Beefy Tomato Rice

This is comfort food 101.

It’s what my mom used to make when I was sick. Or when my sister had friends over. Or when it was Tuesday.

You know, just any time that we wanted some delicious food quickly.

My husband calls it grown up Beefaroni.

Anna Wintour would call it hideously ugly.

You will call it delicious.

Beefy Tomato Rice

2011-12-18 tsimis brisket liver hummus latkes1Ingredients:

1 lb. lean ground beef

1 onion and 2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 28 oz. can whole peeled tomatoes

2 tbsp. tomato paste

1 cup rice or orzo

3-4 cups broth or stock

2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce

3 tbsp. ketchup

1/2 cup shredded mozzarella or Parmesan cheese

20141125_1732141. Sautee the onions and garlic over medium heat until they turn translucent and soften – the picture here is a little bit too far gone. You don’t want the garlic to color like it has here. 20141125_173720 2. Add the beef and cook until it’s browned. Drain off any excess fat. 20141125_173733 3. Add the orzo or rice. Stir to coat in the residual fat. 20141125_173924 4. Add the tomatoes and one ladleful of stock. 20141125_174034 5. Stir the rice continuously until it absorbs the stock. You continue adding stock and letting the rice or orzo absorb the liquid until the grain has become creamy and plump. This should take about 30 minutes and must be continuously stirred so the rice doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot. 20141125_175821 6. Add the tomato  paste, ketchup, and Worcestershire sauce. Taste for seasonings and adjust accordingly. 20141125_180145 7. Stir in the cheese. 20141125_192144 8. Serve

And be sure to serve youself a much heartier portion than this piddly little serving in the photo.

You are going to want a LOT of this stuff. Creamy, starchy, warming. Juicy tomatoes, sweet onions, tart ketchup. Not too salty and not too spicy – really different than the type of food that I normally enjoy.

And yet…perfect. So delicious. So easy and cheap to make for a big crowd or just for yourself. 20141125_192149

It makes me feel like I’m home again.

And yes, it’s pretty much grown up Beefaroni.

Cha Pa’s – Vietnamese in the Theater District

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I hit up Cha Pa’s because I was in that part of town. And, of course, because I love Vietnamese food. When I lived in Tucson, there was the BEST pho restaurant  - Pho 88. I spent many happy calories there. Sadly, I have been less lucky with pho here in The Big Apple. So, I headed to Cha Pa’s to see if I could get my fix. 
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The restaurant is tiny and casual – come here in jeans and a t-shirt and you will feel totally at home. 20141122_182808Spring rolls

Lovely! Crispy and light, but filled with a dense mixture of cabbage, beanthread noodles, and ground pork. Dipped in a light, citrusy-sweet sauce, it’s just what you want when you crave spring rolls. They are fragrant, well-balanced, and addictive.
20141122_183101Vietnamese coffee soda

Like a coffee flavored egg cream. Not my style, but if you like egg creams and coffee, this will be right up your alley! Sweet, creamy, and lightly fizzy!
20141122_183540Shaking Steak

WOW! I have never had shaking steak before, but this is outstanding! Flank steak that is so tender that it might as well be filet mignon. It’s coated in some sort of VERY light, crispy coating and then dressed in a sweet and salty glaze. It’s served over wilted watercress and pickled onions, which add dimensions of bitterness and tang. The steak is SO tender that you can cut it simply with your teeth. It’s sticky sweet, beefy, and very rich. I would eat this again tomorrow and simply have to try making it at home.

Cha Pa’s isn’t too expensive and I love the food. However, the service is abysmal and my co-diners were less than pleased with their entrees. So, I would come here if you are in the hood and the lunch specials are cheap. Or I would order in in my pajamas.

And I’m still searching for the pho of my dreams here in NYC.

Melt Shop – More Than Just an After-Tot

Sometimes, you want a good grilled cheese.

And other times, you want to go to a grilled cheese restaurant after you have already eaten dinner and indulge in some tater tots.

I didn’t plan on it, it was a total after-tot…get it?

I know, my dad humor is wasted on you foodies.

I went to Melt Shop after dinner but before seeing the inimitable Aaron Lazar in “The Last Ship” especially for these:

20141122_191416Loaded tots

Do you see anything wrong with this photograph? Because if you do, you should probably find a different blog – this one just ain’t for you. These are decadence personified – Yeah, Amurrica! Crispy tater tots positively LOADED with creamy cheese sauce, crunchy bacon, slightly spicy pickled jalapenos, and a generous shower of garlicky Parmesan cheese. This is too much and yet just enough. It’s over the top and low end. It’s crispy bacon and salty parmesan cheese. It’s wonderfully rich nacho cheese and tart, none-too-limp jalapenos. It’s just about perfect.

20141122_191307Heath Bar crunch and Nutella-fluff milkshakes

As if you couldn’t guess…these are also exemplary. The Nutella-fluff is almost intimidatingly sweet, with ribbons of smooth Nutella and the sugary, sticky backnote of marshmallow fluff – only serious sweet tooths need apply to this one. The Heath Bar crunch is more my style – floral vanilla milkshake studded with chocolatey, crunchy bits of Heath Bars. Both shakes are thick but still sippable, which I like – I hate a milkshake that is too thick to sip with a straw. 

I have to go back for the sandwiches, I know this. But for quick counter service, a friendly and clean dining room, and a location literally at Broadway’s doorstep…you can’t do better than Melt Shop for a delicious snack.

Don’t make it just an after-tot. 

BBQ Chicken and Cheese Crescent Rolls

I took my cue from this off of one of those stupid commercials where the family all plays football together in the picture perfect backyard, falls into a pile of leaves, then scampers off to the gleaming kitchen for a quick meal that mom whips up while wearing size 2 jeans and smiling the entire time.

Needless to say, we are not that family.

We are a family who has frozen chicken burgers in the freezer, a jar of bbq sauce in the pantry, and a can of crescent rolls in the fridge.

Don’t worry, I promise that I served a salad and some roasted carrots alongside.

BBQ Chicken and Cheese Crescent Rolls

Ingredients:

1 package crescent rolls

1/2 lb. of ground chicken burgers (if you just have ground chicken, add some chopped onions, herbs, salt, and pepper to the mix)

3/4 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese

3 tbsp – 1/4 cup bbq sauce

hot sauce to taste

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1. Sautee the chicken until it is totally cooked. Add the cheese and mix through until it’s melted.

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2. Add the bbq sauce and mix to combine. Turn off the stove.

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3. Take out the crescent rolls and preheat the oven per the instructions on the carton.

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4. Take a small dollop of chicken mixture and spoon it onto the widest part of the crescent roll.

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5. Roll the crescent dough over once, then put a smaller amount onto the next little triangle section of dough.

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6. Roll around to complete your little crescent! Repeat for all of the dough, and don’t worry if some come out a little wonky looking – that’s okay!

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8. Bake on a greased baking sheet until the dough is golden brown on top, then serve the buns topped with hot sauce and extra bbq sauce.

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These are wholesome guilty pleasures. The dough is basically a carb and preservative bomb, but the chicken is lean, the cheese is filled with protein, and you can always eat salad on the side. These are creamy, spicy, and tangy. They are best when served piping hot, but someone I know eats them cold out of the fridge for midnight snacks. These would be awesome for a big party, since they can be served room temperature and are hand held.

It’s the closest that we ever came to being a tv family.

Elle’s Kale Chip Commandments

I have this friend, Elle, who is kind of my lifestyle guru.

She just knows how to DO things well.

Which is why I should have known that she would teach me how to make kale chips. Her methods are straightforward and must be followed to a “T.”

The result is nothing less than crack cocaine.

And all that you need to do is follow Elle’s commandments:

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1. Thou shalt dry thy kale

Chips abhor moisture. No matter how great your oven is or how fresh your kale is, if the stuff isn’t dry, it ain’t gonna crisp. Elle carefully dries EACH leaf with a paper towel before she declares it good enough to bake.

