Monthly Archives: February 2013

Waterside Restaurant and Catering {Review}

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Waterside Restaurant and Catering sits literally steps from the Hudson River, in North Bergen. Just up the river from Hoboken and Jersey City, the restaurant offers unparalleled  views of the New York City skyline. You can’t get much closer than this. The restaurant itself looks inauspicious from the outside, but opens up into an impressive bar with two restaurant areas, all enclosed with a floor to ceiling wrap around windows, maximizing the skyline view. The lucky tables around the restaurant perimeter certainly take in the best view, but there really isn’t a bad seat in the house. Valet parking and an accommodating staff make the whole operation run smoothly.

Everyone I met at Waterside was polite and prompt; happy to help and accommodate. Our waiter was knowledgeable and friendly, helpful but not pushy. Their wine list offers a broad selection of options  both by the glass and by the bottle, and a good champagne list for celebratory dinners. They also have a full bar and cocktail list, and lots of patrons who come to Waterside just for the bar. A DJ plays music from an elevated booth, making the whole scene a bit clubby, even in the dinner sections. This might not be the place to take your grandma (unless she likes house music), but its great for a more lively dinner out.

The menu expresses a Mediterranean bent, with an impressive raw bar and broad selection of seafood. The menu also features some delicious sounding steaks, including an over-the-top 45 oz. Porter House. The gentleman next to us ordered the Porter House, and  it was one of the biggest steaks I’ve ever seen served, taking up the entire dinner plate. We chose the slightly lighter route, and started with the avocado, roasted pepper and corn salad and the seared sea scallops. The corn salad brought me right back to summer; it came in a tangy, bright citrus dressing, with big strips of corn cut right off the cob. The avocado was ripe and buttery, and the whole dish had a nice balance of flavors and textures. The scallops came served over a crispy sweet corn polenta cake in a saffron and corn sauce. The scallops had a good sear on them, and the saffron sauce and polenta cake all worked harmoniously together.

For entrees, we had the roasted prawns and the seared tuna au poivre. The prawns came over a bed of sweet corn, fava beans, baby bok choy, and candied lemon. The prawns were nothing short of impressive; huge and grilled whole, they had a nice smokey flavor from the grill. But the dish as a whole suffered from a lack of texture. All the components were soft, and something with a little freshness and crunch would have elevated the whole dish.

The tuna came with a sauce of black and green peppercorns with cognac, and french fries on the side. The tuna had a good sear on it and strong, pronounced flavors from the peppercorns and the cognac. I just found the french fries a bit of an odd accompaniment to such an elegant piece of fish. French fries are a weakness of mine, and they were delicious, but I would have opted for a different side with the tuna, or maybe a more refined way of serving them alongside it.

For dessert we shared the warm apple crisp, which came filled with almond pastry cream and vanilla ice cream on the side. I also had a specialty coffee with Frangelico and Baileys, a delicious way to end the meal. They also offer a wide selection of after dinner cordials. Overall I’d say Waterside is worth the trip just for the fantastic view. In the summer it would be incredible to eat outside on their patio or have a drink and sit in the gazebo overlooking the city.

DIY Chocolate Covered Salted Caramels

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Don’t let the thought of making your own salted caramels intimidate you. A few simple ingredients, a little time and attention, and you’ve got a decadent, delicious dessert that’s always a crowd pleaser. My only advice is to make these in advance- you don’t want to handle molten hot sugar once you’ve had a cocktail or two. They look great set out on a plate all together, and also wrap up well in parchment paper for a portable treat.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1/4 cup light corn syrup
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • Maldon sea salt for serving
  • Bittersweet chocolate, optional
  • Vegetable oil and parchment paper for assembly

Directions:

  1. Line a baking pan (like a brownie pan) with parchment paper and grease it lightly with vegetable oil.
  2. In a deep saucepan, combine the sugar, water, and light corn syrup and heat over medium high heat. Stir occasionally with a wooden spoon, until the sugar begins to caramelize and the mixture turns a rich golden brown.
  3. In another saucepan, heat the heavy cream and the butter with a pinch of the sea salt until melted and combined. Once the sugar mixture reaches the appropriate color, turn off the heat and add the cream mixture all at once. Be careful here- the mixture will bubble up rapidly and its easy to burn yourself.
  4. Add the vanilla extract and stir everything with your wooden spoon to combine. Heat over medium low heat for 10 minutes. If you have a candy thermometer, it should register around 200 degrees.
  5. Pour the caramel into the prepared pan, sprinkle with the sea salt while hot (if not coating with the chocolate), then allow to set in the refrigerator until hardened. Cut into cubes to serve.
  6. If coating the caramels with chocolate, wait until they’re firm, then cut into cubes. Put the caramels on a grate set over a sheet pan. Melt the chocolate, then slowly spoon it over each caramel, making sure to coat all sides. sprinkle with sea salt while the chocolate is warm, and let cool to set.

