Monday, June 27, 2011

Cooking with Aunt D

So my Aunt D is one of the coolest ladies around town…the town of Vaughan, Ontario Canada that is.  She hosted a dinner for the fam this weekend including my mom and Boobie (aka Grandmother) who just raved about the spread she put out.  On her delectable menu...
BBQ Mexican sweet and spicy ribs
Grilled shrimp scampi

Red Chinese chicken
Rotini with ricotta, spinach, golden raisins & pine nuts
Feta & watermelon salad with fresh basil (Love the star shaped watermelons!!)
Mango crab salad in spring roll cups

Potato salad (ala Boobie F.)
Blue & red fresh berries + peach crumble
Um…yum!  So jealous I wasn't there.

Sunday, June 26, 2011

A little bit of peanut butter chocolate crescent roll heaven

By now you may have heard of this site called Pinterest.  My sister introduced it to me and I am fully addicted.  My Aunt said it best tonight "I'm going to have to go to Pinterest rehab".  It's such a fantastic site where you can browse photos that people have uploaded and you can "pin" them into your own boards which allows you to organize your images however you'd like and keep everything on file online.  Very cool and a great way to get inspiration for parties, ideas for recipes, style, kids, etc.
So as I was browsing last week I came across a picture of Pillsbury dough crescent rolls spread with peanut butter and it immediately caught my interest since I'm a huge fan of both…
When you click on a picture on Pinterest you can find the website that the picture came from.  This picture was from a site called For the Love of Cooking.  Such an adorable site!  With great recipes.  I was so excited to try this recipe since it's beyond easy and I had all ingredients on hand I whipped it up for breakfast the next morning.
First, you preheat the oven to 375.  I then took a tube of crescent rolls and laid out the triangles on a non stick baking sheet.  I slathered each with creamy peanut butter, sprinkled with some milk chocolate chips and rolled up as you normally would.  I cooked for 11 minutes and they came out golden and oozing with gooey deliciousness!  Now…just think what else I could stuff into these flakey treats?!  I'll have to get creative and keep you all posted on the results.

Friday, June 24, 2011

A tropical night's dinner

Tonight we had a very tropical meal packed with tons of fresh flavors, fruits and fish.  On the menu:

Mango salsa
Salmon pineapple skewers with pepper glaze and lime creme fraiche
Grilled shrimp with cilantro, lime and peanuts
Grilled zucchini
Cumin baked sweet potatoes

I had found all of these recipes online and in the Small Bites cook book that I have but I basically just used the recipes for inspiration and then made them my own…

All recipes below were made for 4 people.
Mango salso:
1 mango diced
1 tomato seeded and diced
2 spears of pineapple diced (these will be leftover from the pineapple you use for the skewers)
1/2 red onion chopped fine
handful of cilantro chopped 
Juice of 1 lime
salt to taste
Mix everything together and refrigerate for at least 1 hour before serving.

Salmon pineapple skewers with pepper glaze and lime creme fraiche
For the paste:
1 jalepeno pepper
1/2 yellow onion, chunked up
6 cloves garlic, un-peeled
1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
4 tbsp brown sugar
good pinch of salt and pepper
In a nonstick pan cook the whole pepper, onion and garlic (un-peeled) till they are nicely charred, about 7 minutes.  Remove the pepper and place into a ziploc bag for at least 5 minutes.  Let the onion and garlic cool.  Remove the skin, seeds and stem from pepper and skin from the garlic cloves and add to blender or food processor.  Add the onion, vinegar, sugar, salt and pepper and blend.  Reserve for skewers.
For the dip:
To one container of creme fraiche add the zest and juice of 1 lime along with a handful of chopped cilantro.  Place in fridge till ready to serve.
For the skewers:
1 pound salmon 
1 pineapple
8 metal skewers (if you use wood make sure to soak them for at least 30 minutes prior to threading)
Cube up the salmon and pineapple into 1" chunks.  Thread pineapple and salmon onto the skewers and brush with the paste.  Spray your BBQ with oil and head to medium high.  Cook the skewers until the salmon turns pink.  Serve with the lime creme fraiche.
Grilled shrimp with cilantro, lime and peanuts

*didn't change these recipes - took right from Martha Stewart's website.  

