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Posts Tagged ‘whole foods’

A couple of nights ago I made Paella for dinner. My mom came back to town so I had to make something to feed 5 adults. This recipe was actually enough for 6, so I have a little leftover in the fridge. That’ll most likely be my lunch once I’m done with this post.

I’ve made Paella a few times before, and it always turns out pretty good, but I’m up for some good advice on how to make a dish better whenever someone can give me a good tip. It turns out that Mike Isabella and Antonia Lofaso from Top Chef were doing a cooking demo in the Whole Foods parking lot. Besides getting autographs Mike told me that the best way to make Paella is to let everything sit over medium heat for about 10-15 minutes once you have all of the ingredients mixed in. People usually get the inclination to keep mixing things around, but by letting it sit you’ll get that nice crusty rice at the bottom that makes Paella a special dish. So, that’s what I did.

My ingredients included 1 cup of frozen peas thawed, 1/2 pound bay scallops, 1/2 cup chopped parsley, 2 of those smoked chorizo sliced, 3 skinless chicken thighs chopped, a 14oz can of diced tomatoes, 2 teaspoons of paprika, 1/2 orange bell pepper diced, 1/2 yellow bell pepper diced, 1/2 red bell pepper diced (wasn’t in the pic, last minute decision), 1/2 onion diced, 1 cup chicken stock (pic shows 2, only used one), 2 cups of sushi rice rinsed (any kind of short-grain rice will work), a large pinch of saffron, and 3 garlic cloves minced.

I started off by heating up my large skillet and then pouring in 2 tablespoons of olive oil. I added the garlic and then 30 seconds later the onion. About 3 or 4 minutes after that I dumped in the peppers and let that go for another 3 or 4 minutes. Then I added the chicken and let it cook for about 4 more minutes before adding the chorizo. Once the chorizo started to get a little color, you guessed it, 3 or 4 minutes, I added the rice. It’s important to get every grain of rice coated in the hot oil so that it toasts a little bit. That helps get the toothsome texture you want in a good Paella.

Then I poured in the can of tomatoes with the liquid. Oh, I forget to mention that I let the saffron sit in the cup of chicken stock for about a half hour along with the paprika, that let’s the flavor and color distribute more evenly. Once the tomatoes started to boil a bit I poured in the flavored chicken stock and seasoned with salt and pepper. I gave that a few minutes to start boiling a little and then added the scallops, peas, and parsley. I mixed everything up, covered the skillet, turned the heat down to medium, and let it sit for 15 minutes.

When I took the lid off almost all of the liquid had absorbed into the rice, yet the rice had kept a nice firm texture. Thanks to Mike’s advice, I did get that nice crust on the bottom. It was, by far, the best Paella I’ve ever made.

I had some of the jicama salad with watercress and red leaf lettuce along with the cilantro-lime dressing left over from the tacos so I served that on the side to complete the meal.

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Uichiro, Yuki’s dad, makes a mean oyster gratin. Once a year one of Tamiko’s (Yuki’s mom) friends from her hometown of Miyagi in Japan (unfortunately not far from the recent earthquake, but fortunately everyone is alright, will be quite some time before the oyster population recovers though) sends her the famous oysters that she grew up on. A big container filled with the juiciest, most flavorful oysters you could imagine sinking your teeth into. Just so happens that I have timed a couple of my trips to Japan around oyster season. So, I’ve enjoyed Uichiro’s oyster gratin twice.

On to last night. While trying to decide what to have for dinner I remembered the oysters that I got at Whole Foods a while back that were freshly packaged. Nice big and juicy with great flavor. I asked Uichiro if he’d make his oyster gratin. He was happy to oblige but didn’t want to make the bechamel sauce. No worries, I happen to make a tasty bechamel.

At Whole Foods I noticed that they didn’t have the oysters I remembered in stock. All they had were oysters in the shell. It would’ve been a bit costly to buy the necessary amount to make gratin for 4. Improvisation is the key to cooking (life too), so we decided to get some of the beautiful shrimp behind the counter instead. Along with some chicken thigh we had the necessary fixens to make a classic gratin.

For the bechamel sauce I melted 5 tablespoons of butter over medium heat and then added 4 tablespoons of butter. I whisked it constantly for about  minutes until it became a dark golden color. Then I poured in 4 cups of hot milk and whisked that for 10 minutes giving it a nice thick consistency. Then I seasoned it with 2 teaspoons of salt and 1/2 teaspoon of nutmeg. I set that aside.

Once I was done with the range Uichiro went to town on the rest of the ingredients. In some butter he lightly sautéed together about 1/2 pound of shrimp that he shelled and halved, 3 chopped skinless chicken thighs, 1/2 half large onion diced, 6-8 (not exactly sure how many) button mushrooms quartered, and some al dente macaroni (again, not exactly sure how much, but I think about 1/2 a package). He seasoned it all with salt and pepper and then mixed it in the bechamel sauce.

That all got poured into my ceramic baking dish. He topped it with some mozzarella and matzo meal. We didn’t have any panko, so again, we improvised. 35 minutes in a 400 degree oven, some parsley garnish, and it was ready to go.

Two things with this gratin. First, my bechamel, while extremely tasty, could’ve used another 3-5 minutes on the burner before letting it rest. A little bit thicker consistency would’ve been nice. Second, with oysters not used scallops would’ve been a little better than shrimp. Scallops are a lot more expensive though, so shrimp do a pretty good job, but scallops would be outstanding!

To balance out the heavy, creamy gratin Uichiro made this smoked salmon and onion dish. He thinly sliced a Vidalia onion and soaked it in cold water. He changed out the water 3 times squeezing the onions dry with each change. They were scattered all over a plate and then topped with thinly sliced smoked salmon. On to of the salmon went some thinly sliced lemon, including the rind with lends a nice bitterness to the overall flavor, not to mention a lot of nutrients the people usually waste by not eating the whole fruit. Then he scattered some chopped parsley all over the whole thing. I made a simple dressing to drizzle over the top. I whisked together 2 tablespoons of balsamic vinegar, 4 tablespoons of olive oil, a pinch of salt, and some black pepper until it emulsified.

Some sliced baguette and a cold beer completed the dinner. But, I still crave his oyster gratin!

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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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This year for Thanksgiving we didn’t really have much of a plan. There weren’t a lot of options on the table for us. We could have gone to my mom’s in Merida, Mexico, but flights were very expensive this year. We could have gone to my Grandma’s in the Quad Cities, but no one there cooks anymore, they go to a restaurant in Andalusia. Not exactly a mouth-watering proposition. Almost all of our friends were with their families. It wasn’t until 3:00 Thursday afternoon that we figured out what to do. With so little time we decided to keep it very simple. So, we headed to Stanley’s and Whole Foods to get the fixin’s we needed to make a small dinner of four portions.

First thing I made was a sweet potato puree soup. I skinned and chopped up two medium-sized sweet potatoes and tossed them into a pot with 3 garlic cloves and 2 cups of chicken stock. I brought it to a boil, covered it, and let it simmer for 20 minutes until the potato chunks were nice and soft. Once it cooled down a little I threw it all into my blender with a cup of soy milk and pureed it nice and smooth. I seasoned it with some salt, pepper, and a tablespoon of cinnamon and then poured it back into the pot ready to re-heat once everything else was done.

For the rice I simply rinsed 2 cups of rice and put it in our rice cooker. Once I poured in the water I added one diced carrot and 1.5 tablespoons of dried hijiki. I let it sit for about 30 minutes and then hit the start button. Simple as that.

For the Turkey I just got a 1.75 pound breast. I laid it in a large rimmed baking sheet and covered it with a mix of 2 tablespoons of miso, the juice from one lemon, the zest from half of the lemon, and some black pepper. After evenly coating the top of the turkey with the miso I put it on the lower 3rd rack of the oven at 400 degrees. I let it roast for about an hour. Once the hour was up I took it out and put a bunch of haricots vert all around the pan and poured 3/4 cup of chicken stock around the bird. I put that back into the oven for another 15 minutes. When I took it out I let the bird rest on a board and set the haricots vert aside. I mixed together 1 tablespoon of miso and 1/4 cup of chicken stock and poured that into the pan to mix with the rest of the juices. That was my sauce for the turkey after slicing it.

While the turkey was cooking I melted 1/4 cup of butter and slowly carmelized 1 sliced onion for about 20 minutes.

To serve, I sliced the turkey and laid it on top of the haricots vert. I spooned some sauce on top and then laid down some of the onions. I garnished it all with the other half of lemon zest. The soup and rice were on the side.

I cheated on dessert, we just picked up a pumpkin pie and some vanilla ice cream. It’s a shame we didn’t plan ahead because both Yuki and I make a mean pumpkin pie. I also make a pretty good ice cream. Oh well, we weren’t trying to impress anyone this year, so this worked out just fine. Maybe next year we’ll be more creative and extravagant. In the meantime, everything turned out really tasty and we have no complaints. It sure beats a restaurant in Andalusia.

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Last night Yuki and I walked to Rootstock Wine & Beer Bar for dinner. She was in the mood for some nice wine, I wasn’t in the mood to cook, and neither of us have been there before. With the weather not too humid last night a nice 30 minute walk to and from dinner sounded about right.

We got there about 8 and the place was packed! They have a couple of community tables outside that were full as well as a handful of tables inside that were full. Fortunately there were a couple of open seats at the bar so our walk was not in vain.

The place has a nice vibe to it. It’s dark, intimate, lively, and has a mature feel to it. It was loud, but the walls were brick with a thin layer of drywall, nothing to dampen the sound. They did play good tunes throughout the night though (Earth Wind & Fire is always welcome on my ear cilia).

Service was friendly and attentive. When we walked in we were immediately greeted by a server even though there isn’t a host stand. She directed us towards the bar where the bar tender did a good job of handling his patrons while getting drinks ready for service. My only gripe with the service is that they didn’t give us a glass of water. That should be the first thing given when a customer sits down. Other than that no complaints at all.

