After a 6-month standoff, Brooklyn and I finally came face to face, resulting in immediate attraction, my curiosity peaked. My first journey across the canal (don't ask me what the body of water separating Queens and Brooklyn is called) took place this Saturday as new-roommate Liz and I ventured that beacon of interior design, Ikea. Placed waterside in Red Hook, this massive shopping center, surrounding by residential Brooklyn and New York skyline, instantly brought back memories of Midwest malls and all-encompassing corporate checkouts. After all, there was not only a parking lot, but tons of open spaces, and all for free (a rarity in congested NYC). For the Ikea virgins among you, I come to you like a newly deflowered teenager to tell what it's really like. Part Lowe's-esque warehouse, part of showroom/gallery, one ascends the opening escalators into the maze of interior showroom and model households (i.e. "Your Home: in 360 square feet). Demanding smart-shopper principles, you traverse the beautiful assemblies of bookshelfs, ottomans, and light fixtures, touching, feeling, and measuring, exploring the infinite possibilities of what your home (let's be honest: apartment) can be. Once a set item, the piece that will simply complete your living room, you take not of it's item, aisle, and bin number. Before you know it, your notepad is full and you are wondering how you will get this treasure trove home (not to mention if your credit limit will suffice). Like a grown-up Candyland, filled with winding paths and wondrous sights, one should not underestimate the journey to the final checkout. As you venture from model rooms, to kitchen gadgets, to the garden of planters, and the hall of lights, one's perseverence and patience can quickly fade, the eyes becoming numb to the many treasures. Soon enough, you have forgotten why you have entered this plexiglass paradise and are longing for your unfurnished home. Then you turn the corner and before you know it, you are scarfing down there cinnamon and Swedish meatballs (they are a Swedish company after all), refreshed, an easy sucker to their money-grabbing ploys. After bounding through a final battleground of candles, plants, and pet accessories, you find yourself in the daunting warehouse section. Mountains of cardboard boxes abound and if you happened to miss an aisle or bin number, you are shit out of luck. Do your best to drive one of the unmanageable flatbed carts, steering clear of small children, intricate displays, and wandering Asians. Push on soldier, you are almost there. And finally, one finds oneself in the checkout line, the end in sight. After surrendering your credit card up to the pursuits of greater feng shui (and if you bought small items like we did, you will undoubtedly buy one of their reusable shopping bags), good luck hobbling to your car then making it home with your purchases (if you aren't lucky to have a roommate with an SUV-driving boyfriend, this step is much more difficult). Back in Queens, following a minor "Low Gas Light" scare, Liz and I ambled our purchases to the third floor. All in all, it was a successful, though daunting trip. I even managed to (mostly) put together my book shelf, a glass of wine by my side. Now, if only I had a bed . . .
Sunday interestingly brought me to Brooklyn yet again for Brunch fun with my friend Carrie and her boyfriend Michael. As I took the L-train out of Manhattan, I emerged from the subway in Williamsburg, home of hairy chested hipsters, cool cafés, and sidewalk sales. I saw tattoos of all sorts, bold lipstick and mascara choices, the tightest of pants, and cut-off everythings. The sun was shining and Brooklyn's best were out with everything hanging out. While we had our sights set on much-talked-about Egg, its never-ending wait list eventually got the best of us and we opted for its next door neighbor Cafe Julliet. The French-inspired menu was quite admirable and after much debate over the fried striped bass sandwich or eggs with goat cheese, I opted for the Autumn Salad, a delicious (and I'd like to think healthy) mix of poached chicken, pumpkin seeds, shaved manchego, roasted butternut squash, green apples, and mesclun greens. It went wonderful with my Blood Orange mimosa and left me feeling light and happy. Carrie chose the Eggs Florentine Benedict (I decided the Hollandaise and I needed a break), while Michael had a deliciously golden brown Croque Monsieur. It looked delicious and reminded me of my summer with Tom (my attempts at the classic French sandwich never quite looked that way). On the way back to the train, buzzed from another near-religious brunch experience, I fell victim to a sidewalk book sale, picking up a copy of Dr. Seuss's You're Only Old Once: A Book for Obsolete Children. It looked like something I simply couldn't resist and might never find again. I found my first visit to Brooklyn, the haven of cool white kids, a success and am looking forward to my next visit. And remember, the early bird gets the Egg.
Sautéed Broccoli Rabe and Sausage with Quinoa
This is a great, healthy dinner using some of my favorite products. Quinoa is a seedlike grain, similar to rice that is packed with nutrients including Omega-3's. Treat it like rice or pasta and enjoy.
1 Bunch Broccoli Rabe, Washed and Cut into large pieces
1/2 large onion
Red Pepper Flakes
Anchovy Paste (optional)
2-4 cloves Garlic
1 package Italian-Style Turkey Sausage
10-15 grape tomatoes (eyeball it), halved
1/2 cup Red Wine (eyeball it): I used Cote du Rhone, but Malbec, Shiraz, or Chianti would also work great (or whatever you have on hand)
For the Quinoa (Some of these steps can be done simultaneously):
Use a 2:1 ratio of liquid to quinoa. If you have chicken broth/stock, use that, if not just use water. Bring 2 cups liquid plus 1/4 teaspoon salt and 1 TB butter or oil to boil. Once rolling boil is established, add the quinoa and reduce heat to medium. Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes, stirring occassionally, until the quinoa becomes translucent and is tender.
For the Broccoli Rabe:
Before beginning the dish, blanch the the broccoli rabe for a few minutes until tender in boiling, heavily salted water. Once tender, immediately put in a ice bath and set aside until later. This removes some of the bitterness and insures a properly cooked vegetable.
In a large, deep skillet, heat a couple turns of E.V.O.O over medium heat then add 1 tsp (less for a milder dish) red pepper flake and one squirt of anchovy paste. Allow to cook for one minute until the oil becomes fragrant and ingredients are incorporated. Add the onions and allow them to work for a few minutes. Next, add the ground sausage and begin to break apart with a wooden spoon. Season with salt, pepper, and Italian Seasoning. Once the meat is cooked through, drain off some of the fat and add the tomatoes, garlic and cooked broccoli rabe. Sauté together for a few minutes until ingredients are mixed together. Add the red wine and allow liquid to reduce. Check for proper seasoning and serve once the vegetables are hot. Top with freshly grated or shaved Parmesan cheese. Serve alongside the quinoa and a glass of the wine you used to cook with.