Thursday, August 29, 2013

Restaurant Review: Malatesta

Looking for an Italian restaurant nestled in the West Village? Try Malatesta, a bustling corner restaurant on Hudson Street that will certainly will win over your date, whoever that may be. I’d recommend going early, because on a recent Monday night in August there was a wait at 7:30 pm

 Malatesta is delightful and very New York City; guests have an option of sitting outside and people watching (it’s a very lively area) or sitting inside, elbow to elbow with other diners. The waiters appear to be mostly Italian, the menu is handwritten, it’s cash-only, and the pasta is homemade. Now it’s not the best pasta I’ve had in the City, but it’s certainly good. And the buzz of the place makes up for any food that leaves you even the slightest discontented.

We started with the mussels in white wine, roasted tomatoes, and garlic. Skip this. Maybe because it was Monday, but the mussels weren’t memorable. Rather, opt for the grilled calamari with arugula and lemon--luscious pieces of squid sautéed with a perfect char and flavored simply with a squeeze of lemon and a pinch of salt. We also loved the sautéed spinach--a robust plate filled with nutrient-rich spinach, lemon, and olive oil. If that’s not a good starter for you, you can always snack on the generous stack of focaccia bread and olive oil given to each table.

One of my favorite entrées at Malatesta is the spinach gnocchi with Gorgonzola sauce. This dish sounds rich, and usually I would skip something this decadent. But despite the ingredients, it’s actually light, and easy on the stomach. The gnocchi were little balls of heaven, and the sauce had the perfect balance of flavor, just a hint of a hearty cheese that won’t overtake your taste buds and take away from the pasta. Each bite is an experience.

I also liked a the evening’s special—the orecchiette with broccoli rabe and sausage with fennel seeds.  The orecchiette were cooked to perfection, the sausage was tasty, and the overall dish had the perfect level of heat. The tagliatelle with ragu was OK; I found the meat sauce a little dry. And the ravioli with pink cream sauce was also a winner, although I wish the ricotta filling had been a little warmer.

We were too full to order dessert, but I’d like to return to try. The staff was friendly and we ordered the house wine in carafes (Sangiovese and Chianti), which was about $20. The wines start at $30.

While Malatesta certainly isn’t the perfect or best Italian restaurant in the City, the ambiance is enough to win you over.

A little bit of trivia: the word "malatesta" refers to the Italian family that ruled in Italy in the 13th - 16th century.

649 Washington St, New York, NY 10014
Phone: (212) 741-1207

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

A Delightful Conversation with James Barnes at Cape Abilities Farm, Cape Cod, MA

Earlier this summer at a family dinner party, I had the pleasure of meeting James Barnes, the Farm Manager at Cape Abilities Farm on Cape Cod, MA. After tasting the fresh tomatoes and other vegetables in my aunt's nicoise salad that evening, I knew I needed to know more about the farm and its mission.  

Here's what Farm Manager James had to say:

What is Cape Abilities Farm?

Cape Abilities Farm is part of Cape Abilities Inc. (CA), a nonprofit organization that has been supporting people with disabilities on Cape Cod since the 1960s. The Farm was founded in 2006 as a place of employment for people with disabilities.  Fewer than 10 people worked at the farm the first year -- last year more than 100 individuals with disabilities received a check from the farm for meaningful work.

CA Farm is the collision of agriculture and human services. We want the farm to be profitable, but we also measure the success of the farm by the professional development of our workers. 

CA Farm resides in two locations now -- Dennis, MA and Marstons Mills, MA. The Dennis location includes the hydroponics farm and farm stand. Marstons Mills includes the soil farming location. 

How big is the farm?

Dennis is six acres consisting of five hydroponics greenhouses. We have produced close to 20,000 lbs of tomatoes so far this year at the hydroponics farm. 

Marstons Mills is 12 acres. We are using about half of the space at this farm right now.

What's the best time to visit the farm?

