Thursday, June 30, 2011

"Mexican" Bean Salad

Yep, here's another post of something made in the kitchen from the past. I just want to give some ideas, some inspiration, on what can be created in the kitchen. Recently a dear friend of mine was like, "OMG you made candy corn???" Yep, I did. You never know what you can do until you give it a go. And if you can't, at least you can say, "Yep, I tried it, it did not go well." Then you try again because you're a glutton for punishment :) Supposedly that's the fun part of learning, but I've yet to experience joy in my failures, maybe I'm missing something.

Anyway, onto the food, that's why we're here. On today's menu, we have another foray into healthy bean salads (actually what I'm eating for lunch this week). I think this time I'll focus on one food at a time. Writing about three or four items is a bit daunting, to write and to read. Maybe this will work better.

So, the bean salad. This is my "Mexican" bean salad, a term I use rather loosely, and most Americans do too, unfortunately. Actually this is more Tex-Mex, but whatever, I needed to try something. So I took a pound of black beans (dried), soaked them in water (usually so its covered by a couple of inches, or up to the second knuckle on your pointer finger), if you check and need more water, guess what? Add more water! Genius! Anyway, beans were soaked, and then boiled for an hour and a half or so. I usually heat the pot (using the soaking liquid) with the lid on until its boiling, and check it periodically until it's as done as I like. For this, I wanted a sturdier bean, sometimes I like a mooshy bean. Mmmm, mooshy, squish!!

Now the dressing: same 3:1 ish ratio of oil to vinegar, although this time I wanted to try a dressing with lime juice! Where I live limes are so cheap! And, once in awhile, I like to envision someone I'm mad at, and squeeze the lime, pretending it's that person, into a glass of diet cola. Good stress reliever, and a treat to boot! Back to limes. I juiced about six limes, that makes about 1/4 cup of juice, thereabouts. I also happened to run out of olive oil so I substituted some canola oil. Not the best but it worked, the other flavors are so big it would be a sin to use olive oil (see, another sin, wasting good olive oil and you can't even taste it!).

Then, I know this sounds weird, but I wanted to try it: I had a HUGE container of taco seasoning (better to buy the smaller packets, but I'll use what I have), and I measured two tablespoons of seasoning and added it to the dressing. Some hot sauce (I like a bit of heat), and some mustard went in, maybe a tablespoon of each, shook the container, and there's dressing.

Finally, the vegetables: four roma tomatoes (I found removing the gooshy bits made chopping MUCH easier!), two green peppers, chopped, and a one pound bag of frozen corn. For this, since corn season isn't quite here yet, it's a pain to remove from the cob, and in general, frozen produce is picked at its peak, rather than being shipped underripe to get to supermarkets, I thought the flavor would be really nice. It adds a subtle sweetness that I really like.

Now, when the beans are done, drain, toss with vegetables and dressing, let sit to allow flavors to meld.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

More Throwbacks from the Kitchen

I had a few more pics kicking around of stuff I've made, key lime cake, pasta fazool, tabbouleh, and Italian bean salad.

Now this first one goes WAAAAY back, as in 2007. One of my mom's co-workers LOVES key lime, so she asked me to make a key lime cake for him. I also fell in love with these little acid bombs when I learned about the difference between "real" key lime pie and the one where they use the same method as lemon meringue but instead use lime goo, ew.

Nope, I'm talking about the real deal, with condensed milk, eggs, and itty bitty super tart limes (legend has it that these little limes are so tart, you don't even have to cook the pie! I prefer to err on the side of caution with this one). Unfortunately I don't see a recipe that I've used. What I do recall is you usually need a whole bag of key limes (I never used the regular ones, maybe I'll give it a go), and before you juice, get all the zest off the limes, and throw that in too. Mmmmmm.

Anyway, enough about pie, we're talking about key lime cake. This recipe I found, and I'm embarrassed to say this is the one I used. On the other hand, I'm not really good at baking, and ultimately, my mom's co-worker loved it, so that's all that matters.

Next is my attempt at pasta fazool, also known more accurately as pasta e fagioli (pasta and beans). What better veg-friendly soup in the cold gloomy winter (you can make it meaty if you want, again it's to your taste).

