Monday, August 31, 2009

Dinner: Monday Night Walleye & Summer Veggie Gratin

When it comes to improvising, I leave it to FD.

I need a recipe.

He just needs his endless imagination.

Dinner tonight: Maumee River Walleye simply crusted in curry powder and fried served with herbed, stemmed potatoes, and summer vegetable gratin.

This meal was perfect.

(For the summer vegetable gratin, refer to America's Test Kitchen Cooking for 2 2009 for the smaller version without bread crumbs.)

Seriously, what would I do without FD? But what would he do without me? I did make some awesome side dishes.

Dinner: Sunday Night: Sauerbraten

After a long hot summer, all I crave is fall. So when the temperature dropped into the 60s this past Sunday, I made a Sauerbraten, the perfect fall dish.

The best Sauerbraten recipe is my mother-in-law's, but I wanted to test something new--a recipe from Bobby Flay. I don't normally cook Bobby Flay recipes. I'm not going to lie; I don't really like Bobby Flay. He seems shady to me. I'm sure he's a great guy, but I'm a Jamie Oliver kind of girl. But I found this fantastic recipe for Sauerbraten from his Nana, and I had to try it.

And it was awesome! Seriously awesome! However, I actually like my mother-in-law's recipe better. Maybe it's just because it's our family recipe. I don't know. But I would make Bobby Flay's again. I just think I wouldn't have a couple of absinthe drinks while it was simmering for three hours (Happy 21st, SEM! Love you, girl!) However, I will braise cabbage to go with Sally's recipe; that cabbage was RAD!

Sally's Old World Sauerbraten

1 (3-4 lb) chuck roast
1 clove garlic, chopped
1/2 c. vinegar
1/2 t. ginger
1 c. water
3 bay leaves
1/2 c. brown sugar
1/4 t. thyme
1 t salt
2 onions, thinly sliced
1/4 t. pepper
1 T. butter
4-5 whole cloves

Brown roast in butter. Add onions and brown. Mix remaining ingredients in a small bowl and pour over the roast. Simmer on the stovetop for 3 hours or in a slowcooker for 6 hours. If you desire, thicken sauce with flour. Serve with egg noodles.

(This is a fabulous make-ahead dish for a busy week! Check out FD's tasty sandwich he made for lunch: pumpernickel, sauerbraten, cabbage, hot mustard, & gravy.)

Dinner: Saturday Night at Babine's

This past Saturday night our close friend Babs (aka Karen) had us over for dinner. She prepared a DIVINE curry chicken pot pie to die for. All the veggies were from our Farmers Market adventure that same morning, so everything tasted perfectly fresh.

In addition to her divine curry chicken pot pie, she made the best cream cheese pound cake I have ever tasted in my life with a blueberry syrup made of Michigan blueberries, mead, and lavender syrup.

All I have to say about about dessert is..."There is a God."

Babs wrote a fantastic Facebook note about our dinner, so to say anymore I feel would not do the night justice. But I do have to give her a shout out for a great meal and for letting me take the night off cooking!

Monday, August 24, 2009

Dinner: Moussaka

During our routine Monday morning walk, Babs and I were discussing dinner possibilities. I had these two gorgeous eggplants that I needed to use before our next produce delivery this Wednesday. I thought about making the Jamie Oliver pasta, eggplant, mozz recipe again or the Cook's Illustrated eggplant parm for two recipe again.

I think that's my downfall as a cook; I like to make the same things again and again to improve on them and because I know they're tasty treats and I know how long they take to make. And Babs knows this repetitive recipe trick of mine, so she recommended Moussaka.

My tummy rumbled, and I knew what was for dinner. Thanks, Babs!

I went online and found this Tyler Florence recipe. It seemed easy enough. And it was easy, just like difficulty level suggests. However, it's very time consuming. This is not a dish I would prepare in a flash. It look time prepping the eggplant and other ingredients. (Granted I'm slower in the kitchen because my knife skills suck and trying to cook with a wounded finger slows everything down.) After prepping the dish must bake for 30-40 minutes, which takes time but it's time that can be used to clean the kitchen and put together some peach fruit crisp (more on that dessert later). Overall, though, time was the only drawback.

This dish turn out stunningly! It had so much flavor and really was much lighter than Moussaka I've had at several restaurants. Because Tyler's recipe calls for feta, it wasn't heavy or overwhleming with bechamel. Also, I used ground beef instead of ground lamb because it's what we had on hand, and it was perfect--not greasy like other times I've had it. We had only 2 smaller-ish eggplants, so I halved the recipe and made one layer of eggplant, one layer of meat, and topped it with the cheese and breadcrumbs; doing it this way totally worked! I added a few pats of butter on top my breadcrumbs too to avoid them drying out. The only addition I would make in the future is to add fresh mint if I was using lamb. We served our moussaka with malabar spinach with roasted garlic and fresh lemon, which really brought out the lemon & garlic in the casserole. (Again, sorry for the bad pic! I'm using my phone's camera.)

