NYT Sunday Puzzle – April 13, 2014

April 16, 2014

NYT Sunday Puzzle - April 13, 2014

Title: It’s Taxing

Apropos of the April 15th tax deadline, the theme answers are common expressions containing words related to tax filings which give the expressions another meaning in line with the clues.

25A. Agreement for an amount to be taken from one’s salary? = Withholding Consent
33A. What C.P.A.’s wish for their clients? = Many happy returns
49A. C.P.A.’s advice for lowering future-year liabilities? = Roll the credits
67A. Chart used to calculate a married couple’s taxes? = Table for two
81A. I.R. S. update? = Schedule change
93A. Last-minute way to reduces tax for a desperate filer? = Emergency shelter
104A. C.P.A.’s masterstroke = Brilliant deduction

Note: My dad was a C.P.A. :)

Saturday Supper: Grilled Eggplant “Sandwich” and Penne with Leeks and Asparagus

April 14, 2014

Have I mentioned that I love eggplant in any way, shape, or form? We started with what I call a grilled eggplant “sandwich.” Between the eggplant slices were roasted red pepper (from a jar), grilled red onion, and goat cheese.

At Home:  Grilled Eggplant "Sandwich"

Asparagus is another of my favorite vegetables, and they are in season. So, for the main course, I put together penne with leeks and asparagus, the latter cut into small pieces on the diagonal to mimic the quill shape of the pasta. The chopped leeks were sautéed in butter to which I added white wine and heavy cream to make a sauce.

At Home:  Penne

NYT Thursday Puzzle – April 10, 2014

April 10, 2014

NYT Thursday Puzzle - April 10, 2014

The theme’s clue is provided by 59-Across: Popular day trip destination … or a hint to the starts of the answers to the starred clues. Answer: Six Flags. There are six starred clues, and the first word of each is a type of flag.

13A. *Kind of affair = Black tie
19A. *1971 song with the lyric “Helter skelter in a summer swelter” = American Pie
25A. *Creator of Sheriff Deadeye and Cauliflower McPugg = Red Skelton
33A. *Sketchy history = Checkered past
40A. *January events = White sales
48A. *Some illegal transmissions = Pirate radio

I was surprised to see Rex Parker rate this puzzle as Medium to Medium-Challenging since I found it comparatively easy for a Thursday. I did almost end up with three mistakes in the upper right quadrant; however, after giving the finished puzzle another perusing, I made the necessary corrections.

Having never been a big Red Skelton fan, I’m only familiar with his Clem Kadiddlehopper and not the two characters mentioned in the clue but still easily got the answer by filling in a few letters of his last name.

Regarding “American Pie, I’m only familiar with the repeated chorus verse + the repeated line after each verse, “…the day the music died.” Curious about where the line quoted in the clue comes, I went to YouTube. I didn’t remember how long the song — about 8-1/2 minutes. The quoted line comes about halfway through.

There is a Six Flags Great Adventure & Safari in Jackson, NJ, about 40 minutes from our house. We went right after it opened in 1977. Jen was six, and it’s the kind of thing parents do with kids that age. There were, of course, rides. Plus, there was the safari park which visitors drove through in their cars to see the various animals that roamed “free.”

NYT Sunday Puzzle – April 6, 2014

April 8, 2014

NYT Sunday Puzzle - April 6, 2014

Title: At Times

Theme: Familiar two-word noun phrases. The second word ends in ER thereby describing the actions of certain people (one who does x) with reference to the clues and giving the phrases an alternate funny meaning.

23A. Clumsy pharmacist, at times? = Medicine dropper
28A. Dressage rider, at times? = Colt revolver
47A. Old-fashioned barber, at times? = Foam rubber
54A. Inexperienced shucker, at times? = Oyster cracker
65A. No-limit Texas hold’em player, at times? = All better
74A. Farmer, at times? = Chicken tender
84A. Sleeping sunbather, at times? = Back burner
103A. Dieter, at times? = Snack counter

I never look up things while doing the puzzle. I know some puzzlers do, but I feel that’s cheating. When I’m completely at a loss, I often get things right by filling in the surrounding answers. Here are two such answers I looked up after finishing the puzzle:

71A. Dual-sport athlete Sanders. Answer: Deion. NFL Pro Football Hall of Famer and baseball player. Oy! While I don’t follow football, I am a Yankee fan and should have known this since he played for them. However, that was back in the early 1990’s, and I’m not now the avid fan I was when I was younger.

20A. 1986 girl’s name song by Boston. Answer: Amanda. Never heard of this band or the song.  But no problem.  Everything is on YouTube!

