Curry beef tacos w/ pico de gallo

Up until the very recent past, I had little to no appreciation for tacos, for which I fully blame Taco Bell. But as time went on and more high end taco trucks and stands started popping up all over New York, my interest piqued. Turns out, the thin corn cakes known as tortillas are the perfect vessel for pretty much every kind of meat, fish, legume and vegetable imaginable. The inspiration for this particular recipe came from NY’s Takumi Taco stand that I tried this winter at Brooklyn Flea. I was in awe of the Asian-Mexican influences of their curry beef tacos and knew I had to attempt making them at home.

Curry beef tacos (Yield: about 8 tacos)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp vegetable oil

1 small yellow onion, chopped

1 lb lean ground beef

1 tbsp yellow curry powder

2 tsp red curry paste*

1/2 c canned tomato sauce

1 tsp corn starch

Salt + pepper

16 corn tortillas

*This ingredient adds heat and a nice chili aroma but it may be hard to find. If you are unable to locate it, substitute with Sriracha, cayenne or regular hot sauce.

Procedure for beef: Heat oil in a large saute pan over medium heat. Cook for about 3 min, until softened. Raise flame to high and add beef. Break meat up with a wooden spatula and season with generous pinches of salt and pepper. Cook for about 6 min, stirring frequently, until meat starts to brown. Then add curries, stir and add tomato sauce. Bring to a simmer and turn heat down to low. Cover tightly with a lid and cook for 15 min. Then, in a small cup, stir together corn starch with 2 tbsp water until dissolved – add to the pan. Stir and cook for another 2 min, until sauce thickens. Turn heat off; taste and re-season if necessary.

Pico de gallo: In a medium bowl, combine 2 finely diced tomatoes, about 2 tbsp finely diced yellow onion, about 2 tbsp chopped cilantro and 2 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice. Season with a pinch of salt.

Assembly: Warm tortillas on the stove over a very low flame, 10-15 seconds per side, until they are pliable, using tongs to gently flip.

Comme ça…

Curry beef tacos

Transfer to a platter and continue with remaining tortillas. Keep tortillas warm under a kitchen towel until they’re all ready to be filled. (If your stove is electric, warm tortillas in a skillet instead). To fill, stack two tortillas together, fill with beef and top with pico de gallo. Serve immediately, with extra limes, sour cream or guacamole if desired.

Curry beef tacos

Breaking the vicious chicken cycle.

Chicken is one of those ingredients that we all get stuck with. My immediate instinct with chicken breasts is to saute them, bread and fry them, or bake them in the oven. That’s not to say those are my preferred methods, they’re just ones I’m used to. Ironically, chicken is one of the best ingredients to experiment with. It’s cheap, relatively healthy (if skinless), it doesn’t take long to cook, and doesn’t have an overpowering flavor of its own so it can be seasoned with almost any variety of things.

I was defrosting some chicken tenders the other day and was in the mood to be creative. I worked my magic and voila, this easy, delicious, crowd-pleasing recipe was born. Sure it’s no surprise that tomatoes and parsley work well together, but it’s the lemon juice that makes this dish stand out. It highlights the tomatoes’ tang and gives the dish a clean flavor that’s perfect for summer.

Chicken tenders in a tomato lemon sauce

Chicken tenders in a tomato lemon sauce

(Yield: 4 servings)

Ingredients:

2 tbsp olive oil

1 lb chicken tenders

1 small onion, finely diced

2 garlic cloves, chopped

1 15 oz can of crushed tomatoes

3/4 tsp sugar

2 tbsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 large handful parsley, chopped

Salt + pepper

Procedure: Pat chicken dry with paper towels and season with salt and pepper. Heat oil in a large skillet over high heat. Cook chicken 4 min per side, until golden brown. Remove from skillet and set aside. Turn heat down to medium-low. Add onion and garlic and cook for 3 min, until softened. Then add tomatoes, sugar and lemon juice, and bring sauce to a simmer. Add the chicken back into skillet, nestling it into the sauce. Cover tightly with a lid and cook for 10 min.  Then turn heat off, stir in the parsley, taste and re-season if necessary. Serve over a starch of your choice.

