Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Suzee's Tex Mex Butternut Squash Soup

I made a roast beef a couple of nights ago, and after 2 very similar dinners of roast beef, I decided tonight should be a soup with some of the leftovers. We love butternut squash soup, and I usually make it pretty simply with chicken stock and some pepper and puree it with an immersion blender. Tonight I wanted something different. Here's what you'll need for this spicy sweet treat!
4 cups or so of roasted, cubed butternut squash
2 cups of roast beef, cubed small
4 cups of chicken stock
1 T Better'n Boullion Beef (you could leave this out if you don't have it)
1/2 cup of tomato paste
1/2 cup of green chiles, canned
1 cup corn
5 oz fresh spinach ( you could sub frozen easily enough)
1/2t garlic powder
1/2t ground chipotle
1t ground cumin
Pop everything except the spinach into a dutch oven, simmer and mix, heating everything through. Wilt in spinach. Taste to adjust seasonings. Enjoy!

Sunday, December 27, 2009

Cotton in Manchester NH

Over the holidays we made our way back to the Southern NH area, and met up with Ann and Mike for dinner. They picked us up at the Sheraton on John Devine Drive, and brought us to Cotton. Both Rick and I remembered coming to this location when it was an Italian joint a million years ago. We didn't remember the interior at all - it was simple, clean and well lit (meaning the lights were just dim enough so we all looked like we were 20 again, and light enough so we could figure out what we were eating).
We sat, and chatted and ordered drinks - there was a nice selection of draft beers. Ann ordered Tuckerman's Pale Ale, and Mike ordered iced tea. Rick ordered his usual grey goose on the rocks after getting a little excited that they had the L'Orange, but unfortunately they were out. I ordered pinot grigio, and asked the waitress pointed me to the drier of the two, and her suggestion was excellent!
We ordered appetizers next - Mike had the green salad - it was fresh and crisp - he shared and I appreciated it! Ann and Rick shared an order of pot stickers - and these were nice as I'd expect - an asian pork mixture wrapped in a dough surround with a light dipping sauce. I tried the mushroom strudel - mixture of sauteed mushrooms and boursin cheese wrapped in a puffed pastry boardering on filo. It was tasty and flakey, but I must admit I preferred my Champignons Sautee au Beurre avec L'ail.
Next were entrees - Ann debated between the Turkey Schnitzel and the lobster and chicken carbonara, and she ended up having the Turkey. I got a taste! It was on a base of mashed potatoes, and then buttered green beans were layered next. The next topper was the crispy schnitzel, and it was topped with this amazing bourbon applesauce. Delish! For $15.50 you really could not beat it. Actually for $10 more, I'd still be pleased. I ordered the carbonara. The lobster had been frozen (I'm so spoiled), but the chicken was nicely cooked - juicy and delicious. There were also bacon bits along with mushrooms and peas with pasta and the light creamy sauce. I enjoyed it! Mike and Rick both had the steak frites - a nice bistro meal.
We had a great visit - the location was conducive to visiting and lots of merriment. If you are in Manchester, I'd definitely give Cotton a try!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Suzee's Chicken Corn Chowder

I was going to make a simple chicken and rice soup today. I started the mirepoix, a mixture of onion, carrot and celery sauteeing in the soup pot while I deboned the chicken. Even though the chicken was cooked, it took longer than I thought and I burned the crap out of my aromatics. Boo hiss. I stopped. Tossed out the burned food, and had a bloody mary. Once I was done my brunch cocktail, I started again.
1 vidalia onion
4 small carrots
3 stalks celery
3 T butter
3 T flour
6 cups chicken stock
1t dried sage
1t dried thyme
1/2t garlic powder
8 oz cooked rice (I used left over chinese takeout rice)
2 big cups of cooked chicken
1/2 c half and half
I sauteed a vadalia onion, 4 small carrots and 3 stalks of celery, diced. I moved the veggies to one side of the pan, and added butter and flour to make a roux. I cooked it for a couple of minutes, and then added 6 cups of chicken stock and the rice. Next I chopped the cooked chicken and added this to the pot. I added the spices and finally the half and half.
I let this simmer for 15 minutes or so while I baked a par-baked baguette from Fresh Direct. The bread and chowder were a warm and delicious supper for a snowy day :)

Suzee's French Tea Cakes

I was looking to make some almond cookies - I've always enjoyed making the Almond Crescents from Rose Beranbaum's Christmas Cookie book, but that book is in storage :( I turned to the internet to gain inspiration for a cookie that would be satisfying, as well as one that can be made with out my food processor or my mixer, as both of these were too large to keep here in the apartment. This is what I came up with!

