Archive for July, 2010

Cheddar & Brown Rice Risotto Cakes

Friday, July 30th, 2010

We buy our brown rice from Costco, a 12.5 pound bag of short grain brown rice from Lundberg Family Farms. Recently, I checked out their website and was pleasantly surprised to find a whole slew of recipes for all of their rice products, including several for the short grain variety we buy.

Naturally, this cheesy recipe caught my eye. It was tasty AND healthy, which is a great combination. Kind of like a potato pancake–cheesy, crispy around the edges, with the nutty flavor of brown rice. We really enjoyed these, and I’m sure we’ll make them again. They’d be good with other kinds of cheese as well. If you weren’t worried about the health aspects, full fat cheese and butter or olive oil in place of the nonstick spray would be delicious, but honestly, they were great the healthy way too. :)

I used leftover brown rice to make these cakes, which makes it even better.

Cheddar & Brown Rice Risotto Cakes

  • 1 cup (4-ounces) shredded low-fat Cheddar cheese
  • 1/2 cup minced onion
  • 3 tablespoons flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 3 egg whites
  • 1/8 teaspoon cream of tartar
  • Vegetable cookin spray
  • Applesauce (optional)
  • Lowfat sour cream (optional)
  • 2 cups cooked Lundberg Organic Short Grain Brown RiceCombine rice, cheese, onion, flour, salt and pepper in medium bowl. Beat egg whites with cream of tartar in small bowl until stiff but not dry. Fold beaten egg whites into rice mixture.

    Coat large skillet with cooking spray and place over medium heat until hot. Spoon 2 to 3 tablespoons batter into skillet for each patty; push batter into diamond shape using spatula. Cook patties, turning once, until golden brown on both sides. Serve warm with applesauce or sour cream. Makes about 1 dozen patties.

Molasses & Rum-Glazed Grilled Pineapple Skewers

Thursday, July 29th, 2010

After a long, hard day of shopping (he he), Leah and I came home to find a David ready to make us dinner. He grilled a tequila-lime chicken and these pineapple skewers as a side. And they were awesome. The pineapple gets all caramelized, which really brings out the sweetness, but in addition, the molasses-rum glaze tasted almost like toasted marshmallows by the time everything was done. Grilled pineapple is delicious, but this took it up a notch! I’d make this again anytime.

Molasses & Rum-Glazed Grilled Pineapple Skewers

  • 1/3 Cup Molasses
  • 1/4 Cup dark rum
  • Juice of 1/2 lime
  • 3 Tablespoons of butter, cut into pieces
  • 1 small pineapple

1) Put the molasses, rum, lime juice in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to medium high and cook until reduced to about 1/3 of a cup.

2) Remove from the heat and whisk in the butter.

3) Cut the pineapple into chunks, spears, or wedges, whatever you want.

4) Brush the grill grate with oil so the pineapple doesn’t stick. Put the pineapple on the grill and cook until nicely grill marked, about 3-5 minutes per side. Brush with some glaze during the last two minutes of grilling. Remove to a plate and brush with the remaining glaze. Serve warm.

Green Beans with Bacon-Balsamic Vinaigrette

Wednesday, July 28th, 2010

It’s green bean season, and we got a whole bushel from my grandparents a week or so ago. I’m sure we’re not the only ones looking to use up some great garden green beans, but other than my friend Leah, who will sit and munch them like potato chips, everyone seems to do the same thing with beans. This time, I was looking for something a little different.

I found this recipe on the Cooking Light website. Despite the bacon and sauce, it works out to only a Point for a cup, which is nice. I used center cut bacon, and substituted chopped walnut pieces for the almonds in the original recipe (David’s not a fan of almonds).

I thought it was tasty, and probably worth another try. There’s sugar in the sauce, and that made it turn out sweeter than I had imagined, probably compounded by the fact that I also substituted regular balsamic vinegar for the white balsamic that the recipe originally called for. I was in a hurry, and ended up tossing things in the skillet a bit differently than called for, and so the end product had bits of candied bacon throughout (not that there’s anything wrong with that!). I think, overall, the beans could have used more salt.

As I said, I’ll probably try this one again, following the original a bit more closely to see how things turn out.

Green Beans with Bacon-Balsamic Vinaigrette
Adapted from Cooking Light, November 1996

Ingredients

  • 2  pounds  green beans
  • 2  bacon slices
  • 1/4  cup  minced shallots
  • 3  tablespoons  coarsely chopped walnuts
  • 2  tablespoons  brown sugar
  • 1/4  cup  balsamic vinegar

Preparation

Cook green beans in boiling water for 2 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Drain well; set aside.

Cook bacon in a small skillet over medium-high heat until crisp. Remove bacon from skillet. Crumble; set aside. Add shallots to bacon fat in skillet; sauté 1 minute. Add almonds; sauté 1 minute. Remove and let cool. Add sugar and vinegar; stir until sugar dissolves. Add crumbled bacon.

Pour vinaigrette over beans, tossing gently to coat.

The Girl and the Goat: Worth the Wait

Tuesday, July 27th, 2010

As you’ve probably noticed if you’ve been following the blog at all, if I have a favorite celebrity chef, it’s got to be Stephanie Izard. She won season 4 of Bravo’s Top Chef to become the first (and so far only!) female Top Chef. She’s from Chicago. And ever since she won “$100,000 to help make her culinary dreams a reality, furnished by the Glad family of products,” I’ve been waiting impatiently for her restaurant to open.

If you remember, we got the chance to meet Stephanie at a little get together at her house, thanks to a contest in the RedEye. And you may or may not know that David and I traipsed all over the city trying to get our hands on tiny little goat buttons, hoping to win tickets to a premiere party for the new restaurant. The whole goat button thing didn’t really work out for us, but David was kind enough to make us reservations after the restaurant opened a couple of weeks ago.

Here’s my rundown:

The decor

The restaurant has high ceilings, and a kind of rustic decor. The kitchen is open, and you can see Stephanie hard at work with the whole kitchen staff. We sat in the center of the floor, so had a good view of the kitchen and the bar. The kitchen is dominated by huge wood-burning ovens–the better to wood-fire some pizzas, my dear. Overall, the restaurant has a comfortable feel. The servers were dressed in jeans and sneakers, which is fine by me, but the patrons were fairly over-dressed for the decor, on the whole. Probably because of the whole new-and-trendy aspect.

The linens were minimal, and in keeping with the rustic feel of the space. Water is served in re-purposed wine bottles, which looked cool, but didn’t exactly keep the water cold.

P.S. We had a decent view of the kitchen, but the restaurant layout has two two-seater tables actually IN the kitchen, so if you want to spend your date that close to the fire, try to reserve one of those spots! I tried not to geek out about seeing Stephanie at work in the kitchen, but we saw that at least one women went up and got her menu autographed, so I guess she’s used to the attention by now.

The drinks

I really should let David tell you about this, since he was the one to order a drink. The bar menu was loaded with great wine selections, by the bottle or the glass, something like 30 different craft beer options, and some very meticulously designed mixed drinks. David ordered something called a “Smoking Jacket,” which featured smoked bourbon or something of the sort. I didn’t taste any, but he enjoyed it. His only “objection” is that it was probably the first pink-colored drink he’s ever ordered in public. We didn’t expect it to come out pink!

The food

This, of course, is what we came for.

Everything is served as small plates, and they recommend two to three plates per person. The menu is sorted into Veggie, Fish, and Meat sections, though as our server warned us, those aren’t strict categories. He offered to make accommodations if we were vegetarians, but as a couple of carnivores, we weren’t too worried. We skipped the oyster selections (we felt brave, but not that brave) and started instead with the “veggie” version of the bread, which was a fresh-baked loaf served with chimichurri and sweet onion butter. All delicious.

From the Veggie plates section, we chose a salad made with fresh mozzarella, yellow cherry tomatoes, and yellow plums. These were served over greens with a vinaigrette and a cilantro-herb paste. Very tasty. And our server told us that that particular dish made the menu that day because Stephanie had been inspired by the cheese and tomatoes at the Green City Market that morning, which was a nice touch.

From the Fish section, I ordered seared scallops, served with braised veal and caponata over marcona almond butter. It was awesome. David’s not a seafood fan, so I didn’t even have to share, but I did get him to try a bite. Even he agreed it was kind of tasty. The scallops were seared perfectly, with an awesome crust on each side. Nestled between the scallops was a very flavorful tender veal. I would order the veal on it’s own any day. The saltiness of the veal, the creaminess of the almond butter, and the subtle sweetness of the scallop melded together perfectly. Can we go back yet? I want this dish again! (If you’re not familiar, caponata is a kind of vegetable salad. Don’t worry, I had to look it up, too. I’m not sure exactly what was in Stephanie’s, but it was very tasty, and definitely added to the dish texturally).

From the Meat section, we ordered two plates: ham frites, with swiss cheese dipping sauce and a sun-dried tomato aioli for dipping, and a skirt steak with pickles, beets, carrots, and cilantro over a salted goat’s milk caramel sauce. The ham frites were basically bacon french fries, and they were as delicious as that sounds. Yes, they were glorified cheese fries, and yes, every bite was delicious. The skirt steak was cooked perfectly (for David–I’m one to over-cook my meat, but I know he was pleased). I enjoyed the pickles so much more than I expected, and the carrots were crunchy and sweet, but my favorite part was the caramel sauce. It was an unexpected sweetness, but a great contrast to all of the other flavors.

Then came dessert. On the one hand, we were stuffed. On the other hand, we were intrigued by most of the selections on the menu. We ended up ordering something called a fudgecicle. It was aptly name, as the foundation of the dessert was frozen chocolate mousse that tasted like a fudgecicle, but with so much more depth. The fudge mousse was topped with a sweet wafer, which was in turn topped with…Olive Oil Gelato. A couple of spoonfuls of a warm sauce made of Dragon’s Milk stout and other goodies softened the frozen bits around the edges and brought all of the flavors together perfectly. And I’m not a beer fan, by any stretch.

P.S. About that gelato: David and I were amazed by the flavor. I can’t describe it to you except to say that it tastes exactly like it sounds, really, but also, so much better than it sounds. Sweet, creamy, with a clean, clear taste of olive oil. I might not have predicted beforehand that I’d like such a thing, but I can tell you now that it was delicious. I’d absolutely order the dessert again.

The conclusion

Can you tell I was pleased? We both were. I don’t think we were disappointed by anything we tried, and we saw a lot of tasty-looking dishes being served to our neighbors as well. Much of what was on the menu was outside of our comfort zone, but in the end, I think that’s what made it fun. I feel like I expanded my culinary horizons, and had an excellent meal. Our server was knowledgeable and attentive. The atmosphere was welcoming. The food, obviously, was excellent. And we were pleasantly surprised at the tab—-after a drink, a starter, two plates each, and a shared dessert, we managed to spend less than $100, including tip. That’s more than we spend on most Wednesday nights, sure, but well worth it. Considering I’ve been psyched for this meal for about 6 months now, as I followed Stephanie on Twitter and waited for the restaurant to open, I’d say our meal was definitely a success. I had high hopes, and I wasn’t disappointed.

And even though I would order any of these dishes again the next time we go back, I’m excited to know that the menu will change often, and that the next trip could be a completely different meal. That’ll be worth the wait, too.

The details

Girl and the Goat; 809 W Randolph St, Chicago IL; Cost: Varies, menu is small plates, two to three plates per person are recommended, and range in price from $6-$17/plate.

The World’s Best Coffee Cake

Monday, July 26th, 2010

That Pioneer Woman. Somebody should buy me her cookbook. Everything she makes looks delicious, even if it’s something I wouldn’t normally like. I also love her sense of humor. And how she’s not afraid of butter.

We’re eating healthier (most of the time) and so I don’t make these treats for David as often as I once did. And when I do, I try to make something that’s not too tempting for me. I managed to stay away from this coffee cake for most of the week, but I’m not sure it was due to lack of temptation. The cake was the perfect amount of sweetness, with great cinnamon and pecan flavors. It was slightly dense, and had the perfect slightly-crumbly texture. It’s got me dreaming of other things I could put in a coffee cake. So much for avoiding temptation.

I followed the directions from the site almost exactly. I don’t have a pastry cutter, so I put the dry ingredients in the food processor with the cold butter for those steps, and pulsed several times. Just enough to chop and distribute the butter, but not enough to remove the clumps. You want clumps! She recommends a large pan, and I would definitely agree. I used a deep white roasting dish from CorningWare, and the cake rose to the top of the pan. A regular 9×13 Pyrex would’ve been cutting it close for sure.

The World’s Best Coffee Cake (According to The Pioneer Woman)

FOR THE CAKE:

  • 1-½ stick Butter, Softened
  • 2 cups Sugar
  • 3 cups Flour, Sifted
  • 4 teaspoons Baking Powder
  • 1 teaspoon Salt
  • 1-¼ cup Whole Milk (I used 1 cup of 1% milk with 1/4 cup of cream, because oddly enough, I keep 1% AND heavy cream on hand, and never have whole milk)
  • 3 whole Egg Whites, Beaten Until Stiff

FOR THE TOPPING:

  • 1-½ stick Butter, Softened
  • ¾ cups Flour
  • 1-½ cup Brown Sugar
  • 2 Tablespoons Cinnamon
  • 1-½ cup Pecans, Chopped
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Beat egg whites and set aside.
  2. Cream butter and sugar. Add flour mixture and milk alternately until combined. Don’t overbeat. Fold in beaten egg whites with a rubber spatula. Spread in a well-greased 9 x 13 (or LARGER!) baking pan. A cake pan with higher sides would be best.
  3. In the bowl of your food processor, pulse topping ingredients until crumbly. Sprinkle all over the top.
  4. Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, or until completely set. Enjoy!