A Feast Fit for a Queen

So now that it’s officially been forever since I last blogged, I’m finally making a conscious effort to get back into blogging, thanks to this phenomenal and inspring article by Josh Ozersky. He gives a unique perspective on how to be a successful food writer, and although I’m still trying to figure out how I can fulfill all of his seven commandments, I figured I’d start with (what I believe to be) the most important:

Write everything out. Whole sentences. The right words. A beginning, a middle, an end. It doesn’t matter where. Write out blog posts. Write out tweets. Write out Facebook posts. Write texts, if there is time. And do it often, as often as you possibly can. Get your reps.

I recently moved to Union Square, aka the mecca of all things delicious, especially brunch. Not that finding a delicious brunch in New York City is a hefty task, but finding a brunch with a great cocktail, great service and at a reasonable price is a little harder than you’d think. Lucky for me (but maybe unlucky for my wallet), Feast is right across the street from my home, and this past Saturday, I fell in love.

My boyfriend and I trailed in on a rainy afternoon, post-workout and ready to drink. We were hungry, excited and, given the weather conditions, had nothing else to do that day and figured may as well indulge a little.

The first thing I noticed upon walking into Feast was the atmosphere. It was cozy and comfy, and juuuusst trendy enough to make me feel like I was getting a good meal, without feeling like it was hipster overload. Mason jar glasses, wooden tables and exposed lightbulbs was all it took to win me over.

The way their brunch works is you pay $26 for a choice of cocktail or unlimited coffee, a variety of adorable small plates to begin with and an entree. UM, HELLO, that’s like, a TON of food for a very reasonable price in NYC. Plus, you are definitely going to leave full and satisfied until dinner.

There is probably nothing I dislike more than when you go to a tapas or small plates restaurant with, lets say, 4 people, and they bring you tapas in quantities of 3, or some other number that just isn’t conducive to sharing. Well, lucky for me again, Feast doesn’t do that. See what I mean:

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How cute is this?! The top plate included two slices of warm, cinnamon-y, moist zucchini-carrot bread, two perfectly sized fluffy scones, and two slices of a moist challah bread topped with cinnamon apples. Like grandma’s house during the holidays. The bottom plate had two glasses of greek yogurt with fresh blueberries and homemade crunchy granola, two glasses of a refreshing watermelon apple juice and two bruschetta toasts. Remember, it’s late summertime, so these tomatoes were so sweet, juicy and bursting with flavor. The garlic was a nice touch, too. The BF and I were smart in saving half of each pastry until the end of the meal so we had a little bit of dessert. 🙂

We always share plates when we go out because we both want to experience as much as we possibly can while still remaining financially responsible. So, we shared:

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The baby back Benedict  a perfectly poached egg atop fresh, creamy grits, sauteed spinach and an insanely delicious corn cake, all topped with barbecue hollandaise and, oh yeah, accompanied by a juicy-tender baby back rib off the bone (!!!). I know it’s pretty hard to mess up eggs Benedict, but this was by far one of my favorite versions. You could tell every element was homemade and carefully executed right before it was brought to the table. And what could be bad about starting your day with ribs?! We also shared:

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Smoked salmon with a red flannel hash and poached quail eggs. Can you see those tiny white balls at the left side of the plate? Yep, those are quail eggs. They’re so tiny and adorable, and I’m truly impressed that someone had the hand skills and time management to perfectly poach them. The salmon was buttery and smooth, and provided a nice contrast to the crunchy crostini and tender beet-laden potatoes. While the Benedict was on the heavier side, it was nice to have a lighter dish that was just as delicious and fulfilling.

I think I was so focused on the food that I forgot to take pictures of the cocktails, but they stood up to the food in quality. I had a peach bellini and the BF had a beer-y mary. We ordered seconds.

If you can’t tell, I have fallen in love with this place. I’m already looking forward to coming back to try their dinner, and maybe even their whole-hog Monday!

So thank you, Feast, for making my rainy Saturday just a little bit brighter.

Pistachio Madeleines

I’ve been on a huge pistachio and almond butter kick lately. I’ve been spreading the stuff on apples, rice cakes, celery– just about anything crunchy and healthy. I love these two nut butters because they’re made of 100% nuts, they’re a great source of protein, and they remind me of my younger days spooning peanut butter straight from the tub without having a care in the world (guilty: I’ve done this with almond butter). But when I was browsing my Thomas Keller Bouchon Bakery cookbook, I couldn’t help but be tempted to make pistachio madeleines. The recipe calls for pistachio paste, which is a little more concentrated than regular pistachio butter, but I thought I’d try my luck with what I had on hand, and boy, did these babies come out delicious. Let’s start with the basics, shall we?

