Thursday, November 18, 2010

Empanadas de Pato a la Huancaina: Duck Empanadas with a Spicy Peruvian Sauce

Last Friday I had two dear friends over for dinner. As Emily, Laura and I love Spanish, travel and good food, I thought it fitting to prepare empanadas for dinner. I'd recently purchased aji amarillo paste and was excited to try it out. Aji de gallina and papas a la huancaina are
among my favorite Peruvian dishes, so I thought it would be a fun twist to try substituting duck for the traditional chicken. (For the purists out there, this is my version of the sauce).

For the Duck:

4 duck legs, thawed (or fresh!), rinsed well with water and patted dry with a paper towel.
S & P

Heat oven to 300.
Salt and pepper duck legs.
Place duck legs fat side down inside cooking dish.
Cook for 2 1/2-3 hours or until fat has melted into cooking dish.
Remove duck legs from cooking dish, place at
op paper towels to drain some of the fat and let cool.
Remove duck meat and set aside.

For Aji/Huancaina Sauce:

1 diced onion
3 minced garlic cloves
4 tablespoons aji amarillo paste
2 cups chicken stock
3 slices stale white bread
1 cup whole milk
4 oz crumbled queso fresco
1 tablespoon butter or olive oil
1/2 teaspoon Paprika
1/2 teaspoon Turmeric
1/4 teaspoon Cumin
S&P to taste

Soak bread in milk. Mash up with a fork.
In large saute pan, heat up olive oil or butter over medium to medium-low heat.
Add onions and garlic and saute for 5 minutes, keeping an eye on it to make sure that the garlic
does not brown.
Add cumin, turmeric and paprika to mixture.
Add mashed bread/milk and aji amarillo to pan. Cook 5 minutes, stirring occasionally.
Add chicken stock and queso fresco to pan. Simmer 20 minutes.
Blend mixture until smooth. Return to heat and simmer additional 15-20 minutes.
Store sauce in refrigerator until serving.

For Empanadas:

10 empanada shells
4 oz chopped spinach
4 oz crumbled queso fresco
1 caramelized onion
Duck meat

To Make Empanadas:

Preheat oven to 400.
Roll out defrosted empanada shells and fill with duck meat, spinach, crumbled queso freso and caramelized onion mixture.
Fold over shells to make a half moon. Pinch shut with fingers and then press along seam with a fork to create indentations.
Cook about 20 minutes in oven until empanadas are golden.

Serve with heated huancaina sauce and a delicious Pisco Sour!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Rincon Limeño: A Bit of Peru in East Boston

For one of my nurse practitioner clinical sites, I am in East Boston. Originally made up of five islands, East Boston was created when Bostonians filled in the spaces between the islands to form one large neighborhood. Eventually the island was connected to the mainland. The area has always been a mecca for immigrants, starting with Russian Jews and Italians, next came SE Asians and more recently, Central and South Americans. As a result, the neighborhood has exploded with Latin American flavor (and I couldn't be happier!) Rincon Limeño is one such restaurant. The owners have created a tiny refuge on Chelsea Street for those seeking tasty Peruvian cuisine.

When I think of Peruvian, gorgeous, juicy chicken comes to mind (no one makes better roasted chicken than they do). Pollo a la brasa is chicken cooked slowl
y over a charcoal grill or rotisserie, the meat is perfectly moist while the skin is kept nice and crisp.

I had the chance to sample Rincon Limeño's take on Peruvian cuisine recently. As a starter I enjoyed papas a la huancaina,
roasted potatoes served atop lettuce in a thick, cheesy sauce. Black olives and a hard-boiled egg complete this dish. I know it sounds a bit odd served in this manner-but somehow, it really works! I like to think of it as Peru's very own, more delicious potato salad (is that sacrilegious to say?). Mine only thought is that I would love to try the potatoes served hot in the sauce. I think that some of the more subtle flavors of the huancaina sauce might become more pronounced if heated.

The chicken was happiness. I cannot think of a better way to put it! Juicy, tender, flavorful chicken is one of life's more simple pleasures. Rincon Limeño serves their's with french fries. I think I would perhaps enjoy it more with a side of yuca or potatoes a
nd huanacaina and aji sauce. And of course, with a Pisco Sour!

