Archive for February, 2012

February 26, 2012

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil and Chèvre Macaroni and Cheese

We’re drawing close to the end of Winter, and I’m going to take every opportunity possible to make comfort food while it’s still seasonally appropriate.

So a few weeks back I trekked through the snow to meet up with a couple friends and whip up this zesty version of a classic comfort food dish: Mac and Cheese.

Gourmet macaroni and cheese is all the rage these days amongst upscale restaurants. You can’t hardly look at a menu without seeing gruyère-and-lobster, blue-and-fig-and-rosemary, green chili, or countless other variations of the dish. Some people are tired of the trend, but to me it exemplifies one of the greatest techniques in cooking: the ability to separate the flavors from the vehicle – in this case, macaroni – and apply new ones to the dish.

I chose to use a handful of Italian ingredients to liven up the profile of the macaroni and cheese. Although normally somewhat aggressive flavors, the sun-dried tomato, basil and chèvre are all mellowed by each others presence. The tartness of the sun-dried tomato is balanced by the creaminess of the sauce, while the herbal notes of basil cut through the sharp, salty chèvre. The combination creates a distinctive, but deceptively tempered, dish.

This is a hearty meal with Italian flair is perfect for any dark, rainy evening. To serve, I recommend red wine and roaring fire.

Sun-Dried Tomato, Basil and Chèvre Macaroni and Cheese

  • 2 cups macaroni
  • 2 tablespoon butter
  • 1/2 cup onion, finely diced
  • 3 cloves of garlic, finely diced
  • 1/3 cup sun-dried tomato, finely diced
  • 1/2 cup heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup chèvre
  • 1/2 cup mozzarella
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon oregano
  • 10 basil leaves, roughly shredded
  • 1/3 cup breadcrumbs
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

 

  1. Cook the macaroni al dente according to instructions. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Heat a large saucepan to medium-high. Add the butter, onion, garlic and sun-dried tomato and saute for 6-8 minutes or until the onions begin to turn translucent.
  3. Reduce the heat to low. Add the heavy cream, chèvre, mozzarella, black pepper and oregano and simmer for another 5 minutes.
  4. Combine the macaroni, shredded basil and chèvre sauce in a large casserole dish and mix together until all the ingredients are evenly distributed. Sprinkle the breadcrumbs and Parmesan cheese over the top and place the casserole dish in the oven for 25-30 minutes.
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February 22, 2012

Potato Keftedes

In traditional Greek cuisine Keftedes are made from ground meat, typically either lamb of beef. It’s combined with a couple finely diced vegetables, spiced, rolled into balls, and either seared or roasted as a shish kabob. This recipe takes the concept, along with many of the flavoring components, and applies it to potatoes rather than meat.

The ingredients are startlingly basic, but nonetheless create a robust flavor profile when combined against the relatively mundane backdrop that is the potato. The green onions, much milder than their burlier cousins, add a minor, pleasant kick to the mix. The tomatoes provide bursts of juicy sweetness. Finally, the paprika imparts a light smokiness while the other spices round out the palette. And although there are a variety of different tastes in play, none of them are so strong as to overwhelm the earthy potato base.

To me, the most intriguing element of this recipe is that its vegan. I take to doing the final frying in butter, because I think it tastes just a bit better, but it’s just as easy to sear the pancakes in a little bit of olive oil. I am no great backer of veganism, but a good cook is capable of making a dish for any audience.

Whether or not you’re look for a vegan recipe ace in the hole, I highly recommend keeping this card up your sleeve. When it comes down to it, it’s basically a Greek mashed potato pancake. You really can’t possibly go wrong.

Potato Keftedes

  • 1 large russet potato
  • 1 bundle of spring onions, green and white sections separated, finely chopped
  • 2 medium sized tomatoes, finely diced and patted dry
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/4 cup flour
  • 1 tablespoon black pepper
  • 1 tablespoon garlic powder
  • 1 tablespoon paprika
  • 1 tablespoon butter (or olive oil for a vegan recipe)

 

  1. Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees and bake the potato until cooked through, between 60 and 90 minutes depending on the size.
  2. Remove the potato and allow it to cool before handling. Use a fork to scoop out the contents into a large mixing bowl.
  3. Add all the other ingredients except the butter and combine until evenly mixed. The potato mixture should be cohesive enough to form patties that retain their shape, but not
  4. Add the butter to a pan and heat to medium-high. Fry the potato patties until golden brown, 2-3 minutes on either side. Remove from heat.
  5. To serve, plate the keftedes and sprinkle with the chopped green onion stem.
February 4, 2012

The Pint is Mightier: Naked City Brewery and Taphouse

(Beer Connoisseur Eric Peters contributed to this post)

From the heart of Seattle’s Greenwood neighborhood, our next review is…

Naked City Brewery and Taphouse

Based on the film noir movie by the same name, Naked City is a cozy, dimly-lit establishment. They have a broad selection of delicious microbrews on tap, which alone would be more than enough of a reason to patron the establishment. More important for our purposes, however, is the handful of beers they brew in-house. Strolling in with our trench coats and fedoras (note: there were no actual trench coats or fedoras) we took a break from the crime beat for a nice cold one.

After looking over the in-house choices, we started with the Duplicity Belgian Dubbel style ale. This beer was served in a goblet and had a dark brown color with a creamy looking head. The aroma was mild, but distinctly Belgian. The beer lacked any sort of bitterness and was extremely malty, as Belgians often are. The minimal carbonation made drinking it incredibly smooth, and the taste was creamy, sweet and quite authentic. The one downside of this otherwise excellent beer was that it lacked much of an aftertaste. Overall this beer was a great Belgian style, done the way it should be done.

Next up was an out-of-the-ordinary brew: the Naked City Peach Hefeweizen. The beer had a golden hue and definite cloudiness to it, with no noticeable head. It had a strong peach aroma that wafted outward from the glass.  Despite the intense smell the flavor was actually quite subtle; it was heavy in traditional wheat flavors with faint notes of peach that frolicked about in the aftertaste. Fruit-infused beers should occupy a small middle ground between underwhelming and overly fruity; this beer definitely hit that (not-too) sweet spot.

Our third beer was the Night and the City Black Ale. The beer was very dark in color and almost entirely opaque, with a very dark roasted aroma. The flavor was an intriguing mix, akin to combining a porter and a brown ale. This black ale went down smoothly and consequently was quite drinkable. The profile was well balanced and, after drinking it a while longer, we noticed some of the roasts coming out and lingering in the aftertaste, a pleasant thing indeed. While this beer was good, it didn’t quite distinguish itself amongst the many that we’ve tried.

We closed out our evening with the Smoked Porter. For all intents and purposes it looked like a traditional porter – dark and vaguely opaque – but the first sip revealed noticeable differences in the flavor profile. The best way to put it: Damn, this beer is smoky. The initial notes of porter were quickly overpowered by char and hickory; it was as though someone had emptied a small vial of liquid smoke into the pint. It wasn’t until the aftertaste emerge that the flavors became more balanced, countering smokiness with sweetness and roasted porter notes. It was a bit too much like barbecue for us, but if you’re in the mood for some smoke then this is exactly what you’re looking for.

Naked City pairs a classic theme with some good in-house brews and dozens of microbrew taps to create a spot that’s definitely worth checking out. In addition to generally being a nice place to grab a pint, they regular host events and movies in keeping with the film noir atmosphere. If you decide to go, let us know. Chances are we might already be planning a trip back.

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