August 30, 2009

Foodbuzz 24, 24, 24: Recession Recipes

**NOTE: If you've stumbled upon this blog by way of, welcome! I hope you'll add me to your regular sites and visit often!!!! Feel free to comment, browse through old postings, make yourself at home!!**

Last night's Recession Recipes party was a blast! I proposed to that I do a bunch of recipes that were wallet-friendly without tasting like it. I was even more delighted when put nearly half of my needed ingredients on sale---serendipitous savings!!! I made homemade salsa, black bean salsa, white bean dip, fajitas, pork medallions, and cappuccino panna cottas (my first try)! The real star of the show, however, was the asparagus gruyere tart. I found the recipe a few months ago in a Martha Stewart email and filed it away for future use.

As the tart was almost finished, I stepped outside with the BF to make sure his parking spot was legit (it was). While I was gone, my fabulous friends made sure the tart came out of the oven at exactly the right time. They were also lovely enough to help me eat it all. I should have made two of these! The recession-recipe part was even moreso, as had asparagus on sale this week--woo hoo! The tart looks quite impressive, but is sooo easy to put together. You bake the puff pastry a bit, add the cheese & asparagus, a splashing of olive oil, salt and pepper, cook another 20 min, and ta-daaaaah!

I made sure to bring some pickled garlic from Sahadi's (post coming later this week), which is an addictive snack I discovered through meeting Yoga Jen! It's not at all garlicky--it's more pickly. The garlic is crunchy and salty--it WON'T give you garlic breath, and you can eat all you want and not wake up the next day reeking of garlic. I think we probably all knocked about 20 points off our cholesterol just by popping a few of these babies. ;)

I also made fajitas, using London broil, an exceptionally affordable cut of meat that is also quite tasty. I coated it in a dry rub of chili powder, black pepper, ground mustard, paprika, and a smattering of red pepper flakes. I cooked the meat earlier in the day (about 6 minutes on each side under the broiler) so I wouldn't have to spend too much time in the kitchen when my friends were here. Once it was time for fajitas, I sautéed the onions and peppers (which cost about 2 bucks), warmed up the meat, warmed up the tortillas, and served the fixins! This went pretty quickly, too.

Earlier this week, I used about 2 dollars' worth of fresh watermelon and canteloupe to infuse a cheap bottle of tequila (about 20 bucks). For the price of 3-4 drinks at a New York City bar, I had enough for about 5 times that! My friend Carlota was our bartender for the evening, and she kept the fresh and tart drinks flowing--we were quite happy! The watermelon gave it a fresh sweetness, and the infusing part couldn't have been easier! I definitely will be trying this again. To make the drinks even more fun, Carlota brought CRAZY STRAWS!!! Everyone had one, and it made the evening even more fun. We reminisced about how our parents used them to get us to drink our milk when we were younger (a feat even easier if said milk was chocolate!), and now, here we were, sipping grown-up drinks and still having fun.

I had a test run for the white bean dip earlier this week, but found the raw garlic was too sharp, so earlier in the day on Saturday, I tried my hand at roasting garlic for the first time (yeah, I took a lot of chances that day!) It came out beautifully (if a bit messily), and it really made all the difference in this dip. The recipe calls for 2 tablespoons of the roasted garlic, but I used nearly the whole head of it! It's quite healthy for you, too, and as I had olive oil, lemon juice, and salt already on hand, the only out of pocket cost for me was 2 dollars for the cans of cannellini beans! CHEAP! TASTY! PERFECTION! That was all gone by night's end, too.

I made the black bean dip the day before, as that needs an overnight chill to really get kicking. 2 cans of black beans (99 cents each), some canned corn (1.29), a .75 cent red onion, and a healthy helping of freshly-squeezed lime juice are the main components of this tasty dish, which was even more scrumptious this morning as leftovers for breakfast.

The only time I really spent in the kitchen while the guests were here was as I made the pork medallions. I got enough pork for a CROWD for 8.70 (another amazing FreshDirect deal this week). Let me repeat that: fresh, succulent pork medallions for UNDER TEN DOLLARS! I only used about half, so I served six people for about 5 bucks. Awesome. I was catching up with my friend Yoga Jen while I sautéed the meat, and I was so caught up in our conversation that I forgot to add the mushrooms! Regardless, the shallots, red wine sauce, and pork all worked together quite nicely. And I have sooo many leftovers. The unused pork is going in the freezer for future meals.

