Sour Power.

The last few months have been a whirlwind of events. A sweaty, sweaty whirlwind of events. Aaron and I packed up our city life and ventured onto the next chapter, which I now refer to as ” Melissa leaves the life she knew to become a pickle making, sourdough starting, political daughter and housewife in the country”. Alright… a bit of an exaggeration, nonetheless, I have been way more domestic since moving upstate.

My biggest project besides pizza making, perfecting the art of curry, and creating the perfect dutch baby has been making bread from scratch. Bread making is quite the honorable task. Anyone who can create good bread displays patience, ingenuity, respect and a good work ethic. It may seem simple to take flour, water, and salt and create a loaf of bread but it really takes a great effort. Bread making has taught me a lot about myself, cooking in general and it has made me truly appreciate the people who make bread for a living.

The happiest I have been recently has been on my journey to sourdough. Watching flour and water come together, over a handful of days, and transform into a living, breathing thing is remarkable. I started with the MOST helpful and reliable sourdough starter recipe from http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-your-own-sourdough-starter-cooking-lessons-from-the-kitchn-47337 . The kitchn gives you a play by play of each day with your starter and how to maintain it after it ripens. Watching the flour and water mixture enter a cocoon over night and come out a ripened starter butterfly was the most inspiring and life affirming event I have experienced in a long time. The fact that you can turn such simple ingredients into a living entity is incredible. It’s like taking care of a baby…sort of. You have to feed it, clean it up when it explodes on the counter, it smells sour sometimes but when you look into it’s bubbly eyes you feel this connection of pure joy and hope. I named my starter Mick Jagger. Why? you might ask. Well, I love classic rock and it’s a sourdough STARTER, one thing led to another Mick Jagger sang “Start Me Up” and a name was chosen.

I’ve now been taking care of my starter consistently for about 3 and a half weeks. I’ve made bread twice and will try again on Saturday. The first time I was a complete noob, as expected, and it was good but (k)needed work. I didn’t fully understand what it should look and feel like. So when it was very wet I added more flour which was definitely a bad move. I didn’t let it rest fully and was slightly impatient. I also only used bread flour for the recipe which made it super dense and almost too chewy. Don’t get me wrong the result was still delicious but it definitely needed work.

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On my next attempt I used only AP Flour and let me just tell you the result was incredible. I also had a way better understanding of what I needed to do. Bread making is a trial and error process and it has really made me appreciate the time and effort that goes into it. With my second batch of bread, I made one original sourdough loaf and decided for the second loaf  (because I’ve been making two at a time) to fill it completely with about a half pound of Challerhocker. Let me just say, if you have never had warm bread with oozing cheese coming from the center, do yourself  a favor and try that soon. It was unbelievable and was a legitimate full breakfast.

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I will certainly continue on my bread journey for as long as possible until I perfect sourdough. My hope is to keep my starter for as long as possible and eventually pass it on to my kids and then their kids and so on. It seems like a really fantastic tradition to start(er).

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This is the sourdough recipe I’ve been following ( http://www.thekitchn.com/how-to-make-sourdough-bread-224367 ) with slight tweeks of my own. But the kitchn has been killing it and is hugely helpful with their visuals!

As for Jagger, he is sour as ever and doing very well. I couldn’t be happier! Proud mama!

SOUR POWER!

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(He’s gazing into the distance pondering life)

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Italiamposter

I’m not Italian  although I get that a lot.

While I may not have it directly in my blood I must have it somewhere in my soul because when I watched Massimo Bottura talk about Parmigiano Reggiano and balasamic vinegar on Chef’s Table I swooned. When I eat beautifully cured meats and fluffy focaccia my heart swells. And not to toot my own horn but, I make a mean gravy and a perfectly al dente pasta. But where does it come from? Maybe somewhere along the lines I had Italian family or in a another life I was a chef in Sicily? Or maybe it was just the influence from my mom who made all kinds of Italian meals and desserts when I was growing up… That sounds more likely. Italian by means of influence and association?

Well anyway I come to you today, the day of my daughters wedding to talk about a few Italian dishes I have adapted and made into completely new but recognizable meals.

Who doesn’t love a juicy chicken cutlet,  with a rich tomato sauce laddled generously over it and then topped with bubbly and melty mozzarella cheese? Some of the best memories from my childhood are my parents making chicken parmesan, broccoli rabe and some kind of pasta dish. But what happens when you go to college and have zero money? You get crafty. How could I have this dish from my childhood but not break the bank?? Buy a protein that’s $3 a box, that’s how. So in my broke and crafty college days came TOFU PARM. I know, I know… IT’S A TRAVESTY… EVERYONE FREAK OUT!!! While yes it mixes an Asian protein with a beloved Italian dish you will be surprised when you try it and realize it’s actually unbelievably delicious. When made right you wouldn’t even know it wasn’t meat that you were eating.

