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Posts Tagged ‘lentils’

Since I cooked a few meals for Yuki’s parents when they were in town I thought it was only fair to cook one for my mom last night before she left this morning. Being a woman who could make a meal out just naan, I thought something with Indian curry would be a good idea. She had requested seafood, so I picked up some salmon. It all came together as the dish you see above.

I made the lentils first. I used about 1/3 cup of cilantro chopped up, 1 inch of ginger minced, 3 garlic cloves minced, 1.5 cups brown lentils rinsed, 2 carrots diced, 2 ribs of celery diced, 5 small red potatoes diced, 1/2 onion diced, 1.5 tablespoons of curry powder, 1 cup of chicken stock, and a 14oz can of diced tomatoes.

I heated my pot up, poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil, then threw the ginger and garlic in for about 30 seconds until they became very aromatic. After that I added the onion, carrots, and celery. I let them sweat down for about 5 minutes and then added the potatoes. I didn’t want to cook the potatoes too much to keep them from melting in the chicken stock, so I only stirred them around for a few seconds to coat them with the oil. Then I added the can of tomatoes, curry powder, some salt, and pepper. Once the tomato juice started to boil I poured in the chicken stock. When that started to boil I added the lentils. I let it come back up to, you guessed it, a boil and then covered the pot and turned the heat down to med-low. I let it simmer for about 20 minutes.

While the lentils were simmering I grilled up the salmon and zucchini. I had a 1.5 pound salmon filet (enough for 5 portions since my brother was also here and I needed a piece for Yuki’s lunch today) and 2 large zucchini. I cut up the salmon into equal portions. I sliced the zucchini in half lengthwise and cut them into 2 inch pieces. I drizzled olive oil, salt, and pepper over everything.

I put the zucchini on the grill, cut-side down, over med-high heat for about 5 minutes. This gave it nice grill marks. Then, I moved it to the top rack flipping it over. I put the salmon on the bottom rack, skin-side down, and turned the heat down to medium. I let it cook for about 7 minutes or so. This really gave the skin a nice crisp while leaving the flesh beautifully medium.

When the lentils were done I removed the lid, re-adjusted the seasoning, and stirred in almost all of the cilantro. I plated everything up and then garnished the entire plate with the rest of the cilantro. With 4 clean plates about 30 minutes later I’ll assume dinner was a success.

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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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As if Restaurant Week wasn’t enough, Chicago also has a Chef Week sponsored by OpenTable. It’s a much smaller promotion than Restaurant Week, but there are a couple of tasty deals at $30 pre fix dinners. One restaurant that’s participating is Sepia, easily one of my favorite joints in town. So, last night, Yuki and I ate a delicious pre fix.

My appetizer was the Scotch Duck Egg. It was a perfect croquet of ground duck meat, nice and medium rare after frying, coated in bread crumbs and filled with duck egg yolk that just oozed out when you cut it open. Chef Zimmerman served it with wild rice, arugula, and black olive honey.

Yuki ordered the Grilled Squid. Perfectly grilled, nice and tender. It was served with cara-cara and blood orange segments, watercress, thin slices of red onion that’s been soaked to remove the sharpness, and herb oil.

My entrée was Cider Braised Pork Belly with barbeque lentils and crispy cavalo nero (not sure what cavalo nero means, it was red cabbage in some kind of vinegar). Delicious fatty pork belly! MMMM! The cider and bbq flavors really tasted like backyard cooking, but it definitely had an upscale, modern twist. The only thing I would have done different is to give the pork belly a quick grill after taking it out of the braising liquid. That would have crisped up the skin a little and added some smoke. It’s hard to argue with what was served though.

Yuki’s entrée was the Vegetarian Lasagna with herbed ricotta and piquillo pepper. The herbed ricotta cheese was brilliant with that tomato sauce. The piquillo pepper almost tasted like an olive, lending an interesting briny contrast. The noodles may have been slightly overcooked, but it was up there with the best lasagna I’ve ever tasted.

For dessert I ordered the Maracaibo Mousse with mango ice cream and caramel-mango rum sauce.

Yuki got the Citrus Meringue-Tart with champagne-raspberry sorbet and lemon sauce.

While all of the individual components of both desserts were delicious, they didn’t all work out quite so well. The mango ice cream’s texture and overall feel were very similar to the mousse. There wasn’t much diversity in textures. On Yuki’s, the sorbet was more tart than the tart. Two tarts don’t make a match. We actually switched the ice cream and sorbet and the sorbet matched the mousse perfectly. While I wouldn’t say the mango matched the tart perfectly, it did offer a nice reprieve from the tart lemon. Maybe some sort of herb sorbet, like mint or basil, would have matched the tart better.

Overall, Sepia still resides towards the top of my list for best restaurants in Chicago. Last night’s meal wasn’t perfect, nor was the service as we had to ask for bread (should have been put down as soon as we ordered, but that’s nitpicking), but the ingredients were fresh, perfectly cooked, and for the most part thoughtfully prepared. I will definitely head back at some point.

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Sorry it took me a few days to put up this past week’s Meatless Monday. It’s been a pretty hectic week. Plus, I still have posts from Japan that I need to get up as well as other home cooked meals from both me and my wife. Soon enough my loyal readers (all three of you), soon enough.

At any rate, I had some kabocha that I need to use up so I decided to make a vegetarian stew based around it. It’s real simple to make, much like a pot of chili. It’s one-pot cooking at its tastiest.

