March 24, 2011

Tongue-Tingling Tomatillos

Tomatillos rank pretty high in my list o' favorite produce. My mom always made a killer sauce. I don't come close to hers, but this easy recipe is something you'll want to add to your everyday repertoire. It also freezes well!

Imagine my delight when Fresh Direct finally started carrying them again! Tomatillos are featured on their "specialty produce' icon, but they have been frustratingly absent for the longest time. When I saw them return, elation ensued! I ordered a pound or two and got to cooking.

This recipe is DEAD simple, but so layered in fantastic flavors. You need tomatillos, garlic, onions, and chicken broth. Yeah, that's basically IT!

You can put the tomatillos under the broiler if you want, but today I opted to sauté them in a nonstick pan, after a few minutes of sweating the onions and garlic.

You'll know the tomatillos are ready when they start to turn from bright green to a duller, yellowish shade.

Now it's time to plop them in the blender--make sure to take out that top to let the steam release, or you'll have a hot and messy explosion on your hands. I usually blend them about half a batch at a time.

Once everything is blended, I put it back in the saucepan and heat it up, stirring it to distribute all the ingredients again. Have some immediately and put the rest in the freezer!

Tangy-Tart Tomatillo Sauce

1-1.5 lbs tomatillos (shuck and rinse them)
1 cup chicken stock
1/2 white onion, diced
2-3 garlic cloves, minced
Water to thin, if needed
Sauté onions and garlic in butter or olive oil just until clear. Add chicken stock and tomatillos, turn tomatillos intermittently. Add more stock or water if pan starts to dry up. When tomatillos are yellow and soft, add to blender, combine all ingredients. Return blended mixture to stove for a few minutes, until bubbling. Enjoy! Add to tacos, nachos, enchiladas, soup, anything you want to have an extra kick!

March 22, 2011

Eating My (delicious) Words

My first trip to Crumbs had me writing them off--the cupcake I tried was dry, too much going on, and in general left me quite disappointed. When Lil Sis was visiting, ABF asked if she'd rather have cupcakes or French pastry (my mind: French Pastry! Millefeuille!) She opted for cupcakes, so we walked to the FiDi outpost of Crumbs. I sighed inwardly but tromped on gamely because, after all, Lil Sis was visiting!

Maybe I was in a better frame of mind, but the smell of this place snagged me instantly. This was the same place where ABF had picked up the chocolate chip cookie dough cupcake we'd halfheartedly shared ages ago, and yet this time smelled....different. Deliciously different.

Oh yeah..calorie counts on my cupcakes? INSTANT (temporary)

Lil Sis snagged the Grasshopper cupcake (530 calories!? eeep!), which had devil's food cake with peppermint flavoring and mint icing--I was set on trying some of hers! She kindly obliged to her (bossy) big sister, and I was so glad! This was superb--rich chocolate, just enough icing, and bits of mini chips on top. Great texture and flavors. Dangit.. I like Crumbs.

ABF ordered the red velvet, your basic deep rich chocolate cake with a serious dose of food coloring and some creamy, fluffy icing.

I felt overwhelmed at first by the dizzyingly colorful cluster o'cupcakes, but eventually settled on the Good Guy, a vanilla cupcake with vanilla buttercream filling and copious amounts of sprinkles. SPRINKLES!

This was soft, light cake with a shot of buttercream in the middle that had an almost whipped consistency. I was shocked at how much I liked this cupcake! The sprinkles went everywhere on the ground and it looked like a clown had exploded, but it was well worth the mess (and I'm sure I made some squirrels very happy)!

The birthday cakes aren't cheap, but they're cute! I bet they're tasty, too.....has anyone out there tried them? They also have mini ones!

The portion sizes are easily double a normal cupcake (hence the larger calorie count), but these are easily shared and will leave you both happy.

A nice hot chocolate and/or coffee accompanies the cupcakes nicely!

The inside of the store is tiny, so we were forced out into the cold and ate our cupcakes outside, shivering but happy. Thank you, ABF, for treating Lil Sis & me to such a sweet treat, and for so gallantly leading us around the Financial District for a top-notch tour!

And thank you Crumbs, for teaching me a delicious lesson---always give a cupcake a second chance to make a first impression!

Crumbs Bake Shop
87 Beaver St
New York, NY
(212) 480-7500

March 18, 2011

Mini Shepherd's Pies

The mini Shepherd's pies from my St. Patty's day post are pretty simple to prepare, and they're an excellent way to use up any leftover veggies you might have in the fridge--mushrooms, diced peppers, you name it! This dish was one of the few ways my mother could get me to eat vegetables as a kid. It's not exactly the same as her dish, but definitely inspired by hers!

Forgive me, Mother, but I used pre-made potatoes from FreshDirect--this was all about keeping it easy-peasy!

Bake at 400 for 20 minutes, or until potatoes start to brown on the peaks. Let cool 5 minutes (be careful! Insides are HOT!) and enjoy! This is pretty spectacular the next day, too.

1/3 large onion (I used white, yellow could work,too)
2 garlic cloves, minced or pressed
(any veggies you might have, I used 2 leftover carrots)
1 Tbs butter
1 lb ground beef
2 Tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 1/2 cups frozen baby peas (I thawed mine)
Mashed potatoes (pre-made or homemade), 3 cups
6 ramekins

Add butter to pan and start sauteing carrots over medium-low heat, cook 5 minutes or until tender (mine were leftover, already sautéed, so no pic).

Add the garlic and onions (and more butter if needed) until soft and clear, but not browned. Add the ground beef and cook through, adding 2-3 Tablespoons of the Worcestershire at the end. Mix it all together thoroughly and set aside. Spoon 1/4 cup (or a few spoonfuls) of the ground beef mixture into individual ramekins. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons (or just grab a handful) of baby peas, thawed OR still frozen, over the beef. Top it all off with a thick layer of potatoes, using a fork to make little 'peaks' in the potatoes--this will give you the crunchy bits later.

March 17, 2011

St. Patrick's Day Prep!

My friend Carlota & I have a video on easy, make-ahead recipes for St. Patrick's day (or any day) that will give you plenty of time to enjoy the party WITH YOUR GUESTS! You can find the recipes below (though the Mini Shepherd's Pie recipe is HERE), and you can visit Carlota's blog here, and follow us on Twitter (@Kittenmagix for Carlota, @LKPNYC for me!) If you like the video, hit the 'like' button on the YouTube page--thanks, and Happy St. Patty's Day!!

Chocolate-Guinness Cupcakes with Bailey's Buttercream from Smitten Kitchen
Guinness, Irish Cheddar and Cashel Blue cheese from Fresh Direct & Trader Joe's
Shepherd's Pie recipe adapted by LKP here (all ingredients from Fresh Direct!)

March 13, 2011


Another trip with Lil Sis took us out to Long island, courtesy of ABF. He drove us all over the island, from Robert Moses Nature Preserve to the Horse Rescue/Vineyard (post soon!) on the North Fork, and back again to his town. We were pretty hungry and it was pretty late, and one shining option still open and welcoming was Jani.

Jani is a long, brightly-lit restaurant in Rockville Centre. Their wall is an elaborate, mirrored display of teapots of all kinds of shapes and sizes--I always find something new and fun with every visit (that dragon teapot is pretty sweet!)

I'm not that 'into' dragons, but even *I* thought that teapot was pretty awesome.

Jani sets you up immediately with a pot of hot tea and some crispy-crunchy things. I'm not a huge fan of fried things, but the mustard sauce that comes with it is too too good.

I was browsing the drink menu and saw an old favorite, The Shirley Temple, for TWO DOLLARS! Heck YEAH I ordered myself one! It was every bit as scrumptious as I remember: ginger ale, grenadine, and the flavor of my childhood memories.

As you can see, there is no 'Capital S' Shame in my 'Capital G' Game. I will order a Shirley Temple at any age, thankyouverymuch, and enjoy it thoroughly.

It was a cold night, so I decided to start with a ($3!) bowl of Tom Yum soup, one of my favorite Thai dishes. This was just what I needed--hot, salty, satisfying broth with tons of mushrooms, baby corn, chicken, and herbs.

I can't even tell you how good this is--and for $3 a bowl!?!?

Lil Sis ordered the Sesame Chicken, which just popped with color. I'm not a big fan of the fried Chinese dishes, but she did share a bite, and it was good, just not up my alley.

The broccoli was JUST like I like but still with a lot of crunch.

And speaking of broccoli, there was a TON of it in my chicken and broccoli dish. Just as crispy-crunchy as that on Lil Sis's dish. I ate half of this and took the rest home for lunch a few days later (and it was still fantastic)!

ABF ordered the General Tso's chicken, which had a sweet flavor to it (again, not my thing, but he seemed to really enjoy it) and came in another thoughtfully-prepared presentation.

As our meal wrapped up, they brought us the bill and a plate full of juicy canned pineapple. It was a delicious finish to a fantastic meal.

This is not your run-of-the mill Chinese food pitstop. Jani puts careful thought into its expansive menu and various dishes, and you can taste the difference. They also offer so much food at such crazy-low prices that I wondered aloud how they manage to stay in business. My guess? Steady, loyal customers like us! If you stop by, let me know what you think, too!

Jani Chinese & Japanese Restaurant
294 Sunrise Highway
Rockville Centre, NY 11570-4906
(516) 766-2554

March 12, 2011

Wine + Horses ZOMG!

I don't know why it took me so long to find this place, but there is an honest-to-goodness vineyard/horse rescue on Long Island. That sound? My head almost exploding from the awesomeness!

