31 May 2011

happy birthday to the best kid sister in the world!

A quick and loving shout out to my wonderful and amazing little sister who turned 25 today!  I love you so much and hope that your day was super amazing.  Here's hoping that you got everything your giant heart desires. In your honor, I nibbled on your favorite NYC treat - the black and white cookie!  Maybe it wasn't as good a choice as the grilled shrimp caesar salad that Mom made you, but it was pretty satisfying.  One day I'll learn how to make them from scratch and surprise you with a batch all your own.  Happy Birthday Tricia!  I love you.

Super famous black and white cookie from Moishe's Bakery.  Only the best for my fave sister!

xoxo little sis!

28 May 2011

mid-afternoon coffee break

Just a quickie today.  I've lived on the border of Greenpoint and Williamsburg for the past three and a half years and I'm still discovering new places.  Granted, there's a new store or restaurant opening every day so it would take a whole lot of effort to keep up with everything.  Well today, I stopped into Lunchbox, a little juice and sandwich shop that I've probably passed a billion times for an iced coffee.  Holy cow!  This was one of the best iced coffees I have ever had the pleasure of sipping.  It was dark, rich and creamy.  With a drop of cream and a shake of cinnamon, this hit the spot more than any other iced coffee to be found in my 'hood.  Thanks for the Saturday afternoon pick-me-up Lunchbox... you saved my errand running ass!

And because one caffeinated compliment does not a blog post make, here are some awesome food photos from the creative mind of Christopher Boffoli.  Tiny people, big food.  I love these.

25 May 2011

tony and jillian, bff (best food friends)

After much anticipation and one false start I finally got to see my fave food writer last night!  He was awesome - super funny and honest and down to earth.  He didn't read from the book since he figured we would all do it on our own since we were there buying the book and having it signed which, now that I think about it, is pretty smart.  Instead, he just chatted and answered some questions and drank a beer.  It was more a conversation with the audience than a hoity toity book event.  So what did I learn from my pal Tony?

1. Bacon is a gateway food.  Vegans are crazy and should be cured of their lack of meatiness by starting off with bacon and then eating all the animals in sight.
2. When eating a whole roast pig, the soundtrack is Skynyrd.
3. The downward drunk spiral always begins with tequila.  Tequila will always be the death of you. (Although I pretty much new this already.  Tequila is evil.)
4. Kung Po chicken cures hangovers. (I always thought it was a turkey sandwich and a rootbeer float like my mama told me.)
5. Make sure your children don't date chefs.  They're bad news and they always come home drunk and stinky.  (Fortunately or unfortunately, I kind of already knew this one too.)

I laughed out loud a lot and was super glad to have had a chance to see this guy.  Plus I dragged my entire family with me so it was nice to get to share my interest in food and travel and books and Bourdain with them all.  The best part was when I got to wait an hour to have him sign my book.  I waited and waited and then my row got called up and I was almost there, running my choicest questions through my head in prep of the big moment.  I was also giving my dad a quick tutorial on the digital camera so he could snap a shot of me and my sure-to-be bff!  Two people away and the B&N employee who was ushering guests along decided to start chattin' me up about my dress... and heaven knows I can't resist a good conversation about a dress, especially one of my own.  So while we were discussing duds, the two gals in front of my (who cut in line btw) were chatting up my man so much that by the time I got to him, he had already signed my books and moved on to the next person in line!  Uber bummer much?!  And I had finally come up with the perfect question!  Seriously, judge for yourself - 

Can we hang out and eat hot dogs and drink beers together?

And after that I planned on letting him know that I am available for personal librarian/archivist positions in case he ever needed some help organizing his life.  But no!  I didn't get my chance and we're not best friends yet.  

The picture didn't even come out awesome - (even though my dad did make a very valiant effort with the camera!)

I was going for something a little more like this -

Even though my grand plan of befriending Anthony Bourdain didn't work out exactly the way I thought and I am not currently boozing it up with him in some exotic locale, it was a pretty awesome evening.  I got to hang out with my favorite people and laugh a little and get my books signed by someone who I think is super awesome.  And since the folks were in town, I got a free meal out of it!  All in all, a pretty sweet experience.  But Tony, we will be best friends... you just wait!

23 May 2011

the most important meal of the day

This morning, as I was about to walk out the door, I asked the Mr. to toss me the last granola bar.  He then informed me that he had eaten the last one already.  Damnit!  I had to walk a little faster so I could get to work a couple minutes earlier and run into the Duane Reed across from my office to buy another box and stash it at my desk to avoid this lack of granola bar problem in the future.  And you know what?  They didn't have the kind I like so I had to buy the icky store brand which really do not taste as delicious.  At this point, my entire day had been thrown off.

