I cooked and no one was harmed in the process

Anyone who doesn’t believe in the transformative power of the new year and the promise of better things to come, should’ve tasted my chicken on Tuesday night.

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Not a great pic, no, but only cause I was in a hurry to eat this beauty

You guys, it was good. Even I— ever the self-deprecating kitchen pessimist— am taking a moment here to toot my own horn, cause let me tell you, I not only made dinner from scratch but I made a damn tasty dinner at that.

The stakes were high. I was cooking for my roommate/best friend and the guy I’m steady wooing these days, neither of whom I wanted to send to the bathroom in the middle of the night with food poisoning or even a mild upset stomach. (Especially since we only have one small bathroom and an ancient, temperamental toilet.)

When I saw a simple enough yet delicious sounding recipe for a spicy roasted chicken and cauliflower mash on one of my go-to blogs last week, I knew what would be kicking off my commitment to cook a proper meal at least once a week in 2017.

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There is hope for me yet!

I sourced all my ingredients, updated our spice cabinet and put my thinking cap on. A couple of hours later, with only some barely noticeable hiccups along the way, I had made one damn good looking, Portuguese inspired, charred (on purpose!) roasted chicken surrounded by shiny, oven-roasted baby bell peppers, served alongside a bowl of steaming, creamy, garlic-and-butter-laden cauli mash.

The chicken was juicy and tender, the flavors of lime, garlic, cilantro and crushed red pepper making it spicy and colorful, and the cauliflower had the consistency and very similar and oh-so-comforting appearance and taste of mashed potatoes. Everything looked good, tasted great, and went down easy with nary a tablet of Pepto or Immodium in sight! (Though I had them on hand, cause you never know…)

 I told you 2017 was gonna be great!

Hot fix for a summer cold

Ladies and gents, I am comin’ to you live from SNOT CITY. That’s disgusting, yes, I know. And I’m sorry— kind of—because you clearly didn’t come here to read about the drama that is my sinus cavity right now, but it’s true. I’m in the midst of an obnoxious summer cold, and it sucks.

Sorry folks, it's not all food porn here.

Sorry folks, it’s not all food porn here.

I’m all red nosed and stuffy, bursting into sneezing fits every quarter hour or so, and I have a cough that feels like there’s a lone Pop Rock lodged in my throat. And so help me God, if I have to eat one more cherry flavored zinc lozenge, I’m gonna vomit.

Yesterday after leaving work, where the indoor temperature is precisely 30 below zero, the only thing I wanted was a hot cup of bone broth. Not only is it pretty much soup I can walk with, but it also has damn near magical healing powers. Bone broth is allegedly full of minerals and other good stuff that help aid the immune system and reduce intestinal inflammation (Woof. How terrible does that sound?) as well as help you sleep better, boost energy and keep you looking young (HOLLA!) thanks to collagen.

A few places in the city have it, but the closest to me at the time was Barney’s Bone Broth, a small walk up window near NYU. I went with Barney’s Signature broth, made from grass fed veal and beef bones, chicken, carrots, celery, onions, thyme, rosemary, garlic and parsley, all served piping hot in a to-go cup.

Even on a warm summer day, the hot bone broth was comforting and delicious, a portable soup-as-cold remedy for a sick girl on the go.

Cambodia’s national culinary dish

Cambodia’s Khmer cuisine has some delicious food to offer (sorry, fried tarantulas, you guys are NOT included on that list) and my favorite was unsurprisingly their most popular, the one you can find on pretty much every menu at every restaurant in every city in the country: amok.

My favorite fish amok

My favorite fish amok at Rumduol Angkor Restaurant, after a day of temple touring.

Pretty much the national dish of Cambodia, amok is a curry made with coconut milk, peppers, carrots, ginger, basil (probably a bunch of other magical spices, too) and most commonly, either fish or chicken. It’s served with white rice and usually either comes in a banana leaf container or as I had it one time in Siem Reap, inside a coconut.

