Simply Shabu

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This one will be short and sweet. My husband had some friends in town for work and I had a friend in town from Belgium so naturally when we heard there were a few Shabu Shabu places in Philly we took them to one. Shabu Shabu is a hot pot meal where you typically have very thin, bacon thin, slices of beef or other meat with vegetables that you cook in a boiling broth. When I ate it in Japan I always went with a bunch of friends and we paid for an unlimited amount of meat and veggies and shared one pot of broth.

At Simply Shabu you get your own pot of broth in which you get to choose the flavor, your choice of udon/cellophane noodles or rice and a whole lot of veggies. You also get to choose from a bunch of different herbs, and sauces to make your own dipping sauce. The combination I chose was kimchi broth, udon noodles, and the “sauce of the day” (hoisin, soy, chile oil, scallions). It was A TON of food, just so many vegetables along with the meat that I was not able to finish my meat but definitely tasty and a great experience. I didn’t really favor the kimchi broth and would probably try the beef or chicken next time. As for authenticity it was pretty on par except for the broth flavor, they did not have the typical Japanese broth flavor (Ponzu).  We will definitely be going back to try more flavor combinations and will also have to try the other Shabu Shabu place in Chinatown, look out for that review in the future.

Valentine’s in the Raw

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In honor of St Valentine this year the hubbie and I dined at Umai Umai in Fairmount. We picked sushi because I was still finishing off the elimination diet and still had many restrictions. We started with the Tuna Bimbim which was pickled daikon & carrot, marinated spinach, egg yolk, kizami nori, ginger-soy, cooked tableside. The server came out with a hot cast iron bowl on a wooden plate containing a ball of rice with sesame underneath and raw sushi grade tuna and a raw egg on top. I wasn’t quick enough to grab a picture before he took two spoons and started mixing up the contents of the bowl. We were able to continue to mix things around until the tuna was cooked to our liking. I thought it was delicious and the ginger soy really complimented the dish.
The rolls we ordered were Spirited Away, Spartan, & King Kong. The Spirited Away was sesame crusted tuna, red crab, cucumber, avocado and a chili soy sauce. The soy was thick like a reduction and made a great dipping sauce, it was a yummy roll. David had the Spartan which I didn’t try was miso marinated beef with shrimp tempura; he said it was good but wasn’t very “sushi-esque.” After the first two rolls we decided we were still a little hungry so we ordered the King Kong which was good, just your basic roll. David finished off the night with a chocolate lava cake a la mode which he said was delicious. The fresh fish combined with unique rolls made for a sushi place I will definitely be returning to !

Elimination Diet

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Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.27.20 AM Screen Shot 2015-02-10 at 11.27.32 AMThe elimination diet (cue Darth Vader theme music here) was something I decided to do because I am having a lot of joint pain and trouble sleeping. It was recommended to me by a friend to see if I could find some food intolerances by following this plan. As you can see above pretty much all of my favorite foods were removed (cheese, beef, pork, sugar…) but I am surviving. You remove all of these foods for 3 weeks and then you start to challenge each food in two day increments. These were a few of the recipes I made along the way. First was the spinach and artichoke dip which was really pretty good, no substitute for the one with cream cheese, but good to make in company of vegans. I ate it with bean based or rice based chips. Next the tostada shells (recipe at the bottom) which are actually really rich because of the almonds. I mostly just ate these plain, occasionally with hummus and I used flax seed and water as an egg substitute. Then I made baked lemon and garlic barramundi over onions (fish from Trader Joes) which I kind of liked, but it was still a little too fishy for me. With this I made your typical garden salad garnished with maple walnut vinaigrette, yes it is just as amazing as it sounds, definitely try this one! Finally, and this is my favorite way to make fish, I did this roasted tomato salsa on Mahi Mahi (also TJs) over onions, recipe below.

It has been a really tough 3 weeks, and I have missed dairy greatly, but its also been interesting and a good test in willpower. I now can say I have a lot of it and I am really enjoying challenging the foods back into my diet, hopefully I learn more about what my body does and doesn’t “tolerate.”

Tostada/Shells (used in place of bread, taco shells, etc.)
*2 1/2 cups blanched almond flour
*1 tsp sea salt
*2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
*2 large eggs
*1/2 tsp baking soda
*2 tsp chopped cilantro
*1 tsp fresh lime juice
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Place all the shell ingredients in a bowl and mix until dough forms.
Divide the dough into 8 even balls, rolling them between your hands until smooth.
Place the balls of dough on a piece of parchment paper cut to the size of a baking sheet. Place another piece of parchment paper on top of the dough balls, then use a rolling pin to roll each ball out into a circle, 1/2 inch thick.
Remove the top sheet of parchment paper (can discard).
Carefully transfer the parchment paper on to the baking sheet and bake for 18 minutes, flipping halfway through.
***Could substitute cilantro for another spice to vary flavor (i.e. cinnamon for more of a breakfast option, etc.)

Roasted Fish Fillets with Fresh Tomato Salsa

Tomato Salsa

1 bunch parsley 10 oil packed sun-dried tomato halves, drained

8-10 large fresh basil leaves 3 large, firm, ripe tomatoes, peeled & seeded

1tsp red pepper flakes                1/4 cup small capers

1 large sweet onion, chopped Coarse salt & freshly ground pepper to taste

About 2 TBSP EVOO

Coarsely chop parsley. Add the herbs and red pepper flakes and continue to chop until finely chopped. Transfer to a bowl and add the onion. Mince the sun-dried tomatoes. Add the fresh tomatoes and continue chopping until evenly chopped. Transfer the tomatoes and their accumulated juices to the onion mixture, stir in the capers, and mix well. Season with salt and pepper, then add enough olive oil to bind the salsa lightly. Taste & adjust the seasonings. Set aside.

3 Large sweet onions, chopped 4 large fresh basil leaves, chopped

Juice of 1/2 lemon 1 TBSP olive oil

8 (4oz each) fresh fillets (recommend tilapia, flounder, halibut, mahi mahi)

1 fresh oregano sprig, leaves only, chopped

Salt & ground pepper to taste Optional 1oz tequila/vodka

Preheat the oven to 425ºF Lightly oil a baking dish, I use aluminum foil here, large enough to hold the fillets in a single layer. Scatter the onions in the bottom of the dish. Rinse the fillets, pat dry with paper towels, and place, skin sides down, directly on the onions. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle the fillets with the basil and oregano, and then drizzle with the lemon juice and olive oil.

Roast until the fish is half-cooked. Spoon 3-4 TBSP of the salsa with its juices directly over the fillets. Return the fillets to the oven and continue to roast until the fish is opaque through-out when pierced with a knife.

Transfer the remaining salsa to a small serving bowl. Serve the fish directly from the baking pan. Pass the salsa at the table. Serves 8.

German Hangover Lunch

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A few weeks ago my husband and I traveled up to Harrisburg for a good friend’s birthday. We arrived hungover and quite early (I had to take my car in for inspection). Wonderful angel Lauren is, took us to a German place in Mechanicsburg called Josie’s for lunch. Mechanicsburg is right across the river from Harrisburg, a little geography for those that don’t know central PA. Josie’s is this tiny little place inside of a house, you eat on picnic tables with the plainest plates and silverware and can see the kitchen from where you sit. There are about 5 tables, some very nice people serving you, and man is the food delicious. We ordered the Jaegerschnitzel and Kielbasa for our meals. The Jaegerschnitzel is like none other, the pork is not too tough, as I have often had it, and the breading is light, somewhere between a tempura and a regular frying batter. Then there is this delicious white wine mushroom cream sauce which seems more French than German, but just goes perfectly with the pork and homemade spaetzle. It was a perfect hangover cure and if I had more space I could have eaten two! Though the bratwurst was average, as most are, the potato salad was absolutely delicious, I am going to have to get the recipe from someone’s German grandmother.  I heard the sauerkraut was good as well as the pickled cabbage (not my forte). If you ever find yourself on the west shore of Harrisburg definitely try this place, it is delicious, and they have a little store where you can buy a plethora of German foods !

Short Rib Ragu

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This is probably one of my favorite meals of all time. It is a slow braised short rib with homemade pappardelle and a little bit of Locatelli (pecorino romano). I found this recipe by chance a few summers ago when we were planning our vacation meals, luckily the owner of the house we rent has a Le Cruset dutch oven, which makes it even better. If you don’t already know, Le Cruset is well known for having a perfect seal and thus slow cooking meat really well ( a dutch oven also has the benefit of being able to be on the stovetop or in the oven). I just received one from the wedding and have been using it nonstop. This short rib, by the time it is done with its 3 hours in the oven, is shred itself fall-off-the-bone delicious. The pappardelle I made as lasagna sheets with my kitchen aid attachment and I went to the #6 setting to get it really thin, then used a pizza cutter to make the smaller strips. I’ve already showed a picture of this one long ago, but didn’t talk about it and do it justice. I also just bought a new camera (Canon Rebel t2i) so my pictures should be much better most of the time ! This is a really easy recipe and if you don’t have a dutch oven I would recommend trying it in a bigger pot that has a lid and can go in the oven, if you try it in a crock pot it needs to cook for more than 4 hours, probably more like 8-10 to have the same effect as the dutch oven. Buon Appetito!

Christmas Dessert

 

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So for Christmas we always have ham, scalloped potatoes, some sort of veggie or salad and for dessert, Apple Brenton (yes this does deserved to be capitalized). This year she decided to do something different and made a pork shoulder stuffed with sausage, onions, and fennel. Mom served green beans and small baked red skin potatoes, needless to say it was delicious, BUT she did not buy apples for Apple Brenton. This year I was charged with making dessert last minute with the ingredients we had on hand. My mother suggested linzer torte and I had been jonesing to make this Smitten Kitchen recipe so I gave it a whirl. I made a few mistakes, I had the oven too hot (the oven was on convect and I am not used to baking with it next time I would turn it down to 300º ), and I forgot to pre-bake the bottom. Although it was a bit overcooked it was still delicious, we just had trouble getting it off the sides of the pan because the jam bubbled and stuck. I would definitely try this again and half the recipe as I did this time because it uses up a lot of walnuts!

Emmaleigh’s Wedding

 

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All of these cakes were made for my good friend Emmaleigh’s wedding. The pig and honeybee cake were for her shower and the tiered cake for the wedding. Her shower theme was ‘Bride to Bee’ so I decided to do smitten kitchen’s chocolate cake with peanut butter icing. This cake is my favorite because it is nice and moist, but also not too sweet as many chocolate cakes tend to be. I stacked three 6″ cakes and then shaved them down to look like a hive and then I made little bees out of fondant, painted with gel coloring, with white chocolate wings. The other cake a I decided to make was the same chocolate cake recipe but with ganache between the layers and kit kats lining the outside. I copied the design here, but took some liberties with the recipe because I like the smitten cake! For the frosting I used a mixture of heavy cream, milk and semisweet chocolate and then stuck my little homemade fondant pigs in there. Emmaleigh loves pigs and thought this was absolutely adorable !

