Sunday, February 27, 2011

Navarra Gastronomic Week: A Taste of Navarra

The beautiful land of Navarra, Spain - you always hear about Barcelona and Madrid, but Navarra?  Where is that?  Navarra is a region in the northern part of Spain, bordering France, with the capital being Pamplona – this is where the famous running of the bulls occurs every July.  The picturesque Pyrenees mountains and lush green plains are a focal point…but what really entices me is their spectacular offerings of food and wine.

Photo courtesy of the Government of Navarra

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Vday Part 3: PB Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting

Ah, the trials and tribulations of Valentine’s Day dinner: what to make for dessert, arguably the most important part of the meal (at least in my eyes…or perhaps my tummy).  I thought long and hard and came up with the perfect way to end the meal, with all of our favorite things.  Peanut Butter.  Bananas.  Nutella.  Honestly, if I had just chopped up a banana and threw in a generous scoop of PB and Nutella, my husband would have been more than content.  But obviously, I couldn’t leave it at that.  I decided I would make, brace yourselves, a PB Banana Cake with Nutella Frosting.

I browsed online and found recipes for banana cake and Nutella frosting.  I love cream cheese frosting, so I was sold when I found this recipe.  I’m not a big fan of the buttercream frosting varieties.  There’s something about seeing that giant stick of butter when you make the frosting that is a bit of a turnoff.  A giant block of cream cheese, on the other hand, I’m all for that.  I’ll have you know that I at least used 1/3 fat cream cheese.  Also, the banana cake recipe calls for buttermilk, instead I used lowfat vanilla yogurt.  It’s the perfect substitute for buttermilk and keeps the cake nice and moist.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Vday Part 2: Sushi Rolls

Sushi rolls seem like they’d be very difficult to make, but they aren’t – come on, even I can do it.  For Valentine’s Day dinner, I made two different kinds of sushi rolls for my husband and me: a California-esque roll with imitation crab, cucumber, egg and a smoked salmon avocado roll.  When I was in high school (a long time ago), I would often make sushi rolls for lunch with my mom during summer breaks.  Basically, my mom would prepare all of the ingredients and the only thing I actually did was roll them (and I did a great job eating them too).  This is the first time I went through all of the steps on my own.  

I referenced the below recipes when making my sushi rolls, but I really just winged it based on what I remember from making them with my mom.  I cooked my rice normally as I do in a rice cooker, and once it was finished I tossed in the sugar, vinegar, and salt.  It really all depends on your own personal taste, but I like my rice a bit more on the sour side, so I added more vinegar into the mixture.  For the sliced cucumbers, I also tossed them in sugar and vinegar to give them that slight pickled flavor.  When scrambling the egg, I spread it out in the pan so it was almost as thin as a crepe then sliced it up into strips.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Vday Part 1: Chicken Satay

My husband and I love peanut butter.  We eat it every single day in exorbitant quantities and should probably lock up our peanut butter supply for our own good.  Realistically, that will never ever happen.  

For Valentine’s Day dinner, I was stumped on what to make for an appetizer.  I already knew I was making sushi for the entrĂ©e per my husband’s special request (what a lucky man hah), so I figured it would make sense to stick to the Asian route for the appetizer.  We both love Thai food, so the first thing I thought of was chicken satay with peanut sauce; especially fitting for us, since the chicken skewers are dipped in what is essentially just peanut butter.  Granted, traditional Thai peanut sauce is made with ground peanuts rather than peanut butter, but I’m all for Tyler Florence’s simple Americanized version.  

Friday, February 11, 2011

Happy Chinese New Year: Bunches of Buns

I’ve been wanting to make Chinese buns (“baozi” in Mandarin) for a while, and what better time to make them than Chinese New Year! Baozi are one of my favorite things that my mom would make for us kids at home, so this was definitely a recipe I wanted to try out on my own. I did most of this based on memory of how my mom used to make hers with the exception of the egg custard filling and crunchy sweet topping recipes.

I made four different kinds: steamed buns filled with ground beef, steamed buns filled with red bean paste, and baked buns filled with egg custard or red bean paste – these are my absolute favorite to get at a Chinese bakery, typically called “pineapple buns” because they have a crunchy sweet topping that makes them look like pineapples.

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Super Bowl of Crab Tater Tots

For me, the superbowl means pizza, wings, and any other fatty delicious food one may procure for the big game.  Besides all of the aforementioned goodness, I knew I wanted to make something to round out the typical menu.  I browsed around for recipes and lo and behold, I came across Crab Tater Tots.  Whoa.  Obviously, I had no choice but to make these so I could taste them for myself.  The original recipe I stumbled upon was from Iron Chef Michael Symon - with his method, the tots are deep fried in oil.  I like to avoid deep frying, so I found a recipe for baked tater tots - the trick the author used was breading the tots in potato chips to get that same crunchiness you would get from deep frying.  She used pop chips that are much healthier, but I on the other hand, used sea salt kettle cooked chips that aren't so healthy (probably defeated the purpose of not frying them).  

Sunday, February 6, 2011

Basque-ing in Glory

Another restaurant week adventure – my husband and I wanted to check out the newest China Grill Management restaurant, Bar Basque.  They specialize in Spanish / Basque cuisine.  Having just opened in October 2010, we figured they had to have a good restaurant week menu to woo in new clientele.  And that they did.  They had a comprehensive menu with a lot of options coming straight off their normal menu.  

Often times (or it seems so to me), restaurants tend to haphazardly throw together dishes specifically for the restaurant week menu, only to turn off diners with their mediocrity.  In my past experience, restaurants that stay true to their normal menu are far more successful and leave customers with a positive impression.