Recipe inspired by Barefoot Contessa.

Valentine’s Day Ideas {From my Bachelor Kitchen Column}

Below is an excerpt from my column on Bachelor Kitchen, geared towards providing advice for bachelors in the kitchen and in life.

Every year, Valentine’s Day presents itself with a veritable minefield of do’s and don’ts. Everyone’s got their own spin on deal breakers and must haves for what can quickly become a stressful day for all parties involved. I’ve had some pretty memorable Valentine’s Day flops, but I have to say the number one thing to keep in mind is to make sure your gestures fit and apply to the person you’re involved with. Seems simple but that’s the key. This is not a one-size-fits-all holiday. It’s a chance to show her you’re attentive to what she likes. Also, if your girlfriend says she doesn’t want to do anything for Valentine’s Day, she’s lying. You can try it and find out the hard way- but for your own self-preservation, try some of the ideas and suggestions below.

          1. Cover Your Bases: Flowers, chocolate, card. If all you do are these three simple things, you can’t run into too much trouble.

Flowers: Keep it simple. Avoid excessive filler flowers (baby’s breath, greenery) and stick with one type of flower in one solid color (unless you’re creative and have an awesome florist). Red says love, pink is more lighthearted, orange says you got to the florist too late, and white is for funerals and sympathy so avoid that all together. You don’t even have to do roses- tulips and hydrangea are both in season now and probably more affordable.

Chocolate: This one’s pretty straight forward, and there’s no shortage of options this time of year. If in doubt, go with a box of Godiva and call it a day. If you’re feeling more creative, look for a more small-batch, bespoke chocolate, maybe something local. Chocolate covered strawberries also qualify, and are a fresh alternative to the boxed varieties.

Card: I know the card section can be painful this time of year, but just pick one and write something personal inside. You’ll look super thoughtful

          2. Dinner: Make dinner reservations somewhere you know she loves, or better yet            cook her dinner yourself. Cooking dinner at home saves you the annoyance of over-   priced, pre-fix menus, crowded restaurants, loud strangers, and the hassle of getting a reservation time that’s not before 5:30 and after 11:30. Cooking also scores you major points because it takes effort and forethought. Swiping your credit card at the end of an over-priced dinner just can’t compare.

Pasta: It’s quick to pull together (key for after work cooking), everyone likes it, and even if you’re a novice cook you can pull it off. Try my recipe for Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu. Or keep it super simple and toss warm pappardelle pasta with butter, herbs (basil, parsley, chives, etc.), and a drizzle of truffle oil-delicious.

Steak: Obviously not a good choice if you’re dating a vegetarian, but steak has enough panache to set the tone for a special occasion.  Try my recipe for how to cook the Ultimate Steak.

Oysters: Whether you serve them raw on the half shell, fried, baked, or battered, these are an obvious choice for Valentine’s Day. Just make sure your lady doesn’t have a shellfish allergy or an aversion to these crustaceans. Check out my tips for eating and serving Raw Oysters on the Half Shell.

Lobster: This is the ultimate no-cook homemade dinner at home. You can buy your lobsters pre-cooked, then just serve them with melted butter, lemons, and some kind of side dish. They offer a similar panache as steak, minus the stress of actually cooking. Plus, they’re fun to eat- kind of an activity in itself. Check out my tips for eating and serving Lobster. (Make sure you have crackers to break the shells!)

*Make sure you’ve got wine, champagne and/or cocktail supplies. If you’re feeling up to it, this Chocolate Souffle with Bourbon Caramel Sauce makes a killer dessert. Candles and music are a bonus.

          3. Jewelry: If you do decide to top this all off with jewelry, proceed with caution. Jewelry is really personal, and if you pick something she thinks is unwearable and totally not her style, she’ll think you’re not paying attention. Look at what she wears every day. Note if she wears gold or silver. Pick something simple unless you’re super confident in what she likes and wears. This website offers lots of simple, pretty jewelry that won’t cost an arm and a leg.  Their jewelry was also featured in the new Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Edition, and if it’s good enough for those girls…

 Read the complete post on Bachelor Kitchen. 

Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu {Perfect for Valentine’s Day}

I recently became a culinary contributor for the website Small Chick Big Deals. Check out some of the fantastic articles at www.smallchickbigdeals.com, and preview my first post for the site below.

Pappardelle Pasta with Lamb Ragu

This Valentine’s Day, why not forgo the expensive pre-fix menu and overcrowded restaurant in favor of a delicious dinner at home. This pappardelle pasta with lamb ragu comes together quickly and makes your kitchen smell delicious. Its light on your wallet but still packs big gourmet flavors to celebrate the night. Serve with a green salad and red wine, and you’ll be sure to please!

Ingredients:

  • 3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 2 carrots, peeled and finely diced
  • 1 onion, finely diced
  • 4 cloves garlic, minced
  • ½ cup mushrooms, cleaned and chopped
  • 1 pound ground lamb (you can use ground beef in a pinch)
  • 2 teaspoons dried parsley
  • 1 teaspoon ground fennel seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon chopped rosemary
  • 1 teaspoon chopped thyme
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon tomato paste
  • 1/2 cup dry red wine
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes in purée
  • 3/4 pound pappardelle (get fresh pasta if you can)
  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter
  • 3/4 cup fresh ricotta cheese
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint

Directions:

  1. In a large cast-iron skillet or Dutch oven, the oil over medium heat. Add the carrot and the onion and cook over medium heat, five minutes or until the vegetables have begun to soften. Add the garlic and the mushrooms and cook for a minute more.
  2. Next, add the lamb, parsley, fennel, cinnamon, rosemary and thyme. Cook for five minutes, stirring often. Add the tomato paste and the wine and cook until mostly evaporated, 5 minutes. Add the tomatoes and their purée, and bring everything to a boil. Lower the heat to medium low, cover your pan partially and cook until the liquid is slightly reduced, 25 to 30 minutes. If your ragu gets over-reduced, add a splash of chicken stock to thin it out again. Season with kosher salt and black pepper to taste.
  3. In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente, per package directions. Save 1 cup of pasta cooking water, then drain the pasta. Add the pasta to the sauce, along with the butter and toss over low heat. Thin the ragu with a splash of the pasta water if needed. Serve the pasta and ragu in bowls, topped with a scoop of the ricotta and a sprinkling of the chopped mint.

As a bonus- toast the night with a festive fizzy cocktail. Pick budget friendly Prosecco over pricey champagne, and mix it with 1-tablespoon pomegranate juice per glass. Serve in champagne flutes with a squeeze of lime juice and enjoy!

To view the original post, visit www.SmallChickBigDeals.com.

Healthy Living Recipes {Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce}

Inside AIA-Dec 2012 Excerpt

Inside AIA Insurance Company

This recipe is an excerpt from my healthy living column in Inside AIA- an insurance company publication, encouraging people to live healthfully while still eating deliciously.

Eating whole grains is one of the simplest ways to change your diet and dramatically bolster your health. By simply replacing the processed white flour and grains you already eat with healthy, nutrient rich whole grains, you can protect your body from heart disease, type two diabetes, and numerous forms of cancer. Whole grains also promote a healthy colon and digestive system, and lower the overall risk of obesity. They are a great source of complex carbohydrates, are naturally low in fat, and also contain important trace vitamins and minerals. In an effort to eat whole grains, avoid any refined or processed grains, and chose wholesome options like quinoa, buckwheat, whole oats, brown rice, bulgur, millet, wild rice, and 100% whole wheat flour.

Buckwheat is a particularly healthy whole grain and can be easily incorporated into your diet. When cooked, buckwheat becomes tender and nutty, making it the perfect backdrop for strong flavors. It contains essential amino acids making it a good vegetarian source of protein, fiber and minerals. The magnesium in buckwheat helps relax muscles and lower blood pressure, and the copper and manganese battle off cancer and other disease-causing substances. Buckwheat is also gluten-free, so it’s a great option for those with celiac disease or those who are sensitive to gluten. Buckwheat is most commonly found in soba noodles, which cook up quickly and make for a healthy and satisfying meal. This buckwheat soba noodle salad below makes a great light lunch, or the perfect side to grilled fish for dinner. It also travels well, making it a great option for work or travel.

