Monday, August 31, 2015

A Nice Way To Spend A Summer Afternoon: PNC Park

     
The beautiful skyline of Pittsburgh



Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA - mentally and physically
What I am cooking:  Beet chips, Beet Hummus, Borscht and Banana Bread (that's a lot of B's)
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Pepper Jelly


     You may find it a little strange but each time I drive into the city, I feel happy.  From my normal route, I round the bend and the city reaches up and greets me.  On the odd occasion when I come through the tunnel, BAM!  The skyline of the city slams right into me and it takes my breath away each time.  Others may take it for granted but hopefully, I never will.  You cannot have a better vantage point for viewing the city than from PNC Park, home to the city's baseball team, the Pittsburgh Pirates.  Recently, on one warm summer day, we were able to take in the view from a completely empty park and it was an incredible experience.




   
We met our young guide just inside the administrative offices of the Pirates and began our hour long tour of the stadium.  A new college graduate, this young man was living his dream...working for his favorite baseball team and his enthusiasm for the game, the team and the city was infectious.  We started beneath the stadium viewing the inner workings of the massive facility.  The team locker room is one of the biggest and nicest in the league.  We went all the way to the top where we sat in the press box and imagined what it must be like to "call" the game.  But the most impressive?  We went down on the field and sat in the dugout.  Now, that is a view!




      I never watch baseball on television.  I have a basic understanding of the game but no true love of it.  However, on a clear summer afternoon (if it isn't too hot and if the team is doing well), I think there is no better way to enjoy the day than to be part of the crowd at PNC Park cheering on the Bucs and gazing at the city's beautiful architecture.  And to bring a bit of Europe back to us, we visit The Beer Market across the street where they have an extensive collection of our favorite Belgian beers!



This weeks' CSA Plan:
Tomatoes:  Panzanella Salad made with last night's leftover baguette
Cherry Tomatoes:  On the counter to snack on throughout the week...if they last that long!
Leeks:   Leeks Vinaigrette to accompany a Roasted Chicken on Wednesday
Spaghetti Squash:  I am thinking of adding marinara and baking it with some mozzarella
Beets:  We have lots of beets...so I made several wonderful dishes which surprised everyone!
Zucchini:  In our  daily lunch salads

Thursday, August 27, 2015

Kale Pesto

     This is the second week in a row that we have received kale in our CSA shipment.  No worries, I am getting pretty good at finding creative and tasty uses for it.  I make Basil Pesto many times during the summer and while we never serve it as a sauce with pasta, we do tend to google it up with ripe tomatoes or slathered on bread or as an accompaniment for chicken.  I read recently that you can interchange the ingredients, instead of basil, use arugula;  instead of pine nuts, use walnuts.  Two ingredients seem constant:  Parmesan cheese and olive oil.
     I found a recipe from Real Simple for a pasta dish that used kale pesto so I decided to give it a try. I have to admit, I was a bit hesitant to try it but when I did...wow!  It is really different and really good.  I dotted some on a leftover baguette and had DH try it.  "Wow!  That is really different and really good."  Even DD likes it (and and she knows that it is kale).  There you go...

   


Kale Pesto
Adapted from Real Simple

Ingredients:

One small bunch of kale, stems removed and coarsely chopped
2 cloves garlic sliced
1/3 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Olive oil
1 tsp lemon zest (I used Meyer lemon but a regular would work)
2T raw almonds  (I heated these lightly in a small skillet - but be careful so they do not burn!)


In a food processor, combine the garlic and the almonds. Process lightly.  Add the lemon zest, kale, Parmesan Cheese and 2T olive oil until you get your desired consistency.  Continue to add olive oil, 1T at a time to your liking.  Season with salt and pepper if you wish, but be careful as the Parmesan already has salt in it.

This would be lovely alongside a tomato and mozzarella salad or as a spread for a baguette sandwich.

Monday, August 24, 2015

Burgh'ers Beer Dinner: Inventive Southern Food Paired with Fabulous Terrapin Brewery Beer

Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA - but mentally, I am in Athens, GA
What I am cooking:  Thai Red Curry Shrimp, Pork and Tomatillo Stew
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Kale Pesto


     
The  beginnings of Pork and Tomatillo Stew!!!


