Archive for August, 2012
I had Tibetan food for the first time last week and I have to tell you, I enjoyed it immensely.
The Himalayan Yak is a quiet establishment just off the main hustle and bustle of Roosevelt Avenue in Jackson Heights in Queens, New York. If it weren’t for the fairly large sign above it, you might not even realize that the restaurant is there. But once you notice the dark, ornately carved doors, you know something good must be behind them.
Stepping through those doors almost gives you a feeling of stepping into a Tibetan temple and that you should probably speak in hushed tones. More dark wood greets you inside, along with Tibetan artwork on the walls. A flat screen TV showing programs on Tibet is the one thing that seems out of place (well, that and the pop music coming through the speakers). But the atmosphere is not at all uncomfortable. Once settled into our seats, my lunch companion and I fell naturally into conversation.
On the table were copper water goblets, which we promptly filled from the cork-topped bottle of water that was brought to our table. That bit of exoticism was contrasted by the very modern, “clean” plating of our food. It was very difficult deciding what to order, since everything looked mouth-wateringly delicious.
We ordered tsel momo, vegetable-filled, pan-fried dumplings; tzel nezom, a sautéed vegetable dish with tofu; shoku khatsa (aloo dum), a dish of pan-fried potatoes in a spicy chili sauce, served with bhaleb, a flatbread similar to naan, only thicker; and a tingmo, a Tibetan steamed bun.
When we received the tsel momo, they looked absolutely scrumptious. I cut into one and immediately said to my friend, “I think they gave us meat.” Indeed, they had. What we got instead was sha bakleb, which are patties filled with beef. Since this was my first time eating in a Tibetan restaurant, I didn’t pick up the fact that tsel momo dumplings look different than the patties. (like Chinese dumplings).
The sautéed vegetables was a combination of peppers, mushrooms, baby corn, bok choy, carrots, and some kind of green in a light but very flavorful brown sauce. That came with a beautifully cooked bowl of rice. The one problem I had with this dish is that it was supposed to have tofu in it and it did not. The potato dish was excellent, although I find it odd that it would be a main entrée because that’s all there was to the dish—potatoes. The fact that it came with bread is also odd. Maybe you’re supposed to use it to mop up the leftover sauce at the end, but it was an awful lot of bread just to do that. But the bread itself was fluffy and addictive. I used it to pick up the sauces that came to the table with our food. There were three sauces, each one a different heat level: a mild green sauce that was almost like a Latin salsa verde (much more green than the picture shows); a medium, orange one that had a creamy consistency; and a spicy, fiery red one. All of them were rich and savory.
Besides the errors in our orders, my complaint comes in the timing. It took them about 45 minutes to serve us. In a way, that’s good because it means that they don’t have the food already prepared and waiting to just be warmed up. I suspect that the food was made fresh. And they probably don’t cater to the typical “lunch crowd” —i.e., people who only have an hour to get there, eat, and get back. However, the restaurant was hardly crowded. Other than us, there were only 2 other tables with customers, so I can’t help but feel that 45 minutes was a bit much. We had to call our supervisor and tell her what was happening and ask for more time.
Because our food came so late, one we did get it and I realized the errors (the wrong appetizer and missing tofu), there was just no time to send them back and wait for new dishes. We probably would have been there another half hour waiting. So, instead, we ate what we got and enjoyed it regardless.
The server was very nice, however, and we did not punish her for the wait time by undertipping. (You should never do that, by the way, because it is not the server’s fault if your food is not coming out of the kitchen. Now, if your server is standing around chatting while your dishes are waiting to be picked up, that’s another story. But chances are, if he/she is that lazy, you’re getting bad service right from the start.) I get the feeling that dinner is when they really get hopping, and I’ve heard they have live music.
Despite the missteps, we plan on going back, but on a day when we know we can linger a little longer. Either that, or we’ll order ahead. As far as the food goes, I highly recommend it. Just prepared to be there a while, and check your order when you get it.
If you like what you see, you can vote for it in the Reader’s Choice Poll, starting September 1. If you vote, you will be entered a drawing to win a 10 1/2″ Lodge crepe griddle. There will be three winners. Thanks to Malika at Association of Food Bloggers, too, for making this possible.
