Saturday, December 28, 2013

Hello from Hong Kong

Just wanted to send a quick hello from Hong Kong. This is the view from our friends' apartment where we are staying. It's quite dramatic and beautiful. All of my food photos are on my real camera--how old-school, I know. But don't worry, I will upload them soon. The food has been fantastic. We have devoured dim sum and Peking duck, and will have Sichuan today. Tata for now.

Bonjour Asia

Happy early birthday to Will and me. We are off to Asia. Cannot wait to explore Hong Kong, Cambodia, and Thailand. Here's to a great trip filled with adventure, exotic food, and exciting, new experiences. 

Saturday, December 21, 2013

Maida Heatter, Welcome to Our Home

A dear family friend gifted us with the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer and a few vintage Maida Heatter cookbooks--two essential kitchen must-haves. While I didn't know Maida Heatter a few years ago, I certainly do now. She is the dessert queen. I first fell in love with her decadent and chewy brownies and now I'm in love with her Florida Lemon Squares, which I made for my Secret Santa. 

These sweet and tart squares are sandwiched between an oatmeal sugary crust that is to die for.  I seriously want to make a few batches and freeze them just so I can eat them at leisure.

I can't wait to keep exploring these books and picking out some household favorites. 

Monday, December 16, 2013

Sunday Football: Braised Short Ribs

My Sunday was pretty cozy. Will and I vowed to make time for ourselves and avoid any major plans. Our day basically involved cookbook browsing, checking out our new bookstore Word, grocery shopping, and cooking, while watching Dexter. We watched a little football too. 
We zeroed in on a Barbara Lynch Red Wine Braised Short Rib recipe. It was very easy to prepare. Basically you preheat your oven to 275 degrees. Salt and pepper your short ribs. Sear six minutes on each side. 
In another sauce pan, sauté onions, garlic, carrots, and celery. Add red wine, beef broth, and tomatoes. Throw in a few bay leaves, black peppercorns, coriander seeds, and a few sprigs of thyme. Once the  liquid has reduced, add to the seared meat, cover, and braise for five hours. 

We had our short ribs with roasted sweet potatoes and asparagus. We paired the meal with an Italian Monferrato by Kermit Lynch. Pretty lovely for a Sunday. Go football! 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

The Cook Book Stall in Reading Terminal, Philadelphia, PA

Credit: Al Jones
Looking for a fun day trip? Why not head to Philadelphia for a day trip? The city is bursting with holiday spirit. I recommend getting lost in Reading Terminal. There are dozens of stalls filled with an assortment of food including oysters, cheese and meats, wine, honey. 

Make sure to stumble upon The Cook Book Stall. This petite shop has one of the best cookbook collections around town. Jewish/Sicilian cuisine? You got it. The hottest cookbook of the year? Yep. It's there. And if it's not, the charming owner Jill will be happy to assist. The Cook Book Stall is a must whether you're a professional chef, modest home cook, or kitchen novice.

The Cook Book Stall

1100 Filbert St, Philadelphia, PA 19107
(215) 923-3170

Sunday, December 8, 2013

And the Holidays have begun!

We just returned from the annual Christmas party hosted by my family friends in their gorgeous Brooklyn brownstone. It's really one of the parties of the season. Lot's of good friends, wine, and tons of delicious food. It's always fun catching up with loved ones.

One special highlight of the party is the hostess literally bakes hundreds of homemade cookies as goodie bags for guests--what a treat! Did I mention that it also snowed? How cozy. 

Monday, December 2, 2013

Thanksgiving Debrief

Well, by now we have all survived our first day back at work (hopefully). Like me, you're probably feeling a little puffy and full from carbo-overloading and wine gulping.

We started our Thanksgiving day with bubbly and fine appetizers with my dear friend Caroline at her home. After achieving a buzz at 11am, we went back to my parents' house to cook and graze fireside. We had steamed oysters and clams, pâté, cheese, and samosas (we're very multicultural). 
Our first dinner course was dedicated to Hanukkah, and featured crispy potato latkes and cranberry sauce. Our main course was turkey roasted by my brother and husband, sausage stuffing, and heart attack potatoes courtesy of another dear friend, Vicki. Parmesan and pancetta green snap peas and sauteed mushrooms were the chosen vegetables. And dessert was bread pudding and pecan rugelach that we had to eat the next day due to fullness.

It was such a decadent day, filled with good friends, family, comforting food, and a cozy fire. I hope your holiday was just as delicious as mine!

