Saturday, January 23, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Best Manhattan Foodie Spots

In no particular order, the following are my favorite and most highly recommended Manhattan restaurants, in a variety of price ranges. This is not meant to be a list of the best or top restaurants in Manhattan, just some of my favorite dining experiences that I have had since moving to New York nearly nine years ago. I will (at some point) do a separate list of my favorite inexpensive, budget eats, as well. Here are my favorite Manhattan dining experiences, in no particular order.  Just a note: This is not meant to be a cheap eats guide, though there are a few of those mixed in here.  I will, at some point, do a top 25 favorite New York Cheap Eats list.  But for now, happy dining!

1. Blue Hill (Village)- I have already written an entire review of Blue Hill, which might just be my favorite Manhattan restaurant, and the perfect choice for my birthday dinner.  A recap - the seasonal farm-to-table ingredients, artful recipe design and presentation, combined with the friendly and attentive staff make Blue Hill one of the best places to eat in Manhattan - or anywhere.  In terms of the food, this is on par with some of Napa's best restaurants.

2. Tabla (Gramercy/Flatiron)- Tabla is an Indian-American fusion restaurant that is one of my favorite culinary fusion restaurants in New York.  A less expensive alternative is Bread Bar at Tabla.  They make all of their own chutneys - my favorite is the green apple.  Their crabcakes (which I have made myself, using their cookbook) are incredible.  Everything at this upscale restaurant is a treat because of the artful cusine and presentation.  Plus, their use of Indian ingrediants and spices - from tamarind to chat masala is creative and delicious.

3. Lupa (Village) - I have already reviewed Lupa and my favorite dish at this midrange Italian restaurant - the bucatini all' amatriciana.  Delicious, reasonably priced Italian, but you will need a reservation unless you want to eat very late.  This is one of my two favorite Italian restaurants in New York. 

4. Acappella (Tribeca) - Acappella is my other favorite Italian restaurant.  From the loud Happy Birthdays to every step of your meal, the staff could not be friendlier at this high-end Italian.  The cuisine is traditional Italian, and everything is delicious from the veal marsala to the chicken scarpierello to the lamb chops.  They always bring out Italian cordials at the end of what will be one of the best meal that New York can give you.  The caesar salad, lobster arriabiata, and pastas (especially the pesto) are all mouth wateringly delictable.

5. Balthazar (Village)- Balthazar gets French Bistro right on the NYC high-end circuit.  This was another spot for a great birthday dinner (my husband's two years ago) and they have a delicious (and more wallet-friendly) brunch.  The scene is busy, just like a Parisian bistro, but all the bistro dishes from the goat cheese carmelized onion tart to the cote de beuf are excellent.

6.  Stanton Social (Lower East Side)- This is a new restaurant, to me anyhow.  My husband and I had brunch here about six months ago with fellow writer Eric from Jersey City and his girlfriend Jenn.  We were not disappointed.  The entire brunch (like all meals at Stanton Social) consists of small plates - from grilled pizettas to lobster benedict and some pretty outrageous sliders.  The kobe beef sliders were out of this world.  The cocktails are creative and delicious, too.  A bit pricy for brunch, but totally worth every bite.

7. Geisha (Upper East Side) - Geisha is my favorite upscale sushi restaurant in NYC.  No one seems to know it, but the sushi at Geisha is just as good at the top sushi places in Manhattan.  My husband and I consider eating out here to be a real treat.  It is a gem.

8. Sushi Seki (Upper East Side)- Most Manhattan foodies consider Sushi Seki to be among the best sushi restaurants in Manhattan, and I won't disagree with them.  This sushi is a pretty amazing meal, all prepared the authentic Japanese way.  The quality of the fish here (whether omikase, pieces, sashimi or a roll) is second to none.

9. Bouley (Tribeca) - Bouley is considered by most to be one of Manhattan's finest upscale restaurants.  It's not stuffy at all - the presentation is elegant, artful and romantic.  We dined here for one of my husband's birthdays and enjoyed our candlelight meal.  We had the tasting menu which at the time included a wonderfully presented lobster appetizer and a fois gras.  Everything here is artfully presented and perfectly prepared.  Eating here was a culinary delight, although an expensive one.

10. Mesa Grill (Flatiron) - Mesa Grill is Bobby Flay's flagship restaurant.  I enjoy eating here (especially brunch) and cooking from Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill cookbook, which is the feature cookbook of this southwestern NYC classic.  If you enjoy Iron Chef America on the Food Network, you will enjoy eating here.

