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A+ 8.ate@eight Back to School Nite

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Apologies for my absence for a few days, but I have been busy shopping and chopping for what was the last 8.ate@eight supper club of the outdoor season. You wouldn’t think preparing “cafeteria” food would be such a distraction, but when you’re hand selecting figs and prosciutto from Italy for your pizza, catching red snapper off the east coast for your tacos, hunting bison out west for your mini sliders and hand frying potatoes for your truffle-rosemary chips, then there isn’t much time for blogging. Well maybe I wasn’t actually doing all of those things {except the hand frying – look out Frito Lay!} but the menu is accurate. As several friends had kids heading back to school, I thought it would be fun to relive the nostalgia of new sneakers, trapper keepers and the best of school cafeterias — only better! Here’s the full report card…

The Syllabus:

Starter
3 Grilled Pizzettes:
{1} Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese
{2} Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil
{3} Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella
w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil

Mini Lime-Chili Red Snapper Tacos
w/ “Fruit Punch” Sangria

Salad
Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley w/ Chipotle Bacon & Queso Fresco
w/ Bodegas Valdesil Godello Valdeorras Val de Sil Montenovo (Spain)

Entrée
Mini Bison Sliders w/ Buffalo Mozzarella and Olive Tapenade
Homemade Truffle Rosemary Parmesan Chips
w/ “P.S.” Local 2 Brooklyn Dark Ale

Dessert
Coconut “Twinkies” w/ Lemon Curd Filling
w/ Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk”

It was just like showing up to a new classroom — some old friends and some new faces to get to know. This is why I started 8.ate@eight and what I love about my table. People can come together to enjoy good food and drink and easily fall into conversation with an unfamiliar group.

Pablo is the Principal at his own school he started -- how awesome is that!

As the 8.ate@eight-ers filed in, I was busy at work grilling pizzas on the BBQ. Not an entirely new concept, but a new twist on school lunch favorite — wasn’t pizza day a must?! With dough and toppings on hand, I grilled up three different versions: an Arugula, Fig & Proscuitto w/ Grated Parmesan Cheese Pizza, a Greek Olive Tapenade, Pickled Red Onion & Feta w/ Lemon Olive Oil Pie and a crowd-pleasing favorite, Spicy Italian Sausage, Roasted Fennel & Fresh Mozzarella w/ Grandma’s Sauce & Fresh Rooftop Basil.

Fresh Figs

Served alongside the pizza were some Red Snapper Tacos with a Lime-Chili Marinade and Avocado Sauce. I’m pretty sure the lunch ladies didn’t fill our shells with anything better than greasy ground beef, but I wanted to keep it light. Both of the appetizers were served with an adult version of fruit punch: sangria! With a winning combination of spanish vino, brandy, triple sec and lemonade, I soaked a combination of lemon, lime, orange slices and cherries overnight and topped each cup off with a little club soda — every party is better with bubbles!

Red Snapper Tacos

Sangria "Fruit Punch"

Probably the least eaten items on those styrofoam trays were the vegetable medleys and fruit cup cocktails, so I decided to do a combination of both with a modified version of my friend Nora’s delicious corn salad. There are several things that are great about this salad and its a recipe for success that I have written about before: sweet, spicy, citrusy, savory and salty. I roasted several ears of sweet jersey corn, removing the kernels and adding to a combination of grapes {strange, but sweet and amazing}, red bell peppers {peppery and colorful}, red chilis {that subtle spicy kick that I love}, cilantro {a polarizing ingredient for many, but even I converted a hater at the table}, scallions and lime. So that’s the regular combination, but I also decided this salad would do well with a few bits of chipotle bacon crumbled on top with some queso fresco — if only school veggies were always this good.

Roasted Corn & Vegetable Medley

Roasted Corn Salad

It’s not only important to eat your veggies, but a good healthy protein also tops the food pyramid. I keep speaking the praises of bison to anyone who will listen {recipe here}, so I thought if I put them in slider form I could win the hearts of my table too. So let’s reiterate some important facts — please take notes.

Bison tastes very similar to beef, but is slightly richer, so I complemented that flavor with a spread of salty olive tapenade on the mini buns and melted some creamy buffalo mozzarella on top for a better take on a kiddie craving.

Mini Bison Sliders

And just like PB&J is a match made in heaven, so are burgers and chips. So I carried out the dutch oven, a few pounds of potatoes and got to work slicing, rinsing, drying and frying the makings of my Homemade Truffle, Rosemary Parmesan Chips. A lot of work, but there is something very satisfying about putting Frito Lay to shame from your own kitchen {recipe to follow}.

Toss in corn starch to remove moisture and create crispier results

Toss in 375 degree oil 4-5 minutes until golden blond

Strain and Season with Fresh Rosemary and Truffle Salt

Season with Rosemary, Truffle Salt, Parmesan Cheese and Try Not to Eat Too Many

While everyone settled in for the Ferris Bueller classic, Naerim also made a guest appearance and served her Coconut “Twinkie” with Lemon Curd filling and I blended up some Kahlua-Rum Chocolate “Milk” just in case  everyone didn’t have enough to drink.

Coconut "Twinkies" with Lemon Curd

As usual, we cleared the plates, handed out some blankets as the night started to cool and fired up the projector for our guest visitor: Ed Rooney. No better end to another memorable 8.ate@eight supper club.

Ed Rooney Was Our Guest Visitor

Thanks!

Thanks to Naerim again for all the help serving drinks and food and ending the evening with a great new take on an old lunchbox treat! Thanks to Kristin for snapping some pics while I was manning the grill. And I of course want to thank everyone who grabbed a seat at the table — it was lovely to have you all!

I’m ruminating on some future indoor events for the fall and winter, so stay tuned. If you aren’t on the dinner distribution list, email me at 8ateateight@gmail.com to be added. See you at the table!

Recipe Goodness:

Homemade Rosemary, Truffle and Parmesan Chips or Fries

Prep Time: 1 Hour | Cook Time: 20-30 Minutes
Serves 4

2 1/2 # russet potatoes  (about 4 large)
3 QT. peanut or canola oil

Peel and cut potatoes into either long sticks or 1/2-inch thick circles for fries or use a mandolin to thinly slice flat or waffle cut circles {using the waffle blade} for chips. Rinse cut potatoes in large bowl under cold running water until water turns clear. Cover with cold water and refrigerate for 30 minutes or up to 12 hours.

