Saturday, May 30, 2009

Minty Lemonade

When I was a kid, instead of just asking for something to drink I would walk around saying, "I'm so draahhh," as if I were so parched I might pass out. I didn't grow up in the south. I just watched a lot of The Dukes of Hazzard. There was one poignant episode when Boss Hogg went to the Duke farm on a particularly hot summer day and declared, "Uncle Jesse, I'm so draahhh," so Uncle Jesse gave him a glass of lemonade.

There's nothing more refreshing than a tall, cold glass of lemonade (or lemonlade like my 3 1/2 year old friend Alex likes to say) on a hot day. And today, like Boss Hogg, I'm so draahhh and I need some homemade lemonade. Instead of making a straightforward version, I decided to give my lemonade a twist with an infusion of mint, not because I'm all that creative but because I happened to have a huge bunch of mint in my fridge, courtesy of a coworker's plentiful garden (Thanks, Lisa!!). All you have to do is make a batch of minted simple syrup and you're ready to go. (And no, it's not hard to do).

Minted Simple Syrup

1 1/2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 cup fresh mint leaves

1. Bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat.

2. Add the mint leaves and stir. Set aside to steep for 30 minutes.

3. Strain the simple syrup through a fine mesh sieve (or strainer) and discard the mint leaves. (Simple syrup may be stored tightly sealed in the refrigerator for up to two weeks.)

Tina's Tangy-Minty Lemonade

3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 3 lemons)
3/4 minted simple syrup
2 cups water

1. Pour the lemon juice, simple syrup and water into a pitcher and stir. Serve over ice and enjoy. (Additional simple syrup may be added to taste.) Serves 4.

I like my lemonade on the tart side, like me. You may want to add more simple syrup if you like it a bit sweeter. I also make my simple syrup with less sugar than is usually called for, so just taste the lemonade and adjust accordingly. The simple syrup is also great as a sweetener in tea, both hot and cold.

Thursday, May 28, 2009


I've been either going out and not cooking, or, just not cooking for the past several nights. That's nothing new. But I have been feeling a little sluggish as a result, and can think of only one remedy. Pocket Coffee!

Pocket Coffee is my all time favorite candy. (I did have a short love affair with the Skor bar, but that was well before I knew of Pocket Coffee's existence.) How those fine people at Ferrero came up with this transcendent candy idea is beyond me. Oh, wait. What IS Pocket Coffee you ask? Aside from the best candy ever? It is the perfect little bite size nugget of liquid espresso encased by a thin sugary shell then enveloped by chocolate. Supposedly three pieces of this magic elixir equals a full shot of regular espresso. Whatever. It's delish.

The problem with Pocket Coffee is that's it's almost impossible to find! I can occasionally find it at Buon Italia in the NYC Chelsea Market, but otherwise it seems that you have to buy it online by the case (not that there's anything wrong with that!). I've also heard that, like the beloved Mallomars, they are only produced seasonally, October through April. (By the way, what is the deal with Mallomars? I personally can only stomach marshmallows when they are toasted and melty and smashed between chocolate and graham crackers. But that's just me.)

Anyway, should anyone have a line on some Pocket Coffee (aside from my friend who just left on a trip to Italy with a shopping list from me) let me know!

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


So, one of my favorite quick dishes utilizes frozen shrimp. Is that gross? I don't think so, but I know of at least one friend that is disgusted by frozen shrimp. I think that if they are prepared properly and you are not serving them as Shrimp Cocktail, then who cares? The freezer can be your pantry too.

You know that dish that is ubiquitous in Spanish restaurants? Garlic Shrimp? Or Sauteed Shrimp With Garlic or whatever they call it? I have figured out how to make it at home! Yeah,'s no great feat. Big deal, you say. HOWEVER, I have discovered that the key to replicating this great restaurant dish is...SALT. Not the perfect shrimp or 84 cloves of garlic. Salt. I think that most home cooks under-salt their dishes when they could really step it up a bit without alerting the American Heart Association. I'm not suggesting that you encrust your shrimp with salt. I'm just saying that sprinkling a little on top is probably not enough.

Following is my very unscientific recipe for:

Garlic Shrimp For One

Salt and freshly ground pepper

10 medium frozen shrimp, thawed, peeled and deveined (about 1/3 pound)*

3 tablespoons olive oil

2 large cloves of garlic, thinly sliced

1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes

Juice of 1/2 lemon

Crusty Bread (optional - actually, required)

1. Once the shrimp is thawed, pat dry with paper towels, and generously season both sides with salt and pepper.

2. Heat the oil in a medium skillet. Once hot, add the garlic and red pepper flakes and cook for about 1 minute. Gently add the shrimp and cook without moving for 2 minutes. Turn each shrimp over and cook until done, about 2 minutes more. Turn off the heat, add the lemon juice and stir. Serve immediately with crusty bread to soak up the extra sauce.

*I use the frozen 1 pound bags of raw 31-40 shrimp/lb that are already peeled and deveined.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Isn't it Ironic?

I spent the long, holiday weekend not cooking. Here's an example of what I didn't cook:

I also didn't make the cheese or hummus that we enjoyed with that bottle of wine. I was tailgaiting with friends at the Meadowlands before the Bruce Springsteen concert on Saturday night, and for some reason that translated to drinking wine and eating cheese. Duh!

But I did learn my new favorite New Jersey slogan: "We don't pump gas, we pump fists!" in that parking lot. Needless to say, our version of tailgaiting was a little different from most. We were looking pretty out of place sipping our Pinot Noir while the rest of the tailgaters enjoyed tube steaks and Coor's Light. Hey, we left the Riedel at home and drank out of red Solo cups just like everyone else!

Keep it classy, East Rutherford.

(And don't forget to buy your tickets for the final big concert at Giants Stadium before they tear it down!)

Friday, May 22, 2009

It's a Boy!

Congratulations are in order for my great friends, Katie and Jon, who just gave birth to a healthy baby boy (Katie did the hard part). I couldn't be more excited for them! In their honor, I would like to share the signature cocktail that I created for their baby shower last month.

I got the idea for this drink from the soda called Squirt. I can't seem to find it readily on the east coast, not that I am even a regular soda drinker, but I grew up loving this soda. And since Katie and Jon and I are all from Michigan, I thought it had that insider-y element that great cocktails possess.

Since I was essentially creating a homemade, alcoholic version of the soda (my homage to the amazing makers of Squirt), I thought that a twist on the name was required. Hence, The Little Squirt was born (no pun intended! actually it was). The name was a nod to it's origin as well as a double entendre for the occasion.

Please enjoy the drink (I know I will) and make a toast!

*A note on flavored vodkas (which my recipe calls for): Not all flavored vodkas a very good, or, really ANY good. I've even begun making my own infusions because some of the flavored varieties that are for sale taste downright awful. However, I discovered Danzka grapefruit flavored vodka while traveling abroad a few years ago, and highly recommend it. It's become increasingly difficult to find in NYC so when I'm not able to shop duty free, I will substitute Finlandia grapefruit flavored vodka.

The Little Squirt

2 ounces grapefruit flavored vodka

1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec

1 ounce fresh lime juice

1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice

Club Soda

1 strip grapefruit zest

1. Pour the vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and grapefruit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly and pour the contents, including ice, into a highball glass. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with grapefruit zest.

Alternatively (for The Little Squirt served up):

1. Pour the vodka, Cointreau, lime juice and grapefruit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice. Shake briskly and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with grapefruit zest.


Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Guacamole Guidance

The gorgeous, sunny day in NYC today got me thinking about fruity drinks with umbrellas and beach vacations. Since that's not happening anytime soon, I'll have to settle for tar beach and homemade provisions...which really got me thinking about margaritas and guacamole. I think it's because I usually kick off spring with a Cinco de Mayo party. This year, I let my peeps down. I just couldn't get it together. (Sorry!) So I've decided to share my guacamole recipe in lieu of the annual fiesta.

I do have a fair share of party followers because of my guacamole, but I don't think it's really anything special. The only key to great guacamole is making it yourself to your desired specifications, so really, anyone can make great guacamole. (I just think my friends are used to eating substandard, pre-made, chilled guacamole in restaurants, so anything made fresh is vastly superior.)

My guacamole guidelines:
•Texture: A combination of smashed avocado and chunked avocado, along with additional diced ingredients, creates my desired consistency.
•Salt: Be sure to use enough, but consider if you will be eating the guacamole on salted tortilla chips, in which case I would hold back a tiny bit.
•Tomatoes: I will only use if tomatoes are in season. If so, then I will use sparingly and only if cored and seeded. They do add a nice color but may add too much moisture to your guacamole.
•Garlic: I think this is a very controversial ingredient. Sometimes I use it and sometimes I don't. I think purists would leave it out, but a tiny bit can go a long way.
•Cilantro: Also controversial. You either hate it or you love it. Which brings me to my final point.
•Make YOUR guacamole however YOU like it!

