Thursday, May 31, 2007

An Unfortunate Incident

Driving along Route 28 to Margaretville, J* and I passed a pretty little restaurant called the Peekamoose. The Catskills Mountains seem to be overrun with these adorable , punning destinations like the Inn Between and infinite loop names like Pakatakaka... . We former Midwesterners and now wannabe Manhattanites giggled a bit at these names while trying to differentiate ourselves from the amusement of city "tourists." Nonetheless, a foodie friend from the city highly recommended Peekamoose, and we discovered that famous NYC chef Devin Mills (formerly of Le Bernadin, Gramercy Tavern, Guastavino's, and Ruddy and Dean) now cooks at Peekamoose, which he owns with this wife.
So on Sunday night, we drove back to the Peekamoose. We strolled in around 9pm (late because we went on a 3-hour hike that day) in casual wear. The people dining and those congregating in sharp-dressed circles around the bar were obviously from the city. Peekamoose, isolated on a country road, had an oddly trendy feel, rather than achieving a comfortable, country atmosphere. I pulled at my loose, linen skirt as we struggled to track down a hostess. When we finally located her and asked for a table, she paused and asked us whether we had a reservation. Well, no, we weren't aware that we needed a reservation. This is precisely the reason to get away from the city.

She paused, "Oh. Well, it's going to be a very long wait." We were slightly puzzled and asked how long. "At least 30 minutes." First of all, that's not a very long wait for a great meal. And secondly, why the pretentious warning? Was this a case of age discrimination (J* and I being rather young and not so impeccably dressed)? She finally conceded that we could be seated immediately if we agreed to sit outside. We agreed, relieved, and were led to the large patio. Sitting down at the table in the far corner, we realized that we were the only diners out there. The isolation was creepy and the servers hardly realized we were there.

Aware of the meal prices (with ala carte sides), we ordered tap water. We were not warned. We both took a big gulp of the water (dehydrated and hurting from the hike) and almost spit it out. "Oh, we hit a sulfur patch. How about some wine?" No, we wanted water, drinkable water, and we didn't want to pay for it. Bottled water was not offered as amends for the horrendous taste lurking in our mouths. We could purchase anything of course. "We are also out of the rabbit and the trout."

As we sat and contemplated the menu with a cup of tea, we talked quietly about the bad vibe we had encountered thus far. After a sever did not return for a good 10-15 minutes, we simply left. Unfortunately, rank water and pretension are the extent of my review of Peekamoose.

5 Minute Prep

When my grandma decided that she wanted to host the family Memorial Day dinner, she went through a series of menu dilemmas. First, she wanted to do a Mexican theme with a taco bar, rice, cornbread; the works. Then, she thought maybe it would be fun to make a paella and have sangria. After that, she considered making lasagnas and doing Italian. Luckily, my great aunt saved her from her menu planning confusion when she said, "Lasagna? Who wants lasagna on Memorial Day? I want a hot dog!" So hot dogs it was. Along with skirt steaks, brats (chicken and veal) and barbecue chicken.

As a fun side dish, my mom thought it would be a nice change to make Polenta Fries to go along with the oven-baked potatoes. My family loves polenta because it's so versatile; we'd made these once before and they were such a big hit, we decided to make them again. It's really the simplest recipe ever with only five minutes of prep work!

I got a few nice shots of these skinny cornmeal beauties before they went into the oven, but they disappeared so quickly during dinner, I never got an "after" shot. You'll just have to make them and see for yourself. What I love about these "fries" is that they get nice and crunchy on the outside, but the inside stays soft and mushy. All we add is a little salt and pepper, but I'm sure you could get creative with other spices if you like.

Polenta Fries


2 packages polenta in log form
Non-stick spray
Salt and pepper to taste


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut polenta into sticks about 1/4-inch wide and a 1/4-inch thick. Spray baking sheet(s) with a non-stick spray and scatter polenta sticks around pan - use two if too crowded. Salt and pepper polenta to taste. Heat in 400 degree oven for 1 hour, turning about half way through. Polenta is done when the outside is crispy and the inside it mushy. Serve hot.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Grown Up Lox and Bagels

Like any good Jew, I love my lox and bagels. As my cousin and I agreed at a recent family gathering, it's the ultimate comfort food - maybe even more so than chicken soup. Maybe. Alas, smoked salmon is not the cheapest of fares and for a twenty-something trying to make it on her own, it's not a regular menu item. I at least make do with a lox spread at my favorite bagel place on the way to work and that usually tides me over.

My cravings for the smoked stuff were only enhanced when I came upon not one, but two salivatingly delicious photos today. The first features lox in the form of a pizza with gorgeous, thin pieces laid out over a generous shmear of cream cheese. The second mouth-watering recipe was for a Smoked Salmon and Tomato Salad Tartine at seven spoons that brings a more sophisticated flavor to the plate with chevre and a perfectly seasoned salad.

Personally, I can't wait to try both!

Stuffed (With) French Toast

The French toast I enjoyed at Margaretville Mountain Inn on Sunday was superb, and supported my assertion that the dish is done better with cinnamon rather than copious amounts of powdered sugar. But, just look at this, brioche French toast stuffed with Nutella! Genius!