Pour off water,spread potatoes onto towels, and thoroughly dry {important for crispiness}. Transfer to large bowl and toss with cornstarch until evenly coated. Transfer to wire rack set on rimmed baking sheet and let rest until fine white coating forms, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, in large, heavy bottomed dutch oven, fitted w/clip-on candy thermometer, heat oil to 325.  Add half of potatoes a handful at a time and increase heat to high.  Fry, shirring with mesh spider until potatoes start to turn from white to blond, 4-5 min.(oil temp will drop). Transfer fries to paper towels to absorb oil and cool. Return oil to 325 and repeat with rest of potatoes. Let potatoes cool.

Heat oil to 375. Add half of fries or chips, a handful at a time, and fry until golden brown, 2-3 min. Transfer to paper towels & repeat with remaining fries. Season immediately with chopped rosemary, truffle salt and shaved parmesan.

Read About Past 8.ate@eight Events:
8.ate@eight Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ
Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!
Silencing of the Spring Lambs was Lambtastic!

What are you still doing here? It’s over. Go home.

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recipe goodness :: lemon herb roasted chicken

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken

Want to make your own version of RoliRoti’s ridiculously good rotisserie chicken at home? You don’t need a truck and you don’t need a rotisserie to make a deliciously herby and juicy chicken from the comfort of your own home — with or without a BBQ! It’s one of the simplest things you can throw together for a mid-week meal or for a crowd and with a few herbs you’ll take an ordinary chicken to a new level.

As a health conscious society, we tend to reach for the boneless, skinless chicken breasts when rolling down the poultry section at the grocery store, but having the skin on and bones in helps retain moisture and adds to the flavor more than you would think. Even if you want a leaner meal, try this recipe with the skin on while you cook and remove the skin later if you prefer — just see how much juicier your dinner is!

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken

Prep Time: 3 Minutes | Cook Time: 25-30 Minutes
Serves 4

Preheat Oven 425° or BBQ @ Medium Heat

4 bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts
1/2 lemon
1 bunch fresh thyme
1 small bunch fresh rosemary
1 small bunch fresh sage
olive oil for drizzling
salt and pepper to taste

Place chicken breasts on a cooking sheet. Feel with your finger for an opening in the skin and gently run your index finger between the skin and the breast meat to separate the skin partially {but not removed} in order to create a “pocket” for your herbs. Insert 2-3 small sprigs of thyme, 1 sprig of rosemary and 2-3 leaves of sage between the breast meat and the skin in the “pocket” you just created. This will both flavor the chicken, secure your herbs and look pretty through cooked, translucent skin when done cooking.

Generously sprinkle each breast with coarse kosher salt and fresh ground pepper {this will help crisp the skin and will cook off on the grill, so don’t be afraid to be liberal}. Squeeze the juice of half a lemon and lightly drizzle olive oil over the chicken.

Oven Cooking: Put tray in oven skin-side up for 15 minutes. Flip each breast over and rotate tray 180 degrees to ensure even cooking and cook for another 10-15 minutes.

BBQ Cooking: Place chicken breasts on medium hot grill skin-side up for 5 minutes. Continue cooking, flipping chicken every 5 minutes for a total of 25-30 minutes.

NOTE: Size of chicken, oven and grill temperatures often vary. 25-30 minutes is an approximation of cooking time, but with chicken you want to make sure meat is not pink to ensure doneness. Make a small cut in the thickest part of your breast meat to make sure juices are running clear and meat is white, not pink. Extend cooking time if necessary.

Lemon Herb Roasted Chicken

I Feel Like Chicken Tonight! Chicken Tonight!:
SF Best: RoliRoti Rolls Out Revolutionary Rotisserie
Roasted Chicken Salad w/ Dried Cranberries & Sunflower Seeds
Spinach, Strawberry & Halloumi Salad
Gourmet Grilled White Truffle Corn

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Bistro Don Giovanni: Napa-Sourced & Italian-Inspired

With my brother’s wedding on the weekend horizon, I didn’t have much time for Napa food and wine excursions, but we were able to schedule a small family dinner at an excellent Napa restaurant to start the week out right. Napa-sourced and Italian-inspired, Bistro Don Giovanni brings the best of food and wine to a warm Valley eatery. Whether dining al fresco or fireside, the mediterranean menu features rustic fare blending the best local ingredients with traditional homemade Italian dishes. Complementing the fresh food, an extensive wine list offers selections from the best of Napa, Italy and even two estate grown wines from the owners’ family home that are great value for money options.

The antipasti menu was so appealing we ordered one of almost everything for the table and opted to share a few entrees. The Fritto Misto was one of the highlights, adding rock shrimp, fennel, onions and green beans to the typical crispy calamari dish. When you order this make sure to get a piece of the fennel {my favorite bite} which was a surprisingly nice combination of sweet and salty. Then again, isn’t everything good fried?

Bistro Don Giovanni Fritto Misto

Another unexpected delight was the Bruschetta with Monterey Sardines, chick peas with a tomato chili vinaigrette — it is salty, crunchy and slightly sweet with a strong mediterranean flavor from the smashed chick peas and a fresh, peppery bite from the arugula. It far exceeds expectations of a typical tomato based bruschetta.

Bistro Don Giovanni Monterey Sardine Bruschetta

And it’s not very often a pizza is that spectacular that it’s worth writing about, but the simple Margherita supported the freshly crushed tomato sauce and sparse melted mozzarella cheese with a thin crust that was crispy on the bottom and chewy on the inside — just how a stellar slice should be.

Bistro Don Giovanni Pizza Margherita

Bistro Don Giovanni Orecchiette

Three of the entrees that we shared were traditional Italian dishes, but each had a unique twist that made them memorable. The Orecchiette was served with sausage, rapini {aka broccoli rabe}, chilies, tomato and reggiano. It was the spice of the chilies that gave this dish the extra heat that complemented the other simple and fresh ingredients. The Chicken Parmigiana was served over zucchini “spaghetti,” thin strands of zucchini that offered a lighter alternative to a bed of pasta, all topped off with a local heirloom tomato sauce. The table favorite {which got eaten before I could snap a picture} was the Polpette d’Agnello, lamb and ricotta meatballs served with a side of shell beans and artichokes. Now thatsa meatball!