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What is a Madeleine?

No, she’s not your favorite British cartoon character, Madeleines are cake-like cookies baked in a madeleine pan, which each mold resembles a sea shell. They’re light, pillowy, not too sweet and down-right delicious. Traditional Madeleines have a buttery, vanilla-y flavor, but the addition of pistachio butter (which I had never had before) gives them a nutty, earthy flavor and bit of a heartier texture.

Where can I find pistachio butter?

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Working at a food magazine has its perks, one of them being, well, free food! I was lucky enough to score this jar of pistachio butter at work after we had conducted our “Best Nut Butters Taste Test.” However, you can find this stuff in most grocery stores these days, but when all else fails, I’d suggest Whole Foods.

Where can I find Madeleine pans?

Any home goods store (Bed Bath and Beyond, Target, etc.). They look like this:

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If possible, get a non-stick one. It will make your life a lot easier.

Okay time to get to the (very specific) recipe.

INGREDIENTS

1/4 cup + 2 1/2 tbsp AP flour

3/8 tsp baking powder

1/78 tsp kosher salt

1/4 cup + 1 tsp eggs (it’s a little more than one egg, beaten)

3 tbsp + 2 tsp granulated sugar

1.9 ounces unsalted butter (it’s a little less than 4 tbsp)

2 tsp dark brown sugar

1 1/8 tsp honey

3 tbsp pistachio butter

DIRECTIONS

Whisk the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Combine the eggs and granulated sugar and mix with a handheld or stand mixer on medium-high for about one minute to dissolve the sugar. Increase the speed to high and whip for about 4 minutes, until the batter has doubles in volume and has lightened in color.

Heat the butter, brown sugar and honey in a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking to dissolve the sugar, about 1 minute. Remove fro the heat.

Gently fold half the dry ingredients into the egg mixture, then fold in the remaining dry ingredients until just combined. Pour the warm butter mixture over the batter and fold until the batter is smooth.

In a small bowl, microwave the pistachio butter for 15-30 seconds until it has loosened up a bit. Add 1/4 of the madeleine batter to the pistachio butter to lighten it, then fold in the remaining batter. Cover your bowl and refrigerate for at least 4 hours, and up to one day.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Using a paper towel, rub room temperature butter into each of the madeleine molds and freeze the pan to harden the butter.

Spoon about 1 generous tablespoon of batter into each mold, spreading it so that it covers most of each mold. Bake for 7-9 minutes, keeping a close eye. The cookies will be done when a toothpick comes out clean when stuck into the middle. Let sit in molds for a few minutes then place them on a cooling rack.

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The cookies are just delicious on their own, but if you’re looking to satisfy your sweet tooth just a liiiiitle bit more, you can glaze them like I did:

Just combine 1 cup powdered sugar with 1-2 tablespoons milk of your choice (I used vanilla almond milk) until all the sugar has dissolved. Once the cookies are cool enough to handle, spoon the glaze over them and return them to the cooling rack to let the extra glaze drip off.

I wanted to get more adventurous so I dipped a few of the madeleines in Nutella glaze (YOLO). The nuttiness of the cookies pairs perfectly with the chocolate-hazel-nuttiness of the Nutella. As Rach would say, YUM-O.

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Big Gigantic Kitchen Sink Cookies

All this terrible weather has done nothing beneficial besides put me in the mood for a sweet, gooey, everything-but-the-kitchen-sink-filled cookie. Snow outside, warm cozy apartment, melty cookie in my hands on the couch. What could be better?

Besides the snow, I’ve had another thing on my mind lately: Big Gigantic. They’re my favorite performers in the whole world. Dominic Lalli and Jeremy Salken are a sax- and drum-playing duo, respectively, who rock amazing beats to the sounds of electronic music. No, they’re not DJs. They have talent…. and a lot of it. I will be seeing them for my 5th time this February, and in anticipation of it, I’m dedicating this cookie recipe to them. My Big Gigantic Kitchen Sink Cookies are soft, gooey, and full of tons of sinful ingredients, like oatmeal, pretzels, peanut butter and chocolate.

Take one bite of these Big Gigantic cookies and your taste buds will experience the same miraculous symphony as my ears do every time I listen to Big G. Better yet, why don’t you bake these cookies while listening to them? Find all of their songs on their Soundcloud page here. And be sure to buy their brand new album on iTunes starting February 11th!

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I told you these things were big, gigantic and full of deliciousness.

