31 August 2011

a mediterranean staycation

I have unfortunately been suffering from a troubling affliction for quite some time now.  An illness with no cure.  The travel bug.  Since my first solo trip abroad about eight years ago, I've wanted nothing more than to jetset around the world visiting one fabulous, exotic location after another.  Well, maybe not nothing more, I yearn for very many things but travel has always been way up there on the list.  Though I've been afforded the great opportunity to visit many cities and countries since I became a passport holder, one locale that I haven't had the chance to jet off to is the Mediterranean, particularly the Eastern coast.  This dream of mine does not begin and end with the crystal blue waters, the luxurious lifestyles, or the rich (art) histories of the region, though.  No no no.  What I might look forward to the most about my eventual trip is the food.  The spicy and savory spices, the fresh and hearty cuisine, colorful, (relatively) healthy, and foods as ancient as the traditions.  

Since I'm currently unable to afford a vacation (no Mom, New Jersey doesn't count,) I occasionally base an entire meal around the culinary masterpieces of the Mediterranean.  Plus, the food is all pretty simple to make, healthy and perfect for summertime because none of it's super hot.  Since my desire to make something late last night led me to whipping up an ungodly amount of hummus, tonight became one of those wonderfully themed suppers!

To start, that wonderfully simple hummus with red peppers, carrots and pita chips.  Hummus, like the guacamole I make so well, is pretty much made to taste with a few simple ingredients.  It's a recipe that doesn't really require a recipe.  So here are the basics:

chick peas
lemon juice
olive oil
salt & pepper
1. Blend together in a food processor or blender until desired consistency is reached.

Simple enough for you?  You can mix it up and make it a little more 'complicated' by throwing in pine nuts, roasted red peppers, fava beans, sun dried tomatoes, or my personal favorite, olives!  

For the main course, falafel stuffed pitas, salad and pasta salad with Greek twist.  I'd love to say that I make my falafel completely from scratch, but I'd be fibbing if I did.  Instead, I use one of the many packages you can find in the 'ethnic' aisle of your grocery store.  All you have to do is add water, shape into little balls, and fry.  I suppose you could bake the falafel, but I feel like that would be cheating even more than I already do so, into the skillet they go!  I make up for the unhealthy frying by using whole wheat pitas.  Then, I load up the pitas with falafel, chopped onion, hummus, tahini, diced tomatoes, lettuce, and tzatziki.  Tzatziki is another simple, to taste recipe.  All you have to do is mix together plain Greek yogurt (the super thick kind,) fresh dill, chopped cucumbers, salt and pepper.  Voila!  

A simple salad with a vinaigrette and whatever leftover veggies you have makes a perfect side.  Another perfect side is my Greek pasta salad.  A nice twist on the traditional picnic side of canned black olives, tri-color spirals, raw carrots and Italian dressing, my pasta salad is loaded with veggies and drenched in a savory Greek dressing from one of my many classic loves, Mr. Paul Newman.  Put this next to the boring old pasta salad at your next bbq and see which one goes first, I dare you.

Greek pasta salad
1 lb tri-color radiatori pasta
fresh baby spinach
mixed Kalamata olives, pitted
chopped tomato
chopped cucumber
crumbled feta cheese
1 bottle Newman's Own Greek Vinaigrette dressing
1. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and dump in the pasta.  Cook about 8 minutes until al dente, pasta salad pasta should never be mushy.  When cooked, drain and rinse with cold water to make sure it completely stops cooking.
2.  In a large bowl, toss together a few handfuls of spinach, tomatoes, cucumbers and olives.  Once the pasta is fully drained and cooled, mix it in with the veggies.  Pour the dressing over the mix (use as much as you want though I usually stick to only half a bottle.)  Toss everything together well, making sure everything gets a good coating of dressing.  
3. Top the salad with crumbled feta cheese.  Cover and chill for at least an hour.  The salad can be served cold or at room temp.

So what if I can't jump on the next flight to Cyprus and lounge on a yacht for awhile.  I've got almost all of the goodness of the region here in my tiny Brooklyn kitchen.  It's exotic enough for me now.  And regionally themed suppers cure my wanderlust, for a few moments at least.  Until next time.

27 August 2011

my hurricane survival kit

In case you haven't heard yet, there's a wicked storm a-brewin'.  I'm talking about that badass lady, Hurricane Irene.  Here in Brooklyn they have us all hunkering down, cowering in our apartments (or the local bar,) trapped without any means of public transportation, the bodegas quickly running low on supplies, and threats of zones and power outages taking over all the airwaves.  After many warnings, mostly from my mom but the Mayor, too, I decided that it was probably a good idea to put together a hurricane survival kit. Me being me though, my priorities may be a little different than other folks so I made a few adjustments to the traditional survival kit.  Here's how I'll be getting through the wild and windy evening:

Basic Supplies -  I have a freezer full of water.  I have candles, matches and a flashlight.  I've got chips and salsa, cheese and crackers, pb&j, and plenty of iced coffee.  And if the power does go out and all that frozen meat starts to defrost, enough bbq to feed the whole block!  I think I'm covered in the basic supplies area.

Power - Staying in touch with the rest of the world is important and for up-to-the-minute weather and news, the internet is key.  So, I've been charging all day and have a fully-loaded phone and laptop.  Thankfully the internet is still working so I can watch awesome movies like Desperately Seeking Susan now streaming on Netflix!  Also take note of the wine.  It's important to keep myself calm and collected to remain in charge of any crazy situations.  That's what the wine is for.

Gear - Staying dry is important, but so is being comfortable and fashionable.  Hence the flashy galoshes and purple hot pants.  And all those years of my parents pushing ponchos on me has finally paid off.  I have a stash of them ready to throw on at a moments notice... and you better believe those suckers are getting bedazzled!

Entertainment - It's important to not get bored during natural disaster-ish times like this because boredom only leads to bad things like looting and getting struck by lightening.  So I've gathered a wide selection of flicks including The Notebook and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, because you never know what kind of movie mood you'll be in when stuck indoors for hours on end.  If a movie marathon gets to be a little too lazy, board games are always a great backup.  Among my collection are Scrabble, Uno, Mystery Date and Jenga!  Those are sure to keep you busy with or without electricity.  And for when my brain starts to feel like it's turning to mush, I've got plenty of intellectual entertainment in the form of three jam packed bookshelves.  Currently off the shelf being read are George Eliot's Middlemarch and Esmeralda Santiago's Conquistadora.  Plus, don't you just love reading by candlelight?  So what if it's bad for your eyes, it's so classically romantic and makes me feel like Jo from Little Women.

Stay entertained and don't go looting!  And don't get struck by lightening either.  Be smart and stay inside.  And if your power is still on and you're feeling inclined to hang out in the kitchen like I did for most of the day (when I wasn't napping that is,) here's my special hurricane-themed culinary creation: Dark and Stormy cupcakes!  How perfect are these?  The national drink of Bermuda transformed into a confection.  Start with a chocolate rum cake, top with ginger lime icing and decorate with candied ginger and all of a sudden it's like you're drinking that delicious combo of dark rum and ginger beer.  Share them with your friends and neighbors since you'll probably be spending a lot of time with them over the course of the next two days.  You'll be the new building favorite!  

sir shitballs approves of these cupcakes

dark and stormy cupcakes
dark rum & chocolate cupcakes
1 c unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c sugar
4 eggs
1/2 c plus 2 tbsp Gosling's dark rum
2 c flour
1 c dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/8 tsp ground nutmeg
1 c warm water
1. Preheat the oven to 350 and line or grease two cupcake tins.  In your mixer, cream the butter and sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs one at a time, continuing to mix on a medium speed.  Add the rum and continue mixing until everything is completely combined.
2. Sift together flour and cocoa powder.  Mix in baking soda, baking powder, salt and nutmeg.  Add the dry mix to the mixer alternately with the water, beginning and ending with the dry mix.  Continue to mix on a low speed until all the ingredients are well combined.
3. Bake for about 17-20 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Remove cupcakes from the tin and let cool completely before icing.

lime ginger icing
12 oz cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 c unsalted butter, room temperature
2 c confectioners sugar
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp dry ground ginger
1/2 tsp fresh grated ginger
1. In the bowl of your mixer cream together butter and cream cheese until well combined.  Gradually add in the sugar.
2. Mix in both gingers and lime juice.  You can add more sugar if the frosting gets too thinned out for your liking.  You can also add more fresh ginger if you want a little more of the spicy zest that ginger beer is so famous for!

if you buy the big bottle & some quality ginger beer, you can mix matching cocktails!

