4/30/2012

macarons, etc.

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Well, well.

Afraid it's just a shorty entry for today because: all in all, this has been one of the crazier weeks I've had in my life. Or, perhaps even, the craziest, ever. Among starting a new internship, balancing a few shifts here and there of a second job, and clinging to hope in the midst of a rather daunting unexpected problem on the side, my dear cute Colin, feeling a bit stressed himself, has outdone himself once again.

Always thoughtful, he presented me with these beautifully colored macarons from The Painted Truffle, almost too pretty to eat.

Only almost, though. The blackberry one is already in my tummy. This counts as part of the rainbow diet, right?

(From L to R: salted caramel, lemon, pistachio, raspberry, blackberry, and chocolate-hazelnut. ZING.)


4/25/2012

a brief visit to the bent spoon

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If you've ever wandered around Princeton, New Jersey on a bright spring day (or, heck, even on a dreary winter afternoon, weather advisories and all), you are likely to find a line curving outside the doorway of this teeny-tiny specialty ice cream shop, The Bent Spoon. Words don't even begin to describe the purity behind The Bent Spoon's flavors, each ingredient carefully selected by season and local support, several coming from directly inside Princeton's interlaced foodie community. Can we say coffee ice cream made from coffee that comes from a few blocks away? Yes, we can, because it's true.

While this spectacular dessert haven deserves a more extended review (sometime this summer! I can feel it!), all praise, a recent trip to this favorite landmark on one of our warmer spring days, and I had no choice but to tell the world.

raspberry + fresh-squeezed lemon sorbet. YUM.

4/23/2012

sprig & vine, take two

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This particular meal took us back to the original founding of this blog that celebrates all green food, all takes on vegetarianism. This time, however, rather than ringing in the new year, a difficult thing to do at the end of April, we went instead to ring in new possibility: a new internship, starting this week, with a lovely up-and-coming company called Holstee. My initial introduction to Holstee came through their Manifesto, a resonating collection of words that outlines the motivation behind the company's founding, one that encourages us to live life without over-thinking, find enjoyment wherever possible, and always finding reasons to celebrate creativity.

Another piece of the Manifesto hastens us to this: "When you eat, enjoy every last bite." That being said, what better way to toast new opportunity than with a culinary celebration of vegan variety. Sprig & Vine, an entirely vegan restaurant in New Hope, Pennsylvania, has an ever-changing menu of local and seasonal ingredients. While they are also open for both Sunday brunch and weekday lunches, we decided to revisit this favorite location for their dinner hour, with options for entrees, salads, appetizers, and desserts that never dare to disappoint.


With cinnamon plum tea steeping on the table (and YES, it really is as good as it sounds), we began this meal with an appetizer of golden beet crostini. Complemented beautifully with the cashew "ricotta" and black beluga lentils, this light starter was the perfect opener without leaving us too full before the salads arrived.



Though we both decided that Spring & Vine's salads have drastically grown in size since our first visit and all others since, they have certainly not decreased in flavor or compromised quality. AMAZE. While we both ordered different options (and swapped about halfway through, which is really the way to go), I have no idea which one I liked better, both so equally full of fresh, bright, earthy flavors. The first, a combination of frisee (by far, my favorite salad green), thin slices of pink lady apple and fennel, grainy mustard dressing, and crushed pistachios on top. (Not the greatest picture, admittedly, but I can ALSO admit I was in a hurry to eat!) The second salad, which is positively vibrant, is a killer combination of Asian-inspired flavor: shredded cabbage, charred edamame, radish, spicy pickled carrots, scallions and black sesame, with a miso, cranberry, kumquat dressing. Even the biggest anti-vegetable person couldn't hate it if they tried.



Despite the amount of food that already came and went from our table, I found myself more than ready for our entrees to arrive. (Usually by this point in the meal we have ordered so much that I start to wonder if I will do more than just stare at the main dish until the waitress returns to neatly pack it into eco-friendly take-out boxes.)

BUT, I was super excited for my smash of flavors as WELL as the opportunity to try several new vegetables, which is always an exciting feat: saffron risotto cakes (SO rich and flavorful and STILL VEGAN. Monumentally impressive) surrounded by foraged Japanese knotweed (shoots that resembled larger asparagus with a tangy lemon flavor that harkened to a pickled artichoke), fiddlehead ferns (a perfectly adorable curly fern, the texture of a green bean with the subtle bite of a radish), ramps (a delicately flavored member of the onion family) and green garbanzo, all garnished with the most amazing pureed pea sauce. Honestly, as good as the entire combination was, I could have just eaten a bowl of that puree. This is not a joke.


