Monday, August 29, 2011

Market Mondays: Lentil And Eggplant Stew

For this week's edition of Market Mondays, I made one of my favorite recipes from Food & Wine magazine. It's a dish I've made countless times, and one I will continue to make over and over again. It's healthy, packed with flavor, incredibly easy to assemble and cook- everything a meal should be. The recipe for Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses is below:

Eggplant and Lentil Stew with Pomegranate Molasses (yield, 6 servings)
1 1/2 lbs (approx. 1 large) eggplant
5 oz brown lentils
6 fl oz extra virgin olive oil
7 oz Spanish onion, finely diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
8 oz (approx. 2 medium) tomatoes, diced
3 oz (approx. 2 medium) Anaheim chilies, seeded and chopped
2 tbsp fresh mint leaves, chopped
1 tbsp tomato paste
1/4 tsp crushed red pepper
2 fl oz pomegranate molasses
2 tsp salt, plus more as needed
1. Cut eggplant lengthwise into slices and score each slice. Sprinkle slices with salt to draw out moisture and allow to sit for 30 minutes.
2. Cook lentils according to package directions, drain and reserve.
3. Heat oven to 350 deg. Coat a large gratin dish with a thin layer of extra virgin olive oil, reserving the rest.
4. In a large bowl combine drained lentils, onions, garlic, tomatoes, chilies, mint, tomato paste, red pepper flakes, and 2 tsp salt.
4. Remove salt from eggplant slices and pat dry. Further cut eggplant slices into cubes and add the cubes to the vegetable mixture. Mix well.
5. Transfer mixture to the prepared gratin dish and drizzle the remaining extra virgin olive oil over and around the mixture. Drizzle pomegranate molasses evenly over the top.
6. Cover the dish with aluminum foil and transfer to the oven. Bake for 1 1/2 hrs, then uncover and bake for an additional 1/2 hr.

I chose this eggplant over another booth that was selling it for $2.50 more/lb.
A table of onion varieties
Garlic bulbs- $1 each
Fresh Jersey tomatoes
A basket of vibrant peppers
Rubber-banded mint clusters

Friday, August 26, 2011

Fat Fridays: Van Leeuwen

Van Leeuwen is known more for its artisan ice cream than it is for its baked goods. In addition to three storefronts in Manhattan and Brooklyn, the company makes its presence known with a fleet of pale yellow mobile trucks. Early Friday morning, I hit the "Madison Square truck" (parked on the corner of 22nd and 6th every day from 8am - 10am before it moves to the corner of 23rd and 5th for the remainder of the day, 10am - 4pm) for a Fat Fridays pastry. The choice wasn't hard- the marzipan raspberry brioche roll was calling my name. Sweet dough surrounds an almond flavored center, and is topped with fresh raspberries, toasted almond slivers, and powdered sugar. A great way to start the morning.

Van Leeuwen's marzipan raspberry brioche roll- $4

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Prepping For Hurricane Irene

Before it was suggested my husband and I leave our beachfront rental in Westhampton Beach (evacuation wasn't mandatory, but if Hurricane Irene was as bad as predicted, the firemen going door to door made it very clear we would be on our own), I joined the masses and stocked up on hurricane essentials at the town's grocery store.

Prepping for Hurricane Irene was a memorable experience, not only because I can't recall the last time I ate a meal that wasn't prepared using some kind of electricity (no thank you raw movement), but also because when people are in panic mode and food is involved, rudeness reaches unparalleled levels. Saying "excuse me" to two women in the middle of the canned goods aisle resulted in huffs and dagger eyes, yet not even the slightest movement to allow me to pass. A rush on the store's diminishing water supplies led to pushes and shoves, and as I was leaving, I bore witness to two screaming matches over lack of parking spots. Luckily I had enough sense to hit the Circle M Discount Beverage Center before heading to the grocery store, so water wasn't an issue, and I stayed in town for Hurricane Earl the previous year, so I felt somewhat calm amidst the chaos. My hurricane survival fare included two boxes of cereal, pretzels, peanut butter, jelly, English muffins, salted cashews (I think I finished the entire jar before we left our rental- so much for rationing in an emergency), Swedish Fish, nectarines, and apples- all purchased for naught as we ended up ordering a big, thick crust pizza to our hotel room in Riverhead.

