Food

A Salt and Battery

In response to the Health Department’s new salt reduction initiative, the Times ordered some food from local restaurants and sent it off to a Long Island lab for sodium testing. What they found may not shock you: A Double ShackBurger, fries and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack contain 1,980 milligrams of sodium. Two slices of Cajun bacon-cheeseburger pizza from Two Boots clock in at 2,240 milligrams. But the saltiest of them all is the corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, which contains 4,490 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, “having what she’s having” might just leave you with hypertension.

Food

Fit and Surviving

To say that not working for five months has been easy living is to believe a comfortable facade. I’m sure there’s levels of emotion within the psyche of an unemployed person, but I never looked them up. I’m more analytical so I’ve measured my emotions more by my actions.

I was pissed about my group and products being cut from the core business but not very long as that emotion washed into more personal and family focus for the first few months. As the holiday approached, the interview and hiring cycle stopped and I concentrated my time on that imaginary checklist I never had the opportunity to do. Some of which includes:

    1. Tour unknown parts of New York City
      Read more books
      Upgrade and redesign my websites
      Spend more time with my woman
      Spend more time with friends and seek out new ones
      Learn new skills (both in and out of my core career focus of tech)
      Get my fitness on
      Refocus energy on my hobbies: Photography, Music, Wine and Cooking
  • To a major extent I’ve done all these and it’s really time I get back to work. I’ve been interviewing and pursuing positions of interest with more vigor than when I first moved to NY.

    Interesting thing about having no income, is you learn very quickly how to save money and spend it more appropriately. I’ve been doing a lot of frugal shopping in places where the typical Manhattanite doesn’t. I’ve also found the epicurean and fitness value of making your own soup stocks – which I’ve been doing weekly.

    I have a relationship with all my local purveyors including my butcher. “My guy” is known for many quality meats but I love that I can buy pounds of left over chicken and beef bone on the cheap and freeze them until needed. When I have 6 hours of home time (typical when I work from the home office), I’ll hack up a couple handfuls (to expose the marrow) and roast them in the oven with a little olive oil and salt for 45 min at 375. Toss them in a large stock pot filled with water to within an inch of the top (about 2 gallons in my case). Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat to simmer and slow cook while stirring occasional as the pot reduces and creates layers of tasty bone fortified stock. About an hour before it’s done I’ll toss in the rough cut veggies (just ginger and onion for Asian based chicken stocks, and on top I’ll add varying amounts of carrots, celery, thyme, bay leaves, and even black pepper depending on the depth of flavor I want to create).

    Cool over night. Skim the fat. Package and freeze for use. Easy.

    With that stock, I’ve made hundreds of dishes for lunch and dinner but especially important this cold winter are the many soup options you can derive from home made chicken stock. The most important reason for this is the health factor. You can control the sodium and quality of ingredients that go into your base and thus improve the quality of food ingested.

    Here’s a Butternut Squash Soup, I adapted with the influential help of Ina Garten:

    Roasted Butternut Squash Soup with West Indian Curry

    * 2 tablespoons unsalted butter
    * 3 tablespoons good extra virgin olive oil
    * 3 cups chopped yellow onions (2 large)
    * 2 cups chopped Yukon potatoes (3 medium)
    * 2 tablespoons West Indian curry powder
    * 5 pounds butternut squash, peeled with seeds removed (2 large)
    * 2 sweet apples, such as McIntosh, peeled
    * 2 teaspoons kosher salt
    * 1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    * 2 to 4 cups home made chicken stock

    Condiments for serving:
    * Scallions, white and green parts, trimmed and sliced diagonally
    * Roasted salted cashews, toasted and chopped

    Preheat the oven to medium/medium high temp (about 400). Roasting the vegetables first concentrates the flavors before the puree of the soup. Rough chop the onions, potatoes, squash and apples into even, 1 inch cubes. Mix up all pieces with the olive oil and half the salt and pepper and spread evenly onto 2 sheet pans.

    Put both trays in the oven and roast for about 35 to 45 minutes, until very tender. Turn the veggies occasionally and rotate the trays top-to-bottom and front-to-back at least once (halfway) through the baking process. Heat the chicken stock to a simmer.

