Artichokes + Friday Happy Hour

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I love a good happy hour. Drinks and small plates at a discount always sounds good to me. But going out isn’t always an option… especially when happy hour ends before you get off work. On Friday’s I usually like to have happy hour at home. There’s nothing better than happy hour in your sweats. Oh wait, I go to happy hour in my sweats anyway. Call me lazy. It’s a bad habit of mine.

The key to happy hour at home is keeping it simple. A few ingredients that require little work. Things like cheese and crackers, bruschetta or bacon wrapped dates. Today we are having one of my favorites: Artichokes and lemon butter.

I love artichokes. They are flavorful, easy to prepare and something you don’t eat everyday. The lemon butter just adds an extra flavor and enhances the artichoke. I promise you will be addicted after the first one. I usually eat a whole one myself…. sometimes two. I’m not ashamed.

Friday Libations: Pull — Cabernet Sauvignon, 2010 Paso Robles

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Artichokes + Lemon Butter   >>Serves 2

2 artichokes

1/2 stick butter

2 lemons

Cut off the tops of the leaves with scissors. This will get rid of all the pointy ends and make it easier to work with. Bring a pot of water to a boil. Juice one lemon into the water and leave the lemon halves in the water. Put both artichokes into the water and make sure they are covered. Put a lid on the pot and cook for 30-40 minutes. The artichoke is ready when the leaves pull out easily.

When the artichoke is almost done, melt the butter and juice of one lemon together. Now you’re ready to plate! Peel off the leaves one at a time and dip in the lemon butter. The “meat” is at the end of the artichoke. Simple and satisfying.

Happy Hour at home can be just as good as going out!

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Roasted Cabbage.

What better place to blog than the airport? And that’s exactly what I am doing right now. DIA, coffee, breakfast, terminal C and my computer. I am on my way to San Antonio for one of my best friends wedding. I have been pretty  busy lately. Blogging from the airport has been on my agenda. So, here I am.

I found this recipe for roasted cabbage form Martha Stewart. It’s pretty genius. Who would have ever thought to cut cabbage up into wedges and roast it. I wish I would have thought of it first. This is a perfect alternative for a side dish or appetizer. It doesn’t take long to make and it’s satisfying. I was wondering how much flavor it would have. It actually has a lot of flavor. It’s not dull or tasteless at all. If you are a vegetarian, this would be a perfect vegetable to eat.

This is how you do it:

Ingredients

  • 1 tablespoon plus 2 more tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds
  • Coarse salt and ground pepper
  • 1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds (This is what makes it so good!)

Directions

  1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Brush a rimmed baking sheet with 1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil. Place 1 medium head green cabbage, cut into 1-inch-thick rounds, in a single layer on sheet and brush with 2 tablespoons oil. Season with coarse salt and ground pepper and sprinkle with 1 teaspoon caraway or fennel seeds. Roast until cabbage is tender and edges are golden, 40 to 45 minutes.

Smashed Potatoes.

Here’s a new take on potatoes. I wish I could take credit for this idea, but I have to give all the credit to Giada de Larentiis.

This could be another take on “fried” potatoes or another take on mashed potatoes. I decided to go with the mashed potato take by adding sour cream, chives and bacon bits on top. All you have to do is boil small red potatoes or small yukon gold potatoes. Once they are done let them cool. With the palm of your hand, smash the potatoes so they’re still intact, but flat instead of round. Saute both sides in butter (or olive oil) to your liking (I like mine crisp). Once done you can eat them as is or add any topping(s). That’s all there is to it, folks. Simple and delicious!

Drunken Pears with Goat Cheese

Merry Christmas Eve to everyone!

Tonight I made an appetizer for our Christmas Eve party. I got the idea from Pinterest and made it my own. It’s quick, simple and easy. I hope you enjoy!

Drunken Pears w/Goat Cheese

Pears
1 Package of Goat Cheese
1/4 cup Pecans
2 cups (or more) White Wine

Roll the goat cheese into several balls about 1 inch in diameter.
Roll the goat cheese balls in the chopped pecans.
Using garnish toothpicks, skewer one pear slice (after they’ve been soaking in wine) and then one goat cheese ball at a time, then place on a serving platter.

Merry Christmas!

Luke 2: “And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

Say Cheese.

A cheese plate is needed at every dinner party. Wether it’s served as an hors d’oeuvres or something delicious to snack on while preparing a meal, it serves as something salty and savory to prepare for the course(s) ahead. A cheese plate must have a sharp cheese, a soft cheese, a blue cheese and a cheese outside the box (ex: a cheese with fruit in it). Of course, this is not a cheese plate rule, but one I like to go by in order to make a plate pleasing and adventurous for all. The cheese can be accompanied by crackers, bread, olives and fruit.

This summer me and two of my girlfriends were having a dinner party… and when I say a dinner party I mean just the three of us. We created this cheese platter, and it was delicious if I may say so myself. Accompanying our cheese was crackers, green olives filled with blue cheese and red peppers stuffed with feta. It was all tantalizing and addicting.

Bistro Vendome.

Reservation #4: Bistro Vendôme.

Located in Larimer Square downtown, the owners of Rioja, located on Larimer Square as well, bring you Bistro Vendôme. A quaint eatery tucked away and full of flavor and charm. After experiencing Rioja last summer, I knew Bistro Vendôme would not disappoint. With three courses and almost their entire menu available, I experienced flavors and food only a culinary expert could think up.

Course one, we ordered Bisque de Champignons (mushroom and cognac bisque, grilled baguette, mushroom sauté) and Escargots de Bourgogne (baked escargot, herb compound, butter, red burgundy glaze, crunch brioche crust). The mushroom bisque was rich and full of flavor. If you love mushrooms, which I do, you will love this. Now, for the foodie I am, you might be surprised I have never tried escargot. It’s true, I never have. That is, until this meal. The flavor: earthy. The texture: chewy. All I can say is, I didn’t hate it, I didn’t love it. I’ll probably never have it again. Okay, on to the second course. We ordered Truite en Croûte de Pistaches (sautéed pistachio and spice crusted trout, new potatoes, asparagus, bacon, onions, red peppers, parsley oil) and Coquilles St. Jacques avec Risotto (pan seared scallops, risotto, sautéed haricot vert, pear chutney, vanilla bean beurre blanc). The scallops were cooked perfectly and the risotto was rich and creamy. Amazing. The trout, I don’t even have words. It was crusted perfectly and the vegetables on top were tender and full of flavor. For the third course we shared the Blood Orange Chocolate Crepes (chocolate crepe, blood orange cream, chocolate streusel, red wine reduction). This dessert was to die for. Orange and chocolate are two flavors I love together. I can’t resist.

I only have one thing to say: Best food coma ever.

Zengo.

Reservation #3: Zengo

Located in Riverfront Park, Zengo is a Latin-Asian fusion restaurant. The atmosphere is vibrant and eclectic. I love the design and aura of the bar, seating area and dining room. Vibrant colors and food make it a great eating spot.

Their menu included three courses: appetizer, main dish and dessert. Before diving into the food, I had one of their signature drinks, a cucumber mojito. So refreshing and had just the right amount of cucumber and mint. Okay, first course. We ordered the Angry Zengo Roll (Spicy yellowfin tuna/cucumber/avocado wasabi tobiko/sesame chipotle rouille) and Give ‘n Take Chicken Salad (Togarshi candied pecan/mandarin/cabbage piloncillo ginger vinaigrette). Both had excellent presentation and flavor. On to the second course… we ordered Pan Seared Baramundi (Charred bok choy/green apple crab salad/Chile guajillo – lobster dashi) and the Beef Short Rib (Manchego potato puree/blistered corn salsa/hoisin adobo). The green apple crab salad was perfect and the short ribs could melt in your mouth; forget about a knife, the fork slid right through them. In case that wasn’t enough food, for the third course we ordered Chocolate Passion Mousse Cake (Chocolate/coconut/passion fruit crème/pecan) and Honey Semi-Freddo (Miso caramel apples/cinnamon ice cream/oat crumble). Both of these were on the opposite spectrum of dessert; one was rich and the other was mild. I had no idea what semi-freddo was, and I found out it was cream that was frozen and then set out to soften before plating. Now, I am not a huge fan of milk or cream, really anything white, but this grew on me after a couple of bites, especially since it was accompanied with apples and cinnamon ice cream.

