Chinatown in NYC – revisted

Posted May 26th, 2011 in Cooking classes, Meatless, Recipes, Restaurant review by Rebecca Lane

View of NYCs Chinatown

Why are you sighing you ask? I just wrote this – and hit Publish – and it disappeared!

Dragonfruit in Chinatown

Where do unpublished blog posts go I wonder? Does anyone ever see them again? Who knew that if you leave your laptop overnight and DON’T actually post your post something happens and it becomes unpublishable. Deeply saddening!

Luckily, Chinatown was not a sad place. Look at the beautiful colours and textures to the left. This is a common sight in NYCs Chinese section – and further along you find vendors selling wonderful vibrant vegetables and fruit (who can resist a pink and green dragon fruit?), origami sculptures, bonsai, and brightly coloured toys. It is one of the oldest ethnic Chinese areas outside of Asia.

Marinated Frogs Legs

Our five hour tour started with a visit to an underground shopping mall where you could purchase any body part of an animal you can imagine. The Chinese use every part of the animal for cooking and eating – from marinated frogs legs, chicken feet, black chickens (apparently their feathers are white and fluffy, but their skin is definitely black) and all internal organs, you can purchase them here.

Dried starfish and sea cucumbers

From here we found several dried goods stores where we found all kinds of things I wouldn’t even have thought could be dried – like sea cucumbers and starfish. These coconut curls though would be beautiful on a chocolate, coconut cake I’m thinking. Maybe I should come up with a recipe. No doubt the Chinatown here in TO will be able to provide the curls.

Coconut Curls

That’s one of the things I realized. We have a thriving Chinatown here in Toronto, and I never visit it. I got so many ideas for foods that I would love to try and experiment with from NYC and could probably have had the same, or a similar experience at home. So often, we get in a plane to experience something that’s in our own backyards. But it takes a plane ride for us to see it!

Vegetarian Dim Sum

The group experienced Vegetarian Dim Sum together. I’m not certain that I would do it again. I’ve had Dim Sum before and have a texture problem with the custard like quality of the food. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE custard – but not when it’s made with rice flour and warm and gelatinous and a little greasy.

After spending the morning and the early afternoon experiencing the sights, sounds, smells and tastes of Chinatown, we walked across Canal Street to Little Italy. It may only be one street long, but there’s lots of Italian flavour let me tell you – and amazing that it’s just across the street from Chinatown!

Cannoli - first taste

Sherri tried her first Cannoli and we found a little Italian restaurant that served delicious pizza – fresh tomatoes, mozzarella cheese and basil. Ohhh – it was so good. It could have been made more delicious by the margaritas that were served along with the pizza? And the umbrella protecting us from the rain? And the good-looking Italian men in the restaurant? Nah – it was tasty. Sometimes the really simple recipes are the best. Once recipes get too complex, the flavour gets lost.

Here is where we started walking – after we found a restroom, which is not an easy task in Little Italy! We walked to Soho in search of a store selling Doc Marten’s for Sherri – at Spring and Green. Next time I come to NYC, I’m starting my shopping here. It’s so pretty with lots of tiny little one-of-a-kind boutiques that I would love to have browsed through. Unfortunately we had dinner reservations so had to keep moving.

Those reservations were being held at Blossom of NYC. Weary and wet again – we picked a rainy weekend to discover the joys of New York – I had a delicious mixed field greens salad with a sweet potato filled ravioli topped with pine nuts. This meal was made even better by its proximity to Cocoa V where we went for dessert – lots of decadent chocolate. Who could ask for more? Oh yes – it was close to our hotel!

Our last day was Sunday – so we needed a great Sunday brunch spot and found that Sarabeth‘s at Central Park South is THE place to be in New York City for brunch. After a decidedly fluffy breakfast of eggs and scones – and delicious jam I might add – we went for a walk through Central Park and along 5th Avenue. Before we knew it, it was time to fly home to beautiful TO.

Until we return NYC and Natural Gourmet Institute.

Here’s the recipe for the Homemade Ricotta we stuffed the Ravioli with –

Homemade Ricotta (makes 1 quart)

1 gallon whole milk
1 cup heavy cream (not ultra pasteurized)
2 tsps salt
1/2 cup fresh lemon juice

In a large pot (one gallon large), heat the milk and cream to 100°F. Add the salt and continue heating, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until an instant read thermometer reads 185°F.

Add the lemon juice and gently stir. The lemon juice causes the milk to separate. Reduce heat to really low and cook until curds form (about 1 minute). Do not let mixture come to a boil. Remove from heat and let stand for 5 minutes.

