Monthly Archives: April 2011

Spring into Your Beach Body

We finally got our first real taste of spring this week…minus the intermission of isolated thunderstorms yesterday, of course.  The flowers are blooming and the trees are budding, which can only mean one thing…summer will be here before you know it! If you are anything like this Bite-Sized Blonde, you love summer.  If this was a video blog, a shot of the lake at camp would be panning out on your screen right now while reveille played in the background.   Yes, I just went there.  I love camp.

Whether you love summer because of the great memories you made at camp as a child, or the great memories you are making now as an adult on the beaches of the Hamptons and Fire Island, the power of summer is undeniable.  So, excitement is not only natural right now, it’s expected…unless of course you have been slacking at the gym this winter.  I would be lying if I said I’ve been a gym junkie all winter long.  Hey, a girls’ gotta live a little. But now, I am in full-on summer prep mode.  As a true Foodie, I don’t exactly believe in diets.  Would you tell Picasso to only paint in oils or Amare Stoudemire to only make lay-ups?  Of course not! So, you can’t tell a Foodie to only eat low cal foods.  It’s just wrong.  (I’m sure there is a clever analogy in there somewhere). 
 
To get bikini ready, I pray to the gods of spin class and Physique 57.  If you don’t know about Physique, you should check it out.  It’s the most, rewarding and painful experience you can have in NYC.   And spinning is the best way to work up a sweat at the gym.   But I’m told exercise alone won’t cut it.  So, when I am in summer mode, I opt for lighter meals every once in a while so I can still enjoy my guilty pleasures, which right now is a carton of vanilla ice cream.  Thank you Haagen Dazs.

Lighter doesn’t have to equal less flavor.  Sacrificing flavor for calories is like wearing a designer knock-off.  It looks similar, but you know it’s just not the same.  And would you really be caught dead in a knock-off? I didn’t think so.

My go-to “Summer is So Damn Close I can Taste it” meal is Steamed Cod with Ginger and Scallions.  This dish is so packed with flavor, you don’t even realize it’s a light meal. 

Steamed Cod with Ginger and Scallions (serves 4)
Ingredients
3 tbsp. rice vinegar (unseasoned)
2 tbsp. soy sauce
2 tbsp. finely grated peeled fresh ginger*
4 skinless cod filets (about 1 ½ pounds)
6 scallions, chopped
 
Directions
In a large skillet with a tight lid, combine the vinegar, soy sauce, ginger and scallions.  Season both sides of the fish with salt and pepper.  Place the fish in the skillet and bring the liquid to a boil.  Once the liquid comes to a boil, reduce the heat to a gentle simmer.  Cover and cook until the fish is almost opaque, which should be about 6-8 minutes. 
 
*Ginger can be tricky to peel because it is so misshapen.  An easy way to peel ginger is to actually forgo the peeler altogether! Use the back of a spoon to peel the skin away; it helps with all the nooks and crannies! Once the ginger is peeled, grate 2 tbsps. If you have extra ginger left over, freeze it!! You can actually grate frozen ginger into your meals in the future when a recipe calls for it.

Good Things Come to Those Who Wait

Have you ever heard of the Chef’s Table at Brooklyn Fare?  If you are scratching your head now, you are going to thank me later.  Brooklyn Fare is a supermarket in Brooklyn.  Yes, you heard me correctly…a supermarket.  And what better place to dine right?  The Chef’s Table is a restaurant a few doors down from the market.  The restaurant, which is the only restaurant in Brooklyn with two Michelin Stars, is an intimate, 18-seat space that will take any foodie’s breath away.  As the front door opens, you walk into clouds of hanging copper pots that glow from the soft candlelight embroidering the room and you know this must be what heaven looks like.

Well, they say it’s a long way to heaven, and boy were they not kidding.  I made a reservation in the middle February and the first day they could offer me was a Friday in April. You might be wondering why anyone would wait so long for a reservation.  Well, the truth is, that’s the only way to get there.  Brooklyn Fare opens the phone for reservations on Monday mornings at 10:00 am.  They take reservations for an entire week, six weeks out! Don’t think you can just pick up the phone at 10:04 and get someone to answer, because you will be sadly mistaken.  I spent the better part of an hour hitting redial until the dreaded busy signal turned into a melodious ring.  Getting the reservation is more than half the battle, but waiting 6 weeks to dine is borderline torture.    Thinking about dinner becomes dreaming and before you know it you are fantasizing…it’s like 6 weeks of foreplay and no action.

Well, this Bite-Sized Blonde finally got in…and it was worth the wait.  This tasting is almost 20 courses, and each bite of food is more delicious than the next.  Chef Cesar Ramirez carefully choreographs this menu, so that each course has a more developed flavor profile than the last.  The first eight or so courses are canapés, which are perfectly petite at one to two bites each.  The canapés are served on unique utensils that make the tasting feel like the most exclusive exhibition.

