Saturday, August 27, 2011

Trattoria Brown - BLT Pasta Salad

Okay, confession time. This pasta is not actually a BLT, but it's pretty close. There's bacon and tomato, but lettuce is not to be found. Instead, basil takes its place. Honestly, on almost every level, this dish shouldn't work, but it somehow does. In fact, it's one of our son's favorites. And whatever satisfies the child satisfies the parents.

Ingredients

1/2 pound pasta (penne or shells work well)
5 medium tomatoes, seeded and chopped
5 strips bacon, sliced
10 to 15 leaves basil, chopped
1/2 cup mayonnaise
Parmigiano reggiano, to taste

Directions

Place pot with plenty of hot water and salt over high heat. Render bacon in a medium sauté pan over medium high heat until the bacon begins to crisp (about 5 minutes). While bacon is rendering, mix the basil, tomatoes, and mayonnaise in a large mixing bowl. Let stand. When the bacon is finished, place on a paper towel to whisk away excess fat.

When water is boiling, insert pasta and cook according to the directions on the box. When the pasta is cooked, place in a colander and wash with cold water until completely cooled. Remove excess water, and place in mixing bowl with the mayonnaise, basil, and tomatoes. Add bacon, and stir until fully incorporated. Microplane on some parmigiano reggiano and enjoy.

Here's what the finished product will look like. Like I said, before, this shouldn't work, but it does. And, perhaps the best thing about this is if you time it correctly, the dish takes approximately fifteen minutes start to finish.

Trattoria Brown - Morning Hash

We had a dinner party last night, and as happens with most dinner parties, there were leftovers. When the boy requested breakfast this morning, leftovers were on the menu. But how to incorporate them was the question. Usually we would put them in a frittata, but we have potatoes that need usin', so hash it was. Keep in mind, this recipe is for one, maybe two people, so enlarge accordingly.

Ingredients

1 medium sized red potato, cubed
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup caramelized onions
1/4 cup cooked chard
1/8 cup rendered bacon
1/2 cup halved cherry tomatoes
Parmigiano reggiano, to taste

Directions

Heat medium skillet to medium. Add olive oil and potato in skillet and cook for three to four minutes, until potatoes begin browning stirring often. Add caramelized onions, chard, and bacon and cook for an additional four minutes. When potatoes are fork tender, place hash on plate alongside cherry tomatoes. Shave over some parmigiano reggiano and enjoy.

Here's about what it should look like.


Wednesday, August 24, 2011

K-Rico Peruvian Grill

Address: 250 W 2100 S, Ste B, Salt Lake City, UT 84115. 801.484.0140.

Review: I've had more than a bit of South American food thusfar in my life, but not much if any Peruvian. This is why my culinary adventure friend and I popped over to K-Rico Peruvian Grill to get our grub on.

The first thing you notice upon entering K-Rico is the multiple screens streaming the Peruvian equivalent of CNN. The second thing you notice is, well, the tables, I guess. Honestly, there ain't much going on at this joint other than the food.

Meals begin with this:

It's called cancha. The nut looking stuff is actually a dried, then fried, corn kernel. At K-Rico, the cancha was served with a spicy peanut sauce and a mellow mayonnaise and herb sauce. I'm pretty sure this is beer food more than anything else, but it was interesting and new.

For my appetizer, I ordered the beef heart, which came skewered and served with hominy and a potato.

I quite enjoy most offal, but not heart. Usually, it's dry as a bone, grisly, and just not good eats. This heart, however, was juicy and full of flavor thanks to the spice mixture slathered upon it. (A note of the spice mixture: very cuminy, quite salty. I was actually cool with the level of salt because I use copious amounts, but I would imagine for the less salt inclined, it might be a little much.) That slightly metallic, sort of coppery taste of good offal was present. Every bite brought on the thought, "This big muscle with no fat is absolutely tender. Good work guys." The hominy and potato are nice, if not independently flavorful accompaniments. Ultimately, this was the most enjoyable beef heart experienced I've ever had.

And for the main course, I tried the pollo a la brasa (rotisserie chicken).

This chicken, like he heart, is all about the spice rub. And there are a lot of similarities between the two rubs: lots of cumin, garlic, and salt. In fact, the pollo, like the heart, was heavily salted, which, again, I dug. I could have used some more variation between the two meats, but both meats worked well. The chicken was tender and juicy and permeated with the rub. Very enjoyable. The salad and potatoes: a little less so. The salad was a typical iceberg thing with some salad dressing. Meh. The potatoes were, far as I could tell, prototypical South American potatoes. They were thick-cut and once fried. Amazingly though, there was absolutely no salt on them. Not one granule. This cooking and serving method ensured (1) the potato would be somewhat soggy (frying a fresh potato once almost invariably produces a dense, soggy fried potato; think In-N-Out), and (2) the potato would have no flavor of its own. Not a fan am I.

So, K-Rico was a mixed bag. The meats were perfectly cooked and tasty, if of a somewhat homogeneous taste. The items that surrounded the meats, not so great.

Rating: 6/10 (5/10 is average).

K-Rico Peruvian Grill on Urbanspoon

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Trattoria Brown - Pocket Pies

Tomorrow is the first day of school at the University of Utah. My wife is getting her doctorate in vocal performance, and my son is working on his doctorate in playing-with-other-kids-at-preschool. In preparation, I decided to make a new, and portability conducive food: pocket pies. Traditionally, these pies are called pasties, but when I told my wife I was making pasties, she shot me a grin then laughed. From then on, pasties became pocket pies.

The nice thing about pocket pies is you can put whatever you want in them. We decided to use some of the mixed berry preserves on hand, as well as nutella. We even made a savory pocket pie, filled with eggs and bacon. Like I said, you can do whatever. In England, savory meat pies are wildly popular. One thought is to fill them with shepherd's pie, because, come on, everything's good with shepherd's pie.

The crust recipe come from Alton Brown and the Food Network. I cut-and-paste it here without changes. The fillings, however, are my own.

PASTRY

Ingredients

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
6 tablespoons shortening
3/4 cups milk
1 egg mixed with 1 to 2 teaspoons water

Directions

In the bowl of a food processor, combine the baking powder, salt, and flour. Pulse for a few seconds, then pour into a large mixing bowl.

Add the shortening and knead it into the four with your hands until it is crumbly. Add the milk all at once and mix it with a spatula until it begins to come together. Lightly flour your hands and the countertop and turn the dough onto the countertop. Knead the dough ball, folding over ten to twenty times. Using a rolling pin, roll the dough to 1/3 to 1/2 inch thickness, then cut into rounds using a 2 1/4 inch ring. Roll each round as thinly as possible, or to five to six inch diameter. Spoon one to two teaspoons of filling onto the dough, brush the edges of half of the dough lightly with egg wash, fold over and seal the edges together with a fork, dipping it into flour as needed. Gently press down to flatten and evenly distribute the filling and snip or cut three slits into the top of the pie. Dock pies that are going to be deep-fried, instead of snipping or cutting slits.

To bake pies, preheat the oven of 350 F. Place finished pies onto an ungreased baking sheet and bake to twenty-five to thirty minutes, or until golden brown.

And here are the fruits of our labors.

I must say, we quite enjoyed the baked version of the pocket pie, but we also tried the cooked-in-butter version. It was, quite simply, the bomb. Ain't nothing made worse by cooking it in butter.

For this method, simply heat up butter in a pan and cook the pocket pie on each side for about two to three minutes, or until golden brown a rockin'.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Trattoria Brown - Pasta Italia

Okay, disclosure. This pasta is named "Pasta Italia [Italy Pasta]", but it is not exactly Italian. In fact, Pasta Italia was developed by Mormon missionaries serving in Italy sometime before 1996. The first time I ate it I had just spent 32 hours in planes and airports. Under those circumstances, nothing would have sat well in my stomach, and Pasta Italia did not. Thankfully, I tried it again about six months later. It soon became one of my favorite summer pasta dishes, thanks to its nature as a cold pasta salad.

Upon returning to America, some recipe tweeking had to take place. Most notably, bacon was substituted for pancetta, and that's fine because bacon is better than pancetta. Anyway, enjoy this Italian pasta that isn't.

Ingredients

1 pound pasta

8 ounces (two balls) of mozzarella

6 roma tomatoes (deseeded and chopped)

1/2 cup parmigiano reggiano

15 fresh basil leaves (or 1 tablespoon dried basil)

7 strips bacon

5 tablespoons balsamic vinegar

3 tablespoons olive oil

Salt (to taste)


Directions

Heat water over high heat. While water is coming to boil, place bacon in a sauté pan and warm over medium high heat. Cook until crispy but not burned. While bacon is cooking, cut the mozzarella into small cubes, and place them in a large bowl. Cut tomatoes in half, Seed them and cut them into small cubes, and places them into the large bowl. Now that the bacon is done, remove the bacon and cut into ½ strips and set aside.


By now, the water should be boiling. Add salt and put in pasta (preferably shells). Poor over tomatoes and mozzarella the balsamic vinegar and olive oil and stir together. Chiffonade the basil leaves and set aside. When the pasta is cooked and still al dente, remove front heat and poor into a colander. Once in colander, run cold water over it until pasta is cooled. Shake off excess water and place pasta in large bowl. Place bacon, basil, and parmigiano over the pasta. Incorporate everything. Add salt to taste. Enjoy.


Thursday, August 18, 2011

Bohemian Brewery & Grill

Address: 94 Fort Union Blvd, Midvale, UT 84047. 801.566.5474.

Review: So, German food. I'm an Italophile, so German food wouldn't seem like a natural fit for my taste buds. However, my brother was stationed in Frankfurt when I was young, and we visited (read: used him as an excuse to vacation in Europe) him often. It was during these trips I experienced foods such as schnitzel, fries covered with mayonnaise (quick note: if you have not tried mayo on your fries, you, my good friend, have not lived. Amazing.), and apple strudel covered in warm honeyed cream (still, possibly, the best dessert I've ever tasted). It is with these memories in mind, a buddy and I frequented Bohemian Brewery & Grill.

The large container next to the building is used to manufacture beer, which means Bohemian is a microbrewery. Now, there seem to be two types of microbreweries. First is the type that makes beer, and then serves some food as well. Second is the type that takes as much thought of its food as its beer. Because I don't drink, I don't have much use for the first type. So, which type is Bohemian? Let's find out.

I started with the potato pancakes, which were served with sour cream and apple sauce.

The difficult thing about these pancakes is if they're too thick, they become incredibly dense and starchy. Bohemian's version generally avoided this problem. The outside was crispy, and they weren't too thick. Near the middle, however, things became a little too starchy and a little too not crispy. The sour cream was beautifully light and tangy, which helped cut through the natural density of the pancake. The apple sauce was interesting. I've never had it before and didn't think it would work well, but it did. It's slight sweetness complimented the only lightly salted pancakes. Good stuff.

Now, on to the entree. And schnitzel is was.


This is my all time favorite German food. Pounded out pork, breaded, and then fried in butter. Little could be better. We ordered an innumerable amount of this meaty goodness from German street vendors, and I was always surprised by the quality. Bohemian's schnitzel was tender, and the pork had good flavor, not heirloom pork breed good, but good. The breading was okay, but not as crispy as I really enjoy. The white cream sauce that accompanied the schnitzel contained a good amount of lemon, and a good amount of lemon is essential to any good schnitzel. The mashed potatoes were creamy and light (i.e., not weighed down with loads of butter). The mixed veggies were okay, nothing special.

In the end, solid food, and pretty good schnitzel. Definitely worth another meal.

Rating: 6.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Bohemian Brewery & Grill on Urbanspoon

Leslie's French Pastries

Address: 2308 Murray Holladay Rd, Salt Lake City, UT 84117. 801.278.3341.

Review: After mailing some court documents at the Holladay Post Office, my son and I thought we'd stop by Leslie's French Pastries on the way home.

We have driven past many, many times, so it was only fair we stopped in.

Now, to be honest, I don't rightly know baked goods. First, I don't bake well; I cook. Second, I don't often eat baked goods --- I'm a salt guy. I say this because I don't know the name of what we ordered, so pictures will have to do the 'splainin'. I ordered this.

I do know the topping was a pecan streusel. I also know the pastry component was light and buttery. The streusel had some brown sugar and, of course, pecans. The unfortunate thing about using nuts in pastries like this is they lose their crunch as soon as they soak up liquid from the glaze and streusel. This notwithstanding, the pecans had some bite left and provided the only textural contrast. The glaze was, well, sweet and glazy. In all, I liked it.

My son ordered this.

Below the dense pink topping, was a series of light, flaky pastry levels interspersed with a vanilla cream. The real star here was the cream. It was light, not too sweet, and addictive. Likewise, the pastry levels were flaky and light, a perfect accompaniment to the cream. As I said before, the topping was dense and overly sweet. It didn't seem to go well with the rest of the pastry. In the end, we removed that layer and ate the rest. Pretty good stuff.

Well, that ends our pastry experience at Leslie's. They also make cakes that looked darn good. One day, we'll have to come back and try one.

Rating: 6.5/10 (5/10 is average).

Leslie's French Pastries on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Trattoria Brown - Rigatoni with Garbanzo Bean Sauce

We have a vegetarian friend my wife affectionately calls "ceci," which is Italian for "garbanzo beans." Thankfully, this moniker is not appropriate because our friend resembles ceci (that would be awkward), but it is appropriate because she eats ceci oft. Well, in honor of our little ceci friend, we made Rigatoni with garbanzo bean sauce.

While we quite enjoy ceci, we wondered about this pasta, because it's pretty much pasta and ceci. Well, our skidishness was entirely unfounded. The ceci sauce was surprisingly creamy and earthy, thanks in large part to the rosemary. Oh, and we used dried rosemary, which was a mistake. Use fresh. And here is the recipe, which derives from (with only slight changes) "The Silver Spoon Pasta," page 122.

Ingredients

1 1/2 cups cooked or canned garbanzo beans, drained
4 tablespoons olive oil
4 tablespoons beef stock
1 garlic clove
1 sprig finely chopped fresh rosemary, plus extra to garnish
12 ounces rigatoni
salt and pepper
parmigiano reggiano, grated

Directions

Put half the garbanzo beans into a food processor or blender and process to a puree. Heat two tablespoons olive oil in a pan. Add the garlic clove and cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for a few minutes until lightly browned. Remove the garlic and discard. Add the pureed garbanzo beans and the whole garbanzo beans to the pan, add beef stock, sprinkle with the rosemary, and season with salt and pepper. Cook over low heat, stirring frequently, for ten minutes. Cook the rigatoni in plenty of salted water until al dente (likely around twelve minutes). Drain, tip into a warmed serving dish, and pour the garbanzo bean sauce and the remaining olive oil over. Garnish with rosemary sprigs, add parmigiano to taste, and serve immediately.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Trattoria Brown - Slow Cooker Lemon Chicken and Potatoes

Slow cooker cooking, what can you say. Usually doesn't create the best flavor, but it's imminently useful and easy. Anyway, my wife recently bought a book by the title, "The Italian Slow Cooker," by Michele Scicolone, and we thought we'd try it out. So, before church we fired things up and made the following lemon chicken and potatoes:

Ingredients


4 medium potatoes, peeled and cut into wedges
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3 ½ pounds bone-in chicken legs, thighs or breasts, skin removed
3 tablespoon olive oil
2 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1 teaspoon dried oregano
½ cu dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 medium lemon, sliced and seeded

Directions

Scatter the potatoes in the slow cooker and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Pat the chicken pieces dry with paper towels and sprinkle with salt and pepper. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the chicken pieces and cook until nicely browned on all sides, about 15 minutes. Place the chicken on top of the potatoes.

Add the onions to the skillet and cook until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic and oregano and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and lemon juice and bring it to a simmer. Pour the mixture over the chicken and potatoes.


Cover and cook on high for 3 hours or high for 5 hours. Tuck the lemon slices around the chicken pieces and cook for 1 hour more, or until the potatoes are tender and the chicken is cooked through. Serve hot.


Here are a couple photos. (In true Italian fashion, the dish looks like it was made at home. Nothing fancy, just good, hearty fare. Must say, the lemons are a must. In fact, splash a little more than called for at the end to liven up the taste.)




Sunday, August 14, 2011

Trattoria Brown - Saturday Morning Buttermilk Pancakes

For the last couple years, we have had a tradition in our house. Our son awakens and immediately asks for pancakes. He and I then go to the kitchen and make them together. In the beginning, we used a milk-based pancake recipe, but they didn't rise well, so we searched for a buttermilk recipe, and finally found one thanks to Alton Brown. Over time, we've tweaked the recipe, but not much. Hopefully, you enjoy these as much as we do.

Recipe:

Ingredients

Dry
2 cups AP flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons sugar

Wet
2 eggs separated
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup whole or 2% milk
4 tablespoons melted butter, at room temperature

Directions

Heat electric griddle to 350. Microwave butter for 30 seconds until just melted. Set aside butter to cool to room temperature. Place all dry ingredients in large mixing bowl and incorporate fully. Separate the eggs, placing the whites in a medium mixing bowl, and the yolks in a small mixing bowl. In the whites bowl, introduce buttermilk and whole milk, then whisk until the egg whites are fully incorporated into the liquid. In the yolk bowl, whisk together the butter and egg yolks until incorporated. Next, whisk together the yolk-butter mixture and the white-buttermilk mixture. Pour the resulting liquid on the dry ingredients. Whisk vigorously for twelve seconds. (After twelve seconds, you'll still have lumps. It's okay, they'll work themselves out during the cooking process.) It will look something like this.

Lightly butter the griddle, wiping off any excess with a paper towel. Ladle the pancake batter onto the griddle and cook for 2 1/2 minutes on each side.

This recipe yields about twelve pancakes.

Ultimately, you can serve these pancakes however you wish. We prefer ours with bananas and strawberries.
Or maybe a little nutella and bananas.

Saturday, August 13, 2011

Blue Plate Diner

Address: 2140 S 2100 E, Salt Lake City, UT 84108. 801.463.1151.

Review: Breakfast for dinner (a.k.a. "brinner" of "deakfast") is one of life's great pleasures. When my buddy and I decided brinner was the way to go, we sauntered over to the Blue Plate Diner.

Blue Plate is a throwback sort of place, complete with old rusty bikes attached like old Christmas-tree ornaments to the patio. Once inside, the throwback theme continues with old sheet metal foodstuff advertisements and a jukebox (you know, the kind that has the bubbles always coming up the side tubes).

I ordered the chili verde omelet, which interested me primarily because it came smothered in homemade chili verde pork sauce. What I ended up receiving was the spanish omelet, which was filled with cheddar cheese and onions, and topped with salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

It also came with homefries and an english muffin.

The reason I didn't send it back was that my buddy and I were so engrossed in conversation that I didn't realize they brought me the wrong dish until I was about a third of the way through. By then, I had passed the point of no return, so I went with it.

This was an American-style omelet for sure. The eggs were fluffy but had been completely cooked, so they lost some of that liquidy texture a great omelet should have. The cheddar cheese was creamy and stringy, but wasn't sharp at all, so it didn't actually add much flavor. The salsa was standard stuff, nothing too exciting. The gaucamole, however, was great. The avocado flavor was front and center, and while I don't usually like onions in my guac, these onions enhanced all the other flavors. The sour cream was creamy and tangy. In all, the omelet was alright.

The homefries were nothing more than baked potato pieces, but they was good. They were crunchy on the outside, and fluffy light on the inside. The seasoning was just enough to make you think, "Man, it feels like I'm eating a really good potato." With a little hot sauce, the home fries became the strongest part of the meal.

English muffin. Soft. Not dry, as they so often are. Good.

It was a pretty good meal. Honestly, I think the chili verde omelet would have been better than what I had, but it's my fault for not noticing the waitresses mistake. (This noted, watch out for the service in general, it's a pretty common critique of the Blue Plate.) The next time I go, I'm thinking the array of eggs benedict on the menu will be calling my name.

Rating: 6/10 (5/10 is average).

Blue Plate Diner on Urbanspoon

Murray City Farmers Market

Address: 5200 S 200 E, Murray, UT 84107.

Experience: The Murray farmers market is held at the Murray City park on Saturday mornings. It's a quaint (read: little) farmers market held in a parking lot.


Because it's smaller and less frequented, you end up with smaller purveyors, which is good. Everyone needs the opportunity to hock their wares and make profits.

We first happened upon these fresh Cache Valley blueberries. Actually, there was more than blueberries. Ultimately, we bought blueberries, raspberries, and blackberries.

All were quite good. The blueberries were large and juicy. The blackberries (which aren't actually berries, but that's a botany lesson for another day) were wild, and tart without too much sugar. The raspberries were the same. Honestly, it's nice to taste fruit like this: not overly sweet with many different tastes to be experienced. These little babies are destined to cook up in some orange blossom honey and lemon juice to make preserves.

Some eggplants also caught our eye, and at a buck each, who could resist.

With smooth skin, firm flesh, a deep purple color, and fairly uniform circumferences, these will be dispatched and will make what will undoubtedly be a pleasing melanzane alla parmigiana.

So, while the produce is not terribly varied, it is of good quality. In the end, it'll take you five minutes to walk through the Murray farmers market, but it will be worth your while.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Adobos Caribbean Grill

Address: 9460 South Union Square Plaza, Ste 106, Salt Lake City, UT 84070. 801.523.3672.

Review: Puerto Rico: small caribbean island that's actually an American commonwealth. Puerto Ricans vote every so often about becoming a state, but they never pull the trigger. No matter, their food is a mix of Spanish and caribbean influences and just plain tastes good. A Puerto Rican woman once made me coconut flan for which I still long fortnightly. Thus, it was with serious anticipation I tried Adobos Caribbean Grill.

First, I ordered the pan con ajo (bread with garlic).

The bread was pressed Cuban, brushed with olive oil, salt, and garlic. Every good European or European influenced cuisine has a dish like this. For example, in Italy, crostini are browned, rubbed with raw garlic, then doused in olive oil and salt. The pressed bread used in pan con ajo is a fluffy white bread pressed to become more dense, which is good since plain fluffy white bread is all air and no substance. Ultimately, though, you can only dress up fluffy, non-distinct white bread so much because it will always taste like non-distinct bread with some stuff on it.

Next up was the mofongo, which is a dish of, essentially, smashed plantains and a protein. In this case, I ordered the carne frita.


The carne in the carne frita is fried pork sirloin. It was served with onions and bells peppers and smothered in a heavily spiced (not as in spicy, but as in lots of spices) tomato sauce. As you can see, the plantains served as an edible bowl for the pork. Now, I dig me some plantains, and these didn't disappoint. They were crunchy and stiff (in a good way), and had just a hint of sweetness to them. The pork was very well cooked, crunchy on the outside, juicy on the inside. So far, so good.

And then there was the cilantro mojo, which I'm assuming (out of complete ignorance) is the tomato sauce. It included cilantro, and some oregano, lots of other flavors, and lots of not-really-cooked tomato sauce. In fact, the sauce was in that no man's land between uncooked-and-therefore-light-and-acidic sauce and not-cooked-enough-to-develop-deep-flavors sauce. Man, how I wanted to like it because I dug the rest of the mofongo, but I just couldn't. This element really brought down the dish for me because it was ubiquitous and overpowering.

Honestly, I think I ended up ordering something I just didn't like. I could see the deft hand of someone who knew how to prepare darn good food, but that mojo, man. I'll be back, and I think when I order the arroz con pollo or another mofongo, my rating will likely improve.

Rating: 5/10 (5/10 is average).

Adobos Caribbean Grill on Urbanspoon