Archives for January 2015

Soup’s On!

I’ve given up on tomatoes until at least June. My margarita glasses sit dusty and forlorn. And my legs are so pale that I could be mistaken for a vampire. That’s right, it’s winter. And if you can’t beat ’em, at least indulge. My preferred indulgences are favorite tv show marathons, a sub-zero warm vest, and soup. I do love me some soup.  It’s something that you really can’t eat year round, and even if you could, it just tastes so much better when it’s foggy outside, and you are playing hooky from work thanks to a nasty cold.

From high-end to low-end, healthy to indulgent, and familiar to downright outlandish, here are some soup spots where you can indulge your cravings.

Hale and Hearty

This is kind of the Starbucks of soup – it’s inexpensive, it’s on every street corner, people love to rag on it, but it’s downright addictive! You could do worse than to end up at this soup emporium, which offers many rotating soups that change daily. Go for the classic three lentil chili or Tuscan white bean, or go for a seasonal favorite like chicken and sausage jambalaya, Senegalese chicken with peanuts, or a truly creamy and rich Maryland crab chowder. Best of all, you can sample as many soups of you want before you choose!

The Smith

This neighborhood haunt has a ton of great food, but none is better than its creamy tomato soup. The thick, chunky soup is loaded with bright tomato taste and then covered with thick sourdough bread that is then broiled under a blanket of tangy cheddar cheese. It’s the grilled cheese and soup mash-up of your childhood dreams!

The John Dory

Forget the Grand Central Oyster Bar; come here for the best oyster pan-roast in town. It might be the only soup on the menu, but it’s a doozy. It tastes purely of butter, creamy, and briny oysters. It’s rich but not too thick and is served with the ultimate in toasts – uni-topped crostini. This is for the seafood lover looking to up the ante on the standard clam chowder lunch.

Low-Fat Cheesy Broccoli Cauliflower Soup

I don’t really know how to write this post.

You see…this is a recipe that I thought was okay, at best. Not memorable and not really blogable.

BUT…

Every person except for me has loved the final outcome. I have gotten more raves on it htan on anything in recent memory. So…I mean, I have to share it, right?

Broccoli Cauliflower Cheese Soup

Ingredients:

1 lb. mixed cauliflower and broccoli

1 onion, 3 carrots, and 2 cloves garlic, diced

2 tbsp. butter

4-6 cups vegetable stock

2.5 cups shredded sharp cheddar cheese

1/3 cup whole milk

3 tbsp. salt or to taste

pepper to taste

balsamic vinegar, Tabasco, Worcestershire sauce to taste

IMG_2032 1. Sautee the onion, garlic, and butter over medium high heat in a large pot for about 10 minutes, or until the onion has softened and the garlic is just starting to turn golden.  IMG_2059 2. Add the stock, the rest of the veggies, and the salt, and cover. Cook for 40 minutes, or until the vegetables are tender, verging on mushy.  IMG_2060 3. Puree and add the pepper, Tabasco, and balsamic vinegar. Taste for seasonings.  IMG_2066 4. Add the milk and cheese and turn off the heat. Stir until the cheese melts – it should melt quite quickly.  IMG_2067 5. Taste for seasonings.  IMG_2071 6. Serve with Greek yogurt and  (optional) jalapenos.

My husband, my friends, and some co-workers went GA-GA over this the day after it was made. I found it gritty, they found it pleasing. I found it one note, they found it comforting. I found it muted in flavor, they found it subtle and balanced. I don’t know what to tell you…they just LOVED this. Everyone has…mine is the only dissenting voice.

I’m dying for you to make this and tell me what you think!

Jukai – Uni Donburi and So Much More

Many of my favorite Japanese restaurants in NYC are hidden in plain sight. Sakagura. Abiyura Kinnosuke. The sushi place which-shall-not-be-named.

And add to this list Jukai.

Down a small set of stairs on a busy Midtown East street, Jukai is like a lunchtime trip to Tokyo. It’s small and dark, with a light sushi bar and partitioned tables that offers ultimate privacy – so very Japanese.

