Quarantine Kitchen: What can you do with chicken backs?

vietnamJamaican_FlagWhat can you do with a bag of chicken backs? We received this intriguing question from our friend, who had mistakenly picked up a bag of chicken backs at the grocery story when he was intending to get chicken thighs. We are all getting desperate when we see the grocery shelves completely picked over, so we understand the feeling. Chicken backs are what is left of the chicken after the breasts, thighs and legs have been removed, containing a good amount of both bones and meat. The most obvious answer is to perhaps utilize these to make stock or bone broth, which you can then use for a myriad of other recipes including matzoh ball soup. Homemade stock is delicious, but we were looking for something a bit more creative. Fortunately, in many other cultures, it is common to use the chicken back for any number of savory dishes. We were particularly intrigued by this Vietnamese chicken and rice recipe, Com Ga from Viet World Kitchen (pictured below). You can also use the chicken backs to make the broth for Chicken Pho (Phở Ga). Chicken backs are a popular staple in Jamaica, so they find themselves into a variety of dishes including this Jamaican curry and can be substituted into the classic Jamaican dish, Brown Stew. Even the humble chicken back can shine!

ComGa

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How to Make Your Own Taiyaki

JapanInadvertently, this is an appropriate post for Poisson D’Avril / April Fool’s Day, but the recipe is no joke! Cartoon-fish-shaped Taiyaki may be the cutest dessert there is. Originating in Japan, Taiyaki has a waffle-like base, and is traditionally filled with red bean paste. The hand-held snack has a centuries-long history and the fish shape, tai, symbolically conveys wealth. We first experienced Taiyaki at Japanese restaurants in the US, and in frozen packets at the Mitsuwa grocery store.  Fortunately, in the past few years more restaurants in the US are taking cues from the Taiyaki’s homeland of Japan, and are making these fish waffles fresh to order (we have had them recently at Taiyaki NYC and Mini Mott). However, my sister gave us a Taiyaki iron for Christmas, so we have been able to recreate Taiyaki at home for the first time. Though the fish shape is intricate, Taiyaki are really no harder to make than waffles (albeit with a hand-held iron instead of an automatic one).Taiyaki3b

There are many Taiyaki recipes out there, and we started with one from Just One Cookbook. This recipe called for cake flour, which was easier to come by pre-pandemic. If you don’t have it, here is way to substitute All-Purpose Flour + Corn Starch. You may be able to find canned or jarred red bean / azuki paste in a local Asian supermarket. If not, you make your own red bean paste with some of your pantry reserves. Or for even more variety, you can fill these with custard or even Nutella! The only tricky part is the timing of cooking the Taiyaki, we have a gas oven, and it took us a while to find the right cook time, which may also vary for your oven. If you make extra Taiyaki, you can freeze them and then reheat in a 350 oven for a few minutes. Enjoy!

How to make your own Taiyaki (recipe adapted from Just One Cookbook).

Ingredients
Makes 5 Taiyaki
  • 1¼ cup cake flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup milk
  • 3 Tbsp sugar
  • 5 Tbsp red bean paste (about 1 Tbsp per Taiyaki, or substitute with Nutella, Cream, etc.)
  • 1 Tbsp vegetable / canola oil

Taiyaki

Instructions
1. Sift the cake flour, baking powder and baking soda into a large bowl.
2. Whisk in sugar.
3. In a second bowl, whisk the egg, add the milk and whisk together.
4. Add the wet ingredients to the dry and whisk well. Let batter rest in refrigerator for one hour (there should be roughly 1.25 cups of batter).
5. When your batter is done resting, preheat your Taiyaki pan over a low heat (taking care to keep the plastic handle away from heat source).
6. When you are ready to make the Taiyaki, brush vegetable oil into the Taiyaki depressions
7. Raise heat to medium and fill the Taiyaki depression just over halfway with batter.
8. Spoon in one tablespoon of Azuki paste
9. Pour batter over the top to cover the paste, but do not overfill.
10. Close the two halves of the pan and turn to flip.
11. Cook each side 2-3 minutes, depending on the heat of your stove-top, until the Taiyaki is golden brown on each side.
12. Cool on a baking rack and serve warm!
Taiyaki2

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What are Carinderias?

philippinesWe have been focusing a bit on the Philippines this week during our online food explorations, and have become enthralled by its diverse food culture. We are already itching to visit in person some day and try all the street food! One of the major restaurant types in the Philippines is the Carinderia, which is a combination of a street food stall and a buffet restaurant. The origin of the name is tied to the word kari, which means spice/curry. At a Carinderia, which is often open air and found street-side or in a market, you can select from maybe a dozen or more rotating local Filipino home-style dishes. Options vary by restaurant and region, and may include chicken adobo, lechon (roast pork), sisig (chopped pork and onions), Tinolang manok (chicken soup), pancit (fried noodles) and more. You can find Carinderia restaurants throughout the Filipino diaspora, from the US, to Australia to Bahrain. Mark Weins has a blog post and video a Carinderia he visited in Manila, giving insight into the various dishes. We also love the Carinderia crawl videos from the Filipino channel Coconuts.tv. Each video follows a different person visiting their favorite Carinderia and it is awesome to see the variety in both setup and food!

