Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Comfort Food Galore

I had kind of a rough time of it Friday, got sucked into some pretty weird church politics at someone else's church, so the weekend started out with my wanting comfort food. Friday night, that worked out to Indian food out. For some reason, one of the foods I find myself really wanting whenever I have a bad cold or a bad day is Indian food. I am missing Ajanta India in Kettering a lot right now because we haven't found a place we really love yet here. Cafe Tandoor (at least the one in Westlake) is simply not good at all and India Garden is good, but way too hot for us and lacking in bhatura. I suspect there may be just the right place over on the east side, but for now, India Garden will do. We started with a vegetarian appetizer sampler that was decent and some rather bland pappadum. Next was really hot but quite tasty chicken tikka masala (even though we asked for a 2 level-next time, I go with a very wimpy zero!) with lots of rice and very good garlic naan to calm our tongues. Finally, we split an order of the best gulab jamun I've had yet, just perfection in a dish. If you like it very hot or if you want luscious gulab jamun, you will probably quite like India Garden because the flavor is good, the atmosphere is pleasant and the service is terrific! is the website.

Saturday we got hungry while we were out & about, so we popped into Tommy's on Coventry for the first time. The atmosphere was not very conducive to comfort or coziness and our server was downright unfriendly. However, it was really refreshing to see a menu with so many great options for vegans and vegetarians. I would go back, but probably not when the weather is cold because it is uber-drafty. I ended up eating with my coat and scarf on! I had the very yummy Colleen, which was a pita sandwich with falafel (which was pretty good, although not as good as the falafel at Aladdin's), bacon, cheese, sprouts, onions, green peppers & tahini sauce. J had a meat pie with cheese, which was also quite nice. We also had a good laugh when J didn't realize "homos" is another spelling of "hummus" and was rather shocked to see it written on the menu. "Homos??? What do they mean???" she exclaimed. You can find the menu, as well as more info, at

Saturday night, our dinner went with our K date theme, "Kid Inside Day." I fed our inner children with cheeseburger sloppy joes, tater tots and chilled canned pears. I got the sandwich idea from the Dayton Junior League cookbook and made it my own. "How can you have a cheeseburger without ketchup?" I thought, and added it.

Cheeseburger Sloppy Joes
1 lb. burger
1 onion, chopped
8 oz. colby-jack (or whatever cheese you like best), cut in 1/2" cubes
Salt & pepper to taste
A dash of chili powder
2 tbsp. pickle relish
1/4 c. mustard
1/4 c. ketchup
1/3 c. mayonnaise
12 buns (or make as many sandwiches as you need and freeze the rest of the sandwich guts for later-and trust me, it does make enough for 12!)
Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Brown and drain burger. Add onion and cook until softened. Add cheese and cooking, stirring, until melted. Add seasonings and allow to cool. Mix condiments together and add to cooled meat mixture. Spoon onto buns and wrap each in foil. Bake 20-25 minutes. I liked mine with extra ketchup squirted on as I ate it, so having some extra condiments on the side is a good idea.
Sunday night, J wanted to use the chicken she'd bought for chicken marsala. She'd forgotten the sauce at work & didn't want to drive all the way over there, so she scanned Paula Deen's The Lady & Sons Too cookbook and came up with the very tasty and very downhome chicken boudine. The recipe can be found at I made steamed cauliflower & broccoli to go with it and J added some good olive oil bread.