Soba Noodle Salad with Spicy Peanut Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 1 (16 oz) package of buckwheat/ soba noodles
  • 1 cup kale or spinach, de-stemmed and chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, cut into strips or grated
  • 1 small bunch of spring onions or scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup cooked edamame
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 cloves of garlic, crushed and chopped
  • 1/2 tbsp. fresh ginger, minced
  • 1/8 cup rice vinegar
  • 1/8 cup soy sauce or tamari
  • 2 T honey or brown rice syrup
  • 1 teaspoon hot chili sauce or cayenne pepper (optional)
  • 1/4 cup – 1/2 cup warm water, to thin the sauce
  • Salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • Boil the noodles per package instructions.
  • In the last two minutes of cooking add the kale or spinach to the boiling water and noodles.
  • Drain noodles and kale, run under cold water for about a minute to stop the cooking, and set aside in a large bowl.
  • Whisk together the peanut butter, garlic, ginger, vinegar, soy sauce, honey and chili sauce or cayenne pepper. Thin slowly with warm water, depending on the consistency you want.
  • Gently toss the noodles, kale, carrots, spring onions and edamame with a big splash of the sauce. Add more sauce a little at a time, until the salad is dressed how you like it, reserving any extra dressing for another use (it’s great over white fish).
  • Season to taste with black pepper and sea salt if needed, and serve warm or at room temperature.

Valencia Orange Ginger Smash

Valencia Orange Ginger Fizz

This delicious little cocktail will add some much-needed sunshine to your day. The Valencia orange brings a bright, summery flavor, and the ginger lends a warming, cozy note to the drink. Shake one up tonight! Serves two- but doubles and triples easily.

Ingredients:

  • 2 shots white rum
  • 2 shots Canton
  • 1 shot Rose’s Lime Juice
  • 1 shot Valencia orange juice
  • 10 drops Angostura Bitters

Directions:

  • Combine all ingredients in a cocktail shaker filled with ice, and shake vigorously for ten seconds.
  • Strain into cocktail glasses and enjoy!

Vegetable Parmesan Soup {With Mini Chicken Meatballs}

Vegetable Parmesan Soup {With Mini Chicken Meatballs}

With an historic snow storm walloping the East Coast with record snow this weekend- all I want to do is stay inside, cook cozy food, and eat it. This warm, flavorful soup is just the ticket. Packed with good-for-you vegetables tempered with plenty of sharp Parmesan cheese and savory mini chicken meatballs, it will keep you happy and full all weekend long.

Meatball Ingredients:

  • 1 pound ground chicken or turkey breast
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 shallots, or 1/4 yellow onion, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh basil, minced
  • 1 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. black pepper
  • 1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
  • 1/4 cup panko bread crumbs
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil

Meatball Directions:

  • Combine all your ingredients (except the olive oil) together in a large bowl and mix with your hands until just combined. Taking 1/2 tablespoon or so of the mixture, roll into meatballs of your desired size.
  • Heat a skillet with a tablespoon of oil, and brown your meatballs evenly on all sides, shaking the pan to roll them around a bit. This should take 4 or 5 minutes depending on your meatball size, and should be done in 2 or 3 batches.
  • Once you’re through, set the meatballs aside in a bowl.

Ingredients for The Soup:

  • 2 tbsp of olive oil
  • 2 yellow onions, chopped
  • 6 garlic cloves, minced
  • 4 cups raw spinach
  • 3 cartons chicken stock, roughly 96 oz total
  • 1 can (14.5 ounces) diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup frozen peas
  • 3 tbsp. fresh parsley, minced
  • 1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • Salt and black pepper to taste
  • Lemon wedges and Parmesan cheese to serve

Directions for the Soup:

  • In a large pot or Dutch oven, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add onion and a pinch of salt and stir everything to coat. Let the onions cook for about 5 minutes, until soft, than add the garlic and cook for a few minutes more.Next, add the spinach, and sauté until the spinach has wilted.
  • Add the stock, tomatoes, and peas to the pot, and bring up to a boil, then lower to a simmer to cook for 15 minutes. Next, shake over the parmesan cheese a little at a time, using a whisk to incorporate it into the broth so it doesn’t clump. Then add the meatballs, stirring gently to combine. Cook for 10 more minutes at a low simmer, then finish the soup with the parsley and season to taste.
  • Serve up in big bowls with an extra sprinkling of cheese and lemon wedges to squeeze over if you like.