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Enjoying Agege Bread in Nigeria

nigeriaOur ETW Armchair Travel destination today is: Nigeria! We have eaten our share of Nigerian food in the states, but we have never tasted one of the iconic foods of Lagos, Nigeria: Agege Bread! Brought to Nigeria by a Jamaican immigrant, and named after the Lagos suburb of Agege, Agege bread is now a completely ingrained and revered part of Nigerian food culture. This slightly-stretchy and chewy bread is made with few ingredients, and baked into a perfectly rectangular shape in special pans, and then fired in a clay oven. We really enjoyed this short documentary on the history of Agege bread, directed and produced by filmmaker Chika Okoli and featuring culinary historian and researcher Ozoz Sokoh aka Kitchen Butterfly [Instagram]. Ozoz does a great job describing Nigerian Food culture and the winding history of Agege bread. Making your own Agege bread seems to be somewhat difficult, but there are recipes out there, check out these options from K’s Cuisine, My Active Kitchen, and Africaparent. In the US, you can even get Agege bread baked fresh in Brooklyn.

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ETW is back with Armchair Travel!

You may have noticed that I have been back to posting on ETW more frequently recently. I will admit that things had been busy in the past 6 months with a cross-country move, purchasing a house and starting a new job, and ETW has fallen by the wayside. Just as things were starting to settle down, Coronavirus hit the US, and now it looks like all of our traveling will be curtailed for the foreseeable future. As you may have guessed from this blog, some of our favorite things are traveling, dining out at restaurants, and planning future trips, none which are possible or safe in this current environment. Thank goodness for the internet, where there is a wealth of information, videos, etc., which allow you travel virtually (and at a safe social distance!). So, at least a few times a week I will be highlighting some of my favorite videos, recipes, and other resources in a new series, “ETW Armchair Travel” so we can all be armchair travelers for a while.

Our first ETW Armchair Travel link comes directly from my sister, and is a mesmerizing video of Portuguese Custard Tarts – Pasteis de Nata – being prepared at Pastéis de Belém in Lisbon, Portugal, which we visited several times when we lived in Lisbon. We must admit that Belém does not have our favorite pastel de nata, but you can’t argue with their scope of production or longevity! Hope you enjoy the video, and stay safe inside!

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Reginelle / Biscotti Regina for St. Joseph’s Day

March 19th marks St. Joseph’s Day (check out this previous link to find all of our previous St. Joseph’s day posts), a traditional feast day in Italy honoring St. Joseph and his sparing of Sicily from famine. The tradition has now spread widely throughout Italian diaspora communities, especially those with many Sicilian origins. This St. Joseph’s Day is bittersweet since we are unable to go to New Orleans this year, and are celebrating at home, alone. Typically, New Orleans has some of the most elaborate and ornate St. Joseph’s altars and homes, churches and community groups go all out (though not this year of course). Since we have nowhere to go, we are making a small altar of our own this year, including baking some St. Joseph’s Day treats.

SJAltar2

St. Joseph’s Day in New Orleans 2019

Traditionally, on a St. Joseph’s Day Table altar there are copious citrus fruits, cakes, lucky fava beans and other offerings, as you can see above. You also usually sit down for a vegetarian meal, typically including pasta con sarde (which we are making for dinner tonight). After visiting an altar you also usually get a bag of cookies and some lucky fava beans to take home. The types of cookies vary, but you will traditionally get some cucidati and some reginelle / Biscotti Regina (sesame seed cookies). This year we decided to make reginelle, as you can see below, since they are one of our favorite cookies any time of year, and are super easy to make. We used the recipe from Southern Italian Desserts by Rosetta Costantino. I can’t find that recipe online, so there are dozens of other versions to try: Ciao Italia, Marisa’s Italian Kitchen, or A Sicilian Peasant’s Table. Buon Appetito!reginelle2a.jpg

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Dinner with the Pasta Grannies

My last post was almost a month ago, about Carnevale of all things, and now it seems like the world has completely changed…. No more traveling or going out to restaurants for the foreseeable future, so I am turning my attention to recipes and virtual resources for all of us cooped up at home. Stay safe everyone!

The latest YouTube channel I have been obsessed with is that of the Pasta Grannies. Pasta Grannies, the brainchild of British filmmaker Vicky Bennison, posts short videos of Italian and Italian-American grandmas making traditional recipes in their own kitchen. It is so comforting to watch, and really inspiring me to make some pastas. Giovanna’s (who reminds me of my grandma) sweet Sicilian Ravioli sounds pretty good right about now. Or how about some chocolate bunet from Ida in Piemonte for dessert?

