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Archive for March, 2010

Yes, I do bake (get baked) on occasion. When I do, it’s usually nothing special. I don’t have enough baking experience to really screw around with the basics so I stick to recipes pretty closely. I did, however, alter the basic chocolate chip cookie this weekend. The results were fantastic! What I did was added some kinako.

Kinako is flour made from toasted soybeans. It’s extremely fine and has a subtle nutty taste, like a mild peanut. When baking with it you can replace some of the all-purpose flour in a recipe and end up with delicious results.

I started by mixing a half cup of room temperature butter with a quarter cup of cane sugar and a half cup of brown sugar until light and fluffy. Well, as light and fluffy as butter and sugar can get. My mixing bowl isn’t that large, so I always have to tape some newspaper together and build a wall around it to keep the sugar from flying everywhere. Yuki laughs at me, but not just because of that.

In a small bowl I scrambled an egg with a half teaspoon of vanilla extract and then beat that into the butter and sugar mixture. Then, in another bowl, I sifted together one cup of all-purpose flour, a half cup of kinako, a half teaspoon of baking soda, and a quarter teaspoon of salt. Once that was sifted it got mixed into the butter, sugar, and now egg mixture. After I had a thoroughly mixed together dough I mixed in a cup of semi-sweet chocolate chips.

I put big blobs of the dough on a greased baking sheet and baked at 350 degrees for about 12 minutes. It was really hard to let them cool though, I just wanted to dive headfirst into those things!

The additions of kinako really does add a peanuty flavor. It’s not quite as strong as the peanut, so it doesn’t overpower the vanilla or chocolate. If cooked properly, it’ll be just as soft in the middle as a good chocolate chip cookie should be. The only problem is that now Yuki wants me to make them every week! I’m going to get fat!

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Last night I made some delicious Lamb Kofta with the leftover berbere spice from the Doro Wat. I thought I’d stick with a Middle Eastern theme by serving it with some homemade Baba Ghanoush, roasted red pepper and yellow string beans, and an Israeli Couscous and Tomato soup. Of course, it wouldn’t be complete without some pita.

Before I made the kofta, I roasted two eggplants on the burner for the baba ghanoush. Once the skin was nice and charred I set them in a bowl, covered them with plastic, and let them sit for an hour.

So, to make the kofta I mixed in the berbere spice (there was about 1.5 tablespoons left), 1 teaspoon of turmeric, salt, pepper, 6 grated garlic cloves, half an onion grated, 1 jalapeno seeded and diced, 1 slice of bread crumbed, 1 beaten egg, 1 tablespoon of tomato paste, some chopped cilantro, and the juice from a half lemon into 1 pound of ground lamb. Once mixed I let it rest for a half hour covered in the fridge.

After the meat was rested, I wet my hands and formed 8 patties. They were set aside until time to cook.

Then I started on the couscous. I sautéed half an onion in some olive oil for about 10 minutes, then I added three grated garlic cloves. A few minutes later I threw in a diced carrot. That cooked for about 6-7 minutes, then I added a 14oz can of diced tomatoes and two cups of chicken stock. Once that was all mixed together I grated three more garlic cloves and tossed them in along with some salt, pepper, and about a tablespoon of cumin and a teaspoon of cayenne. I let that simmer for about 10 minutes covered over med-low heat.

After that I turned on the broiler and drizzled olive oil on the red pepper slices and yellow string beans. I seasoned them and threw them under the broiler. I left them there for about 10-15 minutes, during which time I finished the baba ghanoush.

I peeled the skin off the eggplants and mashed them up real good with a fork. I added 2 cloves of grated garlic, about 8 tablespoons of tahini, the juice from 1 lemon, and about a half teaspoon of cumin.

Then I heated some oil in a pan and cooked the kofta. I left them on for about 6 minutes each side, that gave them a nice crust, but kept them juicy. I also added about a cup of Israeli couscous to the tomato soup at this point to let it cook while the kofta was going.

Once everything was done I added a handful of chopped cilantro to the soup and plated it all up. The leftovers made a fantastic pita sandwich for lunch today!

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I was flipping through a Jewish cookbook that I have trying to find recipes for Passover when I came across a recipe for Doro Wat, the national dish of Ethiopia. At first, I was surprised to see this. As I thought about it though, there has been a Jewish community in Ethiopia for thousands of years, untouched by the Romans or Crusaders. This allowed a more traditional interpretation of the Torah to exist, along with strict dietary Kashrut laws. I’m not saying that Doro Wat was created by the Jewish community, I don’t think anyone knows where its origins are, but it is consistent with a style of cooking prevalent throughout the Jewish diaspora during the Sabbath. Since it’s not permitted to do any work, cooking included, during the Sabbath, food is simmered on low heat for long periods of time. That way, when families get home from synagogue, a warm and filling meal is ready to go without further cooking.

I felt compelled to give it a whirl since Yuki and I both thoroughly enjoyed the two Ethiopian food experiences we’ve had. The recipe calls for a mix of spices, but I prefered to make a berbere to use instead. To make the berbere I mixed the following spices together all at a 1/2 teaspoon measurement: chili powder, paprika, ground ginger, cinnamon, ground cardamom seeds, ground cloves, and dried basil. Like any spice mix, you can make much more and store in a tight container for a few months.

To make the Doro Wat I first sautéed a diced large onion in some vegetable oil until it was soft but not burned, about 7 or 8 minutes. Then I grated in 6 garlic cloves and a 1/2 inch of fresh ginger and let those cook for a couple of minutes. After that, I added one cup of chicken stock and one 14 oz can of diced tomatoes and brought to a boil. I let it boil for about 10 minutes to reduce some of the liquid. Next, I salted and peppered to taste.

I was making 4 servings, so I picked up 8 skin-on, bone-in chicken thighs. You can get a whole bird and break it down, purchase 4 complete leg sections, whatever you want to make 4 portions. Just make sure to use skin-on, bone-in chicken. The skin and bones will add depth to the dish. So, just before putting the thighs in the sauce I mixed in 1/2 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of the berbere that I made. Once the chicken was added I covered it with the sauce, turned the heat down, and let it simmer for an hour covered.

While the chicken was simmering I hard-boiled 4 eggs, one per portion. The egg is what really sets this dish apart from other chicken stews, so make sure every plate gets one. When the chicken only had about 10 minutes left I peeled the eggs, pricked them all over with a fork making sure not to break them, and then added them to the stew.

To serve with the Doro Wat I made another traditional Ethiopian dish of stewed greens. Typically collard greens are used, but Stanley’s had some beautiful chard, so I used that instead. It’s a real simple recipe. Fry a diced red onion in some olive oil for a few minutes, then add a couple of crushed garlic cloves and 1/2 inch grated ginger. After that, add 2 green chilis that have been seeded and sliced. Add about 1/3 cup of water and let come to a boil for a couple of minutes. Then, add one red pepper that’s been seeded and sliced as well as 1 pound of whatever green you use (collard, chard, kale, cabbage, etc.) thinly sliced. Season with salt and pepper, mix it all up and cook over a med-low heat for about 25 minutes partially covered. That’s all there is too it.

As much as I wanted to make some Injera, I have absolutely no idea where to find teff, the grain used to make it. I found a bunch of recipes, but no teff. So, I just made some basmati rice.

I have to say, this is one of the best tasting dishes I’ve ever made! The sauce is so friggin delicious, I am definitely keeping it in my regular rotation. It would be equally good with lamb instead of chicken. I would even give shrimp a try in this sauce.

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I’ve been mulling this recipe over in my head since my trip to Merida. I wanted to somehow make a Japanese flavored Chiles Rellenos. Last night, for Meatless Monday, I gave it a shot. Not sure it’s exactly the way I had originally planned, but it turned out pretty good.

First thing I did was roast the poblano peppers on the open flame of my stove-top till the skin was completely charred. Then I let them steam themselves in a bowl covered with plastic-wrap for about a half hour.

While that was going on I made the filling. I sautéed some green onions and garlic in a little vegetable oil for about 5 minutes. Then I added one teaspoon of mirin, two teaspoons of sake, and three teaspoons of soy sauce. I also threw in some chili powder. Once that was all mixed together I dumped in some diced tofu and let it simmer for a few minutes and absorb some of the flavors.

Next, I peeled the skin off the poblanos and made a slit down one side to remove the seeds. Once the poblanos were all cleaned out I stuffed them with the tofu and set them aside.

The sauce was very simple to make. I first sautéed a half onion, diced, in some vegetable oil for a few minutes until soft but not burned. Then I added some grated garlic and let that cook for a couple of minutes. A couple tablespoons of red wine, a couple tablespoons of soy sauce, a can of diced tomatoes, and a few dashed of chili powder then let it simmer till it thickens up a bit. Just before serving I turned the heat off the sauce and added a little sesame oil and some chopped cilantro.

For the veggies, I just doused some yellow string beans and maitake mushrooms in some olive oil, salt, and pepper and threw then under the broiler for about 10 minutes. For the last few minutes I also put the peppers under to heat them back up.

I served everything with white rice, slices of avocado, cilantro garnish and a simple salad. The salad was green leaf lettuce and cherry tomatoes with a shiitake-sesame vinaigrette. It all turned out better than I expected.

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I must have driven my mom nuts with my quest to find the ultimate Queso Fundido in Merida. I was first turned on to the dish from a Rick Bayless “Mexico: One Plate at a Time” episode. He was on scene in Merida at a restaurant I couldn’t find and they served him this big dish of Dutch cheese stuffed with chorizo and drowned in a spicy tomato sauce. Somehow I got the name of the dish screwed up. I had first thought it was called Queso Relleno, then, for whatever reason I thought it was Queso Fundido. Credit that to me mis-browsing Bayless’s website. In season 4 he featured Queso Fundido, in season 5 it was the Queso Relleno that I was really after.

At any rate, I asked a couple of Meridaians (is that a word?) where they go for Queso Fundido. A waiter at one restaurant mentioned a place that my mom and step-dad have been to. Then, when we were at Mayapan, there was a small group of college students touring archeological sites and their local guide was from Merida. So, I asked him and he said, “go to El Fogoncito“. So, that’s where we headed.

Turns out that there are two El Fogoncito’s in Merida, so we went to the one closest to my mom’s house. Much to our disappointment it was located in a brand new modern mall. The atmosphere was so generic we could have been at a TGI Friday’s (turns out that it’s also a major food worldwide food chain, no surprise). No culture whatsoever. But, they do have Queso Fundido con chorizo.

I was a little worried because it was priced about half of what everyone elses entrees were. Was this a meal or an appetizer? When it showed up it was a small earthenware dish filled with melted cheese, chunks of chorizo, and a couple of flour tortillas. It was definitely not a main dish. It was, however, absolutely delicious! I mean, let’s be honest here, it was melted cheese and chorizo. I scarfed that thing down like it was nothing. Since it was an appetizer I was still hungry afterwords.

Seeing that they served Tacos al Pastor, I really had no choice but to order a couple. Not quite as good as the one I ate at the San Benito Market, but still pretty good. These were served more traditionally with onions, jalapeno, cilantro, and a slice of pineapple.

With plenty of room in my belly for dessert I also had to order the flan. This one was clearly not as good as the flan I had in Cozumel’s Sabores. You could definitely taste the love put into that homemade flan that this one lacked as this one was more mass-produced. The texture was a little more jelloey than flan should be and I’m not a big fan of the maraschino cherry on top (save that for lame cocktails), but overall it wasn’t that bad.

I didn’t get the dish I was after, but that was no one’s fault but my own. I guess I’ll have to bother the hell out of my mom about it again next time I’m in Merida. Sorry mom.

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While we were in Merida we spent an afternoon walking through an ancient cave in the Yucatan called Lol Tun.  In the Pre-Columbian days there were an estimated 800 people living in it. It really is an impressive site with the highlight possibly being the 15,000 year old reverse hand-print paintings on the cave walls. At any rate, we filled up on lunch prior to walking through the cave.

I’m not sure what this place is called, but it was directly across the street from Lol Tun, so we gave it a shot. While we were sitting there waiting for our food, out of nowhere, something that felt like mud hit my arm, WTF! I wipe it off and look around. I didn’t see anything at all. Then I look up and see two little geckos hanging out on the wooden ceiling beams. A few seconds later another muddy item hits my arm. Little bastards! They both shit on my arm! I ought to grill them up and eat them for that! If they had shat on my food instead of my arm I would have eaten them instead.

I ordered the Salubtes. Hand-made tortillas piled with shredded turkey, tomato, lettuce and chopped onion. They were pretty damn good. About the right size too because I wasn’t starving and I had to try some of Yuki’s dish.

She ordered the Pollo Pibil. Chicken marinated in achiote (annatto), sour orange juice, peppercorns, garlic, cumin, salt, and then wrapped in banana leaves and baked. Although, instead of wrapping it in banana leaves and baking it they grilled it with the marinade and served it with rice, french fries, and a small salad with avocado. It truly was outstanding! As soon as I can fire up the grill in Spring you can better believe I’m going to try my hand at this marinade.

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After eating an entire feedlots’ worth of animal Sunday night we really needed Meatless Monday. We tried to make this one as healthy and simple as possible in order to ease the recent strain put on our tummies. Soba noodles, being about as healthy as you can get in the way of carbs, seemed like a good route to go.

For this one we cut up some green onions, carrots, and mushrooms and added them to some boiling konbu dashi. Once they were cooked a little we added some aburage and dried wakame. It takes the wakame a few minutes to soften. Then we dropped in a block of tofu that was cut into smaller pieces.

To put it together we simply put cooked soba noodles in the bottom of our bowls then ladled the broth and veggies on top. A dash of togarashi, a beer, and you’ve got a light, healthy, satisfying dinner.

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Alright, finally my last Restaurant Week experience. Yuki and I took advantage of the Art Institute’s free month in February this past Sunday. Afterwords we had planned on meeting up with a couple of friends, one in from Japan, for dinner downtown. We walked by Texas de Brazil and it looked damn tasty. So, I asked the hostess if they were participating in restaurant week, and when she said yes I made a reservation for us. What they normally charge for $50, we got for $32. Not a bad deal at all, not bad. Those of you have been to a Churrascaria before know what I’m talking about.

Again, the pics were taken with my cell, so they’re not the best quality. Also, if you’re a vegetarian or a little squeemish, don’t look any further. There are chunks of bloody animal carcass on my plate. Consider yourself warned.

We started off with a round of caipirinha’s. While the bartender whipped those up we headed over to the sushi and salad bars.

I apologize, I ate the sushi and most of my first run to the salad bar before snapping a pic. I have to say, the sushi was quite good. There were three different maki rolls, tuna and avocado, california, and salmon. The salad bar was outrageous! Check out their website for a complete list of items. My favorites were the tuna tataki, pomegranate quinoa, and the cheeses. Everything was top quality. They did not skimp at all. The soup was lobster bisque, which for some reason none of us tried. Why is that?

Once we finished the first round at the salad bar the meat-a-thon began! Flip the token to green and meat just started flying everywhere! Highlights were the garlic beef (of course), bacon-wrapped filet (of course), and the sausages (of course). I asked the gaucho what the sausage was spiced with and his answer was brilliant, “Brazillian spices”. Great, now I know how to make them at home. Other tasty bits were the lamb chops, leg of lamb, and flank steak. Just like the salad bar the meat was all top quality. They definitely did not buy their meats from Jewel! While mauling the meat we were served mashed potatoes, little cheese puffs, and fried plantians as well.

After ingesting about two and three fifths of large farm animals I thought it would be best to get some leafy greens in my stomach. I made another run to the salad bar and just grabbed some mixed greens and topped them with what they call “Brazillian Dressing”, just some small diced tomatoes and peppers in lime juice. Had I not gone for the salad I don’t even want to think about what would have happened to my intestines.

Dessert was also offered with our meal. We had our choice of a banana’s foster cheese cake or key lime pie. So, we got two of each.

I tell ya, as much fun as Churrascarias are and as delicious as they are, I don’t think I can go to one again. I always end up eating so much meat it’s not even funny. Don’t get me wrong, I love meat, it’s my favorite vegetable. Let’s be honest though, a 150 pound man should not swallow 207 pounds of dead animal in one sitting! It’s just not right! I almost couldn’t get up from the chair after the night’s festivities came to a halt. It also ruined my normal cycles for a few days, but that’s a whole different story in itself.

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I thought we were done with Restaurant Week, well, I thought wrong! A couple friends of ours had invited us to join them for dinner Saturday night at Salpicon. I’ve been there once before with  my sister and brother-in-law, maybe 5 years ago. I remember walking away fully satisfied both in my belly as well as my taste buds. So, the opportunity to dine there again, at the discounted restaurant week price, was too good to pass up as we’re not ones to miss out on top-notch Mexican food at a discount. Hanging out with Tony and Sandra was also a nice proposition which certainly didn’t hurt the matter.

I must warn you that I did use my cell phone camera again. The pics do not do the food the justice they deserve, but what can you do? Also, since there were four of us I have a lot of pics to show. They offered 5 different appetizers as well as 5 different entrees. What we did was order the 4 most interesting of each and shared them all. I’ll try to keep this post short, but no guarantees.

Ceviche of Blue Marlin. Very typical with onions, tomatoes, chiles, and cilantro. Served with tortillas it always makes a great starter.

Gorditas Divorciadas. Thick tortillas stuffed with black beans and shredded beef (I think brisket, which completely satisfies the Jew in me). They each had a different salsa. One was a guajillo and the other was serrano-tomatillo, both had Mexican crema drizzled on top.

This was the Trio de Tamalitos. Three little tamales, one with queso fresco and serrano chiles that had a spicy molcajete salsa and crema, another with black beans, rajas (a saute of chilis and onions), and chihuahua cheese with a black been puree, the last had zucchini and chipotles.

The last appetizer was Sopa de Lentejas, lentil soup. It was garnished with grilled pineapple, smoked bacon (YUM!!!), chile pasilla, and queso anejo.

For the entrees we got the Camarones al Mojo de Ajo. Big, plump, juicy grilled shrimp in a sweet garlic and olive oil sauce with avocado chunks, guajillo chiles, and white rice. Not too garlicky at all.

Chiles Rellenos. Two battered poblanos deep-fried and swimming in a roasted tomato sauce. One was stuffed with minced pork picadillo, the other with chihuahua cheese. There was a side dish of frijoles borrachos, but I forgot to get a pic of that. Deal with it!

Pollo en Mole Poblano. Two chicken breasted smothered in a rich, spicy mole and served with Mexican rice. It really was kind of spicy. My first bite gave me a couple of little hiccups.

Tinga Poblana. Pork tenderloin on top of a roasted tomato-chipotle sauce with chorizo and potatoes, surrounded by an avocado-tomatillo sauce. This was hands down the best in show! Nice soft tenderloin and chorizo….how could that go wrong?

Alright, time for dessert. We got a flan that was covered in a sugar dome.

Tres Leches.

A crepe filled with berries and a caramel sauce.

My personal favorite was the mango and pear cobbler. Not sure what it’s actually called, but it sure was delicious with the cajeta ice cream on top!

All in all it was a delicious dinner. It’s every bit on par with Rick Bayless as far as creativity and quality. While I just found out that they offer a $29 pre fix every Monday and Tuesday this restaurant week deal might not have been the best offer. However, on a weekend night it was. I would recommend to everyone that they check Salpicon out for the pre fix deals. If you don’t want a limited menu, it’s also definitely worth paying full price for.

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