But this wouldn't have been a problem about a year ago.  I didn't used to eat breakfast.  Then I decided that, since all the healthy eating people I know said it was healthier to start your day off with a small meal, I'd try it.  Now I can't go without breakfast.  During the week I usually just grab a granola bar or some yogurt with tea or coffee.  On the weekends, Chef Husband comes out and whips up insanely delicious omelets and killer breakfast burritos - his specialty.  Last weekend, I had a dream about my perfect breakfast and when I woke up, he was making it.  He handed me a cup of tea, an omelet with chopped tomatoes, spinach, swiss, and gruyere, and mini crab cakes.  A real life dream come true!

straight from my sleeping brain to my belly.

And sometimes I'll bless the kitchen with my breakfast skills including the world's best pancakes.  Seriously, I made them for some hostel-mates in Budapest and they were a huge hit!  And if you've ever stayed in a hostel, you know those people come from all over the world which actually makes my pancakes truly world famous.  Just saying...  I also make some damn good waffles thanks to the amazing waffle maker I got from the in-laws last xmas.  Fresh ground cinnamon.  That's my secret.

But back to my breakfast dilemma.  I think I need to start branching out from crunchy granola and yogurts in the AM.  I need some new ideas for quick and healthy early morning snackage.  So please, dear readers, help my grumbly morning belly get full and prevent me from being cranky all day.  For now, I'll just be stuck with the same old same old, but I'll browse through this awesome collection of vintage cereal boxes for fun anyways.  Seriously, help me out and toss some quick morning meal ideas my way!

beyond breakfast - a few very deserved shout outs

How jealous is everyone of my mom and her amazing peonies?  Seriously, when I want peonies I have to go to the bodega and shell out at least ten bucks.  And that only gets you maybe three or four and they usually don't last much longer than five days.  My mom, she just goes out back, makes a few clips, and fills a few mason jars.  Oh to have a backyard.

And check out the clematis.  Well done Lizzie B, well done.

Secondly, many thanks to my gal Meg who saved me from my breakfast disaster by stuffing me full of donuts.  Everyone knows how much I love donuts and with today's ensuing sour attitudes and nuttiness, I was compelled to eat two and a half donuts.  I'm not sure if this really deserves a thank you because it is a bit excessive even for me but Meg, you are a sweetheart!  Thanks for being awesome and salvaging my day with sugary goodness.

Finally, one of my very wonderful and amazing students who will be leaving the land of the library soon for big time college life surprised me with an absolutely amazing "parting gift" today.

Carter, you rock... maybe even more than Elvis himself.  I hope you had a blast at the concert.  I love it when people surprise me with such thoughtfulness and kindness; between the donuts and the shirt, I was overwhelmed by unexpected awesomeness.  I really needed this after the kind of day I had today.  This is my new favorite shirt!

20 May 2011

get rich quick

What's a girl to do when her husband comes home a soaking wet mess craving something warm and homemade and rich?  Well, you experiment with whatever you can find in the fridge, that's what you do!  Fortunately for Mr., we always have a pretty well stocked fridge.  Unfortunately, he wanted some meaty protein and all of that was frozen.  But fear not!  I whipped up a meal in thirty minutes that hit the spot so hard that he proclaimed 'this is effing delicious!'  Here's how it was done - 

First, I pulled some chicken tenders out of the freezer.  Now I know people say that it can be really dangerous to defrost your chicken by running it under water, but I'm a risk taker and hubby wanted meat, so meat he was going to get.  Thankfully, chicken tenders defrost pretty quickly and once they were wrapped up really well, I just set them in the sink while I did the dishes.  Defrosted!  Then, I opened the pantry and pulled out a box of penne (I think this may have been the first time that the Mr. requested pasta and I was all for it since pasta is pretty much a meal in and of itself.)  There happened to be a can of chopped tomatoes next to the box... tada, instant meal!  Just kidding, we're discussing one of my meals here so it could never be that simple.  I also grabbed the pine nuts, salt, pepper, olive oil, and garlic.  The counter was getting crowded and our bellies were starting to grumble.  Off to the refrigerator...

