Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Hannukah Happening


Last night I hosted my first "Hannukah Happening". I was happy to dive into my two favorite Jewish cookbooks "Shalom on the Range" and "The Foods of Israel Today", by Joan Nathan and put together an ethnic delight.

For the uninitiated, Hannukah is the "festival of lights". In 165 B.C.E., the Jews led by the Maccabees evicted the Syrian- Greeks from Palestine. Religious freedom was restored and the Temple in Jerusalem, which the Syrian-Greek king Antiochus IV had converted into a pagan shrine, was cleansed, restored and rededicated. Hannukah means "dedication".

Every temple contains an eternal flame and it takes approximately eight days to prepare ritually permitted oil. Hannukah commemorates the miracle of a small amount of uncontaminated olive oil, lasting for eight days while more oil could be prepared. Hannukah is a minor Jewish holiday that seems to gain momentum in the United States the closer it occurs to Christmas. There is no biblical mandate for the celebration of Hannukah.

Nonetheless, I was glad to be able to share this holiday with friends.

The menu:
Herbed potato latkes served with sour cream
salad with basil shallot balsamic vinaigrette
Moroccan Brisket with Olives, tomatoes, onions, and preserved lemons
Moroccan rice
fresh green beans
non-dairy pear torte

This was the best brisket I've ever had. Honestly. Moist, flavorful and pretty on the plate.

10-12 servings

5 to 6 pound beef brisket
5 garlic cloves
salt and freshly ground pepper
5 tbs vegetable oil
4 large onions, sliced (about 8 cups)
1/2 tsp turmeric
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp ground white pepper
2 bay leaves
1 celery stalk, diced
3 large tomatoes
1 cup water
1 1/2 c. green Moroccan olives, pitted
2-3 preserved lemons, diced
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. coarsely chopped fresh cilantro

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. With a knife, pierce the skin of the brisket in 5 places and insert the garlic cloves. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat 2 tbs. of the oil in a heavy skillet or roasting pan; add the meat , sear on all sides and remove.
3. Add 2 more tbs of the oil to the same pan and saute 3/4 of the onions (6 cups) until they are limp. Add the turmeric, ginger, white pepper, bay leaves, celery, 1/3 of the diced tomatoes, and water to the pan. Stir fry a minute or 2 and let cool.
4. Place the brisket in a baking pan and surround with the cooked vegetables. Roast, covered in the oven for 3 hours or until a fork goes in and out of the meat easily. Remove, cool, and refrigerate, reserving the vegetables. You can prepare this a day ahead of time.
5. The tomato-onion sauce can be done a day in advance as well: heat the remaining tablespoon of oil in the frying pan; add the remaining onions and saute until the onions are translucent. Then add the remaining diced tomatoes and simmer, covered for a few minutes. Set aside or refrigerate overnight or until ready to serve the meat.
6. When ready to serve,remove any fat that accumulated on the brisket as it cooled. Cut, against the grain, into slices about 1/4 inch thick. Return the slices to the baking pan along with the reserved vegetables in which the meat was cooked in step 4.
7. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and reheat the brisket, covered, for about a half hour.
8. Add to the tomato-onion mixture the olives, preserved lemons, and 2 tablespoons of each of the parsley and cilantro, and heat in the saucepan.
9. Remove the brisket and some or all of the vegetables to a serving platter and serve, covered with the tomato-onion sauce and garnished with the remaining parsley and cilantro.

I did not use preserved lemons. It takes about a week to make preserved lemons. I used the zest of two lemons, instead. This did not inhibit the flavor.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".




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Sunday, December 09, 2007

Fall from Grace

Last Thursday night I went out to a cocktail party in a downtown restaurant. While the evening included a beautiful spread of hors d'oeuvres, I got caught up in mingling and ended up drinking three glasses of Zinfandel with little or no food.

By the time I got home, I was definitely tipsy. I felt like a college girl after a late night bender. So, I acted like one. I ordered a medium thin crust pizza with sausage, green peppers, onions and mushrooms.

While waiting for the delivery, I had a rush of amorous energy. With clothes flying in all directions and all my best intentions...it just didn't work. In the meantime, the pizza driver got into the building without using a buzzer. I didn't hear him knocking on the door. Hoorah for the cell phone, or I might have starved. We had to scramble to get enough clothes onto one of us to be able to pay for the pizza.

The evening ended with bed spins, half a box of pizza on the floor of the bedroom and a steady pattern of two Tums alternated with large gulps of water.

Adding to the madness was the fact that the water in my building had been shut off earlier in the day and the tap water was brackish. My forgiving boyfriend was kind enough to empty an ice tray and use the microwave to keep up with my re hydration project.

So THIS is the "Glass City Gourmet"? I may never live this down. Please leave a comment if you attended the event on Thursday evening and want an apology. I will give you the benefit of the doubt, no questions asked.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".



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Monday, December 03, 2007

Dinner for Eight Chez Moi


The first Saturday night in December, while fresh snow coated the tree branches and dusted Toledo's roads I put the finishing touches on a cozy French inspired dinner for eight at home.

During cocktail hour, I served a cheese platter of St. Andre triple cream, Gouda, and an extra sharp cheddar with sliced, peppered dry sausage and a small bowl of cornichons. It was a pleasant blend of flavors to accompany beer, wine and champagne served by a roaring fire in our den.

For dinner, I whipped up a batch of Coq Au Vin and served it with basmati rice and tender crisp green beans. The salad contained mixed greens, fresh pomegranate seeds, toasted pine nuts and was lightly coated in a basil and shallot vinaigrette.

One of our guests is an avid baker and brought a gorgeous loaf of homemade bread. Somehow we managed to drink five bottles of Cote du Rhone and a half a bottle of Malbec...not bad for a table of eight!

A dinner party is only as much fun as the friends who join you at your table. I was blessed to be surrounded by both new and old friends who all seemed to be connected. It was an easy meal to prepare which left me with plenty of time to be part of the conversations during cocktails and dessert.

For desssert, I served coffee and a Calvados apple galette with rum raisin ice cream.

I liked this menu because I could prep all of the ingredients ahead of time and only needed to spend about 20 minutes in the kitchen just before dinner was served.


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Sunday, November 25, 2007

La Scola





La Scola
5375 Airport Highway at Reynolds Road
419-381-2100
Monday through Friday.: 11 - 10
Saturday: 11 - 11
Sunday: 4 - 9


Owned by legendary Toledo restaurateur Gus Nicolaidis, with management by Moussa Salloukh, and culinary leadership of Chef Chris Dewart, La Scola combines the talents of these three restaurant veterans in a new and warm setting.

The team transformed the former "Bungalow" into a romantic and friendly space with the addition of dozens of black and white photographs featuring well known Toledo families. The bar is large and, along with a lounge area with comfortable leather seating, accommodates the crowds waiting for a table.

We called ahead to advise the staff that we were running late on an 8:30pm reservation. We waited in the bar for about twenty minutes for our table. It was fun to check out all the old photographs and all of the people who came to La Scola for the Saturday night of a holiday weekend.

Once seated, we were a little disappointed to be moved to the meeting room in the back. Typically, those with reservations get prime seating and we would have preferred to wait a little longer to be able to be seated in the main dining room. Also, as Toledo is a pretty casual town, other restaurant owners in Toledo have reserved back dining rooms as a great place for those patrons who prefer to wear athletic attire to fine dining establishments. This option allows everyone to be served, but it honors the "special occasion" diners by putting them in the main dining room and surrounding them with other guests who prefer to dress up a bit for fine dining. With all of that said, we found the meeting room to be pleasant, with a soothing fireplace in the background.

