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Posts Tagged ‘honey’

So, last night was Uichiro’s last night here. I figured I had one more shot to impress him with something he’s never eaten before. I had never made a chermoula so it was the perfect opportunity since he’s never tasted Moroccan food. That means, even though it was the worst chermoula he’s ever eaten, it was also the best! Actually, it was pretty good. I do think sea bass or halibut would’ve been a better fish, but it’s hard to argue with the flavors.

I made a carrot soup to accompany the fish, so I got that ready first so that all I had to do was heat it up and garnish it come dinner time. I peeled and chopped 5 large carrots, chopped 1/2 onion, chopped 3 garlic cloves, used 1/4 stick of butter, a dash of cumin on each bowl for garnish, 1/4 teaspoon of allspice, juice of 1 lemon, some honey yogurt, and 1 cup of chicken stock that didn’t make the photo.

First, I melted the butter and then caramelized the onion and garlic for about 15 minutes over medium heat. Then I added the carrot and allspice and let the carrots caramlize for another 15 minutes. Then I poured in the chicken stock along with 1 cup of water. I brought it up to a boil, covered it, and let it simmer over med-low heat for about 20 minutes. Then I let it cool down for a while before pureeing it in my blender with a bit of salt. For dinner I just re-heated it, dropped a dollop of honey yogurt into the middle of each bowl, sprinkled a dash of cumin, and then squeezed a little lemon juice. It tasted like pumpkin pie!

For the cod chermoula I used a small bunch of parsley finely chopped, 1/2 teaspoon of paprika, 1 teaspoon of cumin, juice of 1 lemon, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, 2 garlic cloves mashed to a paste in with my mortar and pestle, and about 1 pound of cod cut up into 8 pieces.

Once the garlic was mashed up I added the rest of the ingredients (except for the fish) along with 1/2 teaspoon of salt and mixed it all together. I let the chermoula sit for about an hour to let the flavors meld together.

Then I spooned about half of the chermoula on top of the fish, covered it, and let it sit in the fridge for about an hour. I took it out and let it come back to room temp before cooking it.

For the “tagine” I used a small bunch of chopped parsley, 1 orange bell pepper diced, 1 yellow bell pepper diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1 large garlic clove minced, 14oz can of chickpeas rinsed, 2/3 pint of cherry tomatoes, 1/2 bag of frozen artichoke hearts, and the rest of the chermoula.

I heated up my large skillet and poured in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I sweat down the onion and garlic for about 6 minutes, then added the peppers and let them sweat down for another 6 minutes. I stirred in the chermoula along with about 1/4 cup of water and let that boil down for a few minutes before adding the artichokes, tomatoes, and chickpeas. I let them heat up for about 3 or 4 minutes.

I placed the cod on top, covered the pan, and let it cook for about 6 minutes. You don’t want to cook the cod for too long because it will overcook very quickly and become dense. You want to keep it flaky.

When all was said and done the cod (garnished with parsley) and soup were served alongside some white rice. Everything turned out delicious. Yet another dish of mine that was a big success in the mouth of my father-in-law.

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Another year means another Passover Seder. Well, that’s not entirely true. Since Yuki is about 2 weeks from her due date we decided that it’s not a good idea to spend the holiday with my family. Being 3 hours from our OB/GYN at this point isn’t the best thing we could do (or at least that’s what we tell my family!). What makes it easier is the fact that I’m not a religious man by any stretch of the imagination. So, if I missed another recital of the 4 questions or the 4 sons or Elijah I wouldn’t lose any sleep. I do, however, love a good matzo ball soup and brisket. I decided that I would make a few of the traditional Passover delicacies for the first night. My younger bro also lives in Chicago and did not go to the Quad Cities, so he came over for dinner last night.

To keep with tradition, I started the dinner off with some matzo ball soup. You can ask Alpana Singh my thoughts on the perfect matzo ball. I made my typical chicken soup on Sunday and then put it in the fridge overnight. In the afternoon I took it out and let it come to room temperature. About 20 minutes before my brother got here I made the matzo balls.

I used 2 eggs, about 3 tablespoons of chopped parsley, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, 1/2 teaspoon of baking powder, 1/2 cup of matzo meal, a few cracks of white pepper, and 1 tablespoon of olive oil.