Tina's Cinco de Mayo Guacamole

2 avocados

The juice of 1/2 lime (about 2 teaspoons)

1/2 garlic clove minced (about 1/2 teaspoon), optional

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 small Jalapeño (or Serrano) pepper, cored, seeded, and finely chopped (about 1 tablespoon)

1/2 small red onion, finely chopped (about 2 tablespoons)

1 tablespoon chopped cilantro, optional

1. Halve one avocado, discard the pit, scoop out the flesh, and place in a medium bowl. Mash until no chunks remain. Add the lime juice, garlic, and salt and stir thoroughly.

2. Mix in the
Jalapeño, onion and cilantro.

Halve the second avocado, discard the pit, and with a knife, cut a diamond pattern into the flesh without cutting through the skin (see photo below). Scoop out the cubed avocado and add to the bowl. Carefully fold into the seasoned mixture until incorporated. Serve immediately!

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Iron Chef-ing It Out

Sometimes after several days of not grocery shopping (or several weeks), I find myself at home with nothing to eat. Shocking. A normal person would just flip through their menus and simply decide between Thai and Mexican, call for delivery, and be done with it. I instead like to repeatedly open my refrigerator and cupboard doors, staring blankly as if something delicious is just going to miraculously appear on a silver platter. I've done this so many times that I know that I will usually be able to throw something together (with my seemingly random ingredients) without resorting to the delivery menus. It's my mini-version of Iron Chef, except without the stadium, weird ingredients, opponent, running get the idea.

Fortunately I have some basic pantry essentials in my kitchen at almost all times (canned tomatoes, garlic, half-eaten cheese and dried pasta on this particular day), and with these basics you can easily make a much better meal than would come out of an aluminum or plastic container. After taking my 84th look through my kitchen, I decided that I had the makings of a meal that I had recalled reading about in the NY Times Recipes for Health section (my fave). I did make some minor adjustments to the recipe because I didn't have enough tomatoes, I don't like adding sugar to my tomato sauces, and I don't like breadcrumbs as a topping. But the cool thing is that this recipe IS forgiving and you can tweak it to your personal tastes (or grocery shopping forgetfulness).

Below please find my modified version of:
Macaroni With Tomato Sauce and Goat Cheese

10 ounces dried, small, whole wheat pasta (about 2/3 of a 1 pound bag)

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 plump garlic cloves, minced

1 (28-ounce) can diced or whole peeled tomatoes

Salt to taste

A couple of fresh basil sprigs (optional - I didn't have any but I think it would be a good addition)

1 teaspoon dried oregano, if not using basil

Freshly ground pepper to taste

4 ounces soft, mild goat cheese

3/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Freshly ground pepper

1. Heat a large pot of water for the pasta. Meanwhile make the tomato sauce. Pulse the chopped or whole tomatoes in a food processor fitted with the steel blade, or puree with an immersion blender before you begin. Heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil over medium heat in a large saucepan and add the garlic. Cook, stirring, for 30 seconds to a minute, until it begins to smell fragrant, and add the tomatoes and their juice, salt, oregano if using or basil sprigs. Stir and turn up the heat. When the tomatoes begin to bubble, lower the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thick and fragrant, 15 to 20 minutes, or longer if necessary. Remove the basil sprigs and wipe any sauce adhering to them back into the pan. Add freshly ground pepper, stir in the goat cheese and 1/2 cup Parmesan and combine well. Taste and adjust seasonings.

2. Preheat the oven to 350ºF and oil a 2-quart baking dish with olive oil.

3. When the water for the pasta comes to a boil add a tablespoon of salt and cook the pasta for a minute or two less than the instructions on the package indicate. It should still be a little underdone as it will finish cooking in the oven. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Add the tomato-goat cheese sauce and stir together until the pasta is thoroughly coated. Transfer to the baking dish. Sprinkle the remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan over the top of the macaroni.

4. Bake in the preheated oven until the casserole is bubbly and lightly browned, about 30 minutes. Let stand for 5 to 10 minutes before serving.

Yield: Serves 4 to 6

Monday, May 18, 2009

That's Cheesier Than Camembert!

Photo: Hannah Whitaker/New York Magazine

What's cheesier than Camembert? Well, a Super Bowl commercial for one. Jut ask my friend Vera
. When one too many commercials danced across the screen during Super Bowl Sunday, she let us all know what she thought. I nearly fell off the couch laughing. And then I saw this blurb in NY Magazine today. It totally reminded me of that night and made me consider just eating cheese for dinner. Oh, wait. I already do that! Check out my dinner of Robiola and Aged Gouda (1 year).