They have a nice wine and beer list as well as other alcoholic beverages. We ended up getting a bottle of Spanish Garnacha from the Navarro region. Great bottle, great value.

I apologize for the quality of the pictures, my phone doesn’t do too well in dimly lit restaurants. We started with the regular mixed green salad. Nothing fancy it had mixed greens with ribbons of zucchini and carrot in a light vinaigrette. They put a little too much vinaigrette on, but it was well-balanced.

Yuki got the Pork Belly Bahn Mi. The pork belly was a little dry, but overall it tasted pretty good. It was a little small though and could have used one or two more elements. All it had was some toasted bread, a few slices of pork belly, a bunch of frisee, and a thickened soy glaze.

This may be the worst picture I’ve ever taken, but I got the Greek Linguista Sausage. This was very disappointing. They basically took a sausage that could have come from Whole Foods, grilled it, and put it on top of some wilted escarole with mustard and red grapes. I was expecting a Greek style sausage that resembles more of a hand-made oblong meatball made of lamb instead of an Italian-style cased sausage that just had Greek seasonings. Plus, it was spicy. I’ve never had a Greek sausage that was spicy before. On top of that there was no starch on my plate. I almost ordered some french fries just to fill the gap in my belly. Don’t get me wrong, it was a good quality sausage, but it was definitely something you buy at the grocery and throw on the grill yourself, not something you get at a wine bar. I didn’t think the grapes really belonged on the plate either.

That was all we ordered as we have had enough of the food. It seems like they have a lot of potential to whip up some really tasty and creative dishes to match their impressive wine and beer list, but for whatever reason they didn’t quite do it. For my money, this is a great place to sit down and have a drink, but not a place you want to go to for dinner.

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Whole Foods had some really nice baby back ribs on sale the other day, so I really had no choice but to get a slab. I only wish I had a smoker, but even without one ribs can be done with flavor and tenderness.

I started by coating the slab with a spice rub. I used a very basic mix for this slab. I mixed together about 1/8 cup of paprika, 1/8 cup of sugar, 2 tablespoons of black pepper, 2 tablespoons of salt, and 1 teaspoon each of cayenne, dry mustard, and white pepper. I let the rub sit for about an hour before throwing the slab into a 250 degree oven. I let it go for about 2.5 hours.

Once the meat was cooked through and tender I put it on the grill over about medium heat. I had some BBQ sauce in my fridge that I needed to use so I didn’t make any of my own. I brushed the sauce on both sides of the ribs and let them cook for about 10 minutes per side to get the sauce nice and carmelized.

Besides white rice I stewed some chickpeas. I diced half of an onion, one yellow bell pepper, two tomatoes, and two garlic cloves. I also used one can of chickpeas and two sprigs of rosemary from our herb garden.

In some hot olive oil I sautéed the garlic for about 30 seconds before adding the onion. A few minutes later I added the yellow pepper and the rosemary sprigs. I let that go for about 7 minutes before adding the chickpeas and tomato. I poured in about a quarter cup of water and then seasoned with salt, pepper, a dash of cumin and a dash of paprika. I let the water come to a quick boil then covered the pot, turned the heat to low, and let it simmer for about 15 minutes. Once the chickpeas were fully heated I turned off the heat and squeezed in the juice from a half a lemon. That’s all, ready for consumption.

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So, I had a lot of pesto left from Meatless Monday. Whole Foods had local, organic chicken legs on sale for $1.49 a lb. The idea was to marinade them in the pesto for an hour and then grill them up. The spurts of rain we got last night put the kibosh on that. So, I roasted them instead.

Before marinating the chicken, I slashed the skin a couple of times about halfway into the meat. I wanted the pesto flavor to permeate the leg and not just coat it. I put the legs in one of my large pans and threw it into the oven at 425 degrees for about 35 minutes. While I didn’t get the smoky grill flavor I wanted, this allows the chicken to almost confit. All of the chicken fat helps keep the meat moist and juicy.

While the chicken was roasting I sautéed up some onion, purple potato, and carrot in butter. Once the vegetables were almost completely cooked, about 10-15 minutes for the potatoes, I drizzled in the last bit of pesto I had left. I let that cook for a minute or two.

Then I threw in the rest of the rapini I had in my fridge. The rapini only needs a few a minutes. Once the leaves started to wilt I turned off the heat.

I prepared the soup earlier in the day so that, come dinner time, all I had to do was heat it up. I took 7 roma tomatoes and halved them. I laid them in a baking dish cut side up and topped each with a slice of garlic. Then I drizzled some olive oil on top and roasted them in a 400 degree oven for an hour. When I took them out I let them cool for about 15 minutes and then tossed it all in my blender until nice and smooth. I thought about straining it, but I decided that I wanted the texture of the pulp.

Right before I reheated the soup I threw in a large handful of chopped basil and seasoned with salt and pepper. I garnished the soup with a pinch of parmesan.

Even though potatoes are a starch, I treated them more as a regular vegetable. I served some white rice alongside for the starch.

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