Saturday, May 19, 2012

Let's Talk Triangoli.

There are some underrated foods out there. Foods so good you can eat them plain, and can dress them up however and they still taste fantastic. I've discovered Trader Giotto's Butternut Squash Triangoli, and their awesomeness is off the charts.

It's from Trader Joe's, and if you haven't already been there, make plans to go very soon. Possibly today, because it will be raining monday and tuesday like a bitch. (At least here in NY) Is it really from Italy? Is the produce really organic? Nobody knows because the company is notoriously tight-lipped about where they get their supplies. All I know is that I can get stuff like this, microwaveable falafel, spicy lobster sushi rolls, a pint of chocolate ice cream made from coconut milk, olive tapenade, pea sprouts, fruit leather, creamy almond butter and about two dozen other, gourmet-level items suffed into two large paper shopping bags, all for under $30. I mean, this is like the Whole Foods for hipsters with a hometown feel. It's always crowded as hell but the prices and quality of the foods are well worth it to me. As for whether the food is what they say it is, and from where they say it's from, a large part of me is willing to live in blissful ignorance for now.

As long as I get to make meals like this a few times a week:

That's what I had before work today, and it was awesome. Better than awesome. So simple to make too. 

1 Tbsp non-hydrogenated margarine, like Smart Balance
6 Butternut Squash Triangolis
1 1/2 cup raw Spinach
1 cup Pea shoots
Handful of cherry tomatoes, quartered
2 Tbsps Lime juice
1 Cup chopped Cilantro
1 Tbsp minced garlic
1 Tbsp Worcestershire sauce
1/2 cup chopped Cippolini onions. (in case you don't know what they look like, here's a pic.)

Just like the powder, they're really sweet and delicious. But watch out, they're just as caustic to chop as regular onions. If you can't find cippolinis, regular small yellow onions will do.

Boil the triangolis for about 3-5 minutes until soft. In the meantime, melt the margarine in a separate saute' pan. Add the onions, garlic and spinach. Stir until slightly caramelized and the spinach is wilted, about 3-4 minutes. Add the triangolis once they're done. Add the lime juice, cherry tomatoes, worcestershire sauce and cilantro. Saute' until blended and heated through, another 2-3 minutes. Add the pea sprouts raw when everything is arranged on the plate. You may add them to the pan the last minute or so to warm them up but they are best when crunchy. 

One package has about 3 servings worth of pasta in it, which means more awesome meals!

I made this earlier in the week. The only difference to this recipe is that it uses lemon juice, white wine, plum tomatoes, swiss chard and zucchini. Ugh, it came out so freakin' good. Eating like this is really helping me too. As of this week, I'm down to 165 lbs. Finally starting to see the shape I so enjoyed in my early 20's. I have about 20 lbs left to lose. Would you believe Tammy had me blown up to 220 lbs? At my height, it made me look like a sausage. *Shudders* I'll never go back. Thank you, Trader Joe's for showing me that good food doesn't always have to be steak and potatoes!

You should totally check them out.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Brown Rice And Beaners

Yeah, I had some leftover vegetarian beans from a small can I opened for something or other. Also made a fuckton of brown Rice for me to heat up during the week. Put the two together, sprinkle some fresh cilantro, onion or cippolini powder, adobo and lime juice... you got dinner. Or in my case, breakfast. I know I should probably be having more meat or greens with it, but truthfully this is about all I can stomach right now. Gimmie like 2 hours and I'll be craving a 7 course meal. LOL

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Filling Up On Veggies

This is the dish that has yet to be named. Its an accompaniment to frozen shrimp specially designed to fill me up hardcore and overload my body with soluble fiber which I know I'm not getting enough of. This is a haphazard, unplanned combination of bok choy, zucchini, squash, spinach, swiss chard, fresh chives, garlic, cilantro and scallions, sautéed in a mixture of white cooking wine, lemon juice, non-hydrogenated margarine,  worcestershire sauce and dried dill. I also have my ultimate secret weapon which I only added a dash of-- cippolini powder! If you've never tasted it, you don't know what you're missing!

Imagine onion powder, but ground much finer, with a taste so sweet - sweeter than shallots- so sweet you can candy five-alarm chili with it. I make a sweet, smoky chili to begin with so I can't wait to try making it using this! The challenging part will be if it tends to make normally savory dishes a little too sweet. Gotta find the right balance. I just got the damn thing yesterday, indulge a guy some time to experiment, would ya'??
Look at the bright side, you can laugh at me when I screw up. Now go eat your veggies, dammit.

Madison Square Eats...And So Do I.

I love being a foodie in NYC. If I was a foodie anywhere else, my gawd, it would be torture. I'd actually need to come here to experience real bagels, pizza, Chinese and Indian food anyway.

