Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Sarkis: The Greatest Place On Earth

It's almost embarrassing to admit this, but I have been eating Sarkis Lorettas for over 15 years.  And I don't mean every once and awhile, I'm talking several days in a row, every time I am back in Chicago and, sometimes, multiple times in one day.  That's just how good these things are.  Now, for those of you that go to Sarkis and order eggs sunny-side up or waffles, that's just pure armature play.  Put your big boy pants on and go for the original.  I've tried every Loretta but my staple has always been the ham with everything, special hash browns and a diet coke.  Feel free to steal my order.  Lucky for Chicagoans, there are two locations; one in Skokie and one on Fullerton and Clark.  They also deliver.  Run, don't walk.


Monday, July 16, 2012

Pork Belly Watermellon Salad With Balsamic Glaze

I must say, I really outdid myself on this dish.  I made this a couple weeks ago for a small dinner party and it was a mega hit.  I created the dish using a memory of a similar dish I ate at a restaurant about a year ago.  I have never made pork belly so I just never got to trying to recreate it.  Then, I came face to face with a beautiful pork belly and I decided it was time to go for it.  I cured it myself using a mixture of kosher salt, brown sugar and fresh herbs.  I cured it over night in the fridge and then cut the belly up into lardons and cooked them in a pan on the stove low and slow. 

While the belly was cooking, I put a small pot on the stove with 1 cup of balsamic vinegar and 2 teaspoons of brown sugar.  I reduced the vinegar until it covered the back of my spoon in a medium thick consistency and set aside.  Probably took about 10 minutes and I whisked it as it reduced.  Then, I thinly sliced a jalapeno and marinated it with a juice of a lime in a ramekin.  Once the bacon was done, I cubed some watermelon and jicima and arranged it on the plate.  I added the bacon, sprinkled the jalapeno slices, drizzled in the vinegar and then topped with some mirco greens.  SO FREAKING GOOD!

Chipotle Coleslaw

I can't believe it but somehow my husband convinced me to go camping this weekend.  I absolutely hate to camp.  No matter what, you wake up wet, your back hurts and the smell of campfire has saturated your clothes.  And that's just the morning.  Don't even get me started on setting up let alone cleaning up a campsite.  So the deal is that I will go for one night but I am in charge of all the meals and there has to be a bathroom. 

We always buy Morton's tri tip steaks at Costco so I figure I'll grill that up and serve it with one of my favorite side dishes of all time- coleslaw- but with a Chipotle twist.  I found the recipe and pic on Cooking Light.  Pray for me...

Chipotle Coleslaw
  • 1/2 cup mayonnaise
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons white vinegar
  • 1 tablespoon molasses (not blackstrap)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 1 small canned chipotle chile, minced, plus 2 tsp. adobo sauce from the can
  • About 1 tsp. kosher salt
  • 6 cups each packed shredded green and red cabbage
  • 7 green onions, green and pale green portions, sliced into thin rounds
  • 1 cup tightly packed chopped fresh cilantro leaves
1. Prepare the dressing: In a medium bowl, stir together mayonnaise, sour cream, vinegar, molasses, sugar, minced chile, adobo sauce, and 1 tsp. salt.
2. In a large bowl, toss together cabbage, green onions, and 3/4 cup chopped cilantro. Pour dressing over vegetables, toss well, and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Before serving, add more salt if you like and scatter remaining 1/4 cup chopped cilantro over the top.


Friday, June 22, 2012

Annual Trip to Boonville!

We had a great time up in Boonville a couple weekends ago.  We made our stops at Toulouse Vineyards, the Apple Farm and stayed and ate at the wonderful Boonville Hotel.  The weather was beautiful and we enjoyed playing some bocce and napping in the hammock in the hotel gardens.  Can't wait to go back!

Monday, June 11, 2012

Diavola Restaurant

Drew and I went on our annual trip to Anderson Valley this weekend to stay at the Boonville hotel.  We have a close friend that works at Diavola and we decided to stop there for dinner on our drive up.  I've put this place on my list of top 3 spots in CA.  It's that good. If you're a pizza person, you'll be in heaven.  I've tried two of their pies and they were both awesome.  The crust is paper thin and crispy and they make their sausage, cured meats and much more in house.  The grilled octopus salad that I had on Friday was the best octopus I have ever had in my life.  They boil the octopus whole for 3 hours and then flash grill it before serving.  I know this because I asked our bartender to ask the chef.