I hope my friends had as much fun as I did last night. I had friends from different areas of my life gelling with others, and we seemed to be mixing quite well. We were laughing, eating, taking pictures of us laughing and eating (thought not everyone approved their photos for blog use, a right which I fully respect!), and before I knew it, the night was over and everyone left stuffed. That meant my work was done. ;) People didn't even have room for my panna cottas, but I gave one a try and HA! I did it!! I used a recipe I saw earlier this week on Brian Boitano's new cooking show. I can't believe I pulled these off on my very first try! The coffee flavor was strong but not overpowering, and they were sweet but not too sweet. I have a few leftover panna cottas in the fridge, and they definitely won't last long!

And I can't forget what the BF brought: a perfect summery end to the night: a summer fruit tart! For the price of two desserts at your average restaurant (15 dollars), he brought enough tart for everyone! The fruit was fresh and flavorful, and the custard wasn't too sweet--this tart was a winner! Holly P was also a photographer/videographer for the evening: she captured a clip of me using my awesome Shun Santoku knife to cut a slice of tart before she left! (my don't discriminate quote was referring to how she shouldn't have to choose one dessert over another!)

Thanks again to everyone for coming out on that hot, humid August night, and helping me eat the fruits of my (money-saving) labor! Having company is always fun, and it was great to have a night in without breaking the bank. Just because we're all pinching pennies these days doesn't mean we have to live on bland, boring food! You can eat good, healthy, delicious food, and our Recession Recipes night proved it! I'm quite proud of myself for trying new things and succeeding, and quite blessed to have great friends who came out and encouraged me to go for it! Thanks also to for selecting my proposal!!

Asparagus-Gruyere tart

White bean dip

Black bean salsa (I didn't use avocado or red wine vinegar)

Cappuccino Panna Cotta

Pork Medallions (instead of vinegar and cherries, I used red wine..and forgot the mushrooms!)

August 28, 2009


Yoga Jen brought me to Sahadi's for my first trip a year or so ago (maybe longer??). We were there to snag some of the pickled garlic her friend had served for Jen's birthday bash. I must have eaten 10 cloves that night (and no, I did not wake up reeking of garlic the next day--that's the beauty of pickled garlic!) and I wanted more. Jen took me to the source--just a short walk from the R train stop at Court Street.

Sahadi's is not that big a place, but it's jam-packed with an almost-overwhelming amount of options: spices from A-Z (well, almost), more than a dozen types of coffee, every sort of olive oil imaginable, endless varieties of jams, jellies, custards, cheeses, you name it!

It's a foodie's dream, and the prices are mostly reasonable. You can also find the most interesting of items: from specialty tomatoes imported from Italy to Sirop de Jallab, which the translation in English describes as... Jallab syrup. Thank goodness for Google. As I'm not much of a rosewater fan, I passed on this. Babaghanoush in a can? Yeah, they have that.

Like olives and nuts? Sahadi's is your place. They'll call out your number and a helpful worker will fill up the containers to your liking. This is where a gal can get her fix for pickled garlic, spicy chickpeas, sugar-coated chickpeas, macadamia nuts, brazil nuts, candy, picholine olives, kalamata olives, stuffed olives, herbed can see there's quite a vast assortment of goodies. I went late on Friday, just before closing, and was delighted to see NO line. The man took my order immediately, and I even had some time to wander the aisles without wading through a sea of people (ahh, August in NYC). If you're in the neighborhood, I highly recommend you stroll through this spot!

Sahadi's Imports
187 Atlantic Avenue
New York, NY 11201
(718) 624-4550

August 27, 2009

The other white meat

I've been test-driving some recipes for the Recession Recipes party this week, and one I think I've settled on is Pork Medallions. However, the recipe I MEANT to make differed greatly from the end result, but in the most delicious way.