In June we have all of the flowers that we grow on display, and our greenhouses almost at full vegetable production. Although I very much enjoy a visit in February when there is snow on the ground and the tomato plants are four feet tall in the greenhouse.

What sort of crops are you harvesting?

We are known primarily for our tomatoes, but we grow a wide range of crops: peppers, eggplant, mixed salad greens, bibb lettuce, kale, melons, squash, beets, radishes, broccoli,  and cucumbers.

What is your favorite fruit or vegetable to harvest, and why? 

I'm addicted to tomatoes -- growing them, eating them, talking about them. I get made fun of on twitter @farmerbarnesy for my obsession with the tomato. I hated tomatoes when I was a kid. I used to pull the cheese off the pizza completely and use only butter on my pasta just to avoid tomatoes. I'm pretty sure it all changed when I was working at The Land Exhibit at Disney World. We grew 20-foot tall tomatoes and I could take whatever I wanted, and I was super poor (first job after college) so it was food. Now I make at least five tomato-topped frittatas a week. I'm also gluten-free, so I guess you could say I'm using eggs as my pizza dough. My vegetable garden at home is a little over-the-top; the frittata allows me to whisk some eggs and top with the morning's harvest and  . . . away we go!

Would you share one of your favorite recipes?

One of my favorite frittatas (when harvest permits):

In at least a 10-inch heavy skillet, saute 1/4 of a red onion and 1 diced jalapeno pepper

Whisk four eggs.

Pour the eggs over the onions and peppers at medium heat.

Add as many slices of Striped German heirloom tomato as it takes to cover the eggs. I usually dry the tomato slices a bit on a paper towel, so the frittata doesn't get too wet.

Place the skillet under the broiler for 1 minute.

Top the frittata with a couple of tablespoons of crumbled blue cheese and a handful of low-moisture shredded mozzarella. 

Place the skillet back under the broiler for another 1-3 minutes.

I usually leave the recipe-making up to the Les Foodites of the world, but this frittata brings me great joy. I don't have much time in the morning, so the fact that I can bang this out in 15 minutes (post harvest) makes this dish dear to me. 

Learn more:

Visit for more info on the farm and the mission to support adults with disabilities across Cape Cod.

Also check out James' blog,, where he discusses growing more food with less, touching upon many of the contentious issues (bees, GMOs, sustainability) surrounding the global food supply, from the perspective of the farmer and home gardener.

Wednesday, August 21, 2013

Smoothie Series: Banana with Dates, Spinach, and Homemade Cashew Milk

My apologies, but I realized I did not include this particular smoothie in this summer's Smoothie Series, and it's one of my favorites. Below you will find a recipe for a delicious green smoothie that is sweet and healthy as well as a recipe for making your own cashew milk. Ta da!

Banana with Dates, Spinach, and Homemade Cashew Milk
Serves One

1 cup of homemade cashew milk (see below)
3 pitted dates
1 frozen banana
1 handful of organic spinach 
juice of 1 lime
Place all ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth.

Cashew Milk (adapted from recipe courtesy of Katherine McCord)
Serves Two

 water over night (ie. plan ahead)

water (or 1 cup water and 1 cup coconut water)

(or 1 teaspoon if you use coconut oil)
 all ingredients
and blend until 

Sunday, August 18, 2013

Juice Series: Kale, Cucumber, Lime, and Mint

Another refreshing juice that's light and crisp.

Kale, Cucumber, Lime, and Mint
Serves One

5 leaves of kale with stems removed
1 cucumber peeled and halved
1/2 lime peeled and halved
a few sprigs of mint

Place each ingredient one by one into the juicer with the appropriate speeds. Pour into a glass. Enjoy.

Friday, August 16, 2013

3.5 Day Detox

I successfully completed a three-and-a-half day detox, courtesy of Gwyneth Paltrow. As I have mentioned previously, It's All Good has a section in the back that outlines recipe suggestions for various "diets," such as detoxing, general health, family eating, and body building (the latter always makes me smile--body building, really Gwyn?). After  countless summer nights of eating unhealthily and complaining about it, I decided to give myself a reset, especially after reading the hilarious Rebecca Harrington New York Magazine article. I couldn't commit to the full seven days, but I think three-and-a-half isn't bad . . . if I do say so myself.

