Tuesday, December 28, 2010

The Lushest, Yummiest Cheesecake Ever!

The Lushest, Yummiest Cheesecake Ever!

This no-bake cheesecake is quite simply one of the best tastes ever. It's rich, decadent, creamy and ooey-gooey good. Make it a day ahead so that it has a chance to firm up in the refrigerator and then serve it with a big pot of coffee or tea.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Low Fat/Low Sugar Orange Cranberry Bread

Low Fat/Low Sugar Orange Cranberry Bread

One of my favorite holiday tastes is the refreshing way tart cranberries are offset by the sweetness of orange and wrapped together in buttery dough. It can make a nice change from the endless parade of overly sweet holiday candies and the cookie blitz that hits my office at this time every year.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Low-Fat Creamy Spinach

Low-Fat Creamy Spinach

Even many non-veggie lovers like creamed spinach. What's not to like? It's creamy and rich and...a blocked artery waiting to happen. Obviously you can eat anything once in a while and creamed spinach is Brian's particular indulgence on our rare outings to steak houses. But this version is so light it can be eaten every day and so tasty that you'll want to.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

The Annual Latke Fry

Latkes

It's the happy Jewish festival of light, Chanukah, and that means a celebration filled with delicious fried potato pancakes. Known as latkes, these crispy fried potatoes rank as one of the tastiest foods we've ever eaten. Recipe variations abound and include the addition of sweet potatoes, zucchini and other root vegetables. All of those would be wonderful, we're sure, but the pure potato latke is a heavenly creation and, if you only eat them rarely (as the calorie content would dictate) then we say go for the original.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Pot Roast in Tomato Sauce

Pot Roast in Tomato Sauce

Pot roast is a long-standing favorite for both our families and I make a few different variations. We generally prefer a brown gravy over a red sauce but both are delicious.  I prefer using the eye round cut over other roasts because it's very lean but very flavorful and becomes incredibly tender after a long slow braise. This, then, is the recipe for the tomato version of the recipe.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed Cabbage Rolls

Stuffed cabbage, in one form or another, is an old recipe and both my mother and Brian's mother make them. It's a bit of work which makes it a weekend project but the result is a nice big pot of food for the week. The rolls are nutritious and quite low in fat and calories. Serve over rice or even boiled potatoes and you have a healthy and comforting meal on a cold winter evening.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Warm Asparagus & Potato Salad with Shallots

This recipe was the deliciously accidental result of trying to recreate a dish from the Culinary Institute of America. We'd had a marvelous spring lunch there that began with an asparagus and potato salad served over mesclin greens. The menu said the dressing included shallots and garlic so, back home, I began to play around. Somehow, through multiple experiments, I ended up forgoing the greens in favor of a warm salad. The result is quite different from what we were served but it's delicious in it's own right. This is less of a salad than a warm appetizer but can also be used as a side dish.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Roasted Beet Napoleon

Roasted Beet Napoleon

One of my favorite salads is the roasted beet napoleon served at Sojourn on the upper east side of Manhattan. I've been trying to recreate the taste of the beets and searching around the Internet for the recipe. I didn't find Sojourn's method but did find a beet Napoleon recipe from Wolfgang Puck that seemed a good place to start.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Low Fat/Low Sugar Pumpkin Bread

Low Fat/Low Sugar Pumpkin Bread

Getting through the holiday season without going up a pant size can be challenging and we're not suggesting this recipe will stop the spread. But having this healthy treat around can lessen the damage. At a time when the house may be filled with chocolates and fattening pastries, a slice of this tasty sweet bread and a cup of tea can substitute...at least some of the time.

Friday, October 22, 2010

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Dipping Sauce

Crispy Artichoke Hearts with Dipping Sauce

What's a drink without an accompanying snack? Wine goes well with cheese and salty snacks such as nuts and pretzels work well with beer. But a fine, sophisticated cocktail deserves something better. I'd seen a recipe for deep fried artichoke hearts which looked great but a little high on the fat and calories. So this is a lightened up version of a delightful cocktail snack, complete with a creamy and refreshing dipping sauce. Cheers!

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Stuffed Delicata Squash Part 2 (Meat)

Stuffed Delicata Squash

This heartier version of the stuffed Delicata squash is quick and easy enough to make during the work week. Dress it up, as it were, by serving it over an herbed risotto (as we've shown here). Or make it simple with a generous side salad and some crusty bread.  The flavor combination of the beef and squash is an excellent blend.