2 sticks of room temp butter (leave it out over night)

1/2C confectioners sugar

1T vanilla

2 1/4C Flour

2/3 C almonds

More confectioners sugar for rolling

Preheat the oven to 400.

Take the almonds and chop them into very small pieces.

In a large bowl, mix the butter, 1/2 cup sugar and vanilla.

Next add flour and almonds, and mix until you have a crumbly dough.

Form dough into 1" balls, and bake for 12 minutes. Don't be afraid to place these cookies close together on the ungreased cookies sheet - they will not spread or rise.

Once baked, roll each cookie well in sugar, and set on a rack to cool.

Once cooled, roll each cookie again in sugar.


The next time I make these, I will try the following changes:

In the cookies I'll add 1/2t of almond extract.

I'll change the confectioners sugar from 1/2 C to 1C.

I'll change the flour from 2 1/4 cups to 2 cups.

And I may decide to create a glaze for the cookies rather than rolling in sugar - or half and half...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Baby Bo's Cantina - Muy Bueno!!

We went to the movies this afternoon and after enjoying a great show, we decided to make our way to Baby Bo's on Second Ave between 34th and 35th. We got there around 3:45, and brunch was being served until 4, so we were golden! If we had wanted something from the regular menu, we could have gotten that. At brunch for $10.95 you can order any brunch dish, and get a margarita, mimosa, or bloody mary included. If you choose something else to drink, you can order brunch items for $8.95. Rick ordered the breakfast burrito - a huge tortilla filled with scrambled eggs and various other burrito accoutrements he can no longer remember, and topped with a red sauce and a sprinkling of cojita cheese. He thought it was amazing! I had the huervos rancheros - a couple of crispy corn tortillas with beans, and eggs - mine were over easy - and topped with a very spicy and delicious rancheros sauce - it was garnished with slices of avacado, and served with home fries.
We sat at the bar, and had great service - we had a great view of the cozy dining room and all the crazy decorations including super Christmas lights featuring tiny Santas! I told Rick while we were enjoying our dishes that we must come here more often!!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Suzee's Champignons Sautee Au Beurre Avec L'ail

Tonight I had planned to have pan fried flank steak with veggies and butternut squash, but I got a last minute ticket to the White Christmas broadway mantinee show and got home late. A few minutes after I arrived at home, Rick called as he usually does before his trek back to home base.

Since I walked there and back, I was tired, and put off the big meal.

I sliced 8 ounces of crimini mushrooms, and tossed them in a teflon pan with butter and garlic powder on medium heat. I sauteed them, stirring occassionally for around 15 minutes. They looked so delicious, I wished I'd had a whole pound of mushrooms to sautee.

I had picked up a baguette at the Corando bakery at the Grand Central Market, and I didn't want it to go to waste. I sliced it on the bias, about an inch for each slice. I lightly buttered each side and baked them at 350 for 10 minutes. They were perfectly browned ad toasty with the sweet butter flavor. I spread each slice with a soft garlic cheese (like allouette or pub cheese) and topped each with slices of sauteed mushrooms with butter and garlic.

This was a delicious light supper which I enjoyed with a glass of Pinot Grigio, and Rick enjoyed with a Captain Morgan and diet coke. I think I'll make this one again at New Years Eve - delicious appetizers are appropriate for a New Year celebration!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Morrell Wine Bar and Cafe

After looking at the lights and the tree at Rockefeller Center, we decided to stop in at Morrell Wine Bar and Cafe. A friend had suggested it for a snack, and since we were in this part of town, it seemed like a great time to try it out. You can see people sitting outside enjoying a couple of bottles of wine, and in these seats you have a perfect view of the tree. Since it was relatively warm last night, I'll bet they enjoyed their wine and ambiance!

