Monday, August 30, 2010

Dijon Chili Lime Shrimp

As usual, I took my breaks from work today by surfing the various recipe websites that I frequent.  I came across Marcus Samuelsson’s recipe for Chili Lime Shrimp. It looked good, but I’m not a big fan of yogurt based sauces – nor did I have any yogurt on hand.  I liked the idea though so I decided to make a Mustard Chili Lime Shrimp.

½ pound jumbo shrimp, cleaned and cut into large pieces
1 tablespoons olive oil
¼ cup chopped onion
1 heaping tbs honey Dijon mustard
½ tsp chili powder (or more!)
1 jalapeno, small dice
juice of ½ lime
2 pita bread, each cut in half
4 large pieces of romaine

Season shrimp with salt and pepper.  Mix mustard, chili powder, garlic powder and jalapeno in a small bowl.  I had a little incident with the chili powder so it's possible I had more than 1/2 tsp in there!

Heat 2 tablespoons olive oil in a sauté pan on medium high heat.  Add the onions and sauté for a few minutes.  Add the shrimp and cook about a minute on each side.

Reduce heat to medium, add the mustard mixture and cook for about 2 minutes.  The dijon is very aromatic and I definitely was excited to taste, but still one more step.

Add the lime juice and remove from heat.  Stuff each piece of pita with romaine then add 1/4 of the shrimp mixture.

This recipe took less than 30 minutes (including the time it took to clean and cut the shrimp).  Each your heart out Ms. Ray!

Hungry yet?

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Chicken Quesadillas & Spicy Mexican Rice

I definitely needed something easy tonight, but couldn’t quite figure out what to make.  I started surfing the various websites I look at for food inspiration and saw a Mexican fiesta spread.  I realized then that quesadillas are quick and delicious.  Couldn’t just make quesadillas though, had to get some sides going too.  So here we go…

Spicy Mexican Rice inspired by/adapted from Chelsie Kenyon


2 tablespoons cooking oil 
1 small onion, peeled and diced
2 shallots, peeled and diced
2 cups of rice
2 jalapeno, seeded and diced
3 1/2 cups chicken broth 
1/4 cup tomato sauce
1/4 cup taco sauce
1 teaspoon oregano


Begin to sauté the onions in the oil in a medium pot over medium heat. 

Add in the shallots, rice, and jalapeno and stir frequently until the rice begins to turn golden. Add the broth, tomato sauce, taco sauce, and oregano and stir to combine. Bring the mixture to a boil and then turn it down to a simmer. 

Cover the pot and continue to simmer for 15 minutes (or longer, depending on how long it takes for the water to evaporate). When rice is cooked, fluff it with a fork and voila this is what you’ve got.  

The rice isn't as spicy as I would like.  The chicken broth is crucial though. Totally better than using water. 

While the rice is cooking, you should start on the quesadillas.  They really don’t take any time.

2 flour tortillas (may be labeled as sandwich wraps depending on your grocery store)
½ lb chicken breast, cut into small strips
salt and black pepper to season
1 tsp red chili pepper
¼ cup shredded cheese

Heat a small skillet and spray with cooking spray.  Add chicken and spices.  

Continue to stir and flip chicken pieces to make sure both sides are cooking.  Once chicken is cooked, heat up larger skillet to medium heat.  Place tortilla on skillet.  Add cheese.  Once cheese has melted a little, add chicken.  

Fold in half then turn over so the other side can brown.  Remove from plate, cut into quarters and serve with rice.

I also heated up a can of black beans with a little pepper.  You can also add the beans and rice into your quesadilla instead of serving on the side.

Hungry yet?

Best Brownies Ever!

I’ve been dreaming of baking all week.  Each day I get home I want to bake something but I don’t know what to make or I’m too tired to start anything.  I’ve decided baking during the weekend makes so much sense.  There are lots of things I’m hoping to make in the next couple of weeks.  I’d like to bake a loaf of bread and I’d like to make my own jam to go with it.  I figure once Ramadan is over I’ll be back in the kitchen full time. 

For now, I decided to stick with brownies.  While I very much respect the prepackaged stuff, I figured if I’m going to bake I better do it right.  I turned to my epicurious app and did a search for brownies.  You wouldn’t believe how many recipes there were!

