Monday, August 25, 2014

Coconut Curry Shrimp and Green Beans

It's Monday. Two things are certain with Mondays - 1.  The ubiquitous complaints, comments, and flowing cups of coffee that get most of us through our mornings/days, and 2. There are still four more days until Friday.

Isn't it sad how we view the work week? I'll be the first to say, I used to HATE Mondays. Let's play a game of 'would you rather?'... In the past, I would rather walk over hot coals while listening to this than go to work on a Monday. Okay, so that was a slight exaggeration, but you get the point. I used to spend my Sundays counting down the hours before I would plod into work. Isn't that horrible?! I wasted a completely perfect day off to worry and stress about the upcoming!

That all has changed. Yes, my profession has changed drastically and I'm doing something  in which I find fulfillment and happiness, but no matter how you slice it, a Monday is still a Monday. I took myself up on a little challenge -- to view each work day as an opportunity. It sounds tough to do but once you get yourself into that mindset, you'd be surprised what you can accomplish. Once doing that, I realized that I put more effort and pride into my work. I get lost in what I'm doing to the point that I lose track of time. Cooking several meals simultaneously in a hot kitchen doesn't leave for very much 'dilly-dally', but my attitude going in makes a huge difference.

So I challenge you, if you're one of those people who absolutely dreads work, try to look at it as an opportunity -- an opportunity to prove yourself, to produce something, to grow, and at the very least make money. I promise, it works!

On that note, I made a pretty fantastic meal this evening. It is a meal that is perfect for Mondays! It's quick, easy, and incredibly healthy. Take a look, try it out, and let me know your thoughts!

Ingredients

1 lb raw shrimp, pealed and deveined
1.5 lb fresh green beans, ends trimmed
1- 14.5oz can lite coconut milk
1 tbs curry
2 tsp paprika
2 tbs all purpose flour (corn meal or tapioca meal will do)
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves garlic, pressed or minced
1 cup brown rice
2 cups water
dash of salt and pepper

Directions

In a small sauce pan, add 1/2 tbs olive oil, rice, a pinch of salt (amount you grasp with your index finger and thumb) and water. Stir gently, cover, and bring to a boil. Check on it after 15 minutes to make sure it doesn't overcook. Meanwhile, cook the remaining olive oil and green beans in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Stir consistently to ensure the green beans are cooked evenly. After about 5 minutes, add the garlic. Cook for another minute, reduce the heat to medium. Add the flour stir, then add coconut milk, and seasoning. Bring to a boil. Add the shrimp and let it cook for 4-5 more minutes. Serve the shrimp mixture alongside or on the rice.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Poached egg, squash, and goetta

As most of you know, I'm from Cincinnati and this city has praised itself for a couple food staples that some may not have heard of. There's the "Cincinnati chili" which has a bad reputation but locals swear by it. For fear of losing some readers, I'm going to leave it at that. There is also the prized German goetta. It is a concoction of steel-cut oats and pork sausage. It is flavored with onion, pepper, and I'm sure  a couple other spices. It is eaten like sausage patties and in peculiar ways during the annual goetta fest, where goetta is served on basically anything you can imagine. It's actually quite tasty!

This morning, I was making breakfast and remembered we had some goetta in the fridge! I figured I'd add this to the "breakfast of champions" and see how it goes. I tell you what, it's GENIUS! This breakfast mixes sweet, salty and savory in each bite. It's a healthier breakfast, and won't leave you A. wishing you hadn't eaten it, or B. wishing you could eat more. It's definitely a good autumn mean to start your day!

Ingredients

  • 2 slices goetta cooked in a pan and seared on both sides (follow cooking directions on the package)
  • 1-2 poached eggs (depending on how hungry you are)
  • 1/4 onion, diced thinly 
  • 1/2 yellow squash, diced in 1in pieces
  • 1/2 zucchini squash, diced in 1in pieces
  • 1/2 tsp vinegar 
  • 1 tbs olive oil
  • salt to taste
  • pepper to taste

Steps
  • In a hot pan over medium heat, add the olive oil and onion. Cook and stir until it becomes golden
  • Add the zucchini and squash to the pan, stir, and cover allowing the moisture to cook the squash faster
  • In the meantime if you have not done so, cook the goetta on a separate small pan and leave to the side
  • Boil water in a small pot and add vinegar. Once boiling, lower the heat to simmer and gently crack the egg into the pot. Allow a few seconds for it to form then use a small spoon to make a circular motion in the water. This prevents the egg white from cooking separately. After 1 1/2 - 2 minutes, take the egg out with a sifting spoon and leave off to the side
  • Once the squash is darker in color and softer in texture, it is finished. Season with salt and pepper, and place in a bowl. Place the goetta on top and finish with the poached egg.
*To make vegetarian, skip the goetta and add grilled thick tomato slices

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Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Louro

Friday evening, my sister and I had the pleasure of joining a couple of friends from college in a quaint, rustic yet modern restaurant -- Louro located in the West Village.  It was a no-brainer deciding on the restaurant. Our friend listed several options, but noted that she was close friends with the owner and executive chef, David Santos, therefore we could take a tour of the kitchen. YES PLEASE! I had never been to a restaurant in NYC, let alone one where I could get the grand tour. I was ecstatic and had absolutely no idea what to expect. I didn't even preview the menu prior to arriving. I wanted to be fully surprised. The minute our taxi cab pulled up to the restaurant, I noticed a sophisticated awning with a bay leaf nestled underneath the font. Louro is Portuguese for bay leaf.

