Archive for July, 2010

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 – Tribeca Grill

Thursday, July 29th, 2010 by virginia

For Jess’ birthday, we made a reservation at the Tribeca Grill because it was the only restaurant we called that would seat 10 people without forcing us to explore “private dining” options. We’ve eaten there before and the food was pretty good – it was straightforward, hearty, American fare. We found out when we got there that in addition to the regular menu, they were offering their Restaurant Week menu for dinner on Sundays. The Restaurant Week offerings sounded pretty good, and I liked that the options came directly from the regular menu, something we don’t see too often on Restaurant Week menus. Our waiter assured us that the Restaurant Week dishes were the same portion sizes as the regular menu, and considering that most of the a la carte entrees cost close to $30, the $35 three course menu seemed like quite a bargain.

The Restaurant Week menu online was different than the one we received so I’m not sure if the offerings change from day to day, but here is the menu we got:

First Course
Heirloom tomato & goat cheese salad ~ Sweet corn sauce and opal basil vinegar
Braised artichoke & fennel salad ~ Marcona almonds, green olives & manchego cheese
Warm asparagus salad ~ Morels, cipollini onions & lardons, fig essence

Second Course
Goat cheese ravioli ~ Artichokes, favas, cherry tomatoes & spinach
Pan roasted Atlantic salmon ~ Sunchokes, caramelized beet & apple chutney
Grilled Berkshire pork chop ~ Cassoulet of summer beans, chive dumplings & ramp salsa verde
Roasted red snapper ~ Summer squash, Tunisian couscous, pea shoots & warm tomato vinaigrette

Third Course
Chocolate truffle cheesecake ~ Espresso anglaise
Vanilla & grenadine flan ~ Market berries
Morello cherry financier ~ Yogurt sorbet

While we were deciding on what to order, we munched on the bread offering, which was a round, hard roll with a chewy interior. It didn’t have much flavor to it but I was hungry so I just slathered on lots of butter, which made it a bit more palatable.

Hard bread roll

Our appetizers arrived right away, and 8 out of 10 people at the table ordered the same thing – the heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad. It looked beautiful on the plate, with many different kinds of tomatoes in assorted shapes and colors. The sweet corn vinaigrette was really interesting, and the dish was both sweet and tangy at the same time. The tomatoes were intensely flavorful and paired well with the micro basil scattered on top. My only complaint was that there wasn’t enough goat cheese for my liking, just a small dollop. But the dish was wonderfully light and refreshing, and huge hit at the table.

Heirloom tomato and goat cheese salad with sweet corn and opal basil vinegar

In addition to splitting the tomato and goat cheese salad, Josh and I selected the braised artichoke and fennel salad as our other appetizer. The salad was a tall tower piled high with the ingredients. There was I think frisee mixed in, which added a slight bitterness, and a tangy dressing that added a nice acidity to round out the flavors. The artichoke and fennel were very tender and worked well together with the olives and manchego. I just wasn’t a fan of the almonds, as I thought they overpowered everything else, but Josh enjoyed them.

Braised artichoke and fennel salad with marcona almonds, green olives, and manchego cheese

View from the side so you can see how tall it was and all the layers of ingredients

For our main course, Josh and I chose the grilled Berkshire pork chop and the roasted red snapper. The pork chop was huge and cooked perfectly, so that it was still tender and juicy. It was nicely seasoned and there was a sweet smokey flavor to it that we later found out was maple syrup. It was served on a mix of summer beans that were fresh and seasonal. There were two small chive dumplings that were like chewy gnocchi and didn’t really serve much purpose. There was also a ramp salsa verde that I think was on top of the pork chop, but I didn’t detect much ramp flavor. Still, it was a well constructed dish and another favorite at the table.

Grilled Berkshire pork chop with summer beans, chive dumplings, and ramp salsa verde

The roasted red snapper had a crispy skin that was nicely seasoned but unfortunately, the fish itself was overcooked and bland. It had a rubbery texture to it that made it a bit hard to eat. I ended up breaking it up as best as I could with my fork, then mixing it in with the accompanying couscous and squash. The couscous was light and fluffy, and the squash was tender but still had a nice bite to it. The tomato vinaigrette tied the whole dish together and provided the acidity that the fish badly needed.

Roasted red snapper with couscous, squash, and tomato vinaigrette

For dessert, we had the chocolate truffle cheesecake and vanilla and grenadine flan. The chocolate cheesecake really didn’t taste much like cheesecake but that was ok. I like chocolate better than cheesecake anyway. It had a chocolate cookie crust that tasted like an Oreo cookie, and I liked the espresso anglaise that was drizzled underneath.

Chocolate truffle cheesecake with espresso anglaise

The vanilla and grenadine flan wasn’t as silky as I would have liked but it had a nice vanilla flavor to it. The grenadine was slightly sour, which cut through the sweetness of the dessert, and the market berries were plump and fresh. Texture aside, it was a very tasty summer treat.