I must admit I am of a member of the eating-nutella-right-out-of-the-jar-with-a-spoon persuasion, so basically this French toast trumps my weekend in the mountains. Although, the cranberry scones were delightful. Here is the path to nutella-goodness.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

My First Kitchen

Ok, not technically my first kitchen, but my first kitchen that will not contain more than 30 shot glasses and various other glassware from various other fraternity formals. On July 1, I'll be moving into my first real, non-college town apartment and I'm thrilled. Unlike many my age, there is a corner of boxes in my parent's basement that are labeled, "Max's Kitchen" and include everything from old sets of dishes to a Cuisinart (yessss!) to a set of French onion soup crocks, which have never been used. And though I feel quite fortunate that I have such treasures waiting for me, I am missing some key essentials like pots, pans and utensils.

I have tried to utilize the Internet to narrow down a basic checklist (the only thing I love more than lists is being able to cross things off my lists!) of kitchen essentials. I found an excellent article in the New York Times about shopping at restaurant supply stores, but it seems that that's only a cheap route in NY where such places are abundant. I hear we have a couple good ones in Chicago, but at less of a bargain.

So you can imagine my delight when in my daily food blog browsing I found that Heidi at 101 Cookbooks posed a similar question to her readers and got a fantastic response. Whether it's your first kitchen or you just want to update your old one, these tips, tricks and recommendations are tried and true!

A Weekend in the Catskills

J* and I retreated from metropolitan chaos for a relaxing weekend in the Catskills mountains, about 2+ hours north of NYC. We stayed at the oh-so-quiet Margaretville Mountain Inn, a small bed and breakfast with spectacular views nestled above a quaint town. The Inn is traditionally furnished, even bordering on Victorian, with plenty of homey touches and quilted comfort. The proprietors, Peter and Carole, are friendly and helpful, and we quickly fell in love with their giant (and I mean horse-sized) dog named Bear.

The breakfast at Margaretville Mountain Inn is reason to rejoice, beginning with the beautiful china lovingly laid out for every guest (on Saturday morning only J* and I, and a very nice family from Baltimore). At around 8am, we were roused by the smell of warm, blueberry coffee cake. Peter took personalized orders from the guests in the dining room as we enjoyed fruit, fresh baked coffee cake, tea, orange juice, and coffee. The poached eggs from local, free-range chickens were very flavorful (two cheers for sustainable agriculture), perfectly cooked and J* raved about them all weekend. The French toast on the second morning was just the way I love it: thick, still crisp on the edges, and kissed with cinnamon. The recipe is a closely guarded secret.

I must say that my favorite breakfast feature was the cranberry scones on the second morning. Scones often can be too dry and crumbly, but these were simply perfect dunked in tea or coffee. While again, I did not have access to the recipe, I'm going to make my own with this recipe. I might experiment with adding oats for texture.

Cranberry Scones

Nothing like freshly baked scones in the morning!


3 C. all purpose flour
2 Tbs. baking powder
1/2 tsp. baking soda
1 1/2 Tbs. sugar
2 sticks ice-cold butter, cut into small chunks
2 C. buttermilk (approximately)
1 C. chopped fresh or frozen cranberries, sweetened to taste, and drained thoroughly


Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Combine flour, baking powder, baking soda and sugar and mix thoroughly. Cut butter into dry mixture with a pastry blender, until mixture resembles course meal. Chill for 10 minutes. Add cranberries and mix well until cranberries are coated with flour mixture. Add buttermilk, a little at a time, mixing until al ingredients are moistened and flour mixture forma a dough consistency. Gather into a ball and knead about 15 times on a flour-covered board or table. Roll out dough to a 1-inch thickness. Cut out scones with a floured, heart-shaped 2 inch biscuit cutter. Place on an ungreased baking sheet, close together, but not touching. Brush tops with buttermilk and sprinkle with sugar, Bake for 20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve hot with orange marmalade and Devonshire cream.

Yield: 12 servings

Restaurant Reviews of the Catskills Eateries to Come!

Friday, May 25, 2007

Verrines and (Couscous Salad) Tabouleth

Check out this wonderful-looking salad, displayed in a verrine from The Kitchen Pantry.

How simple and beautiful! You really must check out the verrine trend for your own entertaining this summer.

Soda Pop with Vitamins and MInerals...Are you kidding?

Alright so what is up with soda pop containing vitamins and minerals? I just don't' understand how this is possible. I mean has the world actually come to this?

Of course I can't go a day without some sort of caffeine intake, so I decided to try out Diet Coke Plus. The "plus" stands for added vitamins and minerals. I must say I don't really like it. It might just be some sort of mental thing, but I think the taste of this soda is different from just the ordinary Diet Coke. It seems a bit sweeter and watered down.

Have any of you tried this new product? What do you think? How you feel about this whole new trend of trying to make soda healthy?

Sarah at Slashfood is equally addicted to caffeine, but didn't have as much of an aversion to this "plus" product.

Thursday, May 24, 2007

Why Do You Hate Cupcakes?

After writing about cupcakes yesterday, I discovered an article posted the exact same day compliments of Mike Pesca, the "Diet Detective." I really wanted to enjoy my cupcakes without knowledge of their calorie-bomb status, but what's done is done. For the sake of fairness, I'll link to this harsh reality on Magnolia and Crumbs cupcakes, but I'm not happy about it!

Just How Fatting is That Cupcake?

