Archive for August, 2008
Hi gang. Sorry for the lack of communication this weekend. Vita and I have had a very busy weekend, spending time with family, but I should have a very interesting and very cool post coming from The Detroit Belle Isle Grand Prix.
I’ll be there for work and pleasure purposes and am looking forward to seeing what sorts of food stuff will be both in the grandstand area and in the press trailer.
Check back later for more updates. Hope you’re all enjoying the food and family aspects of the holiday weekend. Back to regular blogging on Monday!
As I mentioned yesterday, I’m pining for end of summer and all her bombs of flavor. So, as I wrote yesterday’s post I was already racking my brain as to what to prepare for dinner (Vita and I didn’t quite have the time to meal plan this week due to an office reorganization project that took precedent).
I wanted to make something for my wife that would tickle all the vegetarian atoms left floating around in her body, while playing off my current passion for summer tomatoes. So, with my brain now fully fixed on mushrooms, tomatoes and fresh bread, I was off to Randazzo’s Fresh Market on my lunch break to pick up the freshly baked Kaiser rolls to make Portobello Bruschetta Burgers.
- 2 Kaiser Rolls
- 4 medium to large Portobello Mushroom Caps
- 1 tablespoon dried oregano
- 1 tablespoon dried basil
- 1 tablespoon dried rosemary
- 2 tablespoons kosher salt
- 1 tablespoon black peppercorns
- 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
- 1/4 cup of Bruschetta (I usually use this recipe, but used pre-made in these photos)
- 4 slices of fresh Buffalo Mozzarella
1. Using a pestle and mortar grind salt, peppercorns, oregano, rosemary and basil together until peppercorns are thoroughly broken up. Once you’ve done this, transfer your herbs and spices to a small bowl and mix in the extra virgin olive oil to create a spice paste.
2. Do NOT rinse the mushrooms. Just brush off any of the excess dirt to preserve the flavor of the caps. Then remove the stems using a pairing knife and the gills from the underside of the caps using a spoon. This will create a better surface area for your Bruschetta filling when you hit the grill.
3. Rub both sides of the mushrooms with the herb mixture, giving each a generous coating of the mixture. The provided amounts should be good for four mushrooms.
4. Place the mushrooms on a pre-heated grill. Be sure you place STEM SIDE DOWN first. You’ll flip only once, and you want the side you removed the gills from to cook first so that you can spoon on Bruschetta to warm as you cook the other side. Cook the stem side for about 4 minutes then flip.
5. After flipping your Portobellos, spoon Bruschetta into your caps, cook for an additional four minutes. Remove from grill and place it on your bun.
6. I like to add fresh mozzarella to the top, but it’s up to you. I think it adds a creamy flavor to the tart Bruschetta and compliments the bold flavor of Portobello in a really great way with all the Italian Herbs.
Don’t they look amazing? I was treated to a double delight last night… a beautiful sunset (I love shooting during the “golden hour” in the evening!) and these powerful little flavor bombs. You can be a true carnivore through-and-through, but I’d be willing to bet even the most die-hard tyrannosauruses would enjoy this burger. I think fresh bread is key, especially a bigger roll like a Kaiser. It’s large enough to hold all the fixins in it, and it soaks up all the Bruschetta goodness.
It became incredibly apparent to me last night as I was walking the dog … the stiff breeze raising goose bumps along my arms and a sun hanging ominously low at 8 p.m. Summer is coming to an end.
I take a little joy in knowing that fall (my favorite time of year) is just around the corner, but am admittedly a little sad to know that warm days lounging in polo shirts (and the best tasting tomatoes of the year!) are almost behind us here in Michigan.
To celebrate the ending of summer, I plan on grilling and whipping up as many cool refreshing salads as I can before the daily temperature continuously drops into the 70s and 60s. One such salad is Vita’s concoction. We eat it almost twice a week. It’s that good, and that easy.
Recipe – Tomato, Green Bean and Mozzarella Salad
- 15 cherry tomatoes, halved
- 1 and a half cups of fresh green beans
- 1 tablespoon chopped basil (or use 3/4 tablespoon Gourmet Garden Basil because it works great in applications like this and is a wonderful substitute if you don’t have fresh)
- 10 halved fresh Mozzarella balls
- 1 teaspoon Kosher salt
- 1 teaspoon ground black pepper
- 1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil (only use if you opt for fresh basil instead of tubed)
1. Clean and snap ends from green beans. If need be, halve the beans with a pairing knife if they’re particularly long.
2. Salt and boil a large pot of water. Toss in your beans and simmer at a light rolling boil for approximately 4 to 5 minutes.
3. Immediately drain beans in a colander and transfer your beans to an ice bath to stop the cooking process (this keeps your beens crunchy in the salad, and cools them off, which is refreshing!).
4. Place your beans in a large serving bowl.
5. Add tomatoes, mozzarella, salt, pepper and basil to the beans and toss lightly in olive oil.
There you have it. Couldn’t be easier or more delicious. The cherry tomatoes ooze their delicious flavor over the beans in the tossing process and mingles ever so nicely with the flavors of the mozzarella and the cool green beans. It really is one of my favorite dishes that Vita has ever made me. We always make plentiful amounts, because it’s nice, light and healthy. Hopefully, you’ll give it a shot and enjoy some of summer’s parting shots of flavor.
