Sunday, September 16, 2007

What is your favorite River Market restaurant?

There are so many great restaurants in the River Market, and I think that each has its own special time and place. For example, Sunday brunch and Wednesday night are definitely Succotash-worthy. Cafe Al Dente is a great for those nights when you just can't cook. Vivace is a nicer restaurant and the perfect place to take out-of-town guests so you can impress with the ice bar.

I haven't included all of the restaurants in the River Market, just the ones we frequent on a weekly basis. Let me know your favorite. Obviously, not limited to Kansas Citians, even if you've visited (family), what has been your favorite?

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Beef Biryani

Last night I tried another recipe from delicious. magazine, the wonderful Australian food magazine. The recipe was contributed by Ben O'Donoghue and he suggested that it was an easy curry dish for a Friday night. I really liked the idea of layering partially cooked rice, onions and fresh herbs over the curry in a dutch oven to finish cooking and steam the rice with loads of flavor. It is a great method and the basmati rice (purchased in the City Market at 5:45 last night) was wonderful.

This was a much more labor intensive recipe than I imagined, I find myself in this situation quite often, but it was worth it...especially to try something new.
Ben writes that biryani originates in the Hyderabad in central India, and more often than not, these dishes are vegetarian. The skirt steak is a cheap cut of meat, but when marinated and cooked in this manner, it is actually very tender.
I would change a few things if I make it again. For starters, the spices were almost overwhelming, especially the cardamom and cloves. I considered using ground cloves, but decided to honor the recipe. I also purchased cardamom seeds, rather than pods, so every bite of the curry had a whammy of clove or cardamom crunch and punch. If I had corrected that issue, I probably would be making this again next week. The best thing about trying something new is finding a new method; now I will try some different flavor and meat combinations.
beef biryani
Adapted from delicious. magazine, vol 4 issue 7

Serves 6

18 oz beef skirt steak, thinly sliced
1/4 cup tomato paste
Pinch of saffron threads
1/4 cup milk
2 1/2 cups basmati rice
1 cup mint leaves, roughly chopped
1/2 cup cilantro leaves, roughly chopped, plus leaves to garnish

4 T peeled, grated ginger
10 garlic cloves
3 long red chilies, roughly chopped
2 T slice peeled papaya (optional)
2 T sunflower oil
1/2 cup natural yogurt, plus extra to serve
Juice of 1 lemon
1 T ground turmeric

Spice mix
1/2 cup vegetable oil
3 onions, thinly sliced
2 t cardamom pods, bruised with back of a knife
1 cinnamon quill, broken
2 t cloves
2 - 3 bay leaves

For the marinade, place ginger, garlic, chili, papaya, if using, and oil in a small bowl of a food processor, or use a stick blender, and puree until smooth. Pour into a bowl with the remaining marinade ingredients and stir will to combine. Place steak in a large bowl, pour marinade over and mix to coat, then set aside to marinate while you make the spice mix.

For the spice mix, heat oil in a large flameproof casserole or wide heavy-based saucepan over medium-high heat until almost smoking, add two-thirds of the onion and fry for 5 - 6 minutes, stirring occasionally, until golden and crisp. Using a slotted spoon, remove onion from casserole and set aside. Reduce heat to medium-low. Cook remaining onion and spice mix ingredients for 3-4 minutes, until slightly golden.
Reserving the marinade, add the meat to the casserole with the spice mix. Cook over medium-high heat for 10 minutes or until meat is sealed all over. Stir in the tomato paste and reserve marinade, then simmer over low heat for 20 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325. Stir the saffron threads into the milk and set aside to soak for 20 minutes. Wash and drain the rice. Cook in a large saucepan of boiling salted water for 6-8 minutes. Drain and arrange over the meat, alternating layers with reserved fried onion, mint and cilantro. Pour the saffron milk over, cover with a tight-fitting lid, then bake for 15 minutes until the rice is cooked and beef is tender. Serve in bowls topped with the extra yogurt and coriander leaves.

