Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Mexican Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup

It's another cold and snowy evening in NYC! As I'm writing this, the fourth(?) snowstorm of January is coming down hard threatening to blanket us in over a foot of snow overnight. Nothing is better on nights like this than a hot, warming bowl of soup to make everything a little sunnier.  I decided to try my hand at making my very first Mexican Chicken & Corn Tortilla Soup to bring a bit of comfort on a chilly winter night. The chicken can be removed and chicken broth replaced with vegetarian broth for a complete vegetarian soup.  Check out Mistress of Spices version too for an interesting vegetarian variation! Enjoy!!

Serves 4

Salt & freshly ground black pepper
1 tbsp canola oil
2 small boneless skinless chicken thighs cut into 1-inch cubes
10 oz grape tomatoes
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 medium onion, diced
2 tsp cumin powder
1 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried oregano
1/2 tsp dried thyme
1/2 tsp coriander seeds
3 cups organic chicken broth
3 oz frozen corn kernels
1 cup yogurt or creme fraiche
1/4 cup cilantro, chopped roughly
Tortilla chips


  1. Heat oil over medium-high heat. Season chicken liberally with salt and pepper and cook chicken in a pot until slightly browned. Approximately 4-5 minutes. Use wooden spoon to stir occasionally. Remove chicken and put in a bowl to the side.
  2. In the same pot, grill tomatoes over medium heat. Add onions and garlic. Cook until there is a slight charring on the tomatoes, but make sure garlic and onions do not burn. Otherwise, it will be better. Grilling the tomatoes brings out the natural sweetness.
  3. Add the cumin, paprika, oregano, thyme, coriander seeds, salt and pepper to the mixture. Stir together.
  4. Add chicken broth and corn and bring it to a boil. Then reduce heat to low and simmer for 10-15 minutes for the flavors to come together.
  5. Take off heat and add yogurt to soup for a slight creaminess. Using an immersion hand-held blender or regular blender, purée the soup until it is smooth or to the texture you like.
  6. Add chicken back into the soup and put pot back on stove on low for an additional 5-10 minutes.
  7. Serve generous helping in a bowl topped with cilantro and tortilla chips. I rarely have tortilla chips on hand so made my own strips using corn tortillas and frying them in canola oil.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Grilled Endives & Potatoes Topped with Fried Egg

While watching one of my favorite celebrity chefs, Giada de Laurentis, on the Cooking Channel over the weekend, I was inspired by a dish her and her husband tried in San Francisco for brunch. It looked utterly delicious, simple and completely different from my usual brunch items, so I thought I would try to interpret it in my own way. 

Serves 2

2 tbsp olive oil
2 red potatoes, medium diced with skin on
1/2 medium-size onion, chopped roughly
3 cloves garlic, minced roughly
1/4 tsp herbes de provence (or whatever herb you have on hand)
2 belgian endives, halved length-wise with end cut off
2 eggs
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
Salt & Pepper


  1. Heat olive oil over medium heat for a few minutes. The pan should be hot before adding potatoes. Add salt and pepper to taste over potatoes.
  2. Cook potatoes for 5 minutes, then add onion, garlic and herbes de provence. Stir occasionally for 2-3 minutes. Do not let the garlic or onion brown otherwise it will be bitter.
  3. Bring heat down to low and cover potatoes to steam and cook through. Let cook for 10-15 minutes until potato is soft, stirring occasionally so the potato does not stick to bottom. During the last few minutes, uncover the potatoes and raise to medium-low to brown potatoes.
  4. While potato cooks, add 1 tbsp of olive oil to another pan and grill endives over medium-low heat. Add a pinch of salt and pepper over the halved endives. Cook on each side for 5 minutes. 
  5. In a small saucepan over medium heat, add the balsamic vinegar and add a pinch of black pepper. Bring to a boil and then lower to heat to low. Cook down for 5 minutes or until the balsamic vinegar is reduced by half and thickened slightly. It should have a consistency similar to honey.
  6. Take endives off the pan and put to the side. In the same pan, crack both eggs and fry over medium heat for 4-5 minutes until egg is no longer translucent and yolk still runny.
  1. On a large plate, place half of potatoes in the center of plate. Top with one fried egg.
  2. Place a halved endive on each side, flat side up.
  3. Drizzle a small amount of reduced balsamic vinegar over egg and endives.
  4. Garnish with the chopped parsley.
  5. Repeat with second plate.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

The Wonderful Land of Oz

Over the years, I've had the opportunity of working and meeting some incredibly talented Aussie fashion designers. They were warm, friendly with a joy for art, life and food that I really understood and was dying to experience first hand. A few weeks ago, I finally had the chance to visit the land of Oz in all of its glory over the Christmas holiday. It only took me about 26 hours with a brief layover in Dubai before I reached Australia and my foodie travels began. 

Australia has a population of only 22 million with a landmass about the size of the US; a little more than 50% of its population can be found in four cities: Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, and Perth.  Unfortunately since I had some time restrictions, I had to limit my trip to visiting its' two cosmopolitan counterparts: Sydney and Melbourne. 

If you speak to foodies from Sydney or Melbourne, each one will tell you that their city has the best food in the country. Like two siblings scrappling for their parents' approval, there is no clear winner.  Each city offers something that is uniquely their own. 

