Archive for April, 2007

2 Ways to Cook a Dumpling

April 26, 2007

In my book, the world’s most perfect food is the dumpling. I love dinner items that are an all-in-one meal. Like dumplings… vegetables, carbs, all of it in one perfect, neat little package. What more could you ask for? My dad makes these delicious fresh-from-scratch dumplings filled with shrimp, white fish, scallion and ginger. He wraps them with store bought wrappers and gets the thick skin that give the dumplings a little more texture. He knows I love them so when I come home to Cupertino, he packs me two huge Marina Food grocery bags of 100 beautiful little frozen dumplings and sends me on my way. But, what to do with all of these dumplings?

When my dad sends me home with dumplings, it is pretty much all I eat, every night until I run out. Thus explains the title, “2 ways to cook a dumpling.”

Tonight I cooked the dumplings two different ways for me and my lovely bf. It only takes 10 minutes if you already have the frozen dumplings, which if you don’t have a homemade cook to make them for you, you can get some from any asian grocery store, chinatown, japantown, or my favorite, Trader Ming’s (Trader Joe’s, very cleverly titled, asian food line).

7 Easy Steps to Dumpling Soup

Dumpling soup with egg, seaweed, baby bok choy and green onion:

  1. Boil a medium pot of water and carefully drop the frozen dumplings in.
  2. Meanwhile, cut up some baby bok choy (also called shanghai bok choy) and split each heart into quarters. Include the bok choy into the dumpling water and cook for 3-5 mins. Don’t overcook, otherwise it will be rubbery and tough to chew! Take out of the boiling water and set aside.
  3. In your serving bowl, add a few pinches of japanese fish seasoning, I forgot what it is called but I’m sure Kayoko knows. It is made out of fish and is delicious in seasoning. Also add a few tablespoons of soy sauce, a tablespoon or so of sugar and spoon some of the hot boiling water that is cooking the dumplings. The hot water will help disolve the japanese fish pellet seasoning and the sugar. Optional step: Add very finely minced raw garlic to the bottom of the bowl. Again, the hot water will cook partially cook the garlic.
  4. In a separate pan, beat an egg and fry it up with a little bit of oil. Make sure it is a flat sheet and cut it up in the pan with the spatula. Set aside.
  5. After the dumplings are done, spoon the dumpligs and pasta water into the bowl to the top.
  6. Add the baby bok choy, the chopped up egg, and if desired, tear up some seasoned sushi nori and green onions and add to the top.
  7. Finish the soup off with a tiny drop of sesame oil. A little goes a long way, if you add too much it will overpower the soup.

5 Easy Steps to Pot Sticker Dumplings

  1. Heat some oil in a pan. When the oil is hot, add the frozen pot stickers and let the bottoms brown for 5 minutes.
  2. Add 1-2 tablespoons of water mixed with a generous pinch of flour. This will help to create the “crust” on the bottom of the pan. Throw the water into the pan and put a lid on. You will hear it sizzle.
  3. Wait for 5-8 minutes. Don’t check on it too early!
  4. Prepare the dipping sauce. Soy sauce, sugar, vinegar (I like rice wine vinegar), sesame oil, green onions.
  5. Take the pot stickers out and plate.

I heart dumplings and I hope you will too!

The Jew-ban Seder

April 22, 2007

I know this post is VERY VERY late, but … better late than never. I just wanted to briefly share my experience cooking my very first Passover Seder dinner. That too was a little late, as it is supposed to take place on the first night of Passover, I had it on the 3rd or 4th night. I call it the Jew-ban Seder because I am Cuban and my boyfriend is Jewish, and amongst friends we are known as the Jewban couple. So being the Cuban I am, and the Jew-want-to-be I’ve always been, I was determined to cook my very own Seder.

It’s actually insane how much food I made for two tiny people – I did not skimp on anything. I even had to leave work 4 hours early so I could have the brisket cook in time. As you may have guessed, I had to start with the brisket first considering it takes 3.5 hours to cook. Brisket, by the way, is a cut of beef from the underside of the cow — it is pretty much a pot roast cut or I guess in Texas they like to BBQ it.

