Mid-Autumn Festival, 中秋節

Greetings, blog readers and happy mid-autumn to all. The mid-autumn festival is a holiday in China/Hong Kong that celebrates the harvest of the fall crops and the time when the red moon is the brightest of the year. Of course, here in Northeast, it coincides with the very beginnings of the beautiful changing colors of leaves.

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Summer Carrot Soup

The Northeast has seen an incredibly hot summer this year. For us, we’ve had ample opportunity to grill out and smoke meats on a trusty new smoker (posts upcoming!). But for all the hot eats we’ve cooked up, cool and refreshing side items are a must. And this chilled carrot soup recipe really fits the bill. While carrot soup doesn’t sound incredible interesting, I decided to put in some unique ingredients to spruce it up. Cardamom, ginger, and cumin really complimented the natural sweetness of the carrots in the soup, and a few additions (tapioca, basil oil, and fresh cream) really dressed this up for a dinner-party opening course. We think it makes for a great start to a nice meal!

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Ciao – Ithaca NY

2 Hickory Hollow Lane
Ithaca NY 14850

Italian restaurants sometimes seem like a dime a dozen, especially in a town like Ithaca. However, a good Italian restaurant with exceptional prices in Ithaca is a true gem. In comparison to a lot of other cuisines, going out for Italian food has never “knocked our socks off” – in terms of complexity of flavors, we’re usually able to make it best at home! With that mentality, we didn’t have high expectations about Ciao, but we decided to try it.

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Takeout Pick: Sticky Rice

Sticky Rice
401 E State St
Ithaca NY 14850

Ithaca is a college town, and as such it’s loaded with delivery and takeout options. But to be honest, after 5 years here, those options might tend to seem stale. Sticky Rice is a hidden gem among them. While they sell Thai food, they mainly serve Laotian cuisine, which is unique and delicious (and sets them apart from local competitors like Tamarind and Taste of Thai). From grilled duck curry (Gaeng Phed Ped Yarng) to beef stir fry in roasted chili paste, we’ve never been disappointed in their food. Always well cooked, properly seasoned, and if you like it spicy they do it better than any other place in town (be warned their hottest is seriously spicy – attested to by Siddharth, resident spicy food aficionado). At around $10 per dish, we recommend picking 3-4 for 2 people and sharing so that you can have a wonderful family-style meal!


Berry Ice Cream Sandwiches

Summer on east coast is hot, hot, hot and a great way to keep cool is with some homemade ice cream. This past weekend, we chose to celebrate the summer heat with some fresh blueberries and strawberries. And a great way to compliment your homemade ice cream? By sandwiching them between two shortbread cookies! This was our first time making ice cream sandwiches and they are a cinch to make if you have some patience (or just a weekend) but we promise, they are worth the wait. Make a few to serve at your next summer BBQ!

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Spanish-style Calamari

When I was young, finding calamari on a restaurant menu was a bit or a rarity (growing up in small town OH). Having moved to the Northeast during college, however, I have become accustomed to fried calamari being a commonplace item at many eateries. Tricia and I are both big fans of battered and deep-fried squid. Still, alternative preparations of calamari are less common at restaurants, and many people remain hesitant to cook squid themselves at home. I put together this recipe after finding frozen calamari at a local grocery store – it came out really well, and I wanted to share how simple it was to put together. The flavors are influenced by Spanish cuisine, and this is an excellent dish for a tapas-style menu.

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One Pot Summer Mac & Cheese

Mac & cheese is honestly one of my top 5 favorite things of all time. My favorite version involves pancetta and lots of extra sharp cheddar cheese. But come summer, that version is a bit heavy for my tastes. So to brighten it up in the spirit of the tremendous heat wave we’re having up here in Ithaca, I’ve made a few changes. It’s still creamy and rich, but my summer version has fresh picked peas to add color and sweetness, a squeeze of lemon for extra zing, and goat cheese for its exceptionally smooth tanginess. These flavors are all complemented by pork that has been spiced with toasted fennel, cumin, and coriander. As an added bonus, this summery mac & cheese is a “one-pot” meal!

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Spicy Recipe Pick: Sweet & Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken

Sometimes I run into a recipe that catches me off guard by how different it is but how good it sounds. This was my reaction when I recently say Andrew Zimmern’s recipe for “Sweet & Sour Bangkok-Style Chicken.” With plenty of Thai chilies and KETCHUP, it sounded unique but absolutely delicious. And it was. I made a few minor tweaks, mainly because I couldn’t find lemongrass (I used a combination of lemon zest, ginger, and scallions). While my reproduction wasn’t exact, the essence of Zimmern’s recipe came through, and it was excellent. Although I used a few extra chilies to satisfy my spicy tastes, this recipes packs quite a bit of heat from the outset. The fact that I was able to use fresh peas that I had picked up at BB farms earlier in the weekend mad the dish that much better. Tricia and I enjoyed this dish over jasmine rice with some dry stir fried snap peas (also from BB) on the side. The recipe is here, and I definitely recommend trying it out!

Baked Corn Pudding

Who doesn’t love sweet corn? In addition to the traditional corn on the cob, corn can be incorporated into a lot of dishes, even desserts. Here, we made corn pudding – kind of a cross between cornbread and bread pudding. We call this a baked corn pudding because the texture is fluffy and cake-like on the one hand, but it is also gooey and thick like pudding. This unique texture is what makes this item (you could even eat it as a side dish for your next Thanksgiving!) so good and will keep you asking for seconds. Did I mention that the recipe is quite simple and there’s no way you can screw it up?

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Dessert Pick: Lemon Bars

Citrus flavored dessert are very versatile for guests. They are sweet and sour, tangy and tart at the same time. Sometimes I wished I lived in California or Florida and had my own lemon or orange tree! Today, I picked Martha Stewart’s recipe for lemons bars to try. These are absolutely delicious and refreshing and ridiculously simple to make with just a hand mixer! Make these to share for your next dinner party. The beautiful lemon color makes for a great photo and summertime dessert centerpiece.