Saturday, March 29, 2008

Good Food in Bags, Part 3

My husband is allergic to wheat and gluten (it's called Celiac, or as our good friend has dubbed it, "The Wheatness"), so I end up trying a lot of gluten-free versions of foods traditionally made with wheat -- breads, pastas, pretzels, etc. Sometimes these pre-packaged items don't really resemble their gluten-full counterparts at all. In the last few years, however, they've gotten way better and some are surprisingly tasty! This installment of Good Food in Bags is about one of those really good gluten-free foods: La Tortilla Factory Sonoma Teff Wraps.

What is teff? It's a grain from North Africa that has a nutty flavor. If you've ever been to an Ethiopian restaurant, you've probably had it before in a spongy-bread form.

These delicious wraps are nothing like the bread in Ethiopian restaurants, except in color. They are a little darker but texturally they are like very pliable flour wraps. They have a slightly spongier consistency than flour wraps when you bite into them and are smoother in texture. We always heat ours up on the stove to make them even more pliable. Taste-wise, they are not really that different from flour wraps just slightly nuttier and less doughy overall. I actually like them more than flour wraps. They're really great and very versatile. In fact, I could kind of go for a wrap now...

Kettle Corn from Scratch

I think it was last spring when the obsession with Kettle Corn began. It started with the purchase of a bag of Popcorn Indiana (I blogged about it last week -- check it out). This bag was quickly consumed and followed by bi-weekly purchases of it. One night, it was too late to go buy it, so we decided to make it. OMG it is so EASY to make Kettle Corn! The results are "equally as good" says my husband and "delicious but different," say I. Here's the recipe if you are ever in a pinch and it is too late or you are too lazy to go out and buy it.

  • 1/2 cup of uncooked popcorn kernels
  • 1/2 cup of sugar (I like Turbinado best)
  • 1/2 cup of oil (I like olive oil)
  • Salt
Pour oil into a large pot. Turn burner to medium heat. Add in popcorn kernels and sugar. Cover and shake vigorously for a few seconds, then put pot back on the burner. Popcorn will begin to pop. Continue shaking every 5-7 seconds to coat popcorn with oil and melted sugar. When popping has slowed down (2 to 3 seconds between pops), turn off burner. Remove from heat immediately and pour into large bowl. Add salt to taste.

That Japanese Place by the Other Japanese Place by the Library...

Despite having passed this storefront dozens of times, I've never known what this great Japanese to-go spot was called until just the other day. I've always just called it the "other Japanese place," that is next to Cafe Zaiya (both of which are half a block from the NY Public Library, Bryant Park). Zaiya is always so much more packed than this place so I've always assumed that it wasn't as good. Wrong assumption! Chiyoda is great -- and could arguably be better! There are some very nice, different options. And the fact that there's actually space to walk around inside makes it even more appealing!

For starters, the Boiled Tofu. Despite the incredibly bland name, this is a deliciously tasty and healthy salad of firm tofu, hijiki, edamame, carrots and some other unidentifiable vegetable -- maybe seaweed? It's seasoned with sesame oil and I assume soy sauce. The hijiki and edamame lend some sweetness to it.

They have "Triangles" here too (just like Zaiya)! The above Triangle, or "Onigiri" is filled with salted salmon -- cooked, not raw). Sticky rice is shaped into a triangle and the whole thing comes wrapped in dry seaweed. Pretty good and you feel really healthy eating it.

Here's what it looks like with the packaging on (more triangular...).

Another Triangle: this is called Hijiki Onigiri. I was intrigued when I first saw this special-looking Triangle. They always look like the salmon one above with the plastic wrapping; but really it's basically sticky rice shaped like a triangle. I let the shape fool me into thinking there might be something hidden inside like the Salmon Onigiri. But alas, no. It wasn't bad though, just kind of plain.

Grand Finale: Shrimp Dumplings! Japanese shrimp dumplings are pretty much like Chinese siu mai, but not as good in my opinion. Overall, I have to say that I prefer any kind of Chinese dumpling to a Japanese dumpling (whether it's shrimp or 'gyoza.'). However, as a lover of all dumplings, if I see them, I get them. These were refrigerated, so they were pretty cold. They were tasty, larger than normal -- a plus, but kind of mushy. The shrimp on top added some nice texture and flavor, though.

So, overall Chiyoda is a solid choice. I've learned the whole 'don't judge a book by it's cover' lesson here... oh, and I think the reason why it seems less crowded is because there's a sit-down restaurant in the back (that looks packed).

Friday, March 28, 2008

Kif... Perfect Bliss or Cannabis? Either way, I'll take it!

Last Sunday around 2pm, we were wandering around for a little bite to eat in the neighborhood and ended up at Kif, a new organic French Morrocan restaurant on Dekalb, near Adelphi. We had stumbled into this place once at night for a drink and while it looked promising, the whole place smelled like fried food, so we quickly left. But this time, it smelled like delicious Morrocan spices. I am so glad we decided to give it a try because what we found was near "perfect bliss. " (Incidentally, upon trying to think of a name for this post, I found out that Kif means cannabis in Morroco, ha -- or in Arabic, perfect bliss.) We had a small, light snack but everything was very well executed.

I had the warm goat cheese salad with beets and oranges. This almost looked too pretty to eat. The goat cheese round was lightly crusted and warm. Inside it was herby and peppery - yum! -- It was almost like Boursin, but tasted fresher and lighter. I was a little concerned that it was way too much goat cheese and would be very heavy, but it really wasn't too bad. While I didn't finish the whole thing, I almost could have because all the other elements, particularly the orange really lightened it up.

My husband had the Chickpea and Lentil Soup, which was also surprisingly light! If you saw my post about eating lentil soup for 4 days, this was nothing like the soup we made. This was more brothy; the chickpeas and lentils were mostly whole. The fresh lemon added a nice zing. So good! It was also served with homemade pita, you can't really see in the above but it's just behind the lemon. There were these little pieces of the fluffiest pita I've ever had that went really well with the salad and the soup.

We ended our snack attack with the Fruit Salad with Yogurt and Mint. I couldn't taste the mint and the description didn't say the yogurt was strawberry-flavored, but that's what it seemed to be. This dish was also really great, all-around! The fruit was all very fresh and ripe. The yogurt was pretty thin and therefore also very light and refreshing.

Overall, a really pleasant experience. The restaurant is really charming; the decor is all-out Morrocan with lots of reflective glass and brass -- in fact the whole bar appears to be brass. It's kind of dark inside unless you get a front-window seat because the space is a few steps below street level. There appears to be a garden in the back though, which looks like it has a lot of potential! Can't wait to go back!