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Posts Tagged ‘zucchini’

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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If you go back to December 24, 2010, you’ll see that I posted about the burgers at the Paramount Room. After we ate those burgers Yuki was talking about them with some of her co-workers the next day. One of them was raving to her about the burgers at Jury’s. Jury’s burgers this…Jury’s burgers that…etc. Well, the very next day Jury’s appeard on Groupon. Jury’s burgers have been rated in the top 5 best of Chicago by numerous publications many times over the years it’s been in business. We were smart enough to connect the dots which lead us to last night, trying Jury’s burgers for ourselves.

It’s atmosphere is that of a classic old Chicago Italian joint. Very comfortable with old tin ceilings and a nice long bar. There aren’t a lot of tables, maybe seating for 60, so it’s more intimate. They were playing good jazz softly in the background, just loud enough that you heard it, but not too loud that you couldn’t hear anything else. Service was fast and professional.

When we sat down they brought us a bread basket with breadsticks (plain and rye) and two types of bread (plain and multi-grain). Lots of butter as well as olive oil and parmesan to dip the bread into. Good bread. They also have a nice beer list with Bells Amber ale on tap for $3 a pint! Very nice deal.

Yuki got a cup of the soup de jour, sausage and pasta. I didn’t taste it, but she said it was good. A little salty, but overall pretty good.

We both got the classic burger. A nice big 1/2 pound patty of juicy beef. It came with lettuce, tomato, onion and a pickle on the side. We each had our onion grilled and both got cheddar cheese on our burgers. I got a big pile of fresh cut french fries while Yuki got the sauteed vegetables (zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and green beans).

I have to say, I was slightly dissapointed. Not that the burger wasn’t good. It was a very good burger. It just wasn’t a mind-altering religious experience putting that thing into my mouth and chewing. The meat was extremely fresh and juicy, but lacked a little seasoning. With all of the hype I was ready for a piece of cow that would have me up at night craving a bump of it’s bovine lovin’. I didn’t get that at all. It is clearly not a top 5 burger by any stretch of the imagination.

That said, I do wish Jury’s was in my neighborhood because that burger was lightyears beyond your regular bar burger. I would have no problem eating that thing again, no problem at all. I just wouldn’t go way out of my way to get it.

The overall Jury’s experience was a good one, and it is a great place to have in your backyard. It is also very family-friendly. But that’s all it is, a great place to have in your backyard that you can take your family to for a really good burger.

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Last Friday night I made this soup for dinner. It is getting really cold here in Chicago, tis the season, and I thought a nice warm soup with tasty goodness and a little spice would hit the spot. This one is real easy and can accommodate almost any vegetables you have on hand. Since it was Friday night this recipe is only for 2 portions.

I used only about 1/3 pound of ground beef, 3 shiitake sliced, 1 clove of garlic diced, 1/2 inch of ginger slivered, 1/2  zucchini quartered and sliced, 1 carrot cut into chunks, 2 yukon gold potatoes skinned and chopped, 4 green onions cut in 1 inch lengths, 5 napa cabbage leaves chopped, 1 heaping tablespoon of Toban Djan, and 1 tablespoon of sesame oil.

In a small bowl I cut the garlic, Toban Djan, and sesame oil into the ground beef with a spoon. By doing this the beef will break apart nicely once you throw it into the soup.

I boiled 4 cups of water and tossed in the shiitake, carrot, potatoes, and green onions in. I let them simmer for about 10 minutes and then added the beef mixture. While beef was cooking I decided to pour in about 3 tablespoons of soy sauce and 1 tablespoon of sake to add a little depth to the broth. I let that simmer for about 5 minutes before adding the ginger, zucchini, and cabbage. About 5 more minutes simmering and the soup was ready.

I served it with some white rice that I sprinkled some mazekomi wakame shirasu, which is dried seaweed and little sardines. It adds some saltiness, crunch, flavor, and nutrients to rice. It’s usually used for onigiri, but I like to add to it plain rice sometimes.

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The other night Yuki and I cooked together. We made one of my favorites, chicken hijiki rice, along with some vegetables that we needed to use up.

Making the rice is easy as can be. We used 1.5 tablespoons of dried hijiki seaweed, 4 shiitake sliced, 1 carrot sliced in half moons, and 1/2 pound of skinless chicken thighs. While I rinsed off 2 cups of rice and cut up the vegetables Yuki cut up the chicken and quickly sauteed it in sesame oil. After filling the rice cooker with the proper amount of water for 2 cups of rice I put the hijiki in and let it sit for about 15 minutes. Then we tossed everything else in, turned on the cooker, and let it go.

