Sunday, February 27, 2011

Another new kinda gnocchi

I've been a little lazy with my cooking recently, so I thought I'd take on a more challenging recipe this afternoon (and by challenging, I really mean time-consuming, so don't think this is too hard to make):
Sweet Potato Gnocchi with Sage Cream Sauce

For the gnocchi, peel and boil 2-3 sweet potatoes. Once they're soft, drain them, mash them and let them cool completely.

Take the cold mashed potatoes and add 1 egg, a little salt and a lot of flour. You'll probably need about 3 cups, but add it a little at a time until you get the consistency of bread dough.

Once you have a ball of dough, cut it into small sections and roll each section out into long, thin cylinders. Then, cut the strip into small pieces (no longer than one inch), and place them on a floured baking sheet.

Then, bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook the gnocchi until they float up to the top of the water (about 3-4 minutes). While you're cooking the gnocchi, prepare the sauce.

You'll need:
2 tablespoons butter
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 teaspoon ground sage
1 1/2 cup cream (I used half-n-half because I already had it in the fridge and it's a little healthier)

Melt the butter on medium heat so it doesn't brown. Then, add the garlic and sage and cook for 1 minute. Then, stir in the cream. Pour over the gnocchi and stir. Serve with a sprinkle of parmesan cheese.


Sunday, February 20, 2011

Velvet Tango Room: What all bars should strive to be

I've had the pleasure of going out to the Velvet Tango Room three times now - twice in the private back room - and every time has been magical.

This bar prides itself on serving the best cocktails, paying tribute to the concoctions that made drinking popular decades ago. After an incredible dinner to celebrate my parents' 50th birthdays this week, we continued the night with drinks in the back room.

The main bar of the Velvet Tango Room is already luxurious, with old-fashioned velvet furniture, low lighting and an overall jazzy atmosphere, but the real experience is waiting behind the mirrored door. To get into this secret back room, you just need to make a reservation and find out that week's password. It's well worth planning in advance to enjoy the back room.

Once you're taken through the back door, you'll step into what looks like someone's warm yet fancy living room, with a private bar and beautiful fireplace. The variety of seating options includes couches, high-top tables and more intimate tables for two tucked into corners of the room. Beginning at 10 pm, the pianist comes in to provide soft jazz sounds.

The drink menu is an educational experience, giving you a glimpse of what the art of true cocktails is all about. Luckily, our group has a wide range of tastes, so we got to sample a little of everything from the menu.

Negroni (left) - a bitter, strong cocktail with orange flavors that come from Compari, accompanied with a house red wine reduction
Bourbon daisy (right) - a slightly-sweet combination of bourbon and ginger beer, complete with a piece of candied ginger

Old-fashioned (left) - a classic whiskey drink enhanced with bitters and a sugar cube
Ramos Gin Fizz (right) - an orange/vanilla blend fluffed with a frothy egg white mixture

Other drinks included Knob Creek on the rocks, a French 75 (gin, champagne and lemon juice), an Apricot Sour and the classic White Russian.

The Velvet Tango Room is perfect for celebrating a special occasion or for a very important (and romantic) date, and that's why we'll continue to go there.

Velvet Tango Room on Urbanspoon

Birthday Dinner at Chinato

Last night, we celebrated my parents' 50th birthdays with dinner and drinks.

My husband and I went to Chinato a few months ago and I knew right away that it'd be the perfect place to celebrate this occasion.

Even with Cleveland's Little Italy neighborhood, Chinato is serving the most authentic Italian food I've had in the city.

Just like our first visit, we had a great experience. Our server, Jeffrey, was incredibly attentive and knowledgeable, offering great recommendations for each course.

We started with a shared appetizer called: Involtini of Eggplant stuffed with ricotta and shrimp. Thin sheets of eggplant wrapped around perfectly-cooked shrimp and seasoned ricotta cheese, covered in tomato sauce. It was the perfect start to the meal.

We each ordered a different entree to be able to try a wide selection from the menu, including:
Pappardelle with creamed cauliflower, pecorino and peperoncini
Creamed cauliflower and pureed hot peppers made up this delicious sauce. I'll definitely be trying to recreate this dish at home!

Beef Braised in Amarone with creamy polenta
Incredibly tender beef roast soaking in a flavorful wine sauce that went perfectly with the creamy polenta and tender kale.

Ravioli with pork, veal, zucchini and shiitake mushrooms with melted butter and parmesan
Raw zucchini added the perfect crunch to this unique meat ravioli.

Venetian Style Calves Liver with dried figs
Although not for everyone, this could easily become any liver fan's favorite dish, the sweetness of the fig sauce combined with the tender, lightly-breaded liver.

Veal Breast with salsa verde and polenta
This veal was so tender, you hardly had to chew it. Although it tasted great on its own, the salsa verde (a pesto sauce) added a crisp, fresh flavor.

After a delicious meal, we ended with chocolate, cherry and lemon gelato and the most delicious almond panna cotta I've ever tasted.

We will definitely be back again, and I hope you try it soon.

Chinato on Urbanspoon

Thursday, February 17, 2011

Pork, peppers and pea pods

After a crock pot disaster on Tuesday (didn't think that was even possible), I gave it another try with dish, inspired by a Real Simple recipe.

