15 July 2012

Chocolate-Dipped Strawberries and Clementines

 Chocolate-dipped strawberries and clementines:

1) buy strawberries and clementines; wash and pat dry.
2) dip in chocolate. (i like nestle semisweet).
3) refrigerate until chocolate hardens.
4) eat the entire bunch. and don't feel even a little guilty.

Easy. Delicious. Perfect for summer. Just thought I'd share...


09 July 2012

easy guacamole

My 16 year old cousin Jonah got into town a few days ago. He lives in Xiamen, China, and I haven't seen him in five or six years. I wanted to spend a little time with him without the rest of the family (read: parents, grandparents, etc), so my roommate and I invited him, along with my brother and his girlfriend, over for dinner. I always like to put out something to snack on before dinner, to make the night a little more festive. Guac is incredibly easy, everyone likes it, and it takes no actual cooking (particularly important after two weeks straight of 90+ weather). I've messed around with lots of recipes, but always come back to the basics: avocado, garlic, red onion, and lime juice. You can toss in grilled corn and black beans, loads of tomatoes, even pineapple and mango, but I think it takes away from the flavor of the avocado, which, particularly this time of year, is so not something you want to hide. But go ahead and play with it: this recipe is fabulous on its own, but also a great base for other ideas.

3 ripe avocados
3 tbsp diced red onion
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 tbsp lime juice
1-2 tbsp diced tomato

Scoop out avocado and mash with a fork
Add in onion, garlic and lime juice, and combine
Top with diced tomato

*thanks to the lime juice, this will keep for a few days in the fridge without turning brown

07 July 2012

jacques torres' chocolate chip cookies

Another chocolate chip cookie recipe? Really?

But trust me. These are AMAZING. I could throw out a million adjectives to describe them, but I think the pictures will do a far better job than my words ever could in conveying their deliciousness (besides, the chances that the leftover cookie dough will survive until tonight sink exponentially lower the longer I continue to talk about them).

If you're concerned about the bread and pastry flours, you can substitute all purpose flour (though, in my experience, the cookies come out a little bit tougher this way). I'd definitely recommend using a high-quality bittersweet or semisweet chocolate bar - I think coarsely chopped chunks of chocolate (as compared to chips) make a huge difference here.



14 tbsp unsalted butter
¾ cup granulated sugar
1 cup light brown sugar
2 eggs
1 ½ cups pastry flour
(OR 1 cup cake + ½ cup all purpose)
1 ½ cups bread flour
½ tbsp. salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
½ tbsp. vanilla
1 lb bitter/semisweet chocolate, chopped


 Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and line baking sheets with parchment paper/silpat
Mix butter and sugars until creamy
Add eggs, one at a time, and mix well
Add flours, salt, baking powder, baking soda and vanilla. Stir just till combined.
Stir in chocolate.
Chill for at least an hour (best if longer - up to 48 hrs)
Bake until lightly browned but still puffy and soft, about 15 minutes 
2 - 3 dozen cookies

*to switch it up:
 I made a few with ghiradelli's milk chocolate with toasted coconut instead of the bittersweet chocolate. SO GOOD.

29 May 2012

Lemon Poppy Seed Shortbread Squares

It must have something to do with this summery weather we've been having, but lately I've been craving anything and everything lemon. I've been going through vitamin water lemonades at a ridiculous pace, and squeezing lemon onto everything from fruit to water to cream cheese. Unsurprisingly, when I was trying to come up with something to bake for my mom to celebrate her last day of work this spring, I immediately thought of this lemon poppy seed shortbread recipe I'd come across a few days earlier. Particularly when it's hot out, lemony desserts are always so appealing to me. The acidity of the lemon adds a lightness and a freshness that makes it much easier to ignore the loads of butter and sugar that probably aren't so good for that pre-summer bikini-body diet...

That said, I cut down on both the butter and sugar called for in the original recipe, and (after a few trials) these came out exactly as I wanted: perfect little lemony squares, browned on the bottom but soft and buttery inside. I think it's important to use fresh lemon zest if you want that bright acidity - one medium-sized lemon should be more than enough for both the zest and the juice called for here. And though the original recipe didn't include it, I dipped a few in white chocolate - couldn't hurt, right? - and next time, would probably dip even more. The creaminess and sweetness of the chocolate is a wonderful contrast to the sharpness of the lemon. These cookies made a fantastic gift (aren't they adorable??), and the recipe has been officially glued into my recipe book. A new favorite!

14 tbsp butter, softened
1/2 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp sugar
2 cups flour
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 tbsp fresh lemon zest
4 tsp fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp poppy seeds

Cream the butter and sugar with a mixer until smooth.
Add in the vanilla, lemon juice and zest, and beat until combined.
Add in the flour, salt and poppyseeds. Stir until just combined.
Press dough into a ball, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate at least an hour, or overnight.
Preheat the oven to 350
Roll out the dough between two sheets of wax paper. It will be crumbly at first,
but once it warms up a little should be easy to work with.
Place the flattened dough on a baking sheet and stick in the fridge for 10-15 minutes to firm up.
Remove, and - using a knife or cookie cutter - cut the dough into squares.
Arrange on a baking sheet (I use a silpat, though parchment paper would work too)
Bake 10 - 12 minutes. Watch carefully, the bottoms brown quickly!