Vanilla and grenadine flan with market berries

Overall we were all pretty impressed by the meal we had at the Tribeca Grill. The Restaurant Week menu proved to be a good value, and we left the restaurant full and satisfied. Service was good but they did pace our meal pretty quickly, giving us the impression that they were rushing us out. We did end up lingering a bit over coffee and dessert but all of our courses were served at quick intervals.  The restaurant was packed though, especially for a Sunday night, which might have contributed to the frenetic pacing. We were still pretty pleased with our experience regardless, because the food exceeded our expectations. As for the decor, it’s a pretty restaurant with tall ceilings and a loft-like feel, and the ambiance is upbeat but intimate. While I think the a la carte menu is a bit pricey, I would still recommend the restaurant for a special occasion.

Tribeca Grill
375 Greenwich St. at Franklin St.
New York, NY

CSA Week #8

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010 by virginia

It was a hectic CSA Wednesday for me, as Josh is currently in Las Vegas and I had a softball game right after work so I had to run out and pick up our share during the day. It was really hot out and I was a sweaty mess by the time I got back to my office, but I didn’t want to take the chance that I wouldn’t get back from the game in time to get our veggies and fruit.

This week our share did match what was sent in the email, and I was happy to see cucumbers on the list. Our vegetable contents this week included:

Squash – 2 lbs
Fava Beans – 1 lb
Carrots – 1 lb
Cucumber – 3 lbs
Eggplant – 1 each
Greens – 1/2 lb
Beets – 3 each

Cucumbers, fava beans, carrots, eggplant, kale, beets, squash

The greens this week was kale once again, and I look forward to making more kale chips. I also plan on making ratatouille with the squash and eggplant, something that I’ve never tried before. And of course, braised cucumbers, because I want to see what all the fuss is about!

We got lots of fruit this week as well, and our fridge is just bursting at the seams right now. We’ve actually found a great use for most of the plums we’ve been getting, making a really wonderful plum salsa that I’ll be posting about. This week our fruit share included:

Shiro Plums – 1 1/2 lbs
Apricots – 1 quart
Blueberries – 2 pints

Shiro plums, blueberries, apricots

I don’t know the difference between Shiro plums and sugar plums, since they look very similar. Maybe they taste different? We’ll see. And two pints of blueberries doesn’t sound like a lot but I feel like we have an abundance of them right now. Josh wants me to bake a pie so maybe I’ll consider doing that, or just making a big batch of blueberry pancakes. The possibilities are endless!

Blue Hill at Stone Barns

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010 by virginia

To give you an idea of just how back-logged I am with posting, this meal took place in March. For Josh’s aunt’s birthday, we landed a coveted reservation at Blue Hill at Stone Barns in Pocantico Hills, NY. The restaurant is located within the Stone Barn Center for Food and Agriculture, and it is surrounded by an actual working farm that produces much of the ingredients for the menu, giving even more meaning to “locally sourced”.

The path leading up to the restaurant

We arrived at the restaurant around dusk so we didn’t have much time to explore the grounds, unfortunately, but we did watch them drive a whole herd of cattle up the road, which was pretty interesting. We settled down at our table and looked around in awe at the gorgeous setting. The ceiling was high and vaulted, with beams running across the top, and there was an island in the middle of the room with a huge vase of blossom-filled branches. The room had a tranquil feel to it, and was both rustic and elegant at the same time.

Beautiful blossoms

There is no real menu at the restaurant, just a long list of over a hundred ingredients that are in season and can be used for your meal. There is a choice between a five course dinner and an eight course dinner but you don’t know exactly what is included in each course. The wait staff will ask if there are any foods you can’t or don’t eat, and what some of your preferences may be. Once you decide on how many courses you would like, the kitchen takes care of the rest. We opted for the eight course meal, with the accompanying wine pairings, and our table’s only request was not to have offal during any of the courses. This was the only downside for me and Josh, because we like offal and would have liked to taste farm fresh organ meats, but everyone at the table receives the same dishes so we were outvoted 4-2.

Once everything was settled, our farmer’s feast began. And what a feast it was, with multiple rounds of amuse bouches to start. First was an assortment of “chips” made from farro, beets, and celery root. The beet chip was my favorite, as the dehydration process intensified the flavor and the sweetness of the beets.

Farro, beet, and celery root "chips"

Next was a carrot soup served in shot glasses. The soup was absolutely fabulous, packing intense carrot flavor in that tiny little glass. I would have happily eaten an entire bowlful of this soup.

Shots of carrot soup

We were also given baby carrots and super tiny heads of romaine lettuce presented on a spiked board. The vegetables, which were served raw and just lightly seasoned with salt and a little lemon juice, were incredibly fresh and shockingly tasty. If only all vegetables tasted like that!

Fresh baby carrots and romaine

Next we had thin slices of house cured coppa on top of potato and eggs…

Slice of coppa over potato and egg

Followed by a little beet burger in an almond flour bun. The burgers were really cute but I made the mistake of trying to bite one in half and the beet filling fell out, leaving a red stain on the pristine tablecloth. Oops!

