Wednesday, August 31, 2011

My Thoughts Exactly!

"The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."
-Julia Child

Sunday, August 28, 2011

Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

As promised yesterday, here is the recipe for the Eggplant Parm that I made for dinner last night.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to make your own sauce.  It is simple, inexpensive and will taste 1000xs better than anything that you can find in a jar.  I also recommend buying fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded stuff.  It will make for a creamier, cheesier taste.  I prefer my sauce chunky and tomatoey but if you prefer a smoother sauce, just run through a food processor before assembling the dish.
This recipe served two for dinner.

1 28oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
1 28oz can San Marzano diced tomatoes
1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
3 cloves of garlic, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
10 basil leaves, torn
honey to taste

Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add both cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the basil and honey to taste.


  • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
  • Butter, for greasing the dish
  • 1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 1 tablespoons water
  • 1-2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices (need about 12 slices)
  • One fresh medium sized mozzarella ball.
  • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
  • Flour for dredging
  • Canola oil for frying
Raise the temperature of the oven up to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish.
Place the bread crumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add the herbs,salt and pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and 1 tablespoon of water together.
Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the egg plant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a large straight-sided saute pan over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the tomato sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, a slice of the mozzarella and some Parmesan. Repeat.
Place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes and until the top is golden brown and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Seafood Risotto

We made Jessica's shrimp tostadas the night before I made this one.  The leftover shrimp shells, along with some grape tomatoes and basil from our friend Kurtis were the inspiration for it.  Jessica has taught me a few tricks about cooking risotto.  Key is that you have keep stirring and let the liquid reduce all the way out before adding more but without burning the rice.  As far as this recipe goes, its one I came up with using a few ingredients and tequniques I am familiar with and a couple new ideas for me (frying basil for one)

Grape Tomatos
Shrimp and enough shells to make stock
Arborio Rice
Chicken Stock
Mascarpone cheese
Red Pepper flakes
Pine nuts
butter and oil

1. Heat chicken stock in a saucepan with chopped jalapeno, shrimp shells and lemon juice.  Broth should be spicy and salty from the shells with a lemony finish.  Stain stock and keep warm. 
2. Begin rendering bacon fat on low heat.
3. Start arborio rice in oil and butter on medium low heat.   Add some bacon fat if desired. Toast for 3-5 minutes.
4.  Begin ladling stock into risotto and stirring rice.  Continue until rice is al dente, 25-35 minutes.
5.  While rice cooks preheat oven to 375. Prep tomatoes and shrimp.  In separate pans season with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add red pepper flakes to shrimp.  Roast shrimp for about 8 mins (depening on size) and tomatoes for 8-10 until they burst in your mouth but before they pop.
6.  Heat canola oil in saucepan.
7. Toast pine nuts in dry pan.  (no oil or butter, just until they are warm and golden brown)
8.  Grate Parmesan.  Remove mascarpone from fridge. 
9. Season scallops with salt and pepper. 
10.  Once bacon is rendered remove from pan.  We just want the fat for this dish, so feed to your doggies if you have them.  Heat bacon fat till pan is smoking hot.  Sear scallops till golden brown about 2 minutes then turn flip over reduce pan heat to medium and cook for about another two minutes and finish with fresh lemon juice. 
11.  Add grated Parmesan and about one spoonful of mascarpone per serving to arborio rice.  Stir and taste.  Remove from heat.
12.  Deep fry whole basil leaves in canola oil.  About 30 seconds is all you need.  Set basil on dry towel.
13.  Plate risotto. Then scallops, shrimp and tomatoes.  Sprinkle pine nuts over top, then additional lemon juice or broth if desired and finally deep fried basil leaves.  Enjoy.

The dish should have a subtle but consistent spiciness from the broth but not overwhelming a more consistent seafood flavor.  The idea behind all the garnishes is not to bury the rice but to provide texture, vibrancy and color to the plate.  Fried basil is a winner in this one.  If I were going to leave an ingredient out it would be the bacon or the pine nuts.  If I were going to add an ingredient it would be lobster... Of course!  I would chop up the claw meat and mix it in with rice at the end of cook and then butter poach the tail and plate it on top alongside the scallops and shrimp.  Jessica's the big lobster fan around so if we make this one when she's home we'll do it that way... Let me know what you think or if you decide to try out this recipe at home...