Added bonus we have a lot of leftovers, which is great because we don't have time to cook dinner for the next couple of nights. Luckily, I have a feeling that this dish is even better leftover...

Sunday's Dinner: Roast Chicken

Every time I hear "roast chicken" I imagine, in the movie version, Frodo and Sam talking about needing herbed salts "just in case," even though they're lost in the middle of Mordor...

My all-time favorite dish to make, the one that always comes out perfect, and the one that always taste great, is my roast chicken. I use Jamie Oliver's recipe, and it's fantastic. I always use a whole chicken from Luginbill Farms, and they are always so tasty--I assume because they're free of all those gross hormones & antibiotics.

Last night, though, I did make one revision. I added turnips with the potatoes ("boil 'em, mash 'em, stick 'em in a stew"). Those turnips were mind-blowing, so buttery and crunchy. I'm definitely going to add those little angels every time I make this dish from now on.

Sadly, the broccoli was just there for some green. We should have had a salad instead. Because the broccoli just didn't stand up to the richness of the chicken, potatoes, and turnips.


While the chicken was roasting I couldn't stop craving Fall. Even though it was 70 outside (with for August in Ohio is pretty darn good!) I wish it was even cooler and that the leaves were turning. I'm ready for my favorite season and the hearty dishes that come with it.

Our chicken was our last meal of summer, the one before we meet our students and head into a new academic year.

And what's perfect about roasting a whole chicken on Sundays is that we have "cook-ahead" leftovers to last us most of the week. (Chicken salad sandwiches, cooked chicken for quesadillas, chicken to throw in with pasta and pesto, etc.--quick home-made meals!) Because we teach late, have evening student conferences or a night yoga class, we try to do two "cook-aheads" a week so we avoid eating carry-out or dinner at a restaurant. It's all about saving money and time when the semester starts. This cook-ahead ritual has worked really well for the past two years. And it's allowed us to more frequently visit fine dining restaurants we love, such as Revolver.

I guarantee more cook-ahead recipes to follow. Stay tuned.

For now, good luck to all those starting school!

Author's Note: The roasted whole chicken was golden and gorgeous. I'm sorry my phone's camera didn't accentuate its beauty.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Heirloom tomatoes, candy red onion, sweet bell pepper, turkey pepperoni, fresh mozz and parm.

Friday Night Dinner: Lighter Pasta with Vegetable Sauce

Dinner this past Friday was eventful.

After going to Melt, FD and I weren't all
that hungry until around 8 p.m. when I started making this seemingly easy and light dish from America's Test Kitchen Cooking for 2 2009 issue.

Yes, it was light and tasted fine enough, but I'd make many revisions to it. First, I was use a zucchini, not a patty pan squash. While the patty pans are absolutely pretty and spaced-out with their UFO shapes, they didn't add a lot of flavor to this dish. In fact, we couldn't barely taste them at all. Because I didn't have a red pepper, I used a green one, which after cooking tasted a bit bitter. And I used Malabar Spinach instead of baby arugula because, again, it's what I had on hand, and the Malabar Spinach made the dish a little bitter too. I did sub the carrots with green beans and that worked really well. I really liked this dish, but I would stick to the ingredients a bit more if I make it again.

The one thing I learned from this dish, though, that I will never forget is how to clean a knife cut better. Because I'm a novice cook, my knife skills aren't all that great. Meaning, I cut myself a lot. And when I cut myself I wash out the wound with warm water and soap, pour some rubbing alcohol or peroxide on it, slap a Hello Kitty Band-aid on it, and call it a day. While halving the cherry tomatoes, of course, I cut the tip of my middle finger on my left hand. I did my usual routine, made sure all the food was uncontaminated and the washed the knife and cutting board and got back to work. No big deal. The next morning I took off my Band-Aid to find my finger was red, swollen, tingly, and oozing clear liquid. After a trip to the ER the doc confirmed I had a fingertip infection. The nurse wrapped up my wound to make it look way more serious than it really is. I'm not exactly sure how my finger got infected. I'm thinking it's because I didn't change my bandage after washing dishes...

The perk to all this finger-infection-drama is I like the extra attention, especially from FD who has become the official dishwasher.

Lighter Pasta with Garden Vegetable Sauce

1/2 zucchini, halved lengthwise and sliced 1/4 in thick
1/2 cup cherry tomaotes, halved
1 carrot, peeled and grated on the large holes of a grater
1 small onion, sliced thin
1/2 medium red pepper, cut into 1/4 in pieces
Table salt
1 1/2 T tomato paste
2 garlic cloves, minced
Pinch of red pepper flakes
3/4 c chicken broth (or veggie broth)
1/4 lb rotini pasta
1 1/2 c baby arugula
2 T chopped fresh basil

Heat 1 t of oil in 10-in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat until shimmering. Add the zucchini and cook, about 3 min. Add the cherry tomatoes, toss to combine, and cook until slightly wilted, about 1 min. Transfer to large bowl.

