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Archive for April, 2012

I have been told by many a blog reader that I use the term “The best _____ I ever ate” quite often. I think what made me actually realize it was when friends of mine said they specifically made the trip to Brooklyn to have “the best sandwich I ever ate.” The fact that I thought of three places before arriving at the correct location made me realize, maybe I do use that term a bit too loosely. Maybe it’s because I was obsessed with trying everything featured on the show of that same name, or maybe I get overwhelmed by some delicious food item it’s so hard for my brain to process. But from here on out, I pledge to you to only use that phrase for the appropriate and worthy food items.

Enjoying a "Best Thing I Ever Ate" sandwich

So friends, before you all roll your eyes in a “here we go again” fashion, I do need to tell you about the actual best sandwich I’ve ever eaten. I take back any other “best sandwiches” in my past. There may have been good sandwiches, very tasty sandwiches, and possibly even excellent and delicious sandwiches. But for “the best” sandwich you MUST go to Saltie in Williamsburg. This tiny shops serves sandwiches with very interesting names that do not tell you in the slightest what may be hiding in between the two delicious slices of homemade bread: The captain’s daughter, the clean slate, the ship’s biscuit, and the balmy are just a few of the offerings. Everything, and I mean EVERYTHING is made in house…from the huge slices of foccacia bread, to the fluffy naan, and all the pastries, doughnuts, and cookies. But I was here for the scuttlebutt sandwich.

When you hear the combination of ingredients you might think…”how on earth did they think of this combination and will this actually taste good all together?” The answer: they are geniuses and yes, it does taste very good together. Sitting in between the chewy foccacia bread with a crusty salty top and chewy center are boiled eggs, feta, arugula, olives, capers, pickled vegetables, tangy pickles, and a homemade garlic aoili. All the “saltie” flavors work so well together and that bread….oh that bread is something special. So you see..this really is the best sandwich I’ve ever had!

Now, I wasn’t the only one to experience the “best thing eaten” experience that day. Adam was craving a bagel …no saltie sandwich for him. Walking around Williamsburg we came across The Bagel Store. Having never heard of it, he took a look inside and the bagels seemed up to par…little did we know he was in for a treat.

French toast bagel with maple-walnut cream cheese

A sweet treat! This bagel was soft, dense, and light all at the same time and we both kept wondering how they made an ordinary bagel taste exactly like French toast. The maple walnut cream cheese in the middle was like icing…the bagel was gobbled down in literally 5 seconds flat. And the whole day, and I mean the WHOLE day, Adam could not stop talking about this bagel. He’s not one to usually get that excited about food (unless of course it’s shapes macaroni and cheese) but I have never seen him so excited about a meal before. What we thought was just going to be a regular old bagel turned into the best bagel he’s ever had. This was a sandwich day that will go down in history!

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There has been a lot of pizza making and A LOT of pizza eating going on in our small Brooklyn kitchen these days! Two more traditional pies and one…well…we’ll get to it. (I know a couple of you were shaking your head at the title…but just you wait!) After our most recent pizza dinner out at Co a while back, I knew I had to re-create that pizza experience. I’ve had success with Jim Lahey’s no knead bread before (the owner of Co), so why should the pizza dough be any different? Well, it wasn’t! I substituted half whole wheat flour for half of the regular flour and it turned out perfectly. Before we venture into red sauce territory, let’s talk about the white pizza. Something that has become very popular on pizza menus and has also become near and dear to my heart. Never having created a white pizza at home, I used the new stove-top to oven method (found here) and pizza perfection was reached.

Pizza in the skillet pre-broiler

White Pizza Topped with Swiss Chard (Adapted from this recipe)

Crust: This recipe using half whole wheat flour for the regular flour

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 tsp red pepper flakes

mix these ingredients together and set aside

1 bunch swiss chard, chopped

1 tbsp olive oil

1 clove garlic, minced

salt and pepper to taste

Fresh buffalo mozzarella and goat cheese (as much or as little as you like…but let’s be serious…more is better!)

