Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Grilled Caesar Salad with Warm Polenta Croutons

Grilling Romaine Lettuce is a fun variation to your regular Caesar Salad. I also made Polenta croutons to go with the salad instead of wheat croutons. Below is the recipe I followed.


1 romaine lettuce heart, washed, pat dried and cut in half
2 tablespoons of Caesar Salad dressing
2 handfuls of Shaved Parmigiano Reggiano cheese
Polenta croutons (optional)
Olive Oil


1. I first prepare Polenta croutons. Make polenta in advance (day or few hours before), pour it in a square container and let it solidify in a fridge. Polenta recipe is available on my blog, here is the link How to make Polenta? Take polenta out of container and cut into about 1 inch cubes. Fry Polenta in Olive Oil until golden brown on all sides. Use splatter screen to prevent oil splashing on you and stove. Keep croutons warm under the heat lamp.

2. Turn on the grill. Once the grill is hot brush some olive oil on it. Also brush both lettuce halves with olive oil. Grill lettuce for about 3-4 minutes turning few times until its outer layers start to wilt and form brown spots. Take lettuce off the grill and cut the stems off. To assemble the salad, place one romaine heart half on a plate, drizzle it with Caesar dressing (1 tablespoon), spread 1 handful of cheese on top and add 5-6 Polenta croutons. That's it! Salad is ready to serve.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Canada's Flavours Part 2 - Handmade Tamales

I love tamales when they are done right which in my experience does not happen too often. The only place that makes good tamales close by is Aqua Verde in U-District. However, it is not on their regular menu. I get them there when they are a "daily special." I have tried tamales in other Mexican restaurants and the biggest problem for tamale is to taste like a tough blob of corn which you try to mask with sour cream, cheese and piles of salsa.

Few years back I got introduced to the Flavours Magazine from Canada while on a trip to Victoria, BC. That issue had the recipe for tamales which I made. This week again I decided to make tamales. The best part of the recipe is the dough - it comes out moist, fresh and has a nice corn smell. Here is a link to the original recipe from Flavours and below I describe how I made them in my kitchen. 


2 chicken breasts
4 fresh tomatillos
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and cut in half
1 clove of garlic
1 small onion, chopped
1/2 cup water
Fresh cilantro, few springs
Salt and Pepper to taste

1 pack of dried corn husks (I used Los Chileros brand)
2/3 cup of vegetable shortening
2 cups of dried corn masa mix
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon of baking powder
Salt to taste


1. Start out by softening the corn husks following the recipe on a package which is to boil a big pot of water, add dried corn husks to it, turn the heat off and let husks stay in hot water for 1 hour.

2. Next, prepare filling. Remove husks from tomatillos, wash them and cut in quarters. Add tomatillos, jalapeno pepper, garlic and onions into a small pot. Add water, salt and pepper to taste and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium low and simmer until tomatillos are soft but not falling apart (10-15 minutes). Remove tomatillos from the heat and let cool.

3. You can cook chicken ahead of time. I simply fried 2 chicken breasts in olive oil in a pan and let them cool off. My food processor is small so I had to chop tomatillos and chicken separately and then combined them in a big bowl. I started by chopping tomatillos mixture and then chicken and cilantro. I tasted the filling for salt and added a bit more. I always err on a side of salting less than more since you can always add salt later but taking it out is tricky.

4. I followed the original recipe step by step in making the dough. I fluffed shortening with a fork first, then added corn masa, baking power and salt and thoroughly mixed all ingredients with my hands. I then added water and mixed ingredients together until the dough got to a spongy consistency.

5. Finally, we can assemble tamales. Take one corn husk and spread some dough in the middle, put filling closer to one side and then fold corn husk in half, fold one more time to keep the dough from falling out. Then fold the top and bottom of the husk and tie the tamale with a corn string (use one corn husk to make strings). Repeat the process. I made my tamales small. I also did not use all the filling. Steam tamales for 45 minutes. Serve with sour cream and salsa.

Let's have some greens - Sauteed Spinach with Garlic

This week I saw some good-looking bunches of spinach in a store and bought two. I usually, like many people, have spinach raw in my salad. However, sauteing it and having as a side dish to fish or meat is also a good idea. Here is a quick way I learned to saute spinach from my husband.


1 bunch of spinach, leaves only - cleaned and washed
Olive oil for cooking (1-2 tablespoons)
2 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and Pepper to taste


1. Preheat oil in the pan on medium heat and add garlic. Saute garlic until it starts getting brown.

2. Add a handful of raw spinach to the pan and turn it with tongs until it wilts. Then add another handful of spinach and repeat the same process. Continue to cook spinach until it is all gone. Work quickly. Turn the heat off and transfer spinach to a plate and serve. Salt and pepper to taste.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

Memories from Kauai

Watching "The Descendants" brought back the memories of visiting Kauai a year ago. Same hotel as in the movie 

Exotic-looking Rambutans

Tasty Ahi

Taro Fields

And breathtaking NaPali Coast.

Terra Plata - another great addition to the Melrose Market

Melrose Market on Capitol Hill keeps pleasantly surprising me. Its new addition is Terra Plata - "Earth to Plate" concept restaurant and a new creation of the chef Tamara Murphy who closed her Brasa in 2010. Terra Plata has been open for 4 months now and seems to be very busy. This weekend we decided to try it out and loved it! The restaurant has lively and cozy environment, wooden tables and chairs and lights give it a warm feeling.

That evening I was in a mood to share few small plates. We decided on beets, sunchokes and beef cheeks. Sunchoke is also called Jerusalem Artichoke and this was my first time eating it. It was prepared with bacon, which of course made it tasty! It had nutty root vegetable taste and a crunch. Beets were served with arugula, pistachios plus some cheese.

Beef cheeks were the best out of three dishes. It is similar to short ribs but is a "better cut" - as we were told. It was served with carrots, turnip or parsnip puree (not a connoisseur of either one yet so can't remember which one it was) and brown sauce.

And then there was dessert... Immediately after we sat down I saw a couple at another table enjoying churros (aka Spanish doughnuts), which I always wanted to try but never had. Loved loved it!

What can I say? I really really enjoyed my dinner at Terra Plata and will go back again soon.

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

Grilled Radicchio Endive and Fennel with Shallot and Mustard Vinaigrette

I adapted this recipe from the Canadian magazine called Flavours. Grilling bitter salad greens/reds provides some refreshing alternative to using them in the regular salads. Here is the recipe.


1 radicchio, quartered
1 endive, halved
1 fennel bulb, quartered
1 shallot, minced
1/4 cup of olive oil
1 tablespoon of balsamic vinegar
2 teaspoons of whole grain mustard
Salt and pepper


1. In a small bowl whisk together shallot, oil, vinegar and mustard. Salt and pepper to taste.

2. Preheat the grill (outside or inside one). Brush vinaigrette over radicchio and endive pieces and grill on all sides until slightly charred but still firm.

3. Remove from the grill and brush with the remaining vinaigrette. Ready to serve!