posted by on Dinner, Sushi, Vegging Out

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Sushi is huge in New York City. It’s trendy, it’s healthy and most sushi restaurants turn into pre-game hubs on Fridays and Saturdays. But when you can’t be hip and order spicy tuna, what’s a vegetarian to do?

Head to my favorite sushi restaurant in the city, Akina in the East Village, where they have tons of veg options. They have super fresh ingredients, offer brown rice for free (!) and bring you Hershey Kisses with your check.

What’s in it for you: Edamame, steamed vegetable dumplings, asparagus yakitori and plenty of vegetarian rolls.

What’s in it for them: Chicken/beef/shrimp yakitori, salmon tartar with jalapeño sauce and every fish roll under the sun. My friends swear by the yellowtail scallion roll and salmon sushi combo.

If you want to try something new, take a tip from one of my vegetarian friends: Try a sweet potato tempura roll with spicy mayo, avocado and scallions. The contrast between the crunchy sweet potato and the smooth avocado with a hint of spice from the mayo is amazing.

My only problem with sushi is that I’m often still hungry at the end of my meal. But you can avoid reaching for dinner number two by loading up on edamame. Soy beans are a great source of protein, fiber and essential amino acids. Hunger, begone!

Bon appétit!

424 E. 14th St. between 1st Ave. and Ave. A
212.388.1127
L to 1st Ave.

posted by on Dinner, TV, Vegging Out

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Roasted peppers

Mushroom pizza from Patsy's Pizzeria

Mmm…doesn’t that look tasty? It’s a mushroom pizza from Patsy’s, one of my favorite pizzerias in the city. Theirs is a great example of New York-style pizza — thin crust, juicy mozzarella, fresh tomato sauce and sprigs of basil. In my opinion, most any slice in this city could take on slices in Chicago, San Fran and beyond. (OK, I lived in Chicago for four years and can appreciate deep dish, but no, no, no! You shouldn’t need a fork and knife!)

But are we New Yorkers snooty about our pizza with good reason?

Short answer: Yes. Yes we are.

Long answer: It all has to do with New York City’s above average water quality. You see, the way the water molecules bond to the flour determines the flavor of the all-important crust, so the chemical reaction is different from the reaction made with water from, say, Oklahoma. Who knew?

Well, I didn’t, until I saw an episode of Food Detectives on the Food Network. Host Ted Allen was investigating whether New York water deserves all this credit, so he set up an experiment. Owner/chef John LaFemina of the Lower East Side restaurant Ápizz made three pizzas with exactly the same ingredients, except for the water; one pizza was made with New York City water, one with Los Angeles water and the last with Chicago water. The taste-testers, one of whom was actor/comedian Mario Cantone (love!), all voted the New York pie number one. But of course!

I’m not saying every slice in this city is stellar, but when it’s good, it’s gooood. Some suggestions besides Patsy’s? Try Angelo’s, Arturo’s, and Pizza 33.

But I also want to know about some new places. What are your favorite pizza joints?

And for a look at the Food Detectives taste test, check out the clip below.

Bon appétit!


posted by on Dessert, Vegging In

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...to this!

Ever since I read about Midwest Airlines’ inflight baked cookies, I’ve had the urge to whip up a batch myself. I may be a sucker for Girl Scout cookies and Keebler Chips Deluxe (mmm…), but warm, gooey home-baked cookies knock those store-bought ones out of the water. Pair with a tall glass of milk (organic skim from Trader Joe’s if you ask me), and I’m in heaven.

But it was a Monday night and I felt a bit crazy, so I also threw in some coconut and walnuts for a moist, nutty, chocolatey cookie concoction.

I adapted this recipe from Nestle Toll House’s but wanted to go a bit healthier with whole wheat flour and honey. Even though these are by no means indulgent, pig-out cookies, they’re a great dessert — tons of flavor without the typical sugar roller coaster. I think I would’ve liked agave more than honey, but I was fresh out, so I worked with what I had. (Like honey, agave is a natural sweetener with a lower glycemic index, a.k.a. it’s good for you. You can find it at Trader Joe’s, Whole Foods or most health food stores. More to come on agave in the very near future…) And if you want, go for white whole wheat flour, so you can maintain the color of the regular version.

What to get:

  • 2 ¼ cups white whole wheat flour
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp baking salt
  • 1 ¾ sticks butter, softened
  • ¾ cup honey
  • ¾ cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • 2 large eggs (or 4 egg whites)
  • 2 cups semisweet chocolate chips
  • ½ cup walnuts
  • ½ cup sweetened coconut flakes (available in the baking section)

What to do:

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Mix flour, baking soda and salt in a small bowl. Beat butter, honey, brown sugar and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl. (The more you beat the mixture, the tougher the cookies will be, so try starting with an electric mixer to break up the butter sticks, then switch to hand mixing.) Add eggs, beat and then gradually stir in flour mixture. Fold in chocolate chips, walnuts and coconut.

