Friday, March 18, 2011

Vegetarian Week: Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Homemade Tomato Sauce

At the beginning of the challenge, I was fearful that all I would eat this week would be Lentil Soup, and if not lentil soup, then some variation of "vegetable" soup -- but that would be boring - wouldn't it? Yes... So as I was feeling a bit "behind the bars" with this vegetarian food challenge, I realized I can make pasta. :D (note my behind the bar photo to the left -- haha, had a little too many bars, whoops)

Whole Wheat Pasta with Asparagus and Tomato sauce. That's vegetarian (and healthy)!

I didn't follow a recipe, I just "winged" it. Figured this couldn't be too difficult to do.

6 -8 servings; takes approximate 1 hour (includes preparation time)


1 lb Delallo Organic Whole Wheat Penne Rigate
1 bunch of asparagus cut into thirds
olive oil

Tomato Sauce (approximate measurements)
- 1 can (28 oz) Muir Glen Whole Plum Tomatoes, cut or tear apart the tomatoes (then why not get the diced tomatoes? I prefer the whole, but you can get the diced if you prefer)
- 1 tablespoon of tomato paste
- 1 to 1/4 cups of starchy water (e.g. pasta water; or use cornstarch)
- 2 teaspoons Basil
- 2 teaspoons Oregano
- Diced Garlic - 5-6 cloves
- Olive oil
- sugar (if you like your sauce sweeter)

- a sauce pan
- a sautee pan
- a straining ladle
- a strainer
- cutting board, knife, bowls

Boil a pot of water for both the pasta and the asparagus. Put some salt into the boiling water and add in the cut asparagus. Boil for 2-3 minutes (or until the water starts bubbling again - I like my asparagus slightly crunchy). Take the asparagus out of the boiling water with the straining ladle (e.g. leave the water in the pot) and put the vegetables in the side. Continue to boil the water, add the pasta and cook the pasta per the package instructions. When done, pour the pasta into a strainer and mix in a little bit of olive oil (to prevent the pasta from sticking to one another).

As you're waiting for the pasta to cook, heat your sautee pan and put some olive oil in the pan. When the pan is hot, throw in the garlic and let it sizzle until fragrant (but not browned), then add in the tomatoes and 1 to 1/2 cups of water (use the starchy pasta water if the pasta is done). Throw in the tomato paste, the basil, the oregano, salt and pepper to taste. Let the sauce cook for 10-15 minutes until you see the sauce sort of thicken to your consistency. Add sugar if you like your sauce to be slightly more al dente.

If you are not going to eat all of this today, I would suggest plating your own plate of pasta, then add some asparagus and pour the sauce on top.

However, if this is for a party, you can mix the pasta, asparagus and sauce in your large serving bowl (or the sautee pan if you want to avoid cleaning another bowl).

And that's it... this is your pasta (well this is it if you individually plated the items on a plate)

Yippee! I made it through another successful day of Vegetarian Eating!

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Vegetarian Week: Mixed Fruit Smoothies

Yum. Mixed Fruit Smoothies. Why didn't I think about making this before? Probably because I haven't had to "think" about what to cook, but with this Vegetarian Week challenge, I have pushed myself to be more creative with my meals. And, if you think about it ... a fruit smoothie is a good healthy treat that can substitute dessert (well, almost substitute it) ... and best of all, a fruit smoothie is perfectly suitable for my vegetarian week challenge!

Smoothies. Funny thing is -- I've had fruit smoothies before, but, I haven't made it before. But, don't fret, making a smoothie is SUPER EASY and you don't even need to call your friends at Jamba Juice for help.

So here I am, without a recipe and I decided to "wing" it. There is nothing like experimenting -- you can be pleasantly surprised, or ... not pleasantly surprised... But at the end of it all - you'll be glad you tried.


1 cup frozen Dole Mixed Berries (or any type of fruit that you like)*
1 cup apple juice (or coconut/orange juice)
3-4 cubes of ice

* If you have fresh fruit, that will work just the same -- however, just make sure you have more frozen ice cubes.

I would recommend placing the cubes in the blender first, then adding in the frozen berries and apple juice. Pulse the blender under the "ice crush" option a few times and your smoothie will reach a frothy consistency that suits you.

Use a spoon and taste the smoothie before placing it into a cup. The above may not be as sweet as you would like, so feel free to add sugar (liquid sugar if you have it) or more apple juice to make it sweeter.

If you want it to taste like jamba juice, add in "sherbet" ... or you can add yogurt ...

Since making my first smoothie -- I've tried all sorts of different fruits... Strawberries with pineapple made with orange juice and suspect I will make other smoothie varieties.

Have fun making your smoothies!

