Tuesday, May 25, 2010

Place of the Moment - The Linkery

I had the chance to go out with one of my dear friends last night here in San Diego. She told me that we should go to a place that I'd been missing while we were out in Chicago. Well, since I'd already been to In N Out twice and eaten mexican food three times, I had to come up with something a little more going-out worthy,

My favorite restaurant in San Diego, by far, is The Linkery, so that's where we ended up.  The Linkery is a farm-to-table restaurant that does everything they can to be local and organic and clean. From the beer to the veggies, you know that everything you're consuming has been lovingly cared for by someone The Linkery has actually met and talked to. And while that's all well and good, the food and drinks are actually wonderfully delicious too.

Last night, we started the meal with one of their grilled wheat flatbreads topped with portobello mushrooms, pickeled fava beans, and provolone (delish). I paired this with a Moonlight Brewing Artemis, which is a no-hop ale brewed with Mugwort and wild Bergamot.

This beer (which is the only thing I managed to take a picture of) was a revelation. I wanted to eat it. And I wanted to eat a sausage quiche with lots of herbs in it alongside it. I really liked it. Emily paired the starter with a Blanche de Bruxelles white ale, which was also very different, but in a little bit of a sour mandarin orange flavored way. Not my favorite.

For a main course, I had the house-made Klobasa sausage, which had a bunch of marjoram and garlic in it on their Choucroute plate, with a bunch of sauerkraut. It was also really yummy, and went really well with the Artemis. 

Moonlight Brewing was doing a special beer-pairing night at The Linkery the night we went, which is why I tasted one of their beers. They are a really small operation out of Santa Rosa so I gather that it's really rare to have the chance to taste their stuff. The Linkery offered four beer/dinner pairings for $10 each to highlight some of the brews Moonlight brought. Em had one which was an Old Combine four-grain lager paired with grass-fed roast sirloin, roasted asparagus and corn. While small, it was very good and well worth ten bucks with the full pour beside it. 

To top the night off, we had another brew pairing of Death and Taxes black lager with a vanilla ice cream float and a macaroon buttercream sandwich. Em drank the lager, I had a glass of one of The Linkery's house-blended wines, Mix Tape, which was a blend of grenache, carignan, mourvedre, and petite sirah, yummy. 

All in all, it was a great meal. Good food, good atmosphere, great conversation, and good wine and beer. While it's a little more expensive than we can afford for an everyday meal, if you're in San Diego and need an interesting, delicious, special meal this is the place to go. 

Monday, May 24, 2010

Recipe of the Moment - Spinach and Feta Cheese Turkey Burgers

We're in San Diego for a couple of weeks so I'm more eating out than eating in. But a few nights ago I got to cook for the family. It's a little bit of a food-cation. I get to cook and not pay for groceries. Pretty sweet, actually.

Since I'm usually cooking for two, it's always a little bit of a challenge when I'm supposed to make food for more than that. If it's an informal thing, I usually fall back on a turkey burger of some sort, just because it's versatile and always yummy. And Brad loves them. Of course, I wanted these turkey burgers to be somewhat more fancy, just to show off a little bit to the family.

I found a recipe for a spinach and feta cheese turkey burger that sounded awesome, so I tried it out. I tweaked it slightly, and it turned out wonderfully. The feta was all creamy inside and a little roasted outside from the sautéing. And the spinach added some great flavor. Topped with some spinach, tomatoes, and sliced shallots, the burgers had some tang and some tartness to balance out the creamy flavors.  The best part was, you didn't have to top them with any cheese, since it was already there. A very good burger. Carter family approved.

Spinach and Feta Cheese Turkey Burgers

Burger Ingredients
2 lbs ground turkey
10 ounce box frozen spinach, thawed and squeezed dry
2 eggs, beaten
8 ounces feta cheese
4 cloves of garlic, minced
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Olive oil

Whole wheat buns
Spinach leaves
Sliced tomato
2 shallots, thinly sliced
Dijon Mustard


1. Mix all the burger ingredients together in a medium bowl and let sit for a little bit to let the flavors meld
2. Heat a large saute pan with about a tablespoon of olive oil over medium high heat
3. Shape the meat into patties and put into the pan
4. Cook them for 3 minutes per side, then repeat, for a total of 12 minutes, or until no longer pink in the middle
5. Toast the buns and have everyone add their preferred toppings
6. When ready, serve the burgers alongside a spinach salad with a balsamic vinaigrette and you have a perfect dinner!


Recipe of the Moment - Classic Greek Salad

For some reason (maybe in anticipation of Pat and Oscars here in San Diego), I had a hankering for a good Greek salad last week. To make a long story short, this one worked out really well. The second best Greek salad I've ever had. I found the recipe for the dressing here, and the rest I made up.

Cook's note: the dressing is pretty strong on the vinegar side, so if you want something a little less tangy, use equal parts oil and vinegar. I loved it the way it was, but I can totally understand that it might be a bit much for some people.

Classic Greek Salad

Salad Ingredients
1 bag mixed baby greens
12 ounces grape tomatoes
2 mini cucumbers, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 red onion, sliced thinly
8 ounces feta cheese
1/2 jar pitted kalamata olives

Dressing Ingredients
1/2 cup olive oil
1 1/4 t garlic powder
1 1/4 t dried oregano
1 1/4 t dried basil
1 t freshly ground pepper
1 t salt
1 t onion powder
1 t Dijon mustard
2/3 cup red wine vinegar

1. In a medium bowl, whisk together all the dressing ingredients except the vinegar till well combined
2. Slowly add the vinegar and whisk till emulsified and creamy (this can be stored in an airtight container in the fridge for up to two weeks,  though you may need to re-whisk for another use)
3. In a large bowl, toss together the salad ingredients
4. Pour the dressing over the salad, stirring well so the dressing coats everything


Friday, May 21, 2010

Recipe of the Moment - Werther's Milkshakes

So the other night Brad and I wanted milkshakes. But it was like midnight so Margie's wasn't open, and neither was Potbelly, and getting a midnight oreo cookie shake at Jack in the Box is just not the same without Skeletor shaking his cup at you for your change.

Brad then says I should make my own milkshake. I've never done such a thing, so I scour the internet for oreo cookie shake recipes. I found some good ones, but, of course, I didn't have any oreos at my disposal, and didn't feel like going to the grocery store.

Instead, I remember that we have some Werther's Caramels left over from who knows when that we keep hoping people will eat when they come over and never seem to. So I look online for a good Werther's Milkshake recipe, thinking that of course someone has come up with this idea at some point in time. But there is nothing. The internet fails me. I am forced to do things on my own.

Turns out, I needn't have worried. They were awesome. The perfect late night snack. And we finally used those dang candies.

Werther's Milkshakes


10 Werther's Original candies
3 cups vanilla ice cream
1 cup 2% milk
(optional ingredient 1/4 cup caramel sauce)


1. Put the Werther's in a plastic bag and crush using a mallet or a rolling pin
2. Place 2 cups ice cream and milk in the blender with the Werther's and blend till just combined
3. Divide in two cups and divide the rest of the ice cream into the cups as floats


Thursday, May 20, 2010

Cheap Wine of the Week Wednesday

Hello friends!

I've been rather busy the last couple weeks and have sorely neglected my blog. Luckily, I did some cooking and such during that time, so there's a lot of good stuff coming soon here!

As for today, I know it's Thursday, but it's high time we got another Cheap Wine of the Week on the site. This one was a wine we had a few weeks ago that I picked up at Trader Joe's on a whim.

It's the 2008 Novella Synergy red. It's a blend of Petite Sirah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, and Sangiovese. 4 out of those 5 grapes are favorites of mine, so I was feeling pretty good about it when I looked at the label. But at $6.99, I wasn't convinced it would actually taste good.

Luckily, it didn't take long for the convincing to happen. With a little breathing time in the glass while I set up dinner, this wine was awesome. A good nose, though nothing too strong, and a nice full bodied mouth with a yummy fruit-filled finish. I was very pleased. Brad liked it too.

Especially for the price, this is a classic Cheap Wine of the Week.


Monday, May 10, 2010

Recipe of the Moment - Corn, Black Bean, and Avocado Salad

So, you ever sign up to bring a salad to your church group's monthly dinner and then really not feel like making something involving green leaves of some plant? Yeah, me too.