Baiting Hollow Farms Vineyard is a bit off the beaten path. ABF & I saw a sign of it last summer and I made a mental note to find more info....then forgot. :)

BHFV was our last stop that rainy, freezing March night, so it was mostly empty. We had the place almost to ourselves as I wandered around and checked out the abundant seating areas, cafe, mini-boutique and more. Then we sallied up to the bar for a quick tasting.

An ardent fan of rosé wine, I started my 3-wine tasting with BHFV Merlot Rosé. It was sweet but not cloyingly so.

Lil Sis isn't a huge wine fan, so she tried their dessert wine, the Cheval Blue. I didn't taste it, but it smelled fruity, especially like strawberry. She can be tough to read sometimes, but I think she liked it. :)

BHFV isn't just a vineyard--it's also a horse rescue! Proceeds from 2 of their blends go to support this effort, so I felt like I kind of HAD to try the Mirage, named after one of their horses (see the darker red, below). This was a nice drinkable blend, and I took a bottle home with me. It's around 24 dollars, which is more than I normally spend, but hello, HORSES!

There's a lot going on in the space at BHFV; they have food, a few seating areas, and even a corner with merchandise (including some sassy slogans on T-shirts). It was close to closing so I don't really have a feel yet for this place--the staff seems pretty young so they are a little shy at first, but once we got to talking they were welcoming. I get it, it's almost closing time, etc...fortunately I'm the kind of person who will just go on up and introduce herself anyway.

One of the girls who just started working there was explaining that they have horses and even a miniature horse (which I ADORE), and they get a lot of visitors in the warmer weather. You can learn about the horse rescue efforts, work to end needless horse slaughter and more, and what you can do to help here on their website.

Did I mention PONY RIDES? (NOT for adults, I'm sure sigh/foot stomp) We'll definitely have to give this place another visit (or several). Horses + Wine. I mean really.

Baiting Hollow Farms Vineyard & Horse Rescue
2114 Sound Avenue
Baiting Hollow, New York 11933
(631) 369-0100

March 08, 2011

Coffee Break in Midtown

My friend Patty joined me in midtown for a quick coffee break while we waited for LiL Sis to finish getting a haircut. Right next door to the salon was Shelly's La Tradizonale on 57th. It was a bit brisk outside, but there was still outdoor seating. We grabbed a pastry and some hot coffee and decided to people watch while we waited.

I grabbed the cinnamon-dusted donut on looks alone. Doesn't it look scrumptious? Yeah, well, it wasn't. Bland, chewy, dry. Pass on this.

Patty got the chocolate babka. THIS was noteably good. We kept picking at it as we chatted--I think it had raisins or currants in it but I kept eating it anyway. An excellent companion to the dark, finely-crafted latte.

While the donut was disappointing, the service was excellent. Even though we were the only table sitting outside, our friendly, cheerful server never forgot on us and checked in on us frequently and brought us another round of lovely lattes.

If you're looking for a non-Starbucks option for coffee in midtown, especially with spacious outdoor people-watching abilities, pop over to Shelley Tradizionale! They have a wide menu of food options, but this is all I know of it so far--enough to go back for another visit!

Shelley's La Tradizonale
41 West 57th Street
New York, NY
(212) 245-2422

March 05, 2011

Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar

One chilly Saturday in Brooklyn Heights, I met up with my glam and gorgeous friend CG. She and her boyfriend excuse me, fiancé (congratulations again, you two!!!) were preparing to move from their BH neighborhood, and I wanted a chance to chat with her before they got all swept up in the chaos and torture that is moving. We walked around a bit and wound up at this cozy corner spot near the Clark Street subway stop.

It was a bit early for dinner, too late for lunch, and I had eaten neither, so I was ready to nosh. Wine and cheese STAT please!

CG ordered the appetizer of homemade meatballs, a perfect pick for that bone-chillingly brisk day. She shared one with me and it tasted delicious, but they were a little chewier on the outside then I normally like. The sauce was finger-looking-good, though.

I started with a glass of Montepulciano and found it to be a perfect balance of fruit and tannins and also YUM.

We ordered the cheese plate and I was shocked (in a wonderful way) at how much cheese they gave us! We selected 6-month aged Manchego, Gorgonzola, and perfectly salty Pecorino. I would have finished every bite if I could; as it was, I still nibbled far too much. Each cheese was wonderful--the tangy, salty bite of Manchego, the creamy, smooth Gorgonzola, and the equally nommable Pecorino all went down wayyyy too easily. We ordered an extra helping of the fig paste because hello? have you tried this? #Mouthheaveninaglass!

The service was great, Cassie tells me that it's a family-owned business. I think the man who picked up my napkin (which had fallen to the floor yet again) might even have been the owner. Everyone took very good care of us and they were so accomodating, even rushing off to get us another jar of that craveable fig paste (fig paste + gorgonzola = nirvana).

CG doesn't live in this neighborhood anymore, but I hope she'll make the trip back with me--this place is worth repeat visits!!

Brooklyn Heights Wine Bar
50 Henry Street
NY 11201
(718) 855-5595

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