11. Kuma Inn (Lower East Side) - Kuma Inn is an fairly inexpensive Asian small plate restaurant.  It's BYOB so bring some Sake or Singha beer to enjoy with your meal.  Make a reservation in advance as it is a small restaurant.  All of the dishes are delicious Asian fusion dishes, perfect for sharing. (cash only).

12. Otto Enoteca (Village) - Otto is Mario Batali's reasonably priced pizza place.  Great and unique pizzas, fine selection of cheeses, gelato and an excellent selection of Italian wine.  I once saw Michael Stipe from REM here too. My favorite pizza on the menu is the spicy, cheeseless Marinara pizza.  They have olive oil gelato here too, which sounds weird, but is delicious (just trust me on this one).

13. Second Avenue Deli (Murray Hill) - This is my favorite deli in Manhattan (although I haven't been to Katz's Deli).  It used to be on Second Avenue in the Lower East Size, but now has moved to Murray Hill.  This is the place to get that true NYC pastrami sandwich  and matzah ball soup you have been craving, but they are quite large sandwiches.

14. Delfriscos (Midtown) - Manhattan's best steakhouse is a class act.  This is an expensive meal, but a steak at Delfriscos is a steak like no other.  In addition to all of the excellent cuts of steak, the sides are all equally delicious.  This is a classic steakhouse, and certainly one of the best NYC has to offer.

15. Strip House - Manhattan's other best steakhouse is a bit less traditional than Delfriscos with a bit more of trendy vibe.  Still, the strip steak, filet mignon and chateaubriand are second to none.  Also, the sides here are equally delicious, especially the black truffle creamed spinach, and my sister-in-law loves the tuna, as well.

16. Paris Commune (Village/Meat Packing) - Paris Commune does not take brunch reservations so get there early if you do not want to wait.  This is my favorite reasonably priced brunch in Manhattan.  The restaurant has that wonderful downtown French bistro kind of feel to it and the food is delicious.  Be sure to order a side of the fresh gingerbread, because Brunch at Paris Commune isn't complete without it.  I also highly recommend whatever frittata is currently on the brunch menu.
17. Corner Bistro - Best burger in NYC, hands down.  It's that simple.  If you want a great burger, come here.

18. Babbo - Mario Batali's classic Italian restaurant.  This is a bit pricier than Lupa, but basically a similar vibe and ambiance.  The food is also similar - Italian cooked Mario Battali style.  My favorite dish on the menu is the Lamb Love Letters.  I came here a couple years ago the night after a U2 Concert at the Meadowlands, to find Bono and his entourage eating a couple tables away.  Babbo is Mario Batali Italian at its best.

19. Sushi of Gari (Upper East Side & Midtown) - Sushi of Gari is another great sushi place.  I used to go here at the time when we lived in the Upper East Sice, and now they have a second location in midtown.  The sushi omikase has wonderful toppings, and the Tuna of Gari is wonderfully fresh and enjoyable as well.

20. DBGB Kitchen & Bar (Lower East Side)- Wonderful brunch, great burgers, and delicious, creative Sundae Desserts.  This is everything that a new Daniel Boulud restaurant should be and more.  We came here for brunch with my friend Eric a few months ago, but I have been meaning to make it back for dinner.

21. Shake Shack (Bryant Park, Midtown, Nolita, CitiField, Upper East Side etc...) - Shake Shack is NYC's quintessential perfect roadside burger.  The freshly made shakes and sweet and delicious as well.  Shake Shack, owned by who else by Danny Meyer has become such a NYC tradition, loved by locals, that there is even one at Citi Field (though as a Yankees fan, I recommend going to the one in Bryant Park).

22. Markt (Chelsea) - No Belgian food is ever going to come close to the food and all the college memories that I have of Monk's Cafe in Philly, but Markt and B. Cafe (No. 23) almost come close.  This restaurant has excellent Belgian classics, belgian beer and a wonderful ambiance.

23. B. Cafe (Upper East Side) - See No. 22.  B. Cafe is that perfect Belgian place.  There's no pretense, this is just a great place to have a belgian beer like Delirium Tremens, Chimay, Kwak etc... with some steak frites, terrific mussels, belgian fries and a belgian waffle with chocolate for dessert while hanging with some old friends.

24. Crooked Tree Creperie (Lower East Side)  - Such a causual place may not typically be included in a list like this.  But if that's what you are looking for then Crooked Tree is perfect.  For $16 you can enjoy two crepes, a dinner creme and a delectable dessert crepe.  It's not quite Paris but really, what is?  And for such a price you can have a quite enjoyable meal at this lower east side creperie.

25.  Blue Smoke - Another Danny Meyer restaurant, Blue Smoke is my favorite BBQ in Manhattan (and I don't really like BBQ that much).  Everything here is excellent from the desserts, brisket, pulled meat sandwiches and even the chocolate chip cookies.  There's a great Jazz Club here too, called Jazz Standard.

