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Archive for March, 2012

Can you believe a whole month has gone by?? I was just speaking with a good friend about how we couldn’t believe it was almost April! Time flies! And with this passing of time brings my second monthly foodie pen pal experience! In case you’re new to this blog and are wondering, “what is this whole foodie pen pal business?” Lindsay @theleangreenbean, the brilliant organizer of this program, pairs you with another food loving individual and you get to send and receive a lovely food filled box. The spending limit is $15 dollars and must also include something written. Then, at the end of the month, everyone posts about food gifts they received. Do not fret, if you don’t have a blog  you can still participate. My February experience was so fantastic I was really looking forward to this month…and my pen pal, Carolyn, sent a box filled with delicious goodies.

The box of goodies

I love that she went to such an effort to send me homemade gifts based off local ingredients. Pickles made from cucumbers from Washington, blueberry jam from blueberries she picked HERSELF and homemade granola…love it!

I am a HUGE mustard, sauce, and condiment lover. You should see our fridge…three kinds of mustards, a variety of Trader Joe’s fruit butters (the pumpkin will in fact change your life), and a selection of Asian sauces. So this new to me honey mustard was a huge hit! I recently used it on a cheese sandwich…perfection! I also used the honey mustard in the dressing for a new salad I created. After absolutely falling in love with Cafe Habana’s jicama salad, I decided I needed to have it again, STAT! And not wanting to make a trip to the city and wait in line every time a craving for this fresh and fruity bowl of mixed greens hit, I decided it was high time I made my own version of it. And now, you can too!

Jicama, Mango, and Feta Salad with Honey Mustard and Lime Dressing

Mixed greens

1 mango, peeled and chopped

1 jicama, peeled and chopped

1 red pepper, chopped

handful dried cranberries

feta…as much as you like (and I like a lot!), crumbled

Dressing

2 tbsp honey mustard

juice from 1/2 a lime

2 tbsp dijon mustard

1 tbsp rice vinegar

1 tbsp olive oil

Combine all salad ingredients in a bow. Mix dressing and toss with salad to coat. Done and done! So simple!

Jicama

If you’ve never have jicama before (as Adam never had) I say run out and buy it this instance. It is basically a cross between an apple and a potato…crunchy and sweet, perfect in salads and slaws. All you have to do is peel it, cut it, eat it. So have a great weekend and try this salad! And a big THANK-YOU to Carolyn for the amazing box of eats! Check out Lisa’s blog to see the box of goodies I shipped off to her. Have a great eating weekend!

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Confused by the title? Blaboosta is a Yiddish term meaning the perfect housewife, wonderful mother and cook, and gracious host. Basically, someone who can do it all and who does it well. And Balaboosta, the restaurant in Soho I recently visited, definitely lives up to its Yiddish name. After much menu studying and deliberation, my friend and I decided the small plates and appetizers were the most appealing to us and in an effort to try everything on the menu (because everything sounded so amazing), we shared a bunch of these dishes. Our waiter was very helpful in helping us choose wisely and grouped and timed the dishes for us to create an incredible “tasting” style meal.

Crispy cauliflower with currents, pine nuts, and lemon

Roasted butternut squash with tahina sauce

These two starters were also the stars of the meal. The table next to us even commented on how much they also loved both of these dishes…I love bonding with complete strangers over a love of food! That cauliflower was far from what we normally think cauliflower tastes like…crispy on the outside, soft on the inside…this is a dish I could eat every day. You all know I love the gourds and this squash was no exception. I mean, just look how beautifully orange it is and wrapped in a blanket of rich tahini sauce…simply scrumptious!

Special salad of the day: Arugula, roasted peppers, olives, goat cheese

Grilled pizza with carrot puree, caramelized onions, goat cheese, and fresh cilantro

We also ordered an un-pictured pan seared squid dish with fried chickpeas and a yogurt sauce that was probably third place after the cauliflower and squash. The salad was good…nothing spectacular but a fresh and flavorful salad. This pizza was far from your standard pie. A very thin pita topped with a spiced carrot spread and buttery onions and creamy goat cheese…really interesting tasting. Something I would order again…probably not, but I’m very glad I got to taste it! Balaboosta is a fine restaurant for a Shabbos meal, a girls night out, or a hot date. Basically…just go!

