Monthly Archives: June 2011

Pillow Talk

Sometimes, after a long day of work, I just want to come home, kick my shoes off, and trade in my business casual for an apron. Strange, I know, but what can I say? This Bite-Sized Blonde loves to cook. The more complicated the meal, the better I feel. Last night I made Ricotta Gnocchi with Rock Shrimp in a Tomato Basil sauce. If it sounds time-consuming, that might be because it is. But, it’s fun as hell. And you know what they say, time flies when you’re having fun.

Gnocchi are little dumplings. They can be made with potato or cheese. Ricotta gnocchi are especially delicious because they are light and airy. The best part of these little dumplings, other than the fact that they are mighty tasty, is that you roll them by hand. Imagine play-doh, minus the play, plus the yummy. As you roll the gnocchi out, you pinch the dough, and then cut, to make little tiny pillows. Totally ironic for a meal that won’t put you to sleep.

Ricotta Gnocchi with Rock Shrimp in a Tomato Basil Sauce (Serves 4)

1 28 ounce can of San Marzano tomatoes (whole peeled)
4 cloves of garlic, chopped
2 tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
12 Fresh Basil leaves, chiffonade*
Kosher Salt
Fresh Ground Black Pepper
Red Pepper Flakes
½ lb. Rock Shrimp
8 ounces Ricotta
2 eggs
½ cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
1 cup AP flour

Start your sauce first. Add the olive oil to a medium pot over medium heat. Then, add the garlic and cook until it becomes fragrant, about 2-3 minutes. In a food processor, pulse the tomatoes. You can pulse as little or as long as you would like, until the tomatoes are at the consistency you prefer. I personally like a thick sauce, so I pulse 3 times quickly.** Add the tomatoes with the juices to the garlic. Add a touch of salt, fresh ground black pepper, and pinch of red pepper flakes. Add half of the basil to the sauce as well. Cover and cook over medium heat for at least 30 minutes, but up to 2 hours.

While the sauce is cooking, start making your gnocchi. First, set a pot of water to boil. Then, combine the ricotta, eggs, and parmesan cheese in a large bowl. Add 1 tsp. of salt and 1 tsp. of fresh ground pepper. When the mixture is evenly combined, start adding the flour ¼ cup at a time, until it becomes a soft dough. If the mixture is sticky, keep adding flour. You may end up using more than 1 cup of flour total. Divide the dough into pieces, and roll into ½ inch thick logs on a floured surface. Cut into 1 inch long pieces.

Before you begin cooking the gnocchi, drop the shrimp into the tomato sauce. Cook until they are opaque, approximately 2-3 minutes. While the shrimp are cooking, start cooking the gnocchi. Drop the pieces into the pot of boiling water. And cook until they float. This will take 1-2 minutes. Once they float, scoop them out of the water and add them to the sauce. Stir to incorporate and then serve! Don’t forget to add the remaining basil for a hint of freshness!

* Basil is very gentle, so to prevent it from bruising, chiffonade the beautiful green leaves. Chiffonade means to cut into thin, long strips. To chiffonade the basil, stack the leaves and then roll them tightly. Then, cut across the rolled leaves with a sharp knife to produce long ribbons.

** Don’t worry if you don’t have a food processor. Add the whole tomatoes, including the juice, to the pot. Crush the tomatoes with the back of a fork.

Melt Away

Happy Friday! Doesn’t Friday feel different over the summer? Like, the possibilities are endless?  That’s how I feel.  The sun shines brighter (well, of course) and the birds are chirping (I take that back, the only birds I’ve seen in the city are pigeons. yuck.) and the world just seems like a happier place.  But in case you are feeling something different today, like for example, hung-over, then boy do I have a cure for you.

After you take Advil and drink a full bottle of water, it’s time to start thinking about putting some greasy food in that tummy of yours.  Too greasy and you’ll be sick, not greasy enough and you’ll still be hung-over, but just greasy enough to get the job done.  This Bite-Sized Blonde moonlights as Goldilocks on the side, minus the porridge.

The Melt Shop is just the perfect amount of greasy and the most delicious way to get out from under a hangover.  Located in Midtown, the Melt Shop serves up all different kinds of grilled cheese.  They offer nine different kinds of grilled cheese sandwiches, including the classic, for the kid in all of us, and more sophisticated options for a mature palette.   They have sides, snacks and sweets to go with every sandwich, including tomato soup and milkshakes!

On a recent visit, I tried the Three Cheese Melt.  Fontina, Gruyere and goat cheese are combined with roasted tomatoes on top of sourdough bread.  The cheeses blend so well together and the roasted tomatoes bring an element of sweetness to the sandwich.  You can taste every ingredient in this sandwich, down to the salty butter on the bread.  I also tried the Provolone with Salami grilled cheese.  Pickled peppers that are anything but mild accent the salty salami and provolone.  The touch of heat from the peppers compliments the salami so nicely.  This sandwich wouldn’t be what it is without the rye bread.  You can taste the caraway seeds in every bite.  It is such a well-rounded sandwich.   The tater tots are also delicious.  Crunchy on the outside, yet soft on the inside; they are served with a side of Melt Sauce, which is some sort of spicy mayo.  I am still racking my brain to figure out what they put in that container of deliciousness.

The Melt Shop
601 Lexington Ave.  (53rd Street)
New York, NY

Ice Ice Baby

The summer heat makes it nearly impossible to be near an oven, so what’s a dessert lover to do to keep cool as the temperature creeps up?  Frozen dessert, duh! I love ice cream and Haagen Dazs really does know their stuff.  But, where’s the fun in serving someone else’s hard work? I felt like all the stars aligned when I came across this recipe in Bon Appétit, “Freeze Right Where You Are.”  This article is all about making frozen dessert without an ice cream machine, and since I don’t have an ice cream machine YET, this article spoke to me. 

So, what did this Bite-Sized Blonde make? A watermelon granita, that’s what.   A granita is similar to a shaved ice, like Ralph’s for all you New Yorkers.  It’s cold and refreshing and oh so yummy.  It takes less than 10 minutes to prepare; the freezer does all the hard work here! Plus, it’s low in calories.  Jackpot! My guests were impressed and I know yours will be too.

Watermelon Granita

4 cups cubed seedless watermelon
½ cup sugar substitute
1 tbsp. Fresh lime juice

Puree all the ingredients in a blender until smooth.  Pour into a baking dish and wrap in plastic wrap.  Place in the freezer for 1 hour.  Set a timer otherwise you will definitely forget. * After an hour, remove the granita from the freezer.  Stir the mixture, and smash any frozen parts with the back of a fork.  Cover the mixture and place back in the freezer for about 2 hours, or until you are ready to serve it.  To serve, scrape the granita vigorously with a fork to form ice flakes.  Scoop into a cup and serve!

*Don’t worry if you forget.  Let the granita sit on the counter for about 10 minutes.  You should be able to remove it in pieces.  Place the pieces of the frozen mixture back in the blender for a couple minutes and then refreeze until you are ready to serve!

Raising the Bar – Be – Que

The best and worst thing about bar-be-que chicken is that you can easily buy a bar-be-que sauce at the grocery store.  It makes life easier; that’s for sure.  And a delicious bar-be-que sauce does make for delicious bar-be-que chicken.  But sometimes the sauce you consider a basic just becomes plane old boring.

This Bite-Sized Blonde has been wanting to make bar-be-que sauce for a long time now.  While I’ve always wanted to make bar-be-que sauce, all the recipes I have found are overwhelmingly long.  All but one I should say.  After seeing Gwyneth Paltrow’s recipe for peach bar-be-que sauce in Bon Appétit magazine, I knew I was finally going to be able to make my own sauce! That’s right, Gwyneth Paltrow, mom of two, is not only a phenomenal actress and singer, she is also a cookbook author.  Now that’s what I call a triple threat.

Her recipe for bar-be-que sauce is accessible; there are only a handful of ingredients and it takes about 15 minutes.   It’s so simple but tastes so complex; your guests will think you’re a culinary genius!

Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce (4 servings)

1 cup of chopped peeled fresh peaches
½ cup ketchup
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tsp. soy sauce
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
4 skinless, boneless organic chicken breasts
Vegetable oil

Combine the peaches, ketchup, lemon juice, garlic and soy sauce in a small saucepan.  Season lightly with salt and pepper and bring to a boil over high heat.  Reduce heat to low; simmer until peaches are very soft and the flavors meld.  This should take about 10 minutes.  Remove the pan from the heat and let the sauce cool for about 10 minutes.  Once the sauce has cooled, pour the peach mixture into a blender and puree until the mixture is smooth.  Season the sauce to taste with salt and pepper.  Let the sauce cool in the refrigerator for about an hour.  Then, use half the sauce to marinate the chicken for at least 30 minutes, but up to 8 hours.  The longer, the better.  Prepare the grill to a medium-high heat.  Brush the grill rack with the vegetable oil so that the chicken doesn’t stick.   Place the chicken on the grill and brush the side up with sauce.  Grill the chicken for about 6 minutes and then flip and brush again with the remaining sauce.  If there is leftover sauce, serve it alongside the chicken.

It’s All Hood Baby, Baby

This Bite-Sized Blonde is an Uptown Girl – born and raised.  Okay, well not really, well really not at all.  But I’ve been on the Upper East Side for ten formative years now, so that’s got to count for something, right?   While, the UES isn’t exactly known as the coolest culinary community, it isn’t exactly lacking either.

Case in point, Felice Wine Bar.  The deliciously inclined folks at St. Ambroeus and Casa Lever have another great restaurant in their family.  Felice is conveniently located, for me, on the Upper East Side.  The location brought me in, but the food and the service keep me coming back again and again, literally.  I’ve been known to frequent Felice several times in a week, just ask Jake, the manager.  Embarrassed or proud? I’ll stick with the latter.

The restaurant has about 20 tables, both inside and out, plus one, big communal table.  They also have seating at the bar, which is a great alternative if there are no tables available when you get there.  Since they only take reservations if you’re a party of six or more, it’s a sad possibility.

I have made my way through most of the menu, so I’ll share a few of my favorites and most recent orders.   Many of the pastas are homemade – but my favorite is the simplest one on the menu: Fresca Di Campagna – penne pasta with plum tomatoes, fresh basil and mozzarella.  The pasta has a nice bite and the tomato sauce is so simple you can taste the integrity of the tomatoes.   The combination of sweet sauce and fresh basil is intoxicating.  This is far from your mom’s spaghetti sauce, unless of course your mom is the chef at Felice.

Burrata is hands-down one of the best cheeses, ever. It’s flavorful and mellow all at the same time.  It is not always on the menu, but if you happen to be lucky enough to get burrata on the specials menu for the night, order it.  Burrata with prosciutto was a recent special that I could not pass up.  This dish starts with  salty prosciutto which sits on a bed of spicy arugula.  It’s topped with the creamy burrata and then drizzled with the most sinful olive oil.  The combination is expected but nothing else is.  The olive oil accents the delicate cheese perfectly and the salty prosciutto and clean and crisp arugula come together like beautiful Italian poetry. You don’t have to speak Italian to understand this cultural lovefest.

Branzino is a great fish.   It’s like a signature Louis Vuitton bag; it’s neutral and something that everyone likes.  The Branzino alla Griglia at Felice is perfect if you are in the mood for something light.  It is stuffed with herbs and then simply grilled to give the fish that great grill flavor.

Sometimes, you just need a piece of meat, and Felice is great for that too.  Their Tagliata di Manzo – grilled sliced sirloin – is a one of my favorites.  The meat is tender and flavorful, yet surprisingly light for red meat.  It is served over a bed of spicy arugula salad.  Add a drizzle of Felice’s olive oil and you are in business.

So, the next time you are on the Upper East Side make sure to stop by Felice.  Your stomach will thank you.

Felice Wine Bar
1166 First Ave (64th Street)
New York, NY

Lucky for Bon Appétit

I traveled down to Florida this weekend and like any well-read traveler, I made a stop in Hudson News pre-flight to stock up on some much-needed light reading.  Lucky and Bon Appétit were my magazines of choice.  True story: I ended up using every Lucky sticker for my Bon Appétit magazine.   I don’t know if I’m slowly moving out of an apartment Fashion City and headed for a home in Food Town USA, but it looks like that may be the case.  Hope I don’t forget to pack my skinny jeans.

There were so many recipes in Bon Appétit that I wanted to try that I couldn’t wait to get home to try one, or three.  You know what they say, go big or go home. Plus, can you really prepare a proper meal and not include an appetizer, entrée and dessert? I don’t think so.  To start my glorious meal of new recipes, I made a Shaved Summer Squash Salad; now that’s an appetizing alliteration.

This salad is crisp and light and the perfect opening act to any dish, and most importantly, it’s easy!  The salad was followed by Grilled Chicken in Peach BBQ Sauce and a Watermelon Granita for dessert.  Now that’s a serious summer supper.

Shaved Summer Squash Salad (Serves 4)

3 tbsp. almonds, chopped
1 lb. summer squash (mix of yellow and green)
2-½ tbsp. Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 garlic clove, minced
Baby Arugula
Kosher salt
Fresh ground black pepper
Pecorino Romano

Trim the ends off of the squash.  Using a vegetable peeler, thinly slice the squash lengthwise into strips.  Transfer to a large bowl.  In a small bowl, whisk together the extra virgin olive oil, lemon juice and garlic clove.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Pour the dressing over the squash.  While the squash is absorbing the great flavors of the dressing, toast the almonds in a pan over medium heat.  Watch them carefully or they will burn, and burn quickly!  Set them aside once toasted.  Add the arugula to the squash and toss.  Shave the Pecorino Romano over the salad.  Garnish with the toasted almonds, serve and enjoy!

Recipes for Grilled Chicken with Peach BBQ Sauce and Watermelon Granita to follow soon!

Hot for Teacher

We’re only six months into 2011, and already this year has proven to be a real time of enlightenment for me.  I’ve learned so much about myself.  Now, you are probably thinking, what astonishing discoveries could I have possibly made in six months? Well, I’ll tell you.  I traveled all the way to Israel to realize I am a tease, a fact I’ve been denying for a while now, just ask my best friend.   I have come to terms with the fact that I can’t speak French, despite learning it in high school.   And last, but not least, I also discovered that I have a thing for a man in uniform.  Cops, you ask? I think a solid NO says it all.  Firemen? Eh, not for this Bite-Sized Blonde.  But a man in a chef’s coat…now that’s what I’m talking about.

I recently started classes at the French Culinary Institute.  It is the most rewarding thing I have done in a while.  Honestly, the excitement I get from class is unlike anything I’ve experienced before.  And since we are being honest, I should share that it’s not just the new skills I’m acquiring  pumping me up.  My Chef instructor gets me H-O-T hot.  I hang on his every word, spoken so elegantly with a French accent.  Is it his sexy accent and Chef’s coat getting me hot or is it the fire from my flambé?  Probably a healthy combination of both…but right now, this Bite-Sized Blonde is dreaming about her Chef instructor.  Bonne Nuit Chef, Bonne Nuit.