Friday, April 30, 2010

what you're eating NOW

Future applicants, take note. Is this not the sweetest submission y'all have ever seen? This week's winner of "What are you eating NOW?" is Miss Julia Wallerstedt. Her Sloppy Faux (HA!) was not only immensely creative but a recipe I personally can't wait to try out. Any way I can work a Sloppy Joe into my weekly diet without worrying about the aftermath is fine by me. And the carrot slaw on top? Like, get out of here, Julie.

Plus, her Q&A after the pictures just melted my heart.

As you'll soon see, Julie's a writer. And a damn good writer at that.

Be sure to check out her blog!

Dear Eat & Greet,

I'd like to be considered for your contest. I just indulged in a vegetarian sloppy joe, a recipe my roommate (a.k.a. mom) just threw together. A vegetarian sloppy joe? Some might scoff at such at notion. Well this creation, which I just renamed Sloppy Faux, was sufficiently sloppy & yummy.

Made from a mushroom-based ground beef substitute, tomato paste, crushed adobe peppers and onions, this sweet & spicy sandwich filling tastes like the real thing and has about 1/4 of the calories. Topped with a vinaigrette-based carrot slaw & extra BBQ sauce (Sweet Baby Ray's no doubt) and served with veggies and pop chips, you can't trick yourself much better than this. A side of ranch made from yogurt is optional for dipping. For dessert, I had a vitabrowine heated up with a dollop of dark chocolate fro-yo & organic frozen berries. What a treat. Delicious and nutritious.

I love your blog and read it daily. I hope one day to be able to eat, converse and photograph food like you do.

Your biggest fan,

Eat No Meat (Well, at least not tonight! I'm a flexitarian.)

What's your favorite part about cooking?
I know this sounds really cliché, but my favorite part of cooking is truly to make others happy (and fatter than me.) No, but really savoring food is one of the joys of this life and when you can share that joy with the people you love, there is no better feeling. It’s also a unique display of one’s creativity. The sensation you get when someone takes a bite out of your invention and says, “Oh my GOD this is the best thing I’ve ever had,” makes you as though you have brought something beautiful into this world that can be appreciated and it makes you feel good.Oh, and I have come to the conclusion that the old adage is true and that the way to a man’s heart is definitely through his stomach. Because one day the two of you are going to be old and wrinkly, but if you can still whip up that caramel cake he loves, he’s going to keep on smiling—even if it’s with a mouthful of dentures.
Favorite ingredient?
Well you know my least favorite ingredient is that controversial devil weed, cilantro. But I’m not the only one who’d rather go hungry than even sample this widely used member of the parsley family, one that Julia Child described as having "a dead taste”. See the whole story in the NYT.I think people overlook the wonderful vegetarian ingredients available to them. Tofu gets such a bad rap because it sounds like “toe fungus” but it really is delicious and healthy, especially in Asian flavors—think Kung Pao Tofu.
Best food memory?
One summer when I was about 12, my mom’s sleeping patterns were off and she’d wake up at 4 a.m. with nothing to do. So she baked. I would smell the aromas coming from downstairs and be automatically pulled out of bed. We’d sit on the back porch and eat homemade raspberry granola and watch the sun come up. I crave that taste to this day.4.
Last meal?
You mean my last meal on earth? I’d have to say dinner with my granddad, my dad’s dad. Dinner at his house is what he calls “simple country fare.” But sometimes fried chicken from an iron skillet, homemade gravy, a biscuit and some greens is all you need. “None of that organic crap,” would be his sentiment if he dared cursed in front of me. But that would never happen. Like always, we’d talk Shakespeare and Catechism by the numbers, between passing a pitcher of extra strong lipton iced tea.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

orzo salad(s)

Poor, pathetic picture. My apologies.

