If you can’t stand the heat then get out of the kitchen!!!Continue reading →
It was exciting to embark on trip to New York sans lil’uns in tow. The prospects were endless, first of all I didn’t have to worry about inconvenient, unexpected bathroom breaks, nor did I have to schedule my activities around nap times, melt downs and everything else in between. More importantly my meal selections will be devoid of worries about allergies; real & perceived and disdain for anything green.
Summer was in full swing, my brother was graduating from university, everyone was happy; it was the perfect time to eat and be merry! And we did just that!
Rochester is not a bustling city but I felt that it would yield surprising delights. Our first meal there was not memorable at all. We went to a steak house called “Sticky Lips”…..I imagined that It would be like those hidden diners that Guy Fieri uncovers on his show “Diners, Drive-ins and Dives”. I even imagined that we might meet his crew there filming or something. Well no such luck. No crew and no Guy Fieri. But I still had hopes for the food. I mean the place was ok. It ticked all the right boxes for quaint furnishing, classic American bar type set up etc., but the food fell flat. I am sorry, everything on my plate felt dry and under seasoned……..not unlike cardboard……..from my previous post, by now you know how I feel about such meals……
So after the grad ceremony in the morning, the girls (Aile, Osi, Uzzie) and I decided to hangout and have a good “natter”. Our hangout of choice was Carrabas. An awesome little Italian restaurant and grill. I had the Mahi Wulfe which was beyond delicious. The fish was cooked to perfection, the basil lemon butter was sublime and the artichoke hearts and seared tomatoes were to die! I was replete and very happy! Things were really beginning to look up!
There was deliciousness all around, the steak, the focaccia, the pizza, the soup, everything was lovely and we all enjoyed our choices.
Stuffed, pleased and expectant, I returned to my hotel to prepare for the dinner my dad was hosting in honor of my fresh faced, bright eyed, bushy tailed, brand new graduate brother (Lawrence if you read this, you know I love you ?).
Dressed, and a few selfies after, I was ready to meet my dinner and fellow diners of course ?.
Dinner was grand; I thoroughly enjoyed it. There was laughter, there were tears as moving speeches were rendered by family and friends. The food lived up to its billing. We had diner at Black and Blue Steak and Crab. This restaurant had just the right ambience, it is modern and urban chic but not in an OTT way. And the food? So fresh and so delicious!
The waiting staff were courteous and attentive so I was never tempted even for a moment to rotten fish slap any of them. Having said that, I would have been hard pressed to find rotten fish in that location….
For starters, I had the crab cake. Let me tell you, the avocado lime aioli made this dish! The touch of watercress just added the right amount of freshness and pepperiness without overwhelming the crab.
For my main course, I had a beautifully cooked ahi tuna. It was light, fresh and filling all at once. I didn’t want the meal, to end……but you know what they say about every good thing…….
We all had very good meals. Everything was beautifully presented and there was not a complaint around the table.
I assure you that I left in a state of food coma. Complete stupor! But I have NO regrets! None!
After the excitement of all the activities, we decided that Rochester had yielded all it had to offer us and so we packed up and embarked on a road trip to NYC! I was humming with excitement! Although after 6.5 hours I wasn’t feeling much like humming. We did have one pit stop to be fair…which gave ample opportunities for more selfies ? And to fill up on the road trip food of choice – junk food.
My hotel was right on Times Square; The Westin. You know what that means right? ? Let’s just say we trawled the length and breath of the vicinity as much as our tired legs would allow us.
The absolute highlight of the evening was our shameless stint at Juniour’s. Please, if you love decadent desserts, more specifically cheesecakes, then you absolutely must go to a Juniour’s. I will let the pictures do the talking.
I justified my slice of cheesecake by telling myself that I would walk it off…..yeah right! ? I fell into bed at 1 am feeling extremely happy and mischievous. I just broke all my mealtime rules and I didn’t care! Liberating!
In the morning, I had breakfast with my dad at the Gourmet New York Marketplace. It’s a tiny little deli, buzzing with activity and filled all sorts of wholesome yummies. I settled fora a chicken Swiss cheese wrap, with a yoghurt and granola parfait (Topped with fresh fruit) and pepper mint tea.
That was my last meal in NYC as I was scheduled to fly out a few hours after; of course not before a quick traispe around. From the garment district to 48th street (and beyond if I remember correctly).
I enjoyed drinking in the sites and sounds of the city. I hasten to add that I could have done without the assault to my olfactory lobes but I guess you can’t have it all.
And then it was all over, I packed up, said my farewells, got in a cab, took my last selfie and prepared for the long journey back home to my hubby and munchkins. But the best part of it all, was that I left feeling like I got a good taste of New York especially since I spent only 72 hours there.
When Easter Sunday came round, I knew I had to prepare something nice for lunch not only because it was Easter but it also happened to be my mum’s birthday.
A rice based meal would have been very predictable and not to mention tedious; grilled chicken – been there, done that over and over. So after much deliberation with hubby and with Food Network providing bits of inspiration, I settled for a “meat platter” type meal. Of course this was music to hubby’s carnivorous taste buds.
The menu was partly inspired by Sunny Anderson of the Food Network’s “Cooking For Real” and some of my ideas. It consisted of Caribbean Jerk Chicken, Pan grilled Minute Steak on a bed of Mango Salsa, Spicy Meatballs, Potato Mash and a pallet cleansing cucumber and carrot salad all washed down with Sunny Anderson’s refreshing Mean Green Cucumber Juice.
