Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

I feel like I’m living in an episode of Seinfeld or Friends.  You know… when something happens and then something else happens and then a third thing happens that somehow ties it all together.  I’m pretty sure some recent events are really just my subconscious is trying to tell me that I’m losing my mind.  Literally.

friends

I’ve always had this panic thing where I really think I lose my cell phone and once I start the panic mode, I find it under my leg in my seat in the car, in a fold in a blanket, or under the dog.  This happens like, literally all the time.  At least once or twice a day.

What’s going on with my recent misplacement of really important belongings isn’t this panic-mode.  It’s real.  I don’t know what’s going on (with the exception of me losing my mind)… but in the past two weeks I have somehow managed to misplace not one but TWO jackets, leave my car keys in my Mom’s car, and forget my purse in a restaurant.  WTF?!

Rather than just thinking I’m a moron, I’m going to take this as a sign that I need to take a step back and relax.  Take a minute and breathe and STOP LOSING ALL OF MY CRAP!

In an attempt to go back to my normal routine, I decided to make dinner last night.  It’s been rare since Dave and I got engaged… life has just been too crazy and busy to make fun dinners.  I was inspired by the surplus of Grape Tomatoes in the house and wanted to try to make my own tomato sauce.

This sauce is so good… I almost could not believe myself.  Don’t leave out the roasting of the veggies in this recipe… it gives the sauce such a rich flavor.  It’s very easy to do!

Roasted Grape Tomato, Garlic, & Poblano Ragu

Ingredients:

1.5 pints Grape Tomatoes

1 Head Garlic

1 Poblano Pepper

8oz Lean Ground Beef

1 Green Bell Pepper

1/2 Large Sweet Onion

1 can Diced Tomatoes 

1/4 cup Fresh Basil Leaves

1/2 teaspoon Garlic Powder

1/2 teaspoon Onion Powder

1/2 teaspoon-1 teaspoon Sea Salt

1/2 teaspoon Black Pepper

1/8 teaspoon Cumin

1/2 teaspoon Dried Parsley (or 1T fresh)

Directions: 

1.  Roast the Veggies:  Preheat the oven to 400.  On a baking sheet COVERED with foil and prepared with cooking spray, spread the tomatoes.  Put the poblano on the sheet too.  Cut off the tip of the garlic exposing the tops of the cloves.  Wrap the garlic in a small piece of foil and pour a few drops of Olive Oil in and close.  Put the foiled garlic on the baking sheet too.  Either drizzle or spray the tomatoes and poblano with just a bit of Olive Oil, sprinkle with salt, and pop in the oven for 30-40 minutes.  Flip the poblano halfway through and remove if the skin becomes charred.

2.  Cook the meat:  While your veggies are roastin’, cook the ground beef in a skillet over medium heat.  If frozen, scrape into small pieces or chop if fresh.  Season with a little salt and pepper.  Remove from pan.

3.  Cook the veggies:  Chop the pepper and onion and saute with cooking spray in the same pan the beef cooked in.  Cook for 5-10 minutes then set aside in the same bowl as the beef.  

4.  Make the sauce:  When the tomatoes are a little browned ontop and nice and soggy looking, remove them from the oven.  Unwrap the garlic and let cool.  Cut the poblano in half and scrape out the seeds.  Scrape off the skin too, if possible.  Chop half of the pepper and reserve the remaining half for another use.  Using the back of a spoon, press the bottom end of the garlic until the cloves slide out.  Place the chopped poblano, 1/2 of the garlic cloves, and all of the tomatoes in a blender with the rest of the seasonings, the can of diced tomatoes, and fresh basil.  Blend until smooth.  Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary.  

5.  Eat the Sauce!  Combine the tomato mixture from the blender with the beef, pepper, and onion.  Heat in a medium saucepan over medium heat until warm.  Serve over spaghetti and top with a little bit of fresh parm.  Enjoy!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Everything in the blender and ready to whirl!

Cookin' up the pepper and onion.

Cookin’ up the pepper and onion.

Sauce!

Sauce!

The sauce all ready to go

The sauce all ready to go

beautiful!

beautiful!

So delicious.

So delicious.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Radicchio Cafe

I’ve been torturing myself for the past two weeks staring at the pictures I took of the food at Radicchio.  Now it’s time for you to salivate as I tell you about this delicious little BYO on 4th & Vine in Old City, Philadelphia.

My friend from Penn State, Meredith and her husband Mike recently moved from NYC to Philly.  I couldn’t be more thrilled.  Mer & Mike are huge Penn State fans, they are so fun, and apparently (i now know…) love food!

Before I go into the details of our fab Italian meal, I have to tell you just one more thing about Mer & Mike.  They ARE Moho Creative.  They turn wedding videos into art.  I’m serious.  They make what used to be hours of boring video into a shorter 25-30 minute video (plus a 3-5 min highlight reel, perfect for sharing), using creative shot composition, music, fun editing, etc.  I watch every single one of their videos, not knowing the bride, groom, or anyone at the wedding… and LOVE THEM!  Please check it out, you will love it too!

So, it was Mer and Mike, and two of their friends that took me on as a 5th wheel to Radicchio Cafe.  My boyfriend, Dave really missed out this time!

Radicchio is a BYO, so we of course came equipped with two bottles of white wine.  After sitting down, we were served “on the house” Bruschetta.  Since I’m new to tomatoes, it was a nice treat for me.

The table decided to order the Ceasar Salad w/ Prosciutto and the appetizer special which was Calamari.

Both were delicious.  I love prosciutto and loved the idea of having it over Caesar.  MMM!  My friends had never tried grilled calamari (and if you can see they were huge pieces too) so they were a little intimidated, but enjoyed it.  Grilled calamari is one of my favorite appetizers and this one was cooked perfectly.  The fresh tomatoes and capers were a nice touch too.

I couldn’t resist ordering one of the nightly specials for my entree.  Homemade papardelle pasta with lamb ragu.  OMG.  It was so yummy.

Ragu ❤

Everyone else ordered:

Paccheri al Telefono (Homemade wide rigatoni w/ pieces of meatballs, tomato sauce, and melted mozzarella)

Farfalle Toto (Bow tie pasta served in a vodka pink cream sauce, shallots, and prosciutto)

&

Chicken Sorrentina (their version of Chicken Parm w/ linguine)

Left: Paccheri al Telefono , Top: Farfalle Toto , Bottom: Chicken Sorrentina

As if free Bruschetta isn’t already enough, Radicchio serves a small little bite of dessert at the end of the meal.  It seemed like it was a little biscotti… what a nice surprise!

Everyone was very pleased with what they ordered.  I thought that Radicchio’s prices were really very fair for the quality of food as well as quantity.  The service was top-notch and I also really liked the decor- one entire wall was covered in wine corks!  It’s hard to find such a good BYO in the city and I’ll definitely be coming back to this one.

Now, do yourself a favor and check out one of Moho’s Wedding Highlights!

Chicken Parm & Oven Fries

One of Dave and my closest friends, Adam, is a VERY picky eater.  I didn’t realize how nervous I was to make him dinner until after I promised I would do so.  What if he doesn’t like what I make?  What if what I make is too complicated, or I use a spice he doesn’t like?  Ahh!  I figured it was best to start with something I KNEW was his favorite meal:  Chicken Parm.  I obviously had no idea what I was getting myself into here, on a Thursday night after work and pilates class.

Making Chicken Parm from scratch is very time consuming.  Of course you can take shortcuts, buying jarred sauce, or even pre-made chicken cutlets.  For the occasion of having Adam over, I was not taking any shortcuts!  Thank god my Mom came home just as I finished cutting up a few potatoes and a sweet potato to make Oven Fries as a side.  This is definitely not a meal I’d like to take on alone.

The fries are all cut and tossed in oil, salt, and pepper. That's it!

At this point, the chicken has been pounded, dredged, breaded, and is now browning in the pan with canola oil.

The chicken is in a baking dish topped with tomato sauce, and three cheeses!

The finished product: Sweet and Regular Potato Oven Fries! They were well done on the outside and soft on the inside.

The finished product: Fresh Home-made Chicken Parm

The meal was not only a huge success with the normal It’s Good To Be The Cook Family, but Adam loved it too!  We even got to relax and eat in our newly renovated dining room for the first time in almost a year.  The Chicken Parm was served with my Oven Fries, Broccoli, and a FRESH baguette with olive oil to dip.  Everything was a huge success and worth all of our hard work in the kitchen!

Chicken Parmesan (inspired by Neely’s Cheesy Chicken Parmesan)

Ingredients (chicken):

6 boneless Chicken Breasts

1 ¾ cups Flour

¾ cup Seasoned Breadcrumbs

¾ cup Cornflake Breadcrumbs

Egg Beaters (you can use 3 eggs worth… or real eggs!)

Salt & Pepper

Vegetable Oil

Shredded Romano Cheese

Fresh Mozzarella Cheese

Grated Parmesan Cheese

Ingredients (tomato sauce):

1 Onion, chopped

1 teaspoon Minced Garlic

1 Tablespoon Olive Oil

2 cans Crushed Tomatoes

Seasonings:  Red Pepper Flakes, Italian Seasoning Blend, Black Pepper, Basil

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.  Trim the chicken of any fat.  Slice the chicken to make it thinner and smaller cutlets.  Pound the chicken to make it thin and uniform thickness.  This will help it cook faster and evenly.  Season the chicken with a little bit of salt & pepper.

2.  This is a good opportunity to start the tomato sauce, if you are making your own.  Cut the onion and throw it in a small saucepan with garlic and some olive oil over medium-high heat.  You can let this cook for a little while you complete the other steps for the chicken.  Then, add the rest of the sauce ingredients and cover, cooking over medium heat until you’re ready to use it.

3.  Set the flour, egg beaters, and mixed breadcrumbs on separate paper plates.  Dredge the chicken first in the flour, then the egg, then the breadcrumbs, making sure to coat completely.

4.  Heat just enough canola or vegetable oil to coat a frying pan (plus a tiny bit more).  Place (I fit four at a time) the chicken in the frying pan and heat for about 5 minutes on each side or until golden brown.  Do not overcrowd the pan.

