With the never-ending winter we've been having here, I've been yearning for a little warm weather fun so last weekend Michael and I headed down to Cartagena, Colombia for just that.
When we were trying to figure out where to go, we were surprised to find that Jet Blue now has direct flights to Cartagena from NYC. Michael is Colombian and this was our first trip there together, and my first time to Colombia, so when we figured out that we could easily get there, there was no question. Yes. Take me there.
The old town in Cartagena is one of the most colorful and vibrant cities I have ever experienced. Being surrounded by bright beautiful colors and humidity makes me happy. We had such a great time wandering the streets, eating, drinking out of coconuts and taking tons of photos. I loved being there with Michael, hearing him reminisce about certain foods that he would eat when he lived there and experiences he had as a kid.
Since Cartagena is located on the Caribbean sea, there is no lack of fresh fish and light, tropical meals. Ceviche is big there, and we made sure we tried our fair share. So fresh, so good.
While we were eating and trying all kinds of seafood ceviche, I thought to myself, why haven't I seen a vegetable ceviche on any menu? You know what happened next.
When we got home the first thing I made was a vegetable ceviche with radishes, apples, and a lot of other tasty ingredients like avocado, red onion and lemon juice that make a typical seafood ceviche taste so good. The zesty radish flavor pairs so well with the sweetness of the apple. It's such a fun and colorful snack or appetizer. The only thing that was missing was the 80º weather.
I've been getting asked a lot recently how I come up with new recipes and where I get ideas from. Well, first things first, I think about food. A lot. Constantly. Probably more than the average person (but probably not much more than you, if you're taking the time to read this blog about food). Constantly thinking about food is a necessary starting point, but there are many outside influences, some obvious and others not so much.
I eat out a decent amount. It's hard not to living in NYC. I love to eat out just as much as I love to cook. It might be my biggest source of inspiration, and it's nice to have someone else do the cooking (and the dishes). Every new restaurant experience from the most casual to the most fancy has a way of getting the ideas flowing.
Even just wandering around the streets, walking by a restaurant and checking out their menu in the window will get me inspired. This city loves food, and sure does it well. I'm constantly being bombarded with awesome ideas.
It also helps that most of the people I know love food and love to talk about food, and if they have a good idea or a recipe or a restaurant to try they are always willing and excited to share it with me. These conversations are my favorite sources of inspiration.
Last week we had dinner with friends at the Fat Raddish in the lower east side (yum). I got a lot of inspiration that night, not only from the food from that restaurant but also from our friends. They're very into food, Andy is by far the most talented home cook I know, but they work late hours so home cooked meals on the week nights usually consist of something that can easily be throw together. Julie told me that she made stuffed baked sweet potatoes the other night, and it sounded so awesome ... I warned her I might be stealing her idea.
I couldn't stop thinking about baked potatoes. I love how easy it is to just throw one in the oven, but also how you can load it with all sort of healthy and delicious toppings. It quickly becomes an easy, tasty, complete meal.
I'm sure you've heard the expression "eat the rainbow", and that's easy to do when you're starting with a bright orange potato. Greens were of course my next color of choice to add. You can use any green you like, but I really like the taste of mustard greens. They're hearty and have a bit of an edge to them. White beans round out the protein and add another element of color. Lastly, I wanted an awesome sauce to finish this off, and cilantro has a way of balancing everything out.
I'll be making this many of the nights that I am not eating out. Thanks for the inspiration Julie.
Our waitress insisted that we order a side of brussels sprouts with the tacos. I am never one to turn down brussles sprouts. The brussles sprouts were awesome.
When I was eating the tacos, I wished that the brussels sprouts were in the tacos. So the next day I made myself some brussles sprout tacos. Brussels sprout tacos are AWESOME.
I thought about starting this post with" I love chili" ... then I realized that I start almost every post with "I love .....".
I guess I just can't help myself, I love food.
Okay, but seriously, I do really love chili. Especially when it gets cold. First frost on the grass cold. First log on the fireplace cold. First time you whip out the puffy jacket to walk the dog cold.
There is something so warming and comforting about the beans and the spice. It makes you feel gooood. It's one of the most satisfying meals you can make in one pot (I'm pretty sure I say that a lot too).
I've been working on a few chili recipes recently, not just because I love chili, but because I am teaching a class on vegetarian chili next Monday at my new favorite place: Haven's Kitchen, in NYC.
It's the first class I am teaching there, so I want to be sure my recipes are super stellar. In addition to a more traditional chili, I also wanted to include a chili recipe that was a little less traditional. Something different. I am thinking this one might do.
If you live in NYC or will be in the area, check out my class and all of the other classes at Haven's Kitchen. I'd love to see you there!