Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Dinner for the end of June/July 4th

My first 3 day weekend (non-vacation) in 2 years is here! Time to plan for some good food - not sure what we'll be making but a trip to the farmer's market is in order for sure. And we just got a space in a community garden in Harlem with basil, beans and tomatoes already a growin!

Erin made some lovely dishes this week by the way - I was on my last week in the ICU and both in a bad mood and tired most of the time so she carried the day/week - and did it splendidly!

Veggie Quesadillas - Erin style:
- squash, onion, black beans and cilantro with NY cheddar - delicious!

Caprese salad - next month it will be from the garden - woohoo!

Dinners week of June 20th

Well it was time for a break... week was busy and family in town so while we had some fine meals at home, I think I'll take a chance to review a couple of restaurants that we went to the past couple of weeks:

5 and Diamond - http://www.5anddiamondrestaurant.com/
- a small bistro place with bare brick walls and a menu that is driven by local ingredients with a Harlem flare (I'm not sure many places exist here without offering a version of mac and cheese). The service is good and very friendly albeit a bit slow at times. The food is good, but not great. Erin had a papardelle with a short-rib ragu, a salad that was truly divine and I had a wonderfully done steak with herbed potatoes and spectacular broccoli rabe. Overall, it's a bit spendy for us but with a refined yet laid back atmosphere hard to find in Harlem and the food is good - so we'll be back.

Amy Ruth's - http://www.amyruthsharlem.com/
- this place has been in Harlem since the mid-1990s and has quality soul food. We've been a bunch of times with various people and it's always at least decent, often times good. The President Barack Obama is my favorite - fried chicken with two sides (usually greens and mac and cheese for me). All of the menu items are named for famous black people basically - but I don't think they are meant to reflect their lives or personalities - the fried catfish is great and the Reggie Harris (Barack Obama with honey glaze) is also a winner. BYOB requires some planning but decent soul food at good prices is harder to find...

Bad Horse Pizza - http://www.badhorsepizza.com/
- so we stumbled on this place after a disaster day at La Guardia, and it was like finding an oasis. The pizza is inventive and they have a decent beer selection; their pasta was underwhelming - good but the pesto was bland and the pasta a little overdone. That said however, the pizza is worth going for if you're looking for some non-traditional flavors that are well-matched and crafted (one downside - the sauce when tasted in isolation was a bit lacking - the toppings made the pizza).

Red Rooster - http://redroosterharlem.com/
- this was our anniversary dinner - so it was basically wonderful in every way just because of that. Otherwise, the food was disappointing and the atmosphere a bit boisterous for what we were looking for. If you don't sit in the back dining room which requires reservations months in advance, the front is shared tables that are a bit cramped and loud. This place has had rave reviews and perhaps my food was just a bad selection, but it was not good. I had blackened catfish that was so blackened that it had basically no taste other than burnt and the ceviche tacos were also lacking flavor or character. Erin liked her meatballs well enough and her crabcakes, but I would not go back unless for a drink and appetizer... not worth the money for just barely ok food in a space where you're bumping elbows with your neighbors who (despite all the hype to the contrary) are largely not local and are not mixing pleasantly in a romantic palette of color as has been suggested by some reviews.

Southern Soul BBQ - http://www.southernsoulbbq.com/
- all I have to say is I have been misled. Erin and her parents have taken me to BBQ almost every time I've been to Texas and every time have said 'Oh that wasn't good BBQ, next time we'll take you to good BBQ.' I'm still waiting. This place, on St Simons Island in Georgia where we were for a wedding had hands-down some of the best barbeque I've ever had. I had a burnt ends sandwich and fried okra. They take the ends of a brisket with sauce and put it between two pieces of bread and leave the heavenly experience to you - I cannot say enough. Unfortunately, it is nowhere near either Texas, New York or anywhere I will likely be in the near future... so I will have to hold on to the memory and hope they branch out to Texas.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Dinner for the week of June 12

So this week looks pretty promising - no call until Saturday and still coming home from the world's worst food environs that is the hospital cafeteria. There's one woman that smiles back at me every day and I swear she sort of furtively looks around as she does to make sure none of the others see her... anyway, here it goes (this is tentative as Erin's pregnant nose is acting up and may react negatively...). In fact, I've just been informed that tomatoes, olive oil, meat and strong flavor are bad - after having purchased the ingredients for the below - guess what's in them.

