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Sunday, December 30, 2012

Lamb Chops over Creamed Spinach, Cilantro Cream, and Balsamic Sauce

This past weekend, I made delicious lamb chops using a simple marinade of equal parts garlic infused Worcestershire sauce and olive oil with a pinch of salt, pepper and dried oregano.  I paired my chops with a cool cilantro sauce and sweet balsamic reduction to create a balanced plate. I love the taste and texture of lamb chops. Because lamb chops are butchered on-the-bone they have a insular layer of fat which seals in their great flavor. Lamb chops are excellent to serve for a last minute special occasion because they cook up very quickly. All I did to cook my chops was saute them in a hot cast iron skillet with a drizzle of olive oil and cook 2-4 minutes on each side, depending on your taste. Try these simple recipes... maybe for your sweetheart on New Years?!

Simple Creamed Spinach

1 box frozen chopped spinach, thawed and drained of excess water
2 tbsp butter 
1/4 cup whole milk or cream 
Pinch salt, pepper, garlic and nutmeg

Add butter to saute pan over medium heat. Add spinach, and mix 1 minute, then add milk and spices. Blend well and cook 5 minutes on low. Serve with your favorite meat or vegetable dish. 

Cool Cilantro Cream

1 container sour cream
1 cup chopped cilantro 
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp fresh garlic
Pinch salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients together in blender until well combined. Serve over meat or fish.

Red Wine Balsamic Reduction

1/2 cup balsamic vinegar 
2 tsp honey 
1/4 cup red wine
1 tbsp minced shallot
1 tsp minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano

Add all ingredients to small saucepan. All ingredients to boil over medium heat. Once sauce is boiling, reduce heat to low and simmer until sauce has thickened, about 5-10 minutes. Drizzle over lamb chops, accompanied by cilantro cream. 


Sunday, December 16, 2012


Homemade roll: crab, egg, red pepper, cilantro and asparagus
Sticky rice bowl with fried egg, drizzled with eel sauce and spicy mayo

Last night I had a few friends over for a make-your-own sushi party! Over the thanksgiving holiday, I was treated to a make-your-own sushi bar put on by a relative who grew up in Japan. She is an expert on sushi making and passed on a few fun tips and tricks to me. After the trip, I could not wait to try my own sushi bar at home, hence my party last night! Unfortunately, we live in the midwest, far away from the ocean, so I made do without fresh squid, eel or fresh fish. My sushi "buffet line" included: 

- Sliced red pepper 
- Sliced cucumber 
- Sliced red onion 
- Blanched, sliced asparagus
- Bacon Bits 
- Cream cheese
- Japanese egg omelet
- Mock crab
- Shrimp ceviche 
- Scallion
- Cilantro 
- Jalapeno 
- Avocado
- Panko bread crumbs 
- Sesame Seeds 
- Eel sauce 
- Spicy Mayo 
- Pickled ginger 
- Wasabi 

Eel sauce and spicy mayo are used frequently, drizzled over fresh rolls for a sweet and spicy kick. I made the sauces from scratch, and they turned out fantastic. Here are the recipes:

Eel Sauce for Sushi 

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/2 cup mirin (Japanese sweet wine)
1/3 cup granulated white sugar 
1 tbsp minced ginger 
1 tbsp minced garlic

Heat all ingredients in small sauce pan and mix well over medium heat until mixture begins to boil. Reduce heat to low  and simmer until sauce has thickened. Refrigerate until you are ready to serve. 

Spicy Mayo for Sushi

1/2 cup mayo (preferably Kewpie- Japanese style mayo)
1-2 tsp sriracha hot sauce
1 squeeze of lemon juice 
1 tsp sesame oil 

Blend all ingredients well and serve with your sushi roll or over rice and veggies.  

Click below to watch a great sushi making video!

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Pumpkin, Spinach and Squash Lasagna

Looking for a delicious vegetarian dish you can make ahead? This lasagna I just made is super easy, tasty and healthy all in one! Try it out and share your comments with me under this posting :)

Spinach, Pumpkin and Squash Lasagna
(Serves 6-8)

1 large butternut squash, peeled and cubed
1 box oven-ready lasagna sheets
1 box frozen spinach 
1 bag frozen creamed spinach 
1 container low-fat ricotta 
1 bag mozzarella cheese 
1 tbsp minced garlic
1 tsp onion powder 
1 can non-spiced pumpkin puree
3 tbsp plain cream cheese
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
1 tbsp dried basil 
1 tbsp olive oil
Salt and pepper  

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Add cubed butternut squash to cookie sheet and bake for 30-40 minutes,until softened. 
De-thaw both regular and creamed spinach. Add thawed spinach to large bowl, mixing in ricotta, 3/4 bag mozzarella, garlic, onion and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside. Mix pumpkin together with cream cheese and set aside. When squash is threw roasting, mash up, adding a small amount of water, salt and pepper. Meanwhile in a 6x8 casserole pan begin layer your lasagna pouring olive oil in bottom, then layer sheets of lasagna noodles, then pumpkin mixture, then spinach mixture, then noodles, then squash mixture. Top lasagna with any remaining spinach mixture and bake in the oven at 425 for 20 minutes. Remove from oven, top with remaining mozzarella, panko, basil and seasonings. Broil on low 10 minutes, then top off on a high broiler setting, browning the edges as shown in the photograph. 