Saturday Supper: Grilled Romaine and Tacos with Rice

April 6, 2014

I was originally not going to be cooking last night. We were in the city on Friday and had intended to stay until Sunday. But we changed our minds and came back to NJ yesterday afternoon. So, I needed to put something together for last night’s supper.

At Drew’s Bayshore Bistro, one of our favorite things to order is the Southwestern Caesar Salad. Taking a cue from Drew’s concept, I’ve done various versions of grilled romaine. I brush the romaine with olive oil before grilling. For last night’s meal, it was topped with cheddar cheese, red onion, and Russian dressing.

At Home:  Grilled Romaine

Main course soft tacos were filled with leftover chili, lettuce, tomato, onion, taco sauce, sour cream, and cilantro. The Mexican-style rice contained onion, green and red peppers, tomato, salt, freshly ground pepper, and cilantro.

At Home:  Taco and Rice

Dining Out: January – March 2014

April 2, 2014

Eleven Madison Park

This hideous winter with its myriad snowstorms and incessant Arctic-level temperatures put a serious dent in our dining out activities making this the shortest quarterly list I’ve ever posted.

January
New York City
Dinner:
Turkish Kitchen
Eleven Madison Park (Michael’s Birthday)

Lunch:
Betony

New Jersey
Dinner:
SamVera

Late Supper:
All Seasons II Diner

Breakfast:
All Seasons II Diner

February
New York City
Dinner:
NoMad

New Jersey
Dinner:
Drew’s Bayshore Bistro

Lunch:
Bonefish Grill
Indian Grill
Big Harlee’s BBQ

March
New York City
Dinner:
Café Boulud
The Peacock

Late Supper:
Sarge’s Deli

Lunch:
Eleven Madison Park
Pippali

New Jersey
Dinner:
Sofra Turkish Cuisine

Lunch:
A&L BBQ
Trattoria Tre Coloré

Saturday Supper: Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine and a Review

March 31, 2014

The Review

In our area of New Jersey, we are awash with Italian restaurants. Just about every strip mall has a pizza joint/restaurant. Plus, there are Italian restos housed in free-standing buildings. And they continue to proliferate. Our reaction when we hear of a new Italian spot opening? “Yup! Just what we need! Another Italian!” So, I think you can understand that when there is news of a new restaurant that is NOT Italian, we become excited. Of course, that excitement is always tempered with the knowledge that this new arrival might turn out to be a disappointment with regard to the quality of the food. But hope inevitably springs eternal.

Sofra Turkish Cuisine opened on March 19th. It’s located in the CVS strip mall, at the corner of Ryan Road and Route 79, in Marlboro. It’s actually not the first Turkish restaurant in our area. Back in the early 00’s (before I began taking food photos), there was Mamara, in Manalapan. After a few years, it was sold and became Kuzu. (Here’s a photo set taken at Kuzu in 2010.)  Alas, Kuzu closed and moved down to Howell. We never managed to make it there. Early last year, it closed for good. At Mamara and Kuzu, the décor was quite attractive, seating was comfortable, but most important, the food was well-prepared and delicious.

We usually avoid going to newly-opened restaurants, preferring to allow them time to work out the kinks. However, curiosity about Sofra’s food got the best of us, so we went there for dinner on Thursday evening. I had actually stopped in briefly on the day it opened. I happened to be passing by coming back from Delicious Orchards and on the way to Wegmans, so I decided to have a quick peek inside.  Hmmm… Not bad.  I picked up one of the take-out menus hanging outside near the door and left.

Sofra’s interior is spacious, there is some wall décor, and tables are covered with white cloths. The fluorescent lighting is awful. We were told later by Serdar, one of the owners, that there are plans to replace them with lighting that will be less harsh. They are also still waiting for the formal exterior signage. Right now, there’s a temporary banner.

We received a friendly welcome and permitted to choose our table. Several were occupied. Pretty good considering they’d only been open a week and hadn’t begun to do any advertising.  Still, it meant that word was beginning to trickle out.

Sofra Turkish Cuisine

Serdar proved to be an attentive host. He was interested in hearing our opinions about the food, especially when we told him that our favorite Turkish restaurant is Turkish Kitchen, located just a few blocks from our apartment. Over the years, we’ve had countless meals there – most recently in January – and the food is always excellent. Thus, it’s our “gold standard” for judging Turkish cuisine. As I’ve indicated, Mamara and Kuzu did a fine job of measuring up.

Our experience at Sofra began with a mix-up with regard to beverages. They didn’t have any sparkling water which Michael prefers, so he opted for ice tea. He was brought the Snapple brand, but it was not diet. When he was told there was no diet Snapple, he settled for tap water. Much later during the meal, Michael mentioned the problem with the drinks to Serdar. A few minutes later, a Diet Snapple Ice Tea arrived at our table. Turned out, Serdar had sent someone to a shop in the strip mall to get it. Now, that’s customer service!

