Saturday, December 24, 2011

Salumeria Season

Italians are renowned for the culinary contributions, but none is more indulgent than the Holiday antipasto.

"Antipasto" translates to [a meal] "before the meal", and typically consists of cured meats, pickled vegetables and artisanal cheeses.  In many ways, antipasti (plural) is a status symbol for Italian-Americans, with a lavish spread being indicative of property and good financial fortune.  If you have the means, you should purchase your antipasti from a true Italian pork store.  You'll pay a bit more for the premium Italian imports, but the quality is unmatched, so long as you go the right place.  My recommendation for NYC locals is Sorriso's Salumeria located along the outskirts of Astoria, Queens.

Sorriso's Italian Pork Store
44-16 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11103

Sorriso's is a family run business (as are most Italian pork stores), and the staff is always well-informed, outgoing and amiable.  I prefer Sorriso's over the competition partly because of the service, but mostly because they stock superior products at more reasonable prices.  I won't knock places like Fiacco's and Eataly in Manhattan, but I also won't waste my money there.

Whether you're stocking up on antipasti for the Holiday, or just want an over-stuffed sandwich, go out of your way to give these guys a shot -- you won't be disappointed.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

They Call it Curry Hill...

Kalustyan's is a specialty store w/ a strong concentration in international spices.  While it's great to find garam masala, black rice and gojujang sauce all under the same roof, the real beauty about this place is the hidden deli counter located on the second floor.


123 Lexington Avenue
New York, NY 10016

Make your way just past the registers on your left as you enter and head upstairs.  The walls are lined w/ exotic tea blends from the world over and the freezers are stocked w/ yummy Middle Eastern delights.

Two very gracious older men run the well provisioned station towards the back.  You can get some meat items, but I'm always drawn to the colorful array of hot vegetable options at the counter.  A large, three item veggie plate runs about $10 and is enough to fill you three times over.  Personal favorites include the butter beans, spinach, stuffed grape leaves and "mujadara" -- a dense rich blend of lentils and rice.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Gobble, Gobble!!

I want to wish everyone a happy and healthy Thanksgiving. I have to keep it short because there's cooking to be done.  I'll leave you with a few Holiday tips:

Always brine & truss your turkey.  A brined turkey is a moist turkey.  
  • If you don't brine your turkey, it will dry out -- there's no two ways about it, sorry.  If you don't have the time or enough room in the fridge, pick up a Kosher turkey -- they're usually treated w/ a brine before they hit the market.  A brined turkey stays moist, has better flavor and cooks in a fraction of the time.
  • A trussed (tied) turkey cooks more evenly, on account of the wings and legs being bound close to the body.  In addition to a uniformly cooked bird, it also makes for a nice presentation.  
  • Consider roasting your bird over root vegetables, it adds flavor and can serve as a side.
...and remember, if you're gonna drink or do drugs, do it on the Holidays

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Scout's Honor

Scoutmob is a Mobile App that connects you with deep discounts at your favorite local shops and eateries.  If you live in a major metropolitan area, you should absolutely download this app.  You don't have to sign up, log in, or provide an email address to take advantage of the deals.  Better yet, Scoutmob is available for iPhone, Android and Blackberry platforms -- you have no excuse to not give it a try.

Well, why don't you?
Most deals are for 50% off whatever product/meal, but they also feature 100% off promotional deals.  That's right, FREE FOOD from iconic NYC snack spots.  In the past month I've scored free Joe's pizza, Mamoun's falafel, and Pommes Frites.

Tonight I am about to enjoy a pumpkin whoopie pie from Billy's Bakery in Chelsea.

Just make sure you visit during an off hour, or you'll end up like these yo-yo's.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Apple Opens New Location in Astoria

I'm not saying I was misinformed, but the grocer could've been a bit more specific when telling me a new apple store was opening next door...

Apple Store
30th Avenue b/w 33rd & 34th Streets

There are a half dozen different types from which to choose, all .79 cents per pound.  They're all pretty crisp and juicy, but my favorite is the Cortland variety.  Cortland apples have sweet white flesh that goes great w/ a gob of peanut butter, they are also ideal for baking:

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Monday, October 31, 2011

Spooky Seasonal Sweets

Takahachi bakery is a small French pâtisserie in Tribeca that is owned and operated by a very pleasant and skilled Japanese crew.  Franco-Japanese food fusion is not an uncommon pairing, but it's not all too often that you see it so well executed.

