Ancient Holidays, New Traditions

Tonight is the start of Passover which just happens to be my favorite holiday. How could I not love a holiday that combines singing, food and emphasizes social justice.

I’m a big believer that rules are meant to be broken while traditions are meant to be kept. If this blog was about life and not food, I’d explain that further, but for now just go with it, k?

One of the coolest thing about Passover is that it steeped heavily in age-old traditions and still leaves room to begin new traditions. On the first two nights of Passover we have a Seder where we retell the story of our enslavement and coming out of Egypt, sing songs and eat a big delicious meal. In the center of the table is a Seder plate and on the Seder plate are certain foods that have symbolic meanings behind them. These foods have appeared on our Seder plates for centuries, but in modern times families often add new foods as symbols.

A few years ago my family started adding an orange to our Seder plates. There are a few interpretations of what the orange symbolizes, but I’ll tell you what it means to us. To my family the orange represents the inclusion of ALL people in our traditions and most especially the inclusion of Gays and Lesbians. See the orange isn’t something that’s been a traditional part of the Seder, but that’s no reason not to welcome it.

This year will be adding another symbol too, a tomato. No, the tomato doesn’t represent that we’re from New Jersey and are very proud of our tomatoes (though that is true), instead the tomato is there to remind us that, while we celebrate our own freedom from slavery , slavery still exists. Unfortunately much of this slavery exists in the supply chain of our food system and some of the most egregious examples are from the tomato growers in Florida.

The tomato on our Seder plate serves as a reminder that we may be free, but our fight is far from over. Our fight will not be over until all slaves are free, until all workers are guaranteed fair wages and safe conditions.

I hope you have a wonderful Passover, Easter or just a great weekend! Enjoy time with your family and friends, but please try to fill your table with only good quality, fair trade, sustainable food. And if this holiday weekend involves prayer for you, take a minute to pray that we will one day live in a world where all people are free.

Simple Suppers: Jamie Knows Best

I’m always shocked when people tell me that they rely on take out or convenience foods because they just can’t find the time to make dinner. I know that everyone’s life is different and has its own set of stresses, but even if you only know the very basics of cooking, it’s really easy to throw together a quick dinner. So, for a little inspiration, I’ve decided to post the occasional “Simple Supper.”

This was my dinner on Sunday night, a spinach, Kalamata olive and feta omelette with a slice of whole wheat toast. It was awesome.

I didn't let the pan cool down enough after I made the spinach so I got a tad too much color.

Omelettes are super quick to make, nutritious and yummy. Eggs are a great vehicle for just about anything so omelettes or egg scrambles are also a great way to use leftovers.

I tried to cut it open in the middle to show the filling.

Omelettes can be one of those foods that you can never get quit as good (read light and fluffy) at home as you do in a restaurant, but after watching this video from one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Jamie Oliver, I must say my omelettes are pretty damn awesome.

PS- I’m calling this “Simple Suppers” because it’s alliterative and I ♥ alliteration, but I don’t think anyone in the New York metropolitan area would ever actually refer to dinner as supper!

Otto Enoteca Pizzeria

Full disclosure, this is probably the 15th time I’ve eaten at Otto so I already knew what to expect.

Otto is owned by my number one most favorite celebrity chef, Mario Batali. I mean I really love Mario Batali, like I’d say I love him like I love a Kardashian and, trust me, that is the truest form I love  thatI have to offer. In case you’re wondering how Mario Batali feels about me (and really how could you not be wondering that), sadly we haven’t met yet, but I feel 100% certain that if we did he would love me as much as I love him and invite me over to his place to share a delicious meal with his family. Obv.

I’ve had the pleasure of eating at two of Mario Batali’s very expensive restaurants, Babbo and Del Posto, as well as two of the more moderately restaurants inside his fabulous Italian food market, Eataly. Otto, however, is my favorite go-to spot and I was back there again this past Friday.

The food at Otto is always great, they are fabulous with food allergies and the prices are super reasonable.  Otto was the first restaurant that started keeping my allergies on file in their computer system. These days many restaurants do that, but I’ll still never forgot that second time I ever made a reservation at Otto 3 or 4 years ago and, after typing in my last name,  the reservationist calmly said, “and I see you have the following allergies,” and proceeded to read all of my allergies back to me! Now whenever I walk in my server and the kitchen have already been prepped. How awesome is that!?

I often start out a meal at Otto by sharing a cheese plate with my dinner companions. Since there were 5 of us on Friday we went with 5 cheeses. Unfortunately I forgot to take a picture of it, but I assure you it was great. The best part of the cheese plate though is that you get the most awesome bonus accompaniment of truffle honey. Nope you didn’t read that wrong; Truffle Freaking Honey!

I make you want to lick the plate, but you can't because you're in public and you're mother raised you better than that.

The main menu at Otto consists of pizza and pasta only and I have to sheepishly admit that I’ve gotten the same pizza all but two of the times I’ve eaten there. Both times I’ve strayed my choices have been delicious and I’ve taken enough bites of other people’s dishes to know that the Otto kitchen rarely misses, but I still hate to stray from my Romana pizza.

All the pizzas at Otto are thin crust roman style, topped with  variety of fresh, and often seasonal, ingredients. The Romana, aka my perfect pizza, is topped with tomato sauce, anchovies, capers, chilies and mozzarella. The chilies are nice and spicy which pairs perfectly with the tang of the capers and the brineyness of the anchovies while the creamy richness of the mozzarella cuts right through those strong flavors and keeps them right in check.

Table for five.

I am the perfect pizza and I'm drunk with power; all other pizzas must bow to me.

When dining at Otto for the first time, I always warn everyone that it’s imperative that they save room for dessert. Otto is famous for their gelato, especially their Olive Oil Gelato. I know that Olive Oil Gelato sounds weird at first, but once people try it they’re usually converted. Think about really good olive oil you’ve had in the past. I don’t mean the bottle of Filippo Berio you have in your pantry for every day use, I mean the kind they give you at a great restaurant to dip your bread in. The kind that is light, floral and a tiny bit sweet. At Otto they’re using the good stuff in their gelato.

I must admit though that the Olive Oil is only my second favorite flavor. My favorite gelato at Otto is the Caramel which is not overly sweet, but has more of a complex burnt sweetness to it, similar to the top of Creme Brule. Per a past suggestion from a waiter, I usually ask for a side of sea salt to sprinkle on top to make it Salted Caramel Gelato!

Of course I had already started eating by the time I remembered to take a picture.

As always the meal at Otto was great. We only had two glasses of wine between the five of us and the meal cost $40 each. $40 at a celebrity chef owned retaurant in Manhattan is like giving the food away.

One other awesome thing to note about Otto is that if you’re gluten free for any reason they can do all pizza and pasta’s gluten free.

The verdict:
Food rating: B+
Service/food allergy accommodations: A
Overall rating: Super Yummy