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Vegetarian Week Challenge: Lentil Soup by Alton Brown

Lentil Soup by Susan Lee
Recipe: Alton Brown

As I previously blogged, I decided I would try Vegetarian Eating for one week. I started this past Saturday with my first vegetarian meal -- Lentil Soup. I found a recipe by Alton Brown on the food network and have included it below. The recipe is extremely easy to follow with the hardest part being the vegetable preparation. I chose this recipe because of Alton Brown. If you have seen his show, Good Eats, you'll know that Alton does a phenomenal job educating his viewers on the history of food. Since this Vegetarian Week challenge started after watching Food educational documentaries (Food Matters/Food Inc) and Oprah's show, I thought it would be form fitting to start the week with an educationally focused chef!

Below are my comments and notes indicated in blue.
  • Cutting the vegetables in this recipe is probably the most time consuming part of this recipe. I started cutting the carrots by hand, and then realized it may be easier with a blender (I don't have a food processor). So I tried that and the carrots came out extremely fine (just be careful not to puree it). I tried the celery, but decided it was easier to just cut it into mini cubes. The onions? I attempted the blender with this, but shortly realized it would be better to just finely chop the onions.
  • I made a few substitutions to this recipe since I used what was readily available at home. I didn't have vegetable broth at home, so I decided to substitute it with Knorr vegetable cubes. The flavors from soup were very nice.
  • There are two types of lentils -- red and regular. I selected the regular lentil.
  • The recipe says you can puree the soup once its done. I chose not to do this and to keep the lentils in its small-dish like form.
  • Get ready for leftovers! The recipe said it will yield 6-8 servings, which I think is a bit conservative. I can easily say I had at least two tubs full of lentil soup, with more left in the pot. If you don't want to have lentil soup for a month, ask some friends to come over and enjoy the soup with you! Otherwise, you can freeze the soup and store it for a month or so.

Overall, I really enjoyed cooking and eating this soup. Though it took a while to get the ingredients together, the results were worthwhile. The soup is extremely filling, healthy and great-tasting. I'm happy this was a successful first meal in my week challenge. It shows promise for the rest of the week!

Go Vegetarian and take the week challenge with me!

Ingredients: (Makes 6-8 servings)
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped carrot (try a food processor)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped celery
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 pound lentils, picked and rinsed
  • 1 cup peeled and chopped tomatoes (I used a can of whole plum tomatoes)
  • 2 quarts chicken or vegetable broth (I substituted with Knorr Vegetable Cubes)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground coriander
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground toasted cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground grains of paradise (I substituted this with ground pepper)
Place the olive oil into a large 6-quart Dutch oven
(I used a pot) and set over medium heat. Once hot, add the onion, carrot, celery and salt and sweat until the onions are translucent, approximately 6 to 7 minutes. Add the lentils, tomatoes, broth, coriander, cumin and grains of paradise and stir to combine. Increase the heat to high and bring just to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover and cook at a low simmer until the lentils are tender, approximately 35 to 40 minutes. Using a stick blender, puree to your preferred consistency (I didn't puree, I left it as is). Serve immediately.

Monday, March 14, 2011

One Week Challenge: Vegetarian Eating thanks to Oprah

On Saturday, I decided I would challenge myself to eat vegetarian only meals for a week and if I make it through the week, then I would extend it longer. Give up meat/seafood? Yes. So, what prompted the decision to challenge myself to a week of vegetarian eating ? Several things. My decision to go vegetarian for a week was a culmination of events that transpired over the last few months, including watching movie documentaries, Oprah's Show, and having a steak.

Over the last few months, I watched Food Inc. and Food Matters which essentially talks about where our food comes from, often times depicting horrid living conditions of the animals that humans eventually eat (i.e. beef and chicken). For example, I witnessed well-known food companies raising chickens in caged, often dark conditions with little to no room to roam. Since these chickens were not walking around, chickens naturally got fatter and reached a weight that their own bodies could no longer support and they died. The "lucky" ones that survived through their weight challenges had a grim life -- the inability to see light, living amongst their brethren feet deep in their own feces, only to meet their death after others had died of "natural causes". Appealing? Probably not. And unfortunately, after seeing this, I was not looking forward to roasting the chicken I had in my refrigerator -- but I still did it (which you probably saw in a prior posting).

Another event that compelled me to consider Vegetarian Eating for a week was watching Oprah's show where she challenged her Harpo Studio employees to go Vegan for a week -- which meant no MEAT, no FISH, no DAIRY, no EGGS, no CHEESE ... People may think that if there is no meat/no dairy/no fish, you will starve and the only thing you will eat are processed foods. But, that's wrong (wrong if you're lazy to cook.) Kathy Freston who led the Oprah Vegan Challenge stated that you won't starve and you will still have good tasting food. Kathy provided a tour around Whole Foods and showed meat and dairy substitutes to quell the concerns of the meat-lovers dilemma. So after a week, are you curious about the results? Of the 378 people who tried the challenge, approximately 10% quit; 444 pounds lost, 84 pounds gained and a record amount of toilet paper used (yes, you'll go to the bathroom a lot! but that's a good thing).

