Basicwomen's Blog

by- Jessica VerderameBiscuits and Gravy

As a lifelong New Yorker, I never tried biscuits and gravy until I met my Kentucky-native boyfriend. But once he introduced them to me and taught me how to make the southern delicacy, I was hooked and have been making it ever since. There is nothing healthy about this delicious southern dish, but maybe that’s why it’s so good.

It’s perfect for hangovers, when all you want is something fattening and comforting, and you can make it as simple or complicated as you wish. For example, I used a mix to make the biscuits, but I made my own breakfast sausage. If I’m super lazy, I’ll use premade biscuit dough and premade breakfast sausage. I’m not much of a baker, so I usually use canned biscuit dough or a powdered mix, though I imagine making the biscuits from scratch would make this recipe even better.

Got left over biscuits from this recipe? Add sugar to some strawberries and let them macerate—they will break down and make a syrup; warm and butter the biscuits, and spoon the mixture over the top.

Biscuits and Gracy –


1 recipe for biscuits, homemade or from a mix

1 lb ground pork

1 tsp fresh sage, chopped

1 tsp fresh thyme, chopped

1 tsp fennel seeds

¼ cup maple syrup

Salt and pepper

¼ cup flour

1 ½ cups milk


1. Combine the pork, sage, thyme, fennel, maple syrup, salt and pepper in a bowl and mix with hands until just combined.

2. Heat 1 tablespoon oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. When hot, add pork mixture, breaking it up with a spoon. Cook until browned and meat starts getting slightly caramelized, about 10-15 minutes.

3. Remove sausage mixture with a slotted spoon to a plate lined with paper towels. If necessary, add more oil to the pan. Add ¼ cup of flour and cook for about 5 minutes. Add milk to a pan and whisk well to make the gravy smooth. Let thicken for about 2 minutes, adding more milk if needed. Add sausage back into the pan and cook for about a minute more.

4. To serve, spoon gravy over warm biscuits.

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– by Jessica Verderame, Staff Writer

Risotto with Goat Cheese and spring VegitablesThese days, everyone is trying to shift their habits to become healthier and more budget-conscious.  For too many people, eating cheap means buying frozen meals, fast food, and processed junk that due to all of the preservatives, could last a lifetime.

Think about it: would you want your food to have a longer shelf life than you do?  What does that say about what you are putting into your body?  It is a lot simpler than people think to start eating healthier, and that doesn’t mean you have to spend most of your paycheck at expensive natural grocery stores.

The best way to save money and still eat healthy, delicious meals is to buy your fruits and vegetables while they are in season.  Produce that is in season not only tastes better, but is actually cheaper than vegetables that are out of season.  Spring is the perfect time of year for asparagus and zucchini, which is where the inspiration for this dish came from.

Risotto has a reputation for being difficult, but that is simply because it takes somewhat of a long time. But unless you think stirring a pot of rice is difficult, it is actually a very easy dish to make, and a good one to have in your repertoire; you can swap out the vegetables used for whatever you prefer or is in season.

By combining the classic technique for risotto with in-season vegetables and an added tangy twist of goat cheese, you can turn a boring risotto into a lighter, healthier dish. For a light dinner, this can be served alongside a salad. For something more substantial, serve with a light, flaky fish or chicken.

Risotto with Goat Cheese and Spring Vegetables

Serves 4-6


1 medium yellow onion, diced

Zest and juice of one lemon

2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil

1 ½ cups Arborio rice

2/3 cup white wine

5 cups of chicken stock, homemade or low sodium canned, simmering

2 medium zucchini, sliced into half moons

1 bunch asparagus, trimmed of tough ends and cut into 1-inch pieces

1/3 of a cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese

4 oz goat cheese, room temperature

2 tablespoons chives, for garnish


1.  Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

2.  Heat oil in a medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and sauté until translucent, but not browned, 3-5 minutes. Add rice and lemon zest and stir to coat with the oil, about a minute.

3.  Add the white wine and stir constantly until absorbed. Add the chicken stock, about a cup at a time, stirring constantly until all liquid is absorbed before adding more. This should take about 30 minutes, until the rice is al dente.

4.  Meanwhile, toss the vegetables with salt, pepper, and a little bit of olive oil and roast for about 10 minutes, until tender but still slightly firm.

5.  Towards the end of cooking, add the Parmesan and vegetables and stir to combine. Then, turn off the heat and add lemon juice and goat cheese. Stir until goat cheese is melted throughout. Serve in bowls and sprinkle with chives.

6.  Enjoy the meal!

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– by Jessica Verderame, Staff Writer

Snack Dragon is a little hole in the wall on 3rdStreet.  One may think that it is little beyond that, but they would be greatlySnack Dragon mistaken. However, this little hole in the wall happens to make some of the best tacos in New York.

A mix between California authentic and a concern for good ingredients, Snack Dragon is a place where the employees would love to get to know you, and would be happy to let you in on their secret menu, which is mostly created from customer requests.

Though there aren’t more than 8 seats in the entire place, the ambiance of this place is charming. The walls and shelves are stocked to the brim with quirky knick-knacks, including a Furby (and who doesn’t love a Furby?), and other assorted toys you haven’t seen in years. Though their décor is definitely eye-catching, it is the food that keeps people coming back.

Their carne asada and grilled sole tacos are their best. The carne asada is grilled steak, a homemade salsa, cheese, black beans, a squirt of sour cream and cilantro; To make it even better, ask them to add their delicious chipotle coleslaw. Their grilled sole taco is served with chipotle coleslaw, radishes (a way underrated condiment), black beans, cilantro, and cheese.  What sets Snack Dragon’s fish tacos apart from the rest is the fact that these fish tacos are grilled instead of fried, so they are fresh tasting instead of being heavy and greasy.

Their “Freshly Slayed Dragon” tacos are also very good. This one combines slow-cooked pork, beans, cheese, sour cream, cilantro and salsa.

Vegetarians have options here too, including a quinoa pilaf taco and their “Quack-and-Cheese,” which is mac-and-cheese style quinoa.

Though for the most part you cannot go wrong here, one thing I would advise to steer clear from is their chorizo taco. Of course you would order it expecting chorizo, but they actually use sweet Italian sausage instead of the authentic Mexican or Spanish chorizo.

Snack Dragon opens later in the day, but is open late at night, and has a reputation of being one of the best places for your late-night cravings while bar hopping in the East Village.  Go earlier, around 6 or 7, if you want to be able to grab a seat. This place gets very crowded, especially in the summer, but it is so worth it.

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{November 4, 2010}   Cod en Papillote

by – Jessica VerderameCod en Papillote

It sounds fancy, but all “en papillote” really means is “in parchment.” It takes almost no work, and even less cleanup, but makes for an interesting presentation and flavorful dish. It’s fish, layered with thinly sliced vegetables and flavorings, wrapped up in parchment and put in the oven so it can steam in its own juices. Here, I used Napa cabbage, fennel, and shredded carrots with fresh cod, but there are so many options for these; however, some vegetables and fish work better than others. Whatever you use should be sliced thinly enough so that it takes as much time to cook as the fish, which in this case was 15 minutes. According to Cooks Illustrated, “Dense [vegetables] like potatoes failed to cook evenly in the foil packets, even when par cooked. Absorbent eggplant cooked into mush in all the moisture. Others, such as broccoli, overpowered the delicate fish flavor.”

Leeks, carrots, fennel, zucchini, and tomatoes all work well. As far as fish goes, I like cod because of its mild flavor and flakey texture. Any fish with a mild flavor and flakey texture works best.

In order to steer clear from the problem of the fish being bland, I found that using a pat of an herbed butter to the fish before cooking to add enough flavor. Also, adding a touch of liquid, like wine or broth, not only adds flavor but also helps to steam the fish and keep it moist. I used broth because I didn’t want to buy a bottle of wine just for 2 tablespoons, but if you have it on hand I would definitely suggest using it.

Cod en Papillote – Ingredients:

Serves 2

2 6-oz cod fillets

½ head Napa cabbage, thinly sliced

½ large fennel bulb, thinly sliced

1 carrot, shredded

2 tablespoons lemon juice, plus lemon slices

2 tablespoons parsley, chopped

1 tablespoon basil, chopped

2 tablespoons broth or white wine

1 tablespoon herbed compound butter (see below)

Salt & pepper


1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2. Season fish with salt and pepper. On a piece of parchment paper, layer Napa cabbage, shredded carrots, and fennel. Top with fish, then 1 tablespoon of parsley each, and ½ tablespoon of basil each, 1/2 tablespoon of herbed butter, and lemon slices. Squeeze about 1 tablespoon of lemon on each, then add 1 tablespoon of broth or wine to each.

3. Top with a second piece of parchment paper, and tightly wrap together.

4. Place on a baking sheet and bake for about 15 minutes.

5. To serve, place packages on a plate and cut open.

Herbed Compound Butter – Ingredients & Directions:

Though I only use one tablespoon for this recipe, you can make a batch of this using a whole stick of butter and use it on anything, such as fish, chicken, steak, veggies, or pasta. All you do is take room temperature butter and mix it with herbs of your choice. I made half a stick’s worth, and added about 2 tablespoons of parsley and 1 of basil, but you can use any amount of any herbs you like. When it’s all incorporated, roll the butter into a log in some plastic wrap and freeze until hardened.

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Jessica Verderame

Salmon with Creme Fraiche-Basil SauceThis is another extremely simple recipe that could be prepared in minutes, but needs good ingredients in order for it to shine. I used Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon, which I bought on sale because it is usually more expensive than your typical store-bought, farmed salmon.  This is because Wild Alaskan Sockeye Salmon is touted by many sources to be better quality and healthier due to lower contamination by PCBs and other contaminants, which are said to build up in the environment and cause health defects.


I rarely buy salmon because any good salmon is usually out of my budget, so I was surprised at the deep red color of the raw fish, and instead of turning to the pale pink I’m used to with farmed salmon (which is mostly what you get in restaurants as well), it turned a deep orange color, and it was definitely more flavorful than what I’m used to. So, if you can’t use the good, wild salmon, then go for using standard farm-raised, but I do suggest splurging on the good stuff.

The only problem with that is that you’ll never want to go back!

Since I want to highlight the flavor of the fish as much as possible, I simply grill it was salt and pepper and top it with a very light, but brightly flavored no-cook sauce of crème fraiche, lemon juice and zest, and some fresh basil. I served this over some vegetable risotto (similar to the recipe I posted here: which, of course, completely upped the cooking time from 10 minutes to about 45, and the pans used from one to three, but the salmon on its own is a one pan dish that takes next to no time, and could easily be served with a salad for a quick weeknight meal.

Salmon with Crème Fraiche-Basil Sauce –


Serves 2

2 6-8 oz salmon fillets

Salt & pepper

Olive oil

¼ crème fraiche

Zest & juice of half a lemon

1 tablespoon fresh basil, chopped


1. Heat olive oil in a pan over medium-high heat. If using a nonstick pan, you will only need a tablespoon or two, use more if using a different type of pan. Season salmon with salt and pepper.

2. Put salmon in the pan, skin side down. Cook about 2-3 minutes per side, or until just cooked through.

3. Meanwhile, stir together crème fraiche, basil, and lemon juice.

4. To serve, top the salmon with a tablespoon or two of the crème fraiche mixture.

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