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I’m going to tell you something that may shock a lot of you…I have never had a meat lasagna before. I’ve enjoyed butternut squash lasagna, eggplant lasagna, spinach lasagna, and plain old cheese lasagna. I’ve had lasagna with imitation meat products, but never good old fashion MEAT. When I told my friend this, she gave me a look that probably a lot of you have on your face right now. She immediately invited me over for a dinner party with a couple other friends where she said she would make me the “best turkey lasagna ever!” Once she told me it was based off this Barefoot Contessa recipe, I knew I would be in for a special treat.

Not only was this the best turkey lasagna, it was actually the best lasagna I’ve ever had. The spicy and rich turkey sausage mixed with creamy and tangy goat cheese and melty fresh mozzarella…her apartment smelled like an Italian grandmothers kitchen (or what I imagine that would smell like). Ina Garten can do no wrong in my eyes, and with the recipe in my friends hands…it was magic!

Cheesy goodness!

Continuing with my poultry cravings, I decided to make a recipe I’ve had bookmarked for quite some time. This braised chicken and kale recipe from CookingLight seemed like the perfect one pot protein and veg meal.

The only change I made was to use bone in chicken breasts instead of the thighs as we are white meat eaters in this household. Served with a side of barley salad (recipe found here), it was the perfect healthy comfort food meal. Poultry craving satisfied….for now!

Braised chicken and kale with roasted asparagus and mushrooms and barley salad

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If you’ve been following me for some time now, you know what happens when friends and family come to visit us in NYC….lots and LOTS of good eating! And my wonderful cousins arrival to our Brooklyn apartment was no exception. Not only did they just travel from Toronto…they drove 10 hours after a long day of work to visit with us for the weekend. After a long drive and a late night, a good and hearty brunch was in order. My first brunch experience at Rosewater was fantastic so I thought a return visit with my hungry visitors would be a good way to kick off our long day of walking ahead. And for the most part, it lived up to expectations….for the most part….

Poached eggs, turnip cakes, sauteed greens, goat cheese, and chipotle/tomato sauce

Lemon ricotta crepes...beautiful light coming in from the patio window

Apple pancakes with meyer lemon butter and toasted hazelnuts

Housemade veggie burger on a pretzel bun with feta, arugula, jalapeno mayo, and fries

The egg dish with the chipotle sauce…my plate was wiped clean. And let me tell you…every pancake dish, or even every piece of bread for that matter, should come with lemon butter. But those crepes…huge fail. Very dry and tasteless. Still a very enjoyable brunch and I would still keep it on the list of go-to brunch places. Belly’s full and body’s fueled, we spent the rest of the day walking through the city…and I literally mean the WHOLE day was spent walking. After a much needed rest and a quick change into evening wear, we headed off to give the pizza at Co a try. In our pizza eating tour of NYC, Adam and I have sampled Keste, Motorino, and Paulie Gee’s. So, after reading the latest Bon Appetit, featuring Jim Lahey’s (the owner of Co’s) no knead pizza dough, Co seemed like the natural next step.

Pizza bianca with coarse sea salt, olive oil and fresh ricotta

Upon arrival we were told it would be an hour wait, which we all agreed was worth it after we saw and smelled the charred pies. But after we hit the 1 1/2 hour mark, we were four very hungry and not very happy patrons. But Co’s service was spot on…bringing a complimentary order of their pizza bianca with homemade ricotta. Adam said this was some of the best bread he’s ever had…and the man knows his bread! Off to a good start and still starving, we ordered four pizzas to share (so if you’re counting, we actually ate FIVE pizzas…I did say we were hungry!)

