Category Archives: seafood

Big Night Dinner

People say there’s no place like New York, but there’s really no place like New York when the weather starts to warm up. Summertime in the city calls for long days in Central Park, open-air restaurants, and my personal favorite: rooftops. Two years ago I was lucky enough to befriend some guys who have a private rooftop — now we’re pretty much family, and cook out on that very roof multiple times a week. After the first balmy grill night a few weeks ago, I knew I had to bring back weekly EVOOs ASAP — plus I have the time since I just graduated and don’t have full-time employment yet. So, this really is a big night dinner: bringing back consistent EVOOs with a menu of Brandy and Orange Chicken Topped with Stuffed Shrimp, Fruited White and Wild Rice, and a Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert. Let’s get cooking!

Mikella and I woke up on Memorial Day to sublime weather: it was 80 degrees outside with not a cloud in the sky. When it’s this nice outside hopping on the subway feels like a sin, so we decided to walk down to Chelsea Market. After an awesome, and slightly sweaty 25 block walk, we arrived at my all-time favorite fish market: The Lobster Place. I constantly rave about this place — trust me, you won’t find fresher seafood anywhere in Manhattan. We picked up eight jumbo shrimp and a tin of lump crab meat, then made our way to Trader Joe’s to continue our ingredient hunt.

We walked to the Trader Joe’s in Chelsea, and it brought me a lot of nostalgia — the Chelsea TJ’s was my first go-to when I moved to NYC…maybe it’s weird to get nostalgic over a Trader Joe’s but I’m a sentimental person, so let me be! We quickly found every item on our list…almost. I knew coffee ice cream was probably going to be a toughie to find here, and I was correct. Joe: you have the oddest ice cream flavors, why no coffee???

Due to TJ’s lack of ice cream, we made a quick stop to Fairway, then headed home.

As we were getting ready to walk over to our friends’ apartment (312) I realized my maple syrup was moldy….I didn’t even know syrup could get moldy. We needed syrup for the dessert, and no one at 312 had any, so we stopped at a bodega along the way. I have one question: why is maple syrup so expensive?! $10 for a tiny bottle is a bit ridiculous, don’t ya think?

We arrived at 312 to quite a sight: four hungover degenerates laying on the couch. The apartment had yet to be cleaned from the night before, and I was not about to cook in a grimy kitchen (guys if your reading this, sorry, but your kitchen freaks me out). Luckily my bud Christy lives across the hall and had a spotless kitchen! I prefer to have everyone assist in cooking, but I knew it was best to let the boys continue to be couch potatoes. Just Mikella and I were the master chefs of the evening.

Mikella is not very fond of raw meats, so I put her in charge of the rice dish. we chopped our respective ingredients, then she was the rice wizard while I handled the stuffing for the shrimp. The aromas of onion, pepper, and crab meat sizzling in olive oil and butter were mouthwatering. What’s stuffing without a little toasted bread too? What was supposed to be toasted bread turned out to be crispy bread (yes, there’s a difference) because I didn’t realize how quickly the toaster oven heated up. Mix a small kitchen with a girl trying to save toast and you end up burned: my one injury from the night.

I recovered quickly and let Mikella take over stuffing duties because I butterflied the shrimp. I probably should have watched a video on how to butterfly, because it was difficult, and I’m 100% positive I did not do it correctly… oh well. Once my shrimp were..uh..slightly cut, I attempted to stuff them, but they were definitely not stuffed. All of the stuffing fell out and was just sort of laying beside the shrimps. I proceeded to throw it all in the oven and hope for the best.

While the shrimp baked, I cooked the chicken. The chicken breasts we bought were some of the biggest I have ever seen in my life — I’m telling you, we got three that could feed 10 people (and they did). Due to their size, it took longer than usual to fully cook. After about 22 minutes, the chicken was tender and juicy. I promptly threw together the sauce: brandy, butter, and a bit of orange zest, then topped off our chicken.

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Once we finished our preparation, we took everything to the roof and called for the couch zombies to come eat. We all piled our plates high and had our moment of truth.

3..2..1…First bites like this are one of the many reasons I love doing EVOO. Like bitch, I MADE THAT! The shrimp, wow. Cooked to perfection and topped with buttery, delicious stuffing. Now that was amazing! It was so good I got a little greedy and took a second shrimp (sorry to whoever didn’t get to try this bite of heaven). The chicken was delightfully moist and had a citrusy hint thanks to the sauce. I was really surprised at the rice: a blend of white and wild rice dotted with golden raisins, mandarin oranges, and almonds — items you wouldn’t think would go with rice, but made a pleasant, slightly sweet mixture. I had two servings it was so yummy.

