Tuesday, September 30, 2008

all dal-ed up...

in India, dal is the generic term for lentil stew. varieties of dal differ insofar as the type of lentil used and how it is prepared. the following is a recipe for "masoor dal" - curried red lentil stew.

for about $6 you can purchase everything you need to make this recipe twice over (assuming you have a well stocked spice rack). i make this dish once a week, finishing it with either coconut milk or tomato puree, depending on how i feel. the tomato version is deep, hearty and rich - great as a main course. the coconut milk version is much more delicate and makes a great side dish.

Red Lentil Dal
yields 6 cups

3 TBS canola oil
1-2 stick of cinnamon
4-6 green cardamom pods

1/2 red onion, minced
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground corinader
1 tsp turmeric
1-3 chili peppers (jalapeno, serrano, ect) - optional
1 1/2 cups red lentils, rinsed and picked
3 cups vegetable stock
1 13.5 oz can coconut milk (or) 1.5 cups tomato puree
1 cup cilantro, chopped
1 large zucchini, medium dice
1 large tomato, medium dice

2-3 tsp garam masala*
salt to taste

*step one is optional, kinda. if you don't have the cardamom pods or cinnamon sticks your dal will still taste gooder than hell, but you are better than that - go for the glory.

1. heat 3 tablespoons canola oil over medium-high heat. at 1-2 sticks of cinnamon and 4-6 green cardamom pods. saute until fragrant about 2 minutes. remove the cardamom pods; biting into one of these is about as much fun as getting your genitals stuck in a zipper.

2. combine the garlic, ginger, turmeric, cumin and coriander in a small mixing bowl, add just enough water to form a (curry) paste. saute the onion over medium-high heat until brown around the edges. add the curry paste to the onions and saute over medium heat for about 2 minutes. add chopped fresh chilies.

3. add the stock to the onion mixture along with 1 tsp of salt; bring to a boil, add the lentils. simmer, covered for 10 - 15 minutes until done.

4. add coconut milk** (or tomato puree), zucchini, and chopped tomato. cook until vegetables are just tender 2-4 minuntes.

5. add freshly chopped cilantro, and 2-3 tsp of garam masala. finish with a drizzle of olive oil.

* garam masala is a blend of ground spices such as mustard seeds, turmeric, coriander, bay leaves, star anise and fennel. it can be bought whole or ground at many specialty markets and well-stocked super stores.
** coconut milk has two components: the cream and the milk. when you open up a can of this stuff there will be a thick layer of coconut cream on top. some people discard this, others use it to saute aromatics - for this recipe just mix it into the thinner coconut milk beneath it.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

Saturday, September 27, 2008

waste-not, want-not : tuscan tuna

each sunday i prep a mixed salad for my bearded dragons. i make only enough to last the week, resulting in unused vegetation; usually half a carrot, bell pepper and summer squash. i parlay said veggies into a healthy tuna salad that is out of sight. here goes –

Tuscan Tuna Salad
yields 1 qt

1 (15.5oz) can canelli beans, drained & rinsed
1 (6oz) can of solid white albacore tuna
½ carrot, medium dice
½ bell pepper, medium dice
½ summer squash, medium dice
½ red onion, small dice
2-4 pepperoncini, sliced
¼ cup olive oil
½ cup fresh herbs (parsley, cilantro, oregano)
juice of 1 lemon, to taste
salt & white pepper to taste

1. put the diced carrot in a small pot with enough water to cover by two inches. bring to a boil. add the diced squash and pepper as soon as it comes to a boil; continue to boil for 2-3 minutes until all veggies are adequately tender. drain the veggies in a colander and rinse under cold water (or shock in an ice bath).

2. combine all the ingredients in a mixing bowl

3. mix thoroughly and adjust to taste.

--tuscan tuna salad and roasted pepper hummus on a rice cracker; side of kimchi

a fast, HEALTHY way to enjoy some tuna.

nothing to it...

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

street meat fit for a K I N G

there are few things in life that please me more than purchasing an entire meal in one plate, especially when the plate looks like this:

and for $6, how can you go wrong?

-- behold "THE PLATE"

a heaping portion of marinated chicken thighs served over a bed of rice with a fresh salad, green pickles, falafel and pickled turnips. tite.

the chicken is marinated overnight in secret blend of 7 spices, steam-grilled on a flat top and
hacked to pieces by your host, chef freddy jr.

freddy is a character, to say the least; his presence creates a convivial atmosphere that spans the entire block and beyond. you can tell her really loves what he does and you can taste it in his food. lame, i know - but true nonetheless.

freddy has a pretty extensive menu for a street vendor; shwarma, falafel, kefta, and kebabs to name a few. i've tried it all - and it's all good. the shwarma can be a bit dry if you go too late so don't drag your ass!

the cart is located @ 30th and broadway in front of the c-town. their hours vary - try tocatch them before 8.


© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 22, 2008

baba ga 'wha?!?

what exactly is baba ganoush? - a question often asked by wary eaters, befuddled by the dish's middle eastern mystique.


baba ganoush = eggplant dip !!

-- and it's delicious. it also incredibly HEALTHY and remarkably easy to make. there is no one way to prepare this dish; some cooks grill the eggplant over an open flame, some char it under the broiler, and some bake it in the oven. some recipes involve salting the eggplant prior to cooking, some scoop out the seeds, some leave them in...i think you get the point.

i've tried many different methods and what i've got here is a recipe that works. it's easy enough to do in your own home (no outdoor grills required!) yet authentic enough to sell it on steinway street.

Baba Ganoush
yields 1 pt

3 lbs eggplant, medium sized
3 garlic cloves, minced

3/4 cup tahini paste *
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1/2 tsp ground coriander
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp paprika
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1-2 lemons, juiced to taste
½ cup olive oil

salt to taste

1 cup chopped italian parsley
1/4 cup chopped cilantro

-- ingredients in BOLD are mandatory, everything else just sweetens the deal

preheat oven to 400 degrees

  1. set one of your stove burners to high. “roast” the eggplant over the open flame until it is fully blackened and blistered, this imparts a delicious smoky flavor – tite
  2. prick the eggplant with a fork on all sides, rub with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. bake eggplant in the oven until tender; 45 mins – 1 hr.
  3. allow the eggplant to cool slightly, then peel away the skin and discard. cut the eggplant in half and scoop out most of the seeds (a few remaining is OK). rough chop the eggplant’s flesh and squeeze out any excess moisture.

  1. place all the ingredients EXCEPT the fresh herbs into a food processor and blend until smooth. fold in the fresh herbs.

serve with a sprinkle of paprika and a drizzle of good extra virgin olive oil or store in the refrigerator in an airtight container for up to 1 week.

* tahini is a sesame paste that can be found in any well-stocked super market. it is also used in hummus.

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

a pickle for your thoughts

in Poland, drinking pickle juice is a common remedy for hangovers. i spent sunday afternoon drying out at the 8th annual international pickle day festival on the lower east side. apparently, the Polish are more adept at devising home remedies than they are at war strategy...

the festival spanned a massive 1 block stretch along orchard st. between broome and grand. there were also a few vendors located in a parking lot around the corner but they were closing up shop by the time i got over there. the only thing left were a bunch of shitdick thespians "performing" some shakespeare in the parking lot nonsense. i use the term "performing" very loosely; it was COMPLETE rubbish.

the festival was PACKED with hungry people trying to parlay a few free samples into an entire free meal. picklefiles queued up on massive lines for their chance at salty salvation. Guss' pickles were the biggest draw, the line extended the entire length of the festival - the payoff, a pickle on a stick, was mediocre at best.

my favorite vendors were the kimchi pushing koreans (big suprise). they had a little mixed vegetables dish with peppers, cabbage, carrots and scallions. it was kind of bland but it was also kind of free; i indulged:

they also had some BADASS kimchi pancakes. i think it was the only thing served hot at the entire festival. needless to say, i had seconds:

in the skillet/on the plate

-- i was really hoping to find some pickled eggs or pigs feet at this event, however, the only pickled protein i came across was herring.

one was curried, one was sweet and one was uber rich and creamy - they were all decent, i particularly enjoyed the curried option.

-- the most creative use of pickling goes to rick's picks pickles. their catalog ran the gamut: cucumbers, okra, beets, green beans, melons and even ramps:

the okra had deep layers of flavor; smoked THEN pickled resulting in a unique juxtaposition between rich earthiness and pickle-twang. the green beans were mean and snappy as all hell. the beets sweet and spicy with notes of cinnamon, clove and ginger. the melon had an interesting chutney vibe to it. all of the samples were pretty good, if i actually had some $ i probably would have picked something up...oh well, maybe next year.

-- i can't recall the name of my favorite pickle vendor but i did take a picture:

just some straight-up pickles - sweet & sour with a garlic kick and subtle notes of dill. the peppers and garlic were also pickled. the garlic was crisp and punchy. the pepper...well, it definitely had some tang to it!

