Monday, March 31, 2008


This weekend Steve fell ill and I was inspired to make the childhood feel-good dish my Mom made me every time I was sick going back as far as I can remember.

It's a traditional Indian dish called "Kitcherri"--(phonetically spelled). It's one of those dishes that’s part of every Indian family’s tradition, there are variants according to every household and every Indian person will claim that their Mom's is the best. It's a dish you can develop into your own, some people use spice, some use none, some use different lentils, some use yogurt, etc. You get the picture--every Mom's kitcherri is different, so I'm presenting my Mom's recipe which is super simple and very good for any sickness, especially if you've had any type of nausea (flu, etc) because it is extremely gentle on your stomach and is nutritious and soothing. It's also a dish I crave all the time, a comfort food, sort of like an Indian Mac-and-Cheese or Mashed Potatoes or something. I’ve never had porridge, but I imagine it resembles porridge, perhaps not in taste, but in how the dish appears.

Kitcherri is also used to break fasting. The obvious tie between fasting and sickness is that the body has been clearing itself of build-up and toxins and has flushed its system clean. After that arduous work, you want to reward your body with something that is at once nutritious but also easy to digest, to introduce foods back into your digestive track. Kitcherri is basically over-boiled lentils & rice with a little salt and some butter. So use it for sickness, for breaking fast, and on a rainy day.


1 cup Split Red Lentils
*found in the Indian Specialty Isle, they are the only red/coral colored lentil, are usually "split" meaning the sphere of the lentil is split during the processing, this also helps to break down the lentil as you cook it and is better for easy digestion
3/4 cup White Basmati Rice
*white rice is easily over-boiled and easier to break down by the stomach, otherwise I am a brown rice proponent
2 to 4 tablespoons of Butter
*I know it's bad but I used "salted" Butter
1 tsp of Salt

  • Rinse the lentils & rice together with clean water 2 to 3 times to remove any surface debris (you will see what I mean)
  • Add lentils, rice, tsp of salt & 4 cups of cold water your pot. Stir to distribute evenly & turn heat on high & cover.
  • Bring to a boil, add 1 tbspoon of butter. Reduce hear to the bare minimum to keep boil going when covered.
  • Let boil for about 15 minutes. Check on the kitcherri--you want it to be soupy, so usually at this point you will add 1 additional cup of water & 1 to 3 more tablspoons of butter. Bring back to boil, reduce heat, cover.
  • Let cook for 5 more minutes on low on boil. Check with taste test, it should thoroughly cooked (no "al dente" here) and very easy to eat.
  • Remove from heat and let stand covered.


* My family always tops Kitcherri with Plain tart yogurt & salt. The yogurt is usually made by my mother, but since I’m not that ambitious yet, I’ve found a perfect substitute for that tart, plain yogurt with Erivan Yogurt—very highly recommended as an accompaniment to any Indian dish.
* If you have a PHLEGM-RELATED sickness, it is best you skip the yogurt, as diary will only cause you more suffering!
*If you are eating this for PURE PLEASURE this is what I do: Serve in bowl, Add generous amount of yogurt, 5 or so grinds of the pepper grinder, sprinkle of salt, a few pinches of ground cumin, and 1 pinch of cayenne for a little excitement. It is easily over-spiced so I really literally mean, “pinches”.
*Just note that kitcherri probably doesn't taste like anything American. I suppose it is pretty bland, but if you spice it up with a little with yogurt, cumin, etc it can be very tasty! I love it so much I can eat it plain; I think you should just try it and see what you think!

Thursday, March 20, 2008


Sooo...funny thing about Grill Pans...they work best when your kitchen is equipped with an Exhaust Fan!

This common sense relationship had slipped my mind because in the week that I've had my Grill Pan I've grilled up Veggies multiple times, Shrimp & Skirt Steak without noticing a problem.

However, last night I was inspired to make Burgers with my best friend from college. We actually used to make burgers together all the time when we lived together in Little Italy (in Cleveland) and we called them "Manburgers" and they were delicious. We just had a system down and in 20 minutes flat we had Medium Rare Burgers (seasoned with McCormick's Grill Seasoning), fixings, and toasted buns. So we came together again, a little older, a litle wiser, and a little more ambitious. We made a "grown-up" style burger that quote "had so much love in it" that it could be enjoyed with simple mixed greens & grilled veggies--no ketchup or bun needed.
We made the Blackened Manburger stuffed with Fresh Mozzarealla--my own take on the "Black and Blue" Burger--I am more a fan of the soft, buttery Mozz than the pungeont Blue--but as Em noted later they are very distinct choices--the Blue can stand up and compete with the heavy seasoning of the Blackened Burger, while I thought the Mozz was a nice, mild undertone to all the seasonings--so in the end, choose whatever cheese you like!

CAUTION PLEASE: do not make these Blackened Burgers if you do not have an exhaust fan or some other way to controll smoke indoors. It's the Dry Seasonings that create such a crazy reaction--Em and I literally coughed the entire time, opened all the windows, pulled down a fan, huddled near an open window with our wine and realized we were a modern equivalent of Lucy & Ethel. But hey, it was so worth it--if you like a burger with a lot of spice and a lot of flavor (and a lot of garlic) then this is one for you.