Here, I pulled out heavy cream (finally found a use for it other than endless amounts of whipped cream,) fresh mozzarella, a chunk of parmesan, a chunk of ricotta insalata, spinach, pesto, and capers.  Back to the freezer to pull out a few slices of breaded eggplant that my mama buys for me in super-bulk at Sam's Club.  Frozen eggplant is definitely a staple in our home because we both love eggplant so much and it's really nice to have it all ready to cook up, plus you can get away with making it crispy in the oven instead of having to fry it; you know, in case you care about being healthy.  Now back to the heavy cream...

I got everything started at the same time: the eggplant in the oven, the water heating up for the pasta, and another pan heating up for everything else.  A little oil, s&p, and chopped garlic in the pan and then I added the chicken, cut into small pieces.  After letting it cook so that it just about started to brown, I added the cream, grated parmesan, chopped mozzarella and then brought it to a simmer so it started to get thick, like my own little alfredo sauce.  By now, the pasta had gone into the water and the eggplant was nearing crisp perfection so I added all the other stuff to my simmering sauce, all but the spinach because I didn't want it to get too wilty.  Once the pasta was done, I drained it almost completely and tossed it into the pan with the sauce.  I think I learned that trick from Lidia or Giada, to always save some of the pasta water because it's all starchy and helps to thicken up sauces.  Brilliant!  Well, then I turned the heat down and added the spinach until it got just wilty enough.  Meanwhile, I chopped up the crispy eggplant and tossed it in with the rest of the mess in the pan and turned the heat totally off, scooped it into some bowls, topped it off with cheese and voila!  Rich, warm and creamy supper in as much time as it took the Mr. to clean his soggy self up.  And it truly was effing delicious if I do say so myself. 

Since this was a mess of thrown together foods and was totally done to taste, there isn't really a recipe for me to share, but I'll attempt one anyway so long as y'all help me come up with an appropriate name for it.

nameless yummy pasta with deliciousness
2 c penne
5 boneless skinless chicken tenders, cut to bite-size pieces
2 c heavy cream
1 c shredded parmesan 
1/4 c chopped fresh mozzarella
1/4 c chopped ricotta insalata 
1 tbsp basil pesto
1 tsp capers
1 tbsp pine nuts
1 tsp crushed garlic
1 can diced tomatoes, drained well
4 heaping handfuls fresh spinach
5 slices breaded eggplant
salt, pepper & olive oil to taste
1. Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.  Place your eggplant slices on foil and put in the oven on broil so they finish cooking the same time as everything else.  In a large saute pan, heat olive oil, s&p, and garlic then place chunks of chicken in and allow to cook thoroughly.  Add the heavy cream, cheeses and pesto bringing to a simmer. 
2. Let simmer for about 10 minutes while you start cooking your pasta (the water should be boiling now) and turn your eggplant.  Add capers, pine nuts and tomatoes to the simmering sauce, stirring frequently so the cheese doesn't stick to the bottom of the pan.  Lower the heat and allow to cook until pasta is al dente and eggplant is crispy (about 8-10 minutes.) 
3. Almost completely drain the cooked pasta, reserving about 1-2 tbsp cooking water and toss into the sauce mix.  Add spinach and stir until it starts to wilt and then turn off the heat.  Remove eggplant slices from the oven and cut into bite-size pieces, toss gently with pasta and sauce.  Serve with fresh grated pecorino romano and enjoy.  Moltobene! 

I don't want to be a jinx, but it looks like the rain has finally decided to take a break.  However, this meal was a perfect way to warm up after being out in thunderstorms all day, for the past fifty days.  And it only takes about 30 minutes start to finish so you have plenty of time to relax with you fully belly after supper. 

But now that the sun is shining I can start to think of more warm weather foods like BBQ and ice cream and fish tacos and, my all-time favorite, the HOT DOG!  And many many thanks to my gal Dana for hooking me up with the Food Network magazine devoted to Summertime grilling.  I don't have cable which unfortunately means that I don't have the Food Network.  But now that I know they have their own magazine, it's kind of like I have all the shows in a readable format which, as a librarian, I love.  You've got to check out their insanely delicious looking spread on condiments and international hot dog toppings!  These just make me yearn for a backyard and a grill.  One of these days...

18 May 2011

revuesday - Piccolo Cafe

I'm a very impulsive person.  I get super excited about things and don't always think them through which often results in oops moments; the kind of times when I think to myself 'I didn't plan this all the through, now did I?'  Tonight was one of those nights.  I was so excited about last week's Anthony Bourdain discovery that I completely neglected to check the date of the event.  So Justin and I strolled into Barnes and Noble to see him and who do we see instead?  Scott Weiland.  Though the two gentlemen may have some similarities (aging rock star types, drug riddled pasts, sexy skinniness,) the two are not the same.  Imagine my disappointment when I saw Mr. STP instead of my favorite gypsy foodie.  Fortunately, I didn't miss the Anthony Bourdain reading because it's actually next Tuesday which works out a little better because it gives me time to actually read his book and come up with a really good question for him (other than 'can we be best friends' of course.)  I was still pretty bummed though; I had been looking forward to meeting him all day.

But all was not lost.  Before we went to the bookstore, we made a quick supper stop to pick up sandwiches that we could smuggle in and eat while scoring good seats.  We stopped in to Piccolo Cafe since it's right around the corner from work.  Yum yum yum.  If like me, sandwiches are your favorite food, this is the place for you!  Their sandwiches are out of control delicious.  Though they're a little pricey and they are certainly not fast food (order to eat time is at least 15 minutes) the eats are worth it.  The ingredients are always amazingly fresh - rosemary focaccia, bitter arugula, thick basil pesto, buffalo mozzarella, prosciutto, truffle oil... so decadent.  My apologies to the traditional Italian delis that are good for a quickie sub, but I must say that these sandwiches are waaay better.  Tonight we got two to split - a tuna and tomato, and a buffalo mozzarella with prosciutto, arugula, tomato and pesto.  Each order comes with a perfect little cup of Spring salad greens with a sweet balsamic vinaigrette.  I attempted to catch a shot of our meal before we dug in but as you can see, the Mr. had already started digging in.

he's such a little piggie!

Though we didn't indulge this time (since we thought we had to run to a book reading,) their espresso is a must after your meal.  Rich and dark and creamy like real coffee should taste.  It's how I imagine beans are brewed in Italy.  The have a beautiful old machine and they really put a lot of time and love into each shot.  The decor in the small space is simple put together with some family antique percolators and images of the old country.  Above the large butcher block tables hover these excellent lamps shaded with coffee bean bags.

i love these

I've been able to resist temptation so far and haven't tried any of their decadent looking desserts.  But now that it's Summer and they've added gelato to their offerings, I might have to give in to my sweet tooth.  Mr. Softee can only do so much, after all.  I'll be sure to give an update when I finally drag myself away from the savory and try out the sweet.

Other than being a convenient lunchtime spot near work, I love this place because the sandwiches are just like the ones I would make if I weren't a lazy bum.  The perfect thing to pack for a picnic in Union or Stuyvesant or Washington Square.  And we all know how much I love a good picnic!  So if you're in the Gramercy/Union Square area and you find yourself craving a sandwich, fear not.  The Piccolo Cafe will treat you right and satisfy you fully!

16 May 2011

so long to a seasonal sensation

A bit of a sad post today.  Let us all take a minute to reflect on a Coney Island favorite and give a moment to silence for Mr. Murray Handwerker.  The son of a Brooklyn pioneer and the brains behind turning Nathan's into a nation-wide all-American establishment.  He passed away over the weekend at 89 years old.  A lovely obituary in the Times recalls his childhood, raised in Brooklyn, his playpen a "3-by-3 crate the hot dog rolls used to come in."  

Summertime is almost here and it just wouldn't be the same without a good old-fashioned hot dog.  And nothing says it better than a day at Coney Island followed by a feast at Nathan's.  So here's to you Murray Handwerker!  You can relish in the fact that you made a self-proclaimed hot dog connoisseur happy, season after season.

a full belly of summertime yum!

11 May 2011

woeful to wahoo wednesday

So today was kind of a crumby day.  I woke up and then forced husbo to let me sleep for another half hour.  That extra sleep meant that I wouldn't be able to ride my bike to work... which I haven't done in almost two weeks.  I've been a super lazy bum which totally infuriates plus the dress I wore today felt a little tight and would probably fit more comfortably if I just rode for one week.  But the only thing that gives me any energy or fitness these days is exercise and the only exercise I enjoy is riding my bike.  I'm too poor and shy to join a gym, I hate running, and I only like athleticism that doesn't feel like work.  Bike riding it is!  Unfortunately, the difference between me riding to work and taking the subway is about five minutes of glorious, restful sleep.  Well, I paid for my laziness when my train got stuck for 20 minutes under the East River and had to run to the office, a very rough start.  Then, I found out that the job I applied for wasn't mine to have.  The position was unfortunately already filled and, though I'm completely used to rejection when it comes to employment, this was an especially crushing blow.  It was my dream job - a foodie librarian.  I would have been perfect for it.  Between my frazzled frustration from being late, my lazy exhaustion, and the bad news, I felt like I was in for a terrible horrible no good very bad day.