I settled on the Best Cocoa Brownies because they looked simple enough and had great reviews.  The recipe is adapted (barely!) from Alice Medrich's Bittersweet: Recipes and Tales from a Life in Chocolate.

10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups sugar
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa powder (natural or Dutch-process)
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
2 cold large eggs (I used 2 medium eggs)
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 tsp confectioner's sugar

Combine the butter, sugar, cocoa, and salt in a medium heatproof bowl. 

Set the bowl in a wide skillet of barely simmering water.

Stir from time to time until the butter is melted and the mixture is smooth and hot enough that you want to remove your finger fairly quickly after dipping it in to test. It will likely take 15 - 20 minutes before it gets to this point. Here are a couple of stages that it might go through.

Remove the bowl from the skillet and set aside briefly until the mixture is only warm, not hot.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat the oven to 325°F. Line the bottom and sides of a 8x8 baking pan with parchment paper or foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides.  I used foil.

Stir in the vanilla with a wooden spoon. Add the eggs one at a time, stirring vigorously after each one. When the batter looks thick, shiny, and well blended, add the flour and stir until you cannot see it any longer, then beat vigorously with the wooden spoon or a rubber spatula.  

Spread evenly in the lined pan.

Bake until a toothpick plunged into the center emerges slightly moist with batter, 20 to 25 minutes. Let cool completely on a rack.  Lift up the ends of the parchment or foil liner, and transfer the brownies to a cutting board. Cut into 16 or 25 squares and sprinkle with confectioner's sugar.

I was nervous these wouldn’t come out well because well they were in an 8x8 square pan!  I usually bake in 13x9.  The brownies were very rich so I cut them into tiny squares.  Overall they got pretty good reviews.  Hopefully the people who tasted them will provide you with their comments so you don't have to take my word for it.  Stay tuned for pictures and hopefully recipes from some of the tasty treats I had last night.

Hungry yet?

Thursday, August 26, 2010

Stuffed Jumbo Shells

Although we had to reschedule our date night from earlier in the week, I was thrilled that Ms. S was available for dinner and willing to come to my home!  I struggled a bit with what to make.  I really wanted to use my slow cooker but the only recipe I wanted to make was jambalaya.  Mr. G noted that this was cliché since Ms. S hails from Louisiana.  So I decided Lasagna would be better and I would save jambalaya for later this week.  Unfortunately, Ms. S cancelled at the last minute – oh the woes of being a lawyer.

I still had a hankering for Italian and was determined to cook last night since I’ve almost gone through my food budget for the month.  Lasagna was a bit much considering it’s just me so I decided on Stuffed Shells.  I’m really trying to portion better so I waste less considering I’m usually cooking for myself.

To that end, I decided to only make half the box of shells.  In the end, I still ended up with enough to feed a family of 4.  Someday, I’ll learn.  Anyway, details below…

Jumbo Shells with turkey and cheese filling (adapted from the ronzoni jumbo shells box)
½ lb ground turkey
½ box jumbo shells cooked (approx. 21 shells)
15 oz. jar of ricotta cheese
1 cup (8 oz.) shredded mozzarella cheese
¼ cup grated parmesan cheese
1 egg
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp basil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp ground black pepper
¼ tsp nutmeg
1 tsp crushed red pepper
1 jar spaghetti sauce

Brown turkey and add ½ tsp of each spice, except nutmeg.  Drain and remove from stove.  In medium bowl, stir together cheeses, eggs, spices and ground turkey. 

In medium size baking dish, spread half of spaghetti sauce on the bottom of baking dish.  Fill each cooked shell with one heaping tablespoon of the cheese and turkey mixture; layer the filled shells in the prepared dish.  Spread most of the remaining sauce over the layer of shells.  

Add any remaining shells on top then spread remaining sauce over shells.  

Sprinkle with additional mozzarella cheese.  Cover with foil; bake 30 minutes or until hot and bubbly.

Remove from oven and this is what you’ve got

It tasted quite good, but the portions were still larger than one person can handle.  Wish someone could help me out.

Hungry yet?

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Bobby Flay Steak

While I don't eat beef, I must say that after such an enjoyable meal at Wolfgang Puck's restaurant I was really looking forward to dinner at Bobby Flay Steak last Saturday.  Oh Mr. Flay if you only knew how your name was dragged through the mud thanks to the customers who refused to leave on time and the staff who accommodated their tardiness and in turn left us waiting for over an hour before we were seated.  

