Friday, May 30, 2008

Sex & the City: The Food

Pun-prone chick writer with big hopes, big dreams, and even bigger hair in the big city....

I know what you're thinking, and NO, I'm not talking about myself in the third person. I'm talking about my HBO hero (of sorts), THE Carrie Bradshaw!

I used to watch Sex & the City back when it was on HBO - before TBS censored all the good parts. I owe most of my theories on love and romance to that show (yikes?). It goes without saying that I have been anticipating the movie since the show ended back in my college days...and it's finally HERE!

Always on top of event planning, I had bought my tickets weeks ago and assembled a posse of chic ladies who were just as psyched as I was to see Carrie ruminate on the big screen (and I had heard rumors that there are not one, but TWO fabulous wedding dresses to behold in the film - be still my beating heart! But no spoilers here - you'll just have to see it yourself).

But what would a SATC-themed fete be sans Cosmos?!? And of course, since I am the Fearless Cook and not Carrie Bradshaw, after all, I made some tasty treats for the ladies (I kept it all light - don't want to strain those stilettos).

My inspiration for the party food came right from the runway. Each of the three things I made was inspired by one of the three infamous shoe designers mentioned on the show (The Trifecta): Manolo Blahnik, Jimmy Choo, and Christian Louboutin.

Manolo Blahnik ("I spent $40,000 on SHOES?!?") is a Spanish designer whose eponymous label has taken the show, and the fashion world, by storm. And what better way to celebrate a Spanish designer than to eat Spanish tapas? That's when I found the perfect Spanish Stuffed Tomato recipe.


Jimmy Choo ("I lost my Choo!") is a Malaysian designer who works in France, so I decided on a South Asian twist on Shrimp Cocktails (cocktails also being appropriate to the occasion): Spicy Malaysion Shrimp Cocktails with Coconut Rice.


And Christian Louboutin's signature is his famous red sole, which he says was inspired by his assistant painting her nails red one day in the design studio. So I wanted a very, very red dessert, hence my Balsamic-Macerated Berry Salad.


I used actual recipes for these dishes, so it's not exactly my typical fearless method, but I'm giving myself points for creativity with the whole shoe thing. Read on to see how it all came together.



12-15 smallish tomatoes (I used the slightly-bigger-than-cherry-tomatoes that are still on the vine)
6 eggs
3/4 c. mayonnaise
3 cloves garlic
juice of one lemon
3 T. fresh parsley, plus sprigs for garnishing
salt and pepper

Hard-boil the eggs. Cut the tops off the tomatoes and scrape out the insides and seeds. Mix the mayo, garlic, lemon, parsley, and salt and pepper (to taste). Chop up the eggs and mix them into the garlic aioli mixture. Spoon it into the tomatoes. Garnish with fresh parsley.


2 lbs. raw, deveined, de-shelled shrimp
1 red bell pepper
4 jalapeno peppers
5 shallots
3 cloves garlic
1/2 c. water
1 can lite coconut milk
1 c. uncooked basmati rice
salt and pepper to taste
sugar to taste
juice of 6-8 key limes, or more to taste
10-12 T. oil (I used peanut oil)
fresh cilantro

Heat 6 T. of the oil in a large skillet. Salt and pepper the shrimp lightly, then fry on both sides until just pink. Remove from pan, leaving the oil in it. Roughly chop the shallots, bell pepper, and garlic. Remove the seeds and ribs from the jalapenos and roughly chop them. Combine jalapenos, bell pepper, garlic, shallots, and water in the blender and blend until you have a not-too-smooth paste. Add the rest of the oil to the pan, and cook the blended mixture with the oil, adding half the can of coconut milk and lime juice, sugar, and salt and pepper. Cook until some of the liquid has reduced. Cook rice according to pachage directions, and when it's almost fully cooked, stir in the rest of the coconut milk. Spoon a little rice into small cups, and top with 4-5 shrimp each. Garnish with sprigs of fresh cilantro.


2 pints fresh raspberries
2 c. fresh strawberries
2 c. ripe cherries, pitted and halved
1/2 c. balsamic vinegar
1/4 c. sugar (or to taste, based on the fruit's natural sweetness)
juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 T. chopped fresh mint
1 c. heavy whipping cream
2 T. sugar

Rinse all the fruit. Slice the strawberries into pieces. Pit and halve the cherries. Add them to a tupperware bowl with tight-fitting lid. In a bowl, mix the balsamic, sugar, and lemon juice until the sugar has dissolved. Pour over fruit and stir around to coat. Place the lid on and refrigerate overnight so the berries macerate. Just before serving, stir in the fresh chopped mint. In a mixing bowl, using an electric hand mixer, whip the cream until it begins to get fluffy. Add the sugar and whip until it's whipped-cream consistency. Serve the berries with a dollop of whipped cream on top, and mint to garnish.


4 parts Citron Vodka
2 parts Triple Sec or Cointreau
2 parts cranberry juice
1 part fresh lime juice

Measure all ingredients into a shaker, add ice, and shake until mixed. Strain into four martini glasses.

The food all came out yummily (except for a couple suspect tomatoes, which had my dear Kelly running to the bathroom, heels and all, in the middle of the movie. We think we dtermined that it was the salmonella outbreak among small red tomatoes. Sorry, Kell).

And the movie came out even...yummilier? You know what I mean. It was truly amazing. Packed theater (all lovely ladies, dressed to the nines, cat-fighting over saved seats). Group gasps at dream closets. Fashion porn. And even a little gratuitous male nudity. I give it two stilettos up.

The real breakout star of the film was Jennifer Hudson, who is my new obsession, thanks to her adorable character and infectious song, "All Dressed Up in Love." (Available on iTunes!)

The breakout star of the hors d'ouevres? In my humble opinion, the whipped cream, and berry salad in general. Desserts are not my forte, but it was gorgeous, tart, and not too sweet (just like the four fabulous ladies of SATC).

In conclusion, if you haven't seen the Movie yet, drop what you're doing, buy your ticket on Fandango, and shimmy on over to the nearest cinema for the chick flick to beat all chick flicks. Why are you still reading my blog? Go! RUN! See it now!!!!

Thanks for reading! And thanks to my ladies for coming over!

More soon...

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Chicken Un-Parmesan

It's always a little intimidating to makes someone's favorite meal (remember the German Cake Uber-Disaster?). But chicken and pasta - that I can handle. So when Ross requested Chicken Parmesan, I thought it was the perfect excuse to do a Fearless post. Taylor was also headed over for their weekly Wednesday Night FIFA Battle, so I knew I'd have an extra mouth around for judging purposes.

FEARLESS FACTOR: 5. Breaded chicken, pasta, and tomato sauce are nothing new. I didn't want to disappoint Ross' ever-more-discriminating palate, but I was sure I could make it good.


4 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
2 large eggs
bread crumbs (preferably Ian's brand, seasoned)
salt and pepper
olive oil
1 large can marinara sauce
1 large can plum tomatoes with basil
5-6 small sweet Italian peppers
1/2 large yellow onion
2 T. chopped baby garlic (or 2-3 cloves regular garlic)
1/2 c. white wine
chopped fresh basil
fresh thyme leaves
red pepper flakes (optional)
1/2 package cappellini or other pasta
fresh part-skim mozzarella cheese, sliced


Using a meat tenderizer, cover the chicken with plastic wrap and hammer out the chicken breasts until they are the same thickness (about 3/4-inch thick). Whisk the eggs and pour them onto a plate. On a separate plate, spread some flour and stir in some salt and pepper. On yet another plate, pour out the bread crumbs. Dredge each chicken breast in flour, then coat it in egg, then fully coat it in the bread crumbs, then set aside.


In a large pot, combine the marinara sauce, plum tomatoes, and wine. Bring up to a low boil. Mince the garlic and slice the peppers and onions. Add them to the sauce. Cook, stirring frequently and scraping the bottom of the pan, until some of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce begins to thicken. Add the basil and thmye. Add salt and pepper to taste, and also red pepper flakes if you want.

This is the baby garlic I got at the farmer's market, which looks deceptively like small leeks, but packs all the punch of garlic! It was an impulse buy.

My new basil plant! It made its delicious debut in this sauce.


Heat some oil in a large nonstick pan over medium-high heat. Fry each breast on each side until brown and crispy, adding more oil to the pan as needed (without some oil, the bread crumbs will not not brown). Set aside in a baking dish.


Bring salted water to a boil and cook the pasta according to package directions. Do not overcook. Drain.


