Girls on Food

Meatless Monday

Take Me, I’m Yours Morgan Street Food Hall & Market in Raleigh, NC

Recently, food halls have been popping up all over the country. When I heard Raleigh was getting not one, but two, my immediate reaction was “great, a glorified mall food court” because really, when was the last time you felt cool eating at the food court, amiright? But there are a couple huge differences at play here, so put your worries aside!

First, food courts are so often chains and standard fare. Morgan Street Food Hall & Market is, for the most part, neither. Rolled ice cream anyone? Poke bowls, empanadas, and ramen were the first things to catch my eye. Cousins Maine Lobster (the only option I would consider a chain) is slightly more accessible here, and with a lot more seating options! The line is still out the door but with a beer in hand and a bustling crowd, a far cry from the hot food truck rodeo lines you’re usually waiting in! Last time I tried that, I was “red as a lobster” by the time I ordered my Connecticut lobster roll!

Raleigh Rolls rolled ice cream, which is a treat for all! (yeah, I shared with the baby!)

When you first walk into Morgan Street Food Hall, you’ll see a bustling crowd and tons of seating options, from picnic tables to couches and arm chairs, and finally, 4 top tables with chairs. There are indoor and outdoor seating options, with a couple bars to frequent as thirst arises. There are 18 dining options, ranging from southern to Mediterranean to Asian; comfort food and hangover food and on to desserts and bubble tea. For our family, this is the perfect place for all of our meals out: we have 2 picky preschoolers who think the margarita pizza at Bella’s Wood Fired Pizza and Tapas is out of this world (and less than $10, thank you!).

For me, I get the “adventurous” foods I can’t talk the whole family into – ramen and poke bowls, while hubby gets to fill up on empanadas, which he loves! We have an Italian au pair living with us this year, and she has enjoyed working her way through the options Morgan Street has at her disposal. Currently, her heart resides in Raleigh.

I’ve now eaten at Morgan Street 3 times. Hubs and I met a group of friends here one night before an Umphrey’s McGee concert downtown. There were a lot of empanadas and some curry plates, a kick ass looking pizza, a whole lot of beer, and my amazing delicious tuna poke bowl, with fresh tuna on their California bowl (from The Bowls), loaded with amazingness and topped with avocado! It was incredible, and I couldn’t wait to go back!

So the next weekend, a girlfriend and I met up there, and she got ramen and I went back to The Bowls for round 2 – this time trying their spicy tuna on the Malibu bowl, which has spicy seaweed salad in it. The biggest difference was that the tuna was chopped up instead of chunks, so I would probably go regular tuna in the future.

We also ventured over to the bar, and I tried the Deep River Brewing Company’s (out of Clayton, NC) pumpkin pie porter, which was oh, so good and also very seasonal! It was delicious after a long afternoon of shopping and enjoying the suddenly cooler temps here in NC! Finally (maybe the first finally), we waited in line at Cocoa Forte Desserts for chocolate dipped cheesecake, which we were saving for when we got home, and then I talked my friend into trying out Raleigh Rolls, the rolled ice cream place! It’s a little bit Coldstone Ceamery (you get to choose 3 flavors that go into your ice cream, and then 3 flavors for the toppings) meets a sushi roll (because in the end, they hand you a bowl with 6 rolls of ice cream). So good news – you can sub flavors – I subbed in coffee flavoring for the graham cracker in my s’mores ice cream, and it was the.best.thing.ever! Little man ate way too much but also thinks I’m the coolest mom ever for sharing my ice cream with him, ha! (Verdict on cheesecake – its on a stick, so go ahead and eat it immediately. I waited a few hours to eat mine, and it fell apart really fast. Pretty sure it was user error though).

