Culinary Adventures in New York City

This past weekend I took the train to New York City. Whatever your culinary craving, New York City will have it. With a local from Manhattan, I got to experience some of the best (and affordable) places to eat in NYC.

For lunch on Saturday we ate at Taim, a small, cramped mediterranean eatery that serves the most flavorful falafel I’ve ever had the pleasure of eating. They offer three flavors of falafel: green, harisa, and red. I chose the green falafel with parsley, mint, and cilantro (can you tell how much I love herbs?). The falafel sits on smooth hummus and comes with tabouli salad, israeli salad, and a warm slice of pita bread. Taim is also known for their unique smoothies, and I ordered the pear, mint, and lemon smoothie. Light green in color, the smoothie was an incredibly refreshing component to my savory meal. Since the restaurant only has a few seats, my group and I sat outside on benches. While I ate, I heard almost every customer entering say, “Yeah, man, this is the place!”

The Green Falafel Platter at Taim
The Green Falafel Platter at Taim

Later in the day we ventured to Brooklyn to visit Smorgasburg. Smorgasburg is a flea market of food with local food vendors and producers.

We wanted dessert, and one of the first stands I saw was The Good Batch. They were selling ice cream sandwiches that day. I chose “The Goodwich,” an oatmeal chocolate chip cookie with sea salt sandwiched between vanilla ice cream and fudge sauce. Oh my word. The cookie was chewy and didn’t fall apart. I could really taste the vanilla in the ice cream and it didn’t melt all over my hands. The sea salt enhanced the flavor of the chocolate. Can you hear me singing with joy right now?

Mid-Bite
Mid-Bite

From here, I’ll let the pictures speak for themselves.

Homemade cocaktail mixers next to a specialty horseradish stand
Homemade cocaktail mixers next to a specialty horseradish stand

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On Sunday morning, I met my dear friend Lucy for brunch. We went to Bistro Ten 18 in Manhattan. I ordered the lemon ricotta pancakes with blueberry compote. While the pancakes did harbor a satisfying lemon flavor, I wanted to taste the texture of the ricotta more. The pancakes also could have used some butter or maple syrup. If you come here for brunch, I recommend getting the savory dishes.

Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Compote
Lemon Ricotta Pancakes with Blueberry Compote

I was then introduced to a completely new culinary experience for dinner – hot pot! You each get a pot of boiling broth and order raw vegetables, meat, and fish to submerge in the “hot pot.” Once the items are cooked, you take them out of the pot and dip them into a sauce you make yourself at the sauce bar. We went to 99 Favor Taste (no, that is not a misspelling) in Chinatown. It’s an all-you-can-eat kind of menu for one static price. If you don’t make your sauces too salty, the meal is healthy and you feel quite rejuvenated afterwards. An experience worth trying!

Hot Pot at 99 Favor Taste
Hot Pot at 99 Favor Taste

Before we left the city, we had to stop by my favorite bakery, Two Little Red Hens. The place is always packed for a reason. I love the carrot cupcake spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, and ginger. The carrot provides a wonderful texture accompanied with a moist cake. Add cream cheese frosting on top, and you have yourself a winner.

A carrot cupcake from Two Little Red Hens
A carrot cupcake from Two Little Red Hens

I can’t wait to visit New York City again and embark on another culinary adventure. Let me know if you’ve ever been to these places, or give me recommendations for my next visit!

Roasted Asparagus with Smoked Paprika

Hello everyone! I just returned from a weekend in New York City, and I can’t wait to share all of my culinary adventures. I’ll write a long post on that in a few days, but for now I just have to tell you about my newest experiment in the kitchen.

Asparagus can take on different flavors depending on how it’s cooked. I learned this while reading one of my favorite cookbooks,¬†Jamie at Home by Jamie Oliver. Grilling or roasting asparagus brings out a nutty flavor while boiling or steaming asparagus brings out a sweeter flavor. Either way, asparagus is nutritious and worth using as an ingredient in a main dish or as a side dish.

My Mom began roasting asparagus many years ago, and this is how I prefer my asparagus cooked. She would put the roasted asparagus at the middle of the dinner table, and I would usually eat three-quarters of them before I knew it. The recipe is simple: olive oil, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. While that simplicity works perfectly, I wanted to try something new to jazz up the asparagus. In my spice stash I found the answer: smoked paprika. Just a little goes a long way to enhance the nuttiness of the asparagus and add that punch of smokiness.

Roasted Asparagus with Smoked Paprika

  • One bunch of fresh asparagus
  • olive oil
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/4 tsp smoked paprika

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Wash the bunch of asparagus thoroughly in a colander.

2. There is a woody portion of asparagus on the bottom that is usually whiter in color. You can either chop this off or snap it off with your hands. The asparagus will naturally snap off where the woodier part ends.

3. Put the asparagus in a pyrex pan (as large as you need, I usually cook with a 13 x 9 pan).

4. Drizzle enough olive oil on the asparagus to cover each stalk completely.

5. It’s time for your spices – add salt, pepper, garlic powder, and smoked paprika. I recommend La Chinata smoked paprika. I put approximate measurements in the recipe, but this is a dish¬†where you can add more or less spice depending on your tastes.

6. Take a spoon or spatula and mix the asparagus in the pan so every stalk is fully covered in spices and oil.

7. Put the asparagus in the oven and roast for 20-25 minutes or until it reaches desired tenderness.

 

Roasted Asparagus with Smoked Paprika
Roasted Asparagus with Smoked Paprika

Simple, easy to make, and incredibly flavorful. What more could you want?

Homemade Applesauce

Fall is my favorite season for food. Farms ignite with produce, and the market becomes one colorful treat. Pumpkin is the craze (naturally!) with squash not far behind.

A few weeks ago two of my best friends from college flew to Boston from Chicago to visit me for a quintessential New England weekend. While we walked the Freedom Trail and went to a Red Sox game at Fenway, I knew that no New England fall was complete without going apple picking. There is something so satisfying about picking your own produce from the farm. Couple that satisfaction with hayrides and cider doughnuts and, oh man, you have the best day ever.

I chose to take my friends to Russell Orchards in Ipswich, MA. About 50 minutes from the city, Ipswich is unique in the sense that there can be abundant farms just ten minutes away from the ocean. We were able to pick Cortland, Empire, Gala, Gingergold, Jonagold, Macoun, McIntosh, and just the last bit of Honeycrisp apples left on the trees. Apple picking is popular across the country, so plan to go in mid- to late September if you can. Some farms still have apples through October, so it may not be too late to either pick your own or catch your local farmer’s market for their bounty.

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Entering Russell Orchards
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Entering Russell Orchards
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Entering Russell Orchards

After picking ten pounds of apples, it was time to bake!

My Dad always made homemade apple sauce for us in the fall. It’s such a versatile dish, something you can have straight up for breakfast, warm up and ladle over vanilla ice cream, or have on the side with roasted pork tenderloin. The flavors are sweet, spicy, and altogether heartwarming!

Homemade Applesauce

  • 5 lbs. apples (I used a variety from the apples I picked, but I recommend Cortland or McIntosh)
  • 1/2 cup craisens or dried fruit
  • 1/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup apple cider
  • 1/2 cup orange juice (you can be creative and do 1/4 cup orange juice, and 1/4 cup of your favorite liquor – I used Pimms, my Dad uses rum sometimes)
  • 2 tbs lemon juice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. Core the apples and cut them into wedges. You can peel the apples if you wish or leave the skin on. Spread the apples out onto your baking dish and add the craisens and/or dried fruit.

3. Warm up the apple cider, brown sugar, orange juice (and liquor if you choose) in a pot, stirring until the sugar is dissolved.

4. Add the lemon juice, nutmeg, and cinnamon to the pot and stir until mixed in thoroughly.

5. Pour the liquid over the apples in your baking dish.

6. Cook the apples for 45 minutes. Make sure the apples have some liquid on them so they don’t dry out too much.

Tummy-warming applesuce
Tummy-warming applesauce

The potential for apple baking is endless. While apple pies, bars, and crisps are amazing, sometimes all you need is some simple applesauce to make your day better.

Cooking Trick: Use Rotisserie Chicken

I started cooking on my own in my Junior year of college. A rookie to the core, I tried tackling complicated recipes in an effort to prove myself. One of my major mistakes occurred when I defrosted a chicken breast for too long. I left the poor raw chicken breast out all day (for more than eight hours) to thaw. When my Mom told me the chicken wasn’t safe to eat, I cried. Tears fell down my cheeks. Oh goodness.

Cooking chicken is an interesting endeavor, one that requires immense experimentation. Boneless, skinless chicken breast can dry out so easily in the oven. Chicken breast on the bone comes out more tender and juicy, but it takes much longer to cook. For anyone on the go, you have to remember to defrost your chicken promptly, putting it in the fridge the night before so that by the next day’s dinner time it’s ready to go.

And that’s when I say…why all the hassle? Sure, it’s nice to bake chicken in the oven, but when you are strapped for time, there’s another way. Buy a rotisserie chicken.

Rotisserie chickens at the grocery store are usually $6-8 and give you plenty of meat when pulled apart.

My suggestion: Pull apart a rotisserie chicken, separating the meat into individual portions in plastic bags. Freeze these bags and take out one when you need to make a dish. This is incredibly useful when making chicken enchiladas, jumbleaya, fried rice, etc. You can put the frozen meat straight into a pan and it will thaw out perfectly.