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Thursday, May 24, 2012

Crock-pot Virgin

Yes, that's right, I was a crock-pot virgin up until a few weeks ago when I tried my hand at a traditional roast chicken! 
I have to admit, at first I was skeptical of its functionality. Slow cookers, or crock-pots as they are often referred have saved the lives of millions of parents, coming home after a long days work to screaming kids and a load of laundry up the wall. Who has time to cook a slow-cooked meal every night with all that we have going on anyhow? The slow cooker was invented and sold in the early 1970s by Naxon Utilities in Chicago, IL. Slow cookers operate under very low heat and take several hours to cook, making it a perfect tool for stews and roasts. My husband had acquired a crock-pot from his family during his college days (which of course was never used!) and as these things go, is now taking up space in our kitchen. A few weeks ago, my mother brought over a whole chicken and suggested we use the crock-pot to cook it up... what at thought ;). Anyhow, four hours and a bottle of allegro marinade later, a beautifully moist roast chicken was created! I was so impresses by the depth of flavor and tenderness of the chicken, I almost couldn't believe it. The only disadvantage to using the crock-pot on meats, is you cannot render a good char or crisp to the skin. 

To pair with my beautiful chicken, I made a delicious gravy using chicken drippings, seasoning and marsala cooking wine. Marsala wine adds a depth of flavor, unlike any other. I suggest adding it to all of your standard gravy recipes. As a side dish, I baked parmesan and corn meal crusted carrots- delish (recipe below). Moral of the story is- NEVER discount a cooking tool before you try it, and always cook with an open, curious mind. Cheers to good eats and slow cookin!

Parmesan & Corn Meal Crusted Carrots 
1 cup parmesan and 
1 cup yellow corn meal MIXED
1-2 bunches full carrot stems 
Olive oil 
Salt, pepper, garlic powder 

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Peel carrots and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle a heavy amount of olive oil over the carrots and proceed with parmesan and corn meal mixture, coating each carrot thoroughly. Drizzle the top of carrots with a little extra olive oil, salt, pepper and garlic powder and bake at 375 for about 30 minutes, or until crispy and tender. 

Monday, May 21, 2012

Panko Crusted Albacore with Curried Israeli Couscous

Our second meal in the new house, albacore tuna and curried couscous. I had never cooked with albacore before, a type of larger tuna. I read it's usually used in tuna salads, instead of steaks, but I wanted to try it anyhow. The Tuna steaks turned out alright, a bit tough and lacking a significant flavor. The Israeli couscous on the other hand was delicious, so I'll provide that recipe for you below. I incorporated sauteed apples and honey for sweetness, curry powder for heat and smokiness, sliced almonds for texture and apple cider vinegar for tang. 

Curried Sweet and Sour Israeli Couscous
1 box Israeli couscous 
1 large onion, diced 
1 large apple, diced 
3/4 cups toasted slivered almonds
1 tbsp curry or shwarma spice 
1 tbsp honey 
Apple cider vinegar 
Olive oil

Cook couscous to box instructions. In a separate skillet, sauté apples in olive oil and onion until lightly browned. Add almonds, and apple/onion mixture to couscous, adding 1 tbsp curry powder or shwarma spice and mix well. Add a splash of apple cider vinegar, honey and olive oil. Taste couscous as you go, adding more vinegar, oil or honey as needed. Pair couscous with fish, meat or alone for a healthy and delicious side.   

Friday, May 18, 2012

Butter Braised Cod Fillets with Avocado, Scallion Relish

Dinner last night was based off of pure experimentation, to which happened to turn out in my favor! I bought the cheapest fish at Trader Joe's and doctored it up with a lemon, garlic, butter and fresh chive pan sauce. As for the garnish, I pureed roasted scallions, avocado, garlic, chili powder, cumin, lemon and olive oil to create an earthy, bright accompaniment to the delicate fish. I have posted my relish recipe below for your experimentation!

Avocado & Scallion Relish
Makes about 2 cups 

1 large avocado
11/2 cup chopped scallions, pan seared until tender 
3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil 
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp minced fresh garlic 
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh minced garlic 
Pinch salt and pepper 

In a blender, pulse all ingredients together until smooth. If the mixture is too thick, add a tad more lemon and olive oil. Serve relish as a chip dip, veggie dip or on top of your favorite fish or seafood. 

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

First Meal in the New House: Cecil's Sammies!

Much needed fuel!
Nowhere to sit yet :(
Wonderful Helpers!

 Moving day, May 1st... 24 foot long truck? check! Good helpers? check! Fabulous food? check! For my first meal in the new house, I was adamant about getting deli food from Cecil's, my favorite delicatessen on Cleveland. When I was a kid at my grandmothers St. Paul apartment, we'd often stop by Cecil's to pick up dinner. Oddly enough, my Father even worked the deli for a short stint as a kid growing up in Highland. Cecil's has the best house cured corned beef and the best coleslaw I have ever had! 

Here's the scoop on how to prepare the BEST deli sammie:
1. Smear a thin layer of stone ground mustard onto pumpernickel bread
2. Pile on a heaping amount of fresh deli corned beef
3. Add a generous portion of swiss cheese
4. Pile on Cecil's coleslaw
5. Add a few thin dill pickle slices.. also available at Cecil's. 
5. If you are like me... squeeze a tad bit of ketchup onto your bread
6. DIG IN!! 
* Optional: toasting your sandwich is delicious as well. Just add your coleslaw after toasting 

Click here to visit Cecil's Website

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Moscow on the Hill

House-Made Cherry Gimlet 

Cheboureki- Lamb Stuffed pastry 

Piroshki with Cabbage and Dill Sauce 

Pelmeni- Beef and Pork Dumplings with Sour Cream and Vinegar 
First off, I apologize for my lack of posting lately. My husband and I just moved into our very first house in St. Paul. Needless to say, I have had my hands full breaking down boxes, organizing our lives and decorating our new nest!! Let it be known, I am a Minneapolis native and have only lived in St. Paul for a few month stint back in college. St. Paul is uncharted territory, and therefore perfect for culinary exploration. I love St. Paul's diverse neighborhoods boasting unique and authentic food. Travel down University Avenue and you'll be amazed by how many ethnic restaurants you find. My first St. Paul foodie outing occurred on Selby (my new favorite street) at Moscow on the Hill, a Russian restaurant with an incredible happy hour. My friend Natalie and I went on a weekday around 5pm to sample their appetizers. The restaurant is fairly large and features a beautiful patio off the back. The decor is dramatic in an over the top kind of way, but cozy and comfortable none the less. Natalie and I start by ordering a drink. Their drink menu features a wide variety of house flavored vodkas, with such unique flavors as coriander and pepper. We both order a cherry gimlet, which was tart and not too sweet- my new favorite drink. For a snack, we ordered three appetizers, which cost us a mere $8 for 3 or $3 each. Our first bite was of the meat dumplings served with a tangy dip of sour cream and vinegar. Next we sampled the cabbage roll tasting similar to a savory donut, with a hearty cabbage filling and paired with a light dill sauce. Lastly, the lamb pastry was delicious, reminding me of an empanada paired with a spicy marinara sauce. Natalie and I were impressed by our nibbles, and the lovely patio. We are eager to return to sample their vodka flights.