Eeeeekkkk! Another celebrity foodie geek out moment for me.
You’ve kind of heard me say this before, but one of my goals is to redefine the term “Foodie.” If you are someone who like to prepare meals you can call yourself a cook. If you’re someone who loves to thrill your taste buds with various flavor you’re an eater. Of course cooking and eating can and should also be a big part of being a Foodie, but that can’t be all that there is. So what is the definition of a Foodie?
A Foodie is someone who is passionate and cares deeply about food. And so, I believe that a true Foodie, can’t only care about flavors and techniques. A true Foodie has to care about issues like world hunger, labor rights and environmentalism (to name a few).
A few months ago I read about this great project, United Noshes, started by husband and wife team Jesse Friedman and Laura Hadden. Jesse and Laura, true Foodies by my definion,decided last year to embark on a multi year project in which they’d cook a full meal from every country that is a voting member of the UN and… wait for it… wait for it… raise money for the UN World Food Program.
Jesse and Laura research recipes and ingredients to keep these meals as authentic as possible and they invite guests to join! They ask that guests bring a donation for the UN world program. Do these seem like people I needed to know or what?
Last week I realized that they were just about up to Denmark so I offered my help via Twitter and then followed up with an email. Though I knew that you could request an invitation, I thought it was probably too late since the meal was planned for this past Saturday. I wrote Jesse a fairly extensive email about Danish food and meals and offered to send over a bag of my favorite Danish candy, Toms Guldkaramellers. Jesse sent a note of thanks in reply and then invited me to the Danish dinner! Of course I readily excepted and was even more in awe on their awesomeness when Jesse asked for a list of my allergies so he could be conscious while shopping and cooking.
I arrived at Jesse and Lauren’s Brooklyn apartment on Saturday and was greeted by an eclectic group of people. Jesse and Lauren, who turned out to be just as warm and lovely in person, had invited a couple of their IRL friends and then several other people were strangers like me who’d requested an invitation through the United Noshes newsletter. It was such a great group of people. I mean how often do you sit down with 8 complete strangers and have plenty of free flowing conversation, laughter and great food. Two of the guests were actually half Danish and many of the other guests had spent time there so we all had plenty of Denmark related stories to share.
Jesse makes pretty much everything from scratch and we were rewarded with truly authentic Danish delights. First, there was Jesse own version of Aquavit, for which he infused vodka with all kinds of spice. Aquavit is not my favorite thing so I took one tiny sip for the toast, “Skål” and then let someone else have the rest.
There was also pickled herring, another thing I avoided, and delcious frikardeller, pickled beets, Danish blue cheese, leverpostej (liver pate), potato salad creamed kale and fresh baked rugbrød (dark danish rye). Of course everything was washed down with a nice cold Carlsberg!
All in all it was great fun having a little bit of Denmark right here in NYC. We all left with full bellies (seriously I must get that Kale recipe from Jesse), new friends and a promise to return for another meal!
I’m sorry that my pictures are so bad, but definitely check out Laura’s beautiful photos over at United Noshes.
“World Food Day is a day of action against hunger. Mobilize your family, friends and community this October 16th. When each of us does our part we can end the needless suffering of nearly a billion people worldwide.”
You know how good it feels when you host a dinner party you have this great sense of satisfaction knowing that everyone is well fed and content? Well consider this call to action a global dinner party and think how satisfied and happy you would feel if the whole world were well fed and content.
To learn more click here.
Remember when I got to the letter O and the only country was Oman? Well here we are again at Q and the only country that starts with Q is Qatar. So we’re back in the Middle East and the same problems present themselves. To review those problems are that most Middle Eastern dishes uses ingredients that I’m allergic too and that the food, while delicious, tends to not be very country specific. Still, Qatar is what I had to work with so Qatari food it is.
As much as I love lamb and rice and Middle Eastern spices I just couldn’t bear making yet another dish in that vein so I was excited when I stumbled on some recipes for Balaleet, a Middle Eastern breakfast treat. Throughout this project I’ve done main courses, desserts and sides so doing a breakfast dish seemed like great fun.
