Bites in the Hood

New York’s East Village, where I live, is an ever-spouting culinary fountain, providing me with next-level cuisine at seemingly every corner. While I often aim to leave the neighborhood, I frequently find myself sticking to the region, and enjoying some particularly delicious bites. These three tantalizing tastes have a few things in common: they can all be found within a 5 block radius of my house, and they all fly under the radar on the menu but thrill upon consumption.

1. Corn at Miss Lily’s 7A:

Toasted coconut and jerk mayo slathered on corn on the cob? For some reason I didn’t anticipate the taste insanity that was about to ensue in my mouth at my go-to Jamaican spot. This is one of the best things I’ve tried in a very long while, and thank god the servers insisted I order it. Sweet but pungent and super-creamy with a hit of spice at the end, this corn is the one to beat.

2. Carrot Chorizo Flatbread at The Redhead:

While I believe they’ve changed this offering to a different seasonal flatbread, I still have to shoutout to the flatbread I sampled some weeks back at Redhead, a Southern-inspired local joint. The spicy, umami chorizo and the sweet carrot worked so well together that I can only hope that this’ll return to the menu ASAP!
3. Middle Eastern Egg Sandwich at Bite:
I’ve rhapsodized about this sandwich many times before, but whenever I want a super cheap (think $4), delicious and filling egg sandwich that won’t leave me feeling worse than I did when I ordered it, I always hit up bite. Hummus, spicy sauce, chopped Israeli salad and omelette-style eggs all wrapped up in a pita–it hits the spot.

Pumpkin-palooza

Yes, it’s pumpkin season, and yes I got into it. For a pre-Halloween party gathering, I got into the seasonal spirit with pumpkin chocolate-chip cookies and a bread-and-cheese stuffed pumpkin (no, but really). Add to that a few deviled eggs and a slew of Halloween-themed cupcakes, and you’ve got an autumnal gathering.  Without further a-boo (wow, that was a bad one, even for me):

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies [from Food Network but with my changes–double the pumpkin purée and spices ]
Ingredients
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup white sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups canned pumpkin puree
3 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
2 cups (12-ounce bag) milk chocolate chips, not semisweet
Nonstick cooking spray or parchment paper

IMG_7971

Directions
Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spray cookie sheets with nonstick spray or line them with parchment paper.

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Using a mixer, beat the butter until smooth. Beat in the white and brown sugars, a little at a time, until the mixture is light and fluffy. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, then mix in the vanilla and pumpkin puree. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and cloves. Slowly beat the flour mixture into the batter in thirds. Stir in the chips. Scoop the cookie dough by heaping tablespoons onto the prepared cookie sheets and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until the cookies are browned around the edges. Remove the cookie sheets from the oven and let them rest for 2 minutes. Take the cookies off with a spatula and cool them on wire racks.

Now, these cookies are super (read: extremely) moist and sticky–more like little pumpkin cakes than crisp cookies. I’m a huge fan of any kind of cake, particularly if it masquerades as a cookie.IMG_7983

Cheesy Stuffed Pumpkin [from this recipe from Epicurious by Dorie Greenspan with some changes by yours truly]
Ingredients:
1 pumpkin, about 3 pounds
Salt and freshly ground pepper
1/4 pound stale bread, thinly sliced and cut into 1/2-inch chunks
1/4 pound cheese, such as Gruyère, Emmenthal, cheddar, or a combination, cut into 1/2-inch chunks [I did cheddar and Monterey Jack]
2–4 garlic cloves (to taste), split, germ removed, and coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh thyme (my addition)
About 1/3 cup heavy cream
Pinch of freshly grated nutmeg

IMG_7988Directions: Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Using a very sturdy knife—and caution—cut a cap out of the top of the pumpkin (think Halloween Jack-o-Lantern). It’s easiest to work your knife around the top of the pumpkin at a 45-degree angle. You want to cut off enough of the top to make it easy for you to work inside the pumpkin. Clear away the seeds and strings from the cap and from inside the pumpkin. Season the inside of the pumpkin generously with salt and pepper, and put it on the baking sheet or in the pot.IMG_7989

Toss the bread, cheese, garlic, bacon, and herbs together in a bowl. Season with pepper—you probably have enough salt from the bacon and cheese, but taste to be sure—and pack the mix into the pumpkin. The pumpkin should be well filled—you might have a little too much filling, or you might need to add to it. Stir the cream with the nutmeg and some salt and pepper and pour it into the pumpkin. Again, you might have too much or too little—you don’t want the ingredients to swim in cream, but you do want them nicely moistened. (It’s hard to go wrong here.)