So the next day, my hubs was still out of town (he went on Phish tour last weekend), and I needed to provide food for my little ones for the 4th day in a row. So…I started thinking about that pizza, and the fact that cow burger has hot dogs. Surely they could find something to eat…

Here’s the deal – I was nervous to bring a 5 year old and a 3 year old and a 5 month old into such a busy place. But…they loved it! My son is begging to go back, my daughter can’t stop talking about the ice cream, and the baby slept thru the thing. We also found an awesome place for our family photos in 2 weeks. So all in all, a great trip. I will send you all day every day to Bella’s pizza – it was incredible, and the kids ate every bite of that pizza. I loved the portion size of the burgers (I got the classic cheeseburger) and I’d heard great things about it, but I would definitely trust your gut on that place. First, the line took F O R E V E R which I’m not really into, and wouldn’t have waited in it but our au pair and I both wanted a burger so we stuck with it. Second, we waited F O R E V E R for our buzzer to ring. Like it took the entire time the pizza cooked to wait in the line and order. Then the kids ate the whole pizza. And I took them back over to Raleigh rolls and waited for someone to turn melted ice cream into frozen ice cream rolls, and then the buzzer sounded as I was paying for them. So the burgers were delicious, great bun to burger ratio, and overall very satisfying, but with so many faster options, I’m not sure I would wait for it again.

Also, pro tip – if you have a picky child who only eats vanilla ice cream (I know, I know, its super weird but what I’m dealing with right now), there is another small ice cream scoop place in the food hall. Don’t waste your $7 on plain vanilla with a tiny sprinkling of rainbow sprinkles. Spend that money on the whole experience and all the toppings, and get Sir Picky something from the cheaper place!

So final verdict – run, don’t walk, to the Morgan Street Food Hall if you’re in Raleigh. Bring an appetite. Check out the unusual places, especially the bowls, the broth, and curry in a hurry, and take the time to wait in line for Raleigh Rolls! I’m looking forward to heading down there again next weekend after the International Festival to try out some new places!

Belcampo Santa Monica Serves Up One Of The Meatiest Brunches In LA

Since 2015, Belcampo has supplied Santa Monica locals with classic Californian farm-to-table dishes and a local butcher shop. With a recent remodeling, Belcampo is looking fully refreshed and ready to cater to the Westside brunch crowd.

Belcampo Santa Monica
1026 Wilshire Blvd, Santa Monica, CA 90401
https://belcampo.com/restaurant/santamonica/

Belcampo practices Regenerative Farming, meaning their approach is holistic, rejecting pesticides, artificial fertilizers and aims to enhance ecosystem services. All of the meats and eggs served are organic, grass fed, from their farm in Yreka, California, near the Shasta River. They raise their animals on their own farm, operate a USDA-inspected and Animal Welfare Approved processing facility, and sell their meat in their own restaurants and butcher shops.

The colorful bar brings instant feel good vibes when you arrive. There’s an ample selection of cocktails and creative non-alcoholic beverages too.

Looks are very deceiving with their Bloody Mary (I recommend celery infused vodka). As you can see, it’s not that canned tomato juice base, it’s actually a clarified tomato juice, giving it a thinner appearance, but it’s just as flavorful and more refreshing than a traditional BM.

The Santa Monica Egg Cream is their dreamiest, creamiest beverage. Although it’s called an egg cream, there’s actually no eggs, the foam is made with coconut cream for a rich texture. This beverage will make you feel like you’re drinking a Pina Colada and want to get caught in the rain.

The Classic Beef Tartare is a must-order item. Start by dipping grilled bread into the egg yolk custard, then top with minced beef sirloin and greens. If you’re dining solo, I recommend making this your biggest priority.

For those of you with a sweet tooth, the Pancakes, which happen to be gluten-free, will be right up your alley. Topped with a citrus jam, strawberry butter and fresh fruit, these cakes are so fluffy and are perfect to pair with any meatier dish.  

For those of you on the Keto diet, Belcampo has you covered. The Keto Breakfast Bowl packed, with bacon, 2 fried Belcampo farm eggs, kale, avocado, tomato is dressed with pistachio dressing. It’s high fat, low carb but it’s a larger bowl to keep you full.

Other fantastic items include their BLT and their Greek Yogurt. The butcher shop at the front entrance also serves up fresh bone broths for those of you looking for additional protein power.