I do so many different variations of orzo salad and I've got to say (while tooting my own horn for a minute) that every single one of them kills it. Everybody likes orzo salad. It's an easy win. And more often than not, when you find yourself in the predicament of "What should I serve with grilled ________?" the answer can pretty much always default to orzo salad.*

Alongside a grilled New York Strip Steak with grilled fennel, the orzo salad I made last week was rocking diced shallots, plenty of lemon zest and juice, parsley, olive oil, and a goat's milk brie that we diligently brought to the island (over two flights) while making sure to keep it well chilled with ice. Clearly, we love cheese. We love cheese that much. Tossed together while still slightly warm, the orzo immediately melted the goat's milk brie giving it that lovely tang and creamy mouth feel. It was a pretty fantastic combination.

And when leftover orzo salad is packed up in a cooler and tossed with a bit of tuna salad with grated carrot and onion, you're looking at a mighty fine lunch at the beach alongside an icy water bottle filled with lemonade and the promise of a Medalla Light at sunset.

Vacations need to happen more often.

Typically, I'll go the Mediterranean route with my orzo salad by adding in chopped cucumber, red onion, black olives, craisins, chopped spinach, parsley, lemon zest, garlic, lemon juice, olive oil, and crumbled feta. Served up with grilled steak (or salmon, etc.) and some tzatziki on the side and you're looking at one of my go-to Summer meals. If you've come over for dinner, I've made this for you. At least once.

Another variation? Add chopped red onion and radicchio to a bowl of cooked orzo. Then make a dressing with a spoonful of orange marmalade, some grated garlic, a dash of white balsamic, and whisk in some olive oil. Drizzle the dressing on top to taste and serve up alongside turkey or beef burgers topped with melted Taleggio and baby arugula and you'll want to hit me. The combination is nearly freaky it's so good. Taleggio meets radicchio meets orange meets arugula. Write that down. And never forget it. That combination will win you hearts. Forget filet mignon. You wanna win a man's heart? Serve him a burger. A really, really good burger with a salad that's got a flavor profile he'll never forget.

It's all in the details, is it not?

*I do, however, make a pretty killer potato salad. So more to come on that later.

grilled mahi mahi wrap

This sandwich was so deliciously simple, I'm still kind of thinking lovingly and longingly about it. Isn't that always the case when you have no expectations? Duffy's is an impossibly casual beachfront burger join in Vieques. And quite frankly, that's just as it should be. Bypassing the burgers on the menu, my eyes darted towards the grilled Mahi Mahi wrap: grilled Mahi Mahi, lettuce, tomato, and cilantro-lime sauce. Done. And a Margarita on the rocks. No salt.

What the Margarita lacked in any and all good Margarita-y flavor, this sandwich more than made up for. Totally simple but packed with flavor. Which is just what I crave when I'm at the beach. No frills. Just simple grilled fare. You too, right?

I can't imagine this being a difficult number to recreate. I'd marinate the Mahi Mahi in a combination of lime and orange juice with some garlic and cilantro. Don't let it go too long. The acid in the citrus juice will start to cook the fish. And unless you're serving this as ceviche, that's not what you want. After it's marinated for about an hour or two in the refrigerator, throw the fish onto the grill until it's just cooked through. A few minutes a side (if that) is all it's going to need.

Then heat up a large flour tortilla, dress it with a little lettuce, tomato, and red onion, and lay the grilled Mahi Mahi right on top. Fold it up, cut it in half, and go on and relish in that light and easy sandwich.

Serving suggesion: Eat while digging your toes into the sand.

w vieques

I'll admit it: I was ready to hate on this place. I wasn't completely sold on the idea of a W down in Vieques. Wasn't ready to share the island with a hotel chain. Didn't seem like a good fit for the bohemian, untouched vibe Vieques is known for. But after scoping the place out for cocktails early one evening, I was...well...kind of blown away by it. It was dripping with beautiful little details and the waterfront view is arguably one of the most stunning on the island.

So, that's that. Take a look. I can't hate on any of below. Can you?

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

mojitos (really, really good ones)

Let's talk about Mojitos. A rum-based drink infused with the peppery and almost medicinal zip of fresh mint muddled with cane sugar, tons of fresh lime wedges, and topped off with soda water. Insert straw. Sip. Smile. You're on vacation. Even if it's off your fire escape, looking out onto the bustling city below.