Balaleet is a mix of sweet and savory and is often served for special occasions in Qatar. Had I planned better (and by planned better I mean cleaned my apartment) I would’ve invited a friend or two over for brunch. Unfortunately,
my apartment looked like the seventh circle of hell I wasn’t prepared so I scaled this recipe back to serve one, but it would be extremely easy to multiply it for a bigger brunch.
I took two liberty’s with this recipe. Instead of buying vermicelli or angel hair I used Barilla cut spaghetti, but that was really because I had forgotten to buy angel hair at the supermarket so I ran to the bodega on my corner and grabbed the cut spaghetti. This recipe can also be made with rice vermicelli for those who are gluten free.
The other change I made was to use orange juice rather than orange flower water or rose water which all traditional recipes call for. While I try to keep these recipes authentic, it would’ve been a waste to buy orange or rose water that I’d likely never use again.
1/2 cup Vermicelli; broken in to about 1 inch pieces (or use cut spaghetti)
2 Tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon ginger
Large pinch of salt
1 Tablespoon butter
1/4 cup orange juice
1 egg omelette
Boil Vermicelli about 2 minutes less than package directs. Drain then toss in to a mixing boil.
Immediately toss in sugar, cinnamon, ginger and mix well. The heat of the pasta will dissolve the sugar.
In a small non stick frying pan melt butter over medium high heat. Stir in orange juice.
Pour in noodle mixture and spread to flatten. Cover and turn heat down to medium low. Cook for 10-15 minutes until the liquid has absorbed and the bottom has crisped.
Set aside noodle cake and wipe out the frying pan. Make a one egg omelette. Cut the omelette into a few large pieces and serve on top of the noodle cake.
FINAL VERDICT: B-
This dish was definitely interesting and I don’t mean that in a, “Well he’s err got a great personality” kind of way. I mean it in more of a, “Ya know we had a nice time; good conversation; I’m just not sure there was spark,” kind of way.
I went light on the sugar, though most recipes call for far more, because I thought the sugar in the orange juice would add a ton of sweetness, but surprisingly it didn’t. It was actually not very sweet at all definitely should’ve added another Tablespoon of sugar.
I did like the play of textures with the crispy noodles and fluffy egg though. I would definitely try this recipe again, especially for a brunch with other people!
Last day of catch up! We made it, whoop!
Last summer I had some beautiful zucchini and peppers on hand, so I went out and grabbed some shrimp and feta and whipped up a Greek inspired shrimp dish. I made it again a couple of weeks ago and it was just as good as I remembered.
Of course I didn’t bother to measure anything so this recipe has a lot of “to taste” or “whatever looks good to you” in it. It’s so simple though that it’s really hard to mess up. When I made this maybe 3 weeks ago there were still lots of zucchini and peppers at the farmer’s market. You should still be able to get the last of the season right now, but if they’re already gone in your area you can just save this recipe for next summer 😉
Baked Shrimp With Feta
- 1 large bell pepper diced; (I like to use red or orange to contrast with the zucchini)
- 1 medium onion; diced
- 2 large zucchini diced; (I like to use one green and one yellow if I can for purely aesthetic purposes)
- 1 can of diced tomatoes; drained
- Salt, pepper, basil, oregano and red pepper flakes to taste
- 1lb shrimp; cleaned and peeled
- 4-6 oz. crumbled Feta cheese
Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add olive oil. Saute onions, peppers in olive oil until they soften and begin to brown, 5-7 minutes.
Transfer veggies to a bowl. Stir in tomatoes. Add salt, pepper and herbs and adjust to your liking. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 500.
Wipe out skillet and put back on medium heat with just a touch more oil. Saute shrimp for 1 minute per side (2 minutes total!) just until they are no longer translucent. Toss in with the vegetable mixture.
Spread the whole mixture in to a baking dish (I use a 9X13) and top with Feta.
Bake for 10 minutes or until shrimp are cooked through and cheese has browned.