There is also a Pasta Grannies Cookbook that has just been released last year with some of the favorite granny recipes. It looks great! If you are interested in the cookbook, please consider buying it from a local bookstore instead of Amazon, especially since Amazon is de-prioritizing book orders. You can also check out the latest pasta granny updates from Facebook.

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Migliaccio for Carnevale in Italy

ItalyThis Tuesday is Mardi Gras, the end of Carnival, known as Martedì grasso and Carnevale in Italian. Fried foods are often the most traditional choice for Carnival around the world, stemming from an attempt to use up all the decadent sugar and oil before the austere time of Lent. Fried foods are also popular in Italy, including the omnipresent Chiacchiere, but in Naples they have their own, slightly different culinary tradition. Migliaccio is the typical Carnival cake in Naples, and is a relatively light, crustless cake made with ricotta and semolina, flavored with lemon. If you are in Naples you can sample Migliaccio at many bakeries including the stalwart Gambrinus. If you are not lucky enough to be in Italy, here are recipes from Manu’s Menu (pictured below), Foodellers, and Gourmet Traveller. There are many variations of Migliaccio, and it is popular in communities in Italy and the diaspora. We even found a version from Memorie di Angelina that doesn’t include ricotta.

Migliaccio

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Hawa Makes Somali Food

somaliaSo things have been a bit quiet here on ETW, that’s because things in the real ETW universe are quite hectic! New house, new job and 2 books to write between the two of us. So that has left little time to post here on the blog, sadly, though our Instagram is a bit more active. Oftentimes, at the end of the day we are too tired to do anything but watch a YouTube food video or two. We are obsessed with the Bon Appetit YouTube videos (as is everyone), and we are particularly also loving a newer video series featuring Hawa Hassan making delicious Somali food. Hawa is a cook, model and entrepreneur, who created a line of Somali hot sauces, Basbaas.  We loved the Somali take on Bolognese, Suugo Suqaar, which includes cardamom and turmeric!

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The Arrival of La Befana

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ItalyToday is January 6th, the Epiphany, also known as Three Kings Day, which traditionally marks the end of the Christmas season in countries that celebrate (see Mexico, England, Poland and France). In Italy, the Epiphany is marked by the arrival of the witch, La Befana, on the night of January 5th. According to legend, the Befana initially did not follow the three wise men on their journey, and instead stayed home. Later, she had a change of heart, and tried to catch up with the three wise men on her broom, to no avail. To make amends, the Befana gives presents to children instead. Italian Children wake on January 6th to find that their stockings had either been filled with candy if they were good, or coal if they were naughty (or coal candy). We will be celebrating by eating the last of our Christmas cookies and candy. Don’t have any holiday cookies left? A traditional treat for Epiphany in Italy is shortbread cookies from Tuscany called Befanini. Here are befanini recipes from 196 Flavors, Food 52 and My Travel in Tuscany.

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Kūčios: Christmas Eve Feast in Lithuania

Linksmų Kalėdų! (Merry Christmas – in Lithuanian!) In Lithuania, the traditional Christmas Eve meal is called Kūčios, which includes 12 traditional dishes, representing both the 12 apostles and the 12 months of the year. The meal is typically meat and alcohol free, and includes such dishes as herring, kūčia (a sweetened grain dish), sauerkraut, cranberry Kisielius (Kissel) and sweet biscuits known as Kūčiukai in Poppyseed milk. The whole dinner is usually kicked off with the sharing of a Christmas Eve wafer, Kalėdaitis, which is much like a communion wafer. Draugas News has a list of Kucios recipes, as does the Maskoliunas Family project. Beyond the special food, there are other traditions celebrated including putting straws/hay under the tablecloth. The straws are then pulled out, and the state of the straws indicate the fortunes for the coming year.

Kucios Dinner by Send Me Adrift

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Rugelach for Hanukkah

Happy Hanukkah! Today is the 2nd day of Hanukkah and we are of course thinking of one of our favorite Hanukkah foods, babka. We have expressed our love here many times before for babka. However, sometimes you don’t want a whole loaf of babka (I assume it is possible), in which case you may be in the mood for rugelach, which we like to think of as a bite-sized babka substitute. Rugelach is a traditional Polish-Jewish sweet, basically a cookie rolled up with tasty filling – often cinnamon or chocolate – though any filling is possible! Unlike babka, which is brioche-based, rugelach is often made with a sour cream or cream cheese dough. Serious Eats has a compendium of various rugelach fillings, including a non-traditional red bean. Taste of Home, Tori Avey and Molly Yeh (chocolate sea salt and halva version picture below) have compiled even more versions!