Ready to brave the hurricane with provisions from Waldbaums
Residents boarded their homes and wrote messages to Irene
Along with every other stretch of sand on Dune Road, Pike's Beach was closed to the public
The majority of houses on Dune Road were boarded up as Hurricane Irene made its way up the coast
Signs advertising help with storm prep dotted Dune Road
The scene at John Scott's Surf Shack- much different than the usual neon lights and packed parking lot
Before we left- a long puddle of water spanned the beach and fog made it difficult to see
The calm before the storm
Our hurricane dinner- Carlos Pizza of Riverhead, definitely not the thin crust I'm accustomed to

Monday, August 22, 2011

Market Mondays: Zucchini-Walnut Loaf

For this week's edition of Market Mondays, I decided to try my hand at a recipe I found on EatingWell's website. It's not a website I frequent, but my sister-in-law recommended I take a look- and so far, I like what I see. With so many recipes to choose from, I finally settled on a 2004 recipe for "Zucchini-Walnut Loaf".

Set to gather all I needed at the Union Square Greenmarket, I made my way through the crowd (people had gathered to watch Aarón Sanchez, on location to film his newest Food Network show, Aarón Loves New York), filling my bags with zucchini (in my opinion one of summer's best products), flour, eggs and applesauce. Once I had what I needed, I headed home and made what turned out to be a deliciously moist, guilt-free (118 calories per slice), cake-like bread. The recipe is below.

EatingWell Magazine's Zucchini-Walnut Loaf: (yield, 2 loaves)
3/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
2 large egg whites, at room temperature
1 cup sugar, or 1/2 cup
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
2 tablespoons canola oil
1/4 teaspoon lemon extract, (optional)
1 cup grated zucchini, lightly packed (about 8 ounces)
2 tablespoons chopped walnuts
1. Preheat oven to 350°F. Coat 2 mini 6-by-3-inch loaf pans with cooking spray.
2. Whisk whole-wheat flour, all-purpose flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, cinnamon and nutmeg in a large bowl.
3. Whisk egg whites, sugar, applesauce, oil and lemon extract (if using) in a medium bowl. Stir in zucchini.
4. Make a well in the dry ingredients; slowly, mix in the zucchini mixture with a rubber spatula. Fold in walnuts. Do not overmix. Transfer the batter to the prepared pans.
5. Bake the loaves until a toothpick comes out almost clean, 40 to 45 minutes. Cool in the pan on a wire rack for about 5 minutes, then turn out onto the rack to cool completely.

Bright yellow summer squash and zucchini
Aarón Sanchez filming his newest Food Network show- where else but in NY
I picked up the necessary flours from Cayuga Pure Organics
Hens' eggs from Knoll Krest Farm
Natural, unsweetened apple sauce

Friday, August 19, 2011

Fat Fridays: Blue Duck Bakery Cafe

I've written about Blue Duck Bakery Cafe, a staple at the Westhampton Beach Farmers Market, in previous posts. The bakery's three berry pie may be my favorite pie of all-time, and its breads (especially the chocolate chunk chocolate loaf) are outstanding. In addition to pies and breads, the shop's Southampton outpost (there is also a Southold location) sells enticing confections like cupcakes, cookies, and pastries.

I stopped in this week for a trio of mini pies (apple, sour cherry and blueberry) and picked up a Fat Fridays treat for myself- a rectangular slice of carrot cake. There is nothing fancy or novel about Blue Duck Bakery Cafe's carrot cake, but then again, there's really no need to alter a classic. Moist cake, with hints of cinnamon and nutmeg, plump raisins and crunchy walnuts, is layered with sweet cream cheese frosting. A squiggly orange and green stemmed carrot, made from that same delicious cream cheese frosting, sits atop.