Tofu Parm – Makes 4 servings

1 box extra firm tofu

2 cups any bread crumbs

1 egg beaten

1 ball mozzarella cheese

oil for frying ( I used fancy Wesson veggie oil)

Parmigiano Reggiano

basil

Tomato sauce ( I used my own recipe seen below):

1 can/box crushed tomatoes

2 cloves garlic sliced

1 whole yellow onion peeled and halved

salt ,pepper, chili flakes and dried oregano

olive oil

Directions:

In a medium sauce pan heat two tablespoons of olive oil. Add in the garlic,onion, salt, pepper, and chili flakes. Cook until the garlic is fragrant and from there add in the tomatoes. Sprinkle as much or as little oregano as you like and let simmer for 20 minutes. Let sit off the heat for 30 minutes after that.

Preheat the oven to 375 and slice the mozz into 1/4 inch thick slices.

Take out block of tofu and drain well. Cut into cutlets (makes 4) and make sure you place each individual cutlet on a bed of paper towels and drain incredibly well. If you don’t the bread crumbs will get soggy and when put into the oil it will spit at you (which hurts). After drained and pat down place each individual cutlet into the beaten egg and then into the bread crumbs. Make sure they are completely covered with bread crumbs and set aside. In a large pan heat enough oil to cover at least half of the tofu cutlet. Make sure the oil is nice and hot (it will glisten and if you’re not sure drop a tiny, tiny bit of water in the pan and if it sizzles it is ready) Cook the cutlets on each side until golden brown.

Take a ladleful of sauce and lay on the bottom of a large baking dish. Place each cutlet in the dish on top of the sauce. Spread more sauce on the cutlet and over that place 1 or 2 slices of the mozz. Bake in the oven until the cheese is melted and sexy. Serve with parm, basil and a nice red wine and you have yourself a buona notte.

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Now, I love pasta. Maybe not as much as Aziz Ansari loves pasta. But, I love pasta.

I also had an exceptional pasta dish recently at Maialino in NYC. A simple dish on paper but when you put the first bite in your mouth you realize the history, the craft and the heart that went into it and “simple” goes out the window; Cacio E Pepe. Cheese and Pepper.

Now if you know me you know I love two things: Puns and Food. So a few days after I ate that marvelous cacio e pepe I wanted to recreate it for dinner. I got all my ingredients ready and then realized I don’t have pasta in the house. WHY WORLD WHY??? After minutes of going back and forth about leaving my apartment and not wanting to go out because it’s cold and yadda yadda yadda, I desperately looked around my kitchen and my eyes stopped and widened. Spaghetti squash. It’s like spaghetti but it’s squash…could it work? And then this happened…

Squashio E Pepe 

1 Large Spaghetti squash

1 Cup of Pecorino Romano

1 tablespoon pepper

1 tablespoon of butter

2 1/2 tablespoons marscapone

olive oil

Cut the spaghetti squash length wise, oil the inside, place downward on a baking sheet and bake at 375 for 30 minutes.

When making cacio e pepe you need the starchy pasta water to really make the dish creamy and come together but in this case you won’t have that so I’ve added some marscapone for that creamy element.

When the squash is tender scrape the inside with a fork into a bowl and set aside.

In a large pan heat 2 tablespoons of olive oil over a medium heat. Add a 1/2 tablespoon of pepper and cook until fragrant. Add the butter until melted and then the marscapone. Throw in the squash and stir around until completely coated. Turn off the heat and add most of the cheese, reserving some for topping, and stir until thoroughly mixed in. Add the remainder of the pepper and the rest of the cheese.

Although it’s not exactly the original dish it’s a close second. It’s creamy, cheesy, peppery, unctuous and you’ve eaten your vegetables for the day!

Cooking truly never ceases to amaze and inspire me . There’s always something new to make and eat. These dishes just prove that there is still room for creativity and space to transform the old into something new and exciting.

Buon Appetito!

 

 

Any Way You Slice It

America loves pie. There’s no denying this. Every state’s pie options vary and everyone has their favorite. There are competitions for making it and eating it all around the country. But in a little state I like to call home we love a different kind of pie. A pie that speaks numbers about the state. A pie that causes a stir and gets people all riled up. A pie that’s so commonplace in every family for birthdays and family meals alike. What’s more New York than a pizza pie?

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I have to admit when I was a kid I loathed pizza. I refused to eat it. My mom would come to a friends birthday party when all the other kids would be saucy faced and cheesy handed and bring me sushi. I was that guy. And not because of allergies or a bad experience with pizza, but simply because I didn’t like it. Until that one faithful day of my friend’s beauty salon themed birthday party where a tiny and ravenous little me just threw down her barbies, rolled up her sleeves, manned up and took a bite…a  delicious cheesy, and bloody bite….bloody? Did you say bloody? Okay so here’s what went down I bit into that piece of pizza and lost one of my first teeth. Normally that would deter a kid from ever eating something again, right? Wrong. I couldn’t have been more excited. I saw this as a sign. A sign from the pizza higher powers that we were destined to be long time friends. You help me grow up and I’ll be there through thick and thin crust.

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And so we were, from then on, best buddies. Regular pie and me  couldn’t be separated, we were likes two peas in a pod…that is, until I met pepperoni. The pepperoni slice was everything the regular slice could offer me but with just a little something more. Pepperoni made me feel things that a regular slice just couldn’t. I had taken a new best friend and my life was changed forever…Sorry, I got side tracked. That was an excerpt from my latest romance mystery novel ” Pepperoni, a cruel mistress”. Anyway back to pizza.

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You grow up with your favorite pizza places and slices and certain places for different slices. Over the years I’ve had my favorites; DiFara’s (Midwood, Brooklyn) square and regular, Ben’s (Soho, NYC) regular slice, Papa Leone (Manhattan Beach, Brooklyn) vodka slice, Del Mar (Sheepshead Bay, Brooklyn) regular slice, L&B Spumoni Gardens (Gravesend, Brooklyn) square slice and Pasty Grimaldi’s (Dumbo, NY) brick oven and whole pie. These are what I grew up on. I grew to love these places. They were pizza joints that cared about their product, their customers and were always reliable. My have times changed. With the surge of new restaurants and an emphasis on fresh, local and delicious there are so many artisinal pizza options now competing with the classic places. There’s Emily’s, Roberta’s, Lucali, Sottocasa, Wheated, Paulie Gee’s, Motorino, Rubirosa, Toby’s Public House, and many, many more. And these places are great, don’t get me wrong, but when you want a classic New York slice of large triangular oil, cheese and sauce it’s not the same.

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And I don’t know if it’s the price points of the city and Brooklyn, the competition, or just an end of an era but a great number of my childhood joints have been slowly losing their love and mojo. Which made me think about pizza in a whole new light. Pizza is such a simple concept but like anything if you don’t put time and effort,respect and good quality ingredients into making it, you don’t have anything. It’s truly an art form..a delicious, delicious art form. What really makes pizza great and not just passable? You need experience and respect for the craft because dealing with dough is certainly a mighty task. You need fresh ingredients used in just the right balance. A good sauce to cheese ratio is necessary. And then the toppings; oil, grated cheese, basil, and so on.

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But most importantly, and I have truly thought this one out, is the crust. The whole taste, structure and mouthfeel of the pizza relies on the crust. It is the singular most import piece of the puzzle because without a good foundation you have nothing. At the end of the day you finish your pizza and you’re left with what? The crust (kind of like life right?…ladies?…), so it better be delicious. If the people making your pizza don’t focus on the crust you could have unrisen, hard as a rock and bland one. You could also have pale and floppy crust and let me tell you a bad crust is truly an unpleasant experience. I cannot emphasis enough how important crust is.

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I don’t want to go into detail of all my sad and recent experiences with my favorite places and some of them have even fallen out of my good graces but I will discuss DiFara’s. This pizza was the single best pizza in Brooklyn. Dom new what he was doing. Before the price hikes I would go after school and get a few slices before one of my thousand after school activities. There would be times my dad and I would go and order a whole pie and I would finish two slices before we even got home. Then when I met Aaron one of the first things we had in common was our love for this place (HE WASN’T EVEN FROM BROOKLYN!) There were many good memories attached to this place and it’s pizza. The pizza had everything. But just like pepperoni time can be  cruel mistress and the beloved Dom is passing this joint on to family and others and the last time I went the square wasn’t fluffy and doughy, it was dense and hard to chew. The regular slice had a pale undercooked crust and the sauce was different. It hurt my heart to know it may be the end of an era…

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But just when one door closes another door opens. Last week on a hunt to find pizza near me I went walking to a new place, Luigi’s (Sunset Park, Brooklyn). It was delicious and it made me hopeful for the classic New York slice. And then again a few days later there was Prince Street Pizza (Soho, NYC) for their square with pepperoni. And again after that (although not typical NYC slice but delicious) Lombardi’s. New York is still rich in tradition and a gold mine for delicious pizza it’s just a matter of seeking out the places that make you really happy.

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Even though I have strong opinions about the pizza I love and favor, any way you slice it, it’s usually pretty tasty.

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And the award for cutest pizza…….BABY PIZZA ON MOMMY PIZZA, SUH CUTE!!!! -Vinnie’s Pizza  (Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

 

Toronto, Eh?

Aaron and I took our first out of country trip in August!

We’re like a real couple or something. We flew straight from Newark Airport to the land of peameal bacon sandwiches, friendly neighbors and tons of diversity, Toronto.

Melissa, if you could sum up your trip in a few words how would you do so? Ah, how kind of you to ask Melissa. Well I’d have to say we basically ate Toronto. From the second we landed at midnight (thank you 3 hour flight delays) we were greeted to a late night soba noodle salad and coconut rice to the minutes before we boarded devouring the best cinnamon bun I’ve ever had.

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We had the pleasure of staying at Aaron’s uncle Samuel and aunt Melissa’s (what a lovely name if I do say so) incredibly well furnished home for the trip which also meant built in tour guides to the best and most delicious places to eat. Oh, and did I mention they have a dog named Luna who is the sweetest, softest, most lovable dog in the universe. We were pretty much obsessed with each other. Cough Aaron can we please get a dog?! Cough… Anywayyyy..IMG_1321

Our first day in Toronto began like that of a Jack Johnson song. We ate banana pancakes whilst the rain came down fiercely and we all pretended it was the weekend. While there ain’t no reason to go outside because of the forecast,we decided to tough it out and exlpore anyway. After hanging out in the Distillery District for a whole bunch of hours lunch time came upon us and Lahore Tikka House was calling our names.

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The luscious curries, flavorful dal, perfectly buttery naan, and hospitable atmosphere satisfied the indian food craving I’ve had for months and made me wish this place was in New York. We savored this lunch and ate like we’d never seen food before. With a Japanese tasting menu in our future we probably should have stopped at two dishes but four dishes, rice and naan just felt right.

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And on the next day of Aaron and Melissa eat Toronto, we begin in Chinatown. Walking around absorbing all the smells and sounds on the street we pop into a cute little bakery called Blackbird Baking Co. where we pick up a loaf of some fabulous challah. Now that I have pre-gamed with challah the real hunger sets in and we pop into a little shop in the heart of Toronto’s Chinatown called Mother’s Dumplings. We get a variety of dumplings from pork, to veggie, to lamb. Unfortunately spoiled from New York’s Chinatown nothing wowed me (they were pretty though!) and with an incredibly tempting barbecue dinner ahead of us I tried to save my appetite anyway.IMG_1202IMG_1211

 

Now for a rave review.

BIG CROW BBQ. Holy Crap. Meat sweats for life. Happiness ensues.

Remember that time I had fantastic barbecue in Cold Spring, New York? Well this is the Canadian version on steroids.

Gigantic slab of bacon over the most flavorful caesar salad, sticky and sweet apricot sauce over sausage, sweet and creamy elote, crunchy, meaty Frito Pie, warming and porky beans, and the star of the show that truly took my breath away (literally, I stopped breathing to stuff my face for at least 5 minutes) BASIL PESTO AND ROASTED TOMATO COVERED BABY BACK RIBS.

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IMG_1227SEXXYYIt was everything I could have wanted. After eating out in New York City and being disappointed by so many restaurants it was nice to feel this way about a restaurant. The flavors in the dishes worked well together, they were different from every other barbecue restaurant, and the experience restored my hope for chefs and restaurants.

When you come home smelling of smoke like you’ve just had a night at summer camp with friends sitting around a campfire laughing, singing and reminiscing you know you’ve had a good night. Thank you Rose & Sons you have a truly fantastic restaurant.

It’s a good thing this was our last restaurant and not our first. On the last day in Toronto our super hosts Mel and Samuel decided to throw us a shindig…A PARTY IN OUR HONOR? I do declare. Wanting to be a good guest I picked up a knife and started cooking some goodies for the party. I made a lovely, little cheese plate, a tomato galette, a peach and brown sugar galette, some potato salad, grilled corn, and basil gin lemonade. What a night! We made friends, enjoyed good food and had a memorable last night in Toronto.

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Before hopping on our plane home there was a promise we made on our first day in Toronto that needed to be kept.

Let’s rewind a few days where we find ourselves in an old fashioned and adorable little bakery, Sweet Trolley Bakery. We walked in and immediately bonded with the owners (who were just about the friendliest people I’ve ever met) who promised that their cinnamon buns were the best in the world. We were stuffed from breakfast but we promised them that we would return. We returned. We purchased the treat. We sat with it for hours in the airport. And finally we ate. Little by little we unraveled and ate the single most delicious cinnamon bun we’ve ever had. They weren’t lying. It was glorious.

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So for the hospitality and the good eats, I say thanks Toronto! We’ll be back someday.

Upstate New York Part 1

When you think of Upstate New York what comes to mind? Is it Buffalo? Albany? For me Upstate New York is pretty much any part of the state that is further than taking the FDR to the George Washington Bridge. Past that point is the country as far as I’m concerned and up until this point in my life I haven’t explored it as much as I should have. With a boyfriend who was raised in Rockland County it gives me new incentive to explore beyond the city and find all of the hidden gems New York State has to offer. With home base being Aaron’s parent’s house we have the means to explore all day and night and then lay our heads without having to pay for a hotel (Score!).

