Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Crepes for dinner, you say?

On the menu for tonight's dinner was an Amy's frozen pizza.  Not the most exciting of all dinners, but they're quite good for a quick meal.  I soon realized that my son, Ryan, had pizza for lunch and we were going to be having pizza for dinner tomorrow night at the annual pumpkin carving evening at my parent's house.  Ryan had just finished his last cooking class at school and brought home the collection of recipes.  "Let's make crepes!", he proclaimed proudly - I think the little bit of french in him is starting to surface :)  Now of course we could have made savory crepes, but that didn't sound quite as fun.  So basically we ended up having dessert for dinner - some crepes with jam, and some with cinnamon and sugar.  I'm not striving for the mother of the year award, so I figured, why not!
It was fun and easy.  I had actually never made crepes before, so it was a good thing that Ryan had already made them once in his cooking class.  He even showed me how to swirl the pan correctly!  They turned out light, thin, and delicious.  And I must admit, having dessert for dinner is sinfully wonderful.  Ryan has been taking an after school course on cooking from The Harvard Cookie Girl.  Yes, yes, I know he's a boy and it's named cookie girl, but there are surprisingly a lot of boys in this session!  I'm so pleased it is offered at his school and that he's enjoyed it so much.  He's even signing up for the next session. 

2 large eggs
1 cup milk
1/2 cup water
2 TBL canola oil
1 cup flour
1/4 tsp salt

In a large bowl, mix together eggs, milk, water, and oil.  Add the dry ingredients and mix.  Heat a lightly-oiled griddle or frying pan over medium high heat.  Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using approximately 1/4 cup for each crepe.  Tilt the pan with a circular motion so that the batter coats the surface evenly.  Cook the crepe for about 1 minute, until the bottom is light brown.  Loosen with a spatula, turn and cook the other side.  Serve hot.  You can also add some fresh fruit or peanut butter and then roll the crepe.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

lamb ragu

Mint and lamb is an exquisite combination, a common one, and also one that never gets old.  Due to my recent visit to NYC, I was recalling a time I ate at Babbo and had Mario's beautiful Mint Love Letters - spicy lamb sausage and mint, gently folded into little pasta envelopes, and served in a simple tomato sauce.  Delicious.  I was craving lamb (big surprise), so I searched for recipes that would satisfy my lamb/mint desire, without much fuss.  I discovered Giada's recipe for Lamb Ragu with Mint.  It seemed perfect - ground lamb, shallots, garlic, mint, simmering in a tomato sauce with some added ricotta for creaminess - and it was perfect. 

It begins with shallots and garlic releasing their essence in warmed olive oil, then adding the lamb until well browned.  My favorite part is next - adding a cup of red wine and simmering until reduced by half.  The smell was driving me crazy!  I added the tomato sauce, simmered again, and then stirred in the torn mint leaves and ricotta until it was smoothed into a beautiful ragu. 

I didn't have any rigatoni or tube shaped pasta, so I used mini wheels, which my son loved just for the simple shape of them.  Isn't it great how kids can get so much joy out of food in interesting shapes?  I have to admit, they were fun.  This pasta dish was spot on with the flavors I was craving.  It was simple, comforting, and best of all, I enjoyed it with my son as we talked about our day.  A perfect end to a weekend. 

Lamb Ragu with Mint, Giada De Laurentiis

Friday, October 23, 2009

The City So Nice They Named It Twice

New York is a city that enthralls me in several ways. From the sheer amount of people, to the amazing ethnic food you can find there, to the crazy nightlife. It's absolutely a thrill each and every time I go. Luckily, with my job I do get to partake in this mecca-for-the-senses fairly routinely.

This trip was definitely all about the ethnic foods. Living in San Diego, we actually do have a lot of top notch Vietnamese restaurants with a wide selection of various types of Banh Mi sandwiches and yummy Pho soup. However, upon watching "The Best Thing I Ever Ate Between Bread", my boyfriend and I took the pilgrimage to Brooklyn and sought out Nicky's Vietnamese Sandwiches.

We've had the basic BBQ pork banh mi sandwich in our hometown, so we wanted to expand our palate and try their classic, which includes a pate - wouldn't have been my first choice, but it was quite good! The main flavor for me in all of these Vietnamese sandwiches is the pickled vegetables, namely the daikon. It reminds me a bit of jicama, and when pickled, has an excellent flavor and crunch. We also split a bowl of Pho, which was very comforting and fresh. I love being able to add the bean sprouts, cilantro, and green onions, as you go along so they can retain their crunch and not get overcooked in the steamy broth.

Yes, there is another Nicky's right in Manhattan, much closer to where we were, but there was another reason for heading out on a subway adventure to Brooklyn - Barcade. It is exactly what you are thinking - a bar and an arcade. It is amazingly well done with tons of craft beers and classic arcade games in an old brick building. I'm sure many of my future posts will focus on beer since it is an integral part of our refreshment repertoire at home!

piece de resistance for me was an evening meal at Naya, a true Lebanese restaurant. With my mom being 1/2 Lebanese and growing up with my Jiddo (grandpa) being just a street away, middle eastern food was a big part of our lives. I must have always been a foodie, since one of my favorite dishes when I was young was kibbeh naye, or raw lamb. We never had it that often since my family did not dare make it at home (for fear of freshness) and there was only 1 Lebanese restaurant in San Diego that made it. That restaurant has been closed for over 20 years now.

Kibbeh naye is ground raw lamb mixed with bulgur, spices, and mint. It usually comes with green onions on top and then you pour olive oil on it and scoop it up with pita bread. Like a steak tartar, but even better. The whole experience at Naya was wonderful. Never having had Lebanese wine, we ordered a bottle of Chateau Kefraya, which paired perfectly with our Lebanese fair. From our fried kibbeh balls to our spicy lamb sausage, everything was delicious. A definite tribute to old times and a must to take my mom there if I ever get her to New York!

Until next time...Bon Appetit, New York.