October 17, 2009

Restaurant Review: Benjys on Washington

Hilda was in town and after spending the morning showing the house and waiting for inspections (and on only one mug of coffee), we went to Benjys on Washington for a quick lunch before I had to go to work. I've only been to this particular restaurant once and I remember it being pretty good for dinner - a tad pricey but good.
I like the atmosphere - industrial mixed with comtemporary touches. So let's start with the complimentary dips/breads. First was a nut mixture that Hilda was pretty fond of - probably b/c of the kick it had. I didn't like it as much. They also had these cheddar biscuits that were mmmmm! Crumbly and flavorful. Last, there were paper thin disks of grains? which I didn't like very much.

For appetizer, we shared the Spicy Tuna Tartar on crispy edaname cake with avocado couills. I LOVE this. Too bad there were only five. Tuna was flavored so well but not too overpowering. It complemented the edamane cake so well (who knew you could make edaname into a cake?) and the mix of balsamic dressing and avocado sauce was fantastic. Perfect combination of flavors. They were so good, I'm pretty sure I could have popped 10 or more of these thing. They remind me of the amazing tuna tartar appetizer from Picos in Sausilito.

Hilda had the Asian salad with wonton crisps, cashews, peanut sauce and soy-garlic dressing. It was pretty good - still not as good as Magginos chopped salad. I think this would be have been better with some type of cheese - blue cheese, feta or even white cheddar would have been good.

I had the Pepper crusted tuna with nicoise salad. Not as good as Hildas. I liked the tuna - seared and cooked well but I did not really taste the pepper crusted outside. The salad has potatos, onions, eggs and croutons. I was a tad disappointed in the salad - don't think it complemented the tuna slices very well.

So on a scale of 1 (bad) to 10 (best), I'd give this place a 6. Love the appetizer, enjoyed the atmospohere even thought it was a tad loud and disappointed by my salad. For the price ($16) for an okay, okay salad - I definitely will not get that again.

October 16, 2009

Turkey Empanadas

During one weekend, I was on a bread kick. Why? I love my kitchen aid mixer and realized it had been weeks (weeks, I say!) since I put that dough kneader to work. It’s hard pressed to find a good empanada when I don’t venture to Mexican or Spanish restaurants much. The last empanada I had that was so perfect – in Puerto Rico on the beach where “chef” was walking around yelling if we wanted some. I still remember the crew of us standing on the beach, chowing down on empanadas with sauce dripping from our fingers. So very yum.

This was not the perfect recipe but it was good and I’ll try and experiment again soon. The dough was good (it must be with 2 sticks of buttah!) but the filling could have been a little creamier – a tad too dry for me. And for the filling, I probably should have followed a recipe but I thinking I was so great, I made it up. Yeah, I’m not a chef and shouldn’t be doing that often – ha! Next time, I may add potatoes to the filling so its gives a more creamy, starchy consistency.

Turkey Empanadas

1 /2 to 1 lb ground turkey
Frozen corn
1 tomato cut into cubes
5 shallots sliced
1 Bay leave
Dry basil
Dry oregano
Dash of hot sauce
Dry Italian seasoning/herbs
Dash of cumin
A tad of chicken broth

Dough from Smitten Kitchen
4 ½ cups flour
3 tsp salt
2 sticks cold butter, cut into cubes
2 eggs
2/3 cup ice water
2 tbsp vinegar

1. Start with the dough since it needs to be chilled in the fridge for 2 hours. In the kitchen aid mixer bowl, cut the COLD cubes of butter into the flour. It should end up being tiny modules of doughy lumps. In another bowl, mix egg, water and vinegar. Put the mixer on slow with the kneader and slowly add in the wet mixture. Let it knead until it forms a round ball. Put on counter and form into a ball and wrap with plastic wrap. Chill for 2 hours in the fridge.