Friday, January 23, 2009

A Study in Contrasts

Wednesday night, we were on the road back from a wrestling match and I decided to stop for dinner at the Chardon/Painesville exit. I'd seen a sign for the Red Hawk Grille and was intrigued. However, we did not spot the Red Hawk Grille until after we'd eaten. I did see John Palmer's Bistro 44. Since I'd heard good things about the restaurant, I decided to pull into the strip mall and check it out. J just shook her head when she saw the menu prices, but since I was paying, she had no say. It is pricey for just a stopping-for-dinner-on-the-road meal, but we'd not been out to a swank place for quite awhile. It was well worth it! The first thing I noticed was the row of Asian-looking paper-shaded lights above us and the roaring fireplace we didn't get to sit next to. You can't get the fireplace seat every time. I started us with a cheese plate. It was about double the price of the cheese service at The Winds and the cheese selection wasn't as good, but they did have fruit and a very nice balsamic vinegar on the plate, along with lovely toast "points" that were actually small slices. The pears and raspberries were perfect with the 8 year aged balsamic. The sole strawberry was showing evidence of being out of season, while the raspberries, surprisingly, were good. Neither of us touched the blueberries. Those are one of the foods whose actual flavor I truly dislike. Their texture is none too pleasing, either. The cheeses were a fairly unremarkable Cheddar (we weren't told the provenance of any of the cheeses), a tasty blue cheese in really unflattering shades of orange and blush red and a quite good aged Gouda, not quite as delightfully granular as some I've had, but no slouch at all. No Cowgirl Creamery Mt. Tam, no Cypress Grove Purple Haze, no Mahon or Pierre-Robert. But good, nonetheless.

For our main course, we split one of the specials, a certified NY Strip, medium-rare, with a blue cheese crust and a thyme-red wine reduction. The steak was splendid, perfectly cooked & with just the right crust to meat ratio. It was served with good skin-on mashed potatoes and a gorgeous tangle of sauteed wild mushrooms.

Dessert was called Chocolate, Chocolate, Chocolate, but for me, I could have totally skipped the chocolate mousse cake with ganache. Not that it wasn't good, but I am picky about cake and really prefer to eat my own chocolate nemesis cake or traditional wedding cake, frothy white with white icing, or no cake at all. Call it spoiled, if you will. However, the raspberry sorbet was so over and above the cake that no cake was required at all. It was magnificent, even capturing the heart of my dear sweet tooth wife, who generally eschews sorbet because it's "too sour" and makes faces when forced to try it. I don't believe I've ever met a sorbet I don't like but this one was high on the list. Not quite Jeni's Splendid ( and they ship!), but ahhh anyway Along with the cake and sorbet was a tall shot glass of "Bailey's hot chocolate" that earned the place of "favorite" among the desserts for me. A sumptuously silky elixir of goodness, I didn't want to share, but J loved it, too. Not as much as she adored the sorbet, but I must learn to make it. That golden texture!

All in all, the dinner was just perfect for soothing our kid-drama jangled nerves and making the evening more pleasant. The food was wonderful, the atmosphere really calming and warm and the service top notch. So, if you're in the Cleveland area & want a very special dinner, I do highly recommend this spot. is the website.

Now, for the contrast. Last night was J's night to cook. She got home late & then we went to Trader Joe's to shop for today's manager's lunch at the plant. By the time we ate, it was 10 p.m. We sat down to big bowls of cheeseburger Hamburger Helper, corn, olive oil bread and applesauce. And I skipped my corn (turned out funny, texture & temp-wise) & applesauce (too bland & found some black flecks in it-creepy!). Ha ha! No pretentious food snobbery here.

Pasta for the Plant

J is hosting a little lunch in the middle of the work day for the managers, so we picked up a bunch of good-lookin' lunchmeats & cheeses last night for sandwiches, as well as hummus and pita chips. I made a big ol' pasta salad and sent it to work with her this morning in my favorite green-glazed pottery bowl, the one I always use for my popcorn. I do hope she's careful with it! I had also made some cupcakes, white with either chocolate or white frosting and blue sanding sugar. She's coming back later for those and a kiss. I wish I had little snowman picks to put in them!

Athenian Pasta Salad

24 oz. organic tri-color vegetable radiatore pasta, cooked

1 red onion, choppped

1 c. oil-cured kalamata olives, sliced

12 oz. feta

1/4 of a green pepper, chopped

2 Roma tomatoes, chopped

3/4 c. oil, plus some more sloshed in the bowl

7 generous tbsp. red wine vinegar

2 tsp. salt

1 tsp. pepper

1 scant tsp. sugar

3 tsp. Dijon mustard

Mix all together gently in a big bowl and chill overnight (or for at least 4 hours).

