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Top 10 (Things I Love) :: Oct ’11


Smorgas Chef, West Village NYC

1. Smorgas Chef, West Village

Nestled on a corner in the West Village, Smorgas Chef is a cozy, authentic Swedish restaurant that I discovered last month when a friend was in town. I have heard good reviews but haven’t had the chance to try it yet, and am I glad I did! Their food style is labeled “New Nordic Cuisine”, and everything on the menu is locally sourced and organic. The interior is small but has a large bar, and has a warm, ambient lighting that is cozy and romantic. They also have outside seating on their front patio as well as wrapped around the side of the building which is really nice on a crisp Fall night. We started our evening with Lingonberry Margaritas (quite potent I must add!) while we waited for our seats. We nibbled on some delicious Gravlaks Croquettes, which has generous pieces of luscious smoked salmon atop crispy potato cakes with chives and horseradish creme fraiche.

For our main dish we had to try their infamous Swedish Meatballs – WoW. Party in your mouth! The dish is almost enough for 2 people – you get about 10-12 decent sized meatballs slathered in a creamy light brown gravy, with whipped garlic mashed potatoes and sauteed julienne vegetables. The key to this dish is not only try them with the tangy and tart Lingonberry Preserves, but also ask for a side of Cloudberry Preserves (another delicious golden berry used in Swedish cooking that tastes like raspberry, strawberry and mango). For dessert, we ordered strong espressos and a pot of one of their many signature Swedish herbal teas. If we had more room, we might have tried the Scandanavian Soft Vanilla Waffles with Cloudberry preserves and Chantilly cream or the Honey Milk Chocolate Mousse but we were just so damn full from the Meatballs that we almost took a nap right there on the table. Love this place, will definitely be back for more Swedish yummy yums! They also have locations in the Financial District and in the Scandanavian House on Park Avenue.

Smorgas Chef, West Village
283 W. 12th St | New York NY 10014 | 212.243.7073

Check out Smorgas Chef online

Pane Panelle

2. Pane Panelle @ Stuzziceria, Tribeca

Pane Panelle is the new sandwich shop attached to Stuzziceria in TriBeCa that was just voted #2 Best Sandwich in NYC by New York Magazine in August ’11. I had to try this place out for myself after all the good reviews and my office being across the street from both places! I tried the Meatball and Mozzarella Panini which was perfect in its crispy grilled exterior with savory meatballs and sauce with tons of gooey cheese on the interior. They also sell meatballs and sauce by the pint if you want to just take them home and throw them over some fresh cooked pasta.

The sandwich shop and restaurant is run by Chef Paul di Bari, with a variety of other Sicilian-style sandwiches including a muffuletta with salami, provolone and an olive salad and their namesake sandwich with chickpea fritters, caciocavallo and ricotta cheese on Grandaisy bread. The price is a little steep at around $8-9 per sandwich, but they are so good you just can’t pass them up!

Pane Panelle TriBeCa
305½ Church St. between Lispenard St. and Walker St. | 212.219.2357

Check out Pane Panelle online

Mexicue Food Truck

3. Mexicue Food Truck

I remember not too long ago complaining about how there are very few affordable lunch options in the TriBeCa area, most restaurants being a bit more on the shi-shi side and a bit more than I’d like to spend on a daily basis when I’m just looking for some quick, good grub for lunch. Alas, the Mexicue Food Truck appeared on Church Street and I got really excited! The brand name says it all – their delicious sliders and tacos are a perfect mixture of BBQ and Mexican flavors all rolled into some really tasty morsels. I sampled the Smoked Short Rib Slider – full of super tender smoked short ribs slathered in a Memphis Mole sauce, topped with pickled onions, romaine lettuce and cojita cheese. The Burnt Ends Slider is almost like a super fancy Sloppy Joe, but mini-sized and fantabulous flavors – the chili is made of pulled brisket mixed with ground beef, then topped with a cilantro lime crema and house pickled jalapenos. These guys definitely know what they’re doing when it comes to flavorful fast food. I haven’t stopped dreaming of the next time I can get my hands on some these notable noshes! Besides their mobile food trucks, you can also find these guys in Midtown West on 7th Avenue and on Forsyth St on the Lower East Side.