2. Thou shalt not overlap thy leaves

Because she says that if even a little bit of the leaf is left unexposed to heat, it will stay limp and become mushy, ruining the entire chip. She says that the kale can be touching at the edges but not overlapping. You will have to do several rounds of baking since there’s a lot of shrinkage when they heat up.

3. Thou shalt drizzle, not pour, the olive oil.

Do that little hand back-and-forth hand shaky thing to get a few drops of oil on each leaf, then let it go. You don’t want to drown these puppies in oil.

4. Thou shalt salt well

Kale loves salt and needs it. Salt those suckers, and add some cayenne pepper if you feel frisky.

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5. Thou shalt bake at 350 F until they are almost black and smell delicious

About 20-30 minutes should do it.

6. Thou shalt eat like potato chips that break easily

Because these break all over the place and unless you have a dog to eat the crumbs, you’re going to want to take care.

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7. Thou shalt not save thy leftovers

Kale chips are salty and delicious when hot and soggy and sad when not.

8. Thou shalt make extras for me

Okay, I added that last part.

California Dreamin: Fabulous Mexican at Loteria

When I said that I spent a lot of time at The Farmer’s Market, I wasn’t kidding. In fact, our very first meal was there, at the wonderful Loteria Grill20140927_105644I first read about this place on The Amateur Gourmet and couldn’t believe that after an entire childhood of coming to The Farmer’s Market for lunch I could have missed such a gem! Loteria is a small outdoor stand that serves authentic Mexican food. It’s so popular that it has spawned several brick and mortar locations around town and is oft lauded as some of the best Mexican food in LA, which is really saying something.

20140927_105647Just order at the counter, watch your food be made in the open door kitchen or wait at your table, then get ready to indulge.

20140927_110147Agua frescas, nachos, and tacos…come to mama.

20140927_110059Nachos

I mean, who doesn’t love a plate of nachos? Even crappy ones are good, and these…these are great. Fresh corn chips smothered in stretchy jack cheese, cumin scented black beans and impeccably fresh, juicy pico de gallo. Best of all is a tangy tomatillo salsa layered on top, filtering its tart, fresh bite down the layers of cilantro and  oozing cheese. This is a mammoth portion, so please get the small, and don’t be scared to ask for some smoky but not too spicy house made hot sauce alongside.

20140927_110103Tongue tacos

Oh, HELL yes. These got better as I ate them. Springy bits of beef tongue in a spicy, rich, incredibly beefy juice spiked with fiery serrano chiles and sweet onions. It’s what I always think that tongue should taste like – delicious and reminiscent of filet, but with a little more chew. It’s hearty but not greasy, and the topping of buttery avocado tempers the peppers and rounds out the meat. Perhaps best of all are the tiny homemade corn tortillas – uneven in texture and with an earthy, overtly corn-y taste. This is pretty spicy, so I was in heaven.

This isn’t the cheapest option in the Farmer’s Market, but it isn’t crazy expensive and it IS crazy delicious. We went at 11 am and there was already a small line, so come early or pay the price! And don’t forget that a tongue isn’t just for talking – it’s for eating, too.

California Dreamin: The World’s Greatest Pancakes at Du-Par’s

I spent a lot of time at The Farmers Market on this trip to LA. Not some farmers market in the parking lot with some lady selling half rotten peppers out of the back of her truck. The LA farmer’s market on Fairfax, which has been there since the 1930s and is one of my favorite memories of my childhood. My mom took me down here to buy toffee from Littlejohn’s, a stall that has been here since Marilyn Monroe was Norma Jean. My grandparents bought me some of my favorite dollhouse furniture here – a small set of dishes that was white and had little blue flowers painted on it. My sister and I used to beg our parents to buy us mini water glasses, not realizing that they were shot glasses. It’s a large, winding outdoor area filled with wonderful restaurants and food stalls, retail food shops, and curiosity stores filled with souvenirs and kitschy items. It’s largely unchanged since my mom was a kid and if there’s one thing that I love, there’s some consistency.

