Kitchen sink quinoa and roasted beet salad

Bethie had me over for dinner. It was delicious. We were aiming for light and healthy. We had homemade carrot/apple juice, quinoa salad and a roasted beet salad. Beth almost killed me by trying to feed me shrimps (she forgot!), but luckily I noticed right away and she most kindly got out a chicken breast for me. The shrimps and chicken were in a butter, lime, garlic and red curry marinade. Yum.

First – the juice. You need to buy a juicer, or this whole thing doesn’t work. You simply chop up fruit, and drop it in. While I can take the credit for the juicing (okay, you might call it the chopping and dropping), Beth was the creative genius behind the flavors. Two apples (Gala or something similar), two peeled carrots and about an inch of ginger. Delicious and so healthy. It’s really fun too. The clean up didn’t seem great, but Beth was saying the good thing about her juicer is all the parts come apart so you can get them all clean.

Next – the salads. The roasted beet salad was the easiest. The beets were the pre-cooked ones in the plastic package – they’re actually quite nice! We cut up the beets and roasted them in the oven while we prepared everything else. Then they went in the salad bowl with some spinach, roasted walnuts (done quickly over the stove) and goats cheese crumbles. The dressing was rice vinegar and olive oil. I love goat cheese and beets. I also love Beth’s glass bowl and salad tongs.

The quinoa salad is next. I called it the kitchen sink quinoa salad because that’s how we put it together – digging through Beth’s fridge. Luckily she has lots of nice vegetables in her fridge – mine typically has a Brita water filter, beer and condiments. Lately I’ve been stocking those Kozy Shack tapioca puddings too. Tonight I’ve also got some strawberries and celery in there. So, even on a good night, mine is not as great as Beth’s.

Beth prepared the quinoa. I’ve actually never cooked it – it looks easy, but I’m fearful that it is similar to rice – something I’ve never been able to successfully make. Please don’t judge.  I’m told it’s because I peek at it too much, releasing the steam. I had the all important job of chopping the veggies from the fridge. We decided to put in the following: avocado, red onion and red bell pepper. Non fridge items included raisins, almonds and a bit of shredded coconut. I was surprised that Beth had coconut on had and asked what she used it in – to which she said “everything”! Eating at Beth’s seems like it’s more of a party than at mine! Routine use of coconut!?! Fun! We drizzled a bit of the rice vinaigrette from the other salad on this as well.

Beth’s shrimps were pre-cooked, so they just needed to be taken out of the fridge where they’d been marinating, and I cooked my chicken breast on one of those Le Creuset grill pans. I loved that thing! I am definitely getting one! The chicken cooked so well, and it had grill lines on it! The chicken had marinade on it (a bit of butter, smashed garlic, lime juice and red curry sauce), but we sprayed the pan w/a bit of olive oil Pam so it didn’t stick.

This dinner was fabulous – so light, healthy and full of flavor, and not much work at all. We had so many colors on our plates – purples, greens, reds greens, orange – (that’s the new rage – eat as many colors as possible) that it was a treat to look at as well as being quite healthy. I really liked the quinoa salad. I was nervous about the raisins and coconut being too sweet with the savory items, but they came together quite nicely. I’m going to cook some quinoa and let you know how easy it is. It too, is the new rage – apparently the Food and Agricultural Organization of the United Nations has declared 2013 as “The International Year of the Quinoa”. See – and here I am helping you get ahead of the curve! It’s quite healthy for you – it has a lot of anti-inflammatory properties, and has antioxidants and heart healthy fatty acids. Not to mention this was a much more balanced dinner than the one I had the other night that was comprised of one cantaloupe, and one Kozy Shack tapioca pudding. Lol.

Update: After publishing this post, I think my mother was quite distressed at my use of the word “shrimps”, which I do know is not actually a word. Please note I do know that “shrimp” is the singular and plural form of those little things that will kill me.

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Dinner at Daniel

DInner last night was amazing. Chelsea and I had dinner at Daniel, the 3 Michelin starred restaurant on 65th and Park, for those of you not familiar. It was reaaaaaaaalll fancy, probably the nicest restaurant I’ve been to. Our combined ages would have made us the youngest table there (we hesitated to say we were the youngest there, as we noticed quite a few May-December relationships… and none of the cougar sort. So disappointing. But maybe you wouldn’t woo your 25 year old boy toy with dinner at Daniel, I guess maybe front row tickets to the Knicks would work better. Or do you have to spend money on boy toys? These are things I should find out before becoming a cougar) but we never felt we got any less attention from the wait staff. You’ll notice I don’t have any photos – we felt taking photos weren’t really in keeping with the decorum of the restaurant. Haha.

