Tag Archives: Dinner

Lucky Gnocchi Day

The remnants of a pesto/ham and tomato/marinara bowl of love

One of my favorite New York Deals comes in the form of pasta. All you can eat pasta, to be exact. On the 29th of every month, Piola in the East Village offers an all-you-can-eat special in which they walk around serving from giant bowls of their handmade gnocchi with different sauces that include traditional marinara, chicken and broccoli alfredo, four cheese, pesto, and a magical ham-tomato red sauce that I believe also includes unicorn tears and fairy dust. Yes, it’s that good.

Tell the waiter you want the gnocchi special and let the games begin. If you want more pasta, you leave your little card on green. If your pants are about to split, maybe consider turning the card over to red and the pasta man will stay away from your table. I know gnocchi seems like a heavy dish to offer endless bowls of, but there is a little story behind this. From Piola’s website:

“The story begins with a missionary arriving in a small village in Italy on the 29th of an unknown month. He arrived upon a very poor house asking for food. He was welcomed to their house and was offered the only thing they had on the table, ‘Gnocchi’. The missionary was very thankful for their warm reception and wonderful food. Soon after the missionary left the house, the poor family found some gold coins right under their Gnocchi plate… 
Since then the ‘Lucky Gnocchi Legend’ has gained recognition all over the world. Families gather together every 29th of the month and enjoy Gnocchi in order to have luck and prosperity in their lives. PIOLA has adopted this beautiful legend, ‘Lucky Gnocchi Day’.”

Piola also offers a plethora of other deals, and the food is incredible. Let me tell you, dear readers, February is a sad, sad month.

Unless it’s a Leap Year. Then we’re cool.

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Meat and Potatoes: 2.0

Some things are better with mustard: ham and swiss, a ballpark hot dog, your sworn enemy’s favorite white silk blouse… Kidding. Promise.

When I stumbled across this recipe, I was smitten. As I mentioned, I’m a texture girl myself and this recipe is FULL of amazing textures. I complemented the steak with a simple warm potato salad, and there were clean plates all around. Warmed my little Food E. heart.

On the menu:
Mustard Crusted Beef Shoulder over arugula, green bean, red onion salad (Adapted from Epicurious.com)
Warm potato salad
Serves 4

Mustard Crusted Beef:

Beef:

1 1/2 lb beef shoulder
1 Tbsp salt
1/3 cup coarse-grain mustard
1 tsp dry mustard
1 1/2 Tbsp packed dark brown sugar
1 tsp coarsely ground black pepper
1 tsp finely grated fresh lemon zest
1 tablespoon vegetable oil

Salad:

4 cups roughly chopped arugula
1 small red onion, sliced very thinly
3/4 lb green beans, cut into bite-sized pieces

Dressing:

2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp lemon juice
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp fresh ground pepper

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 425°F.

Stir together mustards, brown sugar, pepper, and lemon zest.

Pat beef dry and season generously on both sides with salt. Heat oil in a heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown beef for around 2 minutes on each side.

Transfer to a shallow baking pan that has been coated in oil. Pour mustard mixture over the top of the meat so it is completely covered.

Roast beef in the oven for 30-35 minutes for medium-rare (NOTE: my cut of beef was about 1 1/2 inches thick; if yours is any thicker or thinner add or subtract a few minutes accordingly). Remove from oven and let sit for 45 minutes. (Why, you ask? See here).

Prepare salad while beef is roasting:

Place onion slices in a bowl and cover with cold water. Allow to soak for 30 minutes. Cook beans in boiling salted water until bright green and slightly tender, about 5 minutes. Drain beans in a colander and rinse under cold water to stop cooking, then transfer to a large bowl. Add arugula to beans. Drain onion slices and pat dry.

Make dressing and toss salad:

Whisk together vinegar, lemon juice, mustard, and salt and pepper to taste. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until completely incorporated, about 3 minutes.