From the Oprah show, one of the most impressive success stories came from video editor Rich, who lost 11 pounds during the week-long challenge. He says he stuck to the diet and opted for vegetables and whole grains over simple carbohydrates. By the third day, Rich says he felt better than he had in 10 years. Before the challenge, Rich says he was taking six to eight antacids a day and suffering from migraine headaches. "And let's qualify it, I ate horribly," he says. "I ate poor foods. Now I don't. And I lost 11 pounds."

As a testament to Rich's success, Kathy noted that after a week of vegan eating, your weight starts to drop, after two weeks your blood sugar and blood pressure levels start to drop, and after three weeks, your cholesterol drops. Sounds healthy. Oprah's show enlightened my mind and gave me the idea that maybe I could do this, that is, do this for a week (and perhaps longer).

Although Oprah's show gave me the vegetarian idea, what pushed me over the edge was attending a friend's birthday dinner at a steak house. Mooooo.... Yes, beef all over the place. With the documentaries and Oprah's show fresh in my head, you can only imagine what was going through my mind. Steak didn't appeal to me, however, I was in a steak house -- so I decided to share a steak. As the food arrived, slabs of "prime" steak were everywhere. I can't say that it was revolting, rather, it just made me think about food choices. So with that, I decided the steak I just enjoyed was my last piece of meat before I start my week challenge.

So I began my vegetarian eating-only challenge this past Saturday with an open mind. To make this challenge easier, I thought about vegetables I enjoyed eating, about past meals I had and decided I should cook them. So for my first vegetarian meal, I decided I would cook Lentil Soup. To many carnivores, lentils may sound revolting, or posh people may think that it is poor mans food ... but the heck with the preconceived notions of this bean ... I had it before and I liked it. So that will mark the beginning of this vegetarian journey. I do hope I make it through this week.

If anything, the only thing I hope to achieve from this challenge is to be more conscious of my food choices.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Rat Pack - Photograph Exhibition at the Milk Gallery (March 16-28); Photos by Sid Avery and Bob Willoughby

Never before seen photographs of The Rat Pack with the likes of Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin will be on display at the Milk Gallery from March 16 to March 28. These photographs will include what the Reel Art Press calls "Frank Sinatra's legendary clique ... The never before seen images, discovered only last year, include work by famed photographers Sid Avery and Bob Willoughby. The exhibition captures the glamour and excess of life in the fast lane during the fifties and sixties - from Vegas to Hollywood, to the set of Oceans 11 and the stage of The Sands, it’s Frank, Dean, Sammy, Marilyn and JFK at their best."

The exhibit will feature vintage prints and limited edition prints, with the majority of the images previously unseen and have never before been available for purchase. The images are by photographers Sid Avery and Bob Willoughby. The opening will be on March 15 and is an RSVP only event; however, the exhibit will be available to the rest of the public from March 16 to March 28 (details below). It is an event not to be missed!

For a preview of some of the photographs at the Milk Gallery: The Rat Pack exhibition, click the link here.

Coincidentally, Channel Thirteen and WLIW (21) will be airing THE RAT PACK: LIVE AND SWINGIN' Sunday at 8 pm on WLIW and Monday at 1:30 am on Channel Thirteen and 2:30 pm on WLIW.

  • The name "the Rat Pack" was originally referred to as a group of actors that originated with Humphrey Bogart.
  • How did the name "The Rat Pack" come to be and how did Sinatra become part of that group? According to Max Rudin, who wrote an article for PBS, he discovered that Sinatra had moved his family to LA's Toluca Lake to Holmby Hills, just blocks from Bogart's house, and Sinatra was inducted into Bogart's group of film star's drinking buddies. The story goes that when Bogart's wife, Lauren Bacall, saw the drunken crew all together in the casino, she told them, "You look like a goddamn rat pack."
  • After Bogart died, Sinatra liked having people around him and then assembled his own group. Frank Sinatra, Joey Bishop, Sammy Davis Jr, Dean Martin, and Peter Lawford rounded out the five-buddy group that was known as the "summit or the clan", but referred by journalists as the Rat Pack. The group was an ensemble of an ethnically diverse group of singers - one black, one Jew, two Italians, and one feckless Hollywoodized Brit - with a varied background - three of them second-generation immigrants, four raised during the Depression in ethnic city neighborhoods. These group of entertainers went to Las Vegas to shoot a movie (Ocean's 11) and do two nightclub shows. Their stage act took off and their careers spring boarded from there to more movies, records and business deals.
  • The Rat Pack, with its known leaders - Frank, Sammy and Dean - also had other followers known as the Rat Pack Mascots which included Marilyn Monroe, Angie Dickinson, Juliet Prowse, and Shirley MacLaine.
  • According to wikipedia, Peter Lawford, member of the Rat Pack, was a brother-in-law of President JFK and the group played a role in campaigning for JFK and the Democrats, appearing at the July 11, 1960 Democratic National Convention in LA. However, Sinatra's relationship with Lawford suffered as a result of JFK staying at a rival's house - Bing Crosby.
  • The Rat Pack Live and Swingin included Johnny Carson, who was an emcee and sub for Bishop who was out of the show due to a bad back. If you watch the episode on tv tonight (times mentioned above), you'll see the young Johnny Carson singing along with Frank, Dean and Sammy in the group's only televised concert at the Kiel Opera House in St. Louis. The event was a closed-circuit broadcast done as a fundraiser for Dismas House (the first halfway house for ex-convicts).
Even though I was not born during The Rat Pack's time, I can still appreciate their music. In contrast to today's music with the electronics and voice altering machines, Frank Sinatra and his crew had a unique voice that stood on its own.

