The 4th though food

I know that I still need to finish my vacation recaps (I haven’t even gotten to the best part yet), but I took so many pictures of food this weekend that I wanted to share. I should warn you that most of the pictures are pretty crappy, but oh well.

Our festivities actually started out on Thursday night when we decided to grab dinner at one of our favorite restaurants, Colicchio and Sons Tap Room. The food and atmosphere are fantastic, the service is flawless and since we’re regulars we always get hooked up with extras. You can’t really best that can you?

We sat at the bar to chat with our favorite bartender, Bennett. After we ordered, we were given an amuse bouche. Generally you only get an amuse bouche if you sit the more formal Main Dining Room in the back, but we often get them in the Tap Room as a perk of being a regular.

Chris was given a scallop crudo with peach. The picture that I took didn’t come out so you’ll have to use your imagination, but Chris reported that the dish was delicious. Since I’m allergic to peaches, I was given an amuse bouche of pickled vegetables which included radish, turnip, carrot and a celery leaf. It was so delish. The veggies were all so crunchy and fresh with the perfect sweet/sour/briny flavor.

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For an appetizer Chris and I split the burrata with rhubarb lavender and pink peppercorns. This is a dish they’ve had all through rhubarb season in 3 different slightly different variations and it will be gone soon as rhubarb season comes to an end. We’ve actually had it in all 3 variations and it’s been delicious every time (though we both think the variation with chorizo was the best). The creamy, luscious burrata pairs perfectly with the tart/sweet rhubarb.

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Next up Chris ordered the halibut with zucchini and tomato jam and I ordered the skate with Peekytoe crab, citrus and radish. Let me tell you, these people know how to cook fish. Skate is probably my favorite fish and I honestly don’t think anyone does as we’ll as Colicchio and Sons Tap Room. The skate is always perfectly cooked; firm, but never dry and I particularly love this preparation with the crunchy, slightly peppery radish and juicy sweet citrus.

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Halibut

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Skate

For dessert we decided to split the chocolate with graham cracker crumbs, toasted marshmallow ice cream and raspberries.

Confession: I am in love with a chocoholic. Chris loves chocolate like I love strawberries. Now, if you follow this blog at all you know that I’m “meh” on chocolate. I don’t dislike chocolate, I just don’t get what all the hype is about. To me chocolate is just ok. I like chocolate as an accompaniment to things, but I’m not a fan of chocolate desserts as I usually find them too chocolatey. I was intrigued by the toasted marshmallow ice cream though and I love graham crackers so I wanted to try this dessert. I figured Chris could have most of the chocolate semifreddo part.

O. M. F. G. First time ever that I have loved a chocolate dessert. The semifreddo was so smooth and lush and while it would normally be a tad too chocolatey for me, it was perfection when mixed with the ice cream, which really tasted like toasted marshmallow, and the graham cracker crumbs and raspberries. I’m still dreaming about this dessert days later.

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As if all that wasn’t enough we were given a complimentary glass of dessert wine and then another complimentary cocktail when we got the check. They take good care of us!

On Friday, July 4th, we mostly took it easy as it was raining, but in the late afternoon the rain cleared and we hopped on a bus to my parents house in New Jersey. In the summertime my mom puts everything on the grill and what better way to celebrate America than with grilled food.

I had requested that she make a grilled caeser for a starter, but then I forgot to take a picture of it. Grrr. Have you ever had or made a grilled caeser? It’s amazing! You slice a romaine hearts in half lengthwise, brush them with a little olive oil and then grill them until they are just slightly charred. They get that great caramelized and their sweetness comes out paired with that chargrilled flavor. Serve them whole (this is a salad that you have to cut with a knife and fork) with caeser or another heavy dressing, a few croutons and a bit of grated parm.

My mom grilled a ton of veggies throughout the day so that we could pick what we wanted and bring leftovers home. She grilled peppers, asparagus, onions, eggplant and sweet potatoes which are my favorite grilled vegetable.


She also boiled up some Jersey sweet corn because, like all food Jersey people, we love our local sweet corn.

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And she grilled steak and sautéed up some Hen of the Woods mushrooms. Phew.

