Friday, May 31, 2013

TRIP: New York 2013 Day 1

As promised I'm posting what I can from my travels since my kitchen is still being renovated and various travel will keep me away from being able to cook. First stop: a quick weekend trip to New York. I've been here on a half day jaunt in the past so I'm glad to have a chance to spend a few days to get to explore a bit more. This was our first night straight off the plane and an hour plus commute fighting traffic to get into the city. We stayed just down the street from the New York Stock Exchange which was kind of neat to snap pictures of.

For dinner we went to the Smorgas Chef a Scandinavian restaurant (I've never been to a Scandinavian restaurant). It was located just a few blocks from us in the financial district. As you can see Smorgas has a very cozy interior, tables were set elbow to elbow and even the window boxes sat tables for two. It seems the restaurants in the area are located in tiny spaces and they spill out into shared alley/common street filled with picnic benches and umbrellas. It had a very festive and "active" night life feel even though the rest of the district seemed somewhat deserted. There were the occasional pubs here and there but for the most part everything was shut down when it got dark.

At the suggestion of the waitress I ordered the Classic Smorgas Bord it features house cured gravlaks with mustard sauce, jansson's potato (a potato casserole), Swedish meatballs with gravy and lingonberry (their specialty), two types of herring, "rosolli" (an apple-beet salad), dill cucumber salad served with a round cracker bread (like a  wasa cracker kinda card board like). The two salads were the right amount of vegetable to help offset the potatoes. It was a great sampler of what the restaurant had to offer and just the right amount of food for a light but satisfying dinner.

We originally ordered the quartet of herring, they screwed up (to our benefit, the two types of herring from the Smorgas Bord weren't our favorite) and we ended up with the Gravlaks Croquettes. The salmon was house cured and wrapped around a potato croquette served with a chive and horseradish creme sauce.

We added a full order of meatballs and some french fries with three dips (a chipotle mayo, regular mayo, and ketchup) shared the whole thing as a meal. They had dessert which we passed on but the table near us had some delicious looking crepe dish ala mode and their cocktail menu was pretty unique. All in all as the first restaurant we visited on our trip it definitely had that trendy New York feel but everyone was so casually dressed and relaxed this pair of Austinites felt very welcome.

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Afghan Bento

I actually made this bento a few weeks back and only managed to post it today. With a kitchen remodel and running into some health issues I've not really had much time to cook let alone post so my apologies for the sparse content.

After our visit to the Afghan restaurant Helmand during our trip to Boston I decided to dig a little deeper into the cuisine. Much of the middle eastern cuisines have a lot in common, they share a lot of the same cooking techniques as well as ingredients. Yet as you move across the geographical regions each country has its distinct spin as new ingredients become incorporated and others go unused.

This first dish is called Mashawa, it's a lentil beef stew/soup. It's seasoned with dill and normally served with yogurt. I left out the yogurt since the dill provided plenty of sour "tang". Although technically it's a soup it came out more like a indian "dal" curry dish as it's pretty thick so I served it with a bit of basmati rice. This is a great example of what I was talking about, the use of dill seems a lot more common in Afghan and Persian cuisines and tails off in usage as you move further east.

For a vegetable side I went with this Qorma e Shast e Arus, stewed okra. I fretted quite a bit over the okra slime factor and tried everything I could but ultimately I was unable to escape the dreaded slime effect. I'm not too bothered by the texture, in fact I kind of like the texture of stewed okra but I can see how it might be off-putting to a lot of people. I've seen quite a few variations on this including serving the okra whole (and avoiding the slime) but I chose to slice the okra to allow the side dish to actually fit in the box. Turmeric gives the dish a yellow tinge and outside of salt and pepper the only other spice used.

For dessert Kulche Birinjee which is a rice flour pistachio cookie. The texture of the cookie is very grainy due to the use of the courser rice flour. It's spiced with cardamom and turned out to be a pretty big hit. I brought in 60 extra cookies to work and they were gone within 10 mins. The original recipe called for a pretty short cooking time of 14 mins. I tried some at 18-19 mins which gave you a bit more crispy brown cookie which I think I prefer. Although not intentional, this bento turned out to be gluten free.

I have some travel coming up so hopefully I'll post a few more here soon. I'm hoping at some point I'll get to do another bento but the next few months don't look too promising.

Box Content

  • Mashawa
  • Qorma e Shast e Arus
  • Kulche Birinjee