Takahachi Bakery  
25 Murray Street
New York, NY

Everything I've tried here has been worthy of seconds, however, their seasonal black and orange macarons (in honor of Halloween) are not to be missed.  The orange is pumpkin and the black is "goma", or black sesame seed.

The pumpkin tasted more like pumpkin and less like pumpkin pie, which is a good thing.  The "goma" variety tasted a lot like red bean -- a little sweet, a little earthy, a little strange.  If you are in the area, put down $3 for the pair, you won't be disappointed.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Who's Who Among Moon Men?

Going to the Museum as a kid was always exciting -- mostly for the dinosaurs, but also for freeze-dried ice cream.  I haven't had one of these since 1989, and it was just as fun as I'd remembered.

 Purchased at Paragon Sports, of all places.
Sure, it's like eating flavored chalk, but the delicious nostalgia is really what you're after. The vanilla was bland and the chocolate tasted a bit like mud, but the strawberry was pretty yum.  It should also be noted that they're a bit harder than I had recalled, and I might have chipped a tooth...  

All-in-all this was a good experience.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Thrilla in Manila

Filipino food tastes like Thai food did before restaurants started catering to white people -- exotic and unrefined. Tangy tamarind and the pungent punch of shrimp paste dominate many of the dishes.  Filipino cuisine is a curious mishmash of Spanish & Asian influences that reflect the diverse colonial history of the Philippines.  Chicken Adobo, lumpia (spring rolls), and BBQ pork belly are honest entry level expeditions for exploring Filipino fare; however, more adventurous eaters might enjoy the traditional offal stew, Kare Kare.

Manila! Manila! Resto Grill
47-16 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11103
Neighborhood: Astoria
(718) 726-2415

Halo Halo (translates to "mix-mix") is a notable Filipino dessert that consists of a mixture of shaved ice and evaporated milk.  The purple ice cream is made from taro and has an luxurious velvety texture.  Coconut gel, sweet beans, flan, and jackfruit are often added to the mix resulting in the most playful dessert you've ever had.  If there was ever one dish that justified trying a new cuisine, it's Halo Halo.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Shake Hands w/ Beef

Leave it to Chicago to figure out how to combine the decadent indulgence of a cheese steak w/ the comforting sensibilities of a home-cooked pot roast.  They don't get much press on the East coast, but these humble hoagies have the sandwich sector on lock in the Midwest.

Chicago-style Italian beef is best enjoyed stuffed inside of a crusty loaf, slathered in its own juices and topped w/ giardiniera for some tang.  While not mandatory, a few slices of provolone elevate the experience as a whole.

Eating it fast before the juices soak completely through the bread makes for an enjoyable, chewy romp.

Chicago Style Italian Beef

4 lbs bottom round beef steaks
1 red bell pepper, 1/2 inch slice
1 green bell pepper, 1/2 inch slice
1 large vidalia onion, 1/2 inch slice
5 cloves garlic, chopped
1 pkg "Good Seasons" dry Italian salad dressing mix
1 pkg "McKormick" Brown Gravy mix
1/2 cup marsala wine
4-6 cups water
1 oz jar pepperoncini peppers w/ juice
salt & pepper to taste
  1. season the bottom round steaks w/ salt & pepper.  get a large pot over high heat, and add about 2 TBS of canola oil.  work in batches, searing the steaks for about two minutes each side.  remove the seared steaks to a resting rack, and continue w/ the remaining steaks until you are all done.  if you overcrowd the pot, the meat will steam -- not sear -- and you won't develop the desired deep color and flavor. 
  2. once all the steaks are seared and resting on the rack, add 2 TBS canola oil and sauté the onions, peppers, and garlic over medium-high heat until they just start to caramelize -- about 8-10 minutes.  add the Italian salad dressing and brown gravy mixes.  cook for an additional two minutes.  add marsala wine and cook  
  3. down until almost fully reduced.  return the meat to the pot w/ the sautéed vegetables and seasonings.  add the entire jar of pepperoncini peppers w/ their juice.  add 4-6 cups water, or enough to cover by about an inch.
  4. bring to a boil -- reduce to a simmer.  simmer partially covered for 4-5 hours.  make sure to stir once every 30 minutes.  add more water as necessary if the contents becomes too dry.  

