Delicious destination: Mexico City

IMG_1435When I convinced my friend Daphne to come with me to Mexico City for a long weekend, I had no doubt in my mind we’d have a great time.

I’d been to Mexico before, back what feels like three lifetimes ago in 2011, but to the Quintana Roo region known for its beach towns along the Carribean.

This time, however, I swapped the shorts and bathing suits for gym leggings and forgiving jeans with a lot of stretch because my plan to explore Mexico’s capital involved doing so mostly through as much of its delicious food as we could get through in the few days we were there.

Let me first say that three and a half days is barely enough time to put a dent in the neighborhood we stayed in, Roma, much less the whole city. But if you get the chance to visit Mexico City, be it for three days or three weeks, take it. GO. Eat everything.

From the tacos and tostadas to the pastries and sweets, the fruit and even the convenience store snacks, everything we ate was delicious (and so cheap!), but it was the first meal we had, molcajete at the Mercado Roma, that really set the tone for the rest of our trip: awesome.

IMG_1432

Made from porous volcanic rock, a molcajete is the Mexican version of a mortar, and the one we ordered was filled with wedges of grilled queso blanco, an assortment of meats— pork, steak, chorizo, nopales (cactus), charred peppers and onions, all served with a stack of warm tortillas. Like me, our molcajete was shaped like a little pig.

IMG_1433Assembly was DIY and deliciously simple: grab a floppy tortilla, plop down a bit of meat and maybe a little something else, an onion or a pepper, drizzle some salsa on it, give the whole thing a squeeze of lime, and enjoy. Almost every table we sat at had the same selection of condiments: a bowl of lime wedges and a few salsas and hot sauces for flavor tweaking and adjusting, and they never went unused. Our molcajete was delicious on its own, everything juicy and tender with a subtle char from the grill, but a little lime juice and hot sauce added just the perfect, zesty finishing touches.

A little sloppy but worth every bit of saucy, juicy mess, I couldn’t have planned for a better first meal in the city. And if you check back in over the next few days, I’ll tell you about some of the other great things we ate, which I’ll probably still be daydreaming about for months to come.

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.

img_7412

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.

img_7414

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!

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.

fasdasdas
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.

Tasty and healthy and I made it myself!

Anyone who knows me also knows good and well that while I definitely love food (duh, this blog), I’m way more about eating it than I am about cooking it. (Growing up I always just assumed that by the time I was as old as I am now, I would be so filthy loaded that I would have a personal chef to cook all my meals and therefore, would never have to actually learn how to cook. Needless to say, things did not pan out the way I’d hoped as a child.)

However, every once in a while, the spirit moves me, and I decide to put what few kitchen skills I have to use. Tonight, for example, was one of those times.  Following a recipe from one of my favorite blogs, The Londoner (about a London girl who has my dream life), I made a guilt free egg fried “rice.”

And whaddaya know, it came out pretty damn good! Tasty and healthy? A double win! So here’s how things went down:

asd

Everybody’s here for the party.

First, I gathered my ingredient and styled them for your viewing pleasure: coconut oil, sesame oil, cauliflower, garlic, scallions, peppers, eggs, cilantro, peanuts and soy sauce (not pictured above.)

sasdasd

Note to self: invest in a food processor. Grating sucks.

The magic trick to making this dish healthy is that instead of rice, you use cauliflower. Now, on The Londoner she just popped all of her cauliflower into a food processor to break down into crumbly bits, but I don’t have one of those so I took a cheese grater to my cauliflower and grated it all down to teeny tiny bits manually. This, first of all, takes way longer, and second, is a hell of an arm workout. You laugh, but I’m sore.

sdfasdfas

Fizzing, foaming and smelling my kitchen with tasty smells.

In a pan (which should’ve been a wok, but again, didn’t have one of those), I poured the coconut and sesame oils along with some garlic. Everything kinda fizzed up into a beigey foam and the smell filled my kitchen (whole apartment really) with awesomeness. At this point, The Londoner added shrimp, but I wasn’t feeling them so I proceeded without.

sdasdasdasd

Adding a little color and flavor with some soy sauce.

