Yellowtail & pancetta @ Girl & The Goat
I’m currently in Seattle–all of this was eaten over the last few weeks in Chicago. As my time in Chicago is waning, I have made a conscious effort to go to the restaurants I’ve been meaning to try. As I used to spend at least two weeks here a year for work, I have gone to many of the top restaurants (Alinea, Blackbird, etc.). However, as a student the last two years, my budget dictated that I spend a lot of time at home cooking. Now that a paycheck is on the horizon, I’ve been going to some of the more casual spots.
Top Chef winner Stephanie Izard recently opened Girl & The Goat, and we got lucky with a table for 4 at 9:30pm on a weeknight. I can’t remember all we ate but I do remember very unconventional flavor combinations that were surprising and delightful. It is a bit of a scene right now (more NYC and less your usual Chicago) because there’s a lot of media buzz (and rightfully so). I’m so glad I made it here before the move.
Pork belly torta @ Xoco
I finally made it to Xoco, the newest of Rick Bayless’ Chicago restaurant empire. I’ve been to both Frontera Grill and Topolobampo but hadn’t made the trek downtown to his casual tortaria yet. The day I went, his daughter, Lanie was the hostess. I was tempted to tell her much less annoying she is than Claudine Pepin but refrained. I love tortas and his interpretations were delicious! If I worked in the area and had the time to wait in line, I would eat there at least once a week (though the sandwiches can get pretty messy!).
Easily my favorite pizza place in Chicago. No, its not deep dish and yes, Chicago is famous for deep dish. Personally, I am not a fan of deep dish. I find it soggy and heavy. On the other hand, I love the New Haven style pizza they have at Piece. They also have a huge array of microbrews on tap. We used to wait in line for Piece but ever since we discovered they delivered, our lives have been that much better! I’m a big fan of the white pizza (garlic olive oil instead of tomato sauce).
Asparagus cheese puffs we made @Bespoke
When Joel’s mom was in town, we went to a cooking party at Bespoke. Basically, there are several tables of people and each group is responsible for a full course. The event is designed to make cooking more accessible and they do a very good job on that front. Each group has a chef that guides them through all the steps. I found the recipes too easy (and it was a bit annoying that our chef kept mispronouncing “manchego”) but not everyone is at the same skill level, I guess. In any case, it is a nice social activity where food and learning is involved.
I started work last week which means posts will likely slow down. However, as we prepare to move, I am working diligently to clear out the pantry and freezer in an attempt to waste as little as possible. I had half a package of whole wheat spaghettini, a pound of frozen ground turkey, some frozen pesto and fresh spinach. I would have enjoyed some mushrooms in this pasta but that’s not the point of this meal.
Posts will continue to be sporadic as I fly around the country for training and my belongings are shipped cross-country. I’m sure there are a few more interesting meals to come. Pictures will be horrible because my SLR was sent in for repairs and returned by the manufacturer directly to California.
I start work on Monday…yikes! I’m sad that the cooking will significantly slow down. I’m sad that I have to leave my gorgeous Chicago kitchen and possibly settle for an electric stove in San Francisco. I’m sad to leave warm summers but happy that I’m done with brutally cold winters. I’m happy that I’ll be close to family again and can run outside year round. And I’m happy that I will have a real paycheck for the first time in two years and will be able to afford good sushi again!
Because we are planning a big move, I am still trying to eat through the pantry (very successfully, I must say!). The other day, I made a rice noodles with miso broth, red chard and leftover fish (pictured below, from my birthday at Otom). For another meal, I made jap chae with vegetables I had in the fridge, shrimp from the freezer and sauces and condiments on hand.
Yesterday, a survey of the pantry and fridge dictated that I make risotto. I had a few ears of corn, half a white onion, several containers of chicken broth, a few slugs of sake, half a box of arborio rice, a small handful of long grain white rice and a two pound bag of frozen shrimp. I was light on the bacon and only used three slices because I thought it might be too salty with the pre-made chicken broth, but I would probably double the bacon in the future.
I don’t have any nicely plated pictures because I think I got sand in my SLR while in Namibia and now the flash is malfunctioning. I’ll get it fixed at some point when I get back to San Francisco…don’t feel like dealing with it now!