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Safe From Irene

If surviving Hurricane Irene has taught me anything, it's that a good old-fashioned apocalypse scenario really puts you in the mood to stuff your face.  Am I right, Folks?

I went into production mode 10am Saturday morning, still drunk from the night before.  By 2pm I had gone shopping and prepped 4qts of red sauce and a VAT of golden Japanese curry w/ root vegetables.

The ensuing 12 hour graze consisted of pasta, cheesy bread, pizza, cookies, goldfish crackers, steak & eggs, a lox bagel, and fried rice w/ golden curry.  From the looks of all the Facebook posts, it seems chicken cutlets were the front-runner this hurricane break.  How did you fuel your hurricane munchies?

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Good Golly, Miss Molly!!

Designer cupcakes have never been more popular, and while names like Magnolia or Crumbs are typically the first to come to mind, there's a new player in the cupcake game that you should plot on your radar.

Molly's Cupcakes
228 Bleecker St
New York, NY 10014

Chicago confectionery colossus, Molly's Cupcakes, recently opened a NYC outpost in the West Village.  I featured Molly's in my very first post back in 2008, in which I describe the taste of Ron Bennington's "I've got my own cupcake" cupcake as a "Keebler elf orgy in your mouth." -- words I still stand by today.

chocolate cake filled w/ milk/dark chocolate, PB, & butterscotch filling
 topped w/ choc. ganache & crushed butterscotch!
Get in on the ground floor and visit Molly's before all the cupcake divas find out and send the line out the door.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, August 14, 2011

What's the dill, pickle?

I'm obsessed with grilling pickles, and why not?  They're cheap, easily accessible, and make the perfect accompaniment to chicken, fish & pork alike.  Better yet, their salty brine replenishes the body of the electrolytes you've surely depleted while drinking Tecate under the hot sun all day long.

I've experimented w/ several different types of pickles and find that those of the dill variety grill up best. Dill pickles have a distinct tang that stands up to the heat and pairs especially well w/ lean proteins  You could grill the pickles whole, but I prefer them halved, lightly brush with olive oil and grilled over medium-high heat for 2-4 minutes each side.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Monday, August 1, 2011

Sufferin' Succotash

Succotash is an olde-timey dish that is traditionally made w/ corn, lima beans, and bacon.  It was prized during the Great Depression as a cheap, accessible meal that could feed the whole family.  Considering the current down-turn our economy is about to take, it's a dish with which you should become well acquainted.


Slow-simmered beans and freshly shucked corn push this recipe over the top, but canned products are a fine substitutes if you don't have the time for the beans or the patience for the corn.  If you have the knife skills, try to cut the onion, garlic, and peppers so that they are smaller than the beans and corn kernels -- you want to add flavor, not upstage the main ingredients.

Nothing spices up economic ruin like bold Southwestern flavors!  

Southwestern Succotash

1 15 oz can of black beans, drained and rinsed
1 15 oz can of sweet corn, drained and rinsed 
1 roasted red pepper, small dice
1 roasted poblano pepper, small dice
1/2 red onion, small dice
1 jalapeno pepper, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chipotles en adobo, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
2 limes, juiced
1/3 cup canola oil
1/2 cup cilantro, finely chopped
salt & pepper to taste
  1. combine all ingredients into a large mixing bowl.  toss to combine.  taste & adjust seasoning.  let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before serving.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

The Dago's Dilemma

You love pasta, but you hate love handles -- this is the Dago's Dilemma. Pasta packs on the pounds, and even the whole wheat varieties are surprisingly high in carbs & calories. Shirataki noodles, however, are only 40 calories per pack with no carbs, no cholesterol, no sugar, and no guilt. See? It says it right there on the package.

Shirataki noodles are made from tofu, and have a slightly chewy texture.  Their taste is neutral and goes well with most sauces and preparations, but my favorite way to prepare this Japanese treat is a riff on cold noodles w/ peanut sauce.

