Thursday, February 24, 2011

Ginger Tea

We all know that getting sick sucks. Being sniffly, coughy, or nauseous is no fun. But what does this have to do with food?


It’s my favorite cure all home remedy. Sometimes you need to reach for the cold medicine, but ginger can also be a big help on the road to feeling better. Ginger has been used as a medicine for different ailments for centuries, but I primarily turn to it for the common cold (or when I’m cooking Chinese food). Some claim that it’s an “antiviral” food, but I don’t really know if it has been scientifically proven to help with colds. And I don’t really care because I know that it works! Ginger is also known to curb nausea, so if you’ve got a stomach bug it could be helpful as well.

Whenever I feel like I’m getting sick I make up a batch of homemade ginger tea. You can buy ginger in pill form at the store or premade ginger teabags, but I prefer to take it back to the basics and make ginger tea from scratch. And what’s better when you’re sick than a warm cup of tea?

First you start off with ginger root. I like to make a big batch of tea and save some in the fridge, so I usually get a lot of ginger. Peel the ginger with a sharp knife and cut it into chunks.

Then place the pieces of ginger in a pot and fill it with water. Bring the pot to a boil and allow the ginger to seep into the water for at least fifteen minutes. Sometimes I let it go longer if I want to make a particularly potent batch. When the water begins the change color you know the ginger is starting to work some of its magic.

And that's pretty much it--just ladle out a cupful when you think the tea is ready. Some people like to add a little lemon and honey, which can also be helpful to soothe a sore throat. I prefer it straight up, but that’s just me being hard core as usual. I love the spiciness of the ginger and there’s something about such an intense flavor that just makes me feel like I’m doing something healthy for myself.

I realize that this post is not exactly overflowing with scientific evidence and that some will say that consuming ginger to prevent or remedy the common cold is an old wives’ tale, but from my own experience I’ve found it to work very well. Of course, there’s shame in turning to the pharmacy in a time of need, but many people prefer to try home remedies first. Even if the ginger tea can’t make you completely better, the warmth and spiciness of it still makes you feel good when you’re ill. Stay healthy and be well!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Song of the Week: Salty Air

Quote of the Week: Happy and Successful Cooking

"Happy and successful cooking doesn't rely on know-how; it comes from the heart, makes great demands on the palate and needs enthusiasm and a deep love of food to bring it to life."

--Georges Blanc, Ma Cusine des Saisons

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Mehndi and SM23

Valentine’s Day for two single girls is a great opportunity to go out for a fancy dinner, movie, and drinks. Last Saturday my friend Janessa and I decided to treat ourselves to a fantastic meal at Mehndi, an Indian restaurant in Morristown, New Jersey, followed by cocktails at SM23. Mehndi had been recommended by my friend Randy who is from the area (see my post on blackened tilapia tacos for more Randy awesomeness), and I’m so glad she gave me the heads up! Mehndi was some of the best Indian food I’ve had in a while, and the classy atmosphere was just what we needed for a single girls Valentine’s celebration.

For appetizers we ordered Maachli Koliwada and the Makkai and Papadum. The Maachli Koliwada was deep-fried tilapia with cracked spices and a lentil marinade. They were kind of like fancy fish sticks with a little extra kick. Nice and tasty.

The Makkai and Papadum was corn, okra, green chili, onion, and tomato with lentil crisp. The makkai reminded me of a salsa dip with different veggies in it. It wasn't spicy unless you got one of the dried chilies, and then it was really spicy! Now I enjoy high levels of spiciness, but you probably shouldn't eat a whole chili unless you really love heat. The crispy lentil papadum was perfect for scooping up the makkai.

And no Indian meal is complete without some delicious Indian bread. We tried the rosemary naan. I’d never tried naan with rosemary on it, but it was pretty great.

We split an entrée and opted for the Bhuna Gosht, which came with pan-roasted lamb, bay leaf, green cardamom, cinnamon stick, ginger, and garlic paste. I absolutely love lamb, so it’s usually what I ordered when I go out for Indian food. They just know how to do it right. The lamb was nice and tender and the curried sauce was quite delightful. Janessa had never tried lamb before, and I think this dish was the perfect introduction to the wonderful world of lamb meat. It was served with rice and two types of chutney.

Mendhi also has beautifully crafted cocktails. It is connected with SM23, which is a swanky bar located right next door that makes all the drinks for Mehndi. I ordered an Asian Influence, which was composed of Belvedere vodka, lychees, apple juice, ginger, elderflower cordial, and kaffir lime leaves. Janessa ordered the Gin Gin Mule with Plymouth gin, ginger beer, fresh mint, lime juice, and simple syrup. We realized later that our drinks had been accidentally switched, and I’d ended up with the Gin Gin Mule and she got the Asian Influence, but we were happier with the cocktails we ended up with anyways, so it was all good.

Gin Gin Mule

Asian Influence

The atmosphere was beautiful and the food and drinks were delicious, but the only weird thing about the evening is that our server gave us each a little hug at the end of the night. I’ve never had a server hug me before, so it was a little strange—not necessarily awkward just out of the ordinary. Who know…maybe it’s a Jersey thing?

