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Thursday
Feb032011

Italian Meatball Sliders for the Super Bowl



A colleague of mine told me a joke yesterday:

"How many Jets does it take to get to the Super Bowl?"

"How many?" I said.

"Two. One for the Packers and one for the Steelers!"  He roared with laughter.

"Funny," I dryly responded.  In appreciation for the joke, I proceeded to fix him a cup of coffee.  Who's smiling now, buddy?

Yes, I'm still bitter from the Pittsburgh loss.  Why were the Jets asleep at the wheel during the first half of an AFC CHAMPIONSHIP GAME?  Why did they have to lose to a group of degenerates who notoriously rack up fines and suspensions like Charlie Sheen trashes hotel rooms?  Why do I continue to support a franchise which, without fail, leaves me curled up in the fetal position on the morning after each season ending loss with a brutal hangover and an empty Kleenex box, surrounded by a litter of candy bar wrappers and uncapped magic markers?

Well, it's hope I suppose.  Because regardless of how painful your team's season ending loss was, there is always next year. And even sooner to the rescue, is the Super Bowl: an event so commercialized and familiar that even the most left out of football (or non-football) fans feel welcome to participate in. For many, it grants us one more opportunity to watch some quality football.  For everyone, it provides quality entertainment and food.  And what better idea for a Super Sunday snack than a mixture of American and Italian greatness?  Enter, the meatball slider - the perfect handful of a mouthful which teases your brain into thinking that three of these suckers is considerably less damaging than an entire meatball sub.  Well, actually, it is... provided you subscribe to the below mentioned, from-scratch recipe:

What You Need:
1 lb ground beef
1 lb ground pork of veal
3/4 cup breadcrumbs (seasoned)
1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese
1/4 cup ground pine nuts
1 egg
2 tablespoons chopped basil
1 tablespoon chopped taragon
3/4 teaspoon salt
a couple shakes of freshly ground black pepper
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Fresh basil (about 12 large leaves)
Mini Parker Rolls (or Brioche rolls)

Tomato Sauce: You can use your own recipe, or the one I describe here.

What To Do:
Place your ground (defrosted if it was frozen) meat In a large mixing bowl and mix to combine well.

Add in your breadcrumbs, ground pine nuts (you can grind them in a food processor) and everything else. Mix very well to combine. You really can't over-mix.

Make sure the "meat-dough" is holding together. To do this, grab some with your hands (come on, you can do it!) and form it into balls. Pretend you're making snow balls. With meat. If it's holding together, continue making balls and setting them aside on a platter. If it's not holding together, you can add another egg.

Once you have formed all your meatballs, heat about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a frying pan over medium-low heat. Place your raw meatballs in the pan and fry 'em up!

You will need to rotate them a bit, so they brown evenly on all sides. Don't do this with your bare hands. Use some tongs or a spatula at least. I'm begging you. Also the fat from the meat will combine with the oil of the pan and become VERY, VERY HOT. It may just splatter. Yet another use for those safety goggles I like so much.

This whole cooking process should take about 10 minutes. If you made giant meatballs, 15.

Open up your mini rolls like buns and place one meatball inside. Top with 1 large basil leaf. You can hold this whole contraption together with a toothpick if you like. Serve the tomato sauce on the side.

Note: You don't have to use the pine nuts if you can't find them or are allergic to nuts. They did give the meatballs a nice, nutty and slightly sweet flavor, which I liked very much.

Also - is this still not enough to feed your team?  Keep in mind our previous football related posts seen here, here and here.

Wednesday
Feb022011

Pizz-aly! Pizza at Eataly



Recently, I was lunching at Eataly with a group of colleagues. Actually, I just wanted to use "lunching" and "colleagues" in the same sentence.

I was hungrily devouring a pizza with the other members of a food photography class that I was taking. We had come to Eataly to do some on-site food photography. Come for the pictures, stay for the food – that kind of thing.

Readers of this blog know of the obsession John and I have for pizza, so I used this opportunity to sample Eataly's version.

Eataly's pizza menu offered the Neopolitan-style, wood fired, personal sized pizza characterized by a thin crust with a floppy center and a charred yet moist and chewy outer crust (or cornicione).

A member of our group suggested sharing a pizza. But I needed to research! For the blog! For our readers! For science! Also, I was hungry. So I politely responded, "I'll be taking one down all by myself. But thanks for the offer!"

Besides, when I share food, I'm always mentally tallying the number of pieces that I have in relation to everyone else in an effort to be polite. It's too much mental energy when I'm trying to eat. Plus, it usually leaves me hungry.

I selected the Verduretta, a traditional Margherita (tomato sauce and mozzarella) topped with roasted eggplant and red peppers.

The portion size was generous. I did not, in fact, end up taking the whole thing down by myself. Leopard-like black char spots graced the outer crust which sloped downwards to a very thin and flexible inner pizza. The tomato sauce was tangy and the strips of roasted eggplant provided a smokey and woodsy quality that had me wishing these veggies had been more generously applied.

While the eggplant scored high marks, the roasted peppers seemed just decorative accents as they were a more generic, from-the-can variety and didn't add much flavor.

As for the mozzarella – the marshmallow-like dollops were an excellent consistency: they retained a good meltiness even upon cooling, and were never plastic-y or dry.

John would call this a "solid" pie, and I would agree. Technically and traditionally sound in crust and cooking method, yet lacking a bit in depth of flavor from its veggie accoutrements.

Overall Pizza-Eating Experience: Top Gun, The Well Working Formula

Bonus Section! I've you've read this far, you can see a few photo highlights from the Eataly tour:





Tuesday
Feb012011

Hot Chocolate Festival at City Bakery



Today is the kick-off for City Bakery's 19th Annual Hot Chocolate Festival: A month-long celebration of molten, drinkable chocolate featuring a different flavor every day. Every single day. Talk about reasons to get up in the morning.

This morning's reason was Banana Peel Hot Chocolate. City Bakery's hot chocolate is characterized by a thick consistency, and today's blend was no exception. It wasn't too thick - no spoons would be standing upright. I mean, you have to be able to drink it. The banana flavor was wonderfully integrated. It was like drinkable chocolate chip banana bread (need a recipe for that, because I have one). Not too strong, and very balanced. As an added bonus, my drink had a nice little froth at the top that gave the drink a light and fluffy quality.

And if you're feeling frisky, top it all off with one of their homemade marshmallows. They are like white sugary sponges. In a really excellent way.

I feel like it might be my duty to sample all the flavors for you. So you know what to expect. Would you find that helpful? Ok, good. However, if you want to know the plan, you can check out the schedule of City Bakery's hot chocolate offerings here.
Tuesday
Feb012011

Artistry in a Cup from Kava Café



On a tip from Paper and String, I ambled into Kava Café in the Far West Village one morning after Snowpocalypse Part 8,031. I was in search of some good, strong, snow-melting coffee.

I was immediately greeted by Christian and Frank, two of Kava's knowledgeable and friendly barristas, dressed in matching black fedoras and skinny ties with crisp white oxford shirts. Christian, a coffee-brewing artisan, demonstrated the power and beauty of their La Marzocco espresso machine, a nine-gage (or speed), Ferrari-caliber engine that controls flavor and strength.

Christian served me a latte adorned with an elaborate milk-swirled leaf – almost too pretty to drink. Almost. As I sipped away at my cup of drinkable velvet – the perfect caffeinated balance of bitter and smooth with just a touch of froth – I was introduced to owner John Saric.

John explained some additions to eagerly anticipate at Kava, including a beer and wine selection, flavor profile-based coffee tastings (like wine flights just with coffee) curated by Christian, a gelato machine (internal, mental squeals on my part), and expanding the food menu (right now they offer a selection of Balthazar pastries and a panini menu).

I stood at the walk-up bar (stools are forthcoming, but I appreciated the European flair of the standing bar) and watched as customers sauntered in, chatting with the barristas, John and among themselves. Open only about two weeks, Kava already has a loyal band of regulars. They can now count me among them.

Kava Café
803 Washington Street

Check out the feature article in the New York Times Magazine here.

Monday
Jan312011

Valentine's Day Ideas, Part 2: Kee's Chocolates



Fellas, we are one week closer to the Love Fest and I am making good on my promise to continue helping you. Did you think I would forget? Puh-lease.

Today's suggestion: Kee's Chocolates. Many people talk about "freshness" as it relates to veggies, fish and the like. But chocolate? YES. These little beauties are handmade daily in an eensy-weensy SoHo crevice of a shop. Biting into the outer shell of each truffle yields a delicate SNAP, uncovering a dense center that just moments before was cooling on a candy rack.



The chocolatey guts inside are deep and complex. The Thai Chili is darkness with a kick, the Hazelnut Praline a whipped fluffiness interspersed with minniscule hazlenut shards, the Mint Mocha is like the Ritz Carlton of Peppermint Patties...



The Champagne Truffle holds a special place in my taste bud's heart: a pyramid shape that encases dark chocolate ganache infused with champagne. The Egyptians should take note.



Kee's also offers other delicacies like their chocolate turtles with pecans sandwiched cozily between layers of chocolate by gooey caramel,



and macarons, French meringue sandwich cookies in a variety of flavors.



Kee's is located at: 80 Thompson Street, NYC, NY 10012. They also have a midtown location at: 452 Fifth Avenue (inside HSBC), NYC, NY 10018.

You can check out their website here.

Now, before I let you off the hook for the day, I'm going to give you TWO flower suggestions. Remember what I said about roses? BORING. Try one of the following places offering unique, seasonal arrangements:

Saipua: This Red Hook, Brooklyn flower shop's arrangements will blow your mind. Artsy, asymmetrical (yet balanced) and natural. Saipua also sells soap that smells really, really good. Pick some up for your lady if she likes that kind of thing.



* Photo from Saipua's website.

Sobsey's: This is Hoboken's finest and freshest produce market. They also offer flower arrangements, daily assembled by a local floral artist. The arrangements are thoughtful, color-coordinated, and they come in JARS! I love stuff in jars. It's just always way cuter. Woooo...sorry I went all 7th grade girl on you there. Here was last year's arrangement:



Let's sum up the suggestions so far:

Chocolates from:
Cocoa V
Kee's

Flowers:
Saipua (BK)
Sobsey's (The Jerz)
Or your own fabulous arrangement with gladiola and basil.

See you next week!