Monthly Archives: January 2012

Where the Magic Happens

In true MTV cribs fashion, I’m going to let you in on where the magic happens…But not that kind of magic.  After all, a Bite-Sized lady doesn’t kiss and tell…My kind of magic is made in the kitchen.  And magic, is exactly what’s on the menu today.  Magic Sauce get its name because, well it’s really magical.  It has the ability to transform something boring into some seriously divine.  Think Fairy Godmother, but edible.  One day you’re Cinderella, the next day you are a princess.  And by you, I mean your food.

This sauce is great for dipping, think crunchy bread.  It’s also great for eggs, potatoes, shellfish, chicken, steak and vegetables.  Really, it’s good for anything and everything.  Which is why it’s magical.  The recipe makes about ½ a cup of Magic Sauce.  But the way I use it, and the way you are sure to use it, it’s best to double the recipe right away.  The sauce, like a fine wine, also gets better with age.  So, make a batch, or two, and let the magic happen.

Magic Sauce
Ingredients
½ cup of good Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 teaspoon fresh rosemary leaves
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon fresh oregano leaves
2 teaspoons sweet paprika
2 medium cloves of garlic, smashed into a paste
1 well-crumbled bay leaf
pinch of red pepper flakes
¼  teaspoon + fine grain sea salt
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Directions
Gently warm the olive oil over medium-low heat in a skillet or pan, until it is just hot. When hot remove from heat.

While the oil is heating, lightly pound the rosemary, thyme, and oregano in a mortar and pestle.  If you don’t have a mortar and pestle, you can chop all of the ingredients together.

Stir the paprika, garlic, bay leaf, red pepper flakes, and salt into the oil. Then add the bruised herbs and lemon juice.

You can use this now, but know – the oil just gets better as it ages over a few days. Keep it in a refrigerator for up to a week/ten days-ish. It thickens up when cold, so if you need it in a liquid state, place it in the sun or in a warm place for a few minutes.

Recipe from: http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/magic-sauce-recipe.html

101cookbooks.com is a great collection of recipes and beautiful food photography.   If you are ever looking for inspiration, make sure to visit this site!

The Juice is Worth the Squeeze

It’s no secret that I love cooking.  And researching recipes, well that’s like foreplay for me.  But not every recipe gets my attention.  What can I say? This Bite-Sized Blonde is one tough cookie, or something that sounds like it tastes better? Who came up with that saying anyway? Why would anyone want to be a tough cookie? Personally, I’d like to think I would be a soft baked cookie, preferably one that was kind of still gooey on inside.  But, I digress.  The truth is, there are a couple key characteristics I look for in a recipe, including accessible and appealing ingredients and the prep to table ratio.  The prep to table ratio is all about time management.  And a wise man once told me it’s all about time management, although I’m pretty sure he was talking about dating.  I, being a Foodie, obviously related that to what I know best.

The prep to table ratio is a tool I use to help me decide if the juice is worth the squeeze.   A time consuming recipe becomes more appealing if it can last longer.  The L word is not one I say often, believe you me, but every now and again I let it slip.   Leftover.   That’s right.  I don’t like leftovers, so my prep to table ratio really only relates to what I can freeze and make again when I’m ready.  I think the best example of this is soup.  It’s time consuming by nature because the flavors develop as the soup cooks.  But, one big pot can make about 10 servings, and with 10 plastic containers, that easily becomes 10 meals.

Have a date coming over for dinner? Heat up a soup.  Got home late from work? Heat up some soup.  Bad weather blues? You get the point.

Porcini Mushroom Soup (makes about 8 servings*)

Ingredients
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
2 ounces of dried porcini mushrooms
½ ounce of dried maitake mushrooms
½ white onion, chopped
4 large cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, finely chopped
½ teaspoon of mushroom mélange seasoning
½ lb. small new potatoes, cut into 1/3-inch pieces
4 cups water
1 cup vegetable stock
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly grated Parmesan

Directions
Soak the porcini and maitake mushrooms in 2 ½ cups of hot water for about 15 minutes, or until they are soft. Set the mushrooms and the liquid aside in two separate bowls.

Heat a splash of the olive oil in a large thick-bottomed pot, sauté the onions for a couple of minutes and then stir in the rosemary and potatoes. Add the remaining olive oil and cook for about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic, the mushrooms and the soaking liquid, 4 cups of water, 1 cup of vegetable stock, salt and mushroom melange seasoning. Bring to a simmer and cook for 30-45 minutes.  Here comes the important step: taste it!  If the broth doesn’t seem flavorful enough, play around! Add salt, pepper or more of any of the ingredients listed above and let the soup continue to cook over medium to high heat for another 30 minutes.  If the broth is too intense, you may want to add more water a bit at a time.