Southampton's Blue Duck Bakery Cafe- 30 Hampton Road
A generous piece of carrot cake- $3.75

Thursday, August 18, 2011

LT Burger In The Harbor

Some days I wonder why it feels like I'm gaining weight at such an alarming rate. I look at other pregnant women and think- how do they stay so fit when it looks like I've added an extra inch every time I pass a mirror? Today, however, was not one of those confusing days. As I tucked into a thick Veggie Falafel burger and sweet potato fries at LT Burger In The Harbor, it became pretty clear where the extra chub is coming from.

While dealing with a messy (to date- ongoing) divorce from his partners in the $80 million BLT empire, chef and owner Laurent Tourondel opened LT Burger In The Harbor last summer. Serving classic American fare, the restaurant and bar isn't for the faint of heart. The menu is dominated by hearty burgers (mostly 7 oz. Angus beef- a combination of 2 way chuck and short plate with additional non-meat options) with a variety of toppings, includes fried favorites like waffle fries and onion rings, and has an entire page devoted to shakes (not your average milkshake- the Twinkie, a point of contention with Tourondel's former partners, is made with vanilla ice cream, twinkies and caramel syrup; the Key Lime is made with lime curd and graham crackers; and the American Puff is made with vanilla ice cream, Cocoa Puffs, and Reese's peanut butter cup), floats and sweets like Fried Oreos (served with nutella and milk chocolate sauce), and Aunt Kathy's Cupcake (a vanilla lemon base, chocolate ganache filling, and strawberry cream topping).

After snagging a sunny sidewalk seat, I chose the number 9- a Veggie Falafel burger, and added a side of sweet potato fries for an inflated $4.50. The burger's hefty $12 price tag (on the lower end of all the burgers with the highest two, American Wagyu and tuna, topping out at $16) yields an exceptionally thick chickpea patty, heavy with cilantro and garlic, topped with chopped veggies (avocado and a salsa of tomatoes, cucumbers, and red onions), mache, and tzatziki sauce, all stacked in a fresh multigrain bun. The hummus alluded to on the menu was missing altogether. Although its height made it impossible to take respectable, lady-like bites, I had no problem finishing the entire burger and dirtying a pile of napkins along the way. With all but a few fries and zero appetite left, I resigned myself to calling it a day before taking the opportunity to order one of several exceptionally unhealthy, delicious looking shakes.

The restaurant is connected to a smaller coffee shop that serves coffees, teas, sodas, juices, frappes, smoothies, and mocktails (non-alcoholic fun beverages geared toward a younger crowd)
The colorful chalkboard menu- burgers on the left, salads and starters in the middle, and shakes on the right
The restaurant's front counter, for easy take-out and fast fixes like ice cream
The restaurant's horseshoe shaped bar and dining room
Sweet potato fries and the Veggie Falafel burger
The Veggie Falafel burger's toppings- sadly, minus the hummus
After a few slow, messy bites

Monday, August 15, 2011

Market Mondays: Roasted Fairytale Eggplants Over Spiced Lentils

Sunday's rain turned to a light mist on Monday and brought substantially lower temps. I was glad for the reprieve from what has been an incredibly hot and humid summer, and took full advantage by making something a little more comforting for this week's edition of Market Mondays.

I started by roasting garlic, onions, red peppers, tomatoes and fairytale eggplants with extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper. The first four were combined and quickly turned into a puree- an easy task with a food processor. The puree made its way into a shallow dish and was topped with spiced lentils (prepared with a dash of chili and curry powders) and roasted fairytale eggplants. A great combination of flavors and a hearty break from light summer salads.