To see the exhibit, visit The Milk Gallery at the address below

Milk Gallery
450 W 15th Street
New York, NY 10011
Exhibit open everyday from
10 am - 6 pm

For a preview of images from the Reel Art Press/Milk Gallery Rat Pack exhibition, click here.
For more info on the PBS article regarding the Rat Pack, read here.
For Rat Pack images from click here.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Milton Friedman on Phil Donahue's Show in 1979 (parts of it on cnbc)

If you've watched CNBC lately, you might have seen bits and pieces of Phil Donahue's interview with Economist Milton Friedman in 1979. Milton Friedman? Yes, you may have remembered learning about him in high school. Well, that 30 second commercial caught my eye, enough so, that I wanted to see the interview of Friedman for myself to see if there is anything to gleam from it. Interesting enough, Friedman talks about the Great Depression, private enterprise, government intervention, Chrysler, greed, capitalism, Ralph Nader and more. Sound interesting? I thought so.

Here is part of the clip that you see on cnbc of Milton Friedman and Phil Donahue in 1979.

For the entire interview:

Part 1 (New Deal/Great Depression/Chrysler/Pollution/Ralph Nader) ,
Part 2 (automobile industry/oil),
Part 3 (free trade/concentration of industries),
Part 4 (GM),
Part 5 (min wage)

Who is Milton Friedman? Economist, Professor, Nobel Prize Recipient in Economic Sciences, Economic advisor to Former President Ronald Reagan, just to name a few.

For more, take a look at wikipedia.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Char. No. 4 - Fat Tuesday - A Disappointing Crawfish Boil in Brooklyn

A few friends and I visited Char No. 4 for their special "Crawfish Boil" and we all had one word in mind -- DISAPPOINTING. By the looks of the place, their email marketing campaign worked since most of the patrons were there for crawfish. The place was packed and unless you previously made a reservation, getting a table for four was no longer available until 9:45 p.m. But was all the hype, worth the wait? Sadly, I think Char No. 4 failed to deliver and here's why.

1. Taste. The entire plate of seafood lacked flavor. It tasted as if the cook(s) threw the crawfish, shrimp, clams, andouille sausage in one pot , boiled it and hoped the food would bask in its own flavors. Ok, maybe that is too cruel, afterall, I'm sure the cooks went to culinary school or have some basis of cooking. But, honestly, where was the flavor? It definitely wasn't in the soupy base because that tasted bland and even the shell-in cooked shrimp lacked flavor!

So, with us hungry patrons looking for flavor, we asked our waiter for some Old Bay seasoning... After a few seconds of confusion, he supposedly went to the kitchen and his response to us was they were all out of it. Okkkkayyy... Then, how about some salt and pepper? He comes back with thyme and some gumbo seasoning. As I tasted my shrimp with that gumbo seasoning, I instantly reached for my water and told my friends, don't use that. Oi, we simply just gave up and continued to eat the not-so-flavorful seafood in front of us -- afterall, it was $23 per person.

2. Portion Size. You could order the Crawfish for one, two, or whatever size of your party. We ordered for three. As we patiently waited for our crawfish, a neighboring table of 2 received theirs and it looked like a sizable portion - so we got giddy since we ordered for three and there "should" be more. Our portion came, and our smiley faces turned into frowns. Our plate was the same size as our neighboring table and the portion actually looked less. How could this be. We looked around as more plates were being delivered to tables of 2 and to no surprise, it looked like more. So, my friend not-so-discreetly asked one of the servers (who wasn't our waiter, but looked like he would be the owner/cooking staff) how they determined the size for each plate and for each serving (yes, bold, very bold!) ... and his response was, we weigh it and... though we serve it on the same plate, believe me, you're getting served for the number of people you ordered for. My friend looked at each other and just said, forget it - its not worth it.

As a note, the crawfish for three was not enough to eat (hmm, i wonder why), so we ordered three other items to accompany our meal. Gumbo, crabcakes and spicy pork nuggets -- all of which surprisingly had flavor and offered some redemption value, but not much. Of the three, I think the gumbo would probably be my favorite. The crabcakes are hard to mess up, however, the lemon cream on the plate was too lemony. The spicy pork nuggets was a surprise - take one bite and "poof" goes the nugget -- it as if the bite pushed the air out of the nugget and that was sort of cool.

3. Service. Aside from the awesome host, Brad, the waiter service was slow and not helpful. Our waiter didn't even mention the specials of the night and once the crawfish arrived didn't even bother to ask if we knew how to eat crawfish. Also, I don't even recall him coming by asking if the food was okay. Sadly, we still gave a good tip.

