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Archive for August, 2009

There is nothing like a refreshing Gazpacho soup to cool you down on a hot summer night! Delicious summer veggies like fresh cucumbers, juicy heirloom tomatoes, and zesty cilantro blend together for a thirst-quenching, feel-good meal or appetizer. For me, summer is never complete without Gazpacho – it evokes memories of BBQs and relaxing summer evening dinners on the deck. Plus it keeps your tummy tight for bikini season and the no-cook factor eliminates the need to slave over a hot stove on a humid August day.

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This dish is low maintenance, versatile, and yet still packs a punch with the right combination of herbs and spices!

Ingredients:

  • 2-3 tomatoes (heirloom or other) OR 28oz canned diced/crushed tomatoes
  • 1 cucumber
  • 1 bell pepper (red/yellow/orange/green)
  • 1 small white/yellow onion
  • 1/2 can corn kernel
  • 1 cup cilantro (chopped)
  • 1/4 c. red wine vinegar
  • 1/4 c. olive oil
  • chili powder (i use 4 Tbsp but that’s b/c i just like it hot!)
  • paprika 
  • basil (fresh or dried)

1. Coarsely chop veggies
2. Saute onions
3. Combine all ingredients together
4. Puree 1/2 to 3/4 with a blender/food processer/hand blender
5. Chill in fridge for a couple hours

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Now for the Tips and Variations:

  • The longer it chills, the longer the flavors have to develop. This dish also freezes amazingly well
  • If using a hand blender (like me) cut into petite cut (1 cm sq cubes) first so you don’t end up with overly chunky pieces
  • You can choose to blend it all if you like the puree style, or blend less of it if you like the chunky texture
  • Feel free to subsitute red wine vinegar for: white wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, (fruitier taste), apple cider vinegar, lemon, or lime
  • If you are one of those who can’t stand cilantro (apparently it’s very polarizing), you can substitute with parsley.
  • For a sharper, lemony taste, add dill. For heartier taste, try tarragon or oregano
  • Other veggies you can add: celery, jalapenos, olives
  • Adding fruits like pineapple and mango will give this dish a sweet fruity twist!

Enjoy and stay cool!

Gazpacho on Foodista

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DSCN0646Inspired by a delicious, couldn’t-stop-eating-it pasta salad from a catered lunch event, I decided to create a creamy pasta dish based on 2 hero ingredients – Leeks and Mushrooms.

Leeks have long been one of my favorite ingredients to work with. Sweeter and more subtle than its onion cousin, leeks add depth and complexity to any dish with its delicate, buttery flavor and silky texture.  And there’s nothing more mouth-watering than the hearty flavor of earthy mushrooms to whet your appetite. For my adaptation, I decided to braise the leeks and mushrooms in broth and red wine, and complete the dish with a creamy tarragon sauce for a French twist.  Tarragon, next to Basil and Cilantro, is one of my favorite herbs. Its aromatic sweet smell permeates the kitchen while you cook, and its hearty, almost meaty flavor adds dimension and mystery. Finally, I chose Farfalle for its beautiful butterfly shape and suitability with cream sauces.

Ingredients:

  • Approx 6-8 oz of Farfalle Pasta
  • 1/2-1 leek, thinly sliced (focusing on the white or light green part, which is the most tender)
  • 1 pkg of crimimi/baby bella mushrooms, quartered
  • Tarragon
  • Vegetable broth
  • Heavy Cream or Half & Half (I prefer the non-fat kind)
  • Red Wine (I used Pinot Noir)
  • Grated Parmesan Cheese
  • Swiss Cheese
  • Salt & Pepper (i like using Fleur De Sol – any type)

1. Prepare the pasta – flavor water with salt, boil for 10-15 min until al dente, drain, sprinkle with a little oil, toss, and set aside.
2. Saute the leeks with butter, fleur de sol (or just salt), black pepper, and a little broth until leeks are tender and the aroma fills the kitchen, taking care not to overcook the leeks (brown leeks are not yummy).  Remove from heat and set aside.
3 Saute the mushrooms with butter, salt & pepper. When mushrooms start to brown and soften, add broth, wine, a pinch of tarragon. Cover, and braise for about 6-8 minutes (simmer on low heat) until mushrooms are thoroughly flavored.
4. Add the leeks and Farfalle. Add some cream, more broth and red wine and another pinch of tarragon.  Turn to low heat and let sauce thicken. Toss in 1/5 cup of parmesan cheese and 2 oz of grated swiss cheese. Mix well and serve hot!