Margherita: basil, mozzarella, parmesan, tomato

Stracciatella: crushed tomato, stracciatella, arugula, black pepper

In front: Mushroom and Jalapeno Pie: bechemel, pecorino, gruyere, garlic confit, seasonal mushrooms, shaved jalepeno, fresh dill
In back: the popeye: pecorino, gruyere, mozzarella, spinach

Co can definitely bake pies with the best of them! We all agreed the spinach and stracciatella were the best and definitely threaten to take the pizza crown from Keste. I’ve never had a spinach pie before where the spinach was actually baked in the oven (normally it’s thrown on after)…what a delicious idea! Fantastic food, great service, nice atmosphere…an overall win!

The next day we got our culture on and visited the Moma to take a break from all the walking and eating. Museums definitely work up an appetite because by 5pm we were all ready for an early dinner. And lucky it was early, because Cafe Habana in Soho fills up fast! We just got in before the dinner time rush. What a cool spot…we literally couldn’t stop looking at the funky wall paper and even funkier dressed waitresses. This restaurant visit gave me a chance to try another item featured on my fave show, “The Best Thing I Ever Ate.

Grilled corn Mexican style served with chili powder, lime, and cojita cheese

With Chavela’s corn fresh in our mind, Adam and I both agreed this was a better version of the grilled yellow husk. With a squeeze of fresh lime, a perfect summer street food!

Ensilada de Jicama: Jicama salad with queso fresco, mango, dried cranberries, and raspberry vinaigrette

Tiacoyo de Tres Marias: Corn masa boat stuffed with goat cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, black beans, and served with rice and beans

Grilled Shrimp Taco: shrimp marinated in thyme, oregano, chipotle in adobo, garlic, citrus zest, salt, pepper, and olive oil served with rice, beans, guac, and pico de gallo

Everything we had was just good, fresh, and spicy food. I think the salad was actually a favorite…definitely to be re-created at home! There may have also been some un-pictured Ample Hill and Big Gay Ice Cream consumed over the weekend…no visit with me is complete without some (or a lot) of ice cream! A fun family weekend!

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I love eating meals out of bowls…there’s something about digging into a hot bowl of soup, a sizzling rice and curry bowl, and the ever popular noodle bowl. Normally when one thinks of meals in bowls, pictures of hot and steaming dishes come to mind. Well, this noodle bowl is neither hot nor steamy but perfectly cool and crisp and oh so flavorful.

Vegetables all cut and ready to go

Lots of fresh, colorful, and crunchy vegetables (feel free to change them up as you like), soft rice noodles, and crispy pan-fried tofu. Topped with cilantro, mint, roasted peanuts, and a delicious sweet/salty/spicy sauce…it is literally a flavor explosion in your mouth.

I think our favorite part were the roasted and salted peanuts…I believe every dish can be made better with a little sprinkle of peanutty love. And if peanuts aren’t your thing (I know a girl or two who doesn’t love them), almonds, cashews, or some toasted sesame seeds would also finish this dish perfectly.

Noodle bowls...mid assembly

Crispy Tofu and Rice Noodle Bowls (Adapted from Eat, Live, Run)

1 red pepper, thinly sliced

1/2 head napa cabbage, shredded

1 cucumber, halved, thinly sliced

handful of snow peas, chopped

handful of bean sprouts

rice noodles (as much or as little as you like)

handful each of chopped cilantro and mint

handful or roasted, salted peanuts, chopped

1 block of firm tofu, pressed to remove the water and sliced in triangles

1/2 cup cornstarch

1 tsp salt

1 tbsp olive oil

Sauce

1/2 cup soy sauce

1 tbsp fish sauce

1/4 cup warm water

2 tbsp sesame oil

1 tbsp minced ginger

2 tsp sirracha

2 tbsp maple syrup

For sauce, combine all ingredients together and mix well. Set aside until ready to assemble bowls.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Once boiling, add the rice noodles and turn off the heat. Let noodles sit in hot water for about five minutes, then drain and set aside. Heat the oil in a large skillet or wok over high heat. Combine the cornstarch and salt in a bowl. Dip each tofu triangle in the cornstarch then place in the hot skillet. Fry triangles for about four minutes per side, or until golden brown. Once done, remove carefully and place on paper towels to drain.

To assemble noodle bowls, place a mixture of rice noodles and cabbage in the bottom of each bowl. Top with bell pepper slices, cucumber, snow peas, three tofu triangles, bean sprouts, mint, cilantro and chopped peanuts. Pour as much sauce over top as you’d like and dig in!

Of course you could use chicken, beef, or shrimp in place of the tofu but I beg of you to give this soy bean based protein cake a try. The texture when coated with cornstarch and pan-fried is crispy on the outside and soft on the inside. What could be bad about that??

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With all the warm weather we’ve been having in NYC over the past couple weeks, I’ve had very strong urges to sit outside and enjoy a margarita, chips, and some guac. Well, the other day this urge was so strong it could only be satisfied by visiting a restaurant that has been on my radar for quite some time now. After reading and hearing many good things from the twitter and blog world, Adam and I ventured to Prospect Heights with some friends to give Chavela’s a try. Chavela’s has a fantastic menu filled with lots of traditional and non-traditional Mexican treats…3 dollar tacos, fresh margaritas, and homemade chips and guac were on my mind and that’s what I stuck with!

Guacamole with homemade tortilla chips

We all commented that this was some of the most perfectly seasoned guacamole we’ve ever had. Some places have a tendency to under-salt their creamy avocado dip. Not Chavela’s…and with those delicious round chips, it was the perfect start to our Mexican fiesta.

Grilled corn with chipotle mayo and cojita cheese

The grilled corn was very unique and quite interesting tasting. While that chipotle mayo was quite tasty, they were a bit too heavy-handed with it and I think I would prefer a little less mayo, a little more cheese and spice.

The Nopales (cactus, avocado, pico de gallo, queso fresco, and pickled jalapenos) and The Pescado (tilapia, shredded cabbage, pico de gallo, chipotle salsa, and lime)

Plato Don Vegetariano: roasted vegetables, corn on the cob, beans, rice, guac, queso fresco, pico de gallo, and soft tortillas

Fresh fish, spicy salsa, and cactus?? It’s amazing!!! Highly recommend! My friend highly enjoyed her enormous platter of vegetarian delights and had a very fun time assembling many different little tacos. I do have to say that when Adam and I saw the huge and saucy enchiladas the table next to us ordered, we had a bit of ordering envy. Well…this place might deem a return visit! The only thing missing is a patio…with even cheaper 2 dollar tacos during happy hour, I think I can forgive them!

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I guess it doesn’t really make sense calling this dish “mac and cheese” considering there is no mac to be found. Instead, quinoa replaces your usual elbow shaped noodles for a higher protein and more interesting textured dish. Remember that plethora of leftover oscar night cheese? Well, into this dish it went! And boy was I happy to have that leftover cheese after Adam and I ate this for two dinners in a row. We only made an 8 x 8 pan of the cheesy grain, but make a 9 x 13 dish and you have dinners or lunches set for the week!

Quinoa and Vegetable “Mac and Cheese” (Adapted from this recipe)

olive oil

1/2 red onion, diced

1/2-3/4 cup cherry tomatoes, halved

1 red pepper, diced

handful of spinach, chopped

2 small or one large zucchini, chopped

3/4 cup quinoa

1 clove garlic, minced

1 egg

1/2 cup skim milk

1 cup of grated cheese (whatever you have works…I used a mixture of mozzarella, cheddar, and goat cheese)

Heat oil in a pot over medium-high heat and add onion, tomato, zucchini, and pepper. Saute until softened. Add quinoa and cook for about 3-4 minutes, until toasted. Add spinach and stir until wilted. Add 1 1/2 cups of water, bring to a boil, and turn down pot to a simmer, cover, and cook until water is absorbed about 15 minutes. Remove from heat and let stand 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, mix egg, milk, and 3/4 cup of cheese, and salt and pepper together in a bowl. Mix into quinoa mixture and stir until some of the cheese has melted. Spread into an 8 x 8 baking dish that has been sprayed with cooking spray and top with remaining cheese. Bake in 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, or until brown around edges.

I served this with some steamed broccoli, a salad, and some salsa on the side…I thought the salsa really went well with all the cheesy and vegetable goodness. So filling, so cheesy, so delicious!

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