Archive | March, 2009

Eating Veggie in NYC… Again

31 Mar

I love NYC for many reasons, among them because you do not need to go to a vegetarian restaurant to find plenty of vegetarian, healthy alternatives to eat.  I mentioned this a bit in a previous post of my last visit to NYC.

I went to NYC to spend the weekend with my friend AnnieMariel.  We wanted to do something exciting so we hopped on a plane to visit “the city that never sleeps”.  AnnieMariel is an almost vegetarian and loves good food just like me… so here’s our recount of where we ate deliciously in NYC last weekend…

CO.

I have read about this place on the internet and then saw the chef, Jim Lahey, the guy behind the no-knead bread, make their Popeye Pizza on the Martha Stewart show recently.  I was staying in the Chelsea area so we had to go and try it.

As an appetizer, we had the Winter Salad with butter lettuce, roasted butternut squash and roasted pumpkin seeds.   I always like to have a salad when eating pizzas so I feel I am not being that bad.

co-salad

As main course, we shared the Margherita and the Popeye… both awesome!!  They both have enough sauce and enough cheese to match the thin crust.   The crust is whole-grain, thin but with some chewiness.  It comes with a few sections burned, but it tastes very authentic.

                    co-pizza-magherita       co-pizza-popeye

The restaurant is super cool… with these communal tables where people seat next to you – great when traveling and in the mood to meet new people.  We met the sommelier at Per Se restaurant and saw Andrew Knowlton from Bon Appétit magazine – super cute in person, by the way.  Our server, who happened to be Puerto Rican, told us Martha Stewart always seats in the seat next to me every time she has visited Co.

foodist_highlight2

 BAR JAMON

I mentioned we met the sommelier at Per Se, so he invited us to Bar Jamón after a night of music at the Fleetwood Mac concert.  (Thanks Chris for the wonderful tickets…)  Bar Jamón is the Spanish tapas place by Mario Batali.  It’s a super small place, but great for a late night snack with friends.  It’s very dark so that’s why I do not have any pictures of what we had…

We had Pan con Tomate and a selection of cheeses with their condiments – Garrotxa with Tomato Jam, Valdeon with Figs, and La Serena with Oranges.  That was enough for a late night snack, but I wanted to try out a few other options – like their Coach Farm cheese-filled Piquillo peppers, Beets with Valdeon cheese and their Cauliflower with Salsa Verde.

 LE PAIN QUOTIDIEN

AnnieMariel recommended this place for breakfast.  We did not know this is actually a chain, because it sure does not feel like one.  We had the Cut-Steel Oatmeal made with organic milk, fresh fruit salad and the Five-Grain Tartines with organic butter, their Red Fruit Jam and Brunette Spread.  This Brunette Spread is a nut butter made of pralines - loved it!!!

We wanted to buy the oatmeal, but out of everything we had for breakfast, that’s the only thing they do not sell separately to make at home.  What a shame… but I will definitely come back and look for every time I travel.

 ALLEGRETTI

We went to Allegretti by invitation of a very good friend and our host for the weekend, Chris. He’s relatively new to the city, moving there from Philly.  So far, this is one of his favorite restaurants and knowing the passion AnnieMariel and I have for anything French, he invited us here.  Allegretti is a Provencal restaurant, just like its chef/owner Alain Allegretti.

The menu is not very inviting to vegetarians at first look, but after mentioning I was vegetarian, they immediately offered suggestions.  I had the Casolette of Provencal Vegetables with black truffles, extra virgin olive oil and maldon sea salt.  I had it with a side of the Olive-oil crushed potatoes.  The combination was awesome, super delicious.

And just like in the clip in this link, Alain, the chef/owner came over to talk to us and many of his other guests that night.  We had a chance to speak to him in French and some Italian too.  He was very gracious when we congratulated him on the meal.  And he’s very easy on the eyes too…  I must say.

 

LE BERNADIN

Le Bernadin is one of the premier fine-dining restaurants in NYC.  It’s famous for its seafood menu and celebrity chef, Eric Ripert.  We wanted to dine at Per Se because we were told by our new friend James the sommelier that it has a true vegetarian tasting menu, but unfortunately, we were not able to get a table, even with our newfound connections… 

Le Bernadin, just like a lot of these expensive, fancy restaurants has either a Tasting Menu or a Prix Fixe Menu, the latter being that you pay a fixed price to choose from a selection of dishes in four different courses.  I loved the fact they have a vegetarian option in each of the courses.  We requested a French-speaking server, and we got to order in French, but we would have rather had a French-native as a server.

