Monday, April 7, 2014

Recipe: Beet and Arugula Salad

Another of my favourite home salads this is a cafe inspired side dish that goes perfectly with red meat.


Beet and Arugula Salad


2 cups baby arugula (rocket)
60g (2oz) soft goat's cheese or blue cheese 
2 slices red onion
1/3 cup walnut pieces
1/2 can/bottle of pickled whole beets (~220g or 8oz)
1 tbpsn olive oil
1 tbspn balsamic vinegar
salt & pepper to taste

Method

  • Dice the onion into bite sized pieces and cut the beats into quarters
  • Place the beets, onions and argula in a salad bowl
  • Add the walnut, making sure to break up whole nut pieces
  • Add the oil and balsamic to the salad, then season with salt and pepper
  • Toss the salad thoroughly ensuring all the leaves are coated in the dressing
  • Crumble the cheese over the salad and then fold gently - do not rigorously toss the cheese through the salad or it will disintegrate
  • You can choose any soft white cheese to your taste, here I have used St Agur blue but Chevre or Danish Feta also work well
  • Serves 3 - per serve 219 calories, 6g net carbs, 18g fat

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Review: Marmolada, Krakow Poland

The owners of Marmolada have several of the most highly rated restaurants in the old town of Krakow but of those I ate at this was my favourite. Like a lot of cuisines from Central and Eastern Europe Polish food is heavy and focuses on meat and pickles. Great for warming up but expect to hunt for green vegetables and salad - sparkling water helps cut through the fat. 

Its place directly on Rynek Glowny (the stunning Krakow Mediaeval square) makes it expensive by Polish standards but the average Western tourist will find the "lavish" prices somewhat economic. For the most part the USD stays steady at around 3PLN, so divide prices by 3 for translation to USD.



Pierogi z farszem z miesa - w piecu zpiakane (Meat filled dumplings with onion and crackling) 19PLN

I will take dumplings over almost any other food regardless of the culture, so I came to Poland ready for pierogi and lot of them. These were excellent, lightly fried and then oven baked they will remind many of gyoza/pot stickers but with a richer slow cooked meat filling. These were easily the best example I had while in Poland and at less than $7 for a plate served charmingly in its pan this is worth a stop. 



Poledwica wolowa najprzediesjszego gatunku - wypieczona wedlug uznania z sosem z zielonego pieprzu (Beef tenderloin in a green pepper sauce) 56PLN

A well cooked beef tenderloin steak, while you can get this anywhere the creamy rich Polish sauces are worth checking out. 


Sledz tradycycyjny marynowany z cebulka w oliwie przedniego gatunku (Salted herring marinated with onion and olive oil) 14PLN

Nothing says grey European skies like cold salted herring; my only surprise was that this wasn't for breakfast. Sadly I cannot comment because herring with creamy salads is a course I'll skip. The recipient seemed to enjoy it, if you're into that kind of thing. 


Rozgrzewajacy gulasz wolowy z suszonymi grzbami, rozmarynem i aromatycznym tymiankiem (Beef goulash with aromatics) 24PLN

Goulash is the other dish I love to eat in this part of the world - slow cooked spicey and creamy stew heavy on the paprika and herbs. Try it with knedle (Polish spatzle) or kopytka (Polish gnocchi) for a warm filling comfort meal. 

Meals are served separately to side dishes, so be aware when ordering that vegetables or starches will need to be ordered separately. This has the advantage in a group meal of being able to mix up side dishes "family style". 


Steamed Green Vegetables 8PLN

We were glad to see these and surprised to find them lacking in crackling or oil. After endless Pork you too would be joyed to see plain vegetables. 


Pan fried potato wedge 8PLN

Fried potatoes, golden crispy and well cooked; perfect with a hearty Polish meat dish. 


Mizeria (Cucumber Salad) 8PLN

Looking for something a bit lighter? Cucumbers are one of the reliably available green sides and almost always served with sour cream. This sour cream was rich and thick, more like a creme fraiche and mixed with fresh dill. Perfect to cut through the heavier dishes. 

The Polish do good coffee, so stop at the end of the meal for an Espresso. If you've room after the heavy food you should definitely try a local pastry as Krakow is famous for its delicious fruit and nut based desserts. 


Szarlotka prosto z pieca jakiej na pewno nie jadles z lodami waniliowymi (Apple pie with vanilla ice cream) 13PLN

Shown without the ice cream due to the dairy intolerants at the meal. Delicous buttery short crust pastry filled with local apple and spices. They sell these streusel topped pies and slices everywhere, excellent with a strong cup of coffee. 


