The best Pad Thai I’ve ever had

The best pad thai ever? Where’d you get it? Some fancy Thai place in the East Village? Random hole in the wall take out spot in midtown?

No and no.

My kitchen.

Prepared by my Greek Armenian husband.

He has a knack for Asian cooking.

I guess I’ll keep him.

For pad thai you will need:

  • noodles, any kind works- i like brown rice ones
  • 1 shallot, minced
  • 2 eggs
  • brown sugar
  • soy sauce
  • rice vinegar
  • sesame oil
  • chili oil
  • scallions (optional)
  • chopped peanuts (optional)
  • pea shoots or sprouts (optional)

Start by cooking your noodles according to package directions. Drain and set aside. The key to pad thai (or any Asian dish really) is having everything chopped and ready to go as the cooking process goes pretty quick.

In the same pot you just cooked your noodles, add some sesame oil and the shallot.

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When the shallot is softened, add a bit more oil and then pour in two beaten eggs (think like you’re making scrambled eggs.

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Keeping an eye on your eggs and stirring occasionally, in a bowl mix together 1/8 cup each of brown sugar, soy sauce and rice vinegar and a little less of the sesame oil. Add chili oil to taste (it’s really really hot, so be careful).

Ok when your eggs are done, add the noodles and the sauce to the pot and stir.

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Add in your pea shoots or sprouts and stir again.

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Dish up into bowls and top with scallions and peanuts, if you choose.

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Lose that place down the street’s number and forget about waiting for your takeout delivery ever again.

Mexican Salad

So, it’s like the hottest day ever in New York.

For real.

We’re talking unbearably hot, humid and sticky.

The heat rises up from the pavement when you walk home from work and if you stand in one spot too long waiting for the light to change, your sandals can melt to the asphalt. No joke.

The last thing I want to do is walk into my sweltering apartment and turn on the stove.

But I’m hungry and want something substantial.

Enter: Mexican Salad.

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Cold lettuce, canned beans, rinsed and drained, canned corn, taco spice and creamy guacamole. Satisfying and refreshing dinner.

Start with shredded lettuce. I used iceberg because i wanted something really cold and crunchy.

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In a bowl mix pinto beans, black beans and corn and add a tablespoon or so of taco seasoning.

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Pile the bean mix and some guacamole on top of the lettuce. and voila! Dinner. No oven required.

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Greek Tacos

Yes, you read that title correctly.

Greek. Tacos.

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Hear me out.

A gyro is seasoned meat, either beef or lamb, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside a pita.

A taco is seasoned meat, lettuce, tomatoes and sauce inside a tortilla.

All the Greeks out there shuddered. But whatever. This dinner was damn good.

I love a good gyro. The meat that’s been rotating and cooking on a spit all day, dripping glorious juices and layered with delicious seasonings. But it’s not exactly something i can easily make in my tiny kitchen.

Or so I had thought at first.

Sure, I couldn’t have that glorious rotating beef, but, I could use ground beef like i would for tacos and swap the Mexican seasonings for Greek seasonings to give it the Greek flavor profile.

Genius. I know.

You will need

  • one onion, diced
  • one pound ground beef
  • one tablespoon coriander
  • olive oil
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • dice tomato
  • shredded lettuce
  • pita
  • tzatziki (cucumber yogurt sauce)

Drizzle olive oil in a pan and add your diced onions, cooking over medium heat until browned.

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Add your ground beef, coriander and salt and pepper.

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Cook until meat is cooked through and browned.

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Se the table with the meat mixture, lettuce, tomatoes, yogurt sauce and pita, to make a build-your-own gyro stand.

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Stuff the pita with your favorite fillings and enjoy.

And don’t try to tell me that isn’t a Greek taco.

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Green Chili Mac and Cheese

Last month we took a quick trip to Austin. Music City USA! Home of fantastic dive bars, endless options for live music and barbecue.

The barbecue was insanely delicious. Pulled pork, brisket, ribs. There was definitely a meat coma.

But as good as the meat stuffs was, I can’t say it was my favorite thing, or the best thing or the thing I am going to crave from this trip.

I’m a sides girl. Pinto beans, cole slaw, potato salad. These are the best parts of getting good barbecue. But the absolute best of the best was the green chili mac and cheese we had at Roaring Fork.

