Thursday, December 30, 2010

Indian Eat-in

We love Indian food, but because it can take a really long time to make, we usually get take-out. We've found a great place nearby in North Royalton called Jaipur Junction and probably order out there every 6 week or so. But, since I've been on vacation this week, I decided to put in a little extra effort for tonight's dinner.

This afternoon, we took our first trip to a local Indian grocery store (India Grocer on W. 130th in Parma Heights). I prepared by flipping through my cookbook The Food of India and found everything I needed.

Here's what we ate:

Chicken with Coriander and Almonds
Basmati Rice

First I made the raita:

1 small cucumber, shredded
1 medium tomato, finely chopped
1 16-ounce container of plain yogurt
1 t black mustard seeds (an India Grocer find!)
1 T coriander leaves (aka cilantro)

Place the cucumber and tomato in a fine strainer for 20 min to let the liquid drain out. Then, mix into the yogurt. Heat about a teaspoon of oil in a pan and fry the seeds until they start to pop. Add to the yogurt, then season with salt. Add the cilantro leaves right before serving.

We used this as a dip for the paratha, which is a thin, buttery bread, also from India Grocer.

While cooking the rice, I prepared the chicken.

2 pounds chicken (I used breast meat)
1/3 c almonds
1 large onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 green chillies, chopped
1 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, chopped
7 T oil
2 bay leaves
1 1/2 T ground coriander
1 T ground cumin
1/4 t chili powder
1/4 t ground tumeric (found at India Grocer)
1/4 t paprika
2 t salt
1 t black epper
4 T chopped cilantro
2/3 c cream (I used half-n-half to cut back on calories)

Ground the almonds in a food processor and set aside. Heat oil in a large pan. Add the onions, garlic, chillies, ginger and bay leaves. Stir and cook until brown. Meanwhile, cut up the chicken into bite-sized pieces and add to the mixture. Stir the chicken until all the surfaces are cooked. Add the spices and mix until all of the chicken is coated. Then, add a 1/2 c water and cook until the water turns into a thick sauce. Add one more 1/2 c water and simmer, covered, for about 10 minutes. While the chicken cooks, mix 1/2 c cream with the ground almonds and add to the chicken. Add in the rest of the cream. Serve with rice.

This was the most complicated Indian dish I've made, but it got rave reviews. "Better than Jaipur Junction," my husband said. I'm not sure I'd go that far, but it was definitely tasty!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Happy Holidays, Happy Eating

Christmas Eve in my Italian family is probably the most important food day of the year. Carrying on the tradition of the Feast of Seven Fishes, we enjoy several seafood courses, with some old classics and some new dishes we've added over the years. While we typically have more than seven fish to choose from, each person should make sure they've sampled at least seven.

Course 1 - Appetizers
Shrimp cocktail
Smelts tempura (a small fish, sort of the size of a chicken finger)
Fried calamari rings (breaded)

Course 2 - Clam chowder

Course 3 - Pasta
Spaghetti and tomato sauce cooked with a variety of seafood - calamari, eel, baccala (salt-cured cod)

Course 4 - Fish
Fried calamari

Baccala salad with olives, carrots and peppers

Smelts baked in tomato sauce
Crab-stuffed flounder

Broiled eel with lemon
Shrimp scampi

Each year, we change something, and I'm looking forward to what next year will bring. What was on your holiday dinner table?

Friday, December 24, 2010

Bier Markt/Bar Cento

Met some friends Wednesday night for dinner at Bar Cento. We absolutely love this group of bars - Bier Markt, Bar Cento and Speakeasy - and try to come at least once a month.

But, this was the first time my husband and our friends had come for the food and, as usual, it was amazing. We started with pomme frittes for the table - aka the world's most delicious french fries. A pile of fresh cut fries cooked in duck fat with whole cloves or garlic and rosemary, served with ketchup and a variety of seasoned mayo selections (curry, garlic, etc.)

For our entrees, we each chose something different from the menu.