And me? Oh well, I just happen to be enjoying mine in Vieques. Whether or not that makes them taste even better (this is a fact) is up to you to decide, but there's something about this cocktail that immediately transports you to vacation/summer mode. It makes you smile. And sometimes that's all we need. A friendly little boost to help curl the sides of your mouth upwards to show off those pearly whites when you can't get to the tropics.

Mojitos, when done right, are really, really good.

Incidentally, the best Mojito I've ever experienced was in Vieques at the Inn at Blue Horizon about two years ago. It was the first stop we made right after the airport (and the world's most traumatic flying experience known to mankind. Let's just say by the time I sat down at the bar, I may or may not have still been wheezing/in hysterics/kissing the ground/contemplating how in God's name I was getting back home without having to take off the ground in that magic school bus they call a 10-person plane. I've since sought medical attention to aid this process. But I think hypnosis is in my near future.) so it's questionable whether or not this cocktail was more of a life saver than a particularly delicious Mojito but I'm going to argue the latter. The description on the menu said something about Blue Curacao and I immediately scoffed.

Yep, I'll admit it. I scoffed. Hoping the bartender didn't see or hear me. I don't order blue drinks. That's just not how I roll.

But it was the Blue Horizon's namesake cocktail and it had the word Mojito in it and so i ordered it. As is. I ordered the blue drink.

A few minutes later (after watching my sweet bartender muddle away with nearly a whole bunch of mint and a handful of limes), a blue-hued, icy cold beverage was set in front of me. One sip, and not only was all the flying anxiety immediately alleviated, but I was genuinely blown away by the quality; the proportions of this particular Mojito. The perfect balance between sweetness and tang with the subtle muskiness of the rum in the background. Perhaps it was the dreaded Blue Curacao which miraculously made the ingredients sing such an exotic yet familiar harmony: it was damn good.

Now I don't know about you but I don't keep Blue Curacao at home. Nor do I think it's absolutely necessary to have on hand to make the world's greatest Mojito. Or anything, for that matter. So let's break this down sans, shall we?

In a tall glass, toss in at least 10-12 mint leaves and 5 slices/wedges of lime (or more) and 1-1/2 Tbsp. of sugar (I will say that I've tried this with Splenda--I know, I know, I know, let's just say I couldn't find the sugar, or something--and it came out pretty darn tasty. So there. Just sayin') and muddle the crap outta this. If you don't have a muddler, the bottom of a wooden spoon can work in a pinch. But let's get you a muddler, k? Once as much of the juice has been released by the limes as possible and the mint leaves are smashed and the sugar is nearly dissolved, it's time to add the rum. Add in a shot glass or so of Bacardi Rum, fill the glass with ice, and top it off with a splash of seltzer water. Give it a little stir.

Insert straw. Sip. Smile.

reader request

Photo courtesy of Real Simple

Look, when you talk (via comments, emails, facebook messages, texts, bbm's, passed notes, whatever), I'm not only eagerly listening but genuinely excited to hear what you say. Especially when it's a request. It gives me the opportunity to explore an area I might not have initially ventured towards and for me, that's thrilling. Call me a loser (actually, don't you dare) but I get my adrenaline fix from a recipe or meal planning challenge. I mean, it is what it is.

My friend, Katie, has been looking for more salad ideas that don't involve…cucumbers. Hey, to each his or her own. And I suppose my constant push for making tzatziki on a semi-weekly basis had finally just gotten to Katie. And Katie? I understand. I need to be reminded of my own redundancies.

Once again, this month's Real Simple to the rescue. A watercress salad with beets and feta sounds pretty nice to me. As does an arugula salad with green beans and radishes. And a minty bulgar salad with salmon and…cucumbers (the latter part can most definitely be omitted) is obviously my favorite pick of the bunch. I swear I didn't add this last one in to shove cucumbers in your face, Katie. I just couldn't not include it! If anything, I added it to prove that even if one of the ingredients listed doesn't float your boat, don't let that scare you away. Don't put it in or subsitute it with something else. But try one or all of them and let me know how you like 'em. Here are the recipes:

Watercress Salad with Beets and Feta
Serves 4
Recipe Courtesy of Real Simple

2 bunches of watercress, thick stems removed (6 cups)
1 15-ounce can whole beets, drained and thinly sliced
4 to 5 tablespoons Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette (recipe follows) or my White Balsamic Vinaigrette
1/2 cup crumbled Feta (about 2 ounces)
In a large bowl, toss the watercress and beets with the vinaigrette. Sprinkle with the Feta.

