In the Mood For Love

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Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day

“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase passion and the mood for love – almonds, arugula, asparagus, avocado, bananas, basil, chilies, chocolate, coffee, figs, garlic, ginger, honey, nutmeg, oysters, pinenuts, raspberries, strawberries, black truffles, vanilla and wine, just to name a few.

Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is known to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red wine relaxes and stimulates the senses.

For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these love-ly passion-inspiring foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it one to remember!

Broiled Oysters with Fresh Herbs, Garlic and Cheese

Herbed Oysters


24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese


Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side. Pop open a bottle of your best bubbly and indulge with your honey.

Recipe adapted from

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin


2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper


Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini



1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini


Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs


Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)


Rinse short ribs under cold water and pat dry, season liberally with salt and pepper. Heat the olive oil in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place a few of the short ribs in the pan, being careful not to crowd them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides until they have a nice seared brown color. Transfer the meat to a plate and continue to cook the rest of the ribs. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season ribs with salt and pepper, and garnish with fresh parsley. Serve over rice, mashed potatoes, pasta or polenta. Indulge in a nice hearty red such as a Cabernet or Zinfandel or Shiraz which goes great with the chocolate and spicy flavors in this dish.

Recipe adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad


2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper


To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster


¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream


Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately. Prepare to swoon almost immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse


12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream


Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart


1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish


In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

Behind the Scenes with Energy Kitchen

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Healthy on the Go

Energy Kitchen
Energy Kitchen

Energy Kitchen is one of the fastest growing fast casual and healthy restaurant chains in New York City, and is quickly expanding down the East Coast. For those of you who haven’t tried a delicious meal here yet, you’re in for a tasty, healthy treat!

This isn’t your typical fast food restaurant where you can pick up a greasy burger, shake and fries for lunch – instead you’ll find healthy fast alternatives such as Bison Wraps and Turkey Burgers, Thai Chicken Wraps, Veggie Quesadillas or Turkey Meatloaf. Even their sides are healthy, including Steamed Broccoli, Mashed Sweet Potatoes, Black Bean and Mango Salad, Creamed Spinach with Tofu and more. They also offer healthy Soups and Salads, Breakfast Wraps and Smoothies for when you’re on the run but need a fast, delicious and healthy pick-me-up.

They truly live up to their motto: “Healthy on the Go”. Everything is Grilled, Steamed or Baked – Never Fried. All their drinks are low-calorie and salad dressings fat-free. And, everything on the menu is under 500 calories and reasonably priced (an average meal is around $12-13). How good can it get?

I had the opportunity to interview Anthony Leone, President/CEO of Energy Kitchen, as well as their Private Chef and Recipe Developer, Olivia Dupin, to get an insider view on their background, philosophy, company culture, and keys to success in the restaurant industry. I hope their stories will inspire you not only to become an Energy Kitchen fan as much as I am, but also to inspire anyone who has a love of healthy, delicious food and a desire to succeed as much as they do (which they clearly are and have done!) Enjoy the interview below!

Anthony Leone, President/CEO

Anthony Leone

AG: Can you tell me a little bit about yourself: background, education, career path, etc.?

AL: I have always had a passion for the food industry and eating healthy. I went to school for Hospitality Mgmt at FIU and have worked for Disney, and Boston Market. I decided to branch out on my own and develop a concept. Energy Kitchen was born. A place where everything on the menu is under 500 calories and we steam, bake, and grill everything – Nothing is fried! We plan on making Energy Kitchen the Pioneer and Leader of the healthy fast casual segment by opening 1,000 stores in 10 years!

AG: Can you tell me how Energy Kitchen got started and what prompted you to start your own business?

AL: I have always been entrepreneurial. Even when I worked for other concepts I would run them as my own.  I would be working in NYC and tried to eat healthy at local restaurants. What I noticed was that I was ordering healthy items, but the way they prepared their food was not good for you. I realized all calories are not created equal. One example was egg whites – the restaurants would put oil and butter on the grill to cook them. I said there has to be a better way of cooking and I know that there are so many other people that want to eat this way. That is how it started. I decided then to take a chance and have not looked back since.

AG: How did you fall into your partnership with Randy Schechter and later on with Mike Repole, founder of Vitamin Water?

AL: Randy was a friend for many years when I built my first restaurant. Randy would travel a half hour to come eat at that location. When I was looking to build another store Randy invested. He has since left corporate America and has been working with me for 6 years building the brand.

Mike was a customer before he was an investor. He would come in to eat. We would also deliver to his office in Whitestone from time to time. When he sold Vitamin Water to Coke he was out there looking for the next Billion Dollar Brand. He called me up. we met for dinner and hit it off. The partnership has been incredible.

AG: How has Energy Kitchen changed and grown since the beginning and what are your long term goals?

AL: We have grown by leaps and bound. When Mike came in we changed the look and feel of the concept from the stores to our branding. We added custom salad bars, made everything under 500 calories. We made all of our beverages low or no calories. Our goals are much bigger today than since the beginning.  I thought we could get this chain to 100 stores. With Mike aboard, our goal is 1,000 stores in 10 years.

AG: What are your main values and beliefs as a healthy fast food restaurant?

AL: We believe that Fast Food does not have to be Fat Food, and that you can eat great tasting meals without all the guilt. We believe that all calories are not created equal – that is why we Steam, Bake and Grill everything and our food is never fried. We want to change the eating habits of America with our Concept. It is really ‘Healthy Made Easy’.

AG: What are some current and/or new efforts that Energy Kitchen is working on in terms of new product development, promotions, sponsorships, charities, etc?

AL: We are always looking to improve our product. We are never content. We have just partnered with Olivia Dupin as our recipe developer and Robert Brace as our trainer extraordinaire. We are always looking to add value to our guests’ experiences by providing them with different tools so they can reach their goals.

AG: How large is your staff and what qualities do you look for in an EK employee?

AL: Our staff in the stores average about 15 people per store. Our corporate office has 10 people working in it. I look for 4 things when it comes to employees. Attitude, this is something that is innate and that cannot be taught. Skill, toward their particular focus. Will, the attitude of whatever it takes to get the job done. And a great smile, it is infectious.

AG: Can you describe a typical day and responsibilities as CEO of Energy Kitchen?

AL: It varies from day to day. Some days I am out in the field getting feedback from our guests and employees. Other days I am in the office meeting future franchisees (I want to meet everyone that comes into the company) telling them about our vision. It really depends on the day.

