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Posts Tagged ‘Mexican’

In a couple of weeks, I’m making a big move and headed to a new apartment for the first time in three years.  Since the summer of 2009, I’ve called the Upper East Side of Manhattan home – and what a wonderful three years it has been. But as much as I’ve loved the wider sidewalks, quieter streets, and hop-skip-and-a-run to Central Park of my neighborhood, I’m looking forward to heading downtown for the next phase of my life.

In recent weeks, many a balmy evening or lazy saturday have been spent meandering around the streets of the Lower East Side (namely, Orchard Street), peeking into shops, grabbing a beer at the just-opened Landbrot, or noshing on cheap, delicious eats. If there’s one thing that LES has perfected, it’s the quick, no-frills, ten-dollar meal. From the Meatball Shop on one end of Rivington to Prosperity Dumpling on the other, you can have a satisfying, taste-bud-tingling meal for less than the standard $20 bill, which many New Yorkers have come to consider the new minimum tender. As I’ve become painfully sick of paying $9 for almonds at The Food Emporium, this neighborhood comes as a much-needed breath of fresh air.

And I already have my favorite spot. Ideally located within steps of our new pad, Taqueria Lower East Side  was first introduced to me by some friends who have reputations for being excellent Mexican food scouts. I stopped in Taqueria for a quick snack one afternoon – just a simple carnitas taco, setting me back just $2.50. What? Yes. And while my expectations were in line with the price tag, they were quickly flipped on their head – each of the five bites it took to down this  shredded pork taco were simply heavenly.

I’ve been back three times since then, and I haven’t even moved to the neighborhood yet. It’s just that good. I also can’t get enough of the cheesy West-Coast-Meets-80’s-Revival decor, or the fact that they play eclectic music while screening 80’s Tom Cruise movies on the flat screens over the bar.

Dinner at sunset on Saturday was spent noshing on Taqueria’s excellent guacamole, which I find to rival both Dos Caminos (my NYC restaurant standard), and my roommate’s guac (personal standard), especially since it is consumed with still-hot freshly made corn tortilla chips. And while at Market Price, usually around $7, it’s one of the pricier menu items, it’s also a hefty portion and sure to satisfy, with a spicy kick to boot.

Other menu favorites include the tacos, obviously. In order starting with the best, my favorite is the bistec (steak), followed by chorizo (hot sausage), carnitas (pork), and fish. But really, they’re all varying shades of excellent.

Steak Taco

Carnitas Taco

Fish Taco

I also love the Chicken flautas – shredded chicken encased in tightly wrapped, deep-fried corn tortillas, served on a bed of lettuce, green salsa, topped with cheese and drizzled with queso fresca. My better half, on the other hand, prefers the tostadas: a crispy flat corn tortilla topped with (in his case) shredded pork, lettuce, salsa, avocado, cheese and more queso fresca. The only down side is you have to eat it with a fork and knife.

To drink, the touted options include margaritas, house-made sangria, and Mexican beer. While the sangria is good, it’s not great, and a beer is just as authentic and refreshing, while a good bit cheaper. We were less inclined to fill up on drinks, as you quickly fill up on the food here, especially when guacamole is on the table.

Moral of the story? I’m already infatuated with Taqueria, and haven’t even moved on to the quesadillas, burritos, enchiladas, or sopas sections of the menu. Chances are high that this will be my new LES eatery of choice, and perhaps a nice change from my go-to pizza joint on the Upper East.

What are your favorite NYC cheap eateries? If you’re not living in NYC, what’s your favorite cheap eats spot in your city?

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Has it really been a week? Things have been busy around here… For the past week or so, I took a break from coming up with new and delicious recipes to prepare for something that, well, seemed like a good idea at the time! Let’s recap…

I’ve gotten pretty into running since finishing up culinary school earlier this year as a way to fill my newly freed-up weekday evenings (and balance out all the Pistachio-crusted beignets and Cheesy Stuffed Peppers I eat all weekend long). As such, thought it would be a good idea to motivate myself by signing up for an organized race event. After running a 4M in April, a 10K seemed the next logical step, and so I wound up spending most of last week try to run far, and fast, and freaking out that I would trip over my own feet or cramp up and fall over on race day.

Race day was Sunday. Thankfully none of those things happened. The race went relatively well, though I think that’s due in large part to the amazing group of runners that were running 10Ks, half-marathons, and marathons alongside me for the RxR Long Island Marathon. This completely inspirational group of people kept me motivated, excited, and having a blast throughout the entire six-point-two miles – especially the seventy-one year old man who beat me by over a minute! He ran ahead of me for most of the race and every time I looked up to see the back of his tee-shirt, which read, “I’m old and slow – get over it!” I couldn’t help but laugh. It was truly a great experience!

In addition to thousands of other runners and hilarious old men, these cheesy chicken enchiladas are also to thank for fueling Sunday’s success. My parents and I whipped these up, along with a refreshing, limey bowl of guacamole, homemade white flour tortilla chips (these beat out every other chip I’ve ever had!) and a light corn salad. It was a Cinco de Mayo meal to go down in history – so delicious, especially with a cerveza served along side – but then, I learned last summer how amazing these enchiladas are. You’ve gotta try them out!

So, as usual, it takes me a while to get to my point. My point is this – even though I’ve been running instead of recipe developing, I’ve still been doing a heck of a lot of cooking (and not just enchiladas)! Except this time, I’ve been relying on my Google Reader – my link to the food blogosphere – to find the best tasting recipes around. And two of them in particular were just two good NOT to share – so here they are!

First up is this incredibly luscious, slightly spicy, extremely exotic Thai Chicken Curry recipe from Saveur magazine. The recipe comes from the Las Vegas restaurant Lotus of Siam, which many consider to make the very best Thai food in the entire U.S. At home, I make Thai red curry dishes at least once a week (blame it on my coconut milk addiction) because they can be light in fat and calories while still packing huge flavor, and are easy to make with whatever veggies and protein you have on hand.

I was completely surprised, though, that this restaurant-caliber curry recipe was so easy to make! In fact, the simmering-broth method actually proved to be easier than how I have been making curries for weeks now. By simmering the coconut milk and curry paste together, the broth thickens and the flavors meld, giving you a rich, spoon-coating sauce for the chicken and vegetables. Full disclosure: I used Thai Kitchen’s red curry paste instead of Panang curry, as the recipe suggests (I couldn’t find it), and added in some red bell peppers, but the dish still came out beautifully. We served it along with a Spicy Thai Brown Rice Pilaf (recipe to come). Even if the idea of making Thai Curry seems overwhelming to you, I encourage you to give this recipe a shot. It’s straightforward and relatively foolproof – a great way to segue into Thai cooking!

The second fantastic recipe I wanted to share is this Lightened Up Vegan Sundried Tomato Basil Pesto from Angela over at Oh She Glows. Holy freaking yum! This popped up in my GReader yesterday morning, and even though I hadn’t even made it to lunch yet, I immediately started drooling and scribbled down the ingredients on a post-it to pick up after work. Adam and I were planning to have a date-night dinner and this seemed like the perfect dish (the boy loves his pesto)!

Well, this recipe did not disappoint. Not only did the pesto come together in a flash – five minutes! – but the flavors and consistency were dead on. This has all the basil, garlicky goodness of a traditional pesto, but with an excellent added tang and sweetness from the sundried tomatoes. The walnuts are a creative and well-matched spin on pesto’s traditional pine nuts, and with a few sprinkles of nutritional yeast, you definitely won’t miss the parmesan cheese. It also goes quite well with a glass (or two) of Pinot Grigio, I might add.

Pesto is actually one sauce I usually steer clear of since it can often be loaded with extra fat and calories from cheese, nuts and oil – but this pesto was light and super packed with flavor, meaning a little goes a long way! Angela’s recipe made about 3/4 of a cup (as stated on her blog), and I found this to be about six servings – two tablespoons was more than enough per serving of pasta. We tossed the pesto-pasta with some roasted asparagus, sauteed mushrooms and spinach, and pan-roasted chicken breast – what a delicious dinner. Thanks Angela for the awesome recipe!

One more thing I wanted to mention. For those in the NYC area, there’s a great food festival coming up weekend after next (May 19th – 20th) called The Great Googamooga (crazy name, I know)! This food / music / art festival is going to be held in Brooklyn’s Prospect Park, and will feature over 70 food vendors, beer, wine, and music, as well as prominent chefs, artists, and food personalities who will be doing demos, giving talks, and meeting fans. I believe Googamooga is still giving out the occasional free tickets and tickets are also available to buy. I’ll be attending and blogging about Googamooga – hope to see you all there!

Well, that’s all for now! Stay tuned for some more great recipes coming up this weekend…

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Last night, someone pretty special to me needed a little pick-me-up, and this meal did just the trick.

Packed with all the delicious flavor of Chipotle burrito bowls, but with fresh ingredients made in your very own kitchen, these DIY burrito bowls are a great healthy, filling, well-balanced meal – and let’s face it, who doesn’t love Chipotle?

Burrito bowls are always my meal of choice when I grab Chipotle for lunch because I’d much rather dig into their tangy, addicting cilantro-lime rice than get weighed down by a gigantic tortilla. Just my personal preference – but the ingredients in the burrito bowl below would go just as well in a soft tortilla or stuffed into a crunch corn taco shell.

And the best part? You can make this in the time it would take you to go to Chipotle, pick up your food, and come back – the whole thing comes together in just about thirty minutes.

Homemade Chipotle Burrito Bowls – Serves 4

Inspired by Chipotle

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of uncooked white long grain rice
  • 2 tablespoons of lime juice, plus two whole limes
  • 2 cups of chicken broth (or water)
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 1 can of black beans, rinsed
  • 2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 1 large onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 bell peppers, thinly sliced  (I used one red and one green)
  • 4 – 4 ounce boneless, skinless chicken breasts
  • 1 tsp chili powder
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1 avocado, flesh coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 small jalapeno, minced
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 1 tablesp0on of chopped cilantro
  • Kosher salt and crushed black pepper.

Method

1. In a rice cooker or saucepan, combine white rice, 2 tablespoons of lime juice, chicken broth (or water), and salt. If using a rice cooker, set it and forget it. If using a saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce to simmer, and cover. Cook for about 12 minutes, or until the rice is tender and the water is absorbed. Remove rice from heat and allow to sit, covered, for at least 5 minutes (but up to 30) undisturbed. Fluff before serving.

2. While rice is cooking, heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. Add the onions and peppers and cook, tossing every few minutes, for about 10 minutes or until the vegetables are tender and beginning to brown. Season with salt and pepper to taste, and remove from heat. Reserve.

3. If you have thicker chicken breast, slice them horizontally so they make two thinner chicken breasts. Mix the chili powder, cumin, and garlic powder to make a spice blend. Season chicken on both sides with salt, pepper, and sprinkle with spice blend.

4. Heat a large saute pan over medium-high heat and add 1 tablespoon of olive oil. When olive oil is hot (shimmering), add chicken breast to pan. Cook for about 2 minutes on each side or until cooked through. Remove from pan and allow to rest for five minutes before slicing.

5. Lastly, make the guacamole: combine avocado, jalapeno, garlic, 1 tsp of lime juice, and salt and pepper to taste. Mash with a fork or the bottom of a water-glass to desired consistency.

6. To serve, mix rice with cilantro and fluff well. In a bowl, start by layering 3/4 cup of cilantro-lime rice, followed by black beans, the fajita vegetables, and sliced chicken. Top with guacamole and serve with lime wedges. Goes especially well with a cerveza!

For a tropical twist on the traditional burrito bowl, try it with Mango-Cilantro Rice Pilaf

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The last few weeks of summer have been flying by in great galloping windows of time, between day-job business, learning the intricacies of Italian cuisine by night, and most recently, a weekend of forced relaxation brought on by Manhattan’s response to hurricane Irene. The city was all but shut down, with the subways and buses on hiatus until the storm had passed, rain beginning Saturday afternoon and pounding on into the night, making our city that never sleeps a veritable ghost town. At my own apartment, we stocked up, battened down, and waited for the rapidly downgrading storm to pass.

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Pass the storm did, rather quickly, and by Sunday afternoon Irene had left behind slightly sweeter smelling city air and a power-washed version of the Upper East side, despite the fallen branches and leaves plastered to curbs everywhere. The clearing skies drove us out of the house as soon as we could manage, increasingly eager to escape the cabin fever that had set in, strong and unsettling in only twenty-four hours.

The walk started out as a mission to explore any and all aftermath of the storm, but even the East River looked placid – so smooth it was almost glass-like with no boats out to ripple its surface. Once we acknowledged that there was little stimulation to be found in surveying Irene’s damage, the  most exciting development became the fact that grocery stores had reopened, and all talk turned to dinner (as per the usual). Savory seemed the order of the day, considering we had spent most of our “rained-in” period consuming two types of chocolate chip cookies, chocolate covered pretzels, and basically anything sweet we could get our hands on.

Twenty blocks of clean pavement later, we decided on enchiladas. Personally, the realization that I had never made enchiladas left me somewhat stunned (why don’t they teach this in culinary school?), and beyond that it’s seemed both a large enough and well-priced dish to feed myself, Adam, and both of our roommates, who were still bunkered down at the apartment from the overestimated hurricane lock-in.

A few hours later, after much experimenting, taste-testing, and finger-licking, the enchiladas were ready. We all grabbed plates, forks, and piled up with enchiladas and a few spoonfuls of on-the-fly mexican rice, and retreated to the couch to dig in (yes, couch, who has dinner tables in New York City?)

Before my first forkful of enchilada had even hit my lips, Cara piped up: “Wow. This is seriously one of the most delicious things I’ve had in a long time!” I took a bite, and was even more pleased with the result. These enchiladas were good – no, they were actually pretty darn great! It was silent in the living room as every chowed down, punctuated only by “mmmm”s of approval. Graham, for one, couldn’t stop thanking us for making the dinner as he inhaled two large enchiladas.

And at the end of the meal, Cara boldly declared the enchiladas one of, if not the best thing I’ve ever made, and showed me her clean plate. Then she followed up with “If I had a food blog, this is something I’d definitely be blogging about.”

Subtle? Nah. That’s just not our style.

Cheesy Chicken Enchiladas

Serves 3-4

Ingredients

  • 6 chicken thighs (note: use 1 rotisserie chicken for a quicker version)
  • Spice rub: 2 tsp cumin, 1 tsp chili powder, 1/2 tsp Cayenne pepper, 1 tsp smoked paprikia, 1 tsp kosher salt
  • 1/2 yellow onion, small dice
  • 1 clove of garlic, minced
  • 2 cans of enchilada sauce (such as Old El Paso 10-oz cans)
  • 1 small can of green chilis
  • 2 Tbsp of hot sauce (I love Cholula Garlic-Chili sauce)
  • 1 tsp of white wine vinegar
  • 1.5 cups of shredded mexican cheese
  • 8 10-inch white flour tortillas
  • 1 Tbsp Olive oil
  • Cumin, smoked paprika, and salt, to taste

Method

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Clean and dry the chicken thighs, and lay skin side up in a oven-safe pan. Peel back the skin, and apply spice rub liberally to each thigh. Fold the skin back over the spiced-flesh. Roast thighs for about 25 minutes or until cooked through (it’s best to leave them slightly under cooked since they’ll finish cooking in the sauce). Remove from oven and cool. (Note – for a faster version of this recipe, use a whole rotisserie chicken, skin removed, and shred the meat.)

While the chicken cools, heat a large skillet and add olive oil. Add the diced onion and saute until softened, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and cook until fragrant, about 1 minute more. Add the green chilis and saute until the mixture is slightly dry, about 2 more minutes. Add one can of enchilada sauce, hot sauce (to taste), and white wine vinegar to the pan. Simmer mixture until slightly thickened, about 10 minutes.

While the sauce is simmering, remove the skin and bone from chicken thighs and shred the meat using two forks to pull the meat apart. Add the shredded chicken to the reduced enchilada sauce. Toss the sauce well to combine, and season to taste with cumin, smoked paprika and salt. Continue cooking until the chicken mixture is very thick and moist, but not runny – if the filling for the enchilada is too wet, they will become soggy. Add half a cup of cheese to the chicken mixture and stir well to combine, until all the cheese has melted.

To make enchiladas, spray a medium casserole dish with cooking spray. Fill each of the 8 tortillas with an eighth of the chicken-cheese mixture, roll up the tortillas, and lay them in the casserole dish side by side. Place the enchiladas in the oven to toast up for about 10 – 15 minutes, or until the tortillas have begun to crisp slightly. Then, top the enchiladas with the remaining can of enchilada sauce (you can also jazz this up with cumin and smoked paprika if desired), and the remaining 1 cup of cheese.

Bake for about 15 to 20 minutes until the cheese is melted and bubbling. Serve hot with Mexican Rice (http://allrecipes.com/Recipe/mexican-rice-iii/detail.aspx), and use brown rice for a slightly healthier version. Proceed to enjoy your delish enchiladas – oh, and all the compliments your dinner guests will give you!!

The. End.

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