Thursday, September 17, 2009

Cooking again

I know, I haven't posted here since February. What can I say? I've been busy. But a little time has opened up again, and I'm thinking a lot about food and cooking these days.

I've been clearing out books I don't need, including cookbooks, which has made me think about which cookbooks are the ones I really like and use. One of those is called Ottolenghi, a cookbook I had to order from abroad. It's the cookbook from a café in London run by an Israeli and Palestinian, with vegetarian-friendly (but not exclusively veg) dishes and an emphasis on Mediterranean cuisine= lots of lemon and garlic. It took forever to get it, but it's worth it. Pictured above is a dish I've made a few times from it.

It's Israeli couscous, which is the large-grained kind, with tomatoes that have been roasted for a couple of hours with olive oil and a sprinkling of balsamic vinegar. You would be astounded at how sweet tomatoes get when you roast them like this. Then, they are tossed with herbs (here tarragon) and slabs of goat cheese, and add more olive oil. You can get the Israeli couscous in the bulk section at Honest Weight Coop. These tomatoes are from the Troy Farmer's Market. Something magical happens to the oils and juice: they meld, creating a tomatoey, orange oil that coats the grains of couscous. By the way, the Ottolenghi recipe tells you to put in regular couscous, too, but I think it's better without.

Something else I made lately: pickled turnip, which sounds awful, but is addictively good. I got the idea for it because I love the bright pink pickled turnips they have at the Lebanese restaurant in Troy, Al-Baraki, now called Beirut, reviewed recently in the TU by Celina Bean. By the way, if you read Celina Bean's reviews, you will get very very hungry! She makes me want to go out and eat food. Anyway, these turnips "torshi left," are typically served with felafel, hummus, or baba ghanouj. They get their color from beets, which are part of the pickle recipe.

Anyway, I had a ton of turnips (not to mention beets) from this year's garden, and thought it would make a great experiment. It's easy because you don't have to seal the pickles: they are your basic refrigerator pickle, which will last a month or so. I used a basic recipe from online (this one from the Palm Beach Daily News is similar). The fuschia-colored pickles are garlicky and tangy and are *amazing* with a sandwich (I put them on a salmon burger), or just by themselves as an appetizer with olives and a glass of wine. What makes them great with humus is that they are piquant and slick where humus is heavy and dry.

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Tosca's Brunch a Winner

This is a long overdue post, as we went to Tosca for brunch almost a month ago. Chef Larry Shepici does a themed brunch every month, and this one was Armenian. The next one, slated for March 15, is Irish for St. Patrick's Day. It's a wonderful idea and keeps the menu interesting. At these brunches, in addition to the special ethnic choices, there are also brunch standards, all scrumptious: eggs benedict, waffles, potatoes, blintzes, and a carving station. Unlike Tosca's dinner menu, which I felt was too pricey, the $25 brunch menu gives you tons of excellent food at a reasonable price (plus coffee). It goes from 10 am to 2 pm-- also a great idea for those of us who might not be up at the crack of dawn on the weekend. It's an excellent place to keep in mind when you have relatives or friends visiting from out of town and you want to show them a good time.

At the Armenian brunch, I got a combination of the ethnic food-- a delicious chicken in tomato sauce, a cheese turnover in phyllo dough, some grains and beans--along with my usual high-calorie breakfast favorites. Here the eggs benedict were great, and the waffles came with a sumptuous array of sauces and fruits. 

Then, there was dessert. Mini eclairs, tarts, and even a selection of ice cream/gelato.

You'll notice that, tucked in between all the sinful choices (cinnamon twist, chicken dish, fried potatoes) I placed Caesar salad-- yes, it was a pathetic attempt to eat my veggies. No, I wasn't fooling anyone. 

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


Last weekend we went to explore Creo: I'd heard a lot about its renovation as it replaced Mangia. (Warning: their web site starts playing some lite jazz as soon as you go there!) You can read about it in the Times Union. I am always excited when there's a new restaurant in town, and so I went with high hopes.

Maybe that wasn't such a good idea. While I was really impressed with the renovations and interior, the food left me disappointed. Not entirely disappointed-- and I have the feeling that if you become a regular, you can find things that truly satisfy, because some of our dishes were good. But I did feel quite let down.

All Over Albany liked it, while others posting on Chowhound seem to agree with me about the food. Also, while the interior room is nice and big and airy, the volume was pretty loud. They brought us salted edamame to start with. Sorry all my photos are so dark; it was actually pretty dark in there, and I should have used the flash.

They also brought bread. These are the potato chips we ordered for appetizer. They are smothered with a bleu cheese sauce. As good as they sound, they actually weren't that great. They didn't taste potato-ey at all, (or for that matter very bleu cheesy) but rather just greasy. Just looking at them, I could feel my arteries stiffening up.