So, to start I had gefilte fish and matzah. Being that I’ve been through a few Jewish holidays with my boyfriend already, I had already been introduced to these two items. The matzah is the unleavened bread (pretty much a cracker), which is a huge part of the Passover tradition, and the gefilte fish is a jarred fish that both smells and tastes like cat food. It’s true, but it’s not that bad.

I also made latkes — oh so good. These are fried potatoe pancakes that are served hot with apple sauce and sourcream. They made my house reaked of fried foods for a week, but it was worth it.

After we enjoyed a warm bowl of matzo ball soup. This is pretty much a chicken broth soup with veggies, egg noodles and matzo balls, which are pretty much boiled bread balls (kind of). The matzo balls were actually not as tough to make as I thought they would be, and they were much better than the huge ones that we get from the Jewish deli we go to. I guess I just prefer the smaller balls! This dish was by far my fave.

And last, but definitely not the least effort, the brisket and garlic spinach. I actually got my brisket recipe from the Barefoot Contessa – love that weird lady. It pretty much consisted of hecka onions, garlic, carrots, celery and a whole lot of tomato juice. If I were to change anything about my next brisket recipe, I’d definitely add a whole lot of seasoning to the tomato juice! It didn’t turn out bad – the meat tasted just like a pot roast – but the tomato juice flavoring was too simple for my liking. David loved it and I actually loved it the day after. I think after the meat had a chance to sit in its juices over night it tasted wonderful over a bed of rice.

One other item that we had with our Seder was very untraditional and against the whole purpose of passover was Challah. Oh boy do I love me some challah bread and butta. It really put the cherry on my Seder sundae. In fact, I love it so much, I am about to have some challah french toast. Not so sure how that one is going to turn out, but I’ll be sure to let you know.

The Smoke Joint: Snag a Table, Never Leave

April 20, 2007

I don’t care what Time Out thinks. They ridiculously passed up the The Smoke Joint for Blue Smoke in Manhattan in their Eat Out Awards last week for Best BBQ, and all I have to say is: BAD CALL. I’d like to testify that The Smoke Joint is far superior to Blue Smoke, in taste and price.

The Smoke Joint moved into what used to be the famed “Cambodian Restaurant” (a Brooklyn institution that no one knows the name of, and has since moved up to the Upper East Side), and Peter Meehan wrote about it back in December.

Nestled in the tiny little triangle of a block where Lafayette and Fulton Street veer in opposite directions (right behind BAM), The Smoke Joint is an inconspicuous joint that looks like a cabin shack from the front, with nothing more than their name on the top of a chalkboard menu displayed in the window.

This wee cabin however, cranks out some of the best bbq I’ve had in the city. NO JOKE– talk to anyone who has been to the Smoke Joint and they will simply drool all over you. It’s counter service, so you just walk in, take 5 to decide what you want from the overhanging menu, order from the cheery guy at the register, and go stake out a table.

Number 85, your order’s ready…

The mac & cheese takes the prize– there were 4 of us, and we all agreed that this was a true winner. These glistening ringlets of macaroni are cooked to perfection, and lie in a delightful, creamy cheese bath. Lots of heart attack-inducing stuff in here, no doubt, but I recommend you take your chances and take the plunge.


The ribs: Tender! Tender! Tender! Perfectly marinated! Hints of honey! Melts in your mouth! They seriously have the ribs down to a science- there’s no misstep here. The pitmaster is truly a genius.


Ohh la la! This corn… masterpiece. Fuminatto will back this up. It’s dipped in melted butter then peppered with a slew of spices. Don’t ask, just eat. Totally worth the bits of charred corn that will inevitably get stuck between your teeth.


Usually, I’m not one to order chicken at restaurants (As Anne-Marie aptly put it, it’s rarely a memorable experience), but I read that they smoke their chicken in some special smoke machine from Oklahoma. That’s pretty special, wouldn’t you say? This baby was all about the skin: perfectly charred, sweet yet a little spicy (lots of kick), and crackling. Get ready to get your hands dirty as you try pulling this hunk of meat apart– so much fun. It was juicy, even the white meat. Don’t even get me started on the dark meat, cause I could fantasize about it for hours– it was truly tender and damn flavorful.