Slow-Cooker Asian Pork with Snow Peas and Red Pepper

First I made the sauce by mixing:
  • 1/2 cup low-sodium soy sauce
  • 1/2 cup brown sugar
  • 2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon olive oil
  • 1 1-inch piece fresh ginger, peeled and sliced
  • 1⁄4 to 1⁄2 teaspoon crushed red pepper

Then, I placed a 2-pound pork shoulder roast in the crock pot and covered it with the sauce, cooking it on low while I was at work (about 9 hours). Once I got home, I shredded the pork and let it rest in the juices.

Meanwhile, I cooked one package of rice noodles. While the noodles cooked, I added 2 sliced red bell peppers and 1 cup of snow peas to the boiling water. Then, I mixed the noodles and veggies with the shredded pork and sauce and served. It was a great mix of heat from the crushed red pepper and sweetness from the brown sugar and ginger. I'd say it can stand up to most takeout and it's a lot healthier.

I made a few ingredient substitutions because I didn't have everything in my kitchen. For the real recipe, visit

Sunday, February 13, 2011

"bac" for another great meal

Last night, I went to bac in Tremont for the second time, and had another great dinner.

The atmosphere is clean and simple, white and modern decor with nice lighting and great music. The Asian-fusion menu had something for everyone in our group.

Let's start with drinks - a decent selection of popular and craft beers, wines and specialty cocktails. At our table, we sampled everything from a $2 can of PBR to the 17th Parallel, a mix of vodka and cucumber water.

Now for the food:
My husband went with his old standby - Pad Thai - and, as usual, it didn't disappoint.

I went with my usual, too - one of the curry options. This spicy green curry had the usual ingredients - red peppers, zucchini, onions - as well as a pleasant surprise: avocado. It was the perfect smooth flavor to balance out the spice.

Our friends rounded out the selection with braised short ribs served in a plum wine sauce, accompanied by the always delicious PBR...
...and yellow mango curry, a sweeter curry dish than my green version.

In the end, it was a great meal and a great vibe, and I know I'll be back again.

Once you check it out, you probably will too.

Bac Asian American Bistro on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Courtesy of Rachael Ray

Rachael Ray...I'm really not a fan. But, occasionally, she offers up a pretty awesome recipe, just like this one I found online yesterday.

Roasted Cauliflower Penne with Rosemary Cream

  • 1 large clove garlic, halved
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 3 sprigs rosemary, 1 sprig finely chopped
  • A pinch of ground nutmeg
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1 pound whole wheat penne pasta (I used rotini 'cause that's what I had in my pantry)
  • 1 head cauliflower, roasted
  • 1/2 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese, plus more to pass around the table
  • 1/2 cup walnuts, toasted and chopped (I left these out 'cause I don't like walnuts)
Rub the inside of a small saucepan all over with the garlic. Add the cream, the two whole rosemary sprigs and the nutmeg; season with pepper and cook over medium-low heat until reduced by half, about 10 minutes. Discard the rosemary.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, salt it, add the pasta and cook until al dente. Drain and transfer the pasta to a serving bowl. Add the rosemary cream, cauliflower and Pecorino Romano cheese; toss to coat.

Season with salt and pepper and top with the walnuts and chopped rosemary. Pass more cheese around the table.

Hope you like it as much as we did!

Thursday, February 3, 2011

My New Favorite Gnocchi

I seriously love pasta - everyone who knows me knows that, and you can probably tell by most of my entries. One of my favorites - gnocchi - is a little heavy, so I thought I'd try to lighten it up a bit.

Gnocchi with Tomatoes, Spinach and Fresh Mozzarella

While I boiled the water to cook the gnocchi, I cut up four medium tomatoes and cooked them in my large frying pan with some olive oil. After about 10 minutes, the tomatoes softened and started to turn into a chunky sauce. Once the water was boiling, I added the gnocchi. These only take a few minutes to cook - once they're all floating at the top, they're done. While the gnocchi cooked, I added two handfuls of raw baby spinach (about half a bag) and stirred until the spinach wilted. Then, I added the gnocchi to the pan and mixed everything together. To finish it off, I added one container of fresh mozzarella pearls (small, bite-sized balls of cheese) and mixed them in. As we ate the gnocchi, the mozzarella melted in and added a great, warm and gooey texture.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Restaurant favorite revamped

A few years ago, I had an amazing pasta dish at Lolita. It involved pappardelle and braised beef, and the only other thing I remember is that it was absolutely delicious. Well, that dish popped up in my mind as I planned this week's menu, so I decided to try my own version:

Pappardelle with slow-roasted beef and crispy carmelized onions

This is a perfect weeknight meal, since it mostly cooks while you're at work. This morning, I put a small roast in my crock pot, covered it with beef consommé (make it easy and use a can of Campbell's like I did) and set it on low. About nine hours later, I prepared the rest of the meal. While the pasta cooked, I fried a thin onion slices in a little oil, on high at first to make them crispy, then on low to let them brown. In the meantime, I shredded the beef while it was still in the crock pot. Once the pasta was cooked, I transferred it into the pan with the onions, added the beef and all the delicious juices from the crock pot and mixed it all together. Luckily, we had enough leftovers for tomorrow, since I probably won't feel like cooking during the ice storm we're supposed to get.