If you go to the All Over Albany site, there are better pictures of the food we had. They seem to have ordered many of the same things: I think it might be the novelty factor, because the things we ordered are things you can't find elsewhere around here. I got the fig pizza and was really disappointed there. First of all, the crust was more like thin pita bread or lavash than pizza crust; secondly, the thing was covered with gooey sweet balsamic sauce. This confused me, because you can see into the kitchen, and they have big brick-style fire ovens, so it would be the ideal scenario for authentic crust. Then there was the overly sweet issue with the balsamic sauce (which Daisy Baker's also seems to use with abandon). I agree with Mark Bittman's recent judgment that balsamic is something people have gone way overboard with. It's now everywhere, the quality tends not to be that good, and a little goes a long way. Unfortunately it's overused. The cheese on the pizza was totally unflavorful, with no saltiness to balance out the sweetness of the figs and balsamic. And the pizza wasn't really warm, either.

My husband got the pasta with mushrooms, and this was actually quite good with homemade noodles and a nice mushroomey, buttery sauce. (I envied him) For dessert we got the creme brulee, which was pretty good also.

The waitstaff were excellent: very attentive but not overweaning. I had a lovely glass of prosecco; and the bar is really nicely done. Overall, a good place to get drinks and something simple, but, I'm sorry to report, it left me underwhelmed in the food department.

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Sushi Thai at the Park

It was a rainy day, and I was about to get a head cold (although I didn't know it yet). My husband and I had lunch at Sushi Thai, and it was just what I was hoping it would be-- warming, good, and modern. I think it may have postponed my cold a bit. It at least gave me some good food memories while I recuperated.

There really aren't that many Thai places in the Capital Region (one on Lark Street that's very hole-in-the-wall; and Thai Bangkok on Wolf Road), so I was excited to learn of Sushi Thai. There is another one in Saratoga, where I have been once before. The Clifton Park location has a clean, modern feeling with an open airy big room with a bar/sushi area. A pleasant place to dine. At around 1:30 pm we missed the lunch crowd, but there was one other couple there while we ate.

We shared spring rolls to start, and they were small, but good. Then came the main courses: chicken thai melon curry for me, and red curry for him. They looked pretty much identical, but they did not taste entirely the same. My husband's dish was milder and had a definite, yummy basil taste. There were actual basil leaves in his sauce. Mine was nice and spicy. Thai melon is a sort of zucchini. I had fun imagining the big vats of sauce they must keep in the kitchen, along with prepared vegetables and meats.

The menu is extensive, although we ordered from the mix 'n match curry section. There are also sushi options, rice, noodles, and fried dishes. They also have things like Tamarind or Bangkok duck. And of course, Pad Thai, which I plan on trying next time

There is something sweet and inviting about the place that makes you want to go back. Maybe it's the little good luck kitty in the entranceway.

Sushi Thai is located at 1707 Route 9 in Clifton Park.
Telephone: 348-0100. Hours:
M-Sun. 11:30-3
Sun.-Thurs. 5 pm - 10 pm and Fri. and Sat 5-10:30.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Making Pierogies

Well, I actually did it. For the first time in my life, I made noodles from scratch and then filled them to make pierogies. I have to say it was way easier than I imagined! I used my hands to blend the dough together and it was really easy to knead (way easier than bread dough). The most time-consuming part was filling and boiling all those little dumplings (about 50 total!) But the best part is that now I have lots of frozen pierogies that all we have to do to eat is defrost and fry. The picture to the left shows the pierogies after they've been boiled for about 8 minutes.

And here they are after they've been fried in coconut oil:I got the recipe from this web site; none of the cookbooks I have at home had really adequate recipes for the noodle dough. I knew that just flour and water wasn't going to cut it (as one of my cookbooks advised). So I went for this one, which uses a high fat content with butter and sour cream. And indeedy they were delicious! I also managed to use up 3 heads of cabbage that I had grown in my garden for the filling. For the filling I used a recipe from Please to the Table, a wonderful cookbook with Russian and Eastern European recipes. It called for cabbage, chopped egg, dill, and salt and pepper. The dill I had growing in my garden, so that was easy. I also added some fried onion.

There is something wonderful about really making food from scratch like this. I thought it would take up lots of time; but instead, it expanded out my time and involved all my senses. And I involved my husband in the filling/boiling part, so it was even bonding time. Ultimately it saved me time because I didn't have to go to the grocery store or out to get food, and instead I made several meals' worth of food in one evening.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

August notes...

I've been really delinquent on this blog lately because I've been busy! The garden is bursting right now and I have some food canning/preserving to do. Farmer's Market today for eggs and cookies. Making zucchini pancakes and salsa tomorrow. I've been buying wild-caught salmon at Hannaford and grilling it= out of this world.