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

The Easiest Roasted Acorn Squash

Now that fall is officially here and there is definitely more than just a "nip" in the air, it's the perfect time to break into those sweet and delicious squashes that fill the buckets of farmers' markets.

Here is a very simple roasted acorn squash to warm you up. Perfect for a last minute Thanksgiving side dish too. 

The Easiest Roasted Acorn Squash

Serves one

1 medium acorn squash
2 sprigs of rosemary
olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While the oven is heating, cut the squash in half lenthwise. Scoop out the pulp and seeds. Drizzle squash with olive oil, salt, and pepper, and nestle the rosemary sprigs inside the hollow part of the squash. Roast for 45-60 minutes.

Let cool. Remove the rosemary sprigs. Enjoy.

Monday, November 18, 2013

Chicken Parmesan

I'm trying to cook in more at The Saffron Kitchen despite the temptation of trying every possible restaurant in downtown Jersey City. I was in the mood for comfort food and decided to take a stab at Chicken Parmesan. Not sure if it's the most authentic approach, but I gave it a shot. The chicken came out tender and crispy. I highly recommend using panko crumbs rather than traditional bread crumbs.  I was also generous with the cheese and tomato sauce (surprise, surprise).

Chicken Parmesan
Serves two

1 lb of thinly sliced chicken breasts
2 eggs
1/2 cup of panko crumbs
1 cup of tomato sauce (I made Marcella's Tomato Sauce III)
1 cup of ricotta
1/2 cup shredded mozzarella
parmesan for finishing
Safflower oil

Prepare your tomato sauce. I made Marcella Hazan's Tomato Sauce III: a can of San Marzano tomatoes, one stick of butter, half of a peeled onion, and a pinch of salt and sugar. Simmer for 45 minutes while you prepare the rest of the meal. It's that easy. 

Heat a skillet with two tablespoons of Safflower oil. While the oil heats gather two bowls. Whisk the two eggs in one bowl and place the panko in the other
Salt and pepper the chicken breasts. Dip the breasts into the whisked egg and then into the panko crumbs.

Once the oil is hot, add the chicken breasts to the skillet and cook five minutes on each side. The panko crumbs create a nice crispy crust on the chicken.
While the chicken is sautéing, pre-heat your oven to 450 degrees.
Once the chicken is sauteed, remove from heat. Spoon some tomato sauce into the bottom of a casserole dish. Add the chicken breasts,  ricotta,  the rest of the tomato sauce. Sprinkle with mozzarella and parsley.
Bake for 25 minutes. Add a bit more parsley and sprinkle with grated parmesan cheese. Serve with a Caesar salad (I also made Julia Child's Mushrooms with Butter), and a baguette. Tada!

Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Restaurant Review: A Return to Thirty Acres

Naturally, I am having a ball trying all sorts of new restaurants in Jersey City. Funny enough, one of my favorites is a spot I reviewed in 2012 called Thirty Acres, run by husband and wife team Kevin and Alex Pemoulie.

On a recent cozy Friday night, Will and I scored a romantic street-side window table.
We started with the broccoli, which was tossed with aged sherry, wakame, golden raisins, and served over a dollop of chicken liver pate. It's really genius. Plus, they're very generous with their bread (bought from their neighbor, Choc O Pain--more on that later).
Our next course was the homemade garganelli; a beef shank ragu, tomato sauce, and stravecchio cheese. This dish is so good; the sauce is sweet, but doesn't over do it. The meat is tender and flavorful, and the stravecchio cheese offers a great tang that balances out the sweetness. 
Our main course was the pork loin served with brussels sprout leaves, apples, and a quince almond sauce. The pork was the perfect shade of pink and was juicy as ever. The almond sauce created a depth of flavor and the apples gave the dish a nice crispness.  It's a fabulous autumn entree.
For dessert we tried the pumpkin cheese cake with homemade nut brittle and marscapone cheese. It was certainly tasty, but didn't blow our minds like the other foods.
The menu is definitely quirky and appears to change daily. I can't wait to try the roasted pears with sea urchin or the whole trout with rye berries. Looking forward to my next visit!