Lemon and Shallot Vinaigrette
Recipe Courtesy of Real Simple

1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
2 teaspoons honey
1 shallot finely chopped
Kosher slat and black pepper

In a small bowl or jar, whisk or shake together the oil, lemon juice, honey, shallot, 1/4 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper.

Arugula Salad with Green Beans and Radishes
Serves 4
Recipe Courtesy of Real Simple

1 large bunch arugula (6 cups)
1 small fennel bulb, cored and very thinly sliced
4 ounces raw green beans, cut into 1-inch pieces (about 1-1/4 cups)
6 radishes cut into wedges
6 to 8 tablespoons Creamy Parmesan Dressing (recipe follows)

In a large bowl, toss the arugula, fennel, green beans, and radishes with the dressing.

Creamy Parmesan Dressing
Recipe Courtesy Real Simple

1/2 cup olive oil
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
1/4 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
Kosher salt and black pepper

In a small bowl, whisk together the oil, parmesan, sour cream, vinegar, 2 tablespoons water, and 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper.

Minty Bulgar Salad with Salmon and Cucumbers
Serves 4
Recipe Courtesy of Real Simple

1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon olive oil
1 pond skinless salmon fillet
Kosher salt and black pepper
1 cup bulgar
2 Kirby cucumbers, halved lengthwise and thinly sliced (Katie, you could substitute anything green in here, really. Spinach, avocado, celery, whatever you'd like)
1 cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Heat 1 teaspoon of the oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon with 1/4 teaspoon each salt and pepper and cook until opaque throughout, 4 to 6 minutes per side. Transfer to a plate and refrigerate until cool, about 15 minutes. Using a fork, flake the salmon into large pieces.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the bulgar with 2 cups boiling water. Let stand until tender, about 25 minutes.

Drain the bulgar and return it to the bowl. Toss with the cucumbers, parsley, mint, onion, lemon juice, the remaining tablespoon of oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Gently fold in the salmon.

Let this be a reminder to any of you lurkers (Gary V owns that term) that read but don't like or want to comment for whatever reason. If you want something, I'm more than happy to deliver. Always. Because if you guys are game, I'd love to do a weekly reader request post. So hit me with your requests! I'm ready for ya. I think.

weekend dinner party

After sifting through a humbling number of magazines over the past week, I was thrilled with a number of the recipes I came across. Page after page, I frantically dog-eared pages as a reminder of things to share. This simple yet inarguably fun and satisfying meal was found in the May 2010 issue of Martha Stewart Living. Since I couldn't help but tweak the meal just a little bit, you know, to insert my own personality, I decided to veto Martha's rice with peas and cilantro (that really didn't send me…anywhere) I'm replacing it with my recipe for coconut-ginger rice which I'll think you'll find to be the most desirable accompaniment to these piquant shrimp: the creamy and nearly risotto-like quality of the coconut rice will cool and comfort your palette after taking a bite of the thoughtfully spicy shrimp. And the salad alongside? No one's going to be missing the lettuce.

A few readers have also asked for menu ideas that would remedy picky eater boyfriends. I know, I didn't know they existed either. But, I can't imagine any boy scoffing at this spread and the spice factor makes it a bit more manly and will make up for the fact that he'll be eating a salad that contains mango and radish. Which he may or may not be familiar with. Am I not giving you guys enough credit? Sorry. Anyways, I suggest trying this out on the lucky guy(s). I think they'll dig. And a pretty potent tequila drink to start? Oh he'll have hungry eyes, alright.

Make the caramel custards a day or two beforehand. One less thing to worry about. And are you beyond happy to finally see a recipe for a dessert up in here? Admittedly, I lack a sweet tooth. Not my scene. But custard? Oh, custard is so my scene.

