Friday, February 25, 2011

Saturday, Feb 5th - Leftovers - Indian Stir Fried Rice and Aloo Jeera Sandwiches

Leftover Indian Fried Rice
It's funny.  I think that most of us faced with the predicament of using leftovers tends to stay within the confines of our comfort zone.  Casseroles, Sandwiches, Pasta Sauce or Stir Fried Rice within the paradigms of what ever we know.  I don't know why.  We were in this ski house share as we have done for years and we're all from various backgrounds and we'll generally do a few things for meals year in and year out.  Then on the last night, we trawl out the leftovers or if there is little snow, have them for lunch.  I'm a big fan of this as you may know.  I cannot abide wasting food.  I dropped an apple the other day coming from the market and I was gutted because I knew it would spoil before anyone ate it.  :^/

This year I had my eyes opened to a whole new world of Leftover Opportunities.  I'm terribly excited about this and almost wish I had some leftovers to try them out with :^D.  One of the couples on our trip is Indian.  They usually make a fabuloso Vegetarian Indian meal on one night.  As light as alot of the more carnivorously inclined members of the group might think vegetarian food may be, it was hearty and satisfying and we had a decent bit of leftovers.

The next day for lunch I did the boring option of just heating up some of the Lentil and Spinach Dahl, Aloo Jeera (Spiced Potatoes) and Rice.  I was quite contented because it was yummoriffic.  See? fixed paradigms.  Well, R and A, the chefs of the meal, made a childhood favourite out of the Aloo Jeera which I was right up my alley.  They made Aloo Jeera Grilled Sandwiches.  Simply scoop a good portion of the Aloo Jeera on to two slices of sandwich bread and fry it in Butter or Ghee.  If the Potatoes have been the fridge, you may want to heat them up slightly because the bread may brown quicker than the potatoes are hot.  Serve as you would a grill cheese sandwich.  The frying in Butter was something A insisted was necessary to make it authentic like his mum's.

Then for our big BBQ dinner night, R made an Indian Stir Fried Rice.  Funny how I've always though of Stir Fried Rice as the domain of the SE-Asians.  Why would that be?  I mean India and Pakistan eat as much rice in their diets too, I'm sure.   Though they do have more alternative starches in their regular repetoire like  Breads that are more of an adaptation in SE-Asia which is why when we make Indian at home, we always have more rice than we need because we often make Naan too and D won't eat both.

So there we were with a good 3 c of extra rice because alot of Westerners don't eat two starches in one meal.  R made a lucious Indian Stir Fried Rice which I will have to replicate.  Now, I did not ask her for the proportions but I know what went into it.  You'll have to fiddle with the portions.

Indian Stir Fried Leftover Rice

Jeera Seeds (Cumin Seeds)
1/2 Onion, diced
1-2 Serrano Chiles (leftovers :^D), minced
Black Mustard Seeds
Ground Tumeric
Mango Powder
Chili Powder (dash)
1/2 stick Butter
3 c COLD Basmati or Jasmin Rice
Salt and Pepper to taste

In a large pan or wok, melt the butter.  You should use a neutral Vegetable Oil, Ghee or Butter.  Do not use Olive Oil.  It will not taste right.  Fry the Seeds until you can smell them or hear the Mustard Seeds pop.  Add the Onions and Chiles and fry until slightly browned.  Add the other spices.  Add the COLD rice, cold because it won't clump up and absorb more liquid too quickly.  All the grains should be fluffy and separate. Season to taste. Mix well to combine and serve.  MMMMMMMM


Saturday, Jan 29th - Asian Breeze - Seattle Center - so-so Pre Opera Dinner

Coconut Prawn Pad Thai - too sweet
I bought tickets for D's birthday to Barber of Seville at the Seattle Opera.  We like the drive and visiting a bit of a bigger city vibe.  As well, the Seattle Opera has a much better venue, acoustically, than QE.  It is pricey though but luckily we were saving loads flying from there to our trip to San Fran.  It's really shocking how much cheaper those flights were actually.  That said, I will NEVER fly Alaska Airlines again.  We had a really questionable security experience, but that's for another post but ask if you like.

We had planned on going to Bizzaro Cafe for scratch made pasta but we were running late and thought it would be easier to check in and walk around the Queen Anne neighbourhood for dinner.  I was nearly turned off by over conceptualised decor but D was done walking and didn't look keen on going back to the first place I stopped in front of. :^)  Wish we had.

We were alone in the restaurant except for a single gentleman and yet, the server tried to seat us right next to him.  Other diners trickled in, all pre-opera diners.  Service was slow given the emptiness and rather inattentive.  The table next to us, seated a good spell after us, had their order taken and drinks served well before us.

