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Posts Tagged ‘arugula’

Yesterday was our 4th Anniversary. Somehow, Yuki’s been able to tolerate being married to me for 4 years. Not sure how, so I’ll just roll with it. With a 7 week old we are not able to go out for fine dining to celebrate. No worries, I prefer to cook anyway. Even though it’s not a pricey cut, I’ve always thought of lamb shanks as being a special occasion piece of meat. If done right, it should be fall-off-the-bone tender with a rich lamb taste uncomparable to any other part of the animal. I’ve never braised a lamb shank before, but since I’ve done my share of braising with other cuts, I knew I’d end up doing it right. For this recipe I made two portions of lamb, but 4 portions of accompanyments.

I used 1/2 bunch of arugula, a few sprigs of fresh thyme, a few sprigs of fresh tarragon, 5 garlic cloves peeled, 1 carrot roughly chopped, 1 rib of celery roughly chopped, 1 leek sliced, 2 lamb shanks that each weighed about 3/4 lb, 1 cup of red wine, 3/4 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced roasted tomatoes.

When I braise large quantities of meat I use  my big Le Cruset stock pot, but I have a skillet that’s large enough for 2 lamb shanks. So, I heated it up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, and browned the shanks. That took about 3-4 minutes on each side. Then I set the shanks aside.

I put the carrot, celery, leek, and garlic in and let them sweat down for about 7 minutes. I wanted them to just start carmelizing to add their sweetness to the braising liquid.

Then I poured in the wine and let it reduce by half, scraping up the little burnt bits stuck to the bottom of the pan. That’s where all of the flavor is. Once the wine was boiled down I added the tomatoes. After they came up to a boil I poured in the chicken stock and added the thyme. I seasoned with some salt and pepper and then put the shanks into the liquid. I covered the skillet, turned the heat down to med-low, and let it simmer for about 1.5 hours.

While the shanks were braising I threw together the sides. One was simmered chickpeas. I used a 14oz can of chickpeas, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1 rib of celery diced, 1 carrot diced, 1/4 onion diced, 10oz cherry tomatoes, a couple of thyme sprigs, and 1/4 cup of chicken stock.

I simply threw it all into a pot and let it simmer for about 20 minutes. Before serving I removed the thyme and seasoned with salt and pepper.

I also made some mashed potatoes. I used 5 yukon gold potatoes skinned and chopped, 3 cloves of garlic skinned, 1/2 cup of milk, and 3 tablespoons of grated parmesan.

I put the potatoes and garlic into a pot with cold water, brought it up to a boil, and let it boil for about 20 minutes until the potatoes were soft. I poured out the water, added the milk and parmesan along with some salt and pepper, and mashed it all together.

With the sides ready to go I finished up the shanks. I removed the shanks and put them into a smaller pan. Then, I strained the braising liquid. I discarded the solids and poured the liquid in the pan with the shanks. I brought it up to a boil and added the tarragon. I let it boil for about 15 minutes. This allowed the tarragon flavors to infuse into the liquid as well as reduce it by half.

Then I plated everything up. After placing the shanks on the plate I removed the tarragon from the liquid. I added the arugula and let it boil down for another 5 minutes. I checked the seasoning and then covered the shank with it.

I have to say, even though this is a time-consuming recipe, it’s absolutely delicious! The meat was extremely tender and flavorful. While eating this Yuki commented that I could charge $40 for this dish. Not sure about that, but it’s definately a $28 dollar dish, at least better than most lamb you get at restaurants. Well worth the effort for a special occasion.

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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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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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For Meatless Monday I took advantage of another grilling opportunity. I made lasagna with grilled vegetables. By doing this, the sweetness of the veggies is brought out and that fantastic smokey flavor is added. I needed all the flavor I could get since I wasn’t adding any meat. I also opted not to use a tomato sauce or bechamel sauce either in order to keep the flavors more natural and lighter.

I started by thinly slicing a large eggplant and two smaller zucchini as well as two orange bell peppers. I drizzled them with olive oil and then grilled them until they were about half-way cooked.

Then, in my baking dish I poured a tablespoon of olive oil and coated the bottom. I put down a layer of pasta, then alternated layers of veggies. The veggies I used were the eggplant, zucchini, and pepper from the grill, some thinly sliced red onion, garlic, mushrooms, and tomatoes. I also put some ricotta cheese layers inside. I seasoned with salt and pepper as I went along.

I covered it in foil and then put it in a 375 degree oven for about 30 minutes. Then I took it out and removed the foil. I sprinkled some parmesan cheese on top and then put it back into the oven, uncovered, for another 20 minutes until the cheese and top layer of tomatoes started to brown a little.

To serve, I put pieces on top of some baby arugula. Then I drizzled some basil oil I made. A handful of basil blended with olive oil and a touch of balsamic vinegar. I do prefer meat, but this tasted pretty damn good.

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I stopped by Andy’s Deli the other day, easily one of my favorite grocers in Chicago. While there, I really had no choice but to pick up some of their smoked kielbasa sausages. So friggin good! They have the best kielbasa in town. To serve with grilled kielbasa I made a carrot soup, some white rice, some chickpeas, and no kielbasa would be complete without a dollop of mustard. I used my favorite Boetjes.

