Tag 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

 

 

 

 

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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