Friday, September 14, 2007

The Foodie Blog Roll

I've added a new feature to the blog. On the right you'll see the Foodie Blog Roll, possibly the most comprehensive site on the web for foodie blogs. There are a lot of cool sites with great recipes, photography and commentary. I hope you check out some of the sites and maybe, you can figure out what's for dinner.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Plum perfection...if patient

The September issue of Bon Appetit had a ton of recipes featuring plums so, the only think I can say is…the magazine made me do it. We didn’t need a dessert. We didn’t need anything sweet. I was home by myself, enjoying a really nice, quiet evening, watching a rerun of Top Chef. (The one when Howie tries to quit.) Why did I choose to involve myself in a relatively easy, yet time consuming recipe that probably needs to be served for company with a really nice dinner?I knew I was going to do something with plums, just not necessarily on a Wednesday night. I bought 10 shiny black plums earlier this week because I merely skimmed and bookmarked the recipe. This recipe calls for red plums, but the black plums worked just fine. They might be a little bigger than red plums; I think I used six and a half in an All-Clad non-stick nine-inch pan. The reviews for the recipe online also caution that it creates a lot of juice, and it does. I added just a little flour mixed with water to the juice right before covering it with the pastry. I think that really helped to thicken it enough to keep it from running all over the plate.
There is a major problem with trying this at home, alone. As soon as it comes out of the oven, you want to taste it. Just a little bite. Is that too much to ask? Apparently it is. Because this is to cool completely before you invert it onto a plate. Not fair, I say. Not fair at all.

I broke the recipe rules and paid for it. It was not set up, but it was close. We had an unexpected gathering, after my evening alone. And there I was, waiting with a lovely ending to a lovely evening. I served it, it was runny and delicious. Tart and sweet and perfect; even if was a bit runny.

plum tarte tatin
Bon Appétit September 2007
Makes 6 servings

1 cup crème fraîche*

1 teaspoon grated orange peel
1 sheet frozen puff pastry (half of 17.3-ounce package), thawed
2 1/4 pounds sweet firm red plums (such as Burgundies or Satsumas), halved, pitted
2 tablespoons plus 2/3 cup sugar, divided
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon peel
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Whisk crème fraîche and orange peel in small bowl. Cover; chill. Roll out pastry on lightly floured surface; trim corners to create circle. Place on plate. DO AHEAD: Crème fraîche and crust can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover separately and chill. Preheat oven to 400°F.

Mix plums, 2 tablespoons sugar, lemon juice, lemon peel, nutmeg, and seeds from vanilla bean in large bowl. Let stand 30 minutes.Melt butter in heavy ovenproof 9-inch-diameter skillet over medium heat. Sprinkle remaining 2/3 cup sugar evenly over melted butter. Tightly arrange plums, cut side up, in concentric circles in skillet (plums will appear slightly uneven but will soften while cooking, creating even layer). Drizzle accumulated juices from bowl over top. Cook over medium heat, shaking skillet gently to prevent sticking. Continue cooking until syrup turns deep red, pressing plums slightly to form compact layer, about 35 minutes.

Remove skillet from heat; cool 10 minutes.Slide crust atop plums in skillet. Press crust edges down around plums at edge of skillet. Cut several slits to allow steam to escape. Bake until golden brown, about 30 minutes.

Cool tart completely in skillet.Rewarm in skillet set over high heat to loosen, about 3 minutes. Place large platter over skillet. Using oven mitts hold skillet and platter together and invert, allowing tart to settle onto platter. Slowly lift off skillet.

Let stand at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours at room temperature.

Serve with orange crème fraîche.*Sold at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores.
Makes 6 servings

Starker's Reserve

Saturday night we celebrated our anniversary at Starker's Reserve on the Country Club Plaza. We wanted to go elsewhere, but waited too long to make reservations, so we decided on Starker's. I've never been there and always wanted to.

The food was excellent, their menu is posted online and changes seasonally, so we knew about our options. The Caesar salad was beautifully presented with dressed romaine leaves stacked with Parmesan shavings and an anchovy on top. I had the mixed greens with granny smith apple, candied pecans and Maytag blue cheese. It was wonderful as well.