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Checking Out the Burton Syrup

When we were in Burton, Ohio at the end of December, we picked up a little jug of syrup from the town sugar house. Tonight was the perfect opportunity to try it and it was delicious! I made corn pancakes, served with Bob Evans' regular sausage patties and Del Monte citrus salad. What an easy dinner!

Corn Pancakes
3/4 c. flour
1/2 c. cornmeal (we got ours at a little festival from a couple who make it themselves)
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tbsp. sugar
2 c. lowfat buttermilk
1 egg
2 tbsp. oil
1/2 c. corn kernels
Mix all the dry ingredients together. Add everything but the corn. Beat to a thin batter. Add corn. Lightly grease skillet and make pancakes, flipping when bubbles show up on top. Makes about 24.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Cooking For Comfort

J's been on a real comfort food jag lately. Monday night, she baked kielbasa & kraut and sauteed pierogies with peppers & onions. We had corn & fresh pineapple with it. It was all so good! Then last night, she made goulash and whomp breadsticks. I love goulash, so I was a happy girl. Tonight, she's back to her standard meal, steak with baked potatoes & asparagus (which she adores no matter what the season). So, that's what we've been eating on these snowy single digit nights.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Trying Something New

I celebrated Try a New Food Day a day early, trying a Nigella recipe that I was oh so skeptical of. I mean, raisins in a savory dish are not usually my cuppa. However, everything was super-delicious. I did pappardelle with zucchini, sultanas and pine nuts accompanied by a couple different kinds of flatbread & a spring mix salad topped with raspberry vinaigrette. The pasta recipe can be found at or in Nigella's Forever Summer cookbook, which I highly recommend buying. I got it for Christmas and couldn't be more thrilled with it. Not only are her recipes stellar, but her writing is wonderful and funny! As for the flatbreads, I nipped up to the Olive Tree Middle Eastern market in North Olmsted to pick up some halloumi and some Jasmine's pitas, as well as a packet of sesame candy for a surprise for J. While the zucchini was cooking & the sultanas were soaking, I mixed 1 tbsp. each of za'atar and olive oil and smeared it on one pita. Then, I chopped up a few tomatoes, sliced some halloumi and put them on another pita, which I then sprinkled with dried mint & drizzled with olive oil per Nigella's instructions. Those got tossed in a 450 degree oven for a few minutes and served with dinner. I think the halloumi flatbread was what pushed the dinner from a 9 to a 10 in J's book.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Lemon Pork Chops with Tomato & Olive Couscous

Last night, J was in full swing on making soup for her employees. Somehow I managed to squeeze in and fix dinner. I adapted a WW recipe for veal chops with couscous to fit my ethical code about veal and my personal dislike of regular couscous. Then, I added an adapted version of a Martha Stewart recipe for rosemary lentils and a spring mix salad with glazed walnuts, dried cranberries and citrus poppyseed dressing.

Lemon Pork Chops with Tomato & Olive Couscous
2 tsp. olive oil
1 chopped tomato
1 minced shallot
1 c. Israeli "couscous"
5 oil-cured kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
1-2 tbsp. chopped parsley
2 tsp. oregano
2 tsp. lemon zest
1 minced clove garlic
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 tsp. pepper
6 thin pork chops, trimmed of all visible fat
Spray broiler pan with cooking spray. Preheat broiler. Heat 1 tsp. oil in small skillet. Cook tomato and shallot until soft, about 4 minutes. Add olives and heat through. Cook Israeli "couscous" according to package directions. Stir in tomato mixture. Mix 1 tsp. olive oil, parsley, oregano, lemon zest, garlic, salt and pepper together. Blot pork chops dry & rub with herb mixture. Broil 5" from heat 4-5 minutes per side, until cooked through. Serve with "couscous." Serves 3-6.
Rosemary Lentils
1 c. dried French green lentils
2 finely-chopped shallots
1 crushed clove garlic
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1 bay leaf
1 generous tsp. coarse salt (I used grey sea salt)
2 tsp. red wine vinegar (more or less, to taste)
2 tsp. olive oil
Freshly ground pepper
Put everything up to the salt in a pan. Cover with cold water by 2 inches. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat, partially cover and simmering, stirring occasionally, until tender, about 20 minutes. Drain, discarding rosemary and bay leaf. Stir in salt, vinegar, oil and pepper. Serves 4.