Finally the wedding cake, which was the second one I have made ( I made my own 1 month before but did not do the decorating). I used the same recipe for the cake which was a sour cream cake made with pudding mix. This kept it nice and moist even when flash frozen during the process. First I made all the cakes (two 12″ two 9″ two 6″ and two 8″ for extra cake) the week before, torted them, and froze them with cake boards between wrapped in plastic wrap and in huge ziplocs. The day before the wedding after the rehersal dinner  I came and got to work with my 2 mixers making batches and batches of icing. I chose to use the Italian Meringue Buttercream (IBC) the recipe suggested because it holds up well in heat and looks good when piped. I did around 2 batches for the filling which was a strawberry reduction added to the (IBC). I honestly don’t know how many batches of regular almond flavored IBC for the outside, probably around 3 or 4. I used the spoon technique which basically just involved dragging a plastic spoon around on the cake for a rustic effect. I finished the cake with little beads which were supposed to be gold, but I had trouble getting the luster to work, I probably needed an airbrush gun. You can see they are a little different in color than the rest of the cake. I also added the fondant leaves I had dyed, cut out, dried and then painted with gold luster. All in all I think for my wedding cake I decorated and baked it turned out pretty well and the bride was pleased! 

 

santuccis

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I’ve heard a lot of good stuff about Santuccis Pizza in Philly and when my friend Maki came to town we decided to try it out ! We got a half sausage and pepper half meatball pizza. The crust is a little harder/crispier than I would like for being so thick but I definitely liked the sauce over the cheese idea. We both liked the meatball side best.

Will BYOB

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IMG_3631We decided to go to Will BYOB , a modern french restaurant in South Philly, for my birthday, because I had been wanting to try it and an old Temple friend used to be the GM there. It is small  but cozy inside with about 7 or 8 tables, with a simple modern decoration style (terrariums in the front windows !). To start they put a Happy Birthday message on each of our menus which was a nice surprise, and really personalized our meal ! Our server was so nice and extremely knowledgeable, he even told us to ask more questions if we had them about the ingredients and cooking styles. We did and he knew all the answers, he told us exactly how multiple dishes were made and just provided a wonderful experience.  I apologize that the pictures are so dark, I only had my I phone which either completely whited everything out or took really bad quality dark pictures (you see which one I went with).  To start we had the Foie Gras, Whole hen of the woods mushroom (my favorite), and beef tartare all delicious. Entrees were the Short Rib, Duck Breast (my favorite), Oil Poached Albacore Tuna , and the Parisian Gnocchi all delicious again. For dessert we did the Pot de Creme (amazing, you have to try), Chocolate Ganache (good but I expected it to have more melty chocolate), and a special cheese (apparently it goes well with anything and was served alongside a black garlic sauce). BYOB, great service, reasonable prices, awesome food, all in all great experience, I would definitely recommend this and go back !

Locanda Vini & Olii

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David and I went to visit my sister in NYC and had a delicious dinner with a few of our friends in Brooklyn at Locanda Vini e Olii. Like most places in Brooklyn, this one was not without its’ hipster twist, menus made out of cardboard, literally just folded cardboard. The weird part was that there weren’t enough menus in the restaurant for everyone to have one so they kept taking the drink menus away, which doesn’t make any sense becuase there is basically an endless supply of cardboard to be had in the world. Other than that everything was great, its a bustling little neighborhood place, intimate with good servers and a very authentic homey feel. Jeremy and Alex (our friends) started with plum Negronis, now I am usually a gin hater, but these were delicious and not “ginny” tasting at all ! I had a Sicilian Old Fashioned, also really good! We started the meal off with pan seared chicken livers accompanied by  risotto sartu. Now I am not a livers person but I tried it and  it was really good, it had this rich buttery texture that the risotto really went perfectly with. My entree was the short rib with cannellini beans; the short rib had great taste and was quite tender, but perhaps a little too fatty,  the beans were surprisingly amazing and had a ton of flavor. David had the sage pappardelle with wild boar; it was pretty good, the pasta was homemade and delicious but the pieces of meat were tiny and didn’t contribute too much flavor. Jeremy had the duck in a fig and shallot marmalade accompanied by chickpeas; the duck was tender, sliced thin, set in a nice sauce, but had no crunch from the skin, which i found myself missing. Finally Alex had the tagliatelle ragu with orange zest, beef, and pork; this pasta dish was also good, I think better than Davids, but not overwhelmingly flavorful for a ragu. Overall it was a good meal, not badly priced for New York, I’m sure we will be back !