Story last updated at 3/12/2014 - 5:16 pm
In the past few months, I have been traveling a great deal. This is one of the many exciting perks of my day job, and I am very thankful. The problem is that I tend to enjoy the rich food and fun social components of traveling and don’t work in enough time to exercise. The hard thing for me about eating on the road is the fear of limited choices. I love my veggies but can’t live on salad. I need meat — and yes, I will say it out loud — carbs. I like carbs.
I have tried and tried to eliminate carbs from my diet but can’t seem to break the addiction. Therefore, I try to live by the everything-in-moderation philosophy. I am now actually watching what I eat and ask myself, “How do I feel before I eat that? How will I feel after I eat that?”
Once I started making conscientious decisions about my food, it became a lot easier to say, “No, I won’t have the bread appetizer because I’m having the pasta entrée.”
On my recent trip to New York City, I decided to eat a little less rich and exercise a little bit more. This was my first trip to the Big Apple, and I must confess I was nervous traveling alone to such a big city. I couldn’t have been more wrong in my apprehension. Everyone from Akbar, my taxi driver, to the wonderful hotel registration person to the doormen at the hotel were absolutely friendly and helpful.
I got great advice on things to do and — most importantly — places to eat. I got to shop, go to my first Broadway show and eat in the area of Manhattan known as Hell’s Kitchen.
This is not to be confused with the reality show where the executive chef yells repeatedly at everyone. Hell’s Kitchen is actually a quaint area just outside the theater district near Times Square. I was referred there by a local, and my new friend Roberta and I dined at a place that served Jewish Italian food. Hello, New York!
Because of travel schedules, I actually had a day to myself to go sightseeing and do a little shopping. My main destination was Macy’s Department Store.
I’ve been to Macy’s stores in other cities, but there is nothing like the Macy’s in downtown New York City, a mere three blocks from the Empire State Building. Donning my warm coat and shopper’s attitude, I set out to explore Times Square and started walking. The city blocks in New York aren’t exactly huge, but they aren’t tiny either. I did learn how to read my GPS on my smartphone and find my way there. This is a huge accomplishment for me, and I’m hoping my husband will take notice.
When I arrived at Macy’s, I was completely overwhelmed. Never in my life have I seen a department store that was so large. One entire floor was just shoes. Shoes! I had to pause a moment and take it all in. There were designer shoes, running shoes, dress shoes, boots, flats — you name it, there were shoes everywhere. It was truly a shoe Mecca. I spent at least an hour on this floor alone just looking. I found a perfectly adorable pair of Gucci wedges for only $870. I contemplated for about 30 seconds on how I could convince Grant that they were a good investment. No idea came to mind, so I decided to enjoy the view and move on to another floor. And then another floor and so on and so on to a total of seven floors of department store.
After the sensory overload of shopping in Macy’s, I found I was quite hungry and needed to eat. My visit there couldn’t have been timed any better. It was restaurant week. This is a week when participating restaurants have a three-course meal that offers choices of appetizers, entrée and dessert. I decided to dine in Stella’s Trattoria, located inside Macy’s. Along with a massive shoe collection, the store has a half-dozen places to eat. It’s truly retail heaven.
This little jewel is where I had one of the best salads ever. It was roasted Brussels sprouts with colorful cauliflower, topped by toasted pine nuts and dried cranberries. There was a wine gastrique, which is caramelized sugar deglazed with a vinegar, or in this case white wine. It was as tasty as it was beautiful.
I enjoyed my lunch and headed out to explore the city some more, including the Empire State Building. The light was fading, and I headed back to my hotel. All the while, I kept thinking about that salad and if could I make it at home.
I arrived home on Wednesday afternoon, exhausted from two days of travel but on a culinary mission. I hit the grocery stores and gathered supplies. I couldn’t get the colorful yellow and purple cauliflower I was served at Stella’s, but I substituted broccoli and used the regular white cauliflower.
For my gastrique, I decided to make it easy and reduce aged balsamic vinegar. I happened to have tangerine balsamic vinegar on hand. I would recommend this or perhaps pomegranate vinegar. To reduce, place ½ cup into a small heavy-duty sauce pan and simmer for about 15 minutes until it thickens. Let it cool, and it will thicken a bit more. This is a great drizzle for vegetables.
I’ve always said that I am no chef, meaning that I have not gone to culinary school. However, by picking up new tips here and there, I have been able to cook some amazing dishes and meals. I love sharing these ideas and challenge my friends and readers to do the same. Keeping it simple can keep it sophisticated and tasty.
This week I present a dish that I learned while dining in the Big Apple: Roasted Cauliflower with Toasted Pine Nuts.
ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH TOASTED PINE NUTS
2 cups cauliflower tops
2 cups Brussels sprouts, halved
1 cup broccoli flowerets
2 tablespoons olive oil
Salt and pepper
½ cup aged balsamic vinegar
¼ cup pine nuts
¼ cup cranberries or golden raisins
• Preheat oven to 400º. Place vegetables on foil lined baking sheet and toss with olive oil to coat all sides. Season with salt and pepper. Roast for 15 minutes until vegetables are browned and toasty. Check about half-way through and turn.
• Meanwhile, place pine nuts in small, dry skillet. Heat to medium high and toast until golden brown. Watch carefully, as they will burn quickly.
• Place vinegar in small sauce pan and bring to light simmer. Cook about 10 – 20 minutes until reduced by half. Let stand until vegetables are done.
• To assemble, place vegetables on plate or in serving dish. Top with toasted nuts and raisins. Drizzle vinegar reduction on top and season again with salt and pepper to taste. This dish can be a single serving main course, or a side dish to accompany your favorite entrée.