Monday, December 16, 2013

Elk Burger

PL here -

Hey, I admit to having adventurous dining tastes.  Over the years, I've enjoyed venison, bison, mutton, and frog legs. Ok, maybe not that adventurous - certainly not as adventurous as Anthony Bordain -  but better than some.  I did once try ostrich - cooked at home - and found it too dry. Probably not due to the bird but my overcooking.

But when my wife Tina told me about this new place, BareBurger Organic  - new for Westchester, NY - that served burgers of wild boar, bison, elk, and, yeah, ostrich, in addition to more conventional fare, I knew I would have to try it.  We were on Rt. 119, on our way to another fine establishment, when Tina said hey, how about that new burger place?  I hung a sharp turn down Central Avenue.  Tina went for the beef burger, organic, and loved it.

And I went for the elk.  It was just perfect - in many ways like the finest beef burger, but with absolutely none of the fat, not a hint of grease, not even an aftertaste impression of grease.  It was just tender, delicious meat, almost fragrant it tasted so good.   The brioche and the spinach greens and tomato - also organic - were perfect accompaniment.  I was almost sorry I put a little honey mustard dressing into the mix - the elk burger was so savory.

There are BareBurgers in Manhattan, New Jersey, who knows where else.  If the burgers those serve are anywhere nearly as good as the ones Tina and I had late this afternoon a little south of White Plains - trust me, you'll love it.   I may even go for the ostrich next time.

Sunday, August 11, 2013

Spaghetti alla Norma, SWVL's Way

Hello, dear readers! It's me, SWVL.

Eggplants have been one of my favorite foods since childhood. (I credit this blog's co-proprietor, my beloved mother, for introducing me to the many splendors of these noble purple globes.) I learned how to oven-roast them to perfection a couple of years ago. I've also gotten pretty good, if I may say so myself, at cooking up a simple fresh tomato sauce in the summers. Cue lightbulb: Why not combine these two delightful dinners?

If you look up most recipes for Spaghetti alla Norma, they'll tell you to fry the eggplant in a pan. I like my way better – the roasted flavor pairs very nicely with the tomato-onion-garlic sauce, and the eggplant gets to a nice creamy texture. (Traditional recipes also include ricotta salata, which I leave out; cheese-lovers can modify this recipe by stirring in some ricotta or parmesan toward the end.)

I made this recipe last night with all-fresh ingredients from our CSA and the Morningside Park Farmers Market. We served it over whole-wheat spaghetti. Really good! It was even better this afternoon, after we left it in the fridge with the pasta mixed in.

If you're not into eggplant (and why not?), or don't have any handy, you can skip straight to step 5 for a basic tomato sauce. You can also add some chopped green peppers around step 10 instead of the eggplant.

Serving suggestion: Goes well with Israeli salad and plum crisp for dessert!


4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1 medium yellow onion or 2-3 small ones
2-4 medium tomatoes, as ripe as you can get 'em (assorted colors if possible)
2 handfuls cherry tomatoes (I like yellow ones)
2 medium dark-purple eggplants
1 small hot pepper, habanero or similar (optional)
half a lemon
olive oil
black pepper
4-5 leaves fresh basil
spaghetti or other long pasta, prepared as usual

Serves two, with plentiful leftovers.


1. Pre-heat oven to 400°. While oven is heating, cut eggplant into roughly one-inch cubes. Leave the skin on.

2. Toss eggplant pieces in a mixing bowl with 2-3 capfuls olive oil (I like the garlic-infused kind) plus a healthy dash of salt and pepper.

3. Spread eggplant pieces in a roasting pan. It's important not to crowd the pan – use two or more roasting pans if needed. Try to put most of the eggplant pieces skin side down. Drizzle a little more olive oil if it looks like any pieces need it.

4. Roast eggplant for ~25 minutes. Check on it halfway through; shake the pieces around the pan a little to make sure they're roasting evenly. When done, take the eggplant out of the oven and put it aside to cool.

5. While the eggplant is roasting, peel and crush the garlic or chop it into little pieces (as small as you can).

6. Heat some olive oil in a French oven type cooking pot; add garlic when the oil is getting hot, and cook at medium heat, stirring often, until garlic is starting to turn golden brown.

7. Peel and dice the onion. Add to the pot when garlic has colored as described above. Add some salt and black pepper. Keep cooking, stirring often, until the onion has turned semi-translucent.

8. Chop the tomatoes into smallish hunks. You can scoop out the tomato seeds if you want, but I don't bother. Try to preserve as much juice as you can. When the onion is ready as described above, add the tomatoes and their juice to the pot.

9. Halve the cherry tomatoes and add them to the pot. Stir well.

10. Squeeze the lemon into the pot; rescue any seeds that fall in.

11. Chop the hot pepper very finely and add to pot if desired. You can also substitute a little crushed red chili pepper if you don't have fresh peppers and want a spicy kick.

12.  Cover the pot. Cook at medium-low heat, stirring every so often, until the tomatoes are starting to break down and release their juices (about 10 minutes).

13. Chop the fresh basil. Add basil, a dash of oregano, maybe a little more salt and pepper, and stir well. Cook for another 5-10 minutes, stirring often, as tomatoes break down further and form a sauce.

13. When the sauce has become fully sauce-like, stir in the roasted eggplant pieces.

14. Uncover the pot and cook for another 5 minutes, stirring often, until the eggplant is just starting to fall apart in the sauce.

15. Let cool for about 10 minutes. Serve over warm al dente pasta, or mix the cooked pasta right into the sauce pot. Grate some cheese over the plate if you like. Mmm!

Sunday, June 2, 2013

Google Lunch

PL here -

I had a top-secret meeting with someone from Google last week, so rather than tell you about what we talked about, I thought I'd tell you about the lunch.

It was in the Google cafeteria, some floors up at their New York City office building on 9th Avenue off 15th Street.   The food was so good, that "cafeteria" seems an insufficient word for it.   So good, that the Google cafeteria reminded me of Justin de Neuve's, also a self-described as a "cafeteria," but one of the best eateries in London, at least when my wife Tina and I had lunch there in 1976 on our honeymoon.

The food in Google cafeteria was just a delicious.   I had duck, the portions of which came in white bowls  with some side veggies and everything cooked to perfection.   I saw fish and chicken choices which looked mouth-watering, too.

The salad choices were multiple and outstanding, too.   I took small portions from at least four, and found the carrots, brocoli, chick peas, and various kinds of lettuce crisp and vibrant.

Now, I have no idea how much this costs, because I was a guest.   But I didn't see my gracious host pay anything either, so these lunches are apparently a perk for Google's 3500+ employees in New York.

And a tasty, healthy perk it is.  Google is a wise believer that good food for the palate makes for good food for thought.

Friday, February 1, 2013

Pineapple Mint Tea

PL here -

Checking in with a recommendation for delicious non-caffeinated herbal fruit tea - pineapple mint.

I found out about this from my daughter, who's married to Carlos from Brazil. She spent half a year in Brazil a few years ago, and came back raving about this tea (among other things). I don't know how easy it is to get in the U.S. - we found a Brazilian place on Cape Cod a few years ago that stocks a good supply.

The company's name is Madrugada. The tea is advertised as "Pineapple Tea w/Mint". I'm in general not a fan for fruit or herbal teas, let alone both, but I find this brew delicious, soothing, and just perfect for a late night cup. It's so good that I don't even feel motivated to find the tea outside of a bag - just put one in boiling water for a few minutes and get a great cup every time.