Places I would like to check out but haven't yet: Del Posto, Momofuku Ko, Mas Farmhouse and Gramercy Tavern (can't believe I've never been)

Molly D's Kitchen in Seattle: Shoyu Chicken

For the first three years of college I ate in Haverford’s dining hall. Despite the institutional portions and budget the staff tried hard to please the students, so there was a decent salad bar and some notably crave-worthy baked goods (anise bread—who knew?) and desserts (those seven-layer bars!), but it wasn’t enough, at least not for me. Unlike friends from New Jersey or Boston, I only got home to Hawaii twice a year, and I knew I could stick it out and be okay if I could only taste some local flavors, to have a bit of Hawaii in Philadelphia.

From home I brought bags of li hing mui and lemon peel and tried not to go through them too quickly. (At least I never had to share: I learned that no one else wanted any after the first hall-mate who gamely tried a piece spit it out immediately.) I nibbled at the edges of my culinary heritage by going out for Japanese or Thai or dim sum, and for a few moments in those restaurants I felt the warmth of cozy belonging. While studying for finals I sequestered myself in my dorm room and ate long rice from a small rice cooker, sprinkling in jarred nori furikake for flavor. It wasn’t ideal, but it gave me what I needed at the time.

When I eventually had my own kitchen, I learned to travel into Philly’s Chinatown for ingredients. They were still fairly basic, but I had a much wider variety of noodles and rices and some of the other items that I had been carting back from home. I was only just beginning to learn to cook, so I made a lot of rice and fried Spam, waiting for trips home to satisfy most of my cravings.

Finally (and after I had moved to Denver) I was ready to be a bit more ambitious, and one of the first recipes I tried was for shoyu chicken. It’s extremely easy to make, the ingredients can probably be found even in small-town supermarkets, and it works well as leftovers. While I didn’t eat much shoyu chicken growing up, it’s a staple in my house today. My recipe is a minor variation on this one, from the excellent recipe portion of

Shoyu* Chicken

6 skin-on** chicken thighs
5/8 c soy sauce
1 ¼ c water
¼ c brown sugar
3 green onions, cut into 2 inch pieces
3 cloves garlic, peeled and crushed
2 slices ginger, crushed slightly
  1. Place chicken in a large pot skin side up. Add all other ingredients and bring to a rapid boil. Lower heat to medium low and cover with lid.
  2. Cook for an hour, turning chicken over halfway through to cook on other side.
  3. After full hour, taste the sauce and adjust to your liking. If it’s too sweet, add more soy sauce; if it’s too salty, add more sugar.
  4. Chicken is done when it is just about falling off the bone. You can leave it in longer than an hour if it’s not quite there yet.
  5. When it is done, I recommend removing chicken from pot, turning the heat up to medium, and reducing the sauce down a bit to make a better sauce. Serve with rice.
*When I was growing up we called all soy sauce by its Japanese name, shoyu.
**You can take the skin off some of the chicken thighs if you’d like to cut back on the fat, but do leave some there for flavor.


Margie’s Kitchen in Boston:Valentine’s Day Special: Brunch Entrée – Johnny’s Crunchy French Toast

Photos by Lena

This year, 2010, Valentine’s Day falls on a Sunday. Starting with this blog, I will be suggesting a brunch menu. The main entrée is French toast. I am using a recipe published many years ago in the “old” Boston Globe Magazine. I don’t have a date but the authors, Sheryl Julian and Julie Riven, wrote a food review titled “Breakfast of Champions.” One of the featured items was French toast from Johnny’s Luncheonette in Newton Centre. Johnny’s still exists and the Crunchy French Toast is still on the menu. I’ve modified Johnny’s recipe by substituting for the challah (or you could use Sasha's Cinnamon Raisin Challah) the Pane di Signora Belurgi (lemon egg bread) from Mary Ann Esposito’s Ciao Italia (see my blog on lemons (lymons)):
½ cup almonds, ½ cup walnuts, 1 cup cornflakes, ½ cup bran flakes
1 teaspoon cinnamon
4 eggs, ½ cup of milk
Pinch of salt
8 thick slices of challah or lemon egg bread

Set the oven to 375°. Place walnuts and almonds on baking sheet and cook for 5-10 minutes until nuts are brown. Cool nuts then using blender, set to chop, blend for just a 20 seconds. Place nuts and cinnamon in flat bowl big enough to hold bread. Crunch cereal and add to nuts. Beat eggs, milk and salt in another flat bowl. Dip one slice of bread into egg batter and then into nut/cereal mixture. Heat flat grill on medium/high temperature for 5 minutes. Add a little butter then bread. Cook 5 minutes on each side and place in oven-ready plate. Repeat for remaining slices of bread.
Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Friday, January 22, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Cinnamon Raisin Shabbat Challah

In the Jewish tradition, Shabbat dinner marks the beginning of the Jewish Shabbat, or day of rest.  Shabbat is marked by two things in my family - lighting of candles, Challah and a family dinner.  I often make my Challah at other points during the weekend as well, but tonight we had a Shabbat dinner consisting of Veal Marsala (which will be the subject of a future post).  When we lit the candles, we did so using my home baked Challah. 