Beet burgers with almond flour buns

Then we had salsify wrapped with pancetta and buckwheat…

Salsify wrapped in pancetta and buckwheat

And last, but not least, we had a charcuterie platter with bologna and lanzo (pork loin). Phew! That was a lot of food, and we hadn’t even started on our farmer’s feast courses yet!

Bologna and lanzo (pork loin) charcuterie

After the parade of amuse bouches finally ended, we were served a basket of potato onion bread with various accompaniments. The bread had a thick, crackly crust and a fluffy yet chewy interior.

Potato onion bread

Even after all the amuses, we couldn’t stop eating the bread because of the spreads they gave us to go with it. There was a whipped lard cottage cheese, Ronnybrook butter, and dehydrated beet salt. It was fun to smear on some butter or cottage cheese and sprinkle on the magenta colored salt. Everything was just so rich and flavorful.

Ronnybrook butter, whipped lard cottage cheese, dehydrated beet salt

Finally, our farmer’s feast started off with a piece of sea bass served with whole grain mustard and citrus. The sea bass was perfectly cooked, and it was a light, refreshing way to begin the main part of our meal.

Sea bass with whole grain mustard and citrus

Our next course had a very interesting presentation. It was a rutabaga wrapped in hay and cooked in a salt crust. They showed us what it looked like during the cooking process before giving us the finished dishes.

Rutabaga wrapped in hay and baked in a salt crust

The finished dish featured a slice of rutabaga with sauerkraut and a date puree. I’ve never had rutabaga before, and it tasted a bit like a sweet potato. It was sweet and a little smoky, but the dish lacked pizazz and was a bit one note.

Rutabaga with sauerkraut and date puree

Our third course was Maine shellfish with potatoes and spinach. The shellfish featured shrimp, mussels, and clams, and it was served in a large shot glass with a frothy blend of the potatoes and spinach. I wasn’t a huge fan of the froth, which was mostly airy bubbles, and I wished there was a bit more seafood inside.

Shellfish with potato and spinach

Our next course featured eggs, so they presented us with a “nest” of eggs while they explained the dish.

Nest of eggs

The dish itself was a stew of mushrooms and dehydrated vegetable with an egg in the middle, and lettuce froth. We broke open the egg to reveal a silky, bright orange yolk that ran into the stew, adding a wonderful richness to it. The dish was wonderfully composed and absolutely delicious. I didn’t even mind the lettuce froth, as it lightened the texture of the stew and was appropriate in this instance. This was one of my favorite dishes of the evening.

Farm egg stew with mushrooms, dehydrated vegetables, and lettuce froth

The next course featured cured unlaid eggs, which were dense orange globes that they grated over the dish.

Cured unlaid eggs

The eggs were grated over tortellinis filled with goat shoulder and served in a broth with sunchokes. The tortellinis were wonderfully meaty but not too gamey. The grated eggs looked like parmesan but had a totally different flavor and added some richness to the dish.

Tortellini with goat shoulder and sunchokes

Our last savory course was venison with miso glazed sweet potato and baby bok choy. The venison was prepared sous vide, rendering it melt in our mouths tender. The bok choy was crisp and fresh, and the sweet potato had a Japanese flavor to it thanks to the miso. It was a great combination of flavors, and I ate all of it even though I was stuffed to the gills by this point.

Venison with miso glazed sweet potato and bok choy

Our first dessert featured honey, and they showed us a board with fresh honeycomb.

Fresh honeycomb

The dessert was tofu with honey and meyer lemon. The tofu by itself was bland and kind of bitter, but took on a completely new character when eaten with the honey and lemon. It was sweet and sour and creamy all at the same time. The lemon made it very refreshing, and it was a good palate cleanser after all the savory foods we had.

Tofu with honey and meyer lemon

The last course in our farmer’s feast was a hazelnut crunch with cocoa nib ice cream and caramel. The hazelnut crunch part was kind of like an upscale candy bar, tasting a bit like a Ferrero Rocher. It had thin crunchy layers and a strong hazelnut flavor. It was a pretty rich dessert, good for any chocolate fan, and a strong finish to the feast.

Hazelnut crunch with cocoa nib ice cream and caramel

Finally, we ended with some little sweet and savory treats, featuring a yogurt all spice marshmallow, flax seed caramel, and dark chocolate. Even though I was bursting at the seams by this point, I couldn’t resist. I liked that everything wasn’t overly sweet and sugary, and it was a lovely note on which to finish the meal.

Yogurt all spice marshmallow, flax seed caramel, chocolate

After our meal, we were taken on a tour of the kitchen, which is always a treat. We got to meet Chef Dan Barber and see the action going on in the kitchen. There was definitely lots of cooking on, though it was composed chaos and everything looked pretty orderly. We did ask for Chef Barber’s permission before taking some photos.

