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Anatomy of a Burger

There once was a hamburger whose name was James--
What? Didn’t you know all burgers have names?
Well they do--some are Norbert and some are named Neal,
Some are Llewellyn, some ate Lucille,
Some just have nicknames like Bunky or Bean,
Others have long names like Rose-Mavoureen,
Like you, each one’s special and no one’s the same,
So please, ‘fore you bite,
Be polite--ask their name.

-James by Shel Silverstein

Sometimes you just need a burger and fries. When I hopped off the stalled subway a stop early tonight and wandered towards my apartment in the chill, I realized that was just what I needed.

I'll put this right up front - for hamburger purists - I opted for a fish patty. Don't get me wrong, I love a simple, no holds barred, down and out hamburger but high quality ground beef is expensive and hard to find at my local grocer. Sometimes you have to go for the best option in the moment! (Plus tuna burgers are delish, y'all.)

Build-a-Burger

The Holy Grail

No type of burger is complete without a side of fries! This bad boy cozied up to oven-baked blue, red-skinned & idaho potato fries tossed in salt, pepper & smoked paprika. I thought they deserved an extra-special sauce, so I made a curry-tomato sauce with some preserved lemon. Talk about YUM!

xo,

Lo

Wintry Nights

Sunday nights are usually pretty low-key. I tend to cook or order in and listen to WNYC or catch up on TV shows from the week. Today I had a strong craving for soup, probably due to the chilly temps and snow on the way. However, making a full pot of soup isn't ideal when you live alone because even with freezing it's easy to get sick of it. I happened to have a few veggies in the fridge that were close to being unusable so decided to make a broth that I could turn into different one-serving soups throughout the week. I'll start here with the broth, then in an upcoming post share the single-serve soups I whipped up!

Sunday Veggie Broth

The best part about a broth is you can throw anything you like in to create the flavor you want or use up ingredients you have on hand. Raid your fridge and cupboards and don't be scared to try something!

My Ingredients 

  • Half onion, chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, sliced
  • 1 celery stalk, chopped
  • 6 carrots, chopped
  • Carrot greens
  • 1-2 tbsp unsalted butter
  • Salt
  • Pepper
  • Smoked paprika
  • Cardamom
  • Red wine vinegar
  • Kalamata olive brine
  • 5-6 cups water
Hapless veggies, on the verge of compost

Hapless veggies, on the verge of compost

First things first, get those veggies washed and cut up. A rough chop is fine and you can leave the carrot greens (or any fesh herbs you may add) whole. I didn't peel the carrots and I chopped through the whole celery stalk at once. So easy!

Clockwise from top left: Carrot greens, garlic, celery, carrot, onion. 

Clockwise from top left: Carrot greens, garlic, celery, carrot, onion. 

Now, let's get cooking. Melt the butter in a medium/large pot over medium/low heat. As soon as the butter is melted add the onion and garlic and stir to coat with butter. Turn the heat down if the garlic is cooking too quickly. Add your spices (whatever you desire)! I opted for salt, pepper, smoked paprika, and cardamom. A heavy hand is okay here, remember you'll be adding a good amount of water which will dilute the spice significantly. Stir frequently and cook until onions are soft and garlic is just starting to brown. Add a splash of vinegar to deglaze the pot.

  Clockwise from top left: Melting butter, seasonings, ready for vinegar, deglazed. 

 Clockwise from top left: Melting butter, seasonings, ready for vinegar, deglazed. 

Add the carrots and celery, stir to combine. Turn the heat up to medium, stirring occasionally. You want to sweat the veggies down to soften without browning, probably ~5 minutes. Once the veggies are soft, stir in the carrot greens. Add 5-6 cups cold water (don't overfill the pot), and 1/4 - 1/2 cup of olive brine. Bring to a boil. Reduce to a simmer and cook until halved in volume, ~1 - 1 1/12 hours.

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So, while that's going.... 

What is cardamom? 

Cardamom is a plant in the ginger family, native to India and surrounding countries. Aromatic and minty, cardamom has an intense distinct flavor. It is often found in Indian dishes, chai tea and sometimes added to coffee grounds before brewing to enhance the flavor.

I've used green cardamom, purchased from my local grocer. You break the pods open and can add the seeds to a dish whole or grind them using a mortar and pestle.

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Okay, now back to the broth. Once it has reduced and tastes to your liking, you can either strain & discard the veggies or use your immersion blender to incorporate the veggies into a hearty thick broth. 

I opted to strain my broth, careful to press all the juices out of the veggies. These can be set aside to cool for composting. You may store your broth now, or make any soup you'd like. Vegetable broth is great because you can use it to create vegan and carnivore friendly soups depending on your audience. 

Clockwise from top: Brothy goodness, just starting to strain, pressed veggies. 

Clockwise from top: Brothy goodness, just starting to strain, pressed veggies. 

Broth is great to have on hand - not just for quick homemade soups but also to make heartier rice, steamed veggies and even as a hot beverage on a cold night. Add a little vinegar to a mug of plain broth just after heating to punch up the flavor for a wintry treat! 

Here's hoping for an early Spring.

xo, 

Lo

If you can't stand the heat, get INTO the kitchen?

It may sound counter-intuitive, but heading into the kitchen after an exhausting and incredibly hot day* is actually one of the best things you can do. Making a meal for yourself is meditative. It gives you time to reflect and decompress before heading to bed. All you have to do is keep it simple (and keep the actual cooking to a minimum).

