Monday, March 31, 2008

Lime and Raspberry Bread

I made this Lime and Raspberry Bread on Monday night and finished it by Friday morning. It was that good. As one would expect, the flavor is very lime. The texture is like a good cake - light and very moist. Perfect.

While the recipe's author suggests dusting them with flour to prevent bleeding, I didn't bother. I had already squeezed 12+ key limes to get the 3/4 cup of fresh squeezed lime juice, my hands were HURTING and I just wanted to be done. Besides skipping that step made the batter really pretty; it had deep pink swirls like tie-dye. Why did I have key limes instead of regular limes? Well, the roast chicken left a surplus that I had an insatiable need to use.

If I weren't in the middle of making whole-wheat buttermilk biscuits right now, I might make a new batch using the other half of my bag of frozen raspberries and squeeze bottle lime juice.

Friday, March 28, 2008

Proscuitto and Arugula "Pizza"

My favorite pizza to order at Cavatappo is topped with proscuitto and arugula. In order to save some money, I thought I should try replicating it at home. Nevermind that I already had a fridge full of ham from my parent's Easter visit. Basically this week was all ham all the time. Yum, but, maybe, not the healthiest.

Either way my project was successful. I used the amazing whole wheat pita bread made "locally" by Daily Pita Bakeries, Inc., organic tomato sauce, and fresh mozzarella for the base. I love this bread; it has 4 ingredients, none of which are sugar, and 6 pitas cost 89 cents.

It took 12 minutes for everything to melt together nicely at 350. Based on my research, I then let the pizza cool for 5 minutes before sprinkling it generously with the baby arugula and arranging the somewhat defatted proscuitto on top. So easy and so good.

If you do this at home, I recommend this proscuitto. It has been my favorite one so far.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

Nina's Argentine Pizza Restaurant

This place was so amazing that recalling the leftovers is making my mouth water. I've always been curious about Nina's since meatballs are the special every day I walk by and I have wanted to visit Argentina for quite a while now. My only complaint would be the half hour wait was actually an hour and a half; I'm pretty certain the only reason we were ever seated is we stood in the cold outside the window staring for the last half hour. Oh well, I got to show my parents Cavatappo.

Once inside I was in love with the cozy, tiny atmosphere and the olive oil/eggplant dipping sauce served with fresh bread. As I went with my parents, I was able to try everything I wanted off the menu: their lasagna, Cheta pizza, and the meatballs (of course!).

The pizza was my favorite... It was deep dish style, somewhat reminiscent of focaccia, topped with spinach, creamy ricotta chese, a pungent sauce, and regular cheese. It melted in my mouth and I can't wait to try it again. The lasagna had layers of eggplant instead of noodles and goat cheese instead of ricotta; both of these changes were creative and successful in my opinion. I enjoyed it, but would rather try recreating it at home than order it again.

As for the meatballs, I just was not in love. They were garlic-y, which is fine, but didn't really hit the spot. My Dad was perfectly happy with them though and the leftovers were great. :)

Location: 1750 2nd Avenue (Between 91st and 92nd Streets)
Mon-Fri: 5:00p-11:00p, Sat-Sun 11:30a-11:00p

Roast Chicken

After reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, which is really good, I decided to make an effort to buy more of my food locally. I also decided I had to try roasting an entire chicken. I wasn't really ready to do it alone, so I was fortunate my parents were in town for Easter.

Conveniently, I found a little, baby chicken weighing a bit under two pounds at Greenmarket. Apparently calling it a little, baby chicken was gross, but, whatever, it recently was one. I also purchased tarragon and key limes. You have to put spices and citrus in its chest cavity for the best flavor and its chest cavity was too small for a real lime...

The process was simple; it is really only slightly more complicated than marinating and cooking chicken parts. I rinsed the chicken, rubbed it down with oil, salt, and pepper inside and outside, and then stuffed the garlic, tarragon, and punctured key limes inside. By thinking about it rationally, I was able to not get too squeamish to continue. I kept telling Mom it was like dissection in anatomy class.

The end results were good. I saved the leftover bits to make my own chicken stock. Fun! I'm excited to try again with different spices and a slightly larger chicken.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

Caracas Arepa Bar

As Mike was out of town, Jaime decided to linger in the city a big longer than usual. We wasted time at my apartment, wandered around Rugby, and then walked over to Caracas Arepa Bar in the rain. I had the impression it was around 3rd Avenue. Yeah, I don't know how I was so far off. Our meal was well worth the walk though.

Caracas is super tiny, even for NYC. Luckily, we managed to grab a table. They have signage stressing that they don't serve fast food, but it isn't really slow either. Deciding what to order took longer than the preparation.

I can't resist plantains, cheese, or beans, I chose the De Pabellon Arepa, the YoYos, and topped everything off with a Cocoda. The only thing I can compare to Arepas are Gyros; they are nothing alike other than both being delicious. The YoYos were supposedly deep fried plaintain rolls filled with cheese. It sounds like something I would love, but it didn't hit the spot. Perhaps because they were very breaded and I couldn't taste the plantains? I would have preferred another Arepa or, maybe, another Cocada milkshake.

The milkshake is what I can't stop talking about it. It was FRESH coconut - rich and just sweet enough. I wish they served pina coladas at Caracas, because they could rival the beach-side club's version in Salinas, Ecuador, which ruined all pre-made pina coladas for me. If you like coconut, you have to go here immediately and try the Cocada and some arepas. I know I'll be back for both, in spite of the need for Febreeze when I arrived home smelling like fried food.

Location: 93.5 East 7th Street (Between 1st Avenue and Avenue A - closer to 1st)
Hours: Mon-Sat 12:00p to 10:30p (sometimes only to go), Sun 12:00p - 9:30p
Cost: $ or $$ (depending on how much you need to get full)

Sunday, March 16, 2008

Jing Fong

Today I went over to Jeff's to drop off the few things I just couldn't bear to throw away from our refrigerator that somehow survived the multi-week slow death (i.e. organic butter, chili-garlic sauce, wheat germ, minced ginger, etc.).

As both of our brunch plans had fallen through, I finally got my personal Chinatown tour. Yes, he knows all about Chinatown in spite of not actually
being of Asian descent. We visited a bakery and supermarket, saw his jerky shop, stared a yummy looking ice cream with unique flavors, and discussed ordering so fresh it is killed in front of you fish from the stores.

Before all of that, we went for Dim Sum at Jing Fong.
Upon entering you are corralled downstairs waiting for your parties' number to be called (kind of like bingo). Then you go upstairs to a massive room with red, gold, and black decor, I swear it is the size of a whole block, filled with tables unfortunately covered with poly-silk Pepto Bismol pink tablecloths and napkins.

The dim sum is displayed on a buffet or brought around on carts, you pick what you want to try, and they mark your card for each selection. The card becomes your bill. The carts have "safe" choices i.e. identifiable foods like fried or steamed dumplings with shrimp, pork, or beef, fried tofu, rice noodles, sesame rolls, and a delicious almond flavored tofu dish that resembles jello.

They also have mystery foods that turn out to be things like tripe, intestinal lining whose texture I can't get over to enjoy, and chicken feet, which I tried with much hesitation. Yes, the girl who complains about her pork having unidentifiable chewy parts tried chicken feet. The preparation Jeff picked out was reminiscent of buffalo chicken wings in texture and presentation. They really weren't so bad, except the mental hurdle involved. Don't know that I will pick them out without encouragement, but I would try them again prepared this way.

Jing Fong also has great tea that goes with your meal. I enjoyed the experience and am looking forward to my next trip. Deb and I are going to try for a group on April 6th, so we can try more things for less money. If you want to go let me know. :)

Location: 20 Elizabeth Street, 2nd Floor (between Canal and Bayard Streets)
Hours: 9:30 am to 10:30 pm Daily with Dim Sum served between 10:00 and 3:30 (it really ends closer to 2:00 pm)
Cost: $$ (for brunch)

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

El Paso Taqueria

For the first time in a long time I went on a date. Conveniently we both live on the UES, so when he suggested his favorite Mexican restaurant, El Paso Taqueria, I was happy to try something new and relatively close. I also was very nervous as my mind gets ahead of me all the time.

We met around 7:30 and started with fresh guacamole and chips. The guacamole was really, really good - super fresh with all the appropriate ingredients chunked in. I almost didn't notice that complimentary chips and salsa were not offered. I ordered Carnitas Tacos. They were served traditionally with open corn tortillas, more yummy guacamole, onion, cilantro, and the oven roasted pork. They were good. However, I still haven't decided whether they were better at the Mexican restaurant I frequented in Astoria. I guess I'll have to go to both and compare. The prices are reasonable enough that this will be easy to do...

I also had Cemitas Al Pastor, which turned out to be an elaborate sandwich. The description of a sesame bun suckered me in. It wasn't anything special; the roasted marinated pork, while mixed with onions and pineapples as expected, also had those weird chunks of meat that you would rather not encounter in your meal.

I probably won't make a huge effort to go to El Paso Taqueria again, but if I do I will stick to the tacos and guac. As for the date, it went smoothly aided by unobtrusive, pleasant service happy to let us continue talking until 10:30 long after our meal was done.

Location: 1642 Lexington Avenue at 104th Street
Hours: Don't know? I went for dinner.
Cost: $$ or $ depending on what/how much you choose to eat

Tuesday, March 11, 2008

bill's Coconut Bread

This first time I made bill's Coconut Bread, I ate it all before I could remember to take a picture. See, I have a thing for coconut. Freshman year of college a boyfriend's mom was an international stewardess and introduced me to Ferrero Raffaello candies. They are creamy, perfect candies that apparently caused me to make the same face making out did. Ahem. Next it was Edy's Coconut Sorbet by the pint in a single sitting. Writing this makes me what to sneak into the kitchen for my fourth sliver of the day, but I will resist as bedtime is soon.

Our refrigerator has been broken for almost three weeks now. I'm constantly challenged to make things I can eat quickly without buying perishable items that will need storage since to get the fridge fixed, when and if the part comes in, the whole thing must be unplugged for 48 hours. Remembering this recipe made me slightly less bitter about having to use my last two eggs and some butter just in case the call comes this week.

The bread is just as good as I remembered, obviously. It is dense, thoroughly flecked with finely shredded coconut, and not overly sweet. When toasted with butter it literally melts in your mouth. If you like coconut, you must try making this as it is pretty simple given what it provides. FYI, caster sugar is equivalent to superfine sugar in the US.

P.S. I really need to get better at taking pictures of my food, eh?

Monday, March 10, 2008


I had two not-so-successful cooking ventures this weekend. Friday, I tried to poach an egg without paying enough attention. That foamy stuff on the pan? Apparently that is what happens to egg whites when you boil them. Oops. It was definitely cooked through - edible but not what I was going for at all.

Sunday I set about making mochi using
this recipe that Vika sent me. Making the mochi itself was easy. I just had to mix together the three or four ingredients, cover, and microwave for 10 minutes. The hard part was handling it. If it gets cold or personally cool enough to touch, you aren't going to have any luck shaping it. It is mercilessly sticky. It is hard to flatten and several times once I managed to get it flat, I added the red bean paste (totally got a can of it instead of making it from scratch!) and shaped it only to have it break.

After the strawberry and halfway through the chocolate I had decided that it is totally worth the cost to buy mochi. As usual, I persevered and made the plain kind next. Somehow it seemed easier. Maybe maying mochi takes practice? It took roughly three hours for the results below. But hey, I had homeade neopolitan mochi that was very popular at the Potluck Club's Pan-Asian night.

Monday, March 3, 2008

Calle Ocho

First - how amusing is this thread? I thought my salsa and cottage cheese phase was something to hide. It seems so commonplace compared to lots of these items!

Sunday I met René
e for brunch at Calle Ocho. It had been months since we caught up and her suggestion of eating at a restaurant participating in Time Out for Hunger helped narrow things down to Calle Ocho. Plus, I've wanted to go for the longest time. Fortunately we had a reservation, which ensured prompted seating, as those without were turned away.

Upon sitting down our waitress informed us that it was Sangria Sunday (!) meaning FREE, UNLIMITED sangria with your brunch. Good sangria. 6 types to choose from. You also receive a tasty little crate with various sweet muffins accompanied by pink butter (didn't have a flavor) and a tasty black bean puree of some sort.

I ordered the Vaca Frita ($13). It was a little greasy, but not enough to put me off so it may or may not be noticeable to other people. I cleaned up the ENTIRE plate. The skirt steak was tender, the latin fried rice (spicy seasoning, bacon, and black beans) was unique and flavorful, the over medium eggs perfectly cooked, and the tomato/avocado offset everything perfectly. Ren
ée had the cuban sandwich. It was good as far as they go... The amount of pickle was perfect for once - you could taste it but it wasn't like biting a giant chunk of kosher dill. The latino chips were thin, crisps of plantain.

The service was efficient without hovering and they didn't rush us through our meal and sangria. We lingered for almost 2 hours without any dirty looks or stolen half-finished plates. We could hear each other talk without trouble. The atmosphere was pleasant - very open, airy, and full of natural light. I'm curious about what it looks like at night, but I'll have to save up for that trip as prices are significantly more expensive then. All in all, I can't wait to go back!

Location: 446 Columbus Avenue between 81st and 82nd Streets
Hours: Mon-Thurs 6p-11p, Fri 6p-12a, Sat 5p-12am, Sun 11:30a-3p
Cost: $$ (for brunch), $$$ (other times)