Vegan Restaurant Rave: Millenium

I ate at the world-renowned restaurant Millenium in March when my Mom and cousins, who are vegan, were in town. As an amateur to vegan restaurants, I was initially apprehensive of getting a meal that was of small portions and little flavor, but the moment I tasted the Green Lentil Bean Spread I knew everything else would be delicious. I was so obsessed with this spread that I begged the waiter for the recipe. To make the spread, all you need to do is puree these simple ingredients:

What I ordered…

My "Black Bean Torte" Appetizer with whole wheat tortilla, caramelized plantains, smoky black bean puree, pumpkin-habanero papazul, cashew "sour cream", cara cara salad

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Beans Ahsa Lu: An Italian Depression Dish

My family stems from several European countries but if you asked me about my heritage, the response would be simple: I’m Italian. It’s not that I have less pride for my Irish or German counterparts, they just play a much smaller role in my conscious identity. In part I attribute my Italian juxtaposition to my hometown Darien, Connecticut, which served as home to many Italian immigrants in the early 20th century. Among those immigrants were my father’s grandparents, and the Brunos are still widely considered an “old-time Italian family” in Darien today.

Uncle David & his "Italian Combo"

My grandmother and grandfather had 4 children, only 1 of which married another Italian  –yet mealtime still revolved around all things Italian: braciole, bruschetta, pasta e fagioli…we love it all. Days after my grandfather passed away this February, my father and I took a trip to his favorite restaurant, Dominick’s on Arthur Avenue in the Bronx. My father wanted the restaurant’s owners, who had become dear friends of my grandfather’s over the years, to know that he had passed. Our meal at Dominick’s was bittersweet and we welcomed the inevitable memories of my grandfather that flooded the tiny restaurant.

Grandpa & Grandma: Younger than I remember either of them, but this photo shows just the kind of love they had for each other.

For holidays and special occasions it was always my grandmother who was in the kitchen, but on a rare instance you could find my grandfather cooking some classic Italian dishes. On an unthinkably muggy day in July he taught me to make one of his favorites, Beans Ahsa Lu, that he learned while stationed in Italy during WWII. My grandmother wrote the recipe for me here:

Beans Asa Lu, as you can read above, is what my grandparents call a “Italian Depression Dish” because it uses inexpensive, basic ingredients. This recipe makes several servings (I plan to share with a class of 10) and costs around $5 total. You’ll notice my grandmother didn’t write any specific measurements, which tempted me to get her back on the phone at first. In the end I went with my gut (tasting each step to decide whether or not to add this or that), and although it doesn’t taste as good as grandpa’s, it turned out delicious.

1. Parsley 2. Italian Bread (preferably stale!) 3. Salt & Pepper 4. Red Crushed Pepper 5. Dry Northern White Beans 6. Olive Oil 7. Celery Leaves

Rinsing the beans after soaking overnight, a process which seemed rather stone-age in our current era of microwaveable meals and “just add water” desserts.

Chopping up the celery leaves & parsley. (Hint: celery leaves can be found at the heart of the stalk).

Cooking the beans, photo was taken once beans were soft enough to serve.

Serve beans on top of stale Italian bread with red crushed pepper & olive oil!

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PB&J Smoothie

Last night my boyfriend and I cooked a heavy, Southern-inspired meal consisting of homemade macaroni & cheese and cornbread so I was in the mood for something light and fresh when I woke up this morning. Typical of most Monday mornings, I was running a bit late so I decided to throw some fresh fruit, yogurt, and peanut butter in the blender. This “PB&J” smoothie is my newest obsession–I can hardly wait to make it again tomorrow!

[Click on the photo to enlarge]

I added the fruit first: two sliced bananas, a handful of blueberries, and a few strawberries cut into halves.

Next I added two generous scoops of vanilla yogurt, three spoonfuls of creamy peanut butter, and a handful of ice cubes.

Breakfast on the go! Mmmm.

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How To: Classic Peanut Butter Cookies

In my opinion, not much can go wrong when using peanut butter in the kitchen (hence this blog’s title). Peanut butter is a staple in my diet, giving mundane veggies a new life (ahem, celery) and even the most delicious fruit smoothies an extra kick. When baking, adding a bit (usually about 1/2 cup) of peanut butter to cookies will keep them chewy and moist. Today I was craving these classic peanut butter cookies

Cream together butter, peanut butter, and sugars. Beat in eggs.

In a separate bowl, sift together flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt. Stir into batter. Put batter in refrigerator for 1 hour.

Roll into 1 inch balls and put on baking sheets. Flatten each ball with a fork, making a criss cross pattern.

Bake in a preheated 375 degrees oven for approximately 10 minutes until brown.

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Spring Salad

After a month of gloomy weather in San Francisco I can’t help but feel excited to say hello to the month of March. While most Spring veggies aren’t quite ripe enough yet (I’m anxiously awaiting for juicy red tomatoes), I found some gorgeous bell peppers, carrots and red onion at the store yesterday. I dressed the salad in my family’s all-time favorite mixture of oils, vinegars & spices.

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Brocoli Stir-Fry With Chicken & Mushrooms

When it comes to the kitchen I usually don’t stray far from my comfort zone of baking sweets but I was inspired by an article in the New York Times titled, “Chop, Fry, Boil: Eating for One, or 6 Billion,” on nutritionally sound and environmentally friendly meals. (You can find Mark Bittman’s article yourself here). The recipe was incredibly straightforward, inexpensive ($10!) and delicious. Thank you Mr. Bittman, I’ll definitely be revisiting this recipe soon!

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Cookie Craving: Peanut Butter, Oatmeal, Chocolate Chip

The first week of classes always leaves me feeling overtired & a bit frazzled, so I decided to turn to a familiar recipe that was sure to have a delectable outcome. I combined three favorites: chocolate, peanut butter, and old-fashioned oats using this recipe. The addition of peanut butter gives the cookie a perfect chewy consistency without being overpowering in taste. Even though they take only 10 minutes to bake, I could hardly wait to indulge in a few with a tall glass of ice-cold milk.

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