Friday, August 26, 2011

Garden to Table, Eggplant Parmesan

The other day our good friend Kurtis Radock came up for a visit.  He brought us a sixer of Blue Moon (one of Jessica's favorite brews) and a huge assortment of fresh vegetables from his awesome garden.  Heirloom tomatoes (whipped up a quick tomato stilton balsamic), a variety of chiles including a scotch bonnet and a few jalapenos, a green pepper, cucumber, lemony basil and a couple beautiful eggplants.   We had a few beers and I thanked my good friend for the copious bounty of vegetables.

I don't want to sound awful or unsentimental but I'm usually not a great appreciator of gifts.  I'm a minimalist and if somethings going to take up space and require dusting, then I'm not sure you've aided my cause or spent your 29.99 wisely.  But this bounty of wonderful veggies from Kurtis was and is a gift that I can truly appreciate.  Right away Jessica and I got our creative juices flowing about what to make.  How could we not?  After all, its inspiring and perfect for the season to make food that celebrates vegetables.

Tonight we made a classic Eggplant Parmesan.  Now I don't want any of you reading the blog to think that Jessica I only appreciate "fancy" food.  While we are all about pushing the culinary envelope, sitting down for a perfectly made Italian/American dish, especially on a night like this, in the calm before Hurricane Irene approaches is still just about as warm, comforting and soul satisfying: as a baby's bright eyed smile:-)  Here's the recipe, courtesy of Jess.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

LA Farm is calling my name....

I want this.  Now. 

Yes, I have just finished dinner.  A very delicious and satisfying meal and then one look on Facebook and Stefan Richter sent my mouth drooling.  This delectable looking treat is crispy scallops with sweet corn puree, fried parsnips and pumpkin seed oil.

If you have never enjoyed the cuisine of Stefan, I suggest you book a flight to LA right now.  LA Farm is the restaurant and I enjoyed every bite of food that I had there.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Mama Kim's Korean Barbecue Food Truck

Kaia and I were up in Providence today around lunch time and we decided to swing by Mama Kim's Korean Barbecue Food Truck.  I had been wanting to try their offerings for a long while now but their schedule doesn't usually fit in with our schedule.  They serve lunch from 11-2, when I am still thinking about breakfast and dinner from 5-8 and 8o'clock is when I am beginning to just think about dinner.  But today was perfect.  It was 12:45, we were just getting out of an appointment and, according to GPS, we were 4 minutes away from their normal lunch location, Kennedy Plaza.
This place has a cult following in Providence so I was not surprised to see the line of 20 or so at the window.  The three other trucks, parked in a secession next to Mama Kim's, had no lines and no customers in the 15 minutes that I was there. The menu is not a large one, 5 sliders(that you could also order in wrap form), the same five sliders but served as a rice bowl instead of the bun and their daily special, which today was beef dumplings.
I am the adventurous type and always afraid of not ordering the best thing on the menu,so I ordered 1 of each slider, with the exception of the Vegan slider, as I am a HUGE meat loving carnivore, 1 bulgogi ricebowl and one order of dumplings.  There are 3 little tables set up outside of the truck but knowing that Matt would appreciate a yummy lunch, I took our order to go.
Sitting down to eat we took alternating bites between the sliders.  The Beef Bulgogi slider consists of shaved sirloin, sautéed onions, mushrooms in a "house marinade" with a wasabi-aioli sauce.  Yummy.  The wasabi aioli made this one, imo. We really didn't get a strong mushroom flavor from the sandwich but it was not missed.  They would not share all of the secrets of the house marinade but they did reveal that the star of it  is ground up Korean pear. The Beef Galbi is boneless short ribs in house marinade with ground Korean pear-sesame oil sauce.  The short ribs were sliced and tender.  Next up the Chicken Gochujang.  Chicken thigh in house marinade, grilled in gochujang which is a house Korean red pepper paste.  This was the only one that had a little heat to it.  I like heat which is why this was probably my second favorite slider.  The absolute best slider, which Matt and I agree wholeheartedly on was the Pork Kimchi. Pork belly and loin in the house marinade, grilled with fresh house kimchi.  This one took me straight to heaven. The kimchi on top of the flavorful, slightly spicy pork sandwiched between the Portuguese sweet bread, to die for. Yes, all of the sandwiches are served on soft Portuguese sweet bread slider rolls. Not traditional, but insanely delicious.