We ordered alfajores, dulce de leche sandwiched between two butter cookies and dipped in powdered sugar for dessert. Mmm....guys, if you want to know how to impress your lady, surprise her a box of these, and you will have a very happy woman on your hands!

The best part of the meal was that the papas a la huancaina, 1/2 a roast chicken and side salad, and a box of about 12 alfajores were just 23 dollars, making this tiny Peruvian haven a
very affordable dinner option!

After the meal, I popped into a nearby grocery store to check out the food options and picked up a bottle of aji amaraillo paste (yay!), choclo for toasting and a bottle of pisco! So expect a post detailing my adventures in cooking Peruvian cuisine in the nearish future :).

Monday, November 8, 2010

Myung Dong 1st Ave

This past Saturday I finally checked out Myung Dong 1st Ave, a Korean restaurant that opened last year in Allston. The BF was in town (he is in NYC now for work) and we made plans to meet up with a dear friend of mine, Tali, and her boyfriend Brian.

Walking into Myung Dong, we were treated to a blast of what I assume to be Korean pop music. We were seated next to a large flat screen showing pop videos filled with adorable (or nausea-inducing) young singers dressed as cheerleaders, schoolgirls and the like. It is one of the odd-yet-completely-at-home touch you find in Asian restaurants in the area. It was filled mainly Asians, with a few other tables of young people (although as I get older, anyone younger than me suddenly qualifies as a "young person").

We ordered a pitcher of pear soju. It tastes like a fusing of pear nectar and a liquor, and was sweet and easy to sip, although technically one is supposed to drink the entire shot at once. For those unfamiliar with soju, wikipedia has a great summary of the etiquette required to drink soju in a group gathering (although according to the rules, it would be impossible to drink alone as one cannot fill their own glass).

The waiter brought out a variety of small complimentary dishes, including sauteed greens, fish cakes, kimchi and radishes.

We ordered a basket of mini dumplings to start. I had read some rave reviews about these little morsels, but found myself unimpressed with the fried pork and vegetable filled morsels. Great in idea, so-so in execution.

photo from:

I ordered bimbimbap for my main dish. To call it stir-fry would
probably anger some, but the set up reminded me of that. Julienned vegetables were placed in a sizzling hot stone dish, surrounding a large scoop of white rice. Thinly sliced beef was placed atop the rice and an egg was broke over the top of the dish. I love, love when food is interactive. The egg came out sunny-side up but I was able to neatly flip it over to cook it to a little more than over easy. I used some chili-garlic sauce to give it a bit of a kick. The dish was simple, elegant, tasty but not too filling. Bimbimbap. Try saying it a few times; fun, isn't it?

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Boston Happy Hours

One of the things that I love about leaving Boston is finding a good happy hour deal. For some reason, back in the day, someone decided that outlawing discounted drinks would keep Bostonians proper (they also made parties hosted by a household of women illegal-too much like a brothel and banned Native Americans from entering the city until a few years ago, but I digress). Anyone who been around Fenway after a good Red Sox game probably noticed that that idea didn't pan out...but the law remains in place.

To make up for the lack in drink specials, restaurants offer cheap eats daily, ranging from deep-fried pub food to freshly shucked oysters. As a graduate student I need to take advantage of the deals, because let's face it, ramen just doesn't cut it anymore. It is also a good way for a family to go out for dinner without having to dip into their 401ks (it can get pricey eating out in Boston). The following list is just the beginning-several deals will be added daily, but I wanted to start with some favorites...check back for updates!

700 Harrison Avenue (Washington St. at E. Brookline, Silver Line)
Boston, MA 02118-2631
(617) 266-0443

Estragon offers $1 tapas at the bar from 5:30-7pm Monday-Thursday. I am in love with their braised beef cheeks in Pedro Jimenez...they are falling apart tender..mmm.

KO Prime
90 Tremont Street
Boston, MA 02108-4101
(617) 772-0202

KO Prime has $5 dollar glasses of wine and martinis from 5-7pm and 9-11pm! During those times bar bites are priced at $2 or $5. They also offer $29.95 all-you-can-eat prime rib on Tuesdays and Wednesdays! Now, I don't eat enough to take advantage of this deal, but for those who do, hot damn that's a great deal for steak!