Cumin baked sweet potatoes
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Cut 2-3 sweet potatoes into wedges and place on a baking sheet.  Cover with extra virgin olive oil and sprinkle with cumin seeds.  Bake for 30-40 minutes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Perfect pork

After a long day of working and errands plus throw in some gardening…I thought I'd try my hand at a super easy but delicious sounding recipe.  Well, that's just what it was.  Easy + delicious.  And as always, I have Martha to thank.

I went to my butcher out east, who I frequent quite often and I adore, and asked for some bone in pork chops.  He said no problem…and came back from the industrial size fridge with basically…a pig.  It had to be the freshest, tastiest piggy I've ever eaten.  I don't make pork often because I typically over cook it.  But not this time…the pork turned out to be perfectly seasoned and incredibly juicy.

Follow this recipe to a tee and you will not be disappointed….I paired with a butter lettuce salad and some simple Jasmine rice.

Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • 3 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus more for grates
  • 2 tablespoons light-brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons coarse salt
  • 2 teaspoons paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 4 bone-in pork loin chops (3 pounds total)

Directions

  1. In a bowl, mix together garlic, oil, sugar, salt, paprika, pepper, and cayenne until a paste forms. Coat pork chops with paste and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate 1 hour (or up to 3).
  2. Heat grill to medium-high; clean and lightly oil hot grates. Grill pork, covered, 5 minutes per side for medium. Let rest 5 minutes before serving.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

The big black hat….

and a wedding where the served the best damn green beans I've EVER eaten…

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

The Little Miss Hit List: Restaurants

Friends are always asking me for restaurant advice and honestly, I really enjoy giving it to them.  It always inspires me to try a new meal or have a fun night out.

Typical email:
Hey Seri - I have friends and/or family going to NYC and they are looking for some great spots to eat…

So over the past 10 years I’ve come up with several repeats.  Repeats are restaurants that I go back to over and over again because I cannot live life without them.  Sounds dramatic, but that’s how I feel about food.  I just love it…when it’s really good.  Oh…and these are all downtown.  Sorry, I’m biased.