First stop on the upstate tour is Garrison. Why Garrison? Why Not! …Seriously, it was just a random pick but it turned into a really lovely first stop. We begin our journey by heading to Boscobel which is a quaint estate built in the 19th century right on the Hudson that homes gardens and a farmers market on Saturdays. The farmers market contains rich produce, local cheese and dairy, fresh fruit, and pastries. There’s truly nothing like a sheep camembert and local summer tomatoes to start your morning off right. After walking around the property we head over to our next stop, hiking!IMG_1466 IMG_1469

Hudson Highlands State Park is a wonder. It’s nearly 6,000 acres of winding and verdurous territory making for one beautiful morning hike.

IMG_1556With some more of the day to kill and our hike behind us we jump in the car and head to the nearby village, Cold Spring.

Now, when I was back in college up in Albany I had a weekly tradition with my friends Chris to take a trip to a new town and explore the offerings. We found that many of these places had a formula. It consisted of antique stores, some kind of farm stand, a few restaurants, some lovely local people, and a vibe that was on a scale from “rundown upstate area with no charm”-“cute grandma town”. Most of the places were the latter, boasting old world virtues and sweet old timey people, a Main Street, and that’s what I loved about them. They were so vastly different from the modern, everything happening here and now, Brooklyn that I come from.

Cold Spring, had antique stores, cute little cafés, a Main Street and some very friendly people. But there was something different about this place. You walk into the general store and what do you find? Some honey sticks, beef jerky and a t-shirt? NO! You find Brooklyn Brine, Mast Brothers Chocolate and native to Brooklyn beers. You walk into the home goods store and what do you find? A pillow that boldly expresses the word “BROOKLYN”. My friends….WHAT IS HAPPENING TO THESE SMALL TOWNS?? First it’s Brooklyn food, then clothes and then what is left to these cute upstate places?? An abandoned shell of a village taken over and renovated by young people now coursing with hipster bars and local, artisinal kale soap shops?? Someone stop me before I go on this whole post about how Brooklyn mentality and products are taking over the world.

After my conniption we jet out of Cold Spring in search of simpler times, also known as Jones Farm in Cornwall, New York. We loved up some goats and chicken, and had us some perfect apple cider doughnuts. Here’s the upstate New York I know and love.

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After hours in the outdoors enjoying the warm weather and trekking through villages and shops we hear our stomachs cause a commotion and we know it is time for food.

After a wedding a few months ago in Cold Spring we happened upon this absolutely outstanding barbecue joint. We make it a point to go back and we just so happened to be in the area. The choice was simple, Round Up Texas BBQ. Let me preface by saying I have had many New York City and Brooklyn BBQ places and none of them even come close. The food from meat to cornbread is simple, delicious and stick to your ribs (pun always intended) homemade. The owners and staff are the friendliest people who truly care about what they do. The ambience; this place is on the side of a road, usually with local people playing music, cheap beer and good company. What more could you ask of a restaurant? In my eyes this is a true gem and a fantastic eatery. Go here. more happinessIMG_1577 IMG_1593 IMG_1604

So for right now I leave you with this, explore as much as you can for as long as you can because no one ever had an adventure sitting at home…or maybe they have…the point is there’s this big old world out there waiting for you to experience it. Happy Travels!

Let Me See Yo Grillz

Current Mood: I want a burger. I’m really sweaty. I’m drinking a watermelon fresca my mom has handcrafted for me (and I threw in some tequila because I’M AN ADULT….and it’s summer) which has got me feeling crunk.  The mix of tequila and wanting a burger has me rapping (hence the title) and has also reminded me to share the world’s greatest summer foods.

GRILLED ROMAINE LETTUCE

I REPEAT GRILLED ROMAINE LETTUCE.

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It is the most simple, amazing ingredient that can add pizzaz, depth and summer to any meal. The lettuce is earthy, crispy, charred, and unctuous.

Heat your grill. Brush romaine lettuce with olive oil. Char on both sides until tender but not mooshy/burnt about 2-3 minutes. Sprinkle with maldon sea salt and thank me (or rather my cousin Asia who introduced me to this wonder) later. Use it on your burgers. In a salad, By itself. It’s perfection.

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My second goal besides eating my way through Chinatown and Curry Hill this summer is to grill everything. From lettuce to stone fruit, everything is better on the grill.

But until stone fruit season I have a Berry Tart recipe to make you swoon that goes ever so perfectly with gelato.

Berry Tart

Crust-

Galette Recipe

plus 1 cup of rolled oats pulsed in

Filling-

1 carton of Strawberries

1/2 package of frozen strawberries

1/4 package frozen raspberries

1 carton fresh raspberries

1 lemon’s zest

1teaspoon honey

Evenly distribute the galette dough on the bottom of the tart pan and chill for 20-30 minutes

In a bowl mix the fresh berries and the lemon zest. When the dough in chilled distribute the berry and zest mixture evenly over it. Scatter your frozen berries over the top evenly and drizzle your honey on top of it all. Bake in the oven at 375 for 30-35 minutes. Remove when the crust is golden brown and the berries are bubbling and oozy. Serve warm or at room temperature with some marscapone or gelato.