We started the meal under the recommendation of our server to try the Calamari la Padella ($8.95) and the Bruchetta Formaggio ($7.95). The calamari came in a light red sauce with roasted bell peppers, shallots, herbed olive oil and fresh tomatoes. We asked our server to bring us some bread to mop up the savory remnants of the sauce. The bruchetta is a signature version and should probably be renamed "Ciabatta Formaggio" as it was made with thick slices of ciabatta, rather than the thinly sliced and toasted pieces of bread that are typical of bruchetta. It included pesto sauce as well as alfredo sauce. My table mates enjoyed this new interpretation of a classic Italian favorite.

After placing our order, we were quickly served our salads. We sampled the house salad, made with mixed greens, grape tomatoes, croutons and Gorgonzola cheese with a sweet white balsamic vinaigrette ($3.95) and the Caesar salad ($3.95). While the portions were ample, none of the salads came with the home made croutons listed on the menu. With the heavy traffic that evening, I would suspect the kitchen simply ran out of croutons earlier in the evening. I'm sure this will be resolved quickly.

For dinner, I ordered the pasta vognole ($15.95). Described as "Chopped fresh sea clams in garlic and olive oil (white) or garlic and tomato (red) with linguini and crostini", I was again surprised with a variation on the dish. Typically, white clam sauce is clear. It is made with olive oil, garlic, parsley and a little red pepper. The clams are sauteed in the seasoned olive oil and then some of the water from the pasta is added at the last minute to thicken the sauce. At La Scola, the clam sauce was made with cream. My plate did not arrive with the promised crostini. One of my dining companions noticed that the pasta had been broken in half in the kitchen (sacrilege in Italy) and we agreed that the noodles were not served al dente. This is the first month that the restaurant is open and I suspect that the pasta consistency will improve as the chef gets accustomed to the timing for feeding these large crowds.

I noticed that with the exception of the marinara sauce, all of the pastas are made with cream sauce. Again, this is a spin on classic Italian. Pesto sauce and Bolognese sauces are not made with cream in Italy. Ever. On my second visit, I asked the waitress about this, and she explained, "This is how they make bolognese in the North of Italy". It would be more honest to say, "Toledo diners prefer more subtle flavor and adding cream accomplishes this". Adding cream to standard pasta sauces is a trick Chef Dewart probably picked up while working at Ciao! or Rosie's Italian Grille and while it is neither authentic nor my preference, it does sell more pasta in Toledo.

My friends ordered the Veal Piccata ($18.95), Bistecca Toscana ($24.95), Filetto di Manzo ($26.95) and the "Costolette di Agnello", a special Australian double-boned lamb chops with chanterelle and morel mushroom demi-glace, served with Gorgonzola polenta ($24.95). The veal piccata was terrific and all of the beef and lamb entrees were served exactly to the temperature preferences requested.

I returned for lunch a few weeks later. I ordered the Margherita Pizza ($8.95) and a Caesar salad ($3.95). The pizza was less than adequate. The crust was soggy. I would expect this to be improved as the kitchen staff gains more experience. On this visit the Caesar salad came with the homemade croutons. However, the dressing does not have the distinguishing essence of lemon or anchovies found in Caesar dressing. My dining companion ordered the Manicotti ($7.95) which is rolled pasta filled with herbed ricotta cheese and served with a trio of marinara, alfredo, and pesto sauce. The presentation resembled the flag of Italy and was charming. However, the earthy blend of fresh basil, garlic and pine nuts that defines pesto sauce was completely absent. The pesto at La Scola is a light green alfredo sauce with a hint of basil flavor.

The dessert menu is extensive. None of the desserts are made on site. We ordered the Torta di Cioccolata ($6.95) and the special Tiramisu served in a balloon wine glass ($6.95). The torta was attractive and tasty. The tiramisu was a marscapone and chocolate frappe, however it looked pretty in the glass with two lady fingers sticking up out of it. I recommend saving your calories for the entrees.

Coffee at La Scola is strong, rich and served in a coffee cup with a paper liner and a saucer garnished with three whole coffee beans. Chocolate covered coffee beans or a traditional biscotti would be even better.

La Scola is a great American restaurant with an Italian theme. The steaks and chops are terrific, and the menu contains clever Italianized names for American dishes such as "Reubenetta" (Reuben Sandwich) and "Il Cuneo" (wedge salad). Eating real Italian food at La Scola is like looking for real Australian cuisine at Outback Steakhouse. That doesn't make it bad. I just hope to manage expectations for Italians or Italio-philes looking for the real thing. Regardless, American steakhouse cuisine is always a winner in Toledo. La Scola will be packed with long waits and a loyal group of regulars for many years. I will return to enjoy the ambiance and its virtues as a steakhouse.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

Chocolate Challenge


I love a challenge. I am a competitor. As much as I hate this label and the evil connotations often associated with it there is no denying my genetic predisposition to win.

When the opportunity to compete for the "Top Chocolate Chef" arrived with the prize being a seat as an official judge for the Junior League of Toledo's first "Chocolate Soiree", I knew I had to make a run for it.

I spent a few days intermittently contemplating my options. After scanning a few cookbooks for chocolate confections, I decided to try my hand at Champagne Truffles. My recipe comes from the James Beard Foundation Book Award winner, "Savor the Moment: Entertaining Without Reservations" from the Junior League of Boca Raton. It was a Junior League contest, and I figured this might be a good fit.

After several botched batches I learned that in making truffles:
1) temperature counts
2) don't second guess a call for "semi-sweet" chocolate - ever
3) fine champagne makes great truffles

Here's the recipe and the adjustments I made:

6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate, chopped
1/4 c (1/2 stick butter, chopped
3 tbs. heavy cream
1 egg yolk beaten
3 tbs champagne
1/4 c. unsweetened baking cocoa mixed with 1/2 tsp. cinnamon

Combine chocolate, butter and heavy cream in a medium saucepan. Cook over low heat until the chocolate melts, stirring constantly (I found that a double boiler is a better choice for better control of the heat). Stir a small amount of the hot chocolate mixture into the egg yolk; stir the egg yolk mixture into the hot mixture. Cook over medium heat for 2 minutes longer, stirring constantly.

Remove from heat and stir in the champagne. Spoon into a small mixing bowl. Chill for 1 hour or until completely cool, stirring occasionally.

Beat at medium speed for 1 minute or until the color lightens and the mixture is slightly fluffy. Chill for 3 minutes longer or until the mixture holds its shape.

Shape into 1 inch balls by scraping a small ice cream scoop, melon baller or spoon across the surface of the chilled mixture. Place on a tray lined with waxed paper. Chill until very firm.

Roll truffles gently in the cocoa and cinnamon mixture. Place in decorative cups to serve.


A few tips:
1) I used Belgian chocolate and Moet & Chandon White Star Champagne. After all, you should never use champagne you wouldn't drink or chocolate you wouldn't eat!

2) After rolling the ganache into small balls, freeze it. When it comes out of the freezer it is easier to get a smooth round, globe-like shape before coating it.

I did my best to set up a pretty display and "sell" my confection by explaining the origins of the truffle and the joys of chocolate ganache. Unfortunately, I didn't win. I was told that I lost by 1 vote to a chocolate and strawberry struedal bar. Oh, well. It was a fun challenge and great to catch up with old friends.

Second place. C'est la vie.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Monday, November 12, 2007

Great Sushi at Sori Sushi

Sori Sushi
5236 Monroe Street
Toledo, Oh
419-720-7640


There is nothing more exciting than a new and fabulous restaurant opening its doors in Toledo. In a town where sushi restaurants are becoming as common as falafel shops, it is always exciting to find a star.

Enter Sori Sushi and prepare to be dazzled. Chef Kenny Ro is a 25 year veteran to Sushi preparation. Chef Ro shared the highlights of his career include working for the top rated sushi restaurants at both the Luxor Hotel and the Tropicana in Las Vegas. Most recently, he worked for five years at Yoko Restaurant in Toledo.