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Halva Rugelach by Molly Yeh

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Superlative Middle Eastern at Galit in Chicago

This is one of those reviews that we could have sworn we already wrote, since we were so impressed with the meal. Better late than never! The food at Galit (2429 N Lincoln Ave, Chicago, IL 60614) was so amazing, it was definitely one of the best meals we have had in 2019! Galit is owned and operated by Andrés Clavero and James Beard Award-winning chef Zachary Engel, previously Zach was the Chef de Cuisine at Shaya Restaurant in New Orleans. We enjoyed Shaya so much on a previous trip to New Orleans that we were delighted to learn that Engel was opening a restaurant in Chicago.

The theme at Galit is Israeli cuisine, with some modern touches and showing the influences from the diverse groups in Israel and around the Middle East. Galit’s sign is not visible from the street, and the only sign that lets you know that you are in the right place is a small blue and white address sign with “Lincoln Ave.” written in Hebrew, English and Arabic. The inside of Galit is clean and bright, and centered around an aqua-tiled bar and open kitchen (note the pita oven). We went with two other friends so were fortunately able to sample more of the dishes.

We ordered the Salatim ($22 for all – pictured above) which are a variety of dips and nibbles:

  • Labneh: creamy yogurt dip with sumac and sesame
  • Yemenite, Bulgarian and Israeli Pickles
  • Ezme: a paste of tomatoes, peppers, walnuts and chives
  • Pumpkin Tershi: Pumpkin spread with Urfa biber pepper, cumin and garlic
  • Cipollini onions with feta

Don’t sleep on the pita either, like at Shaya, the pita at Galit it is freshly-baked, and comes right out of the oven hot, puffy and fresh. To be honest, we could have made a meal out of only the pita and the salatim dips. The Labhen and Ezme we our favorites from among the Salatim, the labneh was like the best version of queso you could imagine, and the ezme was bold and smoky. And don’t forget the hummus, another signature plate at Galit. There were 4 varieties of hummus ($9-16) including the classic version alongside more interesting varieties like “Bubbe’s Brisket” with smoky cinnamon, tomatoes, and carrots. We went with the Masabacha, which was made from chickpeas, herby tehina and aleppo pepper ($12). The hummus was superlative, silky smooth and delicious, and the herbs added a bright punch not usually found in hummus.

Another section of the menu was called “mostly over coal” and included a wide variety of small-to-large plates ranging from glazed carrots ($13) to shakshukah ($16) to Foie Gras ($18). We sampled the falafel ($12) served with “funky mango” and labneh. Iraqi Kubbeh Halab ($14), a crispy ground lamb fritter served with golden raisins and almonds. For mains we ordered chicken thighs with pine nuts, mushrooms and Bulgarian feta ($18), along with two orders of the fried fish Tunisian style ($22). Everything was delicious, but our favorite small plates had to be the falafel and the kubbeh, which were both absolutely bursting with flavor. The falafel was our favorite kind, bright green and herby, and was perfectly combined with the acidic mango pickle.

For dessert, we shared a chocolate cake ($11) with cardamon and hazelnut and a phyllo pie with apples and sahlab ($11) which were both tasty, but just not as amazing as the savory dishes. Other dessert options included date Ma’amoul cookies and apricot and hazelnut rice pudding. We also appreciated the original drinks on the menu, spanning spirits and spirit-free, including mint and yuzu fizzy lemonade and parsley, cucumber and cumin. For after-dinner aperatif pairings they have a variety of Araks, a anise-flavored spirit. There is also Yemeni coffee with hawaij and a variety of blends from the Rare Tea Cellar. Everything we sampled at Galit was fresh, delicious, and served with great attention to detail. This was definitely one of our best meals of 2019, and we encourage you to visit ASAP.

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XLB at Din Tai Fung in Sydney

We are always on the hunt for the best Xiao Long Bao (XLB), Shanghainese soup dumplings. Much like pizza, everyone has an opinion on the best XLBoutside of Sydeney. When we were going to Sydney we heard that it had a phenomenal regional Chinese food scene, with many amazing XLB options. One of the names that rose to the top on our searches was Din Tai Fung. Din Tai Fung is a chain from Taiwan that has dozens of locations globally, including Asia, Europe, the US and Australia. Despite our best efforts, we did not make it to Din Tai Fung when we visited LA so were very excited to try it in Sydney. There are 10 locations across Sydney and Melbourne, and we ended up visiting a location near the popular center city wharfs, in the Gateway Food Court (Shop G20-G21 Gateway, 1 Macquarie Place, Sydney).

Other locations of Din Tai Fung in Sydeny are proper restaurants, but we went for convenience of location. The Gateway food court is huge, and definitely more upscale than the name may imply. We saw lots of tasty-looking restaurant options as we wound our way to the back and found Din Tai Fung, a somewhat understated wooden kiosk. The array of menu options at this location of Din Tai Fung were somewhat overwhelming: appetizers, many dumpling permutations, soups, more substantial mains, fried rice and even desserts. Naturally, we we were there for the XLB. To order at this location (and perhaps others), you mark on a sheet of paper what you would like to order, pay at the counter, get a buzzer, and the order is soon delivered to your table. In a city as expensive as Sydney, the XLB is a relatively good deal:  4 dumplings in a steamer basket for $6 AUD. We placed our order and grabbed the buzzer, and within a few minutes our order was ready.

The moment of truth arrived: and the dumplings were amazing! The key to the best XLB are a thin skin and a savory broth. On both counts, the Din Tai Fung XLB delivered, the dumpling skin was very thin and not doughy or chewy, with a rich, savory pork meatball and a generous amount of soup both filling. We liked them so much that we had to order twice as much as we initially thought. In XLB the whole is greater than the sum of its parts, and Din Tai Fung excelled. Yes, these were the best XLB we ever had. The excellence of the XLB made us so curious to try versions in China, and may have ruined XLB for us in America altogether. Plus, can you beat this mascot?

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First Trip to Russ and Daughters in NYC

Russ and Daughters (179 E Houston, New York City) has been a lower east side fixture since 1914, and is one of New York City’s (and the country’s) best traditional Jewish delis. It is also one of the few business that has “And Daughters” as opposed to “Sons” in the name. We had been meaning to go to Russ and Daughters for probably a decade, but due to a series of circumstances, never made it there on all of trips to NYC. But finally, in October 2019, we did make it! You can recognize the store from down the block due to its original, vintage neon “appetizers” sign emblazoned with fish. What Russ and Daughters sells used to be called “appetizings,” and were considered places to get accompaniments to bagels. Inside and out, we appreciated that the store was reflective of the company’s long heritage: from the painted signs to the glass cases and the vintage-modern packaging.

The inside of the shop is TINY, as you can see below. You take a number and are served in order. You may have to wait a while, as we did, even at the off time of 3pm on Monday. There are two sides to the store, the sweet/bakery and the savory. On the sweet side you can get bagels, rye bread, challah, black and white cookies, babkas (chocolate or cinnamon), halvah, dried fruit, nuts and chocolate-covered sweets by the pound. In the cooler, there are sodas, pickles, and packages of blini ready to go, among other things.

While waiting, we decided to partake in some of the items from the sweet side, since you don’t need a number to buy items. If you are a previous reader of the blog, you may know that we are big fans of babka, an enriched sweet bread with a swirl of flavor, and are always looking out for a new variety. We opted for a slice of chocolate babka ($3 for a slice/ $14 for a whole) and our dining mates got some chocolate orange peel by the pound. The babka, while good, was no match for our favorite babka in the city. It was still very good, and a much needed snack while we waited our turn.

The savory side is the more impressive of the two, and the line belies this fact. Within the immaculate glass cases is a wonderland of cured and smoked fishes available by the pound. I must confess that my knowledge of smoked/cured fish is somewhat limited, though I do like the smoked offerings from Calumet Fisheries. There are no less than a dozen varieties of salmon alone, differing in origin (Norwegian, Irish and Scottish) and preparation (wet-smoked, cured, pastrami-cured, and dry-smoked, between $34 and 54 a pound). We are clueless about the qualities and characteristics of the different types of salmon, so we relied on the clerks for their expert advice. This Bon Appetit article with input by Josh Russ Tupper of Russ and Daughters, also helps break it down. One important distinction we did know, though, is that gravlax/lox is traditionally cured, NOT smoked, as many people think when they hear “lox.” There were other types of smoked fish on offer including: sable, sturgeon, whitefish and tuna ($15 to 56 a pound).

Though the fish are the stars of the show, you can also get other savories by the pound: pickled herring, egg salad, chopped liver, gefilte fish, latkes, caviar and roe of varying types, whitefish salad and knishes (many among other options, ranging between $9 and 25 a lb). We were already fantasizing about the amazing appetizer spread we could make with the endless options. However, if you are feeling like eating your fish right then instead of bringing it home (as we ultimately were), you can get a bagel sandwich, by selecting your individual fillings, or choosing a pre-picked combination. You first select a bagel (plain, sesame, everything, etc.), choose a cream cheese (goat cheese, plain, tofu, etc.), and finally a filling (many fish varieties or egg salad), plus capers and tomatoes for 50 cents extra each. The classic sandwich fillings are freshly sliced from the fish counter: Gaspe Nova, Norwegian smoked salmon, Salt-Cured belly lox, gravlax and more.