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Once everyone finished dinner, Mikella and I grabbed all of the dessert items, and spooned out coffee sundaes for everyone. A few scoops of coffee ice cream, topped with almonds and peanuts, drizzled with maple syrup, and garnished with cookie sticks — simple yet beautiful.

My tastebuds were pleasantly surprised by this dessert — I don’t particularly care for the taste of coffee, but this tasted like caramel! I’m convinced it was the syrup that made all the difference. Rachael Ray isn’t the most creative when it comes to desserts, but this one was simple and spectacular.

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Now time for the ratings. The Brandy and Orange Chicken receives ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. This wasn’t bad, but wasn’t astounding — just another chicken dish with a hint of citrus. The Stuffed Shrimp receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dish may not have exactly been stuffed shrimp, but whatever it ended up being was over-the-top GOOD. I would’ve eaten every shrimp, but it would’ve been unfair to hog all that delicious perfection. The Fruited White and Wild Rice receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Typically you expect rice dishes to be savory, but the lightly sweet rice was unexpected in a good way, and really balanced the flavors of the other courses well. Finally, the Maple Nut Coffee Ice Cream Dessert receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I consider this an adult twist on the classic ice cream sundae. No alcohol was involved, but the coffee and maple flavors just seem more mature than vanilla and chocolate. This is a dessert I’m going to indulge in all summer.

No matter what the activity — eating, exercising, socializing — it’s always better under and open sky. Thank goodness it’s summer so I can do all those activities in the fresh…well semi-fresh air of New York City. Next time you eat outside, stop to savor all flavors in your mouth and the people around you. I promise, you’re going to want to remember these moments for a very long time.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

 

 

Passport to Sicily

The only thing I miss terribly about Italy is the food — eating endless pasta for 9 months was delightful…until I stepped on the scale. I’m disappointed in myself since I really only tried pasta while I was abroad — I didn’t explore other Italian specialties such as the many varieties of salads and meat dishes. Thanks to Rachael Ray, though, I can now try a few delicacies thanks to this menu. This menu consists of Olive Rosemary Crostini, Pesce Spada Rollotini (Rolled Swordfish) and Fennel Slaw Salad. Let’s get cooking!

This past week I headed to my very rural hometown in Pennsylvania to have some downtime with my family before school started. My dad always enjoys evooing with me, so we decided to take on these recipes together.

I ventured to good old Giant Eagle on Friday to pick up all of the ingredients. Johnstown is so small that it doesn’t have a Trader Joe’s — it’s tragic. Giant Eagle isn’t too bad, though. Finding all the produce was easy, but I did have to substitute fennel for bok choy… this town is so small I knew I wouldn’t be able to find fennel anywhere. I almost had a perfect run here, but I was being picky. I wanted to buy fresh swordfish instead of frozen, so I went on a mad hunt around town for it.

My next stop was Walmart, which I should’ve known would be a bust because, let’s be real, Walmart isn’t classy enough to carry fresh fish. My last option was to drive 20 minutes to the opposite side of town and try my luck at the other Giant Eagle in Westmont. Once again, I was let down, and had to settle on frozen swordfish. I should’ve seen this coming from the start.

This meal was super important because not only was my immediate family eating, but my grandma Honkus was coming too, and I really wanted to impress her with my cooking skills (I don’t think she even knew I could cook). When she arrived I told her dad and I were preparing a special meal for her, then we all headed into the kitchen to get down to business.

Dad and I started with the slaw salad — we chopped up all of the vegetables: bok choy, radicchio lettuce, scallions, and parsley, and threw that in a bowl together. We let that sit while we each worked on our respective recipes. I put dad in charge of the crostini while I handled the swordfish.

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The first thing I had to do with the swordfish steaks was pound them until they were as thin as possible. I’m not going to lie, I had been looking forward to pounding this fish all week — it was a stress filled week, and this was a great way to let go of all my pent up tension. Next, I mixed the breading which consisted of bread crumbs, lemon zest, parsley & garlic. I covered the fish until they were fully coated, then rolled them up into tight bundles. Finally, the rollups were placed on the stove and cooked for 6 minutes total.

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While the fish cooked, I went back to the slaw salad, and added the few finishing touches: golden raisins soaked in orange juice, pine nuts, olive oil & balsamic vinegar. Dad handled the crostinis beautifully, and everything was ready to eat at the same time!

As a family, we sat down for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… Magnifico! The first bite of swordfish melted in my mouth. It was almost everyone’s first ever bite of swordfish, and everyone loved it. The crostini was the perfect side dish — bread is an absolute necessity. Since it was topped with fragrant herbs and olives, it was taken to a whole different level of tasty. The slaw salad was also a pleasant surprise. Slaw has always freaked me out, but this was refreshing and much needed with a heavy meal. Grandma kept saying how impressed she was with every dish — that’s when you know everything was good.

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Now time for the ratings. The Olive Rosemary Crostini receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Personally, I am not a big fan of olives, but they were perfectly prepared in this bread spread. Every herb complimented each other perfectly. The only thing holding this dish back from 5 hearts is the fact that it was just a tad bit too salty, but other than that, it was fabulous. Next, the Rolled Swordfish receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Swordfish is such an underrated fish, and every time I’ve made it, I’ve fallen more in love with it. The breading made for a crispy outside, with a tender, meaty inside. It was simply delicious. Finally, the Fennel Slaw Salad receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. It was a shame that I wasn’t able to find fennel, but this was still a winning dish. As I stated above, the vegetables really balanced out a rather heavy meal. The slaw did have a slight bitter taste that I think would’ve been less prominent if all of the juices and vinegar were given a chance to sit and combine a little while longer.

It was great to impress Grandma today…and I’m totally fine with her thinking that this was a meal I learned to cook while in Italy. What she doesn’t understand about evoo won’t hurt her. I hope to surprise her with my cooking skills for many more years to come.

Until next week!

Mary Honkus

 

Lemon Heaven

I can’t believe it’s already that time of year where it is 100% acceptable to eat double your body weight in turkey, stuffing, and mashed potatoes. Really, Thanksgiving is such an underrated holiday — and when I say underrated I’m talking about all those people who go straight from Halloween to Christmas (screw you) — But I also mean underrated because it is just now hitting me that I won’t be eating all of those age old delicacies since I am still in Florence. I figured I’d still cook this holiday, even if it wasn’t Thanksgiving food. So for my mini Friendsgiving day feast I decided to make it into an evoo extravaganza by making Broiled Cod and Amalfi-Coast Lemon Linguini. Let’s get cooking!

This grocery adventure started at the Central Market. After a weird fish experience at Conad, I knew that I had to go to a *trusted* place for fresh fish. Stef and I wandered through the market looking for the fish vendors who sold cod, or merluzzo in Italian. I was a little apprehensive to ask the vendor for it, because I was afraid I wouldn’t ask for the correct thing when I spoke Italian. I managed to choke out “Un kilo merluzzo.” The vendor happily weighed out my fish, and even gave me a one euro discount. Feeling accomplished was an understatement — I was ecstatic that I managed to order my fish in Italian. That was my first win of the day.

Next we marched over to Conad for the other ingredients. I was that annoying vlogger on this food adventure because I needed to film something for my youtube channel. So, we went around the store filming my ingredients and what not. I was pumped because I found every single ingredient at Conad, and to make it even better, the total was only 10 euros! Happy thanksgiving to me!!! I went home exceptionally satisfied with today’s shopping experience.

Fast forward to around 6pm. I decided to start the cooking prep a little bit before everyone arrived. My first task was to prepare the fish fillets. When I unboxed my cod, I realized that the vendor gave me the big hunk with the whole spine still in the fish. I had no idea how to debone a fish, and it was near impossible for me to do. I basically went full barbarian on the fish attempting to make edible fillets from it. I think I did a decent job, but after a while I simply gave up. I was the only one eating the fish anyways, so its not like I needed a large amount.

Claire arrived as I was seasoning the fish with butter and mayo.

We both diligently worked in the kitchen. I took care of the lemon sauce, while she sautéed a hodgepodge of vegetables. I was a little nervous that the lemon sauce would be too lemon-y since the recipe called for the juice of 4 lemons and the zest of 3, but as always I try not to question Rachel Ray.

This meal really did only take 30 minutes to make! The pasta was ready in a jiffy, and the fish was cooked through in 6 minutes. Ashley arrived with the wine just as I was setting the table.

After a long day, or should I say week of working on homework, we were so excited for the first relaxing bit of our day: The moment of truth. 3..2..1…Hold up. Can I redo this moment of truth over and over again? This pasta was literally out of this world! All of us were speechless. I love lemons, but this took the fruit to a whole new level. The cod was also a perfect complement to this pasta. I made a full kilo of linguini, and the three of us powered through the pot like it was nothing. Absolutely freaking amazing.

Saoirse arrived about an hour later, and we really had to hold ourselves back from devouring all of the pasta. I know she was thankful that we restrained ourselves.

Now time for the rating. without a doubt the Broiled Cod and Amalfi-Coast Lemon Linguini receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts, but in reality it broke my scale. I dare to say that this pasta dish may have been the BEST pasta I’ve had since being in Italy. I know that if I made this in the US there would have been a dramatic difference — Italy is known for their lemons, and the US just doesn’t even compete in the lemon department. I need to try a restaurant’s lemon pasta now to see how it compares….but either way lemon pasta is now my favorite type of pasta in the world!

I’m totally okay with the fact that I didn’t have a traditional Thanksgiving this year. Although it was weird at first, it ended up being one of the best Thanksgivings ever. I learned a very valuable life lesson today: When life gives you lemons, make lemon pasta!

Fino alla prossima settimana! (Until next week!)

-Mary Honkus

Go Fish!

I have had summer on my mind for months — not just the weather, but summer food as well. I imagine having some freshly caught seafood on the shore accompanied by a nice refreshing salad… Okay the salad part was a lie, I rarely like salad… But, with summer right around the corner, tonight’s menu is giving us a little taste of summer nights to come. On tap for tonight is Swordfish Kebabs with Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad. Let’s get cooking!

I knew today (Monday) was going to be a very busy day. I somehow was able to squeeze in my grocery shopping after my classes were done at 2. I only needed to pick up a lemon, an onion, arugula, and swordfish — aka the smallest evoo shopping list in the history of this blog!! Since I was already at school I just walked 3 blocks down to Whole Foods where I was able to find Every. Single. Item.. Even swordfish! But I didn’t buy the swordfish there. Why didn’t I buy it? Because after Whole Foods I went down the the Lobster Place seafood market inside Chelsea Market. This is the only place I will buy seafood because I know it will be guaranteed fresh — they never disappoint!

After I picked up the fish I stopped by Bowery Kitchen Supply for metal skewers. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any, so I reluctantly settled for the wooden ones. The only reason I was reluctant about wooden skewers was because we are cooking the fish using the broiler, and I just imagined the skewers catching fire…well I guess we’ll just have to see tonight!

Fast forward to tonight. This is the first evoo EVER that is taking place in someone else’s apartment…and the second ever date night evoo. We all remember how the last date night evoo went: I never saw the guy again…maybe because I’m too demanding in the kitchen? Who knows, I just hope this adventure doesn’t end the same as the last one.

I arrived at Sergio’s place, and was greeted by Sneakers the pup. (Little backstory, I met Sergio through an app…but not a dating app. Oh no, we met through a dog walking app because I walk his dog walker. How’s that for a funny story?) Anyways once Sneakers got over the excitement of seeing me…and peeing everywhere…she went in her crate and we got to cooking.

The first step was to preheat the broiler. Now, Sergio had some sort of high tech oven that didn’t say “BROILER” like most ovens do. This one just had a bunch of weird symbols, and he didn’t know which one was for the broiler. Before we could even start he had to find the manual to figure out how to turn it on. Moral of the story: always learn your oven symbols before you have a cooking date.

Anyways, once that was taken care of, I skewered the fish, and made the rub from lemon zest, garlic, parsley and salt. I covered the fish and we plopped them in the oven.

I’m sure all of you know that when I cook with people, they are not just sitting on the sidelines. So, I gave Sergio the task of cutting the onion. I gave him the onion because I didn’t feel like crying tonight — I know I’m evil. Sneakers kept crying in the crate, so I let her out and she turned out to be our little sous-chef. It was the cutest thing ever!

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Sergio had to chop a 1/2 cup of onions, but he totally messed it up. He didn’t take the skin off the onion before cutting it. I thought it was basic knowledge to take the onion skin off before chopping but I guess not. I made him re-cut it, and he gave the skin covered onion to Sneakers. Needless to say, Sneaks was pretty excited that her dad’s mistake equaled food for her.

Now we came to another dilemma: the kebabs needed flipped, but Sergio didn’t have any oven mitts! I was flabbergasted! How does someone not own such a basic kitchen necessity?? He used dish towels to take the fish out and in, and I’m amazed he didn’t burn himself.

While the fish finished cooking we chopped the tomatoes the salad together. Before we knew it, it was time for the moment of truth.

3…2…1…WOW! This fish was absolutely amazing!! I haven’t had swordfish in ages (actually since the last time I made it through evoo, which was in the summer) and I forgot how much I loved it. The paste/seasoning I put on the fish was perfect and light — it reminded me so much of summer. The salad was a great compliment too, and so delicious! For such a simple salad it packed a big flavor punch. We were both so impressed with how it turned out.

Now time for the rating. The Swordfish Kebabs receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was nothing that could have made this any better. The fish was cooked to perfection, and the seasoning was simple but fabulous. I could eat this every day and I wish there would have been leftovers. The Tomato, Onion, and Arugula Salad receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts as well. You all know I’m not a big salad person, but this completely blew me away. I am now a believer in salad thanks to this.

I’d say this evoo date went 10x better than the last one, plus we had a cute little velcro dog to help out. Who says cooking with puppies is impossible? Tonight I just proved the whole world wrong and made a scrumptious date night feast. Talk about an all around win! Woohoo!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

I Can’t Believe I Made This

Hello my fellow EVOOers!! I want to apologize for not posting in a while. Life was so hectic, but I finally found the time to cook! It had been way too long. I really wanted to impress you guys with tonight’s dish — as the title goes — I really can’t believe I’m making this! On tonight’s menu is Spinach-Artichoke Casserole, Rice with Sweet Red Peppers, and Shrimp Newburg. Let’s get cooking!

I spent most of my week in Atlanta, and I feared I would never make it home. The airport was a complete disaster since there were so many flight cancellations the day before due to the weather. After 6 hours of waiting, I was finally on a plane back to New York. Where was the first place I went as soon as I landed? You’re all going to think I’m crazy, but I went to Trader Joe’s. Most people would assume that I’d want to go home, relax, and de-stress, but instead I went to one of the most stress inducing grocery stores in Manhattan. Why? I DID IT FOR EVOO GUYS! Seriously though, the trip wasn’t so bad. It was actually calming to be back at Trader Joe’s since I hadn’t been in weeks.

I already knew I would have to stop at Fairway for shrimp, so I didn’t get angry at Trader Joe’s off the bat either. Altogether it was a pretty good shopping day.

Fast forward to today (Saturday). I had a full day of dog walking, so as one can imagine I worked up quite the appetite. I did all the usual things: chopping and what not, then I made the casserole. The casserole was pretty easy to put together –all I had to do was layer bread, artichokes, and spinach then top it with lots of cheese and bake it.

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While the casserole baked I moved on to the rice and shrimp. Why does peeling off shrimp tails take forever? I now understand why restaurants never do it! When I finally peeled all the shrimp, I let them cook with lemon and bay leaves. Then I made the sherry sauce. All of this was super easy…but it took forever!!

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Finally after 2 hours (30 minute meals my ass) it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1..This food was definitely worth the wait. The shrimp with the sherry sauce WOW. Out of this world. I literally said “I can’t believe I made this” to myself. The rice…you can never go wrong with rice, and I love rice so it was amazing. I was somewhat nervous to try the casserole because I get iffy with spinach-artichoke, but it was delicious!! I didn’t want to stop eating, I easily could’ve eaten into oblivion..that’s how good everything was.

Now time for the rating. The Spinach-Artichoke Casserole receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. What made this dish so amazing was the bread: it maintained its crunch and didn’t become soggy at all. All of the cheese was a major plus too. Cheese makes anything amazing. Next, the Rice with Sweet Red Peppers receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I love rice so much, but this put a little spin on it with the bell pepper. Who knew that one simple ingredient could make a dish 10x better? The pepper was a marvelous addition. Finally, the Shrimp Newburg receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Everything about this dish was fabulous. The shrimp was cooked to perfection and the sauce was by far the best sauce I have ever had on any shrimp, and that’s saying a lot because I eat a lot of shrimp. Such a delicious meal.

This meal made me feel like I can really cook anything in this world and have it turn out great. I never lost my love of cooking, but this weeks meal put more fuel into that flaming love. I cannot wait to cook again — and I promise it will be soon!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus