunch and dinner, Il Buco Alimentari & Vineria is a solid choice for a romantic date night or breaking bread with a group. Make a reservation to guarantee a prompt seating—then prepare to mangia.
My review as published in the Clean Plates Manhattan 2013 Restaurant Guide Book (purchase it here) and on CleanPlates.com. Photo courtesy of LocalEats.com.