Check out Mexicue’s menu and locations online

Wafles & Dinges

4. Wafles & Dinges Food Truck

Now here’s something worthy of talking about. I’m not one to have much of a sweet tooth, but last month I was swayed by a friend (as well as the friendly food truck guy) at Wafles & Dinges to sample some of these luscious golden crisp Belgian Waffles slathered in Spekuloos spread, bananas and powdered sugar. I have always loved Belgian Waffles – but Spekuloos spread? What the hell is that? I had to try it. All I can say is its a cross between a butterscotch and hazelnut flavor and has the consistency of a creamy syrup (almost like a melty Nutella) and is completely divine. Nothing like I’ve ever tasted. That’s it. I’m officially hooked.

They have a ton of toppings (dinges) which you can get UNLIMITED for $2 extra. They refer to this as WMD, or Wafel of Massive Deliciousness. Dulce de Leche, Belgian Chocolate Fudge, Maple Syrup, Whipped Cream, Ice Cream, the list goes on. You can even get some savory Wafels like BBQ Pulled Pork (next on my list) or de Bacon Syrup Wafel which sounds pretty darn cool too. Chow it all down with a hot Belgian Cocoa or Coffee with a shot of hazelnut – you’ve got the perfect sweet snack in the middle of Central Park (or wherever you might discover them on the streets of NYC!) Awesome. Just sayin’.

Check out Wafels & Dinges online

KitchenAid Appliance Demo

5. KitchenAid 3-Speed Hand Blender

So I found a new toy to play with. A serious cooking toy, that is. I had the opportunity to attend a product demo with KitchenAid at SeeFood media kitchens on the Lower East Side – one of New York’s premiere food photography and video studios. Not only did we get to preview first hand some of KitchenAid’s new products, but we were served delicious nibbles from local food purveyors such as Katz Deli, Doughnut Plant, Russ & Daughters, Yonah Shimmel Knish Bakery, Boubouki and Bisous Ciao. We sampled Pastrami Sandwiches, homemade doughnuts, smoked salmon, knishes, spanakopita and yummy macarons…too much good food to even talk about!

KitchenAid has a great new line of stand mixers, food processors and a 3-speed hand blender that does all the chopping, crushing, whisking and pureeing you’ll ever need in one handy little tool! This probably has become my favorite all-purpose tool with its handsome design, lightweight body and smart precise mechanics that is totally portable and actually fits perfect in my small NYC kitchen! It’s perfect for chopping herbs and veggies, mixing soups and pureeing food right in the pan. It’s super quiet and has a soft grip handle making it comfortable and easy to use. Love it!

Thanks to everyone at KitchenAid and SeeFood Media for a great event and even greater gift to make my cooking faster, easier and more delicious!

Check out KitchenAid products online

Check out SeeFood Media online

Antique Garage, Soho

6. Antique Garage, Soho

Now if there’s a cool place in Soho, this is it. This eclectic, funky and elegant little place is a gem located in lower Soho on Mercer Street. They specialize in Mediterranean cuisine and have antique furnishings, live music and gorgeous chandeliers to match. Their menu is an infusion of French, Moroccan, Turkish and Ottoman cuisine and they have great small plates (Mezes) such as Hummus and Tzatziki, marinated octopus, fried calamari and eggplant salad if you just want to snack with a glass of wine. I stopped in solely for drinks and had an interesting mint, rum and cucumber concoction that knocked my socks off! Their Grilled Turkish Meatballs are a specialty, and they have other Mediterranean yummies such as Shrimp Casserole and Grilled Veggie Skewers and Pan Seared Tuna. The atmosphere is warm and dimly lit, the music is authentic Turkish (and live!), and the whole gorgeous setting is inside an old garage – they keep the front garage door open so you get a nice breeze and a nice view. Very lovely. Very romantic. A nice place for a dinner date and some great food. I’ll definitely be back for some of those Grilled Turkish Meatballs and fresh made Tzatziki!

Check out Antique Garage online

da Mikele, TriBeCa

7. da Mikele, Tribeca

I stopped in here the other day for a quick lunch at the bar and for the life of me couldn’t decide what to order. Not that that’s a bad thing – just too many damn good choices on the menu! da Mikele is owned by Michele Iuliano, owner of Luzzo’s in the East Village, and Ovest Pizzoteca in Chelsea. Their menu is Neopolitan-inspired and the best thing to try is one of their oven fired pizzas. Old Fashioned Square pizza, Cone Shaped Pizza, Oven baked Neapolitan pizza, homemade Focaccia bread pizza..you name it, they got it. And they got it good. I had one of their “pizzettes” which is a thin crust oblong shaped pizza that was topped with Spicy Sausage, Broccoli Rabe and Mozzarella – just enough for lunch and it came with a mixed greens salad. The crust is perfectly cooked, crunchy on the outside and chewy with lots of gooey melted cheese – delicious! They have a nice selection of Antipasti – the Polpette (meatballs in tomato sauce) are really good with a side of crusty bread and their Italian soups are delicious too. I haven’t tried the Pasta dishes yet, but they look amazing (yes, I was eyeing the Pesto Shrimp Risotto on the plate next to me) and are on the list for my next visit (which will be very soon!). Check it out.

275 Church Street, New York NY 10013 | 212.925.8800

Check out da Mikele online

Kelley + Ping, Soho

8. Kelley + Ping, Soho

I stumbled across this cool Asian noodle shop one night when I was strolling through Soho after work and felt like having an appetizer and a drink, and that I did. I sat down at their cozy bar in the front and ordered a Ginger infused Vodka drink that was cool and fresh and spicy, topped with some fresh mint. While I was looking at the menu, the bartender put out these amazingly addictive asian spiced nuts in front of me – in a cute bamboo basket with a cover! I think there were cashews, wasabi peas and some crunchy coated spicy peanuts in there – not sure but I think I ate at least two baskets of these before I actually ordered something off the menu. So I ordered some of the Thai Chicken Satay with Peanut Sauce which came with another clear sweet and spicy dressing with peppers in it. Pretty darn good! I’ve only actually eaten here one other time and had the traditional Pad Thai but they have tons of other interesting noodle dishes and Asian dishes including Vietnamese style on the menu that I’d try next time around. Nice atmosphere, good service, and oh, did I mention the asian spiced nuts? It’s worth a visit just for those lovely things and a house infused vodka.

127 Greene St. Soho NY 10012 | 212.228.1212

Check out Kelley + Ping online

The Lot, High Line

9. The Lot, High Line Park NYC

Situated at the base of the entrance of High Line Park at W. 30th St and 10th Ave, The Lot is really just that – a (parking) lot with free events, an outdoor bar, picnic tables and umbrellas all inside a circle of cool food trucks. But these aren’t just any food trucks, we’re talking awesome coffee and ice cream bar Van Leeuwen, Korilla BBQ, The Taco Truck, and an outdoor bar by Colicchio & Sons with craft beers on tap. After some good grub and a beverage, you can hike up the stairs to the gorgeous High Line park situated on an old railroad line that spans from W. 30th Street all the way down to Greenwich Street in the Meatpacking District. If you haven’t checked out this beauty, you must, must do so. Being up so high is a breath of fresh air from being in this crowded city and the views are absolutely amazing to boot. Gardens, sculptures, art, and really cool buildings along the way. When you’re done, stop at The Porch on W. 15th Street for a great sammie and fresh fruit from The Green Table located in Chelsea Market. Oh, and make sure to get an artisan fruit ice pop or shaved ice from People’s Pops on the way out for dessert!

Check out the Lot and the High Line online

Papatzul, Soho

10. Papatzul, Soho

OK. Last but not least. Papatzul. Set in lower Soho on Grand Street, this is one of my new favorite spots. Good Mexican food is sometimes hard to find in New York (at least compared to L.A. or Texas) or you have to go to an overpriced chain for some decent guacamole and enchiladas AND pay an arm and a leg for it. Papatzul is first of all charming with its creative and colorful signage outside. The interior is just as colorful and buzzing with energy when you walk in.

The chips are deliciously homemade and the salsa is super fresh (and no they aren’t free with your meal, but worth the $5 for some of the best authentic salsa you’ll have in NYC). Since I went for lunch, I ordered the Braised Chipotle and Oregano Beef soft Taquitos, topped with Queso Fresco, Chipotle Salsa and Crema – d.e.l.i.c.i.o.u.s. – and a perfect size for lunch (didn’t even need the chips but they were worth it!)

Papatzul is actually a term used for special food that the Aztecs made for their Spanish conquerors (who they thought were the Gods). Special food you’ll find here indeed, with a menu created by Chef Thierry Amezcua, a native of Coyoacan, a small borough of Mexico City. The atmosphere is fun and lively and the food is fresh, authentic and very special.

