Saturday, March 2, 2019

Turtles Restaurant, Sarasota Bay - It Doesn't Get Any Sweeter

What a fantastic experience - sitting outside chatting with wonderful friends at a shaded table, while looking out onto Little Sarasota Bay on a sunny day with temperatures in the mid-70's, and enjoying delicious food and drinks. That was our experience at Turtles Restaurant  (http://www.turtlesrestaurant.com/) on Siesta Key.

My food and wine were delicious. I started with a cup of their signature crab bisque for $4. It was really delicious and filled with crab.

My main dish was a tasty North Atlantic salmon BLT grilled with a dill sauce for $13. 

My drink was a nice White Haven Sauvignon Blanc for $8.50 per glass.

The hostess was very accommodating, the service excellent, and the prices reasonable.

Turtles does not take reservations and can be crowded. 

It is located at 8875 Midnight Pass Road.

My only regret is that I don't live closer.

Sunday, February 24, 2019

Easy, Japanese-Style Carrot, Ginger, and Onion Salad Dressing

I found this great and very easy Japanese-style dressing on The Spruce Eats (https://www.thespruceeats.com/onion-ginger-and-carrot-salad-dressing-3863338) I used all the ingredients, including the optional ones. It easily serves eight. I reworded the original directions to simplify.

Ingredients
- 1/4 cup chopped yellow onion
- 1/4 cup chopped carrot
- 1/2 tsp peeled and minced ginger
- 2 tablespoons ketchup or tomato paste
- 1 tablespoon soy sauce
- 1/2 cup canola oil
- 1/4 cup rice vinegar
- 1/2 tsp salt (to taste)
- Optional dash of black pepper
- Optional 1/2 tsp of granulated white sugar

Directions
Place all the ingredients in a food processor or blender, and purée. (I used a blender.) 

Chill for 1-2 hours before serving.

Japanese Fruit Sandwich - An Easy, Tasty Dessert

For a recent Japanese-style meal for family, the dessert I served was an approximation of a Japanese fruit sandwich. It was very tasty and easy to make.

Normally, Japanese fruit sandwiches are made with a light, fluffy, slightly sweet Japanese bread known as milk bread (shoku pan) or Hokkaido bread. Since I could not find that bread, I used a butter pound cake instead.

The ingredients are simple:
- A firm bread that will not easily get mushy from fruit and that does not have non-dessert ingredients like garlic.
- Fruit that is not too juicy - kiwis, mangos, strawberries, peaches. I used the first three.
- Homemade whipped cream. Homemade whipped cream is unbelievably easy to make. The ingredients are just whipping cream, powdered sugar (optional), vanilla extract (optional). There are plenty of instructions on line.

The preparation is simple
1. Slice the bread
2. Cut the fruit and place it on the bread. 
3. Spread the whipped cream on the fruit.
4. Assemble the two pieces.
When using the larger milk bread slices, the sandwich is sliced diagonally and the properly positioned fruit looks very nice from the sides.

Prague Restauramt, Sarasota - Czech It Out!

How do I love thee Saasota-Bradenton - Let me count the ways, er, uh, Let me count the restaurants (but not the traffic). Today, I had the very tasty experience of trying a Czech restaurant for the first time - Prague, located on Main St. in Sarasota (https://thepraguerestaurant.com/). It offers a nice variety of Central European and American dishes. 

I chose one of the Happy Hour specials - a salad and a main dish with sides for $15. 

There were two salad choices - Caesar and a Czech cucumber salad (okurkový salát). I chose the latter. It was on the sweet side and had a tiny bit of a kick. I loved it.

The main dish I had was the Czech national dish, slow-roasted pork with a homemade brown sauce and caraway seeds (vepřo knedlo zelo) accompanied by Bohemian dumplings, sweet and sour cabbage, and sauerkraut. The combination was very tasty, down-to-earth food. I particularly liked the pork and the cabbage. The dumplings (knedliky) are boiled and look like slices of bread. They were unexciting, but went nicely with the pork.

The dessert I had was terrific - two different types of Czech rolled crêpes (palačinky). One was filled with sweet cream cheese, cinnamon, and rum raisins. The other was filled with raspberry jam. They were topped with whipped cream, powdered sugar, and chocolate. The cost was $9.

I had a nice glass 2016 Lyric Pinot Noir from Santa Barbara County for $10 and a cup of espresso for $5.

The drink list includes two types of draft Czech beer.

The next time I go, I intend to try another Czech dish - the roast duck Bohemian style.

The owner and staff are Czech, and the service was efficient and friendly.

There are tables inside and out.

Prague is open 5 p.m. to 9 p.m. Tuesday through Sunday and for brunch on Saturday and Sunday. It is located next to C'est la Vie on Main St. For reservations, phone 941-329-2882.



Monday, February 18, 2019

Roasted Butternut Squash - Simple, Tasty Side

In looking for a way to use leftover butternut squash from a recent beef stew recipe that I made, I found this really easy, tasty recipe on allrecipes.com - https://www.allrecipes.com/recipe/229733/simple-roasted-butternut-squash/. 

This recipe makes 1-2 servings. The addition of cinnamon is my idea. (The allrecipes recipe called for a whole butternut squash. Since I only had a part of a squash, I reduced the amount of olive oil and garlic by half.)