Then I found out that today was Eat What You Want Day!  Well eat what I wanted to eat I did... and then some.  Iced Kona coffee (thanks Gabby!) for breakfast, leftover cake (yes, I'm still eating mother's day cake) for mid-morning snack, a cupcake for lunch, cheese and crackers for mid-afternoon snack, seafood alfredo pasta and Texas toast for supper, and sherbert for dessert.  I also bought the husbo a Reese's milkshake because he had a super busy day. I'd be lying if I said that I didn't drink a little bit of that, too.  But no worries, I was just giving my all to the holiday.  Happy Eat What You Want Day!  I'll be sure to prepare for this one a little better next year.

I also got some interesting news that might have a little something to do with my tasty Summer beverage.  In the dreary depths of Winter I'm strictly a tea drinker.   But come the warm weather, I gotta have my iced coffee.  I like to make percolator full and put it in a pretty pitcher to keep in the fridge so I can have a nice tall glass every morning before I leave for work.  Imagine my excitement when I stumbled upon Twin Peaks Coffee!  Not quite, but apparently the amazing Mr. Lynch has put out his own line of coffee and I need to find some.  Imagine a Twin Peaks viewing party with donuts and pie and David Lynch's personal blend of coffee... to me that sounds like the greatest evening ever.  And check out this commercial.  Where's my log?

Because I still needed a bit of a giggle, even after all that awesomeness, cinematic sandwiches.  Man I love sandwiches.  I should have eaten a sandwich today.

But the best news of the day, the kind of news that makes me forget about all the crumminess in the entire world, came when I found out that I'd boyfriend will be speaking next week!  That's right, none other than Anthony Bourdain at the Union Square B&N on Tuesday!!!  Here's the info if anyone wants to join me - best Tuesday evening ever!  It's free which is awesome and it's right down the street from work so I can get there nice and early.  I plan on waiting in line so that I can attempt to convince Tony that we should be best friends; I think it's meant to be.

08 May 2011

happy mother's day - a cake disaster story

My mom is awesome.  She's my best friend and she's fabulous and beautiful and smart and I love her!  I've learned a lot from Lizzie B, but I think the best thing that she's passed on to me is my love of cooking.  Growing up, I spent a lot of my time in the kitchen.  I remember sitting at the kitchen table and doing my homework while Mom fixed something delicious and homey for supper.  She's a pro at mac and cheese, her meatloaf is unbeatable, and she mixes a mean cocktail!  I loved helping out in the kitchen and have now come pretty close to perfecting or at least replicating a few of her famous recipes.  And these days, I like to call my mom whenever I make a fabulous dinner to brag that the student has become the master and my meals are now better than hers.  Of course, she's still better than me at some things... she has, after all, been slaving at the stove a bit longer than me.

little liz with her first set of utensils

Well, to thank the lovely Liz, I decided to bake a special cake in her honor.  Thankfully, I also sent her flowers so the fact that the cake was a disaster did not ruin her special day.  I won't be sharing any recipes this time around, but I will share a photo story so you can get the idea.

It all started when I came up with the most amazing flavor combination and decided to bake it into a cake.  After a few hours of comparing recipes and using my basic math skills to develop a concoction full of all my substitutions and subtractions, I thought I had it down.  I even recruited Justin to help out since the lady of honor is, after all, his mom-in-law.  He was in charge of juicing.

'i have to juice all of these tangerines?'

While he juiced, I mixed and poured, ground, zested and infused.  Everything seemed to be coming along perfectly.  And holy cow did the kitchen smell amazing!  I poured the batter into the pans and popped them into the preheated oven.  Easy enough, right?  Well, then I opened the oven to check on them and saw this -

I thought to myself 'hmm, those cakes look like they might overflow.'  But I decided that, no, they were probably almost done and everything would be just fine.  Nope.  A few minutes later, when I opened the oven door again to test the done-ness of these two cakes, I was bombarded by smoke billowing out at me.  The smell of burnt cake was overwhelming.  Justin's arms cramped up from waving a towel around trying to get all the smoke out of the kitchen as I sat, devastated that my mom's present was ruined.  I haven't had this kind of a baking disaster since I tried to bake a vanilla cake for Joey McIntire's birthday and my Easy Bake Oven exploded.  I was seven.  I tried to salvage the mother's day confection, but to no avail.

