Wednesday, March 5, 2008

What Would You Sage?

Being a single, I try not to buy much of anything perishable in large quantities. When it comes to herbs, I prefer to buy dried over fresh, so that I don't let the bulk of them go to waste--- especially if I only need a small amount.

Sometimes, however, you have to go fresh. A pasta recipe I made tonight from Bon Appetit called for sage, so I picked up some of the furry little leaves from Greenwich Produce at Grand Central Market. The recipe turned out yummy (though next time I may make a few adjustments- like reserve some of the pasta water to add moisture, and perhaps even use a bit more sage AND garlic) but I've got lots of sage left. What else should I make with it?

The Sub That Sunk Me

Last night I fell asleep before American Idol (which is on at 8PM--- for those of you who are not Idol-Wild!). It was all due to a sandwich I'd made myself using the lemon chicken I'd grilled last night, swiss cheese, basil pesto and roasted red peppers. I popped the sub in the toaster oven (love that thing!) for 10 minutes or at 350 degrees, until the cheese became melted and gooey and the bread warm and and toasty. I was a little skeptical the swiss cheese would work in the sandwich (I would have used mozzarella if I'd had it on hand), and although I don't think it was ideal, it held the sandwich together without being too disruptive. The chicken was so lemony that it mostly overpowered the pesto; however, the sum of all parts satisfied--- I ended up devouring the entire thing. It sat warmly in my stomach, sinking me into dreams before prime time.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Do You Doctor?

...e.g. dropping some peas and carrots into a pack of Ramen Noodles, that sort of thing. Sure, cooking it's not, but it is a way to turn a drab and pre-fab into something semi-fab(ulous) that you came up with on your own. This evening I picked up some petite peas for a fettucine dish I plan on making later in the week, but since I haven't had peas in a while, couldn't resist adding some to my instant Mushroom and Herb Risotto (courtesy of Trader Joe's). Topped off with Barefoot Contessa's lemon chicken (super simple recipe- let it marinate overnight and grill the next day), I felt satisfied, and more importantly, accomplished!

Brussels Sprouts with Bite!

I think brussels sprouts are awesome!!! Though I like vegetables, I associate most of them with being light, crisp, definitely tasty but never really hearty or filling. The exception, for me personally, are brussels sprouts. Maybe its their layers of tough little leaves, yielding that satisfying crunch, that makes me feel this way. I found a simple recipe from the The Barefoot Contessa Cookbook that yielded such sprouts in a snap.

All the recipe calls for is:
-brussels sprouts (I used large sprouts but split them lengthwise so they'd roast evenly)
-some good olive oil
-kosher salt
-freshly ground black pepper, and
-an oven.

I made my life easier by using my toaster oven. This is great for a number of reasons--- a) it's just enough space when cooking for one b) it's less cleanup when you're done b) cooking takes 1/2 the time it normally would (this recipe recommended 35-40 minutes of cooking time- my sprouts were done in 20 and d) you don't have to move all your pots and pans out of the oven (if you live in a shoe box in the city like I do and have no place else to store them). Line the tray with foil and you're good to go!

I must have gone a little crazy with the pepper grinder, so my batch of sprouts turned out quite peppery, but still delicious. Loose leaves were slightly browned and crisped during the roasting process and collapsed on the tongue like thin, delicate potato chips.

Here they are before they went into the oven...

Weekend Damage: Forbidden City & RUB (Righteous Urban Barbeque)

No pics this weekend, my purse for the weekend being too small to hold anything but the essentials ;)

Friday night I almost went to Pizza Rustica for a quick slice after coming home late from work--- but ultimately decided I couldn't do it. I've been there on a number of occasions, and they have consistently disappointed me. I don't even expect much from them, and they can't even live up to that! There is always a line, it takes way too long for you to get even just a slice... the pizza is not even that great, even for $2. I peered into the window, took one look at the pizza, and as hungry as I was, I just couldn't do it this time. I settled for some really simple linguine with basil (courtesy of Trader Joe's, ready in minutes) and was glad I was able to hold out!