I ordered the set lunch, which came with these lovely dishes:

20150109_121344

Salad

Simple, thoughtfully comprised, well executed. Tomatoes so sweet that I swear that they must have saved them from last summer. Crispy lettuce, a few salty shavings of Parmesan, and a tangy, shallot and soy dressing. An ideal amuse bouche.

20150109_122051

Uni Donburi

Swoon. A jewel box treasure trove of delicacies. I upgraded – for a pretty penny – to the Santa Barbara uni. This did NOT disappoint. Multiple tongues of uni, each fresher, creamier, and cleaner than the last. They are truly the foie gras of the sea – fatty, luxurious, and the more I eat the more I want. It’s scattered with briny salmon roe, fluffy cubes of tamago, and various pickled vegetables.

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Atop warm, sticky rice…it couldn’t be more delicious. A mosaic of tastes and textures that is – in a word – perfect.

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Crème brulee

Dense, rich, vanilla-y. A surprisingly delicious French dessert to a decidedly traditional Japanese meal.

Jukai is a lovely sanctuary of Japanese delicacies. The service couldn’t be more lovely or Japanese, nor could the food and surroundings. The prices range from bargain to quite a splurge, but I feel confident in recommending anything in this charming hidden restaurant.

“Jerusalem” Inspired Crispy Cod Cakes with Jalapenos and Dill

If you haven’t heard about Jerusalem, you must do things like play sports or post political rants on Facebook or do any score of other things that I don’t. Because Jerusalem, by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi is the hottest cookbook since Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It’s everything that you want middle eastern cooking to embody – spicy, fragrant, moist, crispy, and incredibly exotic. It’s also beautifully photographed – you almost smell the oranges in the Jaffa market as you skim the pages of the book. The recipes range from complex to basic and I have been inspired multiple times just from the titles of the recipes.

This recipe is largely theirs – the technique, the main ingredients, the accompaniments. But, of course, I change it up – switched the fish, added some jalapenos, and mixed up a few quantities.

The result is part me and part them and totally perfect.

Jerusalem’s Crispy Cod Cakes with Jalapenos and Dill

2010-09-25 samosas Ingredients:

1 lb. cod, chopped into small pieces – as close to a paste as possible. (any flaky, mild white fish should work well)

Note: This fish should be filleted and have the skin removed by your fishmonger. Just ask him to do it and he will. Don’t try to do this at home, if you can avoid it – it’s not difficult, just messy and stinky. 

1/3 cup mayonnaise

1/2 cup breadcrumbs, or more as necessary

1 tsp. capers, sliced

1 large handful of the following herbs, combined – dill, parsley, zest of 1 lemon

juice of 1/2 lemon, plus more for finishing

2 tbsp. pepper

2 tbsp. salt, or to taste

2 tsp. each coriander, cumin, turmeric

2 green onions, diced, plus more for garnish

1 jalapeno, diced (I only used half because it was super spicy)

Vegetable oil, deep enough to shallow fry the cakes

IMG_2005 1. Combine all of the ingredients except the oil, the extra lemon juice and the extra scallions in a bowl. Yep, just combine them.

IMG_2006 2. Now, mash it into a paste. Really mix and mash it – don’t be worried that you are going to make it the consistency of cat food. It’s going to turn out creamy and fluffy. Trust me. Let it sit in the fridge for 30 minutes to an hour.  IMG_2017 3. When the mixture is chilled, form a test patty and fry it in some olive oil – a rather healthy amount (more than you see here). This is to see if the consistency and the seasonings are right. I needed way more breadcrumbs so the patties didn’t totally fall apart, quite a bit more lemon juice, and also some more salt.  IMG_2021 4. Fry the whole mes – I put the patties in the pan over medium heat, then cover them for about 5 minutes. By the time I check back, they are mostly cooked through.  IMG_2022 5. I flip them to get some color on both sides, but that results in some of them falling apart a bit. It’s solely an aesthetic thing, so feel free to serve without flipping them. In fact, the next step is to… IMG_2028 6. Serve with a sprinkle of lemon, green onions, and Greek yogurt. IMG_2029 I serve mine with roasted vegetables and sesame eggplant dip, but they would be fabulous on a crusty roll with tartar sauce. These are lovely. Tart, salty,and mild. Crispy outside and creamy inside, with a texture that is soft but not slimy. It’s fragrant with dill and has the most lovely yellow color from turmeric (cancer fighter, ftw!). The jalapeno is spicy but not too hot, and the lemon juice brings a bright, sunny flavor to the patties. With a spoonful of creamy Greek yogurt, these are all that and a bag of chips.

