Simple Roasted Eggplant Spread (gf, v)

Hello! Happy New Year! And brr. Is it cold where you are? It’s cold cold in St. Louis. To combat the low temps and up oureggplant 3 veggie intake après holiday indulgence, I whipped up this roasted spread to nosh on last night. This spread-slash-dip can be slathered onto hunks of crusty bread, dipped with crackers (we used wholesome and hearty  Mary’s Gone Cracker), spread on a sandwich, dolloped onto soups, tossed with olive oil on pasta or rice, and so on. Great stuff to have around on cold, winter nights and snowbound days.

eggplant 1The roasted peppers and onion give a big flavor kick; you’ll find the spread hard to put down, which is a great thing when it comes to vegetables, amiright? It was all I could do to not eat the whole batch in one sitting. I enjoyed it hot out of the oven, chilled the next day with lunch, on a baked potato the next day, and at room temp as a dip- all delicious and the room temp option makes this wonderful picnic and party fare.  Oscar party fare, perhaps? ‘Tis [almost] the season!

SIMPLE ROASTED EGGPLANT SPREAD

Adapted from Ina Garten

Ingredients:

  • 1 medium eggplant, top discarded
  • 2 red bell peppers
  • 1 red onion, peeled
  • minced garlic cloves, to taste (at least 3), or a tablespoon already-roasted garlic cloves
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp kosher alt
  • 1/2 tsp cracked black pepper
  • 1 1/3 tbsp tomato paste

Directions:

Preheat your oven to 400. Cut the eggplant, red peppers, and red onion into large, 1-inch dice. In a large bowl, toss the veggies with the raw minced garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Turn out onto a baking sheet and roast for 45 minutes, stirring once halfway through. Your kitchen will smell freaking amazing.

imageWhen 45 minutes are up, add the veggie mix, tomato paste, and pre-roasted garlic, if using, to the bowl of a blender or food processor. Pulse a few times until pretty well combined. You want to leave this with some texture, so don’t completely purée it.

The dip was my pre-workout snack before a girl’s night preview of Core3, a new fitness option in St. Louis. Terribly, terribly fun stuff. Core3 blends TRX, RealRyder indoor cycling (the bikes that move laterally), and Surfset indoor surfing. Yes, indoor surfing! My arms, legs, and abs all felt it today and I’m pretty sure I smiled throughout the entire workout. I highly recommend trying Core3- another exhilarating way to beat the bitter winter temps. #cowabunga

January, schmanuary

January, schmanuary

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Field Trip: Sazerac Tuesday at Old Standard Fried Chicken

My friend Jen and I have established a fabulous ritual that all cocktail-minded women of the world should consider: Sazerac Tuesdays! Sazerac Tuesdays: the best thing to happen to work weeks since weekends. Basically, we meet at various St. Louis cocktail spots and restaurants on Tuesdays and order Sazeracs. It’s a great tradition and you should try it. You should try it every Tuesday.

not Monday, not Wednesday.... Sazerac Tuesday!

not Monday, not Wednesday…. Sazerac Tuesday!

Jen is my favorite souvenir from our trip to St. John earlier this year. Dave and I encountered Jen and boyfriend Anthony (aka The Skeptical Cardiologist: find his unbiased, evidence-based, heart-healthy musings here) at the Fatty Crab in Cruz Bay one night; we discovered they were also from the STL area and also discovered they’re lots of fun and pretty great all-around; they had us at “yes, of course we should order another round of picklebacks.” Great minds thinking alike in boozy paradise.

Upon returning to St. Louis, Jen and I have Sazerac-ed Gamlin Whiskey House, The Royale, Pastaria, and Old Standard Fried Chicken and have separately Sazerac-ed at Planter’s House and Taste. This city is big and has become a stellar place to have a stellar cocktail. There is much more Sazerac-ing to be done around St. Louis, and we’re just the women to do it.

someone's gotta do it

here we come to save the daaaay!