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Admittedly, not the most aesthetically pleasing, but let me tell you it was goooooood! Especially scraping out the coconut meat

Amok is thick and chunky, with a great balance of sweetness from the coconut milk and hot, spicy exotic flavors from the peppers and spices. This, to me, is absolute comfort food. Even times when it was hot and muggy and I had sweat rolling down my face (so basically, every single day of my month-long stay in Cambodia), I loved ordering fish amok (which I preferred over chicken) and now that I’m back in the frozen tundra that is New York, I reeeeally wish I had a piping hot plate of it. I kind of, sort of, learned how to make it (stay tuned for that story…) and this frigid weather might just be all the motivation I need to relive this delicious bit of Cambodian comfort at home.

Latkes fingers

Chicken finger and latke hybrid

Chicken finger and latke hybrid

I love love looove the holidays. I like the presents and the lights and the parties, but really— to no one’s surprise, I’m sure— my favorite part is the food. Egg nog, candy canes, panettone, mulled wine, sugar cookies, hams, all of it.

In recent years, I’ve also become a big fan of potato latkes, which is why when I read that Sticky’s Finger Joint had added latke fingers to their menu of specialty chicken fingers, I had to try them. Latkes, a food usually associated with Hanukkah, are delicious little potato pancakes made with grated potato, flour, egg and seasoning, and traditionally served with sour cream and apple sauce as side toppings.

All the things!

All the things!

Sticky’s latke fingers are plump, juicy chicken strips, coated in the grated potato, four and egg mix, and fried to a crunchy, golden crust. In a word: delicious. Sticky’s also offers a whole menu of dipping sauces but the latke fingers, as tradition would have it, come with both sour cream and apple sauce. I put a little of each on every chunk I cut off making for one of those perfect mouthfuls that has a little bit of everything: tender, moist chicken, crispy, crunchy crust, little bit of potato, tanginess of the sour cream, and the sweetness of cinnamon-sprinkled apple sauce.

They’re big enough that one or two, with a side order of fries, is a good sized meal, and maybe now one that I’ll look forward to adding to my list of holiday favorites every December.

Thai Market, daydreamed and real

When my newly married friends Vanessa and Jon recently honeymooned in Thailand, I went along with them. Well, not really, not physically in the third wheel sense (cause how awkward would that be?) but vicariously through the Instagram pictures Vanessa posted daily.

In my Thai reveries I lounge around deserted beaches, play with baby elephants and feel small before giant Buddha statues, just like my married friends did, but mostly in my daydreams, I roam around the food markets, eating all sorts of things. And because it’s a daydream and not real, nothing has a single calorie. (In the beach part of my daydream, I look damn good in my bikini.)

Vanessa’s street food stories, like the ones I read on another favorite blog, The Londoner, left me with not only more wanderlust than ever, but with a ravenous hunger for Thai food. So when I asked a friend for a lunch recommendation on the Upper West Side earlier this week and she suggested a place called Thai Market, it was just what I needed.

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Tom yum goong soup. Emphasis on the yum.

To start, I had the tom yum goong soup, a reddish-brown blend of tangy, zesty lemongrass, tamarind, juicy shrimp, and plump, soft mushrooms.  It was colorful and warming, with just enough spicy heat to give my tongue a tingly little prickle without breaking out into full on nose sweats.

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Pad kee mao… that means give me more, right?

After it, at the server’s suggestion, I ordered the pad kee mao, large, flat rice noodles with tender strips of chicken, Thai basil, chili, tomato and bok choi. It wasn’t crazy hot but this time I definitely had to guzzle cold water throughout eating it. The flavors, like the colors of the different ingredients, were bold and bright, with chunks of bright green peppers, juicy tomatoes and red swirls of chili oil all mixing around in the most delicious way.

The restaurant’s overall look is supposed to transport you to Thailand, with giant photos of markets as a backdrop, along with Thai street signs and large red umbrellas that kind of make you feel like you’re outside. I popped in for lunch, and while I don’t doubt that the food sold by street vendors and at markets is way better and cheaper, Thai Market’s $8 lunch special makes it a pretty good alternative for being on the UWS.