The manager that night, tried to understand, but in truth she was defensive and not helpful.  Telling me that the party occupying our table has paid and is just finishing their drinks is one thing when I first walk in, but to repeat that same line 40 minutes later is insulting.  Thanks for comping our appetizers, but sadly the damage was already done.  Demerits to you for not keeping your cool and living by the mantra "the customer is always right, especially when I've kept her waiting for an hour."

Luckily the chefs and wait staff lived by that mantra.  Everything I ate was incredible and I do believe the rest of the gang felt the same way.  Our appetizers came out within a few minutes of our getting situated at our table.  In no particular order, here’s what we ate…

Lobster-Crab Cake with Basil Sauce and Red Pepper Pesto

I love a good crab cake and adding lobster to that just makes me so so happy.  It was nicely browned on top and very meaty. The pesto was amazing.  Ms. H and I were all over it.

Next up, the Chilled Lobster-Avocado Cocktail

yumyumyum! While I didn't love the presentation, the contents of that cone shaped glass were perfect!  Juicy pieces of avocado and big chunks of lobster mixed up deliciously.

We also got the Shrimp Cocktail which was served with smoked chile horseradish sauce

Fresh pieces of shrimp and a nice tangy sauce.  Yup, I was diggin it.

I was also lovin the Tuna Tartare.  It was really tasty, fantastically fresh tuna, and the onions, capers and other garnishes were incredible.

It was also served with very crispy bread that complimented the texture of the tuna very well.  Ms. O started with the Romaine Salad, which the elder Ms. O also ordered. 

It was stacked pretty high and the cheese looked pretty tempting, but I managed to contain myself and not reach over to her plate for a forkful.  Ms. H ordered The AC Chopped Salad.

She was into it, except for the olives.  Note - if you're ordering the Chopped Salad, you should definitely ask the server for the ingredient list because it is not listed on the menu.  From gazing over at her plate, I could tell there were olives, lettuce, cheese and what looked like crispy red onions though I can't be certain.  

There were several different entrees at our table.  Unfortunately, I am not very good with steak and only recall what was on a few of these plates.  Hopefully the ladies at the table will claim their dishes!  For now, I’ll try to identify the ones that I recognize.  Unless otherwise noted, the steak is spice rubbed and served with Bobby Flay Steak Sauce.

Ms. O ordered the strip steak as did someone else.

Look at that large piece of meat.  Sheesh!

Ms. H ordered the Grilled Tuna Steak with triple peppercorn sauce and crispy red onions.

Look at that sucka! Never knew fish could look so much like meat!  The chef definitely loves capers - they were all over the place.

My Grilled Swordfish Steak was also HUGE! 

It was topped with black olive tapenade, lobster and toasted garlic.  Yumm Yumm Yumm!!! I finished off the lobster pretty quickly then went back to try to tackle the fish. It was ginormous so I was not able to finish it and in fact barely made a dent.

A couple of the ladies ordered the Philadelphia Style Strip Steak.

It was accompanied with provolone cheese sauce and caramelized onions.

That’s what it looks like when it’s fully dressed.  That’s a good lookin’ steak right there.

The Spicy Southwest Ribeye was also on the table. 

Topped with roasted red and green chiles & garlic.  I’d love to recreate that topping and put it on a different piece of meat.  Not sure who this belongs to but the Rack of Pork with Apple-Green Onion Chutney presented quite well.

I don't know what these two are, but they also made their way onto the table.

We also ordered a couple of sides.  The Wild Mushroom Mashed Potatoes with White Truffle Oil was a big hit on my side of the table.

So much so Ms. H started digging in before I could snap a picture.  We really love our potatoes so we also ordered the Black Pepper French Fries.

They look pretty standard but I assure you they were AMAZING.  And of course can’t have a balanced meal without a little green so we also had the Roasted Asparagus with Green Peppercorn Vinaigrette.

YUM YUM YUM.  It was almost midnight when we finished our meal so dessert was out of the question. 

Bobby Flay Steak definitely has some amazing dishes on the menu.    Chris was a fantastic server and the rest of the wait staff was incredibly attentive.  It’s a pity the night had to start with an hour-long wait.  Upon reflection, I know the manager was trying, but I still don’t believe she did the best she could.  For my fellow restaurant diners, I beg of you please do not sit at a table for longer than 2 hours if you are not the last seating.  It’s inconsiderate not only to the customers waiting but to the manager who has to deal with them.

Hungry yet?

Bobby Flay Steak on Urbanspoon

Monday, August 23, 2010

Wolfgang Puck American Grille

As most of my readers know by now, Ms. O is about to be a Mrs.   To celebrate her upcoming nuptials, we had a wonderful weekend that included excellent meals.  The first night was spectacular and while the second night’s meal was delicious, the service was less than stellar (more on that later).

We went to Wolfgang Puck American Grille for dinner on Friday.  In the age of the celebrity chef, I must say I was quite excited to try this restaurant to see if it is worth all the hype.  Décor wise, it was definitely impressive.  Semi-open kitchen and the front seating area has a tiled floor.  We sat in the middle seating area but close enough to the front that we were very much in the action.  There were also a few semi-private alcove seating areas with very cool lighting.  And now onto the food…

The menu wasn’t too cumbersome, but it had enough options that we all got something different.  Mrs. A started off with the Beet Salad.  Sounds boring right? So wrong.  It was actually Roasted Beet and Goat Cheese Napoleon.

Looks like red velvet cake right?  Pretty cool stuff.  Mrs. A was looovin the salad.  The salad was dressed with toasted hazelnuts, citrus vinaigrette and old balsamic vinegar.

Ms. O went with the Heirloom Tomato salad with prosciutto de parma, baratta mozzarella cherry tomatoes sea salt and mint.

The heirloom salad looked great! Were it not for the prosciutto, I would have been all over it.

Instead, I was all over my Sautéed Maryland Crab Cakes.  

I’ve never had such good-looking crab cakes in my life.  The basil pesto aioli, tomato relish, micro basil added a great kick to the crab cakes.  I ate all 4 pieces and couldn’t wait for my entrée!

Our main courses soon arrived.  The elder Ms. O ordered the double thick pork chop.  It was quite thick and I'm not sure the photo actually does it any justice.

She noted that it was delicious and Ms. O confirmed as much.  Unfortunately, Ms. O wasn't thrilled with her entrée (which was listed as a first course).

She ordered the Hand Cut Spaghettini pasta with wild field mushrooms, reggiano parmesan and Italian parsley.

It looked good, but apparently it was over salted.  tsk tsk. Oversalting is a big no no.  Shame on the line cook who couldn’t get it right.

Mrs. A was delighted with her shrimp and crab risotto.

I must say it’s the first time I have ever been tempted to eat risotto.  She commented several times that she made the right choice.  I also enjoyed my fabulous entree.

Seafood makes me so happy.  The Atlantic Swordfish was perfect! Crispy skin added a nice contrasting texture.  The shrimp, clams and Maryland crab tasted amazing in the “aqua pazza” spicy shellfish broth.  I asked for more bread so I could dip it in the broth.

After such success with our appetizers and entrees, we figured we should also try the dessert.  Although my eye was already leaning towards it, when our waiter suggested that we order the Chocolate Brownie Melting Tart, we agreed.  It was filled with Jivara Milk Chocolate and served with Raspberry Preserves, Vanilla Ice Cream

I truly wish I had taken another picture so you could see for yourself the delicious melting chocolate.  It was phenomenal.  The ice cream and raspberry preserves were the perfect compliments to this chocolate masterpiece.  My taste buds have not been that alive in a long time.  We were so thrilled with the dessert that we asked to meet the pastry chef.  When we learned that he was no longer available, we figured we might as well try to get the man in charge of our meal.

Chef Aram Mardigian stopped by our table to say hello.

He was very personable and chatted with us for a few minutes.  Perhaps he'll accept my interview request and I can provide you with more details about the man behind this fantastic dining experience.  Along with our check, they served us some chocolate pieces with banana flavor.

Mrs. A was the only one who sampled it.  How did it taste? Smooth, apparently.

Wolfgang Puck's American Grille is the place to be.  The service was impeccable, the food was delightful and the chef was awesome! This was definitely one of the best dining experiences I've had in a very long time.

Hungry yet?

Wolfgang Puck's American Grille on Urbanspoon