Sori Sushi features a large and diverse menu. Sushi, teriyaki, bento boxes, soups, Asian appetizers, dessert and a variety of other special items complete the ambitious menu. Chef Ken Ro and Sori get fresh fish from Chicago and Columbus, daily. You can see, smell and taste this high quality immediately.

Upon being seated at the sushi bar, Chef Ro presented us with a complimentary amuse-bouche. This delicate combination of crab meat, cucumber and a light nutty sauce was a preview of the sublime flavors to come. My dining companion and I started our meal by ordering the spicy tuna bowl. This was a special preparation of fresh spicy tuna, roe, and a light portion of finely sliced green onions. It was served with a second bowl containing sticky rice. It was an extraordinary mix of tastes and textures.

Next, we sampled the house Sori Roll ($8.95). Named after Chef Ro's wife Sori, it contains spicy tuna, salmon, red snapper, and crab all artfully arranged and wrapped with cucumber. The cucumber provides a subtle crunch and delicate flavor contrast to the sashimi. We also ordered a Spicy Tiger roll ($9.50) that contains shrimp tempura and is topped with spicy tuna and avocado. It was excellent. Finally, we ordered the white tuna sashimi. The pieces were served on a bed of shredded daikon. The presentation was beautiful and the fish melted in my mouth. On Mondays, Tuesdays and Wednesdays, sashimi is .99 per piece for dine in orders.

Second only to the cuisine is the artwork in the restaurant. Sori Ro studied Asian Art techniques while attending college in Seoul, South Korea. Her art ranges from modern mixed media, to traditional script paintings, and more traditional crafts. There are beautiful prints, paintings, as well as small framed leaf arrangements that form whimsical animal shapes. I particularly enjoyed the alligator and elephant dried leaf compositions near the sushi bar. It will be tough to keep the restaurant open and not end up selling the art from off of the warm, butterscotch colored walls.

Sori Sushi provides great sushi at reasonable prices in a pleasant atmosphere.

You will be seeing me regularly at Sori Sushi.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Friday, November 02, 2007

Sakura Saga Continues

It's been over a month since my last entry and a variety of opinions on my review of Sakura continue. I spent the month of October traveling through Cambodia, Vietnam and Thailand. Articles to follow.

Recently, it was pointed out to me that a number of the dissenting posts had come from the same "IP" indicating that a group of friends sharing the same computer has been writing comments. Suspicions aside, I'm glad that my honest and personal opinion has led to dialog on this new restaurant.

Glass City Gourmet is not a commercial website. I am not compensated for my opinions. Therefore, I am not beholden to advertisers who might expect only generous reviews.

I did return to Sakura on Wednesday, October 3rd to meet a friend at the bar for lunch and found the strong smell of fish and lackluster sashimi still present. I would agree with one of the comments that Fujiyama and Kotobuki offer superior sushi in clean and odor free environments. This is my opinion. You don't have to agree with it. You are welcome to post other opinions.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Saturday, September 15, 2007

Sakura: Japanese Steakhouse











Sakura Japanese Steakhouse
5294 Monroe Street
Toledo, OH
419-843-1300


Toledo shines with the simple elegance of sushi restaurants! For years, Kotobuki was the only Japanese restaurant in the area that served sushi. If you are over 30, you may remember En Japanese Steakhouse that opened and closed in the 1970s, only to come back as a strip mall steakhouse and sushi spot a few years ago.

Now, there are about 10 sushi restaurants, a few take out locations and sushi has been added to the menus of most steak and fish restaurants around town. Add the grocery stores offering fresh sushi and one would assume that maki rolls and tempura are surpassing hamburgers and french fries as the great American meal. This doesn't necessarily qualify any of us as experts in sushi, but I think we are all learning more about the properties of raw fish.

Recently, Sakura opened on Monroe Street near Franklin Park Mall. Locally owned and operated, Sakura offers a full sushi menu and the showmanship and fun associated with a Japanese steakhouse. The owner, Vince Li, is originally from Hong Kong but he has lived in Toledo for the last 12 years. He also owns the China 1/Tokyo Grill in the strip mall between Monroe Street and Sylvania Ave (where they meet near Secor), and the China 1 in Sylvania in the Major Magic's strip mall.


Li and his team did a terrific job converting the space from a sports bar to a Japanese Steakhouse, with a pleasant and Eastern influenced ambiance. At the entrance, guests cross a small wood bridge over a Japanese fish pond with a stone fountain. The bar is directly in front of the door and the sushi bar is to the left. I suspect that the layout is well designed and conducive to a quieter dining area when the bar is full at night.


The main dining area is surrounded by lacquered bamboo fencing with Asian inspired arches. The raised and semi-private tatami eating area is charming for those who don't mind removing their shoes and sitting at these special low tables. However, this area does not include the hibachi grills. There is also a private dining room with four hibachi stations to accommodate up to 50 guests.


My companions and I sat outside of the main dining area in a booth and decided to try the sushi. We ordered the Kamikaze ($9.25) , Volcano ($10) and Toledo rolls ($10.25), some white tuna sashimi ($2.75/piece), as well as an order of Chirashi Sushi ($13.50). There was a $2.50 additional charge for each soup. I ordered the mushroom broth which was rather salty but featured thinly sliced mushrooms and scallions floating in the broth. The miso soup was standard fare. The green tea was a lightly steeped brew and served hot in traditional stoneware cups.


The sushi was adequate. While the rolls and sushi were artfully arranged the color, texture, and quality of the fish in the Chirashi was uncertain. There is a vibrancy to the color and a particular shine on fresh sushi that is unmistakable. These qualities and the expected texture of raw fish were absent from the sashimi. It should be noted that Sakura uses white pickled ginger, rather than pink, so the lack of color should not be a concern for diners accustomed to the pink version. After the meal, we decided to walk over to the sushi bar to inspect the fish and found the smell of old fish present. Just as it is in American fish houses, the scent of raw fish in a clean sushi restaurant should be imperceptible.

Unfortunately, Sakura falls short as a sushi destination. I am optimistic that the Japanese Steakhouse menu is much better as it is the central focus of the restaurant. While we ate our lunch, there were three or four families sitting at the Hibachi tables enjoying the slicing and dicing and interactive entertainment that is so much a part of the Japanese-American steakhouse tradition.

For my next visit, I will try the steakhouse menu or enjoy a bowl of soup in the tatami seating. However, I am reluctant to send anyone here for sushi.
“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".



9/21/07: The Glass City Gourmet wishes to thank Kango for his comments about this review (See comments). The text in green reflects efforts to make the original message about my experience at Sakura clear to readers. In the original text, I had NO concerns about the color of the pickled ginger. I mentioned it because one of my dining companions had not seen white pickled ginger before, and I hoped to make it clear to readers that this is not a problem. I apologize for not stating that clearly. As for the consistency of the sushi, there are many terms to describe sushi. "Firm" is a relative term and I now know to be less specific in describing sushi that does not match my previous experiences.






Thursday, September 13, 2007

Yo Yo Girl

The annual physical.

For some, this evokes dread. For me, it generally signals the start of allergy season or the need for a laundry list of prescriptions for a pending overseas adventure.

I decided to knock mine out in a one day flurry of appointments. I starting first with the snatch quack, moved on to the primary care physician at lunch and ended with a stop at a podiatrist's lair after work ended. I'm proud to report that I am blessed with good health...low blood pressure, low sitting pulse, low LDL cholesterol, elevated HDL cholesterol, seasonal allergies well controlled, and female functions in line. My feet look pretty good. I managed to end up with a big fat shot of cortisone on the top of my right foot for some inflammation and nerve pain. While it was most unpleasant to take the shot, I feel much better now.




Here's the bad news: my weight is fluctuating too frequently. I've never claimed to have a stable body weight. I gain and lose the same 10 lbs over and over again. But this time I was busted. Caught by the pros. Not one, but two clinicians picked up on this and declared, "no more yo-yo-ing". The definitive order: Get that last ten pounds off and keep it off. For good.

