Monday, February 27, 2012

Lamb Rogan Josh

Ed is away, so Denise and I wanted to take advantage of this opportunity and eat something he doesn't like: lamb.  We settled on a Parsi curry, lamb dhansak with lentils and pumpkin, but at the foodstore we were hit hard by the $15 price tag for a bottle of cardamom.  Seriously, who pays that? I'm gonna use one teaspoon and the rest is gonna chill in my cabinet for like 10 years.  We decided instead on lamb rogan josh which takes only ingredients that I already had at home.
I tweeked a recipe from one of my curry cookbooks.  I started with 3 cloves of garlic and a thumb of ginger diced up in a pan with vegetable oil and a pat of butter.  After 1-2 minutes I added about 6 deseeded canned tomatoes and an onion that I had pureed in a food processor, 2 bay leaves, 1 teaspoon each of tumeric and chile powder, 1 tablespoon of ground coriander and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste.  I let this combo cook up for about 8 minutes before adding about 1.5 cups of plain yogurt, about 1 pound of cubed lamb shoulder and 1 teaspoon of salt.
This cooked covered on low heat for 45 minutes.  I then sprinkled 1 teaspoon of garam masala in and simmered for another 15 minutes until the lamb was tender.  This dish would have gone nicely with basmati rice or naan but we just ate it with a crusty baguette.  
I was really happy with how this dish came out.  I was a little surprised that it had no kick to it at all and maybe next time I would add more chile powder or a fresh chile.  I was nervous that I added too much yogurt but in the end the yogurt cooked down and all of the flavors came together really well.  The lamb was a bit pricey but totally worth it for a once-in-a-while splurge.  I still have two chops left to make this with!

Friday, February 24, 2012

let's do lunch

Emily just sent me this photo of her lunch.  It's a salad, in a jar, that she will proceed to dump into a bowl and toss with her favorite dressing. My guess is something with balsamic. Isn't it cute?

Emily says the jar keeps her salad fresh and makes her look ultra hip in her work environment. She didn't say that last part but I bet that it's accurate.  Anyone with salad in a ball jar is cool in my book. Too bad I don't have enough will power to eat a salad unless its doused in some kind of cream based dressing.  Emily likes hers with grilled chicken, red peppers, cucumber, broccoli and hard boiled egg.

This just gave me an idea. I'm gonna try something here.  If I get no feedback I will know that I have no readers or that no one cares.  BUT: send me a picture of your lunch. (My email is on my about page.) Make it a good picture otherwise I may just submit it to cooksuck.com and laugh.  If it's interesting, maybe you'll see it here! This could be your chance at 15 mins of fame, with fame meaning that like 5 people will see your lunch.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Karam II Restaurant

I wish I could have shared my lunch today with every single one of you (and I wish I did because now I feel obese.) Andrea and I each got the 5 veggie combo platter for $10 from Karam II Restaurant on 45th between 5th and 6th and now my organs are swimming in babaganoush and yogurt.  
Everything at Karam looked and smelled so good that I was like super overwhelmed when I had to order. I chose cabbage, grape leaves, hummus, yogurt, baba and roasted cauliflower, and I loved every freakin' last bite of it. Until I started to feel morbidly ill from eating my weight in Lebanese cuisine. But as we speak I have gotten past feeling like an actual swine and can't wait to go back to Karam for some shawarma. OMG yummm.

Karam II Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Tarka Dhal

Last night I made Dhal. Dhal is an Indian dish made of stewed pulses such as lentils, beans or chick peas and seasoned with lots of spices and other good stuff. I combined a few recipes I saw online and cooked 1 cup of red lentils in 3.5 cups of water for about 45 minutes. When that was almost finished I sauteed up about 1 tsp each of mustard seeds, cumin, tumeric, ground coriander, and cinnamon with 1 onion, a few little green Thai chilies, a bit of garlic and ginger and maybe 5 or 6 cherry tomatoes.
When the lentils had soaked up most of the loose water after about an hour, I gently folded in the tarka combination from my frying pan and voila: simple Indian comfort food is born. I matched my dhal with white rice and some grilled shrimp.
My dhal had quite a bite to it which kind of masked some of the other flavors.  I think next time I would sautee the tarka combination for a bit longer to release all of the flavors of the spices and goodies before combining with the lentils.  Maybe I would also use one less chile.  I'm glad to say that my first attempt came quite close to the taste and texture of my go-to canned Amy's dhal, so I was pleased overall.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Lunch at Pastrami N Friends

Today my roommates and I had lunch with pastrami and friends at Pastrami N Friends Kosher Restaurant in Commack. We longed for fresh rye, fatty pastrami and knishes. I went with the #3 combo brisket, pastrami, cole slaw and Russian dressing sandwich and a Cel-Ray celery soda, Dad went with pastrami and egg and Mom with a simple pastrami on rye.  
Right away a good amount of cole slaw and a bunch of assorted pickles were brought to the table. My favorites in the world are bright green and crunchy new dill pickles that are kind of half way between being a pickle and a cucumber. The cole slaw was really nice; it was very moist but not too mayo-y.  The cabbage was shredded finely and tasted fresh. The pickles were bangin'. We ate all of ours, but you have to wonder what happens to the ones that don't get eaten after a table leaves. I definitely don't think they get thrown out... 
My sandwich was huge of course, but a little disappointing. The bread wasn't as fresh and soft as I hoped. I remember the fresh rye at Kabano's was like eating a cloud; I didn't get that here. The brisket and pastrami were both sliced very thin but were quite dry. The pastrami was very lean and super salty but the brisket was not; in a bite with both the salt was cut nicely. However, we missed the juiciness of fatty pastrami with this lean cut. The cole slaw and Russian dressing were kind of unnoticed on the sandwich. Dad's pastrami and egg was interesting but just nothing amazing. Mom had the pastrami without the advantage of the brisket so it was just salty. Our knishes were lacking the characteristic spice that the potato filling needs, and they were cold.

