"The people who give you their food give you their heart" - Cesar Chavez

Friday, April 30, 2010

Stuffed Salmon After 9 Mile Hike

Last Saturday I went for a wonderful hike with two friends, Pam and Amy. The hike was in the Black Rock Forest and it was a 9 mile loop that went up and over three summits. Here is a picture from the summit of Rattlesnake Hill where we had lunch, it's not everyday we get a view this lovely for lunch:
Here are the three of us by a resevoir we passed on the way up to the summit:
After the hike, we were dropped off near Fairway's on the Upper West Side. Being the endorphin pumped foodie that I am after a 9 mile hike, I called a couple of friends to come over for dinner and it quickly snowballed into a spontaneous dinner party for 6 people. Not sure of what to make I decided to keep it simple and healthy and filling. Four courses would be suitable. This is the first and main course of the dinner and the other dishes will be featured later. As an appetizer we had a fancy cheese plate with fresh warmed bread, chutneys, and fresh fruit and honey. We also had couscous cakes with corn salsa. We had two vegetable dishes: fancy sauteed string beans and roasted root vegetables. For the main course we had stuffed salmon and lots of white wine. Even though it can be a bit pricey, I love buying fresh wild salmon. Fairway's is wonderful for anything fresh. I decided to stuff the thick salmon fillets with a spinach, sun dried tomato, and pine nut combo. Broiled with some herbs, it was perfect, flaky and yummy and I've been eating leftovers with my lunch all week! This dish literally takes 15 minutes.

Stuffed Salmon
(Serves 6-8)

6 large salmon fillets, no bones
1 10 ounce bag baby spinach
Sun dried tomatoes
Pine nuts
Kosher salt

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
2. Finely chop the spinach and sun dried tomatoes and pine nuts and mix them all together in a small bowl so that you have an even amount of each ingredient in the bowl.
3. Slice a pocket in the thick part of each fillet and stuff the spinach mixture inside so it is almost over flowing. Spinkle each fillet generoulsy with salt, pepper and oregano. Place them on a broiler pan.
4. Turn the oven onto a high broil and broil the fillets for 8-10 minutes until they are just cooked through. A little trick I have learned is that if you remove the fillets from the oven when they are still pink and just barely uncooked on the inside, they will cook the rest of the way outside the oven so that they will be perfectly flaky and lovely.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

NY Restaurant Review: Apizza

There is a new pizza shop on Avenue A, Apizza, that is giving Muzzarella a run for it's money. Apizza is a Stanton Island import and has won such accolades as "Best Pizza" from the Village Voice and other, lesser known, Stanton Island periodicals. I've walked by this place numerous times but never went in until I needed dough one day to make a Breakfast Pizza. After chatting it up with the friendly manager and long-time advocate of Apizza, Mark (or maybe his name was Mike or Matt), he gave me a gift card for four free slices of pizza! This is like winning a mini lottery for me. On a recent late-nigh jaunt with some co-workers, we found ourselves near Apizza in the East Village, so we went and redeemed my four free slices. It turns out that Apizza has just four different types of pizzas, this made the whole decision making process pretty easy. Without a doubt Apizza's pizza is one of the best I've had in the city. It is at a tie for number one with Lombardi's in my opinion. Apizza blows Muzzarella out of the water. So the photograph above is of the four free slices, here is what they are clockwise from top left: Four Cheese Sicilian, Signature Sicilian, Old Fashioned Grandma Sicilian, Traditional Neapolitan. My favorites of these were definitely the Four Cheese Sicilian and the Signature Sicilian. The dough is perfect in texture and flavor, their homemade sauce is chunky and flavorful, the cheese is warm and perfect. Everything is perfect about the pizza at Apizza. As far as I am concerned, the only problem with the place is that they are always playing loud violent gang gun scenes on the large flat screen which is not the pleasant entertainment for enjoying some of the city's best pizza.

201 Avenue A, between 12th and 13th Street

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

Middle Eastern Morning Medley

One of my top three favorite ways to start a Sunday is to cook a meal that uses up random ingredients from my refrigerator. This particular meal was one of those this-is-what-I-have-let's-make-it-work situations. I had leftover couscous from the night before and some of the mushroom crostini as well so I wanted to make a sort of filling and chunky mixture to eat with the couscous. It had to be flavorful since couscous alone has a rather bland flavor. Assessing my ingredient inventory I noticed I had quite a few jars of different olives and a large jar of tahini. Olives are a Middle Eastern food as is tahini, these would quickly become my base. This morning medley (I can't come up with any other name for it) was surprisingly tasty for having no idea what I was doing. Also, the leftovers tasted great the next day over some toasted pita or as a sauce for chicken.

Middle Eastern Morning Medley
(Makes 3 large servings)

1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup pitted Spanish green olives
1/4 cup pitted Kalamata olives
1 1/2 tablespoons minced garlic
1/4 cup tahini
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice
2 tablespoons olive oil

1. Heat the olive oil in a non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Add in the garlic and saute until fragrant. Add in the olives and raisins, drizzle the red wine vinegar and lemon juice over them. Sprinkle the mixture generously with oregano and spoon the tahini into it. Mix around until all the ingredients are incorporated and the tahini is evenly dispersed. Lower the heat to medium and let flavors dance for about 8-10 minutes.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Cake Art Coconut Macaroons with Almonds and Chocolate Frosting

One of my best friends, Erica's, mother runs a wonderful baking supplies store in our home town, San Rafael, California. It's called Cake Art Supplies and this is my second time making something from a mix from the store. The first item I made was from a Cake Art mix for the most delicious brownies I've ever had. For my birthday, Erica sent me a box with a mix for coconut macaroons and another brownie mix! These macaroons were hands-down the best I've ever had. They stayed moist for a whole week and they were perfectly gooey and delicious. I added some sliced almonds to the mixture and while the macaroons baked I made some chocolate frosting to drizzle over them. These were very tasty and everyone who tried one couldn't stop at just one!

Cake Art Coconut Macaroons with Almonds and Chocolate Frosting

1 pound Cake Art Coconut Macaroon Mix
5 ounces boiling water
3/4 cup sliced almonds
5.5 ounces dark chocolate, chopped
3 tablespoons heavy cream

1. Preheat the oven to 375, cover two baking sheets with parchment paper.
2. Stir in the boiling water into the macaroon mix and let it stand for 5 minutes. Stir in the sliced almonds.
3. Spoon the batter onto the cookie sheets and bake for 15-18 minutes, or until macaroons are golden brown on top. Let cool on a cookie rack.
4. While macaroons are cooling, microwave the cream and chopped chocolate on high for 3 minutes. Stir and microwave for longer if necessary.
5. Dip the bottom of the cooled macaroons into the melted chocolate and drizzle the chocolate on top. Enjoy with milk or tea!

Monday, April 26, 2010

Mushroom Crostini

A little while ago I had my cousin, Megan, and good friend, Sarah, over for dinner. I wanted to have a warm appetizer for us while we waited for the main meal of a warm goat cheese salad and chicken marbella. I picked up a whole grain baguette and some strong smelling blue cheese from East Village Cheese which is my favorite store for cheese, marinated artichoke hearts and dolmas. I am a huge fan of mushrooms and when mixed with a creamy sauce, I think they taste delicious with pasta, salad, crackers or bread. I served these warm on toasted bread. The leftovers I had the following morning on bread for a sandwich with sun dried tomatoes and spinach. The lovely thing about this mushroom mixture is the blue cheese makes for a subtle tanginess and extra creamy texture. Rather than using real cream for this I decided to use soy milk with provides for a still creamy flavor but much healthier and lighter flavor.

Mushroom Crostini

12 ounces mixed mushrooms (I used bella button mushrooms and shitake), chopped

3 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup soy milk
1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese
1 whole grain baguette, sliced

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
2. In a skillet, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Saute the garlic for a couple minutes and add in the mushrooms. Saute until mushrooms are soft, about 4 minutes. Add in the soy milk and sprinkle the thyme in and saute until all the soy milk is absorbed. Then add in the crumbled blue cheese and turn off the heat and saute to melt the cheese. Set mixture aside.
3. On a baking sheet toast the bread slices for about 4 minutes. Remove from oven and top each slice with a generous amount of the mushroom mixture. Place the sheet back into the oven until it is heated through, about 8 minutes. Serve warm and enjoy!

