a meal in honor of dubai

Dubai – a place of extreme luxury, breathtaking architecture (both modern and old world), divine tastes, an open desert, a mecca of retail therapy from intricate fabricates to endless options of gold.

Back in January I had the opportunity to explore Dubai with my family. One of the fondest memories I take away with me after visiting a new place is the story behind its food. In Dubai, I encountered odes to Indian and Pakistani cuisines and the distinct flavors of the East alongside establishments that served Italian, French, and Japanese food. Dubai is a one stop shop to get a taste of really any part of the world. Nonetheless, they stay true to their roots as a place with a truly multicultural pallet that combines South Asian and Mediterranean cuisine into one distinct flavor.

The nostalgia I began to feel of this amazing trip along with current craving trends of my cousin and his family helped me plan the menu for an amazing homemade meal to honor Dubai. A day trip to DC exploring the cherry blossoms and memorials left my family and I longing for some good food and this is when I was put to work.

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On the menu: spicy hummus, roasted vegetables, lamb kebabs served with yogurt sauce.

spicy hummus

  • 1/4 cup tahini
  • 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tablespoons of water
  • 4 cloves of raw garlic
  • 16 oz. can of chickpea, washed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • several dashes of hot red pepper flakes or red masala

1.)  In a food processor, combine tahini, and lemon juice. Blend until creamy. You may need to scrap down the tahini that gets stuck to the food processor.

hummusingredients

2.) Add garlic and salt and blend again.

3.) Finally, add the chickpeas and red pepper flakes until the mixture is smooth and creamy.

4.) Taste and add additional red pepper flakes, if necessary.

5.) Serve in a serving bowl with warm mini pitas on the side.

hummus

Adapted from: Two Tarts

roasted vegetables

  • 4 medium zucchini
  • 3 medium red peppers
  • 4 small Japanese eggplant
  • 1 pack of button mushrooms
  • 1/4 cup chopped pine nuts (almonds would have been excellent choice too!)
  • 4 tablespoons of balsamic glaze
  • 3 tablespoons of olive oil
  • 1 teaspoon of dried mint
  • 1 teaspoon of paprika
  • 2 teaspoons of thyme
  • 1 teaspoon of crush red pepper
  • 1/2 cup of crumbled feta cheese
  • 16 oz. can of chickpea, washed and drained
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • several dashes of hot red pepper flakes or red masala
  • salt and pepper, to taste

1.)  Cut all vegetables and toss with 3 tablespoons of olive oil, spices, salt and pepper

             veggies

2.) Roast for 15-20 minutes until vegetables are tender. In the last final few minutes, toss in ground pine nuts with vegetables. Be sure to toss the vegetables half way through to ensure even cooking

veggies cooked

pinenutes

3.) Transfer vegetables into a serve dish and drizzle balsamic glaze and crumbled feta cheese.

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Adapted from Cooking Class with Jackie Arnett

lamb kofta with yogurt sauce

lamb kofta

  • 1 pound lean ground lamb
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 tablespoons grated fresh onion
  • 2 tablespoons of 2% greek-style yogurt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1 teaspoon paprika
  • 1 teaspoon tumeric
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes’
  • cooking spray

1.)  Combine cilantro, onion, yogurt, cumin, paprika, tumeric, garlic, salt, pepper, red pepper flakes. Shape into mini ciricular paptties.

kebab prep

2.) Heat a grill pan to medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray and add patties, cooking for 10 minutes and occasionally turning for even cooking

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kebab flip

yogurt sauce

  • 1/2 cup 2% greek-style plain yogurt
  • 1/4 cup chopped roasted red peppers (bottled works great)
  • 1 teapsoon cumin
  • 1 teaspoon crushed red pepper
  • 2 teaspoons minced fresh garlic
  • 1 tablespoon cilantro
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

1.) Combine all ingredients together and mix well. Serve along side with kebabs

This dish should be served with saffron basmati rice

Adapted from: My Recipes

And, Dinner is Served!

dinner is served

Have you ever cooked a meal from start to finish for your friends and family? What is your go-to menu for such occasions? What is your favorite Mediterranean to enjoy at home or at a restaurant?

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P.S. Thank you to my supportive cousin, Kevin, for capturing every moment as I played top chef in the kitchen!

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a taste of venezeula in the east village

In need of a casual dinner spot to take your out-of-town friend on a weekday? Look no further than Caracas Arepa Bar.

LOCATION
Caracas Arepa Bar
93 1/2 E. 7th Street (Between 1st Ave. and Ave. A)
http://www.caracasarepabar.com

Arepas are….heaven. They are a flat, round, South American pita pockets made from ground corn dough or flour. They are stuffed with delicious goodies like juicy meats,  cheeses, avocados, plantains, and much more. A good meal all wrapped in one, the arepas at Caracas Arepa Bar have become a East Village staple. It seems all the good places to eat in this city don’t take reservations. Expect a decent wait (we waited about an hour for a table) but don’t fret, there are plenty of bars on the block.

menu      kitchen

This is what you should order:

Guasacaca and Chips – guacamole with some house made chips was a necessary move. One order would have been perfect for 4 people. The chips were crispy and the guacamole was the right amount of creaminess. Combined with the corquetas we were heading towards a night of food indulgence.

guac

Corquetas – divine. The are made from yuca, chorizo, corn and cilantro . 4 of these bad boys are served with their signature chimichurri sauce which was packed with intense flavor. I think chimichurri is going to be added to the my shelf of condiments in my refrigerator (next to the 4 bottles of hot sauce, 3 jars of mustard, and the steak sauce.) They came out fresh of the frier which made them a nice balance with our glass of red sangria.

croquetas

La Surena – This arepa combined all my favorite things: chicken, chorizo, avocado slices, and that amazing chimichurri they gave to me earlier. I devoured it. The meats were balanced with the freshness of the avocado. The chimichurri provided the right kick the arepa needed.

arepa

This meal was easy on the wallet with arepas costing less than 10 bucks a pop. A gem in my new favorite neighborhood in NYC. East Village, you never disappoint me.

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a day at chelsea market

On a Friday afternoon I finally got the opportunity to visit THE Chelsea Market. I was excited at the chance to visit one of the Amy’s Bread locations and finally try their almond brioche toast (more on that in a bit). Though Chelsea Market is a special place in NYC in its own way, I have to give the win to Philadelphia as far as food markets are concerned. You are truly a food mecca, Reading Terminal Market. You have everything anyone can ever ask for all on one block and weaving throughout the aisles and food watching (much better than people watching) makes you my absolute favorite.

LOCATION
Chelsea Market
75 9th Ave (Between 15th and 16th streets)
http://chelseamarket.com/

The first stop was Eleni’s, a cookie shop. We headed in for the the chocolate chip cookie samples being handed out. We took a bite and walked around the store for the sole purpose of throwing the sample out and to take some photos of the art hanging on the walls. Don’t give out burnt cookies as samples. No one is going to want to buy anything in your bakery.

paintings     painting

Next stop was Amy’s Bread. I waited in line looking at the displays for the almond brioche toast. I wasn’t able to lock my eyes on it until I opened the bag at a table outside the bakery. It was light and crunchy all at the same time.  Sticky and sweet, it would be excellent with a cup of coffee or tea. This will be one of my go-to sweet treats heading into the spring. It was roommate approved as well.

almond french toast

After stumbling upon an amazing Free People sample sale (and of course engaging in some healthy retail therapy) and walking to the very end of the market, we decided to use a middle exit and stumbled upon The Filling Station.  This stand specializes in oils, balsamic vinegars, salts, scrubs, and craft beer. I sampled a strawberry, blueberry, and fig balsamic vinegar. The berry vinegars were extremely sweet and would work nicely in a summer salad. The fig balsamic vinegar had an intense depth of flavor. I think it would work nicely to accompany a cheese plate instead of the a preserve or jam.  I also tried the Ghost Pepper salt. The Filling Station was gracious enough to warn myself and other patrons to only try one granule of salt. As soon as I tried the ghost pepper salt, I immediately felt it kick in at the back of my throat. For those of you who love spicy food, this would be a good ingredient to add into your Mexican creations. A little goes a long way.

fillingstation     salt

Have you ever visited Chelsea Market before? What was your favorite or least favorite part of your food adventure to Chelsea Market?

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the meatball shop – chelsea

Scene – a beautiful spring evening in Chelsea

Cast – My favorite couple to 3rd wheel with, Shivangie Hira, and myself

I’ve heard from countless people that non-New Yorkers have the preconceived notion that the only way to enjoy an amazing meal is to pay an arm and a leg (another leg). The Meatball Shop has proven this theory completely false.

LOCATION
The Meatball Shop
200 9th Ave (Between 22nd and 23rd– 3 Other Locations in NYC)
http://www.themeatballshop.com/

WARNING: If you go to any of The Meatball Shop locations during prime-time dinnertime, you are going to have to wait. However, they are quite tech saavy. Put your name down with the host, provide them your cell number and they will text you when your table is ready… you got to get there in 5 minutes though so speed walk from the bar down the street.

We got seated at a large family style table between two different parties. Though it was a bit tight, it didn’t effect how great our waiter was. He was lively, funny, and extremely through reviewing the menu with us. What’s even more exciting is you get to write with a dry erase marker on your menu to place your order. I was a bit indecisive which led to a lot of writing and erasing.  Here are some the favorites of our meal:

Naked Balls – Four meatballs served with your choice of sauce and a stick of focaccia bread all for $7! I ordered the classic beef with the classic tomato. I think it was important to try the classic dish to ensure they knew what they were doing. If you mess up an oldie flavor combo, you are doomed in my book. The Meatball Shop nailed ut. It was perfection. With the creamy mashed potatoes underneath my balls, each bite was delectable. Mashed potatoes and meatballs – hello comfort food!

Market Salad – The restaurant as several specials listed one of which was a salad of romaine, asparagus, pecans, and blue cheese dressing. The perfect accompaniment for the balls. One salad was good for 2 people to share. Only $5 dollar a bowl.

Ice Cream Sandwiches – Make sure you save room for dessert. They serve a humungous scoop of ice cream between two freshly baked cookies. This was also shared between 2 people ($2.50/person – 5 dollar a piece). We went the classic route once again and got vanilla ice cream between a chocolate chip cookie and the special cookie for the day, gingerbread. However, if you want to be more adventurous they have it all – peanut butter, snickerdoodle, brownie cookies and they even have exciting ice cream flavors – carmel, mint, and their special for the day, banana.

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We went out with a double win. A fulfilling, comforting meal that costs pennies! Go to the meatball shop NOW.

What is your favorite cheap but delicious comfort food spot?

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asian noodle salad with orange sesame dressing

With the spring weather finally arriving, one of my favorite things to do is cook with fresh produce. This recipe is jam packed with vegetables to ensure you get all the nutrients you need for a quick and easy weeknight meal.

Asian Noodle Salad with Orange Sesame Dressing

  • 1/2 pack of Brown Rice Noodles from Trader Joe’s, cooked.
  • 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1 small red onion
  • 1/2 of a large red pepper
  • 3 baby bok  choy
  • 3/4 cup edamame, shelled (frozen option is super convenient, prepare the edamame according to the instructions)
  • 3 carrots shredded (take out that food processor)
  • 2 tablespoons of cilantro
  • crushed red pepper, salt, pepper to taste
  • several squirts of sriracha

Dressing for Salad

  • 1 large clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 tablespoons of fresh orange juice
  • 1 teaspoon of orange zest
  • 2 tablespoons rice vinegar
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons soy sauce
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons sesame oil
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 2 tablespoons of canola/vegetable oil
  • salt, pepper to taste

1.) Prepare the brown rice noodles according to the package directions in a medium saucepan.

2.) At the same time, heat a large non-stick skillet with olive oil.Finely chop one clove of garlic and cook on medium eat for 2-3 minutes. When you start smelling the garlic, slice and add one small onion. Cook onion for 3 minutes and add red pepper, carrots, and bok choy. Cook for several minutes and add cooked edamame. Season the vegetables with crushed red pepper, salt, pepper. Toss in cooked brown rice noodles  and several squirts and saute to incorporate all your ingredients evenly. Add in several squirts of sriracha for some kick.

veggies_board

3.) In a small bowl combine garlic, orange juice, zest, rice vinegar, soy sauce, sesame oil and honey. Slowly whisk in canola oil and season with salt pepper. Pour dressing over noodles and vegetables and mix evenly. Serve with chopped cilantro on top.

asisan noodle salad

Dinner is served! What is your favorite quick and easy go-to weeknight meal?

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dessert alert – rice pudding with a twist

During a fabulous dinner in Flatiron last week, I had a phenomenal desert and it was an amazing twist on a classic, rice pudding. Now, I do not have a bit sweet tooth but this definitely hit the spot.

LOCATION
Manzanilla Spanish Brasserie
345 Park Avenue South (Entrance at 26th and Park Ave)
http://www.manzanillanyc.com/

The vanilla rice pudding came topped with cotton candy and dusted with raspberry powder. The picture below does not do it justice (the dim lighting didn’t help my food blogging ways). The dessert rang in at 10 bucks and totally worth it (Krupa and Sunita agreed). An amazing bite entailed a little pudding and cotton candy combined. As soon as the bite was consumed, the cotton candy melted with the rice pudding for creamy perfection. We all noticed a sour note became apparent immediately after tasting. It acted as a pleasant surprised and brought balance to the dish as a whole. I highly recommend you try it.

ricepudding

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by golly, i did it! re-make of locanda verde’s ricotta

As I have mentioned in a previous post, the sheep’s milk ricotta at LoCanda Verde that I devoured with my parents at brunch was mindblowingly delicious. Ever since that meal, I’ve been on a mission to recreate this dish in the comfort of my own home. I present to you a re-make of LoCanda Verde’s brunch ricotta cheese!

Ingredients:

  • 8 cups of whole milk
  • 1/2 cup of distilled white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
  • 1 baguette
  • 1 orange – 1/2 tablespoon of zest, 1/2 tablespoon of juice
  • 2 tablespoons of chopped thyme
  • Several tablespoons of whole milk
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of black truffle oil (purchase at a specialty grocery store…I scored a bottle at Marshall’s!)
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons of good quality honey
  • Salt/Pepper to taste

Directions:

1. In a large saucepan, heat whole milk over moderately high heat. Remember to stay by the saucepan while heating the milk. You should be looking for a the surface to become foamy. If you have a cooking thermometer handy, you should look for the temperature to read between 165-185 degrees. It is critical that the milk DOES NOT boil.
2. Remove the saucepan from the heat and add the vinegar and stir. The milk will curdle very quickly. Add salt and stir again.
3. Line a colander with several layers of cheesecloth (some just hang over the edge). Pour the milk mixture into the colander and drain.4. Let the cheese curds sit for several minutes and squeeze the excess liquid from the cheesecloth.

cheeseprocess
5. Transfer your ricotta cheese into a serving dish and let it cool for 15 minutes or so.
6. Slice a baguette into thin slices and toast. Rub a whole orange against each slice. You will notice the zest will rub onto each slice easily.
7. Add several tablespoons of whole milk to the cooled ricotta to create some creaminess. Mix in thyme, truffle oil, honey, orange juice and zest, as well as, salt and pepper, to taste, to the ricotta cheese.8. Taste the ricotta. Add additional thyme, truffle oil, honey or orange juice based on your palette. I drizzled a little extra truffle oil and squeezed some more just to get it just right.

prep
9. Serve to your loved ones.

finished

As you can see, making ricotta cheese is pretty simple and tastes much fresher than what you get in the grocery store. The next time I prepare this, I plan to add in 1 cup of heavy creamy to help with the fat content and consistency of the cheese.

My version got the approval from my brother-in-law, a LoCanda Verde lover and wannabe food critic so please do try it out and if it matches up to the original with your family and friends.

The following recipe was adapted form these helpful posts:

Chef In You

Spoons to Sporks

Have you ever made an ingredient you generally buy at the grocery store, like ricotta cheese, at home? If so, what have you made?

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brunch all day every day – sign me up!

During a recent trip to Philadelphia, a group of friends and I were in need of a great foundation meal to get us through our Sunday so we visited a brunch favorite in the city, Cafe Lift. It happened to be my first time at the restaurant.

Their slogan immediately had me hooked: “Brunch. All Day. Every Day.” It sounded like poached egg heaven to me!

LOCATION
Cafe Lift
428 N 13th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19123
http://cafelift.com/

The group ordered coffee (and one green tea for Nithya) across the table. The wait staff were amazing. They made frequent round to refill our coffee mugs throughout meal. Once we were alive and well, we are able to enjoy our meal. My brunch companions ordered the breakfast burrito, buttermilk pancakes, and the nutty monkey crespelle. You can definitely split the breakfast burrito between two people, if you like. Everyone was content with their order as was I.

Baked Eggs – The dish came with potatoes, jalapenos, sweet onions, and roasted pork shoulder simmered in a tomato sauce, topped with two eggs, fontina cheese and served with flour tortillas. The eggs were perfectly cooked and the yolks blended with the tomato sauce wonderfully. I used the tortillas to soak up all the leftover goodness – the cheese and roasted pork to be exact. Combined with the side orders of  spicy fennel sausage we got and the extra dishes of house hot sauce, I was left a happy camper.

bakedeggs

I do recommend visiting Cafe Lift next time you are in Philadelphia. It is an affordable, casual option and large groups can be accommodated. Keep in mind when visiting that they are cash only and do not take reservations so you may need to wait for a table. I believe it took us about 30 minutes to be seated.

What are your brunch favorites in Philadelphia? Have you tried Cafe Lift before? If so, what was your favorite dish and why?

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