Thirty Acres

500 Jersey Ave, Jersey City, NJ 07302
(201) 435-3100

Sunday, November 10, 2013

Christening The Saffron Kitchen: Butternut Squash Lasagna

So all in all, our move across the Hudson River went fairly smoothly. We moved into a new building called The Saffron, so I'm pleased to present my first home-cooked meal in The Saffron Kitchen. To christen my kitchen, I chose a butternut squash lasagna served with a simple green salad, and a whole wheat baguette from my local bread store.
Butternut Squash Lasagna
Serves four

1 butternut squash
1 cup of ricotta
1/2 cup of shredded mozzarella
2 eggs
1/2 teaspoon of ground thyme
1/2 or so package of lasagna noodles (I used six)
olive oil for drizzling
Preheat the oven to 450. Peel the butternut squash, then cut the squash in half.  Scoop out the seeds and slice the squash into half moons. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt, and pepper. Roast for 10 to 15 minutes on each side.
While the squash is roasting, place a pot of water on the stove top to boil. Once the water is boiling, add in the lasagna noodles. Cook until al dente. 

While you're waiting for the water to bowl, in a medium bowl, mix together the ricotta and eggs to make a filling mixture. Add thyme, salt, and pepper. 
Now you're ready to assemble. Coat a lasagna pan (I used a 9 x 9") with olive oil and add a layer of lasagna noodles. Then add the squash, a layer of the filling, and mozzerella. Create as many layers as desired.

Bake at 450 degrees for 20 minutes. Serve with greens and some toasty bread. 

Wednesday, October 30, 2013

New York City to New Jersey

Hi, hi. As many of you know, I'm about to embark on a move across the Hudson to Jersey City. Stay-tuned for Les Foodites updates and postings from my other former state, New Jersey. 

Sunday, October 27, 2013

My Dinner with Ken Oringer at Toro

I just returned from a mind-blowing meal at Toro, the new Chelsea tapas hotspot that originated from the South End restaurant darling in Boston (I like to think it put Boston on the food map, but I need to tread cautiously with this statement).  The entire experience and meal was very memorable. We sat at the back bar overlooking Chef Oringer, who calmly fired up dozens of plates like razor clams, live sea urchin, and foie gras. His demeanor was humble, friendly, and knowledgeable. 
The menu is gigantic and a bit overwhelming at first, but thanks to the friendly wait staff, you should be in good hands. 
How many times have you had tripe, fried blow fish, foie gras, crispy pork belly, and more all in one seating? Well that's basically Toro in a nutshell.
We tried a variety of plates, all rich in flavor, but diverse in seasoning, like the Morcilla y Callos (tripe with yellow pea stew and blood sausage). My only experience with tripe involved a rather bland Chinatown meal. Not as memorable as this dish, which is a rich stew that reminds you of what Grandma would concoct.

Make sure to try the Pez Globo (blow fish, pictured at top). Eat it like a chicken wing to avoid the bones. The North African-flavoring and meatiness of this fish stands out. And it reminds me of Founder from The Little Mermaid, but in a good way.
The Panza de Cerdo (crispy pork belly) was also delicious. This fatty delight was served with apples and rutabaga. We gobbled up every bit of succulent fat (word for the wise, don't come to Toro on a diet).
Plates like the Gambas al Ajillo (garlic shrimp) are good but doesn't quite stand out as much as the Foie Gras y Piquillo (foie gras with piquillo peppers and candied walnuts), whose plump bodies of goodness arrive on skewers that are just begging to be de-skewered and consumed. 

One of the most memorable dishes was the Abalone, an entirely new sea creature to experience. Abalone is a mollusk from the scallop and snail family. It's a tad chewy and pairs perfectly with the rich brown butter sauce, crispy parsley, and homemade migas.  

I'd highly recommend Toro. The wait staff was friendly and it was a trip to chat with Chef Oringer and watch him in action. He was the one who suggested we try the blow fish and tripe--two of our favorite dishes. It's fancy tapas, so your bill will add up. Each glass of wine is $12 and tapas dishes range from $6 to $15, with a few outliers like the $50 Blanco Trufles con Camarones (shirred egg with white truffles and shrimp), and the paella entrees, which range from $35-90 per person. 

I left Toro with a high from a combination of the versatile richness and flavor, which was paired with an adventurous and unforgettable culinary experience like never before. 

All in all, Toro truly delighted the senses. 

85 Tenth Avenue, New York, NY 10011
(212) 691-2360

Wednesday, October 23, 2013

Spinach Fusilli with Roasted Cauliflower

I've always been a fan of cauliflower with pasta, so I was excited to see the Gemelli with Roasted Cauliflower in Saveur. After reviewing the recipe, which included golden raisins and slivered almonds. Rather than buy a few more ingredients when I'm pre-move (did I mention I'm moving to Jersey City? More on that later), I decided to play around with this recipe to better suit my pantry status.

