Archive for January, 2012

Kudos: Save food from the fridge

http://www.savefoodfromthefridge.com/p/about-project.html

My friend sent along this clever blog which educates the average consumer on how to store food outside of the fridge. My first realization that not everything should be refrigerated started with tomatoes. DO NOT refrigerate tomatoes, their flavor becomes painfully diluted.
A few favorites from this site:
1. keep root vegetables vertical
2. put rice in your spices to absorb moisture
3. keep apples and potatoes together so the potatoes don’t grow sprouts
4. fresher eggs will sink further in water and they should be keep in a clean environment, away from odors of other food ingredients

Cafe Iberico (Spanish tapas)

The scene is festive but the food is mediocre. The patatas bravas were drowning in gravy, the paella was a pile of flavorless rice, the sangria was without ice, and the pepper stuffed cod was under seasoned.

The only positive attributes were the octopus, fast service and cool music.

Girl and the Goat (creative American?)

An earthy, communal meal with a focus on flavor. My group and I shared over ten plates so I’d like to summarize a few ‘stand outs’. Also, I’d definitely recommend ordering bread and grilled oysters!

hen of the woods mushroom raout – the sweet potato agnolotti pasta was from scratch and enhanced by the creamy mushrooms.

crispy duck tongues – surprisingly refreshing. it was balanced masterfully with acid, herb, fat, etc.

sugo – pappardelle, rosemary, cape gooseberries – medley of braised meats with fresh pasta and squirt of gooseberry…tasty!

gingerbread cake with gelato – best dessert of the bunch. the ginger popped from the moist cake

Crispy Duck Tongue

escargot ravioli

view of the kitchen and Chef Stephanie!

Turkey Sausage and Porcini mushrooms over polenta

Another warm winter dish came off my stove this afternoon. I bought bulk turkey sausage from TJ’s stand at the Green City market this past weekend. Besides sausage, the stew had mirepoix (usually carrots, onion, celery) and fresh mushrooms. The broth was mainly the hot water used to rehydrate the porcini mushrooms. I added parmesan cheese and a little butter at the end of the polenta cook time. Polenta hardens pretty quickly and can be set in approx 10mins in an oiled pie pan while cooling. I drizzled some balsamic vinegar over the top and sprinkled with more parmesan cheese. Only additional ingredients that would have made the dish better are tomato paste and red chili flakes.

Local sausage, turkey can be very flavorful and healthy!

Little out of focus but you get the point.

The End.

Henri (American new, French)

Tasty but not inspiring. Henri has a formal atmosphere and friendly service. For dinner, it provided french/american staples but with no fireworks and some technical issues. I ordered the plate of the day, bouillabaisse, French fish stew. The fish was perfectly cooked but the lobster was chewy. The clams and mussels were good. The soup had a nice depth but whoa butter…I know, French, but still. The pappardelle dish was lacking in pasta quality and interesting components. The creme brulee dessert tasted like pudding with sugar on top, good but not the desired texture. Overall it was a little pricey for the food.

FMIOTW: Oyster mushrooms

I love variety in my ingredients so oyster mushrooms were a nice departure from my usual bulk crimini staple at Whole Foods. I bought a half pound bag of mixed mushrooms from the Green City Winter Market for $5 and threw the oysters in hashbrowns for brunch. They had a hearty texture and subtle umami flavor.

Pretty.

Green City Market INDOOR winter farmers market

Oh the winter is a cold, dark place where fresh produce needs to travel thousands of miles to our grocery stores….or, maybe not! Today I went to Chicago’s indoor farmers market at the Peggy Notebaert Nature Museum. Delightful! The Diversey 76 bus ends its eastbound route at the front steps of the museum, located at the northern part of Lincoln Park. I was enamored with the museum-market marriage from the moment I walked into the sunlight lobby. The farmers market, albeit smaller than in the summer, was bustling with meat, produce, bakeries, cheese, honey, and preserves stands! I was educated by a 30 minute chef demonstration on grilled pork belly and kimchi salad, both entertaining and informative! (and tasty 🙂 ) I left with a bounty of carrots, radish, celery root, mushroom mix and bulk turkey sausage! The market is a perfect way to escape the grey Chicago winter and re-inspire my cooking endeavors.

Adventure begins!


One of the two rooms of stands!


Demo by chef at Yusho (new Japanese restaurant!)


Chestnuts snuggled in its porcupine shell!