     I love it when restarts hold special event dinners.  The meals are usually three to four courses, averages included and are usually centered on a particular theme.  Recently, we attended a Southern beer dinner at Burgher's in nearby Zelienople.  This was our fist visit to the restaurant, which gained popularity because of its spectacular burgers and Chef Fiore's passion for sourcing locally.  It is a familiar theme around this area.   While the dinner would not include hamburgers, we were excited by the Southern slant.  It has been a long time since we have lived in the Deep South.  What made the event even more of a pull for us was that the paired beers came from Terrapin Brewery in Athens, Georgia.  While we were unfamiliar with the beer, we spent many a Saturday afternoon in Athens back in the day.  Go Dawgs!!
     When Chef Fiore Moletz introduced the meal, we knew we were in for something delicious.  He stressed that with the exception of the shrimp we would be eating, everything was sourced locally.  Yeah!  The room held about thirty diners and it had an open yet cozy atmosphere.  The noise level was perfect and the music did not overpower conversation.  We settled into our seats waiting patiently for the evening to begin.
     The first course was Southern standard snack, pork rinds.  These were no regular pork rind.  These were made from  pigs that were raised less than ten miles away.  The rinds were crispy and not greasy and the spicy Ole Bay seasoning paired nicely with the Terrapin Hopsecutioner IPA.  We were happy to have leftovers to munch on the following day.
   
Fried Green Tomatoes with Pimento Cheese Sauce Served Over Cornbread

   The second course was perfection: two fried green tomatoes served over cornbread with a pimento cheese sauce.   It combined some of my favorite Southern foods, cornbread, pimento cheese and green tomatoes.  Unfortunately, I did not get much as DD ate most of the tomatoes, leaving the cornbread for me.  This was also paired with a Terrapin beer but for the life of me, I cannot remember which one.  Terrapin's Maggie's Farmhouse Ale, a summer brew, did a nice job alongside the tomatoes.
Pickled Shrimp


     Pickled shrimp was the third course.  Served in small drinking glasses, again, it showcased the originality of the chef and was the only non-locally sourced dish.  The pickled onions were still crunchy and paired nicely alongside the cold, pickled shrimp although the Ole Bay seasoning was a bit overpowering.  The chef decided that there was no beer that would pair nicely for this dish and that made perfect sense.


Pickled Fried Chicken and Catfish
   
Again, three beloved Southern favorites with a creative twist made up the main course.  Pickled fried chicken was served alongside fried catfish and a side of coleslaw.  The pickle juice permeated the chicken in a very positive way and the meat was flavorful and juicy.  The catfish was served at room temperature and would have been better at a hotter temp but it was still very tasty.  I couldn't finish the chicken but did enjoy it later in the week in a salad.  Another Terrapin IPA was served with the main, Hi-5 IPA and while I am not a big fan of IPAs, this one was quite good.

   
Bread Pudding
     Bread pudding was for dessert and it was heavenly.  Light and tasting almost like a cinnamon bun, it was, unfortunately for me, too much.  My stomach could not take any more.  DD indicated on several occasions that she did not like bread pudding so she did not need to try it.  We nagged her enough and then the dish disappeared...I guess she changed her mind.  I did have room for the beer pairing, Terrapin's Liquid Lunch, a peanut butter and jelly porter.  Seriously...and it was delicious.
     I loved the fact that the Chef roamed around the room many times throughout the evening, talking with friends, meeting new guests and making sure that everyone was happy.  Between courses, a lively Q & A game kept the dinners entertained.  The service was great, the food was spectacular and overall, it was a great end to a weekend.  Beginning at 6pm and ending just after 8pm, we still had time to enjoy a Sunday evening before heading back to work on Monday.
    I guess we will have to make our way over there again sometime to try the burgers!

Burgh'ers
100 Perry Highway
Harmony, PA 16037
www.burghersinc.com

This weeks' CSA Plan:
Tomatillos:  Pork and Tomatillo Stew - Make Ahead Dish
Heirloom Tomatoes:  Simple - just eat them
Kale:  Kale Pesto
White Onion:  Good staple to have around
Red Potatoes:  Again, good staple to have around
Jalapenos :  I have become a big fan of bacon wrapped jalapeños this summer
Watermelon:  Just eat!

 
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Thursday, August 20, 2015

Kale and White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage

Kale and White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage  

     Over the past few weeks, I have been stocking the freezer with make ahead dinners.  We call it "laying - in."  It sounds strange, I know, but once school and activities start next week, the last thing that we want to worry about is the answer to this question, "What's for dinner?"  So for the past month or so, once a week I make a meal to freeze.  Here is an easy method to get the most room out of your freezer:  If the dish is a soup, stew or sauce once it has cooled, pack it in gallon freezer ziplocc bags.  Get as much air out of the bag as possible and then lay flat on a cookie sheet.  Most of the dishes that I make will feed us for two to three meals so I will have two to three freezer bags, which will lay on top of each other on a cookie sheet.  Then, I put it in the freezer until frozen. Now they are stackable and take up less room. Don't forget to write on the bag so you know the date you made the dish and the name of the dish.  On the morning of the day you are serving, take a bag out of the freezer and let it defrost in the refrigerator.  When you get home, you will have dinner in no time!
     With this week's shipment of kale, carrots and onions and knowing that I had a package of Italian sausage in the freezer and a bag of white beans in the pantry, coming up with this dish was easy.  It may be a bit hearty for this time of year but I bet in a few weeks, it will suit us just fine as Fall rolls in and this soup tastes better the next day anyway.








Kale and White Bean Soup with Italian Sausage

Ingredients:

1 lb dried white beans (I used Great Northern but you can use cannelloni or navy)
1 lb mild Italian Sausage 
2 onions, coarsely chopped (I used one red and one yellow)
4 to 5 carrots, sliced
1 lb kale, stems and center ribs discarded and the leaves coarsely chopped
2T olive oil
4 cloves of garlic, finely chopped
6 cups chicken broth
1 quart water
1 piece of Parmigiano Reggiano rind  (Do NOT opt out of this.  Just cut off a slab of the rind.  Trust       me...it will add great flavor)
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 bay leaf
1 tsp dried oregano

1.  Rinse the beans in a colander for a minute or so.  Then place in a pot, cover with water, place the top back on and leave to soak overnight.  The next day, drain and rinse again.
2.  Heat olive oil in a large soup pot over moderately low heat.  Add the onions and cook until softened and translucent, about 4-5 minutes.  Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute.  Add the broth, beans, salt, pepper, bay leaf, oregano and cheese rind and simmer, uncovered, until the beans are tender, about 2 hours.
3.  While the soup is simmering, cook the Italian sausage.  I had sausage links but you could use bulk sausage.  I took the casings off the links, portioned pieces off with a spoon and rolled into small meatballs.  In two batches, I cooked them, saving any of the pan drippings.
4.  Once the beans are tender, add the carrots and simmer for 10 minutes.  Stir in the kale and sausage.  Add 1/2 quart to 1 quart of water if needed.  Cook, uncovered and stirring from time to time for 15-20 minutes until the kale is tender.  Season with salt and pepper.

Serving suggestions:
I think some grated Parmesan would be nice addition to each bowl along with garlic bread or toasts.  Perhaps adding some small tortellini when reheating the soup would also be nice.

Beautiful View of the city from PNC Park!







Monday, August 17, 2015

Andalusian Breakfast and the Quiet of Lake Arthur

Quiet morning on Lake Arthur
   
Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA - but mentally, I am in Spain
What I am cooking:  Anthony Bourdain's Hanger Steak Salad, White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage; Huckleberry Muffins
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage

     Last October, we travelled somewhere every weekend of the month.  These were not small trips. From Belgium, we travelled first to Berlin (for a swim meet), then to Seville (to show DD our new favorite city), on to a Fall Meeting along the Rhine with a group of European friends and we finished off the month by driving to Austria to see the opening of the 2014-2015 FIS World Cup Skiing circuit.  By the first weekend in November, there was no way that we were getting in a car or a plane.
     We call them "Down Days" and right now, we really do not need them.  In fact, we have realized that doing absolutely nothing on either a Saturday or Sunday actually makes us really cranky.  We, being the adults in this family; DD is perfectly happy to sleep in, watch tv, text friends, etc.  However, with only one week left before school begins, I can't blame her.  This morning, DH and I drove out to Lake Arthur and for ninety minutes, kayaked around the lake.  It was very peaceful with only a handful of fishermen out on the lake at 8:00 a.m.  We arrived home two hours later, refreshed...and hungry.
     In Seville, the traditional Andalusian breakfast is a tostada.  No, this isn't a fried corn tortilla topped with refried beans ala Taco Bell.  Rather, it is a toast.  The tostada menus at many of Seville's cafes will contain ten to twenty different varieties.  Our favorite is the tostada con tomate.  Simply put, it is toast served with tomatoes.  What is infuriating to me is that I cannot recreate the tomato mixture at home.  I am just not that talented.  However, I do have a favorite online Spanish food purveyor (La Tienda) that carries just the perfect tomato mixture so I always have enough jars in my pantry for a spur of the moment Spanish breakfast.  In the refrigerator, I still have a few precious packages of jamon iberico de bellota (ham from special black pigs that have been raised on acorns...that is a whole other blog...).
     I will explain this simple yet fabulous breakfast more in pictures.  A morning of kayaking, an Andalusian breakfast and the Sunday newspapers...that is much better "Down Day."

