Archives for February 2014

Valentine’s Day Menu

So you forgot to make Valentine’s Day reservations.

Or you decided you didn’t want to eat out on the night that many industry professionals call the “sh*tshow of the year.”

Or you are hanging by yourself or with a friend rather than a date.

Whatevs.

There is no reason that you can’t have a totally amazing, delicious, and – yes – sexy – meal at home.

Might I recommend this menu:

Naomi Pomeroy’s Asparagus Soup

I know that asparagus isn’t in season, but it doesn’t matter. This is just the best soup I have ever eaten…ever. It’s light, rich, and vibrant – the perfect little amuse bouche to whet your palate.

Lazy Caesar Salad

Caesar is always appropriate, especially when you want to be elegant yet lazy.

That’s how I would describe myself…elegant yet lazy.

This is pungent but not too fishy, assertive but not too goopy, and is great with fresh croutons and some torn romaine lettuce.

Filet and steak sauce

Because Valentine’s Day just calls for a hearty steak and some zippy steak sauce. This foolproof method ensures that you will have enough time to make this while your date – or you!  – sip your first glass of wine. Don’t forget the homemade steak sauce.

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Classic Pommes Puree

After you celebrate your heart, why not stop it with some awesome mashed potatoes made with enough butter to make Michelle Obama call a press conference?

Maple Apple Brussels Sprouts Hash

Crunchy and cabbage-y and sweet and bacon-y. Plus, the leftovers are a great breakfast when topped with a fried egg.

And now…for the grand finale…

Peanut Butter Pie

It ain’t my recipe, but I have never had a peanut butter dessert as good as this one. And I have never had a non peanut dessert as good as a peanut one. So…

You get the picture.

And whatever you do this Valentine’s Day, dine well and treat yourself well.

See you next week!

Kringles for Christmas in February

Being Jewish gives me a ton of culinary advantages. I was eating liver at a young age, learned about the goodness of schmaltz on bread, and absolutely live to celebrate any holiday with a ton of food.

But, I was also denied some opportunities.

Like the opportunity to come downstairs on Christmas morning to the scent of cinnamon, sugar, and nuts.

Because, in some Gentile households of Danish descent, the kids get that every year in the form of a Kringle.

My friend Karl introduced us to this insanely delicious treat this past weekend – a little Christmas in February, dontcha know?

photo 1 (9) These Kringles come from Oh Danish Bakery in Wisconsin. You just order them online and freeze them. Follow the easy instructions to heat them up – don’t even THINK about microwaving these babies. Would you splatter paint on a Degas?

photo 3 (4) They come iced and ready to go. After just 3 minutes in your warm oven, the incredible scent of something sweeter than a cinnamon roll but with the same yeasty, familiar overtone wafts through the house.

photo 4 (4) This is addictive. It’s better than the alligator from Viktor Benes. It’s flaky and tender, but not doughy or gummy like most cinnamon rolls. It’s filled with a very fine pate of pecans, cinnamon, and sugar – it’s so delicate in texture but very robust in flavor. The icing is hard and crispy, like the awesome glaze on a sugar cookie, juxtaposing the delicate dough and the almost creamy filling. There are supposedly other versions, filled with raspberry and other fruits, but man…I can’t imagine anything tastier than this.

I wish this was a sample the company had sent me so I could send you some in a giveaway. But it isn’t  – it’s just this kick ass pastry from Wisconsin that my Danish friend Karl (Danish by way of Tucson, AZ) brought over for breakfast.

It’s why we keep him around.

And it’s why I’m mad that I’m Jewish

Pantry Chicken

Occasionally, save for a few mealy tomatoes and a squidgy head of iceberg lettuce, I have absolutely no fresh vegetables, herbs, or even protein in the house.

It doesn’t happen to me often, but it happens.

And when times like that hit, it’s important to know what to do. I turn to my freezer for ground chicken or chicken cutlets, to my fridge for mayonnaise and mustard, and to my pantry for every spice under the sun. The result is more tasty than you might expect!