Bistro Don Giovanni Chichen Parmigiana

The Skim: If you’re looking for an exceptional meal to soak up a day of wine tasting, be sure to make a stop at Bistro Don Giovanni. Right in the heart of Napa on St. Helena Hwy, it’s an easy stop on the way out of town, and if you’ve tapped out the wallet on previous wine purchases you can take advantage of one of their 29 wines for $29.

Map: {4110 Howard Lane, Napa, CA}
Reservations: Taken!
Phone: 707.224.3300

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Gone Fishin’ :: Back in a Week…

Farewell Bachelorhood!

As I referenced in a previous post, I’m off in San Francisco to be the best groom’s girl I can be in my brother’s wedding this weekend. Jackie, my soon-to-be sister-in-law, works for Ghirardelli. She’s pretty darn sweet as a person, but it also doesn’t hurt that she brings a dowry consisting of a lifetime supply of chocolate. Welcome to the family!

I’m sure I will have no shortage of things to blog about upon my return — I promise it will be more interesting than a post about rice and will include musings from Napa. In the meantime, visit some old favorites…

Make A Delicious Dinner For Friends:
Kickin’ Ancho Chili Fresh Citrus Margarita
Avocado & Tropical Fruit Salsa
Orzo, Spinach & Feta Summer Salad
Whole-Grain Mustard & Rosemary Pork Chops
Grilled Thyme-Cumin Vegetable Kabobs
Violet’s Lemon Cheesecake with BBQ’d Summer Berries {bottom of post}
More Recipes >>> EAT@HOME

Keep Busy in the City:
Do This!: Artisanal Premium Cheese & Wine Classes w/ Jessica Wurwarg
Greenmarket: Put Smarter, Cheaper & More Scrumptious Food on Your Table
NYC Best: Summer Sausage & Other Seriously Good Eats @ Summerstage
NYC Best: Take the Dull Out Of Cooking {Knives} with Samurai Sharpening @ Chelsea Market

Enjoy a Cold One in the Garden:
Not so Standard Biergarten
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Nothing says Warm Weather Like a “Gut Biergarten”

And in the Spirit of Weddings, Go on a Date!:
Summer Lovin’ Me Some Oysters @Mermaid Oyster Bar
Highlands Highlights: Scottish Plaids, Pub Fare and Hand Crafted Cocktails
The Red Cat: Comfortable Quarters & Cuisine
Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat
August in April
Bocca di Bacco: I say PotaTO, You say PoTATo
barmarche: Some Clever Crudites

Eat Up!
Christina

Sibling Fun in Tokyo

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recipe goodness :: fresh lime-margarita marinated watermelon

Margarita Marinated Watermelon

Another weekend is nearing and the weather won’t give us any relief, but my fresh-lime-margarita marinated watermelon will. It’s best when it hangs out at least overnight, so stop at the store and pick up that pretty pink juicy fruit and get soakin’ — your friends will thank you later!

Fresh Lime-Margarita Marinated Watermelon

Prep Time: 10 minutes
Serves a lot!

1 small watermelon {lots of great varieties the size of a cantaloupe}
4 limes, juiced and zested
4 oz light tequila
4 oz triple sec or cointreau
Rock salt for serving

So it’s this easy: Find a small watermelon variety, which will make it easier to cut and also the right amount to still serve a big crowd. Cut through the equator of the melon with a large chef’s knife and then put both flat sides face down on the cutting board. Cut into 1-inch slices creating a bunch of semi-circle pieces. Lay each slice flat on the board and then cut into long finger-like slices, so each piece has a bit of rind at the end {this will make it easy to pick up as an appetizer} and discarding the end pieces that don’t have any melon attached. Lay all the finger-like pieces side by side and on top of each other in a large 9X11 dish, zesting the limes on top of each layer.

In a separate glass measuring cup, juice limes {each should give you about 1 oz of lime juice}. Pour equal parts of tequila and triple sec or cointreau {if you get 4 oz of juice, you want to add 4 oz of each mixer}. Stir thoroughly with a spoon and then pour over the watermelon slices. Cover well with a lid or plastic wrap and throw into the fridge overnight.

When you’re ready to serve, put the watermelon on a nice tray with a bowl of rock salt for dipping {any good margarita has a salted rim and it also brings out the sweetness of the melon!}

Tip: DON’T throw away the liquid left in the dish — you’ve got fresh watermelon margarita cocktails just waiting to be sipped! Pour the liquid into glasses over ice and serve with one of your marinated watermelon slices as a garnish. Recipe bonus!

Margarita Watermelon ready to chill out for a day

Marinate Over a Few Other Party Planners:
Pink Fizzy Lemonade Cocktails Beat the Heat
Avocado & Tropical Fruit Salsa
Creole Roasted Fresh Corn-Tomato Salsa
Creative Crowd-Pleasing BBQ’d Pizzas

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8.ate@eight #3: Went Whole Hog and Hog Wild @ the Big Southern BBQ

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It was a dark and stormy night {almost}. The orange and yellow radar covered the eastern seaboard. The dark, cumulonimbus clouds loomed overhead. And the wind blew….but it DID NOT rain. Even a blind hog finds an acorn now and then. Good thing, because this 8.ate@eight BBQ took two full days to prep and I was fixin’ to have me a party. All those dixie flavors like to hang out over night, so the kitchen was in full swing from the moment the roosters crowed Friday. Here’s the scoop ya’ll…

The Menu:

Starter
Creole Roasted Corn-Tomato Salsa
Margarita Soaked Watermelon
w/ Fresh Agave-Lime Margaritas with Ancho Chili-Infused Silver Patron

Salad
Oven Roasted Avocado Tortilla Salad
w/ ’08 Basa Ruedo Blanco (Spain)

Entrée
Slooooow Cooked Pork Ribs
Lime-Chili Cornbread
Red Cabbage, Radish & Carrot Slaaaw
w/ Abita Amber, Purple Haze and Strawberry Lager Beer (Louisiana)

Dessert
Banana Puddin’ Served in Semi-Sweet Chocolate Cups
w/ Crios de Susana Balba ‘09 Torrontes (Argentina)

It wouldn’t be an 8.ate@eight without a kickoff cocktail and since I was spicing things up with the food, I also decided to throw together an Ancho Chili-Infused Fresh Lime Margarita to warm things up {thanks to inspiration from my wine friend, Mike}. A smoked Ancho Chili went into the bottle a few hours before serving and I got to work juicing more limes, oranges and grapefruit than a minute maid. But since Top Chef contestants always like to do things “two-ways” I also sliced a watermelon into finger sized pieces and soaked those in fresh lime margarita over night {careful, they’ll get ya when you’re not looking!}

The Fixins' for Fresh Lime Margaritas

Margarita Watermelon ready to chill out for a day

And what better app to serve with fresh margaritas than salsa? I rubbed the corn in Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning and roasted it on the grill before adding to vine-ripened grape tomatoes with more fresh lime, cilantro, scallions and some red chilis from my neighbor’s rooftop garden {thanks Julie!}

Creole Roasted Corn-Tomato Salsa and Chips

Before people had one too many watermelon slices, we all grabbed a seat and I served a Roasted Avocado Tortilla Salad. This was a new experiment inspired by Jamie Oliver — oven at full whack, sliced avocado on a tray tossed in olive oil, salt, pepper and cumin seed and roasted for 15 minutes. The result: warm, roasted, lightly charred avocado slices served over crispy tortilla chips, fresh greens, sprouts and a simple lemon-olive oil dressing. Refreshing and unique.

Roasted Avocado-Tortilla Salad

Now for the main event. St. Louis Spare Ribs went for a swim in apple juice and apple cider vinegar before being rubbed with love in a dry blend of spices, garlic and orange zest and left in the fridge for a day to take it all in. Everything is slower in the South, so I also made the slaw a day before so the flavors would mix and mash and come out really tasty. The secret to good cole slaw is time. With red cabbage as the base, I added thin radish and carrots slices, all of which are pretty sturdy veg, so the longer they get to hang out in the vinegar-mayo dressing, the more they soften up and take on the flavor of the marinade. This also means you don’t have to over do it with the mayo — I was pretty light handed, contrary to what you may be used to in the cole slaw department. And it wouldn’t be a BBQ without cornbread, in my opinion. Somewhere along the line I started making my cornbread with creamed corn to make them less dry and add some actual bits of corn to the mix. This time I also took this recipe a step further and added grated neighborly-red chili and lime zest to throw in a little kick.

Carrot, Radish and Red Cabbage Slaw

Chili-Lime Cornbread Cups

Rubbin' the hog ribs

On day 2, I fired up the oven about 5 hours prior to show time and got the ribs into slow-cook mode. While they were doin’ their thang, I got to chopping, sauteing and simmering away to make one of the most unique BBQ sauces I have ever had. Again, thanks to inspiration from Jamie Oliver this blend was a combination of fresh herbs, spices, more red chili, and generally accepted BBQ sauce condiment contributions {horseradish, ketchup, worcestershire, etc.} to add the needed kick and sweetness that any finger-lickin’ BBQ sauce requires. But what stood out amongst the 8.ate@eight crowd as the most distinct and crowd-pleasing flavor was the fresh orange juice and zest — not a common flavor found on the grill, but OH so fine. All this paired quite well with a selection of Abita brews from Louisiana — Amber, Purple Haze and Strawberry Harvest. Do not be afraid of the fruit flavored beer gentlemen — it is subtle and the perfect complement to the spicy red chilies that found their way in to many of the dishes.

Makin' the BBQ Sauce

Abita Beer Selection from LA - Save the Sea!

8.ate@eighters Diggin' In

When I polled my southern friends about their favorite desserts, there were many — cobblers, pies, hand churned ice cream, but one that stood out was banana pudding. Borrowing some more inspiration from a delightful dessert blog I read, Bakerella, I decided to make chocolate cups to serve this somewhat simple, but delicious banana pudding in. Armed with 3 pounds of Ghirardelli semi-sweet chocolate and water balloons {sans water} I got to dipping. My eyeballs nearly popped out of my head trying to blow up the tiny water balloons, but they are necessary to use to get the right size shell. Ultimately these were very easy to make and really jazzed up the puddin’, so the next time you’re looking for a unique serving option for anything that goes well with chocolate {fresh berries, ice cream, pudding, etc.} you should give these a try.

The makings of the banana puddin'

Setting the Chocolate Cups

Pop!

Banana Puddin' Cups

So with full bellies and licked fingers, it was time to sit back, relax and welcome the 3 Amigos into the evening. After so much finger linkin’ food and a large selection of beverages, it was good to have a lively movie to keep the night going and a few guttural laughs to help with digestion. And with still no rain in sight, the evening carried on into the wee hours — I reckon it was another successful and fun 8.ate@eight supper club!

Laughter Helps with Digestion

The 3 Amigos Rode in for the BBQ

Much Obliged:

Thanks, as always, to my guests for being part of the evening. Thanks to my lovely neighbors for the tent and red chili contributions and thank you to my roommate Haley for introducing me to the wonders of Tony Chachere’s creole seasoning.

Stay tuned for news of the next dinner party. Everyone I know and love is getting married in August, so the kitchen is closed until September. If you aren’t on the invite list, email me at 8ateATeight@gmail.com to be added. See you at the table!

Recap of past 8.ate@eight dinners:
Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink
Silencing of the Spring Lambs

Recipe Goodness ::
Banana Puddin’ Chocolate Cups

Pudding recipe courtesy of Cindy Lee

Makes 8-10 servings in one 8×8 pan {9×11 pan if double recipe}

Pudding:
1 14 oz. can sweetened condensed milk
1 ½ cups cold water
1 (4 serving size) pkg. instant vanilla pudding
2 cups whipping cream, lightly whipped
1 box vanilla wafers
4 bananas, sliced

In large bowl, combine sweetened condensed milk & water.  Add pudding mix, beat with whisk until well blended and chill in refrigerator about 5 min.  Then fold in the lightly whipped cream {still liquid, but aerated to make thicker}.  Spoon pudding mixture (about 1 cup) into bottom of glass dish, then layer with vanilla wafers, then banana on top of wafer, pudding mix, wafer, banana,  pudding mix, wafer (you want to end on wafer). You will have plenty of pudding mixture, especially if you double the recipe so use the pudding mixture generously on the bottom of the dish and throughout.

Tip: Always best to make this the day before so the flavors will marry.

