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Single (and cooking) in the City

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lunch

Sweet Potato Hash Saturday

Put an end to lazy Saturdays! Because those don’t generate mouth-watering dishes like this:

Off to a productive start – Kel had finished his morning run and the polish on my nails had just dried after a trip to the salon (my definition of productivity is obviously slightly different) – we met up at the supermarket. Two red skinned potatoes, one yam to substitute for sweet potato, a red onion, and a bunch of scallions. Working with the red pepper already sitting in the fridge, this breakfast cost less than $2.

Sweet Potato Hash

  • 2 red skinned potatoes, 1 sweet potato – little cubes
  • 1 red onion, diced
  • 1 scallion, diced
  • 1 red pepper, diced
  • 2 eggs, poached

Boil the potatoes until tender, 10 minutes. Saute the onion and red pepper, then add potatoes. Spread it out in a thin layer so you can get that sizzle and browning on the bottom. Stir occasionally and add the scallions, salt and pepper. Get someone who is good at poaching eggs to work their magic.

Plate, eat, and chat about how wonderful the previous night was…

The beautiful Imperial No. 9 at the newly opened Mondrian Soho

Gorgeous greenhouse meets ABC Kitchen look, with a delicious sounding seafood centric menu from Sam Talbot (according to Kel, a hunky Top Chef alum). We tried the small raw bar sampler, amazing peppery cocktail sauce, and the dessert – banana bread pudding – which I could eat endless plates of.

The crab was salted on the shell, which I’ve never noticed anywhere else before. That little bit of detail made it taste all the more amazing.

Looks like someone got the to the dessert before my camera did, but trust my description: this was a deliciously playful plating of 2 cubes of bread pudding, alternated with semifreddo discs and smears of chocolate. I’m looking forward to trying more of the menu next time.

Quickie Post – Today’s Lunch

steak and garlic spinach

Sometimes the only time I have to make a “home cooked meal” is in the mornings, in between brushing my teeth and figuring out what to wear. Steak almost rare takes barely any time, and spinach wilts in the blink of an eye. I think I spend more time chopping garlic.

Watermelon and Basil Salad

With all energy drained by the muggy hot weather and a late night at the office, I barely made it two steps into my parents’ apartment before leaving with a tote full of chopped up watermelon and cherries. I love their weekly food donations. They would’ve cleaned out their whole fridge for me if I had the strength to lug multiple grocery bags worth of food back home – a humid 5 blocks away.

Back in the apartment, I opened the fridge door to put away the fruits, caught a whiff of a bag of basil and came up with an idea – how about a watermelon and basil salad of some sort? I had a watermelon salad at Emporio that was amazing, not to mention incredibly refreshing, and figured this would be even better. What’s not to like about watermelon and basil?! A quick search on the internet turned up a nice suggestion to add mozzarella and balsamic syrup, and after a 10 minute preparation this morning, I was ready to pack up my lunch for the day.


A little brandy bottle of balsamic syrup, basil, and watermelon

Lunchtime rolled around and coworker Patrick and I set out to find some fresh mozzarella at one of the delis around soho. A quick stop at the buffet table to pick up a couple scraps of mixed greens and we returned to the office kitchen where I set up the salad.


The final product — deceptively delicious looking.

I laid the watermelon on top of the bed of mixed greens, tore up some mozzarella, sprinkled on the basil, and drizzled balsamic syrup over the top. Setting it up was easy enough, and the balsamic syrup took no time nor effort to make this morning, as it just needed to be simmering for a bit over the stove, long enough for the vinegar to thicken up. But the result was a mixture of strange flavors. Each bite was either too flavorful (balsamic syrup, which was very sweet) or not flavorful enough (watermelon and mozarella, increasingly mellow and nonexistent with each bite). Perhaps I’d forgotten to salt everything because after a couple of shakes, the overall taste did improve slightly, but it still tasted random and off putting.

Thumbs down! Consider this a lunch disaster!

The Price of Sandwiches in Soho

As soon as I’d given up my morning love for carbs (bye bye, bagel), I’ve discovered two wonderful sandwich shops near work – one brought to my attention by Pete (that devil!). We made plans to meet up for lunch one day (shortly after the start of my new job) at Salume, a two day old and very bright and small modern space on West Broadway. After greeting me with his customary “You look amazing!” (isn’t he sweet?) followed by a new “…but depressed.” we sat down with our menus, and without too long a pause settled on the Langhirano (parma ham, buffalo mozzarella, tomato, extra virgin olive oil) and Tropea (hot salami, brie cheese, gherkins, tabasco sauce). Having already browsed several early reviews of the place, I knew full well what to expect and Pete’s exclamation “Oh, how cute!” when the sandwiches arrived was not surprisingly more than accurate – the sandwiches were barely bigger than the palm of my hand, which, for more than $12 each had me imagine that it’d been made from edible rubies and gold.

the adorable baby panini in its wrapper

But, size doesn’t matter right? The super tasty sandwich contained little bites of fresh ingredients, and altogether, a palm sized sandwich was the right sized serving. My stomach managed to stay silent the rest of the day.. perhaps partly due to the good dent in my wallet.

Now down the opposite side of Broadway is Despana, a place known for their amazing Spanish coldcuts and delicious sandwiches. Having already been sent to purchase a few for various “important clients” of the showroom, the walks back to the office (while cradling the sandwiches in the crook of my arm) are always fraught with a terrible argument – Conscience against The Natural Instinct of Human Survival. I can not begin to count how many times each sidestreet navigating away from the direction of work would call out to me, each alleyway and turn perfect opportunities to claim as unfortunate crimescenes for muggings.. had it still been the 80s or early 90s. I could smell the meats – chorizo and serrano ham – warmed by the press, and the fresh baked scent of the bread, soft and springy, when I arrange them onto the plates to be served. And finally, one day I gave in, and convinced coworker Patrick to split a sandwich with me for lunch.

The Picante bocadillo, warm pressed, was a sandwich layered with slices of spicy chorizo, cow’s milk cheese, tomatoes and spicy peppers… with a light smear of aioli sauce. Each bite was punctuated by an affirmation: Yes, this was the right choice for lunch today. Yes, sandwiches can be very delicious. Yes, Despana is my sandwich god. Yes… carbs. And even better? The price of each sandwich is mostly below $9, and each half is the size of one $12 Salume creation.

image from Serious Eats

The harsh realities of a formal paycheck set in, tax deductions and all, meant that today (and all foreseeable future days) was a day for a more humble sandwich – a Vietnamese banh mi from the Saigon Bakery. A long but speedy line meant I was in and out of there in under 5 minutes, and at $3.75, with half that I could save for tomorrow, I can now put my $5 savings towards… shoes. Yep, the purchase won’t be for a while.

image from Midtown Lunch

(Free Ingredients) Roasted Beet Salad

On the 3rd week of my new volunteering gig*, nearly penniless and living with my cat, I bought a box of $3 mesclun greens that I planned to make my lunch for an entire week. But you know me. I’m such a fancy pants I have to jazz up the salad somehow, and with my new beet obsession, it was a no brainer – I bought a bunch of gnarly, dirt covered beets that I planned on transforming, via oven, into beautiful dark cubed up rubies of deliciousness, just like the Jean-Georges creation at ABC Kitchen.

Luckily, a bipolar Mother Nature tossed a couple of cool nights my way, and on one of those nights, I heated up the oven, scrubbed the beets, tossed them in, and prayed for a miracle. An hour and a half later, looking like I had just bludgeoned my furry roommate, my hands stained red, I gathered the chunks of beets into a container and left it in the fridge.

The next morning, I assembled some greens on the bottom of an old chinese food container. Remembering that I had a can of artichokes living in my cupboard for the past year and a half, and feeling like I’d hit the jackpot, I sliced up the artichokes and added a couple to the salad, topping it all off with a nice layer of beets. A mix of balsamic and oil went into an old mini pinot grigio bottle, and quite pleased with myself, I brought it all to work. 

By the end of the day, my stomach had started to grumble, and following Pat’s example, I snuck a couple of slices of serrano and a lot of grapes from off the plates we prepared for a presentation, into my mouth.

I brought the same salad again to work today, making sure to salt and pepper the greens before the artichokes and beets went in. Noticing that some of the chorizo and sopressata were leftover in the work fridge, I quickly stuffed a few into the salad, and also sliced up the leftover presentation strawberries and quickly ran upstairs to my desk.

I think I just had the best salad of my life. All for the added price of zero dollars.

*I’ve yet to receive my 1st paycheck. Generous donations (in the forms of cash, food, or drink) accepted, please email.

 Roasted Beets

  • a bunch of beets, about 4
  • foil

Scrub the beets, trim the ends, and wrap in foil. Roast in oven at 425 degrees for 1-1/2 hrs.