Our most recent ST spot was Old Standard Fried Chicken. Old Standard is the brainchild of Ben Poremba, Tower Grove food wizard who brought Elaia, Olio, and Choquette to our fair city. The small restaurant, housed in what used to be a police stable on Tower Grove Avenue, showcases well-executed  fried chicken and an impressive selection of American whiskies. Poremba brings in his chickens from Miller Poultry in Orland, Indiana, a natural and humane poultry farm I envision to be not unlike the one in Portlandia (“Is it local?” “Yes, this is the chicken you’ll be enjoying tonight. His name was Colin, here are his papers…”). They’re fed an all-vegetarian diet and are hormone and antibiotic free. The chickens also vote in every election, support urban farming, and don’t vaccinate their children.

before Poremba, courtesy Google street view… after Poremba, photo credit Feast Magazine

After being brined and cooked in a pressure fryer to ensure consistency, Old Standard’s ethically raised, finger licking chicken is available à la carte, a service option that should be available at every restaurant with fried chicken on its menu. Jen and I started with the biscuit and bread basket, which came with a flaky biscuit, a fluffy biscuit, two types of cornbread, and our choice of three butters or jams. We went with the lemon-honey and pistachio-mint butters and the stone fruits jam. The biscuits were flaky and fluffy as promised, and the pistachio-mint butter was a real standout- I slathered it on every bite of bread I took. At just $7, the basket was a steal with quality much higher than its price and a good amount of food for two people.

old standard 1We each ordered a chicken leg, agreeing over our Sazeracs that dark meat trumps white meat, and split an order of skinny fries with blue cheese mayonnaise. I like eating with this girl because she’s not afraid to EAT FOOD. Butter? Yes. Dark meat? Yes yes. Blue cheese mayonnaise? Yes yes yes. YOLO, as the kids say. Our chicken legs and fries came out and my eyes, glittering with the reflection of drumsticks, had for once ordered appropriately for my stomach. Old Standard’s chicken legs are of a generous size, very juicy, not at all greasy, and have a slightly sweet flavor to it from the brine and possibly from the impeccable lifestyle they led before coming to Missouri. The fries were hot and crispy, the way Steak and Shake fries claim to be but never are, and the blue cheese mayonnaise- well,  how could blue cheese mayonnaise be bad?

old standard 3

To enjoy with the chicken and coming in just above my beloved pistachio-mint butter was another Better Than It Has To Be house-made condiment: Old Standard’s hot sauce. We ate at the bar and I was lucky enough to glimpse a nondescript but promising reddish-orange bottle behind the counter and requested that it be passed my way.  Good things come in unmarked squeeze bottles. Let me tell you: this stuff should be served at the door in shots. It’s perfectly balanced- spicy but not fiery, tangy but not a vinegar punch to the mouth, and quite literally made to be eaten with Old Standard’s fried chicken. I enjoyed my chicken leg in bliss, strategically exposing every nibble of crispy, meaty real estate onto which I could squeeze the hot sauce. If you go, please do yourself a favor and ask for it.

old standard 4

Lolo like-a da hot sauce

I suppose I should mention the Sazeracs since they got us here, didn’t they? They were great. You should go get one sometime. That’s all I have in the way of a Sazerac review- either they’re done well or they’re not, and OS didn’t mess around. In the way of beer, Urban Chestnut has an “Old Standard” pilsner on tap here- it’s quite tasty and pairs well with the chicken. Hints of honey, and it’s served in a stein (awesome). Anthony met us later in the night and was equally impressed by the chicken and by a side of braised red cabbage served in an individual cast-iron pot. On my next Old Standard visit, which I hope is sooner rather than later, I’m ordering the pickles, the boiled peanut hummus, and the greens (check out the rest of the creative yet authentically Southern menu here). It’s doubtful that anything on the Old Standard menu is less than outstanding; you owe it to yourself to check it out. Shoot, treat yo self. Maybe on a Tuesday… A Sazerac Tuesday.


Field Trip: St. Louis is Awesome & Russell’s On Macklind’s Post-Race Biscuits From Heaven

St. Louis sure gives its residents a lot of things to do. No matter what your interests are, if you’re motivated enough to leave the house you can find something fabulous within a 20-mile radius of the city to fill your day or weekend.  Case in point: I had the chance to race the Eads Bridge Duathlon last weekend, a run/bike/run spanning the iconic Eads Bridge to Illinois, then back to Missouri and up into the oft-ignored Old North City, all before lunch. What a cool thing to be able to wake up and do within the boundaries of my beloved city. Not bad, St. Louis, not bad at all.

eads bridgebarney

Dave was feeling under the weather that day so he didn’t race (he’s feeling better now —>), but he did accompany me to Russell’s Cafe on Macklind Avenue for a casual post-race lunch. I needed lots of good food and a 4 Hands Divided Sky Rye IPA; Russell’s had both of those things and is within walking distance for us, so trekking there was an easy decision. In lieu of posting a Russell’s restaurant review because I love the place and that’s my review, I’ll instead wax poetic about their breathtaking biscuits.