Preheat skillet over medium high heat and add oil. Saute garlic for a couple of minutes until fragrant. Add chard and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Stretch dough out into a thin circle. Preheat an oven-proof skillet over high heat with some oil in it. (if you don’t have an oven proof skillet, just wrap the handles in aluminum foil). When smoking, add crust to skillet and cook until bottom starts to get nice and chard. Add mozz, swiss chard, and top with goat cheese. Brush crust with some of your flavored oil. Place under broiler until dough is cooked and cheese is melted.

Pizza post-broiler served with remaining seasoned oil for more brushing and dipping

Onto the red…the sauce. The second most important part of any good pizza (the crust being the first). I used this recipe for a traditional NY style pizza sauce…and man oh man was it ever good! Just the smell of the butter and garlic, simmering with the basil, onions, and tomatoes. Honestly, as good as any pizza parlor sauce.

Topping the red pizza

Once the crust was spread out onto the baking sheet, topped with sauce, toppings, and mozz, it went into a screaming hot 500 degree oven and literally took no more than 10 minutes to get a charred crust and bubbly cheese.

Half roasted red pepper, olives, and artichokes, and half sauteed mushrooms and shaved brussels sprouts. All topped with basil

So the last pizza…let me rephrase…I think it’s important not to look at this as a pizza but more of a vegetable pie with pizza like qualities. It can not be picked up with your hands and folded into your mouth like a traditional NY style slice, but when cut with a fork and knife, it really is quite delicious. Both Adam and I were surprised with how good it actually was. Well…we really shouldn’t have been that shocked considering the amount of cheese that went into it!

Cauliflower pizza crust pre-baking

So for this “cauliflower pizza”, I used this recipe as a guide, but there are actually so many variations floating around the blog world to try…this should show you that it actually is worth trying!

You're going to tell me this doesn't look like pizza??

You can really top it with anything you like…I went with my new favorite sauce recipe, artichokes, tomatoes, sauteed mushrooms, roasted red peppers, spinach, and lots of mozz and goat cheese. I would say I maybe went a bit too heavy on the toppings for the delicate crust…I think this is a case of less is better.

One pie feeds two people and we were actually surprised at how filling it was. Perfect for anyone following a gluten free diet or just looking for a new vegetarian recipe…give it a try and let me know what you think!

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Before I get into this spectacular Italian meal, I need to interrupt our regularly scheduled restaurant reviews and recipe postings for a big announcement. Adam and I will be moving back to Toronto, Canada at the end of May. Do not fear, I will still be blogging from my new home in Toronto, which is no slouch in the restaurant scene and there will be lots more recipes and cooking exploits to come. With many mixed emotions, one thing that has been at the front of my mind is…how will I make it to all the restaurants on my list before our big move in one months time?? Needless to say, this has been causing me much stress and anxiety. So blog world, I ask you, Where do I NEED to eat before I leave the Big Apple? Now before you all shout at once, let me tell you where I have lined up so far:

Talde, Degustation, Applewood, Gwynett St., Craftbar, Colonie, Kutcher’s, Co-op, Prune, and Shake Shack. (Adam just asked me if I was seriously going to all these places before I leave…is that a trick question??) So…what am I missing? Should I hit anywhere else?? Please help me calm my foodie nerves! Okay…so now that we have that out of the way…on to my latest eating adventure.

Frankies Spuntino in Carroll Gardens has been on my radar for quite sometime. A very inviting neighborhood type spot, the large crowds and long waits have kept me away…until now. The other Saturday night, some friends of ours were very kind and arrived at this Italian hot spot early. With a typical Saturday night wait of an hour to an hour and a half, by the time Adam and I arrived, our table was ready. What great friends we have! Let me tell you, this restaurant smelled AMAZING! And from watching all the plates of home-made pasta go by, we knew exactly where that intoxicating smell was coming from.

Duo of crostini: sicilian white anchovy and cremini mushroom and truffle oil

These small bites of toasted bread packed a large flavor punch. Do you see all that fresh anchovy?? Definitely not for the squeamish anchovy haters out there, but for me, it was perfect. And if you think you are one of those people who dislike anchovies, I beg of you to give them another go. They are salty, nutty, and fishy in the best way possible. And the mushroom…with the hint of truffle oil, a rich and earthy bite.