Cut beef into thin slices, cutting against the grain of the meat at a 45 degree angle. Plate salad in layers: arugula, green beans, red onion slices, a Tbsp or so of dressing, and then beef slices.

Warm potato salad:

16-20 small red potatoes
1 Tbsp fresh dill, chopped
1/4 cup mayonnaise
2 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

Boil potatoes for around 20 minutes, until you can stick a fork in and it pulls out easily. Drain water from potatoes and let cool for 10 minutes. Cut potatoes in half and toss with mayo, dill, and salt and pepper. Serve warm alongside steak.

The brilliance of this meal is in the leftovers. You can slice up whatever beef is leftover, wrap it in foil, and stick it in the fridge. Separately wrap up the salad remainders, the potato salad, and the dressing and serve it all cold the following day. The flavor of the mustard will only marinate in the beef even more and that, my friends, is a good thing.

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Why Don’t You…

Dear friends,

This weekend I’m taking off and I’m leaving my computer behind. I’ll be back on Tuesday with brilliant posts about Garbage Plates and sweet cheese Belgian waffles (you can hardly stand the wait, right?) but in the meantime I leave you with this list of things that I would be doing if I was staying in town this weekend. So…

Why Don’t You…

Get your drink on all sneaky-like at a speakeasy like Dutch Kills (27-24 Jackson Avenue, Long Island City) or Please Don’t Tell (113 St. Marks Place).
Or, opening this weekend and offering free hot dogs (I said FREE HOT DOGS! Go people, go!) in the old East Side Company Bar space on the Lower East Side, Painkiller. 49 Essex Street at Grand Street

Take a culinary vacation from impending rain, use whatcha got, and pretend you’re in Australia while you eat Fairy Bread in bed whilst watching Young Einstein.

Feed your sweetheart little dollops of heaven via chopsticks at Blue Ribbon Sushi. 119 Sullivan Street

Watch Food, Inc. or Anthony Bourdain: No Reservations, both available instantly on your Netflix.

Bask in the lusciousness of a $26 pre-fixe lunch menu at Nougatine by Jean-Georges (1 Central Park West); none of the wallet strain, all of the succulent flavor that this famous French chef is known for.

Nurse your Sunday morning hangover with a stack of sour cream pancakes, heavy on the syrup, at Bubby’s (120 Hudson Street). Just don’t look too ragged. It’s a notorious celebrity hangout and you wouldn’t want to miss your chance to woo Justin Timberlake, now would you? Thought so.

Happy weekend, kiddies!

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The Cheesiest Mac of them All

I cook because I love food, but I also cook because I love making other people happy via food. One time my friend Meagan came over around dinner time when I had made mac and cheese, and proceeded to eat three bowls of it. I couldn’t have been happier. There is no higher compliment to a cook than guests going back for seconds.

On the menu:
Mac and cheese with pancetta (adapted from Bon Appetit)
Serves 6 as a meal, 10 as a side

6 tablespoons butter, divided
4 ounces thinly sliced pancetta, coarsely chopped
1 cup onion, finely chopped
3/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup flour
3 1/2 cups (or less) whole milk
2 cups coarsely grated sharp cheddar cheese
1 cup finely grated Parmesan cheese
8 oz. mascarpone cheese
1/2 cup panko (Japanese breadcrumbs)
1 pound macaroni (any medium-sized pasta will do: penne, orecchiette, gemelli, etc. – I used penne and gemelli here because it’s all I had in my pantry)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees, and get a large pot of salted water boiling for pasta. Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large deep skillet over medium-high heat. Add pancetta; sauté until crisp, about 6 minutes. Add onion; sauté until tender, about 5 minutes. Add crushed red pepper and garlic; stir 1 minute. Stir in 3 tablespoons butter; allow to melt, then add flour and stir 1 minute. [Now is a good time to start cooking your pasta – cook until al dente] Gradually whisk in 1 cup of milk; simmer until thick enough to coat spoon thickly, stirring frequently, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Whisk in all cheeses. Whisk in more milk by 1/4 cupfuls until sauce is thick but pourable. Season with salt and pepper.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add panko and stir until very light golden, about 5 minutes. Remove from heat. Lightly butter 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Add warm cheese sauce to drained al dente pasta; toss to coat. Transfer mixture to prepared baking dish. Sprinkle crumb mixture evenly over. Bake mac and cheese until heated through and topping is golden brown, about 30 minutes. [I added a little more cheddar to the top of mine, because I really, really like cheese… but if you’re trying to avoid a heart attack, maybe leave off the extra]

