Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Foodiness

Archive for the tag “Sunday”

Brunch at Porta

I wrote a post in late February praising Porta Pizza in Asbury Park, but I mentioned that they did much more than just dinner–including weekend brunch.  Well, keeping true to my promise, I checked out their brunch on a cold, drizzly, early Spring Saturday, and I wasn’t disappointed!

I met up with a friend of mine, Carolyn, for what seems to be becoming our semi-monthly (or six-monthly, as the case may be) meetup. And as much as I’ve been waiting to try brunch at Porta, funnily enough, it was her suggestion. (Great minds think alike, I suppose.)  So, this past weekend, we headed to Asbury Park in the rain and the cold to meet up for what turned out to be a spectacular brunch.

Porta serves brunch every Saturday and Sunday from 11:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m.  Not wanting to be late to the party, Carolyn and I arrived just after 11:30.  I was expecting the place to be packed, but maybe because it’s still relatively unknown, or maybe because the weather was exceptionally atrocious, we were the only two people in the restaurant. People began to trickle in once we were settled in with our cappuccinos, but we seemed to constitute the entire “early” crowd. (By the way–good, big, inviting cappuccinos–and this is coming from someone who can make a cappuccino!)

Porta’s brunch menu is unique and varied, with a mix of their usuals and brunch-only options. They offer sweet and savory, breakfast and lunch, ranging from pizza and salads to french toast and fritattas.

We agreed that the best and only way to do this brunch was to try multiple things and share them.

Luckily, we have similar palates so this did not prove too much of a challenge. We started with a house-cured salmon appetizer with crostinis, marscapone cheese and chervil.

As you can see, I couldn't wait long enough to get a picture before I dug in.

I’m a Jewish girl, New Jersey-born and raised. Lox and cream cheese is pretty much a staple in my life, and I will try almost any and all variations on it. (Lox–smoked, cured salmon–is one of the only seafood I actually like. That, shrimp and fried calamari.)

This one was so good I’m afraid I’ll never be able to eat a regular bagel with lox and cream cheese again.  My first thought when the plate arrived was, “I wish they gave us some lemon to squeeze over the fish.” But as soon as I tasted it, I realized it was already there. The salmon was finished with lemon, olive oil and garlic, and the spicy-citrusy taste was bright and abundant. With the smooth, luscious marscapone and crispy-chewey crosinis, I was in a Jewish-Italian heaven.  I could have ordered three plates of that alone and been perfectly content.

Well, almost…we also ordered lemon-ricotta pancakes which were the lightest, fluffiest pancakes I’ve ever seen. As Carolyn put it, “much more cake than pan.” They were served over ricotta cheese with a vanilla brown butter syrup and macerated plums.  I didn’t expect a big punch of lemon, since in a pancake or similar baked good, the lemon flavor is typically subtle and underlying. But these pancakes packed a lemon punch! The lemon flavor was intense, but not fake, and most definitely a pleasant surprise for a lemon-lover like me.  And, I need to find out how to make such fluffy pancakes.

It's so fluffy I'm gonna die!!!

We had decided we were also going to try their butternut squash pizza, which neither of us had ever seen on the dinner menu, and sounded like quite the savory-sweet experience.  When the waitress informed us they were all out, Carolyn and I looked at each other like sad children for a moment before settling on the roasted tomato fritatta with smoked mozzarella instead.

As I’ve said before, I’m not a huge fan of cooked tomatoes, but they weren’t overpoweringly sweet in this dish.  The arugula served over the fritatta helped too, I’m sure, as did the homemade focaccia that came on the side.  We sat close to the pizza ovens that are out in the open, and I watched the chef make our focaccia bread–the smell was intoxicating to this starving girl, and it looked so yummy! The fritatta was tasty, but ended up overshadowed by the salmon and the pancakes–it’s the only dish we didn’t finish. (Really, we were just too full–and too focused on our pancakes.)

Fritatta with that wonderful-smelling focaccia that made me so hungry!

So, that’s two down for Porta, and I would recommend their brunch to anyone.  I actually really want to take my mom since a lot of their brunch options are seemingly gluten-free, like the fritattas and other egg-inclusive dishes (braised Beluga lentils with quail eggs, for instance.) Even the salmon appetizer–the crostinis tasted great, but they’re really just a vessel for carrying the cheese and the salmon.  They’re not a necessity.  Carolyn ate some of the leftover salmon and cheese once the bread ran out and she agreed, she didn’t miss them.

OK, so next up, I guess I will have to check out Porta’s nightlife.  Or gluten-free pizza Tuesdays.  Or spaghetti and meatballs Sundays. Or… the list goes on.  All I know is I want to go back to Porta over and over again.