Scoop a tablespoon (or use an ice cream scoop for larger cookies) of the mixture onto greased foil. Bake for about 14 minutes, or until golden brown.

Makes about 60 cookies

Bon appétit!

posted by on Mediterranean, Vegging Out, West Village

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When my college friends got together for a coast-to-coast reunion, a long dinner was in order. But there were some limitations: no Mexican (one friend hailed from Mexico’s brother from another mother, a.k.a. California), somewhere new, and somewhere that could accommodate my veggie needs and their carnivore appetites.When someone suggested Mediterranean, I thought it was a no-man’s land for me. But the West Village Greek tapas restaurant Gus’ Place came to our rescue!

It’s one of those places that’s just as good for a date as it is for a lively group dinner, and their menu is fantastic:

What’s in it for you: Oven-baked feta, zucchini fritters, spinach pie, fresh vegetables in a tomato sauce with lemon couscous, and more

What in it for them: It’s Greek food, hello! Meat, seafood, meat, seafood.

I unfortunately don’t have pictures of this meal, but we ordered a bunch of small plates and 2-3 large plates. (My memory fails me.) The zucchini fritters were by far the best of what we got. It had just the right crunch and paired with the tzatziki, it was delicious. And word to the wise: If you’re ordering large plates, just know they’re LARGE. And after sharing all of those small plates, the large dishes probably weren’t necessary, especially since they offer hummus with pita as a bread basket.

Candelight, vino, friendly service and paired with such delicious food — it’s the perfect spot for a long dinner. Check it out in the spring and summer; their sidewalk seating is perfect for alfresco dining.

Bon appétit!


Gus’ Place
192 Bleecker St. at MacDougal
212.777.1660
A, B, C, D, E, F, V to W. 4th St.-Washington Sq.
1 to Houston

posted by on Mark Bittman, TV

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I love food writer Mark Bittman for his no-frills approach to cooking. He likes simplicity, flexibility and isn’t afraid to admit his mistakes. That’s why it was so refreshing to read about his frustration with TV cooking shows.

Hear, hear, Bitty! I do love cooking shows – the Food Network, Travel Channel, morning show cooking segments – but I could see how they could scare cooking newbies away from trying. I mean, they scare me away sometimes. As Bittman tells us:

“…nearly every ingredient is usually prepared in advance, and what isn’t is selected so that the chef can show off his…knife skills, which are bound to intimidate nearly all of us who can never aspire (and why would we, really?) to chopping an onion with our eyes closed; his ability to make food fly in the air while cooking it; and/or his skill at presentation, which has absolutely nothing to do with taste.”

But newbies and seasoned vets: I’m going to share one of my missteps with you. The chocolate soufflé pictured below.

Hot mess

Hot mess

Ugh. My egg whites didn’t form peaks and I was left with a “dessert” that looked like meatloaf and tasted like a wet sponge. But realistic? Yes.

Do you think cooking on TV is a charade, too? What has been your biggest cooking “miss”?

posted by on Mediterranean, Protein, Vegging In

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A wonderful friend told me how delicious Israeli couscous is, so I took her advice and picked some up today at Trader Joe’s. Sometimes called pearl couscous, this chewy grain is made of ground durum wheat and even though it has no fiber, it’s a great source of protein: 18 grams for every cup. A protein source that isn’t beans or dairy? Count me in!

Any vegetable would work with this dish, but I was craving mushrooms, and tomatoes added a punch of color, so in they went!

Israeli couscous dinner

What to get:

- ¾ cup couscous
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- 1 cup water
- Mushrooms  (I hate to specify how much vegetables you should use. When you’re vegetarian you generally love vegetables. So pile them on if you’d like! )
- Tomatoes
- 2 tsp basil (I used Dorat frozen basil cubes. Each measures 1 tsp and they are amazing!)
- 1 tsp garlic powder
- 1 tsp chili powder
- Crumbled goat cheese (optional)

What to do:

Sauté the couscous in a saucepan with about 1 tbsp of olive oil (a little more or less if you’d like) for a few minutes and be sure to keep stirring so it doesn’t burn. Once it’s browned a bit, pour in water and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and let simmer for about 12 minutes, or until the water is absorbed. But check on it at about 8 minutes to make sure the couscous hasn’t stuck to the pan (which means it’ll burn). Add ¼ – ½ cup of water.

While it’s cooking, steam the mushrooms in a steamer for 1-2 minutes and chop some tomatoes. (You could sauté the mushrooms in a nonstick pan with some olive oil, but I love steaming because it preserves more of the nutrients.) Once the couscous is cooked, add the mushrooms, tomatoes and basil. Top with goat cheese.

Makes 2 large servings

I was in a cozy mood, so I opted for the hot version, but this dish would also work served cold, perhaps with some balsamic vinaigrette, cucumbers and cherry tomatoes for a delicious spring/summer salad.

Bon appétit!