Momofuku Ssäm Birthday!

I don't need much for my birthday... a sweet card, a bottle of wine, and apparently lots of pork? Well not just any pork but delicious pork belly, spicy pork sausage, thinly shaved Virginia ham... all from Momofuku Ssäm Bar! What more could a (reformed vegetarian) girl want.

While I love Momofuku Milk Bar, I'd never been to any of David Chang's restaurants so I decided my 25th birthday (dubbed by my coworkers Katherine and Maxine as my 'Silver' birthday) was the perfect opportunity to indulge. And ohhhh don't let my dainty friends fool you, these girls can pack it down.

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Besides pork, Momofuku Ssäm Bar does pretty delicious seafood too. The grilled dogfish was actually one of my two favorite dishes and the charred octopus was delicious... the Santa Barbara uni, not so much. Of all the dishes we ordered, it was the only letdown. I love seafood but the uni was just not very appetizing to me, maybe it was the soft textures or the icy granita on top. Next time I'll have to try the oysters.

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Of course, it was my birthday dinner so we had to order dessert. There are only two options available so I chose the corn ice cream pie. So gooood! But if you're looking for more variety just roll on over across the street to Momofuku Milk Bar. Do you think they will hire me as their new spokesmodel? Or spokesperson as all this pork will do nothing for my model figure.

A heartfelt THANK YOU to each and every person who made me feel so special on my birthday week!

I couldn't have asked for a better 25th birthday.

 

Momofuku Ssäm reservation tip:

  • This is the most complicated part as Momofuku Ssäm Bar is a very trendy yet small spot. We went on a Thursday evening at 8.30p and the place was pretty hopping. Reservations are only taken if you decide to order the bo ssäm pork or the rotisserie duck meals, both of which require online reservations. Otherwise, people are seated first come, first serve. The catch is that your whole party must be present before you can even be placed on the waiting list (lame but understandable). So if you are pretty sure your fellow diners will arrive on time... get there a little early, 'lie' a bit, and say that your whole party is already there. They will put your name and number down then text you when your table is ready. For us it was a 45 minute wait. Luckily there are several bars in the vicinity of the restaurant where you can wait and start the night right with a few drinks (I recommend Nightingale Lounge).
Momofuku Ssäm Bar
207 2nd Ave (at 13th St), New York, NY 10003

A West Side story... featuring Miso

This post is bittersweet as it will most likely be the last one coming from this kitchen. Let me explain.

About two months ago, my roommates and I got a letter from our landlord informing us that our rent would be going up $300. PER PERSON. And I've got two roommates. Those of you with even sub par math skills will realize that's a $900 per month increase! Insane, right?! We were all outraged!! OUTRAGED. Yet completely helpless... soooo long story short, we're all going our separate ways. Beth has moved out of NY to pursue her career as a stylist on film sets (she will soon forget us and the French girls who blast techno upstairs) while Jess is moving in with a friend downtown (too trendy for me). As for me, where am I going?.... oh, reader, wherever shall I go? *dramatic pause*

Apartment hunting in Manhattan is NO FUN. I saw ads for semi-nudist roommates and friends-with-benefits roommates and then there were the weirdos... And during my apartment drama, I was missing my mom so much and her cooking. So after talking to her, I decided to make something warm and comforting, like her miso soup which I know is super easy to make. But when I got to Whole Foods and saw that they have, I kid you not, 6 different types of miso paste... I couldn't take it anymore... red miso, barley miso, sweet white miso, mellow white miso... how am I to know?? I've never bought miso before! I CAN'T EVEN TAKE CARE OF MYSELF. It was too much. I was like 'Are you f*cking kidding ME?? Seriously. All I wanted was a simple f*cking bowl of miso soup to have before I have to resort to living on the streets.' All of this I of course said in my head because I internalize all my miso-issues, like a normal person.