Thursday, January 08, 2009

Snowy Night Road Trip Fantasies

When the snow sifts down all day & the great big plows go by in the Cleveland streets as the landscape turns white, my thoughts turn to warm places. Looking at the weather report next week, when one day shows a high of 7 degrees, I told J, "It's too bad we're not going to be in Miami then!" Since we can't jump in the car for a road trip to go to Slidell and look for our joy as we visit Jenny & Mick, since we can't go meet Lynnie in Metairie, I decided to bring a little of Louisiana into our home tonight. I made bayou shrimp, accompanied by jasmine rice and lima beans cooked to within an inch of their lives. For dessert, we had a bananas Foster tart with scoops of Ben & Jerry's vanilla ice cream.

Bayou Shrimp
1/2 stick butter
1/4 c. water
Juice of half a lemon
2 tsp. freshly grated pepper
1 1/2 tsp. rosemary
1 tsp. paprika
1 tsp. worcestershire sauce (Lea & Perrins is my favorite)
14 large raw shrimp
Melt the butter over medium heat. Add everything but the shrimp. Simmer until reduced to half a cup, about 3 minutes. Salt to taste. Add shrimp. Cover & cook until pink, about 4 minutes. (the cooking liquid is great over the rice)
Bananas Foster Tart
1 9" pie crust
2 sliced bananas
4 1/2 tsp. dark rum
2 tsp. orange zest
2/3 c. ch. pecans (I only had walnuts & they were good, too)
2/3 c. brown sugar (light is fine, but I like dark)
1/4 c. whipping cream
1/2 stick butter
1/2 tsp. vanilla
Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Put pie crust in tart pan (you can use a pie plate if you don't have a tart pan) and bake 9-11 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Mix bananas with rum. Sprinkle orange zest in bottom of crust. Add bananas. Sprinkle with pecans. Mix sugar, cream and butter together and cook, stirring, on medium heat until boiling, about 3 minutes. It's important to let it come to a full boil. Then, cook another 4 minutes or so. Remove from heat & stir in vanilla. Spoon over bananas and pecans. Let cool 1/2 hour. I really do recommend fairly small pieces and definitely a scoop of ice cream with each piece.

Wednesday, January 07, 2009

Eating in Amish Country

The last weekend in December, I preached at a UCC in Amish country, so we stayed at the Red Maple Inn in Burton for the weekend. We popped out for dinner at Cogan's Village (Idiot) Eatery. It was plastered with all kinds of interesting posters, signs, license plates and such, like a more authentic version of what TGIF is trying to do. They advertised lousy food & bad service (or was it vice versa?) but we found that not to be true. Okay, the French onion soup kind of sucked, but J's New England clam chowder was tasty and our main courses were good. J had liver and onions for the second time in December while I chose one of the daily specials, a big dish of kielbasa, potatoes and peppers all fried up together. We were both drooping from colds and the comfort food was perfect.

In the morning, we went down to the dining room for the "delicious" and "amazing" breakfast we'd read so many comments about in the room's guest book. I was, quite frankly, disappointed in the selection and quality. It was not even on a par with the Comfort Inn where we stay when we go to Cross Lanes, WV. Comfort Inn! I don't understand why the breakfast (or the bed) got rave reviews. When I am paying as much as I did for a room with breakfast, I expect the breakfast to be higher quality than a decidedly non-luxury motel chain's continental breakfast. Ah, well, the fireplace, hors d'oeuvres hour and tub made up for it. Besides, we were in for more good food than we realized that day.

When we arrived for tea at Rosepointe Cottage, we had to wait for our table. The entire front room was dripping with bridal shower guests. It was fun to watch them having fun with one another. We waited in the cute little upstairs shop (the tea room is in an old house) and I got to leaf through some books about Emma Lea and her adventures with tea. Then, it was time for tea. There was only one other table in the back room, filled with a family of women. We guessed two sisters and the 40-something daughters of one of the sisters. One of the daughters was wearing a wonderful hat and reminded me of my dear friend Suzanne, who has delicious adventures and lives in a house worthy of feature in Martha Stewart Living. I wanted to go up to her and say, "Will you be my friend?" Another sister reminded me a good deal of Ina Garten. They were fun to observe.We were too busy enjoying our tea and hatching plots to have a monthly girl gathering to observe too closely, though. J got some kind of tangerine tea while I chose Earl Grey, my perennial favorite. We each got a cup of the amazing corn & pumpkin chowder, perfect for two sick girls like us. Then, the tea commenced with plates of scrumptious tea sandwiches. There was cucumber, ham salad, cream cheese on date bread and chicken salad in a mini croissant. I think there was another-should have taken notes! Next came a scone for each of us, served with plenty of clotted cream and jam. Finally, a plate of "tea fancies" that was not terribly appealing due to the facts that A. we were already quite full and B. they were still a smidge frozen. Tsk, tsk, tsk. No matter because the rest of the food and the whole atmosphere were so refreshingly delicious. J decided that she likes taking tea so much that she wants us to do it once a month. I have no objection whatsoever! Lady food, pretty dishes and a room overflowing with estrogen? I'm there! I've already done some research about others in our area. I definitely want to take her to Miss Molly's in Medina, where our art group had such a fun Christmas tea. I wish J had been able to attend the tea, but we can at least go back. After tea, we went driving out to Middlefield to check out the cheese factory. We picked up some dill butter cheese, some sharp cheddar spread and some colby-jack there (as well as some more maple candy for my sweet tooth-we'd already picked some up, along with a pint of syrup, at the Burton sugar cabin).

Saturday evening, we headed out for our anniversary dinner at the Welshfield Inn, which we chose due to their unpretentious menu and history. It used to be a stop on the Underground Railroad. How cool is that? It was utterly lovely outside and in, with a gracious porch and big trees in front and low dark-wood ceilings inside. Somehow, we managed to score a table right by the fire, which was so cozy and perfect. Our waitress was so on the ball, but not at all overbearing. We started with their amazing rolls, one variety savory with seeds and salt sprinkled on top, the other a handmade cinnamon roll that was tops. J ordered pan-seared scallops with asparagus and peppers in a lovely cream sauce made with chardonnay, lemon and lobster. I had a salad of mesclun with Granny Smith matchsticks, grapes, blueberries, toasted walnuts and Gorgonzola tossed with a hint of raspberry vinaigrette. Both were immensely pleasurable to eat. We both chose specials for our main courses. J had a splendid halibut dish, again with a light cream sauce, with all kinds of sprightly veggies and a side of wild rice pilaf. Mine was a plate of gorgeously braised short ribs with a red wine reduction, plated with well-made mashed potatoes and perfectly-cooked, vividly green beans. It was a shame that we had no room for dessert because I have no doubt it would have been as stellar as the dinner.

Thai Curry

Tonight, J made chicken curry with her company's Thai curry sauce, which they have reconfigured to have slightly less heat and more coconut milk. It's a winner in my book. She stir-fried some broccoli, cauliflower, carrots & sugar snaps and I made some saifun (bean thread noodles) to go with it. Good stuff on a chilly winter night!

Tea & Toast

Next time you want a little nibble with your afternoon tea, try mixing a tbsp. of honey with 1/4 tsp. of cinnamon and spreading it on buttered toast. Yum! Had it this afternoon with Earl Grey.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

More Fab Fish

Tonight, it was my turn to make a great fish dinner. I adapted a recipe for potato-crusted halibut from the Lodge at Vail, served with herbed lemon mashed potatoes and a spring mix salad. The potatoes came from an old issue of Southern Living. This is my adapted version.