20-30 cookies

23 May 2012


It didn't surprise me when I learned, just before paying the check, that sapori had opened less than a month ago. Our waiter forgot, twice, to bring us our bread, left the chicken off of my chicken caesar salad, then spent a good five minutes leaning over our table, attempting to peel open the parchment paper that was wrapped (apparently very tightly) around my dad's branzino in order to sprinkle a little bit of pink sea salt on top of the fish.

Luckily, the fish was delicious - steamed to perfection with olives and artichokes - and the salad was exactly what I wanted - tossed with shaved parmesan and topped (eventually) with thinly-sliced and juicy grilled chicken. The side of sauteed broccoli rabe was also fantastic and, like everything else we tried, very european in its freshness and simplicity. And though I didn't taste them, word is that the thin-crust pizzas are the best in the area.

But what really made the night memorable (and why I will absolutely return) were the waiters. Incredibly kind and warm, laughing off their mistakes, joking with my dad as though they were old friends - I felt, by the end of the night, as though I'd been invited into a wonderful, if slightly dysfunctional, italian family. The space only added to that feeling. The front part of the restaurant is incredibly cozy, with exposed brick walls, rustic wooden tables and a wood burning pizza oven visible from just about every seat. The back opens out into a quiet, open-air patio, surrounded by tall yellow walls. It's decorated very simply - metallic patio furniture, a few blazing lights, some plants in the corners - and left me feeling as though I'd been transported from the heart of manhattan to a quiet corner in florence.

There are nights when it's fun to get dressed up and fight for a seat at one of manhattan's thousands of crowded, trendy restaurants. But for nights like last night - still and humid, after a long day at work, sweaty from running errands and dressed in leggings and a tank top - places like sapori are perfect. And, particularly in the murray hill area, not always that easy to find.

*For the next two weeks or so, before they get their liquor license, sapori is BYOB. Take advantage!

153 E 33rd St (b/w 3rd and Lex)
  caesar salad with grilled chicken
  branzino in parchment paper

21 May 2012

Cinnamon Granola with Cherries, Almonds and Coconut

Over the course of the last few weeks, in the midst of attempting to decide where I wanted to go to medical school, I stayed over at my grandparent's apartment in philadelphia a number of times. The last of these visits occurred less than a week before I had to make my choice. I'd decided, entirely last-minute (and not entirely calmly) that I needed to go back (again) to the two schools that I still couldn't choose between, one of which happens to be in philly. I was a total mess - to put it nicely - but my grandparents blew up the air mattress (again), made the bed (again), and stocked the fridge (again). They also patiently listened to me (again) - rambling, laughing, crying - as I tried to sort out everything in my head.

I've since made the decision - I hope you'll all be happy to hear that I'll be staying in new york! - and calmed down rather dramatically - enough to realize that I owed my grandparents a pretty big thank you. My grandmother was easy (nothing in the world makes her quite as happy as a vanilla cupcake from crumbs bakery), but my grandfather was a little tougher. He and I share a slightly obsessive love of cereal so, flipping through my recipe book, I decided I'd make him a batch of my favorite granola. The recipe comes from an Ina Garten cookbook. It's incredibly easy and incredibly delicious - on its own, tossed with fresh berries, sprinkled on a little yogurt or vanilla ice cream. It's also a fantastic gift. Most importantly, my grandfather gives it five stars. What more do you need?
2 cups old fashioned oats
1 cup sweetened, shredded coconut
1 cup sliced almonds
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees, and line a rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil
Combine oats, coconut, almonds and cherries in a large bowl
Pour oil and honey over mixture, and toss with a big spoon until coated
Sprinkle with cinnamon, and stir to combine
Spread out mixture on prepared baking sheet and bake 20 - 25 minutes, or until golden brown, stirring every 5 minutes
Let cool, stirring occasionally. Store in an air-tight container. 

17 May 2012

bar masa

If you dream about spicy tuna rolls and yellowtail tartare but find the idea of spending $400/head on sushi the teensiest bit appalling, take a few steps further on the forth floor of the time warner center and you'll find yourself at the entrance to bar masa, masa's smaller and (comparatively) economical off-shoot. The space is narrow, with a long bar and equally long line of tables running parallel to each other, beautifully and effectively separated by a thin curtain.  The soft lighting and neutral colors give the room an almost spa-like feel, and contribute to the casual, surprisingly unpretentious atmosphere.
Onto the best part: the food. We started with the hirame and spicy cucumber vinaigrette - thinly sliced and incredibly delicate pieces of hirame on top of cucumber. Deliciously light and fresh, though quick word of warning: don't order this if you don't like cilantro. Then came the sizzling hibachi-grilled spicy octopus (possibly the best thing we had all night - see picture) and the eggplant glazed in yuzu miso (also possibly the best thing we had all night). I would go back for these two dishes alone. The bowl of hijiki and root vegetables was also fantastic - the vegetables were chopped into tiny matchsticks and tossed with impossibly thin, translucent noodles - as were the shrimp and vegetable tempura udon and the black cod with daikon (see picture below) - incredibly tender cod sitting in a subtly sweet broth that was so good we ordered extra bowls of rice to soak up every last bit.

Now. Although the food is amazing, it would be considered absurdly expensive just about anywhere else in the world. My advice? Think about how much you're saving ($28 scallop ceviche is still not $400 scallop ceviche), and enjoy. Or else try to convince a rich relative to take you.

10 Columbus Circle, 4th Floor, Time Warner Center
  hirame with spicy cucumber vinaigrette
  sizzling spicy octopus
  nasu eggplant with yuzu miso
  hijiki and root vegetables
  black cod with daikon
  shrimp and vegetable tempura udon