For a side we went with  the beef dumplings served with a soy sauce based condiment, Matt kept calling them gyoza, they were similar to other gyoza we've had, if that helps you envision the flavor and texture. We ate about half an hour after ordering so they weren't as crispy as they would've been otherwise, but a nice little side dish for 6 bucks.  Good size order too.

The Bulgogi rice bowl is being saved for lunch tomorrow so for $25 I got 3 lunches out of it. 

Overall a fantastic meal for a great price.  I'm already thinking of excuses to head up to Providence for round 2.

Monday, August 22, 2011

David Burke Part Deux-He Said

As promised, this is our friend Nick's take on our dinner at David Burke Prime. His take is a bit different than mine, as illustrated below......

My dinner at David Burke consisted of a large three course meal. There were 5 of us eating so we all ordered different things and swapped tastes.

For an appetizer I had the Caesar salad prepared table side and an order of the Double cut maple pepper bacon strips. I really enjoy Burke's Caesar salad because it's prepared table side. It allows you to control how much of what topping is used. I've been searching for a better Caesar salad across New England and have not found one that comes close.

The first time we ordered the bacon strips they were over cooked and slightly burnt, not very good. I didn't plan on ordering them again but I was with one of my friends who loves bacon, so I gave in and decided to give it another chance. I am very glad I did because this time they were prepared perfectly. They were not over cooked, just crispy enough.

For an entree I had the chicken parm with two sides: tempura green beans and home made french fries. The chicken parm is one of two chicken entrees offered at David Burke, the other is the oven roasted brick chicken. I much prefer the chicken parm, partially because the brick chicken is served with a bone but also because the chicken parm is served with fontina cheese, that is delicious. If I was going to change anything about the chicken parm it would be the green sauce they add around the edge of the plate. I do not really like the taste, though I'm sure some people do.

The tempura green beans are my favorite side on the menu. Tempura has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid going to fairs, so it's naturally a must have for me. It is served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. The hand cut french fries are also enjoyable, though they are average for a high end steak house. When ordering these make sure to ask for the spicey mustard on the side!

For the last course of our meal we were treated to another round of the double cup bacon strips, only this time they were covered in hot chocolate. This isn't on the menu, though it is available if you ask for it (be sure to ask ahead of time, they have to chill the bacon)! This was my first time ever eating chocolate covered bacon, and I was not disappointed. I won't be ordering this all the time, because it's clearly filled with calories... but it is worth it if you're feeling adventurous.


Roquefort butter is sublime.  I wish to have it every day

Celery Salad with Figs and Pecorino

Per request, I am sharing this recipe for Celery Salad.  It is light, crunchy, salty and sweet all at the same time.  I originally made it for Thanksgiving but it is very refreshing during the summertime.  This recipe is about 8 side dish servings.  The key is to slice the celery as thinly as possible on a bias.  If you own a mandoline, I would definitely use it for this recipe!

