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Posts Tagged ‘baby arugula’

I was really looking for some ground chicken thigh, but the store didn’t have any. So, I settled for some ground turkey thigh. No big deal as they taste similar.

My ingredient list for 4 portions included 3 oz cremini mushrooms sliced, 20 asparagus spears, one carrot chopped, 1 strip of bacon (I show 2 in the photo but only used 1), 4 garlic cloves minced, 3 oz baby arugula, half an onion diced, 1 dry pint of mixed cherry tomatoes, 1/4 cup of sherry, 8 fl oz of heavy cream, and 3/4 lb of ground turkey thigh. Not shown in the picture I also picked some basil from my back porch, had some dry angel hair pasta, and toasted some french bread.

For the pasta sauce I started by pouring about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in my large hot pan. I cooked the bacon down till most of the fat was rendered, about 3 minutes or so. Then I added the onion and carrot and let those cook down for about 5 minutes. Then I added the garlic, and about 1 minute later threw in the cremini. About 4 minutes later, when the cremini was partially cooked, I added the turkey and seasoned with some salt and pepper. I broke the turkey meat up while it cooked until it was in small pieces. That took about 3 or 4 minutes. Then I poured in the sherry and let it boil down. Once the sherry was almost completely boiled off I poured in the cream and let it reduce for about 1 minute.

While that was going on I cooked the pasta according to package instructions. Once it was al dente, I drained it and then tossed it into the pasta sauce once the cream had reduced for a minute. I stirred it around to make sure the noodles were completely coated and then turned off the heat to serve.

Also, while making the pasta I put the asparagus on a baking sheet and drizzled it with olive oil, salt, and pepper. I also took the cherry tomatoes and wrapped them in foil with a tablespoon of olive oil making sure the foil was completely sealed. I put them in a 450 degree oven for about 15 minutes. The bread was toasted while making the pasta as well. I timed it so that everything was finished at the same time.

Once the bread was toasted I rubbed it with garlic and then topped it with some of the roasted tomatoes. The rest of the tomatoes are going to be used in tonight’s dinner. Everything was garnished with the basil.

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For Meatless Monday last night I made some burger patties out of quinoa. To go along with it I made a very simple vegetable soup.

To make the soup I sautéed a half onion, a carrot, two ribs of celery, a fennel bulb, and some asparagus all chopped in some olive oil with minced garlic. I let the vegetables sweat for about 6 or 7 minutes.

Then I added two chopped tomatoes, a few cups of boiling water, a bay leaf, and the rind from some parmigiano-reggiano. I seasoned with salt and pepper and let it simmer over low heat for a while.

To make the quinoa patties I first sautéed a few thinly sliced green onions in some olive oil with a diced garlic clove. After a few minutes I added a cup of quinoa that I had rinsed a few times. I let the quinoa cook in the oil for a few minutes and then added 1.5 cups of hot water. Once that came to a boil I covered the pot and let it simmer at low heat for about 15 minutes.

After all the water had been absorbed I fluffed the quinoa with a fork and stirred in some grated parmesan, a handful of thinly sliced basil, salt, and pepper. Then I let it cool down for a bit. After it had cooled, I stirred in one egg and formed 8 patties. I put them in the fridge for about 15 minutes to firm them up a bit.

In batches, I fried them over high heat in butter. I added a little butter as need be.

To serve, I laid a couple of patties on top of baby arugula. I made a simple sauce of basil, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt, and pepper in my small processor. I drizzled the sauce on top and then tossed some parmesan on top of that.

It turned out delicious, but the patties were very fragile. If I make them again I’m going to add some bread crumbs. I think that will help keep the patties firm and less prone to falling apart. But the flavors were great.

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Alright, Restaurant Week restaurant number 2…Cafe Spiaggia. I’ve long thought that Italian food in Chicago was sub par with only a couple of good restaurants around. Most Italian joints here serve big heavy sauces and overcooked pasta. Even some of the higher end ones I’ve been to were extremely disappointing. I’ve always wanted to hit up Spiaggia, but it’s a little out of my normal budget. By a little I mean a lot. When special occasions come along I’ve always opted to go to other places instead. However, the $22 pre fix lunch deal at Cafe Spiaggia this week is too good to pass up. I know it’s not quite the haute that the main room of Spiaggia is, but it did give me a very good idea of what it’s all about. Good things, all good things.

We started with two salads. This one is the PERA; Baby arugula with toasted pear chips, Alto Adige I.G.P speck (a ham from northern Italy), goat cheese and balsamic vinaigrette. The pears were a little under-ripe, but otherwise everything was light, clean, and fresh.

This salad is the ITALIANA; Escarole, treviso, and frisee with Parmigiano Reggiano and Chianti vinaigrette. The vinaigrette was outstanding! Otherwise, it was a very simple salad that was not overdone, exactly what a salad should be.

We ordered one each of the two entrée’s that are offered on the Restaurant Week Menu. First is the CAPPELLACCI; Hand crafted butternut squash filled pasta with amaretti, Parmigiano Reggiano, brown butter, and sage. You see this dish on a lot of Italian menus and in a lot of cookbooks, so it’s nothing creative or off the wall. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find anyone execute the dish to this level. The pasta was perfectly al dente, there was just the right amount squash seasonings (I think cinnamon), and the brown butter wasn’t greasy at all.

The other entrée offered is BATTUTA; Pounded chicken breast with sautéed Swiss chard, fingerling potatoes, cipollini onions, and Pecorino Siciliano. Again, nothing off the wall. Just simple, fresh, top quality ingredients prepared perfectly to allow each other to compliment one another.

For dessert you’re given three choices out of the Gelati and Sorbeti menu. Yuki ordered the passion fruit, vanilla, and pineapple-basil.

I ordered the red raspberry, grapefruit and stracciatella (vanilla with chocolate shavings). They were all great, but out of the six I think the pineapple-basil was the best. It wasn’t too sweet and had just the right amount of herby basil in it. The grapefruit was also great as it tasted just like eating a slice of grapefruit.

Service at Cafe Spiaggia was fluid and attentive. That’s pretty much to be expected of such a high quality restaurant. The interior was also nice and laid back. It had the feel of an outdoor cafe in Italy with views of Lake Michigan. One of these days we’ll dine in the formal restaurant to get the full on experience. I will tell you this though, there is no doubt that Chef Mantuano is one of the few chefs in Chicago who truly understand what Italian food is all about. No need for heavy red sauces or huge plates of gut-busting, overcooked pasta. Keep it simple, light, and fresh while letting the ingredients themselves do the talking. I can’t wait for the full-on experience!

Side note, there is a bit of irony for me to finally dine at Cafe Spiaggia. About 5 years ago when I was looking to get back into the restaurant biz I interviewed to become the manager of the cafe. I was called in for a total of 3 interviews and turned out to be the runner-up in their search. I lost out to a long-time server of theirs. I wonder what life would have been like had she not gone after the position……hmmmmm?

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