Monday, October 5, 2009

An Autumnal Meal

Due to the joys of working in a non-profit, I am able to tap into a behemoth of vacation days, which allows me to take long weekends just because I can. This past weekend, I extended the grueling short two-day normal weekend, into a four-day magnum. On Friday, I spent time with my Uncle Alan, stuffing our faces with dim sum from The Golden Unicorn (loved it), then meandered to the West Village, where he introduced me to Rafetto’s, the homemade pasta store that has been in business since 1906. We bought fresh pasta, cut to order (Rosemary pappardelle) and their famous ravilios (spinach and cheese), both freezer-friendly. Since I was out and about the rest of the weekend, I happily froze my pasta, but thought of it fondly. So when my fourth day of my weekend rolled around, I really wanted to buy more pasta, but this time, cook it right away. Unfortunately, Rafetto’s is closed on Mondays, so I had to think on my feet. I ended up at Murray’s Cheese on Bleeker and was quite pleased with what I found; fresh homemade pumpkin gnocchi.

With some inspiration from this month’s Gourmet Magazine, I made fresh pumpkin gnocchi with fried sage, shallot, and chestnuts. Here’s how:

Boil a pot of water and cook the fresh gnocchi for eight minutes. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of oil and a tablespoon of butter until hot. Add sage leaves and cook for about a minute and remove. Add chopped shallots and slivered chestnuts (I found whole chestnuts at my Italian market. Warning: de-shelling is time consuming), cook for about 2-3 minutes.

Once the gnocchi is cooked thoroughly, save about ¼ cup of the cooking liquid and add to the sauce. Pour sauce onto the gnocchi and add heaps of fresh Parmesan cheese. Enjoy!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Last Gasp for Summer Swordfish

Last evening I made wonderful swordfish, if I do say so myself. In a large shallow dish, I combined minced fresh ginger, minced scallions, soy sauce, honey, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, a few sprinkles of raw sugar, a spoonful of mustard, and half a lime. I let the sword fish marinate for about 2 hours and then grilled it for 3 minutes on each side. Once the fish was cooked to my liking, I took the rest of the marinade and added it to a pan. I poured a bit of white wine and let the the marinade reduce by half and then swirled in 1/2 tablespoon of butter. I added the sauce to the top of the fish, and squeezed a bit more lime. It was divine. We served it with a side of spinach that was sauteed with olive oil, sesame oil, lemon, a touch of white wine, fresh ginger, and sesame seeds. Delightful.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Easy Breezy

One of my colleagues brought in a huge organic kohlrabi bulb from Vermont. This was my first encounter with the vegetable, but as I have already found, it’s wonderful; crunchy, crispy, and versatile.

If you’re looking for an inexpensive, healthy, and simple dinner try sautéing small chunks of kohlrabi, sweet potato, and chopped mushrooms with olive oil in a skillet. Once fully cooked through, sprinkle with dried garlic, drizzle with sesame oil and soy sauce, and add a splash of sriracha sauce. Stir well and top vegetables into a bowl of quinoa, squeeze lemon and you have a delightful, filling, and delicious dish!

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Somewhere in Asia: Part II

After our dumpling experience, we wandered up to 1st and First to chow down at our favorite Tibetan restaurant, Café Himalaya. A few things you must know. The word dingy could be used to describe the atmosphere, but I prefer simple. Boasting of four tables and one small couch, Café Himalaya is cozy without the frills of plush seating or wall art. It’s bare bones, but that’s what we love about it. Also the service is so friendly, cheap (the most expensive entrée is $10.50) AND serves tasty food. You have been warned that it is cash only, but the BYO makes up for that quite easily.

We ordered the Shapta, beef with ginger, garlic, chilis, pepper and hot sauce. Although the beef was slightly chewy, the sauce had a very nice balance of sweet and spicy, and managed to not be too oily either. Our noodle dish was sel Gyathuk Ngopa, pan-fried noodles (similar to lo mein), with cabbage, peas, carrots, and grilled tofu. The crispness to the noodles was very nice, and the veggies cut down on the oil factor. Not a ton of flavor, but light and easy to enjoy. We also ordered paratha bread, which was decadently buttery and fluffy—the perfect accoutrement to the beef sauce. Our bill came to $20.95 (total) and we each took home leftovers. Café Himalaya is a wonderful spot to go with good friends and share all sorts of dishes (many vegetarian) without breaking the bank.

Somewhere in Asia: Part I

Tonight I had a double-decker night in Asia: dumplings and Tibetan food. Let me take each of these entities one-by-one and begin with dumplings. A few weeks ago I found myself passing through Chinatown late night suddenly craving dumplings. After very many failed dumpling locator application attempts on an iphone, we gave up and got pizza. But since that day, I have been determined to find a wonderful dumpling house. I found it. Thanks to two co-worker’s suggestions, (double confirmation), I have recently been acquainted with Vanessa’s Dumpling House on Eldridge between Broome and Grand Streets. Vanessa’s is a charming spot, where customers can either order via a take-out window, or simply stand by the counter, indoors and scramble for a table. If this is your maiden voyage, I suggest going inside and ordering at the counter where you can watch your dumplings being steamed fresh in front of your eyes.

We ordered pork and chive dumplings, fried pork buns, and boiled shrimp and vegetable dumplings. The absolute winner was the fried pork dumplings. They’re light, crispy, and bursting with flavor. Soins attention. Literally. Not only are these suckers hot, but their juice will joyfully explode into your mouth. After your first bite, you’ll be able to enjoy the holy trinity: crisp skin, a perfect chunk of savory meat, and the perfect complement of flavorful juice. I suggest ordering the 10 for $2—trust me, you’ll want more. As for the other orders, they were all good, but not none topped the charts. The pork bun was like a glorified dumpling, only with more breading, and was a letdown after all of my recent steamed pork bun encounters. The boiled shrimp were OK as well; nice juicy flavor, but I think it would have been better fried, especially because the shrimp kept falling out of the dough. Lastly, the vegetables needed more seasoning and I also found their dough to be too thick.

But regardless, I suggest going and am excited to try new things on such a budget. Also, Vanessa’s sells frozen dumplings in large quantities—think dinner party!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Provencal Salad Vert

I made up this recipe over the weekend and already found myself recreating it on Monday. What you will need:


Salad:

A mix of greens, such as Boston or Romaine lettuce, radiccio, endive

Boiled red skinned baby potatoes, roughly chopped

Feta (optional)


Dressing:

One small clove of shallot minced

Good French mustard

Half a lemon, squeezed

Olive oil

A few sprigs of dill

Salt

Pepper

Assemble the greens and chopped boiled potato. Whisk the dressing together and pour over greens. Sprinkle a few more sprigs of dill for presentation.

If you're interested in a non-vegetarian option, take a piece of pancetta, or a few pieces of prosciutto and sautee until crisp. Remove from pan, pat dry, and crumble. Remember to save about a spoonful of the rendered fat to pour in the dressing. Use the crumbled meat and and sprinkle over the salad.


Sunday, August 23, 2009

Mussels Per Wild Edibles

On Saturday, after much distress, I narrowed down my dinner cooking options and chose the always crowd-pleasing, succulent, and affordable mussels.  My usual go-to involves sauteeing garlic and shallots in butter, adding the scrubbed moules, and steaming with white wine until they're open, and then sprinkle with parsley.  However, Saturday lead me to a few surprises. One of them being finding myself at Wild Edibles at 4PM, with a $12 for 12 oyster special and $3 hand-crafted beers. Heaven.  Another surprise was the wonderful Wild Edibles West Coast chef  who helped transform my usual into such a treat, with not too much work:

In a large pot, sautee minced garlic, shallot, carrots, cipollini onions, and celery in butter and olive oil.  

Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Once the mirepoix (French word for holy trinity, which includes carrots, onion and celery), plus garlic and shallots start to sweat, add the scrubbed mussels.  

Immediately deglaze (No need to be mystified, this just means adding a liquid) with your choice, we used vegetable broth and then tons of white wine.  You can also use chicken broth and clam juice.  Add just enough broth to almost submerge the mussels.  

Cover pot and wait until the mussels open. 

Once opened, add a few dollops of heavy cream, two tablespoons of butter, stir, and cover pot, waiting another minute for all of the ingredients to blend.  Turn off heat, add sprinkled parsley and spoon mussels and broth into bowls, and serve with a crispy baguette. 