Welcome to the holy land.

Weekend Eats: Wine Gums, Cookies, and Other Snacky Things

Weekend eats were few and far between – a work party, several birthday parties, and multiple espressos dominated my caloric intake.

Pathetic, I know.

This is what I nibbled in the meanwhile:

20150106_075802 Maynard’s wine gums

My parents brought these back from their European vacation because they know that if they transit through Heathrow and return without them, they are SURE to see me reduced to Veruca Salt whiney brattiness. These are my fave gummy candies on the planet. They are sturdier than standard gummy bears and have a more delicate, perfume-y flavor. I love the black currant flavor, but the lime is my number one. It’s wonderfully tart without being sour and as you chew, its waxiness dissipates and the pallat just melts softly on your tongue. Worth a ticket to London just to get your body weight in these candies. Sorry, I can’t share since I already ate mine.  20150109_114508 Insomnia cookies white chocolate chip macadamia nut cookies

The choice of drunk college kids everywhere (they deliver hot cookies and cold milk till 3 am…hence the name) actually holds up in daylight hours. Insomnia has a gimmick but its good enough to stand alone. This cookie is just what you want – thin but not crispy. Warm, gooey, just under baked enough to be creamy but not give you salmonella. The white chocolate is sweet and the macadamias are plentiful and buttery. Just…yes.
20150111_130820 Pret a Manger peanut bar

Don’t waste your time on this. It’s not what you want. You want something crunchy, oatey, nutty, sweet, and a little salty – right? This is leaden, dense, gritty, and just unappetizing. Of course, you already ordered it and you need something to go with your Diet Coke, so chances are…you eat it. What a waste! Go with any of their excellent sandwiches, instead.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash

This is less of a recipe and more of a tutorial.

It’s how you cook spaghetti squash. It’s pretty quick and made with stuff you already have in your pantry and fridge.

It does NOT taste like spaghetti – whoever said that should be shot. That’s like saying that mayonnaise and marshmallow creme taste the same because they look alike.

Come ON, people.

Anyway, this recipe is good for meatless Monday. It’s filling, it’s cheap, and if you use really great sauce, it’s pretty satisfying, too.

Cheesy Baked Spaghetti Squash

spaghetti squash parmesan Ingredients:

1 large spaghetti squash

1.5 jars your favorite pasta sauce (I sautee some mushrooms quickly and add those, some sriracha, and a little dried basil to my favorite jarred sauce)

1 ball low moisture mozzarella (regular is also okay, but make sure it’s fresh and high quality)

IMG_1921 1. Cut the squash in half lengthwise (use a heavy duty knife – it’s a hard shell!) and scoop the seeds and strings out of the cavity and discard. Then, place shell side up in a microwave safe pan, with a wee bit of water in the bottom. Microwave for 12 minutes and wait for the squash to be cool enough to handle.  IMG_1929 2. Take the fork and scrape it against the inside of the squash – the flesh magically separates into noodle-like strands. Preheat the oven to 350F.

Now, let’s layer! IMG_1944 3. Sauce… IMG_1946 squash… IMG_1950 mozz… IMG_1953 repeat. I finish with an extra layer of sauce, but you do whatever works best for you.  IMG_1956 4. Bake for 20 minutes or until the cheese is melted, golden, and bubbling. There will be a ton of extra liquid, but much of it will thicken as it cools to an edible temperature.  IMG_1964 5. Serve over greens for an extra dose of roughage.

Like I said, this is a technique, not a recipe. It’s just jarred sauce, fresh cheese, and squash that you can keep on your counter for a week till you need it. It’s super filling and an easy way to go meatless – because if you are adding meat, just go whole hog and use actual noodles, ya know? This is one of my husband’s favorite healthy meals, and I have to say that as long as you are expecting the bouncy, snappy, earthy taste and texture of squash, it will be one of yours, too.