Line a sieve in a bowl with damp cheesecloth and gently ladle curds into the cloth, letting it drain for an hour. The longer it sits, the harder it becomes. Transfer to container and refrigerate. Will keep for up to 5 days.



NYC and the Natural Gourmet Institute

Posted May 23rd, 2011 in Cooking classes, Grains, Meatless, Recipes, Restaurant review by Rebecca Lane

We had a wonderful, whirlwind tour of NYC this weekend that included a Pasta cooking class at Natural Gourmet Institute and a walking (and eating) tour of Chinatown. I’ve got lots of photos and a recipe to follow – but first the details!

Sherri & Pina at Xai Xai, a South African Restaurant

Before we begin, I want to apologize for the fact that there are no photos of me. It seems that if you remember to bring a camera, then you become the biographer rather than the subject of the biography! Anyway, there are very few photos of me because I often remember my camera! Enough said.

We arrived in NYC on Thursday afternoon and spent the afternoon walking toward the Theatre District and visited Times Square (this was quite a hike from our hotel at W 29th and 7th Avenue – the Holiday Inn Express). About 5 o’clock in the afternoon we walked by the sign for Wicked and decided that we would try and get cancelled tickets. We quickly managed to get 2 tickets but were waiting on a 3rd when something wonderful happened. There was a lottery called for 13 spots in the front row! Who knew? So Sherri and I left Pina in the line-up and put our names in the lottery along with 100s of other people. There were a lot of people trying to get these tickets! Anyway, I won a ticket and for $26.25 I was able to watch ‘Wicked’ from the front row.

To celebrate, we walked down to Xia Xia, a South African restaurant for a Margaritta (I know, you don’t usually associate the two – but they were on sale for $4 there and we couldn’t resist). Along with the delicious margarittas, we tried Goat Cheese Stuffed Pepperdaw Peppers which are delicious mildly spicy peppers from South Africa. Got to try and find them here – does anyone know where I might find them in Toronto?

With the pepperdaws, we had Oven-roasted Asparagus with Melted Brie in an Orange Honey sauce. I’m thinking that the name should say it all.  It was fabulous. Melted brie topped with asparagus tips served with an orange-honey sauce that would have been even better if the orange was a stronger flavour. When I try it at home, I think that I’ll try zesting some of the rind to punch up the flavour.

The next day was Friday, and we spent the day shopping. It rained all day so we literally ducked from one store into the next. But a few shoes managed to find their way into my suitcase as well as a raincoat and matching scarf. Our destination for lunch was Angelica’s Kitchen on E 12th street. I can’t remember what we ate exactly as I didn’t take notes nor did I take photos (hey, it was raining, we walked many, many miles and my feet were wet and blistered – I was not in my happy place!). We started with the soup of the day which was potato and leek with an arugula sauce on the top. It was a beautiful white soup with a swirl of green on the top. After that, we asked the waiter for help (I think we were all in the same ‘gloomy cloud’ place and so hungry and thirsty we couldn’t really make decisions) and he suggested that we try the Pantry Plate with hummus, a simple salad, and garlic lemon marinated kale. It was tasty – to finish off the hummus we tried some of their Sourdough bread which was a good idea as we didn’t want to waste any!

By this time we needed to head back to the hotel and dry off before our Pasta class. I have to admit that I was feeling so exhausted that the idea of standing for the next 4 hours filled me with dread. Yeah – I had come all of this way for this one class and I just wanted to go to bed with my feet suspended high above me. And I thought those boots were made for walking!

Chef Richard LaMarita demonstrating how to make pasta

Despite my trepidations and my aching feet, off we marched to the Natural Gourmet Institute to learn how to make pasta. And let me tell you that I’m really glad that I did. We had a blast! Chef Richard LaMarita was so knowledgeable, not just about the food but he had learned how to make it by traveling around the area and learned from the locals. Can you imagine? I would so love to do that! Look out world, I’m going to join the ranks of traveling food writers! I just want to eat everywhere really.

Here’s a shot of Richard showing how to make the pasta and get it ready for cooking. Note how his hands are blurred? That’s because he talks with his hands too!

Sherri rolling out the dough for Pappardelle pasta

We made delicious sauces too, then came the exciting phase – rolling out the pasta dough! Here’s Sherri showing you excellent technique! That’s Aliza helping out because Sous-chef Rebecca chose this moment to take some photos. She and Daniel worked on the same recipes as we did – so we were a little competitive. Thanks for the ribbing you two!