Add 1 t more of oil to skillet. Over med. heat wait for oil to shimmer before adding carrot, onion, bell pepper, and 1/8 t salt, cover and cook until veggies soften, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in tomato paste and continue to cook until fragrant, about 30 sec. Stir in the broth, scraping up any browned bits. Bring to a simmer and cook until slightly thickened, about 1 min.; cover and set aside.

Meanwhile, boil pasta according to box directions. Reserve 1/2 c of cooking water, then drain pasta and return it to the pot.

Add the zucchini/broth mixture, arugula, basil, and 1 t oil to the cooked pasta and gently toss. Cover and let sit 1 min. Season with salt & pepper to taste. And adjust the consistency of the sauce with the reserved cooking water as desired. Serve, passing the Parm cheese separately.

Friday, August 21, 2009

I Melt for Melt

Who needs crack* when you can eat at Melt?

Located in Lakewood, Ohio, this bar decorated in kitschy light-up seasonal yard ornaments and stained glass windows with shards of beer bottles and knife blades is heaven to all who love grilled cheese sandwiches--kids and adults.

At least once a week I make myself a grilled cheese sandwich. But mine are no where near as creative and decadent as the ones found on Melt's menu. Take for instance the Big Popper (second photo)--fresh jalapeno peppers, herb cream cheese, cheddar, beer battered and served with a berry preserves dipping sauce. (What the what?!?!?) Like I said, this isn't a grilled cheese I could make at home. It's for big kids who like to eat! It's is the chef-ed-out, grown-up version. While the Big Popper was a bit too rich and spicy for my taste buds, FD polished it off with the happiest of grins.

I had the Hot Italian (third photo)--grilled salami, honey ham, pepperoni, sun-dried tomato pesto, roasted garlic and provolone. I loved this sandwich so much I wanted to make a food baby with it. Seriously, I had it once before during our first visit to Melt, and everyone at the table had food envy. I'm not over-exaggerating when I say it's hands-down the BEST italian sandwich I have ever eaten in my thirty-two years.

But hold up. My mother-in-law had the Chorizo and Potato--spicy Mexican sausage and cheddar--which was divine. The chunks of potatoes and the heat from the sausage were absolutely perfect. So much so I had a moment of food envy. Until I took another bite of my Hot Italian.

Melt has a kid's menu for kids or The Kindergarten--fresh baked bread and your choice of cheese--for those who just want grilled cheese served old school. Or you can go veggie with the Purple Parma--hand breaded eggplant, grilled tomato, sun-dried tomato pesto, and provolone--or vegan. (Yes, they have vegan American cheese!) The choices are endless and inclusive to all dietary lifestyles. I respect that.

Melt is incapable of messing up a grilled cheese. I don't live in the area, but I plan on eating there enough to try every single sandwich on the menu when we come to Cleveland to visit our families. My next trip I'm getting The Lake Erie Monster--beer battered walleye, jalapeno tartar sauce, and American cheese. Oh, and by next time, I'm talking in a matter of weeks, even if it means I have to take a vacation day from work and kennel the dog.

Besides the entertaining, comfortable atmosphere and sandwiches that will leave you craving them them everyday all day, according to FD, "Melt has the best beer menu on the effing planet!" They offer 90% microbrews and have a 100+ beers in bottles. Everything from Bud Light to specialty small batch microbrews, such as a 22 oz Double IPA for $22.50, can be found on their drink menu. It's beer paradise for beer lovers.

If we lived in Cleveland would I eat there every day? Hells yes! Melt is addictive. But unlike crack* I wouldn't ever want to shoot up Melt's food. I want to taste, chew, and swallow every single little morsel on the Fiestaware plate.

5 out of 5 stars.

* Disclaimer: I do not use crack or encourage the use of crack. I use the expression simply as a metaphor.

Little Burrito

Much to most new parents dismay every time I see a newborn I exclaim, "He's so cute I just want to eat him!"

Thankfully, my sister-and-brother-in-law don't mind too much that I want to eat their newborn son (our newborn nephew) Baby F. I suppose they're used to it as I'm constantly pretending to eat their daughter L and our other very beloved niece EJ and nephew Z.

Just look at F's cheeks. Don't you want to nibble on them?

Baby F, welcome to the world!

I'm looking forward to our meals together after you move on from the "liquid diet," my little burrito!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Revolver: The World's Best 30th Birthday Dinner!

For FD's 30th birthday I wanted to do something really special.

The very rad and ultra-dear-to-my-heart Debi and Michael at Revolver Restaurant made Dan's 30th the best meal of our lives.

I requested Frank Zappa for the revolver and an eight-course meal for our bellies. Michael, Debi, and their team came through with flying colors.

Seriously, if I could I would go back every night for the next year to have that exact same dinner.

