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Monday, September 30, 2013

Ham and Pea Baked Rigatoni

Sweet peas...sweet ham.  These two things often seem to come together so I figured I would throw them into a pasta dish for a quick supper.  But sweet on sweet in something that's not a dessert just ain't my style so I wanted to create a simple recipe to make those sweet freaks happy without excluding myself as a savory gal.

I thawed frozen peas in a pan with butter while my pasta boiled away and I prepped the other two - count 'em - two ingredients.  Prepping is a stretch.  Getting these ingredients ready takes no time.  I simple cut up some deli ham (maple variety) and grated cheese.  I used the Yancey's Fancy champagne cheddar that I had on hand from a previous recipe and it was perfect.  If you can't find champagne cheddar, any bold, dry (in flavor, not texture) cheese will work.  I would go with sharp cheddar, gruyere, or swiss.  Basically, you just need something that will take down the sweetness quotient of the peas and ham.  I like to add a little egg/milk mixture to help the whole thing bind, but it's not necessary.  Bread crumbs would also be nice but also not necessary.  Combine it all in a dish and bake til it's nice and casserole-like.  Serve it with a nice salad and you've got yourself a meal, cowboy.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Book Review: Beautiful Ruins

In terms of storytelling, Beautiful Ruins goes backwards, forwards, and sideways.  We start in the early 60s in an Italian fishing town so small the locals assume people only show up there by mistake (they do).  Pasquale Tursi runs the small inn on the island and is in awe of Dee, the American actress staying in his hotel while she takes a leave from filming after learning she has cancer.  

Suddenly it is present day Hollywood and Pasquale has traveled across the ocean to confront the scoundrel he believes ruined Dee's life.  As the story of what really happened in Italy unfolds, we are introduced to a wild Richard Burton, a cocaine-addicted 90s musician, a war veteran attempting to write a book, and a frustrated producer's assistant.  Every character in the story is trying to get their life back on track, but happiness and stability is a fluid concept.  Perhaps happiness is the peace of mind that comes with knowing your life is what it is and fate won't have it any other way.  

3.5 out of 5 stars...maybe 4; I'm on the fence.

Thursday, September 26, 2013

3 on Thursday

A trip home is always wonderful, but when it's unexpected it's an extra special treat.  I am leaving tonight for a wedding in Charleston and taking a slight detour through Savannah.  My brother and sister in law are also going to the wedding so we're able to hop in their backseat for the two hour drive.  By extending the trip into a long weekend, we secured cheaper airfare and some time at home.  There are no losers in this situation.

  1. I'm not sure how I managed to get a present at Karina's birthday brunch, but there it was.  A belated bday gift from Matt and Karina somehow made it into my bag between toasts to the birthday girl.  Karina discovered Rachel Khoo a while ago and loved how she made gorgeous dishes in her tiny French apartment.  Knowing I love both France and cooking, she assumed The Little Paris Kitchen would be a good present for me.  She was right.
  2. I love the annual San Gennaro Festival in Little Italy, pictured in today's background photo.  It's like a summer street fair but with better food/booths and longer hours.  In addition to the rows of Italian food booths there are a few carnival games.  I am a huge fan of county fairs and this is about as close as NYC gets so I'll take it.  Albert won me this frog in a dart/balloon game.  Bella is very happy to have a friend.
  3. Those are bags of bagels stuffed into my carry-on.  Bagels aren't really sold in Savannah and it drives Allison crazy so I made sure to bring her back her favorite flavors from her favorite store, Ess-a-Bagel.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Inspiration Station: "Easy A"

I'm baaaaack.  Another long break for "Inspiration Station", but I'm back in business.  Here we go:

I think Emma Stone is just adorable.  I want to be her.  Gorgeous and witty?  Can't ask for anything more.  Easy A was her big break-out film.  Sure it was a high school comedy, but it didn't pander to the teen crowd with gross-out jokes, making it something to be enjoyed by just about any generation.
  1. The Dish: Turkey Sandwich with Peas.  When Emma Stone's character tells her parents that she was sent to the principal's office for calling another student a bad name ("twat" - teehee), they ask her to spell the word out to with her peas to avoid tainting her little brother's ears.  I'm not a huge fan of peas, but I am confident that with some creativity it can be incorporated into the meal plan.  Originally I was going to make a dish where peas are the star - and show you (or, more accurately, prove to myself) that a side of peas isn't terrible.  But then I saw a tweakable recipe in Real Simple that made peas a complementary ingredient.  I have never heard of peas in a sandwich (if you say you have, I call your bluff) so that got me to scrap my previous recipe ideas.  Here's how it goes down: melt some butter in a pan and thaw some frozen peas in it with salt and pepper.  While that's happening, spread some pesto on one side of toasted sourdough bread and goat cheese on the other.  Once the peas are cooked, mash them together.  There's no cream or cheese so it won't completely form a paste but it will hold together enough that you can spread it onto the sandwich.  Then just add some southwestern style deli turkey and you're done.  It is an easy [I'm sure you could guess this was coming] peasy dish.   Because it incorporates so many other ingredients, this may not be a Capital P dish, but I love that it shows how versatile peas can be.  Peas may not be the star, but they are such a fun, unexpected ingredient in the sandwich that it could definitely win the Oscar for best supporting actress.  
  2. The Doodads:
  • When Olive realizes that haters gonna hate, she embraces the rumors and starts dressing like a trollop in bustier/corset tops.  Believe it or not, this look can be done tastefully.  I love this one I found on  I just wouldn't recommend sewing the scarlet A on it like Olive did.
  • Amanda Bynes had not yet lost her marbles when she appeared in this film.  She plays a snooty bible thumper determined to take down poor Emma Stone - why would anyone want to hurt Emma Stone - she's a national treasure?  In one scene Amanda's character takes out her frustrations on a stapler in the guidance counselor's office.  If you're gonna staple, I would recommend doing so with fun office supplies.  I like this Jonathan Adler stapler I found on  
  • Olive trades false sex rumors for gift cards.  Some people are not gift card fans, but I happen to love them because I get to pick out whatever I want.  If you're one of those who doesn't like to give them because they're not creative enough, I recommend re-thinking that approach.  Instead, just give a more creative gift card.  I would love to get one for
  • "When She Woke" - If you liked Easy A, why not treat yourself to another Scarlet Letter adaptation, this time in print.  Check out my book review for more info. 

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

The Sparrow Tavern

Convenience is important.  When leaving the island of Manhattan, knowing the destination won't be too out of the way is key to actually getting you on the subway and leaving the comfort of your home borough.  I would never miss Karina's birthday brunch, but realizing the restaurant was just off the Astoria Blvd stop on the N line made me much more comfortable making my first trip to Astoria.  Not only is it close to the subway, The Sparrow Tavern is directly across the street from the beer garden.  Talk about convenient.

I started off brunch with a bloody mary that was made with smoked chipotle peppers.  I like spicy bloodies, specifically when that spice is peppery vs. horseradishy.  Using chipotles to add the spice was a nice change from the usual black pepper.  Once we all had our brunch cocktails, it was app time.  Matt assumed the role of host and ordered a couple chocolate croissants and mac and cheese for the table.  The mac and cheese was nice and cheesy with a good crust on top.  Good, but not the standout.  I really enjoyed the croissants.  Instead of a typical pain au chocolat that's filled with thick ganache, this was a regular, buttery croissant that was split in half, grilled, and then lightly gifted with a swipe of chocolate.  Grilling them made a huge difference.  It's such a simple change but gave it a whole new texture and taste.  If I host a brunch, these will definitely make an appearance.  For my entrée I ordered the egg and brie sandwich with speck on country bread.  The egg oozed on my fingers and since I was with friends I had no qualms about just licking it right off.  Just a tad more brie would have made it perfect...though it was a solid breakfast sandwich just as it was.

If you're planning to hit up the beer garden, you're going to want some food to soak up the booze.  I highly recommend this over some lame pretzel with mustard.  The food is good and cheap.  We all had about two drinks, shared appetizers, entrées, and shared desserts and the total for our group of eight was only $25 per person.

Over six years in NYC and I finally made it to Astoria.  This seems like a milestone event.  Good news for the borough of Queens: my first experience was a good one so I'll be back!  

Monday, September 23, 2013

Grown Up Tuna Melt

Caramelized onions are very French and French is very sophisticated.  Hence, adding caramelized onions to just about any dish will make it more sophisticated.  I decided to try out this theory with a recipe I found on A Cozy Kitchen.  The onions take the most time so I stuck them in a pan with olive oil so they could get nice and brown while I made basic tuna fish (just tuna and mayo for me - I like to keep it simple).  The onions went on a piece of rosemary olive oil bread (sourdough would be great, too), held in place by the tuna, then topped with shredded cheese.  I was going to go with gouda, but then I found champagne cheddar by Yancey's Fancy.  If you saw cheese that was infused with champagne, you would get it, too.  Usually you have wine with cheese so combining the two in one block of white cheddar makes perfect sense.  It was the perfect compliment to the sweet onions.  I put the whole thing on a foil lined baking sheet that went underneath the broiler.

Once it was nice and melty I took it out and topped it with the final ingredient: a few salt and vinegar chips.  The chips sound a little weird, I know.  But it was in the original recipe so I was worried it wouldn't qualify as "grown up" without them.  No one should accuse me of being a Peter Pan (even though I was Tiger Lily in our middle school musical - a story for another day) so I left the chips in the dish.  I'm glad I did because those chips gave it quite a zing!  Salt and vinegar chips are a little much for me on their own.  I find the flavor a bit too intense.  First of all, you need a crunch because tuna and caramelized onions are both soft.  But I didn't only think they "worked" on this sandwich, I thought they were great and began piling more on with each bite.  It's hard to explain how it works, but I am now a believer.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Greek Orzo Salad

My plan for book club was to make one of my Mom's pies. I got the recipe and was all ready to go...until I couldn't find the main ingredient in the grocery store. So there I was, standing in D'Ag at 8:45 PM the night before, no idea what I was going to make.

I was struck by inspiration when I looked in the deli case and saw some pre-made food items. Of course, those pasta and potato salads had been sitting out all day and by late evening did not look all that appetizing. I figured I could do a better version so I gathered some Greek-ish ingredients and went home. 

I woke up a little early the next morning to put everything together. This salad doesn't require much so the whole thing can be done in about 20 minutes. First, start cooking your orzo (about 3/4 lb). While that's going, chop your vegetables. I used one package of grape tomatoes (halved), one cucumber (chopped), 1/2 cup chopped scallions, and 1/2 cup dill. Once the orzo is done, mix it all (minus the cucumber) together and immediately toss in some fresh spinach so the heat wilts it a bit. Next, mix in 1/2 cup olive oil and the juice of one lemon. Once it all cools down a bit, add in the cucumber and one package of crumbled feta. You don't want to add these when it's piping hot because then the feta could melt too much and the cucumber will lose it's great crunch. Stick the whole thing in the fridge and you're ready for potluck time. This dish is perfect cold or room temp so it holds up great to bring to a gathering. 

Thursday, September 19, 2013

3 on Thursday

I'm so happy to have finally gotten back into a [more] normal routine.  I am back to cooking regularly, and I am working my way back into a regular gym routine (baby steps).  It feels good to behave like a normal person...though all that routine is going to go out the door when I leave a week from today for a wedding + trip home.  Oh well!  I am way to excited about the trip to worry about how it impacts my routine.

  1. Time to call it like it is: work is bad this week.  Seems like everything that could go wrong, did.  You know it's bad when you send a text saying it's the worst week in a while and it's not even noon on a Tuesday.  Even the fact that I received a major promotion did little to cheer me up (like how I slipped that news in there?!).  But that's not fair.  Those major moments should be celebrated, even if work is crummy.  The perfect acknowledgement came on Tuesday evening (the day of the promotion).  Albert asked if he could pick up something he left at my apartment while I was at book club and I said that was fine.  When I got home, I immediately noticed that he had picked up what he needed, but it took me a few minutes to realize there was a vase filled with roses on my dining table along with a note congratulating me on my promotion and reminding me the week will get better.  I was so surprised - speechless, even.  I had spent two days at work frowning, but this definitely brought a smile to my face.  The note he scribbled alongside the flowers serves as the background for today's collage.  
  2. For a Southern girl who spent a few months living in France, this cookbook is pretty much perfect.  It is labeled "Classic Southern Cooking with a French Twist."  Using food to bring together my two favorite regions - can't wait to dig into this one.  And it's a signed copy!
  3. This week I tried one of Gail's picks from the latest issue of Oprah - truffle popcorn.  Overpriced, obviously, but so good.  There is no reason why I couldn't make this myself - it would be a great item to have out for snacking at parties.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013


I thought about bailing on Matt and Karina on Saturday night.  Just for a minute.  Obviously, I wanted to hang out with them but since plans didn't solidify til around midnight, this old fogie was ready to call it a night and head to bed.  But then I remembered how much I loved those crazy kids so I figured I could put off sleep for just one more hour.  I am so glad I rallied because I loved the bar we went to, Prohibition.