When I told my friends and colleagues, they looked at me as though I was crazy. But the truth is, Gwyneth's detox isn't too bad. It's not a complete juicing diet or fast. Each day incorporates one to two juices, a snack like almonds (always soaked in water to help digest the healthy enzymes), fruit, and then high protein-packed meals with vegetables. Oh, and no caffeine and alcohol. (This is the hardest part in my opinion, but doable . . . I swear).
Day One is probably the hardest, especially because on the previous day I had indulged in burgers, fries, beer, wine, and chips. I woke up on Day One feeling bloated and icky. Having no caffeine was pretty challenging, but I went through my day in a fog. Afterwards, each day was better and better. By Day Three, I definitely had energy despite the lack of my cold brew coffee. And by Day Point-five I felt amazing and even politely declined artisan donuts and cupcakes. So there. My skin looked great and I felt more toned and content without starving myself.
My first normal meal involved an evening of Gwyneth-inspired food but with dairy: Mediterranean turkey burgers with yogurt sauce, sweet potato fries, and roasted cauliflower and chickpeas. I even incorporated two glasses of Pinot Noir. I was nervous about how I would feel afterwards, but I feel great and didn't even come close to having a rash that Ms. Harrington was cursed with. 

Will I follow this way of living every day? Certainly not. Those who know me know I love wine, coffee, every avec gluten, dairy, and more. But did I learn that certain foods combined with others will give me energy and make me feel great? And that I can go a few days without carbohydrates at certain meals? Yes. But for now, let's pour a little wine, have some pasta, and don't be shy with parmesan cheese. In fact, just give me the whole bowl. 

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Juice Series: Citrus Delight

Here's another juice that I really like.  It's quite refreshing, especially if you like citrus. You can also substitute regular basil if you don't have Thai basil. 

Citrus Delight
Serves One

1 grapefruit quartered and peeled, pits removed
1 orange halved and peeled
1 carrot
1 cucumber halved and peeled
1/2 lemon peeled
2 leaves of thai basil 

Add the ingredients one by one into your juicer with the appropriate settings. Pour into a glass. Enjoy.

Monday, August 12, 2013

Juice Series: Beet, Kale, Apple, and Lime Juice

Move aside Organic Avenue and Blue Print Cleanse! After spending nearly $10 or more on a single juice, we recently took the plunge and bought a juicer. We opted for the Breville. If you've seen (and, if you're like me, cried) the documentary film Fat, Sick, and Nearly Dead, you know the juicer I'm talking about. The big kahuna. So far, we're loving it. While I haven't juiced for a whole day, I'm aiming to enjoy homemade juice for breakfast or a mid afternoon snack at least three times a week. So far, it's going great, although we've had a few setbacks/challenges: mainly cleaning the machine and it's many parts, and finding the room in our mini fridge to store all of the fruits and vegetables. Plus, we need to identify a better/cheaper way to purchase the goods, because $30 at the NYC grocery store for a few apples and kale is not fiscally sustainable. However, I'm sure we will find a routine that works. 

Here's one of our favorite juices so far. 

Beet, Kale, Apple, and Lime Juice

Serves Two

2 beets thoroughly washed and sliced into wedges
1 handful of beet greens, optional
1 head of kale
2 apples sliced into wedges, core removed
1 lime, peeled and halved

Slowly add your ingredients one at a time with the proper settings and speeds. Fill your glass with goodness. Clean your machine. Enjoy.
I especially like to top my juice off with the incredible foam that you can see above. It's really delightful and full of nutrients.