Unfortunately, sometimes you can have too much of a good thing. As is two HUGE containers, and a gallon Ziploc bag of the stuff. Maybe I'll have my recipe next time. Of toss in the freezer, which I also like to do, in manageable portions. Defrosting a gallon of liquid is not easy, trust me on this. One place I found a good recipe for pasta fazool that I will have to try is from Annalena's Kitchen.

Next are my "healthy" lunch ideas for warmer weather. First is my favorite (before eating it for a week and a half straight) is tabbouleh. And this is actually "my" recipe, in the sense of I know what goes in it, and I tweak it each time, because I'm cool like that. Here's what I do:


  • 1 cup bulgur
  • 1  cups boiling water
  • 1/3 cup olive oil (I used way less)
  • 2/3 cup lemon juice
  • 1- 2 bunches chopped fresh parsley
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint ( I forgot this, but it is good)
  • 3 tomatoes, chopped
  • 1 cucumber - peeled, seeded and chopped
  • 1 green bell pepper, chopped
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • ground black pepper to taste


Combine bulgur, boiling water and lemon juice in a large bowl. Cover, and set aside to soak for 1 hour (adding the lemon to the water for the bulgar gives it an extra punch to the bulgar, so good!)

Add oil, parsley, mint, tomatoes, peppers and cucumber; toss to combine. Season to taste with salt and black pepper. Cover, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour.  

According to my sister, when it's hot, I live on this, kefir (a Turkish/Russian yogurt drink, I swear it helps you live forever!), and hummus. I'll admit, she's not too far off...

Then we have my adventures in "bean salads." Not the gross one you're thinking of, something a bit different, and pretty good (the first 2-3 times). I really should make half a batch, but I'm lazy and kind of like the simplicity of having the same thing made, ready to grab and go. 

This first one is my "Italian bean salad". It has cannellini beans (any white bean is fine, I bet chickpeas would be fabulous too!). I tend to prefer dried to canned, but that's your call. Either half a pound bag dried, soaked (preferably overnight), and cooked usually for an hour or so. You can drain the soaking water and put clean water, or use the soaking water to cook with. I prefer to keep the soaking liquid because it also has the nutrients that make have leaked out. It also supposedly has the properties that make you gassy. If you eat beans/legumes regularly, your system adjusts. Plus all the benefits of bean eating is far greater than dealing with gas. I don't have a major problem, but it's your dish, make it how you like. 

So while the beans are cooking you can work on the dressing. I use a vinaigrette (seriously, try making your own dressing rather than buy it). Now I keep reading that the ratio for a vinaigrette is 3:1, oil to vinegar. That seems a bit off to me, but I also like more tang. Make it 3:1, maybe 3/4 c oil to 1/4 cup vinegar, but TASTE IT, and adjust as needed. Three parts olive oil, one part red wine vinegar (I hesitated with balsamic because it would darken the beans), a tablespoon of Italian seasoning (oregano, basil, parsley blend, usually), salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of mustard. Blend it up, or shake vigorously.  

Next chop vegetables, I chopped six roma tomatoes, two green peppers, a cucumber. Again, this is what I like. Once the beans are cooked, drain, and toss with the dressing and the veggies while the beans are still hot. Let sit to let everything combine. 

And that wraps up another Throwback!

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Eating the Sea, and Cream Puffs

Last weekend, the Fisherman wanted to take his parents out for a belated Father's Day meal (his family likes to avoid the increase in people and price, and decrease in service during special occasions, so they tend to go before or after to celebrate). His mother was obsessed about going to Sik Gaek, Flushing, so that's where we went.

While in Flushing, we had some errands to do, and while his parent's went to check out the New World Mall (we went before, and I intend to go again to roll around the Food Court, ZOMG!) The Fisherman and I went in search of cream puffs. The last time we came, Taipan Bakery was closed and we went home, sans cream puffs. This time we were victorious!

