Big A$$ Latkas with Tomato Jam and Herbs

Latkas 5The holidays are upon us!!!

This year boasts the shortest amount of time between Thanksgiving and Christmas, meaning there are the least amount of shopping days. Department stores are FREAKING. OUT. Does Kmart’s layaway program even make sense if you don’t have time to pay off those hot wheels before the holiday?!

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But what about Hannukah!? For the first time since 1861, the first day of Hannukah is on the same day as Thanksgiving. Go figure!

In honor of Hannukah, I made a big a$$ latka. It’s essentially the lazy man’s potato pancake. Instead of making individual patties and frying them one by one, I just dump the whole thing in the pan and eat it pizza style.

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I like to give mine a Mediterranean feel with a sweet, spicy and cinnamonny tomato jam, mint and cilantro leaves, and of course a dollop of daisy (sour cream).  Actually, it was Breakstone’s sour cream because that’s what was on sale. But kudos to the marketing team at Daisy.

If you’re having it for breakfast, try it with some eggs! And top it with some crumbled bacon (but then it’s no longer kosher…so don’t tell your mom!)


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Big A$$ Latkas with Tomato Jam and Herbs
Makes 2 big a$$ latkas

3 medium russet potatoes
1 medium onion
1 egg
1 tbsp flour
Tomato Jam
Sour Cream

  1. Peel and shred the potatoes into a bowl, and squeeze out the liquid.
  2. Shred the onion into the bowl. Season with salt and pepper and mix.
  3. Add the egg and mix well. Finally add the flour and mix well.
  4. Heat a oven-proof skillet on high heat. Add enough oil to coat the bottom.
  5. Use a slotted spoon to gather half of the potato mixture and drop it into the pan. Flatten and shape it into a circle on one side of the pan. Repeat with the remaining potato mixture.
  6. Fry on one side until it is browned. Flip and fry the other side.
  7. If you’re not going to eat the latkas right away, put the pan in a 425 F oven and allow them to warm through. If not, continue cooking on the stove-top until they’re cooked through.
  8. Place the latka on a plate. Top with tomato jam, roughly chopped herbs and sour cream.

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Apple Cider Crisp

My mom took me apple picking for my birthday a few years ago. I’ve never felt more inundated by apples! I understand that apple orchards tends to have a lot of apples, but seeing that many is still shocking! There were rows upon rows of trees adorned with the plump red globes and paths littered with the over-ripe. It was beautiful and so much fun. Best of all, we took home paper grocery bags loaded with apples; probably more than one would know what to do with.
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Now that fall is in full swing, local grocery stores and Trader Joes’ are practically giving away apples, packaging them in 5 lb plastic bags to mimic the feeling of returning from an apple orchard.

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Ever wonder what to do with loads if apples? How about recipes with hard apple cider? I always reach for my apple cider crisp recipe.It’s the best of both worlds. It’s easy to make for a weeknight dessert, and delicious enough to impress dinner guests. Did anyone say potluck? You have dessert COVERED. Everyone loves booze-filled desserts.Make it tonight and ENJOY!

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Apple Cider Crisp
Serves 2Ingredients:
1 Apple (a mixture of hard and soft apples are best for baking)
½ tsp clove
½ tsp ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla
Lemon juice
1 tbsp hard apple cider (or regular apple cider)
½ tsp sugar (depending on sweetness of the apple)
1 tbsp flour

2 tbsp cold butter, cubed
3 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 tbsp brown sugar

1. Cut the apple into small chunks and place in a medium-sized bowl. Add the remaining ingredients and let it sit (covered) in the refrigerator for about 30 minutes to an hour (or overnight).
2. Preheat the oven to 375 F.
3. Make the topping: Mix the flour, baking powder, salt and brown sugar in a medium-sized bowl. Incorporate the butter (I like to squeeze it with my fingers while watching TV!) until the mixture resembles course sand.
3. Share the apples between two ramekins and top with the crumble topping.
4. Bake for about 20 minutes, or until the top is browned and the apple mixture is bubbling through.
5. Cool and serve with whipped cream!

Note: Quadruple the recipe and bake in a casserole dish to serve a crowd!

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Chicken Breast with Roasted Poblano and Corn Succotash

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I hate introducing myself to large groups. It makes me feel so silly. I say my name, my city, and then start scrambling for something that I enjoy. Anything to make myself just a little more…distinct.

Hmm…I like to eat, I probably watch way too much TV, I like dogs…still not there yet…I hate riding the subway, I don’t really like flying either…yea, you and everyone else in America.

I like dark meat chicken. Why not? Chances are that you know exactly which piece you’re after in that platter of Thanksgiving turkey. Why is it any more or less an example of your personal preference than whether or not you really think dogs are man’s best friend!

So there it is. I’m Sheena, I live in Brooklyn, and I love dark meat chicken!

Well, that was true until I tried chicken breast bone-in, skin-on at Saul in Cobble Hill, Brooklyn. It was the best of both worlds: tender and juicy like dark meat, but light and bright like white meat.

Saul has since closed, but will move to the Brooklyn Museum this fall (no food and drink in the museum unless it is good food and strong drink). In the meantime, I had to figure out how to make it myself.

My first attempt at chicken breast skin on, bone in was divine. I was ready to challenge Saul Bolton himself to a cook-off; Iron Chef style. That is, until I realized that it was undercooked. I continued to eat it (because 50% of my life decisions are based on gluttony) by then just getting as close to the pink as I could while convincing myself that food poisoning may be bad but at least I wouldn’t die (don’t quote me on that).

A little practice, a spin on a method I learned from an episode of Barefoot Contessa (the one where she goes to the Standard Grill to make the “Million Dollar Chicken”) and some really great pairings and my chicken breast bone-in, skin-on was great (and edible!).

The chicken is browned in a cast-iron skillet, then roasted on atop a slice of baguette. It’s then topped with a roasted corn and poblano “succotash” and a dollop of cilantro sour cream. The perfect pairing for the chicken is that toasty baguette that soaked up all of that yummy chicken flavor.

If you make sure to cook the chicken until it is just right, it’ll be juicy and tender and you can taste the flavors that seeped in from the bone and skin. Even if you over cook it just a little, the pairings add a nice flavor compliment and moisture.

Dark meat fans may start having second thoughts.

As for me, my newly found enjoyment of white meat has sent me back to square one. Here we go again.

I’m Sheena…..

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Chicken Breast with Roasted Corn and Poblano Succotash
Serves 2

2 Chicken Breasts (bone-in, skin-on)
¼ Baguette (about 6-inches), cut in half
1 tsp Cumin
2-3 Allspice seeds
5 Coriander seeds
1 ear Corn
1 Poblano pepper
½ Jalapeno
½ Onion
¼ Red pepper
1 small Tomato
¾ cup Cilantro (a handful)
½ cup Sour cream
1 lime (zest and juice)
Olive Oil

1. Toast and grind the spices (if using seeds). Rub the chicken with the spices, 1 tbsp olive oil and S&P. Let it stand for at least ½ hour.
2. Roast the corn and poblano over an open flame on the stove until charred
3. Peal and deseed the poblano and slice it. Remove the corn kernels from the cob. Set both aside.
4. Preheat the oven to 350 F
5. Sear the chicken for about 3-4 minutes on both sides in an oven-proof pan.
6. Place the bread under the chicken (skin-side up), and put it the skillet in the oven. Roast the chicken for about 25 minutes, or until cooked through. (NO PINK)
7. Sautee the onions, jalapeno and red pepper. At the last minute, add the corn, poblano and tomato. Turn the fire on low and keep warm until ready to serve.
8. Finely chop the cilantro, and mix with the sour cream, lime zest, lime juice, salt and pepper.
9. When the chicken is ready, remove it from the oven and allow it to rest. Then slice it, top it with the succotash and a dollop of sour cream. Serve with the bread.

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Review: Felice 83

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I’m not one for Italian restaurants. The price American culture has placed on Italian food has been inflated, allowing hum drum outposts to upsell cheap and uninspired dishes made up for with candlelit ambiance. Experience this enough times and it’s enough to lose faith. BUT Felice 83 makes me regret my cynicism. It is a reminder that the details are what is important, and good food requires passion, carefully sourced ingredients and of course people who know what they are doing.

I had a wonderful tasting with 4 fellow food bloggers. Chef Simone Parisotto proudly paraded his work, as the food obsessed dug in with a critical eye. The tasting was paired with 3 wines — a rose, white and red — presented by the sommelier, producer and co-owner.

So here we go…

The meal started with a detailed explanation of the Felice wines imported by sommelier and co-owner Jacopo Sebastiano Giustiani from his family’s vineyard in Tuscany. He is somewhat if a purist, glorifying the wine making process and praising wines that aptly tell the character of the land and the conditions surrounding production. The pleasure partly resides in the separation of the elements to assemble a historical account of the bottle. It makes sense, Guistiani’s family has owned the vineyard that produces these wines for over 200 years. We tasted a rosé, red and white throughout the courses. My favorite was the white. It was crisp and complex with a vanilla note that was unexpected but really nice.