Again, I do not have pictures because the restaurant lighting was dim.  The place is so fancy, I did not felt comfortable shooting pictures with flash, plus they never come out pretty. 

From the Almost Raw section I had the Mesclun Salad with Shallot Vinaigrette.  From the Almost Cooked section I had the Cauliflower “Couscous” with a Warm Salad of Seasonal Vegetables and Argon Oil Vinaigrette.  And from the Upon Request section I had the Buffalo Mozzarella Pasta with Wild Mushroom consommé and Parmesan Emulsion.  They were like little purses of cheese with a great mushroom broth.  I really wanted some more…  For dessert, I had the blood orange sorbet and a mint tea leaves au naturel infusion.  They brought it in a French press so you can see it’s really only mint leaves in hot water.  Their raw sugar was awesome.

 eric_ripert1

Even though I prefer to eat in vegetarian places, it’s also nice to know that chefs and restaurants in a city like NYC are open enough to recognize that vegetarians are legitimate customers and they should be accommodated as much as our meat-eating counterparts. 

This was certainly a very exciting and delicious weekend…  we’ll see where we end up flying and eating next.

Caramelized Onions Fettuccini

22 Mar

This recipe was inspired by Martha Stewart’s Everyday Food Magazine December 2008 issue… 

edf-december-2008

This issue had a section that highlighted pantry staples and how they can shine and help you in many quick weekday dishes.  This recipe highlighted onions and I already has a batch of caramelized onions in the fridge from making my French Onion dip, so I decided to give this recipe a try.

I switched things a bit to accommodate what I had in MY pantry at the time, so this is my very own version of…

 caramelized-onion-fettuccini-2

CARMELIZED ONION FETTUCCINI

¼ pack of whole-grain fettuccini
2 tbs of butter
1/3 cup of Pecorino Romano cheese
Half of this caramelized onion recipe
Salt and Pepper to taste, optional

 

  1. Boil pasta according to package directions in a big pot with boiling salted water.
  2. When pasta is done, drain the pasta while reserving 1 cup of the water used to boil.  Return the pasta to the pot, add the butter and caramelized onions.  Mix well to combine and to warm up the onions if they were refrigerated.
  3. Add some of the pasta water to loosen the mix and create a “sauce”.  Add half of the cheese and continue combining it all. Continue adding pasta water until the sauce reaches your desired consistency… mine is that all the pasta is lightly coated with a medium thickness sauce.  Add some additional salt or pepper according to your taste… you might not even need to add anything else.
  4. Plate and sprinkle the remaining cheese onto your plated pasta.

 

If you do the onions ahead of time, this recipe will take you about the time it takes to boil the pasta… if you make the onions for this dish in particular, it should be ready in approximately 40 minutes according to Everyday Food. 

Make a large batch of the onions and see how many recipes you can incorporate them in… I can give you some others besides this one already:

French Onion Soup

French Quesadillas

Stuffed Brie

Stuffed Baked Brie

18 Mar

The other night we got together to watch the French film La faute à Fidel…  a very nice film showed in a French film festival recently at the University of Puerto Rico.  I was not able to attend the original showing, so my friend Laura’s mother, who’s a film buff and loves to buy films, lent it to us for a night of French movies and of course, French food…

I’ve been meaning to make a different version of the Camembert Chaud at the Bistro de Paris restaurant we love so much… where they take a round of camembert cheese, take the top off and warm it up in the oven and serve with French bread toasts, walnuts and sour apples.

I wanted to see if I could challenge myself and work with some phyllo dough I had bought and was always afraid of using.  I always do that, I like things at the market, but then leave them in the fridge or the pantry and do not use them immediately.   I built myself some courage and this is what turned out…

 

 brie-relleno-1

STUFFED BAKED BRIE

A 4.5 ounce round of Brie cheese
2 tbs of guava jelly
1 ½ tbs toasted walnuts, cut into small pieces
2 tbs caramelized onions – recipe here
4 sheets of whole-wheat phyllo dough – defrosted
4 tbs of butter, melted
Canola spray

 