Chocolate Cups:
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate per 8 cups {I like Ghirardelli}

Blow up 8 water balloons with air, not water {careful not to bust a gut!} Get a cookie sheet ready, lined with a piece of parchment paper. Melt chocolate in a small metal bowl on top of a boiling pot of water or in a double boiler. Continue stirring and once fully melted, remove bowl and move to the counter, letting the chocolate cool slightly so as not to pop your balloons. Take a small spoon and put a dollop of chocolate, evenly spaced on the parchment paper, for the foot of each bowl you will create. Start dipping! I found that it was difficult to get an even edge by dipping the balloon straight down, so I took an angled approach and continued to turn and dip, turn and dip at an angle, creating what looked like a tulip bowl. Once you have covered the base of the balloon, place it on one of the dollops, standing upright and repeat. Let the chocolate harden for about an hour and then pop each balloon with a pin and enjoy!

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Do This!: Summer Cheese Extravaganza!

Jessica Cutting the Cheese

Summer Cheese Extravaganza!
Saturday July 24
7:30pm until the cheese runs out…

The Red Hook Bait and Tackle
320 Van Brunt Street
We will give you cheeses and some desserts too!
We’ll tell you about them and help you pair with wines, beers or spirits.

And YES! The tasting is free!! So get there early before the supply runs out.

Matt Bonano and Jessica Wurwarg (Cheese people)
Colleen Riley (Chocolate/Dessert Person)

Check out more cool cheese events:
Summer Fancy Food Show: Full Belly and Learnings Digestion
Do This!: A Taste of What to Expect @ Artisanal Premium Cheese Classes
8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!

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Not so Standard Biergarten

Good German Beer!

Don’t cha just love long weekends that make the next week fly by? It’s Thursday already and although you may still be in a foggy-minded haze from the 101 degree blaze we’ve had to muddle through the past few days, it’s time to think about ways to cool down for the weekend. In my opinion, there is no better way than a good ‘ole fashioned biergarten…or a shiny new one for that matter. The Standard Hotel’s Biergarten opened very late last summer, so is just getting broken in for all its glory this season and already won Time Out NY’s Best New Beer Garden award. Tucked under the Highline, you get both a little piece of NY history overhead and a welcomed roof to keep the blazing sun from beating down. The operation is simple: buy as many $8 tickets as you want from the faux lederhosen-wearing beer maid at the entrance and make your way into the lively space. It’s almost like a carnival for adults {sans the carnies…hopefully}. Want a chilled German draft? One ticket please. Want two freshly grilled brats? One ticket please. Thanks to this clever ticket system, the place runs itself like a well oiled machine {don’t forget to tip your beer maid though!} There is plenty of communal seating amongst the picnic and high bar tables or mill around in front of either the beer bar or regular bar {yes they served regular cocktails as well}. Either way you are sure to meet some other singles or just have yourself a not-so-standard fun summer sipping session.

The Standard Biergarten

The Skim: It’s a hip version of a traditional german biergarten where you can come wearing flip flops or your cutest 4-inch heals and get away with either. Whether  you are coming for a fun evening with friends or on the  prowl to meet some “new friends” you will no doubt enjoy the lively, open space. Good beer. Good brats. Good times. {848 Washington Street @ 13th Street)

Beer Me Some More!:
Mission Dolores {Accomplished}: Great New Brooklyn Beer Garden
Wilfie & Nell: Not Your Grandpa’s Watering Hole
5 & Dime: 10 oz. at Five Napkin Burger, that is

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recipe goodness :: orzo summer salad

Orzo Prep

Whew! It’s HOT out there! If you’re looking for a great recipe to cool down with, this is the one. Not many people haven’t had this salad at one of my BBQs. It’s always a huge hit and on the rare occasion that there is actually any leftover, it’s even better the next day. The orzo summer salad is extremely easy to throw together and makes a large amount, so this recipe is perfect for a big gathering and can be made ahead of time so all you have to do is toss a spoon in the bowl and put it on the table. Yay for delicious and easy crowd-pleasing recipes!

Orzo Summer Salad

Serves a lot!

1 box orzo
1/2 bag baby spinach, roughly chopped
3 green onions, finely chopped
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2 lb fresh feta
1 lemon, juiced and zested
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper to taste

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and cook orzo according to package instructions (approx. 7 minutes). While the orzo is cooking, roughly chop baby spinach and add to a large bowl. Juice and zest 1 large lemon and add 1/4 cup olive oil to a separate small bowl and whisk together. When orzo is done cooking, drain thoroughly and add to the large bowl, pouring over spinach leaves. {TIP: Adding the orzo while warm will slightly cook the spinach so you get softer, brighter spinach leaves} Pour the lemon-olive oil dressing over the orzo, crumble the feta and add the green onions and halved grape tomatoes. Season generously with kosher salt and pepper to taste. Mix thoroughly and serve immediately or cool in the fridge to serve chilled {TIP: Remove salad 15 minutes before serving if chilled to allow the olive oil to come back to room temperature}.

Orzo Summer Salad

Try the Orzo Summer Salad with one of these great entrees:
Bison, a Better Burger Worth Biting Into
Pistachio-Encrusted Spring Lamb w/ Pickled Red Onions & Cumin Yogurt Sauce
Whole-Grain Mustard & Rosemary Pork Chops

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Happy 4th of July Weekend from 8.ate@eight!

Happy 4th of July from 8.ate@eight!

I hope the sun is shining as brightly as it is in NYC for all of you. Enjoy the holiday weekend and if you’re looking for a few easy and unique dishes to share at your BBQ, try a few of these 8.ate@eight favorites and let me know how they turn out!

DRINKS {cheers!}

Pink Fizzy Lemonade Cocktails Beat the Heat

APPETIZERS {makes happy hour happier}

Avocado & Tropical Fruit Salsa {also good as an entree side}

SALAD

Spinach, Strawberry & Halloumi Salad

PIZZA & BREADS {d’oh! why didn’t i try this yet}

Creative Crowd-Pleasing BBQ’d Pizzas

BISON & BEEF {where’s the…}

Bison, a Better Burger Worth Biting Into

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Do This!: FRESH the movie

What: Screening of Award Winning Independent film, FRESH
When: July 13th, 2010, 7:00pm
Where: Jersey City Food Coop 1 McWilliams Plc, Hamilton Park, Jersey City

The Jersey City Food Coop Initiative is screening FRESH the Movie. FRESH celebrates the farmers, thinkers and business people across America who are re-inventing our food system. Each has witnessed the rapid transformation of our agriculture into an industrial model, and confronted the consequences: food contamination, environmental pollution, depletion of natural resources, and morbid obesity. Forging healthier, sustainable alternatives, they offer a practical vision for a future of our food and our planet. Be a part of our movement to create a better environment for and watch FRESH the Movie at Art House Productions in downtown Jersey City. Light refreshments and popcorn will be served.