Usually, I simply prepare a regular Challah, according to Martha Stewart's recipe in her Baking Handbook.  I already wrote about how I prepare Challah in an earlier post when I first started this blog.   Tonight, I decided to rework the original recipe to make a Cinnamon Raison Challah for Shabbat, which is consistent with the sweetness that Jews have always associated with this weekly day of rest.

Here's what you need to prepare Sasha's Cinnamon Raisin Challah:

4 1/2 cups King Arthur Bread Flour
1 tsp salt
2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 cup raisins
1 cup warm water
3 small packets dry active yeast
1/4 cup sugar
3 T honey
8 egg yolks, plus 1 egg yolk for glaze
1/4 cup of oil

First, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  When the oven is heated, turn it off.  Heating the oven a bit and then turning it off will provide a warm place for the dough to rise.  I used to dismiss doing it this way, but the Challah rises faster and better if this advice is heeded. 

In a small bowl, mix the dry active yeast, cup of warm water and sugar.  Allow to sit for 10-15 minutes for the yeast to activate.  It should become foamy and frothy.  If it does not, then it did not activate and you must start again, or your dough will not rise.  Mix the flour, salt, cinnamon and raisins in a large mixing bowl.  Put these ingredients in the basin of an artisan mixer, and add the 8 egg yolks, carefully separating the yolks from the whites.  Add the honey, activated yeast/sugar mixture and oil.  Mix until it forms a dough in the mixer.

Place in a well-oiled bowl (grease with Pam or Canola Oil).  Then place the bowl, covered with a towel, in a warm place, as discussed above.  Allow to rise for about 1 hour, until it doubles in size.  Then divide into two balls.  Divide each ball into three strands, and pinch at one end.  Braid into a Challah.  Don't worry that the Challot each look small - they will be rising for an hour, at which point each Challah will be quite sizeable.  But if you don't trust me on this one, feel free to make one Challah - a ginormous Challah, indeed.

Put the two braided Challot on baking sheets, and cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for another hour in a warm place.  They will get significantly larger during this period, as they continue to rise.  Then glaze each with an egg wash, and bake in an oven preheated to 375 degrees F for about 30 minutes, until golden brown.  Monitor this step carefully - depending on the size of your Challah the baking time may vary a bit.

Sweet cinnamon raison Challah is the perfect way to close out the week, and prepare for a sweeter week ahead.  The end result here was my softest, lightest Challah to date - perhaps my best yet (although I say that every time).  We ate it while it was warm, fresh out of the oven, after lighting candles.  This is the way Challah is meant to be served.


Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Top 10 Jersey City eateries


I've been living in downtown Jersey City now for about a year and a half and one of my favorite aspects is the wide array of great places to eat and all the different types of cuisines available. I think Jersey City often gets overlooked since many people that happen to be in the area would probably go to Manhattan first or even to Brooklyn or Hoboken before coming to here but they would miss out on many amazing places by skipping over Jersey City. Keep in mind I am only covering the downtown area around the Grove Street PATH stop where I live and that Jersey City is a large area with many places I have never been.

I found many of these places through, which is a fantastic site dedicated to the Hoboken and Jersey City areas. They rate and review everything from car washes, barber shops and of course, restaurants.

So these are my 10 favorite places in no particular order:

Taqueria: Anyone who lives in Jersey City should already know that this place is amazing. It's authentic Mexican cuisine at its best. You can choose from many different soft tacos including fish, pork, lamb, chorizo, steak, ground beef or even cactus. All of them are delicious and reasonably priced. It's also got a great little garden area that's perfect for a summer brunch. Some of my favorite brunch items are the pork soup and scrambled eggs with chorizo sausage and cheese. Don't come here expecting chipotle and taco bell style food as they don't often add cheese or sour cream.
Google Maps

Madame Claude Cafe: This is one of my favorite brunch places in Jersey City and a great place to get some amazing crepes! My favorite is a crepe with spicy lamb sausage, mushrooms and creme fraiche. They also have a fantastic crepe with smoked salmon and cream cheese! I've never been for dinner but I hear it's excellent as well. Plus it's BYOB!