Friday, August 9, 2013

Summer Salmon Burgers

Earlier this summer I was hearing a lot of hype on Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest cookbook It’s All Good. I was reluctant to make the purchase. I don’t know, maybe it’s pure jealousy, like how she is ridiculously gorgeous, has a killer body, an awesome blog, and traveled around Spain for a television show that basically is just her smiling and eating, or that she’s kissed a lot of hot celebs. But with all of this aside, I trusted Kelsey and Makena's recommendation, and bit the bullet.

When the book arrived, I quickly read it cover to cover. I even read about her magical doctor and lost count of the multiple times the phrase “it’s all good” appeared throughout. There is definitely some shameless self aggrandizing  (ahem, understatement), but you can skim over that.  

The recipes are definitely healthy and the photos are gorgeous (even the ones of you, Gwyneth). Some recipes I certainly won’t follow to the t (but I barely do). For example, she doesn’t use cheese. So what would I do? Add cheese—throw feta on that dish and don’t be shy! Most recipes are gluten free. So what would I do? Eat gluten—make pasta! Also, what is up with vegenaise. I will NOT buy that. But I will buy the millet and lovely exotic spices she recommends. I also like how in the back  of the book, she has a whole section dedicated to daily meal plans so you can plan out your week. Thanks, Gwyneth!

One of the first recipes I was drawn to was her Salmon Burgers with Pickled Ginger (although there is an editorial error in the title—let me know if you can uncover it). I was inspired so I made my own rendition of salmon burgers, mainly adding scallions and more cruciferous vegetables.  Let me know what you think.

Summer Salmon Burgers (Marisa Style)

Serves Two

½ pound of salmon cut into 1-inch cubes
1 tablespoon of pickled ginger roughly chopped
¼ cup of cilantro
3 radishes
2 scallions
1 sliver of red onion
1 slice of red cabbage (totally optional-I had some in my fridge)
1 teaspoon of soy sauce
1 teaspoon of sesame oil
1 tablespoon of olive oil
salt and pepper (Aleppo pepper works great here)

Once your salmon is chopped, place the salmon and your food processor blade in the freezer for a few minutes to chill (it makes it easier to food process).

Add the salmon to a mixing bowl and set aside.

Add the pickled ginger, cilantro, radishes, scallions, red onions, cabbage, soy sauce, and sesame oil to the food processor. Chop the herbs until they are fine.  Add to the salmon, mix, and form patties.

Set your oven to broil.

Place the patties on an oiled tray, sprinkle with salt, and broil for about 5 minutes on each side.

Feel free to top with sriracha and/or any other dipping sauce (I added a creamy horseradish sauce). This dish pairs well with an Asian sauté preparation of Bok Choy. Enjoy!

Monday, August 5, 2013

Cold Brew Coffee: Coming to a Coffee Shop Near You

You may have noticed cold brew coffee options appearing at your local coffee joint. Or perhaps you have even noticed coffee shops dedicated to the cold brewing process, like Black Diamond Cold Brew, which recently opened up in the South Street Seaport.

Not sure what cold brew coffee is? Fear not. Cold brewing is a process in which you brew ground coffee for an extended period of time in room temperature or cold water.  

Cold brewing has several benefits, including lower acidity, more antioxidants and fewer chemicals than traditional hot brewed coffee.

It's easy to make at home, which I've been doing in the warmer months with a French Press.  I simply fill my French Press with water, add five to six scoops of coffee ground for a French Press, stir, and let the coffee steep overnight. In the morning, I plunge the press and serve the coffee in a glass with ice and almond milk.  My carafe typically lasts at least three days, and by the end of the week, I feel extra caffeinated.
If you're not feeling up for making your own, you can certainly try Black Diamond Cold Brew. Co-founded by Deborah and Lottie,  two friends who were determined to find the perfect iced coffee without the burnt flavor. After a disheartened search, the team got fed up and started brewing their own coffee. The result is delicious ($4 for a small). The iced coffee is rich, smooth, and thick. Each sip has a hint of chicory and if you close your eyes, you may even taste chocolatey undertones. Yum.