Wednesday, July 3, 2013

A gluten-free July 4th!

Anyone who knows me knows that I have seriously lapsed with my gluten-free eating lately.  Since the weather is warmer, I am not really paying the painful price for my indiscretions.  My joints are happy so far.  Even after a week in New Orleans in which everything is fried, though some places bread their seafood with cornmeal, and thank God for that.  Anyway, I often re-commit and re-commit, as I am doing today, which I guess is better than nothing.

Tomorrow is the big 4th of July, so I'd like to refer you readers to this page on Food Republic, which offers a plethora of gluten-free options for your get-togethers.  Skirt steak and potato salad sound about right to me!

Have fun and stay safe!!!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Salt and Fat, a fairly new addition to the Queens Couture Cuisine scene

Salt and Fat is a small restaurant on Queens Boulevard in Sunnyside, my old neighborhood, opened in March 2011.  There is a story about the place in the Times today, which prompted me to write this little "review", if you will.  A note here, Salt and Fat was previously mentioned in the Times as part of a list of places to dine after the US Open games, and only now has it been given its own, stand-alone review.  The Times is about the most Manhattan (and tony parts of Brooklyn)-centric publication this city has, so that Salt and Fat has made it in to its pages twice in its first two years is a really big deal.

I dined at Salt and Fat in November of last year.  I have to be honest:  the food was above-average, but I was not completely wowed.  However, just the fact that S&F's type of menu made it to Sunnyside, a working-class neighborhood with Irish roots, is quite significant (nowadays, Sunnyside keeps its working-class roots and its Irish heritage, but you will find many immigrants - and restaurants - from Latin America and Southeast Asia, among others).  Many people already know that the really trendy spots, like Tournesol and M. Wells, et. al., immediately go to Long Island City, so that S&F is in Sunnyside is huge.  It also speaks to the gentrification that is creeping further into Queens (after all, once your neighborhood has a Starbuck's or two, there's no going back), but that is a book I will be writing on another occasion.

Here is their dinner menu, taken from the website:

To start, the server will put bags of popcorn, smothered in bacon fat, on the table.  Tell him/her to keep it coming.  It is seriously addictive.  You can't start your meal without it!!  I highly recommend the scallops, the Korean BBQ wraps (makes sense - Daniel Yi, chef and owner, was born in Seoul) and the BLT buns.  The "Shaved" Hudson Valley foie gras is an interesting looking dish (it looks like a sno-cone), but I was disappointed to note that, although good, it didn't taste as intriguing as it looks. Still, it might be worth it to you to order it!

There are enough great dishes on this menu that I recommend going there with a few friends and eating "family-style" - everyone gets a dish and shares with the table.

Desserts are delicious and creative.  Do not leave S&F without sampling, for example, jalapeno sorbet, or litchi panna cotta.  At the end of the meal, they will offer you Yakult, a Korean yogurt drink.  Drink it.  Trust me, you'll need it in order to "process".

The main decoration motif is, as you see on the menu above, a pig.  One of the reasons I love Koreans is because they are unashamed of their meat-centric menus.  Vegetarians, take care with this one.

Salt & Fat
41-16 Queens Blvd.
Sunnyside, NY.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Gluten-Free Experiment

I Google all manner of things, from the important issues to the casual questions I come up with while trying to go to sleep.  We're talking everything from recipes to medical symptoms to what to do when your co-workers get difficult.

For the last few years, I've had a lot of hip and lower back pain and stiffness.  It's a long story as to how I believe I developed those aches, but I've had a lot of physical therapy for it.  I've definitely learned to manage the pain, but never how to get rid of it completely other than popping Advil (or stronger) every few days, or every day if the pain got that bad - I'd usually just try to live with it.

A lot of people I know have been trying or are on gluten-free diets, and I've noticed the number of gluten-free living blogs that are up on the web.  I once visited Babycakes bakery here in NYC to get sugar-free cupcakes and treats for a baby shower for a friend who had gestational diabetes.  They just happen to bake gluten-free too, in addition to using agave and other alternative ingredients for baking.  One day, I Googled "gluten-free symptoms".  What I got back was pretty unbelievable - muscle and joint aches, or  fibromyalgia (the term doctors use to diagnose aches and pains that have no apparent explanation), digestive issues, insulin resistance, diabetes, headaches and migraines, irregular menstrual cycles, and a long list of others.  I have experienced most of those symptoms, and it couldn't hurt to try cutting gluten out of my diet to see if anything changed.

I have been gluten-free for only a few weeks now, and I can already see some differences: my digestion is better, my face looks clearer (so says my mom, therefore it must be true), no mysterious headaches.  The rest, I have to see, i.e., test my levels of everything.  I suffered a lot from acid reflux and even got meds for it, but I haven't taken them in a while, and I feel great.  Originally, I was only going to cut gluten out for a few weeks, but I think I will stick with it, because I'm finally remembering what it's like to walk around pain-free. Seriously, I had forgotten, it had been so long.  Just that one thing is worth so much to me.

The list of things I can't eat is long, or at least it seems that way, because I was a big bread/baked goods eater.  Since starting the diet, or way of eating (the word "diet" has such negative connotations these days), I can't grab a sandwich at Pret a Manger anymore, or snack on cookies in the afternoon.  I have to be careful with candies - did you know that Lindor truffles have gluten?  No more pies, cupcakes, cobblers, etc.  As a result, I have cut out a lot of sugar from my diet.  I still snack, but it's on popcorn and Smart Puffs, things like that, that say "gluten-free" on the package.  I can't say the pounds are melting off, though I've lost a few, and I don't care.  This diet is for my life as a whole as opposed to looking cute.

Gluten-free options on restaurant menus and such are very, very few, as are gluten-free specific spots, like Babycakes (actually a vegan bakery), et. al. As a matter of fact, I read an article today about a chef at Tavern on the Green who says that a gluten-free diet is but a ploy to get extra attention at restaurants, and that gluten intolerance is all in our heads.  An insensitive comment to be sure, but if my gluten-intolerance is all in my head, I don't care.  My body feels better and better, and that's the only thing that matters to me.

Here's a gluten-free diet cheatsheet.

I've started a Pinterest board of gluten-free recipes.  Please check it out here.  I add constantly, as you may know if you already follow me.  Here's a peek:

Gluten free Asian noodle options

Flourless chocolate cake

Shrimp tacos

Monday, August 27, 2012

Queens Comforts Me

If you are ultra-careful about what goes into your tummy, if you are looking for lots of green veggies or fruits, or you are on a diet of whatever sort, please do not eat here. Leave it for those who enjoy eating!

Everyone else, I'd like to talk to you about Queens Comfort. I've been there numerous times since my first lunch there in March, and have gotten takeout a few more times as well (I gotta have those chicken fingers!!!). I can honestly say that I have never had a bad meal there, I have never had a bad experience. I always have fun and feel, well, comfortable there.

The staff is remarkably nice. I say "remarkably" because New York is a city where some people, especially those at trendy and/or cool restaurants, feel like it is their divine right to be assholes. Seriously, I cannot tell you how important it is, at least to me, that I dine in spots where people are awesome. It is my new rule to only eat in those places. Thankfully, Astoria has a few of those kinds of places, and I find it quite unnecessary to leave Astoria unless I have to go to work. And here, a special shout-out to Comfort's chef/DJ, who makes delicious food, plays awesome songs (I once heard King Creole and the Coconuts there as I chowed down on one of the best lobster rolls I've ever had), and always has a smile and time for a chat. And JA's small talk.

My favorites are the Cap'n Crunch Chicken Fingers with a fabulous red chili bacon caramel sauce concoction on the side, the meatloaf sandwich, the BBQ sandwich and of course, brunch. A positive note - they use Martin's potato rolls for their sandwiches - the way it should be. The bread puddings, both sweet and savory, are delish, and homemade by the chef's sister. One standout dish I had that I haven't seen them offer again (sad face) is the duck sandwich. I swear, I have never had more tender, juicy duck meat, even at places where duck is their business, like Chinatown. Turns out the Comfort cooks spend some ridiculous amount of time slow-cooking the succulent meat. And that is something I really appreciate about Queens Comfort - the effort that goes into preparing their food, and it's mostly, if not entirely, homemade.

The dishes get creative too. Just yesterday, I had duck confit with a poached egg and cherry hollandaise sauce atop a hash brown. Best eggs benedict ever. EVER. Silly me ordered a side of the breakfast sausage because I was somehow worried I didn't have enough meat. But I inhaled those too. They were just too good to leave behind.

Yes, please do note that there is a lot of meat and pork on the menu. However, JA, who does not eat pork, red meat, dairy or eggs, always finds something to eat and love here.

The menu rotates, but there are some dishes, like the chicken fingers and disco tots (next on my list), that thankfully stay on the menu.

The ambience is casual and fun, just like home, and there are obscure movies playing and books and videos too. They have a wall full of pictures of Astorians as babies.

Queens Comfort is really a delightful place to go for any meal of the day. I would make JA go get take-out from Queens Comfort tonight, but they are not open on Mondays. There's always tomorrow. Look at the pictures below and try to tell me you don't want to ditch work and go there now......

Queens Comfort is located at 40-09 30th avenue (corner Steinway street). Please note that brunch gets very crowded, and rightly so - if you don't like to wait, best to move out of NYC rather than give Queens Comfort anything less than four or five stars on Yelp because you had to wait. I'm just saying.

Duck confit with cherry hollandaise sauce (and pancakes for JR)

Meatloaf sandwich.  On potato roll.  I want it now.

Lobstaaah roll.  The lobster says "Hello".

Cap'n Crunch Chicken Fingers, with that red chili BacoCaramel sauce on the side.

Chicken and waffles.

Red. Velvet. Bread. Pudding....I. Could. Die.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Cooking for yourself

Last week, a colleague told me that, inspired by my birthday wishes to the late, great Julia Child on Facebook, along with my promise to eat something French, she was inspired to make a recipe or two from Child's book, Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  She made roast pork shoulder and warm potato salad.

I thought to myself, I will TOTALLY make that!  Until I remembered that JA does not eat pork.  ~~sigh~~  If I made the pork shoulder, I'd have to eat it myself, I told JA.  I'm not going to do it if it's just for me.

So what?  Why not make it for yourself, he suggested.

Yeah why not?  I am totally worth cooking for.  He can have some potato salad and forage in the fridge for something else....  And so it will be - if I find a pork shoulder small enough to guarantee I won't be eating pork for days after.....

Today in theKitchn I saw an article on how to get your kitchen mojo back when cooking for one.  It is so tough to want to cook cool things when it's just for you.  I used to go through little spurts.  One day, I went to a Greenmarket near my workplace and discovered heirloom tomatoes.  So I bought a few (five for $20!!!) and experimented.  But those moments were so few and far between.  I wish I hadn't wasted that time.  I hope you don't!  Read theKitchn article then go to these sites for suggestions:

Joe Yonan - Feed Yourself Well

Cooking for One

10 Things to Cook for One  (Curry is such a good idea!!)

Chocolate and Zucchini

And here's a Chowhound discussion on Cooking and Self-Esteem.  Definitely a topic worth ruminating on.

Spaghetti With Fried Egg and Sardines from Joe Yonan.
(Photo by Deb Lindsey for The Washington Post)

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

You're so vain, you probably think this post is about you

...and you'd be right, if you are JA, that is.

For the uninitiated, JA is my BF.  He is also my bodyguard and personal chef.

