Herbs Going Places: Walnut Basil Pesto

Oh pesto, perhaps the most amazing condiment on the planet. I think it is impossible to be someone that completely hates it. Deep down, somewhere within that person they must like it. They just don’t know it yet.

The aromatic basil green and Parmesan speckled condiment pesto is as versatile as t is peculiar. Those unfamiliar to its herb-laden goodness would find the color a bit off-putting. Green? Doesn’t that mean it’s bad for you? It is quite the opposite actually. Pesto is full of healthy fats depending what you put into it. Typically I like it with walnuts and heart healthy extra virgin olive oil. The basil, which contributes its green color and the fresh flavor, bring all of the other ingredients together into an incredibly capable dish.

Just to see how far a batch of basil pesto can go I compiled a list of different delicious and simple recipes that can be made with a basic recipe of pesto.

Simple Walnut Basil Pesto

  •     3 large handfuls of fresh basil, washed
  •     1/2 cup olive oil
  •     1/3 cup shelled, chopped and roasted walnuts
  •     2 cloves of garlic
  •     3 tablespoons grated Parmesan
  •     Salt and Pepper to Taste
  1. In a food processor combine the fresh basil with the walnuts, garlic and grated Parmesan. Blend until the nuts and basil is chopped down.
  2. While the food processor is on pour in the olive oil. If the mixture does not seem wet enough for you liking, add some more oil. Salt and pepper the pesto to taste.
  3. Enjoy the pesto in any of the ways below or any of the other unlimited ways to eat pesto.

Ways to try out your pesto

Caprese Bruschetta: Brush pesto onto warmed slices of Italian or French bread. Top with a slice of juicy tomato and creamy fresh mozzarella cheese

Pesto Garlic Bread: Mix some pesto into room temperature butter. Brush onto a baguette sliced in half. Top with some fresh crushed garlic and some garlic salt. Cook in the oven until the bread is golden brown.

Pesto Shrimp Scampi: Marinate shrimp in pesto and some lemon juice. Sauté or grill the shrimp. Cook some spaghetti and mix into the shrimp. Serve with some lemon and top with fresh Parmesan and more pesto.

Marinated Chicken: Marinate boneless chicken breasts in some pesto. Grill along with some vegetables for a low carbohydrate lunch or dinner.

Pesto Veggie Dip: Combine two tablespoons of pesto with a cup of sour cream. Stir in one cup of sautéed fresh spinach. Serve with a variety of fresh vegetables like peppers, cucumbers, carrots and broccoli.

Pesto Roasted Vegetables: Combine pesto with good roasting vegetables, like potatoes, onions, carrots, peppers and zucchinis. Toss with some olive oil and roast in the oven until the vegetables are tender.

Pesto Salad Dressing: Convert the pesto into more of a salad dressing. Add more olive oil and some rice wine vinegar to the pesto. Add the juice of half of a lemon with 2 tablespoons mustard and one tablespoon of honey. Serve on greens with other vitamin rich vegetables for a beyond average salad.

Pesto Prosciutto with Melon: Wrap slices of thinly slices prosciutto around wedged slices of cantaloupe melon. Top with a drizzle of pesto.

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Nuts for Shrimp: Pistachio Sautéed Shrimp

My inspiration comes from too many sources. I love looking through pages of cookbooks, or through online recipe collections. Restaurant websites, though, are probably the most intriguing. Without actually going to the restaurant and having a dish I really have no clue what it is going to be like. Every day people take a risk when they order a meal off of a menu. You never really know what is going to come out of the kitchen. Thankfully most of the time the gamble pays off. I decided to start this blog as a way to document the food I made, but also to experience the challenge of interpreting food that is on a menu in my own way. Of course I want to try the real thing, but if I can’t for now I might as well try to make it.

Today I interpreted a dish off of Gramercy Tavern’s Tavern menu, “Ruby Red Shrimp, Ricotta Gnocchi, Nettle and Pistachio”. Gramercy Tavern opened in 1994 and ever since has been providing tavern cuisine with a contemporary twist for those hungry on East 20th street. Executive chef Michael Anthony joined the kitchen in fall 2006 after being the executive chef of Blue Hill at Stone Barns. Last summer I had perhaps the best dinner of my life at that restaurant. I was kind of speechless during the whole thing and dish after dish of fresh and perfect plates came soaring out of the kitchen. If a similar philosophy has come to Gramercy Tavern, I must go as soon as possible. But for now, I must make my own versions with my own local produce.

I decided to make a recipe that is a mixture of different recipes I have collected. I used a recipe out of one of my favorite cookbooks, “Sunday Suppers at Lucques”, for the ricotta gnocchi. The recipe further calls for a mushroom and corn brown butter that I decided to include bits and parts of. I am leaving out the nettles, because let’s be honest, who has those in their kitchen? Instead, we will put some lovely spring onion into the mushroom and corn mixture. For the pistachio I decided it would be nice to cook the shrimp in a pistachio cream sauce. I got inspiration from a recipe provided by Ruby Ordubegian from Foodnetwork.com. In all this is, pistachio sautéed shrimp over gnocchi with corn and mushroom medley. The gnocchi is very easy to make and takes way better freshly made than anything I have ever bought store bought. The shrimp taste so great in the creamy sauce and with fresh mushrooms and corn the medley soaks up the flavor of the sauce and works well with the gnocchi.