I just ate and I'm so hungry just thinking about it after posting these fine pics from the night.

Photos are of the courses I'm still obsessing over. (Too bad Blogger SUCKS at posting pictures; otherwise I would have posted EVERY course. Check out Facebook if you want to see every course.)

Amuse-bouche: cantaloup granita with arugala. Served with Cava.

Heirloom tomato salad with sea salt and balsamic gelato. Served with (and I
quote from our notes) "an Italian varietal we've never heard of before but are in love with."

Tempura-battered zucchini blossom stuffed with zucchini bread, with tomato cinnamon sauce. Served with Sauvignon blanc.

Sweet corn bisque with mascarpone cheese. Served with Chardonnay.

Sweetbreads with creamless corn,
chanterelles, pickled beet, and balasmic black garlic sauce. Served with Riesling. (Hands down the best dish of the night! A mouth orgasm!)

Dickman Farm chicken with crispy skin wafers, potatoes, heirloom beans, olives, and tomato. Served with Cote 'd Rhone.

Foie gras ravioli with shaved leeks, smoked duck breast, and cinnamon. Served with Pinot Noir. (Another mind-blowing dish!)

Aged prime rib with polenta and truffle reduction. Served with Bordeaux. (The best piece of beef I've ever had in my life. And I eat a lot of beef.)

Quatro of ice cream: cherry with bitter chocolate, coffee, blueberry with blueberry jam, and goat cheese with sea salt. Served with Port. (Heaven in my mouth.)

I can't thank Debi and Michael enough for another fantastic meal that was completely perfect. Seriously, I'm considering naming our children after them (if we have kids).

And the whole Revolver team was so completely awesome. Jonah, you're our rock star!

Thank you all for a meal FD and I will obsessing over for years to come.

Revolver, you rock & we love you!

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Dinner: Turkey Brats, Roasted Potatoes, & Steamed Green Beans

It's just one of those nights.

The pic I took of dinner tonight deleted itself when I tried to download it.

The sauce for the brats was a little too bitter because we didn't use a cheap enough beer. (You'll never read me write that again.)

The brats were a little dry because we used turkey instead of pork.

What we got right, though, was:

A.) The potatoes. I quartered them and padded them with some butter, freshly sliced garlic, and salt. Those babies roasted right up on the grill to little perfect tender morsels.

B.) The recipe from Cook's Illustrated special edition Summer Grilling was spot on. Great flavor. Just be sure to use cheap beer and pork brats. The turkey cook quick and dry.

C.) The best: To make a meal at home with FD after being on the go and away from my kitchen for several days.

***Be sure to tune in tomorrow through Twitter for pics on FD's birthday feast at Revolver.

Three Shout Outs!

Shout Out #1

I'd like to thank the McDowell family for mailing a copy of Jamie's Kitchen.

I'm stoked to try recipes from it in their honor!


Shout Out #2

As the Food & Wine feature editor for Connotations Press, I asked shelled-food lover Lissa for a shelled-seafood recipe. This recipe is so hot she's competing a James Beard Foundation competition for a Jack Daniels' party at the House. Help her get it by voting here (recipe begins with SEAR<)!


Shout Out #3

FD's birthday is tomorrow, and, of course, we're going to Revolver to celebrate. Be sure to check the Twitter updates for food-related birthday surprises.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Food: On The Go

It's a busy weekend in the McRz household, but we're still eating well.

Check out the Everyday Palate on Twitter for mobile updates.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Dinner: Eggplant Parm

I don't normally like to brag.

Fine, if you know me, you know I brag.

And this dish is worth bragging about: Eggplant Parm from the America's Test Kitchen Cooking for 2 2009 magazine.

It was perfect for me and FD. A perfect serving for two.

And it rivaled any restaurant Eggplant Parm.

Who knew I was so awesome? ;)

I firmly believe the tricks to this recipe are:

a.) Follow the instructions on how to make your own sauce. It's perfect for the dish!

b.) Make your own bread crumbs as the recipe instructs.

c.) Layer the eggplant as the recipe directs you to do.

d.) Invest in some good non-stick oven ready cookware. Our Le Creuset is the best cookware investment I have made--ever. And the thought that it will last long enough for my one-day grandchildren to inherit makes me tear up.

For a side we had fresh organic broccoli from our local farmer. I followed her advice to steam the leave of the head of broccoli. (Yes, our broccoli looks like "real" broccoli; I didn't believe it at first either.) The greens were a bit bitter, which I enjoyed but FD did not.

I love how pretty it all looked on the china, though.

Yes, I'm going to brag.

Damn, this meal I made was the bomb. I will make it again when I need an ego boost.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Dinner: Venison Tacos

Another FD creation:

Venison with Wick Fowler's Taco Seasoning

Shredded Malabar Spinach (picked TODAY)

Shredded Carrot

Sliced Heirloom Tomatoes (picked TODAY)

Diced Sweet Onion

Blue Spice

Blue Basil

Shredded Grass-fed Aged Cheddar

= fiesta in my mouth.