The Crispy Catfish was flaky and indeed crispy. For those of you who don’t do the red meats or chicken, the catfish will satisfy you just fine, I promise. However, I highly advise that you cheat and order the pork ribs, just this once. Do it for me.


They have all sorts of funky, hard to find local and domestic beers and beverages. This can of Dale’s Pale Ale from Colorado was excellent- and only $2.50!

They give you two kinds of bbq sauce with your meal– one sweeter, the other spicier. They have it just right– the perfect amount of vinegar to counterbalance the smoked meats.

You can pass up the hacked chicken (TOO smoked), corn bread (too dry), and the fries. I have heard, however, that their baked beans are delicious, so give it a go.

I must say that this place is a bit poorly laid out– people walk in and clog the doorways, and the line to order is all over the place. And geez, trying to find a table is a seriously bloody battle. When we were in the middle of our meal, this random customer guy came up to us to ask us how much longer we were going to be, and that he was told to “stake out a table”. This is when you KNOW you need some sort of hostess, cause that’s just ridiculous.

Overall the staff is super friendly and proud of what they’re serving, which is so important. The place definitely has a no-frills, DIY, laid-back vibe. And my entire meal of half a chicken, corn, mac and cheese, cornbread and a can of beer was under $20! Dude, at Blue Smoke, you end up spending at least twice that much, and have to deal with the rowdy Park Avenue South crowd. Take your pick.

For your sanity though, I would try to go on the early side of the evening just for the peace of mind that you will sit, and before they start running out of their goods: Stacy just went the other night and said that they had run out of their ribs by the time she got there. I was truly sad for her.

Just remember: snag a table, never leave.


The Smoke Joint

87 South Elliott Place (Fulton Street)
Fort Greene, Brooklyn
(718) 797-1011
Tuesday – Sunday, 5pm – 10 pm
Closed Monday

– Mac & Cheese
– Spare Rack of Pork Ribs
– Tender Smoked Chicken
– Corn on the cob
– Dale’s Pale Ale

E. Guigal Côtes du Rhône 2003

April 18, 2007

What a find!

This elegant wine has a deep, dark red colour with a spicy aroma, well-balanced tannins and fruit, and a smooth texture.

The palate is wonderfully complex: it is initially fresh and fruity followed by an unexpected, slight acidity and a long and pleasant finish.

I think this would compliment most foods very well, as it not overwhelming. It went very well with my pasta, and I would pair it with meat, fish, or cheese too.

Definitely give this one a try!

$12.99 at Beacon Wine & Spirits (2120 Broadway at 74th Street, 212-877-0028)


April 17, 2007

“On Tuesday April 17th from 12pm until 8pm participating Ben & Jerry’s scoop shops around the world will be hosting Ben & Jerry’s Annual Free Cone Day. Click here to find a participating scoop shop near you! “

Tamarind at the James Beard House

April 15, 2007

I photograph dinners at the The James Beard House in New York about once a month, and it’s quite a treat. If you ever have a chance to go, I’d highly recommend it. The Beard House is located in a great old brownstone on West 12th Street. The kitchen is small, but anyone who is invited to cook a meal there is honored. Chefs from the best restaurants in the country fly in to prepare a special meal for anywhere from 50-100 people, who have usually purchased tickets months in advance. This happens several times a week and is about $100 a head, depending on who’s in the kitchen.

This week I hung out in the kitchen for a few hours while the Chefs of Tamarind, an Indian restaurant in NYC, cooked for about 50 people. Having worked in restaurants, I know what a stressful place the kitchen can be. But the beauty of this kitchen is that the Chefs are always in a good mood and just so excited to be there that they’re happy to let guests come through and ask questions and even sample the goods. As a vegetarian, usually it’s a bit tricky for me at these things, but the Tamarind chefs were more than happy to make me something special- stuffed eggplant, one of the best Saag Paneers I’ve ever had (and I’ve been to India!), and these amazingly unexpected pasta-less dumplings.

The evening always begins with a champagne reception (outside in the garden if weather permits, otherwise in the atrium overlooking the garden) and then everyone moves upstairs to the dining room for several courses, which are always paired with impeccable wines (a rep from the winery usually talks about the selection). At the end of the meal, the Chefs come out and answer questions and talk about what has been prepared.

It’s a fun evening and a great alternative for a nice meal out. I encourage you all to try it!