Yesterday I might have been eating spinach and tofu, but that was then and this is now. Just add some Prosecco or dry white wine and I'm set. Dinner of champions.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recession Regression

I'm not a vegetarian. I've never been a vegetarian. (Helloooo. Bacon!) But sometimes I think if anyone saw the way I cook for myself, they might mistake me for one. Tofu. Beans. Grains. Veggies. I feel like I'm regressing to my undergrad days when it seemed like everyone was a vegetarian and there was a vegetarian restaurant on every other corner. And the cookbooks. Remember Moosewood Cookbook, American Wholefoods Cuisine, Horn of the Moon Cookbook? I lived by those.

The NY Times has been running a column called Recipes for Health and I'm totally obsessed.
The recipes are simple, tasty, and inexpensive in addition to being healthy. I think I've printed out at least one recipe a week and have been trying to make them almost as often.

Let's face it. It's much easier to go out for steak frites than to mess up your kitchen making it at home, so I'll leave it to the restaurants to make anything grilled or fried. And with the guilt that drives me to the gym in the morning after one of those meals, I don't mind the occasional "healthy" meal at home (don't let the tofu scare you!).

The recipe that follows can be made in about 15 minutes...quicker than waiting for the delivery guy.

Spinach, Tofu and Sesame Stir-fry

1 tablespoon canola oil

1/2 pound tofu, cut in small dice

1 large garlic clove, minced

1 teaspoon grated or minced fresh ginger

1/4 teaspoon red chili flakes

Soy sauce to taste

1 6-ounce bag baby spinach, rinsed

2 tablespoons toasted sesame seeds

1 teaspoon sesame oil

1. Heat the canola oil over medium-high heat in a large nonstick skillet or wok, and add the tofu. Stir-fry until the tofu is lightly colored, three to five minutes, and add the garlic and ginger (and chili flakes). Cook, stirring, until fragrant, about one minute, and add soy sauce to taste. Add the spinach and stir-fry until the spinach wilts, about one minute. Stir in the sesame seeds, and add more soy sauce to taste. Remove from the heat.

2. Using tongs, transfer the spinach and tofu mixture to a serving bowl, leaving the liquid behind in the pan or wok. Drizzle with the sesame oil, and add more soy sauce as desired. Serve with rice or other grains, or noodles. You may also use it as a filling for whole wheat pita bread.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Think Pink

It's summer, or nearly summer, and I'm ready for my summer drinks! Gin and Tonics, Sancerres, Pimm's No. Ones, Rosés. Fortunately for me, the awesome food department that I work with has recently been setting up wine tastings with select wine councils. Today's tasting focused on Rosés from the Loire Valley. Score! They paired them with BBQ ribs and chicken. Who knew? I always see people drinking pitchers of beer with their BBQ so the Rosé was a surprisingly delicious pairing (and maybe a little girly - not sure if I'll be seeing a bunch of dudes sharing a bottle of Rosé over their chicken wings and half racks). My favorite was the Remy Pannier Rosé d'Anjou 2008. It retails for an affordable $9.99. I'm going to stock up and then plan my next vacation in France, tasting my way from Sancerre to Savennières. Cheers to all my fellow bons vivants!

Thursday, May 14, 2009

Fat and Crabby

Actually mostly just fat. From going out. Every. Night. This. Week. So I guess I'm living up to the name of the blog because I haven't cooked a single meal at home.

Fortunately tonight I had the pleasure of going out with the girls (Lianne, Lisa, Lauren, Jen - Holla!) to Fatty Crab UWS. I've been to the original location downtown, but the new location on the west side was a convenient location for us all to meet so we decided to check it out. We were fortunate to make a reservation in advance of the NY Times review this week. We've kind of started a pseudo restaurant club, which I think is just an excuse to get together, hang out, and have great food at great restaurants. I love the food at FC, particularly because there is no lack of fire power, yet everything is so well balanced. Can I get some chilies? Oh, they're already peppered throughout (no pun intended!) the food as well as additionally available on the side.

I'm not well versed in the art of restaurant reviewing so I'm not going to write a review, but let's just say that the food was tasty, my cocktail was delish (Straits Sling - London Dry Gin, Benedictine, Massenez Kirch, lime and ginger beer) and the 80's music rocked! (Not sure if that is always the soundtrack or if we just got lucky.) Definitely stop by either location if you are in NYC.

