Winter Warmth Recipe

Food, Homemade, New York, Recipe, Vietnamese

Hello friends and foodies!

We’re sorry that we haven’t been providing you with epic meal-based battles for December. Our very own Snax is currently going through senior year finals season, so I’m sure everyone out there can understand how stupidly busy/stressed/masochistic he’s feeling right now.

In lieu of a battle, I wanted to share with everyone an awesome recipe for Vietnamese curry that I made yesterday. It turned out even better than I expected, so I’m very excited for everyone to try it at home and tell me what you think.

This recipe is vegan, packed full of veggies, and you can easily buy organic/non-GMO ingredients for the ultimate healthy indulgence.

*note* All portions are suggestions. I’m a firm believer that measurements do not matter in cooking, so add as much or as little of each ingredient as you like. Substitute at will – all that matters is that you enjoy!

curryedit

Vietnamese-Style Curry

Ingredients:
  • One medium onion, diced
  • Two bell peppers of whatever color you prefer, diced
  • Half of a globe eggplant, cubed
  • Two carrots, sliced
  • One long hot pepper, sliced
  • One lb. silken tofu, cubed
  • Four cloves garlic, minced
  • One inch ginger root, minced
  • Two stalks of lemongrass, cut into one inch pieces
  • One can coconut milk
  • One can vegetable broth
  • One or two cans water – depending on preference
  • Two sweet potatoes, cubed (can substitute regular potatoes)
  • Half pound green beans, cut into one inch pieces
  • A handful of snap peas
  • Salt and pepper
  • Curry powder, red pepper flakes and cayenne pepper
  • Sriracha (or favorite hot sauce)
  • Hoisin (or fish or oyster sauce)
  • Warning: I like my food spicy! Adapt my seasonings to your particular palette.
Directions:

Sauté chopped onion, eggplant, bell peppers, carrots and hot pepper in sesame oil. Season with salt and pepper and cook until the vegetables start to get soft. Add in tofu, minced ginger root, garlic, lemongrass and seasonings. Cook for about 4 minutes, or until the curry becomes fragrant.

Add in the vegetable broth, coconut milk and water. Taste and add in Sriracha and hoisin at your discretion until you’re satisfied with the taste. Bring to a boil.

Once boiling, add in the cubed sweet potatoes and cook until tender, about 15 minutes (for normal potatoes, about 30-40 minutes). When there is about 8 minutes left of cooking time, add in green beans. At 3 minutes left, stir in snap peas.

Serve with brown or sticky rice on the side and enjoy!


That’s it! This recipe is really so easy – the hard part is chopping everything up. It’s well worth the effort, though. My roommates loved it (and I did, too).

I also appreciate how adaptable this recipe is. Take out whatever ingredients you don’t like and substitute in your favorites like mushroom or zucchini. It could easily be made with meat (just add in at an earlier point than the tofu as tofu doesn’t need to cook) or use less liquid to make less of a soup. Whatever you want, make it happen.

Another benefit is that this recipe yields a million bowls. So despite the high amount of ingredients, you’ll be able to eat it for at least 3 days, even if sharing with one or two other people.

This was the perfect dinner on a cold December night. I hope you find it as comforting as I did.

-Legs

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Thanksgiving Face Off

American, Cuisine, Homemade, New Jersey
A turkey butter sculpture set the mood this year

A turkey butter sculpture set the mood this year

Legs:

Those who know me know that I love to cook. I find that using food as a creative outlet is extremely therapeutic, and sharing my creations with someone who truly enjoys them is so rewarding.

This year I nearly begged my parents to host Thanksgiving, with the understanding that I would be responsible for (almost) everything. Last year my dad was the chef de cuisine and I his sous chef; I felt confident that this was my year to rise to the top tier and bless my family with a beautiful meal.

Fourteen of us gathered in my parents’ New Jersey home on Thanksgiving Thursday. I prepared an extensive menu with the old standbys, new additions and twists on Thanksgiving classics. The best part is that every single thing was made by me or my dad. Nothing came from a can, bag or industrial processing line. This meal was the definition of home cooking.

A cornucopia of thanks!

A cornucopia of thanks!