IMG_7990Put the cap in place and bake the pumpkin on a baking sheet covered in parchment paper for about 2 hours—check after 90 minutes—or until everything inside the pumpkin is bubbling and the flesh of the pumpkin is tender enough to be pierced easily with the tip of a knife. Because the pumpkin will have exuded liquid, I like to remove the cap during the last 20 minutes or so, so that the liquid can bake away and the top of the stuffing can brown a little.

When the pumpkin is ready, very carefully bring it to the table or transfer it to a platter that you’ll bring to the table. Mix the pumpkin and stuffing with a spoon and serve with toasts.

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 I’ve fallen into Fall, people, and now it’s very, very cold.

Where I Eat in D.C.

I spend a lot of time in Washington, D.C. Perhaps it’s the fact that my boyfriend, brother, and best friend all live there, or maybe it’s just my unbridled desire to be in our nation’s capital–but in any case, I’m there very frequently.
While it may not have the restaurant density of New York, or longstanding culinary obsession of Philadelphia, D.C.’s dining scene has steadily been on the up-and-up, with increasing numbers of great eateries opening frequently.
Without further ado, my top 6 Washington dinner picks:
New York’s famous for standout Italian food, but the homemade pasta at this hipster joint was absolutely fantastic. We went for a celebratory birthday dinner and were nothing short of thrilled. There are wooden accents and mason jars abound, but it’s truly excellent. Order the Black Paccheri with Calamari, Chickpeas, Pea Shoots, Pickled Fresno Chile & Breadcrumbs OR ELSE.
1822 1st St NW, Washington, DC 20001
(202) 525-3021
[photo courtesy of The Red Hen]
seki358
I haven’t found much fantastic sushi in Washington, but Izakaya Seki is a total standout. Downstairs is a straight sushi bar, whereas upstairs features enticing grilled dishes in addition to raw fish. I love getting the smaller-format omakase.
1117 V St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 588-5841
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Flavored vodka? Check. Accordions? Check. Chicken Kiev? Check. This kitschy Russian place is really fun, and quite tasty indeed. I don’t recommend drinking before a meal at this Soviet stalwart ( I learned the hard way.)
1141 Connecticut Ave NW, Washington, DC 20036
(202) 783-7000
[photo courtesy of Huffington Post]
The food at this French brasserie spot isn’t mindblowing, but it’s consistently delicious. I LOVE the super Parisian decor and the seafood plateau (if you’re feeling flush with cash…or someone else is paying.)
1601 14th St NW, Washington, DC 20009
(202) 332-3333
[photo courtesy of Le Diplomate]
For excellent seafood in a classy atmosphere, I really enjoy Black Salt. It’s expensive for sure, but perfect for a celebration with very fresh marine fare and fantastic cocktails.
4883 MacArthur Blvd NW, Washington, DC 20007
(202) 342-9101
[photo courtesy of Black Salt]
littleserow424
Since opening last year, this Northern Thai spot in Dupont Circle has gained semi-cult status, owing both to its fiery tasting menus and almost impossible to get reservations. Here’s what to do: go at 5pm, line up, and pick a time for a table later on. A pain? Yes. Worth it once in a while? Definitely.
1511 17th St NW, Washington, DC 20036
No Phone
[photo courtesy of The Washington Post]
Delicious tapas, tasty cocktails (I love the Adonis which involves Vermouth, Sherry, and more) and a fun, ill-lit atmosphere. Don’t miss the grilled scallions with romesco or any of the octopus dishes. There will probably be a wait on a weekend evening, but just have a cocktail at the bar and plan your method of menu attack.
1520 14th Street NW
Washington, DC 20005
202-319-1404
[photo courtesy of Estadio]

Plum Season

photo (7)So, guys, it’s plum season. And what better way to celebrate this yearly milestone than with an old-school baked favorite?

Using the sweetest little purple beauties, I made the New York Times’ Original Plum Torte which was published every September from 1982 to 1989. Readers were nothing short of furious when the paper stopped printing the recipe, which was recently re-published on the Times’ cooking page. It’s very easy to make, totally delicious, and you probably already have all the ingredients on hand!

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cup sugar
  • ½ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 cup unbleached flour, sifted
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  •   Pinch of salt (optional)
  • 2 eggs
  • 24 halves pitted purple plums
  •   Sugar, lemon juice and cinnamon for topping

PREPARATION

  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Cream the sugar and butter in a bowl. Add the flour, baking powder, salt and eggs and beat well.
  3. Spoon the batter into a spring form of 8, 9 or 10 inches. Place the plum halves skin side up on top of the batter. Sprinkle lightly with sugar and lemon juice, depending on the sweetness of the fruit. Sprinkle with (about) 1 teaspoon of cinnamon, depending on how much you like cinnamon.
  4. Bake one hour, approximately. Remove and cool; refrigerate or freeze if desired. Or cool to lukewarm and serve plain or with whipped cream.
  5. To serve a torte that was frozen, defrost and reheat it briefly at 300 degrees.

