Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Alligator Pear Pasta

This interesting avocado application yields a creamy pasta dish that isn't a dairy-based dieting disaster.  There are a few similar recipes out there on the inter-webs, but I like to keep it light and bright w/ a bit of Greek yogurt, whole wheat pasta, and fresh jalapeño.

add some shellfish to the mix for extra zazz
Avocado "Cream" Sauce
2 garlic cloves
1 ripe avocado
juice from ½ lemon
¼ cup fresh basil/cilantro/parsley
1 TBS extra virgin olive oil
½ tsp kosher salt
¼ cup Greek yogurt
2 TBS Pecorino Romano cheese to taste
thinly sliced jalapeño for garnish
  1. combine all ingredients except jalapeño in a blender/food processor.  pulverize.  
  2. taste, season, and serve tossed w/ pasta.  thin the sauce w/ a bit of the pasta water to your liking. 

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Sweet Tooth

Leli's Bakery is a relatively new addition to the 30th avenue strip and is fast becoming my go-to sweets spot in the neighborhood.  From what I gather, Leli's is an Maltese owner & operated bakery w/ ties to JMJ bakery in the Bronx.  They are still working through some service issues, but I see the manager around a lot more often and things are getting better each time I visit.  On that note, I visit more frequently then I'd like to admit, often going out of my way to cop a cupcake after work.

Leli's Bakery
35-14 30th Ave
Astoria, NY 11103

The colorful cookies and cupcakes are staple sweets, but you should also try their breads and other savory snacks.  Pastizzi and qassatat are tempting puff pastry treats stuffed w/ ricotta, meat or vegetables.  I've even had one of their chicken pot pies and it was amazing.  When was the last time you had a real chicken pot pie?

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Friday, April 26, 2013

Family Matters

You couldn't tell by the Kwik-E-Mart facade, but this little Asian grocer is teeming w/ all sorts of food products and dried goods for the Far East.  Family Market is a great place to grab a light lunch, or stock up on your favorite Japanese imports.

Family Market
29-15 Broadway
Astoria, NY 11106

I pop in every once in a while to grab some exotic staples -- Japanese curries, kimchi and most excitedly, Kewpie mayonnaise   Kewpie mayo is decadently rich and has an indulgent tang that goes well w/ just about everything.  You could smother hot horse shit in Kewpie mayo and still end up w/ a pretty decent lunch. Better yet, skip the horse shit and pick up one of the several onigiri Family Market has to offer.  Onigiri are little balls of sushi rice stuffed w/ a filling and wrapped w/ seaweed.  My favorites are the sour plum and the spicy smelt row.

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Friday, March 29, 2013

Marsupial Madness

The Thirsty Koala
35-12 Ditmars Blvd
Astoria, NY 11105

The Thirsty Koala opened late last year, but I haven't had a chance to visit until recently.  You can tell they're still working through some of the new restaurant jitters, but this place is a keeper.  The service is great, the vibe is chill, and the food is unique -- to say the least.  Better yet, they have a BOYB policy until their liquor license is approved, no corkage fees.

Grilled kangaroo strip steak and TimTam Tiramisu are more than just novelties to get you in the door, they're a testament to how delicious thinking outside of the box can taste.

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Early Bird Gets The...Doughnut?

Gian Piero bakery is renowned for their perfectly executed Italian pastries, but did you know they also make fresh doughnuts?

The elusive cannoli-cream filled doughnuts are only available on the weekends, and they go fast.  I was there a little bit before 9 am and their numbers were already dwindling.  They are about $3 a piece and worth every penny.  They're big enough to share, but you won't want to --

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Riggie Smalls

Rigatoni is easily my favorite pasta shape. These stout, striped tubes come in various lengths and diameters, making them one of the more versatile macaroni sets.  Sauce effortlessly clings to their grooved ridges, and their hollow bodies are perfect for transporting peas, mushrooms or diced pancetta from plate to mouth.  You can find basic rigatoni in any supermarket, but you'll have to visit a specialty shop to score some of the more exotic varieties, like these stuffed rigatoni.

Many a Sunday dinner culminates w/ a heaping portion of stuffed rigatoni, accompanied by a bright marinara sauce. When pierced, these riggies ooze ricotta and lend some body to the simple sauce. Chunked mozerella and a handful of peas complete the dish.

Stuffed Rigatoni Marinara

12 oz stuffed rigatoni or ravioli
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 red onion, grated
1/2 carrot, grated
3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 TBS tomato paste
1 (28oz can) whole peeled tomatoes, drained
1/2 cup frozen peas
grated cheese

  1. heat olive oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat.
  2. add the grated onion and carrot, cook the water out; 4-6 minutes.
  3. add the garlic and red pepper flakes, cook until fragrant; 1-2 minutes.
  4. add the tomato paste, cook an additional 2 minutes then add the drained whole peeled tomatoes.
  5. simmer of medium heat for 20- 30 minutes, making sure to break up the tomatoes as they cook.
  6. add frozen peas to red sauce for the last 5 minutes.
  7. cook pasta according to directions.
  8. add cooked pasta to the red sauce and toss with cheese.

I recently demoed this dish on NiteLine Radio's Everything Eve show.  I had a great time cooking up a storm w/ Rudy and Eve, and I much appreciate them posting the video for me to share!  Their show airs every Tuesday night at 8pm EST.  Tune in at NITELINERADIO.COM.

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Year of the Snake

The Chinese New Year starts today, and that can only mean one thing -- this bok gwai is getting some roast duck!

Shun Wang (aka Shun Won) is your typical Cantonese restaurant, serving soup, congee, BBQ meats, and other things of the like. The roast duck -- $6.50 an order -- is on par w/ most places in Chinatown.

Shun Wang Restaurant
81-25 Broadway
Elmhurst, NY 11373

The decor is that of a dungeon, but the take-out is fast and tasty.  The commute is about 20 minutes from Astoria, which is much more palatable than the hour commutes to the Manhattan and Flushing Chinatowns.  This place should be on your radar.

Gong Hei Fard Choy!!

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Tubular Tubers

Beets.  I've learned a thing or two about these sweet, starchy dirt candies since my 2010 post, "Just Beet It".  Now I pass this knowledge down to you:

  • When roasting beets, do so on a bed of kosher salt. Add enough to cover the entire bottom of your cooking vessel   Don't be shy -- salt is cheap.  The salt absorbs additional moisture during the cooking process and concentrates the sugars.  More sugar = more sweeter.
  • Cook, peel, and chop your beets. Place the beets in colander while they cool, and douse them w/ a heavy splash of red wine vinegar (sherry works too). The beets will continue to absorb some of the flavor and color of the vinegar while they cool.

Will these tricks make your beets taste better?  Possibly.
Are these extra steps necessary?  Maybe.
Will people believe you if you post these gems on a food blog?  Absolutely. 

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Thursday, January 31, 2013

Tomoe Arigato

Tomoe Sushi

172 Thompson Street
New York, NY 10012

Ordering "omakase" at a swank sushi bar is a magical experience, but it's really more of a treat than a staple. A meal at most high-end sushi joints -- Gari, Yasuda, Ushiwakamaru, Azabu -- runs $80 - $125, and you leave hungry. Tomoe is a great option for when you want to feast on fancy fishies w/o breaking the bank.  Their sushi/sashimi combo is $36 -- more than your garden variety hand-roll hawker, but way less than the high-end sushi sanctuaries.

While Tomoe doesn't compromise on the quality of their fish, they do lack in both the service and decor departments.  They aren't rude, and the place isn't ugly, but they are both more aligned w/ the price point than the food.

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -

Monday, January 21, 2013

Chill Out & Warm Up

There's nothing like a long and dismal East Coast winter to catapult you into hibernation mode, gorging yourself w/ food at any opportunity. As comforting as 5 month feed-fest sounds, it's directly at odds w/ the omnipresent New Year's resolution to lose those extra LB's.

Fortunately, turkey chili is a great compromise if you're looking for a meal that will fill you up, and not out. Low carb, low fat and full of flavor -- it's a lean protein dream and pretty easy to put together in about an hour. After reviewing the recipe below, I understand if it comes off a bit complicated w/ the cheese cloth, immersion blender and all -- but that's just because I am a fickle cook.  This recipe is ultimately very forgiving, so don't be afraid to give it a go, even if you decide to take a few short cuts -- just make sure to include the chipotles en adobo!!

Turkey chili and a bit of carrot purée
Turkey Chili

2 sticks cinnamon
2 bay leaves
3 pods cardamom
1 handful cilantro
1 # ground turkey
1 onion, chopped
1 poblano pepper, chopped
2 TBS tomato paste
2 TBs garlic, minced
1 chipotle en adobo, minced
1 TBS ground cumin
1 TBS ground coriander
1 TBS chili powder
3 15.5 oz cans of beans -- mix it up and make sure to drain!
1 14.5 oz can stewed tomatoes
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup frozen corn
1 cup frozen peas
1 lime
1 ripe avocado, sliced
  1. create a little flavor pack by wrapping the cinnamon, bay leaves, cardamom and cilantro in cheese cloth; secure w/ some butchers twine.  reserve.
  2. brown the turkey in a large pan, large enough to fit the entire recipe.  break up the turkey as it browns.
  3. add the onion & pepper, saute until translucent; about 6 minutes.
  4. add the tomato paste, garlic, chipotles en adobo, cumin, coriander and chili powder.  saute an additional 2-4 minutes.
  5. add the drained beans, stewed tomatoes, reserved flavor pack and stock.  bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. 
  6. simmer 30-45 minutes.  remove flavor pack and hit w/ the immersion blender to thicken -- just a few pulses.
  7. add the frozen corn and peas, continue to simmer until cooked-through; 5 minutes or so.
  8. finish w/ lime juice & avocado.

© 2013 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable -