Monthly Archives: July 2013

Taqueria Autentica- Homegrown & Authentic Mexican in Bloomfield

An Assortment of Amazing Tacos.

An Assortment of Amazing Tacos.

When most people think of Mexican food, they think of heavy, cheesy, greasy food that leaves you looking for the nearest couch to take a nap. Taqueria Autentica offers the antithesis of that type of food, bringing the freshest, responsibly and locally sourced traditional Mexican food to Bloomfield. Every dish cooked up at Taqueria boasts the freshest seasonal ingredients from quality local purveyors, many of them friends of chef and owner Mike Natiello. Every item on Taqueria’s menu is crafted with care and a keen awareness for quality. Their rules are simple: “use fresh, premium, and preferably local ingredients; know where your food is coming from; keep the food simple; and try to be as authentic to Mexican food traditions as possible.” This awareness and care results in satisfying, delicious food with clean, fresh flavors. You’ll definitely leave Taqueria full, but you’ll also feel like you’ve eaten something quality and nutritious.

Housemade Chips with Guacamole, Smokes Cashew Salsa & Ancho Chili Sauce.

Housemade Chips with Guacamole, Smokes Cashew Salsa & Ancho Chili Sauce.

Last week when I had dinner at Taqueria, Mike had prepared a special with some super fresh and flavorful Jersey summer tomatoes. He sliced them thickly and dressed them simply with some spicy pickled jalapenos, creamy shredded mozzarella, and some zingy red wine vinegar- deceptively simple and outrageously delicious.

We also enjoyed a plate of house made chips and guacamole, accompanied with smoked cashew salsa and ancho chili sauce. Mike smokes the cashews himself, resulting in a spicy, smoky, creamy purée that pairs perfectly with the lime-y guacamole. Next came a variety of super fresh and flavorful tacos. Highlights for the tacos are the carnitas- slow cooked pork with caramelized orange peel, 
salsa verde, and the Hongos – a vegan option with mushrooms sautéed with herbs and spice and salsa 
verde. The torta is another standout, and easily one of the best sandwiches I’ve ever eaten. A torta is a Mexican sandwich served on warm toasty bread with black bean paste, 
pickled jalapeno peppers, queso fresco, chopped white onion, 
salsa and avocado, and whatever filling you like. I usually opt for the carnitas, but I’m sure any option would taste equally amazing.

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For the full article, visit Devil Gourmet. 

Mexican Chipotle Shrimp Tostadas with Quick Pickle Red Onions & Guacamole

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Tostadas are essentially open-faced tacos. Popular in Mexico as a meal of its own or as part of a larger spread, tostadas make for a fun, interactive dinner party. Corn or flour tortillas are fried until crispy, then topped with refried beans, chopped and fried meat, sour cream, shredded lettuce, salsa, and cheese. I’ve lightened up these traditional toppings, without sacrificing the integrity of the dish. The resulting tostadas are bursting with big fresh flavors, and will satisfy even the most particular dinner guest. Guacamole offers heart healthy unsaturated fats, and shrimp offer high quality, low-fat protein. Feel free to serve these with any additional toppings you like. Salsa, salsa verde, or pico de gallo would be delicious, as would sautéed bell peppers or a dollop of low-fat sour cream.

To view the recipe, visit GeoBlue’s Healthy Travel Blog.

Fried Chicken: How to Make it & Where to Eat it

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Last Saturday was National Fried Chicken Day. While I commemorated the holiday with a delicious plate from Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn, you can celebrate any day with your own recipe made at home, or from one of the dozens of fantastic restaurants in the city that purvey it. Fried chicken might just be the perfect summer food. It’s picnic portable, you can eat it with your hands, and it’s equally delicious hot out of the fryer or cold the next day. And once you get your recipe and technique down, you can whip up a batch in the same amount of time required to fire up your grill.

How To Make It:

My favorite fried chicken recipe comes from the Blue Ribbon Cookbook. They kindly published the method to get their crave-worthy fried chicken, which they serve up at Blue Ribbon Brasserie in NYC. Below, I’ve detailed my slight interpretation on their recipe. Give it a try, and I swear it’s the best fried chicken you’ll ever have. The matzo meal gives the chicken an incredible crunch, and the honey served alongside is irresistible for dipping and drizzling. They serve theirs with a heap of mashed potatoes and gravy, and a side of garlicky collard greens, but I’d be content to eat this with just about any accompaniment.