This bar does not typify the Upper West Side, or at least not the UWS I've seen.  I admit, I haven't spent too much time up there in the past, but I did not expect to walk into a packed bar with a live band.  If there was live music, I figured it would be Jazz to suit all the parents in the neighborhood.  But no, this band could play at a wedding.  A really fun wedding.  The band actually had groupies who were jumping all over the place.  They may not be like the crowd I typically hang out with, but their enthusiasm was viral.  First there was some Jackson 5.  Then some Four Seasons and a round of "Build Me Up Buttercup."  Then they moved into Lit for something a little more modern but still considered old school.  Now that Lit is old school, I realize I am old.  Ugh. 

Usually, if I'm bopping around to fun music, the bar is divey.  Prohibition, however, was a little nicer.  It suited the slightly older crowd perfectly.  I particularly liked the lighting fixtures.  You may not be able to tell in the picture, but they are actually upside down wine bottles, each filled with a skinny light bulb.  They pour a good drink and the food that passed by looked good.  Food, drink, and head bopping tunes all in one spot - this made me look at the UWS in a whole new light.

Tuesday, September 17, 2013

Pear Cinnamon Muffins

Ever have a feeling that's so rare you need to pause and acknowledge it?  Well last week I had the urge to bake muffins and since I never want to bake I had to stop and give this feeling some attention.  I don't bake because I don't really like it - it's too precise.  At least, that's what I tell people.  The real reason I don't bake is because I'm terrible at it.  I always manage to screw it up.  But since I didn't want to neglect this fleeting desire to act like Betty Crocker, I started doing a little planning.  I hit up Google and typed in "easy muffin recipe."  Among the results, this recipe popped up and it looked so overly simple that I began to think even I couldn't screw it up.

Because I don't bake, I don't really have many of the tools needed to bake so I stopped by Whisk to scope the scene.  When I found adorable teal paisley muffin cups, my resolve to make this attempt strengthened.  They were just too cute not to use.  Armed with a 12-muffin tin and my fun muffin cups, I was ready to get to business.  

I've heard all those "breakfast is the most important meal of the day" rumors but can never seem to get myself in the habit.  I thought muffins might just entice me thanks to their grab-and-go nature.  Of course I wanted to do a little something to make the recipe my own because I knew some sort of twist would make me that much more likely to eat it.  After following the recipe as directed, I added one pear, peeled and sliced thin along with 1.5 tsp of cinnamon (I didn't alter the cook time).  I rocked this recipe with my change!  In addition to having those great Fall flavors, the pear helped keep the muffin moist.  Because it was thinly sliced, the pear cooked all the way through - almost melted into the cake.  Not only did this get me to eat breakfast, I'm actually reaching for two of these babies each morning.  A great breakfast with a recipe that's too easy not to try.  Can't wait to test out another flavor combo...what should I go with next?!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Tagliatelle with Prosciutto and Orange

Now that I'm further from the N/R line, I go to Eataly less frequently then I used to.  After some thinking (it shouldn't have taken me this long to figure out), I realized it's not that far of a walk from the 6 or my apartment in general if I want to get in a good jaunt.  This is good news because after a while without their fresh made pasta I crave it like crazy.  Want it need it gotta have it.  Since last week was feeling particularly long after two 4 day work weeks, I decided it would be the perfect hump day treat.

One benefit of fresh made pasta (besides the fact that it tastes amazing) is the cook time.  That stuff is done in just two to three minutes.  That means if your overall recipe is simple, you can be eating in less than ten minutes like I was.  Good, because when I want my fresh pasta, I want it NOW.  Me Hulk.  Me want pasta.  Once I decided on mandated fresh pasta for supper, I searched out a recipe that I could activate quickly.  I found this recipe from Epicurious to be ridiculously simple and easy to scale up/down.