55 Grand Street, New York, NY 10013 | 212.274.8225

Check out Papatzul online

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Top Ten (Things I Love) :: August ‘11


MacBar

1. MacBar, Soho – Four Cheese Mac ‘n Cheese

MacBar is a groovy and modern mac ‘n cheese take-out bar smack in the middle of Soho on Prince Street near Lafayette. They offer 12 different varieties of gourmet mac ‘n cheese combinations such as: Four Cheese with queso blanco, fontina, emmental and gouda, Mayan Chipotle with chicken Diablo, Chihuahua cheese and green onions, Mac Lobsta’, Mac ‘Shroom, Mac Quack with duck confit, fontina, caramelized onions and fines herbes and more. Who can resist a creamy, savory bowl of piping hot ooey-gooey macaroni and cheese? I know I can’t!

54 Prince Street | NYC 10012 | (212) 226-8877 |
http://macbar.net/

La Follia

2. La Follia, Gramercy – Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios & Sauteed Garlic Spinach

La Follia is an upscale Italian restaurant and wine bar in Gramercy on 3rd and 19th Street. They offer delicious small plates, pasta dishes and entrees, salads, veggie sides and have an impressive wine list. My favorite small plate dish is the Roasted Beet Salad with Mint, Ricotta and Pistachios..it has a light vinaigrette dressing and is perfectly mixed with fresh mint and creamy ricotta and roasted pistachios to give it some crunch. They also have an excellent line up of Crostinis including Burrata, Olive Oil and Sea Salt, Imported Ricotta with Pesto, White Bean and Olive and more – perfectly crispy with the finest toppings – YUM. If you’re in the mood for some Salumi, try the Prosciutto Di Parma or Soppressata with a selection of cheeses, a side dish of Broccoli Rabe with garlic and chili flakes or Brussel Sprouts sautéed with crispy Prosciutto or the sauteed garlicky Spinach. Rumour has it their House-Made Pappardelle with Braised Pork Ragu, Thyme and Pecorino is amazing! An intimate bar setting and outside seating make this a perfect date spot on a Friday night.

226 3rd Avenue at 19th St | NYC 10003 | (212) 477-4100 |
http://menupages.com/restaurants/la-follia/menu

Waterfront Ale House

3. Waterfront Ale House, Murray Hill – Spicy Texas Chili with Serious Hot Homemade Hot Sauce

This is one of my favorite neighborhood saloons in Murray Hill. The food is fantastic, the locals are loyal and the service and staff are great. They make their own homemade Hot Sauce (which sells for $4 a bottle at the bar) – amazing with their Spicy Texas Chili! Perfectly seasoned and cooked to perfection with a bubbly layer of cheddar cheese and topped with green onions, the chunks of steak and beans make this chili a comforting dish with a cold brew on a Happy Hour kinda night. They have an impressive line up of more than 80 domestic, locally crafted and imported beers, as well as effervescent gins and “real” absinthes when you’re in the mood for a good shot of something stout on a Friday night. Don’t miss out on their BBQ either – their hot-off-the-grill Pulled Chicken and Pulled Pig sandwiches, Texas Dip Smoked Beef Brisket and hand cut Sweet Potato Fries rock!

540 2nd Avenue (Corner of 30th St.), NYC
| (212) 696-4104 |
http://www.waterfrontalehouse.com/

Prime and Beyond

4. Prime and Beyond, E. Vlg – Wet Aged Ribeye with Scallion Salad, Fresh Cut Fries

Prime and Beyond is a newly opened Steak place in the East Village NYC. They hand select all of their meats and dry or wet age them in a humidity controlled refrigeration on premises for up to 8 weeks, giving their meat extraordinary flavor and juiciness! They also have amazing burgers, salads, and hand-cut French fries, along with a selection of side dishes including grilled veggies, potato salad, and Wagyu Salami. In the mood for a Korean twist to your meal? Try to the Bulgogi Rice Bowl or the Short Rib Stew with a side of Kimchi and Spicy Scallion salad. Amazing flavor and a nice intimate yet casual atmosphere.

90 E. 10th St, NYC | (212) 505-0033 |
http://www.primeandbeyond.com/Home.html

Ocean Grill

5. Ocean Grill, UWS – Shrimp Cocktail, Fresh Crab, Avocado, Mango and Jalapeno Roll and Lobster Cocktail

I have found no other spot in NYC that has fresher seafood, as well as a comfortable and relaxing environment for an outdoor cocktail and delicious sushi and seafood. Their shrimp and lobster cocktail dishes come served on a bed of ice, fresh lemon, drawn butter and cocktail sauce – not to mention humoungous pieces of shrimp and lobster that is chilly and delicious on a hot summer day! Their sushi is also amazing – I fell in love with their version of the “California Roll” which is actually huge pieces of fresh lump crabmeat, avocado, mango and jalapeno. Great location situated across from the Museum of Natural History, so ideal for a Sunday brunch and walk in Central Park!