AG: What are some of the challenges of running and growing a restaurant chain/franchise?

AL: As we get bigger, having the guest experience the same quality and service every time has been a challenge. We have instituted systems to ensure that we are following specific procedures to try to eliminate those errors. If there are mistakes making sure the customer is satisfied at the end of their visit. I would rather make a mistake than miss an opportunity.

AG: What do you like most about what you do? Least?

AL: I love our concept and really enjoy all aspects of the business.

AG: What do you see as some of the current and upcoming trends in the food and restaurant industry?

AL: In a New Yorker’s fast-paced lifestyle, they want something that is ‘Healthy on the Go’.  It needs to be good for them, quick, but they do not want to compromise taste. At Energy Kitchen they know they can get a great meal and the piece of mind knowing that all the calorie counts are posted.

  1. We Only Serve Low Calorie Beverages
  2. We Do Not Cook with Oil Or Butter
  3. We really are ‘Fast Food Without The Guilt’
  4. They have recently asked for fiber on our nutritional chart and we have added it

AG: Do you have any words of advice for people considering a similar career?

AL: 1. Be Passionate on what you do. 2. Take your time hiring the best people with different skill sets. 3. Do not ever give up your dream. 4. Keep the end in mind. 5. Try to be like a turtle, soft on the inside, hard on the outside, and willing to stick your neck out!

AG: What is your proudest accomplishment?

AL: On our website we have a section called Love Letters. I really enjoy when I hear guests say how Energy Kitchen has helped them lose weight, reach their health goals, etc. It is very gratifying knowing that we were able to have a positive influence on people’s lives.

AG: Lastly, what is your favorite dish at Energy Kitchen and why?

AL: I really love all the food at our restaurants. But, if I had to pick one it would be our Energy Burger. It is a bison burger, topped with three egg whites and low-fat mozzarella cheese. It is making my mouth water as I speak!

Olivia Dupin, EK Recipe Developer

Olivia Dupin

AG: Can you tell me a little bit about your background and how you got started at Energy Kitchen as a Recipe Developer?

OD: I’ve wanted to be a chef since I was a little girl.  I used to play restaurant -cooking actual meals at home and with my friends at their houses.  I have always loved to eat, so learning to cook just felt natural.  Right after high school I enrolled at The Culinary Institute of America, and have been working in the industry ever since.

I got involved with Energy Kitchen when I interviewed with Mike Repole to be his private chef.  It wouldn’t have worked logistically since I live far from his home, so he asked if I would be interested in doing recipe development for Energy Kitchen instead. Then I met with Anthony, and brought him some samples of dishes that I thought would be good additions to the menu.  The corn and edamame salad I brought him is on the menu today!

AG: What are your specific responsibilities and what are some current efforts you are working on at EK?

OD: I’m responsible for developing new, healthy menu items on-trend with what’s happening in the world of food.  Everything is grilled, baked or steamed, but that doesn’t mean it has to taste “healthy”.

Right now I’m really excited to be developing recipes for Energy Kitchen’s website, too:  They are simple, nutritious dishes under 500 calories that people can cook in their own kitchens.

AG: What is the process for recipe testing and development? Do you develop recipes from scratch or adapt them from previous ones you’ve developed? How do you test them to make sure they are aligned to Energy Kitchen’s standards of being low fat, healthy and under 500 calories? Can you explain that a bit more?

OD: When I’m working on something new, sometimes I will start with a basic recipe, and then find ways to tweak it and make it healthier or more exciting.  Or, I develop recipes from scratch and, by trial and error, get them to a place where I am happy with them.  From there I use basic nutritional software to get a rough estimate of calories/fat etc. to make sure that they align with the nutritional standards of EK.  Then, once Anthony and everyone at EK are happy with the final product, we send the actual food to a lab to be tested for exact nutritional analysis.  Finally, I write up the recipe with detailed instructions and exact ingredient measurements and take step-by-step photos for the training manuals.

AG: What do you see as some of the current and upcoming trends in the food and restaurant industry? Are there any culinary trends that you are incorporating into the food and recipes you are developing for EK?

OD: I love that people are becoming more aware of the foods they eat, how they are prepared and what is actually in them.  I think that’s why people come back to Energy Kitchen – we make it easy to be good to yourself. Also, I think the food industry is becoming more conscious of people’s dietary restrictions, and catering to them rather than treating them as a nuisance.  I have Celiac Disease so I can’t eat gluten.  I love that Energy Kitchen has so many great options for those who eat gluten-free, low-carb, vegetarian, etc.

AG: How many people do you work with and where do you test and develop and cook?

OD: As far as the actual development goes, I work by myself – I think in a lot of ways I am the demographic we strive to please at EK.  I’m a busy professional trying to make healthy choices when I’m on the go.  Primarily I work on location in one of Energy Kitchen’s beautiful restaurant kitchens, or I’ll test at home in my kitchen.  I like working in the stores because it gives me a chance to see if a potential menu item is really practical for the scale of production, space and equipment of the restaurants.

AG: What are the challenges you run into being a private chef and recipe developer and what do you love most about what you do?

OD: Being a private chef comes with its own list of challenges.  Food is very emotional for people, and when you are working in someone’s home and preparing food for someone’s family or their honored guests, it’s very personal.  You have to listen to your clients and anticipate their needs – the biggest challenge is developing that intuition.

As a recipe developer, it is kind of the same thing.  It’s translating the ideas and concepts of the company into the food.

What I love most about what I do is that I get to see people eating and enjoying the food I’ve created, and know that I had a hand in making a healthy choice a little easier for them.

AG: Do you need to have prior hands-on cooking experience as a chef to get into recipe testing and development or is this something a person can grow into/learn?

OD: I think cooking experience is a must – you have to be comfortable in the kitchen and familiar with all types of ingredients and techniques.  I was lucky enough to sort of fall into recipe development a few years back.  I was working as a private chef and one of my clients was writing a cookbook with healthy meals for children/families.  She loved the foods I was preparing and asked if she could use some of the recipes in her book.  I learned a lot watching that cookbook come together and made some great connections to people who were willing to teach me even more.

AG: Do you have any words of advice for people considering a similar career?

OD: Love it. Being a chef has definitely been glamorized, but it’s really hard, and often really un-glamorous. You can’t do it if you don’t love it.  Also, eat everything!  I learn so much by eating!

AG: What is your proudest accomplishment?