 

Pistachio Sautéed Shrimp over Gnocchi with Corn and Mushroom Medley

For the Ricotta Gnocchi [Slightly Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques]

  •    2 extra-large eggs
  •    2 cups all-purpose flour, plus extra for rolling
  •    1 pound whole milk ricotta, drained if wet
  •    3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

For the Corn and Mushroom Medley [Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques]

  •    2 tablespoons olive oil
  •    1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  •    4 spring onions, chopped
  •    2 cups mushrooms, cleaned
  •    2 ears of corn, cut off the ear into kernels
  •    ½ teaspoon dried tarragon
  •    Kosher salt ad fresh ground black pepper

For the Shrimp and Pistachio Sauce [Adapted from Rudy Ordubegian, Spazio Restaurant and Jazz Club]

  •    1 pound of uncooked and cleaned large shrimp
  •    1 cup chicken broth
  •    2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •    2 cloves garlic, chopped
  •    1 cup cream
  •    2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  •    Squeeze of lemon juice
  •    2 tablespoons pistachios, chopped
  1. Start by preparing the gnocchi. Place 2 cups of flour and the ricotta in a large mixing bowl. Using a dinner knife cut the ricotta into the flour. When both are combined, make a well in the center for the eggs. Beat the eggs in a small bowl and then pour into the well. Use a fork to incorporate the eggs into the flour and ricotta mixture. Gently shape the dough into a ball, and place it on a lightly floured cutting board. Cut the ball into four pieces and cover with a clean kitchen towel.
  2. Start the corn and mushroom medley. In a saute pan combine two tablespoons of olive oil with one tablespoon of butter. After the butter has melted, add the spring onions. Cook until the onions are darker in color and absorb the butter and oil. Then add the mushrooms and cook for around six minutes. Add the corn and the tarragon cooking for around three minutes. Finish off with salt and pepper to taste.
  3. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.
  4. Continue making the gnocchi. One by one take each piece of gnocchi dough and cut it in half. Roll the dough into a 3/4 inch thick rope on a lightly floured cutting board. You want to make sure the dough is not too sticky, but too much flour will be allow for easy rolling. Cut the ropes into one inch pieces and sprinkle flour over them. Using a fork, tap each piece to put a decorative ridge on them.
  5. Put the gnocchi into the boiling water in batches. Once they rise to the surface, cook them for one minute more. Use a slotted spoon to transfer them to a platter. Drizzle of olive oil and let sit.
  6. To start the pistachio sauce bring one cup of chicken broth and the two tablespoons of butter to a simmer. Add the garlic and cook for a couple more minutes.
  7. Place the shrimp in the pan. Once the shrimp start to turn pinkish in color add the cream, mustard, lemon juice and pistachios. Continue to cook until the shrimp are completely pink in color.
  8. To serve place a couple ricotta gnocchi into a bowl. Top with the corn and mushroom medley and some shrimp. Pour the pistachio sauce on top and enjoy.

Sweet Way to Eat Your Veggies: Honey Carrot Cake

The website for John Fraser’s upper west side restaurant Dovetail is understated on first look. The definition of Dovetail (which is “to join together harmoniously on a faded green tree” by the way) lies on top of a peaceful image of a faded green tree. Clicking into the website instantly shows that the food is not as tame as the website first displays. Vibrant photographs of different dishes flash through showing the type of energy New York Times critic Frank Bruni describes in his review of the restaurant. Bruni gave chef and proprietor John Fraser three stars for his restaurant, and a Michelin star that followed after illustrates the success of Fraser’s work. Dovetail takes advantage of Fraser’s classical European training and all that local ingredients have to offer.

While a main course is something I would like to recreate I decided to do a Recreation Nation version of their Honey Carrot Cake with Blood Orange, Sumac, and Crème Fraiche. I found a review of this dessert on dessertbuzz.com which was helpful in describing the different components of the dish, “complementing the cake is a scoop of soumac crème fraiche which is smooth and silky but not sweet at all. The crème fraiche sits in a pool of blood orange gel-sweeter than the other components but still not really sweet. On top of the second piece of cake is a scoop of roasted carrot juice sorbet, which goes in the sweet column, along with the candied honeycomb cubes. For texture (and for fun I presume) there are some fried carrot chips sprinkled about”. There seems to be much more going on here beyond the simple description on the menu. I decided to simplify the recipe so it could be an elegant dessert to make for the family. With so many components it would be too hard to make, but with only four, it would be easier to assemble and enjoy.

Sometimes a sugar overload is a welcome thing. Sometimes a sugar substitute is just as welcome. I like trying different carrot cake recipes and I found one on allrecipes.com to try. This recipe includes ingredients like buttermilk, walnuts, crushed pineapple and of course honey which produce a honey carrot cake that tastes almost like a dense bread pudding. This one has such an interesting texture so it was definitely worth the try.

Another component to the dish was the sumac crème fraiche. Sumac has Middle Eastern origins and is known for its tart flavor. While I thought it would be interesting to actually try this spice out, I never cook with it and purchasing a spice for just one recipe is never a good idea. Instead of the tart element I went for some orange zest. Carrot and orange seem to just work together beyond the color match. I folded some fresh whipped cream into plain Greek yogurt scented with orange zest for a delicious and creamy topping.

While the dish in the restaurant is served with a blood orange gel I think that some fresh oranges would be equally as spectacular. I want to keep the orange flavor that should be in the dish, but I want to bring in some of the honey notes that are in the cake. Simply mixing some orange segments with honey is as simple as it gets for another topping.

Here is where I decided to be a bit adventurous. I made a carrot juice sorbet inspired from an Emeril recipe using an ice cream maker attachment and some good quality store bought carrot juice. I usually do not make ice creams or sorbets from scratch but I thought that the sorbet would give a good contrast for the overall dish and enhance the cake. The sorbet was icy and cold and would be delicious even if not served with the cake. Keep in mind that if you do not like carrot juice in general you will most likely dislike this sorbet.