The vanilla ones were amazing, don't waste your calories on the chocolate ones (DID I JUST SAY THAT??) I somehow could not seem to bite one, no matter how delicately, without spilling some cream on myself. Saturday was definitely "spill things on myself" day. They were good though.

After a snack, we were off to Sik Gaek. The Fisherman and I went previously with some friends of his, so I'll post that entry shortly. In the meanwhile, feast your eyes on THIS

This would be the contents of the octopus hot pot. It's basically eating the ocean in a spicy soup. The first time was sheer "WOW" factor. This time, the groggines and potential for a migraine wasn't worth it. Great for six or more people, four isn't enough to devour this shellfish bonanza!

Sunday, we went fishing at the Sunken Meadow State Park. What an experience! For someone who's a novice at fishing, I enjoy being out in the sun, and by the water. Being a Pisces, I feel more "at home," by the ocean. The view is spectacular. For the Fisherman, well, that's why I call him that, he likes fishing. For once, since the weather was above freezing (although I would debate that), we BOTH actually caught something!!

Now, these are called sea robins. They're considered "garbage fish" because people who fish consider them to be less appealing to catch, and they eat the bait that's for the "real" fish. Some people actually catch them and leave them to die on land because no one wants them. For the Fisherman, the meat is edible, very mild, and it's a living thing!! So, we took our catch (and one left to die by a prick), and the Fisherman's dad cooked it up. Sorry for no pictures, but it was a bit weird to eat something you actually caught. Blame it on no longer being exposed to how food comes to be. I'll fully admit that if I had to kill my own meat, I probably would be a vegetarian. It's hypocritical but at least I admit it. Oh well, enough of that. We had fun, and the fish we caught were eaten. I leave you with some amazing shots of the beach.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Going Out, and Cooking In

Usually The Fisherman and I celebrate the weekend by going out to eat. After a long crazy day for both of us at the office, I offered to treat him to a local Thai place, Boon Chu on Broadway, in Elmhurst. He's walked past it a few times and wanted to check it out, and I can't say no to Thai iced tea, so we went to check it out.
First off, if you're claustrophobic, maybe you need to try someplace else. It's small, really small, as in six tables small.

 Naturally I had to have Thai iced tea. Not as strong as I would have liked, but pretty good.

We lucked out and were able to squeeze (and I meant this literally), into a booth. We ordered an appetizer of Hoy Jor (ground pork, shrimp and crab wrapped in crispy tofu skin).  If you like fish cakes, this is right up your alley. Chewy, almost springy, definitely seafoody.

The Fisherman was insistent on ordering pad thai despite my best efforts to convince him to try something less "textbook." I am sorry I tried to steer him away from pad thai. It was very, very good. The portion was a bit small but other than that it was quite good.

I've made pad thai before, in college, for a good friend of mine, in a dorm kitchen, when the lights were having issues. Of course homemade stuff is better, I just might have to dust off/look for the recipe I used in the past, and figure my cats "helping" me will approximate working with the lights flickering.

I agreed to check out the Tom yum soup. I really liked it overall, but we both agreed that the imitation crab meat was a no-no. I didn't like the texture, and The Fisherman just didn't like the idea of fake crab in this. The lemongrass was also too hard to chew, a little dangerous to eat...

So, on Fatty Friday, The Fisherman made a special request for this pasta dish we came up with before, but we ate it before I could photograph it. I think I will dubb it The Fisherman's Fav, perhaps you'll find it quick and delicious as well.

First get some pasta started. The Fisherman is partial to noodles, so I used fettucini. Lots of salt in water, on the stove to boil. Then in a pan (the bigger the better!) I have some olive oil, maybe 1/4 cup and a two tablespoons of butter (for one pound of pasta, don't freak out.) Besides, olive oil is good for you :) Heat it on medium so the butter melts and the fats combine gloriously.

As that's heating up, chop one onion and 3-4 cloves of garlic (I never like to cut half an onion, it's wasteful. Use a smaller one if you're onion squeamish. Same for garlic. Those go in the pan with the butter/oil, and some red pepper flake (2 tablespoons, use more or less as you like), and two tablespoons of pesto (yes, homemade is better, but when I can find pignolis where I live, I'll consider it). Stir and let everything melt, the onions softening and sweetening, the garlic becoming more mellow.