Enough writing for today. All these food ideas has made me hungry so I need to go and think about what’s for supper. I’ll tell you all about Chinatown and Blossom tomorrow. This way you’ll get two recipes instead of just one!

This was our favourite recipe – Rye Gnocchi with Sage Butter with grateful thanks for sharing it with us to Natural Gourmet Institute and Chef Richard.

Rye Gnocchi with Sage Butter


2 lbs baking potatoes (about 4), washed
kosher salt to sprinkle on baking sheet
2 egg yolks, beaten
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground caraway seed
1/2 to 1 cup rye flour (+ 2 Tbsp for dusting baking sheet)


6 Tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves, chiffonade (plus 6 whole for garnish)
salt and black pepper to taste
1/4 cup parmesan cheese

  1. Preheat oven to 400°F. Pierce the potatoes all over with a fork and place on a baking sheet covered with kosher salt (you want the potatoes to dry out, so cover the pan well to absorb all of the moisture). Bake potatoes for 1 hour, or until for tender. Set aside to cool until warm, not hot.
  2. While the potatoes are still warm, scoop out flesh from the skin. Pass them through a ricer and place in a bowl. Be sure to keep the potatoes as light and fluffy as possible, ensuring a light gnocchi.
  3. Add the egg yolks, salt, pepper, ground caraway seed and just enough flour to create the dough. Do not overwork it, add just enough flour to make it come together. Do not knead. Cut the dough in half and roll into cords about 1.5″ thick. Cut off pieces about 3/4″ long with a pastry knife. Set aside on a baking sheet sprinkled with rye flour. Gnocchi can be frozen at this point.
  4. Place the gnocchi into boiling, salted water. Cook until they float and start to swell slightly (about 1 minute after they float to the surface). Undercooking the gnocchi will make them heavy. Overcooking them will make them tough.
  5. While gnocchi are cooking, melt the butter in a pan just until it begins to brown. Quickly take the pan off the heat and toss in the sage leaves. Season with salt and pepper. Take gnocchi out of the water (we used a large spider scieve) and place right into sauce in pan. Toss to fully coat. Serve sprinkled with parmesan cheese and garnished with sage leaves.

Day 30 – Lunch at live

Posted May 5th, 2011 in Raw Foods, Restaurant review, Salads, Soups to warm you by Rebecca Lane

Tomato and Quinoa soup

Yesterday I had a wonderful day visiting with my friend and colleague Isabelle Zolkower, who also has the fortune of being married to a photographer. Rick, her husband, took the photos of me on Facebook and on this site – and I couldn’t be happier with them! My son told me that he now knows where he gets all of his good looks from!! I think he’s fishing for something?

After the morning primping in front of the camera, Isabelle took me to a restaurant near her home called “live” which serves organic raw food (and some cooked food too). I’m hoping to share the wonderful experience with you through words and images.

Be gentle with me, I’m not used to taking photos yet and they really need some practice!

Pecan sushi

Lunch started with Tomato and Quinoa soup (I started the soup before I remembered to take a photo – my apologies). It was served with dehydrated sweet potato chips sprinkled with cayenne pepper. The chips were a special treat and now I can’t wait to get my own dehydrator to make my own. The main ingredients of the soup were tomato, quinoa, carrots, onion, fresh basil and oregano from my best guess.

Then, between the 2 of us we chose 3 entrees – can you say greedy??? The first to arrive was a Pecan sushi – can you imagine? Wrapped in nori seaweed was pecan sunflower hummus with herbs around slivered carrots and dehydrated sweet potatoes, with a miso maple glaze. It was so good.

Beet and Cashew ravioli

A beet ravioli with basil pesto and balsamic reduction arrived next. The ravioli was made from very thinly sliced beets separated by an herbed cashew spread, and then on the top was sprinkled ground cashews. This was served with a spinach salad with a lime dressing and the balsamic reduction. I want to try to recreate this myself – perhaps at Carolyn Dupont’s next retreat in June!

The final entree was Rainbow kale and walnut salad – kale, walnuts, carrots, beets, raisins, seeds, sprouts, sun dried tomatoes dressed with a creamy dill tahini sauce. This was tasty, but I think I would leave the sun-dried tomatoes out, and use walnut butter instead of the tahini to make the dressing.

Rainbow Kale and Walnut salad

Neither of us loved the desserts, so we won’t say more about those. But overall we had a wonderful lunch. I hope these descriptions and photos give you food for thought for your next raw food experiments!

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