Recipe of the Month - December, 2008

December 8th, 2008

Asparagus Gruyere Tart

Flour, for work surface
1 frozen puff pastry
5 1/2 ounces Gruyere cheese, shredded (2 cups)
1 1/2 pounds medium or thick asparagus
1 tablespoon olive oil
Salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. On a floured surface, roll the puff pastry into a 16-by-10-inch rectangle. Trim uneven edges. Place pastry on a baking sheet. With a sharp knife, lightly score pastry 1 inch in from the edges to mark a rectangle. Using a fork, pierce pastry inside the markings at 1/2-inch intervals. Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.
Remove pastry shell from oven, and sprinkle with Gruyere. Trim the bottoms of the asparagus spears to fit crosswise inside the tart shell; arrange in a single layer over Gruyere, alternating ends and tips. Brush with oil, and season with salt and pepper. Bake until spears are tender, 20 to 25 minutes.

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Beer of the Month - November, 2008

October 27th, 2008
Erdinger Weissbier
Erdinger Weissbier

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Banana Bread

October 11th, 2008
Banana bread

* 1 cup granulated sugar
* 8 tablespoons (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
* 2 large eggs
* 3 ripe bananas
* 1 tablespoon milk
* 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
* 2 cups all-purpose flour
* 1 teaspoon baking powder
* 1 teaspoon baking soda
* 1 teaspoon salt


Preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Butter a 9 x 5 x 3 inch loaf pan.

Cream the sugar and butter in a large mixing bowl until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a fork. Mix in the milk and cinnamon. In another bowl, mix together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt.

Add the banana mixture to the creamed mixture and stir until combined. Add dry ingredients, mixing just until flour disappears.

Pour batter into prepared pan and bake 1 hour to 1 hour 10 minutes, until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Set aside to cool on a rack for 15 minutes. Remove bread from pan, invert onto rack and cool completely before slicing.

Spread slices with honey or serve with ice cream.
- Food Network

The only way in which I deviated was to exclude one of the three bananas; it got a little gross since I had planned to make this a few days ago. But I will say, however, that this was hands down the best banana bread I've ever eaten. I HIGHLY recommend this recipe. The 15 minutes you let it cool before turning it out will be a very long 15 minutes...

Tango Sur - Chicago, Il

October 9th, 2008

I recently vacationed in Chicago, staying with my best friend (awwwwwww). One thing we discussed was going to a dinner somewhere that might be worthy of a review. Without hesitation he picked Tango Sur. I have experienced American steakhouses where dark wood and dim lights create ambiance for big steaks; and Brazilian steakhouses where meats (on swords!) are brought to the table in waves; and Japanese steakhouses where I get cranky if my Teppen chef does not transition the onion volcano into a choo-choo train. Tango Sur was my first Argentinian steakhouse.

No gimmicks, just good food.

We started with what my friend told me was basically an appetizer ritual when he goes to Tango Sur: Spinach & Cheese Empanadas. Not to detract from the rest of the meal, details still forthcoming below, but the empanadas we heavenly. The entire meal was delicious, but the appetizers stole the show.

Luckily we ordered the appetizers and our entrees at once, so I did get something else to write about. I had the Bife Vesuvio - steak stuffed with spinach, cheese and garlic. It may seem slightly redundant to get something stuffed with spinach and cheese after the empanada, but I was tantalized by the garlic (I believe it was the only item on the menu that specifically listed garlic. What was a guy to do?). Ultimately it was the right order; it was delicious. The steak, actually, was fine. I feel like it was a hunk of flank steak or something similar -- tough and plain. It was seasoned perfectly so that I almost forgot how dangerously close it came to being dry. The stuffing was out of this world. I feel like garlic and cheese on anything is almost cheating, but I won't complain. I loved it.

We both ate an incredible amount of food, but it is hard to pass on dessert so we decided to split a slice of carrot cake. Even the dessert was great. It was slightly more dense than what I consider a traditional carrot cake, which was right up my alley.

We bought wine from the over-priced wine store across the street from the restaurant. Tango Sur is b.y.o.b. and they charged (I believe) no corking fee. As a practical matter, the over-priced wine from the store was still less expensive than it would have been off a restaurant menu, so take that into consideration if you go to the same store.

This was a great restaurant and without his suggestion, I never would have found it on my own.

Tango Sur is located at 3763 N Southport Ave, between Grace and Waveland.

