Saturday, March 30, 2013

Darth Vader Olive Oil Banana Bread

I just bought the sickest baking pan. And I also had three overly ripe bananas. So, what else is there to do besides make some banana bread in the mold of Darth Vader's face? While the recipe is called Darth Vader Olive Oil Banana Bread, please do not feel obligated to purchase a Darth Vader pan, though it is highly encouraged. 

This is a recipe with no butter, and I opted to used olive oil over vegetable oil because I love my EVOO. It gives the bread a little extra depth, and many people have told me it tastes on the "healthy" side. It was perfectly moist, though I wish the banana flavor was more potent. I had it for breakfast with a bit of raspberry preserve, and I must say that the force is strong with this one!

Next batch, I'm adding banana liquor and walnuts. 

Darth Vader Olive Oil Banana Bread

1 Darth Vader cake pan (or a 9"x13" baking pan) 
1 cup all-purpose flour 
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 teaspoons baking soda 
3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
2 teaspoons ground cinnamon 
1/2 cup brown sugar 
1 cup rolled oats
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs 
4 medium bananas
3/4 cup low fat plain yogurt
3/4 cup olive oil

other optional mix ins: 1/2 cup chopped walnuts, 2 tbs ground flaxseed, 1/4 cup pumpkin seeds, 1/4 cup raisins or dried cranberries, 2 tbs poppy seeds, 1/3 cup dark chocolate bits

1. Preheat oven to 350° and coat a Darth Vader pan with olive oil. 
2. Mix flour, baking soda, sugar, and salt in a medium bowl. 
3. Whisk eggs, yogurt, bananas, vanilla extract, and olive oil in a large bowl until smooth. 
4. Fold dry ingredients into the banana mixture along with cinnamon, oats, and poppy seeds. Stir just until combined. 
5. Pour batter into prepared pan and smooth top (feel free to sprinkle some flour into the pan before pouring in the batter to further prevent sticking).
6. Bake for about 45-50 minutes or until a tester inserted into the center of bread comes out clean.
7. Transfer to a wire rack and let bread cool in the pan for about 15 minutes before attempting to remove it. It should pop right out if you oiled and floured the pan correctly! 

✓ whole grains
✓ fiber
✓ unsaturated fats
✓ potassium

Tuesday, March 19, 2013

In-N-Out Burger

I'm currently in Los Angeles for the week, so here's some In-N-Out eye candy for the meantime:
vanilla milkshakes, cheeseburgers, and animal style fries. 

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Dinner party: Fresh herbs & lemon zest angel hair pasta with chicken sausage

I took a pasta and sauce making class at Dave's a last year, and learned a bunch of really easy to make at home recipes that I have used several times since. The most memorable was a garlic and oil with fresh herbs and lemon zest sauce, simply because it was SO SIMPLE. However, since that class, I've altered the recipe a bit by adding chicken sausage. This one is definitely a crowd pleaser, so I highly urge you to try it out at home! 

For those who prefer seafood instead, I'm making this pasta for dinner tonight with seared scallops instead of chicken sausage, so feel free to get creative with your ingredients. 

Fresh herbs & lemon zest angel hair pasta with chicken sausage
(serves 3-4):
1/2-3/4 cup of olive oil
10 cloves of garlic (chopped)
1lb chicken sausage (about 4-6 links, decased and minced)
1 tbl of fresh sage (chopped)
1 tbl of fresh thyme (chopped)
4 tbl of fresh Italian parsley (chopped)
Lemon zest
Salt and pepper to taste
2/3-1lb fresh angel hair pasta

1. Bring a pot of water to boil for the angel hair pasta. Remember to salt.
2. Slowly heat the olive oil and garlic in a medium sized sauté pan until lightly toasted.
3. Add the chicken sausage to the pan, and sauté until thoroughly cooked and slightly browned.
4. Remove from heat and add herbs, lemon zest.
5. Add the pasta to the chicken sausage, herbs, and lemon zest. Season with salt and fresh pepper to taste.
5. Drizzle raw high quality extra virgin olive oil over pasta once tossed.