Test the pasta for doneness, and when it's ready, drain. Toss the pasta to make sure it's hot but dry. Then bring the pasta to the pan with the onion garlic yumminess and dump into the pan, carefully. Toss the pasta and the sauce. I tossed it back into the pot because my pot was a little smaller than I'd like. Add some cheese if you're inclined (cheese for me, please!), maybe even a splash of lemon juice to brighten things up.

Talk about being an alchemist! We literally threw this together, and now The Fisherman loves it!

Eating out, and staying in. I don't know which I prefer sometimes. Something delicious you didn't have to slave over, or something made just the way you like it, made with love. Quite the toss up. When in doubt, mangia!

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Feels Like Summer

Well, even though technically summer started on Tuesday, it's been hot for a while now. And when it's hot, what do people want? If you're me, you think Haagen Daz would be a good dinner solution. But after a few "dinners" like that, you'd need elastic waisted pants.

Okay, so ice cream, while delicious, is something you can't have as often as you'd like. So, when all you want is cold, sweet and satisfying, I turn to paletas. These used to be considered ice pops before Good Humor and their ilk got in on the act. Basically, it's blended fruit that's frozen on a stick. Depending on your preference (or your ingredient list), they can be dairy based, or water based. It can have sugar, or not. It can be made of one fruit, or it could resemble Chiquita Banana's head gear.

It's one of those "non-recipes." Take fruit, cut up if needed, put in blender with liquid of choice, blend until desired consistency, put in container (ice pop molds, or in my case little paper cups), freeze a bit, put in sticks, freeze some more, done! It's cold, its sweet, it's a good source of fruit, and it makes you wonder why you wanted to go buy these (disclosure: I have some "mango paletas" I bought that weren't expensive, but the flavor was not there. And for the calories I'll pass).

For me, I've been on a pineapple kick like no one's business. I had a few years where I didn't get to eat it (the things we do for people we care about...), so now I'm going pineapple crazy! It also tastes so summery (as do mangoes, reminds me of sunshine), and, I don't know why, but I've been itching for piña colada in the worst way! Again, it screams summer. 

I'm also on a personal mission to get my fill of summer flavors: melon, berries, corn, grilled meat (mmm, 
The Fisherman knows how to work a grill!), mayo-laden salads (don't ask), everything you miss when it's cold out. 

But I digress: onto the paletas. I had to make piña colada ones (sorry, no booze in these, didn't have any, and I was focused on the pineapple and coconut), so here's my non-recipe:

 Take fruit (I wanted pineapple, so I took a half for this, and half for later, mmmm), cut it up, just so it can get started in the blender. Then since this is piña colada, I got a can of crema de coco. Next time I might get Coco Lopez for more flavor, we'll see. 

 Then blend!! I wanted smaller chunks of pineapple, but I think smoother would have been better. Chewing on the coconut isn't what I was looking for.

Since I'm just starting frozen confectioneries, I used paper cups, but perhaps I will get ice pop molds. I'm dying to try a chile-lime mango, or pineapple. Maybe a mojito-flavored one. We shall see. These took about two hours to freeze, larger ones take longer of course. I think this is a good size for a reasonable sweet treat, but maybe you'd need two. Whatever works for you. I kind of wish I had one for when I first get to work, although just after getting home from work works too. It says to me, "You are hot and sweaty, but you are home. Celebrate!" Reason enough to be glad I'm home :)

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Throwback-Foodie Fundraiser to Feed the Elderly

Here's a throwback to probably the coolest event I've ever been to. For one, it's the first charitable event I've ever attended as a guest and not as a workhorse, who has to look glammed up to boot! It also had amazing food, the fanciest I've ever had. I'm in my mid-twenties living in NYC and working in non-profits, so this is out of my reach for the most part.

Finally, it's for a good cause, not only because I work there (which helps), but it's also a really good cause. More people are getting older, and are outliving many relatives. They wind up alone, not really agile enough to go out, and not really able to get or prepare food for themselves. While the City of New York provides meals on weekdays, it doesn't have the means to on weekends, holidays, heatwaves or snow storms. Citymeals-on-Wheels has been providing meals to fill in these gaps for 29 years.