384 Columbus Ave (at 78th St), NYC | (212) 579-2300 |

http://www.oceangrill.com

Oficina Latina NYC

6. Oficina Latina NYC, Nolita – Orange Ginger Margaritas & Ham and Cheese Arepas

The concept of this hip restaurant and bar in Soho reflects the Pan American Highway along Central Mexico and South America with its Latin Tapas menu and exotic cocktails. The interior looks like a mechanic’s garage with a small lounge area, outdoor dining area and interior dining room. Their exotic tropical drinks are all handmade, with flavors such as Orange-Ginger Margaritas, Cilantro Avocado Margaritas, Blackberry Caiphirinas and Mojitos, made with muddled fruits and spicy and sweet rims. My favorite Tapas dish is their Albondigas (Spicy Meatballs in Tomato Sauce) and their Arepas which are corn pockets filled with ham and melted cheese. They have a huge menu filled with other Latin dishes such as Ceviche, Tostones, Cuban Tortas,  Croquetas filled with pan-seared crab cakes and chipotle sauce as well as slow-cooked black beans, roasted pork leg and rice and deep fried green plantains. Definitely a spot you don’t want to miss!

24 Prince Street (near Mott St), NYC | (646) 381-2555
http://oficinalatinanyc.com/

SanctuaryT

7. Sanctuary T, Soho – Smoky Black T-Dust Seasoning & Sangria

Not only is this a cool hip restaurant in Soho, but they sell fantastic tea-infused seasonings made out of organic teas and spices. My favorite is the Smoky Black T-dust seasoning, made of smoked tea, black peppercorns and sea salt. Their other seasonings are Tahitian Green, Chili Rooibos and Citrus White, also made of organic green, red and white teas. They also sell loose leaf drinking teas and have an awesome menu with organic Asian inspired dishes, salads and burgers as well as duck, seafood and pasta dishes. Their cocktails are artisan-made too, of course infused with their organic teas and fresh fruits and other goodies. Can’t miss out on their fresh made Sangrias either!

337B W. Broadway, NYC | (212) 941-7832 |
http://www.sanctuaryt.com/

KitchenAid Tyler Florence Event

8. KitchenAid/House Beautiful’s Kitchen of the Year event with Tyler Florence, Rockefeller Center 

Last month, KitchenAid and House Beautiful magazine created the 2011 Dream Kitchen of the Year smack in the middle of Rockefeller Center. Chock full of gorgeous KitchenAid appliances, indoor and outdoor bar and grilling spaces, and of course hosted by Tyler Florence – we were treated to delicious mini-hors d’oeuvres and cocktails and goodie bags filled with KitchenAid cooking utensils and Tyler’s new cookbook “Family Meal”.  My favorite recipes out of the cookbook are his down-home Southern specialties like Chicken-Fried Steak with Biscuits and Gravy, Southern-style Fish Fry Up with Big Papa’s Tartar Sauce and Fennel Sausage Hush Puppies. Makes me miss living in the Atlanta – always ready for some good old fashioned Southern comfort food! Now that Autumn is on the horizon, I see a Southern tailgating feast coming right up!

Check out my photos from the Kitchen of the Year event here

Check out KitchenAid’s site here

Buy Tyler Florence’s “Family Meal” Cookbook here

Gemma

9. Gemma, Bowery – Fresh Ricotta and Pesto Crostini and Arancini Risotto Balls

Gemma is one of those places where you need to go to see and be seen. Connected to the beautiful Bowery Hotel, Gemma is an upscale Italian dining establishment open for lunch, brunch, dinner, cocktails and dessert. My favorite dishes are the Arancini and Polpettine (Risotto Balls and Meatballs), their Buffalo Ricotta and Pesto Crostini, and Oriechette with Broccoli Rabe and Crispy Garlic Chips sautéed in Olive Oil with Red Pepper flakes. They also have amazing wood-fired pizzas, pasta dishes, salumi and formaggi plates, and if you’re in the mood for a massive grilled Bistecca Steak or Roasted Baby Lamb Chops – well, you can get that too. Don’t forget to top off your meal with a Calzone di Nutella or and Affagato (vanilla gelato drowned in espresso) and a shot of Frangelico or Limoncello. Amazing menu and service to match – what more can I say. A NYC must-visit for Italian dining!

