Archive for January, 2009

Roasted Veggies: Brussel Sprouts, Potatoes, and Broccoli

January 14, 2009
Especially when it’s cold (today: 27 outside), I think of roasted vegetables.  They’re  a staple side for me, and I’m always surprised when I tell people how to do it, and they tell me they didn’t know it was so easy!  (Lauren, I’m talking to you!)

There are 3 components for roasted vegetables in my world: a 400 degree oven, sea or kosher salt, and olive oil.  (Although these days I’m using olive oil cooking spray to save on calories – with mixed results detailed below.) 

The basic instructions are the same:

  • cut your veggies to 1-bite sized pieces
  • toss in just enough olive oil to coat lightly
  • sprinkle liberally with sea or kosher salt
  • spread on a cookie sheet in a single layer and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, taking out halfway through to toss so that your veggies brown evenly.

Easy.  Simple.  Delicious.  Healthy.

Roasted Brussel Sprouts
I heart Brussel sprouts.  I would eat them 5 times a week.  Yes, they get a bad rap, but I think it’s mainly because they are a little stinky when you boil them.   My Aunt Liz (and sisters) make their Brussel sprouts sauteed in a pan with a little brown butter and pancetta/bacon, topped with Parmesan.  Yum-o!  I, however, take the easiest route and roast them: wash and cut in half length-wise, plop on a cookie sheet, spray with olive oil spray (works great on them!), sprinkle with salt, press Bake and Start.  (And that last direction, by the way, was the extent of my father’s cooking instruction to us: you press Bake and Start.  He’s an awesome cook.)

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I cook mine for about 55 minutes because I like them pretty crispy.  You can check for doneness at about 40 minutes or so if you like them a little more green.

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Incidentally, don’t overload your baking sheet so much that it buckles, causing all your sprouts to fall off and land on the floor of your 400 degree oven.  It’s not pretty, and the smell of burning olive oil and Brussel sprouts isn’t fun for anyone and does not make you look like a great cook in front of future in-laws. 

Roasted Potatoes
The great thing about roasted potatoes is that you can fool a 9-year-old into thinking they’re homemade french fries.  And said fooled 9-year-old can get in a serving of vegetables without knowing it.  Mix white potatoes (I like using red potatoes) with a sweet potato and you can even add beta carotene to your meal, putting you in the running for Mother of the Year.

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These work just fine with the olive oil spray too!

Roasted Broccoli
I have a confession: I don’t like broccoli.  If you serve it to me steamed, it’s getting the one obligatory bite and then headed to the le garbage.  Boiled?  Blech.  But roasted?  Hmmm…I’ll have seconds!

For roasted broccoli you really need to toss it in olive oil, and not use the spray.  Put all of your little florets in a large plastic ziplock bag, use about 1 tablespoon of olive oil, salt, zip and shake!  (And I helped) 

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Any of these are great and easy for a side dish – play with adding Old Bay or Tony Chachere’s to your potatoes, explore the world of Brussel sprouts as an adult, and go back for seconds on broccoli – who knew it was so easy?!

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The Source

January 10, 2009

What better first restaurant post of the new year than to write about the RAMMY New Restaurant of the Year for 2008?

Wolfgang Puck’s The Source

The setting:
Attached to the Newseum, I expected a setting with a theme relating in some way to news.  Instead we couldn’t tell the restaurant was connected to a museum.  The downstairs consists of long, high communal tables, with a bar dominating most of the area I saw when we came in.  We were seated upstairs in low banquet/chair seating, enclosed in an area made more cozy by blocking off sections with thick glass panels.  The effect broke up what could be a monster space, and also helped with the noise level.  (Except when you’re seated next to a table of 8 SCREAMING women who thought everything that anyone said was the. funniest. thing. ever. and proceeded to do the women en masse squeal.  To everything.  For the amount of money you’re paying to eat at The Source – about $150 for 2 people sans wine and tip – I would like the other patrons to hush and be respectful of other patrons.  Luckily, the waitstaff eventually asked them politely to be quiet).

© 2002, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide Inc.

© 2002, Wolfgang Puck Worldwide Inc.

The service:
Our service was great – our waiter had just the right mix of formality and familiarity to make for a very positive experience.  The staff wished Brian a happy birthday – I had noted it in my OpenTable reservation – and bent over backwards to get me a copy of my receipt after I left it at the table.  (As a good to know tidbit: your receipt is good for 15% off Newseum tickets on Mondays or Tuesdays).

The food:
The Source serves Asian-inspired cuisine, but not so overtly that you don’t recognize most of the ingredients.  The amuse bouche was several bites, and may have been our favorite dish of the night: simply dressed and slightly spicy green beans.  Delicious.  The appetizers were also big winners, with a duo of crab consisting of a crab salad and a small crab cake, and tuna tartare “cones” – served in a sesame and miso cone with raw tuna, roe, and microgreens.  It was a close second of best dish of the night, and the presentation was fantastic.