The greatest part about this place is their meat case in the front by the hostess stand.  You can buy house cured pancetta, beef cheek ragu, pork belly cuts, salamis, cheeses and olives.  Some of the items sell out fast.  I was hoping to get more pancetta this trip but they were out.  I bought some pork belly instead.  Next time you're up in Healdsburg or the Dry Creek/ Sonoma region, make sure to stop here.  They have a great wine and beer list, friendly services and every dish is out of this world. 


Thursday, March 8, 2012

The Squeeze Inn Cheeseburger

Drew and I hit up Squeeze Inn in Napa last week to try their famous Squeeze Inn burger with cheese.  I posted the picture above on Facebook and I had a trillion comments asking where in the world they could find this restaurant so I figured it was worthy of its own blog post.  The Squeeze Inn has various location in Sacramento and just opened up in Napa.  It's a small joint with a long counter where locals (mostly high school kids) roll up their sleeves and get down.  The menu is small, I mean it's really about the burger, so don't expect much variety.  It's cheap, delicious and I suggest you workout before you go or the next day.  Go and get yourself some!

Thursday, March 1, 2012

Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa

Every diet requires an 'ah-ha' moment.  Unfortunately for me, I had one on Friday.  It's been a long time coming.  I mean, my yoga mat has dust on it and we buy cheese in bulk from Costco.  As we plan our memorial day weekend, I realize I will probably be in a bathing suit.  Now my friends, it's go-time and my yoga studio will be sick of my sweaty red face in no time.  To pair against my physical activities, I'm lightening our meals.  Tonight, this recipe is on the menu. 

Cilantro-Lime Chicken with Avocado Salsa
Cooking Light

  • Chicken:
  • 2 tablespoons minced fresh cilantro
  • 2 1/2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 (6-ounce) skinless, boneless chicken breast halves
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • Cooking spray
  • Salsa:
  • 1 cup chopped plum tomato (about 2)
  • 2 tablespoons finely chopped onion
  • 2 teaspoons fresh lime juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 avocado, peeled and finely chopped

1. To prepare chicken, combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl; toss and let stand 3 minutes. Remove chicken from marinade; discard marinade. Sprinkle chicken evenly with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Heat a grill pan over medium-high heat. Coat pan with cooking spray. Add chicken to pan; cook 6 minutes on each side or until done.

2. To prepare salsa, combine tomato and next 4 ingredients (through pepper) in a medium bowl. Add avocado; stir gently to combine. Serve salsa over chicken.


Monday, February 6, 2012

Fried Potatoes With Spicy Aioli

Recently I discovered that Micheal Symon has a new show on the Cooking Network called Symon's Classics.  Now, I love this guy.  He has a thick Midwest accent, his food is inventive but heavily rooted in classic American cuisine and he's always laughing.  We never eat carbs at home so when I am in the mood for a potato or some bread you better get out of the way.  When I watched Chef Symon whip this together on his show, I was sold.  You can spice this recipe up or down depending on how much Sriracha you use.   

Fried Potatoes With Spicy Ailoi
Potatoes: 1 1/2 pounds 1- to 2-inch Yukon gold potatoes (about 16)
Kosher salt 
Spicy Aioli:
1 cup mayonnaise
2 tablespoons Sriracha
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
1 clove garlic, minced
1 lime, zested and juiced
Kosher salt
Favorite fat, for frying (I love saved bacon fat or duck fat)
2 scallions, thinly sliced on a bias, to garnish
For the potatoes: To a small saucepan, add the potatoes and cool water to cover. Salt the water generously and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium-high, and simmer until the potatoes are just tender when pierced with a fork, 10 to15 minutes. Remove from the water and let cool. While the potatoes are cooling, make the spicy aioli.

For the spicy aioli: In a large bowl, combine the mayonnaise, Sriracha, paprika, garlic lime zest and juice and a pinch salt. Stir to combine and set aside.

To finish the potatoes: Heat a large cast-iron skillet with your favorite fat until it reaches 350 degrees F. The fat should come 1 to 2 inches up the side of the pan.

