Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Fennel and Apple Soup (cold or warm, its awesome)

I know, sounds kinda strange right? But truth is, this soup is delicious. I was inspired to create this from a soup I had at DOC Wine Bar in Brooklyn. (I will write about this place someday as well. It has a delicious, Italian inspired menu along with an awesome wine cellar with some good deals. The interior is warm and rustic and there is seating outside when the weather is nice. DOC Wine Bar 83 North 7th Street, Williamsburg, Brooklyn)

The soup at DOC was served cold and it was perfect for summer. The chef wouldn't reveal his secret recipe, but he did allude to the fact that there were no more than 5 ingredients and it did not have cheese or dairy in it, despite the fact it was so delicious and creamy. Since I haven't been able to stop thinking about this soup, I decided to come up with my own rendition, and to my surprise, it tastes almost exactly like the one I keep dreaming about. (I actually ate mine warm and it really brought out the apple and fennel flavors. It also helps get the chill out of you on these cold nights.) It is also very healthy.

Fennel and Apple Soup

2 Fennel Heads Coarsely Chopped (looks like celery and smells like licorice)
3 Peeled Apples Chopped Coarsely (Skins Discarded) (Sweeeter is better, I used Gala)
5 Cloves Garlic Coarsely Chopped
2 Cups of Vegetable Stock (or water if stock isn't available)
4 Tablespoons Olive Oil
1 Small Onion or Shallot Coarsely Chopped
1 Small Bunch of Fresh Dill Chopped (or to taste)
Salt and Pepper to taste
Pesto or flavored oil (for garnish)


In a large saucepan, saute garlic and onion in olive oil for a few minutes. Add fennel and apples and cook for 15-20 minutes, until the apples are soft and the fennel has begun to carmelize and brown. (If the mixture begins to brown too fast or burn, put a little stock in early.) Add the dill and saute for a few more minutes and then add the stock. Cook until the stock comes to a boil and then remove from the heat. Let the mixture cool for a few minutes. Next, put the mixture into a blender or food processor and puree until the soup is creamy and smooth. Return soup to the pan. (Optionally, you can put the mixture through a mesh strainer or a food mill to get out some of the "strings" of the fennel and make the soup even smoother. You don't have to if you don't mind a little more texture in your soup.) Cook over a low heat for a few more minutes, adding salt and pepper to taste. Let soup cool and serve with a swirl of pesto, olive oil, or a flavored oil on top. (You can also serve this cold by putting in the refrigerator overnight.) You will swear there is cheese or cream in this when it is really just the richness of the veggies! Enjoy!

Monday, October 27, 2008

Rice: The classic staple also available in restaurant form!

This place has been a lunchtime favorite for me and my co-workers! It's a restaurant centered around one of the most well known, beloved, and extremely important staples: rice! Almost all of the entrees, from Indian Curry to Thai Curry and Vegetarian Meatballs come over one of their delicious rice choices. The Thai black rice with edamame peas is my favorite, but they also have a Bhutanese Red that is awesome and many others. Their lunch specials are also pretty killer. I recommend getting a small though because it is definitely enough to fill you up!

115 Lexington Ave
292 Elizabeth St
81 Washington St (DUMBO)
166 DeKalb Ave (Ft Greene)

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

You have to try this restaurant: Bianca

You know what they say, "When times are tough, spend your money on food." (Actually they don't say that, but with a deal like this place, you can!)

I really promise you that not everything I post on here will be related to Italy (I'm serious), but on Brendan's (my roommate and co-author) recommendation we went to Bianca in NoHo and it was some of the best Italian food I have had in this city (no really, I am being serious!). We started off with some appetizers, including fried baby artichokes, portabella mushrooms stuffed with goat cheese, and a vegetable lasagna (layers of zucchini, eggplant, and peppers) along with a very delicious and inexpensive wine: Dolcetto d'Alba. The wine was a fruity red that went well with our entire meal.

For dinner, I had the lasagna which immediately brought me back to skiing in Bormio, Italy...they serve lasagna like this right on the ski slopes. It is perfect for a cold, wintery night...layers of homemade pasta, bechamel, meat sauce, and cheese. I promised myself I wouldn't eat the whole thing, but ended up nearly licking the plate and sopping up whatever little bit of amazing, grandma-esque sauce was left on the plate with a piece of bread. Brendan had a sausage and bean dish that was delicious which he says reminded him of Cassoulet from the French Alps (don't worry, I don't know what that is either) and our friend Peter had chicken poached in balsamic that was creamy, fall off the bone deliciousness.

The best part, all of this cost under $40 a person, including dessert and wine! Do yourself a favor and check this place out. Your taste buds (and wallet) will thank you, not to mention the friends you bring with you!

Bowery and Bleeker
Cash Only/No Reservations

Helan går!

I'm happy because I’m (re)learning a Swedish drinking song that I want us to incorporate into our lives. I think maybe you should too.

Here are the words:

Helan går, sjung "hoppfadirallanlallanlej"
helan går, sjung "hoppfadirallanlej."
Och den som inte helan tar,
han heller inte halvan får,
helan gååååååååååår,
*klunk* *klunk* *klunk*
sjung "hoppfadirallanlej".

Phonetics (or the best try I can give you):

Hee-lahn gore, hwung hop-fa-dir-ahl-ahn-ahl-ahn-lay.
Hee-lahn gore, hwung hop-fa-dir-ahl-ahn-lay.
Awk den sawm een-teh hee-lahn tar,
Hahn hee-ler een-the hahlv-an for,
Hee-lahn gooooooooore!
(cheers and do the shot here)
Hwung hop-fa-dir-all-ahn-lay!


The whole thing goes, sing hoppfadirallanlallanlej.
The whole thing goes, sing hoppfadirallanlej.
And he that doesn't take the whole,
He doesn't get the half either,
The whole thing goes!
(cheers and do the shot here)
Sing hoppfadirallanlallanlej!

It comes from an old tradition where they'd do a series of shots of schnapps and they'd sing it with helan and halvan (whole and half) because you'd do a shot and then the next one they'd fill half way and you'd do that. And so you'd sing the song every time and the second time it would be halvan and tersen (half and a third), I think. And then tersen and qvarten (a third and a quarter), etc. And the rule was if you couldn’t do the whole shot, you wouldn’t get the half. If you couldn’t do the half, you wouldn’t get the 1/3 shot, etc. You get the idea.

Okay, and I found a good video of the music that goes along with it, but please just listen. If you watch too, you might get sick. Check it out.

And the shot I've been doing with it lately is just a Red Bull and Orange Vodka. Trashy, maybe. Delicious, absolutely.

What you need:
*Orange Flavored Vodka

What you do:
1. Mix them.
2. Sing most of the song.
3. Shoot it.
4. Sing the last line of the song.

Bottoms up!


QUINOA! It's an awesome super grain. Haven't heard of it? Don't worry, most people haven't. Pronounced KEEN-wah, this ancient grain originated in the Andes mountains of South America and was used to nourish civilizations there nearly 6,000 years ago!

So why exactly did the Incas call this food "The Mother of all Grains?". Well, for one, it's actually a protein. Quinoa has more protein in it than any other grain out there. You can eat it like rice or pasta (and prepare it as such), but it is actually delivering 14 grams of protein per 3.5 oz. so you can rest assured that when you eat this super food, it is providing you with the energy of a carb and the muscle building and body healing strength of a protein. (Plus, it leaves you feeling fuller longer, is gentle on the stomach, and cooks in only 15 minutes!)It contains many essential amino acids, as well fiber, magnesium, iron, and phosphorous. Rice, you don't stand a chance.

Whole Foods sells their own 365 variety of quinoa and most grocery stores and specialty grocers should have it as well. It looks like tiny round grains when raw and once cooked, the germ unravels from the seed and makes the cooked version look like little spirals. Make sure you rinse it before hand (you will need a fine seethe for this or you will lose your quinoa!) because quinoa has a natural protective coating on it that can make it taste bitter if not rinsed. Some varieties are pre-washed, and while a bit more expensive, can make it much easier because you can just throw it in the pot and cook it.

Want to learn more about Quinoa? Check it out here: Wikipedia

Basic Quinoa:

2 Cups Uncooked Quinoa
4 Cups Water
1 Teaspoon Salt
1 Teaspoon Olive Oil


Put all above ingredients in a pot and cook on med-high until it begins to boil. Once boiling, cover and simmer for 15 minutes or until all the water is absorbed. Fluff with a fork and serve. (Serves about 4-6 people)

Mediterranean Quinoa with Pesto

5 Cups Cooked Quinoa (use recipe above)
1/2 Cup Pesto (store bought or homemade is fine)
1 Cup Artichoke Hearts cut into small chunks
1 Cup Feta Cheese (or goat if you prefer)
1/2 Cup Olives
1/2 Cup Sundried Tomatoes
Salt and Pepper to Taste
Freshly Grated Parmesan Cheese


Combine all of the above ingredients in a large bowl and toss together. If quinoa is too dry after mixing together, use olive oil or more pesto to loosen it up. This can be served warm or cold as a salad. Top with freshly grated Parmesan cheese. (Serves 4-6 People)

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Ode to my Italian Heritage: Mozzarella and Tomatoes

I was talking to my co-worker Maggie the other week and the topic of mozzarella came up (probably because I was holding a tub of it in my hands) and we both agreed that a shrine to this wondrous lump of white creamy goodness should be erected! Mozzarella could be one of the greatest things the Italians ever brought to this great world. I know, I know, Italian food is full of all sorts of amazing dishes: pizza, lasagna, chicken parmigiana ...but think about it, most of these dishes revolve around one amazing ingredient: Mozzarella! (I say mooz-a-rel, but my roommate says us American Italians just take the end vowel off of everything, which he is right about. Just ask me to say calamari.)

My mom used to make all sorts of homemade Italian dishes when we were kids, but she would always buy the dry, low moisture Polly-O mozzarella that came in the plastic packaging and had no water surrounding it. One word for this type of mozzarella: insult! Come on mom, you know better than that! Fresh mozzarella is amazing. The water surrounding the mozzarella leaves in its natural form and it's the way the Italians meant for it to be. I know the stuff is expensive, but it's worth it. Plus, St. Mark's Market (between 2nd and 3rd on St Mark's, I live at this store) actually has a decent deal on fresh mozzarella... you can get a nice size ball for around $5.00. (Whole Foods sells really nice Mozzarella made fresh and brought to the store daily from Brooklyn, but theirs will cost you more like $10 for a nice size ball).

While there are many things you can do with fresh mozzarella, my favorite thing is a Caprese Salad. While the traditional salad is usually just Tomatoes, Mozzarella, and Basil, I have created a couple of variations I think you might like. Try any of these combinations, or make your own and let me know how it goes. I eat this stuff for lunch 2-3 times a week and I love how it fills me up without making me feel gross. (Warning: Your co-workers will give you a strange look when you walk out of the office kitchen with this awesome dish, mostly because they are jealous.)

If you want to learn more about this wonder cheese, check out this wikipedia article:
Also, did you know there is a Mozzarella Bar in NYC? Actually, they are all over the world. Mozzarella and wine, what more do you need?
Obika Mozzarella Bar
590 Madison Ave At 57th St, New York 10022

Fresh Mozzarella and Tomatoes with (insert here)

Basic Ingredients:
1 Ball Fresh Mozzarella
2 Ripe Tomatoes (try different varieties, Heirloom in the end of summer are great)
Fresh Basil Leaves (dried flakes can work too, but fresh is always better)
Olive Oil to Taste
Balsamic Vinegar (or Balsamic Glaze)to Taste
Salt and Pepper

Other Optional Ingredients:
Sun Dried Tomatoes
Hearts of Palm
Roasted Red Peppers
Artichoke Hearts
Grilled Chicken
Truffle Oil (White or Black, it's all great)

Slice Mozzarella into nice size pieces (about 1/4-1/2 inch thick). Slice tomatoes and arrange in an alternating pattern on a plate with the mozzarella and the basil. If adding optional ingredients, you can add these in between the slices of mozzarella and tomatoes or put them in the center tossed together, creating what we italians call an "Antipasto" platter(literally meaning "before the meal" in Italian) although this can definitely be eaten as a meal. And you wonder why I am "Big" D? LOL.

Once you have arranged your ingredients on the plate, drizzle olive oil and balsamic over the top. (The "Blaze" Balsamic Glaze from the Brussels Sprouts recipe is perfect on this as well. If you don't want to buy balsamic glaze, you can make it very easily by boiling down a cup or two of balsamic vinegar over low heat in a saucepan until it becomes very thick. Try it with steak or other types of meats or vegetables. It's great.) Season with salt and pepper to taste and Enjoy! And don't be afraid to try different items on this including seasoned salts, special pepper, flavored oils, etc. Believe me, you will be pleasantly surprised by your creation!

Laura's Crab or Salmon Salad

I can't remember where Laura got this recipe, so I'll just attribute this variation to her. It's beautiful and summery and I better post it before the thermometer gets too low. Oh, and it's delicious with either crab or salmon (although I don't think they'd be delicious together).

What you need:
*2 Grilled or Broiled Salmon Filets
OR *1 Pound of Crab Meat
*1 Big Red Pepper, chopped
*1 Red Onion, chopped
*2 Ears of Grilled Corn (Okay, you can buy the frozen stuff - it's fine.)
*Basil (20 leaves?)
*15 Grape Tomatoes, halved

What you do:
1. Broil or grill the salmon (or open the crab meat package).
2. Break up the broiled or grilled salmon into lump-crab-sized pieces.
3. Chiffonade the basil.
4. Toss basil, salmon/crab, corn, onion, tomatoes, and pepper together with the dressing and serve it up.

What you need for the dressing:
*Juice of 3 Lemons
*Olive Oil
*Salt & Pepper

What you do:
1. Juice the lemons.
2. Emulsify the olive oil into the lemon juice until it gets tasty.
3. Add the salt, pepper, and cumin to taste.
4. Stir in the honey to taste. You can tell when you have enough because it will be delicious.

Enjoy. This is such good food. Yum.

Monday, October 20, 2008

So why start a recipe blog?

I know, I know. You are thinking it or saying it or want to say it: Why another blog in cyberspace? Is this going to be another thing I have to check every day? Am I going to be the helpless victim of another pink haired crazy person talking about Britney's latest drug problem or how Lindsay Lohan kissed a girl and liked it?

Not exactly. Let me tell you a bit about myself and why I decided to start "Big D and the Recipe."

I have always been obsessed with food. From a young age I was always the one in the family who would ask if we could eat out at some fancy new restaurant. I was the one at summer camp who would fake being injured so I could help the chef prepare dinner rather than going swimming at the lake. I was the one who spent days at my Uncle's side while he taught me knife skills and culinary techniques. He had me making my own Pad Thai at age 12! I am even the guy who has his own bottle of olive oil infused with truffles at work...weird, I know.

Being the oldest of three, my younger siblings didn't always share the same culinary enthusiasm as I did. I can remember my brother complaining when we ate out. Having to sit through the courses was a nightmare for him and I remember yelling at him because he wouldn't just sit there and enjoy.(Fifteen years later he now comes to visit me in NYC and the first thing asks me is "Where are we going to eat?".) I guess food just has this certain warmth to it, this certain family element, that always makes me feel at home. I always thought it was just me, but having gone to NYU and now living in NYC in my young adult life has left me happily surprised that I am not the only one. (And even people like my brother can be converted!)