M got the Fancy Delancey ($12) which was a smoked tuna sandwich with horseradish dill cream cheese and wasabi flying fish roe, and I got a choose-your-own classic dill-brined gravlax with cream cheese ($13), both sandwiches on sesame bagels. Though the prices may seem a little steep, the bagel sandwiches are stuffed to the brim. The man at the counter sliced the fish with surgical expertise. We appreciated the attention to detail: everything was done in an exacting way, and was not rushed. The fish was superlative, of the highest quality, and melt-in-the-mouth tender. Having cured fish this good really makes you know what you are missing every other time. We could eat this stuff every day! We washed everything down with a classic Dr. Brown’s cream soda, the essential deli accompaniment (Dr. Brown’s Cel-Ray is good too). We are so glad that we finally got to Russ and Daughters after all these years. It lived up to the hype, AND it is worth the wait (not often that we say both of those things).

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Harlow’s for Neapolitan Pizza

The way we found out about Harlow’s (14319 Madison Ave, Lakewood, OH 44107) was by spotting it’s distinctive, slightly rounded retro building on Madison Ave. in Lakewood. With the distinctive pink neon script sign reading simply “Harlow’s” we had no idea what kind of restaurant lay within. Turns out Harlow’s is a pizza place, but not just any pizza, but specifically Neapolitan pizza cooked in a high-heat wood oven.Harlows.jpg

Harlow’s is a small space, but exceedingly cute and modern. You can eat pizza at one of the long tables in the main space, at the outdoor patio, or bellied up to the bar. All pizzas are 12″ Neapolitan-style and can feed one hungry person.We always have to get the classic Margherita ($13) the classic with San Marzano tomatoes, mozzarella, EVOO, and fresh basil. Other varieties include a Bianca ($13) white pizza, spicy salami ($15) and the Leonardo ($15) a white pizza with pistachios, grape tomatoes and arugula.

HarlowsPizza

At Harlow’s they keep the balls of pizza dough near the pizza oven, and it is fun to watch the pizzas being assembled before your eyes. Since the pizzas are made to order, there may be a slight backup before you get yours. The pizzas are cooked lightning quick in the authentic, custom wood-fired oven for only a couple of minutes.  The Neapolitan-style pizzas come out piping hot with a chewy crust dotted with char marks, and a little sloppy in the middle, like a good Neapolitan pizza should be. We especially love the toppings at Harlow’s and everything is always super-fresh. Though we like all of the pizzas we have tried at Harlow’s, we think the Margherita is our favorite. Sometimes you just can’t improve on a classic.

AruPizzaAlong with pizza, you can get a small selection of wine and beer, and interesting aguas frescas (when we were there, lime or watermelon were the choices). From Tuesday – Thursday you can get the pizza to go, but you can’t call in ahead, so keep that in mind. We celebrated our new house by getting some Harlow’s takeout, as you can see below. We are so glad that a fortuitous neon sign spotting led us to the Neapolitan pizza at Harlow’s! HarlowsClassic

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Soan Papdi for Diwali

India FlagHappy Diwali! Diwali, the Hindu festival of lights, started yesterday, October 27, 2019, but it is not too late to get in on some delicious treats to celebrate this holiday. Today, for Diwali, we will be making Soan Papdi (aka patisa, son papri, sohan papdi or shonpapdi), a North Indian confection with an amazing melt-in-the-mouth texture. Really, it is unlike anything I have had before, somewhat like cotton candy, but with flaky layers, often formed into cubes. You definitely have to experience it for yourself! This treat was first introduced to me by my friend from Delhi, who brought the treat back directly from a favorite sweet shop. Soan Papdi is popular throughout India, especially during festivals. With a base of ghee (clarified butter), gram flour and sugar, soan papdi is often flavored with cardamom, but you can now find it flavored any number of ways, including mango, pistachio or chocolate. Check out Steemit, The Times of India and Awesome Cuisine for Soan Papdi recipes.

Soan Papdi in Delhi by Georgia Popplewell

 

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Kosovar Burek at Dukagjini Burek

Kosovo

There is something to be said for places that only do one thing, but do them exceptionally well. One place that has gotten its specialty down to a science is Dukagjini Burek (758 Lydig Ave.) in the Bronx, which only serves bureks (named for the Kosovo-born Albanian owner’s homeland). A burek is a a savory phyllo pie stuffed with meat and/or cheese, and is common throughout the Balkans. We have tasted many bureks throughout the years and we always look forward to the new one.

BurekBronx

We knew we were in the right place when we saw several cars double parked in front of the bakery with people jumping out quickly to grab a piece of Burek while dodging the traffic cops. This shop is open every day from morning until night, and we actually ended up popping in for a slice for breakfast. Dukagjini is a counter-service bakery that sells bureks whole ($20) or by the piece ($5 – basically a quarter of a gigantic burek). The three varieties are feta, feta and spinach and beef and onion. You can mix and match your choices, and we opted for spinach. The ONLY other option is getting a side of yogurt ($2) or a cup of coffee. We went with spinach.

Burek

When we arrived, the shop was manned by two women, cutting pieces of burek to order amidst a sea of pizza boxes. There are a few tables to enjoy your burek, but most, including us, would prefer to take theirs to go. When home, we promptly tucked into our burek. The filling was light and flaky, and the spinach and feta filling was deliciously savory and salty, but not greasy at all. We have had many renditions of burek over the years and this is one of the best we have ever sampled!

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Chicago Gourmet 2019 Recap

It’s October, and another Chicago Gourmet is in the books! This year’s Chicago Gourmet festivities, “Lights, Camera, Napkin,” provided a wonderful mix of food, spirits and fun, as it had in the past. I attended on Saturday this year and the mercurial Chicago weather cooperated, but just barely, and the earlier part of the day was 55 degrees and misting. Though there was a brief period of rain, the clouds lifted in the second half of the day. Though I shouldn’t be surprised, I have been going to Chicago Gourmet since 2009, and have experienced almost every type of weather through the years. Stationed in Millennium Park, Chicago Gourmet is a showcase of all things food, and features: diverse bites from top Chicago restaurants, international wine and spirits distributors, cooking demonstrations, book signings, lectures, and big-name brands pulling out all the stops with over-the-top booths. The price for Chicago Gourmet is famously steep (2019 prices: $195 per person per day, or $310 per person for a Weekend Pass), but it earns you unlimited food and drinks, plus whatever additional swag you can get your hands on.

My favorite part of every Chicago Gourmet is checking out the gourmet tasting pavilions, where local Chicago chefs dish out sample-sized portions that represent their restaurants. Sometimes the pavilions are themed (BBQ, Seafood, or a national cuisine), but other times they are drawn together seemingly randomly under the banner of a sponsor (Mariano’s, US Foods, etc.). Halfway through the day, the restaurants change over, giving visitors double the samples to try. My two favorite pavilions, this year, and in years past, are the Dessert Pavilion (with the awkwardly punny name “Keeping Up with the Konfections”) and the Thai Select tent (Thai Select is an imprint of the Thai government).

At the first round of the Thai Pavilion, I sampled dishes from Jimmy Thai Restaurant, JJ Thai Street Food, and Sticky Rice Northern Thai Cuisine. Jimmy Thai served a delicious green curry over homemade somen wheat flour noodles, JJ dished out chicken meatballs with tamarind sauce, and Sticky Rice went regional with Nam Prik Ong, northern Thai dish of ground pork, tomato and chili paste. I appreciated the nod to regional cuisine! Later in the day, the booth switched over to tasters from Star of Siam (our first Chicago Thai restaurant), Herb Restaurant, and Jin Thai Cuisine. The second round’s theme seemed to be Thai comfort food including Basil Chicken from Herb, Chicken Pad Thai from Jin and Mussaman curry from Star of Siam.

The Dessert Pavilion started strong with Recette, Bang Bang Pie & Biscuits and Bittersweet Pastry Shop and Café. My overall favorite bite from Chicago Gourmet this year was the caramel and pumpkin Canelé from Recette. A canelé is a French pastry that resembles a mini bundt cake, with a soft, almost custard-y center and a caramelized exterior (above). We had previously sampled Recette’s pastries at Renegade Craft Fair in Pilsen, and they delivered again at Chicago Gourmet. Bang Bang gave a Fall-appropriate showing with an apple crumble with an unusual-but-delicious miso twist, and Bittersweet introduced me to a whole new chocolate concept: Ruby chocolate mouse. Ruby chocolate, developed by Callebut in 2017, is distinguished by its fruity flavor and pink hue. It may look Day-glo but the color is all-natural!

For the second half of the day, the Dessert Pavilion mixed it up a bit by presenting desserts from restaurants which are not particularly known as dessert places, including a fall panna cotta from Steadfast and a Viennese sachertorte – chocolate cake layered with apricot, topped with a tiny pretzel (above) – from The Berghoff Restaurant. The dessert trio was rounded out by some delicious apple gelato from longtime-favorite Black Dog Gelato.

In my quest to seek out world eats, I found plenty of options. There was a lovely Japan Pavilion, featuring ramen from Strings Ramen Shop and what may have been the most unusual bite of the day: The “Kizuki bun,” a deconstructed Japanese hotdog from Kizuki Ramen and Izakaya.In terms of portions, Piggie Smalls went over the top and made a whole gyro sandwich (who can resist!?).

Other yummy world eats included veggie samosas from Hakka Bakka Indian Kati Rolls (above) and fresh ricotta and mozzarella from the Mozzarella Store, Pizza & Caffé. Tucked away in the Sam Adams Pavilion were samples from Evanston-based Viet Nom Nom and Cynthia’s Gumbo, a Louisiana Cuisine food truck run by Cynthia Boyd-Yette & Terry Yette.