GOF Interviews: Christy Cunanan of Cheeri Cheeri Ice Cream

I appreciate any good food but food that delivers a kick of nostalgia is extra tasty to me. The preparation of food with an intention to make you feel sentimental takes more than making food that feels familiar. It has to somehow stimulate your sensory memory using all 5 of your senses, transporting you to a specific place in time. These foods often evoke more emotion out of me, because I usually associate the flavors with something very personal to me.

“Ice cream is a medium that takes people back to something special” according to Christy Cunanan, the creator of Cheeri Cheeri, her vegan and Filipino ice cream brand. The mission of Cheeri Cheeri ice cream is to allow its customers to connect back to something precious in their lives, all the while enjoying their ice cream. What inspired her line of ice cream the most? Time spent with her Lolo and Lola (for those not familiar, that’s Grandpa and Grandma).

Born and raised in Pasadena, Christy remembers when the ice cream man would drive around her neighborhood. “What made it so special was the rushed ritual of hearing the ice cream truck and then that challenge of convincing them to give us money to buy the ice cream. After I’d get my hands on a watermelon pop, I’d realize how much Lola and Lolo just wanted to see us happy. So you just remember these times like this and how special they were. You were never eating alone.”

Christy Cunanan in her Pasadena home

These days, this UCLA alumni works a 9-5 at Disney Animation as a Production Coordinator, builds up her ice cream empire and still makes time to have 4 hour Facetime sessions with Lolo and Lola. She started embarking on her ice cream career with her first pop up in April 2017. In the beginning, her brand wasn’t vegan, but in December of 2017, after her family got hit with diabetes and cancer, she decided to take on a plant-based lifestyle. “Since my family was vegan, my product had to be as well. I have to have this ice cream reflect my family. I’d hate for people to miss out just because they’re vegan. It matters enough to have a line of ice cream knowing it’s on the healthiest side.”

Although many people think of dishes like Ube and Ensaymada when they think of Filipino food, Christy insists it’s not hard to go plant-based in this genre. “Sure, I’ve struggled with capturing butter and cheese, common ingredients in Filipino breads but through trial and error, I achieve what my Lolo and Lola say “time is medicine”. I’ve been able to replicate the identity of many traditional Filipino desserts, so we can all enjoy them.”

Buko Pandan

Her top seller is her Buko Pandan ice cream, but looks can be deceiving with this flavor. This classic dessert tends to be identified with it’s bright green gelatinous chunks. But because Christy keeps everything as natural as possible, she doesn’t do dyes. It’s white, but the flavor is still rich with a beautifully creamy texture.

Calamansi Ice Cream (size small)

My favorite flavor is her Calamansi ice cream. It’s refreshing, tart and velvety all in one. This flavor had had stakes for her to capture perfectly. “My Grandpa planted a Calamansi tree in our backyard, so I felt the extra pressure to get it correct. This is one of the most personal flavors to me” Christy told me.

When I asked Christy about the current Filipino food craze; she shared she’s very supportive of the trend but notes “there’s major ube love happening right now and that’s great, but we want you to explore the full spectrum of our food. A strong sense of identity has to be transferred to every bite.”

What customer melts Christy’s heart the most? “Grandparents! I get a kick out of when older Filipino-Americans taste my ice cream and say ‘I know what this is!'”

Get frozen in time! Christy will be scooping her famous Calamansi Cheeri Cheeri ice cream at the Girls on Food Shared Plates dinner coming up, Friday, October 5th at Industrious Century City. get your tickets here.

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

Whole roasting a fish intimidated me for a long time. Clean out the insides? No thanks. It sounded a little too chef-y.  Far beyond my capabilities. Or, so I told myself.

But, a few years back, I was craving a dish my family made for years.  So, I decided if my Nonni can do it, so can I.  Now whole-roasting is one of my absolute favorite ways to prepare multiple types of fish!  Overcoming kitchen fears is the best!

If you are new to whole roasting fish, branzino (also, called Mediterranean sea bass) is a great place to start! It’s small in size and has a wonderful flaky white flesh! Due to prevalence on restaurant menus and increasing popularity, its easy to find at fish markets and specialty grocers year-round – regardless of where you live!

