So my friend Ringer and I had a guy’s night when Lindz was out of town a while back. I know what you’re thinking, “You’ve mentioned her before and unless something drastic changed, she’s still a girl.” And you’re right, she is a girl, but over the years she has proved that she has more testosterone than many males that I know. Heck, she even went to my bachelor party. So by definition, she is “one of the guys,” and therefore guy’s night is a legitimate option. Anyway, we both love to try new foods and the best we could come up that night was a Brazilian rotisserie called Rodizio Grill. We both decided to get the “Full Rodizio” which included the all you can eat salad bar and the gauchos (I know it’s a poor use of the term, but that is what they were called) with their spits of meat. I’m not going to go into a full blown review like I did before because it was, well, a pain in the nether regions to write up. I’m just going to give some brief impressions / highlights of the place.
We started off with a round of the salad bar, and I have to say, for the $20 price tag for that option, it is a bargain. There was at least two dozen options of green salad, pasta salad, collard greens, cheeses, cous-cous, mozzarella salad, yucca salad, coleslaw, and bread. I know I’m forgetting a bunch of stuff as well as low-balling the number of dishes. Two of my favorites were the collard greens and coleslaw. Not that I’ve had a lot of collard greens in the past, but these were best that I’ve ever tried, and Ringer, who’s had more than I have, also really liked them. The base of the coleslaw was nothing special, it was just your basic creamy-style slaw, but they threw in shaved coconut and chunks of pineapple which pushed it into its own little realm of mouth magic. The enthusiasm with this dish didn’t carry over to Ringer. Oh, well, more for me. We both decided that it would be well worth the trip again just for the salad bar.
The gaucho’s with their meat was an interesting experience. We got a little hourglass shaped wooden marker with one half painted red and the other half painted green. It’s a really simple system. Green up, the gauchos will check if you want some of what they were offering. Red up, they will skip your table. On its side equaled “Check, please!” You should check out their menu because it is quite extensive. But here are some of highlights that we tried. The Bife Com Alho (Beef-e Com Al-yo) is beef that is slathered garlic paste. I mean slathered. Even after it was cooked, you could see the layer of garlic that is still on it. If you are a fan of garlic, this is definitely the dish for you. My personal favorite of the tasty beef options. The pork options were all very good, but nothing outstanding. Without a doubt, my favorite chicken dish was the hearts served with a slice of lime. They are called Coracao (Cor-da-sone). The gaucho was quite kind enough to give me 3/4’s of a skewer. He even mentioned that some people asked for entire skewers just for themselves. The Abacaxi (Ah-bakah-shee), grilled pineapple, was to die for. I’ve always been a fan of grilled pineapple and this was exquisitely done.
The best part of all of this is that it is that you can eat as much of whatever you want. So my suggestion is to try a little bit of everything that sounds good and then get a lot more of whatever tickles your fancy. A quick side-note is that they claim over 90% of their menu is gluten-free, and from what I saw that is completely true.
I would like to give a special shout-out to the gauchos and the floor manager who were extremely helpful in getting us what we wanted and making sure we were able to try everything that we wanted. They definitely added to the experience.
Okay, the title sounds more avant garde than the dish is, but we all need an ego stroke occasionally. Like I said in a previous post, my gold-standard of guacamole is the stuff I scarfed down at Sabor Latino. I really don’t have a specific recipe, which I’m a bit proud of. At least with this dish, I’ve moved into the realm of Grandma level cooking!
- 6 ripe Avocados
- Juice of 1 Lime
- 2 small Tomatoes, seeded and medium dice
- small handful Cilantro coarsely chopped
- 1/4 of a small Onion, fine dice
- 2 cloves minced Garlic
- Salt and Pepper, to taste
Cut the avocados in half, twist to separate, and pop out the seed. Scoop the avocado out of the skin with a spoon and into a bowl, then mash it up to a creamy, but slightly chunky consistency with a fork. Immediately add the juice of the lime and mix thoroughly. This is to keep the avocado from turning brown. Add the tomato, cilantro, onion, and garlic. Mix thoroughly. Add salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to adjust the ratios to your preference.
So we ended up a whole jar of olives from a care package for Martha. BTW, she is doing really well. She is starting to ween herself off of the crutches. Mainly just around the apartment, but it is a start. Like I was saying, we had this entire jar of olives that I didn’t know what to do with. Then it occurred to me that I had all of the things around to make a tapenade. Ted Allen to the rescue! Some time ago I picked up his book The Food You Want To Eat. I haven’t done many recipes out of it, but the ones that I have tried were all really good. So it made sense that this was where I looked first for a tapenade recipe. Lo and behold, Ted came through for me with style!