This is the star...tomatoes with salt and garlic



Tomato Spread, Spanish Olive Oil and Salt

Let's not forget the Jamon Iberico de Bellota


The Tostada - lightly toasted.

Drizzle the olive oil on the tostada and let it really sink in!

Spoon the tomato spread all over the tostada and top with salt.


This weeks' CSA shipment contained:  Carrots, Green Beans, Huckleberries, Red Onion, Corn, Heirloom Tomatoes, PattyPan Squash, Kale

After a week of dining out, we are ready for a food detox.  This week, a simple protein and simple vegetables!

This weeks' CSA Plan:
Carrots:  Easy - Put into Dear Husband's daily lunch
Green Beans:  Simple - just blanch them
Kale:  White Bean and Kale Soup with Sausage
Huckleberries:  Huckleberry Muffins - tasty with less sugar
PattyPan Squash:  Slice into disks and roast
Corn:  Boil and eat - really, we are keeping it easy
Tomatoes:  Caprese Salad with Burrata or Mozzarella



Friday, August 14, 2015

Spanish Gazpacho

          With tomato season in full blast, this is an excellent way to use ones that may be a bit too ripe.  It is easy, refreshing and truly Spanish.  Needless to say, it is a favorite of mine.








Spanish Gazpacho
Adapted from La Tienda


Ingredients:

2 lbs ripe tomatoes
2 cucumbers, peeled
1/2 small sweet onion
1/4 yellow or red bell pepper (I actually used one cubanella pepper, which is very mild)
4 slices French bread, moistened with water
3 cloves garlic, chopped
4 T extra virgin olive oil
4 T sherry vinegar, preferably vinegar from Jerez, Spain
1 t salt, or to taste

Bring a pot of water to boil and plunge in the tomatoes for about 30 seconds to a minute in order to loosen the skins.  Take out and under running cold water, peel the skins.  Coarsely chop the tomatoes and place in the bowl of a food processor.  Squeeze out the liquid from the bread and add to bowl.  Then add chopped garlic, pepper, oil, vinegar, cucumbers, onion and salt.  Puree to desired consistency.  Some like it chunky and some like it smooth...your call.

Refrigerate for at least an hour to cool and to let the flavors meld.  Serve in small bowls or glasses garnished with a sprig of basil or a bit of finely chopped cucumbers or peppers.


Thursday, August 13, 2015

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Dinner with Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Food Bloggers at The Grand Concourse

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     The Grand Concourse restaurant is one of Pittsburgh's iconic landmarks.  It began its life in 1901  as the crowning jewel of the Pittsburgh and Lake Erie Railroad.  The station, on the banks of the Monongahela River, ushered passengers on 78 trains per day.  In 1978, it was resurrected, beautifully restored and reopened as The Grand Concourse restaurant.  Its majestic walls whisper the history of its beginnings and glancing around one can view the ticket counter, have a drink in the baggage room, revel in the expanse of the main hall or experience quiet dining in the Women's Waiting Room.  Prior to Monday evening, I had dined here only once.  My family and I celebrated my college graduation there many, many moons ago.  So, I was excited to learn that dinner for the Pittsburgh Restaurant Week Bloggers would be held here.  Armed with my photographer, I wasn't quite sure what to expect - regarding the food or the other diners.  I will cut to the chase now...it was a very nice evening.