Whenever my wife is on call at the hospital, I usually use it as an opportunity to eat things that are either:
a.) Incredibly bad for my health
b.) Very meaty and delicious
c.) Very strong in flavor
d.) All of the above
While the aforementioned call was in effect last night, I went against my cravings for a Benito’s Pizza and opted to cook myself something from category “c,” a Spicy Penne Pasta Puttanesca.
The beautiful thing about this dish is that you can make it at any time of the year because it’s made with a sugo alla puttanesca sauce. From what I’ve learned, Puttanesca a modern sauce, that is particularly useful because it’s not dependent upon seasonal ingredients, which means you can rely on what’s in your cupboard or local market shelf rather than the garden.
Apparently the name comes from prostitutes from Naples, who would place cooked pots of the sauce in the windows of bordellos to entice the men to come inside. I can see why the name stuck, because the aromas in this dish are certainly enticing, especially if you’re big on garlic. I LOVE my version of this Italian dish. Check it out.
- 1/2 cup brine-cured black olives, pitted and cut into slivers (you can use Kalamata olives to)
- 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
- 3/4 teaspoon dried hot red pepper flakes, or to taste
- 2 tablespoons capers
- 3 to 4 anchovy fillets finely chopped (go with the ones packed in oil)
- 1 tablespoon fresh chopped oregano
- 1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley (unfortunately I only had curly)
- 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
- 1 14 oz. can diced tomatoes, preferably “no salt added” (the olives and anchovy paste will add plenty of flavor, believe me)
- 8 ounces Penne or whatever pasta you choose (I just prefer Penne)
- Grated Parmesan to taste
1. Bring a large pot of lightly salted water to a boil, add pasta and cook according to directions. I strongly recommend you make your pasta al dente. It adds a wonderful dimension to the dish.
2. While the pasta is cooking, heat the oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic, olives and red pepper flakes, stirring until garlic is golden and fragrant, about a minute and a half. Add the parsley, capers, anchovy and oregano to your skillet, and saute for 2 minutes more. Follow this up quickly with your tomatoes – which you should simmer for about 5 minutes more to allow all the flavors to marry.
3. When the pasta is done, drain it and add it to the skillet, tossing it with the sauce to combine. Top with grated Parmesan cheese.
When you’re done, you’ll have an incredibly spicy, full-of-flavor meal that’s quite hearty and heavy on the aromatics. I think my kitchen still smells like Puttanesca, which should torture Rafiki and my wife when she returns home around noon.
I served myself a generous portion of Tomato, Bean and Mozzarella Caprese (recipe coming in a day or two) and a glass of red wine to accompany my pasta. A fantastic meal that I almost wish I would have saved until Vita was home to enjoy. But, you can make some amazing stuff with the leftovers from this dish as well. Aren’t leftovers great?
By now, you’re aware I’m not a fan of breakfast foods… so this post should not be at all surprising at this point.
After my wife left this morning for 30 hours of surgical call, I had trouble falling back asleep. Our dog, Rafiki, wasn’t ready to climb out of my bed at that particular hour, so at 5 a.m. I hit the kitchen by my lonesome.
Determined to make a sans egg breakfast, I searched our fridge for things I could whip together. My eyes lit up when I noticed the three fillets of Tilapia, the cardboard fish. I also spied some cilantro, pickled jalepeno pepper, red onion and tortillas. Yes, Fish Tacos would be my breakfast.
- 1 fillet of Tilapia (think 6 to 8 oz per serving if you’re increasing the recipe)
- 1 teaspoon of ground cumin
- 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper
- 1 tablespoon of lime juice
- 1 tablespoon vegetable or olive oil
- 1/8 cup of diced red onion
- 1/8 cup chopped cilantro
- 1/8 cup shredded lettuce or greens
- Diced jalepeno to taste
- Salt & Pepper to taste
- 1 small Roma tomato, seeded and chopped
1. Preheat a grill pan or indoor grill to high heat or if you’re not crazy enough to want to eat fish tacos for breakfast at 5 a.m. you can prepare your outdoor grill. Drizzle fish with extra-virgin olive oil to prevent it from sticking to the grill pan or grill. Season fish with salt and pepper, cayenne and cumin (which adds a really nice smoky richness to the fish) to your taste.
2. As your grill preheats (if you’re indoors) heat a small pan and season two tortillas with salt, pepper and cayenne. Don’t add oil to your pan, but season it and rub tortillas into pan, allowing them to brown and crisp.
2. Grill fish 3 to 4 minutes on each side or until opaque. Squeeze the juice of 1 lime down over the fish and remove from the grill pan or grill. Be sure you’ve rolled the lime on your counter to get the juices flowing.
3.Flake fish into large chunks with a fork and spread on fried tortillas. Add cilantro, salsa, sour cream and your veggies and you’ve got a really quick, really different breakfast.