The little one creating all this havoc has also morphed from varieties of fresh fruit to a sea creature (medium size apparently) - now a shrimp formerly known as kumquat/lime/blueberry.

Scallops and seared brussels with garlic bread
- quick and easy with panko on the scallops and the brussels with some garlic bread

Hanger steak with a mushroom-swiss polenta and summer greens and fresh tomatoes
- the mushroom-swiss polenta will be the tricky bit - how to maintain flavor amidst all that starch while keeping it fluffy...

Panzanella with bufala mozzarella and yellow summer squash
- bread salad with fresh mozzarella and good tomatoes with olives and basil - how can one go wrong... the summer squash I'm going to broil after slicing thin longwise to make little ribbons...

Vietnamese fish with bok choy and udon
- the recipe that I'm working from with this is odd somewhat because it's literally labeled 'Asian fish' - I thought most folks had gotten past 'Asian' and 'African' and realized that those are continents with highly varied sections within them (countries). So I'm changing the recipe in a few ways and the name - we're going with Vietnamese despite the udon noodles....

Saturday, June 11, 2011

Dinner for week of June 5

It was another somewhat tumultuous week so a little more toned down and much more homestyle this week... finally the weekend came and I was so ready to cook. The first two recipes are from the weekend. I don't know what it is about the food at the hospital, but good god am I happy to be home and eating decent food. It's not just that the food's bad (and aside from a few things at breakfast, it is horrible), but the fact that it is served with complete distaste/hate for your fellow human beings makes it somehow worse. The angriest people I have ever met work in that cafeteria. I smile and try to be really nice, and that gets me somewhere sometimes, but I swear most of the people that work there are being beaten in the back or are actively doing hard time. The worst meal made with love can taste great, there is no love in that place. Anyway, I was happy to be at home and have a chance to cook a couple decent meals this weekend with music and happiness all around.

Grilled Indian-style salmon with roasted cauliflower and salad
- Salmon with a ginger/garam masala/cumin marinade broiled and served with raita - a yogurt based sauce with cucumber, onion and cilantro along with cauliflower roasted with chili powder and garlic with a fresh salad with pears and lemon vinagrette to cool things off...

Steak tacos
- checked out a new butcher down the street - won't be back, but not because the meat wasn't good, it's just not happy meat. But some lime and cayenne and cumin on the steak for an hour while the squash and cilantro and onion mix was prepared --> gimme some cheese with a hot tortilla and a beer and we're all done! Erin was out of town so I had all the tacos I could stuff to myself!

Classic hamburgers and roasted veggies with sweet potato fries
- Hamburgers marinated with a little garlic-hot sauce, thyme, and salt and pepper served on Challah bread; we roasted the carrots, brussel sprouts, zucchini and peppers with oregano, cayenne and a bit of cardamom in olive oil to spice it up a bit

Eggplant, red pepper and squash ratatouille with meat sauce
- Roasted the veggies and then added the browned ground beef left over from the hamburgers with a basil-tomato sauce and broiled with a parmesan-bread crumb crust on top - Erin liked it better with pasta

Quesadillas - the veggie version
- crooked yellow neck squash with onion and garlic sauteed for a bit before assembling with cheese and voilla!

Homemade coleslaw, potato salad and hot dogs
- Erin had a hankering for this after a day in the park on the weekend, so to whole foods we went... she made a great homemade mayonnaise to go with the potato salad and the shredded coleslaw and happy hot dogs were great for a Sunday afternoon dinner

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Dinner for the Week of May 29th

This was a bit of a rough week - Alex was in the ER or ICU much of the week and Erin working till 8 most nights in the lab... still, we had some good ones:

Fusilli with broccoli raab in a ricotta-pepper sauce
- easy recipe - basically cook the raab with a bit of garlic and whatever spice you want, mix 15oz ricotta with 1/2 cup of water (from the pasta makes it easy) and then mix all together - I think would be good next time with sundried tomatoes too

Spinach parmesan polenta with a tomato-balsamic reduction and thyme crusted chicken
- I think Erin didn't like the tomato-balsamic a bit too acidic and pungent - the polenta was great though