Category Archives: Restaurants in NYC

starting the new year right

the last few weeks of december were a whirlwind of cooking and eating, and i enjoyed every minute! one of my sisters and i started baking the thursday before christmas, and the result was double batches of gingerbread and cardamom rolled cookies, kourabiedes, and walnut wimpy balls. we also made 6 marzipan stollens, which have become a family favorite thanks to the ny times, and a batch of homemade eggnog. the time spent with her and my parents as we baked, decorated, and ate was the best vacation i could ask for. most of the best times with my family happen in the kitchen, and this holiday was no different.

but, you can’t consume sugar 24/7 without craving something savory. so my husband made a trip to little italy on christmas eve and came back with the most delicious fresh lasagna sheets from piemonte ravioli and fresh ricotta from da alleva. and in the meantime i roasted some sliced eggplant and zucchini, sauteed some mixed mushrooms, and cooked up a batch of our favorite mario batali marinara.  we then assembled 3 lasagnas, because when you have double batches of all your desserts, you can’t skimp on the main course!

after a few more days of eating and hanging out, my husband and i headed to naples, fl to visit his parents. in contrast to the cold spells we experienced on previous visits, we had nothing but sun and warmth this time around. my days on the beach were only interrupted by the search for delicious seafood, which we found at kelly’s fish house, riverwalk cafe, and truluck’s. we also managed to track down some delicious local oranges and grapefruits, which are now in peak season.

but by the time we got home on new year’s eve, both my husband and i felt like our bodies were ready for a change of pace. luckily i had made a surprise reservation for new year’s day at pure food and wine here in new york city. pure food and wine is a raw and vegan restaurant, so it was definitely a departure from our usual dining experiences. some of the dishes require that you ignore previous conceptions of standard items such as tacos or polenta, but i found everything i tasted to be incredibly refreshing and full of flavor. when you are cooking with only raw fruits, vegetables, and nuts it is important that the products are of very high quality. the difference came through on every dish, and unfortunately the prices as well.

then, on wednesday, we took our new year’s health kick to a the next level with a 3-day juice cleanse from blueprint cleanse. with the goal of relieving any residual holiday stress on our digestive organs, we consumed juiced greens, apples, beets, carrots, ginger, lemon, pineapple, mint, and cashews for 3 days. having done this before, and struggled through the last day, i was happy that this time felt much easier. my body felt light and healthy starting on the second day and i was sad to come to the end yesterday. that said, it is my goal this year to eat more vegetables and to eat lighter in general, so hopefully the healthy feeling will continue.

happy new year to all my readers! i look forward to blogging with you in 2012.

rustic kale salad

everyone knows that dark leafy greens–kale, spinach, chard, and the like–pack a potent nutritional punch. but for many people, these valuable veggies conjure up images of boring salads or dreary piles of watery steamed leaves. there are, however, endless ways to prepare tasty dishes that deliver all the nutrition of leafy greens with great texture and flavor, too.

following my spinach and cheddar frittata recipe for last week’s fn dish, i decided to focus on another leaf this weekend: kale. i’ve always enjoyed kale sautéed with garlic or other aromatics, but a visit to mario batali’s esca a few years ago taught me that it’s also delicious raw. with this as inspiration, i’ve developed a kale salad that has become a staple of my repertoire. it’s delicious as a side dish for everything from roast chicken to pasta, and it’s also a healthy and filling snack or light meal on its own. a poached or fried egg on top turns leftover salad into a delicious dinner. the only tricks are to be patient with the onions so they get nice and soft, and to clean the kale thoroughly and remove the central stem, which is unappealingly fibrous.

rustic kale salad

serves 6 as a side dish

1 large bunch kale, stemmed and sliced into thin ribbons

3 medium red onions, sliced into thin half-moons (yellow onions are also fine)

1/2 cup pine nuts

1/2 cup thickly grated parmesan cheese

1/8 cup plus 2 tbsp olive oil

juice of 1/2 lemon

1. heat 2 tbsp olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. once glistening, add the sliced onions and cook, stirring very infrequently, until soft and thoroughly caramelized, approximately 30-40 minutes.

2. meanwhile, place the sliced kale, pine nuts, and grated cheese in a large bowl.

3. when the onions are ready, allow them to cool for a few minutes in the pan. then pour them, along with any pan juices, over the salad. add the 1/8 cup olive oil and lemon juice, toss thoroughly, and serve. the salad keeps well in the fridge for a few days and can be eaten room temperature or chilled.

shiso garlic fried rice

shiso is an amazing herb, also known as perilla leaf, that my husband and i discovered through our love of korean food. it is a beautiful, heart-shaped leaf with an excellent flavor that is unfortunately difficult to describe! shiso is related to mint, so it has a similar taste, but with a hint of spiciness and tanginess that lends itself so well to all types of asian cooking. at do hwa, one of our favorite korean restaurants, shiso leaf is often provided as a wrapper for korean barbeque. it can also be found in a delicious zucchini, perilla leaf, and chili pepper scallion pancake. at another of our favorite restaurants, en japanese brasserie, shiso leaf is featured in a decadent garlic shiso fried rice. we became immediate fans after ordering this dish the first time.

