Monthly Archives: May 2011

Product Giveaway – Memorial Day Cookout Pack

I am not sure quite what it is this year, but the holidays and special occasions seem to be sneaking up on my almost before I can even get my arms around them.  I can’t believe that Memorial Day and the start of the summer 2011 cook-out season is already here. Grilling and eating outside is one of the things I miss the most about living in a big city where there are no backyards and finding a place to cook out of doors can be a challenge. Fortunately, some of the food markets have come along to help me to gather together some great product finds to help me celebrate them.  I’ve decided that it makes sense to pass some of these treats along to you, too, for your cook-out menus.

I profiled Cyrilla of Nuts+Nuts earlier this week and featured her incredibly delicious farm-direct imported cashews.  I’m going to kick off this giveaway by offering up 4 packs of her Spicy variety.  These would be perfect on their own to get any party started.  Or why not add them to your famous Chex Mix recipe to perk it up a bit?  There’s lots of ways I can think of to use them for your cookout.

Schoolhouse Kitchen‘s wonderful Spreadable Fruits, Mustards, and Chutneys are not only a tasty addition to any pantry but are also great to use in cooking, as I’ve mentioned in the past.  I have a jar of her Sweet Smooth Hot Mustard and Squadrilla Chutney to give away to the winner.  A dollop of Squadrilla Chutney on a Turkey or Chicken Burger or a teaspoon or so of Sweet Smooth Hot Mustard mixed into smashed egg yolks to replace some of the mayonnaise for your Deviled Eggs?  How does that sound to pep up your next party or gathering!

The third item I’m putting into the giveaway is one of my new favorite food finds.  At the Hester Street Fair a couple of weekends back, I sampled these fantastic caramels from Herbin’ Spoonful.  Mackenzie, the creator of these delicious sweet sauces, was nice enough to give me one jar of each of flavor.  There’s the lightly perfumed, floral Lavender; the warm, spice-infused Chai; and the punchy-hot Habanero.  Your ice cream sundaes and grilled fruit won’t know what hit it.

Buon appetito!

The Rules (There have to be some of these, you know.)

Eligibility: U.S. mainland residents only

To Enter: Write a comment on this post with the answer to the following question: What is your favorite cookout dish?

You must also have a valid screen name (NOT “Anonymous”) with a corresponding email address to enter this giveaway. I’ll need to be able to click on it in order to contact the winner. If you list “Anonymous” or do not have a valid email address with your comment, you will be disqualified. I do not share these addresses with anyone, and they are only for the purpose of entering this giveaway.

Deadline: Is Monday, May 23rd Tuesday, May 24th at 12:00 p.m. EDT, based upon the date/time stamp on the comments. (I’m going to be very strict about this and make no exceptions.)

The Outcome: Only one winner will be chosen for this entire package of goodies. I’m going to put all the entries into an online Randomizer (like this one) to come up with the winner.

Product Spotlight – Nuts+Nuts – Farm-direct Gourmet Cashews

I first met Cyrilla Suwarsa at the New Amsterdam Holiday Market back in December.  She was there selling farm-direct gourmet cashews that her company, Nuts+Nuts, imports from farmers in Indonesia, her home country.  Cashews are one of those things that I grew up with as a luxury item.  I love them.  I have to confess, I’m also one of the people who usually picks them out of the mixed nuts tray, leaving you with the peanuts and the Brazil nuts.

Cyrilla met me for a coffee a few months back to talk to me about her company and its inspiration.  When I tasted her cashews, I was instantly struck by how flavorful and meaty they seemed.  She explained that this is because the Indonesian kind is a different variety from the ones that are usually available from South America and are typically found in the U.S.  Also, as they trace where the cashews come from at the source and roast and process them close to where they are harvested, they have greater control over the end product and its quality.  From the moment you first pop one of these nuts into your mouth, you can taste the difference.

The individual packaging is perfect for an afternoon snack or to help curb those nagging munchies when they strike.  The Spicy ones, with red chilis and kaffir lime leaves, were my favorite when I first tried them and still remain my number one pick, even though I really enjoy all of them for their texture, taste, and freshness.  The cashews come in several other flavors, too: Honey Sesame, Sweet & Salty, and Lightly Salted.  If you are undecided about which one to choose, you can also pick up a Sampler Pack of one of each kind.  The small, sealed packages ensure that the cashews stay fresher for longer.  The spice combinations are family recipes, some prepared by Cyrilla’s sister in Indonesia.

In addition to providing the farmers who produce the nuts with a greater share of the proceeds of the sales, these are products with a cause.  Cyrilla was diagnosed with Lupus many years ago and remains active in Lupus awareness groups.  Unable to continue working in her previous profession, Nuts+Nuts enables her to take care of her health while running a business that brings enjoyment and income to other people.  It was such a pleasure to be able to talk to her about her company and her mission.  We even ended up teaming up on a project of our own for her site.  Here’s a photo of a Sea Salt Chocolate Cashew Brittle that I created using her lightly salted cashews.  It is perfectly sweet, buttery rich, and a bit decadent, just like the cashews themselves.

Buon appetito!

Nuts+Nuts can be found at their shop during weekdays at 145 Front Street in DUMBO, Brooklyn.  They are also at New Amsterdam Market during the season.  For additional places to find them, please see their website.

9th Avenue International Food Festival

Over a 15 block stretch today on the West Side, covering Hell’s Kitchen, restaurants, street, vendors, churches, and others served up a dizzying array of foods that showcase some of the variety of cuisines available in New York.  The 9th Avenue International Food Festival brought out folks from the neighborhood, tourists, other locals, and food folks like me.

Some of the fare was pretty delicious.  Some of it was the standard stuff that seems to show up at every, single food festival (Mozzarepa folks and lemonade/smoothie people) while other things were more interesting eating, like the Indian food, the whole roasted pig, and the smaller artisan folks.  I’ve wrapped it up into a gallery, as there was just too much to process in one afternoon.  I think I need to lie down and take a nap.


Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

If you don’t like using really great, European-style butter as a flavoring and key component in a dish, you should click away now.  If you don’t have a fear of la beurre, then this is a recipe for you.  I’d originally thought of it as a Mother’s Day Brunch dish, hence the hearts, but it could just as well be a weeknight supper or anytime meal, it is so easy to put together.

Asparagus are now really in season in New York, as are eggs (they have great flavor and color in the springtime), so this is a perfect meal to make at this time of year.  Fluffy, golden eggs, given extra flavor due to the herb butter, just melt in your mouth.  The puff pastry is an extra decorative touch that also gives a crunchy and light side note to the creaminess of the eggs and the woodsiness of the asparagus.  Coating the vegetables in the same seasoning as the eggs pulls the dish together even more tightly.

The compound butter that is a component of this recipe is simple to make and freezes really well.  I make a bit extra and keep it in my freezer to add an additional pop of flavor to grilled vegetables or meats.  The hearts were made using my regular cookie cutters, which is another way to consider a kitchen item that might usually just sit in a cabinet waiting for that holiday to be used each year.  For me, this was sort of a fun dish to make, as it brought together so many wonderful individual ingredients, much like getting friends who have never met each other around the table for a great meal and good conversations.

Asparagus and Scrambled Eggs with Herb Butter

Serving Size: 2 portions

Prep Time: 30 minutes


1 sheet Puff Pastry (I used 1/2 sheet Dufours)

2 Tbsp good-quality unsalted butter (like President), softened to room temperature

2 tsp minced, fresh Tarragon

1 tsp minced Shallot

3/4 tsp Salt (1/2 plus 1/4)

1 pinch ground black Pepper

12-14 Asparagus spears

3 large Eggs

1 tsp. cream, milk or water (your preference)


Preheat oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.  Using cookie cutter (heart shape optional) or knife cut out 4 pieces of the puff pastry (e.g., 4 hearts, 4 clovers, 4 triangles, 4 squares, etc.).  Place on parchment paper or silicone sheet and bake on tray for 25 minutes, until puffed up and light golden brown.  (I did not roll out the pastry or brush it with anything.  I just let it thaw a bit and then cut out the hearts.  This made them extra poofy when they cooked, as you can see in the end photo.  For fun, I also baked the cut out pastry portion to snack on later.)

Put a saucepan of water on to boil.  While the pastry is cooking and the water is boiling, prepare the butter mixture in a bowl.  Cream [mix] together the softened butter, tarragon, shallot, 1/4 tsp salt, and pepper.  Set aside.

Prep the asparagus.  I’m a big fan of the bend-until-the-end-snaps method.  You can also peel the ends until you get to a tender part, if that is your preference.  Once the saucepan of water is boiling, add 1/2 tsp. salt.  Add the asparagus to the water.  Let them cook for about 3 minutes, until they are barely fork-tender (i.e., a fork just goes through them all the way).  Remove them from the water and set them on a plate.  It doesn’t matter if they get a bit cool.

In a bowl, crack the eggs and beat them lightly with a fork.  Add the cream, milk or water and beat a bit more to incorporate the extra liquid.  Check on the puff pastry.  By this time, it should have risen at least a bit.  At 7 minutes until the time the pastry should have finished cooking, put 2 tsp. of the herbed butter into a non-stick skillet and turn the heat on the stove to let it melt.

Once the butter has melted and the shallots start to sizzle a bit, add the cooked asparagus to the butter.  Toss the asparagus in the butter mixture for 1 minute to coat the asparagus and to reheat them.  Divide the asparagus among 2 plates and cover them with foil to keep warm.

Check on the puff pastry.  If they are completely puffed up and the tops are light golden brown, remove them from the oven and leave them on the baking tray.

In the same skillet in which you cooked the asparagus, melt an additional 2 tsp to 1 Tbsp of herbed butter (or even just the rest of it, depending upon how you feel).  Pour the eggs into the butter when it is melted and foamy.  As the eggs start to cook, push them around and around the skillet gently with a rubber spatula so that the don’t sit at any point in the pan just completely cooking in one place (you are moving them around so that they stay light and fluffy).  At the point where they are still so slightly wet, turn off the heat.  The residual heat will continue to cook the eggs.

Divide the eggs between the two plates with the asparagus on them and place two of the hearts/puff pastry pieces on each of the plates.  Season with extra salt, pepper, and chopped fresh tarragon as preferred.

Buon appetito!

Brooklyn Uncorked 2011 by Edible Magazine

So much wine, so little time.  That’s a bit what it felt like walking in to the Brooklyn Academy of Music last night for the Brooklyn Uncorked festival put together by Edible Magazine (Manhattan, Brooklyn, and East End).  With 26 tables of wines and 14 food options (according to the website), this was a cornucopia of eating and drinking options showcasing the variety of Long Island wines as well as displaying culinary talents from Brooklyn and Manhattan.  My friend who went with me and I did our best to try to sample something from everyone, with apologies to those whom we missed.

Robicelli’s Cupcakes and Indie GoGo

Yes, I am trying to torture you.  If you have never eaten a Robicelli’s Cupcake, you should be finding the closest bakery to you so that you can pick one of these up right now.  Selected as the Best Cupcakes in NYC by a few folks and adored by others for their innovative and delightful flavor combinations, Matt and Allison Robicelli, the husband and wife team behind the brand, make amazing, I mean, fantastically delicious cupcakes.  You need these in your life.

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