After seeing a truly awful movie (The Roommate), we stopped back at SM23 to check out the bar. This time I tried the English Garden with Plymouth gin, elderflower cordial, cucumbers, apple juice, and simple syrup. I also got an Apple Chili Cucumber cocktail with Belvedere vodka, apples, apple juice, cucumber, elderflower cordial, lemon juice, and chili. I enjoyed the light, floweriness of the English Garden, but the Apple Chili Cucumber was probably my favorite of the night. Spicy drinks are always interesting, and this one had the perfect level of spice for a cocktail. The coolness of the apple and cucumber also added a nice balance to the spiciness of the chili. 
English Garden

Apple Chili Cucumber

Mehndi and SM23 are great places for a nice night out when you want to treat yourself to some quality Indian food followed by some creative cocktails at a truly classy bar in north Jersey.

Mehndi on Urbanspoon

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Song of the Week: Jellybelly

Quote of the Week: Food, Security, and Love

"It seems to me that our three basic needs, for food and security and love, are so mixed and mingled and entwined that we cannot straightly think of one without the others. So it happens that when I write of hunger, I am really writing about love and the hunger for it, and warmth and the love of it and the hunger for it; and then the warmth and richness and fine reality of hunger satisfied; and it is all one."

--M. F. K. Fisher, The Art of Eating

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Song of the Week: Tea for Two

Just tea for two, and two for tea...

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Quote of the Week: Milk

"It's so damn hot. Milk was a bad choice."

--Ron Burgundy, Anchorman

Mary Queen of Scots

When the Rooks recently converged in NYC we decided to try out brunch at the restaurant where our amazing pastry-chef cousin, Heather, has been working. So on a Sunday afternoon we headed to Mary Queen of Scots on the Lower East Side for a tasty meal and delicious desserts.

First we delved into a tray of various baked goods—scones and muffins galore. And they were served with clotted cream. Oh, clotted cream! How I love thee. It was perfect to spread on the lovely scones and muffins. These treats were gone within minutes, and we were primed for the rest of the meal.

We also indulged in some cocktails and coffee throughout the meal. We ordered bloody mary’s, which were off the hook with just the right blend of tomato juice, spices, and fresh grated horseradish. What a great way to start off a lazy, winter's Sunday.

I opted for the Black Pudding Benedict with Meyer lemon hollandaise and arugula salad. I had never tried black pudding before, and I was intrigued. Basically the black pudding (also called blood pudding) is a type of sausage made from cooking blood, spices, and oats. The flavor was reminiscent of regular sausage but had a different kick to it, and the texture was more crumbly. There was also something in the flavor that just popped in a way I’ve never experienced before. The initial taste is great on it's own, but then after a moment it builds in complexity and there’s just a Pow! on your taste buds. I don’t know if it’s the blood or some kind of spice, but either way it is awesome. And the eggs were perfectly poached, oozing luscious yellow yolk over the black pudding and accompanying bread.

All the other plates were scrumptious as well. My mom opted for the House Smoked Scottish Salmon with a potato bap bun, horseradish crème fraiche, and caper berries. Sonya ordered the Corn Crumpets with Peekytoe crab, apple piccalilli, and shaved radish. And my dad opted for the French Toast au Fromage Blanc with chipolata sausage, maple syrup, and fruit.

Patrick (our resident Scotsman...well, kind of. I mean, he likes scotch but he's not actually from Scotland) of course ordered the Full Scotch Breakfast with Ayrshire bacon, chipolata sausage, grilled tomato, great northern beans, free range eggs, and a potato scone. Lucky for us Pat likes to share, so we all got to try the phenomenal Scottish bacon that came with his breakfast. It was amazing, and every mouth got to savor a little bit of the thick, hearty meat.

After our fabulous meal it was time for dessert. Heather’s desserts were seriously out of this world. I mean, I always knew that I had an awesome cousin, but I had no idea that she could kill it like that in the kitchen. We tried four amazingly scrumdiddlyumptious desserts, and even though were already stuffed from brunch we still devoured every bite. These desserts were not only visually stunning (as you can see) but also decadent, delicious, and perfectly executed. You’ll need to hit up Mary Queen of Scots if you want to experience these exceptional treats yourself.

Chocolate Stout Tres Leches Cake 
with stout foam, chocolate pretzels, dulce de leche, and malt ice cream

Cranberry Upside-Down Cake
served with sweet potato curd, poached cranberries, and topped with orange sherbet

Acorn Squash Cheese Cake 
with a maple emulsion, walnut brittle crumble, acorn squash seed tuile, walnut sorbet, and toasted acorn squash seeds

Peanut Butter Sandwiches

These peanut butter sandwiches were probably my favorite of the desserts. The soft chocolate cookies are filled with milk-chocolate-and-peanut-butter cream and served with caramelized bananas that are flambéed with Wild Turkey American Honey Bourbon, caramelized honey ice cream, and chocolate cookie crumble. What? Can you say "amazing"? I was very impressed with all the desserts, but this one definitely stands out for me as I recollect our fabulous meal.

Mary Queen of Scots was a great place to grab brunch and devour some delicious desserts. I can't wait to go back and check out their dinner menu sometime. It's definitely worth a visit to the Lower East Side, so enjoy and don't forget dessert!

Mary Queen of Scots on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 3, 2011

You Don't Win Friends with Salad!

Words of wisdom from the Simpsons...