The Diva That Ate New York
Since my Trinidadian sister-in-law was amongst the family visiting sweltering New York City this week for my nephew Kaden’s baptism, I decided to make her favorite beverage, Sorrel. It’s an iced tea made from hibiscus flowers. I added mint and lime to give a bit of a mojito treatment and am now calling it Hibiscus Mint Limeade.
Depending on where you are from the name changes. According to Wikipedia, the drink is called Rosella in Australia, Agua de Jamaica and/or Flor de Jamaica in Latin America, Arhul ka phool in India Karkadé in Egypt, Sudan, Italy and Russia, Chai Kujarat in Iraq, Chai Torsh in Iran, Gumamela in the Philipines, Bissap, Tsoborodo or Wonjo in West Africa, Sorrel in Jamaica, Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago, Red Sorrel in the wider Caribbean, and other names in other regions, including the U.S., where it is sometimes known as simply Jamaica.
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Is it lazier to use dried split chickpeas to make hummus so you don’t have to slip the skins off each whole chickpea? Or is having to soak and boil the split chickpeas considered more work? What if you have a pressure cooker?
Whatever method you use to get skinned chickpeas, do it. Your hummus becomes downright sexy when you do.
Lora Wiley inspired this recipe when we had caramelized onion hummus at her place. Here is her recipe. Paul fell in love. She uses butter to caramelize the onions, he said it tasted like meat. Meat dip is dude heaven.
I made mine with crisped onions instead so it’s a little less rich, but quite tasty and vegan. I added fried sage on top and some sumac powder to add color and a citrusy zing!
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“Stuff ‘em” is my usual stance when I invite guests over to a meal at my house. You will never leave hungry. You will be fed to the point of bursting. You may need to nap between the meal and the dessert. Lately, I’ve been easing up at tad when it comes to dessert. My guests are usually ready-to-explode from the appetizers and main course. To keep them from running, screaming, “I can’t! I just can’t!”, from my house, I’ve been making much lighter desserts.
This past Saturday, Marlena Spieler and I whipped up a brunch of epic proportions. The menu is below. A couple of guests took between-courses naps. They woke up to this ethereal and light Pudim Molotov with Matcha (Green Tea) Cream and Caramelized Black Sesame Almonds. I’d had a version of this dessert for the first time at a Meyer Corporation press dinner at the new, hot Portuguese restaurant, Lupulo, that Julia Stambules invited me to. It was love at first bite. I’d never heard of an egg white flan! So lovely and light. It reminded me of Ile Flottante, but baked in a mold as opposed to in freely formed shapes or quenelles.
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Do Indians host BBQ’s like Americans do? I feel like I should know the answer to this question, but I honestly don’t know. I will find out and give you an update.
I’ve only ever been invited to a BBQ where my hosts cooked on a tandoor once in my life. It was in the 90’s, in Australia. They were not of Indian descent or even Aussies. They were from New Zealand, but they loved to cook so they had a tandoor built in their backyard and their tandoori chicken was pretty damn good. They did not serve coleslaw of any kind.
Recently, I was looking for suggestions of dishes that work well at a BBQ and can sit outside in the heat. My taste buds perked up when my friend George told me about this Indian Spiced Coleslaw.
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Going to the Summer Fancy Food show is like taking your taste buds on Mr Toad’s Wild Ride—Tasting The Globe Edition. The Javits Center is packed with 2500 vendors from all over the world all vying for you to try and buy their specialty food wares. You can go from the finest Venezuelan chocolate to oddly delicious blue cheese infused salami to dried African baobab fruit to black garlic vinegar to camel milk. Yes, this year I had camel milk! You cannot taste everything or you’ll be disgusted, bloated and miserable in no time.
My system is to go all three days for a few hours and eat only savory things for first part of the day and then switch to only sweets. I don’t waste my limited stomach real estate on too many carbs either. This year, I ate my weight in fine pork and even finer cheese products. It was GLORIOUS! Often it’s the same old stuff from year to year, but there are always a few items that stand out:
Uh Oh the Ro Ro’s… The food snob in me did NOT want to even like Ro Ro’s Baking Company’s Cinn-A-Rolls, but D-Zamn!!! They were the cinnamon buns of my dreams. Often they’re too hard, too dry and made with cheap ingredients, but these were standouts especially for a frozen product. You pop them in the oven and you get soft, buttery, syrupy, divine cinnamon rolls. I understand they’re available at Whole Foods — we definitely did not need to know that… They also make dinner rolls that rocked too.
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Last Saturday’s weather report was not good. Rain was looming and I kept vacillating about what to cook for a friend’s birthday picnic in Riverside Park. I asked my Facebook hive for outdoor friendly portable dishes and upon seeing their suggestions and noting the contents of my fridge, I made a Potato, Cauliflower & Green Bean Salad. It wasn’t water-proof, but it would not be ruined by a few droplets of rain.
By the time I got to the upper west side, Momma Nature was already spitting. As I struggled to get all the food and rain gear out of the car, I dropped my cell phone, unbeknownst to me, in the street, face-down on the sidewalk. My daily paranoia of thinking I’d lost my phone or it’s been stolen at least ten times a day, finally paid off. I’d barely crossed the street when I stopped to frisk myself and found out this time I really was “phone-less”. WHAT??? I re-searched my four bags and roller cooler and yes, my phone was GONE! I left all my crap in the drizzle and retraced my steps or missteps as it turned out. Having a red case on my phone also paid off because I saw it immediately. I was very happy that it was raining and that I was on Riverside Drive because the street was deserted. I ran over, grabbed it, kissed it, thanked my lucky stars and went back to the picnic.
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I picked pickled beets. Finding the right savory picnic foods in summer is a challenge. It needs to be not-too-much work-to-make because it’s usually too hot to cook. It needs to be good “siege” food as in easy to serve and eat while sitting on the ground and being attacked by ants and wasps. It needs the resilience to hold up well in the heat. Pickled beets tick all the boxes and they may improve with heat. The only thing you have to watch out for is spillage and “splashage”. They are not forgiving if you wind up wearing them, but who wears nice clothes to a picnic?
Whenever I’m in Chinatown or in an Asian market, I take a grab a bunch of garlic chives now and ask questions later approach. The question is usually what am I going to do with all of these garlic chives? You can get a quite a decent sized bunch for just a buck. I snap them up because I can’t buy them in my neighborhood.
I love cooking with them since they are more substantial than traditional chives and can handle some heat. Gau choy fa, or Chinese flowering chives have a garlicky flavor that’s more powerful than chives, but not as powerful as actual garlic. My last bunch made it into two dishes recently, Garlic Chive & Chinese Mushroom Potatoes and a dish I’m calling Garlic Chive Garlic Chard.
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Go on a food crawl! There’s nothing like getting together with a bunch of “food-minded” people and gorging on delicious food all day. You get fresh air, exercise, and STUFFED.
The air and the exercise balance out some of the over-eating so you feel less guilty that you might be if you were parked on the sofa, stuffing your face for the same amount of time. My friends and I organize food crawls all over New York City. People wonder why I’m not five hundred pounds. Eating with a crowd is my secret. Many mouths make for lots of little tastes. It’s much less filling than having to eat EVERYTHING myself.
Here are my Popularity, Planning, People, Politesse, and Purchasing tips for organizing a food crawl with your favorite foodies. If you have more tips to add, leave a comment.
Oh, if you don’t have the energy for a putting together a food crawl, you could go on a food tour. Check out my friend Joe DiStefano’s Queens food tours. All the organizing is done. You just show up and chow down.
I made one of the dishes we had on the crawl, Miang Kana, that inspired my interest in going to check out the Thai food scene in Queens. My boyfriend’s daughter had this dish in Thailand and we decided we had to find it in Queens. That led to a visit, which led to our food crawl.
Pick a delicious theme so people will want to come. Can you imagine folks signing up for a rocky mountain oyster food crawl? Neither can I. We choose our food crawl themes by type of food like our recent Thai Food crawl (#farangfeast) or by neighborhood like our numerous Flushing (#crushingflushing) food crawls or by a combination of the two, as was the case with our Downtown-ish Brooklyn Wing Crawl (#wingingitbk).
At times, our crawls are more of a quest, like this week’s upcoming Dessert Quest which will travel over several neighborhoods in two boroughs.
Pick out places that are known for having the best food because you want to avoid duds — no one likes duds. Check out websites that food enthusiasts frequent for ideas. In New York, we use Eater, Grub Street, Serious Eats, Tasting Table, etc. Ask food professionals, food lovers, food bloggers, etc, where they would go? I’m friends with many food people on Facebook and Twitter, so I ask them. I also see what’s popular on Instagram by searching hashtags or the location. You can read online reviews too, but I only truly believe what’s good by listening to people who like the same foods as I do.
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Best View For A ‘Cue in New York City
If you haven’t been to Brooklyn Bridge Park, what are you waiting for? I’ve been watching the park evolve from nothing over the past five years and now it’s glorious. I’d been wanting to have a barbecue in the park ever since they popped the grills on the foreshore making it the Best View For A ‘Cue in New York City. I admit, whenever I’m strolling in the park I slow to a turtle pace as I pass folks who are barbecuing. I take my time to drool or be horrified over what they’re cooking, mostly the former.
We finally had a BBQ in the park at the Picnic Peninsula, last fall, but I didn’t write about it then because it was going to get cold and that would just be a big tease. Now it’s BBQ season again and the park is jumping. If you decide to host a barbecue, you have to be prepared so here’s some tips and a checklist for organizing one, that I gathered from our experience.
The good news is you don’t have to reserve a space for your barbecue. The bad news is you can’t reserve a spot for your barbecue. They are available on a first-come, first-served basis. Be aware of the official park rules before you start planning since there are limits to the size of your group, how long you can use the grills and more.
I whipped up some meatloaf sausages based on ćevapčići, a skinless sausage that originated in the Balkans, for the barbecue.
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The words “empty cream puff shells” almost sound sad and lonely, but not when they’re the centerpiece of a Make Your Own Profiterole Bar! They become catalysts for excitement and “profiterole-abilities” when paired with ice cream and whipped cream for filling and chocolate sauce, raspberry sauce, and caramel sauce for drizzling and all sorts of sprinkles, nuts, candies, etc. for dazzling.
On Memorial Day, we put up a Make Your Own Profiterole Bar for dessert and the guests at Lora’s BBQ were pretty damned excited.
I was excited because I was in the house of the Disco Dust Queen, Lora Wiley, who writes the dessert blog Diary Of A Mad Hausfrau and is famous for not only making endless combos of macarons (be sure to check out her Macaron Monday posts), but making fun, shiny, colorful desserts, pastries and cookies.
You must exercise caution when opening her “toppings” cupboard. You could be temporarily blinded by the glints and sparkles from her arsenal of sanding sugars, dragees, sugar pearls, luster dusts, edible glitters, pearlescent sprinkles and more. She likes pretty, shiny things and she also collects lots of props so I was thrilled we could have fun gussying up and styling the Make Your Own Profiterole Bar too.
We managed to control ourselves by only putting out five kinds of sprinklings for the Make Your Own Profiterole Bar along with:
- Cream Puffs
- Ice Cream
- Whipped Cream
- Chocolate Sauce
- Caramel Sauce
- Raspberry Sauce
- Toasted Almonds
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You have to make chocolate bark at your cafe a friend said before I opened Divalicious Chocolate Cafe, on the edge of Chinatown, in the neighborhood of NOLITA. I said, “Sure”, but I had no idea what she was talking about.
I envisioned a chocolate confection that resembled bark from a tree. It seemed fascinating and complex. How is it made? Did you have to pump air into the chocolate? How does that even happen? Perhaps it would look like a Cadbury Flake bar since it resembles layers of peeling. A Flake bar would be challenging to make without a machine. I seemed hard in my imagination.
Later, when I found out that chocolate bark was just thin sheets of chocolate with dried fruits, nuts, cookies, etc on top, I realized I’d really overthought this. I wondered “Is bark too easy to make and sell at my chocolate cafe?” Absolutely not. It turned out to be a hit and my Salted & Toasted Black and White Sesame Chocolate Bark was best-seller.
I always had at least eight varieties of bark on hand at the cafe. When one of my oldest friends, Marcel would visit the cafe, he always bought the sesame one. I only make bark on special occasions even though you could make it anytime since it’s so easy to make. The downside would be having to eat all that bark. Some of you will not see the downside of that, but I know bark only leads to more bark. When Marcel’s birthday came around last week, I whipped him up a batch.
Monday, I was back at Santina, a restaurant in the meat packing district that I’d been to this past February. I’ve been obsessed with one of their dishes, the cecina, since my first visit. It’s rare that I visit the same restaurant twice in a short time since I have restaurant ADHD. I want to eat at pretty, shiny new restaurants all the time. But I’ve my cecina obsession trumps my ADHD and I had a good blogger friend in from DC who wanted to try it. It hits many marks. It’s unusual. It’s easy to make. It’s gluten free. It’s vegan. It’s cheap to make. It’s fun to eat. It can be eaten alone or with a myriad of toppings or even a salad on top.
Cecina is a chickpea flour bread, that’s made in Italy and in the south of France where it’s called socca. At Santina, they make it in the form of a crepe or pancake instead of the traditional baked flatbread that I saw recipes for online.
I made it as a crepe because it’s more fun and dramatic. It’s super simple, made from chickpea flour, water, olive oil, salt and pepper, but you need to make the batter ahead of time so it can rest for about four hours before you make them.
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Divalicious Ruby Sun Splash Relish
This morning, I was looking to give the gift of chutneys and relishes, I canned last fall, to a neighbor who did me a favor. I whipped up a list of sixteen ways to eat it because people always ask, “How do I eat it?”. The true answer is any way that you like it.
When I went to see what I had from last year, it turned out that I have quite a bit left over. Looks like I’m going to have to find people to give it to. If you see me, ask if I might have a jar in my purse. If I do, it’s yours.
If you don’t have any on hand, make Divalicious Ruby Sun Splash Relish: It’s an easy-to-make tomato relish with curry and oranges. I use canned tomatoes so you can make it any time of the year. I served it in my show “Say Cheese: a tongue-titillating tasting of artisan cheeses, wines and the songs they inspire”. It was almost more popular than the cheese platter.
One of my favorite snacks is crackers topped with avocado, Dijon mustard, mashed sardines and Divalicious Ruby Sun Splash Relish. I know, it sounds a little weird, but it’s a “mouthgasm”.
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“Pssst… Your tart was the best thing on the table.” Normally, I wouldn’t be bragging that someone whispered this to me about the Roasted Asparagus, Mushroom, Bacon & Cheese Tart I made for a New York Women’s Culinary Alliance potluck last week. But the person to who said it was the former owner of one of the finest bakeries in New York City [THANK YOU!] Plus, I’d almost thrown the tart in the composter earlier that day.
I was a having an “it’s my circus and my monkeys” day. I was running amok, trying to multi-task my way through a day that was stacked against me, by me. I stupidly left the black pepper tart shell I was testing in the convection oven, when I should have removed it, while I ran upstairs for the umpteenth time scrambling to get the apartment ready for my overseas guests. I got distracted by the duvet cover—I hate that thing!
When I came back down and pulled the tart out, it was not only a wee bit on the brown side, not burnt, but definitely too tanned to be called golden, it was shattered. It had hairline fractures as it if were a windshield that had been dinged by a stray pebble.
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