This is where my recreation nation version ends. It is only four components that come together quicker than you might think. While I might not make this dish again I think it was worth the shot. I might make a dessert with similar method, but a chocolate cake with cherries or a lemon cake with rhubarb. For now, I look forward to when I can go to Dovetail and try the dessert that has inspired my version.

Honey Carrot Cake Dessert 

For the Honey Carrot Cake:

[From AllRecipes.com]

  •   3 cups all-purpose flour
  •   2 teaspoons baking soda
  •   2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  •   ½ teaspoon salt
  •   ¼ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  •   ¼ teaspoon ground ginger
  •   1 ½ cups honey
  •   ¾ cup buttermilk
  •   3 eggs
  •   ½ cup vegetable oil
  •   2 teaspoons vanilla extract
  •   2 cups finely grated carrot
  •   1 (8 ounce) can crushed pineapple, drained
  •   1 cup chopped walnuts

For the orange zest crème topping:

[adapted from finecooking.com]

  •   4 ounces (1/2 cup) plain Greek yogurt
  •   1 cup heavy cream
  •   3 tablespoons granulated sugar
  •   Zest of one orange

For the oranges:

  •   1 tablespoon honey
  •   One orange, peeled and segmented

For the carrot sorbet:

[adapted from planetgreen.com]

  •   1 cup sugar
  •   1/3 cup water
  •   2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  •   2 cups carrot juice

For the Carrot Cake:

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a nine by thirteen inch baking dish.
  2. In a medium bowl, stir together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, nutmeg and ginger. In a large bowl, stir together the honey, buttermilk, eggs, pol and teaspoons of vanilla until well blended. Combine the flour mixture to the buttermilk mixture and stir until all of the dry ingredients are absorbed. Stir in the carrot, pineapple, and walnuts. Pour into the prepared pan.
  3. Bake the cake for 50 minutes in the oven until cooked throughout. Cool completely.
  4. Work on the other components while the cake is cooling

For the Carrot Ice Cream

  1. In a small saucepan combine the sugar with 1/3 cup water and bring to a simmer for around eight minutes.
  2. Once cooled for a bit add the lemon juice and carrot juice.
  3. Churn the mixture in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s directions.
  4. Transfer the sorbet to a container and place in the freezer for at least an hour before serving.

For the orange zest crème topping:

  1. In a large bowl combine the orange zest, granulated sugar and the plain greek yogurt.
  2. In a separate bowl, whip the cream with a mixer until the cream just barely reaches firm-peaks.
  3. With a rubber spatula, gently fold the whipped cream into the yogurt mixture half at a time.
  4. Cover and refrigerate until time to serve.

For the oranges

  1. Combine the peeled and segmented orange with one tablespoon of honey. Let sit until ready to serve.

To assemble

  1. Cut sections of the cake using a circular cookie cutter or the rim of a drinking glass.
  2. Top the cake with a generous portion of the orange zest crème, a scoop of sorbet on the side and two or three orange slices on top.

Savory Tarts: Heirloom Tomatoes in a Parmesan Crust

I have never been a superb dough maker. Considering I never defined myself as a perfectionist it has always been difficult to follow recipes that need special care. If you do not roll the dough the perfect amount it can lead to negative consequences. No one wants a tart that falls apart or a pastry that is not flaky. Considering it is such a science it does take extra care. I decided it was time to make a savory tart.

I have been quite jealous for a while of Heidi Swanson’s blog 101cookbooks.com, as well as her tart recipes. Her blog is a beautiful place where she cooks, photographs and expresses a deep-rooted joy for all things food. Swanson cooks vegetarian and vegan food that never seems to skimp on flavor. Her ability to create unique flavor and textural combinations is evident every time a new recipe is posted. She is definitely an inspiration for me, and her tarts are especially so. She makes beautiful ones with flavors such as turnip greens with a cornmeal crust and a lasagna tart packed in a piecrust.

The tart that struck me the most to start with was her heirloom tomato tart in a Parmesan crust. I used a combination of beefsteak tomato and Kumato brown tomato slices. The recipe calls for heirloom tomatoes that are not always accessible so I chose to do a combination of special dark colored tomatoes with the typical red ones we are all used to. The tart shell is easy to make and full of Parmesan flavor. If you are a fan of fresh tomatoes and summer flavors please make this. It goes great with shrimp and chicken dishes, but try it with anything. Again, thank Swanson for this wonderful recipe that follows. I will need to make more of her recipes in the future, and eventually give my own spin to her recipes.

Heirloom Tomato Tart in a Parmesan Crust 

[From 101Cookbooks.com]