If you are ready to serve, sprinkle with some freshly grated parmesan cheese and serve with a piece of crunchy, toasty bread.

Make sure to freeze your leftovers.  Ladle individual servings into plastic containers.  That way, when you come home on a cold, dark night, and want some soup, you can simply grab a frozen soup out of the freezer.

*I usually double this recipe so I have lots of extra to freeze! That way, the juice is definitely worth the squeeze…

Recipe inspired by http://www.101cookbooks.com/archives/porcini-mushroom-soup-recipe.html

St. Anselm

St. Anselm, sounds like a name with power, and meaning I suppose.   I’m not sure who this St. Anselm guy is, but if I had to guess, I’d say he was the patron saint of all things delicious.  I mean, why else would they name a gem of a restaurant after him?

St. Anselm is a restaurant in my new favorite neighborhood, Billyburg – or Williamsburg to the newbies.   Williamsburg is loaded with great restaurants, so to stand out there you really have to bring something spectacular to the table.  And St. Anselm brings something spectacular, really spectacular.

This tiny restaurant is not boastful.  In fact, it’s the opposite, which leads me to believe this St. Anselm dude was also pretty modest.  The restaurant is unpretentious.  But not in the Manhattan way that can actually be pretentious masquerading as low key.  This is BK unpretentious, which equals a literal translation.  The restaurant is dark, but surrounded by a glowing light force from the open kitchen.   You know I’m all about an open kitchen, see here, here and here.  Its fun to watch the chefs at work, but it’s also fun to check out their equipment.  This open kitchen isn’t exactly the most beautiful I’ve ever seen, but the food that comes out of there can be considered a work of art.

We started with the Clams.  They were fresh and salty.  Flavored with garlic and parsley, these tiny, little suckers were a bright way to start the meal.

We also ordered the Bibb Salad.  A pretty typical starter of crisp lettuce, plump tomatoes, crispy fried shallots and sweet shallot vinaigrette.  Simple but delicious or delicious but simple? Either way, you get the idea.

So you know that feeling you get when you hear music and you feel compelled to dance? Well that’s the feeling I get when I see a burger on the menu.  But think less dancing, more eating.  So, of course I ordered the Patty Melt.  The tender patty of meat was perfectly juicy and topped with Swiss cheese and caramelized onions.    The onions give the burger a subtle sweetness while the mild Swiss cheese makes it slightly salty.   Complete with toasted white bread and spicy pickles, this patty melt was one for the books.

But, if you go to St. Anselm and don’t have the appetite to order everything (weird), the one thing you cannot, and I repeat, cannot pass up is the Butcher’s Steak with Garlic Butter.  This is one of the best steaks I have ever had in my entire life. The butcher’s steak is also known as a hanger steak.  The reason behind the name? This cut of meat is known for its flavor, so butchers used to keep it for themselves rather than sell it! After eating this steak, you’ll understand why.  The meat is incredibly tender and flavorful.  The grill gives it a deep flavor.  With a hint of saltiness, and a touch of butter, this steak is melt in your mouth magnificent.  Besides the fact that this is one outrageous piece of meat, it’s also $15. Yes, you read the correctly.  This is the best $15 I’ve ever spent in my life.

What’s a steak without a side? Similar to chips without dip, which is something this Bite-Sized Blonde is totally against.  So, for sides we ordered the Shishito Peppers, Pan Fried Mashed Potatoes with Truffle Oil, and Grilled Berkshire Bacon.  The peppers were smoky from the grill, but maintained their spicy flavor.  Not every shishito pepper you eat is spicy.  But eater beware, the spicy ones can hurt a little.

The Pan Fried Mashed Potatoes with Truffle Oil came highly recommended, and for good reason.  The exterior was crusty and the insides were soft and buttery.  But there are two things this Bite-Sized Blonde can never get enough of, and that’s shoes and truffles.  And these potatoes could have used a little more truffle oil.  Plus, it would just  be weird to get new shoes at dinner.

The Grilled Berkshire Bacon was thick cut and meaty.  It was good, but after the Patty Melt and Butcher’s Steak, I was unquestionably full.  Which is why it was a miracle, or insane, that we also ordered dessert.  We sampled each dessert on the menu.  Not sure my belly or brain registered them, since I was already at the point of no return.

