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Archive for March, 2011

So, this recipe is loosely based on a Charlie Trotter. The sauce is his, and the overall flavor concept is his, but I added some of my own touches and served the quinoa mixture in lettuce cups. Honestly, I think he’d prefer that I use his recipe for inspiration rather than to have me follow it to the teaspoon.

First thing I did was make the apricot-curry sauce. I took 3/4 teaspoon of curry powder, 1/4 cup of rice vinegar, 3/4 cup dried apricots, and 1/2 cup of water and blended it all together in my small food processor until all of the little apricot chunks were hacked up to a pulp.

Then I strained it while pressing it through with the back of a wooden spoon. I covered it in plastic and put in the fridge while I cooked everything else.

For the quinoa I used a handful of fresh chopped parsley, some red leaf lettuce leaves, 1 clove of garlic minced, 1/2 inch of ginger minced, 5 green onions chopped, 1/2 red bell pepper diced, a handful of dried apricots diced, 1/2 cup of quinoa rinsed, and 1/2 lb of skinless boneless chicken thighs chopped up.

In a hot pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of canola oil and added the garlic and ginger. I let them sizzle for about 30 seconds and then added the bell pepper and green onions. After about 5 minutes I added the quinoa and let it sort of toast in the hot oil for a few minutes. This brings out its nutty flavors.

Then I added the chicken and let it just start to cook. I poured in about 1 cup of water, seasoned with a little salt and pepper, let it come to a boil, covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Then, I turned off the heat but kept it covered for another 15 minutes. After that I took off the lid, added the parsley, and fluffed it up with a fork. I tasted for seasoning and that’s about all there was to it.

To serve, I simply laid some of the lettuce leaves down, spooned on some of the quinoa, then topped with the curry sauce.

I served some white rice and miso soup along side.

For this miso soup I used miso, 3 shiitake sliced, 3 green onions sliced, 1 block of fried tofu diced, and some wakame. I used my typical miso soup making method.

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The other night Yuki and I used up another Groupon that was about to expire. We were intrigued by the $30 savings from an all-you-can-eat Brazillian steakhouse, yet one that’s different from the Brazzaz’s and Fogo’s of the world. This Groupon was for Al Primo Canto. At the time they had two locations, one at 749 N Clark and one at 5414 W Devon. The Clark location would have been a quick busride for us, but for whatever reason they closed that one down before we used the Groupon. Oh well, what can you do? So, we drove up to Edgebrook.

The location looks very generic on the outside. It’s a small little strip of storefronts right on the intersection of Devon and Central. The Metra rolls by about 1/2 block to the west. When we saw the facade we weren’t real excited about going inside. Once inside though, it was a different story. I wish I had a good pic of the interior, but it was the complete opposite of the exterior. It was very warm with lots of wood and really was a comfortable atmosphere. They do need a little better exhause system though as we both smelled like smoke when we left. The grills are in the back, but somehow the smoke fills the entire place. It’s not too bad, but will absorb into your clothes and hair, especially if you have a thick Jew-fro like me (and I’m just talking about my tuchas!).

The main difference between Al Primo Canto and other Brazzilian steakhouses is that there are no gouchos walking around with huge skewers of meat and there is no mile long salad bar. You can either order a la carte, or all-you-can-eat. We opted for the all-you-can-eat option in order to try out the various cuts of meat.

The meal started off with cheese pop-overs, flat bread, and eggplant caponatto. The eggplant was great, it tasted very similar to baba ghanoush.

Then they brought out three pasta dishes, all with fetucini. One had a mushroom sauce, one tomato sauce, and one garlic and herb. The pasta was all very simple, but tasted pretty good. The noodles were nicely al dente.

Next came the meats and starches. Fried potatoes with a blue cheese sauce, fried polenta with parmesan cheese, a plate with lamb and beef both grilled on large skewers typical of Brazillian steakhouses on top of sauteed green beans and pearl onions, and a couple pieces of grilled chicken.

They also brought out a mixed green salad.

The beef and lamb were a little dry due to overcooking on the grill, but not so much that it ruined the dinner. The flavors and quality of the meat were pretty damn good. I will say that the chicken was outstanding! Crisp skin and juicy meat they covered it in fresh sage. I liked that a lot.

I washed everything down with a couple of caparinhas. Not too sweet, but could have used a little more cachaca.

We split a flan for dessert. It was served with a raspberry couli, powdered sugar, and a blackberry garnish. It was ok, a little dense for our tastes. Don’t quote me on this but it didn’t taste homemade. It wasn’t terrible though.

