Thursday, April 30, 2009
I used to "eat" public school lunch. Anything that had a bun like a hot dog, hamburger, bologna sandwich, would have its contents removed and be replaced with catsup. I would scoop out the chopped meat from the jamaica beef patties but eat the crispy yellow shells. Looking back I was a young vegetarian since the school mystery meat was questionable, except for the meat ravioli which was always divine.
Once in a while my dad packed me a plastic bag lunch and my favorite was broccoli rabe sandwiches. I love broccoli. Every kind of broccoli. Nonna calls me a "Broccolina."
When Miguel and I were working on University Place we noticed a small hole in the wall sandwich shop called, Num Pang, which only opened up five weeks ago.
From the looks of the shop I was not impressed, until I checked out the menu and saw the Roasted Cauliflower Sanwhich. What?!?! Was I dreaming?
From the taste of it, I was. The roasted cauliflower was sweet and peppery. The soy mayo had the perfect amount of spicy heat. The generous garnish of crunchy fragrant cilantro (I was getting mouthfuls) was refreshing. And the fresh bun, chewy on the outside and soft in the middle was a perfectly size container for this amazing but sloppy in a good way Cauliflower Sandwich.
There were a lot of other very interesting meat options on the menu.
Miguel got the sirloin.
Their policy of no exemptions or substitutions was strictly enforced. I asked for the corn on the cob with mayo and coconut flakes to be cut in half. The server said, "I can't do that." I respect that. With the long line that formed after we ordered, home girl doesn't have time to be chopping up corn. She was projecting that they had great sandwiches, "and what?" And she served up a seriously delicious sandwich, which left me feeling satisfied, not salt bloated or too full, and the flavor left me craving another one.
I held off and good thing I did because after our photo job Van Leeuwen's Ice Cream Truck, serving "artisan" ice cream was waiting outside for us! (University & 12th St, NYC) It was one of those 90 degree April nights and perfect for ice cream. My gut said go for the ginger ice cream, but my brain thought it would be too sweet. The lovely server gave me a sample. AMAZING! So creamy and ginger flavored and not too sweet. She also told us about "taster and runners," people who try all the flavors then don't buy anything. Times are tough I guess. But the price and flavors at Van Leeuwen's were just right. And by eating delicious ice cream you are helping gorillas because they donate 1% of their profit to help protect endangered species.
Miguel got a hazelnut and chocolate double scoop.
Hand and Ice Cream Model: Miguel Rodriguez
Wednesday, April 29, 2009
My friend Tim has a hilarious blog called Feed Tim.
Here is an excerpt from a funny Tim food story:
"I’m trying to grab soy beans with tongs you’d flip a steak with and the beans are flying everywhere, into the beats, the curried celery, the shaved balsamic figs and I’m starting to get the stink eye from the other salad denizens. "
Tuesday, April 28, 2009
Wild rice makes me feel inventive. I just cook some wild rice (which is 1C. rice to 3C. water ratio) then while the rice is still really hot the crazy begins. I start with some olive oil, sweet balsamic vinegar and some salt and pepper. Then maybe some fresh minced garlic and onions or even shallots. Sweet red peppers are nice and sweet. Cherry tomatoes add great color. I check the fridge for whatever fresh herb is about to go bad, like cilantro or fresh parsley. Then some dried fruit, like cranberries and whatever nuts are lying around, like pecans or walnuts. Its kind of like crazy rice salad. Throw whatever you have in and see what happens!
Monday, April 27, 2009
Some technology makes things faster and more convenient, but not necessarily better. When trying to satisfy your taste buds, especially early in the morning, sometimes you just have to do it the old fashioned way. With American coffee, drip just doesn't cut it. At a young age my parents ruined any possibility of me ever purchasing a drip machine. As a youngster my favorite breakfast was coffee dunk, a speciality of my father's. Its simple, buttery toast is dunked into light sweetened coffee and milk and slurped down your throat. I could go for some now. Coffee in our home was always brewed in a camping style tin-looking percolator. Percolated coffee is stronger, richer and fuller bodied than drip, which in most cases tends to be watery and less flavorful. I admit, I have had great drip coffee, like the Raven's Brew Janet makes when we visit Alaska. But the best drip never compares to good percolated coffee. Most drip drinkers agree. Damn my parents! I love when we visit Alaska and wake up to fresh coffee that started brewing while we were still warm under the covers because of the little bit of genius called a self-timer. But I can't have a self-timer, I have to start my coffee shivering and puffy eyed over the stove. And the real slap in the face is when the percolator has not been washed from the day before and I have to hand wash the five separate parts first with the cats clawing at my ankles for food. But its worth it, because it just tastes better.
