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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Pear, Avocado and Arugula Salad




Lots of times I've wandered the produce department trying to imagine different flavor and texture combinations to create a great salad. Sometimes they are a hit and sometimes they are just OK. Regardless on how it turns out it's a healthy and easy way to explore different ingredients. Tonight I think I made a pretty good salad, at least good enough to be blog worthy.




When I am creating a salad the first thing I like to decide on is what type of green to use. For this particular salad I choose Arugula which is probably my favorite salad green. Arugula has such a nice peppery/earthy taste I find it hard to pass up. Next thing I grabbed was a Avocado. I appreciate Avocados for there smooth cool texture and subdued taste. I consider them natures answer to butter. I picked one that was just barley firm because I knew I wasn't going to use it for a couple of days. When buying an Avocado always grab a lime to counteract the oxidation process. Since I had two soft ingredients in my salad I needs some items with a more crispy texture. Why not a pear? Pears like Apples are a great fruit to add to salad and their natural crisp will match up nicely to a Avocado. At some point and time I had Pears and Blue Cheese together and it was a great match so I grabbed a tiny block of moldy goodness to crumble on my salad. Realize I said I grabbed a block. I see pre-crumbled Blue Cheese in the supermarket all the time(as well as feta). Have Americans become so lazy that they cannot crumble their own cheese now? When buying a salad items try to purchase ingredients that have had as little manufacturing as possible. Stay away from precut vegetables and fruits for optimum freshness. Last thing I bought was Pine(or Pignoli) Nuts. Pine Nuts are great as is but when you toast them lightly it really brings out a more nutty complex flavor and it really makes a nice salad topping.




Tonight my wife went to Chili's of all places with her friends so this turned out to be a dinner for one so I decided not to measure anything. First I prepared the Arugula. Tear the green leaves from the tough bottom stems and give them a nice wash and put in a salad bowl. Pour a couple of tablespoon of extra virgin olive oil in a separate bowl and add a fair amount of salt and pepper. Whisk in the juice of a half lime until it is well blended. Next remove the flesh from the Avocado. Here is a nice way of peeling a pitting the vegetable:http://lancaster.unl.edu/food/ciq-avocado.htm. I then cut the Avocado into little cubes and put it on top of the Arugula and squeezed some lime juice on them. Next I washed and sliced my Pear and added to the top of the salad. Next I cut a couple of rings Red Onion that I already had and added that along with some Blue Cheese that I crumbled gently with my fingers. Finally I topped it off with some Pine Nuts I lightly toasted in a skillet. You just want to brown them slightly not burn them.

*FYI- Though Avocados are very healthy they are high in calories so this recipe may not suit you if you are on a diet



Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Dinner Tonight:Parmesan Crusted Chicken




Are you tired of chicken cutlets? Yes the mundane meal is reliable and always a winner but sometimes you need to switch things up. This recipe is a nice break from your everyday egg wash and bread crumb coated chicken cutlets.


I made this meal on the fly so I do not have exact measurements but it is easy enough to make. I lined up three shallow bowls. One had a even mixture of flour and finely grated parmesan cheese, the other had egg whites with a dash of dried basil and the last had coarsely grated parmesan cheese and I arranged them respectively. I then rinsed and patted dry some chicken cutlets. Heat up a couple of table spoons of olive oil(not extra virgin) in a skillet. Dredge the chicken in the flour cheese mixture shaking off the excess. Then dip the chicken in the egg white mixture and finally roll it around in the coarsely grated cheese. Cook the cutlets a few minutes on each side until each side is golden brown and serve immediately.
I steamed some broccoli florets for about six minutes and seasoned them with lemon juice and Chinese five spice.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Dinner Tonight: Chicken Oreganata w/ Broccoli Rabe




Chicken Oreganata is a classic Greek dish that is tasty,healthy and easy to make. The blend of garlic, lemon and oregano really match well together. Tonight I used chicken breasts but this recipe works very well with other cuts of the chicken.