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

Gargantuan Cupcakes and the Great Cupcake War

Surely, the cupcake indulges the joy of individual ownership (we're all slightly uncomfortable with sharing, admit it), but giant cupcakes seem especially, gluttonously American. If we like something, why not super-size it? Amusingly, New York city pridefully boasts a kind of cupcake war. I'd never even heard of stores selling nothing by cupcakes until I moved here, and now I see them everywhere, including at the wonderfully indulgent Burgers and Cupcakes. ("Why? Because people love them!")

At my birthday dinner awhile back, I was delicately handed an unassuming white box by my excited friend. Her demeanor definitely had an air of "this is the best thing ever." Inside was a cupcake from Magnolia Bakery. The popularity of this bakery is often cultish and all encompassing as it's known to each and every respectable New Yorker. Magnolia was even featured in an episode of Sex and the City. Here's the line at Magnolia to give you a good idea.

Since I wasn't allowed to eat the cupcake within White Horse Tavern (but yet Dylan Thomas managed to drink himself to death there), it was a bit stale by the time I attacked it. Nonetheless, the rich and buttery icing really made the cupcake for me, since the cake part itself seemed a little dry. I really must try a fresh one. Nothing makes my mouth water like the prospect of a cupcake.

A couple weeks ago, our office brought in giant cupcakes from Crumbs Bakery (the top picture) in a variety of flavors including red velvet, snickerdoodle, oreo, and one that basically was a better version of Hostess Ding Dongs (complete with white squiggle on top, is that copyrighted?). The cupcakes from Crumbs must be held with two hands!! I could only eat half of a delicious red velvet creation before I admitted defeat. I managed to consume an entire vanilla cupcake the next day though, as people grabbed the leftovers throughout the day, even for breakfast.

If you have any New York cupcake experience (or better experiences in other cities), let me know your two-cents.

In the meantime, some cupcakes recipes for you at

Warm Chocolate Cupcakes with Molten Centers (WOW!)

Mini Key Lime Cupcakes

Lemon Kissed Cupcakes
Smore Cupcakes

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Everyday Panini

On weekend mornings, when we don't feel like making pancakes, R and I often get sucked into the Food Network's morning TV lineup. Somewhere around 10:00 Rachael comes on, then Giada, then Ina and then the British lady whose soothing voice usually lulls me back to sleep (I have caught her show during non-sleepy hours of the day and she's actually quite adorable). This past Sunday was no different.

I have a little side job on the weekends working for an event coordinator (mostly high-end weddings, anniversaries and Bar/Bat Mitzvahs) and Saturday night was a doozy. I had been on my feet from 2 p.m. to 2 a.m. and so my ambitions for Sunday consisted of waking up, and potentially showering... if I felt up to it.

Anyway (sorry, got a bit sidetracked), there we were, lounging with the Food Network and learning about Giada's "Everyday Lunches" when we got inspired. Giada is actually one of the few Food Network chefs that doesn't irk me to watch (ahem, Rachael), and although her head may be slightly larger than most and her cleavage is always showing, the woman knows her food.

This particular episode was about quick, easy and tasty lunches and her recipe for Taleggio and Pear Panini is what really piqued my interest. By now you all know how I feel about cheese, and melted cheese on a sandwich is always up my alley. Add to that fruit, greens and a drizzle of honey and I'm basically in heaven. After a quick trip to Trader Joe's (my big outing for the day), we decided to make our own version of this fantastic-sounding sandwich.

Admittedly, R did most of the work, but I kept a diligent eye out to make sure I could recreate it. The key to this sandwich is fresh ciabatta bread and a creamy cheese. We didn't see taleggio, so we opted for brie instead (an excellent choice!). We also swapped out the pears for green apples to give it a more crisp crunch and added a slice of turkey for some protein. I'm a big fan of paninis in general, but I was fantastically satisfied by this gem.

Apple and Brie Panini
adapted from Giadia DeLaurentiis' Taleggio and Pear Panini


1 long ciabatta loaf, fresh
1 green apple, thinly sliced
1 wedge brie
2 handfuls baby spinach
Olive oil
2 slices turkey (optional)


Cut ciabatta loaf in half and then slice each half open for sandwiches. Drizzle the inside of each piece with olive oil and place face down in a large skillet or pan. Heat on medium-low until warm and toasty. (NOTE: if you have a panini maker, you can skip this step.) Once heated through, spread generous portion of brie on one half of the sandwich. Place a few slices of apple on top of the brie and drizzle with honey. Finish with a handful of baby spinach and a slice or two of turkey. When fully constructed, place back in heated pan for a few minutes on both sides to get extra-melty. You can also utilize your panini maker if you have one.

Yield: 2 sandwiches

Photo courtesy of flickr and timelas

Monday, May 21, 2007

Shopping at Farmers' Markets vs. Grocery Stores

It's no secret that I'm a fan of farmers' markets. Not only is fresh produce so essential to good cooking, but also, I like to support local agriculture as much as possible. The supposed higher price of the farmers' market is probably the biggest reason many people avoid it. Luckily, Becks and Posh did a comparison shop between a major grocery store and a popular, local farmers' market. While certainly not all farmers' markets or grocery stores are the same, the results of this experiment are quite interesting.

