Monthly Archives: January 2013

Lazy Weekend in NYC

I very rarely have a weekend with no plans.  Last weekend turned out to be an unexpected surprise.  To top it off my cousin, whose schedule consistently conflicts with mine, also had the weekend off and plan free.  She lives on the Upper West Side in New York City and suggested that we find some fun things to do around the city and just follow our noses.  And so after an early morning workout on Saturday I made the drive to Manhattan.

It was a beautiful, spring-like, January day with temperatures expected to climb into the 50s.  One place that I had always heard much about but never been to is Arthur Avenue in The Bronx.  It is often called “the real Little Italy”.  So I suggested that we check it out and grab some lunch while there.  She knows how much of a foodie I am and while she doesn’t love to cook so much, she does enjoy eating.  And so we wound our way over to the Cross Bronx Expressway and onto Arthur Avenue.  It didn’t take long to find meter parking and start exploring on foot.  The street is full of wonderful markets, shops and bakeries with heavenly scents that drew our attention.  We immediately realized that we were famished and decided that lunch had to be addressed before any shopping could be done. 

After checking out a few menus, we settled on the Arthur Avenue Trattoria where we were greeted by a very friendly and charming man with an Italian accent.  He sat us at our table and told us about their specials.  We ordered Ravioli with Bolognese for me, Penne with Sausage & Broccoli Rabe for her, and an extra side order of Broccoli Rabe to share.  And since we were in no particular rush we asked the gentleman to recommend a dry, crisp white wine.  The result was a delicious Falanghina from the Campania region of Italy.  Maybe not the best pairing for the Bolognese but it didn’t matter since I enjoyed separately.  The food was very good and fresh.  While we ate, we asked our server for recommendations in the area and he gave us some great tips including his recipe for Tiramisu.  As we were finishing up, a group of women came into the restaurant and made a grand entrance.  They were a loud, interesting bunch and immediately made us think we had happened upon a filming of a certain reality show based on housewives in Bergen County.  If nothing else, they were most definitely entertaining even if they thought themselves far more Italian than their conversation indicated.



 

After our quite filling lunch, we went to the Arthur Avenue Market and picked up some burrata cheese at Mike’s Deli and I bought some amazing looking short ribs from the butcher shop.  We then decided to pick up some fresh bread from Madonia’s bakery, add a bottle of wine and voila we had dinner!! How can you go wrong with bread, cheese & wine?  We even passed an outdoor oyster bar and debated having a few but decided to pass after remembering our full stomachs.  Since we both had been up late the night before, we decided to catch an afternoon nap before heading out for the evening.  I was loving the life of leisure!
 
And so after our respective naps, a cup of coffee, catching up on emails and our simple yet delicious dinner, we headed out around 9:30pm to meet some friends for drinks.  The rest of the evening was pretty standard except for some lousy service at the Stone Rose lounge in the Time Warner Center.  Some G & Ts and another bottle of wine (Mulderbosch Chenin Blanc) with some amazing tuna tartare later, we hailed a cab back to my cousin’s apartment and crashed for the night.
The weekend ended on Sunday with brunch at Amelia’s in Jersey City with a friend and her daughter.  I had the sausage & biscuits with gravy and she had their special French toast which looked really good.  My gravy was really good, but I found the biscuits a bit dry and the sausage a bit salty though certainly not enough to stop eating. 

My last lazy event for this weekend was to watch the two football games at my brother’s house, complete with a football pool, lots of food and good wine.  When neither the Jets nor Giants are playing we root for the 49ers and against the Pats!!  And so it was an awesome evening! Alas all such weekends must come to an end though as did this one until I realized that I didn’t have to be anywhere the next day and my son had off for MLK holiday.  The day to recuperate was most definitely needed.

In case you’re wondering what I did with the short ribs I bought at the meat market, here’s the recipe I made up for dinner the next day.  My son requested that I make them Indian style instead of the Giada DiLaurentis recipe I found, and so this is my experiment which I must say turned out quite delicious.  Notes at the end on what I might do differently next time.  Hope you try them and let me know what you think or how you might change them up.

Braised Short Ribs – Indian Style

Ingredients

2 lbs short ribs cut into 2 inch pieces
1 tsp salt
1 tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground cumin
2 tbsp canola oil
1 large onion diced
5 cloves garlic finely chopped
5 ribs celery peeled & diced
1 tbsp garam masala
1 tbsp  tomato paste
½ tsp turmeric
½ tsp cayenne pepper
2 tbsp ginger/garlic paste (see note below)
1 14oz can of peeled plum tomatoes coarsely chopped
1 Cup dry red wine (something you would drink)
1 Cup chicken stock
Salt & pepper to taste

Combine the salt, black pepper, cumin and coriander to form a dry rub.  Rub all sides of the short ribs to coat.  Heat the oil in a large, over proof, Dutch oven on high heat.  When hot, add the short ribs and sear on all sides until browned and crispy.  Remove from the pot and put aside.  Reduce heat to medium and add the onion, diced garlic, and celery and stir until softened – about 2 minutes.  Add garam masala, turmeric and cayenne and stir to combine.  Add the tomato paste and stir it into the vegetables and allow to develop a dark color.  Add the ginger/garlic paste and cook for one minute.  Then add the can of tomatoes, red wine and chicken.  Bring the liquid to a boil and turn off stove.  Add the short ribs, cover and allow to marinate in the hot liquid for up to 4 hours.  When ready to finish, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Remove short ribs from the liquid and onto a plate.  Bring the liquid to a boil again and turn off the stove.  Add the short ribs back into the pot and place the pot, covered, into the preheated oven for 2 hours.  Remove the cover from the pot and braise for an additional 45 minutes.  The meat should be falling off the bone.  Take the meat out of the pot one more time and onto a plate.  Remove as much of the fat at the top of the liquid as possible.  Using an immersion blender or a food processor puree the braising liquid to form a thick gravy.  Taste and adjust seasoning as needed.  You may add the meat back in at this point to serve.  I used two forks to shred the meat and remove the bones and grizzle before adding back to the gravy.  I knew my son would prefer it this way. 

Normally I would suggest serving with rice but since I try to stay away from white starches, we ate ours with some whole grain bread & a salad of arugula, apples, dried cherries, pepitas and gorgonzola cheese & a simple citrus vinaigrette (lemon juice, orange juice, Dijon mustard, salt, pepper & olive oil).  I had mine with a 1999 California Cabernet from my cellar and it paired beautifully.  An overall delicious and fancy meal for a Monday night.
 

Note 1 –Ginger/garlic paste can be purchased at Indian grocery stores or you can make your own as I do by pureeing equal parts of fresh ginger and garlic cloves with a bit of water in a blender.  My mother even adds a bit of coriander and fennel seeds in hers and uses it in most curries.

Note 2 – This recipe only serves 2 so if you are cooking for more please be sure to multiply as needed.
 
Note 3 – You can alternately cook these in a crock pot on low setting for 6 hours instead of placing in the oven to braise.  Everything prior to that step would remain the same.


What I would do differently next time……….

·         Use more garam masala – perhaps another tablespoon

·         Add a cinnamon stick, few cloves and 2-3 green cardamom pods to the hot oil before adding the vegetables
·         If cooking for people who could handle it I would up the cayenne to 1 tsp

Happy Cooking!

Happy Blogaversary!!!

Happy New Year!!

As I reflect upon the past year, and particularly over the past few months, I am saddened to leave 2012 behind and yet glad to begin 2013.  In a way I was ready for this past year to end.  There are many reasons why but mostly I am looking forward to the many promises that the new year holds along with the many culinary adventures to be had.

2012 was full of fun & laughter shared alongside food & wine with family & friends.  I published my first post on this blog on January 12th one year ago.  Thus the title of this post.  I hope you have all enjoyed this journey with me so far and hope that you will continue to follow my adventures into the world of food.  I have had over 2,600 views along with a following on Facebook and I must say I am thrilled at the tremendous response I have had from you all.  Thank you!!