Branzino are native to Mediterranean waters although most of what’s available in North America is farmed off the coast of Greece. Nonetheless, this fish and method of preparation are extremely popular throughout the Mediterranean region – including where my family is from in Sicily! Using a simple salt crust technique to lock in the moisture, we can roast a moist, tender, flaky, and flavorful result every time!  Gorgeous, healthy, flavorful, and roasts to perfection in only 20 minutes; what’s not to love?

Lets get started!  The video shows the step-by-step method, and the full recipe is listed below!

Whole Roasted Sicilian Style Branzino

35 minutes, 2 servings per fish

For the Branzino:

1 – 1.5 lb. whole branzino (per 2 persons)*

½ tsp. kosher salt

½ sliced small lemon

½ small shallot, thinly sliced

2 fresh mint sprigs

kitchen twine

parchment lined baking sheet

For salt crust:

2 large egg whites

~ 1 lb. kosher salt

For serving:

2 tbsp. balsamic reduction**

1 tbsp. + drizzle high quality extra virgin olive oil (about 1 tsp.)

2 tbsp. freshly chopped mint leaves

juice from ½ lemon, divided

zest from ½ lemon

freshly cracked black pepper

½ tsp. plus more for seasoning

pinch of Himalayan pink salt

Roasted Asparagus:

1 small shallot, thinly sliced

½ lb. asparagus spears, ends trimmed

2 garlic cloves, smashed and minced

mint leaves for garnish

*At most seafood markets and specialty grocers, you can request that they gut the fish for you. Just make sure that they leave the tail and head alone! The fish must remain whole to lock in moisture!

**To make balsamic reduction, place ¼ c. balsamic vinegar on stovetop over medium high heat. Bring to a simmer then reduce heat to medium, swirling every minute or so, continue to simmer for 4-5 more minutes until balsamic has reduced by about half (this will yield 2 tbsp.). Immediately transfer to a heatproof bowl and set aside. This can be done up to 2 days ahead if desired. Store in an airtight container if making ahead.

Arrange oven racks in upper and lower thirds of the oven.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Line a large rimmed baking sheet with parchment.

If your fish has not already been gutted: make an incision from the belly side beginning just below the head and continuing to the tail end. Remove all guts and organs. Rinse inside and outside of the fish clean.

Once your fish has been gutted, season the inside of cleaned branzino with salt.  Arrange slices of lemon, sprigs of mint, and thin slices of shallots inside each fish.  Secure by wrapping fish with kitchen twine. (This step can be completed up to 2 hours ahead if wrapped and refrigerated.)

On a separate rimmed baking sheet, place trimmed asparagus, 1 tbsp. olive oil, ½ tsp. kosher salt, minced garlic cloves, and the small sliced shallot. Toss to coat asparagus. Set aside.

To make the paste for the salt crust, use a fork to combine about 1 lb. of salt with enough egg white to form a paste in a bowl.  For me, this was 2 large egg whites.  Spread a thin layer of the salt paste on the parchment paper lining the prepared baking sheet. You only need to cover the surface area where the fish will lay. This should use about 1/2 of the salt paste. Then place fish on top of salt paste layer and arrange remaining salt paste over the top of the fish in a thin layer. You want to cover the entire surface area of fish because the paste forms the crust that locks in both flavor and moisture.

Transfer both baking sheets to the oven and roast for about 20 minutes.  Roast fish on top rack and asparagus on bottom rack. After 20 minutes, remove fish from oven! Give asparagus a turn and roast 5 minutes longer.

Allow fish to rest for 4-5 minutes before removing the salt crust.  Use your hands and dull knife to peel away the salt crust.  It should come off very easily and often in large sections.  Discard salt crust.

Remove asparagus form the oven.

Remove the twine and try to remove as many additional bits of the salt crust as possible from the fish. Work carefully so that the fish doesn’t completely fall apart.