The canapés are followed by several entrees as well as cheese and dessert courses.  Out of respect for the Chef, I won’t divulge too many details about the menu; they ask specifically that you do not take notes or use a camera in the dining room!  But, Chef Ramirez did make an appearance on food(ography) this week to discuss one of his entrees, so I guess it is “fare game”.   The Chef prepares a monkfish so tender and beautiful you think you are dreaming.  The monkfish tail is cut into sizeable pieces, as is foie gras.  They are both delicately wrapped in napa cabbage and then steamed and served with a white wine and shallot reduction.  Now, that’s love.

And speaking of love, you must really love food to go to Brooklyn Fare.  Dinner will set you back $165/person before tax and service.  Oh, and did I mention that it is BYO? Expect to spend $500 a couple here.   But hey, can you really put a price on love?

Just in case you missed Chef Ramirez on food(ography) Sunday night, you can watch the episode tonight at 9:00 PM on the Cooking Channel.

Brooklyn Fare
200 Schermerhorn St.
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.243.0050

For the Love of Cream Cheese

I am a firm believer that you can’t name one food that would not be delicious with cream cheese.  Think about it.  No, seriously…think about it… Cream cheese is a delicious addition to any food.  It is the nude pump of condiments; it just goes with everything.  So, when I came across a recipe for banana muffins with cream cheese filling my beliefs were only strengthened.  Now, before we go any further, I should probably be honest with you about something that might be a game changer.

This Bite-Sized Blonde loathes bananas.  That’s right, loathes.  You may think that’s a pretty strong word for something as harmless as a banana, but this is where you are wrong.  I can’t even be near someone who is eating them.  Bananas are my kryptonite.  So, although I appreciate the recipe for banana muffins with cream cheese filling, I can’t be a part of it.  Not to worry; I’ll make sure you still get your cream cheese fix.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Muffins (12 muffins)

Ingredients
Muffin Batter
¼  cup canola oil
½ cup milk
1 egg
½  tsp. salt
2 tsp. baking powder
½  cup white sugar
1 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
2 cups chopped strawberries
½ tsp. vanilla

Filling
4 oz. cream cheese, softened

Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and fill a muffin tin with 12 paper liners. In a small bowl, combine the oil, milk, vanilla and egg and beat lightly.  In a large bowl, mix the flour, salt, baking powder and sugar. Toss in the chopped strawberries and stir to coat with the flour mixture.  This will keep the strawberries from sinking to the bottom of your muffin cups.  Pour in the milk mixture and stir together.   It may look like there is not enough liquid but don’t get discouraged; there is just enough! Spoon the filling into muffin cups so they are about half full.  Add 1 tablespoon of cream cheese onto the top of each muffin. If you like cream cheese as much as I do, be generous with the tablespoon.  Bake for about 30 minutes, or until the tops bounce back from the touch and they are golden brown.  Cool for about 10 minutes, or however long you can resist!

Recipe inspired by pinchmysalt.com and allrecipes.com.

Speakeasy and Carry a Big Fork

Do you ever catch yourself daydreaming?  I mean really daydreaming…like caught in a stare, out to lunch, off in lala land.  Because I have literally been daydreaming about this big, warm gooey plate of risotto for a month now.  Yes, that’s right, a whole month.  This creamy creation is a plate of pure, unadulterated love.   And you can have your very own plate of this oooey gooey goodness at Hudson Clearwater.

Hudson Clearwater opened a few, short months ago in the West Village.  It’s one of those great, hidden gems…and I mean literally hidden.  The entrance to this speakeasy style restaurant is tucked away behind a small, green garden door.  If you don’t know what you are looking for, there’s a good chance you will miss it.  But once you finally arrive, you know you are in for a real treat.  After you make your way through the courtyard, you are greeted by an open kitchen and sunken dining room.  A restaurant with an open kitchen is like a golden ticket from Willy Wonka to tour the factory…and who doesn’t want to be Charlie Bucket for a night?

Unfortunately, I was seated nowhere near the kitchen.  We were seated downstairs in a small room that sort of felt like an unfinished basementNeedless to say, I would have preferred to sit in the dining room.  I forgot all about where we were seated when I got the menu…which I had carefully perused before dinner.  The second that menu hit the table I knew exactly what I wanted to order. The Squash Risotto with seasonal vegetables, sunchoke chips, and pomegranate seeds had my name all over it.  So picture this: creamy risotto filled with morsels of butternut squash so tender they melt in your mouth, crispy Brussels sprout leaves that lived on the equator of caramelized and almost burnt and vibrant pomegranate seeds that were like little bursts of happiness.

I would tell you about the arugula salad I had to start, but it was snooze-fest; amateur move on my part, I know!  One the bright side of boring, it wasn’t bad.  So, go to Hudson Clearwater, try the risotto, and order a different appetizer!