Pantry Chicken (photos taken with the wrong setting on my camera – many apologies)

chicken and cauliflower

Ingredients:

4 chicken cutlets

1/3 cup mayonnaise

2 tbsp. ketchup

1 tbsp. hot Chinese mustard

dash of Worcestershire

LIBERAL DASHES OF ANY/ALL OF THE FOLLOWING:

Seasoning salt

pepper

garlic powder

onion powder

cayenne pepper

poultry seasoning

oregano

Parmesan cheese

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1. Preheat the oven to 350 and combine all ingredients except chicken. Taste for seasonings – it should be pretty aggressively seasoned. don’t forget to go easy on the salt at first, since the Worcestershire is loaded with sodium. However, go heavy on the dried herbs.

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2. Coat the chicken in the mixture.

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3. Bake for 20 minutes, or until the chickens juices run clear when poked with a fork and the top is bubbly.

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4. Serve with a starch (YES, this is leftover fried rice, and you know you do it too, so shut up)

This chicken is so good that you might even make it on nights when you have other options. The mayonnaise keeps the chicken extremely moist and it cooks quickly enough to remain tender. The marinade forms a crusty, bubbly surface that is fabulous on a sandwich. Best of all, the taste is complex and vibrant. It’s amazing how just some dried spices and herbs come to life in a zippy, rich sauce. This is great on a Cobb salad, over mashed potatoes, or even served with  – yes!  – Chinese leftovers.

I was going to go grocery shopping today, but, I might just feel like raiding the pantry instead.

Nice Matin is Nice Indeed

This post originally appeared on Whisked Foodie.

Nice Matin may just be the most underrated restaurant on the Upper West Side. It is open all day, so you can always get a drink or a small plate at the bar. It is nice enough to frequent with business colleagues yet casual enough to visit in knock-around clothes. And the prices are perfectly on point with the hood – it’s possible to get a tasty entrée and a glass of wine for about $30.

However, the best part of this sunny, spacious, Provence-style bistro is that you needn’t even order an entrée to get the best of what Nice Matin has to offer.

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Roasted beets with chevre

The beets are sweet and tender with a bit of bite toward the center of the root. It is substantial, especially with the creamy, soft goat cheese and light sprinkling of fresh chives.

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Cold leeks

They are braised, not to melting submission, but only until they are somewhat tender. They still have quite a bit of crunch and signature, onion-y bite. Leeks are very rarely done this way stateside, and it is a vibrant side to heartier dishes.

The chickpea fries, a unique take on the French-Italian Riviera treat socca, arrive to the table piping hot. Their thick outer layer, crunchy and salty, breaks open to reveal a warm, soft interior that is earthy and utterly reminiscent of chickpeas. It is falafel’s subtle sister.

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Of course, you could get a French-inspired main course of moules Provençale, Tuscan chicken under a brick, or even the restaurant’s signature five-napkin burger. The nightly specials, like bouillabaisse and roast duck, offer more straightforward, honest cooking with a French bent.

But why would you go that route when you could order so many small dishes plus some wine from the excellent by the glass list for the same price?

Nice Matin isn’t only overlooked by those who don’t go there. Sometimes, it’s overlooked by those who do. Step out of the box, and order off the appetizers and side menu the next time you go there, and you will be pleasantly surprised by what you have been missing.

Empanadas and a Root and Bone Preview

I won’t keep ya in suspense – here are some delicious eats I have been enjoying as of late:

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Squash blossom and goat cheese empanadas at Cafe Frida

This place is kinda pricey and the portions can be small, but this is one of the dishes on the menu that is not only tasty but well portioned. The empanadas are very big – excellent for an appetizer or enough for the majority of a small meal. They are flatter than traditional empanadas and very flaky. The interior is creamy and earthy, with oregano and cilantro. It’s served on a rather spicy, tart salsa that brightens up the whole dish. I highly recommend this and a potent frozen blood orange margaritas for a snack at the bar.

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Skate with lemon and butter at Ed’s Chowder House

Been awhile since I ate here, right? The service has definitely gone down a notch, but the fish is as excellent as ever. This skate is as good as I have had anywhere, and that includes a very salty version that I once had at Balthazar. This is crispy, moist, and flaky with a mild taste, similar to bass. It’s served in an almost too buttery sauce – rich, tart with lemon, and swimming with herbs and leeks. It’s picatta style to the max, complete with buttery crushed potatoes. It’s super rich and a little heavy for a fish dish, which makes it ideal for a winter night.