Although being in Maine does have it's benefits, if you recall the lobster roll post from 2010... I'll get back to that in a bit. May is an awesome month, isn't it? Mild weather, green markets galore and tons of edible events like Jamie Oliver's Food Revolution Day, coming up on the 19th, and Madison Square Eats on Broadway and 25th street in Manhattan's flatiron district. When I read about all the vendors that were going to be there in one place, serving their famous morsels to the public, I knew I had to try it out. And hell, it's been too damn long since I've done an excursion for this blog anyways.

I couldn't sleep at all so I just got up and went out. That's typical for me. And look, there it is from afar! Aren't you excited?? I sure was, I saw it from across the street, missed the light and wanted to spread my ass cheeks and fly across traffic.

Eventually, the light turned again and I made it. This is the entrance sign with a complete list of which vendors are available. Sadly, I was only allowing myself a couple small treats so I had to be very picky. And believe me... temptation was EVERYWHERE.


Well, no. I resisted. I may not like being hungry but I have complete control over what I allow to quell that hunger.

Thankfully, I'm not tempted by canolis because I don't like them. And yet I grew up in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn which is almost as Italian as Little Italy. (At least it was in those days) Go figure.

But BBQ Mexican? Yeah, now we're talkin'.

Despite it all being crammed so close together, there was quite a lot to choose from so I knew being good and sticking to my whole new healthy lifestyle would pose a serious challenge.

What shocked me more than anything was how ridiculously expensive everything was. A burger and fries $19. Soup $15. Personal pizza $14. Tons of other gourmet shit that ran as much as $25. This Chinese place was the cheapest place I saw, which is why I had to shoot it. Though... Chinese? I live near friggin' Little Chinatown, I could get that crap anytime. No, I made a special trip here and I was determined to get something I couldn't get anywhere else.

My solution? Macaroons. Not the mounds of shredded coconut, no. These are artisan, fancy shmancy french macaroons that I always hear about but are too expensive for me to afford. They have National Macaroon day sometime in Feb or March where they give these suckers away for free but I'm a fucknugget and I always miss it. So I've never tried them. I asked the lady at the Macaron Parlor which one I should try to break my cherry and she suggested a simple flavor like pistachio or caramel. Going with the pistachio flavor for a whopping $3.50... yes, for that little fucking pastry, they wanted $3.50 and I paid it like a schmuck. "Can't put a price on a new experience, right?" I told myself as I shelled out the cash, gritting my teeth like the stereotypical Jew.

Ladies and Gents, behold: the french macaroon. Sort of like a pretentious, gourmet whoopie pie for yuppie douchebags. There's real cream inside that little green sandwich. My first bite was misleading. For some strange reason I thought these things would be crunchy or at least gummy. But no, it was light and airy, like eating a little pistachio flavored cloud. I was however, slightly disappointed in the taste. I've had pistachio flavored things. There's this deli on New Utrecht avenue that sells the most mouthwatering, amazing pistachio muffin tops you'll ever have. But this? Meh, not impressed. Especially not for $3.50. They could at least pack a whollup of flavor into these little cakeballs. Still can't difinitively decide whether I liked it or not. For  the time being, I'm giving it a 3 out of 5 stars, equally because of the price and my astonishing underwhem-ment.

Now, onto the main course!

You remember back in 2010 I went with Tamara and her family to New England and tried Lobster for the first time in the form of one of these? It was really, really good. I was genuinely surprised at how good it was; it was like my tongue just got laid. Been longing to duplicate that ever since and knew a trip back to Maine was unlikely. So when I saw Red Hook's Lobster Pound stand was selling Lobster rolls Maine style, (which I guess includes lemon-infused mayonnaise) well, I went bonkers. Yeah, it was a hefty $16, but to have that taste again? I'd have probably paid $20.

I know exactly what you're going to say, and you're right. Much like having a Philly Cheesesteak from a Pakistani street cart in Montauk, it was not the same. It wasn't even in the same ballpark of the same. It wasn't even in same's hemisphere. If you can take a good look at what they did here, you will understand why. First of all, it didn't have that sweet, melt-in-your-mouth goodness the Maine lobster roll had. I couldn't taste it very much at all. The lemon was so subtle, it was practically absent. In fact, I couldn't taste anything over the loads of paprika they ladeled over the fucking thing.

The worst part was the sheer laziness of the chefs. That's supposed to be lobster SALAD. You're supposed to chop up the lobster in lobster SALAD. You wouldn't presume to serve tuna salad with giant dry chunks, would you?? As a result, this was difficult to eat. It was stringy, chewy and the citrus and mayo element didn't play any part in the taste at all. It was just big, dry chunks of bland fish that didn't even really taste like lobster. Tasted more like imitation lobster. That, and fucktons of that goddamn paprika. I was so disappointed. I'm giving it 1 out of 5 stars simply because it was barely edible. It didn't even quell my hunger. I'm actually pissed off at these people for unleashing such a horrible representation of this dish onto this world. And for $16??? For shame.

