CATEGORIES

Foods I miss from…..Cleveland

After living in New York from when I was born until I was around 27 or 28, I moved to Cleveland and kick-started my life and career in various ways that, while involving many twists and turns, were somewhat defining. I also went through various phases of food experimentation–and back in the late ’80′s, and ’90′s there was a lot of low-fat this and that, and less meat. Thankfully the pendulum for that stuff swung back toward high protein, low-carb, which is still not ideal (I want to eat everything, yo), but, well, I love bacon. Let’s leave it at that.

Anyway, as was the case when I moved away from New York, moving from Cleveland to Nashville left a void in some areas food-wise. And so here are a few items I miss and still do from the Buckeye state…..

Aladdin’s–okay so this isn’t a food item as much as it’s a restaurant, but it’s something I have to have when going back there. Aladdin’s is a local chain that serves delicious and inexpensive Middle Eastern food. They have great stuff like hummus, stuffed grape leaves and falafel. But it’s more than that–they have some delicious signature items like pita pizzas and one I miss in particular is the one with spicy chicken, peas, fried onions and a spicy tomato mixture. Also, they have these smoothies that you can get with combinations of fruits and vegetables. Seriously, they make veggies more palatable than you can imagine using a blender.

Pad thai–I’ve never had pad thai like the pad thai at Phnom Penh in Cleveland. It’s….wait for it…..Phnomenal. Sadly, I haven’t been back there since moving in 2003, but maybe next time. I mean, we have great Thai and Vietnemese and Laoatian food here in Madison, but….

Pizza–There really is great pizza in Cleveland. There is Mama Santa’s, Tasty, Geraci’s on the east side. There is Antonio’s and Santos on the west side. This is all coming from a New Yorker too.

West Side Market–There is nothing like the West Side Market in Cleveland. It’s an institution, and you can get all kinds of fresh produce, but also the indoor portion has vendors selling meat, bakery products, cheese, nuts, candies, and more. It was always fun to go there hungry, and we try to get to the market whenever we are in town. My mouth is watering thinking of the spicy jerky at this one place, and I think Michael Symon profiled it on The Best Thing I Ever Ate on Food Network once.

Krispy Kreme Donuts–I don’t think there is a single donut shop in Madison. In fact, you have to go to grocery stores and gas stations to find donuts at all. Yikes. But the ones in Krispy Kreme are freaking heavenly. The glazed ones in particular are their signature item, and it’s quite easy to down five or six at a sitting (no, I really haven’t ever actually tried that. No, really!).

Homemade granola/fruit bars–The Arabica coffee shop at University Circle has these pastries they sell at the counter, and they are like granola bars with a layer of cherry or berry preserves. And I go way out of my way to get some no matter how long we are in town for. In fact, last time I think I brought home a dozen.

Tommy’s fries–Tommy’s in Cleveland Heights has amazing french fries, but also makes some mean sandwiches and veggie creations. Oh, and milk shakes!

I know there is more. But we’ll have to just re-visit this column from time to time!

Foods I miss from…..New York

I have lived in four states in my lifetime, and now live in Madison, Wisconsin. If you are a foodie like me and have moved around a bit in your life like me, that means that when you move from one place to another, there are going to be regional food items you miss from your previous dwelling. This week, I will write about the items I miss about the places I’ve lived–New York (Long Island), Cleveland (Ohio) and Nashville. Here we go…

New York

Pizza, pizza, pizza. With all due respect to you people in Chicago who like your pizza to be a couple inches thick, and everyone else who thinks a large pizza is like 14 inches wide, there is nothing like real New York pizza. Not that it’s all the same, but generally you get a thin crust (not too thin), and the perfect blend of sauce and cheese, a sprinkling of oregano, and that’s it. You take a slice of that 16 to 18 inch pie, fold it in half, and eat like a sandwich. Oh, and don’t forget the shake of crushed red pepper.

Jamaican beef patties–They sell them in every pizza place in and around New York. They also sell them at Jamaican bakeries and in the frozen food section of the grocery store. They are like empanadas–savory and spicy, and with that trademark yellow crust.

Potato salad–If you have ever had the potato salad they sell in German delis in New York, you won’t ever get potato salad anywhere else. I can’t even attempt to make potato salad, ever, because nothing comes close. One question–how do they keep the potato salad looking so bright white and not off white/eggy like store bought salad in any other state?

Nathan’s hot dogs and fries–Well, you can buy Nathan’s hot dogs in most stores. But the fries. I’m not even sure what it is…it’s not like they are super crispy or anything. They are thick crinkle cut, not under cooked and not over cooked–but the perfect companion to a glob of ketchup.