Not in NYC? Find a Screening of FRESH near you HERE


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4th Food Fare: Creative Crowd-Pleasing BBQ’d Pizzas

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BBQ’d Pizza you ask? Yes, you don’t need a wood burning oven or even a pizza stone to successfully make pizzas at home. And it’s even easier if you have a favorite pizza joint nearby that will sell you uncooked dough and even some toppings. This is so much more interesting for a great BBQ party than hot dogs and hamburgers and gets your guests involved so you don’t have to be sweating in front of the grill all night.

Easy Grilled Pizzas

Serves 8 (individual size)

1 large pizza dough ball
1 lb shredded mozzarella cheese
1 jar of your favorite marinara sauce
Olive oil for brushing

Toppings: Get creative — putting multiple bowls of topping options out allows your guests to choose their favs and maybe even get a little competitive to build the best pizza combo.

Peppers
Olives
Chopped fresh tomatoes
Onions (raw or grilled)
Grilled Eggplant and zucchini
Mushrooms (grilled and sliced portobellos are great)
Sweet or spicy grilled italian sausage and pepperoni (sliced)
Different cheeses (feta, brie, halloumi)
Fresh greens: basil, rosemary, spinach

  1. Turn grill on to medium heat
  2. Cut dough into 8 individual balls and let rest on a tray
  3. Two people can start simultaneously — have two guests start gently stretching the dough in their hands, turning and pulling to form the dough into a thin round circle, being careful not to pull a hole in the dough.
  4. Once the grill is hot and the dough has been stretched, lay them on a cutting board or tray and brush one side with olive oil. Pick the dough back up and flop directly on the grill, olive oil side down, and close the lid.
  5. After about 1-2 mins or until you see light grill marks on the under side, brush the top with olive oil and flip with tongs.
  6. Work quickly to add all toppings from sauce to cheese and anything else. Close the grill lid and wait ~1-2 mins.
  7. Check to make sure the cheese is melted and the bottom is a nicely browned. If the bottom starts to get too dark before the cheese is fully melted you can move the pizza to a top rack and let the indirect heat do the rest of the work without burning the dough.
  8. Enjoy and repeat!

Tip: If you think your guests will want more than one individual pizza, buy extra dough and cheese to accommodate appetites and the number of people.  You can always make other things with leftover dough.

Extra Dough:

  • Rosemary-Sea Salt Flatbread — After brushing the second side with olive oil, sprinkle generously with coarse gray sea salt and fresh rosemary.
  • Delicious Breakfast Pizza — Same steps as original pizza, but once you flip the dough, immediately move it to the top rack and crack the egg directly on the dough. This will take approximately 10 minutes for the egg to fully cook, so the bottom will burn if you leave it on the bottom. The egg will be done when you poke with a fork or knife and the white is firm.

Serve With A Refreshing Cocktail and Spinach Salad:
Pink Fizzy Lemonade Cocktails Beat the Heat
Spinach, Strawberry & Halloumi Salad

Breakfast PIzza

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8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese Didn’t Stink!

8.ate@eight #2: who cut the cheese

The rain held off and there was a perfect summer breeze in the air, which set the scene for another memorable evening with new and old friends. Lots of cheese, wine, beer and hand-prepared food to share, so without further ado…here’s the scoop>>>

Farm Fresh Cheese was the feature fare for the evening. To lighten things up to follow, I prepared a few citrus-centric dishes, including a grilled fishus delicious. I paired the movie with the setting instead of the food this time around. Our new friends gathered terrace-top overlooking the NY skyline and our lovely neighbors across the way, so it seemed only appropriate to roll tape on Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window.

Welcome!

Cheese Menu:

Cheese & Wine Paring
Nancy’s Hudson Valley Camembert (Old Chatham, NY)
Buy: Artisanal
w/ Delapierre Brut Cava (Spain)

Beringse Witte (Hamont-Achel, Belgium)
Buy: Formaggio Essex
w/ Brooklyn Local 1 Pale Ale

Ardith Mae Dairy’s Begelo (Hallstead, PA)
Buy: Union Square (Fri), 77th St & Columbia Univ. Greenmarket (Sun)
w/ Shaya ’08 Verdejo

Monte Enebro (Avila, Spain)
Buy: Artisanal
w/ Shaya ’08 Verdejo

Roncal (Navarra Region, Spain)
Buy: Artisanal
w/ Perrin & Fils ’07 Cotes du Rhone

Valley Shepherd Farms Crema de Blue (NJ)
Buy: Union Square & Borough Hall Greenmarkets (Sat)
w/ Muscat de Saint Jean de Mineverois

Accompaniments:
Grandma Wilklow’s Homemade Berry-Berry Jam
Buy: Borough Hall Greenmarket (Tues & Sat)
Tremblay Apiary Creamed Honey
Buy: Union Square Greenmarket (Fri & Sat)

Dinner Menu:

Soup
Chilled Lemon-Rice Soup
w/ Cousiño-Macul Sauvignon Gris

Entrée and Sides
Grilled Wild North Atlantic Halibut w/ Chili-Lime Dressing, served over a Lentil, Orange & Feta Salad
Carrot Ribbon & Arugula Salad w/ a Lemon-Ginger Dressing
w/ Cousiño-Macul Sauvignon Gris

Dessert
Violet’s Lemon Cheesecake w/ BBQ’d Summer Berries
w/ Tourangelle Touraine Rosé

Movie
Rear Window

Jessica Wurwarg, friend and Artisanal cheese expert {discount code and more about her cheese&wine classes here}, kicked off the evening with a beautiful array of local and artisanal cheeses. Each was paired with a selection of wines and a local Brooklyn ale to complement the flavor profiles and bring out the best in each cut. The cheese was also accompanied by locally produced Grandma Wilklow’s berry-berry jam and what I like to call semi-solid gold, Tremblay creamed honey, to add a contrasting sweetness to some of the more salty, earthy notes.  If you haven’t had creamed honey before, run, don’t walk to the Union Square Greenmarket or check it out here. This isn’t your typical honey-bear liquid gold — creamed honey goes through a controlled granulation process, which results in a finely crystallized form that spreads like butter, melts in your mouth and takes on creamy characteristics.