5.  Prepare a baking dish, coat with cooking spray.  Place the cooked chicken (it’s okay if it’s not fully cooked, it will finish in the oven) on the baking dish.  Coat the chicken with tomato sauce.  Then, top with slices of fresh mozzarella, a sprinkle of shredded Romano, and a shake or two of grated Parmesan cheese.

6.  Stick in the preheated oven for about 20 minutes or longer, depending on thickness of chicken and amount of cheese used.  Once it looks like it’s almost done, turn the oven on broil, leave the door a crack open and monitor.  Once the cheese starts to brown, remove and serve.

Sweet & Regular Potato Oven Fries

Ingredients:

2IdahoBaking Potatoes

1 Sweet Potato

1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil

Sea Salt, Ground Black Pepper

Directions:

1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

2.  Do NOT wash the potatoes.  The more they come in contact with water, the less the oil will stick and make it crispy.  Slice the potato into1 inchthick slices or desired thickness.

3.  Place cut potatoes in a large bowl.  Toss with olive oil (start with 1 Tablespoon, add more if necessary), salt, and pepper.

4.  Place in a baking dish prepared with cooking spray.  Bake in the oven for 45 minutes – an hour or until they are browning and very soft when stabbed with a fork.

Mercato

With so many amazing restaurants to choose from for Philly Restaurant week, you’d think it would be a hard decision for my girlfriend Ricki to pick where we’d be going.  For Ricki, this was a no-brainer!  She immediately told me to try to make a reservation at Mercato, a cozy little BYOB on 12th and Spruce.  You wouldn’t believe her reaction when she found out I got us in!

Mercato is a tiny cash-only BYOB that normally does not accept reservations, so it is very difficult to get in.  Mercato uses Old World Italian Cooking traditions with Italian-American cuisine using only the freshest ingredients in season.  Ricki got me so excited to try this place out, I could not wait!

For restaurant week, each person chooses an appetizer, an entrée, and a dessert.  Our table of four- Ricki, Genna, and Rebecca, decided to share appetizers with Ricki and I sharing our entrees as well (she’s as indecisive as me!).

The Mercato Antipasti comes with Italian meats and cheeses, grilled & marinated veggies, and a crostini.  This serving was for “one” but it was big enough for us all to have a taste of everything!

Mercato Antipasti... and this is only for ONE!

Two of us ordered the Whole Grilled Artichoke.  I have only had grilled artichoke hearts before, so eating the entire thing was really an experience for me!  The artichoke was served grilled with EVOO, a line of Sea Salt, and a Citrus Aioli on the side.  I love salty so dipping the individual leaves in the salt before scraping the “meat” off was so yummy.

My first whole grilled artichoke

We also ordered the Trio of Bruschetta which was really the only disappointing item of the night.  The trio included one mushroom, one hummus, and one fresh tomato cheese-covered crostini.  Although these tasted good, I would have liked this dish more if the cheese wasn’t melted- it reminded me more of a mini pizza than a bruschetta.

Trio of Bruschetta

Genna’s entrée was the night’s Special Tilapia which looked light and fresh.  It was a pretty decently big portion of fish too.  Rebecca ordered a modified version of Pumpkin Fettucini, which normally comes with sage brown butter, leeks, crispy parsnip & pancetta, and roasted butternut squash.  I definitely have to try this one next time I come back!

Tilapia

Pumpkin Fettuccine

Both Ricki and I have a hard time passing up Scallops when we are out, so that was the first dish we decided to split.  Mercato’s Pan Seared Diver Scallops were served with wild mushroom & english pea risotto, a parmesan crisp, and truffle oil.  The presentation was gorgeous!  Amazing what a parmesan crisp can do!

Seared Scallops

We couldn’t decide which pasta to order since they all sounded so good!  We asked our server and without hesitation, she advised us to order the Short Rib Ragu.  She told us it was her favorite dish on the entire menu, and WOW, was she right!!!  The short rib meat was so tender, it was truly a “melt-in-your-mouth” experience.  It was served in a brown sauce over homemade ricotta gnocchi, broccoli rabe, and long pieces of shaved locatelli cheese.  The gnocchi (something I’ve never ordered out) was light and fluffy and wasn’t too heavy.  This has to be one of my top pasta dishes out there!

Yummy yummy Short Rib Ragu!!! MMMMMM!!!

As if this wasn’t a big enough food-gasm for us girls… we were given the option of a few deserts when we were through with our meals.  We all decided to go with the Bittersweet Molten Chocolate Cake.  The description of “liquid chocolate center” was no exaggeration… the middle was filled with thick, liquidy, hot, rich CHOCOLATE!  This Molten Cake was like no other I’ve ever seen, it reminded me more of a soufflé, baked in individual ramekins with a crusty top underneath a scoop of vanilla ice cream.  Once you broke through the crisp top, a heavenly pool of chocolate was waiting underneath… and needless to say, ALL FOUR of us finished our entire dessert.  OMG.

... yes ... we EACH had our OWN.

gooey chocolaty deliciousness

Mercato was definitely all it was cracked up to be… no wonder there’s a one to two hour wait on any given night.  I am already dying to go back!