Hey Joe!

So I recently stumbled across: The. Most. Awesome. Website. Ever.

Sometimes you need a little help deciding what to order in the morning. Now all of your indecision can be combatted with the simple click of a button/mouse. Whoever thought of this is genius! I love the definitive response that you get when you type in your zip code. It cracks me up to think about debating whether or not it's warm enough to order iced coffee and then a giant YES or NO appears to make the decision for you. I only wish those words were a bit bigger. I would laugh even harder.

Personally I think that iced coffee should be consumed from spring until fall and I have experimented with making it myself. (That daily price tag adds up!) I finally tried the cold brew method of making iced coffee that foodies everywhere herald as the only way to make and consume it. I used the NY Times article as my guide. I think I need to experiment a bit more because I wasn't in love with the results (and it annoyed me that the recipe only yielded two drinks). I'm convinced that coffee ice cubes are paramount to creating the perfect iced coffee. Here's my first attempt:

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Egg Girl

Tonight I went to a party thrown by two great friends who are moving away. Sarah, a friend since junior high and the co-author of The Ski House Cookbook with me, and Mike, a lifetime New Yorker and Jujitsu aficionado, are taking their kids and moving out of the city. So sad! We've had plenty of shared experiences, from being roommates in a converted one bedroom (tiny!) to being roommates in a 3 bedroom apartment with slanted floors (not so tiny!) to being fellow shredders on the Vermont mountain sides.

What does this have to do with my blog? Aside from enjoying the delicious party beverages tonight, it reminded me of the fact that while the three of us lived together, I survived on eggs. Mike named me "Egg Girl" one weekend after watching me make scrambled eggs for the umpteenth time. (And it wasn't along the lines of making me into a super hero the way Jesse explained his infantile drawings to Jane on Breaking Bad.) I didn't realize it then and I still have yet to really acknowledge how frequently I eat eggs. (Cholesterol be damned!) I can't help it but omelettes, frittatas, and scrambled eggs make delicious dinners, in addition to the hard boiled egg I eat almost every single morning, along with my bowl of cereal. suggestions for making the perfect hard boiled egg:
1. Place the eggs in a single layer in a sauce pan and fill with cold water. Bring to a boil.
2. Boil the eggs for 8 - 10 minutes, depending on hard you prefer the yolks.
3. Drain the eggs and cool completely under cold running water.
Tips for easy cracking:
1. Crack the egg shells while still warm, immediately after cooking (the shells will release more easily from the eggs).
2. Cook eggs that are about 7 days old (keep them in your fridge after you bring them home - but not beyond the expiration date). Air will form between the egg and the shell making them easier to peel.
3. Do not overcook: This is what creates the unsightly grey halo between the yolk and egg white.

Monday, May 11, 2009

Alright Already!

Behold...the Wrinkly Slut.

What is a Wrinkly Slut you ask? Apparently it is what you call a blogger whose post you don't agree with. Ask my friend Wendy. It was this exact criticism of her that inspired the cocktail by the same name. After Wendy decided to take the name calling in stride, we concluded that an alcoholic beverage was the only way to pay homage to the occasion. Fortunately for us, by the time I finally got around to creating a recipe, it was Cinco de Mayo and the finale of The Real Housewives of New York City. It was this perfect storm of events that inspired me to host a tasting and unveil my creation. I haven't yet revealed the recipe. Until now.

*UPDATE: I just realized that as my first post I wasn't that saavy about linking to people, so please check out the instigator, Wendy, behind the Wrinkly Slut cocktail and this blog here and here.

Wrinkly Slut

Spiced Salt:
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 ounces Tequila (blanco preferrably)
1 ounce Cointreau or Triple Sec
1 ounce fresh lime juice
1 ounce fresh grapefruit juice
1 Jalapeño, sliced crosswise
1 Thai Chili Pepper

1. Combine the salt, chili powder and cayenne on a small plate. Rim the edge of a martini glass with the spiced salt mixture by dipping the rim of the glass into lime juice and then into the plate of salt. Set aside.

2. Pour the Tequila, Cointreau, lime juice and grapefruit juice into a cocktail shaker filled with ice cubes. Shake briskly and strain into the prepared martini glass. Garnish with the sliced jalapeño and Thai chili pepper.

OPTIONAL: Soak the sliced jalapeño in Tequila for an hour before serving. Use the infused Tequila to make your drink extra slutty.