Monday, February 28, 2011

it's a naan-issue

So ever since studying in London last year I've been really into Indian food.  Curries are hugeee in England and I've even heard that chicken tikka masala is the nation's favorite dish.  There are so many different dishes and I try to have something different every time I go out, whether on Brick Lane in East London or on Curry Row in the East Village.  However, I do have to admit that, when I don't have time or money to head downtown for a meal, I don't mind resorting to a bottle of korma or tikka masala from the grocery store (bottled thai curries, like green or panang, are great too!) I've only recently started to experiment with making my own curry meals, and I'm finally starting to have stock of all the ingredients like garam masala, tumeric, and curry paste.  I've made this Thai recipe in the past, and it actually came out pretty good.  I've been eyeing Jamie Oliver's Rogan Josh recipe now since I got his book for Christmas-- maybe I'll make it soon.
Anyway, last week I made a bottle of Patak's tikka masala with chicken, peppers and onions.  I felt like I was taking the easy way out, so I decided to take a crack at making my own naan.  Naan is a baked flatbread that is eaten all over south Asia and is popular in curry houses all over the world.  I've never used yeast before or made my own bread, so even though most of my meal came out of a bottle, this was an undertaking of its own.  I used this recipe which had good reviews on allrecipes.com.  I followed all of the instructions except I also added chopped garlic and a bit of garam masala to the dough to add some flavor.  I left the dough in the fridge during my night class because supposedly cooler temperatures slow the rising process down by three times.  After class I punched the dough down and kneaded it for a bit, and separated and cooked the naan on the highest heat my oven could crank out for about 3 minutes on each side.
 
During this process, I was also making the curry and chicken on the stove, and it looked like a hurricane hit my tiny kitchen.  My smoke detector went off like 8 million times from the high heat of the oven, and I was afraid that the building alarms would start going off and I would be just as bad as those girls down the hall who cooked a steak and had the building evacuated last semester.  BUT, I was actually quite happy with my naan in the end!  It wasn't the best naan I have ever had, and it was a bit dense in the middle (I think because I screwed up the dough process somehow,) but it was tasty and complimented my tikka masala really well.
I have a really good Chicken Korma recipe that I will put up soon!  Charlie always makes it and in December we made it for Emily and Tommy at my apartment.  It's quite saucy and would go great with naan; maybe next time I'll try to make both from scratch at once!

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Totto Ramen

On Tuesday night I went to Totto Ramen with Alice.  We arrived around 7 and saw that we would have to wait, as I expected from reading Yelp reviews of the tiny restaurant.  I also had read that you have to write your own name and number of guests down on the list that hangs on the door, which turned out to be true.  We waited for about 20 minutes in the crowded plastic lobby that has been attached to the front of the building, and we were finally seated at the bar looking right onto the cooks.  I love sitting at sushi or ramen bars because I think it is so cool to watch your food being made right in front of you.  We saw the cooks using a blowtorch to cook the char siu pork that is in many of the soups, and huge pots full of onions and chickens being turned into fresh broth.  The Totto Ramen menu boasts that the food is MSG free, which is always a good sign.  We ordered the Avo Tuna to share to start and each had the Totto Miso Ramen, mine with rayu, spicy sesame oil on the side, and Alice's with seasoned avocado.