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Dessert was all me and I decided to make strawberry dumpling. This is a recipe I got a few years ago from Gourmet magazine and I’ve heard it’s a big thing in the South. Basically you slice strawberries and mix them with sugar, when they give off there juice you bring that to a boil. You mix up a basic dumpling dough of flour, baking powder salt and milk, drop it in to the boiling berries, stir, pop a lid on it and leave it alone for 15 minutes. The dumpling mixture rises to the top and becomes light and airy. You scoop it out and serve it warm with some cold cream poured over it. I love it and it’s the kind of dessert my family loves as it’s light and not very sweet.

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After dinner we went to watch the fireworks.

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Of course we left with a ton of leftovers which meant steak sandwiches for dinner last night! I sliced the steak and served it on a crusty baguette with honey-balsamic onions, sharp cheddar and horseradish sauce. They were quite delish. I’ll also be eating grilled veggies for the rest of the week. Yum!

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I’m a huge fan of food, America and spending time with my boyfriend so it was a great weekend.

How was your weekend? Did you eat anything especially delicious?

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Happy Chrismahanukwanzika!

Aaaaaand just like that I’m behind on blogging again! I didn’t even blog about my actual birthday. Maybe someday I’ll get around to blogging about it, but the summary is that it was awesome and that I ate goose which was delicious!

For now let me tell you about Saturday, when Chris and I had our very own Chrismahanukwanzika celebration! We’ll be spending the actual holiday at his parents, but we wanted to do something to celebrate with just the two of us and, since I  don’t celebrate Christmas, we wanted to have an awesome holiday mash-up celebration; which we did.

Even though it was just the two of us, I wore a red dress and he wore a tie to add to the festive celebratory mood! We popped on some holiday music as I prepared dinner, exchanged gifts and then watched Elf.

So what did I serve?

Well, at my very not Jewish boyfriend’s request, we started with latkes.

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Why yes, I did forget to take a picture and just recycle a photo from last year.

For the main course I served this amazing Libyan dish that I first tried several years ago, Tajin Sfinari bil Zaytun. It’s a spicy lamb and carrot dish that I absolutely love and it also happens to be the dish the banner photo of this blog. I promise you I’ll share the recipe with American conversions (the actual recipe linked to above uses metric and Celsius) soon.

Yum!!

Yum!!

Finally, for dessert I made gingerbread ice cream sandwiches. I made a batch of my tried and true gingerbread bars, cut them is squares, added vanilla ice cream sprinkled with some more brown sugar and cinnamon and then put another square of gingerbread over the top. I think this might have been Chris’s favorite part of the meal and now that I know how much he loves ice cream sandwiches I think there may be more in his future…

Perfect holiday treat!

Perfect holiday treat!

The next morning I woke up earlier than Chris and I had nothing to do so I decided to surprise him with Chrismahanukwanzika morning breakfast too!

I scrambled some creme fraiche in to the eggs so the were extra creamy.

I scrambled some creme fraiche in to the eggs so the were extra creamy.

Have you eaten any great meals yet this holiday season?

Noodle Kugel

So I promised you a noodle kugel recipe, didn’t I?

First, for you non-Jews out there, what the heel is a kugel anyway? Well, according to Wikipedia; “Kugel is a baked Ashkenazi Jewish pudding or casserole, similar to a pie, most commonly made from egg noodles (Lokshen kugel) or potatoes, though at times made of zucchini, apples, spinach, broccoli, cranberry, or sweet potato.” I’d say that’s a pretty accurate description except for the thing about pie. Kugel is nothing like pie.

Though, as Wikipedia mentions, kugels can be made with a variety of things, most commonly kugel refers to the potato or noodle variety. The potato version, which everyone loves except me, is always a savory dish; whereas the noodle version straddles the line between sweet and savory. Though noodle kugel is a sweet dish, often making use of things like raisins and cinnamon, it’s commonly served at brunches alongside bagels and things.

The version my family makes is from a recipe given to my grandmother by a friend back in Brooklyn and as far as I’m concerned it is the best noodle kugel around. I’m not planning on making another one anytime soon so forgive that I’m recycling the photos I took when I made a noodle kugel for Mandy and her mom.

That's Mandy's kitchen, not mine.

That’s Mandy’s kitchen, not mine.

Noodle Kugel

  • 5-6 oz medium egg noodles (I usually eyeball this)
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 16 oz pot cheese (or low fat cottage cheese)*
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1 sleeve of cinnamon graham crackers* crushed in to crumbs.
Hot out the oven!

Hot out the oven.

Preheat the over to 350 and grease an 8×8 baking dish.