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Beer braised chicken and olive oil roasted vegetables

A few weeks ago, I had some friends come over for another friend's birthday. After the event, I found myself with quite a few Coors Lights that I definitely was not planning to drink in my free time, so I decided to braise some meat with them. I figured I could make a creamy sauce made from beer and yogurt and slow cook some chicken in it. I would then roast some veggies, then serve my roasted veggies and braised chicken smothered in the beer sauce over penne pasta. 

Olive Oil Roasted Vegetables
1 head broccoli, cut
1 cup peas
1/2 red onion, sliced
5 shallots, peeled 
5 cloves of garlic, peeled
1 bundle of asparagus, cut 
3 tbs olive oil 

1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees Farenheit. 
2. Toss the vegetables in ~3 tablespoons of olive oil and spread over a baking tray. 
3. Bake for 25-30 min or until browned/caramelized.

THAT EASY. Roasting vegetables is my new favorite thing to do because it really brings out the flavors in the vegetables, and you can use it for practically any type of produce you want. Keep in mind, larger pieces of vegetables will take longer to roast. Also, because I will be using the sauce from the beer braised chicken, I did not season the vegetables. 
Some spices to consider: salt, black pepper, herbs de Provence, garlic powder

Beer braised chicken
1lb chicken breast*
2 cans/bottles of beer
1/4 cup flour
1/2 red onion
2 tbs olive oil
5 cloves garlic
5 shallots
4tbs low fat yogurt

*Chicken marinade (I like letting it sit for 20min-2hrs, but you can us it immediately also) :
3 tsp Creole spice
1 tsp paprika
1tsp garlic powder
1/4 tsp sage
1/4 tsp thyme
1/2 tsp black pepper
1/4 tsp baking soda

1. On high heat, add the olive oil, onion, shallots, and garlic. Add flour and mix until it is incorporated.
2. Once browned, slight sear the chicken until golden on the outsides.
3. Slowly add the beer. Once the beer is boiling, add the yogurt and turn to low heat and let it simmer for 30 minutes to 1.5hrs, depending on the amount of time you have and making sure the lid is slightly ajar. It is edible after 30 minutes, but more time will let more of the flavor soak in and make the chicken more tender.
4. Serve over pasta and roasted vegetables!

If I were to do this again, I would not use Coors Light. The chicken and the sauce were good, but the thought of Coors kept lingering in my mind. I would perhaps choose an amber or a pale ale next time I braise my meat!

Saturday, March 9, 2013

Tokyo raw foods: sashimi and sushi

Now that I'm feeling better, lets talk about something both microbes and I live on: raw foods. Japanese cuisine consists of a wider range of raw foods than most cultures that I am familiar with, and I can tell you that it was quite jarring eating raw fish or meats for several meals in a row. It could have been all mental, but my stomach was working hard to tolerate all of it. 

Tuna and salmon roe maki at Tsujiki fish market

Of course I visited the Tsujiki fish market when I was in Tokyo. I didn't make it to the auctions (tourist fail), but I was still able to snag a space at the limited seating inside a cozy sushi bar in the market. I did a set meal where the chef offered the seasonal specials and put it on your platter piece by piece as he finished preparing them. Though the fish were more roughly cut and larger sized than I expected, all of them were extremely fresh and buttery. I'm salivating just thinking about it! 

Later that day, my Japanese tour guide Fukuko and I went to a chanko nabe restaurant. She ordered a side dish that was composed of natto, raw tuna, a raw egg, raw scallions, and seaweed shreds. She warned me that I would probably not like the distinct pungent flavor, but I should give it a try anyways because it's something she grew up on. Natto is not a raw food, for it is fermented soybeans with Bacillus subtilis, which has probiotic qualities. I'm writing about it here because it was served with two very raw things.  Fukuko was right to warn me, for there was a very strong and sweet bean flavor, it was sticky and slimy, and it was really like nothing I've had before besides honeyed soybeans at some Chinese restaurants. Even then, the natto's flavor was quite overpowering, and I'm glad it was paired with the tuna for texture and taste. 

At that same meal, we also had basashi, horse sashimi. This was something that I was told to try, but I wasn't that sold on. But Fukuko ordered it, so I was down to try it. The basashi arrived frozen. It was a plate of thinly sliced horse meat. It's served with mashed daikon and soy sauce, but because of quality and contamination reasons, it is also served frozen. The horse meat had a distinct flavor that I can't quite put my tongue on (a bit gamey, a bit like rabbit), but the texture was similar to any other frozen red meat that you might have ever had. What surprised me was the texture of the meat. It was so finely marbled with fat! Are all horses that fat? No way, It must be specially raised horses for eating. Anyways, I don't think I'd go out of my way to eat it again, but it was worth a try!

Now, my favorite new thing that I tried during my short stay in Tokyo was toriwasa, chicken sashimi. We went to a yakitori joint in the neighborhood Fukuko grew up, and along with a set of skewers of all different chicken parts, my lovely local guide ordered chicken sashimi. I know, you must be cringing by now. First horse, now chicken? Why not throw some raw pork in there? Relax, I definitely did not eat raw pork, and I was extremely skeptical about eating raw chicken. However, after the first bite, I was infatuated. I couldn't stop. The every so slightly seared bits of raw chicken coated in a fresh wasabi sauce was so succulent and flavorful, that I totally disregarded that no one west of Japan eats raw chicken. Please do not try making this at home. I'm certain that you will contract a lot of bacterial infections if you do this with conventional American grown chickens. But hey, if people are actively eating raw chicken in this foreign country, then so will I. 

Raw foods is not for everyone, but I must say I have a soft spot for everything raw, and Tokyo was the perfect place to fulfill it. 

SUSHI and tamago
Natto, tuna, and a raw egg
Basashi, horse sashimi
Tariwasa, chicken sashimi

Thursday, March 7, 2013

South Street Diner, Boston

Happy 15th birthday to South Street Diner! In celebration, South Street Diner hosted its annual $10 3-course lobster or steak all-day special. Well, from 11am-11pm, which is all day for us, but not all day for the only 24 hour establishment in Boston. 

I've been the South Street Diner a handful of times now, including a 5am drop-in during finals week my junior year of college. The library just closed, and I was ready for a meal, so I dropped by with Victor and Chelsea and while he had an omelet, Chelsea and I shared a vanilla milkshake and chocolate chip banana pancakes. They were delicious, but had I known about their famous banana bread then, I would've ordered that instead! Either way, it was still memorable enough of an experience for me to revisit several times for late breakfasts. But tonight was the first night I visited for dinner all because I heard about their special $10 deal. 

Michael and I trekked through the snow storm to get some steak and lobster, and boy was it worth the $10! We both started with the clam chowder, which was the standard New England cream based soup. The great thing about it was that it was extra peppery, and it was served with nice salty oyster crackers. 

For entree, I got the 1.25lb lobster and Michael got the 1lb New York sirloin. A 1.25lb lobster is pretty small, but where can you get a lobster dinner for $10 anywhere else besides New England? It was fresh and served with the standard melted butter. The medium rare steak was a bit on the tough side, but it was well seasoned and cooked to the right color. Steak frites and lobster frites! 

The highlight of the meal was the banana bread. I had no idea that their banana bread was famous until after I left the diner tonight, but I am obsessed. It wasn't too dense, it had a delightful banana flavor to it, it was sliced thinly, and it was lightly grilled. It paired surprisingly well with the chocolate sauce, and the rich vanilla ice cream made it impeccable. I talked about how amazing it was the entire walk home. I honestly can't stop thinking about it.

TL;DR: go to South Street diner on their birthday for $10 lobster/steak, eat banana bread

Clam chowder

The famous banana bread
Since they obviously do not have $10 lobster specials every day, what do you get every other day? 

If I were you, I would definitely start with a vanilla milkshake. It's a classic, and they definitely do not skimp on the ingredients (I get pissed off when a milkshake is clearly diluted and not made with ice cream).

For breakfast, I've had their Monte Cristo, which is just a ham and egg on French toast. It's supposed to be the American version of the croque monsieur, but it was a little too confusing for me. Americans. Even so, the seasoned and crispy home fries compensated. Their steak and eggs are a deal and is also served with their delicious home fries. All in all, they have all the diner breakfast standards that are quite on par and exactly what you would expect from a 70's themed diner in 2013.  

I will definitely be back soon because I get a free backpack if I reach 10 check-ins on Foursquare, but beyond that, every city needs some 24 hour place for their people to flock to. Oh, and I'm always down for some good banana bread.

Monte Cristo

Steak and eggs

South Street Diner
178 Kneeland Street
Boston, MA 02111