One last thing you should probably know, St. Anselm is owned by the same, culinary inclined duo that own Fette Sau, Joe and Kim Carroll.  That carries a lot of weight, because their food will make you carry a lot of weight, for good reason.    When you win the Zagat Award for Best BBQ in NYC three years in a row, you know you are doing something right.  And that something they are doing right, is the same something they are bringing to St. Anselm.

Whether you’re a Manhattan Man or Borough Babe, St. Anselm is the perfect place for you.  So, go, eat the Butcher’s Steak, and tell me all about it!

St. Anselm
355 Metropolitan Ave
Brooklyn NY
718.384.5054

Dime Piece

Real estate is all about location, location, location.  This is especially true for restaurants in New York.  I mean, midtown isn’t exactly known as the hub of great restaurants for New York City.  Probably because it’s made up of mediocre steakhouses and overpriced salads.   Looking for a great restaurant in midtown is as useless as finding meaning in a Pauly Shore movie.  Well not really, but you get my drift.  The great ones are few and far between, which is why I was surprised to find myself dining at a great midtown restaurant.  Tenpenny, located in the Gotham Hotel, was a refreshing breeze on a hot summer’s day, despite the fact that it is winter and the restaurant isn’t breezy at all.  But it was indeed a pleasant surprise.

Tenpenny is totally unassuming but has this innate charm that draws you in the way a loveable nerd can grab hold of your heart.  Except, there is really nothing uncool about this place.  The bright red wall in sea of distressed brick is pretty awesome.  But, you know this Foodie is obviously more concerned with the interior of menu then the décor.  So, it’s time to get down to the nitty gritty.

We started with a plate of artisanal cheeses which were served with a generous dollop of fig jam and cranberry walnut bread.  I love cheese, so much so, that I am no longer lactose intolerant.  True Story.  And a plate full of cheese is as good as gold to me.  Forget flowers on Valentine’s Day, just get me cheese.  The cheeses varied in texture and flavor, but they all played wonderfully off the sweet fig jam.

When House Cured Bacon is listed as an appetizer, you order it.  Like if Landry Fields called me and asked me to hang out, I’d say yes.  You don’t question good things; you just go with them, which is exactly what I did.   This bacon was outrageous.  The savory bacon was intensified with the addition of soy, scallions and cinnamon.  It was served with nutmeg custard and toasted bread.  Did that just blow your mind? Imagine how your taste buds would feel.   That’s alright, you can take a minute to regain your composure before you continue…

In true winter food fashion, I also ordered the crostini with sweet potato and marshmallow.  Totally reminiscent of Thanksgiving.  But sometimes the classics are classics for a reason.  Let’s just say, you won’t find this dish on my Thanksgiving menu next year.

I know I’ve told you before, and I don’t want to get all senile on you, like weird Uncle Jack.  But I could eat a cheeseburger for the rest of my life and be a happy girl.  With that said, I’m a tough burger critic; don’t let the blonde hair and big smile fool you.  Although the Double Cheeseburger wasn’t the Burger at the Dutch, it was kind of great.  Not one, but two blended patties sit comfortably on a toasted potato bun, topped with tomato, provolone and homemade mayo.  I know, I didn’t think this meal could get better after the bacon either.  But it did.  The burgers were grilled perfectly and the sweet potato bun absorbed all of the drippy burger juices.  As if that wasn’t enough, it also came with homemade bbq chips.  Now, that’s what I’m talking about midtown.  Way to step up your game.

I sampled a good amount of the menu, and it just left me wanting more.  Although, I don’t know how much more I could have eaten.  There’s ways next time.  Til then, Tenpenny.

Tenpenny
16 East 46th Street
New York, NY
212.490.8300

Know of another stellar midtown restaurant? Comment below!

Why Do You Build Me Up Butternut Baby

There are some things that are so obviously winter, like gloves and snow and dreams about warm weather.  I know, I just came back from vacation but this Bite-Sized Blonde still needs a tan.  So I’m a brat and a food snob.   There are worse things, right? Banter aside, winter is all about the butternut squash for this Foodie.  This winter squash is one of my favorites.  It’s sweet yet savory, and light yet totally filling which is why it’s the perfect filling for ravioli.  A filling filling?   Now that’s one delicious homonym.