Chef Dan Barber in the kitchen (he's the one with the purple dish towel)

Overall I think we had mixed feelings about our meal at Blue Hill at Stone Barns. The setting is really lovely and the service was top notch, but the food was a bit inconsistent. We loved every single amuse bouche (all seven!) and the meal got off to an amazing start. Afterward, however, the courses were up and down. The highlights for me were the egg/mushroom/dehydrated vegetable stew and the venison, but the rest of the courses were just ok. Adequate, but not spectacular. On the bright side, all of the vegetables in each of the dishes were absolute standouts. Farm to table cuisine is really something special, and makes you appreciate the beauty of fresh, seasonal produce. While I don’t think this meal cracks our top 5, it definitely still ranks up there in the top 10, and it was a great overall dining experience.

Blue Hill at Stone Barns
630 Bedford Rd.
Pocantico Hills, NY

Summer Restaurant Week 2010 – Maze

Monday, July 26th, 2010 by virginia

While Josh and I are not huge fans of the TV show Hell’s Kitchen, we have been pretty curious about the cuisine of Gordon Ramsay ever since we read a little bit about him in Marco Pierre White’s book, The Devil in the Kitchen. Although we think he plays an over-the-top character on TV, he does have an impressive resume and has worked for some very great chefs. He has multiple Michelin stars under his belt, which is a great feat, but these days, he’s more known for being a screaming tyrant. So we had no idea what to expect when we booked a table at his restaurant Maze for Restaurant Week lunch. Maze is located at The London hotel on 54th St. We couldn’t even find the Restaurant Week menu online but curiosity got the best of us and we made the reservation regardless. For those who are equally curious, here is the Restaurant Week lunch menu for Maze:

Octopus terrine with Kalamata olives, crisp potatoes, pickled shallots, sauce vierge
Asparagus veloute, braised morels, elephant garlic
Marinated fingerling potatoes, Holland leeks, poached quail’s egg, prosciutto

Main Courses
Carnaroli risotto of parsley, preserved lemon and mascarpone
Roasted chicken breast, spring morels, pickled ramps, new potatoes, asparagus, thyme jus
Pan fried halibut, butternut squash, gnocchi, brown butter vinaigrette
Dry aged strip loin 8 oz, creamed spinach, pommes anna ($10 supplement)

Carrot cake with cream cheese frosting, walnut praline ice cream
Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats and mandarin sorbet
Chocolate pudding, stout ice cream, pretzel, peanut butter powder

Josh and I quickly made our selections and settled in to munch on the bread they provided. We’re not sure what kind of bread it was but it was sort of like a focaccia, except chewier. Maybe it was like a thick pizza bianca? Whatever it was, it was a bit tough and flavorless, desperately needing some salt or something to give it a boost. Not even the butter helped.

Bread and butter

So our meal did not get off to the best of starts but things looked up when they delivered our appetizers. As usual, Josh and I each started off with a dish and then switched halfway through. He started out with the marinated fingerling potatoes, which was served on a thin slice of prosciutto and featured a teeny little quail’s egg that was perfectly poached with a runny yolk. The flavors of this dish were clean and each component stood out on its own. It was a simple dish but well composed.

Marinated fingerling potatoes with leeks, quail's egg, and prosciutto

Our other appetizer was the octopus terrine with Kalamata olives, crisp potatoes, and pickled shallots. Presentation- and composition-wise, both of our appetizers were very similar, but the octopus had stronger flavors that gave a nod towards Spain. There was a nice and spicy tomato sauce that came on the side, which added an acidic zing to the dish, and the octopus itself was very tender. I just wish that there was more of it, as there was only a very thin layer at the bottom.

Octopus terrine with olives, crisp potatoes, and pickled shallots

For our main courses, we selected the roasted chicken breast and the pan fried halibut. The chicken had nice crispy skin and was pretty juicy in the interior, but it was also slightly underdone. I don’t really get squeamish by slightly pink poultry, except there were a few sections that were inedible. Otherwise, it was very flavorful chicken, and the medley of vegetables underneath were fresh and seasonal. I loved the morels and wished there were more of them mixed in. It was a nice, light dish.

Roasted chicken breast with morels, ramps, asparagus, and potatoes

The pan fried halibut had a fall flavor to it, thanks to the butternut squash. The fish itself was well cooked, with a crispy exterior and meaty white flesh in the middle. The gnocchi were a bit chewy but at least they weren’t super dense. The presentation was simple but it was a hearty dish and well prepared.

Pan fried halibut with butternut squash, gnocchi, and brown butter vinaigrette

For dessert, we selected the vanilla custard and the chocolate pudding. The chocolate pudding was more like a ganache or fudge, served in a long log and had a relatively firm texture. The stout ice cream was absolutely fantastic, tasting just like a slightly sweeter Guinness in ice cream form. I will have to look into making stout ice cream for myself, because it was really good. The combination of the pudding, ice cream, and peanut butter powder worked really well together, but the pretzel had no real purpose. It was kind of stale and not very salty, so it didn’t provide a contrast to the other sweet components. Pretzel aside, this was a very good dessert.