Jessica Cutting the Cheese

Cheese Plating in Progress

Jessica Shares her Cheese & Wine Knowledge

Cheese & Jam & Creamed Honey, oh my!

8.ate@eighters

While everyone was finishing off their cheese and multiple glasses of wine, beer and more wine, I served up a small bowl of chilled lemon rice soup to cleanse the palate. Conversation ensued and I fired up the grill to get the rest of the meal prepared. I wanted to keep things simple and light to cut all the creamy proteins we just enjoyed, so I grilled up a North Atlantic Halibut that had been hangin’ out in a lime, red chili, olive oil and herb marinade for a few hours. The fish was grilled in a tin foil pouch to lock in the moisture and infuse the fish with all the fresh juices. On the side I served two salads: the first was a lentil, red onion, feta and orange salad that had a bit of a mediterranean flare to complement the fish, and the second was a very simple arugula and carrot ribbon salad with a fresh lemon-ginger-sesame seed dressing that really kept things light and not too filling.

Chilled Lemon-Rice Soup

Grilled Wild North Atlantic Halibut w/ Chili-Lime Dressing, served over a Lentil, Orange & Feta Salad

Everyone seemed to be quite relaxed after all that wine and food, so while the conversation carried on, plates were cleared and the projector was set-up to bring a little Hitchcock into the evening.

8.ate@eighters After Sunset

It’s never a bad dinner party when Grace Kelly and Jimmy Stewart Show Up.

Grace Kelly and James Stewart Showed Up for Dinner

While the movie rolled, I got to work plating mini cheesecakes {my grandma’s recipe} and BBQ’ing a selection of strawberries, blueberries, raspberries and blackberries to serve over the top.

Summer Berries ready to be BBQ'd

Violet's Lemon Cheesecake w/ BBQ'd Summer Berries

Midway through the movie, dessert was served, some caught a little shut-eye and we closed out the evening with the suspenseful Rear Window.

Settling in for the Rear Window Viewing

Thanks:

Thank you to Jessica for selecting wonderful cheeses & wines to kick off the evening and for sharing so much knowledge with the 8.ate@eight table. Thank you also to Kristin for helping to set-up and do dishes — my least favorite thing to do was completely eliminated by the graces of a good friend!

Stay tuned for news of the next dinner party. If you aren’t on the invite list, email me at 8ateateight@gmail.com. See you at the table!

Recap of past 8.ate@eight dinners:
Silencing of the Spring Lambs

Recipe Goodness:

Violet’s Lemon Cheesecake with BBQ’d Summer Berries

Makes 20 Cupcake Sized Mini Cheesecakes or one 9″ Spring Form Pan
Bake 350° for 25-30 mins.

Crust:
1 1/4 C  Ground Graham Cracker Crumbs
1/4 C  Finely Chopped Walnuts
1/2 tsp  Cinnamon
1/2 C  Melted Butter

Filling:
16 oz
Cream Cheese
2 TBS  Heavy Cream
1 tsp  Vanilla
2 Large Eggs
3/4 C  Sugar
1 Lemon, Juiced (reserve for after prior ingredients combined)

Berry Topping:
1 Pint Strawberries
1-6-oz Container Blueberries
1-6-oz Container Raspberries
1-6-oz Container Blackberries

Chop graham crackers and walnuts in a food processor until medium to fine crumbs form. Mix in a bowl with cinnamon and melted butter. Press crumbs into the bottom of foil muffin wrappers placed in a muffin pan or into the bottom of a 9″ spring form pan if you prefer one cake. {Tip: Foil wrappers are better than paper to prevent any chance of leaking or absorption}

In a separate mixing bowl, combine all filling ingredients {except for the lemon juice to avoid curdling} and blend. After the ingredients have been creamed thoroughly, add the lemon juice and blend to combine. Pour filling into each cup until 2/3 full to leave room for oven rising {or pour entire mixture into spring form}. Bake at 350° for ~25-30 minutes. Filling should be firm and a toothpick should come out clean when tested at the center. Let cakes cool completely before putting into the fridge for at least 5 hours to chill and rest before serving.

To serve with BBQ’d berries, rinse and dry fruit and place in a foil pouch to place directly on the grill. Let berries cook over low heat about 3-5 minutes, or until some of the juice is released to create a sauce and the berries are softened. Remove pouch from the grill and place on a sheet or plate to avoid leaking. Remove each cheesecake from the wrapper and place upside down so the crust is on top. Scoop berries over the cheesecake and serve warm.

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Announcing 8.ate@eight dinner #2 | Who Cut the Cheese | @6.12.10.7:30pm

Round two of 8.ate@eight supper club is scheduled for 3 short weeks from now and we have something really exciting in store for the June 8.ate@eight table. Jessica Wurwarg, fellow 8.ate@eight-er and Artisanal cheese expert is going to be kicking off the evening sharing her knowledge of a selection of delicious farm fresh artisan cheeses, jams and a specially paired wine tasting. Come ready to taste, drink and ask questions! A 3-course dinner, featuring a lighter fishus delicious entrée {that’s a technical term!} will follow. After we all cut the cheese {and other hand prepared dishes} Rear Window will be projected under the stars and a memorable, intimate social gathering amongst new friends will ensue. We’re starting this one earlier @7:30 for more cheese and wine time — who would pass that up?!

See here for a recap of the last 8.ate@eight dinner.

Reservation policy is first come, first serve. When I reach 8 guests, the list is closed for the evening. Please feel free to invite guests or forward to friends. A mixed crowd is encouraged!

8.ate@eight #2: Who Cut the Cheese
Saturday, June 12
th, 2010, 7:30pm {early for more cheese time}
cheese & wine tasting, followed by a 3-course dinner menu
post-dinner movie: Rear Window
Suggested Donation: $70 per person

RSVP HERE!: 8ateATeight@gmail.com {note: number attending in your email}

Enjoy and hope to see you at the table!

Let's Cut the Cheese!

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8.ate@eight #1: Silencing of the Spring Lambs was Lambtastic!