The Avo Tuna was not on the menu but it was on a sign on the wall with a few other starters that were available.  It was seared tuna sashimi served with avocado, beansprouts, scallions, and a balsamic vinaigrette.  I haven't often ventured into the world of sashimi, but I thought the tuna at Totto was delicious.  It went well with the avocado and the dressing really brought it together.  I don't want to say too much because I don't know much about sashimi, but the more I try it the more I like it these days.
It was hard to hate the ramen after watching it be born from scratch right before my eyes.  The broth had a strong chicken flavor and once I mixed in the miso placed on top and a bit of the rayu it was quite tasty and had a nice bite.  I really like when the miso is in a scoop on top because when concentrated it is deliciously salty and sweet.  This reminded of the Buta Miso that I had at Koya in London.  The char siu pork was very tender, and quite fatty as pork slices sometimes are.  I obviously loved having the egg in the bowl but I wish there were two halves instead of one.  The noodles seemed fresh and were firm but not to the point where they seemed undercooked.  
I got so full that I couldn't even finish the whole bowl, but I couldn't keep myself from drinking more and more of the broth.  I wasn't expecting much from Totto Ramen because from my online research it seemed a bit overpriced and possibly overrated, but my experience there definitely surpassed my expectations.  Alice had a glass of Hakushika Extra Dry Sake and I had a Sapporo, and our bill came to around $40.00.  The ramen was $10.25 per bowl; I usually don't pay over $10.00 for a bowl of ramen, so I wouldn't pay much more than what I paid at Totto unless I was expecting an amazing experience.  Side note:  Totto Ramen is the sister-restaurant to midtown's Hide-Chan, of which I have heard mixed reviews.

For the price-range and the midtown location I definitely think Totto Ramen is worth another visit, especially if you don't mind waiting a few minutes at the door!

Totto Ramen: 366 W. 52nd St. Between 8th and 9th Aves. (212) 582-0052

Monday, February 21, 2011

Campanelle Pasta with Broccoli Rabe and Sausage

While I was at the food store today I was inspired to make broccoli rabe.  I recently had rabe at Dominick's on Arthur Ave. and I was surprised at how much I enjoyed it.  I decided to make a pasta with sausage and broccoli rabe dish, and I found a recipe that looked easy on realsimple.com.  Real Simple is great because the site has so many useful little tips not only for cooking but for most other aspects of life as well.  They have great how-to videos and also an ingredient guide that is perfect for beginners in the kitchen like myself.
The recipe called for 2 cloves of garlic, 1 pound of sausage (I used a little bit less than a pound of chicken sausage,) a bunch of broccoli rabe, 2.5 cups of chicken broth, red pepper flakes, butter, parmesan cheese, and 1 pound of pasta.  I cooked the sausage in a bit of olive oil for about 5 minutes before I added the garlic, broth, and red pepper flakes.  After a few minutes of boiling, I added the broccoli rabe and covered the pan for about 4 minutes.  Meanwhile, the pasta was already on in a big pot on the side.  
When the broccoli rabe was tender and wilted, I added the butter and cheese.  The recipe called for 4 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of parmesan cheese, but I used a bit less of each.  I usually find that using a little less butter doesn't make much of a difference in the taste of a dish, and can be an easy way to cut some fat out of the mix!  When the sausage-rabe mixture had all come together, I tossed it in with the pasta in the big pot and mixed it well.   

The dish came out great!  I really enjoyed the broccoli rabe and sausage together.  I was worried that the rabe might be too bitter as it can be sometimes, but it was nicely complimented by the garlic and sausage flavors.  This recipe was so simple and required a very short amount of active cooking time, and I will definitely add it to my repertoire of meals that I can make again!

teany

After learning that it was musician Moby's restaurant and that it had a huge list of teas, I stuck Teany right on my list of places to go.  Really, it's his ex-girlfriend's restaurant which he co-owned until sometime in 2009, according to Wikipedia, but I still had dreams of seeing him there.  On Saturday I finally got there with Annmarie and Emily for lunch.  We arrived around 3:30pm and the small space was packed, but we did not have to wait for more than 10 minutes before we had a table.  Teany is a completely vegetarian restaurant, and on the menu many of the dishes are indicated as being able to be vegan.  We ordered two tea pots to share at the table-- a juniper and red currant, and a Moroccan mint with jasmine.  It was an extra $2.00 to share the two pots between three people, but I guess that's understandable.
I ordered the Turkey, Apple and Brie Baguette, above.  I knew that the turkey would be vegetarian but I guess I was feeling extra adventurous and I ordered it (maybe it was just because I was bit of a zombie after Friday night.)  The bread was really nice and fresh but I didn't love the sandwich basically because of the turkey.  No disrespect to vegetarians, but I guess I'm more of a real meat fan.  There were many other meatless items on the menu that I would have liked to try as well, and I will not be discounting the experience just because I chose the wrong dish. 