Set the oven's broiler to HIGH. Slice 1/4-inch thick pieces of the mozzarella, and place one on each piece of chicken. Broil until the cheese is melted and begins to get a little brown and bubbly on top.

As you can see below, I burnt the cheese. To a crisp.

So, I did what any cook worth her salt would do: I scraped off the burnt top layer and covered it in sauce! My guests, had they not heard a string of expletives emanating from the kitchen like garlic wafting on a breeze, would have been none the wiser.


Place some pasta on each plate. Lay the chicken on top of the pasta, and top with the marinara sauce, pouring some around the pasta. Top with a little more grated mozzarella if you want, and garnish with some fresh basil. Serve with buttered French bread and salad.


TAYLOR: This is great. I'm gonna have to take a hiatus from my Man-orexia to enjoy it. This is the best meal I've had since...the last time I was here for dinner. The chicken is nice and crispy. When I make it like this it usually comes out greasy. 10 out of 10.

ROSS: The only thing I think could make it better is to put a little sausage in the sauce. But it's one of the best chicken parmesans I've ever had. And my piece of chicken is immense. Thank you, genetically modified chicken farmers. [NOTE: the chicken was not genetically modified.]

JESS: There is nothing I like more than chicken, pasta, cheese, and tomato sauce. And the chicken was really moist. You did a really good job with the chicken.

MY VOTE ON MY DISH: 6 stars. I'm taking away a star for burning the cheese, another 2 stars for grossly overcooking the pasta, and another because my so-called Chicken Parmesan contained exactly NO PARMESAN. I don't know where exactly the parmesan comes in in this dish, but I prefer the melty gooeyness of mozzarella anyway. The flavor was good. And the chicken was definitely really moist and not at all tough. I kept looking at it thinking it must be undercooked, but it was perfect. I owe it to the beating with the tenderizer, the quick cooking time, and the generous olive oil.

I'm definitely glad I skipped the gym and chose to eat cheese-covered chicken instead. Thanks to my judges!

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Foodie Adventures

On the downside, it's been way too long since I've done a post. On the upside, it's because I've been out living my life!

Since I've left you all starved for an unnacceptable three weeks now, this will be an uber-long post that's a feast for the eyes (and I'll try to make some jokes, too).

I've had three wonderful adventures recently (well, three that I've photographed, anyway).

1. NEW YORK CITY: Manhattan, baby! The food lovers' capital. Jess and I flew in to visit our BFF Jesse for a whirlwind vacay spent soaking up Lower East Side hipness and tangling with more than a few Bloody Marys.

2. LE COLONIAL: Ah, French Vietnamese cuisine. Something I haven't enjoyed since leaving my beloved Hotlanta.

3. GREEN CITY MARKET OPENING WEEKEND: What I waited all (looooooooooooooong) Winter for. Although I learned a very hard lesson about seasonality - I'll explain later on.

But first, let's reminisce about the Big Apple!

We started with lunch at B Bar in the Bowery. The foccacia was to die for - and serving it with balsamic for dipping? I'm so stealing that idea. We had the most delicious deep-purple Sangria on the patio. It was the perfect way to shake off the almost-missed-our-flight jitters and really settle into living the New York City life. Jesse had to work for the afternoon, so Jess and I headed to SoHo to - you guessed it - shop.

I had promised myself that I wouldn't shop, because - let's face it - there's nothing in New York you can't get in Chicago (or on the internet). But the second I set foot on Broadway, you would've thought I had never seen a store before. I dragged a severely caffeine-deprived Jess from store to store and forced her to buy fabulous things until she positively broke down and demanded espresso.

So we headed to Bloomingdale's (in NEW YORK!) for a couple of (tres chic) lattes.

One of many photos I took of the multitude of gorgeous fruit stands lining the streets of the city. I vowed to make a coffee table book of fruit stand photography from around the world (suuuure...right after I write my cookbook, become a famous Food Network personality, and solve the oil crisis).

We had a great, light lunch one day down at the Seaport, which is sort of like Navy Pier, if Navy Pier didn't totally suck. We were drawn into a New Zealand-themed spot with promises of a free Steinlager with every lunch entree (hey, who says New York is expensive?). We didn't want to over do it since our big dinner plans were at 6:30. (Why I made dinner reservations that early is beyond me. I can only claim a momentary lack of all worldliness.) But they were at the very popular and always-booked Pastis in the West Village, and I didn't want to spoil what promised (and indeed turned out to be) an amazing meal.