     I will get to the food shortly.  I have to admit that I felt a bit out of my league attending my first blogger's dinner.  I realized very quickly that I was probably the oldest of the group.  In those first few minutes, I learned a great deal:  (1) get business cards; (2) Facebook, Twitter, Instagram must become my friends; (3) learn how to take better pictures with my iPhone.   By midnight, Dear Daughter had created Twitter and Facebook sites for me and I woke up on Tuesday morning with a slew of emails indicated that "so and so" was now "following" me.  I have a long way to go, but WOW!

     The $30.15 Restaurant Week Menu was quite diverse offering a choice of four starters, four entrees and two desserts.  It was instantly obvious that the restaurant management truly supported the whole idea of this food-centric week.  The Manager checked on our group several times, gave us a history of the restaurant and his overall demeanor created a welcoming atmosphere.  The wait staff were very informative, providing suggestions and expertly paired wine with each course for those that asked.  On a Monday night, the restaurant was on the quiet side, which also made it easy for a group of 15 to talk.

     Dear Daughter, my date and new photographer, chose the Martha's Vineyard Salad as her first course.  This simple salad of mixed greens, pine nuts, red onion and crumbled blue cheese was elevated with a subtle raspberry vinaigrette.  The sous chef explained that this particular dish had been on the menu for nearly 30 years.  We agreed it should be on the menu for another thirty.

Martha'sVineyard Salad - on the menu for 30 years!

     I opted for the Summer Chopped Salad, which came with grilled Chambersburg peaches, blue cheese, candied pecans and the largest blackberries I had ever seen.  It was very lightly dressed, which I loved.  So often, you get a salad that is just dripping in dressing.  This time, the dressing just complimented the dish and it allowed the stars (peaches and blackberries) to shine.  

Summer Chopped Salad with Chambersburg Peaches


    Other first course options included a menu mainstay of Charley's  Chowder, a Mediterranean seafood stew that reminded me of Soupe de Poisson and a Watermelon Gazpacho served a large martini glass.  I heard positive comments on both.

     For the main course, I went a bit out of my comfort zone, when I chose the Roasted Sirloin with Sweet Pepper Chutney and Chili Oil.   I was a bit scared by the chili oil as I normally do not like spicy food.  With the first bite I thought, "Oh, no.  This was the wrong choice for me."  I noticed several of my fellow dinners having perhaps the same thought.  However, we all ventured on and actually, it was quite good.  The meat was cooked to my request of medium rare.  The chutney provided a sweetness that offset the slight heat of the oil.  A chunky, creamy, rich mashed potatoes accompanied the dish and everyone commented on its wonderful flavor.

Roasted Sirloin with Sweet Pepper Chutney and Chili Oil

     Dear Daughter had a harder time choosing.  She did not want the beef because of the chili oil   There was a vegetarian option of Coconut Curry Vegetables served over Basmati Rice but she did not go vegetarian.  She was close to ordering the Mediterranean Chicken Breast but did not want the feta creamed spinach.  So, she chose the Lemon Scented King Salmon, which really surprised me because she is not a fan of cooked salmon.  Salmon Tartare, Smoked Salmon, Salmon Sashimi are huge favorites with her but not any type of cooked salmon and believe me, I have tried.  The presentation was quite nice, the filet of salmon was perched atop a sweet potato mash.  A relish of corn and blueberries topped the dish.  Unfortunately, the salmon was overcooked and the mash...no one could quite figure out if it was actually sweet potato or something else.  She indicated that she should have had the chicken as she heard the positive comments from the other diners.

Lemon Scented King Salmon with Corn and Blueberry Salsa

     For dessert, D2 had to have her second creme brûlée of the day but unfortunately, the custard with this one was too "eggy" for her taste.  I ordered the Media Luna, which was a beautiful chocolate bomb - very rich and very good.

Creme Brûlée

     I was very pleasantly surprised by the quality of the food and the dedication of the chef to source locally.  The staff was attentive but not overly so.  The company was interesting and I learned a great deal from these accomplished bloggers who are so dedicated to promoting Pittsburgh.  I won't wait another 20+ (ouch) years to return.

Media Luna - Decadent and Good!


