Dinner & Roses To-Go: Summer-Bries Pasta

brie pasta dinner vegetarian basil recipe

Brie Pasta Plated and Ready

On Monday nights for a series of 16 weeks twice a year, I engage in a very sophisticated evening with a select group of friends in the City. It’s a weekly meeting of the minds and

dinner pasta vegetarian roses brie cheese sauce

So much hope on one tray

exchanging of incredibly insightful and valuable information. An opportunity to explore human behavior on an intimate level. To live – just for a moment – inside the lives (and hot tubs) of beautiful women and six-pack ab-ed men on their journey, their quest for love …..For the purpose of simplifying, let’s call it ‘Book Club’ – but know that it is oh, so much more. I mean, there are roses involved.

The west 86-ers (friends who live there) generally host and always provide an incredible meal to feed our minds and souls as we solve the world’s problems and follow the young hopefuls through the ups and downs of budding romance. Once in a blue moon, I offer to bring dinner, I mean, I’m the food blogger, right, this should be my job. Yet, on these occasions, I often find myself at a loss for what to bring. I don’t want to default to the go-to easily portable casserole family – this is a fancy evening after all – there’s generally evening gowns and a champagne toast. There are always tears. I brought my chicken milanese on one occasion and it was well-received, a good complement to this intellectually stimulating evening. So, when I offered to bring dinner for what was certain to be the most dramatic series finale ever, the pressure was on.

It would have to be a rose-worthy feast. One that could not only comfort us through the disappointment of a potentially heartbreaking end to the journey but could also support an exuberant celebration should the evening end in true love. There were other factors to consider as well – it had to be easily portable, not require too much ‘cooking’ as in tiny NYC apartments any heat thrown from the kitchen is too powerful for even the strongest of A/C units during a heat wave. It couldn’t be too salty (I tried to kill this group once before with an exceedingly salty, like dead sea salty, pulled pork dinner – that was a Des-Aster).

So, I borrowed a page from me mum’s culinary delights and made a Summer-Bries Pasta.

Tiny Kitchen Tips:

  1. basil brie pasta dinner vegetarian recipe

    Basil Bunch

    Fairway NYC has the best deal on Basil in town…but, you have to buy a giant bunch of it – so, plan to use some for a freezable pesto sauce or other basil-easy delights

  2. This recipe is too much…you can easily cut in half if your ‘Book Club’ isn’t that many people

Summer-Bries Pasta (serves like 85 people…or 6)

Ingredients:

  • 2 Cloves Garlic  you can go to three cloves, you can do 2 cloves garlic and 1/2 a shallot – it’s your call
  • 1 1/2 Cup Basil Leaves
  • 1 Pound French Brie
  • 1 Cup Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1 Container of Compari Tomatoes
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1 – 1 1/2 lbs of Linguini or Boccacini or any other ‘ini’ pasta

Always Mise En Place – it’s just fun and makes you feel chef-like:

brie pasta dinner recipe

Mise En Place

1.  Cut the tomatoes – the entire box – into bite-sized pieces – like little cube-y-ish – and put into a large mixing bowl

dinner pasta summer brie campari tomatoes

Campari tomatoes – selected bc they are sweet and delicious

2. Mince the cloves of garlic and toss on top of the tomatoes in the bowl

dinner pasta  brie tomatoes garlic summer

No mincer? No worries, just chop super small – I used my microplane, just be careful!

3. Chiffonade the basil leaves and…uh huh…toss on top of the garlic and tomatoes

dinner pasta vegetarian cheese basil

Beautifully Chiffonade-d Basil-y Goodness

4. Remove the rinds from the brie and then tear into smallish pieces – like smaller than an ice cube and bigger than a marble…Throw the pieces of brie into the basil-y, garlic-y, tomato-y mix

brie pasta summer dinner vegetarian

Triple Cream Brie – two is too few, four is too many

5. Pour the Extra-Virgin Olive Oil over the brie, basil, tomato, garlic mix and toss gently to combine

dinner vegetarian pasta summer easy cooking

Mixed….And, now let it just sit

6. Add salt and pepper, cover and let the mixture sit out on your tiny kitchen counter for the day…at least 2 hours, but the flavors meld and intensify the longer it sits…I left it for no fewer than 5 hours…

NOTE: It will look runny and odd…do not fear — I already did that for you – no, there’s not too much olive oil or too many watery tomatoes…relax. It’s all good.

7. Boil the pasta about 1-2 minutes shy of the recommended cooking time, drain and immediately toss with the tomato-y, basil-y, garlic-y, brie-y mix

The brie will melt into an incredible cream sauce……yum.