To really get us in the mood for le grande diner francais, we stopped into a little French cafe not too far from Pastis and had a couple drinks. It was impossibly cute. It really whetted my appetite for the REAL Paris [sigh].

Pastis is the perfect recreation of a classic, turn-of-the-century French brasserie, and that's because they flew in every last tile, coatrack, and napkin from Paris. Jesse saw Anna Wintour and her daughter there once (even more impressive considering Anna Wintour, by all accounts, does not eat).

The pictures of our meals are admittedly a little tourist-with-the-flash-on, but believe me, the food was stunning. And that was before I even put it into my mouth. My beef tasted like it had been roasting for about 11 years. I think I finally know the meaning of the phrase "spoon-tender." Jess had the chicken (poulet), and Jesse had the fish (poussin), putting my grand total of French vocabulary words at about 10. I'm pretty much fluent.

For dessert, we had the most luscious chocolate cake imaginable, drenched in ganache that could make you damn near weep.

J'taime Pastis!

On Saturday, we went out to Hoboken for brunch, where Jess' family had planned a surprise birthday celebration for her. We had a lovely Irish brunch at a place called Trinity. Hoboken has just as many beautiful piles of fresh fruit as Manhattan, it turns out. Not to mention a little thing called Water Ice ("Wudder Ice" if you're from Philly), which I tried for the first time. I'm not ashamed to say it was delightful.

The (very sad) morning of the day we left, we went to brunch (the consummate New York thing to do, in my opinion) at a Lithuanian place called Veselka. It seemed to be Lithuanian in ownership more than in cuisine, as they had not atypical brunch selections. I had a vey rustic, very photogenic, meal of poached eggs over grits. (Thank you, Veselka, for your abundant natural lighting.) We wandered around the block until we had to pack and say our goodbyes - a perfect end to a perfect trip.


Ross and I decided to celebrate nothing in particular last Friday with a nice dinner out. We wandered without a plan into the Gold Coast, and when I spotted Le Colonial (having recently developed an obsession with all things French, especially food), I knew that's where we should spend the evening.

Ross had the filet and shrimp, which was magnifique, and I had the seafood bouillabaisse, a brothy, saffrony concoction that was like a chefed-up version of Ross' frutas del mar we experienced in Costa Rica.

The cuisine at Le Colonial is French Vietnamese, which doesn't sound weird to you if you know anything about the history of French colonialism (which I didin't until I Wikipediaed it). It didn't take much to win me over. French food is delicious; Vietnamese food is delicious; I figured a meeting of the two could only be exponentially more delectable than either cuisine alone. I was right.

The other tantalizing thing at Le Colonial isn't found on the menu: it's the people-watching. Ross and I had a patio seat, and we were privy to the spectacle to several 60-year-old Ferrari-driving men of a more privileged ilk herding their impossibly leggy 22-year-old girlfriends into boozy nightclubs. It was like free dinner theater.


At long last, Spring! (Sort of.) It's still hovering in the too-chilly-for-my-Southern-blood 50's here, but the Green City Market kicked off the summer calendar this weekend. My interest in eating seasonally (and locally, for that matter) is usually eclipsed by my desire to eat aspragus, strawberries, and oranges in the middle of a January blizzard. Bat the Market, which is supplied only by local farmers, does not cater to the absurd demands of the hungry American public, pampered by the rainbow of produce from every corner of the globe available year-round in their local Jewel-Osco.

It was a huge disappointment. Apparently, not a whole heck of a lot is in season right now. There were a handful of potatoes and asparagus (which I grabbed), and some meat (I got some bratwursts), but other than that, the spectrum of edibles was severely limited. It is, however, flower season (I guess), so these few photos of flora will have to stand in for what I was hoping would be a mouthwatering fresh produce pictorial. I did buy a basil plant, which, given my track record with living things, is most likely doomed to a slow, withering death due to parental negligence, but we'll see how it goes.

I have a different famer's market trip scheduled for tomorrow, so hopefullly it will more...ahem, fruitful. So until then, enjoy the Spring flowers.

Sorry about the lapse in posts (all 5 of you who read this), but check back soon for a Sex and the City Movie Party Extraordinaire!

Thanks for reading!
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