Saturday, September 26, 2009

Dining Out: Sugo Restaurant and Tapas

I had an incredible food experience last week while on business to Duluth, GA...and I just had to share it with you. First of all, this restaurant serves delicious, lovingly prepared food. Second, great prices are accompanied by huge portions (I was happily able to box and bring home about half of my meal to enjoy for lunch the next day). Third, and perhaps most importantly, most menu items had an unusual but stunning combination of Greek and Italian ingredients.

My co-worker and I started off the evening trying their "famous" Meatball al Sugo (one meatball is plenty for two people). It was an fantastic combination of sausage stuffed with roasted tomatoes, dates and caramelized onions topped with a touch of tomato basil sauce. I enjoyed them so much it inspired me to come up with a meatloaf recipe using the same ingredients (to be posted here soon!). Then, for dinner
I enjoyed a dish called Pernice’s Chicken described as "dressed with a touch of tomato basil sauce, Prosciutto di Parma ham, caramelized onions, dates, spinach, pecorino romano, and provolone cheese. Served atop basil and black pepper papparadelle pasta tossed with roasted parsnips, caramelized radishes, figs, cherry tomatoes, cremini, portabello, and oyster mushrooms." It was soooo good and had some distinctive ingredients - I can't say I've ever had tomato sauce with figs, roasted parsnips and caramelized radishes. Who knew that combo would be so fabulous?

Amongst all of the deliciousness of the evening I have to admit my favorite thing was the caramelized onions. In both the meatballs and the chicken dish, it took me a while to figure out the secret flavor even though I knew it was something warm, translucent and soft with a hint of tangy sweetness. After Google searching Sugo recipes on the web, I soon discovered what I enjoyed were some very special caramelized onions...super slowly roasted with honey and balsamic vinegar. I think it will forever change the way I cook onions.



MM Comments: These onions are incredible. Since it takes a long time and some patience to make them, I recommend doubling the recipe and freezing the leftovers. I made this with 3 large, sweet onions this past weekend and ended up using them all weekend long - in meatloaf, on top of a sausage sandwich, and tossed in a pesto pasta dish. Soooo good!

Sugo's Caramelized Onions
Source: Atlanta Journal Constitution

Ingredients:

  • 1 head garlic
  • 3 T plus 1 t olive oil divided
  • 2 Spanish onions, thinly sliced
  • 2 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1 T honey
  • 1/4 t salt
  • 1/4 t cracked black malabar pepper
  • 1/2 t chicken stock base
  • 1/4 t smoked Spanish paprika
Directions

To roast the garlic: Prehead oven to 350 degrees. Cut the top off a head of garlic. Place in a garlic troaster, clay pot or baking dish and drizzle with 1 t olive oil. Cover tightly and roast until the garlic cloves are soft but still white about 30-45 minutes. Set aside 1/2 of the garlic for the onions, reserve the rest for another use

To carmelize the onions: Preheat oven to 200 degrees. Pour the remaining olive oil into a baking pan and top with the onions. Drizzle with balsamic vinegar and honey. Squeeze the roasted garlic cloves from 1/2 head over tehe onions and stir to combine. Sprinkle with salt , pepper, chicken stock base, and paprika. Cover with heavy alyuminum foil and roast for 4-6 hours until onions are very soft and gently caramezlied (medium brown).

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Food: Deep Dish Pizza

My first experience with deep dish pizza wasn't actually in Chicago but in Detroit at a place in Greektown called Pizza Papalis. Being one of my first comforting food discoveries after moving to Motown, this became a place I occasionally took visiting friends and family. Over the years I've discovered other restaurants and developed new favorites. But the deep dish pizza remains something I crave when I'm in need of comfort. It's warm and hearty and flavorful and crusty. And I can't think of something more perfect than this dish, served with a bold bottle of red wine and some candlelight to help you feel all warm and fuzzy inside and forget about the stresses of the outside world. Yes, it IS that good.

Over the years, not every deep dish pizza I've tasted has met my standards. For example, I sometimes think restaurants get carried away with the amount of cheese they use, even if the excuse is to try to keep it together when it's sliced. With that said, I've tried and tweaked several recipes and finally arrived at something that very closely resembles perfection. The crust has a biscuity texture to it and is great to sop up the flavorful (and quick) sauce. And other than baking in the oven as part of the pizza, the sauce doesn't require any cooking! What could be more simple than that? (My quick sauce trick is to combine a favorite condiment of mine (Trader Joe's Red Pepper spread with Eggplant and garlic (I mentioned it previously here)) with some chunky style crushed tomatoes and a touch of Italian style spices.)

