Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Veggie bologna, and other things I never thought I'd eat...

So in planning a nutrition curriculum for next year, I came across a great idea for food. Instead of trying something new and declaring it yuck- saying "I love it" "I like it" or "I just don't like it yet". The brilliance of this actually has begun to transcend food- there are just so many things in this great big world "I don't like yet". The admission that tastes change- and grow, and develop- whether for food, TV shows... or even people, is a powerful idea. I feel like that might be my new favorite phrase.

I remember when I was a kid, there were several foods I just didn't like (yet) that I now love. Cilantro comes to mind immediately- I used to find the smell nauseating. I remember when my dad would cook with it, I'd leave the house, and went to great pains to pick it out of dishes. Now, given the option, I'd bathe in it.

Mushrooms come in a close second, followed perhaps by white fish- and truly shocking perhaps is tuna carpaccio/tartare. I would never in a million years thought I'd eat any of those foods. Most recently I finally learned to like cucumber.

But there are definitely some foods out there I still don't like (yet). Watermelon is definitely one of them, never have understood the allure, but I keep trying it. I also still don't like shellfish- ironically I did as a child- but now shrimp, lobster and crab totally send yuck signals to my brain. But, I'll keep trying.

And then, last but not least, there are foods that I try and absolutely expect to hate- and surprisingly like. The most recent discovery? Veggie bologna! When I recently lamented to friends about how one of the foods I miss from my meat-eating days is a bologna sandwich, they told me to try this "fake meat" version. To say I was skeptical... is an understatement. But, today I stand before you a convert and a believer. This stuff tastes pretty much just like bologna, which perhaps makes me suspect that REAL bologna is a fake food even more than I did once upon a time.

The other food I am shocked to say I love is tofu- though I do not love it in all of its forms, pretty much every asian version I've had is delish. I like it best fried and with a sweet and sour sauce... although in red or green thai curry... or with chinese noodles... or in Japanese Udon... it's pretty amazing too.

So, what foods do you just not like yet? Which ones have you grown to love? And which surprise you even today?

Monday, June 28, 2010

Margaritas: Ryan's Recipe, Elote, Arriba, Arriba & Border Cafe

Sometimes when the heat and humidity rise, the only thing that makes sense is to drink copious amounts of margaritas. That more or less sums up the last two days of my life. My husband is a huge fan from the first nice warm day of spring right on through labor day- and for good reason. Nothing like a little lime and tequila to while away the hot summer days... So here is Ry's homemade recipe, and reviews of two margarita joints we like. We avoid any place that uses a mix- that is just a no go. But here is a sampling of margarita spots for refreshment seekers!

Ryan's Recipe:

In a shaker, put two pinches of sugar, squeeze 1 1/2 -2 limes, add about 2 handfuls of ice, a shot of triple sec, 2-3 shots of tequila, (I like Suarza gold), shake and serve!

Elote is always a fun stop with some friends. We shared a pitcher of margaritas, not sure what they normally run, but tonight a mere ($18). The chips and salsa are free and tasty, and the backyard is good for a summer night. We've been coming here for a while, and though the service is consistently inconsistent and the food comes and goes, the drinks are always great! And seeing as Arriba Arriba charged us for a large goblet-glass what this spot charged for a pitcher, worth the money!

Meanwhile, in the city, we stopped in Arriba Arriba for several margaritas as well- these bad boys go down like candy! A little less tart than those at Elote, but silent killers. My one complaint is the price tag- the papa size, which I had two of, are $9 a pop, and the mama- a large daiquiri-goblet-ful, runs a breathtaking $18. So, if you like to drink your gold away, then brave it and pop in here. We sure felt a lot better leaving than we did walking in, which is the point, after all..

And a final shout out to those up in Cambridge, where The Border Cafe serves up mediocre mex, but incredibly cheap and amazing margaritas. For god's sake, it's the best $5.50 anyone could spend, and no wonder a popular place with the students, myself included, for the better part of this past year.

