25 May 2009

May recipes

I spent a week at home in mid-May. During the week, I did a lot of work in my yard and got my flowers and herbs planted. I also did a lot of cooking. As a present to my wife, I cooked dinner every night of the week. It gave me a chance to try a bunch of recipes that I hadn’t taken time to try previously. All of the recipes were from Bon Appetit 2008.

I asked Linda which recipe she liked best. She declined to pick one. So for Krik’s Picks, I’m posting the two that were my favorites. One was what I considered to be the best meal of the week. The other was the most fun to prepare.

Shrimp Skewers with Tzatziki, Spinach & Feta

This recipe was my favorite meal of the week. I’ve made tzatziki before but this one had some interesting differences – shallots instead of garlic and aniseed. The recipe calls for cubing the cucumber, but I did a coarse grate on a box grater. It also called for using Greek yogurt, and I used a regular, whole-milk yogurt.



As you can see in the photo, I also served orzo with the meal. For the orzo, I tossed the cook pasta with fresh garden herbs, olive oil, and feta cheese.

Ingredients:

1 cup yogurt

1 cup 1/4-inch cubes English hothouse cucumber

3 tablespoons chopped fresh dill

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice plus additional for drizzling

2 tablespoons chopped shallots

1 1/4 teaspoons aniseed, finely crushed, divided

Olive oil (for brushing and drizzling)

1 pound uncooked large shrimp, peeled, deveined, tails left intact

8 cups baby spinach leaves

3/4 cup crumbled feta cheese

Preparation:
Mix yogurt, cucumber, dill, 2 tablespoons lemon juice, shallots, and 3/4 teaspoon crushed aniseed in small bowl; season tzatziki generously with salt and pepper. Chill.


Prepare barbecue (medium-high heat). Brush grill with oil. Thread shrimp onto 4 metal skewers. Brush shrimp all over with olive oil; sprinkle with salt, pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon crushed aniseed. Grill just until shrimp are opaque in center, about 3 minutes per side. Divide spinach among 4 plates; drizzle lightly with additional lemon juice and olive oil. Top each with 1 shrimp skewer. Spoon tzatziki over shrimp; sprinkle with feta cheese and serve.


Bon Appétit August 2008

Individual Zucchini, Lemon & Ricotta Galettes


So this recipe was the most fun to make, and for me, also the most challenging. I’ve never been good at making pie crust. But my daughter-in-law taught me how to use the food processor to make a good pie (or in this case, pastry) crust. The fact that they turned out so nicely made it very satisfying for me.

Yield: Makes 6 galettes

Ingredients:

Crust:

2 cups all purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) chilled unsalted butter, cut into 1/2-inch cubes

4 tablespoons (or more) ice water


Filling:

5 2/3 cups coarsely grated zucchini (about 1 1/3 pounds)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt, divided

4 tablespoons butter, divided

4 teaspoons extra-virgin olive oil

1 cup finely chopped onion

1 small garlic clove, minced

2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1 1/4 cups ricotta cheese

1/3 cup plus 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese

1 large egg

2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel

1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper

Coarse salt

Preparation:

For crust:
Whisk flour and salt in medium bowl. Using fingertips, rub butter into flour mixture until coarse meal forms. Add 4 tablespoons ice water, 1 tablespoonful at a time, stirring until dough forms moist clumps, and adding more water by teaspoonfuls as needed if dough is too dry. Form dough into 2 balls; flatten each into disk. Wrap in plastic wrap and chill at least 30 minutes. DO AHEAD: Can be made 2 days ahead. Keep chilled. Let stand at room temperature 15 minutes before rolling out.


For filling:
Place zucchini in colander set over large bowl. Sprinkle with 3/4 teaspoon salt and toss to coat. Let drain 30 minutes. Working in batches, squeeze zucchini in kitchen towel to remove as much liquid as possible.

Melt 2 tablespoons butter with oil in heavy large skillet over medium heat. Add onion and sauté until soft and translucent, about 7 minutes. Add garlic and sauté until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add zucchini and lemon juice; reduce heat to medium-low and cook until zucchini is tender, stirring occasionally, about 12 minutes. Cool to room temperature.

Whisk ricotta cheese, 1/3 cup Parmesan, egg, lemon peel, 1/2 teaspoon pepper, and remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt in medium bowl. Stir in cooled zucchini mixture.

Preheat oven to 425°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment paper. Roll out 1 dough disk to 1/8-inch thickness. Using 6-inch-diameter plate, cut out 3 dough rounds. Repeat with remaining dough. Place 3 dough rounds on each baking sheet.

Melt remaining 2 tablespoons butter. Spoon 1/2 cup filling into center of 1 dough round, leaving 1 1/4- to 1 1/2-inch border. Carefully fold up border, pleating dough edges to create round pastry with about 2 to 21/2 inches of exposed filling in center. Repeat with remaining filling and dough rounds. Brush crusts with melted butter. Drizzle any remaining melted butter over filling in centers. Sprinkle galettes with remaining 1/4 cup Parmesan cheese. Sprinkle lightly with coarse salt.


Bake galettes 15 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375°F. Bake until crust is golden and filling is set and begins to brown, about 25 minutes longer. Run spatula under galettes to loosen. Let rest 5 minutes. do ahead Can be made 4 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.
Serve individual galettes hot or at room temperature.

Bon Appétit October 2008

24 May 2009

Another French restaurant in DC: Café du Parc


I must be in a Paris state of mind. I was in DC in early May and went to another French restaurant. Add that to Meritage in St. Paul in March and again in April for lunch and Montmartre on my most recent trip to DC.

The restaurant I went to in early May was Café du Parc. It’s located immediately adjacent to the Willard Hotel. The friend I met recently retired from lobbying. The term ‘lobbying’ was invented, according to at least one story, to describe the influence peddlers who hung out in the lobby of the Willard to meet government officials. So it was an appropriate place for us to dine.

We had a great time talking and a fantastic meal.

The Café offers a three-course ‘prix fixe’ dinner. You select a salad/starter, entrée with side dish, and a dessert for $37.95. (Not all of the items on the menu are available with the prix fixe offer.)

I started with the ‘Salade du Parc.’ It was sort of like a Cobb salad, with lettuce, cheese, hard-cooked eggs, avocado, onions and bacon. It was very good, but I think my friend’s tomato/mozzarella salad was better. It had beautiful sliced tomatoes, creamy fresh mozzarella, pine nuts, pesto, and basil.

For my entrée, I had monkfish. It was served in a bowl with a creamy sauce swimming with mussels, shrimp, and mushrooms. I think the fish was poached. It was moist and tender. For my side dish, I had buttered tagliatelli which I added to the bowl with the broth. It was fantastic. My friend’s entrée also looked good, but I think I liked mine better. He also had fish – rockfish coated with a tapenade with tomatoes and capers. For his side dish, he had sautéed spinach.

He had ice cream for dessert. I had a strawberry tart with pistachio ice cream. It was delicious.

I loved the restaurant and look forward to a return trip soon. The wonderful French restaurants I’ve eaten at over the last several weeks will have to tide me over until we can take a trip to Paris.

23 May 2009

Dinner at Montmartre, Washington, DC


I just got back from another trip to Washington. From a business standpoint, it was very successful. From a personal standpoint, it was fantastic. I stayed at one of my favorite hotels right on Capitol Hill. The weather was stunningly beautiful – warm days, low humidity, cool nights, crystal clear skies. It was like, how could anyone be unhappy with weather like that?

On my last evening, I went to a couple of political receptions. I had planned to pick up enough to eat at the receptions and not go to a restaurant at all. But the food was not good at the first one (Chinese buffet) and by the time I got to the second one, there wasn’t much left to eat. Besides that, I spent most of the time talking to people, which is why I was in DC in the first place.

So after I left the second reception, I was feeling like having a light dinner. I thought of Montmartre. I’ve eaten there before and really liked it. It was only 5 blocks from my hotel, and did I mention? The weather was gorgeous. A nice night for a walk.

All of the sidewalk tables were taken, but I had no trouble being seated inside. No wait. As I scanned the menu, my server came over and mentioned the evening specials. The fish sounded good, so I didn’t bother with the menu and just ordered it.

It was black sea bass. It was delicately sautéed, lusciously moist and tender. It was served on a bed of cauliflower and spring vegetables. There also were capers and pignolis. The vegetables were drizzled with a good olive oil.

That’s it. That’s all I was hungry for. It was delicious, and I had a satisfying stroll back to the hotel. What a great way to end my trip to DC!

19 May 2009

KwikPicks: Supper at Sonoma, Washington, DC

There’s no other way of putting it – I just plain like Sonoma. That’s why I ate there twice on my last trip to DC.

Food: 4
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Value: 3

I arrived in Washington on a Monday evening. The plane landed at 8:30. I got to the hotel at 9 and was unpacked by 9:15. I hadn’t had any dinner, but I really only wanted a light bite. I was staying at the Capitol Hill Suites. Sonoma is just around the corner. I’ve eaten there before and really liked it. So that’s where I went.

It was great. I ordered both of the evening specials. The soup was minestrone. It was a very unusual minestrone. Normally I think of minestrone as being thick with vegetables. This version featured a rich, brown broth enhanced by kale, fennel, and not much else. It was very good, but like I said, quite unusual. The evening pasta special was bucatini in a cream sauce with basil, walnuts, and ricotta cheese. Honestly, I loved it. This meal was just what I wanted after arriving in DC.

So the next night, I had a reception early in the evening. I had some finger food at the reception, but afterwards, I still felt like getting a light meal. It was already after 9, so again, I didn’t want to go out for a full dinner. I thought, “Can I really eat at the same restaurant two nights in a row?” I decided I could.

This time, I had one of the regular menu items – mozzarella risotto. It was a basic risotto recipe with braised greens. Instead of parmesan, the more classic choice, this risotto was finished with mozzarella. I’ve made risotto with mozzarella before, but this was much creamier than anything I’ve ever made. Anyway, it was delicious. I must say, I enjoyed it more than the bucatini from the previous night.

So, all in all, I’ve had lunches and dinners and attended receptions at Sonoma. It is consistently good. I certainly recommend it for an informal meal in our nation’s capitol.

02 May 2009

KwikPicks: A business lunch at Meritage, St. Paul

I met a colleague in St. Paul for lunch at Meritage. It reconfirmed my opinion that this is one of the best restaurants in the Twin Cities.

Food: 5
Service: 4
Ambiance: 4
Value: 4

The relaxed bistro décor that was so appealing for our evening dinner in March is equally as appealing during the bright light of day. The sunlight shown through the big windows looking out onto St. Peter St. The midday traffic bustled by outside, and enjoyed the view of Landmark Center out the window.

It was Kentucky Derby weekend, and Daryn wanted a mint julep. Our server was a little hesitant. She’d never made one before. But she said she’d give it a try. She got the mint muddled with the sugar right, but Daryn said an authentic mint julep should be served over crushed ice. She surprised him, however, by floating a small amount of rum on top of the cocktail. Daryn said that explained the sweetness he tasted. It’s a variation he’d never had before.

I decided to have a glass of their luncheon wines. They were very reasonably priced. I had a Macon Charnay for $6. (If I read the menu correctly, the same wine at dinner is $10 for a glass.)
Prices for lunch seem very reasonable. I had the plat du jour – sautéd sole with herbed couscous for $13. The sole was topped with a basil sauce. I don’t think it was pesto because it didn’t have much garlic and it didn’t appear to have pine nuts or parmesan.

Daryn had steak frites. The menu offers a choice between a four ounce or eight ounce steak. Daryn had the small steak, and it seemed ample. He asked for it to be cooked medium, and it came out more on the medium rare side, but he said it was fine. The pomme frites were crisp and salty. I thought they were better than the side order that we had with our dinner on our first visit.

One of the things that I enjoyed on our first visit was the ‘amusements’ – small samples of appetizers or desserts for $3. We didn’t have an appetizer. But I ordered a dessert amusement – matzo Nutella sandwich. It consisted of Nutella spread between snack-size matzo crackers. Daryn’s dessert was profiteroles. He said they were great.

So in my book (or I guess actually my blog), Meritage is two-for-two and is a winner for both lunch and dinner. I highly recommend it.