Saturday, August 31, 2013

Discovery Weekends: Good Friends, Good Libations, and Comfort Food at Tyler Lawrence’s Wayfare Tavern


A friend was visiting from Southern California, so my husband thought it would be good to take this opportunity to check out Wayfare Tavern in The City (a.k.a. San Francisco). We’ve been meaning to do this, but have not had a good excuse. 

With no desire to drive into The City that late in the evening, we decided to take the BART (SF’s equivalent of the subway) and walk to the restaurant. It was a short walk from the Montgomery BART station (I still think it’s a shorter walk from Embarcadero station) and reminded me of the days when I worked in the City. In fact, it was just a couple of blocks away from my old building.

We got there a bit early, so we had to wait at the bar: All members of your party had to be present to be seated. My husband had his usual glass of pinot grigio, while I enjoyed a Virgin Mojito. It was a bit to tart for me, but the bartender was gracious enough to sweeten it for me. Awesome (Maybe "Sweet" is more appropriate).

popovers
My friend finally arrived and we got seated promptly. We dined upstairs where it was a bit more quiet than the bar area, and we could carry a more comfortable conversation. Almost immediately, we were served Wayfare Tavern’s famous pop-overs! Yummy! Moist and buttery… I could have eaten three or four of those (and take some home for breakfast). But I restrained myself.

For appetizers, we shared the “Devils on Horseback” – Medjool dates wrapped in bacon and topped with blue cheese with hazelnut pesto and Fried Oysters with Tartar sauce (self-explanatory). Since there is no picture, you can tell that these appetizers went quickly. The Fried Oysters were excellent (in cornmeal batter, I think), but I think my favorite were the dates. I’ve always had a sweet spot for that appetizer ever since I tried it at our favorite tapas restaurant in San Diego. Although I kept eyeing the deviled eggs every time they landed on another table. Awesome presentation – obviously, very eye catching!

seared ahi
We enjoyed conversation while we were having our entrees. My friend and I caught up with work, family, and mutual friends. For our entrees, my husband had the Seared Ahi Tuna. The dish had a generous helping of ahi, seared perfectly and had a good portion of roasted baby carrots and two or three dots of carrot puree. What he did not like was the roasted garlic (although I did not mind it). He said it was a bit too strong and almost tasted like horseradish.
My friend had the Halibut on Barley Risotto with Clams, Apples, and Roasted Turnips. My friend’s halibut looked perfectly cooked and the barley risotto looked yummy. I’ve been looking for ways to cook barley since I love the texture. I may just attempt to cook barley risotto sometime soon.

buttermilk brined fried chicken with sage and rosemary
Of course, I had to have their Signature Buttermilk-brined Fried Chicken! I’ve read so many reviews about the chicken that I had to try it!  It did not disappoint: generous helping of juicy chicken (about 5 pieces) with hint of rosemary through-out (How did he do that! Must experiment) and served with roasted garlic and lemon. Delicious – reminded me of my attempt to make Chicken with Herbes de Provance (which is probably the inspiration for this). I was able to finish three -- leg, wing, and about third of the breast. The remaining two-thirds I meant to have for lunch the next day but unfortunately forgot my to-go-box at the restaurant (Nice touch: they gave me a claim tag to get my left-overs so it would not crowd the table). Oh well, I’ll take it as a sign to return.

For dessert, we had a beautiful French Almond Cake (the name escapes me) served with crème bruleè topped with a dollop olive oil ice cream and pluots. The almond cake was moist and the crème bruleè was probably the best I’ve ever had. It even had a hint of lavender, thanks to the edible petals that decorated the plate. The pluots were also quite awesome - very juicy and but not too sweet, a good counterpoint to the almond cake and creme bruleè. I should have been greedier and also ordered the peach pie, but we were so full. Next time….
cake, creme brulee with pluots

Sadly, we had to end the evening. My friend had an early conference session, and it was also a school-night for me and my Hubby. Bite-sized pieces of coffee cake were served with the bill: perfect ending to a great evening.  Thank goodness, I did not get the peach pie! I told my husband that he was lucky that I no longer work in The City, otherwise, I’d be spending my paycheck at Wayfare’s every day…. well, maybe every week.

…Unless I get a raise, of course.

coffee cake bites
  

Check out Wayfare Tavern’s website for more info. You’ll be tempted to make a trip to The City after that, just to check it out.

Saturday, August 24, 2013

Corn and Chayote Tacos


Ever since I saw a tweet on Corn, Chayote, and Green Chile Burritos (I think via @MeatlessMonday), this has been one of my staples this summer. Per Vegetarian Times, where this recipe is from, “The star ingredient is chayote, a member of the gourd family.” “Chayote has a pear shape and a texture similar to zucchini.” Since I love chayote and nothing beats summer corn (especially from nearby Brentwood, CA), I thought this would be a great combination.

chayote tacos
Chayote Tacos with Cream Cheese

I have made my share of adjustments. When I see a great bargain for chayote, I usually get one. However, I usually don’t have chiles in my pantry, so every time I made this, I usually do not have chiles (that has now been changed). Jack cheese is also not usually in my pantry, but cream cheese is. So usually I substitute the cream cheese for jack. Also, I can’t have black beans (It gives me gout), so I’ve omitted them. Lime, however, I usually have. That adds a very refreshing touch.

chayote on chopping board
Chayote, ready to be sliced. Like my cat cutting board?
brentwood corn
Yum! Brentwood corn!