Grand Central Oyster Bar

April 15, 2007

I’m the worst and haven’t blogged in a week– my apologies. But to make up for it, I’m going to talk about my absolute favorite restaurant in the city, the Grand Central Oyster Bar.

I was introduced to this place by my dear family friends, the Hashimoto’s, when I first moved here over 4 years ago– we met at Grand Central and stopped off for a wee snack before getting on the 4 train for a Yankee game. It has been a long lustful love affair ever since.

To celebrate the end of my $100/2 Weeks— and actually making it– my wonderful, supportive friends came out to midtown for a raucous oyster fest. It was actually our very first NYC Umami Mart Convention, as W(h)ine-o, Troy Division and Aya came out, as well as a few other close friends.

The jam-packed menu is updated daily and is a seafood-lover’s wet dream. No joke. They always have at least 20 different kinds of oysters, from all over the US, as well as all kinds of fish and shellfish– fried, steamed, grilled, you name is, old school preparations abound.

But me? I pretty much always get the same thing: I order my Kumamotos and Totten Virginicas (both from the North West; Kumamotos are creamy and have a lot of depth and TVs are light and have a very subtle kelp flavor, which is really delightful), a few cherrystone clams (hard, sweet and juicy), a side of fries (they have the BEST fries–thin and crispy), and a beer from the tap. With this, I can eat on $20, if I’m lucky.

Everyone ordered different kinds of oysters. Aren’t they beautiful?

The service is always excellent– they always know what they are talking about when it comes to the oysters. I’ll let our server tell you the kinds of oysters we ordered (sorry it is so dark; also be forewarned that I get really obnoxious when I am excited):

I often also order their Oyster Pan Roast, which is an oyster stew with a tomato-cream based soup, which is really so so tasty and comforting. They add a piece of plain white, Wonder-style bread in the stew, which is the perfect addition to the dish.

The Oyster Bar has been around since 1913, inconspicuously tucked under Grand Central Station. The architecture is really unique, with beautiful pearly white tiles sweeping over the entire restaurant. Overall, the atmosphere is unpretentious and laid back, with a bustling crowd of tourists and locals.

I always sit in the front bar area or the Saloon in the back, just because the dining tables are for people who are there to drop serious cash. You can also dine at the cafeteria style bar, where eat while watching the chefs make lobster bisque and shuck Kumamotos by the dozens. The place is huge and evokes a nostalgic old New York feeling. It’s also a great place for people watching.

What can I say? In my eyes, the Oyster Bar is a truly special establishment, and I feel lucky to be so close to it. Can you feel the love?


Trivia: Troy informed us that the reason why oysters are considered aphrodisiacs is that the zinc in the oyster is said to heighten male testosterone. I just think they are truly sexy creatures.


April 13, 2007
Here’s the scoop:

Print this coupon and bring it to your local Baskin-Robbins store to receive a FREE 2.5 oz scoop of your favorite Baskin-Robbins ice cream flavor. Some restrictions may apply. Available at participating stores in CT, MA, ME, NH, NY, and RI. Offer expires 4/13/07.”

Cali Hood Eating (LA)

April 10, 2007

Well, since I live in San Diego I can drive up to Los Angeles for the weekend whenever I’d like. Considering I don’t like to, I don’t often… but I had a family function to attend in Long Beach. The morning after my family anniversary party I headed to a charming Easter breakfast with my grandma, sister (with bo) and aunt Sally. We were thinking something charming for the resurrection of Christ, so we head to none other than the hood famous Roscoe’s Chicken & Waffle House.

We had never been before, but we’ve heard of the establishment from many movies like Jackie Brown and there’s even an entire movie about it. Anywho, so let’s get to the eating part.

The menu consists of a lot of southern food including grits, collard green, fresh liver omelets, biscuits & gravy, giblets ans of course… fried chicken and waffles. I went with the special consisting of two chicken sausage patties, two scrambled eggs, grits and biscuit! Although it may be odd that I didn’t choose to eat the famous fried chicken and waffles at 11am, I knew my hog sister would and I would try some. So anywho… my special…. OMG ~ divine.