Mango and Radish Salad with Lime Dressing

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Serves 4

1 mango, peeled and cut into wedges

1/2 english cucumber, thinly sliced

1 bunch radishes (about 8) halved or quartered

1 tablespoon finely grated lime zest and 2 tbsp. lime juice (from 2 limes)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon honey

coarse salt

1. Arrange mango, cucumber, and radishes on a platter.

2. Whisk together lime zest and juice, oil, and honey. season with salt.

3. Drizzle dressing over salad and season with salt.

Garlic-Jalapeno shrimp

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Serves 4

20 large shrimp (about 1 lb.), peeled and deveined (tails left intact; optional)

3 garlic cloves, minced

1/2 jalapeno chile (stem, ribs, and seeds removed), finely chopped

1 tablespoon fresh lime juice

3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

coarse salt and freshly ground pepper

1. Toss together shrimp, garlic, jalapeno, lime juice, and 1 tablespoon oil; season with salt and pepper. Marinate in refrigerator for 45 minutes

2. Heat remaining 2 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Remove shrimp from marinade, and add to skillet; cook through, about 2 minutes per side.

Serving idea: squeeze lime wedges over shrimp, and serve with cold beer.

Coconut-Ginger Rice

Recipe Courtesy of Yours Truly

Serves 4, generously

4 cups unsweetened coconut milk (about 2 cans, supplement any shortcomings with water)

1 3-inch nub of peeled fresh ginger

1 tablespoon salted butter

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups of white rice

cilantro for garnishing

In a medium-sized pot, add the coconut milk, ginger, and butter, and bring to a boil. Add in the rice, stir, put the lid on and turn down the heat to low. Set the timer for 18 minutes and allow to cook, untouched. After 18 minutes, stir any excess liquid sitting at the top into the rice (it should be very creamy) and taste for seasoning. Place in a large bowl and top with plenty of fresh cilantro.

Caramel Custards

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Serves 4

1/3 cup sugar

1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon water

1/4 cup heavy cream

5 large egg yolks

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

coarse salt

1. Preheat oven to 325F. Heat sugar and water in a saucepan over medium-high heat, swirling occasionally, until deep amber, about 7 minutes. Carefully whisk in milk and cream.

2. Whisk together yolks, vanilla, and 1/4 teaspoon salt. slowly pour caramel-milk mixture into yolk mixture, whisking constantly. Skim any bubbles from the top. Divide evenly among four 6-ounce ramekins.

3. Set ramekins in a 9-inch square baking dish. Pour boiling water into dish to come a third of the way up sides of ramekins. Bake until custards are just set but jiggle slightly, 27 to 30 minutes. Remove from water using tongs. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

The Taurus

Recipe Courtesy of Martha Stewart Living

Pour a small amount of Cointreau into a glass, swirl, and pour out (use it to make the next cocktail). Fill the glass halfway with ice cubes. Add 1 ounce silver tequila, and 1 orange zest strip. Squeeze and drop 1 lime wedge, and stir.

vieques dinner party

One of the many things that's so great about Vieques are the people you meet down here. What it lacks in "nightlife" it more than makes up for in social events. You jump from dinner party to ground-breaking ceremonies, cocktails by the pool to a tour of someones newly finished home. Not only is most everyone from Cape Cod or Massachusetts (strangely) but it's always an incredibly interesting crowd and part of the reason I'm always excited to go back, is to see the familiar faces again. And share some great food and drink while seeing said faces.

On Sunday night, we're hosting (by the time this is posted, we've hosted) a little dinner party and as per usual, I cozied up to a few past issues of Gourmet and Saveur pool-side and got to menu planning. Yes, I'm on vacation. No, I don't consider this work.

Back in January when I visited Locanda Verde, I told you all about the Blue Crab Crostini which we ordered as a starter. This one dish, albeit tiny, was quite possibly the most memorable part of that meal. A charred piece of bread, rubbed with garlic and tomato then topped with a light crab salad and a sliver of jalapeno and cucumber. It was incredibly fresh and zippy and the sweet, tender crab against the nearly smoky piece of bread was pretty genius. I had to recreate. And with that, I had my inspiration for what to serve with cocktails.