We thought about just having a knosh and a glass of wine, but it was dinner time, and who wants to cook later? So we stepped inside, and they did have space for 2 for dinner. The bar was jammed, so it was a pleasant surprise that there was space.

I ordered a nice sparkling wine, and Rick ordered a Cabernet Sauvignon - both were wonderful, though I can't tell you which they were as the web's list of wine by the glass is not up to date.

We started by sharing the onion tart - a puff pastry with caramelized onion, gruyere and creme fraiche. The appetizer menu was filled with lovely sounding bites, and this tart did not disappoint. The crust was crisp and flakey, and the filling was creamy, flavorful and just a little bit sweet. We both liked it a lot!

For dinner I ordered the Red Beet Risotto. It was fine. I wish there had been a nicer balance with the watercress and bleu cheese. There was only a few pieces of watercress, and the cheese was so mild that I wonder if it really was bleu cheese. Rick ordered the Bolito Misto, described as: braised veal cheek, boiled flat iron steak, thinly shaved tenderloin, purple peruvian and red chile pepper potatoes, baby carrots, scallions, beef jus. It came as a bowl of unbelievably salty pot roast. Honestly, I would have sent it back. When I tasted it, the salt almost burned my tounge. It was crazy.

So, the lovely list of wines and the appetizers (at least the onion tart) I would happily repeat. It is nice to be able to go to a wine bar as our local wine store only has a few wines at any given time. This would be a nice place to bring a friend for an improptu wine tasting as there are over 50 wines by the glass! Next time!

Monday, December 14, 2009

Football Sunday!

On Sunday I was anxious to go to the ESPN Zone - I'd heard it was fun, and the Patriots were going to play at 1:00 so we had a chance of getting a seat. At least that was what I was thinking. I was wrong. At 11:30 we arrived and the room where the Patriots were on was already full with a waiting list. Well, that was the end of that. We decided to head over to the Frat row in Murray Hill. We walked into Mercury Bar - we were the second group there for the day. It worked out well that we were early, because even though they have the NFL Ticket (the only way to get to see all NFL games), I don't think they have enough TVs to show all the games. We asked the hostess where the Patriots would be shown, and we parked ourselves infront of that TV.
Mercury Bar offers football specials. You can get a bucket of beer (6 bottles) for $30, a pint of domestic draft for $7 or a pony keg (see the picture) for $45. We did end up getting a bucket, but there wasn't enough ice to keep the top half of the bottle cold. I can't imagine those pony kegs and how warm they would get.
The Patriots played the Panthers at Gillette, and they won!

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Villa Berulia, a warm Italian haven

Saturday night, after Rick waited all day for another group at work to finish their extract, we decided to go out for dinner. Even if the other group finished, we wouldn't be gone that long, and he could still kick off the feed to the test search system tonight.
Since we wanted to stay close to home, I suggested we try Villa Berulia - I walked by on my way to the Post Office on Friday, and saw they have low carb options, as well has delicious sounding pastas. I wanted to try it, and it was close, so after (very little) arm twisting, Rick hit the shower and got dressed.
The restaurant has 3 separate rooms, and each room contains 4 or 5 tables of various sizes. It looks like a great place to have a group if you call ahead!
Rick ordered a grey goose and I had a glass of pinot grigio as we looked over the menu. The specials sounded really delicious, and we negotiated to determine who would have the roasted beet and goat cheese salad :) In the end, I noticed the stuffed mushroom appetizer (Antipasto di Funghi), and decided to try it. I was so glad I did! 5 mushrooms were served on a bed of spicy arugula with pan juices. The mushrooms were stuffed with a cube of goat cheese and topped with the pan sauce - they. were. fantastic! The small mushrooms were the size I prefer, and the arugula was the perfect compliment. I also tried Rick's roasted beet salad - I had expected the beets and the cheese to be warm, but they were cold. Rick liked the salad, but I was pleased with my choice.
For dinner I chose the buccatini carbanara with mushrooms (Buccatini al Funghi). Rick chose the Parpardelle with venison ragout (Parpardelle al Ragu di Capriolo). The server let him know that they were out of parpardelle, but were happy to subsitute a different pasta. Rick accepted the suggested rigatoni, and we enjoyed our cocktails. A few minutes later the server came back to let us know that they are out of the venison ragout as well. Rick looked at the menu again and I encouraged him to choose the Agnoloti, a ravioli made with spinach pasta and marscapone cheese with a puree of artichoke hearts.
Dinner came, and Rick's dish contained eight artfully arranged ravioli with a beautiful pink vodka sauce all around. Mine was a dish of swirled buccatini with mushrooms and bacon and the gorgeous carbonara sauce. Our dishes were served wonderfully hot, and we dug in. Mine was fantastically earthy (from the mushrooms) and smokey (from the bacon) and I knew I'd never finish it. Rick let me taste his - a homemade pillow of pasta with a smooth cheese filling hinting at an earthy vegetable essence covered with a creamy vodka sauce - YUM!
After dinner we declined dessert, and a plate of anise biscotti appeared! Rick really likes these cookies! While we were negotiating the check (signing the visa bill) the Matre'd asked us if we'd like a little drink. He brought us a couple small brandy snifters with peach schnapps on ice. I'd never had this before, and I have to say, if I had, Mom you would never have gotten those bottles when we moved :)
I'm glad we found this neighborhood gem. I'm looking forward to returning soon!