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I’m definitely not going to get over the fact that it’s summer.

I love summer.

And tequila. Tequila… you’re cool too.

Life’s a Beach

It’s finally summer which means…beaches, ice cream, ice pops, excursions, traveling, sunshine, not being pasty, eating stone fruits and other summer wonders like TOMATOES, picnics, fireworks, getting caught in a warm rainstorms, cute outfits, and so much more. Can you tell I’m pumped about the season? I love warm weather. The hotter the better… okay I’ll stop hyperventilating and get on with it.

To kick it off, I began the season of joy with a grub crawl. When my cousin Asia (who’s essentially my sister and partner in eating everything we can in the world) wins tickets to the Bon Appétit Grub Crawl, what does one do? They take off of work, eat and drink from morning until night and then pass out! It was a Brooklyn Grub Crawl starting at Habana Outpost in Fort Greene and ending up at No. 7. I ate some awesome elote (Habana Outpost), some buttery steak (Speedy Romeos), drank some outstanding cocktails (Sisters on Fulton Ave.), had one of my new favorite drinks of all time called the Bergamonster (The Finch), and ate some bomb broccoli tacos ( No. 7). It was fab.

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***Need a restaurant recommendation in NYC or Brooklyn? I’m you’re lady! Message me at mschwim8@gmail.com for any info on restaurants , recipes, or food recs!!***

After my day of gluttony and intoxication I decided maybe I should take it easy. So what do I decide to have for breakfast? I cooling, refreshing, and summery breakfast of strawberries, cream and cookies….

Alright, alright, cream and cookies is not what sounds like “taking it easy” BUT I have been waiting to make this recipe all winter and for the record it is way healthier than it sounds. There’s yogurt, fruit, whole grain and honey.

I used this recipe and I was beaming with excitement because it’s finally strawberry weather and I can make this beautiful breakfast. And if you don’t follow mynewroots you totally should. Because she’s beautiful and her recipes are extraordinary.

http://www.mynewroots.org/site/2014/06/strawberries-and-danish-summer-cream/

Let me just say the smell of cardamom and lemon biscuits in the oven is intoxicating and the mix of sweet, ripe strawberries with “cream” is luscious.

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And just to add insult to injury I spent my next day in the city eating as well. I went over to Nom Wah Tea Parlor for some dim sum and let’s just say their bean curd roll are super and the tea not so much (was pretty weak for a tea parlor). Asia and my summer goal is to eat at as many dim sum, dumpling, hand pulled noodle, and ramen places as humanely possible. I think we’re on our way for fulfilling our goal. Stay tuned for a detailed Chinatown, Flushing and Sunset Park Map of great eats.

If you’re also excited about summer and all it’s possibilities RAISE YOUR HAND! I know I am.

P.S- You can follow my summer eating/adventuring on Instagram @realschwimshady

Allora Italy

Allora, let me begin by explaining the name of this post because it truly captures the essence of my trip. Allora is similar to our “um”. It is a filler word and you hear it everywhere and you end up saying it a ton. Besides “Il conto perfavore” and “gratzi milli” I used allora the most. This trip to Italy was a belated retirement present for my mom and it was sponsored by my aunt. As I’m writing this, now that I’m home…I WANT TO BE IN ITALY SO BAD.

Let me just say write that I may have to live in Italy at some point in my life because cheese, wine , gelato, and pasta are the some of the worlds best things. One of the greatest things about Italy ( or traveling anywhere that isn’t the states) is how much fresher everything is. There is such an emphasis on local and fresh ingredients in cooking which even makes even the most simple meals tastes extraordinary. Now I’m not saying you can’t find fresh and local food in New York or in the states but there is just something about the lifestyle and the way people in Italy regard their fish, meat, produce and dairy that makes it so rich and special. There is a such a high regard for quality, taking your time with food and enjoying meals that makes being in Italy feel so special.

Let’s begin my Italy recap by noting that I can have fun anywhere and I am not trying to sway anyone from going to Milan BUT if I go to Italy again I will most likely not be in Milan. If you want to go somewhere that feels like New York’s Midtown, where there is a lot of shopping and business, then Milan in the place for you. It was not my cup of tea but I did find this gem of a place called Peck’s. They have a floor dedicated to wine and the main floor is meat, cheese, bread, fish, produce, chocolate and pastries. A beautifully designed space where we found our first dinner in Milan. We got some provolone, marscapone, Parmigiano Reggiano, sourdough , olives, finnochiona (fennel salami) and copious amounts of local sparkling red wine. We brought it all back to our hotel room and cheersed to being in Italy!

IMG_0353 After seeing the Last Supper and doing some walking around we grab our things and head to Florence. Firenze while still very tourist-y was a little more my speed. We head to the Ponte Vecchio, the Uffizi, the Accademia dell’Arte, the Duomo and the Central Market in the two days that we are there.

Let me preface by saying my family is really into art. I grew up in museums  (which I hated when I was younger and when we would visit MOMA I would beg to go to the food court instead of looking at Picasso). And oh how the tides have turned from little me who loathed art to grown up me who graduated college as an art history minor. But nothing prepared me for the reaction I would have upon seeing (my boyfriend as I joke to Aaron my actual boyfriend) Michelangelo’s David. I’ve seen him in textbooks and replicas of him in other museums but this sheer perfection made out of marble is like nothing you will ever see. It’s beautiful. David is the perfect male specimen and you get lost in the detail which you have to remind yourself is marble. I sat there for easily an hour and just stared. Art is just amazing. It plays off of emotion and what we take from our experiences and what each artist does is try to have their viewers feel and see what they are. Just incredible.IMG_0449

After our date with David we head to this exceptional Trattoria Leoni in a warm piazza where we also found amazing gelato and exceptional espresso. We had a meal that will stay with me forever. Melt in your mouth steak, luscious and creamy ricotta soufflé, warm fritters with tangy spreadable cheese and salty proscuitto, and long strands of chewy pasta in a bright seafood sauce. I want this meal always.

IMG_0403 IMG_0405 IMG_0407A few other meals absolutely worth mentioning are at Gusta Pizza. A hole in the alley joint that has exceptional pizza and if you ask will make your pie in the shape of a heart and Lo Sprone where we had an unbelievable, casual lunch with amazing local chianti and tons of homemade pasta. IMG_0361 IMG_0362

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Firenze was comforting. The food, the people, the charming hotel we stayed in that made me feel like I was a Medici but it was off to Cinque Terre where I would find my home away from home and fall in love.

There is something about being near the water, in a small village, with only a few options of stores, and a tight knit community that makes you happy. This is my speed. I could live there or in La Spezia where the outdoor market is exceptional and the people are as well. You have the mountains on one side and the water on the other. You just can’t help but smile.

5 THINGS TO DO IN CINQUE TERRE

Be friendly. Go out and talk to people, be polite and go out for a drink. Everyone gathers at the local restaurant where they drink and listen to live music.

Eat amazing fresh seafood, focaccia, lemon, pesto and local wine. There are wineries all around the area and your surrounded by the sea. Try the anchovies. Immerse your face in tons of pillowy focaccia. And please eat at Trattoria Dal Billy. I don’t say this lightly. The best pasta I’ve ever had. Springy, chewy and with pomodoro, pine nuts and shrimp. Perfection.

Take a cooking class in La Spezia because it was the best decision I ever made. I made friends with a chef named Silvia Cardelli and her crew and we made some amazing dishes together. We shared a meal in her kitchen and had a wonderful afternoon. It’s incredible talking to locals in another land because the conversation you have with them with change your perspectives forever.

Lay by the water and enjoy where you are.

HIKE, HIKE, HIKE. There is so much mountain to be explored!! Please trek up the hills and see what I saw. You’ll be glad you did.

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After Cinque Terre we head back to Milan for a night of drinking, eating and preparing for the journey home. I will miss Italy and secretly plan a trip back for as soon as I possibly can.

Won’t You Take Me To NoodleTown!

   One of my favorite things to do in New York City is walk through the streets of Chinatown while listening to classical or jazz music and just explore the busy streets with peaceful melodies in my ears. Chinatown is visually chaotic and crowded with someone yelling on one side of you and someone else throwing a large whole pig on the other side. There’s mounds of veggies and dried goodies, restaurants for miles and no matter what time of the year it is always crowded. But as I walk through the jam packed streets and smell the hints of fish markets and marlboro lights I listen to Duke Ellington and just smile. While walking I admire the remains of the New Year on the floor and I begin to zone out when my insides scream  “Melissa, stop walking, you’re hungry!”.  So I listen to my stomach rumbles and stop into one of the cheapest yet most delicious restaurants in Chinatown. NoodleTown. Sit down, get hot tea, order pork noodle soup with wontons, ask for the green sauce, slurp on noodles, and be happy. IMG_4162

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As I sit and slurp and enjoy the company of the elderly man flossing his teeth next to me, I take a look outside and see something that makes my next bite difficult. Just as I am about to drop a slice of pork on my tongue I look outside and see them unloading the gigantic, freshly killed, whole pig… I’m SORRY pig but you’re so delicious. I honor your pig spirit and thank you for the sustenance. I bow my head and continue on with a dumpling. IMG_4160

The next morning with Chinatown still in my mind and the taste of pork and ginger still on my palate I make an executive breakfast decision to attempt to make congee. If you don’t know what congee is you should acquaint yourself because it’s a rice porridge usually with pork, thousand year egg, and scallions and it is unbelievable. Congee is silky, umami, and one of my favorite things to get at dim sum. With leftover carrot ginger dressing I had made a few days before in the fridge I decided to make this congee vegetarian.

