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Monthly Archives: August 2012

If I’ve been lax about updating this blog lately (and I have), it’s because I have honestly been lax about making any kind of interesting food lately. Work is busy, summer is punishingly hot and humid, and I have no energy at all. We usually end up ordering in, which isn’t good for our wallets or anything else, really. But I feel a sea change at hand — I’ve spent the last few lazy hours in bed, looking at recipes, getting excited for things to make (Serious Eats is speaking to me right now)! So in the meantime, here’s a few pictures and thoughts from my visit to Tortaria the other day.

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Tortaria in Union Square is a place I have been meaning to visit for some time now, but every time I have stopped by, it’s been crazy busy. That’s no good when you have self-seating and counter service, but it definitely boded well for the food, so I was persistent. Thank goodness for NYC early bird dinner; being a midwestern girl, I’ve been used to eating dinner between 5-5:30pm my entire life. This serves me well in New York, as when I meet someone for dinner at 6 or 6:30, I’m starving, but there’s no one at the restaurant yet. Win win! That was exactly the case at Tortaria; when my friend and I were done by 7:30, the place was just starting to get packed. Keep that in mind when you visit!

I ordered the Crispy Eggplant Torta, with a side of plantains and, of course, a Pacifico. The sandwich was really wonderful – the eggplant was indeed crispy and pretty tasty, the Chihuahua cheese was melted and delicious, the avocado was refreshing, and there was an amazing chipotle BBQ sauce that tied it all together. The only thing I would get different for next time is asking for it with no pickled jalapeño slices – they were distracting and didn’t mesh well with the rest of the sandwich. The plantains were good, not great – when I get sweet plantains, I expect them to have that crunchy caramelized outside that gets stuck in your teeth, but these were not that well-done. They were also served with a sauce that straight up puzzled me and my friend; it was like melted Tootsie Rolls with anise in it? No thanks, I would definitely prefer crema next time.

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I was really excited for the Horchata-Tequila Paleta, which I read about in a blog post about alcoholic popsicles in the city (best idea!), so when I ordered it and I got this cup with solid, frozen horchata, topped with a grenadine syrup, I was confused. This was no paleta! There are two sticks, but how am I supposed to eat it? I poked at it with my plastic spoon for a while, finally realizing the sticks are for show. Once it started melting, I was able to dig in with my spoon – it’s way more of a shaved ice than a traditional popsicle, but once it got going, it’s absolutely delicious. You can taste the cinnamon and the rice-ness of the horchata (in a good way, like really comforting, cold rice pudding), and the grenadine syrup adds a little pop and sweetness. The tequila is definitely there – I was feeling it when I was done, that’s for sure – but it’s not bracing. Once I got to the last third, I had a pinkish, melty, sweet, delicious mix of grenadine, tequila, and horchata. It was near-perfect.

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All that, for less than $20 – I’m planning on heading back to Tortaria, if I can ever find a seat again.

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As I’ve probably said before, I want to become a changed woman; I am trying to use all the produce I buy, instead of letting it go bad in the vegetable drawer (as, unfortunately, I have done way too many times). Last time I was at the farmer’s market, I saw these adorable miniature white eggplants, and because I am a total sucker for both different-colored vegetables and miniature produce, I had to get them. Luckily, I remembered them for this super quick dinner before they went bad. Score one for Dana!

I found this recipe in The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East, and other than the eggplant and green onions, was made up totally of things I already had in my kitchen! It cooks in less than 20 minutes – by far, the longest parts were making the rice and letting the eggplant sweat (releasing its extra moisture via salt). I accidentally had a bit of a heavy hand with the rice vinegar, but I saved it with a little honey, making it non-vegan, but edible and delicious.

It’s not a revolutionary dish, but it’s really good. Definitely don’t underestimate the “garlic lover’s” part of the recipe – it’s super garlicky, which we love in this house. The recipe originally says it serves 4 as a side dish, which is accurate – we’re admittedly big eaters, but this was just enough for both of us with rice. Next time, I’d probably double it and keep the leftovers. Delicious, and easy – perfect for weeknights!

Garlic Lover’s Eggplant (from The 30 Minute Vegan’s Taste of the East by Mark Renfield and Jennifer Murray)

6 cups eggplant, 1-inch cubes (I used all the eggplant seen in the picture)

2 teaspoons sea salt

2 tablespoons roasted sesame oil

10 cloves garlic, pressed or minced

1/2 chile pepper, seeded and minced, optional (I used crushed red pepper flakes)

1 tablespoon soy sauce, or to taste

1 tablespoon rice vinegar

3 tablespoons diced green onion

Place the cubed eggplant in a casserole dish and sprinkle with salt. After 10 to 15 minutes, remove the eggplant, place in a colander, and rinse well.

When the eggplant is ready, place the oil in a large saute pan over medium-high heat, add the garlic, and child pepper, if using, and cook for 2 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the eggplant and cook until tender, approximately 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Add the remaining ingredients, mix well, and enjoy!