Serve over rice or orzo.
Yield 4-6 servings.
Ok so I’m STILL playing catch up, but I’m determined to be all caught up by the end of this week, especially since I plan to make both my Q and R recipes this weekend.
Two weeks ago Jews all around the world observed Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement. As you probably know on Yom Kippur we refrain from eating or drinking anything (yes, even water) from sundown to sundown. It’s a time for personal reflection and repentance. As we are starting a new year we look back at wrongs we’ve done in the past year and pledge to do our best to be better in the new year.
Fasting sucks. Really really sucks. But guess what, 364 days of the year I am privileged to have access to safe and nourishing food and clean drinking water. So on Yom Kippur I choose not only to reflect inwardly, but also globally. I say prayers of gratitude that I always have enough food to eat and water to drink and I pray for the same for every other human being I share this earth with. I do believe though, that prayer is nothing without action so on Yom Kippur I also recommit myself to the fight against food insecurity, GMO’s, climate change, and the fight for labor rights and access to clean water and so much more.
If you’d like to join the fight, I feel that I can speak for all of us who are committed to sustainable food systems and access to clean water when I say, “We’d love to have you!” A few easy things that you can do; stop drinking bottled water, try to reduce your food waste by buying only what you will consume, bring reusable bags with you when you go shopping, commit to incorporating vegetarian meals in to your diet a couple of times a week and of course use your consumer dollars and your votes to send a message to companies and law makers.
As for the observance of Yom Kippur itself, like all Jewish holy days, it starts at night so before heading off to synagogue we eat a big meal since it’s all we’ll eat for the next full day.
Challah, a traditional Jewish bread, is usually braided, but for Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur it’s baked in to a spiral to symbolize the circle of life as one year flows in to another.
My mom made brisket with egg noodles and roasted brussel sprouts. Yum! To paraphrase Anthony Bourdain, the only people who really know how to cook brisket are Jews and Texans.
Obviously the best part of the day is when you actually get to break the fast. Since no one is cooking while they’re fasting, most people break the fast with bagels and what Jews call, “appetizing” aka all the fixin’s that go with bagels like cream cheeses, smoked fish, lox, side salads, etc or what my mom calls, “Jewish Soul Food.”
Sadly today what often passes as a bagel is really just a roll with a whole in the middle. Luckily there are still a few places, like my personal favorite, Absolute Bagels, that still make authentic bagels.
If I had to choose the meal I’d want on my death-bed it would be a tie between some form of gooey cheesy baked pasta or a toasted egg bagel with cream cheese (plain or scallion), whitefish salad (which is smokey, but not fishy btw) and a thick slice of tomato.
And so, refueled after my fast I’m ready to return to the fight!
Yes yes, I’m a proud Manhattanite, but I really love Brooklyn too. Maybe it’s because both of my parents grew up there and growing up all of my grandparents lived there. Maybe it’s because Brooklyn, despite being part of New York City, proudly functions in many ways as its very own city. Or maybe it’s because all of the incredible food that can be found there these days.
A couple of weeks ago my friend JulieAnne and I attended, Brooklyn Local, a fundraiser for City Harvest.
I still have so many posts to catch up on from the last couple of weeks, but today I’d like to talk about my experience this weekend while it’s fresh in my find.
I flew to St. Louis this weekend to meet up with my amazing friends Lisa and Mandy. I can’t tell you how much I love these ladies and I can’t tell you how good it was for my soul to get to spend time with them. As an added bonus I also got to make some new friends and share laughs with Becky from Love Every Day Life and her husband Ben and Nilsa from SoMi Speaks and her husband Sweets and their ridiculously adorable son Gavin. You know how sometimes a group of people meets and it just clicks. This was one of those times.
All in all it was a great weekend, however there was a truly crappy food related incident at the end.
I don’t really talk much about how incredibly awful it is to have potentially fatal food allergies. The reason I don’t talk about it is simple; I don’t want to think about it myself. Make no mistake though, it is awful, but I still need to live my life so most of the time I need shut those thoughts off and just push through.