If someone asked me, what can't JA cook, I'd have to think for a while before I answer.  He proved this very thing to me the other night when he whipped up a little Japanese feast, at around 11 pm, no less: tempura, spicy tuna rolls and gyoza.  Ok, so the gyoza was from Trader Joe's, but it went with the theme.  Here's a pic:

Midnight snack.
For the sushi rolls, the only special sushi thing JA bought was the nori.  Everything else was hanging out in our cupboard already.  He made white basmati rice, and for the tuna, he took a can of the Spanish white tuna in olive oil that I bought, added onion (I admire his fine chopping talents), whatever other spices and what I believe is  roasted red pepper, and no mayo.  He also sliced up some avocado, and voila!  I thought that in order to make a sushi roll that is tight and won't fall apart, you needed one of those bamboo mat thingies.  Not so.  I don't know exactly how JA did it, but the rolls did not fall apart at all, which is more than I can say for some sushi professionals.  A little rice fell out here and there, but hey, it was basmati and not the usual sticky sushi rice.

JA can also make a few Asian sauces, whether for dipping your dumplings or pouring all over chicken and rice.  Though he doesn't like Thai food - I still don't get that one.....

And while we're here, I want to make special mention of his shrimp and grits, which he has only made for me once, but I keep asking for....

By now, you know that JA and I, with my friend JR, get a weekly CSA share of fruits and veggies.  We've been getting a lot of peaches and plums lately, and JA has been furiously baking away.  What does he bake?  Cakes, pies, cupcakes, and lately, lots of cobbler.  Oh, and by the way, he makes his own buttercream frosting.  Here's a pic of his blueberry cobbler:

Gone in sixty seconds......

This week we got peaches and pears.  I cannot wait for the weekend, and it's not just so I can sleep late.  Weekends are cobbler time!

JA is also constantly making smoothies, teas and juices.  Frozen fruits and almond milk are ALWAYS on our grocery list.  Yesterday, he made juice with some blackberries we got from the CSA two weeks ago.  I had left them for dead.  All that unused, fruity tea that was languishing in my cupboard has gone to fantastic use, too.  Case in point:

Acai green tea limeade
One of my favorite dishes of JA's is turkey meatballs:


Every day, JA asks me what I want for dinner.  The answer is always a coy little "Iiii don't knooow..."  The truth is, I will gladly eat whatever he puts in front of me.  Some nights, I hope for meatballs, others, I hope for tuna or salmon patties.  I used to get nervous about what he was making, afraid that I wouldn't like it.  But it always turned out delicious, I've stopped questioning his considerable talents.  One of the things I always find amazing about him is that he takes whatever we have in the freezer or cupboard, leftovers and/or things that I have long since given up on, and whips up something great.  Like chicken salad - the BEST chicken salad I have ever had - just because we had leftover chicken and a lot of veggies in the fridge.  There were radishes and carrots and celery in there, and I think either spinach or kale or something to that effect.  Put it on pretzel bread slathered in garlic butter (which he also makes) and taste heaven:


When I whine that we might not have enough food to hold us until payday, he says "Pffffft!!!  Of course we do!"  

I also want to highlight his shrimp roll, as well as the various spinach and vegetable pies that he has made.  In phyllo pastry, in which each sheet must be lightly brushed with butter.  Oh!  One time, he had leftover phyllo dough, so he filled it with some melted Ikea chocolate and made strawberry sauce on the side.  Homemade chocolate pastries late on a Sunday night!!!

We won't talk about the weight I've gained.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

La Mariposa Eats Pinterest

I've realized just now that I post quite a few recipes on my Pinterest page, and that serves two purposes:
1.  people's mouths water and they repin or like my pin, and 2. I can keep my favorite recipes all in one place and call them up easily once I am ready to make them.

Tonight I will be attempting the peach, plum and ginger jam.  Yes, we got really nice plums and peaches from our CSA last night.  I'm thinking of serving the jam with the thin pancakes I got at Ikea, or maybe even on the pretzel bread from Trader Joe's.  Hmmmmm.......


Some of what you'll see:

Flourless chocolate cake

PB&J sushi rolls

Peach and cornmeal upside down cake

Huevos rancheros