Becks & Posh: The Farmers' Market versus Safeway

I'm a Giant in Chinatown

Please forgive me. Several weeks have passed since I took these pictures from the Taste of Chinatown. It's about time I blogged about the food festival. It was a warm, Saturday afternoon and I was with a motley collection of friends. We zig-zagged through the crowd and fought our way over to the street-side tables, where $1 and $2 tasting portions were offered to the crowd. There were no tables, so overly hungry eyes could mean juggling several Styrofoam containers while eating standing up and walking through the crowd. (Sure, there were a couple chair-less tables scattered down the center of the street, but these were rarely open for occupation.)

Fried rice and pork dumplings were the first selection for which we fought, and for $2, we received quite a respectable portion. I shoveled rice into my mouth straight from the small container as we continued to scope out more food. The Peking Duck place looked amazing, and the line around the block confirmed our suspicions. In the end though, we were not motivated enough to wait (I will be going back for this, mmmm duck).

We visited this table next for a collection of egg rolls, steamed pork bao, fried shrimp, and these little pork burger-things which throughly confused me. The shrimp was quite tasty, but certainly unremarkable, and I really wasn't a fan of the bao. It seemed a little too gooey on the outside for my taste. At this point, my friends and I were already too full and wanting to get out of the sun. We slipped into a bakery/tea shop/karaoke club for bubble tea. If you are not privy to the magic of bubble tea, it's basically a fruity frozen drink with little balls of tapioca which you suck up through the straw while drinking and chew. This shop had a really nifty machine that seals the top of frozen bubble tea with a film of plastic, and can be punctured with the over-sized straw. Fun fun.

Visit's collection of Chinese Food recipes here.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Bag It!

It seems everywhere you turn these days the subject of “Sustainable Living” is big news. In the last month alone, I’ve ready articles in magazines ranging in content from Better Homes & Gardens to Vogue about the subject. It seems everyone is hopping on the “Green” bandwagon.

And while this is a very good thing, sometimes it can be overwhelming to figure out what works and what doesn’t. So I did a little research into the whole reusable shopping bag market. When I typed the search term “reusable shopping bags” into Google, I came up with 843,000 possible sites. Here is a list of some of some of my favorites:

Reusable Bags
The Cloth Bag Company
The Green Guide

Also, some stores are now providing their own reusable bags that you can purchase for a nominal price. Some of these include:

Whole Foods
Trader Joe’s

Do some of your own research and let us know what great deals you can find on reusable plastic bags.

Friday, May 18, 2007

Memorial Day Recipe Suggestions

Since I am running out of time I thought I would ask all of you for some help. This Memorial Day I plan on going back to the Arlington Racetrack in Arlington Heights, Illinois with some friends of mine. Not only are we going to place some bets on our favorite horses but we are planning on spending most of our day/evening there so we are all packing picnic baskets full of goodies to save us some money.

I don't want to bring the same snacks I brought to the track a couple weeks ago so I need some recipes and suggestions of some great appetizers that will be okay out in the sun for a few hours.

Here is what I plan on bringing and if you guys/gals have any ideas please let me know!!!!!

This is so far all I have come up with. If you can think of anything better I would love to hear from you. Thanks everyone and have a good weekend.

Thursday, May 17, 2007

'Tis the Season

Spring has finally arrived in our little neck of the Midwest and it’s time to break out the grill. Wikipedia has a fascinating description of the meaning of BBQ around the world; some of this is highly entertaining. I love to grill because with it's little work and even less cleanup. As an added bonus, my husband is usually in charge of running the grill, which gets me off the hook for the majority of the cooking.

Men In Aprons is a website devoted exclusively to grilling and the men who love it. In fact, until recently, grilling has been the express purview of men and often one of the last bastions of “Manliness”. But increasingly, women are stepping up to the grill as a main part of the cooking experience. Elizabeth Karmel of Girls At The Grill has a terrific website devoted to all things grilled for women and men, from novice to expert. I highly recommend her site to anyone who’s ever been confused or intimidated by their BBQ.

One of my favorite recipes is Apple Sweet BBQ Chicken. It’s simple to make a works well with Citrus Grilled Vegetables and Grilled Baked Potatoes.

Add some apple juice to the barbecue sauce for an even sweeter taste.


1/2 C. barbecue sauce
1/4 C. frozen apple juice concentrate
3 lb. cut-up frying chicken (up to 3 1/2 lb.) -- skin removed if desired Heat grill.


In a small saucepan, combine barbecue sauce and apple juice concentrate; blend well. Set aside. When ready to grill, place chicken, skin side down, on gas grill over medium heat or on charcoal grill 4-6 inches from medium coals. Cook 25-35 minutes or until chicken is fork-tender and juices run clear, turning often and brushing frequently with sauce during last 15 minutes of cooking time. Bring any remaining sauce to a boil; serve with chicken.

Enjoy the season and enjoy your grill!

Megnut and Sweet Mathematical Cooking

I simply have to share this chocolate chip cookie experiment from super-fun blogger megnut. We are always looking for the perfect recipe for this most prized of cookies. Megnut went a step further and used mathematical averaging (of ingredients and techniques) to create a "mean chocolate chip." Do check out the hilarious and helpful comments also!

0.805 stick unsalted butter, 0.84 cups light brown sugar...

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

In Praise of White Pizza

I just ate a slice of this for lunch.....and now I want another....and another.