Butternut Squash Ravioli (makes approximately 40 ravioli)

Ingredients
20 ounces of peeled and diced butternut squash
Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher salt
2 cloves garlic, minced
½ medium white onion, diced
¼ tsp. cinnamon
Wonton wrappers
4 sticks of Butter
1 cup of walnuts

Directions
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.  Place the squash on a baking tray and drizzle with olive oil and season with salt and pepper.  Roast for approximately 45 minutes or until tender.  Remove from the oven and let cool. In the meantime, sauté the onions in olive oil with a generous pinch of salt until softened.  Add the garlic and continue to sauté until the garlic becomes fragrant.  Then, transfer the onions and garlic as well as the butternut squash to a food processor. Add the cinnamon and pulse until all of the ingredients are smooth.   If you don’t have a food processor, you can transfer all of the ingredients to a blender.  Taste the butternut squash mixture to make sure you’ve added an adequate amount of seasonings.  Add more salt, pepper or cinnamon as needed.   Transfer the mixture to a bowl.

The most efficient way to make ravioli is by setting up a workstation.  You’ll need the bowl of butternut squash mixture you just made, as well as a baking tray lined with parchment paper, a small bowl of water and the wonton wrappers. Using a teaspoon, scoop a small amount of butternut squash and place it into the center of the wonton wrapper.  Dip your fingers in the water and then trace the edges of the wonton wrapper.  Then fold the wonton wrapper in half  creating triangles.  Make sure the edges are sealed tightly and then fold the corners inward to create a pentagon.  Then place the ravioli on the parchment lined baking sheet and begin again.

If you are going to serve the ravioli the night you make them, place a pot of water on the stove and heat over high until it starts to boil.  Add the ravioli to the water one at a time.   At the same time, melt 1/2 stick of butter for every 5 ravioli over medium heat.  Once the butter is melted, add a small handful of walnuts to the butter. The ravioli will cook in a matter of seconds so make sure to take them out almost immediately after you place them in the water.  Place the cooked ravioli in the butter sauce and toss to coat.  Serve with a smile, and enjoy!

Recipe inspired by

http://iowagirleats.com/2009/11/06/how-to-bake-butternut-squash-butternut-squash-ravioli-recipe-2/

The Land of Milk and Honey Bunches of Oats

Music to set the mood…

Hello! Bonjour! Hola! Shalom! I must start by saying Happy New Year! And also by apologizing for the serious delay in new content. I was away on an amazing trip to Israel. Two weeks in the land of Milk and Honey just wasn’t enough. But the good news is, I get to be with you now. So, in this new year, expect lots of new recipes and restaurant reviews, obviously starting with the first reviews of the season…restaurants in Israel. Hey, you never know when you’ll be there next and preparation is everything. Well food is everything, but without a little research, you could be eating mediocre shwarma, and that’s good for no one.

So, food in Israel. I know what you are thinking. Hummus, hummus and more hummus. Well you are not entirely wrong, because you’re exactly right. When in Rome Israel, right? Local cuisine is prevalent for a reason. It’s usually the best of the freshest ingredients combined with local spices and flavors. And one of the best native foods in Israel is the falafel. This crispy creation is born from, you guessed it, chickpeas aka hummus. I had great falafel in Tzfat, a small city located in the north. Fun fact for you, or Madonna, Tzfat is actually known as the center of Kabbalah. But, now you know one more thing about Tzfat; they serve excellent falafel at a quaint restaurant called The Bagdad Café. This tiny, and I really do mean tiny, restaurant can seat about twelve people at once. Although the waitress (singular as there was really only one) can’t handle that many people. This is probably a great time to tell you the service in Israel is less than stellar. But what The Bagdad Café lacks in service, they make up for in taste. The falafel was served warm and crispy, with a refreshing salad, creamy hummus and warm bread. It was slightly greasy but light, which made it the perfect meal after a night of drinking Israeli tequila. Well a perfect Middle Eastern meal after a night of drinking Israel tequila.

Now, I know you probably don’t associate the words Chinese food and kosher. And truthfully, neither do I. But, if you find yourself in Tiberias, craving sesame chicken, then there is only one place to go: Pagoda. According to my dinner dates, it was the best kosher chinese food they ever ate. Since it was the only kosher chinese food I’ve ever eaten, I’ll have to take their word for it.

I wasn’t expecting much from the food in Jerusalem. Quite honestly, I thought it was going to be bad, real bad. But, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, the best things happen when you least expect it. And the food in Jerusalem blew me away.

