Sunday, March 20, 2011

Le Bernardin's Eric Ripert gives to the relief efforts in Japan

I don’t know about you, but I’m having a hard time getting my head around the earthquake, tsunami, and nuclear catastrophes in Japan.  While it’s been tough to watch and comprehend what is going on there, the grace with which the Japanese people are responding to these tragedies has left me awestruck. 
One of the best ways to help is, as always, through donating to the Red Cross/Crescent.  Eric Ripert, the brilliant chef of New York’s four star Le Bernardin, is offering another way:  until April 16th, all profits from the sale of the restaurant’s four cookbooks (Le Bernardin – Four Star Simplicity, A Return to Cooking, On The Lineand Avec Eric) will be donated directly to the Japanese relief efforts. 
It isn't surprising he is doing this; from what I read and hear, Eric Ripert is an engaged, generous spirit.  He chairs the board of NYC’s City Harvest’s Food Council, which brings together NYC best restaurants and chefs to help rescue and donate food to Manhattan’s hungriest citizens.  He is a practicing Buddist who retweets the Dalai Lama (taking my Twitter page up several notches!).  He has received France’s top honor, Legion d’Honneur, is a guest judge on Top Chef, and is host of PBS’s cooking show, Avec Eric
As a bit of enticement to order one of his books, I’m including a recipe from Avec Eric, the companion piece to his awesome PBS series.  On the show, ER travels the globe to find the highest quality ingredients made by food artisans, cooking what he discovers into the most sublime meals. 
Purchasing a cookbook as a way of donating money to the people of Japan may seem like a roundabout way of helping, but every bit counts.  I hope you join in. 
Adapted from Avec Eric

Le Bernardin is arguably the top seafood restaurant in the United States so it’s a little odd of all his recipes, I’m making a non-seafood pasta dish. Well, it would be odd except that I’m sort of obsessed with pasta and could eat it every day of the week.  I saw ER make this on Avec Eric and have been eager to try it ever since.  I had a few slices of Flying Pigs Farm delicious bacon in the fridge, along with Ronnybrook crème fraiche and I decided the time was now!  The tanginess of the crème fraiche really makes this simple, rich, elegant dish sing.  

½ cup diced applewood smoked bacon
2 cups crème fraiche
2 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Kosher salt
8 ounces dried linguine
1 ½ cups freshly grated Parmesan cheese plus more for garnish
4 tablespoons thinly sliced fresh chives

Bring a large pot of salted water to boil over high heat.

Meanwhile, sauté the bacon in a large skillet over medium-low heat until crisp, about 10 minutes.  Add the crème fraiche and bring to a simmer.  Whisk the egg yolks into the sauce.  Add the black pepper and season to taste with salt.

When ready to serve, cook the linguine in the boiling salted water until al dente.  Drain the pasta and add to the sauce.  Stir in 1 ½ cups of the Parmesan cheese and chives; let stand for 1 minute to allow all the flavors to blend.

Using a meat or carving fork, twirl a quarter of the pasta (for each serving) and place each swirl of pasta in the center of 4 bowls.  Spoon some of the sauce over and around the pasta and top with more grated Parmesan cheese, as desired.  Serve immediately.

Serves 4

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Empire Organics NYcheese

Not too long ago while dodging baby strollers and runaway kids in the Tribeca Whole Foods, I passed a tasting table with cheese.  Never one to pass up a free bite of fromage, especially one with a label containing the words “NY” and “organic”, I stopped to taste.  It was good!  Really good. 
NYcheese is made under the Empire Organics label by two New York dairy farmers, Dan France and Dean Sparks.  They make five types of cheese - raw milk cheddar, Colby, Monterey Jack, pepper jack, and smoked mozzarella – using organic cow’s milk supplied by 20 independent upstate dairy farmers. 
In addition to cheese, Empire Organics sell milk, yogurt, ice cream, and eggs.  Dan and Dean’s mission is two-fold: first to help save small New York organic farms by providing them a guaranteed fair price for their milk; and second, to provide fellow New Yorkers with locally made, organic dairy products.
I left Whole Foods that day with a block of their cheddar.  The Northeast has many talented artisanal cheesemakers producing phenomenally good, award-winning cheeses worth the higher price they often ask for. I enjoy supporting their efforts but also appreciate companies like Empire Organics whose aim to make an excellent everyday cheese that won’t break the bank is slightly less lofty but equally as deserving of support.