Friday, October 15, 2010

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

The Old Fashioned Cocktail

We recently bought these glasses but hadn't gotten around to making their name-sake cocktail until now. The Old Fashioned is one of the classic cocktails with a whiskey base. We were happy with the ratios on our first attempt and the initial taste of the drink was delicious. We did find, however, that the whiskey quickly overpowers. This one is definitely for slow sipping.  Cheers!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Stuffed Delicata Squash Part 1 (Grain)

Stuffed Delicata Squash
Delicata Squash at Fishkill Farms

Continuing to experiment with the autumn bounty in the market, we picked up the appropriately named Delicata squash. Tender and flavorful, it cooks more quickly than many of the other squashes and comes in two shapes. The ones we find most often in our market are long and boat-shaped and can be sliced horizontally or vertically for stuffing. But, occasionally we find the smaller, pumpkin shaped ones. The taste is identical but the pumpkin shaped version makes a more refined presentation and we can't resist them when we see them.

Friday, October 8, 2010

The Balalaika Cocktail

The Balalaika Cocktail

While searching for the recipe for a classic Sidecar, we came across this interesting variation.  Made with vodka instead of cognac, it seemed more to our liking.  We initially made it as the recipe stated, with equal parts liquor and lemon juice.  It was delicious but overly tart and we found we really needed every bit of sugar on the glass.  This updated recipe uses half the lemon, is still tart, but in better balance.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Pumpkin Risotto

Pumpkin Risotto

The first time we ever tasted pumpkin risotto was at Amarelle Restaurant on the north shore of Long Island. It was beautifully presented inside a small pumpkin and tasted heavenly. I was determined to recreate that recipe and, after several attempts, I think I've finally cracked it.

Friday, October 1, 2010

The Flirtini

The Flirtini

Our first reaction when we tasted this drink was it was the most like something you'd pay a lot of money for at a trendy cocktail lounge. We improvised slightly because the recipe calls for champagne but we didn't feel like opening a whole bottle just for the couple of ounces we'd need here so we used a split of sparkling wine instead. Delicious!

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad - Fresh Herb and Feta

Wheat Berry Salad  -  Fresh Herb and Feta

Here's another delicious variation for preparing the versatile wheat berries. This one is more robust and tangy for the addition of lemon juice and feta cheese.

Friday, September 24, 2010

The Manhattan Cocktail

The Manhattan Cocktail

Manhattans can be made more or less sweet depending on the amount of sweet vermouth. We started with a "perfect" Manhattan (even balance) but decided we favor this sweeter version. Cheers!

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Lemon Chickpea Salad or Slaw

I made this the first time as an experiment, not yet sure if the proportions were right or what tweaks would be needed.  I hadn't yet planned to make this a slaw but I thought the taste of just the salad was so irresistible that I needed to find a way to bulk it up or slow myself down. The next time I made it and incorporated the slaw, Brian walked into the kitchen just as I was putting it in a big bowl. He tasted it and then stood there with a fork, eating. It never did make it onto the dining room table that day and the slaw version has been our house standard ever since. Super nutritious, this is more of a lunch than a side salad and, with so much fiber, it's quite filling.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Cosmopolitan

The Cosmopolitan

Labor Day weekend marked the end of our summer festivities, our pup chasing balls on the grass, steaks on the grill and those lovely, refreshing frozen daiquiris. Oh, how we'll miss those daiquiris. Sadly, we put away the blender. But cooler weather, autumn jackets and the pumpkins appearing in the market put us in the mood for some more traditional cocktails.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Wheat Berry Salad - Tomato & Basil

Wheat Berry Salad  -  Tomato & Basil

Wheat berries are a wonderfully healthy whole grain, nutty tasting and loaded with fiber. They don't need to be soaked or rinsed prior to cooking and should be available wherever you buy other grains.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Frozen Peach Daiquiri

Frozen Peach Daiquiri

This drink is where our cocktail story all began. Last Memorial Day weekend, we were at Costco shopping for the steaks and sides we'd need for holiday grilling with our guests. Anyone familiar with Costco knows you can practically eat an entire meal from their tastings and give-aways. On this start-of-the-summer shopping day, they were appropriately pushing their frozen daiquiri and margarita mixes.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Sojourn

244 East 79th Street, New York, NY, 212-537-7745 www.sojournrestaurant.com


Sojourn


Yum is the best way to describe a meal at Sojourn. The room is pretty, in a wine-bar sort of way, although we wished for cushier and more spacious seating. Our waitress was friendly and efficient if perhaps a bit too chatty. But, in the end, the heavenly food stands out and only half-way into our meal we were already making plans to come back.

Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Apple Walnut Salad

Apple Walnut Salad

This is one of our favorite, go-to, salads since it uses ingredients we almost always have around. The sharp taste of the red onion and tang of the cheese goes perfectly with the sweet apples and is a great start to almost any meal.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Thursday, August 26, 2010

The Portland Lobster Company

180 Commercial St, Portland, ME, 207-775-2112 www.portlandlobstercompany.com

The Portland Lobster Company

On vacation and spending a few hours strolling through the main district by Portland's waterfront, we were hungry but didn't want a full sit-down restaurant lunch. We soon found ourselves at the Portland Lobster Company and we knew we'd found exactly the right spot. Place your order at the counter for authentic Maine lobster rolls or any one of a dozen other seafood or non-seafood options on the menu board and you'll be handed an electronic lobster that will vibrate when your order is ready. Step out to the narrow patio right over the water, find a plastic stool next to the counter and enjoy both the view and the amazing live music.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Brown's Old Fashioned Ice Cream

232 Nubble Road, York, ME, 207-363-1277

Brown's Old Fashioned Ice Cream

Did you say ice cream stand or tourist trap? People who knew we were going to be vacationing on the southern coast of Maine told us we must check out this fixture for a true ice cream delight. Pre- vacation research on the area also found lots of Internet praise for Brown's ice cream. Well, we intended to head to Cape Neddick anyway to see their famous lighthouse and we didn't need our arms twisted to sample some ice cream on a summer vacation.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

One Dock at The Kennebunkport Inn

One Dock Square, Kennebunkport, ME, 207-967-2621, www.onedock.com


One Dock at The Kennebunkport Inn

One Dock is located in the heart of Dock Square, the center of the hustle and bustle of summer high season in Kennebunkport. But, it's pretty dining room sits just above the fray in a quiet, comfortable room.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Pier 77

77 Pier Road, Cape Porpoise, ME, 207-967-8500 www.pier77restaurant.com

Pier 77

Before coming to Kennebunkport on vacation, we researched the local restaurants and Pier 77 seemed one of the more attractive casual choices. An 8 minute drive from our inn and we were on the dock at Cape Porpoise. August is high season on the coast of Maine and 6:30 on a Thursday evening already meant a nearly full parking lot.

Sunday, August 22, 2010

Captain Jefferds Inn

5 Pearl Street, Kennebunkport, ME, 800-839-6844 www.captainjefferdsinn.com

Captain Jefferds Inn

Located just a short stroll from the main square in Kennebunkport, this historic house was re-fashioned as a bed and breakfast in 1980 and has been in the hands of it's present inn-keepers for the past five years.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Salad

Pear, Roquefort and Walnut Salad

This salad has a special place in our hearts since it was the starter to one of our favorite meals on a wonderful Christmas vacation several years ago. It remains our special occasion salad.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Cucumber Salad

My mother used to make this all the time and it's also Brian's favorite. Actually, I've never met anyone that didn't like cucumber salad. I'm sure there are some variations to the basic recipe but this one is our house standard and always a hit.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Union Square Cafe

21 East 16th Street, New York, NY, 212-243-4020 www.unionsquarecafe.com

It's ironic that two native New Yorkers had never been to a New York institution and two food lovers had not visited a restaurant consistently rated in the top 10 for the past two decades. And so, on a perfect summer day, we headed downtown for lunch at Union Square Cafe and then a shopping trip at the big farmer's market in the square. After a meal so long in coming, does USC deliver on it's hype? It sure does!

