Tag Archives: cooking

Earthy Delight

When I was younger I always wondered what being an adult in my 20s would be like. 12-year-old me thought that by the time I turned 22 I’d have my shit together (still working on it), be engaged (nowhere close to that), and be enjoying life in New York City (at least she got that part right). Another thing past-me imagined was hosting large dinner parties for friends, but not in the way they’ve occurred in the last few months. I can tell you now, Little Mare never imagined my eclectic group of friends and I making this earthy menu of Sage Veal Chops, Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta, and Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette. Let’s get cooking!

Unlike most of my EVOO adventures, this one was thrown together pretty much at the last minute — I’m not complaining though, random plans tend to produce the best memories. Around mid-day, Mikella and I walked up to Whole Foods on 59th Street. We decided to bypass Trader Joe’s because they don’t carry veal, and we were in the mood for a one-and-done shopping trip.

Once we arrived at Whole Foods, Kell and I split up — she scoured the produce section, while I made my way to the deli counter. I needed four veal chops for tonight, and there was quite a selection. I chose four, and was very happy…until I saw the price tag. $66 for four veal rib chops!! I found Mikella and bitched a bit, then finally decided to give the rib chops back in exchange for loin chops for 2 reasons: 1. a majority of the weight from the rib chop was the huge bone still attached — I was not about to pay for mostly bone, and 2. the loin chops were a little less expensive. I was worried the deli guy wouldn’t exchange, but since I was there 5 minutes prior it was all good. The loin chops ended up being $58, but at least I saved $8.

Remember how we said we wanted a one-stop shopping trip? Well that didn’t happen. We weren’t able to find quick-cooking polenta — there’s always that one obscure ingredient. On our walk back home we stopped at good old Amish Market. We looked through their isle of cornmeal, and for a moment I thought we had struck out again, but Kell spotted instant polenta on the very top shelf! We may have looked a little crazy rejoicing over polenta, but it was a big deal, okay?

A few hours later we walked over to 312 with all the ingredients and my camera. Before we started to cook, we filmed a wine review for my youtube channel…on an empty stomach. We only had four cans of wine spritzers to try, but by the time the tasting was over, Nico, Mikella, and I were a tiny bit tipsy. Is it safe to cook while intoxicated? Welp, it’s nothing we haven’t done before.

Once Christy and Pearce got home from Coney Island, we migrated to their apartment to pull this meal together. Last time there were only two of us (Kell and I) cooking, but this time there were 5 people helping out in this unfurnished apartment with a cramped kitchen. I divvied up responsibilities — Nico (despite his objections) chopped mushrooms with Mikella. I put Mikella in charge of the mushroom fricassee, while I set to work on seasoning the veal chops…on the floor. I wasn’t kidding when I said this apartment was unfurnished. Not to worry though — the place was spotless because Christy swiffers the whole apartment about 3 times a day.

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I seasoned the chops with salt and pepper, then rubbed sage leaves into the meat. I realized I needed more sage, and didn’t want to get up so I asked Pearce to chop bit more..his response, with a beer in hand was, “the green stuff?” Yep, the green stuff.

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Once the veal was cooking on the stove, I made the apricot vinaigrette for the salad while Madison tore the lettuce and tossed it with the arugula, pear, and blue cheese…on the floor. When you picture a bunch of 20-somethings cooking together, I’m sure cooking on the floor is the last thing you would picture. Let me paint the whole picture though: it was drunk cooking on the floor while dancing to “Proud Mary.” Yep, that’s my friend group and I.

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Nico and I had an intense dance off to “Proud Mary” while everything simmered. Once the battle was over, it was time to eat.

We carried all of the dishes up to the roof, piled our plates, then finally it was time for the moment of truth. 3…2…1….WOW. I’m not just saying wow because I was slightly tipsy. This food was W-O-W worthy. The veal chops were cooked to perfection — tender & juicy, aromatic from the sage, and topped with a white wine sauce. This was next level melt in your mouth. Simply fabulous. The mushroom fricassee with polenta was a a flavorful explosion. It always amazes me how mushrooms have such a meaty flavor. This dish was creamy, savory, and completely mouthwatering. The salad may have been simple, but the flavors meshed so well and danced across our palates. I’m not exaggerating when I say everyone was in awe over this meal.

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Now time for the ratings. The Sage Veal Chops receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I am so glad I spent $58 on this meat — it was impeccable. I can barely put into words how incredible the veal was, but I’ll put it this way. I made sure to get every last morsel off the bone. Exquisite. The Wild Mushroom Fricassee Over Polenta receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Rachael Ray is a master at mushrooms, and this fricassee and polenta was a total crowd pleaser. Fricassee is usually a meat dish, but who needs a meat version when you have mushrooms this good? Unbelievable. Finally, the Arugula Salad with Blue Cheese, Pears, and Apricot Vinaigrette receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. I was a little skeptical about this salad since I’m not a fan of blue cheese, but this mix of flavors were completely complementary of each other, and made for one of the best salads I ever had. Extraordinary. Everyone unanimously agreed on all these ratings, which hasn’t happened in a long time. Way to go Rachael Ray!

I learned a few lessons today. 1. Tipsy cooking is a TON of fun. I’d encourage you all to try it but I don’t want to be held liable if you mistakenly chop off a finger. 2. Cooking on the floor is something everyone should do at least once in their life (as long as the floor is clean.) and 3. These dinner parties are a hell of a lot better than the ones 12-year-old Mary ever imagined. Goofy times with great company make for memories I will cherish forever. My life may not be how I envisioned it 10 years ago, but I’m glad it’s not — it’s impossible to imagine a life as amazing as this.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

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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

 

 

 

 

A Meal for my Hunnies

So many new things have been happening in my life, so I had to step away from the blog for a few weeks. I started my senior year of college, I landed the internship of my dreams, and a new room mate moved in! Now that things have settled a bit, I knew it would be the perfect time to have old and new friends alike over, and cook a fabulous meal. This menu is one I’m sure we’ll remember for a long time: Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce, Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux, and Margaritas Granitas. Let’s get cooking!

This Adventure started two days ago on Sunday. My good pal Christy and I took our weekly trip to Trader Joe’s, but we chose the absolute worst time possible: 7pm. Sunday evenings at Trader Joe’s are easily comparable to an active war zone. People are rude, and there is next to no inventory. There were no vegetables or chicken, and half the store’s shelves were completely ransacked. I just wanted to get in and out as quickly as possible, so I left nearly empty handed.

I needed a full day to recover from that fiasco, and on Tuesday morning after class I headed to Whole Foods in Chelsea to pick up the rest of the ingredients I needed. I grabbed tomatillos, cilantro, tilapia, avocados, and lime pops. This experience was painless, and pretty cheap — maybe I should shop at Whole Foods more often.

I had to make one more stop at a local liquor store to pick up tequila and Cointreau for our special margaritas tonight. I don’t go to the liquor store often (I know, that may be hard to believe) so the cashier had to guide me on where to find what I needed. $50 later, not only are we stocked for tonight, but also for the next 2 months.

Fast forward to this evening. Classes let out early thanks to a Jewish Holiday, so Krystyna and Taylor came over at 7. We immediately got to work chopping everything up. Taylor was in charge of the tomatillos, and she was so intrigued by the vegetable. For those of you who don’t know what Tomatillos are, they are Mexican green tomatoes, but oddly enough, they kind of taste like apples. Once everything was chopped, I cooked the fish while Noelle and Mikella made the margs…actually making the margaritas was more like a 5 person job. No one could figure out how to work the blender, so I stepped in and saved the day.

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While everyone enjoyed their homemade frozen margaritas, Taylor and I cooked away. I handled the sauce for the tilapia, and she prepared the avocado stuffing. Everything smelled so good, and we were all so excited…then the smoke alarm went off. Honestly, it’s not an uncommon occurrence in my house, so once we shut it off we were ready to eat.

Everyone served themselves family style, and we all migrated downstairs to our massive dining room table to eat.

We all had our moment of truth together. 3..2..1.. Spicy goodness! This tilapia was cooked to perfection (courtesy of moi) with just the right amount of kick from the spices and sauce. Tilapia is so delicate, and I was worried the spices would have ruined it, but it was so delicious. The stuffed avocados were a big hit too. It was great opening all six avocados and seeing the perfect green/yellow color in every single one. We all had a tough time scooping the flesh out of the skin, but the taste was spectacular. Creamy corn and peppers overflowed each avocado half, and they were all devoured quickly.

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Christy and Nico showed up an hour late, but they still enjoyed and scarfed down the rest of the food — they showed up too late for margaritas, though.

Now time for the ratings. The Tilapia with Tomatillo Sauce receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. There was so much hype leading up to this recipe and it did not disappoint. It was somehow spicy, sweet, and savory, and melt-in-your-mouth — aka a masterpiece. The Avocados with Creamy Maque Choux receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. Avocados are arguably the best food in the world, and I don’t know why I never stuffed one before. The creaminess of the filling played well with the creaminess of the avocado flesh. I think I could’ve eaten 5 of them. Finally, the Margaritas Granitas receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. If you know me, you know I love frozen margs (especially the ones from Mickey Spillanes) and these margaritas rivaled the best of the best. They were tangy and sweet with the perfect kick. Now whenever I’m craving a marg I can make them in minutes from the comfort of my own home. Score!

This meal was all around perfection, but I think my favorite part of tonight was seeing my friends mesh together so well. Mikella just moved in, and they made it a point to include her and make her feel welcome. These are the kind of moments with my people that make my heart full, and I can’t wait for all of us to get closer and create many more memories like the ones we made tonight.

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

 

Little Bites Party

Going on vacation is always fun — there’s relaxation, no worries, and ENDLESS FOOD. I recently returned from a semi-vacation (more like a work trip) with constant snack food. Designers will spend hundreds of dollars to create a dress, but will refuse to spend more than $5 on food. My diet consisted of cheese cubes, popcorn, and questionable alcohol concoctions. Needless to say I’m very happy to be back home and able to cook some REAL food…even though it may be in the form of little bites, it’s still real food. Today’s menu consists of Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders, Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips”, and Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos. Let’s get cooking!

It’s been a super rainy day in the city, which always puts a damper on having to go to the grocery store, but since I have a buddy, it makes things a little better! My pal Christy recently moved to the city from upstate, and let me tell you guys we’re practically soulmates — we always go to Trader Joe’s together. I went over to her place around 12:30, and after having a spiked seltzer – or 2 – we made our way uptown.

This Trader Joe’s visit just happened to be the most monumental visit ever because I was able to find Every. Single. Ingredient. I don’t think that has happened once in all of evoo. I was literally jumping for joy — I looked like a mad woman…if only the other shoppers understood.

I headed home to take a nap, then walked over to Christy’s at 5:30 to get down to business…too bad she was still napping so our cooking adventure was delayed by like 30 minutes.

Once she was awake and ready, we threw on our aprons and got to work — sort of. See, it was a busy evening at 312 because everyone was preparing for a major roof party. How major of a party, you ask? Let’s just say an ice luge in the shape of the Eiffel Tower was arriving as I was trying to prepare the marinade for the chicken. I was unable to help lift the luge up 7 flights of stairs since I was busy mixing together lemon zest, lemon juice, and olive oil, but I assure everyone that it made it to the roof safely.

Once the ice sculpture was in place, Christy cooked the chicken while I threw the ingredients for the dip in the food processor *cue the ‘that was easy’ button.* Then we both prepared the portobellos while Christy simultaneously did her makeup for the party. It was sort of a hectic cooking experience because people started to arrive while we were still in the kitchen. Honestly, everything was a blur, but somehow we managed to put it all together and make it look pretty, too!

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We created a little space in all the chaos to sit down and have our moment of truth. 3..2..1…Diving into that stuffed mushroom was all I needed – no seriously, it was the first thing I ate all day and I was starving. I have never been a huge fan of artichokes, but spinach and artichokes mixed together inside of a mushroom completely changes the game. We waited a little too long to eat the chicken tenders and they were a bit cold, but still the flavor was fabulous, and that dip…I can’t call it dip anymore it’s freaking rosemary hummus RACHAEL RAY!! The hummus was out of this world! Although, the zucchini chips were meh, so we replaced them with Triscuits. I actually took the hummus next door where Kansas and I ate it all instead of being social at the party — because priorities.

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Now time for the ratings. The Lemon Pepper Chicken Tenders receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. I am actually disappointed because these could have been so much better if they were actually served warm. This is totally my fault though, I need to get better and making sure all the dishes are completed at the same time. These were still delicious, though, and super lemony. The Chickpea and Rosemary Dip with Zucchini “Chips” receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. This was definitely the hit of the night. I didn’t realize how easy it was to make hummus, and I think this is my new party dip (plus it’s healthy!) This would’ve received  5 hearts if it wasn’t for the Zucchini Chips — they were completely bland and probably would’ve been better if they were seasoned and/or baked. Finally, the Spinach & Artichoke Stuffed Portobellos receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. this was spectacular and filling, although I would’ve been happier with less artichokes…those things can really be overpowering.

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I learned one very important thing today: cooking before a party may seem like a good idea — ya know, fuel up before you poison your body with alcohol — but this cooking adventure was so hectic. Hopefully next week will be calmer for my own sanity…but knowing me and my friends, we’ll probably do it all over again just like this — kids in our 20s, we just never learn.

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

Snack Attack Party

When I was younger, I always pictured myself throwing fabulous dinner parties once I was married. The kind of dinner parties with hors-d’oeuvres followed by a mouth-watering feast that the guests would rave about for weeks — all made by moi. While those dinner parties are between 12-15 years away still, I see no harm in practicing for them now…which is exactly what this menu was made for. Tonight we have Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa, Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham, and Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites. Let’s get cooking!

I headed out to Trader Joe’s in the afternoon after a leisurely morning of reading. The items I had to pick up were pretty basic, and the line wasn’t unbearable for a weekend afternoon. I really prayed that I wouldn’t have to go to Fairway, but unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find fresh oregano or lavash bread at good ol’ TJs. Luckily, it was a quick skip through Fairway to get the two items I needed.

I headed home content that I bought everything I needed, and that my friends were bringing over the last few ingredients…or so I thought. We were supposed to cook at my friend Christy’s apartment, but she called me as I was about to head over saying she was ill, aka still hungover. Once again drinking got the best of one of my friends. Since we lost Christy, I quickly tidied up to cook at my place. It was the first time doing evoo at my apartment since I moved, so it needed to look nice and neat.

Instead of having Taylor and Krystyna pick up the items Christy was supposed to bring, I ran over to Food Emporium…mainly because I knew the ingredients would be difficult to find, and I didn’t want to wait too long to start cooking.

I know I have said in the past how much I dislike Food Emporium, but seriously DON’T SHOP THERE!! I only picked up a jar of roasted red peppers, a jar of kalamata olives, an itty-bitty bottle of evoo, and paper towels and my total was $25. Twenty-five freaking dollars for four items. I almost fainted at the price. The amount of money I spend for evoo really gets to me sometimes.

I hurried home to wait for Krystyna and Taylor, but they got held up at the same Food Emporium! They were in the check out when the cashier asked another employee to price check theIR thyme. She disappeared and still hadn’t returned 10 minutes later. Everyone was getting antsy and confused — it turned out this girl decided to go on her break instead of price check. Food Emporium: get your shit together!!

After what felt like an eternity, my friends showed up and we got down to business. While I chopped some ingredients, I assigned both Taylor and Krystyna to char some jalapeños over the stovetop flame. I gave them wooden skewers without thinking…and they caught on fire multiple times. Luckily, both girls were quick enough to react and blow them out every time.

Once the jalapeños were blackened, we chopped them and threw the peppers in the food processor along with paprika, parsley, oregano, thyme, bay leaves, onion, and garlic to make the marinade for the chicken. We plopped the chicken into the marinade with some evoo, and Krystyna stirred for about 10 minutes to make sure everything was well covered.

While Krystyna manned the chicken, Taylor and I worked as a team to clean the food processor for the Roasted Red Pepper Salsa. I made the salsa and grilled the polenta while she made the lavash pizzas — we had some great teamwork going on. Since the pizzas only took about 8 minutes to make, Taylor also grilled the chicken.

Things were finally coming together: Krystyna topped each polenta “cracker” with salsa, and I cut up the pizzas. Together we made a lovely spread on my dining room table, and a few minutes later the chicken was ready, too.

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Before we took the first bite we popped open a bottle of wine, and poured ourselves some into red solo cups, ya know, cause we’re classy. We then piled our plates with each little bite-sized delight.

Finally, it was time for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… These little bites had some of the biggest flavors. I had to stop myself from eating so fast. I first tried the polenta and salsa, and man, there were so many textures and aromas going on at once, I simply could not understand how all of it was happening in one little bite. Next, I tried the pizzas, and though they were a little soggy from the fresh mozzarella, they were still delicious…I think I ate 4 squares in under a minute. I tried the chicken last, and you know what they say: always save the best for last. The sauce on these chicken bites was unlike anything I had ever had before. All of the herbs surprisingly blended together beautifully and the chicken itself was extremely juicy. We all stuffed ourselves full from these tiny bites, but it was so worth it.

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Now time for the ratings. The Grilled Polenta Crackers with Roasted Red Pepper Salsa receives ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. Though this was delicious and flavorful, the more we ate, the more olive-y the salsa became. None of us are huge olive fans, so that is why this dish is one heart shy of 5. Also, this is a snack that should be eaten before it gets cold — the polenta started to get a bit soggy from the salsa which wasn’t the best. The Lavash Pizzas with Smoked Cheese and Ham receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. These pizzas took my tastebuds back to Italy — it reminded me of their light pizza pies in bite-size form. It doesn’t get better than the simplicity of fresh mozzarella, prosciutto, and arugula…plus any pizza is good pizza. Finally, Rachael’s Chimichurri Chicken Bites receive ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This chicken was the juiciest I have had in months, and I’m pretty sure we have the sauce to thank for that. Seriously, this was one of the best sauces EVER. I think I may have to incorporate it into more of my meals — which is saying a lot since I rarely make any dish twice. These little bites made huge lasting impressions on all of us.

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Little bites made by 3 girls with big personalities. I know I said at the beginning of this post that I want to wow all my neighbors and friends with hors-d’oeuvres like these one day, but if I make snack bites like these in the future, I’ll end up eating them all before anyone arrives…sorry in advance future dinner guests!!

Until next week!

-Mary Honkus

 

 

Another Tapas Party (With People this Time)

Hello, my faithful readers! I apologize for my 5-month hiatus, but I just could not handle another grocery trip for evoo in Italy…it stressed me out too much. But now that I’m back in the greatest city in the world — the city that has every single food item known to man — I’m ready to get back to evooing every single week! To celebrate this return to New York I’m having a tapas party — with friends… don’t worry I’m not making food for 20 people and eating it all by myself this time. This comeback menu includes Meat Tapas with Garlic & Sherry, Warm Chili and Cheese Dip with Tri-Color Peppers, Tomato and Garlic Bread Rounds, and *most importantly* Sangria Slushes. Let’s get cooking!

As with every cooking adventure, this one starts out at the grocery store… not just any grocery store, though. This adventure started at the king of grocery stores; a place I missed so dearly: Trader Joe’s. I teared up when I walked through the doors of this beautiful establishment… I was just so happy to be back. Ya’ll don’t even understand how terrible Conad was — that grocery store was the source of 75% of my stress while abroad. Stepping into Trader Joe’s was like stepping into a warm embrace from an old friend I hadn’t seen in years; it made me feel whole again.

Luckily, almost all of the ingredients I needed were fresh produce, which Trader Joe’s has an abundance of at a great value (Trader Joe’s really needs to start sponsoring me). I honestly didn’t even mind that I wasn’t able to find canned jalapeños or lemon ice since I was simply overwhelmed with joy to be back in my favorite store. After a quick wait in the checkout line, I headed over to Fairway to finish my shopping.

I did not miss Fairway like I missed Trader Joe’s. Everyone at Fairway was getting on my last nerve because they all moved in slow motion. I was trying to get in and get out, but I was stuck behind some turtles for a good 20 minutes — not even while I was waiting in line! People just wouldn’t move out of my way — how rude.

Once I finished up in that fiasco of a store, I headed to my good friends, Nico & Kansas’, place.

Now, mind you, this was Sunday, aka world cup day, and by the time I arrived at 5pm everyone was hammered out of their minds. I joined in with some Sangria Slushes — simply red wine and lemon ice — but that’s about as far as our cooking skills took us that day. I was afraid someone would chop a finger off.

Those Sangria Slushes were perfect for the hot day, though. I give the 3 glasses I had ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts because red wine on a scorching day was just a little too harsh, but when I added the lemon sorbet it turned into this refreshing summer drink.

Fast forward to Tuesday when everyone sobered up enough to finally cook together. I headed back to Nico and Kansas’ apartment around 7:15 to start cooking the feast to end all feasts. We planned on eating on their awesome roof deck, but of course, it was pouring, so we had to settle for eating and cooking inside.

Nico is a pretty good chef, but he had to follow my chefly orders this time around. I put him in charge of the meat: a combination of chicken, pork, and steak.  He chopped everything up into cubes, then skillfully sauteed them with garlic and sherry. I put Kansas in charge of cutting the bread. Unlike Nico, his chef skills are, well…let’s just say he orders seamless most nights, so I wanted to keep his task simple.

I handled the dip, which was pretty basic — all I had to do was throw the chili, cream cheese, jalapeños, and cheddar cheese into a pot and let it melt until it was smooth. That *warmed out* (get it, instead of chilled out) in the oven with the bread for a bit, then I dusted the bread with some garlic oil and rubbed tomatoes across each slice to finish it off.

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Nico and I piled our plates (we were the only the only two that actually ate) and prepared ourselves for the moment of truth. 3..2..1… Ahhh the sweet taste of a well-cooked meal. The various meats were all so juicy, and there’s just something about cooking with sherry that elevates the experience and makes the meal feel fancier than it actually is. The bread, well, it was bread, you really can’t go wrong with that. The slight hint of garlic and tomato was a nice, delicate touch to an otherwise simple slice. The dip: wow, that was a joyous experience for my taste buds. I went back and had 4 servings of it. I couldn’t get enough.

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Now time for the ratings, which Nico and I both agreed on. The Meat Tapas with Garlic & Sherry receive ♥♥♥ (3) hearts. Although this was delicious, we both thought it could have been better, and was rather mediocre. I have never actually cooked different types of meat together before, so that may have thrown the flavor off a little bit — something to think about in the future. The Warm Chili and Cheese Dip with Tri-Color Peppers receives ♥♥♥♥♥ (5) hearts. This dip tasted like summer happiness in my mouth. Dips are also hard to mess up, but this may take the cake as my favorite dip ever. I dare say it passes up my love for buffalo chicken dip. What was nice about this dip was the recipe said to use bell peppers instead of chips, so it made it just slightly healthy, which is always a good thing. Finally, the Tomato and Garlic Bread Rounds receive ♥♥♥♥ (4) hearts. No meal is ever really complete without some sort of bread. These were traditional, with a slight twist due to the tomato, plus they doubled as another thing to dip into the dip.

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Another tapas party meant for 20 people, only to be eaten by two. Honestly, we made a pretty big dent considering the enormous quantity of food, but I’m also glad Tupperware exists for leftovers. Luckily, next week’s menu is meant to serve only 8, so maybe we’ll get lucky and 3 people will show up to eat…slowly, but surely increasing the number of hungry mouths to feed every week. I’m ready to build evoo back up!

Until next week! (Forreal, I promise)

-Mary Honkus