Right in Your Own Backyard

Living in New York City, the closest most of us come to growing our own food is a box on our fire escape with some basil or tomatoes. However, if you’re like me and you’re luckier than a leprechaun riding a unicorn through a field of four leaf clovers, you have a neighbor and friend who has a fig tree AND a peach tree in her backyard. It’s like Eden over there.

On the menu:
Grilled chicken over corn puree with fig relish
Serves 2

Fig Relish:

1 cup fresh figs*, chopped into 1/2 inch cubes
1 shallot, minced
1 Tbsp Balsamic vinegar
1/4 tsp rosemary, finely chopped
2 tsp honey
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine vinegar, shallot, and rosemary in a small bowl and let sit for 10 minutes. Add figs and honey to vinegar mixture, fold in, set aside.

Corn puree:

1/2 cup corn (thawed frozen corn works, but nothing beats fresh summer corn cut off of the cob)
1 Tbsp butter
1 clove garlic, thinly sliced
1/2 cup heavy cream

Melt butter in a small sauce pan over medium heat, add garlic and sautee until garlic is browned. Add corn and sautee for 4-5 minutes. Add heavy cream and increase heat. Stir and cook until the liquid has reduced and the cream coats the corn. Let this mixture cool, and then blend until smooth in a food processor.

Pound 2 chicken breasts flat, season with salt and pepper, and then grill, either on an actual grill or in a frying pan for 6-7 minutes on either side. To plate, pour the corn puree onto a plate, place chicken breast on the corn, and top with the fig relish.

*Note: it is not quite fig season yet (usually end of summer, early fall) but dates would also work in this dish, or red plums. You could use dried figs but you’ll get a very different texture and flavor. Still delicious but… different.

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Melty, Cheesy Goodness: Summer Style

If you read this blog on the regular, you have probably gathered by now that I like cheese. And if you’re especially perceptive, you know that I like melted cheese. It’s like a hidden message I have buried deep within the posts. Subtlety is my forte.

On the menu:
Summer squash and potato with goat cheese gratin
Serves 3 as a side, 2 as a meal

1 medium sized green squash (or yellow)
1 small red onion, thinly sliced
2 medium sized red potatoes
4 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup skim milk
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste

Slice the potatoes and squash VERY thinly, about an 1/8 of an inch thick or thinner if you can manage. [NOTE: if you have a mandolin, use it. If not, a very sharp chef’s knife will work] Toss the potatoes, squash, and onions with the olive oil. Season with a bit of salt and pepper. Layer 1/3 of the potatoes, squash, and onions in a large baking dish. Season again with a bit of salt and pepper, and crumble goat cheese over the whole layer. Repeat the “Layer, season, crumble” 2 more times until you’ve used up all the potatoes, squash, and onions. Sprinkle the grated parmesan over the top of the dish. Bake for 30 minutes with the dish covered, and another 15 minutes uncovered until the cheese is browned. Serve. Eat. Pat belly. Smile.

*Note: this recipe was adapted from this recipe at The Kitchn. Their picture is GORGEOUS. It’s worth a click.

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Steamy Summer Savior

photo c/o New York Times

Happy Monday, friends! If you live in New York, you know it was quite a scorcher this weekend. If you live in South Carolina, you have probably melted into a puddle by now. Needless to say, using an oven on the east coast was not anyone’s first choice this weekend. I planned to bake biscuits today but the mere thought of turning my oven to 500 degrees made me sweat. Hopefully tomorrow I’ll have a beautiful post with pictures about the BEST BISCUITS IN THE WORLD (seriously… trust me…) but today I give you this.

101 Simple Salads for the Summer

Whenever I am at a loss, wondering what to make for dinner that doesn’t require a lot of ingredients, extensive kitchen time (i.e. the hottest room in the apartment), or turning on my oven, I click that link right there. Mark Bittman of the New York Times wrote this piece for The Minimalist last year and I’ve sworn by it ever since.

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One Meal Becomes Another

I’m not gonna lie to you, folks. Sometimes I make dishes that suck. I’m still not incredibly skilled in seasoning, unless it’s a no-brainer like lemon and rosemary, or tomato and basil. So when I threw together the contents of my fridge in the form of pasta, cherry tomatoes, cooked spinach, and olive oil with a little salt and pepper, it was… bland. Real bland. And when I eyed the leftovers the following day, I wondered what to do. And then it hit me: frittata.

Seriously, mixing leftovers with eggs and cheese and baking it in the oven is the answer to all my leftovers. Random veg in the crisper? Eggs, cheese, bake. Bland pasta? Eggs, cheese, bake. Half a roasted chicken breast and some fried potatoes? Eggs, cheese, bake. Chocolate cupcakes with raspberry frosting? Eggs, cheese, bake. SIKE. Who has leftover cupcakes?

On the menu:
Macaroni frittata with tomatoes, spinach, and parmesan

What you’ll need:
Leftovers – really, anything that is already cooked or can be eaten raw (i.e. fruits and veg) will work in this dish. Don’t be throwing raw chicken in there.
Cheese – I used parmesan because to me, tomatoes and spinach says “salty Italian” but maybe you have some cheddar, some swiss, a little block of goat cheese. Throw it in.
Veg – as I mentioned, I had cherry tomatoes and cooked spinach already in the failed pasta dish so I just mixed it in with eggs and a little milk, but maybe you have a chunk of red onion or some slices of yellow pepper, a handful of raw broccoli or half a zucchini. Whatever you need to get rid of.

