My roommate, Amy, brought back a bunch of zucchini from her grandmother’s garden when she went home this past weekend. Tonight, she made Zucchini Parmesan for dinner, something I had never tried before. It’s made the same way as the eggplant version. You first cut the zucchini into rounds. Then, cover them in an egg and breadcrumb batter before pan-frying the rounds in a little bit of oil until they are medium brown. Next, layer a baking pan with tomato sauce (you can use any kind, ours was seasoned with onion, garlic, and herbs), zucchini, sauce, mozzarella cheese, zucchini, sauce, cheese, making layers almost to the top of the pan. Bake at 350-375 degrees for about 15 minutes or until the cheese is bubbling and slightly golden. Our dinner was scrumptious; I can’t wait to have the leftovers. I even came to the conclusion that I prefer this version a little bit more than the eggplant one.
For weeks I passed clouds of dust at a church construction site on the corner of 20th and 6th. I learned that the 19th century church, which was once a popular nightclub, was being converted into a chic marketplace with a variety of small shops. My first visit to the Limelight Marketplace left me surprised. The maze-like, modern inside was a complete contrast has something new to discover at every turn. There are shops to satisfy every need, from food, to clothing, to accessories, to great gift ideas. Most importantly, every sales associate from each store always seems to be helpful and cheerful. I could easily spend a couple of hours browsing the shops in this bazaar; plus, it’s a great place to stop over for a snack!
Address: Corner of 6th Avenue and 20th Street, NYC; www.limelightmarketplace.com
I try to pack my lunch for work each day. This is always easier when I have leftovers in the fridge (or when I lived at home). For all of the other days, I have started to become creative. I prefer something that takes minimal time to put together, will leave me feeling full and satisfied and most importantly, tastes good. Today was a total trial day. What I ended up with was delicious, nutritious and filling. Ingredients: Frozen corn, a fresh avocado, veggie burgers, chunky salsa, and lemon. Putting it all together at work: Mix the corn, salsa and a splash of lemon and pack it in a medium sized bowl. Take the avocado (un-cut) and veggie burgers separately. Refrigerate everything once you get to work. For lunch, heat the corn mixture for two minutes. Heat the veggie burgers for two minutes and cut into bite-sized pieces. Cut up the avocado into chunks. Mix everything together. Enjoy warm!
At the end of last week, I had an avocado and two corn on the cobs that I needed to utilize before they went bad. I also had lettuce, tomatoes, onions, herbed goat cheese, roasted red peppers, kidney beans and tortillas. After some thought, I decided to make vegetable quesadillas with all of the above ingredients, varying each depending on the eater’s personal taste (Amy does not like kidney beans so she had everything but those). I added in some taco seasoning to the beans, salsa, and topped each pan-grilled quesadilla with a dollop of sour cream and lettuce. Dinner was quick and delicious!
Note: If you want to fully stuff the quesadilla, cut the tortilla in half and marry the two pieces once everything is added instead of trying to simply fold it in the middle.
Our host, Natalie was just as sweet as the general manager, Amelia who greeted us at the door. She helped answer any questions that we had throughout our meal and always responded with a charming smile regardless of how increasingly busy the restaurant became. We started with a bottle of the J. Hofstatter Bianco, a dry white wine that was fruity, bright and full-bodied with a clean finish, which we enjoyed with fresh Italian bread and olive oil. We all ordered starters, tasty, small plates that really got us excited for dinner. The dishes included: Hamachi Tartare (with ginger, lemon and chives), Butter Lettuce Salad (with lemon crema, gorgonzola, hazelnuts, olives), Fluke Ceviche (with pineapple, chilies, lime), Roasted Mushrooms (with fried egg, pancetta, ricotta salata), and Roasted Beets (with watercress, yogurt, pistachios). The flavors and presentation of each was equally beautiful. The Roasted Mushrooms, which I tasted without the pancetta, was my favorite, with bold, juicy flavors and a tangy, spicy finish that left me craving more.
There was a tiny bit of a wait in between the first and main course, which added to the relaxed pace of our dinner. The dishes included: two of the Tajarin (the pasta special for the night, a thin fettuccini in a parmesan reduction and mushrooms), Bucatini (with tomato, pancetta, pecorino), Tagliatelle (with bolognese bianco), Garganelli (with mushroom ragu), Dayboat Halibut (the fish special), and Branzino (with roasted lemon, olives, honey). One of the pastas came out before all of the others because his person had also ordered fish, which came out as her main course. There were mmm’s and “you have to try this” upon the first bites. All of the pastas were cooked perfectly al dente. Each pasta is freshly homemade expect the spaghetti and the bucatini because of the longer drying process required for both. Everyone was extremely satisfied with their dish and also enjoyed tasting each other’s. I loved the almost smoky texture to my Garganelli recommended by Natalie (it’s her favorite vegetarian pasta); it was unlike any other pasta dish I’d ever had. The table favorite was the Tajarin which was rich and wonderfully creamy. I was told that the fish was ideally cooked and seasoned. Even though the portions were filling, I could have had many more servings of the pasta.
We completed our savory dinner with four desserts, as we finished a second bottle of wine. The desserts included: Bittersweet Chocolate Budino (with vanilla cream, chocolate-honey crisp), Gelato Sampler (with mint, straciatella gelato), Olive Oil Cake (with raisin marmelatta, vin santo, creme fraiche mousse), and Crème Fraiche Panna Cotta (with peach-moscato granita, blueberry compote). Each was delectable, though the smooth panna cotta was my favorite; the peach-mascato granita really added the special touch. The olive cake was also a hit because of its moist and light consistency. The bodino, though it was good, seemed more like a mousse than a bodino. Nonetheless, its bittersweet finish was a good balance to the other, sweeter dishes. Nothing from the menu was a disappointment.