I found a promising-sounding recipe in Ellie Krieger's 'The Food you Crave' cookbook that called for balsamic vinegar, dried cherries, shallots, etc. I sliced some medallions off my roast from and started sautéing in a mere two TEASPOONS of olive oil (yes, teaspoons!), only to realize I was missing the chicken broth called for halfway through the recipe. That's the second time this has happened to me in a matter of months (and yes, I've learned my lesson--I stocked up on it as of today). The whole POINT of this recipe was to use a nonstick pan and then deglaze it with the broth, getting all those yummy bits of brown deliciousness off the bottom of the dish.

As I stirred around about twice the recommended amount of shallots for this dish, I decided to improvise a bit and reached for a can of beef broth (yeah, yeah, I know) and a cheap but tasty bottle of red I set aside for this week's party. I splashed about a half a cup of broth, and just over a quarter-cup of wine in there along with a little butter and a bunch of baby bella mushrooms. Since I was using red wine, I opted to skip the balsamic. I sautéed that mixture even longer, scraping up the brown bits on the pan's surface, turning the mushrooms a dark, glazed brown, reducing the sauce by about half. I returned the medallions to the pan for last-minute warming, then piled the whole thing on my plate. IT. WAS. DELICIOUS.

So delicious, in fact, that it wasn't until I was doing the dishes that I realized I'd completely forgotten the cherries! I also loved this variation so much I made it the next night for lunch! Total cost for 3 servings? Oh, about 6 bucks! Woo hoo!

Do you see what I see?

While browning my Canadian bacon this morning, I did a double take when I looked down into the pan. Tell me if you see what I saw...or if it was just all in my head (hint: I think all that's missing is a curly tail on each one).

August 25, 2009

La Traviata

One of the BF's favorite places (and now mine!) is a spot in Brooklyn Heights, just one subway stop from the Financial District in Manhattan: La Traviata. We started going there by default, when a we showed up for dinner at a spot 2 doors down (Armando's, RIP), only to find they'd closed! BF was quite disappointed, but we were still hungry, so we walked into La Traviata. We were pleasantly surprised--their entrées come with salad or pasta, and we always choose the salad. Their house dressing is a spot-on vinaigrette over mixed greens, red onions, and cucumbers. Simple and scrumptious.

Another must-have is their fried zucchini. Until we visited this place, I always thought fried zucchini had to be heavy and clunky, but the folks at La Traviata slice the veggies lengthwise into thin, delicious pieces. The breading isn't overpowering, and you just get a clean taste of zucchini (made even better with a spritz of lemon and some red sauce. I LOVE RED SAUCE!)

Red sauuuuuuce!
I've tried a few dishes over the year and a half we've visited, but I always go back to the Shrimp Fra Diavolo. Last night, however, it was WICKED spicy. The only thing I'd suggest they do is get consistent with the spicing! While I enjoy spicy food, I don't like it so hot that I'm almost choking! It took me a lot longer to eat this dish last night, as I had to pause for pieces of bread or cold water to cool my burning throat. It's not usually this spicy, but maybe someone complained about it not being spicy enough and the chef took retributive action?? Still good, though.

The BF tried a new dish: Chicken Lucille. I apologize for the fuzzy photo--I'm still learning the settings on the fantastic new camera the BF got me for my bday! The dish came in a cream sauce that had a strong but pleasant portobello mushroom flavor. The chicken was tender, and the sauce was very good. I'm still a little skeeved out by portobellos, so I preferred a taste of the infused sauce to the actual slices of shrooms. Baby steps. :)

La Traviata
139 Montague Street
New York, NY 11201
(718) 858-5592

August 24, 2009

Red Lobstah

While I may be a foodie who enjoys some of the finer things in life, I am definitely not a food snob! I can appreciate a good carpaccio AND a Meximelt, and won't even consider apologizing. For those who would gasp in horror that I'd stoop to a chain, I say "Hie thee to another food blog, Judgy McJudgerson!" The rest of you may stay. Case in point: Red Lobster. You may be surprised to find out that I'd never dined in one until about a year or two ago, when my friend Kelli took me there. I was immediately sucked in by their promise of endless shrimp! Woo hoo! Granted, there is only so much shrimp you can eat, but still....the PROMISE of endlessness was enough to lure me there. Every once in a while we take a road trip out to Brooklyn's Kings Plaza and brave the ridiculous wait/lines/madness. This week, however, Kelli came home early and we hit the spot at around 5pm on a Monday! NO LINE! No wait! No madness! I also happened to try Alaskan King Crab legs for the very first time!