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup lightly packed dark brown sugar

2 1/2 cups old-fashioned oatmeal, divided

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1 1/4 cups all purpose flour

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

2 sticks unsalted butter, slightly firm

1 cup smooth peanut butter

2 tablespoons light corn syrup or honey

1 large egg

2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

2 cups semisweet chocolate chips

2 cups pretzels, broken into 1-inch pieces

 

DIRECTIONS

Heat the oven to 375. Place the brown sugar, 1/2 cup of the oatmeal, and the granulated sugar in the work bowl of a food processor and process for 2-3 minutes until the oatmeal is very finely ground and powdery

In a medium bowl, strain together the flour, salt and baking soda. Stir in the remaining oatmeal and set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, mix the butter with the peanut butter and corn syrup or honey on medium-low speed until smooth and lightened in color. Add the oatmeal-sugar mixture in three additions, mixing well after each addition. Add the egg and vanilla and mix for 1 minute longer. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as needed. Reduce the mixer speed to low, then incorporate the dry ingredients in three additions, mixing just until blended. Using a rubber spatula, fold in the chocolate chips pretzels.

Drop palmful ball size mounds of dough onto the prepared cookie sheets, spacing them about 3 inches apart. Press down slightly. Bake for 7 to 10 minutes or until the edges begin to turn golden brown. Do not over bake.

Remove the cookies from the oven and let stand for 2 minutes. Using a metal spatula, carefully loosen and transfer to cooling racks. Enjoy!

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Curry Kale Chips

Kale is nothing new. It’s becoming the trendiest green in all the land, and for good reason. It’s insanely good for you, versatile, not too strongly flavored, and since it’s heftier than most other leafy greens, can stand up to just about anything, which means a lot in the winter when all you want is a hearty bowl of soup.

But I’m not here to talk about soup. I’m here to talk about chips! Again, the heft of the kale makes it the perfect candidate for a crunchy, healthy chip. You can use any kind of kale: curly, Lacinato, even red Russian. I chose to go with Lacinato, or Tuscan kale, because it has a smoother texture than curly kale, has a thinner stem so you can basically eat the whole thing, and has larger leaves, perfect for big chips and dipping.

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Kale wilts down a lot. It is full of water so when you add heat, the water evaporates (duh). I cut up my kale chips pretty large because I know they’ll shrink. Plus, who wants dingy little one-bite kale chips? Not me.

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I add a little bit of extra virgin olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder to the leaves before I put them in the oven. This way, everything sticks, and I can always add more seasoning if needed when they’re done cooking.

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See? Look at how much they shrunk down!

My favorite part about kale chips is you can eat the equivalent of an entire bag and not feel guilty. Add a great salsa or dip and you have the perfect snack or appetizer. I found this amazing sweet potato salsa that actually has both kale and curry in it, so I knew it would go perfectly with my chips (and it did!).

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Check out the salsa here.

INGREDIENTS

1 bunch Lacinato kale, rinsed and chopped into 3-inch squares

1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly cracked black pepper

1-2 tsp. curry powder, depending on your taste

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a baking sheet, toss kale with olive oil, salt, pepper and curry powder. Arrange leaves in one single layer and bake 12-15 minutes, until crisp. Enjoy with your favorite dip or salsa! How easy is that??

Curried Acorn Squash Soup

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As I’m trying desperately to stay warm this winter, I’ve managed to find ways to appreciate the season: via root vegetables, leafy greens and citrus! The winter’s most plentiful produce has made its way into many of my meals, and this weekend, my trip to the Union Square Farmers Market resulted in this hearty, comforting pot of curried acorn squash soup. I must admit, I was looking for butternut squash, but when the only thing I could find was acorn, I seized the moment and the end product left me pleasantly surprised (I didn’t know how sweet acorn squash could be!). You can tweak this recipe as much as you like, whether its changing up the type of apple, squash, seasoning, or adding other winter ingredients like leeks or parsnips. The pos-soup-bilities are endless!

INGREDIENTS

1 4-lb acorn squash

1 large carrot, peeled and chopped

2 celery stalks, chopped

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 tart apple, peeled and chopped

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

2 tbsp curry powder

salt and pepper

4 cups low sodium chicken or vegetable stock

DIRECTIONS 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Rinse squash and poke various holes in the skin using a fork. Bake squash for 45 minutes to an hour, until tender.

Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a large soup pot over medium heat. Add the carrots and celery and saute until they begin to soften, about 7 minutes. Add the onion, apple, curry powder, salt and pepper and cook until everything is tender, about 10 minutes more. Add the stock and lower the heat until the squash is cooked through.