Coffee Talk with Linda Richman

Pull out your dad’s favorite “Far Side” mug, get out those sweatpants, and settle down.

coffee-talk-o (1)

It’s time for cawfee tawk.

20150103_100517 Palmier from Epicerie Boulud

This elegant, chi-chi, bring-your-black-card eatery on both the UWS and in The Plaza food hall is everything that I hate about NYC. It has $17 tuna sandwiches, slow servers (I mean, like moving through molasses slow), and I always feel inferior to the Russian oligarch purchasing $50/glass champagne to my left. But I’ll be damned if every single item there isn’t delicious. The palmier is a glowing example. Buttery, sugary, and flaky almost to a fault. It’s the perfect breakfast pastry or cawfee talk accompaniment. When dunked in a frothy cappuccino, it fairly melts into creamy, sweet pastry. It’s just tasty, plain and simple.  20150103_164140 Rice Krispie treat at Irving Farm

The coffee here has an almost cultish following, but I’m all about that treat. It’s gargantuan, fresh, and tastes even better than mom’s. I am inclined to think that this is due to an inordinate amount of butter in the mix – how else do they stay so soft? The marshmallow has melted into a smooth, glossy cream that is tacky but not sticky and sweet but not diabetes-inducing. This is large enough to share with a friend and the space is cozy, perfect for an afternoon of gossip.  20150104_121054 Anything at Culture Espresso

I am no coffee geek, but that’s why I love the coffee drinks here – they make the greatest frou-frou drinks. The lilliputian shop is always friendly, always crowded, and has some SERIOUSLY great caffeine. My favorite is the flat white, which is so smooth and rich that you might think that it’s just warm, frothy milk instead of an updated cappuccino. The maple cappuccino is sweet and rich, with more than just a hint of maple. And even the espresso is brewed so carefully that it is closer to the taste of dark chocolate than the crap that you normally get from Starbucks.

ABC Cocina – A Fabulous Tapas Treat

I have no idea why it took me so long to eat at ABC Cocina.

I mean, I LOVE ABC Kitchen. I love most Jean Georges restaurants.

But I do HATE having to play reservation roulette. So, maybe that’s why it took literally years for a normal brunch time slot to pop up on Open Table.

Whatever, it was worth it.

Expensive and worth it.

20150104_134002 The atmosphere makes Cocina the cooler, downtown sister to ABC Kitchen. This dining room has seashells on the walls, agate lighting fixtures, antique mismatched plates, and black ceramic coffee mugs. It’s incredibly cool – timeless and trendy at the same time. We saw families with kids here, but the menu and environment seems best suited to groups going out for brunch or catching up with a friend who doesn’t mind a bit of noise over dinner. 
20150104_134450 Sherry Mary

One FABULOUS Bloody Mary! Spicy, bright, savory, and with a wonderful, nutty hint of sherry. Enough to relax me but not enough to get me buzzed. I am still dreaming of it and the habanero Tabasco sauce in the background.  20150104_134808 Shaved brBrussels sprouts salad with Manchego and marcona almonds.

A nice, if unmemorable version. Crisp, fresh sprouts with salty almonds and a shower of soft, tangy cheese. The dressing is bright but not sour, and it’s a good salad. I would get a different one next time, though, just because this wasn’t a standout.  20150104_135150 Guacamole with grapefruit and pumpkin seeds

Delicious. It’s just really well made guac – limey, salty, buttery, with quite a nice kick of heat. They load up the cilantro, which I LOVE, and serve it with a very fruity salsa for a nice, sweet counterpart to the savory guac. The tortilla chips are fresh, thick, hot, and properly salty. I HOUSED this and I ain’t sorry.

