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Archive for March, 2010

Blueberries and Quinoa

Tax season has put quite the damper on my kitchen time (as well as my life in general – boo).

However, here are a few quicks links to items I have made recently and liked.

Blueberry Spelt Muffins

After randomly buying spelt flour during a stop at the new Market District near Robinson, I started looking up recipes to use the new ingredient. Spelt is a different type of wheat and is considered nuttier and sweeter than whole wheat. Spelt flour also contains more protein than regular wheat (according to Wikipedia of course). I really liked these muffins. They puffed up to the perfect shape and had great texture. 

Notes: I used butter rather than canola oil and frozen blueberries rather than fresh. I also used blueberry yogurt in place of the applesauce.

Turkey and Quinoa Loaf

The long hours I work this time of year usually lead to lousy/lazy dinners. I wanted to try and make something I could eat over a few days time and would actually resemble a home-cooked, balanced meal when paired with some quick steamed vegetables. I also had a random box of quinoa banging around in my pantry (aka the largest deep drawer in my tiny kitchen). I liked this loaf. I ate it plain, with potatoes, with veggies, and on a sandwich.

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This time of year is quite busy in my line of work (taxes – woohoo!). Therefore, my baking and cooking has slowed. However, I have still managed a few meals out. Here are some ‘mini’ reviews of places I have been recently.

Plum – Located in the former Richard Chen spot, Plum is a trendy Pan-Asian joint located in the East End/East Liberty on the corner of South Highland and Centre. It is quite close to where I live and a nice spot for a trendy, fun night out.  I happen to really like the sushi. I love the veggie based ‘skinny roll’.  However,  Plum is not without its faults. I have found some of the main entrees (and the service) hit or miss. On a recent visit, some members of my party raved about their meat based dishes. However, my pad thai was kind of bland and so-so. Also, service has been spotty and unpolished. I would hesitate to really recommend this place as a dining destination. Yet, I think it adds to the dining scene in the East End and I will likely return.

Casbah – Here is another Shadyside haunt that leaves me with mixed feelings. To note, Casbah is part of the Big Burrito group of restaurants – this group includes Eleven, Umi, Soba, Casbah, Kaya, and Mad Mex. In general, I don’t think you can go wrong with a Big Burrito spot for a night out. The restaurants range a bit in focus and price point so check out the Big Burrito website if you are unfamiliar with the group.

Back to Casbah.  I do love the bar here. It is never overly crowded and the perfect spot to grab a drink on a weeknight. In fact, this is my usual reason for visiting Casbah – I have only visited for dinner twice, one visit being a few weeks ago.

During my recent visit, I had the winter margarita (rosemary infused tequila, lemonade, possibly one other ingredient that escapes me).  While I enjoyed it, I found the rosemary odd, as if it were fighting against the other ingredients of the cocktail. For dinner, I had the short rib ravioli. This is not something I would normally order – however, it was quite lovely. The dish was rich, satisfying, and dressed in a shallot and mushroom beef broth based sauce. This particular visit left me feeling cozy and satisfied. However, the price point at Casbah is a bit high (I believe my ravioli were somewhere in the $20-$25 range). Casbah is certainly nice inside and the service is quite attentive – the price point just leaves me wanting a little more for some reason.

Regardless, I think Casbah is dependably delicious and the menu incorporates some great seasonal ingredients. I would feel confident that a group of diners here would have little to complain about.

17th Street Cafe – Located in the Southside, I have come to love this little place over the years. An old college friend of mine works the bar and waits tables and my family always requests this spot for special occasions or dinners out. The menu is seasonal and you will not leave hungry. Nothing too innovative or fusion-y or anything like that here – just good food cooked well. On a recent visit, I had the prosciutto wrapped salmon over spaghetti  squash. Lovely. The fried zucchini here is also pretty amazing. So it the homemade balsamic dressing. This place is always in the Entertainment and/or Enjoyment books. Check out this solid Pittsburgh spot.

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Updated: About Snickie Page

Check out my updated ‘About Snickie’ page. I get many visits to it and I realized it was pretty lame. I may add more later but this is a start!

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I will admit to popping open a jar of store bought spaghetti sauce on occasion. Boil some pasta and dinner is ready in minutes. However, I crave the slow cooked, deep rich flavor of homemade tomato sauce. Is there any compromise?

I think so. I came across this tomato sauce over on the blog Smitten Kitchen. If you have never looked at or explored this amazing blog, please do so.  According to the Smitten Kitchen post,  many in the blog world and beyond have jumped on this easy recipe. It is adapted from an older Marcela Hazan recipe. I made this a few weekends ago and have been excited to share my thoughts ever since.

Tomato Sauce with Butter and Onions
Adapted from Marcela Hazan’s Essentials of Italian Cooking as posted on Smitten Kitchen (Snickie adaptations in bold)

Serves 4 as a main course; makes enough sauce to lightly coat most of a pound of spaghetti

28 ounces (800 grams) whole peeled tomatoes from a can (San Marzano, if you can find them)* – I used whole canned plum tomatoes from Trader Joe’s
5 tablespoons (70 grams) unsalted butter – I used 3 T
1 medium-sized yellow onion, peeled and halved
Salt to taste

Put the tomatoes, onion and butter in a heavy saucepan (it fit just right in a 3-quart) over medium heat. Bring the sauce to a simmer then lower the heat to keep the sauce at a slow, steady simmer for about 45 minutes, or until droplets of fat float free of the tomatoes. Stir occasionally, crushing the tomatoes against the side of the pot with a wooden spoon. Remove from heat, discard the onion, add salt to taste (you might find, as I did, that your tomatoes came salted and that you didn’t need to add more) and keep warm while you prepare your pasta.

Serve with spaghetti, with or without grated parmesan cheese to pass.

Verdict: YUM. To note, this did have a strong sweet onion taste – not a raw onion taste but the onion was definitely present. Also, I wasn’t sure about cutting down the butter. However, I could most certainly still detect and taste the rich, deep creaminess the butter brought to the dish. I am not sure I would want any more butter than what I used.

 Overall, this sauce is sweet, thick and full of flavor. I think it would be lovely to serve to company. It truly has that special, ‘secret recipe’ taste to it. It is pleasantly rich and comforting. I served my sauce over penne and stretched my pot into a few dinners and lunches. I don’t think I would add meat to this – it is already rich from the butter. However, I think you could add some veggies as a variation. No matter what, this sauce is keeper for sure.  Minimal effort and awesome outcome – my kind of meal.

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Snickie lives!

Even if I haven’t been posting, I promise I have been eating.  Check back for a few new recipes, visits to Plum and Casbah, and other random tasty tidbits.

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