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Saturday, November 17, 2012

Raku Modern Japanese Restaurant

Flaming Sushi Rolls!

Seaweed Salad 

Tuna Pizza 

Hurricane Roll 

Tempura Green Tea Ice Cream 

My good friend Natalie kept telling me how fabulous this place Raku was, so when a Groupon appeared in my inbox I had to accept fate :) When going to a sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities I usually go into the experience with an expectation of decent seafood, and traditional fare. What I was not expecting to appear at Raku were a whole slew of unique and "modern" (hence the name) dishes reflected on the traditional but much improved. Raku opened up in Edina just off 50th and France fairly recently. Their interior is large and pleasant with light colors and cozy booths. My husband and I parked ourselves at the sushi bar and within seconds were entertained by flaming rolls, and large sashimi platters arriving in the window clad with foe ginkgo trees and figurines! This place takes the saying, "we eat with our eyes" very seriously! We started by ordering seaweed salad and tuna pizza. The seaweed was pretty traditional of course, but the pizza? at a sushi restaurant? brilliant! The crust of the "pizza" was a crispy layering of wonton wrappers which tasted like a crispy potato cake. Atop the crust lay crab-meat, a think layer guacamole, then fresh tuna, then spicy mayo and eel sauce. The combination of creamy guacamole, fresh seafood, a hint of spice and a crispy crust was undeniably delicious. I would have order another had we not ordered a sushi roll. Our sushi roll was called, " The Hurricane" and featured a mixture of spicy tuna, salmon and avocado on the inside while the outside is deep fried, cut and drizzled with fish roe, spicy mayo and eel sauce. I love the texture of deep fired sushi because the edges of the seaweed wrapper crisp up leaving a stark contrast between the crunchy outer layer and the soft inside. By the end of the meal I was not quite full, so we splurged and ordered my favorite tempura fried green tea ice cream. I have had green tea tempura ice cream before at other Japanese restaurants and could not tell much of a difference. I am sure the ice cream and technique for frying are similar, so no room for tremendous variance. While delicious, I could have gone without and enjoyed that perfect feeling of satisfaction instead of fullness! I can honesty say that Raku is now my favorite sushi restaurant in the Twin Cities!!!

Friday, November 16, 2012

Homemade Strawberry Balsamic Sauce

This holiday season, I intend to make many of my gifts instead of buying the ever-over-done sweater or gift card. I decided to practice one of my "gift" items, homemade jam. I started out making a jam, which quickly became more of a "sauce" because I omitted pectin, the gelling agent. The resulting sauce was quite delicious and versatile.  

Strawberry Balsamic Sauce
1 small bag frozen strawberries 
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar 
3-4 tbsp fine sugar
1 cup chopped mint
2-3 tbsp fresh lemon 

In saucepan, add strawberries until thawed. Then add balsamic and sugar. Cook over medium heat until boiling. Once boiled, reduce heat to low adding lemon, sugar and and mint. Cook about 15-20 minutes or until thickened and strawberries have loosened and broken down. Add more or less sugar and or lemon depending on how sweet you like your jam/sauce. Pour over ice cream, pound cake, or over toast. Enjoy!

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Sweet Potato & Kale Tart

Last night, I used my last pie crust to make another tart, this time using sautéed kale and sweet potatoes. On top of the tart, I used goat cheese which adds a great pungent note to the dish. This tart is easy to prepare ahead of time, and looks beautiful when served to guests. The colors of orange and green lend themselves well to the Thanksgiving palate, making this a nice side dish to accompany your turkey. 

Sweet Potato & Kale Tart
(Serves 4)

1 pie crust (such as Pillsbury)
2 cups fresh or frozen kale, chopped
1 tbsp butter
3 large sweet potatoes, peeled and sliced into thin rounds
3-4 tbsp truffle oil  
Salt, pepper, garlic powder, onion powder on hand 
1/2 cup goat cheese 
1 egg, whisked 

Preheat oven to 425 degrees. 
In a large frying pan, add butter and sauté kale until tender. Season with salt, pepper, garlic and onion. Set aside. On a baking sheet, add your potato rounds seasoning with salt, pepper and garlic. Drizzle with truffle oil and bake in oven at 425 for 20-30 minutes, or until lightly browned. Lay out your pie crust over parchment paper. Add a heavy layer of your baked sweet potatoes, then pile kale on top. Fold in your pie crust so that 1-2 inches are folded over. Brush egg-wash over folded edges and top with goat cheese. Bake tart at 450 degrees for 20-25 minutes, or until crust is light brown and toasted. Enjoy!!