While perusing the menu, we were brought a cup of Turkish olives and a basket containing whole wheat pita.

Turkish Olives

Whole Wheat Pita*

We prefer white pita to whole wheat. But what really surprised us was getting Greek pita instead of Turkish pidah, which is quite different. When we commented about this to Serdar, he immediately whisked away the pita and brought out a basket heaped with pidah. Much better! (I neglected to snap a photo.)

We started the meal with three of our favorite mezzes: sigara boregi (fried filo scrolls stuffed with feta cheese), babaganoush (eggplant), and grape leaves stuffed with rice. We also ordered the classic shepherd salad. Our waitress asked us if we wanted it with feta. Although we’ve had salads served with feta only at Greek restaurants, we said, “Sure! Why not?”

Portions turned out to be huge, definitely much larger than they are at Turkish Kitchen. But that’s not too surprising because diners in our area expect huge portions and would feel they were being cheated if portions were small. We practice portion control, so there were plenty of leftovers.

The filo scrolls were a trifle disappointing. Though the feta stuffing was fine, we’re used to the scrolls being more tightly wrapped and fried longer resulting in a more golden brown crust. Also, these were a bit greasy.

Sigara Boregi

A hefty amount of garlic in the babaganoush gave it the kind of zip I like. However, the balance between the eggplant and the tahini was off — too much of the latter — and there was an overdose of oil garnishing the plate.

Babaganoush

The stuffed grape leaves were fine. Frankly, I’m not big on them, but they are one of Michael’s favorites.

Stuffed Grape Leaves

The shepherd salad was tasty. The feta was lavishly sprinkled on top rather than being served in a block as is usual in Greek restaurants. I would like to have seen better quality tomatoes. Yes, I know it’s not tomato season; however, at Turkish Kitchen, they use hot house tomatoes which are actually quite good. I hope when we are in tomato season Sofra will kick this salad up a few notches by using luscious Jersey tomatoes.  One other small quibble.  The use of a rectangular plate instead of  a bowl proved a bit of a problem because as we spooned salad onto our individual plates, some kept falling off the side of the serving plate and onto the tablecloth.

Shepherd Salad

Before deciding about the main course, we asked our waitress how many lamb chops were on that plate. She checked with the kitchen and reported back that there were five. Definitely enough for us to share one order. There was a choice of sides: white rice pilaf, bulgar pilaf, or mixed greens. We opted for the white rice pilaf. Just after we placed our order, Serdar came by. When he heard that we would be sharing the chops, he said he’d add a sixth chop “to make an even number for sharing.”  Not necessary, we told him, but he insisted.

The plate that arrived looked inviting. In addition to the chops, there were sizable portions of both the rice and bulgar pilafs, plus some chopped greens and red onion, a roasted plum tomato half, and a small piece of roasted hot pepper.

Lamb Chops

Unfortunately, when it came to the chops, looks were deceiving. All except one were overcooked, quite burnt on one side, dried out, and tasteless. (Michael got the one decent chop.)  When Serdar made another of his regular stops at our table, this time to ask how the chops were, we were honest. At that point, there were two chops left.  After apologizing profusely, he said he was going to have two chops freshly grilled for us to take home.  Despite our protests, he went right ahead and did it!  First the iced tea followed by the pidah.  Then the extra chop, and now this.  Have I mentioned his impressive customer service?

Overall, while the quality of Sofra’s food was not as high as Turkish Kitchen, Mamara, or Kuzu, it does show promise. And the fact that Serder, as well as the other owners and the staff, couldn’t have been nicer or more accommodating is a huge plus. There are many other dishes on the menu we’re eager to try, so we’ll give Sofra a month or two to settle in and then go again. Since it’s a BYO, next time Michael plans to bring along some wine.

Saturday’s Supper

As I mentioned in my review, there was plenty of leftover mezzes and salad to start this meal.

At Home:  Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine

For the main course, there were the two chops. And I didn’t need to prepare any sides because Serdar had instructed the kitchen to include generous portions of the two pilafs along with a small container of yogurt sauce. What a guy!

At Home:  Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine

To heat up the filo scrolls, I fried them in oil — which made them more golden brown – and degreased them on a paper towel. A decided improvement.

At Home:  Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine

I plated the babaganoush, the stuffed grape leaves (one for me, two for Michael), and the salad together…

At Home:  Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine

…and accompanied them with some warm Toufayan pita.

At Home:  Toufayan Pita Bread

Concerned that one chop apiece might not be sufficient, I made two small lamb patties using a recipe from The Great Book of Couscous, by Copeland Marks. I cooked them on the indoor grill where I also heated up the chops.