A semi-close up of the fiddlehead, the knotweed, and the magical pea sauce. 

Cute Colin's main course came in the form of a cornmeal-crusted tempeh with a smoked maple-mustard glaze (namely, to die for), grilled asparagus (I believe that today's menu says this dish comes with grilled broccoli, and I must say, we were lucky to have the asparagus which was literally the most flavorful version of this vegetable I have ever had), beside a potato, rutabaga, and sage mash.

Also, a couldn't-pass-it-up side of kennebec potato wedges, perfectly seasoned with a side of grain mustard aïoli. Yum-o.



While we did end up taking home a good portion of leftovers (I'd say just enough for today's lunch, perhaps), we absolutely could not pass up the dessert menu, as long as it could be boxed up to-go. We knew, from previous experience of feeling too full, that it could. Though all of the decadent-sounding options were tempting, we went with a favorite from other past visits: the cookie plate. The perfect dessert for two as it comes with two of each variety, we shared a mix of the lavender snickerdoodles (probably my favorite), orange-pistachio teacakes (also damn good), and cornmeal shortbread with blueberry jam (okay, those are my favorite, too).

And no, no picture of those, because, well, we ate them before I had the chance to think otherwise.



4/19/2012

(almost) vegan lemon-raspberry muffins

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As I've said before, and as I was just thinking to myself as I went walking through a small bakery section overflowing with fresh cinnamon rolls, breads, and pies (HOW TO RESIST?), I am an avid fan of baking, of the careful measurements and preparation, of the magical results of flour and butter becoming an elegantly risen dessert, all with the right amount of time and attention and sugar-dusting.

BUT, as I've also said, as rewarding (yet time-consuming) as this type of baking can be, we all know that I'm also one-hundred-percent in favor of the quick and easy baking routine, the simple batters, the basic ingredients, AND, if possible, add-ins of the healthy variety. (A perfect example of what I'm talking about, see my simplistic and favorite banana bread recipe here.)

SO, it's no surprise that whenever I come across a baking possibility that feels breezy and promises delicious-ness that isn't overloaded with white flour and white sugar: count me in, I've got to try it. Cut to, a recipe I found via Twitter (my new addiction, so it seems), that was retweeted (ah, social media lingo) by Vegetarian Times: vegan lemon-raspberry muffins. The only reason our variation didn't quite make the animal-free cut is because, as per their suggestion, you may use honey instead of agave nectar. Honey we had, agave we didn't. And the rest is easy-baking history.


You can find the original link to this recipe here, but otherwise, INGREDIENTS:

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
1/2 cup of honey (also where you are more than free to use agave!)
1 cup of water
Zest from 1/2 a lemon
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
2 cups frozen raspberries (Or, fresh?! Though I do find fresh fruit to be better eaten as IS.)

The recipe also recommends two optional add-ins, 1/4 cup of flax and/or a 1/4 cup of oat bran, just to amp up the health benefits of this particular breakfast (or anytime) food.

Are you ready for how easy this is?

1. Preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
2. Combine all the dry ingredients into one bowl.
3. In a separate bowl, whisk together water, applesauce, lemon juice + zest, and honey.
4. Next, slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients, mixing thoroughly.
5. Gently fold in raspberries.
6. In a lined muffin tin, evenly disperse batter into pan. (Using an ice cream scoop is a good trick.)
7. Bake for 20-25 minutes (we ended up going closer to 25) or until deep brown.

Makes abouttt 16 or so muffins, depending on the size of your pan. ADD THIS ONE TO THE BOOKS OF GOODNESS.

4/16/2012

the college survival wrap

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Okay. I don't know about the rest of you, but I have generally found that school cafeterias, whether they be elementary with their chicken nuggets or (ahem) collegiate with their make-your-own-quesadilla bar, the food is generally unappetizing, weirdly cooked (seriously, try to deny that), or always the same old thing. All the time, every day. Forever.