*This makes 3 sizeable burgers
*Use whatever cheese you fancy
*The Seasoning Mix is just a suggestion, feel free to experiment
*Served with Salad (see post: SIMPLE STAPLE SALAD) & Grilled Veggies
*IF YOU DON'T HAVE AN EXHAUST: simply mix these spices into the meat in order to create less smoke, just don't coat the meat with dried spices

1 1/3 lb Ground Chuck (this was recommended, 85%)
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1/4 cup Worcesterhire Sauce

6 little Mozz Balls, halved (4 halves per burger)

1 teas Dried Oregano
1 teas Dried Thyme
1/2 teas Cayenne Pepper
1/2 teas Black Pepper
1 tables Paprika
1/2 tables Sea Salt
1/2 tables Garlic Powder
1/2 tables Dried Coriander
1/2 tables Onion Powder

  • Mix together the Seasonings of the Blackened Mix in a bowl, set aside.
  • Halve the Mozz Balls, set aside.
  • Mix the meat with Minced Garlic, Salt, Pepper, & Worcesthire. Divide into 6 equal parts.
  • Make each 1/6 part into a patty. Not too thin, about the size of your palm.
  • Start assembling Manburger: place one patty in your palm, create a little indentation or curve towards the center & place 4 halves of mozz in the center. Then take another patty and place on top.
  • Make sure to securely seal all the sides of the 2 patty burgers. You don't want them to split open while cooking and this happened to us. You might want to use a fork and score the sides to help them mix properly. Just remember to handle gently!
  • When all 3 burgers are assembed carefully place each one indivually in the bowl of seasonings and cover. Use your hands to coat with spices.
  • Place burgers in fridge if not grilling right away.
  • Grill on Grill Pan (Medium Heat) for 6 minutes on each side for about Medium doneness.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008


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Monday, March 17, 2008


Did you know that you can grill inside!? You probably did, but I am a little slow about these things. I went to the Broadway Panhandler--an independent Kitchen Speciality store on 8th St between Broadway & Mercer (it's like William-Sonoma) and I purchased a Le Crueset Grill Pan and it was the such an amazing investment!

Of course, to celebrate this new kitchen arrival & a few others (I also got a Shun Chef's Knife!) I had a couple over for dinner and made a Southern Indian version of Surf & Turf. This is VERY easy, the hardest part would be investing in the Grill Pan, but trust me, especially if you live in the city, this is an investment you need--all of us aren't blessed with outdoor space, but that doesn't mean we have to let go of that low-fat, great taste of grilling veggies & meats.

This is the recipe for Skirt Steak & Shrimp, using the same marinade/rub for both meats. I served this with my Simple Salad (see post: SIMPLE STAPLE SALAD) as well as Cous Cous, made according to the box with a simple dressing included below as well as Grilled Zucchini & Squash, dressed simply with Peanut Oil, Lemon, Salt & Pepper.


1 lb. Shrimp, Peeled & Deveined (ask your Fishmonger to do this for you!)
1 lb. Skirt Steak

(make this 2x, once for Shrimp, once for Steak)

Rounded Tablespoon of Tomato Paste
About 1 Tablespoon of Peanut Oil, "eyeball it", add less before you add more
Juice from Half a Lemon
About 8 turns of a Pepper Grinder
A Couple Large Pinches of Salt
Rounded Tablespoon of Yellow Indian Curry Powder
A Couple Pinches of Cayenne Pepper (optional)
Large Garlic Clove, Minced

Sliced Zucchini
Sliced Squash
Dressed with a little Peanut Oil, A Squeeze of Lemon, A dash of Salt & Papper.

Cous Cous (make according to Packet Directions)
Juice from Half a Lemon
Teaspoon of EVOO
3 Pinches of Yellow Indian Curry Powder


*The first thing you can do is make the Marinade and dress your meats and place them in the fridge to sit and marinate. Obviously, letting them sit overnight would be fanastic, but I just prepared them a couple hours before we grilled everything and it was DELICIOUS. So WHISK together the marinade ingredients and toss on shrimp so that they're evenly coated. Set shrimp aside. With steak, sprinkle or "season" with salt & pepper first, then add the marinade, making sure to use your hands and spread it and knead it evenly into the meat on all sides. Set aside to rest.
*If you have been invited to a BBQ and want to bring something interesting for everyone to share, 1 lb of shrimp or steak marinated this way would be a great addition to any BBQ party menu and everyone will love you for it!

1. Dress the cooked Cous Cous with the Lemon Juice mixture after it has sat alone for about 15 minutes in a shallow serving dish. This way the excess moisture will be evaporated before you introduce the Dressing.

2. Grill the Dressed Zucchini & Squash slices on a Grill Pan heated with Medium Heat. You have to allow the Grill Pan to heat for about 15 minutes before introducing the veggies to make sure it is heated properly and thoroughly. Grill the veggies for a few minutes on each side, pressing down on them and searing them occasionally. Try the taste test and see if they are cooked to your liking. Place them on top of the Dressed Cous Cous and set aside until time to eat.

3. Start with the Shrimp. Place Shrimp (you might have to do batches) on Grill Pan. Let them sit on one side for about 3 minutes before flipping them over, you will see that one side has begun to turn to white. Watch the tails too--they should start to become colored with vibrant pink & white spots. The shrimp will also curl drastically as they cook. When they are done you can set them aside.

4. Put the Steak on the grill pan. Cook similarly to shrimp, but let sit at least about 5 mins on each side. Please do a cut test in the center when you think it is done to make sure it's cooked to your liking. Skirt Steak is usually very thin so it won't take too long. When it is cooked to your liking, let the Steak sit for about 5 minutes to allow the juices to cool and "redistribute" so they won't run away from the meat! And slice AGAINST the grain for serving, as in, your knife and the grains of the meat will meet perpindicularly as you slice.

Sunday, March 16, 2008


Stanton Social
99 Stanton St (btw Ludlow & Orchard)
Kitchen open til at least 2pm every night.

I have to admit I wasn't ready to have the experience I had at The Stanton Social. I had major restaurant prejudice I suppose. Stanton Social is located in the prime of the Lower East Side and pre-judging by the models and celebrity-sightings, I wasn't expecting much more than a lot of pomp and circumstance.