We weren’t interested. The waitress told us to trust her.

And boy am I glad we did.

I make a pretty mean mac and cheese. SO I had to try and make a green chili version that would at least come close to satisfying the craving for the one at Roaring Fork.

So I took a basic mac and cheese recipe and amped it up with some green chilis.

For this recipe you will need:

  • 2 cups of milk
  • 1 small can of green chilis
  • 1/4 cup butter
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 8 oz sharp white cheddar, grated
  • 1 pound pasta, any shape (i used mini shells)
  • Optional, crushed crackers

Preheat the oven to 400.

Basic mac and cheese starts with a roux. Butter, flour and milk.

You melt the butter and add the flour, whisking, and cooking out the raw flour taste.

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Then you add the milk. And here is where this becomes green chili mac and cheese.

Into a blender goes the milk and the can of green chilis. Blend. You will now have green chili milk.

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Add to the butter and flour slowly. And whisk until it starts to thicken.

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Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil and add in your pasta. Cook according to package directions, drain and set aside.

When the milk and flour mixture has thickened (it should coat the back of a spoon) add in your cheese and stir until it melts.

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Remove from the heat. Dump in the pasta and stir until it is all coated.

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Pour into a greased 9×13 baking pan.

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This next part is optional but recommended. Take half a sleeve of crackers (I used Ritz), place them in a bag, and whack away until you have crumbs.

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Sprinkle atop the mac and cheese in the baking dish

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And bake for 20-30 minutes. The crackers will turn golden, the cheese will melt and bubble and it won’t turn orange. I don’t know what happened to the lighting there. Sorry guys.

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You get the warmth from the heat of the chilis and the smooth creaminess of the cheddar.

A match made in mac and cheese heaven.

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Trust me. You won’t miss the brisket when you have a big bowl of this for dinner.

Food Truck Style Falafel Platter

I love falafel.

Like most New Yorkers, I first discovered falafel when I was a broke college student roaming around the East Village and trying to save a few bucks for the cover charge at the Bitter End so I could watch my friend’s band play, and hopefully find someone who would buy me a beer.

Falafel trucks abound by Washington Square AND you can get a really good falafel for like 2 bucks.

No joke.

So now the question. What is falafel?

It’s basically chickpeas mixed up with some parsley and spices, deep fried and then served in a pita as a sandwich or on some lettuce as a platter.

It is one of my favorite foods of all time. I could definitely subsist on falafel and pasta for the rest of my life and be happy.

Thankfully, falafel was as easy to make as pasta!

You will need:

  • 1 15oz can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 1 medium onion, chopped
  • 2 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • handful of parsley
  • 1 teaspoon coriander
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 tablespoons flour
  • vegetable oil for frying

Throw everything but the vegetable oil into a food processor.

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Blend until smooth

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Place the mixture in a bowl and pop in the fridge for about 20 minutes. This helps it set up a bit so it doesn’t break apart when you fry it.

Now, on to the frying.

You want about a 1/2 inch of vegetable oil in a heavy-bottomed pot. Bring it up to 350 degrees. I don’t have a thermometer, so I use the wooden spoon trick. Dip the handle of the wooden spoon into the oil; if it pops and bubbles you’re good to go.

Using two tablespoons, form the falafel mixture into balls and carefully drop into the oil.

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Fry on one side for 2-3 minutes and then flip and let cook another 2-3 minutes. They will be golden on both sides.

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Place on a paper towel-lined plate and continue to form balls and fry until the mixture has all been cooked.

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You can take these little guys and stuff them into a pita pocket with some lettuce and cabbage, or you can make a platter, which is what we did.

Iceberg lettuce, pickled cabbage and cucumbers (By the way, the cabbage is just barely pickled. Shred some red cabbage and toss it in a bowl with two tablespoon olive oil, 4 tablespoons champagne vinegar and a tablespoon of sugar, and let it sit in the fridge overnight)

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Add your falafel

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And finish it off with some tzatziki, hummus or tahini.

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Garlic Lime Rice and Old Bay Shrimp

After an incredibly brutal winter filled with sub zero temps and lots of snow, New Yorkers were so ready for the 70 degree day we were graced with over the weekend.