    On this particular day, I didn’t have “West Indian Curry Powder”, and I really had no idea what was in those generic bottles at the grocery store labeled “Curry Power”. A very quick google search turned up this mix for “West Indian Curry Powder” and I had all the ingredients so I created my own.

    When the vegetables are done, put them through a food mill fitted with the medium blade. (Alternatively, you can place the roasted vegetables in batches in a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Add some of the chicken stock and coarsely puree.). When all of the vegetables are processed, place them in a large pot and add enough chicken stock to your level of thickness in soup (I used about 3 cups). Add the curry powder gradually to taste (you may not need all 2 tblspns) and the rest of the salt and pepper (also to taste).

    Bowl and serve with suggested condiments for crunch.

    photo365_2010_035

    The thing about interviewing for a new job when you currently are without, is you’re viewed as almost the underdog in the process. Once you get past the paper screening though, it’s all gravy for this professional. I’m getting closer to the goal as certain preferred employers are taking notice. When others are not (and it’s usually the HR gatekeepers, not the hiring managers) I found this song figuratively appropriate for the process and literally appropriate because the band is called Spoon.

    Spoon – Underdog

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    Picture yourself in the living room
    Your pipe and slippers set out for you
    I know you think that it ain’t too far

    But I, I hear the call of a lifetime ring
    Felt the need to get up for it
    Oh, you cut out the middleman
    Get free from the middleman

    You got no time for the messenger
    Got no regard for the thing
    That you don’t understand
    You got no fear of the underdog
    That’s why you will not survive

    Food

    Are you Stupid?

    Sodium Chloride, the chemical name for the simple white substance used auspiciously in many religions, ubiquitous in the Northeast during the winter melting sidwalks and accelerating rust on old cars, and one of the oldest seasonings known to man used to preserve and flavor food for all.

    Salt is a primary electrolyte in the human body, however, in excessive amounts can cause some minor to fatal health conditions. Because of the latter, many governments have instituted recommended daily intakes of the substance and some are starting to legislate it’s use. One such administration is Bloomberg’s here in New York City.

    Mayor Bloomberg’s salt reduction initiative which in all accounts seems to be aimed at fast food joints has created quite a buzz especially in this city’s real kitchens; a source of some of the worlds best cuisine.

    In response to the Health Department’s new salt reduction initiative, the NY Times ordered some food from local restaurants and sent it off to a Long Island lab for sodium testing. What they found may not shock you: A Double ShackBurger, fries and a peanut butter shake from Shake Shack contain 1,980 milligrams of sodium. Two slices of Cajun bacon-cheeseburger pizza from Two Boots clock in at 2,240 milligrams. But the saltiest of them all is the corned beef sandwich from Katz’s Deli, which contains 4,490 milligrams of sodium. Considering that the FDA recommends a maximum of 2,400 milligrams of sodium per day, “having what she’s having” might just leave you with hypertension

    I’m all for recommendations and encouraging businesses or food producers to be more transparent about all ingredients used in their offerings, but I’m not about to be treated like a kid by a “Nanny State” that feels I’m not old enough or educated enough to eat in moderation. Enforcing a ban or restricting usage limits is absurd and I’m with the chefs, cooks and foodies alike in this hoping this doesn’t get anything more than wishful thinking for the mayor’s team.

    Day 34: Be Stupid?

    I still love The Boy’s old old work back when they were a shite NY punk band playing with Murphy’s Law and Bad Brains (ML opened for the Beastie’s on their “Licensed to ILL” tour). Some Old Bull is still a great album and although there’s better tracks per say and in a rough garage distorted sounding way (“Egg raid on Mojo,” Traffic Cop,” etc.), this still fit my post for both cookery and stupidity.

    Beastie Boys – Cookie Puss

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    Food

    Bun Rieu Cua

    Bun rieu cua is a Vietnamese soup noodle dish that has a tomato and tamarind flavored broth with meatballs made from ground pork, crab meat and shrimp meat. We’ve been cooking a lot of soups this cold winter and asian noodle soups especially. We used the recipe from Ravenous Couple. Here’s a shot of the prep and the final product. The only comments are we’ll need more pork and fresh crab would have been great too… :)

    Day 26: Bun Rieu Cua

    DJ Food – All Covered In Darkness (Parts 1 & 2)

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    Food

    Traditional Green Curry

    maesri_curry_pasteWhile spending my time down at the court house this week for jury duty, I had the opportunity to check out some of Chinatown I don’t normally venture too. I found a great south Asian market and picked up some Thai curry paste, Japanese eggplant and buna shimeji mushrooms to make some “authentic” green curry (80% authentic as I’m making it from a canned Thai paste and of course I’ve never physically been to Thailand).

