January 31, 2010

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies

The idea of any type of vegetables in our brownies sounded strange at first, but we soon learned that zucchinis make a wonderful substitute for eggs.  The water-rich zucchinis provide moisture to the batter without leaving any strange vegetable taste.

This recipe makes wonderful fudge-like rich brownies that no one will suspect has a secret good-for-you quality.

Chocolate Zucchini Brownies (adapted from AllRecipes.com)

1/2 cup canola oil
1 1/2 cups white sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 1/2 tsps baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 shredded zucchini (about 2 cups)

1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
2.  In a large bowl, mix together the oil and sugar. 
3.  Combine the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt.
4.  Stir into the sugar mixture with the dry mixture.  Don't worry that the mix seems very dry - once the zucchini is added, the batter will seem like a wet cake batter.
5. Fold in the zucchini.  Now the batter will become moist and rich.
6. Spread evenly into the prepared pan.
7. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes in the preheated oven, until brownies spring back when gently touched.  Cut into squares and serve.

We loved this easy recipe and will try making these brownies even healthier by substituting the oil for non-fat yogurt.

January 28, 2010

NYC Restaurant Week lunch at dell'anima

It's Restaurant Week time again here in NYC so we took this opportunity to check out dell'anima, a small Italian restaurant in the West Village.  This is the first time dell'anima is participating in Restaurant Week and we were looking forward to their $24.07 3-course lunch menu (which included dishes from their regular menu). 

Charred Octopus with rice beans, chorizo, and chicory:  The octopus was very meaty and tender with its tentacles nicely charred.  The beans were hearty while the chorizo added a nice savory bite to the dish. 
Beets with pistachio, tarragon, lime, and caramelized yogurt:  This simple cold salad had a nice balance of sweet (beets) and sour (yogurt).  We also loved the crunch added by the pistachios.
Garganelli funghi trifolati with lemon and parsley:  If you love mushrooms as we do, you will love this dish!  It had several different mushroom varieties (including Hen of the Woods, Crimini, and Trumpet Royale) and was warm, salty, and earthy. 
Pollo "al diavolo" with broccoli rabe, garlic, and chillies:  This has been on the restaurant's menu since day one and no wonder - it was moist with a great smokey, spicy flavor. 

Pistachio gelato with wafer:  This was a creamy gelato with a nice eggy wafer.  The gelato had a rich flavor and the creaminess of the gelato matched the intensity of the pistachio.

Espresso-Rum Almond Cake with caramel sauce and sea salt gelato:  The cake had so many contrasting flavors.  The gelato was very salty combined with the crumbs on top made for a nice crunchy texture.  Its savory taste made the sweeter cake that much more addictive. 
For a meal that would normally cost $35-$45, we thought that the $24.07 meal was a great deal - especially since dell'anima did not skimp on quality nor quantity.  Restaurant Week continues until Feb 7.
dell'anima is located at 38 8th Avenue (at Jane St) in NYC.

January 27, 2010

Happy Belated Australia Day with our 1st Tim Tam Slam

Yesterday was Australia Day and coincidentally, this afternoon, we received a generous care package from Conor of Hold the Beef

She knew we loved sweets; therefore she sent us chocolate-covered macadamia nuts, a chocolate bar with cherries and coconut, a caramel/chocolate koala (so cute!), mango dry marinade, and 2 packages of Tim Tams (the most addictive biscuits we've ever enjoyed).  We loved that she also tried sending us the hot summer weather from down under!

On her postcard, she requested that we do one "Tim Tam Slam".  Not knowing what this term meant, we looked it up and found out it was the Aussie equivalent to dunking Oreos in milk - but so much better.  So Conor, as promised, here is how we did our first Tim Tam Slam:

Step 1:  We selected a Tim Tam biscuit.  We opted for the Double Coat Tim Tam for its thicker chocolate coating that would hopefully hold up better to the hot liquid.

Step 2:  We made a hot beverage.  We opted for the traditional tea, but coffee or hot chocolate would work as well.

Step 3:  Create "the straw" by taking a small bite of diagonal corners of the biscuit (or "bikkie").

Step 4:  Drink the hot tea through the opening. 

The hot beverage will melt the Tim Tam biscuit from the inside out. 

Once you sip a bit of tea, eat the melted Tim Tam biscuit before it falls apart.

The melted Tim Tam was so good and we could imagine how much more decadent it would taste with coffee and especially hot chocolate.

Thank you Conor for the wonderful Australian care package and for providing us the biscuits for our first (but definitely not last) Tim Tam slam!

Lulu & Mooky's Liquid Nitrogen Ice Cream in under 3 minutes - NYC

Don't adjust your monitors - this mixer is not broken.  It's actually making ice cream.

We had seen liquid nitrogen used by chefs on television, but had never seen it used in person. 

Lulu & Mooky's, a "mad scientist-like" place where custom ice cream is made under 3 minutes, was just the spot to watch this novelty in action.

We were exploring the lower east side of the city and, after reading about Lulu & Mooky's on Chubby's New York Food Diary, decided to check it out.

 Lulu & Mooky's, named after the owner's daughters, is a small storefront.  There are plenty of flavor available in different forms:  real fruit, dried herbs, and tons of bottled flavorings.
We were overwhelmed by the long list of flavors (making 10,000 possible combinations) - and despite being tempted by the more unusual flavors (e.g. hot sauce), opted for real strawberries with basil.

To make the ice cream, strawberries, cream, dried basil, and liquid nitrogen are all added together into the mixer.
Like a magic show, here was the dramatic before shot...
And now the reveal...Strawberry-Basil ice cream ($5.50).  It took less than 3 minutes to make and the end result was creamy and buttery.  The basil flavor was very mild and we think it would be stronger if fresh herbs were used.  Overall, we prefer the more saturated taste of gelato made from fresh ingredients and for the same price, would rather have a small cup of gelato from Grom. 

If you're looking for something unusual or different, the whole experience is a fun show - especially for kids and kids at heart.

Lulu & Mooky's is located at 129 Allen St. (at Rivington St) in NYC.

January 26, 2010

Brunch at The Stanton Social

Every weekend, friends, family, and couples go through the time-honored tradition of brunch in NYC.

We love catching up over eggs and mimosas, but hate waiting outside in the cold for a possible table.

So when our friends offered to come into the city to meet us for brunch, we decided to go to The Stanton Social.  Not only do they offer a continuous stream of small sharing plates (similar to going out for tapas or dim sum) but they also allow online reservations for brunch.

January 25, 2010

Dessert Truck is Back with DT Works

 Like so many of its other fans, we were dismayed when The Dessert Truck was shut down due to permit issues.  We loved their creative restaurant-quality desserts. 

So we were really excited when we saw their tweet this past weekend saying that they just opened up a new store.  Their bricks-and-mortar store, DT Works, opened up last Friday and features the original truck's dessert menu.

 The padded seat backs looked sleek and modern - We loved that we could roll the seats along the wall track.
Warm Molten Chocolate Cake ($6) with olive oil, hazelnuts, ganache, and vanilla bean ice cream.  This was incredibly rich with a gooey chocolate interior and crunchy hazelnuts.  
  Warm Chocolate Bread Pudding with Bacon Custard Sauce ($6):  The bread pudding was so warm and comforting, though we wished there was more of a salty bacon taste in the custard. 
Though we miss the mobile truck, the stand-alone store is a great spot to sit and chat with friends.  It also takes credit cards, making it easier to try everything on the menu!

DT Works is located at 6 Clinton St (btwn E Houston St and Stanton St) in NYC.

January 24, 2010

Making a Multi-Colored Dish with Kerala Red Rice

This week we decided to explore a new (to us) rice:  Kerala Red Rice, also known as Rose Matta rice.  We were intrigued by the name - a red or rose colored rice?  What would it look like and how would it taste? 

