Thursday, May 31, 2012

Cape Cod Hatteras

Ah Memorial Day Weekend, how fleeting it seems now that we’re in the “end of week” territory. Lucky for me, I had a wonderful Cape Cod weekend full of amazing memories shared with old friends. Together we enjoyed the beach, great weather, and even better food.  Our eating adventures began with the Harvest Wine Gallery in Dennis, a lovely art gallery that features excellent wine, cheese, and live music. We shared a cheese plate and two crostinis: prosciutto with fig and local honey butter and goat cheese with walnuts, thyme, and local honey. We also ordered paninis that were grilled to perfection. I inhaled a pressed sandwich crammed with fresh mozzarella, tomato, avocado, and pesto.

The following day we waited out the lines at PB Boulangerie & Bistro, a charming French bistro that is definitely worth the wait. Believe me. We ordered the pizza du jour with asparagus, a croque monsieur, and a pain au chocolat. Everything was delicious, savory, and filling (mostly likely because we had a complete carbohydrate-based meal). But I swear the bread is probably the closest you can get to Paris on the Cape. PB is definitely on my “need to return list.” I swear that Asiago bread loaf was calling my name.

Following the carbohydrate meal was seafood on the water. If you haven’t been to Mac's Shack in Wellfleet, I’d suggest going there immediately. This raw bar is incredible. Diners can cozy up to the raw bar and put in their order for the freshest Wellfleet oysters you can imagine--they fish a stones throw from the bar--or fancy sushi rolls like double hamachi with scallions or the big kahuna. Macs also has a varied beer and cocktail menu, which is the perfect accompaniment for your raw bar treats.

One of our last decadent tastes were the “amazing fries” at the historic Bramble Inn (and yes, that is the name of the dish). Smothered with freshly shaved Parmesan and truffle oil, these fries are not to be missed. We were lucky to meet bar neighbors who persuaded us to order these crispy critters despite our fullness. We also had the pleasure of sharing a glass of wine with the master chef, Ruth, who could not have been lovelier. She too shared our infatuation with fries and said she couldn’t resist naming them “amazing fries” as they truly are amazing.  Sadly I did not have the whereabouts to capture a photo. I guess that means I have to go back!

Friday, May 25, 2012

Lunch Time Ideas

As many of you know, I am usually on a budget and therefore attempt to bring lunch to work. Call me old fashioned (or spoiled), but growing up I feasted on homemade lunches like classic peanut butter and jelly sandwiches (remember those now-vintage Welch's jelly jars? I have some!) made with love from my mom. So bringing lunch isn't a new phenomenon for me. That being said, I am always looking for new ideas. This week I used a whole wheat pita as my canvas and filled it with homemade garlic hummus (more on that later) peppers, carrots, avocado, feta, and Zabars' turkey pastrami. Easy, healthy, and satisfying. 

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cascabel Taqueria

Yesterday I had the pleasure of dining and catching up with my dear friend Caroline who will soon be hitting the road for her summer internship at Yahoo in San Francisco. Caroline lives across town in the Upper East Side so we try to set up dining-out rules, which involve switching up neighborhoods, presenting a selection of restaurant choices, and then allowing the "visitor" to ultimately pick the spot. I chose Cascabel Taqueria thanks to Caroline's presentation of choices and we were not disappointed.   

We didn't go crazy with our order; I started off with an $11 margarita rimmed with spicy salt that hit the spot. The price seems to be the going rate for margs and lucky for me the drink was strong and quite large.  We also shared an order of guacamole, which was good, but not anything too out of this world. What we did love was the tacos. Caroline had the roasted shrimp and I ordered the carne asada. I only had a bite of the shrimp, but they were perfectly roasted and flavorful. My steak tacos were amazing; the steak was so savory and was served with crispy onions and oyster mushrooms. Mmm. I'm already hungry again. In addition to the tasty dinner, they dished out mini churros on the house. 

I would definitely dine at Cascabel again, especially since our entrees were $8.50. I would also love to try their happy hour, which lasts until 7pm during the week. 

Although Caroline will have to take a respite from Cascabel this summer, I'm not feeling as sad knowing that she can have her fair share of amazing Mexican food in California. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Momo for Mama

If you don't have David Chang's Momofuku cookbook, you may want to invest in a copy. If you don't know who David Chang is, you may want to re-evaluate your life. Just kidding. Simply come to NYC and try his infamous pork belly buns and ramen noodle soup--it will change your life. Before you salivate any further over the fat-upon-fat phenomenon, I must warn you that I did not make the pork buns. I did, however, (with the generous help of Will) make a delicious Mother's Day feast with Momofuku's Mussels with OS Sauce and Ginger Scallion Noodles served with a side of Sesame Snap Peas (not Momo). The mussels are divine. You simply make a paste of miso, scallions, ginger, soy sauce, sherry vinegar, garlic, and set aside. Meanwhile in a large pot, heat a few tablespoons of neutral oil until hot, add the mussels and sauté for a minute. Then scoop the mussels to one side, add the miso paste, and distribute. Pour some sake in the pot and steam for four minutes. Voila. Serve with julienned scallions and crusty bread for dipping in the au jus. This is a no-fail dish (unless you have bad mussels).

In terms of the noodles, the ginger scallion dish is good, but I expected more. The recipe calls for ginger, scallions, a touch of sherry vinegar, and soy sauce. OK, that's fine, but if you're like my dinner guests, you want more bang for your buck. We added sesame oil, sesame seeds, and more soy sauce, which definitely did the trick.

The snap peas were made up; I simply sauteed the peas in canola oil, drizzled sesame oil, a splash of soy sauce, and some red pepper flakes. They're crispy and have the perfect umami undertone.

All in all, the dinner was such a success--albeit very 
salty--and I look forward to making more adventurous Momofuku dishes very soon. 

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Barefoot Weekend

This weekend turned out to be quite the Barefoot Contessa weekend. On Saturday we had an impromptu dinner party with my friend Makena and made Barefoot's Perfect Roast Chicken and Spinach Pie.  The roasted chicken is one of my favorite go-tos. It never disappoints and is so easy. I think the key is the butter (isn't that always the case?), which you liberally spread on and underneath the skin. I also love that she uses fennel and carrots, which are a perfect side with this dish since the vegetables caramelize in the roasting pan. Free free to add some white wine to the pan, which helps keep the bird a little more moist.

The spinach pie was new to us and it's quite the dish. Don't let the recipe title trick you into thinking this is healthy. The recipe calls for 6 eggs, feta, pine nuts, butter, and phyllo dough pastry. It certainly keeps you satisfied and is great for brunch the next day.

This morning, I got inspired and baked my first batch of scones. I chose Barefoot's Maple-Oatmeal Scones with a maple syrup glaze. These are great and the oats and whole wheat flour add a nutty texture. Much to my surprise, this isn't overly sweet. Serve with some fresh raspberries and a little butter and you're golden. 

Thursday, May 10, 2012

UWS Meets Denver

As many of you know, I recently took a hiatus to visit my best friend Kelsey in Denver, CO. As many of you also know, we spent a good majority of our time eating. Although we managed to get a "hike" in, filling our bellies was a large focus of the trip. I won't go into detail about all the meals we ate, but will share a sprinkling of images that hopefully demonstrate what a culinary-driven city Denver is!

Friday, May 4, 2012

If I Can Cook Soft Shell Crabs, So Can You

I have to admit, when I put Will in charge of the groceries  and he texted me saying he bought soft shell crabs, I was secretly delighted and equally terrified. I love soft shell crabs--every bite is a textural thrill. And the best part is that they're in season! Mermaid Inn has a great soft shell crab "special" over frisee and avocado for $14--get it while you can--and Whole Foods sells them fried for $6 a piece (which is the same price that we paid for raw crabs). 

Despite my love, I was still intimidated to cook these unique sea creatures. But believe me, if I can do it, you can do it. I'll be honest, I did a lot of research and even watched some YouTube videos demonstrating how to clean them. And yes, definitely clean your crabs. In terms of preparation, it couldn't have been easier (minus the gut-wrenching task of cutting off their heads and removing their lungs--hungry yet?); simply place your cleaned crabs in milk and let them soak for a few minutes. While they're soaking, make a mixture of flour, breadcrumbs, and spices (we used a mixture of adobe seasoning, cayenne rub, salt, and pepper). Toss the crabs in the dry mixture and heat a pan with oil until the oil is almost smoking. Add the crabs into the pan and cook for 1-2 minutes on each side. They're amazing and so crispy. We made our own spicy aioli with mayonnaise, lime, and cayenne pepper. Squeeze some lemon on those crispy crabs, dip in aioli, and you're all set! 

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Gratin Needs Cheese

Recently, I was thumbing through my Alice Waters Chez Panisse Vegetables cookbook and stumbled upon her Eggplant, Tomato, and Onion Gratin. It had everything I wanted in a gratin; my favorite vegetables, aromatic herbs, cheese...errr...scratch that. No cheese. How could that be, Alice?  
Waters also suggested pairing the gratin with roasted lamb, but again, that wasn't in the cards either. The gratin was my main course and I needed it beef it up.  I rummaged through the kitchen and found a stale baguette that was about to get chucked. I decided to make my own bread crumbs by sauteeing the cubed bread with olive oil, maldon salt, and rosemary (this is my new favorite thing to do with stale bread). I also added fresh mozzarella and couldn't have been happier. The dish was so savory, but still light, and the breadcrumbs soaked up the au jus that the tomatoes produced wonderfully. Another great aspect to this dish is that you can totally repurpose your leftovers over pasta. Just add more cheese.