Posts Tagged ‘Vegetarian Option’

Thanksgiving: Gratins, The Perfect Side Dish

Sunday, November 21st, 2010

I love Thanksgiving dinner, even more so than Christmas dinner…although Christmas dinner in this household usually means ham, mmmm ham…ALWAYS a good thing…which then means split pea soup…YUM! Alright, so it doesn’t take much for this foodie to get off track especially when there is pork fat involved, but for now I must leave the Christmas ham and subsequent Split Pea Soup to a later post.

While the Christmas ham is the star of that show, for me Thanksgiving is all about the sides and the abundance of them. While there in nothing wrong with a well roasted turkey, flavorful and moist. Mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, all kinds of dressing – cornbread, sage and sausage, broccoli rice casserole. Stupendous starches smothered in butter, cream and cheese. Topped with cranberry relish and brown gravy made straight from the turkey drippings (oh…so that is why we have to bake a turkey – I see now). Those are the things that I really look forward to and enjoy eating the most at Thanksgiving.

Unfortunately, Thanksgiving can also mean a lot stress. It is right around the corner and for many this means planning, making lists, rethinking, updating lists, going to the grocery store, getting ready for company to arrive, going back to the grocery store, generally sweating all the details, and going back to the grocery store. No wonder there is the need for massive amounts of comfort, sleep inducing, food and well…wine. I just made my first trip to the grocery store and the cost of the cheese and wine alone made up over a half of the total bill.

This year I am thankfully not hosting Thanksgiving dinner, but I always offer to bring a side dish and I’ve decided to go the relatively easy route by making a gratin. If you are still wondering what to make, a gratin is a great choice. Gratins generally only have a few ingredients, are easy to make, can often be made the day before, and are a huge crowd pleaser. How can you go wrong with cream and cheese in the mix?

Two gratins I’ve tried lately are Cauliflower and Bacon Gratin by Giada De Laurentiis and Butternut Squash and Sweet Potato Gratin (although I used Yukon Gold Potatoes instead of the sweet potatoes). Both are perfect for the holidays! Both are delicious!

Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

Cauliflower and Bacon Gratin Recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

While this dish is not one you can make a day in advance, with its 30 minute prep time you don’t have to worry about adding to the chaos that already is Thanksgiving day. You may also be apprehensive about serving cauliflower, fearing that people will look at you cock-eyed for serving this incredibly healthy, slightly stinky vegetable. DON’T BE. All Thanksgiving dinners need some vegetable and with all the cream, cheese and bacon in this dish, your guests will likely forget that there is even a vegetable in there at all. Besides it is delicious! Ask my vegetable fearing husband.

Cauliflower and Pancetta Gratin


  • Unsalted butter, for dish, plus 1/2 stick (4 tablespoons), cut into 1/2-inch pieces
  • 3 slices day-old sourdough bread or 2 cups bread crumbs (EatSA Note: You can eliminate the first two ingredient by using 1 cup Panko in their place)
  • 3/4 cup heavy cream
  • 1 teaspoon all-purpose flour
  • 1/4 cup capers, rinsed and drained (EatSA Note: I eliminated them since I do not care for them)
  • 8 ounces bacon, cooked until crispy and cut into 1/2-inch pieces (EatSA Note: I used pancetta. So yummy! But also very salty. So if you go this route I would eliminate any additional salt)
  • 1 cup grated Gruyere, divided
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 pound cauliflower, trimmed and cut into florets
  • Olive oil, for drizzling


1.  Place an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Butter an 8 by 8-inch casserole dish. Set aside.

2.  In the bowl of a food processor, blend the bread until it forms into crumbs.

3.  In a large non-stick skillet, heat the butter over medium heat. Add the bread crumbs and cook, stirring constantly until all the butter has been absorbed and the bread crumbs are toasted, about 1 to 2 minutes.

4.  In a medium bowl, whisk together the cream and flour. Add the capers, bacon and 1/2 cup of the Gruyere. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

5.  Bring a medium saucepan of water to a boil over high heat. Add the cauliflower and cook for 2 minutes. Drain the cauliflower and toss with the cream mixture. Pour the cauliflower mixture into the prepared baking dish. Sprinkle with the bread crumbs and remaining 1/2 cup of cheese.

6.  Drizzle with olive oil and bake for 35 to 40 minutes until the cheese has melted and the top is golden brown

Mangia Bene!

By Pinch My Salt

Full blog post by Pinch My Salt

I am obviously a little late to the game since I have only recently “discovered” Pinch My Salt. This blog is fantastic, even the New York Times thinks so. It is well written, the pictures (which are quite frankly a foodie’s porn) are crazy good and the recipes, along with detailed step by step instructions, are simple, straight forward and simply wonderful.

The prep time on this dish is definitely more involved. Not hard, just more steps and more time consuming. But thankfully this dish can be made a day ahead. Prepare through step number three with the exception of sprinkling the remaining shredded cheese on top (leave that for the next day). Refrigerate overnight. Bring to room temperature, sprinkle on the remaining cheese and you are ready to bake.

The results were amazing. The house smelled of garlic and thyme. Cream and cheese, potatoes and butternut squash all bubbly with ooey gooey goodness. My tweak of this recipe – I used Yukon Gold potatoes and gruyere – an absolute winner. I’m not ashamed to admit I even licked the plate. I think I have a new staple for Thanksgiving dinner. Try this dish and you will too!

Butternut Squash and Yukon Gold Potato Gratin


  • 1 1/2 cups heavy cream
  • 2 cloves of garlic, pressed
  • 1 pound peeled butternut squash, quartered lengthwise
  • 1 pound peeled and trimmed sweet potatoes (EatSA note: I used Yukon Gold with great success)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons chopped fresh thyme
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 3/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
  • 2 cups shredded Manchego or Gruyere cheese (EatSA note: I used Gruyere)


1.  Get Ready: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In a small pot bring cream and garlic just to a simmer. Remove from heat and set aside. Butter a 9″x13″ shallow casserole dish or gratin dish of similar size and set aside.

2.  Prepare the Ingredients: thinly slice the squash and sweet potatoes (no more than 1/8 inch thick) and keep them separate from one another. Measure out chopped thyme, salt, pepper, and shredded cheese and have them handy. Stir the cooling cream to help prevent skin from forming.

3.  Build the Gratin: In the buttered casserole dish, spread half of the sliced butternut squash out in a single overlapping layer. Sprinkle the squash with 1/3 of the salt, pepper, and thyme and then about 1/2 cup of the grated cheese. Using half of the sliced sweet potatoes, build a new overlapping layer. Again sprinkle with 1/3 of the seasonings and 1/2 cup of shredded cheese. Using the remaining squash, make another layer and sprinkle the last third of the seasonings and another 1/2 cup of cheese (you should have about 1/2 cup cheese remaining). Use the last of the sweet potatoes to make one final layer on top. Stir the garlic cream mixture then pour it evenly over the top of the gratin, being sure to cover the top layer of sweet potatoes. Shake the dish gently to distribute the cream. Sprinkle the remaining cheese over the top.

4.  Bake the Gratin: Cover the dish with foil and bake in the middle of a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes. Remove the foil, move the gratin to the top 1/3 of the oven and bake, uncovered, for an additional 20 minutes or until the top is nicely browned and the vegetables are tender when pierced with a sharp knife. You may also place it under the broiler for a few minutes if you wish the top to be a deeper brown (but watch it closely!). Remove from oven and let cool for 30 minutes before slicing.

Yield: 12 servings

Mangia Bene!

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Skillet (Butternut Squash) Lasagna

Thursday, October 14th, 2010

I always crave carbs in a BIG way during the Fall. Cooler temps and shorter days feed the need to nest with cozy comfort foods. Lasagna fits this bill perfectly. Add butternut squash, in my opinion the quintessential Fall vegetable, with béchamel sauce with Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and sage; and you have the one of the tastiest Fall dishes I’ve had in a long time. It is SO good. Don’t wait – make it ASAP (on a weekend since it is a bit time consuming – but not in the least bit hard – to make)!


This is the ultimate one-pot dish. The ingredients for the lasagna are cooked in a fry pan, then layered in the same pan and baked in the oven until browned and bubbly. Skillet Lasagna Recipe on W-S Website (EatSA Note: I actually made this in a traditional glass casserole dish which required extra lasagna noodles. I made the entire box since there are always some that are temperamental and stick to the bottom of the pot when boiling anyway.)


  • 1 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 yellow onion, diced
  • 4 garlic cloves, minced
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 lb. mild Italian sausage, casings removed (EatSA Note: I prefer hot Italian sausage. My grocery store makes its own, without nitrites or nitrates. For a vegetarian version use sautéed cremini mushrooms, seasoned with Italian herbs and crushed red pepper)
  • 4 Tbs. (1/2 stick) unsalted butter
  • 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 3 cups milk
  • 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 Tbs. chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
  • 1 Tbs. minced fresh sage
  • 9 dried lasagna noodles, cooked al dente
  • 3 lb. butternut squash, neck portion only, peeled and sliced into wide, thin sheets (EatSA Note: Using a mandolin makes this job exponentially easier. If you have not invested in one, do it! Believe me you will thank me for this advice!)


Position a rack in the lower third of an oven and preheat to 400°F.

In a large nonstick fry pan over medium-high heat, warm the olive oil. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until soft and translucent, about 8 minutes. Add the garlic, salt and pepper and cook for 30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl.

In the fry pan over medium-high heat, cook the sausage, breaking it into small pieces, until browned and cooked through, about 8 minutes. Drain the sausage on paper towels; then add to the onion mixture.

In the fry pan over medium heat, melt the butter. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 1 minute. Slowly stir in the milk, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until thickened, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer to a separate bowl. Stir in 3/4 cup of the cheese, the 1/4 cup parsley, the sage, salt and pepper.
To assemble the lasagna, spread 1/3 cup sauce on the bottom of the fry pan and top with a single layer of 3 noodles. Top with 1/3 cup sauce, 1/3 cup sausage and a layer of squash slices. Repeat the layering of sauce, sausage and squash 5 more times, replacing the squash layer with a layer of noodles after every 2 layers of squash. Top with the remaining sauce and the 1/4 cup cheese.

Transfer the pan to the oven and bake until the lasagna is browned and bubbly, about 45 minutes. Sprinkle with the 1 Tbs. parsley. Let the lasagna stand for 15 minutes before slicing. Serves 8 to 10.

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen

Mangia Bene!

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Shortcut Chicken Tortilla Soup

Thursday, September 16th, 2010

With Fall around the corner, I am dreaming of cooler temperatures and craving comfort food. For me one thing that epitomizes comfort food is soup. I adore soup, all kinds. This tortilla soup is one of my favorites though, with the warmth of its spiciness and its cozy smoothness.

Tortilla soup comes in many forms – some are more broth based, some are tomato based. Some are spicy, while others are mild. The tortilla soup I prefer and make at home is a kicked-up, spicy version cream of tomato soup. In fact, I use cream of tomato soup in this “shortcut” recipe, perfect for a weekday meal.

I’ve certainly made tortilla soup the “long” way with canned organic whole fire-roasted tomatoes (or if super motivated, I roast two pounds of Roma tomatoes, cut lengthwise and tossed in olive oil, for about 45 minutes at 400 degrees), half & half and a blender. It is fantastic and I’ll probably write a post about it later in the season, but this recipe is the one I prepare most often and it is really good!


2 Jalapenos (seeded and finely diced)
3 Garlic cloves (finely chopped)
1 Medium yellow onion (diced)
5 cups organic creamy tomato soup (I prefer Pacific brand)
1 cup organic low sodium chicken broth (again I prefer Pacific brand)
3 cups shredded chicken (I prefer thighs in this case since they have much more flavor, but for a lower fat option use chicken breast)
2 tsp cumin (1 for soup, 1 for chicken)
2 tsp kosher salt (1 for soup, 1 for chicken)
1 tsp black pepper
2 tbsp EVO Oil (1 for soup, 1 for chicken)
1 tbsp butter
Juice from one lime (half for soup, half for chicken)
Salt and Pepper


1 Tomato (diced)
1 Avocado (sliced)
¼ cup cilantro leaves
Shredded Sharp Cheddar Cheese or Monterey Jack
Sour Cream
Corn chip of your choice

To prepare chicken, shred previously baked or grilled skinless bone-in chicken thighs (or on the bone breasts). As an aside, I strongly suggest cooking the chicken on the bone since bones add incredible flavor.

Place shredded chicken in a large glass bowl. Whisk together 1 tbsp olive oil, juice from ½ of a lime, 1 tsp cumin and tsp salt in a separate bowl. Pour over chicken and toss to coat. Cover and refrigerate for a minimum 1 hour or marinate overnight in an airtight container.

Note: You can also use a store bought roasted chicken to season this way. Or to make it really easy some grocery stores offer pre-prepared seasoned shredded chicken. I am not ashamed to admit I have used this a time or two.

To prepare soup, heat olive oil and butter over medium high heat in medium to large soup pot, add garlic, onion and jalapeno. Sauté until onions are translucent, being careful not to burn the garlic. Add cumin, salt and pepper – stir until vegetables are coated. Add chicken broth, stir to deglaze. Mix in shredded chicken and let cook for about 5 minutes or until chicken is warmed through. Add cream of tomato soup (check for taste – season with salt and pepper, if necessary), reduce heat and let simmer for 20 minutes, stir two or three times during this time. Finally salt and pepper to taste and add lime juice. Stir once and serve. Allow guests to garnish as they desire.

For a vegetarian option, substitute prepared black beans for the shredded chicken and low sodium vegetable broth for the chicken broth.

Mangia bene!!!

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Rustic Tomato Sauce with Olives and Artichokes

Thursday, September 9th, 2010

This is a dish I came up with on the fly one night years ago. I make it often. It is always a little different, but here is the basic recipe. It is really good! And if you insist on meat, like my husband often does, add some chunks of cooked and drained Italian sausage (turkey or pork). YUM!!!

2 14.5oz cans of Organic Diced Tomatoes
1 12oz jar of Marinated Artichoke Hearts (drained) [I use Reese]
1 cup Kalamata Olives (whole and pitted)
2 cloves of Garlic minced
2 TBSP EVO oil
1 TSP Italian Seasoning
1 TSP Fresh Ground Black Pepper
1 TSP Red Pepper Flakes
1/2 TSP Salt

Heat Olive Oil over Medium High heat and add garlic. Stir Garlic until fragrant about 30 seconds (don’t let garlic burn it will turn bitter). Add tomatoes, salt, black pepper and red pepper. Heat tomatoes through about three minutes. Add Italian seasoning and Kalamata Olives. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for about 10 minutes until tomatoes and olives are soft. Crush olives in half with the back of a wooden spoon. Taste and re-season if necessary (at this point I usually add a little more red and black pepper. I usually don’t need salt because the olives are already really salty.) Add the artichoke hearts to the sauce when you add your pasta to the boiling water.

This sauce is great with penne or spaghetti. If you like angel hair, that is fine just add the artichoke hearts a little earlier since angel hair only takes a couple of minutes to cook. It is really important not to overcook the marinated artichoke hearts since they will turn gray and fall apart if you do.

Drain the cooked pasta and add directly into the sauce. Serve in individual bowls, top with a little (or a lot) of parmigiano-reggiano and ENJOY!!!

Mon’s Thai Bistro and Sushi Bar

Monday, May 31st, 2010

Just a stone’s throw from the hustle and bustle of Broadway, tucked away behind a secret garden, is Mon Thai. Despite its proximity to one of most hectic intersections in Alamo Heights, Mon Thai is quiet and relaxing. The service always friendly, steady and quick (A caveat to this is if you sit outside. In that case, service can be noticeably slower – sometimes even with the feeling that they have actually forgotten about you – which is perfectly fine if you have time, and not so much if you’re there on your lunch hour). Most importantly, the food is always delicious. Every time I eat at this small, intimate, gem of a place, it has the wonderful effect of transporting me to a happy place far from the daily stresses of life, and the excess of mundane, uninspired, in your face food with which we are constantly inundated.

Each meal starts with a cup of soup which often comes to your table before you even order. Previously that soup was always the same, a broth of fish sauce and soy sauce with tofu. Lately, however, Mon Thai has been mixing it up – much to my delight. I always look forward to the surprise. A couple of weeks ago we were served a wonderful egg drop soup that literally melted in your mouth it was so silky. Also for starters, we often order the Vietnamese egg rolls with iceberg lettuce and hot pepper oil. These fried rolls (served piping hot and sliced in sections) are packed with vegetables along with a ton of flavor. Place a couple of sections in the ice cold lettuce leaf with a drizzle of the hot oil and you have yourself a perfect package of crunchy hot, crispy cold, spicy savory scrumptiousness.

Mon Thai serves a large number of curry dishes and sushi which is always incredibly fresh. Mon Thai also offers a variety of Chinese food dishes which my Mr. tends to lean. He especially likes the Kung Pao Chicken. I have tasted everything he’s ordered and thought each were very good. However, for my main dish, most of the time I order the pad Thai, which if you are a follower of this blog is no surprise, given my complete affinity for this simple, yet incredibly flavorful dish. In my opinion, Mon Thai’s ranks up there among the best in San Antonio.

On various occasions, I have also ordered the Poorman Noodles, which is very similar to pad Thai, but with extra vegetables. I particularly like the sweetness of the carrots along side the saltiness of the peanuts in this dish. The Sesame Noodles is another favorite. For me this dish in particular feels like comfort food Thai style, with its wide, stick to your ribs, noodles and toasted sesame seeds, lending a nutty, warm flavor. I just want curl up on a cozy couch with a bowl after a hard, exhausting day and let the day melt away with each bite.

I highly recommend Mon Thai. You should go and let Mon Thai take you away.

Mon's Thai Bistro on Urbanspoon

Beefy’s Backyard

Monday, May 10th, 2010
Little man and I have been to Beefy’s Backyard a couple of times; this time we brought Dad, some great friends and their kids, along with their neighbors (whom prior to this day I had never met) and their kids. I can tell you this for sure – food is tastier, beer is colder, atmosphere more fun, music more entertaining, when you are with great company and the kids are occupied. And herein lay the key to Beefy’s success – kids have a blast! The other elements need only be good, not great, for you to have a terrific evening out. Beefy’s outside covered patio is a superb place for you to kick back, relax, talk, laugh, enjoy the food, a bucket of beer on ice and decent music, all while the kids run themselves silly on the giant playset, basketball court and miniature fenced off soccer area (Beefy’s also has a video game room inside). Fair warning, if you do not have children, on a weekend night, this place may be nothing but annoying until about 10pm. We arrived on a Saturday evening at 5p and left about 8-8:30p and while the later it got, the older the kids got, there were still a ton of them.

The food at Beefy’s is good, solid burger joint fare. You will not find anything special or out of the ordinary here. The menu includes all the standards. I ordered the mushroom Swiss burger and it was tasty. However, despite being asked how we wanted our burgers cooked (medium, please), our burgers were squarely on the well side, over-cooked for my taste. They were still pretty juicy, although slightly under-seasoned. Thankfully, the sautéed mushrooms on my burger helped alleviate that for me. Others in our group had burgers with extra cheddar cheese; more cheese, more better (can you even taste the burger? -shrug- who cares!) One in our group ordered the veggie burger and was pleased with both its texture and its flavor, both of which can be a crap shoot at most restaurants. The fries were also good, the onion rings better.

II’ve also heard Big’z ranks high on the list for many in San Antonio for great family fun, along with more creative, gourmet burgers (…and higher prices) but we haven’t had the chance to get that way. It is on my list of must tries. For a fantastic, family friendly place, Beefy’s is one of the best. We will definitely keep going back. Added bonus, little man fell asleep within 15 minutes of getting home and mamma and daddy had the rest of the night to ourselves. Now that’s good stuff!

Beefy's Backyard on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Artichokes with Tarragon Drizzle

Wednesday, May 5th, 2010

I received this recipe an embarrassing long time ago from a great friend who has the same love of artichokes I have. I finally made it last week. What a mistake! I should have made it long ago. It is soooo good! The dressing is really the key. In fact, I have some left over and have been using it on salad. YUM!!! Do not do what I did and wait to make this recipe – trust me it is that good!

Kindly borrowed from Better Homes and Gardens
Printable Version:


4 to 5 large whole artichokes or 12 to 15 baby artichokes
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
1/3 cup thinly sliced green onions
2 Tbsp. Dijon-style mustard
2 Tbsp. snipped fresh tarragon or 2 tsp. dried tarragon, crushed
Sea salt or salt
Black pepper
Extra-virgin olive oil
2 Lemons, each cut into 8 to 10 wedges


1. Wash large artichokes; trim stems, if desired, and remove loose outer leaves. Snip off the sharp leaf tips. If using baby artichokes, remove outer leaves to reach pale green or yellow leaves on bottom half. Cut darker green portion of leaves off top half of artichoke; discard. Cut off stem and trim any remaining green from base of baby artichokes.

2. In a Dutch oven bring a large amount of lightly salted water to boiling; add artichokes. Return to boiling; reduce heat. Simmer, covered, for 20 to 30 minutes for large artichokes or 10 minutes for baby artichokes or until a leaf pulls out easily.
3. Place artichokes in a large bowl of ice water to cool completely. Drain artichokes upside down on paper towels. Cut artichokes in half from top through stem; use a spoon to scoop out the fibrous cores, leaving the hearts and leaves intact.

4. For Tarragon Drizzle, in a screw-top jar combine the 2/3 cup oil, vinegar, green onions, mustard, and tarragon. Cover and shake well. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

5. Brush artichoke halves with additional olive oil. For a charcoal grill, place artichokes, cut sides down, on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals. Grill for 7 minutes; turn artichokes and grill for 5 to 7 minutes. (For a gas grill, preheat grill. Reduce heat to medium. Place artichokes on grill rack over heat. Cover and grill as above.)

6. On a serving platter place grilled artichokes cut sides up. Shake Tarragon Drizzle; pour some over artichokes; pass remaining with platter. Serve with lemon wedges. Makes 8 to 10 servings.


1. Simmer the artichokes for the low end amount of time. I ended up simmering them for somewhere in between and I believe they were a little overcooked. Actually, I think I may try steaming them before grilling them next time.

2. If you are a busy mom like I am, or just plain busy, this is better as a weekend dish when you can take your time – the recipe takes about an hour, start to finish, to prepare properly.

3. Enjoy!!!

Hsiu Yu Chinese

Monday, May 3rd, 2010

The one thing I’ve learned about myself in this blogging experience is that if I don’t have much to write about a restaurant I’ve tried, the longer it takes for me to write it. Seems counter-intuitive. I mean if you don’t much to say, it shouldn’t take very long to say it, right? But the more jazzed I am about a restaurant, the more I have to say, the more I want to write about it and spread the word. Same goes if I really don’t like a restaurant – I may procrastinate since it is uncomfortable to write something bad about a business which may be owned by a family who makes their living through the success of that restaurant, but rarely am I at a loss for words. So what happens when a restaurant is only average. Not great, but not horrible either. Words, I have found, are definitely harder to come by.

Having said all that, it has now been almost two weeks since I’ve been to Hsiu Yu. Initially, I thought that the food was pretty good (I even tweeted as much), but after reflection and inevitable comparison, I’ve decided that Hsiu Yu is really only average. The food is alright, but ultimately forgettable, blending in with dozens of its competitors. To me, there were just no distinguishing features, from the food, to the service, to the atmosphere, setting this restaurant apart (with the exception that you have to buy a fortune cookie if you want one!).

If someone I was with really wanted to go to Hsiu Yu – I wouldn’t say no; the food there is okay, not terrible. But given a choice, I would go maybe a mile away, just outside Loop 410, to Formosa Garden – the food there is, in my opinion, better, although soup is not served with the lunch specials there either. Or, more likely, I’d go two or three miles south on Broadway to Mon Thai where the food is much better, includes Chinese options along side their signature Thai dishes and the atmosphere infinitely more interesting and intimate. Other Chinese restaurants I believe do it better are Wah Kee, on Blanco just outside Loop 1604, (although I would not give it higher marks on atmosphere) and the Taipei/Mencius family of restaurants (great food, great atmosphere, but pricier).

Hsiu Yu Chinese on Urbanspoon

Recipe: Pad Thai

Wednesday, April 28th, 2010

Courtesy of The New York Times
Printable version:

On the page is also a link to a wonderful article by Mark Bittman entitled “Pad Thai, an Easy Stir-Fry” about the rise in popularity of pad Thai, but questioning people’s reluctance to make it at home. Guilty as charged.

As I promised on Twitter @EatSATX, I finally made pad Thai last week after finding this recipe in The New York Times. This recipe also fits in nicely my current experimentation with Tamarind Paste and my love of pad Thai. Having had pad Thai countless times at numerous restaurants, it is surprising that it’s taken me this long to finally actually give it a go, especially since it’s relatively easy to prepare. As Bittman states, pad Thai is essentially a stir-fry – which I do all the time. Well, it turned out pretty good if I do say so myself. And it will only get better with practice and enjoy the practicing I will! Now you do it – it is too easy and too good not to!

Let me know how yours turns out or if any of you have tips or tricks on how you prepare pad Thai – I would love to hear about it!

Pad Thai
4 ounces fettuccine-width rice stick noodles
1/4 cup peanut oil
2 to 4 tablespoons tamarind paste
1/4 cup fish sauce (nam pla)
1/3 cup honey
2 tablespoons rice vinegar
1/2 teaspoon red pepper flakes, or to taste
1/4 cup chopped scallions
1 garlic clove, minced
2 eggs
1 small head Napa cabbage, shredded (about 4 cups)
1 cup mung bean sprouts
1/2 pound peeled shrimp, pressed tofu or a combination
1/2 cup roasted peanuts, chopped
1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
2 limes, quartered

1. Put noodles in a large bowl and add boiling water to cover. Let sit until noodles are just tender; check every 5 minutes or so to make sure they do not get too soft. Drain, drizzle with one tablespoon peanut oil to keep from sticking and set aside. Meanwhile, put tamarind paste, fish sauce, honey and vinegar in a small saucepan over medium-low heat and bring just to a simmer. Stir in red pepper flakes and set aside.

2. Put remaining 3 tablespoons oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat; when oil shimmers, add scallions and garlic and cook for about a minute. Add eggs to pan; once they begin to set, scramble them until just done. Add cabbage and bean sprouts and continue to cook until cabbage begins to wilt, then add shrimp or tofu (or both).

3. When shrimp begin to turn pink and tofu begins to brown, add drained noodles to pan along with sauce. Toss everything together to coat with tamarind sauce and combine well. When noodles are warmed through, serve, sprinkling each dish with peanuts and garnishing with cilantro and lime wedges.

Yield: 4 servings.

Although the above recipe is for traditional pad Thai, there is no food police preventing you from adding any other vegetables you like or have on hand, and if you rather use chicken or pork – go for it!

Rise Revisited

Tuesday, April 20th, 2010

I went back to Rise Bakery today to finally make good on my promise. I indeed tried the coffee, nothing fancy, only the regular drip, but it was very good and reasonably priced. Again, I purchased the too hard to resist cinnamon rolls and they were even better this time than last.

I also noticed that the owner made good on his promise and Rise is now offering light lunch options and smoothies. So I will need to go again to try lunch and report back. Good for you Chris – that’s one way to ensure returns visits!

Really, my only complaint is still the atmosphere. While improved – Rise has added, or is finally using, a sound system (light jazz was playing today). Music was noticeably absent my last visit and it really makes a difference. Other reviewers also commented on the lack of music. It’s always nice when suggestions don’t fall on deaf ears. However, Rise just does not have that warm, stay-for-awhile quality that I look for in a coffee shop. And even though it does offer free Wi-Fi, the tables are too small for much more than a coffee and a laptop. Maybe that is all some people need, but I like to be able to spread out just a bit more.

I am giving Rise really good marks for take out breakfast; a kind, but firm, nudge on improving atmosphere; and we’ll see about lunch.

Rise on Urbanspoon