Izzy Eats: The art of raising a gourmand, one bite at a time

Stirring tales of eating, cooking and foraging in my never-ending quest to provide, great-tasting (local and organic whenever possible) EATS for me and my boy(s).

Monday, August 31, 2009

Too Many Cats....



Spoil the broth! Especially when they start lapping it up...



As you can see, cooking has become quite a challenge in our kitchen, since the cat population in our house has doubled. The two kitties, Occhi and Rabutnitcha, can't stay away from the food. They stick their noses into everything I prepare and are especially fond of watermelon and cantaloupe juice.


Mama and Splat just enjoy lounging on the kitchen table. They are too cute to reprimand. What is a cook to do?


Saturday, August 29, 2009

Unexpected Eats

Izzy and I arrived home one day last week, only to find a small note on our door, alerting us that our neighbor N. had some freshly baked goods to share and that we should call her. She immediately came over with a plate of just-baked zucchini/chocolate chip muffins. The reason? A thank you for the leftover csa shares we gave her.




My friend E. who has since left JC for NYC (oh I do envy that move), was in the neighborhood the other day. It was after my lunchtime but she mentioned that she was hungry. My fridge was full of good eats so I instantly offered to make her lunch. She had a tomato/mozzarella/basil sandwich, with basil I snipped from our garden.




What's the point? Too tired to elaborate..goodnight.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Perfect Jersey City Lunching: American Masala


A new American-Indian fusion restaurant has landed upon our shores and it is well worth a visit.

American Masala, located near Exchange Place, is owned by Suvi Saran, who also owns Devi in NYC. Many of the restaurant's dishes come from the owner's cookbook, for which the restaurant was so named. The innovative menu is chock full of comfort food with an Indian twist. I had been eager to try it since I read it about it here.

We took Izzy and his friend J., for an end of summer lunch, as they hadn't seen each other since the middle of July. It was the perfect choice for a sunny afternoon.

We seated ourselves on the terrace given the lovely weather, and the boys got reacquainted with one another while my friend G. and I perused the menu. It's always a good sign when too many things are appealing.

We ended up choosing the lamb burger and the house made veggie burger. The large burgers were enough for mother and child to share and both were accompanied by delicately spiced, ultra-crispy fries. We shared a fattoush salad which was fresh and colorful. G. and I were thrilled with our meal. We lingered at the table, nibbling each morsel as the boys played.



Throughout our meal, the staff was friendly and accommodating, especially the owner's sister Seema who came over to check on us as we were finishing up. We chatted a bit with her and she brought over some small servings of Firni, a rice pudding spiced with cardamom and pistachios. I have always been a fan of this fragrant pudding and it was the icing on the cake to our wonderful meal.

Right now the restaurant is only open for lunch from 11 a.m. - 3 p.m. but come fall, they have plans keep it open for dinner as well.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

A Jeweler, A Diner, A Butcher, and A Chocolatier..A Trip To Williamsburg



We hadn't been to Williamsburg since my usual partner in Brooklyn adventures (S.) up and left us for Portland. My friend Y. (a jewelry designer) came to the rescue, as she too is often up for food adventures, especially those of the meaty kind. There she is above, displaying one of her latest creations.




Our first stop was Diner, housed in a relic of the past, replete with tiny floor tiles, counter stools and creaky wooden booths. The menu was small and to the point. Y. and I zeroed in on the two meaty selections, a grass fed beef burger which she ordered and a sandwich of house-made pastrami, which was calling me. Izzy had his eye on the mussels.




My sandwich arrived with a slab of pastrami (instead of the usual slices), some gorgeously addictive fries and tasty red slaw. It was pleasantly chewy and not as salty as the New York Deli variety, which I admit to preferring. Izzy delivered the simplest comparison. "Much less salty, I like it better. I HATE Katz's pastrami."

Y.'s burger was cooked to perfection and provided ample bites of grass fed deliciousness.

Meanwhile, Izzy's mussels arrived and when he went to eat one, he noticed that a seafood fork was lacking. When we asked about this, he was told to use a mussel shell to extract the critter from the other shells. He must have looked crestfallen because someone (not our waitress), graciously went off and found one for him from their establishment next door. He was finally able to tuck into his meal but after stuffing in too many fries, was unable to finish.

Appetites sated, we left Diner and made our way to their butcher shop, Marlow and Daughters, just up the block. If only a butcher shop like this existed in Jersey City. Slabs of beautiful cuts of organic beef graced their enclosed glass case, along with sausages, cured meats and a hearty looking house made pate, which looked more inviting then some pates found in Paris.



We both brought home a few well-chosen items, including house-cured pancetta, chorizo and the irresistible pate. The store not only carries meats but a wide array of other locally sourced products, including cheeses and dried beans. Later on, Izzy and I dined at the pate and wished that we had more for later. If Y. is equally smitten we may just find our way back there before long.

Our next stop was Mast Brothers Chocolate, for no foray into Williamsburg would be complete without a visit there.

Our final destination was Brooklyn Kitchen but I will reserve discussion until I receive a personal tour from my dear sister upon our next visit.

Back in the car, during the trip home, Izzy reflected upon the day...From the backseat I hear Izzy say smilingly, "Mama, what does it mean to butcher the English language?" Which I knew was a phrase he had heard on a Word Girl video. And so he came to terms with one of his first homonyms. Worth the trip for that alone!

Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice Cream

What better way to celebrate the end of August than eating our way through David Lebovitz's book of ice cream, The Perfect Scoop.

This time it was Chocolate-Peanut Butter. The stuff was so addictive I had none left for a photo-op. In fact Izzy only managed to get in a small cupful, for as he slept I kept stealing spoonfuls of it until it was all gone. I do not regret finishing the batch because Izzy deemed it "To peanuty". True that I would have preferred swirling in the peanut butter instead of blending it so I might try it that way next time

However you decide to make it, the results are sure to please. Not only that but you might have all of the ingredients you need in the house so you can satisfy your craving right away!


Recipe

Chocolate Peanut Butter Ice Cream (from The Perfect Scoop, by David Lebovitz)

2 cups half-and-half

¼ cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

½ cup sugar

Pinch of salt

½ cup smooth peanut butter

Whisk together the half-and-half, cocoa powder, sugar, and salt in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and whisk in the peanut butter, stirring until thoroughly blended.

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dinner Scene: Balsamic Green Beans With Golden Currant Tomatoes



This green bean dish was part of a vegetarian feast which also included Gazpacho and corn on the cob. Everything was made with entirely local produce, the Golden Currant Tomatoes hailing from our very own backyard and the rest from Stony Hill Farm, which we are so fortunate to have set up shop several times weekly, right here at our Jersey City Farmers' Markets


Balsamic Green Beans With Golden Currant Tomatoes

Ingredients

1 quart green beans
handful of small tomatoes (cherries sliced in half will do)
1 - 2 cloves garlic, minced
olive oil
balsamic vinegar


1. Steam or boil green beans 4-5 minutes or until almost tender. Drain.
2. Gently saute minced garlic in a 2-3 tablespoons olive oil for 2-3 minutes.
3. Toss in green beans and tomatoes and cook a couple of minutes more.
4. Add a couple of tablespoons balsamic vinegar, cook a minute more. Season with salt and pepper.
5. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Good Bye Ice Cream Man: Hello Ice Cream Maker

Kicking off a week of homemade frozen treats, here's Izzy after guzzling down the remains of our mixed berry frozen yogurt. We used our Kitchen-Aid Ice Cream Bowl attachment, a must have for regular ice cream making projects. That was yesterday.

After spending a week at the beach, deprived of truly great ice cream, and after contemplating the recent gripes about the ice cream man, I have decided to devote the next week to making our own frozen concoctions, from yogurt to Popsicles.

Today we prepared Chocolate-Peanut Butter Ice Cream...More on that tomorrow.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

The Ice Cream Man Didn't Do It

Apparently, parents everywhere, are complaining about the ice cream man. He is on playgrounds and parks, hawking his wares each and every day throughout the summer, luring their precious spawn into begging for frozen treats. All this whining about how the ice cream man is always around, even at times when they don't want to purchase ice cream. Don't they realize that the ice cream man is not responsible for their children's ice cream issues?

Surprisingly (to me at least) these parents are not necessarily opposed to the ice cream in principal, they are just opposed to hearing their darlings whine for it, each and every day, at inopportune times. Don't get me wrong, I too have issues with the ice cream man but they are not the same. The difference is, I am not disturbed by his presence. He can turn up wherever he pleases (except in front of our house at Izzy's bedtime where the noise keeps him awake) but I will rarely, if ever purchase anything from him. The ice cream he sells, for the most part, is pure junk food, those cartoon-shaped pops being the absolute worst.

Izzy does not beg or plead for ice cream on a regular basis and for that I am grateful. I have made it quite clear, from early on that we just don't buy ice cream from the ice cream man. I certainly do not deprive Izzy of ice cream, as it is one of my favorite desserts. We either make it ourselves or buy it at ice cream parlours. We do buy the occasional ices from the ice lady and while at the beach we purchased a Froze Fruit (which has gone from being a reasonably healthful snack to a corn syrup laden pop) but that's about it.

Bottom-line: Parents need to stop blaming the ice cream man for causing meltdowns. Just saying NO to ice cream will go a long way towards teaching children to make better food choices. At the same time, be sure to offer other snack options so that your children don't feel deprived.

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Beach Eats of Note: Long Beach Island 2009



The Sand Box Cafe: This outdoor cafe brings a taste of the tropics to the Jersey Shore. Go just for the experience and decor but bring an appetite as well. Breakfasts are their specialty and you can't go wrong with the sizzling pancake. Izzy's was stuffed with peaches, blueberries and sweet cream cheese, topped with maple syrup. If you go for lunch, save room for the Fried Oreo Sundae or other daily dessert special.




Marvel's Market: The place for donuts. Go early in the morning to watch them make the donuts, a far cry from Dunkin or Krispy Kreme, these donuts are the real thing, eggy and delicious. We got there too late to watch but at least they still had donuts left.




The Boat House: Outdoor dining with a view and surprisingly delicious seafood, especially the scallop special. Sit near the water if you can.




The Black Whale: Incredibly fresh seafood. casual atmosphere, long waits. Izzy had a seafood feast.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Channeling Violet Beauregarde: Izzy's First Gum


I'll admit, I was a chewing gum fiend. Rarely without a piece in my mouth, I praticed chomping, cracking and bubble blowing as if they were my occupation. My friends and I planned trips to the Cottage Inn just for pieces of individually wrapped Bazooka Bubble Gum ( as much for the gum as for the collectible comics inside). My grandma and first stepmonster S. bought me endless packs of Trident Sugarless and my grandfather constantly told me I looked like a cow, chewing "cow gummy ".

Gum chewer that I may have been, I have long kicked the habit and hoped to keep Izzy gum-free for as long as possible. He had led a gum-free existence thus far, reaching the age of nearly six and a half, without any gum at all. Occasionally he has remarked that his friends are allowed to chew (some quite often at that! ) but never made a fuss over not having any. Then we read Charlie and The Chocolate Factory and gum appeared ever more prominently on his radar. What it is that appeals about the gum cracking Violet Beauregarde it is hard to say but I too longed to chew one piece of gum for a record-breaking number of days and Izzy has fallen under the same spell.

He has been pestering me for gum ever since we saw the film and I mistakenly promised him some from a health food store. I managed to stall for a few weeks but we finally found ourselves at one today, Pangea Naturals in Manahawkin, the only health food store in close proximity to Long Beach Island. There I bought him some type of fruity gum with Xylitol, which I didn't know much about. I had heard that it actually helped prevent cavities but apparently the evidence to support that claim is rather scant. Not only that but Xylitol is not the miracle sweetener I had imagined, but rather an industrially produced sugar substitute that may cause diarrhea.

Izzy popped that gum into his mouth and was instantly smitten. He relished every chew, marveling over the novel experience.



Izzy may be stuck on gum but I don't intend to allow him to chew it on a regular basis. The question is: Which gum should he be chewing? It comes down to deciding which is the lesser of two evils, artificially sweetened gums that don't cause tooth decay but may ultimately cause something else, or natural gums made with cane sugar which will rot his teeth. At the moment I am leaning toward Glee Gum.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Stranded At The Beach: In The Land of Fritos and Pita Chips

Spending prolonged periods of time away from my usual array of eats is not always easy. Unlike Alice Waters, I don't always have the wherewithal to schlep along my own small cache of foodstuffs. It is especially difficult when staying with friends or relatives, for then I must rely on other people's food...which is what we are doing this week. You never know what people keep in their drawers...Junk food may be verboten in our house but elsewhere, it rules the roost.

When I complained to my friend T. about the snacks on hand during our beach vacation she was not exactly sympathetic. I detected her bemusement as she imagined me being force fed pita chips. It is not quite as dire as that, for I am guilty of even wanting to eat those pita chips. Ordinarily I have no inclination to buy food like that, let alone eat it, but if it is placed before me I find my hand wandering into the bag.