Tradycyjni delikatny sernik krakowski z gorzka czekolada, na cieplo podany (Traditional Krakow cheesecake served warm with bitter chocolate sauce) 15PLN

We debated for some time about this dish before confirming with the waitress; this was no translation error but indeed a hot cheesecake. Curious we ordered and shared it. A familiar semi sweet ricotta based cheese cake is warmed in the oven and served with chocolate sauce. I can't help but feel this would have been better warm and stuffed with fruit like raisins or cherries. 

There is some debate on Yelp and TripAdvisor that this restaurant deserves its fame and (contextually) hefty price tag. Most of the arguments seem to be about poor table placement. Like many restaurants in Stare Miesto this is housed in a Mediaeval (14th Century AD) building and thus space can be a little cramped. We had a large group and so fared very well, I would suggest if you are alone or in a pair that you are specific about your seating requirements.

The service was good, the food excellent and the atmosphere lovely. The delightful building of antiquity is furnished with homey feeling Polish furnishings and there was a delightful live music duo throughout our dinner. Bonus points for playing Satie, Nyman and Tiersen throughout the meal I couldn't have picked a better play list if I tried.

Marmolada


Upscale traditional Polish food
Famous without feeling touristy

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Recipe: Tangy goat's cheese green salad

Requests for salad ideas are always coming up on my Keto Recipes board so I thought it was time to record some of my favourites.

Tangy goat's cheese and greens salad 

60g (2oz) Chevre soft goats cheese
1 baby romaine lettuce
2 slices of red onion
1/4 cup pickled artichokes
1/2 medium hass avocado
1 tbpsn hazelnut oil
juice from 1/2 lemon
salt and pepper to taste

Method

  • Hazelnut oil isn't the cheapest but it is absolutely delicious and a little goes a long way. You can use any light oil such as grape seed or canola if you don't want to shell out for specialty oil. 
  • In the US I buy Laura Chenel's Chevre as well as being light, moist and locally produced it is available in Bay Area Costco franchises. At around $7 for 6-8 salads worth this is an affordable luxury. 
  • Rinse the lettuce and cut off the stem, slice the leaves into 3/4 inch width strips
  • Cut 2 large slices off a red onion and dice into strips
  • Cut the avocado and remove the seed, dice the flesh into cubes
  • Drain the artichokes of oil and cut each piece in half
  • Place all the vegetables in a salad bowl. Season the salad with salt and pepper
  • Add the lemon juice and oil and toss the salad to ensure all the vegetables are dressed and seasoned
  • Once the salad is tossed then crumble the goat's cheese using a fork over the dressed salad, do not add the cheese before dressing as it will break down
  • Serve with your favourite chicken or fish dish




Monday, February 17, 2014

Recipe: Low Carb Peanut Butter Cups

You can always buy Atkins' brand low carb peanut butter cups but I'm not a fan of processed foods and the quality of the chocolate leaves a lot to be desired. These are my 'go to' low carb treat, they're easy to make and very satisfying.


Low Carb Peanut Butter Cups


1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
115g (4oz) 100% Cocoa chocolate
1 tspn natural vanilla essence
100g unsalted butter
1/2 cup granulated Splenda

Method

  • I buy 100% Cacao Ghirardelli baking chocolate; it melts well and the texture is smoother than many other low sugar/high cocoa bars on the market. 
  • I tried experimenting with adding sweetener to the chocolate but it causes it to split. If you must have sweetened chocolate use Liquid Stevia or Sucralose and melt the chocolate with 1 tbspn of coconut oil using a double boiler.
  • Prepare enough space in your freezer for a baking tray, you will need the space for 3 separate phases of preparation. 
  • Take a muffin tray and line it with muffin cases; I use silicon muffin cases for easy removal and no papery bits in your chocolate. 
  • Melt half the chocolate using a double boiler or a microwave on high for 1 minute. Place 1 tspn of the melted chocolate into each muffin case. 
  • While the chocolate is still warm swhirl the tray so that the chocolate covers the bottom of the muffin case. If you have a deft hand you can get the chocolate to also coat the sides of the muffin tin so that it will encase the peanut mixture later.
  • Place the tray into the freezer for 20 mins to let the chocolate set, this is vital to get the layered cup effect. Once the bottom layer is cold you can begin to prepare the peanut mixture.
  • Heat the peanut butter and butter until they are melted together, this will seem quite liquid but once cooled will add a creamy effect. Add the Splenda and Vanilla essence to the peanut mixture and stir thoroughly until the Splenda has dissolved.
  • Place 1 tbspn of the peanut mixture in each muffin tin and return the tray to the freezer for another 20 mins or until the peanut mixture sets.
  • Melt the remaining chocolate and place 1 tspn of chocolate into each muffin tin. Again swhirl the tray so that the melted chocolate completely covers the peanut mixture. 
  • Return the tray to the freezer for at least 20 more minutes, once the cups are fully set you can remove them from the tray and store in an airtight container. Keep refrigerated for up to a month.
  • This makes 24 small (86 cals, 2.3g net carbs, 8.3g fat) or 12 very generous (172 cals, 4.5g net carbs, 16.5g fat) peanut butter cups.