Once that got going, I dumped all of the grated cauliflower inside, stirred it around, then added the chopped scallions and fresh peppers. A little pour of soy sauce (low sodium of course, cause why not cut calories when it tastes the same?)  turned everything a nice golden brown.

asdasd

Fact: adding an egg to anything will always increase the deliciousness factor.

Then, I made a little hole in the middle of the cauliflower mix and cracked an egg right into it, letting it simmer and cook up for a bit, before scrambling it all in with everything else. I did that again with a second egg, let everything cook and get nice and toasty, and then finally turned off the stove.

asdasdasd

Behold! Egg fried rice with not a single grain of rice in sight!

I sprinkled some crushed peanuts on top, garnished with fresh cilantro and added a couple squirts of Sriracha sauce, and BAM! A delicious meal I hoovered down with not the tiniest bit of guilt. Now, that’s the kinda cooking I can get into!

When you need it to be cheap and greasy

I would love to hear the scientific explanation behind greasy food being so richly satisfying when you’ve been drinking. That’s a lie, actually. I don’t really want to know the science behind it because science isn’t really my thing. I rather just skip to the good stuff: the greasy food.

Recently, during a night out with friends, someone suggested getting something to eat after our first drink and before several more that were to come after it.

Mango chicken at Yamo: cheap, greasy and obscenely filling. Everything I look for in my drunk munchies.

“Well, what do you guys want to eat?” asked one person I was with.

“Something greasy,” was the fast and firm answer from someone else.

This night could’ve been any night, in that when is that not the answer?  I mean the above dialogue happened between two people I was with but really, I’ve had that same dialogue internally with myself. Sometimes when I’m sober, I actually want a salad, or some fruit, or a bowl of oatmeal. But after a few drinks? I want greasy pizza, street meat and Mc Donald’s.

On this most recent occasion, a friend had a better idea, (thankfully sparing us all from the golden arches).  In response to the request for greasy, we found ourselves at Yamo, a tiny, almost literal hole-in-the-wall Burmese lunch counter in the Mission.

Continue reading

Morning at the farmers market

The Ferry Building is fast becoming one of my favorite places to hang out in San Francisco. With all the great food and interesting places to eat and shop, all under one roof, I have yet to get tired of going. Since I’ve been here I’ve gone at least once a week, sometimes twice. When I woke up yesterday morning, I knew that’s where I’d be heading first during my Saturday wanderings around town. The reason: Saturday’s Farmers Market.

I originally went for something specific, but when I got there it turned out the vendor I was looking for wasn’t there this week. At first I was upset because I’d walked all the way over there for nothing but once I started looking around at all the other stuff there I was glad I came. Fresh produce, baked goods, cheese and meat products—everything regional, straight from the farm, and most of it organic.

Everything looked incredible but I was particularly blown away by the fruits and vegetables. It was like I was seeing them for the first time. Had peaches always been this big and round, the color of a fiery sunset? Definitely not the tough, dinky ones I bought at shitty supermarkets in New York.

Continue reading

Say cheese!

For the past couple of weeks, all I’ve wanted to eat is cheese. Just huge chunks, wedges, slices, globs of it. While I always love cheese, the reason I’ve been craving it like a junkie as of lately is because of the book I just finished. Immortal Milk, by Eric LeMay is all about cheese, but not in a boring  reference book kind of way. You wouldn’t read Immortal Milk to look up what makes Gorgonzola so funky or cheddar so orange. You’d read it, like I did, to follow someone else’s adventures, explorations, musings about cheese.

Immortal Milk is at times funny, educational, entertaining, and throughout, appetizing. Reading it before bed inevitably made me get up and rummage through the fridge, hoping to find some hunk of pecorino or Gouda or Camembert that I knew damn well I didn’t have, but oh hey, will you look at that, was somehow just magically there. (Note: no such luck. Never any magic cheese.)

Continue reading