Saturday, July 21, 2007

Banana Bean Cafe, German Village, Columbus OH

I don't eat at this lovely little cafe enough. It's Southern US meets Cuban meets French. The calamari is lightly breaded and fresh-tasting -- it's been a while but I remember the chutney as spicy -- the spinach topping was also fried, an unusual touch. Then the omelette that my friend had -- that had everything in there. The shrimp and grits were so savoury -- large, succulent shrimp.

Monday, July 16, 2007

Farfalle par absorption with zucchini and cacao

This recipe is out of Clotilde's cookbook, one of my current favorite books to cook out of. This book is great for learning new combinations of ingredients and I must admit trying this recipe out of sheer curiosity of what pasta cooked by a risotto absorption method tasted like, let alone the combination of that and cacao nibs! I just knew that if I didn't employ them in some other way, my Schaffenberger cacao nibs would just go towards topping scoop after scoop of ice cream and we wouldn't want that, would we?

I won't post the recipe here -- the book is a great buy -- but basically you fry garlic and onions and then the pasta like you would arborio rice for risotto, and add stock and cook just like in a risotto. It doesn't take as long too. I would pound the cacao nib finely next time, because they tended to overpower if you bite into one in a spoonful. But they definitely give an edge to an otherwise savory pasta, putting it a notch up in extraordinariness.

Bravo, Clotilde!

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Della Santina, Sonoma, California

I almost didn't order this -- pappardelle cinghiale -- for fear that it would spoil my one experience of a the same dish -- made with wild boar indigenous to the Toscana region -- in a trip to Florence more than 2 years ago. Luckily I went ahead -- and of course I didn't remember the flavor so well after all, although I thought this one to be lighter -- just my imagination?

This was the one restaurant experience I remembered (and was remembered, as my friends will not fail to remind me) for almost going into a fit at the sight of the menu -- real northern Italian, brings back the good 'ol days of living where in a place where such food was so common. I don't care if I never made it to The French Laundry and if this was some run-of-the-mill place that Californians turn their noses up at, or if the town of Sonoma reminded me of a theme park -- for god's sake you people don't know how lucky you are.

Basi Italia

As they say -- the best part is the prettiest little garden you sit in to enjoy fresh, homely, no-fuss Mediterranean food. This was the weekday lunch menu, pecked at by office folks from downtown. The lovely part is the approach too -- for me, a short jaunt in the backroads of the Victorian Village residential estate to a little red-brick road in which the restaurant is (I think) a indicated by a vine-strewn discreet entryway and a little wooden swinging door leading to the garden.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Indian Dinner @ Dennison

Chicken curry, garlic naan, creamy mushroom and peas, and the quintessentially Indian cookie dough ice-cream and Newcastle pale ale.

Quan Ju De, Beijing

The art and style of carving duck:The crispy skin is the most precious, but check out the Olympic 5-ring burner it's on:
And finally, where many an Iron Chef sword rally was bitterly fought:

Friday, July 13, 2007

Peaches with Coconut Sorbet

You might as well call me Trader's Whore by now, judging from how half of my ingredient lists come from there. Add another: sorbet like you've never tasted before goes by the name Sharon's Sorbet, and comes in various flavors. I haven't tried most of them because I've been stubbornly loyal to Coconut. '100% coconut' my ass!, you say. But baby that's what it says on the label on that pint of goodness.

Spoon some of that on top of peeled diced peaches.

It makes for a great combo here - the sweetness of the sorbet with the sourness of peach - a distant reminder of bubor cha cha. Dang sour peaches! I want to caramelize them next, get those sugars out and dancing (no pun intended, really).

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Smoked oysters, potato and romaine salad with creamy dressing

Adapted from this and that with several pantry limitations in mind. It's a delicious cross between a caesar, a hearty grotto salad and your little black dress.

Serves 3 for appetizers, 1 as entree.

Boil 5 medium to large red potatoes, skins on, in salted water, for about 12-15 minutes. Meanwhile, chop about half a medium-sized head of romaine lettuce, wash and drain. Dice half an onion (I used white, but I'd imagine red or purple would add color and tang). Open a can of smoked oysters, drain (I used Trader Joe's). Mix these in a large salad bowl.

Vinaigrette: Whisk 2 teaspoons white wine vinegar (I used orange champagne vineger, that's all I had), 4 tablespoons mayonnaise, 1 teaspoon Dijon mustard, salt and pepper to taste. Add 3 teaspoons of extra-virgin olive oil in a steady stream, whisking with every addition. Adjust seasonings according to how creamy you like the dressing.

Drizzle over the oyster, potato and romaine salad, and serve while potatoes are still warm. I chomped it down with a glass (ok, three) of Black Mountain Malbec.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spaghetti with squid, green pepper and spicy scallop chutney sauce

I was deliberating on what to cook for lunch -- in the midst of exams and wouldn't think of running out to buy complements, and at the same time tired of the same old ways of doing pasta. So after taking some things out of the fridge, shifting packets and bottles and half-sliced vegetables around and thinking about combinations (eliminating anchovies, capers, olives and tomato out of the equation), I decided on a slight deviation from the norm: Squid with green peppers in a spicy scallop chutney.

I sauteed about half a large onion and two finely-chopped cloves of garlic in olive oil, then added chopped green pepper, stirring for a minute before adding a tablespoon of spicy scallop chutney (procured from Hong Kong, meant as -- well, a chutney!) until the green pepper looked bright and gave off that unmistakable green peppery scent (mingled with the spicy tones of reduced scallop chutney. Then added the chopped frozen calamari (half-finger length pieces, if there ever was such a measure) and a dash of oregano, salt and pepper to taste, cook for 5 minutes, then add a teaspoon (to taste) of chutney. Then in goes the pasta (spaghetti), mix it up with a cup or less of the water used for boiling the pasta over medium-high heat.

The result: just the right amount of mouth-watering spiciness from the chutney, well-matched with the tanginess of the green pepper. And well-absorbed by the calamari, without too many clashing flavors.