At Home:  Leftovers from Sofra Turkish Cuisine

Saturday Supper: Eggplant Rollatini and Meatballs & Spaghetti

March 23, 2014

Earlier this week, I made eggplant rollatini. After serving it as a main course, there were two rolls left. For last night’s supper, one roll each made for the perfect first course.

At Home:  Eggplant Rollatini

I also had a good amount of homemade sauce leftover. So, for the main course, I put together some meatballs and cooked them in the sauce.

At Home:  Meatballs & Spaghetti

NYT Thursday Puzzle – March 20, 2014

March 20, 2014

NYT Thursday Puzzle - March 20, 2014

This was a maddening puzzle for me! So, to say I’m totally shocked that I was able to complete it and do so error-free is an understatement.

It took me quite a while to figure out what the commands in the parentheses were all about, i.e., the trick. And even so, while I got three of the directionals (I’ll explain below why the fourth eluded me), I managed not to hone in on the GET part, and only understood it entirely after I read some of the comments on Rex Parker’s site. Then there were answers that I knew were definitely correct from the get-go (pun intended) but had me totally frustrated when they wouldn’t work for one reason or another.

There are four theme answers:

18-Across: Gripping read [“Get back!”] Immediately, I’m thinking “page turner,” but I couldn’t make the first four letters work with the other answers in that section which I knew for certain were correct. The answer turned out to be a gobbledegook phrase, PATEGURNER, with the word GET included backwards. Frankly, I think “back” is a very poor clue when one is meant to think of a word written “backwards.”

61-Across: 1977 W.W. II film [“Get lost!”] After putting in a few letters, I knew that the correct answer was “A Bridge Too Far.” However, there were too many letters for the available spaces. That had me thinking this puzzle was a rebus, a very popular format on Thursdays. So, I put DGET together in one square. But it wasn’t working out, so I erased it. Eventually, I realized this was another case of gobbledegook. The bracketed clue meant that GET was to be lost, i.e., left out. Ergo, ABRIDOOFAR.

24-Across: Oil Containers [“Get down!]. Answer: STOREAGE TANKS.  Another case of not having enough spaces across for the word “storage.” I eventually realized that I needed to go down the grid and then across: 25D. – = GET/33A. – = TANKS

50-Across: Amherst and Orono, for two [“Get up!”]. Answer: COLLEGE TOWNS.  Another instance where I knew right away that these were college towns, but there were not enough spaces for the answer to fit. This time, going up the grid and across provided enough squares: 43D. – = TEG/43A- = TOWNS.

There were two places on the grid where I made mistakes but corrected them.

20-Across: New York City’s _____ Place. I immediately wrote in TUDOR, but when that wasn’t working, I changed it to ASTOR.

11-Down: Brazzaville inhabitants. After getting a few letters, I wrote in KENYANESE but eventually realized the correct answer was CONGOLESE.

In the category of it helps to know your Shakespeare:

34-Down: First word of “Richard III.” Answer: NOW (“Now is the winter of our discontent.”)

In the category of learning something new every day:

45-Down: Prominent feminist blog. Answer: JEZEBEL. According to Rex Parker via Wiki, it’s owned by Gawker under the tag line, “Celebrity, Sex, Fashion for Women. Without Airbrushing.”

Saturday Supper: Celebrating Purim

March 16, 2014

I normally don’t do a lot of cooking on Saturday; hence the idea of simple Saturday suppers. However, to celebrate Purim, I spent most of yesterday morning and into early afternoon cooking and baking.

I always make hamantaschen. Two types: prune and apricot.

At Home 2014:  Hamantaschen

There are no other foods specific to Purim, so to me, typical Jewish food seems most appropriate.

To begin the meal, I made Chicken Soup with Noodles, Carrots, Parsnips, and Homemade Matzo Balls.

Homemade Chicken Soup

The recipes for the soup and the matzo balls come from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking: Yiddish Recipes Revisited. While the recipe for the soup is quite common (I could probably do it without one), the recipe Arthur provides for the matzo balls (in Yiddish, knaidlach) is from the 2nd Ave. Deli. I’ve made them before, and they are light as the proverbial feather.

I should also mention that Michael has a cold, and since he adores chicken soup, there’s no better cure than “Jewish penicillin.”

Holiptches (stuffed cabbage) is something I make only once a year sometime during the cold weather months. Since I hadn’t yet made them this winter, they were the ideal main dish for this dinner.

Holipches

One of the earliest posts on this blog was “Bobbe Bopsy’s Holiptches.” So, if you want to see how I make them, click here

HAPPY PURIM!

Hamantaschen


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