Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Midtown Lunch: Lena Latin Grill

Last week’s midtown lunch was a wash. With the heatwave going on all I wanted to do was stay in my cool building. The weather today however... gorgeous. Sunny, just a few clouds and a perfect 75. Just the right day to head out for a midtown lunch expedition with my friend Robin, aka Ms. Silk Purse, who’s been such an inspiration lately in getting me out of the office during lunch.

I did some quick research into what was equidistance between our offices (I’m in Herald Sq and she’s up near Bryant Park) and settled on Lena Latin Grill. Described as the Chipotle of South American cuisine, it was also the perfect quick serve, yet sit down set up for us to chat and catch up in an hour. Still on my pescatarian fix, but having fish tonight, I settled on a nice and light tofu salad. Added in were grilled corn and queso fresco (a last minute splurge made while looking at their overwhelming sides list) and I topped it off with some chimichurri.

Saturday, June 16, 2012

The Urban Herb Garden

One of the things I was most excited about with the new place was my balcony. Facing the back of the building with a good sized alleyway between the building across the way, it gets great sunlight and a cool breeze. And having a balcony means I can have an herb garden, albeit a small one, as the actual balcony size is pretty small. But I have sunlight, good drainage and good air circulation, all necessities for growing herbs.

So in the past few weeks I've set out to make this dream a reality, researching everything from the types of herbs I wanted, to the places to get them, to planting the right combinations, to the actual planters they'll go in. I settled on a 36" and a 24" CobraCo English Horse Trough balcony planter that hangs over the railing of our balcony to maximize space. Then I was off to get potting soil and herbs. After an unsuccessful trip to Home Depot I did some more in depth yelping research and came up with a hardware store that got kudos for having lots of organic products as well as being pretty economical. Plus it's only 10 blocks or so from my place.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Lunching It Up In Midtown & Other Local Excursions

I rarely leave my office for lunch. In fact, I rarely leave my desk. And some days I’m so busy that taking the 5 minutes I need to heat up food can be too much. Plus it’s expensive. If I want to eat my favorite healthy salad, that’s $10. If I feel like being a little gluttonous with a burrito bowl at Chipotle (don’t judge… I love their burrito bowls and have perfected the combination- mix white and brown rice, no beans, chicken, tomatillo salsa, pico de gallo, lettuce and guacamole… not so unhealthy) that’s $10. And $10 every day, or even a couple of days a week can add up. I also work in what is generally considered a culinary no man’s land, so that definitely doesn't help either.

But some days, especially the nicest days all I want to do is get out, even if I’m just running across the street. I remembered those long ago days when I had just started this job and would go sit out in Herald Square or read next to the windows in the now shuttered Borders in Penn Station. So I’ve started trying to make the time. Come in just a little earlier, get those reports done a tad sooner. Once a week just get out, even if I’m just heating up my lunch and taking it outside. But even more fun would be those days I can go try something new. I'll occassionally grab Korean food- kimchee pancakes, mandoo or kimbap- but this is basically owing to my close proximity to K-town. I want to branch out further. Elusive food trucks, ethnic carts hailed by Chowhounders, that crazy sandwich on Serious Eats or specialty salad featured on Midtown Lunch. $10 once a week, I can handle that. So beginning today it was a chicken tikka kati roll at The Kati Roll Company. Tender chicken, spice sauce, an equal parts soft and crispy kati wrap. And $5 for a me-sized roll (though those with a bigger appetite may want to go for the 2 roll special), well that’s doable.
Meant to take a picture before I scarfed down 1/2 the roll but oh well

Monday, June 11, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken with Lemony Spring Vegetable Orzo

One of the things I was determined to set up as soon as I found out I'd have a little bit of outdoor space was an herb garden. I grew up with an outdoor garden where my Mom grew everything from tomatoes to peppers and of course a few herbs and although I didn't fully appreciate that idyllic sort of self-sufficiency at the time, now I would give anything to gather edibles from my backyard for the dinner table. So I'm flexing my untried thumb to find out exactly how green it is with a few staple herbs: rosemary, basil, thyme, oregano, cilantro, sage and mint. I'm a little over a week into it but being my usual impatient self, the other night I decided to snip some rosemary, oregano and thyme to make a modified version of Mark Bittman's Grilled Mediterranean Chicken I saw on Serious Eats.

I was drawn to this recipe not only for the herbs, but for the brightness that the lemon added and to give me a chance to grow to love my temperamental oven by roasting some chicken (as sadly I do not own a proper grill, only a stove top one that seems to work best on veggies and shrimp). Combined with a light and creamy orzo flecked with some grilled asparagus and thawed out peas and corn kernels, it was a perfectly light and yet deliciously decadent week night meal. Eaten cold the next day, with the crispy skin removed it was a different, yet equally tasty result, somewhat like an herby cold rotisserie chicken (does anyone else out there enjoy cold chicken, or am I just a weirdo?). But the fresh herbs really helped to push the whole meal into an over the top type of wonderful and just served to remind me how delicious something fresh and simple can taste.

Monday, June 4, 2012

Strawberry Shortcake

So this is another recipe I wasn't initially intending to blog about because goodness knows if you google strawberry shortcake you'll get dozens of recipes, but I've been in a little cooking funk lately so I figured what the heck, the interwebs could always use one more recipe, right? Oh and a chance for me to bitch about some things on my mind. The thing is, this past weekend I made a few things I was pretty psyched about; a saag paneer with kale and buttermilk that I scarfed down before heading out on Friday, some oven roasted dry rub baby back ribs that were pretty amazing, despite oven issues, but I forgot to take a picture of both and finally some lemon buttermilk sorbet that I just haven't gotten around to eat because the temp dropped back to the 60s. Oh, and I made pizza dough using some Shiner Bock brought especially for me from one of my Dallas reps (I love my biz), but didn't get around to actually baking the pizza due to the above mentioned oven issues.

Between a microwave that doesn't work (which, ok, I don't use a microwave like ever really), a washing machine that worked once then crapped out (maybe due to someone trying to be economical and overloading... but come on, things shouldn't just break like that), the fact that I can't keep my hair dryer on for more than 2 minutes without it short circuiting (fine, I'll get a surge protector for the bathroom... unsightly, but whatevs, I kind of have to dry my hair for work), the oven is where I draw the line. It just doesn't want to stay on which is kind of a problem for, you know, cooking things. And it's kind of the straw that broke the camels back for me. So I'm mad at appliances. Weird, but true. I feel terribly childish in my anger, like I want to stomp my feet and scream, but the short of it is, having a working oven is kind of a necessity for me.

Friday, June 1, 2012

Mexican Corn Salad

If you aren't familiar with elote, or sometimes more commonly referred to as Mexican Corn, you have no idea what you're missing. Corn on the cob was one of those childhood veggies I was always on the fence with, between kernels constantly getting stuck in my teeth to the braces faze where it was next to impossible to eat. When I got older I took to removing it from the cob automatically if/when I deigned to eat it, which wasn't often. Jump to my first summer here in Manhattan (7 years ago! Has it really been that long?!?) and my co-workers are introducing me to the corn at Cafe Habana, and it forever changed my outlook of the vegetable.

Of course, when you take a grilled corn on the cob and smother it in mayo, dust it with chili powder, sprinkle... with a heavy hand mind you... cotija cheese all over it and then spritz with some lime, it's hard to be anti corn on the cob. Mexican corn will always remind me of summer, it brings me back to the days where I was still so overwhelmed with this city, in awe of the never ending heights and sprawl. I still am, too. There are still many times I'll splurge on a cab and just press my face against the glass and stare up, just the same as I did 7 years ago.


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