Monday, January 29, 2007

Sturgeon General

Sturgeon 2
California White Sturgeon with Ginger, Lemongrass and Coconut Sauce

I wandered into Aquarius Fish Company on Saturday hoping to find some insipration as to what to cook for dinner. I had spent most of the day at the office and needed to turn my brain off for the rest of the weekend. Whatever I was going to cook needed to be easy, yet still provide me room to play.

I selected two fillets of Sturgeon and made my way to Wild Oats, searching for additional inspiration as to how to prepare the fish. Staring out the window at the cold gray weather, I decided to use Thai flavors as my inspiration. I picked up some lemongrass, lemons, ginger, basil, serrano peppers, squash, bell pepper and coconut milk.

I made a sauce out of diced shallots, minced garlic, sliced ginger, slice lemongrass, butter, coconut milk and vegtable stock. I let the sauce reduce for a while as I pan seared the Sturgeon. After lightly searing the surface of the fish I covered it with lemon, lime and bay leaf and wrapped it in tin foil. I slid it into the oven for about 10 minutes until it was just cooked through. I quickly sauteed the sunburst squash, slipped it on top of the sauce and placed the fish on top. Easy like Sunday morning.

This dish, which I threw together with nothing but the idea of a tropical flavor, turned out to be be quite lively and indulgent. If I closed my eyes I could imagine being someplace warm and humid. But alas it was time to go outside and salt the ice off of our front steps.

- J

Sunday, January 28, 2007



I wish I could say that Salt Lake City is full of lovely historic brownstones like the one that houses Martine. But Martine's historic structure is a sliver of East Coast charm plunked down in the Intermountain West, making dining at this beautiful restaurant even more special.

When ensconced in Martine's long, thin railroad flat rooms, we feel uniquely removed from life, obligations and the Jell-O culture which surrounds us on a daily basis. As we sip wine and feast on tapas we truly feel there is no place else we could--or should--be. With tall ceilings, cozy booths and white candles burning in glass votives, Martine is romantic--without trying too hard. And while Martine's interior is polished, and the menu interesting, the prices are surprisingly accessible. (A choice of entree with a tapa is just $28.) It's the perfect recipe for a carefree night out.

Pan Seared Calamari
Pan Seared Calimari with Pimenta Lime Jus and Black Beluga Lentils

I love lime and calamari, but this was a little on the drenched side. (Think sourpuss face when you take a bite.) I was hoping the lentils would have had a chance to stand out more.

Grilled Duck with Pear
Grilled Duck with Pear and Blue Cheese

This trio of flavors seemed to dance in J's mouth in perfect harmony.

Grilled Pheasant
Grilled Pheasant with Woodland Mushroom Ragout

A very rustic and earthy combination. Like slipping into a cozy, warm farmhouse on a cold winter's day.

Almond Crusted Black Cod
Almond Crusted Black Cod with Clementine Veloute and Preserved Lemon Risotto Cake

The cod was tender and the risotto was subtle. I think a few more mushrooms would have livened the quiet dish up a bit, but I still managed to cleaned my plate.

Morgan Valley Lamb
Balsamic Marinated Morgan Valley Lamb Sirloin with Bleu D'Auvergene Cream, Rosemary Roasted Fingerling Potatoes

J's favorite dish of the evening. Cooked perfectly, it was juicy and sumptuous. You just can't go wrong when marrying lamb and rosemary. We're glad to see the restaurant supporting local producers that are hormone free and practice sustainable agriculture.

Grilled Gingerbread
Grilled Gingerbread with Caramel and House Gelato - $7

This is quite possibly one of my favorite desserts. It is not overly rich, and provides just the right dose of sweet after a savory meal. The gelato seemed almost fluffy on this particular evening. Love it, love it, love it!

We did bring our own vino, but since Martine's wine markup is minimal, you can order a bottle off the menu and not feel like you've been had.

- K

22 East 100 South
Salt Lake City, UT 84111

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Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Our Arugula Runneth Over

Olive Tapenade

Over the weekend we made a very belated "Christmas" dinner for K's brother and his wife. For part of this meal I recreated a dish we enjoyed recently at Cucina Toscana here in Salt Lake City, "Rosso, Bianco, Verde". It is a wonderful collection of simple flavors provided by crab, tomatoes, Belgian endive and arugula. We managed to stuff our guests, but we were still left with quite a bit of arugula afterward (as well as a trio of cheeses from the cheese plate).

Here's what we did on a lazy weeknight with arugula and cheese to spare...

Crostini with melted cheese, olive tapenade and arugula. This is so simple, yet tasty.

1 cup pitted kalamata olives
1 Tbsp capers
1 tsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp lemon zest
2 Tbsp olive oil
fresh ground pepper to taste
semi firm cheese of choice (I prefer gruyere, or swiss)
thinly sliced bread (I prefer Italian rustic loaf)
2 cups baby arugula

Combine kalamata olives, capers, lemon juice, 1 tsp lemon zest and 2 Tbsp olive oil in food processor for a few seconds until combined (not too fine). In a mixing bowl combine arugula, 1 tsp lemon zest, dash of salt and olive oil. Meanwhile slice bread and place in broiler. When bread is lightly toasted remove from oven and flip it so toasted side is face down on pan. Place sliced cheese on top of bread and return to broiler until cheese is just melted. Remove from oven and top with olive tapenade and seasoned arugula.

Pour yourself some wine and enjoy. It sure beats a TV dinner.

- J

Sunday, January 14, 2007

Chilling and Grilling

Homemade Burger

It has been a frigid weekend here in Salt Lake City, but that wasn't enough to keep me from firing up the grill and making one damn good burger. As you might have noticed, I really love a good burger. I have had many wonderful burgers from all over this great country, and I am always on the lookout for the next great one, but one of my all time favorites is my very own creation.

Here's the breakdown for one fine burger:

1/3 pound of organic, family farm raised ground beef
2 cloves of garlic minced
2 serrano peppers finely diced
2 fresh basil leaves finely diced
1/4 teaspoon chili powder
Maytag Blue cheese
fresh organic mixed greens
fresh tomato slices (insecticide free "Wyomatoes" this time around)
salt and pepper to taste

I gently wrap the garlic, diced peppers, diced basil leaves and chili powder into the beef and top with salt and pepper so the flavors combine and cook through. While cooking on the grill I slice the tomatoes and season the greens with a dash of olive oil and salt. After flipping the patty I place the Maytag Blue cheese on top to melt slightly (I try no to add too much, as the flavor can overpower everything else). Finally, I lightly toast the bun and pull it all together.

The garlic, peppers and chili powder give it a nice kick up front, while the basil softens everything at the end. The Maytag Blue cheese is simply a perfect match with beef (this applies to steaks as well). It is pure heaven...enough to make me momentarily forget that I was standing outside grilling in 15-degree weather.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Cucina Toscana

We've been feeling pretty guilty that we haven't blogged about any local Salt Lake City restaurants in so long (and still haven't so much as mentioned some of our favorites). We had every intention of having a nice little list for Sundance visitors to review, but with a packed few months of travel neither our calendar nor our budget afforded us the chance.

With the Sundance Film Festival about a week away we figured we should visit at least one of our local favs and give people something to think about while packing their Sundance starter kit (furry boots, furry hat, and puffy jacket). We made a quick reservation at one of our favorite downtown Salt Lake City restaurants: Cucina Toscana.

Although done in a trattoria style, Cucina Toscana delivers the kind of impeccable service one would expect from a formal dining experience. From the time you check in with the host staff to the moment Valter, the cute Italian owner, sweeps past your table with a rolling "Buona Sera", you are treated like a special guest at a friend's home. Sometimes, Valter and his staff even surprise you with a plate of bruschetta on the house. But my favorite part about Valter is how he always looks stylish and pulled together in his fashionable Italian suits. In a city of climbing pants and fleece, Valter's attention to attire is a breath of fresh air.

Many locals still seem to have the misconception that Cucina Toscana is expensive and a "special occasion" spot. While it is certainly a lovely venue for toasting a birthday or celebrating an anniversary, Cucina Toscana features an extensive menu of affordable standards and more refined specials. A half order of penne arrabbiata will run you a mere $5.95, whereas a fresh risotto of the day may cost upwards of $22. It truly is a menu with something for everyone.

Rosso, Bianco, Verde
J started with the Rosso, Bianco, Verde - $11.50

The crab was succulent and mouth watering. The tomatoes were juicy and sweet, providing a unique contrast to the bitter belgian endive. Truly a smooth way to start the dinner. In fact, the dish prompted J to remark, "You know, crab is really seafood with training wheels."

La Mista Italiana Verdure
Insalate Mista - $6

The staff wheel a little cart out to your table and toss the salad of fresh greens in front of you. The end result is a bountiful plate of greens lightly dressed in their vinagarette and topped with freshly grated cheese. And the price? Fahgettaboutit!

Escolar alla Peperonata
Escolar alla Peperonata - $26

We've been eating a lot of escolar lately, in the way of sushi. This was the first time we've ever tried it cooked. When cooked, the white fish took on a taste and consistency similar to crab. The bell pepper and white wine sauce had a sweet and vibrant flavor. It was amazing.

Gnocchi All Arrabbiata
Gnocchi all Arrabbiata - $18

I am a wimp when it comes to spice but I always get a "kick" out of this zesty dish of handmade gnocchi and spicy tomato sauce. The gnocchi is so delicate; it positively melts in your mouth.

Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir
Corkage of one of our last bottles of Sokol Blosser Pinot Noir: $10

Alas, we had no room for dessert, but if YOU do, we encourage you to try the turkish coffee gelato with a shot of espresso poured over it. You'll feel like you really are in Tuscany, sans the jet lag.

- K

Cucina Toscana

307 West Pierpont Avenue
Salt Lake City, UT
801.328.DINE (3463)

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Monday, January 08, 2007

Salt Lake Citrus

When life gives you lemons, make risotto.

In our den we have a little galvanized metal bin that is supposed to hold a few of our "current" magazines for perusing. What has happened over the past year is what I like to refer to as the leaning tower of mags: a spiraling stack of past issues of Wine Spectactor, Gourmet, Saveur, Dwell, Budget Traveler and Food & Wine. Over the recent gray and cold winter weekend we just had, we got on a bit of a recycling kick, and began trying to filter through the issues.

We didn't get very far (what we now have is six small stacks instead of one big one) but we did happen upon the May 2006 issue of Saveur with a delicious collection of recipes featuring lemons, including a risotto al limone and mozzarella al limone. The recipes made us yearn for summer, when bubbly tastes even better than it does the rest of the year, and fresh basil from the garden is standard with every meal. And so we channeled summer last night through these lovely dishes--no sunscreen needed.

Risotto al Limone
Risotto al Limone

Mozzarella al Limone
Mozzarella al Limone

All this citrus got us so excited that we booked a trip to Miami in April. So if you have any restaurant recommendations, please send them our way.

- K

Saturday, January 06, 2007

Adventures in Foam Part II

The last time I tried to create a mushroom foam it did not turn out quite as planned. The foam ended up with a mousse-like consistency rather than the frothy foam that I was hoping for. I decided to try it again, this time using an immersion blender to get the bubbles.

So I went back online to ask if anyone had any helpful suggestions for my next attempt. After posting on Chowhound--and wading through all of the foam-hater comments--one helpful user left a link to a handy little blender used mostly for frothing milk for lattes. This blender was a fraction of the cost of an immersion blender ($20 compared to $100+), so K & I went to the nearest Bed Bath & Beyond to get one of these budget blenders for my foam experience, part deux.

Next we went to Aquarius to get the freshest white fish we could find. We were hoping to try it with Escolar or Sea Bass, but they were out so we went with Parrot Fish instead.

This time I decided to change a few of the other ingredients and steps while trying a new foaming method. First, I opted for a turnip puree rather than cauliflower. I find turnip puree to be creamier than cauliflower puree...even if I simmer the cauliflower in cream. Next, I separated the mushrooms from the mushroom jus, rather than blend it all together before foaming. The reason for this was two-fold: (1) I would use the sauteed mushrooms as part of the dish, and (2) I figured the mushroom jus would would foam better if it had a thinner consistency.

Parrot Fish

The dish turned out much better than last time. The foam was more of the airy consistency I was after and the flavor was perfectly light and earthy. The Parrot Fish was a little firmer in texture than Sea Bass, but still delicious. Oh, and the whole experience was far less messy than my first attempt!

- J

Tuesday, January 02, 2007

BOKA Kitchen + Bar

BOKA Colors 1 BOKA Colors 2 BOKA Colors 3 BOKA Colors 4

We'd been looking forward to our eats in Seattle over Christmas for a few months, so when I came down with a terrible cold a week before our trip we were both crushed. Completely congested and void of the ability to taste, I gave the sad vote that we postpone dinner at our beloved Mistral until our next visit to the Emerald City. Given the pretty penny one can spend there, J kindly agreed. But one meal that we couldn't cancel was lunch with J's dad and stepmom at the new urban hangout BOKA Kitchen + Bar. Jingle bells.

We sat in a corner booth with a funky glass wall that kept changing colors, which altered the hue of everything around us. This positively tickled J's stepmom, who couldn't get over the fact that every few minutes the Christmas ornaments in a vase at our booth were a different color!

Dungeness Crab Cupcakes
Warm Dungeness Crab Cupcakes - $5

Crème fraiche frosting, saffron salt sprinkles. I get positively giddy over little bites like this. I love when something so small is afforded so much frivolity.

Duck & Waffles
Duck and Waffles - $4

Confit of duck, pistachio waffle, glazed cherries. J found these to be fun and experimental.

Mushroom Bisque
Mushroom Bisque - $7

Comfort food for the common cold. I sucked this baby down. I'm sure the baked parmessan crisp floating in the center was good for the sinuses.

Wagyu Cheeseburger
American Wagyu Burger - $12

Fontina, tomato confit, grilled onions, truffle fries. Definitely the juiciest burger J's ever had. He said that if he wasn't careful the juice would have been dripping down his sleeves. Even J's dad, who pretends to be a vegetarian, enjoyed it.

I particularly enjoyed the truffle fries, mainly because I could actually taste them! I helped J with his and ordered an extra side for myself.

BOKA Kitchen + Bar is attached to the modernly appointed Hotel 1000, which has a comfortable lobby and funky gift shop. And since I am a freak about bathrooms, I have to add that BOKA shares a fabulous bathroom with the sleek hotel, complete with concrete counters and indulgent Molton Brown hand soap.

The following afternoon, while shoppers made their mad dash through Pacific Place for last minute gifts, J and I selfishly snuck back to BOKA for an afternoon of small bites and pinot noir. While we ultimately took heat from family for doing so (can't wait 'til next Christmas...perhaps a deserted beach in Mexico) it was well worth the guilt.

- K

BOKA Kitchen + Bar

1010 First Avenue
Seattle, WA 98104

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