From Frozen to Fabulous - Transforming A Trader Joe’s Pre-Packaged Dinner: Wow, what a catchy title, right? Are you intrigued? As a college student, with no meal plan, living off-campus you realize how hard it is to make a dinner from scratch every night. While some nights I will roast some veggies and have a protein, most nights I am stuck gazing into the freezer wondering what Trader Joe’s meal I should defrost. While my Dr. Praeger’s California Veggie Burger phase lasted a scarily long time (try them), I find myself needing to spice up the semi-bland Trader Joe’s options that I am often left with for dinner. One of my favorite Trader Joe’s items is the Japanese Style Fried Rice. It is much better than Trader Joe-San’s (it kills me to type that) Shrimp Fried Rice and provides a great base to add some veggies and egg. The Japanese Style Fried Rice already has edamame, tofu and hijiki seaweed but I always add more tofu (I love Trader Joe’s Organic Baked Teriyaki Tofu), two big handfuls of Trader Joe’s ‘Organic Power to the Greens’ (baby kale, chard and spinach) and a beautiful soft-boiled egg. While I may be the first person to ever type out a recipe for essentially defrosting a bag of rice, I feel like it is necessary to achieving a great Trader Joe’s meal.
1. Bring water to a boil in a small saucepan (this is for the egg)
2. Once water has come to a boil, put in the egg and turn the heat down a bit, let cook for about seven minutes
3. Heat vegetable oil in a skillet and pour in desired amount of rice
4. Let the rice defrost for about one minute and add in the two handfuls of greens
5. Keep stirring the stir-fry (ha) and add in the tofu (I usually cube it)
6. Stir in some soy sauce for a little extra flavor
7. Let rice cool
8. If it has been seven minutes - take the egg out and shock it in some cold water with ice
9. Put stir fry in bowl, place peeled egg on top, finish with salt and pepper and enjoy!
Cool that you now know how to defrost a bag of rice, but I promise that your friends will be impressed with how gourmet the final product looks!
Nom York City: Being born and raised in Los Angeles has given me a great appreciation for New York City. New York City solves all of Los Angeles’ problems and I am still convinced that if the two cities had a child I’d live there (San Francisco?). In New York there are no grueling debates about who will be designated driver, the city doesn’t die at 2am and the layout makes logical sense - no map required. Yet, what I love most about New York is the amazing food culture. There is so much history attached to some of New York’s best restaurants - for example - Russ & Daughters has been in operation since 1914 and run by the same family. After reading about Russ & Daughters and watching Louis C.K.’s homage here, I was convinced that I had to go. I built my own everything bagel with New Zealand smoked salmon, scallion cream cheese, capers, tomatoes and onions. They don’t toast their bagels but after the first bite I realized toasting was completely unnecessary. This was the best bagel I have ever had and well worth the 15 minute wait - if you are in New York go to Russ & Daughters! In Los Angeles, I find that there are only a handful of restaurants that have a deep history while continuing to serve awesome food - one being the always delicious Bay Cities Deli which has been operating for a little over 85 years.
Some of the other places I ate at during my recent trip to New York were:
Danji - A cute modern restaurant in Hell’s Kitchen that serves korean tapas. The farmers market bibim-bop was flavorful and completed with a perfectly runny egg.
Rubirosa - Every since Carol Han of Milk & Mode mentioned the vodka sauce pizza at Rubirosa I had been dying to go - it should be noted that her post that mentioned the pizza was in December of 2010 so I was fairly ready to go! The pizza did not disappoint - and it made a good breakfast the morning after. We also got the roasted octopus which will turn anti-octopi folk into believers.
H&H - Classic but pretty meh in comparison to Russ & Daughters.
Luke’s Lobster - Soooooo gooooood. I first heard of Luke’s Lobster after reading this blog post from Annamarie Tendler and Aziz Ansari. After going I am fairly certain this is my favorite lobster roll…ever. Not heavy at all, which is dangerous because I could have easily had 5 of them.
Roberta’s - Umm…this place is the shit. I had heard about Roberta’s well before I visited but I was unsure if I would ever make it out to Bushwick. Well…I went twice in the seven days I was in New York. The L train is fast and it is worth it to stay on a little after Bedford for some good grub. First tip: get their pizza. ‘The Bee Sting’ pizza is amazing - tomato, mozzarella, soppressata, chili flake, honey - I don’t even like spicy stuff but the honey made this so irresistible that it didn’t bother me/I picked some of the chili flakes out but whatever. Second tip: get the damn Bloody Mary. It uses horseradish and brine and is simply amazing. Third tip: get the cornmeal pancakes. I have a huge spot in my heart for cornmeal pancakes so ordering them was a no-brainer and they turned out amazing. Can you tell that this is one of my favorite spots in New York?
Soba-Ya - Ohhhh yaaaaaaa. Soba-Ya has some of the best soba I have had outside of Japan. When you walk in you are greeted by a lovely man making fresh noodles, which is never a bad sign. We ordered the Yasai hot soba which was mixed vegetables and mushrooms and I added an egg. We also got the classic Nabeyaki Udon which is always so good. The hot noodles were the perfect antidote to a cold New York evening.
Pickle Crazy: I have always been obsessed with pickles. I still remember when I was younger ordering a “gobo handroll” every time from our favorite Japanese restaurant - gobo is pickled burdock root. I also have a feeling that when I get pregnant my only craving will be pickles (because even as a non-pregnant person I crave them every day).
Here are a few recipes I have tried in my pickling escapades:
Recipe 1: The Mile End Cookbook is a great resource for updated and classic versions of Jewish recipes. The first two pictures above are from the Half-Sour Pickle recipe. I don’t love posting recipes from cookbooks because I think this one is so good and you should all go out and buy it! But here is a recipe for their Quick Cucumber Pickles (which was already published online) that is a lot less labor intensive than the one I used from the cookbook.
