Mad Square Eats – Bring Your Stretchy Pants

After many years of letting this semi-annual event pass me by, I finally dragged myself to Madison Square Eats

And then I had to roll myself home.

This foodie haven consists of various restaurants, carts, and food purveyors who gather near Madison Square Park for a month each season to stuff you with all the goodies your blood pressure can handle. We went on a Tuesday night and it was relatively crowded, so leave the Saturday nights to chumps and go there early in the morning if you must make this trip a weekend one. However, that night, the crowds were manageable. We even managed to score a small table (by watching its dawdling inhabitants like hawks).

And the food. Was. Great!

Roberta’s

IMG_20131001_200837_109 First and foremost, we visited this station because, really…how could we not? Roberta’s is known for its pizza, and it really delivers. Thin, supple crust with an earthy, deep char that makes even a  vegetarian pie taste meaty and satisfying.  IMG_20131001_200827_219 I must be the only person on the planet who does not love the Bee sting – the sauce is sensational – really spicy – but the honey is just too prevalent for my tastes. I’m not a fan. The special Supe Lace pizza, above, however, is dynamite. I can’t get over the crust – its’ just masterful. The sauce is bright and so vibrant that it’s practically alive, (in a good way, not a creepy way) and the cheese is both plentiful and tasty, but really…it’s the crust that takes the cake. It’s so delicious that I am literally dreaming of it. No matter how long this line is stand on it.

And get two pies at least.

I mean, we’re not fooling around here.

IMG_20131001_194554_374

Delaney BBQ taco stand.

So delicious that I ACTUALLY almost cried. That freakin awesome.

IMG_20131001_194820_056 Their brisket is just so good. Tender, juicy, and really well seasoned – salt and pepper in every bite. It has a satisfying steak-like chew and it’s expertly  hand chopped. But the best part here are the accouterments. The soft, pliant tortilla, the acidic onions, the sharp cheese melting int he warmth and that chile sauce.

Be still, my heart.

That. Chile. SAUCE. Seriously wonderful. It isn’t hot at all, just heartily spiced with roasted chiles, cumin, and garlic. It reminds me of Taco Bell in the best way possible (is there a bad way to remind one of Tco Bell?)

I wolfed it down.

Trust me, you will, too.

IMG_20131001_194127_394

Vinh Dog at AsiaDog

IMG_20131001_194154_190 This banh mi style dog is da BOMB mi.

Yes, I went there. It’s my blog, so I can do stuff like that.

Anyway, AsiaDog is really great! The hot dogs are juicy and not too salty, with an audible “snap” as you bite into them. The buns are well buttered ant toasted, adding to the taste and texture of the dish instead of just being a supporting player. At first, the cold, crisp vegetables are a little odd, temperature wise, next to the dog, but by the third bite, you will be hooked. They could have a heavier hadn with the pate but a little squirt of sriracha and mustard helps bring the umami flavor home. I would totally go back to Asia Dog and highly recommend it!They were also extremely fast in delivering your food.

I didn’t’ even get to half  of the eats that I tasted or half of the food that was offered! Brig some cash and bring some stretchy pants – and don’t wait as long as I did to get to Mad Square Eats!



 

Bone Marrow Guacamole

Fat on fat is generally a good thing. Think bacon on cheeseburgers. Sour cream on chili. Whipped bream on…well, everything.

That’s what she said.

Anyway, that’s where the idea came from for this guacamole. Today, September 16, is National Guacamole Day. Well, in honor of that, I simply HAD to concoct something awesome. I love me some traditional guac, but come on, let’s mix it up a little!

And what better way to mix it up than with marrow?

I sing my praises for marrow here, and they are sincere. I simply love the slippery, soft texture and the wonderfully fatty taste. It is reminiscent of foie gras, but guess what? Since it isn’t technically an organ meat, that fat is unsaturated! So what could be better than pairing it with my other unsaturated fatty favorite, avocado?!

This uses traditional accompaniments to bone marrow like shallots and parsley and uses avocado’s best friend, a hit of acid. This is unlike any guac you have ever had.