Any positives? Aside from the host, I found few. The decor is simple and nice. After looking over their website, I should mention that they have a large selection of whiskey. It features over 150 American whiskeys , augmented by an extensive list of whiskeys from Europe and beyond as well as a selection of all-bourbon cocktails. So, if you're craving some bourbon, this could be a good spot for that.

Overall, the crawfish boil was a bust. Paying $69 for a plate of bland seafood sized with what they consider a portion for three should have been served with more than three Abita beers -- and in my opinion, the crawfish boil was just not worth it. So, would I come here again? No. Although the gumbo, crabcakes and pork nuggets had flavor, the food was not all that spectacular - just okay and definitely does not warrant another visit.

For yesterday's post of the Fat Tuesday event at Char No. 4, click here.

Char No.4
196 Smith St. (btw Baltic & Warren)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.643.2106 -
Subway - F or G Train to Bergen

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Fat Tuesday @ Char No. 4 in Brooklyn - Crawfish Boil

Do you think Fat Tuesday is only a major celebration in New Orleans? Welp, its now in New York. Fat Tuesday, according to Catholic religion (and wikipedia), is the last night of eating richer, fatty foods before the ritual fasting of the Lenten season, which begins on Ash Wednesday.

So what will you be doing? Today I will be venturing out to Brooklyn to Char No. 4 to experience their version of Fat Tuesday. In addition to their regular menu, Char. No. 4 will have a Crawfish boil from 6 pm to midnight. .

"The crawfish boil includes (in addition to crawfish) shrimp, clams, homemade andouille sausage and potatoes as well as an ice cold Abita Restoration Ale all for $23 per person not including tax and tip. It can be ordered for one person and will be served family style for groups of 2 or more."
The bartender Scott Gold, a native New Orleanian, will be on hand to demonstrate proper crawfish eating technique for anyone who needs a little helping hand.

Reservation will be accepted should you care to make one.

Char No.4
196 Smith St. (btw Baltic & Warren)
Brooklyn, NY 11201
718.643.2106 -
Subway - F or G Train to Bergen

UPDATED -- for a review of the Crawfish boil, click here.

KEN SHUNG NYC PHOTO EXHIBIT: "Pretty as a Picture" in the East Village

"Pretty as a Picture" New York City Exhibit by Ken Shung
photo from theworks

Ken Shung ... Who is Ken Shung? He was once my teacher at the School of Visual Arts, but there is more to this teacher than you can imagine. Many teachers, teach because they can't do, or haven't done, but this teacher has and continues to be in the throes of the competitive field of photography ... and as you will see in his new exhibit, Pretty as a Picture, he will display some of his personal works at the Tompkins Square Branch Library Downstairs Art Gallery.

According to "theworks", Ken Shung began his career spotting prints in the studio of Irving Penn and freelancing in the studios of editorial photographers Annie Liebovitz, Bill King, Bob Richardson, and assorted magazine photographers. Trained in the workings of studio lighting and editorial magazine photography, Mr. Shung set out to find his own style without the limits of the formal studio to produce work with the intention and idea that “The World is my Studio.”

Mr. Shung has worked for countless magazines shooting portrait assignments, alongside commercial lingerie campaigns starting with magazines like “7 days ” to New York Magazine, New York Times Magazine, Condé Nast Traveler, Vanity Fair, and a host of Time Inc. and Hearst Publications. Some of his past and present advertisting clients include Wacoal Lingerie, Donna Karan, Unilever and Chanel. In addition, Ken is internationally published and the co-author of a book on adoption (Be my Baby) as well as having his photography displayed in many galleries in the USA.

His new exhibition, "Pretty as a Picture" is a collection of images made during assignments and personal travels, showing a new direction and change from his formal portrait work, instead incorporating decisive moments and storytelling in the landscape /portraits genre.

Ken Shung sets out to make monumental images that embody the idea of the Pretty Picture. He captures disjunction, viewing our social spaces with wonder and tenderness and a magical decisive moment. In a typical Shung image, something ominous, apocalyptic, paradoxical, pictorial, and timeless has happened.

Ken Shung states, “It is said that a photographer/ artist is always searching to find his or her own vision and voice, otherwise they just ends up making a bunch of Pretty Pictures. With this collection of recent images I explore the nature of ‘When is a photograph just a Pretty Picture?’”

Mr. Shung considers his landscapes and portraits graphic, simple, psychological, introverted, and uncomfortably romantic, as well as very challenging conception-wise and academically well-conceived. Unsolved emotions and bold slices of life are part of the pleasures and smiles that are felt when you look at the “Pretty Pictures.”


The exhibition will feature a collection of large and medium scale prints of his recent Portrait / Landscapes work in his first New York debut showing.

The new work will be shown at the Tompkins Square New York Public Library Gallery beginning March 9 through March 31, 2011.

