Saturday, May 29, 2010

Bar Crawl for a Cure!

This past weekend Ry, Jon & I decided to spend our Saturday drinking for a cause: a cure for cancer. We heard about the idea of a bar crawl fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and it just seemed too awesome to pass up. We met some new friends along the way, which really made the whole event a smash. Every bar donated $150 and a buck for every drink sold, which I thought was a totally awesome idea!!

Spike Hill

Our first stop is a Willyburg regular for us, an irish pub that has amazing curry fries, and a decent selection of drinks, including wine for me! Here is where we met some new friends- Sam & Greg, who joined our little group and made this crawl so much more fun!

Brooklyn Ale House

I've always liked this spot- they have a free bagel brunch- darts and a pool table- drinks are cheap, they're dog friendly, and the staff is nice.

Soft Spot

This bar is quite tiny- but has a cute little back yard. We love the speciality of the house- a soft peach, which is a cocktail that uses peach schnapps in an alcoholic lemonade/ long island iced-tea type concoction. Really great on a spring day!

Mugs Ale House

Never one of my favorites, but a bar's a bar. This one is cheap, has TV's, and serves bar food.

The Gibson

Been here once or twice, the foosball is fun, backyard, and a grill serving up burgers, dogs, and now veggie burgers. Yay! Also, they have Wii- which is pretty darn cool!


I'd heard of the gutter but had never been. Williamsburg's first bar/bowling alley, definitely a bit of a warehouse/dive, but I can see why it is a popular spot for birthday parties!!

Red Star

This was the last stop- and man did I fall in love with this place! DJ did a good job playing some classic tunes, good drink options, plenty of space, and I was really impressed by the bar food and menu. We tried the nachos, and everyone reported the hot wings were awesome and super hot. I also had the mac and cheese which was really delish! As visible from our photos, the crawl was quite fun and succesful, and we made some new friends along the way, and I was introduced to greenpoint bars- and will be coming back!!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Brussel Sprouts

Continuing to venture into spring vegetables, we tried brussel sprouts for the first time the other night. Not eating them, I should say, but cooking them at home. I remember my dad cooking and serving them in loads of browned butter and salt when I was a kid, and I actually always liked them. Ryan, on the other hand, has just gotten brave enough to give these bitter yet awesome greens a go. We paired them with sweet potato and a steak (for the boys), to balance out the flavors with some sweet and savory. We decided to boil them, but I can imagine roasting or steaming, or even grilling- would work well. I'm also told that for the meat-eaters out there, bacon is an amazing compliment- I can imagine the flavors of some imported pancetta with the sprouts- and it is enough to turn a veggie-girl back to the other team (almost..)!!

To prepare:

Cut the ends off.
Make an X shape with the knife in the bottom of each sprout.
Boil the crap outta' them in some lightly salted water- I personally like them very soft and with tender leaves that will fall off with a gentle prod. This last time they were a bit firm still, which was tasty, but the best leaves were more cooked.
Then, melt butter in a small pan with a clove (or 2, or 3) of garlic, and herbs, if desired. Pour the garlic-herb-butter over the sprouts, and grate parmesan cheese on top, and fresh black pepper.

My mouth is now salivating.


Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Ocean House

Tonight we had dinner at one of our favorite restaurants on cape cod. We've probably been here... oh... 6 or 7 times- at christmas, in summer... for holidays.. for fun.. for drinks... If you are mid-cape, I recommend this spot as one of the best restaurants and a great bar. The tanqueray and tonics, the sunsets, and the wine list are all delicious, as is the menu. the prix-fixe is a great deal, @ $26, there are about 10 choices for each course, and all are great. I went with a heart of romaine salad with a chipotle dressing, followed by a really fresh pasta with eggplant and marinara- one of my all-time favorite flavor combos. Ryan had the shrimp cocktail and filet, and his mom had the mussels and salmon. All the plates were really large for a prix-fixe, and great flavors!! We tried a bunch of different desserts- all were tasty: a blueberry cobbler, a chocolate cake, a rice pudding- but none were phenomenal. Great for a fancy night out on cape cod!!

Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Oh, what a fond farewell to Boston. Well, Cambridge, really. Thanks to the recommendation of a foodie friend and fellow grad student (Thanks CASEY!), Ry, Jon, and I went to Craigie-On-Main for a feast of a feast. The restaurant is known for local, organic, fresh food, with a menu that changes daily to reflect what is seasonal and best at the market. They also offer several tasting menus, including one for vegetarians!!

We originally planned to do a six-course tasting ($90), vegetarian for me, and meat and fish for the boys. But after the third phenomenal course, Jon asked the waiter if we could go gung-ho and do the full ten ($115). Oh yeah, we also just HAD to get a side of the bone marrow (more on that later), meaning we were full-on gut busters. By course seven, I'm pretty sure Ryan could hardly even look at the food, but oh it was worth it. A play by play:

Course 1: Trio of fish/ Trio of vegetables:
Both dishes were very light, refreshing, and definitely the way 'amuse bouche' should be: a total tease. My trio featured lily bulbs in a rice wine vinegar, a red beet slaw/salad, and one that alas I can't remember. The boys had squid noodles, a piece of sashimi, and a clam that was fried- and delish. I was really impressed with how the vegetarian dish parodied the flavors and look of the fish trio!

Course 2: Avocado salad/ sashimi and avocado salad
I seem to recall this was when the real fireworks began. The description from the website: red onion-shiso salsa, avocado, harissa-rose vinaigrette. It was awesome! I couldn't identify all the flavors, but there was a really nice citrus/acid and yet a slightly spicy flavor- which is the harissa, most likely.

Course 3: Grilled hearts of palm with a ramp puree for me, and a light, white fish with a great skin for Ry & Jon. There was some debate on this course for the boys, Ry thought the fish was slightly overdone, but Jon did not find it so. Either way, this is a great place to mention the phenomenal service- constant attention and amazing table side presentation of every dish. The executive chef and owner even presented our final course (how cool is that!?) Also, two delish bottles of wine, one suggested by the staff- a white Gruner Vetliner($65) and a bottle of red cairanne from the rhone ($41), rounded out an amazing experience!

Course 4: spring vidalia onion soup with comte grilled cheese, olive oil and ramps
This might have been the holy crap course, at least IMHO. Dipping the grilled cheese in the savory, creamy, and sweet onion soup was seriously a bite of heaven.

course 5: lamb meatballs for the boys and pasta with cheese curds (sounds bad, tasted AMAZING)- I really enjoyed my pasta course- but the boys were probably the least into their lamb course. The lamb was spiced with a moroccan or persian blend- including cinnamon, which just isn't the flavors we love. High quality, but not our taste...

course 6: Ragoût of Forest Mushrooms, farro verde, farm-fresh poached egg (Divine, like OMG- it sliced open and spilled out like a dream), ramp purée, herbs and flowers and rabbit and lamb sausage and blood sausage (for the boys)

This dish I can not do justice to in this description. When I cut open the egg the runny yoke to spill out, filling the bowl like a soup. Little purple flowers and microgreens, and mushrooms were all soooo flavorful and savory- it was so rich, we could only eat a bite or two at a time, and would then have to sit for a while... probably one of the best dishes I have ever had.

course 7: pork 3 ways: spicy rubbed rib, pork belly, and pork confit/
Four Grain Pilaf and Haroseth-Stuffed Vidalia Onion maitake mushrooms, spring farm vegetables, sorrel purée
"The rib was unreal- tender, but crispy outside... yummy" says Ry. "The confit was like velvet"
On the other hand, this was probably my least favorite dish, and the only one I wont dream of every night of my life- though I did love the sorrel puree of veggies on the side, the pilaf once again featured the persian spice and cinnamon that just isn't my thing. The onion itself was incredibly tasty!

And because that just wasn't enough food:

Side Dish: roasted marrow

-The vegetarian confesses: marrow is one of my favorite gourmet treats and I just could not resist. The size of this bone was ridiculous- way bigger than any I've ever come across- and with a piece of toast... oh man. I could see myself sitting at the bar with a glass of red wine, the soup and the marrow and being in my glory. Don't be thrown off by the idea, it is like... the best butter in the world.... with lots of salt...


course 8: panna cotta with jasmine and mandarin orange

course 9: peanut butter parfait and banana rice pudding and pina colada ice cream

course 10: shot of hot cocoa with smoky mexican peppers

Final thoughts:
I really, really needed a veg experience like this one! I have been feeling both some cravings and the stress of eating out while maintaining my vegetarian/ whole food diet. It was tough especially when I was home in MA and PA with our families- a lot of restaurants only offered a veggie burger, maybe a cheese quesadilla, and a side salad as "vegetarian". Here, I think my tasting out- shined the meat and fish, even. I went a solid 5 courses declaring that the dish was the best I'd ever had. The food felt inspired, and never like my dish was merely the sides or garnish with the meat left off. Best of all, several staff members came to chat about my experience, as they don't get to do the vegetarian as much as they like! YAY! It really showed me that I CAN be a gourmet foodie and a vegetarian- something I was really beginning to doubt.

If you live within 2 hours of this place, get thee to Craigie on Main!

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Spring Feast: Pesto Pasta and an Apple, Arugula and Cheddar salad


2 large garlic cloves- cut in half- slooowly add to taste!!
handful of pinoli (pine nuts)- don't be shy now! (For those with nut allergies, or who aren't feeling the need to spend $$ on some nuts, a tsp of mayo will also give you the fat you need!!)
1 bunch basil- about 2 cups
handful of arugula- about 1/2 cup
1/2- 1 cup olive oil
1 1/4 cup parmesan
1/2 cup pecorino
Healthy squeeze of lemon juice
salt and pepper- generous, to taste
splash of truffle oil, if you're a baller

1. Clean the basil and pat dry. Pull off stems. Place basil and arugula in food processor and zap a few times. Add in one and a half cloves of garlic, process, and then a handful of pine nuts. Slowly start adding in olive oil, and then the cheeses. Adjust all the flavors to taste, add in additional garlic and salt and pepper.

cherry tomatoes
cabot cheddar in crumbles (or similar- nice and sharp, splurge!)
green apple (or pear)- ripe!
salt & pepper

Vinaigrette: Rub bowl with garlic. Mix 1 tblsp mustard, 4 tblsp balsamic vinegar, pour in olive oil to taste and whisk, salt and pepper. Drizzle on salad with spoon!

We served this with a bottle of chianti and some fresh direct garlic bread!

Sunday, May 9, 2010

Okey-Dokey, Artichoke-y

So, I like artichoke. But I had no clue how to cook these bad boys up. I mean, the thing has spikes.. and I am embarrassed to admit the first time I had a whole one, I tried to eat the entire leaf until a friend pointed out that just the bottom bits were tender. But this classic spring vegetable seemed too good to pass up, and so with a little thanks to an video and the joy of cooking, I managed to make my first artichoke. Hope this helps you enjoy this delicious vegetable too- this makes a perfect appetizer, and is waaaay healthier to snack on than chips and dip!

Watch the video here:

Choose an artichoke that is nice and green, and the leaves should squeak when you touch it.
As you start to prep, set a large pot with about 2 inches of lightly salted water to boil on the stove.
Trim the thorns of each leaf with a scissors, turning the artichoke away from you as you cut.
Cut the stem flush with the ball of the artichoke.
Dip briefly in a bowl of lemon water.
Cut up a clove of garlic. Place a little bit of soft butter under each artichoke leaf, and slide in a piece of garlic.
When ready, place the artichoke standing up in the water. Cover with a lid, and allow to boil about 30-40 minutes. Occasionally check that the water has not evaporated. The artichoke is done when a leaf easily comes off when you pluck it.

The butter and garlic was delicious just as is, but if you want, you can also serve a dipping sauce for the leaves. Once all the leaves have been plucked down, you can get at the heart by removing the fuzzy choke with a spoon. Just scoop it out!! Underneath is the delicious heart, totally worth the effort!!

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Vegetable CousCous

Rosalia came by the other night for a whole-some food feast. I served up the hummus (see last post), an artichoke (see tomorrow's post), and veggie couscous as the entree. A delicious middle-eastern/mediterranean feast! The veggie couscous is easy to make and quick to throw together- great for a weeknight meal!

green zucchini
small eggplant, peeled and sliced thin
1/4 white onion
1 green pepper sliced
2 plum tomatoes, nice and ripe, diced
2 cloves of garlic
pinches of fresh thyme and rosemary
salt & pepper to taste
(you could put in all sorts of other veggies- green beans, yellow squash, potatoes... carrots... chickpeas are very traditional)

1 box packaged couscous- I use the Near East brand and went with the olive oil and garlic blend.
olive oil
chicken or veggie stock

1. Put the garlic and onions in a pan with some olive oil. Saute until the onions and garlic begin to lightly brown.
2. Add in all other veggies, except the tomato. Saute for a few minutes, then add in the chicken broth and let simmer with lid on until veggies are tender.
4. Follow directions to prepare couscous.
3. Add in tomatoes, allow to simmer until they wilt.
4. Serve the veggies over the couscous, enjoy!

Simple, flavorful, and quick. Good stuff!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Hummus & tahini: or how to fail at cooking without really trying

I decided to try to make hummus from scratch, including homemade tahini (sesame paste). Now, usually I reserve my blogs for finished recipes, but I thought this time it might be more fun to tell you about my 'tahini fail'. After all, learning is in the mistakes... and there are plenty of mistakes that go into the recipes in this blog.

Some of the most epic include an indian mint chutney that had no mint, was atomically hot, and tasted terrible.

The recipe I recently shared, a yellow curry- involves cooking with cream of coconut instead of coconut milk. The first time I tried to make it, not realizing the difference, I put in the entire can, as I might with coconut milk- creating a disgustingly sweet curry-thing that was inedible.

Ryan made a tomato sauce when we were first dating that suffered from far too much salt- and sugar, which he had hoped would even out the flavor balance. And a recent attempt at thai red curry- ry wanted twice as much, so he simply doubled up on everything... and ended up with slimy coconut milk with some soggy vegetables.


Usually I pass along this wisdom through warnings (careful with this... add that to taste....etc). If only cookbooks came with such tips....

Which brings us to tahini paste. This is a base ingredient for many middle eastern recipes, including hummus, baba ganoush, and falafel. All of which are fabulous, so I thought... sure, I can try this.

My first reaction to most recipes was that the quantity was waaaay too much for my needs. 4 cups of sesame seeds?? Insane. Those bad boys are TINY. I then found one that made a tiny amount- and included water as an ingredient. This sounded easy.
But as I used my food processor to grind the seeds... it turned into runny, watery soup instead. So, now I'm live blogging take two, with yet another recipe, which revealed the ratio of seeds to oil. Here goes nothing.

Step 1: Determine quantity based on 1 cup seeds: 1/4 cup oil ratio

I went with 1/4 cup of seeds to 1/16 cup oil, which is 1 tablespoon. (Yay, math!)

Step 2: toast in oven @ 350 degrees. Do not brown.

I put them in for about ten minutes, and gave a stir halfway. I think they are on the lighter side of toasted, but they are aromatic, and I erred on the side of un-burnt.

Step 3: let cool. check.

Step 4: Place seeds in food processor with half the oil, grind for 1 minute. check

OK! Now this is starting to look like paste- it has the consistency of peanut butter- success!!

Step 5: Add other half of oil. Blend until mixture is evenly smooth when pressed.
This took another minute or two of grinding. Definitely reminds me of peanut butter in texture.

I am claiming victory on take two! This yielded just under a 1/4 cup of paste, the amount my hummus recipe calls for. I'm told this is fine, as the flavor of homemade tahini is stronger than store-bought. Having learned my lessons in the past, I think I'm adding it to taste, anyway, lol.

Part 2:

Hummus!! Adapted from Dean & Deluca:

1 3/4 cup chickpeas - I used dried, follow prep instructions, start a day ahead!
1-2 tblsp tahini paste * (see above...) to taste
2-3 tblsp lemon juice, to taste
3-4 cloves garlic
olive oil
salt & pepper to taste

Much like the tahini, my first stab at this was not perfect. Luckily, it was not disastrous, but I hope my mistakes might help me- and my dear readers, in future attempts. The D&D recipe called for a meager one clove of garlic which stuck me as outrageously little. I like garlic, so I doubled it to start, and added the other 2 cloves to taste. They were small cloves, I should note- 4 large ones might be overkill.

The original recipe also called for 5 tblsp of lemon, I put in 4, waaaaay too much. Next time I will start with 2 and build from there.

I drizzled the olive oil on the hummus and gave a fresh sprinkle of paprika just before serving!

Final note of warning: I overzapped the hummus in my food processor when trying to adjust the flavors. The goal is a middle-thick, slightly chunky hummus, and mine is considerably smoother. Go slow with the sharp, spinny blades!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Yellow Curry with Vegetables (& Chicken...)

This is a delicious recipe I got from my dad. I've made it more veggie-full and cut back on the salt. He uses 'cream of coconut' instead of coconut milk to give the curry a touch of sweet- just go easy with it and taste as you add it in. You have been warned on that one.

-1/4 lb green beans
- 2 red peppers, sliced thin
- zucchini, cut in thin slices
- small red or creamer potatoes
-chicken (if you like that sorta thing, lol)
-olive oil
- 1 large sweet onion
-6 cloves garlic, minced
-1/2 inch of ginger
-1/8 cup cream of coconut (cocktail mix)- to taste
- 3-4 tsp curry powder- to taste
-3 cups chicken stock
-salt, to taste

1. Saute onion and garlic in the olive oil in a deep pan.
2. In a separate pan, saute the chicken with a handful of cilantro.
3. Once chicken is cooked, combine with onion & garlic, add in ginger and saute.
4. After a few minutes add in chicken stock, curry powder, and cream of coconut, tasting to adjust flavors of spice and sweet.
5. Allow to simmer as long as desired to deepen flavors
6. Add in potatoes while simmering, and then about 10 minutes before serving, toss in green beans, pepper, and zucchini to keep the vegetables a little crisp. Salt to taste.

Serve over jasmine rice!

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Veggie Burgers: It's hard work to be a veggie girl!

I decided to make some veggie burgers today for lunch. The good news is, one batch netted five burgers- so I froze up four for the future- the bad news, man it's time consuming to eat whole foods and vegetables! But so worth it. I was really pleased with this recipe- The taste was spot on, and actually shaped up into a 'patty' quite nicely, and maintained its structure throughout cooking. WAY better than any 'boca' or 'morningstar' patty I've ever come across!!

Thank you pampered Chef & Maura for inspiring these!

1 clove garlic
1/4 cup onions
1 can black beans, rinsed and mashed
bella mushrooms, 2-3 cut up
corn kernels
green pepper
garbanzo beans
salt & pepper
hot sauce
1 egg white
1/4 cup bread crumbs

1. Mash the beans, folding in the other ingredients. Spice with the salsa, hot sauce, cumin, salt & pepper. Crack the egg white and mix in the bread crumbs last.

2. Form into patties. Cook in a pan or on a grill. In a pan, I cooked for a few minutes on each side, and then shut off the heat and covered with a lid and let cook a few minutes longer.

Garnish: lettuce, tomato, sesame bun, swiss cheese, etc

Monday, May 3, 2010

The Counting Room

A bar so new, I couldn't even find a photo of it on the internet. It was the perfect night for a walk down past McCarren park and closer to the water. Great breeze, and the bar has big, open windows. We decided to take advantage of a special 1/2 bottle of Nebbiolo- which we really liked. A dark, fruity italian red that was served slightly chilled. We also tried a crostini dish ($3) and the 3 cheese plate ($13). The crostini came with fresh ricotta with basil and lemon flavors, very light, and a huge portion for the price. The cheese plate we chose had a sharp cotswold cheddar, a sheep's brie, and a soft goat cheese. The goat cheese reminded me of camembert in texture, but had a milder, creamier flavor. As accompaniment, a dollop of honey, a few pieces of dark chocolate, some grapes, and two types of bread paired well with the cheeses. My only thought was that a salty/briney choice might have been great to balance all the sweet tastes- perhaps an olive tapenade.

The upstairs is an airy industrial space, and downstairs there is a dark cocktail bar with plenty of space for groups to sit.

We really liked the atmosphere and were impressed by the wine list!

Check it out at 11th & Berry in the Burg!