  •     6 medium-sized heirloom tomatoes
  •     1 teaspoon sea salt
  •     1/2 cup all-purpose flour and 1/2 cup whole wheat flour (or just 1 cup all-   purpose)
  •     1/2 cup organic butter, cut into 1/4-inch cubes
  •     2 cups loosely packed grated Parmesan cheese
  •     2 tablespoons ice cold water
  •     2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  •     1/4 cup slivered basil
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.
  2. To avoid a soggy crust later on, you need to rid the tomatoes of some of their liquid. Clear a space on your counter and put down a double layer of absorbent paper towels. Place the tomatoes in a single layer on the paper towels and sprinkle them with about 1 teaspoon fine-grained sea salt. Top the tomatoes with another layer of paper towels and press gently. Let the tomatoes sit here until you are ready to use them.
  3. Place both flours, butter, and Parmesan in a food processor and pulse quickly about 25 times. You are looking for a sandy textured blend, punctuated with pea-sized pieces of butter. With a few more pulses, blend in the 2T of ice water. The dough should stick together when your pinch it between two fingers. Pour the dough into a nine or ten inch tart. Working quickly, press the dough uniformly into the pan by pressing across the bottom and working towards the sides and up to form a rim. Place in the refrigerator and chill for 15 minutes.
  4. Pull the tarts out of the refrigerator and poke each a few times with the tongs of a fork. Cover the tart with a square of aluminum foil and fill generously with pie weights. Place on a baking sheet and slide the tart onto the middle rack in the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, pull the shell out of the oven and very gently peel back and remove the tinfoil containing the pie weights. Place the uncovered tart back in the oven, weight free, and allow to cook for another 10 minutes, or until it is a deep golden brown in color. Remove from the oven and sprinkle with a little shredded Parmesan (this will act as another barrier to the tomato liquid). Let cool to room temperature before filling.
  5. Just before serving, arrange tomato slices in a concentric pattern inside the tart shell. Drizzle with your best quality extra-virgin olive oil, and sprinkle with the slivered basil. Serve at room temperature.

Tiny Nibbles: Zagat’s Food Truck Frenzy

During the summers when I was younger I would always have two ears open for the neighborhood ice cream truck. Just the simple ringing would bring all of the neighborhood children outside of their houses. We would all line up for beautiful swirls of chocolate dipped vanilla ice cream cones or pops shaped into cartoon characters with gumball centers. There was always something to look forward to. Beyond just being cheap and quick, going to the ice cream truck was a special highlight to the summer. It was a place to meet up with friends, to enjoy a sweet treat but most importantly to explore. It felt like there were limitless combinations to be made.

Today there are dozens of food trucks on the streets on New York City that bring diversity to what can be made on the go. Some tucks might still be serving up ice cream, but the variety that is availability today is incredibly exciting. I could not have been giddier than I was the other day when I ventured to Zagat’s Food Truck Frenzy. For my extreme interest in all things food it is surprising that I have not been to any food trucks in the city before. Once I tried to find the Luke’s Lobster truck only to be too late. (I did then have to go to the actual store itself because a Luke’s craving is astronomical). Today most of the food trucks are well connected to the general public beyond on the streets. They have their own websites and twitter accounts; The websites display comprehensive menus and the twitter accounts always tell the followers the truck’s location on any given day.

Zagat was able to bring together twenty-five of the top trucks on the streets of New York and place them between 10th and 11th avenues. There was everything you could imagine there from sliders to frozen yogurt and barbeque to tacos. For only $18 ready eaters were able to sample food from four trucks. My friend and I shared some of our items and found extra tickets that someone dropped which allowed us to try even more of the fare. The scene was set with the brightly colored trucks and speckled about groups of musicians playing while foodies shuffled about. We went early, slightly before twelve, so we did not have to wait on many lines. The event went until three, but it was in prime shape starting around twelve thirty. Considering we would have to travel all over the city to have an experience like this we were so thankful they were all there and so ready to start.

We started off at the Bistro Truck. Bistro Truck is run by Yassir Z. Raouli whose mission is to provide restaurant quality bistro food with Moroccan-Mediterranean influence. The dish they were serving out for the event was Chicken Pastilla. Their pastilla was a filo dough pie that was stuffed with organic chicken and almonds. Our portion was really generous and even came with a side salad. The filo dough was flakey and the blend of herbs and spices and rose water created a special flavor combination that was unexpected. We were crazy thrilled with this, and while it usually costs ten dollars, we got it for a steal of a price.

Next I happily pulled my friend to the Luke’s Lobster Truck. Luke’s Lobster is a recent discovery of mine. All of their rolls are fabulous but the lobster roll really takes the cake. The buns are lightly toasted with swipes of mayo and lemon butter. Secret spices on top just add to the authenticity of their Maine-style rolls. While their rolls were incredibly tiny at the event it was still worth one of my precious tickets. If you can make it to one of their restaurants or the truck get the lobster roll, I do not think there could be a more perfect roll. The lines were crazy later on at this truck so I was thankful we came early.

What was so incredible about the entire event was how a couple of steps and trucks over was like traveling to a different world. From the shores of Maine I traveled to India for a Kati roll from the Desi Food Truck.  A Kati roll is flat bread that can have different kinds of fillings and is usually spiced with hot coriander. I chose the Aloo Masala roll that was filled with a vegetarian mixture of potatoes and peas. The outer flat bread was crispy and the potatoes were so tender. I did cough a bit with the first bite because the spices are really present but the overall dish felt like really simple, on the go street fair. They might have been making smaller versions but the price is rather steep for just the few bites.

A slider. I’m intrigued. Guacamole. I’m getting excited. Brisket. I’m jumping for joy. This is just one dish from the food truck Mexicue, one that I am going to have to hunt down in the future. For the event they served a BBQ brisket with a habanero aioli slaw and guacamole. It was a crazy delicious and great example of how to successfully blend different culinary views into one vision. Their food has the flavors of both Mexican food and good old American BBQ. The brisket was tender and wonderfully spiced. The avocado and the slaw have a good amount of acidity and provided textural contrast for the slider. Their regular menu has inspired taco and slider dishes and you can even get chips and salsa. I will be hunting this truck down in the future. You should try too.