Thursday, April 22, 2010

Warm Goat Cheese Salad

The first time I ever had warm goat cheese was also the first time I ever really started enjoying cheese. I can't remember where I was, but I know I was with my cousin Megan and it was part of a salad and it was in 2008 I think. Since then, I haven't had warm goat cheese. With Megan and Sarah coming for dinner I though it was the perfect opportunity to try and make a warm goat cheese salad. This was last Saturday and to make less work for the evening meal, I decided to do all the prep work for the goat cheese rounds in the morning. This definitely helped because it made the cheese firm with the crust so that it was easier to fry. I served these warm rounds with fresh strawberries, mixed greens and almond slices. The salad was fresh, and the creaminess of the goat cheese was the perfect compliment.
Warm Goat Cheese Salad

1 cup panko crumbs
2 tablespoons fresh thyme, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped
2 tablespoons fresh basil, chopped
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
12 ounces goat cheese, in roll form
2 egg whites - beaten until frothy
Olive oil
Mixed greens
Strawberries, sliced
Sliced almonds

1. In a bowl, combine the panko crumbs, thyme, parsley, basil and ground pepper.
2. Slice the goat cheese and use your hands to make rounds. Beat the eggs whites in a separate bowl until they are frothy. Dip the goat cheese rounds into the egg white mixture, then the panko mixture and place on a plate. Cover and chill for at least one hour, up to 8 hours.
3. Prepare the salad of mixed greens, strawberries and sliced almonds in a large bowl.
4. Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium high heat. Place the goat cheese rounds on the skillet and let sizzle for about 3 minutes on each side. You want the crust to turn a nice golden brown. Serve warm with salad.
5. For a dressing, mix and taste olive oil, red wine vinegar, honey, and lemon juice.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Chicken Marbella

My cousin, Megan, and good friend, Sarah, were coming over for dinner and we wanted to make something elegant, delicious and healthy. My aunt Sue, Megan's mom, is a great cook and had e-mailed us this recipe for chicken marbella. This recipe calls for marinating the chicken over night, however it was a Saturday evening and we were going to improvise. I will definitely make this again and for sure marinate it overnight. We served this chicken dish over a bed of whole wheat couscous and with a warm goat cheese salad. This was delicious and juicy and very flavorful.

Chicken Marbella
(Serves 3)

3 large chicken breasts
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 1/2 tablespoons dried oregano
Sea salt
Ground pepper
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3/4 cup pitted prunes (or more)
3/4 cup pitted Spanish green olives (or more)
3 tablespoons capers, with juice
6 bay leaves
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup white wine
1/4 cup Italian flat leaf parsley

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Arrange the chicken breasts in a single layer in a glass baking dish. Sprinkle brown sugar evenly over the three breasts. Generously sprinkle the garlic, oregano, sea salt and ground pepper over the breasts. Drizzle the red wine vinegar and white whine evenly through out the dish. Add the bay leaves, olives, prunes and capers.
2. Bake for 50 minutes. Sprinkle parsley over the breasts and spoon the juices over the olives, prunes and capers. Enjoy!

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Andy's Cioppino

Another delicious meal by my good friend, Andy. This was also my first time ever having seafood stew! This was chock full of mussels, shrimp, squid, scallops, halibut and carrots, celery, tomato base and a tinge of fish sauce as a secret ingredient! Here is an interesting fact about Cioppino, or Italian seafood stew: it originated in San Francisco as a compilation of foods consumed at sea. It was developed in the late 1800s by Italian fisherman who settled in the North Beach section of San Francisco. It is a hodge podge of various regional Italian fish soups and stews.. Unfortunately I do not have an exact recipe - only photographs to drool over.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Moroccan Carrot Salad