That, more or less, pretty much sums up my college experience in terms of food. While I'm not particularly a picky eater, and while I'm always grateful for the opportunity to eat, my diet (very badly) and mostly consisted of the following: salads, from the often neglected salad bar, LOTS of bagels, LOTS of cereal (Most often of the sugar-laden variety; think Reese's Puffs, plus loads of Waffle Crisp that I hoarded in my dorm room until they stopped making it. Which, in all pathetic honesty, was probably the saddest day of my life.), and lots of coffee. I mean, more coffee than water. No wonder I never slept.

And, hands raised in gratitude, please let us never forget the toxic-waste orange macaroni that I would eat in the hallway with my dear friend, green face masks on, at all hours of the night.

Dear heavens, bless my parents for the fast-metabolic rate I seem to possess, because that freshman fifteen was surely after me. Though it never did quite catch up.

Though it was during my senior year of school that I was brought back to what good food meant through the employment and generosity of the lovely owners of Beaver Falls Coffee and Tea (This is a real shout-out! I want to come back and visit and write about you!), it was also about mid-way through my college experience that I discovered, only during lunch hours, the blessed wrap bar.

I dare to imagine there was a holy light shining above it the first time we met.

This wrap, this wrap that I crave ferociously in the post-educational world (wait, is there such a thing?), has simple flavors, it's more than easy to make, and it's one I have often tried to duplicate, all with slight variety, but always with grand success. While I don't necessarily wish to go back to being a struggling (and hungry?) student, there are quite a few things I miss about that place from time to time. This wrap, forgive me all, tops the list. Mostly because it was probably the only thing that kept me from getting colonial day scurvy. SERIOUSLY. ALL I ATE WAS BREAD.

Ingredients!

Tortillas, preferably of the large or at least medium size. Either way, it will be messy, but glorious.
A handful of tomatoes, chopped
One carrot, shredded
One chunk of extra sharp cheddar, shredded
One handful of spinach
1/4 cup of chickpeas, drained
One small bell pepper, chopped
Honey mustard dressing, which you may buy or make, but I recommend you MAKE.




I would also like to say that there will be no bell pepper pictured here. I made this wrap twice this weekend, and after the first round, found that I used all the pepper we had. It was still sooo good.

So, the easiness begins with: prepping all your vegetables. Which should be a BREEZE. Chop your tomatoes and carrots, shred the carrots and cheese. Seriously, the sharper the cheese, the better. Am I right? (I'm right.) Also, drain your chickpeas; set aside.

Oh, and chop the pepper, if you have one. We had the prettiest little orange one. I was almost, only almost, sad to eat him.



I chose to use baby spinach, which I prefer to the regular variety, anyway. Also, it comes neatly pre-bagged and pre-washed. I know, I know. If you'd rather have regular spinach, it would probably be best to roughly chop it.

Side note, is anyone starting to wonder if this is a Trader Joe's advertisement? Product placementttt. Seriously, is there some compensation in this for me?


Okay, honey mustard time. Seriously, this couldn't be easier. I find that I personally like about a tablespoon of mustard (Super-legit mustard, at that. Look at those SEEDS.) to about a teaspoon and a half of honey. Really, it's up to you. If you like a little more bite or a little more sweet, keep mixing until you find a ratio that suits you. And, if you're anything like me, make enough to put some on the wrap, and enough for some extra on the side for some very messy dipping.


Squeezing a honey bottle while simultaneously taking a picture: probably the hardest thing about this recipe.

All that's left to do now is load everything up onto your tortilla. I always tend to overdo it, making it just about impossible to close the wrap without the help of a toothpick or your own two hands. Still, the overkill factor is only because I am 100% obsessive about this combination. AND, the grainy mustard was way better than the bottled variety I used to pour into a pudding bowl and carry back to my seat, tray in hands. Way, way better.


And, more than seriously, this is probably the only thing during those four years that kept me somewhat healthy, save for my five-month hiatus to Los Angeles where The Grove farmer's market was only a fifteen minute walk from my apartment. But, even then, I was more into Pinkberry and Brazilian barbeque than fresh produce. Ah, me. How times have changed.

4/11/2012

easter dinner

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Just a pretty picture of an Easter dinner, which was the following: roasted Brussels sprouts with apples; quinoa salad with chickpeas, cherry tomatoes, and avocado; lentil loaf (SO GOOD?!); glazed carrots; mashed potatoes, and, in the very center, grilled zucchini. Cheers.


Oh, and not pictured: a whooole lotta candy.