App: Amuse Goose

Amuse Goose created by FD:

Grilled & Seasoned Wild Goose Breast from FD's collection


Organic Whole Wheat cracker

Fresh Blue Basil

Fresh Orange Mint

Bleu Cheese

= Mind blowing party in my mouth

Food for Thought #2

I'm a cook, not a foodie.

But most of all I'm a human being.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Dinner: Bacon, Cheddar, and Potato Frittata

Gorgeous in color because of the heirloom blue potatoes, farm-fresh brown eggs, and lush herbs, this frittata was my best yet. Most likely because it involved bacon and cooking the it in the same skillet after the bacon so 1T of the bacon fat served as the oil.

I found this recipe in the American's Test Kitchen Cooking for 2 2009 magazine, which is on display until September 28, 2009.

The best aspect of the recipe is how fast the frittata sets, which was about 15 minutes faster than the recipe from Animal, Vegetable, Miracle I usually use.

The one downside of this frittata--it's not as healthy as the one in AVM.

But it sure tasted better...

Let's face it. Everything is better with bacon.

Dinner: Brown Jug

Best steak in Bowling Green, OH:

The Brown Jug at Trotter's Tavern.

Next time I won't get the sauce on the side; I'll get it smothered on the cast iron skillet.

But it was good to know that the sauce can be
served on the side.

One of the best parts: sharing the meal with Babs.

Another best part: Me, FD, and Babs nearly getting kicked out after laughing uncontrollably over the bill.

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Martha's Vineyard Table: A Cookbook Review

When I was a kid, most of my friends played outside, watched cartoons, or read Nancy Drew stories. I devoutly studied fashion magazines.

When I was 10, I remember obsessively
examining a particularly preppy spread of models having fun-in-the-sun in Martha's Vineyard. From that moment, I've wanted nothing more than spend one summer complete where I could stroll the brick sidewalks, sail the beautiful blue waters, ride my bike to a lighthouse, and sip a tasty cocktail from a porch that overlooks the ocean.

This dream began when I lived in Florida. And this dream sounds like something that could have happened in Florida, but the Florida fashion scene didn't have what I wanted: polo shirt dresses, patchwork shorts, a gingham print bikini. A linen dinner dress with a cashmere cardigan to keep me warm from a cool evening breeze on my walk home from a friend's cottage dinner party.

I've never been to Martha's Vineyard. Not yet.

But the dream is alive, especially after upon finding at my country library and reading Jessica B. Harris' The Martha's Vineyard Table.

I figured I had the clothes nailed; now I had to see what the Vineyard food was all about.

I found out quickly I am screwed.

In the tenth grade, after I moved back to Ohio from Florida, I developed a shelled-seafood allergy, the bane of my wanna
be-foodie existence.

Yes, I am one of the unlucky many who must always tell the waiter about my allergy, who gets salmon instead of scallops during celebrity chef 5-course meals or New Year's Eve 8-course meals.

So when I discovered what should have been obvious to me--that shelled seafood is a staple in the Vineyard--Harris' cookbook become more about researching Martha's Vineyard than trying to cook Martha's Vineyard foods in my Ohioan home.

One of the most fun aspects of this cookbook is that each section is paired with a Vineyard neighborhood and some interesting facts or reflections on it. For example, Oak Bluffs is the neighbor described in the "Beverages" section, and smartly so because it is one of the two (Edgartown being the other) wet towns on the the island. Obviously, when we visit Martha's Vineyard FD and I must stay in one of those two neighborhoods.

The other neat feature of this book is before every recipe, there's a brief narrative about that specific dish, whether it's about being a dredger when preparing fried chicken or having an overabundance of lavender that comes in handy when making lavender syrup (photo), my favorite recipe from the book.


6 cups of water
1/2 c dried lavender buds (I got mine from Calico, Sage, and Thyme)
3 cups sugar

Combine water and lavender flowers in a 3-qt saucepan and place over medium heat. Bring to a boil, lower the heat to simmer and simmer for 3-5 min. Remove from heat and let steep for 5 minutes.

Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl, pressing down on the lavender buds to make sure that all of the liquid is released. Return the liquid to the saucepan, add the sugar, and place over low heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 min. Raise the heat to medium, bring the syrup to a boil and remove from the heat. Let cool, then decant into sterilized bottles.

Syrup will keep for several weeks. Use it to sweeten tea, lemonade, or gin & tonics (photo).


There are many recipes from this cookbook I plan to try: Spicy Edamame; Curried Chicken Salad; Lavender, Garlic, and Rosemary Leg of Lamb with Spicy Mint Sauce; and Lavender Cookies.