Happy Summer, and Ole!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Brunch @ Beco

This weekend Ry & I checked out Beco for brunch. A tiny restaurant with a small bar and about eight or nine tables, this place serves up Brazilian fare, and right now, World Cup soccer games. We astutely avoided one of the matches, and snuck in Saturday morning when the place was not insane. We both opted for the prix-fixe menu, which come with a brunch item, a coffee, and a cocktail. Let's start with the coffee: some of the best I've had in the burg. We had americanos, and they hit the spot. I had a caju fruit mimosa, which was also really nice, and Ryan tried a mint pineapple caipirinha, which was "OK, nothing great"- and Ry says "The mimosa I had was better".

I tried the herb omelet and Ryan had the steak and eggs. My omelet had a variety of options- I chose the asparagus, white cheese, and sundried tomato, and was really pleased with the results. They did not shy from the herbs, and the basil flavor came through and was amazing. All the ingredients were well seasoned and the cheese was melted to a delicious gooey-ness, as it should be. On the side were some homefries, topped with a squirt of lemon, that were great, and a little mesclun salad. If I had a complaint, it might be that it was a little salty, but otherwise, I was a happy camper.

Ryan's steak was great, and came with white rice, beans, salsa, and topped with two fried eggs- Ry took them sunny side up. The eggs were cooked perfectly, and the steak was flavorful. Again, Ryan complained that the rice was salty, too much for his taste, but otherwise he was quite pleased. We were both bummed that the waitress did not bring us the two sauces we saw at other tables, one looked like a recaito or a chimichurri, and the other some type of red chili... I'm thinking those are good stuff.

Other than the saltiness, my only other complaint is that the service was less than stellar, especially seeing as there were only a few other tables. But I will definitely come back- the eggs benedict also looked great, and for $14.95, the price was right!

Friday, June 25, 2010

2 New in the Burg: Goods and Loreley

The latest addition to NYC's food truck craze is right on our corner- and Ry and I stopped by last weekend to grab some breakfast. I ordered a sunny-side-up egg and cheese on a buttermilk biscuit- which was nothing short of a gooey, salty, buttery, delicious mess. I could feel my arteries clogging with every bite- and I have to admit, despite the "good"ness, I probably wont order it again due to its sheer decadent nature. Ryan, on the other hand, has been eating the biscuits with jam on an almost daily basis- so he is totally ok with the glory and the goodness. The coffee was strong and tasty. Ryan has also sampled the beignets which were equally delicious, so he tells me. I am looking forward to a late night to stop by and order the fish and chips, and Ryan is already dreaming of trying their brunch special: fried chicken and biscuits. If you are looking for something down, dirty, and good, stop on by!

(So new, no photos!)

Loreley- We stopped by for drinks and to check out the menu. We were a little surprised at how small the bar is inside- and for a reason I can't put my finger on, had more of the decor feel of a chain than a cute burg bar. I think already this is an outdoor, nice night type spot for me, and probably not much more. The drink menu had lots of different beers, but not as many german and austrian wines on selection as Radegast might carry. The menu was meat-heavy, although curry fries and pretzels made an appearance among the sausage offerings. Will definitely keep posting as we sample more.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Strawberry Rhubarb Pie

It's that time of year when rhubarb is at its peak- and as part of our first CSA pickup, we were rewarded with a stalk of this strange fruit. Rhubarb looks like celery that has been grown in red food dye- but has a distinct, yet hard to define, smell and taste. Mixed with the sweetness of freshly picked strawberries, it is gonna be good....

1 1/2 cup pastry flour
1 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter
5 tablespoons ice water

Combine flour & salt with a whisk. Add in butter and combine with a fork until crumbly. Drizzle water and shape into a ball. Refrigerate in Saran wrap for 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. (My oven runs HOT. Some folks do this @ 425)

1 cup rhubarb
2 cups strawberries
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
2 1/2 tblsp cornstarch
squeeze lemon juice

Roll out dough, add filling to center, and top with dollops of butter. Then complete with lattice crust. Bake @ 400 for 15-20 minutes, checking crust for burning. Some folks brush butter or milk on top of the crust, this works too. Then turn down to 300 degrees (325 if your oven is not so insane) for an additional 15-20.