Worse yet is that Izzy is falling prey to the allure of the evil snack drawer. Each time I turn around he is stuffing some sort of unhealthy tidbit into his mouth and I am powerless to stop him. Bowls of crunchy tidbits magically appear on the table and in the beach bags and everyone is having trouble resisting the call of the pita chip. At least the Fritos have escaped Izzy's notice and I have an easier time keeping away from them myself.

I try my best to tell myself that one week of junk food consumption will not a junk food fiend make. What's a bit of junk food between relatives, especially when Grandma L. is preparing her famous family waffle recipe for breakfast, served with a bounty of fresh fruits...


and when we are dining out at incredible places like Pinziminio, a wonderful trattoria that serves up copious portions of lusty Italian fare. Go for the Sunday Gravy Dinner...(Izzy and I both ordered it and have leftovers for lunch tomorrow). A huge Caesar salad, Pasta with sausage, meatballs and Braciole and a cannolo for dessert. Their eggplant appetizer, a meal in and of itself, is especially terrific, light and minimally cheesy it was one of the best versions of eggplant parmigiana I have ever eaten.


Yes. Izzy and I have been eating up a storm here on Long Beach Island, if only we could just steer clear of that snack drawer...

Saturday, August 15, 2009

After A Long Day In The Sun


A cucumber eye treatment was in order.

Izzy spent 8 hours in the sun, far more than I knew was sensible. What I thought would be a few hours at low tide, turned into a long, hot day. Nothing could tear Izzy away. I had slathered him in sun block but had omitted his eye area ( note to self: stinging eyes are better than burnt ones).

I was similarly afflicted; left with burnt knees and other random spots. There was no aloe available at the local grocery so we had to improvise. Cucumbers seemed like a soothing alternative. Clearly, Izzy took his treatment quite seriously.

Sunburn or no, Izzy had worked up quite an appetite for dinner, which was served on the deck, with a lovely view of the beach.

Friday, August 14, 2009

Summer Day Sipping: Peach-Honey Lemonade




Izzy was in the mood to squeeze lemons and I had some peaches that had to be eaten.




15 minutes of squeezing, chopping, and blending is just enough time to create a lovely pitcher of summer.



Peach-Honey Lemonade

Ingredients

1 cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 peaches, peeled, chopped, blended and strained
1/4 cup honey
1/8 cup sugar
3 cups water
1 cup of ice plus extra for glasses
thyme, mint or basil for garnish (optional)


1. Mix lemon juice with honey and sugar and stir vigorously.
2. Add water and stir again.
3. Stir in peaches and herbs.
4. Add ice.
5. Pour into glasses filled with ice and garnish with more fresh herbs.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

That Festival Time Of Year: La Festa Italiana 2009


The Holy Rosary Church Feast is a Jersey City August tradition that has become our own. I couldn't actually say how many summers we have attended but Izzy and I start looking forward to it as soon as June rolls around. I have even taken to planning our vacations around it, so we are sure not to miss it. Last year we made it for at least two nights but this year, one will probably have to suffice.

This festival is always a hit with the kids, especially if they get the $14 bracelet which allows them unlimited runs on the scary blow-up slide, obstacle course, and bungee apparatus. Izzy and friends could not get enough of it.



Our evening began with rides and games and ended with food. Izzy worked up an appetite for the usual rice balls and pizza. His dad tried the stuffed cabbage and pierogi which looked pretty good, considering it is an Italian feast, not a Polish one.

We completed the evening with cotton candy and cannoli. Our friends, who had never before experienced the wonders of an Italian feast, marveled at the kitsch factor and politely tried our favorite foods. Thing is, I am not sure they were as dazzled as we were by the offerings. Izzy's friend was more enthusiastic than his parents, happily gobbling the rice balls and cannoli!

We only chose cannoli because we were too late for the infamous cheesecake which was sold out (yet again) by the time we made it to the pastry table. Perhaps tomorrow's feast goers will be luckier. No matter, though, cheesecake or other, there is much fun to be had at this community event.

Monday, August 10, 2009

Brunch At The Gables Inn 2009: No Eggs A Flyin


This year, the eggs remained on their plates. A good thing since there were several orders of them on the table. There were classic eggs Benedict and an option with filet mignon, pictured below. Both choices are served atop a sturdy English muffin. Some require a steak knife to cut those muffins but I found a butter knife worked just fine.


Saturday, August 8, 2009

On Our Way To Long Beach Island: 2009



The drive down to Long Beach Island with our friends L., T. and kids is always an adventure. There was the usual stop at Emery's, the organic blueberry farm but there was also something new. Weeks before, they had discovered a chocolate factory, promising chocolate-dipped fresh fruits. I certainly couldn't resist a stop there, at David Bradley, Chocolatier.