Marco & Pepe: This is an all-around great restaurant although one of the more pricey options in downtown Jersey City. My girlfriend and I ate there for lunch once and had probably the best mac & cheese either of us had ever had and one of the best risotto dishes as well.

Nha Trang: This might be the best food for your money in Jersey City and possibly the best Vietnamese cuisine I've ever had. Granted I don't think I had really tried all that many dishes other than pho before I went to Nha Trang but their Pho is better than any I've had before and many of their other dishes are pretty amazing as well. I highly recommend their cubed beef entree!
Google Maps

Ibby's: This is an excellent place to get falafel. It doesn't look like much and there isn't a ton of room inside to sit (although when it's warm it's a good location to eat outside), but they are very quick, affordable and again, have great falafel. I often order the falafel sandwich combo with lamb as I love meat. It's kind of like taking the best of both a falafel sandwich and a Gyro and combining them.

Brownstone Diner: This is a downtown Jersey City institution. It calls itself a diner but it's much cleaner and better decorated than most diners I've been to. They serve amazing pancakes and breakfast platters in almost any combination or style imaginable and the portions are huge. Most weekends there will be a line to get in but the place is also very large and the turnover is fast since it's mostly breakfast food.

Torico: I feel pretty lucky to live only a block away from this place! They have a ton of different flavors and do both traditional ice cream as well as soft serve. They are closed for a few months during the winter but the rest of the year usually finds this place with people lining up for their high quality ice cream.
Google Maps

Hard Grove: Downtown Jersey City has a few different Cuban restaurants and the ones I have tried have all been excellent in their own ways but Hard Grove is still my favorite. It has a great location on Grove Street near the PATH entrance, the decor is fun and inviting and so is the staff. Their food might not all be worth the price here but they also have excellent drinks and I had a seafood special once with a whole lobster and it was one of the most perfectly cooked lobsters I've ever had. Which is saying something as I grew up along the coast of Connecticut most of my life and have worked at multiple seafood restaurants.

Amiya: Jersey City also has a number of Indian restaurants and this is the best one that I have been to so far. My girlfriend and I went for their lunch buffet and it was quite good. Great atmosphere and attentive staff and the food was very tasty!

Bar Scene: Skinner's Loft/Iron Monkey/White Star/ Zeppelin Hall: Downtown Jersey City has many great bars and these four just happen to be my personal favorites. Skinner's loft is a little more pricey but they have a great rooftop deck and their food is excellent. Iron Monkey also has a rooftop deck and live music occasionally and possibly the best beer list in town. Their food is excellent and their prices are much more reasonable than Skinner's. I used to live much closer to the White Star and that place could be the best place to watch sports in the area as long as you can find a place to sit. They also have a very solid beer list and decent food with great specials for both every day. Zeppelin Hall is Jersey City's first 'biergarten' and was a huge success as soon as it opened last summer. Great beer and brat's and a fantastic atmosphere. And it's the only place I've been where you can get a cheese-filled bratwurst. It sounded odd when I first heard about it but the more I drank, the more enticing it became and it didn't let me down. Overall I think Jersey City has a very fun and friendly bar scene.

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Duck Confit Waldorf Salad

Tonight's salad recipe, which is actually quite simple to make, is a traditional salad - a Waldorf Salad, with a couple of twists.  I was inspired by a recipe from the Tabla Cookbook, Once Spice Two Spice by Floyd Cardoz, to prepare this recipe.  I actually wrote about this salad in my very first post, when I was discussing several recipes from this cookbook, and the concept of American-Indian fusian food.

American food really is the combination of all of the different ethnic cooking traditions that make up the American population.  Therefore, it is no suprise that I consider American fusian cooking - the combination of so-called American food with ethnic spices and flavors - to be as much a part of the American culinary palette as any "traditional" American food.  This is the inspiration behind the restaurant Tabla, and behind Cardoz's cookbook.

The main difference between my salad and the one in the cookbook, is simplification.  I used the basic ingredients and Indian spices in the salad dressing, but left out a lot of the complications to create a quick and easy waldorf salad recipe that still has the Indian flavorings.

Here's what you will need:

2 cooked duck confit legs, with the fat removed and shredded
2 apples (I used Gala), peeled and cut into small pieces
1/4 to 1/3 cup of walnuts
1/2 quart orange juice
2 star anise
1/2 stick cinnamon
3 teaspoons powdered ginger
1 bag of romaine lettuce
1/3 cup canola oil

To prepare the dressing, do an orange juice reduction, as Cardoz suggests.  Put the ginger, orange juice, star anise and cinnamon in a sauce pan and reduce by boiling to about 1/3 of a cup.  Mix with 1/3 cup of canola oil.