For my entree, I chose sea bass with mussels over angel hair pasta, fennel, with a green olive tapenade. (That must be last night's inspiration.) It was amazing. The fish was cooked perfectly, the mussels made me wish I could have ordered only mussels. Others had pork tenderloin, beef filet and rib eye. Everyone loved their food. The wine list was great.

But something was not quite right. The ambiance was all wrong. We were too young, and we're not that young, to feel so old. I'm sad to say, we should have saved Starker's for our 15th anniversary.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007


I’m addicted to food magazines and before this weekend, I was sure I’d seen them all. Boy was I wrong. We found an Australian food magazine, “delicious.”, as we were bumming around Barnes and Noble over the weekend. PLEASE, if you find this magazine, buy it. Visit it online if you can’t buy it: It is lovely, great recipes, wonderful photography and features written by some of the world’s great chefs. You have to do some converting on the recipes, but I figured it out and I'm in PR, not exactly a good numbers person.

I have a bunch of recipes that I want to try from this single issue. Tuesday night, we…and I say “we” because any recipe that includes meat and grilling involves my master grill mate (see also: husband)...tried a recipe from the “real fast food.” feature. Low fat, easy, high protein, low carb and gluten free…there’s something for almost everyone, my apologies to the vegetarian crowd.

The real surprise is the butter-bean mash, which someone (see also: husband) mistook for potatoes. If that’s not a win, then I don’t know what is. A meat and potatoes man thought he was eating potatoes, when he was actually eating a lower carb, higher protein substitute. And, one that took way less time. I used about 1/3 cup of hot water to thin the beans, for two cans you might need more like 2/3 cup.

We halved the recipe for just the two us, but this would be a great, stress-free dinner to serve friends. Add a green salad with a lemon and olive oil dressing, a bottle of red wine and you're good to go. Fast. Easy. Delicious.

chargrilled steak with green-olive tapenade and butter-bean mash
Serves 4

½ cup pitted green olives
½ cup flat-leaf parsley, plus 2 extra T chopped
2 tsp baby salted capers, rinsed, drained
2 T lemon juice
1 T olive oil, plus extra to brush
4 5-6 oz filets
1 garlic clove, crushed
2 cans butter beans, rinsed, drained

Place olives, parsley, capers and half of each of the lemon juice and olive oil in a food process and process to a coarse paste. Season with freshly ground black pepper.

Heat grill or grill pan on high heat. Brush steaks with extra olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Cook for 2 – 3 minutes each side or to your preference. Remove, cover loosely with fool and rest for 5 minutes.

Meanwhile, heat remaining oil in saucepan over medium heat. Cook garlic, stirring, for 1 minute. Add beans and remaining lemon juice, and cook for further 1 – 2 minutes, until warmed through. Remove from heat, add the extra parsley and season with salt and pepper. Process beans until smooth, adding hot water to loosen if necessary.

To serve, divide mash among serving plates, top with steak and tapenade.

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Looking back, it has been a pretty good year...

Today is our first anniversary. September 8, 2006 was a gorgeous Kansas City day. Late summer in the Midwest can either be perfect or it can be a downpour...our day was perfect. And, yes, it has been a pretty good year. Hard to believe it has flown by so fast.

I'm a very lucky girl, when we first started dating he told me he was the Powerball and he was right. So, many thanks to my husband for supporting me in all that I do, for his patience, understanding and for always being there with a good sense of humor no matter what state I'm in. He can make me laugh quicker and harder than anyone I've ever known. And isn't that what its all about? Having fun and loving life.

We celebrated last night with a lovely dinner with friends at Le Fou Frog. Seriously good French food and unbelievable wine. Tonight, we're going to Starkers Reserve on the Plaza.

Now, we're looking forward to a really good second year.

Succotash + Yalumba = A Perfect Pair

Last night we did the only thing you should do on a Wednesday night in the River Market...the Succotash weekly prix fixe dinner. It has been about a month since we've been and we weren't disappointed. (Of course we ran into our UK friends at dinner and made an evening out of it.) Everything is homemade in their kitchen and Beth really puts a lot of thought into her menus.

We called ahead to find out what they were serving, then popped into the Wine Cellar to pick up a bottle to go with dinner.

$12 Dinner menu (really...only $12)
Seasonal vegetable soup
Mixed greens with succotash
Vegetarian and mean epanadas, black bean tostadas and Spanish rice
Lemon cake with sauteed apples and pears

Its so nice having the wine shop next door, they really go out of their way to help you pick out the perfect pairing for the dinner. They insisted we try Yalumba's Hand Picked Shiraz + Viognier. Every since visiting Hunter Valley last year we regularly buy Australian wine, so it wasn't a hard sell. We often buy the Y Series of the same wine, it is about $15 cheaper and an always good, everyday red.

The "Hand Picked" version was a different wine all together. This word is probably overused, but I'm not a wine snob so I will say it was "jammy" and very intense. Deep plum color, dark berry flavors, spicy almost anise notes. An absolutely great find and it paired nicely with the smoky meat, roasted vegetables and black beans. You could easily put it down for a few years if you were married to someone who wouldn't pull it from the back of the wine refrigerator....but, ahem, that would not be me.

I think we'll be going back to get a couple more bottles.

Saturday, September 1, 2007

Zucchini, anyone?

We're suffering from end of summer, summer squash over saturation. I've grilled zucchini, sauteed zucchini, hidden it in turkey burgers and I have 8 cups shredded and frozen. Last Sunday I made pretty little round Italian-sausage stuffed ronde de nice (8-ball or globe squash) from a recipe featured on Smitten Kitchen's site. I really enjoyed them, my husband, notsomuch. He like the sausage, but I think he's suffering from squash fatigue.
Our CSA included 2 green zucchini, 2 yellow zucchini and 2 more ronde de nice squash this morning. I knew I had to make something really yummy or else he would never eat summer squash again. I discovered a wonderful zucchini bread recipe on Heidi Swanson's 101 cookbooks food blog. I really enjoy her recipes and just purchased two of her cookbooks. She has a lovely writing style, unbelievable food photography and promotes a whole, vegetarian approach to cooking without being preachy or overbearing. I highly recommend her cookbooks, especially Cook 1.0 for someone who wants to start cooking. The book very simply outlines really simple, fresh recipes, with a number of tasty variations.

I've attached the link to her recipe below. I had so much squash that I actually made two variations. For the first, I used her recipe, minus curry powder and poppy seeds, simply because I didn't have the ingredients, resulting in 6 muffins and a loaf of bread. The second, I omitted the first four ingredients and instead used 1 1/2 cup of chopped raw walnuts, 1 cup of oatmeal, 1/2 cup brown sugar and 1/2 cup softened butter and made a crispy, crumbly mixture. I also used Almond extract instead of Vanilla. This resulted in 6 more muffins with the crisp sprinkled on top. I also made a bundt cake, using half the batter in the bottom of the pan, sprinkled the crisp evenly over the batter, then covered with the remaining batter. (Bake muffins 20 minutes, bundt cake 40 minutes.)
This morning in the City Market, Shatto Farms, a local dairy farm was selling fresh butter, milk and other products. They even brought three little black & white Holstein calves for children to pet. It took me back to growing up on the farm. Shatto's products are amazing, I used their unsweetened butter and it creamed so well in my favorite cooking tool. The bread is really, really moist. The batter was really fluffy and rich. Even with a little wheat flour. (I always try to sneak in a little wheat flour, but not much, replacing no more than 1/2 cup.)

I will be conducting an unofficial poll to determine which of the muffins are the best. Personally, I love the crystallized ginger and lemon combination. The ginger is such a sweet surprise in the bread and the lemon provide a fresh note. My husband, digs the almond version. His reasons have yet to be explained. He's a man of few words.

Unofficial taste test results will be updated:
  • Lemon, ginger, walnut - 4
  • Cinnamon, almond - 1