I've caught the madness of Max. Specifically, my mozzarella obsession is manifesting in the form of white pizza. I'm surprised by how much I like white pizza considering my love affair with the tomato as of late (caprese salad, pasta, fresh tomato over spinach omelet). But, a white pizza is all about the cheese, as this basic picture displays, and absolutely demands thin crust (in my opinion). Despite recently moving from Chicago of deep-dish fame, I tend to favor thin-crust pizza. Morever, a couple simple ingredients make for quite an aesthetic statement on a white pizza. I prefer thinly sliced tomato and fresh basil.

This recipe for Vegetable Pizza works on the sauce-less theme and focuses on Mozzarella, and adds a hefty dose of garden bounty to ease your health concerns. Personally, I would simplify it, especially if you are much more concerned with tasting the cheesy-goodness.


16 oz. loaf frozen whole wheat bread dough, thawed
2 cloves garlic, minced, optional
1 Tbs. olive oil
2 C. shredded Mozzarella cheese
2 medium red and/or yellow tomatoes, thinly sliced
2 Tbsp. grated Parmesan or Romano cheese


On a lightly floured surface, roll bread dough into a 14-inch circle. Transfer to a greased 13-inch pizza pan. (Or use a cookie sheet.) Build up edges slightly. Prick dough generously with a fork. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-25 minutes or until light brown. Sprinkle 1/2 mozzarella cheese over hot crust. Arrange tomato slices in a circular pattern atop cheese. Sprinkle with remaining Mozzarella cheese, garlic and Parmesan (or Romano) cheese. Bake about 12-minutes more or until cheese melts and pizza is heated through.

Yield: 6 servings

Photos compliments of flickr, joshbousel and workingmenarepissed

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

The Madness Continues

It's possible that my affinity for mozzarella has gotten out of control. But with all the fresh basil and tomatoes that keep appearing in my grocery store, it's hard to walk by without dreaming of caprese.

This weekend, we had dinner at my parent's house for Mother's Day and my mom wanted to do something special for appetizers. When I arrived, I was told that the mozzarella appetizer was my job and was handed a recipe. The recipe was actually unnecessary because the process of making Mozzarella Skewers was so simple.

The contrast in colors of the white, red and green looks gorgeous on a serving platter. Make sure to use cherry tomatoes that are on the smaller side, otherwise there will be a fair share of tomato juice squirting going on as people attempt to bite into the large tomato and end up blinding their neighbor with tomato seeds. Also try to keep the grouping close to the bottom of the skewer to avoid tongue-stabbing whilst consuming.

And although I just made them sound like quite a hazardous affair, these simple skewers are delicious and are so easy to throw together!

Mozzarella Skewers


1 container fresh baby mozzarella
1 package fresh basil
25-30 cherry tomatoes, small to medium size

1 Tbs. balsamic vinegar
1 Tbs. olive oil
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper


If mozzarella balls are larger than 1/2-inch in diameter, cut into cubes to size. Wash and dry tomatoes and basil. If basil leaves are large, these may be cut in half.

Using small skewers about 4 1/2 inches long, slide on a tomato, a piece of basil folded in half and a cube of mozzarella. Repeat on new skewers until all the pieces have been used.

Combine ingredients for dressing and brush or sprinkle over skewers just before serving. Dressing can also be served on the side for dipping.

Monday, May 14, 2007

Carnival Fare

Sunday afternoon and I found myself on the other side of Brooklyn at Coney Island. Since the powers that be will be soon be tearing down most of the old attractions, the long, LONG train ride from my island to Manhattan and through the better part of Brooklyn was a must. But, I'm not complaining. I had wonderful company and time to work up an appetite for artery-clogging carnival food.

Coney Island is hilariously boorish with its classic Astroland collection of rides, actual "freak shows," and snake-adorned performers. Emerging onto the boardwalk, I immediately spotted a live-human target game called, I kid you not, "Shoot the Freak." The poor (yet surprisingly nimble) sport was being shot at with paintballs and wore a necessary amount of multi-colored armor. People were lining up to participate and the crowd chose sides to cheer. I felt dirty just standing in the crowd and quickly moved off.

A little "grass" hut further down the boardwalk offered Daiquiris and Pina Coladas, as though Coney Island was an acceptable substitute for a tropical vacation. We humbly requested the latter from a distracted bartender, and nodded yes when she barked, "RUM?!?" Un-carded and having witnessed the liberal pour, we giggled at the staggering amount of alcohol filling up a large portion of the plastic cup. Aren't Pina Coladas supposed to taste like pineapples and coconuts? Nonetheless, it tasted delicious about halfway through.

We moved on to bigger and better things. I wanted an elephant ear, but evidently funnel cakes are the preferred fried dough in these parts. We devoured a funnel cake on the beach that really should have been crispy but at least was completely covered in powdered sugar (as was J* with his navy-blue polo, ah what a yuppie). After a bit of walking around, I settled on a corn dog and J* ordered a "Coney" dog smothered in onions and mustard. This is the kind of awesomely disgusting food that you simply must eat in such settings. These baked Low Fat Corn Dogs are a much more reasonable way to enjoy carnival food in your own home.

We passed out on the train on the way back only to awaken and eat too much salt-water taffy compliments of Atlantic City.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Last minute Mother's Day Gifts (Homemade of course!)