I also added a little oregano to my concoction, poured it in a skillet, baked it all up for 20 minutes in a 350 degree oven, and had a deeeelicious dinner. Try it. You’ll like it!

[In other news, this dish is PERFECT and so easy for a brunch: cut it pie-style into slices and serve with mimosas, donut muffins, and a fruit salad]

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Let the Games Begin, Ja!

Unless you’ve been living under a rock, you know that the World Cup kicked off this past weekend. While I cheered for the USA because, well… I am an American, I don’t feel a strict allegiance to any team. I find myself pulling for the underdog in every match, despite my heritage, and therefore could NOT root for Germany on Sunday when they played Australia. They’re so mean! And the Aussie team is nicknamed The Socceroos. Can you stand the adorableness?

Despite my disdain for the German team, I am 25% German and therefore showed a tiny bit of support by spending 25% of my Saturday eating German food and drinking a ridiculous amount of Spaten Oktoberfest. Don’t worry, it was ALMOST noon.

The colors got weirdly wonky in this picture, but many, many thanks to Ben for capturing them at all, since I am a terrible blogger and forgot my camera

Heidelberg Restaurant 1648 Second Avenue, between 85th St and 86th St, New York, NY. This place has been around since 1964, in a neighborhood called Yorkville that used to be predominantly German. The food is traditional German fare, and the beer is served in pints, half liters, liters, or 2 liter boots. That’s right. Two. Liter. Boots. And you thought the boot was a mythical figment of Beer Fest‘s imagination. The decor is pure kitsch (the waitstaff wears lederhosen and dirndl…) but so enjoyable.

On the menu:
Potato pancakes
Bratwurst with sauerkraut and potato salad
Sauerbraten with red cabbage (not pictured)

Potato Pancakes

Verdict: Jawhol! As a small aside, I dubbed this the year I will learn to love the foods I have typically shunned. On that list: sausage. I ordered a bratwurst because I felt like ordering potato pancakes was too safe, and I wanted to try a differently prepared type of sausage. Holy, holy mackerel, am I glad I did. This brat was lightly fried and spectacular; like a deep fried hot dog, with tangy sauerkraut and cool potato salad to smooth it all out. I did taste a dining partner’s potato pancake and it was SUBLIME. Crispy on the outside, tender on the inside, and the size of my face. Did I mention I like pancakes? The sauerbraten was perfectly cooked and unbelievably tender, and I can not wait to go back to Heidelberg and order it for myself.

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I Remember That!

Today I stumbled upon an unbelievable website, and therefore am reduced to posting some incredibly indulgent food-related items. BEHOLD my youth! i.e. a bunch of stuff my mom would never let me have but I snuck at friends’ houses. Sorry, mom.

The minute I saw these ice pops the memories just came flooding back…

ECTO COOLER!!! I was absolutely never allowed to drink this. But I admired from afar.

I nearly yelped aloud in my cubicle when I saw these gummies. I vividly remember the faux-cola taste. Yummm.

And… okay, this is not food. But it was a DOLL that smelled and looked like a cupcake. I’m pretty sure I did not own one, but I remember a friend of mine had one and I probably got a kiddie-high from inhaling the plastic fumes. So magical.

All the other kids at summer camp had Squeeze It and I had a Thermos of milk. THANKS AGAIN MOM.

Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane. I blatantly stole these images from I’m Remembering! The site has a ton of other stuff you didn’t know you missed, including Skip It, Starter jackets, Scratch N Sniff stickers, and Super Soakers. Kids today don’t know what they’re missing out on.

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The Sweetest Thing

I’ve heard a lot of diet tricks. Drinking a cup of tea staves off hunger. Chewing a piece of gum can satisfy a post-meal sweets craving (seriously, Biggest Loser?? Gum?). An apple, full of fiber, makes you feel fuller.

I think these tricks are crap. When I want a piece of coconut cake, no stick of gum is going to make me think, “Man, now THAT was a meal-capper!” And when I think these tricks will work and I don’t bring a little sweet treat with me to work for after lunch, I end up at the vending machine gorging on Twix and getting evil glares from my boss, who undoubtedly thinks I am some kind of sugar addict. So I thought, there must be some sort of less-sweet dessert recipe out there that will satisfy my sweets craving and also not have 1,000 calories per bite.

On the menu:
Dark chocolate brownies (Adapted from Ellie Krieger’s Dark Chocolate Brownies)
Disclaimer: these are not your typical Duncan Hines fudgy, oily brownies. If you’re looking for a square of decadence, this is not it. But these are chocolatey, they are cakey, and one little square is enough to make me feel contented and sufficiently sleepy at 3PM. And that’s all I’m asking for.

8 oz. bittersweet chocolate
2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 eggs
1 cup brown sugar
1 Tbsp canola oil
6 oz. plain yogurt (one small container)
1/2 cup unsweetened apple sauce
2 tsp vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Melt butter and chocolate in a double boiler, or in a glass bowl over a pot of simmering water, stirring occasionally.

In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa, salt, and baking powder. In another separate bowl, whisk together eggs and sugar. Add yogurt, applesauce, vanilla, and oil to eggs and sugar. Add the melted chocolate mixture to the other liquid mix. Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix until the batter is completely moistened.

Grease a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour batter into baking dish and bake for 20-25 minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.
*I had to use a slightly smaller baking dish, and ended up baking these for 45 minutes, so do keep an eye on them. If you bake them for too long they will be dry and inedible. Gross.

As I said, these are not your Betty Crocker standbys; but they are sweet and cakey and only my thunder thighs will know the difference.

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