242 Harvard Street (Coolidge Corner, or Harvard at Beacon St. on the 66)
Brookline, MA 02446-2904
(617) 232-0065

Lineage has $1 oysters at their bar from 5-7pm Monday-Friday. I believe that the owner's brother is a fisherman-you cannot get much fresher seafood than that! Take your significant oyster-loving other to Lineage for a dozen (or two)!

51 Huntington Avenue (Copley)
Boston, MA 02116
Tel: (617) 424 - 8500

Minibar offers $2 mini Kobe burgers from 5-7pm Monday-Thursday.

1 Bennett Street
Cambridge, MA 02138-5707
(617) 661-8010

Noir's 5-4-3-2-1 happy hour menu runs from 5-7pm Monday-Thursday. Flatbreads, salads, sandwiches, snacks and sweets compromise this tasty deal.

Small Plates
JFK Street
Cambridge, MA 02138
(617) 441-0056

Sundays and Mondays from 5-6pm and Tuesdays-Saturdays from 4-6pm Small Plates offers a delectable selection of tapas, wines and wine cocktails for $5 each!

268 Newbury Street (Copley T stop)
Boston, MA 02116-2424
(617) 267-4799

Tapeo offers $5 tapas at their bar-a steal for items such as duck confit in a berry sauce or scallops in a saffron cream sauce.

Tremont 647
647 Tremont Street (Arlington T stop)
Boston, MA 02118-1201
(617) 266-4600

$2 tacos are offered Tuesday evenings, the selection changes weekly. The cheap tacos provide the perfect excuse to consume plenty of libations such as their pepper-infused XXX margaritas! (Just be sure to take the T or have a DD-lined up, they can pack a punch!)

Union Bar and Grill
1357 Washington Street
Boston, MA 02118
(617) 423-0555

Free bar bites weekdays 5:30-7 pm, $29.95 for 3 courses with a glass of wine from 5:30-6:30pm daily, a $9.95 prix fixe brunch all day Saturdays and 10-11 a.m. Sundays includes coffee, fresh squeezed juice, coffee cake and your choice of B52 French Toast, Smoked Salmon Scramble of Chef's Choice Omelet. Great deal, great food, great (or okay but very amusing) service. 'Nuff said.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Travel and Babies and Life, Oh My!

BABIES! So this semester at school has been uber-busy and uber-exciting. I am just finishing up my pediatrics and maternity rotations. What is is about babies that make every woman a baby-loving, clock-ticking crazy lady? I find it impossible to hold a newborn and not feel immense love towards it (not in a creepy, I am going to take your baby way, but rather more of a oh my god, this is so amazing feeling).

Before the start of the semester I was able to go home to visit my family over the holidays, then visited my boyfriend's family in the Dominican Republic. I had already met most of them, but had not spent much time with his father or that side of the family. So Carlos, the caring boyfriend that he is, throws me in the front of their SUV with his serious-seeming, bad ass corporate lawyer father (I do not really have a concept of what that entails, it just sounds important, you know?) . Luckily, my fears abated when his father popped in the sound track to Mamma Mia and started singing.

Summing up the trip: lots of Spanish, saw a baseball/pelota game-go Escogido!-, went to Playa Rincon and played in the waves, saw a roasted whole pig, ate a lot and celebrated New Year's.

Then in February my friends Bethany and Tony got married. Zipped home (by that I mean flew) for a quick Valentine's weekend wedding. Saw friends, parents, ate some good Thai. (You can read more about that here.

Probably the most amazing group of women you could hope to know! I could tell you more, but I might start crying or sound annoying 'cuz I do tend to brag about my friends.

I also went to Las Vegas over my spring break! To answer you
r question, no I didn't get married! Although I am sad to say that I was unable to convince strangers to get married so that I may stand up at their wedding, nor did I meet high rollers while in a cute cocktail dress, blow on their dice only to have them win thousands and give me a $1,000 chip. Isn't that supposed to happen if you go to Vegas? So disappointing.