I made a sesame dressing for some pea pods that were in our fridge. I used 1 tablespoon of miso paste, a pinch of sugar, 1 tablespoon of sesame seeds, 1 tablespoon of soy sauce, and 1/2 tablespoon of mirin.

I toasted the sesame seeds in a dry skillet for a few minutes until they turned a golden brown and started to give off their fragrance. Then I ground them with my pestle and mortar. I added the rest of the ingredients, mixed them all together, and set it aside. I simply steamed the pea pods for about 4 minutes when the rice was ready. Then I tossed them with the sesame dressing.

We also had some chikuwa and 1/2 a zucchini to use up. Chikuwa are tubular, hollow fish cakes that have been baked or grilled. I sliced the zucchini into long sticks and stuffed the chikuwa with them. Once the rice was ready and the pea pods steaming I just put them in the toaster oven and toasted them for about 6 minutes. I drizzled them with the sesame dressing as well.

While I was doing that Yuki made some miso soup. I didn’t watch her make it, but she put in it sliced onion and wakame.

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Finally, I got Meatless Monday back into my life. No Bears game (thank goodness, I don’t think I can stand to watch that O-line pretend to block anymore) or anything that calls for carcus so I cleaned out some of the vegetables I had in my fridge. With the weather getting a little chilly I thought a nice hot bowl of Minestrone would hit the spot, especially since Yuki loves soup. To go with it I made some mushrooms in soy milk on toast.

For the minestrone I used 1 can of brown beans, 4 quarts of vegetable stock, 1 28oz can of skinned tomatoes, 6oz of farfale pasta, 2 ribs of celery chopped, 1 carrot chopped, 1 zucchini chopped, 1/2 an onion chopped, 1/2 green bell pepper chopped, 1 yukon gold potato skinned and chopped (2 in the pic but I only used 1), 3 garlic cloves chopped, some basil thinly sliced, and Parmigiano Reggiano grated.

In a heated stock pot I poured in about 2 tablespoons of olive oil and then sweated down the onion, carrot, and celery for about 3 minutes. Then I added the green pepper and garlic and let that go for another 3 minutes. I dumped the juice from the tomato can in and crushed the tomatoes with my hands. Once the tomato juice started to boil, about 1 minute or so, I poured in the stock and seasoned with salt and pepper and 1 bay leaf. Once the stock started to boil, about 2 or 3 minutes, I added the potato and zucchini. The potato and zucchini obviously lowered the temperature of the soup, so a few minutes later when it came back to a boil I added the pasta then covered the pot and turned the heat down from medium-high to medium. I let it simmer for about 15 minutes to let the pasta cook properly.

While the pasta was cooking I heated up my saute pan and got the mushrooms ready. I thickly sliced (about 1/4-1/3 inch) 4 button mushrooms and a container of cremini mushrooms and sliced up 3 green onions. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter and poured in another tablespoon of olive oil then dumped all of the mushrooms and green onions in. I let them cook down for about 10 minutes until the mushrooms started to release their moisture. Then I poured in about 1/4 cup of soy milk and let that thicken up for about 2 minutes. I added some thinly sliced basil and turned off the heat. I toasted some sliced of challah during the cooking.

To serve, I ladled some soup into my bowls and topped it with sliced basil. I put the toasted challah on a plate and spooned some of the mushrooms on top. Then I topped everything with fresh grated Parmigiano Reggiano.

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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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I just got the new Saveur issue the other day and it was all about Greek cuisine. This inspired me to make my own little Greek dinner last night. Since Yuki mentioned that I haven’t made pork tenderloin in a while and it was great weather to grill I put 2 and 2 together and came up with a delicious meal.

I got a beautiful 1.3 pound tenderloin. To marinade it I mixed together 1/4 cup of olive oil, 1/4 cup of red wine, the juice from 1/2 lemon, 1 tablespoon of dried oregano, 4 garlic cloves minced and mashed into a paste, 1 bay leaf that I crumbled, and a decent amount of black pepper. I let it marinate in the fridge for about 3 hours and then at room temperature for another 2 hours. Every hour or so I flipped it around so that the marinade would penetrate evenly.