Escarole with sliced red onion, walnuts, and pecorino

After the bread and salad course, the only thing that could possibly follow is the pasta course. Frankies is famous for their home-made pastas, specifically, the raved about cavetelli. So I knew I would be ordering this buttery and rich dish for sure, but when Adam offered to share another pasta…I decided to increase my pasta tasting options. And boy am I glad I did!

House made cavatelli with browned sage butter and broccoli rabe

House-made linguine with spring fava beans, garlic, tomato, and toasted breadcrumbs

Don’t get me wrong, the rich cavetelli had the perfect “al-dente” chew and the broccoli rabe added a nice bitterness to offset the sweet butter-sage flavor. But that linguine…both light in flavor from the beans but hearty with the tomato and breadcrumbs. The spicy sauce was the perfect match for the expertly prepared and cooked noodles. Why have I never put toasted breadcrumbs on my linguine before. This added crunch was just pure genius. So don’t be afraid, brave the crowds and line ups and grab a drink at the bar because Frankies is definitely worth the wait!

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I know that Passover has come and gone but do not click past this blog post too quickly…You will be surprised by how tasty this dinner party was and how I would actually eat the food year round (well not all of it…but at least some of the dishes!) For our last kosher for Passover Shabbos dinner, Adam and I invited over our good friends for a “tapas” party of sorts. One of our friends has never tried matzah, the unleavened bread-like product (and I use the term “bread-like” loosely!) eaten during the 8 day holiday. So I decided that a meal fit with traditional Passover foods, with a bit of a modern twist, was only fitting!

Charoset served on matzah

This is really the best part of Passover…a sweet apple salsa traditionally eaten on Matzah with some horseradish on top. Every year I wonder “why do we not eat this year round??” I made mine by combining chopped apples, walnuts, almonds, grape juice, cinnamon, white sugar, and honey. I am not one for the pureed form…I like my charoset nice and chunky.

Four kinds of matzah pizza: plain cheese (the classic), basil, mushrooms, and red peppers

The second best part of passover is Matzah pizza. Who doesn’t love pizza with a thin and crispy crust? With matzah as your base…instant success! Top to your heart’s content, although don’t be too liberal on your toppings or your matzah will go from crispy to soggy. Second tapas…a hit!

Matzah balls...minus the traditional soup

I have to give Adam all the credit here…he mixes up a mean matzah ball. We did use a mix, made primarily of matzah meal (just ground up matzah) and spices. But Adam added his unique touch and boiled these balls to the perfect fluffy texture. Being tapas party, these were cut in fours and served minus the usual chicken soup serving vessel. Now what’s a Passover meal without a traditional kugel?

Don't you love our beautiful Passover china?

Or kugel muffins I should say! Kugel is basically just a pudding or pie and can really be made with anything. This was another first for our guest and luckily, these vegetable filled muffin shaped kugels turned out much better than I thought (recipes can be found here). A change from the usual sweet apple kugel, I guess you could make these year round using other bread like products or whole grains as a substitute for the matzah farfel (just broken up pieces of matzah).

So all that was missing was the last and most popular traditional passover food…gefilte fish! A dish that strikes fear in many (including my husband)…a ball of ground up fish (generally a combo of white fish, pike, and carp) mixed with spices, an egg, and matzah meal and boiled until your house smells like an early morning fish market.

Traditional gefilte fish with beet horseradish

I for one, love the traditional variety. But out of fear for smelling up my apartment, I decided to look for an updated version of this classic dish. Let’s just say, even Adam, a known gefilte fish hater, liked my modern twist on the “fish-ball.”

Tilapia Cakes with Spiced Tomato Sauce (Adapted from Bonnie Stern’s Friday Night Dinners)

2 pounds of tilapia, chopped into fine pieces

1 egg white

1/4 cup chopped parsley

1 lemon, zested

1 tsp salt

1 tsp cumin

1 tsp paprika

1/4 tsp cayenne

olive oil

Tomato Sauce

olive oil

1 onion, chopped

1 clove garlic, minced

1 tsp ginger, minced

a couple dashes of hot sauce

1 tsp ground cumin

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 28-oz can plum tomatoes

1 tbsp honey

salt and pepper to taste

Mix chopped fish with the remaining ingredients and form into small patties. Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat and cook fish cakes for about 2-3 minutes per side, or until browned.

