Monday, October 12, 2015

My Habesha attempt: Gomen

I know I'm acclimated to living in the south because I now have a favorite collard greens recipe. I love it because it's flavorful, vegetarian (no fatty ham hock here), and it goes with everything. 

Gomen is an Ethiopian greens recipe, so of course it's meant to be eaten with injera, but I am not that pro yet to be fermenting my own teff batter at home, so I just served it with some Jamaican styled rice and peas and fried plantains. Fusion af. The original recipe was shared with me by Kristina, but I had to make some minor changes because I didn't have all the proper spices in my pantry. She suggested simmering for even longer than I did (based on the following photos) so that the greens become dark, withered, and very tender. I've cooked and refined the recipes several times since, so I know that it's a Linda kitchen staple now. 

1 lb collard greens, chopped
2 tbs clarified butter (ghee or kebeh)
6 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 small knob of ginger, chopped
1 small white onion, chopped
1/2 tsp tumeric
1/2 tsp berbere 
1/4 tsp all spice
1 stick cinnamon
1 tbs lemon juice
salt, to taste

1. Bring greens to a boil in about 2 cups of water. Simmer until tender. Drain greens and set aside. Keep the water and set aside as well. 
2. In a deep pan, heat 1 tbs of clarified butter and sautee onions, ginger, and garlic until brown. 
3. Add in the drained collard greens, an additional spoonful of butter, and the leftover water into the pan and simmer on low heat with spices until all water evaporates and greens are tender. 

✓ fiber
✓ vitamin A
✓ vegetables

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

What I ate in New York

Pears: the other autumnal fruit | 97th Street Greenmarket

It's been a roller coaster ride for the past few months: graduation, an impromptu trip to Hong Kong and China, flying back and forth from New Orleans every other week, studying for the certification exam, becoming a registered dietitian, unemployment, endless cover letters and interviews, a shingles scare, and finally getting a job. Luckily I booked a trip back to New York (again) last week to celebrate my family's birthdays, so I was able to have a relaxing final vacation home before starting real life. Yup, that serious. Here are highlights from some of the wonderful things I ate in my hometown!

No trip to NY is complete without pizza | Marta

And you know this city never sleeps only because of its coffee infatuation | La Colombe
I was fooled by its cuteness | Paris Baguette
Nothing says fall like an heirloom tomato salad | Marta

The breakfast of champions for longevity | Hop Shing

Meatballs and a chewy crust; bliss | Nick's Pizzabar

Breakfast sandwiches are always worth waking up for | Clover Delicatessen 

When I die, bury me in a parmesan crust | Basta Pasta

Cold afternoons are for making sweet sticky rice balls with grandma

Can you name all the colors of the season? | Union Square Greenmarket

When you're full af but dessert is sticky toffee cake | Park Avenue Autumn

I'll admit it; I'm spoiled and blessed | Limani

Linguini in white clam sauce: classic | Basta Pasta

How much is that bagel in the window? | Tal Bagel

Baked eggs with homemade marinara sauce for breakfast because I can | Vic's

Too much hype | Ippudo

Best slice / parting slice / A1 since day 1 | Joe's Pizza

But alas, nothing beats a home cooked meal 

Friday, September 25, 2015

Domenica, New Orleans

I bet you weren't expecting a pizza post now that I'm living in New Orleans. But this is more than just a pizza post; this is also a happy hour post. I thought I found my favorite happy hour at Lüke a few months ago, where there are 75c raw oysters every afternoon, but now I got a new one: Domenica. Also owned by John Besh, Domenica is located inside the Roosevelt and dishes out half off artisan pizzas on the daily (2-5pm). Thank you Mr. Besh, for making happy hours that much happier.

