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Archive for June, 2010

Feeling relatively uninspired for Meatless Monday last night I decided to clear some of the older veggies out of my fridge. The best way to do that is a simple stir-fry. Instead of meat I just added some cubed tofu.

I halved and quartered some shiitake depending on their size, separated and cleaned up some baby bok choy, chopped up a carrot, half an onion, 6 green onions, and a chinese eggplant.

I mixed together 1 tablespoon of paprika, 2 teaspoons of cumin, a pinch of sugar, and a pinch of cayenne. After pressing the liquid out of the tofu in the fridge for about an hour I cubed it and tossed it in the spice mix. Then, in a hot pan, I stir-fried the tofu in soy oil for about 5 minutes. After that I put the tofu back into a bowl, wiped out the pan, and then cooked the veggies.

I started by adding some minced garlic and ginger to some hot soy oil. Then every few minutes I added another vegetable. I started with the onion, then carrot, green onion, shiitake, and eggplant. Once all the veggies were in I seasoned with salt and pepper. Then I tossed the tofu back in and added the juice of one lime and 2 tablespoons of honey (I had mixed the two together beforehand in order to get the honey fully integrated). I let that cook down for about 3 minutes or so before it was ready to serve.

I steamed the baby bok choy for about 4 minutes.

To serve, I laid the baby bok choy down on the plate and then topped it with the stir-fry. White rice was on the side.

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After years of wondering why there was no Indian food in Wicker Park one finally opened up a few months ago at 1414 N Milwaukee, a nice 15 minute walk from my place. It’s called Cumin. They claim to be modern Nepalese/Indian, and while there really isn’t anything modern about it, it was damn tasty!

They have nice paintings of Himalayan villages on the walls and a pretty nice bar. Tables were a little too close together when getting up to leave or go to the bathroom, but were otherwise spaced alright while eating. The two-top tables were too small though. There was barely enough room for our food and didn’t leave us any elbow room. Overall, we weren’t uncomfortable though.

Once we ordered they brought out the pappdom and sauces. The standard tamarind, cilantro, and chutney. The tamarind sauce was excellent! One of the best I’ve ever had.

For an appetizer we got the “true national dish” of Nepal (according to the menu), chicken momo. It’s basically just a regular dumpling filled with seasoned ground chicken. Amongst the seasonings were turmeric, ginger, and cumin. It was delicious! Very simple, very fresh, full of flavor.

We shared two entres along with some Indian rice and some naan. We got lamb keema matar and jhaneko dal. The lamb dish was ground lamb cooked with peas, big slivers of ginger, carrots, onion, and tomato. The dal was a Nepalese lentil dish stewed with onion and cumin. Both dishes were excellent!

The appetizers range from $4-10 while the entres start at $11 and top out at $20 for seafood. They average about $12-14 though, so this restaurant is not overpriced at all. It’s priced in line with a typical Indian restaurant. The quality of food is fantastic as well. The ingredients were all fresh and nicely prepared.

I won’t go as far as saying that Cumin is my new favorite Indian restaurant, because it isn’t. However, having one of its caliber so close is music to my tongue.

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It felt great to get back on the grill last night after all this rain we’ve gotten. I kept it real simple with some grilled chicken thighs and vegetables along with some white rice.

The first thing I did was get the vegetables prepped. I cleaned some yellow string beans (which I wrapped in foil with some olive oil, salt, and pepper for the grill), sliced up an orange bell pepper, and trimmed a bunch of green onions. Before grilling I drizzled everything with olive oil, salt, and pepper.

About 15 minutes before grilling I tossed 1.5 pounds of skinless-boneless chicken thighs. The marinade consisted of the juice of one lime, 2 tablespoons of sriracha, and a half cup of olive oil (I used about 2/3rds for marinating and reserved the rest). I didn’t want to marinate for too long because the lime juice will make the chicken tough, much like a ceviche. 15 minutes or so is just long enough for some flavor to penetrate the meat without the lime cooking it.

I sprinkled the chicken with salt just prior to grilling everything. With the reserved marinade, I mixed in a tablespoon of honey and brushed the chicken a few times while it grilled.

Besides white rice, I also served everything with a sliced avocado and a sliced heirloom tomato. Some gin and juice washed it all down.

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Last night I was back at it with Meatless Monday. I haven’t used tofu in a while so I decided to make a dish with it. I treated it like a piece of fish or chicken and cooked it en papillote with some vegetables. Well, that’s not entirely accurate. I used foil instead of parchment paper. Same cooking method though.

I had some baby bok chow in the fridge, so I finished that up by separating it into individual leaves. I sliced half of an onion, a small red bell pepper, and halved some shiitake mushrooms. I picked up a block of firm tofu, I prefer silken because of its silky texture but they didn’t have any. Any kind of tofu works. I pressed the water out of it for about an hour in the fridge then cut it into 4 equal “steaks” before cooking. I also picked up some yellow string beans.

On a square of aluminum foil I first laid down a couple of bok choy leaves. On top of that some onions and then a tofu steak. I scattered some pepper slices, yellow beans, shiitake, and more onions on top and around the tofu. Then I put a couple small pats of butter on top with 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce and 1 teaspoon of sake. A little bit of black pepper and my packet was ready to be sealed. I make 4 packets. I wanted to make sure that the foil was completely sealed so that the vegetables would steam inside and not lose any good juice.

I threw them into an oven at 425 degrees and let them cook for about 20-25 minutes. They were opened at the dinner table to keep the steam in. I used chopsticks to open mine so that I wouldn’t burn myself with the steam.

For the tomato and bread soup I used 6 Roma tomatoes, two cloves of garlic, three dinner rolls, and some fresh basil from my balcony. I started by skinning the tomatoes in hot water. Just make a small “x” with a sharp knife on the bottom of each tomato and drop them all into boiling water for about 15 seconds. The skin will come loose and you can easily peel it off. Then I chopped the tomatoes into half-inch square pieces. I also chopped up the rolls about the same size. The garlic was minced and the basil chopped.

In a hot pan I poured about a quarter cup of olive oil and threw the garlic and basil in for about a minute. Then I added the bread and let it go for another few minutes.

Then I added the tomatoes and seasoned with some salt. I poured in about a 1.5-2 cups of the water that I used to skin the tomatoes. Once that came to a boil I lowered the heat to medium, covered the pot, and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. That’s it, just check for seasoning and serve, along with white rice.

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For our 3rd anniversary last night Yuki and I decided to try out Sweets & Savories as we’ve heard great things about that restaurant. They offer a 3 course pre fix off the regular menu for only $29 every night. That deal seemed very appetizing to us. Being BYOB was also nice so we could save on a really nice bottle. We brought a bottle of Talbott Chardonnay 2007.

When we walked in the first thing we both noticed was a weird smell. It didn’t really smell like food. I’m not sure at all what it did smell like, but it was certainly a little weird. It didn’t bother us during dinner though, just when we first walked in. The interior was very drab and empty. The walls were a dark bronze-brown and there were only three pictures hanging on the back wall. Nothing else. I can’t call it minimalist because it isn’t. I think it’s more half-assed to be honest.

Service was a little off from the beginning as well. They had 3 servers and no one else. No bussers or host to help them out. The first server to greet us saw our reservation but said that we didn’t have a table assigned. I thought that was a little odd, especially since there were empty tables. He got a different server over who brought us to a table towards the back.

The first thing I noticed about the table was that there were salt and pepper shakers that looked like they came from a greasy diner. Not to sound like a snob or anything, but if you advertise your restaurant as serving upscale food there shouldn’t be salt and pepper on the table. The chef should season things for you while the servers should offer fresh cracked black pepper. I also noticed that their wine glasses are from IKEA. I know it’s BYOB, but that touch kind of cheapened the ambiance.

It took over 10 minutes for someone to bring us a wine opener and ice bucket. A few times I noticed a server standing around looking for something to do. How about letting us enjoy a glass of wine?  After we did place our order the service was much smoother, but still far from being good.

On to the food. I started off with the Vychissoise. As simple as soup gets, yet executed perfectly! I could taste every ingredient used from the potato to the leek to the garlic. Topped with some juicy lobster claw, a drizzle of truffle oil, and some chives this was a great starter.

Yuki ordered the Smoked Salmon Salade. It was also delicious. Just the right amount of vinegar to tie it all together.

For entrees I got the Grilled Pork Tenderloin. I couldn’t smell any of the rosemary that was supposedly used, but I could definitely smell the grill in my meat. Cooked rare with some pomegranate BBQ sauce it was really good. I know most people prefer their pork cooked through, but a nice tenderloin doesn’t need to be. It did send me to the porcelain god (for the record it was not to throw up)  three times this morning, but it was worth it for that soft meaty texture. The corn pudding was way under seasoned, but fortunately there was a salt shaker on the table.

Yuki got the Lobster Risotto. With peas, arugula, and grana cheese, this was a fantastic risotto. There was a ton of freshly poached lobster in this dish. As great as the lobster was, it was the arugula that held everything together. The bitterness was perfectly matched with the sweetness of the of lobster. Fantastic!

As great as the starters and entrees were the desserts fell a little short. I had the Fallen Chocolate Souffle Cake and Yuki got the Sweets & Savories Bread Pudding. The chocolate cake was light and fluffy, but extremely rich. With just the one little line of raspberry coulis it was difficult to eat, it needed more to help keep my palette fresh. For the bread pudding it was the caramel and creme anglaise that weren’t up to par. The caramel wasn’t quite sweet enough and the creme anglaise was a little too thin, it needed to be a little thicker for some textural difference in the dish.

Overall, it’s hard to argue with how good most of the food was for that price. The atmosphere and service leave little to be desired, but the food more than made up for the experience. The only though is that they’ve got the savouries part down, but they definitely need help with the sweets.

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Last night we went to Millennium Park to see Tony Allen play for free. Beautiful night and fantastic music! However, because of this, I didn’t do much for Meatless Monday. Nothing worth blogging about anyway. Instead, here’s a dish that Yuki made the other night. Thinly sliced strip steak in Korean chili sauce.

She thinly sliced a strip steak that weighed about 3/4’s of a pound. Then she marinated it in a mix of soy sauce, mirin, sake, sesame oil, a touch of salt, black pepper, and toban djan. Toban djan is a wonderful Korean chili paste that most grocers have in their Asian section. I have no idea what measurements she used since I was busy prepping vegetables, but I would imagine about a tablespoon or so of each liquid is pretty close. That marinated for about a half hour or so while we got everything else ready.

For vegetables we used some green beans, green onions, shiitake, alfalfa sprouts (Stanley’s didn’t have any bean sprouts), napa cabbage, and some fresh corn. The corn was simply boiled while the rest of the veggies were sautéed with the beef.

She sautéed the beef first with some diced garlic in sesame oil in small batches until they were partially cooked. Then she set the beef aside and threw the veggies in.

First was the green onions for a few minutes, followed by the green beans, then the shiitake, and finally the cabbage. She let them cook together for about 5 minutes or so with about a quarter cup of sake added.

Then she put the beef back in and added the sprouts. That went for another 5-7 minutes before it was ready (had to let the sake reduce) to be mauled by my molars.

While all of that was going on the corn was boiling in some salt water. When it was done all I did was melt a little butter on it and sprinkle it with some salt. I was surprised at how good the corn was. I know it’s not our good Midwestern corn yet, that won’t be ready for a couple of months yet. This probably came from Georgia, but it was quite tasty.

Also, true to a dish by Yuki, there was white rice on the side.

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Alright, back in the kitchen. The one thing about traveling in the Grand Circle area is the lack of quality Asian food. We did find one really good Thai place near Zion Canyon, but Yuki was craving Japanese flavors and simple white rice. So, being the absolutely wonderful husband that I am, I made some chicken teriyaki with vegetables and white rice.

First thing I had to do was make the teriyaki sauce. In a small sauce pan I put in 1 tablespoon of sugar with 7 tablespoons each of soy sauce, mirin, and sake. I also added a few fresh rosemary needles just to add one more element. I let that come to a slow boil for just a few minutes until the sugar was dissolved. Then I set it aside and let it cool to room temperature.

Once the sauce was cooled I marinated some bone-in skin-on chicken breasts in it for about an hour at room temperature.

Then I cut up all the vegetables. Half of a sweet onion was sliced, one carrot into matchsticks, 7 good-sized shiitake mushrooms sliced, a handful of green beans cut in half, and half of a small napa cabbage head sliced.

I turned the oven on to 400 degrees. I took my baking pan and lined it with foil and then laid a rack inside it. I laid the chicken thighs on the rack, sprinkled them with some pepper and a few rosemary needles, and threw them in the oven. I strained the reserved marinade back into the small sauce pan and boiled it for about 15 minutes until it reduced into a BBQ sauce consistency. Then I took the chicken out and glazed it with the thickened teriyaki and threw it back into the over for another 15 minutes.

While the sauce reduced I sautéed the vegetables. I started by throwing a couple of diced garlic cloves into some hot olive oil. After a minute I added the onion. A few minutes later the carrot. Then I added the green beans followed by the shiitake. I let it all come together for about 5 minutes and then seasoned with very little salt, some pepper, and about 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. I covered the pot and turned the heat way down to low. The vegetables at this point were mostly cooked, I just wanted them to finish off by steaming a little in the soy sauce.

I steamed the napa cabbage. That only takes about 4-5 minutes, so I waited until the chicken was just about done.

That’s it. A pretty simple meal to make but full of flavor and very healthy.

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