Hemingway Royale
COCKTAIL We sat down in a spacious semi-circle booth with a great view of the restaurant. The lights, dimmed and subtle, offered an intimate and formal setting which delightfully balanced the rustic and warm ambiance of the decor. I ordered a specialty drink, the Hemingway Royale which consisted of rum, grapefruit, lime, and sparkling wine. It was so unique, delicious, and one of those drinks that make you want to just...sip. It offered a hint of tartness along with a sweet finish of a slight floral aroma.

 Prawns with julienne style jicima 
CUISINE The minute we skimmed the menu, it was clear that we could not simply order one item per person. We mutually decided to order a smorgasbord of dishes to share among ourselves. Immediately upon the server requesting our order, we all started calling out dishes from each section of the menu (bites, small dishes, grains and eggs, and large portions). You know that you are at a good restaurant when EVERYTHING sounds good. We finally agreed on several dishes, and because chef David is such a hospitable man, he sent out a couple surprises to throw into the mix. The entire dining experience consisted of -- Pri Pri Shrimp,  Market Oysters, Pumpkin Salad, Farro Salad, Escarole Salad, Prawns, Octopus Bolognese, Tempura Fried Chicken, "Smores", and Peaches and Cream. Needless to say, we were beyond satisfied and amazed with the wonderful flavors. I'm going to highlight a few of my favorites. Otherwise, I risk losing about 75% of you after the third paragraph. We started with the Pri Pri Shrimp, a dish of fresh jumbo shrimp cooked to the perfect plumpness and bold spices. If you cannot handle the heat, don't order it. I would venture to say it is for a mature palate, one who won't lose their composure after each bite. Don't get me wrong, the dish is phenomenal and quite delightful, it is just one of the more bolder options. The oysters were simply divine. They each were served with a small slice of lemon laying delicately on the shell. With a gentle squeeze of the peel, the perfect amount of lemon juice surrounded the oyster to balance out the saltiness and earthy flavor of the oyster. One bite, and it was gone.
Pumpkin Salad
One thing that stood out to me about the escarole salad was the quail eggs. That's right, poached miniature eggs that at first glance, look like small fresh mozzarella balls. They sat delicately atop the escarole leaves, stemming (no pun intended) from the endive leaf vegetable. The eggs were mild yet had a slight richness to them.My final favorite dish was the octopus bolognese. I kid you not, the minute I looked at the menu, this dish caught my eye. I had eaten octopus before, but in all honesty, it wasn't the greatest experience. It was tough and offered a thickness that made the dish tiring after only a few bites.  At Louro however, the octopus was diced into small pieces and very tender. It was engulfed in a rich and buttery bolognese tomato sauce with homemade tagliatelle pasta (a wide yet very thin pasta) underneath.

THE CREATOR AND HIS HOME
 Prior to receiving our dessert, we were invited to tour the kitchen and meet chef David. As the swinging kitchen doors opened, we were greeted with a charming and smiling face in the center of the kitchen. He looked like someone you could talk and laugh with for hours over a good bottle of wine and an imported cheese tray. Chef David stood proudly and welcomed us with such warmth. Literally, the kitchen felt as though the oven had been open for hours while operating at 450 degrees. It was petite, as you would imagine for a New York City restaurant. Quite honestly, I was intrigued and impressed with the amount and quality of food that exited such a small work space.  Chef David introduced his kitchen staff which consisted of only four or five people.  I couldn't help but think about the amount of hours spent in the hot kitchen, and match that with the look on their faces. It was priceless-- a look of fulfillment. I could tell that they too, were proud to be standing in their assigned stations and each having a roll in the toothsome food exiting the swinging doors. I asked chef David about his culinary past and how he made it this far. He attended Johnson & Wales, a reputable culinary school I too seriously considered attending after graduating from high school. He was an executive chef at Five and Diamond in Harlem, then proceeded to launch a series of supper clubs in is own home. I didn't want to overstay my welcome but had to ask one more question -- How did you come up with the name Louro? A slight glow was emitted as he began talking about cooking with his aunt and uncle in France. His uncle who at the time was struggling with a heart condition, owned a large garden abundant in herbaceous leaves. He led him to the garden and snipped off a few leaves for chef David to take home and share with his immediate family. Upon returning home, his mom planted the sprigs in her own garden and eventually they turned into plants. Sadly, his uncle has passed away but it is apparent that his spirit and love for fresh and flavorful food lives on through chef David. Dining at his restaurant was an experience that will remain with me for a very long time. It was one of those culinary experiences that made me proud to have my appreciation for food, its beauty, and people like chef David to create it.