8. Garnish with a few more basil leaves/pieces and serve warm

Book Club is more about getting together with friends than it is about watching the Des-bacle. Next time you want to bring dinner to a crew, just remember –  The journey to find love isn’t always easy, but this portable pasta dish truly is a bries.

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Snakes and Maggots Couldn’t Drive Me Away: Roasted Potatoes

A lot more than she bargained for

A lot more than she bargained for

WARNING: THIS POST ISN’T REALLY ABOUT THE RECIPE.

There’s a story today on Yahoo! about some woman who found a snake, yep, snake, in a bag of potatoes she purchased at Walmart.

This got me thinking about the unwanteds I have found in foods over the past 100 years. I had an infestation of small brownish bugs in my kitchen once – by once I mean for about 2 weeks a year for 3 years I would find them creepy crawling up my cabinets or sneaking around in my breadcrumbs…eww. Blamed the flowers a male suitor had sent me. Anyone who has ever dated me since knows never to send me flowers. Take note.

sidney place brooklyn heights potatoes roasted

26 Sidney Place

When I first moved to NYC and my age was my salary – which we all thought was pretty cool at the time – I lived with about 1,000 other kids in an amazing brownstone in Brooklyn Heights. I didn’t really cook, and by ‘really’, I mean not at all. So, many nights I existed on fried rice from the local Chinese place on Montague Street – $4.75 and I could make it last for three meals.

Sure, I dabbled. There were tuna melts, grilled cheese and Raman noodle nights (I could fry stuff and boil water!). But, mostly when I didn’t have any left over fried rice, dinner was cold cereal. That’s right, ‘ready-to-eat’ cereal that we would purchase at the bodega between the Borough Hall Subway Stop and our house.

One night, my roommate/ BFF and I were walking home together – a rarity as she was an I-banker (read, worked late and made a lot more money) and I was in publishing (read, left work between 5 – 6pm and, well, we already discussed my salary). We stopped at the bodega to get some ‘dinner’. Jane, as she prefers to be called these days, selected a lovely box of Raisin Bran. I…it doesn’t matter what I got – the story is about her cereal.

Anyhoo, we trekked home, poured our cereals into bowls and topped with milk. We were hungry – growing girls – and stood together in the kitchen, shoveling it in. At about bite three, Jane started frothing at the mouth…literally spitting the tasty bran and raisins back in to the bowl.

‘What!’ I shrieked ‘Are you doing?’

She slammed the bowl on to the kitchen counter, continued spitting, wiping her tongue with a paper towel and just pointed her shaking finger at the bowl.

So…I looked….Still wish I hadn’t…But, I looked. How could I not? And, there it was…the cereal was….uhmmmm…moving. Yeah….Her cereal was moving. Like totally moving. Like horror movie moving.

I looked more closely and the cereal was alive with maggots. Still makes me shiver. Haven’t eaten raisin bran since…OK, no big sacrifice cuz this blogger hates the raisins. But, still…uhmmmm…ewww.

Roasted Potatoes Recipe food

Uhmmmm…EWWWW

So, after what I went through with the maggots and then with the floral delivery bug invasion…you might think that the Walmart-Snake-in-the-Potatoes story might scare me off of a starchy potato treat. Au contraire…It would take a truck load of maggots to move me off of potatoes.

Here is my go-to simple, crowd-pleasing, snake and maggot-free roasted potato side dish.

Soup Packet Roasted Potatoes (Serves 4-6)

Tiny apartment tips:

  1. Buy tiny potatoes – not just because they’re tiny like your kitchen, but because they cook more quickly, they’re cute and mostly because you don’t have to peel them or do much chopping
  2. When you buy the french onion soup mix – Lipton, of course – take the packets out of the box and store upright in a cabinet – the box takes up too much space.
  3. No…you can’t make these ahead of time. So, stop asking 🙂
  4. Heed the Parchment Paper lining tip – or you will ruin your baking pan

Ingredients

  • lipton soup dinner recipe side dish vegetarian

    Side Dishes Don’t Have To Be Difficult

    Like a pound of small potatoes – new potatoes or purple potatoes are good or if you’re fancy those bags with the three colors of potatoes…maybe not Yukon gold potatoes – they’re too soft.