Senai and I started a lunch club mid summer, where we would try to find the best lunch specials around town. It's not too difficult a task, but finding the best deals and dining with style is a bit more challenging. So in swoops Domenica with its fluffy pizza crusts and fancy toppings, completely sweeping the classy yet cheap eats category. We try to order something different every time, but I think we already found the clear winners. 
  • Must try: Clam - if you like linguini in white clam sauce, you will most definitely love this pie. Parmesan, clams, roasted garlic, and white wine sauce all atop the soft baked crust. I've never had anything like it before. 
  • Meat needers : Smoked Pork - ample amounts of pork with red onions, peppers, and salsa verde. Don't forget to dip the crust in lots of olive oil! 
  • Red sauce traditionalists: Calabrese - sometimes you just need something more familiar. This pizza comes with tomato and mozzarella as well as very flavorful spicy salami, capers, and olives. 
If you go with two other people, you just need two pies and a few beers to make it a full meal. If it's just a pair of you, order two and take an entire pie home for later! At $10 a person, it's so worth it. 

123 Baronne Street
New Orleans, LA

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Healing your body with food: spiced butternut squash bake

Last night, I put together an impromptu vegetarian/vegan dinner with select ingredients I happened to have in the kitchen, a lot of liberty with my spice collection, and a highly improvised Moroccan butternut squash stew recipe. In my recent practice of yoga and meditation, I've focused a lot of my studies on chakras and how to heal them. Turns out one of the most important things you can do for your body is to feed it with the right foods. Who would've guessed! So in preparing this dinner, I am also eating for the inner peace of my lower chakras based on the colors and ingredients chosen for this spiced bake. 

The root chakra* is the first chakra and is located at the base of the spine. It is associated with the color red and therefore linked with red foods and root vegetables. It is followed by the sacral chakra^ located right below the belly button. Here reigns the color orange and orange foods. The third chakra is the solar plexus°, located at the base of the sternum, and associated with the color yellow as well as complex carbohydrates. So in preparing this recipe, the combination of vegetables and spices should be healing for all your lower chakras. 
°To learn more about the solar plexus and even how to develop an aura and enjoy some time in the sun, check Henok's video

Spiced butternut squash bake
1 butternut squash^, cubed 
6 carrots*^, cut in small chunks 
1 small white onion*, chopped
1 knob ginger*, sliced 
1/4 cup almonds*^
3 tbs olive oil
2 tsp honey^
1 tsp masala spice°
1/2 tsp tumeric°
1/2 tsp salt
14 oz chickpeas*, drained and rinsed
1/2 cup dried cranberries

1. Preheat oven to 350°F. 
2. In a large mixing bowl toss together the butternut squash, carrots, onion, ginger, almonds, oilve oil, honey, salt masala spice, and tumeric.   
3. Place on a baking tray for 25 minutes.
4. Add chickpeas and dried cranberries and bake for another 5-10 minutes or until squash and carrots are tender and browned. 
5. Enjoy mindfully :) or on a bed of arugula (which is green and associated with the heart chakra)

✓ fiber
✓ vegetables
✓ lean protein
✓ unsaturated fats
✓ low sodium

Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Crabby Jack's and Jacques Imo's, New Orleans

After eating at Crabby Jack's several times and unsuccessfully trying to get into Jacque Imo's doors for lunch several times, I unintentionally ate at both in the past few days and just realized that they're both opened by Jacques Leonardi. It all makes sense now. Crabby Jack's is only opened for lunch, and Jacque Imo's is only opened for dinner. So if you want to do it right, you have to do it in that order.

Y'all already know that I am infatuated with po-boys. When I was eating lunch at Napoleon House recently, a lady sitting next me caught me photographing my muffaletta sandwich and tweeting about it, which prompted her to ask me if I was a food blogger. Thank goodness I am, and then she asked me where my favorite places in the city for po-boys are. I had to think about that one simply because I'v eaten oh so many and really they're all good except for the occasional really bad one. But like pizza, there are those that reign supreme and I told her that my favorite is Crabby Jack's. And really I have eaten at Crabby Jack's pretty often considering how it's a bit out of the way, so it really is that good. 