The Menu
  • Salad: Spinach and radicchio with pear, brie and pecans. Dressing made from orange juice, honey, balsamic and dijon.
  • Soup: Butternut squash, sweet potato and carrot. Homemade cinnamon apple chips to garnish.
  • Turkey: (Prepared by dad, a turkey master) Salt brined in lemon and fresh oregano, cooked with lemon, celery and onions in the cavity.
  • Gravy: (Also dad) Lemon and oregano to match the brine. Nice punch of acid with a white wine lurking in the background.
  • Stuffing: (Dad’s famous recipe – don’t mess with it) Sausage, apples, walnuts, celery and onions go into this beautiful bake. This is not Stove Top.
  • Mash: (Last chance for Dad to shine) A thing of legend which relatives demand. The trick? White pepper.
  • Cranberry Sauce: Cranapple sauce to be precise. Lemon zest and Grand Marnier to spruce things up a bit.
  • Green beans: Baked with bacon and onions. Sauce made from bacon drippings, apple cider vinegar and sugar. Game changer.
  • Pumpkin cheesecake: With a gingersnap and pecan crust and topped with salted caramel. The most decadent, luxurious thing I’ve eaten all year.

Beautiful as this feast was, all good things must come to an end. November is finished and it’s time to eat to the death to declare a winner this month. Find out how we repurposed the best meal of the year and turn it into a punishment:

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A Chinese Bistro?

Chinese, Cuisine, New Jersey, Specialty Shops

The Battleground

A & J Bistro, East Hanover, New Jersey


The Contenders

Hong Shao Niu Ro Mian vs. Dan Dan Mian

Spicy Beef Noodle Soup vs. Noodles in Hot Spicy Sesame Sauce

Tender, tender beef. Handmade wide noodles. Flavorful spicy broth. Bok choy. Fairy dust.

Legs:

A & J Bistro. What a place. Although the name would lead you to believe it’s French, actually they specialize in some of the best, most honest Chinese food I’ve ever had. Don’t get me wrong, I love lo mein, but General Tso never darkens the doorstep of A&J. At a place where the Chinese guests outnumber everyone else by at least 20 to 1, you know you’ve hit gold.

Except for our century egg, I’ve never had anything here I didn’t like. If ordering a noodle dish, they’ll ask you if you want wide or thin noodles. The answer is wide. Always. Their wide noodles are handmade, misshapen and absolutely mouthwatering. The thin? From a machine (can you blame them?)

Their beef is so tender. Like, cut-in-half-with-your-chopsticks tender. It also acts as a wonderful vessel for the lovely sauce it’s been simmering in. Packed full of flavor, this bovine knows what’s what.

But back to the sauce, which is more of a spicy vinegar oil than anything else. Maybe that sounds weird, but trust me, it works. It’s a thin sauce that’s a beautiful dark reddish brown and carries all the depth of flavor that hue would inspire. Just the right amount of acid, a subtle hint of sweet and a punch of umami all come together with a spicy finish. Of course, I went ahead and added more of my own rice vinegar, soy sauce and spoonfuls of A & J’s amazing chili oil, because you can never go wrong with (much) more chili.

The bok choy was an add-on and totally worth it. Gotta have my green. Steamed to a lovely shade and refreshingly crisp, I honestly believe it completes the dish.

Final note: A & J is so cheap. Like, every time I get the bill I’m astounded by how little the wide array of food has cost (you have to get some of their small plates to share – amazing). They are cash only, though, so come prepared.


Homemade wide noodles with sesame sauce and a stylish bok choy beret.

Snax:

Prior to meeting Legs I had never had authentic Chinese cuisine. The furthest I got was General Tso’s, pork fried rice, and eggrolls. As I am a functioning human being, eggrolls still hold a place in my heart, but the rest went by the wayside a long time ago. Now with a newfound sense of self-preservation and a love for A & J Bistro I never have to call Ming-Feng ever again.

My first steps into life after Tso lead me straight to dan dan mian. A & J’s handmade wide noodles left me with a sense of wonder as I entered the new frontier speeding passed towers of takeaway containers overflowing with lo mein. These noodles are nice and soft, devoid of grease, and gently carry a flavor rather than inducing the headaches I was so accustomed to when in range of its fast food cousin. Toto, we’re not in Grand Sichuan anymore.