However, I couldn't justifying owning this book. At least not yet. Because of my shelled-seafood allergy and the abundance of shelled-seafood recipes in Jessica B. Harris' The Martha's Vineyard Table, this cookbook, for me, would be more of a gorgeous display cookbook--with mouthwatering pictures of food and dreamy pictures of Vineyard landmarks--than a practical, which, as a beginner cook, I'm more in need of. For those who eat shelled-food regularly I would definitely recommend this fantastic find!

3 1/2 out of 5 stars.

Fair Food

Mike's Wisconsin Fried Cheese Curd.

Best deep fried cheese I have ever eaten in my life.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Have Your Cake & Eat It Too

For FD's 30th birthday celebration with our families he requested this giraffe cake (photo) from his childhood.

It was as tasty as it was cute.

For his birthday dinner we had a array of apps from Paula Deen's 7-layer Mexican dip to bacon-wrapped cream cheese stuffed hot peppers that were seared on the grill.

For dinner we had Rz wild duck (mallards, woodies, and gadwalls) with marinated flank steak, a spinach pasta salad, a 24-hour layered picnic salad (photo), fresh fruit, garlic cheese bread, and local corn on the cob.

Dessert consisted of the giraffe cake and a Stained Glass Cake.

The only things better than the food, of course, were the company and the cause for such a celebration. Lucky FD who gets multiple birthday dinners throughout the month of August.

24-hour Layered Picnic Salad (combination of mother-in-law's recipe & Cook's Illustrated with notes)

6 c. lettuce chopped (I used Bibb from local farmer)
1 t. salt
1 small red onion, halved and sliced thinly
6 hard boiled eggs, peeled and chopped
1 c. frozen peas
3 small radishes
3 small mild peppers
3 small cucumbers, halved, seeded, and sliced
6 small carrots, sliced thinly or shredded.
1 lb bacon, cooked until crisp and crumbled

1 1/2 cup Mayo (NOT Miracle Whip)
3 T cider vinegar
1 T hot sauce
2 t sugar
1 1/2 t black pepper

Directions: Place 1/2 of lettuce in bottom of a very deep glass bowl and sprinkle with 1/2 t salt. Layer onion, eggs, and radishes. Then add 1 c. of frozen peas. (Make sure peas are still frozen; basically you want the peas in the middle of the salad to keep it cold.) Layer peppers, cukes, and carrots. Add remaining lettuce, sprinkle with 1/2 t salt. Top with bacon and cheese.

For dressing combine all ingredients in a bowl then spread evenly over top of the salad.

Cover with plastic and refrigerate at least 8 hours up to 24 hours.

To serve, remove plastic wrap and toss until salad is evenly coated with dressing.

Note: Feel free to substitute different veggies for the ones you know your family likes as well as cheese. Depending on how much you like heat feel free to add more or less hot sauce to the dressing. Serves about 12.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Food for Thought #1

I've eaten a lot of potaotes with every meal this week.

That makes me happy.

Dinner: Burgers with Blue Potato Oven Fries & Eggplant Sautee

Thursday I picked up these vibrant miniature eggplants and some
fantastic blue potatoes at the Perrysburg Farmers Market, and FD picked up some goregous green tomatillos, which he used to make a fantastic salsa, which became the condiment for his burger.

While FD manned the grill and oversaw the burgers, I oven-roasted the potatoes in olive oil, cumin, and paprika, and I sauteed the eggplants, some butto
n mushrooms, onions, and green beans in olive oil and garlic.

The sautee was spontaneous, so I need to make some revisions. I would add the minature eggplants in the last couple of minutes with the green beans so there was more crunch, and I think I would cube them rather than slice them the next time I make this dish. A little parm grated on top would have livened them up a bit too.

The hunt for eggplant-based recipes begins.

Dear baby eggplants, I have a feeling we are going to become fast friends.

Dinner: Top Chef Masters, which, we were thrilled to see, had a burger quickfire challenge! A perfect match for our burger dinner.

Clean-up: She & Him in honor of Zooey Deschanel's appearance on Top Chef Masters.

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Meals, etc.

Sunday dinner: BLT with maple brushed hormone-free bacon, Homestead Gardens lettuce, Haslinger's Tomato, and garlic roasted Mayo on Zingerman's Brewhouse Bread. On the side: Moosewood Oven Fries.

Confession: The bacon was so good, FD and I put away one pound of it within 6 hours.

Though it sounds gross, it was absolutely divine.

Monday dinner: Biaggi's with our beloved friends Frank and Christine who moved to Delaware today. Breaking bread with them and guzzling two bottles of 14 Hands was the perfect way to send them off. The dessert sampler took the cake though. (Pun intended.) We can't wait to visit them and experience the Delaware food scene. Much love, you two; BG won't be the same without you. You're missed sorely, especially your hotchney, little plaid-clad man.

Tuesday: afternoon snack. Donna and Kelly in GSW got me this "Thank You" Hello Kitty cake for my work as Assistant Director this past Spring and Summer semesters. A very cute tasty chocolate cake treat. Thanks, ladies. I'm excited to step into my new role as Instructional Assistant.