Breathtaking. Buttery. Crumbly. Layered. Fluffy, hot, and square. Served with house-made blackberry preserves, a small pot of good butter, and luscious local honey. We ordered the biscuits, available Saturdays and Sundays during brunch, on a whim. I’m sure glad we did. Russell’s does many things well (grilled sandwiches, kitchen sink salads, phenomenal baked goods); these biscuits were a revelation. You may be thinking that my amped-up appetite swayed me into loving them, but I can say with conviction and a clear mind that these were the best biscuits I’ve ever had. There. I said it. RUSSELL’S ON MACKLIND MAKES THE BEST BISCUITS I’VE EVER HAD.

Until lunch, I thought I’d had a good day because the race was so fun and I got to hang out with my honey. The day was actually made by these biscuits. Outside of the St. Louis area? Try your hand at my Kitchenaid buttermilk biscuits. If you’re around St. Louis and have a chance to swing by Russell’s on a weekend- the Macklind Mile is coming up, after all, another terrific St. Louis race- do yourself a solid and order a board of these biscuits. Slather them with butter and drizzle them with honey. They will not disappoint.



Takeout Fakeout: CBW Steamed Veggie Bowl with Quinoa (v, gf)

Crazy Bowls and Wraps. I love this place. Crazy Bowls is a fast food chain where you can get all kinds of tasty creations, as healthy or unhealthy as you’d like, vegan or full-on carnivore, stuffed into a wrap or served over grains as a bowl with your choice of sauce.  Crazy Bowls is mainly in Missouri and California with a smattering of stores in Illinois, which seemed like a weird combination to me, until I thought of what other amazing thing Missouri and California share: Brad Pitt. That’s right. Let’s take a moment of silence for the sustaining force that is the MO-CA symbiotic relationship. Thank you, universe, for Brad Pitt. And thank you, Crazy Bowls, for inexplicably branching out into Eastern Missouri.

bright and beautiful

bright and beautiful

There’s a Crazy Bowls location with a drive though just a few minutes from my office and it’s where I go on the rare days I go to work lunchless. My order is the same every time I go. Every time. “Hi, may I please have the stir-fried veggie bowl with quinoa, double veggies, Thai sauce, and an extra side of Thai sauce? Thanks.” And the total is always $8.00, which always stings and makes me feel lazy and wasteful since I know how to cook a %&$#@ bowl of veggies for gosh sakes and since I know the bowl would cost about $2.00 to make.

Well, guess what? Today, I broke the witchy spell that veggie bowl had on me! I made my order at home, and way more of it. I know the ingredients by heart and grabbed a pre-made peanut sauce at Whole Foods to simplify the process.

saucesMy homemade bowl absolutely hit the spot and with a healthy bonus- I steamed the veggies instead of stir-frying them. Mind: blown. Have you made your favorite to-go food at home? Was it as satisfying? Here’s mine- let me know what you think!

STEAMED VEGGIE BOWL WITH QUINOA

Ingredients:

  • 1/4 head green cabbage, cut into 1/4 inch ribbons
  • 1/4 head red cabbage, cut into 1/4 inch ribbons
  • 2 red bell peppers, cut into 1″ squares
  • 1 cup edamame
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1-2 cups quinoa, cooked according to package directions
  • bottled Thai peanut sauce or homemade sauce, ya showoff
  • Sriracha, for serving
  • optional: 1 cup kale, sliced into ribbons & 1 small zucchini, sliced into half moons (these are in the CBW bowl)

Directions:

You’re going to love this process- so easy and versatile! Chop all veggies. Put the quinoa on according to its package; as the quinoa cooks, set up a large pot and colander for steaming. Bring about 1/2 inch of water to boil in the pot, and add the veggies into the colander, with the carrots on bottom.

carrotsCover and cook about 10 minutes. Fluff the quinoa, spoon about 1/2 cup into bowls, then top with as many veggies as you’d like and some sauce.

eat up!

eat up!

Delicious! Meals like this will keep you young:


Follow allez! Gourmet On Twitter

bluebird5

Hey, folks! I’ve broken down and created a currently bare-boned twitter page, which I plan to use primarily for restaurant/grocery store/food news-and-industry-type posts. I’ll still post my recipes here, at the Allez! Gourmet homepage.

So! Follow me. Tell me what you’re eating. See what I’m eating. See what the people around me are eating and wonder why they ordered that, anyway. I can be found at @AllezGourmet.