Chocolate pudding with stout ice cream, pretzel, and peanut butter powder

The vanilla custard had nice vanilla flavor and visible specks of vanilla bean in it, but it was kind of relegated to the background because of the assertive citrus flavors in the dessert. The oranges were a bit sour but tasted better when mixed with the sweet vanilla custard; I just wished there was more of the custard. The brown sugar oats added a textural contrast to the dessert but not much flavor. It was an ok dish but not spectacular.

Vanilla custard with citrus fruits, brown sugar oats, and mandarin sorbet

We really didn’t know what to expect going into the restaurant, but we walked out with some new respect for Gordon Ramsay. As far as Restaurant Week meals go, this was pretty good. There was a decent selection to choose from, and everything was well prepared and well presented. I liked the use of fresh vegetables in all the dishes and I walked out of there completely satisfied. While I still don’t like his antics on TV, I can look past it as long as his restaurants are producing good food. I don’t know how much involvement he has with this particular branch of Maze, but maybe if we’re ever in London we can check out one of his restaurants there.

151 West 54th St. between 6th and 7th Ave.
New York, NY

CSA Week #7

Friday, July 23rd, 2010 by virginia

No, I didn’t forget about CSA Wednesday. Due to a previous commitment for the church where we pick up our shares, this week our distribution was moved to Thursday. I was super excited when we got the email this morning that listed our share contents, as there were lots of new vegetables for us to try. Much to our dismay, however, when we went to get our share, three items were missing – basil, cucumbers, and purslane. We’re not really sure why those items weren’t delivered, and while our share was still pretty robust, I had already been thinking about the basil pesto I wanted to make, and I was looking forward to trying braised cucumbers, the highly touted Julia Child recipe.

Oh well. We did get some things that weren’t on the emailed list, like lettuce and greens, so I guess it works out in the end. Our share contents this week included:

Squash – 3 lbs
Fava Beans – 1 lb
Carrots – 5 each
Turnips – 4 each
String Beans – 1lb
Lettuce – 1 head
Greens – 1/2 lb

Turnips, string beans, lettuce, greens, fava beans, carrots, squash

For the lettuce, it looked like we had a choice between green leaf and Boston lettuce. Because we’ve already tried the green leaf lettuce before, we chose the Boston even though the heads were tiny. The greens turned out to be kale, which means we can make kale chips again! For the squash, there were lots of different varieties so we picked up a standard yellow one, a smaller, round yellow one, and a large, pear shaped pale green one.

Our fruit share this week was the best one yet, with several different items. The contents included:

Sugar Plums – 1 quart
Apricots – 1 quart
Red Plums – 1 pint

Sugar plums, apricots, and red plums in front

The apricots look gorgeous, and I really liked the sugar plums from last week, though the skin is a bit tart. Josh made a lovely salsa with it that I’ll be posting about. Unfortunately, Josh will be on the road for work the next two weeks, which makes it tough for me to enjoy our bounty. I don’t want him to feel like he’s missing out, but then again, he’s going to have a lot of access to great restaurants while he’s away so I’m the one who’s going to end up feeling jealous. I’ll just have to figure out some really awesome things to make so that maybe he’ll have incentive to travel less!

Summertime CSA Eats

Wednesday, July 21st, 2010 by virginia

Gorgeous basil

We’re still trying to cook more often but with the weather so hot and muggy lately, there are some days when neither of us can bear the thought of slaving over a hot stove. And because our stove has no exhaust hood, our apartment gets hot and smokey every time we cook. As a result, we’ve been resorting to one of our favorite summertime meals – prosciutto, mozzarella, tomato, and basil on fresh bread. And with our CSA, we’ve had access to some really gorgeous basil with big, beautiful green leaves.

Even with this simple supper, Josh still fusses with presentation. Instead of cutting up some cheese and tomatoes and slapping it all together, he likes to arrange everything nicely on a large cutting board so that we can individually customize each bite. And even though I tease him about it, the lovely presentation really does make the meal seem even more appetizing.

Prosciutto di parma

Fresh mozzarella and sweet summer tomatoes

Slice of a country white boule from Amy's Bread

Everything all nicely arranged, with plenty of fresh basil leaves

I am very methodic in my constructions. I take a slice of bread, rub some olive oil on it, and top it with a large slice of prosciutto. Next I put on slices of tomato and sprinkle them with some kosher salt. Then I layer on some fresh mozzarella and top it all off with a big basil leaf. But that’s not all. To finish, I douse a bit more olive oil over everything, and drizzle on some balsamic syrup that Josh makes by slowly reducing an entire bottle of balsamic vinegar until it’s thick and rich like chocolate sauce. A few cranks of freshly ground black pepper, and voila!

Simply awesome

I’m embarrassed to say how much of this stuff we ate in one sitting but we also added some veggies to our dinner by throwing together a quick salad with CSA baby greens and radishes. Lightly dressed with just lemon juice and some olive oil, it was the perfect complement to our meal.