Samuel Adams Octoberfest

October 2nd, 2008

As my horizons broaden into more seasonal beers, as they have lately, this was a natural choice. Whose favorite "season" doesn't involve Germans celebrating beer anyway? Octoberfest was featured as a rotating tap at a restaurant/bar; so my first experience is based solely on Octoberfest draft.

In a word: delicious.

To elaborate: I said that it was almost like having a meal in a glass, but that was misinterpreted as full-bodied. I realize that I chose my words poorly. This beer tastes like your favorite crusty bread soaked in beer. That may not appeal to you. It wouldn't appeal to the late Dr. Atkins. It appealed to me just fine.

I have a new reason to look forward to fall: the leaves change color; the temperature begins its descent; and Samuel Adams Octoberfest hits the shelves (and taps).

Recipe of the Month - October, 2008

September 25th, 2008

Pumpkin Ravioli

For the filling:
1 1/2 pound pumpkin
2 tablespoons softened unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
1/4 cup grated Locatelli cheese
1 tablespoon minced fresh sage
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

1 package wonton skins
Egg wash (1 egg, mixed with 1 teaspoon water)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter
4 sage leaves, minced
1/2 cup cream or chicken broth
Freshly grated Locatelli cheese to taste
Deep fried sage leaves for garnish

Preheat the oven to 350 F. To make the filling; quarter the pumpkin, removing the strings and seeds and place, flesh side down, on an oiled baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes, or until tender. Peel and puree flesh. Add egg yolk, cheese, sage, nutmeg and salt and pepper to taste. Arrange one wanton skin on work surface. Add 1 teaspoon filling, mounding it in center of square and brush border with egg wash. Top with another wanton skin, pressing dough around filling to remove any air bubbles and transfer to a lightly floured baking sheet. Cover with dampened towels while preparing remaining raviolis. In a saucepan of boiling salted water cook the ravioli until they are just tender. In a saucepan set over moderate heat melt the butter, add the sage and cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add the cream and simmer until lightly thickened. Drain the pasta and transfer to a serving bowl. Add sauce and toss to combine. Garnish with sage leaves. - FoodNetwork

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Beer of the Month - October, 2008

September 23rd, 2008
Sam Adams Octoberfest
Samuel Adams Octoberfest

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Recipe of the Month - September, 2008

September 14th, 2008

Stuffed Chicken Caprese

A classic summer favorite, caprese salad, lends its flavors to this easy chicken dish. The chicken is stuffed with mozzarella and basil leaves and then served with sautéed cherry tomatoes and a sprinkling of torn basil.

4 boneless skinless chicken breast halves
4 (1-oz.) slices reduced-fat mozzarella cheese
8 large fresh basil leaves
1/4 teaspoon salt, divided
1/8 teaspoon pepper
2 teaspoons olive oil
2 cups cherry tomatoes, halved
1/2 cup torn fresh basil

1. With small knife, make horizontal slit in chicken breasts to create pockets, being careful not to cut all the way through. Sandwich 1 cheese slice between 2 basil leaves; stuff into pockets. Secure with toothpicks. Sprinkle chicken with 1/8 teaspoon of the salt and pepper.

2. Heat large skillet over medium-high heat until hot. Add oil; heat until hot. Cook chicken 5 minutes; turn. Scatter tomatoes over chicken; sprinkle with remaining 1/8 teaspoon salt. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook, covered, 4 to 5 minutes or until chicken is no longer pink in center. Sprinkle chicken with torn basil. Remove toothpicks before serving.

4 servings

Cooking Pleasures Magazine

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Beer of the Month - September, 2008

September 4th, 2008
Boont Amber Ale

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2006 Ruffino Orvieto Classico

August 1st, 2008

Typically the summer heat lures people into the light body and crisp flavors of white wines, though you can enjoy white wine all year. I do not drink much white wine. I normally find white wine to be too sour. I know they are typically described as too sweet for many palates, but it is the sourness like that of a green apple that I taste in many white wines. And that is the sourness I tasted in this wine specifically. This was my first Orvieto - coming on a recommendation from a friend - and I liked that it seems to be more dry than some other white wine varietals. I would consider Orvieto more on par with a Pinot Gris in that respect. I have had white wines that I liked more than this one, but I've certainly had worse. At around $10, this is a great value if you like green apple.

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