Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Around the World in 80 Dates

While dining on sushi delivery (one of the wonders of living in Brooklyn) a few weeks ago Alex and I hatched the idea that we needed to try more new restaurants. Oddly, in Minnesota, we hardly ever repeated a place, but in NYC, sometimes the ridiculous number of options just kind of make us lean to the familiar neighborhood places. I mean, when the local pizza joint is good enough for Jay-z and Beyonce, I think that works for me.

Anyhow, it's no secret I'm a travel addict and love exploring new food in new lands. Since I can't always be getting my passport stamped, at least right now, we decided it would be fun to see how many different country cuisines we could sample right in our own backyard, and there's no better place to try then New York!

Thus, the Around the World in 80 Dates challenge was born. The rules are the following:

1. The restaurant must be country specific, no "asian fusion", etc. allowed.
2. At least one of us has to try something we've never heard of before.
3. It has to be a date, no take out. :-)
4. I will attempt to re-create at least one of the new dishes the following week at home.

Our first stop: Lebanon!

Alex: How did we pick Lebanon? Why, what better place to start than with the cradle of civilization itself? Wait, that's Mesopotamia, which technically is in Iraq. Where's Lebanon again? Oh: it's west of Syria and North of Israel. Still confused? If you look at your right hand palm facing up, and that represents the state of Wisconsin, then Lebanon is the equivalent of . . . some other body part. Either way, Lebanon is really more the tricyle or PowerWheels of civilization anyway.

But mostly we started with Lebanon because there is an authentic Lebanese restaurant named Tripoli a few blocks from our apartment that we'd been eying for awhile, so we spontaneously decided (after realizing that we didn't want to walk too far or drive anywhere) that that would be our first stop.

Nicki: Tripoli did not disappoint. Of course, like a moron I didn't have my camera with me for our first adventure, but oh well, I still want to count it! The inside of the restaurant is a little quirky, with kitschy sea murals and is decorated kind of like an old ship. The service was a bit slow but the food was delicious. In the spirit of trying something new and being authentic, we went with the Lebanese Traditional Maza, which then made me extra sad I didn't have a camera. It was quite a sight! The maza is a collection of 20 (!!!) different small plates, similar to Spanish tapas. It covered our entire table! I was pretty sure it would be too much, but then once we dug in it ended up being the perfect amount of food for the two of us, and a super fun dining experience to boot!
We enjoyed all of the plates, with the exception of one, olives. Try as both Alex and I might, neither of us can acquire a taste for them. Sorry mom :-(

For the at home version, I decided on three things, kibbeh, hummus, and tabouli salad. The kibbeh, or , kibbee mishwiye (I found lots of different spellings) was one of the more interesting things we tried, sort of a baked meat pastry. I couldn't find a recipe for exactly what we had tried, but something semi similar.

I apologize, I realize this is not super photogenic. But, it was REALLY tasty!

I used this recipe from All Recipes scaled back for 1 pound of ground meat with a little less salt. We used ground beef from the farmers market rather then ground lamb, as that's what I normally buy and was in the freezer. Otherwise, I followed the recipe, but baked it instead of fried.

I was a little worried about how this would turn out, but was surprisingly pleased! It was really easy and came together quickly, and, tasted really delicious! It wasn't as crispy as what we'd had in the restaurant, but close enough!

For the tabouli salad, I very roughly followed this recipe from Daily Unadventures in cooking, no green pepper and no scallions, but otherwise, more or less tossed the ingriedients together. Super easy, super yummy, and it even kept well for leftovers!


Finally, I whipped up my first ever batch of homemade hummus. Who knew this stuff was so easy?? Awesome, will be making this again. Light and fluffy and all around fantastic.

Lebanon success!


Stay tuned for the next adventure!

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Quinoa with a side of Summer

So many lovely things show up at the farmers market in the summer. One of my most favorite is fresh basil. It sits next to my desk and just smells so delicious all day. I'm always on the lookout for new ways to use it, and pesto is usually a great way to do so.

I saw this recipe on A Crafty Lass a few weeks back a starred it in my google reader. I love cooking with quinoa, and this would be a new way to use pesto along with some summer sweet corn, so I knew it'd be something I'd like to make.

I whipped this it up tonight with a few alterations, and it was delish! Super easy, pretty quick, and we even had leftovers after Alex and I had seconds, score!