Bone Marrow Guacamole

Ingredients:

1 ripe avocado

1 tbsp. bone marrow (roasted until brown on top and totally opaque)

1/2 shallot, roughly chopped

1/4 cup parsley, roughly chopped

1 splash champagne vinegar

salt and pepper to taste

IMG_0341 1. Combine the avocados, shallots, parsley, and a splash of white wine vinegar.  IMG_0345 2. Add the warm bone marrow. Mix the marrow with the avocado mixture, add salt and pepper to taste, and keep on tasting. You may need a touch more acid or salt – the fat eats up those flavors.  IMG_0349 3. Serve immediately.

Yes, it’s really that simple. Just cut a few produce items, cook a coupla cow bones, and there you have it. The shallots and white wine vinegar are the unsung heroes of this dish – they tie together the fatty, creamy components and add both crunch and brightness. The marrow will likely melt into the avocados, which is why you should serve this immediately – no one wants a cold, congealed hunk of marrow. This is elegant and a bit more subtle than the traditional jalapeno laced version. Even if you are making this for 3 or 4 people, only use the one avocado at first – this is so rich that you won’t want more than a few bites on a tortilla or pita chip. IMG_0350 And now you know that the only thing that makes fat better is: more fat.

Baked Figs, Greek Rice, and Mexican Corn: The “So Close” Files

I try to be a good blogger. 

I tell you about my favorite restaurants.

I do giveaways of awesome cheese and chocolate.

I even take one for the team and eat copious amounts of fat and salt(tough job but somebody has to do it).

However, every now and then I really mess up.

Like when I cook truly fabulous dishes, photographing every step of the process…and neglect to take a beauty shot of the final product.

I mean, what’s a blog without a beauty shot?

It’s like Honey Boo Boo without Go-Go Juice. 

There are some dishes that I really wish I had properly photographed.

pix 065 Like these  baked figs.

Figs are great right now and they are going to get even better later in the month. If you cut them in a cross pattern not ALL of the way through, but just until they sort of open like a blossom, you can then bake them at 350F for 20 minutes. When they start to leach a sweet, sticky syrup and are very soft to the touch, they are done. Serve them immediately with sweetened, slightly thickened (or totally whipped) cream, and they will be the hit of the night. Sweet, creamy, warm, and cool. I made this at a dinner party, and my guests were shocked at how quickly dessert came together and how delicious it was. Something this seasonal should have been blogged.

pix 044 Like this loaded Greek rice.

It’s just plain old converted rice with sauteed onions, garlic, and zucchini mixed with some rice, dill, lemon zest, and feta cheese. However, did you ever wonder what makes the rice at Chipotle so delicious? Here’s a hint: it isn’t the cilantro. It’s oil. So, by adding the cooked rice directly to the veggie sautee pan, the rice gets a slight sheen of oil that totally transforms this dish. It is lush, bright, and so satisfying. Something this satisfying should have been blogged.

pix 011 Like this Mexican style corn.

Sure I mostly just followed this recipe, but I used chipotles in adobo instead of dried chipotle powder, fat free Greek yogurt instead of sour cream, and added cumin and pulverized jalapenos. I slathered in on freshly steamed corn cobs and whoa…it was incredible. Sweet, rich, salty, spicy…it actually lived up to my hopes. Something this tasty should have been blogged. 

Yes, these should all have been blogged. There is no excuse – I was just hungry or tired or there was a Real Housewives reunion on tv and I got distracted.

I promise to do better in the future.

*If anyone is interested in the detailed recipes for these dishes, please leave a comment and I’ll happily post them!*

Crispy Black Bean Cakes

So, I recently moved to the UWS.

I love the neighborhood. Really enjoy the apartment. Have a couple of super cool roommates.

So I’m really thrilled.

However…moving is…how to put it?

Dante’s 7th circle of hell.

It’s weeks of boxes. It’s movers losing important things. It’s waiting for the cable to get installed and finding out that your internet router is broken and shelling out so much cash that that you fear that you may be eating ramen for a year to make up for it

In the midst of all this, you also have to eat dinner.