335 Bowery, NYC 10003 | (212) 505-9100
http://www.theboweryhotel.com/dining.php

10. Teqa, Murray Hill – Braised Short Rib Tacos and Margaritas

Teqa

Newly opened this summer in Murray Hill, Teqa is a gorgeous tequila bar and Mexican restaurant with a gorgeous menu to accompany the space. The Frozen Hibiscus and Rose Margaritas are a beautiful thing – made with hibiscus-infused el jimador, combier, fresh lime, agave, rosewater mist and hibiscus salt. Order a pitcher (or two!) – you won’t regret this one!

For a dinner entrée, I unashamedly inhaled the Guinness Braised Short Rib Tacos that literally melted in my mouth. The tender, succulent beef is soaked in Teqa’s signature sauce, then topped with grilled corn, lime and queso fresco. The tacos are a bit small (you only get 3 of these babies for a steep $16) but the flavor explosion in your mouth is worth every bite and every penny!

447 Third Avenue, NYC 10016 | (212) 213-3223 |
http://www.teqanyc.com

Spring Fever! Spicing It up with Caribbean Flavors


Caribbean Chicken w/ Guava Pan Sauce, Caramelized Mangoes, Black Beans and Rice

Caribbean Chicken with Guava Pan Sauce, Caramelize Mangoes and Black Beans + Rice

Since I have lived in New York City, this has probably been the longest winter known to man. Last week on another cold, rainy, dismal day I started dreaming about going somewhere warm, sunny and tropical. Where the skies and sea are blue, the sand is white and the warm tropical air breezes through the palm trees and you don’t have a care in the world. I started having flashbacks of a trip I took to Jamaica a while back where the islanders greet you with a smile and the pace of life is laid back, jovial and carefree. One of the things I remember most about my experience there was the food and how delicious it was.

parsley and lemonsMango

They use unique fiery blends of spices (typically Jerk which is used as a rub on grilled meats) accompanied by an abundance of tropical fruits such as citrus, bananas, mangoes, pineapple, coconuts, papaya and guava. Caribbean cuisine is a unique blend of hot and cool, savory and sweet, and a refreshing burst of flavors reflecting the tropical climates in the region.

Lemon Infused Olive Oil with GarlicInstant Gourmet Caribbean Isles

I suddenly had a strong urge to cook a Caribbean dish and I wanted to try my new spice blend from Instant Gourmet, Caribbean Isles. This seasoning is a delicious blend of salt, bell peppers, garlic and onion, paprika and chili pepper and some additional spices – it really is great to use as a Jerk seasoning when you want some spicy flavor that isn’t too hot but very flavorful. You should try some of Instant Gourmet’s other spice blends too – they have an Original Spice blend, a Butter, Garlic and Parsley blend, a Spicy Coffee Steak blend, an Italian blend and a Southwestern Spice blend – all delicious and great on everything!

Guava Paste, Wine and Chicken BrothBlack Beans and Saffron Rice

I had some chicken breasts on hand and thought I would pair it with some black beans and saffron rice as a side dish. I also wanted to experiment with some of the tropical fruits from the region and incorporate them into my dish somehow so I decided to get a mango and some guava paste to caramelize and make a pan sauce for the chicken.

Lemon, Garlic, Parsley and Olive Oil MarinadeMarinating the Chicken

I also marinated the chicken in lemon juice, garlic and parsley and used an infused lemon oil in the saffron rice to give it a nice lemony zing to round out the tropical flavors in the dish.

Traditional Jerk Chicken is usually rubbed with a dry spice blend and then grilled over hot coals to give it a crunchy blackened flavor. I decided to saute the chicken instead and make a savory pan sauce with wine, broth and guava paste to drizzle over the chicken and the rice and caramelized the mangoes by sauteing them in brown butter, brown sugar and a dash of salt and pepper. The black beans were canned (Goya brand) but to make them more flavorful, I added some sautéed onions and garlic, red wine vinegar, salt and pepper and a dash of the Caribbean Isles seasoning.

The dish turned out to be a great combination of flavors – the sweetness of the caramelized mangoes complimented the spicy savory flavors of the chicken and black beans and the lemony saffron rice gave it a fresh kick of citrus to round out the dish. It was light, refreshing and a definite departure from this dreary, rainy, cold weather city I live in, a sliver of sunshine for my day – if even for a moment.