In no particular order…

LMP favorite restaurants:
1.)  NOBU (Tribeca) – I'm addicted to their sashimi. I often order the yellowtail with jalapeƱo as an appetizer AND for dessert.  I’m sick in the head, I know.  You need a reservation OR you can walk into Nobu next door without one.  
Alternately, Sushi Yasuda has by far the best sushi in town.  No scene here, just biz men and fresh, incredible food.
2.)  Strip house – my favorite for steak + scene.  I go annually for a holiday dinner with my friends from J.Crew and look forward to it year after year.  For just steak I recommend Peter Lugars in Brooklyn where the steak is buttery, juicy and to die for.  Make sure you get the "schlag" with your “hot fudge Sunday” for dessert…
3.)  Budakkan – trendy, Asian/fusion.   I wouldn't have otherwise suggested this except my friends were in from Toronto this weekend and asked me if they should go there.  I said it's ok and it wouldn't be my first suggestion but they would like the menu if they did go.  Well they went and loved it.  So you know I thought for out-of-towners, this place is pretty great.  It's a total scene with extravagant decor in a space so big you'll get lost looking for the bathrooms.  The food is tasty and the people dining around you are typically gorgeous.  Not a bad combo for a night out on the town.
4.)  La Esquina – probably the coolest Mexican spot in NY to date – very hard to get a reservation so if you do, don't screw it up. You enter through their take out store front which looks like a greasy dump.  You head through an unmarked door to find the host and as long as your name is on that list you're as good as in.  A real hot spot where the food is terrific and the scene is uber cool.  Check out Southside for some dancing afterwards…right next door.
5.)   The Little Owl – AMAZING comfort food here.  The meatballs are a MUST.  The guys who started this restaurant are on a total boom right now.  Fedora, Jeffrey's grocery market & oyster bar and Joseph Leonard are all on their list of phenomenal restaurants.  Each is very tough to get into…give a call to get their policies and then schedule accordingly.  Whether you make a reservation a couple months in advance or go early or knowing you’ll have to wait for an hour during which time you could enjoy drinks at the bar!  Last time a friend of mine dined at Joseph Leonard Madonna was eating there.  Sorry, I had to tell you that because I think that’s pretty cool.
6.) Lil Frankies – this east village cash only place is wonderful, cheap, serves wood burning oven pizza and a few pastas along side many delicious wines.  They don’t take reservations…so go early or late…we last went after seeing American Idiot on Broadway around 10:30pm which was a perfectly quiet time there to chow down there.
7.)  Flex Mussels – friends of ours took us to this eatery a little while back at the location uptown.  About two weeks after they opened up right by our apartment on 14th street.  I was quite excited.  A slew of mussel dishes to choose from each one better then the next. LMP pick dish:  Arcadian gumbo sauce, shrimp, andouille.
8.)  Schiller’s – always a cool vibe and good time at this place for any meal breakfast, lunch or dinner.  French bistro food where they serve fantastic steak frites in the lower east side.  Genius restaurateur Keith McNally is the man behind this goldmine along with a few other of my favorites:  Baltahazaar (for an incredible brunch), Pastis (for afternoon wine, oysters and celeb watching), Pulino's (his latest pizza hang out) and Minetta Tavern (for any time you can get in).  Um…and Pravda…I love this vodka bar.
9.)   La Bottega - for the summer time.  This place is the best possible spot in town for dining and/or drinking al fresco.  Huge Chinese lanterns fill the sky at this Maritime Hotel oasis of a restaurant.  I love every item on the antipasti menu which are great for sharing with some bottles of wine.  If you're out for the night and starting here…check out the Cabanas upstairs for a cocktail after dinner…before hitting Hiro in the basement for some dancing.
10.) Mary’s Fish camp – BEST lobster roll in town. You cannot make reservations and this restaurant is TINY. So I suggest you go at an off time like 4pm on a Saturday or better yet during the week in the late afternoon if you can...otherwise you’ll wait forever.  But seriously, you've gotta go.  Their shoestring fries are too, unreal.
11.)  Shake Shack – my personal favorite burgers in town.  I so love this place but forget going here on a nice day...the trick is to go when it’s rainy and/or gloomy...sounds weird but it’s the only time you won’t have to wait (for an hour minimum).  You can also try off hours like 3pm during the week if you can and/or go later at night.  They are open year round and have heat lamps when it gets cold out.  The shack burger is fantabulous but my fave is the shroom burger.  It's a Portobello mushroom stuffed with cheese and fried.  The cheese literally oozes out when you bite in.  Heaven on a bun.  The bird dog (think that's what it's called) is a souped up chicken dog topped with lots of goodies like cucumbers and tomatoes.  I always order this bad boy for my LM.
12.)  Blue Smoke – my favorite for good ol' Texas BBQ.  Great for groups and family dinners.  Also a Danny Meyer restaurant (forgot to point him out for Shake Shack…) who is another great restaurant guru running his empire all over town.
13.)  Hill Country Chicken - so this place recently opened and my first time there was like a dream.  Fried chicken ONLY.  There are no other options for your protein.  Literally.  So be prepared and don’t say I didn’t warn you. With some really delish sides (such as cheesy fried mashed potatoes) this place is totally a heart attack in a basket but so gosh darn good. 
14.)  Meatball Shoppe - Though I have yet to eat at this establishment I know their balls are top notch because I have a friend who had the most brilliant idea of hiring them to cater for her hubby's birthday.  It's supposedly a causal spot and the food is truly delicious.
15.)  Blue Ribbon - a classic for me.  I have been frequenting this restaurant since I moved to NYC in 2001.  This restaurant is just so good.  And I have been forever going for their PuPu platter.  It's a shmorgis board of things such as chicken lollipops, pierogies and ribs which come served on a platter with a little grill on top so you can add some extra char if you'd like to.  It's a cozy place and gets packed so again you'll have to go early, late or at prime time when you'll have to be prepared to wait at least an hour…so what?  Just have a few glasses of wine. 
*I also love Blue Ribbon Bakery for brunch.  Very similar menu just a different scene with a very warm and neighborhoodly type feel.  My hubby's favorite here:  The duck club sandwich.  He gets me to BRB almost once a month by 11am so we can wait in line for the 11:30 opening and be the first ones in to avoid the line…
16.)  Boqueria - The most fantastic Spanish tapas.  I always love this place for a meat + cheese board and a bottle of Rioja.  They have a location in Soho that I love for meeting up in the evening and they have another locale on 19th between 5th & 6th which I love going to if shopping on lower 5th Ave and need to fuel up to get back out there… 
17.) Joe's Shanghai:  Downtown Chinatown.  The best Jerry.  The best.  They are known for their soup dumplings which are out of this world BUT you need to know how to eat them.  If you're a rookie then please ask for assistance when they arrive at your table.  If eaten incorrectly you will burn your mouth when the soup breaks through and you will ruin the rest of your meal.  The other dishes that are a must have:  sesame chicken, string beans with beef, shrimp with meat sauce and I love their spring rolls.
18.)  Dim Sum Go Go - I live for dim sum.  Particularly on lazy Sunday mornings for brunch. Totally looks like a commercial place but it's nice and clean inside and you get to order off a menu so they are not overcrowded with the push carts.  My favorite dish is the pan-fried noodles with beef, oh and the pork buns…steamed and/or roasted.
19.)  Mermaid Inn - I like seafood but it's not the top of my list…ya know?  But sometimes I still want to eat it.  So when I’m looking for a light fishy meal, this place is perfection for dining from the sea.  They have the freshest and tastiest seafood dishes.  They actually serve the next best lobster roll in the city (well not according to my husband…theirs is the best to him!) next to MFC. And now have locations that have popped up all over the city. I am still true to the original in the East Village…especially when the weather is warm and the back garden is open.
20.)  Locande Verde - so I finally got to this restaurant back in February with some friends who were visiting from Toronto.  I had been dying to go but it was impossible to get a reservation.  I finally got one through American Express but think I had called three months in advance to arrange.  Bleck.  But boy was it worth it.  The food was great and I loved the scene.  Truly lived up to the hype.