last summer we were inspired to try growing some shiso of our own. it started out small, and we figured it wasn’t meant the rocky vermont soil, but then in mid-august it started flourishing. the abundant stems with large, deep green leaves inspired us to try our hand at imitating en’s dish, even though we didn’t have a recipe. this summer shiso was a must-have in our garden. and while we still haven’t mastered the full flavor and rich umami that en japanese brasserie achieves, the dish we came up with is delicious and satistfying. we also took the liberty of adding 2 vegetable sides to make a full meal out of the fried rice. add a nice carafe of sake and you will be on your way to a very zen evening of healthy and satisfying food.

sauteed bok choy

sauteed shitake mushrooms

shiso garlic fried rice

serves 4

2 cups brown rice

1 4″ piece ginger, peeled and minced

1 head garlic, minced

3 cups shiso leaves (about 2 cups roughly chopped)

3/4 cup canola oil

1/2 cup sesame oil

1/2 cup soy sauce

4 large heads of bok choy, roughly chopped

1 lb shitake mushrooms, thickly sliced

1. put rice and 3 1/2 cups water in a medium pot, bring to a boil, stir once, then cover and reduce to a simmer. cook until rice is done and all the water is gone, about 30-40 minutes. set aside.

2. heat 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the sliced shitakes and cook, stirring infrequently, until the mushrooms are soft and lightly browned, about 20 minutes. add 1/8 cup sesame oil and 1/8 cup soy sauce to deglaze the pan and let simmer for 5 minutes. then remove from the heat and set aside.

3. heat another 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium heat. add the chopped bok choy and cook, stirring occasionally, until the leaves are wilted and the stems are cooked through, about 15 minutes. add 1/8 cup sesame oil and 1/8 cup soy sauce to deglaze the pan and let simmer for 5 minutes. then remove from the heat and set aside.

4. heat the remaining 1/4 cup canola oil in a large skillet over medium-low heat. add the garlic and the ginger and stir frequently until soft, about 8 minutes. add the shiso leaf and cook, stirring, for another 5 minutes. add the rice and stir until heated through.

5. serve the bok choy and mushrooms on top of the shiso garlic fried rice, seasoning with the remaining sesame oil and soy sauce to taste.

note: if you want to get creative, here are some optional additions. for those of you that enjoy a little more heat, garnish with a dash of spicy sesame oil! if you are craving protein, add some cubed tofu (or the cooked protein of your choice) to the bok choy at the same time as you deglaze the pan. and maybe sprinkle some toasted sesame seeds on top of the finished dish for a little extra texture and flavor. have fun and enjoy!

deglaze: to use liquid to remove browned bits of food from the bottom of a pan, which adds flavor to and thickens pan sauces.

ode to soy

last week my sister emailed me two DailyCandy videos on how to make soy milk and tofu à la EN Japanese Brasserie. in case you haven’t had the fortune to eat there, it’s a delicious restaurant and a refreshing change from the standard tuna, salmon, and yellowtail sushi platters you can get at a standard Japanese restaurant. among all their interesting and tempting offerings, it is noteworthy that their tofu is one item i cannot resist ordering every time i eat there. EN Japanese’s tofu comes hot or cold, and both options are silky and more flavorful than any tofu you will have tasted before. it can make a believer out of the most carnivorous person. so, when these recipes came to our attention, my sister and i couldn’t resist giving them a try. with a little bit of recipe tinkering and a lot of pots, sticky utensils, and cheesecloth, we managed to produce a delicious soy milk. we also ended up with a lot of okara, which is the non-soluble, fibrous part of the soy bean that remains after making soy milk. so i decided to take a snout-to-tail  approach with my soy beans.

Okara

okara has all the health benefits of soy beans, and it can be used to add fiber and protein to foods such as vegetarian burgers, breads, muffins, stir fries, and stews. last night, i decided to give veggie burgers a go, with a little help from Ellen’s Kitchen. i topped off the burgers with sautéed bok choy and a spread of Nayonaise and toasted sesame oil whisked together. the flavor was great, even though the burgers were a bit crumbly, and it was a satisfying, healthy meal. if i find myself with some okara again, i would strongly consider adding minced garlic and grated ginger to the burger mixture and i would add some wasabi powder to the Nayonaise for a spicier spread. however, given all the work that went into the soy milk in the first place, i think it will be a while before i venture down that path again. in the meantime, i will just have to visit EN Japanese more often!

okara burgers with bok choy and sesame oil spread

serves 4

1 cup grated carrot and parsnip

1-2 tablespoons soy sauce

1-2 tablespoons mirin

1 cup okara

panko to coat burgers (optional)

4 whole-grain burger buns

1. begin sautéing the carrot and parsnip in a small amount of olive oil. after 2 minutes, add soy sauce and mirin. stir together and continue to cook until the vegetables are tender, about 8-10 minutes.

2. add okara, mix well, and sauté 5 minutes more. season with fresh ground pepper. if mixture isn’t cohesive enough, add a tablespoon of your flour of choice and cook until thickened.

3. take the mixture off the heat and let cool. form into 4 patties. coat with panko before placing on a lightly oiled cookie sheet. bake at 350°f for 20 minutes.

4. in the meantime, sauté bok choy in toasted sesame oil, and mix a few spoonfuls of Nayonaise with toasted sesame oil for some tasty garnishes.

crunchy, sweet, savory, and healthy!