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

Election Day Goat Cheese Risotto

It's election day and who doesn't feel great about living in the U.S.A  where we have the freedom to vote? For dinner tonight, I wanted to make an equally special dish to enjoy while watching the polls ebb and flow, and tensions rise and fall. Risotto is a special dish because: 1- it's time consuming 2- it's rich and comforting and 3- it represents our diverse cultures in the U.S.A, risotto being from Italy. I used goat cheese, peas and truffle oil to enhance my risotto and made sure to toast the arborio rice before cooking. Foodies around the country have a cooking preference for risotto, for example: some prefer al dente rice, some prefer a thick sauce and other like a runny sauce. Personally, I enjoy al dente rice and a slightly thicker sauce. It should be up to you, the chef to decide! As for the recipe, I loosely followed Jamie Oliver's recipe. Being that I failed to measure... I have posted Jamie's recipe for you below:

Monday, November 5, 2012

Caramelized Onion & Potato Tart

Tonight, I took a cue from Cookinglight and revamped their recipe for an onion tart. I followed the recipe, but added seasoned potato rounds to amp up the flavor and texture. I made sure to caramelize my onions, releasing their nature sweetness. I also added a but more spice including, basil, oregano and chili flake. I used only feta cheese, instead of swiss on top. This dish is not only delicious, but simple and easy to prepare a few days ahead. 

Click here for the recipe!

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Everest on Grand

My husband and I moved 5 blocks away from Everest on Grand in May 2012 and we only just experienced the restaurant on Monday! I had been waiting for the right excuse to go, so when my husband's co-worker invited us I was thrilled. Everest on Grand has been a St. Paul staple for years; the small two room restaurant is always packed in the evenings for dinner and during the day for their buffet lunch. Everest specializes in Nepali, North Indian and Tibetan cuisine including curries, Tandoor, noodles and their famous Nepali dumplings called, momo. Everest prides itself on making each dish from scratch and focusing on quality, fresh ingredients. I have been hearing about their momo dumplings for quite some time, and was not surprised why after eating the tiny flavorful bites. Momo are typically steamed and filled with spices, yak, lamb, chicken, veggies... you name it. The best part of the dumplings is the dipping sauce composed of tomatoes, cumin, turmeric, cinnamon, cardamon, chili, oil garlic and onion. I wanted to order a cup of this stuff and pour it over everything! We also ordered a samosa as an appetizer, which is a fried pastry composed of potato, lentils and often peas. The samosa was decent, nothing out of the norm. For our entrees, my husband and I shared Matar Paneer and Kauli. Matar Paneer is a dish of green peas cooked with Paneer cheese in a creamy herb sauce. Kauli is a cauliflower curry cooked with potatoes, peas and spices. The matar paneer came to the table with a layer of oil on top which was not exactly enticing. Looks aside, the dish hit all the right notes: rich, salty, creamy, spicy and nutty. The kauli was delicious as well, a little less soupy and fantastic mixed together with the matar paneer. I have eaten a lot of Indian food in my day, and their Indian dishes hit the mark. I would be interested on my next visit to try their Nepali and Tibetan offerings. 

Friday, November 2, 2012

Crispy Tofu Noodle Stir-fry

Tonight, I whipped up a quick noodle stir-fry using Trader Joe's brand General Tao's sauce, frozen vegetables and rice stick noodles. I am a true believer in making your life easier by cooking with store-prepared products once in a while. Life is about balance, cooking included. What made the dish so special was the crispy tofu. I used extra-firm tofu, which holds up to frying. In order to achieve a good crispy edge, it is important to drain your tofu for 10 minutes on paper towels to blot out any excess water. For frying, I added a thin layer of sesame oil over high heat, frying tofu on each side for about 3-5 minutes. Send my a pic of your next creation!