Chocolate Cookies and Avocado Toast

Some  foods to enjoy this weekend or next week:

20150119_130128 Belgian Boys mini choco stroopwafel

OMG AMAZING ! I know that I say that about a lot of foods, but this one really is amazingly tasty. Stroopwafels are a Dutch specialty – circular, crispy waffel cookies filled with sticky caramel. They are crunchy but also have a little five, thanks to being softened by the caramel. They are sweet, but not overly so, and come from tiny to almost record-sized. These are even better than the best ones I had in Amsterdam. They are covered in this thick, creamy milk chocolate that breaks cleanly to reveal a gingerbready cookie and stretchy, sweet caramel. If you like chocolate, caramel, or cookies, you will love this. Twix, get your sad self out of my sight.  20150121_123257 Avocado toast at Joseph Leonard

I just love the food here. It’s hip and overpriced but it’s also great atmosphere and just really wholesome and god. I felt stupid ordering avocado toast – like I can’t mash my own avocado at home?! – but this is so tasty. For some reason, I always have stringy avocado on mine and my toast is either too thin or too crispy, and I over season it…This was perfect. Smooth, buttery avocado barely sprinkled with chili flakes so there is some mild heat but not so much that it sears. The bread is thick and warm but not too crispy. It’s served with perfectly fried eggs and a tangle of bright,vinegary watercress. It’s wholesome, delicious, and served till 3 pm. What more could you want?

Quick City Bites

Besides a sensational burger, here are some other weekend eats:

20150116_203435 Calamari at Pinxto y Tapas

Man of La Mancha meets fried food fantasia at this affordable and fun Spanish restaurant in New Jersey. Though we had several tasty dishes, the calamari is a standout. Crispy, fresh, mild, and perfect with nothing more than a sprinkle of lemon. The doughnut-like maduros are also absolutely unmisable.  20150118_105558 Gorilla cheese truck ravioli grilled cheese

Ravioli. Muenster cheese, bacon. jalapenos. Onions. Did I mention ravioli IN the sandwich? These grilled cheeses are quickly becoming my guilty pleasure – small enough for a snack, large enough for lunch once you add some tater tots and creamy tomato soup. This is stretchy, melty, crunchy, and FRIED RAVIOLI-FILLED. Still not over the excitement.  20150118_124824 Schmackery’s

The hit of any brunch fete. The fluffernutter cookies are something else – soft, chewy, and intensely peanut buttery. I’m still a red velvet addict, though.

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.

“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.

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.

Epic Fails of 2014

Aaah, 2014 – a year to remember! A year where I ate at Michelin starred restaurants, traveled to Greece, cooked a traditional feast or two, and started an Instagram account. Oh, and I got married, too. We had a lot of hits – you know about all of those.

Now, let’s look at the misses, shall we?

Epic Fails of 2014

IMG_0865 Greek chicken slow cooker soup

Newsflash – when making chicken int he slow cooker, don’t put mushrooms in there to cook for 8 hours. They disintegrate and become both mushy and tough. Oh, and don’t use just wine for the braising liquid – it will make everything taste like battery acid. OH, and for heaven’s sake TASTE IT before you tell your family what is for dinner.

Because, if it turns out anything like mine, what’s for dinner will be take out Chinese food.
IMG_0965 Harissa baked salmon

I actually am still retching just thinking about the completely rotten, putrid, foul aroma and taste of what should have been delicate, spicy, mild Copper River salmon. I coated this in a harissa-tomato paste flecked with cilantro and for some reason, in between the time that I applied it to the salmon and the time that I ate it, it became just repulsive. Actually disgusting. I can’t even look at this picture any more.  IMG_1107 Pouring out gravy with the fat

I did this, and continue to do this, like every other time that I separate fat from gravy. That’s what I get for watching “The Real World” reruns while I cook.  IMG_1758 Ever so slightly rotten delicata squash from Trader Joe’s

Don’t worry, I didn’t just cut around it and feed it to the kids. We had to get Chinese take out, again.

20140817_191503 Sunday night pizza

Some wine, some great focaccia, wonderful pizza toppings…this was our favorite tradition of 2014.

That we did exactly once. ONCE. I’m disgusted with myself.

20140809_115858 This picture

Like, what is it? This was a DELICIOUS farmer’s market lunch of sheep’s milk cheese, jewel like tomatoes, and wonderful, juicy peaches. Why does it look like something that fell out of a dump truck?

So, here’s to 2015!

Enjoy the festivities and see you here, bright and early, Monday morning!

Wontons, Carrot Cake, and the Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Some discoveries over Christmas and the days that followed:

20141224_185456 General Tso’s Chicken from Serious Eats

Amazing, incredible, perfect, wonderful. This is an extremely labor intensive process – double dipping, deep frying, hand coating, the whole megilah. But let me tell you – it is WORTH it. This is the crunchiest, golden-est, delicious-est fried chicken I have ever eaten in my home. I didn’t even do it properly – half of  the chicken didn’t get properly coated in the dry mix and became gluey and messy. But, somehow, when it fried, it became almost as crispy and perfect as the pieces that were prepared with care and precision. I dumped a bunch of chicken in at one time, undersalted it, and cheated on the sauce by using store bought duck sauce that I doctored with sambale olek and scallions. It was stilt the best American Chinese food that I have ever made at home. Fabulous.  20141225_113413 Deep fried wontons

In my new, cheap, and totally awesome wok. The wok is the best deep fryer I could ever imagine and the best tasting wontons I have had in my own home. I love potsktickers as much as the next gal, but wontons really should be totally crispy, with no doughy or delicate steamed quality. Give me crispy, crunchy, brown, and hot enough to burn my tongue. I fried these half a bag at a time and they disappeared faster than you can say “pass the ponzu.” 20141225_161931 Many assorted Asian sauces

…make for a great do-it-yourself fried rice bar.  20141226_173245 Carrot cake from The Little Pie Company

For people who think that they hate carrot cake. So sweet, fluffy, moist, and positively draped with creamy, sweet, thick cream cheese icing. Yes, I have been eating a ton of carrot cake lately.

