Wednesday, September 28, 2005

It's a meme again!

"When I walked in, I realized that Le Pain Quotidien was not only a bakery but also a restaurant."

This is the 5th sentence of the 23rd post that I wrote on this blog last September. I'm sure you're wondering why in the world I went digging through my archives to tell you this. It's quite simple - I've been tagged! Another meme is making its way through the blog world and it landed in my email courtesy of my good friend Amy of Cooking with Amy fame.

My 23rd post was about Le Pain Quotidien, a French bakery and restaurant chain in Manhattan. They have a location right next to my office on 19th street between Broadway and Park which I still frequent often for vegan soups and cheese sandwiches. Seeing the fresh bread everyday for over a year has enticed me back to eating bread which I had almost given up when I was on my weight-loss mission a few years back BEFORE I moved to Manhattan. Bread is back in my life thanks to LPQ and so are the pounds. Quel dommage!

I like to make pannini sandwiches with organic bread from LPQ. I love the combination of roasted peppers, fontina cheese (it melts really well), arugula and English mustard in my panini. I use my grill pan but would really love Mario Batali's panini grill and press:

The five blogs I tag are:

The Samantha Files because I really enjoyed meeting Sam at the C&Z get-together but have lost touch since.

Salli Vates' NY Food Page because her archive might spring up something really interesting in Manhattan that I can check out.

life & food because I read Rumy's blog regularly and love keeping in touch with India through her postings.

Margaritas and Miaows because Nisha tagged me for a shoe meme and this is tit for tat (sorry, Nish, I haven't yet done the shoe thing yet!)

Chumma Chumma because my dearest Dad is just so adorable and I still can't get over how much he's taken to blogging!

Sunday, September 25, 2005


I love Paradou in the Meatpacking District. It's a cute little French restaurant that has a tres charmant garden in the back. They serve nice cheese plates, salads, crepes, sandwiches and a few entrees and have a great selection of wine. The outstanding dishes at Paradou are the crepes. I love the mushroom, asparagus pecorino truffle oil crepe as my main dish and the dark chocolate and candied orange crepe for dessert. Delicieux!

8 Little West 12th (at 9th avenue)

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Jamie's Favorite American Chopped Salad

According to Jamie Oliver, the difference between a fantastic chopped salad and a really bad one is the freshness and combination of ingredients. I couldn't agree more. I've made this recipe many times and it never fails to delight. The only down side is that it is a bit time consuming since it requires a lot of chopping. I like to make this salad after a stressful day at work. By the time I'm done with all the chopping, I'm in a relaxed and mellow mood, ready for a glass of red wine.

Serves 6
1 red bell pepper, halved
1 fresh red chilli, halved
1 red onion, peeled
5 or 6 ripe tomatoes
1/2 a cucumber
7 oz feta cheese
2 romain lettuces, or 4 butter lettuces
1 radicchio
2 or 3 handfuls of mixed fresh herbs (parsley, basil, chives, mint)
2 teaspoons English mustard
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
8 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Wash all your salad ingredients and drain, then get a large chopping board and either a mezzaluna or a chef's knife and get ready to chop! It is important to chop the onion and chilli finely and to dice the tomatoes, pepper and cucumber and feta into 1/2 inch piece, as this will help to bind with the dressing when you come to mix it in. With the lettuce, radicchio and herbs, just make sure you chop them all into 1/2 inch strips.

Make a well in the center of the ingredients. Add the mustard and stir it in with a teaspoon while you add the vinegar and oil. Keep tasting to balance the flavors. Season well, then add a tiny bit more seasoning before bringing all the salad into the center of the board. Mix it up and serve.

Cafe Medina

It's not quite fall as yet in Manhattan but I'm already in a mood for soup at lunch just about every other day. A colleague introduced me to Cafe Medina located on 17th street between 5th and Broadway, just off Union Square.

What is unique about Cafe Media and that distinguishes them from other neighbourhood cafes is their soup selection. They make amazingly flavourful soups using seasonal ingredients. Yesterday, I got the pumpkin corn bisque for lunch. The soup had a delicious sweet and spicy flavour combo and a great texture. The others I passed on were butternut squash, tuscan tomato bread soup and celery pear. And of course, all the non veggies ones. If you're ever in the Union Square area, you've got to stop at Cafe Medina for lunch.

Monday, September 19, 2005

Pita as pizza base

Whole wheat pita pockets make a great pizza base. I whipped up a gourmet pita pizza on Saturday afternoon that H totally loved. I lightly brushed some pita pockets with some olive oil and stuck the tray in a 350F oven for about ten minutes until the pita bread was nice and crisp. In the meanwhile, I took out the homemade pesto and slow roasted tomatoes I had prepared last weekend while I was hanging out in the kitchen. I also found a jar of pepperonata that I had made several weeks back. Once the pita bread was cool enough to handle, I spread some pesto on each baked pita, placed a slow roasted tomato and then sprinkled some pepperonata and finally drizzled a lit bit of extra nice extra virgin olive oil. Voila, an easy meal bursting with the flavours of basil, roasted tomatoes and peppers was ready to eat.