Caribbean Chicken with Guava Pan Sauce and Caramelized Mangoes with Black Beans and Saffron Rice

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice plus some lemon zest from 1 lemon
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tbsp fresh parsley, chopped
Instant Gourmet Caribbean Isles Spice blend
4 large skinless boneless chicken breasts
2 tbsp guava paste
1 1/2 tbsp canola oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
1/2 cup chicken broth
4 tbsp butter (1/2 stick)
1-2 tbsp brown sugar
1 large mango, halved, peeled, pitted, cut into 1/2 inch thick slices
Salt and pepper
1 package of Goya Saffron Rice (Spanish style)
1 can Goya black beans
1/2 onion, chopped fine
1 garlic clove, chopped fine
1 tbsp red wine vinegar
2 green onions, sliced fine

Whisk first 4 ingredients together to make the marinade in a large bowl. Add chicken breasts to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper and Caribbean Isles Spice blend on both sides. Cover chicken and chill for 2-3 hours, turning occasionally.

Saffron Rice

When chicken is done marinading, boil a pot of water and prepare the Saffron Rice per the box instructions and cook about 45 minutes until fluffy.

Browning Chicken

Remove chicken breasts from marinade, scraping excess off the chicken. Heat 1 tbsp canola oil in a heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add chicken breasts to the skillet and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to a plate.

Wine, Broth and Guava Paste Pan SauceBraising Chicken in Pan Liquids

Add wine and broth to the skillet along with the guava paste and stir until paste is dissolved and blended to the liquids. Bring to a boil. Add chicken breasts to the wine/broth/guava mixture in the skillet and cover, reducing heat to medium and simmer until chicken is cooked through, about 10 minutes (basting occasionally). Transfer chicken to a work surface and let stand for 10 minutes.

In a medium stovetop pan, saute some chopped onion and garlic in some canola oil until lightly browned. Add black beans (don’t drain), and 1 tbsp vinegar and a few shakes of the Instant Gourmet Caribbean Isles spice blend and a dash of salt and pepper to taste. Cook over medium heat for about 10 minutes and keep warm.

Caramelized Mangoes

Meanwhile, melt butter in another heavy medium size skillet over medium-high heat. Add mango slices, 1-2 tbsp brown sugar, a pinch of salt and stir. Saute until browned, about 2 minutes per side.

Caribbean Chicken, Black Beans and Rice

Boil juices in skillet until slightly thickened and sauce is reduced, about 3 minutes. Drizzle guava pan sauce over the chicken breasts and serve with caramelized mangoes, black beans and saffron rice. Garnish with chopped green onions, parsley and serve with a crisp white wine.

Serves 4.

Recipe inspired by a Bon Appetit recipe for Guava-Stuffed Chicken in Tastes of the World, 2008

Find out more about Instant Gourmet spices online at www.instantgourmetspices.com

Cooking with a Purpose: Tavern Direct + NCMEC


I recently was fortunate enough to meet Lou Bivona, Managing Partner of Tavern Direct and Founding Member of National Center for Missing & Exploited Children/NY and sample some of his gourmet products to cook with. Tavern Direct has a fantastic line of flavorful, gourmet marinades, dipping and finishing sauces, 14-16 year barrel-aged balsamic vinegars infused with real fruit and herb oils all made with premium, all-natural ingredients bottled under the Tavern on the Green name. The best of all about this wonderful cooking line is that a portion of all their proceeds goes to the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children (NCMEC), a charity committed to help millions of children through the sales of their products.

Tavern on the Green Oils & Marinades

Their product lineup includes Oils, Herbs ‘n More featuring Garlic with Rosemary Oil, Chili Pepper with Garlic Oil and Pepper with Lemon Oil. Their Marinade, Dipping and Finishing Sauce line includes Central Park Signature, Wasabi Wonder, Smokin’ Chipolte and Asian Lemon. The Marinade trio features Chandelier Chardonnay and Fire Grilled Garlic, Old Vine Cabernet and Fire Grilled Garlic and Toscana Garlic Parmesan. The Balsamic Vinegar line is premium and gorgeously flavored with options such as Citrus on the Green (infused with Orange, tangerine and lime), Blackberry and Ginger, Autumn Fig with Vanilla, and Summer Strawberry. Last but not least, they have a robust 1870 Steak Sauce as well as a sesame Golden Ginger Teriyaki Sauce, perfect for marinating steak, chicken and fish for stir-fries and grilling.