I made a point to attend some of the cooking demos this year, always a fun experience, and especially welcome when the weather outside is a little less than sunny. I am always impressed by the skills of the chefs at these demos, and always learn a thing or two – this time I really learned the unexpected – how to make tofu. There was a great demo by Laura Cheng of Sun Wah and Thai Deng of Haisous on tofu. Laura Cheng owns Sun Xien Soy Products, purveyors of handmade tofu right in Chicago, a spin-off of the popular Sun Wah restaurant on Argyle. After Laura made the fresh tofu, Thai took it and turned it into a Vietnamese-inspired dish, and explaining the fresh herbs one by one as he added them to the dish, including the enigmatic banana blossom and culantro. The session was moderated by Bon Appetit’s Food Director Carla Lalli Music.

Chicago Gourmet also played host to a number of panels and seminars, and I attended a master class on South Asian Cuisine. The session was moderated by Check Please! host and Master Sommelier Alpana Singh and included the following experts: Sujan Sarkar of ROOH; Zeeshan Shah and Yoshi Yamada of Superkhana International; Colleen Sen, Author & Culinary Historian; and Rohini Dey of Vermilion. The panel was an eye-opening look into the state of Indian Cuisine in the US, and a fascinating look at those pushing the boundaries. Though many Americans are not familiar with regional Indian foods, the vastness and diversity of Indian cuisine cannot be overstated!

Rounding out the day were the wine and spirits, and I do my best to sample some of the international offerings on this front. There are some yearly classics: the Stella Artois area, where you can pick up a signature glass along with your beer samples, and Peroni’s bright-orange tent slinging the Aperol Spritz (prosecco, Aperol bitters and soda water), which has perhaps become the signature drink of Chicago Gourmet. I did learn about an entirely new-to-me spirit at the Iichiko tent, Shōchū, a Japanese spirit made from rice, sweet potatoes, buckwheat or barley. Though it may be confused with sake, shochu is actually much more popular than sake in Japan! I sampled a shochu and lychee drink, paired here with salted caramel gelato from Vero Gelato (found inside Mariano’s stores).

One of the best aspects of Chicago Gourmet is that it is different every year. Combining old favorites with new additions, Chicago Gourmet was as fun as ever. From sampling rare Whiskey, to watching world class chefs cook onstage, to tasting new treats from around the world, Chicago Gourmet is a foodie’s dream!

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Riziki’s Tanzanian food in Columbus

One of our favorite things about Columbus, OH, is its diverse food scene, which has a particularly strong representation of East African food (which is scarce in Cleveland). I am always on the hunt for the newest African restaurant in Columbus, since it seems there is a new one opening every month. However, when we lived in Chicago for the year I fell behind, and missed the opening of Columbus’ only Tanzanian restaurant, Riziki’s Swahili Grill (1872 Tamarack Cir S. Columbus, OH 43229).

Rizikis

The vibes at Riziki’s are amazing! When you visit, you are greeted by chef/owner Riziki herself, who is from the island archipelago of Zanzibar off the coast of Tanzania. The menu at Riziki’s a relatively small, but hits all of the Tanzanian classics, which combine Indian, East African and Middle Eastern influences, as befitting its Indian Ocean location. During the Friday lunch rush, Riziki’s was doing a brisk takeout service, but we decided to eat in at the casual dining room, painted in bright aqua, with wax-print cloth tablecloths. We quenched our thirsts with some fresh tamarind juice as we perused the menu.

sambusas

We had read that Riziki’s sambusas (triangular filled dough pockets akin to Indian samosas) were amazing, so we decided to go with a mix of chicken, beef and spicy veggie, sold for only $1 a piece. The sambusas were elegantly presented in a hand-carved wooden dish, and boasted a perfectly crispy, thin, oil-free wrapper and flavorful fillings. Riziki should probably start charging triple the price. M also enjoyed the addition of the habanero-laden house-made hot sauce.  The Indian culinary influence was also present in the main dishes, including the beef Biriani ($11.99). Other mains included a whole fried fish ($14.99), which we wish we could have chosen, if we had a little more time. On Sunday, Riziki serves a special Zanzibari dish called “Sunday Funday” – Mbatata za Urojo – also known as “Zanzibar mix” ($11.99) a dish with a mix of mango, bean fritters, potatoes and chutney.

Chapati

For our mains, we decided to split a chapati with goat curry and a side of kale ($11.99). The globally-popular chapati bread heavily displays the Indian influence on Zanzibari food, and is a layered flatbread fried in ghee. A chapati is supposed to be light and flaky, and Riki’s was some of the best we have ever had. The goat curry was heavily spiced, and the chapati worked as the perfect vehicle for the hearty stew. After dinner, we chatted a bit with Riziki herself, who had come to Columbus over a decade ago. She said that business at the restaurant had been picking up, but that the location made it a bit hard to find. The strip mall housing Riziki’s was a veritable United Nations of international shops and restaurants, but its location was in the midst of a residential district far from the city center. Be persistent though, and make an effort to find Riziki’s, it is worth it!

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