Saturday night had an event at Forbidden City - arrived starving and was jazzed to find out they also serve food--- small plates/dim sum-type dishes. We ordered the veggie spring roll, shrimp and spinach dumplings, beef shumai, and berkshire pork with bok choy. The spring roll was standard, dumplings and shumai decent (4 for $6- I was expecting 2), but the highlight for me was the pork (fatty and delicious, and definitely reminded me of grandpa's home cooking). Each plate was between $4 and $6, and entrees were also offered (like black cod with miso) for around $10-$12. Affordable, satisfying nosh, served at a bar, no less! I was impressed.

Sunday had dinner at RUB and went for the 2 meat plate (pulled pork and 'burnt ends'-'fattier part of the brisket smoked 18 hours until tender' according to the RUB website) with a quarter rack of St. Louis style ribs added, with cornbread and potato salad. The pulled pork was solid, the ribs tender and smoky, but my favorite had to be the burnt ends- fatty and melt-in-your-mouth delicious (that was the trend for this weekend, apparently)! The potato salad had a certain sweetness which set it apart from others which taste predominately mayo-y, and the cornbread was soft and moist. I was completely satisfied with the meal- we made significant progress on a plate consisting of 3 different meats- and between us (2) we spent about $16/pp after tax and tip, definitely worth it.

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Family-Style Dinner: Barbuto

Wednesday night had a 'Bon Voyage' dinner (the second in a series in which I suspect there will be at least three- this one just happened to be the last one in NYC) for M at Barbuto in the Meatpacking District. The reco came from a co-worker. I love when someone can provide a dining recommendation on the spot--- whenever I am asked, I either can't remember where I've eaten EVER or need to consider several other inputs--- e.g. What neighborhood? What type of cuisine? What atmosphere?. Barbuto was true to its claim of 'casual sophistication'--- it wasn't too hip or trendy to have to battle for a reservation (even if we had not made one, I'm sure it would have been fine for 6PM).

We started with a bottle of Prosecco (to toast M's departure- $30 for the bottle- very reasonable) and the waitress brought out a plate of green and purple olives to start (which the waitress removed too soon- probably my most serious complaint of the evening). The salumi misti was just enough for three, however, we were a little light on the housemade foccacia (we are a family of carb-lovers). Between us we had the pasta w/spicy sausage and lobster (M ordered and wouldn't let me have the same--- we aim to diversify whenever dining out so we can have a bit of everything--- but I really wanted the pasta!), pork tenderloin w/butternut squash (the squash was also served with soft apple chunks which were REALLY delicious--- I think I liked the side more than the pork), tender hangar steak, and a side of roasted fingerling potatoes. For dessert, we shared the cinnamon cake stuffed with walnuts and topped with vanilla gelato (the cake was a little dry, almost like a biscotti).

We never had to wait long for food, the timing of the courses was perfect, and service was consistent but never intrusive. The brick walls, wooden countertops, and wood-brick burning oven made for a comfy/cozy dining experience. I would definitely return if I'm in the neighborhood! Barbuto is a solid choice.

Barbuto (Italian)
775 Washington St.
New York, NY 10014

Monday, February 25, 2008

Banh Mi, Oh My!

For two years now, after the NYC Chinese New Year Parade, I get banh mi. I'm rarely in Chinatown so I take advantage of the fact that I am downtown. I never really knew what banh mi was, it's just something I'm nostalgic for (and it's so cheap!). When I was younger and my family would shop at the Asian grocery stores in Boston's Chinatown, my mother would always buy my siblings and I banh mi for lunch from the bakery counter (along with egg tarts, coconut breads, almond cookies, and sponge cake rolls for later). I wasn't really sure about the pate, mainly its texture, so just dug in without asking questions--- ignorance was bliss. I just loved the crusty bread and pickled vegetables. In NYC I like Paris Sandwich on Mott Street (add a hot black tea with milk and I am one happy camper!).

I came across a recipe for a take on Banh Mi (using rotisserie chicken instead of pork) in Gourmet Magazine that I thought would be fun to try... my results were pretty good, although the slaw didn't have the same degree of tangy-ness that pickled veggies do. Overall, I thought my sandwich turned out well, a little dry, perhaps because the liverwurst I used tasted more crumbly than creamy and I used a pretty crispy French baguette. Next time I make this I may add more oil, sugar, and mayo to soften and sweeten it up. However, I'm glad I no longer have to wait until next year's parade to enjoy a bit of my kind of comfort food :)

Paris Sandwich
113 Mott Street
New York, NY 10013