Recap: Excellent service and amazing food; fantastic pastas. Filling portions, ample vegetarian options. Lots of space and seating and a wonderful, cozy atmosphere. Simple, polished décor. Not overpriced but definitely not cheap. Make reservations in advance.
Food Tally: J. Hofstatter Bianco (2), $72 each plus two glasses, $17 each; Hamachi Tartare, $15; Butter Lettuce Salad, $12; Fluke Ceviche, $14; Roasted Mushrooms, $16; Roasted Beets, 12; Tajarin (2), $17 each; Bucatini, $17; Tagliatelle, $18; Garganelli,$16; Dayboat Halibut, $28; Branzino, $20; dessert was $10 each. Total for an superb meal: $460.82 (with tax)+tip.
Address: 228 West 10th Street, between Bleecker and Hudson Street, New York City; www.lartusi.com
Monday nights, for the past couple of months, have been reserved for The Bachelorette. Last night, I made an exception to have dinner with my closest childhood friend, June. After debating where to dine, she suggested going to her and her dad’s go-to spot, Renato’s in Jersey City, NJ. I had been there once before for her birthday dessert and had always wanted to try their dinner offerings.
Renato’s is a hidden gem. Pizza Masters is in the front and it is take out only. Therefore, the main entrance is in the back with plenty of parking. Upon entering, you instantly notice the old, Italian feel, the crisp white tablecloths, and the older crowd, clearly those who know the area and potentially have been coming here for years. Our host was very attentive and amicable. June also told me that they can make a vegetarian version of many things on the menu. After studying the large menu, I ordered the Margherita Pizza and June got the Cavatelli, Chicken and Broccoli but with whole wheat pasta instead of the cavatelli. Each pasta comes with a starter/side salad and I ordered one since June convinced me by telling me that the homemade dressing here is amazing. While we waited, we munched on some of the most delectable baskets of Italian bread, warm, herb-crusted, crunchy on the outside and perfectly soft on the inside, served with a tomato basil dipping sauce. This really wet my appetite for dinner.
Next came our rather uncomplicated salads with lettuce, some shreds of carrot, a few pieces of red onion and a tomato wedge. However, it was dressing that made the salad, a light, crisp, oil, vinegar and herb blend that made me want to lick the plate! Our main dishes came out a couple of minutes after our salads, steam still rising from the plates. June, who’d had her pasta during past visits, said it was excellent as usual. There was too much for one serving so she packed up her leftovers. My pizza was thin and crispy and the mozzarella was cooked just right. It was a little low on the sauce/salt, so I added the rest of our leftover sauce from our bread basket atop the pie and it added the missing finishing touch. Before I knew it, I was down to my last slice and soon the only thing left on my plate was the crusts.
Even though I was stuffed, June persuaded me to split the dessert with her, a vanilla bean Crème Brulee Cheesecake with a thin, glazed top and a smooth, rich finish. June ordered a cappuccino to accompany her dessert. This dinner was worth the deviation from my usual Monday routine.
Recap: Great service and food. True Italian spot with a cool, calm atmosphere. Many vegetarian options. Never felt rushed. A hidden gem.
Food Tally: Side Salad, about $4; Margherita Pizza, $6.95; Whole Wheat Penne with Chicken and Broccoli, $12.95; Iced Tea, about $2; Crème Brulee Cheesecake, about $4 or $5; Cappuccino, about $3. Total with tax: about $36+tip.
Address: 278 Central Avenue, Jersey City, NJ
With the rising heat, the one basic and essential accessory that everyone has is a pair of sunglasses. Though everyone should invest in a classic pair which can be worn year-round, there are definitely specific ones that are better suited for warmer months, a time when you can really have a lot of fun with shapes, prints and colors.
Here are some incredible designer options for under $100:
5. Carrera Eyewear ‘Machu’ Aviators, $95
Anybody who knows me well knows that I have a little bit of a sweet tooth. I find it difficult to walk by a bakery without peeking in. Ever since I first tried Babycakes, the brownie cupcake became my instant favorite (I love the mini-chocolate chips inside). What I enjoy most about this friendly bakery in the Lower East Side of the city is that it never leaves me feeling guilty afterwards. Maybe it is because I know that their range of baked goods are free of refined sugar, gluten, wheat, soy, casein, and egg and are vegan and kosher. When I heard that, I thought I would be very disappointed with the taste of their products because perhaps they’d be dry and chalky. Owner and baker, Erin McKenna certainly proved me wrong. I have tried all of their cupcake flavors and each is moist and very satisfying. Sometimes I find the frosting, sweetened with agave nectar, to be a little too sweet, in which case, I simply take off a layer of it and ta-dah, it’s perfect!
Address: 248 Broome Street (between Orchard & Ludlow), New York City www.babycakesnyc.com
Having a short week because of a long weekend is always a treat! It ended up being a packed couple of days although I did not have any set plans prior to the weekend. I watched the World Cup, danced and heard an amazing new singer at my friend, Ariele’s tasty vegan dinner party, had some quality family time, enjoyed an impromptu trip to the Meatpacking district, watched the Macy’s fireworks, went shopping, and cooked breakfast each of the three days.
The 4th of July long weekend is right around the corner and one of the easiest ways to be festive is through a little sparkle and shimmer on your nails. While I love pretty, muted hues, I find myself being drawn to jewel tones and metallics for this weekend; the glitter and shine reminds me of the fireworks. Here are some of my favorites to mix and match with your reds, whites and blues:
2. OPI, Mad as a Hatter, $9
3. Essie, Russian Roulette, $8
5. E.L.F., Red Velvet, $1
6. Nars, Adelita, $16