Archive for June, 2014

Roasted Veggie Couscous

roasted vegetable couscous

I’ve been calling San Francisco home for three weeks now and I’m pleased to report that it’s been nothing but delicious. This is a city where ‘kale’, ‘cleanse’, ‘chia’, and ‘kombucha’ are all major players in the local lexicon. For once in my adult life, I’m the one who doesn’t know what fermented-this or heritage-that is, and I couldn’t be happier. Really, it’s humbling to jump from a small pond like Boston into a huge ocean like San Francisco, where just about everyone has a highly developed opinion about our food system. In just a few weeks, I’ve learned a lot, but, mostly, that there is a lot to learn.

One thing I’ve learned is that I’ve been seriously missing out in the produce department. Vegetables are everywhere you look here, including at Walgreens. Bolthouse Farms replaces Dunkin’ Donuts as the most advertised product and there are just as many juice bars as there are Starbucks. Like a dog just let off the leash at a park, I barely know where to begin.

san francisco vegetables

roasted eggplant recipe

This couscous dish is inspired by two delicious meals I’ve had in SF. One was at Breaking Bread, a lunch spot near my office. Have you ever heard of Dutch Crunch bread? It is truly revolutionary…fluffy ciabatta-y goodness on the inside and crackly crunchy heaven on the outside. Dutch Crunch would be a stellar “ten” on its own, but the pesto aioli, turkey, avocado, and roasted vegetables take it to “eleven”. Despite the fact that my office is surrounded by other amazing eateries, I’ve been to Breaking Bread not once, but thrice.

The second meal was at Roger’s house. Roger is a family friend, and dang, he throws a good party! For his birthday this year, he invited us all over for Moroccan food and a game of Liar’s Dice (which, despite a valiant effort, I lost). Alongside the Cornish hens and lamb was a couscous dish tossed with veggies and raisins. No lie, it was spectacular.

zucchini and pepper

So, here we have my Roasted Veggie Couscous. It’s healthy and easy and will always remind me of my first delicious weeks in my new home. Each ingredient lends its own flavor and every bite offers a surprising combination.

roasted eggplant

Sweet meets salty when golden raisins and feta collide and fresh compliments rich when parsley and roasted garlic land in the same spoonful.

feta recipe

It’s the kind of meal I could never get sick of, which is good because I made a heck of a lot of it!

healthy couscous recipe

Ingredients (serves 4)

  • 1 ¼ cup couscous
  • 1 medium eggplant
  • 1 small zucchini
  • 1 red bell pepper
  • 6 cloves garlic
  • 4 sprigs parsley
  • ¼ cup golden raisins

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Cut eggplant in half lengthwise and then chop into ½ inch pieces. Place in a colander and sprinkle with salt to remove excess water. Set aside (in the sink) for 30-ish minutes. Rinse quickly and pat dry.

2. Slice zucchini in half lengthwise, then crosswise to make thin half-circles. Slice garlic cloves into thirds. Slice bell pepper into ½ inch pieces.

3. Combine vegetables and garlic in a large bowl. Add olive oil, salt, and pepper and toss until ingredients are well coated. Line a baking sheet with foil or parchment paper and spread out the vegetables. Bake for 30-45 minutes, until soft. Rearrange occasionally.

4. While vegetables are baking, prepare the other ingredients. Finely chop parsley. Sauté raisins in a non-stick skillet until tender and plump. Cut the feta into small cubes. Cook couscous according to instructions on the box. I used whole wheat couscous from Trader Joe’s, which has a 1:1 water ratio.

5. Combine all ingredients (except feta) in a large bowl. Gently fold in feta cheese. Serve warm or cold. I liked it better warm, when the feta was a little melty, but still held its form.

pantry raid

Bon Appétit, Boston

I know, I know, it’s been a while. But believe me, I’ve been really busy. Between graduating (ah!), freelance copywriting (double ah!), and moving to San Francisco (AHHH!), it’s been a pretty overwhelming month. That said, I’m getting settled in my new city and my new job. But, more on all of that later. Since this move happened so quickly, I didn’t exactly get to take my time saying goodbye to Boston.