- 1 pint Green Olives; pitted and not stuffed
- 1 Garlic clove (I used 3)
- 2 tsp Anchovy Paste (I used about 3 fillets)
- 2 tsp Capers (I used a Tbs)
- Grated zest of 1 Lemon (didn’t have, so I used about 2 tsp of lemon juice)
- Grated zest of 1 Orange – optional (didn’t have, so didn’t use)
- 5 Tbs Extra-Virgin Olive Oil
Combine everything in a food processor and pulse until a rough paste.
Like I said, this recipe is pathetically easy and tastes unbelievably good. In fact, after making this on my own, I’m a little pissed that I’ve spent so much money at restaurants and stores to get my tapenade fix.
Our lives are currently up in the air because our future plans decided to take a hard left turn in the last month. So we’ve been exploring different possibilities. One of which was moving back to Decorah, IA, where we first met. Through various discussions, we decided against this and are planning on staying in the Twin Cities for the foreseeable future. But these discussions had me reminiscing about when we lived down south. Below is a list of some of the highlights of one small town in the “good corner of Iowa”.
A very regular stop from when I first moved down there was Oneota Food Co-op. As I explained to people more than once, this way I got at least one healthy meal per week. As true as that may have been, I also made it a regular stop because the food was really, really good. This was almost entirely due to one cook there, Ruthie, but I’ll get to her in a bit. The Co-op was also my go-to place for anything that the normal grocery store didn’t carry. Which for 99% of my very early experiments this was a great place for supplies. A few years ago they moved into a larger space and overall it was a very good idea. However (and there always is one, isn’t there?), I miss the smaller, more intimate feel the old store had. Of course along with the new store and new merchandise they had a bunch of new hires which completely diluted the pool of people I knew which didn’t help the coziness factor. Still a great place, but like everything else it changes. Not good or bad, just it’s different from what it used to be.
Two of the community projects that I got involved in were the Puppet Project and Edible Alien Theatre. The Puppet Project came about as a brain-child of one of my then bosses. She was always involved in musical theater and did at least a workshop (possibly more, but I don’t remember) with a group here in the Cities called In the Heart of the Beast. Heart of the Beast does puppet theater and parades with puppets of all kinds and sizes. What we did was build a bunch of backpack mounted puppets for the annual parade. That was a yearly occurrence for awhile and a huge hit with everyone. Around the same time a different project got started. This was the Edible Alien Theatre. The idea was centered around dinner theater. A little song and dance to go with a really good meal. I was involved in various capacities with the first six years. I was everything from backstage help to a troll to a cross-dressing cabaret girl (true story). You may ask why I would put myself into embarrassing situations like this. The truth is two-fold. It was 20% because I missed my theater days from high school. The other 80% was Ruthie’s cooking. Oh, I should mention that Ruth was half of the brains for EAT (again, more on Ruthie later). I’ve been called a food-whore many times in the past. And, well, it’s true. I will do anything given the proper food incentive.
One of the interesting people that I met through Edible Alien Theatre was David Cavagnaro. He let us use his house one year for the show. David is an amazing photographer who specializes in nature and garden photography. He is well known for his shots and for good reason. He has the dedication to find heirloom varieties of various vegetables, plant them, nurture them to beautiful fruition, and then finally arrange them and take breathtaking photos. Total respect for him and his work.
And finally onto one of my longer standing food crushes. Ruth is a self-taught cook (and rightfully proud of it) and a good ol’ Iowegian country gal. I’m sure I first ran into her cooking at the co-op, but what I really remember is her catering the second StoryPeople Christmas party that I went to. In each bite you could taste the love and passion she poured into the dishes. I know that it’s a very over-used phrase, but I’m not using it flippantly. Each little nibble was an excursion into the realm of food-gasm. I’m not too proud of it, but I did eat myself stupid that night. The copious amount of good wine probably didn’t help matters either. Yes, it was a night of culinary hedonism. This theme was repeated for quite a number of years and in quite of a number of places. One of my favorite memories of Ruth is when she was cooking fried rice at the co-op. The back entrance led through the amazingly tiny kitchen. It was so small that having a cook and a dishwasher in it at the same time was ok as long as the dishwasher only leaned to grab stuff. I’ve seen Ruth cook in this kitchen for years, but my favorite was the fried rice because it seemed like she was doing twenty different things at once. Reaching for ingredients to throw in the wok, tossing the wok, scooping up some rice for the next batch, putting out plates to serve on, and I think you get the idea. I realize that this is really no different than any other kitchen anywhere else during the lunch rush, but she has such a grace about her while doing this it was amazing to watch. Also, she was more than happy to chat with you while you were waiting to grab your to-go box. Or it could just be because the fried rice was my favorite dish of hers. Since I’ve been several hours drive away from Ruthie’s cooking, I was extremely pleased to see that she started her own webpage called AWEsome Cookery! She developed a gluten sensitivity around the time that I left Iowa, so she is an excellent resource for really good gluten-free dishes. Oh, Ruthie, how I miss thee.
To finish things off, a quick shout-out to my StoryPeople People. Thanks for the best job ever!
We try to do a stir-fry on a semi-regular basis because it’s tasty and a great way to work more veggies into our diet. I’m pretty sure I’ve never made it the same way twice. Partly because I’ve only recently hit upon a decent technique. The major breakthrough was when I stopped using my wok and switched to my cast-irons. The problems with the wok are that it has a rounded bottom so it doesn’t sit well on our electric burners and that it just doesn’t hold the heat like it should to get a good char on it. Also, part of that is our stove doesn’t get hot enough over a large enough area. Cast-irons to the rescue! In my experience nothing holds heat like good ol’ quarter inch thick iron. I put in about two tablespoons of oil in the skillet and heat it on high until it shimmers. Then I cook the mixed veggies in batches (about 1 layer thick) so that I’m not steaming anything while the rest browns. When the last batch is done I put everything back in the skillet and sauce it off heat and mix it. There is plenty of residual heat in the skillet to heat up the sauce and warm up the previous batches. And serve over rice. (duh!)
I’m always interested in trying new and often weird things that other people cringe at. So when Lindsay tasked me with grocery shopping by myself, I couldn’t resist getting in some browsing time. And, lo! To my surprise I found that Cub carries beef marrow bones! For three bucks and some change, I easily rationalized a cooking experiment. With a little digging on the good ol’ internet, I found a pretty basic recipe with a nice relish accoutrement. The recipe that I followed was here, and I highly suggest reading it, if for no other reason than she has much better photos.
Roasted Marrow Bones
Adapted from Fergus Henderson’s recipe
4 center-cut beef or veal marrow bones, about 3 inches long
1/2 cup parsley, chopped (I just used 2 Tbs of dried parsley, cuz that’s what I had available)
1 shallots, thinly sliced
1 tsp. capers
1 Tbls. olive oil
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
kosher salt, to taste
Thick slices of crusty bread, toasted
Even though the recipe didn’t call for it, I soaked the bones overnight in salted water to remove some of the impurities. I had to change the water a couple of times. Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Stand the bones up on end in a 9 x 9 baking dish. Put the wider end on the bottom, so they’re less likely to tip over when you move your pan.
Roast for about 20 minutes, until the marrow is soft and the bones are brown.
For the parsley salad: Chop up the parsley. Peel your shallot and slice it thinly. Toss the chopped parsley, shallot, and capers into a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil and lemon juice. Sprinkle with kosher salt to taste. Mix with a fork to combine the ingredients.
When everything is done, scoop out a little marrow, spread it on a piece of toast, and top with a little parsley salad.
Way back in early January, I decided to do an egg bake to use up a bunch of stuff in the fridge. (sensing a theme here?) While it turned out OK, there was a lot of things that I will do differently the next time. First off, making a half batch. A 9 x 13 pan doesn’t sound like a lot of food, but when you eat it for lunch several days straight, it gets a little tiring. Also, I would have mixed the ingredients more instead of layering them. There was a layer of cheese in the middle that basically separated the dish into two halves. I would have much preferred the cheese distributed more randomly instead of a strata layer. Finally, I would have liked to cut down on the amount of peppers and mushrooms that I put in. They overwhelmed the dish and ended up a bit soggy in texture. So if I could figure out a way to get rid of some of their moisture it would be a good thing. Sauteing them would be a logical option, especially for the mushrooms. That way I could get a little extra flavor out of them as well. Thinking about a little bit more, I am concerned the peppers would get mushy from the extra cooking. So I think I would skip that unless I need to get rid of some more moisture for the third time around. Enough griping, on to the recipe! I’ll write it up as I plan on cooking the next time.
- 12 Eggs, beaten
- 4 oz Button Mushrooms, sliced
- 1 1/2 Bell Peppers, medium dice
- 1 1/2 cup shredded Mozzarella Cheese
- 1 1/2 cup shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese
- 1 large Onion, small dice
- 1 lb Bacon
- 1 Tbs Butter
- 1 Tbs dried Basil
- 1 Tbs dried Oregano
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Fry the bacon and place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Chop into 1/2″ strips crosswise. Melt the butter in a skillet over medium heat and saute mushrooms until golden brown, about 4-6 minutes. Place on a paper towel-lined plate to drain. Mix the cheeses together and set aside half of the mixture. In a large bowl, beat the eggs together.
Add the rest of the ingredients in with the eggs and mix thoroughly. Pour the mixture into a 9 x 13 pan and top with the reserved cheese blend.
Place it in the oven for 40-45 minutes or until a knife comes out slightly wet in the center.