It still tasted pretty good.  Yes, that's right, I ate the failed cake I made for my mama!  It was the only solace a sad daughter could find.  Mom, I promise to perfect the recipe by the time your birthday rolls around.  I love you and hope you had an absolutely amazing mother's day!  You're the best mom ever.  Love, bean


And for all the other wonderful moms out there, a happy day to you ladies as well.  This goes out to all of you, especially my grandma, Tess, my mother-in-law, Denise, Big Joan, Aunt Donna, Aunt Patty, Aunt Kathryn, Aunt Carolyn, Aunt Kim, Aunt Pam, Aunt Terry, all my gal pals with your broods of babies, and my many surrogate mothers.  Thanks for always looking out for me, for all you've taught me, and for all you've given me.  I love you all and hope you got your Red Door!

07 May 2011

dig a pony

I'm not a big fan of horse racing.  Maybe it's because I'm not a big gambler or maybe it's because I'm crazy allergic to horses.  I've tried to get into it and even went to the Preakness while I was in college, but for me it was always more about the event and the party than it was the race itself.  But when the Kentucky Derby rolls around, I get equine fever as bad as the folks south of the Mason Dixon.  It's the festiveness of horseracing that I really enjoy. Who wouldn't love an event that combines ponies, bourbon and wild hats?  Count me in!  Being the celebratory, theme-loving gal that I am, I'm all for this fanciful Southern tradition and consider myself an honorary belle on this beautiful May day!

So before I head to the track (and by track, I mean the bar around the corner) let me share with you my delicious derby cookies.  They're really yummy and easy sugar cookies decorated with royal icing.  I'm not very artistic.  Crafty, yes but artistic, not so much.  For that, please excuse the lack of creativity in the decoration of these cookies.  At least I tried to shape them.  Unfortunately my horse cookie cutter looks more like a wolf and my horseshoe is just a capital U.  But after enough mint juleps, who cares?!

yes, i wore my hat while baking.

glittery horseshoes

horses of many colors

  • simple sugar cookies
  • ingredients
  • 1 1/2 cups butter, softened
  • 2 cups white sugar
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • directions
  • 1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream together butter and sugar until smooth. Beat in the eggs and vanilla. Stir in the flour, baking powder, and salt.  Cover and chill dough for at least one hour (preferable overnight but you might want to roll it into a big ball first.)
  • 2. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Roll out dough on a floured surface to about 1/4 to 1/2 inch thick. Cut into shapes with a cookie cutter.  Place cookies 1 inch apart on an ungreased cookie sheet.
  • 3. Bake 6 to 8 minutes. Cool completely before decorating.
royal icing
1 egg white
1tsp lemon juice
1 1/2 c sifted confectioner's sugar
1. Beat egg and lemon juice on a medium speed with a hand mixer for about 1 minute.  Add the sugar 1/2 c at a time while continuing to mix for another minute or two.  Add food coloring and brush onto cookies with a pastry brush.

And with that, I'm off to the races!  Somebody get this girl a mint julep...

yes, those are horses on my frock!

05 May 2011

¡holy guacamole!

I'm pretty sure that everyone I've ever met claims that their guacamole is the best guacamole in the world.  Until now, I'd never made guacamole, but last time I checked there are only about five ingredients mashed together, so how can any one person's version be better than the next? Simple.  I found out tonight how important the ratios of those few ingredients can be when, for the first time ever, I made my own guacamole.  And let me tell you, it was the best guacamole in the world.

I decided that I wouldn't even follow a recipe to make the guac.  Well, it wasn't as much a decision that I made as it was not having a reliable recipe.  I asked Helen for hers (of course she swears it's the best in the world) but she said she couldn't give it to me because she didn't have one since she just eyeballed it and made it to taste.  She was, however, nice enough to give me a list of ingredients and a pencil drawing of how the final product should look.  I think I'll save her the embarrassment of posting the picture, but the ingredients can be shared with everyone - 

(all are to taste)
tomatoes, diced
white onion, coarsely chopped
fresh cilantro
salt & pepper
fresh lime juice

There aren't really any directions other than mashing up all the ingredients to taste and consistency, so...