Downstairs Art Gallery
Tompkins Square Branch Library
331 East 10th street NY NY 10009

* The shows opens Wednesday, March 9 from 5:00 - 6:30 p.m. *

The Gallery hours are Wednesday through Saturday from noon until 5 p.m with appointments after hours made by email to or telephone 646-251-0179.

To view and purchase more of Ken’s work:

Friday, March 4, 2011

Simple Home Cooked Roast Chicken, Recipe by Thomas Keller

Roast Chicken by Susan Lee
Can you guess which one is taken w/ my Canon 7D and iphone?

I recently rediscovered cooking to be therapeutic and rewarding, especially when you cook something that seems too difficult to do, but somehow, you manage to cook it well on your first try. Roasting a chicken was just that -- it seems daunting because you're cooking a whole bird, but on my first try - I got it right! And, I can't tell you how "great" of a feeling that was! (think of the "dance of joy" from the tv show, Perfect Strangers).

I can understand someone's fears of roasting a chicken - believe me, I had my own. So, understandably so, roasting a chicken seems difficult because you have to cook the whole bird and as you know, or as you are finding out, chicken is one of those meats that you have to cook thoroughly, similar to pork, otherwise -- well, lets just say, otherwise, you'll find yourself in the bathroom as your body rejects the food. Yes, salmonella. But, putting salmonella aside, I think the hardest part about roasting a chicken is the "trussing" part, i.e. tying the legs and wings close to the body so the bird can cook evenly in the oven. After you have that down, the rest is easy - trust me.

Here are some of my general comments about the recipe and how I went about my roasting my chicken (along with some tips and errors that can save you time):
  • Chicken selection. Do you choose a roaster or a regular bird? Since this was my first time, I selected a roaster since I was "roasting" a chicken -- however, I don't think it truly matters and in retrospect, would probably have chosen a regular bird. A roaster is generally a little older than normal birds (lives 14 weeks vs. the average bird at 7 weeks) and is a bigger bird (5-8 lbs vs. 5 lbs or less). My guess also is a roaster will be fattier than a regular chicken.
  • Salt and pepper only? Yes, salt and pepper does wonders for this bird. I believe this is true even with pork and beef! As a tip, I placed salt and pepper in a separate bowl, so that once I touch the chicken, I know I'm not touching anything else but that bowl (yes, lets not spread salmonella). As the recipe states, place salt and pepper inside the cavity, truss it and then, salt the rest of the chicken. Instead of just "salting" the chicken, I also placed the mixture of salt and pepper all around the chicken. If you're wondering what the salt does? It actually makes the skin "crispier" and keeps the moisture in ... The thinking is similar to when you bake salt encrusted fish -- it comes out extremely moist (as least the food cooking channels say so!) - or at least that is my common sense justification.
  • The notes for this recipe mention not to cook anything else with it (i.e. vegetables; and even notes to make sure the bird is completely dry). This is to avoid a "steam" chicken that makes the skin and meat soggy... However, some reviewer notes said they had issues with smoke coming out from the oven. As a precaution, I made sure all my windows were open while I was cooking the chicken to prevent any smoke detectors from going off. From my experience, there wasn't a lot of smoke, though I did hear the "crackling" and the "juices of the bird" as it was roasting ...
  • I did not know how to truss a chicken, so I watched this video and just found this one that is simpler and more direct. Watch it a few times, and you'll figure out how to tie the legs and wings to the body.
photo to the left: my first trussed chicken. photo taken w/ my iphone

  • Place the chicken on a roasting pan. I didn't spray my pan, so when the chicken was cooked, I had to scrap off the bottom. To remedy this, you can either 1) cook the chicken on a roasting rack - thus, the bird will cook more evenly; and if you don't have a roasting rack, spray the roasting pan with non-stick spray, or place aluminum foil on the bottom of the chicken (that way its easier for clean-up)
  • General rule of thumb for cooking chicken is -- it should cook for 15-20 minutes per pound of chicken (depends on temperature in the oven). I had a 5 lb chicken, so I cooked it for 1. hour and 15 minutes (probably could have kept it another 5-10 minutes). Or, if you have an instant read thermometer, my research says that if the breast register 160 degrees and the thigh registers 165-170 degrees then its ready. For more info, I found this site that gives you a chart of roasting times based on temperatures.
  • Once the chicken is cooked, DO NOT into the chicken until after it has rested for 15 minutes - this allows the juices to redistribute throughout the bird, making for a moister chicken. And as an added bonus, the chicken will continue to cook a little longer (i.e. carryover cooking)
  • The recipe calls for unsalted butter, thyme and dijon mustard. Since the recipe didn't state to melt the butter (just to spread it)... I decided to melt the butter in a pan, then added the thyme and mustard, and brushed the mixture onto the bird as it was resting. It gives it a nice "refreshed" golden brown color. Yum. I also served the chicken with mustard on the side.
  • Drippings. Surprisingly, there was a lot of oil at the bottom of the pan, which makes me the believe that the roaster was quite fatty (and thankfully it melted away into the pan). You can use these drippings to make a gravy.
Overall, the roast chicken was extremely moist and tasty -- and I would highly recommend this recipe for someone who wants to make their first roast chicken. The recipe was relatively easy, with trussing as the hardest part of the process - but once mastered, this really is a simple recipe. Two of my friends came over for my "trial run" and they loved it! and I of course, continued to do the "Dance of Joy" with a sigh of relief! Phew!