Monday, September 30, 2013

Udon West

I am traveling in NYC this week and from day one, my fear came to fruition -- I fell in love.  There's so much to experience in New York, but as a foodie, my taste buds were eager to be aroused with unfamiliar flavors. That initially occurred in the first restaurant I stepped foot in located in Midtown. It was a hole-in-the-wall of a place that from the outside, looked more like a make-shift basement tattoo parlor. All those characteristics, along with suggestions from a local gave me high hopes for this Japanese restaurant. Surprisingly enough, immediately upon reaching the last step to the restaurant, we were greeted with a shouting hostess/waitress raising the hand symbol for "2" in the air. Confused, I simply nodded and proceeded to follow her to a table that literally was attached to the adjacent table. Knowing that most restaurants in the city offer this "intimate" setting, I was completely fine with that. Without paying any attention to making us feel at home, the server rushed us for our order. My sister ordered the marinated beef kimchee udon and I ordered the shrimp and vegetables tempura udon.  If you are unfamiliar with udon, it is a Japanese round flour noodle with a very slippery texture usually served in hot soup.

Once my food arrived, I notice the udon in one bowl, and the tempura on the side. I quickly asked how she recommends I eat it and she said separately. Knowing me and my combination of curiosity and slight stubbornness, I took one bite of the tempura then proceeded to break it apart and toss it in the udon bowl. I'm so glad I did! The fried batter of the shrimp and vegetables offered a richness in the already delicious broth. The tempura got slightly soggy which actually made it easier and more enjoyable to eat. It allowed the flavors of the vegetables and shrimp to really come through. Placed as a garnish, there were two semi-circle halves of something I've never tasted. I'm going to be honest and this is one of the few ingredients I have not been able to label after tasting it. It had almost a hard boiled egg white texture but looked like a large radish. I came to the conclusion that it was dyed tofu. Whether I was right or not is beyond me. That was my least favorite variable of the meal. There also was a dandelion green-like vegetable. It wasn't seaweed. It was more mild and offered more of a crunch. It was shriveled so it was difficult to figure out what it was. I believe it was choy, an Asian green that mimics the same texture as a mixture of collard greens and chard.  I was so impressed with the simplicity yet intricacy of the meal. I had never tasted anything like it.

It is important to also add that this restaurant is very affordable! I spent less than $10 on my lunch and left feeling extremely satisfied. As odd as it is, I tend to literally think about food constantly. Not just about what to eat, but how what I previously ate tasted and what stood out to me (flavors, textures, consistency, colors, etc). The udon was such an interesting texture that some might be a bit turned off by it. It wasn't thin, but it wasn't dense either, so it was easy to consume and slurp. Let's be honest, who doesn't love the experience of eating Asian noodles with chopsticks? Some might dislike all the "work" it takes just to get a bite in, but I really enjoy foods that provide a different eating experience. Needless to say, I was very pleased with Udon West and plan on taking my husband there in the very near future.

Have any of you tried udon before? If so, what are your thoughts? Share the wealth!

Until then, happy eating!

Thursday, June 27, 2013

Buffalo Chicken Lettuce Wraps

Brian and I just recently returned from a marvelous cruise. It was so relaxing and full of fun things to do! We even went scuba-diving! All that said, it didn't take long for me to come home and realize just how much I have to do to catch up with the 10 days we were gone. The one bad thing about being self-employed is that I am my own boss. Therefore, I am the one who tells me what to do, and when to do it. It's a tough cycle, especially after a restful cruise. Needless to say, I wasn't feeling it the first couple of days.

But now, I'm back and one of the first things I thought when I got home was "What can I make in a crock pot this week?" so I looked around online and came up with some inspiring recipes! That's right, all my dinners this week are made with a crock pot and are fun, easy, and positively delicious!

Ingredients:
1-2 lbs chicken breast
16 oz chicken broth
1/2 cup buffalo sauce (I used Frank's buffalo sauce)
1 head iceberg lettuce
2 celery stocks
1/2 onion
Toppings
shredded cheddar cheese (reduced fat will do)
diced scallions
Reduced fat ranch dip or blue cheese dressing (I used reduced fat sour cream and a packet of ranch dip seasoning)

Instructions
In a crock pot, place all the ingredients except for the buffalo sauce and toppings and cook for 4 hours.
Save and set aside 1/2 cup of the broth and strain the rest, then place only the chicken back in the crock pot.
Use 2 forks to shred the chicken then add the sauce and broth, and stir until all mixed together.
Keep on warm until ready to serve.
Once ready to serve, carefully separate the lettuce leaves, place chicken in the center, and add desired amount of toppings before rolling and enjoying!