I’m not anything close to a southerner, but I do like them gritz — and the biscuit… with the gravy… uhh! to-die-for!!! Definitely my favorite item of the day! Everything was perfectly greezy and D-lish!

Of course my sampling didn’t stop here. As I mentioned, my sister got the famous chicken and waffles. The fried chicken was amazing as I expected. It’s difficult to NOT enjoy a piece of fried chicken, but I must say this chicken definitely put Church’s and KFC to shame. The seasonings are perfected and the fried skin isn’t over done with excess batter! Perfection. Oh and yes, the waffles were very scrumptious. They must put lard in everything to make it taste so heavenly.

Overall, I think it was a breakfast that Jesus himself would have enjoyed! I recommend you look it up when in the Los Angeles area.

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Epilogue

April 9, 2007

$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Prologue
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 1 & 2
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 3, 4 & 5
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 6 & 7
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Midway Meditation
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 8, 9 & 10
$100/ 2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 11 & 12
$100/2 Weeks/ NYC: Day 13 &14

I made it! For a while there, I totally thought I wouldn’t, or that I couldn’t. You have no idea how many times I wanted to cheat and have a few more rounds, or go all out at the grocery store (getting that really bad yogurt was a real low point for me–I still have a cup left in the fridge! I just can’t bring myself to eat it!).

Looking back, it was both difficult and easy, only having $100 for two weeks- I mean, if I can do it, anyone can– it’s just a matter of being conscientious about what you put your money towards. ALL THE TIME. And I guess that is what was hardest for me: always having to count my pennies, and make sure that I was in the clear; that I had to be stingy with my money, and always have to think 3 days ahead about what I could budget in, according to where I would be going out for the evening. I mean, all of these points aren’t bad things to keep in mind (except i HATE being stingy), but just a very intensive, calculating thought process. But in the end, I learned that it really is a survival method for those of us on a low-low budget, who like to eat well.

Five Lessons from $100/2Weeks:

1.) Pack a lunch: one of the ONLY ways I made it through the last two weeks was by packing a lunch everyday. This is absolutely essential. Cook a big pot of something during the weekend that you could pack for lunch for a few days. Yoko says that she brings a tuna sandwich with her to work everyday, and uses that lunch money to splurge on yummy dinners. VERY SMART. You could save at least $40/week by packing lunch, that’s $120 a month! Dude, go to Sushi Yasuda for an omakase dinner with that money!

2.) Be creative in your kitchen: keep stuff in the freezer and pantry– having Trader Joe’s frozen foods and other random stuff in the freezer really saved me, as did other ingredients to make my puttanesca sauce or my shrimp omelet. You’ll be surprised at how much you have in the depths of your cupboards– it’s time you used some of that stuff you bought on sale at the grocery store months ago that you forgot about.

3.) It is ok to say NO: if you know you REALLY should not go out cause you’re broke and your friends want to go out fancy, say no. It’s ok, you’ll see your friends some other time, it’s not the end of the world, and you’ll be proud of your demonstration of will-power. But if you really really really NEED to see them (it’s been a bad day, and all you need is a beer and some good company)…

4.) Suggest a cheaper option: maybe happy hour? 2 for 1 drinks, then pizza on the corner? Or for dinner, you can veer your crew towards Chinatown. Entice them with visions of soup dumplings and fresh soft shell crab (tis the season!). If everyone wants something a bit more upscale, do your research and go somewhere BYOB. Plenty of places in the city who can’t seem to get their liquor license: take advantage of their misfortune!!!

5.) Know yourself and your schedule: don’t buy vegetables or fresh foods/ take chicken and meats out of the freezer, if you know that you won’t have time to cook them during the week. If you have a more expensive dinner penciled in for the week, make sure you balance that by cooking and eating cheap during the other days. Most importantly though, don’t beat yourself up over not having money: it’s ok to splurge once in a while. This will seriously keep your sanity in check, and keep you from going bonkers and accidentally spending your entire allowance on one single night (been there, done that). It’s all about moderation.

I am going to conclude this post with a picture that inspired it all:
EAT MY NUTS NY!!! I did it! Living here costs WAY too much, but it is possible to eat well, on a tight budget, with just some effort. But there is NO WAY I would have been able to make it these last few weeks without the support of my dear friends. Thank you for putting up with me! I love you!!!!