Saturday, May 31, 2008

Sushi Wabi

I have a simple theory when it comes to sushi: if the spicy tuna roll is good, then you can pretty much order anything off the menu and it will be good too. I have tried sushi all over and this rule works very well for me. If the sushi roll is boring and the rice is kind of icky, I order very conservatively because i do not trust the place. If the spicy tuna roll is fresh, unique and well seasoned, then I feel free to order anything the server recommends.

My favorite sushi restaurant in Chicago is Sushi Wabi. In fact, I have probably been to Sushi Wabi more than any other restaurant in the city. This means I go about four times a year since I don't do repeats very often - but for me this is a big thing.

Most recently my friend and I came here after an I/T seminar and since we didn't have reservations (and we didn't want to be rushed) we sat at the sushi bar. Tables at Sushi Wabi are well desired! We had a great time sitting at the sushi bar because lots of singles were coming in for a quick bite and we end up making conversation with them. Of course we were right next to the sushi chefs and they were all very friendly. After we picked a few things off the menu we asked them for some suggestions. I ended up eating sea urchin with a raw quail egg!

Friday, May 30, 2008

Chicago Turkish Festival

Chicago's Turkish Festival is being held in Daley Plaza this week. After last week's Asian American Festival I have started paying a lot more attention to the things going on at Daley Plaza.

I actually like the Turkish Festival much better because there are many more "Turkish" elements to it. People dress up in costume and beautiful Turkish tables are set up for people to eat at. There is also a good amount of shopping including a whole bunch of authentic Turkish food items. So the attending the festival for lunch was a great way to break up the day.

Although I originally headed over to the festival for a keebob, I ended up having a Turkish Pizza and some amazing Eggplant Salad. I had never heard of a "Turkish" pizza before and it is basically some spiced meat folded in a large wrap topped with seasoned veggies. The eggplant salad was AMAZING and I'd love to recreate it. It had a great consistency and it was nice and garlicky, but not too overbearing.

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Moroccan Pesto Chicken with Tomato Chickpea Salad

This is my year to learn how to grill. I picked up the Grill Every Day cookbook at a few weeks ago. I made a few thing out of this book for dinner: Cumin-Rubbed Chicken Breasts with Moroccan Pesto and Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad. The chicken was great and even the my family was cautious of "ruining" the chicken breasts with pesto, they did go ahead and try it and gave it two thumbs up. The lemon and garlic in the pesto made it really zesty which is unique for pesto. I sliced the chicken breasts and served them all on a platter so that the four chicken breasts would go further (and look like more food) because an extra person showed up for dinner.

The chickpea salad didn't get as good of a review. I found out that my family members like pure vegetable salads and are not wile about chickpeas. I love them though so I had lots of good leftovers. I thought the salad was really fresh and the feta cheese made it very rich as well. The only thing I was not happy with was that the recipe calls for canned olives. I'm not sure if I bought the wrong kind of olives or something, but I got the only kind of green olives that came in a can. They had NO FLAVOR! I suggest you regular Spanish olives that come in a jar to ensure that the olive taste comes through in the salad. If I ever make this again I will probably use kalmata olives because I think that flavor would go really well with the rest of the ingredients.

Cumin-Rubbed Chicken Breasts with Moroccan Pesto
4 boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
2 tsp. ground cumin
1 1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1 1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 cup Moroccan Pesto

Prepare a medium-hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on medium-high.

Remove any pieces of fat clinging to the chicken breasts and place the breasts in a shallow baking dish or bowl. In a small bowl, combine the cumin, salt, and pepper. Rub the chicken breasts on both sides with olive oil and then rub them with the spice rub. Set aside until the grill is ready.

Oil the grill grate. Place the chicken breasts directly over the medium-hot fire and sear on one side, about 4 minutes. Turn and sear on the other side until the juices run clear when the thickest part of a breast is pierced with a knife, or an instant-read thermometer registers to 165 degrees, about 4 minutes longer.

Divide the chicken breasts among warm plates and drizzle with the pesto. Serve immediately.

Moroccan Pesto
1/3 cup coarsely chopped fresh cilantro
2 Tbsp. coarsely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 large cloves garlic
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
3 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil

In a food processor fitted with the metal blade, combine the cilantro, parsley, garlic, cumin, salt, and cayenne pepper and process until the herbs and garlic are finely chopped. With the machine running, pour the lemon juice and olive oil through the feed tube and process until the sauce is combined. Use immediately, or transfer to a jar with a tight-fitting lid and refrigerate for up to 3 days.

Middle Eastern Chickpea Salad
6 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
2 Tbsp. fresh lemon juice
1 large clove garlic, minced
1 tsp. kosher or sea salt
1/2 tsp. freshly ground pepper
1/8 tsp. cayenne pepper

2 cans (15.5 ounces each) chickpeas, rinsed and drained
1 can (6 ounces drained weight) pitted ripe olives, halved
1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved
1 cup loosely packed fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
4 ounces feta cheese, crumbled

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, whisk together the olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, garlic, salt, pepper, and cayenne pepper.

In a large bowl, combine the chickpeas, olives, tomatoes, parsley, and feta. Add the dressing and toss gently to combine. Set aside at room temperature for 30 minutes to allow the flavors to develop. Alternatively, cover and refrigerate until ready to serve or for up to 2 days. Remove from the refrigerator 30 minutes before serving.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Southwestern Tofu Scramble

I dare you! That's right, I dare you to make something with tofu as the main ingredient. I decided to try this recipe for Southwesten Tofu Scramble which I found in the April, 2008 issue of Eating Well Magazine because it the picture in the magazine looked very appetizing and it was a reminder to me that I would like to incorporate more tofu in my diet as a healthier way of eating. I first "got into" tofu while I was trying to lose some weight over 10-years ago. I started making some recipes that called for tofu just to try it out and I kept being surprised with the tasty results. That happened again with this recipe! My expectations weren't that high - I was just hoping for some flavor.

While I made this for dinner, I also had it for breakfast this morning. It was perfect for either. For dinner I meant to wrap it up in corn tortillas and make tacos with it, but my tortillas we old and inedible. I really loved the freshness and crispiness of the veggies in this dish. I think the use of corn and zucchini is really important to the overall texture. And while the recipe calls for "prepared" salsa, I purchased the "homemade" kind like pico de gallo in the produce section. I also think the clean texture of the tomatoes in that contributed to the overall taste.

I hope y'all give this one a try and go ahead and add something healthy to your weekly menu!
Southwestern Tofu Scramble
3 tsp. canola oil, divided
1 14-ounce package firm, water-packed tofu, rinsed and crumbled
1 1/2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
1 small zucchini, diced
3/4 cup frozen corn, thawed
4 scallions, sliced
1/2 cup shredded Monterey Jack cheese
1/2 cup prepared salsa
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Heat 1 1/2 tsp. oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add tofu, chili powder, cumin and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring, until the tofu begins to brown, 4 to 6 minutes. Transfer to a bowl.

Add the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons oil to the pan. Add zucchini, corn, scallions and the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the vegetables are just tender, about 3 minutes. Return the tofu to the pan and cook, stirring, until heated through about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat and stir in cheese until just melted.

Top each serving with 2 tablespoons salsa and 1 tablespoon cilantro.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Vegetables

What is fresher this time of year than shrimp and veggies? Especially asparagus! When I saw this recipe for Lemon-Garlic Shrimp & Vegetables in the April, 2008 issue of Eating Well Magazine I went out and got all the ingredients to have for dinner that same night.

At first I was thinking about cutting the recipe in half because I didn't want to spend that much money on two pounds of asparagus. I'm glad I didn't though because two of us were able to eat very well for dinner and both have a good sized-portion of leftover the next day. In fact, I didn't even bother to heat up my leftovers because it was kind of like having a salad.

I'm usually hesitant about making things with lemon in the title because I am not a big lemon fan. However this recipe was not too heavy on the lemon and you can always sprinkle on some additional lemon to the finished product if someone wants more flavor. This recipe is a perfect weeknight meal for when you want something both quick and healthy.

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp & Vegetables
4 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
2 large red bell peppers, diced
2 lbs. asparagus, trimmed and cut into 1-inch lengths
2 tsp. freshly grated lemon zest
1/2 tsp. salt, divided
5 cloves garlic, minced
1 lb. raw shrimp (26-30 per pound), peeled and deveined
1 cup reduced-sodium chicken broth
1 tsp. cornstarch
2 Tbsp. lemon juice
2 Tbsp. chopped fresh parsley

Heat 2 teaspoons oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers, asparagus, lemon zest and 1/4 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until just beginning to soften, about 6 minutes. Transfer the vegetables to a bowl; cover to keep warm.

Add the remaining 2 teaspoons oil and garlic to the pan and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add shrimp and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Whisk broth and cornstarch in a small bowl until smooth and add to the pan along with the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt. Cook, stirring, until the sauce has thickened slightly and the shrimp are pink and just cooked through, about 2 minutes more. Remove from the heat. Stir in lemon juice and parsley. Serve the shrimp and sauce over the vegetables.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Lunch from the Asian American Fesival

Chicago's Asian American Festival is being held at Daley Center this year. When my co-worker came back with Indian food for lunch today I was intrigued. I headed over there to see what I would discover. There were about 40 booths in total, half food and half stuff you could purchase (everything from purses to jewelry to bamboo). At the time I went there were belly dancers performing. There was at least one booth with every kind of Asian food you could think of: Indian, Thai, Chinese, Japanese, Korean, etc.

For my lunch I decided to try the Bibimbabh from one of the Korean booths. Bibimbabh is mixed vegetables and beef served over white rice with a side of spicy sauce so you can make it as spicy as you like. I got this at their recommendation and because the vegetables looked so fresh. While this would be enough for a normal person, I just didn't feel right leaving with only one type of cuisine. So I stopped by Amarit's "Thai and Panasian" booth and ordered a Spring roll and a Thai Iced Coffee.

This kind of lunch beats anything you can get in The Loop on a normal day! I may just have to go back tomorrow!

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Bluprint Chicago

I can't believe what a gem this is. Located in the back of the Merchandise Mart, Bluprint is a high quality restaurant that has been open for about one year. I ate dinner here on a Friday night prior to seeing a show at The Chicago Theater. The food was so amazing - my friend (a vegetarian) and I were blown away by the flavors that come out of the food which are a surprise just by looking at it.

I had a Strawberry Fields (Hendrick's gin, fresh strawberries & lime, cilantro) at the bar before we were seated. Now, usually I'm a strawberry hater, but the weather is just starting to get nice so I gave it a try at the recommendation of the bar tender. WOW! It was so refreshing and tasty. I need to find a recipe using this combination of ingredients - minus the gin.

Once seated, we ordered a bottle of white wine and ordered the kona kampachi appetizer. It was a little bit small to share but we both had a taste and along with the fish there was some type of cucumber jelly, strawberries and a really interesting berry sorbet. For dinner I had the amish chicken which was no where near as boring as it sounds. It came with braised pheasant ravioli, spicy yam, toasted hazelnut and forest mushrooms. There was some type of four-spice foam on top as well. The coolest part was that the yam and the hazelnut looked like it was broken pieces of brittle, but really it was a sauce. I have no idea how they did that but major thumbs up for the presentation on this one.

My friend got a vegetarian entree that had mushrooms and I did have a bit but I was so pleased with mine I forgot to pay attention to hers. Instead of something sweet for dessert we ordered the artisan cheese plate. This was nearly a meal by itself because in addition to four cheese, there was a plate full of bread, some cherry sauce and candied nuts. YUM!

The ONLY negative thing I have to say about this restaurant is that there aren't that many people here. It is super cute and seems like it should be packed with a fun vibe at all times. The bar is spacious and offers super creative drinks. I'd love to come here and hang out after work, except there aren't that many people there. So you all must go and check it out and have a drink. I usually don't repeat restaurants, since there are so many in Chicago to go to, but this one is so good that I need to come back and bring my family and close friends so they can see what they are missing.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Rachel's Yogurt

Has Rachel's Yogurt shown up yet in your grocery store? It is my new obsession. I've been trying to eat healthy and low-fat yogurt is a really good way to include dairy in my diet. But it has never been so much fun before! I discovered Rachel's Yogurt in my local Whole Foods and there were a whole bunch of interesting flavors.

The Essence Collection comes in flavors that inspire different moods:
Refresh: Pink Grapefruit Lychee
Glow: Berry Jasmine
Relax: Vanilla Chai
Calm: Plum Honey Lavender
Revive: Peach Green Tea
Vitality: Pomegranate Acai

The Exotic Collection is inspired by different world flavors:
Marionberry Guava
Kiwi Passion Fruit Lime
Cherry Black Currant
Mango Pineapple Passion Fruit
Pomegranate Bluebarry
Orange Strawberry Mango

As you can tell from the list above, it is like a little treat each time I go into the refrigerator and grab my daily yogurt. Which fun flavor will I get? They are all so unique and while I have still not tried them all yet, I have not tasted one that I do not like.