The coffee pictured is "Snickers" coffee (yeah, thats right!) brewed by the Hamptons Coffee Company. The chocolate caramel aroma of this coffee is almost as satisfying as enjoying a cup of it.
Sunday, April 26, 2009
Correction: For the Pasta with Garlic and Oil Recipe I mistakenly wrote 2 TBSP of red chili flakes when I meant 2 tsp. Big difference when you're bringing on the heat. Unless I am baking I don't measure exactly, but 2 TBSP of red pepper flakes was an obvious typo and poor Todd and Nicole learned the hard way. Sorry guys! I owe you a bowl of pasta...
Notice how all Sicilian phrases precede the Italian. For Rocco, Sicily is the origin of civilization and the center of the universe. He even thinks that George Washington had Sicilian ancestors. If you take a close look, he did have a Roman, I mean Sicilian looking nose...
An email from Rocco:
If you've overcome your phobia of garlic breath, then this garlic basil pesto is for you. Pesto with bow tie or farfalle pasta is a great dish to bring to a BBQ because its delicious at room temperature and you don't have to worry about it spoiling in the warm weather. But pesto should not stop with pasta; its great on sandwiches or as a spread on crackers or crusty bread. It really livens up veggies, like asparagus or zucchini. Top mozarella and tomatoes with it for a great appetizer or serve it as a condiment for grilled lamb or chicken.
Here I topped some seared scallops with it.
1 C Fresh Basil Leaves
2 TBSP olive oil
2 to 3 whole garlic cloves
1/4 C pine or pignola nuts
1/4 C fresh parsley
1/2 C grated parmesian or romano cheese
Salt and Pepper to taste
Mix all the ingredients in a food processor. Adjust everything to taste.
If its too dry and you are topping it with pasta use some of the starchy pasta water to moisten it a bit.
Seared Scallops with Pesto
1/2 C. fresh or frozen and defrosted small bay scallops
1 TBSP olive oil
Salt and Pepper
Butter or equivalent for grilling
Rinse the scallops then coat with oil and salt and pepper.
Heat a pan to medium to high heat and melt the butter. Sear the scallops on both sides until brown. Do not overcook or they will become rubbery.
Dollop a bit of pesto on each scallop and garnish with sweet reduced balsamic vinegar and toasted pine nuts.
Saturday, April 25, 2009
My work often takes me to the Hamptons, NY and when I am there I stay in Amagansett, a great town halfway between East Hampton and Montauk. I always find myself there on Wednesday mornings, when every shop in the town is closed, except the Hampton Chutney Company, where for breakfast we eat dosas with warm chai tea.
A dosa is basically a gigantic Indian sour dough crepe, made with rice, so its gluten free.
When the question of portion control rears its unwelcome head at my meal, I always look at my plate and think, okay all that has to fit in my stomach. What is the rule? Your stomach is the size of about a fistful of food. But stretchy? At easily a foot long, dosas are rule breakers, and when we opt not to share one to get it closer to that fistful, we justify it with, "but are really light."
The warm crispy dosas are filled with anything from traditional spicy potato masala to calamata olives,
Pictured above: Mike, Yui, Miguel and the "Charlies" enjoying some Breakfast Dosas, filled with scrambled eggs, spinach, roasted tomato, jack cheese and avocado.
If you're not out east, there are two in locations NY. Go to Hampton Chutney Company for more info.
Thanks, Miguel for letting me borrow your amazing Canon 5D to take these photos!
Friday, April 24, 2009
Thursday, April 23, 2009
Pasta should be simple. I made this literally 10 minutes before I had to leave for my weekly Italian class and ate it standing up while putting on my rubber rain boots. This is a variation on classic Pasta with Aglio e Oglio (Garlic and Oil)
FAST PASTA WITH GARLIC AND OIL
2-3 TBSP Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1-2 tsp of peperoncino (red pepper flakes)
2-4 cloves of garlic
1 TBSP Tomato Paste or fresh chopped tomatoes (optional - I like it for color)
1/2 lb. spaghetti
Chopped Cilantro (optional and not a traditional Italian herb, but delicious!)
