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October 26, 2009

Sweeter Sweet Potatoes

Sweet potatoes, also known as yams, are a starchy, root vegetable. A medium-size yam is about 100 calories and is rich in fiber and Vitamin A (which acts as an anti-oxidant and improves eye-sight.)

Quite a few years ago, I went to Orlando, FL with my family. There we dined at Emeril’s Restaurant, where I had a meal that I still remember. I started with the shrimp and andouille gumbo, then I had the double cut pork chop with caramelized sweet potatoes and a banana cream pie was for dessert. I can still recall the taste of all three courses – it was an exceptional meal. The item that stood out the most however were the caramelized sweet potatoes, which, had I not known any better, I’d say were pure candy.

I’ve never attempted cooking my own version until tonight. And even though I’m sure my method is more primitive than Emeril’s, I came unexpectedly close in taste.

(Yield: 4 servings)


2 large yams

2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

1 tbsp honey

½ tsp salt

½ tsp pepper

½ tsp garlic powder

½ tsp dried basil

Preheat the oven to 375 F. Line a baking sheet with foil, set aside.

Wash and dry the potatoes, and cut into 1” cubes. In a large bowl, mix together the oil, honey and seasonings. Then toss the potatoes in the mixture and place on the baking sheet in a single layer. Roast 35-40 min, or until tender. Serve right away.

October 22, 2009

"You're the boss, apple sauce" - Veselka

Hello there!

My sister and I had dinner at Veselka tonight. Veselka (Ukrainian for ‘rainbow’) is a Ukrainian café in the East Village. I was drawn to it because of the name, here’s the story – Lily and I often use the term ‘durdom veselka’ (mental asylum Veselka) to describe an out of control situation humorously. Why we use this term? I do not know. It runs in the family for some reason.

Anyway, this 55-year-old café’s menu features breakfast items, soups, salads, sandwiches, burgers and of course, Ukrainian classics – blintzes and pierogies! Blintzes are crepes and can be have sweet or savory fillings. As opposed to the French crepe, however, the Ukrainian blintz is not usually served in a sauce. And pierogi (A.K.A. vareniki) are semi-circle-shaped dumplings, which are fried or boiled and may be filled with anything from potatoes to sauerkraut to sour cherries. They are religiously served with sour cream.

Vareniki are one of my favorite foods. They always remind me of Odessa and my childhood, so they were my choice for dinner:

Veselka lets you mix and match fillings. I chose half spinach and cheese and half sauerkraut and mushrooms. The platter was served with sautéed onions, sour cream and apple sauce. The vareniki were delicious and tasted just like what mama makes. The dough was perfect, not tough, and the fillings were yummy and perfectly seasoned. (I preferred the sauerkraut and mushroom filling.) At first I found it strange to be served apple sauce with my vareniki; I usually never eat apple sauce, can’t stand the texture, but it actually turned out to be quite a lovely pair. The portion size was great as well. I was satisfied : )


144 Second Ave

New York, NY 10003

What dishes remind you of your childhood?

P.S: I might not have that great news after all.