Monday, May 31, 2010

Poll of the Week - 5.31.2010

Pasta is one of the most versatile foods out there. It’s the perfect cold weather comfort food, and is also one of the best ways to take advantage of summer’s wonderful produce. And not only are there dozens of pasta varieties, there are even more varieties of pasta sauce, and each kind of pasta is best complemented by a particular sauce. Angel hair, for example, is best with thin, delicate sauces, whereas pastas like fusilli and orecchiette are perfect with thick, chunky sauces.

With this week’s “Poll of the Week”, Little Scarlet wants to know what is your favorite kind of pasta sauce?

Sunday, May 30, 2010

Soup Burg - 77th St & Lexington Ave

Soup Burg
1095 Lexington Ave

For years, my dad’s been telling me that the best burger in New York is at Soup Burg on Lexington Ave. Like most things your parents repeat over the years, it kind of goes in one ear and out the other, but every once in a while something sticks. And so when I got hungry after spending a lazy Saturday wandering around the Metropolitan Museum of Art, I remembered that Soup Burg was just around the corner.

Now I can’t say it’s the absolute best in New York, but the cheeseburger here is pretty great. It’s a thick, juicy patty prepared with minimal seasonings so all you taste is that great beefy flavor, and the whole thing is topped with crisp lettuce, fresh tomato, and a slice of cheese (American, cheddar, or Swiss). It’s cooked perfectly medium-rare with a nicely charred exterior, so the burger’s juices get locked inside and the bottom bun doesn’t get soggy.

Served with a side of hot, crispy fries and a pickle, the only thing you’ll want to add to this burger is a little bit of ketchup.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Cilantro Rice

Memorial Day Weekend is just a few days away, and hamburger buns are flying off the shelves as Americans everywhere get ready to grill everything from the standard hot dogs and hamburgers to chicken and steak. Vegetarians are often given short shrift at these big summer grilling parties – who wants a boring salad when everyone else is enjoying their food?

This taco recipe is the perfect vegetarian answer to those meat-laden summer gatherings. Inspired by Martha Stewart’s red cabbage slaw (part of a terrific recipe for fish tacos), these tacos pile that slaw into corn tortillas alongside black beans and cilantro rice. If you happen to have any slaw leftover, save it for a refreshing side dish – or if you’re feeling generous with your omnivorous company, this creamy slaw is also great piled onto hot dogs, pulled pork sandwiches, or anything else being served!

Yields 10 tacos

Tacos with Red Cabbage Slaw and Cilantro Rice

Cilantro Rice:
1 cup white or brown rice
2/3 cup cilantro, loosely packed
1/3 cup onion, chopped
¼ cup scallions, chopped
1 jalapeño
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tsp olive oil

Red Cabbage Slaw:
¼ small red cabbage, finely shredded (about 2 ½ cups)*
4 scallions, thinly sliced (about 1/2 cup)
1 jalapeño
1 cup sour cream
4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Coarse salt and ground pepper

Tacos and garnishes:
10 6-inch corn tortillas
1 12-oz can black beans
½ cup fresh cilantro leaves
  1. For cilantro rice, prepare 1 cup uncooked rice according to directions. While rice is cooking, purée cilantro, onion, scallions, jalapeño, lime juice, and olive oil. Once rice is cooked, stir cilantro purée into rice, and mix well. Keep warm until tacos are ready to serve.
  2. In a large bowl, mix together red cabbage, scallions and jalapeño. In a separate bowl, combine sour cream and lime juice; season with salt and pepper. Toss ¼ of sour cream with red cabbage mixture; set aside remaining ¾ sour cream for serving. Season red cabbage mixture with additional salt and pepper, if desired.
  3. Warm corn tortillas in a cast-iron skillet. Assemble tacos by filling tortillas with rice, slaw, and black beans. Top with fresh cilantro and sour cream mixture; serve immediately.

*Note: When making the slaw, be sure to slice the cabbage finely, as large pieces can carry a bitter taste.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Poll of the Week - 5.24.2010

Memorial Day is observed next Monday, and for many of us, it kicks off the (unofficial) start of summer with the first long weekend since February. But it’s important to remember the true meaning of Memorial Day, a United States federal holiday dedicated to commemorating the U.S. men and women who have died while in military service.

There is a national moment of remembrance on May 31 at 3 p.m. (local time, across the U.S.), but you can observe the holiday in any way you choose. So while you’re enjoying the day with your friends and family, grilling outside or watching the Indy 500, please take a moment to honor the men and women who have fought so bravely to protect our country and our rights.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” wants to know how do you plan to spend your Memorial Day?

