A Review of Dirt Candy in NYC

IMG_1771

“You are going to pay $75/- to eat vegetables? You are crazy!” exclaimed my father when he learned that I am going to Dirt Candy for a special event on Canada Day.

“They are not just vegetables dad. They are cooked in a unique way – in ways we could never imagine.”

“They are still vegetables,” he responded, still questioning my decision.

Well, I don’t blame him. I had the exact same feeling when I first heard of Dirt Candy which is is located on the Lower East Side of NYC.

http://www.dirtcandynyc.com/

I went there for the first time last year and was impressed by the chef’s creativity. When I heard vegetarian restaurant, I thought pasta, salads and grilled vegetables – but Dirt Candy is not that. I didn’t write about it back then and so my memory is flawed but the two most memorable dishes were:

IMG_3772

Brussels Sprout Tacos

Brussels sprouts tossed in Mexican bistek sauce and served on a sizzling stone with iceberg lettuce wrappers and accompaniments so that diners can make their own tiny bites that are one part Chinese sung choi bao and one part strange Mexican tacos.

The accompaniments are usually: smoked avocado, pickled red onion, cotija cheese, radishes, crispy brussels sprout leaves, tortilla strips, pickled jalapenos, salsa verde, and crema.

Not in my wildest dreams would I imagine eating brussels sprout tacos and loving them.

IMG_3766.JPG

Kale matzoh balls served in kale galangal broth with stir-fried shisito peppers and red amaranth. Topped with pickled okra seeds, micro cilantro, and a poached egg. Matzoh ball soup is supposed to be comforting, and there’s nothing more comforting to me than a poached egg slowly dissolving into a warm, rich, spicy soup.

This is the most insanely delicious soup that I have ever had and now you know what I mean by clever? I love matzoh balls and the other ingredients mentioned above, but never could I come up with these combinations or the techniques she uses to transform foods we are all familiar with.

Now back to my current meal at Dirt Candy which was last week. Amanda Cohen the brilliant chef is from Canada and so to celebrate Canada Day she organized a special meal where we would go camping indoors.

That’s where the aforementioned $75 for vegetables comes in. My mom made the reservation for me as a special treat and I went with a couple of friends.

Advertisements

Tofu with Ginger, Soy and of course Sriracha sauce

IMG_1608

Sometimes I innocently post what I made for dinner and a ridiculous amount of people as for the recipe.

Luckily, I took some pictures of this dish to make the post interesting and lets hope informative.

Before I give you the recipe – which is hardly a recipe, let me share a tip. Whenever I have the yen for Asian flavors – I tend to go to my pantry which is always stocked with the following:

Soy sauce, Sesame oil (keep in refrigerator), mirin, ponzu sauce, hoisin sauce, rice wine vinegar and sriracha.

If you use these along with some fresh ginger – I guarantee you that your food will taste more Asian and more delicious than almost any neighborhood Chinese joint.

Back to the recipe.

Marinate extra firm tofu in the above sauces along with fresh ginger and lime juice.

Sear in a nonstick pan – add the marinade and you have delicious tofu. Serve this over rice, pasta or just have it as is with some vegetables.

I made a quick fried rice with left over brown rice for dinner yesterday.

IMG_1602

I had steamed cauliflower, broccolini and cherry tomatoes. I chopped up an onion and fresh ginger – sauteed everything together – added the above sauces and I had a delicious fried rice.

And this was dinner. Simple, quick, delicious and healthful.

IMG_1616

Cooking food with Asian flavors is really quite simple. Just make sure you have the aforementioned ingredients on hand.

Until I cook again!

Steamed Salmon with Bok choy over Brown Rice

I have neglected to share any of my healthful recipes for some time now.

I apologize. I really have no excuse.

This past Monday, like millions of people I decided to start eating healthfully. I am not a fan of the word diet. Anything we eat is our diet. I prefer to call it eating healthfully.

My mom bought me a new toy – a fish poacher. I am so excited. While I have used it often at work and at client’s homes, I have never owned one myself. The possibilities of what you can do with it are really endless. You can of course use it for many things other than fish.

Last night, I decided to steam some wild caught salmon for dinner.

