Monday, July 13, 2009

Las Carnitas

All this talk about Hondoras makes me want a pupusa...Las Carnitas is a little spot across the street from my old apt in Davie. The area isn't excatly high class but the food is great and the service is nice. We got some weird looks but I think its because I was overdressed in a cotton qi boa...
First thing you get after the strange stare downs is a basket of homemade tortilla chips with hot tomato sauce(freee-yea!)

The vegan dishes for the night was a corn thing filled with beans($2) and a breakfast platter($4.50) with beans, yuca, and avo. The beans were absolutely amazing, they taste like they were slow cooked for hours.

The restaurant makes their own tortillas. These are real corn tortillas, thick and hearty. I also ordered the pupusa mixta($2.50) which was filled with beans and bits of fried pork skin and oozing with melted cheese. Top it off with some slaw and hot pickles, and you got a real treat(I'm drooling as I am remembering how delicious it was....)

I also ordered the soup of the day($4), which happened to be beef(they have crab w/ coconut milk, or conch soup on the weekends!). This is the type of soup that you get from grandma's kitchen, its rich and flavorful. Flavor from all the veggies not MSG or bouillon. The soup has a melange of root veggies-potato, yuca, carrot- as well as corn and green plantains and giant chunks of beef. Great flavor and even better with a squirt of lime juice.

Highly recommended, especially since the entire meal + 2 drinks was less than $18.

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

4th of July Cooking pt II

uhm so yeah, I kept cooking.... vegan...

Laotian Eggplant with tomatoes and mint
This came out like a “minty Asian ratatouille”. I don’t think I have had ratatouille so I can’t confirm that comment. Nonetheless, this is a great recipe, really quick and fresh. Mint is one of my favorite herbs(along with basil, dill, and tarragon), so I’m a bit biased(plus I made it…)

Braised Zucchini with sesame mint pesto
I like mint. The pesto is so good!! It’s made with fresh olive-bread crumbs, almonds, sesame seeds, garlic and mint (and a street lime). I ate the leftover pesto with some slices of raw zucchini, so yummy-but awful garlic breath… Used a melon-baller instead of trying to stuff the pesto in the slices(yea! Used a melon-baller!!). The zucchini came out really tender, but definitely going to half-braise then bake next time.
Chilled Vietnamese Noodle Salad with Mangos
A bit of a twist on a classic rice noodle salad using mangos and marmite instead of fish sauce. Loads of herbs(Thai basil, mint(I like mint.), cilantro) and veggies(carrots, cucumbers, bean sprouts, jicama, red bell pepper). The mango and fresh roasted peanuts (roasted in a coffee roaster!) really made the dish.

Vegan Coconut Pineapple Pancakes
I can’t make vegan pancakes. I think this is my third attempt, and it was not that good. The batter was great- fresh pineapple, coconut, almonds, touch of nutmeg- but the damn things won’t cook properly. Thankfully, I had the King of Pancakes (a real Canadian, no less) there to save the morning-after an absolutely delight argument about the cooking temperature. I will dominate pancake making-going to practice, need guinea pigs. Stay tuned for the Pancake Showdown…

Friday, July 3, 2009

Homecooking for the 4th of July

Today was a full of vegan delights-all but one(Vegan guava and cheese pastry from Honeytree-will blog about the spot on a later day) were from my(many thanks to my sous chef/dish washer) kitchen. Haha suckas! can't get this shit anywhere else!

The highlight grocery shopping trip was the kaffir lime leaves found at the Vinh Anh-I had my face buried in the grocery bag of heavenly herbs and spices(thai basil, viet mint, kaffir lime leaves, lemongrass) for the entire car ride. Clearly kaffir limes is my new favorite taste sensation. They are more fragrant than regular limes, not more citrusy just more fragrant.

(sidenote, highlight of the entire day was a trip to the most gangsta body shop in Miami. I'm pretty sure the guy does not file 1099s for his employees)

Anyhoo, I would say I was cooking up a storm, but in reality, I was chopping, slicing, and dicing alot more than I was cooking.

First on the menu was Vegan Tom Yum soup (lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, garlic, ginger, chili-garlic sauce, limes, tamari, cilantro, scallions). Went off a basic recipe(no prepackaged soup bases and stuff), only snag was that we got home and realized there was no veggie broth in the pantry. So we had to improvise a ghetto broth-like in that fable about the Rock Soup. In the end it came out pretty good considering it is my first time making Tom Yum Soup, although it may not have been worth all the trouble since a pint is only a few bucks at Panya Thai(but its not vegan)...

Salad course- Moroccan Carrot Salad with Roasted Lemon Vinaigrette(carrots, parsley, garlic, jalapeno, lemon, allspice)
*Note--I thought this recipe would be so easy to make, you just gotta mixed the grated carrots with the spices and marinate. Sweet! that should take 10 min! Uh no. Grating carrots is sweat-inducing hard labor. My biceps hurt and I got grated carrot pieces stuck in every nook and cranny of the kitchen. Great recipe- if you buy pre-grated carrots.