I decided to take a chance on The Cinnamon Snail truck with their Seitan sandwich. I am all for organic and vegan fare, that is if it is done really well. I want to feel tricked that there is no meat in the dish. The sandwich was spiced with Szechuan chili sauce, curried cashews, and lemongrass. On top of that all it had some wasabi mayonnaise smeared onto a grilled baguette roll. The sandwich fell short for me but then again, I have never had seitan before. With so much flavor promised the sandwich felt a bit one note. If I saw the truck again I would definitely try something else, as for an avid meat eater this might have not been the best choice after such a great slider.

Big D’s Grub Truck, oh how you wooed me. This was my last stop on the savory adventures at the truck event. At this point during the day the heavens decided to open up and explode. My friend and I were huddled under one umbrella waiting on this line but the bright personality of this truck and the dumplings we were going to eat were well worth the wait. Truck owner Big D (Dennis) presents food with great flavor influenced by the American South, Guyana and China. I had three of his pork & chive dumplings and was so happy that I proclaimed, “Those were passionate fucking dumplings!” Very lady like, yes. The dumplings were served with Big D’s Secret Sauce that added creaminess to the juicy and plump dish. Just perfect.

Now it was time for dessert. My friend tried three different dessert trucks that I tried bites of. The Treats Truck offered Pecan Butterscotch bars and Mexican Brownies. My friend was afraid she would have to choose between the two but she was offered both. A worker nearby was just gushing about the end pieces of Kim Ima’s baked goods. I had a bite of the pecan butterscotch bar and it was delicious. There was nothing fancy about it but it was sweet and oozed homemade love. Next she moved onto the Sweetery’s creation, the Macarella. The dessert was a sandwich of two crispy thin macaroon cookies with nutella in the center. It was such a no brainer. It was sweet and crunchy, and just what anyone would want in a quick treat. Also with nutella you can never go wrong. My friend also had a frozen yogurt from the Joyride truck. She was able to choose an unlimited amount of toppings just like you can do in a frozen yogurt store. On the go frozen yogurt? Yes, that is perfect.

If there were any way to end a frenzy of food truck eating it would be with Kelvin Natural Slush Co. I have wanted to have one of these for so long and I am not disappointed in any way. The slush they make is all natural and served with fruit purees and fresh mix-ins like mint and basil.  This truck won a 2010 Vendy Award for Best Dessert and it is well deserved. The customizability and the flavors of the slush are what make having one so exciting. I chose a combination of Spicy Ginger and Tangy Citrus slush flavor with a mix in of pink guava fruit puree. The flavors were tart and fresh and an incredible palate cleanser for the entire day. The pink guava had the perfect amount of sweetness. I have never had a better slush. The flavors were balanced and it was so clear the product is incredibly refined. I might need to figure out where this truck is during a normal Kelvin truck week. It was that great.

One final regret: I did not get to eat at the Big Gay Ice Cream truck! I was so full after everything that I felt like I physically could not have eaten a giant ice cream cone. Trust, me their ice cream looks amazing. The day of the event they were passing out their signature cone, the Bea Arthur. A sugar cone is filled with vanilla ice cream, dulce de leche and crushed nilla wafers. It looks perfect, along with their other cones they typically sell from their truck. I promise I will find this truck one day.

Overall the day was just perfect, aside from the rain. I felt so lucky to be able to experience all of this amazing food. I suggest that if you have a love of food you drop everything to attend special food events like this. It is so inspiring to see what passionate people are doing with food out there, even in trucks!

Featured Zagat Food Trucks:

Bistro Truck (@BistroTruck)- Chicken Pastilla [http://bistrotruck.com]

Luke’s Lobster Truck (@LukesLobsterNY)- Mini Lobster Rolls [http://www.lukeslobster.com]

Desi Truck (@DesiFoodTruck)- Kati Rolls [http://www.desifoodtruck.com]

Mexicue (@Mexicue)- BBQ Brisket Slider [http://www.mexicueny.com]

The Cinnamon Snail (@VeganLunchTruck)-Lemongrass Seitan with Szechuan Chili Sauce [http://www.cinnamonsnail.com]

Big D’s Grub Truck (@BigDsGrub)-Dumplings [http://bigdsgrub.com/]

The Treats Truck (@TheTreatsTruck)- Pecan Butterscotch Bar or Mexican Brownie [http://www.treatstruck.com/]

Sweetery (@SweeteryNYC)- Macarella (Macroon w/ Nutella) [http://sweeterynyc.com/]

Joyride Truck (@Joyride Truck)-Original Frozen yogurt [http://www.joyridetrucks.com/index.html]

Kelvin Natural Slush Co. (@KelvinSlush) [http://kelvinslush.com]

Big Gay Ice Cream Truck (@BigGayIceCream)- The Bea Arthur [http://www.biggayicecreamtruck.com/]

Side Dish Duty: Zucchini Ribbons

When I was younger and eager to get my hands in the kitchen I was put on side dish duty. I would cut the mozzarella and tomato for a fresh Caprese salad. I would grab handfuls of fresh basil from the pots outside and drizzle olive oil over to finish. I would cut the green beans for a simple side dish sautéed with some fresh garlic. Everything was simple and delicious but as most side dishes become eventually boring. While side dishes are a great way to take in daily vitamins and minerals, when you really want something special you need to mix stuff up a bit.

Ribbons are a fun and beautiful way to eat zucchini, a vegetable that I enjoy all throughout the summer. Zucchini is low in calories and perfect when grilled with lemon and olive oil on the grill. This recipe is just as delicious but infuses some different flavors that I normally do not use with zucchini. The basil and Parmesan cheese are delicate and give off the greatest aroma for the vegetables. I find that this side dish tastes the best with a light dish of shrimp or fish. This recipe could only be improved with variation. The following is what I decided to create, but I would not shy away from using infused oils, lemon juice and other types of herbs.

