Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Venezuelan Stuffing

I started this morning far too early. I had to get up at 5:30AM to catch an early shuttle to New York. This is what happens when I try to eat breakfast at that hour.

My berries and yogurt took a nosedive. It was a real sign that I should have still been in bed. Luckily, I was able to salvage most it and it all ended up on the table and not on the carpet. The rest of my breakfast went a little more smoothly, most likely because it involved caffeine.

I toasted one of my orange cherry scones to eat with my tea. When I left the house to head to the airport it was already very warm out. It was 93ºF in Boston today! Crazy weather - we went straight from winter to summer. It's not going to last, though. This is just the cruel New England weather playing tricks on us. It'll be cool and rainy the rest of the week, as it should be in April.

My trip to New York was scheduled to be very quick - we only had a about 2 hours of work to do there and then we were planning to head straight back to Boston. But seeing as it was SUCH a nice day out, and we weren't in any rush to head back into the office, my co-worker Mike and I decided to spend a couple extra hours in NYC to walk around and grab some lunch. We walked from Midtown to the Lower East Side and it was hot! We were sweaty by the time we reached our destination - a special request from Mike. Mike comes from a restaurant family and he lives for food as much as I do - if not more! So when he suggested a Venezuelan place he loves for lunch, I knew it would not let me down. Caracas Arepa Bar did not disappoint.  They specialize in arepas (obviously), which are these Venezuelan sandwiches, stuffed with various combos of cheese, meat, beans, and veggies.  The bread for the sandwiches are these thick, dense corn cakes, that are grilled and split like a pita and stuffed with the different fillings.

When we first walked in, we were very grateful for the air conditioning. And even more grateful for cold glasses of all natural mango juice.

We started the meal with an order of Tequeños, which are bites of cheese wrapped in dough and fried.
That's Mike art directing in the background.  Can't go wrong with fried cheese! We dipped these in this delicious yellow sauce that was on the table. It was sweet, vinegary, and spicy. Mike and I were trying to pick out the ingredients - I would kill for this recipe.

For my meal I ordered a La del Gato arepa, which was filled with cheese, fried sweet plantains, and avocado.
Amazing! I added some of the spicy sauce and it was perfect. I would love to try to make these at home, too. I think you would need just the right kind of cornmeal. It was very coarsely ground - it reminded me of stone ground grits. I think I'm going to have to do a little experimenting on this one!

After lunch we still had a little time to kill before our flight back, so we decided to walk over to Washington Square Park to check out my old campus. Mike had never been in the park before, and its a great people watching spot. On our walk over, we passed by a Pinkberry, and despite being totally stuffed from lunch, we just had to stop. I've only been to Pinkberry once before (it was actually a knock-off, which I'm told there are a ton of), but they seem to be all over the place in NYC. I'm dying for one in Boston! Its a pretty simple concept. They serve only a few flavors on nonfat frozen yogurt, with fresh fruit and few other toppings (like random breakfast cereals) that you can add on. The difference between this place and a TCBY is the quality. The yogurt does not taste like watered down fake ice cream nothing. Its tart and really yogurty (there's live and active cultures!), which I love. And the fruit is super fresh with lots of variety. For my serving I had green tea yogurt with mango, kiwi, and shredded coconut.

Perfect on a hot day. This place would do so well in Boston, I can't believe we don't have them here.

After all this food today I wanted a simple dinner.  I made a veggie stir fry served over brown rice.

I sauteed 2 cloves of chopped garlic in grapseed oil, then added junior bok choy (even smaller than baby bok choy! I just love mini sized vegetables), green beans, shitake mushrooms, and toasted cashews. Then I simmered this all with a simple stir fry sauce until vegetables were coated and sauce was thickened.

Stir Fry Sauce
serves 2
1/2 cup reduced sodium soy sauce
1/4 vegetable stock or clam juice
2 Tbls rice wine vinegar
1 Tbls fish sauce
1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 Tbl honey
2 finely chopped green onions
1 Tbls grated ginger
  • Whisk all ingredients together in small bowl
  • add to stir fried vegetables and simmer over high eat until vegetables are coated and sauce is mostly reduced
This was a nice healthy dinner that wasn't too heavy - perfect after a day of stuffing myself full of Venezuelan food!

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