Rooftops were crowded, tables were dragged out onto the small sidewalk spaces in front of restaurants and, yes, ice cream trucks abounded!

The first warm day is my favorite day in New York. Not just because the sun feels glorious after a long winter of my face being buffetted by wind (why is the West Side so much windier than the East, by the way?) but because of the beauty of watching the city emerge from its chrysalis.

Al fresco dining. Rooftop cocktails. Breezy dresses. And finally, lighter cuisine.

I love the comforting pots of soups and chilis in the winter, but I crave the bright, fresh flavors of spring.

This dish begs to be made on a sunny day when margaritas are the only logical choice of drink.

This recipe is great for those warmer days too as there is little time at the stove and few ingredients needed, so if, you know, some friends find out you have a rooftop and happen to be in the neighborhood, you can feed them. If you want to.

I made this for my husband and I but wound up with leftover rice for lunches for the week, which was my intent. So feel free to half the rice recipe if you don’t want leftovers (but I don’t know what kind of person you would be if you didn’t want leftovers. Sorry no judging in this house)

For the rice:

  • 2 cups rice (I used arborio because that’s what I had, but you could use white or brown or whatever)
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • juice of 2  llimes
  • 4 cups water
  • olive oil

Drizzle some olive oil in a high-sided skillet and toss in your onions and garlic. Cook for about 5 minutes or so on medium heat, stirring so garlic does not burn.

 

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Add your rice and let it cook for 2-3 minutes. It will toast a bit and pick up some of the onion and garlic flavors.

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Season with salt and pepper. Add the water and the lime juice. And bring to a boil. Once boiling, lower to a simmer, cover and let it cook for about twenty minutes, or until the liquid is absorbed.

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You’s have fluffy rice, studded with red onion and garlic, and the scent of limes will be wafting in the air.

This is a great side dish for tons of main courses, but when it’s warm out, all I can think about is some shrimp slathered in old bay.

 

 

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Simply toss frozen (straight from the freezer, no thawing), deveined shrimp (peeled or not, but always tail on) into a big skillet and douse it with old bay seasoning. Cook over medium until shrimp are done (they’ll turn pink).

 

 

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Serve the shrimp alongside the rice. The rice will cool down the heat from the seasoning.

 

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Then again, so will an ice cold beer.

Huevos Rancheros

There is no food in the house.

You can’t make a delicious and satisfying meal

You must order takeout.

Have you found yourself in this frightening situation?

It usually hits just at the time when your favorite take out place is about to close and you end up debating being that jerk who places an order just before closing and makes the delivery guys work late (you will give him a good tip, you promise) and just taking a second look in the fridge.

9 times out of 10, I do actually have some ingredients that I can toss together and make into something.

Usually, it’s huevos rancheros.

Really, all you need is onion, peppers, beans and eggs. I tend to have all of these ingredients on hand. This time, there was also chorizo and some shredded cheese in the fridge. Score.

Chop up your onion and pepper and chorizo (if you have it) and toss into a pot with some olive oil.

Cook over medium heat until the veggies soften.

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Add in your beans. I had refried pinto beans in the cabinet, but you could  use black beans, pinto beans, refried black beans, kidney beans. Really, whatever you have.

 

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Let this cook for a few minutes, stirring occasionally.

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Toss in a handful (or two) of cheese

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and stir.

 

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In a skillet, fry two eggs, sunny side and runny and gooey.

Place a scoop of the bean and veggie mixture on your plate and top with the fried eggs.

 

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And there’s a delicious and healthy meal from the contents of your pantry.

If you have, you can top with salsa or avocado or both.

You will feel better about whipping up something yourself and your delivery guy will thank you.

Turkey Club Sandwich Salad

I bet you’ve got a chunk of turkey breast leftover from Easter begging for something other than two pieces of white bread and some mayonnaise.

Here’s the piece I have.

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It’s just asking to be transformed into a delicious dinner.

But not something too heavy.

Something like a turkey club sandwich deconstructed to a salad.

Start by cooking some bacon. You can pan fry or you can bake in the oven, whichever method you prefer.

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Create a bed of lettuce

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add tomatoes

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Some sliced turkey

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avocado slices

 

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Bacon strips

 

 

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And a drizzle of mustard vinaigrette.

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Tada!

Turkey transformed.

