Wednesday, September 9, 2015

Picadillo: Cuban Hash

One of my best friends, Marirae Mathis, called this afternoon to get my picadillo recipe to make for her & hubby Bob for dinner.
I feel quite honored since she is an amazing Chef and owner of Who Cooks For You? Professional Chef Services by Marirae Mathis. She introduced me to Hasenpfeffer. I'm even happier after she texted me to tell me it was delicious. 
I've been told that many times by my Cuban ex-boyfriend and other friends who are familiar with Cuban foods, but coming from her it is quite an honor.

Picadillo: Cuban Hash
Picadillo is a traditional Cuban hash, popular throughout Latin countries. It is known in The Philippines as “giniling”. It is made with ground meat (usually beef) and tomatoes or tomato sauce – I use both. Other ingredients vary by country/region incl. fried egg, chopped carrots, etc. Every household has its own variation. 

It is typically served with rice and is also be used as a filling for empanadas. Mine is a basic, traditional picadillo recipe that I hijacked from a Cuban friend and tweaked to suit my love of spicy foods (meaning peppers). I love the salty, sweet flavors of the olives & raisins. The hot peppers are the one item that makes this recipe “non-traditional”.  

Olive Oil, just enough to coat the bottom of your skillet (add more later if needed)
1.5 - 2 lbs petite red potatoes, chopped (approx. 1/2-1" cubes, be consistent so they cook evenly)
5-6 garlic cloves(more or less to taste)
1 small Spanish onion, chopped
5-6 Serrano peppers, sliced thinly (I leave in the seeds)
1 lb of ground beef (I use ground sirloin)
1/4 cup white wine (optional)
1 TBS of ground cumin
26.5 oz box of Pomì brand chopped tomatoes (no preservatives), do not drain
8 oz (approx.) of Pomì brand tomato sauce ( no preservatives)
5.25 oz jar of sliced green olives
A couple handfuls of raisins (I use 8 oz for this recipe)
Black pepper, to taste

In a very large skillet over medium heat, sauté chopped potatoes in olive oil on medium heat until tender and slightly browned (about 20 minutes). I just cover the pan and let the heat do the work. I check it every 4-5 minutes to stir. Push potatoes to the side of the pan and add garlic, onions and peppers in the center, continue to sauté until onions are tender and the peppers burn your nasal passages (about another 5 minutes).

In a separate skillet, brown ground beef and cumin when beef is almost cooked through add wine, continue to cook a couple more minutes. Turn off the heat. Drain excess oil. Add to the potato mixture. Add chopped tomatoes, tomato sauce and combine. Add green olives and raisins (both to taste). You can also use a little of the olive juice to add some extra saltiness.

Let simmer on low for about 20 minutes. I simmer the picadillo while making my rice (also about 20 minutes).

The key to good rice: 
Bring water and rice to a boil, reduce heat and NEVER LIFT HE LID until cooking time is through. Serve with Cuban bread (available at Publix) and fried, sweet plantains (frozen at Publix).

Now just invite over a few friends (including me) to try your dish…

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Rose's Greek Potato Salad

I've decided to share some of my favorite recipes on my blog.

I love to cook & bake, but I am not so much of a fan of cooking for one person. I have taken so many cooking classes that I have lost count - knife skills, sushi, Indian, Indian street foods, French desserts, and the list goes on. I know how to make a crêpe and a tarte Tatin.  
I grew up thinking my mom made the best potato salad ever. And she did, for first 34 years of my life. I struggled for years after she passed away to recreate her version. I finally gave up and started experimenting with my own version.

Sorry mom, but you have been bumped to the #2 spot after my potato salad. Every time I make this, I get asked by 2-3 people for the recipe. I tell them that you can count the number of ingredients on one hand (salt and pepper don't count). 

This is my "go-to" recipe for large gatherings like office potlucks, picnics/cookouts and meetups with the family. The fact that it is not mayonnaise based makes it perfect for outdoor gatherings. It's easy, basic and can be made in about 20 minutes. Prep time is less than 5 minutes.

I think my mom would be proud! 

Rose's Greek Potato Salad

·         2 lbs. Red Potatoes, cubed, with skins
·         3 Shallots, chopped
·         4 oz. of feta cheese
·         1 cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
·         Juice of one lemon
·         Salt & Pepper

·       Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add potatoes, bring back to a boil, and cook until barely soft, about 10 to 15 minutes. Drain.

·       Combine potatoes, shallots and feta cheese in a large bowl. Mix olive oil and lemon juice and pour over potato and shallots. Mix lightly. Add salt & pepper to taste.

Serve immediately or chill. Potato salad may be kept in a sealed container in refrigerator for 2 to 3 days.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Love, Peace & Pho!

There is no better time for pho than when the weather starts getting cold and winter is closing in! 

I had the pleasure of dining at Love, Peace and Pho recently after catching a TPAC matinee with three of my girlfriends/fellow What the Pho members. The décor is clean and bright and the wait staff very friendly and attentive. I'll admit when I heard about this place weeks ago and was hesitant since they own the nail salon next door. I could NOT have been more wrong! They do know their food... 

There's lots of controversy surrounding the pronunciation of pho. It's "fuh" not "foe"! Maybe it depends on what part of South East Asia you are in. But, I grew up eating pho as a teen (30 years ago), thanks to the Vietnamese "Do" family who took me in and contributed to my conversion to Catholicism. It is "fuh" to me!

fried egg bánh mì 
Love, Peace and Pho is the newest Vietnamese Restaurant in Nashville. Quite honestly, I've never seen a Vietnamese menu like it. It is vegetarian friendly (including the pho) and the bánh mì menu comes with six variations, with a vegetarian “pork” option (made with tofu). I ordered the fried egg bánh mì (pictured at left). It was absolutely delicious, the bread fresh and the egg was cooked to perfection with a slightly soft yolk - just the way I like it. The veggies on the sandwich as well as what was served with the pho were exceptionally FRESH. 
Photo courtesy of Sun Tzu Photo
by James Quach

We had a chance to chat with the owner who explained that the broth for the pho (beef & vegetarian options) is a two day process. They worked with a chef in Oregon to design the bánh mì menu. He checked in on us twice to make sure we were enjoying our meal. And yes, we were. My girlfriend ordered the lemongrass chicken bánh mì to go for her lunch the next day and approved, although bánh mì are best eaten fresh.

I recently sent my Meetup group here. I was supposed to attend but had to miss while waiting on a house call from Piedmont gas. One member just responded, "Yum, yum!" But wanted more star anise in his broth. Another member said her ribs were a little tough, but loved the veggie bánh mì. One pho "virgin" was pleased and described it as tasty and said the traditional egg rolls were the best he's ever had. The reviews were overall good with five stars overall.
Photo courtesy of Sun Tzu Photo 
by James Quach

Nashville Scene:

Location & Parking: 2112 8th Avenue South, just south of Wedgewood Avenue across from Zanies Comedy Club – next door to The Nail Place. Parking is a little challenging. Good luck finding parking in front. I parked across the street in the lot by the antique store next to Dollar General. But you can also park along the side streets. 

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Island Vibes: Authentic Caribbean Food!

It's been too long since I blogged about my favorite restaurants in Nashville, so here goes...

I discovered Island Vibes mid-to-late summer. I stopped in alone one day for lunch to check it out for my Meetup group and indulged in the Curry Chicken. It was heavenly and "fell off the bone". If you can make chicken fall off the bone, then I am hooked...
Curry Chicken

This place is small and can easily be missed if you close your eyes. It's located on Antioch Pike behind Sam's Club, in a small house next door to the 1310 Plaza which houses equally exceptional Korean and Ethiopian restaurants. I love that Antioch is such a melting pot of ethnic cuisine.