Tavern on the Green Garlic & Rosemary Oil
With so many gorgeous sauces and marinades to choose from, I had a hard time choosing which one to cook with first. I chose the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in their Oil, Herbs n’ More collection to make a fantastic, delicious meal of Pan Seared Pork Chops, Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic. With all the wonderful oils and vinegars and marinades in this line, I’ll be cooking up a storm and planning food and wine pairings and special recipes, and aim to share all my creations and cooking experiences with you throughout the year. Stay tuned for more!

For more great recipes and info about Tavern Direct, visit www.taverndirect.com.

To make a donation to NCMEC , visit their secure website.

**This was not a paid endorsement for Tavern Direct, NCMEC or Tavern on the Green.


Pan-Seared Pork Chops with Garlic and Rosemary

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 30 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hr
Cooking skill: Intermediate

Ingredients

4 large boneless pork chops (about 1 ½ inches thick)
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
4 Garlic cloves, sliced
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Preheat the oven to 275 degrees and adjust the oven rack to middle position.

Marinade pork chops in the Garlic with Rosemary Oil in a plastic freezer bag or baking dish and place in the refrigerator for up 30 minutes to 1 hour.

Once chops are done marinating, cut 2 slits about 2 inches apart into each chop, using a sharp knife. Insert sliced garlic cloves into slits and sprinkle entire surface of each chop with 1 tsp of salt. Place them in a roasting pan or baking sheet and let stand room temperature for about 15 minutes.

Sprinkle chops with freshly ground pepper and rosemary and transfer baking sheet or roasting pan to oven. Cook until meat thermometer inserted into the center of the chops registers 120-125 degrees (approximately 30-45 mins).

Heat 1 tablespoon of the Garlic with Rosemary oil in a 12 inch heavy-bottomed skillet over high heat until smoking. Place 2 chops in skillet and sear until well browned and crusty, 1 ½-3 minutes, lifting once halfway to redistribute the fat underneath each chop. (reduce heat if browned bits in pan bottom start to burn). Using tongs, turn chops and cook until well browned on second side, another 2-3 minutes. Transfer chops to a plate and repeat with remaining 2 chops, adding extra tablespoon oil if pan is dry.

Reduce heat to medium. Use tongs to stand 2 pork chops on their sides. Holding chops together with tongs, return to skillet and sear sides of chops until browned and meat thermometer in center of chops registers 140-145 degrees, about 1 ½ minutes. Repeat with remaining 2 chops. Let chops rest, loosely tented with foil, for 10 minutes until ready to serve. Sprinkle with some extra Rosemary if desired to garnish.

Pair the Pan-seared chops with Roasted Zucchini with Garlic & Parmesan and Pecan Brown Basmati Rice (recipes follow) and a light, crisp Chardonnay to top off the meal. Delicious!

Roasted Zucchini with Garlic and Parmesan

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 30-45 mins
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

4 medium zucchini
Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
Sea salt
Fresh ground pepper
½ cup shredded Parmesan cheese
Fresh or dried rosemary leaves

Preparation

Wash zucchini and cut in half length wise, chopping off ends, and cut in half again. Arrange zucchini in a glass baking pan and drizzle the Garlic with Rosemary oil over the zucchini. Sprinkle with sea salt and freshly ground pepper and top the zucchini with the shredded Parmesan cheese and fresh or dried rosemary. Bake at 350 degrees for 30-45 mins until cheese is bubbly and slightly browned.

Pecan Brown Basmati Rice with Garlic

Serves 4
Total Prep time: 15 mins
Total Cook time: 1 hour
Cooking skill: Easy

Ingredients

1 cup long-grain brown rice
1-2 tablespoons Tavern Direct Garlic with Rosemary Oil
1/2 cup chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped pecans
¼ cup green onion, sliced thin (for garnish, optional)
Salt and fresh ground pepper to taste

Preparation

Prepare brown rice in medium saucepan, following package instructions.

About 15 minutes before the rice is done, heat 1-2 tbsp of Garlic with Rosemary oil in a heavy skillet over medium-low heat. Add the onion and sauté, stirring frequently, until the onion is softened and begins to yellow, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and pecans; sauté over medium heat, stirring constantly, until the garlic is tender and pecans are browned slightly, about 5 minutes.

Remove rice from heat and let stand, covered, for 5 minutes. Spoon brown rice into a bowl; spoon the onions, garlic and pecans on top and toss lightly to combine. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Garnish with some chopped green onion if desired.

Garlic Rosemary Pan-Seared Pork Chops, Parmesan Zucchini + Pecan Brown Basmati RIce

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