Saturday, May 29, 2010


Halva roughly translates to "sweet-meat", and is the catch-all nomenclature for a large number of small Middle-Eastern & Indian confections. Depending on whom you ask, Halva can be made w/ sesame seeds, or tahini, or carrots, or something else all together. Similarly, technique also varies from source to source. Some recipes call for a roux, others call for a cooked sugar-syrup and some don't call for any cooking at all.

My main goal was to achieve a texture as close to the commercial stuff as possible -- so dense, yet so impossibly light. The best I was able to do was w/ this no-cook recipe. The result was flavorful and dense, but not nearly light as the store-bought stuff.

Iranian Halva

1 cup sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 cup tahini
1 tsp rose water
1/4 cup honey

1. pulverize toasted sesame seeds in a food processor until light and fluffy. add tahini and rose water, pulse until the sesame mixture starts to form a paste. drizzle in honey and continue to pulse until a sticky, semi-firm mass forms.

2. wrap halva in wax paper and let set in the fridge for 24 hours.


I also tried a cooked syrup based recipe w/ mixed results. This batch was way sweeter and recieved more favorable reviews from tasters, however, I didn't like the texture -- it was more like a soft-chew caramel than any halva I've ever had.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, May 16, 2010

The Bare Necessities

Bare Burger is a new addition to the Astoria landscape. While not the first, and possibly not the best, Bare Burger certainly is the most progressive burger destination in the area. The restaurant's physical space was constructed using sustainable, reclaimed and recycled materials. The eco-friendly digs must've cut into the bottom line, because the prices are a bit steep considering the services rendered. I suppose it's a small price to pay if you love the Earth.

Unless you hate the Earth. You don't hate the Earth, do you?

Bare Burger
33 - 21 31st Avenue
Astoria, NY 11106

The menu is largely organic and features an array of exotic meats such as, Piedmontese beef, ostrich, bison, lamb, and elk. I opted for an Elk burger w/ jalapeno jack cheese, lettuce-tomato-onion, and horseradish dill mayo. A well-constructed tower of flavor. One criticism, I ordered my burger "rare" but what I got was quite blatantly "raw". I'm talking purple & mushy raw. I'm talking Eddie Murphy raw.

--order medium.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Pesto Panache

Let's face it -- sometimes it's too damn hot to cook, but you still have to eat. A salad or sandwich is just fine for lunch, but if you want something that eats like an actual meal, consider making pesto, the O.G. no-cook pasta sauce from way, way back. All it takes is a handful of fresh ingredients, a food processor and about 20 minutes. Even better yet, in that 20 minutes you can make enough pesto to last you months if used sparingly and stored correctly.

You still have to boil a pot of water, but if you use gnocchi (fresh or packaged), the pasta will only take 3-4 minutes to cook instead of the standard 8-10.

Pistachio Pesto

3 large bunches of basil, leaves blanched
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/2 cup shelled pistachios, lightly toasted
1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil; as needed
1 TBS pumpkin seed oil

1. Combine the basil, garlic, cheese, and pistachios in a food processor or blender. Add enough olive oil to just cover the blades; power on. Drizzle in another ounce or two of EVOO and TBS of pumpkin seed oil.

To store -- cover the remaining pesto w/ a thin layer of olive oil, seal in an air-tight container and freeze for up to two months.

-- experiment with different types of leafy greens and a variety of nuts:

- a cup of fresh arugula or parsley adds a nice little punch.
- a cup of cilantro adds a nice little twang.

- walnuts add some warmth
- pine nuts add some depth

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -