food blogger

Eggplant, Fig, & Ricotta Stack

Fig season is in full swing here in Florence, and I must admit I am LOVING it. I had never tried fresh figs until earlier this summer back in the states, and they were okay. However, the figs here in Italy seem to be a whole other fruit! They are sweet, succulent morsels full of a unique pulp and sticky sap. They come in both black and white varieties and are about the size of an oblong golf ball. White figs are on the sweeter and a little tarter side, while black figs have a more subtle and decadent flavor. I am truly infatuated with them both! In fact, earlier today I picked some up at the local market and couldn’t stop myself from snacking on one as I strolled past the other vendors.

But I digress. Since these figs are just such a prime produce item of the moment I wanted to incorporate them into an actual meal, not just an all day snack. So again I dove into the depths of the internet and found a variety of pairings with cheeses such as ricotta and goat. I am in Italy after all, so I went with something that hit close to home, the ricotta. Along with more pondering and considering the other seasonal produce I decided on a take on eggplant lasagna consisting of layers of sautéed eggplant, ricotta, and sliced figs atop a bed of spinach. In my opinion, it looks like the leaning tower of Pisa, but that may be too cheesy of an Italian comparison (oops, there I go again!). My humor is usually much more along the lines of sarcasm than puns, I promise!

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Ingredients

1/2 of a medium-sized eggplant

4-6 fresh figs

Ricotta

Spinach

Rosemary

Salt & pepper

Oil & Balsamic vinegar

Instructions

1. Slice the eggplant into medallions, about 1/2″ thick

2. Roughly chop the rosemary

3. Drizzle eggplant with olive oil and vinegar and season both sides with rosemary, salt, and pepper. Let marinate for about 5 minutes

4. While eggplant is marinating heat sauté or grill pan over medium heat. Place the eggplant in the pan so none of the pieces overlap.

5. Cover and let sit for about 10 minutes, checking on them once or twice, and flipping them after 5 minutes.

6. While eggplant is cooking, quarter fresh figs to be layered between the eggplant. I also like to take the ricotta out of the fridge while the eggplant is cooking so it gets closer to room temp, as to not cool down the dish.

7. The eggplant will be done once it’s tender and the skin is slightly shriveling. Make a nice bed of spinach leaves on a plate or bowl and begin building your tower! I went with a pattern of eggplant, ricotta, fig. And in regards to the amount of ricotta per layer, that really depends on how much you like ricotta 😉 But I spread about a tablespoon of ricotta between each layer and could fit about 4 pieces of fig.

8. Top with a dollop of ricotta and any extra fig and enjoy!

All of these measurements should make enough for 1 dish, but could also be enough for 2 smaller stacks or even multiple mini stacks if you wanted to make this for an appetizer (may be a little messy, but who cares when it tastes this good?!).

I really enjoyed making this dish because it seemed more like an arts and crafts project to me cooking. And I must say folks, this dish is as good as it looks. It’s sweet, savory, and oh so creamy. The perfect transition dish from summer into fall when we all wouldn’t mind something warm and cozy in our stomachs.  Embrace your inner child and really play around with the construction (or deconstruction) of this loose take on no-bake eggplant lasagna.

As always I love to hear feedback, so let me know how this dish worked for you! Did you add some more savory? Bake it like a more traditional lasagna? Make it into a pizza perhaps?! My favorite thing about cooking is seeing all the different interpretations of a dish!

 

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Two Bean Salad

Are you ever craving a filling dinner with flavor that packs a punch but without the lethargic, button popping feeling that usually follows? Yea, me too. And its especially difficult being in Italy with every type of bread, pasta, and pastry at your disposal. So, the past few days I have been having a real hankering for something green but with more flavor profile than a traditional salad. Enter my brain child (with the help of Yummly), my two-bean warm salad. It was not only super filling and healthy but I got to highlight some of the Italian flavors I have been experiencing in the local restaurants!

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Ingredients

1 handful of green beans, rinsed and dried

1/2 can of cannelloni beans

1 large handful of spinach (consider wilting)

6-10 pitted kalamata olives (alter depending on love of olives)

2 cloves of garlic, sliced

1/4 of a medium-sized white onion, chopped

1 handful of parsley

2 lemon wedges

Olive oil, salt, and pepper

Instructions

1. Heat oil in a medium/large skillet over medium heat.

2. Add chopped onion and green beans and cook for 8-10 minutes. Check back every couple of minutes to move stuff around so nothing burns or gets stuck to the pan.

3. Once onions become translucent and beans begin to shrivel add the garlic and olives. Let sit for about 30 seconds to 1 minute.

4. Add 1/2 the chopped parsley and squeeze one lemon wedge. Stir ingredients as needed.

5. Add the cannelloni beans. Let ingredients cook until beans begin to mush, giving them a good toss once or twice.

6. Remove from heat and fold in the spinach.

Once all ingredients are combined top with remaining parsley and squeeze the second lemon wedge

**Salt and pepper throughout as needed**


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This recipe makes enough to serve as a single meal for one person or a side dish for 2-3 people.The lemon, parsley, and garlic balance each other perfectly, and there is a refreshing contrast between the crunch of the al dente green beans and the smooth, creaminess of the cannelloni.

I am anxious to make this again with a possible addition of some local pancetta, or topped with a fresh fillet of white fish! I’m still quite a novice cook so suggestions are always welcome!!

 

All’ Antico Vinaio

Here begins my food blogging journey of my year abroad, in Florence, Italy! I am so happy I found All’ Antico Vinaio early on, because it is a gold mind of cured meats and cheeses. Tucked away on Via de Neri, a few streets up from the Arno river, this sandwich & charcuterie shop is anything but unknown. It has been rated by all the top food and travel websites as one of the places to get a phenomenal sandwich in Florence, which also means there is always a line. But, trust me when I say that not matter how long the line, it is worth the wait one hundred times over. All’ Antico Vinaio offers two types of dining; One were you can sit indoors in there intimate dining room with a antipasto platter of meats, cheeses, spreads, veggies, and jams while enjoying one of their many bottles of wine ( This is Italy after all, so I emphasize bottles).

…and this is the small!

Or you can venture a few meters across the street to their original claim to fame, and host of the infamous line, their sandwich shop. Here there are 2-3 men at any given time preparing the freshest, meatiest, cheesiest, most mouthwatering sandwiches with a sense of style and grace I never thought I’d use to describe sandwich construction. For starters, their menu consists of white writing on tall, thin chalk boards at the entrance to the shop. They make one thing, and one thing only which is Foccacia Misto, and rings in at 5 euro (7 if you splurge for the specialty meats). Listed below are all your cheese, spread, and vegetable options (which you can add as many as will fit in your sandwich for still 5 euro). Then listed on a separate board is the shining glory of your sandwich, the meats. It is stated very clearly at the bottom of the list that mixing meats is not allowed nor will it be tolerated. I believe they called it Blasphemy! There are at least 7 different meat options, 8 or so different cheeses to choose from, 6 types of spreads, and a variety of vegetable toppings. It may seem a little overwhelming at first but you will have plenty of time in line to decide, and even if you can’t, the guys behind the counter are super friendly and will even offer to build you their ideal sandwich. Also, while waiting in line be mindful and cautious of the men running back and forth between the restaurants with fresh stacks of their homemade foccacia.

For my first order, and I say first because I know for a fact I will be returning countless times, I went with proscuitto (freshly sliced as I wiped the drool from my face), pecorino toscano fresco, truffle crema, spicy eggplant, zucchini, arugula salad, olive oil, salt, and pepper. When the man handed it to me over the counter the only words I could muster in my state of pure awe and excitement were “It’s so beautiful!”

Now to put this in perspective for you guys, this sandwich felt like I was cradling a small, soccer ball sized baby in my hands. It was wrapped up just so, making  it impossible for any of those delectable ingredients to fall out of the bottom, but leaving every other part of the sandwich exposed for me to dig right in. I did just that, and never looked back.

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The flavors were amazing. The meat was perfectly salty, the cheese had just the right bite, and let me tell you, you know nothing of paradise until you have had this truffle crema. I couldn’t have been more satisfied with this sandwich.

Since I plan to become a regular at this place I will be updating this post every time I try a new combination of love…I mean ingredients…which in this sandwich’s case could very well substitute for love. So be ready, and try your hardest to re-create these back in the states!

Central Provisions

Central Provisions is a 2-floor, craft beer & cocktail gastropub. The first floor boasts a small and minimalist dining area with a kitchen bar where diners can sit and observe the chefs at work. Downstairs is the restaurants initial claim to fame, the bar, which offers a wide variety of  local craft beers and cocktails. I grabbed lunch with some family there last week so we sat upstairs in the dining room, but if you’re looking to grab some drinks or a little snackity-snack I would definitely suggest sitting downstairs in the bar! There were plenty of open stools (although it was 2:30pm on a Tuesday).

Central Provisions is also very unique in the manner of which they serve their food. Almost every dish comes out on minimalistic wood, slate, or ceramic platters, as to not distract diners from anything but the delicious and complex flavors that have been coaxed out of the seasonal ingredients. Each item that is order also comes out as soon as it is ready, to assure that the diner enjoys their meal at its absolute freshness! Just keep that in mind when ordering because the longer something takes to cook and be prepared, the more you can bank on getting your dish last (but that just gives you more time to try their delicious beers and cocktails right? I see what you’re doing there CP!)

Let’s start off with the libations. I like to consider myself as somewhat of a novice beer enthusiast so I went for 2 Portland-brewed beers from Foundation and Allagash Brewing Companies

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Wanderlust Pilsner from Foundation Brewing Company

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Victoria Ale from Allagash Brewing Company

The Wanderlust was light and refreshing with slight floral notes, but a little sweeter than what I was hoping for. However, it was my first beer from Foundation and made me want to try more from them! This was definitely a beer I could slowly sip sitting out on a dock somewhere in the sunshine. The Victoria on the other hand, had a lot more kick to it thanks to the prevalent bitterness of the hops. Since I do enjoy a more pronounced beer I favored this one, and as a fan of Allagash I was excited to try one of their newer brews! Central Provisions also offers some unique, made in-house sodas such as Pomegranate and Raspberry Herb which were equally as satisfying and delicious with their unique flavor combos.

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Raspberry Herb Soda


By the time we had knocked back our first round the food had begun to arrive!

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Lobster Toast

This is probably the most decadent and flavor-packed take on a lobster sandwich I have ever laid my eyes, or taste buds on. The lobster (fresh Maine of course) is chopped up and whipped into a mousse with green coconut curry, cilantro and ginger, and grilled between 2 delicious pieces of thinly sliced bread. The sandwich was surprisingly light and the lobster flavor was still prevalent enough to balance with the green curry. My best friend was actually the one who ordered this yummy dish, and she said she was pleasantly satisfied and not overstuffed, which is not the norm when it comes to other buttery, grilled sandwiches so bravo!

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Yellowfin Tuna Crudo

Next came the yellowfin tuna crudo. Six slices of fresh, raw yellowfin came plated on a wooden board, dressed with mustard fried onions and a seaweed garnish. The acidity of the onions paired very well with the clean flavors of the fish. I’m also a sucker for a good piece of raw tuna, and on a hot day this dish really hit the spot!

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Beet Salad

I was surprised that out of all the dishes we ordered the beet salad was 3rd to arrive because, well, I assume since it was a salad it required minimal prep compared to the cooked dishes, but a lot more went into this than the average salad! This colorful and refreshing summer salad consisted of both red and chioggia beets (marinated or pickled, I wasn’t quite sure) and an avocado aioli delicately, constructed atop fresh summer greens, all dressed with a lemon olive oil dressing. It was light but packed with SO much flavor. This little salad could have almost sufficed as my whole meal, but of course I proceeded to try everyone else’s food because, well, just look at it!

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Baja Fish Sandwich

The last 2 dishes to come out simultaneously were the sandwiches. Both the Baja fish sandwich and the confit duck panini were served on grilled, thick-cut bread, which was definitely necessary to hold in all the deliciousness. The fish sandwich was pretty straightforward, which I think is the best way to serve fish so you can truly appreciate the flavor. Nestled between some sliced avocado, tomatoes, red onions, lettuce, and an avocado aioli, the thick cuts of meaty fish took center stage. There was a great seasoning on the fish as well. I didn’t get a chance to ask exactly what it was but I picked up on some Cajun for sure!