Where have these been all my life??!? The meat was very reminiscent to me of lobster meat, in the juiciest, most succulent way. And why is something as simple as drawn butter just so darn good?? We each got the 'Create Your Own Feast' deal: mine had the King Crab with grilled jumbo shrimp and shrimp scampi. Fortunately I'd worked right through lunch that day, so my belly was ready for action!

Of course, we had the usual must-have at RL: the cheddar biscuits. Some friends of mine work at the Wendy Williams show--she featured a guest who revealed what he said was 'the' recipe to these. As I suspected Bisquick was involved, and I might add a dash or two of Tabasco myself. I will have to make sure when I bake them I have lots of I don't eat them all by myself.

We also enjoyed some refreshing summer cocktails: some sort of Pina Colada on the left and a Hurricane-like Mai Tai concoction on the right. All I know is mine (the Mai Tai) tasted like punch and went down all too easily. Fortunately I had a lot of time and plenty o' food to soak up all that liquid!

Also, if anyone knows the secret to RL's bleu cheese dressing, please send it my way. I'm guessing it's something akin to a sprinkle of some addictive ingredient that makes you crave it fortnightly..or some such. ;)

Our server, who was super pleasant and nice, actually asked if we had room for dessert. I'm pretty sure I didn't even have room for the last 4 shrimp I ate. He didn't look too surprised when we simply shook our heads, entering the first delicious phases of our food coma. I'm now atoning for my splurge for the next few days, but it was totally worth it! WORTH IT, I tells ya!

Red Lobster
455 Gateway Drive
NY 11207
(718) 964-2057


My birthday was last week, and I just never got around to making the cake I wanted to make, or picking up a Magnolia cupcake, time/heat got in the way, blah blah. As silly as it might seem to you, in my world it's just not a complete birthday without a celebratory cake or cupcake. I mentioned that today to Kelli (we're neighbors and I haven't seen her in two whole weeks!) and we made a plan to stop by our local spot on the way home from dinner. It's just as good as Magnolia, dare I say even better? It's also cheaper (which makes it even better than ever!)

Right on the corner of 91st and 3rd Ave in Bay Ridge, The Little Cupcake Bakeshop offers an impressive array of desserts. They also make a damn good cup of coffee. My go-to is the lemon cupcake. These bright yellow babies are cheery and flavorful and not too sweet. I'm not normally a 'lemon' gal, but these are consistently my favorite.

Kelli wanted a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream, so I grabbed her one of those. I also picked up a chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake, which happens to be the favorite of the BF (I'm planning to see him tomorrow!)

We got ours to-go tonight, but LCBS has a cute seating area inside, as well as outdoor seats. It's a great place to linger over some dessert and coffee. I can also vouch for their Golden Vanilla Cake (almost as good as my mom's), but mostly I just stick to that one lemon cupcake that makes my belly happy. :) They may be slightly smaller than Magnolia's cupcakes, but in a world of out-of-control portion sizes, I'm totally okay with that. I think it's definitely worth 2 dollars for one of these little sugary gems. You can satisfy your sweet tooth without getting sick to your stomach--and one is not so terrible a splurge that you can't atone for it later. ;)Once the weather gets a little cooler, you might want to try what I call the "BF Special:" a chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake paired with their ridiculously rich Nutella cappuccino. Molto bene!

I don't know about the rest of the world, but cupcakes have been pretty big in NYC for a while. Let me know your favorite places! I think I've liked just about every place I've tried, except for the Cupcake Cafe. Their goodies might look beautiful, but they taste just plain awful. Their icing tastes like unsweetened butter and nothing else. EW. I'll be sticking with LCBS for now, where they taste even better than they look!

**In a lovely stroke of super-sweet synchronicity, Feisty Foodie has a cupcake post, too--her 'cupcake porn' is much better than mine, I might add!

Little Cupcake Bakeshop
9102 3rd Avenue
Brooklyn, NY
(718) 680-4465

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