- 1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt cup sugar
- 2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
- 4 teaspoons ground coriander
- 1 garlic clove, grated
- ½ English cucumber (about 8 ounces), skin on, sliced very thin, ideally on a mandoline
Mix the dry ingredients in a bowl. Toss the cucumber with 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon of the spice mixture (save the rest; it will keep for months at room temperature). Let sit 10 minutes before serving.
The next recipe I tried was from Bon Appétit and was the Crunchy Sake Pickles
recipe. As a lover of sake (specifically nigori) I was pumped at the thought of boozing up my pickles with it. These turned out really good and can be eaten as a snack or chopped up to add an extra crunch to a salad or sandwich.
Toss 2 lb. mixed vegetables, such as 4x1/2-inch spears of English hothouse or Persian cucumbers, 4x1/4-inch spears of peeled carrots, and quartered radishes, with 1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt in a large wide nonreactive bowl. Press plastic wrap on surface of vegetables. Place a small plate over, then weigh down with two 28-oz. cans (such as canned tomatoes). Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours.
Remove cans, plate, and plastic wrap; transfer vegetables to a colander. Rinse well with cold water. Transfer drained vegetables to a large bowl. Add 8 thinly sliced shiso or large basil leaves, 1 red Fresno chile or jalapeño cut into 1/2-inch rings, 3 tablespoons sake, 2 tablespoons seasoned rice vinegar, 2 teaspoons sesame seeds, and 1 teaspoons finely grated peeled ginger.
Toss to coat; cover and refrigerate, tossing occasionally, for at least 1 hour. DO AHEAD Pickles can be made 1 week ahead. Keep chilled, tossing occasionally.
Also, if I am not making my own pickles I buy the koshers from Sonoma Brinery. Yum!
In an effort to reignite The Pretty Palate I have posted a series of photos that I took in my photography class this semester. I haven’t posted in awhile because I have been so busy with school but I promise I will start posting more! These vegetables were really fun to shoot and I love the way the colors turned out - by the way, the purple cauliflower was naturally that color!
A large reason that I will be posting more is because my thesis topic is Defining Restaurant Success Through an Organizational Lens: Culture, Leadership and Decision Making in Restaurants. This thesis will hopefully bare interesting results and information that I hope to share with all of you along the way! Thanks for reading The Pretty Palate and I hope you enjoy the new posts to come!
The quickest, cheapest, smallest and bestest lunch spot in Florence: I don’t usually speak with such conviction about a restaurant but after going here after nearly every class I am fairly confident in my previously used adjectives (especially the dictionary word: bestest). I Due Fratellini serves up some amazing sandwiches in a little alley near the Duomo. Rumor has it that it’s the smallest restaurant in Florence and I believe it. I would basically categorize it as a food stand that happens to have a little bit of building behind it. During lunch the line is often winding throughout the alley. What sets this place apart from other panini places is the price and the quality. Each sandwich is 2.50 euro and the bread and toppings are absolutely delicious. The beautifully fluffy, soft, warm bread is unlike any other panini place I have been to in Florence. At other places I find that the bread can be a bit too salty, crunchy and oily. At I Due Fratellini they have really perfected the sandwich while offering quick and friendly service. Be sure to stop by if you find yourself in Florence!
More pictures and reviews: TripAdvisor (I swear they don’t pay me)
Address: Via dei Cimatori 38/r, Florence, Italy
“Drunkard Spaghetti”: Last night I pulled an “Eat, Pray, Love” and went out to dinner alone. All of my friends were either out of town or busy and I was starving. Because takeout isn’t really a thing here, I decided to eat somewhere close (I have a sinus infection so walking far didn’t sound too appetizing). After reading up on TripAdvisor (I’m practically an ad for them at this point) I settled on Osteria De’Benci. What really sold me were pictures of their “Spaghetti Dell’Ubriacone” or “Drunkard Spaghetti” - a deep red dish that looked slightly unappetizing but sounded amazing. After reading a few more reviews, I was off. When I arrived I asked for a table for 1 and sat down. As I looked through the menu I spotted the reason why I came - spaghetti cooked in red wine with garlic and hot pepper (I got mine without the hot pepper because I recently experienced what it’s like to have your mouth on fire for a good 10 minutes). When my beautiful burgundy pasta arrived I couldn’t wait to try it. I dug in and was met with so many different flavors - garlic, olive oil, herbs and, of course, wine. This dish was unlike anything I have ever eaten and I would definitely recommend it to anyone who wants a break from the standard Italian pasta dishes. Molto bene!
It was also a really nice experience eating alone. My dinner lasted around an hour and was relaxing, refreshing and I was able to appreciate the food a lot more. I recommend this restaurant and treating yourself to a solo dinner every now and then.
Via de’ Benci 11/13/r, Florence, Italy
Leftovers for Breakfast: One of my favorite hobbies is finding different ways to transform leftovers. I hate re-heating and re-eating something I had the night before. Here are two examples of me recycling and reinventing some leftovers the morning after.
Egg on a Pizza: By turning leftover pizza into a gourmet breakfast I feel a lot less guilty about eating a slice of pizza for breakfast. This pizza happened to be burrata, arugula and pine nuts, so it already had a lot going for it, but adding a fried egg on top turned into a lovely and delicious brunch option.
Salmon Eggs: I have to admit - transforming salmon into a breakfast food is not too hard. My mom had cooked it the night before and it was already marinated perfectly. When scouring the fridge for something to spice up my eggs I knew some salmon and dill would do the trick. Pair it with some avocado toast (toast with avocado, olive oil, lime and salt) and you are in good shape.