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What can I say, the inaugural 8.ate@eight supper club was lambtastic! Perfect weather (mid-70s) and perfect company set the scene for a great evening of fresh, hand-prepared food, deliciously paired wine and good conversation shared amongst new and old friends. Here’s the scoop >>>

Naerim, my friend and French Culinary Institute-trained pastry chef, showed up around 11am to start throwing around some cake flour and gettin’ down to business preparing her superbly delicious Panna Cotta Tartlets with Balsamic Strawberries. Meanwhile, the prosecco was chillin’ and I was chopping, grinding and whizzing away to to get all the elements together for each course of the meal, organized to complement our post-dinner flick, Silence of the Lambs.

The Menu:

Starter
Minted Fava Bean & Spring Pea Puree with Fresh Italian Ricotta on Garlic Rubbed Toasts
w/ Fresh Squeezed Blood Orange Mimosas

Salad
Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Pancetta Vinaigrette, Michigan Dried Cherries & Candied Pecans
w/ 2008 Domaine Dupeuble Pere et Fils Beaujolais

Entrée
Pistachio encrusted Spring Lamb with Cumin Yogurt & Pickled Red Onion
w/ 2001 Cataregia Gran Reserva

Dessert
Panna Cotta Tartlets w/ Balsamic Strawberries

Movie
Silence of the Lambs

Everyone grabbed a Fresh Blood Orange Mimosa, introduced themselves and settled in for some good food and drinks.

Fresh Blood Oranges Being Squeezed for Blood Orange Mimosas

Fava Bean and Pea Puree

Warm Goat Cheese Salad with Pancetta Vinaigrette, Dried Michigan Cherries and Candied Pecans

While the salad was being served, we were off in the kitchen orchestrating all the elements of the entrée. The lamb (and Jessica’s sea bass) was encrusted with a spice blend of thyme, chilli pepper, cumin, lemon zest and pistachios, pan-seared and finished in the oven. Each was topped with freshly pickled red onions and a cumin yogurt sauce. The white asparagus was steamed and topped with a melted smashed mint, lemon butter sauce. Pans were flying and the kitchen mercury was rising as we had all the burners fired at once, but with the help of Naerim, we got everything cooked and plated before anyone pulled a Hannibal Lector.

Pistachio Spring Lamb w/ Cumin Yogurt & Pickled Red Onion; White Asparagus w/ Smashed Mint & Lemon Butter

After the plates were cleared, we rolled the movie, opened more wine and Naerim got to work finishing dessert.

Naerim Plating Dessert

Panna Cotta Tartlets w/ Balsamic Strawberries

Hannibal Lector showed up for a bite too.

Hannibal Lector Shows Up After Dinner

Click here to see the full album.

Thanks:

I want to thank Naerim for preparing such a beautiful and delicious dessert and for all the help in getting the 8.ate@eight-ers fed. Thanks to Kristin for snapping some candids while I was off in the kitchen and for doing dishes late night {tisk tisk!!} And I of course want to thank everyone who grabbed a seat at the table — it was lovely to have you all!

Our next dinner will be announced shortly {very shortly} so if you aren’t on the list, email me at 8ateateight@gmail.com. See you at the table!

Recipe Goodness:

Pistachio-Encrusted Spring Lamb w/ Pickled Red Onions & Cumin Yogurt Sauce

Serves 4

Chops:
12 lamb chops, ~ 1 1/2 inches thick
2 TBS fresh thyme
1 TBS ground chilli pepper
1 TBS ground cumin
2 TBS fresh lemon zest
Salt & Pepper
1 Cup shelled pistachio nuts

Pickled Red Onion:
1 red onion
1 lemon
Salt & pepper to taste

Sauce:
1 cup plain yogurt
1/2 tsp cumin
Salt & pepper to taste

Thinly slice the red onion and put into a container that will seal. Pour the juice of one lemon over the onion, add a dash of salt and a crank or two of black pepper. Set the container in the fridge for at least 2 hours. The lemon juice will pickle the onion and soften the flavor for a nice addition to your chops.

In another bowl add the 1/2 tsp of cumin, salt and pepper to the yogurt and stir thoroughly. Set aside.

Meanwhile, mix all the dry spices and lemon zest in a bowl. In a zip lock, smash the shelled pistachios to smaller bits that will stick easily to your lamb. Pour the nuts into a separate bowl. Lightly drizzle a little olive oil over the lamb chops and gently press each side of the chops first in the spice bowl and then in the pistachio bowl, making sure both sides are generously covered in pistachios.  Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Heat a large oven safe pan on the stove {no need to add olive oil as the fat from the lamb will be enough to cook the chops}. Add all the of chops to the pan and push firmly down to create a good sear. Cook for 2 minutes, flip and put the pan into the oven for 4 minutes. {Note: If you don’t have an oven safe pan, you can preheat a cookie sheet in the oven and transfer the chops to the sheet to finish}.

To serve, top the lamb chops with a few rings of the pickled red onion and a drizzle of the cumin yogurt. Enjoy!

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Love, Love Shabu Shabu: Fun to Say and Eat

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I relived my trip to Japan last night with a visit to Shabu Tatsu, one of the most authentic Japanese meals I have had in NYC. For those who think only of sushi or ramen when you hear the words Japanese cuisine, it’s time to expand your horizons to the wonderful world of Shabu Shabu — aka Japanese fondue {x10}. At the center of your table you get a pot of boiling clear broth in which you cook paper thin slices of beautifully marbled premium rib eye, a mound of fresh veg and hand pulled noodles. Everything cooks rather quickly, so it’s best to add a few things at a time and when they’re done dip them in one or both of the soy and sesame sauces served on the side. I like to to dip each piece and lay it on top of my bowl of rice before eating it. The result: beefy, brothy, veggie, saucy goodness soaked up by each white fluffy grain — the well deserved reward after all that hard work slaving over a hot pot with your chops. The upside to all this is that for $24/peep you get all the fixins’, plus that Japanese salad that we all love {you know, the one with the carrot-ginger dressing}, ice cream and hot tea. And if you’re really lucky, like we were, and show up on Japanese Boys Day, you get some lucky red beans and rice cakes. mmmm.

The Skim: Forget the california roll and venture out for some of the finer features of Japanese cuisine at Shabu Tatsu. Whether you go with the Shabu Shabu, Sukiyaki {Shabu Shabu ingredients pan-seared in a sweet soy sauce} or Yakiniku {Japanese BBQ}, you will not be disappointed. It’s great for a group or a hands-on date {I’m talkin’ about the food}, but like many Japanese things it’s small, so go early or willing to wait. {216 E. 10th Street, btw 1st/2nd Aves.}

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