OD: Once, I was on my way into the city for a meeting.  It was rush hour and the train was full of people reading that free daily paper they give out on the street.  I sat down and noticed that on the back of every paper was an Energy Kitchen ad featuring the newest burger we’d developed.  I think that’s when it really hit me – people all over New York City are eating my creations!  It was the best subway ride I’ve ever had.

AG: Lastly, what is your favorite dish at Energy Kitchen and why?

OD: I love all the sides, but my favorite dish is definitely the creamed spinach.  It’s garlicky and rich and feels like comfort food.

The following is one of many tasty and healthy recipes that Olivia has developed for Energy Kitchen (you can find more of them on
their Facebook page in the Recipes tab and also on Olivia’s Blog, “Liv Gluten-Free“):

Thai Pineapple “Fried” Rice with Shrimp

  • 1 teaspoon olive oil or coconut oil
  • 1 cup broccoli florets
  • 1 cup cubed red bell pepper
  • 1/2 cup chopped white onion
  • 6 medium peeled deveined shrimp, tails removed and sliced lengthwise in half
  • 1 1/2 cups cooked brown rice
  • 1 cup cubed pineapple
  • 1/2 cup cubed light, firm tofu
  • 1/4 cup basil leaves, torn into pieces
  • 1 tablespoon reduced sodium soy sauce
  • 1 tablespoon Thai red curry paste
  • 1 tablespoon fish sauce
  • 1 tablespoon roasted peanuts, chopped

Preheat a large sauté pan over high heat. Meanwhile, combine the soy sauce, red curry paste, and fish sauce in a small bowl and set aside.

Add the oil to the sauté pan and when the oil starts to glisten, add the broccoli, pepper, and onion. Cook 1-2 minutes, until the broccoli turns bright green, then add the shrimp. Sauté, stirring occasionally until the shrimp curl and turn pink, about 3-4 more minutes.

Add the rice, pineapple, tofu, basil, and soy sauce mixture to the pan. Stir occasionally until the mixture is heated through, approximately 3 minutes. Divide onto 2 plates and garnish with the chopped peanuts. Serve immediately.

Serves 2.

Nutrition Information (all nutrition information is approximate)
Nutrition Per Serving

  • Calories: 375
  • Total Fat: 7.7 grams
  • Dietary Fiber: 8 grams
  • Protein: 16.8 grams

Energy Kitchen has multiple locations all over New York City. Read more about them (or order online!) at their website or become a fan on Facebook for weekly and monthly specials at and on Twitter (@Energy_Kitchen)

Feeling Lucky with Korilla BBQ

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Killa Korilla Korean BBQ


Today was one of those days where I looked up at the time and it’s 2:30 and I still haven’t eaten lunch. Maybe the massive New York toasted bagel and cream cheese I ate for breakfast had something to do with it or the fact that it’s Friday and everything seems to be off schedule for some reason.

So I went for a walk around the block to see what I was actually in the mood for today and couldn’t find a darn thing that even sounded appealing. Soup or Chili? Nah, plenty of soup days to come with this NEVERENDING Winter we seem to be experiencing in NYC. Mexican? Nah. Too filling and carb-loaded that I might just have a food coma and fall asleep on my keyboard when I get back to work. Indian? Nah, just had Chicken Tikka Masala a couple of days ago. Another Deli sandwich and a Diet Coke? Nah, I think I might just slit my wrists or die of boredom if that is the only thing I can come up with for an exciting lunch on a Friday afternoon.

Freezing, annoyed and a little discouraged that I couldn’t just find something I really wanted (considering I was still starving even after my bagel and coffee), I stumbled upon this Korean BBQ Food truck that had quite a few people in line, some funky graphics on the menu to explain what the hell they actually serve in that food truck that was so darn appealing, and three young Korean guys inside, with caps and arty glasses and smiles on their faces. (You know, the Williamsburg, Brooklyn foodie types). One of them saw the confused look on my face as I was staring and trying to understand the menu choices and lured me in with a “Just step in line, we’ll help you figure it out”. Then one of the customers that was leaving said “I don’t know what the heck it is, but it’s freaking amazing”. OK – I was intrigued, SOLD.

Feeling Lucky Chosun Bowl

I impulsively said “I’ll have what he’s having” and it turned out to be one of their “I’m Feeling Lucky” Chosun Bowls. “Pick your meat”, he said. “OK, I’ll take the Pulled Pork”, I said. “What kind of rice do you want?”, he replied. “I’ll take the B.K.F.R. – bacon kimchi fried rice”, I said, that sounded pretty darn good. Then he scooted me down the assembly line and added a random assortment of pickled kimchi and mountain wild veggies (bellflower root, soybean sprouts, pickled cucumber, shredded carrots, pickles, mung sprouts and who knows what else), and a sprinkle of shredded Cheddar cheese (which seemed peculiar, but hey who can resist a little cheese on anything?). He topped off the intriguing bowl of ingredients with some scallions, spinach and Korean squash and then added a healthy squeeze of Korean hot sauce. “Oh, and you can add some of the Korilla K’illa Extra Hot Sauce too, please!”, I chimed. For a reasonable 8 bucks, I had a decent, healthy lunch.

I walked back to my office wondering what the heck I just got myself into, feeling intrigued yet excited to dig in. Upon first bite, I was in LOVE. The Chosun Bowl was a great combination of hot and cool, savory and sour, crunchy, spicy and tangy flavors, packed with crisp, pickled veggies surrounding the tender BBQ smoked pork over the savory bacony rice. The hot sauce gave it a kick of flavor and zing that woke up my tastebuds (and motivation to hit the water cooler not soon after!)

Upon completion of my mysterious yet delicious Korean lunch on a Friday afternoon, I was “feeling lucky”, very lucky, due to my newfound food find, indeed.

Korilla BBQ has a variety of other menu items including other bowls, burritos and tacos made your way. They use choice meats, organic veggies and fresh ingredients too, which is evident once you taste a bite of this awesome BBQ. You can find these guys in their Killa Korilla Food Truck in various locations around New York City (just check them out online at for the menu and locations or follow them on Twitter @KorillaBBQ

A Taste of Tuscany

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Eggplant Crostini

Tuscany is probably one of the most beautiful and scenic regions of Italy and the most popular places to visit, known for its rolling hills, mesmerizing sunsets,  rustic landscapes, vineyards, farmhouses and olive groves. I have not had the opportunity to visit there yet, but I love the cuisine and it’s first on my list when I plan my next trip to Italy (hopefully sometime next year!)