BIG Summer Steak Salad with Easy Balsamic Vinaigrette (gf)

 

It’s HOT in Saint Louis. Close to 100 degrees hot, and actually entering triple-digits tomorrow. The heat has forced us outside (ironically), to grill quick meals and then run inside and eat them like hungry vampires in the safety of our cool, dark home.

yowza

I had a simple but phenomenal steak salad at Over/Under on Wash Ave last week, and began craving steak salad as soon as I’d polished off the last bite. We had a pretty active and busy weekend, and making a grilled steak salad at home seemed to fit the healthy, fast, craving-satisfaction bill. And I’ll be the first to admit that I’m one to eat and repeat (and repeat, and repeat) when I stumble across a meal that particularly hits the spot.

you look beautiful when you’re undressed

BIG SUMMER STEAK SALAD

For the salad. Ingredients:

  • 1 container Organic Girl Supergreens! or other bagged salad greens
  • 1- 1 1/2 lbs skirt steak
  • 1 tsp soy sauce
  • 1 tbsp canola oil
  • sprinkling of sugar
  • 1 red onion
  • 1 container NatureSweet Cherubs grape tomatoes- you can leave these whole
  • 1 cucumber, cut into chunks or slices (I like chunks)
  • 1 avocado, sliced
  • a handful of cilantro, washed and roughly chopped

Directions:

Preheat your grill to a medium-high setting. At room temperature, combine the canola oil, sugar, and soy, and spread over both sides of the flank steak. Let this sit and marinate while the grill heats up. Once hot, grill to desired doneness- I find that cheaper cuts like flank steak do well when cooked rare-to- medium rare, and always cut on the bias. Anyway, grill to your desired doneness (turning once) and let rest while you assemble the salad and dressing.

While the meat is resting, assemble the (prewashed!) greens in a pretty bowl. Slice the red onion, cut the cucumber, slice the avocado, and assemble all of those, along with the tomatoes, on top of your greens. Lovely!! If you’re a vegetarian, eat now!

delicious sans-steak

Meat eater or not, it’s time to make the dressing:

EASY BALSAMIC VINAIGRETTE

For the dressing. Ingredients:

  • 1/4 c balsamic vinegar
  • 3/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 tsp coarse ground mustard
  • large pinch salt
  • generous grinding of black pepper
  • 1 tsp dried parsley

Mix all ingredients except olive oil together in a small mixing bowl. Let sit for five minutes. Go feed the cat or pour yourself a glass of wine while this is sitting. When your wine has been poured, whisk in the olive oil in a slow, steady stream, emulsifying it into the dressing. This is a delicious salad topper, and can be kept for days at room temperature. Yay! You’ve saved yourself a step for tomorrow’s dinner!

whisk it good

Slice the rested flank steak across the grain, at a bias, the best you can. You’ll need a sharp knife for this, and a serrated knife may pull at the delicate graining of the meat. The point of cutting this way is to tenderize the steak- cutting on the bias, against the grain actually makes sliced meat more tender and palatable. Message!

Now- grab your favorite BIG Salad Bowl, assemble greens, top with veggies, then with avocado and steak. Serve!! Enjoy your summery meal!!

dinner is served


Field Trip: Duff’s

To explain my absence during the last week, I had the stomach flu. Not. Good. Sunday, I finally had the energy to have a (delightful) day among the living… and it included food! Joy of joys!
We started our day with brunch at Duff’s, in the Central West End neighborhood of St. Louis. Duff’s is the kind of spot that’s been around for decades, is upscale casual, and serves simple, straight-up, delicious food. And I was blown away by their wall art: mob movie quilts!!

20120212-130015.jpg

could this idea BE any better!?!

The quilts had descriptive panels sewn onto them: money on The Godfather, little guns on Scarface… so funny! And mob unrelated, but no less spectacular, the piece de résistance: the Priscilla, Queen of the Desert quilt!!

20120212-130208.jpg
The vivid colors and clever subject of these quilts really brightened my day, and so did my food. I stuck with something simple and had scrambled eggs, which came with fruit and a toasted English muffin. Nothing too spectacularly different, but a safe bet for my battered stomach. I also treated myself to a piece of cinnamon raisin French toast on the side, which was a great call. Duff’s also serves a very fragrant iced tea that’s worth trying on your next visit. Looking forward to the coming week, which will involve cooking and eating instead of yacking and sleeping! Appetite > Stomach Flu

20120212-130357.jpg

classic breakfast… I can eat again!!