Pasta Primavera with Pesto

 

 

Is there any dish that says spring more than Pasta Primavera?

I mean, it screams Spring!

Fresh vegetables tossed in pasta, lightly seasoned, after months of heavy starchy foods. Vibrant greens burst in the bowl…

Plus, you know, primavera means spring in Italian.

For primavera, you can use whatever fresh, springy vegetables you wish, which is one of the beauties of this dish. Tailor it to your tastes and to what looks the best when you go to the farmer’s market.

The basil smelled utterly delicious, so I decided to make a pesto to top my pasta, sauteed asparagus and mushroom concoction.

Pesto is super simple to make. See my recipe here, use your favorite recipe, or use store bought.

I’m going to make this dish in one pot, so bonus points for less dishes to do.

Start with a frying pan with high sides- mine’s about 4-5 inches high.

Drizzle some olive oil and add sliced mushrooms and asparagus spears that have been cut into one inch chunks.

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Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes, until mushrooms are browned and asparagus is softened. Season with salt and pepper.

 

 

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Dump the mixture into a bowl, and place off to the side for a bit. Fill that same pan with water, about 2 inches high and bring to boil. The water will pick up the bits of asparagus and mushrooms and infuse the pasta with the flavors.

When the water is boiling, dump in your pasta. Use whatever shape you like, as long as it is one of the shapes with lots of nooks and crannies for pesto to fall in. Farfalle are great, penne rigate (that means with ridges, not the smooth ones). I used Campanelle, which means little bells (which is what the pasta looks like).

 

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When the pasta is cooked, drain and then pour back in the pot. Add the pesto and mix well.

 

 

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Add the asparagus and mushrooms and mix again.

 

 

 

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Serve up in bowls and top with parmesan.

 

 

 

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This makes great leftovers and can be eaten warm or cold. Would love to find this in my lunchbox or picnic basket!

Fatteh

When we were in Paris last year, a former co-worker of mine said you must go to this Lebanese restaurant down the street. It has the best Lebanese food outside of going to a Lebanese house for home cooked meals.

Now, we’re from New York, where you can really get the best of any cuisine you want at any time of day. So we were a bit skeptical.

Of our 4 nights in Paris, we ate at this restaurant 2 of them (1 night we ate with my husband’s family and the remaining night we ate steak frites at a cafe, because, you know, Paris.)

The dish we absolutely fell in love with (and ate both nights) was Fatteh.

Fatteh originated in the Middle East and consists of toasted pita bread or flatbread as the foundation for other ingredients such as lamb, yogurt, vegetables and chickpeas.

The fatteh we had was composed of toasted pita, roasted eggplants, toasted pine nuts and chickpeas and hot yogurt. I can’t explain how warm and comforting and unctuous this dish was. Especially on a rainy winter evening in Paris.

So last night I was feeling nostalgic and I decided to try and recreate the dish. Sort of

I left out the eggplant because I’m assuming they used the wood fire oven to get it to be so roasted and charred and delicious. And I haven’t figured how to recreate that at home. Yet.

So for this you will need

  • 1 7oz container full fat Greek yogurt
  • 1 tbsp tahini
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • salt
  • handful of pine nuts
  • 1 can chickpeas, rinsed and drained
  • 2 cloves of garlic, minced
  • Toasted pita or vegetables for dipping

So I built mine as more of a dip, but when we got it in the restaurant the warm yogurt was in the center of the pita bread, with enough edge on the pita bread uncovered by the yogurt for grabbing and eating.

Improvisation at work here.

Start by preheating your oven to 350 (to toast the pita bread)

Meanwhile, toss a handful of pine nuts in a dry skillet and heat on low heat to toast.

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After 5 minutes or so, add your rinsed and drained chickpeas and minced garlic and continue to cook on low to medium heat.

 

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While the chickpeas warm, toss your pita bread in the oven, then in a bowl, mix together the yogurt, tahini, lemon juice and salt (to taste).

 

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Add a tablespoon or two of hot water to thin the mixture a bit and to warm it.

 

 

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Add the toasted pine nut, chickpea and garlic mixture to the now warm garlic.

 

 

 

 

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Serve with pita and/or vegetables (I used cucumber).

 

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Dig in with a warm, crispy triangle of pita.

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