Archive | January, 2011

Spicy, Satisfying, and Inexpensive Korean at The Mill in Morningside Heights

23 Jan

Lately it seems like everyone in New York City has the sniffles, including me. A stubborn cold is going around, and I’ve been trying to shake it for over a week. When DayQuil and NyQuil fail, it’s time to bring out the big guns; it’s time to head to The Mill for some spicy and satisfying Korean food.

I think of The Mill as a little gem in Morningside Heights. It’s really the only authentic Korean food around on the UWS, unless you want to hike down to K-Town.  My Trusty Sidekick and I love coming here (even when I’m not under the weather) because the food is fresh, the portions are huge, and the service is fast. Best of all, it’s cheap. For a quick, inexpensive dinner, it’s hard to beat The Mill.

In one word: Qauthentic (quick + authentic)

Location: 2895 Broadway (between 111th St & 112th St)

 

The four complementary Banchan (small dishes) at The Mill are always fresh and constantly changing.

Food: As soon as you sit down four bowls of complimentary side dishes, called Banchan, will arrive, followed by a small bowl of miso soup. These dishes always make me smile–they’re fresh and constantly rotating. Trusty loved the spicy kim chi, while my favorite was the chilled, spicy and silky tofu. It was a great way to start the sinus-clearing meal.

Nothing like a rich, comforting Miso soup when you're sick--especially when it's free!

Trusty and I always order our favorite, go-to Bibimbap dishes. (Quick aside on Bibimbap–if you haven’t had Korean before, this dish is a must-try. The word means “mixed meal” and that’s literally what it is–a bowl of warm white rice topped with namul (sautéed and seasoned veggies) and paired with a raw or fried egg and/or sliced meat. On top of it all, you add gochujnag, a very spicy chili pepper paste, or chogochujang, a delicious, addictive Korean version of ketchup.  The dish can be served hot or cold, but usually comes in a very hot stone pot, and the ingredients are stirred together thoroughly just before eating.)

 

Magical, addictive chogochujang, a thick, sweet and very spicy sauce that's like a Korean version of ketchup.

I usually order Hwae Bibimbap ($12), which is a cold bibimbap (served in a stainless steel bowl instead of a hot stone pot) with assorted julianne vegetables and pea shoots, strips of slightly salty and sweet dried seaweed, julianne Fuji apple slices, and chunks of fresh, raw, sweet tuna or tilapia, all over warm white rice.

 

I love all the flavors and textures in this dish!

This dish combines all my favorite flavors and textures–I love the cold, sweet, raw tuna and tilapia with the warm white rice and the sweet and crunchy Fuji apples with the veggies–crispy lettuce and pea shoots dressed in nutty sesame oil–with the salty and slightly sweet seaweed–mmm. Tons of fresh, delicious ingredients that only get better with the spicy, sweet and vinegary chogochujang sauce.

 

Yum. I love the huge portions. The bowl is always way too big for me to finish!

Trusty always orders his favorite bibimbap, which is Mushroom Dolsot Bibimbap with Beef. It’s loaded with mushrooms, other veggies like bean sprouts, carrots, and zucchini, and strips of seared beef. 

Trusty’s bibimbap arrives in a piping hot stone pot, and when he mixes all the ingredients together the heat of the pot scrambles the fresh uncooked egg. The bowl is so hot that anything that touches it sizzles for minutes.  Before the rice is added to the pot, the bottom is coated with a yummy, nutty sesame oil, which makes the rice at the bottom of the pot deliciously golden brown and crispy–one of Trusty’s favorite parts of the dish.

 

Even Trusty can't finish his whole pot.

 

Drink: We usually order tea, which is a basic, but delicious jasmine. For my sick throat, it was especially good. If you’re in the mood for something else, The Mill also offers soft drinks, a selection of Asian brand beers, and cold sake. 

Service: The service here is fast, but impersonal; the no-fuss service here takes a back seat to the food. Expect to be seated immediately and expect your food to arrive within five minutes after you’ve placed your ordered. But, don’t expect any chit chat from your waiter. You may find the staff to be practically wordless–often food arrives without any explanation–but (I think) the food speaks for itself.

Scene: The restaurant is a small, simply decorated space. Framed Korean prints and old scrolls hanging on the walls give the interior a cozy, authentic ambiance. If there’s an open table in the back, asked to be seated there–you can peek into the kitchen and watch the kitchen crew roll dumplings by hand.

