Food in the City #2

Well, the day-to-day struggle of being in a PhD program gives few opportunities to enjoy the variety of food available in New York.

For the last two months I’ve basically survived on

  • No_rest_for_the_grad_students_that_have_a_metrics_midterm_on_Monday__gradlife__teacherscollege__columbiauniversity__econometrics__studying
    As much as I may complain about libraries around here, I’m so grateful they have some areas where you can eat food and study!

    meal prep.

    • This involved a further knowledge of the differences between shopping in Spain vs. US. It took me a while to realise that, except for vegetable milk, dairy milks are always refrigerated. In my country you can buy three or four and keep them in your pantry for a month or so. Does that mean it has more additives? Maybe, but it’s so convenient, given that sometimes when I buy milk it expires in less than a week!
    • What do I have to do so that there’s a Trader Joe’s near the CU campus? And no, the one on 72nd street doesn’t count. It feels so awkward to take the subway back home with a load of groceries, being a nuisance to pretty much everyone around me.
  • extremely simple and fast dinners.Light_dinner_and_Math__Tomato_soup_from_Trader_Joe_s_is_the_best___norestforthewicked__norestforgradstudents__gradlife__maths__healthyfood__tomatosoup__salad__spinach__kale__food
  • frozen meals, every time I had one of these a part of my soul died.
  • the occasional free food in campus, which isn’t as healthy as I wished it would be. But, hey, it’s free!
  • Having_a_healthy_lunch__Thanks__sweetgreen__you_ll_be_certainly_seeing_me_again___salad__lunch__avocobbo__sweetgreen__healthyfood__foodie__newyorkadventuresand the slightly-overpriced custom salads at Sweetgreens after realising I couldn’t possibly eat grocery-store bought sandwiches on a weekly basis.

But after the end of midterms I decided that I should go out at least a couple of times!

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On the first day I had two slices of pizza at the Famous Famiglia Pizzeria near campus. I was feeling particularly miserable that day so I ordered the cheese slice with extra cheese. Yes. That’s a lot of cheese. I only realised this afterwards, usually the type of cheese slices you get in Spain (or in cheaper places in NYC) have a ironically small amount of cheese on them.

A couple of days after I went shopping for a winter coat, boots, and all sorts of wintery attire around Midtown with a friend. After that we ended up having dinner in K-Town. Our first stop was in Woorjip, where you can either buy ready-made food packages or fill your plate in a buffet. It was my first experience with Korean food and I really liked it! It has a spicy flavour that is quite different from what I’m used to and it was very tasty.

2015-10-28 21.33.37After that I discovered the existence of that wonderful place called Spot Desert Bar. When I told my friends about this place they weren’t very impressed. Is it simply a restaurant that only serves sweet stuff? An over-priced café or pastry shop? Not quite! I do agree that it is expensive, but the deserts (not pastries) are really elaborated and delicious. My friend and I shared two and both were heavenly. I think it’s a place where you’d go with three or four friends, order one desert each and share!

Food and the City #1

I’ve been here for almost two weeks now and, unfortunately, I haven’t been to as many restaurant as I’d like but that’s what happens when you’re on a student budget.

First_pancakes___pancakes__brunch__newyork__uptown__morningsideheights__foodSo far I’ve only been to Henry’s and had delicious lemon-ricotta pancakes. One of the best thing about this place is that they offer free complementary muffins (two small muffins per head).

Also, in one of my walks around the city I stopped by Levain Bakery and had the best cookie of my life. It is a bit expensive ($4) but certainly worth it once in a very long while if you want to treat yourself.

So far, I’ve been mostly cooking at home. The first few days I had almost nothing to cook with, which gave rise to some interesting combinations such as: stir-fried tofu with summer squash, cheese, and teriyaki sauce. I know it seems like I’m breaking the Law by doing this, but it is delicious!

Going to the supermarket has certainly been an experience. For one, some items are way more expensive than in Spain:

  • fresh meat
  • fresh fish
  • most fresh vegetables (mushrooms!!)
  • nuts (those are hell of expensive)
  • yogurt
  • cereals
  • cheese
  • salads (the cheaper I could find was plain mixed salad for $4, around 200g)

There are, however, some things that are cheaper:

  • oats (hello future breakfast for the next five years)
  • peanut butter (yay!). Incidentally, there are around two dozens of different types of PB?
  • kale
  • sugar-free and low- or non-fat foods

And I think that’s pretty much it. However, I must admit the variety of fruits and vegetables is far greater than the average Spanish supermarket.