What could have been the perfect culinary trip turned into a random ass
ortment of tacos, hot dogs....yeah, you get the picture. Went to the Hoover Dam (cue lots of corny jokes with "damn" as a some sort of adjective), saw Red Rock Canyon-beautiful, Madam Toussaint's wax museum, the Bellagio Fountains, the Great Salt Lake, played some slots, won some money, lost more money and had a romantically wonderful time.

On a scary ledge at Red Rock Canyon. Where we may have seen a squirrel eating another animal (what can I saw-it's the Wild Wild West).

Tacos in old Las Vegas-north of the strip.

Unbelievably done-up midnight snacks at Pink's Hot Dogs outside of Planet Hollywood Las Vegas.

And that pretty much sums up the last three months :)

Friday, March 19, 2010

A Few of My Favorite Things: Clear Flour Bread Bakery

My first installment of "A Few of My Favorite Things" is a place near and dear to me. Clear Flour Bread is located just out of Coolidge Corner and has a stand at the Coolidge Farmer's Market during the summer/fall months.

While I have tried a number of their items, their ciabatta holds a special place in my heart. I adore a good, crusty bread-and for 2.50 a loaf, this is a steal!

So you have this great bread, now what? You can purchase a good cheese and have a wine and cheese night, slice the length-wise (between the top & bottom flat ends) forming the perfect sandwich bread or slice the loaf in half and stuff each have with your favorite fixins' and stick in the oven or panini press for a crunchy delight!

In addition to bread, they often sell croissants, cookies, scones, tarts, cakes, cheese from a local farm and a ton of other items! (Go there yourself to see the full selection, or check them out online to see their daily offerings).

They are located at 178 Thorndike Street, off the Packard's Corner stop on the "B" line, Coolidge Corner on the "C" or at Coolidge Road if taking the 66. Those lucky enough to have a car, I envy you and suggest you look up driving directions (written in an envious tone).

Store hours are 8-8 M-F and 9-7 on the weekends.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

Bertolli Four Cheese Rosa and Arrabbiata

Last week, as part of Foodbuzz's Tastemaker program, I received 2 new complimentary Bertolli sauces, Arrabbiata and Four Cheese Rosa. The sauce's were packaged in a fancy schmancy black box that evokes a high end liquor container.

I had recently discovered Bertolli's pasta sauces, having purchased the Cabernet as well as the Roasted Garlic and Olive Oil varieties of Marinara, so I was psyched to try out some new flavors.

I decided to serve the 4 Cheese Rosa with Barilla Plus Pasta (one of my new favorite items-I am totally into the idea of adding Omega 3's to my favorite foods) and sauteed and chopped broccoli rabe with garlic. The bitter green was balanced nicely by the salty, sweet and creamy cheese sauce. I ended up eating the sauce for each subsequent lunch until I ran out.

I have not tried the Arrabbiata yet, but plan to serve it with grilled shrimp over linguine-I'll let you know how it is!



Friday, February 26, 2010

Quinoa with Charred Vegetables and Queso Fresco

Some days the sun just seems to shine brighter-you know, the days where everything seems to go your way, you fit into your skinny jeans and your heart seems to swell with happiness. Last Saturday was one of those days for me. I was in the midst of a 3 exam, 2 paper and 1 presentation week at nursing school, but I got up early, cleaned my room, went for a massage and saw Shutter Island with Carlos (highly recommend this film!!) and cooked dinner.

I decided to make quinoa with charred zucchini, bell peppers, queso fresco and a smoky-spicy tomato sauce. I couldn't have been more pleased with the results-healthy, refreshing and simple to prepare.

To Make:
1 cup quinoa
2 cups low-sodium chicken broth (use vegetable stock to make this a vegetarian dish!)
1 quart whole milk
2 limes
3 bell peppers (I used 1 red, 1 orange and 1 yellow)
2 small zucchini
1 14 oz can of diced tomatoes with diced chiles
1/4 teaspoon cumin
1/4 teaspoon paprika
1/2 teaspoon chili powder
1 small diced tomatillo
4 cloves minced garlic
1 small diced onion
4 tablespoons olive oil

Heat up milk in heavy sauce pan over medium heat until steaming, but not quite simmering. Add juice of 1 lime and stir as milk curdles. Turn heat to low and let cook additional 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat, add salt and let sit 20 minutes.