Tuscan cuisine is a simple and earthy way of cooking, which centers around fresh and local ingredients from the farming region such as olive oil, greens, poultry, beans, beef, pork, rabbit, lamb, and sausages. Crostini is a famous antipasti which are little toasted breads spread with toppings such as olive tapenade or chicken liver pates. Bruschetta is also a popular antipasti made with rustic bread, fresh chopped tomatoes and garlic. Other popular dishes from the area are Panzanella (bread salad), Minestrone soup, Pasta Fagiole (cannelloni bean and pasta soup) and Ribollita.

Because of the ample farm land in Tuscany and areas surrounding Florence, there is a large production of olive oil, grapes and wine, and a variety of fruits and vegetables and herbs such as pears, oranges, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, wild mushrooms, artichokes, asparagus, spinach and beans – all main ingredients in Tuscan cooking. Risotto is an earthy dish that incorporates many of these vegetables and cheeses from the region. Fennel is another ingredient often used in salad and sautéed with meat dishes. In Florence, Pecorino (a salty sheep’s milk cheese) tends to have herbs, garlic and red pepper added for flavor and is served shaved in salads or as cut in chunks served with grapes, olives and rustic breads like Foccacia bread with rosemary and olive oil.

Almond and Anise Biscotti and Oranges in Marsala Glaze are standard desserts and most of the wine that originates in the area is Chianti, aged in small oak barrels. Another popular white wine is Vernaccia, ranging from light and crisp to full-bodied, made in a small medieval town known as San Gimignano.

The following is a sampling of some of my favorite Tuscan recipes that use rustic and earthy ingredients originating from a Tuscan Cooking class I took at the Institute of Culinary Education in NYC. If you’re interested in learning more about Tuscan cooking there are a variety of cookbooks sold online, as well as cooking excursions in Tuscany with local chefs and other sites dedicated to Tuscan cooking.

Mushroom Risotto

Wild Mushroom Risotto

Mushroom stock:

½ lb. cremini mushrooms

½ lb. white button mushrooms

½ lb. shitake mushrooms

2 quarts chicken stock

½ c. dried porcini mushrooms

4 tbsp butter

3 oz. Madeira wine


3 tbsp butter

2 shallots, finely minced

4 c. Arborio rice

¾ c. white wine

Mushroom stock (reserved)

1 tbsp. minced chives

1 tbsp. Italian parsley

¼ c. grated Pecorino Romano

Salt and freshly ground black pepper

To make the mushroom stock, wash and trim the stems of the fresh mushrooms. Reserve the stems and slice the mushroom caps for use later in the recipe. (Make sure to dust of the dirt first and don’t soak the mushrooms).

Combine the chicken stock, stems, dried porcini mushrooms in a medium saucepan. Bring to a boil, turn down to a simmer, and cook for 30 minutes over low heat. Strain through a cheesecloth and reserve the liquid for the risotto.

Heat a large sauté pan and add 4 tbsp of butter. Add the sliced mushrooms and sauté until browned. Deglaze the Madeira and reduce until almost all the liquid has evaporated. Reserve the mushrooms. (Try to let the Madeira glaze sit, don’t stir).

For the risotto, heat a wide pot or rondeau (flat bottom pot with tall sides) over medium-high heat and add 2 tbsp butter. Add the shallots and sauté until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add the rice and stir the mixture together to coat the rice with the shallots and butter.

Add the white wine, lower the heat and cook, stirring constantly, until the wine has evaporated. Begin adding the mushroom stock, a large ladleful at a time. Continue to add the mushroom stock (slowly and continuously), stirring constantly until the rice is just cooked through and all the stock has been absorbed, about 20 mins. The rice should be slightly al dente but have a creamy consistency and not dry.

Stir in the reserved mushrooms, the remaining tablespoon of butter, chives, and parsley. Top off the risotto with Pecorino Romano and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Serves 6.

Pork Chops with Fennel

Pork Chops with Olives and Fennel

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil

4 cloves garlic, crushed

4 pork rib chops, bone in

Salt and black pepper to taste

1 tbsp. fennel seeds, crushed

1 c. white wine

2 fennel bulbs, cored and quartered or cut into eighths

6 plum tomatoes, peeled, seeded, roughly chopped

¼ c. Gaeta olives, pitted

1 spring rosemary

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet with sides over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook until it turns brown, and remove the garlic. Season the pork chops with salt and add them to the pan. Cook until one side is brown, then turn and brown the other side. Remove and reserve until later. Add the fennel seeds to the pan and cook for 1 minute (toast them lightly to release oils and flavor, watch closely to not  burn them).

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with wine. Return the pan to the heat and cook until wine nearly evaporates. Add the fennel pieces, tomatoes, olives and rosemary.

Bring the liquid to a simmer and add the pork chops back to the pan. Cover the pan and cook for 15-20 minutes more or until the internal temperature reaches 150 degrees F. Remove the chops and if liquid is too runny, reduce until it coats the back of a spoon.

This recipe can also be made with veal chops, and for extra flavor and to ensure juicy chops that won’t dry out, soak them in a brine overnight made out of 2 quarts of water, 1 cup of sugar and 1 cup of salt and throw in some chopped up herbs such as rosemary or thyme.

Makes 4 servings.

Pollo alla Toscana

Pollo alla Toscana (Tuscan Chicken)

2 c. dried navy beans, soaked overnight (or canned beans drained and rinsed)

1/3 c. diced slab bacon or pancetta

2 (4 lb.) chickens, cut up into 8 pieces each

Salt and freshly ground pepper

Flour for dredging

1 medium yellow onion, diced small

2 celery ribs, diced small

1 garlic clove, minced

1 cup white wine (dry and crisp, such as Chablis)

2 sprigs fresh thyme

1 tsp. freshly minced rosemary

3 canned plum tomatoes, chopped

2 tbsp freshly minced parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Drain and rinse the soaked beans. Discard the liquid.

In a medium saucepan, over high heat, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add the rinsed and soaked beans. Cook them until they are soft, but not mushy. Drain the beans, but reserve the cooking liquid.

Cook the bacon in a large rondeau or Dutch oven until just browned. Using a slotted spoon put the bacon on paper towels to drain, reserving the fat in the pan.

Pat the chicken pieces dry, season with salt and papper and dredge in flour, shaking off any excess. Heat the bacon fat over high heat and when it is hot, add the chicken and cook, in batches, turning the pieces once, until the skin becomes golden brown and crisp. Remove the chicken and set aside.

Add the onions, celery and garlic and cook until the onions are translucent, about 5 minutes.