1. Mash up all ingredients to taste & consistency 

If the avocados are still a little firm, it helps if you have something heavy to mash them up with.  I started with a spoon and then switched to a fork, then a pestle and mortar, then I finally made my husband take over and smash the green goodness.  We both got a pretty good workout.

for real, best guacamole ever!
I served the avocado-y goodness alongside my famous chicken quesadillas.  My secret, slow cooking boneless, skinless thighs in a mix of chicken stock, sofrito and racaito at a low heat until it just shreds apart.  Then I heat the tortilla in a pan, flip it, fill it, fold it and crisp it up.  Yum!  We kept it simple tonight and just filled the quesadillas with chicken, jalapenos, and Mexican mixed shredded cheeses.  Topped with my now world famous guacamole, sour cream and salsa, and you have the perfect meal.

See that salsa over there on the right?  It's the Brooklyn Borough salsa from the Brooklyn Salsa Company.  Holy guacamole is it hot and spicy!  Totally tasty, but if you're anything like me, you will certainly need something to cool off your mouth because it will be on fire.  That's why it's very important to have a spiked horchata close at hand.  A horchata is a traditional rice-based Mexican beverage flavored with vanilla, almonds and cinnamon.  I made my own version by warming whole milk, almond flour, confectioner's sugar, and fresh cinnamon sticks.  Oh yeah, and rum.  Then I let it chill and serve it in a tall glass over ice.  Perfect thirst quencher and spice soother.  I resisted the cocktail temptation to make a huge batch of horchatas and only made one for myself.  But had I made the entire batch, I would have worked off my gal Martha's recipe and it would have looked something like this - 

horchata (a variation of Martha Stewart's recipe)
4 c 2% milk
2 cinnamon stick
1 14oz can sweetened condensed milk
1/2 c almond flour
2 tsp bourbon vanilla
1/2 c light rum (I used 10 Cane and boy was it delicious!)
1. Heat milk and cinnamon sticks in a small saucepan over a medium flame.  When it starts to simmer, remove from heat.  Whisk in condensed milk, flour and vanilla.  Refrigerate for at least 30 minutes.
2. Strain mixture through a cheesecloth into a pitcher and stir in the rum.  Split up into four tall, ice filled glasses.  Garnish with fresh ground cinnamon and cinnamon sticks.

After gorging on all that food, both the spicy and sweet, I think it's safe to say that I have celebrated Cinco de Mayo quite successfully.  So congrats to Mexico for beating the French back in the day and giving us this fabulous holiday celebrated with food and drink!  So now it's time for a post-supper siesta followed up with a (hopefully holiday themed) bikes and burlesque fiesta.  Hot like Mexico, enjoy! Ole!

03 May 2011

revuesday - Little Town

I didn't grow up very far from the city that I currently live and work in.  My parents still live in the house I grew up in, the same one my mom grew up in.  But I'm a city slicker now and I don't go visit them that often... why would I when I can make them come visit me in my necks of Manhattan and Brooklyn?  So make them I do.  About once a month, I am lucky to go out on a Dad Date.  These are when my super adventurous Pops takes the train and the subway to come meet me at work and then we go out for a beer and a bite.  It's perfect, a quick visit with one of my favorite dudes ever, plus a free meal. 

Unfortunately, I work in a weird food area of the city so we have very limited choices when he comes to meet me at the library.  The options that don't take forever to walk to are either gross chain-y kind of spots in Union Square, or fancy and expensive Gramercy eateries.  We usually end up at Pete's Tavern because it's one of the few places that makes a good burger and has decent beer plus the crowd isn't pretentious or highfalutin.  You know that kind of spot, the one that's perfect for a dad and his daughter.  Don't get me wrong, I love Pete's!  It's probably one of my favorite restaurants around, not just because their food is reliable, but because it has such historic NY significance; significance that deserves a post of it's own one of these days.  But I was getting bored ordering the same thing in the same booth every time my dad came in for a visit.

So what's a gal to do?  But then something wonderful happened.  The foodie gods must have sensed my boredom because while walking to work a few weeks ago, I happened past a new restaurant, Little Town.  'Hmm this looks cute,' I thought to myself as I perused their posted menu.

Perfect!  Look at all those beers.  And the restaurant has a theme - New York State!  I love themes!  So I walked off to work and made a mental note that this would be the perfect setting for my next Dad Date. 

Last week (I know, I can't believe I waited a whole week to post this either, but I was pretty lazy last week.  My sincere apologies.) the Daddy-o came in and I took him to our new spot - Little Town.  And we totally loved it.  We started out with a couple of brews, IPA for me and Weiss for my dad.  After much debate, we finally settled on our meals.  I chose the fried oyster sandwich with slaw and my dad picked the cheeseburger with an egg, over easy, on top.  Though some might say that the portions are too small, I found them to be just right.  With a couple of beers, our sandwiches with their sides of homemade chips were perfectly satisfying.  Everything was super fresh and the drink selection is really out of control.  The price was right, too - I don't even think you'd be able to eat at the Union Square TGI Friday's for less.  Oh, and don't worry about the fact that this is sort of a theme restaurant because they really limit the theme-iness to what they serve.  The food is all locally sourced and representative of New York locations like Buffalo Wings and Long Island oysters.   Plus the beers (it's mostly a beer spot) are all from NY breweries like Six Point, Brooklyn, Sugar Hill & Ommegang.