Ohio Beef Burger - grilled onions, cheese, lettuce, tomato and mayo, super-delicious fries on the side

Fettucini - delicious sauce, "little meatballs"

Sunnyside pizza - eggs, bacon, perfect for the "brinner" lover

Egg pappardelle - duck confit, apples, golden raisins, perfection

And, as if it couldn't get any better, we finished off the night with a scoop of Jeni's ice cream - Gouda with vodka-plumped cherries.

Can't wait for our next trip back and looking forward to the opening of their next adventure:
Market Garden Brewery - opening across the street on W. 25th in Ohio City

Bar Cento on Urbanspoon

Monday, December 20, 2010

Early Christmas - Sunday Supper

Yesterday, we had both my husband's family and mine over for an early Christmas get together. One my toughest critics was coming (my grandpa, aka Papa) so I spent all morning preparing what's become a pretty traditional Sunday dinner in my family.

The menu:
Pasta with meatballs, sausage and pork
Baked chicken breast with garlic and sage breading
Asparagus and mushrooms with hazelnuts and Parmesan

The review:
Everyone - including Papa - loved all of it. Caught up in the great meal, I forgot to take pics until we had already dug in!

The recipes:
Sauce with meat
6 cans of whole peeled tomatoes (the rule is - use about 1.5 cans per pound of pasta. I cooked 2 pounds but wanted leftovers)
1 wheel of Italian sausage or links
1 pound country pork ribs (boneless)
1 pound ground beef
1/2 cup bread crumbs
1/4 cup milk
1 egg
Garlic powder
Dried parsley
Dried basil

Cook the sausage in a frying pan with enough liquid to come half-way up the side of the wheel or link, cover and simmer until cooked through. Place the country ribs in the sauce pot with about 1 1/2 cups water and simmer, covered until cooked through. In the meantime, prepare the meatballs. Mix the ground beef, bread crumbs, milk and egg in a large bowl. Add garlic powder, salt and dried parsley to your liking (about 1/2 teaspoon each). Once mixed well, roll into equal size balls and coat lightly with oil to keep meatballs from falling apart while cooking. In the empty sauce pot, crush canned tomatoes with a hand blender to consistency of your liking. Add meat and about 1 teaspoon each of garlic powder, salt, dried basil. For extra flavor, add crushed red pepper (I add a whole dried chili pepper). Cook sauce on medium to low heat for 4 hours, stirring every 20 minutes. Once sauce is cooked, taste and add seasonings if necessary.

Cook pasta according to package directions. In a large bowl, mix pasta, sauce and Parmesan cheese. Serve meat in a separate bowl.

Baked Chicken with Garlic and Sage Breading

Chicken breasts
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
Bread crumbs
Garlic powder
Ground sage
Olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Thinly slice chicken breasts and trim off fat. In one bowl, beat eggs and mix with milk, garlic powder and sage. Place bread crumbs in another bowl. Bread each piece of chicken by first dipping in the egg mixture, then coating with bread crumbs. Heat oil in a large frying pan. Fry each piece of chicken about 2 minutes on each side or until brown. In a large baking dish, place chicken and a 5 small chunks of butter (one in each corner and one in the center). Bake for 35 minutes.

Asparagus and mushrooms with hazelnuts and Parmesan

2 pounds asparagus
1 8-ounce package of white mushrooms
2 T butter
Chopped hazelnuts
Shredded Parmesan cheese

Break off hard end of each asparagus spear. Cut into 2-inch pieces. Boil water in a medium sauce pan and cook asparagus for 3 minutes. Drain and place in a bowl of ice water to stop the cooking process (or asparagus will get too soft). Wash and slice mushrooms. Melt butter in a large frying pan and add mushrooms. When mushrooms are almost done, mix in asparagus. Transfer vegetable mixture into a large bowl and top with nuts and cheese.


The great thing about salad is: Anything Goes! But, here's how I made it.