Emily ordered the veggie burger, below, and Annmarie ordered the Edamame Hummus Salad, also below.  I tried the hummus and it was delicious.  I just love how colorful the salad was.  Emily said her burger was really nice-- I thought the bread it came on was so cute.  The portions were a good size for a tea house, and were probably about right for how much the dishes cost.

All in all I really enjoyed Teany and I would definitely go back.  It has a great location on the Lower East side and is also quite reasonably priced (we each spent an average of 15 dollars including tax and tip.)  It was perfect for a day spent shopping around the area, and I also got to scope out a few other restaurants that seemed interesting.  Has anyone ever heard of Bunny Chow, the South African dish or the restaurant on Orchard St.?


teany: 90 Rivington St. between Orchard and Ludlow Sts. (212) 475-9190

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Jamie's Bloody Mary Mussels

Last week while Charlie was here we wanted to try a recipe from my Jamie Oliver book, and we chose the Bloody Mary Mussels.  The recipe required mussels, (obv.) tomato sauce, horseradish, worcestershire sauce, garlic, celery, a green chili, parsley, lemon juice, vodka, and port.  We got the mussels from one of the local seafood stores on Arthur Ave., and got a nice loaf of sesame semolina from Madonia Brothers.  All of the ingredients basically just got chopped up and mixed together, and the mussels were added to the hot sauce in a large pot.  The recipe was really easy and I love mussels.  Charlie and I ate at the Essex Restaurant in December and he had the curry mussels.  They were delicious, and I would like to try to make my own some time.
Neither of us had ever cooked mussels, so we were a bit iffy about how long to cook them, and the first time we tried them we could tell they were a bit underdone because some of them were still quite difficult to open.  We put them back on for a few more minutes until they opened up a bit further, and then they were perfect!  The sauce was really nice and had a good bite to it from the chili and horseradish and was really tasty with the bread.  The dish wasn't my top choice from Jamie's book, but it was really tasty and I would do it again!  
I went to Moby's restaurant Teany today with Annmarie and Emily so I'll be writing about that soon!  BUT I also wanted to share a little discovery I made yesterday at the cafe in the new buildings at Fordham.  I haven't really tried any of the food there besides their egg sandwiches but I saw some interesting frozen vegan dishes from a company called Macro Vegetarian and decided to try the hunan dumplings.  I fried them for a few minutes and ate them with peanut sauce and soy sauce, and they were really quite good!  They have others like vegan Pad Thai and I would definitely give them a try.  The packages are about $5.99 but they last for 2 or 3 meals so I think it's worth it!  Anyone know anything about Macro Vegetarian?

Friday, February 18, 2011

Caffeine Fix

In the past few weeks I've been to a few really cool coffee shops, and I was inspired by my friend Annmarie to get them up here.  You should all check out her blog, Coffee Break!
 
Aroma Espresso Bar:  Marissa and I were shopping in SoHo one day and we came across Aroma on Houston St. and Greene St.  We stopped in for coffee-to-go, and were both impressed by how good the coffee was.  The store itself is comfortable and bright with a white and red motif and with red cushiony chairs and long communal tables.  They have a good sized menu of freshly made sandwiches that come on thick fluffy bread and looked great.  I went back twice last week with Charlie when we were in the area.  I have ordered a small Americano each time, but Charlie switched it up last time and got the Aroma Coffee, pictured below.  Like always he found a way to get the girliest looking drink on the menu (see: chocolate tabasco martini at Freud in London) According to their site, Aroma is the largest and most successful espresso bar chain in Israel with over 90 stores, but for now in NYC they have only 3 locations.
Aroma Coffee
 
Jack's Stir Brew Coffee: Charlie and I were walking around the Financial District and doing the touristy thing and came across Jack's on Front St., which was refreshingly un-touristy.  We were having an anti-Starbucks week so we decided to pop in to warm up.  I got a Hot Apple Cider and he had an Americano.  I loved how my cider came in a huge mug, and the store was really quaint and comfortable with dim lighting and wooden tables and chairs.  Jack's serves organic, fair trade coffee, and local, Hudson Valley Fresh fair trade milk, which is free of any antibiotics or hormones.  They have another location in NYC on 10th St. in the West Village, and one out east on Long Island in Amagansett.
Next time you're in the area, check 'em out!  Full locations listings are available on both sites. Enjoy.