In just two days it will be Mother's Day and do you know what you are giving your mother? Trying to come up with an idea or a gift to buy your mom on Mother's Day is sometimes more difficult than shopping for your whole family on Christmas or Hanukkah. Your mom has been by your side your whole life during the good times as well as all the bad times, but not once did she ever judge you, she just loved you. So, how do you show your mom how grateful you are?

I believe giving your mom something you actually make with your own two hands shows her how much thought you have put into her gift. Don't be that person who goes out and buys her a gift certificate to her favorite restaurant or spa. Make her a special and extravagant dinner with her favorite foods or make her some fragrant lotions or bath oils or do what I am doing and make her a couple dozen of chocolate covered strawberries!

Simply Delicious Strawberries in Rich Chocolate

Fresh strawberries, washed and dried
Your favorite chocolate (Hershey's, Godiva, etc.)

Melt chocolate in microwave 15 seconds at a time until smooth and creamy. Stir gently. Dip strawberry 3/4 into chocolate. Place on cookie sheet lined with wax paper and place in refrigerator until ready to serve. Allow to sit at room temperature before devouring.

You should also check out the contest Recipe4Living is having which is totally in honor of all the mom's out there! Below is some info. on the contest. You better hurry because the contest ends on Mother's Day (Sunday).

Send us your favorite recipes, just like mom always made them and tell us why your mom deserves to be "Best Mom." Click here for more details and instructions.

Happy Mother's Day to all the mom out there and most importantly, Happy Mother's Day MOM!!!

Thursday, May 10, 2007

Odd Combinations

My New York food saga continues with the mad musician J* (ok, he plays the violin but it's fairly rad), someone who luckily matches me in adventurousness and overall gluttony. We delight in wandering up to a dessert display case and picking out the most unidentifiable creation. For example, we sampled an interesting ball of sweet, crispy noodles topped with pistachio and tasting rather similar to baklava in a cafe in the East Village. It was absurdly messy yet tasty, and I have no idea what it was. If you think you know, leave me a comment!

I was waiting for J* outside Grand Sichuan in Chelsea last night with a growing appetite as I stared in at bright green bok choy, wontons, and gorgeous braised meats. Complete with pig's feet, and ox tongue, Grand Sichuan is widely considered to be one of the most authentic Chinese restaurants in New York. Instead of making people uncomfortable staring at their food while I waited, I wandered down into Chelsea and eventually found an adorable little shop called Three Tarts. I was browsing through the colorful tableware and aprons, and eventually found the glass jars of homemade marshmallows. I couldn't help but let out a delighted "ooooo," amusing the powdered sugar covered women behind the counter. The marshmallows came in a variety of traditional flavors and more interesting choices such as the aromatic rosemary. I opted for one strawberry and one mango, and surprisingly, even pridefully, managed to eat only half of each, saving the rest for J*.

We split Braised Beef in Chili sauce at Grand Sichuan, which was easily one of the spiciest dishes I have ever enjoyed. Now I love spicy food, but this was the kind of tear-your-face-off spicy that made my lungs feel the burn as I inhaled. My sinuses were cleared, I was sweating, and I loved it, though we could not inspire the waitress to adequate levels of water-refilling. After such an intense meal, simple marshmallows coaxed our systems out of all out revolt.

Here's a simple recipe for making the deliciousness known as Homemade Marshmallows. Experiment with cocoa powder, fruit juices, swirling in sprinkles, or anything your culinary genius can concoct. Have fun.


Photos Compliment of Flickr, mcauliflower and munkeyjenn

Tuesday, May 8, 2007

Mozzarella Madness

I like to think of myself as an honorary Cheesehead. Although I was not born in the state of Wisconsin, my four years of undergrad in Madison only encouraged my love for cheese and the need to melt it on just about everything. This desire has not waned in my post-collegiate years, although perhaps my taste has grown more sophisticated. I choose Brie or Camembert over cheddar and I've found that a good, hard Parmesan makes all the difference in Italian cooking.

And when springtime comes around, one of my favorite cheese dishes is a classic caprese salad. There is nothing fresher and more satisfying than a firm beefsteak tomato, fresh mozzarella cheese and just-picked basil leaves. A few dashes of olive oil and a sprinkle of salt and pepper make it a colorful side dish that no one can turn down.

Clearly you can see that my love for cheese is pure. Which is why I feel a tinge of guilt telling you that I actually substituted it out of the dish. Running short on time and ingredients, I decided to swap an avocado for mozzarella and the results were fantastic! It made a gorgeous salad, especially with a bit of balsamic vinegar drizzled over the top. And it tasted great too! It's actually a good alternative for lactose-intolerant foodies who still crave the creamy texture combined with a firm tomato.

The recipe is so simple, it seems silly to write out the ingredients and directions, but I think you get the idea. Do you have any other variations on the caprese? Running With Tweezers writes about a refreshing summer twist with watermelon and basil granita!

Monday, May 7, 2007

When Black Sludge Is a Very Good Thing

New friends in New York marvel at my determination to cook at least a couple times a week, despite all the amazing places to eat and new cuisine to sample in every corner the city. And I must say the fate of my relationship with my skillet does not always appear bright. This weekend, I stumbled across an Afghani restaurant in the East Village called Khyber Pass on the oh-so-trendy St. Mark's Place (right across from the vending machine Japanese food place adorned in hot pink).