Homage to Tru: False

My extraordinary dinner at Tru inspired me to create an homage dinner for a few friends at my very own restaurant, False. I created a six course menu that mirrors a few of the creative dishes we enjoyed at Tru.

The chef’s selection menu:
Maki with rice pasta infused with gunpowder tea – Fun pasta preparation using concentrated tea for the water portion of the pasta ingredients. I put the pasta through a ricer and cut the output frequently. This created small pasta bites that resembled an inverted egg carton. I treated the pasta like sushi rice, coating it lightly in rice wine vinegar and sugar. I placed it on slightly fried nori and dressed the plate with spice-infused soy sauce. The tea infusion was not strong enough to make a difference. I find most additions to pasta do not create enough of a flavor change versus plain water, egg, flour. (Tru dish: Sturgeon caviar)

Fire and semifreddo heirloom beet soup with goat cheese emulsion – Since I didn’t have dry ice at home to create smoke, I decided to go with fire in the form of tea candles. I paired the flames with a chilled beet soup topped with yellow beets and cheese. (Tru dish: Chilled kohlrabi soup)

Risotto with porcini mushrooms, reggiano parmesano cheese and fire-roasted tomato puree – Of the menu, this and the steam fish were the only dishes that I have made before. The risotto was warm and comforting and the roasted tomato provided a rich acidic complement. (Tru dish: mushrooms)

Steamed whole yellowtail snapper with shitake mushrooms braised in sake and ginger – I love steaming whole fish over frying or roasting fillets. I could not make this plate pretty because steamed fish flakes off the bone in the most delicious way. The shitake mushrooms were a little drunk in sake but overall a nice texture. (Tru dish: Roasted Wild Striped Bass)

J’Adore chicken with roasted red peppers and goat cheese joined by a roasted poblano pepper ragu and walnut pesto – This was a crowd favorite. The combination of fresh pesto and pepper/cilantro dressings with moist chicken, cheese and red pepper was a destined winner. (Tru dish: Jidori chicken with foie gras)

Raspberry-juniper berry gelee with sloe gin infused mango and cream – This dessert was playfully dressed up jello that turned out better than I expected. I am definitely not a pastry chef. (Tru dish: Green gelee and heirloom beet salad)

Overall I had fun creating the menu and preparing all the dishes. Except for the drunk shitake mushrooms, I would make all these dishes again.

The Menu at False

Maki with rice pasta infused with gunpowder tea

Fire and semifreddo heirloom beet soup with goat cheese emulsion

Risotto with porcini mushrooms, reggiano parmesano cheese and fire-roasted tomato puree

Steamed whole yellowtail snapper with shitake mushrooms braised in sake and ginger

J'Adore chicken with roasted red peppers and goat cheese joined by a roasted poblano pepper ragu and walnut pesto

Raspberry-juniper berry gelee with sloe gin infused mango and cream

9 year aged wine that elevated the entire menu (thanks anne!)

The Great Pasta Experiment

Three different combinations of ingredients were used to determine which has the best texture and flavor. I have recently been making fresh pasta but have struggled with making it well consistently. My friend directed me to Michael Ruhlman’s blog (http://ruhlman.com/) which is known for providing ratios in weights for basic foods such as pasta. The idea is that once you memorize the ratios, you can cook anything you want. I used my cooking scale to first measure the wet ingredients in order to determine the weight of the flour. After mixing the ingredients and kneading a bit, the dough rested in the fridge for 20 minutes before being rolled out.
(each group made 1 serving of pasta)

Group 1: 1.5 parts flour (approx. 5/8C flour), 1 eggs
Group 2: 1.5 parts flour, .5 egg, .5 water
Group 3: 1.5 parts flour, .5 egg, .25 water, .25 olive oil
(my friends were not told which group was which during tasting)

Group 1 was the original recipe from Ruhlman’s blog. My friends and I liked both Group 1 and 2, not group 3. The oil left an unappealing aftertaste and the noodle texture was weak. Group 1 was sturdier with a richer flavor, slightly chewy. Group 2 was tender and had a nice, light flavor. I could see using Group 1 for heaving sauces and Group 2 for light ones.

I made a simple crimini mushroom, garlic olive oil sauce to lightly coat the pasta. I love fresh pasta!!

Science at play.

FMIOTW: Persimmon

Persimmons are papaya-like fruits that are delicious when ripe but bitter and pasty when not ripe. It is extremely difficult to find ripe persimmons so I usually shy away from them entirely. Luckily my mom was up for the challenge and I was the lucky beneficiary.

Pretty, too.

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