Baby greens and radishes from our CSA

Amy’s Bread is still our preferred bakery for baguettes. Lately, however, they’ve been running out of baguettes by the time we get there after work. The country white boule is a nice alternative, though it has a denser texture and a thicker crust. We’re also fans of the olive fougasse, which has a nice chewy texture and is studded with tons of flavorful black olives. Once you have fresh bakery bread, the stuff from the supermarkets just doesn’t compare. And to top it all off, the bread we get from Amy’s Bread is cheaper than the bread from the supermarket. How great is that?!

Amy’s Bread (multiple locations)
672 9
th Ave. between 46th and 47th St.
New York, NY

Kale Chips

Monday, July 19th, 2010 by virginia


During week #3 of our CSA share, we received 3/4 lb of kale. I knew exactly how I wanted to prepare it, something that I’ve read about in many places but never tried. I knew I absolutely had to make kale chips. Most people who have tried it say that they’re better than potato chips, and better for your health too. While I don’t dispute the health claim, I did want to see if I would prefer these to potato chips since I love spuds in all forms.

To prepare the chips, I washed the kale leaves and thoroughly dried them. Then I cut out the thick stem that runs all the way up the leaf. Once the stems were removed, I cut the leaves into more manageable pieces and tossed them with some olive oil and kosher salt (we couldn’t find the sea salt). After preheating the oven to 300 degrees, I spread the leaves out on some baking sheets, trying to get them into a single layer as best as possible. A little overlap is ok, as the leaves shrink after being baked.

Kale leaves tossed in olive oil and sea salt, laid out on a baking sheet

We baked the leaves at 300 degrees for approximately 20 minutes, watching them carefully the last 5 minutes so that they didn’t burn. If they do burn a little, they tend to get bitter so just be warned. After we pulled them out of the oven, they were thin as paper and delicately crispy.

Freshly baked kale chips

We seasoned them with a bit more salt and eagerly dug in. The chips had a concentrated kale flavor and shattered wonderfully in our mouths. It was kind of like an explosion of flavor, and the sensation was addictive. We couldn’t stop munching on these chips, eating them nonstop as batch after batch came out of the oven.

Kale chips - not so photogenic, but delicious!

To go with the chips, we cooked up some burgers that we topped with swiss cheese and tomatoes, as well as some onion from our CSA share.

Swiss burger with tomato and CSA onions

Not exactly the most conventional burger and chips dinner, but the verdict on kale chips? Fantastic! Better than potato chips? Yes and no. I could definitely see myself eating kale chips more often, since I know how bad potato chips are for me, but when I’m craving potato chips? Kale chips aren’t going to cut it. Not because they’re not delicious and not crispy/crunchy, but because when I want potato chips, nothing else will satisfy. Regardless, kale chips are really easy to make, filling, and absolutely worth trying.

Pizzeria Bianco and a Very Nice Husband

Friday, July 16th, 2010 by virginia

So way back in my post about In N Out Burger, I mentioned that when Josh goes to the west coast for work without me and stops in for a burger, he also brings one (or two) back home for me. And yes, I do eat the burger that’s been sitting in his bag for God knows how long, between getting the burger and going to the airport, taking a cross country flight, and then taking the ride home from the airport. Gross, maybe, but hey, I’m just building up my stomach so that I can eat street food in foreign lands without any issues.

So in Josh’s comeback post, he said that he would start blogging about meals that he has when he’s on business trips, even though I might get jealous. And while he has yet to put up another post, I’m going to jump the gun and talk about something he had on a recent business trip to Phoenix. He goes there a few times a year for work and every time he goes, I tell him he should try Pizzeria Bianco, which has gotten rave reviews and is supposedly very similar to NYC pizza. For whatever reason, he never made it there, but this time, he did.

I was on the phone with him when he made his way over there, and after finding out that he could indeed get in and eat, I said to him in jest, “You better bring me home some pizza.” Ok I was sort of serious, but sort of not. I mean, the logistics of bringing a pizza across the country is not the same as stuffing a small burger into your backpack. A pizza needs to be contained in a box, and then the box needs to be kept straight otherwise the pizza/cheese will slide to one side. But I hoped that he would find a way, since I’ve been talking about this pizza for quite some time now, and fortunately for me, he didn’t disappoint.

Yes, my loving husband carried a pizza home for me from across the country. I asked him how he did it and he said he just put the box in his suitcase, which he carried onto the plane. So yes, the pizza did kind of slide to one side, but it actually looked better than I expected. The funny part is that the suitcase obviously had to go through the x-ray machine at the security gate, and I wonder what the security person thought when he saw a box of pizza go by. “Umm excuse me sir, do you know you have a pizza in your suitcase?”

Luckily there were no issues, and the pizza made it home to me in fairly decent condition. He saved me half a margherita pizza and half a wise guy, which has wood roasted onion, smoked mozzarella, and fennel sausage. We reheated the slices on our pizza stone and I eagerly dug in.