After our wine discussion we were served the appetizer course. The best, without protest, was the Coccoli Crescenzo E Crudo — an 18 month-aged prosciutto paired with coccoli (small squares of fried pizza dough) and crescenza cheese (a soft, creamy Italian cheese). The prosciutto was cured beautifully– it was salty enough and tender enough to easily cut with a fork. The three components together were an amazing combination of texture. It was like a deconstructed thin crust pizza eaten like chips and dip. An elegant yet down-home creation.

Felice 2We also had the arancini, which is a saffron-infused rice ball, stuffed with braised veal and mozzarella cheese, breaded and fried until it was golden. This was again a brilliant play with textures but also had a nice developed flavor from the veal ragout.

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The last appetizer was a tomato and burrata salad. It was beautifully plated and very fresh. It was a nice and light appetizer if you’re one to have a salad with every meal. But up against the prosciutto and arancini, it was a bit of a throw away.

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Next up was the pasta course: a Linguini con vongole e pomodorini (a seafood pasta with clams and tomato), and Orechiette al sugo (orechiette pasta with shredding pork). The seafood pasta was my personal favorite of the two. It was a classic, but elevated with quality ingredients and a light touch. The Orechiette was excellent as well. The pasta was of course house-made and cooked beautifully to a soft and slightly gummy chew. Mixing this with shredded pork was just the icing.

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And then there was the main course. We’re had a 34-oz dry-aged NY Strip (Costada) and Veal Chops sautéed in red wine reduction; boy were they tender. The steak was grilled, keeping the preparation simple. The chef seems to believe that the magic came from his choice of grass fed beef from a farm he visited in Oklahoma, but he’s not giving himself enough credit. It is still beautifully grilled, juicy and tender. The veal was my favorite. It was cooked with a red wine reduction, and so tender you cold rip it with a fork.

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The chef surprised us with a seafood stew. It tasted like a cook-all-day affair — the seafood was broken down into a rich tomato sauce covering piles if branzino, octopus, shrimp and squid. Harmonious flavors — notice a trend?

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Last up was dessert. We had a sampling of about five desserts, all of which were just fine, but did not live up to the standard created by the dinner. My favorite was the pistachio gelato, which had the most pistachio flavor I’ve ever tasted in any dessert. It was a nice, refreshing treat and a simple way to end such an extravagant meal.

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Felice 83 is a wonderful experience curated by people who care enough to give you the very best. Their passion comes through in every aspect, and the details in their execution are impeccable. This place is a treat. It’s the perfect place to go with people you care about, where you can relax, share everything family-style and enjoy some really great Tuscan cuisine.

Salmon with Warm Peach Orzo


As the summer winds down and the vibrant summer fruits become scarce and expensive, I find it hard to let go. Days like today are a dream. For just a second, the 90 degree heat on my skin brings me back to those easy July weekends.

This dish is sure to do the same. A piece of beautiful, pink salmon is laid atop a bed of ozro, dressed with a warm sautee of the juiciest peaches, bright red cherry tomatoes, fennel and red onion. Everything is garnished with a sprinkle of tarragon leaves, bringing out more of that anise flavor. It is beautiful, light and delicious, bringing you back to those warm summer days.


Salmon with Warm Peach Orzo

1 lb Salmon fillet
1 Peach
1 cup Orzo
1/2 large Red Onion
1/4 Jalapeno pepper (deseed to reduce heat)
1/2 large bulb of Fennel (or Anise)
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes
Olive Oil
Tarragon leaves

1. Season the salmon with salt and pepper to your liking. Preheat the broiler.
2. Prepare the orzo according to the box’s instructions. When the orzo is al dente, reserve 3 tbsp of the cooking water and strain the orzo into a colander. Reserve the orzo in a bowl and season lightly with olive oil and salt
3. Slice the red onion, fennel, jalapeno and peach. Sautee the red onion, jalapeno and fennel with olive oil until it is soft. Add the peaches and cherry tomato, and sautee until they release some of their juices. Add the reserved orzo water. Season everything with salt and pepper. Add the sautee to the orzo and mix well.
4. Broil the salmon for about 6 minutes (or until it is easily flaked with a fork). Split it into two portions and remove from the skin.
5. Place the orzo on a plate and top with a piece of salmon. Garnish with tarragon leaves.

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