Remember, don't go out if you don't have to.  Stay in touch with friends and family and don't be alone.  Take this opportunity to get to know the other people in your building.  Have a potluck and share supplies.  Also, make sure you have an escape plan in case things do get nasty.  My escape plan includes my bicycle and an air mattress.  I think I'll be alright!  Happy Hurricane everyone!

26 August 2011

special guest post from Sarah of Desirous of Everything!

 Hi Delirious Kitchen readers!  I'm Sarah and I blog over at Desirous of Everything.  I was so excited when Jillian asked me to do a guest post on her blog about one of our new favorite neighborhood hangouts.  You see Jillian and I have a lot of things eerily in common.  We grew up in the same neighborhood (around the corner from each other), we were both in the color guard in high school, we are both librarians, we are both bloggers (Delirious...Desirous...) AND not only do we both live in Brooklyn now, but in THE SAME NEIGHBORHOOD!  Weird right?  But also I think, meant to be.

So how perfect is it for me to guest post about a new great place that we both love in our shared hood called The Onyx.  Jillian and I live in a part of Greenpoint that people are starting to call Greenpoint Heights.  On the other side of Mcgorlick Park, next to the vinyl sided row houses and across the street from a warehouse or two is The Onyx- formerly a Polish night club, it's now an awesome neighborhood bar (soon to be renamed Greenpoint Heights) with really good beers on tap (OMG Watermelon Wheat Beer) and an amazing menu.

I have proudly said on more than one occasion that one of my favorite kinds of food is high quality bar food.  I'm not talking about chicken wings and mozzarella sticks, I'm talking about juicy grass fed hamburgers, summer salads with cherries,  and the most delicious bowl of macaroni and cheese you could ever eat.  You can order it with bacon too- but I prefer the cheesy goodness all alone.

You can tell the menu at The Onyx was thoughtfully created and mix that with the friendly bartenders who know how to make a really good Margarita,and why would you ever need to venture over to Greenpoint proper again?

Elizabeth, the head chef of The Onyx, agreed to talk to me about this great bar.  Read what she has to say, and then head on over and try the food and drinks for yourself!

This is the first kitchen that you have been completely in charge of.  How does that feel?It feels amazing! Although the work load can be heavy, the pay off is absolutely worth it. Being able to create a menu and make food that I love to eat is one of the most rewarding experiences I've had in a kitchen. I work by myself for the time being and look forward to working with other creative people, hopefully in the near future!

When did you know that you wanted to run a kitchen, how did the idea of running a Kitchen in a bar come to be?
I have always dreamed of running my own restaurant but had always thought it was something way out reach. Only in the last few years had I been thinking seriously about the possibility of running my own place. I was actually looking more in the direction of running a truck or cart or something a little more in my price range when the Onyx fell into the laps of my girlfriend Julia and her business partner Dave. They were looking for a small, humble place to open an ice cream shop, with the hope of maybe coming across a good, cheap bar space. This place ended up coming their way and in record time they were managing and I was running the kitchen! I have worked in restaurants and around food my whole working life and am grateful for this amazing opportunity.

What's a typical work day like for you?
A typical work for me usually goes something like this: wake up around noon or one, try to eat breakfast/lunch, go to various bakeries/butchers/stores collecting food stuffs, arrive at the Onyx around two or three, start prepping and setting up the line. If we are slow to start, I usually start playing around with recipes, making ice cream or trying to think of something new to add to the menu or making something on it better. Then, I work the line from five to midnight, clean up and most nights hang out at the bar trying some of our amazing whiskey and getting to know our wonderful regulars a little better. It usually makes for a long day, but there's nothing I'd rather be doing with my day at this point in my life!

