Thursday, February 7, 2013

Bits & Morsels

The gang at Chez Sardine.
by Erin Frankel

While we all enjoy the experience of dining out,
nothing is more satisfying than preparing a hearty dish at home, especially in these colder months where even a short walk to your neighborhood fixture can be a chore. This week, I was fortunate enough to cook a meal with the health advice of Jessica Katz, a registered dietitian and a candidate for a master of science in clinical nutrition.

Jessica Katz in the kitchen.
The lentils, diced carrots, and chopped red onion.
Stirring the fresh garlic, turmeric, and cumin in pot
The finished product.
Together, we made her brother-in-law Andrew's signature Red Hot Lentil Soup. Originally adapted by his father, the soup is healthy and delicious (and satiating) especially on a frigid evening. A dish like this is great for what Jessica, our go-to nutritional girl, calls, "inadvertent portion control – crucial for weight loss and weight maintenance. Even just a small bowl of this soup is hearty and filling that it inevitably cuts down on how much you eat – without you even realizing it! It is tasty, warm to the bone, full of fiber, and totally satisfying, so it mindlessly reduces the size of your dinner."

One-pot dinners are simple, so opt for staying in and inviting friends for dinner. Together, you can whip up a pot of this soup! Get one friend to bring a salad, another to bring a side of steamed spinach, and another a whole-wheat baguette that you can toast in the oven to serve with the soup.

Here's Andrew's special Red Hot Lentil Soup along with Jessica's remarks on the health benefits of each ingredient!


3 tbsp olive or canola oil
1.5 cup chopped red onion
0.5 cup diced carrots

4-5 cloves fresh garlic
1 tbsp turmeric
2 tsp ground cumin
0.5 stalk celery
1 tbsp fresh thyme
1 lb red lentils
10 cups (low-sodium) vegetable stock
Red chili pepper flakes

In a large saucepan, heat the oil. Add the onion, carrot, garlic, turmeric, and cumin. Sauté over medium/high heat until the onions are glassy (about 5 minutes). Add the celery and thyme. Stir in the lentils and the vegetable stock. Season lightly with salt and pepper, and sprinkle some red chili pepper flakes (keep shaking if you like it hot!) and bring to a boil.

Reduce the heat and simmer for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the lentils are tender. Skim as necessary.

Lentils come in a variety of colors: red, yellow, orange, green, black, brown. Brown and green lentils are most commonly seen in the U.S. This recipe originally called for yellow lentils, but Andy typically uses red, which are easier to find and quick to cook – but the soup still looks golden!

The soup can be stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator for up to 2-3 days (just make sure to re-heat it to at least 165 degrees for 15 seconds) – or freeze individual portions of the soup (last 2-3 months) for future weeknight dinners. After cooking, promptly refrigerate soup to store safely (large volumes will chill faster in small, shallow containers).
• Great source of soluble fiber (fiber helps to lower cholesterol and stabilize blood sugar levels).
• Plant-based source of protein.
• Source of folic acid – especially important for females of child-bearing age; folic acid also decreases homocysteine levels, potentially decreasing your risk of heart disease (together with the cholesterol-lowering effects of fiber).
• Source of non-heme (plant-based) iron. Vitamin C enhances your body's absorption of non-heme iron, so toss some crunchy raw red pepper slices into your soup.
• Contain phytochemicals called tannins (act as antioxidants, thought to have anti-cancer effects).

Red onion.
• Provide fiber, vitamins and minerals
• Good source of flavonoids (antioxidants) such as quercetin that may help protect against cancer.
• Contain phytochemicals (organosulfur compounds – found in garlic and onions; and flavonoids such as quercetin) believed to potentially inhibit cancer development.

• Source of beta-carotene, a precursor of vitamin A/antioxidant Phytochemicals called carotenoids (beta-carotene) – antioxidant role may possibly help protect against cancer, heart disease, aging, age-related eye disease.
• Contain phytochemicals (organosulfur compounds – found in garlic and onions) believed to potentially inhibit cancer development.

• Contains phytochemical called curcumin, thought to have antioxidant, anti-cancer activity.
Anti-inflammatory properties – inflammation linked to chronic diseases such as heart disease, colon cancer, Alzheimer's disease; because of its anti-inflammatory effects, researchers are investigating curcumin for the potential prevention and treatment of Alzheimer's disease, as well as potential treatment for CF.
• Believed to have other benefits such as: enhancing immune function, improving digestion and reducing cholesterol and risk of heart attack.

Hot chili pepper flakes:
• Contain a phytochemical called capsaicin, thought to potentially decrease the risk of blood clots and which may aid weight loss efforts by suppressing appetite and increasing metabolism.
• Good source of antioxidants, such as vitamins A and C.

Note: lentils are high in oxalate, so if you are prone to oxalate-containing kidney stones, you may want to avoid eating too many lentils.
Restaurants taking risks, chefs pushing boundaries in 2013.