For sauce, heat oil in a separate pot over medium  heat and add onion, garlic, ginger, and hot sauce and cook until tender. Add cumin and cinnamon and cook for 30 seconds. Then add tomatoes and break them up with a spoon and cook until thickened, about 10 minutes. Add honey and season with salt and pepper.

Fish cake with sauce

Very different looking from the traditional gefitle fish, I would definitely eat this year round. There was also some un-pictured caramel and chocolate covered matzah…or as I like to call it, Matzah crack. Always eaten so fast, hence, no picture. A successful first time matzah experience and passover tapas night for my guests!

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Since moving to New York and starting my blog, I’ve jumped on the Twitter bandwagon. At first, I was hesitant…already a Facebook user, why did I need to read about what everyone was doing in 140 characters or less? But, as I explored the Twitter world a little more, I discovered it was not only an amazing way to keep up to date on the latest news, celebrity gossip, and food trends/restaurant openings/recipes, but it was also a fantastic avenue for meeting new people. Not only have I made “twitter friends” with a shared interest in running and food, but they have also become real life friends. I had the pleasure of dining with new friends  made through this social media outlet at an old favorite, Barrio Chino, in the LES. We bonded over our shared love of running and food and enjoyed some fantastic and authentic Mexican dishes.

Guacamole, salsa, and tortilla chips

Enchiladas Verdes: green enchiladas stuffed with zucchini and mushrooms and melted oaxacan cheese served with black beans topped with queso fresco

Tostadas Camaron: Two tostadas with sauteed shrimp covered in crema mexicana, queso fresco, lettuce, and avocado

It might be hard to tell from the dark photos, but the food was beautiful and delicious! Last time I visited this tiny and cozy spot, I went with the fish tacos (which another friend had and loved). But this time, the enchiladas were calling my name and I’m so glad I answered. I highly recommend this vibrant and flavorful green dish. There was also an un-pictured order of the chicken enchilada mole…also a hit. I can’t wait for more running and dining dates with a lovely group of ladies!

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I love having a loaf of homemade bread to nibble on throughout the week. That yeasty smell your kitchen has while the dough is baking and the first slice fresh out of the oven…nothing can compare to this. I’ve posted many times about my favorite rosemary beer bread from Bonnie Stern. Well, I now have a new beer bread recipe to share that with the addition of olives and sun-dried tomatoes, takes this crusty loaf to a whole new level. And the best part? No yeast, kneading, or rising time required! A quick bread from start to finish!

Beer Bread with Olives & Sun-Dried Tomatoes (Adapted from this recipe)

1 cup all-purpose flour

2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp salt

1/2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp baking powder

1 egg, beaten

1 bottle of light beer

1/4 cup chopped sun-dried tomatoes

1/3 cup chopped kalamata olives

1 tbsp oil

Mix together the flours, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Add the remaining ingredients and spread into a greased loaf pan. Bake at 350 for about 50-60 minutes.

With a side of pickles...what could be bad?

The pickles and other condiments should make sense from the blog title…burger night! The bread was part of a burger night dinner when a lone package of ground turkey breast was sitting in our freezer. But first, what goes better with burgers and bread than soup? Okay, well maybe not the burger part but this carrot and parsnip soup from Eats Well With Others was outstanding.

The sweet and creamy soup, topped with a drizzle of balsamic, went perfectly with the salty and tender bread. A perfect start to our burger night. But before the main event, I roasted off some veggies to serve as sides. Brussels sprouts and white fleshed sweet potatoes…if you’ve never had white fleshed sweet potatoes they are so much sweeter than there orange fleshed relatives and I highly recommend you give them a try!

 Spice Coated Sweet Potato Fries (Adapted from A Year in Lucy’s Kitchen)

2 sweet potatoes, cut into fry shapes

1 tbsp olive oil

1/2 tsp red pepper flakes

1 tsp paprika

1 tsp dried thyme

1 tsp ground cumin

salt and pepper

Combine oil and spices in a large bowl. Add potatoes and mix well. Spread on baking sheet and bake at 400 for about 25-30 minutes or until brown.