Also to make note of…

Mario Batalli:  I admire this man so incredibly much.  He's brilliant.  Just brilliant.
So let me give a brief recap of a few of my faves here…
* Babbo - My hubby and I almost always hit this place for a special occasion.  The food is off the charts, the service is top notch and the wine is spectacular.  My favorite dish is the squid ink pasta.  Also…very challenging to get a reservation so plan in advance.
* Eataly - have you heard of this place?  It just opened this year and is not normal actually.  I don't feel like life is real when I'm in there.  It's a massive space where they have markets full of fresh seafood, meat, veggies + fruit, wine, you name it.  As well as 3 full service restaurants (pizza, fish, meat) and a rooftop beer bar. Um, hello?!  UNREAL!  The LM and I frequent this place together…quite a lot because you must go at off times…otherwise it’s literally like being in the central park zoo. 
* Lupa - so my husband is totally in love with the food at this place.  There was a short while when we were going every other weekend and I OD'd on the food there so I haven't been able to go back for about a year now.  But it is indeed, truly amazing there.  Dim lit, great for a date, rustic, Italian delights that will not disappoint.
* Otto - my all time favorite local spot.  Literally down the street from my apartment I've been going to this restaurant for over 5 years consistently for their antipasti specials, pizzas and olive oil gelato…which sometimes I just order for delivery…

A very special place - 
So the most extraordinary restaurant that I've been to in NY, actually in my life, is Blue Hill at Stone Barns.  Chef Dan Barber is behind this farm to table treasure.  Involving a  fancy night out, this place is for those who enjoy adventurous dining and who don't mind driving 45 minutes outside the city to eat here.  

To try…here's my list of places other people have recommended to me…or that I've walked by and want to check out…
·      Brooklyn Fare - a chef's table that is supposedly off the hook delish.  And you can BYOB!  Which I love because we enjoy drinking good wine and these restaurants mark it up so much…so to bring your own…bingo!  Note…they only take reservations on Monday's at 10:30 for the next 6 weeks out…you've gotta be on your game to get in here.
·      The Highliner
·      Buvette
·      The Fat Radish
·      Balboosta (Mediterranean in the west village)
·      Veneiros (for dessert)

For up to the minute hot spots check out Urban Daddy.  I subscribe and am constantly finding new places that I want to try like…
·      Salina's - indoor/outdoor tapas in Chelsea.  Looks beautiful and delicious
·      STK Rooftop – steak + outdoors.
·      The Mussel Pot - supposedly they have a nice brunch.