If there’s another thing that I love, it’s world class pancakes.

Enter: Du-Par’s

This place has been around for as long as the Farmer’s Market has been here. I forgot to take an y pictures of the interior, but it looks like a  more spacious version of an East Coast diner. And from the outside, it still looks exactly like this:

20140929_090131I know, it really IS to adorable for words.
20140929_091323Buttermilk Pancakes

 

The reason you come to Du-Par’s. I would never call myself a pancake girl, but these…well, these make me a pancake woman. A crazed pancake woman. They are impossibly thick and light at the same time. I don’t know how they are so tall yet so fluffy…they seem to defy the laws of nature.  They aren’t too sweet, which is a major pet peeve of mine. They have a little tang from the buttermilk and the sweetness only comes through with the syrup. And this is the short stack – the portion is generous to say the least. Best of all, they come with warm syrup and warm melted butter, so you don’t have to tear your pancakes by spreading cold butter all over them. That melted butter is the bee’s knees.
20140929_091334 Bacon, jack cheese, and avocado egg white omelette

Avocados are just better in California. I’m not explaining or justifying, I’m just telling you the facts. Buttery, smooth, and sweet. The omelette is tasty, with rivers of me;ted jack cheese and tons of crunchy bacon, but the special part comes alongside…20140929_091346Homemade English muffin

 

Do ya think this place knows its way around a carbohydrate or what? This English muffin is the best I have ever had. Toasty and warm, slightly sour and with butter melted into its nooks and crannies. To say nothing of the homemade strawberry preserves served alongside; so juicy and sweet that they would seem artificial if they weren’t so obviously delicious.

Du-Par’s is one of my favorite LA haunts. The service is friendly, the prices are fair, and the food is memorable.

Not to mention, hearty and necessary after a week or 2 of eating sushi and quinoa salads.

Surf’s Up at Betty’s Pizza in The Berkshires

The Berkshires might not be the first place you would think of treating yourself to a taco or a slice of pizza, but you would be thinking wrong.

20140913_134909 Betty’s Pizza looks like Gidget met Jerry Garcia in Tijuana. I mean that in a good way, in case that isn’t clear. The space is super casual and covered in bright paint, surfboards, and quirky movie posters. This is a great spot for families – we saw a ton of kids there, coloring with crayons that the restaurant provides. 20140913_135124 However, if you want to come by for a slice or 2, just stop by the counter and get something to go. 20140913_141220 Betty’s chopped salad with hopped Iceberg, Hard-Boiled Eggs, Grilled Chicken, Mozzarella Cheese, and Roasted Red Peppers

This looks mundane and tastes AWESOME! Yes, the dressing is in a little prepackaged cup, but in Betty’s defense, Ken’s really is some of the greatest bottled dressing on the market. It’s creamy, properly funky, and doesn’t have any weird gummy texture that lesser blue cheese dressings have. The lettuce is finely shredded, the peppers must be roasted in house (they are silky and have a smoky flavor), and the chicken is juicy and still warm. The eggs are a little overcooked, but it’s still an excellent combination of flavors and textures and this take on a cobb salad is really tasty and a great counterpart to the pizza.
20140913_141612 Half sausage, half mushroom pizza

Really satisfying – and I’m saying this after 8 years of New York City pies. Thin, lightly burnished crust with a tangy, bright sauce and plenty of cheese. Teh mushroom pie is studded with meaty shrooms and the sausage half was gobbled so quickly that I didn’t even get a chance to try it…RUDE. 20140913_141756A little pale, but still delicious.

Betty’s is the perfect lunch spot in Lenox. It’s quick, it’s cheap, and it’s so tasty. Get the longboard if you want 8 pieces of pie – and oh, you do.

Next up: Another morning, another brekfast

BBQ Oven Fries

Did you know that if you keep potatoes in your fridge, they will last for, like, months?

I’m serious…I found a couple of potatoes in my fridge that I must have bought in 2012. They weren’t shriveled. There were no eyes growing – not one! There were no brown or mushy spots. It was like I had just bought them earlier that week. Wow.