  1. 1 1/4 cups walnuts
  2. 1 shallot, minced
  3. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
  4. 2 tablespoons walnut oil
  5. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  6. Salt and freshly ground pepper
  7. 2 bunches celery, thinly sliced on the bias
  8. 3/4 cup dried figs, thinly sliced 
  9. 4 ounces pecorino or parmesan cheese, shaved thinly with a vegetable peeler

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Toast walnuts until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool , then chop.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the sherry vinegar. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper.
  3. In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, celery, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss.
  4. Enjoy!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Pan seared Sea Scallops with Ginger creamed Corn, Bacon and Cilantro

For starters, I love scallops.  Jessica likes scallops, but for her, for the price, it's rarely what she would choose.  Every once in a while she'll grab a nice Ribeye, a seasonal veggie and pick up a scallop and just throw it on the plate for me, so I can get my fix.  Mainly, I like scallops cooked best in bacon fat with a good hard sear on the outside, translucent in the middle with just a touch of acidity at the end of the cook. 

Jessica plays poker 8-12 nights a month and honestly I wish she played more because shes a terrific player, a proven winner and even though it exaggerates her neuroses, she also enjoys it immensely.   When she's gone, I'll usually pick up a piece of fish, sometimes meat and try to create a little dish for our amazing little 22 month old daughter Kaia and I.  Kaia is a big fan of seafood.

If the recipe works, I try to think of ways to improve it, without overcomplicating or muddling it (which is always a challenge) and then I'll make it for Jess, who is a far superior cook with more discerning taste buds.
Here's a dish I came up with, using Alton Brown's creamed corn recipe for a baseline.  Cook time from prep to finish is about 30-45 minutes depending on portions.

1 to 1.5 ears of corn per person
Yellow Onion
Yellow Cornmeal
Sea Scallops (larger and fresher the better, about 3-4 per person)

1. Render the bacon fat on very low heat, until crispy.

2. Peel corn husks, removing all silks then using a sharp knife take the corn kernels off stem.  Dice yellow onion (about 1/4 medium onion per person), mince ginger into paste like consistency.

3. While bacon cooks, sweat diced yellow onion in butter. Medium heat, be careful not to burn the butter.  Add pinch of ginger and the corn.  Season and taste.  While corn cooks, use potato masher to mash corn to a mixture of textures.  Some of the corn should be crunchy and whole still and other parts should be pulpy.

4. Once bacon is crispy remove from pan.  Strain bacon fat removing all solids and put back on high heat.

5. Add cream, a pinch of sugar and about a tablespoon of cornmeal (1/2 tablespoon per ear of corn in recipe) to the pan with corn and onions.  Stir while cream reduces.  Season and taste.

6.  Season scallops with salt and pepper.  Once pan is smoking hot, put scallops in bacon fat.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes until scallop forms a golden brown crust.  Turn over, reduce heat to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.  Then hit them with a squeeze of lime juice and remove from pan. Scallops should be seared on the outside but rare in the middle.

7.  While scallops cook, attend to corn, stirring until cream reduces.  Mix should have a texture similar to a risotto.  Remove from heat. 

8.  Chop bacon and cilantro. 

Don't waste the bacon fat, hit each scallop with a dash more once you put them on the plate.  Sprinkle bacon and cilantro over top. 

The dish is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  The pic above is from the first time I cooked it.  On the second take I seared the scallops better but the pics didn't turn out right.  The flavors should be subtle and you should be able to taste each ingredient.  Jessica tried this one for the first time today and she was really pleased.   She gave it a 7.5 out of 10 as is (which is a very high score from her:).  We talked about adding a little red chile oil over the top for spice.  We were wondering if this extra dimension would help the dish by giving it more depth or if it would be a distraction from the flavors we're concentrating on.  I think it would certainly improve the look of it, but not sure about the flavor.  What do you think? 


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Saturday, August 20, 2011

David Burke Prime Steakhouse

Jessica and I have mixed feelings about this restaurant.  We've eaten there many times.  Its inside Foxwoods, she spends a lot of time there and its a change of pace from Craftsteak, which we really and truly enjoy, and Shrine (pan asian fare) which are the two restaurants we frequent most often when she's playing there.  David Burke is a nationally renowned Chef and Prime is one of the many restaurants he owns.  Admittedly, neither Jess or I has ever dined at his flagship, Townhouse, or any of his other restaurants, but we have seen him on Top Chef, trolled his menus online and have a general idea about his cuisine.  Its all about turning a classic idea or recipe on its ear and having a little fun with it, while providing explosive flavors and a little subtle East meets West concept as well.