And it's not just the food, it's everything that goes with it. It's cooking it, eating it, learning about it, and tasting it. It's sharing it, shopping for it, preparing it, and enjoying it. I am obsessed with the whole world of food. (Just ask my friends about my obsession with kitchen appliances. I have been known to say Subzero and Viking in my sleep. Don't laugh, it's friggin beautiful stuff!)

So I guess this isn't just a recipe blog but really a culinary experience blog. It's about me, my friends, my family, and our obsession with all things food. This actually all started with my friend Allison wanting my Black Bean and Corn Salad recipe and then my roommate Brendan wanting to post about his Brussel Sprouts.(They are good, trust me! Did you know you can call them Brussel Sprouts or Brussels Sprouts?) We all have a lot to say about food (and drink) and I figured this would be a perfect outlet. So I hope you will check in regularly to see what's new, what's old, and what's delicious. (I promise this will be fun to read!) Also, feel free to submit recipes, ideas, or anything that you want me to write about. (Unless it's anchovies. I hate anchovies.)

P.S. Why "Big D"? Well my name is Dennis, I am a big Italian guy, and recipe rhymed! (makes sense, right?)

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Brussels Sprouts with Red Onions and Balsamic Glaze

A post from our favorite guest contributor and roommate. Here goes:

Don't make that face! Yes, they're brussels sprouts, no they're not disgusting. I've officially converted a minimum of five people - possibly more - using this recipe. Give it a shot. And if you don't have balsamic glaze handy (I buy it bottled from Blaze, which you can get on Amazon - they didn't even pay me to say that!) just use balsamic vinegar. Seriously, it's almost as good, and you'll still love the sprouts. Just trust me on this one.

What you need:
*A bunch of BS (say, 20 or 30 of them)
*A medium red onion
*Olive Oil
*Balsamic glaze
*2 or 3 Cloves of Garlic
*Salt & Pepper

What you do:
1. Rinse and peel the brussels, and begin steaming them for 10 minutes.
2. While they're steaming, chop up the garlic really well (I like three cloves, but you can do two if you want - I won't judge you). Also chop up the red onion into magnetic poetry sized pieces.
3. Get the garlic and the onion going over a medium flame with plenty of olive oil. Stop the sauteing when the onions start to get translucent. Don't over cook them! This only takes like two minutes, seriously. Then take them off the heat.
4. When the brussels sprouts are done steaming, throw them straight into the pan with the onions and garlic and olive oil. And reheat if you have to over a low heat.
5. Put them on a plate and drizzle the balsamic glaze over the top.
6. Delicious.

Serves 2-3

Chipotle Corn and Black Bean Salad

This is an old favorite I learned in the Hamptons a couple of summers ago. It is perfect for a BBQ or to complement a summer night's dinner, delicious with chicken, fish, beef, or anything else you have put on the grill. Since it has cumin and black beans in it, the flavor is distinctively Mexican and would go great with any Mexican dinner as well. The really time consuming part is putting the corn on the grill and then cutting the corn off the cob. If you want to save yourself a bit of time (or want to make this dish when corn is out of season, or you can't grill) buy the "Fire Roasted Corn" at Trader Joe's. It comes frozen and works very well with this recipe.


* 5 ears of corn
* 1/2 medium Vidalia or Walla Walla onion, thickly sliced crosswise
* 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
* 1/2 cup sour cream
* 3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
* 1 tablespooon ground cumin
* 2 chipotle chiles in adobo sauce, seeded and finely chopped (sub chile powder if Chiptole Chiles are not available)
* 1 scallion, thinly sliced
* 1 can black beans (drained)
* Salt and freshly ground pepper


1. Light a grill or preheat a grill pan. Brush the corn and onion slices with the olive oil and grill over moderately high heat until charred in spots but still slightly crisp, about 7 minutes. Let cool slightly, then cut the kernels from the cobs and coarsely chop the onion.
2. In a medium bowl, mix the sour cream with the lime juice, chopped chipotle chiles, cumin, and sliced scallion to make a dressing. Then, stir in the charred corn, onions, and black beans. Season the corn salad with salt and pepper and serve immediately. Serves 4-6. Enjoy!