If you're making this in a smaller pan than the recipe calls for, I'd recommend reducing the amount of sauce you use just to prevent a mess when you cut the pie into slices. And feel free to modify the toppings as desired. This time around I used roughly chopped and pitted kalamata olives and fresh baby spinach (two things I had in the pantry/fridge). Some variations to try:
  • Roasted garlic and pineapple (trust me...it's WONDERFUL)
  • Fresh mushrooms and mini meatballs
  • Shredded roast chicken and artichoke hearts
  • Ricotta cheese and caramelized onions
  • Tuna (mix into the sauce) and asparagus





Deep Dish Pizza
MM

Ingredients
  • 3 1/2 c all-purpose flour
  • 1 1/2 c very warm water
  • 1/2 c cornmeal
  • 1/2 c neutral-flavored cooking oil
  • 1 t sugar
  • 1 t salt
  • 1 package active dry yeast (~2 1/4 t)
  • 28-oz can chunky style, crushed tomatoes
  • 2 T freshly grated parmesan cheese
  • 1 1/2 t dried basil
  • 1 t dried oregano
  • 1 t crushed red pepper
  • 1/4 c pitted kalamata olives, finely chopped
  • 2 c fresh baby spinach leaves
  • 5 T Trader Joe's Red Pepper Spread with Eggplant & Garlic
  • 1 1/2 c grated mozzarella cheese
Directions
Preheat oven to low for 10 minutes and then turn it off.
In a mixing bowl, add water, salt, sugar, yeast, flour, cornmeal. Mix for a couple of minutes until dough comes together and then slowly add the oil. Mix for a few more minutes until the dough is wet and smooth (not sticky).
Place dough in a clean bowl, cover with a towel and place in warm (turned off) oven). Let the ball rise until it is about doubled in size, approximately 45 minutes. Remove from oven and place in a draft-free area on the counter.
Preheat oven to 450 degrees.

Coat the bottom of a 15-inch deep dish or spring form pan with cooking spray. Place the dough ball in the center of the pan and press it out until it covers the entire bottom and using your fingers, pull the dough up the sides of the pan. Cover the bottom of the dough with cheese, add toppings and then sauce. Top the pie with some grated parmesan cheese and spices.
Cook the pizza for 25 minutes, turning the pan 180 degrees mid-way through cooking.
After taking the pizza out of the oven, carefully remove the ring from the spring pan. Allow the pizza to cool for ~5 minutes before slicing.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Food: Five Spice French Toast

Although my typical breakfast is a bowl of cereal or fresh fruit and yogurt, my favorite types of breakfast foods fall into the "weekend" category (i.e. the things you probably shouldn't eat every day since they're heavier in fat and calories...but we won't mention that part, will we?). I place these "special occasion" foods into two categories: savory and sweet. On the savory side I love Greek-style omelets, huevos rancheros, grandma's buttermilk biscuits with sawmill gravy...you're getting the picture, right? But on the sweet side, besides my mom's whole wheat, blueberry pancakes, my favorite food is French toast.


I would describe the perfect French toast as piping hot, crisp on the outside and slightly doughy in the middle, with a custardy constitution reminicent of bread pudding. It's a food that is most definitely completely about texture and warmth with a touch of sweetness and spice. Thinking about this, several weeks ago I decided to modify my normal recipe adding some orange extract and five spice flavor to give it a warm and citrus-infused flavor. We found it to be a nice departure from the traditional cinnamon and vanilla version. Also, if you're wondering about a trick to make the toast both flavorful and crispy, I've found that using a combination of both butter and oil in the skillet works the best.

This recipe holds up well if in case you have leftovers and decide to freeze some slices. Just heat them up in the toaster oven when you're ready to finish them off. Jonathan and I had a couple of slices in place of toast last weekend with our cereal...and they were perfect even without adding any sort of toppings.

five spice, french toast, oil, butter, bread, motown maiden, detroit, breakfast
five spice, french toast, oil, butter, bread, motown maiden, detroit, breakfast
Five Spice French Toast

MM


Ingredients

  • 4 large eggs, beaten until slighly frothy
  • 1 c milk
  • 2 T sugar
  • 1/2 t five spice powder
  • 1/2 t orange extract
  • 1 t vanilla extract
  • 3/4 loaf french or vienna bread, cut into thick slices
  • 1T butter
  • 1T light-flavored cooking oil (I used Smart Balance)

Directions

  • Place 1 T butter and 1 T oil in a skillet and pre-heat stovetop to medium heat
  • In a large, shallow bowl, stir together eggs, skim milk, sugar, five spice powder and orange and vanilla extract
  • One slice at a time, dredge the bread through the egg mixture soaking approximately 5 seconds per side until it is soaked through
  • Place the bread in the pre-heated pan and cook for 2-3 minutes a side on medium heat until cooked completely and nicely browned on both sides
  • Plate and serve
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