Transfer branzino onto the baking sheet with the asparagus. Working with one side at a time, make an incision down the spine of the fish and near the fish’s tail, so that the skin can easily be peeled and rolled away from the meat. Roll the skin away until you reach the fin/gill region. The fish’s skin worked hard to lock in the fish’s moisture and flavor in the oven. The combination of the steamed flesh and the skin’s contact with the salt paste will make it very easily peel off of the fish’s tender flaky tasty flesh. Carefully flip the fish over and repeat this step on the other side.

On a 1 – 1.5 lb. fish, the meat from one side of the fish is about one serving.

Add a squeeze of lemon juice, drizzle of olive oil, pinch of kosher salt and Himalayan pink salt, chopped mint leaves, lemon zest, and freshly cracked black pepper. Serve with roasted asparagus and crispy shallots. Garnish with slice of lemon and a few mint leaves.

Enjoy!

XO,

Maria


Don’t forget to share your recipe photos on Instagram by tagging @girlsonfoodblog and @almostproperly. We love seeing what you make!

 

Meatless Monday at El Amerikano in Fullerton, CA

Being a non-meat eater I’m a huge fan of “Meatless Monday” becoming a thing. Mainly because I feel its raising awareness about the awesome dishes possible without having a formerly living creature in the recipe (tehehehehe). On a given Monday it’s always super exciting to see all the different recipes and dishes being showcased in the interwebs! Jackfruit tacos, DIY chickpea veggie patties, tofu nuggets – oh my! Little by little the rest of the world is being exposed to the lavish lifestyle non meat eating tastebuds are subjected to. 

Usually others will ask “OMG how can you live without meat? It’s so delicious blah blah blah.” The answer is now becoming clearer to them. I’ll be showcasing some of my fave dishes from a local gem of mine you can make your new Meatless Monday go to’s. 

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Healthy Cioppino with Jammy Roasted Tomatoes

Up in the Pacific Northwest, we are officially entering the gray monotony of wet, cold, and miserable weather until spring. Which means its time for foods that warm me up! This usually puts what I am craving and what I should eat at a crossroads.

Carb-y creamy things may be delicious, but what about all those veggies I should be eating? Is anyone else feeling big time comfort food cravings as soon as the weather turns??

Instead of choosing between comfort food and health, I’m combining them with this cioppino! Its packed full of veggies, fish, fresh herbs, the most luscious broth, and an amazing secret flavor bomb ingredient: slow roasted cherry tomatoes! They are jammy and umami rich in the best possible way! They add incredible complexity and richness to the soup!

It’s the perfect light – yet filling – way to warm up on these cold wet days!!

Now, to the recipe!

Note: The soup is dairy free and gluten-free. The olive oil crostini is optional for serving!

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Grilled Zucchini Nachos with Work Sharp Culinary

I recently had the opportunity to test out a new line of knife sharpeners from Work Sharp Culinary. In case you missed my previous post on how to create the perfect cheese board, I utilized the Work Sharp M3 manual knife sharpening system.

Work sharp E5 sharpener

Work Sharp Culinary has also released an electric sharpening system that is easy to use, and creates professional results. Work Sharp Culinary provided me with a knife sharpening system to try out and review for our Girls on Food Readers! Although this post is sponsored, all opinions are my own.

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Can a Plant-Based Dinner at Jean-Georges Vongerichten’s abcV Satisfy?

I came into my dinner at abcV a bit hesitant. Eating a complete meal (in ABC, a home decor shop) with just veggies? Especially when my favorite meal is dinner? I didn’t know just how impressive a vegetarian meal could possibly be. Restaurateur and Chef Jean-George Vongerichten is the genius that teamed up with ABC Carpet CEO and Creative Director Paulette Cole to change your outlook on what a dinner focused on the vegetables can look like. With the right pairing of flavors, experimenting with spices or roasting vegetables in butter, the team at abcV knows exactly how to make you forget about meat. You will be too preoccupied with the creamy green chickpea hummus and raving about how the roasted beets are the best ones you’ve ever had to even miss chicken or beef. abcV is a place meant for sharing plates so definitely bring a friend or two. I also suggest that you take a chance and forgo the cocktails for one of the juices or tonic drinks both of which are refreshing and pair excellently with dinner. No matter which way you decide to conquer this vegetarian menu, you will leave feeling full, satisfied and so excited to come back to try the rest of the menu. 

ABCV
38 E 19TH ST, NEW YORK, NY 10003
WEBSITE 

Green chickpea hummus, Thai basil, fresh pita or crudité

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Slidebar in Fullerton, CA: Gringo Bandito Hot Sauce And A Cali Bandito Taco Make The Night Complete

In the north end of Orange County lies the beautiful city of Fullerton. While this opinion may be slightly skewed since I’ve lived here for more than half my life, Fullerton really is pretty. This time of year the Jacarandas are in full bloom so Downtown Fullerton looks extra gorgeous with all the purple trees against the old historic buildings. Slidebar is one of those buildings and is filled with musical history from OC. Memorabilia from tons of huge rock bands pepper the walls and give the place a cool vibe.

Slidebar 
122 E Commonwealth Ave, Fullerton, CA 92832
 http://www.slidebarfullerton.com/

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Isabel’s Pretty in Pink Hummus With Roasted Beets

Beets are the root vegetable that are truly amazing to me. The colors are amazing and they are so versatile! Pickled, as a salad with goat cheese, roasted on their own… I just love them.
This roasted beet hummus takes hummus to a new level of awesome. The subtle beet flavor makes regular hummus not so regular and just look at that color! I also roast the garlic. This gives garlic flavor without having the harshness of raw garlic. Beet hummus is great on toast, as a dip with pea snacks or pretzels, on salad…really you could eat it with a spoon. After the roasting, it takes no time to whip up in your food processor. If you don’t have a food processor, get one. It’ll change your foodie life.
Ingredients
1 medium beet
4 large cloves of garlic
1 can chickpeas (drained)
1 1/2 lemon juice (fresh squeezed)
2 TBSP tahini
Optionals
Sea salt to taste
Pepper to taste
Garlic powder to taste
Cayenne pepper to taste
Olive oil
Directions
Preheat oven to 400F.
Toss beets in a little olive oil and season with a pinch of sea salt.
Roast beets and garlic (leave skin on garlic) for about 15 minutes or until beets are soft.
Add roasted beets and garlic (skin removed) to food processor with chickpeas, tahini, lemon juice, spices and a few drizzles of olive oil.
As the processor works it’s mixing magic add more olive oil until it forms into the consistency you like.
Taste and add more seasoning as needed. That’s it! Enjoy!
Tip- To make smoother hummus put chickpeas in a medium bowl and fill up to where chickpeas are covered with about an inch of water. With fingers, mix around/roll and squeeze gently to remove skins from the chickpeas. Don’t squeeze hard enough to break the chickpeas, but just enough where the skin will slide off. You’ll quickly get the hang of it once you do a few. I get really OCD with this but don’t worry about getting every single one off! Voila! Smooth hummus!
For more healthy recipes visit my site or follow @izzycooksinsta!

Viva Las Veggies: VegeNation in Las Vegas

VegeNation Las Vegas

The East Fremont section of Downtown Las Vegas is a special place. Business owners have worked hard to nurture an environment that makes tourists feel welcome, while giving locals a much-needed sense of community. Chef Donald Lemperle’s VegeNation is one of my favorite places in town, and he’s serving up plant-based global flavors, that are both beautiful and delicious.

VegeNation
616 Carson Ave #120, Las Vegas, NV 89101
https://vegenationlv.com/

Many products on the menu are sourced locally, like the cashew cream-based Virgin Cheese, and French Press service from Frankly Good Coffee. You won’t want to miss their fresh “juicetails” – their Sangria is perfect for brunch.

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Zingy Spring Salad: Easy, Quick and One of Summer’s Faves!

You ever have those moments when you are starving, want something quick and you really want it to be healthy? That is me. all.the.time. I know you know what I’m talking about.

Enter this refreshing, zingy salad. I honestly eat this more times than I like to admit. I usually always have the ingredients on hand, it takes like 5 minutes to make, it keeps me full and its even boyfriend approved. So with out further ado…

 

Zingy Spring Salad

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