Naptime Swordfish

photo 1

I spent this weekend at my family home in Cambridge, MA, hanging with the parents, seeing friends, and sprawling out in a house that makes my NYC apartment look bathtub-sized. (Pretty much any house will make my apartment look like a bathtub.)

My father had bought some swordfish, but decided to take an early evening nap before dinner time. Ravenous, I prepared it simply, with some olive oil, sliced lemons, and fresh herbs from the garden:

Popped into the oven at 400 degrees, and cooked for 10-15 minutes, it hit the spot squarely. photo 2

What Season Is This Anyway?

Jack-o-lantern-Amana-Tomato-72dpiIt’s that weird time of the year when the drugstores are (blasphemously) selling cheap candy and pumpkin spiced-everything while heirloom tomatoes are still available at the supermarket. One minute I’m frolicking outside in a dress and the next minute jeans and closed-toe shoes are necessary.

Anyway, for dinner last night I decided to dabble with the four remaining beefsteak [well, three–I used one heirloom] tomatoes at Whole Foods and made them into tomates farcies (stuffed and topped with breadcrumbs.) I paired them with a spinach cake, because what’s better than savory ingredients re-imagined as a baked good? (Why does “baked good” sound so odd?) With the tops of the tomatoes I made a cute lil’ colorful salad dressed with balsamic-parmesan vinaigrette.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetBaked Tomatoes with Sausage Stuffing [from “Tomatoes” a Short Stack Edition by Soa Davies]
[Serves 4]
Ingredients:
4 large beefsteak tomatoes
1 cup diced country or sourdough bread
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 pound pork sausage, casing removed
2 tablespoons chopped onion
1 teaspoon chopped garlic
1 egg
4 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
Fine sea salt and freshly cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup bread crumbs [I needed maybe 1/2 of that]
1/4 cup finely grated Parmesan Cheese

Directions:
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Slice 1/2 inch off one end of each of the tomatoes, scoop out the pulp and seeds and reserve for another use. [I saved the tops for the salad!] Place the tomatoes, cut side up, in a baking dish. Place the diced bread in a bowl and cover with the milk.

Heat a skillet over medium heat and add the sausage. Cook the sausage until well browned, breaking it up with a spatula as it cooks. Add the onion and garlic and continue cooking until the vegetables have softened, about 5 minutes. Let the meat mixture cool slightly, then transfer it to the bowl with the bread and the milk. Add the egg, parsley, 1/4 teaspoon of salt and two pinches of cracked black pepper. Stir the ingredients to combine.

Drizzle the olive oil over each of the tomatoes and lightly season with salt and pepper. Fill each tomato with some of the sausage mixture and cover the baking dish with foil. Transfer the dish to the oven and bake for 25 minutes.

While the tomatoes are baking, stir the breadcrumbs and Parmesan together in a small bowl. After the tomatoes have baked for 25 minutes, top each one with some of the bread-crumb mixture and continue to bake for another 10 to 15 minutes or until the topping is golden brown and toasted. [I broiled for about 5-8 minutes]. Transfer to plates and serve.photo 5

David Tanis’ Spinach Cake [from Yummy Supper, original recipe from David Tanis'”Platter of Figs”]

Processed with VSCOcam with g3 presetProcessed with VSCOcam with c1 presetINGREDIENTS
adapted from David Tanis’ Platter of Figs 

  • 2 pound spinach leaves
  • 2 medium leeks, 2 heads green garlic, and/or 2 spring onions [I just used leeks]
  • 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • freshly ground nutmeg [I used pre-ground]
  • salt
  • pepper
  • 6 large eggs
  • 2 cups whole milk
  • Parmesan

Thoroughly clean spinach leaves. Coarsely chop and set aside. Dice leeks, green garlic and/or spring onion.

Melt butter in a large saute pan over medium heat.

Add leeks, onion, and/ or garlic. Season with salt and pepper. Saute for about five minutes until tender. Grate nutmeg over the top.

Turn up the heat. Add spinach in layers (salt each layer as you go) until you can fit it all in the pan. Cover and steam, stirring once or twice, until spinach has just wilted. This should only take a couple of minutes.

Spread cooked spinach onto a platter to cool.

Preheat oven to 400.

When spinach has cooled, get out your blender and puree spinach, eggs, and milk in batches. (Tanis suggests reserving the extra liquid from the cooked spinach and adding it to the puree. I would recommend pouring out the excess spinach water. When I left it in, I had liquid at the bottom of my cake when it was done cooking.) Add extra salt, pepper and a pinch of cayenne. Puree should be heavily seasoned.