Of course, the reason I woke up on a Sunday morning to write this is obviously because I had to right the wrong of my negative karma-I am embarassed at my innate harshness, this place was fantastic! The Stanton Social is just that, a place to go on a Friday or Saturday night when dinner is your main focus of the Big Night Out. It's a bizarre situation because the place is just as popular for drinks and socializing as it is for the food--which they keep coming until 3 a.m. on big nights of the week and 2 a.m. Sunday--Wednesday.

The four of us were seated upstairs in the dining room/lounge and my only complaint is the draw-back of such close quarters--and specifically those close quarters to drunken NY revealers, as we were seated right at the fringe between dining and drinking. Just to throw that out there, because this is NOT a romantic night spot where you can listen to Nina Simone with your Honey and quiety ponder the lusciousness of your Pinot Noir selection--this is a high-energy, well-oiled machine that churns out impeccably timed service and, more importantly, impeccably polished food.

I'm a fan of the sharing portions--and that's all Stanton Social's menu consists of, naturally of course, as it is the Social way to eat. We were told to order anywhere from 6 to 8 pieces from this menu, which was a challenge because everything sounded amazing! I even said out loud at one point, that I'd never read a menu where I absolutely would be happy ordering absolutely anything (and everything). We went all out: Duck Confit Empanadas with Blood Orange Dipping Sauce, Chicken-and-Waffles, Butternut Squash Ravioli, Kobe Beef Burgers, Pommes Frites, Old School Meatballs, Nori Spiced Tuna Tartare Rolls, Maine Crabcake "Corn Dogs", Chipotle Grilled Shrimp, French Onion Soup Dumplings, BBQ Pulled Pork Pizzeta, and Warm Doughnuts for Dessert.

Everything was delicous. Definately order the French Onion Soup Dumplings--they were a table favorite--and not to ruin the surprise but we have the low-down on what WE thought is the secret to this dish. They are presented together as a French Onion Soup Bowl that's been typically crusted over in broiled cheese. But when you take the toothpicks out you realize that this crock is atually an escargot dish with 6 little cubbyholes where the dumplings are placed. The dumplings are actually FILLED with French Onion Soup. Huh? That's what we said. Of course I had an image of the Chefs injecting the dumplings with the liquid but once we tasted it--it was very oniony and thick and I knew that couldn't be the case. Apparently, the Chefs FREEZE the French Onion Soup in little cubes and take the dumpling and wrap them around each frozen counterpart. Then they are placed in cubbyholes of the dish, and cheese is topped all over the top, The dish is sent to the Broiler where the cheese melts & crusts as the cubes of soup defrost and warm up. Then toothpicks are inserted (with a little crouton on top) on each of the 6 dumplings and served. Delicious and BRAVO--something that tastes just as good as it is presented--that is a basic theme of Stanton Social. Chris Santos, the Partner-Chef at Stanton, does it well and is known for that. No rhyme or reason behind the menu except for the fact that each dish is one of Santos' personal picks--and that's all I could ask for!

Yes, it's pricey. Yes, it's hard to get reservations--but listen, if you have some friends coming to the city that have something in their minds about the big "city experience" definately take them here--that way, they're satisfied, and you can actually ENJOY doing something "touristy" for once. You'll love it. And expect to walk away from this meal with a severe food coma, drinks post-dinner were just not physically possible for us! But we did enjoy a great night's sleep.

Monday, March 10, 2008


One of my very favorite things is Yogurt. I am obsessed with Erivan Yogurt--full fat, plain yogurt. It is very tart and reminds me of the yogurt my Mom made growing up. Since we are Indian we utilize Yogurt as a cooling agent to our flavorful & spicy dishes--I was not used to eating Yogurt with fruit, or honey or anything sweet until I was much older. A lot of my friends were not used to eating Yogurt as a Savory Dish--but I encourage them to try, and usually they love it!
Since I made Spicy Meatballs this weekend (see post: A WORK IN PROGRESS), I wanted to make a Side Dish incoporating a Grain (in this case it was Jasmine Brown Rice because that is what I had laying around but Israeli Cous Cous works just as well!), incorporating veggies (so easy to lightly cook chopped Zucchini & Squash & blend into Rice or Cous Cous) and using a Yogurt Dressing with Mint & Honey. Here is the recipe, I promise it's very simple--especially if you have a Food Processor!


Jasmine Brown Rice (or Cous Cous) cooked according to directions on Packet

1 small Zucchini
1 small Squash

Full Fat, Plain Yogurt (I prefer Erivan)
2 grabs of Fresh Mint Leaves
1 grab of Fresh Parsley
Quarter Palmful of Salt
Honey (1 to 2 turns worth of the Food Processor)
A little bit of Black Pepper
Quarter Palmful of Cumin
A pinch (just a pinch) of Cayenne (optional)

1. Prepare your grain according to directions on packet.
2. Chop Zucchini & Squash into even pieces. Set pot of Salted Water to a Rolling Boil. Add chopped Veggies and Cook for 3 minutes. Drain Veggies, and cool down with Cold Water. Add to Cooked Rice in Serving Dish.
3. In Food Processor blend Yogurt (first use Half a Container, then do a taste test and see if you need more), Mint, Parsley, Salt, a couple grinds of Black Pepper, Cumin, Cayenne (optional) & 2 turns of the Food Processor with Honey & 1 turn drizzling EVOO.
4 Chop & Blend. Do a taste test & make adjustments accoriding to your preference. If you need more, just add and repeat.
5 Pour over Rice & Veggies, blend.
*Serve Chilled with a Spicy Main Dish.