We arrived a bit early (as if I’d be late for a meal, much less a meal of this calibre) and had champagne cocktails while they got our tables ready. Ugh, how did they make that Pimms and champagne taste so good? How did they get the olive tapenade baked into those teeny bits of toothpick bread sticks? Why was everything so good and we hadn’t even sat down at our table?

We were seated, and pretended to review the menu, as we’d pre-planned what we’d be getting for dinner, thanks to the inter-webs. Chelsea ordered the Main Lobster Salad with Poached Peaches to start and the Roasted Veal Tenderloin with Artichoke Barigoule for her main. I ordered the Trio of Arctic Char: Hot smoked with Yukon Gold Potato, Confit with Lemon Zest and Lovage Pistou, Tartare with Seasame Oil and Wasabi-Spinich Coulis. My main was the Duo of Beef: Braised Black Angus Short Ribs with Romanesco Puree and a Seared Wagyu Tenderloin.

Our amuse bouches were melon themed – they were delicious, but I didn’t really follow the details, except that mine were lacking all shell fish. Thankful that they had that option, though I feel I missed out.

The bread – oh the bread. I’m not really a bread-lover, but every time they came around with that bread tray, I found myself salivating for another roll. There were about four choices – Chelsea and I only alternated between two of them – garlic and parmesan, and rosemary and thyme. It makes me want to learn how to be a baker. Or marry one.

Our starters were so nice – Chelsea liked the combination of the lobster and peaches, and I thought the arctic char was a perfect start, my favorite being the smoked piece. Mmmmm. We couldn’t wait for our mains.

I loved the tenderloin – it was perfectly medium-rare, cut like butter, melted in my mouth. Wow. It couldn’t get much better. But then I took a bit of my short ribs. Tears started to well in my eyes. It was absolutely beautiful. I have never eaten any plate of food so slowly, and I’m embarrassed to say I shushed Chelsea so I could enjoy my last bite. I so rude, but I think she understood.

For dessert Chelsea ordered the Milk Chocolate Dacquoise with Salted Caramel Ice Cream. That ice cream was divine. I ordered the Warm Guanaja Chocolate Coulant – that’s fancy for chocolate lava cake. It was delicious, not too rich, and went down so well with a sip of Port. Chelsea and I didn’t lie and say it was one of our birthdays (we saw about four birthdays, some of which may have been lies), so we got no dessert with a candle in it, but the chef sent out a third dessert. Either they send every table an extra dessert, or our waiters liked us. We had a lot of fun with them, I think much less stuffy than a lot of the other guests. And just so you know, the service was impeccable, the wait staff was beyond helpful and they all had French accents. Chelsea and I debated if they were all actually French or if some of the accents were fake. I decided to believe they were all French, much more fun. Anyways, the third dessert was the Raspberry Almond Sable, with Creme Fraiche Parfait, and Yuzu Sorbet. So lovely, and it was nice to get a fruit dessert as Chelsea and I had both ordered chocolate.

So you’re thinking that must be it – but you would be wrong. Next came a tray of petit fours, which Chels and I quite fairly divy-ed each one up, and then they brought us a basket of madelines. We ate the tray of petit fours, which were divine, and then they brought a tray of mini chocolates that we each could pick one to enjoy with our cappuccinos, and then when we thought our night was sadly at an end, they sent us another tray of petit fours. That tray was considerably more enjoyable, as we knew what they were already, and didn’t have to cautiously explore, only savor.

At this point our night was truly over, we left with full bellies (might have been the three pieces of bread, but we would have been idiots to turn away those delicious rolls) and happy palates. Definitely in the list of top meals I’ve ever had – certainly the highest rated restaurant I’ve ever been. I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t disappointed it’s over – nothing to look forward to anymore!

Thanks Chelsea! xx

Pick out your meal at Chuen Kee

Well after lunch at Tim Ho Wan, it was going to take a lot to have another adventure, but our trip to Sai Kung to eat at Cheun Kee was up to the task. Sai Kung is the most eastern part of Hong Kong, an old fishing village. The whole night was such an experience! We walked down waterfront, among the crowds of people who had stopped with the junk boats, little stands selling dried seafood (the smell was terrible haha). We even saw this little fishing boat selling live seafood over the wall – prawns, crabs, geoducks (!!), fish. It was so much fun to watch. There were several restaurants up and down the waterfront, that had a similar seafood selection – and by that I mean out the front of the restaurants there were giant fish tanks and baskets of LIVE seafood, any kind you can imagine. One of the tanks had one of those giant fish you always see snorkeling – presumably not for eating? The amount of different types, and even the sheer quantity of the seafood was incredible. There were giant crabs and lobsters – actual monsters!