Union Square Holiday Market

From the Holiday Market - a stall devoted to Crepe Suzette!

One booth had beautiful carved art, like this Father and Child. It was an 8x10 - very pretty.

Went Christmas shopping yesterday - first time to really get going....
I was able to get a few gifts! I went to Union Square to check out the Holiday Market and the Farmers Market. I bought a bouquet of greens that look great and smell wonderful from a vendor for only $5 - bargain!! Also bought a fake pre-lit tree - going to put it up tomorrow! I was loaded down with bags, so I took a cab home. Plino was so nice taking my packages to the elevator, and after I paid the cabbie I stepped out, twisted my ankle and fell on my ass. So embarassing. Anyway, got the loot upstairs before Rick got home! Woo!

Friday, December 11, 2009

Holiday Parties

Last night I went to meet some friends and alumni from the reserve. We had a great time catching up at Jack Dempsey's. Jessie set it all up (party goddess!). We had cocktails and some appetizers. The Medley had wings (buffalo, bbq or teriyaki), chicken fingers, mozzerella sticks and potato skins. We tried both the buffalo and teriyaki, and the wings were good! Nice and meaty and good sized, served with a mild bleu cheese dressing. The star of the platter, though, were the chicken fingers. Nicely cooked, very lightly breaded, juicy and delicious! A balanced honey mustard accompanied these bites. The mozzerella sticks were standard, served with a little marinara. The potato skins were not fried enough - like flabby french fries topped with crisp bacon and cheese and some sour cream on the side. If I go back, I think those chicken fingers will be on my plate :)
Marlene was there early and called to let me know that she and Bob needed company. I was able to easily convince Mike to join us. Jessie and Jocelyn came soon after. We took silly pictures :) Good to see everyone!

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Sardi's and 39 Steps

Last night I was able to snag a ticket for Alfred Hitchcock's 39 Steps on Broadway. I left early so I could pick up my ticket before the show, and I got to the Helen Hayes Theater at about 7, and the show started at 8. I decided to stop next door at Sardi's. How could I skip NYC's iconic theater location? As I entered, I saw a sign that there was a cocktail lounge upstairs. Bonus! I'm there! I ordered a Cosmo - not too sweet, and the attentive bartender brought it over. The bar had large bowls of pretzles, peanuts, and crocks of cheese with crackers. I met a few interesting folks - a couple in town for a company Christmas party, a woman who just bought a new apartment and is renovating her kitchen...it was a nice break.
I went next door to enter the theater and find my seat. Bonus! I was in the 4th row orchestra seats! The Helen Hayes Theater is older and smaller, and there was no coat check. I stuffed my coat and my butt in the tiny seat and started looking at the Playbill. The show was initially set in London in the '30's. A few scenes had the actors smoking, and there was a lot of smoke used through out the first act. Being so close to the stage, it was really bothering me, so I left. It was too bad because the actors were very good. I think it is very hard to do physical comedy, and these people were *really* good :) 39 Steps is closing January 10th, so be sure to get tickets (for the back of the theater).