Once the squash is soft and cool enough to handle, peel the skin and break into pieces. Add the squash to the soup and simmer for about 5 minutes more.

Working in batches, puree the soup in a blender until smooth. Add any additional salt and pepper if necessary.

The soup will keep up to a week and freezes wonderfully!

An Evening at Doi Moi

Don’t get me wrong; I love the food scene in New York City. It’s the cream of the crop. But a part of my stomach will always have a soft spot for Washington, DC, as I have just spent the last four years of my academic life there. DC is a bit more manageable of a food city: You still have all your choices of cuisine, with a little less competition, and a little more attention to detail. Last month, I made my first trip back to DC since graduating, and I knew I wanted to go somewhere very special to bring back all of those great food memories. Doi Moi is 14th street’s newest Vietnamese restaurant, brought to you by the owners of Proof and Estadio. My expectations were high, as I have dined at both other restaurants and proudly call them two of my favorite restaurants (and dining experiences) in the District (I even had the pleasure of reviewing Estadio for GW’s newspaper). Doi Moi did not disappoint. Let’s start with the menu, shall we?

1. Everything on the menu is meant to be shared. Point for Doi Moi

2. Everything on the menu has one of two spice rankings: “spicy” and “really spicy.” Point for Doi Moi (love me some spice)

3. There’s a whole section dedicated to curries. Point for Doi Moi.

4. Two words: Fresh produce. Point for Doi Moi.

I treated my best (and luckiest for still being in college) friend, Chelsea, for her birthday, so naturally, we went all out.

We started with Crispy Pork & Shrimp Spring Rolls with a chile dipping sauce. The rolls were- per the name- crispy, full of fresh veggies, not the least bit oily, and a great way to start off the evening.

Next we ordered sliced raw scallops that came with chiles, lime, lemongrass, crispy garlic and cilantro. These scallops were by far the freshest, cleanest tasting scallops  I have ever tasted. They were buttery and smooth, and the Asian flavors didn’t mask their taste, but rather enhanced it. I could have eaten a whole extra plate.

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We also ordered the duck breast red curry, with pineapple, cherry tomatoes, kaffir lime leaf, and sweet basil. The duck was succulent and perfectly cooked, and the spices left just the right amount of heat and flavor on my palate.

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I had read on Yelp that the Blue Crab Fried Rice at Doi Moi is the best dish on the menu, so we had to order it. Although it looked similar to a Chinese take-out version, it tasted fresh, and was full of tender cooked veggies and sweet, juicy crab.

Finally, we shared a cup of soft serve ice cream- half lemongrass, half coconut. I know what you’re thinking: Lemongrass is not meant to be eaten in dessert. But let me tell you, the combination of the two were a perfect palate cleansing sweet note to end on. Not too heavy but just sweet enough to leave us feeling full and truly satisfied.

My experience at Doi Moi more than exceeded my expectations. I am already thirsting to go back the next time I made it to DC.

Happy birthday, Chelsea!

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Fall Granola

Fall is by far my favorite season. It’s that time of the year when I get to bring out my scarves, oversized sweaters, leather boots, and- oh yeah, it’s socially acceptable to eat basically all of my favorite foods: pumpkin, sweet potatoes, apples, brussels sprouts, you get the idea.

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Greek yogurt has taken grocery stores by storm for quite some time. But have you ever had Icelandic yogurt? It’s slightly thicker, a little less tangy and, when made by Siggi’s, just sweet enough without being overwhelming, and FREAKIN delicious. My favorite fall flavor? You guessed it- Pumpkin & Spice. The other day I made a batch of homemade fall granola, and I knew it would go just perfectly with the yogurt, with hints of pumpkin, cinnamon and nutmeg. See recipe below and please go out and buy this yogurt ASAP!!

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FALL GRANOLA

INGREDIENTS

2 cups rolled oats

1/3 cup shredded coconut (I like the big shards)

1/3 cup uncooked quinoa

2 tbs honey

2 tbs coconut oil, melted

1/4 cup unsweetened apple sauce

2 tsp brown sugar

dash of cinnamon & nutmeg

DIRECTIONS

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. In a small bowl, combine coconut oil, apple sauce and honey. Set aside. In a large bowl, combine oats, quinoa, coconut, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir to combine. Drizzle in coconut oil mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are completely coated. Spread the granola into an even layer on a nonstick cookie sheet and cook 20-25 minutes, stirring occasionally. Let cool completely and store in an airtight container for up to a week. Great with yogurt, milk, or just as a crunchy snack!