There are a whole bunch of other recipes out there that include roasting a chicken with rosemary, or lemon, or garlic or anything else you can think of ; and there are recipes that say to brine the chicken first (vs. this method of just salting the chicken and then baking)... so the type and the way you roast your chicken is truly up to you. however, we know this recipe works!

Thank you Thomas Keller for sharing your recipe on Epicurious!


by Chef Thomas Keller of Bouchon, Bouchon Bakery, French Laundry, Per Se, Ad Hoc

Photo is Thomas Keller from The South In My Mouth Blog

One 2- to 3-pound farm-raised chicken
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons minced thyme (optional)

Unsalted butter
Dijon mustard

Preheat the oven to 450°F. Rinse the chicken, then dry it very well with paper towels, inside and out. The less it steams, the drier the heat, the better.

Salt and pepper the cavity, then truss the bird. Trussing is not difficult, and if you roast chicken often, it's a good technique to feel comfortable with. When you truss a bird, the wings and legs stay close to the body; the ends of the drumsticks cover the top of the breast and keep it from drying out. Trussing helps the chicken to cook evenly, and it also makes for a more beautiful roasted bird.

Now, salt the chicken. I like to rain the salt over the bird so that it has a nice uniform coating that will result in a crisp, salty, flavorful skin (about 1 tablespoon). When it's cooked, you should still be able to make out the salt baked onto the crisp skin. Season to taste with pepper.

Place the chicken in a sauté pan or roasting pan and, when the oven is up to temperature, put the chicken in the oven. I leave it alone. I don't baste it, I don't add butter; you can if you wish, but I feel this creates steam, which I don't want. Roast it until it's done, 50 to 60 minutes. Remove it from the oven and add the thyme, if using, to the pan. Baste the chicken with the juices and thyme and let it rest for 15 minutes on a cutting board.

Remove the twine. Separate the middle wing joint and eat that immediately. Remove the legs and thighs. I like to take off the backbone and eat one of the oysters, the two succulent morsels of meat embedded here, and give the other to the person I'm cooking with. But I take the chicken butt for myself. I could never understand why my brothers always fought over that triangular tip until one day I got the crispy, juicy fat myself. These are the cook's rewards. Cut the breast down the middle and serve it on the bone, with one wing joint still attached to each. The preparation is not meant to be superelegant.

Slather the meat with fresh butter. Serve with mustard on the side and, if you wish, a simple green salad.
You'll start using a knife and fork, but finish with your fingers, because it's so good.

October 2004
by Thomas Keller

Left photo is with my Canon and the Right is with my iphone!

Thursday, March 3, 2011

New York City Border Store Closing means some discounts for you!

We all hate to capitalize on a bankruptcy, but you have to remind yourself that all that you spend will go towards their bankruptcy proceedings and you will likely see a re-emerged company in a year or so!

25-50% off of books, cds, dvds and more and it all starts Friday, March 4 at the 32nd street and 2nd avenue location!

So shop now and save some cash!

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Did we say $6 was cheap for a movie? How about $4.50? Limited time offer by LivingSocial

Okay, really -- $4.50? Yes, you can buy TWO tickets for the price of $9 for any movie purchase on The tickets are worth up to $15 per ticket, which when added to the price of a New York movie $13 + $2 fandango surcharge, you're ticket is covered.

The special sale is going on right now at However, you have to hurry because you will have until 9 AM tomorrow morning (Thursday) to purchase them.

Mono + Mono or Mad for Chicken Closing on 5th Avenue

I am totally behind the times... The Mono + Mono on 5th Avenue (near 32nd Street) is closing / closed. Mono + Mono used to be Mad for Chicken and before that BonChon Chicken! But no worries, they have another location in the East Village that both you and I can try!

By the looks of their website, I am already liking the vibe of the place. I especially enjoyed the Chef Steve video with the bangs and clangs of his cooking utensils. :D

They also have some cool events, or "catchy" things that are bound to intrigue you...

here are a few:

DO IT YOURSELF SPECIAL: Unlimited chicken wings and beer only for penny….
  • Sunday-Thursday, 5-7pm (From Feb.28)
  • Unlimited wings to pick up and Penny beer (pint) to serve yourself
  • $20 on reservation, $25 for walk-in (for the unlimited chicken)
  • Only $29.95 for Chicken Plate (instead of $34.95)
  • from 4-8pm from Sunday to Thursday and 4-7pm on Fridays and Saturdays. Reservation required!
Girls Night Out Tuesdays!
  • Girls receive a complimentary Pink Lychee Cocktail every Tuesday!

Yum, can't wait to try this place out!