Salads sort of intimdate me. I don't know what it is about them, but I almost always feel that they are more delicious served to me in a restaurant then when I try to make them at home! I don't know if you have that problem too, but it seems everytime I purchase Mixed Greens they never get used and just sit in the Fridge until, a few weeks later, I discover them with disgust and throw them out!

This viscious cycle had to stop. And stop it did as I purchased Mixed Greens this weekend and we ate ALL OF IT. And the reason we did is because I reazlied that Mixed Greens are delicious on their own, just dressed very simply, and that is trick to making salads a part of your everyday life at home. So use this simple outline for dressing your Greens!


Mixed Greens/Spinach/Arugla--whatever Green you prefer

Balsalmic Vinegar
Ground Pepper

*Lemon--or guess what? I realized that you can dress this salad with whatever Fruit Juice you prefer! Citrus always works well--so Lemon is a staple, very clean and light. But I got fancy and used an Orange--and it was delicous! I'd venture to say that Lime would work too & probably something exotic like Pineapple or Guava--just use whatever you have sitting around!

1. Place your Greens in a Salad Bowl. Drizzle lightly with EVOO. Splash lightly with Balsalmic Vinegar. Sprinkle (actually not too lightly) with Salt. Sprinkle with Pepper. Drizzle with Honey. Add a few squeezes or splashes of your fruit of the day--Lemon, Lime, Mango--whatever!

2. Mix and serve! If not serving right away, store in Fridge to chill.

**See--so simple!


Meatball recipes are sort of like Mac & Cheese recipes, as in, everyone has their own version--some of these recipes are passed down by generations and some of them are created by personal experimentation--there are regional varients, cultural varients etc, etc.

Since I come from an Indian family--I wanted to create my own Meatball tradition, with a twist. I set out to make Middle-Eastern/Indian-Spiced Lamb Meatballs that utilized a lot of fragrant exotic spices, garlic, parsley and onions. My Mother makes something similar--Beef Kebabs that she grills in the Summertime--so that memory was a big inspiration for this experiment. I chose to use Lamb, however, just because I think of it as a perfect meat that plays well with spices like cinammon, allspice and mint.

So here is my recipe "so far" as I made it twice this weekend. I think there is still room for improvement and will probably continue to experiment with this for awhile before I get it to be perfect-- next time I will be add Plain Breadcrumbs--as that heartiness and substantial texture of Italian Meaballs was lacking--this mixture will probably do well as a Burger Recipe for the Summertime--the addition of the Bread will make them more of a "meatball" I believe. But nonetheless this is a good starting point.


1 lb. Ground Lamb (or Beef!)

1 Egg, beaten
2 Spoonfuls of Full-Fat, Plain Yogurt (I love Erivan Brand)
A few splashes of Worchestire Sauce

2 grabs of Fresh Italian Flat-Leaf Parsley, washed & chopped
1 grab of Fresh Mint Leaves, washed & chopped

4 to 5 Garlic Cloves, minced
1/3 of a Sweet or Yellow Onion, minced

1/3 cup Pine Nuts, crushed/chopped, preferably lightly browned & toasted in Dry Saute Pan

Palmful of Ground Coriander
Palmful of Ground Cumin
Half Palmful of Allspice
Half Palmful of Sea Salt
Quarter to A Third Palmful of Cayenne Pepper (1/2 Handful if you're daring)
Quarter Palmful of Ground Cinammon
Quarter Palmful of Ground Ginger
Eigth Palmful of Ground Nutmeg
A few turns from a Pepper Grinder

*Alcohol on hand to deglaze pot after sauteeing is helpful, as using a non-stick pan is nice for the meatballs because the outside is able to sear well, about half a glass of wine is great for this.

**It may be helpful if you have someone to pour in the ingredients for you, otherwise, you'll have to wash your hands plenty of times as you are dealing with raw meat.

***I serve these meatballs with a Simple Staple Salad (see post: SIMPLE STAPLE SALAD) & a side of Rice (Cous Cous works too!) with Zucchini & Squash mixed and dressed with a Yogurt dressing (see post: YOGURT TO COOL YOU OFF)--the yogurt helps cool the mouth for this spicy dish--the side dish is best served cold with the hot mealballs.

1. Add Meat to a large bowl. Wash hands.

2. Add all spices: Cumin, Coriander, Allspice, Salt, Pepper, Cayenne, Ground Ginger, Cinammon, Nutmeg. Mix meat and spices evenly. Wash hands.

3. Add minced Garlic & Onions & Chopped Pine Nuts. Mix in evenly. Wash hands.

4. Add beaten Egg, Yogurt, splashes of Worchestire, & chopped Parsley & Mint. Mix evenly.

5. **At this point I would add Plain Breadcrumbs--I will append this recipe once I have tried it!

6. Make meat into Meatballs--I made them on the smaller side, where one could sit in the indent of my palm. They make about 20 to 25 meatballs.

7. After washing hands, put a saute pan over medium-low heat. Add a little EVOO--one turn of the pan. Once it is hot (make sure not to go too far and let the EVOO smoke), add about 6 meatballs at a time. Once they are placed in the pan let them sit for about 30 seconds and then roll them around--this initial placing and rolling is crucial as it is the point when the meatballs could fall apart, so be gentle, once they've been cooking for a minute or so and have been moved around, they will stay together. Cook each set of meatballs for about 6 minutes.

Thursday, March 6, 2008


My friend Sarah was lovely enough to have us over for dinner last night and we had a fabulous time! I asked her to share her recipe for Shrimp with Pasta Picante because, "honest to blog," it was delicious!