 

Interior of The Mill.

Dress: The Mill is pretty firmly in Columbia University territory, so casual dress code is more than appropriate. Jeans, t-shirt, whatever.

Cost: Our check came to $30 with tax and tip. A great price, and for the amount of food we got, it was especially reasonable.

Delivery: Delivery available from 95th to 125th St Riverside Dr. to Morningside Dr. $8 minimum.

If you like, try: Hangawi Grill in Korea Town NYC, Kang Nam in Albany Park neighborhood of Chicago

Did Katy Perry Nail It with her new OPI Black Shatter Nail Polish?

22 Jan

Given Katy Perry’s wild nail style (remember her Russel Brand manicure ?) it makes sense that OPI would ask her to collaborate on a new nail polish line.

The highlight of the limited-edition collection is the Black Shatter top coat that’s generating buzz as the next nail trend. Once applied to the dried base coat of any nail polish, the black top coat begins to disappear, leaving behind a crackled, sort of leopard print pattern on each nail and transforming your manicure into nail art, Katy Perry style.

Here's what each color is supposed to look like with the Black Shatter top coat. From L-R the colors are: Last Friday Night, Not Like the Movies, The One that Got Away, and Teenage Dream.

How does it work? Two incompatible solvents in the black shatter top coat cause uneven drying, so as the top coat sets it results in the crackled pattern.

After test-driving the new shatter coat, here are some of our tips:

  • This may seem obvious, but be sure to only apply the Black Shatter top coat over completely dry nail polish–otherwise, there are gloopy consequences.
  • Because the shattering effect is almost instantaneous, you need to apply the top coat fairly quickly–as in, a once over. If you double back for a second coat then you’ll get black shatters on top of black shatters.
  • A thinner coat of Black Shatter will result in a look with smaller shards, while a thicker coat will make the crackled look more chunky.
  • The shatter top coat dries matte–really matte–with the look of old, dried-out asphalt. So, for a more “polished” look, add a top coat for a glossy finish that will make the black look more liquid.

Black Shatter top coat over Not Like the Movies, a silvery metallic shade, with a clear top coat.

What do you think?

Elegant Bridal Shower Meal: (Vegetarian) Eggplant Timbale

12 Jan

Need a casserole recipe that’s hearty, yet elegant enough for entertaining? I highly recommend an Eggplant Timbale. Full of fresh, delicious flavors and wrapped up in thinly sliced, sautéed eggplant strips, this casserole looks like a beautiful present.  It will impress your guests with both its looks and taste.  

Traditionally, this Italian dish includes ground beef and Italian pork sausage, but for a recent bridal shower I adapted the original recipe, which I found in a cookbook by Food Network’s Giada de Laurentiis, to be vegetarian. Stacked high with layers of roasted root vegetables, the dish is just as hearty and satisfying as it is with meat, and I think all the different colors of the vegetables–yellow, orange, purple–makes for an even more beautiful presentation.

Traditional Eggplant Timbale (with meat)

* Note: You will need a springform pan for this recipe, in order to make the pie shape of the casserole. While you can certainly make it in a regular casserole dish and it would taste just as delicious, I recommend using the springform pan if you are using this recipe for entertaining, as the pie shape is what gives this recipe its elegance.  

For this recipe, using a springform pan is key to a beautiful presentation.

Ingredients:

  • 4 medium eggplants, sliced lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/4 inch thick
  • 2 sweet potatoes, sliced lengthwise into thin strips, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 4 parsnips, peeled and sliced into thin medallions, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 4 carrots, peeled and sliced into thin medallions, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2-3 golden beets, peeled and sliced into medallions, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 2-3 red beets, peeled and sliced into medallions, about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled and sliced lengthwise into thin strips about 1/2 inch thick
  • 1 jar of tomato sauce
  • 1 cup freshly grated Pecorino cheese
  • 1 cup of chopped fresh basil leaves
  • 1/2 pound of penne pasta
  • olive oil
  • kosher salt
  • pepper

Directions:

  1. Preheat your oven to 425 degrees F.
  2. Start by washing and peeling your eggplants. Then, slice the eggplants lengthwise into thin 1/4 inch slices. Lay the slices out on a clean towel and sprinkle kosher salt over them, then let them sit for 20-30 minutes while you prepare the other vegetables. Eggplants have brown seeds in them that contain a bitter liquid. By salting or “degorging” the eggplant slices before you cook them, you can draw out the bitter moisture, leading to a better taste and firmer texture.   