3 boneless and skinless Chicken Breasts



4 garlic cloves chopped



1 teaspoon dried oregano



Juice of one lemon



1/3 Cup Olive Oil(not extra virgin)






Put chopped garlic,oregano, lemon juice and oil into a large freezer bag. Rinse the chicken off and pat dry. Add the chicken into the bag and give it a couple of good shakes to blend all of the ingredients together. Put the bag into a bowl(just in case the bag leaks) and refrigerate overnight. If you want to make this recipe in the same day you can get some good flavorful chicken by just marinating a few hours.






Remove chicken from the bag and discard the marinade. Set your grill for medium high and let it get nice and hot. I usually don't put anything on my grill until the barbecue temperature reaches around 450 degrees. By doing so you will guarantee some nice grill marks on your chicken. Cook the breasts about 7 minutes on each side depending upon the thickness. Add a little salt and pepper to taste right after you take them off. The rule of thumb is to cook chicken until it reaches an internal temperature of 170 degrees. I like to take them off when the reach about 160 because the meat will continue to cook after it is removed from the flame. This will prevent the breasts from having a dry texture. I sliced the chicken into strips and served.


If you ask five people how to make broccoli rabe you might get five different answers. Some say you must blanch(quickly boil) some say not to. Some may tell you to peel the stem some will say not to. Even this blogger hasn't really decided the 'best' way but I can tell you it turned out pretty good tonight.




1 bunch broccoli rabe


3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil


3 garlic cloves sliced


1/3 cup chicken broth


1 dash of white cooking wine


1 dash red pepper flakes


First thing I did was fill my sink with water and put the BR(broccoli rabe) in to let a soak for a few minutes to clean it. I got some water boiling in the meantime to blanch the BR. Once the water started a nice rolling boil I added the BR and boiled it for 3 minutes. While the BR is boiling get a large bowl of ice water ready. After the three minutes is up remove the BR from the boiling water and place it in the bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process.


Heat up the olive oil in a large skillet and add the garlic. Once the garlic starts to get brown on the edges add chicken stock and the wine. Bring the liquid to a boil and lower the heat and add the BR and cover. Let it cook for about five minutes. Remove cover and cook for another five minutes stirring the BR here and there. When most of the liquid is evaporated and the BR is nice and tender remove and serve. I added a little red pepper flake but the is totally optional.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Atlantic City Restaurant Reviews : Mia and Red Square

Atlantic City (or A.C .as I call it) is a destination I have been traveling to for over 10 years now. In the past I went to A.C. to try to win some money on the tables and possibly get a buzz off of watered down casino drinks. To this day I am not sure what is more difficult. One thing I never went to A.C. for is the food, though biscuits and gravy at 6 in the morning can be quite a gastronomic experience. As the years went on and possibly to mimic Las Vegas A.C. has some pretty swanky restaurants even some owned by celebrity chefs like Bobby Flay and Wolfgang Puck. In my most recent trip I dined in two different restaurants Mia and Red Square.


Mia describes itself as a Mediterranean Bistro and it is located in the lobby of Caesars. It boasts forty foot ceilings with columns and it is a real treat for the eyes.



For a appetizer I had a seafood salad with scallops, shrimp,mussels and some calamari. The menu said it was suppose to have white anchovies and much to my dismay I didn't detect any. It was a decent starter.



My wife on the other hand didn't fare as well. She had the 'Black Label' Prosciutto di Parma with Italian Long Horn pepper and Estate bottled Olive Oil. Ordering a prosciutto dish should be a pretty safe choice but they managed to screw it up. First of all the Italian long horn pepper had about 1000 seeds in it and was way too spicy. It totally shocked the palate. Also the so called 'Estate Bottled' olive oil made the prosciutto too oily. One last thing I had one piece that was so tough it was inedible.




Things got better with the main courses. I had a dish that might have been one of the best fish dishes I had ever had. The menu description is Crispy Branzino w/ Lobster Fergeola Sarda, Fennel Confit, Olive Tepenade. Sounds like a bunch of culinary mumbo jumbo but the combinations worked well. The skin of the Branzino was very crispy and the meat was succulent and sweet. The briny taste of the olives was nice with the crispy skin, almost like a nautical potato chip. The lobster and the fennel also worked well and the Fergeola,which is a small pasta, added a nice texture. Bravo Mia! Bravo!