Christmas arrived a day early at Bondi.
Famous for its world-class beaches, cosmopolitan life and the iconic Opera House and Harbour Bridge, Sydney is utterly beautiful with breathtaking views of the water and the bridge throughout various points of the city. It offers a blend of beach life and fine dining at its best.

One of the cuisines that I heard a lot about in various food blogs and magazines is "Mod Oz".  Led by some of Australia's top chefs such as Neil Perry (Rockpool, Spice Temple) and Mark Best (Marque), "Mod Oz" is an amalgamation of flavors from Vietnam, Thailand, Italy, and Greece using the freshest, seasonal food locally grown in Australia. 

While the holiday closure schedules for a significant number of Australian restaurants prevented me from trying the best of Mod Oz while I was in Sydney, we were fortunate enough to change our plans to head out to Bondi Beach on Christmas Eve to try the tasty delights on the menu of Trio Cafe (

The View of Bondi Beach from Trio Cafe
Corn fritters with warm smoky tomato chutney,
bacon, goat's cheese & roquette
Mediterranean Breakfast: Poached eggs with truffle oil on olive sourdough, served with grilled haloumi, crisy pancetta, semi-dried tomatoes, spinach and chorizo

Mango & lime buttermilk pancakes served with strawberries, lemon curd and double-cream.
The few weeks leading up to my trip, I read about the Sydney Fish Market ( which is the largest market in the Southern Hemisphere, second in size only to Tokyo's infamous Tsukiji fish market. Even though I hate early mornings, my love for markets (and oysters!) superceded my need for sleep. So early Christmas Eve, I headed out alone from our hotel on Darling Harbour to check out the scene 10 minutes away at Blackwattle Bay. What I found was a mob of local Ozzies shopping for their Christmas seafood feasts, pushing their way to the front of lines to get the best and freshest fish of the day. Hungry tourists and locals alike abounded inside the market where several fisherman were shucking fresh oysters to eat on the spot, selling freshly baked bread and pastries, and artisan made cheeses from Australia and abroad. This is a definite must visit for any foodie or gourmand!

Local Ozzies fighting for the best prawns to bring home for their Christmas feast.

Local artisan cheeses
Freshly baked pastries including local treats such as Lamingtons (cake dipped into chocolate and rolled in coconut flakes) and slices which come available in a variety of flavors such as the ones seen here.

Some freshly shucked oysters to the delight of my taste buds!
There is nothing better than oysters first thing in the morning before I even have my coffee.
The hustle and bustle of Sydney Fish Market in the early morning.

While Sydney is all dazzling sun and beaches, Melbourne is the understated, but not to be overlooked, younger sibling. Famous for its markets, such as Prahan and Queen Victoria, gastronomical treats can be found on every street and down hidden alleyways.

The first stop for me just a few hours after I landed in Melbourne was Prahran Market (, the oldest continuously running market in Australia, located in South Yarra on the outskirts of the city. It has existed at its current location for over 125 years! While it was a lot smaller than I expected, there were numerous well-curated food stalls offering freshly made pasta, home-made sausages & pestos, seafood, meats, and fresh produce including something I've never seen in the US...fresh turmeric! Note that the market is CLOSED on Mondays and Wednesdays.

It proved too tempting and delicious! So we decided to purchase some fresh raviolis, vegetables and herbs to cook up for our dinner on my first night in Melbourne. 
Roasted pumpkin, garlic, rosemary & sage ravioli in brown-butter
sauce with fried sage leaves
Roasted beetroot, horseradish, and goats cheese ravioli with shelled cranberry beans

After a trip to the Melbourne Boxing Day Test ( for my first taste of cricket, we decided to head out and explore Melbourne some more. Through some miracle of fate, we stumbled upon the one restaurant numerous people had said was a must-go eat destination in Melbourne: MoVida (  

Named one of the country's best Spanish tapas restaurants, MoVida reinvents the familiar tapas menu into something new, innovative and exciting by utilizing both traditional and modern Spanish techniques.  Located down an alleyway filled with incredible works of graffiti art, the food we discovered at the original MoVida was as original as its settings. 
Graffiti artwork down Hosier Lane walking towards the restaurant.

Aged Manchego flan topped with caviar in cracked
eggshell on a bed of sea salt.

Chorizo con Guindillas: Oven Roasted House-made Chorizo with mild pickled green peppers
Cecina: Air dried Wagyu with Poached Egg and Truffle Foam was one of the best dishes I've ever eaten. SUBLIME. 
Ensalada Rusa con Viera: Pan Seared Canadian scallops
with Russian salad of carrots, peas, & piquillo peppers
Towards the end of my trip, I finally headed over to Queen Victoria's Market ( The largest open air market in the Southern Hemisphere, it has been in existence since 1878. This is a massive one-stop shop for both the foodie and tourist looking to buy a few souvenirs to bring home. It's also a great place to stop by for some brekkie (Oz slang for breakfast) and coffee. We picked up some great treats for a picnic in the Royal Botanical Gardens on New Year's Day.

The Ozzies love their hot, gooey donuts filled with jam.
They can be found everywhere!