In a small glass dish I mixed together all of the dry ingredients. In a seperate bowl I beat the eggs with the olive oil and parsley. Then, I poured the egg mixture into the dry mix until it was evenly mixed. I covered it in plastic wrap and let it sit in the fridge for about 15 minutes.

With the soup boiling I took the mix out of the fridge, wet my hands, and dropped walnut-sized balls into the soup. I let them boil for about 20 minutes to make sure they cooked through. That’s all there is to it, soup is ready. I will say that these were by far the best matzo balls I’ve ever made, and some of the best I’ve ever eaten as well.

While the rest of dinner was heating up I brought out some charoset and matzo. Side note, everything we ate was prepared ahead of time so that all I had to do was re-heat for dinner.

For the charoset I used 1 gala apple, 1/3 cup of walnuts, 1 tablespoon of red wine, 2 tablespoons of honey, and a few dashes of cinnamon which didn’t make it into the pic. In a bowl I crushed the walnuts into small chunks then poured the wine and honey in. Then I grated the apple into the bowl, seasoned with the cinnamon, mixed it up real well, covered with plastic, and let it sit in the fridge for at least an hour.

For the entrée I made a horseradish brisket (the recipe was adapted from a Gail Simmons recipe), wilted spinach with raisins and toasted soy nuts, olive oil mashed potatoes, and roasted radishes.

I made the brisket in the morning to make sure it got enough time in the braising liquid. I used 2 cups of beef stock, 1 cup of red wine, 1/2 cup of prepared horseradish, 3 carrots chopped, 3 celery stalks chopped, 7 garlic cloves minced, 1 small onion sliced, and a 3.5 pound brisket.

In a large heated skillet I poured in a couple of tablespoons of vegetable oil and browned the brisket. I gave each side about 7 minutes.

Then I transferred the brisket to a foil braising pan and scattered the carrots and celery around it. In the hot skillet I added half of the garlic and the onions and let them sweat down for about 6 minutes. Then I poured in the wine. I let the wine boil down for about 7 minutes and added the beef stock. When the liquid came back to a boil I poured everything around the brisket.

I mixed together the rest of the garlic with the horseradish and spread that on top of the brisket. I covered it tightly with foil and put it into a 300 degree oven for about 3 hours. The one thing I did forget was bay leaves. I would have liked 2 of them in there. Oh well, still tasted great.

After 3 hours I let it sit for the rest of the day. While we were eating the soup I removed the foil, seasoned with salt and pepper, and put it under the broiler for about 30 minutes or so to not only re-heat, but also to give the horseradish a nice crust. To serve I just lay a couple sliced on top of the onion, carrots, and celery.

For the spinach I used 1/4 cup of raisins, the zest and juice from 1 lemon, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1/2 onion diced, 1/4 cup of toasted soy nuts (this dish would typically use pine nuts, but at $24 a pound I found the soy nuts price of $3 a pound a little easier to digest), 1/4 cup of red wine, and 2 bunches of spinach chopped.

First I poured the wine into a bowl and soaked the raisins for at least 15 minutes. Then, I heated up a large pot and poured in 1 tablespoon of olive oil and sweat down the garlic and onion for about 5 minutes. Handful by handful I added the spinach until it was all wilted down. I poured in the wine and raisins. Once the wine had boiled down for a few minutes I added the lemon juice and zest. I stirred that all in and then added the soy nuts. A touch of salt and pepper and the spinach was ready to go.

I skinned 5 yukon gold potatoes for the mashed potatoes. Since the laws of the Kashrut don’t allow dairy to be eaten alongside meat I decided to use olive oil in order to try to make them creamy. I know, I don’t believe any of that crap, but since I was making a pretty traditional meal I thought I’d keep with tradition (all kosher wine as well). After boiling the potatoes I mashed them with about 1/4 cup or so of olive oil. Actually, I probably used more, I just kept adding it until the potatoes were the right consistancy. A little salt and pepper and they were all set.

For the radishes I simply halved them and roasted them with olive oil, salt, and pepper at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes.