1 head of green leaf lettuce
1 head of red leaf lettuce
1 tomato
1 carrot
1 small yellow bell pepper
1/4 of a large sweet onion
Red wine vinegar
Olive oil

Wash all vegetables. Tear lettuce into bite-sized pieces. Cut tomato into small wedges. Thinly slice carrot into round chips. Cut pepper into small squares. Slice onion. Mix together in a large bowl. To make dressing, mix 1 part vinegar with 2 parts oil and 1/2 teaspoon sugar. Mix into salad. Add salt to taste.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Old and new favorites

Didn't do a whole lot of cooking this weekend, but I spent a lot of time eating and ordering out at some great places. Here's the recap:

Friday dinner at Momocho:
This Ohio City eatery is my favorite restaurant in Cleveland. They call it Mod Mex and it's the perfect description. I took my parents for their first time and we shared some of my favorite taquitos (sort of a build-your-own taco kinda thing):
  • Pato (slow-roasted duck with pomegranate bbq sauce)
  • Carnitas (adobo-braised pork with honey chipotle mojo)
  • Machaca (coffee and ancho-braised beef briskett with guacamole)
I think it's safe to say my parents were impressed.

Check it out -

Saturday breakfast at Lucky's Cafe:
Met some people for breakfast at this Tremont spot. I've heard a lot about how great it is - and getting a visit from Guy Fieri certainly helps! The ENTIRE menu looked amazing but I finally settled on the Bruleed Steel Cut Oatmeal: Warm oats topped with winter fruit compote, served with eggs en croute (eggs baked in cream, spinach and parmesan - delicious, smooth and perfect-tasting!), even the house-made multi-grain toast was just great.

I highly recommend it and can't wait to come back in warmer weather to check out the patio and garden.

Check it out -

The rest of the weekend was filled with food and friends. Our 2nd-annual Christmas party with what I'll call a "continental menu" - everything from taco dip to bbq wings to spinach spanakopita to crab rangoon and a sprinkling of a few more apps and desserts in between. Then, we spent a lazy Sunday watching the Browns-Bills game with friends and snacked on our favorite local pizza - A Slice Above in Strongsville (

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Keeping comfort

Tuesday's risotto inspired me to keep the comfort food theme going. We had the first blizzard of the winter this week, which means longer drives home from work and less time to cook. When I cook during the week, I always try to keep it simple without sacrificing taste, while using as many fresh ingredients as possible.

We enjoyed two great dinners this week that were so easy to make - I'd call them 1.5-pot meals - and were just what we needed after a long, cold day. Check it out:

Wednesday: Whole-Wheat Orzo with Spicy Sausage and Blackened Peppers
I cooked the orzo in a separate pot. Then, in my big frying pan, I cooked the sausage, chopped up some tomatoes for a light sauce and sliced a red bell pepper. I cooked the veggies right in with the sausage on high heat so the peppers got crispy. Then, I stirred in the orzo for a complete meal in one pan.

Thursday: Pasta Primavera
I cooked the pasta in one pot. Then, I chopped up a zucchini, some mushrooms and a few tomatoes and cooked them all in my big frying pan. As the tomatoes softened and turned into a light sauce, I added a little heavy cream - just enough to make it pink. Once the pasta was done, I drained it and added the veggies and sauce to the pasta pot.

Try any of these meals on a cold day, when you're looking for something a little different than a comfort food classic.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Taking the first bite

For most of my life, food has been the center of attention. I come from a large family that gathers together for long, several-course meals that could put a lot of restaurants to shame...where "Want something to eat?" is a rhetorical question.

Now, I'm glad I inherited the talent for cooking and love cooking meals for my husband, family and friends. But I also can't get enough of the amazing restaurant scene in Cleveland. I've been here for 7 years now and haven't even broken through the surface.

So, I'm starting this blog to share my love for cooking and eating through this great culinary city and hope I inspire you to do the same.

Tonight's dinner: Parmesan Risotto with Chicken and Spinach

It's seriously easy, just cook the risotto according to the directions, add a shredded chicken breast and chopped spinach and stir in some Parmesan cheese. It's comfort food with some serious substance.