Zucchini Ribbons 

[Adapted from Food.com Zucchini Ribbons with Basil Butter]

  •     3 medium zucchini
  •     1 tablespoon butter
  •     1 tablespoon olive oil
  •     2 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
  •     2 tablespoons fresh basil leaves, sliced thinly
  •     Optional: red pepper flakes, lemon juice, additional herbs of choice
  1. Bring a pot of water to boil.
  2. Using a vegetable peeler peel off the dark green skin of the zucchini. Continue peeling long strips from the vegetable, rotating it to get the most of the flesh.
  3. Drop the zucchini ribbons into the boiling water for around one minute. Drain and return to a bowl.
  4. Add in the butter, oil, parmesan, basil and any other additional items of choice.
  5. Once the butter is melted and the zucchini is coated serve it up on the side, or eat it like it is as the main thing. It is time for the side dish to shine anyways.

A Tropical Meal in New York: Fennel and Mango Shrimp

The River Café, a restaurant I would absolutely be smitten to death to go to. While a restaurant should be all about the food, sometimes a great location is something to admire. How romantic would it be to sit and just stare at the beautiful view of New York City? I was recently at a friend’s apartment in the city and I felt like a first grader looking out of the windows staring at the landscape. The dark space was speckled with square windows of light. It was beautiful being up there looking out. Eating a beautiful dinner while seeing such a view, well that would just be a plus.

Located on Brooklyn’s edge the restaurant has brought life to the area. It opened in 1977 when the property nearby was not in high demand. Since then Brooklyn has grown to be a hotspot of its own for food. I was born in Brooklyn but moved out of the city soon after. I hope one day to return and visit places that I have heard about some older than I am, some that have sprung up since my departure.

The dish I have found inspiration from is the Wild Rock Lobster. On the menu it is described as two roasted tails with mango, lemon and olive oil.  I tried to keep some of those flavors there but add more accessibility to it. While lobster is delicious and I would order this dish in a second if I went to the restaurant I decided to give shrimp the royal treatment. While many people find shrimp a protein they wish to avoid I find myself craving it from time to time. I feel healthy after eating a plate of shrimp. It is light and takes easily to flavor. The cooking time is quick from skillet to my plate. Here the shrimp is marinated in fresh fennel fronds, lemon, garlic and olive oil. To go with the shrimp I made an easy roasted fennel and mango salsa. The essence of the original dish is here but I felt as though the fennel would add some depth that is easily achieved with rich lobster.

I found myself quickly eating a plate of this, as did my family. The salsa is so simple allowing a chance for mango to shine. Mango and shrimp are just made for each other. The shrimp takes on the flavor of the delicate marinade willingly and after a quick sauté it is ready for hungry eaters to enjoy all it has to offer. As always please do not feel the need to follow each and every step exactly. Savory cooking is a game of give and take that I enjoy toying with. I did not base my dish entirely off of a recipe; it was just something anyone can throw together. Why are you waiting? Toss it together and enjoy!

Grilled Fennel and Lemon Shrimp on top of Roasted Fennel and Mango Salsa

For the shrimp:

  •     1 1/2 pounds large unpeeled shrimp
  •     Juice from 3/4 of a lemon
  •     1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  •     2 garlic cloves, crushed
  •     1/4 cup loosely packed fresh basil, loosely chopped
  •     1/4 cup fennel fronds, finely chopped
  •     1 tablespoon butter

For the salsa:

  •     One mango, diced
  •     Half of a fennel bulb, diced
  •     Juice from 1/4 of a lemon
  •     2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves

1. Peel and devein the shrimp into a bowl.

2. In the bowl mix the lemon juice, olive oil, crushed garlic, basil and fennel fronds into the shrimp. Allow to marinate for half an hour or so.

3. Meanwhile on medium heat, place the diced fennel bulb in a small sauté pan with some olive oil. Cook until the fennel is golden and cooked down, about ten minutes.

4. Combine the fennel bulb with the diced mango and basil. Squeeze the lemon juice on top to finish.

5. Heat a large sauté pan on medium heat with some olive oil. When the pan gives off a moderate amount of heat place the shrimp in the pan. Stir around using a pair of tongs until all of the shrimp are pink in color. This should be pretty quick. When the shrimp is mostly pink add the tablespoon of

butter. Cook onto the butter melts. If you want some added heat, add some red pepper flakes before taking off the heat.

6. To assemble, place a couple of shrimp on top of the fennel and mango salsa.

Comforting Seafood: Wild Salmon a la Lutece with Sweet Corn, Green Cabbage and Brown Butter

I have a slight fascination with cookbooks. The glossy pages filled with dishes as special as the stories that go along with them are too much to resist. It feels like a treasure hunt going through the pages. I always keep a sheet of white paper with me as I read through one, marking recipes that look delicious or feel special special. Although I find beauty in every book I sift through every recipe out there does not deserve to be made. There is a difference between a good recipe and a bad one, but I have found a book in which I doubt there is a bad dish inside.

Sunday Suppers At Lucques: Seasonal Recipes From Market to Table is a beautiful book written by Suzanne Goin with Teri Gelber. Goin is someone to look up to with food. Her dishes use familiar ingredients in an unpretentious manner all why conjuring up feelings of the comforting family dinner. Her cookbook offers a plethora of recipes that are arranged by season and by menu. I bought this cookbook in the winter and I find that with each passing season this book keeps on giving. I am pretty sure it will still do so year after year.

