Monday, December 21, 2009

A Winter White Brunch

This weekend's massive snowfall and freezing temperatures inspired the wintry-warm brunch I whipped up at home yesterday...wasn't really feeling inclined to brave the outdoors just yet. I've been recently craving the kale salad at one of my favorite neighborhood restaurants, Northern version, though a bit different, might just be a close second.

Poached Eggs with Kale-Sweet Potato Salad

The Goods
2-3 cups kale (about 1/2 bunch), thinly chopped
1 small sweet potato, diced
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp garlic powder
pinch of cayenne pepper
salt to taste
1 Tbsp chopped roasted almonds
1 Tbsp Champagne vinaigrette *recipe below
2 Tbsp fresh grated Pecorino Romano cheese

2 eggs
1 tsp white vinegar

The Breakdown
Place kale in a steamer basket over a medium saucepan on medium-high heat and cover. Steam kale just slightly, about 1 to 2 minutes to keep it a bit crisp and crunchy.
Heat olive oil in a medium skillet and add in diced sweet potato (I wanted to speed things up a little, so I popped the potato in the microwave first for 2 minutes). Add in spices paprika through salt and saute until crispy (almost like baby hashbrowns) for about 6 to 8 minutes on medium-high heat.

Vinaigrette: Whisk together 1 tsp Dijon mustard, 1 tsp minced shallot, 1 Tbsp Champagne vinegar, 3 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil, salt and pepper to taste.
Toss kale with sweet potatoes, almonds and 1 Tbsp vinaigrette. Sprinkle with Pecorino Romano.

Poached eggs: Bring a small pot of water to a simmer on medium-high heat. Add 1 tsp white vinegar (I used white wine vinegar) and a touch of salt. The vinegar will help hold together the whites of the eggs. Gently slide in two eggs and poach for about 4 to 5 minutes.

Add a mimosa or bloody Mary and you've got a great wintry brunch!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Latkes with an Asian twist for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! If you're like me (who almost forgot that Friday was the first night of the festival of lights), I found myself guilt-ridden yesterday and yearning for a bit of tradition to celebrate the holiday season. Noticing I had a decently sweet potato lying around, I decided to put it to use. Normally, I'm a traditional, straight-up potato and onion latke -- applesauce only, please -- kind of girl, but I was determined to forge new frontiers this year. Why not experiment a little? So here we go with what turned out to be a delicious recipe (I baked the latkes rather than frying and still managed to get them crispy, a small feat). Try serving these mini-style, they'd make a great holiday appetizer.

Sweet Potato Latkes with Siriacha-Creme Fraiche
*Siriacha is Asian hot sauce and is soooo good (but super spicy)! You'll find it at your local Asian market or regular grocery store.

Makes 16 mini latkes (double the recipe for more)

The Goods
1 large sweet potato (or 2 small), peeled and grated
1/2 onion, peeled and grated
1 egg
1 Tbsp flour
2 tsp soy sauce
1/4 tsp salt (or more to taste)
fresh ground black pepper to taste
dash of cayenne pepper *literally a pinch, it's hot!
canola oil for the baking sheet

1/2 cup creme fraiche (a fancified version of sour cream)
1 to 2 tsp siriacha hot sauce (more or less to taste, depending on desired spiciness)

The Breakdown
1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees.
2. Mix grated sweet potato, onion, egg, salt, cayenne and black pepper and soy sauce in a large mixing bowl.
3. Brush a baking sheet with a good amount of canola oil, about 1 Tbsp or so.
4. Make mini latkes from mixture, each about a small handful's worth. Press out excess liquid before placing on baking sheet.
5. Bake at 425 for about 12 minutes, flip latkes and bake another 10-12 minutes until golden brown and slightly crispy.
6. Mix creme fraiche and siriacha and serve with latkes.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

The Best Ramen in NYC...with a Side of Customer Service

I've been meaning to write this post for a few weeks now, but better late than never. Being that the weekend's weather was unbelievably chilly and rainy, I was reminded of the delicious bowl of steaming hot ramen I had a few weeks back at one of NYC's best spots for the traditional Asian noodle soup -- Momofuku Noodle Bar (1st Ave & 11th St.). I've eaten at Momofuku a number of times, both at Noodle Bar and Ssam Bar, but on this particular Sunday evening, I was more than impressed not because of David Chang's inventive, flavorful fare, but because of some pretty incredible customer service. Here's the backdrop:

8pm - pop into Noodle Bar and order the traditional ramen soup with pork shoulder, pork belly and a poached egg for take-out
8:30pm - get back to my apartment starving ready for some soupy goodness and to my shock and dismay, there was no pork shoulder or pork belly in my soup. I had paid a nice penny for a container of broth, noodles and an egg...clearly I wasn't too happy!
8:35pm - make a call back to the restaurant, but couldn't get ahold of anyone and was directed to a voice message. left a calm, semi-stern and disappointed m
9:00pm - received a surprisingly quick and very nice call from Eugene Lee, Noodle Bar's on-the-ball manager. Eugene was kind enough to not only refund my credit card, but without any prompting, insisted that I receive a gift certificate card (for more than double the cost of my order mind you). The card would be mailed to my address the following day. Eugene thanked me for my business, hoped I would return to Momofuku for another meal, and wished me a good night.