I first had this dish in Italy when I lived with a family in Tuscany for 2 months. My host mom often made this spicy pasta as an appetizer, but I added shrimp to create a main course. I always serve pasta with a simple mixed green salad coated in olive oil, balsamic vinegar, a squeeze of fresh lemon, and a generous amount of salt and pepper, just like my host mom Jean did. For this recipe, I found a similar dish from Rachael Ray’s Food Network site and altered it for my taste and use. Next time I might add a few splashes of dry white wine to the shrimp while cooking.


1 lb shrimp (peeled and deveined)
Juice of 1 lemon (although my lemon was super juicy so I just used half)
Handful flat leaf Italian parsley, chopped
3-5 tsp red pepper flakes
4-6 Cloves Garlic, crushed and chopped
Course salt
1 lb Spaghetti, cooked to al dente
½ can diced fire-roasted tomatoes
A few handfuls of fresh peccorino romano cheese, grated

1) Start your spaghetti in salted water.
2) In a large bowl, toss shrimp with a few drizzles (about 3 Tbs) EVOO, a small handful of chopped parsley, lemon, and red pepper flakes (add more or less red pepper to taste… I like it spicy so I usually put at least 4 tsp in with the shrimp)
3) Sautee EVOO with the garlic over medium heat, then add shrimp and cook until pink and fragrant.
4) When spaghetti is cooked to al dente, drain and add about a Tbs EVOO, red pepper flakes (to taste), the rest of the parsley, the diced tomatoes, a squeeze of lemon juice, and the peccorino. Toss to melt the cheese and coat the pasta.
5) Pour the shrimp over the pasta and serve in a large dish… Bon Appitito!

Wednesday, March 5, 2008


I had never considered a Fennel Salad. Actually, I had never considered a Fennel anything. In fact, I was sure I'd hate that vegetable, as I have heard it tastes like licorice and I really don't go out of my way to eat licorice.

Boy was I surprised! I was inspired by a friend who made us order the Fennel Salad at Frankie's Spuntino: (their Lower East Side location). Frankie's is known for deliciously simple combinations of high-quality ingredients. I had the Fennel Salad and was so delighted at how much I enjoyed it, I decided to try and re-create it for myself! Fennel, when treated right, has a very refreshing, light and mild taste.


1 Large Bulb of Fennel (only the white party, sliced VERY THIN)
1/2 small Red Onion, also sliced very thin
Half a Sweet Apple, also sliced thinly (optional--not in Frankie's salad)
Juice from Half a Lemon
Fresh Italian Parsley
Salt & Pepper
EVOO to drizzle
Pecorino Romano cheese, freshly grated, to cover on top

1. Slice the Fennel. If you've never used Fennel before, here's the deal: Fennel looks like a giant Green Onion. It's a Root Veggie. Every part of it is edible, apparently, but for this salad we want the clean white flesh from the bulb. When I cut a large Bulb I only ended up using about 1/2 of the meat, because some of it had browned and it didn't seem appetizing. I also cut the Fennel as thinly as I possibly could. Fennel can be a little overhwelming so you don't want a thick piece of it with every bite. Place Sliced Fennel evenly around a large plate.

2. Thinly slice Red Onion. Place Red Onion on top of Fennel, evenly on plate. If you are a fan of onion, use this much, but if you are planning to make out with someone soon, you might want to hold back a little. There should be about 1 slice of Red Onion per every 1.5 or 2 pieces of Sliced Fennel.

3. Also arrange sliced Thinly Sliced Apple on plate (optional).

4. Sprinkle the plate with Salt, Pepper, & Drizzle with Olive Oil.

5. Grate Fresh Pecorino Romano over the top--generous amount.

6. Top with Generous Sprinkling of Fresh Italian Parsley.

*Share with 2 to 4 and enjoy off the same plate!


This side dish is the perfect compliment to anything from a Veggie Main Course to a Salad to a Meat Dish. Since it includes White Wine & Mushrooms it can compliment a gamut of flavors from delicate Fish to Rich Red Meat.

This is something I just made up but it is SO simple AND tastes like it took a lot of planning! Something to impress your friends with for sure.


Package of Pre-Cut Portabello Mushroom Caps (or 2 to 3 Caps)
2 Big Springs of Fresh Rosemary
Half a Red Onion, thinly sliced
Dry White Wine
Salt & Pepper to season

You can also add Green Beans, (one Handful), optional

1. In a Medium Saucepan turn pan twice with EVOO. Turn to Medium-Low Heat.

2. Add sliced Portabellos--I like to keep them in large pieces. Make sure Heat is not too high. Season with Salt & Pepper. Turn them so that they are cooking on both sides. You might have to add more EVOO. Let this go on for about 30 seconds, stirring and flipping so that all mushrooms are covered in EVOO.

3. Add Thinly Sliced Red Onion. Add the Green Beans if you opt to, with ends cut off, I also like to keep these whole.

4. As they continue to saute, add the Fresh Chopped Rosemary (I use Kitchen Shears). Saute for 2 more minutes.

5. Add 3 glugs of White Wine or about a Quarter of the Bottle. Turn to Higher Heat to reach a boil/simmer.

6. Once it is boiling, reduce to simmer and let simmer for about 5 minutes. Check the Green Beans and mushrooms and see if they are tender enough. If they are, remove from heat and cover. Let sit until you are ready to serve.

*If they are not hot enough to eat, simply turn the Heat back on and simmer for 30 seconds, and they should be good to go!