Chicken tenders in a tomato lemon sauce

My phone, the gastronome: 8

Here are some fun things my phone saw me eat recently that I’ve decided not to dedicate individual posts to. Enjoy!

gastronome (3) copy

A brunch of Croque Madame with a heaping side of perfect French fries at L’Express – a brasserie in the Flatiron neighborhood that so closely resembles Paris with its menu and decor, that it can cure even the bluest of Paris blues.

gastronome (6) copy

“World’s Best” Mac & Cheese from Beecher’s that I split on a dinner date with fellow blogger Ishita. (Hi!) Beecher’s is a specialty cheese shop – also located near Flatiron – with a cozy bar/restaurant downstairs where the menu features many of their cheeses. We decided to split a small cheese board and this luscious dish. The broiled penne pasta was enveloped in a mild yet sharp cheese sauce. I don’t know about “World’s Best,” but I have had my fair share of mac & cheeses and this one is definitely at the top of the list.

gastronome (9) copy

Radicchio and seared scallop salad with grapefruit and orange segments, cherry tomatoes and blue cheese – a light, springtime dish from one of my Brooklyn favorites, Bar Tabac.

gastronome (13) copy

Fried chicken cemita sandwich from Cemita’s at Smorgasburg. “Cemita” refers to a type of sandwich that’s originally from Puebla, Mexico. The amount of layers that they are able to fit between two pieces of bread is unbelievable – black bean paste, crispy fried chicken breast, lettuce, tomatoes, pickled onions, white cheese and avocados. It tasted like, and I mean this is the more flattering way, a high end McChicken sandwich. Hey, maybe I should recreate it as the next Sandwich of the Month?

gastronome (14) copy

Brisket and mac & cheese at John Brown Smokehouse. Rene works in Long Island City, Queens and one day, I went to meet him over there after work. LIC is a place I know nothing about and when our stomachs started rumbling, we happened to stumble upon this barbecue place and in we went. The place turned out super cool. You order your food up front and then take it to either an indoor or outdoor table. There’s also a small bar towards the back of the restaurant that serves wine and local beers on tap. And on that particular evening, there was even a live country band!

Although the place was fun and is good in theory, the food didn’t measure up. My brisket was poorly seasoned and on the dry side, and the mac & cheese was way overcooked. Rene got pulled pork and it was served to him practically cold. Surprisingly though, when I came home and Googled the place, I found rave reviews from a variety of credible sources. Hmm…

gastronome (15) copy

When this years Googa Mooga was cancelled on the day that we had tickets for, my friends and I decided to make up for the lost calories and headed to our favorite Mexican place, Los Mariachis. Pictured above is the shredded beef burrito, that I generously shmeared with guacamole. What I love about their burritos is that they top them with this amazing tomato broth. The broth makes the burrito a succulent, comforting dish, instead of just stuff wrapped up in a tortilla.

gastronome (17) copy

Last week, Rene and I planned to have dinner at Nom Wah. En route, we noticed Joe’s Ginger, an Asian restaurant that had all these Zagat recommendations taped to the inside of the window, which is usually a good sign so we decided to try it. The sesame chicken was your basic take-out style, corn starched chicken. But, it’s the scallion pancake that is the true judge of character of a Chinese restaurant, and this one was a disappointment. What is a chewy, fragrant snack at Nom Wah, was an oily, careless pancake here.

gastronome (18) copy

Remember to follow me on Instagram and Twitter, and like my page on Facebook for more delectable goodness ;)

The Brooklyniest ice cream, like, ever.

What do you get when you bring an ex sci-fi screenwriter with an undying love for ice cream to Prospect Heights? Ample Hills Creamery, the Brooklyniest ice cream parlor of all.

Ample Hills proudly serves their small batch, handmade, organic treats in a fun setting that excites children of all ages. In the few years that they have been open, they have gained major popularity in New York. I have heard about it, walked by it and even written about it before, but have not gone inside until last week.

Ample Hills Creamery Brooklyn

As I walked into the store, my mood was instantly elevated. The old-school music and the high energy staff behind the counter gave the place an upbeat vibe, and there was a steady 10-15 people waiting on line the whole time I was there – a few of whom were actually dancing (not metaphorically) out of anticipation.

Although every one of their two dozen flavors sounded intriguing, it didn’t take long to decide what I wanted – salted “crack” caramel ice cream in a pretzel (yes, pretzel) cone. My $6 serving of ice cream was dense (it didn’t drip!), slightly bitter, fragrant, and it housed chucks of salted milk chocolate bark. It was like ice cream 2.0 – I’ve  never had a frozen treat I enjoyed this much before. But as much as I loved the ice cream itself, I was anxious to try the pretzel cone – getting to which was quite a journey, though, as the single scoop that I ordered actually seemed like an entire pint. By the time I finally got there, I was experiencing the most intense sugar rush of my life, so much so that I questioned whether I was eating actual crack. The cone was salty, crispy and thicker than I had imagined, which made it the perfect vessel for that large an amount of sugar and it spun my taste buds into absolute madness.Why hadn’t anyone thought of this before? How much more do I have to eat? Anyone wanna dance on this table with me?! Weeee!

Needless to day, visiting this place was a pretty intense experience.

