Monday, May 30, 2011

Temps are Rising

Where did the time go? We stopped in for takeout at Fahrenheit in early April, a week or two after their spring menu arrived in my inbox. One item demanded attention.

Fahrenheit Lobster Roll
2/3 lobster rolls

Lobster and crab hold a special place in my heart as it replays my yearly month-long summer holidays to San Francisco with my mother. A respite from the Hawaiian heat, we also took advantage of the abundance of boutiques with cool and unusual clothing (read: not summery) and experienced amazing artists who did not wish to make the flight to Hawaii.

In addition to San Francisco, crustaceans also remind me of a trip I took with my grandmother, father, and aunt to Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, and New Brunswick over 15 years ago -- wonderful company, amidst breathtaking autumnal scenery and a cornucopia of sumptuous seafood.

The man behind the bar was friendly and helpful as I strolled in wearing running pants, jacket, and shoes -- nowhere near casual chic or business attire. I kept my expectations low as I endured, oops, ordered my lobster roll trio ($13), imagining filler like celery and onions, Old Bay seasoning, and lobster specks from past experiences elsewhere in the city.

Why would I order a $13 sandwich if I thought I was going to get something inedible? I was optimistic that Chef Whalen would not create an abomination of a classic. I'm a sucker for lobster rolls.

I ordered a wild mushroom pizza ($14) for Bug. When I received the pizza box, I was surprised to be presented such a large box. I expected an 8-10" pizza but it was more like 12-14".

Fahrenheit Mushroom Pizza

As we stepped through our threshold, I ripped open one of two boxes that cradled my sandwich. Upon my first bite, I cooed as my tongue caught hold of a sweet, tender chunk of lobster embraced by a pillowy roll. With each subsequent bite, there was no obscene intrusion of onions, celery, or Old Bay. The caper dressing was a creamy vehicle, and the crunch of cucumber and sweetness of the tomatoes were delightful accompaniments.

Bug, a pizza lover, commented that the pizza was all right. He didn't feel it was worth the $14, bothered by the quantity of toppings over the price paid. I stole a couple of bites and enjoyed the tart and creamy goat cheese, sweet caramelized onions, earthy heft of the mushrooms that was rounded off with the silken garlic.

Fahrenheit Mushroom Pizza Underside
Obligatory upskirt pizza shot

Mondays through Thursdays from 17:00 - 19:00, Fahrenheit has a reasonable 3 for $30 meal deal - appetizer, entree, and dessert from an abbreviated menu. How tempting!

- Cassaendra

2417 Professor Ave
Cleveland, OH 44113
Tel: (216) 781-8858

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Simple Salmon

SE Grilled Salmon Salad
Went a-sizzling

On a recent soggy trip to the Tremont Farmer's Market, we stumbled upon a few nifty ingredients: habanero cheese, chipotle olive oil, and apple balsamic vinegar.

In contrast, the weather over the weekend was mostly clear, in the 50s - 60s, with a stray thunderstorm to break up the monotony. Salad and grilled salmon would hit the spot for lunch.

Quick, delicious, and filling, when isn't it an ideal time for salad and grilled salmon?

Wild caught salmon was this week's Cook and Tell challenge at Serious Eats.

On a grill pan, the salmon, sprinkled with coarse ground black pepper, sizzled under Bug's watchful eye, while I prepared the salad -- spring mix, portobello mushrooms, strawberries, almonds, black pepper, cayenne, and grated habanero cheese.

The dressing was a simple mix of The Olive Tap's chipotle olive oil and red apple balsamic oil, slightly sweet with a mellow smoky flavor followed by a mild zing.

After the salmon filets were set aside, covered, for a few minutes to cook mostly through, they were transferred to plates with a few turns of the pepper mill, a sprinkle of cayenne pepper, and a drizzle of shoyu atop the fish.

The meal took less than 30 minutes to prepare. As a result, we were able to enjoy more time outside.

I later polished off the entire batch of smoky, crispy salmon skin with a little shoyu and furikake over quinoa. As much as I prefer grilled salmon steaks, my favorite part is the salmon skin. In that regard, filets win with its greater surface area of skin.

Ahh, the joys of salmon.

- Cassaendra

Sunday, May 8, 2011

What's the Point?

SE Black Bean Burger
Black bean burger

Because we can.

A recent Weekend Cook and Tell topic on Serious Eats challenged us to create a beefless burger.

Having never met a black bean dish we liked, Bug and I have always scoffed at black bean burgers, often asking, "What's the point?"

About a month ago, a sample of MorningStar Farm's chipotle black bean burger at Costco changed our minds. Obviously, it didn't taste like a juicy, smoky chargrilled hamburger. In a salty, smoky grilled bean-grain patty sort of way, it tasted better. [Easily?] Impressed, we hurried home to search online for a palatable black bean burger recipe.

A week later, we were at Au Bon Pain (ABP) reviewing the sandwich board -- something I rarely do, opting usually to create my own sandwich (if you're curious, lettuce, tomato, cucumbers, roasted red pepper hummus, and sometimes fresh mozzarella on multigrain bread).

I had not realized ABP served black bean burgers. How long have they had them? Bug thought I wasn't well when I ordered one to split between the two of us.

Their burger is constructed with guacamole, feta, romaine lettuce, and tomatoes on feta flatbread baked with sunflower seeds, flaxseed, and other grains. While fairly high in carbohydrates, the fiber accounts for nearly 20% (14/76 g, whole sandwich). One glaring drawback is the amount of sodium (930 mg)!

Having read several recipes online, I had an idea of what I wanted in my burger. Everything we make is an experimental-kitchen sink affair. The following ingredients list is an approximation.

Yes, that is my disclaimer that some measurements may not be precise to the nearest . They are very good approximations, however. No, this does not mean I am trying to hold back ingredients on my sekrit recipe in order to make millions on my creation (scroll up and look at it!).

Burger that won't kill you because it doesn't have any meat
Servings: 4+

1 15 oz can black beans (unsalted), rinsed and drained (approx. 1-1/2 c cooked beans)
3 Tbsp yogurt
1/3 c bread crumbs
2 tsp cumin
1 tsp cayenne pepper
1 tsp oregano
1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/4 tsp granulated garlic
black pepper, crushed
pinch of salt
1 15 oz can black beans (unsalted), rinsed and drained
1 c fresh mushrooms, finely diced
parsley, chopped
1 lime, juiced

1. Mash black beans by hand or pulse in a food processor.
2. Add yogurt, bread crumbs, cumin, cayenne, oregano, paprika, garlic, pepper, and salt. Use more cayenne if you would wish to have a spicier burger or less/omit if you do not. Mix/Puree until ingredients are combined evenly.
3. Transfer pureed bean mixture to a bowl if a food processor was used. Add whole black beans, mushrooms, and parsley.
4. Add enough lime juice until the contents are cohesive enough to form patties.
5. Cook patties in a grill pan or frying pan, approximately 10 minutes per patty.

We enjoyed the cumin, smoked paprika, and cayenne flavors. Bug likened it to a Mexican version of a Sloppy Joe (Jose?).

What we will do in the future:
1. Allow some time for the patties to firm up in the refrigerator. The consistency was a challenge when the patties were at room temperature upon cooking.

2. Reduce the thickness of the patties by one-half to reduce the cooking time and create a firmer, more consistent texture throughout.

3. Cook red bell peppers, mushrooms, and parsley prior to combining ingredients. I wanted red bell peppers in the burger, but forgot to buy them. Cooking them first would theoretically help provide more control over the integrity of the patty by controlling the amount of moisture released.

4. Experiment with harissa in the burger mixture. Use avocados and chipotle or sriracha-mayonnaise

A question that nags at me, at what point does a burger become a slice of [meat]loaf?

- Cassaendra

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Soggy Doggy Market

Looking outside at the blue expanse, the sun's rays are warm to my skin as a chilly breeze briskly reminds me that it is May in Cleveland.

The past 2 weeks have been beautifully sullen, from the delicate mist draping the city to forays of nearly hurricane force gusts and cloudbursts, and every shape and size in between. The temperatures have been all over the place like my aim when I last played darts (sober, even), worse than a drunk, blindfolded penguin.

Yesterday, the rain was persistent taking no pity that it was the season opener for the Tremont Farmers Market. With pitched tents firmly planted in the sod at Lincoln Park, wet tent flaps flittered and the vendors were adorned in their shiny coats as if preparing to go fishing in the Bering Sea. Akemi only tolerated trudging through the wet grass to investigate the new smells.

There were a few new faces and several who returned. Looks like I can bring my knives to Mr. Noon and have them sharpened again this year. He got on Akemi's good side by offering her a snack. We had to drag her out of his tent. The sweet smell of crepes, spices for a dollar, several vegetable stands, chocolates, tea purveyor, and the lady with pies were a welcome sight and smell.

When we walked by one of the new tents that had numerous plates of cheese cubes on display, Bug persistently inquired whether I wanted to try a sample. I tried to ignore him. The man behind the table explained the cheese is from Meadow Maid in Fredericktown (near Columbus) from cows that are grass-fed. After 10 requests, becoming firmer each time, I grew weary of Bug asking and finally picked up cranberry almond and habanero cheese samples. We walked away with an 8 oz. brick of habanero cheese ($6 each or 2 for $10). The cheese was creamy, almost sweet, and had a nice zing.

We were stopped by a cheerful woman from the next tent. Ms. Mononoke, as I will call her due to her Princess Mononoke knit stocking cap, kneeled down to play with Akemi. Akemi-hime decided not to acknowledge the stranger as she did not come bearing gifts.

Bug was intrigued with the selection of the balsamic vinegars and oils from The Olive Tap. He tasted the green balsamic vinegar and chipotle extra virgin olive oil. He was impressed by the sweet-tartness of the vinegar and the mild smokiness and spicy tail of the oil.

Bug asked Ms. Mononoke for her opinion on a suitable match for the chipotle oil. She responded with a mixture of red apple balsamic vinegar and the oil. Sweet and spicy. Nifty on a salad or meat. Akemi became excited when Ms. Mononoke packaged up our bottles, $15 for the oil and $13 for the red apple balsamic vinegar, in a pretty bag.

Shopper turnout wasn't very good, as one would imagine with the rain. I felt bad for the man who drove nearly 2 hours away from Kinsman, OH with his large chest of lamb, beef, and pork sausages. That's quite a haul. The sausages he gave out as samples were delicious!

Akemi was eager to get out of the rain and mushy grass, and return home to play with her new bag.

There is a frost warning for morning commuters as the temperatures drop into mid-30s this evening.

On an unrelated note, May the 4th be with you!

- Cassaendra

Sunday, May 1, 2011

Huevos Time

We didn't really need a purpose for another trip to Mi Pueblo. This time, Bug wanted to try one of their huevo platters. (Our previous trips: 1) birria estilo Michoacan 2) carne asada and pollo en mole poblano)

When Bug looked over the menu, it took 0.285 seconds of scanning the huevos con... section to determine what he was ordering.

Mi Pueblo Huevos con Chorizo
Huevos con chorizo

Chorizo is a spiced, peppery, somewhat tangy ground pork sausage that, when cooked up, looks like ground meat instead of sliced sausage rounds. It is the closest to Hawaiian Portuguese sausage when compared to the sausages widely available here like kafta, kielbasa, and wursts, from the spices and chili peppers used. I haven't tried linguiça, however.

Bug also ordered the barbecue pork tacos in an attempt to balance his meal with some cool, crunchy vegetables.

I didn't try either of the dishes, so this entry is probably of little use for someone trying to find out what these taste like so I offer a visual. The only thing I could get out of Bug was the huevos con chorizo was "all wasn't earth shattering. All it really is is chorizo and fried eggs with some seasoning." I guess he liked it for what it was.

Mi Pueblo BBQ Pork Tacos
Barbecue pork tacos

Bug has always liked Mi Pueblo's fresh tortillas. With barbecue pork, onions, lettuce, tomatoes, cilantro, and a squirt of lime, while it was good on its own, he enjoyed this more for the change in temperature and texture. I don't recall if the pork is shaved from a spit then grilled or if it is marinated then grilled.

With "Birria..." scrawled on the whiteboard stand at the entrance, I wasn't going to deny myself a plate of bliss.

Mi Pueblo Birria estilo Michoacan
Birria estilo Michoacan (goat stew)

As always (meaning 2 out of 2 times), the goat stew was excellent. I have written about it before and don't want to appear too much like a 13-year-old fangirl.

Also described previously, the salsas and pickles are more complex, not your run-of-the-mill salsas that you find at chain restaurants. They are worth the trip. Oh, and the horchata (sweetened almond-rice drink)!

Mi Pueblo Salsa Pickles
Delicious salsa and pickles

Next time I'll explore the other treasures on the menu, unless birria is on the whiteboard.

- Cassaendra

Mi Pueblo
12207 Lorain Ave
Cleveland, OH 44111
Tel: 216 671-6661

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