Mid-cooking snack: light rye Wasa cracker with lemon avocado, Beth's Farm Kitchen mighty hot pepper jelly & mint

Mid-cooking snack: light rye Wasa cracker with lemon avocado, Beth's Farm Kitchen mighty hot pepper jelly & mint

Nothing is easier than tossing a big salad with some healthy fats, greens, grains and protein. The key is to trust your instincts when choosing ingredients and determining ratios. A good rule of thumb is to start with less and add more, tasting as you go.

My Salad

Quinoa, Brussels sprouts, crunchy sprouts, heirloom tomato, mint, mashed avocado

My Dressing: 

Lemon juice, EVOO, hot honey, Dijon mustard, whole grain mustard, paprika, salt & pepper

Yellow grape heirloom tomato

Yellow grape heirloom tomato

Red quinoa

Red quinoa

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Crunchy, healthy, & delicious!

xo, 

Lo

*Record breaking temps for 2014 in NYC today, hitting 92 degrees!

Eating Out, Alone: A Series

One of the best and worst things about living in NYC is the endless amount of really killer restaurants offering fare from around the globe. On the one hand you are incredibly spoiled - want soup dumplings, macarons, or oxtail at 2am on a Tuesday? It's cool, we got you! On the other hand, there are more places than you will ever have time to eat at, so you have to become strategic. Sometimes your meals will be serendipitous - a friend from the office wants to grab dinner, and they do want to trek to that new Malaysian restaurant in Flushing you've been dying to check out. Other times, however, you can't seem to find the right person at the right time to try a spot on your to dine list.

As I mulled over starting this blog, I thought about ways I could use it to challenge & motivate myself to do things I don't usually do, or things I love that I'd let slide with that ever present excuse: "I'm too busy!" One thing that kept coming to the forefront was checking off restaurants on my list whether I could find a co-diner or not. I'm not one to dine alone. I cherish alone time, but that generally happens in the comfort of my cozy Astoria apartment. However, I really love food and I realized missing out on a great new spot because no one was free when I wanted to dine out is just plain silly!

So I'm kicking off my "Eating Out, Alone" series. My first go was a bit of a cheat - I started with lunch to ease into the solitary dining experience. Armed with my iPad & The King in Yellow queued up on iBooks, it was off to lunch!

The location:

Sammy's Noodle Shop

The ambiance: 

This place is old school NYC - the interior is drab and a bit dingy but plants situated along the large, inviting windowsills add character and the staff is friendly and attentive.

The order: 

Pickled Cabbage & Pork Noodle Soup | Sweet Red Bean Bun, Steamed

Spinach, pork, pickled cabbage, bean sprouts and my favorite part - crispy onions

Red bean bun with just the right dough-to-filling ratio - a bit of each in every bite

The bottom line:

I'm no food critic, so I won't attempt to decipher the flavor profiles or describe the texture and aroma of each bite. The portions were large. The soup was warm, filling, well-prepared with a nice balance of ingredients and made me quite happy to chow down on. Each bite with a crispy onion was a pleasant surprise. The bun's dough was a little chewy for my tastes but the bean paste was flavorful & not too sweet. Coming in under $15, with enough food to save for dinner or lunch the next day, Sammy's is a great choice for a weekday lunch.

I leave you with a mantra to live by: Happy eating is healthy eating!

xo,

Lo

Working on my Night Cheese

There are few things I love more than cheese (30 Rock may be one of them). I can often be found snacking on some muenster or double cream brie in the wee hours of the night, while watching Liz Lemon try to "have it all." In her case, "it all" includes a sandwich, so what better way to introduce myself & my blog (and my love for 30 Rock) than by sharing an easy & delicious grilled cheese?

This delectable grilled cheese was borne out of what happened to be in my kitchen at the time.

The best thing about the grilled cheese is its simplicity. Your standard bread-cheese-butter combo is just as delightful as any gourmet concoction you can dream up and both can be made in minutes.

One of my favorite things about the grilled cheese are the endless possibilities. Not only is there a world of cheese to choose from (and combine), there are also spreads, spices, veggies, fruits & more just begging to be part of that melty, gooey, greasy goodness.

Want to recreate my grilled cheese? Here's what you'll need:

  • Bread Alone Sourdough Rye
  • Bonne Maman Orange Marmalade
  • Muenster cheese
  • Parmesan cheese
  • Arugula (or Rocket for the Brits)
  • Maille Dijon Originale
  • Butter

My preferred assembly - slice of rye, heavy handed spread of marmalade, slices of muenster, and a pile of arugula. Melt some butter in a pan of your choice over medium-low heat, and start grilling your assembled slice. Once the first slice is in the pan, add slices of parmesan cheese on top of the arugula. Take the second slice of rye and coat one side liberally with butter. Flip and slather on your mustard. Place mustard side down on top of the bread in the pan. Give the sandwich some time to toast up and for the cheese to mostly all melt. Medium-low heat is key here so your bread browns but doesn't burn! When the cheese is mostly melted, carefully flip & grill until your second slice is nicely browned. Voila, sandwich!

You can make a grilled cheese with anything you have on hand - blackberries, mint, sharp cheddar? bacon, brie, applesauce? ricotta, mozzarella, olive tapenade, asparagus? monterey jack, cinnamon, honey? I could go on forever!

Bottom line - the key to a great grilled cheese, or any meal:

Be creative. Take a risk. Trust yourself!

 

xo,

Lo