We dined on steamed beef dumplings called Mantoo, grilled cornish game hen, and orange-saffron rice with pistachios for a very reasonable price. The orange taste was a bit overpowering in the rice, but the Mantoo had just the slightest hint of orange sweetness, adding wonderful dimension to the dish. Overall, I would say the food was enjoyed more for the novelty of the experience. What was infinitely more interesting to me was the Turkish coffee at the end of the meal.

I have had Turkish coffee before, but nothing prepared me for this eye-opening, gritty gelatin of a coffee drink (perhaps since my caffeine dependence has somewhat subsided since college). After about three sips, our conversation took a turn for the hilariously hyper.

"Let's go play backgammon."
"Do you even know how to play backgammon? Do you know how to play chess? I can play chess."
"I've always wanted to play chess. I played a mean game of checkers with my Grandfather for years. Wait, was it backgammon?"
"I have no idea, let's go find out. We could go to Strand book store where all the answers are. It's only 10 ten blocks away. We might have to run since they close at 10."
"Awesome, let's go."

You get the idea. I would highly discourage people who are sensitive to caffeine checking it out. Otherwise, grab some Turkish coffee at the end of a weekend dinner for a guaranteed fun night.

Here's a wonderful tutorial from Coffee Geek on how to prepare Turkish coffee.

Friday, May 4, 2007

Happy Cinco De Mayo!

So what is everyone doing this Cinco de Mayo? I have got a big day planned filled with betting on horses, cocktails and a picnic with some close friends.

I have been waiting all winter for Cinco de Mayo to finally come around. Why? Because I get to go back to my most favorite place here in the suburbs of Chicago, the Arlington Race Track. What started as just going to the track and admiring how beautiful it was and watching all the horses, has now become me going there, getting the betting guide and actually studying it . Then placing a few dollars on this horse, a few dollars on that horse. And, yes I do win!

This Saturday I invited a bunch of my friends to tag along with me to the tracks. The Arlington Race Track allows us to bring whatever food we want so we all decided to bring a picnic basket full of finger foods instead of spending money on food there. (More money to bet with.) I decided to bring my favorite dip, Guacamole and also Hummus.

1-1/2 C. frozen peas 1 small ripe avocado, peeled, seeded, and cut into chunks 1 Tbs. reduced-fat mayonnaise 2 tsp. lemon juice 1/2 tsp. cumin 1/2 tsp. chili powder 1 garlic clove, minced 1/2 C. mild or medium low-sodium or regular salsa

In a small saucepan, combine the peas and 1/4 C. boiling water. Cover, bring to a boil, and simmer 2 minutes. Cool in a colander until cold running water. Drain well. In a food processor container, combine the peas, avocado, mayonnaise, lemon juice, cumin, chili powder, and garlic. Process until blended but not absolutely smooth, stopping and scraping the container sides, if necessary. Stir in the salsa. Cover and refrigerate 1 to 2 hours or up to 24 hours to allow the flavors to blend. The dip will keep in the refrigerator 1 to 2 days. Serve with fat-free tortilla chips. Yield: 14 servings (2 Tbs. each).

2 medium cloves garlic, roughly chopped 1/4 C. lemon juice 1/4 C. water 1 14 oz. can chickpeas (garbanzo beans), rinsed and drained 1/2 C. tahini (sesame seed paste) 1 tsp. sea salt (or table salt to taste)

Place all ingredients in a food processor or blender and process until smooth, scraping the sides occasionally. It can be refrigerated, covered, for up to 1 week and frozen for up to 3 months.

Happy Cinco de Mayo everyone!

Thursday, May 3, 2007

Anthony Bourdain speaking the truth about The Food Network

My favorite chef/writer Anthony Bourdain tells why the food network is not a place where 'real cooks' are shown....."I find myself riveted by its awfulness, like watching a multi-car accident in slow motion. Mesmerized at the ascent of the Ready-Made bobblehead personalities, and the not-so-subtle shunting aside of the Old School chefs..."

read more | digg story

Disappearing bees put our diet on the brink

Unless someone or something stops it soon, the mysterious killer that is wiping out many of the nation's honeybees could have a devastating effect on America's dinner plate, perhaps even reducing us to a glorified bread-and-water diet.

read more | digg story

The Bounty of the Parking Garage

Despite the impressive array of parks and wide-open green spaces on my new home, Roosevelt Island, the Saturday morning farmer's market is held under the parking garage next to the bridge from Queens. I suppose it keeps people coming and supporting local agriculture whether rain or shine, although the concrete expanses hardly suggest freshness. (I suppose it's actually quite rural by New York standards.) Nonetheless, I am excited to sample some fresh produce and try out some new recipes with the goodies.

No idea where the farmer's markets are in your area?

Check out Sustainable Tables Search Engine for Farmer's Markets or Local Harvest.

I really love the taste of asparagus, and how fun are those stalks to nibble on? Combine asparagus with cherry or heirloom tomatoes for a simple salad with vinaigrette dressing. Try this Asparagus Vinaigrette with your farmer's market purchases. Do feast your eyes on this amazing picture and recipe from Heidi Swanson at 101 Cookbooks for Ten Minute Tasty Asparagus and Brown Rice.

