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?

signature3

Advertisements

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?

signature3

fancy pants brunch – locanda verde

I am going to start off this post by letting you know that I could eat poached eggs every single day for the rest of my life. Brunch is absolutely my favorite meal so much so that it made it to the pros column of my pros/cons list for moving to NYC. This city does brunch right.

During a recent visit back home to spend some quality time with my parents, my and mom and I stumbled upon an episode of Unique Eats on the Cooking Channel. The episode was focused on brunch and one of my favorite restaurants made it on the show — LoCanda Verde in TriBeCa. My brother-in-law and sister introduced me to the restaurant years ago and I’ve been hooked ever since. Their brunch caught our attention and we immediately began planning a free weekend for my parents to visit me in the city for the sole purpose of eating at the restaurant. Locanda Verde once again did not disappoint.

LOCATION
Laconda Verde in TriBeCa
377 Greenwich St (between Franklin St & Moore St)
http://www.locandaverdenyc.com/

Here is what you should order during your next brunch visit:

Bloody Mary Della Casa – My favorite brunch cocktail is the Bloody  Mary so I tend to order them no matter where I go…especially if they are doing something special with it. This Bloody Mary was highlighted on the episode of Unique Eats so it was a must-try on my list. It comes garnished with Italian hot peppers and mortadella, an Italian cured sausage. Garnishes make a Bloody Mary special so I give this my thumbs up. If only they could be bottomless…

BM

Sheep’s Milk Ricotta – I have been thinking about this dish everyday since my visit. I’ve experienced the power of their sheep’s milk ricotta before but that was for dinner where it is served with sea salt and herbs. Their brunch version comes with truffle honey and burnt orange toast. It was divine. The truffle honey gave just the right amount of sweetness to the creamy ricotta. The thyme added the right balance of herbs and the orange flavor made the whole dish come together. The phrase “simple yet elegant” is the best way to describe it. My parents and I contemplated ordering a second plate after we devoured the first. I am determined  to figure out a way to re-create this dish at home so keep your eyes peeled for a ricotta and with truffle honey and orange toast recipe coming soon! Oh, and this has made it onto the list of the best things I’ve ever ate so do not hesitate to order a second serving.

ricotta

ricotta2

Uovo Modenese – This is a poached egg dish that is served with cotechino hash, spinach and tomato hollandaise. The poached eggs were cooked to perfection and the tomato hollandaise gave the dish just the right amount of creaminess. With the salty cotechino hash and spinach, this dish was extremely well rounded. They served it with some bread to soak in all the yummy-ness that was leftover at the bottom of the dish too. I highly recommend this if you are a poached egg lover like me.

eggs

Crispy Whole Grain Waffle – For those with a sweet tooth, we also ordered the waffles which came with baked apples, walnuts and Marsala crema. The baked apples were soft and sweet while the walnuts gave the dish a small crunch. I was very excited to try the Marsala crema which did not disappoint…so much better than any syrup.

waffles

So there you have it. Brunch got my 2 thumbs up. Even though it is on the pricier side, it’s worth every bite…especially every bite of that sheep’s milk ricotta (can you tell how obsessed I’ve become over it yet?). Have you ever been to LoCanda Verde? If so, what is your favorite dish? What other fancy pants brunch spots do you like to visit from time-to-time? Share your answers/comments/thoughts down below.

signature3

kale greek salad: salute to the new “cool kid” in greens

Growing up, my mom exposed me to vegetables all the time in order to bring an end to my picky eater ways . Her persistence paid off as now I am a vegetable lover (Go Mom!). To this day, she visits the local farmer’s marketing in NJ and picks out new fruits and vegetables for us to try all the time.

My mom and I actually discovered kale, our focus for today’s recipe, back in the fall of 2011. I frequently visited the the salad bar at Whole Foods in Union Square for lunch and we re-created one of their staples, garlicky kale. That recipe used uncooked kale which was just too bitter and unappetizing for my taste buds. I knew I had to come up with something  that could be a quick and easy go-to weekday recipe AND give me all the nutrients I need to satisfy my post-workout hunger pains.

Kale has become the new “cool kid” in the world of green leafy vegetables (spinach was kicked to the curb).  It is part of the cabbage family and full of beta carotene, vitamin K, vitamin C, and calcium. It also helps prevent the growth of cancer cells, lower cholesterol and decrease absorption of dietary fat. Simply put, you should start eating it and there is no better way to start then with my Kale Greek Salad!

Kale Greek Salad

  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 large clove of garlic
  • 1/2 cup vegetable broth
  • 1/2 of a small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1 cup of white beans (half of a can, rinsed)
  • 1/2  of cucumber, peeled and diced
  • 2 handfuls of cherry tomatoes
  • 1 roasted red pepper from a jar, diced
  • Few sprinkles of crumbled feta cheese (to your liking)
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons of oil (1/2 tablespoon for cooking the kale, 1 tablespoon for the dressing)
  • 2 tablespoons of champagne wine vinegar
  • 1 squirt of honey
  • salt and pepper to taste

1.) Wash and remove the center ribs and stems from the kale. Chop these into small bite size pieces. Heat 1/2 tablespoon of olive oil in a large non-stick skillet on medium-high heat. In the meantime, finely chop your garlic. Saute garlic in olive oil for 1 minute. Once you start to smell the garlic and see it slowly browning, throw in your chopped kale and vegetable broth. Stir and then cover for 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, if necessary, cook until all the broth has evaporated. This may take an additional 1-2 minutes. Once the broth has evaporated, place the kale with chopped garlic in a salad bowl to cool.

kale

kale_3

2.) Complete the preparation work for the rest of your vegetables – red onion, white beans, cucumber, cherry tomatoes, and roasted red peppers. Once your kale has cooled, place all the veggies into your salad bow. Sprinkle crumbled feta cheese based on your taste. If you are not a fan of one of the vegetables consider other add-ins like pine nuts, black olives, or chick peas.

vegetables

whitebeans

salad

3.) Make your dressing by combing your remaining 1 tablespoon of olive oil, 2 tablespoons of champagne vinegar, and squirt of honey. Add salt and pepper, to taste, and whisk together. Pour dressing over salad and toss.

dressing

4.) It is time to eat! Enjoy!

smallbowl

This batch left me with two entree servings for myself. After having my dinner, I packed it up for lunch. The salad with dressing became tastier over night so I highly recommend packing this for a homemade lunch to enjoy at work. This creation has left me officially in love with kale.

Do you have a favorite kale recipe? What is your favorite green leafy vegetable? How do you prepare it?

signature3

neighborhood exploration: hell’s kitchen and tapas

For a girl that lives on the east side, dinner on the west side is a rarity BUT for tapas, I will do anything…even take the bus!

Tapas are known as Spanish small plates. I love them because you have the opportunity to have a small taste of many different dishes and of course, share with the people you are enjoying your meal with. Because of the popularity tapas has received here in the U.S., non-Spanish restaurants have embraced the concept. You can find a tapas place in almost every type of cuisine very easily: Asian, Mexican, Italian…the list will go on.

With the company of a great friend, we set out on our very own mini tapas tour of two of the top-rated tapas bars, according to Yelp, in Hell’s Kitchen. These tapas bars were not traditional Spanish cuisine however, they were still tasty, overall.

LOCATIONS:

Ardesia – 510 W 52nd St (Between 10th and 11th Ave.) http://ardesia-ny.com/

Casellula -401 W 52nd St (Between 9th and 10th Ave.) http://www.casellula.com/

Ardesia

The restaurant definitely has a romantic vibe going on but, it is also perfect if you are looking to have some tapas with a friend, coworker or family member. A versatile restaurant is important.. The host seated us in the lounge area which included comfortable couches and small tables to snack off of. We each ordered a glass of the Malbec. I recently started drinking red wine after years of being a white phanatic (haha a little Philly love for some of my readers!). What made me realize what I was missing ordering glass after glass of Riesling or Pinot Grigio? A trip to Spain (more about that later.).

The Malbec we ordered was from Argentina, where it has become their signature grape. Malbec is known for having a medium to full-body and high levels of tannin as well as ripe fruit flavors like plums, black cherry and blackberry. All you really need to know is that I loved it and I think you should order it. After some wine, it was onto the food. Since we anticipated going to another tapas place, we only ordered a few things. Here is what I thought:

Quail Egg Toast – It came with house-cured bacon, a perfectly fried quail egg, and a simple but wonderfully done, hollandaise. It was a taste of brunch at dinner. The quail egg was cooked with a runny yellow center which complimented the hollandaise. I highly recommend ordering this when you visit.

quail egg toast

Shrimp – It came with chorizo, garlic, and a white wine broth. They served with some of Amy’s Bread. This was a simple dish and tasty but, nothing you cannot find at any other tapas bar here in the city. The bread was phenomenal so I did a little more research to find out where I can get some in the future. Amy’s Bread has 3 locations in the city currently (Hell’s Kitchen, Chelsea Market, and the Village). They have it all: cakes, pastries and of course, bread. Another place to check out that I have now added to my list.

shrimp

Pulled Pork Sliders – When I saw this arrive at the table, I was not impressed visually. Instead of using a typical roll or bun, they decided to go with what reminded me of those sandwich thins you buy at the grocery store when you are trying be healthy. If I am drinking wine, I am not looking for sandwich thins. However, when I took my first bite, my opinion changed drastically. The pickled cipollini onions added a perfect crunch and the there was just enough sauce to keep the pulled pork soft and juicy. I wasn’t expecting to enjoy this tapa but I did. Kudos to our waiter for recommending this dish to us.

pork sliders

Casellula

After our initial tapas, we walked down the street to tapas bar #2 on our tour of Hell’s Kitchen. Casellula mimicked the same romantic vibe as Ardesia but you will find a lot of non-couples in the res truant as well. Since it was very busy, we decided to sit at the bar and I am glad we did. Sitting at a bar is sometimes even better than getting a table while dining out. You get to see the hustle and bustle of the kitchen and chat with the bartender. To stay consistent with our beverage choice, we ordered another glass of Malbec and again, I was left very happy. We got a little menu happy at this place and ordered more than we could eat (this tends to happen to me…) and ended up making it a very pork-filled meal. This was not our intention.

Bacon Butter Popcorn – Sounds pretty awesome, right? It was not. It came with bacon, sherry vinegar, and chives. Flavorless and oily is what we got. I reached for several handfuls hoping that it would miraculously taste better and it continued to leave me disappointed. Do not waste your time ordering this.

popcorn

Mixed Green Salad – I love vegetables so I was in need of some so I ordered some greens. It was a standard salad with tomato, red onion, and Chèvre (goat cheese). The herb vinaigrette was perfect. Nothing special but it was definitely necessary after all the pork we ate.

salad

Pig’s Ass Sandwich – The best thing on the menu. If we weren’t so full, we would have been able to devour the whole thing. The cheese provided the right amount of creaminess with the pork, the pickles gave the panini-like sandwich crunch and the chipotle aioli, a little kick. All around, the pig’s ass was a win.

pig sandwich

Mac and Cheese – I wasn’t impressed. Design having lardons, small cubes/stops of pork fat, there wasn’t enough salt. Seasoning is key.

mac and cheese

Do you have a favorite tapas bar in Hell’s Kitchen or another neighborhood in NYC? What is your go-to tapa to order? Please share your answers, thoughts, or questions in the comments area.

signature3