The first restaurant we went to was Machane Yehuda. Named for the neighborhood, this trendy restaurant was everything I needed and more, i.e. not kosher. It was also lively and fun. The open kitchen is visible to almost every table in the restaurant, and you know how I feel about an open kitchen. We shared a lot of the menu, including a creamy polenta with mushrooms and truffle oil. This melt in your mouth polenta was some of the best I’ve had. The lamb chops were cooked to a perfect medium. The tender meat was packed with flavor. We also shared the sea bass, which was a light, but flavorful addition to the dishes we ordered. The sirloin with truffle butter was a dish we couldn’t pass up, partly because a meat and milk combo in Jerusalem is not easy to come by, and also because it came highly recommended. The flavors were great, but the steak was overcooked. After a few bottles of wine, and great conversation with new friends, this mistake quickly became forgivable.

The second restaurant we went to in Jerusalem was Chakra. I know I’ve already told you about how the service in Israel is, well to be honest, terrible. But the service at Chakra was great. Our waiter took excellent care of us; at one point in the night, he gave us an entire bottle of Stoli. Key word: gave. Besides the generosity of the waiter, the restaurant was excellent. We ordered spicy tuna on toast points as an appetizer, which rivaled many of the tuna tartar appetizers I’ve had in New York. We also shared the root salad, asparagus, and sea bream to name a few. This restaurant also has an open kitchen. I could totally get used to dining in Israel. If you are in Jerusalem, this is a must!

The Jewish Shuk in Jerusalem is a site to see. Filled with shops and stands of all kinds, this market has everything to offer. Fruits, veggies, nuts, spices, and best of all, pastries. Come hungry – leave happy. Yup, I said it. Sorry IHOP.

Moving on to the next stop on my cultural and culinary tour of Israel. Tel Aviv is an amazing city with great food, which obviously means great hummus. Abu Hassan is one of the most famous hummus restaurants in Tel Aviv. It’s a local place, filled with locals, which can be intimidating in Israel. My advice? Be aggressive. B – E – aggressive. Sit down at a table, whatever table is available and order. Ask for hummus and whatever else they recommend. I wish I knew what I ate, because it was awesome. But I have no idea. The most important thing to know, is that the pita is warm, the hummus is creamy and you have all of 20 minutes to sit down, order, eat and leave. So make every second count. This place is worthy of the madness.

Another excellent dinner was had at Social Club. We ordered one of every appetizer, including eggplant, artichokes and carpaccio. But the star of the meal was an incredible papardelle pasta with duck, and oh yea, pork chops. Insert angel face emoticon here.

Breakfast in Israel is usually hummus, cucumbers and tomatoes, and if you are lucky, shakshouka, which is a hearty tomato stew with eggs. But, there’s one great place in Tel Aviv that takes breakfast to a whole new level, Benedict. I heard about breakfast at Benedict’s for months before my trip to Israel. I thought all the good things were probably exaggerated. I mean how good can pancakes in Israel really be, right? WRONG. The pancakes at Benedict’s are literally the best pancakes I have ever had in my entire life. Each pancake is one inch thick. They are soft and sweet, like cake, but light and airy the way pancakes should be. I had mine covered in white chocolate with a shot of espresso. Yes, that actually happened. I resolve to figure out how to make these pancakes before the end of 2012, even if that means returning to Tel Aviv for breakfast soon. Great resolution, right? Although the pancakes at Benedict’s are a must, you should also know they make a banging shakshouka, so order both.

Also noteworthy in Tel Aviv, is Nanutchka. This Georgian restaurant offers tasty food with an eclectic atmosphere. The live music makes this restaurant a fun and exciting place to enjoy delicious food, especially the lamb shank.

Important to note, all Shuks are not created equal. The Carmel shuk in Tel Aviv is awesome, but in a different way than the shuk in Jerusalem. Sure, you can find many of the same things, spices, fruit, and restaurants. But this shuk is also filled with more chachkies. The best day to go is Tuesday, when the artist fair is right next door. You can pick up jewelry and Judaica. But don’t forget to sample some of the amazing spices and grab a bite to eat. My recommendation: La Cafe. Located in the middle of the Shuk, this small coffee shop and restaurant offers a strong shot of espresso and a great pita.

All this great food was amazing. But my best food experience in Israel was at a soup kitchen, Ichlu Reim. This amazing charitable organization helps all Israelis in need, regardless of race or religion. I spent one morning helping prepare food for upcoming meals. The experience was humbling; I feel truly privileged to have been a part of such a great act of kindness. Of course, there are other ways to help the people in need by helping the food bank. Donations are always needed. If you would like to donate to the food bank, click here.

It pains me to end this post because it officially means the end of my trip. But, here’s to more Israel posts in the future and to next year in Jerusalem.