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Deviled Eggs from Root and Bone

Top Chef’s Jeff McInnis is bringing his southern fried cookin’ up north and when it hopefully opens this spring in Alphabet City, expect the lines to go around the block. At this preview event, I had some really great food, but none was better than this deviled egg. Creamy, tart, and salty with a surprising umami kick from the anchovy – this is an egg for the ages. The perfect brunch dish or anytime dish. I could eat a dozen, no problem.

Seven Foodie Phrases You Will Never Hear Me Say

This isn’t just a blog about food…it’s a blog about me.

And I want you all to be prepared, not just for what to expect from an Italian restaurant, but how to tell if I have become a zombie in case of the zombie apocalypse. 

If I ever utter one of these phrases, it’s not me. It’s my zombie self.

So run.

Because I would NEVER say:

“Ugh, I would never eat fast food.”

“Dude, no foie gras is worth that much money.”

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“Oh I didn’t prepare to wait in line. That’s okay – let’s just wait for a couple of hours – I’m hungry, but I won’t get cranky!”

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“I know that we are in Japan but I just really want to go to TGIFriday’s…”

“Give me another red wine – I never get hungover!”

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“I honestly can’t eat one more French fry.”

“Let’s skip the appetizers and just order more dessert!”

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“Just dig right in, it’s okay if you don’t wait for me to take a picture for my blog.”

Forgoing the Bread at Olympic Pita

One of the first blogs I ever read was Midtown Lunch. Back then, it just covered midtown and it was only in NYC – not this uber famous, national publication that it is now. It was just one guy – Zach Brooks – writing about places he liked to eat his workday lunches. He loved spicy, cheap, ethnic food – hello, my tastebuds.

That’s where I first learned about Olympic Pita. And yesterday, I finally tried it.

Olympic Pita is a kind of funny set up – from the front it looks totally like a take out place, with a long counter where you can help yourself to salad bar fixings and order your falafel and schwarma sandwiches. The back is late 90s bar dining chic – you know what I mean. Real plates, slick lines, and the top pop hits playing on the radio. I wouldn’t come here for a date, but for a convenient lunch or dinner that is nicer than your local pizza joint, it’s ideal.

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Moroccan cigars

The first time I had these was when I was a kid. My parent’s glamorous friend made them – she also introduced me to guacamole, so I guess I have her to thank for the awkward freshman that I experienced years later. I haven’t had them since but the minute that I tasted these, I was transported back to 1994. It was a total time machine. Wafer thin, crispy skins like spring rolls filled with a deeply savory, mineral-y meat filling. They say that it’s beef but it tastes almost like liver. It’s that rich and smooth. Dipped in the nutty, smooth tahini sauce, it is a really hearty appetizer. They are light, crunchy,a nd intensely meaty. Perfect for a wintery day.

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Iraqi Chicken

Oh YES. I haven’t ever had Iraqi chicken before and it is really great. The chicken has a charred, woodsy taste like it is grilled over an open fire. The chicken is ground and mixed with fragrant coriander, garlic, and other spices and herbs before it gets grilled. The result is a very earthy, fragrant sort of kofte kebab – it’s dense and juicy. Delicious.

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The salad bar is another don’t miss. There are tart pickled turnips, turmeric infused cabbage, tangy coleslaw, and some of the spiciest hot sauce I have ever tried – can’t wait to go back and choose some other side dishes.

I can’t wait to go back and try the famous laffa too – who goes to Olympic Pita and doesn’t get bread, after all!? The food here isn’t cheap, but that’s because it’s kosher. The meat is expensive and it’s also a commodity to be serving Kosher food – so yeah, a sit down lunch will cost around $16 a person. However, the take out sandwiches seem much less expensive – can’t wait to go back and check those out. And for heaven’s sake, get some bread!

Creamy Mexican Corn Dip

Remember when I made that awesome corn recipe last summer but I never quite posted the recipe?

So sorry for that.

I am here to rectify the situation, no matter how late.

And I rectified it in the winter! In a way you can eat it with chips!

And…I hate to say..it might even be better than it was this summer.