One of the great things about Eataly is that everything is seasonal.  When I went looking for an orange, I didn't find the regular guys from Florida (now I'm picturing little oranges wearing jorts); I found a gorgeous blood orange.  Since i was making this meal for one and only using half the orange and zest, I was able to snack on the other half while I cooked - perk for the chef!  I thought the blood orange gave it a unique flavor that was not overly sweet or citrus-y, but the recipe would work just as well with a normal orange as it was originally intended.  I usually like prosciutto in it's true form, especially when it's nice and buttery; however, since there are few ingredients in this dish, it's nice that it crisps up in the pan a bit.  It really feels like a main protein this way instead of a supporting ingredient.  Yes, the sauce is cream based, but you're not putting in much.  This sauce is supposed to just lightly glaze the pasta, not kerplunk on there like an alfredo.

I absolutely loved this pasta and not just because it went from shopping bag to dinner plate in about 8 minutes.  It is the perfect transition dish from summer to fall with a sauce that alludes to cozy fireplace meals to come but a bit of orange peeking through to remind you that we're not quite there yet.    

Friday, September 13, 2013

Fro-Yo Dots

This was a Pinterest project.  It was one of the earlier things that popped up on the site and looked too easy to actually work, which is why I've taken so long to try it.  Turns out, it works and couldn't be easier.  Just take your favorite flavor of Greek yogurt, put it in a ghetto pastry bag (a ziplock with the corner snipped off) and plop out little discs of yogurt onto a wax paper lined baking sheet.  Stick them in the freezer til they're solid and then just pop them off the paper so you can store them in a ziplock.  We are just loving ziplock baggies in this post, aren't we?

I used the blood orange Chobani, but any flavor would work here.  Get creative by using plain yogurt and adding cinnamon and honey or pink lemonade powder.  The end result can be kinda similar to Dippin Dots if you make them small enough and eat them with a spoon.  And we all know Dippin Dots is the ice cream of the future.

Great dessert.  Great to snack on.  Just...great.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

3 on Thursday

Thanks to a bye week for football, it looks like this weekend will be pretty calm.  It sounds cheesy, but I plan to use the free time to reflect and enjoy the fleeting moments found between the seasons.  This week's background pic is a shot from Central Park, which just happens to be a great place to go if you want to do some of that reflecting.

  1. Because of when a major client presentation fell this year, I declined all invitations to the US Open in an effort to prepare.  Although I love the Open, work just had to come first.  My hard work was rewarded, however, when I got last minute tickets on Monday night, just after I finished my presentation.  For a prepster like me, the US Open is heaven and the Men's Finals are pretty impossible tickets to beat.
  2. I love heels but am finding flats increasingly appealing, especially when they offer something beyond the plain ballet flat.  Smoking slippers are a great option, but this season I really wanted a pair of oxford style shoes.  At around $20, these guys from Aldo are tough to beat.  And can you see the material?  They are sweatpants for the feet.  
  3. I love vintage and have always been attracted to things that are old.  Whether it's a book with browned pages or a piece of jewelry from an estate sale, holding something from the past makes me feel like I could be living in those glamorous times.  My Mom knows I love this stuff so when she was cleaning out my Grandma's closet she snagged this great purse for me.  There's no label on the silk lining, which somehow makes me like it more.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Radish and Avocado Salad

Sometimes you want a salad but you don't want lettuce.  Know what I'm sayin?  You don't?  Come on, don't tell me that sometimes you wish you could have that cold, fresh, crispy, crunchy satisfaction you get from a salad without all the bulk of the lettuce base.  If the salad is meant as a starter, you don't want it to get so big and heavy that you're too full for the rest of the meal.  Nowwww you get where I'm coming from.  (Right?)

Just thinly cut radishes (or slice em on your mandolin if you're fancy pants) and spread them on a plate with some sliced avocado.  One is very crunchy and the other is very creamy.  Yin and yang.  Throw some cilantro on the top because that will make it all very Mexican.  If you're not a cilantro fan, leave it out - I know how polarizing it can be.  Mix some Greek yogurt with a squeeze of fresh lime and a few dashes of hot sauce.  Drizzle that over the whole thing as your salad dressing. Finally, crumble some cotoja cheese on top. 