Extra large garlic bulbs
Onions- $1/pound
Some of the brightest red peppers I've seen to date- $3/pound
Box after box of multi-colored heirloom tomatoes- some of summer's best
Fairytale eggplants lose their attractive purple hue and take on a homely brown when roasted
A dish I will definitely make again come fall

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Birthday With Have Your Cake, Ltd.

As August 13 turned to August 14, strong winds and heavy rains plagued Westhampton Beach. Roads were flooded, power was intermittent, and the sky was cloaked in gray. Thanks to Have Your Cake, Ltd., and to my husband for braving the elements to make a birthday cake run, my brother was able to celebrate his 37th as if the storm never hit. The bakery's white cake, layered with white chocolate mousse and topped with buttercream frosting and rainbow sprinkles, is a winning combo for any age.

After the sparkler candles faded (a big hit with the adults and kids), the 3 and 7 were left for a dramatic blowout with my brother, niece, and nephew
My niece, smirking as she demolishes a piece of her dad's birthday cake

Friday, August 12, 2011

Fat Fridays: Baked By Melissa

Baked by Melissa's addictive mini cupcakes are available in 11 flavors- cookies & cream, cookie dough, peanut butter cup, peanut butter & jelly, red velvet, s'mores, tie-dye, cinnamon, mint chocolate chip, chocolate chip pancake, and the special "mini of the month" flavor (August is pink lemonade). Each cupcake is approximately the size of a half dollar (accounting for icing and assorted toppings), making it extremely easy to sample all 11 flavors in one sitting. Thanks to my two friends Jennie and Tom, who arrived bearing 50 mini cupcakes just in time for a Fat Fridays hog-fest, that is exactly what I did.

The clear standout amongst all 11 flavors- the peanut butter cup. Made with a chocolate cake base, peanut butter cup filling, and chocolate icing, it is the perfect bite sized treat. Coming in a close second- the chocolate chip pancake. Reminiscent of an intensely sweet breakfast (my favorite kind of morning), the cupcake is made with a yellow pancake base, loaded with chocolate chips, and topped with maple syrup icing and extra chocolate chips.

Baked by Melissa's mini cupcakes can be purchased at any of 4 Manhattan locations or through the company's website. The greater the number purchased, the lower the price- ranging from 3 cupcakes for $3 to 100 cupcakes for $70.

Each takeaway box includes a list of the 11 fun flavors, complete with descriptions of fillings, icings and toppings
The entire line of Baked By Melissa cupcakes- nestled in individual compartments for a no-mess transport

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Acai Berry vs. Seaberry

An August 8 article in the NY Daily News begins- "Move over, acai berry- there's a new super-food on the horizon." The article goes on to detail the health and wellness benefits of what it predicts will be the next big fruit trend- the sea buckthorn berry (known as just seaberry). The orange, tart grape-sized berry is nutrient-rich, packed with vitamins A, K, E, C, B1 and B2, fatty acids, lipids, organic acids, amino acids, carbohydrates, folic acid, and flavonoids.

While the seaberry, commonly used in food and skincare lines for years in other countries, is gaining momentum in the US (just this week I received a postcard in the mail from Fresh for a free sample of its new line of seaberry products), I think the NY Daily News (which seems to have lifted and shortened an article published in The Independent) may have jumped the gun in declaring it a winning replacement to the acai berry. Anyone who's been to the West Village's new O CAFÉ can back me up when I say the acai berry continues to demonstrate it is here to stay. A bold, colorful acai sign sits noticeably in the shop's front window, and its acai smoothie is one of the best I've tasted. The frosty $8 treat, made with acai and organic cane juice, is topped with a homemade blend of crunchy seeds, nuts and sprouts and provides a healthy dose of antioxidants. Trends come and go- but I think something this good has the power to stick around.

O CAFÉ, serving the flavors of South America, displays an acai sign in its front window
The café serves coffee, tea and tiny pastries- but my drink of choice is the acai smoothie
At $8 the thick, purple smoothie comes in a large see-through cup with a spoon and straw
A close-up of the nutty topping