Hey, it’s the most wonderful time of the year, right?

What and How to Eat During Winter

It’s almost Christmas! You know what that means…CHINESE FOOD TOMORROW!

But here are a couple of tips to get through the snow, slush, and muck when the tree comes down and all that you’re left with is the aching feeling that global warming would be better than 2 more months of this crappy weather.

20141218_123727 Sushi

Eat as much sushi as possible through March. Now, when the water is cold, fish have to put on extra fat. That means tekka that tastes like toro, oysters that are creamy and plump, and uni that is…well…eat as much uni as you can afford. Salmon is better in the summer, but almost every other fish is better at this time of year.  20141218_190444 Order yourself some indulgent sweet treats from Sucre

Family sent me a delicious holiday care package from this Nola sweet factory and all I can say is I WANT CANDY! The macarons come in a series of southern inspired flavors like bananas foster and strawberry shortcake. The strawberry one is especially delicious – the cookie is a little too airy, but the ganache is a white chocolate blanket adorned with a sticky, juicy jewel of strawberry jam. This is a good cookie. To say nothing of the excellent chocolates and craveworthy peppermint bark.  20141222_085449 Breakfast or dinner dates with friends

I hate this weather so much that I never go out in it, except for errands, transport, and pre-planed dates. I don’t just go out on a whim like I do when it’s warm and summery. Planning dates with friends is one of the only ways to keep e from becoming a complete social hermit. With my work and family schedule, breakfast works better for me. Meeting a friend even once a month makes a huge difference in your winter life – after all, how fun is it to eat a delicious meal with someone who doesn’t share your last name? I heartily recommend the creamy scrambled egs and wonderfully tangy toast that I enjoyed with Feisty Foodie at Maison Kaiser.

Porter House – A Great Lunch Deal and Phenomenal Steak Tartare

I had the most unexpectedly lovely lunch the other day  - you really have to go to Porter House to know what I mean.

I mean that it’s in the Time Warner Center, home to Per Se and Masa. I mean that it’s the restaurant of a celebrity chef, Michael Lomonaco, and the steaks all come a la carte with huge price tags.

And they have  a 3 course lunch prix fixe for $30, one of the city’s great steak tartares, and a gorgeous dining room.

Michael Lomonaco is kind of a prince among men. His bravery, his kindness, and his story can’t be told better than it is here – so I’ll leave it at that. You can read that he is the kind of fellow to whom you want to give your business.

The atmosphere is tranquil and upscale – the kind of place you would come with your parents for Christmas lunch. Or, you know,t he kind of place you would visit when Landmarc has an hour wait and you are starving.

The (unpictured) bread service is excellent – the raisin pecan bread is soft and sweet. It’s more like cake than bread, and it’s delicious.

20141221_115147 Caesar salad

Excellent – really, above reproach. Fresh, crunchy lettuce leaves that are cut into bit sized pieces so you don’t have to gnaw on roughage like peter rabbit. A subtle, salty, creamy dressing without too much garlic. Freshly shaved parmesan, sourdough croutons, and a super thin cried anchovy crisp that is savory and delightful. Truly, one of my favorite Caesar salads in the city.  20141221_115154 Tomato fennel soup

My mom always says tht you can judge a chef by his/her soup, and in this case, the chef deserves a Michelin star. The soup is creamy and bright, with a tart, earthy tomato taste and just the slightest sweet tang of fennel. It’s so slight that I might have missed it had the server not warned me - it’s really subtle. The Parmesan on top and crunchy croutons make this a more refined version of Italian peasant soup. It’s just what you want to eat on a cold NYC day – grown up tomato soup.  20141221_121043 Steak tartare

Stop the presses, this is it. This is the steak tartare of my dreams. The seasoning could be a little spicier, but the balance of tart pickle, bracing mustard, sweet, shallot, and creamy egg yolk is ideal. And that meat. Wow, that MEAT. What must be hand chopped filet mignon in small, irregular pieces, is one of the best steak tartares in the city. It’s tender, intensely iron-y, and well salted. It even has some sweet undertones, not at all too muddy or earthy. Spread on toasted sourdough bread….only some Tabasco sauce could bring it to utter perfection. It’s also a well sized portion for an entrée.  20141221_121051 Burger with blue cheese

As good as the tartare. Coarsely ground and juicy to the max, with a thick, almost blackened (as requested) crust and a pink interior that reaches to a nearly translucent red center. It’s topped with blue cheese that is salty and funky but not too much so. Blue cheese and beef on a squishy bun with crispy fries…is there anything better?

This restaurant is a splurge for lunch, but at $30 for three courses (unpictured steak frites and flourless chocolate cake are just excellent), it’s a great deal. Other than a rather surly hostess, the staff was flawless and the lunch was a delight.

Unexpectedly awesome meals…can we get a hashtag for that?