In the past at Prime Steakhouse, we've felt like the food, while good was kind of a sanitized version of the cuisine that the owner would really develop in his own kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, in a three course dinner one or two of the dishes has always wowed us, like the pretzel crusted crab cake with mustard sauces that we order habitually and the Kung Pao Lobster which is spicy and evocative of Thai cuisine.  But some others have fallen flat or overpromised but underdelivered.  I never intend to be a harsh critic and the fact is, I've been there many times and would go back again, especially after hearing about the meal Jessica and our good buddy Nick "Ooch" Uchenick had there on Friday night...  The following is Jess's take on the experience.

We had 5 diners with us which, in my experience, is a nice number.  We can order numerous menu items and get to sample things that we may not have ordered if left up to our own devices.  We started with the Double Cut Maple Pepper Bacon Strips.  I have had this dish before and was underwhelmed, to say the least.  They were burnt, excessively chewy and was reminiscent of beef jerky.  Last night, they were sweet and spicy with the perfect amount of bite to them.  They were served on top of a delicious lemon mustard sauce.  While I don't think that this is a must order upon every visit, every other would definitely work.  We also tasted the Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake.  Always spot on.  The crab was moist inside with a nice crspy pretzel crust.  There will not be a drop of the maple poppyseed honey that is served with it left on the plate.  I do feel at $17, this is a wee bit overpriced.  I also had an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Stilton.  I just need to give up on ordering this here.  Our home version is far superior. The few tomatoes on the plate were under ripe and covered with enough blue cheese for several salads.  I will not order this again.

Entrees and desserts to follow......

Thursday, August 18, 2011

"Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all."

Monday, August 15, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Stilton

I love Heirloom tomatoes.  I love plain, generic, run of the mill tomatoes.  I love tomatoes in every form.  Tomato sauce, tomato juice but mostly a tomato, raw, sliced, with just a touch of salt and pepper.

This is a dish that I have eaten at a few high end steakhouses lately.  At Craftsteak, various heirlooms with Stilton and microgreens.  At Burke, tomatoes too thinly sliced,covered in a thick balsamic syrup and way too much Stilton.  I tried to take the best from both dishes and make the perfect Heirloom Tomato Salad.

I started with several variety of tomatoes, sliced thick.  I generously added fresh ground salt and pepper.  I made a balsamic vinaigrette with brown sugar, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  I used restraint in the drizzling.  I then crumbled the yummy, salty bleu cheese over the top.  It was perfect.

After making this for lunch, I fantasized about it all day so I decided to make another for dinner.  I prepared it the same way.  Sliced tomatoes, S&P, balsamic......bleu cheese?...not in the refridgerator, not on the island.  We retraced our steps since lunch.  Neither of us remembered putting the Stilton away.  We frantically searched the fridge over and over.  Nothing.  There was only one conclusion.  Our two 3 1/2 year old pitbulls.  They ate the $20 per pound Stilton.  So, as to not waste the glorious tomatoes, I toasted some pine nuts, chiffonade of basil and scattered them over the tomatoes.  Eating it, I felt like I had not done the tomatoes justice.  Wasted.

So tonight, with 3 tomatoes left, Matt headed up to Whole Foods to grab some more bleu cheese.  I made another salad.  Not as perfect as the first but damn close.

Food Is Memorable

Hi to all of you foodies out there.  My wife Jessica and I are starting this blog to share our love of cooking and eating.  To us, food is not just fuel for the body but for the mind, spirit and soul.  The art of creating beautiful dishes that taste great and the inspiration that comes from experiencing the cuisine of different cultures is our common ground.  We've recently gotten in to food photography, which for us is a keepsake of the memorable meals we've had ranging from fine dining restaurants to indulgent street foods to our own creations.  We hope you enjoy reading our blog and getting to know a little more about us through the food we cook, eat and photograph in the coming days...