If you tried this you would know you can still have the salad experience - a dang good one - without getting too filled up for the main course.  I hope this was life-changing for you.

Monday, September 9, 2013

Bruschetta Burgers

I don't know that you can call it a burger when there's no bun. If we're getting technical, I actually don't know that you can call it a burger when it's made with turkey. All this rule breaking - it's anarchy!

I'm not a fan if turkey burgers in general. They're usually too dry, but after making this meal for lunch over the weekend, I may be a convert. I mixed ground turkey with oregano, garlic powder, some balsamic vinegar, a few bread crumbs, and an egg. All that stuff actually kept it juicy after a grilled it. I thought a juicy turkey burger was an oxymoron. I guess I can even surprise myself sometimes. 

I put the burger on top of a bed of arugula and piled on bruschetta topping. This is super easy to make yourself by chopping up tomato, onion, garlic, and basil. I, however, just used pre-made bruschetta topping I found at Fairway. I was being lazy. No apologies. 

This would be great with some fresh smoked mozzarella, but is great as is (not to mention, healthy). Definitely not a traditional burger, but sometimes it's nice to break the rules. 

Friday, September 6, 2013

Book Review: The Mole People

It is NOT an urban myth, folks.  Mole People aka Tunnel People aka people who live underneath the train and subway lines of New York City - they exist.  In the early 90s Jennifer Toth took on the dangerous project of interviewing New York's underground homeless.  You may be accustomed to bums begging for money on the street, but this is an entirely different breed of homeless.

Of course mental illness and addiction abound, but Toth meets many people who just needed to get away from society's constraints.  They have developed a life underground, complete with wallpaper, furniture, and cooking contraptions.  The deeper underground you go, the stronger the sense of community.  At the top levels, Toth mostly found people just looking for a dry place while they wait for their next drug fix - and they're willing to do anything to get it.  As she traveled further down - as far as seven levels - she found groups of homeless dwellers that have formed a true infrastructure.  They have rigged electricity, elected "mayors", and even teach school to the children who supposedly don't live down there.

In addition to exposing the world of the underground homeless, Toth digs deeper to understand why they have chosen to live there.  She befriends murderers and graffiti artists, prostitutes and runaways.  Everyone has a story.  It is crazy to suddenly realize there is an entire world just below your feet.

3 out of 5 stars.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

3 on Thursday

Just because it's a short week (thank you, Labor Day!) doesn't mean it hasn't been stressful.  With a major client presentation creeping up on Monday I've had to pack a lot of work into a little time frame.  I've also been feeling a bit under the weather.  I could definitely use these reminders of all the good stuff right about now.  Today's background pic is another from the Gramercy Park Hotel rooftop.  A case of old school pharmaceuticals served as artwork.

  1. It took six years, but I finally got to see Riverside Park.  It's beautiful and I felt like I was walking through a scene in You've Got Mail.  I may be a hardcore east sider, but this park is a definite plus for the west side.
  2. Going to a movie at Sunshine Cinema has been a bucket list item.  It has an old school marquee and shows independent films (but not the super obscure ones) - just what you expect out of a downtown New York City movie theater.  I ended up not being crazy about the film we saw, but the experience, right down to the snacks, was great.
  3. I always say football is my consolation prize for summer ending.  I hate that fall means I have to start putting away my fun sundresses and spending less time in the park.  But there is just something about football season.  I was so excited to go to our alumni chapter's brand new bar and see my fellow NYC Dawgs hootin and hollerin.  I even got these two Yankee jokers to get decked out in red and black for the first game of the season.  No boy looks better than when he is bleeding red and black.  

Wednesday, September 4, 2013

Fig and Blue Cheese Stuffed Pork Tenderloin

I recently saw a recipe that called for a mixture of dried figs and crumbled blue cheese to be stuffed into a pork tenderloin.  That sounded easy, but do you know what sounds even easier?  Using up the fig butter that's still in my refrigerator.  It's all fig so the flavor is basically the same.  Just split the tenderloin in half lengthwise without going all the way through and spread the fig butter blue cheese mixture inside.  Drizzle some olive oil on top to keep it from drying out and then bake it for about 20-25 minutes at 450.  Because I used a creamy blue cheese (like a cambozola) and fig butter instead of fig bits, it turned into a sauce when it baked.  Figs are super sweet and blue cheese is pungent.  That means they compliment each other well.  It was good.  So good.