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Italian 101

A lot of times, all I want for dinner is something simple, something that will take me 20 minutes and minimal ingredients, and something that will fill me up and leave me happy. So here is a simple tomato sauce recipe that takes almost zero effort and can be used in everything from lasagna to chicken parm. And if you’re cooking for one, you can make the full batch and freeze what you don’t use for the next time you want something quick and easy. Way better than takeout and way more satisfying than a jar of Prego.

On the menu:
Parmesan chicken with tomato sauce over pasta

Sauce:
Makes 3 cups
1 Tbsp olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup yellow onion, finely chopped
1/2 cup fresh basil, 1/4 chopped and 1/4 chiffonade for garnish
1 tsp red pepper flakes
28 oz crushed tomatoes
salt and pepper to taste

Add olive oil, minced garlic, chopped onion, and chopped basil to a cold pot. Turn the heat to medium and stir until the ingredients in the pot are fragrant, about 10 minutes. Once the aromatics are fragrant, add the tomatoes and turn the heat down to low. Cook the sauce for around 5 minutes, taste, and add salt to taste. Let sauce simmer for another 15 minutes.

Chicken:
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 egg
1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup flour
2 Tbsp olive oil

Pound chicken breasts so that they are each around 1 inch thick. Mix together panko bread crumbs and grated parmesan. Dredge chicken in flour, shake off excess. Dredge in egg, and then in parmesan/panko mixture. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium heat. Add chicken and cook on each side over medium heat, for around 8 minutes on each side or until cooked through.

Make pasta according to directions on the box. Plate pasta and chicken and pour sauce over the top. Grate more parmesan over the top and add chiffonade basil.

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And they call it buona notte…

One of the reasons I love to cook is because I love to eat. And so does my family. The main topic of conversation at breakfast is what’s for lunch, and by the time two o’clock in the afternoon rolls around, all we can talk about is where we’ll go for dinner. So when my mother suggested that I cook the family dinner this weekend, I was flattered and nervous all at once. Let’s just say no one holds back their true feelings when it comes to the quality of a meal.

It was in this vein that I chose an Italian classic, crossed my fingers, closed my eyes, and hoped for the best.

On the menu:
Chicken cacciatore
Roasted broccoli with lemon
Serves 4

Chicken:
1 whole chicken, cut into roughly 12 pieces
Salt and pepper
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
4 whole garlic cloves, peeled
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
3 sprigs rosemary
1 tsp red pepper flakes (or more if you like your chicken with a kick)
1 cup dried mixed mushrooms (porcini, oyster, shiitake)*
3 cups dry white wine (2 cups to soak mushrooms**, 1 cup for cooking chicken)
1 cup water
3 cups chopped tomatoes with juice

*Your local grocery store should have dried mushrooms in prepackaged pouches
**Half an hour before you start cooking, put the dried mushrooms in a bowl and pour 2 cups of white wine over them to soak, soften, and marinate the mushrooms. Before you add the mushrooms as directed below, drain them and discard the used wine

