Kale, Sweet Potato and Sausage Soup

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When I made this kale, sweet potato and sausage soup (about a week ago!) it wasn’t quite yet soup weather. Sure, the mornings were cool, but the afternoons were sunny and warm — the kind of weather that is a total pain in the butt to dress for.

Since then, the calendar has turned to October, Hurricane Joaquin blew in sub-60 temperatures, long boots and scarves have made an appearance and there is no doubt that it is time for soup. This recipe comes courtesy of my sister Medha and her boyfriend Torrey, who made it last year and have been raving about it since. “It’s so easy!” they told me. “We make it all the time!”

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Well, I’ll give them easy, but there’s a fair amount of prep work that goes into the soup-making process. I bought a HUGE bunch of kale from Fresh Direct, and removing the kale leaves and rinsing them took forever. Thankfully it is also football season, so I had something to watch while doing this semi-tedious task. (And seriously, that is the hardest part of this recipe, and could easily be avoided by buying those pre-rinsed bags of kale.)

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The work is worth it though, since the soup is pretty freakin’ delicious. The kale gives the soup a nice “health halo,” but there’s enough chorizo to keep it from being too virtuous. The chorizo’s spicy kick balances the sweet potatoes nicely, and the soup is hearty without being heavy. It’s fall fare at its finest, and actually has me bringing lunch to work again! Continue reading

Master Cleanse Chicken

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As one does while traipsing around Italy, I ate A LOT on vacation. I basically OD’ed on pizza and pasta and *gasp!* even wine, and on the plane ride home, seriously contemplated doing another full-on detox. But you know, there’s all those rules … and it is football (and football food!) season … and suddenly “detox” seemed a bit too extreme. I mean, we did a walk a lot in Rome and Florence, and some of our pizzas had vegetables on them. (I could convince myself out of anything.)

While perusing detox plans and recipes, I of course came across the ubiquitous Master Cleanse, an extremely weird, semi-spartan, Beyonce-approved detox in which humans attempt to subsist solely on a tonic of maple syrup, lemon juice, cayenne pepper and water for two weeks. It is completely crazy pants, and I would quickly end up in a hangry rage spiral if I attempted it.

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But also popping up in my Google searches: this Master Cleanse chicken, which uses that maple syrup-cayenne pepper-lemon juice combination as a marinade for roast chicken. DING DING DING DING. I landed on Friday afternoon, had my chicken air-chilling in the fridge by Saturday morning, and roasted this bad boy while watching sweet, sweet football on Sunday afternoon. I told myself that the intoxicating aromas emanating from the oven were totally detoxifying, and you know what? I feel great! I’m eating spicy-sweet crisp-skinned chicken, full of antioxidants or polyphenols or whatever is supposed to be magical about this Master Cleanse.

Ishita 1, Detox 0. Continue reading

Recommendations from Florence

Because Debleena and I were both pretty familiar with Florence, we didn’t do a ton of sight-seeing during our three days here (or any at all, to be honest). Mostly, we walked around, sat in piazzas drinking wine and talking about life goals and/or Taylor Swift, and ate like kings. On to the recommendations:

I Due Fratellini
This tiny, unassuming stall is tucked away on one of the mini-streets between the Duomo and the Piazza de la Repubblica in the center of Florence. It’s easy to miss, except that there’s always a crowd in front of it, wolfing down their freshly made sandwiches before a even a crumb can fall on the cobblestones.

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The sandwiches, which are all 3 euro (aka the best deal we had on our trip, even better than the 9 euro pizza at Dar Poeta), feature cold cuts, cheeses or even chunks of warm porchetta, piled high in between halves of a pillowy roll. The porchetta was great, but go for the salami picante with goat cheese. BOMB. (One note: They’re best eaten immediately — we took a few “to go” for our train ride back to Rome, and the bread had hardened a bit in the half hour from stall to mouth. Though that didn’t stop us from scarfing them down in 0.2 seconds, in case you were wondering.)

Ristorante La Giostra
The second-best meal we had on our trip was at this extremely romantic restaurant slightly east of the center of the city (twinkling lights are everyone’s best lighting). Debleena and I were the only non-couple in the house, but that didn’t stop us from enjoying the free(!!) glasses of prosecco and antipasti plate that greet you on arrival.

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Florence is known for its meat, so I ordered the tagliata de Chianina Normanna, a fancy Italian way of saying filet mignon topped with deliciously thick, syrupy aged balsamic. It was delicious, and I’d highly recommend ordering some sort of steak at this restaurant. It also booked up pretty quickly, so make a reservation — you can do that on their website.

Castello di Verrazzano / Spumantino
If you have the time for a half- (or full) day trip, Tuscany’s wineries, olive groves, farms and villas are a short drive outside of Florence, and easily accessible by public transportation. We hopped on a bus to Greve en Chianti to visit the Castello di Verrazzanno winery, which has produced wine since the 1100s (yes, they’re the same Verrazzanos as that big old NYC bridge). We took an hour-long tour of the winery, then tasted 4-5 wines along with lunch, which featured locally made meats, including a spicy, zesty, lemony salami made from the wild boars that roam the countryside.

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In case you don’t have the time to visit the winery, Verrazzanno also owns a wine bar in Florence, Spumantino, right near the Ponte Vecchio. We had a glass of wine here (after watching the sun set over the Arno [all the heart eyes emojis]) and they offer the same great wines we tasted at the winery (that Super Tuscan Particolare is something I could drink all day) plus some very good cocktails. The staff is also extremely friendly, so it’s a great way to try delicious wine if you can’t make it all the way out to Chianti. Continue reading

Rome Recommendations: 4 Days in Roma

Alas, my Italian adventure had to come to an end. It began as an impromptu trip suggested by Debleena at the end of July, and became a last chance to live it up this summer, with four days in Rome and three days in Florence to really live #ladolcevita.

Our trip was three days in Rome, 3 days in Florence and then another day in Rome. I’d never been to Roma, so we did a lot of sight-seeing in our time there. Thankfully, Debleena is a planner (who also studied abroad in Florence and therefore was pretty familiar with Italy) because I did almost zero work before leaving. My one contribution was obviously restaurant recommendations, and we found a few really great ones on our trip. My best of:

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Salumeria Roscioli
This was the one reservation we made prior to leaving NYC — Roscioli is a Roman institution (there’s a restaurant, a wine bar and a bakery scattered throughout the city, in addition to the Salumeria), known for their excellent bread, and spectacular array of meats and cheese. We ordered the Italian meat and cheese plate, which featured proscuitto, mortadella and soppressata, plus Parmigiano-Reggiano, tallegio and spicy provolone. We also had the caponata and cacio e pepe, as well as a delicious regional white wine recommended by our waiter (they have a great wine list and very knowledgeable waiters). Would highly recommend making a reservation online, since we noticed a very long wait while we were happily savoring our delicious food … (haha suckas!)

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Another plus: Salumeria Roscioli is located around the corner from Campo de’ Fiore, a fun square near the center of the city to drink and people-watch for a few hours after dinner. We had a great time here, and finished off our night with fresh prosciutto and mozzarella sandwiches at 2 a.m.

Al Moro
Al Moro is a traditional Roman trattoria near the Trevi Fountain — very old-school, with a handwritten 2-inch-thick wine list and a pretty small menu of dishes made extremely, extremely well. I had the bucatini all’amatriciana (guanciale, tomato sauce, pecorino) and Debleena had the tagliatelle con crema di tartufo (truffle cream), and both were perfect plates of pasta. We also tried the carciofi alla romana, where artichokes are stuffed with parsley, mint and garlic, then braised in white wine until they’re so soft they’re practically spreadable. It made me instantly regret that artichoke season in NYC is so very very far away.

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Dar Poeta
This pizzeria in Trastevere* was our favorite place in Rome, so amazing that we went back there on our last day because we loved it so much. Their crust is in between the cracker-thin traditional Roman style and the thicker crusts of Sicily, and it’s basically a crisp, chewy canvas on which the restaurant’s chefs pile on interesting combinations of toppings. Our absolute favorite was the “Dar Poeta”: mozzarella, garlic, zucchini, red chili flakes and fresh sausage. I will dream about that pizza for the rest of my life.

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*Trastevere is on the other side of the Tiber River (the ‘hood’s name literally means “across the Tevere,” which is what the Italians call the Tiber) and was easily my favorite part of Rome. All those complaints about Rome’s crazy crowds disappears in Trastevere, which is instead saturated with cute cobblestone-lined alleyways, delicious food and quiet piazzas where one can drink wine and people-watch for hours on end. It’s a short bridge-crossing from the Colosseum/Forum, so when you need a break from the hordes of tourists, cross over to this lovely area for some peace and delicious pizza. Continue reading

Greetings from Rome!

Sadly, the first part of our Italy trip is nearing its end. Three days is definitely not enough to explore all of Rome, but we’ve done admirably, hitting up most of the sites while still managing to spend an impressive amount of time sitting in piazzas people-watching and drinking wine.


So far, I’ve learned that Rome is a place where (clockwise from the top left): wine lists are handwritten tomes, four-ingredient pasta tastes like heaven, gladiators casually hang out in front of the colosseum and eating wood-fired pizza on a tiny cobblestone street is part of the daily routine. Not a bad way to live …

Next stop: Firenze!