As 2017 ends, it’s a time to reflect on all the delicious meals and treats I had this year. I had some firsts this year that have become favorites: pupusas,
pasteis de nata (Portuguese egg custard tarts),
adjaruli khachapuri (a Georgian boat-shaped bread filled with sulguni cheese and topped with an egg and butter)
and hot pot.
hot pot at Good Harvest
It was a year of great food with the exception of two disappointing meals, one at one of those cheesy (pun intended) fondue restaurants that served mediocre cheese and another at the much-acclaimed Chef & the Farmer in Kinston, North Carolina. I had high hopes for Chef & the Farmer, especially since I lived in southeastern North Carolina for a number of years and know its farming history, but it turned out to be up there with my Dovetail experience a few years back as one of the worst restaurant meals I’ve ever had. Regardless, I ate well this year, especially on my New Jersey pizza tour.
I declared Star Tavern in Orange, NJ, and Brooklyn’s Coal-Burning Brick-Oven Pizza in Hackensack, NJ, as the best overall pizza in New Jersey with Papa’s Tomato Pies in Robbinsville, NJ, having the most traditional and flavorful crust.
I did a best ice cream in New Jersey tour too. My favorite ice cream was from
- Denville Dairy in Denville, NJ–the creamiest soft-serve ice cream.
- Magnifico’s in East Brunswick, NJ–best cherry-dipped cone.
- Cookman Creamery in Asbury Park, NJ–delicious vegan options.
I discovered Calandra’s Bakery and returned to my childhood with delicious pepperoni bread as well as many other great pastries.
There was a lot more, but these stand out as the most memorable of the year.
Posted in America, Asian, Bakery, Blog, Bread, Cheese, Chef, Ice Cream, Italian, Local, New York, North Carolina, Pie, Pizza, Restaurant, Vegetarian
Tandem is a restaurant just steps off of the main drag, Via Tribunali, in Napoli’s Centro Storico district. The restaurant is dedicated to Napoli’s claim to fame, ragu, or gravy, a slow-cooked tomato-based sauce with various cuts of meat like beef or pork. Tandem’s website says it is the first restaurant dedicated to only ragu, and that ragu is virtually unknown outside of Napoli. This latter statement is a fallacy, as ragu is known in other parts of Southern Italy and in the United States where millions of Neapolitan and Southern Italian immigrants settled over 100 years ago. Ragu is what is known in America as Sunday gravy.
At Tandem, the gravy is cooked for 6-8 hours similar to how it is cooked at home. Opened just three years ago, the restaurant is trendy and not to be missed for the visitor to Naples. It is a popular destination, so I would suggest a reservation. However, I did not have a reservation and was able to be seated immediately outside. (While I enjoyed dining outside because the restaurant is located on a side street with much local color, the general downside of dining outside in Napoli is the panhandler. Panhandlers in Napoli are more aggressive than the ones I’m used to in NYC, and unlike the ones in NYC, they don’t just want money, they are happy with food or anything you are willing to give them. I won’t get into a discussion on how one feels about panhandling, as people have different views, some see it as a nuisance and others want to take a more spiritual route and give. I tend to fall in the former camp–I’m a New Yorker–and it’s always good to have a healthy suspicion so you do not fall prey to crime. So yes, if you surmised that there was an aggressive panhandler there that night, you would be right. However, he eventually went away and he did not detract from the delightful experience.)
While ragu has meat in it, the great thing about Tandem is that there are plenty of vegetarian alternatives, including seitan.
I got the manfredi with ragu and ricotta. It was delicious.
My friend got the gnocchi with vegetarian ragu and provola. It was also delicious.
We shared grilled eggplant, and this was probably the best eggplant I’ve ever eaten.
We also shared grilled provola cheese from Sorrento that was wonderful.
If you are visiting Napoli, I highly recommend a visit to Tandem.
escarole and beans
Escarole and beans is an Italian soup. It’s great this time of year because it’s a healthy recipe that’s perfect for a post-holiday detox. We always called this shka-roll and beans, as the Neapolitan dialect pronounced sc as a sh sound (which is done in Tuscan/standard Italian only when followed by e or i).
Escarole and Beans
1 lb. dried cannellini beans (or 2 cans cannellini beans)
2 medium bunches of escarole
1/4 cup olive oil
1 or 2 tablespoons tomato paste
2 cloves garlic, minced or not
salt and red pepper flakes to taste
If using dried beans, soak them in water overnight. (Make sure they are covered with water but do not cover the bowl.) The next day, drain the water. Put them in a soup pot and add enough water to cover them. Add the salt, red pepper flakes, parsley, tomato paste, olive oil and garlic. Cook beans for 2 hours. While they cook, wash the escarole. You want to do this carefully, as escarole can be dirty. Chop it into bite-size pieces. In the last 10-15 minutes of cooking, add the escarole. Stir it in and let it cook down. Serve with parmesan or romano cheese. If you are using canned beans instead, rinse and drain them. You do not have to cook them for two hours. Just bring to a boil with all the other ingredients, simmer a few minutes, add the escarole and cook for 10-15 minutes until escarole is cooked.
I have some carnaroli rice from Italy and decided to make this risotto di zucca by Antonio Carluccio, or pumpkin risotto by Antonio Carluccio, one of my favorite chefs. I got a locally grown butternut squash so I used that instead of pumpkin. I think most people are familiar with arborio rice but not carnaroli. Carnaroli is also from Northern Italy and is used to make risotto. It is considered the “caviar of rice.” It has a higher starch content and can stay firm longer as you cook risotto. This particular dish is a wonderfully creamy and delicious one for autumn. It comes from Antonio Carluccio’s Italian Feast but he says it originally comes from Hotel Cipriani in Venice. I adapted it to suit our tastes. The original recipe calls for Parmesan and I used pecorino romano. I also used water instead of chicken stock to make it vegetarian friendly. And I didn’t use rosemary.
I bought this Russian cookbook at a Russian event and since springtime is synonymous with carrots, I decided to make carrots in milk sauce. It’s a simple recipe. I liked it, but no one else did. If you like cream, you will like it. It is bland, but I found it to be pleasant. I got a bag of sliced carrots and cooked them with a teaspoon of sugar and pinch of salt. The milk sauce is a roux made with milk, flour, butter and salt.
I recently made these cool ranch roasted chick peas from Vegan Yack Attack. I’d never had roasted chickpeas and wanted to try them. Well, these are an addictive snack. I did not add nutritional yeast or onion powder, and I didn’t use fresh chives but dried ones. But this has got me wanting to experiment with other herbs/spices on chickpeas. They are really great!
In addition, the dressing is great to make a chickpea salad, which I did instead of roasting some of the chickpeas, adding some tomatoes.
I made a more fattening version of this baked quinoa & cheese from The Way to His Heart with a whole stick of butter and full-fat cheddar cheese as well as half and half and instead of Italian breadcrumbs, I used panko crumbs. I also used red quinoa since I thought it’d be more fun.
This dish is absolutely delicious. Of course, it makes quinoa not healthy with all the fatty goodness, but it is vegetarian and will disappear quickly.