I'm not sure where or how I first heard about The Gramercy Tavern (below). One of those NYC places that you dream about but can never get in should you actually find yourself in the city. Lucky for me that they finally decided to share their secrets via The Gramercy Tavern Cookbook. I had my name on the hold list at the public library for months waiting for my chance to borrow it. Though it's a big, glossy coffee table tome, I'm here to report it was well worth the wait.
That's because there are some great recipes in the book and they work. But most importantly, the book details the history of the restaurant and the staff from the top chef to the folks who do the flowers and wash the veggies. The recipes range from quick pickles to dishes that are complex enough I may only try them once. And over and over I read staffers talking about the difference between restaurant cooking and home cooking. Essentially they said they don't cook like this every night at home, but I figure fancy recipes can always be simplified or saved for special occasions.
Before I had to return the book to the library I made Baked Clams (pictured here), Vegetable Broth (which I froze in baggies in one cup measures as well as in ice cube trays), and Roasted Cauliflower with Quinoa, Prunes and Peanuts.
Since a number of recipes called for veggie broth and I had all the ingredients on hand, that was a quick easy recipe to try. The clams were not hard to prepare though the recipe required lots of chopping and mulitple steps. But they were fabulous! So I will probably make them again as a treat.
You can see from the photo below that I was working on a big project at the other end of the table. With such a nice meal as the clams, I wanted the setting to be on a par with the recipe. But I got lazy, pulled the plastic cloth over my workpile and we ate in semi-splendor.
This picture of the Roasted Cauliflower with Quinoa, Prunes and Peanuts (below) comes right from the cookbook. It is a stunning presentation. From now on I plan to cut my head of cauliflower into "steaks" which I will brown and then roast in the over, as in this recipe. I wanted to try this particular recipe because of the the quinoa, a dish we never eat. After reading this column in the NYTimes, we decided we needed to try new foods as well as foods we think we don't like and quinoa seemed like a good place to start.
Again, this was a dish that had lots of steps for the quinoa part. (I used red quinoa so it would be dark like the photo). To begin you make an onion puree, which is just one of the ingredients that gets mixed into the quinoa. And, frankly, we did not fall in love with the quinoa. But Smitten Kitchen has a different Gramercy Tavern recipe for roasted cauliflower steaks with almonds, capers and raisins. Much easier sounding and more to my taste so we'll try that soon.
I am also looking forward to trying some of Gramercy's interesting pickle combos (carrots with ginger and fennel seed, or turnips with saffron and coriander) and I made a note of their recipe for spaetzle which sounded more flavorful than mine. But if the temperature really hits 60 degrees F. (15.55 C.) this weekend, the spaetzle recipe will get shelved until next winter.