Cook noodles per package directions.

Meanwhile, mix together all other ingredients except for the butter and graham cracker crumbs.

When the noodles have finished cooking, drain them and then add to cheese mixture.

Pour the noodle in to your greased pan. Mixture will be quite loose.

Melt the butter in a small bowl and then mix with the graham cracker crumbs. Cover noodle mixture with buttered graham cracker crumbs.

Bake at 350 for 35 minutes.

Allow to cool to room temperature. Serve.

Yields 8-10 servings

Yum!

Yum!

Cooks Notes:
* Pot cheese is often labeled pot style cottage cheese. If you can’t find that use a reduced fat (NOT non-fat) cottage cheese as it will be thicker.

*You guys get what I mean by “sleeve,” right? Like you buy a box of graham crackers and it comes with 3 separate plastic packaged sleeves inside of it. Use one of those.

This is a dish that reheats extremely well. For individual servings I suggest just cutting yourself a square and then microwaving it for 10-20 seconds just to bring it up to room temperature.

Enjoy!

Passover over

Well last night was the official end of Passover. By far the hardest part of Passover for me is having to forgo beer (it’s fermented from grains after all!) for 8 days. So my tradition for the last few years is to break Passover with a slice of pizza and a beer so last night that’s just what I did. Yum.

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I must say, it definitely hit the spot.

There is one thing in the world that I will fully admit I am a total New York snob about and that thing is pizza. One day I’ll have to write an entire post about how what the majority of the country eats is not actually pizza, but rather some bread, sauce and cheese concoction which, while sometimes delicious, is not actually pizza. Alas that’s a post (a real one- I promise) for another time.

I hope you had a lovely holiday whether it was Passover or Easter.

Cheesecake mousse with orange curd and raspberry sauce

Last Monday night was the start of Passover and the first of the two Seders  the festive meals and retelling of the Passover story. I’m sure I’ve mentioned this before, but Passover is my favorite holiday for 3 major reasons, it involves lots of food, storytelling/singing and has a heavy emphasis on social justice. Yea, pretty much all of my favorite things rolled in to one holiday.

I celebrated the first Seder at the home of my friends Ruth and Adam with several other adults and one very cute 2.5 year old who happens to belong to Ruth and Adam. I volunteered to provide the desserts, since I’d already planned on bringing a chocolate covered matzah cake. For the second dessert I considered making a crust-less cheesecake because it’s Ruth’s favorite dessert, but I didn’t know if I could pull it off in my NYC apartment sized mini oven.

Since all traditional cakes and cookies would violate the dietary restrictions of Passover I was struggling and so I revisited the cheesecake idea, but somehow got it in my head to Google, “cheesecake mousse,” and bam! Victory! Such a thing actually does exist.

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I used a recipe from Oprah Magazine which was said to serve 6. Since there were to be 8 of us I one-and-a-halved (is that English?) the recipe. That was my only mistake. It literally made enough for like 12 people! Luckily Ruth and Adam were happy to keep the leftovers.

Rather than make the gelee that the recipe suggests I decided to serve the mousse topped with Cara Cara orange curd because OMG I love curd and a raspberry sauce for add a bit of tartness to balance the dessert.

Cheesecake Mousse

Recipe adapted from Oprah magazine

  • 3 cups heavy cream
  • 24 oz whipped cream cheese
  • 1 cup powdered sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1.5 teaspoons vanilla extract
  • 1 tsp salt

Place a metal bowl and the beater attachments from your handheld mixer in the freezer until very cold. I like to put them in the night before.

Remove from freezer, pour in cream and beat  until stiff peaks form, then cover and refrigerate.

Meanwhile, clean off the beaters and in a separate bowl beat the cream cheese and confectioners’ sugar until combined. Add the lemon juice, vanilla, and salt and continue to beat until light and fluffy.

Using a rubber spatula, mix in 1/3 of the whipped cream. Fold in the remaining whipped cream, making sure to keep the mixture light and fluffy.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for several hours.

When ready to serve spoon in to individual ramekins and top with orange curd (I doubled this recipe) and then a dollop of raspberry sauce.

Yields enough to feed an army.

one

Separating fact from fiction

Fact: All Jews really do go to the movies on Christmas. (What’s that, you know some Jews that don’t go to the movies on Christmas. Shut up, you’re ruining my post. Can you just go with it!?)