Corn and Chayote Tacos

Ingredients
  • 2 tsp vegetable oil
  • 1 small onion, halved and sliced (1 cup)
  • 1 small chayote (6 oz.), peeled, seeded, and cubed
  • 2 cloves garlic, minced (2 tsp.)
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen corn kernels
  • 2 Tbsp chopped cilantro
  • Shredded reduced-fat Monterey Jack cheese or Cream Cheese (it’s not that bad, really!)
  • (About 8-9) mini corn tortillas, warmed
  • 1 lime, cut into 4 wedges
  • 1 Tbsp diced green chiles, optional
  • 4 Tbsp crumbled queso fresco, optional

Directions   

1.     Heat oil in large skillet over medium heat. Add garlic and onion until onions are sweating.
2.     Add chayote and corn until chayote is tender (I cover the skillet sometimes to let it soften via steam). Season with salt and pepper, if desired.
3.     Stir in green chiles, if you have them. Cook until heated through.
4.     Stir in cilantro, then stir in 1/3 cup Jack cheese.
5.     Divide chayote mixture among warmed tortillas. Sprinkle Jack cheese and queso fresco, if using, over filling. If using cream cheese, spread it on the tortilla. Serve with lime wedges (That is a must! No subs!).


Verdict

I love this recipe. The result is a very light, yet surprisingly filling taco. I have been cooking it all summer. I even substituted Upo for chayote, and the result is delicious! It is a new twist to one of my childhood favorites. I still have yet to try the zucchini version.

chayote and corn tacos with quinoa and kale
Chayote-Corn Tacos with Quinoa and Kale

More often, I’ve used this as a “clean-the-refrigerator” recipe. I’ve added quinoa to the mix and sometimes even kale. As long as the chayote remains the star, the flavor is still consistent.
  
I love using the mini corn tortillas – it seems like the equivalent of Mexican sliders. Besides if you’re not that hungry, you can just eat two instead of three.

What do you think? Let me know…

Saturday, August 17, 2013

Mad about Minis: Mad Gourmet’s Single-serve Low-fat Molten Fudge Brownie


OK – Enough fooling around. Let’s get back to chocolate…

Molten BrownieI have not made brownies in a while and am craving for one. However, I recently found out that my Hubby is not into brownies (although he is the first one who would try the batch). Since I am into single-serve recipes lately… I thought I would look for a mini version.

I think I found the Healthy(ish) Vegan Molten Fudge Brownie in Pinterest. This appeals to me because it is “healthy…ish”, “vegan-ish” (I used butter the first time I made this), and molten. I’ve been trying to make a molten brownie for a while now and this would be a good opportunity.

The first time I made this, I followed the recipe exactly. My option was not vegan (the butter, remember). I really like this recipe and have been one of my emergency desserts. However, in my third (or was it fourth – lost count) time, I decided to try out my healthy brownie recipe option and use mashed bananas and add walnuts.

The result is below… let me know what you think.


Low-fat Molten Fudge Brownie

 
Ingredients

  • 1.5 tsp mashed banana
  • 2.5 tsp of agave, honey, or maple syrup (use liquid sweetner, otherwise it would be too dry)
  • Pinch of baking powder
  • Pinch of salt
  • 2 tsp almond flour (if you don’t have almond flour, just use all-purpose flour)
  • 1.5 tsp of whole wheat flour
  • 0.5 tsp coconut flour (if you don’t have coconut flour, just use whole wheat)
  • 1 Tbsp cocoa powder
  • 1 tsp walnuts
  • 1 tsp chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Mix in all the dry ingredients (except for the walnuts and chocolate chips) and combine well.
  2. Mix in the banana and agave.
  3. Smooth the dough in the dish and scatter over the chocolate chips, and walnuts pressing them in slightly.
  4. Bake for 10-15 minutes (15 in my toaster oven) until it has risen slightly, and is still pretty soft in the center. Eat while still warm.


Verdict

Single-serve Brownie Cookie
Trying out a cookie... not quite there yet.
I love this recipe. I’ve already made this several times and it inspires me to get tiny shaped oven-proof dishes (just like Top With Cinnamon’s).  It is great for minimal cleaning: mixed everything in the ramekin, and only used my 1/2 tsp measuring spoon (occasionally my 1 TBSP).

I even tried it as a cookie, but it is not as successful… yet!

As suggested, for a gluten-free version, replace the coconut oil with 2 teaspoons of almond butter (or another nut butter or bananas!!!!) and completely replace the flour with 1 Tablespoon of ground almonds (or almond flour – is that gluten-free?).


Friday, August 9, 2013

Mad about minis: Mad Gourmet’s Peanut Butter Cakes For Two


Peanut Butter Cakes - off the oven
They're ready!!!!
I have been craving for dessert, but not chocolate. I baked some chocolate biscotti last weekend and that is what we’ve been having for dessert and snacks. Exploring Pinterest again, I saw this recipe for a single-serve Peanut Butter cake. I think this is just the break that I was hoping for.

I still have some almond flour and have drinking almond milk more, so I thought this would be a good blend with the peanut butter (nuts + nuts + nuts = nutty?). Also, I am not sure of the consistency of cakes made in microwaves, so I decided to use my toaster oven instead of the microwave.

However, my ramekins were too small to fit the entire batter, so I decided to split them into two to share with my roomie, er… hubby. Sharing also makes you less guilty you’re having dessert.

Hope you enjoy!


Mad Gourmet’s Peanut Butter Cakes for Two 
Serves two… or one and a half ;)

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbsp peanut butter
  • 2 Tbsp almond milk
  • 1 egg (or 1/4 c egg whites)
  • 1 Tbsp almond flour
  • 1 Tbsp Whole Wheat Flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking powder
  • Pinch salt
  • 1/2 tsp agave nectar
  • About 1 Tbsp of chocolate chips


Directions

  1. Preheat your oven to 330 degrees.
  2. In a small microwaveable bowl (or mug), add the peanut butter and almond milk.
  3. Microwave for 45 seconds to a minutes, stir, and let sit for a few minutes.
  4. Add in the rest of the ingredients and stir until everything is evenly mixed.
  5. Grease two ramekins and distribute the batter evenly into the greased ramekins. Smooth out the top.
  6. Bake for about 20 minutes or so until a toothpick comes clean.


Verdict

Peanut Butter layered cake
Maybe it is just for one. Go ahead - add more peanut butter.
This is a great dessert if you are craving for dessert with just a hint of chocolate. The chocolate chips tend to stick to the bottom of the ramekin, but it is good whether it successfully pops out of the ramekin or not.

For peanut butter lovers, like my hubby, it’s not peanut buttery enough. Perhaps using the coconut flour (which I do not have in my pantry) will make it nuttier. I need to experiment on the proportions to see if I can make that peanut butter pop.

In retrospect, I probably should have used the microwave all the way through (to limit the devices I am using)… maybe next time.

Friday, August 2, 2013

Chocolate-Walnut Biscotti


Biscotti and Chai
The real breakfast of champions: biscotti and chai
My husband and I have been on a biscotti-phase lately. It has been my husband’s breakfast of choice, and I don’t mind its crunchy goodness either.

My mom used to make biscotti. It seemed like there was a new batch of biscotti every month (I think its her favorite to bring to a potluck). So I thought, how hard could it be? Of course, she also made sushi and I know those are difficult. In fact, when I took a sushi making class, my one takeaway was to tip my sushi chef more, but I digress…

Back to biscotti…

I googled possible recipes, but there were a lot of biscotti recipes out there. I really needed to narrow it down. Chocolate – can’t go wrong with chocolate.

Biscotti to go
Have Biscotti Will Travel.
For some reason, I was drawn to the Chocolate-Pistachio Biscotti recipe by Martha Stewart. Perhaps it is because I had luck with her quinoa pancakes before. Most likely its because I have most of the ingredients for this.

One problem though, this required creaming the butter and sugar. It’s not exactly my favorite thing to do, but maybe its one way of overcoming my creaming-phobia.

I followed this recipe almost exactly to what Martha did. However, I had to substitute walnuts for pistachios. I heard that pistachios are very high in potassium, and I am still trying to cut down. I also used brown sugar instead of white (because I love the flavor with chocolate) and cut it to 3/4 of a cup.


Here’s the recipe. Hope you enjoy.
 

Chocolate-Walnut Biscotti
 
Ingredients

  • 6 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 350 degrees. Put parchment paper on a baking sheet; set aside.*
  2. In a medium bowl, whisk together flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. In the bowl of an electric mixer, cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs; beat until well combined, scraping down sides of bowl if necessary. Add flour mixture, and stir to form a stiff dough. Stir in walnuts and chocolate chips.
  3. Transfer dough to prepared baking sheet; form into a slightly flattened log, about 12 by 4 inches. Bake until slightly firm, about 25 minutes. Cool about 5 minutes. Reduce oven to 300 degrees.
  4. On a cutting board, using a sharp serrated knife, cut biscotti diagonally into 1-inch-thick slices. Arrange biscotti, cut sides down, on baking sheet, and bake until crisp but still slightly soft in the center, about 8 minutes.

Biscotti Batter
Biscotti Batter: Drier than what I am used to

Biscotti Log
Cutting the biscotti log was not as bad as I thought


Rebaking biscotti
Rebaking Biscotti... Yum

*Note: to conserve in energy and since it takes me a while to transfer the dough, I actually heat the oven as I stir the walnuts and chocolate - around the last part of Step 2).


Verdict

This was a good starter biscotti. It’s relatively easy and delicious.

That said, this recipe was way too much for two people, even if we’re in a biscotti phase. I had to bring some to my dance class and we enjoyed it as an after workout snack. Besides, who could not resist chocolate?