I made a meal last night that I had to share. I’m proud to say that I did not use any recipe but sort of made this up on my own. My goal was to A) make fresh Pesto B) use veggies C) use Cous Cous

The results were pretty delicious, to my standards at least! And easy! So easy! And of course, healthy and it produced enough for 4 hearty portions so now my “lover” and I both have lunch

I also discovered, after eating the dish—that I had created a different kind of Pesto that I originally set out to make. I had intended to make a traditional Basil Pesto—but I added a lot of lemon juice and lemon zest and totally forgot to add garlic! So what it turned out to be was this very fresh, lemony, basil pesto that actually complimented the delicate nature of the Zucchini, Squash & Cous Cous very well! Try it sometime:


*Please note that I always buy double the amount needed for one recipe so that I can make the same recipe again later in the week! Hence, Half a Medium Zucchini, etc.

**You need a Food Processor—but let this inspire you to get one if you don’t have one! They’re amazing, really!

***Obviously a Zester/Grater is ideal for this recipe! They are great tools—you should invest, you’d be surprised how many times “zest, parmesan & coconut” can appear in recipes—I got mine as a gift and couldn’t be happier with it!

Half a Box or 1 & 1/3 cup Israeli Cous Cous

Half of a Medium-Large Zucchini
Half of a Medium-Large Squash

For the PESTO:

2 really hearty handfuls of Basil Leaves
2/3 cup Fresh Grated Parmesan
2/3 cup Pine Nuts
A little less than 2/3 cup Olive Oil
Juice from Half a Lemon, squeezed thoroughly
Zest of a Quarter of Lemon
A little bit of pepper

1. Prepare the Cous Cous according to directions on packet: you might be asked to to “toast” or “sauté” the grains in the pot with some EVOO before you add hot water. I think this gives the grain a nuttier flavor. The measurements are pretty exact with Cous Cous so stick to what the packet says. I used Whole Foods Brand and made only half the box (1 1/3 cup)—I followed the directions and when it was done a little was sticking to the bottom of the pan, which definitely means the water has been absorbed but it still seemed very “wet”. I was alarmed for a moment but I laid the Cous Cous out in my shallow serving dish and let it stand for at least 30 minutes, and at the end of that time, the excess water had evaporated and it began to resemble the Cous Cous I had seen in restaurants—phew.

2. In a separate Pot, bring salted water to boil. Chop your Zucchini Half & Squash Half into equal sized pieces—I cut them into thin circles and then cut each circle into Quarters, this worked pretty well. When the water has reached a rolling boil, add the cut veggies and boil for 2 to 3 minutes. Drain, rinse with Cold Water to stop the cooking and set aside or on top of the Cous Cous.

3. PESTO: Make sure to WASH THE BASIL LEAVES THOROUGHLY! There is SO much sand in Basil, so wash several times. I remove the leaves from the stalks first and then wash to make it easier. Also DRY THE BASIL LEAVES THOROUGHLY! I used a lot of paper towels—if you have a Salad Spinner, use that, it’d be perfect.

4. In your Food Processor place a Quarter of your leaves in (this should be loosely packed and around the half way mark on your processor). Then add 1/3 cup Olive Oil, 1/3 cup Pine Nuts, Juice from a Quarter of a Lemon & Zest from the surface area from that Quarter of the Lemon. Also add 1/3 cup Fresh Grated Parmesan. Then place Basil Leaves loosely packed until the Processor is full (that should probably be another Quarter of your Basil Leaves).

5. Close the lid and chop & grind! This only takes a few seconds to look like Pesto! Then, with Pesto still inside, keep adding the rest of the ingredients: Half of your Basil Leaves (or a hearty handful), 1/3 Parmesan, 1/3 Pine Nuts, Juice from a Quarter of a Lemon, a little less than 1/3 cup Olive Oil, Salt and a little bit of pepper. *ZEST is the only ingredient you will add just once in the beginning. Chop and Grind again to mix thoroughly and you’ve got yourself enough pesto for you veggies and Cous Cous!

6. In the Serving Dish combine Cous Cous, Veggies & Pesto together, I didn’t have to add any extra oil or water to combine—the Cous Cous was pretty sticky so the Pesto just clung to it.

7. Top with more grated Parmesan cheese (of course). Delicous! Enjoy Hot or Cold.

Monday, March 3, 2008


What a pleasant Sunday night surprise! When I was invited to dinner at Beast in Prospect Heights, I immediately pictured a dark typical bar setting serving typical burgers, fries & beer.While I wasn't too far off on the decor (it was dark, there are cheesy dragons & artwork on the wall) I didn't care as soon as I saw the wine/beer list and menu. Whoever put together the menu & drinks paid attention to detail, only a little bit trendy, but very substantive with a wide range of tempting choices.
638 Bergen St ( @ Vanderbuilt Ave)
Open for Lunch: Mon-Fri, 11:30 - 4
Open for Brunch: Sat & Sun, 11 - 3
Open for Dinner: Everyday, 6 - 10:30/11:30
*Bar Open for Drinks after Kitchen Closes,+Brooklyn,+NY+11238,+USA&sa=X&oi=map&ct=image

Beast is known for brunches, according to the bartender who informed me there is always a line out the door waiting for tables. After our phenomenal dinner, I absolutely understand why there would be lines out the door for this food!

There were 5 of us and the menu comprises tapas-syle portions, albeit, much larger than the typical portions you might find at a more "authentic" tapas restaurant. The idea really wasn't Spain (although there were homages to Spanish cuisine--fried manchego cheese, lots of seafood, & apparently the tempranillo is a very popular wine by the glass as it was sold out) it is more the tasting and sharing of the dishes, which isn't just a luxury, but a necessity as not one of us was able to decide on just one dish anyways! Everything looked amazing.

We started with the 5 cheeses with Sullivan St Bakery Bread, Apples & Walnuts. From the blue to the creamy mild cheese--they were phenomenal. Everyone at the table was impressed with the cheeses.

Then we had the Stuffed Mushrooms with Italian Sausage--they weren't the large Portabello caps you might expect, but a much smaller, bite-size mushroom. We each had one and they were pleasant and decadent.

After that we tried the Chilled Seared Tuna--which was DELICOUS and dusted with cumin and garnished with a cucumber salsa. The Burger was next--a 10 oz. patty (one of the only "non-tapas" portioned dishes)--it was mouth-watering. The bun was substantial, the cheddar was sharp, the meat was perfectly cooked and it came with a house-made Ketchup that had interesting spices that took the burger to a whole other level. We also had 2 orders of the Short Ribs--which was essentially a Stew with potatoes and roasted veggies and the meat was falling apart, it was so tender. Then there were Brussel Sprouts with Bacon & Butter, Blackened Shrimp Skewers with Israeli Cous Cous, a Potato-Cake-Tart with Parmesan Cheese, Pesto & Bread Crumbs.

And my favorite--the Scallops with Butternut Squash, Crispy Onions & a Balsalmic Vinegar Reduction--it was INCREDIBLE. It was almost a dessert it was sweet and so decadent--this dish changed my perception of Scallops forever. Phoenomenal.

For Dessert we had Chocolate Mouse with Berries, and a Ginger Creme Brulee--to be honest I only had the Moussse but I couldn't even stop eating--it was light, fluffy but at the same time naughty and dark. Mmmmm.

I can't wait to visit for brunch!

Saturday, March 1, 2008


I think almost every food culture has a dish that is meant to utilize what is left in your pantry--a dish that gives "spring cleaning" a whole other meaning. These dishes use scraps, extra vegetables, stocks, wines, seasonings and usually encompasses a broad spectrum of flavors belonging to that culture. I think, for Florentines, this dish is called "Ribollita" which means "recooked". The dish is a thick stew that uses Italian Seasonings, Wine, Parmesan Rind, Veggies, Pancetta and more making a perfect Late Winter/Early Spring comfort food.

The 2 things that intrigued me as a new cook was the use of Bread & the use of Kale. It makes a lot of sense--you know you're going to eat a stew or soup with bread--why not just cut out the middle man? Turns out this is a great way to make use of stale bread laying around or bread in your freezer works too. Kale, a very nutritious leafy green, is an ingredient I had never used to cook, much less did I eat. Reading about it's health benefits as part of the World's Healthiest Foods (please visit for more information) I wanted to incorporate it into my diet. Ribollita satisfied this curiosity!

Now, as I've gotten a litte more comfortable with cooking in general, I search a wide variety of recipes and try to discern what the most important ingredients are that make a dish and try and create my own. I searched and searched lots of recipes for Ribollita--some were too complicated, some didn't appeal to me--but, inevitably, I found myself drawn to a Rachael Ray recipe--it is simple, straigtforward & makes use of Kale--and had great ideas for garnishes--one of my favorite things. I altered the recipe to my preferences, adding different seasonings (and some heat with the crushed red peppers), and substituting White Wine and Chicken Broth instead of Beef Broth & Red Wine etc., for the original "Ribollita con Verdure" please see


*This is a One-Pot Dish also, these measurements are for a my Pot that is more on the smaller side, so if you are unsure how much room you're working with, just be a little conservative the first time around and adjust at the end and for the next time you make this recipe!

1/4 lb Pancetta (ask your butcher to cut it very thick--it's about 2, 1/3 inch thick slices I believe)
2 Medium Carrots, chopped thinly
1 Medium Zucchini
A Large Onion (3/4 in the Stew, 1/4 reserved for garnishing)
1 Can Diced Tomatoes (with or without herbs--I like herbs)
1 Can Cannellini Beans, drained
1 to 3 cups Chicken Stock (depending on how much room you're working with)
4 to 6 large Garlic Cloves
Fresh Rosemary (about 5 small sprigs)
Palmful of Dried Italian Seasoning
Palmful of Crushed Red Pepper (optional if you don't like heat)
Parmesan Rind (yes, the Rind)
Dry Pinot Grigio
Kale, about 2 to 4 big leaves worth (there's about 3 of that in an average bunch at the grocery store)
3 to 6 slices of Stale Bread or Toasted Frozen Bread (depending on the size of your Pot)

Minced Onion
Fresh Italian Parsley
Extra EVOO for pouring on top
Fresh Grated Parmesan Reggiano or Pecorino Romano (but I believe Pecorino is more if you like details?)

1. VEGGIE PREP: Chop Carrots thinly. Chop Zucchini into small pieces (small so you want it to meld in with the other ingredients and not "stick out" that much). Chop 3/4 of the Onion. Roughly chop Garlic Cloves. Drain Cannellini Beans. Set aside, far from Pancetta.

2. PANCETTA PREP: If the Pancetta is cut thick--cut the rest into small cubes--the idea here is that you get a little square piece of pancetta with every bite of the Ribollita for a salty surprise. Set away from veggies!

3. In your Pot, add 1 turn of EVOO over Medium Heat. Add cubes of Pancetta. Cook the Pancetta for about 4 of 5 minutes, until lots of fat has rendered and the meat is turning crispy.

4. Add Carrots, 3/4 of the chopped Onion, Zucchini & Garlic to Pancetta alrady cooking. Coat the veggies with the fat and pancetta. Let cook for a minute and begin to "sweat"--as in release the veggie's moisture. Season with Salt, Pepper, add Palmful of Dried Italian Seasoning, Crushed Red Pepper & Fresh Rosemary.***My trick with Rosemary is to use Kitchen Shears and cut the leaves over the cooking pot--be careful not to include any stems! Continue to cook for another 7 mintes or so after you've added all the seasonings. You can also add more EVOO if the veggies are sticking--and make sure not to burn, keep on Medium to Medium-Low depending on your stove.