Add the shredded duck confit, apples and walnuts to the lettuce and mix the waldorf salad.  Add the dressing and serve.  This salad is delicious and has hints of Indian flavors in the dressing that make it more than just a traditional duck confit waldorf salad.

Eric's Kitchen in Jersey City: Tofu & Shrimp Pad Thai

This was my first attempt at cooking either tofu or pad thai. I will say from the start that I wasn't particularly thrilled with the results but I think the biggest mistake I made was not reading the label of the sauce I bought. Basically I needed 2 jars of thai kitchen peanut sauce for the amount of noodles that I had and I only used one. If I made this again, I'd probably try to make the sauce from scratch and make a lot more of it.

1 Package Thai Kitchen rice noodles
1 Jar Thai Kitchen peanut sauce (better to use 2 if going this route)
1 red pepper, minced
1 medium vidalia onion, minced
1 package of straw mushrooms
1 handful of chopped cilantro
1 package extra firm tofu
1 lb. jumbo shrimp

I'll start with the tofu since this was the most interesting part to me, having never cooked it before. I took some advice from Alton Brown's 'Good Eats' and dried the tofu by wrapping it loosely with paper towels and placing some cans of baked beans on top to utilize the weight and drain the tofu. After that sat for 20 minutes or so and seemed less damp, I cubed it and then dredged it with egg whites, wheat flour and bread crumbs. I then pan fried the cubes in some olive oil to give it a little crunch. I do realize this kind of defeats the purpose of making healthy tofu but I figured, hey, at least we're cooking tofu for the first time! Baby steps...

I cooked the shrimp in olive oil, garlic, chopped cilantro and a little lemon juice. I like to cook them in the shells and shell them after cooking as I find they stay more tender this way and near impossible to overcook them unless you're really not paying attention.

On to the sauce (which was mostly from a jar). I sauteed the straw mushrooms, onion and minced red peppers with some garlic in olive oil and added them to the peanut sauce. I also shelled a cup or so of peanuts and crushed them with the back of a wooden spoon. These helped the sauce immensely.

In the end I served this with a slice of lemon and some sauteed snow peas. I have to say both the shrimp and tofu were excellent but the noodles needed more sauce for sure. Maybe someday I will try to follow this up with some homemade sauce instead!

Here's Sasha's versions of chicken and vegan pad thai

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Apple Cobbler

I have made many an apple pie, but until tonight I had never made an apple cobbler.  Although apple season really came to a close at the conclusion of autumn, apples and pears are pretty much the best fresh fruits to get in the northeast this time of year.  The best cobblers I have made are peach cobblers, but a recipe for those on this website will have to wait until June.  Tonight, I decided to vary from a traditional apple pie recipe and instead prepare an apple cobbler, which is kind of like an upside down apple pie wtih a bit of a scone like cobbler crust.

Cobblers make me think of the Wizard of Oz.  As silly as it sounds, when I am making the cobbles for the top of a cobbler, I can't help but think of Dorothy and the Munchkins singing as they skip down the cobbled Yellow Brick Road. 

Preparing a cobbler is quite simple.  First, preheat the oven to 375 F and spray a deep dish lasagna dish with Pam.  Then prepare the following filling:

7 medium to large gala apples, peeled and sliced
3 T lemon juice
2 T cornstarch
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup sugar

To prepare the crust, you will need the following:

2 cups flour
1/2 cup milk
2 tsps baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp salt

Mix the dry ingredients, then cut in the butter, using a stand mixer.  Add the milk until a dough is formed.  You can add a little bit of extra flour if you need it.

Put the filling in the lasagna pan and form cobbles out of the dough to cover the filling.  Gaze with an eggwash and put a couple tablespoons of sugar on top of the egg-glazed cobbles.  Then bake for about 1 hour at 375 until lightly browned.

I should mention now that I love baking, probably more than cooking - unless the cooking involves making food from scratch.  I think this is the inner-molecular biologist in me.  Cooking is fun, but there is really a science to baking that I enjoy.  I am hoping to do some cheese-making in the future as well, which I am sure will amuse the inner scientist in me.


Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Chipotle-Horseradish-Maple Syrup Glazed Veal Chops

Tonight's dinner was a simple meal that was quite enjoyable.  I much prefer the taste of veal to chicken, which is generally my least favorite meat.  However, veal chops can be expensive and often dissapointing because they are usually too fatty and require quite a bit of work to get to the meat around the bone in the chop.  Tonight, I was able to prepare an excellent veal entree using boneless veal chops that I purchased online from Fresh Direct.  Most of the meats I have ordered from Fresh Direct over the years have been high quality and reasonably priced.  Thus, this is an excellent source of meat in the New York area.