Aroma Espresso Bar: 145 Greene St. at Houston St., (212) 533-1094
Jack's Stir Brew Coffee: 222 Front St., South Street Seaport, (212) 227-7631

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

More Mobile Korean Grill Please

Yesterday I finally stalked down the Korilla truck that I have been drooling over the online menu of for the last month.  A note about the origins of my Korean bbq burrito dreams: I saw the truck advertised on Facebook-- guess social media marketing does work.  But anyway, Charlie and I trekked to Varick and Vandam Sts., the truck's Tuesday location, and waited on line for about 15 minutes.  The truck's aroma was mouthwatering and these 15 minutes were quite torturous.  There is a menu with suggested combinations for burritos, tacos, and chosun bowls, but really you just walk across the truck and tell each line worker what you would like to add to your creation.  I ended up with a burrito with spicy pork, kimchi bacon fried rice, tomato salsa, jack cheese, kimchi slaw, lettuce, kBBQ sauce, and Korilla Aioli sauce.  Charlie ended up with the same but with bulgogi (ribeye steak) instead of pork.  We paid a man in the front seat of the truck who rung the orders up on an iPad.

We walked over one block and sat on sunny benches to dig into our lunch.  Basically, this was the best burrito I've ever had.  I'm hesitant to say this because it is not a true tex-mex burrito, but I guess in a multicultural burrito world, this Korilla burrito takes the cake.  It was perfectly spicy and the aioli was amazing, while the lettuce and kimchi slaw kept it cool.
I definitely recommend Korilla as a lunch option to anyone looking for a unique, casual meal, especially if you don't mind the idea of eating out of a truck on the side of the road (the truck is in a different spot every day, and is not operational on the weekends.)  Also, don't be afraid to try kimchi!  By the sounds of the girls on the line behind us, if you've never heard of it it could be a bit daunting, but all it is is spiced, fermented vegetables such as cabbage, radishes, or cucumbers.

In the post below you can see a mobile picture of the truck at Varick and Vandam.  I also want to remind everyone that my blog has a cool tool called Apture.  Whenever you want more info on anything I mention, all you have to do is highlight a term from the text and click "learn more."  A window will pop up with info from Google and Wikipedia, and you can take it from there!


Korilla BBQ:  http://www.korillabbq.com/, Check site for daily locations. 

Sunday, February 13, 2011

Oi! Banh Mi

I've been wanting to write about a banh mi restaurant I went to in London in January called Banh Mi Bay, but since that visit was my first experience with banh mi and I haven't been too sure what to say about the Vietnamese sandwiches besides that they were delicious. However, on Thursday when Charlie and I were looking for pizza in Little Italy we came across Banh Mi Saigon on Grand St. and decided to take a second stab at it.  I had read good things about the restaurant online and was really excited to finally have something to compare my London experience to.

Banh Mi are Vietnamese baguettes usually with pickled carrots, daikon, cucumbers, cilantro, pate, mayo, and your choice of meat (usually pork, sometimes chicken.)  At our first banh mi experience in London, Charlie ordered pork and I had shrimp.  Both of us were very surprised at the bold flavors that came out of these simple looking sandwiches.  Literally, the flavors of banh mi are like an amazing explosion in your mouth.  I was a bit underwhelmed because my shrimp sandwich was very light on the fillings and thus quite bready.  We split both sandwiches and I was much more impressed by the pork and pate.  Banh Mi Bay was cool because it was quite casual and they had a diverse menu with many Vietnamese dishes besides banh mi.

At Banh Mi Saigon we both ordered the pork sandwich but Charlie ordered his "spicy". Within 30 seconds the sandwiches were ready and we sat on stools by the small jewelry counter that is in the front of the store.  I was really surprised by the size of the sandwich-- for $3.75 I was not expecting much but it was actually huge.  It was very flavorful and the vegetables seemed fresh.  There were roast pork pieces and a slice of pork on each;  the sliced pork seemed cheap and was quite thin, but the pork pieces were nicely caramelized and tasty.  There was no pate or mayo, but I have since read online that you can add pate to the pork sandwich for $1.00 extra.  The bread was crispy but not very soft in the middle, and I would definitely say that Banh Mi Bay's baguettes were better.
My banh mi obsession is just beginning.  I hope to try more places in New York soon, but so far, I definitely recommend Banh Mi Saigon.


Banh Mi Bay: 4-6 Theobald's Road, WC1X 8PN, London 
Banh Mi Saigon: 198 Grand St. between Mulberry and Mott Sts. (212) 941-1541

Thursday, February 10, 2011

breakfast yum.jpg

Sent from my Verizon Wireless BlackBerry

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

North Dumpling

Yesterday while on a trip to take photos in Chinatown, I could not resist the temptation of trying North Dumpling on Essex St. between Grand and Hester.  I have read a bunch recently online about different Chinatown eateries in the spirit of the Chinese New Year, and I have heard from various sites that the dumplings at China North are some of the best and are super cheap.  Marissa and I ordered the chive and pork steamed dumplings, which came 8 for $2.00, the Chinese vegetable and pork steamed dumplings, also 8 for $2.00, and the scallion pancakes which were 2 for $1.00.
The place is tiny and has only two tables and a counter on the wall, and I heard to avoid it during the after school hours because it gets packed, but we were lucky to get a table with no problem.  It took a few minutes for them to make the dumplings so we started with the pancakes which were delicious.  I had never had anything like them before.  They were quite large and filled with scallions, glass vermicelli, and eggs.  They were not overly salty and the dough was a perfectly golden and soft in the middle.  We ate them quickly with the soy sauce that was on the table.
The dumplings came out steaming hot.  The dough was a good thickness, not too chewy like some dumplings from take out chinese.  The pork and chive filling was very tasty, again not overly salty, and very juicy to bite into.  They were great with a bit of soy sauce and sriracha hot sauce.  I was a bit disappointed though because we could not notice any difference between the chive and Chinese vegetable dumplings.  Maybe our order got lost in translation, or maybe there really is only one kind of steamed dumpling that they pass off as whatever you ask for.  Who knows, but either way, they are great.
Next time I would definitely want to try the vegetable and meat buns and maybe the sesame pancakes, but I think I will try some other dumpling places before I make it back to China North, to see if these are really the best!


North Dumpling: 27 Essex St. between Grand and Hester Streets (212) 529-2760

Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Gnocchi with Lemon, Shrimp, Spinach, and Peas

Marissa has had a package of gnocchi for like forever now so we finally decided on a sauce to make for it. I found this recipe on epicurious.com and decided to add some leftover shrimp that I had frozen after making Pad Thai.  The recipe called for baby spinach, peas, shrimp, lemon zest and juice, heavy cream, red pepper flakes, garlic, and parmesan cheese.

The cream, peas, garlic, pepper, and shrimp went into the pan first, and once the shrimp was almost cooked through, in went the spinach.  It was important to keep stirring and folding the mixture around until the spinach wilted so that the cream did not burn or curdle.    When thoroughly wilted, we took the pan off of the heat and added the  lemon zest and lemon juice.  Meanwhile, the gnocchi was cooking on the side.  When all of the little gnocchi floated to the top of the pot, we drained and added it to the pan of sauce along with the grated parmesan and about 1/4 cup of the gnocchi water that we saved.  All was mixed until the gnocchi was coated with sauce.


This quick and easy recipe was delicious.  Marissa and I both were pleasantly surprised by how tasty the dish was.  I was afraid that the combination of gnocchi and heavy cream would be too thick and oppressive, but the added water really thinned it out to a enjoyable consistency.  I did not taste much lemon, though, and perhaps would add just a bit more lemon juice next time.  We ate it with fresh sesame seed bread from Madonia Bros. Bakery on Arthur Ave.  This sauce would work well with any kind of pasta, and it is definitely a great go-to meal for any night!


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