As for the service I will say that the server and bussers were extremely attentive and on the ball…for the most part. We had actually commented a few times to each other at how good the service was until we asked for a box to take our leftovers home. That’s where the wrench was thrown. Appearantly they do not allow you to take home leftovers from the all-you-can-eat menu. I told them how ridiculous it was that they were going to throw away all of that perfectly good food that we were paying for. The server brought the manager over who, again, wouldn’t allow a box to be brought over. He said he’d have to speak with the owner and I told him to let me speak to the owner. So, the owner came over and explained the reasoning behind this. I guess people used to take advantage and would order more dishes just to take home. While I can understand that we were never even aware that we could order more meats or pasta. We were under the assumption that what was brought out was the meal, plain and simple. A little back and forth and finally he agreed to let us take our food home since the server never explained how they operate. I would have won even if the server did just because I’m an argumentative bastard who doesn’t give up. Plus, how can you throw away all of that food? This world is on the brink of a major food crisis. People in Japan right now would love a full meal to eat, not to mention all of the 3rd world countries or even a lot of people in America (Yuki even brought up Japan’s crisis).

In the end though, the owner did do right by us. We didn’t order any refills of any food so he didn’t feel cheated. Because of that we got our lunch the next day.

Overall, I would say that Al Primo Canto is a very average restaurant. The food is good, the service for the most part is good, but nothing is special. If we lived in Edgebrook we’d probably go there every once in a while. It is not worth a drive though. There are way too many places much closer to us that serve better food at similar or even lower prices. So, while we’ll probably never be back, I can’t say that the place isn’t worth a stop, it’s just not worth going out of your way for.

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This dish is a simple riff on the classic Beef and Barley Stew. As cheap as stew beef is, ground beef is even cheaper. So, this is a great way to save some cash while still making a delicious and healthy dish.

For the stew I used a handful of parsley chopped, 2 tomatoes chopped, 1/2 onion diced, 1 large shallot diced, 3 cloves of garlic minced, 1 carrot diced, 9 asparagus stalks chopped, 4 cups of beef broth, 2/3 cup of hulled barley, 4 ounces of mixed mushrooms sliced, and a big sprig of thyme.

I heated up a pot and poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and added the garlic. About a minute later I added the onion, carrot, and shallot. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then tossed in the asparagus. I just wanted the asparagus to get nicely coated with the olive oil, so I only let it go for a minute or two before adding the barley. I let the barley sort of toast in the hot oil for a few minutes.

After that I poured in the stock and added the tomatoes and mushrooms as soon as it came up to a slow simmer. Then I dropped the thyme in, covered the pot, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes.

While the barley was stewing I made my meatballs. In a glass bowl I beat 1 egg. To that I added about 2 tablespoons of fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano, fresh bread crumbs from 2 pieces of bread, 3 cloves of garlic minced, and 2/3 pound of ground beef. I mixed it all together and then formed walnut-sized meatballs.

I threw the meatballs into the stew, brought it back up to a simmer, then covered it again for about 10 more minutes until the meatballs were cooked through. Then I turned off the heat, added the parsley, and seasoned with salt and pepper. I served it up with slices of french bread.

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I made this dish last Monday, so I’m a little late putting up here. A couple of our friends had a party for us since we’ll be new parents in a couple of months, and we came home with leftovers. We had some vegetables from the veggie tray as well as some leftover catered Middle Eastern food. Looking in my cupboard I found some lentils and thought a simple stew would go well and help use up the ingredients.

We had brought home some celery and carrots that I diced. I also diced an onion, minced 3 garlic cloves, minced an inch of ginger, chopped up 3 skinless chicken thighs, and got out 1 cup of chicken stock, 1 14oz can of diced tomatoes, and 1 cup of lentils.

I heated up a pot and then added about 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds, then added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 6 minutes and then added the lentils. I wanted the lentils to sort of saute for about 2 or 3 minutes before adding anything else.

Then I poured in the chicken stock. Once it started to boil I added the can of tomatoes and seasoned with salt and pepper. I noticed that I had a big sprig of rosemary, so I tossed that in as well. Once everything started to boil again I added the chicken. I let it come to a slow boil, covered the pot, and turned the heat to med-low. I let it stew for about 15 minutes.

I realized that I had some spinach in the fridge, so I chopped up a large handful, threw that into the stew, and let it go for another 10-15 minutes.

I served the stew with leftover hummus with pita and some Jerusalem Salad which consisted of chopped cucumber and red bell pepper with a parsley and lemon vinaigrette. I added some red leaf lettuce. The sides were all from Salam.

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This past Friday night I made a rice noodle soup with some really nice shrimp I picked up. Being a Friday night dinner, this is a 2 person recipe as opposed to my normal 4 person.

First I had to make a broth. To do that I used the shells from my shrimp (I had 10 shrimp that I shelled and butterflied), 1 stick of lemongrass cut in half both in length and width then bashed up with the back of my knife to release the oils, 1 inch of ginger sliced, 1/2 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, 3 cloves of star anise, and 1/2 tablespoon of whole coriander seeds.

I heated my pan up and added the shrimp shells dry. I let them cook, tossing them around, for about 6 minutes or so until they turned pink. As they do so they release some of their oils. While the pan was still dry I added the pepper corns and coriander and let them toast for a minute.

Then I poured in 2.5 cups of hot water while scraping up the little pieces of shell that stuck to the bottom of the pan. Once the water came up to a slight boil I added the lemongrass, ginger, and cloves. I covered the pan, turned the heat to med-low, and let it simmer for about 30 minutes. I strained the broth into a clean pan and set it aside while I prepped my veggies.

Along with my shrimp, the veggies included 1/2 a red bell pepper sliced, 3 shiitake sliced, 6 asparagus chopped, 1 tomato cut into 6 wedges, about 2 ounces of bean sprouts, and a bunch of green onions sliced.

I brought the broth back up to a slow boil and added everything except for the shrimp, tomato, and bean sprouts. I covered it back up and let it simmer over medium heat for about 10 minutes. Then I added the shrimp and tomato and let it go for another 4 minutes, just until the shrimp were cooked and turned pink. Finally, I added the bean sprouts and then turned off the heat about minute after that.

While this was going on I boiled some water in a large stock pot and cooked my rice noodles according to package instructions.

To put it together I simply placed the noodles in the bottom of a bowl and ladled the soup along with shrimp and vegetables on top. I garnished with a squeeze of sriracha, 1/2 an avocado diced, some lime juice, and chopped cilantro.

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The other night we made Onigiri for dinner. Onigiri is great because you can pack in smaller amounts of protein which saves cash, while still making a very nutritious meal. It’s also fun to make and eat. We commonly make Onigiri to take with on bike rides and hikes.

Besides warm white rice the main ingredients are typically nori for wrapping and then some sort of cooked fish or dried seaweed. For the dried seaweed the idea is that the warm moist rice will kind of rehydrate it while leaving a little texture. I used some salmon and some of these rice mixes, Mazekomi, that are available at most Asian grocers. The mazekomi in our cupboard are wakame and sesame seed, wakame and cod roe, and wakame and dried sardine.

I made 2.5 cups of rice earlier in the day so that come time to make the Onigiri it’d be warm and not hot. I simply roasted the salmon with a splash of soy sauce at 350 degrees for about 15 minutes. Once it cooled down a little I broke it apart into pieces.

On a piece of plastic wrap I put down a little of the rice and spread it out. Then I topped it with some of the salmon and mazekomi. I covered it with a little more rice.

Using the plastic wrap I packed it down and formed it into a triangle. With 2.5 cups of rice you should be able to get 6-8 Onigiri no problem.

To eat it you simply wrap it with a piece of nori (if you have the regular sushi width nori sheets you’ll want to cut them in half) and let your chompers do their trick.

To go with the Onigiri I made some Miso Soup. I used about 3.5 cups of water, 3 tablespoons of dashi soy sauce, 1 tablespoon of miso, 1/2 onion sliced, some daikon chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 2 red skinned potatoes skinned and chopped, 3 shiitake sliced, and some salted wakame rinsed and soaked.

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This past weekend Whole Foods had West Coast Sole filets on sale. I gots me sum soul, so I figured we oughtta eat some sole. I wanted to do something with cilantro and capers since I liked that combination at Blue 13 (Yuki actually made a dish a couple of weeks ago with those two ingredients, it was delicious but I didn’t take pics so I can’t blog it). I thought that I could do a simple riff on the classic Sole Meuniere, so that’s what I did.

The ingredient list included a few tablespoons of cilantro chopped, about 3 tablespoons of capers rinsed, a little paprika, zest and juice from 1/2 a lemon, 1/2 a tomato seeded and diced, 1/2 an avocado diced, 2 tablespoons of butter, some flour for dusting, and 4 sole filets.

I sprinkled the sole filets with salt, pepper, paprika, and some of the lemon zest and then set it aside while I diced up the tomato and avocado. Once all of my mise en place was all set I heated up my large skillet and melted 1 tablespoon of the butter. I let the butter go for a couple of minutes until it just started to turn a little brown. I didn’t want it to burn, but I wanted a little depth to the flavor. Then I dredged the sole filets in the flour and cooked them in the melted butter, about 2 minutes per side. When the fish was ready I put two filets on each plate and topped them with the avocado. After that I put the other tablespoon of butter in the skillet. Once it melted I added the tomato, capers, cilantro, lemon juice, and the rest of the lemon zest. I mixed it all around over med-high heat for about 30 seconds or s0 and then poured it right on top of the fish and avocado. Simple as that.

I served it with some white rice and some mushroom barley soup I had left from a trip to Kasia’s. Mushroom barley soup might not be the obvious choice for this dish, but it worked out alright.

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