Remove the pan from the heat and deglaze with the wine. Return the pan to the heat and bring it to a boil, scraping up the brown bits from the bottom of the pan and reduce by 1/3. Return the chicken and bacon to the pan, add the beans, thyme, rosemary, tomatoes, and 2 cups of the reserved beans cooking liquid (liquid should come half way up the pan, use more or less accordingly). Cover, place in the oven and cook for about 40 minutes, until the chicken is no longer pink and most of the liquid has absorbed. You may have to add more liquid if it looks dry.

Season with salt and papper to taste and garnish with parsley.

Makes 8 servings.

Cipolline Onions

Cipolline Agro Dolce (Caramelized Cipolline Onions)

2 lbs. Cippoline onions

6 tbsp sugar

½ c. red wine vinegar

8 sage leaves

¾ c. extra-virgin olive oil

Salt to taste

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Prepare a large bowl of ice water and set aside.

Blanch the onions for 2 minutes in boiling water. With a slotted spoon, immediately remove the onions and place them in ice water. Remove when cool and peel removing the stem and first layer of skin.

In a large baking dish, mix the onions, sugar, vinegar, sage, olive oil, and salt making sure that onions are coated evenly (this makes a lot of liquid so you don’t need to use it all).

Bake in the oven for approx. 60 mins, or until the onions are well caramelized. Make sure to turn the onions and watch them while in the oven, taking care to not let them burn.

Makes 6 servings.

Pear and Fennel Salad

Pear and Fennel Salad

2 fennel bulbs, cored and cut into thin slices

8 cups mixed salad greens (red leaf, Bibb, Boston and Radiccio), washed and dried

Salt and freshly ground pepper

1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Freshly squeezed juice of 1 lemon

3 red Bartlett or Bosc pears, cut in half, cored and thinly sliced

Combine the fennel with the salad greens. Refrigerate until ready to toss.

When ready to toss, add the salt and pepper, olive oil and lemon juice. Toss gently and arrange on individual plates or a platter. Top with the pear slices and serve.

Makes 6 servings.

Glazed Oranges and Biscotti

Oranges in Marsala Glaze

6 large navel oranges, peeled and pith removed (save one peel with pith removed)

¼ c. sugar

¾ c. sweet Marsala wine

½ c. Cointreau (orange liqueur)

12 mint leaves

In a small saucepan with boiling water, simmer the orange peel over high heat for 5 mins; drain and set aside. When cool, slice into julienne strips.

Separate each orange into sections, removing all membrane between sections. Place sectioned oranges in a large bowl, cover and chill.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar, Marsala, and Cointreau. Bring to a boil over medium heat until the mixture has reduced by half or until it becomes syrupy. Add orange peel strips to the syrup and chill. To serve, spoon orange sections into individual dessert dishes. Top with Marsala glaze. Garnish with mint leaves.

Tip: this dessert is delicious topped over Vanilla ice cream and served with Almond and Anise biscotti on the side.

Makes 6 servings.

Other Tuscan recipes you might enjoy:

Panzanella (Bread Salad)

Peach Bellini

Crostini with Roasted Eggplant

Olive Tapenade

Chicken Liver Pate

Pasta e Fagioli


Ribollita (Bread Soup)

Bistecca alla Florentine (Tuscan Steak)

Almond and Anise Biscotti

There’s No Place Like Home

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Growing up I always associated food with a sense of comfort, warmth, fulfillment and stability. This is something I attribute to my Mom’s home-cooked meals and nights around the dinner table with my family as we discussed the events of our day, bonded through sharing the heartwarming, delicious meals together and after the meal was done, cleaned the kitchen with our Mom and bonded by watching a television show together before going to bed and getting ready for school the next day. Mom would make Pot Roast with Mashed Potatoes and Green Beans, homemade Lasagna with a salad and garlic bread, Grandma’s Beet Soup with homemade Polish potato noodles, or a yummy, savory Meatloaf with Mushroom Gravy – these were all of our favorites and also heirloom recipes that were handed down from my grandparents and generations past.

That was a long time ago, or so it seems, and since those days I have lived in numerous cities and another country, and still cherish enjoying good food with good people. But nothing compares to those home cooked meals and the sense of comfort they gave me when I was young – those days gave me a solid ground to stand on for life.

One gloomy, dark day last January, I was cooped up in my tiny New York studio apartment feeling completely miserable from the freezing cold weather and had a serious case of the Winter blues. I felt an undying urge to make a home-cooked meal like Mom used to make to cheer me up and get me out of the dismal mood I couldn’t seem to shake. New York can do that to you sometimes – it is one of the greatest cities in the world, but can also take you to the depths of darkness on those dark, freezing, nasty days in the middle of Winter. That day I decided to go on a quest for Comfort. Something warm. Something cozy. Something heartwarming. Something that would fill my soul and renew my spirit.

My head started spinning, and I immediately felt energized and motivated with this new task at hand. What would cheer me up and transport me back in time? After furiously searching through all of my recipes, I found the perfect remedy to ail my blues – a big whopping batch of luscious Macaroni and Cheese. Not just an ordinary one (like the kind you get in a blue box with packets of dried chemical-laden cheese dust), but one that called for some delicious gourmet ingredients to take this kid-friendly recipe and turn it into a serious pot of adult-sized comfort.

I hopped in a cab to Zabars on the Upper West Side with thrill and anticipation. The freezing rain was coming down sideways and beat against the windows. Once I arrived, I headed straight for the Cheese department and was in my glory with their selection of international cheeses that pierce your nose as soon as you walk in the door. I picked up a creamy Italian Mascarpone, some fresh grated Parmesan Reggiano, a chunk of Gruyere and a block of Fontina. Then I found some fresh garlic, real cream, prime European butter, smoked thick cut bacon and of course, imported Italian pasta and this was a recipe for a mean Mac and Cheese.

I prepped my ingredients and carefully crafted my dish of gourmet deliciousness. The pot was brimming with a melted creamy cheese concoction and I poured the luscious ingredients into my baking dish, watching with anticipation as the warm, savory smells filled my kitchen. After an hour of waiting anxiously to savor my creation, I scooped up the bubbly goodness into a bowl and upon tasting the first bite with its brown crispy crust and tangy creamy cheese, was transported back to a time of comfort and bliss, when I didn’t have a care in the world, a simpler time and place that seemed long gone from today in my stressful, fast-paced city life.

Who cares about the weather, I thought – I had arrived. I was home.

Artisanal Macaroni and Cheese


4 slices of bacon or prosciutto, cooked and crumbled
5 ½ tablespoons butter
¼ cup plus 2 tbsp all purpose flour
¾ cup panko breadcrumbs
¼ cup Parmigiano-Reggiano
cheese, grated, plus ½ cup for cheese sauce
2 cups whole milk
1 cup heavy cream
4 ½ tsp Kosher salt
Fresh ground white pepper
Dash of nutmeg
Dash of cayenne
1 ½ cups Gruyere or Comte, grated (from 5 ½ ounces)
1 cup Fontina, chopped into small pieces
½ cup Mascarpone
1 ½ cups dry pasta (macaroni, penne or your choice)
¼ cup fresh parsley, chopped fine


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Pour the water into a 3-quart pot and bring to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, cook the bacon or prosciutto, drain and crumble and set aside.

Melt 2 1/2 tablespoons of the butter over low heat. Add the breadcrumbs and ¼ cup of Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, toss well, and set aside.

Put the remaining three tablespoons butter in a 2-quart, heavy-bottomed saucepan and melt it over low heat. Add the flour and cook for five minutes, whisking constantly, being careful not to let the flour burn. Pour in the milk and cook for five minutes, whisking or stirring with a wooden spoon. Add the salt, white pepper, Gruyère, Fontina, Mascarpone and ½ cup of Parmesan cheeses, dashes of nutmeg and cayenne, and continue to whisk until the cheese is melted and incorporated. Remove the pot from the heat.

Add 1 tablespoon of salt and the pasta to the boiling water and cook until al dente, approximately 8 minutes. Drain the macaroni in a colander and add it to the pot with the cheese sauce. Add crumbed bacon or prosciutto and mix well with a wooden spoon.

Pour the macaroni mixture into an 8-inch by 8-inch baking dish. Sprinkle the breadcrumb mixture evenly over the top of the macaroni and cheese. Bake until golden brown and bubbly, approximately 30-35 minutes. Serve hot and garnish with fresh parsley.

Serves 4 as a side dish. For a main course, double the recipe, serve with a green salad and a glass of wine.

On The Menu: Roasted Chicken w/ Pinot Noir Sauce and Garlic-Smashed Potatoes

chicken pinot noir
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chicken pinot noir

Whenever I have a day off, I normally feel the urge to sleep the entire day and forget the world. After thoroughly cleaning my apartment, getting my laundry together and paying bills all afternoon, I worked up a healthy appetite for a really nice dinner.

However, after exhausting all my energy on mundane activities all day, I wanted to make something simple but delicious, and a dish that I could make with all of the ingredients I had on hand: chicken, wine, garlic and potatoes. The thought of actually having to leave my apartment to go to the grocery store and expending more of my precious energy walking up four flights of stairs bewildered me.

I found a recipe for Roasted Chicken Breast with Pinot Noir sauce and Garlic Smashed Potatoes and decided to give it try because it sounded interesting (red wine sauce on chicken?) yet elegant. The chicken came out absolutely perfect; crispy on the outside and juicy on the inside – flavored with rosemary and thyme, and sauteed in a light, seasoned searing flour before roasting in the oven giving it a nice browned flavor. The wine sauce is the trickiest part – you want to cook down the wine in the sauce until it turns into a thick glaze and watch it so it doesn’t burn, stirring often.

The potatoes were pretty amazing – buttery, garlicky, crispy on top but creamy underneath the browned crust. The recipe suggests topping the potatoes with sour cream and chives when serving which I omitted, but instead I added a drizzle of Wegman’s basting oil, flavored with garlic, thyme and parsley on top before I put them in the broiler to give them a little extra flavor and crispier crunch.

I highly recommend a glass of red wine to accompany – and a side of crisp sauteed green beans or sugar snap peas for some extra veg. All in all, it turned out to be the perfect meal for a perfectly exhausting day off.

Roasted Chicken Breast with Pinot Noir Sauce


2  teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
1/2  teaspoon salt, divided
1/2  teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, divided
1/2  teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
8  (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
1/4  cup searing flour
1  tablespoon olive oil, divided
Cooking spray
3  tablespoons finely chopped shallots
2  cups pinot noir
1 1/2  cups fat-free, lower-sodium chicken broth
3/4  teaspoon sugar
3  tablespoons chilled butter, cut into small pieces


1. Preheat oven to 425°.

2. Sprinkle thyme, 1/4 teaspoon salt, 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and rosemary evenly over chicken. Dredge chicken in flour; shake off excess flour. Heat 1 1/2 teaspoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add 4 chicken breast halves to pan; cook 2 minutes or until browned. Turn chicken over; cook 1 minute. Remove chicken from pan. Repeat procedure with remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil and remaining chicken. Arrange chicken in a single layer on the rack of a roasting pan coated with cooking spray; place rack in pan. Bake at 425° for 12 minutes or until a thermometer inserted into thickest part of chicken registers 160°. Remove from oven. Cover and let stand 10 minutes.

3. Heat a medium saucepan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add shallots to saucepan; sauté 30 seconds, stirring frequently. Stir in wine, scraping pan to loosen browned bits. Increase heat to high; bring to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until wine is reduced to 1 cup. Add broth; cook 16 minutes or until broth mixture is reduced to 1/3 cup. Remove from heat; stir in remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt, remaining 1/4 teaspoon pepper, and sugar. Gradually add butter, stirring constantly with a whisk until smooth. Serve sauce with chicken.

Serves 8.

Recipe adapted from Cooking Light Magazine

garlic smashed potatoes

Garlic Smashed Potatoes


1 3/4 pounds small unpeeled Yukon Gold potatoes (about 16), scrubbed
6 large garlic cloves, peeled
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) butter
1/2 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives
1-2 tablespoons Wegman’s Herb Basting Oil, for garnish


Generously butter glass pie dish. Cook potatoes and garlic in medium pot of boiling salted water until potatoes are tender, about 15 minutes. Drain; let stand 5 minutes. Discard garlic. Arrange potatoes close together in prepared dish. Using wooden spoon, smash potatoes coarsely until they split open. Drizzle with oil; dot with butter. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Preheat broiler. Broil potatoes until crisp and golden, watching closely to avoid burning, 8 to 10 minutes. Top with dollops of sour cream; sprinkle with chives.

Serves 6.

