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Archive for September, 2010

Last night we finally got to try Ruxbin Kitchen. It was our third attempt, and I guess it’s true what they say, the third time’s the charm. You see, Ruxbin Kitchen is a new restaurant just down the street from us that opened up this past summer. They don’t take reservations and word must have gotten out quick about how good it is because the first two times Yuki and I went there the wait was 1.5 hours. Yesterday we planned on going early, at 6pm, to ensure a table. We got our table, and while I don’t think there was a wait after we got there, the restaurant was full, for good reason.

It’s a small space, only about a 40 person capacity maybe. It’s real kitschy inside. Comfortable seats, wood tables and fixtures, cookbooks displayed on the walls, and pages from cookbooks plastered all over the ceiling.

Service was good. Not the fastest, not the slowest, but a nice pace. Our server was knowledgable of the menu and didn’t push us in any direction. It is BYOB, so be prepared. They do offer the proper glasses and openers. They also brought out popcorn sprinkled with ground nori to nosh on while perusing the menu. That replaced bread service.

We started off with the Crispy Eggplant. It’s sliced, quartered eggplant coating in bread crumbs and deep-fried. Served with roasted beets, sticks of cucumber, frisee, and honey-cardamom yogurt. There’s also some pepper sprinkled around one edge of the plate for you own pleasure. I have to say, as much as I love the classic beet salad with mixed greens, walnuts, and fried goat cheese that everyone serves, this was a really nice change of pace. Even though it’s called Crispy Eggplant, for me, the beets were the dominant flavor. Very nice salad to start with.

Next, we shared the K-Town Empanadas. Two empanadas stuffed with masa, kimchee, Oaxaca cheese, and covered with a chimichurri creme fraiche. Who on earth would put cheese and kimchee together? Chef Ed Kim, that’s who. What a stroke of genius! The kimchee took center stage while the cheese added a subtle sweetness and the masa some texture. definitely a winner.

We split two entrees. One was a perfectly cooked piece of trout with nice crispy skin and moist flesh. It was served on top of a bulgur wheat tabbouleh with black sesame seeds and dates, asparagus spears on top, and basil pesto drizzled around the plate. I’m not usually impressed by trout, but this dish was fantastic. The sweet dates, bitter asparagus, earthy bulgur wheat and sesame seeds, and herby basil all worked really well together.

The other entrée we got was their play on chicken and waffles. There was roasted breast with crispy skin along one side of the plate. That came with a citrus sauce of some kind. Then was a cumin cheddar waffle with dark meat carnitas and apple walnut compote. The waffle was sliced in half with the carnitas sandwiched in between and the compote on top. The rest of the plate was a slaw with arugula. The waffle was outstanding. The most creative take on chicken and waffles I’ve ever eaten and another home run by Chef Kim. My only gripe with the plate was that the breast was a little over salted, not so much that it was bad though. That’s something that most chefs do and I’ll never understand. I like salt, but chefs almost always put a little too much on chicken. Oh well, the entire dish was great.

We didn’t have any room in our guts for dessert so I can’t comment on them. Next time we go back we’ll keep it to one appetizer so that we have room for dessert. And believe me, we’ll definitely go back! Not sure it’s worth a 1.5 hour wait (I don’t think any restaurant is worth that) but it’s definitely worth waiting for a while if you get there and it’s full. I love having a joint like this so close to my place. A great place to take out-of-town friends who want something hip that’s off the beaten path.

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Last night I made another Japanese flavored spaghetti dish using sake hogushi and aonori. Sake hogushi is simply cooked salmon that’s been flaked into small “crumbs” and jarred. Aonori is a type of nori, Japanese algae, that’s been ground into a powder. The two ingredients can be used in a variety of ways like being sprinkled on white rice, mixed into cream sauces or dressings, or used like I did last night to name a few. Great ingredients to have on hand and available at any Asian grocer.

First thing I did was get my side vegetables ready. I had three beefsteak tomatoes and 1 large Japanese eggplant. I sliced the top off the tomatoes, sliced the eggplant in half length-wise, and then cut the eggplant into 2-3 inch pieces. I coated the tops of the vegetables with panko, then drizzled some olive oil on top, then sprinkled some aonori on top of that. I roasted them in a 350 degree oven for about 35-40 minutes, just enough time for me to get the rest of dinner ready.

To make the spaghetti I used butter, the sake hogushi, half on onion sliced, 7 button mushrooms sliced, and 4 garlic cloves. In a large hot skillet I poured about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then melted 1 tablespoon of butter in that. I added the onion and let it sweat for about 4 minutes. Then, I added the garlic and mushrooms. At the same time I cooked my noodles in boiling water until al dente. The garlic and mushrooms needed about 5 minutes which was about the same amount of time the noodles took. After draining the noodles (I reserved about 1/3 cup of the water) I added about 1/4 cup of soy sauce along with 1/2 cup of the sake hogushi to the onions, garlic, and mushrooms. I let the soy come to boil for about 2 minutes and then added the noodles and reserved water with some black pepper. I let the noodles coat with the sauce and most of the liquid boil off then turned off the heat and covered the skillet.

Then, I took two baby bok choy that I had seperated the leaves of and put them in my steamer for about 4 minutes. That’s just enough time to cook the stems without having the leaves wilt too much.

To serve, I put the baby bok choy on the plate then the spaghetti on top of that. I sprinkled it with some aonori and then put a tomato and some eggplant on the side.

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Again, no Meatless Monday. With the Bears-Packers game it just didn’t seem right to cook vegetarian. Sausages on the grill seemed much more appropriate for a Monday Night Football game like that. I did make some carrot cake earlier in the day however, and that’s a vegetarian dish.

There are a million ways to make carrot cake, but to me, there’s nothing better than the classic. I used 6 medium carrots, 2.5 cups of cake flour, 3 eggs, 7 ounces of greek yogurt, 1/4 cup of crushed walnuts, 1.5 cups of pure cane sugar, 1/4 teaspoon each of cinnamon, nutmeg, and allspice, 1 teaspoon each of baking soda and baking powder,  1/2 teaspoon of salt, and 2/3 cup of vegetable oil (didn’t make it in the photo).

In a medium glass bowl I stirred up the eggs, sugar, yogurt, and oil. I set that aside and grated the carrots. I used the grater in my food processor because that’s by far the fastest and easiest way to grate 6 carrots. You could easily use a hand-held grater too, doesn’t matter as long as the carrots are grated. In a large glass dish I mixed together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, spices, and salt and then put the grated carrots in and mixed it all together until all of the carrot pieces were completely coated. I poured the egg mixture into the carrot and flour mixture and completely mixed all of that together. Then I stirred in the walnuts. I poured the batter into a regular 9 inch loaf pan that I placed a piece of parchment paper on the bottom. I baked it at 350 degrees for about 45 minutes then turned the heat down to 325 degrees and let it bake for another 20 minutes. This kept it nice and moist while giving it a golden color.

It’s great either on its own or sliced and toasted with some butter. You could also frost it with a buttermilk or cream cheese frosting if you want, but it’s just fine by itself.

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Friday night, to me, was the perfect night for grilling. Mid-60’s, clear skies, light breeze. Unlike summer, which I still grill quite a bit, it wasn’t too hot to stand over a hot grill. In light of that, I had to get something on the grill. With organic air-chilled split chicken breasts on sale my mind was made up for me.

I had two big breasts that I slashed the flesh 4 times in each. I did this for two reasons, to allow the marinade to penetrate more meat and to allow them to grill more evenly since they were pretty meaty in the middle. For the marinade, in my small processor I processed up 3 garlic cloves, 2 green onions, 1 inch of ginger, and 2 tablespoons each of soy sauce, mirin, sake, and shiro miso. I rubbed it all into the chicken, covered it, and let it sit in the fridge for an hour.

For my side I made haricots vert in miso-sesame dressing. I cleaned up 6 ounces of haricots vert and set them aside. I took 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds and dumped them into a hot skillet and let them toast until they turned a nice golden color and started to release their aroma, about 1-2 minutes. Then I ground them with my pestle and mortar and added a big pinch of sugar, 1.5 tablespoons of seasoned soy sauce (contains mirin and dashi), and 1/2 tablespoon of shiro miso. I mixed that all together and set it aside. Later on, right after taking the chicken off the grill, I steamed the haricots vert for about 4 minutes and then tossed them with the dressing.

I also made some miso soup. I boiled about 2 cups of water and added two skinned and diced yukon gold potatoes, 2 green onions sliced, and three shiitake sliced. While they were boiling I took a bunch of salted wakame and soaked it in water while also cleaning 3 ounces of bean sprouts. I also set aside 1/4 cup of the seasoned soy sauce and a large spoonful of shiro miso.

While the potatoes were cooking in the miso soup I got the grill ready and grilled up the chicken. I got the skin nice and crisp while the meat stayed juicy.

Just before taking the chicken off I poured the seasoned soy into the miso soup and added the sprouts and wakame. Right after taking the chicken off I mixed the miso into the soup and then, like I said earlier, steamed the haricots vert. I took some shichimi togarashi and crushed black and white sesame seeds and sprinkled them all over the chicken. I served everything with white rice.

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Yesterday I saw some really nice coho salmon on sale that just came in that morning. Since I haven’t cooked salmon in a while I took that as a sign that it’s time to do it up again. I decided to keep it very simple and use some Japanese flavors to appease my wife.

After lunch I got the rice ready. I rinsed 1 cup of rice and threw it in the rice cooker like normal, then added a couple of large pinches of dried hijiki seaweed and a diced carrot. I let it sit for about a half hour to let the hijiki re-hydrate and flavor some of the water. Then I turned on the machine and let the rice cook. When it was finished I turned it off, mixed everything together, and let it cool to room temperature.

Closer to dinner time I made my teriyaki sauce. In a small saucepan I gently heated 3 tablespoons each of soy sauce, sake, and mirin along with 1 tablespoon of sugar. I let it heat just until the sugar was completely dissolved and turned off the heat before it came to a boil. I let that cool to room temperature.

Here’s my 20 ounce filet of coho salmon. I cut it into 4 equal portions and marinated it in the teriyaki sauce for about 45 minutes at room temperature.

While the salmon was marinating I got the abura-age ready. I had a pack of three here. I cut them in half and rinsed them off with some boiling water. They very oily and the boiling water rinsed a majority of that oil off. Then the packages open up nicely for easy stuffing.

I stuffed them equally with the rice mixture and then sealed them. I didn’t have any toothpicks, so I cut down some bamboo skewers to do the job. In a saute pan I brought 1/4 cup of water to boil with 1/4 cup of seasoned soy. The soy is seasoned with a little dashi and mirin. Once lightly boiling I put the packets in, covered it, and turned the heat to low. This lets the broth flavor penetrate while heating up the rice. I let it go for about 10 minutes then turned off the heat and let it sit until everything was ready.

I also placed the salmon under the broiler, starting with the skin-side up. About 5 minutes later I turned it over, basted the top with the marinade left in the dish, and let it broil for another 5 minutes.

Before cooking the salmon and abura-age I got my vegetables ready. I had two large heads of baby bok choy that I separated the leaves from the stems and chopped them all down, 1/2 onion sliced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 package of shiitake sliced, and 1/2 a large red bell pepper sliced.

While the salmon was broiling and the abura-age packets absorbing tasty fluids I heated up a pan and poured in 2 tablespoons of sesame oil and tossed in the onions to let them saute for about 4 minutes. Then I added the peppers and garlic. After another few minutes I added the shiitake and bok choy stems for about 4 more minutes. I seasoned with pepper and poured in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce. Once the soy boiled off I added the bok choy leaves, stirred them in, covered the pan, and turned off the heat. I just wanted the leaves to wilt a little.

I timed it all so everything would be finished at the same time. I plated it up and scarfed it down.

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So, my little brother took us out to eat at Essence Of India last night, so no Meatless Monday. We did get vegetarian samosas and a chickpea and spinach dish though, so we did partially do Meatless Monday (not inlcuding our lamb and chicken). Since I’ve already blogged about that joint a while back here’s what I made for dinner this past Friday, kefta kabobs.

I used a 1/4 onion, a piece of ginger, 1 garlic clove, 1 tablespoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, 1 teaspoon of dried basil, 1 teaspoon of dried oregano, and 3/4 pound of ground lamb.

In a glass bowl I plopped the lamb meat and grated the onion, ginger, and garlic on top. In a small sauce pan I heated up 2 tablespoons of olive oil and put all of the dried spices in. I let them cook in the oil for about 1 minute. Then I turned off the heat and let the spice mix cool for about 5 minutes. After that, I poured it on the meat and seasoned with salt and pepper. That all got mixed together in order to mix the flavors evenly throughout the meat. I formed 4 oblong “sausages” out of the meat and then put it in the fridge for about a half hour to let the meat firm up.

On the side I made some chickpeas with vegetables. I used 3 plum tomatoes chopped, 2 garlic cloves minced, the other 1/4 of onion diced, 1 red bell pepper diced, 1 14 ounce can of chickpeas, 1 large handful of baby spinach, and 1/2 teaspoon each of cumin, cayenne, and turmeric.

In a heated pan I poured about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then tossed in the onion, carrot, and bell pepper. I let them sweat for about 6 minutes and then added the garlic. About a minute later I added the tomatoes with all of their juices and let them break down for about 4 minutes. Then the chickpeas went it along with the spices with salt and pepper. Once the chickpeas were heated through, about 4-5 more minutes, I added the spinach. I turned off the heat and covered it. The residual heat wilted the spinach and keeping it covered gave me enough time to grill the kefta.

While the grill was heating up I took 4 bamboo skewers that were soaking in water for an hour and pushed them through the cold kefta. I oiled the grill and then cooked the kefta for about 4 minutes on all four sides.

Instead of regular white rice to go with everything I used basmati rice. I used chicken stock instead of water along with a pinch of turmeric for color. I would have used saffron, but I’m out. I chopped up some cilantro and garnished the plate.

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The Top Chef finale was on the other night and I noticed something from watching it this season…every time someone made a pea puree they won the challenge. With that in mind I decided to make my own pea puree to eat while watching the finale. Instead of using green peas though I used edamame.

To make the puree I started with 1 cup of frozen shelled edamame, 1/2 onion diced, 1 lemon zested and juiced, 1 garlic clove minced, 1/3 cup soy milk, and a handful of cilantro.

In a heated pot I poured about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and tossed the onion in. I let the onion sweat over medium heat for about 5 minutes and then added the garlic. About 1 minute later I added the edamame (it was still frozen when I added it). It only took about 6-7 minutes for the edamame to heat through, at which point I turned off the heat and let it cool down for about 10 minutes.

I put the edamame mixture in my blender and added the cilantro, soy milk, 1/4 of the lemon zest, and half of the lemon juice. While blending it I noticed that it needed a little more liquid to get a nice smooth puree. After tasting it, I decided to add about 1/4 cup of orange juice instead of more soy milk, it needed a little sweetness to it. Once I got the thick, smooth texture I wanted I seasoned it with salt and pepper and poured it back into the pot. I gently re-heated it when it came time to serve.

Before cooking the halibut I got some vegetables ready. I sliced one red bell pepper (decided to only use one of them, I’ll use the other one tonight) and the half of the onion from the puree. I also cleaned up some asparagus.

I simply laid the vegetables on a roasting tray, drizzled some olive oil on top, seasoned with salt and pepper, and then sprinkled about another quarter of the lemon zest on top. This all went into an 350 degree oven for about a half hour.

For the halibut I used three 4-5 ounce filets (I still had meatloaf leftovers for my lunch so I only needed lunch leftovers for Yuki) and seasoned them with salt, pepper, and the 3rd quarter of lemon zest.

In a large skillet over high heat I poured in about 1 tablespoon of vegetable oil and then dropped 1 tablespoon of butter in. I laid the filets in skin-side down and let them go for 5-6 minutes, until the skin was golden brown and crispy and released from the pan with ease. If the fish doesn’t release easily then it’s not ready. Once it was ready I flipped it over and let the other side go for about 5 minutes until it released easily.

To serve, I laid the halibut on top of some puree, laid the vegetables all around, and then sprinkled everything with the rest of the lemon zest and juice. White rice on the side.

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