My good friend and I decided to make gyros for dinner. I peaked into a falafel shop to see what toppings they were serving with their shawarma and I saw this lovely looking carrot salad. I have heard of Moroccan carrot salads before, but I had yet to make one. The ginger in this salad is what really brought the whole thing together. Also, I recommend making this few hours before you plan to eat it because it really tastes much better after the ingredients have set for a few hours. Carrots used raw in salads is a relatively new addition to our culinary history. Europeans would eat carrot cooked in stews however it was primarily in Northwestern Africa that raw carrots became a feature of salads. Since then the raw carrot salad has spread east to Israel and it is now a typical Rosh Hashanah dish. Also, I found that raw carrot salads were frequently served as accompaniments to at Israeli restaurants with bread, pickles, hummus and cabbage salad. There are a number of different ways to make this salad and had I had some harissa (a northwest African chili paste) I certainly would have used that! I used basil in this carrot salad because I didn't have any fresh mint, however feel free to swap the basil and mint. Other options for ingredients that would taste good in this include orange juice, orange blossom water, or a little bit of plain yogurt. Enjoy your leftovers for lunch or with couscous! Here is a picture of the carrot salad with the other gyro accompaniments:
Moroccan Carrot Salad

1 lb carrots, peeled and thinly sliced
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 cup chopped fresh basil
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons cumin
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cayenne pepper
3 small green chilies, minced

1. Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl. Cover and chill for at least 2 hours or up to two days.
2. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki

It started with the spanakopita...I had to make more Greek food. Next up, a delicious street food, the gyro is a Greek dish made from meat, tomato, onion and tzatziki served with pita bread. I added in an Israeli salad of cucumber, tomato and kalamata and a Moroccan carrot salad to add some extra oomph to the gyro. Since I don't have a vertical spit in my apartment to make the proper shawarma meat, I opted for shawarma seasoning and grilled chicken breasts. I learned that Gyros were introduced to the United States first in Chicago in the 1960s. It's a delicious food combination of fresh and flavorful ingredients and takes on a slightly different variation in each country surrounding the Mediterranean. My good friend and I were strolling the East Village when we decided to make Gyros for dinner. The only part we did not make from scratch was the actual pita which we bought from a street vendor on 11th street and 1st ave who always has delicious smelling gyros. For some added inspiration of what we could use as toppings for our gyros, we strolled into a shawarma and falafel shop on 1st ave and I took at peak at the salad bar and instantly got some ideas for a Greek influenced Israeli salad and a Moroccan carrot salad. Disclosure: this meal is very garlic heavy. The flavor of the shawarma chicken, with the spice of the carrot salad and the creaminess of the tzatziki is an incredible combination! You can pick up shawarma seasoning at ethnic or Middle Eastern grocery stores.
Chicken Gyros and Tzatziki

Chicken tenderloins
Shawarma seasoning
Olive oil
Moroccan carrot salad
Israeli salad

10 ounces yogurt, preferably Greek yogurt
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/3 large cucumber, thinly sliced and then chopped
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon lemon juice

1. Cut chicken tenderloins into strips and place in a zip lock bag. Drizzle olive oil in the bag and add a generous amount of shawarma seasoning (I use the Perez brand). Seal the bag and gently mix the ingredients so that the chicken is evenly coated and seasoned. Refrigerate for at least 2 hours, up to 8 hours.
2. For the tzatziki, put the yogurt, garlic, cucumber, red wine vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl and mix until everything is evenly incorporated. Cover and let chill for at least 2 hours. Tzatziki can be made 1 day in advance.
2. Heat an indoor double burner grill, flat side up, over high heat. Spray grill with cooking oil. Cook the chicken strips on the grill, about 4 minutes per side (I like to use wooden tongs). Remove strips when fully cooked and heat pita in on the grill. The pita will get some of the great flavor from the shawarma chicken.
Serve warm with heated pita, Israeli salad, Moroccan carrot salad and tzatziki.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Celadon's Coconut Cookies

My roommate made the most incredible coconut cookies last week and these are definitely one of my top four favorite cookies! In no special order my top four favorite cookies are: Levain Bakery, Ben's Cookies in London, Andy's White Chocolate Chip Macadamia Nut and now, Celadon's Coconut Cookies. These coconut cookies were perfectly chewy and moist and tasted great with milk! She found this recipe by Rachel Ray and adapted it to make these perfect cookies.. Enjoy!