Ingredients

  • Buttermilk: (3 cups)
  • Canola oil (or Crisco if you must) for frying
  • 1/4 teaspoon each dried basil, garlic powder, onion powder, cayenne pepper, and dried parsley
  • 4 eggs, beaten
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 3 lb. chicken, cut into 8 pieces (have your butcher do this if you’re squeamish, or buy one of the ready-made “fryer packs” at the supermarket)
  • Plenty of kosher salt and black pepper to taste
  • Honey for serving

Directions:

  1. Pour the buttermilk over the chicken pieces, and allow to marinate for as long as you’ve got, hopefully an hour, up to overnight. This tenderizes the chicken and gives it flavor.
  2. Pour canola oil into a large dutch oven to about 3 inches deep, and heat over medium until it reaches 375 degrees. Heat it slowly or it will catch on fire- I learned the hard way!
  3. Combine your spices in a bowl and set aside. Combine your flour, matzo, baking powder, and a pinch of salt and pepper in another bowl.
  4. Drain the buttermilk off the chicken, then dip each piece into the beaten eggs, then into the matzo mixture, pressing the chicken to coat. Shake off the excess and set on a baking sheet while you finish the batch.
  5. Working in two or three batches, fry the chicken for 12-15 minutes, turning once during cooking, until golden brown, and cooked through.
  6. While the chicken is still warm, toss it with your spice mixture to coat, and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Serve warm with honey on the side.

Notes: If you’d like your fried chicken to have a more sweet & spicy Korean flair, you can toss it while its still warm with some sweet chili sauce.

Lightened Up Oven Fried Chicken
For a lighter spin on classic fried chicken, try oven “frying” your chicken. None of the mess and fat, and all of the flavor and satisfaction of the original.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise (See note)
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1 cup plain gluten-free bread crumbs or panko
  • 1 tablespoon Old Bay Seasoning
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon black pepper
  • 6 chicken tenders (these crisp up best)
  • 2 tablespoons light olive oil (not your best extra virgin oil)
  • Lemon wedges for serving

Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the Vegenaise, Dijon mustard, and lemon juice.
  3. In another bowl, whish together the bread crumbs or panko, the Old Bay Seasoning, and the salt and pepper.
  4. Dry your chicken tenders with a paper towel to help your coating stick. Working one by one, coat each tender first in the mustard mixture and then in the crumb mixture, making sure to coat all sides evenly. Lay the finished tenders on your bakng sheets, leaving some room between them. Drizzle each tender lightly with your olive oil.
  5. Bake for 8 minutes, then flip the tenders over and broil for 2 minutes, until crispy and golden brown.
  6. Serve immediately with crispy sweet potato fries and homemade honey mustard sauce (recipe below).

Honey Mustard Dip

Ingredients

  • 2 tablespoons Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 lemon

Directions

In a small bowl, whisk together Vegenaise or low fat mayonnaise, Dijon mustard, honey, and a squeeze of lemon juice. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Note: If you can’t find Vegenaise (a vegan and healthy version of mayonnaise), you can make it at home with this easy recipe: http://elizabethpalmerkitchen.com/homemade-vegenaise/.

Where to Eat It:

If you like your chicken served up with a side of waffles, head to Buttermilk Channel in Brooklyn. They serve up their tender, crispy chicken with a side of cheddar waffles and a side of their  homemade tangy pickles. Heaven on earth. You can also find Buttermilk Channel at Smorgasburg Saturdays (Williamsburg) and Sundays (Dumbo) in Brooklyn. Definitely worth the trip, and the lines.

David Chang’s Momofuku Noodle Bar also serves up an incredible plate of fried chicken. If you’ve got a part of 4-8 people, make a reservation for the fried chicken dinner. You’ll get a feast of two whole chickens, one served sweet, spicy and saucy Korean style, the other with a more traditional Southern flair tinged with Old Bay Seasoning.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Chip Cookies.

Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookies.

If you’re looking for an indulgent sweet treat- these chocolate chip cookies definitely fit the bill. I think this recipe yields the perfectly balanced cookie. Not overly sweet and with that sought after chewy bite, the brown sugar in this recipe gives the cookies a more caramel flavor, and helps the bottoms brown. These remain soft even the next day. The addition of a bit of sea salt provides the ideal salty note to balance the sweetness of the sugar and chocolate. These cookies won’t last in your kitchen for long- they’re perfect for sharing.