Founded by Gael Greene and James Beard founded in 1981, Citymeals was created as a result of Greene and Beard reading a newspaper article about home bound elderly New Yorkers with nothing to eat on weekends and holidays.They tapped their friends in the restaurant community to help raise funds to fulfill this need.

Okay enough plugging, onto the food!

66 Bistro's Brazilian Beef Bourgingnon with Black Acai Sauce. This was quite good, rich and beefy.

Arrows' Fried Winten Point Oyster with Smoky Green Pepper Relish, and a Maine Lobster Roll with Mayo and Celery. The Fisherman liked the Lobster Roll, I thought a tad less mayo would be good, but I think we need to go on a hunt for lobster rolls though :)

Aurelole's Rum Baba with Vanilla Chantilly and Berries. Mmmm, but I'm a dessert whore.

Brasserie 8 12 Elysian Fields Lamb Belly with Pickled Ramps, Charred Lily Bulbs and Vivoli il Gelato in Red Wine Marinated Strawberry Gelato and Grandma's Cream Custard Gelato. OMG amazingly silky and lamby. Like a soft lamby blanket, on your tongue. The gelato was wonderful, and although my grandma did like making dessert, if she made this I would be 400 lbs by now.

Centrico's Tinga de Pollo Chicken Hash with Chipotle, Aromatic Spices and Tomatoes and Sopa Seca noodle casserole. No Aaron Sanchez though. This was disappointing, not only to not see Aaron, but the chicken was spicy only, not much flavor, and the sopa seca, meh. I did see Karine Bakhoum though, and I didn't turn into a fan girl. Although I like the idea of Chopped, I need a beer after watching it, it's really intense!

Craigie on Main's Kashka Varnishkas with Duck Confit. Meh.

eating Lincoln's Spumoni (pistachio gelato with poached sour cherries). Fun to eat, but the cherries were a bit much.

Ford's Filling Station's Skewered Lamb Meatballs wrapped in Lardo. OMG amazing! I tried to eat this in one bite (Italians having larger mouths than most), but I should have tried to take it in multiple bites.

Junoon's Mini Samosa with Tamarind Chutney. A nice bite. I'd like to check out Junoon, not just from this, but I've heard other good things.

Lincoln's Extra Virgin Olive Oil Poached Tuna, Chickpeas, Calabrian Chili, Mint. I love raw tuna, and thought this was awesome. The Fisherman has a preference for salmon, which I also like, but that just means more tuna for me.

Naples 45's Paccheri alla Genovese. I was underwhelmed, to be honest. The pasta was HUGE, and a bit dry. But I'm also really picky about pasta, and sauce more so.

Nobu's Bara Zushi (seasoned sushi rice with fish garnish). OMG sooo good! And great presentation!

Patina Restaurant (Los Angeles)- Rhubarb and Strawberry Almond Crumble. Also very yummy!

Quality Meats NY-Flatiron Steak with Blackberries (finished a Paris 75-a drink with champagne, lemonade and gin). Lovely steak. The berries were hard to eat though with the steak. Nice drink too.

Rock Center Cafe Crostini with Octopus, with Basil Oil and Chili Oil. Really, really good. No need for the Crostini part though.

Scarpetta's Crudo. Also good.

SD26 Restaurant and Wine Bar's Raviolo wih Goat Cheese and Prosciutto. I love both goat cheese and prosciutto so this was a win!

Society Cafe's Buffalo Tartare, Hottish Vinaigrette and Red Veined Sorrel. Also good.

Something also nice and boozy, and Tocqueville 15 East-Wild Boar Ragout with Creamy Parmesan Polenta. I liked this alot, I wish I could make this!

Sprinkles-cupcakes (from left, dark chocolate, red velvet, vanilla). OMG Cupcakes!! I actually liked the vanilla more because the flavor profile was more elaborate than the chocolate ones.

Sushi Zen Bluefin Tuna Sushi. Now I know why this animal is endangered. At least it didn't die in vain.