Celadon's Coconut Cookies
(Makes 36 cookies)

1/2 cup flour
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
4 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1 large egg
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla
1 1/2 cups coconut chips

1. Preheat the oven to 375°. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt.
2. Using an electric mixer, beat the butter and sugar at medium-high speed until creamy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla. Beat in the flour mixture on low speed. Stir in the coconut chips.
3. Place rounded teaspoons of dough about an inch apart on the prepared cookie sheet. Bake until the edges are golden, 10 to 12 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches

Working at an Italian restaurant in college, I served up a lot of warm plates of eggplant parmesan. It was always served for dinner with potatoes and vegetables, but I would always request to have mine served with warm French bread. I love the eggplant and cheese combination. The secret ingredient in this sandwich is definitely the balsamic vinegar. The tanginess of it complements the creaminess of the cheese and the sweetness of the basil. Add more cheese to this recipe if you are into that!
Eggplant Parmesan Sandwiches
(Makes 3 sandwiches)

3 whole wheat rolls
2 plum tomatoes, thickly sliced
3/4 cup marinara sauce
1 small eggplant, sliced lengthwise
1/3 cup grated parmesan cheese
1 cup fresh basil leaves
2-3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
Olive oil
Ground pepper

1. Sprinkle salt on the eggplant slices and let them rest on a paper towel for about 30 minutes.
2. Heat a double burner grill on high and spray with cooking oil. Cut the rolls in half and grill on the flat side for a few minutes until bread is warm and has grill marks, set aside.
3. Place the eggplant slices flat on the grill and drizzle with olive oil, oregano and ground pepper. Grill for about 3 minutes on one side then flip and cover the grilled side with parmesan cheese. Cover with a piece of foil and grill until cheese is completely melted, about 3 minutes.
4. Spread both halves of the roll generously with marinara sauce. Place the cheesy eggplant on one side and the tomato slices on top of the eggplant. Top with a generous drizzle of balsamic vinegar and a small handful of basil leaves and top it off with the other slice of bread. Press down and enjoy!

Monday, April 12, 2010


I have had the strangest craving for spanakopita all last week but I knew it would be a rather labor intensive process to make so I decided to hold off until the weekend. My good friend and coworker, Pam, was having a ParKty (party in the park) on Saturday afternoon and that seemed like a great opportunity to try and make a lot of spanakopita. I made two large batches of the spanakopita and it was definitely ten times easier the second time around! When working with phyllo dough, you have to work fast in order to prevent the sheets from becoming dry and brittle. Make sure to set up your kitchen space so you won't be wasting time moving things or rearranging items. The spanakopita is best when dipped in marinara sauce or tzadiki sauce. Enjoy!

(Makes 72 pieces)

2 lbs frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained
1/2 white onion, chopped
5 garlic cloves, minced
3 tablespoons olive oil
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/2 cup fake eggs
12 ounces crumbled feta
1 tablespoon coridander seeds
1 tablespoon nutmeg
2 tablespoons oregano
1/2 lb unsalted butter, melted
2 lb phyllo sheets
Grated parmesan

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Coat baking sheets with olive oil.
2. In a skillet over medium high heat saute the onion and garlic in the olive oil for about 3 minutes. Add the thawed spinach and mix gently to incorporate onion and garlic. Drizzle lemon juice over spinach mixture.
3. In a large bowl, whisk together the fake eggs and feta. When spinach mixture has cooled, add it to the bowl with feta and add in the coriander, nutmeg and oregano. Mix to until all the ingredients are combined.
4. Unroll phyllo sheets and damped a dish cloth with cold water and squeeze to drain. Working quickly and using one sheet at a time, make sure to keep the damp cloth covering the other sheets to keep them from drying. Lay one sheet on a flat surface and brush with melted butter. Place another sheet on top and brush with butter. Place a third sheet on top and using a sharp knife, cut the phyllo stack into 6 vertical strips.
5. Place one tablespoon of the spinach and feta mixture on one corner of the phyllo strip. Fold over one corner to make a triangle shape and working down the strip fold the triangle pocket over itself. Place triangles on the baking sheets and brush lightly with butter. (Sprinkle some grated parmesan on top for some extra deliciousness!)
6. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the spanakopita are golden brown on top.

Friday, April 9, 2010

Village Voice Choice Eats; Review of Many NYC Restaurants

More than 50 restaurants, generous samples, 3 hours: it's the perfect equation for wonderful, sinful gluttony. Shared with three friends/food enthusiasts, this was one insane food event and I highly recommend it! Restaurants that are invited to participate by the Village Voice food critics put their best samples forward and woo potential diners to their home base. It all took place at the Armory on Lexington and 26th, conveniently located steps from where I work. Luckily I got there early and my friends were able to join me in line because by the time the doors were opened, the line went around the block! My reviews and opinions on the following restaurants and samples are my own, but the photographs are all courtesy of the official event photographer from the Village Voice. I only selected photos from the places that I thought are worthy of a actual visit. As a critique to the whole event I would like to say that there were not enough sweets or dessert samples. When I enjoy a meal, I would say 20% of is my dessert. So I would expect for there to be at least 10 different places sampling desserts at this event. Unfortunately, that was not the case but the few places that did have a dessert were all quite lovely. For starters here is a picture of the building outside as foodies wait in the rain for sample insanity:

And take a look at the inside. It looks crowded but actually the lines were all workable and assisted in the digestion of the samples:
Alright, time for the food! Please note, each photograph is preceded by the restaurant name and the sample.

Bunny Chow: Bread with South African Toppings
Heavy and warming, good for a winter meal. Pieces of toasted bread were topped with cumin spiked stews and lamb curries. The lamb was tender and mixed with soft chunks of potatoes and chickpeas. Different types of jerkey will also available.
Bunny Chow
74 Orchard Street

DuMont: Seafood Stew with Tender Potatoes
One of my colleagues raves about the burgers at DuMont so I have to say I was a little disapointed that the sample was not a burger, but this small bite of their seafood was exquisite and definitely makes the restaurant worth going to. There was one thick scallop and one large shrimp, one small potato half and whatever else goes into their stew. Rich and creamy, the seafood cooked perfectly, I can't wait to try this place!
432 Union Avenue, Brooklyn

Jimmy's No 43: Crostini with Special Sauce and Brisket
I was actually going to by-pass this sample because I had had so much meat and bread and the thought of eating another crostini with meat made me ill, but I had heard SO MUCH about Jimmy's No 43 and this was my chance to get a small bite from them and see if all the hype is true. Wow! This was definitely the best little piece of meat and bread I have ever had! The brisket was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and whatever sauce they had on the bread under the brisket was buttery and yummy. This small bite was perfect! Was I lucky, or should I really go and try this restaurant with their constantly changing menu?
Jimmy's No 43
43 East 7th Street, New York

Juliette: Rillette with Muscovy Duck and Celery Root and Green Apple Slaw
Juliette is a small French Bistro and their sample was sample too, but flavor packed and very rich and delicious! The Muscovy duck was well-fatted and pounded and served on a little toasted piece of buttery bread and topped with a sort of French slaw. Normally I don't jump at the idea of well fatted duck, but this was one of those sinful nights and this was a perfect little bite that warranted the calling of my friends to immediately come and get their own because I wasn't sharing this bite.
135 North 5th Street, Brooklyn

Kuma Inn: Crisp Pork Belly with Carrot Green Papaya Slaw
Filipino style tapas. This was one of the many pork belly samples available that night, but the Kuma Inn did stand out. The freshness of the gingery carrot and green papaya slaw was a wonderful compliment to the juicy and fatty pork belly.
Kuma Inn
113 Ludlow Street, 2nd Floor

Madiba Restaurant: Malva Pudding Cake
One of the few dessert samples at the whole event, this was a lovely South African malva pudding cake. It was similar in texture to bread pudding but not too sweet. It is a lovely comfort dessert that I'm sure would taste quite perfect with some milk or vanilla ice cream. My date and I signed up for free $10 gift certificates to the restaurant, which, if nothing else, I plan on going for some Malva pudding and tea.
Madiba Restaurant
195 Dekalb Avenue, Brooklyn
  Luke's Lobster: Buttery Shrimp Rolls
This was my second time having the pleasure of trying Luke's Lobster rolls and both times, it has stuck out as one of the best things I ate all night. The rolls were simple and completely melt-in-your-mouth good. Fresh, juicy small shrimp were on the soft white potato roll that had be rolled in butter and grilled. Once the shrimp was on board, the sandwich was topped with sea salt and some other seasonings and of course a generous drizzle of butter. Luke's Lobster had one of the longest and most competitive line at the event and it was well worth the wait!
Luke's Lobster
93 East 7th Street