Today for lunch I got the usual half & half: half shrimp and half oyster. But I really am working on cutting down on my fried food (I am, after all, a nutritionist and registered dietitian), so I requested that the shrimp be grilled. Half shrimp, half oyster, half grilled, half fried. Talk about compromise and moderation. Turns out this is yet another one of my unintentional genius food moves, for the mixture of cooking preparations added another wonderful succulent texture and who knew how wonderfully seasoned their grilled seafood was? Seriously, grilled seafood in New Orleans is underrated. As for the fried oysters, they were crispy and not over floured, so they most certainly pass. And finally, what makes the po-boy of course is always the bread, and here it had a crunch and a chew to it, which is really all I ask for. Fresh bread for the win. 

And if you're in the area for lunch but aren't in the mood for a sandwich, I've also had the blackened gulf fish before with a side of dirty rice, which was a bit salty (what else do you expect with blackened?), but still very good. Perfect place for a hot lunch or a great stuffed po-boy. 

Crabby Jack's 
428 Jefferson Highway
New Orleans

And now, the elusive Jacques Imo's. 

My first impression of Jacques Imo's was from the annual Oak Street Po-Boy Festival last November. Jacques Imo was serving their famous shrimp and alligator sausage cheesecake, which was a bit confusing given its name. It's reminiscent of a quiche; savory and soft to the bite. It was alright, but I'm glad I got to try again in house because having it fresh from the kitchen made a huge difference. It was warm and fragrant. 

The highlights of my meal at Jacques Imo's was actually the accompaniments of my meal: their buttery cornbread muffin and appetizer salad topped with a lone fried oyster. Like I said earlier, I'm working on reducing my fried food intake while I'm down south, so I opted for the Cajun bouillabaisse. It was flavorful and filled with mussels, shrimp, and chunks of fish, but it simply wasn't memorable. I guess that's what you get for not ordering fried food. Everyone else I was dining with ordered red fish, which was tasty, but again not outstanding and honestly quite pricey. I really wish I opted for the Godzilla, a fried soft shell crab over fried green tomatoes, or their fried mirliton with oyster stuffing.  Maybe next time when friends are in town again!

Pro-tip: get there early. The lines are real! 

Jacques Imo's
8324 Oak Street
New Orleans

Tuesday, September 8, 2015

Baraka Shawarma Mediterranean Grill, Stone Mountain GA

This Labor Day weekend, I visited Atlanta with Henok. Before our drive back, we stopped by a neighborhood drive-thru that serves Halal food. Even though we could've conveniently picked up our food at the window, I'm so glad that we decided to eat inside. 

When we entered, a smiling faced gentleman greeted us and excitedly asked me where I was from (New York) and my favorite foods. He explained that he was very interested in international cuisine, in which I told him that my parents are from Hong Kong. Knowing that he is Muslim, I answered that my favorite Hong Kong food are shrimp wontons and that my favorite homemade recipe is pineapple ginger soy marinated wings. He then plopped down a small thick notebook on the counter and told me to flip through it. It was filled from cover to cover with recipes from around the world -- all handwritten. This chef is clearly passionate about his work and it shines through his cooking. As he was telling me about his goals in opening another restaurant showcasing international foods with hood (that's where he's from) flavor and a vegan food truck, he gave me several samples to try including homemade salmon cakes and a delicious curry chicken. He told me to feel free to take photos of as many recipes as I wanted as he prepared our orders, and I of course took advantage of the offer. 

Henok had a very flavorful and crispy falafel sandwich, and I had a curried tilapia sandwich. Both were pita stuffed with lettuce, tomato, and banana peppers. Both were bursting with spices, which I find to be the chef's signature. 

Upon finishing our meal, I really was intent on sharing some recipes with the chef. I asked him how to best reach him. Should I email him? Should I leave him a link to my blog? He really seemed not too fond of using the internet, so I suggested that I could mail him a few recipes. And he agreed that it would be the best way and to just use the address on his business card. Well then, I guess that means time to hand write a few recipes out!   

Baraka Shawarma Mediterranean Grill
4865 Memorial Drive
Stone Mountain, GA