I quickly became friends with Loverna Semple-Burnett and her husband Mark Burnett who are owners (along with Mark's brothers). This is truly a family owned restaurant. My friend Aubrey Dasilva is the chef. They are from the same village in Georgetown, Guyana. You really don't get much more Caribbean than that...

First visit: I opted for the curry chicken (see above). I took home leftovers (which I always do) and actually ate them later that night - which I rarely do. I eat out so often that most of my leftovers go to waste. These leftovers did not go to waste.

Second visit: I brought my Meetup group. They scheduled live music for us on a Saturday night - steelpan music. I opted for oxtails which I love. It's definitely a "finger food" but worth the effort. I actually got reprimanded by a Jamaican woman for trying to eat it with a knife & fork about two years ago. Lesson learned! Think of the most deeply braised beef you could ever imagine. I'm not much of a beef eater, but if you offer me oxtail, I'm in!

Third visit: Jerk chicken, only because the jerk pork wasn't ready. It was delicious, but I am still holding out for the pork. A member said it was the best jerk chicken she ever had. Another member, with family in Jamaica, had the goat curry and devoured her plate. She said she rarely eats red meat unless it's goat - and she gave the thumbs up. Several members said it was above and beyond JamaicaWay - the only other Caribbean in Nashville until now.
Jerk Pork

Don't miss the weekend specials on the board - including saltfish & bake and bullfoot soup. "Bake" is a type of bread. I am still trying to convince Loverna to make me "shark & bake" once I can get my hands on shark meat in Nashville. Otherwise, I will have to schedule a trip to Trinidad for my most expensive "fish sandwich" ever!

Island VibesAddress: 1316 Antioch Pike, Nashville, TN 37211
Phone:(615) 454-6085
Prices: $

On FaceBook:

Monday, July 28, 2014

My dinner with Maneet Chauhan!

I don't get "star struck" very easily unless it comes to celebrity chefs. My first celebrity chef encounter was with Anthony Bourdain & Eric Ripert in February 2012 in Louisville, KY. My heart skipped several beats that evening - an evening made possible by my friend Marirae Mathis of Who Cooks For You? 

On July 28th, I had the pleasure to be in the company of Maneet Chauhan. You probably know Maneet as one of the celebrity chefs from the Food Network show "Chopped". I didn't actually have dinner with her, but rather she cooked dinner for me and a small group of Nashvillians as she prepares for the opening of her new Nashville restaurant, Chauhan Ale & Masala House in late August. POP Nashville hosted Maneet on this evening. Maneet promised I would get the chance to meet Vivek Surti, a Nashville chef, food critic (he wears many titles) who helped in the back of the kitchen, but it was a school night and I needed to get home. I still hope to meet him someday...

Before I delve into the details, let me just say... Maneet stopped by our table three times during the evening, posing for pictures with me and even signing my menu as I apologized for being "such a groupie". She is beautiful and gracious. 

Duo of charred peach 
and heirloom tomato
gazpacho + salad
First up the pani puri: I would have been completely lost on this dish except for the fact that I brought my friend Vivek, who is Indian, and educated me on the fact that this is Indian "street food" and how to eat it. It is an open puff pastry filled with potato and chick pea served with a cup of layered sauce - cilantro chutney, tamarind sauce & mint water. Pour the sauce into the open pastry and devour in one bite. Yes, it is a little messy. That is why it is "street food". I wanted another... but only one was served, kind of an amuse-bouche.

First Course: Curried scallops, perfectly seared - melt in your mouth. I couldn't taste the habanero. But that was ok. Again, I still wanted another, or two or three more!

Second Course: This was one of my favorites. The salad was made of charred peach and heirloom tomatoes with a dressing of cucumber raita with roasted cumin. The gazpacho caught me off-guard - delicious, fresh, and tangy. I want the recipe! Maneet, help girl out here! 

Kashmiri lamb shank
Third Course: The lamb shank... definitely my favorite dish of the evening served along side basmati rice and daal makhani. The servers brought out knives and just as I was cutting into mine, Austin, the owner of Anthem and co-owner of Chauhan Ale & Masala House, walked up. I asked him why they brought me a knife because the lamb succumbed to my fork so easily. He just smiled, shook his head and walked away. I have never devoured a lamb shank until now. 