Regardless of availability, I'm going to go the canned crab route and hope for the best. And I'm not worried about it.

HOWEVER, due to a questionable consistency of the canned crab we picked up at the market, a plan two was quickly put into place. Before even getting down to the island, I had decided that grilled pizzas needed to happen. There was undoubtedly a pizza place on the island (or so I assumed) and I figured by flashing a smile, I'd be able to bag a ball or two of fresh pizza dough. After running into Mia's Pizzeria one night, I approached the counter and kindly asked for some raw pizza dough.

Perplexed looks are an understatement.

I tried explaining my game plan. "We love to grill the pizzas! I just need the dough, if that's possible."

After a few moments of awkward-ish silence, he began to bag up two huge, swollen, and pillowy balls of dough. I couldn't help but smile while I watched their beautiful consistency start to be gently wrapped up in paper. Finally the silence was broken. "You know, I worked at a pizza joint in Brooklyn for over 16 years before moving back down here. I make all my own dough. Every day. No one else on the island does that."

At this point, the sweet man was probably concerned with my level of excitement. I was beaming. Beaming with anticipation of the quality of this dough. I couldn't wait to get my hands on it.

Since the crab crostini was officially postponed, I figured Plan B of grilled pizzas wasn't too shabby. Topped with slices of goats milk brie, white onion, and sauteed mushrooms, and topped with fresh torn basil, it was hands down my favorite part of the meal.

The dough, was in fact, near perfection. Chewy and salty. I'm craving a piece right now.

Thank you, Mia's. I will be back.

Funnily enough, there's not a huge fresh fish presence on this island (something about the fish caught in or around the island not being safe to eat. hmph). The grocery store is predominately meat: chicken, beef, or pork. The only fish option was bacalao, which, I love, but when I'm in the tropics, I can't help but crave the opportunity to take a whole fish, stuff it with a few orange and lemon slices, a few sprigs of herbs, and throw the whole thing on the grill. But, alas, that doesn't happen down here. But believe me, we make do.

Dinner will be grilled chicken (skin on, bone in, please) marinated in chipotle, plenty of fresh garlic, and lime. Coconut-milk will turn normal rice into a risotto-like consistency and the addition of a few nubs of fresh ginger to the simmering coconut milk, brings this to celestial levels. Black beans bumped up with red peppers, red onion, a dash of chipotle and jalapeno and tons of fresh cilantro on the finish along with a salad with plenty of sliced avocado and red onion and this plate is not only full, but glowing with flavor and nods to the Caribbean. Done my way.

This is when pictures follow...

Monday, April 19, 2010

away i go

I'm off my friends, to Vieques, Puerto Rico for a much needed week of R&R. If you're not familiar with Vieques, it's a small island off of Puerto Rico and is also known as an unequivocal Heaven on Earth. The beaches are so seemingly untouched, horses roam freely all over the island, and the only traffic obstruction are mangoes falling into the streets. And even more inspiring is the house in which we're staying which belongs to the fabulously talented, Donna Gorman. The home was featured on the cover of Metropolitan Home last summer and the pictures below are from that spread. Donna along with architect, John Hix, designed the house to be completely off the grid which means all the power for the house is drawn from solar panels on the roof. The fabrics shown are a combination of Donna's line, see, as well as Marimekko prints.

I mean, it's drop dead, is it not? Can't wait, can't wait, can't wait.

I'm sure as heck bringing my camera to snap about a zillion or more photographs as well as my laptop but Internet connection will be an interesting feat. I will try my absolute hardest to check in when I can. I'm already planning out meals filled with coconut rice, cilantro, mangoes, and mojitos.

I'll be tweeting regularly (no surprise there), so follow me on Twitter.


Tuesday, April 13, 2010

notable mention: what you're eating NOW

I couldn't not include this submission from the tenacious twosome, Courtney Jermain and John Halip who recently relocated out in Los Angeles, CA. Not only did John make those seriously divine looking meatballs topped with fresh mozzarella and basil but Courtney whipped up Thomas Keller's Lemon Vinaigrette from his latest book, Ad Hoc. My friends are way too talented! And not to mention, armed with sophisticated palettes. Go Court and John! Recipes follow.

