Check out that Asinello

May 27, 2010

When I first started cooking, I had two priorities: cost and simplicity. So it’s no wonder we ate a lot of burritos.  And by burritos I mean some combination of meat, cheese, tortillas, and other choice fillings (peppers and onions, guacamole, sour cream, beans, rice, etc.).  These mexican flavors are always popular and the preparation is pretty straight forward. In fact, I would bet that burritos are some of the most common meals prepared by those learning to cook. But no matter how in to cooking I get, I will always rely on these delicious creations.

So when it comes to these burritos, why have I always stuck to the typical mexican flavors? Why haven’t I realized that making burritos is nothing more than a technique, perfect for just about anything. It was definitely time to branch out; time to make something a little more exciting.

I give you the “Asinello”.

This Italian Burrito (Asinello is Italian for Little Donkey which is English for Burrito) was packed with sautéed lemon basil chicken, a mixture of roasted onions, garlic and broccoli rabe, fresh mozzarella cheese, and a white bean and tomato salsa. Held together with a little balsamic reduction, my Asinello was ridiculously good. So good, we went back to make seconds.

And ironically enough, one of my favorite food blogs had this posted for today. So next time you are in the kitchen, ready to make one of your old stand bys, consider changing it up a bit. You won’t be disappointed!

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Food and Alcohol Pairings

May 25, 2010

How many times have you asked a waiter to suggest a wine for your selected entree only to be served the most expensive, and not necessarily the most complimentary. And even if it was complimentary, would you really have noticed the difference. Sure, there’s no question some wines go better with some foods, but I’ve always been a fan of the “drink what you like and be happy” approach. And since I drink a lot, I tend to be pretty happy.

But drink and food pairings do provide some really nice experiences when done well. Which is why you shouldn’t expect it done perfectly at most restaurants; too many different flavors, too many different wines, and too many different customers. But for small dinner parties, good pairings are definitely within reach.

The other night I had my first Ginger Shandy (sounds like an “employee” at Delilahs, huh?) when a friend of mine ordered one at Pianos. I had never heard of it before but this extremely simple beer cocktail that combines ginger beer and a wheat beer of your choice (Hoegarden works well), is a perfect summer drink. And with sharp ginger and crisp lemon, food pairing seemed like a perfect fit.

This ginger soy and honey marinated Mahi Mahi served with my favorite sliced and baked potatoes along with a warm salad of spinach, peas, and edamame worked tremendously well with the cocktail. So here’s to more drinking and what Bobby McFerrin really wanted to say…

“Drink cocktails, be happy”.

 


Late Night Diner (Where Everyone Knows My Name)

May 21, 2010

Before I moved to NY, I had aspirations of quickly becoming a “regular”. Maybe at the coffee shop, maybe at the bar, but never did I think the late night shift at the Lyric Diner would be where everyone knows my name. Okay, so maybe they don’t know my name, and sure they haven’t started putting my “Chicken Souvlaki” order in without me asking, but they recognize me…I’m sure of it.

And on my way home from work yesterday I developed a craving for those awesome greek flavors. But since I solely venture to the diner post 11 pm, I was on my own. I wanted a bit of everything which is why I decided to take the familiar flavors and twist them up a bit. First, my greek yogurt, cucumber, and red onion potato salad, surely to be on  a few of my summer menus, was perfectly reminiscent of the fresh white sauce so often paired with greek street food. With a bit of lemon and a heavy helping of olive oil, the potatoes sopped up the delicious flavors and worked really well with the rest of the meal.

Paprika, oregano, lemon juice, honey, and olive oil worked perfectly as a deeply flavorful marinade for some roasted chicken breasts and plus that color is undeniably enticing. And not to be overlooked were these simple spinach and feta stuffed tomatoes that brought all of the components together. The dinner was awesome but don’t worry Lyric Diner, I’ll see you this weekend!


Friends Don’t Let Friends…

May 20, 2010

…take photos of their food after they’ve been drinking at happy hour.

Turns out my food plating and photography skills (the bit that I have) are completely neutralized by a bunch of beers. But you don’t need a picture to appreciate how good the dinner was.

The night before I had made some curry mashed potatoes. I know there is always some debate over mashed potatoes but I’m a silky smooth kinda guy. My trusty food mill creates the most amazing texture and with roasted garlic and curry as flavor enhancers, these mashed potatoes were awesome. So when we made it home from the bar, hungry and not so interested in waiting, an awesome “breakfast for dinner” idea came to me.

Taking these delicate mashed potatoes and pan frying “cakes” in a bit of butter gave just enough crust to stand up to a column of flavor. Layering sauteed spinach, crispy salty bacon, and a fried egg atop the potato cakes created a eggs benedict like meal that satisfied all of our necessary cravings. The colors, the flavors, and the ease of this meal made it a perfect dish. The plating and the photography…not so much.


Put the Lime in the Coconut

May 19, 2010

I’m not a huge sauce guy. I love showcasing the natural flavors of ingredients with simple seasonings. That being said this basil, coconut, and lime curry was awesome!

Roasted eggplant seasoned with my favorite curry powder along with this pan seared Halibut soaked up the delicious sauce and coated your mouth with flavor. I imagine this sauce would be good for a number of things (I definitely want to cook a pot of mussels with this one) but the fish and vegetables were a perfect match. The freshness of the basil, the acidity of the lime, and the creaminess of the coconut were just perfect.


Apps Only: BLT Scallops

May 18, 2010

I know I’ve mentioned this before, but one of the best ways to take advantage of eating out is “apps only”. It’s way more conducive to sharing (both food and conversation) and honestly you’ll be surprised how little you miss the large entrée portions. Plus, think about how much more wine you can drink when you’re not spending $28.00 on a “roasted chicken” dish. But maybe the most compelling reason to eat apps only, is how much more creativity goes into the small plate portion of a menu. So order a bunch, try everything, and save some dough in the process.

Knowing that this “apps only” mentality is becoming more and more commonplace (how many “tapas” bars do you see in every neighborhood), I’ve been trying to develop some creative and memorable dishes for future menus. So when a few of our good friends came over for dinner the other night I wanted to test out an idea I thought would be extremely delicious. Spoiler alert…

It was!

Everyone loves the combination of bacon, lettuce, and tomato. Add a bit of creaminess in the form of mayo, a bit of crunch from some toasted bread and you’ve got yourself one of the best sandwiches imaginable. So what else could I use to bring those familiar flavors and textures together? Wrapping sea scallops in bacon accomplished two of the necessary pieces. The scallop added the creaminess in place of mayo, and the bacon added that great crunch. Served with a fresh tomato sauce and sautéed arugula, my BLT Scallops were an awesome appetizer. Sweet, savory, rich, and perfect for sharing!


Small World, Big Flavor

May 17, 2010

 

Shrimp Wrapped Scallop Skewers

This weekend I had the first of many upcoming opportunities to co-cater an event with my buddy over at Y-I-EAT-N. Our collaboration was years in the making since believe it or not, we were next door neighbors until we were three years old (hence the “small world”). Catering for thirty, we had the luxury of a beautiful kitchen and great outdoor set up with massive grill at our disposal. It was a beautiful day with a menu that didn’t dissapoint:

Outdoor BBQ Menu:

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella

Orzo Pasta Salad

Cabbage, Red Onion, and Raisin Slaw

Chipotle Mac and Cheese w/ Roasted Poblanos

Shrimp and Scallop Skewers

Tomato Mozzarella and Basil Sliders

Seitan Buffalo “Chicken” Tenders

Strawberry Basil Ice Cream Sandwiches

Homemade Mango Sorbet

Grilled Vegetable Panzanella

The menu was filled with dishes that perfectly complimented each other with a really great balance of flavors. The highlights had to be the shrimp wrapped scallop skewers served with a curry yogurt dipping sauce and the tomato, basil, and mozzarella sliders. And thats just for the savory because honestly is there anything better than homemade ice cream sandwiches?

Be on the look out for some future collaborations…

 


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