Gajar halwa whoopee pie
Dessert Course: Do I even need to tell you it was the best "whoopie pie" ever? Indian carrot pudding nestled between two saffron cardamom cakes. And the whipped cream, also infused with saffron was "to die for". I could have eaten a bowl it.

Overall: The best $75 I ever spent on a meal (no drinks). Would I do it again? Definitely!

I can't wait until Maneet opens her restaurant, if the food is even half this good, I will be there in a heartbeat... 


pani puri (v)

flavor explosion: semolina puffs | stuffed with potato | black garbanzo beans  
cilantro | spices tamarind chutney | tangy mint water


curried scallops pau bhaji

pickled onion habanero relish


duo of charred peach and heirloom tomato 
gazpacho + saladcharred peach | ginger | freshly roasted cumin | cilantro | jalapeno

kashmiri lamb shank
yogurt | cinnamon | cardamom | cashew | star anise | tellicherry pepper
ripped cilantro leaves | nuts | raisins

jeweled basmati | saffron | pomegranate seeds | pistachio  | currants
daal makhani
grape raita | curry leaves | coconut

gajar halwa whoopee pie
indian carrot pudding sandwiched in a saffron cardamom cake

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Girls' Day Out: Table 3 Restaurant & Market

I have been to Table 3 Restaurant and Market many times over the years for both brunch and dinner. I have had hit and miss experiences here, but I continue to go back. I do love their Sunday brunch menu

On my most recent visit, I visited Table 3 with two of my best friends for a "Girls' Day Out". I ordered the "Croque Madame", my usual go-to dish at most French restaurants in the United States, because I have yet to find a French restaurant that serves a Boeuf Bourguignon that lives up to my expectations. 
Croque Madame: Ham, Swiss,
Béchamel, Sunny Side Up Egg
with Baby Greens

I first had Boeuf Bourguignon in the Bourgogne region of France when I was 14 years old, in a little cafe on the way from Lucerne, Switzerland to Paris. No single meal has ever lived up to that experience. Almost thirty years later, I have never forgotten that dish - the melt in your mouth beef with the perfect hint of burgundy. I have yet to experience it again, even returning to France in search of that dish. 

But if you can serve me a consistently great Croque Madame, I will come back - and Table 3 does that very well. I recently ate at another French restaurant for brunch and was served a "Croque Madame" without an egg. I was very disappointed and will never return. If you serve me a "Croque Madame" without the egg it becomes a "Croque Monsieur". I hate false advertising! Yes, I should have sent it back, but I was in no mood for a war of words with the "classically" trained French chef. 

At Table 3, my friends ordered the "Omelette au Fromage" and the "Oeufs sur la Plat" (literally
Omelette au Fromage with Baby Greens
"Eggs on a plate"). 
I had the Oeufs sur la Plat here a year ago and disliked it very much. I did not send it back since it was my first time trying it in a French restaurant. I had no idea what it was supposed taste or look like. The chef was heavy handed on the cream, so much so that I thought I was eating a soup and the duck too salty. The leftovers (which I never had any intention of eating) were banished to the garbage. I took them home hoping I could recreate them into something edible, but my creative side failed me.

As my friend was ordering this, I almost stopped her. I am so happy that I didn't. As soon as it was delivered to the table, I realized it looked nothing like what I had order just a year ago. She let me taste and it was amazing - the duck confit with just the right amount of salty and the perfectly cooked eggs. I'm sure any French chef would have been proud of this dish. I will be ordering this on my next trip. And yes, there will be another brunch at Table 3.

Oeufs sur la Plat: Eggs baked with
Duck Confit, 
Creamed Spinach, Roasted
Herb Crème Fraiche

And you must check out the market next door. Table 3 usually offers about 4-6 dessert options on their restaurant menu, all of which sound delicious - creme brulee, house made sorbets and ice cream. But walk next door to their market and you will experience tons of pastries not on their menu - tarts and cakes. Get them to go and savor later at home or in the market along with a cappuccino or latte.

Table 3 Restaurant & Market
Address: 3821 Green Hills Village Dr, Nashville, TN 37215
Phone:(615) 739-6900Prices:

Sunday, June 15, 2014

Ethiopian Cuisine

Ethiopian Cuisine was probably the catalyst that encouraged me start my Meetup group "What the Pho!" six years ago. I couldn't find anyone who would go out with me to eat it – not friends nor coworkers... unless I bribed them by offering to pay for their meal. So I ate alone holding a book. Do you have any idea how hard it is to eat Ethiopian food while reading a book? Six years later, “What the Pho!” has over a thousand Meetup members. I never knew there were so many people eager to try new cuisines and who loved getting their hands "dirty" while they eat.

“Mesob Veggie & Meat Combo”
Chef’s selection of vegetables and meat 
samplers $14.99
 Since the first time I tried Ethiopian food at the age of 17 (20++ years ago, shhh - a lady never tells her age) in Washington DC, I fell in LOVE. I can only try to explain it by saying, it's a happy marriage of my mother's Southern/"soul food" cooking mixed with Indian spices. Little did I know then that it would be almost another 17 years before I would eat it again. 

African nations are still emerging and pulling themselves out of poverty. But their cuisines should never be overlooked. Their foods reflect a combination of native cuisines mixed with the cuisines of countries who have occupied them over time (France, Italy, Spain and Portugal to name a few), creating something new, unusual and amazing.

On my most recent visit to Mesob Ethiopian Restaurant, I took a plunge from my usual meat or veggie combo (which I would highly recommend to anyone new to the cuisine). I ordered the Ethiopian spaghetti and it was delicious... I finished every last bite. And anyone who knows me knows, I always take home leftovers or leave a dish unfinished (if it's not suited to leftovers). I'm addicted now... and yes, they served it with toasted Italian bread and gave me a fork to eat it with.

"Vegetarian Entree Sampler"Chef’s selection of 
freshly prepared vegetable dishes
4 Types $8.99 || 7 types for one $10.99 || 
7 types for two $18.99
Yes, there is "Ethiopian spaghetti". Although Ethiopia has never been ruled by a foreign power, it was briefly occupied by the Italians in 1936. During the brief occupation, Ethiopians adopted spaghetti and made it their own with the berbere commonly used in Ethiopian and Eritrean cooking. Then there's the "Ethiopian fajitas" (as I like to call them) but more appropriately on the menu known as "Mesob tibs". I have yet to try them but have seen them come out sizzling on the skillet. We finally asked what they were on our last trip.
Your choice of lamb or beef cubes 
sautéed in 
herbed butter with onions, green pepper, 
tomato, and rosemary
Beef $10.00 | Lamb $11.00
(photo courtesy of Pamela Hundley)

There are a few amazing Ethiopian restaurants in Nashville, including Gojo Ethiopian Café and Goha Ethiopian Restaurant. I am well acquainted with the owners and love that they treat me like family. The above are my favorites.

Rules for eating Ethiopian food:
1. Wash your hands.
2. Injera is the staple bread and is used as your utensil. It is a flat, spongy, slightly sour bread (think giant crepe, made from teff flour and gluten free). Use small pieces to scoop up your food and enjoy. NOTE: Injera is also common to Somalia, Djibouti, Sudan and Yemen. My neighbors are Yemeni and call it “lahoh”.
3. You can ask for a fork, but it’s not as much fun.
4. You can order individual dishes or multiple people can join together and share sampler platters (my suggestion), that's the concept of Ethiopian food "sharing" - thus, wash your hands. Share your food and enjoy!
5. Wash your hands again (see a pattern here). They will smell like wonderful spices for days.

“Those who eat from the same plate will never betray each other.”
- Ethiopian Proverb