20150104_140439 Peekytoe crab fritters with chipotle mayo

STANDOUT! INCREDIBLE, AMAZING, AND AWESOME-LICIOUS. This is what fish and chips WISHES it was. Tiny crispy spheres filled with soft, sweet crab that’s so fresh that you actually feel, for a moment, like you are on a Seattle pier in the middle of summer instead of in the Flatiron district in a snow flurry. The chipotle dip is creamy with enough heat to bring out the crab’s sweet taste. I could have eaten 3 orders of these and not have missed anything else on the table. Everything was delicious, this dish was just THAT good. Don’t miss it – though the gooey cheese and ham fritters are also sensational.
20150104_140834 Beef empanadas
One of the few excellent versions of “tarted up” empanadas out there. Any empanadas that don’t come straight from a street fair in all of their fluorescent orange glory run the risk of tasting land and insipid. These are anything but. A thick pastry shell encases spiced beef and celery  root, rich with cumin and coriander. It’s served with a zesty salsa that compliments the tender celery root without overpowering it. These are like Latin American sliders and they are just lovely!
20150104_141753 Chipotle chicken tacos

Different from what I was expecting and in a great way! Juicy nuggets of chicken in a thin, crisp batter. It’s served with a creamy chipotle sauce, wrapped in a pleasantly lumpy homemade tortilla. The spring tendrils atop are overtly grassy, but in a wonderful way – they are fresh and verdant against the fried chicken.

Skip the desserts (they really can’t stand up to the ones at ABC Kitchen), but get a cocktail and bring your appetite. Meals here are quite pricey, but the service is great, the atmosphere is swingin’, and the food is just fabulous.

ABC, it’s good to be back!

Parm UWS: We’ve Been Waiting for You

Parm  recently opened on the UWS, and let me tell you…we were READY for it! An affordable, delicious restaurant that has a great cocktail menu and is equally appropriate for rowdy birthday dessert and calmer family brunch?! Sign me UP!

20150103_182044 Oh, and sign everyone else up, too. Don’t even THINK about coming here on a Saturday night without a reservation. Like…don’t do it. Don’t worry, even with the massive crowd, the hostess is excellent and will seat you within a minute or two of your reservation time.

20150103_185615 Osso Nice

My unexpected favorite of the round of cocktails that we ordered. This concoction, with rye, grapefruit, and Calabrian honey is a fabulous aperitif. In fact, it tastes like something you would  drink if you had a little cold and wanted to feel better. It’s fruity, bright, a little spicy, and has a gentle, pleasantly sweet  backnote of honey. I don’t love the taste of honey, but here it worked quite well. I recommend it heartily.  20150103_190107 Garlic bread and warm mozzarella

Destination worthy. yep, I totally mean it. At LEAST as tasty as Carbone and without the high prices or difficult reservation. The garlic bread is crunchy (but not so it cuts the roof of your mouth like lesser versions), salty, and loaded with chopped garlic and fresh parsley. The mozz is even better. Warm, milky, soft, fruity with olive oil. It’s creamy and crunchy, pungent and mild. It’s just delicious. Skip the garlic bread deluxe, just go for the mozz – it comes with the bread.  20150103_190400 Spicy broccoli

My fave of all of the veggies we ordered, though the Brussels sprouts were also excellent. The stalks could be slightly more charred, but it comes to the table chilled, tossed in a tangy yogurt vinaigrette, and interspersed with absolutely fiery slices of pickled chilis. It’s quite spicy, vegetal, and quite frankly, necessary with all of the heavy food.

20150103_191529 (1) Chicken Parmesan platter

I mean, it’s just very, very good. Not the most amazing I have ever had (don’t worry, Park Side, you still hold the key to my heart), but very, very good. A big portion (Easily enough to share) of tender chicken with crispy breading, a bright tomato sauce, and a blanket of that really awesome stretchy mozzarella cheese. The baked ziti alongside, topped with a cloud of ricotta, is just a crispy, chewy, and creamy as you could want. This is very, very tasty, and recommended. 
20150103_191540 Chicken Francese platter with Sunday salad

The standout entree. This chicken is the REAL DEAL. It’s as tender as veal,with the soft, “velvet” quality of Chinese proteins. It’s batter is extremely thin and not at all carbo-loaded or greasy. It’s served in a tangy lemony sauce with tons of fresh herbs and just enough butter to enrich the sauce. It’s served with a throwback iceberg salad dressed in Italian dressing that is a far cry from the bottled schlock in my mom’s fridge. It’s a must get.  20150103_194342 Ice cream cake

Just get it. Especially if it’s the Almond Joy version (And even if they run out of the candy bar to top your cake, it’s still delicious). The ice cream is rich and creamy, the topping is whipped cream, and the cookie crumbles are…well, they are cookie crumbles! I love fancy main dishes and trashy desserts, so this is RIGHT up my aisle.

