Friday, March 21, 2008

So rich, no dairy!

For dinner this week, we threw off our dairy shackles and went sans butter into the kitchen, not a huge ascetic movement I know, but we've been using a lot of butter lately and it was refreshing to remind ourselves of the richness and cleanliness of olive oil. The entree was baked cod, first slathered with young olive oil and then breaded with a panko, dill, sea salt mixture. Baked to a perfect flaky texture the cod's delicate herby crust paired wonderfully with Springy baby peas cooked with olive oil, mint, and onions. And because we've been eating so many biscuits lately, this time with asiago cheese baked in, we had another vegetable to ease our consciences; asparagus sauteed in olive oil and finished with lemon and salt. A simple supper, yes but a fabulous reminder that Spring is on the way and the days of beef stew and dark beers are melting away. Soon it will be all sun, salads, avocados, fish tacos, vino verde, and cookouts galore. So, put on Joao Gilberto while you cook, try to ignore the snow and have fun with this taste of Spring.

The cod was the star of the evening so here is the recipe, but the peas can be found in the link above.

Four pieces of wild caught cod
1 cup or more or Panko (depends on how much breading you like)
2 tbs of dried dill
4 pinches of sea salt
olive oil

a large shallow bowl
a large plate
glass casserole dish

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees
mix the panko, dill, and sea salt into a large shallow bowl
pour olive oil into a large plate

take each piece of cod and dip it into the olive oil then into the panko mixture
try to coat all sides evenly

place in the glass casserole dish

bake for about 30 min until flaky when pierced with a fork

Enjoy! Thanks for the idea Sabrina!


Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Go out! Lavomatic, eat local in style

Lavomatic is a Jean Robert group restaurant, the newest, on Vine street. Although some people, were skeptical about Lavomatic being on the OTR side of Vine street, both times I've been there since its recent opening the restaurant has been packed. Set in an old laundromat the french Lavomatic is very casual, cute, and intimate. A long bar, decorated with broken wine glass sculptures, is on the north side of the restaurant while the south side holds benches and tables for larger groups, and there is a rooftop patio for seasonal dining!
Another plus, and this is a huge deal, is the high number of locally sourced menu items. At the bar, I enjoyed the local organically raised Rabbit Stew with Herbed Dumplings which was divine and saucy, the meat was tender and the dumplings were so comforting I almost slumped over in relief. I pulled myself together and moved on to the Snail Skewers with Dijon-Red Wine sauce, these darlings consisted of two snails per skewer flanked by grilled vegetables and drizzled with tangy, dark sauce that complimented the escargot while allowing their true flavor to permeate the palette. In the same evening I tried the Grilled Cheese Du Jour and at $4.50 it is the perfect snack with a glass of wine, on this day the sandwich was Gorgonzola and pear melted between slices of buttery white bread, it was my dining companion's favorite dish.

I went home. I thought about that grilled cheese and the wine and the adorable wall art and I went back.

My second time in I sat at a table, which is only three feet from the bar so not a hugely different experience but I had a great view of the bustling kitchen which in turn drove me to order insane amounts of food.

I started with the Three Little Pigs. A triage of pork preparations lovingly wrapped in pastry dough and enhanced with a red wine reduction it was lilting. I had to keep going so I also had the Olives and the Cheese Plate. Those are two separate dishes that are fabulous together. The olives are a mix and dressed with an orange vinaigrette, the cheese plate came with five different cheeses, candied walnuts, toasted baguette slices, and a type of quince or other fruit gelatin used to cleanse the palette between each cheese. I also had the snails again. My neighbor ordered the Cold Salad Trio which is an enormous dish of lentil salad, curried couscous, and vietnamese picked cucumbers. All of the trio participants were delicious but the vietnamese cucumbers stood out for their thin slices and sour, refreshing taste. Alas, I made it to desert and tried the Chocolate...? I was a little tipsy this point but I recall the chocolate was rich and accompanied by berries

So...go out! Even if you've never been downtown before and especially if you've never been to OTR, go out and enjoy yourself. Let me know what you had and thought at Lavomatic!


Sunday, March 16, 2008

Little Pillows of Buttermilk and Joy

So, I suppose I am on a Southern kick but I finally got my mom's recipe for buttermilk biscuits. This is one of those blessed recipes that are simple to prepare and make you look like some sort of alimentary goddess. For instance, if you say spent the night at someone's house whom you were very much in love/lust/like with and got up early to make these biscuits there WILL be a future for you two. Buttermilk biscuits like these are superb right out of the oven and fabulous cooled and made into ham and butter or veggie and cheese sandwiches, a winner in any setting. Here is the recipe: Go forth and bake!

Buttermilk Biscuits

2 1/2 cups of all purpose flour
1tbs and 1tsp of baking powder (aluminum free)
1/2 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
6tbs of unsalted butter
1 cup of butter milk

pastry cutter (for cutting butter into four)
biscuit cuter
metal mixing bowl
wooden spoon
cookie sheet

if no buttermilk add 1tbs vinegar to a scant cup of milk

Preheat your oven to 450

Mix, very well, the dry ingredients into a metal mixing bowl

Slice the butter (cold) into pats over the bowl and then cut the pats into fourths, little pieces, let them drop into the dry ingredients

With your hands pinch the little pieces of butter into the flour, be careful not to heat up the butter in any way and try to have cold hands

With a pastry cutter cut the butter into the flour until the entire surface is coarse with little butter pieces

Add the milk and fold in into the dry ingredients with a wooden spoon

Sprinkle your work surface with a bit of flour

When the mixture is mostly stuck together dump it out on your work surface

With the heels of your palms push the dough forward until it looks like a bicycle seat and then fold it into itself, do this around 10 or 12 times until dough is smooth, add flour to your work surface as needed

When dough is ready pat it into a round form and roll it out to about an inch and a fourth, cut the dough into circles and place on your cookie sheet

repeat until all the dough has been formed into biscuits

place on the middle rack and bake for 10 minutes



Cooking Tips

I recently learned, although I already kind of knew this, that when "sweating" vegetables or "blooming" herbs in olive oil you should start with a cold pan. The oil and herbs/veggies go in together and then heat is gently added, the reason being: starting with a cold pan slowly coaxes the aromatics and juices from the items cooking In stark contrast to this is throwing the herbs/veggies into hot oil which instantly sears the outside of the vegetables insuring that their juices stay inside! you know.


Southern Comfort

When I wrote earlier about dishes that call for butter, lots of butter, this recipe sprung to mind. From the great Southern cook Edna Lewis, comes this buttery, warming, tomato dream, so comforting that even if you didn't have a southern granny cooking for you as a child you'll swear this dish brings back memories of her bent over the oven singing to her lil' grandbaby. In some circles I believe this is referred to as scalloped tomatoes, and my mother who is southern says she used to make it with cracker crumbs on top. I used a loaf of sourdough bread that had roasted garlic cloves backed inside and the added garlic was divine, on the side I served a green salad with organic blue cheese dressing. I hope you enjoy this little bit of southern comfort as much as I did.

Also, If you have the temptation to add Parmesan or oregano to this in order to make it Italian, resist! This is butter and tomatoes in their most simplest southern form, delicious.

3 (28-ounce) cans whole tomatoes in juice
3/4 stick unsalted butter, divided
2 medium onions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
1/8 teaspoon ground allspice
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon dried thyme
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar, or to taste
8 (1/4-inch-thick) slices good-quality white sandwich bread such as a pullman loaf

Preheat oven to 425°F with rack in middle. Butter a 3-quart baking dish (about 13 by 9 by 2 inches).

Drain tomatoes, reserving 1 cup juice, then chop.

Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a 5- to 6-quart heavy pot over medium-high heat until foam subsides, then cook onions with 1/2 teaspoon salt, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, allspice, and cloves and cook, stirring, 1 minute.

Stir in tomatoes with reserved juice, thyme, brown sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper and briskly simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, melt remaining 1/2 stick butter and brush onto both sides of bread. Halve each slice.

Transfer tomato mixture to baking dish and top with bread, overlapping slightly. Bake until bubbling and bread is crisp and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.


The Joys of Snacking you may have noticed I am smitten with food, a preoccupation that leads to a lot of eating, even when I'm not hungry, and especially between meals. I try to eat healthy but then a recipe calls for a half a stick of butter, I'm not someone to deny a dish it's rightful buttery flavor in order to cut calories. But I do snack healthy and I tend to snack raw. This dip is so easy that it will hardly cut into your snack time, it takes about three minutes to create. Bebe carrots, stalks of celery, or any raw vegetable crudites will compliment the heavy Greek yogurt that serves as the base. The raw garlic will give you the energy you need until your next fabulous meal.

1 small container of 1% Greek Yogurt
1 clove of garlic, crushed
Fresh mint, dill, and parsley, chopped
1 half of a radish, diced
salt, pepper

Mix everything up and eat with raw vegetables, Enjoy!


Sled for Sandwiches

Cincinnati received some snow and an impromptu sledding outing left us cold and famished. We wanted something heavy but spicy enough to thaw our icy bones and found the perfect treat in Gourmet, a Bahn Mi.

It's hard to find comfort food that also dazzles the palate. This sandwich piled high with mellow braunschwagger, roasted chicken, and mayo is brightened with jalapenos, sweet onions, cilantro, and soy sauce. In this Vietnamese fusion treat you will be excited by the spiciness and then pass out from the heaviness of the meat and the comforting aroma of a toasted baguette. Enjoy!

1/2 lb daikon, peeled
1 carrot, peeled
1/2 cup rice vinegar (not seasoned)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 (24-inch) soft baguette
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 tablespoon Asian fish sauce
1/2 teaspoon soy sauce
1/4 lb liverwurst
2 fresh jalapeƱos, thinly sliced
1/2 sweet onion, cut into 1/4-inch rings
3/4 cup packed cilantro sprigs
2 cooked chicken breasts from a rotisserie chicken, thinly sliced
Lettuce leaves
2 tablespoons mayonnaise

Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.

Shred daikon and carrot in a food processor fitted with medium shredding disk. Stir together vinegar, sugar, and 1/2 teaspoon salt and toss with shredded vegetables. Let slaw stand, stirring occasionally, 15 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat baguette on rack in oven until crusty, about 5 minutes. Cut off and discard round ends, then split baguette.

Mix together oil, fish sauce, and soy sauce and brush on cut sides of bread. Spread liverwurst on bottom layer of bread and top with chiles, onion, and cilantro.

Drain slaw in a colander.

Arrange chicken, slaw, and lettuce on cilantro. Spread top layer of bread with mayonnaise and cut sandwich crosswise into fourths.


Goes very well with a little bit of whiskey or a cold beer.