447 Hudson Street
New York, NY 10014
212.989.3255

You cannot Passover this Post!

Well it’s that time of year again.  No, I’m not referring to NBA playoffs, although there are few things more exciting happening right now.  I am talking about Passover.  Passover is actually a pretty fun time in my house.  My dad leads the Seder and I, as the lady of the house, do everything else.  I spend days on my brisket.  Now, everyone thinks his or her mom makes the best brisket, and who am I to argue.   So, you won’t find my brisket recipe here, at least for now.  I’m going to share a recipe for another Passover classic, Coconut Macaroons! They are so easy you are never going to look at a can of Manischewitz macaroons the same again.

The beauty of this recipe is that it is easily adaptable.  You can add anything to it to make it your own, for example, chocolate chips.  My favorite variation of this recipe is what I call “German Chocolate Cake” Macaroons.* If you are feeling fancy, you can even dip your macaroons in melted chocolate!**

Coconut Macaroons

Ingredients
14 ounces of sweetened shredded coconut
14 ounces of sweetened condensed milk
1 teaspoon of pure vanilla extract
2 extra-large egg whites, at room temperature
¼ teaspoon kosher salt

Directions
Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F.  Combine the coconut, condensed milk, and vanilla in a large bowl.  Make sure the condensed milk covers all of the coconut. Whip the egg whites and salt on high speed in a separate bowl with an electric mixer until they make medium to firm peaks.  To check your peaks, hold the whisk upside-down.  You have medium to firm peaks when they hold and the ridges are more distinct, but the tips fold back on themselves.  Carefully fold the egg whites into the coconut mixture.

Drop the batter onto sheet pans using a tablespoon to measure each macaroon.  You can use another spoon to help you remove the batter, or just use your hands. I prefer to use my hands; there is nothing like getting dirty in the kitchen! Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

Resist the urge to grab one right as they come out of the oven.  If you don’t let them cool, they will fall apart on the sheet pan.

*To make “German Chocolate Cake” Macaroons, add ½ a cup of chopped walnuts and ¼ cup of sweet ground chocolate.  I prefer Ghirardelli because it’s not overwhelmingly chocolate.  It just gives you that perfect, subtle hint of goodness.

**In a heatproof bowl set over a pot of barely simmering water, stir 2 tablespoons of butter and 4 ounces of semisweet chocolate until smooth.  Hold the macaroon on one edge and dip other side into the chocolate to coat half the cookie. Shake off excess chocolate.  Set the macaroon on a waxed paper-lined baking sheet.  Place in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.

http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/coconut-macaroons-recipe3/index.html

Rain, Rain Go Away!

Is it just me or did you think Spring was going to be warm and sunny this year too?  I don’t know what’s going on with this crazy weather, but I don’t like it one bit (queue the temper tantrum).  On a dreary day like this, the best thing to do is curl up on the couch with a big, fat bowl of soup.   There are few things that warm the soul quite the way soup does.  The brilliant thing about soup is that it is easy to make.  So easy, that I make 10 servings at a time.  I eat what I want immediately, put a serving or two in the refrigerator for the coming week, and pop the rest in the freezer.  That way, on a dreary day, much like today, I don’t have to do much to enjoy a nice, hot, delicious bowl of my favorite soup.

Tuscan Vegetable Soup

Ingredients
32 ounces of low-sodium chicken stock
15-ounce can of low-sodium cannellini beans
15-ounce can of no salt added diced tomatoes
1 large onion
3 carrots, diced
3 stalks of celery, diced
1 small zucchini, diced
1 small yellow squash, diced
2 tablespoons of chopped fresh sage leaves
1 head of escarole, roughly chopped
½ tsp. salt
¼ tsp. fresh black pepper
Pinch of crushed red pepper flakes
1 tbsp. olive oil
Freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Directions
Heat the oil in a large soup pot over medium-high heat.  Add the onions, carrots and celery and cook until the vegetables start to soften.  This should take about 5-7 minutes.  Then, add the zucchini, squash and sage.    Season your vegetables with the salt, pepper and crushed red pepper flakes.  Continue to let this cook for another 5-7 minutes.  Then, add the chicken stock and diced tomatoes with the juice and bring to a boil. Drain and rinse the beans thoroughly and then add them to the soup.  Now, you can add your escarole.  Make sure it is washed thoroughly.*  Let the escarole wilt; this will take about 3 minutes.   You can serve it immediately with some freshly grated Parmesan cheese, or freeze it! If you are going to freeze it, I suggest pre-portioning it.  That way, when you want a soup, you can simply grab one from the freezer!

*Escarole is really dirty; the leaves hold a lot of sand and dirt.  To wash your escarole, fill a large bowl with cold water.  Place the head of escarole into the water, upside-down.  Shake it around and make sure the water gets in between the leaves.  The sand and dirt will start to fall to the bottom of the bowl.