2. 30 minutes before your 2 hours are up, start making the filling. Cook the ground turkey with some olive oil. Season with salt, pepper, oregano, basil and Italian seasoning. Once almost done, take out the turkey and put in a bowl. Using the same pan with the turkey juices, cook down the shallots (add somre more olive oil if you need) until they are soft and makes your kitchen smell delicious. Add in the tomatoes and let it cook a little more.
3. I also added in a tad bit of chicken broth to help cook and steam. Once tomatoes are soft, add in the frozen corn and season with salt and pepper. Add in the turkey. Season with a dash of hot sauce and cumin. Add additional dry herbs if needed – I tasted every step of the way.

4. Take dough out of fridge and cut it into four cube. Take half and cute them into size of a golf ball. Roll out into a flat dish, fill with turkey filling, and with some water around the edges, seal them into that pretty empanada shape we all love. This recipe makes about 20 empanadas. Do a quick egg wash on the top if you need.

5. Cook in 400 degree oven for 20 minutes.

October 03, 2009

Roasted Red Bell Pepper Wheat Pasta

Oh, the many ways to make pasta. I religiously read Smitten Kitchen and Sassy Radish food blogs and came across this from Smitten Kitchen. When I’m busy at work and get home late, I want simple, clean dishes that also don’t dirty up a sink-ful of pots and pans. So easy, I omitted a few things, added a few things and needed to add a little protein – ground turkey.

In an effort to cook a little healthier (ha, and pasta’s the answer right?), I started using wheat pasta and maaaaaan, I’m telling you, just not as good. I don’t fall into that dreamy, content state after eating a really good meal, which this SO much better without the wheat pasta. Not saying this dish was not good – it was, but I’m always looking for that oh so perfect dish.

I’ll be conflicted the next time I make pasta. Do I be healthy with wheat pasta and still enjoy a good meal or be naughty use regular pasta to enjoy a great meal? Probably the latter =)

Roasted Red Pepper Wheat Pasta
Adapted from
Smitten Kitchen
(4 cooking items: Big pot to cook pasta, pan to cook ground turkey, food processor and bowl to mix)

1 pound of small wheat pasta
¼ pound ground turkey (I wanted to add some meat to this dish so feel free to omit for veggie dish)
Pinch of dried basil (If you decide to go veggie, don't need this)
Pinch of dried parsley (If you decide to go veggie, don't need this)
Pinch of garlic powder (If you decide to go veggie, don't need this)
3 red bell pepper, roasted, skinned and seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 medium shallot
1 garlic clove
Pecorino cheese (I just had this in the fridge so use whatever cheese you have or you can completely omit)
***Per Smitten Kitchen, you can also add any type of veggies - peas, broccoli, corn, etc.

1. About 1.25 hours before you want to eat, wash and completely pat dry the bell peppers. Do not cut! Lightly pour olive over them (just a teensy tad) and put in 350 degree oven for 1 hour. I like to turn them at 30 minutes to make sure they are cooked all the way around.

2. 45 minutes into this, start boiling water to cook the pasta. Take the ground turkey and I mix it with the basil, parsley, garlic powder and salt and pepper. Tad of olive oil in pan and cook the turkey completely. Make sure to drain any of the oil when done.

3. Once the bell peppers are done, take then out and let them sit for 5 minutes. I like to cover them with plastic or aluminum to trap the steam which also helps you easily pull the skin off. Complete peel and deseed the bell peppers.
4. Put them in a food processor with the peeled garlic clove and shallot. Give it a good blend. Then add in the red wine vinegar, salt and pepper. I love the taste of red wine vinegar so I tend to put more than what folks like to eat. I think this would be fantastic with some champagne vinegar too. Give another good blend and then slowly pour olive oil into the food processor. This should be a creamy, delicious dressing now. 5. Now, putting it all together! Take a big whopping bowl and put the pasta (drain well), ground turkey and then pour the dressing in portions to see how much/how little you want to add. Sprinkle pecorino cheese on top. Next, take a big whiff of the pasta, grab a glass of wine and enjoy.