Slightly disheveled, but not too bad considering how far these slices traveled

The margherita slice suffered a bit more during the reheating, which I think was because the crust had been stretched thinner. Plus it was the side that got smushed up a bit in the box. When we reheated it, the slices got a bit brittle, and the cheese was pretty dried out. It wasn’t horrible, but I’m sure it was better when it had been fresh. The sauce was a tad on the sweeter side but it tasted pretty fresh.

Margherita slice

The wise guy slices fared much better, and reheated quite nicely. I’m usually not a big fan of sausage but it tasted really good and worked really well the onions and cheese (there’s no sauce on this pie).

Wise guy slice

The crust on these slices were crispy on the outside but still had a nice chew to them. The crust really did taste pretty good, and very similar to a Grimaldi’s or Lombardi’s crust.

Underside shot

Side view so you can see how thin the pizza was

Overall I thought the pizza from Pizzeria Bianco was pretty good, even after spending a few hours on the plane. If I had to move to Phoenix for whatever reason, I would be happy to have this place close by for whenever I was craving NYC pizza.  But Josh can talk about what it was like fresh out of the oven, if he gets around to posting again, since my assessment is a bit skewed. One thing I can say for sure is that I’m lucky to have such a loving and indulgent husband!

Pizzeria Bianco
623 East Adams St.
Phoenix, AZ

Chicken Milanese with Arugula

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by virginia


In our week 2 CSA share, we received .2 lb of arugula. Josh and I both adore arugula, and this farm fresh version was really fantastic. Peppery, not too bitter, and the leaves were so tender, not at all like the arugula we get from the supermarket. Unfortunately, that was the only time we got arugula as part of our CSA share, which is really too bad because the arugula contributed to one of my favorite meals we’ve made, chicken milanese.

To make the chicken, we pounded out two boneless/skinless chicken breasts until they were about a 1/2 inch thick. Then we coated the chicken in a mixture of flour, grated parmesan cheese, salt, and pepper, using an egg wash to help the mixture stick to the chicken. After the chicken had a nice thick coating, we fried it in a dutch oven that was filled with about 3 inches of vegetable oil. The coating puffed up nicely and was really crispy.

We served this quick and easy chicken milanese over the arugula, which we had tossed with some lemon juice, olive oil, and salt. We also added chunks of tomato for some sweetness. We just squeezed a bit of lemon over the chicken, and everything tasted really fresh and bright.

Chicken milanese with arugula and tomatoes

Hands down it was one of the best dinners we’ve made with our CSA share, and it was ready in about 20 minutes. I don’t know anything about the seasonality of certain vegetables, but I keep holding out hope that we’ll get arugula again. This CSA stuff has really spoiled us, hasn’t it?

Foodie Futbol

Thursday, July 15th, 2010 by virginia

Josh and I hosted a World Cup party at our apartment to watch the final between Spain and the Netherlands. We had decided long ago to cook foods from the competing nations, not knowing who would be in the championship match. We were rooting for Spain from the beginning so we hoped they would be one of the teams, and luckily they didn’t disappoint, but the other side of the bracket was a complete toss up. When the Netherlands prevailed, we were at a loss as to what to make to represent Dutch cuisine.

Planning the Spanish side of the menu was easy, as Josh and I both love Spanish food and he had done a semester in Barcelona during college. For the Dutch side of the menu, I ended up doing a few google searches, and although we couldn’t exactly pronounce the names of any dishes, we got some good recipes of stuff to make.

While Josh and I both like to entertain, we don’t exactly know how to do it without going overboard. We both love to cook and to share our cooking with other people, so when we have parties, we tend to make a million things. Most of the time we end up missing out on most of the party because we’re in the kitchen still cooking. We didn’t want to miss the soccer game though, since this was the whole point of our party, so we made sure to plan dishes that can be cooked ahead of time and easily reheated.

We had our planning done ahead of time, complete with detailed shopping lists and who would make what, but I think we were a bit overly ambitious and wound up pulling an all nighter – cooking, that is. We did all of our shopping on Saturday morning/afternoon in NJ, got back to the city around 7 pm, and promptly started prepping and cooking. 11 hours later, at 6 am, after the sun had set and risen, we finally went to bed. We got up three hours later and finished cooking, then set everything up for our party, which started at 1:30. It was a hectic and tiring process, but we did get everything done, we didn’t miss the game (hooray for Spain!), and everything turned out better than we hoped.

Since the theme of the party was the World Cup final, we kind of planned our menu to pair Spanish and Dutch dishes head to head. First up was our cheese board, which featured Spanish manchego cheese versus Dutch gouda. We paired the gouda with apple slices, and the manchego with membrillo, which is quince paste. The gouda was declared the winner, though the membrillo turned out to be a surprise hit. Silva and Felipe also brought a different kind of Spanish cheese that was milder than the manchego but still quite tasty.

