Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Cumin Roasted Carrots with Fresh Mint and Honey

Recently at my place of employment, I have been moved from the Italian food station to what they call "Whole + Sum".  This area is what you would call the health food.  At first I was a little hesitant about being moved there because who wants to cook and eat rabbit food, right?  However, my executing chef helped me realize that there is more to it than meets the eye.  The challenge is to make good food that is healthier for you.  And if one is to grow professionally, one must take challenges head on and see them as opportunities.  So, one of the first side dishes I made was the cumin roasted carrots with fresh mint and honey.  It is an intriguing way of using carrots and quite tasty to boot.

The first thing I needed was carrots, lots and lots of carrots.  Given that I work in a professional kitchen, all I had to do was ask my sous chef to order me some carrots.  What he gave me were batonnet cut carrots.  Now, if you can't find this cut at your local super market, you can always cut them yourself, or just another type of carrot.  Baby carrots or sliced work well.  Try to avoid matchstick carrots.

Next I gathered all the ingredients I would need.  This included cumin, chopped garlic,

fresh mint,

honey, olive oil,

orange and lemon juice.


I chopped the mint and divided it into halves.  One half I wold toss with the carrots before cooking and the other I would use as garnish after cooking. 

Next, I took the juices, garlic, honey and half my mint, as well as the oil and made a sort of vinaigrette.  I combined the first five ingredients and slowly whisked in the oil. 

After I had my dressing, I tossed my carrots in it along with the cumin.  After being tossed and dressed, the carrots went on a sheet pan and into the oven.

The carrots took about 20 - 25 minuets in the oven.  When they came out, I panned them up and garnished with my reserved mint and they were ready for service!

The carrots are flavorful but low sodium and low fat.  This is great way to eat your veggies. For those of you who want to do this at home, here is a simple recipe:

2 lbs carrots
2-3 cloves garlic, chopped
5 sprigs of fresh mint
1/4 cup olive oil
3 tbsp honey
1/4 cup orange juice
1/8 cup lemon juice
1-2 tbsp cumin

Prepare carrots by cutting them into whatever shape you would like.

Fine chop mint and separate into halves.

Mix garlic, half the mint, honey and juices.  Slowly drizzle in olive oil while whisking until everything is incorporated and smooth.

Toss carrots with mixture.

Place carrots on a sheet pan and sprinkle with cumin evenly.

Roast carrots in a 350 degree oven for about 20 minutes.  Check after 15.

Carrots should be tender, but not mushy.  Some might have a light char on them, but they should not be burnt. If the carrots are not done, let them cook longer checking in 5 minute intervals.

Once the carrots are done, sprinkle with the other half of your mint. 


Saturday, October 19, 2013

Tango & Malbec

Two weeks ago was my wedding anniversary.  So my wife and I decided to try a new restaurant.  We had spotted Tango & Malbec a couple of times while driving through the Galleria area and were intrigued by its name.  My wife is a big fan of malbec wines.  Tango & Malbec is a South American steakhouse.  While a little on the pricey side (special occasion type of restaurant), the food and atmosphere were well worth it.  I did make reservations, but when we got there it did not seem as if we needed them.  There was plenty of seating available.  The dining area was warm and inviting.  The lights were dimmed to set the perfect mood for a romantic night out.  We were seated close to the open staging area.  What I mean to say is there was a big opening where the waiter would pick up plates from the kitchen and we could look into and see the guys working over the grills.

The first thing that the waiter brought to our table was a bowl of different types of bread and house made chips with a smaller bowl of chimichurri sauce. The chips were exquisite. They were nice and crispy without being burnt or hard.  The chimichurri was equally as good having a nice balance of tang from the vinegar, eathiness from the herbs, and sweetness from the sugar.  They both played very well with each other. The bread was just your standard sliced baguette, some small bread sticks and some sliced parmesan bread.  Good, but nothing spectacular.

While looking over the menu, my wife and I decided to order a bottle of wine.  We got the Humberto Canale Estate '11, which is of course, a malbec.  This was a very robust wine that was good right out of the bottle but really opened up once you let it breath a bit in your glass.  Our waiter was also very good about keeping my wife's glass filled.  I was taking my time with it, so I did not need as many fill ups.  The wine also made for a fine accompaniment of our dinner.

Before we placed our order, the waiter informed us of the specials for the night. The thing is, he did not just tell us about it, he showed us.  An assistant and he brought forth a very large butcher's block filled with various types and cuts of meat ranging from a filet mignon, to a dry aged ribeye, to a couple of tomahawk steaks. In the end, we decided to order something off the menu.

As a started we decided to go with the ceviche.  The ceciche was fresh fish and shrimp cooked in lemon juice and jalapenos and topped with some avocados and freshly made tortilla chips.  The fish had a very fresh taste.  It was very citrusy with some kick from the jalapenos.  The shrimp had good flavor, but was a little rubbery as if it had be overdone slightly.  Still, the ceviche was a nice way to start our meal.

For our main course, my wife and I decided to order the Como En El 50, which is a sort of sampler plate for two.  It comes with skirt steak, lamb chops, tenderloin, short ribs, sausage and blood sausage as well as accompanied by grilled vegetables.  My wife and I also decided to order a side of fried yuccca.

The meat was served on a metal served platter with hot coal underneath it and place in the middle of the table where my wife and I could serve ourselves.  We were both given a plate with our accompanying vegetables.

The vegetables were prepared with the utmost care and respect they deserve.  They were flavorful and tender without being mushy and overcooked.  The yucca was also very good.  It was the perfect starchy compliment to our mostly meaty meal.  Like well made fries, the yucca was crispy on the outside and fluffy on the inside.  