  1. Take a baking sheet and line with parchment paper.  Spray with canola oil.
  2. Take one piece of the phyllo dough and place on top of baking sheet.  Brush lightly but evenly with melted butter using a pastry brush.  Place the second sheet of phyllo crosswise, perpendicular to the first sheet.  Brush again with the melted butter.  Place the third sheet of phyllo diagonal to the frist two, as if covering the spaces left open by the first “cross”.  Brush again with melted butter and place the fourth and last phyllo sheet perpendicular to the 3rd sheet, therefore creating another cross with the sheets.  Spread  the last sheet with the remaining butter.
  3. Cut the brie cheese into two halves, creating a top and a bottom half.  We’ll be making a “sandwich” using the two brie halves.
  4. brie-relleno-por-dentro
  5. Place the bottom half of the cheese in the middle or the phyllo sheet stack.  Spread the caramelized onions on on top of the brie half.  Now, spread the guava jelly on top of the onions.  Place the walnuts pieces on top of the guava jelly. And now top everything off with the remaining half of brie cheese.  It may get a bit messy, but it’s all good.
  6. brie-relleno-antes-de-cerrar
  7. Now you’ll start wrapping the brie with the phyllo… take one section and fold it over the cheese.  Now try enveloping the cheese with another side… you’ll see you’ll have a lot of phyllo left over that you won’t know what to do with it.  Just take it all and gather it on top of the cheese like making a bun…  I just could not take pictures of this because my hands were so messy with melted butter.
  8. Place the stuffed brie in the fridge for about 30 minutes to set a bit… 
  9. After 15 minutes have passed, pre-heat the oven to 450 F.  When the oven is ready, bake the brie covered with a piece of parchment with a foil paper on top for about 10 minutes.  Then take off the parchment/foil covering and let the phyllo get golden brown.
  10. Take out of the oven and wait about 2-3 minutes for the cheese inside to adjust to the temperature and cut and serve immediately after.  We served them with water crackers and apple slices.

 

brie-relleno-2

We loved the mixture of the tangy brie with the sweet guava jelly and onions.  But I had a few mishaps and I want you to learn from my mistakes.  So here are some tips when making this Stuffed Brie:

  • Use the same baking sheet where you’ll bake the brie to set it up.  I transferred the brie from that baking sheet to something smaller to put it in the fridge and I almost lost the entire bottom when transferring it back to the baking sheet to bake.
  • The temperature of the oven is important… if the temperature is not that high, your phyllo dough takes longer to cook and get golden and might give your jelly an opportunity to seep out. 
  • This is not a good dish to assemble at home and transfer somewhere else to bake…  I suggest you assemble and bake in the same premises.  I have not tried yet the bake first and then transfer and reheat… if you do, let me know if it works better.

 

Hope you love it as much as we did…

Undercover Potatoes

16 Mar

What to do when you have leftover sauce from your Undercover Carrot Mac  & Cheese??  Pour it on top of steamed potatoes… what else??

Another way to sneak in carrots into your kids meals…

 undercover-carrot-potatoes

UNDERCOVER POTATOES

About 10 fingerling potatoes, washed well and cut in half
About ½ cup of leftover sauce from this recipe here

 

  1. In a medium sauce pan place the fingerling potatoes.  Add enough water to the bottom of the pan, where about half of the potatoes are still exposed.  I find that potatoes cook better and faster when only a small amount of water is added to the pot.
  2. Salt the potatoes and swirl the water in the pan for the salt to combine with the water.
  3. Cover and let it boil/steam over medium heat for about 15 minutes.  Check the potatoes for doneness.  If they’re still underdone, let them go for about 2-3 minutes more and without uncovering, turn off the stove. 
  4. After about 10-15 minutes, the potatoes will be perfectly steamed and at the right temperature to handle.  I sometimes take the skin off after I steam them… but that’s entirely if to you.
  5. While the potatoes are resting, heat the leftover sauce.  After it’s warm, pour on top of potatoes. 

 

Serve with a nice side salad for a light dinner…

Guava Paste and Cream Cheese

15 Mar

This has to be the first dessert I was taught how to make… besides opening a bag of Hershey’s Kisses, that is.

I grew up in a house where there always was guava paste and cream cheese, two if my dad’s passions.  I guess the passion rubbed off on me, because nowadays I heart anything with either guava or cream cheese, not to mention anything that combines the two.

This is just so simple that’s difficult to even call it a recipe…

 guayaba-con-queso-crema

GUAVA PASTE AND CREAM CHEESE

3 strips of guava paste
3 strips of cream cheese – you can use regular or the 1/3 less fat kind – the only difference is that the regular kind will hold its shape better when eating it…
  1. Place guava strips onto a plate and place the cream cheese strip on top.
  2. Take carefully with your fingers and enjoy the pleasure…

 

Read well the guava paste packages before buying.  Buy guava paste that’s free of additives or artificial colorants.  It should only contain guava, sugar and citric acid.  Anything else in there you do not want it or need it.

If you’re not into cream cheese, or do not have it in the house, just use any other cheese like queso blanco, cheddar or even muenster would work well here… it’s just something to cut the sweetness of the guava paste.

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