Cold Sesame Noodles w/ Peanut Sauce
2 pkgs Shirataki noodles
1/2 cup creamy peanut butter
1 TBS soy sauce
1 TBS rice vinegar
1 TBS sesame oil
1 tsp sriracha hot sauce
1/2 shredded carrot
1/2 cup bean sprouts
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped
1 tsp sesame seeds

  1. drain and rinse Shirataki noodles thoroughly! the liquid they are packaged in smells a bit off-putting, but has no implication on the flavor. 
  2. cook in salted boiling water for 4 minutes.  drain, toss w/ a drizzle of canola oil and allow to cool.
  3. combine the peanut butter, soy sauce, rice vinegar, sesame oil, and hot sauce.  whisk to combine. mixx in carrots,  bean sprouts, and cilantro. toss to combine.  add the drained & cooled noodles.  toss to combine.  
  4. garnish w/ sesame seeds & enjoy!

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Monday, July 11, 2011

Coronary Cuisine

Chicken hearts might be as dense and chewy as a pink eraser, but they aren't without their charm.  They boast a pronounced avian musk with deep, dark-meat flavors that you can't find anywhere else.  Chicken hearts are surprisingly rich, and the bold poultry overtones are quick to satiate. While fun for the few bites, after about three you'll start handing them off to the cat, for sure.

Trim up the hearts, removing any exposed ventricles.  Try not to remove too much of the fat, they are lean and will dry out otherwise.  Thread no more than three chicken hearts per skewer. You can skewer the smaller ones whole, but I'd butterfly the larger ones to promote even cooking.  Soaking the skewers for an hour beforehand will prevent them for charring, and using two skewers per "kebab" allows for better control when turning.

Season with olive oil, salt and a bold spice, like garam masala for up to an hour before hitting the flame.  Cook over medium-high heat, for about three minutes each side.  Nothing you can do will make them tender, so don't even bother getting fancy. 

Soaking the hearts in a brine over night will impart flavor and help keep them moist while on the grill:

Sweet Spice Brine

1 qt water
1/4 cup kosher salt
2 TBS sugar
4 cardamon pods
1 piece cinnamon
1 tsp whole clove

  1. combine all ingredients. stir until the sugar and salt has dissolved.  pour over chicken hearts and refrigerate overnight.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Thursday, June 30, 2011


Astoria has its fair share of street food -- Mexican taco trucks, souvlaki slingers, kebab carts, and even a Vendy Award winner all grace these fine streets. With so many options, how can you tell if a vendor is the real deal, or just a jive turkey?  You could check yelp, Chowhound, or Grub Street, but sometimes those unscrupulous foodies keep the real finds to themselves.  This would explain why I couldn't find much info on the al-Shamy kebab car located down Steinway Street.  

al-Shamy Kebab Cart
Steinway Street b/w 28th & 25th Avenues
Astoria, NY 11103

This guy is good, almost too good to share -- but I'm going to throw you a bone.  That's the way I am.

All kebabs are grilled to order, and served w/ a side of rice, salad and stewed vegetables.  The half-chicken plate can easily feed two people, and for only $9 you'd be a fool to pass.  The clientele consists of mostly Middle Eastern men, but the vendor goes out of his way to make outsiders feel welcome.  I discovered al-Shamy about five weeks ago and have been back every week since.  All it takes is one fix and you'll be hooked.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Glazed & Confused

Been glazed and confused for so long it's not true.
Wanted a carrot, never bargained for you.
Lots of people cook and few of them know, 
soul of a veggie was created below.

A solid glazing technique is essential to any cook's culinary arsenal.  At the most basic level, a glaze consists of three major components: a sugar, a fat, and a liquid.  The key player on this team is the sugar.  As the liquid evaporates, the sugar starts to caramelize, resulting in an smooth sexy sheen.  The fat molecules stabilize the glaze by providing some much needed lubrication.  Beware -- if you apply a glaze too soon into the cooking process, there is a good chance the liquid will completely evaporate, the fat will render and the sugars will "over-caramelize".  Try to keep the total cook time around 15 minutes.  

A glaze can be sweet or savory -- rudimentary or complex.  You can go hog wild w/ some fish sauce, Worcestershire, and rose jam or keep is simple w/ some sugar, chicken stock and olive oil. Let's start slow.

Glazed Carrots

1 quart carrots, chopped & blanched*
1 tsp salt
1 TBS sugar
1 TBS vincotto
1 TBS olive oil
2 cups chicken stock
  1. combine all ingredients in a 12-inch saute pan.  bring to a boil, reduce to a vigorous simmer.  cook down for 10-15 minutes, long enough for liquid to evaporate and sugar to sheen. 

* to blanch carrots -- cut into equal sized chunks, place in a pot w/ cold water and a pinch of salt.  bring to a complete boil, kill the heat, drain the carrots and allow to cool at room temperature on a half sheet tray.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, June 5, 2011

Astor Place

The Astor Room is a new addition to the Kaufman Studios sector of Astoria, bordering Long Island City.  The subterranean dining room is throw-back chic, as is the menu.  The speakeasy vibe is reminiscent of the roaring twenties, or if you're a gamer -- the underwater city, Rapture, from Bioshock.

Astor Room

34-12 36th Street
Astoria, NY

Oysters Rockefeller, baked Alaska, and chicken pot pie are among a few of the revamped classics that make an appearance on the Art Deco menu.  From what I've sampled, the execution is spot on, and the extensive raw bar is a refreshing treat given the restaurant's location.  The staff is friendly and efficient, but they struggled to maintain the level of service as multiple large parties arrived.
Overall, the food was inventive and well prepared; however, the menu is a bit limited.  There are a few dishes that I would come back to try, but beyond that I'd like to see a more seasonally relevant menu.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Roll Out

The Italian word "involtini" roughly translates to "little roll up".  Pretty much anything can be constituted as an involtini, so long as there is a thin layer of meat or vegetable wrapped around a stuffing.  Guests love rolled/stuffed food items -- it says to them, "I care enough about you to put food inside of food."

Involtini can be a laborious and time consuming task -- take, braciole, for example -- or as simple as rolling a piece of prosciutto around asparagus.  This roasted pepper & mushroom roll-up is middle of the road in terms of difficulty and top of the heap in terms of flavor and presentation.  

"Now, where'd you get those roasted peppers w/ them mushrooms in'it?"
Roasted Pepper Involtini

2 qt (16oz) sliced mushrooms 
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
2 TBS capers
1 sprig of fresh thyme
1/2 cup marsala wine
1/2 cup chicken or veal stock
1/4 cup half & half
1/3 cup bread crumbs
1 TBS olive oil
2 TBS grated cheese
2 TBS parsely, chopped
2 roasted peppers, seeded

  1. saute the mushrooms in a thin layer of canola oil over high heat until they take on a deep brown color.  cook in batches as to not over crowd the pan.  season w/ salt & pepper.  remove to a warm plate, cover and reserve. 
  2. add a splash more oil and saute the onion, garlic, and capers over medium-high heat until limp and translucent -- about 6 minutes.  
  3. return the reserved mushrooms to the frying pan.  add the fresh thyme and marsala wine; reduce by half.  add the stock; reduce by half.  add the half & half and cook long enough for the mixture to thicken.  kill the heat.
  4. combine the bread crumbs, parsley, grated cheese and olive oil in a small bowl, making sure to coat evenly.  apply the bread crumb mixture as a thin layer over the mushrooms.  place under the broiler for 2-3 minutes -- just enough to get some color, don't burn the mushrooms!
  5. allow mushroom mixture to cool.  meanwhile, slice each roasted pepper open down the side and "unravel" so that you have an open-faced roasted pepper canvas.  add about half of the mushroom mixture to each pepper -- mushrooms go on the right; roll it over to the left.  serve whole, or slice in half.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Friday, May 13, 2011


Pho (Vietnamese pronunciation: "fuh") is a Vietnamese noodle soup, usually served w/ chicken or beef.  A rich, clear broth is the hallmark of a high quality pho, and while the recipe will vary from place to place, you should expect a deep beefy flavor that is accentuated by a subtle sweet twang reminiscent of the Chinese "five spice" flavor profile.  The crisp, refreshing broth makes pho the ideal summer soup, which makes sense considering the weather in Vietnam is "sauna" year-round.

Pho Grand
277 Grand St # C
New York, NY 10002-4468
(212) 965-5366

Adventurous eaters will enjoy the various cow parts that are traditionally served as part of the meal: tripe, tendon, and cartilage -- the good stuff.  The flank, brisket and eye-round cuts will be more inviting to the more pedestrian pallet -- everyone wins.
Most establishments encourage the diner to self-garnish by providing a dazzling array of dipping sauces, fresh herbs and vegetables. Hoisin sauce, Sriracha, fresh cilantro & basil, bean sprouts, onions, peppers, and lime are all at your disposal.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Fil'er Up

You should never judge a convenience store by its appearance -- no matter how cheap the awning, dim the lighting or close in proximity to the Ravenswood housing projects.

Fil-Site Food Mart
23-25 30th Avenue
Astoria, NY 11102

From the outside, the Fil-Site Food Mart looks like your garden variety bodega, but you won't find malt liquor & loose cigarettes here. This sleepy Pacific Rim importer specializes in foods and products from the Philippines. They stock a sizable variety of dried noodles, fish sauces, house-prepared meals, and exotic sweets.

This order of sapin-sapin was $2.50.  Sapin-sapin is a layered glutinous rice and coconut dessert. It's made from rice flour, coconut milk, sugar, and water. It is often enhanced with coloring and toasted coconut flakes.

The overall experience is sweet, but mild and has a flavor and texture similar to Japanese mochi. The different colors are pretty to look at, but otherwise all taste the same.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Saturday, April 2, 2011

New Egg

Late night web surfing isn't always a sordid affair, sometimes you just stumble upon asinine products like the Egg Perfect Egg Timer.  This is not an endorsement; please do not buy this product.  If you want to waste $10, I happily accept donations.  You don't need a gadget or gimmick to cook a soft boiled egg -- all you need is 4 minutes.  Hmmm, is this what that song's about?

soft boiled egg; roasted pepper hummus, old bay & fresh dill.

Gently place eggs in a suitably sized pot -- nothing too big or too small. Add enough cold water to cover by about two inches.  Add a dash of salt and a drizzle of oil. The salt and oil are supposed to make peeling the egg easier, but it's probably just an old wives tale.

  • Bring water to a boil, and then reduce to a lively simmer.  Cook for 4 minutes.  Don't "wing it", use a timer. 
  • Remove the eggs and submerge into ice water.  If you don't want to set up an ice bath (and who does?), you can just submerge them under cold, running water.  
  • Peel the eggs.  

Eggs are usually easier to peel once they have cooled.  Fresh eggs are harder to peel than old ones -- go figure.  My Fred Flintstone fingers make peeling a terrible chore.  Unfortunately, I don't have any tricks for peeling eggs, but this guy does:

It's like they always say -- once you know, you soft-boil.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Top Chef - Season 8 Finale

Blais.  I'd root for the guy if he wasn't such a troll.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Saturday, March 19, 2011


Chipotles en adobo is an ingredient common to Latin American & Southwestern cooking.  The concoction consists of smoked jalapeño peppers that are stewed in a sauce of tomatoes, garlic, vinegar, salt & spices. The peppers have a smoky tang and persistent heat that add depth and character to stews, marinades, chilis and salsas -- it's like a rodeo in a can.  Match a teaspoon of this stuff with a tablespoon of maple syrup and try experimenting with mashed sweet potatoes.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Fourth Time's The Charm

It took four attempts over 2 years, but I finally snagged a seat at the famed Spotted Pig pub in Greenwich village. Established in 2004, the Spotted Pig is New York City's first, and still most premier gastropub.  "Gastropub" is a pretentious foodie term used to describe bars that serve crowd-drawing foods as well as the standard beers, wines and spirits.  I'm not talking about Buffalo Wild Wings -- I'm talking about five consecutive Michelin stars.  Yum.

The Spotted Pig
314 W. 11th Street (@ Greenwich Street)
New York, NY 10014

The Spotted Pig operates on a first come, first seated basis.  Grabbing a table at lunch shouldn't be too much of an issue, but if you don't arrive at 5:30p sharp for the diner rush, you will be waiting upwards of 2 hours for a seat in this diminutive establishment.  

The lunch menu is limited, but so is my patience when it comes to waiting forever to eat.  Drop in during the week for a burger & fries, then decide if the full menu is worth the wait.  

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Tiny Tomatillos

Things you should know about tomatillos:
  • They are green.
  • They are surrounded by a paper-like husk that should be discarded.
  • They are covered by a sticky substance that must be rinsed off before use.
  • They apparently come in both standard and miniature sizes.  

I've cooked w/ tomatillos many times, but never the miniature variety. Tomatillos are known for their sour tang when consumed in their raw state -- the minis are no different.  In order to tame their bright bite, I usually roast tomatillos in a 400°oven for 10-15 minutes or until they start to deflate.  A quick salsa adds depth to any grilled meat, seafood or poultry.  

Pan-roasted salmon, curried lentils, wild rice and tomatillo salsa.

Tomatillo-Tomato Salsa

1 cup mini tomatillos*
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, sliced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 red onion, minced
1/2 tsp ground cumin
1 lime, juiced
2 TBS cilantro, chopped
1 TBS canola oil + extra for roasting tomatillo

  1. toss tomatillos w/ a splash of canola oil; season w/ salt & pepper.  roast in a 400°oven for 10-15 minutes, or until they start to deflate.  reserve rendered tomatillos and their juices.  
  2. toss cherry tomatoes, garlic, onion, reserved tomatillos, lime juice, cilantro, cumin and canola oil in a mixing bowl.  
  3. season w/ salt & pepper. allow to sit for 20 minutes; tastes, adjust seasoning & serve.
© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Saturday, February 19, 2011

New York's Finest

It's hard to say which NYC restaurant has the best food, service or atmosphere, however, if you asked me which local eatery provides the quintessential New York City dining experience I would say, "Gramercy Tavern", without blinking an eye. 
Gramercy Tavern
42 East 20th Street
New York, NY 10003
Gramercy Tavern was established in 1994 by Tom Colicchio & Danny Meyer.  While Tom is long gone, Mr. Meyer and Executive Chef, Michael Anthony, continue to provide an impeccable dining experience.  

Austere, but not stuffy.  
Elaborate, but not pretentious.  
Chic, but not trendy. 
Timeless & delicious.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Thursday, February 10, 2011

One Spice to Rule Them All

Authentic Indian cuisine -- while simple to prepare from a technical standpoint -- utilizes a pantry of spices completely foreign to most people.  Don't be intimidated, just start small and get your hands on two spices, tumeric & garam masala.
Garam masala (translated, "hot mixture") is a great introduction to cooking Indian.  The contents of this spice blend vary from region to region, but generally consists of 8+ spices that have a distinctly Indain flair -- cumin, coriander, clove, fenugreek seeds, cinamon, chili pepper, and cardamom to name a few.  
I buy a whole garam masala mix from the local grocer so I can toast and grind to order.  Most markets will sell ground garam masala, which is a fine alternative to the whole so long as you add the spice mix towards the end of the cooking process as to not lose the full aroma and "zing".
The natural sweetness of roasted cauliflower perfectly balances the garam masala's assertive bite and the bright orange tumeric provides a color boost that is sure to impress.

Curried Cauliflower w/ Spinach

1 head of cauliflower, cut into 1 inch pieces
1-2 bunches fresh spinach, blanched
1 knob of ginger, julienned
4 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
2 TBS canola oil
1/2 tsp tumeric
2 tsp ground garam masala
salt & pepper to taste

-- pre-heat the oven to 500°

1.  toss cauliflower, garlic, ginger and canola oil in a large bowl.  add the tumeric, garam masala and season w/ salt.  toss to thoroughly coat the cauliflower.

2.  bake cauliflower on a parchment-lined sheet tray for 12 minutes.  shake up cauliflower and bake for an additional 4-5 minutes.  toss w/ spinach while hot & serve. 

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Stomaching Tripe

Tripe is cow stomach -- # 2 of 4.  I've tried to like tripe, but no matter how it's prepared, I just can't seem to stomach it.

People are usually put-off by the bubble-gum-chew texture, but I think it's kind of playful. The taste, however, is another story.  The strong, persistent taste of grass & buttholes dominates every bite. It wouldn't be so bad if you could just gobble it up quick and be done, but that's not how it goes.  Each bite is a barnyard in your mouth and takes forever to finish because it's so damn chewy!  I suppose that's what you get for trying to eat the stomach of a 1200lb herbivore.


Tripe Tagliatelle

2 # tripe
1 # fresh tagliatelle pasta
1 large red onion, large dice
1 pobalno pepper, large dice
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2 cup basic tomato sauce
1 bunch mint leaves, finely chopped
salt & pepper; lemon juice to taste.

  1. combine the tripe, vinegar, and vanilla in a large pot w/ enough water to cover the tripe by 2 inches. bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer. cook until the tripe is very tender, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours. be diligent about skimming any foam that rises to the top. also, make sure the water level is maintained throughout the cooking process (adding more water when necessary).  when finished, drain the tripe and cut into bite sized pieces.  reserve.
  2. sauté the diced onion and pepper in a splash of olive oil over medium heat.  cook until limp, about 5-6 minutes.  add garlic and continue to cook for another minute.  add tomato paste and a splash of sauce. cook for an additional 5 minutes, then add the remainder of the sauce. 
  3. add reserved tripe to the sauce. bring to a boil; reduce to a simmer.  simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.  
  4. cook pasta in a large pot of boiling water according to the instructions -- probably around 4-7 minutes.  toss cooked pasta w/ tripe sauce, add the chopped mint and a squeeze of lemon.  embellish w/ some extra-virgin olive oil and try to enjoy.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Barley Legal

Barlotto is a cheeky rendition of the Italian classic, risotto. Risotto is typically made w/ arborio rice; a short grain rice favored for its high starch content. Barlotto is -- you guessed it -- made w/ barley; pearled barley for best results.  Grains aside, the techniques are nearly identical -- sauté aromatics, add the starch, ladle in hot stock, and slow simmer until al dente.

The addition of oyster mushrooms gives this dish a mellow earthy feel.  Once you get the technique down, experiment w/ different flavors -- think beets, orange & chard.

Mushroom Barlotto

1 cup pearl barley, soaked overnight & drained
2 cups oyster mushroom, chopped
1 shallot, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup parsley, chopped
1 tsp fresh thyme, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
  1. in a small sauce pot, bring stock to a boil; reduce to a simmer and maintain a scolding temperature.  
  2. in a 10-inch sauté pan w/ straight sides, sauté mushrooms in some canola over high heat until the moisture gives out; 4-6 minutes.  lower the heat, add a splash of butter or olive oil, and then add the minced shallots and garlic.  sauté until fragrant; 1-2 minutes. add the drained barley and cook for an additional 2 minutes.  frequent stirring will prevent the barley from sticking to the pan.  
  3. start adding ladles of hot stock to the barley mixture, 4oz at a time.  the barley should be *just* covered by the stock.  maintain a slow simmer, stirring frequently, until about 80% of the stock has been absorbed.  repeat this process w/ the remaining stock -- the end result should yield al dente barley, suspended in a creamy liquid; about 30 minutes.   
  4. add the herbs and grated cheese.  if necessary, thin w/ any leftover stock or a bit of hot water.  i make it a point to leave the barlotto/risotto mixture a bit loose in the pot, as it firms up when plated.  
© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Monday, January 10, 2011

Taylor Made

Pork roll! The cornerstone of any nutritious breakfast --

New Jersey pork roll, aka "Taylor Ham" is a Garden State exclusive -- I've heard tales of the stuff, but never thought I'd find it this side of the Hudson.  According to the package, "Taylor" brand pork roll is an import of the exotic Trenton, New Jersey.  Fancy.
The "Jersey Breakfast" -- pork roll egg & cheese on a roll.
The flavor is mild and smoky -- kind of like Canadian bacon only a bit more assertive.  The dense, grainy texture is reminiscent of SPAM, but far less thick. Taylor ham is usually pan-fried and enjoyed w/ eggs & cheese. Apparently, you're supposed to score the patty from the outer edges inwards around the circumference before frying; this prevents the pork roll from curling up.  I was not keen to this trick at the time of preparation so I had to go Medieval on this one w/ a potato masher.  

Taylor ham is dirt cheap and endlessly delicious, too bad each 6oz pack risks a massive coronary.

© 2011 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -