Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sour Cream Chicken Nachos

It's a bit over a week until the Superbowl, and I'm sure that your party menu is already planned, if you are doing one.  As promised, here's an additional post with a recipe using another of Brooklyn Salsa Company's products.  I've been having a great time this week making a couple of different dishes with their salsa, and I've passed out some hints to friends about other ideas for meals to make with a few of their flavors.  My giveaway of their 5 Borough salsa pack is to give some lucky winner the chance to try them all.

The giveaway!

The Staten Island salsa with its tomatillo and tomato roots provides the flavor base for these Sour Cream Chicken Nachos (photo below).  The first time I had these was when I went to Texas to visit a friend from college.  It was love at first bite with the spicy chicken, cool sour cream, gooey cheese, and crunchy tortilla chips.  Back in Virginia, we didn't really have much Tex-Mex.  I'd eaten tacos with packaged seasoning and shells from a box, but that was about as far as anything resembling Mexican food ever got.  Well, except for the Chili con Queso I mentioned previously.

Yes, that actually is snow falling in the background

I'd even had something that I can only now call deconstructed tacos, with all the components laid out on a table.  Originally, that idea came from someone's Girl Scout camping trip, I believe, and went by the name of "Fork Tacos" in our house.  This drives my sister-in-law completely crazy because you scoop up the meat and toppings with a tortilla chip and not a fork.  It's an existential argument, but she can dispute the point for hours.  I've actually been around when this has happened.

"No fork - how can you call them 'fork tacos' if there's no fork?!"

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Product Giveaway - Brooklyn Salsa Company

Today, I'm going to launch my first Product Giveaway!  I've become a big fan of the Brooklyn Salsa Company's product line and think that this should end up in someone's refrigerator, just in time for the Superbowl on February 6th.  I have a set of their 5 Boroughs pack to give away to one commenter.  This includes one jar of each of The Manhattan, The Staten IslandThe QueensThe Bronx, and The Brooklyn (in ascending order of heat).

You might have seen my review of this product on my previous post on this site.  The reason I'm holding this giveaway is that I'm a big fan of this company and their philosophy, and I'd like one of you to have an opportunity to enjoy their salsas, too.  By way of disclosure, they did not pay me to do this or ask me to host a giveaway.  I bought the salsa from them specifically for this event.

Each of these flavors is delicious to eat on its own or used as a base for some of your favorite recipes.  I cleaned out a jar of The Bronx, with its eggplant and peppers reminiscent of the wonderful Italian shops on Arthur Avenue, in about a week as a base for a lunchtime pasta dish, using canned chopped tomatoes and mozzarella to round it out.  The Brooklyn spiced up my Chili con Queso game day party dip, and The Staten Island is going to go into my recipe for Sour Cream Chicken Nachos.

The Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only, as these are perishable items. (Apologies to salsa-starved ex-pats and overseas readers.)

To Enter:  Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following questions: Who is going to win the Superbowl this year?  What is going to be the point spread?*  You must also have a valid screen name to enter this giveaway.  I'll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner.

Deadline:  Is Tuesday, February 1st at noon EST, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments.  (I'm going to be mean about this and make no exceptions.)  This is be able to get the salsa to the winner in time for the big game.

The Outcome:  Only one winner will be chosen for all five jars, as they are a set.  I'm going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.  (No, I will not use my Actuary father and his magic spreadsheets to draw up the winner.)

Good luck and Buon Appetito!

*For the record, I grew up with the Washington Redskins, so I don't have a stake in the answer.  The NY Jets didn't make it in, so I can't even be a "fake fan," as my sister would call it.  

Product Spotlight - Brooklyn Salsa Company

For the second morning in a row, I've woken up to the above scene: large snowflakes gently drifting downwards causing a vaguely snowglobe effect outside of my window as I look towards the East River.  It sort of gives a romantic glow to the block of tenements across the street from my building.  What better to do, then, to test a recipe for Sour Cream Chicken Nachos (which I'll post later) using Brooklyn Salsa Company's fragrant Staten Island Salsa.  Its green tomatillo notes balanced by tomatoes, mango, spices, and other ingredients which make it a perfect base from which to build this dish.

I first came across this line of salsas when I was shopping for holiday gifts at the Brooklyn Flea's Gifted Market and was hooked immediately by the fresh, clean taste and unique personality of each of the 5 Boroughs flavors.  This is the kind of salsa I dream about being able to make at home, but can never quite get right.  It completely transported me back to places out west where I've eaten to get my Tex-Mex food kick, the kind of stuff that's not so easy to get around here (as transplants will confirm).

What better way to find out more about these products than to meet up with one of the founders/creators of the line: Rob Behnke.  Last week, I headed over to their offices in a repurposed industrial space in Brooklyn to talk to him.  Matt Burns, the other partner, was out making some more deliveries of their popular product.  Given how busy both of them are, I really appreciated the time that Rob took to talk to me about what they do and the passion and inspiration behind their salsas.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Foodshed Market at Brooklyn Commons

With the frigid temperatures outside, I'm grateful that some of the folks from the farmers markets have moved indoors for a bit.  Today, some friends of mine and I paid a visit to one of these, the Foodshed Market at the Brooklyn Commons.  This space is not only being used to host vendors on Sundays, it also has other activities taking place during the week and special food demos on market day.

Normally, it would take a lot to pry me off of the couch to venture out of doors when the thermometer gets this low but having been there a couple of Sundays ago, I knew that there would be some great treats waiting for me at the end of my subway trip, including a Lobster Roll from Luke's Lobster.  One of these was the lovely display of fish from Joseph Fisheries out of Montauk on Long Island, from whom I'd bought the gorgeous sole that went into the Sole with Lemon-Butter Sauce that I made a couple of weeks ago.  I looked for it again today, but, alas, there wasn't any.  I was a bit disappointed, but there was so much else to check out at the market today.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

To Pre-ssert

I've brought up a phrase a few times in some of my posts and realized last week, when it came up again in conversation, that it probably needs its own spotlight.  You might have caught it a few times, as it was mentioned recently in my write-up about our family holiday dinner this year, among other places.  That is "to pre-ssert."

Brother in question, pre-sserting in action

Sunday, January 16, 2011

Chili con Queso and Guacamole for Game Day

Today is the big playoff game for New York with the Jets taking on the Patriots this afternoon.  I don't have any stake in this match-up or in any of the teams that will eventually make it to the Superbowl this year.  What I've been thinking about lately, no surprises here, is what great food I can bring to a game-watching party.  As it's unlikely I'll be hosting the whole thing, I've been toying around with some portable pre-meal snacking options.

It might sound a bit naff, but I really like the Tex-Mex classics, even though I know that they might not represent authentic Mexican cuisine, which I also do enjoy.  They were the way that I first learned about these flavors, which were completely foreign to my generic 1970s-80s upbringing.  One of the things I probably first ate was Chili con Queso.  I used to love to order it when we went out, but I never seem to do so now.

For a game day party, however, I think it is the perfect thing to offer to your guests.  It's gooey, rich, cheesy, with a punchy spiciness.  Frankly, when I was testing this recipe, I forgot how much I enjoyed it and how addictive it can be.  Why did I ever stop eating it?  Paired with another version of Guacamole that I also created to go along with it, these two things should keep your hungry hoards satisfied, no matter who ends up winning the match.

Friday, January 14, 2011

The Next BIG Small Brand 2011 Award

Wednesday night at the Brooklyn Winery was the unveiling of the winner of The Next BIG Small Brand contest as hosted by The Rooster Design Group.  This was a great excuse to get out of the apartment on a snowy evening to hang out with other foodie folks to support some of the hard-working, enterprising local food producers.  Out of about 200 entries to the contest, five finalists were selected to compete for the grand prize and the People’s Choice Award. 

For a small start-up food venture, this was a great package to win.  Branding and design services from The Rooster Design Group, a vendor spot for a month at The Brooklyn Flea, and three months of free PR from First Press Public Relations could all be a huge boost to getting one’s product out there in the market and on its road to success.  Karen Seiger, from Markets of New York City, and I went over there together to taste some of the food, talk to the contestants, mingle a bit with some of the other foodie folks whom we know, and to see who would be the overall winner. 

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Sole Filets with Lemon-Butter Sauce

I have to confess to having a bit of a phobia about making fresh fish, which I had tried to confront when I took a class at Astor Center last spring.  After that, I actually had a greater comfort level at thinking about cooking it, although I haven't put much of the lesson into practice.  I'd made the refreshingly delicious Shrimp and Avocado Salad with Citrus Vinaigrette when the weather got warm last year, but I haven't re-created any of the other dishes we did in the class.

On Sunday, I was with some friends checking out the Foodshed seasonal market at the Brooklyn Commons.  One of them was eyeing the fresh skate that Joseph Fisheries out of Montauk on Long Island had on display for sale.  She was telling us that her cooking method is to poach it and then eat it served over a green salad dressed with a vinaigrette.  I really like skate and always mean to try making it but rarely find it to buy.  I should have snagged the last piece that they had there.

Instead, we each bought one the lovely filets of grey sole that they were selling.  I haven't ever cooked sole, and I'm not even sure that I remember eating it.  So, I pulled out Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking to see her recommendations for preparing it.  The recipe for poaching the fish in a wine and water combination sounded like it could work; however, I had a feeling that these filets were too thin to withstand an oven cooking method.

Sunday, January 09, 2011

Park Here Exhibit and Food Stand Pop-up

Post the holiday rush, we're entering one of the harder times of year for me.  When it gets this cold and grey and dismal outside, I start to hibernate.  The lack of sunshine and more hospitable temperatures really start to wear on me.  At some point in life, I'll have to figure out how to take these next few months to move to Florida or some other warmer clime when winter really sets in in the Northeast.  This year, however, there seem to be some interesting alternatives to my usual hunkering down on the sofa with a mug of hot cocoa waiting for spring to come.

Yesterday, I explored Park Here being held during the month of January by Openhouse Gallery in Nolita.  It's a cool concept featuring a pop-up art and retail space.  I'd read about it a few places, and as I'm always on the lookout for different food fairs, it seemed like the perfect opportunity to drag myself out of the apartment for a Saturday afternoon.  The raw industrial space (a glimpse of which you can see in the above link to the gallery's site), has been transformed into a green, lush wonderland with a pond, benches, and even a see-saw for the kids (or that kid in all of us).

It had a certain peacefulness and calm, something that would draw me in to take a break during the daytime from the usual craziness of work and errands.  The lighting is of the type beneficial to those who suffer from SAD and blends in harmoniously with the grass flooring, trees, and painted background murals.  On the weekends, various food vendors will open pop-up stands.  That is what I went down there to check out yesterday.

Thursday, January 06, 2011

Sausage and Cheese Lasagna

It will come as no surprise to anyone who reads this blog or who knows me that I did the majority of the dinner cooking when I was at my parents' house over the Christmas and New Year's holidays.  In some ways I didn't mind.  It gave me a chance to flex my culinary muscles, which doesn't normally happen cooking for just one person, as I usually do.  I also got to make those big batch kind of meals that feed the small army of folks who grew up in my household but which would mean I'd be stuck eating leftovers for weeks.

So, in addition to the Christmas dinner of Roast Beef with Yorkshire Pudding and Horseradish Sauce, a batch of Spaghetti and Meatballs, and roasted chicken, all of which provided great leftovers for several days, I also whipped up a batch of my mother's lasagna.  Last year, I wrote about how I wanted to see if this dish would stand up to some of the newer ones I'd come across as part of my Recipe Box Project.  Mom's won.  It has that right flavor balance of robust tanginess from the tomato sauce, ooey-gooey comfort from the cheeses, heft from the pasta, and hearty meatiness from the sausages, with just a little bit of kick from the red pepper in the spicy sausage to keep the dish from being bland or boring.  It's even better eaten the second day.

This year, when my brother mentioned that he should get the recipe so that they can make it when they are back home, I said, "Well, it's in the recipe card file."  He replied, "Yeah, but that would mean I'd have to write it down."  I countered, "It's on my blog."  He responded, "It's just easier if you write it out for me."  Actually, what he really meant to say is, "It's easier if you not only write it out for me step, by step [as you can see from the card there's just the ingredients listed, no instructions as to what to do with them], but also to make it, freeze it, and find a way to ship it to them ready-made."  This is the same reaction I get to many of the recipes that my family wants from me (not to rat out my sisters and any particular cookie recipe or anything).

It was good to see that he, my sister-in-law, my tiny nephew, and my dad all enjoyed eating the lasagna.  Devouring it might be a bit more accurate.  Two-thirds of the pan was gone by the time dinner was over, with everyone, even the little guy, going back for seconds.  This recipe is easily adaptable, too, which makes it work well as a family meal. Just throw together a green salad and some garlic bread to make it a classic Italo-American dinner.  So, here you are little bro, I've written out the instructions for you as I made this last week, but I'm not flying out there to make this for you whenever you want to eat it.

Monday, January 03, 2011

2011 Food Resolutions

I've just looked back at some of my older New Years Resolution posts, and realized I'm really not very good at keeping on top of them as a guide to better living and eating.  That said, I think that I managed to accomplish last year's goal of getting over my laziness by expanding the blog to cover more NYC food related activities, more new recipes, and even local merchant spotlights.  I hope that you enjoyed these added points of view on the city's food and eating scene, too, as they were really delicious to write about.

Almost every site I read or magazine I have picked up in the past week or so has had some type of round-up of 2010 and crystal ball gazing for the food future of 2011.  I really have no idea what will be the next "it" trend in eating or restaurants or what will be the next cuisine to be "in" or "out."  What I do and have tried to do over the past few years, as an analysis of my blog posts (so much for taking the spreadsheets away from a banker) told me, is to cook at home more, to use more real and local ingredients, and to experiment with those tastes and textures which I'd eaten at restaurants and wanted to learn how to do for myself.

It was interesting, then, to read Mark Bittman's piece in The New York Times last week about sustainable food, one new eating movement.  I think that he is correct about eating more "real food," getting down the basics, and having a few go-to recipes.  I would also add that the ability to cook eggs in any form to this list is another key skill to acquire, as almost everything can be thrown into an omelet or frittata, and a poached or fried egg has made a meal out of many random leftovers.  It's no guarantee that following these guidelines will make the weight magically disappear but, hopefully, you will be eating healthier meals and will feel better overall about your diet.  But what is "real" food?

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