    Green curry is one of my favorite Thai dishes, however, I’ve never made the dish at home, primarily because I’ve never had access to kaffir lime leaves, thai basil, and other authentic ingredients. Of course, using the paste cuts all the work.

    I’m usually the one to ask for Thai spicy in any restaurant, and more often they will provide me with a complimentary glass of milk, or blow off my request from the get go and give me a very mild version of spicy food. It’s unfortunate but I am always asking for more chili in any Thai restaurant I go. This dish, however, was the hottest I’ve every had and was one of the best as well.

    Buna Shimeji Mushrooms

    Japanese Eggplant

    cooking_2009_006

    Heat some jasmine rice and pour over the top, serve. I had curry for the next 4 days after this and it was one of the best lunches I’ve had all week. I plan on making this again and perfecting the dish with the next attempt. Here’s the recipe I used:

    • 1 lb chicken (pork loin, beef, duck or tofu can be used too)
    • Entire can of Maesri green curry paste (4 ounces)
    • 2 1/2 cups coconut milk
    • 2-5 small fresh Thai / Japanese eggplants, cubed
    • 2-3 fresh Thai bird chilies, sliced diagonally (depending on heat – you may opt to have none)
    • 2 kaffir lime leaves, chiffonade
    • 1/4 cup thai basil leaf, chiffonade
    • 1 1/2 tbsp fish sauce
    • 1 1/2 tsp palm sugar
    • 1 tbsp cooking oil (corn, safflower, vegetable or peanut oil works best)
    • Sweet Thai basil leaves and red chili slices for garnish

    Preparation

    1. Slice the meat into thin pieces, about about 1/3″ (3 cm) thick and add 1 ounce (1/4 can) of curry paste to meat to marinade for at least 15 minutes, preferably over night.
    2. In a large saute pan, add oil and saute the green curry paste over medium heat until fragrant, reduce the heat, and then add the meat.
    3. Add the eggplant and saute until a light crust develops.
    4. Gradually add 1 1/2 cups of the coconut milk a little at a time, stir until a film of green oil surfaces.
    5. Add the kaffir lime leaves, continue cooking for 3 minutes until fragrant and the meat is cooked through. Add the remaining coconut milk, season with palm sugar and fish sauce.
    6. When the eggplant is cooked enough for your taste, sprinkle thai basil leaves and red chilies over, then turn off the heat.
    7. Add jasmine rice to dish, arrange curry on or around serving dish and garnish with Thai basil leaves and red chilies before serving.

    Enjoy…

    Food

    Minetta Tavern no longer available to pedestrians

    It’s a sad day in any food and bar epicenter when a classic location is purchased from the original owners, refurbished and then reborn as a haute celebrity joint where the exclusivity garners more attention than the actual purpose of the location; in this case the focus is on the food. Minetta Tavern was once ranked (by Esquire magazine) as a top bar of America but after glorious reviews from the Times and NY Mag, it seems the location is back to tops in NY and now according to Eatery, it’s closed to pedestrians. Apparently here’s as close as you will get:

    Food

    Frank Bruni leaves a void at the Times

    food criticPrior to moving to New York 5 years ago, I didn’t read the Times regularly, and when I did, it was usually the Business or the Market sections; I never subscribed to it. Really I still don’t but my neighbor had a subscription that he over paid a year for and has never changed the delivery address after moving, so I’m fortunate to have a free subscription by proxy.

    I’ve always been a “foodie” but haven’t had the “disposable” income to explore great restaurants until that move to New York. I use “disposable” lightly because I could have very well cooked at home more and become more financially liquid, however, this isNew York, one of the greatest dining cities in the world; there’s no way I’m going to pass up eating quality, unique and worldly food.

    I have 5 years personal in restaurant experience as either a waiter or a chef, and local eating experiences at Bay Area, Central Coast or Santa Monica joints. I never really read restaurant reviews or reviewed my own (Yelp) until my move to NY. I was then introduced to the world of restaurant reviews with my subscription to Time Out NY and then expanded it to include reviews from Frank Bruni, eater.com, Gael Greene, and of course person-to-person reviews on Yelp.