Our only complaint?  It's a little loud so conversation can be tricky.  Plus it's small so getting a table could be a challenge.  But all in all I'd say this quaint, rustic looking place is a wonderful addition to the Union Square/Gramercy eateries.  A quick stop at Little Town makes for the ideal after-work drink with coworkers, a perfect pre-movie nosh, basically any quick bite.  And it's definitely a keeper in the Dad Date Dining Guide!

a happy guy with booze & eats

02 May 2011

food + books + art = ingredients for awesome

Every once in a blue moon, the planets align to allow a few of my favorite things to join forces and become something amazing.  This coming Wednesday is predicted to be that kind of day!  I'm sure by now you've realized how much I enjoy food, but you may not know (or read the little side bar intro) that I am a librarian and that books are my original love.  I also have a fudged minor in art history and a false belief that I can actually create some art of my own.  With that info, you can imagine how excited I was when I saw this on the upcoming events calendar for the Center for Book Arts -

Wednesday, May 4, 6:30 pm:
Artist Talk: With Food in Mind
With Nicole Caruth, Heather Hart, Elaine Tin Nyo,  
Maya Suess, and Tattfoo Tan

The exhibit looks really awesome, and I imagine that hearing the artists speak will make for a great event.  So I guess you know how I'll be spending my Wednesday evening.  If anyone out there is interested in accompanying me to the lecture and maybe out for drinks afterwords, let me know... we can make an evening out of it!

Check out some of the exhibit images on the Center's flickr page.

01 May 2011

april showers bring may flowers

Or in my backyard-less case, a fire escape herb garden.  A quick trip to Jungle, down on Kent Avenue, and I came home with my very own instant oasis.  If you have a yard, or a fire escape, you should definitely check this place out.  The first time I stumbled upon the sweet little spot, hidden amongst seemingly vacant warehouses, I felt just like little Mary Lennox in my very own urban secret garden.  They had everything I was looking for and then some.

Unfortunately, the beautiful weather we enjoyed all day has turned into a pretty chilly evening.  Now all my sprouts are clumped into the corner, filling my kitchen with decadent aromas.  I can't wait until these little guys start growing and I can incorporate them into my recipes!  It's amazing how much flavor fresh herbs add to a meal.  My mouth is watering already.

Here's how my garden grows:

Mint to mash up and put in ice cubes.  I love adding mint cubes to iced tea and lemonade.  I also plan on buying the ice cream maker attachment for the KitchenAid and I'm sure the mint will be put to good use with that little gadget!  Also, mojitos.

Cilantro for Mexican Mondays, Taco Tuesdays, and the day I finally get myself a food processor and start making my own salsa.  I also plan on learning to make guacamole this summer.  Can you believe an avocado fiend like myself has never done that?  Crazy!

Basil for everything!  Homemade pasta, pizza, sandwiches with prosciutto, mozzarella di bufala and olive oil, pesto, you name it.  The plant is a tiny little baby right now but it's already super sweet and fragrant.

Italian Parsley.  This stuff a universal herb and chopped up, I add it to everything.  Really, everything.

Rosemary for chicken salad, skewers, lamb burgers, and to add a little bit of savory to quite a few of my sweets.  It's really lovely if you let a little sprig settle in a pot of sugar and then add it to tea or sugar cookies.  Try it, you'll thank me.

I still plan on picking up some dill, thyme and lavender but alas, I'm out of pretty pots.  I guess my thumb is green enough for now.  Happy May!

I definitely have a little sunburn on the back of my neck and legs from wandering around and being outside all day.  It's almost as if I had actually been working in a garden this afternoon instead of potting herbs in my kitchen at 7:30PM.  Though I keep getting awful chills and the collar of my sweater is painfully rubbing my kooky farmer tan, I'm happy about this.  It means that the weather has truly broken and winter is behind us!  Hooray for May Day sunburns!  I'd jump for joy if I wasn't so terrified of the pain I might induce by peeling my reddened legs off the vinyl kitchen chair.