Now, while this thing is called a poacher, I didn’t want to immerse my fish in a liquid. So I decided to raise the bottom panel which has holes in it by using lemons, limes and fresh ginger.

IMG_1510

You can decide how you want to do it and alter the seasonings to your taste.

What I am doing above is essentially making a court bouillon. This is merely a fancy word for a flavorful liquid. As you can see it is the ends of lemons and limes, sliced ginger, a couple of dried read chilies. I also put a cup of left over white wine which I found in the refrigerator.

Bring this up to a boil and simmer for a few minutes. While this is happening, prepare your fish. I wanted to keep it simple with fresh citrus flavors. And so it is one lemon and lime thinly sliced and placed on top of the fish. You can sprinkle the fish with a tiny bit of salt.

 

Place the fish in the steamer/poacher over low heat and cover.

While the fish is cooking, I turn my attention to the baby bok choy. It cooks very fast and is best to have all your ingredients on the ready.

The bok choy got a lot of recipe requests on face book yesterday and so here goes.

Bok choy, washed and trimmed

Julienne of fresh ginger

Soy Sauce

Hoisin Sauce

Ponzu or mirin

Sriracha or your favorite chili sauce

Sesame Oil

Heat a tsp. of oil in a skillet and add the ginger. Cook the ginger for a minutes and add the washed bok choy. Now add all the above sauces except the sesame oil and stir. Add a tiny bit of water to create a sauce. Simmer for just a couple of minutes to heat the boy choy through. Be careful not to over cook it.

​Depending on the thickness of the fish, the steaming should take anywhere between 15 to 20 minutes. Check after about 10 minutes.

I also cooked brown rice while the fish and bok choy were cooking.


When everything is done, all you have to do is plate and serve.


Spoon the rice on the bottom of the plate. Portion and place the fish over the rice and lay the bok choy around the fish. Add sesame oil to the juices at the bottom of the bok choy pan. You can even add the poaching liquid to add to the sauce. Taste and adjust seasoning.

Spoon over the fish and serve hot.

Clearly, you can use the fish of your choice for this dish. Other proteins like chicken and turkey should work beautifully too. I plan to make tofu tonight.

And the vegetables can also be whatever you like. Kale, spinach, broccoli rabe – just about anything.

When eating this dish you will never feel deprived. It is filling and very flavorful.

I hope you attempt to make this and other healthy dishes that reading this may have inspired.
Until I cook again!

Simple Dinners: Seared Salmon over Spinach and Mushrooms

IMG_0204

I really enjoy cooking as is probably evident to any one who knows me or reads my blogs. But I also like to get in and out of the kitchen as fast as I can because I have another love – TV, Netflix, just sitting on the couch 🙂

This is a simple recipe that packs a punch in flavor, is healthful and can be cooked in under 20 minutes.  A win win if you ask me.


Portion the salmon and season with salt and pepper. Heat a nonstick pan and add a tsp of olive oil. When the oil is hot add the salmon flesh side down. Let it cook  untouched for at least a couple of minutes, more if you have the patience. You are building a crust which is where the flavor is. 

After about 4 minutes, turn it over to crisp the skin. The fish should be half way cooked by now. 

I like to throw in some scallions or onions into the oil as the fish is cooking. It gives a lovely smokey flavor to the fish and you have a pretty garnish. 

In the meantime, start cooking your vegetables. I sautéed some cremini on high heat. Once they were browned, I added sliced garlic and baby fresh spinach. Salt and pepper with a splash of rice wine vinegar to scrape up the yummy brown bits and you are ready to plate. 

 Make a bed of the vegetables, place the salmon on top and garnish with scallions and the remaining vegetables. 


Be sure not to over cook the  salmon, or any fish for that matter. 

If you are watching your fat and calories, don’t eat the skin. But there are a lot of nutrients in and around the skin. 

I served this without any carbs and didn’t miss them. 

You can of course serve this with a number of things like couscous, quinoa, brown rice, etc. 

I hope you try this simple and quick dinner. 

Until I cook again!