1/2 lemon juice (optional)
grated cheese (parmesian, locatelli or pecorino romano)
Salt and Fresh Ground Pepper
While the pasta is boiling in generously salted water, sautee the olive oil, garlic, tomato paste and peperoncino, for less than 2 minutes. If you want a very strong garlic flavor, do not sautee the garlic at all. Leave it raw and add it with the parsley. When the pasta is al dente, strain it and toss it with the olive oil mix, the chopped parsley and cilantro, raw garlic if you prefer, the juice of 1/2 of a lemon, grated cheese and salt and pepper to taste.
This is a nice summer recipe with fresh ripe tomatoes (which I had in the fridge but forgot to add! Salsa anyone?)
Wednesday, April 22, 2009
Most mornings a simple breakfast is what I need. Few store bought granola bars cut it, so I experimented with making my own for the first time. I have such a variety of nuts in my fridge, it was the perfect time to try. I always start out on the Food Network, because there are tons of reviews and I can find out what works and what doesn't. I went with a Peanut Butter Granola Bar from Emeril and made a few tweaks. For example, I used a pre-toasted bag of rolled oats that was slightly sweetened and berry flavored from Trader Joe's (of course). Instead of dairy butter I used the Earth Balance. Whole chopped raw almonds replaced slivered almonds, and I omitted the pumpkin seeds, the raisins and the brown sugar since the granola was already a bit sweet. What I ended up with was a few irregularly shaped "bars" and a lot of delicious granola crumbles that I can sprinkle on everything. I want to experiment more with savory granola bars. Ideas: chile-lime with coconut, masala chai with coconut milk, pistachio with rosewater, pumpkin spice.
Pictured: Peanut Butter Granola Bar, Grapefruit and Banana drizzled with Honey
Tuesday, April 21, 2009
My father Rocco is a paradox. He will have you laughing hysterically and at the same time asking yourself what is this crazy guy saying? Half the time even my mom doesn't understand him. That is probably why they have been together for so long. Why is he incomprehensible to most? He does have an accent, which is a mystery since he has been living in the US since he was twelve years old. He mumbles. And its not quite clear if he is talking to you or talking to himself. He is not of this world, he lives on planet Rocco. But, it doesn't matter, its all about the delivery. Stay tuned for the cooking show.
I made a very interesting discovery as an adult with the help of internet technology in the form of email. Over email, Rocco is an entirely different creature. Eloquent, engaging, and he surprisingly makes a lot of intelligible sense. There's no reason why he shouldn't; he is super educated, can discuss physics with Stephen Hawkings, who will be left perplexed, and he knows English grammar better than most English professors. And yes, he is still funny!
Here are some recent correspondence I had with Rocco:
"My love, I'm glad you do not have my appearence. But, my stomach, ha, that is something else. In Sicilian I say "un mortu di fami" when I see a poor slob. Unfurtunately, I say that to all those who go on diets. A diet is not a word in my lexicon. Another Sicilian expression that appears in other Italian languages is MANGIA E FATTI GROSSI or EAT AND GET FAT. Che bella vita."
After asking Rocco to remember some other funny Sicilian/Italian phrases about food:
1) In Sicily we have the concept of a MAN OF THE STOMACH: OMU DI PANZA [in Italian Uomo di pancia] to describe a person who likes to eat well.
2) We also had the concept that being fat is a sign of well being. So telling a person that he or she is, well, rather plump was a compliment. A husband who had a plump wife showed the world that he could afford to feed her well. The phrase: BEDDA E CHIETTA [In Italian: e' bella grassa] was a very nice complement that these days could give you a slap in the face or worse.
3) LA TAVULA E' TRAZZERA, [Italian: la tavola e' un sentiero.] That means that A TABLE IS LIKE A ROAD where people get on and off so it is always in use and should always be ready for a meal.
I will try to come up with some more
Yes, there is the expression: PANZA E PRESENZA [Italian: pancia e presenza.] This refers to a person who is invited and brings nothing to the host. He only brings his stomach."