I lived in Boston for four amazing years. It’s crazy to think that I was still a teenager when I moved cross-country, without any idea what would become of me. Since then, every year has been a learning experience; each one entirely different from the rest. But one thing remained constant: food. In my four years in Boston, I like to think I became somewhat of a restaurant expert. From dives to delivery to damn fancy places, I did a lot of culinary exploration.

So, as my last hurrah, I’ve put together a list of my favorite places to eat and drink in the Boston area. I hope you’ll add these places to your must-try lists because they really are the best of the best. Bon Appetit, Boston!

Asian

Avana – A tiny sushi bar hidden in a nondescript corner of Chinatown. I am not kidding when I say that they make the best spicy tuna roll I have ever eaten. Don’t mind the cell phone/Hello Kitty paraphernalia vendor that shares the space with them…just pretend it’s charming.

Screen Shot 2014-06-07 at 3.40.53 PM

S&I To Go – When I first went to Allston (during daylight hours), I was wowed by the presence of international food. S&I is my favorite neighborhood joint, with the best Thai I’ve had in Boston. Opt for take-out or stake out a spot at one of the three 2-person tables inside. My personal favorite: Pad See Ew with Chicken or Beef.

Inaka – Also an Allston haunt, this ramen place is a hidden gem. With Wagamama ads as far as the eye can see in Boston, it’s easy to forget about the underdogs who started it all. Inaka’s noodles are chewy and their broth is seriously flavorful. Check out an article I wrote about Inaka & other ramen spots in Boston here.

inaka ramen allston

Gourmet Dumpling House – If it’s hospitality you want, stay very far away from here. These guys run a tight ship and you’ll be rushed out fortune cookie-less faster than you can say Soup Dumpling. Speaking of which, get them. The steamed dumplings are filled with warm broth and tender pork. It may take a couple dumplings to master the art of the slurp, especially if you go post-bar, like the rest of the world.

gourmet dumpling house boston

Mei Mei – There was not a Wednesday that went by during my internship at Marlo Marketing where we did not all flock to Mei Mei, a Chinese-American street food truck that does seriously amazing things. My faves are the Magical Kale Salad (kale, garlic panko breadcrumbs, local feta, poached-then-fried egg, and rice vinegar dressing) and the Double Awesome (poached-then-fried egg and pesto wrapped inside a greasy scallion pancake). Are you drooling yet? They recently opened a brick and mortar near BU if you’re not into the whole eating on the sidewalk thing.

mei mei boston

Brunch

Paramount – Be warned, this is not a spot for a quick bite. Prepare to wait at least an hour before reaching the cafeteria-style line, if you head here on the weekend. It’s really just regular breakfast food, but it’s also really the best regular breakfast food around. Maybe it has something to do with being starving when you finally sit down. But, don’t ask questions. Just go. And make sure you get some fresh squeezed OJ while you’re at it!

Beat Hotel – Possibly the coolest place in Harvard Square, Beat Hotel is the Beehive’s little sister. Like a 1960 hippie’s psychedelic dream, this place is seriously trippy. Enjoy live jazz while you eat griddled banana coffee cake, shakshuka, etc. It’s all good. Just try it, man.

Root – Back to Allston! If it’s vegan food you’re after, Root is Boston’s #1 spot. I know I’m biased (because Matt helped create the menu), but these guys will make you forget that bacon ever existed. Get the waffle with whipped coconut cream or try the Root Burger. Actually, try it all. Every. Single. Thing.