Bagels–Okay so we have Gotham Bagels here in Madison, and they are real New York style bagels. But it’s not near my house, so I have to stock up when I drive past.

Deli sandwiches–Do you sense a theme here? Yes, I miss delis, and you would too if you moved away from New York. There is nothing like a sandwich on a hard kaiser roll–with real meat like roast beef, turkey or ham that was cooked there and sliced thin right there. The roast beef and turkey you get anywhere else is not the same–it’s typically injected with broth and other stuff to preserve it and make it taste processed. Ugh.

Pimento Cheese Grilled Cheese

I think I first had pimento cheese on a burger when I lived in Nashville. It was like crack on a bun, and I usually order it when I see it on a menu, no matter what form that it’s in. Well, you all know my favorite grocery store is Trader Joe’s, and last week I found two things to help celebrate Grilled Cheese Month–pimento cheese and these kickass ciabatta rolls. The rolls are those half baked ones that you finish in the oven, giving you the impression that you just baked them from scratch. Pimento cheese, if you haven’t had it before, is more of a spread–it’s usually make with a combination of cream cheese, cheddar, pimentos, and other spices and flavorings. And best of all, it melts into oozy goodness.

Today I tried to create some mini grilled cheese sandwiches using these items. I baked two rolls, cut them in half, and sprayed the outsides of them with olive oil spray. I then spread pimento cheese on the insides of both rolls, and added some salami slices to one of them. I cooked them in a skillet as if I was making a grilled cheese. This also meant I had to flatten them slightly with a spatula and cover the pan for a minute or so in order for the cheese to melt. It only took a minute or minute and a half on each side, but the result was amazing for both sandwiches. If you can find pimento cheese, grab it and try some version of this sandwich–you will thank me later!

Easy Awesomeness: Trader Joe’s Bacon Wrapped Dates

You are likely getting tired of hearing me pimp Trader Joe’s, but their awesomeness became even more awesome when my wife got me a Trader Joe’s Companion Cookbook for my birthday. Then last week we got the Trader Joe’s cookbook, the bigger one. And the recipes are insanely good. We tried a few already but one that is truly great and easy is the bacon wrapped dates.

I found a link to the recipe at a gluten free website, which is interesting because we are researching a gluten free diet as a possibility for our son with autism. And hey, he loves bacon too, so maybe he would like this recipe, as picky of an eater as he is.

Seriously though, I made some of these the other day and they are as good as they look and as good as they sound. Make sure you have foil under the rack so that the grease drips down onto something disposable. And you don’t have to shop at Trader Joe’s to make these, although the dates they sell are perfect for this recipe.

Wing Sauce Wednesday–Wheat Thins Spicy Buffalo

Chef JimI love Buffalo wing sauce. I love it so much that I am starting a new column every so often here called “Wing Sauce Wednesday” in which I will review a product made with Buffalo wing sauce, or tell tales of something related to wing sauce, or bathe in it. Okay, maybe not bathing in it. But man, my mouth waters when you mention this stuff. Anyway, it’s become a mainstream flavor in so many foods now, that I thought we’d start to mention as many as we can–weekly, bi-weekly, or monthly, or whatever.

First up, Nabisco Wheat Thins Spicy Buffalo. Wheat Thins are delicious, and have a signature sweetness that offsets the whole grain crunch. So how would a spicy flavoring alter the overall experience? It’s really good–with a very generous dusting of Buffalo wing sauce powder, a bit spicy but not too spicy, and with that nice tang that wing sauce has. And you can tell by the sweetness you are eating Wheat Thins. The only drawback? That sweetness is a bit odd against the salty and spicy tang–odd, but tasty…if that makes sense.

Anyway, if you like Wheat Thins and wing sauce, you should definitely try these crackers.

It’s Grilled Cheese Month!

Grilled cheese sandwiches. Who doesn’t love them? Well, it’s your month–April, specifically, is Grilled Cheese Month. I have a few ideas of sandwiches I’d like to create, but the first one I tried yesterday was killer–maybe literally if you eat too many of them, but I digress….and digest. I give to you, the Wisconsin cheddar/bratwurst grilled cheese.

First of all, as I may have mentioned before, it’s best to use real butter for these. Set a stick out and let it get to room temperature to soften. And get some good sturdy bread, preferably as I did that I cut from a loaf, but not too thick that the cheese won’t melt. This particular sandwich is best with white, rye or pumpernickel bread.

For this sandwich, I found some mini-brats at Trader Joe’s, and cooked those in a skillet over medium heat. I added water after they started to brown, just like cooking sausage, although these are fully cooked and probably didn’t need to be cooked through too much more. If you can’t find these mini-brats, you can use sliced regular brats. After cooked, slice two of the links in half lengthwise, and set them aside (or slice into 1/4 inch rounds for larger links). Shred some good cheddar and set that aside. Butter the outside of two bread slices, and spread some thousand island dressing on the inside of one or both bread halves (you can buy it or make your own mixing mayo, ketchup/chili sauce, and sweet pickle relish). Put a pat of butter in a small nonstick skillet and warm over medium heat until just melted. Lay the brat pieces on the inside of the bread, and then put about 1/3 of a cup of shredded cheese on top. Close the sandwich, and cook in the pan for about 2 minutes or until browned, and then flip it over and cook for another 1 minute or until browned. The second side takes a much shorter amount of time.

Slice and serve with pickles, chips and a cold beer (or a frosty root beer or cola is even good with grilled cheese). Oh, and tomato soup, but it’s getting too warm for soup already. Oh wait, I had mine with these kickass sweet/hot peppers from Trader Joe’s…..you’d think I was on their payroll, right?

Enjoy the weekend everyone!

The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sixties Cookbook Giveaway

Chef JimJust in time for the start of Season 5 of AMC’s hit series Mad Men, you can make some of the drinks the characters drink on the show by checking out a new book from Rick Rodgers and Heather Maclean called The Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad Sixties Cookbook, and Mikey’s Kitchen is offering you a chance to win a copy of the book right now.

If you grew up in this era (I sort of did, but was more a kid of the ’70′s than the ’60′s), you will love creating some of the food and drink that your parents or grandparents made back in the day, or that Don Draper, Peggy Olson and company make or consume on the show. Rodgers’ drink recipes are authentic and the PR company shared one with us for an Old-Fashioned using Four Roses Bourbon, below.

Chef JimOld Fashioned
1 sugar cube
2 or 3 dashes of aromatic bitters, such as Angostura
2 1⁄2 ounces Four Roses Bourbon
Soda water
Orange slice, for garnish
Maraschino cherry, for garnish
Lemon zest twist, for garnish
Instructions: Put the sugar in an old-fashioned glass and moisten with the bitters. Crush them together with a muddler. Add the whiskey and fill the glass with ice. Stir well. If desired, fill the glass with soda water. Add the orange and cherry, and lemon twist, if using. Serve.

But being that this is primarily a food blog, I had to sample some of the recipes myself:
Chef JimFlower Drum Song Barbecued Ribs–These were sweet, tangy and delicious and used a method of parboiling the ribs before marinating that I hadn’t tried before.
The Ultimate Meat Loaf–Used potato chips and chip dip mix as time-saving ingredients, but overall lacked flavor and needed ketchup (and tasted like a McDonald’s hamburger after dipping in the ketchup!)
Cold War Beef Stroganoff–This one was heavy on the sour cream and maybe too saucy, but still very tasty.

If your mouth is watering from those recipes (others include fried chicken, piggies in blankets, beef wellington, vichyssoise, or desserts like pineapple upside down cake) or at the thought of enjoying a cocktail while you watch Season 5 of Mad Men, Mikey’s Kitchen is giving one lucky winner a copy of the new cookbook. Click here to enter for your chance to win!

CONTEST ENDS: April 25th

Easy Fried Rice

I made this fried rice twice last week and it was awesome. If you have a Trader Joe’s near you, they have easy and delicious rice in their frozen foods section. You just nuke a bag of it for three minutes and you have perfect rice–either brown or jasmine or white rice. You can also buy the Uncle Ben’s or other easy microwave rice packets that are sold in the rice/pasta section, but trust me–this Trader Joe’s rice tastes better. I use the brown variety but either would work fine.

So after you nuke the rice, set it aside. Chop a small or half a large onion. Chop some baby carrots, and put them along with a handful of frozen peas (and/or frozen corn) in a small pot and cover with water and boil for a couple minutes. Crack an egg and cook that in a small, nonstick skillet sprayed with cooking spray for a minute or two until set.

Then, take a large nonstick skillet, swirl in a tablespoon or so of cooking oil such as canola. Heat over medium heat for a minute, then add the onion and rice. Stir fry for a couple minutes or until the onion is cooked and translucent. Drain the peas and carrots and add those. If you have any cooked pork, chicken or beef, chop that up and throw it in. Chop the scrambled egg and add that. Sprinkle with salt and pepper, then add a couple tablespoons of soy sauce. Continue to stir fry for another minute or so. If you have any cilantro, chop that and add in at the end (or green onion, or both).

That’s it. It is easier than it felt typing it all out, trust me. And it’s delicious and not too greasy as most restaurant fried rice is.

Related Posts