Traveling with food allergies is not easy. I’m sure that if you think about it for about 30 seconds you can think of the many ways in which it would be difficult for food allergic people away from home and you’d likely be right about all of them. What you may not think about though the actual travel itself, the getting there and getting back on planes trains and automobiles.
Getting there is usually not so bad as I can just pack a cheese sandwich and some snacks from home in my carryon. My return trip is another story. Often I don’t have access to a supermarket or refrigerator before my return trip which means buying food at the transportation hub. Sometimes I can find cheese or yogurt in a refrigerated section. Usually though I’m not that lucky. Most often the only things I can find that are safe for me are processed packaged crap. You know, the kind of stuff that I never eat.
After a day of travel that involves nothing than chips and pretzels I always come home feeling sick so imagine my excitement that the breakfast buffet at our hotel had 4oz containers of yogurt that I could grab. It wasn’t my favorite kind of yogurt as I prefer to buy plain Greek yogurt and mix in my own fruit, but still those 4oz of Yoplait strawberry was a God send compared to what I knew would be available at the airport.
Lisa’s flight was leaving from a different terminal so after saying our goodbyes to her, Mandy and I made our way through the security line. We both put our luggage on the conveyer belt and walked through the metal detector. At the other side of the detector though, we heard the TSA agent who was screening our luggage call for a rescreen. Another agent came over and picked up my carryon and brought it over. “Is this yours?” he asked. “Yes,” I replied and instantly I knew, it must be because I hadn’t taken out my iPad!
The agent unzipped my bag and reached inside as I prepared my apology. The words were just about to form on my lips when he said in a stern voice, “This is not allowed!” as he held up his hand to reveal … yup you’ve probably guessed it by now… my yogurt!
I was literally stunned. All I could do was stammer, “But it’s not liquid!” because, uh, it isn’t! I was rewarded with a sharp look and was informed that my yogurt would be thrown out and my carryon rescreened. I. Was. Pissed. But as all travelers know that the TSA and their arbitrary rules have you by the balls. I am not the type to keep quiet when I know I’m right, but in this case there was no point. If you argue with a TSA agent all that will happen is they’ll go all SEAL Team 6 on you, take you in to a room meant for dangerous yogurt wielding criminals and then hold up everyone else on the security line in order to prove a totally useless point so instead I just sat there and watched him throw my yogurt away.
Mandy’s flight left before mine so after saying goodbye to her I wandered the terminal looking for something to eat. As expected there was no yogurt, no cheese, nothing remotely resembling real food that was actually safe for me. My lunch consisted of a bag of cheezits and a bag of pretzels. I felt like crap. Awesome.
So here’s a big ol’ thank you from this allergic traveller to the TSA for keeping the world safe from potential yogurt bombs. I’m sure everyone reading this will feel a little more confident next time they fly.
So I’m still playing catch up.
The Friday after Rosh Hashanah I had an errand to run at Chelsea Market (and by errand I mean picking up done cookies at Eleni’s, my favorite nut free bakery!). Since Colicchio and Sons is just across the street I decided to buy myself a drink at the bar.
When I sat down I was delighted to find that they had my favorite beer in the world, Tröegs Dreamweaver, on tap.
After a few sips, I realized that I was hungry. Luckily Colicchio and Sons offers pizzas that are affordable and filling. The bartender recommended the pizza with Taleggio, lardo, honey and figs, but I informed him that I was allergic to figs and went over my other allergies with him. He suggested I still get the pizza and he’d have the kitchen leave off the figs so I went with it.
While I was waiting for my pizza I talked to the bartenders about what a huge fan I am of Colicchio and Sons. I guess hearing that I’m a loyal customer prompted the always awesome staff to go the extra mile for me because a waiter came over and rewarded me with a tea cup of chilled corn soup with cucumber. OMG yum!
And fresh baked Parker House rolls!
And then it was time for this amazingly decadent pizza.