Monday, December 10, 2012

Shrimp Cakes Over Grilled Corn and Avocado Sauce

Last night for dinner I made some delicious shrimp cakes, based on a Cookinglight recipe. I combined the cakes with a grilled corn relish made with cilantro, olive oil and red pepper as well as a avocado sauce made with cilantro, lime, garlic, cumin and salt. These shrimp cakes are so delicious and flavorful yet light enough to make as an appetizer. The use of panko bread crumbs as a binder and crunchy coating, adds a light crispiness. I sautéed my shrimp cakes in sesame oil, to boost the flavor. I also added a few drops of fish sauce to my cake batter for an extra flavor booster. Please check out this Cookinglight recipe, you are going to fall in love with these, I promise ;)

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Buvette Gastrotheque, Greenwich Village, NYC

Over the Thanksgiving holiday, my husband and I were able to spend a few nights in New York City. Before our trip, I did extensive research on New York's hottest new restaurants. In the course of my study, I discovered Buvette, a small French gastrotheque in Greenwich Village. Gastrotheque is a French word used to express a casual restaurant serving provincial wines and small plates. I was initially drawn to Buvette for its quaint, romantic atmosphere. When we arrived, I was struck by the exceptionally squeezed size of the place. The restaurant uses miniature tables, thin surfaces and child-sized serving dishes to provide a uniquely French and uniquely delicate feeling. The interior of the space is simple and elegant with candlelit tables and bar, marble table-tops and deep woods. Buvette is French in every sense of the word. Some people wonder why French woman remain thin when their diet tends to include heavy cream, bone marrow, butter, wine and cheese. Well folks, I think I have found the answer! The French eat rich foods in very small portions.  I have to admit, they've got a great concept, if only big-macs and super-size-me media would get the hint! For dinner, we ordered a tartinette with balsamic, Parmesan, sage and prosciutto as well as mussels in white white, and a cauliflower gratin with Gruyere. The plates arrived in tiny dishes, and yet the ingredients were rich and satisfying enough to satiate our all-day-walking-appetites. We shared a delightful carafe of Sauvignon Blanc for a reasonable $18. I would highly recommend a trip to Buvette next time you find yourself in NYC. Just remember to pack light: there will be not room for bulky coats and bags ;). 

Check out their website by clicking here. 

Saturday, December 1, 2012

GRUB- Northampton, MA





Over the thanksgiving holiday, my family and I spent time with relatives in Northampton, Massachusetts. For those of you not familiar with Northampton, it has a population of around 28,000 and sits between several renowned colleges including Amherst and Smith. This particular trip was especially exciting because our relatives, Dan and Beth recently opened up a second restaurant, called GRUB in the heart of Northampton. Their first endeavor, Bistro Les Gras, an upscale French restaurant allowed Chef and owner Dan Martinez to spread his culinary wings. Cooking with local, fresh ingredients Dan specializes in farm to table preparation, leaving absolutely nothing to waste. A few years back I had the pleasure of enjoying a multiple course meal I will never forget at Bistro Les Gras. Each dish was simple, beautiful and incredibly flavorful. This year, I tried their newest project, a sandwich shop. Upon first impression, I was surprised to learn of the concept, since one successful restaurant alone is a grand achievement. I later learned from Dan why they decided to tackle such a varying genre. He replied with a smirk, "we wanted a great sandwich in Northampton... so we opened our own shop!" GRUB, is a casual joint, with a handful of booths and tables, a chalkboard menu and graffiti-clad walls. GRUB caters to the college crowd, remaining open until 2am on the weekends. What impressed me most about GRUB was the unique and eclectic menu hinting on the traditional, but with a very large curve ball! For example, they have a sandwich called the BBLT, a playful cousin to the BLT with slow-roasted pork belly, smoked bacon and ham, greens, and roasted tomato marmalade. This sandwich is massive, filling, juicy and delicious! The meats, bread, sauces and additions are all prepared from scratch. Dan has been known to "bake by day, and cook by night!" I also tried their trout salad, a healthful combination of smoked trout, quinoa, greens, almonds, olives, chevre, and cucumbers tossed in a fennel-honey vinaigrette. The salad was unlike any I have tried. I loved the play of texture created with a grain like qunioa paired with soft chevre cheese. The smokey trout also paired beautifully with the briny olives and pungent cheese. If I lived nearby, I would order that salad regularly! GRUB offers the town of Northampton elevated casual cuisine at the right price, in a casual approachable atmosphere. Congrats Dan and Beth! 

Please check out both of Beth and Dan's restaurants below to learn more.