I called my mom on the spot and told her my sob story as I picked up and examined each container of miso (can the company that makes miso paste please make transparent containers?). You guys probably think I'm mental, as does my mom. She was just as confused about the whole miso situation as I was, but told me to get the mellow white miso. And you know what, she was right... she's always right. So I got home after my miso meltdown and made myself some soup. And it was good. Oh, and then I got an apartment... on the UPPER WEST SIDE.

The UWS feels like 'grown up' New York to me. Very eclectic and interesting, yet not grungy or noisy. I'll probably befriend Woody Allen or Nora Ephron and become one of those cynical NYers with killer one-line quips. Plus, my new apartment is still close to work so it's a win-win all around. It was a rollercoaster of emotions finding this new place but now that I have, I'm so thrilled and relieved. And the best part is that there's a washer-dryer IN THE APARTMENT. When I told my friend Morgan this, I felt like a Neanderthal. 'Is that not, normal?' she asked. Well... 'Me No More Use Quarters. Me No Wash In Laundromat With Angry Laundry Ladies,' I responded. Basically, it's the NY equivalent of apartment nirvana.

So at the end of this month, I will be moving my stuff into a new apartment with new roommates in a new neighborhood. This will be my third move in NY and hopefully the last, for a while. Oh sweet Lord, please don't make me craigslist again. Unless it be thy will, thy sick and twisted will.

As a dedication to my current apartment and newfound sanity, I figured I'd utilize the very item that brought me to my breaking point and ultimate revelation: miso paste. As the last recipe in this apartment, it's a solid one. Miso Glazed Salmon with Garlic Snowpeas. YUM. I'm totally making this for Woody and Nora when they come over...

Miso Glazed Salmon with Garlic Snowpeas 

  • ¼ cup packed brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons low-sodium soy sauce
  • 2 tablespoons miso (I used Miso Master Organic mellow white)
  • 4 (6-ounce) salmon fillets (about 1 inch thick), skinned
  • Cooking spray
  • 1 tablespoon chopped green onions
  • 1 pound snow peas, ends trimmed (about one big handful per serving)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • salt and pepper

(1)  Preheat broiler. (2)  Combine brown sugar, soy sauce and miso in a bowl, stirring with a spoon. (3)  Arrange fish in a shallow baking dish coated with cooking spray. Spoon miso mixture evenly over fish. (4)  Broil 10 minutes or until fish flakes easily when tested with a fork, basting twice with miso mixture. (5)  In a sauté pan, heat the olive oil over medium high heat. Add the snow peas, garlic, a pinch of salt, and some freshly ground pepper. Sauté until all the snow peas are cooked but still remain slightly crisp, about 5 minutes. (6)  Arrange a pile of snow peas on each plate and top with a salmon filet. Sprinkle each filet with some chopped green onions.

Makes 4 servings

Italian tragedy... NYC comedy

Once upon a time, there lived a lovely maiden with raven hair and rosy cheeks (I'm talking about me here). This maiden liked to eat and cook or better yet, eat while cooking. One glorious semester her dreams came true when she found herself in the land of milk and honey and arancini a.k.a. SICILY. There she devoured such morsels as this...

and kissed every toad/blood orange in sight...

All was wonderful in the kingdom of Sicily until one dark and stormy night. That evening, the maiden and her fellow cooker-eaters embarked upon a Sicilian cooking class. All seemed well. The students were adorned in matching aprons as they prepared the menu rich with authentic Sicilian specialties such as Pasta alla Norma and sweet cannolis.

But all was not well. Soon the students realized that their matching aprons were actually uniforms for labor, as their cooking class turned into a Sicilian sweatshop. Put to work, their hands burned from squeezing salty eggplant and brows sweat with the piping of every pastry shells (Disclaimer: Any similarity to actual personsliving or dead, is purely coincidental).

At the end of the 3 hour "cooking class" (slave drive), the exhausted maiden sat down to a much deserved dinner only to find... there was not enough food for everyone. The evil slave-drivers had not prepared for there to be enough food for all the hardworking sweaty servants. Suddenly... the demure maiden became very impatient and hangry (hungry + angry) with rage. For everyone knows you don't stand between an American maiden and her pasta. From that day on, she cursed the day she ever made PASTA ALLA NORMA.

Almost 3 years later, the maiden found herself in yet another amazing yet strange land where the people walk very fast and like to nosh on round bread with a hole in the middle. Yet the curse of Norma still haunted her. Until one fine day, she decided to once again test fate and purchased an eggplant...

40 minutes later, with not a single Sicilian in sight, she had done it. She had made Pasta alla Norma... and it was as Norma had always intended it to be: truly delizioso. The curse had finally been broken. The townspeople of Apt #5 rejoiced as all was right in the land and in their bellies. From that day on, the dish was renamed Pasta alla Margaret after the perseverant maiden who never lost hope when it mattered the most.

Pasta alla Norma

  • 1 medium eggplant
  • kosher or sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
  • 3 cups basic tomato sauce, jarred or homemade
  • 2 garlic cloves, chopped
  • ½ teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • ½ pound penne pasta
  • about ½ cup fresh ricotta cheese (traditionally: ricotta salata)
  • freshly cracked black pepper

(1)  Slice the eggplant into ½-inch slices and sprinkle both sides generously with salt. Allow to drain in a colander for 15 minutes. (2)  Rinse the eggplant slices in cold water and pat completely dry on paper towels. Cut into 1-inch cubes. (3)  Heat the olive oil in a 10-inch skillet over medium heat, then add the eggplant. Sauté the eggplant, stirring occasionally, until golden, about 15 minutes.  Cover the eggplant for 5-7 minutes to cook all the way. (4)  Once the eggplant is tender and golden brown, add the tomato sauce, chopped garlic and crushed red pepper. Bring to a simmer. (5)  Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to boil.  Cook pasta according to directions for al dente and drain, reserving ½ cup pasta water. (6)  Add the pasta to the sauce and toss together. If a bit dry, add the reserved pasta water.  (7)  Serve on a plate or pasta bowl with a (big) dollop of fresh ricotta (or grated ricotta salata) with freshly cracked black pepper.

Makes 4 servings

And they all lived happily ever after.

The End.

Edamame Fried Rice

The one thing I've realized about living in the City is learning to live on a budget. Which is difficult when there's so much to do and even more to EAT! While I love indulging in take-out Indian food and sushi, sometimes it's necessary to buckle down... especially after seeing the long string of restaurant charges on my credit card activity.

One of the easiest things I like to make is hibachi-style fried rice. This is a variation I learned from my mom who makes it very simply with carrots and scallions (sometimes just carrots). I like to add a little extra green with peas or in this case, edamame! I make a ton so I can pack it for lunch or reheat it for dinner for the week to come. Here's to full bellies and fuller wallets!

Edamame Fried Rice

  • 2 tablespoon plus 1 tablespoon canola oil, divided
  • 2 large cloves garlic, minced
  • ¾ cup finely chopped carrots
  • ¾ cup scallions, greens included, rinsed, trimmed and thinly sliced
  • 4 cups leftover cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cooked, shelled frozen edamame, thawed (or green peas)
  • 2 eggs, lightly beaten*
  • 3-4 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 teaspoon sesame seeds
  • freshly cracked pepper

(1)  Heat 1 tablespoon of oil in a wok or large skillet until very hot. Add the garlic, scallions and carrots and cook, stirring, until softened and aromatic, about 2 to 3 minutes. (2)  Add another tablespoon of oil and the rice and cook on medium-high heat, stirring, until heated through, about 5 minutes. (3)  Make a 3-inch well in the center of the rice mixture. Add 1 tablespoon of canola oil, then add the eggs and cook until nearly fully scrambled. (4)  Stir the eggs into the rice mixture, add the edamame and stir. (5)  Then add soy sauce, sesame seeds and pepper to taste. Incorporate thoroughly. Serve hot.

*Replace the eggs with extra firm tofu for a vegan meal! 

Makes 4 servings

 

Olé y'all!

My sister Christine is the Queen of Mexican food. When we're both home, we usually have Fiesta night at least once a week. To be honest, I never really craved Mexican food until recently (I'm more like the Queen of Sushi) :) But this Tofu Taco recipe courtesy of my friend Alyssa is one of my all-time favorites. It will have everyone, vegetarians and meat-eaters alike, screaming 'Olé!'

Watch as something pale and bland like tofu transforms...

into an incredibly flavorful entree. Mmm-mm... muy bueno!

Tofu Tacos

  • 2 tablespoon oil
  • 15 ounces extra firm tofu, drained and crumbled (about 2 cups)
  • ½ large white onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1 small bell pepper, diced
  • 2 tablespoon chili powder
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin 
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 2 tablespoon soy sauce
  • 1 cup tomato sauce (I use pasta sauce)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • 10 tortillas (corn or flour)
  • toppings (i.e. lettuce, cheese, salsa, guacamole, sour cream)

(1) Sauté the tofu in oil for 4-5 minutes until browned, then add onion, garlic, and bell pepper and cook until slightly softened.  (2) Add chili powder, cumin, oregano, and soy sauce. Cook for 3 minutes, then add the tomato sauce and water; simmer over low heat. (3) Heat tortillas in a heavy, ungreased skillet, turning each from side to side until soft and pliable. Take the tortilla off the heat and place a small amount of the tofu mixture in the center of each then fold the tortilla in half. (4) Garnish with whatever toppings you desire.

Makes 10 tacos

I'm also incredibly excited because Christine shipped me my cowboy boots, which I received today! NYC is about to get some southern style y'all.

kale, it's what's for dinner.

the first week i was home, i ate nothing but junk. junk junk. like rice krispy treats and gummy worms and cheesy nachos, junk. it's hard when you shift from my rather meager pantry to Mama Choo's overflowing, snack-stocked one to not over-indulge. every time i come home, i open the pantry door and exclaim 'CORNUCOPIA!' before devouring such goodies as mentioned above (think charlotte's web, when templeton goes to the carnival). afterwards, i feel so happy... for about 30 minutes.

then i feel as though someone has just punched me in my stomach's face and realize i'm getting too old to treat my body this way. so to reprimand for that week of ickiness, i made this dish which incorporates whole grain spaghetti, sautéed kale and cannellini beans. yes, it's meant to be healthy but it's also super delicious! if you're vegan, the recipe can easily be adapted with the omission of the parmesan cheese but i kept it cause, a little indulgence now and then never hurt anybody.

Spaghetti with Braised Kale adapted from Bon Appétit

  • 1 pound kale (about 2 bunches), large center ribs and stems removed, cut
  • crosswise into ½-inch slices
  • 3 tablespoons olive oil, divided
  • 1 medium onion, finely chopped (about 1 ½ cups)
  • 8 large garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper flakes
  • kosher salt
  • ½ pound spaghetti (I use whole grain)
  • 1 can (15.5 oz.) cannellini beans, drained
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • finely grated Parmesan cheese

(1)  Rinse and drain kale. (2)  Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a heavy sauté pan over medium heat. Add chopped onion and cook until soft and translucent, stirring occasionally, about 6 minutes. (3)  Add sliced garlic, crushed red pepper flakes and pinch of salt; cook until onion is golden brown, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. (4)  Add kale and remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil and toss until wilted, about 3 minutes. Cover pan and reduce heat to medium-low. Continue cooking until kale is very tender, stirring occasionally and adding water by teaspoonfuls if dry, about 20 minutes. (5)  Meanwhile, cook spaghetti in medium pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain, reserving ¼ cup cooking liquid. (6)  Add cooked spaghetti to kale mixture in pan. Add cannellini beans, lemon juice and 2 tablespoons reserved cooking liquid; toss to combine, adding more liquid by tablespoonfuls if dry. (7)  Sprinkle spaghetti with grated Parmesan cheese and serve.

Makes 4 servings

do you have a go-to, feel good meal?? share it with me!