This is not good news to a girl who loves to cook and eat.

I always thought that keeping the weight radius tight would work. Not so.

"The term "yo-yo dieting" was coined by Kelly D. Brownell, Ph.D., at Yale University, in reference to the cyclical up-down motion of a yo-yo. In this process, the dieter is initially successful in the pursuit of weight loss but is unsuccessful in maintaining the loss long-term and begins to gain the weight back. The dieter then seeks to lose the regained weight, and the cycle begins again."

Oh, crap. That's me. I'm fortunate not to have this compounded by obesity. I know this. However, the impact of these weight fluctuations on the metabolism, mood, digestive system and the heart occurs regardless of the size of the person.

So, this time I guess I'm going to have to get serious about making permanent lifestyle changes. Ugh. I've struggled with this stuff since I was a teenager. I was a pretty serious athlete and my high school coach used a caliper to check body fat percentages and declare necessary weight loss amounts. I'm not blaming him for this problem. But it definitely set the stage for life as a woman obsessed with numbers.

On many levels it pains me to think that while so many people in other parts of the world worry about whether a next meal might be available, I'm regulating intake in a land of abundance. It's ethically and maybe even ethnically embarrassing. I am Jewish. There are whole generations who would find this situation offensive.

As I start the new year, I wish my friends and family a year of peace and happiness. I pledge to restore my health with dedication to a new lifestyle.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".











Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Tailgate Revisited


Friday night was a shopping and cooking fury as I made preparations for the big tailgate. I got a late start, heading to the store at about 7:30pm to fill a basket with all the necessary ingredients.

A trick I learned from my favorite caterer of all time is to write your shopping list on a piece of paper divided into quadrants for each section of the grocery store. In other words, instead of just writing the list of ingredients (one recipe after another), you take the time to put the dairy items from each recipe in a list of dairy stuff, the veggies in the produce list, etc. This makes for fairly speedy shopping and prevents me from having to go back and forth for ingredients that somehow got missed along the way.

By 9pm I was unloading groceries at my Mom's house. As anyone who has ever been to my place knows, it is a galley kitchen and there is no multi-tasking in a galley kitchen. So, with the mega granite kitchen at my disposal I had enough space to work like an octopus on methamphetamine. Simultaneously, I boiled red skins, blanched green beans, baked chicken for my sandwiches, cooked up the marinade for the artichoke and mushroom salad, sliced and marinated the veggies for my roll ups, whipped up the sauces for the roast beef sandwiches, and sliced and diced like a pro.

Presto!

In two hours I had three prepared salads and all the trimmings for the interior of three different kinds of sandwiches. Oh, how I love a large kitchen...six burners, two ovens, a large double sink for fast clean up, a vegetable sink with disposal, about 15 yards of solid granite counter top and a double door stainless steel fridge to hold everything! Yowsa!

The next morning, all I had to do was buy some booze. The list of salads is on the last entry. For the sandwiches I ended up making:

1) Roast beef with horseradish/cream cheese/sour cream spread, alfalfa sprouts, and cranberry/orange relish on Italian bread.

2) Turkey, pepper jack cheese, sprouts, and guacamole on pumpernickel bread

3) Roasted chicken with marinated mixed vegetables rolled into either tomato basil or spinach basil flat bread.

I served water, iced tea and do-it-yourself cocktails of lemonade, raspberry vodka, ice and a handful of fresh raspberries to float.

The menu was a hit. Coupled with a basket of enormous homemade chocolate chip cookies from my cousin, Gail and a tray of assorted mini brownies (chocolate toffee bars and the good old fashioned nine layer bars you may remember from childhood!) made by my Mom - this was one helluva tailgate!

Too bad the weather didn't cooperate. I ended up serving the whole thing indoors...and then caravanned over to the theater to watch the BF perform in Harvest Theatre's "Taming of the Shrew" at the Ottawa Park amphitheater. For those of you who love Shakespeare, you can catch the show this Saturday or Sunday at 3pm (The amphitheater is located at the corner of Midwood and Kenwood, behind the Police Station in Ottawa Park).



“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Party Preparation


I've decided to have a little party. My friend is playing Baptista in Harvest Theatre's presentation of "The Taming of The Shrew" for the next two weekends. I thought that the best way to draw a crowd to Shakespeare in the park was with a clever invitation and a tailgate party.

It's been awhile since I've had to compile the names and addresses of sixty happy people...and it always takes longer than you expect it to take. I found some cute invitations at Hallmark and sent them through the printer. I finished the cards and realized that no one has any idea where the Ottawa Park amphitheater is and probably wouldn't know to bring a chair. I took a road trip to find the theater and create some decent directions. I can only pray that this left handed genius typed up the directions in a way that others can follow.

I was foolish enough to think that 5 boxes of 8 cards would be adequate for my ever-growing invitations list. I ended up making a second batch using pre printed stationery from Kinko's. Half way through printing the Kinko's version my printer got testy and decided to start eating invitations. I'm not kidding here. This happened six times when I realized that this could only be a six round bout or I'd end up short a few invitations again.

So I packed up the whole mess and went to Kinko's to beat on one of their printers. Copy, cut, paste, and use the tray feed to print two invitations at once. Brilliant. I wondered why I'd spent so much money and time on the Hallmark kind. This is the joy of entertaining when you don't do it all that often. Honestly, it is fun to play with this stuff and problem solve on the fly.

Now that the invitations are in the mail (less one or two that ended up purely as emailed attachments because I couldn't find current snail mail addresses...) I could move on to the menu.

Here's what I'm thinking:

pesto potato salad (contains red skins, green beans, green onions, grated parm, and pesto)
corn and cherry tomato salad (contains corn, cherry tomatoes, chopped celery & red onion, fresh arugula and a lovely balsamic vinaigrette with chunks of bleu cheese)
2 types of sandwiches (these are still open for debate)
fresh baked cookies (I might cheat on these!)
bottled water, iced tea, and a premixed lemonade, vodka and floating raspberry combination

Now I'm thinking about props:

Borrow a six foot table and linens
Borrow a few baskets to line and fill with half sandwiches
borrow a big tub for the soft drinks
borrow a big cooler for the loose ice
borrow a big cooler for the lemonade concoction

Oh, no. Who has parties that doesn't already own all the props? I DO! That's who! I didn't register for practical entertaining gear. Park Avenue table service doesn't play in a parking lot.

Anyway, tonight having a test run on the salads. I'm taking them to a pot luck for the holiday weekend and making sure they gain approval from the discerning palates of gourmet friends before I make them in bulk. Stay tuned for more...


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Peach Melba


The luscious combination of poached peaches with raspberry coulis and vanilla ice cream was conceived by Auguste Escoffier, the French chef most noted for updating and popularizing traditional French cooking methods - as well as serving techniques - in the 1920's and 30's. He named the dessert after opera singer Nellie Melba, an Australian born soprano.

The story goes that Mr. Escoffier heard her perform in London and was inspired to create a desert in her honor. Rumor had it that Ms. Melba loved ice cream but didn't eat it very often for fear of damaging her vocal chords. The warmed sauce and peaches were combined to take the cold edge off the ice cream and present a special treat for the opera singer.

While descriptions indicated that the original Peach Melba sauce was made with raspberries, currant jelly, sugar and cornstarch, I found a recipe from Nigella Lawson and followed it to the letter.

Peach Melba

For the Peaches
3 cups water
3 1/2 c. superfine sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 vanilla bean, split lengthwise
8 peaches

For the raspberry sauce

3 cups raspberries
1/4 c. confectioners' sugar
juice of 1/2 lemon

to serve
1 large container of vanilla ice cream


Put the water, sugar lemon juice and vanilla bean into a wide saucepan and heat gently to dissolve the sugar. Bring the pan to a boil and let it bubble away for about 5 minutes, then turn the pan down to a fast simmer.


Cut the peaches in half, and, if the pits come out easily remove them, if not, then you can get them out later. Poach the peach halves in the sugar syrup for about 2-3 minutes on each side, depending on the ripeness of the fruit. Test the cut side with the sharp point of a knife to see if they are soft, and then remove to a plate with a slotted spoon.

When all the peaches are poached, peel off their skins and let them cool (and remove any remaining pits). If you are making them a day in advance, let the poaching syrup cool and then pour into a dish with the peaches. Otherwise, just bag up the syrup and freeze it for the next time you are poaching peaches.

To make the raspberry sauce, puree the raspberries, confectioners' sugar and lemon juice in a blender or else a food processor. Sieve to remove the seeds and pour this fantastically hued puree into a jug.

To assemble Peach Melba, allow two peach halves per person and sit them on each plate alongside a scoop or two of ice cream. Spoon the raspberry sauce over each one, and put the remaining puce-tinted sauce in a pitcher for people to add themselves at the table.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Lamb is Love

Maybe I'm getting so attached to food that I'm substituting romantic feelings for a Pavlovian response to rare meat? Or, maybe there's nothing tastier or sexier than a perfectly grilled lamb chop. Either way, I had a half a dozen small lamb chops waiting in the fridge and had no intention of freezing them.

Bone Sucking Worthy, Grilled Lamb Chops with Fresh Herbs

1/4 c. olive oil
6 garlic cloves, chopped
1/4 c. red wine
1 bunch fresh rosemary, chopped
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
6 baby lamb chops, 1 inch thick (I prefer the French cut)
salt and freshly ground pepper

In a glass dish, mix all of the ingredients. Add the lamb chops and marinate at least 4 hours, turning after 2 hours to marinate both sides.

Prepare the grill. Season the chops with salt and pepper to taste. Grill over high heat until medium rare, 2-3 minutes per side.

Eat immediately. Put down your knife and fork and use your hands while you gnaw the meat off those bones like a robust man playing Henry VIII in a B movie!

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Wednesday, August 01, 2007

NY Times #93


If you caught the "Dining In" section of The New York Times, on Wednesday, July 18th you saw Mark Bittman's article,
"Summer Express: 101 Simple Meals Ready in 10 Minutes or Less".

It's a real winner! It was first forwarded to me as an email from the Calphalon g-ddess, and then the newspaper section was passed to me by my grandmother. The email noted #93 as a recipe of interest and my grandmother pointed out her favorite ideas, so I skimmed the list and decided to try some of these recipes during the next few weeks to see what I like best.

Honestly, they are all healthy and hearty meals made from summer produce and basic food staples.

Recognizing that my friend had probably forwarded the article to others with the mention of #93, I thought it would be a nice gesture to start there first.
93: Cut up Italian sausage into chunks and brown in a little olive oil until just about done. Dump in a lot of seedless grapes and, if you like, a little slivered garlic and chopped rosemary. Cook, stirring, until the grapes are hot. Serve with bread.

This is it. Easy and it literally took 10 minutes to finish the whole project. It smelled absolutely divine. I used spicy turkey sausages, seedless red grapes, chopped garlic and fresh rosemary from my patio herb garden.

Stay tuned for more adventures from the Summer Express 101 list.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Monday, July 23, 2007

Culinary Crush?

I think I've developed a "culinary crush". Or, maybe it's a "culinary infatuation"? There's nothing romantic or even malicious about it (If my vocabulary serves me well, this would exclude "culinary envy" as a label). It can best be described as meeting someone with superior culinary skills, tools and entertaining flair...and hanging on her every word.

About a month ago, I was introduced to a woman who is a marketing executive at Calphalon. (http://www.calphalon.com/) Check out the "history" section of their website.

She has a tiny kitchen equipped with Calphalon pieces from every line . A few weeks ago, I got to enjoy a dinner party at her house. It was a casual barbecue but it included some fabulous salads, grilled veggies, seasoned burgers, and a gorgeous array of home baked pies and cupcakes. I was particularly entranced by the enormous cutting board on which she artfully arranged cheeses, nuts, dried fruit and crackers as an appetizer. In all honesty, the Glass City Gourmet has never even attempted entertaining for a crowd. It all looked so beautiful, and yet she did it all in one day. GASP!

Last weekend, I invited my heroine, her husband and son to join us for Thai night. After dinner, we went back to her house and she performed on the fly, with beautiful chocolate martinis and an array of fun cookies. I was tickled to be given a new "Calphalon Kitchen Essentials 6 Cupcake Pan with Silicone Liners". It turned out that while distribution is underway, this is a piece not yet available in stores. I was giddy with excitement.

As quickly as possible, I tested this in my own kitchen with a recipe for Blueberry Crunch Muffins. These muffins freeze well for up to 3 weeks.

Blueberry Crunch Muffins


Topping
1/2 c. firmly packed brown sugar
1.2 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
1/4 c. cold unsalted butter, cut into bits


Muffins
1/2 c. unsalted butter, softened
3/4 c. granulated sugar
1 large egg
2/3 c. buttermilk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
2 cups unbleached all purpose flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 cup blueberries (picked over for stems)


To make the topping, put the brown sugar, flour, and cinnamon in a food processor and pulse to combine. Drop the butter on top and pulse until the mixture begins to form small, pebble like nuggets. If you don't feel like cleaning the food processor, combine all the dry ingredients in a bowl and use two knives or a pastry blender to work the mixture into the crumby nuggets.

Preheat oven to 400F. Line 12 muffin tins with silcone or paper liners.

To make the muffins, use an electric mixer to cream together the butter and sugar. Blend in the egg, buttermilk, and vanilla. Sift the flour and baking powder into the mix, then drop the blueberries on to of the dry ingredients and stir until just blended, being careful not to break up the blueberries.

Spoon 1/4 c. of batter into each muffin cup and top with 1 tbs of the crunchy topping. Bake until golden brown and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, 17-20 minutes.


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Saturday, July 07, 2007

Back on the "Calcium Diet"


I popped a pants button this week. Ugh. It used to be that my stomach muscles were so strong that the contraction of abdominal muscles that accompanies a sneeze could pop a button. Not so, anymore. One of the problems of making cooking a hobby is that the pounds can creep up on you...

I got on the scale and found out that I had gained 8 pounds since February. No wonder I popped a button! In honor of my decision to get back on a diet, I ate a half a pint of Ben & Jerry's and finished every other sweet delicacy in my home (Yup, a half a bar of Scharffen Berger 60% cacao went down nice and easy along with the remnants of a peach cobbler). It just seemed like the most worthy thing to do before the deprivation started.


If you've followed my blog, you may know that I'm a big fan of Dr. Jana Klauer's diet, "The New Calcium Diet". Basically, there is a three day jump start that involves eating a ton of dairy, protein, and veggies and then drinking gallons of water and green tea. This gets most of the water weight off before hitting the more moderate phases of the diet where carbohydrates and fruit come back into your life. It's actually an extremely healthy way for women to eat and I was able to follow it for about a year before I "fell off the wagon" and started eating too much food and too many refined carbohydrates (see the Fage yogurt entry of 04/06).


Anyway, day two of the jump start and I'm a little sluggish. Last night, I prepared my 4 oz of fish with as much flavor as I could pull together.

Broiled Fish with Fresh Herbs and Lemon Zest


5 tbs. olive oil
1 1/2 tbs. finely minced garlic
1 tsp. chopped fresh oregano
2 tsp. chopped fresh thyme
grated zest of one lemon
2 tbs. lemon juice
4 firm fish fillets (halibut, sea bass, swordfish)

In a small saute pan, over low heat, warm 5 tbs. of the olive oil. Add the garlic and herbs and simmer for about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and transfer to a bowl. Stir in lemon zest, lemon juice. Let cool completely.

Place the fish fillets in a shallow glass baking pan, salt & pepper the fish to taste, and pour mixture over the fillets. Cover and marinate for 2-3 hours in the refrigerator.

Preheat the broiler. Place fish on a the broiler pan or on a grill rack. Broil or grill, turning once, until opaque throughout when tested with a knife, about 4 minutes on each side. Transfer to a warmed platter and garnish with lemon wedges. Serve at once.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

Breakfast in Bed/Le Petit Dejeuner en Lit


Have you ever put sauteed tomatoes into scrambled eggs? Conceptually, the idea of sauteed tomatoes with maybe a few chopped onions and green peppers sounds pretty tasty. However, because tomatoes are soooo juicy, the extra water can cause the texture of the eggs to get rather grainy. That's the best way I can describe it.


With this in mind, I thought it might be best to add the eggs to the tomato - rather than adding the tomato to the eggs. I whisked up some scrambled eggs with a little fresh grated Gruyere cheese (sprinkled on just as the eggs are finished cooking) and then spooned the cheesy eggs into a tomato. I had made cuts in the tomato, and cleared out the pulp and seeds to open it up enough to hold the eggs. Then I put a few fresh snipped chives from my garden on top for a little extra color. I underestimated how far the tomato would spread open with the eggs inside, so I used a couple of Soy Sausage patties to prop the sides up and make the plate prettier...oh, dear. A "near miss" for the Glass City Gourmet.

It was a hit! And a very neat and tidy way to serve breakfast in bed on a lazy Saturday. I put it on a tray with some fresh cut fruit and all the accompaniments e Voila! Le petit dejeuner en lit!


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Monday, July 02, 2007

Terrific Tofu?


It's back. Just when you thought I had enough of this wacky food stuff. I sent the BF to the grocery store with a list of necessities and he threw in a block of firm tofu. Sometimes I feel like the "Iron Chef" with the less than savory ingredients that sometimes make it into my kitchen...


Once again, I reached for Nina Simonds' James Beard Award winning cookbook, A Spoonful of Ginger:Irresistible, Health-Giving Recipes From Asian Kitchens. After comparing a few recipes to the contents of my pantry and fridge, I decided on "Braised Cinnamon Tofu". I didn't have any anise seed so I substituted fennel seed and it worked well. I also realized that this would end up being a soup, so I decided to make brown rice to create a more hearty meal.


The broth has a wonderful scent that will fill your kitchen. It is an interesting combination of flavors and braising the tofu for a full hour infuses the tofu with flavor. The best part about braising tofu is that you don't have to do that whole bit with the towels and the cast iron skillet to drain the water out of the tofu. You can eliminate that step because of the way this is cooked.



Braised Cinnamon Tofu with Brown Rice
Serves 4.

1 tsp. safflower or corn oil

Seasonings
6 whole scallions, ends trimmed, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife and cut into 1 1/2 in. sections
6 garlic cloves, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife and sliced thinly
4 slices fresh ginger, about the size of a quarter, smashed lightly with the flat side of a knife
1 tsp. hot Chile paste
2 sticks cinnamon
1 tsp anise seed (fennel seed works just fine)


1/2 c. soy sauce (I prefer the reduced sodium kind)
6 cups water
2 lbs firm tofu, cut into 1 inch cubes
1 lb. spinach, stems trimmed, rinsed, and drained

3 tbs. minced scallion greens


1 cup brown rice (rinsed)
2 1/4 c. chicken stock


Heat a large pot or casserole over medium-high heat, add the oil, heat until hot, about 30 seconds, and add the Seasonings. Stir fry until fragrant, about 15 seconds, then add the soy sauce and water. Heat until boiling, add the tofu, and boil again.


Reduce the heat to low, cover, and simmer, skimming the surface to remove impurities and fat. Cook for 1 hour, until the tofu is drenched and with the flavors of the braising mixture. Remove the ginger slices and cinnamon sticks and discard.


While the tofu was simmering, I brought 2 1/4 cups of chicken stock to boil in another saucepan and added a cup of long grain brown rice. I put a lid on the rice and turned the heat down to low to simmer the rice while the tofu cooked.


Add the spinach, clump by clump to the tofu and heat until boiling. Put a half cup of brown rice in the bottom of a soup bowl. Ladle the tofu mixture over the rice, and sprinkle scallion greens on top to serve.


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

Fisherman's Etiquette





















I believe there is an unwritten rule for sportsmen...bring me something I can cook. My Wasband was a serious sportsman and always made sure to hand me a bag of fillets, a packet of freshly butchered and labeled elk meat, a plucked and cleaned bird, or any other "ready to cook" version of whatever happened to be the catch or kill of the day.

Last Saturday night, I was invited to come over to someone's house to prepare fresh rainbow trout. Imagine my surprise to find 10 whole fish looking at me from inside of a plastic bag.
Well, not entirely whole. The fish had been gutted. Definitely dead. But heads, tails, skin and eyeballs were all intact. Ugh. Couple that with a package of brand new knives and a drawer full of very old dull ones, and I was less than excited.

Fortunately, the person who invited me to this little fish fricassee is fast on his feet. He was smart enough to grab a camera and insist that this was a challenge for the Glass City Gourmet. Ok. He got me. My ego loves a challenge...it also loves a "food stylist" (check out the final frame, careful plating compliments of my loving photographer).

While I sorted through the various knives in search of the perfect blade, his mother called a chef at a local country club to confirm the process. Hold the tail firmly with one hand, and using a slanted knife, use the other hand to slice from the tail to the head in a sweeping motion to remove the fillet.

I can do this. I had actually watched my Wasband do this a number of times. He always worked outdoors on piles of newsprint. I had a cutting board, a knife and a sink nearby.

The first few incisions were sloppy. I missed the bulk of the meat. Damn. After about four fish, I hit my stride. I was filleting like a real fish monger. I had thrown all of the leftover parts into a plastic bag when the lady of the house started asking about fish stock. In all honesty, I've never used it in a recipe. Not that I don't enjoy these challenges...but I thought I had already tempted the kitchen g-ds once tonight with the filleting adventure. So I flashed back to life with the sportsman and remembered him using fish parts to fertilize his rose bushes. BINGO! No more fish stock.

Once I had a nice stack of fish fillets, I contemplated cooking them. With a roll of aluminum foil and an assortment of savory vegetables and white wine, I was ready to make these fillets sing!

Fresh Trout Grilled in Foil

6 fresh fish fillets
1 cup chopped fresh tomato
1 cup chopped artichoke hearts (packed in oil is best)
1/4 c. capers
1/2 c. chopped green olives
6 leaves of basil (chopped)
1 small onion (sliced and separated into rings)
a few sprigs of fresh oregano (washed, stems removed)
a few sprigs of fresh rosemary (washed, stems removed)
2 cloves of garlic (sliced thinly)
1 1/2 c. white wine
olive oil

Tear off one sheet of aluminum foil large enough to create a packet around each fillet. Pour a small amount of olive oil onto the foil. Place the fillet inside with the skin touching the foil. Add a little of each of the ingredients and pour a 1/4 c. of wine on the fillet. Fold the ends of the foil into triangles. Bring up the sides evenly and push the triangles within the two standing sides. Roll the edge until you have a neat, tight packet around the fish that will hold all of the liquid and ingredients within the foil. Repeat for the remaining fillets.

Preheat the grill to about 350 F. Place the fish packets on the grill for about 8-10 minutes depending on the thickness of the fillets. Remove from grill. Serve immediately. You may serve the packets on plates. This allows each diner to open the packet and get the great aroma of the baked herbs and seasonings. Or remove the fish from the packets and serve.

I served these fillets with grilled corn and sauteed spinach. The dish was a hit! It could also be made with any other flakey whitefish.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

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Thursday, June 07, 2007

Pasta Primavera

Sometimes, you just have to wing it with whatever ingredients you have in the house. Earlier this week, I had leftover prosciutto, frozen peas, a pint of half and half and a hunk of parmigiano reggiano. With a little garlic, olive oil, butter and most of a box of penne...I knew my best option. Pasta Primavera!

After a quick glance at a few recipes, I decided to "wing it". Here's an easy and healthier version of this authentic Italian dish.




3/4 lb. dried whole wheat penne
4 oz sliced prosciutto
4 leaves fresh basil (washed and chopped)
2 tbs. half and half (cream is ideal, though)
grated fresh parmigiano reggiano cheese
1 tbs. olive oil
2 tbs. butter
1 tsp. crushed garlic
1/2 c. frozen peas (baby peas are nice)


Bring a 2 qt. saucepan filled with water to a boil. While it is heating up, prep the basil by washing it and chopping it (see directions for creating a "chiffonade" in last entry). Use the same technique to slice up the prosciutto. Once the water is boiling, add a little kosher salt and a splash of olive oil to prevent the noodles from sticking together, the water from boiling over, and to keep the pasta from over cooking. While the noodles cook, saute the garlic with 1 tbs. olive oil. Add two tbs. butter for flavor, if desired. Once the garlic is cooked, but not brown, add the frozen peas, basil and prosciutto. Continue to saute over medium heat to warm the ingredients. Add the half and half and turn the heat to low. Once the pasta is done, strain it. Return it to the cooking pan and add the contents of the saute pain. Return to the stove with the heat at low. Once the primavera is mixed with the noodles, add the fresh parmigiano to thicken the sauce and intensify the flavor.

Serve immediately with extra cheese.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Savory Steak Salad


I'm not sure where the trend originated. Someone came up with the idea of combining dried fruit, nuts, bleu cheese and red onions with varieties of lettuce to create a more interesting salad . The farthest back I can go in my own cookbook colletion is to a salad with blue cheese, pear, and a walnut vinaigrette from the Silver Palate Cookbook published in 1989. I do know that once this combination hit mass production at national chain restaurants and got drowned in sweet raspberry vinaigrette dressing, it lost it's zing.


Last night, I had a few people over for a light summer dinner. I served this hearty salad, an assortment of cheeses and crackers, along with some fresh cut fruit and a glass of wine. Starting with a few ingredients I already had in my apartment, I did my best to update the unique combination of strong cheese, sweet dried fruit, and earthy nuts. I hope this leaves the McDonald's version in the dust...



Savory Steak Salad

(Serves 4)



1 - 1lb. sirloin steak (grilled or broiled to preference, and sliced into 1/2" strips
1 1/2 bags of European lettuce mix, rinsed and dried (yup, I'm a cheater!)
3/4 lb. asparagus spears (lightly cooked, and plunged in an ice bath to cool and keep the crunch)
1/2 c. dried cranberries
1/2 c. crumbled bleu cheese
1/3 c. toasted pine nuts
1/4 red onion (sliced thinly into rings)
3-4 leaves of fresh basil
balsamic vinaigrette to taste
crushed black pepper

Pepper the steak on both sides, to taste, and then Broil or grill the steak to preference. While it cools for a few minutes, wash the asparagus spears. Clip off the tough ends. Bring water in a large saute pan to boil. Add asparagus spears. Turn off heat and let sit for 2-3 minutes or just until asparagus is "tender crisp". Plunge into a bath of ice water to cool and retain bright green color. Cut asparagus into 1 inch length pieces and chill. Return to the steak, and slice it against the grain into 1/2 inch thick strips. You may refrigerate until just before serving.

Toast pine nuts. I prefer to use a small saute pan over a medium flame, or spread the nuts on aluminum foil and put into a toaster oven on 325 F until the nuts get lightly browned. Remove and put in a glass cup or bowl to cool to room temperature.

Crumble bleu cheese into another small container and refrigerate. Slice the onion and store in a Ziploc plastic bag until ready to serve. Wash and dry basil leaves. Stack them on top of each other and roll it up legthwise, like a jelly roll (could also look like a green cigarette). Using a sharp pairing knife, hold the roll steady and slice every 1/8 inch starting at the tip of the leaf and ending with a slice to cut off the stem). This is easier done than typed. It is known as creating a "chiffonade" of basil. Set the basil aside. It may be refrigerated in a closed container or plastic bag until ready to serve.

When ready to serve: Rinse and dry the lettuce leaves. Place them in a large salad bowl. Add all of the other ingredients and spread evenly across the top of the lettuce pile. I started with the beef, then the asparagus, the onions, then the cherries, then the nuts, the basil, and finally the cheese. I prefer a light amount of dressing, so I tossed mine with a quarter of a cup of salad dressing and left additional dressing on the table for people to add as needed.

Salad ingredients may be prepared, and chilled, for up to 6 hours in advance of serving.


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

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Friday, May 18, 2007

Brunch with "The Girls"


This weekend my boyfriend treated me to a trip to Virginia Beach to meet his kids. This might seem like a low key event, but after six months of dating it seemed a little scary. Anyway, day one we were driving through his old neighborhood and I thought it would be fun to see the house in which he lived. As we were driving around the cul de sac, we could see his two boys shooting baskets and his former spouse standing on the driveway....yikes! Worlds collide! Actually, it went surprisingly well. His former spouse was perky and pleasant.

We ended up having dinner with his boys and eighteen year old daughter at a local Italian restaurant. I let the kids know that I was fully aware that dinner with their father's girlfriend was about as appealing as eating bugs as a contestant on "Fear Factor" and that seemed to help. Somewhere between appetizers and the main course, the BF blurted out something about my cooking skills. He invited them to dinner at his place on Sunday night. His two older kids immediately announced other plans were in place already. By the end of the night, his daughter offered to have a few friends over to his place to have brunch on Sunday morning and I agreed to whip up something special. The request was for French Toast. Thank goodness for the Internet...clearly, I did not travel with my cookbook collection and I felt the need to do something a little unique after the build up on my culinary skills. So, here it is:

Grand Marnier, Cheese Stuffed French Toast

12 slices firm-textured white bread
1/4 lb. butter
1 (8 oz.) pkg. cream cheese, softened
4 tbsp. Grand Marnier or orange juice, divided
1 1/2 tsp. orange zest (rind), grated
1/2 c. pecans, chopped (optional)
8 eggs or equivalent amount of egg substitute
2 1/2 c. milk
2 tbsp. granulated sugar
Strawberry or maple syrup
Powdered sugar (optional)

Butter 1 side of each bread slice; lay 6 slices flat, buttered side down, in lightly buttered 13 x 9 x 3 inch pan. In small bowl mix cream cheese, 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier, orange zest and pecans, if desired. Spread evenly over bread in pan. Place remaining bread slices over top, buttered side up. In medium bowl, beat eggs, milk, granulated sugar and remaining 2 tablespoons Grand Marnier until well blended. Pour over bread slices in pan. Refrigerate overnight. An hour before you are ready to serve brunch, bake bread at 350 degrees for 50 minutes. Serve hot with warmed maple or strawberry syrup. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired. Makes 6 to 8 servings.

The dish was a hit. I served it with turkey bacon, roasted potatoes, and pineapple boats with strawberries. The girls had fun and enjoyed the brunch.
“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".


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Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Frozen Lemon Torte




Spring is in the air and a warm night is the perfect time to indulge in something sweet and refreshing. This frozen lemon torte takes minutes to make, but is always a crowd pleaser. I typically go to a locally owned Italian market (Sofo's) to buy the gourmet lady fingers. These should not be confused with the yellow, cake like lady fingers sold in most chain grocery stores as 'lady fingers'. They are NOT the same thing. The Italian version looks pretty with the light glaze and dusting of extra fine sugar on one side, and their crunch holds up during baking.