Vegetarian Congee-

1/2 cup rice

6 cups water

2 stalks scallion

1/2 cup peas

1/2 cup corn

chili powder for taste

1/4 cup carrot ginger dressing (4 carrots, 1/4 onion, 1/2 large piece of ginger, oil to combine, rice wine vinegar, soy sauce, sugar -food processed until smooth)

1 soft boiled egg, togarashi (rice seasoning), and sesame seeds for topping

Add the ginger carrot dressing to a pot until it becomes fragrant. Add your rice and stir until combine. Next add your water, cover and let it come to a boil.When boiling turn down the heat and stir. Check again and stir after 10-15 minutes. Cover and repeat another time after the initial 15 minutes. If the water evaporates too rapidly add a little more and after the final about 45 minutes it should look creamy and porridge-like. Add any veggies or pre cooked meat you’d like and let it heat through for 10 minutes. Serve and enjoy with scallions, seasonings and a creamy soft boiled egg.

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I more often than anything else crave Japanese, Vietnamese, Chinese and Korean flavors. Anytime I get a chance to eat miso, soy, sesame, matcha, red bean or taro I do. I’ve also been on a super Bahn Mi/ Pho kick this week to the point where Aaron (the boyfriend) wanted a normal weekend breakfast and I begged him to let us go for Pho instead…I got my way 😀 Someone send me a bahn mi please?

I also very recently made a halo halo cake. Halo Halo is Taiwanese Shaved Ice which I then turned into a cake. It needs some perfecting on the cake end but the concept is fun and it was super delicious anyway. I mean how could anything that consists of matcha, sesame, raspberry, and captain crunch be bad?

 

And for the piece de resistance- Chalait NYC. The best matcha latte I’ve had anywhere. Creamy. Sensual. End of Story.

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Soy Very In Love

Valentine’s Day came and went. I made egg shaped heart and toast. I ate my favorite lemon flavored chocolate from Perugina. I made cards for everyone with classic Melissa puns like “you have stolen a pizza my heart” , etc, love love love. I’m a hopeless romantic…big time fan of love. My only problem with Valentine’s Day is that it has become a holiday to buy things for you significant other that you should be doing year round and not just on that one day (and people get really upset if they don’t get anything). But I digress…because what I’m really here to talk  write about is *DRUM ROLL PLEASE* DUMPLINGS. Yes world dumplings! Dumplings don’t break your heart. Dumplings were my Valentine (Sorry Aaron, I still love you lots, I promise) And with the help of Betty Liu from Le Jus D’Orange (which is a blog I’m newly obsessed with because matcha and it’s so cute ( http://lejusdorangeblog.com)) I learned to make the dumpling skins. The inside is my take on veggie dumplings.

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Veggie Dumplings:

1/2 container firm tofu chopped (moisture sopped up with a paper towel)

1 carrot grated

half a small carton of mushrooms chopped ( I used bella)

1 handful of arugula chopped

1/2 can black beans

1 teaspoon togarashi (Japanese rice seasoning)

1/2 large shallot minced

2 cloves of garlic minced

1 nub of ginger minced (nub is a measurement right?)

1 teaspoon miso paste

1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce

1 egg

garlic powder and ginger to taste

lots of black pepper and some chili flake

1 batch of dumpling dough found here :http://lejusdorangeblog.com/2015/01/28/煎饺-dumplings-two-ways-porkchive-and-chiveeggvermicelli/

Combine all the above ingredients in a bowl and mix well. Let them sit in the fridge for at least 30 minutes before using. Follow this dumpling skin recipe and cooking instructions and you have yourself some amazing homemade dumplings. I couldn’t believe how easy it was to make dumplings. Something I love so so much that I can now make at home!! Next time will be pork and cabbage.

DUMPLING SAUCE:

1 part spicy sesame oil

1 part regular sesame oil

1 part soy sauce

a dash of rice wine vinegar

one good squirt of sriracha

1 clove garlic

some minced ginger + a little ginger powder

Put in an air tight container and let mingle in the fridge for at least an hour.

VOILA Spicy Dumpling Sauce.

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Homemade dumplings are everything.

I have so many back ups in my freezer I literally cannot wait to make soup with them! Homemade Dumplings and Ramen…Bye social life.

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 You’re getting hungry, veryyyy hungry.

P.S- Picture credit to my new and beautiful camera. I’m so excited to be a big girl and take awesome photos. YAY!

         P.P.S- Even without a Valentine you are loved.

This post is part of the monthly link up party Our Growing Edge. This event aims to connect food bloggers and inspire us to try new things. This month is hosted by KIM at https://lovelivelifebykim.wordpress.com

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