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Honest Tea - Perfect for Summer Sipping

I love it when Little Scarlet is given the chance to rave about great products, especially when it’s one I’ve loved for a long time. Iced tea is one of my favorite drinks, but I can’t stand the shockingly sweet stuff you find in most bottles. So I’m a big fan of Honest Tea, which prides itself on being “just tea” or only a “tad sweet”. Plus, their name is a pun, and how fun is that?!

Just in time for summer, they’ve come out with a bunch of great new flavors, all of which have 50 calories or fewer. The folks over at Honest Tea were nice enough to send me some of their new flavors, and they’re as great as I’d hoped! Like their other teas, these new ones are sweetened with organic cane sugar, so there’s no fake sweetener after-taste.

Keep an eye out for their Half & Half and any of the line of Honest Ade flavors – these are terrific on their own, but can also be an easy way to punch up a great marinade or salad dressing. These drinks are refreshingly light with just a hint of sweetness, and are sure to be a big hit as the temperature climbs!

On a side note, in addition to being Fair Trade-certified, Honest Tea now comes in a 22% lighter, BPA-free bottle – which means less waste, and a healthier planet!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Shells

On my last few trips to the grocery store, I haven’t been able to stop dreaming about Italian food. Fresh basil and tomatoes are the biggest draw, with their warm, homey smells and the promise of a good meal. When I think of the Italian foods I love to make and eat, though, meat is always the next ingredient that comes to mind. And why shouldn’t it be? Italians are as famous for their meats as they are for anything else – prosciutto, pancetta, guanciale, spicy sausages… the perfect ingredients for a carnivorous carnival!

But none of these wonderful foods would suit for Thursday’s Terra Treats – after all, I promised you no meat! So for today’s recipe, I decided to try a recipe for stuffed shells I’d recently seen on Real Simple’s website. No need for meat, so I turned away from the butcher case and wandered toward the cheese counter instead.

These stuffed shells are a snap to put together, and only call for a few basic ingredients. The chopped spinach adds a nice textural element to the cheese stuffing – and for some extra flavor, try adding a few chopped basil leaves to the mix! A few of these shells will have you feeling plenty full, but if you want some variety on your plate, pick up some extra spinach for a lovely side salad.

Yields approximately 5 servings
Above, photograph taken by Marcus Nilsson, hosted on Real Simple's website

On a side note, I’ve been struggling with my camera lately, so I can’t take any credit for today’s glamour picture (at left, taken by Marcus Nilsson for Real Simple). Just for kicks, though, I did post the picture I was able to eke out – it’s a little messier, but they still tasted great!

Ricotta-Spinach Stuffed Shells

Directions (adapted from Real Simple recipe):
20 jumbo pasta shells (most of a 12-oz box)
1 32-oz container part-skim ricotta
½ cup grated Parmesan
2 cups baby spinach, chopped
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 24-oz jar marinara sauce
½ cup grated mozzarella
  1. Preheat oven to 400° F, with oven rack in the highest position just under the broiler. Cook the pasta shells according to the package directions; drain with a colander and run under cold water until pasta is cool and can be comfortably handled.
  2. In a medium-sized bowl, combine the ricotta, Parmesan, spinach, salt, and pepper; gently use a large rubber spatula to mix well. Meanwhile, spread marinara sauce in the bottom of a large broilerproof baking dish.
  3. Using a spoon, fill each shell with a generous portion of the ricotta-spinach mixture, and place each stuffed shell on top of the sauce. Top all shells with grated mozzarella; bake for 10-12 minutes, or until shells are heated all the way through.
  4. Increase heat to broil; with a watchful eye, let the shells broil until the cheese begins to brown, about 2 to 5 minutes. Carefully remove dish from the oven and serve hot.

*Note: If you don’t have a broilerproof baking pan, Le Creuset has some affordable options that work perfectly here - I just got their stoneware 14” baking dish, and am loving all of the ways I’ve found to use it!

Monday, May 17, 2010

Poll of the Week - 5.17.2010

This weekend, some friends and I finally found our way over to Momofuku Noodle Bar for their fried chicken dinner. And it really is as good as they say, but more on that later! We were all completely full by the end of the meal, but still decided to saunter over to Momofuku Milk Bar for dessert afterward, since it’s practically just around the corner.

Momofuku Milk Bar has some really wild and inventive desserts like a “compost cookie” (pretzels, potato chips, coffee, oats, butterscotch, and chocolate chips), kimchi and blue cheese croissants, and “candy bar pie” (chocolate crust, caramel, peanut butter nougat, and pretzels). But maybe the most wonderful creation to be found here is the “cereal milk”. It tastes exactly like what you’d think it does – the milk leftover in your bowl after you’ve eaten your morning cereal.