Tuesday night: Happy Badger Food Club Tofu curry with Homestead Gardens fingerling potatoes, onions, and blue spice, chili-ready diced tomatoes, and tons of curry powder from Calico, Sage, and Thyme. Drank Calder's skimmed milk with one to cut the heat.

Tonight: FD-caught Maumee River Walleye with butter, garlic, and white wine reduction; sauteed Homestead Gardens spinach; and Homestead Gardens fingerling potatoes with orange mint, parsley, chives and oregano.

Just want to thank Ben for bringing my veggies to the office today. I can't express how happy it makes me to get local, fresh veggies in the middle of work chaos.

And I have to point out that FD noticed that instead of Hunan at the Falls in my "Out To Eat" links, I have Human at the Falls. (As I've said, I'm the Queen of Typos.) I guess if this blog was McCarthy's The Road, that typo might make some more sense.

More food adventures coming soon! Stay tuned!

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Bar Symon: Restaurant Review

Iron Chef Michael Symon does it again--in Cleveland! Staying true to his hometown roots, Bar Symon is in Avon Lake, OH (a Greater Cleveland suburb) is by far one of the best restaurants in Ohio right now. I whole-heartedly appreciate Symon's loyalty to Ohio, especially when, with his celebrity status, he could open exceptionally successful joints in New York, Chicago, Las Vegas, or any other major city.

Upon walking into Bar Symon I immediately felt at home in this very contemporary yet simple one-room tavern. The wood bar to the left is lined with about 20 stools and about 40 classic and artisan beers on tap. One could find PBR next to Delirium Tremens. Two flat screens add symmetry to the western-throw-back behind-the-bar mirror. What was unique was the TVs aren't intrusive or loud; they give a homey, familiar, American vibe to the bar. The dining room is spacious and open with plenty of table seating. What I enjoyed most about the dining room is that it felt like a contemporary barn, and above the 3 back booths are diagrams of livestock with the cuts of meats illustrated, which I found quite humorous given that meat is the menu's staple. The table settings are very clean and uncluttered with flatware wrapped in a rustic dishtowel. Truthfully, since my college hay-days, I haven't felt as comfortable in a bar as I did in Bar Symon.

As for the menu, we got a little sampling of the main entrees. Being that the occasion was my mom's birthday, the whole McGuire clan could order different dishes and try one another's meals. What I need to stress is that my family loves food, but they mostly enjoy straight-forward, mainstream meals. What's fantastic about Bar Symon's menu is that it appeals to eaters of all kinds--those who like comfort food to fans of offal.

My sister ordered the Mac & Cheese ($14), a rich, savory pasta dish with rosemary, goat cheese, and chicken. It was definitely an fine example of sophisticated comfort food you'll crave again and again.

Because I'm allergic to shelled-seafood (trust me, I'm well aware of how dreadful this allergy is for a foodie), I was unable to try to Mussels ($10) that FD, who has been craving seafood all week, ordered. However, he reported that all 30 of them were delicious, yet afterwards he kicked himself for ordering mussels in Ohio, knowing the best ones only come from and are eaten on Prince Edward Island. On our next visit, he's vowed to experience the Smoked and Braised Pork Butt ($15) or two helpings of the Roasted Bone Marrow ($8).

I ordered the Bar Steak (above photo) with pickled chili, mint, and homemade worcestershire sauce. I had reservations about mint on a steak, but after one bite with all of the ingredients, my taste buds were delighted and thankful to have taken the risk. Also, the chefs got the temperature just right--a perfect medium.

Both my dad and brother ordered the Bar Symon Burger ($9). My dad braved it with the fried egg, cheddar, and bacon. Served on an English muffin, my dad praised the burger throughout the meal and claimed the yolk was not overwhelming at all; in fact the yolk was merely a trace that really brought out the flavor of the beef. Before I could request a bit, he was finished, which meant he really enjoyed it. My brother ordered the burger without the egg, and was impressed with the temperature he ordered--medium well.

My step-mom ordered the Walleye ($17), which she declared as being fresh and flavorful with its grilled lemon, oregano and olive oil.

But the real show-stopper was what the birthday girl ordered: Grilled Meatloaf ($12). A mixture of ground pork and sirloin, this meatloaf was as juicy and sturdy as "Mom's" but way more flavorful with a little bit of heat from the pickled banana peppers and Lola ketchup.

The other gems of our meal were two of the sides: Fried Brussels Sprouts (left) and Brown Butter Whipped Potatoes. I could eat both every day until the day I died and be very happy and fully satisfied. FD, who ordered the Garlic Greens as his side, was completely jealous of my Fried Brussels Sprouts. If you love Brussels Sprouts, this side is a must for you. If you don't like Brussels Sprouts, order this side and I promise you will have a whole new love and respect for those little green vegetables.