Thank you Colicchio and sons for your fantastic food and impeccable service. You never fail me!
I can’t believe it’s been so long since I’ve blogged. It’s been an incredibly busy couple of weeks and every time I sit down to write I’m just too tired to even think.
One of the things that have kept me so busy is the Jewish High Holidays. Two weeks ago we celebrated Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, and last week we celebrated Yom Kippur.
During Rosh Hashanah it’s traditional to eat sweet things to represent our wishes for a good and sweet year to come so this seemed like a perfect time to make Encanelado, Peruvian cinnamon cake filled with dulce de leche.
Making this cake presented quite a challenge, not because it was all that difficult to make, but because recipes were so hard to find and not very specific. I could only find two recipes in English. The majority of recipes were in Spanish so I translated a few more using Google Translate. As I said though, none of these recipes were very specific saying things like, “pour batter in to a rectangular or square pan” so there was a lot of finger crossing and educated guesses involved in making this cake.
First off was the making of the dulce de leche which I had heard could be sort of dangerous. Truthfully, it’s incredibly simple using the boil in can method and as long as you ALWAYS make sure the can is covered with water you’ll be fine. The most dangerous part for me was reminding myself that I needed the dulce de leche for the cake and couldn’t just eat it right out of the can with a spoon.
The next day, pre-made dulce de leche in hand, I arrived at my parents house ready to make the rest of my cake. It’s so nice to cook in a real kitchen… sigh… I digress…
All of the recipes I found were very similar and I was surprised by the high egg to flour ratio, but in my quest to keep these recipes fairly authentic I went with it. My one adjustment to the cake was that where the recipe called for a shot of Pisco, a Peruvian brandy, I replaced it with White Tequila. The Pisco is used to make a syrup that you drizzle on the cake, but the Tequila worked just as well and it made no sense to go buy an entire bottle of Pisco.
After you make the cake and cool it you’re supposed to slice it in half lengthwise and fill it with the dulce de leche. I have no idea if the “rectangular pan” I chose, a 13×9 was too big or if I should’ve changed that strange egg to flour ratio, but the cake never grew higher that an inch so I made an adjustment and sliced the cake in half vertically.
Despite all this the cake still turned out to be a great way to ring in a good and sweet new year.
For the cake:
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
Large pinch of salt
plenty of cinnamon for dusting
Preheat oven to 350. Butter and flour a 13x9in pan or line with parchment paper.
Beat eggs until fluffy, add sugar.
In separate bowl sift together the flour and baking powder then add salt. Add the dry ingredients to the eggs and gently stir to incorporate.
Pour into greased pan and bake at 350 for 20-25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean. Let cool completely
For the syrup:
1 cup water
1 cup sugar
1 shot Pisco (or other strong clear alcohol such as White Tequila or Grappa)
In small sauce pan mix together sugar in water. Bring to a boil making sure sugar is dissolved. Add Pisco and simmer for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.
For the filling:
1 can dulce de leche
Use boil in can method mentioned above or another method if you prefer. I believe you can also buy this premade.
Once cake has cooled completely slice in half lengthwise or, if your cake is flat like mine was, vertically.
Soak bottom layer with half the syrup then cover with all of the dulce de leche. Cover with the top layer.
Pour the remaining syrup over the top layer than dust completely with cinnamon.
FINAL VERDICT: B
This was a tough grade to come up with as my family all agreed that this cake had some textural issues, but the flavor was great.
The flat as a board cake wasn’t bad, but it was coarse and a bit dense. The bites where the syrup really soaked in where the best as they softened up the cake. The flavor however saved this cake. Dulce de leche and cinnamon are just natural partners, kind of like Luke and Lorelai (woot woot, Gilmore Girls reference there!). So the flavor was great and the dulce de leche just gave everything a decadent quality.
I will definitely be making this cake again because I’m determined to get it right. A taste that good deserves an equal partner in texture. I think I’ll just make a basic white cake next time or even experiment with cupcakes… cinnamon whipped cream topping anyone?