Cultured Individuals

Two cartons of yogurt walk into a bar. The bartender, a tub of cottage chesse, says to them, “We don’t serve your kind in here.” One of the yogurt cartons says back to him, “Why not? We’re cultured individuals.”

If you love store-bought yogurt, but crave the thrill of birthing your own LIVE bacteria to course through your digestive track, just pick yourself up a Euro Cuisine yogurt maker! (Available here! on  the Williams Sonoma website for the low, low price of 50 bucks.)

It’s a relatively simple process. Just purchase some local farm-fresh whole milk (we used Ronnybrook), yogurt starter, (we used the suggested Euro Cuisine starter, but you can purchase various starters at grocery stores, health food stores, and even at your local GNC) and have your yogurt maker clean and ready to go.

After sterilizing the jars, heat the milk to a boil, until it reaches 180 degrees Fahrenheit.  Let this cool to about 120 degrees, pour the milk into a pitcher, add the starter, mix until dissolved, and then add the mixture to the individual yogurt containers.

Set the containers un-lidded inside of what essentially is an incubator, flip the switch to on and leave it running for about ten hours, depending on the fat content of your milk. Afterwards, place the individual jars in the refrigerator for a few hours to put a stop to the culture process.

In the morning you will have fresh homemade yogurt! Add some granola and fresh fruit for a wholesome and delicious breakfast. Proof!

Soup Dumplings from Joe’s Shanghai

Friday night fun in Chinatown, Manhattan! I love how the streets in the oldest part of the city just wind around with no real plan. You can easily lose yourself, passing unending windows with crispy rotisserie duck on display or sporting hand-pulled noodle advertisements. On one of these windy streets you will find Joe’s Shanghai Restaurant (9 Pell Street).

Joe’s Shanghai restaurant is a real old-time Chinatown spot.  The wait is long, but the service is unmatched.  Food runners and greeters are numerous, with the intention of sitting you down and putting boxes of steamed dumplings in front of you as fast as possible.

Crab soup dumplings! These are some of the best dumplings I’ve ever tasted.  They burst with flavor (and soup) and the shells are fluffy and light.  The technique is to use a spoon so that none of the juice dribbles out. You can watch the instructional video here.

The dumplings are steamed on a bed of cabbage in a bamboo container.  I definitely recommend using the cabbage to sop up any soup that may have leaked onto your plate.

Pan-fried noodles Hong Kong style. Crispy and delicious, and with beef and broccoli, a classic and delicious combination.

Spicy double-cooked pork.  My girlfriend has never tried double-cooked pork before, so it was kind of a must.  What’s not to like?

We ended the night walking on yet another windy downtown street, 65 Bayard, to  enjoy pistachio iced cream at the Chinatown Ice Cream Factory.   Fantastic ice cream with great flavor and texture.  Yum!

Homemade Tomato Basil Sauce

Have you ever opened a can of tomatoes and glare at the contents depressingly? That’s me. I hate those dull red globs of former glorious tomatoes that I discover staring back at me. I’m a big proponent of using fresh ingredients whenever possible. The older your food is, the less nutritional it is going to be.

With this in mind, I decided to whip up some delicious basic tomato sauce. Here we go! Arrange your weapons. Red pepper flakes, 3 cloves of garlic, 1 cup of dry white wine, 1 bushel of basil, 6 plum or San Marzano tomatoes, salt and pepper.

Flash par-boil the tomatoes. About 15 seconds in boiling salted water will be enough for the skins to peel right off.

Make sure to use tongs so not to scald your fingers, also discard any stems still rooted in the tomato.

In a large sauce pan, saute three diced cloves of garlic in a generous amount of olive oil, making sure that the garlic doesn’t burn. As soon as the garlic begins to darken, add one cup of dry white wine. Let this burn off a bit before adding the tomato pulp.

I LOVE fresh basil. I used 20 large leaves chopped up for this sauce, but you can use more or less depending on your preference.

Let the sauce simmer for about 15 to 20 minutes, just to thicken. It should have a healthy glowing sheen reflecting off of it when its ready.

That’s it! Dress your pasta, (or fresh raviolis in my case). Your taste buds will thank you, and your body will too! This basic tomato sauce is also fantastic with some fresh mussels and linguine, or on top of homemade pizza. Give it a try, and think twice about those old tomato cans. Proof.

Saravana Bhavan, 100% Veggie Indian

Saravana Bhavan is an all-vegetarian restaurant serving South Indian-style cuisine. It is actually an international chain, which is based out of India and has a spot in Gramercy in Manhattan as well as locations in India, Europe and the Middle East. I must say, if vegetarian food was always this delicous and varied, I think I could prescribe to this way of eating.

Above is an appetizer of curd vada which are crispy lentil doughnuts in fresh yogurt garnished with grated carrots & cilantro. Yup you heard me! A doughnut appetizer. It was very visually appealing, but a tad to sweet for me.

This was my Bhati, I love having the options of tasting EVERYTHING. Pickles, curries, potatoes, hot peppers, sweet chutneys. All served with naan bread and basmati rice. It’s a universe of flavors served in an aluminum tray.

Below was a deep-fried dosa with curried chickpeas. Dosa is a South-Indian staple. A crepe made from rice batter and lentils. It dominates the menu at Saravanaas. I loved the fried dosa’s sponginess and flavor.

Below is the thicker, pancake-like uthappam, a rice and lentil crepe stuffed with tomato, onion and some screamingly hot green chilis. OUCH! After the initial burn, it dawned on me that the side chutney and yogurt dips would cool down the crepe enough to make it much less painful!

And finally, the Dosa de Resistance!

This enormous cone was the paper masala dosa. A thin length rice & lentil crepe filled with mildly spiced mashed potatoes and onions. It was super fun to eat and doubled as a prop telescope! Judging by their expressions, I don’t think our neighbors were impressed with our antics.

81 Lexington Ave (between 26th St & 27th St) New York, NY 10016

Samuel Smith Brewery Rules Tadcaster

Samuel Smith Brewery, better known for delicious Oatmeal Stout and imported traditionally created Yorkshire brews apparently does best record when it comes to managing their employees.

This is sad, because besides the fact that Sammy Smith has REALLY good beer, they have a super long tradition and have kept the same brewing methods, well-water, horse-drawn carriage delivery system and even their yeast unchanged for over a hundred years. Hopefully all this publicity will be a wake up call for the owner, Humphrey Smith. I for one may take pause before ordering my next brown ale.