    This week Frank Bruni will be leaving the Times and has added a few parting thoughts comparing his favorites in and around New York. He notes some of my favorite restaurants in NY, including the Spotted Pig, Momofuku Ssam Bar, Prune, Minetta Tavern, Locanda Verde, Five Points, DBGB, Public, and PDT, and he’s given me a few more suggestions now for my next restaurant exploration. Give his last column a read.

    Food

    Rooftop, Weber, and Grilled Meats on a Stick –…

    I have always owned a BBQ grill. Living with my parents when I was younger, I grew up summers cooking food over the fire while camping and through out the years grilling in the back yard or in the streets with the neighbors. When I moved out, I bought a grill and had owned one in South Bay, Central Coast, and in Southern California, finally selling it on craigslist before moving to NY.

    It’s probably the primary form of cooking I miss the most, so when I hear even a whisper of a BBQ, I’m either invited or finding a way to get invited to cook and enjoy some grilled meats. This summer, we had the opportunity to grill on the roof deck of several friends in NY and I hope that doesn’t end anytime soon…

    Food

    Why Americans love Olive Garden

    Fast Company has an interesting post about Why American’s are addicted to Olive Garden….

    It speaks to their success that the employee is as much a part of it as the customer experience. The “waiter, interacting with customers, shaping their dining experience, and getting rewarded for it” is integral to the dining experience at OG and it’s not far off from the reality of quality Fortune 500 companies. The Olive Garden brand is built around the notion that guests are treated like family, but Pickens knows that isn’t likely to happen unless employees feel like family too.

    Customer feedback and market intelligence is another key to their brand strength They’re constantly polling their customers to get a touch for how the market changes and leveraging technology at every point in their operation to get real time visibility into sales, growth and inventory numbers to keep their operations business running at optimum.

    Over the past two years, Darden has reduced unplanned hours by more than 40% and trimmed excess food costs by 10%. “We don’t want zero waste,” says White, “because we don’t want to run out of anything on the menu.” The goal is no more than 9% waste, and the system tells each restaurant how it’s doing.

    Noted in this piece is that, today, the average American has 79 sit-down meals in restaurants per year, 16% fewer than 15 years ago, according to analyst Harry Balzer of market-research firm NPD Group. Meanwhile, the number of casual-dining restaurants has grown at roughly twice the rate of population. This is about 1.5 per week, and I just recently learned that San Francisco has the highest numbers of restaurant patrons of any city in the US. I’m sure NY is not far behind.

    There was a minimal focus within the article about the food, except for the last statement “Red Lobster may be serving more grilled salmon and less fried flounder. But no one is messing with the cheese biscuits.” Sure those biscuits are great, but still not enough over take m desire for fresh pasta and Italian food or seafood from my favorite local spots over this chain.

    Food

    Long week, get the body and stomach work done

    Business is slow, yet my work is intensely busy; mostly trying to generate new business and convince customers it’s the right time to part them from their cash hords. E and I made an appointment at Lilly and Raul for some Qi Gong Tui Na body work. Ah such relief. It’s a great ladies and couples only shop on the 15th floor of an office building. We got a full hour in for $50 each.

    Afterward, we headed to the basement of the same building for some Izakaya. If your not familiar with Izakayas, they are traditional Japanese after work drinking establishments, with excellent food. In this building, there’s Sakagura, one of the best establishments in New York City for this fare. I’ve been here several times and will typically will recommend it to people looking for good Japanese food (non sushi) and it’s a go to spot to take out of town guests.

    From their website:

    Sakagura was founded in 1996 and has become one of the top sake bars in the United States, attracting countless sake lovers. When you visit our unique location in the basement of a Midtown East office building, you’ll understand why we have earned the nickname “hidden jewel.” and why our customers say that walking into Sakagura is “like walking into Tokyo.”

    We offer over 200 kinds of carefully selected sakes, various authentic tapas-style dishes, and homemade desserts.

    I’ve had the majority of the menu and there hasn’t been one item I wouldn’t order again. There’s definately unique options but it does help to like foods like Beef Tongue and Raw Squid to experience the entire menu.

    After a great massage and meal, the weekend was set for what ever happens. Great times.