2 (3 oz.) packages of ladyfingers
2 (14 oz.) cans of sweetened condensed milk (OK to use 1 low fat can)
8 egg yolks
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest
8 egg whites
1/4 tsp. cream of tartar
confectioner's sugar
1 thin lemon slice (twisted) or one large strawberry for garnishing the top of the finished dessert

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Line the bottom of a greased 9 inch spring form pan with some of the ladyfingers, trimming the lady fingers to fit if needed. Stand the remaining lady fingers around the edge of the pan, with the pretty side facing out. You will need to cut the bottom ends so the tops of the lady fingers are EVEN with the top of the edge of the pan. This is important! I missed this little clue the first time I made this and it just looked silly to have the tops of the lady fingers towering over the lemon part.

Whisk the condensed milk, egg yolks, lemon juice and lemon zest in a large bowl. Beat the egg whites with the cream of tartar in a mixing bowl until stiff peaks form. Fold into the lemon mixture. Spoon into the prepared pan. I've always found that this recipe makes more filling than you need...so maybe you can use some leftover ladyfingers and a small souffle pan to make a mini tart? Bake for 20 to 25 minutes or until the top of the torte is light brown.

Cool pan on a wire rack. Freeze, covered with foil, for up to three months.

To serve, remove the side of the pan and place the torte on a cake plate. Dust lightly with confectioner's sugar and arrange the lemon slices in the center of the torte. Let stand at room temperature for 15 minutes before serving. I like to fan a strawberry on each plate. Leftovers may be refrozen.

Gotta be honest about that picture of the torte...I don't suppose I'm fooling anyone that the photo is a half a torte! I used it as the end of a dinner party before remembering that I wanted to put this lovely dessert on the blog. Oops.


“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".






Sunday, April 29, 2007

Humpty Dumpty Egg Salad

Once in awhile, we all crave the simple pleasures of childhood. Easy living when decisions pertained to what to eat for lunch, whether to run around outside or create some indoor fun. Right now, I'm juggling tight deadlines on a new community service project, the normal demands of my work schedule and efforts to maintain other ongoing activities. This afternoon, while doing some serious multi-tasking I got a hankering for an egg salad sandwich. Somewhere between running the vacuum cleaner, typing up a media release, and painting my toes for a job as a hostess during a fundraising event tonight...my brain shifted to egg salad.

Using just what I had in my kitchen, I whipped up a batch and I think it bears repeating.

3 hard boiled eggs (chopped)
2 tbs. low fat plain yogurt
1 tsp. Country Dijon Mustard
dash of Tobasco
1 tbs. chopped leeks

Combine all ingredients and stir until the egg salad starts to bind. Cover and chill for one hour or more until cold. If you want more crunch, diced celery is an old fashioned favorite. I like to serve egg salad on toasted whole wheat bread with sliced tomato and lettuce.






“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

Thursday, April 26, 2007

Rouge Bistro...Mais Oui!




Rouge Bistro
6060 Renaissance Place
(off Holland-Sylvania Road btwn Sylvania Avenue and Brint Road)
Toledo, OH 43623
419-824-5890

(Due to technical issues with Blogger, this is a reprint from 1/07) Dinner on New Year's Eve is always a festive occasion. It was a pleasant surprise to enter a well decorated space and be transported to the ambiance of a contemporary French bistro.



The entryway contains a large fountain surrounded by four large columns papered with black and white photographs. The main room is divided into two areas, the elegant dining room and the bar with ample seating. The main dining room features white table cloths and modern leather chairs. The banquettes are dark wood with large black framed mirrors on the walls behind them. Dividing the bar area from the restaurant is another wood banquette decorated with large candelabras and an enormous vase with a grand bouquet of fresh flowers. The tables on the bar side are uncovered but the comfortable leather chairs remain. The bar also contains a communal table. Throughout the restaurant there are sensual large scale line drawings of female nudes on the ceiling. The red silk covered chandeliers, wood accents, red walls and black and white photographs are lovely and complement the subdued lighting.



There is something nice about leaving the bar traffic at the door on your way to a fine dining experience. However, the idea of providing a more informal atmosphere near the bar is chic for diners who prefer to dress causally. It will be a great asset for separating the business crowd from the very casual "regulars" on weeknights. We were seated on the bar side, near the front door and next to the piano and found that we were the official greeting committee as everyone heading for the bar needed to pass our table, and many others, to get there. If you watched closely, it was like seeing the diners at a row of tables doing "the wave" all night as each local celebrity entered the restaurant and headed to the bar.

The chef at Rouge is John Wesley. Most recently, found in the kitchen at Mancy's Italian. However, he is best known as the chef de cuisine at J.D. Wesley's: a locally owned fine dining establishment with an open kitchen that closed in the late '90's. Wesley's had many regulars, who were often spotted mid-week dining at the bar in jeans or sweatsuits and enjoying banter with the chef. Chef Wesley has a devoted following that will ensure the success of Rouge.
With this in mind, my dining companions and I were surprised by the ho-hum menu with entrees ranging from a slow cooked lamb shank in a citrus tomato au jus ($14) to two 8-10 oz cold water lobster tails ($58). No tantalizing essences, reductions, or unique flavor pairings to tempt us. Just the standard fare of beef tournedos, salmon, steaks, and chops. Personally, I'm bored with mashed potatoes as a featured side dish.

The salads were a la carte $5.50-$6.00. I enjoyed a roasted beet salad with haricot verts(French green beans), goat cheese and the mildest sliced fennel I've ever tasted. The dressing was a pleasant citrus vinaigrette. For dinner, I ordered the poached and braided salmon. It arrived virtually unbraided with three strands of salmon askew on a pile, and I mean a PILE, of wild rice. The Dijonnaise sauce was a sunny yellow pool sans gout. The accompanying sauteed vegetables were tender crisp but drowning in butter. My tablemate commented, "it looks like a plate slapped together for a banquet of 1,000 people".

The service was excellent. Our waiter, Jake, was previously a service star at The Vineyard. He is well versed on the menu and wine selections. He is extremely knowledgeable and attentive. It is always a special treat when the waiter can accurately describe the specials, wines on the menu and serve both the wine and the meal properly.

As it was near midnight when we finished our meal, we passed on the infamous chocolate "sac du bon bon" ($9) and other desserts to watch the ball drop over Times Square in a private home. For the uninitiated, the sac du bon bon is chocolate mousse inside of a chocolate sac with the shape and thinness of a paper bag. The sac is placed on a puddle of raspberry coulis and garnished with a little whipped cream and fresh raspberries. C'est magnifique!

I am apt to give new restaurants the benefit of the doubt during the initial weeks of being open. However, Rouge Bistro has the makings of a special place for dining in Toledo.

“Glass City Gourmet” is a chronicle of one woman's attempt to cook, eat, diet and entertain with both flair and whimsy while based in Toledo, Ohio. I encourage you to read on as the "Glass City Gourmet" attempts grand recipes, samples locally owned restaurants, visits indigenous markets and humbly pursues her quest to be formally recognized as the official "Glass City Gourmet".

PS. I returned this week to sample the appetizers. Accompanied by two friends, we ordered the fresh mussels, steamed with white, wine, garlic, shallot, and served with "thyme enhanced fries". I enjoyed using the fresh bread on the table to mop up the savory broth. The fries were sprinkled generously with a sea salt and herb mix and served in the traditionally French footed wire cone lined with parchment paper. The plate of three cheeses included St. Andre, Brie and Roquefort($9.50). While the menu suggests that the plate also contains sliced apple, the apples were replaced with chopped cucumber on an endive leaf and butterfly shaped crackers. I can only assume that a more varied assortment of cheeses and more refined crackers will come with subsequent menu updates and enhancements.