Tonight's veal recipe was inspired by one of my favorite Food Network chefs, Bobby Flay from his Mesa Grill Cookbook.  However, I modified the recipe by adding the smokiness of chipotle.


1/2 cup maple syrup
2 T dijon mustard
2 T gold's horseradish
2 tsp chipotle
1 T ancho chile powder

Coat four veal chops in oil, salt and pepper. Grill the chops on medium-high on a grill pan for about five minutes (adjusting the time depending on the size of the veal chops).  Turn over the veal chops and reduce the heat to medium for seven to nine minutes, covering the chops with an aluminim foil tent.   Glaze the veal chops with the marinade about three minutes before they are done cooking, using a pastry brush. Voila, an easy and delicious veal dish! This is a great dish to make if like me, you had a long day but still want to cook, yet don't have hours to spend preparing the perfect meal.

Christina's Kitchen in Budapest: Boti Kebab

While lamb's rather scarce here in Budapest (hence the lack of photos), I ate lots of it in Washington, both cooked at home - thanks to frozen chops at Trader Joe's as well as fresh cuts at local butchers - and at restaurants (mostly Indian). While I'm always happy to order lamb curry or lamb biryani when I'm at an Indian restaurant, last summer I discovered boti kebab at a place called Tiffin in Langley Park. And it was love at first bite.

You know when you eat something so delicious you actually get sad when it's all gone? Well, I felt that way for hours after that first taste. So I went online to find a boti kebab recipe, and after a few tries, I came up with my own version.

This is basically a spice and yogurt marinade. I mostly use it for lamb, but I've also tried it with goat and chicken. Just remember that goat is much tougher than lamb, so I recommend oven-baking goat instead of cooking it on the grill.

1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon turmeric
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup yogurt
1/4 cup onion
2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro
2 tablespoons diced fresh ginger
1 clove of garlic
1/2 teaspoon garam masala

1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor and blend until smooth.
2. Marinate 2 pounds of lamb for six to 24 hours.
3. Grill the lamb on skewers on the BBQ, or cook in an oven at 350 degrees for 20 to 30 minutes until meat is tender.
Note: I like to make a bunch of this marinade and freeze it in an ice cube tray, then pop the cubes in a baggie for later use. That way, I'm never more than a day away from my own slice of boti kebab heaven.

Lamb is one of the roundtable features of the month at A Kitchen in Brooklyn. Other entries include Sasha's braised lamb ancho chile tacos and roast rack of lamb with fresh herbs; Cindy's lamb & Pinot Noir wine pairing and Eric's lamb steak.

Monday, January 18, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Pumpkin-Cashew Soup

Pumpkin soup is one of my favorite fall and winter soups.  I wanted to create a creamy, smoky pumpkin soup with just a hint of spice. That was the inspiration for this soup, which served as the third course at our seven course dinner party Saturday night.  In addition, I included some cashew butter in the soup that I made from fresh pureed cashews, since I have always enjoyed the pumpkin cashew soup at the nearby restaurant, Rosewater, here in Park Slope, so that served as an inspiration here because of their commitment to using seasonal, organic produce in a "farm to table" type of cuisine.  This soup was a very enjoyable course at our winter dinner party for our out of town guests.

Here's what you need to prepare the soup:

4 cups low sodium Chicken Stock
3 cups pumpkin puree (not flavored pie filling)
7 tsp chipotle puree
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ginger
1/2 tsp allspice
2 T maple syrup
1 T honey
1/2 cup cashews
1 T butter
pinch of cayenne pepper (optional)
3/4 to 1 cup creme fraiche, 1 1 teaspoon to serve with
salt and pepper to taste

First, prepare the cashew butter by chopping the cashews finely in a nut chopper.  Then blent the cashews with 1 T of water and 1 T butter in the cusinart until a cashew butter is formed.  Set aside.

Bring the chicken broth to a boil.  Add the three cups of pumpkin puree.  Make sure to use plain pumpkin puree, and not pumpkin pie filling.  After whisking in the pumpkin puree, whisk in the cashew butter, honey, maple syrup, spices and chipotle.  You can adjust the spices to taste, since that's what I did when I was preparing the soup.  Reduce to a simmer and stir occasionally for 15-20 minutes.  If the soup is too thick, you can add an extra half cup of chicken broth.

Remove from the heat and mix in the remaining 3/4 to 1 cup of creme fraiche.  I added an entire cup, which made the soup creamy and delicious. 