Spinach Fusilli with Roasted Clauliflower
Serves Two

1/2 head of cauliflower, cut into florets
1/2 box of spinach fusilli
2 tablespoons of olive oil
1 teaspoon cumin
1 1/2 cloves of garlic chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced and zested

Heat oven to 500 degrees. Mix the cauliflower, olive oil, cumin, and garlic on a baking tray and roast for 20-25 minutes.  Set aside. 

While the cauliflower is roasting, bring a pot of water to a boil. Once the water is boiling, add half a box of spinach fusilli and cook until al dente. 

Drain the pasta and reserve a quarter cup of cooking pasta water. Add the pasta and roasted cauliflower in the pot, add the reserved cooking pasta water, lemon juice, and zest. Add salt and pepper, and parmesan.

I hope you will enjoy this pasta as much as I did. It's a very light dish and great if you're a vegetarian. If you want more of a kick, add a few shakes of dried red pepper flakes. 

Sunday, October 20, 2013

Our Anniversary: Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar

My husband and I just celebrated our first marriage anniversary. Naturally we celebrated with tons of delicious meals. The first meal was at Castle Hill Inn, our wedding site. Thanks to my sister-in-law, Sarah's wedding gift, Will and I consumed a decadent three-course tasting with wine pairing. I've been to Castle Hill for dinner several times and each time is better and better. I can't get over the beautiful service, food, and atmosphere Castle Hill has to offer. We feasted on seared foie gras, scallops with lobster, seared swordfish, and roasted duck, with various desserts. While I don't have photos from our romantic dinner, I do have photos (rather dark, so I apologize) from another celebratory dinner at Aroma Kitchen &Wine Bar, the restaurant Will took me to before he proposed.  
The day was rainy and humid, but the sunset was spectacular. The image at the top of the post was something I managed to capture before stepping into Aroma. Aroma is a darling, narrow wine bar with exposed brick, and friendly staff that screams romantic. We started with a Sardinian red and a Caesar salad with poached eggs, and warm burrata. What a decadent way to enjoy a Caesar.
For dinner I ordered Strascinati with Wild Mushroom Soffritto, Spicy Lamb Sausage, and  Roasted Red Peppers. The soffrito added a lovely depth and the mushrooms balanced out the spiciness of the lamb sausage and roasted red peppers. This dish was outstanding. I even wrapped up my leftovers and reheated with a handful of spinach. I was uncertain about microwaving the homemade pasta, but it withstood the heat, and was a great leftover later in the week.  
I also enjoyed loved Will's special, a homemade Ricotta Cavatelli with Salami and Greens. I love the variations of pasta; each dish has a flair and uniqueness that one doesn't see very often at your neighborhood Italian wine bar.
For dessert we shared a cinnamon bread pudding with cinnamon  stracciatella gelato and cinnamon anglaise that was sweet and airy. So good.

I am still dreaming about our meal. Aroma is a wonderful cozy date restaurant. It's perfect for a glass of wine with cheese or a three course Italian feast.   

Aroma Kitchen & Wine Bar
46 East 4th Street, New York, NY 10003

Thursday, October 17, 2013

Restaurant Review: Eastwood in Lower East Side

After an evening of cocktails at a memorable gallery reception in the Lower East Side, I found myself at Eastwood, a corner spot that blends Mediterranean with Mexican flair. Upon entering, you should immediately place your food order at the order window to your right. The menu is written on a chalk board and features comfort foods like Fish & Chips, Falafel, Avocado on Toast, Grilled Cheese on Pita, and other mostly unhealthy goodies.

After you place your food order, move onto the bar to place your drink order. Then grab a seat on one of the benches and wait for your treats. 

We ordered the Fish & Chips which arrived on bulkie Challah toast. The fries weren't too crispy, but the fish certainly was. The fish was served with a delicious mayo/aoili. I haven't had this dish in years so it was worth the wait.

We also ordered a side of Falafel, which was pretty good (I prefer Taim), Avocado on Toast (always a winner), and a Kale Salad with shallots, walnuts, fennel, and apple. Loved this.

This is a great low-key spot if you're looking for a quaint Lower East Side spot but don't want to dig deep into your pockets.

221 East Broadway, New York, NY
(917) 284-4514