After all, it’s cheaper, it can be made ahead of time in vast quantities, and we wear big coats to hide our spare tires. 

Creamy Mexican Corn Dip

corn dip

Ingredients:

3 cans corn

2 serano chiles, diced

2.5 cups nonfat greek yogurt

1/2 cup mayonnaise

3 chopped chipotles in adobo, with some of the sauce

3/4 cup fresh cilantro, cleaned and chopped

Juice of 1 small or 1/2 large lime

1 bunch scallions, chopped

1/2 block feta or cotija cheese, crumbled

1.5 tbsp. salt

2 tbsp. each cumin and coriander

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1. Put the corn and jalapenos in a very hot and heavy skillet or grill pan. The idea is to char it over high heat so there are some burned, crunchy parts. It should take about 5 minutes.

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2. In the meanwhile, mix together all of the other ingredients.

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3. Add the corn mixture to the bowl with the other ingredients.

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4. Refrigerate for an hour and then taste for seasonings. I tend to like mine on the tarter, spicier side, but you can make your own decisions.

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5. Serve with tortilla chips.

This stuff is so delicious – this makes a huge portion and it was gone within an hour at our Superbowl shindig. It is sweet and savory and spicy and creamy. The heat is very mild but enough so that you sit up and take notice. The char on the corn brings an earthy, savory note and the lime juice perks everything up. Don’t forget to use full fat mayo, because it rounds out the tangy taste of the yogurt. However, most of the mixture here is made from nonfat yogurt, so it really isn’t that bad for you. I mean, it is if you eat it with a ton of beer and some mini chicken Parmesan sliders like we did.

This is perfect for those who are kosher, gluten free, or vegetarian. Though, it might be even better by crumbling in some smoky bacon.

Hmmm…that would be good….

Expect yet another version of this recipe soon.

Skillet o’ Cake at David Burke Fishtail

So, this weekend, I made some awesome Mexican corn dip, ate the best deviled egg of my life, and had some kick ass Chinese food at my bridal shower (spoiler alert – Congee Bowery has not only an awesome private room but some of the juiciest pork dumplings in town).

But this isn’t about any of those piddly stories.

This is about the most whimsical things that I ate this weekend.

This is about Fishtail’s Skillet of Cake.

Fishtail is David Burke’s elegant UES restaurant. It’s loud and upscale, just like all of his places, but it has a casual bar in the front area. You can sit there and have a beer or sit at one of the high booths with your friends and order this expensive, indulgent, childhood kickback dessert. I didn’t even take any pictures of the interior because the bar area is really just the standard picture of a nice UES restaurant bar.

Little did I know what I was in for.

They call it a can o’ cake, but it’s really a skillet. You order it in the large size for 4 people and then it takes about 20 minutes to make.

IMG_20140131_212835_904 Don’t worry, while you wait, you get to lick the beaters, just like at Grandma’s house. The cake batter is dark and chocolatey, whith a smooth texture. It’s so fun to sit in this fancy restaurant and lick cake batter off of the beaters. And, of course, eavesdrop on all of the second dates going on at the bar.
IMG_20140131_215406_039 When the cake is ready, it comes to you on a small side table. A warm skillet of brownie cake, homemade vanilla ice cream, a can of whipped cream, hot fudge, and puffed rice. Let the server divvy up the cake and give you the works.  IMG_20140131_215611_771 This is pretty much a souped-up version of a brownie sundae. It’s all warm, soft, dark chocolate cake, airy whipped cream, and some of the finest vanilla ice cream in recent memory. That ice cream is homemade and it’s really something else. It has a caramelly, buttery note that made me think that there was bourbon int here somewhere. The server swears that it’s just vanilla, but let’s be honest – there is obviously some addictive substance in there that they aren’t telling us about. And that’s okay – as long as they keep this on the menu, they can be as secretive as they want. The cake is reminiscent of Duncan Hines in the best way possible – it’s soft and warm – just like you remember. This is totally nostalgic. It’s expensive to be sure, but what a fun way to cap off an adult night on Manhattan’s UES. Plus, if you split it between four people, it’s only about $10 a person after tax. I have spent more than that on adult desserts that aren’t as whimsical or tasty.

And they surely don’t come with a side of raw batter to enjoy!