Preheat oven to 350. Toss the chicken in a bowl with salt, pepper, garlic, and a little of the olive oil.
Put the rest of the olive oil in a large skillet and heat until very hot (the oil HAS to be hot to crisp the skin of the chicken). Once the oil is hot, add the chicken and garlic to the pan, and sear for 3-4 minutes on each side (if the garlic starts to burn, place it on top of the chicken).
Pour the lemon juice over the chicken and add the rosemary, turning down the heat to medium.
Add the red pepper and the remaining cup of white wine to deglaze the skillet.
Once the wine has reduced by half (around 10 minutes), add the marinated mushrooms. Cook for 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken and set aside. Taste the mushrooms and add salt and pepper to taste. Cook for 10 minutes.
Add the tomatoes with juice and the 1 cup of water. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Turn heat down to medium low and simmer for 10 minutes. Taste again and season with salt and pepper.
Return chicken to skillet and simmer for 15 minutes.
Put whole skillet in oven and bake for another 10 minutes, until chicken is cooked throught. If your chicken pieces are huge, they may need a couple extra minutes in the oven.

Broccoli:
1 large head of broccoli
2 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 cup lemon juice (or the juice from one lemon)
salt and pepper

Turn oven to 450. Cut broccoli into individual stalks. Toss in a bowl with olive oil, salt and pepper. Place on baking sheet so there is space between the stalks. Bake at 450 for 5 minutes. Remove broccoli, toss with lemon juice and a liberal amount of fresh ground pepper. Return to baking sheet and bake for another 8 minutes.

Here are pictures of Wednesday’s carrot cake. WOW this came out well. The cake is dense and spicy, with the perfect complement of smooth, cheesy frosting. The decoration was a total flop, so I’m pretending that it never happened and giving you a picture of the inside instead. Way prettier, I promise.

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Crispy, Crusty, Cheesy Goodness

Today was gross for three reasons: it was Monday, I have a cold, and it was raining. Today was great for three reasons: I won’t see Monday’s ugly face again for 6 whole days, I heard that this weekend it’s supposed to hit 80 degrees, and one of my very best friends who lives in my backyard cooked me dinner. Even Steven.

On the menu:
“Becca Does Tilapia” with parmesan crust and basil tomato cream sauce
Asparagus with rosemary sea salt

Tilapia
Serves 2

3 tablespoons olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
10-12 cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup cream
1/2 cup basil [1/4 cup roughly chopped, 1/4 cup chiffonade]
2 tilapia fillets
salt and pepper
1/4 cup flour
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
1/2 cup panko breadcrumbs
1/2 teaspoon Japanese spice blend [you can buy this blend of Japanese spices in most grocery stores with an international section, but if you don’t have it, you can substitute a pinch of red pepper flakes, garlic salt, or paprika]

Heat 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a small skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and cook 1-2 minutes. Turn down heat to medium/low and add cherry tomatoes, cook for 2 minutes. Add cream. Let simmer for 15 minutes. Sauce will turn slightly pink and coat the back of the spoon. Meanwhile, heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet large enough to fit both fillets. Pat dry the tilapia fillets. Season both sides with salt and pepper. Combine parmesan, panko and Japanese spice. Dredge the seasoned tilapia fillets in the seasoned flour. Shake off excess. Dip in egg. Press into Parmesan/panko mixture. Place in heated skillet and cook 3-4 minutes per side. Fish will be golden brown when it’s done. Plate the fish and pour sauce over the top.

Asparagus with rosemary sea salt
Serves 2

10 asparagus stalks
2 Tbsp olive oil
2 tsp rosemary sea salt [this can be found at any gourmet grocery, on Amazon.com, or you can substitute basic sea salt in a pinch]

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Place asparagus on a cookie sheet and brush with olive oil until the stalks are coated. Sprinkle sea salt generously over stalks. Bake at 400 degrees for 15 minutes, until tender on the inside and slightly crisp on the outside.

NOTE: This dish is not my standard fare. Fish = good for you. Asparagus = good for you. Basil, tomatoes, a little olive oil = good for you. I had to remind myself of the health factor while eating this meal because the fish was flaky, the crust was crispy, and it tastes like a million calories. I’m telling you, kids… it’s not. Enjoy.

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