The Grand Concourse
100 West Station Square
Pittsburgh, PA
www.muer.com/grand-concourse

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

Pittsburgh Restaurant Week: Lunch at Paris 66


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     We enter the small restaurant and we are greeted with one word that brings a smile to my face and ignites memories instantly:  "Bonjour."  Am I in Pittsburgh or have I just travelled to my favorite village in France?   The restaurant looks as though it was plucked from Paris.  A long mirrored wall, low lights and two-top tables that can easily be joined to make room for four or more.  Framed French prints adorn the walls and while the decor is a bit kitschy, it is not at all surprising and strangely comforting.  All in all, it was a good beginning.
     I wasn't disappointed when that one French word was the last I would hear until we departed.  The good vibe continued as the waiter greeted us and asked us if we had a preference of dining inside or out on the patio, "Although, it is pretty warm out there..."  Continued good sign.  He expertly seated us in the small dining area, keeping us just separate from the other diners on either side.  I suspect it could get quite loud during a crowded weekend evening but for lunch on a Monday, the noise level was manageable.
     The waiter presents us with menus and then explains that as this week is Restaurant Week, there is a special prix fixe lunch menu consisting of a choice of two starters, three entrees and one dessert.  The main menus are never opened as we are specifically here for the first of our Restaurant Week meals.

     You have heard me go on and on about our love of long, luxurious, multi course French Sunday lunches.  However, we also are very fond of the weekday set menu, which usually includes a starter, the plat du jour and dessert or cheese at a price of $10.90 without wine or $13 with 1/4 liter of wine.  The lunch would be simple, really tasty and quite economical.  We have noticed that this is not at all a popular option in the States.  While you may have an hour plus for lunch in many places in France, here in the U.S. many have barely enough time to grab a sandwich and eat while answering emails.  But, that is an entirely different rant...
     So, we were all excited to have a Monday prix fixe lunch at Paris 66, which is touted as being the best French restaurant in the city.  Hearing "Bonjour" when I entered, I was really looking forward to reliving some wonderful memories.

     Vegetable puree or a goat cheese salad were the two starter choices.  None of us were interested in soup so we each had the salad.  Simple (which it needed to be), a mound of dressed greens centered the plate along with walnuts (for crunch) and halved cherry tomatoes.  The sliced cucumbers were a bit of overkill in my view.  To each side was a slice of baguette topped with goat cheese, which was then toasted.  At my favorite working class brasserie in France, we would have had just the dressed greens and goat cheese toasts...that simple.  However, this was very good and we were excited for the main course.


     We had three options for the main and as we were a party of 3, we chose one of each.  Dear Husband opted for the daily quiche.  He is quite fond of ordering quiche or an omelet at brasseries and the description of this one sounded quite yummy:  Three Cheese Quiche with blue, goat and swiss cheeses.  A small salad accompanied it.  The custard was thick and rich; although the temperature was extremely hot and the top, a little overly browned. Once it cooled down a bit, it was very good and dangerously filling.

     I ordered the Chicken with Mustard Sauce.  Again, this was a simple dish, which is what I expected and wanted.  Yet simple should not mean devoid of flavor.  The chicken breast had a rubbery consistency and the sauce had NO flavor - honestly, I could not find any hint of mustard and its strange orange-brown color was a bit distracting.  I did bring the remainders home and tried it again...and I still do not get any flavor whatsoever.  It wasn't bad...but it definitely was not in the least bit memorable in a positive way.     The fries; however, were superb.  Crispy, flavorful with just the right amount of salt, they were expertly accompanied by a small jar of mayonnaise.  The Belgians would have been proud!

     Dear Daughter had the Mussels in White Wine - Moules Mariniere.  Honestly, this is a tough choice for us.  We love mussels. We make mussels.  We have even foraged for our own mussels.  Finally, we love Breton mussels...so small and so sweet - they need just a bit of sauce.  So we can be a hard judge of mussels and while we desperately want them - we have not even summoned enough courage to make them here.  We do not want to be disappointed.

     The sauce must have been good because every bit of DD's fries were dunked into it - as it should be.  Frankly, with Moules Frites...there does not need an accompaniment of mayo...you have the sauce.  But sadly, the mussels tasted really old.  This was confirmed when we overheard the teenage boy sitting next to us explain to his father that he did not like the mussels.  Perhaps, it was because we were dining on a Monday and maybe the next shipment was occurring on Tuesday.  But where I could say that perhaps my option was just created for Restaurant Week; the mussels are consistently on the menu. It was...disappointing.
     Dessert was a savior.  The previously advertised Almond Tarte was gone and in its place was Creme Brûlée, which happens to be DD's favorite.  She wholeheartedly gave it a thumbs-up, which was the only way she could communicate while devouring it.  DH and I opted to take ours home to enjoy (or perhaps for DD to enjoy) later in the week.
     