After all of this, I was about stuffed. Nothing about Zengo disappointed. The whole place was vibrant and delicious, I would definitely go back for more.

Panzano.

Reservation #2: Panzano

“Chi mangia bene, viva bene”  — Those who eat well, live well. Those Italians know what they’re talking about when it comes to food, and so does Panzano. Located downtown on the corner of 17th St. and Champa (next to Hotel Monaco), Panzanos atmosphere is classy and accented in red. From white table cloths to red floors and chandeliers, this busy restaurant is a sight for sore eyes. Personally, I have never been to a restaurant in Denver that will offer regular water or sparkling water when you sit down. I have a love for sparkling water, so you can imagine my excitement when this option rolled around. So, here it comes, the four courses…

As you should do at restaurant week, each party eating has to order something different off the menu. That way you each get to try eight different things rather than four. For the first course we ordered Cavolini di Bruxelles (fried brussels sprouts tossed with apple cider vinegar, pistachios and green apples) and Crespelle ai Funghi (hazel dell mushroom stuffed crepes, fonduta sauce, white truffle oil). Both so tempting and pleasing; full of flavor and color. For the second course we went with the traditional and ordered a Caesar (hearts of romaine, anchovies, garlic, parmesan, croutons, crispy capers) and an Insalata Mista (hand picked organic greens, sherry vinaigrette). The third course, the main course, were surprisingly large portions. Panzano went all out. We ordered Rosmarino Tagliatelle (rosemary pasta with cranberries, toasted pine nuts and goat cheese, with a lemon emulsion) and Pollo Val d’Aosta (lightly breaded chicken layered with prosciutto and and fontina cheese over mashed potatoes and sautéed spinach). Both dishes were engaging and divine. There were so many flavors in the dishes but one never overpowered the other. On to the fourth course (as if I could eat anymore), dessert was Cioccolato Cannoli (housemade cannoli filled with gianduia and dark chocolate mousse and a italian dark cherry sauce) and Selezione di Sorbetto (made in house daily and a scoop of passion fruit, raspberry and cassis).

Whew. If there was another course someone would have had to roll me out of the restaurant. With all of that food, nothing disappointed. It was an opulent and robust meal. Delizioso!

Pollo Val d’Aosta

Squash Spaghetti.

I’m always looking for ways to make a staple dish new. Something to spice it up, give it a different texture and make something that had become boring interesting. Take chicken parmesan. Delicious, but boring after a while. So why not make mushroom parmesan. Substitute the chicken for a portobello mushroom. It’s beyond delicious and no longer makes this dish boring.

So here’s another. Spaghetti. Yes, spaghetti can always be spiced up some more. Different meats, sauces, spices, etc. But what’s the one thing you cannot change? The pasta. So, here’s something new. Squash Spaghetti. No noodles this time. Just squash.

1. Cut squash in half length wise, scoop out seeds and place cut side down on a rim baking pan. Fill the bottom for about a half inch of water. Bake on the middle rack for about 50 minutes. You know it is done when the flesh is tender enough to shred easily.

2. Remove the squash and let it cool enough to handle. With a fork, scrape the inside of the squash into a large bowl, it will look like spaghetti, hence the name.

3. I like to keep recipes like this, which is already healthy, simple. Along with the spaghetti squash, add in olive oil, salt & pepper and a cheese of your choice (I prefer feta with this). To make the spaghetti more filling and flavorful add fish. I think shrimp would be the perfect choice.

This is definitely a spin on spaghetti and pasta. Something new, something fresh. Try it, and you’ll be searching for ways to spice up the dishes you are so bored of making… and eating. Enjoy!

*Photos courtesy of Sprouted Kitchen