Meatballs (the picture was pre-oven):

1/3 cup toasted whole wheat breadcrumbs

1/3 cup of milk

1 large egg

1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

A handful of chopped flat-leaf parsley

1/2 cup very finely minced yellow onion

3/4 teaspoon of salt

Freshly ground black pepper

1 pound ground chuck

1 to 2 tablespoons of olive oil

In a medium-large bowl, stir together the breadcrumbs and milk. Let sit for 2 minutes.
Lightly beat the egg in a small bowl. Add the egg, cheese, parsley, onion, salt and about 5 grinds of black pepper to the breadcrumb mixture.

Crumble the ground beef, and use your hands to mix everything gently until it’s just combined.
Wet your hands with cold water and gently roll the meat mixture into 1 1/2-inch balls (place them on a tray as you go)

Place a soup pot of large skillet over medium heat. Add 1 tablespoon of olive oil to coat the pot and add just enough meatballs to fit comfortably, and cook undisturbed for 2 minutes, or until the surface touching the pot is deeply browned.

Turn the meatballs carefully with tongs to brown them all over.

Cooking time 10-12 minutes.
*John added mozzarella cheese on top when he reheated...delish!

Salad: Arugula, Shaved Parmesan, Cherry Tomatoes and Lemon Vinaigrette

Salad Dressing (from Thomas Keller’s Ad Hoc) Lemon Vinaigrette:

3/4 cup of champagne vinegar

3/4 cup of fresh lemon juice, preferably from Meyer lemons, strained

3/4 cup canola oil

1 teaspoon finely minced shallot

2 teaspoons finely minced chives

Whisk together the vinegar and lemon juice in a bowl. Slowly whisk in the canola oil. Stir in the shallot and chives. Refrigerate in a covered container for up to 2 weeks (the chives darken after one day.

And John's favorite part about cooking?

"Eating makes me happy. Cooking makes me happy. Nobody knows what you like to eat better than yourself. "

Well said, Johnny Boy. Well said.

what you're eating NOW

So last night was fun, wasn't it? I sent out a tweet asking you to send me a picture of whatever it was you were eating and/or drinking last night. And I've gotta say, I got some pretty great submissions you guys. Turns out, y'all can cook! (And some of you, can simply drink.) Not that I doubted that, but it was so much fun to see what you guys turn out, enjoy, groove on.

And with that, I present to you, the winning picture, submitted by Alex Schulten, food lover and member of competitive cooking team and caterers, Righteous Burn (who recently snagged First Place, People's Choice in the Brooklyn Brunch Experiment!):

Seriously impressive, no? Alex clearly got his grill on so I had a little Q&A via gchat with him to get the breakdown.

me: SO! what are we lookin' at?

Alexis: You're looking at beer, lime, and garlic marinated skirt steak that was rubbed with salt, pepper, onion powder, smoked paprika (as i do), garlic powder, mustard powder, and then grilled. Grilled pineapple, grilled red onion, grilled corn (that is rubbed with a chipotle mayo and cotija cheese and a hit of lime. There is also grilled watermelon that should be excluded bc it tastes like burnt water, it does look nice though. and the wine is a Chateau Ste Michelle Pinot Gris

me: yowsa. quite the spread. who did all the cooking? or was it delegated?

Alexis: I did everything and the green is a homemade chimichurri sauce

me: are you willing to share the recipe for your secret sauce?

Alexis: of course - 1 bunch flat leaf parsley, 2 bay leaves, 6 or 7 garlic cloves (can't remember), 2 teaspooons smoked spanish paprika, 1 tablespoon dried oregano (fresh is ideal, wasn't available in my supermarket), 1/2 cup red wine vinegar, 1 1/2 cup olive oil, salt and pepper to taste then you put it all in a food processor and let it go until smooth

me: gorgeous. will have to try that asap. thanks! what's your favorite part about cooking?