As we were standing around trying to decide what to order, the “cereal milk” naturally led into an excited conversation about favorite childhood “junk food” cereals (you know, the ones Mom would never let you have), and how much you loved slurping down that sugary, flavored milk at the end!

This week’s “Poll of the Week” takes you back to the days when companies could advertise with cartoon characters (farewell Toucan Sam and Count Chocula!) and before whole grains were an “essential” part of breakfast cereals. These sugar-laden cereals were a special treat, a rare indulgence, and we all had our favorites! Whether you loved it for the leftover milk or the cereal itself, Little Scarlet wants to know what’s your favorite junk food cereal?

Thursday, May 13, 2010

Stuffed Artichokes with Spiced Tomato Chutney

There are a handful of foods out there, where my first thought is always “what on earth made someone decide it was a good idea to try to eat this?” Sea urchins are one of these foods, same with pineapples. And now we’re in the beginning of artichoke season – a vegetable that looks more like a weapon than dinner.

Artichokes are a bit of a puzzle, and it takes a fair bit of effort to prepare one properly. Their outer leaves are tough and prickly, and mostly indigestible even after cooking. Once you get through these leaves, there are the tender inner leaves, but then you hit a dense brush of thistle (the “choke”) that needs to be removed before you can get to the incredibly flavorful, meaty artichoke heart. And the unwieldy-looking stem is quite nice to eat, as well, but you have to trim off the outer layer of skin first.

Steamed, baked, roasted, or fried, artichokes are well worth the effort. They’re a nutritional powerhouse, very low in calories and are particularly good for the liver. Make sure you buy artichokes with tight leaves and an even green color, with as little browning as possible. If you give the artichoke a squeeze (careful not to prick yourself!), you should hear the leaves squeak a little against each other.

This recipe calls for a combination of steaming and baking. The spiced tomato chutney simmers while the artichoke steams, and is then stuffed into the cavity of each halved artichoke before baking. Pair an artichoke half with a green salad or rice pilaf for a light dinner, or eat both halves if you’re feeling really hungry.

Yields 4 artichoke hearts

Stuffed Artichokes with Spiced Tomato Chutney

2 artichokes

Spiced Tomato Chutney:
1 tsp canola oil
2 tbsp walnuts
1 garlic clove, pressed
½ small onion, minced
2 tbsp olive oil
½ pint grape tomatoes, quartered
1 tsp spicy brown mustard
¾ tbsp red wine vinegar
¼ tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
¼ tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ tsp sugar
¼ tsp kosher salt
¼ tsp hot pepper flakes
¼ cup plain breadcrumbs, or less
Grated parmesan cheese

Lemon-Garlic Olive Oil:
1 tbsp lemon juice
3 tbsp olive oil
1 clove garlic, pressed
Kosher salt
Fresh cracked pepper
  1. Clean and trim artichoke: using a serrated knife, remove the top ¼ of artichoke and trim the hard leaves from artichoke’s base. Snip the tough, pointy ends off remaining leaves with scissors, and remove the thin, tough skin from the outside of the stalk with a paring knife. Trim the stem so the artichoke will stand upright.
  2. Stand artichokes upright (stem-end down) in steamer and sprinkle with salt and top with lemon slice. Steam for about 40 minutes; then remove from heat. Meanwhile, begin making the tomato chutney.
Tomato Chutney
  1. Heat canola oil in small pan over medium heat. Add walnuts and stir continuously until toasted and fragrant, about two minutes; set aside.
  2. In a medium saucepot, add 1 tbsp olive oil, garlic, and onion; sauté over medium-low heat until onions begin to brown, about 10-15 minutes. Whisk remaining olive oil together with mustard, red wine vinegar, balsamic vinegar, cinnamon, nutmeg, sugar, salt, and hot pepper flakes (for less heat, only add a pinch of pepper flakes). Add tomatoes to pot, and add liquid spice mixture. Stir well and bring to a boil; then cover and simmer on low heat until thick, about 20-30 minutes. If mixture begins to dry out, add small amounts of water (no more than 2-3 tbsp).
  3. Remove from heat and, in a separate bowl, combine tomato mixture with toasted walnuts and slowly add breadcrumbs until desired consistency is reached; mix well.
Stuffed Artichokes
  1. After the artichokes have steamed for 40 minutes (Step 2), remove from heat and let cool. Once each artichoke has cooled enough to handle, halve each one and scrape out the thistle, or “choke”, until all bits of fuzz are gone.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350° F. Place the artichokes in an ovenproof dish; spoon the spiced tomato chutney into each artichoke half, and generously top with grated parmesan cheese. In a separate bowl, whisk together lemon juice, olive oil, garlic, salt, and pepper; drizzle half of the lemon-garlic olive oil over the artichoke. Add roughly ¼ cup water to the pan to prevent the artichokes from drying out; then bake for 20 minutes.
  3. Serve warm, with remaining olive oil drizzled over top.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Poll of the Week - 5.10.2010