I was craving eggplant and bought one at Stanley’s with the intention of making babaganoush. What I was really craving was moussaka, but I knew I would be too lazy to make it. When I got home, I realized I could make some sort of eggplant parmigiana/lasagna concoction that might cure both my eggplant/moussaka and my mom’s pasta bake cravings as I had just bought fat free cottage cheese and had spaghetti sauce and shredded parmesan in the freezer. I am moving in a few weeks, so I’m trying to work through the freezer and pantry while still getting our fruits and vegetables in. This dish would fulfill multiple objectives!!
A quick search on the internet showed that I should peel & thinly slice the eggplant, dip it in an eggwash, dip it in breadcrumbs (which I also happened to have in the pantry!) and bake it in the oven. I baked each side for 5 minutes in the oven at 350F. I layered my baked eggplant in two loaf pans with freezer sauce (red spaghetti sauce I keep in the freezer that has ground turkey, onions, garlic, mushrooms and other goodies) mixed with green olives, non-fat cottage cheese and shredded parmesan. Because my eggplant was not cooked all the way through initially, I covered the loaf pans with tin foil for the first 40 minutes of cooking. I took the foil off when the eggplant was finally cooked through (fork test) so that the cheese could brown.
This is definitely a dish that I will keep in the rotation, with a lot of room for creativity. In the future, I’ll salt the eggplant first, to draw out some of the moisture which will reduce the water that comes out during baking. I had to bail the loaf pans out a bit after cooking because so much water had come out of the eggplant slices. I would also pre-bake the eggplant slices in the oven for a bit longer (maybe 10 minutes on each side?) so that I don’t have to tent the casserole for so long.
It wasn’t pretty but it was pretty delicious!
I saw this recipe from Laurent Gras in Food & Wine and knew I’d have to make it. It has a lot of the flavors I like and will be a good weekday meal for when I’m working a regular job again (expect fewer posts and less cooking…likely more eating out…I start in less than two weeks!).
Per usual, I made a few modifications:
- Short-grain brown rice instead of jasmine: I just used a touch more liquid to make sure the rice cooked through. I also use the regular rice setting instead of the quick cook setting.
- I didn’t have any bouillion cubes so I substituted the hot water for chicken broth. For additional flavor, I added two teaspoons of soy sauce, a dash of mirin and a splash of sesame oil.
- I only used half of the chicken called for and it really seemed to be plenty.
- I used red chard instead of baby spinach. Later this week I made some brown rice with baby spinach and it was also tasty!
- This seems to be a flexible recipe where you can easily throw in other vegetables such as black straw mushrooms and bamboo shoots.
I looooove the coconut milk in the rice and the chicken is very tender. I would probably keep the ginger in larger chunks because I don’t really like eating ginger but love the flavor in the rice. I can’t wait until I have a fancy rice cooker with a delay timer so I can have piping hot rice when I get home from a long day at the office.
Springbok steak at Reuben’s in Franschhoek, South Africa
I don’t think I was ever hungry during our four week trip to South Africa and Namibia. We were so well fed during our travels and had a hard time resisting all of the different game meats offered (zebra, oryx, springbok, blasbok, ostrich, crocodile, kudu…forgetting the others but no lions were involved). I was pleasantly surprised that all of the game meats were surprisingly sweet, succulent and not at all gamy (some more than others, of course…oryx was my favorite).
We had a great dinner at Joe’s Beerhouse in Windhoek, Namibia but unfortunately were not able to take any pictures of the delicious oryx carpaccio (a type of antelope) and zebra/ostrich/alligator/chicken skewer we had. Tourists are strongly advised NOT to take anything with them while walking around town lest it be stolen, so you will just have to take my word that oryx carpaccio and zebra steak were mind blowing. Here’s what I did take pictures of:
Stuffed pork over mashed potatoes at La Petite Ferme (Franschhoek, South Africa)
Giant Mozambican prawns and other hand-selected grilled seafood at The Codfather (Cape Town, South Africa)
Amazing burger at Royale Eatery (Cape Town, South Africa)