As milk is cooking, heat up 2 tablespoons olive oil in saute pan over medium-high heat. Add onions, tomatillos and garlic and turn to medium. Stir constantly until you are sure that the garlic is not browning (if it is, remove from heat and let cool for a minute). Cook about 5 minutes until onions become translucent.

Add spices and cook 1 minute until fragrant.

Stir into tomatoes/chiles into mixture and cook 25-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Pour milk over a cheesecloth-lined colander. If you do not cheesecloth, a very fine strainer will do. Once liquid has mostly drained, form curds into a ball and twist cheesecloth over the ball so that the pressure from twisting causes excess liquid to drain. Hang over sink or a bowl for 2 hours so that cheese may dry out.

Slice bell peppers and zucchini lengthwise into small strips.

Heat up remaining olive oil in a cast-iron grilling pan over medium-high heat. Add bell peppers and zucchini (you will probably need to do this in 2-3 batches) and cook until lightly charred, adding extra olive oil if necessary. Remove from heat.

Heat up quinoa and broth over high heat. When it begins to simmer, turn heat down to medium-low and cover. Cook 20 minutes, stirring a few times to fluff quinoa.

Serve quinoa with vegetables, cheese and spicy tomato sauce to taste.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

True Thai

While in Minnesota for my friend Bethany's wedding (congrats Beth & Tony!) I met up with some friends for dinner. My mother's friend Nancy is a nurse, and one of her coworkers happens to own a Thai restaurant-she pretty much is living my dream! Nursing and a restaurant-ambitious, yes, but it CAN be done :)

Being a group of 6 plus one adorable 1 year old, it took us awhile to decide what to order, so we started with some appetizers.

(adorable 1 year old ->)

The best of the 4 ordered was definitely the corn cakes, served with a sweet-spicy-savory dipping sauce. The corn cakes were crispy on the outside and steaming inside.

For my main dish I decided to go my usual route; order something with lots of vegetables (I enjoy eating vegetables but find myself less motivated to eat them if I have to prepare them!). I settled on a wok-fried 7 vegetable medley with a savory brown sauce and tofu. The vegetables were lightly steamed, and the sauce flavorful but a little safer than I prefer. The dish was not at all greasy, which is something that drives me crazy about some Thai restaurants.

Anna, the super nurse-
restauranteur was kind enough to send us out a couple of entrees to try.
The first was a spicy red curry, rich in coconut flavor with shrimp and kabocha squash. Although I tend to shy away from curries (I love them, but I have spice intolerances/allergies) but once in awhile will risk my health to try a particularly tempting one. This squash is awesome. And strange! I expected a summer/zucchini squash but this definitely would fall into our winter squash variety! It complimented the creamy coconut and fiery curry nicely. The second dish was a slow roasted Minnesota duck in a sweet, sour, salty chili reduction sauce. At this point I become very glad to have a mild entree! The duck was perfectly roasted, very moist and tender. The fire from the chilies cut through the sweet duck fat. I love love love this dish. If you are in Minneapolis, or even have a long layover there, I highly recommend ordering the roast duck, you will not be disappointed!!

My friend Andrea ordered dessert as her entree, having apparently had Thai for lunch (oops). Creamy coconut ice cream had flecks of real coconut and bananas were lightly battered (I believe) and deep fried. Bittersweet chocolate sauce was drizzled over both. Oh my freaking god, this is so mouth-watering awe-inspiring delicious. Period. I hope that I can find something similar in Boston.

After 4 appetizers for the table and entrees the bill came out to about 14 dollars each, with enough food left over for another meal. The food was amazing, the waiter sweet if a little inexperienced and the bill quite reasonable. True Thai is located at 2627 East Franklin Avenue in Minneapolis.

Also-there is an option to purchase curry sauce at the restaurant to use at home! I love that-I think it makes the food much more accessible to people who cannot afford to eat out as often.

*photos are from the restaurant's website