Here’s a photo of the final recipe.
After several experiments, I’ve finally decided on my entry for Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggstreme Crepe Contest. It’s Raspberry-Coconut Tiramisu Crepes with blackberry sauce.
Numerous people tasted them—friends and co-workers—and it was pretty unanimous that they were FABULOUS. I just may have a winner here.
There are 3 parts to the recipe: crepes, filling, and sauce. I made both plain crepes and buckwheat crepes (the darker ones in the photos) and tried different plating and garnishing techniques. I took many photos along the way and even attempted some video, but the files were too big to upload. I’m working on editing them. (Cooking and taping simultaneously is not easy. I have a new-found respect for on-air chefs!) Thanks to Malika at the Association of Food Bloggers for putting out the call for entries!
So, without further ado, here’s my contest entry.
RASPBERRY-COCONUT TIRAMISU CREPES
Makes 12 crepes.
1-1/2 cups all-purpose flour*
4 large Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs
2-1/2 cups milk
1 teaspoon salt
3 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 tablespoon raspberry liqueur or brandy (optional)
1. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, eggs, milk, and salt. Add butter and liqueur (if using). Whisk until smooth. Work out any lumps.
2. Heat a 10-inch skillet (preferably cast iron, otherwise coat the bottom of the pan with a little bit of butter).
3. Pour 1 cup batter in the center of the pan and quickly swirl it around. Shake the pan to spread the batter to coat the entire bottom. You want the crepe as thin as possible, so as soon as the pan is coated, pour off any excess batter back into the bowl.
4. When the top forms bubbles, it’s ready to turn. Flip the crepe and cook until underside has brown spots. Transfer to a plate.
5. Repeat with remaining batter.
* You can substitute some of the flour with buckwheat flour for nutty tasting buckwheat crepes, or all if it with non-wheat flour, such as spelt, soy, sorghum, or barley.
4 Pete & Gerry’s heirloom eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1 lb. mascarpone
½ cup strong coffee
2 tablespoons coffee liqueur
2 tablespoons raspberry liqueur (or another 2 tablespoons coffee liqueur)
¾ cup unsweetened coconut flakes**
2 cups raspberries
1. With an electric mixer, beat the egg yolks with half the sugar until thick. Add the mascarpone and beat until smooth.
2. In a clean bowl and with clean beaters, whip the egg whites until foamy. Add the remaining sugar and beat on high until stiff peaks form, about 8 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, mix the coffee and liqueurs in a medium bowl. Dip 10 of the ladyfingers in the mixture, then coarsely chop them. Place in a bowl.
4. Fold the egg whites into the mascarpone mixture until well blended. Fold in the chopped ladyfingers and coconut. Finally, gently fold in the raspberries. Refrigerate until needed.
** This is often labeled “desiccated coconut.”
Makes ½ cup sauce.
2 cups blackberries or raspberries
2 tablespoons sugar
Place berries and sugar in a food processor and puree. Press through a fine mesh strainer set over a bowl.
½ cup cocoa powder
½ cup coconut flakes
1/2 cup sliced almonds
Assemble the crepes:
1. Lay a crepe flat. Place about a half cup of tiramisu filling on one side of the crepe. Brush both sides of a ladyfinger with the coffee mixture, then place it on top of the mascarpone; roll the crepe up. Use your hands to spread the filling out evenly in the crepe.
2. If you’re using cocoa powder, dust a little on the center of the crepe, then place the crepe on a plate. Garnish with berry sauce, berries, coconut and/or sliced almonds.
— Crepes can be made several days ahead and refrigerated, or frozen up to 3 months.
— Filling can be made a day ahead. Keep tightly sealed and refrigerated.
This weekend I began experimenting and testing for the Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs Crepe Contest. I would have preferred to start earlier, but it’s difficult to find time when you have a full-time job and a million other projects going on simultaneously. Ideally, you would come up with a perfected recipe before making it for photos but, unfortunately, I don’t have that kind of time because the deadline for the contest is August 31! The Association of Food Bloggers will announce the winner.
