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Archive for April, 2010

I made a vegetarian curry for Meatless Monday last night. For the protein I used paneer, but since it’s expensive ($8.99 for 8oz!) I decided to add a bunch of this really nice Japanese Eggplant they had at the store (only $2.99 a pound). I know eggplant isn’t protein, but it helped add substance to the dish while cutting the cost.

I started by melting 3 tablespoons of ghee in a medium-high pan. I added a teaspoon of ground cumin and let it cook for a minute. Then I added an inch of grated ginger and 4 minced garlic cloves. Once those became fragrant but not burned I added a small onion that I had roughly chopped and then put in a processor to finely mince it to the point just before it became liquidy. I let the onion cook for about 6 or 7 minutes before stirring in 2 teaspoons of freshly ground coriander seed. Then I added a large russet that I had peeled and small diced. That went for about five minutes before I added one 28oz can of diced tomatoes. To that I added 1 teaspoon of turmeric and 1 teaspoon of garam masala.

Once that all got to a slight boil I threw in five 5-6 inch Japanese Eggplants that were cut into chunks. Then I turned the heat down to medium-low, covered it, and let it stew for about 15 minutes.

Once the eggplant and potato were cooked through I added the block of paneer that I had cut into smaller chunks, about 3/4 inch cubes, and 3/4’s cup of peas. I just needed to the paneer and peas to heat through, so I let them sit in the simmering stew for about 8 minutes uncovered which also allowed it to thicken up a bit.

I wish I had some naan, but I did make some white rice to serve with it.

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Last night we made Okonomiyaki for dinner. Well, Yuki made it, I was her sous chef. She also made a Korean spiced soup to get more vegetables into the meal. That and she loves soup.

To start off she cooked thin slices of Kurobuta Pork that we got at Mitsuwa in a little sesame oil. Any pork will do as long as it’s thinly sliced. You can also bacon or any bacon-like substance. Or, no meat at all.

Then, she poured the batter on top to make a pancake. I’m not real sure what kind of flour she used, we have a few different kinds on our pantry, but all-purpose will do, about a cup. She mixed it with about 3/4 cup water and a couple of eggs. Then she mixed in a bunch of thinly sliced green onions and a cup of thinly sliced Napa Cabbage.

Instead of making 4 smaller ones, we made two big ones. I had to use a plate to get that thing flipped over when it was time to cook the other side. It’s ready to flip when the bottom is a nice golden brown color.

While the bottom is cooking you pour the on top. First pour on Bulldog Sauce. A popular sauce in Japan commonly used on Tonkatsu, fried pork cutlet. Then squeeze on some mayonnaise.

Feel free to paint your okonomiyaki with the sauces.

Then top it with a bunch of katsuo-bushi, dried bonito flakes.

Finally, top it off with some ao-nori, ground seaweed.

For the soup, Yuki started by boiling some light dashi broth. She added some green onions, thinly sliced carrot, enoki mushrooms, aburage, broccoli, komatsuna (Japanese Mustard Spinach), and small diced tofu. Once everything was cooked  she swirled in a couple of tablespoons of tobanjan paste (Korean hot chili paste). It was that simple.

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Lamb, the prefered meat in Europe and a fantastic animal to stew up with veggies. With Spring in the air, but still a very chilly breeze shooting through Chicago, I thought that a simple Lamb Stew would be a great dinner. Not to mention I had a nice bottle of Syrah I wanted to drink, a nice match with lamb.

I first sautéed up a small onion that I diced up to medium-sized pieces with a chopped carrot, two stalks of celery chopped, and 4 cloves of minced garlic in some olive oil over medium-high heat. After a few minutes, when the veggies were turning translucent, I added a couple of large diced Yukon Gold potatoes. I didn’t want to add the potatoes too early because they fall apart when stewed for long periods of time. For long stews it’s usually best to use a denser potato like russet. But, I had a couple of Yukons that I needed to use up so I added them late to keep them together.

Only a couple of minutes after adding the potatoes I threw in about a pound of cut-up lamb leg meat. You want about 1 inch cubes. Anything smaller and the meat will get tough. I let the meat cook a little until the outsides were cooked but not the insides. Then I added a bunch of quartered cremini mushrooms and stirred that all around.

Once everything was coated with the olive oil and lamb fat I seasoned with a little salt (not too much), turmeric, cumin, dried basil, and a bay leaf. Then I added about a quarter cup of soy sauce and 2/3 cup of beef stock. Once the liquid came to a boil I put the lid on my pot and turned the heat down to medium. I let everything stew together for about an hour.

Once the stew was about ready I threw in a handful of freshly chopped parsley and turned off the heat. I served it up with some sliced bread. Well, I had it with sliced bread, Yuki had it with white rice. Whatever your pleasure, it’s all good.

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Back during Chef Week a few weeks ago Yuki and I went to Spring for dinner. We have both been there before, so we pretty much knew that a $30 pre fix there would be well worth the dollar. We were right, as usual.

I do apologize, the pics I took with my phone were absolutely terrible! You’re going to have to use your imagination if TV, cinema, and the internet haven’t already sapped you of it.

When we got there our table wasn’t quite ready. No worries, we went to the bar and ordered a bottle of wine. Within a few sips we were seated. The first thing I remembered about the tables is that, unlike a lot of restaurants (and I mean you Paul Kahan!), there is more than ample space. The only conversation I heard was ours, my elbows weren’t banging into anyone, and there was no chance of an accidental ass-to-the-face of the person next to me when one of us got up. It is definitely a more romantic atmosphere.

We started with one each of the two appetizers. A smooth lemongrass-cocunut soup with prawn dumplings, thai chili, shaved shiitake, and kaffir lime. As well as a tuna and hamachi maki roll. The soup was outstanding, and while the maki was good, it was very basic. It could have been from a good sushi restaurant instead of a place like Spring.

We both got the skatewing. It was lightly floured and pan-fried to perfection. The natural sweetness of the fish was perfectly matched with light gnocchi that was flavored with kimchi as well as some Brussel sprouts and almonds. Skatewing is not a fish that I get to eat very often, so it was a nice change from salmon, tuna, or halibut, the typical fish found on menus.

For dessert, we ordered one of each. There was lemon sorbet served in a black tea. The sorbet was slightly sour, but not to the point that made your lips pucker. I guess lemons aren’t quite in season yet, they’ll get sweeter in a month or two. The other dessert was a delicious moist brown butter pound cake with caramel ice cream.

Service was quick and attentive. I never felt rushed, but never ignored either.

Overall, Spring was just as good as I remembered. It’s one of Chicago’s best seafood restaurants and Chef McClain is one of Chicago’s finest chefs and restauranteurs.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made some quesadillas with sautéed mushrooms and poblanos. I served them with some mashed black beans, simple salad, and some white rice.

The first thing I did was make the mushroom and poblano filling. I heated a couple of tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat and threw a sliced red onion in to saute for about 5 minutes. Then I added a couple of minced garlic cloves for about two more minutes. After that I added two sliced poblano chilis. I let that all cook down for another 5 minutes. I had sliced a bunch of shiitake, cremini, and button mushrooms (not sure how many of each, but a lot since they cook down) and threw them in to cook down. That took about 7 minutes or so. I seasoned with some salt, pepper, chili powder, and cumin. Once all the flavors were mixed in I took it off the heat and let it all rest.

To make the quesadillas I had to do them one at a time since I don’t have a big griddle. So, I melted a little butter in my big saute pan and laid down a 10 inch flour tortilla. I topped half of it with some of the mushroom-poblano mix and then topped that with a little shredded jalapeno-jack cheese.

Then I carefully folded it over and let the tortilla crisp up for a couple of minutes on each side. To keep them warm I put a baking pan in the oven on warm and let them sit in the heat while I made up the rest. It’s that simple.

To make the mashed black beans I heated a tablespoon of vegetable oil and sautéed 5 minced garlic cloves for about 3 minutes. Then I dumped two cans, partially drained, of black beans. I let them heat through for a few minutes and then mashed them with a potato masher. I added some salt and pepper to taste and that was about it. If it got too thick I’d simply add a tablespoon of water at a time until the texture was right.

I dressed the salad with a shiitake vinaigrette. I garnished it with sliced tomato and avocado. I garnished the entire plate with some cilantro.

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Well, I finally got to Xoco today. Really, I can’t believe it took me this long to be honest. Being a fan of his cooking for years and sharing some precious moments with him shopping for produce you wouldn’t think it’d take me this long to check out his newest joint. Tortas just never really excited me all that much, though. Whenever I’m at La Pasadita or any other taqueria tacos, burritos, or parillada always get the nod over gentrified Mexican food like tortas. Bread with taco meat? It just never seemed quite right, until today that is.

When you walk it you see all of the action behind the counter. A big chalkboard has the menu. You can either take out or wait for a seat. We waited for a seat, about 15 minutes or so. It wasn’t bad though, it took that long just to decide what to order since everything looked so damn delicious! The menu is on his website.

After we ordered we sat down and ate some chips and salsa. About 10 minutes later our tortas arrived. I got Saturday’s daily special, the goat barbacoa. Nice crunchy on the outside but soft in the middle bread with slices of avocado, onions, cilantro, and Oaxacan pasilla-tomato salsa accompanying moist, soft, fall-apart goat meat. A fantastic sandwich if ever there was one.

Yuki got the Pibil. Just like the goat, this suckling pig was so moist and delicious. The pickled onion and black beans were natural with the pibil. I gotta tell you though, that habanero salsa was some spicy shit! Rick got every bit of heat out of those peppers when he made that stuff. Wow.

We also ordered some churros with ice cream, but I forgot to take a picture. No biggie, the plate had three churros that were heavily sugared and cinnamoned (are those words?). They were slightly overcooked, but delicious nonetheless. The ice cream was vanilla soft serve. Rick has it made in-house and they leave the bean in the mix. I like that. The ice cream was really good.

I have to say, I still prefer tortillas for those flavors, but I will not frown upon tortas anymore. There is definitely a place for them in my stomach from here on out. Here’s to the torta. Thanks Rick.

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Enough Koshar….I need some PIG!!! Last night was absolutely gorgeous out. A little windy, but otherwise Spring is here to stay. Combine the weather with two Passover Seders and I really had no choice but to grill up some sort of swine. I picked up some pork tenderloin for the occasion.

I marinated it in a mix of 5 tablespoons of soy sauce, 3 tablespoons of sake, 3 tablespoons of cider vinegar, an inch of grated ginger, 4 grated garlic cloves, and 1 tablespoon of ground coriander seeds. I covered it and left it in the fridge for about 3 hours.

For vegetables I took two whole Japanese eggplants, 4 orange sweet peppers, a bunch of fat green onions, and a bunch of fresh shiitake mushrooms. I simply drizzled them all with a little olive oil, salt, and pepper. You’ll see me do that a lot with the grill as I really don’t think you need to do anything when you have good fresh produce and a hot grill.

Before grilling everything I took the marinated pork out of the fridge and let it rest to room temperature for about a half hour.

I grilled it all up. After letting the pork rest for about 10 minutes I sliced it and served on top of some fresh baby spinach with the grilled veggies and some white rice.

When you have a good fresh tenderloin you shouldn’t cook it all the way through. I got this one at Whole Foods so I’m not overly concerned with getting sick or anything from it. Leave it a little pink and you’ll enjoy one of the greatest textures of flesh out there. You can’t beat a nice medium-medium rare pork tenderloin.

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Alright, so Tuesday night’s Passover Seder was spent at my dad’s. His Seder is different from the one with my mom’s side of the family. They do everything family style while my dad likes to serve each plate himself. I think it’s a control thing, but this site isn’t about psychoanalysis.

This is what his Seder Plate looks like. It has all the elements, however, he uses a roasted turkey neck instead of shankbone and a horseradish root instead of green onion.

Also, instead of putting Elijah’s wine glass on the Seder Plate, he puts a full place setting off to the side for him.

My old man did all of the cooking himself, which of course includes his Matzah Ball Soup. The main difference is that, like me, he puts the chicken meat back into the soup. I do have to say, this was one of his best batches.

For dinner he served some roast turkey, matzah meal stuffing, carrot ring, tsimis (a slow braised beef short rib with carrots), green beans, and potato kugel (basically a casserole of grated potato).

He freshly grated some horseradish.

And, of course, plenty of Matzah on hand.

I was in charge of dessert. I made a citrus sponge cake and served it with whipped cream and strawberries. The cake was made with matzah meal flour and potato flour. I mixed in the grated rind and juice from a lemon and an orange. As thick as the batter was with all of the heavy flour it actually turned out light and moist.

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