Sunday, August 28, 2005

Green pepper and tomato frittata

I've got this new kick to try a different way to cook eggs every weekend. While I was flipping through some of my cookbooks, a frittata recipe from Cook 1.0 got me excited. I was motiavted by Heidi's description of the frittata as an open-faced Italian omelet as I had a green pepper, a few tomatoes and mixed olives that I wanted to use. I improvised on Heidi's basic recipe and in less than twenty minutes from start to finish, I had hearty veggie frittata ready to be chowed down by two hungry, hungover stomachs!

Preheat oven to 450F. In a medium bowl whisk together 6 large eggs, a splash of cream (I used a few splashes of skim milk), a pinch of salt and pepper, 1/2 cup grated parmesan, 2 plum tomatoes sliced into wedges, a handful of fresh rosemary and a few red pepper flakes.

To an 8 1/2-inch ovenproof noonstick skillet over medium-high heat, add 1 tbsp olive oil, 1 shallot minced and 1 clove garlic minced. Sautee, stirring constantly until the shallots get translucent, about 2 minutes. Add thinly sliced wedges of 1 green pepper and continue to sautee till the peppers are a little soft. Turn down the heat a bit.

Add the egg mixture and cook over medium-low hear for about 5 minutes, or until just set and there isn't a lot of liquid. I added a handful of mixed olives once the eggs were almost set.

Place the skillet in the oven and bake for about 9 minutes, or until golden, firm and puffy.

I was amused with H's remarks that the frittata was like a pizza without the carbs. He added lots of tabasco and ate it just like a pizza!

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Bumper crop of tomatoes

August is the hottest month in New York. It's that time of the year when things are really slow at work and people take long weekends to cool off at the beach. It's also the month when you taste the best of summer including all kinds of juicy tomatoes.

Greenmarket is overflowing with tomatoes in different colours, shapes and sizes. Thomas Jefferson first grew this fruit at Monticello (where he had an enviable vegetable garden) in 1781 and now it is America's third most popular produce after potato and lettuce!

The tomatoes I've used and am familiar with are tomatillo, vine-ripened, heirloom, beefsteak, cherry and plum. Tomatillos are great for salsa verde. I make a rustic panzanella salad from vine-ripened tomatoes. I enjoy heirloom tomatoes by themselves with a drizzle of aged balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper. Beefsteak tomatoes are great for slow-roasting. I use plum tomatoes for different pasta dishes. But I love the cherry tomatoes best of all for their burst of juiciness in every bite.

Tuesday, August 23, 2005

Fattoush at Horus Cafe

I love going to Horus Cafe in the Lower East Side for Middle Eastern food. H and I went on a weeknight and it was such a different, mellow scene from the crazy, jam-packed atmosphere and pricey attitude on Friday and Saturday nights.

We sat at a table outside, enjoyed the warm temperature at night and lightly noshed while drinking white wine and smoking an apple hookah. The best dish at Horus is their Fatoush Salad. Fatoush is a Lebanese bread salad made with fresh vegetables like cucumber, tomatoes, radishes and onions tossed in a lemony vinaigrette with toasted pita and some sprinkles of sumac. A perfect way to beat the summer heat while watching that waistline!

Sunday, August 21, 2005

Moroccan Feast

I took my first cooking class ever yesterday. I've been searching for interesting vegetarian cooking classes in Manhattan but wasn't able to find a class at which at least three quarters of the recipes being taught would be meatless. After several Googlings, I found the National Gourmet Institute for Food and Health, located just a few blocks away from my apartment. The school offers a variety of public classes for those not enrolled in their regular programs. The Authentic Moroccan class by Myra Kornfield (author of The Voluptous Vegan and ex-head pastry chef at Angelica Kitchen) was the perfect class for me as I love learning about cuisines that have lots of complex flavours.

Moroccan cuisine uses an exotic array of ingredients from sun-dried tomatoes and red hot chili peppers to preserved lemons and orange flower water. The melange of everything on a plate of Moroccan food is what makes eating this type of food so exciting. You never know if you're going bite into a plump raisin or savour the flesh of a roasted pepper coated with lemon juice and fresh herbs. Or relish the saffron spiked vegetable stew over freshly steamed couscous in between bites of orange and carrot salad.

Myra was a ball of energy and a fabulous instructor. She taught us many little things about cooking in general as we prepared the various dishes. Who knew that roasting peppers over a gas flame was that much better than broiling them. Or that tempeh is the closest subsitute to red snapper or Striped Bass. This cooking class was hands-on so twelve of us were divided into two groups. Each group made all the dishes and we had a big feast at the end of class.

Learning how to make fluffy couscous was my biggest take away. Forget about the five minute method professed by the store-bought brands. Couscous requires a lot of TLC. It needs a lot of love by way of washing, drying, swelling and a couple of steamings in a couscousier (a pasta cooking pot that comes with a steamer insert is a good substitute) to get it to its best form. Before the second steaming, I learnt that you should sprinkle salt and then work the couscous with oiled hands to keep each grain separate. If all goes well, you'll end up with amazingly tender and airy couscous which can be garnished with freshly chopped parsley:

My second biggest takeaway was learning how to make harissa, the deep orange coloured chili paste that is stirred into stews. You can use this paste to jazz up any Moroccan dish. It is made from red hot chili peppers, sun-dried tomatoes and a few spices like caraway, cumin and coriander with garlic and olive oil. A little bit goes a long way and it keeps well in the fridge. Here's the harissa my group made:

I also learnt to make a seven vegetable stew using turnips, celery, zucchini, carrots, green peppers, tomatoes and peas:


The three pepper salad with preserved lemon was my favourite dish:

But I also loved the spiciness of the chickpeas in charmoula (a classic Moroccan herb and spice vinaigrette):

Dessert was semolina cookies with orange and lemon drizzled with chocolate:

Now that I have some knowledge of Moroccan cuisine, I can't wait to cook the same Moroccan Feast at home. Any takers?

Friday, August 19, 2005

Homemade Apricot Butter

I love making different kinds of jellies, jams, butters, conserves, marmalades and preserves at home. In California, I used to make sesame fig jam every July using the fruit from Gabe's fig tree in our backyard. Last summer I made spicy peach butter from some deliciously sweet peaches I had bought at Greenmarket.

This time I was in a mood for a tangy and sweet butter to serve on a cracker with cheese so I bought lots of apricots from the market and got to work. Making fruit butter at home is as simple as washing and cutting the fruit, adding sugar, lemon juice and being patient till the mixture reaches the right consistency. Just don't mess with the proportion of fruit, sugar and lemon juice. Though the recipes tell you to process your jars in a boiling-water canner, I've always skipped that step. It's not necessary if you're going to consume in a month or two.

24 medium apricots
3 cups sugar
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1/2 to 1 teaspoon each ginger, nutmeg, cinnamon

To prepare pulp:
Wash and stem apricots; cut in halves; pit. Cook apricots until soft, adding only enough water to prevent sticking (about 1/2 cup). Press through a sieve or food mill. Measure 11/2 quarts apricot pulp.

To prepare butter:
Combine apricot pulp and sugar. Cook until thick enough to round up on a spoon. As mixture thickens, stir frequently to prevent sticking. Add lemon juice. Ladle the hot butter into jars.

Having a few different homemade jams and butters at home is so handy. They're so much more satisfying than readymade ones and add a real special touch to dishes.

Thursday, August 18, 2005

The best thin crust pizza in Manhattan

Natasha introduced me to Posto, an unassuming and cozy neighbourhood pizza place where they make thinnest and crispest pizza. You get to choose from a never-ending list of toppings including caramelized onions, bella di cerignola olives, fresh spinach and shiitake mushrooms. I got a slice with jalapenos and sweet red onions which was just perfect after a few margaritas at Underbar. I wasn't terribly hungry otherwise I would have ordered the Shroomtown pie- portobello, shitake, and button mushrooms with white truffle oil. Yum - can't wait to go back for that one!

Posto has outdoor seating and delivers as well.

310 2nd Ave
(at 18th St)

Tuesday, August 16, 2005

One full year in Manhattan!

I just realized that I totally blew the one year anniversary of my blog (August 12th) which was supposed to be a big deal - I had challenged myself to keep this going for a year even though I started blogging on a total whim when I moved to Manhattan. Oh well!

I SO did not want to leave the Bay Area but the past year has been so exhilarating and full of new experiences that I can't help but be in love with Manhattan. I've lost a bit of the California "niceness" and definitely the "laidbackness" but I've gained a huge dose of energy, curiosity and an even bigger appetite for life. And I've become more food obsessed than ever so my blog will now be totally devoted to my adventures in cooking and eating.

Can't say for sure if I'll live in Manhattan for the rest of my life, but I'm certainly going to make the most of every single day as if it were my last..

Grilled eggplant and portobello strips

As if the 100 degrees weather this weekend was not hot enough, I decided to fire up my grill pan on Sunday. I had a big eggplant and a few portobellos hanging out in the fridge that I wanted to use before the week rolled around.

I cut up the vegetables in chunky strips and marinated them in some finely chopped garlic, balsamic vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, loosely torn rosemary, some salt and pepper. After about thirty minutes, they were ready for the grill. Once the pan was well heated, about three minutes per side was all that was needed to have succulent eggplant and potobello strips that I placed on a bed of arugula before chowing down. If I hadn't been nursing a mega hangover, I might have washed down the grilled veggies with a glass of rose or a red wine sparkling.

Monday, August 15, 2005

Murray's Cheese

I finally went to Murray's Cheese in Greenwich Village. It is New York's most famous cheese shop. It turns out that they also have other gourmet foods there so it was a very fun food shopping trip indeed. H controlled my desire to splurge on unnecessaties (mais non!) like sea salted capers and white truffle oil but he couldn't stop me from buying a few different cheeses, a bamboo cheese board, a cheese knife and some sheets of a specially waxed paper that keeps cheese really fresh.

Ribafria was one of the two cheeses I brought home. It's a blackpeppercorn encrusted goat cheese from Portugal that is spicy and pungent. Definitely not for the less adventurous souls. I also bought was Tomme de Savoie, which I am sure you've heard of as it's quite popular. Tomme is made from raw cow's milk and has a salty taste and semi-soft texture. It is made from skim milk so is quite healthy actually. The other two cheeses you can see on my new bamboo board in the photo are Parmesan and Brie both of which I always keep handy. I used to consider Parmesan only a cooking cheese until I moved to Manhattan last year and saw it being served in strips or squares on cheese plates. Now it's my favourite cocktail snack!

For those of you who don't want to make it all the way to the Village, Murray's has a location in Grand Central as well.

Murray's Cheese
Greenwich Village
254 Bleecker St. (between 6th & 7th Ave.)
New York, NY 10014
(212) 243-3289
Store Hours:
Mon - Sat: 8am-8pm
Sunday: 9am-6pm

Friday, August 12, 2005


Some restaurants have the most interesting toilets that the toilets become the central talking point and shamelessly grab the limelight from everything else. Sapa, an ultra trendy Vietnamese restaurant in Chelsea, has two rows of individual toilets overlooking a concrete pool with underwater lighting. Very private and tres cool! But what about the rest of the restaurant? It's actually quite lovely. High ceilings, dark wood furniture, a wide variety of white lighting fixtures of different shapes and sizes, white netted curtains and huge potted plants. It feels a little bit like Le Colonial in San Francisco although Sapa's housed in a much bigger space and the long bar with a row of low-hanging lampshades is quite striking. And the scene is very happening. I felt a bit frumpy in a full-sleeved shirt and black trousers. A delicate tank top on designer jeans might have been more in order. And two inch heels, of course!

The menu was overly long and seemed very expensive. Being a mojito purist, I was quite annoyed with the "Cosmojito" so I decided to have a simple glass of Sancerre with some mussels in a spicy coconut broth:


For those of you who don't know, mussels are one of the few non-vegetarian things that I indulge in every once in a while. I loved the cilantro, lime and coconut flavours of the broth. I found some cooked pineapple sqaures hidden inside the mussels which was a tangy, soft surprise. And the torn basil leaves added a lovely burst of freshness after every bite. I polished the dish off and even used the bread to scrape every bit of the sauce left behind :)

I may not go back to Sapa for dinner (seems too expensive and no dish on the menu particularly struck my fancy other than the mussels) but I would definitely go there for drinks when friends from out of town visit.

43 West 24th Street
(212) 929-1800

Tuesday, August 09, 2005

Chennai Garden

If you're searching for the best bhel puri in Manhattan, look no further than Chennai Garden. Quite odd that you would find the most lip-smackingly delicious Bombay street snack in a kosher certified South Indian restaurant, but I've got to award Chennai Garden with first prize when it comes to bhel.

I've tried bhel puri at every Indian restaurant in the city that I've eaten at - Tabla Bread Bar, Amma, Devi, Sukhadia's, Madras Mahal, Tamarind Cafe, Pongal to name a few - but none comes even close to the one you can eat at Chennai Garden. The bhel you get here is just the perfect mix of crunchiness, moistness, crispnesss, sweetness and sourness. And consistently so. Maybe they use a special puffed rice. Or organic onions that impart just the right flavour :) Or perhaps the juju is in the tamarind paste. Or maybe it's the cilantro chutney. I can't figure out what makes the bhel so damn special but it sure beats anything I've tasted elsewhere.

My friend, Shivani, swears by the gobi masala. She goes to Chennai Garden at least once a week to eat sambhar (on its own like a soup!), phulkas (puffed chapatis) and gobi masala. I stole a few bites when we went together last week and it was so yummy:

Chennai Garden
129 East 27th Street
(between Park & Lexington)
(212) 689-1999

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Eat me! I so love the name of this new, moderately-priced, Italian restaurant in the Lower East Side. Everything - from the deep red brick walls to the very Italian owner - is quite inviting, to say the least. Mangiami is the perfect spot for an intimate dinner with a close group of friends before heading to Kush or Le Souk for a big night out!

We dined at Mangiami last night and totally loved it. The mojitos were the best I've had thus far in Manhattan, the antipasti platter was just delicious (roasted eggplant, spicy roasted peppers, cheeses, olives, salami, grapes, crackers) and my risotto with truffle mushrooms was unbelievably divine. Some of my friends had the chicken stuffed with spinach and really liked it. The simple penne with tomato and fresh basil and the spaghetti alla carbonara were big hits with our group as well. The owner's passion for the restaurant really comes through when he prepares your drinks and serves your food. Lovely, lovely, lovely. I know I'll be heading to Mangiami everytime I'm in the mood for fresh food made from the finest ingredients.

9 Stanton St
Btwn Bowery & Christie St

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Butter lettuce salad on a hot summer day

Nothing speaks of freshness and summer days like butter lettuce. Okay, maybe a watermelon does but we're in Manhattan not in Mississippi. Melting in your mouth like butter without leaving a guilty feeling, it's the perfect green when you're in the mood for something lighty and airy.

Live Butter Lettuce is available in the grocery stores these days which means that it staysfresh for up to three days when you are ready to use. I made a simple salad with these tender greens, mushrooms and fresh parmesan.

I started by sauteeing a pack of assorted mushrooms in extra virgin olive oil. I threw in some lemon thyme. You should try it if you haven't already - it adds a lovely aroma and subtle citrus flavour. Once the mushrooms were well done, I left them to cool, about twenty minutes. Meanwhile, I took out a chunk of parmesan cheese and cut finger sized strips. And I made a simple dressing using white wine vinegar and extra virgin olive oil. Once the mushrooms were ready, I tossed all the ingredients together and added some coarse sea salt and ground pepper. A nice accompaniment would be lightly toasted baguette slices but I'm trying to watch those carbs again so bread is a no no!

Thursday, August 04, 2005

Homemade Sindhi kokis

I usually buy fresh parathas from Kalustyans or Sinha's on 27th street and freeze them after feasting on a couple. But I recently discovered a recipe for Sindhi Koki (double cooked paratha) which is very easy to make and is just delicious. I love my kokis with mango chunda, a sweet mango pickle made with shreds of green mangoes and sugar. Enjoy!

4 cups wheat flour
2 medium-sized onions, finely chopped
6 green chillies, finely chopped
2 tbsps coriander leaves, finely chopped
2 tbsps ghee to be added to the flour
Sufficient water to make the dough
Salt to taste

Add the finely chopped onions, green chillies and coriander leaves to the flour. Knead a slightly stiff dough with ghee and salt. Make equal portions. Roll out each portion like a thick round chappati. With a knife make a design of diagonal lines criss-crossing each other from one end of the chappati to the other. This is to ensure that the Koki gets cooked well. Rub the tava with a touch of ghee and cook the Koki on a low flame, (adding ghee when turning from one side to the other) till golden.

Monday, August 01, 2005

Antique Garage

Chandeliers are rendered their original meaning in this hip, Turkish restaurant off the beaten track in SoHo/Nolita. I'd almost forgotten that they are not only my favourite style of earrings but also long, ornate lighting fixtures that can magically transform a space, especially at night.

My sister-in-law, who is totally in-the-know of the coolest of the cool places in her neighbourhood, picked Antique Garage for dinner on Saturday night. Our husbands' cousin, D, was leaving town now that his summer internship is over. M and I are so jealous that D is heading to Dubrovnik before he goes back to finish up business school. We want to go to Croatia too! Dubrovnik has become THE place to vacation - it's amazing how many people we know are heading there this year.

Besides the chandelier, Antique Garage is filled with - you guessed it - antiques from all over the city that you can actually purchase. The plush, maroon velvety decor lends a charming elegance to the place and the early 19th century plates on which the food is served adds a vintage touch.The drinks are tres noveau though - we were sipping on raspberry mojitos and kiwi caipirinhas all night long.

The food was excellent - might I add - better than what I ate in Istanbul. The eggplant meze was outstanding - it was char grilled pureed baby eggplant marinated in olive oil and lemon juice. Tzatziki (yogurt spread with fresh dill and garlic) is always a pleaser for me and the one that Antique Garage served up did not disappoint. But the real surprise was the Mediterranean Pasta. I usually don't order pasta at restaurants but since they weren't any other veg entrees on the meny, I had no choice. The penne, which was tossed with tomatoes, green peppers, olives and feta cheese was super fresh and flavourful. It was a nice, light meal on a hot summer evening. The big bonus was listening to live music while we chatted away and warned D about not getting into too much trouble with the Eastern European women!

41 Mercer St
(SoHo/NoHo/Little Italy)
between Grand and Broome Sts.