Gouda/apples vs. Manchego/membrillo

Next was the battle of the breads. On the Dutch side, we made Boerenkaas Puffs, which were cheese puffs made with gouda. The recipe we followed came from here. They were pretty similar to gougeres, very easy to make, and really delicious. On the Spanish side, we made pan con tomate, which is simply tomato bread. All you need to do is take a baguette, slice it in half length-wise, rub a clove of garlic on each side, and sprinkle each side with some salt and olive oil. Then you take some ripe tomatoes, cut them in half, and rub the juicy pulp all over the bread. Easy and really tasty. Both breads were a hit, so I think this may have been a toss up.

Boorenakas puffs (cheese puffs with gouda)

Pan con tomate (tomato bread)

For the potato dishes, we had tortilla espanola on the Spanish side. The tortilla is basically a giant frittata with layers of potato, onion, and egg. To make the tortilla, we gently roasted potatoes and onions in the oven, layered it in deep dutch oven, and covered the layers with lots of scrambled eggs. We baked the tortilla in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes, until it was cooked through and had set. For the Dutch potato dish, we made Boerenkool Stamppot, which is a hodgepodge with mashed potatoes, onions, kale, and smoked sausage. This was the recipe we followed. The potato/kale mixture turned out to be a surprise hit, helped mostly by the smoked sausage we spread around it.

Tortilla espanola

Boerenkool Stamppot (kale hash with sausage)

For the main courses, this was where we showed our true colors. Since we were rooting for Spain, we made two Spanish entrees and only one Dutch entree. In actuality, we couldn’t decide on which Spanish dish to make so we made both. First was pollo ajillo, or chicken in garlic sauce. To make the chicken, we first brined it in salt water for a few hours. In the meantime, we gently cooked a whole head of minced garlic in olive oil to make a super flavorful garlic oil. Then we seared the chicken (we used bone-in thighs) in that garlic oil and placed them into a dutch oven with minced onions that had been carmelized in garlic oil. We deglazed the pan with white wine, poured that off into the dutch oven, and tossed in the garlic from the garlic oil into the mixture as well. To add even more garlic punch, we added slivers of garlic from an entire additional head of garlic. Then we added the zest of three lemons and enough chicken stock to cover the chicken. We cooked the chicken in the dutch oven, in the oven, at 350 degrees for several hours. Right before serving, we added the juice of the three lemons to brighten up the flavor. By the time we served the chicken, it was super tender and falling off the bone.

Pollo ajillo (chicken in garlic sauce)

Our other spanish entree was albondigas, or meatballs. To make the meatballs, we mixed together ground beef, a puree of onions and garlic, and fresh pieces of diced onion. We used salt, pepper, cumin, and paprika to season the meat. We rolled and shaped the mixture into bite sized meatballs, then seared them off in a large pan. In a large pot, we sauteed some onions in garlic oil and added a big can of crushed tomatoes. When the meatballs were all seared, we added them to the pot of sauce and gently simmered them for a few hours. They were also super tender by the time we served them, and the flavor of the spices really shined through.

Albondigas (meatballs)

Our Dutch entree was Gestoofde runderlappen (try pronouncing THAT!), or braised steak. It was essentially a beef stew cooked entirely in beer. Simple, yet deeply flavorful. The recipe we followed came from here. The beef fell apart with a touch of a fork, and the carrots and onions added a nice heartiness to the dish.

Gestoofde runderlappen (braised steak)

We didn’t forget about dessert! For the Dutch side, we tried to be a bit playful and decided to make herb brownies. The herb? Mint, of course. Josh and I had an argument about the brownies because I just wanted to use ones from a box, but he insisted on making them from scratch. He won out in the end by convincing me that it would be embarrassing to say on the blog that we made brownies from mix. It was kind of a victory for both of us, as he ended up being the one to make them at 5 am while I sulked on the couch nursing my aching knife arm. He used the cocoa brownie recipe from Alton Brown’s Good Eats: The Early Years, which is similar to the recipe posted here. The mint was our own addition (add a handful of fresh leaves to the butter as it’s melting, then strain). The brownies were intensely chocolatey, had a fudgey texture, and just a hint of mint in the background. They were super rich but I thought they were really good, so kudos to Josh.

"Herb" brownies (with mint)

Beauty shot of the rich, chocolately, minty deliciousness

The Spanish dessert was all Josh as well (he’s the real baker in the family). Using another Alton Brown recipe, but substituting real vanilla bean instead of vanilla extract, the flan was a risky endeavor but a huge success. He also made his own caramel sauce, courtesy of Mr. Brown as well. The flan had the perfect texture, creamy and smooth, and the caramel sauce was thick and rich.

Flan with caramel sauce

Beauty shot

So the verdict? I think based on the entrees, Spain had the narrow victory. And not because we’re biased or anything. But the Dutch food was surprisingly really good, and I’m eager to try it for real next year when we head to Amsterdam in honor of Josh’s 30th birthday. Aside from the food, the game was really exciting as well. La Furia Roja eeked out the win in extra time, and we’re glad it didn’t end up going to penalty kicks. All in all it was a successful day, and totally worth the lack of sleep we endured. Plus we have oodles of leftovers to feast on for the rest of the week!