Alexis: I like being able to put my own creativity into a dish. When you work for a tanker company in oil shipping, there is not much room for creativity. So it is a nice break. But I've always been drawn to cooking and eating, I almost dropped out of college to go to culinary school.

me: did you?? what did you want to do with a culinary degree?

Alexis: Yea I did. My Junior year in college...delusional, but head chef into owning a restaurant. I still fully intend to own a restaurant, just don't want to be working in a kitchen.

me: i hear ya. it's what holds me back too. then i consider catering. have to figure that out. culinary idol?

Alexis: Wesley Genovart (Degustation) for chef & Zak Pelacio (Fatty Crab & Fatty 'Cue) / Jack and Grace Lamb (Degustation, Harvest Supper, Jack Luxury Oyster Bar, and Jewel Bako). Yea, we are trying to turn Righteous Burn (our cooking team) into a catering / cooking competition thing. We have catered for six point brewery and we have a graduation in June that we are also catering

me: LOVE it. aaand favorite ingredient (besides smoked paprika)?

Alexis: favorite ingredient, eh. I love garlic. is Pork Belly an ingredient?

me: i don't know what i'd do without garlic. pork belly sure as hell can be an ingredient. ok, final question. last meal. go.

Alexis: would it be lame to channel my inner bourdain?

me: never.

Alexis: I need to think about this for just a minute. Bourdain's is roasted bone marrow, sea salt, and an arugula salad I believe from the restaurant St. John in London. I cant use that. but i have had it many times and it is great but not my last meal. Can I say two?

me: absolutely n...yes

Alexis: The Zuzu's Gyro from Papa Zuzu's in Charleston, SC and .... Ribs, pulled pork, and growler of six point Brownstone Ale at Fette Sau

me: oh, hells yes. thank you for making me uncomfortably hungry way before lunch time.

Alexis: You should be in my shoes sitting here racking my brain for the best food i've eaten since freshman year of college

me: sorry for making you use your brain!

Alexis: well now im STARVING

me: err, i'm sorry? no, no i'm not.

Alexis: hahahaha, i want to add Chef Sean Brock to the list of culinary idols. he is the chef at McCradys in Charleston - my all time favorite restaurant and where I had my rehearsal dinner

me: lovely last minute addition. ok, i'm ending this interview before i start gnawing on my mousepad. thanks for your kick ass submission, alexis.

Alexis: You're very welcome. ASSchulten signing out

This is certainly not the last time we'll be playing this little game. I have too much fun getting insight into your lives and stomachs! To follow Alex and the Righteous Burn on Twitter, click here and here.

As for the rest of you, better luck next time! Can't wait to see what's for dinner...or lunch...or...?

happy birthday mom

If you know me even a little bit, you know how close I am with my Mom. She's one of my best buds and I feel ridiculously lucky to have the relationship with her that I do and that she's only an hour train ride away. A privilege that I abuse. Way too often. But there's also the kitchen. I can't stay away from that kitchen for too long. Or my little nugget, Molly.

But back to my Mom. Her Birthday was this past Sunday and her best friend, Donna, decided to throw a celebratory dinner for her. Donna is not only a famed textile designer but a phenomenal cook and hostess. No one ever turns down a night a meal at her place. No one. Ya hear?

You'll understand. Especially after you check out this spread.

Beyond Fabulous Table Thanks to the Beyond Talented Donna Gorman

Birthday Girl with Eve

Tuna Tartar with Wasabi Cream

Grilled Swordfish, Lemons, Fennel, and Onions

Baby Arugula with Radishes, Peppers, Cucumber, Olives, and Feta

Lilly with The Cake

Happy Birthday!!

Coconut Cake from Sono Baking Company

I woke up the next morning at around 6:30am with a serious craving for leftover swordfish dipped in tzatziki and wrapped in warm, slightly charred pita. In fact, three days later and I'm still longing for a bite. Yet another incredible meal had at Donna's celebrating one of the most talented, inspiring, loving, and fabulous people I know. Mom, I love you and really, truly don't know what I'd do without ya. Here's to you.


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