Anyway, I started with a dessert crepe of Nutella and poached pear. I loved the concept—silky hazelnut chocolate spread rolled up with Barlett pears poached in apple juice, cinnamon, and a drop of vanilla. Doesn’t that sound heavenly? To make it more interesting, I added pear liqueur to the Nutella to enhance the pear flavor.
It never occurred to me that Nutella could seize. Because of the added ingredients in Nutella, I thought it would be stable enough to handle the liqueur. But no. It seized up on me and shrunk tight like World War II-era school paste. I had to put the bowl of Nutella on top of a pot of simmering water and stir, but it was so stiff that it stubbornly refused to melt. So I had to add some half-and-half and keep stirring. Finally, it smoothed out again. Obviously, this was a problem I would have to work out if I was going to use this recipe.
After spreading some Nutella over a crepe, I laid some poached pears, which I had sliced, over it and rolled it up. I piped some of the Nutella concoction over the top and sprinkled it with toasted almond slices.
As scrumptious as it was—what chocolate dish isn’t?—the pear was so delicate in flavor that the Nutella completely overwhelmed it, even with the liqueur. My tasters all agreed. I was disappointed because I really wanted this combination to work. But, alas, we have to accept it when our brilliant, amazing, fool-proof ideas don’t work.
Next, I tried my Peruvian concept. This worked out better, and having made my filling ahead of time, it was quick and easy to put together. Even the filling itself was quick and easy, and it can be refrigerated for several days. It was delicious on its own and I’m having it for lunch this week. I’ll hold off on the other dessert crepe for next time. For now, here’s my recipe for savory Peruvian Quinoa Crepes. I haven’t perfected my crepe recipe yet, so I don’t want to jump the gun and print that. For now, use any crepe recipe.
Peruvian Quinoa Crepes
1 quinoa, rinsed
2 cups vegetable broth or water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup diced onion
1 cup diced red pepper
1 small chile, minced
1 cup diced potato (purple, if you can find them, or Yukon gold)
1 1/2 cup diced calabaza or butternut squash
3/4 cup diced tomato
1 teaspoon garlic powder
1 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 cup finely chopped almonds, toasted*
1/4 cup minced cilantro
6 (10-inch) crepes (recipe to come)
1 avocado, diced
Cilantro sprigs for garnish
1. After you rinse the quinoa, drain well. Heat a medium saucepan; add the quinoa and toast over medium heat until quinoa is dry and starts to brown. Pour in the vegetable broth or water; bring to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, until liquid is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa and set aside.
2. Heat the oil in a wide skillet. Add onion, red pepper, and chile and saute until vegetables have softened. Add the potato, squash, tomato, garlic powder, and salt. Mix well and continue cooking until all vegetables are tender, about 20 minutes. Stir frequently. Mix in the almonds and cilantro and cook another 2 minutes. Remove from the heat.
3. Lay a crepe flat. Place 1 cup filling on one side of the crepe and roll it up. Place on a plate, sprinkle some paprika over it, and garnish with a few pieces of avocado and a cilantro sprig. Repeat with remaining crepes and filling.
* Spread the almonds out in a small frying pan and toast, shaking often, over medium heat until lightly browned. Or spread them out on a baking sheet and place them in a 350 degree oven for a few minutes; check frequently.
In an effort to get involved in more food-related projects, I’ve been joining culinary organizations, attending industry conferences and events, networking with others in the culinary industry, and doing fun stuff like entering contests. If you’ve been visiting this blog, or if you are my friend on Facebook or following me on Twitter, you know that I recently entered a couple of contests at Food52. I haven’t won anything yet, but my Dark Choco-Mint Pudding made the short list (so close, yet so far).
Through the Association of Food Bloggers, I received the opportunity to enter another contest: Pete & Gerry’s Heirloom Eggs is sponsoring a crepe contest. They’ve supplied some eggs and a cast-iron griddle to make the crepes, and I’m ready to roll.
I have a few recipe ideas and I’m going test them all out before I decide which one I want to use (unfortunately, each participant is allowed to enter only one recipe). I only have one month, so I have to really spend some solid time on this.
I’m going to blog about my progress and when I finalize my entry, I will post it here, along with photos and maybe (if I do it right!), a little video. So, stay tuned.