Source: Bon Appetit, Feb 2009

Throwdown! A Quest for the Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

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Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Spaghetti and Meatballs. Such an unassuming yet classic Italian dish. And who doesn’t love it? Everyone seems to have their own recipe – not only for the sauce, but for the type of pasta they prefer and of course the meatball is the key ingredient that makes or breaks the dish – at least in my opinion. I was never too fussy about sauce in the past, but as I’ve grown in my culinary tastes and techniques (and the influence of my Italian boyfriend), I’ve come to like a simple tomato sauce made with nothing but tomato and basil and garlic and a dash of olive oil, salt and pepper. As far as pasta goes, I’m pretty open minded, but when it comes to meatballs – it either needs to be classic spaghetti or a rotini pasta, something with an edge or ridges that hold the sauce.

Now here comes the tricky part: the perfect meatball. I have had some of the most delicious meatballs in my life and some that more resembled old sponges than the delightfully bouncy and rich texture I think a humble meatball deserves. Not to mention the flavor – a bland meatball is about as pleasing as a piece of cardboard. It’s all about the ingredients that go inside that make it or break it.

So the other night I decided to go on a quest for the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe and after carefully researching my options, dug up a recipe by Bobby Flay, another by Molly Wizenberg, and another from my Williams and Sonoma cookbook “Comfort Food” (which I am cooking my way through this Winter so expect quite a few comforting recipes on my blog in the next few months!)

recipe throwdown

I analyzed each recipe with a fine tooth comb; and they were all similar but different enough to be unique and have a flavor of their own. Two used pork and veal and beef for the meatballs, one used just ground beef and pork. One called for a cup of finely ground Parmesan cheese, two fresh grated cheese. Molly cooked her meatballs in the sauce, Bobby fried his in a pan and then finished cooking them in the sauce, and Williams-Sonoma baked their meatballs in the oven first and finished them in the sauce. The sauces were varyingly different versions of a Marinara, one used red wine and a bay leaf, one used only tomatoes, butter, onions and salt and the other used a small cubano chile for some extra kick.


After comparing all my options, I created my own version (based on what I thought would work for me in terms of flavor and what I had on hand!) I have posted links to the original recipes at the end of my post if you’d like to check them out for yourself, but mine takes the ingredients from three brilliant chefs/authors/culinary legends and makes the perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs recipe. Mission complete!

San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce

1 large can Tuttorosso Crushed Tomatoes with Basil
1 tablespoon tomato paste
2-3 tbsp olive oil
2 tbsp crushed garlic (or 2 cloves, minced)
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp. Kosher or Sea salt
¼ tsp. Fresh ground pepper


1 lb. ground beef
1 lb. ground pork
½ c. panko breadcrumbs
¼ c. milk
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
2 large eggs
2 tbsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tbsp)
¼ c. finely chopped fresh Italian parsley
½ tsp. garlic and parsley salt
½ tsp. Kosher or sea salt
¼ tsp. fresh ground pepper

16 oz. San Marzano Tomato and Basil Marinara Sauce

1 lb. pasta (of your choice)


sauteed garlic

Measure 2 tbsp of olive oil and sauté minced garlic in a pan for about 1 minute until soft and lightly golden (not to high of a heat or the garlic will burn). Remove from the heat and let the garlic cool.

panko breadcrumbs

In the meantime, mix the breadcrumbs with the milk and let stand 10 minutes until moistened.

Parmesan, Parsley and Garlic

Chop fresh parsley, measure garlic and parmesan cheese.

Egg, Parsley, Cheese

In a separate mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs, garlic and parsley, cheese, salt and pepper until combined.

Meat Mixture and Breadcrumbs

Add the beef and pork to the egg mixture and gently mix until ingredients are combined, slowly mix in the breadcrumbs to the meat mixture using a claw-like gesture with your hands. Do not overmix. Chill in the refrigerator for up to an hour (at least 15-20 minutes).

Meatball prep

After the meat mixture has chilled, roll the meatballs into golfball size balls (should make about 20 meatballs) and arrange on a pan.

Sauteed Meatballs

Heat ½ c. olive oil in a large metal pan over high heat and add the meatballs, frying until golden brown, turning to cook all sides evenly. Drain on a baking sheet lined with paper towels.

meatballs simmering in sauce

Add the meatballs (and any scraped up browned bits from the meatball pan) to the Dutch oven into the tomato sauce (recipe follows) and cover. Simmer on low heat for about 20-30 minutes until meatballs are cooked through.



To make the tomato and basil marinara sauce, heat 2 tbsp olive oil and sauté garlic over very low heat in a medium sauce pan until slightly golden.

Tuttorosso crushed tomatoes

Pour the Tuttorosso Tomato and Basil Crushed tomatoes into the sauce pan, adding tomato paste and dry ingredients (garlic, salt and pepper, oregano, basil) and top off sauce with another tablespoon of olive oil. Simmer over low heat for about 30 minutes (don’t overstir).

San Marzano Tomato and Basil sauce

When the sauce is done simmering, add to the Dutch oven, mixing with the additional sauce and meatballs and let simmer on low for another 5-10 minutes. While the sauce and meatballs are simmering, cook your pasta in salted boiling water (and a dash of olive oil) until al dente, about 8-10 minutes.

Perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs

Drain pasta and serve in serving bowls, topped with the meatballs and sauce. Garnish with additional grated parmesan cheese and minced parsley if desired and serve with a bold red wine and some crusty garlic bread (recipe below).

Now THIS, indeed, is the most perfect Spaghetti and Meatballs I’ve ever had – Mangia!

Serves 4-6.


Garlic Bread

Cut up some Italian bread and add butter and a sprinkle of some garlic and parsley salt. Bake in the oven on 350-400 until toasty and golden brown. Crunchy, garlicky – so good!


Bobby Flay’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bobby Flay’s Throwdown cookbook)

Molly Wizenberg’s Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Bon Appetit Magazine, October 2010)

Williams-Sonoma Spaghetti and Meatballs (source: Comfort Food: Warm and Homey, Rich and Hearty cookbook)

An Everyday, Ordinary Dish – Reinvented

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Real Sloppy Joes

Sloppy Joes

Ever since I got my new Williams-Sonoma cookbook, “Comfort Food”
for Christmas, I decided that Winter is a perfect time for staying in and
cooking and pursuing some comfort amidst the freezing and dismal
weather outside. So I’ve decided to cook my way through the book over
the next few months, and found a recipe for Sloppy Joes – a dish I haven’t
had in a looongg time. In fact, I think I’ve only tried them a handful of times
– growing up when my Mom wanted to make a quick dinner but something
tasty and savory.