One of the advantages to this restaurant week is that we plan to visit and explore our local restaurants in order to learn more about our new community.  Paris 66 has some great items and we liked the vibe.  On the regular menu are galettes, which are crepes made from buckwheat flour and a specialty of Brittany, France.  I am not sure if we would make the drive into the city to have dinner there, but I would be willing to meet DH for lunch one afternoon and sample the galettes.  Maybe they will sell me a few and I can assemble them at home.

Paris 66
6018 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
www.paris66bistro.com





Monday, August 10, 2015

Ode to the Tomato: Tomato Baguette with Basil Mayonnaise

Location Today:  Pittsburgh, PA - although we just returned from Knoxville, TN
What I am cooking:  Jalapeno Poppers, Stuffed Pepper Soup, Mexican Black Bean and Corn Salad
Upcoming Recipe on Thursday:  Spanish Gazpacho (to carry on with the tomato theme)



   
     Ever since we visited Seville, Spain last summer, we cannot get enough of tapas.  The one important trait that we learned was that tapas did not have to be some elaborate set of delicacies.  Some of our favorites included no cook items such as Iberico jamon or a simple mozzarella and tomato salad.  Other favorites were more complicated:  Pan seared tuna or braised pork cheeks.  Each portion is just enough to give our family of three just a bite or two.  Our strategy is to order just two tapas at a time.  Eat a little, drink a little, talk a lot and then decide what is next.  "Do we stay here for another round or do we walk up the street to the next spot?"  We all participate in the meal, discuss the outcome and thoroughly enjoy ourselves.
     Needless to say, we have adopted this same mentality at home.  Every two weeks or so, we have our own version of tapas.  Always served two at a time, it is a mixture of the easy and the more complicated.  One such night included Salmon Tartare with an Avocado Wasabi Cream, Apple Stilton Welsh Rarebit, Crab and Cream Cheese Wontons and Roasted Figs.   We eat a little, drink a little and talk a lot...then the next round.  We might finish with a plate of various Belgian chocolates.  It works for us.  I have been known to go a bit over the top and call "leftover night" our "tapas night".  That doesn't sit too well with the group.
     With the peak of the summer vegetable season, we centered Sunday night's tapas on the tomato.  Like many people, I LOVE really good tomatoes.  What is so hard is that how many times during the year do you get a really good tomato?  Luckily with our CSA shipments this summer, we are receiving some good ones and that puts a smile on all of our faces.
     With a mistaken delivery of buttermilk on Friday instead of cream, we made another batch of fried green tomatoes.  Everyone had at least one slice, which paired nicely with cool Spanish Gazpacho.    The heirlooms that I received on Friday were dressed with fresh basil pesto and burrata cheese.  Finally, I had to have a tomato sandwich but mine was served on a baguette and garnished with a basil, garlic mayo.  I have to say, it was the hit of our "Ode to the Tomato" Tapas.







     We were in Tennessee last week and while there, I was able to visit Benton's Bacon and I have to tell you, it was a wonderful experience.  I took lots of notes and lots of pictures and will be sharing this adventure with you in the near future.  I also dined at the Foothills Milling Company in Maryville, TN and the food was out-of-this-world!

This weeks' CSA shipment contained:  Carrots, Yellow Beans, Green Peppers, Red Onion, Watermelon, Heirloom Tomatoes
This weeks' CSA Plan:
Carrots:  Easy - Put into Dear Husband's daily lunch
Yellow Beans:  A wonderful accompaniment to left over salmon
Green Peppers:  Knowing that school will be starting soon and our schedules will be a bit crazy, I am going to make a Stuffed Pepper Soup that I can freeze.
Red Onion:  Grilled them last night with T-Bone Steaks!
Watermelon:  No plan...just eat
Heirloom Tomatoes:  Ode to Tomato

Tomato Baguette with Basil Mayonnaise
Mayo adapted from Ina Garten

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Sushi, Sushi! We Want More Sushi! - Plum Pan Asian

   Yikes:  The fried green tomatoes with remoulade sauce were wonderful but recipe and lovely pictures from my new food photographer will be coming soon. I was not able to get around to the gratin this week as we are travelling. Stay tuned to stories about the famous Benton's Bacon.  In the meantime, I will be blogging next week for Pittsburgh's Restaurant Week.  Six restaurants in five days...wow!