I have done some of the recipes in this book before but I decided to go with her salmon dish, Wild Salmon À La Lutèce with Sweet Corn, Green Cabbage, and Brown Butter Vinaigrette. Let me tell you one thing. A college cafeteria hall is not a welcome place of seafood. Fish is a rarity. Shrimp has never seen a pan. While I think most of my peers at school are lucky the cafeteria does not even attempt at seafood, it does not help the fact that a girl starts to miss it. When I first ate salmon it felt like a special discovery. It was delicious, versatile and healthy to boot. This recipe has a lot going for it. It is smoky with the bacon flavor. It has a great amount of acidity from the red wine vinegar and lemon juice. It is so fresh with the corn and cabbage mixture. Everything just works here, incredibly indicative of Goin’s talent as a chef and cookbook author.

I have stayed truthful to the recipe but I have changed some things around. The original called for mixing the breadcrumbs with the milk mixture that produced clumpy crumbs. I would dip the fish into the milk mixture and then coat in the breadcrumb mixture. That way the coating will be more even and lighter.

Wild Salmon a la lutece with Sweet Corn, Green Cabbage, and Brown Butter Vinaigrette 

[Adapted from Sunday Suppers at Lucques]

  •     1 cup whole milk
  •     5 ounces bacon
  •     2 extra-large eggs
  •     2 1/4 breadcrumbs
  •     1/4 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
  •     6 wild salmon fillets, 5 to 6 ounces each, skins removed (preferred)
  •     2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  •     6 and 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  •     1 1/2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  •     3 tablespoons finely diced white onion
  •     1/2 lemon, for juicing
  •     1 1/2 thinly sliced spring onions
  •     2 teaspoons thyme leaves
  •     1 1/2 cups fresh corn (from about two ears)
  •     1/2 small green cabbage, about one pound, sliced thinly lengthwise
  1. Cut the bacon into 3/8-inch-thick slices. Stack them into two piles, then cut the bacon crosswise into 3/8-inch rectangles or lardons.
  2. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat for one minute. Add the bacon lardons and cook about five minutes, stirring often, until tender and lightly crisped. Transfer to a paper-towel-lined plate, leaving the fat in the pan.
  3. Swirl in 2 tablespoons of butter and after it foams for a bit add the spring onions, thyme and some salt and pepper. Saute over medium heat for about three minutes
  4. Add the corn and continue cooking for another three minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Add the cabbage and cook for two minutes until the cabbage just wilts.
  6. In a small saucepan, bring the milk and the bacon lardons to a boil over medium-high heat. Remove from the heat and cool for five minutes. Puree the mixture in a food processor until the bacon is fully incorporated into the milk. Add the eggs and pulse a few times to combine. Transfer to a baking dish and set aside.
  7. Place the breadcrumbs and parsley in another baking dish.
  8. To coat the salmon dip each fillet in the milk mixture and then into the breadcrumb mixture onto fully covered.
  9. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat for two minutes. Swirl in olive oil and wait a minute. Carefully place the batter-coated fish in the pan. Turn the heat to low, and cook for about three minutes until golden brown. Carefully turn each piece over, and cook for another three to four minutes. Transfer the fish to a resting rack when it is nicely browned on the second side and still a little rare at the center. Transfer to a resting rack.
  10. Place six tablespoons of butter in a small saucepan and cook two to three minutes over medium heat, until it browns and smells nutty. Turn off the heat and wait a minute. Add the red wine vinegar, the onion and some salt. Return the butter to the stove over low heat and cook a minute of two until the onion is just softened but still slightly crunchy. Turn off the heat and squeeze in the lemon juice.
  11. On a platter arrange the salmon on top of the corn and cabbage mixture. Top with the brown butter vinaigrette and add some chopped parsley if desired.

Break the Bubble: Inspired Lamb Burgers

Locanda Verde is a restaurant I have been eyeing for a while now. In fact the website has been one of my bookmarked so it was just natural that it would be my first post. The restaurant is listed as Eater NY’s number one restaurant out of “The 38 Essential New York Restaurants”, and with the long list of owners it is clear that this establishment is more than just a local spot its name implies. Chef Andrew Carmellini does take his food seriously but the overall attitude seems relaxed with menu items like sliders and the overall tavern-cooking feel. While I live near the city I am usually not at TriBeCa often so I decided to take on their popular antipasti, the Lamb Meatball sliders with caprino and cucumber.

My take on the lamb sliders does not steer too far from the original concept but this recreation gave me a great chance to make rolls from scratch. The bun recipe was incredibly easy to follow and considering I am in no way the queen of making dough I am surprised by the outcome. While I was looking for a recipe that would produce a light and airy bun, I am pretty satisfied with this denser but buttery one instead. Considering these buns are so small the recipe works well. Some of the rolls were topped with a dried thyme, shallot, and Parmesan while others got either a dusting of Parmesan or were left alone. I think the shallot topping was my favorite making the roll an onion bun, full of flavor.

Inside the slider was even more flavor. I decided to go with a Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatball. I used a mixture of spices including ground coriander, cumin, curry powder, and oregano just to name a few. The overwhelming amount of spices in this creates a burger packed with flavor even if it is just a baby one. I am currently in love with all sorts of South Asian flavors so the curry essence in this dish is a warm welcome. The meat combined with the spice mix and some tomato ketchup is easy yet exciting for a midweek dinner.

Assembling the sliders combines the buttery bun with the spiced burger, plus a swipe of fresh goat cheese and pickled cucumbers. The cucumbers add some acidity to the dish and the goat cheese adds creaminess. I think what makes this dish a favorite at the restaurant is the luxury and balance of flavor. The slider is an excellent platform to get creative and I think this recipe screams just such. I have kept everything very close to the original but have changed up some of the method. So simple yet so rich in different components try this out and as always do not shy away from making another recreation.