     Have a favorite restaurant you want to tell LMP about?  Let me know...

Friday, June 10, 2011

Family dinner

Tonight we had a house full of family and a close friend.  The weather was lovely today, perfect for drinking a crisp bottle of white wine while munching on some lobster dip.  We used lobster leftover from last night's dinner to make the following recipe that was inspired through a site I found by doing a quick Google Search.  I added a teaspoon of each:  horseradish and dijon and voila!  Perfection.
On the dinner menu:
Jalepeno, garlic & lime grilled skirt steak
Heirloom, watermelon & red onion salad
Divine.  Simply divine.  A terrific summer's meal.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Tails & Tomatoes

Tonight's menu inspired by Martha Stewart's latest Living Magazine summer issue…Perfect meal for the high heat outside:
Hot wheels (grilled brie wrapped with bacon and sage) & sliced baguette
Peaches, basil & red onion salad
Lobster & red + yellow tomatoes
Slow baked potato with butter and sour cream
I went to Eataly today to pick up some new place mats and treated myself to a grocery shop there.  That's got to be once and a very little while because boy it costs a pretty penny!  But damn, their produce is good and if you love to cook and eat - then it's so worth it.
I used white peaches which were crisp and crunched perfectly together with the red onion.  I had the lobster cooked at the seafood market for me so all I had to do was make the tomato topping.  The recipe calls for a simple vinaigrette that was a great dressing for both the salsa and lobster.  And the watercress which I dressed with a lemon, salt & pepper was a nice added touch.
A very fresh, healthy, bright and delicious meal.  I highly suggest it!

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

F F F

Yup.  F.   You know what I mean.  Well my sister is in town and tonight we saw the Mother F'r with the hat starring Chris Rock.  I need that hour and a half of my life back.  Ok, don't take this too literally because what do I know from good plays?  But the two people I saw it with agreed.  It was terribly boring with a slow and pointless story line.  At one point maybe 45 minutes in I turned to my sister and asked "should we play angry birds"?  Chris Rock was funny at a few different times, but not funny enough to keep me interested in this show. Shame because I do really think he's a terrific actor…
Backtrack to pre-show…
It was about 4,000 degrees outside, felt somewhat like walking through an outdoor sauna, and my sister and I were decked for Broadway.  After the brutally long winter we had it's been hard not to crave eating al fresco.  So we started with a drink at the Standard Hotel's Biergarten.  An absolute fave of mine.  We shared a cheddar and pork sausage that was so delicious I couldn't stand it.  The cheddar just oozed out while the sausage was perfectly juicy.  Though we had a ball and my sis loved this place…it was NOT the right choice for the weather and attire we were sporting.  Next time I'd suggest something like the Frying Pan which is always fun and on the water and surely much breezier.
We moved onward to meet up with a friend at the Foodparc.  A new venue that has opened in Chelsea and is quite literally like a food park.  With four different stations you can mix and match or pick just one to order from.  You walk in and feel sort of like you're in the Jetsons.  Very white, bright and technical…you need to go to a computer to place your order and then can enter your cell phone to get a text when the order is ready.  Unfortunately our phones did not buzz so we went to check on the orders ourselves and sure enough they were ready when we went in to check.  The seating is in a court yard out back and felt very much like a place where you would go for a quick work lunch.  We later found out that there was seating upstairs in the air conditioning but too little too late.
The food was actually delicious.  I ordered dumplings and chicken skewers from the Red Farm stand and both dishes were incredibly tasty.  But…not worth the trouble.  Not when we're dressed up and sweaty!  I'd say it would be more enjoyable for lunch.  OR to order in!  It's all take out anyway and they deliver!  Also to note, there is no wine served.  Beer only.  You can go upstairs (which we did after our dinner) and grab a drink from a top shelf full service bar.  There was a private party for Lil' Wayne going on so we were unable to hang on the balcony but did get to check out the rest of the bar.  Very dim lighting in this huge space that wrapped around and had several different areas for large parties.  Overall I was not a huge fan but given the circumstances I'd be willing to go back and try it again.