What is your process for creating your menu?
My process is ever evolving. The best thing about running a kitchen is that I can literally walk around the market, see some delicious cherries or meat or cheese, take it back to the restaurant and create whatever I want. I change the menu a few times a week now. I like to pay attention to what's in season and incorporate that into whatever I'm making. I'm also trying to pay attention to what people in the neighborhood would like to see.

What's your favorite thing to order at The Onyx?My favorite things are the fish and plantain taco. I eat them everyday!

Thanks for talking with me Elizabeth!  And reader's be sure to like The Onyx on Facebook for daily updates on specials and events! And stop over at Desirous of Everything and say hello!  I'd love to meet you.

23 August 2011

revuesday - Wild Edibles

The other night, my mom stopped in for a visit, dinner and a movie.  Since my one job is right near Penn Station, we decided to catch a flick in Kipps Bay.  Only problem was, as soon as work lets out, I get the heck out of there.  I know nothing of that neighborhood other than the movie theater, my office and the train station.  A quick search of all the regular foodie blogs pulled up few options that weren’t a. ridiculously too expensive b. poorly reviewed or c. way too chain restaurant-y.  And to make matters worse, Lizzie B suggested seafood.  What?!  How was I supposed to find a decent seafood spot in Kipps Bay that was close enough to the theater that we’d catch our movie, not outrageously expensive, had space for us on a busy Friday evening, and served tasty food?  Well thank goodness for the magic of the internet because I found a gem on 3rd Avenue - Wild Edibles.

This tiny storefront may appear to just be a discreet fresh fish market, but their few tables suggest so much more!  We were quickly seated because of the early-bird hour, but if you go during normal supper times, prepare to wait as this place is itsy bitsy.  Though the fish is on ice right next to the bar, even on a hot summer evening, it never had the odor of a bait shop which was pleasant.  They only have a few beers on tap, but they’re local, quality brews.  Their wine list is quite extensive but there is no liquor so if you’re into cocktails, stop somewhere for happy hour and apertifs on your way in.
The food is incredible.  We started off with a warm seafood salad filled with clams, mussels, slice fennel, white beans, shrimp and calamari in a light and zesty white wine broth on a be of arugula.  Beside that were some of the freshest slams casino - giant half shells with applewood smoked bacon!  I’ve decided that the warm seafood salad was one of the most delicious treats I’ve ever had and am now completely determined to replicate it so look forward to a future posting when I do just that; just give me a little bit of time to save up some money.  I think it’s the perfect late summer nosh for a breezy and warm evening.  If only I had a beach and a bonfire and a few bottles of chilled white wine... something to work towards achieving I suppose.
lizzie b!
After a second round of drinks, we were met with our unbelievable delectable entree - the lobster roll!  Unlike other lobster rolls which are always delicious, but sometimes lack any flavor other than the lobster, this shellfish stuffed hot dog bun was flavored with just a hint of Old Bay which brought me longingly back to my days in Baltimore.  Huge lumps of lobster with just a touch of mayo and spice were paired with perfectly crispy fries seasoned with the same Old Bay flavor.  

Neither of us felt too full at the end of the meal, which can sometimes be problematic with the amount of butters and oils that tend to be loaded up on seafood.  And the market prices of each meal didn’t break the bank.  Wild Edibles is certainly a place I plan on revisiting and will continue to recommend to visitors, especially those who fear venturing outside of the Midtown area.  Also being recommended by me, Crazy Stupid Love.  Go see it.  It’s super funny but touching at the same time... plus Ryan Gossling is such a fox.

22 August 2011

almond joyful

Since I had a relatively healthy day, walked all the way home from work and then topped it off with a run this evening, I wanted to blog about something not so good for you.  If you've read some of my previous posts, I'm sure you've come to notice that there are a few treats that I truly love and that one of those treats is candy, especially chocolate.  I also have a great taste for nuts.  Mix chocolate and nuts together and I'm a very happy lady.  How about another twist?  Make it tropical!  Yup, I'm talking about the always delicious Almond Joy.