It was sort of an ode to the Afro-Carribean diet with a twist.
I started by marinating the chicken over night, the only ingredient I left out of Sunny’s recipe was the fennel seed and I alternated dry ginger for fresh ginger (which I thought gave the marinade more of a kick). Following her recipe, I baked the chicken for 20 minutes skin-side down, and then made a glaze with some of the left over marinade and then finished it off for another 25 minutes in he oven at a higher temperature. My friend Uzo has a slightly different take on Jerk chicken. Check it out at Uzo’s Food Lab
To make the cucumber juice, I used two large English Cucumbers; available at my local Spar grocery store. I recommend the English Cucumbers over the locally grown ones because the local ones have seeds. It was very easy to make and the result was simply refreshing and delicious.
Making the mango salsa was a breeze and I made it extra spicy so that the chopped fresh peppers would counter balance the sweetness of the chopped mango flesh. I also threw in some chopped red onion, chopped spring onions, chopped parsley, salt and freshly ground black pepper and some lime juice. The salsa was accompanied with a simple pan seared minute steak which I drizzled with lime juice and set aside to rest.
The potato mash I made slight chunky to add some texture to the dish. I was fairly liberal with the butter and cream and with a sprinkling of sea salt and freshly ground black pepper it was ready in no time. It was the last dish I prepared so that it arrived at the table nice and hot.
The cucumber and carrot salad consisted of cucumber and carrot shavings and halved cherry tomatoes; it doesn’t get easier than that.
The meatballs were made from the classic meatball recipe which you will find in my “Anatomy of Feast” post and my “Back in the Saddle” post.
The dish came together nicely and each part complimented the other well. Not a single plate came back to the kitchen with any food on it. My mum was flattered that I made a special meal on her special day and my husband was pleased with the prominent helping of protein on his plate; all in all a winning menu.
For me, tucking into the meal transported me to a sunny beach side resort………
TIP OF THE DAY: To make sure that your meals arrive at the table nice and hot or at least warm, put the serving dish/plate in a hot oven minutes before you plate up. NOTE: Ensure that the dishware is oven safe. 🙂
So you’ve cooked the feast, wined and dined yourself (and maybe your guests) to a comfy stupor, reluctantly cleaned up and put away the leftovers; now what?
As you rummage through your refrigerator the next day you wonder to yourself if the food gnomes stopped by at night to dump food scraps in it. Everywhere you turn there is a bit of this and a bit of that, mostly stuff that probably wouldn’t make a full meal on their own and if you are anything like me, you are loath to put perfectly good food in the bin. The good news is that there are myriad things to do with left overs and the result can be rather fabulous looking and tasting too. In fact, I happen to look forward to noshing on my left overs because they usually always taste so much better the next day.
After the St. Patrick’s day feast (read all about it on the “Full Steam Ahead” post) I had bits and bobs leftover so the next day, instead of making a meal from scratch, I pulled out my leftovers and devised a plan. I remembered that Ina Garten had said that the Lemon Chicken went superbly with Basmati rice, and since Basmati cooks in about 15 minutes, it was a no brainer. I popped the chicken under the grill to heat it up, and added some cherry tomatoes coated in olive oil to roast lightly. I also roasted a whole bell pepper which I had topped, seeded and oiled.
Roasting things like tomatoes and peppers heightens their flavour/sweetness and give meals a new dimension.
After the rice cooked, I added the juices from the lemon chicken to it, then stuffed the pepper with the rice, adding a layer of white sauce in it. I put shavings of buttered carrots on the rice-stuffed pepper, arranged the roasted tomatoes around the pepper, placed the chicken and lemon wedges on the plate and another portion of lemon chicken flavoured rice with a small side of tomato sauce, sprinkled the dish liberally with parsley and voila a whole new dish!
In my upcoming post about my Easter lunch escapade, you’ll see how I came up with the leftover delight below.
TIP OF THE DAY:
Your leftovers should always be properly stored and preserved. I favour ziploc bowls because they are air tight, prevent spills and general messiness. Alternatively you could cover your containers with cling film; not only will this help keep the food longer in the fridge or freezer but will also reduce the possibility of strong aromas infiltrating other foods.
Speaking of strong aromas, putting half a lemon and some salt at the back of your fridge will banish odours and give your refrigerator a lemony zinginess 🙂
The humble egg, rice, tomatoes and simple blacked eyed peas don’t conjure images of grand meals or exotic recipes. But used creatively, they could very well constitute an elegant plate.
There’s a saying in culinary circles that states that “people eat with their eyes first” and this is not entirely far from the truth except of course you are starving in the Kalahari desert and are more concerned with swallowing the food whole without any concern over how it has been presented.
If, on the other hand, you are having a home cooked meal, there are many ways to plate it up in a “fashionable” way that would make ingredients like caviar, couscous, artichokes and scallops jealous.
The process is quite simple and just requires some creativity; a table-spoon can be used to make a quinelle, a small tin opened at both ends could become a mould, the strategic placement of food on a plate makes all the difference in the final presentation.
So the next time you are preparing a meal, before you present it, add a personal touch, tidy up the plate and you would be amazed at the results.
With these tips, even though you are not a cordon bleu, you could make beautiful meals pret a manger (ready to eat).
By popular demand, I am updating the photo gallery of this post with recent pictures of my meals. Bon appetit!