The meat, of course, was the star of this dinner show.  Given so many options it was difficult to know where to start.  We started with the black sausage.  My wife was a little hesitant about it, but I told her to be adventurous.  The sausage had a very mild flavor with an almost boudain like quality to it in texture.  Next we moved on the the normal sausage which was also very good.  Next I tried the tenderloin. It was cooked just as I like my meat, medium rare.  The meat was very well seasoned, moist and tender.  The flank steak was equally as good.  

The two meat that really shined were the lamb chops and the spare rib.  My wife described the lamb chop as possibly the best she's ever had.  It was moist and tender without any gamyness to it.  It was so good, we were both gnawing on the bone.  We both know you are not really supposed to do that in public, but screw it.  It was that good.  The spare rib was incredible.  The meat had a buttery quality that was beyond description.  My only fault with it was that there was not more of it. There was, however, plenty of food to go around.  My wife and I both had our fill and still had enough to take home to make steak and eggs for breakfast the next morning. 

In just in case we were not stuffed to the gills on delicious meat, Tango & Malbec threw in a complimentary dessert.  I had mentioned when I made our reservation that it was our anniversary, so I guess they decided to add some tres leches to our meal.

Not really a birthday.  Unless you consider it our marriage's birthday.
The tres leches was an unexpected, but pleasant surprise end to our dinner.  As far as tres leches cakes go, it was above average.  It was also a very good portion size.  After having such a big meal, the cake was a perfect size for sharing with another person.  My wife and I both got a taste, but it was not so much that we would feel sick after eating.

Tango & Malbec left a good impression with me.  I enjoyed the food and the atmosphere and would definitely return.  Given the possible hefty price tag, this will not be a place in heavy rotation of our favorite places to eat, but it will always come into consideration for special occasion meals.

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Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Omelette & Waffle Restaurant

My wife and I first discovered this small, unassuming eatery shortly after it opened a couple of years back. The only problem is that is it so unassuming that we had really forgotten about it until this past Sunday.  If you are looking for a nice little spot for breakfast or brunch, this place is it.  Located in a strip mall and surrounded by various other store fronts, it is easily overlooked.  But if you can get past the outside, you will find an unpretentious "mom and pop" restaurant with quick and friendly service as well as good food.

Omelette & Waffle Restaurant is the epitome of straightforward cafe style food.  I mean, the name alone screams "SIMPLICITY" from the rooftops.  The interior reflects the no nonsense directness of the restaurant.  Always clean and tidy and with little frills, the restaurant has about 5 or 6 tables along with a counter.  We were promptly greeted and seated and handed our menus.

I must note that Omelette & Waffle Restaurant does serve lunch and dinner options, but mainly I go there for breakfast/brunch.  It is close to the house and serves perfectly for that Sunday after a late night or for whenever you just don't feel like dealing with the ordeal of making breakfast.  First thing my wife and I ordered was coffee.  You can't have a proper morning brunch without coffee.  The coffee here was quite good.  It was nice and strong without being overpowering or bitter. It was a pleasant proverbial kick to the senses.  Our waitress was also very keen on keeping our mugs filled.

Now, given that omelette is in the name of the restaurant, you think I would have ordered one, but alas, such is not the case.  I was tempted by something more basic on the menu and something that I truly love for breakfast.  I chose to order on this morning the pancakes with eggs and bacon.  Something a little simple, but I love pancakes so much that I will judge a place on the quality of its pancakes. That being said, let me start with the eggs and bacon.  The eggs and bacon were served on a plate of their own so the pancakes could have a stage all to themselves.  I order the eggs over easy and that is exactly how I got them.  The whites were nice and cooked while the yolk was still soft and runny.  The bacon was nice and crisp without being burnt.  The surprise of this plate was the salsa.  My plate included a small ramekin of homemade salsa and it was great.  You could really tell that someone took care in making this salsa.  It was flavorful with just a little bit of kick.  It played really with with my eggs and bacon.

Next we come to the pancakes.  The pancakes were very nice.  They were served with warmed maple syrup and topped with some sliced strawberries and a dash of powdered sugar.  It was just enough to take notice, but not so much that the pancakes would be confused with a snow topped mountain.  The pancakes themselves were very tasty.  They were, however, a little dense, almost like olde timey flapjacks.  To me this was great.  I liked them like that.  I can see how this could be a detractor for others though.  It all boils down to personal preference.

My wife decided that she wanted to try one of the daily specials.  She ordered the chicken fried steak with eggs, hash browns and a half order of the Belgian waffle.  She also received a ramekin of the homemade salsa.The chicken fried steak came with cream gravy and the eggs were cooked to order.  If I remember correctly she ordered over easy as well.  The eggs were cooked with the same precision as mine, so nothing to note there.  The chicken fried steak was good, but nothing amazing really.  The hash browns were quite good. Golden brown and crispy on the outside while being soft and tender in the middle and nicely seasoned.

Where Omelette & Waffle really shined was with... the waffle.  It was one of the best waffles I have had in a long time.  It was nice and crispy while still being light and fluffy.  The warmed syrup only accentuated the flavor of the waffle.  The waffle was topped with freshly whipped cream and strawberries and bananas. All together they danced and elegant waltz upon my palate I won't soon forget. Tasting the waffle can only lead me to one conclusion: if the waffles are this good, then the omelettes must be amazing as well.  I look forward to coming back and exploring more of the menu.

Omelette & Waffle Restaurant is a fine neighborhood eatery.  The problem might be that its reach might not extend past that.  So if you ever find yourself in this neck of the wood, do yourself and favor and check out this place. 

Omelette and Waffle on Urbanspoon