Going to New York is always a treat. Like everyone else, I love
walking around the city. A leisurely stroll through Central Park when
the flowering trees are in bloom is one of life's great pleasures.
A visit to a museum is also a must. This trip we went to MOMA, where special exhibits by Marina Abramovic and William Kentridge were causing a stir, especially Abramovic's use of nudes as an element of her performance pieces. For myself, I never tire of the permanent collection with its iconic works by Van Gogh and Matisse, among other masters.
Since I'm not in the city as often as I'd like, I look forward to visiting my favorite places to eat: Gray's Papaya (Broadway at 72nd) for the $4.45 Recession Special (2 hot dogs with everything and a medium Pina Colada), Piada (3 Clinton Street below Houston) for a panini and espresso, and the salt and pepper shrimp at Nha Trang One (87 Baxter Street below Canal).
A friend who is an expert on the food scene, highly recommended several dishes, especially a salad, at a new restaurant in the East Village called Northern Spy (511 East 12th Street between Ave. A & B, 212/228-5100). The unassuming space has a country feel that immediately makes you feel at home. Locally sourced produce and meats are put to good use in refreshingly simple and inventive ways.
Meat eaters will be in pig heaven--literally--with Chef Nathan Foot's pork terrine with homemade pickled carrots and celery root, pork shoulder meatballs in tomato sauce, and a special of crispy pork belly and potato hash and wild arugula. Classically trained, Chef Foot described the inspiration for the menu, which changes seasonally, as "being the kind of food I'd feed to my chef friends."
Affordably priced (most dishes are $10-15), the menu also has plenty for
vegetarians. Risotto with butternut squash and mascarpone (Freekeh
Risoto), a Farmers' Salad with a collection of root vegetables,
several soups including navy bean and chilled celery root, five dollar
sides of quinoa, wild rice (with feta, mint, and lemon), runner beans,
collard greens, and roasted potatoes, polenta with braised greens and
roasted mushrooms, and, the dish my friend had enthusiastically
recommended, the kale salad.
I use kale frequently but never in a salad because I've always thought the stiff leaves needed to be sauteed or braised. At Northern Spy, kale is presented as nature intended--raw. Julienned, the kale presents a good base of support for the contrasting qualities of sharp, creamy cheddar, sweet, yielding kobacha, and crispy almonds. Finished with a lemon vinaigrette, the salad is refreshingly light with a hint of sweetness.
I experimented at home and discovered that the salad is easy to make. I made a few changes in my version, which was delicious, but all the credit goes to Chef Foot.
A Spring Salad of Black Kale, Kobacha Squash, Cheddar Cheese, and Almonds
Time: 45 minutes
Yield: 4 servings
1 small kobacha squash, about 2 pounds
1 bunch black or Tuscan kale, washed, stems removed, julienned
1 cup cheddar, a good quality English or Irish cheddar, cut into 1/2" squares
1 tablespoon whole almonds, roasted unsalted, roughly chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
Sea salt and pepper
Cut the squash into quarters, scrape out the seeds and fibers on the inside. Place in a steamer. Add 2 cups of water to the pot. Cover and cook on high heat for 10 minutes until soft, remove, and let cool. Remove the skin and discard.
You will need a cup of cooked squash. Reserve the left over portion to use in a soup or as a side dish with a grilled meat. Cut the cooked squash into 1/2" squares.
In a small saucepan, reduce the balsamic vinegar to 1 tablespoon. Set aside to cool.
Place the julienned kale on the bottom of a serving bowl, sprinkle the squash, cheddar, and almonds over the top and dress with olive oil, reduced balsamic vinegar, and season with sea salt and pepper.
Chef Foot sprinkles freshly grated pecorino romano on top of the salad
Add 1/4 cup thinly sliced red onion rings to the salad
David Latt is an Emmy-award winning television producer who turns to cooking to alleviate stress. He shares his experiences with food and his favorite recipes on his blog Men Who Like To Cook.