Ample Hills Creamery Brooklyn

In Brooklyn, the whole “micro-batch,” “local,” “organic” thing can get pretty annoying. I mean, I’m surprised we don’t have “artisanal” water yet… (Or wait, do we? Anyone know a place?) However, at Ample Hills, it is not one bit obnoxious. I appreciate their small batches of ice cream and house-made mix-ins – not for their “sustainability,” but because they taste good.

Chorizo and basil pasta

This guest post comes to us from a British foodie. It’s a pasta recipe inspired by a new, swanky London restaurant. Unfortunately there’s no photo but it sounds scrumptious nonetheless. Cheerio!  

The Italians are very well known for their pasta recipes, but the Spanish have their reputation too. Obviously when you think of Spain, paella and tortilla are more likely to spring to mind, but that’s not to say their pasta recipes are not any good. In fact, the extra spice of the Spanish influence works almost too well with pasta.

Recently, I visited a friend of mine in the UK, and after a lovely meal in a London restaurant called 100Hoxton on the first night, we decided to save our pennies and eat at home for the rest of the week. On the third night she introduced me to a recipe she improvised one day when food resources were low and her tummy was growling. Chorizo and basil pasta topped with mozzarella cheese. I loved it so much I figured I ought to share it.

Ingredients:
¼ cup rapeseed oil
1 large yellow onion
2 cloves garlic
1 Spanish chorizo sausage
1 red bell pepper
1 tin of chopped tomatoes
1/4 cup dried basil
2 tsp ground pepper
Fresh basil, chopped
½ lb. Dry penne or fussili
Grated Mozarella cheese

Directions: Peel and chop the onion. Then cut the bell pepper in half, remove the seeds and veins and chop into little pieces. Peel and chop the garlic finely. Cut the chorizo into round slices about 1/4-inch thick and then half them again. Drizzle the rapeseed oil (it’s slightly healthier than olive oil) into a large frying pan and heat on medium. Then pop the chorizo slices in and lightly cook them for a few minutes. The chorizo will release juices during the process which can be used to cook the peppers, onions and garlic, giving them extra flavour. Then pour the tin of tomatoes into the frying pan and set to simmer, adding the dried basil and pepper as you go along. After the sauce has simmered for 15 minutes you can fill a saucepan with water and bring it to the boil ready to cook the pasta. Cook the pasta for 8-12 minutes (dependent on the type you use) and drain the water. Then stir the pasta into the chorizo sauce and serve with some fresh basil and perhaps some mozzarella cheese sprinkled on top.

Grilled corn w/ Parmesan herb butter

To me, corn screams summer. Literally.

Grilled corn with herb butter

When I was little, my mom used to take my sister and I – often accompanied by other neighborhood kids – to the beach. Every day, of every summer, of the first nine years of my life (while we still lived in Odessa). And everyday, there were ladies walking up and down the beach, screaming, “Hot corn! Hot corn!” (in Russian, of course). When you called for one of these ladies, they would come over and present you with a steaming hot cob of corn, along with a salt shaker for you to season to your liking. So no, we did not eat fruit roll-ups or Lay’s chips as snacks. We ate corn. The bursting sweet corn make us all giddy, and between that, the warm sand, the gentle sea breeze and my angel of a mother, I could not have asked for better summers.

Grilled corn with herb butter

This corn, however, is something I would not have even thought possible back then. It is an exciting, jazzed up version of one of my favorite childhood foods, and it is so good and easy to make. It makes for a great snack, or side dish at a barbecue or weeknight dinner.

From an aesthetic point of view, it would be best to leave the cheese out of the herb butter and just sprinkle it on afterwards, but I decided to mix it in. You can use whichever method you prefer.

(Yield: 8 pieces)

Ingredients:

4 ears of corn, husked

1 tbsp olive oil

2 tbsp butter, at room temp.

1 garlic clove, crushed

2 tbsp finely chopped cilantro

2 tbsp Parmesan cheese

1/2 tsp sea salt

1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper

Cayenne pepper, to taste

Procedure: Start by making the herb butter – place the butter, garlic, cilantro, cheese, salt and peppers into a dish with a flat bottom and mash together with a fork. (If you can avoid eating all of it at this point, I applaud you).

Grilled corn with herb butter

Heat a grill pan over high heat. Lightly brush the corn with olive oil and place on grill. Cook for 15-20 min, turning occasionally, until the corn is evenly charred throughout. Remove from grill and place on a cutting board. Working with one piece at a time, hold down corn with an oven mitt and cut in two pieces. Then place corn onto a platter and divide the butter evenly among the pieces, using a butter knife to spread it. Serve immediately.

Grilled corn with herb butter