So far I’ve discovered summer squash, Californian avocado (looking forward to try these), kale, sweet potatoes all year long!, all the different types of non-dairy milk you could possibly imagine, infinite types of cereals, swiss chard, and many other things that I haven’t noticed yet. And, of course, the sweets section is quite enormous. Also, the sizes/portions are larger than in Europe.

So, back in Spain I usually had oatmeal in the morning, but for some reason I was able to eat them warm. I’m not able to do so in this country, so I had to turn to overnight oatmeal, which is still pretty good.

Prepare the oats the night before. You’ll need:FullSizeRender-2

  • 1 cup of milk. I usually only use 1/2cup milk and use water for the other half. Perhaps it is less flavourful but you can compensate that by adding other stuff.
  • 1/2 oats (traditional, not steel-cut)
  • optional: 1 or 2 tablespoons of chia seeds
  • optional: vanilla extract or beans, cinnamon powder, chocolate powder.
  • optional: sweetener of choice.

Put the oats on a bowl, pour the milk/water, cover, and let it refrigerate until next morning. Incidentally, I’ve actually let the bowl stay for two nights and the result was as good.

In the morning you can also add some toppings:

  • fruits: berries, banana, mango, apple, pear, etc.
  • all kinds of nuts (I wouldn’t go with PB, it mixes better with warm oatmeal)
  • coconut flakes

Pretty much anything that may add some flavour or crunchiness is usually a good topping!

FullSizeRenderFinally, as I have mentioned before, one of the good things of this country is that peanut butter is so, so cheap.

One of my most recent culinary mischiefs is to mix greek yogurt with crunchy peanut butter.

A trip through (a part of) the United Kingdom: Peak District

Nottingham ➡️ Chesterfield ➡️ Eyam

And from there walking (with a heavy and inconvenient carry-on) to the Youth Hostel, which is located sufficiently far from the town.


I had a supposedly light and nice lunch at the Eyam Tea Rooms, followed by a nice cup of Yorkshire tea. During this journey there is not a day where I am not surprised by English cooking. It seems that the only veggies used here are onions and button mushrooms. Oh wait, I think potato is also considered a vegetable. And fruit only comes in the form of jam or in cakes. A light lunch is a salad, not half a sandwich. This does not mean that I dislike English cooking, I like it, but I seriously doubt my body could take more than 10 days of it without becoming diabetic.


Anyway, Eyam is in the middle of several footpaths that go to other equally tiny and cute villages. However, the routes are not well signalled and we did not get any map at the hostel. By chance we took a lovely path that, through fields and pastures, took us to Stoney Middleton. We decided to try and follow another route, and ended up walking on a side of the road with cars speeding by.


It was a wonderful tour, the landscape was beautiful, and I even managed to see some sheep!
The day after we went to Grindelford (sounds like a name from Harry Potter), took the train to Chinley, and then walked to Hayfield. This is the town where part of The Village is filmed. I did recognise a couple of buildings thanks to a lovely man at a local shop. Hayfield is an enchanting little town and the road to it has some great views. It also has several footpaths that surround the area with some breath-taking views.


I had a very nice lunch followed by cream tea. I cannot believe I have been able to function for so long without having tasted scones. And clotted cream. I also had one at Eyam, but in this one the clotted cream was heavenly. The texture was soft and fluffy, a great treat after a couple of hours of intense walking.

  

On our last day in Peak District… It rained until 10am. However, given the amazing sites we had in the last two days we decided to set for yet another walk.the person at the hostel very kindly indicated a route that according to her what date is about two hours.

 Unfortunately we are not used to walking around the moors and seen unbelievably beautiful panoramas. So it took us quite longer than that. It was certainly worth it, although at some point I thought I was in the European equivalent of a jungle, and I most graciously slipped and fell in the mud. To be fair to the YH people, one of the employees was very kind and drove us to the bus station. They also accepted to serve us dinner half an hour later, at 7:30pm.

So-called footpaths where you have to climb this type of “stairs” and go through fields and with sheep or cows all around!

But I walked in an open field with a flock of sheep, saw a 360 view of Hope Valley, … It is hard to describe the beauty of what I have seen these last days. The only word that comes to me is awesome, in it’s British sense, i.e. I was filled with awe when walking through the fields and moors.