Another variation would be to simmer the fish in enchilada sauce and then serve it with the tortillas. Either way, it’s a fairly quick and nutritious meal that breaks the normal breakfast molds.
Last night Vita and I had our weekly “date night.” We generally don’t cook on Fridays so that we can both unwind and take it easy, but we put it off until Saturday so that we could take care of some shopping.
We took a shot on Steve and Rocky’s, which has been open in the Novi area since 1998. It’s had mixed reviews over the years, but is considered by many to be one of the best places to eat in the Novi area. Vita and I were certainly not disappointed by our experience.
First Course: House salad
I opted to start with the house salad, which was well prepared and portioned. It had a house vinaigrette, over field greens, dried cranberries, pine nuts and small wedges of grapefruit. It also featured thinly sliced red onion. Overall, this was nothing overly impressive, but it was a nice way to open up the palate. Vita opted for a mushroom soup that was also very good, but I can’t say that I had enough of it to judge it accurately.
Main Dish: Seared Yellowfin Tuna with Hoisin Sauce (pictured above)
I’m a huge fan of of Yellow Fin, and I enjoy ordering it out because I’ve never quite gotten the searing process down accurately. Chef served this with grilled pineapple, a fried rice cake, scallions and fried wantons. The flavor of the Hoisin reduction was absolutely fantastic, and the searing of of the tuna was executed perfectly. What made the dish most pleasant was the combination of flavors and textures. I almost wish the fish had been just a touch smaller, it felt a bit overwhelming given all the extra elements that were part of the tower. All in all, I’d say it was some of the best tuna I’ve had in the last year or so.
Here’s what Vita had: Lake Trout with Shrimp Truffle Sauce and Fresh Asparagus
Vita’s dish was also excellent. The sauce was fantastically executed and the fish was prepared perfectly. I only wish the shrimp that Chef used in this dish were not of the salad variety. All in all, her dish was fantastic. Again, only two bites didn’t allow me to properly rate it, but from what I tasted, it was apparent Chef had good control over his dish. This also paired very well with our Pinot.
Dessert: Chocolate Raspberry Mousse
Dessert was fantastic. I don’t often order desert, but this one was very, very good. Vita loves chocolate and we’re both big fans of Raspberry. The mousse was served in a construction of chocolate, mint and fresh raspberries that was delightful from a textural and aromatic standpoint. It smelled as delicious as it tasted. I found myself almost longing for more of the fresh berries though. The sauce piped around the sides was particularly delightful, although a little too sweet for my tastes. But, I won’t hasten to say that I’ll often pick salty or tart flavors before I’ll ever pick sweet, so I may be a tad over critical.
The restaurant itself was very nice. You can definitely tell that “Rocky” came from a background in Muer Restaurants, as Steve and Rocky’s featured some of the same colorful flair you’d find in a Big Fish or Charley’s.
Rating for Steve and Rocky’s: 4 out of 5.
Service was excellent, food was well prepared, albeit a tad overpriced for certain items. We walked out with a tab that was a touch surprising. Big points for a reasonably extensive wine list, knowledgeable and attentive staff and a quiet ambiance. We’d definitely return.
My friend Sheena told me that the Starbucks Breakfast Sandwiches have actually been around for quite some time and that they were pulled off the menu for a while because they allegedly, “interfered” with the smell of the coffee.
Either way, I never had one when the sandwiches were first introduced and since I boycotted Starbucks for many, many years, I wouldn’t have tried it anyway. Recently I’ve gotten into grabbing the occasional, fastly becoming more frequent Cafe Americano on my morning drive. I’m admittedly drained after the commute and in Warren, it’s one of the only coffee joints in business that I can have drive through coffee at. Though, I may switch back to Tim Hortons because I believe I’m secretly Canadian.
At any rate, I was treated to a free sample of one of the said sandwiches on Wednesday morning. I ate it on the remainder of my drive into the office and was reasonably surprised. So, the next day I vowed to get one for breakfast and give it a go. There were several options, but I eschewed my initial desire to be gourmet and light (Eggs Florentine) and opted instead for a stick-to-your-ribs breakfast sandwich: The Sausage, Egg and Cheddar.
1. The Price – $2.95 here in the Mitten.
2. The fact that the cheese was actually melted into the egg and sausage, something McDonald’s has never done on any Egg McMuffin I’ve ever ordered.
3. The whole wheat English Muffin it was served on was very crispy.
4. Portion was appropriate and filled the little bellyache going on in my tummy.
1. Could have been warmer. I like my eggs to have a little bit of heat to them. I start to lose interest in eating eggs if they even become faintly chilly. I realize this is a difficult task for fast food, but I had a five minute ride to the office from Starbucks.
2. Too much cheese. And that’s saying a lot for me, because I love the stuff. Still, it was oozing over the sides and the grease was soaking the sides of my once crispy English Muffin.
3. A tad salty. Again, I realize this is a lot to ask from a fast food joint, but come on… I shouldn’t have to drink a liter of water to feel rehydrated after I’m done.
I’d eat it again. I don’t normally eat breakfasts, which I’ve mentioned in other posts, but I’d grab a Starbucks Breakfast Sandwich before I ever grab another Egg McMuffin.