For more Locanda Verde check out: http://www.locandaverdenyc.com/index.php

Moroccan Spiced Lamb Meatball Sliders with Goat Cheese and Pickled Cucumber

For the Buns:

[Adapted from Commee Ca restaurant in Los Angeles, via Smitten Kitchen]

  • 3 tablespoons warm milk
  • 2 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 3 cups bread flour
  • 1/3 cup all purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 shallot
  • 1/2 tablespoon dried thyme
  • 1 tablespoon grated parmesan

For the Meatballs:

[Adapted from Quinz Restaurant via Foodnetwork.com]

  • 2 pounds ground Lamb
  • 1 egg
  • 1/2 cup ketchup
  • 1 tablespoon ground coriander, ground cumin, curry powder, and garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder, dried oregano, dried thyme
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground mustard and paprika
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground allspice, cinnamon, and chili powder

For the Pickled Cucumber:

  • 1/2 of a cucumber of choice
  • 1/3 cup rice wine vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons white sugar
  • Splashes of red wine vinegar

For Putting It All Together:

  • Goat cheese
  • Hot tomato sauce of your choice

1. In a glass measuring cup, combine one cup warm water, the milk, yeast and sugar. Let stand until foamy, about five minutes. Meanwhile, beat one of the eggs.

2. In a large bowl, whisk flours with salt. Add butter and rub into the flour mixture between your fingers, making crumbs. Stir in the yeast mixture and the beaten egg until a dough forms.

3. Scrape the dough onto a counter and turn it, until smooth and elastic, 8 minutes or so. Try to leave the dough more tacky than fully of flour. More flour will make the buns tougher.

4. Shape the dough into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place, one to two hours. The dough should rise and almost double.

5. Meanwhile, work on the meatball mixture by gently combining all of the ground meat with the spices, egg and ketchup. Form into small balls.

6. Pickle the cucumbers by peeling the cucumber. Use the peeler to make the cucumber into thin strips. Mix to combine all of the ingredients. Put in the refrigerator to keep cold.

7. Once the dough is ready to be rolled into balls, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and divide the dough into tiny pieces. The buns should be slightly larger in size than the meatballs. Make sure each pice of dough is rolled out into a ball shape.

8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat the remaining egg with one tablespoon of water and brush on top of the buns.

9. Sauté the shallot with the thyme until slightly translucent. Top each bun with this mixture and a sprinkle of parmesan.

10. Bake the buns until the tops are golden brown, about 15 minutes. Take out and let them cool.

11. Time to cook the meatballs. Put the meatballs in a frying pan with only a tiny drizzle of olive oil. Cook until the meatballs are crispy brown but still look moist. You may need to turn the meatballs on all of their sides to make sure they are all cooked throughout.

12. To assemble, cut each bun in half. Swipe some goat cheese on the base of the bun. Top with a lamb meatball. Put some tomato sauce on top. Take a couple ribbons of pickled cucumber to put on the meatball. Top with the shallot, parmesan and thyme bun top and enjoy.

Pretty in Pink: Lavender Lemonade

I just got home from my first year of college. Did I just say that? I feel an array of emotions but mostly those of contentment. Months of worrying about what college would be like have melted away. Classes were hard, and it was difficult adjusting to a new lifestyle but overall I am quite thrilled with how I did. What I am not thrilled about? Spending a summer at home away from the place I considered home for an entire year.

To try to ease myself into living back at home I decided to make a favorite drink of mine from a local restaurant at school. Twisted Soul is a food concept restaurant that turns out delicious, and unique flavors. Usually it is a must stop for their delicious Corn and Goat cheese Empanadas or their Smokey BBQ Tofu Arepas but today I am letting their special drink take front and center, Lavender Lemonade with Thai Basil Seeds.

It is an interesting combination of herbal aromatics and subtle gelatinous texture with a slightly sugary bite. It might sound different, but overall it really works. The lavender infused lemonade is curiously familiar yet exotic. The basil seeds, which I originally thought were kiwi seeds, might be a little weird at first but the texture is like that of small tapioca and is pretty fun. I did not ask for the recipe but instead decided to try to recreate what I have fallen in love with in just one short year. My version is definitely more vivid color wise and makes the drink look like pink lemonade. In the future if I want to make pink lemonade (say for Mother’s Day) I will go to this recipe, as it is an example of natural food coloring.

For more information on Twisted Soul visit, http://www.twistedsoulconcepts.com/

 Lavender Lemonade with Basil Seeds

[For a decent pitcher of sweet tangy goodness]

  •     1 1/2 cups of white sugar
  •     1/3 cup of lavender buds
  •     1 cup of fresh lemon juice (about four or five)
  •     1/4 cup of fresh lime juice (about one)
  •     8 cups of water
  •     1 Tablespoon of Thai Sweet Basil Seeds *
  1. Bring the water and sugar to a boil in a large saucepan.
  2. Once the water and sugar mixture has boiled remove the saucepan from the heat.
  3. Combine the lemon and lime juice with the lavender. Combine with the water and sugar syrup and let cool to room temperature.
  4. Once cooled, strain and chill.
  5. In the meantime combine a tablespoon of the basil seeds with enough water to cover the seeds in a bowl. The seeds will plump up on their own.
  6. To assemble: Put ice in a glass, top with spoonfuls of the seeds and pour the lemonade over top.

*Order Thai Sweet Basil Seeds from Amazon.com here [The shipping was incredibly quick and the quality is good too]