Cinquecento – It’s like stepping into an Italian dream world, with Campari everywhere you look. Go for the Carbonara or the under $10 (!!!!) prix fixe brunch menu, complete with coffee, fresh juice, pastries, and an entre. Mama mia! (P.S. No on actually says Mama Mia in Italy)

cinquecento boston

Fancy Pants

Clio – Molecular Gastronomy at its finest. I can honestly say that I have never enjoyed a more flavorful, satisfying, and elegant meal in my life. After a summer of interning at Clio’s PR agency and looking at certifiable food porn for days on end, this was a dream come true. Got a really special occasion? This will make it the special-est occasion.

clio boston

The Blue Room – Another Marlo client. I had my first suckling pig experience here, and boy was it yummy. I also had the pleasure of enjoying their Snapper ceviche and I will never be the same. Never.

Barcelona – This may be a chain, but you won’t know it. Go for the tasting menu, at $35 a person, for seemingly endless tapas. My favorites were the squid ink rice, the whipped sheep’s milk cheese, and the eggplant tapenade. But, really, there wasn’t one dish we didn’t devour. Their house Sangria is also out of this world and by out of this world, I mean that there’s Amaretto in it. Holy yum.

Pomodoro – This place holds a special spot in my heart, and not just because of all the cholesterol I’ve consumed there. It was one of my first meals after moving to Boston. It’s a small understated restaurant in the North End with only a few tables and only the best service. Siobhan, the owner, and sole waitress, was, perhaps, an elephant in a past life. She remembers my family and me each time we dine, down to the nittiest grittiest little detail. The free calamari is a nice touch, too. Tell her you know me and prepare to be pampered. That sounds pretentious as hell, but it’s true.

Cheap(ish) Eats

Anna’s Taqueria – Okay, okay, last Marlo client, I swear! Boston may not be known for its Mexican food, especially if you’re from L.A. as I am. However, if it’s a non-Chipotle burrito you crave, Anna is your girl. I highly recommend the grilled veggies and agua fresca.

Sweetgreen – Hands down the best salad place in Boston. This eatery is a godsend, and now they have locations in Copley Square, Fort Point, and Chestnut Hill. All the ingredients are hyper fresh, local, and really friggin’ good. They have somehow managed to turn salad into a lifestyle…a really cool, self confident, delicious lifestyle. My favorite is the Guacamole Greens, but I’m also big on the Misoba, District Cobb, and Kale Cesar. Trust me, I’ve tried everything on the menu.

Tasty Burger – Salad not your thing? Fear not! Tasty Burger is a safe haven for all things red meat, French fries, milkshakes, and beer. In-N-Out Burger is obviously the OG burger joint, but Tasty Burger is a close second and is super fresh, too. I’m big on the Big Tasty and the Starvin’ Student, which gets you a burger, fries, and a Narragansett for $10. Gone are the days of fake ID’s (I mean, what?), but who can get me a fake school ID?

tasty burger boston

This is Elijah. He is Tasty Burger’s No. 1 fan.

Bakeries

Flour – Can you believe I interviewed Joanne Chang? This bakery is a Boston staple. It’s bright and inviting and there’s always something sweet to try. Try what you will, but never leave without a Homemade Oreo in hand. Or, maybe three.

flour bakery boston

Clear Flour Bread – Tucked into a tiny nook in Brookline, this seat-less bakery is a hidden gem. Get there early (before the soccer moms) for a Chocolate Croissant or a baguette. They take baking very seriously, but you wouldn’t know it by their charming smiles. Pick up a treat and devour it in the park next door!

Damn Good Cocktails

Eastern StandardKenmore Square

  • Order any cocktail with egg white in it for serious street cred

Eastern Standard egg cocktail

DrinkFort Point

  • I love the Bocci Ball (fresh OJ, Amaretto, and vodka)

Brick and MortarCentral Square

  • Historically speaking, I’m the last girl to be seen taking a shot, but their selection is something special. Just go with it.

Deep EllumAllston

  • Their rum cocktails are pretty incredible
deep ellum boston

My first (legal) drink(s)!

Lone StarAllston

  • One Mug-A-Rita is all it takes…

SaloonDavis Square

  • I don’t like Old Fashioneds, but they do have one of the best
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