Quinoa with Summer Vegetables, Shrimp and Pesto

1 cup dry quinoa, prepared per package directions, (usually 2:1 water to quinoa, boil, simmer covered until water is gone) A little over 2 cups prepared.
1 shallot, finely chopped
1/2 yellow onion, chopped
1 large garlic clove, chopped
1/3-1/2 lb shrimp
2 small potatoes
cherry tomatoes
1/2 green bell pepper
4 ears sweet corn
olive oil
Seasoning for potatoes... thyme, rosemary, pepper...

Chop potatoes into cubes and place in a skillet with olive oil over medium high heat. Add spices to your liking... I went with Thyme and rosemary. Fry stirring/flipping with a spatula until browned and a bit crispy on the outside, 8-10 minutes or so.

In another skillet saute the shallot, garlic and onion with the shrimp and olive oil until the shrimp is cooked. I added a bit of crushed red pepper for some flavor. Pour off any excess water if your shrimp were frozen. Slice the corn from the cob and add to the shrimp. Add the 1/2 green pepper. Cook for a few minutes, then add the tomatoes and fold in the quinoa.

Fresh Basil
Parmesan Cheese
Olive Oil
Walnuts or pine nuts

Spin in a food processor until smooth.

Serve the quinoa mixture on a plate, top with the fried potatoes and then drizzle with pesto.



Fun with Color!

So in perusing my google reader yesterday I came across this post on 101 Cookbooks for a golden tomato sauce. As it was a gloomy day outside, I thought having virtual sunshine on a plate sounded like a fabulous idea. Luckily Monday has loads of tomato vendors at the greenmarket, so I decided to see what I could come up with.



In retrospect, I probably should have gone for more yellow then orange-y heirlooms, but these were just so delicious looking, I couldn't help myself. I used the smaller two for the sauce with a bit of the other one that had gotten a little mashed in my bag.

This recipe turned out so simple and easy, and was so delicious. I love having a gourmet feeling on a rainy Monday!

Sunshine Tomato Sauce with Summer Pasta

Two good size golden tomatoes, roughly chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
3 good size cloves of garlic, finely chopped
a small handful of chopped parsley
1/4 tsp or more to taste crushed red pepper flakes
sea salt to taste
A few good slugs of olive oil

Put your shallot and garlic in a sauce pan with olive oil. Simmer a bit until things start to soften. Add the tomatoes and parsley. Stir in more olive oil and bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally as the tomatoes begin to break down. Cover and let simmer 5-10 minutes. Blend to desired smoothness with an immersion blender.

Summer Pasta
1/2 package of pasta of your liking, we used penne
1 summer squash sliced thinly and chopped (we used a lovely asian heirloom version of avocado squash whose name I can't remember from the greenmarket, but zucchini or other summer squash would be fine. )
2 garlic cloves, chopped
olive oil
fresh basil
Prosciutto (I had pancetta in my head, but ended up with prosciutto, and I know you really shouldn't cook it if you're a food purist, but whatever)
Fresh parmigiana for serving.

Cook your pasta to package directions. Drain, set aside. Add your garlic to a pan with olive oil, saute. Add the squash, saute just a few minutes, add prosciutto if you like, though this could certainly just be with vegetables.

Mix the pasta with the veggies with a bit more olive oil so things aren't sticking together. Add torn fresh basil leaves after you take it off the heat. Serve topped with your golden sauce and freshly grated cheese. YUM.


Sunday, August 22, 2010

Parents in the City!

Two weeks ago my parents made their way out to the big city for some fun in the big apple!

We had a great time showing off our new neighborhood, Central Park, taking a sunset cruise around the harbor, seeing the Statue of Liberty and Ellis Island, the Brooklyn Bridge, and enjoying some fabulous eats!

We also went to the Dragon Boat festival in Queens, though not as cool as I'd hoped it would be, there was still some neat stuff.




Dad and I in Central Park.

View from the boat on the sunset cruise.




On Liberty Island.




Ellis Island Exhibit.


Brooklyn Bridge.


Thanks Mom and Dad! We had a great time having you for a visit!!

An active summer!

This summer has flown by! I can hardly believe it's almost September.

Lots of fun events this summer, but I have to say, I'm pretty proud of all the fitness goals I've achieved! My goal originally was to run another 10K this year and compete in another triathlon over the summer.

After all was said and done, so far this year I've done 2 10k's, a HALF MARATHON!, a sprint triathlon, and today a 5K as part of a 10 mile relay. Woohoo!

Lots of fun, and lots of early mornings, but I made it. I'm hoping to still squeeze in another race or two before the weather turns to snow.

As I never actually blogged about the half, I figured I'd share some photos as well.

Before I started training for the half marathon, I was determinedly NOT a distance runner. I dabbled in 5K's and once a 10K, but was fairly convinced I was just too slow. However, once convinced that doing a half marathon was a good idea, I realized that mostly, I just needed a mental change of heart. Once I quit telling myself that running anything over 3 or 4 miles was really scary, I figured out I could actually do it! I'm still not the fastest girl on the road by any means, but I'm no longer scared of longer distances and can officially tell myself, I am a distance runner!



About a month after coming back to NY after the half, I was up for a sprint triathlon in Harriman State Park, about 30 miles north of the city. It's amazing how much beautiful green wooded scenery can be found so close to the intense urban lifestyle that is Manhattan.

This race involved a 1/2 mile lake swim, a 16 mile bike, and a 3 mile run. The course was beautiful! Although, the bike was the absolute HILLIEST I have ever seen. It was up and down, and up and up. Downhill was clocking well over 30 mph! But then most of it was right back up!

Coming out of the water.

Finishing the run.

We saw at least 10 deer while driving in, an eagle, and apparently one of the swimmers even saw a black bear on the shore of the lake while we were in the water!

I was pleased with my time and am excited to attempt my goal next year of a full Olympic course.

Today was the last race of the summer, the Battle of Brooklyn 10 mile! Since I wasn't quite up for a 10 mile race, and Jackrabbit Sports decided they were going to offer a relay option, I decided that would be much more fun!

Alex, Andrea and I headed out this morning and had a great race! Yay Team Awesome!


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Falafal with Tomato Sauce

I haven't cooked anything new in awhile so decided it was time I dove back into my cookbooks. I had a few recipes picked out from my beautiful African cookbook and decided to go with the falafal. I love falafal, but have never made it on my own, so thought this would be an interesting experiment.


I started to mash my chickpeas by hand, but then that was just not working, so I spun them in the food processor instead. Much easier.

I assigned Alex to be my fryer while I worked on the other parts of the meal. However, these didn't hold together for him as well as I'd hoped. The final product ended up being not quite so pretty, but oh well, we aren't going for any presentation contests here.

Despite looking rather un-pretty, these actually tasted delicious, especially with the sauce!


The recipe called for serving these with a tomato sauce, which is listed as "quick tomato sauce", or at least that's what I thought. Boo. Upon actually reading the recipe, it says you have to roast tomatoes in the oven for 40 minutes. That, does not equal quick tomato sauce to me. So, I made up my own sauce, and was flabbergasted that it was actually really good and worked with the falafal! Yay! I am learning something in the kitchen!

The book also said to serve with a cucumber sambal, which, in theory sounded good. However, I added waaay too much mint, and this part, while ok, did not go with the rest. Oh well. 2 out of 3 isn't too bad!


Homemade Falafal
Inspired by The Soul of a New Cuisine

1 can garbanzo beans, drained and rinsed
1 small white onion, finely chopped
1 handful chopped parsley
2 large cloves of garlic, finely chopped
1/4 tsp chili powder
a little less then 1 TBS cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
a few shakes of sea salt
a few grinds of black pepper
1 egg
canola oil for frying

Spin your garbanzo beans in a food processor until mostly smooth. Transfer to a mixing bowl. Add the onion, parsley, spices, and beaten egg. Stir until blended. Make the batter into little balls or tiny patties. Heat oil in a large skillet. Add your falafal balls and cook until browned on all sides.

Update: This recipe has turned out a lot better if I saute the onion and garlic a bit first with a bit of olive oil until softened. Then add to the mix.

Easy Tomato Sauce
Inspired by Spicy Tomato Sauce served with Tunisian Omelet.

2 large beef steak tomatoes
A few cherry tomatoes
2 cloves of garlic finely chopped
1 shallot, finely chopped
Handful of chopped parsley
1/4 tsp cumin
3/4 tsp (or so) coriander
sea salt
1/4-1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
A few shakes of dried basil
a few pours of olive oil

This recipe is pretty approximate, but basically, chop your tomatoes, garlic and shallot. Put in a saucepan with olive oil. Simmer with spices stirring occasionally until tomatoes break down. Let simmer covered for 5-10 minutes. Smooth things out with an immersion blender if desired. Enjoy!