My wife had the Fillet Mignon w/ Crab and Scallion Barlotto, Portabello Mushrooms and Merlot Wine Sauce. She thought it was on the salty side but enjoyed it. I tasted it and thought it was OK. Had better had worse.






For desert we had a trio of creme brulee. If memory serves me correctly the flavors were pistachio, vanilla and hazelnut. I thought the pistachio was above average.


All in all Mia was a nice restaurant and I probably would return but there are other places I would like to try first.





Next up was Red Square. I first tried Red Square in 2003 in it Las Vegas location at Cesars. I ordered a Dirty Martini and they served it with Blue Cheese stuffed olives. Needless to say it was love at first taste. I later found out they not only exceled in Martini's but their cuisine is quite impressive as well. Since that time I discovered that Red Square had a location in the Tropicana in A.C. and I 've dined there several times and have recommended it to friends and family.







Red Square is a very unique Russian themed restaurant. Outside of the restaurant there is a huge statue of Lenin holding a martini glass. The lighting throughout the restaurants is tinted red. This may sound annoying to some but it adds to the ambiance of one of my favorite dining establishments. There is a bar that is made partially of ice and has a vodka selection that would make even the most avid vodka connoisseur blush.







For a appetizer I had the Fois Gras which is a very controversial item. The process to make it is considered cruel and it is even banned in some cities in America. I figured I am in A.C. a place where people lose thousands every second, a place where hookers still proudly walk the streets and a place where you can order a transvestite to your room 24 hours a day. With that being said I think eating a little piece of duck liver is not a crime and I did so with no regret. The tiny morsel of buttery heaven was served with a piece of bacon, apple french toast, a baked apple,balsamic syrup and apple jam. The piece of Fois Gras could've been bigger but otherwise it was very well done.






My wife opted for the Lobster Bisque which she boldly called the best she ever had. I tasted it and it was very good. I tasted some Truffle Oil in it which I think added a nice flavor to the bisque.




I usually order the duck at Red Square but this time I tried something different. One of the specials was a bacon wrapped Sturgeon. Years ago I had Sturgeon in Vegas and it was one of the best pieces of seafood I ever had. I decided to try it at Red Square. It was very good though not as good as I remembered. It tasted very similar to salmon. The tender juicy fish was served on a bed of Peruvian purple potatoes.



My wife usually orders a Fillet Mignon but she had it at Mia the night before. She decided on the Beef Stroganoff. Here is the description cut and pasted of their website(sorry Im lazy) :fillet mignon tips with strozapretti pasta, ragout of mushrooms & peas, shoestring potatoes, creme fraiche. I was curious to see how such a pedestrian dish would taste in a nice place like Red Square and it did not disappoint. It was very rich however and we wound up taking it back to the room where it would get devoured later on in the evening.




We did not order dessert.
It was a nice little getaway and what we lost in money we gained in calories. We will return soon.

Dinner Tonight: Turbot/ Creamy Orange-Basil Sauce


By the look and sound of this dish it sounds rich but it's actually relatively low calorie due to the ingredients that I used. I used Turbot fillets for this recipe but if I were to make it again I would use a fish in steak form like Chillean Seas Bass or Haddock. The ingredients I used are:

2 Turbot fillets approx 3/4 of a pound
1/3 cup chicken stock
1/3 cup orange juice
1 shredded carrot

1 teaspoon dried basil

2 heaping tablespoons light cream cheese

1/3 cup light cottage cheese

2 teaspoons flour

Place the cream cheese in a small bowl and set aside to soften. In a large skillet stir together stock, o.j., carrot and basil. Cover and bring to a boil then add the fish. Lower the heat and simmer the fish until it flakes easily with a fork, 5 minutes or so. Carefully transfer the fish to a plate and cover with foil to keep warm


Stir the cottage cheese and flour into the cream cheese. Add about a 1/3 of the cooking liquid and stir. Add the cream cheese mixture to the remaining liquid to the skillet and simmer for a couple of minutes stirring often. Spoon the sauce over the fish and serve immediately.

For the sides I simply used store bought spaetzle and green beans I french cut and boiled.

Tips:




* If you don't have basil you can use any herb like thyme, oregano or dill.
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