I made some spanakopita for a side. I melted 1 tablespoon of butter in a pan, sautéed 1/2 diced onion for about 6 minutes, then wilted down a 5 ounce package of baby spinach. I put that in a bowl, let it cool, then seasoned it with salt and pepper, 1/4 teaspoon of ground nutmeg, and 4 ounces of feta cheese.

Instead of the usual triangles I decided to make them into cigars. I cut some phyllo dough into about 5.5-6 inch strips. At one end I placed some of the spinach mix. Then I folded in the edges, rolled them up, and brushed them with olive oil. I got 5 cigars out of them. So I guess you can figure about 1 ounce of spinach for each one. I put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20-25 minutes. They burst open a little while cooking, I must have rolled them a little too tight. I guess I’m used to rolling other things. If you make these, don’t make them too tight.

While the spanakopita was cooking I grilled up the tenderloin along with a zucchini that I thinly sliced. I brushed the zucchini with olive oil prior to grilling. I did it over a medium heat for about 10 minutes on each side. I don’t like cooking tenderloin all the way through like a chop, that kills the soft texture. If you have a good fresh piece of meat there should be no worry about trichinosis with a tenderloin as there isn’t much fat for the little buggers to hide in. Also, drinking alcohol helps (it helps a lot of things!). Oh, I also sprinkled some salt on both sides of the tenderloin before grilling as well. I don’t like salting marinades because that draws the moisture out of the meat. It’s best to salt just before cooking.

While the meat was grilling I boiled down the marinade to make a quick sauce. I also made some orzo with cherry tomatoes and rosemary. I simply boiled 3/4 cup of orzo in salted water according to package instructions. After draining it, I tossed it in a bowl with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and one sprig of rosemary that was given the once-over with my knife. A little salt, pepper, and olive oil and my starch was good to go.

Last thing, I let the meat rest for 10 minutes before slicing it. That gave it time for the juice to chill out and redistribute. If meat doesn’t rest after cooking the juice will run out and your meat will go dry. No one wants dry meat. A little juice goes a long way!

PS- This came out to 3 portions instead of my usual 4. I had lunch plans today, so I didn’t need lunch for myself.

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Last night was the final performance of Millenium Park’s world music series. They had two different accordion players, and I have to say, that is one bad ass instrument! Now I need to work on my air accordion skills. It’s a lot of fun packing a picnic and hanging out at the park for free music (I say free, but let’s be honest, we already paid for it with our tax dollars). At any rate, I had to make a dinner that would taste good cold. I thought that poached salmon on corn salad would do the trick. As usual, I was right.

The first thing I did was roast some cherry tomatoes. I simply drizzled them with olive oil and then put them in a 375 degree oven for about 20 minutes. I set them aside to cool down before packing it all up.

For the corn salad I used two medium-sized zucchini, one red bell pepper, and three ears of corn. I grated the zucchini into a mesh sieve, sprinkled a little salt on it, and let the juices drain for about 20 minutes. Then I squeezed it as dry as I could and set it aside for cooking. For the bell pepper, I just diced it up.

After cleaning all of the silk off the corn I separated the kernels from the ears. This can be a little messy as kernels have been known to fly around the kitchen as you slice them off, in my kitchen at least. I find the easiest way to do this is to cut the ears in half first. Then, I take my cutting board and lay it over a large baking dish. This way, when I slice the kernels off they fall right into the baking dish instead of all over my counter and floor.

Save the cleaned ears, they have tons of flavorful juice in them. I used these to help flavor the poaching liquid for the salmon.

To make the salad I first sautéed about three tablespoons of diced shallots in some olive oil for about 5 minutes. Then I poured in 1/4 cup of white wine (I used the same White Burgundy that I planned on drinking with dinner) and let that boil away for about 3 minutes. Once the wine was boiled off I dumped in the corn, bell pepper, and 1/2 cup of water. I covered the skillet and let it go until the corn was softened a little, about 5 more minutes. After that I seasoned with salt and pepper and then threw in the zucchini. I stirred it all around to separate the zucchini (it will become a zucchini ball when squeezing out the liquid), let it cook for another 5 minutes, then turned off the heat and moved on to the salmon while it cooled down.