  • 1/3 Cup of Olive Oil – IG would say ‘really good olive oil’
  • 1 Packet of Dry Lipton’s Onion Soup Mix
  • 1 TSP of Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Salt

Preheat oven to 425…or 450 doesn’t really matter

(I wish this was more difficult…but, like deciding to eat or not eat maggots…it’s not – I did warn you that this post wasn’t about the dish)

1. Wash the potatoes

roasted new potatoes dinner vegetarian

I might have chopped first and washed second…whatever. It’s all good

2. Quarter or halve the potatoes – you want bite size pieces – so depends on how big the taters you bought are

3. In a small bowl, whisk together the packet of french onion soup, Krazy Mixed Up Salt and Olive Oil

4. Pour the potatoes in to a Ziplock baggie – gallon style. Pour the olive oil mixture over the potatoes in the baggie

french onion soup lipton roasted potatoes recipe

Taters covered in EVOO and soup mix

6. Zip the bag…mix it around – with your hands move the contents –  making sure you cover all of the potatoes

7. Line a rimmed baking dish with parchment paper

8. Pour the potato, french onion soup / olive oil mix on to the lined baking dish making sure the potatoes are in a single layer

Roasted potatoes side french onion soup lipton dinner vegetarian

Single Layer! Very Important!

9. Put in the oven and bake for :45 – :60 minutes tossing a few times during the cooking process. Cooking time depends on how crispy you like ’em.

10. Serve immediately

roasted potatoes lipton soup side dish vegetarian

Piping Hot, Crisped And Ready

I like my potatoes crispy. My favorite late night fry is the one that is actually void of any potato flesh. Truth.

I like potatoes. Is there a support group for that? Even though there was APPARENTLY a smallish snake in one particular package at one particular Walmart – I will continue to eat the potatoes. I might even buy them at Walmart. When it comes to potatoes – even maggots couldn’t drive me away.

Put That In Your Bird and Roast It: Wine Can Chicken

wine can chicken roast whole chicken thyme

Garlic and Thyme Infused. Perfectly Wine-ily Moist

As summer approaches, we, in our small, no outdoor space, apartments know we are about to suffer through endless Facebook and Instagram and WordPress/Tumblr/Blogger posts of suburbanites grilling everything from lobster to steaks to chicken to vegetables.

Just the way it is. Men off of the island will be boasting about giant meats grilled to perfection. Women will be mastering marinades. Even the vegans will get involved with newly purchased vegetable griller trays.

OK, we admit it, we’re jealous. We wish we had a gas grill. We also wish we had won the PowerBall. We wish a lot of things.

It’s all moot because, not only are gas grills illegal on the island of Manhattan…but even if you did manage to sneak one up the freight elevator while no one was looking, transporting propane through any of the tunnels is also a big NYC no-no. Sure, you might have shared outdoor space in your building and you could charcoal it up, but, let’s face it, that all sounds a bit messy. And, carting a 40lb bag of charcoal from Food Emporium to your apartment is next to impossible. Plus – you’ll be damned if you’re going to get one of those roll-y carts.

No fear, my dears – We can do lots of grillish meals in the comforts of our tiny kitchens. And this wine-can chicken may actually change your mind about always relying on the rotisserie option.

Wine Can Chicken (Serves 4)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • Ideally you might have a deepish roasting pan to sit the chicken in…but if you only have a lasagna or even a baking dish, use those. Just line with Reynold’s Wrap to ease clean up
  • OK, you have to have fresh Thyme on this one…But remember, you can freeze the unused Thyme and use it in future dishes for up to 6 months. Just put the thyme in a ZipLoc baggie and throw it in the fridge. I might wash it first too.
  • Remove all but the lowest oven rack before heating the oven…I put mine on top of my cabinets when not in use. You can hide it behind a door or something…
  • Invite someone who likes dark meat – I don’t…

Ingredients:

chicken roasted wine infused can

Always Mise En Place – partial MEP…forgot to photo the garlic and Jane’s Krazy stuff

  • 1 Whole Chicken (3.5 – 4lbs) bought mine at Fairway who had the best price that day
  • 3 Cloves Garlic Smashed
  • 2 Lemons – juiced
  • The zest of 1 Lemon
  • 5 Sprigs of Thyme plus the leaves from 2 add’l Sprigs
  • 6 Oz Good-ish White Wine – whatever you have leftover. Consult @grapefriend.com for suggestions if you like. I used a chardonnay left over by my white wino friends
  • 1 TBSP Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Lemon Pepper
  • 2 TBSP Olive Oil
  • 1 empty 12oz Can, rinsed and cleaned inside and out – I used a lemon San Pelligrino can thinking that any left over flavor in the can from the lemon would be AOK

Preheat the Oven to 400 degrees F

1. In a small bowl whisk together the Olive Oil, Jane’s Krazy Mixed Up Lemon Pepper and the leaves from 2 Sprigs of Thyme

2. Into a Cup Measurer with oz – Pour 6oz of Chardonnay

3. Into the Chardonnay add the juice of 1 lemon PLUS the zest of 1 lemon

4. Whisk together wine and lemon

5. Pour the wine and lemon mix into the empty San Pelligrino can

6. Into the can shove the smashed cloves of garlic

7. Add the 5 sprigs of Thyme into the Pelligrino Can

wine can chicken in oven

Doesn’t have to look perfect – I removed the tab from the can, but not sure you have to

8. Give the can a little swirl

9. Unwrap the Chicken and rub the front and back with the Olive Oil, Lemon, Thyme Leaves, Krazy Mixed Up Lemon Pepper

wine can whole roasted chicken in oven

Rubbed with flavorful goodness

10. Sit the Wine-Filled San Pelligrino can on the center of the lined lasagna/baking/roasting pan and then sit the whole chicken atop the can – inserting the can into the Chicken’s ‘cavity’

roasted whole chicken in oven herb infused

Can on pan…I used a lasagna pan

wine can beer can chicken roasted in oven

Violate the Chicken with the Wine-y, Herb-y Can

11. Put into the oven – and roast for 1 hour – turning the pan 180 degrees about halfway through to ensure even cooking

12. Check with a meat thermometer beginning at :45 mins. Breast area should read 170 degrees and Thighs should read at 180 degrees when done

13. Take out of the oven and let sit for :10mins before moving chicken off of the can and onto a cutting board

wine can chicken herb infused recipe food

Perfectly Roasted Wine-Can Chicken – Next time I might take the Chicken off of the can and lay flat for the last :15 of roasting to even the browning on the skin. Next time

14. Slice and serve!

wine can chicken oven recipe dinner food

Served mine with pan crisped yellow zucchini

Yes, people make beer-can chicken on their outdoor grills all the time. But, beer is so gauche.

The wine-can chicken technique seriously may have changed my mind about defaulting to the store roasted bird. It was amazingly good and so very easy.

So this weekend when all of those suburbanites are busily posting pix of their outdoor grilling bonanzas, you just rest comfortably in your tiny kitchen with your perfectly roasted wine and herb infused whole chicken. Put that in your bird and roast it!

Fresh and Sweet: Tomatillo Salsa for Cinco de Mayo

Tomatillo sauce cinco de mayo

Tomatillos are a berry

I don’t love super spicy food. But, it’s Cinco de Mayo weekend – so spicy is the drill. To temper your spicy tacos, enchilada, burritos or whatever else you’re making, muchachas…Try this fresh and mild-ish tomatillo salsa.

Tomatillos are a berry. They come wrapped in a papery skin that needs to be removed and then they are sticky. Sounds gross. Isn’t. So just peel the skin off and wash them before using.

Fresh and Sweet Tomatillo Salsa (serves 6)

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  • Make ahead and chill in the fridge to save pre party counter space for margarita making
  • Wash your hands WELL after handling the jalapeno – the oils on your hands from the pepper will burn your eyes or any super sensitive areas…nuff said

Ingredients:

  • 8 medium Tomatillos – peeled, washed and quartered
  • 1 jalapeno – remove seeds and vein if you want to diminish heat – quartered
  • 2 Garlic cloves – smashed
  • 2 small onions – quartered
  • 1 ripe Avocado – peeled, seeded and cut into chunks
  • 2 TSP kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup fresh cilantro leaves, chopped
  • 1 TSP lime juice – just to freshen it up even more!

1. Put the onion, jalapeno and garlic in a Cuisinart food processor and finely chop

tomatillo salsa recipe

Love my Cuisinart

2. Add the tomatillos, avocado, lime juice and salt and pulse until chopped – but not totally smooth

avocado tomatillo salsa recipe

Add the green things

3. Transfer to a bowl and stir in the cilantro

tomatillo salsa recipe

Stir in cilantro

Serve with the Skirt Steak from yesterday’s entry.

tomatillo avocado salsa recipe

Deliciously fresh salsa side

Adios! And, Happy Cinco de Mayo!

The Time is Right: Mexican Marinated Lime-ly Grilled Skirt Steak

skirt steak lime marinade cinco de mayo

Perfectly Grilled Skirt Steak

The life of the food blogger is very complicated. There’s like math when the recipe feeds 8 but I only want to feed 4 and there’s like conversions from liters to ounces and stuff.

But, maybe the most challenging thing is getting the timing right. See, we hope to guide our reader(s) through the perfect preparation of all holiday meals – so we have to actually prepare and write about the holiday meal before the actual holiday. Like celebrating Thanksgiving on the 3rd Thursday of November, Christmas on the 15th of December or July 4th on the 1st.  You understand.

cinco de mayo grilled skirt steak

May 5 – not Independence Day

This week it means that instead of celebrating Cinco de Mayo (not Mexican Independence BTW) on Sunday with the rest of the margarita revelers, I celebrated Dos de Mayo last night.

The only tricky part is explaining to dinner guests that we are in full on Mexican mode 3 days shy of the actual Fiesta.

Dos De Mayo Lime-ly Grilled Skirt Steak (Serves 4)

Total Time: 24 Hour Marinade…Then about 7-8 Mins of Grilling…:10 minutes resting…:05 minutes slicing

Tiny Apartment Tips:

  1. Your kitchen is small…And this is a big feast, so prepare in stages. I grilled the meat in the afternoon and reheated for dinner
  2. Skirt Steak is a long, big steak…And you only have one grill pan (my new All-Clad one is awesome) So – you will need to slice the steak in half and cook in two batches
  3. As always – grilling causes a lot of smoke and the vent above your stove top doesn’t really do anything…Open the windows and front door to your apartment to ventilate. Plus the wafting of steaky aroma into the hallway may attract that certain someone in the apartment next door
  4. And remember to close the doors to your bathroom and bedroom whilst grilling – otherwise your bed linens and bath towels will soak in the steaky smell

Ingredients:

  • dinner mexican jalapeno marinades skirt steak

    I fear the Jalapeno – so ribs removed

    1 2lb Skirt Steak – I got mine at the Whole Foods meat counter… and, while pricier than I might have thought it would be, it was beautiful

  • The juice from 8 Limes
  • 5 (yes five) giant cloves of Garlic diced
  • 1/4 C of Soy Sauce
  • 1 Big Bunch of Cilantro – chopped
  • 1 TSP Cumin Powder
  • 1 Jalapeno Pepper – diced – you can remove the ribs and seeds if you’re averse to too much heat…I did
  • 1 Squirt – Call it a TBSP of Ketchup
  • The Zest of 1 Lime
  • 1/4 Cup Olive Oil
  • Gindo's Spice of Life pepper sauce

    The Spice of Life

    Dash upon Dash of Gindo’s Spice of Life hot sauce – as my guests said ‘fresh and delicious’

1. Squeeze the juice of 8 limes into a bowl

2. Add the zest of 1 lime

Lime marinated skirt steak recipe

Limey!

3. Stir in the Garlic, Soy Sauce, Cumin Powder, Jalapeno, Ketchup, Dashes of Gindo’s Spice of Life, Olive Oil and Cilantro

skirt steak marinade mexican lime

This is not muy difficult

4. Slice that giant Skirt Steak into two equal halves and place each in a ZipLoc bag

dinner marinated skirt steak mexican cinco de mayo

The Skirt Steak – long and lean

Dinner mexican marinated skirt steak

Skirt Steak Halvsies

5. Cover each half of Skirt Steak with equal parts of the marinade

grilled marinated mexican skirt steak with lime

It’s in the Bag-gie

6. Seal the bags and put them in the Fridge over night

…..The Next Day

7. When you wake up.. Flip the bags over to ensure equal marinating on both sides of the meat. And leave them in the Fridge for the day.

lime marinated mexican skirt steak recipe

Don’t forget to Flip It, Flip it Good

8. Remove the marinated meat from the Fridge :35 – :40 minutes before grilling to temperate

9. Heat a grill pan over medium/high and spray with Pam Olive Oil Cooking Spray

10. Add the first 1/2 Skirt Steak and cook on one side for 3 – 4 minutes

dinner mexican All-Clad grill pan skirt steak

All Clad Grill pan – perfect apartment accoutrement

11. Flip and cook the second side for :03 mins

grilled marinated skirt steak mexican

Side 2: Pretty Grill marks don’t matter, cuz you’re slicing it

12. Remove from the pan and let rest while you repeat with the second 1/2 of Skirt Steak

13. Let second half rest for at least :10 mins

14. Slice AGAINST the grain – this means the lines on the steak run one way and you shall cut the other way

dinner marinated mexican style skirt steak grilled

This is EXACTLY how I like my meats

15. Serve…I served as part of a Mexican Tacos Fiesta with a great Tomatillo Salsa – recipe on that tomorrow!

As they say, timing is everything. Not sure what I’ll do on the real Cinco de Mayo…But, if anyone wants to come over for a Memorial Day Feast this Monday, let me know.