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😉

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

Tasty Bite – a revolutionary packaged food

When I was offered to review the Asian noodle dishes by Tasty Bite, my first thought was, “Yuck! A sodium and chemical heavy, overly processed product that barely resembles food? No, thank you.” But before writing it off completely, I decided to browse their website, which pleasantly surprised me and changed my mind. I learned that Tasty Bite has been around since 1995, and their current inventory includes dozens of Indian and pan-Asian products. While their products require no cooking or refrigeration, they are preservative and MSG-free, not to mention vegan and kosher. The secret is in the package: the food is first prepared and placed into retort pouches (the material used for space food); it is then sealed and cooked under high pressure, which sterilizes it and keeps it fresh for 18 months. To reheat a meal, you simply place it in the microwave or a pot of boiling water for one minute. That’s it!

Tasty Bite Asian Noodles

When my package of samples arrived, the first thing I did was read the ingredient list and I was happy to learn that there was indeed nothing but noodles, vegetables and spices in the meals. Taste-wise, the noodles did not disappoint either. The noodles are savory and satisfying and do not lend themselves to any of that guilt that comes along with eating take-out or a frozen dinner.

Tasty Bite Asian Noodles

Although nothing can replace a homemade meal, the Tasty Bite products are perfect for when you need to work through lunch or when you simply don’t feel like cooking dinner.  They’re also easy on the wallet, coming in at less than $4 per meal.

Check out their website for more information and to locate a retailer near you.

Introducing the Sandwich of the Month series with a classic – pulled pork!

Lately, I’ve been trying to think of ways to enhance my blog content. I want to challenge myself – to broaden my cooking horizons, if you will – and I want you, my readers, to have something to look forward to. (Way back when, I had a short stint with soups but quickly grew sick of making them, especially since I insisted on posting one recipe each week). The answer came to me in a rather organic way and it excited me much more than soup. I love sandwiches and chances are you love sandwiches, so why not write about some fricken’ sandwiches?!

Pulled pork sandwiches

Pulled pork has been on my “recipes to try” list for several years now. Seriously. I put it there because it is one of my very favorite foods ever, but it has remained there so long for two reasons. The first being that every recipe I seemed to come across called for a slow cooker, which I don’t have. The second being pure fear. Because I love it so, I was afraid to mess it up and be forever disappointed in myself (I do not take failure lightly). But alas, a ray of hope appeared, by the name of Melissa Clark, no less. A few weeks ago, a recipe and video for pulled pork was featured on the New York Times’ Diner’s Journal blog. Clark made it look for easy and delicious, and I just knew my time had come. And the best part – no slow cooker needed!

Inspired by this Melissa Clark recipe from The New York Times

(Yield: 6 sandwiches)

Ingredients:

2 lb pork butt

Store-bought barbecue sauce

6 hamburger buns or potato rolls

Dry rub:

2 tbsp brown sugar

1 tsp chili powder

1 tsp garlic powder

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper

3/4 tsp cumin seeds

1 1/2 tsp kosher salt

Procedure: Rinse pork, pat dry with paper towels and place into a roasting pan. In a small bowl, combine the dry rub ingredients. Massage the meat generously with dry rub and let stand at room temperature for one hour.

Pulled pork sandwiches

Heat oven to 300F and roast pork for 3 hours. Remove from oven. When the meat is cool enough to handle yet still warm, shred it using two forks or your fingertips.

Pulled pork sandwiches

Toss the pulled pork with about 1/2 cup (or more if desired) of your favorite barbecue sauce.

Pulled pork sandwiches

Divide the meat evenly amongst the rolls and serve immediately.

Pulled pork sandwiches

Now tell me, what is your favorite sandwich?