Sunday, February 2, 2014

What I'm watching right now...

Living in the US is the first time I've had cable TV for any extended period and lets face it my TV is almost perpetually tuned to the Food Network, the Cooking Channel or the Travel Channel. Recently we also discovered that we have seemingly endless 'on demand' options meaning I can search for new shows on my tablet and send them directly to my TV rather than having to chance on advertisements for new shows.

Easy Chinese



Ching-He Huang is a UK raised Chinese chef who makes for a chipper and charismatic host. Each episode of Easy Chinese picks a theme of Chinese cuisine - sweets, celebration food, dumplings and explores eateries famous for each dish. The majority of the show focuses on recipes inspired by her outings rather than the restaurants so this is a show for the chef not the consumer. I love her take on authentic Asian food and for the Asian newbie her recipes are simple and delicious. I was thoroughly amused to see her as confused by American style Chinese food as I was on first contact. If you enjoy Ching-He's style then check out her other how Restaurant Redemption which is a Restaurant Impossible style makeover show for Asian Takeaway joints.

Top Chef


 Well you knew this though right? Top Chef just seems to get better and better with every season. High quality chefs are put to challenging tasks creating new dishes, new restaurants and highlighting their own style. The guests and judges are the creme de la creme of the food world - Tom Colicchio, Wolfgang Puck, Anthony Bourdain, Eric Ripert, David Chang, Daniel Boulud to name but a few. This is the pinnacle of television for those who take their food seriously. Season 11 has been fantastic with some excellent new challenges focused on Creole cuisine in New Orleans.

Man vs Food Nation



Man vs Food is not for the feint hearted; host Adam Richman visits restaurants around the Americas the offer food challenges. In the first three seasons "Man vs Food" Adam himself performed each and every one of the challenges; sometimes he won, sometimes food won. If you despise food wastage or American fast food I suggest you avoid, however it's like watching a delicious car crash. The only problem is that Adam is a wonderful host, and as time went on you could see the impact that the constant gluttony had on his health. Presumably his doctors intervened because now we have Man vs Food Nation; the format is the same, Adam visits local eateries and then a food challenge ensues. The only difference is that now fans of the show perform the challenges and you don't have to watch the same person suffer week after week. Other than the unbelievable challenges Adam visits some wonderful "mom & pop" restaurants all over America that are worth checking out.

Restaurant Express


Restaurant Express is a reality competition show recently added to the Food Network lineup. Each week contestant spin up a pop up restaurant and compete for business; as if each episode was it's own Top Chef Restaurant Wars. The host is Robert Irvine whose grumpy but caring style I love from Restaurant Impossible. The first season was a monumental success and I hope to see more of this show in future.


Giada At Home


Giada de Laurentiis is an Italian born chef with a casual easy presentation style. Giada at Home focuses on authentic family style Italian and Sicilian recipes. Many are simple enough for the new cook and the food is very family friendly if you're looking to feed a clan. I love that Giada uses 'real' ingredients - plenty of good quality oils, flours, meats and full fat cheese. Now if only I could work out how she stays so slim on this diet I'd be happy.

Friday, January 31, 2014

Review: Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill, Las Vegas

Las Vegas is an absolute mecca for celebrity restaurants; foodies and TV fans alike could eat in a celebrity restaurant at virtually every meal of the day for their vacation. Some of these are a bit overdone conceptually - there's only so many formal dining meals and high end steaks one can eat before feeling like a waddling penguin.




I'm not the world's greatest Ramsay fan but Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill is an excellent gastropub at Caesar's Palace. If you're in for just a drink the beer selection is excellent and the bar staff knowledgeable. They also offer tastings of beers that you are unsure of before you commit so we found some stunning Belgian and American beers I'd not tried previously.



They also are kitted out in London subculture inspired uniforms - punk and goth themed outfits that make me chuckle every time. I highly recommend sitting at the bar rather than getting a table, being Las Vegas it ensures amusing conversation with other patrons as well as easy access to the drinks!

There is a full service restaurant with many heavy British traditional dishes - rarebit, bangers and mash, lamb, steak or fish and chips. If you're a homesick Brit in the states this is the closest I've found to recognisable English food.

Being Australian I am a heavy drinker and know how to cook most of these things myself; so I'm in it to drink heavily and have small plates.


Pretzels $8USD

Proper German style pretzel bread served with grain mustard and beer cheese. Drunk you will say yes. 

Stupidly I got too excited by my Pork and Duck Rillettes ($16USD) and ate them all before I drunkenly remembered to take a picture. They are fatty deliciousness though, served with good quality bread, mustard and cornichons making it pretty much all my favourite things on a plate. Rumour is they have a Duck Rillettes Poutine that I am eager to try but it hasn't been on the menu any time I've been to Vegas.


Pigs in Blankets $12USD

Good quality pork sausage grilled in pastry - simple comfort food served simply with onion gravy and mustard.



Pub "spots" sliders $14USD

Good quality beef with Welsh Cheddar served on brioche; if you're more than 4 drinks in add bacon. 

Honestly, I really like this place. The food is "good," not excellent but comfort food done well with quality bread and meat. After a few drinks though, this is exactly what you want. Good bar staff, comfortable seats and something snacky you can eat with pickles and point at excitedly. 

Most importantly though Ramsay's Pub & Grill is one of the few places in Vegas where you can get a quiet pint without being horrified by American beer, slot machines, drunk girls popping out of their dress, angry gamblers down on their luck or squealing brides to be. This is a little haven in the craziness to chill with a mate, drink Vegas appropriate amounts and roll back to your hotel room satisfied.

Gordon Ramsay Pub & Grill


Gastropub
Casual British eats, good beer selection

3570 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV ‎
Ph: (702) 731-7110


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Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Review: Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana, Las Vegas

Months on a low carb diet mean that I've tended to avoid Italian given the heavy bread and pasta components. Trying to eat healthy in a tourist destination without endless serves of chicken and salad means exploring some different food choices... and then I remembered veal, glorious veal.


Il Fornaio is an authentic Italian restaurant and bakery chain imported from Italy with locations throughout Californa and Nevada. Unlike the heavy 'red sauce and provolone' Italian you often find on the East Coast Il Fornaio focuses more on fresh seasonal choices. 


Insalata di Bietole $11.99USD

Golden and red beets served with arugula, walnuts and Asiago. Light and fresh with good ingredients; golden beets are an increasingly common trend in the US of which I am a fan. 


Carpaccio $11.99USD

Raw beef pounded paper thin and served with Grana Padano, capers, arugula and lemon. The beef is grass fed and holds up on it's own while raw; the capers and lemon cut through the fat well. 


Pasta con Pesto $11.99USD

This was a special at the restaurant when we dined and does not seem to be a regular featured item. A standard offering but good quality comfort food - shell pasta served with pesto, sun dried tomatoes and toasted pine nuts. Not too heavy or overpowering. 


Scaloppine ai Carciofi e Limone $25.99USD

I'm not entirely sure why they chose to present this dish as such when it is one ingredient off Saltimbocca but it was delicious nonetheless. Usually in the US the artichokes are canned and pickled but these were fresh local baby artichokes. The sauce was rich but light such that the dish was filling without being glutinous.

Service was American Tourist Destination attentive with refreshingly Italian staff. Sometimes I find the multiple staff you deal with in American restaurants overwhelming - in this case we saw a host, our server, 2 bus boys, a patissier and a sommelier. To me this is overkill for a two course meal; I'd have been happy to have my bread and wine brought by the same person who brought my food. 

Upmarket without being snooty, comforting without being coma inducing Il Fornaio is a solid pre-theatre choice. 

Il Fornaio Cucina Italiana


Family friendly food
Upmarket casual dining
3790 S Las Vegas Blvd
Las Vegas, NV ‎
Ph: (702) 650-6500



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