Other items available at the end of Spring and early summer include new potatoes and fennel. For a decidedly different salad, try the New Potato, Fennel, and Radish Salad. I like to stand lettuce leaves around the side of the bowl for decoration. Belgain endive adds a dramatic touch with it's long, thin leaves.

And for something sweet with those ripe strawberries from the market, I would recommend a truly unique dessert with ice cream, strawberries, and a sweet, citrus port sauce. I'm going to make this Strawberries Arnaud for a dinner party this Sunday.

Photo Compliments of Flickr, Northcountry Boy.

Wednesday, May 2, 2007

Rachael Ray Will Peddle Your Goods!

From the Banterist, Brian Sack, comes a pre-prepared contract for anything you might desire Rachael Ray to endorse, including tripe, dog food, and EVOO, for whatever amount of money you deem fair. Don't worry, she'll provide a life-size cardboard cut-out in return for promotional purpose.

Haha. Thanks to Sack for creating what we were all already thinking about the Queen of the snack aisle.

The Banterist

Clean the Fridge Night

You know those nights when the fridge is full, but it doesn't seem to have anything of real value? I had a late lunch yesterday, so I was poking around for something light, yet with enough substance to keep me away from the carrot cake my grandma had brought over. What I created was a masterpiece in polenta and veggies. Though many people are unfamiliar with the name, polenta is simply the Italian's take on cornmeal. Different cultures use cornmeal in all sorts of ways: muffins, tortillas, loaves, grits, etc. But one of my favorites is polenta. I like to buy it in log-form, although it is available in a more cream of wheat-ish texture as well.

In skillet number one, I added a bit of oil and placed the sliced polenta in to brown. In skillet number two, I added all the nutritious elements of my refrigerator that I could find. This included broccoli, red peppers, edamame soy beans and Trader Joe's roasted corn kernels. I sauteed these ingredients while some pine nuts toasted in the toaster oven. And in under 20 minutes, I quite the colorful meal. Of course, no polenta dish would be complete without a healthy chunk of goat cheese on top.

For a last minute creation, I was really quite pleased with the results. I know the picture isn't much to look at, but you can see how colorfully delicious the whole thing was. Of course, you could use whatever veggies you have in the fridge - which is the beauty of the dish. And you need very little seasoning since the goat cheese is so flavorful. I actually used one that had been rolled in herbs and spices, so that helped as well. It could certainly be served as a side dish to a meal as well. Now go and empty your fridge and see what you can make!

Max's Masterpiece in Polenta and Veggies


1 log polenta
1 small log goat cheese
1 C. broccoli, cut into small florets
1/2 sweet red pepper, diced
1/2 C. edamame beans
1/2 C. Trader Joe's roasted corn kernels
1/4 C. pine nuts, toasted


Slice polenta into disks about 1/4-inch thick and saute in oil, flipping once to brown both sides. In a separate skillet, heat oil and saute remaining ingredients except the cheese. When ready to serve, place 3 to 4 polenta slices on each plate. Put a thin slice of goat cheese on top of the polenta and spoon veggie mixture over each.

Yield: 2-3 servings as main dish

Tuesday, May 1, 2007

A Kosher Meal for Zaide

Last night my whole family went out for dinner for my brother's birthday and my mom's birthday, which happen to fall two days apart. We went to Di Pescara, a Lettuce Entertain You fish and seafood restaurant in Northbrook. My grandfather (I call him Zaide, which means grandpa in Yiddish) came to dinner with us, and while it is always a pleasure, it is also a challenge. He observes the laws of Kashrut very strictly, so when we eat a restaurant that hasn't been declared "kosher," he sticks to the fish and the vegetarian options.

The rest of my family, on the other hand, has a harder time resisting the temptation of treif (aka all the food we're not supposed to eat if we're keeping kosher). So while we drooled over the shellfish menu and eyed the waitress longingly as she explained the crab special, each of us dutifully ordered a more appropriate dish that wouldn't make Zaide uncomfortable.

As a substitute for the crab cakes I'd been craving, I ordered the salmon cakes instead and was wonderfully surprised. They had been pan-fried, so they weren't greasy, yet extremely flavorful and filling. They had a mix of herbs and spices, tender pieces of salmon and even some mashed potatoes for texture, which I really enjoyed. All in all, not the sacrifice I had anticipated.

That is until we realized my dad had snuck some shrimp into his Fish and Chips! The traitor!

We have a simple recipe for Salmon Patties on the site that's so easy to make at home! It's cheap, flavorful and a nice way to get your Omega 3s!

Salmon Patties


1 can (15 or 16 oz) salmon, cleaned (set aside 2 Tbs. of the juice)
1 egg
1/3 C. minced onion
1/2 C. flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1-1/2 C. Crisco


Drain salmon and set aside 2 Tbs. of the juice. Mix salmon, egg and onion until sticky. Stir in flour. Add baking powder to salmon juice, stir into salmon mixture. Form into small patties and fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes, in hot Crisco. Serve with tartar sauce.

Author's Note: My mother's grandfather used to say "Everybody makes their own kosher" and this is hard to truly comprehend unless you grow up keeping kosher. True, the laws of kashrut are specific and inflexible, but every family does what they can to observe the way they can. In my family, we keep kosher in the house (2 sets of dishes for milk and meat, etc.) but eat basically anything out of the house. I know... it doesn't make a whole lot of sense, but I promise it does to us. :)