Sunday, May 29, 2011

Key West: The Grand Cafe

Memorial day in Key West is as relaxing or wild as you choose it to be.

Saturday night we relaxed with an overview of the always wild north end od Duval Street. A less laid back crowd here on this Holiday weekend. Seems to me a younger rowdies bunch akin a South Beach. Petty much all the bars are packed. I could do this night out In West Palm and not know the difference. So we didn't.

For our nice dinner out we chose the Grand Cafe and we sat on the patio along Duval Street. It's a raised patio with a little wall keeping diners at arms reach from the drunkards passing by. We sat in the middle just left of the fountain, lucky pick because it was filling quickly after the sunset worshippers wandered back from Mallory Square. While A fortunate find for us, I think a table inside would have been even better. The dining rooms and bar area are very nice; they offer a respite from the overtly casual settings found in most Key West establishmensts (but it's not stuffy at all).

Each course was top notch.

Tomato bisque with crab meat. I thick bisque, hearty and flavorful.

A signature dish, Bluefin tuna tartar. Tuna chopped and dressed with a touch of ginger/chive oil set between fried wonton chips atop cucumber slices. Template had a jalapeño aioli (sauce to us normal people) which added just enough heat. The whole thing is balanced. Great way to start.

Seared scallops with couscouse. These scallops were perfect and a mild key lime beure blanc sauce didn't overpower them.

Filet with port wine demi glace, white truffle oil mashed potato, and sauté spinach. I don't usually order filet mignion as I find other cuts more flavorfull, but this combination looked the best and I did want a steak. Not disappointed.

Key lime pie. Not the best I have had as it lacked the full tartness, but a pretty solid effort.

Highly recommend The Grand Cafe for a nice dinner in Key West. The tuna was the best single dish.

Monday, May 23, 2011

Vegetables Delivered, Results in Casserole

Living Social had a daily deal for organic vegetable delivery from Ms V's Organics. Small box of various fruits and vegetables delivered once a week for 4 weeks all for $71. That's $17.75 a week, which is pretty cheap for what amounts to nearly a weeks worth of produce for 2 people.

Downside, that didn't include delivery which cost me another $10 a week. So really the whole thing was $111 or $27.75 a week. If they had more flexible pickup option I would gladly save the delivery cost, but I digress.

It has been nice knowing more produce is arriving on Friday. Makes me eat more vegetables. Creates a need to cook vegetables in larger quantities. The result is a vegetable "lasagna". Its not really a lasagna in that there are no noodles. Its just layers of vegetables with a cauliflower based white sauce holding it all together. A more accuract name could be vegetable casserole with cauliflower puree.

The sauce
1 head of cauliflower, broken into florets
1 backing potato, rough chop
Some parsnips (left over scraps from the lasagna below)
Half and half
Crème fraiche
Optional: Any diary available will do, just trying to muscle up the sauce

Pot of boiling water
Food processor

Low boil the vegetables until soft enough to puree.

Spoon vegetables into food processor. Pulse to chop them up.

Puree on low setting while slowing adding whatever dairy you want until its a nice thick but liquid consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

The Lasagna
Big onion
Cauliflower puree (above)
Olive Oil

Rectangular casserole dish, mine is pyrex, any over safe thing will do. Size according to how many vegetables you have.

Preheat oven to 425.

Use mandolin to cut all the vegetables into long wide strips, about 4-5 inches long, 1/8 to a 1/4 inch thick. For example, I cut the carrots in half then ran them through lengthwise. Cutting in half first made the mandoline hand protector easier to use. I did not bother peeling anything, but you could.

For the onion, you are looking for round slices so do the best you can.

First add some olive oil to the casserole dish. Then a layer of onion circles. Keep them as together as possible, this makes a nice base for everything else. A little salt on the onions here. I think this helps them cook.

The next layers can go in ny order but I tried to keep the same vegetable on each layer:

Finished it off with more onion on top along with olive oil. These onions weren't in circles anymore.

Put it in the over, uncovered. It will take at least 45 minutes, probably over an hour. When done a sharp knife should push through each layer with some resistance.

It is easier to serve if it cools significantly, then you can cut it just like a lasagna.

Its a pretty good casserole. Goes will with most any protein or just by itself. It was time consuming to prep the vegetables, but it made 8 big servings.

I ate it for breakfast a few times. Reheat in the microwave with some shredded cheese then two over easy eggs on top.

You could do lots of stuff with this.

I'm thinking about adding a layer of sautéed greens to change up the flavor. Or add a fresh herb layer. Ricotta in the puree maybe.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

The Turkey Burger Unleashed

Have you ever sat down at a restaurant, looked over the burger section of the menu then scoffed in disgust at the 'turkey burger' option? I sure have. Normally, this item is a token for people who don't eat red meat but still want a burger for some reason. More often then not they are a dry, bland, hockey puck between bread.

But there is a better way!

Problem: Turkey is to lean for a proper burger.
Solution: Add oil. Flavor packed oil!

Problem: Turkey is bland.
Solution: Use the meat as a canvas for flavors.

Problem: Ground turkey falls apart on the grill.
Solution: Cook on a cast iron skillet.

Software: (measurements are all estimated I just through them in and hope for the best)
2 pounds ground turkey (not white meat)
1/2 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp canola oil
1 tsp ground coriander
1/4 cup finely diced shallot
1/4 cup chopped leak
salt and pepper
* You could do this with lots of different combinations. This one is very similar to my potsticker recipe.
** Good substitution for shallot and leak is 2 parts onion 1 part garlic. Not exactly the same, but similar.

Bacon (Optional)

Sautéed Brandy Onions (Optional)

Cast iron skillet - I have a flat one making this pretty easy, but it does splatter a bit.
Flipping device

Combine all the burger ingredients in a bowl. Its best to let it sit until room temperature if you have time.

Make patties. I like to roll them into a meatball, then flattern the ball into a half inch thick disk, about 4-5 inches in diameter. Thin is good. They will plump a bit when cooked.

Heat the skillet on medium heat either on the stove or grill.

If you are using bacon (which you should be doing) cook the baco on the skillet. Set it aside. Drain most of the grease from the pan, leave enough to coat.

Cook the patties in the bacony skillet for about 5 minutes on each side.

Top the burger with the brandy onions, eat. Use a hamburger bun is you want.

I don't use the white meat ground turkey because its dryer, blander, and more expensive.

The meat needs the oil. The extra fat helps it hold together. The sesame oil brings lots of flavor to the party.

Brandy onions are just onions sauteed with butter, deglazed with a little brandy, then reduced with some chicken stock. You could add some fresh herb or creme fraise to this as well.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The Bin Laden House on Google Maps

View Larger Map

Look at the picture on the profile page.

Yup, that's the house from Arrested Development, the model McMansion built in Iraq. Brilliant.