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Thursday, July 30, 2009

Lemon Blueberry Bread

Lemonade on crack. That's the best way to describe this Lemon Blueberry Bread. It's moist, delicious and lemony. I've used this bread as a dessert and a breakfast bread, it's that good.

I'll admit, this recipe does have more steps than a basic banana or zucchini, but it's worth it. The key notes here are to line the bottom of your pan with parchment paper and also spray the pan. The blueberries tend to get stuck to the sides and bottom so you need to really plan ahead or you will end up a loaf that looks like a crew of mice attacked it.

Make this bread today; it freezes quite well so do make extra and you can have a fork full of lemonade at a moments notice. Prepare to pucker up, you're fat and happy!

Lemon Blueberry Bread

1 cups butter
2 cups sugar

Add eggs, beat until smooth:
3 eggs

3/4 scant cup buttermilk

Mix in sifted dry ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

fold in;
2 Tbls lemon zest
4 Tbls lemon juice
8 oz frozen blueberries

Line the bottom of loaf pans with parchment paper and grease the pans as well (the blueberries will have a tendency to stick to the bottom). Fill the pans 3/4 full, bake for about 1 hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.

Cool the loafs for 10 minutes and then remove from pans. Place on a cookie rack with parchment under. Pour the icing over the top (recipe below)- try not to eat the icing with by the spoonfuls!

Lemon Icing
8 oz powdered sugar
1/2 cup melted butter
1 1/2 Tbls lemon zest
1/4 cup lemon juice

Make the icing right as the loafs come out of the oven. Melt butter over low heat, whisk all ingredients together until all lumps are gone.

Monday, July 20, 2009

Olive Tapenade

Seems like everybody makes tapenade these days- it's so popular you can buy it in jars in most stores. But why do that when you can make your own, fresh, in minutes?

Use a good, toasted, crusty bread to help diminish the saltiness of the tapenade. Do not use canned olives! Make the effort to pick up good deli olives. Use this as an appetizer, or on picnic sandwiches for a fat and happy surprise flavor booster!

Olive Tapenade

1 cup olives (use a mixed variety- just use good fresh deli olives, not canned)
3/4 cup parsley
2 tbls capers
1 tbls anchovy paste
3 tbls mint
1-2 tbls lemon juice
1 tbls lemon zest
olive oil, enough to just hold it all together.

Place all the ingredients in a mini Cuisinart and pulse lightly until the tapenande is to the texture of your liking. I suggest leaving this somewhat chunky for the best results.

Sunday, July 19, 2009

Castel Gandolfo Wood Fired Pizza Review

Being one of the biggest supporters for independent restaurants, when a new pizza place opened up last week in our neighborhood- we couldn't wait to give them a try. The previous the space was occupied by Iggys, it lasted less than 6 months; we frequented often because of the fabulous bartender Carlos. Carlos left before they closed....honestly he was the reason we kept going.

It's seems like a good location, on Chicago just one block from the Red line and just a handful of block off Michigan. But it seems nobody can make a go of it.

Castel Gandolfo is a city in Italy outside of Rome, it's the Pope's summer residence; so what does that have to do with this pizza place in Chicago? My concern with this pizza place is that it doesn't know what it is. I think this is a tough name for a casual pizza place. I can't find a web site for it either. The scripted logo doesn't match the decor nor the menu. Being an extremely limited menu, the most important thing to pay attention to is the freshness and quality of ingredients; unfortunately it appears they did not pay attention to this aspect.

Let me say that we did like the crust on the pizza- it was a good representation of a thin, crispy, Napoleon crust. Beyond that, disappointment ensued with every other element served - a cheap salami, dry mozzarella, hard chewy bread sticks, slim toppings, cheap olive oil and balsamic vinegar, boring sausage and a tasteless sauce; the worst part is that the totally simple antipasto platter and a small pizza with two toppings cost over $40!!! Not even including drinks because at the time they did not have liquor license yet, (but it's on its way).

This is a tough for me to write because I want to support independents- but I also believe in serving good food. The staff also needs be become more comfortable with their customers to help them feel at home, as well as help them understand what the key specialty is in their restaurant.

If you're opening a pizza joint in the most renowned pizza city in the U.S.- it better be damn good. And unfortunately this place is just not worth it. We will give them another shot at some point, after they have a few months to gain their bearings, but in the mean time you should save your money.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Mango Guacamole

Avocado and mango go quite well together, trust me- it's true. I've made this concoction for a few different dishes and this one is my new favorite. The sweetness of the mango cuts through the spicy and smoky grill flavor of the jalapeno for a palette pleasing effect.

It's a super simple summer grilled adaptation of guacamole (make the mango salsa just prior to grilling the shrimp)-  and a fun variation over the typical fish taco that will leave you fat and happy (and healthy too!)

Tips and Techniques:  The avocado and the mango should both be quite ripe (very soft) to ensure the best blending.

Shrimp Tacos with Spicy Mango Guacamole

Make the salsa first, set aside.  Grill the ingredients for the spicy mango guacamole next, blend and set aside.  Grill the shrimp just before assembling the tacos.

Mango Salsa
In the meantime, combine in a bowl, toss and set aside:
1/2 ripe Mango, chopped
1 can of black beans
1 roma tomato, de-seeded and chopped
1/2 cup chopped parsley
1/4 cup chopped red onion
3 Tbls red wine vinegar
3 Tbls lime juice

Mango Guacamole
Place the three ingredients below on a skewer, and grill long enough to impart a smokey flavor and to soften the jalapeno and garlic.
1 jalapeno
3 cloves garlic
1/2 avocado (it's easier to leave in the skin while grilling, just slice in half and remove the pit)

Once this above is complete, place all the ingredients in blender, add and blend until smooth:
1/2 ripe mango, cut into chunks
juice of 1 to 2 limes
1/2 cup parsley
salt and pepper
olive oil to thin it out, if needed

Grilled Shrimp:
Drizzle 12 small shrimp with olive oil and toss with pepper. Skewer and grill (about 1-2 minutes per side).  Wrap tortillas in tinfoil and place on the grill while cooking the shrimp, this will warm the tortillas.

Assemble tacos: take a warmed tortilla and add a couple of grilled shrimp, a scoop of the mango salsa and a smear of the mango guacamole. Eat immediately while warm.


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