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Ingredients:

  • 1 cup (2 sticks) salted butter, softened
  • 2 cups packed brown sugar
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tbsp. vanilla extract
  • 2 ¾ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¾ tsp. smallish-medium coarse sea salt
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1 ½ tsp. baking powder
  • 2 ¼ cups semi-sweet chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 360 degrees. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.
  2. Cream the butter and brown sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until it is nice and fluffy (approx. 3 minutes on medium-high speed.
  3. Add both eggs and the vanilla and beat for another 2 minutes.
  4. Add baking soda, baking powder, salt, and flour until cookie batter is fully incorporated, but don’t over mix .
  5. Add the chocolate chips, and mix by hand with a spatula until well-distributed.
  6. Roll about 2 tablespoons of dough in your hands into round balls, and space them evenly on your prepared baking sheet. They will spread a bit as they bake. Press into each ball with your fingers to flatten them slightly.
  7. Bake for 12-14 minutes until the edges turn golden brown. Remove from the oven and allow the cookies to stay on the cookie sheet for a minute or 2 so they can firm up. Pick up the parchment paper with the cookies still on top and transfer to a cool non-porous surface.
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Zucchini Noodles in Thai Coconut Broth

Zucchini noodles in Thai-style coconut broth.

Zucchini noodles in Thai-style coconut broth.

Zucchini lends itself perfectly to transforming into a noodle stand-in for a healthier take on noodle and pasta dishes. Use it here in this zingy, lime-laced coconut broth in place of heavy, starchy noodles, and you’ve got a light and satisfying bowl of goodness. You can use whatever nuts you like here- I used cashews, but peanuts, almonds, even pistachios would taste delicious. As it stands, this recipe is vegan and gluten-free, but you can feel free to add some grilled shrimp, seared salmon, or seared and crumpled tempeh for added protein.

Serves Four

Total Time: 25 minutes

Ingredients:

For the Broth:

  • 2 tablespoons coconut oil
  • 6 scallions, white and green parts, chopped
  • 1 tablespoon fresh ginger, peeled and minced
  • 5 cloves fresh garlic, minced
  • 2 cups low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 stalk fresh lemongrass, crushed
  • 1 teaspoon tamari, to taste (or soy sauce)
  • Juice and zest of 2 limes
  • 1 teaspoon sesame oil
  • 1 teaspoon Mirin (optional)
  • Salt, black pepper, and red chili flakes, to taste

For the Noodles:

  • 4 handfuls of your favorite green (try kale, spinach, whatever you like), thinly chopped
  • 1 cup tomatoes, diced
  • 6 zucchini, spiralized or julienned (do this on a mandolin if you’ve got one)
  • Crushed nuts, minced cilantro and basil, sriracha, and lime wedges to serve

Directions:

  • Heat the coconut oil over medium heat, and sauté the scallions, ginger, garlic, and lemongrass stalk until tender (4-5 minutes).
  • Add the coconut milk and tamari and heat over medium-low for 10 minutes.
  • Turn off the heat, and add the greens and the tomatoes. Next add the lime juice and zest, sesame oil, Mirin, and salt and pepper to taste.
  • Allow the broth to cool, then toss in the zucchini noodles to combine.
  • Serve with crushed nuts, minced cilantro and basil, sriracha, and lime wedges.

 

Summer Cocktails: Infuse Your Own Spirits

Summer Cocktail Infusions.

Summer Cocktail Infusions.

These recipes all make two large mason jars worth of infusions, and one mason jar of the strained, finished product. Let your infusions steep in a dark cool place for at least one week, and up to two. Strain your infusion through a fine strainer lined with a cloth napkin, and keep your finished product in a cool place out of direct sunlight. These recipes are only a suggestion- feel free to get creative and use whatever flavors or ingredients you love.

Lemongrass Blood Orange Vodka: Three blood oranges, zested and juiced, and two stalks of lemon grass, bashed up a bit.  Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. Goes great with blood orange juice, a squeeze of lime, topped up with tonic.

Peach Basil Vodka: Four organic peaches, unpeeled, sliced into wedges and pits removed, and ten basil leaves. Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. This tastes delicious over ice with a bit of fresh peach purée and a splash of club soda.

Cucumber Lime Gin: Three limes, zested and juiced, one organic cucumber, sliced thinly, skin on. Add to the jars and fill to the brim with gin. This is perfect in a gin and tonic; just add a bit more lime on top for extra tang.

Black Tea Lemon Vodka: Six black tea bags, the zest and juice of six lemons.  Add to the jars and fill to the brim with vodka. This lends itself perfectly to a spiked iced tea, or a boozy Arnold Palmer. I like it with black iced tea, a squeeze of lime, and topped up with ginger ale.

Pineapple Ginger Jalapeno Tequila: One pound pineapple, cubed, one jalapeño, sliced and de-seeded, and one inch long chunk of ginger, peeled and chopped. Add all to the jars and fill to the brim with tequila. You can make this spicy by leaving the seeds in the jalapeño, but be careful, they’re strong! Use this to make the ultimate margarita, on the rocks with a salted rim and a wedge of lime.