Knowing full-well there was a Kiedrowski's birthday cake at home for us, we neglected to order a bar snack (prices ranging from $3-4) of PK's Spicy Pork Crackling or Warm Olives; a house-made grilled sausage ($6-7); an appetizer like the Tomato Soup ($4), Pork Belly Croutons ($6), or Duck Confit Sliders ($6 ea.); or a dessert such as homemade Guinness ice cream ($6). Honestly, I think FD and I didn't want to freak out my family with how much we could eat in one setting given the chance, but we vowed the next time we visit Bar Symon that we're going all out, as we call it.

There was only one drawback to our experience at Bar Symon: the service. While Bar Symon clearly has the beginnings of a well-orchestrated team, I wasn't impressed when our server didn't ask my sister what she wanted to drink, when he didn't bring FD the beer he ordered during dinner, or when he didn't return during the middle of our meal to see if we needed anything. Also, I expected that the manager would mingle among tables, checking the food quality and inquiring about customer satisfaction, much like the manager at Lola did when we ate there earlier this summer. However, such was not the case at Bar Symon; the manager stood by the bar and chatted with the wait staff. Because Michael Symon has an outstanding reputation as a restauranteur and chef, I expect that all of his restaurants--from the fine-dining flagship of Lola to the suburban tavern Bar Symon--to have knowledgeable, friendly, and attentive servers who sell the food with a story AND a hands-on manager who upholds Michael Symon's impeccable reputation.

My only suggestion: The one thing this bar needs are some high-end martinis, like those offered at Lola.

Despite this little glitch in the service and martinis, I plan on returning to Bar Symon every chance I get. And if I lived in the Cleveland area, I would easily eat there several times a month, especially during the week for the daily specials. With the fantastic prices for such high-quality, creative food and the numerous not-so-common beers on tap, Bar Symon is definitely a "when pigs fly" dining experience.

Atmosphere: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
Food: 4 1/2 stars out of 5
Service: 3 stars out of 5

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Dinner: Homemade Pizza

Last night one of our best friends, Babs, joined us for a classic Friday night dinner: pizza, salad with local lettuce, spinach, carrots, and cukes, and popsicles for dessert.

The pizza is homemade crust with shredded mozz, fresh tomato, onion, and local ground lamb--leftover from an earlier meal this week. One minute before the pizza is done cooking we added fresh rosemary and oregano.

Simple meals like this remind me of how food brings us together, lets us connect with one another, and share our lives with one another around the table.

In fact, the homemade crust recipe comes from another dear friend, Ray Ray. If not for her recipe, we would have never realized that homemade pizza is WAY better than any take-out.

Friends and Food: two of my favorite things.

Ray Ray's Homemade Pizza Dough (with a few revisions)

This recipe makes enough for one large (16 inch) thin crust pizza. It can be doubled for more 'zas or thick crust.

3/4 Cup warm water
1 Tbl Olive Oil
1 Tbl sugar
1.25 tsp yeast (like a teaspoon and a pinch, a little more or less won't hurt anything--it does affect the rising time: more yeast, faster rise)
2 Cups Flour
salt (or garlic salt, optional)
dried basil (optional)

Put the water in the bowl you'll be mixing the dough in, and add the yeast and sugar. Stir until dissolved. Add oil. Add flour (and salt and dried basil, if you choose) and mix until doughy-ish. At this point you can either put the dough in a greased bowl to rise, or you flop the dough around while you spray the bowl you just mixed up the dough in with cooking spray. This makes fewer dirty dishes. Cover (tight seal like a tupperwear top) and let rise in a warm place. This "warm place" could be a couple of different places depending on how long you want the dough to rise. The fastest rise is to turn your oven on its lowest for two minutes, then off again. With this technique, your dough will be ready in 45 minutes. If you turn the microwave on for 30 seconds with nothing in it, then stick in the dough and shut the door, you will have to wait 1 hour for it to rise. Or if it's just hot in your house, you can put it on the counter.

(Revision: we've been making our dough the night before and putting it in the fridge. As long as it has about 24 hours to rise, it's perfect. Just be sure to let the dough come to room temperature before you begin working with it.)

Preheat oven to 475 frickin degrees. Booya!

When the dough is finished rising, it will be kind of wet. I roll it out on a piece of foil sprayed with cooking spray. That way you can set the pizza pan on top of the rolled out dough, flip the whole thing over, and peel off the foil. I use the foil again if I'm making more than one pizza that night, then toss it in the recycle bin. The heavy duty thicker foil works better than regular since dough is heavy.

I have started putting the dough in by itself for 4-5 minutes (this step is IMPORTANT--don't forget it!), taking it out and adding toppings, then putting it back for 9-10 more. This keeps the center of the dough from being gooey.

This might be the longest pizza dough recipe ever. Another thing to remember is that using too much sauce will also keep the dough from cooking, so use a little less than you think you might. Making za is so totally worth it!