I did not have enough time to make any dessert last night. We were pretty full anyway, but a little dessert is always a nice thing. I guess life could be worse than not having dry, matzo meal cakes sit in your stomach on top of brisket. Plus, you’re all probably tired of this post by now anyway. Happy holidays!

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Friday night Yuki and I took advantage of another Groupon we had purchased a while back. Gotta love Groupon, great opportunities to try new places at a discount. This one was for an Ethiopian restaurant we haven’t tried yet, Demera. We love Ethiopian food and had read good things about Demera, so it was one of those things that had to be done.

Apparently we weren’t alone in our love for Ethiopian food. We didn’t have a reservation and when we got there, about 6:30 or so, we were told there was a 15-20 minute wait. No worries, we had just driven all the way up to Lawrence and Broadway, no way were we going to turn back. A few minutes of waiting and the manager came by and said there would be a 35-45 minute wait. Eh? How’d it get longer? It ended up only being about 15 minutes, so I’m glad we stuck it out.

Typically a beer drinker with Ethiopian food I saw that they have house made honey wine. Had to give that a try. Not so sure I’m glad I did. It wasn’t bad, but I wouldn’t say it was good either. Honey fermented with hops. It was like a honeyweiss without the bubbles. Not a big fan of honeyweiss. Oh well, it was tolerable. Next time I’m sticking with beer though.

We started off with the Sambussa Sampler. Basically it’s one each of their sambussas…beef, chicken, tuna, lentils, and spinach. Served with a spicy little chili sauce they were all very good. Simple, but delicious and homemade.

For the main course we had to go with the Messob, traditional communal dining. That way we could sample a bunch of different items instead of each of us ordering 1 dish. Plus, it’s the Ethiopian way to eat. Why eat American-style at an ethnic restaurant? Starting at the top and going clockwise we got the quosta (spinach), ye-shimbra assa (ground chickpeas), michetabish (ground beef), ye-salmon dulet (salmon with homemade cottage cheese), doro wat (chicken and hard-boiled egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish), lega tibs (lamb with rosemary), and a salad in the center. Of course, everything was served on top of a piece of injera with plenty of injera on the side to grip and scoop our food. We couldn’t finish everything, but we expected that. Gotta love Ethiopian leftovers the next day, yet another similarity between Ethiopian food and Indian food (simmered food, communal dining, similar spices, same upset stomach, etc.).

In all honesty, we probably could have finished our dinner, but not only would we have missed out on leftovers, we would have missed out on dessert! We decided to split the hibist volcano. I’ve never had hibist bread before. It’s very much like a thick sweet roll. If it weren’t for the refreshingly cold ice cream on top I don’t know that we could have eaten it all. The spiced lemon sauce was really good as well.

Overall, everything we ate was delicious! Would I call Demera the best Ethiopian food in Chicago? I don’t know about that. Ras Dashen and Abyssinia are right up there as well, I don’t think you can go wrong with any of the three. I think it all depends on what you are looking for. If I were in the mood for doro wat I would go to either Ras Dashen or Abyssinia. If I wanted seafood I’d come to Demera (the salmon was fantastic with the jalapeno and cheese). It’s really a toss-up. I’m sure I’ll be back at all three at some point in my life, and my digestive system will be all the better for it.

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Another muffin here. This one used up the pomegranate and a half that I had. This continues my effort to keep healthier snack food around the house.

My ingredient list included 2 cups of cake flour, 1 tablespoon baking soda, 1/4 cup of butter, 2/3 cup of sugar, seeds from 1.5 pomegranates, 1 egg, 2/3 cup of milk, and 1/3 cup of orange juice.

I sifted and mixed together all of my dry ingredients in a large glass bowl. Then I mixed in the pomegranate seeds. In a separate glass bowl (I used my measuring cup) I creamed the butter with the egg and then mixed in the milk and orange juice. I little at a time I poured the liquid into the dry mix stirring it thoroughly until it was all incorporated into a nice smooth batter.

I poured the batter into my lightly buttered muffin pan and threw it into a 425 degree oven for about 13-15 minutes.

The only thing I’d do different is to add a little more sugar. I tried to keep the sugar count low, but it could definitely use a little more sweetness. Maybe a little honey instead of more sugar. Otherwise, the orange juice and pomegranate match very well.

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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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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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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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