Your selections from the boat:

Aquarium or restaurant?!

I told you, monster:

Even scarier on the ground:

The giant prawns have to go into bottles otherwise they fight each other:

After about 30 minutes of gawking, we walked down to Cheun Kee. It was so pretty.

Tiffany, our fearless leader and Hong Kong resident, of course did all the ordering for us, thankfully, and once she’d picked out our dinner, we got a number that corresponded to our fishes. Check out my dinner:

Once seated, Tiffany ordered pork ribs with chili and garlic and some greens. She also had them bring out some wine glasses (BYO!!) as she had brought a lovely bottle of wine, Cloudy Bay. After we’d chatted for a bit and gobbled down the salted peanuts, our food started coming out.

Pork ribs:

Long skinny clams:

Lobster with creamy cheese sauce. I was literally salivating over this when it was placed on our table, it smelled divine. I was so close to off-ing myself for just one taste. It smelled quite rich.

The scallops on a bed of rice noodles, with garlic and spring onions. The table, aside from me (Tom, Tiffany and Sophie) thought these were the best. The shells were beautiful, I wanted to take one as a souvenir!

Sea snails in a garlic chili sauce:

Something I can eat!!!

My fishy is looking a little less swim-y than he was before… tee hee. He came out, steamed with a soy sauce. Tiffany had them steam the fish so that we’d be able to taste the flavors of the fish better. The lady just took spoons and carved him right up, an deposed his head at the front of the plate. It was such a nice fish, the meat was light, flaky, maybe a bit sweet. I didn’t mind scooping him up onto my plate, although I was a  bit squeamish when I saw I’d gotten his fin… eek. I moved that bit into this bowl that had become my discard bin. Tiffany gave me the cheeks to eat – they were nice, and it is said that what parts you eat will help you out – good skin here I come!!!

He was very delicious!

We saw this lobster pass by, and had to go get a photo… His head was a big as mine!!!!

Post dinner:

After dinner was done, we did a bit more gawking at the diner options. Abalone:

EELS!!!!

Geoducks.

Heheheheheh.

The shops started closing up, so Tiffany took us next to Honeymoon Desert (the first one!). We got four different desserts so we could all try, one of which was durian!! Durian is this fruit that stinks to high heaven, when I would go into the grocery store, I thought I was smelling meat that had gone off. Nope, it was durian. Tiffany suggested we order durian glutinous rice dumplings. I don’t know how to describe the taste – the initial taste is sulfury, but the after taste is nice. That first bite is a shock, but it grows on you. Kind of. Enough to keep tasting. And of course I can’t find the photo, so here’s one from the website.

http://www.honeymoon-dessert.com/en_us/viewpic.php?pic=12%2F12286900540960195012008

We also ordered a mango soup with green tea ice cream, which I liked, except I wasn’t psyched about the bean curd.

We also got Thai glutinous rice with coconut milk; I loved the coconut, but the rice was okay.

And lastly, we had sweet balls. They were warm, sticky, covered in coconut and peanuts. The focus and flavors were really on the coconut and peanuts, as the ball was just sort of plain goop. I would like just coconut covered ones.

The whole evening was amazing, and many thanks go to Tiffany, our lovely host. Without her, we would have only gotten about half the experience. This was by far my favorite night in Hong Kong!

Hong Kong Day One – Champagne and Caviar, no big deal…

My first day was certainly decadent and indulgent!!! What an amazing day! My first views of Hong Kong were when I was on the airport express heading into the city – tall green peaks rising out of the mist on one side of the train, and a blue green ocean on the other side at dawn. It was beautiful. After a successful adventure on public transportation to Sophie’s apartment, pictured below, with a Starbucks, Subway and Burger King right there, I went on a little mini walk to start my culinary adventures!! I was starving, and Sophie was fast asleep (it was just 8am!), so I ventured out to find some breakfast. I found a lovely little coffee shop/bakery and ended up with a ham and egg sandwich. How Western of me – I know, I know. But the roll was not Western-y, it was light and sweet and fluffy. And it was cheap. My sandwich and capuccino cost me $20HKD. That is right, $2.85.