So, I made a recipe that I haven’t ever made for the blog, even though it’s been in my repertoire since I was in elementary school. It was on my kitchen table growing up at least once a week. It’s the kind of homey, comforting food that is perfect for any weeknight meal. It’s not a fast recipe, but it’s almost stupidly easy.

And, oh, I make it with bbq sauce because my husband is WEIRD and doesn’t like ketchup.

BBQ Oven Fries

CollagesIngredients:

2 russet potatoes, washed, dried, and cut into about 8 long strips

1/2 cup of bbq sauce

2 tsp. olive oil

sprinkling of salt and pepper

IMG_14271. Preheat the oven to 425F. That hot temperature is very important, unless you want to be cooking for 8 days and nights. Drizzle  the potatoes with the olive oi, season lightly, and put them on a baking sheet. Then, pop in the oven for about 40 minutes or…

IMG_14322. Until they are golden brown on the bottom, when flipped over. They should have a nutty, savory aroma, and come on…you know what fries look like, right? Flip them and cook them for another 10 minutes or so, and then…

IMG_14363. Add the bbq sauce. Just pour it on then flip the fries over and pour a little more on those suckers. I like mine pretty saucy. Cook for another 10 minutes, or until the bbq sauce caramelizes and gets sticky and then…

IMG_14494. Serve.

Sorry there isn’t another photo, but these were gone in seconds – they always are. And why not? They are crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside. They are covered in a sticky-sweet sauce that clings to the fries and eradicates the need for any dipping sauce. And…msot of all…they are homemade. Even if you get a rotisserie chicken from the grocery store and a salad in a bag, this is so wholesome and homey that you will feel like you made the whole damned meal from scratch.

Refrigerated potatoes FTW.

MacDougal Street’s Greatest Hits – Mamoun’s and Artichoke Basille’s

You may, someday in the future, find yourself in Greenwich Village, near MacDougal Street.

You may be wearing a shirt that says “The Peach Pit” and carrying your backpack.

And yet , you are not 19.

But you still want to eat with the cool kids.

So you go here:

20140719_175214Mamoun’s. Where you will hob knob with prepsters visiting from Virginia, tourists from Japan with cameras larger than my bedroom, hospital residents on their 20 minute dinner break, and middle aged New Yorkers just looking for a standing room table and a hot falafel. Don’t miss the sleeper hit – tender, warm spinach pie that is mildly spiced and wrapped in what must be homemade pastry.

This place isn’t my favorite falafel in NYC, but it really does hit the spot and the price can’t be beat.
20140719_175457 Schwarma

Chargrilled with deep, smoky flavors and crispy edges surrounding juicy meat. The meat isn’t as tender as I like it, but when it’s served up with tahini and crunchy veggies in a warm pita, how can you resist? I can’t! The hot sauce her is VERY hot…not a lot of other flavors, but it does liven up the sandwich. 20140719_175509 Falafel

Mmm-mmm good! Soft and wide so it spans the width of the bread – no sad, falafel-less bites in this sandwich! The chickpea patty is gently spiced with fragrant herbs so it blends with the tart radishes and that nutty tahini. I liked this a lot, and for the price -well, it’s sensational.

Also ,these sandwiches are the perfect size – one will fill you up but not make you overstuffed.

That’s why you might want this after a few hours:20140719_203743Artichoke Basille’s Pizza

I mean, of course I waited this long to get to this popular pizza joint – that’s how I roll.

And though it’s not my be all-end all pizza  - I totally get the hype. It’s cheesy. It’s creamy. It’s laden with chewy artichokes and slivers of spinach. It’s salty and garlicky and indulgent. The crust is way too thick and stiff for me, but my husband loved it. I guess it’s to hold up to the slippery, uber thick and rich topping, but I like cracker thin pizza crust.

I mean, I still ate it…it was still pretty great.

Add in the 2 drinks I had earlier that night and you can see why I got the hype.

Trust me, when you are on MacDougal street, you will have had at least 2 drinks too. And then these 2 places will taste even better.