Serve with ice cream or whipped cream, and garnish with sprigs of mint!!

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Food Porn: Garlic Scape Pesto: CSA Week #1

I'd like to start by celebrating today's photos: They are all mine. This is exciting because all my other attempts at photographing our food have turned out looking... er... unappetizing. So I finally got some amazing shots out of our first CSA produce!

Ry & I were so stoked to start our CSA (stands for Community Supported Agriculture). We signed up back in March, and now receive a bi-weekly share of veg, fruit, eggs, and flowers from an organic farm on Long Island. Our first week we received kale, red leaf lettuce, spinach, bok choy, garlic scapes (seen here), rhubarb, raspberries, a bunch of lavender, snow peas, and mesclun greens.

So what exactly are Garlic scapes, you ask? They are the soft tender green shoot that grows out of a garlic bulb early in the planting. Eventually it hardens and becomes inedible- leaving only the bulb. But for a few precious weeks in early summer, these tasty shoots are available to eat. The little hat is cut off, and the green stem is then cut up, much like scallions. The flavor is garlicky for sure, but Ryan and I both found it to have a softer, sweeter flavor, and less of the bite of regular garlic.

We replaced the garlic in our pesto recipe with the stems of 4 scapes, added in a squeeze of lemon, and enjoyed a slightly grainier in texture, yet smoother in taste, version of our pesto.

Hurry and try some before these bad boys vanish from your local farmer's market!!

Monday, June 21, 2010

Uno, Due, TRE

I met my friend Liz for dinner the other night on the LES by my school. We decided to get some italian at Tre, a cute little spot that carries one of my favorite every-day bottles of red, a negroamaro called Rocca Bella. I'm pretty sure they charged me for a glass ($(8) just shy of what i'd normally pay for a bottle ($11) ... but hey, it sure is tasty. Liz and I started with an item from the "Neapolitan Street Food" section of the menu, all for $6 each. We tried the arancini di riso- fried rice balls- basically a sweet pea and mozzarella risotto fried up. We both agreed that they needed either more cheese inside, or a sauce to dip them in. Some of the other items sounded really great on this menu- mushrooms, crispy artichokes, fried zucchini, etc. But we were not quite hungry enough to explore them all on this trip!

For my entree, I had the fusilli gorgonzola ($14)- which had zucchini and shitake mushroom, and was served in a light (if there can be such a thing) gorgonzola cream sauce. Liz and I agreed this was the winning dish- lots of flavor, just the right amount of sauce, and the mushroom and zucchini really did a nice job complimenting the gorgonzola. Liz tried the homemade gnocchi ($16) which was not as successful. The gnocchi were almost flavorless and somewhat heavy and sticky. The spinach and cheese flavors just didn't make it to the palate. The fresh tomato sauce was nice, but nothing to write home about.

Overall, I thought the restaurant was cute and had potential. I'd probably go back for a glass of wine and to try a few more of the neapolitan street snacks. But I wouldn't send you searching for it if you weren't already in the neighborhood, either, if you know what I mean....

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Bar Artisanal

Last night Ryan and I celebrated 6 years together! We have nicknamed our anniversary of meeting/dating the "anniversary of knowing". I feel very lucky to know Ryan....

So, we ventured to Tribeca to check out Artisanal's little sister, Bar Artisanal. Long before this blog, perhaps some three or four years ago now- *gasp* time goes fast- we went to Artisanal with a large group of friends during restaurant week. Friends who have been living in Italy for two years... friends who have been in Florida for a year... Friends we dearly miss! Anyway, sentimental romanticizing aside, we had an amazing time. Artisanal began as a fromaggerie- a cheese shop-and though I can't recall the majority of the food and wine we had, the highlight for me was a "1,000 cheese " fondue. It was a blend of many different cheeses, and it was just awesome. Beyond that, I remember tasty french fare, and mainly just a lot of fun.

So, back to Bar Artisanal. This new spot highlights Spanish wine and food, rather than the uptown spot which is french through and through. We Started off with a glass of Albarino- a citrusy, refreshing white wine ($11)- for Ryan, and a glass of Cava- a sparkling, champagne- like white ($10)- for me. Both are perennial favorites and hit the spot on a humid and muggy night. We didn't try the sangria- which was probably a huge mistake, as it looked awesome- and comes in several styles, including a hot & spicy version ($8/ glass) ! I'll add that to my "next time" list.

We started off with some tapas- small plates- which they offer in both 'classic' and 'modern' versions. We ordered marinated olives($4) and patatas bravas ($7) from the classic side, and manchego tempura ($7) from the modern.

The patatas bravas- basically fried potatoes- are a favorite dish of ours, and I've always seen them before as actual potatoes, but here were french fries. They were really nicely seasoned, salty, lots of pepper, and some herbs, and served with two traditional sauces, one which has a smoky, chipotle flavor, and a second which was an aioli, a creamy garlic- olive oil-mayonnaise. I thought this dish was really awesome and both sauces were addicting- but I wished they were served as potato wedges rather than fries.

The Manchego tempura was really interesting- manchego cheese was shaped into a ball and then batter dipped and fried. Awesome. My only complaint was that they were way over-salted, at least the two I ate, but Ryan did not have the same experience, so this might reflect a heavy hand more than the actual dish. I also thought the fries were salty too, so this might be my one complaint. Then again, I am an exception to most people's taste in salt.... I wonder if the manchego would have benefitted from a sweet sauce of some sort, just to balance the savory and salty flavors of the cheese and the batter. But overall, my mouth is watering recalling this dish, so clearly the saltiness did not ruin an otherwise lovely plate.

I had a glass of red wine, a Tempranillo from Rioja, which, as my husband often forgets, is a region and not a grape or style of wine. The red was really nice- and I received by far the most generous pour of the evening. We did notice that the bar seemed inconsistent- some glasses were quite full, primarily mine, and Ryan's always seemed rather small. The tempranillo had a subtle oak flavor that complimented the tapas wonderfully. Ryan ordered a glass of viura, a white wine also from Rioja- that was very floral and perfumey, but lacked the citrus notes I'd like in a glass of white.

We then split a meat and cheese plate ($25), I mainly eating the cheese.. and Ryan taking on the meat. The plate came with 3 types of meat: Chorizo, salchicon, a dry cured sausage, and lomo, cured pork loin. I DID sneak a bite of the chorizo, which was nice and spicy, like salami. oooh yes. As for the cheese, I asked the waiter to select one cow, one goat, and one sheep, and sort of pick his favorites. The goat was semi-firm, nutty, sharp, and really nice, but the sheep was my favorite- Roncal- and Ryan's. It was not quite as sharp as the goat, but also had a nutty flavor, similar to manchego. The last was definitely a curiosity- a soft cow's cheese that had cayenne in it- Afuegal Pitu. We both thought it was interesting, but not sure that either of us could really say we liked it. I'm glad I tried it, just for the experience!

Finally, we shared a dessert, another classic- churros ($10), served with hot chocolate. I love churros- fried dough- and these were really fresh and tasty. The hot chocolate was also great, I actually poured a little into my coffee!!

Overall, I had a really nice time. We both saw more we'd like to try- Ryan wanted to taste the mussels, and I saw some tasty looking salads, as well as more cheese I would love to sample. Not to forget the sangria!! I definitely see this spot as good for snacking and drinking.... Ole!

Thursday, June 10, 2010


So many local italian joints... so little time. Ro & I went back to this one just the other night. We started off with two glasses of the falanghina- a nice crisp white wine, and an artichoke salad appetizer. I have eaten here before, and this was the first dish that was truly disappointing. The artichokes were scratchy and woody, and lacked any flavor at all. Our pastas, however, made up for the saddening start- I had the eggplant rigatoni, which was fresh and flavorful, and Ro had a special spaghetti with prosciutto. I'd never sat in the backyard before, but it was quite nice for an evening meal. All in all, I'm always pleased by the fair prices- the entrees were only $11 or $12 each- but the wine did add up pretty fast. We probably would have been better off getting a bottle.

In the past I've had several other tasty dishes, including some good salads, and overall I love the rustic decor and casual food. I'll be back- just no artichokes for me!

Wednesday, June 9, 2010


Ryan and I tried another of the burg's new restaurants for dinner the other night. A uruguayan/ south american flavor and very romantic spot, Tabare was super cute! We sat in the tiny back garden for dinner, but inside and out is very romantic. The restaurant is BYOB, so we picked up a bottle on the way, a huge perk, for sure. I tried the asparagus soup which was delicious, with a nice buttery green flavor, and then a beet salad that was really refreshing. Ryan tried a steak and egg sandwich that came with amazing fries- loved the seasoning on top. We'd love to try some of the pasta and fish dishes next time. But the real highlight of the meal was the dessert. So rarely do I fall in love with sweets- but wow. They gave us a free piece of the flourless chocolate cake, which was rich and chocolaty and sooo good. I tried the dolce de leche flan, which was also super tasty. With a cup of coffee, it was perfect. We will definitely be back!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010


Arturo's is one of my all-time favorite restaurants in the city. It has great atmosphere, great food- and for me, some really great memories. Ry & I came here on one of our early dates, and sat along the side walk, drinking the house red, sharing the cold antipasti salad($5.95), and eating the delicious pepperoni pizza ($16). Since then, we've been back countless times- most recently just this past weekend- and it's always great. Of special note was our rehearsal dinner- an incredible meal of pizzas, pesto and marinara pastas, garlic bread... and plenty of that house wine. I love the piano player, the tiny bathroom with a tub in it... and the history and memories of friends and families. Most exciting of all, we discovered they serve tortellini in brodo- which come winter, I will be venturing here for. If you're ever in this part of town, stop by!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Summer orzo pasta salad

Pasta salad is one of the best parts of summer. And Orzo is super delish. A rice-sized pasta, it is great in salads and soups!!

-1 cup orzo
-cucumber, diced
-cherry tomato
-red or yellow bell pepper
-red onion
-1-2 cloves garlic
-olive oil
-red wine vinegar
-feta cheese

Other thoughts I have on ingredients: black olives, roast red pepper, basil, spinach or arugula....

Boil the orzo. While boiling, dice garlic and add to olive oil. Drain pasta and allow to cool. Mix in veggies and seasonings, then dress with garlic/olive oil mixture and red wine vinegar. Toss and serve.

Sunday, June 6, 2010

Stir Fry Veggies

We have attempted stir fry on several occasions- we even have a really pretty wok to cook in- but it usually ends up soggy and the flavor is never right. So, as always, we try, try, again. This meal SHOULD be really easy, quick, and delicious. I will not give up!! So here we are, live blogging the latest attempt:


2 cloves garlic
5 scallions, whites and light greens
approx. 1 tblsp grated ginger

The best stir-fry will mix vegetables that have different textures- some type of leafy green, then a softer vegetable, and crisper ones:

Greens: bok choy, napa cabbage
Red or green pepper, zucchini or squash, mushrooms
green beans, broccoli, snap peas, carrots
asian: water chestnuts, baby corn
peanuts or cashews

Prepare all the vegetables so that they are cut into same-sized pieces, this is key to regulate cooking time!

*Sauce (Adapted from Dean and Deluca)
2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon siracha/ chili sauce (To taste, this stuff gets spicy fast, predominantly on the back end!)
pinch sugar
black pepper
1 tsp sesame oil
sprinkle sesame seeds
chicken stock
2 tsp soy sauce

Dilute 1 tsp cornstarch with a little water until milky, mix in to sauce. Set aside

Cooking directions:

Step one: Heat up the wok. Put in 1 tablespoon of peanut oil. BE WARNED: it gets hot and you will probably get spattered- careful. Test to see if the oil is hot enough but flicking a little drop of water in it from your finger- it will crackle when ready.

Step two: Add in the garlic, scallion, and ginger. Cook until fragrant. Mash down into the oil to release the fragrance.

Step three: Once the garlic, ginger and scallion are ready, add in your thickest vegetables- in our case, broccoli and green beans- and then add in chicken broth and allow to simmer until veggies soften.

TIP: Push veggies out to side of wok to maintain even cooking.

Step Four: Add in softer veggies- red bell pepper and yellow squash, and bok choy. Allow to cook down, move to sides to make a central space in the middle. If veggies are drying out, add in a little more broth.

Step five: Pour sauce into oil in the space in the center (add a bit more if all burned off), allow to boil and thicken, and then stir quickly together with the veggies, turn off heat and serve.

RESULTS: This time, we were really quite pleased! It took about 5 minutes total cook time, the veggies were nice and crisp, the sauce was really flavorful- and our new technique of creating a well for the sauce to boil in and THEN mixing with the veggies solved our soggy problem. Also, reducing the use of oil and adding in chicken stock to keep the veggies moist really added a nice flavor and kept the veggies from getting that slick oily gross-ness.

Next time, we talked about going even heavier with the chicken stock, as well as possibly sprinkling a little bit of orange as a citrus flavor over the veggies. We might also experiment with asian noodles!

We like to put our stir fry over jasmine rice~!

Friday, June 4, 2010

Vegetarian Lunches: Meatless Sandwiches

It's not easy eating a vegetarian lunch every day!! As a matter of fact, this meal is the true stumper for me- carrying around a salad or cup of soup is not so easy, and I really miss the days of sandwiches.... It was just so much easier to slap some bologna on a piece of bread and call it a meal. So, to fill in the blanks, I've started eating several meatless sandwiches, shared here. If you have some others, please comment and I will add them to the list- and the daily rotation. There just comes a point where PB & J wont cut it.....

1. Tea-time classic: Cucumber Sandwiches

These delicate sandwiches are really refreshing on a hot day!

roast red peppers
sliced bread, with crusts
black pepper
cream cheese

Thinly slice the cuc. Spread the cream cheese on. Layer ingredients, then sprinkle with pepper. Voila.

Tea time #2: Egg Salad

Hard-boiled eggs
dijon mustard

Hard boil the eggs and mash with a fork. Add in mayo and mustard to taste, generously salt and pepper. Mix in diced onion and celery, and generously dash with dried or fresh dill and chives.

Classic standby #3: Grilled cheese

I find american cheese on white toast quite bland and prefer this version instead:

-swiss cheese
-white onion, sliced thin
-plum tomato

Layer ingredients and heat until cheese is gooey and delicious.

Thursday, June 3, 2010

Wilted Spinach

This recipe works equally well with any green that wilts- sometimes I substitute bok choy instead. It's really simple... yet delicious.

2 cloves garlic
olive oil
lemon wedge

-Toss the garlic in the olive oil in a large saute pan. When the garlic starts to brown, add in the spinach, salt and pepper it, and allow to cook down, about 2 minutes. Squirt with lemon juice and stir, serve immediately!!

Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Zucchini Bread

If you like "breads"- banana, pumpkin, carrot- then you will like Zucchini! The zucchini is naturally full of moisture, which makes the bread really nice and soft. It also has a really nice flavor, which comes through in the bites.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Whisk together:
1 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon

In a separate large bowl, blend:
2 cups sugar (I did a mix of white and brown sugar, could also see honey working well)
2 large eggs, beaten
1/2 cup veggie oil
1 tsp vanilla- As we all know, I tend to go heavy on this.
1/2 tsp salt

Stir the dry ingredients. Once blended, add:
2 cups grated zucchini (grate w/ cheese grater, squeeze out extra moisture)
1 1/2 cups walnuts

Pour into a loaf pan and bake about 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes clean.