Mono + Mono
116 East 4th Street
(Between 1st & 2nd Avenue)
New York NY 10003
Tel. 212.466.6660

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Food Gallery 32 - New Cashier System!! and a visit during lunch!

It seems like I have been frequenting this place a lot recently -- perhaps because its the most convenient place for friends to eat at, especially with the variety of cuisines the Food Gallery offers to its clientele.

My most recent visit had a pleasant surprise! The annoying front-ordering system is no longer in place! YES, my previous blog assessments (info on food court, friday night review) to change the ordering system seemed to make good business sense. Customers can now order food from the food stall that they would like to eat from! Seems like a common-sense thing to do, right? Well, now it is. Turns out the customers are liking that a lot better now!

So I tried two places today. De-ppangi and Jin Jja Roo.

If you will recall, De-ppangi serves Japanese Style foods -- with Donburi's, Teppan-Yaki and Onigiri's and Jin Jja Roo serves a mixture of Chinese and Korean foods blended together.

At De-ppangi I ordered the Seafood Teppanyaki for $9.99. The seafood included imitation crab, octopus, and small sized shrimp. Nothing too spectacular about it ... Plus, it made me think whether they just used the cheapest form of seafood to make this dish. Something I will continue to ponder.

At Jin Jja Roo, my friend ordered the Deep fried Chicken in a sweet and sour sauce (I may have the name incorrect), but it was not that good. Flavor was decent, but I seemed to wonder "where's the chicken" .... There was definitely more dough than chicken in this dish. I much prefer this dish at Shanghai Moon, which is diagonal from the Food Court and more expensive (but sometimes you get what you pay for!)

Overall, in my opinion, I believe Hanok is still the best place to eat in the Food Gallery. If you're in K-town you're likely looking for a simple, but good Korean meal in this food court -- and like others in search of the same thing, you'll be standing in line behind the rest of them at Hanok. (btw, Hanok had the longest lines in the Food Court, so make sure you go earlier than later!) I sort of feel bad for the other food establishments there, especially Bian Dang and Jin Jja Roo who's operating space is minimized due to the people waiting in line for Hanok!

In conclusion, I still believe Food Gallery 32 provides a good option for people who are on a budget, or people who are eating with friends who can't decide on what to eat.

Happy Eating!

Mason Jar NYC - Disappointing Food and a Western Ghost Town Bar

On my second visit to Mason Jar, I was reminded of how disappointing this place was and am now wondering why this place is still around. BOURBON and BEER. That's why! They have a wide selection of bourbon and beers, slightly over 20 each, that will definitely keep the patrons coming back for more. But is it enough to keep this place afloat? Sure, liquor/beverages have high margins, but you need something else to supplement that income, especially when New York City rents are so high. So, my best guess is that the Mason Jar will be short-lived - which is unfortunate since its a relatively new establishment to the area.

So why such a bad review?

FOOD IS HORRIBLE. If you like bland food, then this is your place. On my most recent visit, I ordered the pulled pork entree with two sides. The pulled pork tasted something akin to Chipotle's or Qdoba's shredded pork, but blander if you can believe it (and I think the fast food chains are a chin ahead of mason jar on this one). The garlic mashed potatoes tasted like they came out of a box - something I was not expecting. A friend ordered the meatloaf that touted "bacon" and I swear I didn't taste any bacon in that thing.

Sadly, I can't say my first visit was any better. My friends and I visited this place shortly after it opened. We ordered the BBQ ribs, Pretzel Burger and DOH, the Pulled Pork. And, my opinion then was the same as it was tonight -- bad, just plain bad.

I will say one thing, of all the things that are pretty good or decent at this place, its the Jalapeno Corn Bread. They used to serve it as "the bread when you first sit down", but that is no longer being served as your 'welcome' bread.

The decor is nice - sort of reminds me of Galway Hooker. Either way, I wish they spent a little less on the decor and more on a good chef -- that way they could sell a lot more liquor when its comforted by good food!

Its just too bad that this place doesn't have better food, otherwise, I think it would actually have a good chance. But, if you want to name your restaurant as an "American BBQ comfort bar/restaurant" than you should probably serve some decent BBQ! Especially if you know your competitors are Blue Smoke, Wildwood and Hill Country, which are all within a 1-1.5 mile radius. Heck, I would even throw in Hill Stone (previously Houston's) as their direct competitor.

What's the verdict? This place is not recommended for dining, even if you are having a craving for BBQ - its just not worth it. If you're interested in having some drinks, I'd suggest coming for Happy Hour which starts at 5 and ends at 7. Or, even if you're looking for a low-key quiet-mellow place, Mason Jar will be a good place for it -- think of the old Ghost Town bars in western movies -- that's what this place will be.

Mason Jar
43 E 30th St

(between Madison Ave & S Park Ave)
New York, NY 10016

p.s. if you're wondering why I came back to this place? A friend had a Groupon that was about to expire, so we had to use it. Its too bad we spent our groupon on food instead of alcohol!
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