Fiction: Not all Jews eat Chinese food on Christmas (OK a lot of Jews do…), especially Jews like me with food allergies that make Chinese restaurants unsafe. Sesame, beans,  nuts… it’s a mine field of food allergies.

So what did I eat on Christmas? Well, back before my mom retired she started the tradition of making a special fancy meal on Christmas for no other reason than she had plenty of time to cook. Unlike the Jewish holidays when my mom had to cook a festive meal, but also get ready for synagogue or prepare for guests we literally have nothing to do on Christmas but relax (and take in that obligatory movie). So our fancy Christmas meal tradition was born though now that my mom is retired and she has every day off, the meal has moved to Christmas Eve instead.

We started the meal with caviar, blinis and creme fraiche!

caviar

Then for the main attraction, filet mignon with horseradish sauce, roasted brussels sprouts and sweet potato!

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And of course I had to contribute a delicious dessert, but as I plan posting the recipe later in the week I’m not telling you exactly what it was just yet 😉

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All in all it was quite a delicious Christmas Eve followed by a very musical Christmas day because of course musical theater nerds like me and my mom had to see Les Mis the day it came out!

For those of you who were celebrating, how was your Christmas? What are your Christmas food traditions? For those of you who don’t celebrate, what movie did you see and how was the Chinese food?

 

Latke! I barely know ‘er…

…thanks folks, I’ll be here all night. Try the veal.

Weak title, right? Well the title may be weak, but my latkes are strong. Strong like a Maccabee!

What’s a Maccabee you ask? The Maccabees were warriors who defeated the Greeks and kicked them out of Judea. However, during Greek rule the Temple, the holiest of places for Jews, was desecrated by the Greeks. After the Greeks were sent packing, the Jews took to cleaning the temple and rededicating it. After the clean up was done, the Jews wanted to light the Temple’s Ner Tamid, eternal light, which acts  as  “a symbol of God’s eternal and imminent presence in our communities and in our lives,” but found that they only had enough oil for one day. They lit the Ner Tamid and miraculously the oil lasted for 8 days. That’s why Chanukah is celebrated for 8 nights.

Chanukah is not a particularly big or important holiday and has really just been played up by the same marketers who’ve done so much to commercialize Christmas. Chanukah has little religious significance and is more of a kids holiday. We don’t go to synagogue on this holiday unless it’s for a party! We do light Menorahs at home and eat foods fried in oil.

Yup, a holiday that consists of going to parties, lighting candles and eating fried foods… a little bit you wish you were Jewish right now, no?

The eating of fried foods represents the Jewish people’s love of food and lots of it  miraculous oil that burned for 8 days. In Israel they eat fried jelly donuts called sufganyiot, but in America it’s all about latkes, fried potato pancakes.

So in honor of the miracle of Chanukah here’s my latke recipe. Happy Chanukah!

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Latkes

  • 5-6 medium yukon gold potatoes; peeled
  • 1 medium onion
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 large eggs; lightly beaten
  • 1 Tablespoon finely chopped chives
  • 1/2 cup cornflakes; crushed by hand (I recommend Erewon brand)
  • A whole lot of olive oil

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Cut half the potatoes and the onion in to rough chunks and puree in food processor.

Grate the other half of the potatoes on a box grater and mix in with the onion and potato mix.*

Working in batches places some of the potato mixture in to a tea towel and squeeze out as much water as possible (this step is very important!) and transfer to a mixing bowl.

Mix in salt, eggs and chives, then mix in crushed cornflakes and stir until just combined.

Heat about an inch of oil in a deep frying pan.

Scoop up some potato mixture by hand and form into a circle, maybe  3 inches in diameter. Working in batches carefully lay the latkes in the frying pan. Fry until golden brown, about 5 minutes and then flip and repeat on the other side.

Drain on paper towels.

Serve with sour cream on the side.**

Yields 12-14 latkes

done

Cooks Notes:

*Back in the day latkes were always made by grating the potatoes, but today they’re often done in blenders of food processors. You could definitely just do one or the other in this recipe, but I like the texture you get from combining the two.

**The other traditional accompaniment to latkes other than sour cream is applesauce. Since I’m allergic to apples I’ve never tried it that way, but if you can eat apples you may want to serve that alongside your latkes too.

***I made these last night to bring to a friends house so I don’t have a picture of them on a plate with a nice dollop of sour cream. Use your imagination.