4/09/2012

annapurna in new hope, pa

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How very fitting that this next entry be about the Indian restaurant Annapurna, beee-cause it is also owned by the same people who operate Marhaba, featured in my last appropriately-obsessive post.

Annnyway, opened last summer in August, Annapurna is tucked away in downtown New Hope, Pennsylvania, a tiny but festively decorated space that overlooks the Delaware River. Which, if you're there at the right evening-ish time, a clan of ducks waddling by, has the potential for an altogether charming view.

The traditional Indian cuisine at Annapurna is flavorful, fresh, and prepared to order. Not too spicy for me, I always have to say. And Annapurna gets it right. They boast a solid variety of vegetarian options (as most Indian restaurants do), and even state on their website, "Who says vegetarian has to be bland and boring!"

Well, certainly not us.


Here, an excerpt from the appetizer section of their menu. And, because why wouldn't I be, absolutely in love with their adorable logo. Any indication of animal friendship, and I'm sold. And those two are downright smooching.

We started with the Vegetarian Assorted Appetizer: a combination plate of one samosa, a variety of aloo tikki, (fried patties of mashed potatoes, peas, and spices) and pakora (a variety of batter dipped vegetables, much like a tempura.)



Also with our appetizers came an order of Paswari Naan. Oh my heavens, this is quite literally my favorite naan, scratch that, my favorite BREAD, of all time, from any place. What an honor, you might say, but once you learn what comes tucked inside this homemade flatbread, you will more than understand: shredded coconut, pistachios, and golden raisins. I mean, come ON.


For our main course, while cute Colin went for a version of vegetable biriyani exploding with spice, I went for a more mild, almost delicately sweet dish of mixed curried vegetables in a tomato-based sauce.



While the dim lighting didn't quite make for ideal photographs, and the nearby birthday party table of 20+ people, one wailing baby included (Have you ever seen parents change their child's diaper in the middle of the floor in a public place? SHEESH.), the always wonderful food and always cute companionship, as well as the attentive and eager intentions of the friendly waitstaff, still gives Annapurna a capital A plus. And the perfect amount of leftovers for tomorrow's lunch to boot.

4/04/2012

marhaba in lambertville, nj

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Oh my heavens. Okay.

I tried to write a post about this restaurant, Marhaba, back when I first started this food blog. Because it is one of our favorite, favorite places, and there was no way I could have a blog highlighting all of the best food and how to make it or where to get it without including Marhaba. BUT, one of the coolest things about this Middle Eastern restaurant is the ambient lighting (brought on by several badass bejeweled lanterns, all of which I will be needing in my future art-deco home), making it nearly impossible to capture good photographic evidence of the meal without disturbing all of the other patrons around us.

SO. This past Tuesday when we decided to take a short bike ride during DAYLIGHT, arriving at this tiny little place via canal path at about four in the afternoon, I realized: the possibility for pictures! Here and now! The two of us being the only ones here, with a window seat! Not even the belly dancer is here to distract. (No, really. They have one. Every Friday night. I'm uncomfortably serious.)

Even though there is a variety of other amazing dishes that we order from Marhaba (they have quite a few vegetarian options for the size of their menu), and even though my sun-dried tomato pitZA (yup) was a first-timer for me (I was craving pesto, as I always am), here it is, folks. One of our very favorite places, the best.


Not exactly a Middle-Eastern specialty, but you can't really go wrong with lemonade when you've been riding around on an adorable bike with a basket, finding sunning turtles with the cutest boy ever. Makes sense to me.



Okay, no joke, the most amazing hummus you will ever have in your life. I don't care where you go, or where you buy it, or if you make it yourself, Marhaba's is better. AND, the freshest, most amazing pita you have ever had in your life. When you order it (or two, duh), they make it right then. Not from a plastic package (don't even joke), not earlier that morning: right. then. They don't mess.


Though I often go with a different pita-based main course (a Middle Eastern version of a calzone, more or less, with spinach, feta, chick peas, and almonds, which of course makes me die), this particular day I was drawn to the pitZA (can't help it) with sun-dried tomatoes, pesto, and just the right amount of fresh mozzarella. Cute Colin had a falafel sandwich. And a Turkish coffee. YUM.



Whew. I feel so much better about my food-blogging now that I've been able to include one of the best restaurants I've ever been to. Everything before this has felt like a LIE. Okay, not really. But seriously, though. Daylight rules. As does the fact that my bike has a golden basket, which was perfectly sized to carry our leftovers back to the car.