But sometimes a candy bar just isn't enough.  That's when you need to take your favorite candy bar an turn it into a batch of delicious cupcakes!  And I did just that.  So here you are, my recipe for scrumptiously satisfying Almond Joy cupcakes.  Try to eat just one... it's impossible.

almond joy cupcakes
2/3 c unsalted butter, softened
1 1/2 c packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1/2 c milk
1/2 c almond meal
1 c flour, sifted
1/2 c dutch processed cocoa powder
1 tsp baking powder
1. Preheat the oven to 300 and fill a cupcake tin with liners or grease the tin.  In a mixer, cream together the butter and sugar until creamy.  Add eggs one at a time, mixing completely.
2. Add milk and almond meal, quickly blending on a medium speed.  
3. Sift together the cocoa powder, flour and baking powder.  Add to the wet mix 1/4 c at a time mixing well so that there are no clumps or dry spots.
4. Spoon mix into the cupcake tins, filling about 3/4 of the way.  Bake for about 20-25 minutes or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let completely cool on a rack before icing.
1/2 c butter, softened
3 c confectioners sugar
1 tsp coconut extract
1 c shredded coconut
2 tsp milk
1. Mix all ingredients together in a mixer until smooth and creamy.

13 August 2011

bon appetit & joyeux anniversaire!

Today should be declared an international holiday.  For today is Julia Child's birthday! 

So here's to the woman who couldo it all.  She truly was an inspiration, taking on Le Cordon Bleu with a bunch of dudes who dominated the kitchen, mastering culinary skills with heart andetermination, and redefining French cuisine for American and international audiences of at-home cooks.  But most importantly, she did it all with a smile on her face and a sense of humor that made her audience feel like they were friends, hanging out with her in the custom tall-countered kitchen.  I love watching old videos of The French Chef.  She totally cracks me up... and makes me giggle and think of Dan Aykroyd gushing blood all over the stage on Saturday Night Live (Save the liver!)

Though I've yet to truly master any of the recipes put forth in the groundbreaking book written by Julia Child, Simone Beck and Louisette Bertholle, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, I did break out one of the volumes this morning to prepare special birthday crepes.  Unfortunately, mine were really just pancakes, especially since I don't have one of those fancy crepe pans.  They weren't the slightest bit french, just sloppy ole American flapjacks, but I tried.  And I think today we should all at least try to indulge in something slightly French in honor of that great gal!

thanks aunt patty!

Today, I plan on cracking open her final book, My Life in France.  I've read it in bits and pieces, but I think it's about darn time I sit down with a glass of wine and really dive into it.  In the memoir, Julia provides a marvelous little nugget of knowledge that is so perfectly true -

 "This is my invariable advice to people: Learn how to cook - try new recipes, learn from your mistakes, be fearless, and above all have fun!" 

It's so simply perfect and applicable to just about everything in life, not just cooking.  I can't wait to read all about her adventures, her love of food and friends.  That's sure to be a fun novel nosh so get ready.

However you celebrate the day (a wine and cheese party, perhaps?), make sure you take Julia's advice and have fun.  Happy Birthday, Julia Child!  And thank you. 

12 August 2011

putting the kitsch in kitchen

Sorry about the long hiatus kiddies.  It's been super hot and I've had the dreaded Summer cold that has pretty much kept me in the bed and resisting blogging because it tends to require too much thinking.  But it hasn't kept me out of the kitchen, so stick around for a few belated bloggings about my recent culinary creations.  While I was being lazy though, something interesting did happen.  After three years of living in the same apartment, I decided to sign a lease to make it four.  Wow!  I've been in the city for awhile and it feels kind of awesome that I haven't moved around too much.  Instead, I've created a cozy little home for myself in my own corner of Brooklyn.  With that in mind, I've decided to make it even more my own and redecorate the one room that has managed to escape the paint roller - my kitchen.  How I haven't already taken on the task is a bit of a mystery.  I suppose I spend so much time in there cooking and baking and experimenting that I haven't really had time to think about how it looked.  Or maybe all of the surfaces have been too covered in flour and sauces to see what's really underneath.  I must be nuts to have let this go on for so long.  The current kitchen is drab and messy and nothing matches! Yuck!