Coconut Tempura Prawn - Greasy and not Coconutty
We started with the Coconut Tempura Prawn with Wasabi Mayo.  They looked and tasted like the types of prawn you might find in the frozen food section of Costco.  Butterflied and perfectly breaded but too manufactured in appearance.  Then there was the Coconut, or rather, there wasn't.  We had to concentrate like we were reading computer manuals to find the Coconut flavour.  We even called the server over to ask if there had been a mistake.  She claimed that the prawn had been marinated in coconut milk before breading and frying.  There was a very very slight perfume of Coconut, not worthy of marquee billing.  I still suspect, the prawn were store bought.  They were very greasy as well.

For a main, I ordered the Coconut Prawn Pad Thai.  The way the dish was described, I had thought the coconut milk and prawn would have been incorporated into the dish.  I was mistaken.  It was a standard Pad Thai with Coconut Tempura Prawn sat on top.  The server did not even have the courtesy to tell me that they were duplicate to the appetiser.  Very very unhappy about that.  The Pad Thai itself was far too sweet, and cloying.

7 Spice Pork Chop
D ordered the Seven Spice Pork Chop with Veg and Mash.  The Chop was rather dry and over cooked.  The mash was good.  Next time we go down, I think we may look up the road.

Cost: $$$-$$$$
Ambiance: Slick Asian, slightly too many visits to Pier 1
Service: not informative nor helpful

Asian Breeze
Queen Anne
366 Roy St
Seattle, WA 98109
(206) 285-6713
Asian Breeze on Urbanspoon


Friday, February 18, 2011

Sunday, January 30th - Gialina Pizzeria - Glen Park/Noe Valley - Crusty Goodness!

Gialina's Antipasto Platter
I have been a bit lapse on the updates.  We had some great dinners after the souffle and ate out in Seattle last week but vacation did not give me the energy in catch up I thought it would.  I blame the altitude. :^P  ..maybe the hot tub.  I'll start with SFO before Seattle.

We had our annual ski trip with D's grad school buddies this week.  We rotate between Whistler and Tahoe, normally.  We nearly tried Japan to make it closer to VM for once but we made the suggestion too late for good flight costs.  Even though it was unseasonably warm for this time of year in the Bay Area and Tahoe, it worked out oddly well because D and I were able to visit my sisters and get our Sunshine injection for the winter.  This Vitamin D hit is vital for survival in Vancouver for East Coasters (My sister V,  has repeatedly asked me to correct this to read Vitamin D as Vitamin E is making her scientific eyes hurt.  Whislt I know that sun deprived people or those with an addiction to 60SPF, suffer from Vitamin D deficiency, equally too, do we need Vitamin E for healthy skin and I did not think it was the end of the world. She reminded me again last night on the phone to change it so here I am. I think she needs to get out of her lab in Palo Alto and get some Vitamin D :^D)  We discovered this in the first years here when January saw 30 days of rain and 45 days without 'sunshine'.

Gialina's Wild Nettle and Pancetta Pizza
Our first night in San Fran, V my sister and her man, P came in from Menlo and we went out in O's, my other sister's, hood. V and O had tried this new popular pizza place a few weeks earlier.  They raved about the crust which was written up in the chronicle as being the reason to visit.  I normally prefer thin crust and if faced with a gorgeous pizza that I want to finish, will forego the crust.  This crust had the texture and flavour of a nice Italian loaf.  You couldn't leave it behind!

Gialina's Dates with Gorgonzola
Funny thing is my sister V is the tiniest of us all.  She's 5' nothing and a lean marathon runner.  She's the one that suggested we all get our own pizza's.   I looked over at a neighbouring table at the 15" pies and thought, well, maybe my eyes are wrong if V thinks she can finish it.

Gialina's Polenta and Italian Cauliflower
We started with a few starters to share which in retrospect, should have reduced our pizza order.  Our server was very nice but I would have greatly appreciated him telling us we ordered 1 or 2 too many pies.  Oh well.  We started with some Polenta with Cauliflower, right up my alley.  The Polenta with smooth, not too heavy.  Very nice!  The carnivores shared an Anti Pasto platter which is a good starter for 4-5 people.  And finally, one of my favourites which I will definitely try at home was the Dates stuffed with Gorgonzola on baby greens.  Delicious!!

Gialina's Atomica Pizza
Then came the pizza madness, V ordered the Atomica, a simple Red za.  P and D both ordered the Wild Nettles and Pancetta.  P is super lean as well but there is something about or tall, skinny friends from Europe.  They are all born with hollow legs.  He could probably have ploughed through two.  He's quite funny though, if he's not eaten he's very quite like an unwould toy. 

Gialina's Italian Sausage Pizza
I ordered the Pesto with Chard and Olives.  I added Anchovies but with the Olives it was way too salty.  Actually don't think it was the Anchovies.  I think there may have been too many olives.  O and A shared a Sweet Italian Sausage pie.  There was alot of slice swapping and in the end we hand an entire pizza for O to take home for work.

Gialina's Pesto Goat Cheese and Swiss Chard Pizza
I would definitely recommend you go but go early because there are no reservations and it seats maybe 40.  The great thing is you do not feel hurried or rushed despite the queue outside :^D.  I think next time I'd add my anchovies to the Butternut Squash pizza.  The server had told me it's on the sweet side so maybe that would have worked better.

Cost: $$-$$$
Ambiance: Casual, chic cafeteria
Service: Attentive, friendly but not overbearing
Crust: Thick but not bready

2842 Diamond St
San Francisco, CA
(415) 239-8500

Gialina on Urbanspoon


Saturday, February 12, 2011

Sunday, January 30th - Dahlia's Lounge - Belltown/Downtown - Seattle - KILLER Brunch!!

Dalia's Lounge fresh Mini Donuts
We came to Seattle for the weekend to see the Barber of Seville at the Seattle Opera.  We go in Vancouver too but sometimes there is a better line up in Seattle.  The sound is definitely better there.  It wasn't the best laid plans adjacent to San Fran but it sort of worked out in the end what with the flights from Seattle to SFO being MUCH cheaper than from Vancouver.

D has been set on trying these donuts that he saw on 'the Best Thing I Ever Ate' on TV.  It was Giada speaking about a Tom Douglas restaurant and D was convinced it was Etta's but they aren't served there so I reckoned it had to be one of the other three with girl's names.  Lola's, Dahlia's Bakery and Dahlia's Lounge all had them.  But I liked the menu better at Dahlia's Lounge than Lola's (too much meat at Lola's) and the Bakery had no seating.  I did my research on line at the hotel the night before because I get fussy with menus that I can't order off of but don't like to bother others so I plan ahead what I can manage.  We don't always remember to do that for Breakfast or Brunch when D is more likely to be tired and in need of sustenance so I planned ahead!

I thought I'd have a big breakfast and D would have the fresh donuts but it turned out he wanted us to have the donuts as dessert.  Obviously, how could I have though differently (shocked sarcasm).  As soon as we were seated, I asked if could substitute the side of bacon for the Parmesan Homefries at no extra charge.  I had warned D that if they wouldn't, I did not want to stay and I'd get an Egg Sandwhich at the adjacent Bakery instead.  I get fussier about meat biased menus on an empty stomach :^D.  They said it was cool, much to D's relief.  It was pretty cold out and he wasn't much interested in brunch hunting.

Dahlia's Lounge French Toast with Pistacio Ricotta
I had the French Toast with Cardammom Marmalade and Pistachio Ricotta with a side of Parmesan Fries.  The potatoes were fabulous.  Full baby taters, smashed as they're fried with a nice crust of Parmesan.  They did not over season due to the saltiness of the cheese which was great!!  The Ricotta was pretty melted by the time I got it but that was okay.  There was also Maple syrup so even though the Cardammom Marmalade was yummo, it seemed superflous.  I saved most of it for the donuts.  The French Toast itself was amazing.  Not too bready where the bread barely stepped at toe in the egg custard or too soggy.  Though it was well soaked with egg, it was cooked perfectly so the texture was light and crisp.  Probably the best French Toast I have had in a long time. (possibly a tie with the Elbow Room in Vancouver)

Dahlia's Lounge Eggs Benedict with Pork Loin and Scallion Hollandaise
D had the Eggs Benedict.  I asked why since Eggs 'Benny' as Vancouverites call it, are a dime a dozen in Vancouver.  D couldn't turn down the description and it's definitely a breakfast we don't make at home because of the Hollandaise.  The Eggs Benedict came with a Pork Loin with Scallion Hollandaise.  Without further prompting, D said they were the best Eggs Benedict he'd had.  The balance of the Pork, Eggs and Sauce was perfect.  The seasonining was spot on.  Worth coming back down for, I wager.

As our server came back occasionally to refill D's coffee, she asked us how we were doing with our Donut plans.  She noted our slow progress through our meals.  It's funny about brunch.  You know it doesn't sound like a lot of food.  With an empty belly, it doesn't look like a lot of food.  Then there you are with half your French Toast and a pile of Potatoes staring at you an half an hour later.  I did a good job of it.  I knew with the rest of our travel, we wouldn't be eating for several hours.  D abandoned the potatoes.  He had to parry my fork away. 

Dahlia's Lounge Mini Donut with Vanilla Marscapone Cardammon Marmalade and Cranberry Jam
We got the Donuts.  They are Fresh fried plain Dough Donuts.  They're about 2x2 inch squares.  They come served shaken  in a brown paper bag full of Sugar and Cinnamon.  They come straight from the fryer and are tossed table side.  The pour the lot on to your plate with a side of Cranberry Jam and Vanilla Marscapone.  You get six per order.  I could only have 2.  I then resorted to just having the Marscapone with my spoon.  The combination of the Marscapone and the Jam on the warm Donut was amazing.  I wouldn't have put it on my list of 'Best Fried Thing I Ever Ate' as Giada did but it was gooood. 

Cost: $$-$$$ (Breakfast/Brunch)
Ambiance: Spacious (not loud) southern restaurant, lots of wood.
Service: Friendly, helpful

Dahlia Lounge
2001 4th Ave
Seattle, WA 98121
(206) 682-4142
Dahlia Lounge on Urbanspoon


Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Friday, Jan 21 - Cheesiest Swiss Souffle

Do not fear the Souffle.  You'll need a bit of organisation and the right equipment and it will rise.  The cartoon and sitcom spoofs of old of Souffles deflating like the Hindenberg are quite a bit exaggerated.  There are a few tips for the basics: 1. Sequester your Egg Whites before adding them to the bowl with all the whites.  A bit of Yolk or a greasy mixing bowl will not whip well if at all.  2. Butter your baking dish very well.  3. Do not open the oven door until the rising and browning is down.  Then the foam should be pretty stable. Try a basic one like this Cheese one and then you can experiment with the fillings.  Enjoy!

Cheesiest Swiss Souffle
 Cheesiest Swiss Souffle

4 T Unsalted Butter
1 T Unsalted Butter, softened for dish
1/4 c real Parmesan Cheese, grated
1/3 c Flour
1 1/4 c Milk
1 t Salt
1/4 t Cayenne Pepper
1/4 t Nutmeg, freshly grated
6 large Egg, separated
1/2 t Cream of Tartar or 1 t Lemon Juice
2 c packed Swiss Cheese, grated (or Emmenthal) (about 1/2 lb or 225 g)

Butter an 8 inch / 2 quart (8c) Soufflee Dish thoroughly.  Make sure to get into the corners.  Put the Parmesan Cheese into the buttered dish and cover with foil or plastic wrap and shake to lightly coat. Set aside.

Preheat your oven to 400F

Stage 1: Making a basic White Sauce or Bechemel.  In a medium saucepan, melt the 4 T Butter and whisk in the Flour over medium heat.  Whisk for 2 minutes to cook the flour and to emulsify the Fat with the Flour.  Slowly whisk in the Milk.  You may want to stop at 1 c to check consistency.  Your relative humidity could change how much liquid your flour can absorb.  Whisk until thick.  Add a bit more milk at a time when it doesn't appear that it will not take the liquid and keep the thickness, stop.  Add the Salt, Nutmeg and Cayenne and mix well.  Take off the heat.

Stage 2: Completing the Soufflee Base. Add the Egg Yolks one at a time whisking the whole time to avoid scrambling the Eggs by cooking them before they're incorporated into the Bechemel.  Keep whisking until evenly distributed.  Transfer to a large mixing bowl.  Add the Cheese.  Stir with a large Silicon Spatula (heat proof).  Taste and adjust seasoning.  Add Salt and White Pepper as needed not Black.

Stage 3: Lifting the Soufflee.  You can start the Egg Whites sooner if you're good at multi-tasking and have a stand mixer.  In an Electric Mixer or with a Hand Mixer, beat the Egg Whites with the Cream of Tartar or Lemon Juice until they reach Stiff Peaks.  You can turn the the bowl upside down or the head of the mixer back and the Eggs keep their 'Peaks'.  Do not beat past this or they'll become too dry and can break up when incorporating into the base.

Stage 4: Final assembly.  Take a small scoop of the Whites and mix rapidly with the Silicon Spatula into the base.  Don't worry about being careful.  You want to lighten up the base slightly.  Then add the remainder of the Whites in Thirds.  Plop into the middle of the Base and Fold in: slice down the centre of the mound with your Spatula down to the bottom of the bowl and scoop/scrap along the bottom up the side, turn the bowl 1/4 and repeat until most of the white streaks are gone.  Repeat until Whites are done.  BE GENTLE.

Pour into your Soufflee Dish.  Bake in the lowest to bottom third (in our oven, we need to do lowest), level for 45-50 minutes.  Check at 40 minutes but DO NOT OPEN the oven door after putting the dish in before this point.  If it is too jiggly, leave it in. If it is too jiggly but browning fast, you may want to tent a bit of foil on top lightly to prevent burning.   If the very bottom centre is a bit oozy when you serve, that's okay.   It's all cooked.  We normally put the dish back in the warm oven while we eat our first serving.

MMMMMM Cheeeeeeeeeessssssy!!!!