 In its uncooked state, this South Indian rice has a reddish brown color.  It's a parboiled rice that is high in fiber and filled with nutrients.  Cooking Rose Matta rice is easy - after soaking and rinsing the rice, we boiled 3 cups of water and then added 1 cup of rice.
 As you can see from the photo above, the rice becomes a beautiful pale pink color when cooked.  The Rose Matta rice has a delicate nutty flavor and is plumper than regular white rice.         
Traditionally the rice is eaten with seafood or used in coconut based dishes.  Instead, we decided to add some fresh pomegranate seeds to the rice for a bright, crisp taste.
We also added some canned corn and defrosted edamame beans to the Rose Matta rice and pomegranate seeds for a simple and colorful side dish.  For a quick weeknight dinner, we ended up making some poached eggs to enjoy with our bright rice dish.  

January 22, 2010

Enjoying the Sweet & Savory Side of Newly Opened Village Tart

As someone who's always looking to satisfy her sweet tooth, I love living in NYC where there's always a new dessert place popping up.

The newest spot, The Village Tart, just opened yesterday and features a savory and sweet menu designed by renowned pastry chef Pichet Ong. 

I was immediately overwhelmed by the variety of choices...cookies, cupcakes, quiches, pizettas...oh my!

Giant chocolate chip cookies with 3 types of Valhrona chocolates...

Carrot cupcakes and chocolate Nutella cupcakes...

The lounge had a good amount of seating - I could imagine this place filling up at night with people seeking a place to relax and enjoy a couple of small bites.

Mascarpone Tart with blood orange segments and pistachios ($4.95):  The mascarpone cheese was as light as air.  It was like biting into a flaky tart of whipped cream (only less sweet and tastier).

I am a glutton for cute packaging and I love the simple way the rugelach ($2.25) was presented.

It was soft and chewy with tons of flavor.

Dark Chocolate Espresso Tart ($5):  This is chocolate covered espresso beans in softer tart form.  It was the antithesis of the mascarpone tart - deep and rich.

Maybe it was the sight of me sitting alone with a plate filled with desserts, but one of the owners kindly stopped by to see how I was enjoying everything.  She mentioned that I should try something savory and brought me a rather generous sample of their Bacon and Onion Jam pizetta.

After having so many sweets, this salty pizetta was heaven.  The bread/crust reminded me of a soft pretzel because of its texture and the salt crystals on it.  The toppings gave that addictive sweet/savory taste with sweet caramelized onions and salty bacon pieces.  There was also a bechamel sauce and scallions to bring the flavors all together.  

For the record, though I was tempted to clean off my plate, I did bring home a small box of leftovers (my other half, the savory one, loved the pizetta).

An expanded menu featuring additional dishes (including larger plates) will be coming in February.

The Village Tart is located at 86 Kenmare St (at Mulberry St) in NYC.

January 21, 2010

5 Napkin Burger - Hell's Kitchen, NYC

With plenty of restaurant tourist traps, dining in the theater district can be tricky.  Happily, the owners of Nice Matin (one of our favorite brunch places in our neighborhood) opened up a restaurant both named after and devoted to their most popular dish:  5 Napkin Burger.  

The restaurant has a great vibe and the dining room was filled with the after-work crowd, theater-goers, couples, and friends.  Though the the menu includes other burger variations and (strangely) sushi rolls, we only had eyes for the restaurant's namesake.     

We started off with drinks - Though the 5 Napkin Brew "Nut Brown Lager" beer was tempting to try, we opted for the Dark and Stormy Float ($10).

It was a great twist on the original cocktail and is made with rum and raisin ice cream, Goslings rum, and Saranac ginger beer.

This thick drink (basically dessert) combines the fun of childhood with the sophistication of a classic grown-up cocktail. 

We would return just for this drink!

Original 5 Napkin Burger with fries ($14.95):  There's something nostalgic and comforting about biting into a juicy burger.  All of the flavors of the gooey gruyere cheese, rosemary aioli, caramelized onions, and perfectly cooked medium rare burger mixed well together.  And yes, this burger does require multiple napkins to wipe off the pink juices that drip from it.

5 Napkin Burger is located at 630 9th Ave (at 45th St) in NYC.  A new location will also be opening soon on the UWS at 2315 Broadway (at 84th St).