Cookbook Recipe

Sloppy Joes have definitely gotten a bad rap, but this version ups the ante and
puts them back on the map for a delicious quick dish you can make on a weeknight
that’s hearty and spicy and filling. The ingredients are simple and basic: ground
beef, onions, peppers, celery and the sauce is a spicy-sweet tomato sauce that is
tangy and savory and just too good!


Since I wasn’t able to find bottled chili sauce, I made my own by using 3 parts ketchup
to 1 part Chili-Garlic sauce and a small amount of Sriracha sauce (you can find both of
these in an Asian supermarket). I also added a dash of onion salt and a dash of Paula
Deen’s House seasoning
and a dash of Tony Chachere’s Creole seasoning to add a little
extra spice and layer of flavors. If you want to make them a bit spicier, throw in a small
amount of chopped green chiles. Also, if you’re using frozen meat and defrosting it, make
sure it’s completely defrosted before cooking, or you’ll need to omit the ¼ c. of water that
the recipe calls for, otherwise the mixture will become too watery.

The key to making a delicious Sloppy Joe is to have a perfect balance between tangy, spicy
and sweet – not too tomatoey and not too sweet like a BBQ sauce. Also, the flavors meld
together as time goes on, so they actually taste better the next day! They are easy to make
and you’ll have leftovers for a few days if you’re eating for one or two. Serve these guys on
toasted buns with some melted cheese and a side of chips or fries. Mmmm-good!


Canola Oil, 1 tbsp
Yellow Onions, 1, diced
Celery, 1 stalk, diced
Green bell pepper, 1, finely diced
Ground Beef, 1.5 lbs
Tomato Sauce, 1 c
Ketchup-style chili sauce, ½ c.
Worcestershire Sauce, 1 tbsp
Dijon Mustard, 1 tbsp
Cider Vinegar, 1 tbsp
Light Brown Sugar, 1 tbsp firmly packed
Kosher Salt, 1 tsp
Fresh ground pepper, ¼ tsp
Sesame-seed or Whole Wheat Sandwich buns, 6 split, toasted


onions and peppers

In a large frying pan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, and bell
pepper and cook, stirring occasionally, until the onion softens, about 5 minutes.

sauteed ingredients in sauce

Add the beef and increase the heat to medium-high. Cook, stirring and breaking up
the beef with a wooden spoon, until it is no longer pink, about 10 minutes.

cooking flavors together

Stir in ¼ c. water, the tomato sauce, chili sauce, Worcestershire sauce, mustard, vinegar,
sugar, salt and pepper and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer,
stirring frequently, for about 20 minutes to blend the flavors.

Sloppy Joes

Toast the buns. Place the bottom halves of the buns, cut side up, on warmed individual plates
and top with the beef mixture, dividing it equally. Cover with the bun tops and serve right away.

Makes 6 sandwiches

Best Brunch in Town!

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Clinton Street Baking Company


Best Brunch in Town! I can’t believe I’ve lived in NYC for over 5 years
and I haven’t tried this amazing little spot on the Lower East Side yet.
Originally opened in 2001 as an artisanal baked goods spot by husband
and wife team Neil Kleinberg and DeDe Lahman, this popular brunch spot
has become a favorite among New Yorkers and famous for their blueberry
pancakes and delicious homemade comfort food menu.

Baked Goods

Their baked goods spread is impressive, including pies, muffins,
cookies and tarts and the atmosphere is busy and buzzing – a sure
sign of good food in New York City!


My friend and I visited yesterday and despite the long wait had
the best brunch we’ve had in a long time. I ordered the Crispy
Smoked Bacon and Potato Pancakes which were perfectly crisped
to a golden brown and served with a delicious side of homemade
apple sauce and a cinnamon sour cream that complemented the
tart apples and crunchy, golden pancakes.


Potato Pancakes

My friend ordered the Banana Walnut pancakes which were
stacked to the ceiling, topped with sliced fresh bananas and
walnuts and served with a side of warm maple butter to top
the fluffy cakes off. So delicious!

Banana Walnut Pancakes

Their menu is well rounded with Breakfast, Sandwiches,
Soups, Salads, Burgers, Pizzas, Quesadillas, as well as a
variety of delicious Main Dishes such as Braised Short Ribs,
Grilled Chicken, Crab Cakes and Shrimp and Grits. They also
serve lunch and dinner (delivery and takeout!), their featured
dish on Wednesdays is Fried Chicken and Waffles! Gotta go
back for those!


They recently released their own cookbook, and make
custom birthday cakes to boot! This place has a comfy
diner-like atmosphere in a hip location with comfort
food to die for. Definitely worth a trip next time you are
in the LES in New York City!


4 Clinton Street, New York, NY 10002  | 646.602.6263

The Last Supper: Gutsch’s Linguine

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As the New Year begins, so do New Years resolutions. Some of them we keep, some of them we don’t, but one of them we universally all decide is to eat healthier and shed a few pounds from all the holiday gatherings and fat-laden food. So, back to reality it is. Starting tomorrow. Holiday over. Back to work. Back to the gym. A pledge to living healthier, eating healthier and cooking healthier. A fresh start for the New Year. For my last hoorah, I decided to make one last supper before the regimen begins: Gutsch’s Linguine and Clams. Bacon. Butter. Pasta. Clams. Delicious melt-in-your-mouth flavor and OMG – so not a diet friendly dish. But you know what? You might as well enjoy your Last Supper and go all out, so that I did. And I enjoyed every last bite of it.

Gutsch’s Linguine and Clams

Makes 2-4 servings

4-5 slices of bacon, cut ¼” strips
1/8 c. sliced green onions
1 clove garlic, minced
3 tbsp. butter
1 – 6.5 oz can chopped clams (or baby whole clams)
¼ c. sliced black olives
1/8 c. snipped parsley
1/16 tsp. black pepper
6 oz. Linguine

Cook bacon in a large skillet until crisp and drain, reserving 1/8 c. drippings in the skillet. Set bacon aside.

Cook onion and garlic in drippings until tender, not brown. Stir in butter until melted**. Drain clams, reserving liquid.

Add clams, bacon, olives, parsley and black pepper and stir together.

Add half of the reserved clam liquid, heat through and keep hot over low heat**. Meanwhile, cook linguine and drain. Mix together with the clam mixture in the pan and place in a warm serving bowl. Top the pasta additional parsley for garnish.

Serve this dish with a green salad, crisp white wine and some crusty Italian bread. Delish!!

**You can also throw a little white wine in with the clam liquid and let it simmer down and substitute olive oil for the butter if desired.

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