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Confit Duck Panini

And last but the farthest thing from least that could possibly exist in sandwich form, the confit duck panini. It was such a simple sandwich with minimal ingredients but boy was it kick ass! This pan-grilled sandwich was stuff with deliciously decadent confit duck, kim chee, and hoisin aioli. It would have been a little too much if it wasn’t for the acidity of the kim chee that duck the fattiness of the duck just right. This dish was definitely on the saltier side, compared to the others I tried. But that’s nothing another cold beer couldn’t fix 😉


All in all, my family and I had a very satisfying and delightful experience at Central Provisions, and I most definitely wouldn’t mind going back, if only to try more of their extensive craft beer selection downstairs at the bar!

**Food pictured in order which it arrived. Just something to keep in mind when you are thinking about your ordering strategy!**

Sriracha Lime Kale Chips

I have been pretty skeptical of all the pre-packaged and mass produced kale chips I have seen on the market lately, and I was totally aware of how easy they are to make from scratch, but like Pinterest Fails have proven to be true, it’s not always as easy as it looks. However, I was proved wrong when I tried out a simple spicy kale chip recipe myself a couple of weeks ago. My goal was to keep the kale pretty pure, to not lose its healthiness, but I still wanted some flavors to distract from the its bitter nature. I landed on using Sriracha and some kind of citrus as my focal flavors, and found an awesome recipe online that combined those things and more!

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Oven: Bake & pre-heat to 350 degrees

This recipe is very simple and takes about 30 minutes max, from start to finish. I recommend getting the fluffiest and leafiest kale you can find because the chips do shrink up quite a bit in the oven, and if you put multiple trays in at a time, keep an eye on the bottom one because it tends to cook at least 2 minutes quicker than the top! Now, down to the dressing. This delicious concoction is made up of Sriracha sauce, lime juice, soy sauce, fish sauce, and olive oil (measurements below)

1 Tbl Sriracha

Juice of 1/2 a lime

1 Tsp soy sauce

1 Tsp fish sauce

2 Tbl olive oil
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Pour the dressing over a bowl of  chip-sized kale leaves, and with clean hands (or not, totally up to you!) massage the dressing all up and into the nooks and crannies of the kale. Give it a good rub down! Then, once the leaves are fully coated lay them out on greased cookie sheets. Make sure the leaves don’t overlap and that they’re laying as flat as possible, so the chips can really crisp up.

Cook Time: 8-10 minutes, but keep an eye on ’em because they can burn pretty fast!
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Once the chips are all nice and crispy take the trays out of the oven and put them directly onto a paper towel covered plate or metal rack to 1) stop them from cooking anymore and 2) to soak up any extra oils, although the majority should be cooked off. The chips will be very delicate, but that’s part of their natural charm and aesthetic, so if you feel so inclined to pat them dry just be careful not to break them. Within 5 minutes they should be all set to toss into a bowl for snacking!

I like to sprinkle mine with some  garlic salt for a little extra kick, but regular salt and even as is, is just as delicious! Fair warning, these babies do have a little kick, so if you’re not a huge fan of the spicy spice I’d recommend cutting the Sriracha down to 1/2 Tbl because it still does provide some yummy flavor along with the spice!

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Beer Ice Cream Floats

You read it right, beer ice cream floats! I have been SO inspired by all the artisnal ice cream flavors and craft beers that have been bursting onto the food scene. Something you all need to know about me is that I have a gigantic sweet tooth and have recently taken to a love affair with microbreweries and craft beer, so when I heard there was a way to combine my two great loves I new I had to try in for myself! Since I am home in New Hampshire for the summer and don’t really have access to the most up-and-comings in food (like I did in New York City) instead of just sitting and dreaming (aka trolling the internet for photos) of sweet beer treats, I set out to make my own. Believe it or not, this required a little bit of research. Since I am not the first person with the genius idea of combining beer and ice cream (in fact, there is a whole beer-centric creamery, Frozen Pints devoted to just that) I found a fair amount of information is available on the all-knowing internet; specifically, the 2 beers that blend best with ice cream are Pale Ales and Stouts and that the notes and flavors of the ice cream must balance out those of the beer.

Now onto the good stuff! I decided to go with some local brews; Shipyard’s Black IPA and Red Hook’s Long Hammer IPA, and keeping with my theme of supporting the small businessman I chose Steve’s Ice Cream (made in Brooklyn) Sunday Morning and Small Batch Bourbon Vanilla flavors. Sunday Morning consists of a buttermilk ice cream with maple syrup swirls and crunchy waffle pieces and don’t let the subtle Bourbon Vanilla fool you, its definitely more bourbon that it is vanilla. I decided to pair Sunday Morning with the deep and savory Black IPA, and thought the strong base flavors of the Bourbon Vanilla would play well with the bitter and citrusy flavors in the Long Hammer. I also picked up some old-time soda fountain glasses and straws from Homegoods.

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Steve’s Sunday Morning Ice Cream & Shipyard’s Black IPA

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Steve’s Bourbon Vanilla Ice Cream & Red Hook Long Hammer IPA

To keep things cool I popped the glasses into the freezer for a couple of minutes before I loaded them up with love. In the 8oz class I poured about half a bottle of Black IPA in (like a pro so no foam here!) dropped in 2 scoops of Sunday Morning, and topped it off with (almost) the rest of the beer. I poured the Long Hammer IPA into the 6oz glass, just about half way, added 2 scoops of Bourbon Vanilla, and topped it off until there was about half left in the bottle. The frothy foam that rises to the top  was my first taste and it only had me wanting more, but I recommend mixing the ice cream in there to get the fully blended flavors!

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There you have it! A modern take on a nostalgic sweet treat. The dark float turned out just as I had hoped; the perfect combination of sweet, savory, and creamy, but not too sweet and it still retained a decent bitterness. The lighter float came out something like a creamcicle, but with an unexpected bite from the citrus and bourbon. Suffice to say my tastebuds and tummy were elated with how these creamy babies turned out! But don’t worry, my search for craft beer-infused recipes will not stop here. If you have a beer-themed recipe share the wealth in a comment below!

Madison Square Eats

It’s back!!! As an avid lover of the Brooklyn food festival Smorgasburg, I literally cannot put into words how excited I was when Midtown Manhattan’s own little food festival came back for its bi-annual stint in Worth Square at Madison Square Park! Not having to travel all the way to Brooklyn (trust me if you live in Chelsea it’s a little bit of a haul) and still being able to chow down on some seriously delish cheap food and booze is definitely something to get excited about. Needless to say I have been itching get over to Madison Square Eats since it opened just about 2 weeks ago, and I finally made it there this past gloriously beautiful Sunday. I wanted to try a little bit of everything, but I paced myself because I’m sure I’ll be back again. My go-to spots right off the bat were Seoul Lee Korean BBQ for their Bibimbap bowl which has been sweeping food blogs and Instagrams with rave reviews. I also had to get in on some Momofuku Milk Bar action, because despite living in New York City for almost 2 years I still haven’t gotten my butt over to any of the numerous Milk Bar locations so when I heard they would be at Mad.Sq.Eats they went straight to the top of my list. I also couldn’t resist a little Melt Bakery, another sweet spot I have been wanting to sink my teeth into. I picked up a piece of Crack Bar pie from the Milk Bar (like a little slice of love) and tried Melt’s Special sandwich which was mango lassi ice cream snuggled between 2 cardamom cookies.

I highly suggest getting making your food decisions first, then doubling back for your drinks because there’s also an impressive bevy of deliciously enticing craft beers, wines, and boozes to compliment all your delicious food!

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Bulgogi Bibimbap with Fried Egg

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Crack Pie

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Need I Say More?

Cardamon Cookie with Mango Lassi Ice Cream

Everything I tried was SO mouthwateringly scrumptious! I’m already planning my next chance to go back for more. So happy and excited that UrbanSpace gives all of these food vendors such an amazing platform to share their food with the people!