Some notes:
last night went to Bellini's in Clifton Park and it was okay, but not the kind of place you'd go out of your way for. Typical suburban strip mall Italian joint with huge portions, over-friendly waitstaff, but decent pastas. Our salad was pathetic, though: lots of the greens were actually yellow. Which to my mind is inexcusable this time of year. We needed to get out of the house, though, and the pasta with chicken in garlic cream sauce was pretty good.

We Love Troy!
Just in case you haven't seen this, it's worth a gander:

It says: Burke's Blue Collar, A Working-Class Bar. CHEAP BOOZE, NASTY STAFF, PRETTY GOOD FOOD.

You can't beat it for truth in advertising. And then there's this life-sized cardboard cutout just as a bonus:

Friday, July 04, 2008

Wednesday Farmer's Market, Little Italy

Troy now has a farmer's market on Wednesdays from 3-6. It's in Little Italy, behind the old Vanilla Bean bakery. It's a perfect spot for a farmer's market-- lots of parking and lots of space. There were maybe about 12 or so vendors selling everything from fresh produce-- strawberries, greens, carrots--to yarn and candy. I stopped Four Brothers, a cheesemongery, and bought some delicious, fresh haloumi.

I also got some cookies at the nearby Ridvan bakery. And this is what I did with the haloumi:
Salad. First I toasted the walnuts and the haloumi in the toaster oven. Then added olive oil, pepper, and salt. The lettuce is from my neighbors' garden. Delicious.

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Chow Down at CCK

299 Central Avenue, Albany

M-Th 11-10:30 pm
Friday 11-11:30 pm
Sat. 11:30am -11:30pm
Sunday 11:30am -10 pm

CCK is a Chinese food-lover's dream come true. It is run by the same people who brought us Ocean Palace, which closed this year because of something having to do with the ownership of the building. Bring a big appetite with you: you will want to order everything.

CCK is much smaller than Ocean Palace, but the menu is just as dazzling with variety and the food just as authentic. If anything, there is a cozier vibe at CCK.

I went with my friend who also loves Chinese food and we had a feast:

This was the flounder in black bean sauce (a special, similar to the sea bass I used to get at Ocean Palace). You can get the dim sum all day, which my friend did, as they didn't have the crispy chicken he wanted (they said this particular dish would be available on Saturdays). We also tried their congee, something I had never had. This one had chicken and peanut in it. It is very simple (just a mushy rice soup basically) but delicious, something that I imagine would be supergood in the depths of winter:

The menu is mind-bogglingly huge and includes everything from your typical dishes loved by Americans (spring rolls, beef with broccoli, Lo Mein) to the more exotic: Conch with Brown Mushrooms, Jelly Fish (part of their dim sum menu), Fried Fish Head in Casserole. I will have to go back and see if their in-house menu is different from what I remember at Ocean Palace. It seemed pretty similar to me. Thank God. I was so worried when Ocean Palace closed. I know now that I will be able to make it through another winter, thanks to CCK.

Saturday, June 07, 2008

3 Great Things in Troy Right Now

This was a cup of hazelnut and blackberry cabernet gelato from Le Marche Vert. It didn't last very long after this photo was taken.

Lots of yummy things to report on in Troy.
In no particular order:

1. Ciao Bella gelato at Le Marche Vert! I'm growing quite fond of this little market; it is like a food boutique,a small shop offering gourmet foods, and you can always find something worth getting here (cheeses, some takeout prepared foods, chocolate). The Ciao Bella gelato, served in cups to go, is not to be missed. Favorite flavors: Hazelnut; Blackberry Cabernet; and Chocolate Orange.

2. Parmesan cookies at Spillin' the Beans. I bought 6 of these for just $1.25 the other day. They are so good-- great with wine, salad, or just as a snack. They are basically like a shortbread cookie but flavored with parmesan-- savory. I am addicted.

3. Oliver's Naturals rocks! I can't say this enough. I went in there the other day and got, get this: a shiitake grilled cheese sandwhich, on Ezekiel bread with some kind of wonderful pesto or garlic mayonnaise. And I got a cup of joe that had been *hand ground.* (Baby Oliver likes to crank the grinder-- he's so cute). You will feel totally nourished-- physically, spiritually, mentally-- by the food, and Diana, Adam, and Lauren make everyone feel right at home.

Wednesday, May 28, 2008


Since I've written about Ocean Palace before here, I thought I should tell any readers that it has closed. This post by Steve Barnes at the Times Union explains that their lease ran out:

Click here to read all the info. we have so far.

Does anyone know what CCK is? Or what it stands for?

You'd think that a restaurant wouldn't just abandon loyal customers like that-- that they'd leave a sign on the old building or issue a press release or something.

In other news, Moxie's is open again-- there is a reason to live.