    You should be able to see liquid coming to the surface of your eggplant slices within 20-30 minutes after salting them.

  3. While your eggplant slices are degorging, you can prepare the other vegetables. Wash and peel the sweet potatoes, butternut squash, parsnips, carrots, and beets. Then, slice the sweet potatoes and squash into 1/2 inch strips lengthwise, and slice the parsnips, carrots, and beets into 1/2 inch medallions.

    All the bright, vibrant colors of the fresh root vegetables make for a beautiful presentation when you serve a slice of this timbale.

  4. Roast the veggies: Put all your sliced veggies onto baking trays, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and put them into the oven to roast. This should take about 15 minutes, depending on your oven.  Since the eggplants, which will form the “wrapping paper” on this casserole, are already salted because of the degorging process, you can go very light on the salt for the veggies.
  5. Saute the eggplant: If it’s been about 15-20 minutes, your eggplants should be ready to cook. With a paper towel, pat them dry, and try to absorb all the moisture you can. Place a medium-large nonstick pan over medium high heat and drizzle the pan with olive oil. When the pan and oil are hot, place 2-3 strips into your pan (depending on how many will fit comfortably) and saute the eggplant slices on both sides. As they cook they’ll become tender and slightly translucent.
  6. Cook the pasta: While your veggies cook, put a large pot of salted water on the stove and bring it to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, 8 to 10 min. You want the pasta to be slightly more on the toothy side than al dente because when you put the casserole in the oven to reheat it, the pasta will cook further.
  7. Assemble the Timbale: When your eggplants are sautéed, your root vegetables are roasted, and your pasta is cooked and strained, the timbale is ready to assemble. Start by brushing your springform pan with a little bit of olive oil, to ensure that the sides don’t stick to your eggplant when it comes out of the oven. Then, lay down strips of eggplant so they line the pan. Because the eggplant will form the “wrapping” on your casserole, you want to make sure that the slices overlap and hang over the edge of the pan, so you’ll have enough eggplant to fold over and cover the top of the casserole after you’ve added all the veggie layers. You may want to reserve a few sautéed slices to cover any holes in the top.
  8. Add layers of veggies: When your eggplant liner is in place, add your roasted vegetables, one layer at a time. In between each layer, spread a very thin coat of tomato sauce, then sprinkle on a light dusting of the freshly grated Pecorino cheese, then add a few pinches of some freshly chopped basil. Before I add the sauce, cheese and basil, I always press each layer down firmly with the palms of my hands, to make sure there will be a nice tight fit. When you get to the middle of the casserole, add a layer of penne pasta which should have extra sauce and cheese.  TIP: I like to alternate the veggies sliced lengthwise (sweet potato and squash) with the medallion shaped slices (beets, parsnips, carrots) to create an alternating color scheme and add structural support to the casserole–by alternating the lengthy pieces with the medallion ones, the casserole will keep its pie shape nicely and won’t collapse when you cut into it. Also, you don’t want to add too much sauce in between the veggie layers or else your casserole will be too mushy.

    A slice looks so pretty on the plate--and tastes delicious!

  9. Reheat: When your layers are complete, fold over the eggplant slices, add another dusting of cheese. You can wrap it in aluminum foil and refrigerate for a few days until your party. To reheat it, put it into a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes, until the timbale is warmed through and the cheese has melted. You’ll begin to smell the delicious aroma of the roasted, carmalized veggies–yum!  
  10. To serve: let the reheated Timbale rest for 10 minutes. Then, unclasp the springform pan, and use a sharp knife to slice. Hopefully your guests will rave about the different flavors and the different colors that create such a beautiful presentation.

There are lots of different ways you could modify this recipe–if you have a gluten-free crowd, don’t include the pasta layer. If you have a dairy-free crowd, skip the cheese or use a soy substitute. If you want the meaty texture of the original recipe but a vegetarian version, you can use Morningstar farm crumbles instead of the meat and pork sausage.

Hope you enjoy!