 

Ritzy Ranch Chicken Tenders

Ritzy Ranch Chicken Tenders

I made these slightly trashy but oh-so-delicious Ritzy Ranch Chicken Tenders for the Super Bowl this past Sunday, and they were the hit of the night. Ridiculously simple to make- these amped up chicken tenders pack tons of flavor into their buttery, crunchy crust. I served these with a spicy Cajun mayo to dip, but you could just as easily serve them over a salad for a lighter alternative. Serves 6 as an appetizer, 4 as an entrée.

Ingredients:

  • 4 chicken breasts, cut lengthwise into strips about 1/2 inch wide (you might also find pre-cut chicken tenders in your grocery store)
  • 2 cups buttermilk
  • 3 eggs, beaten
  • 2 sleeves of Ritz crackers
  • 1 envelope of Hidden Valley Ranch powdered dressing mix
  • Black pepper to taste

Directions:

  • In a bowl, combine the buttermilk and the chicken tenders and allow to marinade for as long as possible, up to 2 days if you’ve got the time. Skip this step if you’re short on time, it just serves to tenderize the chicken.
  • In a food processor or blender, blitz the Ritz crackers until you’ve got a fine crumb. Transfer to a bowl and whisk in the ranch powder mix and some fresh black pepper. If you want to glam this up a bit- add some fresh minced herbs (basil, chives, parsley) here.
  • Preheat your oven to 425 degrees. Shake off the excess buttermilk from the chicken tenders, and one by one, dip them first into Ritz ranch crumbs, then into the beaten eggs, then again into the Ritz ranch crumbs, making sure the tenders are coated on all sides.
  • Arrange your coated tenders on a baking sheet, using a baking rack if you’ve got one, making sure to leave some space between each tender. Bake for 15-20 minutes, until the chicken is firm and cooked through, and the Ritz coating has turned a crispy golden brown. Transfer to a plate and sprinkle with chopped fresh herbs if you like.
  • To serve, whisk together 1/2 cup mayo, 1/2 tablespoon Sriracha (to taste), a squeeze of lemon juice and a bit of black pepper.
  • You can freeze these chicken tenders once given their coating (before baking) and baked right from their frozen state. Add 5 minutes to the cooking time if doing it this way.

Read the full post on Bachelor Kitchen.

Photo Credit: AskChefs.net

Seven-Layer Dip {Lightened Up}

Seven Layer Dip {Lightened Up}

I have to admit, I’m more interested in the food than the game come Super Bowl Sunday. It’s a rare excuse to eat over-the-top fatty foods and drink beer on a Sunday night. This lightened up version of the classic Seven-Layer Dip will lessen your caloric bomb for the evening, and won’t leave you wanting for flavor or richness. I promise you won’t miss your usual greased up version. This dip even squeezes in some healthy vegetables and protein, so you won’t want to roll over and die come Monday morning. Serve it up with some baked tortilla chips, some cold (light) beer & lime wedges, and enjoy! Serves 8- or less depending on your level of gluttony for the evening.

Ingredients: 

  • 1 cup black beans
  • 1/2 cup diced tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite salsa
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese (I’d go for cheddar)
  • 2 cups chopped romaine lettuce
  • 2 avocados
  • 2 limes
  • 1 cup low-fat Greek yogurt (trust me, you won’t even notice it’s not sour cream in the dip)
  • 1/2 tsp. cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup of your favorite shredded cheese (I’d go for cheddar)
  • Chopped black olives and scallions to garnish

Directions: 

  • Pre-heat your oven to 450. Rinse and drain the black beans, and season with salt, pepper, and a squeeze of lime juice to taste. Mash them up a bit with a fork so they’re more spreadable. Spread these evenly in the bottom of a glass bowl with enough depth to hold all your layers.
  • Mix your chopped tomatoes with your salsa and season to taste. Spread this evenly over the beans, then top with your shredded cheese. Bake in the oven for 8-10 minutes, until everything feels warmed through, and the cheese has melted.
  • Mash up your avocados with a squeeze of lime, and season with salt and pepper to taste. You can add in some chopped scallions and some minced garlic here if you like. Spread this mix evenly over the melted cheese.
  • Mix your Greek yogurt with the cumin and cayenne pepper and a squeeze of lime. Spread this evenly over the avocado mash.
  • Add another layer of shredded cheese, and top everything off with some chopped black olives and scallions. Dig in!

View the full post on Bachelor Kitchen.

Photo Credit: www.fitsugar.com