Three days later I received that gift card in the mail...along with a lovely hand-written note from Eugene himself. That's what I call some serious customer service, it really does make a difference. I returned to Noodle Bar with a friend the following weekend and per the usual, the food was absolutely outstanding. Thanks so much Eugene, I'll be back very soon!

*And for all you David Chang groupies, check out his new cookbook, Momofuku - a great stocking gift!

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

Cookie diets are for the birds...

An article AND a video report from the Wall Street Journal on the infamous cookie diets fresh off the presses this morning. Come on people, are we seriously still talking about this? Rip away all the pretty wrapping, we know there's no magic weight loss or diet pill...and certainly no magic cookie. I don't know about you, but scarfing down a cookie made with sawdust-tasting protein powder, stabilizers, glycerine and whatever other ingredients are involved, doesn't sound too appetizing to me. The diets encourage cookie-eating in place of breakfast and lunch, and then having a "sensible" dinner for around 800 to 1200 calories. Bottom line, eat less of anything and you'll lose weight. Your body recognizes fresh, whole foods best - go back to basics (fruits, vegetables, lean protein and healthy carbs like brown/wild rice, whole grain breads and baked potatoes) and eat a little less of it, even just 10-20%. Better quality food = better taste and flavor = better satisfaction and less hunger = less of your waistline. That's some serious magic for you. Here's the WSJ's video segment on cookie diets...and how they crumble.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Cookbooks to crush on this holiday season

I tend to lust over cookbooks (both new and old) all year long, but get particularly engrossed around the holiday season and find myself pouring through recipes and gorgeously rich photos for a little cold-weather inspiration and holiday warmth. Here are a few cookbooks on my list this year, and maybe on yours as well.

COCO (Oct. 2009)- Chic design and colorful cover aside, Coco (published by design-heavy Phaidon) is a compilation of recipes from 100 up and coming contemporary chefs -- all of whom were nominated by 10 culinary masters including Mario Batali and Alice Waters. I've only yet flipped through Coco's pages (it's still on my wish list this holiday season), but from what I've seen, it's quite an impressive publication with interesting recipes galore.

Salt to Taste (Oct. 2009) - Marco Canora, owner of Hearth and Terroir restaurants and wine bar in Manhattan, brings rustic, flavorful and market-driven Italian dishes to this book. Recipes are approachable and'll want to head directly into the kitchen and cook up fresh fare like Roasted Salmon with Red Peppers, Veal and Ricotta Meatballs, Pasta e Fagioli, Fava Bean and Pecorino Salad, and Braised Duck with Olives and Rosemary. I love Canora's personal headnotes citing family traditions and cooking tips. One of my favorite parts of the book however, is the quote on the back: "Food -- buy it with thought; cook it with care; serve just enough; save what will keep; eat what would spoil; home-grown is best."

Jamie at Home (Oct. 2008) -- It might be among last year's hottest cookbooks, but this is still one of my favorites from acclaimed celebrity chef and Food Network star, Jamie Oliver and is definitely worth a good mention. Recipes are seasonally-inspired and are organized by spring/summer/fall/winter sections. Ridiculously gorgeous, mouth-watering photos and equally tasty recipes, Jamie's continued focus is on balance, fresh produce, making the most of the season and filling dishes with tons of flavor. You'll find recipes like Grilled lamb kofta kebabs with pistachios and spicy salad wrap, Warm strawberries with Pimm's and vanilla ice cream, and Superb squash soup with Parmesan croutons. And if you weren't already aware, Jamie is taking his fight on obesity and healthier eating habits from across the Atlantic, putting America's "diet" on a diet. Check out a 6-part video series and recipes from his American travels here. Jamie's newest book, Jamie's America (Sept. 2009) is currently out on shelves.

And a few other newbie cookbooks to note:
ref=sr_1_1.jpgDavid Chang's expressive (read: expletives everywhere) and intricate Momofuku (Chang now owns 4 restaurants in NYC -- who doesn't love Ssam Bar's pork buns and Noodle Bar's classic ramen)?
ref=sr_1_1.jpgFood Network nutritionist (and one of my friends and colleagues) Ellie Krieger's new So Easy, full of healthy, super flavorful recipes and nutrition info.