Thai Market on Urbanspoon

Cozy up with congee

As it happens every year in January, the twinkling lights are gone, once happy Christmas trees are now piled up naked  on sidewalks, and the holiday parties have all dried up. But the thing everyone seems to be bitching about most is the cold, the frosty temperatures and face numbing gusts of winter in the city.

But as it also goes every January, I’m eating it all up with a spoon! A soup spoon, that is. Soup season is upon us, people, and just that should make everyone quit their pissing and moaning.

Christmas night, when it was blustery and frigid, a friend and I went out for Chinese food at Congee Village on the Bowery, and for the first time ever, I tried congee. Game changer, guys, game changer. Congee, not really a soup but a savory Chinese rice porridge instead, is exactly the kind of thing meant to be eaten on cold nights. It’s a reason to wish for cold nights, if you ask me.

It's not exactly soup, but this chicken congee will give any ol' chicken noodle a run for its money

It’s not exactly soup, but this chicken congee will give any ol’ chicken noodle a run for its money

We shared a few things over dinner but the chicken and mushroom congee was far and away my favorite. The chicken added just enough salty flavor  to spruce up the otherwise plain rice, making for a subtle, satisfying and just all around comforting winter meal. Creamy and warm, with the  consistency of oatmeal, I could eat a bowl of this stuff every night for the rest of winter. And it’s only just begun, so cozy up and get yourselves some congee, winter haters.

Sibling recommendations: Colombian fast food edition

As someone who spends a large chunk of her time— both at work and outside of it— researching restaurants, reading up on what’s new on the dining scene, and telling people what they should eat and where they should eat it, I really love it when someone else takes over and does the work for me.

During last week’s pre-holidays trip to Miami, my sister took over the reins and suggested Los Verdes, a place in Broward county specializing in Colombian hot dogs and other fast food.

So here’s what I learned: Colombian food, while delicious, gets very few points for being aesthetically pleasing. But I’m ok with that. Sometimes it’s ok for things to be a messy jumble. That’s life, no?

A Colombian hot dog: apparently not for neat, dainty eaters

A Colombian hot dog: apparently not for neat, dainty eaters

Being the hot dog fan (examples 1, 2 and 3) that I am, it only seemed right to try one of the much-hyped (by my sister) Colombian hot dogs. When it came out, I wasn’t quite sure there was a hot dog involved because what was placed before us looked like a splayed out hot dog bun under a small mountain of crushed potato chips and sauce, a round, little quail egg plopped on top. The two sauces, a sweet pink sauce (probably a mayo-ketchup combo) and the sweet pineapple sauce, were no ketchup and mustard but they were good and put a whole new spin on the dog. Biting into this monster, stuff went every and got smeared on everything, but all of it was good. The different textures were fun and the different flavors were interesting when eaten with the buried hot dog. Sure, I probably should’ve worn a poncho to eat this thing, but I enjoyed it all the same.

A mess of a burger

All this mess and I hadn’t even touched it yet.

Next on the tour of wildly messy but tasty Colombian foods was the chicken burger, which was more of a chicken sandwich than a burger (breast not patty) and included more of the same ingredients from the hot dog. The towering “burger” seemed to spill out from underneath its bun, sauces oozing, melted cheese dripping down, lettuce, tomato and bacon jutting out from everywhere, on top of the seeming explosion of crushed potato chips. Again, not exactly date food (at least not first date, if you ask me) but since I was there with family, I might as well have been invisible for all I cared.

Maicito

Maicito, Colombian for mountain of food involving corn… or something like that

Last and probably my favorite of the three, was a Colombian maicito with chicken, basically a bed of loose corn kernels topped with— yup, more of the same— mozzarella, sauces (pink and pineapple), chopped chicken, and the by now ubiquitous crushed potato chips. Ok, so Los Verdes is kind of repetitive with their toppings, but there’s good reason for it: mixed all together into a sloppy, mushy mess, they’re delicious! This plate, with the sweetness of the loose corn, was oh so tasty.

Points to my sister for an interesting, ridiculously filling, messy but delicious recommendation, even if she did leave out the fact that I would need protective gear to eat it.