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

Heirloom Tomato Panzanella

We find that this salad really highlights the freshness of its ingredients. We especially love it in summer but anytime we find great tomatoes is the right time for panzanella!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Centolire

1167 Madison Avenue, NY, NY, 212-737-7711 www.pinoluongo.com/centolire.html

Centolire

I'd been to Pino Luongo's uptown homage to his Tuscan roots twice. My first visit was not long after it opened in 2001 and I was dazzled. A return visit a couple of years later produced the same delight. And so, I was anxious to take my partner in love, food and crime to what I considered one of the finest Italian restaurants in the city. We'd been talking about it for several years and yet something always got in the way so we were both excited about our dinner reservations this past Saturday night. Centolire!

Monday, July 26, 2010

Big Daddy's Diner

1596 Second Avenue, New York, NY 10028, 212-717-2020, www.bigdaddysnyc.com

Big Daddy’s Diner has a bit of an identity crisis. It tries to look 50’s retro but the music and wall d├ęcor speak more of the 70’s and 80’s. No matter the decade, the fact that there are nearly twice as many “kitchy” decorative pieces strewn around than necessary doesn’t hide the peeling paint, cracked pipes wrapped with duct tape and generally shabby condition of this diner.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Beet and Cucumber Salad


If you don't have the time to roast your own beets, please feel free to use canned and don't let it stop you from enjoying this delicious and nutritious salad. The sharpness of the onion and the tang of the Feta are the perfect foil for the mild cucumbers and sweet, sweet beets. Enjoy!

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Creamy Summer Slaw

Creamy Summer Slaw

Supermarket cole slaw? No, thank you! We can't stand that mass-produced flavor... the same wherever you go. But every once in a while we get a glimmer of something better and I set out to create my own version of something better. The lower fat ingredients make this an every day recipe possibility and we especially love it in warm weather.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Sublime Salads

Salad makes us happy. We scan all new menus for interesting combinations and, if we find one we like, we try to recreate it at home. When salads in restaurants fall short of our expectations, we instantly lower our opinion of the place and start discussing where the chef went wrong.

Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Roasted Cauliflower

Roasted Cauliflower

When I was growing up, one of my favorite dishes was my mother's fried cauliflower. She would dredge the florets in egg and breadcrumbs and then pan fry them until they were golden. Veggie heaven. As an adult, I like to avoid the pan fried part as often as possible and this version makes a remarkably satisfying substitute.

Monday, May 31, 2010

Mirabelle at the Three Village Inn

150 Main Street, Stonybrook, NY 11790, 631-751-0555, www.threevillageinn.com

Mirabelle at the Three Village Inn

On the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend, we headed to the North Shore of Long Island for dinner at the much lauded Mirabelle. The inn's location near a lake is delightful and the restaurant itself is lovely, decorated in warm tones, throw pillows and a large fireplace that must be heavenly on chilly nights.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Skylark Fine Diner and Lounge

17 Wooding Avenue, Edison, NJ 08817, 732-77-7878, www.skylarkdiner.com

Skylark Fine Diner and Lounge

What do you call a cross between a retro diner and a fine dining restaurant? The Skylark answers that question by referring to themselves as a fine diner and, for the most part, we agree.

Wednesday, May 19, 2010

The Great Diner Tour of 2010

Fans of the Food Network will recognize the show Diners, Drive-Inns and Dives and it's colorful host sampling amazing and unusual diner fare all throughout the U.S. We watch and we wonder and we say to each other "where are these places" and "why haven't we been there?"

A little research into the network's web site reveals the complete list of the show's featured dining establishments and their locations. So we made a list of those within a couple of hours drive...after all, we love a road trip...checked their web sites, mapped the drive and made a plan. The great diner tour will commence!

It's late spring now and this seems like as a good a way as any to spend the odd summer day. We'll drive, we'll eat, we'll review!

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Tabouli Salad

Tabouli Salad

This Mediterranean salad uses bulgar wheat and is a quick and tasty way to include more fiber into your diet. This whole grain is small and can turn creamy when cooked but it's loaded with nutrition and can pack over 6 grams of fiber into every serving.

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Spaetzle

Spaetzle

I've heard family stories of my German grandmother's considerable spaetzle making abilities and they're always such a treat to find on a restaurant menu. But can I tackle making this revered noodle-like creations? Oh, heck yes! These are so deceptively easy to make but people might not believe you. The first time I presented a plate of these to Brian he insisted I must have gotten them dry from a box. I had to make them in front of him to make him believe I'd made them from scratch. So, go ahead, impress...and enjoy. These are so delicious.

Wednesday, April 7, 2010

Matzo Brie

Matzo Brie

This Jewish classic is ridiculously easy to make and quite tasty but somehow never occurs to us except at Passover. Observant or not, we've usually got a box of matzos around at the holiday and this makes a nice breakfast.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Flourless Chocolate Soufle Cake - A Delicious Disaster

Flourless Chocolate Soufle Cake - A Delicious Disaster

For the first night of Passover we were headed to Brian's mom's house and I volunteered to bake a flourless chocolate cake. In years past, we've bought the cake and always ended up spending a great deal of money on bakery offerings whose texture more closely resembles dense fudge than cake. I figured I could do better for less.

Monday, April 5, 2010

Sweet Noodle Kugel

I'll admit that I don't really like noodle kugel (noodle pudding) and it wasn't my choice to make it for Passover this year. But I did offer to help Brian's mother with the dinner and she requested that I make one. And since Brian likes kugel very much, I could hardly refuse the challenge.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Gracie Mews Diner

1550 First Avenue, New York, NY 10028, 212-861-2290

This is our Sunday place. It also seems to be everyone else's Sunday place based on the crowds and the perpetual line but, it's worth the wait. Although the place is large and crowded, sitting in a booth or by the huge windows gives you a sense of privacy. Service is fast, friendly and efficient. The menu is large and offers all the typical diner fare you'd expect. Breakfast and lunch offerings are delicious but dinner entrees can be bland. If you still have some room after your meal, try a hunk of one of their oversized pies or a slice of the excellent strawberry cheesecake. To avoid the big lines, we love to sleep late on Sundays, head out to a museum or the park on a lovely day and then wander back to the diner for a late lunch. There's STILL a line, but much shorter and we don't feel guilty about lingering over our meal.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Gourmet Goodies

Agata and Valentina
1505 First Avenue, New York, NY 10075, 212-452-0690, www.agatavalentina.com

We live a block away so this store is a constant temptation. It's expensive and crowded and the staff is poorly trained but there's a lot to choose from. On the down side, we can't seem to find a bread we like there, the hot prepared food can be so-so and the deli counter moves at the speed of grass growth. But the cold prepared food choices are better and with interesting seasonal selections and the fresh produce variety is top notch. Looking for a specialty herb or unusual vegetable? You'll find it here. The cheese counter looks well stocked and dangerously delicious. Lots of prepared salads in individual containers make for quick selections for a great lunch or easy cold dinner. The white bean salad, wheat berry salad and cabbage salads are especially tasty. The line to pay is long but there are many registers and they move fast. Your trip to that register though, will take you past the dessert department with its many individually packed choices. As you wrestle with your willpower, you'll smell freshly baking pastries and look over a dizzying array of sweet choices but the flourless chocolate Gianduja is worthy of a 4 star restaurant and the mixed berry cake is another delectable favorite.

Monday, March 15, 2010

Gracie's Cafe

1530 York Avenue, New York, NY 10028, 212-517-2667, www.graciescafe.com

Gracie's Cafe
Chicken Souvlaki Platter

We honestly don't recall when this place opened but it was probably a couple of years ago. Walking past, it didn't seem like much more than a deli so we kept walking. But two things happened last summer - we got a puppy and Gracie's set up outdoor tables, nicely placed under an awning and enclosed by pretty planter boxes. We longed to be able to have our puppy with us when we ate out and noticed that many other couples did the same and the place was busy. Suddenly the run-of-the-mill deli seemed like something worth trying.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

It's All About the Gravy

Pot roast or brisket with onion gravy is delicious and familiar and comforting. We grew up with it and love it still. Mashed potatoes with gravy remains one of my all-time favorite comfort foods. But restaurant gravy tastes richer and fuller than the recipe I learned from my mother. A little research, some chef connections and some experimentation led to a relatively easy home version of that great restaurant flavor. Still comforting but fit for the fanciest guests :)

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Shepherd's Pie

Shepherd's Pie

This should rightly be called Hunter's Pie since I make it with beef rather than the traditional lamb. But, whatever the name, it's a healthy, tasty, filling dish that's frequently in rotation on our dinner menu. I make the topping with a combination of white and sweet potatoes for an interesting flavor and some extra nutrition. It's great to make a big batch and freeze for easy dinners on work nights.