I picked up about 24 oz’s of really nice wild caught salmon, center cut so that it was uniform in thickness. I had the fishmonger skin it for me. Fishmongers have better knives for that job than I do, plus I didn’t want my garbage can to stink like rotting fish. It’s always a good idea to let the fishmonger skin and gut for you. I cut the salmon into 4 equal filets. Before putting the salmon in the poaching liquid I lightly seasoned it with salt.

For the poaching liquid I used 1 cup of the white wine, 1/4 cup of soy sauce, 3 cups of water, 1 bay leaf, about 2 tablespoons of diced shallot, and the naked corn cobs. I brought that all up to a boil and let it go for about 5 minutes or so to let all of the corn juice mix into the liquid.

Once the corn juice was incorporated I took the cobs out, gently laid the salmon in, and turned the heat down so that the liquid was at a simmer instead of a vigorous boil. It should only take about 6 or 7 minutes for the salmon to cook all the way through.

After I took the salmon out I seasoned it lightly with salt again, and a little pepper. Then I drizzled just a little olive oil on top.

I got out my little Rubbermaid TakeAlongs and scooped a bunch of the corn salad in, topped it with a piece of salmon, laid in a few of the tomatoes, and garnished with some cilantro. I also brought some dinner rolls along. It was absolutely delicious! It also would have been tasty if I served it hot right off the stove top.

The only thing I did wrong was a miscalculation on the amount of corn salad. When I cook dinner during the week I try to make 4 portions so that Yuki and I have lunch for the next day as well. I came up one portion short on the corn. So, if you try this recipe and want 4 portions use 3 zucchini and 4 ears of corn. That should do the trick.

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Monkfish, quite possibly natures ugliest creation (not including Ann Coulter’s morality). However, I’m a firm believer that the uglier the animal, the better it tastes. Monkfish is truly one of the best tasting fish in the sea. Called the poor man’s lobster because of a similar stringy texture it is a much more affordable way to go than lobster. Hence, the name. One thing to keep in mind with monkfish, the tail is covered in a membrane that needs to be removed prior to cooking and eating. It’s easy to do, all you need is a sharp knife. However, let the fishmonger do it for you so your garbage doesn’t stink like rotten fish the next day.

The first thing I did was make the sauce. I took two red bell peppers and grilled them (I guess it’s technically not a roasted red pepper sauce) until the skin was nice and charred. I kept turning them around to make sure the entire pepper got charred. You can do this under a broiler or on the gas stove top if you don’t have a grill. The grill does add a nice smokey element to the peppers though that you don’t get on a range.

Once the skin was good to go I put them in a bowl and covered them in plastic wrap. I let them cool down in their own steam for about a half an hour. This not only allows the peppers to cool down for easier handling, but it helps the skin separate from the flesh. Then, keeping the peppers over the bowl, I rubbed off the skin and discarded it along with the stem. I opened them up and removed the seeds as well. I kept them over the bowl to catch the flavorful juices. Once the flesh was clear of seeds I put them in my small blender and pureed them along with the juice from the bowl.

In a small saucepan I melted 1/2 tablespoon of butter over high heat and poured in about 1/3 cup of white wine. I let that boil until it reduced by half, approx 7 or 8 minutes. Then I poured in about 2/3 cup of cream. Once that started to boil I turned the heat down to med-low to keep the cream from boiling over. I let that reduce by half as well, another 10 minutes or so once it started to boil. After it reduced I poured in the red pepper puree and let that come to a boil. Again, I let it reduce by about half, another 10 minutes. Then I turned off the heat, covered the pan, and let it sit until service.

Thinking about vegetables that go well with red peppers I decided to use a zucchini, two baby eggplants, and an onion. I also cut some rosemary from my backyard and cut up a couple of garlic cloves.

I chopped up the vegetables and tossed them with olive oil and the rosemary in a roasting pan. In a 400 degree oven I let them cook for about 20 minutes. Then, I took them out and added the garlic. I didn’t want to garlic to burn which is why I didn’t include it to start with. I also seasoned with salt and pepper at this point and put everything back into the oven for another 10 minutes.

Then, I took it out again. I had cut the monkfish into 4 portions. I seasoned it with salt, pepper, and some paprika. The seasoned fish was laid on top of the veggies and then everything went back into the oven for another 15 minutes.

To serve, I put some white rice on the plate, scooped some of the veggies next to the rice, and laid a piece of fish on top of the veggies. I had re-heated the red pepper sauce and spooned it all over the fish and veggies. Delicious!

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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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