To serve, ladle the soup into bowls and serve with a little cinnamon and a small dollup of creme fraiche.  Just a note, the soup acquires a little spice from the chipotle and a bit more from the pinch of cayenne pepper.  You can leave out the cayenne for less heat, but I wouldn't suggest removing the chipotle, because that only adds a little heat, and an important smoky quality to the soup.

Pumpkin is one of the ingredients of the month on Akitcheninbrooklyn.  Click here for Gilly's Vegan Pumpkin Pie and here for my Pumpkin Creme Brulee.

Pumpkin Soup on Foodista

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Sasha's Kitchen: Eat Your Heart Out Red Velvet Cupcakes (Valentine's Day Special)

These cupcakes are probably the girliest, cutest, prettiest cupcakes I have ever made.  They are perfect for Valentine's Day, for a dinner party with friends, for a girl's night get together, or for making with a little girl.  I decided to make these  for the ending to a seven course dinner party with good friends who were visiting from Toronto, and my Mom, visiting from Rochester.  Despite the professional appearance of the cupcakes, they are actually not that difficult to make, as long as you have an artisan mixer and the right gel food colorings.

I have long loved red velvet cupcakes.  They have just enough chocolate in them (a couple of Tablespons in the batter) to have a light chocolate flavor to them, but they are not an overpowering death by chocolate cupcake.  Although I developed my own recipe for the frosting, I used one of Martha Stewart's recipes for the red velvet cupcake.  There's only so many ways one could make a red velvet cupcake, but what I like about this recipe is that the batter does not use any butter - only canola oil, which makes it a tad bit healthier - I suppose.

The red velvet hue from the red velvet cupcakes, or in a red velvet cake, comes in part from the chocolate powder, but also from the red food coloring in the cupcakes.  One thing you should be sure to buy to make these cupcakes with top-notch results is some professional grade gel food colorings - this is such a good investment if you plan to do a considerable amount of baking - I got 12 colors for about $10-15 from New York Cake.

Here is Martha Stewart's original red velvet cupcake recipe, which was my starting point, and below is the recipe I used, with some slight modifications.

2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (I did not use cake flour and they were still great)
2 T unsweetened dutch process cocoa
1 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 1/2 cups canola oil
2 large eggs
1/2 teaspoon red gel-paste food coloring (use red, not pink)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup buttermilk
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
2 tsp white vinegar

Sasha's Frosting
1 package (8 oz) reduced fat cream cheese
4 cups confectioner's sugar
1 stick of butter
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1-2 small squirts of pink gel food coloring  in soft pink

Preheat the oven to 350 F.  First to prepare the cupcakes, mix the flour, salt, cocoa powder in a large bowl.  Beat the sugar and oil in your artisan mixer until well combined, addding the eggs one at a time, and continuing to beat.  Mix in the gel food coloring and the vanilla extract.  Turn the artisan mixer to low speed, and add the flour and the buttermilk, alternating between additions of each.  Mix well.   In a small bowl, mix the baking soda and the vinegar (it will fizz, just like those volcanos you made as a kid).  Add to the batter and mix for about ten seconds.

Line two silicon cupcake trays with cupcake liners and put the batter in the liners to fill about three quarters full (my husband, Brad, always does this part because he is very neat at doing this without dripping cupcake batter everywhere).  Bake at 350 for about 20-25 minutes until it passes the fork/toothpick test.  Try not to open the oven during the baking process if you can help it, as they will rise better if you don't open it until the end.

To make the frosting, beat the cream cheese and butter at high speed in the artisan mixer for a couple of minutes.  Beat in the powdered sugar (you should put the plastic sides up on the mixer so it doesn't make a powdery mess).  Add a drop or two of the pink food coloring and keep mixing at high speed until the frosting has a nice consistency - a few minutes at least.

To make the decorations on top, buy some marzipan and mold hearts.  I used an unused watercolor paintbrush to paint the hearts with some lightly diluted food coloring and let them dry .  Wait at least an hour or two to frost the cupcakes - they must cool off completely or you will melt the frosting.  To get the professional look, I used a frosting bag fitted with a fluted tip.  When you squeeze the bag to push out the icing, do so in a circular manner to frost the cupcake the way i did.  The result is a pretty, professional look.  Top the cupcakes with the marzipan hearts.

These cupcakes taste as good as they look.  The recipe makes abotu 24 cupcakes (we made 22), but feel free to cut the recipe in half if you want a smaller batch.  Our house is filled with cupcakes - everywhere you look there's a cupcake.

Cupcake on Foodista

Red Velvet Cupcake on Foodista
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