Final stop: York!

To Bilbao!

Yesterday I officially graduated (although we got a non-official diploma, but never mind) and it’s hard to believe it has been 10 months since I started this program. So much has happened in my life, and I have made many good friends from all around the world that I hope to see again.

To celebrate it my father took me to Dos Palillos, a restaurant in Barcelona that combines Asian and traditional Catalan cuisine. It was so good!
Here are a few pics:

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In a bit more than an hour I’ll be driving to Bilbao, a city in the north of Spain, to attend a music festival, BBK. My main reason for going there is Muse, my favourite band that I haven’t seen in two years! However, I also look forward to discovering other bands such as Of Montreal, Catfish and the Bottlemen, or The Cat Empire. 

I will also be seeing many friends that I have met in the several Muse concerts I have attended, I really cannot wait!

So, I won’t post anything in the next four days. See you soon!

Mushroom Ravioli and More (it happened to be my birthday)

It’s a habit of mine to invite my friends over for lunch one day around my birthday and treat them with huge amounts of food.

Yesterday’s menu was:

  • Salmon marinated in soya sauce (12-14hours) with toasted sesame seeds.
  • Yogurt & Spinach Dip
  • Mushroom ravioli (recipe to follow)
  • Chicken curry of sorts.
  • Chocolate cake.

First, the chocolate cake. I used two recipes from the wonderful website Food52: Peanut Butter Cookie and Chocolate Avocado Mousse. First, prepare the PB cookie in a tray, as a crunchy base for the cake. In the recipe it tells you to use some butter, I simply added an extra half a cup of PB. I don’t know which option is healthier but PB is certainly tastier than butter.

While it cools down prepare the avocado mousse.

When both layers are cool enough, pour the mousse on top of the cookie base and refrigerate. Here you have two options: you either leave the cookie base on the mould or you put it on a tray. If you leave it, the cake can be quite cumbersome to cut and serve but it is also very likely that the cookie base crumbles or breaks when you take it away from the mould. I did the latter and it did break, but nobody seemed to notice.

I did it the day before and it tasted great! I also added some frozen berries on top. Banana could be a good alternative.

2015-07-03 16.20.06
It was delicious!

Now, to the raviolis. This is a dish that I prepared the first time I hosted a birthday dinner five years ago and ever since my best friend has been begging me to do them again.

Ingredients:

  • Dried shiitake mushrooms
  • Dried white (or button) mushrooms
  • Goat cheese
  • Nutmeg
  • Olive Oil
  • Parmesan Cheese
  • Wonton

Recipe

  1. Put the dried mushrooms in a bowl full of water. Leave them there for at least 5 or 6 hours. Remember to stir the mushrooms every now and then (every 30 or 45 minutes approx).
  2. Drain the mushrooms. Save some of the liquid. The water will have the taste of the mushrooms and you can use it to give the mix a smoother texture.
  3. Put the mushrooms together with some goat cheese (depending on your taste) and a teaspoon of nutmeg. Add some mushroom water to help the processor to blend it well. Process until you have a uniform paste. IMG_0127
    I couldn’t blend all the ingredients well because I had thrown away all the water. I added milk instead, but you have to be careful as it reduces the flavour a lot!
  4. Unpack the wontons, put 5 or 6 of them in a wooden platform.IMG_0128 IMG_0129
  5. Put some water on the sides of the wontons. A lot of water, it has to be soaked so that the wontons “close” well.
  6. With a teaspoon, put some of the mixture in the middle of each wonton. Do not put much, otherwise it will be impossible to close or it is likely to burst when boiled.IMG_0130
  7. Close the wanton in a triangular shape.
  8. Press a fork to the sides to make sure it is firmly closed.IMG_0131
  9. Cut a thin part of the sides with a knife or a fancier tool.
  10. Put them on a tray. If you’re not going to boil them right away, put them on a baking sheet. If some of the wontons break, don’t worry, even if you don’t boil them they taste just as good!
  11. Boil water on a pot.
  12. Put up to 10 wontons at a time in the boiling water for 1 or 2 minutes.
  13. Serve them with some olive oil and parmesan cheese.

Another good filling is asparagus and goat cheese!

P.S. It’s likely that there’s some mushroom paste you won’t need for the raviolis, serve it as a dip!