I wanted to send 2012 out with a bang and couldn’t quite decide on a topic since I have had so much wonderful food and wine over the holiday season.  As I sat to a New Year’s day dinner hosted by a friend, it came to me in a flash………celebrate all the awesome meals of the holiday season.  You may want to grab a glass of wine as you read this post and celebrate along.

Diwali (Hindu festival of lights)

Life became busier than normal 
immediately following Superstorm Sandy.  The Diwali holiday landed the week after power was restored and we tried to get life back to normal.  To celebrate I had planned a Diwali party at my house on November 17th with 40 guests.  Last year I had to cancel this event due to the aftermath of the freak Halloween snowstorm and I really hoped it would not be a repeat episode for 

Crostini w/ wild mushrooms & goat cheese

this one.  But power was restored just six days prior leaving me almost no time to plan for the party and yet determined to make it happen.  With the help of others I managed and the party was a great success and a fun time was had by all.  I typically serve finger food to make it easier for everyone to walk around and some items on the menu this year were Batata Wada, Shrimp with tamarind & chipotle sauce, Crostini w/ goat cheese & wild mushrooms, Paneer Methi Tikki, Warm Dates w/ Prosciutto, a smoked salmon platter, profiteroles and much much more.  With the help of family & friends and few items ordered from a restaurant to complement mine, we had a pretty nice spread if I do say so myself.  All of course washed down with wine, rum, vodka, scotch and other beverages of choice.

Party Prepping

The food and party were a big success and the evening ended up with Bollywood dancing lessons in my living room.  Not taught by me mind you.  I have decided to make it an annual event as I had so much fun decorating with rangolis (designs with colored sand) and diyas (lamps) throughout the house.  Many of the guests got into the spirit and wore Indian clothes which made the party more festive.

Our family Diwali dinner was hosted by my cousin in Long Island.  Over the years our family has grown and it’s so much fun to get together and celebrate and watch all the kids of today’s generation enjoy the festivities as much as I did when I was young.  My cousin had made a veritable feast of Butter Chicken, Spicy Shrimp, Undhiu (a Gujarathi mixed vegetable dish), and so much more.  My favorite of the evening was something called Haraa Bharaa Kebab which is made with spinach, peas, potatoes, chilies, spices and is absolutely delicious.  I got the recipe from my aunt and will be making them soon and will share with you all.  I couldn’t stop eating them.

Thanksgiving

The very next week was Thanksgiving.  For the past several years, my family has started a tradition of doing a destination Thanksgiving.  We rent a large home at a location within driving distance, set up meal menus for the weekend including the main Thanksgiving meal, assign everyone items to bring and food to make, and we spend four days bonding over food, music, board games, poker, karaoke, hiking and pool tournaments.  One year we even got in a bit of skiing.  It is an absolute blast.  This year the extended family of aunts, uncles and cousins could not join us so it was just our immediate family of 10 and we went to a lake community in the Poconos.

Idli Sambar

We typically cook a traditional dinner complete with turkey, stuffing, gravy and all the fixin’s.  One of my mother’s neighbors asked her what the traditional Thanksgiving meal in India is at which she, of course, started laughing while the neighbor stood there clueless as to the source of her laughter.  I am often amazed by the ignorance of so many but this was a funny one.  Well I suppose if the Canadians have a Thanksgiving day, the pilgrims and “Indians” must have made it to India.  As usual I digress. The rest of the weekend meals will range from take out Pizza to Idli Sambar (South Indian specialty).

This year’s activities included a lot of hiking.  We hiked various trails in Hickory Run State Park full of waterfalls, steep climbs and geocaches for the boys.  One of our favorites was the Boulder Field Trail.  It is a 3.5 mile trail which ends in a large field of boulders which one must then cross in order to get to the parking lot where we were picked up by the other half of our group which decided to turn back a mile into the hike.  Although the crossing seemed daunting at first, my son, sister-in-law and I made it across and even beat the pickup car to the other end.  I just remember being happy to have my Rangpur & tonic upon returning to our temporary home.



December (Yes, I’ve officially dubbed this a holiday)

One of my favorite things to do as the holidays begin is bake cookies.  There was a time when I would bake over one thousand cookies of different kinds to give away to family, friends, neighbors and clients.  I have significantly curbed this enthusiasm over the years and today have more realistic goals.  For this season I opted for Biscotti laced with Godiva, Madeleines (you may have read the post) and some fruitcake cookies which were delicious.


This year’s Christmas parties seemed to start immediately after Thanksgiving.  In addition there were milestone birthday parties thrown in.  My office holiday dinner took me to Zylo Steakhouse at the W in Hoboken.  A fun night with great wine and great food.  We chose a great Heitz Cellar Cabernet Sauvignon to accompany the filet served for dinner and a Pinot Noir for the salmon.  The very next night I found myself at Prana Lounge to celebrate a 40th birthday.  Drinks, dinner & dancing – how could one go wrong.  Two weeks later I was celebrating a friend’s 50th with braised short ribs and more great wine pulled from his cellar along with lots of other great food.

My family celebrates Christmas to some extent but we modify the schedule to suit everyone.  This year it was on the 22nd and my mother hosted with lamb curry, Tondlee (Ivy Gourd – refer to post on Thai poached chicken), chapatis & more.  I ate too much as I always do when my mother cooks and highlighted my evening with a glass of a rare 1980 Lagavulin Single Malt that my father received as a gift and I hide in a cabinet in his bar.  It makes me feel as if he’s there with us somehow.

Christmas Eve was spent with some good friends who invited me to spend it with them for the second year in a row.  After an amazing adventure into Chinese & Malaysian cuisine last year, I wasn’t quite sure what to expect.  What we got was a fun filled evening with great conversation, lots of laughs, good wine and a delicious dinner highlighted with individual portions of Beef Wellington.  Their annual tradition is to go walk around the neighborhood and see all the luminaries light the way for Santa Claus however this year we got something even more exciting as we watched the snowflakes come down to promise a white Christmas.



Christmas Day turned out to be somewhat of a culinary mystery to me.  My aunt and uncle hosted and the plans to get together were quite last minute.  I had no part in planning the menu (nothing like shunning responsibility in advance) and sometimes I’m glad for it.  The menu consisted of baked ziti, lasagna, eggplant parmigiana, chicken parmigiana, garlic bread.  I have never seen so much Italian food or tomato sauce in an Indian household.  Not to mention all the appetizers that came before dinner.  I’m fairly certain that it took me several days to get over my food coma.

My son & I spent the days between Christmas and New Year skiing in Vermont.  We were rewarded with three glorious days of fresh powder and took advantage of every bit of it.  One of my son’s favorite things to do and is a requirement after a hard day on the slopes is a stop at the Waffle Cabin.  These fluffy sweet concoctions are not the best in the world but oh do they taste awesome at 4pm as the lifts are closing and all you want to do is hit the hot tub that awaits across the bridge.


  












The year ended with our traditional early family dinner at Giorgio’s in South Orange.  It’s a BYOB with great service and homemade pasta. The food was very good and the kids particularly enjoyed the Nutella pizza.  New Year’s day rounded out the holiday festivities with a small dinner party hosted by a friend with veal rollatini wrapped in prosciutto, cheese & asparagus, roasted brussels sprouts, homemade tortellini, and creamy cauliflower & sweet potato soup.  A wonderful start to a new year!!!



And so we embrace 2013 reminiscing upon the good times of the past year and ready to make more memories in the new one.  Twelve pounds heavier now, I plan to spend some time at the gym in the upcoming weeks and focus on my generally healthy lifestyle.   Here’s to a new year that is filled with even more fun, food, family & friends!!!!

Swati



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