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  Each summer while we lived in Europe, Dear Daughter would travel back to the United States and spend several weeks with friends and family.  Each year, she would return and would regale us with stories of her visit to Plum Pan Asian to have sushi.  In the early days, her sushi favorites were pretty benign, Avocado Roll, Cucumber Roll, California Roll.  However, last year she proudly boasted that her Uncle had convinced her to have some tuna sashimi...and she loved it.  Her aunt and uncle gave her the perfect Christmas gift this past December, a gift card to Plum.
     We waited until DD's best friend arrived from Italy, who also likes sushi, to head into the city for lunch and a museum visit.  The menu at Plum is extensive, covering several countries:  Japan, Thailand, China and even Southeast Asia.   Our small group focused mainly on the sushi but we did manage to taste a few other dishes.  
     From the get-go, there is parking in the garage next door - which is a huge plus given its location in East Liberty.  The restaurant, while not large, has a open, modern feel to it.  There is a small bar area which opens up into the dining room.  Massive windows bring in the light and there is a small courtyard area in the front for alfresco dining.  We were greeted by a very friendly front of house, who escorted us to our table.  As it was in the corner, I had high hopes for its intimacy.  However, the height of the tables do not coincide with the height of the chairs so I felt that I was a child needing a high chair.  The distance from myself at one end of the rectangle to DD at the other end was a bit far  so it seemed to impede conversation.  But the main detractor was that the room was quite chilly for our entire group.  We moved outside and as it was a very pleasant day, we were seated at a small round table much more conducive to conversation, or so we thought.  It might have been nice if the chairs had cushions to make them more comfortable but the biggest issue (which was not the fault of the restaurant), was all of the construction noise.  Oh well, I thought.  I am dining with two teenage girls who will not have much conversation with me anyway.
     Dear Daughter loves sushi so her choices were easy.  Since she knew she was using her gift card, I think her choices were a bit on the frugal side as she wanted leftover funds for a return visit.  DD's friend chose Yaki Udon, which were noodles with mushrooms, bean sprouts, cabbage, carrots and chicken.  In addition, as she loves sushi and had skipped breakfast (due to sleeping in very late!), she also chose the Sushi Club Roll, which contained among other things, lobster salad, spicy tuna, avocado, crab assembled like a club sandwich with a soy crepe standing in for the bread.  It was an impressive site.  I went with my old standard as I want to judge the quality of the fish - the sashimi lunch, which was an assortment of 12 pieces of sashimi.  For the table, I ordered Hand Rolled Portk Fried Dumplings because, well, because I like them.
     Service was very nice but a bit slow given that the restaurant was not crowded.  We managed through the din of the construction noise to have some conversation while waiting for the appetizer to arrive.  The dumplings were delicious; crispy on one side, delicious pork on the inside and a nice sauce to accompany them.  There was just enough for each of us to have two but I noticed that DD managed to swipe a third one when no one was looking.
     The presentation of the sushi and sashimi was impressive.  The Sushi Club, while on the expensive side, was an ample portion and surprisingly, all the flavors complemented each other quite well.  Dear Daughter quite enjoyed her California roll and her tuna/avocado roll.  To fill her sashimi fix, she did manage to have one piece of my salmon sashimi and one piece of the tuna.

California Roll and Tuna Avocado Roll

Sushi Club Roll
     The portion size for my sashimi lunch was quite surprising.  I normally prefer a thinner cut of sashimi but I appreciated the attention to detail on the plate.  All of the fish was quite fresh.  The only disappointment was the flavor of the tuna sashimi.  It was missing.   I can get sashimi grade tuna at Wholey's and slice my own sashimi and it tastes amazing!  DD's friend loved the noodles and I was amazed that she could eat the entire plate and her sushi club roll.  Oh, to be young!

Yaki Udon

Sashimi Lunch Combo

     Sushi is expensive - there is no denying this; however, good sushi is just so, so good.  We really enjoyed the meal at Plum Pan Asian and due to DD's frugality, she has enough left on her card for a return visit!  Now if I could just get them as excited to visit a museum as they were to have sushi.

Plum Pan Asian Restaurant
5996 Centre Avenue
Pittsburgh, PA
www.plumpanasiankitchen.com