So.... whatever. Since I was angry, still very hungry and looking to finally be wowed by these supposed gourmet chefs already, I went back like a masochist and tried another stand. But since I shelled out so much for the first thing, I didn't have much left for another full meal. I saw a stand selling gourmet riceballs. Yeah, they were deep fried, but they were also like $4 and I was hoping the rice in them would finally settle my turbulent tummy.

The riceballs in the typical Brooklyn pizzaria don't look terribly different from this. They're about 2x bigger stuffed with ground beef, mozzarella cheese and sometimes even fresh peas, depending on where you go. This was actually quite refreshing. All the ones I initially picked were sold out so I chose one stuffed with pesto, paraesano cheese and sliced cherry tomatoes. I'm giving it a 4 out of 5 because the flavor was there, it was filling and easy to eat. Though I am taking a star off because deep fried is never good, and $4 for this little thing was a bit steep. Like I said, I could get one twice as big back in Brooklyn for half the price. I suppose the "gourmet" title affords you a certain level of price gouging, especially in Manhattan.

I had a few bucks leftover and I felt like I was finally on a winning streak, so I did something I don't usually do, which a few of you may find hard to believe.
Yeah, for those who don't know, I'm not much on frozen desserts. I like red bean ice cream from Japanese restaurants, but regular ice cream, especially soft serve makes me ill, I can't stand it. Likewise with most sherberts and shaved ices. I do recall liking those old frozen fruit bars I used to get from ice cream trucks. Do you remember those? I can't find pics of them on google. May not even be getting the name right. Oh well. Anyway, this was from a stand called People's Pops. It's strawberry rhubarb, made with organic, locally grown produce, yada yada, yackidy shmackidy, the whole hipster deal. All I know is, this wasn't bad. I rather enjoyed it, which is more than I can say for anything Haagen Daaz puts out. So yeah, 4 out of 5 stars for them too. If I was a huge fan of frozen fair, it would be a 5 out of 5. So far, the highest ranking item on the menu.

And I suppose if we were holding a contest here, they would be the winner. Just so happens it's dessert. Coincidence? Hmmmm.... maaayybeeee.

Would I go back? Sure, I have lots of other stuff to waste my money on, and lots more reviews to write! But before you go, I have a few more photos to show you, because my night didn't end there.

Inside Madison Square Park proper is a more permenant food stand. The line was ridiculously long, it was all greasy burgers, fries and shakes I couldn't have anyway, and I was now flat broke.

There was an..... um.... I guess an art exhibit of some sort. Can't really see because my camera sucks. It was too light for the flash and too dark for anything to come out clearly. Even if you could see, I doubt you'd be able to identify what these sculptures were supposed to be anyways.

Parodies of birds? Animals? WTF??

I know I went to art school and all, but that doesn't mean I will "get" every artist. And just because I don't "get" somebody work doesn't mean it's actually art. So I reiterate... yeah. WTF. Seriously, all I know is that whole portion of the park was inaccessable because of this bullshit.

Hurm. What's this? Drums, dancing, people holding signs, selling t-shirts and sleeping on the floor? Gotta be an occupy demonstration.

I must admit, I'm around the Union Square area a lot more often than I visit Madison Square. There's just more cool shit around here, like Maoz, Forbidden Planet, the Strand, Whole Foods and Trader Joe's. It's a hipster haven and yet, ya' can't argue that they know good shit when they see it. Also, just a short walk from St. Mark's Place, where I've been hanging out since I was like 13. lol

The demo was really cool though. It was ultra crowded and crazy loud. This dude was awesome, he draws all these posters and makes the t-shirts himself. I got a free hug, flyers, stickers and got hit up for money 3 times on my way through the park. I need to hand it to these guys. You can bash them all you want but they're fighting for all of us; anyone who looks at a $22 dish from a street cart and thinks, "are they out of their fucking minds?" Remember that the 1% owns the media so don't let them paint OWS as lazy, violent schitzo bums. They're warriors who have had their lives ripped apart by corporate greed. The Revolutionary War started off with protests and riots too. Without them, we'd all still be speaking the Queen's English. Show some love and respect.

 Oh yes, and weed. Can't forget the weed. Ever since Obama unleashed the petition bandwagon onto the American people, he's received more to legalize pot than anything else. Can you imagine getting this one in the mail? It's a giant... I'm guessing dropcloth? with hundreds of signatures on it. No, I didn't sign, they aren't going to legalize it no matter how many petitions they send because arrests for possession of weed accounts for something like 70% of police funding.

And what better way for me to bring this long-winded blog to a close than a bunch of rescue kittens? The woman who set this up gets these babies from the streets. They're left in the garbage, trapped in drainage pipes, inside walls, abandoned by their mother in alleyways, and she takes them all to her house and feeds them.

I gave her my last $1.35 because I'm a big sap for causes like this.

I mean, c'mon. Lookit that adorable little face. Wouldn't you??

Well, that's about it. Thanks for reading, and hope you enjoyed my culinary misadventure a lot more than I enjoyed that shitty lobster roll.