Grapefruit Lime Gin: Four grapefruits, zested and juiced, and four limes, zested and juiced. Add all to the jars and fill to the brim with gin. I tailored this infusion specifically for my favorite summer cocktail, the Salty Dog. Usually made with vodka, a salty dog is a mixture of grapefruit juice, alcohol, and a bit of lime. Made with gin, it’s actually called a Greyhound, but that’s beside the point. I think the gin adds a depth of flavor to the grapefruit. Just combine your grapefruit gin infusion, a splash of fresh grapefruit juice, and a wedge of lime, topping it up with tonic if you want some fizz.

For the full post and more recipes, visit Devil Gourmet. 

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic {Devil Gourmet FoodStyle Feature}

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic

A Revamped Classic: The Gin & Tonic

I come from a long line of gin and tonic drinkers. “T & T” or Tanqueray and Tonic, is the standard cocktail order in my family, occasionally supplanted with Hendrick’s or Bombay Sapphire, lots of ice, extra lime. I’ve had some sub-par gin and tonics in my college days (bad gin, flat tonic, no ice), but it wasn’t until recently that I looked more closely at the components in my favorite cocktail and sought to make them, and the ensuing cocktail, better. It’s a simple cocktail right? Three ingredients, minimal muss and fuss; but you’d be amazed at the difference a few quality ingredients can make.

An Impromptu Bar: Gin & Tonics on our Safari Range Rover in Africa.

An Impromptu Bar: Gin & Tonics on our Safari Range Rover in Africa.

When I was on safari in Africa, we drank a lot of gin and tonics. We didn’t need any convincing, but real tonic water actually contains quinine, which the British used in their battle against malaria. Real tonic is actually a murky brown color, due to the quinine bark its made from. Known as a natural medicinal muscle relaxant, people have used quinine for centuries to mellow out. The Schweppes in our gin and tonics in Africa differed vastly from the Schweppes we buy in America. Made with real sugar (not high fructose corn syrup) and real quinine, it tasted cleaner, purer, all around better. If you visit Ninety Acres in Peapack, NJ and order a gin and tonic, it will be served with their house-made tonic. That real quinine bark gives the drink a sort of dirty overcast, but also gives it stellar flavor. Tonic makes a huge impact on how your cocktail tastes. Why use a high quality gin if you’re going to drown it out with crappy tonic? As for gin, I used to be a Tanqueray devotee, but have recently converted to Henderick’s. Voted the best gin in the world by the Wall Street Journal  in 2003, Henderick’s has a subtle rose flavor and a cool cucumber flavor that offset the usual herbal and juniper laden gin flavorings.

Homemade Tonic Syrup

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • ¼ cup (1 ounce/20 grams) cinchona bark, powdered (a coffee grinder does this well)
  • 3-4 cups rich simple syrup (by volume, two parts sugar to one of boiling water, stirred to dissolve)
  • Zest of 3 limes, cut into strips
  • Zest of 3 lemons, cut into strips
  • Zest of 2 grapefruits, cut into strips
  • 1 cup chopped lemongrass (3-4 stalks)
  • 8 whole allspice berries
  • 2 whole cardamom pods
  • ¼ teaspoon kosher salt
  • ¼ cup citric acid (lemon salt)

Directions:

  1. In a saucepan, combine the water with all the other ingredients except the citric acid and simmer, uncovered, for 25 minutes. Off the heat, add the citric acid, and pass through a fine strainer lined with cheesecloth or a towel. Allow this mixture to rest for 30 minutes, then pour off the resulting clear liquid, leaving behind the sediment that remains on the bottom.
  2. Cover and refrigerate until needed. Add a tablespoon at a time to your club soda until you reach your desired flavor and sweetness.
  3. Add more lime, lemon, grapefruit, even herbs like lavender to the syrup mixture depending on your taste and preference.
Gin & Tonics at Cata on NYC’s Lower East Side.

Gin & Tonics at Cata on NYC’s Lower East Side.

GIN & TONICS IN NYC

Heaven on earth for gin and tonic lovers takes shape at Cata in NYC. Specializing in tapas and 22 varieties of gin and tonics, Cata on the Lower East Side brings two perfect and complementary components together in happy harmony. Served with your bottle of tonic on the side and plenty of ice in your glass, one gin and tonic at Cata will keep you happy for a while. The endless flavor, gin, and tonic combinations will make your head spin, but I doubt you can really go wrong. When I visited we tried a tangy grapefruit and lemongrass variety and another with spicy red chili peppers spiked with lime.  Both excellent, and both perfect with our accompanying tapas.

Another gin and tonic haven in NYC is Gin Palace. You’d expect a place with that name to get it right, and they do. Located in the East Village, Gin Palace offers 64 varieties of gin. They also carry an impressive array of tonic options, all free of high fructose corn syrup.

Read the full post on Devil Gourmet. 

Homemade Individual Cherry Pies

Individual Cherry Pies

Individual Cherry Pies

Just because the Fourth of July has come and gone doesn’t mean the patriotic desserts have to end. These individual cherry pies are the perfect portable dessert. They pack easily, making them a natural choice for picnics, boat trips, and far-away BBQ’s. Make them whatever size you like- they’re sure to impress.

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 cups fresh cherries, pitted and stemmed
  • 1/2 cup dried cherries
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 2 packages puff pastry, thawed
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  • Preheat oven to 375°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Combine fresh cherries, cornstarch, dried cherries, brown sugar, vanilla, and salt in a large saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until cherry juices are released, about 5 minutes, then bring to a boil, stirring often until thickened. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. (Put in the freezer and stir often to speed up this process).
  • Unfold the defrosted pastry onto a sheet of parchment paper. Using a sharp knife or pizza cutter, cut dough into 6-8 rectangles. Whisk egg white in another small bowl for your egg wash.
  • Working with 1 pastry rectangle at a time, brush edges with egg wash. Scoop roughly 3 tablespoons of cherry mixture onto one side; fold dough over filling so that short ends meet, forming a packet. Crimp edges with a fork to seal. Using a sharp knife, cut a few slits in top of pie to vent. Place on prepared baking sheet; repeat with remaining dough and filling.
  • Brush tops with egg wash. Bake pastries until tops and bottoms are golden brown, 30-40 minutes. Let cool for 10 minutes on baking sheet. Transfer to wire racks; let cool completely. Can be made one day ahead, and served at room temperature, or warm with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

Patriotic Flag Cake for Independence Day

Patriotic Flag Cake.

Patriotic Flag Cake.

It wouldn’t be the Fourth of July in my house without this flag cake. I’ve made it every year for as long as I can remember, and it always makes the day extra festive. It’s a massive and dramatic cake, easily serving 20 people. Even if you have a smaller group for the day, I’d encourage you to still make the full recipe. It makes your whole table look patriotic and holiday-ready, and everyone can take a piece home. If you don’t have a piping bag with a star tip, you can just use a plastic bag with the tip cut off to pipe the stripes on. Or for a more casual cake, just spread the frosting on with a knife. This recipe is inspired by Barefoot Contessa, so you know it has to be good.

For the recipe, read the full article on Devil Gourmet.

Healthy New Potato Salad {Perfect for the 4th}

Healthy New Potato Salad

Healthy New Potato Salad

The Fourth of July is the ultimate grilling and outdoor cooking event of the summer. We load up on patriotic burgers and hot dogs, usually accompanied by rich, mayonnaise-laden potato salads and coleslaws. This lightened up potato salad offers a welcomed change from the norm. This recipe gives you all the flavor and creamy texture you’d expect, without the unnecessary fat and calories. And if you make it with Vegenaise instead of regular mayo, you won’t have to worry about it getting spoiled in the heat. However you make it, this potato salad will definitely be a hit with your Fourth of July guests.

Serves: about 8 people as a side dish.      Total Time: 30 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. small new potatoes (try to get a variety of purple, red, and white new potatoes)
  • 2 cups string beans, trimmed
  • 1 1/2 cups cherry or grape tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup Vegenaise or low-fat mayonnaise (if you use Vegenaise, I promise nobody will know the difference!)
  • 3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
  • 4 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
  • 1/2 cup fresh parsley, chopped
  • 1/2 cup fresh chives, chopped
  • 1/2 medium red onion, chopped
  • Kosher salt and black pepper to taste

Directions:

  1. In a large pot of water, add all the potatoes and 2 tablespoons of salt, and add enough cold water just to cover them. Bring up to a boil and cook until just tender, about 10-12 minutes depending on the size of the potatoes. In the last minute of cooking, add the green beans to just briefly blanch them, then drain everything and allow to cool. 
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the Vegenaise or mayo, Dijon mustard, apple cider vinegar, parsley, chives, red onion, and salt and pepper to taste.
  3. While the potatoes are still slightly warm, halve them and add them to the bowl with the dressing. Add in the tomatoes, and toss everything to combine. Check the seasoning, adding more salt, pepper, or apple cider vinegar to taste.