For dinner I went with venison served with Brussel sprouts and a Japanese squash blossom puree that was, in my mind, just about perfect.  Venison is very tricky to get right…it has such a low fat content that it needs to be served rare or medium rare at the most, and most times I have it, it’s been either over or under cooked.  At The Source, my meal seemed like it had been kept on the pan about 20 seconds too long on just one side, but was still really fantastic.  The squash blossom puree added a perfect sweetness, and the Brussel sprouts balanced the dish.  I would have a hard time ordering anything else from the menu, I enjoyed this so much.

Brian was slightly disappointed in his scallops.  He claims I’ve spoiled him, and I agree that his dinner needed more spice.  The Drunken Noodles accompaniment was great, though, and the presentation was very cool as well.

We rounded out the meal with a blueberry and almond crumble that looked and tasted like a fancy coffee cake.  It was served with a ginger ice cream to carry on the Asian theme, but I thought good old-fashioned vanilla would have been better.

With the hefty price tag, the dining room at The Source isn’t somewhere we’ll frequent on a regular basis, but I’ll be back for the tuna tartare cones and pork belly dumplings in the affordable lounge.

Best for: A special evening out.

Worst for: Penny pinchers – hit up the lounge to get a taste of the good stuff at a fraction of the cost!

Herb and Parmesan Crusted Pork

January 7, 2009

Most of the time, I want food that is warm and filling: comfort food.  And sometimes it’s hard to find comfort food that doesn’t take all day to prepare (have you ever made fried chicken?  All. Day.) and is moderately healthy.  Enter the other white meat: pork.  When eaten as a chop (get the boneless chop, butterflied if you aren’t a big meat eater, and split it apart so it gives you 2 thin chops) and trimmed of the side of fat, it’s lean and delicious.

I saw Giada De Laurentiis make this on Everyday Italian (and may I just take a moment to say that I heart Giada…the woman who showed me that Italian food is not just pasta and red sauce) and it has become one of my “signature” dishes.  I like it because it’s easy but impressive for guests (I have a good friend who is a restaurant manager and asked me for the recipe because he liked it so much),  relatively cheap to make, and DELICIOUS!  What more could you want?

Herb and Parmesan Crusted Pork

Ingredients:

  • Pork chops, boneless.  I trim the fat off the side to make it healthier and so you don’t get that wad of gristle.  Because, gross.
  • Grated Parmesan cheese.  You don’t have to get fancy – the stuff in the green plastic can will work best, actually.
  • Italian breadcrumbs.  Natch.
  • 1 egg, beaten.  My health and time trick?  Egg Beaters.  Use them, they’re awesome.
  • Olive oil and vegetable oil.  You’ll be combining these in the pan to cook the pork.  Olive oil alone will “burn off” faster, so the veggie oil offsets this and keeps the smoke alarm from going off.  I learned this the hard way.  You’ll need quite a bit of oil – if you’re trying to use your last tablespoon, it ain’t gonna cut it.

First things first: heat that pan!  Combine your 2 oils until its completely covering the bottom of the pan in a thick layer.  Heat the pan to medium-high.  When the oil starts to look really liquidy/glassy, it’s ready.

I like to get everything lined up assembly line style: pork on one plate, egg in a shallow bowl, and the Parmesan and breadcrumbs combined in a 1/3 Parm, 2/3 breadcrumb ratio mixture.  This isn’t an exact science, so you’ve got plenty of room to fudge and it’ll still taste great! 

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Prepare your pork by dipping it first in the egg to coat, then into the breadcrumb and Parmesan mixture, turning to coat evenly.

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When the oil is hot, place the chops in the pan.  Be careful!  The oil is hot, and this sucker is going to splatter while it cooks.  Have tongs at the ready.  Cook on the first side about 5 minutes for a thick chop, about 3-4 minutes for half of a butterflied chop.  Carefully flip and cook for another 5 minutes or so.  You want the color to be a darkish brown – this isn’t going to brown up light and lovely.  I also will turn thicker chops on each side (the skinny side so it stands up like a book – you may have to hold it there with the tongs) to make sure the chop is cooked through.

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You may need to add more oil to your pan as your cooking.  You’ll know if the oil gets too low because the pan will start smoking like nutso.  Keep your stove top fan on high the whole time you’re cooking this dish and just be ready for it.

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Incidentally, I find that this is one of those great dishes to prepare with a glass of red wine in one hand while you’re watching the stove.  This is less than 30 minutes from start to finish, so just the right amount of time to enjoy a glass of vino.

I like to serve this with Brussel sprouts, roasted potatoes, wilted spinach, or a Parmesan cous cous.  Enjoy!