There we ogled all manner of American type chocolates of the butter cream/butter crunch ilk. Samples of chocolate-covered popcorn and fruits were in abundance.

The chocolate-covered blueberries were something to try and the kids got a kick out of tasting whatever was offered. Stuffed with sweets, we piled back into the car and continued on our way.

Our first dinner at the shore was on the deck of my dad's new house, replete with a gorgeous view of the ocean. We had a feast of seafood from M&M's and Ship Bottom Shellfish. The table was laden with lobsters, mussels, clams, chowder, clam strips and more.

Izzy needed to eat everything and discovered a new favorite, king crab legs. As he slurped those down, along with clams, mussels and more, his friend S. looked on in amazement. She couldn't believe that he would eat any of the stuff. I think all she ate was a few french fries and a clam strip or two.

Stay-tuned for more shore food and adventures...

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Icicle Season is Upon Us...


At least that's what Izzy told me this morning. August has crept up on us and I had yet to fill our popsicle molds. How terribly remiss.

Izzy helped me remedy the situation and use up some extra watermelon. The two of us have a hard time finishing up even a smallish watermelon so these Watermelon-Chip popsicles saved us from an excess of melon. We used up nearly half of the melon to make 3 cups which is actually too much for 6 pops. If you have leftover puree you can use it for Watermelon-Lemonade..

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Dressing Up Dinner: Homemade Slaw

I sat in the park pondering dinner, as the sun sank deeper and Izzy soaked friends and neighbors with his very first water soaker. He was delighted while I was irritable. It was already after 6:30 and I had nothing planned for dinner. My friend C. saved the day when she mentioned that she had made cole slaw with our CSA cabbage. I usually think of cole slaw as time consuming but figured some kind of cabbage salad would be just the thing to dress up some wienies and local corn.

My dinner worries were solved. I would make a slaw-esque side for our dinner. I used 1/4 cup buttermilk, 1/3 cup sour cream, 1/3 rice wine vinegar, 3 heaping teaspoons honey, 1/4 cup olive oil and seasoned it with dill, chives and s&p. The recipe needs a tad of tweaking but for something thrown together in 10 minutes, it wasn't half bad. The addition of cabbage made my organic wienie dinner feel downright virtuous. Amazing what a vegetable can do.

Monday, August 3, 2009

Spigarello: Another Mysterious Green In Our CSA Haul


Part of the appeal of a CSA is the element of surprise. One never knows what unusual vegetable will appear. Last week's share contained a bunch of Spigarello. This plant, native to Southern Italy, is related to broccoli and can be used in salads and pasta.

As I packed the bunches into members' bags, I had to ask Farmer Rich what prompted him to grow this leafy green. His reply, "We liked the way it looked in the catalog." And there I was thinking he had sampled it somewhere, had fancied its flavor and sought it out the seeds for planting. Not my romanticized version but it would have to do.

I took my bunch, chopped up the leaves and sauteed them with olive oil, Niman Ranch uncured ham, garlic and a touch of hot pepper. I used this as a sauce for pasta.


My husband took one look at his dinner and said, "Pasta with Weeds", his usual reaction to many of the esoteric greens I end up sauteing. Not sure if he was so fond but I would love to try them another way if more are in the offing.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Grilled Flat Iron Steak: Perfect After A Long Day of Painting


A couple of weeks ago, my friend Y. made her annual pilgrimage to Sap Bush Hollow Farm, where she stocks up on a large supply of grass-fed beef, lamb and pork. For the second year in a row, she offered to pick up a few things for me , an offer I could not resist.

One thing she picked out for me was a Flat Iron steak, a cut that I was unfamiliar with until now. It is a recently developed cut, said to be one of the more tender ones at a reasonable price. To me it was definitely reminiscent of a flank steak, though a bit thicker, requiring longer cooking. It was somewhat chewy but not tough.

This weekend, Izzy and his papa were hard at work, painting our parlour rooms and more.



I needed to make something the satisfy the huge appetites they built up doing all that work and figured that steak would fit the bill.

I rubbed the steak with cocoa/cumin/brown sugar/salt* and grilled it. I served it alongside some potatoes sauteed with garlic and thyme, accompanied by spinach with shallots and balsamic vinegar. Not a morsel was left.



*I love the idea of cocoa in a rub but the recipe needs more work before I can post it.