Overall we were a bit disappointed with Pastrami N Friends. Our meal was overpriced at around $50 and I was not impressed by our un-helpful waitress.  The dark dining room was crowded though and the friendly owner explained to us that apparently the place was just written up in Newsday.  He said he was unprepared for the heightened service.  I don't think we would make the trek up to Commack again for Pastrami N Friends.

Pastrami N Friends: 110A Commack Rd., Commack. (631) 499-9537

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Short Rib Ragu

Yesterday I took on a new challenge with beef: Short Rib Ragu. I have had a few delicious braised ragus in my day so I had high expectations for my own creation. I read through a few recipes online and combined a few to kind of adapt my own.

I started by browning off around 4-5 pounds of short ribs in a little bit of vegetable oil in a dutch oven. The store only had 3 pounds worth so I also added 3 back ribs to have enough meat. After 2-3 minutes on each side I removed the meat and put it to the side. I added two diced carrots, 1 large diced yellow onion and 2 diced stalks of celery. I learned on google that this combination is called a mirepoix.  
After the veggies had cooked down a bit I added 2 cloves of garlic and 2 tablespoons of tomato paste. I gave this combo another few minutes before adding about half of a large bottle of merlot. The wine took about 10 minutes to reduce by half. The mixture thickened up a bit and I added a tablespoon of dijon mustard, 2-3 lugs of Worcestershire sauce, mushrooms, fresh chopped thyme and rosemary and dried oregano.  

After a minute or two for the mushrooms to soften, I put the ribs back into the pot and added enough beef stock to almost cover them completely. I cooked this on high for a few minutes until it came to a boil and then covered and into the oven on 350 degrees for 3 hours.
The aromas of the next 3 hours were ridiculous.  Like begging me to rip the meat out of the oven and eat it immediately. After about 2 hours it looked ready, but I left it for an extra 45 minutes to be safe.  
When it came out it looked like this. I removed the meat and bones from the pot and set aside to cool. In the meantime, I used an immersion blender to puree the sauce a bit. I left it a little chunky but tried to make sure most of the larger veggies were chopped down. I easily pulled the meat off the bones and pulled it apart to a shredded texture on the a cutting board; most of the meat just fell off the bones by itself with no effort. The shredded meat went back into the dutch oven in the pureed sauce and I folded it together until mixed. I added just a bit of starchy water from the boiled gnocchi to loosen the mixture a little, and it was ready to serve.
The meat was tender and had a delicious dark and salty sweetness. One recipe I read suggested refrigerating the sauce over night and scraping off the fat that rose to the top, and I would definitely try to do this next time because there was a lot of grease coming off of the meat that could have been eliminated. The ragu was nice over gnocchi but would also go well with a pappardelle or tagliatelle. Otherwise, I don't think there was much I would do differently. This dish was great and quite easy to put together.

Thursday, February 9, 2012

Potbelly Sandwiches are Quite Good

The midwestern chain Potbelly Sandwich Shop hit New York City hard last year and today I finally made it down to the Rock Center Concourse location under Andrea's persuasion.  The long line out the door of the store moved quickly and when I snaked around to the counter my smoked ham and swiss on multigrain bread was just popping out of the oven.  I added lettuce, hot peppers, mayo and mustard and the sandwich rung in at just under $6.  

YUMMM this was really good.  The bread was nice and crusty and the peppers were delightfully hot.  The meat was of acceptable quality and quantity.  My only complaint is that the sandwich was a bit greasy -- I think this was due to the combo of melting mayo, cheese and oil from the peppers.  I would hit Potbelly again and try the pizza sandwich with pepperoni, marinara, provolone and mushrooms.  It's better than Subway and that's good with me.


Potbelly Sandwich Shop: See site for various locations around Manhattan

Friday, February 3, 2012

Las Colinas

This week I am in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida for work and on Tuesday we decided on Cuban for dinner.  Urbanspoon and Yelp led us to Las Colinas tucked inland away from the grips of tourists on the beach strip.  Ft. Lauderdale is the closest to Cuba that I have ever been, so I had great expectations for my first experience of Cuban cuisine.  A few in my group are experts on the fare so I knew I was in good hands.

We chose a variety of dishes around the table.  Starting on the left and working clockwise we had Palomilla Las Colinas (thinly sliced steak with onions,) Ropa Vieja (shredded beef with onions and peppers,) Lechon Asado (roasted pork,) and ceviche.  Each dish came with two sides and I was able to have a bit of almost everything.
The Ropa Vieja was tender and had a nice bite.  I found it reminiscent of a spicier Asian pepper steak.  The Lechon Asado was very dry and salty, and since pork is such an important staple of the Cuban cuisine, we expected more from this dish.  The ceviche was fresh and delicious; cilantro lent a nice and clean flavor.  I didn't try the Palomilla but it was pounded thin and I am told it was a little on the tough side.  Most of the table agreed that this was not the most amazing cuban food.
For sides I chose Arroz Moros (black beans and rice) and Maduros (sweet plantains.)  We also had Tostones Rellenos con Picadillo (stuffed plantains with ground beef.)  Both sides were tasty and the tostones were good but very heavy.  The plantain shells were so bread-y and after half of one I was already reaching full.  We finished the meal off with tres leches cake and amazing homemade flan.  

After Las Colinas I'm not sure when I'll rush to have Cuban again but I'm glad I got to it while I was in Florida.

Las Colinas: 2724 N. Andrews Ave., Wilton Manors, FL. (954) 390-7410


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