Parm is going to do really well up here. I wouldn’t call it destination worthy fare (except for the garlic bread), but the price point and service are excellent and the food is really quite good. I would totally come here for a loud drink at the bar and an order of mozzarella cheese.

Welcome to the neighborhood.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

Happy New Year! I hope that you are ready to eat some KALE!

Don’t worry…this kale is loaded with cheese, cream, and hot sauce.

Basically, I made a fabulous kale salad for dinner the other night – don’t worry, I’ll blog it! Anyway, no one ever eats THAT much kale, and my remnants usually go into a frittata or waste away in the fridge. But after NYE, we had some cheese left over.

Like, a TON of cheese.

And some artichokes.

And I was feeling blue that the holidays are over and just felt like being fatty and indulgent. I used bacon fat in this recipe, riffing off of this one, but butter works just as well. You could certainly throw some ground sausage in here, as well as olives, roasted red peppers, etc. The sky’s the limit – all that you need to do is use up the random ingredients in your fridge.

Oh, and don’t plan on wearing a bathing suit the next day. Because this goes straight to your love handles. It’s okay, those resolutions can start tomorrow.

Spicy Baked Kale and Artichoke Dip

hot kale dip Ingredients:

3-4 cups washed, dried, and cut kale

1 tbsp. butter or bacon fat

1 onion, diced

2 cloves garlic

1 serrano pepper, diced

2 cans of artichoke hearts or crowns

1.5 packages of cream cheese (assorted varieties are fine – I had leftover veggie and scallion, but use whatever works best for you)

salt and pepper to taste

Tabasco sauce to taste (about 8 dashes for spicy but not painful)

1/2 cup shredded cheese (I used cheddar and Asiago, but fontina and Parmesan would also be fabulous)

20150101_172351 1. Saute the onion and garlic over medium heat with the fat of your choice for about 15 minutes, or until the veggies are softened and translucent. You could let these go for even longer on a slower heat if you are patient. Obviously, I’m not – the point here is to get the alliums soft and remove their bite.  20150101_172804 2. Add the kale and cover. Reduce the heat slightly and let cook for about 10 minutes. When you remove the lid, the kale should be quite soft and the scent should be damned near intoxicating – especially if you use bacon fat. Wow.  20150101_174059 3. Add all of the ingredients except half of the shredded cheese into a baking dish and mix well. Really incorporate those veggies into that cream cheese and mayo mixture. Preheat the oven to 350F. 20150101_174331 4. Add the rest of the cheese to the top, and bake for 35 minutes or until the cheese is melted, brown, bubbly, and every other type of delicious word that you can imagine.

20150101_183831

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EXtDB1hl640&feature=youtu.be

Click here ^ to hear the sound of delicious. 

That’s what it should sound like (minus your husband on the phone in the background.)

20150101_185751 5. Eat with tortilla chips, celery stalks, and spoons. 
20150101_185811 But mostly just tortilla chips. Maybe very thick potato chips – they need to be able to stand up to this rather thick, substantial dish.
20150101_185819 This is just so indulgent. Creamy, cheesy, and just on the border of bieng too rich. Velvety artichoke hearts, zesty Serrano peppers, and that wonderful bacony kale. This recipe is great for kale that is perhaps JUST past its prime. After all, you don’t want the kale to be too crunchy – you want it nice and soft. It’s reminiscent of  cheesy garlic bread, but even better. The kale really does add a meaty, minerally content that cheesy garlic bread lacks. Bring this to a party and you will be the most popular kid there.

Of course, make it at home and eat the whole pan and you will hate yourself.

Like I said, resolutions can start tomorrow.