Shrimp in a Charred Hatch Chile Salsa

IMG_8631.jpg

Hatch chile refers to varieties of species of the genus Capsicum which are grown in the Hatch Valley, an area stretching north and south along the Rio Grande from Arrey, New Mexico, in the north to Tonuco Mountain to the southeast of Hatch, New Mexico. The soil and growing conditions in the Hatch Valley create a unique terroir[22] which contributes to the flavor of chile grown there.

I have been lucky enough to get a yearly supply of these very special chilies straight from New Mexico.  They come roasted as shown here and frozen.  I use them judiciously as they are so delicious and hard to find on the east coast.

They are not very spicy even though this weekend when I made a soup with them – they were devilishly spicy. The unpredictability of heat is the case I suppose with all peppers.

I made a salsa for the shrimp which consisted of a technique that I picked up from all the Mexican guys I have worked over the years with in various New York kitchens.

The technique is quite simple but it provides the most amazing flavor for your effort.  I char the vegetables over an open flame – if you have a grill – you are lucky and should use that.

These are tomatoes and an onion – if I didn’t have the hatch chiles I would’ve thrown on a jalapeno onto the flame also. Char the vegetables till they are soft.

Once the vegetables are well charred, add them to a blender or a food processor for a more chunky result. I blended the above along with the hatch chiles by adding a little water, salt and lemon/lime juice. Blend well and adjust seasoning according to taste.

I leave most of the burnt bits on as I enjoy the smokey flavor – it is up to you – what you prefer.

IMG_8637.jpg

This is what you end up with.

You can stop at this stage and eat this with chips, add it as a sauce over other dishes.

I sauteed some shrimp and just as they were almost cooked, I added the above salsa and barely heated it through.

On the side I also sauteed some asparagus, flavored simply with salt and pepper.

IMG_8654.JPG

Here is how I served it.

Brown rice on the bottom (I happened to have left over rice – use pasta, black or red beans, white rice, etc), sauteed asparagus on the side topped with shrimp and the most delicious sauce ever 🙂

People asked me what other peppers you could use – I would say almost any pepper like jalapenos, anaheims, poblano, etc.  Feel free to add bell peppers if you don’t want to end up with a spicy sauce.

If you do nothing else, simply char your vegetables the next time you are making a sauce – you will be amazed at the depths of flavor you develop for almost no effort.

This is a very healthful dish – the only fat used was a tiny bit of oil to saute the shrimp and the asparagus.  You can eliminate that fat too by poaching the shrimp in the sauce and steaming the asparagus.

Until I cook again!

Pork Tenderloin in a Mustard Wine sauce, Zucchini and Grapes 

You often hear- Pork: it’s the other white meat.

That’s good news in that it’s healthy, and low in fat and calories – the bad news however is that it can get dry very quickly if you overcook it. And so I like to create a flavorful sauce every time I cook a pork tenderloin.

This video is of the tenderloin seared on all sides and then me deglazing it with white wine.
It is also important to sear the meat well as that’s how you develop its flavor.

Bring the pork to room temperature (as you should do with all meats), season generously with salt and pepper.

Sear on high heat in the oil of your choice – olive oil is what I used. Sear well on all sides and then remove the meat on to a plate (the meat isn’t cooked yet).


Next I quick sautéed the baby zucchini. You can use almost any vegetables you like here.

So the vegetables don’t overcook I remove them from the pan after they are browned.


Return the tenderloin to the skillet and deglaze with white wine if you like and some stock. I used both. I have used water if I have nothing else. Next, a generous dollop of your favorite mustard. This is Dijon but I have used grainy mustard also. Stir well to incorporate the mustard into the liquid.

The Dijon was salty and in order to cut the saltiness I added green grapes.

While I am not a fan of sweet in my food – the grapes here provided a lovely balance.

The choice is yours if you want to use grapes or not. Pears or apples are nice too.

Once the tenderloin reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees – a couple degrees below is ideal as the meat continues to cook as it rests- remove it to a cutting board.

I returned the vegetables to the sauce and heated them through, as well as the grapes.

To serve, I spooned the vegetables on to a plate, placed the sliced tenderloin on top and then spooned the sauce around the plate.

I garnished with chives as that’s what I had around

You could add a starch to this – potatoes, pasta, rice or couscous- but I really didn’t miss it. It was a very satisfying dinner.

I hope you try it.

Until I cook again!