This recipe is really simple, inexpensive, and is super satisfying.

Plus, you can eat it cold for breakfast topped with a fried egg.

Win/win.

Crispy Black Bean Cakes

2013-06-22 pix Ingredients:

1 can black beans, drained

1 zucchini, chopped

3 carrots (about 1/3 cup) grated or chopped

1 bunch scallions, cleaned and chopped

1/2 cup breadcrumbs (preferably panko)

2 cloves garlic, diced

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

1/4 cup salsa

1 serrano, diced

1/4 cup fresh cilantro, washed and chopped

1 tbsp. each cumin, coriander, and oregano

vegetable oil in which to fry

Guacamole, hot sauce, and sour cream to serve (optional)

pix 016 1. Put about a tablespoon of oil in a deep skillet over medium high heat. When it starts to ripple, toss in the carrots, zucchini, garlic, and scallions. Cook them for about 2 minutes, or until the garlic starts to smell tantalizing but is not at ALL browned.

pix 017 2. Turn down the heat to medium-low, cover the pot, and walk away. You want it to cook for about 15-20 minutes, gently steaming to get soft while getting some nice caramelization on the bottom.
pix 018 See? That’s nice!

pix 024 3. Now, add the spices, cilantro, and salsa. I love a very finely pureed salsa here, but chunky would also be great.

pix 026 4. Add the black beans. Do NOT, as I did, neglect to drain them.

I was stuck in a cardboard box prison. It was temporary insanity up here.

pix 034 5. Now, turn off the heat, and mash those beans. You don’t need them totally mashed, but the veggies should all be pretty soft and you really want a pasty consistency.

pix 037  Yes, I know it’s ugly, but it’s gonna taste delish.

pix 038 6. Turn off the heat, remove the bean mixture from the pan, put it in a large bowl, and add the breadcrumbs.

pix 039 7. Add the cheese and mix thoroughly.

pix 040 8. Wipe out the pan you just used to remove any burnt bits, add another tablespoon of oil, and fry a small sample patty. My friend Hungry told me to do this with dumpling filling to taste for seasoning and I now ALWAYS do it. This way you can add more salt, pepper, or whatever else you might need.

pix 041 9. Once the seasonings are right, make palm sized patties, on the thinner side (1/4 inch), and cook them for about 2 minutes per side, until the outside is crispy and charred in spots. The stuff is already all cooked, you just want it to be warmed through totally.

pix 045 11. Top with your desired accoutrements, then serve.

These black bean cakes are so awesome. Sweet with zucchini, smoky with cumin, and a nice bite from the diced serrano. They have a wonderful, soft texture that is surrounded by crispy edges – it’s like the world’s best Thanksgiving stuffing. I like this atop a simple iceberg salad and always enjoy it with Greek yogurt and avocado. A little spritz of lime brightens things up, too. This is great to make when you need something super satisfying, pretty cheap, and easy to prepare.

pix 047 After all, there are still boxes to unpack.

Quick and Spicy Cheesy Grits

This post was written before the devastation in Oklahoma. Sending best vibes and thoughts to those caught in the disaster. Visit here to find how to help.  

Don’t think that something instant can’t be wonderful.

Instant oatmeal? Awesome

Instant messenger? Addictive

Instant road rage relief? The person who invents this is going to be a millionaire and a Nobel Peace Prize winner.

5 minute grits fall into this category of “instant and great.”  They are way faster to make than the traditional stuff, but are still creamy and satisfying, and – bottom line – can be made last minute.

When you add mix ins, these get even better.

So, if you have 15 minutes and some ingredients on hand, you have a side dish of which you can be proud.

Quick Spicy and Cheesy Grits

2013-05-16 pix Ingredients:

1/3 cup quick cooking grits

enough chicken broth to make the grits, according to the package directions (probably about 1 1/3 cups)

1 jalapeno, diced

1/3 cup cheddar cheese, shredded

1/4 cup cleaned and diced cilantro

4 scallions, diced

salt and pepper to taste

garnishes like sour cream, hot sauce, and/or avocado

pix 002 1. Prepare the grits according to directions. Be sure to stir when the grits start to thicken so they don’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
pix 003 2. In about 5 minutes, or after the grits have gotten thick, like this, turn off the heat.
pix 004 3. Now, just dump in the mix ins and stir.

pix 005 4. Taste for seasonings, and…
pix 006 5. Serve

This simple recipe has become a staple in my repertoire. The cheese melts into the grits, making it gooey and tangy. The warmth wilts the cilantro, releasing it’s fragrance. The jalapenos are spicy; tempered by the cheese and the avocado. The real trick here is to use chicken stock when you make the grits. That adds a strong backbone that really enhances the corny taste. This is awesome with bbq chicken or as a side to taco salad.

It’s not only  grits, it’s instant joy.

Tex-Mex Quinoa Casserole

This is a recipe that started out healthy.

But then it got a little saltier. A little creamier.

A whole lot tastier.

However, it still has tons of fiber and lean protein.

It just tastes a million times better than it would without that salty, creamy factor. 

Tex-Mex Quinoa Casserole

Ingredient:

3 cups cooked quinoa

1 lb. ground chicken breast

1 onion, diced

3 carrots, diced

juice of 1 lemon

2 tbsp. oil

3 cloves garlic, diced

2 serrano chiles, diced

1/3 cup cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1/2 cup salsa

1/2 cup shredded cheddar cheese

4 oz. cream cheese

2 tbsp. each cumin, coriander, and oregano

2 tsp. cinnamon

salt and peper to taste

 Assorted mix ins: roasted red peppers, scallions, sauteed mushrooms, canned black beans…use your imagination!

1. Sautee the onion and carrots in a large pan until they are tanslucent, about 15 minutes.

2. Add the chicken and the spices.

Cook until the meat is totally browned, around 7 minutes. Then, preheat the oven to 350F.

3. Add the salsa and the other mix ins. I went with roasted peppers, but black beans would be great here!

4. Stir to combine, and add the cilantro and chopped peppers now, too. The mixture will be a little salty and over seasoned now – don’t taste it yet! Wait until you stir it into the quinoa.

5. Add to the quinoa and stir to combine. NOW taste for flavorings – the quinoa absorbs a lot of the salt, spices, and residual broth from the tomatoes. It should all be good to go!

6. Add all of the cream cheese and lemon juice  half of the cheddar. Stir to combine.

The cheese will instantly start to melt and become gooey and delicious.

7. Layer the whole thing into a casserole dish and top with the remaining cheese.

8. Bake for 15 minutes or until the cheese is melted and serve.

9. Serve immediately with sour cream and hot sauce on the side.

Creamy and gooey. Hearty and spicy. Moist in the middle and crunchy where the quinoa was burnished in the oven. The different textures of the ingredients keep this dish from being mushy or boring and these are all with ingredients you probably already have in your house. The cilantro really gives it a fresh taste and the lemon juice adds a nice acidic tang reminiscent of the best tacos.

So what if this is a little fattier than quinoa usually is.

 It’s also a whole lot better.

All Heat with No Fire at American Table

It might seem a little weird to go to a restaurant with no kitchen.

And yet, that’s just what I’m suggesting you do.

Marcus Samuelsson’s American Table Cafe and Kitchen isn’t fancy. It is nice, since it’s in Lincoln Center’s beautiful atrium, and there is a full bar. But the napkins are paper, the staff is laid back, and you order at the counter.

And. oh yeah…all the food is pre cooked, then assembled there.

How does that work?

Pretty well, evidently.

Doro Wat Chilaquiles

Oh YES! This stuff is just fabulous. Spicy, fragrant berbere mixes with chicken that is so tender, so rich, so flavorful that anyone would swear it was pork. It has the smoky sweet flavor of bbq with the curry-like tastes of ginger and chiles. A few hard boiled egg yolks are a nice color and textural component. Served with fresh, salty tortilla chips, pico de gallo, and a scoop of creamy cottage cheese, it is a mix between Mexican, Indian, and Ethiopian foods.

It’s a million vibrant flavors smacking you in the face.

Love it.

Smoked Caesar Salad

Less successful, but still tasty. The lettuce is fresh, the pumpernickel croutons are crunchy, but the dressing is a bit too smoky and lacks acid. It is tasty enough, though, and the portion is large and the price is right.

 This place sin’t cheap or expensive – its what you wouldexpect to pay in this hood for quick service food, but the food is so much better than I anticipated. The service is definitely relaxed (leaning on the lackadaisical side), but the food is phenomenal! Go with a book or a friend and have a lunch so great that you will never believe that there was no kitchen involved.

It’s amazing at what Samuelsson can do with no kitchen…and how little some people can do with a kitchen.

Not pointing fingers, every family member who ever cooked me Passover dinner as a child. 

Triple Decker Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwiches

I invented this recipe a long time ago and figured it deserved to come out of retirement! This grilled cheese recipe is spicy, fragrant, and delicious for a quick dinner. The trick is using enough mayo to coat the bread – that results in the perfect crunchy exterior.

Triple Decker Mexican Grilled Cheese Sandwich

Ingredients:

3 slices sandwich bread

3 tbsp. mayonnaise mixed with 1 tbsp. your favorite black bean dip (I love the one from Trader Joe’s)

1 jalapeno, sliced thinly

1 tomato, sliced

1 scallion, chopped

2 tsp. cilantro, cleaned and chopped

1. Spread the mayo/bean mixture on both slices of all bread. Then, put 2 slices of the bread in a hot pan over medium heat and let it cook for a few minutes, until the undersides are warm and toasted. Then, remove one of the slices of bread from the pan.

2. On the other slice of bread, put half of the cheese (ignore the slice of bread in the back there…that was an ill-conceived experiment).

3. Layer on the jalapenos and tomato, then…

top with the slice of UN-toasted, UN mayo-ed bread. Cover with a lid and reduce heat to low for about 5 minutes or until the cheese melts.

4. When the cheese is melted, top the bread with the rest of the cheese…

the cilantro, and the scallion. Then, top the sandwich with the last piece of bread, toasted side UP, cover with lid until melted, and…

5. Serve.

This sandwich is everything that is good about eating. It’s crunchy and gooey. It’s creamy and spicy. It’s fresh and rich and heady with beans. It’s not really Mexican, it just takes a few cues from Mexican cuisine. The untoasted layer of bread in the middle is key – it melts into the cheese, becoming moist and almost juicy. It’s substantial, it’s quick to prepare, and it’s great now that the weather is getting warmer and we are all craving margaritas.

Or at least I am. So sue me.

Quick Mexican Chicken Burgers

I am a firm believer in eating home cooked meals.

I love to cook for myself and my loved ones, to sit down to something that I made with love and thought, and to really take pride in how I eat.

I am also a firm believer in shortcuts.

At big parties, I just use the packet of soup mix to make the onion dip. At last-minute brunches, I  buy the premade fruit platter.

And for dinner on a night when I am beat, pressed for time, or simply  lazy, I use every shortcut in the book.

The result is tasty, fast, and – yes, I still count it! – homemade.

Quick Mexican Chicken Burgers

Ingredients:

1 lb. ground white meat chicken or turkey breast

4 hamburger or brioche buns

4 slices pepper jack cheese

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup pico de gallo

1/2 cup guacamole

1 jalapeno, diced

2 tsp. each cumin, pepper, coriander, powdered garlic

1 tsp. cinnamon

2 tsp. Worcestershire sauce

2 tbsp. cilantro, washed and chopped

4 leaves iceberg lettuce

hot sauce, if desired

1. Scoop the top of your bun, so there is a well in the center. This is so you can really load up the toppings. Save the breadcrumbs for some fabulous meatloaf!

2. Combine the meat, spices, Worcestershire, and cilantro in a large bowl.

3. After doing a test patty for seasonings, make the meat into 4 patties. Drop all patties in a VERY hot pan for 3 minutes, or until they are well seared on one side and flip easily.

They should look like this.

4. Then, turn the heat down to medium low, put the cheese on the seared side, and cover with a well fitting lid. This lets the cheese melt and the burgers gently steam to well done without overcooking.

5. Meanwhile, combine the mayo and pico de gallo. It will be watery. With a fork, put some spread onto each of the scooped out buns. That ensures that you get mostly chopped tomatoes without too much goopy, watery residue.

6. Then, top with iceberg lettuce, and…

top the other half of the bun with a nice schmear of guacamole.

7. Layer on the burger,

top with hot sauce if desired, and…

8. Serve.

This is a wonderful, fast weeknight meal. The patty has a satisfying, smoky char on one side but is tender and juicy because it was steamed at the end. The cheese is melty and just slightly spicy, pickling up on the cilantro and jalapeno in the patty. The pico de gallo mayonnaise is the perfect combination of bright and creamy, and the guacamole is the ideal way to finish the dish. This is perfect with a side of tortilla chips served with that leftover pico de gallo and guac.

And it’s all homemade, with care and love.

Don’t let anyone tell you that it isn’t.

Rosa Mexicano Brings Mexican Breakfast to NYC

 I am supremely excited.

Mexican breakfast is finally coming to locations all over NYC. There are places that offer Mexican breakfast dishes, but now a full fledged Mexican breakfast menu is coming to an upscale Mexican chain so that you can get your spicy, savory morning fix almost anywhere in the city.

Rosa Mexicano’s breakfast menu hits this month, and it is gonna hit hard. At a recent press meal, I was very impressed.

Nopales con huevo

Yeah, it’s cactus. And, here, anyway, it’s pretty damned tasty! Citrusy with a texture similar to mushrooms, it isn’t at all slimy or dirty tasting as I feared it might be. It’s just a really nice, filling addition to a scramble filled with sweet red peppers and slightly spicy chiles. Served with a soft roll spread with smoky black bean paste and creme fraiche, this is a really hearty way to start your day without feeling weighed down or greased up.

 

Machacado con huevo

This shredded beef with eggs and vegetables is absolutely magical. In Tucson, carne seca (this dried, shredded beef) is a religion. Traditionally, slices of beef are cured in garlic, chiles, and spices, then set to dry on the roof in the dry Arizona heat. Then the beef, which is somewhere between jerky and pork floss, is shredded and turned into tacos or Macachado con huevo – a scramble made with fluffy eggs, sautéed onions, and this spiced, intensely flavored beef. The texture of the dish is soft but well textured with the chewy shreds of beef. the way to eat it is to layer it in a warm flour tortilla with some of Rosa Mexicano’s house made salsa. It’s one of the best breakfasts anyone could ask for, and was one of my favorite dishes of the tasting.

 Fried eggs carnitos hash

What’s a breakfast without pork, right? It’s an incomplete and ill though out one, and luckily Rosa Mexicano does not fall into this trap. The hash is soft and filled with sweet porky flavor, offset by a salty, bright tomato (ranchero) sauce. The sauce is redolent of garlic and cumin, accenting the pork’s natural flavor and the gooey, creamy egg yolk. the crowning touch is the habanero apple relish, a gelee substance that adds a very bright, fiery note to the dish.

Breakfast tamale with chile poached eggs and chorizo

Creamy. Spicy. Meaty. Cheesy. Polenta with smoky chile poached eggs. If you like grits you will love this. If you like LIFE you will lovethis. The standout at our table, and a gut-busting breakfast for sure. This is the dish that takes me into food coma territory.

Mezcal Bloody Mary

The smoky mezcal definitely comes through in this Bloody Mary, but the hit of alcohol is pleasantly tempered by the robustly flavored drink, filled with garlic and a very smoky chile rim. Don’t get this if you don’t like smoke…and feeling a little tipsy around 10AM.

Rosa Mexicano isn’t a cheap or fast breakfast. But it is so, so tasty. It’s not the same as eating tacos at a roadside stand or chowing down on migas at an abuela’s cafe, but it is the next best thing, by NYC standards. Look for the breakfast menu to hit February 23, and – like I said – it is gonna hit hard.

*This was a press event. I was not required to write about my experience and my opinions are my own and unbiased.*

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