But I've found inspiration - in my KitchenAid mixer!  I was mixing up some pink icing awhile ago for a pink lemonade cake, when I had a vision of pistachios, sea foams, avocados and flamingos.  Images of 1950s Boca and Miami fluttered about in my head and an inspiration was born!  The tacky wood paneling, the black and white tiles, the abundance of daytime sunlight!  It was as though I had just stepped out of an old issue of Better Homes and Gardens.

it all starts with icing

So I searched around the internet for a bit and found some great pictures that captured exactly what I was envisioning.  Of course I got a little carried away with myself and started imagining floor plans and countertops, deep sinks, top-of-the-line appliances... my brain started filling with imaginary images of my dream kitchen.  Seriously, I started going a little Audrey from Little Shop of Horrors.

But it doesn't have to be completely imaginary.  My dream kitchen could be something I work towards, more of a goal kitchen with an update (or maybe a flashback) of my current kitchen being a trial run, or a baby step.  With that in mind, I got in touch with my gal LK of Elle Kay Interiors and enlisted her interior design genius to help me come up with some ideas that could help me fix up my current kitchen and some bigger ideas for fun and future planning!  While I keep dreaming, she's busy whipping up some images and ideas about kitchen design for me and you dear readers.  That's right, keep an eye out for another guest post!  Yay, we love guest posts.  But while LK is doing her homework, we should all enjoy these last few weeks of summer (nooooo!) and dabble in another sip & sweet recipe and enjoy the inspirational pinkness of this pink lemonade cake -

pink lemonade cake
2 1/2 c sifted flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick unsalted butter, room temp
2 tsp fresh lemon zest
1 1/4 c sugar
2 eggs
1/2 milk
1/2 c fresh lemon juice
neon pink food coloring
2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 c pink lemonade powder (I used Country Time)
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1. Preheat the oven to 375.  Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl.  In a mixer, beat butter and lemon zest until light and fluffy.  Slowly beat in the sugar until well blended.  One at a time, add the eggs and beat on a medium speed for about 2-3 minutes or until the mix looks fluffy.
2. Beat about a quarter of the dry ingredients in with the creamy mix, then add all of the milk and continue to beat until well combined.
3. Alternating between lemon juice and dry mix, add the remaining ingredients beginning and ending with the dry mix.  Blend well and add food coloring a drop at a time while continuing to mix, until you've reached the right pink.
4. Pour batter evenly into two greased and floured 8" cake pans and bake for 25-30 minutes.  Let cool in pans for 10 minutes, and cool completely before icing.
1. Blend the ingredients together until light, fluffy and tasty.  Don't be afraid to add a little more lemonade powder or sugar until you get the right taste.  You can also add food coloring if the powder doesn't add enough color for your taste.
*A quick note on the icing: I was trying to make a combo meringue butter cream icing for this because I kind of wanted it to look cloud-like and dreamy, but I think the combination of extreme Summer heat in my kitchen and the lemonade mix messed it up because it wasn't staying stiff enough and I ended up making a regular old butter cream.  But don't fret, I'm going to keep trying and will definitely get it right and keep you posted.

I'm going to leave you with a reminder and a fun fact - Don't forget to keep an eye out for our upcoming guest post from Ms. LK of Elle Kay Interiors; check out her blog, too - she's got a heck of an eye!  parter with the finale being the final result of my kitchen redo!  And your fun fact - it is rumored that pink lemonade was invented by a circus concession man named Pete Conklin who sold peanuts and lemonade.  One day, he used water that had been dyed from one of the horse rider's red tights to mix with his lemons and the end result was a pretty and popular pink!  Gross or awesome?  A little of both?  I think I'll stick with my Country Time powder.