You can use all your creatvity with different ingredients to create yummy pita pizzas. I think fig and blue cheese pizza will taste great. Or fontina cheese and wild mushroom pizza. Or you can always stick with a simple tomato, bazil, mozzarella combo which is sure to be simply delicious.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

Vosges - Haut Chocolate

I discovered an exotic brand of chocolate today at Whole Foods called Vosges. I was tempted by the intriguing name and engaging graphics on the cover of the chocolate bar. Black Pearl promised a sensous dark chocolate experience with hints of ginger, wasabi and sesame seeds. I didn't taste it right away but waited for the right moment which promptly presented itself after a late afternoon snooze. Somehow, I always crave a sweet hit when I wake up from a nap on weekends. And Vosges hit my sweetspot perfeectly - from the first bite itself, I was sold. I'm not great with tasting notes so I will leave it to your imagination except to say that plain dark chocolate will never suffice once you've tried Vosges. Next up, I'm going to treat myself to the Oaxaca bar which has Oaxacan guajillo y pasilla chillies and Tanzanie bittersweet chocolate.

Saturday, September 17, 2005

Sweet and Sour Sensation

I went to Zen Palate for lunch yesterday. This vegetarian's oasis is located at the heart of bustling Union Square but the atmosphere can be quite zen-like, especially if you sit upstairs. The food is new age Asian and wonderfully varied - from spring rolls and steamed vegetable buns to soy crepes and potato croquettes. I'm not used to having so much choice at restaurants so it's really hard to decide what to eat.

I've been to Zen Palate five times. My favourite dish thus far is the Sweet and Sour Sensation. Battered soy protein balls in a sweet and sour sauce are served on a bed of steamed broccoli with a few taro spring rolls plus brown and red rice. I love the different textures and flavours of this dish so much that it has found its way to my cravings hit list which includes the Watsonville burrito from Uncle Moe's, the chocolate milkshake from Shake Shack, the spicy lemon and coriander soup from Chinese Mirch, the guacamole at Dos Caminos and the queso fundido at Mesa Grill, to name a few.

Thursday, September 15, 2005

Holy Basil

I just can't get enough of basil these days. I buy fresh basil every time I go to the grocery store. I use this favourite herb every opportunity I get - in pasta sauces, thai curries, salads and pestos to name a few. Recently I discovered that a restaurant called Holy Basil which is one of the most popular Thai restaurants in Manhattan.

Holy Basil is located in the Lower East Side on 2nd Avenue between 9th and 10th street. You walk up a flight of stairs to reach the restaurant on the second floor of an apartment building. The high ceilings, dark wood furniture, velvet upholstery and dim lighting make you feel like you are in library instead of a restaurant. The chandeliers and stained glass add a romantic touch to the ambience. We ate at the bar which is at the front of the restaurant.

I was quite impressed with the taste of the Thai food at Holy Basil though Patpong is still my favourite. We ate vegetable spring rolls, a Thai salad with peanut sauce, yellow curry with vegetables and deep fried tofu. I'd never tried deep fried tofu before and was expecting something dripping in oil. To my delight, the tofu chunks were moist on the inside and deliciously crisp on the outside and came with a yummy sweet and spicy dipping sauce.

Oh, and did I mention that the meal was quite reasonably priced? Overall, fabulous value for money. The Lower East Side is really the place for great food finds.

Holy Basil
149 2nd Ave
Between 9th Street and 10th Street
(212) 460-5557

Sunday, September 11, 2005

Slow roasting tomatoes (encore)

It was about this time last year that I learnt to slow roast tomatoes. Sometimes I love spending all day Saturday or Sunday cooking and the slow roasting tomatoes in the oven which takes over 4 hours gives me a great excuse to hang around the kitchen, browse through my cookbooks and find interesting things to make.

This year, I used 6 heirloom tomatoes that I bought from Whole Foods. I cut the tomatoes from the equator and laid down the halves on a large baking tray.
I drizzled a little bit of balsamic vinegar on each half as well as some sea salt, freshly ground pepper and some fresh basil. They looked so delicious that I was super tempted to forget about roasting and enjoy the fresh and juicy tomatoes as is:

I then should have poured half a cup of extra virgin olive oil all over the tomatoes and stuck them in a pre-heated 350 degree fahrenheit oven and left them alone for about four hours at which point they become amazingly packed with flavour:

While writing this post I realized that I forgot to add the olive oil which is why the tomatoes in the photo look somewhat dry. They were as tasty though so I inadvertently cut out some calories without losing taste. These cooked tomatoes can be used in many creative ways. I like them as antipasti or between toasted bread with some pesto.

Saturday, September 10, 2005

Tennis in the Lower East Side

Today is such a gorgeous day. I was lucky to enjoy the beautiful day from as early as 7:30 am as I played tennis at the courts located by the East River at Delancey and Houston. Sangeet invited me to play with his friend Carol who secured the passes for all of us as she is a regular player.

My first time playing tennis in Manhatan was a total disaster. Not having picked up the racquet in over a year and a half, I was shocked to discover that my somewhat decent game has completely fallen apart. I couldn't hit a forehand at all and I was just about getting my backhand in. Needless to say, I was totally embarassed. I need to go hit a whole lot of balls before I sum up the courage to play with someone again.Shriraj (my regular tennis partner in California) and my Dad will be sad to read this.

The best part of the morning was being introduced to Carol, a fellow foodie, and getting dropped back home in her bright yellow Mini Cooper Convertible. Zipping around Manhattan in a convertible on a fabulous day quickly erased my memory of tennis. Thanks, Carol!

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

Fried eggs over a salad

I was trying to make us a light lunch yesterday but I didn't want it to be so light that we would be hungry in a few hours. That's when I had the idea of frying eggs and tossing them on a bed of greens and some veggies. I'm always amazed how just a little protein goes a long way in keeping hunger at bay.

I made a salad from arugula, wild assorted mushrooms sauteed in a little bit of olive oil and cherry tomatoes. I dressed the salad with some red wine vinegar, extra virgin olive oil, seat salt and coarsely crushed black pepper. Then I fried the eggs in a non-stick sautee pan with a little butter before gently placing them on the salad.

You can jazz up any simple green salad with eggs. I grew up thinking that eggs were meant to be consumed at breakfast only but six months in France quickly taught me that eggs can be enjoyed at literally any time of the day.

Some other things I like to do with eggs are:

* Poached eggs in a spicy tomato sauce
* Akuri
* Egg sandwich on wheat bread with gently crushed soft boiled eggs, mustard and small celery chunks
* Fried eggs on a toasted English muffin and a slice of Jarlsberg
* Egg curry
* Frittata

Monday, September 05, 2005

Sania at the US Open '05

I feel so lucky that I got to see Sania Mirza play at the US Open. We weren't planning on going at all but H managed to get two tickets for Sunday at the last minute so we showed up and were incredibly fortunate to have watched some of the best tennis in the world.

We took the 7 train from Grand Central to Flushing Meadows. It took about half an hour. The subway was not as packed as I had anticipated but you could clearly tell the tennis fans from the locals. Once we got to Flushing, we breezed passed the lines and got straight to the President's Gate which is the VIP entrance to the stadium. We lucked out in getting incredible seats in a law firm's suite on the mezzanine level. One of the GS partners that H works with has all sorts of connections through which he got two tickets for us. So generous of him to treat us to a day of fabulous tennis, lots of champagne and fine food! Now of course, H is more of a slave to GS than ever.

The first match was the best of the day in which Hewitt beat Dent in a thrilling five sets. I was rooting for Hewitt just to go against the crowd and was duly rewarded. Dent lost so many opportunities to seize the match but played an incredibly sharp game against a never-say-die Hewitt.

The second match was an emotional one for us as Sania Mirza, Indian's rapidly rising tennis star, was pitted against Maria Sharapova, seeded number one. Deep down I probably knew that Sania did not stand a chance but I cheered enthusiastically after every single shot she won. There were pockets of Indian fans scattered throughout the stadium who chanted "S-a-n-i-a, S-a-n-i-a" and clapped at regular intervals. I was most impressed by Sania's fierce backhand and crosscourt shots but her serve has a long way to go. She converted only 22% of second serves so pretty much every time she faulted, my stomach churned as I knew she would lose the point. Sania lost but India won. It's so incredible to have an Indian woman athlete on the center stage of one the greatest sportings events in the world.
I have no doubt that will all the international coaching she is getting now, she will soon be an incredible force to reckon with.

The third match was Serena versus Venus Williams:

Their first set lasted as long as the entire Sania versus Sharapova match. Both sisters were in top form but Venus just seemed more determined to win and she did.

Many family members and friends cheered them on including their mom:

Serena's dog Jackie sat on her friend's lap and watched the entire game:

But I guess Jackie's suport and cheerleading wasn't enough to overcome big sis's comeback to the game. I think Venus is going to be champ next Saturday.

Saturday, September 03, 2005

Brown rice sushi rolls

I love vegetarian sushi rolls but white rice is such a no-no when trying not to pack on the pounds so I had given up sushi entirely. And then Shivani told me all about brown rice sushi and suggested that I try the veggie rolls at Whole Foods. Now I'm totally hooked and have it for lunch as often as possible. I love the nutty texture of the rice and it pairs exceptionally well with both crunchy vegetables like carrot and cucumber and the mushy ones like avocado. As far as I am aware, Whole Foods (Union Square) is the only place south of Chelsea where you can get brown rice sushi rolls.