For the carrot soup I chopped up three large carrots, half of an onion, 1 celery rib, and 3 cloves of garlic. I sautéed it all in olive oil for about 10 minutes. Then I poured in about 1.75 cups of chicken stock, half a teaspoon of turmeric, half a teaspoon of cumin, half a teaspoon of paprika, and salt. I brought that to a boil, lowered the heat to medium, covered, and let simmer until the veggies were soft (about 15 minutes or so).

After letting the veggies cool down a bit I dumped them all into the blender and pureed it. While it was blending I poured about a half cup of olive oil in to make the soup silkier. I put it all back into the pot, tasted for seasoning, and added pepper. When it came time to serve I simply reheated it.

To make the chickpeas I started by sautéing a quarter of an onion small diced in butter and olive oil with 2 minced garlic cloves. I had a couple of purple potatoes left from the other night so I diced them up and added them. I didn’t stir too much because I wanted the potatoes to get a little crisp. Once they were I added about a quarter cup of chicken stock, salt, and pepper.

Once the stock had reduced by about half I added one can of drained chickpeas. I let that cook for about 10 minutes over medium-low heat. The chickpeas just needed to be heated through.

Once they were I threw a bunch of baby arugula in, turned off the heat, adjusted the seasoning, and let it sit until the kielbasa were cooked.

I threw the kielbasa on the grill. They were smoked so I only needed to char them for texture and to heat them through. Once they were ready dinner was served.

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Last night I joined a couple of buddies for a happy hour drink. With that in mind I put together a dinner that I could cook and assemble quickly once I got home. Broiled chicken and vegetables seemed perfect.

Before I headed out to the bar I got all my veggies cut. Asparagus, red pepper, yellow pepper, and a half onion. I set them aside and covered so that they wouldn’t dry out. I also trimmed up some skin-on bone-in chicken thighs and kept them covered in the fridge.

After getting the ingredients prepared I ground a tablespoon of fennel seeds with my pestle and mortar. I mixed them into a quarter cup of olive oil and let that sit. Then I made the mustard sauce. 1 tablespoon of fresh thyme leaves, 1 tablespoon of rinsed capers, 2 tablespoons of mustard (I use Boetje’s, use whatever is on hand), the juice from a half lemon, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, and some black pepper. That all got stirred up and left in the fridge. Then I rinsed some rice, put it in the rice cooker, and set the timer so it’d be ready once I got home.

Off to go drink.

When I got home I put the rack in the upper third of the oven and turned on the broiler. I laid the chicken thighs and all of the veggies on a baking sheet and brushed the fennel seed olive oil over everything. I salted and peppered and then put everything under the broiler for about 15 minutes. At that point the veggies were carmelized and the chicken a little crispy and fully cooked and juicy.

I served the chicken on top of a bed of arugula and laid everything else out on the plate. Then I drizzled some mustard sauce over the chicken. That’s it, time to eat.

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Yuki requested a simple, lightly flavored dinner last night, so to please my wife I made a Japanese-style line up of chow. I made Hijiki Rice, Miso Soup, and Pork-stuffed Aburage.

For the rice, I made two cups in our rice cooker. I simply washed the rice and added a little less water than necessary to cook it. To get the liquid up to the right amount I topped it off with some soy sauce, no more than about a quarter cup. Then I added a couple tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed (available at more and more groceries), about a half teaspoon of dashi-no-moto (dried, instant dashi, also available at more and more groceries), as well as half of a large carrot diced. That’s it, turn it on and let it cook.

The miso soup was also simple. I brought two and a half cups of water to a boil with 6 green onions chopped to inch-long pieces. Once it started to boil I added 6 baby bok choy and 6 quartered shiitake mushrooms. I let that boil for about 10 minutes, turned off the heat, and added a half teaspoon of dashi-no-moto along with 2 tablespoons of soy sauce. I put that aside until dinner time.

Before making everything I cooked up the ground pork. I sautéed a chopped clove of garlic with a half-inch of chopped ginger in some oil for a few minutes. Then I added about a quarter of an onion, small diced, and let that cook for a few minutes. After that I added a half pound of ground pork and cooked that all the way through. Once the pork was mostly cooked I added 1.5 teaspoons of soy sauce, 1 teaspoon of sake, a half teaspoon of mirin, and some black pepper. I let that liquid boil down and then took off the heat to cool.

To prepare the aburage I first layed them in a colander, boiled some water, and then dumped the water on them to rinse off the excess oil that they come in. Then I squeezed all of the water off. I took my sharpest knife and carefully slit open one side and then gently used my fingers to open them up. After that I just spooned the ground pork mixture and then set aside.

Once the rice was ready I put the soup back on some heat and put the aburage under the broiler. Just before the soup started to boil I added some diced tofu and some wakame seaweed. Then Yuki whisked in a couple tablespoons of miso. When the aburage was heated through, about 5 minutes, I took them out and layed them on beds of arugula and drizzled with ponzu sauce.

Dinner was served!

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