Pour soupy batter into a buttered baking dish. Sprinkle a few tablespoons of grated Parmesan over the top.

Bake uncovered in the oven for 35-45 minutes until firm. When the cake is done, you should be able to insert a knife and it will come out clean.

Processed with VSCOcam with c1 presetAnd then just my little tomato salad:photo 4

[Tomato Jack O’Lantern photo courtesy of Western Gardeners]

 

Top 5 East Village Asian Eats

Since moving back to Manhattan’s East Village, I’ve quickly remembered the foodcentric convenience that I’d grown accustomed to in my earlier years in the neighborhood. Essentially any cuisine, at any time, is available–and often for delivery. Although my heritage is Indian, I tend to prefer the Asian cuisines found farther East, like Malaysian, Vietnamese, Korean, Chinese, Japanese, and Thai. The East Village boasts some of the tastiest (and most affordable) options in this culinary realm, and here are my Top 5 Asian East Village Eats organized by cuisine in no particular order:

Szechuan Chinese: Han Dynastydandan1
I first experienced the spicy glory that is Han Dynasty in Philadelphia, and when they opened a branch in New York, I knew that my Dan Dan noodle consumption was going to quadruple. Initially, the extremely long lines and two hour wait times kept me away, but now I’m there whenever the Chinese craving presents itself. Intoxicating Szechuan peppercorns rule supreme in the concoctions, which can be ordered according to a number system of spiciness.cukes
What to Order: Dan Dan Noodles (get them on the milder side unless imminent death is your thing), Dumplings in Chili Oil, Spicy Crispy Cucumber, Sesame Noodles, Chicken “Double Cooked Style”
90 3rd Ave (between 12th and 13th streets)
[photos courtesy of Han Dynasty]

Northern Thai: Zabb Elee
Zabb Elee

 

 

 

                                  If you’re looking for the usual cloying Pad Thai and wimpy papaya salad offensively popularized by Thai restaurants in the area, you’re at the wrong place. But, if you seek an explosion of sweet-sour-spicy Northern Thai flavors, then Zabb Elee is pretty close to nirvana. Yes, there are pork ears and snake head fish (whatever that is) on the menu, but there are also myriad less esoteric choices which will leave you panting with a burning tongue and a happy (and very full) tummy.

What To Order: Som Tum Thai (non-wimpy Papaya salad), Pad Ped Moo Krob (crispy pork, thai eggplant with a spicy sauce–DON’T MISS THIS!), Kana Moo Krob (Chinese broccoli with crispy pork), many varieties of Larb
75 2nd Avenue (between 4th and 5th streets)
[photo courtesy of the New York Times]

Sushi: Kanoyamakanoyama
The East Village, and New York City in general, abounds with sushi eateries, but as a diner, one is often tasked with choosing between subpar fish (and the possibility of gastrointestinal illness) and a cheque of astronomical proportions. Thus, it is important to locate a somewhat affordable locale where the fish is identifiably fresh and of good quality. In Kanoyama, I have found it. Will the sushi be an otherwordly experience? Nope. But it’s delicious, fresh, and isn’t too bougie to shy away from Western inventions like the “volcano roll.”

What To Order: Your fave raw fish creations and Japanese entrées.
175 2nd Ave (between 11th and 12th streets)
[photo courtesy of Trip Advisor]

Vietnamese: Sao MaiSao Mai - Special Pho
The Asian food I crave the most frequently is Vietnamese–with its fresh, vegetable- heavy dishes, thin luscious noodles, and grilled meat and fish. Pho is restorative and comforting, bun (noodle salad) provides all the major food groups (to my mind, anyway), and who doesn’t love banh mi sandwiches?! After being recently featured on New York Magazine’s Cheap Eats List Sao Mai has gained popularity and is (sadly) no longer my secret spot. The service is, well, brusque to say the least, and not particularly quick, but the food more than makes up for it.

What To Order: Goi Xoai Song (Mango Salad topped with Soft Shell Crab), Pho Chin Nam (Beef brisket noodle soup), Bun Bo Nuong (Grilled Beef with Vermicelli Noodles)   203 1st Avenue (Between 12th and 13th streets)                                                           [photo courtesy of Serious Eats]

Ramen: Mincaphoto (6)
It may not be the world’s best ramen, but the bubbling rich soup at Minca is absolutely delicious, reasonably priced, and doesn’t involve uppity hostesses and two hour plus-long wait times (read: Ippudo). The broth is made from long-simmered chicken and pork bones, resulting in a souper (see what I did there?) rich flavor and silky texture, all the better to be soaked up by springy noodles and decadent pork charshu– a study in calorific velvet.

What To Order: Minca Sio Ramen (Roast pork and garlic flavor), Spicy Miso Ramen.
563 East 5th Street (between Avenue A and Avenue B)