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/

Monday, September 8, 2008

adventures in face stuffing - chicago

the windy city is a lot like new york...

...if new york was retired and had a bum hip.

that being said, i must admit that i had a great time visiting chicagol
and with my girlfriend, Sandy, this past august.

--first off, they have no idea what they are doing with pizza out the
re. the "toppings" are UNDER the cheese and they cut circle pies into square slices; totally fucking backwards. the stuff tastes pretty good, it's just NOT pizza; it's a casserole with crust.

hotdogs, however, are a totally different story. the windy city dog is a work o
f art. it is far superior to the dirty water dogs being peddled by the INS-dodging cretins on the streets of NY.

case in point:

a snappy vienna frank smothered in fresh-cut tomatoes, raw onion, tangy pickles, hot peppers, neon green relish and ooey gooey gobs of melted cheese! --damn, i got a semi just thinking about it.

we also had some fries, nothing special, but they sure were plentiful:

The Wiener's Circle
2622 N Clark Street
Chicago, IL 60614


Ron Bennington, host of the Ron & Fez radio program, has his very own cupcake and there's only one place you can get it, Molly's Cupcakes!

i'm not a real cup cake person but i couldn't pass up the opportunity to try Mr. B's signature confection:

rich chocolate ganache, creamy peanut butter filling and a crunchy butterscotch topping - if the keebler elves had an orgy in your mouth this is what it would taste like.

Molly's Cupcakes
2536 N Clark St

Chicago, IL 60614

SPRING in the Summer

from what i gather, "SPRING" is located in what used to be a Russian bathhouse back in the early 20's, but from the looks of it you could never tell. the atmosphere was chic and modern with an asian flare; something you'd get if you crossed a triad operated yanky-cranky hotspot and a day spa. i probably should have taken pictures but i was too busy sucking down dirty martinis - i think after the fourth one they were just giving me olives in water....

the amuse:

white asparagus "salad," charred cauliflower, citrus, horseradish foam

-- a delightful mouthful; the citrus, asparagus and mache combine to create a clean and crisp experience that lends itself nicely to the somewhat spicy, slightly smokey foam creation.

first course:

scallop & potato ‘Raviolis’ seared Maine scallop, mushroom-black truffle reduction

barbequed unagi eel, kimchi, crispy somen noodles, avocado emulsion & toasted

--- the scallops were kind of an inside-out ravioli. the scallops, seared and seasoned to perfection, were tastefully arranged on a layer of thick-cut potato "chip" like ravioli and complimented by a medley of sauteed mushrooms and a decadent creamy truffle emulsion.

--- the eel dish was my favorite of the evening. both the eel and the pork belly paired nicely together and the tangy kimchi fritter worked well as a referee keeping the unctuous tendencies of the eel-pork-avacado trio in check.


seared shrimp, ramen noodle, sweet potato-dashi emulsion

--- nothing special but it was compliments so i didn't really give a shit. it was an interesting dish that tried to play up umami angle with the earthy sweet potato-dashi emulsion and i appreciate that...but it just didn't have any balls.

main course:

barramundi, potato gnocchi w/ chinese mustard, caramelized shittake, edamame, toasted cashews

speaking of balls...this dish was just swangin' dem thangz! the gnocchi's incredibly light and fluffy texture was an act of subterfuge distracting the palate from the fierce bite of the chinese mustard sneaking in the back door. the creamy/spicy gnocchi paired beautifully with the perfectly cooked fish fillet - they got a mean sear on that son of a bitch. this dish reminded me of eating a popeye's chicken breast with the mustard dipping sauce. if that sounds off putting to you, you should probably go fuck yourself. popeye's chicken rules and so does barramundi. dining at its finest!

quinoa pound cake, ginger icecream, candied cherries

frozen coconut custard, candied blueberries, crispy wafers and cashews
-- compliments

--- the quinoa pound cake was interesting to say the least. insofar as flavor was concerned, the cake itself was pretty standard, however that wasn't necessarily a bad thing. the real draw with this dish was the playful texture courtesy of the qunioa. the ginger icecream was sharp yet sweet and harbored tiny pieces of carmelized ginger that tied the whole dish together nicely.

--- the fozen custard dish had a lot of texture contrast going on. it was blueberry pie a la mode, deconstructed - simulatneously creative yet mundane.

2039 West North Avenue

Chicago, IL 60647

© 2008 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" - http://missioninsatiable.blogspot.com/