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Semi-homemade Superbowl

I know this is a few days late (the Superbowl was Sunday, after all), but I had to come right off the fun and pull a double, so here it is now.

This past Sunday, I threw a small Superbowl party for a few of my friends and family. It was a lot of fun, but to spare my sanity I took a semi-homemade approach to the party.Cover of "Bobby Flay's Grill It!"

To start, the menu:

Chipotle-honey glazed chicken wings (courtesy of Bobby Flay’s Grill It!. Recipe to follow.)
Plain baked chicken wings with three sauces: barbecue, sweet Thai chile, chipotle-honey
Homemade pizza
Giants blue margaritas
Snacks and appetizers: veggies and dip; chips, pretzels, salsa; mixed cookies

The first “homemade” part of the night was the chipotle chicken wings. It’s a recipe from Bobby Flay’s Grill It! cookbook that I’ve made before and really, really enjoyed. The original recipe calls for grilled wings, but since it’s February in New Jersey, I baked the wings instead. They were still delicious.

For anyone that doesn’t know, a chipotle pepper is a smoked jalapeño. It’s a bit spicy and quite smoky. You can find them canned in the grocery store in adobo sauce. The recipe calls for pureed chipotles–I used my bullet blender to puree them quickly and with minimal mess. It took about 30 seconds. It also calls for ancho chile powder. An ancho chile is a dried poblano and also takes on a bit of a smoky quality, but it, too is on the milder side of the chile spectrum.

Image courtesy of Clarkson/Potter Publishers and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!"

Courtesy of Clarkson/Potter Publishers and Bobby Flay's "Grill It!"

The recipe also includes a step for trimming and dividing the wings, but I didn’t need to take that step. I used a combination of frozen wings and packaged fresh, divided wings. Both were from Perdue and had no added hormones or chemicals, and both saved me a lot of time!

Chipotle-honey glazed chicken wings with toasted sesame seeds and green onion

1 cup honey
3 tablespoons pureed canned chipotle chiles in adobo
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
4 tablespoons ancho chile powder
Salt and pepper, for seasoning
4 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil (The recipe called for canola, I used vegetable because I had it on hand)
2 teaspoons ground coriander
2 teaspoons ground cumin
2 teaspoons Spanish paprika
3 pounds chicken wings
2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted (see below)*
Green onions, thinly sliced

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees Fahrenheit.
2. Whisk together the honey, chipotle puree, mustard, 1 tablespoon of the ancho chile powder, 1 teaspoon of salt and 2 tablespoons of the oil in a small bowl. Divide the glaze evenly between two bowls–a small one for brushing the glaze and a large one for tossing the wings later.
3. Stir together the remaining 3 tablespoons of ancho chile powder with the coriander, cumin and paprika in a small bowl.
4. Rinse the chicken wings under cold water and pat dry with paper towels. Cut the tips off the wings if necessary and discard (or freeze and use for chicken stock.) Cut each wing into two pieces through the joint, if necessary.
5. Place wings in a large bowl, add the spice rub and the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil and toss to coat. Season with salt and pepper and place wings on a baking sheet in an even layer. Bake at 400 degrees for 10-11 minutes until golden brown. Turn wings over and brush with the small bowl of glaze. Place wings back in oven for 15-20 minutes, brushing with the glaze every few minutes and turning once during the last 10 minutes of cooking.
6. Remove wings from the oven, toss with the remaining glaze and place back on the baking sheet. Turn the oven to broil and broil the wings until glaze caramelizes and the skin is crispy.
7. Sprinkle with toasted sesame seeds and sliced green onions.

*To toast sesame seeds: put a single layer of seeds in a frying or saute pan and toast over medium-low heat, shaking the pan every couple of minutes to prevent burning, until lightly golden brown and fragrant, 5 to 7 minutes. Transfer to a plate and let cool completely.

Make ahead: Follow the recipe up through Step 5, then put wings aside or refrigerate. Before serving, reheat wings in the oven at 375 degrees, then broil.

These wings were a hit and cleared off the plate completely. But, I have friends who are somewhat picky eaters, so to accommodate everyone’s taste, I also made plain baked wings (just salt and pepper) with three dipping sauces. I bought bottled barbecue sauce (Jack Daniel’s Master Blend). I put out the remainder of the chipotle-honey sauce, and I whipped together a Thai chile sauce. I used the leftover sweet chile sauce from the last post’s Thai lettuce wraps and added some store-bought sweet chile sauce to fortify it and make it a bit thicker. (Mine was more like a vinaigrette; the added bottled sauce was thicker and more gelatinous, so together they made a good dipping sauce.)

My boyfriend Kevin also made his “famous” pizza, which is a semi-homemade masterpiece. It uses store-bought or pizza shop dough (you can walk into pretty much any pizzeria and ask for their dough. They’ll usually sell it to you for just a few dollars, and if you know it’s a good pizza place, you know you’re getting good dough.), jarred tomato sauce and a store-bought shredded mozzarella mix. Of course, you could certainly make the dough and sauce from scratch and shred your own cheese, but this way is quick and still yummy.

Kevin’s “famous” semi-homemade pizza

1 package store-bought pizza dough or pizzeria dough (I like the stuff in the refrigerated section that comes in the bag, not the frozen or canned ones)
1 jar tomato sauce (this time, we used Ragu 7-herb tomato sauce–the more flavor, the better)
1-2 packages pizza cheese blend (I prefer 4 or more–this one had mozzarella, provolone, Parmesan and Romano)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Pat out pizza dough as per instructions on the package and stretch onto a baking sheet. Bake for 2 minutes to par-bake the crust. Remove from oven, spread with sauce and sprinkle with cheese. Add any spice you desire (oregano, garlic, basil, rosemary, Italian spice blend, etc.) Add any toppings you would like, as well (pepperoni, mushrooms, sausage, peppers, the list goes on.) Bake pizza at 375 degrees for 12 to 18 minutes or until you start to smell the spices. Remove from oven and let cool at least five minutes before cutting into slices.

In addition to some store-bought snacks and desserts and plenty of beer, I made one signature cocktail for the game–Giants blue margaritas. (I’m from New Jersey; it’s no secret who we were rooting for.) The blue color can be off-putting, but this recipe uses no food coloring, just orange-flavored blue liquor in place of the usual orange-flavored triple sec, so the taste is very similar. When I usually make margaritas I use pineapple juice as a sweetener, but the yellow juice would have turned the color green, so I had to come up with a clear alternative in the form of lemon-lime soda. It also added a bit of fun effervescence.

Giants blue margaritas

2 parts gold tequila (Jose Cuervo is my go-to)
1 part Blue Curacao
1 part fresh lime juice
1 part lemon-lime soda
1/2 part Rose’s lime juice
Agave syrup to taste

Mix all ingredients together in a pitcher or shake together in a glass and add agave syrup to sweeten to taste. For a large group, my one part was 1 cup. For individual margaritas, one part can equal one or two ounces. In that case, the recipe would call for 2 ounces of tequila, 1 ounce of Blue Curacao, 1 ounce of fresh lime juice, 1 ounce of lemon-lime soda, 1/2 an ounce of Rose’s lime juice and agave to taste.

If you want to make the same margarita but you don’t want it to be blue, simply substitute triple sec for the Blue Curacao.

This was adapted from my usual margarita recipe, which are pineapple-cilantro margaritas, inspired by the flavor profile of pineapple salsa:

Pineapple-cilantro margaritas

2 parts gold tequila
1 part triple sec
1 part fresh lime juice
1 part pineapple juice
Agave syrup to taste
Fresh cilantro

Muddle some fresh cilantro at the bottom of a glass. Mix all other ingredients together in a pitcher or in the glass and pour over the cilantro. (Note: do not add the cilantro directly to the pitcher; add cilantro to each glass individually. As the margaritas sit, the cilantro flavor intensifies, so if you leave the fresh cilantro in the pitcher, it will eventually become over-infused with the cilantro flavor.)

Like I said, this was inspired by the flavor profile of cilantro salsa. I’m not a fan of spicy drinks, though, so I do not add any jalapeños to my margaritas. If you like the heat, though, you can definitely shake a few jalapeño slices into the cocktail for the full pineapple salsa effect.

If you like salt with your margarita, salt glasses as follows: on a small plate or saucer, pour a bit of Rose’s or fresh lime juice, enough to just cover the bottom of the plate. You can also run a small slice of fresh lime along the rim to dampen it. Cover the bottom of another small plate with Kosher salt. Dip the rim of the glass in the lime juice, then in the salt to cover the rim. Pour in your margarita and enjoy!

All in all, the semi-homemade approach to the Superbowl was a success both with my guests and with me. By the time everyone arrived, we had delicious food for them and I was able to fully enjoy myself since everything was done. Made from scratch can be great, but when it comes to entertaining, sometimes it’s more important to have the time to enjoy yourself. The best part is, these recipes are great any day of the week, not just for the Superbowl. Enjoy! (And by the way, congratulations New York Giants!)

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