I have never felt greater empathy for the seed/nut allergic masses than when slurping down noodle after sesame sauce covered noodle at A & J. Get your EpiPens out boys and girls. It’s going to be a bumpy ride. This lovely sesame sauce topped with peanuts delivers a creamy, rounded out nuttiness that delights with every bite. Never overwhelming in thickness and always exits the palette and just the right time, this sauce is a true professional. Adding chili oil, soy sauce, and rice vinegar gives the sesame a little more complexity, but it’s not essential to its resounding success.

Some protein would be nice and a lot more bok choy, which doesn’t come standard, but this modest little meal is the perfect introduction to the ill-informed. More Chinese please!

 

 


And the winner is… Legs!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✗Sides/Veggies ✓Presentation

Snax didn’t even have protein. Chump. His sauce though… wow. He actually ordered what I wanted to get, but out of benevolence I allowed him to dine upon my (formerly) favorite dish. Looks like it pays to be kind.

 

November wins:

Legs: 1 – Snax: 1

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Haitian Sensation

Caribbean, Cuisine, Haitian, New Jersey

The Battleground

First Republic, Elizabeth, New Jersey


The Contenders

Beef Tasso vs. Chicken Piké

Beef Tasso served with a pillow of black rice and all the plantains your heart could desire. Scrum-diddily-umptious!

Beef Tasso served with a pillow of black rice and all the plantains your heart could desire. A full ramekin of pikliz was the real diva on the plate. Scrum-diddily-umptious!

Legs:

First Republic is a cute little place that knows exactly who it is. Unafraid to stand out from the crowd and be different, diners here are sure to have a great time. Whether you’re just stopping in to have a drink and chat with the world’s friendliest bartender, Dani, or you’re coming in for their Sunday salsa lessons, First Republic is your stop for a great Caribbean lounge.

My beef tasso was almost everything it claimed to be. These large, well-seasoned beef hunks were a pleasure to behold. The seasoning was not-quite-smoky, not-quite-spicy, not-quite-salty and all-around delicious. My only complaint is that the beef was a tad overdone and tough. But I like my steak rare, so perhaps other diners won’t be as let down.

Black rice. Wow. I’d never heard of it before and I don’t think my life will ever be the same again. Dani described it as rice cooked with mushrooms, but the mushrooms get taken out before the final product is complete. So the rice drinks up all that lovely, earthy flavor and color but retains its integrity as a grain. Although I’m not a huge fan of mushrooms, Dani seemed so excited about it that I decided to give it a whirl – I’m so so so glad I did.

The black rice came out soft and fluffy, like a down pillow fresh from a plumping. There was no distinct mushroom flavor, rather the rice had a lovely nuttiness to it with subtle undertones of earth. The smell wafting towards my eager nose was heavenly, eclipsed only by that incredible, unique flavor. It’s no wonder why the Haitians save this miraculous side for special occasions.

Amazing as that black rice was, the crème de la crème was the pikliz. This is, in my opinion, the greatest condiment on the planet. Cole slaw’s mature, spicy, sophisticated older cousin, pikliz is shredded and pickled veggies with not a hint of mayo and a whole overload of flavor. It paired well with literally everything on my plate. Everything. And it’s actually spicy!

I’ll be back.


Chicken Pike

Chicken Piké, served in a spicy boat of Haitian marinade alongside mixed veggies and fried plantains. All aboard!

Snax:

Celebrating my birthday at the National Apple Harvest Festival was a blast, but Legs insisted that a birthday dinner was in order at an arena of my choosing. I was feeling a bit Caribbean and decided to try something I haven’t experienced in ages; the joy of Haitian food.

Growing up I had a best friend, Nate, who was Haitian and still remember the smell of his mother’s cooking filling the house. Call it nostalgia or inexperience, but Nate’s mom made one of the best spicy wings I’ve ever eaten. Naturally when I saw chicken piké on the menu I had to go for it and try to recreate my first taste of Haiti.