Our chef friend also suggests adding a small squirt of sriracha to the broth, which we will definitely be trying next time. But regardless, you will love this recipe;
the broth almost hints of lemon grass and is absolutely divine.    


A Wonderful Sandwich

Today I made a wonderful sandwich that I just have to share--more like gloat. It goes like this:


Go to your parents house in the suburbs, hangover option.


Take day old baguette, toast


Smother mayonnaise on toasted bread


Slice Jersey tomatoes


Slice comte cheese


Slice guacamole


Spoon out wonderful imported Italian pesto (Wine Library pesto not needed, but recommended)


Dole out slices of fresh roasted turkey meat


Assemble all. Enjoy.


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Pork belly is like heaven

Naturally, I have fallen into the steamed pork belly bun frenzy. Not being what one would call a silent eater, I have aggressively "oohed" and "aahed" over Momofuku's hoisin pork buns, savoring each bite and patiently waited to swallow before masticating on heaven.  They're insanely delicious.  I also need to shed some light on Buddakhan's assemble-your-own pork buns, which depending on who you talk to, may rival Momofuku's.  But last night, I had the wonderful experience of tasting the newest talk of the town, Ippudo, whose pork buns have been credited to be even better than the aforementioned.  They are definitely delicious, but I think it all comes down to  the variation in sauce. In comparison to Momofuku's, the two buns are roughly the same size.  Their pork belly has the same flavor and mega high fat content (so good).  However, Ippudo's sauce is spicier and then surprises you with a burst of mayonnaise, while Momofuku's is a sweeter hoisin-based glaze with a cucumber crunch.  They're both worthwhile and I anxiously await for the day when I can try them back to back.  

Thursday, August 20, 2009

$1 Pizza

So I've been eyeing Zimari's the new pizza place on 31st between Lex & Park (conveniently close to Brother Jimmy's), who advertise $1 slice, and $2.75 for 2 slices and a soda.

Tonight it was my turn to try this intriguing delight, and I have to say, it wasn't bad.  My total was $1.09 with tax. Once the piping hot plate was in my grubby hands, I immediately added more parm (do you have to even ask?) and red pepper flakes, which were conveniently located right next to the cash register. The slice was big, thick, and gooey with cheese, but not New York style cheese, a little thicker.  The red sauce was sweet, with a hint of spice. The crust crisp, but not burnt.  All together, not bad, but no Artichoke.  A great inexpensive option when you're on the go. But don't count on this place one late night after spending too much time sucking down a fishbowl next door because they close at 9PM on the week night.   And we found this out the hard way. 



Friday, August 14, 2009

Lemony Sardiny Pasta

Alas, this respite has been quite embarrassing...I know, empty promises, but at least I am climbing back up on that horse, due to lovely demands.

I'll start off simple, it's better that way, and share a delicious pasta dish I cooked together earlier this week called Lemony Sardiny Pasta.

What you will need:

Spaghetti
Canned sardines (any will do, I bought mine at TJs; unsalted in water--don't forget to debone!)

Capers
Half a lemon, and zest
Red pepper flakes
Handful of breadcrumbs or panko
Spoonful of butter
Spoonful of olive oil
Pepper to your liking
Bucket loads of parm cheese**

**please take note, as many of you know, I am a true believer in laissez-faire cooking. Don't be alarmed and have fun playing around with different measurements.

Begin boiling a pot of salted water for the pasta.
In a medium heated sauce pan, add your spoonful of butter and olive oil. As pan warms up, add your deboned sardines and capers until warmed, about 2 minutes. Then add some lemon zest, red pepper flakes, and breadcrumbs. Once all ingredrients are in, stir and turn off heat, as not to burn the bread crumbs.

Meanwhile, cook your pasta, and try to reserve a small half cup of cooking liquid ( I didn't, but I thought about it afterwards--that counts, right?).

Add the cooked pasta into a bowl with your reserved (or unreserved imaginary cooking liquid) and stir in the sardine ensemble. Feel free to add butter, a squeeze of lemon, a sprinkle of gray salt, and then loads of cheese. And then enjoy! I think the the hint of lemon adds a nice quality to the fish, the pepper adds a zing, and the cheese and breadcrumbs combined makes for a wonderful texture. Bon appetit!