5. Add Can of Diced Tomatoes, cook for another minute to incorporate.

6. Add the wine! Half a bottle of Pinot Grigio. Mmmm.

7. Add Parmesan Rind!

8. Turn up heat, use your wooden spoon to scrape anything sticking to the bottom of the pan and the sides. Boil like this for about 4 to 5 minutes.

9. Add 1 cup of Chicken Stock.

10. Turn Heat down to Medium-Low, make sure to keep the boiling going. Add the Cannellini Beans & start to add the pieces of Bread (toast it first if frozen!). I used Frozen Rosemary Bread from Whole Foods. Add at least 3 pieces to start. Let it continue to boil while you begin to chop the Kale leaves into tiny pieces or strips.

8. Begin to add sliced Kale leaves to the dish, the idea here is that the Kale hardly needs to be "cooked"--so the leaves will just wilt in the low boiling stew and be fresher and therefore retain more nutrients too!

9. At this point assess the Ribollita. You'll probably add at least 1 more cup of Chicken Stock. Adjust for Seasonings--but remember the more this dish sits, the more flavors will become bolder. And you'll probably add 1 to 3 more pieces of bread, depending on your pot. The idea is that your wooden spoon should be able to stand straight in the center--this is thick. I made mine a little thinner.

10. Once I've added everything and adjusted seasonings I usually let it boil all together on low heat for about 5 more minutes, for good measure, to let everything flow together and the bread to soak in the juices.

11. THIS IS HOT! So be careful before eating, let sit for a little bit while you prepare the table and garnishings.

*Service the Ribollita in shallow servings with Minced Onion, Fresh Parsley & EVOO--DELICIOUS.

*Definately the kind of dish you can keep in the fridge for 3 or 4 days--serves about 6.


While I was in London recently, I had the privledge to stay with some new friends who are now very near and dear to my heart. O & Sophie live together and Sophie is an incredible cook. I'm sure it helps that she's from the South of France, but still, she is dedicated to good food, good ingredients and fun times.

It is appropriate then that the best meal we had in London was at O & Sophie's place, when Sophie cooked for the four of us. She made this incredible Ratatouille--a dish made from vegetables, basically stir-fried, French style. She also made an Olive-Cheese Cake to accompany the dish and we were in heaven.

Ratatouille inspired me for a few reasons. First, I have been trying to incorporate more fresh vegetables into my diet. When I was younger, I had an aversion to vegetables, a stubborness that I now realize was completely foolish--as veggies are amazing, versatile, full of vitamins, and relatively inexpensive to purchase, compared to meat, and delicious when cooked with garlic, spices and in some dishes--some heat. Ratatouille was a great dish because it is a main dish and feels light, fresh and healthy and is incredibly easy to make. I also appreciated the origin of the dish, it is common belief that this dish was a "peasant Farmer's dish" from the South of France--peasant in the fact that there is no meat, and meat was rather expensive & whatever meat the Farmers would have, they would sell. So the Farmers in the region would, therefore, cook up the veggies they had in abundance for themselves and their families--eggplant, zucchini, squash, tomatoes, and use the herbs and wine from the region to flavor them.

I read through a bunch of recipes and found ingredients that most had in common and came up with my own version. Unfortunately, I could not make the Olive Cheese Cake (because our Oven is not working at the moment) so I accompanied the Ratatouille with some Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta, which worked very well. I made this dish for 3 of my girlfriends for my first-ever dinner party and it was quick, easy and a success--you should try it!


3/4 lb Eggplant
1 Medium Zucchini
1 Red Pepper
1 Yellow Pepper
Half an Onion
6 cloves of garlic
1 can Diced Tomatoes (try using fresh when Tomatoes are in season)
White Wine
Herbs de Provence
Fennel Seeds

1 lb. Whole Wheat Fusilli Pasta

1. PREP: Chop Eggplant (with skin), Zucchini, Peppers, & Onion to similar size. Take chopped Eggplant and sprinkle with salt as it sits--apparently this helps to take away the bitter taste that can sometime accompany this vegetable. Set other vegetables aside. Roughly chop cloves of Garlic.

2. In a Saute Pan cover with EVOO and turn on Medium Heat. When heated, add Eggplant, Onions and Garlic & a small palmful of Fennel Seeds (or a little less if you aren't too down with Fennel, but it does make the dish). Season with Salt & a little Pepper. Saute for a couple minutes, stirring to cook veggies evenly.

3. Then add Zucchini & Peppers. Season with Salt & a little Pepper. Also Season veggies with a small palmful of Herbs de Provence. Continue to saute & stir for about 5 to 7 more minutes, until the veggies are soft enough to eat, try a taste test.

4. Add can of Diced Tomatoes. Let simmer for a couple minutes to "incorporate" into the rest of the dish.

5. Then, my favorite, add a 1/4 of a bottle of Dry White Wine--if you want to be fancy, try getting something from France! Turn the heat a little higher and let simmer for about 3 more minutes.

6. Take away from heat and let sit. Let your guests (or yourself) take some pasta and cover with the Ratatouille.

*You just made a delicious, healthy, vitamin-packed (Vegan even!) meal in seconds--that can feed about 4 comfortably. Don't forget to finish that open bottle of White Wine.

*Ratatouille is not as versatile as, say, soups when it comes to keeping in the Fridge, but you can definately eat it for the next 2 days before it starts to loose it's integrity.

*And for those meat-lovers, the Ratatouille & Pasta would be accompanied very well by fresh sausage--I would recommend a Chicken Sausage--I recently saw one with Parmesan and Fennel or whatever kind of sausage you like!