The results? A resounding success. This chicken piké was everything I hoped it would be. It had the smoky sweetness that I expect from the Caribbean with a kick that lands squarely on the pleasure centers of the brain. The one-two combo of fall off the bone chicken and a commanding sauce had me KO’d from the start.

The chicken’s tag team partners mixed vegetables and sweet plantains kept the hits coming. Sautéed red peppers, onions, carrots, and broccoli had just the right amount of crunch to complement the perfectly tender chicken. Like all great fried plantains these were crisp on the outside and soft on the inside. More importantly both sides carried the piké’s spiciness just a little longer. Every bite of this meal was a pleasure.

How could this meal get any better? With surprise tickets to the Book of Mormon from Legs, of course! I’m too overcome by joy to even care if Legs beats me this round.


And the winner is… Snax!

✓Protein ✓Sauce ✓Sides/Veggies ✗Presentation

The streak is over! My succulent chicken and breathtaking sauce were just too much for Legs’ beef to overcome. In fact, she kept coming back to my plate for sauce throughout the meal! This win finally puts me on the board and gives me an opportunity to tie. I can only hope to put together a streak of my own.

Once this month is out someone will face punishment and every month thereafter. Stay tuned!

September/October wins:

Legs: 3 – Snax: 1

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Giving Back

American, Charity, Food, Polish, Russian, Water
This week we set aside our differences to help feed the homeless through Family Promise. We couldn’t resist an opportunity to give back when we were invited by family friends to take part in such a great cause. Legs has even taken her philanthropy one step further by beginning a charity: water campaign! Check out the menu and learn all about Legs’ mission!


Family Promise

Eastern European smorgasbord! Polish pierogies and an assortment of grilled goodies in a Russian marinade.

Eastern European smorgasbord! Polish pierogies and an assortment of grilled goodies in a Russian marinade.

 

We were proud to present our delicious bounty in the halls of the Presbyterian Church of New Providence. It was a bit of a challenge catering to the tastes of such a diverse group of people, but the menu received praise all around. First, potato and cheese pierogies, sautéed with onions of course. Only the worst kind of people dislike pierogies. Follow that up with some grilled pork marinated in adjika and mayonnaise overnight. That marinade did wonders for the pork by seeping into every nook and cranny, giving it a smooth, almost creamy heat. A cornucopia of grilled veggies: mushrooms, grape tomatoes, green bell peppers, and onions, smeared with the same marinade as the pork tied it all together.

 

Back to the states for Uncle Sam's favorite desserts, apple pie and apple crumble. What? Crumble counts.

Back to the states for Uncle Sam’s favorite desserts, apple pie and apple crumble. What? Crumble counts.

 

This dynamic duo jumped from the mind of Legs and into the hearts of our gracious guests. Her apple pie, a recipe that she has held onto since her high school advanced foods class, is as timeless as a great American novel. Somebody tell the Mark Twain estate to start throwing in recipes for Huckleberry pie before the checks stop coming in. Homemade crust and a list of ingredients that will remain secret due to threats against my life make for an incredible slice of pie.

How do you follow up an apple themed dessert? With another apple themed dessert of course! This was the first time Legs has ever made apple crumble and I hope it won’t be the last. Another homemade crust, hearty oats, walnuts, brown sugar, and all the butter we could handle. This apple crumble will go down with some of the most memorable debuts in history. James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause, Wilt Chamberlain’s rookie season, and now Legs’ apple crumble. Magical.


 

charity: intern

You can visit my birthday campaign and donate to clean water here.

I’ve had the amazing privilege of interning with charity: water this summer. Their goal is to bring clean water to the 800 million people without it in our lifetime. In just 8 years, charity: water has given 4.2 million people clean water and built over 11,000 water projects!

Some facts about the water crisis:

  • 1 in 9 people don’t have clean water
  • Diseases from dirty water kill more people than anything else, including war
  • Women and children in Africa spend up to four hours a day collecting dirty water
  • Lack of toilets and facilities in schools causes many students to drop out
  • $20 brings one person clean water

This September, 100,000 people in the Sahel region of Africa are counting on us. Your donation will be completely matched and your impact doubled! Instead of wasting water in the name of charity, please give water to those who need it most. You can donate here.

THANK YOU!!!

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