For the turkey burgers, I wanted something simple, with little to no bread crumb fillers and lots of flavor. I found this recipe, followed it exactly, and they were perfect!

Turkey burger topped with sautéed mushrooms/shallots. Served with roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potato fries

Juicy and flavorful with all the fresh herbs and with no fillers, you really tasted the turkey. A very well-rounded meal! Now I bet the pickles and condiments in the bread picture makes more sense!

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When most people visit New York and start planning their dining itinerary, they almost always focus on the restaurants in Manhattan. I too have been guilty of only visiting restaurants in this popular borough on previous visits to NY. But, since moving to the empire state, I’ve discovered that Brooklyn has some serious food chops. There is a huge movement of restaurants and chefs towards handmade artisan food and focusing on locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. I had the pleasure of recently dining at two such restaurants.

The first dinner took me to Williamsburg after reading many reviews about a new gastropub basically doing everything from scratch….and I mean EVERYTHING! Allswell makes its own bread, cures its own fish, butchers and roasts pigs raised especially for them, and changes the menu EVERY day…the days menu is posted on its website every night at 6pm. (causing a menu studier like myself serious anxiety!) But I had no reason to be worried, Allswell more than lives up to the hype. My friends and I all agreed the small plates were the most appealing and in an effort to try as much as we could, we decided the smartest decision was to share a bunch of their smaller plates. This, by the way, is my favorite way to eat out…small bites of many delicious things shared among friends..never a bad thing!

Welsh Rarebit: beer and cheese sauce on toast...beer, melted cheese, toasted homemade bread...really, what could be bad??

Burrata with marinated artichokes, olives, and homemade chili bread

Roasted pork with aioli, anchovies, capers, and homemade olive bread

Broccolini with dante cheese, shishito peppers, almonds...we needed one vegetable!

Left: Cured arctic char with potato cake, dill, capers, and homemade creme fraiche
Right: Sweet breads sautéed in butter with mint and snap peas

I really don’t think any comments are necessary…just look at all that deliciousness! But I will say the two favorite dishes were the pork and the char. That pork…I still think about it today. With the creamy aioli, salty anchovies, and homemade bread…it is that bite that keeps running through my head. I’m normally not a sour cream lover, but the homemade creme fraiche on the crispy potato pancake and silky smooth cured char was nothing like any sour cream I’ve had before. All is definitely well at Allswell!

The other Brooklyn dining adventure that week took me to a restaurant I’ve walked by maybe a hundred times and have always been intrigued. It was “Becoming Brooklyn’s” rave review that prompted me to immediately find a time to go and try the farm to table cuisine at The Farm On Adderley in Ditmas Park. A relaxed atmosphere with mis-matched wood chairs and tables, The Farm is such a warm and inviting spot, and the service only adds to the decor. The menu is simple, with a focus on the ingredients as The Farm lists exactly where their produce, meat, fish, and dairy products come from. No small plates this time…just good old-fashioned appetizer and main course dining.


Jerusalem artichoke soup with smoked apples


Carrots and ricotta with pine nuts, lemon, and olive oil

This was my first Jerusalem artichoke experience and will not be my last! The soup was super rich and creamy and the smoked apples gave it a sweet and almost bacon like flavor. So unique! My friends carrot and ricotta dish was as fresh as the picture looks and the ricotta was extra thick and had almost a hummusy flavor…and we love hummus so this was a good thing.


Poached farm egg with wheat berries, quinoa, butternut squash, kale, and parmesan...post breaking the yolk

Char with green lentils and roasted beets

Can we just pause for a moment and look at that beautiful, oozing, yellow yolk. That my friends, is what a perfectly poached egg should look like. I have to admit, I had a little bit of dish envy when my friends plate was placed on the table. But my char held its own. The flavors from the beets, garlic, and vinegar really went well together and the char was perfectly cooked to a medium rare. This dish was spot on. So give Brooklyn restaurants a try will you?

In some exciting blog news, my last recipe was featured on The Good Eats Daily…so check it out! http://paper.li/greenearthbazar/food-recipes

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