Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

We put leftover stir-fried glass noodles from one of our favorite Thai restaurants to good use by re-heating them, slapping a fried egg on top and calling it breakfast.  We were inspired by a kimchi fried rice dish (also topped with an egg) that Dan has perfected and we’ll be posting here soon.

It’s Hatch green chile season, and Chuy’s celebrates from now through September 9 with special menu items (and a new mascot, apparently) featuring this (spicy!) gem from New Mexico.

It’s also almost football season, which means Fantasy Football season, which means losing Dan to the TV and computer every Sunday from now until the Super Bowl (but I’m not bitter.)  His first Fantasy Football draft (yep, he’s in 2 fantasy leagues) seemed to go pretty well and he’s hopeful for a good season.  Yay.

Dan was lucky enough to spend a few days in Palo Alto this week (we love that place!) and got to have his favorite stromboli at a lovely little Italian place called Cafe Renzo.

Although I didn’t get to go to California this week, I was lucky enough to spot a double rainbow!  I didn’t get quite as excited about it as this guy, but it was pretty cool to see.

Smoked Pulled Pork

Anyone else feel a little nostalgic this time of year?  The beginning of a new school year signals the end of summer, even while temperatures remain hot and sunny days abound.  Although we have long since outgrown the months-free, schools-out summer vacations we enjoyed as kids, summer’s end brings a sense of wistful yearning for those long, lazy days.  The upcoming Labor Day 3-day-weekend is an excellent time to bid farewell to summer with cooking that epitomizes the season:  low and slow barbeque.  Transforming a giant slab of meat into tender morsels of smoky pork perfection is just reward for the 20 or so hours it takes to get there, and is a fitting ode to the warmest season with the longest days of the year.  We adapted this recipe, and highly recommend the dual seasoning techniques of injecting the meat and applying a dry rub prior to smoking.  No matter your personal barbeque style, cook some meat over open flame or coal at the lowest temperature you can go, take your time to get it done, and enjoy the heck out of your Labor Day weekend.

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Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

We were traveling for most of Restaurant Week 2012 so we didn’t go all out like we did last year, but last Friday night we enjoyed the Restaurant Week offering at Nosh Euro Bistro.  The duck confit was amazing.  Dan had the espresso-braised short ribs for his main course, which was also delicious, but it’s pretty hard to compete with crispy duck skin and richly tender and juicy duck meat.  For our starter courses, we had salt & pepper calamari and kobe beef meatballs, both of which were quite good.  Overall, we liked Nosh a lot and would go back.

We also plan to return to a new “gastropub” we found called Park Tavern.  Often.  It’s a really cool place with a huge outdoor bar and patio.  And as much as we loved the atmosphere, the food was even better.  We highly recommend the smoked chicken wings (BBQ style) and the shrimp banh mi, but there are at least 10 other items on the menu that we also want to try.

Rain is always a much-needed favorite thing during the summer here, and Dan doesn’t let it stop him from grilling.  Lest you think the umbrella was to keep his hair from getting wet, its purpose was actually to keep our shrimp skewers dry when he flipped them. On a side note, check out our monster tomato and basil plants beside the grill.  That’s no trick of the camera — they are as tall as a person and nearly as wide, and the tomato plants are still producing fruit!

Dan has been raving about the grilled cheese sandwiches from Ruthie’s food truck for months, and I finally got to try one for myself.  The “turkey trot” (turkey, bacon and cheddar on sourdough) more than lived up to his hype and may be the best grilled cheese sandwich I’ve ever had.  No wonder he ditches the lunches I so lovingly prepare and pack for him if the Ruthie’s truck is around.

Not to get all crazy-cat-lady on you, but our most favorite thing this week is having our little Bella back home.  She had to spend most of the week in quarantine at the vet after getting a radioactive iodine treatment for hyperthyroidism.  This is the same cat who has heart disease, so it was especially important to get her hyperthyroidism treated early to prevent any further damage to her heart.  So we did and she’s fine, even if still slightly radioactive (and really, really pissed at having been in a cage all week).  The world’s most expensive cat lives on.



Slow-Cooker Japanese Pork and Ramen Soup

The dog days of summer can also be the dog days of television.  With many of our favorite shows on haitus or running seemingly endless re-runs, “there’s nothing to watch” is a common refrain around our house these days.  When all else fails, we can almost always count on Anthony Bourdain’s show “No Reservations” for entertainment, even when it’s an episode we have previously seen, and especially when it involves one of Bourdain’s trips to an Asian country.  Of all the different cuisines from all over the world featured on the show, it’s the noodle bowls from Asian regions that always seem most appetizing.  With rich steaming broth, thin slurp-worthy noodles, succulent pork (or other protein) and fresh indigenous greens and vegetables, watching Bourdain enjoy the heck out of these noodle bowls like it’s his job (it is!) always makes us want to travel immediately to that location and eat what he’s eating.  In the meantime, we’ll make do with this substitute, adapted from a recipe in the book “Slow Cooker Revolution.”  It’s easy to make with the following ingredients — onion, garlic, ginger, chicken broth, shiitake mushrooms, pork, ramen noodles, white miso, soy sauce, mirin (rice wine), sesame oil, spinach, green onions and sesame seeds — and consuming it involves zero jet lag.

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Skillet Fajitas

Sometimes you feel like a meal with grilled meat flavor, but don’t feel like grilling.  Or you’re all set to grill, only discover that the propane tank for your gas grill is empty (or maybe that’s just us?)  Perhaps you don’t have the time it would take to heat up the charcoal for a charcoal grill.  Whatever the reason, this recipe is a quick and easy way to come close to that cooked-over-open-flame taste, with no grilling required.  Befitting its speedy preparation, the recipe comes from the Cook’s Illustrated book “The Quick Recipe” and uses just a few simple ingredients:  skirt (or flank) steak, salt & pepper, cumin, lime juice, vegetable oil, red bell pepper and onion, with tortillas and garnishes of your choice for serving the finished fajitas.

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Friday Favorites

Some food-related (mostly) things we enjoyed this past week:

Dan went on a quick little fishing trip in Pennsylvania last weekend with his college roommates.  Even more than catching fish, they had a great time catching up with each other and hope to make the trip an annual event.

Since Dan was already in PA, we decided to extend his trip, and I flew up to join him on a visit to see his mom in Altoona.  One of the best things about a summer trip to Altoona is the farm-fresh (as in picked-the-day-you-buy-it) corn.  Tender and sweet, it is unlike anything we can get here in Dallas.

Another treat we enjoy during summer visits to Altoona is spending time outside (without sweating.)  A sunny day lunch on the patio at Jethro’s, overlooking a golf course and rolling hills in the distance, is a particular favorite.

If you ever find yourself in the Pittsburgh airport, check out celebrity chef Michael Symon’s new restaurant, Bar Symon.  Unfortunately, we missed the grand opening (which Chef Symon is going to attend!) by just a few days, but we’ll be back — not just traveling through on our way to see Dan’s mom, but also for the pulled pork sandwich.

Back at home, we noticed the most beautiful bloom on one of our okra plants.  Not all the plants bloom, they don’t bloom all the time, and the blooms don’t last very long, but they are so pretty when you can spot one — with the palest, creamy yellow petals and deep burgandy centers.

We unwittingly happened to cook bouillabaisse on what would have been Julia Child’s 100th birthday.  It was chicken bouillabaisse rather than the traditional fish version and the recipe needs some tweaking, but we figured it was a fitting (if unintentional) tribute to a master of the art of French cooking.



Cucumber, Celery and Avocado Salad

Breaking out of the usual green-salad-side rut can sometimes be a challenge.  Often the answer is to leave the leafy ingredient out of the dish altogether and feature one of the lesser, component-type ingredients as the star.  Kind of like accessorizing a white t-shirt with a big statement necklace for a dressed-up look, instead of wearing a dress.  We have previously tried (and loved) salads featuring components such as celery, avocado and cucumber as the main ingredients, so when we found a recipe combining these 3, we knew it would be a winner.  Season with ginger, garlic, red pepper flakes, salt, sugar, lime juice and a little grapeseed (or olive) oil, and garnish with chopped cilantro and basil for a fresh, spicy/savory side dish that is anything but ordinary.

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Olive-Oil Baked Shrimp

To keep our weekly menus from becoming boring or routine, we’re always keeping an eye out for good, new-to-us recipes, from a variety of sources.  One surprising (to me anyway) place where we’ve found several great dishes is People Magazine.  I’m sure someone out there will poke fun (you know who you are), but I’m not afraid to admit that I am a subscriber to People and have been for years.  I’m not trying to say I subscribe to People just for the recipes (the magazine also features  reliable reviews of books, music and shows, human interest stories, and of course, celebrity photos and gossip), but every couple of months I find a recipe there that looks interesting enough to tear out and save in our “to try” recipe folder.  Given how much we love shrimp and how often we eat it, the magazine page with this recipe (by former Top Chef winner Hung Huynh) didn’t sit in the folder long before we tried it and loved it.  We adapted it a bit by adjusting the seasonings and cooking time, but were quite pleased with the buttery (without actually using butter), fresh and slightly spicy end result that was super easy and quick to prepare.  And speaking of easy, I’ll save you the trouble of composing your own joke by freely admitting that yes, I do happen to glean much of my knowledge of current events via E! News.  You’re welcome.

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