Foodie In Training

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Happy Turkey Weekend!

Ryan and I are heading down to Columbus for the Kelsey Thanksgiving. Since we are still considered "kids" in the family, we don't' have to provide a dish. We do have to bring some donuts and juice for breakfast the next morning, but all of the big Thanksgiving dishes are the grownups responsibility.

In a way I wish I could contribute a dish because for the past few weeks all of the food blogs and web sites I check have been focused on Thanksgiving. I think it would be cool to host Thanksgiving and I know my day will come soon enough. I know it's a lot of work, but it's kind of like the Super Bowl of meals. I so enjoy cooking for family and friends and to cook Thanksgiving for family would be like the ultimate meal!

The Kelsey's have great Thanksgiving traditions, including the annual Turkey Bowl football game and shopping on Friday. It's also a HUGE group! Like 40 people. Which is a far cry from my family Thanksgivings which can be as large as 20 people but usually top out at about 8. I always miss my moms stuffing (it's the best) and my family during this holiday but the Kelsey's are fun and welcoming (I'm one of the newest official family members). :)

I hope everyone has a great Thanksgiving and long weekend!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lola Bistro

I loved the idea of Michael Symon. A Cleveland guy who loves his hometown, loves cooking (his slogan is "live to cook"), despises vegetarians, and is passionate about all things meat (especially pork.) He's become somewhat of a celebrity- winning the Food Network's "The Next Iron Chef" and now a regular on "Iron Chef America". He also did a season of "Dinner Impossible" and soon will have his own show featuring farmers and their food. He was also featured on the Cleveland episode of Anthony Bourdain's "No Reservations" on the Travel Channel. He has two restaurants in the Cleveland area, Lola Bistro downtown on E. 4th St. and Lolita in the Tremont neighborhood. he also recently opened a Restaurant in Detroit called Roast. As much as I love the idea of Michael Symon and admired his personality and talents on TV, I've never tried his food. So when Erin asked where I wanted to go for a celebratory lunch on a Friday a few weeks ago, I said, without hesitation, "Lola".

Why were we celebrating? As Erin mentioned, I passed the bar. The simple fact that I passed a test that about 1,000 other people in Ohio passed isn't too exciting. (That's right, 1,000 new Ohio lawyers). Even considering it was a grueling 3 day essay and multiplechoice test, the mere fact that I passed was not the reason I was so happy. I prepared for the bar by taking a class for 1 month and then studying all day every day for another month. When I saw my name on the Ohio Supreme Court's website, the reason I couldn't stop grinning was because I didn't have to do any of it again. Ever. I was done with standardized tests. I finished a journey of becoming a licensed lawyer in Ohio that took the better part of 4 years of my life. Just to think starting in October of 2004, I have:
- studied for and took the LSAT- applied to about a dozen law schools and accepted into a handful
- endured 3 years of law school- applied for the bar exam: which lasted a full year and a half, including a detailed background check to every place I've lived, worked, and any run-ins with the law
- graduated law school
- studied for the bar
- passed the bar.
I honestly believe anyone could do any and all of these things. But it is one hell of a commitment, and I wouldn't wish it on anyone that wasn't certain they wanted to go through it.

Enough about that. Onto Lola: 
The Restaurant has a trendy and sophisticated feel. Yet, still casual. The sleek decor lacked the pretension that could easily be associated with an "Iron Chef's" flagship restaurant. The kitchen was wide open, surrounded by a bar, allowing diners to watch their creative and inspired food cooked before their own eyes. The waiters wore jeans and buttondown tops in Symon's signature solid and cool black with simple ties.

Erin and I started with Beef Cheek Pierogies, a Michael Symon staple, served with a horseradish mushroom sauce. Basically, this was the most delicious ravioli I've ever had. It was a doughy noodle-like savory pastry stuffed with tender beef cheek. We also had the charcuterie of the day. It was plate of cured and smoked meats, featuring some homemade salumis served with homemade pickles and onions and mustard.
I probably could have ordered anything on the menu and been happy, but I decided on a Pastrami sandwich for lunch. The meat was cured right there and topped with more of those homemade pickles, onions and mustard on rye. Simple, yet far superior to your average deli
 sandwich. Erin got a seasonal cauliflower soup and a salad*. With a reasonable bottle of pinot grigio, we were both happily satisfied and ready to continue to celebrate, which we did. Now, we got two appetizers and a bottle of wine, but a filling lunch for two at Lola could cost about $20.

It was a great lunch. Still, it only made me want to go back and try more of Michael Symon's food. Next time we'll go for dinner, if we can get a reservation. And we'll be sure to blog about it.

*Hey all, I could resist talking a little bit about my meal at Lola.  My cauliflower soup was amazing! Beautifully simple, the soup was silky and smooth with a little nutty flavor and every now and then you would get a sweet bite with a golden raisin.  My salad was also great, nice and light.  The greens were dressed in a tangy vinaigrette with a nice crunch from the red peppers. 

Roasted Red Pepper Sauce

A few weeks ago when fresh and local peppers were in abundance at Mulvin's, the local farm stand in Sandusky, I decided to make a red pepper sauce.  I found the recipe from a new blog I'm reading Bounty of the Western Reserve.   It was a bit time consuming, as I had to peel the skins off each grilled pepper, but it was worth it because the sauce was really good, very fresh and sweet tasting.  Even though it was time consuming, it was really very simple to make.

  Here's the quick version:  Place 8 large red bell peppers on a hot grill and let them blacken on all sides and until soft.  Then remove them from the grill and let them cool. I placed them in a large bowl with saran wrap over it so the steam will help separate the skin from the peppers.  Pull off the blackened skins from the peppers and cut in to large pieces.   Coarsely chop 2 medium red onions and add to a large put with 2 cloves of minced garlic.  Liberally season with salt (sea salt preferably).  Once the onions have softened, add 3 coarsely chopped tomatoes and cook for about 5 minutes on medium heat.  Turn the flame down to low and add red pepper pieces. Cook covered for about 25 minutes.  Once slightly cooled, transfer mixture to food processor and pulse until you have the texture you want.  Then you're done! 
I originally thought about add some sort of stock to make a soup, but decided to just use this as a sauce for pasta or pizza.  This is also something you can freeze easily and pull out in the winter when you're crazing something fresh and summery! 
We had it the next day with spinach and cheese ravioli's and it was really good!  (photo above)

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Braised Cabbage- cold weather comfort food

I read a lot of food blogs daily. I always seem to stumble upon more great food sites that give me ideas and tons of recipes to try. Amateur Gourmet (written by Adam Roberts) is one of my favorites and I've tried many of the recipes from the blog (like this, this one here, and oh yea..this one too).

A few weeks ago I read a post where the Amateur Gourmet made braised cabbage. It sounded so good and so cozy and comfort food-y that I had to try it. And it was so good that I made it again and tweaked it a bit to make it more "Foodie In Training" and less "Amateur Gourmet".

I also wanted to attempt the recipe because at Mulvins (the local farm stand in Sandusky), they have beautiful cabbages about the size of a small child. I swear, they are seriously about twice the size of your run-of-the-mill grocery store cabbage. Anytime I can try a new recipe AND buy locally..it's all systems go for this gal!

So, did I mention that this recipe is also super easy? It takes a bit of time in the oven, but other than that it's some chopping of vegetables and that's about it. Adam from Amateur Gourmet got this recipe from Molly Steven's "All About Braising" cookbook so my first attempt I followed his adaptation of the recipe:

Preheat the oven to 325
Oil a 9 x 13 baking dish (I just drizzled a bit olive oil into the baking dish)
Cut green cabbage (about 2 lbs.)* into 8 wedges
Lay wedges in dish
scatter one thickly sliced yellow onion over the top along with a carrot (I used 2 smaller carrots) cut into 1/4 inch rounds
drizzle 1/4 olive oil over the top and 1/4 cup chicken stock or water
season with salt, pepper and red pepper flakes
cover tightly with foil and in the oven it goes for 1 hour.
after an hour, remove cover and flip wedges and recover for another hour
Once cabbage is tender, remove foil and boost heat up to 400 degrees for about 15 minutes (or until top is browned and crispy.
Season lightly with salt and it's ready to serve!!
*Erin used about a 4 lb. cabbage..seriously it was huge

My first time making it I decided to add two cloves of garlic (I'm beginning to think I can't make a dish with adding a little bit of garlic..it make EVERYTHING good). I unpeeled it, but left the garlic whole more for flavor than texture or bite.

My second time making the braised cabbage it was a windy, blustery day- just perfect for a warm and comforting meal. THIS time I decided to turn up the volume and add some different ingredients. I had some fennel in the fridge, so I coarsely chopped the bulb and scattered that on top of the cabbage. I also didn't have any yellow onion so I coarsely chopped half a medium red onion and scattered that on top as well. The addition of the fennel was key, the flavor was great and it worked really well with the cabbage. And the red onion also was really nice because it turned a bit sweet and was a nice compliment to the spice from the red pepper flakes.

The dish has been a hit both times so I recommend you try it. It's great when it's bitterly cold out with a bowl of hot soup, but I think it would be good in any weather. Happy braising!

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Salsa! Salsa!

I found my camera cord!!  I searched EVERYWHERE and I finally found it.  What a relief, I was almost out the door to buy a new one when I looked once more and there it was.  Thank goodness!  Ok, so few weeks ago my Mom's friend Sharon gave us a huge bag filled with beautiful hot peppers.  Her and her husband have a backyard garden of peppers and tomatoes and they can there own salsa and tomato sauce.  They picked one of there last crops and gave some to us knowing how much Ryan likes spicy things. 

What a variety! I still am not sure of all the types of peppers, but I know for sure there are jalapenos,  hot cherry peppers, and habaneros. 
Here is the base recipe we used for the salsa, we made three batches so as we got more comfortable with the process we added a few things here and there.  
Fresh Vegetable Salsa
8 Jalapeno peppers
7 cups prepared tomatoes (7-8 Med-large or 2 lbs.) *We used canned tomatoes
2 cups coarsely chopped onions
1 cups coarsely chopped green peppers
3 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 can tomato paste *12 oz. size
3/4 cup white vinegar
1/2 cup loosely packed cilantro
1/2 tsp. cumin

Combine all the ingredients in a large saucepan and bring to a boil gently about 30 minutes or until salsa reaches desired consistency. 

Our first batch we kept the the ingredients and instructions of the recipe.  I did all of the chopping but I made sure I wore gloves when chopping the hot peppers.  The first batch was super spicy, so spicy I didn't even taste it (I know I'm a wimp) but Ryan and his parents (our tasters for the evening) said it was spicy even for them so I know I probably wouldn't enjoy it. 

The second batch was my batch (non-spicy) and we added black beans to the recipe.  I love salsa with black beans and corn but I accidentally bought creamed corn instead of regular corn.  Boooo.. so that was a bummer, but we soldiered on and just used the black beans.  To make a non-spicy version I didn't' use any of the hot, hot peppers, I just used the green bell peppers and one jalapeno just for flavor.  
The third batch was another spicy version but we toned down the spice and a bit and added black beans.  Ryan added paprika to this batch for a bit more heat and we also added the black beans. 
The salsa turned out great and it was a great to use fresh peppers from a local garden. In fact, all of the ingredients were from local farms in Sandusky.  Yay for buying local!  

Tuesday, November 11, 2008


So...I think I lost the camera cord, which really stinks because that means I can't upload all of my beautiful photos of the awesome dishes I've been making and the great restaurants we've been to... Don't worry, I will find it (and in the mean time meticulously clean our bedroom) and when I do I can tell you about the red pepper sauce I made a few weeks ago, the Indian-spiced cauliflower we had the other day, and the awesome lunch we had at Lola (amazing!) and my birthday dinner at Baricelli Inn in Little Italy. 

It doesn't seem like we've been up to much these past few weeks, but I must tell you, we are kind of "foodies in limbo" (if you will) and living in our hometown and basically eating with our parents most meals.  Don't get me wrong, it's great and we are eating some great dishes, but we aren't cooking as much.  

Stay Tuned! 

oh yea...and Ryan passed the bar!! wahoo!!