Potato-Crusted Halibut
4 halibut fillets, 6 oz. each (I expect snapper or mahi mahi would sub well, but if you can get halibut, you really should treat youself)
Salt & pepper
2 russet potatoes
2 tbsp. butter
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Season fish. Peel and grate potatoes (I used the smaller side of the grater). Divide potatoes in four and place on the flat, skinless sides of the fillets. Melt the butter in an ovenproof nonstick skillet (I used my trusty Lodge) on medium-high heat. Add fish, potato side down, and cook 6-7 minutes without moving at all. Put in oven and cook another 5-7 minutes. Serve potato side up.
Herbed Lemon Mashed Potatoes
4 lg. potatoes, peeled & sliced
1 tbsp. butter
1 small onion, chopped
1 clove garlic, minced
3/4 c. sour cream
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 & 1/4 tsp. salt
1 tsp. dill
1/4 tsp. cayenne
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Cook and mash potatoes. Melt butter in small skillet. Cook onion & garlic until tender. Add everything to the potatoes. Spread in lightly-greased casserole and bake 15-20 minutes.

Sunday, January 04, 2009

Grandma Sadie's Pie for Clyde

My granddaddy Clyde would have been 90 this January 4th and so to honor him, I wanted to make the beefsteak pie that he so often requested for his birthday dinner. My grandmom Janet had given me the recipe, having gotten it from Clyde's mother, my great-grandma Sadie. I remember Grandma Sadie from when I was very small (she died when I was only two or three years old). She was in a wheelchair, which she let my uncle Jazzbo take me for rides in, and wore a pink satin bedjacket and gave me candy corn out of the glass pear on her nightstand. That candy dish belongs to me now. Anyway, since both my grands have died now, I have decided to make that beefsteak pie every year on his birthday and have either Vietnamese or Chinese food for hers. The beefsteak pie is very easy and goes well with mashed potatoes (I had some left over from my annual New Year's White Dinner-pork chops seared, then covered in well-drained sauerkraut & simmered in a covered skillet for about an hour, mashed potatoes on the side) and corn.

Grandma Sadie's Beefsteak Pie
Double crust for a 9" pie
2 lb. boneless round steak with fat trimmed
Salt & Pepper
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Cube the steak and dredge it in flour (I use a gallon Ziploc). Shake off excess flour & brown, in two batches, in large skillet. Season generously. Put pie crust in pie plate. Put steak in crust. Sprinkle with 1/8-1/4 c. water. Seal crusts and vent. Bake 15 minutes at 425 degrees, then lower heat to 350 and bake another 45 minutes.

Saturday, January 03, 2009

Fabulous Fish!

J made tilapia tonight that was absolutely delicious. She rubbed the fish with olive oil, then seasoned it with citrus sea salt & 5-peppercorn blend. Then, she sauteed each side for 3 minutes. While it was cooking, she squeezed half a lemon over it (be careful to pick out the seeds!). Then, she kept it warm in the oven. In the same skillet, with all the stuff left after cooking the fish, she added a cup of Chardonnay, half a small jar of capers, 14 oz. quartered artichoke hearts, 2 tomatoes (seeded & chopped). She brought it to a boil & let it simmer about 10 minutes. She then returned the fish to the pan with some broccoli florets and let it simmer 3-5 more minutes. Then, she removed the fish and cooked the broccoli a smidge longer while keeping the fish warm. Then, she put the veggies on the fish & kept it warm in the oven. Then, she added a couple tablespoons of butter to the sauce and cooked it until the butter melted. Then, she added about a tablespoon of flour, gradually, the thicken it up so it was gravy consistency. Then, she drizzled the sauce over the fish & veggies. I made Jasmine rice to go with it and we ended up drizzling that with the sauce, as well. Mmm, yum.