Amazing! I’m going to eat like a king with those prices!!!! And eat like a king I did all day. Sophie took me to brunch to this place called Harlan’s in Kowloon, the other big island. We walked in to this fancy dinning room, with floor to ceiling windows, and I had the best view of Hong Kong Island, and the ocean and the boats and everything. It was beautiful! Hong Kong is so interesting – it’s a juxtaposition of nature and city, the mountains and the ocean make you feel like you are somewhere magical, and then if you adjust your gaze maybe 5 degrees, you see towering apartment buildings and business towers with their names across the top. And I got to gaze upon this for the entire two hour brunch. Yep, all you could eat buffet, endless champagne (okay, it was sparkling wine) and a main! It was out of this world. The buffet was incredible – and it was just your appetizers. There was a raw bar with oysters and clams and shrimp and crab legs and snail thingys – basically everything that spelled out death to me, but it looked incredible. There were salads, a risotto station with giant truffles (which, after cheekily asking for some shaved bits of one, turned out to be in fact not really that tasty. Disappointing.), a pasta bar, a charcuterie, and caviar! Then there was a second buffet around the corner with sushi and other Japanese dishes. Oh my lord it was insane!!! We went back and forth so many times.

My first buffet plate – foie gras, caprese salad, proscuitto, what’s left of my mushroom salad

Sophie at Harlan’s

Sophie’s first buffet plate

Truffles – surprisingly dry and un-tasteful 😦

Living the hard life

Two of Sophie’s work mates, while we wait for our mains

Then our main dishes came. Sophie had a Boston lobster, there was a pork option, and I got a really delicious steak tenderloin. The meat (it probably came from Kansas) was so soft and tender, it just melted in my mouth. We all got that vegetable side salad – it was nice, but nothing spectacular.

And then it was time to hit the dessert buffet! There was a Cold Stone-like ice cream station, fondue, fruit, cheese cake, mousses, brownies…. So good. My favorite was the chocolate mousse!

And that my friends, was my first main meal in Hong Kong. It was amazing, particularly coupled with the views and the company! We calculated that after about 10 or so glasses of champagne, we think each glass was about $1 haha. And we ate our fill – I’m sure they don’t count on people like us destroying their buffet, else they’d never make any money! Our whole meal was only about $100. Insane.

Sophie and I followed this all up with massages (no happy endings, for those of you who are curious haha), and at about 7:45 the jet lag hit me, and I was asleep in bed. Can’t wait for the rest of my trip!!!

Apple picking and Boeuf Bourguingnon!!!!!!!!

Hello friends! I realize I’ve neglected you for such a long time. But never fear, (actually I don’t think any of you are scared) but I was still eating and experiencing the most lovely meals. Some of my favorites were from my summer vacation, where I had the privilege and pleasure of dining at Stella! in New Orleans, and the recently Bon Appetit named best new restaurant in America, Husk, located in Charleston, South Carolina. Anyways, I think it would be too hard to recap the past lovely months – that or I don’t really have the patience to type up everything!

                                                  

Today was a lovely fall day – cooler, so you need a fleece, but not too brisk, and sunny with blue skies and a rainbow of tree leaves. I had the lovely pleasure to get to venture out into the country (okay, it may have been South Jersey, but it was actually really beautiful, and I loved the green pastures with the horses grazing) and  visit an apple orchard. Due to the bad weather that came upon us late summer/early fall, the apples were scarce, squash plantings ruined, and the pumpkins were imported from Ohio. As a result, our apples were free! 🙂 I’m not sure the type of the few apples we got, but they were a bit lighter colored, a light green/yellow with a hint of red. They were perfect for the apple crisp we (overseen by Carolyn) made, not overly sweet or tart. They also had brussel sprouts available for picking – it was the first time I’d ever seen sprouts in the wild! Okay, I realize a contrived orchard that imports it’s pumpkin patch isn’t exactly the wild, but the brussel sprouts were growing on actual plants! They grow on the stalk, between the leaves!

After picking out some decent apples and my lovely orange pumpkin (yep, I’m going to carve it and have a lovely centerpiece for Halloween) we left for Carolyn’s house. Why is this relevant you ask? Well, this is where the best part of the day happened. Upon arriving at Carolyn’s house, she served us this amazing bread with fresh rosemary (from her garden!), bacon and blue cheese! Ahhhh-mazing. The bread was soft and a bit doughy (not like it was undercooked, just perfect). After a bite or two (okay, I ate the whole piece of bread, and quite quickly as well) I may have been admiring Carolyn’s crockery on the stove, only to find out she had made boeuf bourguignon – for us!!!!!!! Oh the smells that filled my nose when I lifted the lid to peek in! My eyes took in carrots, mushrooms and beef, while the smell of dry red wine that had been simmered all together drifted up. Heaven. Carolyn has prepared Julia Child’s recipe, but in this instance she used Ina Garten’s, as it is considerably less time consuming and less complicated, but still gives you the wonderful same meal. As a side to soak up the juices, Carolyn had also prepared mashed potatoes for us, red skins left in! She also served a salad with mesclun greens, walnuts, blue cheese, and freshly picked apples, with a raspberry vinegarette. I think there’s a spot in heaven for this girl! The meal was amazing, the flavors so rich, the meat was so tender, it just broke apart when you bit in.

    

   

After dinner (with thoroughly cleaned plates as shown above, mine perhaps a little more dishwasher ready than others) we got up to prepare an apple crisp Carolyn had planned. Peeling, coring and slicing the apples proved to be a bit more risky than anticipated – a slippery little apple got away from me and the knife into my finger! My job with the knives was over for the night. Chelsea and Kimmy carried on, while Carolyn and Vince worked on the crumble bit. Apple crisps are quite easy – slice the apples, mix in the sugar and cinnamon, and cover with a crumble made of brown sugar, oats and quite a bit of butter. Set in the oven to bake! Marc and Kimmy ran out to get vanilla ice cream and we sat down to the most amazing apple crisp, far surpassing any restaurants. Must have been those freshly picked apples, farm to table. Oh, and a little bit of love. 😉 xxx

                 

Risotto City!

Sorry for the lag in posts – have had a bit of a hard week or so, and a faltering computer on top of it (if you feel so compelled, I would not turn away donations. What? Julie Powell took them, I can at least joke!). But don’t you worry, I have been slaving away, eating my heart out just for you! In all reality, I’ve been quite tame, but I do have some things in the backlog coming up!

Okay so Risotto City might be a bit of an exaggeration, but Beth taught me how to make risotto Saturday night!! I must admit, I’m quite intimidated by risotto, as it is a part of the rice family, and I have not had good experiences with cooking rice. It is not as easy as it seems, and I will be investing in a rice cooker. Judge away, but when all I have to do is add water and rice to a machine and get flawless rice, I will not feel an ounce of guilt. Beth has, however, taken away my fear of risotto. Not entirely, as I will not be scared-free until I reproduce this on my own, but definitely heaps less scared. I also found that a glass or two of a nice red during preparation significantly aids the process.

Ingredients for a chicken, tomato and spinach risotto a la Beth:

1/2 large onion, or 1 small onion, diced

1-2 cloves garlic, smashed or diced

1 punnet of grape tomatoes – the ones that “pop” in your mouth are the best

a bunch of leaf spinach

Chicken breast (we used 2 to feed 3 people, but its up to you) cut up into bite sizes

Box of Arborio rice

1 box of chicken stock – Beth says it’s best to make your own, but otherwise choose a low sodium stock, as otherwise the ones in the US seem too salty!

1/4 cup butter

1/2 lb of Parmesan cheese, grated

Pine nuts, toasted

Toast the pine nuts in a pan until lightly browned. Cook the onion and garlic in butter in a large pan. Add the chicken, and cook until almost done (will continue to cook while you simmer once you’ve added the rice). Add about half a box of the Arborio rice (1/2 lb), and be sure to stir it around, coating it with the butter already in the pan. Cover with chicken stock. Let simmer for about 15-20 minutes, adding more stock as it cooks. Also add the Parmesan as it cooks, tasting for the flavor as you go. When the rice is almost done (you want it al dente), add in tomatoes and spinach. Throw in a bit more butter, and heat the veggies, melt in the butter.

Serve in bowls, top with pine nuts.

Correct me Beth, if I am wrong. 😀

I loved this dish. And though I am still a bit worried about reproducing this on my own, I have ventured out to buy the Arborio rice and ingredients for maybe a mid-week attempt. The dish was so warm and filling, but unlike a lot of risottos I have had in the past, its not to creamy or rich, although it has a wonderful Parmesan flavor.  And be careful when biting into those tomatoes – as William says: “Everyone gets squirted in the face the first time”.