Marinated daikon with bonita flakes.
Chopped scallop with quail egg; Spicy tuna hand rolls.
Sushi rice balls.
Breakfast pancakes.
Gabe Stulman is a luminary in the world of more than a few quaint West Village restaurants often known as "Little Wisco." He draws his inspiration from familiar, rustic comforts you would find at home, yet, It's hard to predict what turns him on.

One of his restaurants is German-influenced, another is Frenchy with a speakeasy vibe, another is more Americanized, and yet another is Italian-inspired.

Now, with the opening of Chez Sardine, Stulman has employed equally eccentric chef Mehdi Brunet-Benkritly (of Fedora) to open his first modern Izakaya.

The chef brings his traditional French tavern food background from Fedora and turns traditional Japanese staples upside down at Chez Sardine, ultimately giving each plate a ubiquitous medley of textures and ingredients. Brunet-Benkritly clearly disregards the traditional Japanese foundation in simplicity and purity relying instead on everything audacious.

The chef welcomes every table with a small bowl of marinated daikon with bonito flakes. The rest is a consistent production of meager portions, albeit elegantly displayed and richly flavored, begging you to order more. The stunning, adventurous creations run the gamut from the one piece of chopped scallop with quail egg and trout roe to the paralyzing tasty sushi rice balls, perfectly breaded and fried, a continuously changing choice of raw fish with avocado, spicy mayo, and tobiko to arguably the most interesting concoction on the menu, the breakfast pancakes — an absolutely beautiful little display of fluffy pancakes layered with raw fish and roe in a vertical stack.

The menu is misleading at first sight. The fish is priced per piece, so these delicately snug portions can put a dent in your wallet. With only 30 seats in the house, the small space emphasizes the type of experience Stulman aspires to create. There is definitely a visual connection between the food and the dining room. It is clear Stulman has a penchant for big ideas in small spaces.

Chez Sardine
183 West 10th Street
Richard Sandoval has a cornucopia of projects to keep him busy. Having 21 large Latin-inspired restaurants on his roster and a grandma who taught him to value the art of sharing large, boisterous meals in his Mexico City home, it's no surprise the nationally renowned chef has succeeded again with Raymi, his newest Latino project in the Flatiron.

Clockwise from above: Spiced pear cocktail; Raspberry Pisco Sour; coconut Pisco Sour.
Tuna ceviche.
Arroz con mariscos.
Crispy pig tails.
Lomo saltado.
Like the rest of his restaurants, Richard Sandoval draws his inspiration from conjoining his Mexican grandmother's family-style dinners with a broad range of global influences with au courant, stylish, modern Latin cuisine. Raymi marks Sandoval's brief departure from his traditional Mexican sensibilities to modern Peruvian cuisine.

First things first: Start with the restaurant's vast collection of the country's traditional Pisco Sour.

For those as unfamiliar with this liquor staple as I was, Pisco is a grape brandy engendered in the winemaking regions of Peru. Pisco alone has a bit of a biting taste, which is precisely why Peruvians have invented the Pisco Sour cocktail, a combination of the base liquor with lime juice, syrup, egg white and angostura bitters.

Naturally, Raymi spices up the traditional by offering a wide selection of Pisco Sour varieties, each with a unique sweetener to diversify the flavor. Choices range from purple corn to green tea to raspberry to thyme to even coconut, which was my favorite. Raymi also offers more signature Pisco cocktails like the spiced pear cocktail with notes of cinnamon.

These tropically-influenced cocktails lead to exciting developments in the kitchen. Sandoval has transformed traditional Peruvian cuisine with Chinese, Japanese, and Spanish culinary techniques and ingredients that today epitomize the country's dynamic fare.

Order the Chifles, a traditional and delicious medley of plantain chips with smoked hauncaina sauce and the lighter yet equally tasty appetizer of grilled octopus and calamari, which sits on top of a mortar potato and under a radish criolla salad, dressed in a slightly hot aji panca sauce.

You might also choose a delicate and refreshing ceviche like Raymi's Tuna Nikkei with fresh avocado, daikon, nori, and cucumber in a white soy yuzu.

And, for a wonderful celebration of the country's traditional embodiment of all things meat, try Raymi's newest starter, the crispy pig tails, which are cured for an hour in salt and then flavored with an assortment of ingredients including bay leaf, shallot, thyme, garlic and black peppercorn.

The entrees present an array of hearty belly-filling dishes. Sandoval keeps things fairly traditional in Raymi's arroz con mariscos, a Peruvian seafood specialty filled with grilled octopus, scallops, mussels and shrimp over an addictive jasmine rice with the country's signature aji panca sauce, which adds just the right amount of spice.

And, there's plenty of heart-warming choices for carnivores, like the ever-popular Lomo Saltado, a tender slab of hanger steak dressed with soy sauce over jasmine rice and topped with crispy fries.

It is safe to say that Sandoval has captured the diversity of the Peruvian experience at Raymi.


43 West 24th Street
Tel. 212.929.1200