Luckily, I stumbled upon this recipe from Giada, and it thoroughly fixed my salad dilemma. The basil-lime vinaigrette is great. It would work on just about anything... any salad dressing, a chicken marinade, or for this, I suppose. And the colors and flavors in this are so vibrant! It makes you just want to eat more. And, fyi, when your church group makes an amazing artichoke-heart-and-tomato pasta, this goes quite well.

Corn, Black Bean and Avocado Salad

Salad Ingredients
1 8 oz can of yellow corn
1 15 oz can of black beans, rinsed and drained
1 15 oz can of garbanzo beans, rinsed and drained
1 red bell pepper, cored, seeded and chopped
1 avocado, diced

Vinaigrette Ingredients
2 limes, zested and juiced
2 T balsamic vinegar
1/2 c chopped basil leaves
1 t ground cumin
1/3 c extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

1. In a small bowl, combine the lime juice and zest, balsamic, basil, and cumin. 
2. Whisk in the olive oil a little bit at a time until it's well combined and has a creamier texture.
3. Season with salt and pepper, to taste
4. In a medium bowl, combine the corn, black beans, garbanzo beans and bell pepper (leave the avocado uncut and out of the bowl for now, lest it get brown and gross while everything combines in the fridge)
5. Pour the vinaigrette over the salad and mix to coat
6. Refrigerate for 1 hour
7. Dice avocado and add to bowl
8. Toss one more time to mix before serving


Sunday, May 9, 2010

Recipe of the Moment - Garlic Studded Roasted Chicken

Happy Mother's Day! I hope you all get to enjoy being a mother, being with your mother, or remembering your mother today. And what better way to celebrate Mom than to have something delicious to eat? That's my philosophy anyway.

In honor of that, and continuing with the "chicken isn't boring" theme, I have a new something for you all. I needed to do something with the leftover chicken breasts from the blackened chicken salad that was, preferably, not another blackened chicken salad. Though I love the pounding the chicken into paillards technique, because it allows for fast non-drying-out cooking of the chicken, I wanted to try a roasting technique of some sort. And I had a bunch of garlic that needed to be used. So what better that a roasted garlic chicken thing?

The only problem was, I didn't quite know how to make that happen in the best way. Luckily, the internet knows all, and I found this page with a really interesting cooking suggestion. I followed it mostly, and added in some roasted potatoes and carrots. The result was quite good. Not awesome, it still needs a little kick of something, though I'm not sure what. But it was really good. Especially for roasted boneless skinless breasts. They were moist and the roasted garlic pieces were awesome.

Garlic Studded Roasted Chicken

2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
2 limes
3 potatoes, cut into eighths
6 carrots peeled and cut into two inch sections
Chicken seasoning
10 cloved garlic, chopped
Salt and Pepper
2 T unsalted butter
3 T olive oil

1. Preheat oven to 415 degrees
2. Rinse chicken and pat dry, placing on aluminum foil squares
3. Cut grooves into the breasts about 1/2 inch apart and down almost through the chicken
4. Stuff chopped garlic in all of the grooves
5. Squeeze 1/2 lime worth of juice over each breast
6. Season with salt and pepper and cover in chicken seasoning
7. Place small pats of butter (about 1 T total per chicken) on top of seasoned chicken
8. Slice the remaining lime and places slices on top of the pats of butter
9. Wrap the foil all up until you have two nice little tightly packaged bundles
10. Place the cut veggies in a roasting pan
11. Add olive oil and shake around till it coats everything
12. Season veggies with salt and pepper
13. Add chicken bundles into the roasting pan, nestling between the veggies
14. Roast about 45 minutes, or until chicken is no longer pink when you cut through it, turning veggies once halfway through
15. Remove bundles from pan and cut a little hole in the bottom of the bundle to drain all the juices out over the sink (be careful! it's rather hot at this point)
17. Serve chicken alongside veggies on a plate


Friday, May 7, 2010

Recipe of the Moment - Blackened Chicken Salad

So some people think chicken is boring. Sometimes I'm one of them. More often, my husband is one of them. I grew up not eating red meat and he didn't, so he's less likely to have a chicken craving at any time. In light of this, I needed something to impart a lot of flavor to a boneless, skinless chicken breast, which is better for you than the more flavorful chicken thigh/leg. Without owning a grill, this is slightly difficult to do. And without breading/frying the piece of chicken, which removes quite a few of the health benefits, I have a scant collection of options.

So I found this blackening recipe online to coat my chicken and proceeded to make a blackened chicken salad. I'd used a similar jerk seasoning on chicken before and had it grilled and it worked really well, so I thought the process could be transferred pretty easily to sautéing. I made my own version of this honey mustard dressing to go on top of the finished salad. All told, it was truly awesome. Very restaurant-quality. Plus, anything with avocados is automatically good. I highly recommend this one to anyone out there looking for a great salad with a great-for-you-yet-still-yummy protein.

And the best part is, the blackening recipe makes more than you need, so you could reuse it! (As long as it's stored in a decently airtight container, there's no reason not to treat this just like you would any other spice.)

Blackened Chicken Salad

Blackening Spice Ingredients
2 t paprika
4 t thyme
2 t onion powder
2 t garlic powder
1 T sugar
1 t salt
2 t pepper
1 t cayenne pepper
1 t oregano
1 t cumin
 1/2 t nutmeg

Salad Ingredients
Mixed greens
1 large tomato, chopped
1 small can yellow corn, drained
2 avocados, sliced
2 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
Olive Oil

Dressing Ingredients
5 T honey
3 T Dijon mustard
2 T rice wine vinegar
2 T mayo


1. Mix all blackening spices together thoroughly
2. Place chicken breasts between saran wrap and pound with a meat mallet until a uniform 1/2 inch thickness all around (they will get much, much larger in surface area)
3. Coat chicken lightly in olive oil and rub blackening spices all over with your hands until the breasts are well coated on both sides (wash your hands!)
4. Heat one glug olive oil in a medium pan over medium high heat until shimmering
5. Sear each side of one chicken breast for about 2 minutes each till a nice crust forms
6. Reduce the heat to medium low, cover the pan, and finish cooking (it shouldn't take too long, since the breasts are so thin)
7. Repeat process with other breast, removing both breasts to a plate, and covering with foil to keep warm
8. To make the honey mustard dressing, whisk the honey, mustard and vinegar together thoroughly. Add the mayo and whisk till combined. It should be a nice creamy consistency.
9. To create the salad, layer the mixed greens on the bottom of the plate, top with the chopped tomato, corn and avocado slices.
10. Cut the chicken breasts on the diagonal (it's prettier that way) and lay them on top of the salad
11. Drizzle the dressing over everything and you're good to go!


Tuesday, May 4, 2010

Creating Food - All By Myself!

So I had a couple nights of creativity this weekend. As I'm sure you can tell, I don't really make things up much. Sure I tweak and play and bend, but it's usually based off of something someone else has made already. So it was fun for me to do something a little more off the cuff. I'm not going to file this under recipes, because there isn't really a recipe, more of a formula for delicious things. But the two sandwiches I came up with were both awesome and worth eating.

Here was the process: Go over to a friend's house with a grill... go to the grocery store and have the friend and the husband both get filet mignon to grill... since filet mignon is not on my menu of things I eat, go searching around the store for something else to grill... find these Portobello Chicken and Turkey sausages... decide they look awesome... have them derided by our friend as "not red enough"... and bring them home.

So to prepare them the first night, and prove to the guys that my meal was going to be as delicious as theirs, I grilled them till they were all crispy outside, grilled some baby bello mushrooms, sliced up some little tomatoes, grill toasted some grainy bread, and added some mayo on top and viola, awesome sausage sandwich. I though they were amazing, filet mignon be darned.

So the next night I still had some grilled sausages to play with. So this time, I toasted some sourdough, again with the mayo, but this time with some sliced piquillo peppers and basil thrown on there. Mmmmm. Just as good. Possibly better.

End formula? Grill meat. Toast bread. Add oil/butter/mayo/fat substance. Add veggies to taste. Eat. Now if only I can find some focaccia next time, life will be perfect.