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Calamari Competition: Lugo Caffe vs. Andy's Homemade

I first fell in love with calamari in 2006 when I began waitressing at an Italian restaurant in the West Village and we would constantly serve baskets of warm calamari with lemon and marinara sauce. My good friend, Andy, is also a huge calamari fan and has a favorite place to go for the city's best. It's called Lugo Caffe. Earlier in the week, Andy made his own calamari which was delicious and flavorful. The batter wasn't sticking as well because it was difficult to get the oil as hot enough. He fried the calamari in oil with garlic pieces and parsley, definitely a great addition. I really enjoyed the fleshiness of Andy's calamari and I actually prefer less batter. Here is a picture of his calamari on the rack as it is drying:
A couple days later, I met Andy for an dinner at Lugo Caffe. This restaurant is unassumingly delicious and nice. It is awkwardly located right by Penn Station so you would never think to hang around there for such a great meal. The restaurant is nice and airy, the service is excellent and the food is great! We ordered a few different items to share but the main thing was the calamari (pictured above). This was definitely delicious calamari with a proper appreciation for the batter. I can't say that it was better than Andy's because it was a different type of calamari all together. They were both really delicious but since most of you will not be going to Andy's for calamari, go to Lugo Caffe for a comparable substitute. In addition to our calamari we ordered a delicious robiola pizza. It was essentially flatbread with truffle oil, sea salt and preserved truffles. It was delicious. We also ordered three sides of cooked vegetables: brussle sprouts, portabella mushrooms and eggplant. Here is a photo of all the delicious food. The pizza is on top :)

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Crisy Kale Chips

Simple easy yummy spring snack that tastes a little bit like dried seaweed! These are probably the most crumbly crisps you'll ever have; there is no way to keep it clean. They taste great with hummus or a sort of tzadiki sauce and it's a great way to get your dark leafy greens without the bitter flavor. Simply take some pieces of fresh kale and sprinkle them with olive oil and garlic powder and maybe some cracked pepper and bake them in the oven at 450 degrees for 7-12 minutes. Take them out and enjoy!

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Tuna Melt Stuffed Bell Peppers: Refuel from a 9 Mile Hike Over 6 Ridges

 Sunday morning I woke up at 7:00 am, met a group of adventurous city folk and drove 1 hour to go on a 9 mile hike over 6 ridges. Returning to my apartment at 7ish, I had a good friend coming for a last minute dinner. I needed to make something easy, healthy, filling and nice because it was Easter on Sunday and so far my friend had just had pizza all day. With aching legs and still slightly dizzy head I was craving a tuna melt but didn't want to put shoes on again or walk anywhere to get the bread! So I decided to take the tuna melt concept and make it fly with pasta - oh yeah, and stuff bell peppers with it! If it's not obvious, I had bell peppers sitting in my fridge and wanted to use them. While I felt like I had just been beat to a pulp after the hike, I'm happy I pulled this meal together because it ended up tasting great! First, here is a picture of the lake we went to towards the end of the hike: (note, picture does not do it justice)

Tuna Melt Stuffed Bell Peppers
(Makes three bell peppers with enough pasta salad left over for lunch and dinner the next day)

3 bell peppers
4 servings whole wheat shell pasta
1 1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, chopped
3 stalks celery, chopped
1/3 cup corn kernels
2 cans canned tuna
1/3 cup grated cheddar
1/3 cup grated soy mozzarella
1/4 avocado, chopped
1/4 cup juice from jar of marinated artichoke hearts

1. Bring two pots of water to a boil. Slice the tops off of the bell peppers and place them in one of the pots of boiling water for about 3 minutes. Then let drain upside down over a rack. In the other pot of water, cook the pasta.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
3. When pasta is cooked, drain and rinse with cold water. Place in a bowl and mix in chopped tomatoes, chopped celery, corn, and tuna. Drizzle the juice from the marinated artichoke jar and mix gently until all the ingredients are incorporated.
4. Stuff the bell peppers with a spoonful of the pasta salad, then a layer of chopped avocado, then one more spoonful of the pasta salad and then a generous layer of the cheese. Place stuffed bell peppers on a glass baking dish and bake for about 6-7 minutes, until cheese is melted. Enjoy!