The Fisherman with Stella Artois and Hoegaardan beer. The Fisherman looks so handsome with two cups of beer, lol.  The Fisherman and I liked the Hoegaarden, even though I don't like the name. Is it like "pick a prostitute?" No thanks...

The Salt Lick's Brisket Slider (yeah, we ate all of this, but we shared some stuff too). OMG Burnt ends!! I wish I had more room to devour this!

The Sea Grill's Root Beer Float with Espresso Ice Cream. Pretty good, the espresso played nicely with the Root Beer. 

Monday, June 20, 2011

Tacos, Outlets, Grooming and Noodles

To continue with the Fatty Friday weekend celebration, The Fisherman and I went out for tacos. Unfortunately, I didn't have the heart to have more than a couple of bites. Now I've been to Taco al Suadero at least half a dozen times, and obviously I kept coming back. But last time I think they had an off day, and I was not feeling great after I ate there last time. Something was off, and I got a bit sick. That can happen sometimes, whether eating at a restaurant, a friend's house, or even your own. I don't fault Taco al Suadero, but if I get sick again, then I usually take it as a sign to not go back.
 These are from the last time we went for tacos.

I think we got steak, al pastor (basically pork cooked like gyro meat with pineapple mixed in to tenderize the meat), goat, chicken. This time we tried buche (pork stomach), not as bad as I thought it would be. Maybe next time Suadero, I'll be ready for your goodness...

Then on Saturday we were uber busy. My dogs needed a haircut, bad, so we took them to the groomer, then out to Long Island we went to go shopping at Tanger Outlets (I really needed sneakers and The Fisherman promised to take me). Unfortunately, for the purpose of this blog, food was typical mall-type fair. And The Fisherman and I were trying not to be pigs in front of his friends so we only ate a little. And I resisted a Creamsicle (why I wanted one, I don't know, nostalgia perhaps?? A poor substitute for morir soñando?)

Shopping ensued, I think fun was had by all, and then back to Queens to drop off The Fisherman's friends, and pick up the dogs from the groomer.

Yaaay for haircuts! Now they won't melt in the heat!!

We brought the dogs to show the Fisherman's parents their new 'do, and we celebrated by going to Lao Bei Fang for soup (just an FYI, there's the old one, on Whitney, and the new one, on Broadway. The one on Whitney makes AMAZING dumplings for cheap, like five for $1.25, while the one on Broadway has the soup and great noodles).

 Wonton soup with noodles. It has so many noodles (and I love noodles!), that I can't finish it. The Fisherman's mom gives him half of her noodles, so I think next time she and I will share.

 Freshly made, hand crafted noodles. SLAP! SLAP goes the noodles on the board. Mmmm, slappy.
 Spicy chili sauce. So mysterious, yet sooo good!

 Scallion pancakes, and spicy tripe and tendon. I love scallion pancakes, and I'm glad The Fisherman's dad enjoys them as well. The latter, I'm getting used to. Cold, chewy, spicy. The key is to not think about what it is, and enjoy the texture and spicy coolness.

While waiting for food I was so thirsty. Then I looked across the street and realized I was across from Quickly, which sells bubble tea. Not having bubble tea YET this spring/summer, I had to go for some. After a long line (and naturally first picking lychee tea, and them naturally not having that), I was triumphant with my passion fruit tea. A little too sweet, but tart and great with the bubbles. Maybe I'm too old for the sweetness, but I'm so glad I got it.

I wish I had pictures of dinner that The Fisherman and I made on Sunday, but we ate it too fast. It was an example of what being an Alchemist is all about: finding what you have and making something delicious.

You'll have to use your imagination, but picture al dente cooked linguini, delicately coated in a sauce of olive oil, butter, some leftover pesto, finely chopped garlic, finely diced onion, and some Parmesan cheese. Simple, but delicious. The Fisherman couldn't get enough, so that's good enough for me. And for dessert, Reese's Peanut Butter Klondike bars.

I'm almost ready for the work week. Almost. Back to the grind, and back to more sensible, but still tasty dishes for the week. Happy Monday, and mangia!