The lemons are pan-roasted(makes a big difference as cooked lemon juice tastes totally different + you get all the yummy caramelized scrapings) and really cuts through the sweet carrots and heavy allspice(yum reminds me of xmas). You get a bit of heat from the pepper and I guess the parsley makes it look pretty. Okay, the parsley adds some flavor but in the same way that a watch makes an outfit come together- its there and its nice, unless you add too much....)

Main Course -Malaysian Tropical Curry with Lemongrass and Shallots (jicama, red bell pepper, papaya, pineapple, shallots, lemongrass, cumin, lime, cilantro)
Jicama aka Mexican turnip[quick fact: outside of the root, the jicama plant is poisonous and used to kill insects and fish] is the star of this curry. Its crisp, crunchy, and stands up very well to stir fry. The dish is sweet(fruits) and savory(shallots), spicy(peppers) and tart(lime), fragrant(lemongrass) and smokey(cumin)- I guess what I'm trying to say is that the curry has many layers of flavors. The element that surpised me was the ripe papaya. I find it to be like the marshmallows in a box of Lucky Charms-dug around and picked out a few pieces. The papaya really took on the flavor of the curry and is such a nice change from the crunch jicama and sweet juicy pineapples.

Oh and for good measure, I had some durian today too(so good....). Probably was not very pleasant to be around considering "it tastes like fruit salad piled on some rotten onions" and probably made my breath smell the same way.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Sushi 1 Takeout

23 N Federal Highway
Ft Lauderdale, FL

Tiny sushi place with very fresh food. This place is so incredibly cheap. The first time I went here, I was really apprehensive of a place that has $2-5 rolls and $1 giant slices of sashimi. Of course it was delicious. The place isn't exactly fast and its always jammed packed- may wanna phone the order ahead of time. There is also not much seating but who the hell cares when you can a 2 person sushi-feast for under $19?

Hajiki Seaweed Salad
(totally different flavor from the green stuff. I swear there is a Chinese version... )

Veggie Roll, I/O Avo Roll, Inari, Tuna Sashimi, Uni(Sea Urchin Gonads)

Uni - eating uni is like taking a bite out of a sac of sweet creamy butter goodness. I think the consistency is similar to a soft boiled egg yolk. Its creamy, rich, slightly sweet and absolutely delicious. The uni spreads all over the rice and gets mixed in it. The rice is a great balance, cuz without it you would just have a mouthful of goo...

Seaweed Udon
Probably my favorite menu item at the place. The seaweed is very mellow, the noodles are perfectly cooked-firm and chewy udon, the broth is sweet and savory, and the giant bowl is only $4. They give you this super lame plastic spoon, so you have to drink the soup from the bowl...till the last drop(Tampopo style...)

Love this place. Go there. Do everyone a favor and don't camp out there when you are done eating- its not a starbucks.

Completely Obsessed

I am completely and absolutely lovesick with Trader Joe's. It look 1 flight to NY, 1 hour wait, 20 min bus ride, 20 min walk to get there, but it was totally worth it!!!!!!!!

Part of me is kinda frightened by how cheap everything is even normal non TJ brand stuff is cheaper than other places! How is that possible?!!

Thankfully, that part of me is vastly dominated by the other side of me that worships Trader Joe's and their amazing products.

So my stash for the week....

Sesame Honey Almonds - so delicious. I can't stop eating them. The sesame seeds add a really great flavor. 1lb bag for $4.99!!

Chili and Lime Mixed Nuts - These really caught me attention because they have whole kaffir lime leaves, whole chilies and whole lemongrass!! No powdered seasonings here!! They are really really great. Taste like Tom Yum but not fishy. Warning: SPICY!!! OMG!!! WHOLE CHILIES!!

Tom Yum Cashews - These are definitely different from anything have had before. First of all, anything that says "chewy crisp" has got my attention. The cashews are kind of mushy-not in a bad way but similar to the texture of roasted chestnuts. They taste similar to the Chili and Lime Mixed nuts but they are not as spicy, a bit sweeter and slightly fishy(as these do have fish sauce-non vegan!) Pretty damn good for $.99 a bag- I LOVE TRADER JOE'S!!!!

Freeze Dried Mangosteen - These taste like "lucky charm marshmallows"(says some lucky chap that happened to be near me when I popped open the bag). The actual fruit part is really airy and they get crushed easily- careful or else next thing you know you have white mangosteen powder all over the place... The cool thing is that the seed is also freeze dried, and in the process somehow turn into a crunchy nut thing. Crazy good. Been craving these since last year.

Lightly Sweetened Dried Pomelo - POMELO!! (kinda like a grapefruit but no bitterness). Slightly too sweet for my taste, but the tartness of the pomelo really cuts through the sugar. really great- wish they had a chocolate covered version.....

I got some other stuff(freeze dried blueberries, rice and bean chips, green tea mints, chili mango, etc) but they are not as exciting. COME TO FLORIDA TJ!!