4/02/2012

apple croustades

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With the newest issue of Vegetarian Times to leaf through, we have suddenly found ourselves surrounded by new recipes to try, ingredients that inspire, and of course, an entirely enticing article on phyllo dough (YES) complete with several suggestions to pair with this flakey pastry dough. Naturally drawn to the dessert option first (though the eggplant-potato combination is still something I must try), we decided to attempt the recipe for apple croustades. A croustade (pronounced crew-sta-day) is basically a French way of saying pie, though the term also implies that the crust is on the flakier side: enter phyllo dough. And because these are baked in a muffin tin, it makes for a miniature, personal-sized dessert. Adorable.


Ingredients

1/4 cup of white rum (They also suggest you may use cognac or Armagnac. We found a hugeass bottle of rum sitting on top of the piano. Therefore, rum wins.)
1/4 cup of raisins
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons margarine (Note: when it comes time to brush the phyllo dough, you will definitely need more. I don't know if that means we were a little heavy-handed with the margarine, but 1/2 cup hardly cuts it. Sorry, VT.)
5 large tart apples, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch dice
1/2 cup sugar, divided
18 sheets frozen phyllo dough, thawed

Now, the very first thing you should do is remember to take the phyllo dough out of the freezer, following the instructions on the package for thawing. (It's about eight hours refrigerated or two hours straight from freezer to countertop.) We didn't remember to do that, which turned this rather simple recipe into a two-day project. Can't really complain though, because the results were totally worth it.





Next, pour the rum and the raisins into a bowl and let them rest for fifteen minutes. This will cause the raisins to slightly rehydrate and absorb all of the flavor from the rum.

I wasn't kidding about the rum, was I. 

In the meantime, you could begin to peel, core, and dice the apples. We chose to use Granny Smith, one of the best apple varieties for baking as they retain their tart flavor even after being cooked. They also work well when paired with sugar because they aren't a naturally super-sweet apple.




Oh, cute Colin. Now in a large skillet, using the 2 tablespoons of margarine, cook the apples over a medium-high heat until they start to soften, about fifteen minutes. Add the raisin-rum mixture, and coat evenly. Transfer to a bowl and stir in a quarter-cup of the sugar. Let cool.


While the apple mixture cools, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Now it's phyllo dough time! This is the first time I've ever worked with this tricky pastry (I know, I know, there are a million Greek jokes to be made), but I found the only really difficult part is working fast enough so that the sheets don't get too dry. Otherwise, pretty simple stuff. Vegetarian Times suggests the following method: Melt the remaining margarine (plus more, remember?), brush a twelve-cup muffin pan with the margarine, set the rest aside. Unroll the phyllo dough, placing a damp paper towel over the sheets. This helps them retain moisture while they aren't yet being used.

Place the first sheet on your work surface (ours, a cutting board), and brush with margarine. Sprinkle evenly with a half-teaspoon of sugar. Repeat until you have six layered sheets, but don't put any sugar on the last sheet. (Whoops. I did that. During the first round, anyway.)


Next, cut the six layered sheets into four even squares. Push each square into the muffin pan, letting the edges of the phyllo hang over.


Fill each phyllo mold with 1/3 cup of the apple mixture. Brush the edges of the phyllo with margarine (again!) and fold over the apple mixture. One final time, lightly brush the tops with margarine to ensure the croustades hold together and get perfectly brown on top.


Repeat the last few steps (all involving the phyllo dough) until you have enough squares to fill the twelve-cup pan. Though it seems like a lot of steps, try to work as quickly as possibly to avoid the pastry sheets from becoming too dry.


Lastly, place them in the oven to bake for about 20 to 25 minutes or, of course, until golden brown. The apple mixture is already mostly cooked, so the oven time is mainly to bake the pastry pocket that holds them so they come out looking something like this:


One of my favorite things about phyllo dough (seriously, more jokes, I know) is that you can't really mess it up. No matter how unsure you are of the technique, it most always comes out looking pretty damn good. These little croustades were a surprising balance of sweet and slightly savory, and the bright tartness of the apples was the perfect pair with the buttery, flakey crust. We'll have to try these again sometime with another one of Vegetarian Time's suggested fillings. Pineapple, anyone?