With the heel of your hand, smash the potatoes so they are relatively flat but still holding together. Add the potatoes to the fat and cook until golden brown, about 3 minutes. Remove from the fat with a slotted spoon and place in the bowl with the aioli. Add a spoonful of the hot fat, stir to coat and transfer to a serving platter. Garnish with the scallions and serve immediately. I guarantee you will never look at a French fry the same way again.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

Italian Sloppy Joes

We're going to host a Super Bowl party this year and by the look of the 49ers last week we may actually be rooting for a home team!  I watch all the dorky competitive cooking shows and Cooking, Bravo and Food Network.  It's amazing that Drew puts up with it.  Anyway, I was totally cheering for Jeff Mauro, aka the Sandwich King and a Chicago native, to win Next Food Network Star and he did!  So, I feel obligated to post one of his Big Game recipes I found.  This is a do-ahead recipe which makes this a cake walk to pull together and serve warm just before guests arrive. If you are anti veal, no problem.  Just go equal parts beef and pork.   Happy Super Bowl 2012!

Italian Sloppy Joes
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 pound ground sirloin
  • 8 ounces ground pork
  • 8 ounces ground veal
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1 medium onion, diced
  • 1 teaspoon dried Italian seasoning
  • 1/4 cup dry white wine
  • One 28-ounce can diced tomatoes, with juice
  • 1/2 cup whole milk
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 8 slices aged provolone cheese
  • 8 hinged hoagie/sub rolls
  • Oil-packed hot giardiniera, for serving
  • Chianti, for serving
Heat the olive oil in a Dutch oven over medium heat. Add in the sirloin, pork and veal, and brown until no longer pink, about 10 minutes. With a slotted spoon, remove the meat and store in a bowl, leaving the juices and fat in the Dutch oven. 

Sweat the garlic, onions and Italian seasoning in the Dutch oven, stirring frequently to insure they do not burn. Once the onions are translucent, add the meat back to the pan and then add the wine to deglaze. Add in the tomatoes and milk and bring to a simmer, stirring frequently until the sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.

Sandwich Build: Place a piece of cheese in each hoagie roll. Place some meat on top and the some giardiniera on the top of it all. Serve with a pint of Chianti.


Monday, January 9, 2012

Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

What is with this heatwave?  Ski resorts are closed, we grilled tri tips on Sunday and people are jet skiing on the bay.  It's just down-right bizarre.  It's winter!  We should be bundled up in front of the fire and braising short ribs.  While we wait for the weather to change, we might as well eat light.  Half of you probably made the resolution to lose weight for New Years anyway.  Here's a recipe from the folks at Cooking Light that's guilt free and simple to pull together.  If you have access to Meyer lemons that are ripe around this time of year, sub the regular lemons with those instead.

Lemony Orzo-Veggie Salad with Chicken

  • 3/4 cup uncooked orzo
  • 1/4 teaspoon grated lemon rind 
  • 3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice 
  • 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil 
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon minced garlic 
  • 1/4 teaspoon honey
  • 1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper 
  • 1 cup shredded skinless, boneless rotisserie chicken breast 
  • 1/2 cup diced English cucumber 
  • 1/2 cupvred bell pepper 
  • 1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
  • 1 tablespoon chopped fresh dill
  • 1/2 cup (2 ounces) crumbled goat cheese
  1. 1. Cook orzo according to package directions, omitting salt and fat. Drain and rinse with cold water; drain and place in a large bowl.
  2. 2. While orzo cooks, combine lemon rind and next 6 ingredients (through black pepper), stirring well with a whisk. Drizzle juice mixture over orzo; toss to coat. Add chicken and next 4 ingredients (through dill); toss gently to combine. Sprinkle with cheese.


Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Bubba's BBQ, Jackson WY

Drew and I just returned from a much needed 2 week vacation in Jackson Hole, WY.  There we skied, ate, napped and drank.  It was glorious.

I've been on a big BBQ kick lately.  It all started with a trip to Memphis Minnie's, a joint in the lower Haight in San Francisco just before we left for our trip and it was delicious.  It's been tough to find good BBQ in the bay area so if you visit or are from here, check it out.  This kick continued through out our trip with BBQ stops during our road trip through Nevada and Idaho and we tried a upscale place not too far from Bubba's in Jackson.  None of them beats Bubba's in my opinion.  It's the same good food and great low prices that I remember from my college visits.  Drew had a giant bowl of chili and went for the brisket lunch platter.  Here's why I love the place:
  • It's a locals spot and if they don't know you they'll call you honey or sugar anyway. 
  • The service is down-home and friendly.
  • Their baked beans are totally legit.  Don't miss out on them.
  • Each dish is served with a massive, buttery slice of Texas toast.
  • If you want greens they have a fully stocked salad bar.
  • It's cheap.
If you're planning a trip, be sure not to miss Bubba's in Jackson.  It's perfect food for the big appetite you work up skiing, hiking, rafting or whatever else adventure awaits you in WY.