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Subsitution Suggestions:

  1. Substitute red wine with port or sherry to add a sweeter flavor. Try dry white wine for a milder taste.
  2. For an Italian twist, try Basil instead of Tarragon
  3. Mushroom varietals like portabella, white, oyster, would all work in this dish
  4. Replace Swiss Cheese with any of the following: Gruyere, Fontina, Mozzarella, Edam, Gouda, Pecorino, Romano. Or skip it altogether. It’ll be just as good!
  5. If you’re an Omnivore (like Brian), you can add chicken strips
  6. If you’re a Buddhist Veggie (like my parents – meaning you don’t eat Onion/Garlic/Leeks) you can use Asparagus instead.
  7. For a fresh citrus kick of flavor, grate some lemon zest on top

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This past weekend, I visited one of my favorite cities for a wedding. San Francisco to me is the west coast equivalent of NYC – creative, diverse, and pulsing with energy. If it weren’t for the fog, I’d move there in a heartbeat!

Highlights of our food adventures:

B Restaurant @ Yerba Buena Park:
We stumbled upon B Restaurant while looking for a fast power-brunch before the wedding.  As the host seated us in the upper terrace overlooking the beautiful park, I immediately wished I had more time to spare – the atmosphere was comfortable and relaxing, like you’re perched on a rooftop watching the world go by as you enjoy market-fresh food.

The Spinach Benedict came with a mixed green salad that was seasoned with the right balance of delicate acidity. The eggs sat upon a French Toast, which lent a hint of sweetness to complement the savory. My Bloody Mary was deliciously seasoned with spices & herbs and a kick of heat. The waiter told us that the mix is actually prepared a day in advance so the flavors can develop in the tomato base. Finally, our order of mixed mediterranean olives did not disappoint. Green, black, or red – they were all plump and succulent.

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All in all, a great meal – fresh, and nicely prepared.

Millenium
The 4.5 stars on yelp convinced us to try this place out.  There was someone who claimed that this was the “best meal they’ve ever had”. Even non-veggies raved. We were excited…

We had the 3 course prix fixe ($39)with wine pairing ($12)

First Course – Sesame Cornmeal Crusted Oyster Mushrooms with lemongrass-grapefruit-chile sambal, watermelon radish relish
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To be honest, I wasn’t impressed. It tasted like fried mushrooms with a sweet & sour dip and pickled veggies on the side. It was adequate, but nothing special.

Entree: Pecan Crusted Tempeh with Creamy Grits, Collard Greens and Green Beans
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I found the tempeh grainy (like a ho-hum veggie burger),  and the sauce overly sweet. The best part of this dish was the creamy corn grits, which reminded me vaguely of my grandmother’s congee. It had a nice texture and mild savory flavor. I usually don’t like grits, but this was well-made.

Dessert: Blackberry Tiramisu, Chocolate Midnight Cake, and Almond Cake with Sorbet
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I have yet to discover vegan desserts that truly “wow”, so the lack of luster I found in this trio of desserts should have been no surprise. To compensate for the lack of dairy,  the desserts were oversweetened and over-flavored, making them hard for us to finish.

Overall, not too bad, but given my expectations, a bit disappointing. There are so many wonderful vegetarian restaurants serving both gourmet and casual fare, that to stand out, a restaurant really needs to pay close attention to all details.

I’ll conclude with some of my favorite veggie restaurants in NYC:
-Buddha Bodai (Chinese Dim-Sum in Chinatown)
-Happy Buddha (Also Dim-Sum in Flushing)
-Red Bamboo (Soul food in West Village)
-Blossom (Gourmet Vegetarian in Chelsea)
-Franchia (Korean Teahouse in Murray Hill)

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Hi Everyone! My name is Shelly and I have a curious appetite for all things creative and  inspirational. I’m lucky to live in the most wonderful city in the world – NYC, offering some of the most delicious food and stimulating experiences a girl could ask for.

I’m a vegetarian who believes in eating well and living happily. As just another player in the heartless corporate world, I discovered that the delight of cooking a simple meal does wonders for my trapped creativity and relieves the burden from the daily grind. Since then, I spend my weekends experimenting with new recipes, throwing in twists of my own.  

I also enjoy spending a lot of time traveling (when possible) and being a tourist in my own city, so this blog will be a combination of recipes, great food gems around the country/world, and adventures in my urban jungle/oasis.

Hope you enjoy it!

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