What do burgers, mussels, steak, and fried fish all have in common?

They all taste better with fries!

It’s a common misconception that French fries are from France, but these deep-fried strips of potato are actually the culinary achievement of some brilliant Belgian. And boy, the Belgians really do things right!  As with the great dishes of so many other countries, though, the Belgian frites have been turn upside-down through countless generations of American carnivals and state fairs.

And one of the great things about American French fries is that Americans are so open to experimentation. Whether you love them smothered in cheese, chili, or both, there are so many delightful varieties out there, there’s sure to be something for everyone.

Love ‘em fresh from the fryer with nothing but salt? Want to make things a bit fancier with truffle oil and Parmesan cheese? Think they’re best with the skin left on and fried up in potato oil, allergies be damned? All these possibilities and more are common place in bars, bowling alleys, fancy restaurants, and street fairs across America.

This week’s “Poll of the Week” focuses on the different cuts of French fries. From the thick wedges of steak fries to the long, thin slivers of shoestring fries, the way a potato is cut is a large determining factor in its taste. Tell Little Scarlet – what’s your favorite cut of French fry?

p.s. If you’re ever interested in tasting true Belgian  frites here in America, you should make a visit to New York’s Pommes Frites (2nd Ave, at 7th St) – get a multitude of dipping sauces and thank me later!

Thursday, May 6, 2010

Mexican Salad

Cinco de Mayo was yesterday, so what better recipe to bring to Thursday’s Terra Treats than this one for Mexican salad? Sweet corn and hearty black beans come together with fresh tomatoes, spicy jalapeños, and a chili-lime dressing. Serve it over butterhead lettuce for a great salad, or over rice for a brighter version of rice and beans. This salad also makes a wonderful side dish to grilled shrimp, rotisserie chicken… or anything else you can think of!

Serves 4

Mexican Salad

½ pint grape tomatoes
1 (15-oz) can black beans, rinsed and drained
2 cups sweet white corn
¼ cup thinly sliced red onion
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and chopped
1 tbsp lime juice
1 tbsp olive oil
1-2 garlic cloves, pressed
¼ tsp cumin
¼ tsp chili powder
¼ tsp garlic powder
Kosher salt, coarse ground black pepper
1 ripe avocados, chopped
  1. Place tomatoes, black beans, corn, onion, and jalapeño in a bowl together. In a separate bowl, mix together the lime juice, olive oil, garlic cloves, cumin, chili powder, and garlic powder; pour over the vegetable mixture and gently stir to coat evenly. Season with kosher salt and pepper to taste.
  2. Right before serving, gently toss in the avocado; blend well and serve at room temperature.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Poll of the Week - 5.03.2010

This weekend, Little Scarlet traveled up to Maynard, MA to complete a barbecue judging course with the Kansas City Barbecue Society. That’s right, I’m now officially a Certified Barbecue Judge with KCBS - certificate and everything! The course was such a fun experience and I feel so lucky to be part of such a wonderful group of cooks, judges, and all-around barbecue enthusiasts! Of course, the KCBS representatives were very careful to distinguish between true barbecue and “backyard barbecue”, which is oftentimes just grilling. Both have their merits and can be delicious, but true barbecue needs to be cooked for several hours over indirect heat, and KCBS requires the use of wood as a heat source - no gas or propane allowed.

During the course (as with actual competitions), you’re only permitted Saltines and water in between samples and categories. Eventually, all that meat (at least 2 pounds during a regular competition!) leaves you wanting a little something else, so this week’s “Poll of the Week” is about barbecue sides.

When you sit down to a rack of ribs or a heaping portion of pulled pork, what do you want on the side of your plate? Whether you have fancy barbecue equipment or you’ve built your own smoker, or even if you just like to fire up your grill every so often, Little Scarlet wants to know what’s your favorite barbecue side dish?

If you have any great stories, recipes, or memories about summer barbecue, please leave a note for everyone in the Comment section!