I'm going to brag a little bit here.  Are you ready?  Bragging in 3...2...1...this cooked perfectly.  And I do mean perfectly.  The kind of perfect I'll never be able to attain again.  It was juicy and tender and just...perfect.  Ok.  Back to modesty.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery

Part of the beauty of New York is that its neighborhoods are always changing.  It is a city in constant evolution and it is electrifying to watch the constant transformation, whether it is watching Chelsea change from a neighborhood of gay strip clubs to one of families or seeing trendy restaurants spring up during Harlem's current second renaissance.  At the same time, however, I am mournful of the neighborhoods as they once were.  All that remains now of the Upper East Side's thriving Hungarian population, for instance, is one or two bakeries.  One of the neighborhoods that has held on best to its former identity is the Lower East Side, whose tenements used to be filled with Eastern European Jews.  It is here that you'll find Yonah Schimmel Knish Bakery, which I'm guessing looks the same today as it did when they opened in 1910. 

I had never had a knish before.  They may be on most NYC street corners, but they simply don't exist in Savannah, GA.  When I made plans to see a movie at Sunshine Cinema next door, I decided a knish would make the perfect movie snack.  I went with the spinach, but I imagine it didn't taste too different from the regular potato.  There is little distinction between the thin dough shell and the mound of smooth mashed potatoes inside.  It looks like a hockey puck and weighs even more which is why I was surprised that my teeth just fell through it.  For something so heavy, it was incredibly light.  I feel bad saying anything negative about this LES stalwart and admittedly my knish experience is less than minimal, but my only critique is that it could have used a bit of salt.  That may be a blasphemous claim to many New Yorkers, but I call 'em like I see 'em.  I also picked up an order of kasha and bows.  Although it's not their specialty, it was dang good.  

I hope Yonah Schimmel's knishery stays right where it is.  I want the Lower East Side to retain as much of its heritage as possible because I love walking past the reminder of those who walked the streets before me.  

Monday, September 2, 2013


When I wanted a full meal but didn't feel like cooking last week I decided to give Noturo a shot. It's a little Italian place around the corner from my apartment where I always saw families or older couples when I spied through the windows on my walk back from the grocery store. Since Italian is the kind of food best eaten when surrounded by family, I took this as a good sign.

Pasta is something I love to cook so I don't usually order it out and if I do it needs to be a combination if ingredients I don't usually make. The item that best fit that description was the capellini rucola salmone: angel hair pasta with arugula and salmon in a light pink sauce. I have to commend Noturo on two things: 1) for $16 you really get a full serving if salmon and 2) the pink sauce really was light. Usually when a restaurant offers a light cream sauce there's nothing light about it. In this case there was a lot of sauce but it wasn't this thick mess that took over the angel hair. The one thing it could have used was a bit more of the arugula. The peppery green gave the dish the depth of flavor it needed to set this restaurant apart from other common red sauce Italian places. I know there's a fine line with arugula and too much is overkill, but just a little more would have been nice. It also needed just a bit of salt but adding the Parmesan the restaurant included with my order on the side did the trick. Since I had a 20% off coupon through Seamless, I decided to go crazy and order a caprese salad to start. Maybe you and I have different definitions of crazy. As long as you have good tomatoes for this dish, you're good do I was happy, especially when I saw that they three a couple good olives in there on the side. The Italian dinner experience was complete with one final thing. On the side, they sent some sliced bread. Other than the fact that I like to make my own pasta dishes the main reason I don't order from Italian restaurants is because then you miss out on the bread that's always on the table. I love covering it bread or dipping it in olive oil and maybe using it to sweep up some extra sauce on my plate. I'm glade Noturo recognized it as an integral part of the meal, even for those not dining in the restaurant.  

This is a standard Italian restaurant, one like every neighborhood needs. It's not necessarily a standout and it's about $5 too expensive to become a true regular in my takeout rotation, but it's perfect for a Friday night that I want to stay in but still feel like a real person by eating a meal that doesn't feel at all like delivery. Since I'm not spending money on alcohol in this scenario I can totally justify the extra couple dollars. 


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