Ingredients
- 2/3 pound of peeled and seeded butternut squash cut into 1 inch chunks. The squash I had from Publix was already seeded.
- 1 clove of minced garlic
- 1 tbsp olive oil
- salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste

Directions
- Preheat oven to 400°   
- Mix squash, garlic, and olive oil in a bowl
- Sprinkle salt, pepper, and cinnamon to taste
- Place squash in a single layer on a baking sheet
- Bake 25-30 minutes until squash is tender. (27 minutes did the trick for me.)

Monday, February 4, 2019

Pollo all Cacciatore - A Delicious Tuscan Chicken Stew

A couple of days ago, I prepared a Tuscan dinner for friends. The main course I chose was Pollo alla Cacciatore, which means hunter-style chicken. Variants of this dish are popular throughout Italy. I found two Tuscan versions and chose elements of both to create the one I cooked. It was easy to make and I love it.

The recipes I used as a starting point are at:
1. https://www.santacristina.wine/en/cookbook/ricette/chicken-cacciatore/
2. http://lifeisabowlofpasta.com/recipe-items/pollo-alla-cacciatora/

The version below serves two. I scaled it up to serve eight the other night. (I scaled it up enough that I probably could have served 12.)

The other dishes I served with the chicken were:
- Crostini with goat cheese, fig preserves, and prosciutto di Parma
- Crostini with olive paté (crushed black olives, lemon juice, olive oil, breadcrumbs)
- Carabaccia - Florentine onion soup
- Carote in Stufato - Tuscan braised carrots with pancetta
- Schiaciatta alla Fiorentina - Florentine sweet bread/cake

The wine I served with the main course was a superb 2010 Máté Brunello di Montalcino.

(I did not consider serving Chicken Florentine for this dinner because, despite the name, it's an American dish.)

Ingredients

- 1 lb boneless chicken thighs, cut up
- Half of a 28 oz can of peeled San Marzano tomatoes
- 3 oz of pitted olives, halved. I used Sicilian Castelvetrano olives.
- 2 oz red wine. I used a Tuscan Chianti.
- 1 garlic clove chopped
- 1/4 Spanish onion, diced
- 1 carrot, chopped
- 1 celery stalk, chopped
- 1 rosemary sprig
- 2 bay leaves
- 1 tsp fennel seeds
- extra virgin olive oil
- salt 
- pepper

Preparation

1. Coat the base of a large sauce pan with extra virgin olive oil Heat to medium high and add chicken. Brown the chicken on all sides, and then remove it.

2. Add onions, carrots, celery, garlic, bay leaves, fennel, and a pinch of salt. Cook until vegetables are softened - about 8 minutes.

3. Add chicken to the vegetable base and stir for two minutes to coat.

4. Add wine; stir gently again, and let wine evaporate.

5. Once the wine is almost reduced, add the tomatoes and rosemary, and adjust salt and pepper. When I added the tomatoes, I included the juice from the can. Cover and let cook on low heat for 20 minutes.

6. Stir in olives and cook for another 10 minutes.

Delicious Japanese-Style Beef Stew

In searching for a delicious Japanese-style main dish to serve my brother who was visiting from out of town, I found a terrific New York Times recipe by Mark Bittman. I figured it had to be good because it had over 1,000 five-star reviews. I've made it several times now and have been very happy with the results. I serve it with Japanese, short-grain, sticky rice. (My brother really liked this stew and asked for the recipe.)

This recipe serves four and takes me about an hour and fifteen minutes to prepare. I've also scaled it up to serve six people. I've added my comments to the original recipe, which can be found at 

Ingredients

- 1 & 1/2 to 2 pounds of boneless chuck cut into 1-inch to 1 1/2 inch chunks. (I use precut chunks of stew beef from Publix.)
- 2 cups of dashi or chicken stock, or water. I use dashi, which is a Japanese cooking stock. It is easy to make with Hondashi, a powder produced by Ajinomoto. For each cup of dashi, mix 1 tsp of Hondashi into 1 cup of boiling water. I bought the hondashi at Kim's Oriental Food, a local oriental store, but it is available on Amazon.
- 1/4 cup soy sauce
- 1/4 cup mirin, honey, or sugar. I used Kikkoman mirin purchased at Kim's Oriental Food. It is available at Publix and Whole Foods.
- 10 nickel-sized slices of ginger
- black pepper to taste
- 1 lemon
- 1 & 1/2 pounds of peeled butternut, pumpkin, or other winter squash or sweet potatoes. I used butternut squash. It was great.
- salt to taste

Preparation

1. In a large, nonstick skillet over medium heat, sear meat until nicely browned on one side - about 5 minutes. Transfer chunks into a medium-size casserole pan.

2. Add stock to the skillet, and cook over high heat, stirring and scraping until all the solids are integrated into the liquid. (This took me less than a minute.) Pour this liquid into the casserole and add the soy sauce, mirin, ginger, and a couple of grindings of pepper.

3. Peel the lemon and add the peel to the casserole. (I had never used lemon peel in a recipe, but I quickly found lots of videos on different ways to easily and properly peel lemons.) Now juice the lemon, but don't add the juice to the mixture yet.

4. Cover, and cook on top of stove (or in an oven at 350 degrees), maintaining a steady simmer. Stir after 30 minutes. Then check meat for tenderness every fifteen minutes after that. I only simmered the meat 45 minutes the first time. That was not long enough. The second time, an hour of simmering worked perfectly.

5. When the meat is nearly tender, stir in the squash and continue to cook until the squash is tender, but not mushy. Add salt if necessary. Then stir in the lemon juice. Serve.