I started by sweating some chopped onion in olive oil in a large pot. Then I added some ginger and garlic. After a few more minutes I threw some diced carrot and red pepper. Then I added some diced purple potatoes.  A few more minutes and then I finally added the star of the stew…the kabocha. You don’t want to cut the kabocha too small because it will start to become mushy and melt if you stew small pieces for too long (same with the purple potatoes).

After the kabocha was in there for about 5 minutes I seasoned with salt, pepper, paprika, cinnamon, and a little curry powder. Then I poured in about a quarter cup of orange juice and a half cup of water (I added a little more later because it absorbed and evaporated a little quicker than I anticipated, no worries, you can always add water). Once that all came to a boil I turned the heat down to a simmer, covered, and let stew for an hour.

After the hour was up I threw in some lentils then covered it for another 15 minutes. Then I added a can of drained brown beans. Once the beans were heated through I turned off the heat and threw in a handful of chopped fresh parsley and squeezed a half a lime in.

I was just going to serve it as is with some bread on the side, but Yuki decided it would taste better with angel hair pasta. That sparked an idea. Instead of angel hair we should use udon noodles! The problem with that, though, is that we didn’t have any udon. So, angel hair it was.

The beauty of a stew like this is that you can really do anything you like. Vegetables you want and any seasonings you want. Just make sure the flavors will compliment each other. The only think really missing from this dish was nice, juicy, tender chunks of lamb!

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After years of wanting to head up to the far north side of Chicago for some Ethiopian food, I finally got off my ass and checked out Ras Dashen the other night. All I have to say to myself is, “What the hell took me so long?”

I had to start with some Ethiopian coffee, the mother of all beans. They serve fair-trade organic, nice and smooth cup.

For an appetizer Yuki and I ordered some Spinach Sambusas. Lightly fried pastries filled with spinach and dipped into a spiced salsa. Very tasty, not too heavy. Think of them as Ethiopian empanadas or samosas.

Since our friends ordered the Doro Wat (chicken and egg in berbere, Ethiopia’s national dish) we had to get something different. Although, it wasn’t that different at all. We got Yebeg Wat (lamb in berbere) and Doro Alicha (chicken and egg in onions, garlic, ginger, and green peppers). We ordered the Diblik Atkilt and Misser Wat for our sides, our friends got the Misser Salata, I think. You can check out their website for descriptions of the sides. All served on top of Injera with extra on the side.

Those of you not familiar with Ethiopian cuisine, you don’t eat with utensils. The food gets dumped right on the Injera allowing the bread to soak up the sauces and juices. You rip off pieces of the Injera, using it to grab you rip pieces of meat off the bones or piles of lentils, and chow down. It’s absolutely delicious as well as being a fun, communal way to eat.

Berbere is Ethiopia’s most famous sauce. It’s a red pepper sauce with spices like ginger, coriander, cardamom, cinnamon, nutmeg, fenugreek seeds, paprika, onion, and garlic. It’s actually very similar to Indian spices, but it’s definately distinct.

Back to the meal itself, we ordered the rice pudding for dessert. It was quite nice, very mild. There was a date in the middle.

Our friends got Ras Dashen’s famous bread pudding. It’s made with varius nuts, raisins, and tons of flax seeds. It was definitely a winner in my book.

Half-way through our meal a little jazz quartet started to play. They were pretty good. Saxaphone, guitar, bass, and bongos. It wasn’t too loud so conversation was never difficult.

I guess the one disclaimer I have is what I was warned about. Once you have Ethiopian food, no matter how strong-willed you are, you will start to crave it. It was extremely reasonably priced as well for the quality and amount of food served. I have to check out a few other places before I decide just how good Ras Dashen really is, but I will say this, I would definitely go back!

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Meatless Monday continues. I went back to my days in Egypt for last night’s dinner. In Dahab, as in many parts of Egypt, they eat a dish called Koshary as a quick lunch. It’s usually sold from street vendors as opposed to restaurants. In Dahab, my dive shop was on the far north end of the bay. The Koshary guy, much like Chicago’s ice cream bike guys, came from the north so I always got the freshest Koshary. Besides Koshary, he also sold rice pudding, but I’d usually wait and get that for dessert as it was sweeter.

Koshary is a bowl filled with crazy goodness. Rice on the bottom, spaghetti noodles on top of that, lentils on top of that, all covered with spicy tomato sauce, then topped with chickpeas, and finally garnished with fried onions. All for about 30 cents ( in Egypt, it cost about $2.00 per serving last night).

I didn’t make a pure Koshary though. First thing I did was dice up a medium eggplant and let it sit in a colander with some salt for about a half hour. Then I rinsed it and dried it. This takes away some of the fruit’s bitterness. After that I sauted a chopped onion in some olive oil for about 4 minutes with a few chopped garlic cloves. I ground up about a teaspoon of coriander seeds with my pestle and mortar and added that along with about a teaspoon each of cumin and cinnamon. Then I added the eggplant chunks and let them cook for about 5 more minutes. I dumped in a 28 0z can of chopped tomatoes, seasoned with salt and pepper, then let simmer over a medium heat for about 15 minutes. After that I added a can of chickpeas and let everything simmer for another 15 minutes so that the tomato juices would reduce down to a thicker stew.

While the juices were reducing I friend a thinly sliced onion in extremely hot oil with some sliced garlic. The garlic burns quickly, but as long as you don’t eat it the aroma infuses the onion. You don’t want to burn the onion, but you want a nice crisp texture. Once their cooked set them aside on a small plate.

To serve, instead of throwing everything in a bowl, I put the rice on the side and ladled the stew next to it. I garnished it with the fried onions and some cilantro and had a mixed green salad along side.

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