Posts tagged dinner
Posts tagged dinner
Dinner at Devlin’s Country Bistro
As one of my parent’s favourite local dining spots, it is funny to me that I have really only been to Devlin’s one other time in recent history, when my parents took the husband and I out for dinner to celebrate our engagement (see here). Not living close to my family means that I miss out on some special occasions, and even those less formal occasions like a relaxing dinner out on a Friday night to a lovely spot like Devlin’s.
So when the husband and I went to visit my family one recent weekend (to celebrate my niece’s first birthday - see her amazing cake here), my parents asked if they could take us out to Devlin’s for a relaxing dinner, and to share some of their huge array of appetizers.
After spending some time settling into the cozy bar side of the restaurant and perusing their recently updated menu, we decided on a whole bunch of items to share, including (from top to bottom of my photos): their pasta special of the night, made into an appetizer-sized portion, which was seafood linguine with squid ink pasta; lamb lollipops with roasted garlic jus; another nightly special, the tuna tartare with in-house made chips for serving; Asian fried calamari; a personal pan pizza with anchovy, sundried tomato and basil; and turkey sliders done three ways. The food was, as demonstrated on our previous visit, fantastic, and it was so fun to be able to taste and share so many different items. I think my favourite dish of the night had to be the lamb lollipops: I’ve heard my parents talk about these for so long, I had been dying to try them, so it was delightful to finally sink my teeth into something so rich and meaty!
We all couldn’t resist sharing a dessert, and we managed to agree on the white mousse cake with fresh berries. It was the perfect way for all of us to end our dinner with a few bites of light and fluffy sweetness!
Weekend cooking project: tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant
I am a big planner. I like to know when things are going to happen down to specific dates, times, locations etc. I am habitual. And all of this applies to how I feel about my weekday work lunches!
As someone who brown-bags it for lunch most days, I like to prepare so that I’m not scrambling every morning to gather up something that is healthy and that I actually want to eat each and every day. I find that, with a little planning and preparation, a brown-bag lunch can be just as exciting as going out!
One of my favourite ways to make easy brown-bag lunches is to make my own frozen dinners of sorts. By making a big batch of stew and freezing it into individual portions, I make the ritual of preparing my work lunch each and every day easy and tasty. It also allows me to try recipes that the husband wouldn’t be interested in, like stews such as this tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant.
This stew is fantastic! If you’re looking for a hearty stew that is packed with veggies (and can be totally vegetarian if you like - I used chicken broth so mine is not vegetarian), this one will warm you up and fill your belly. I love the unique mixture of flavours and textures in this stew, from the slight hint of cinnamon and the raisins to the luxurious sundried tomatoes. I came across this stew on the fabulous Honeycomb blog, and modified it slightly. Click on my photo above to link to Honeycomb’s original recipe.
Tomato stew with farro and roasted eggplant - serves 4 as a main (large servings)
(Adapted from Honeycomb)
- 1/2 cup farro, cooked (I used PC Italian farro)
- 1 can (796 ml/28 oz) low-sodium or no salt added diced tomatoes
- 1 eggplant (approx. 1lb), chopped into bite-sized pieces
- 1 onion, chopped/diced
- 1 clove garlic, minced
- 1 can (540 ml/19 oz) low-sodium or no sodium chickpeas
- 1/2 lb carrots, quartered and chopped into small pieces
- 1/2 red bell pepper, diced
- 2 tbsp tomato paste
- 2 1/2 cups chicken broth
- 1/2 cup raisins
- 1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, chopped (use the ones packed in oil)
- 3/4 tsp cinnamon
- 1/4 tsp cracked black pepper
- 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
1.Get your eggplant roasting! Preheat your oven to 450 degrees. Chop eggplant into bite-sized pieces, toss with olive oil and roast for about 20 minutes.
2. Cook the farro according to your package’s directions. Set aside.
3. In a large pot heated on medium, add a splash of olive oil. Add onions, carrots and bell pepper. Cook until just slightly tender and the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add garlic, cooked eggplant, cinnamon and tomato paste and cook for a minute. Add canned tomatoes, using the liquid to scrape any burnt bits off the bottom of the pan. Next add your chicken broth, chickpeas, sundried tomatoes, raisins and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer for about 20 minutes or until carrots are tender.
4. Once the carrots are tender, add the 1 tsp of sugar and the cooked farro and stir. Enjoy!
Dinner at El Camino
It took me a long time to finally get my butt (and my appetite!) to El Camino to try the tacos that everyone has been raving about. I was sorry I waited so long!
El Camino is brought to you by Chef Matthew Carmichael, someone who has been making waves in the Ottawa restaurant scene for many years now. I first tasted his delicious talents at Sidedoor (see here), so I already knew I’d be a fan of El Camino.
I managed to only snap a photo of the plate of tacos I shared with some friends, but I also tried a few other items at El Camino. I started off the night with one of their cocktails: the pina colada. But this wasn’t your ordinary blender version, it was a silky, modern take on the classic drink with coconut crème, coconut water, agave nectar, lemon, pineapple juice and 2 oz cachaça rum. Garnished with a hunk of coconut, this was one of the best pina coladas I’ve ever had. But it didn’t come cheap at $15!
Before digging into the main event, the tacos, I tried a few of El Camino’s other menu items, including their in-house salsa, which was incredibly smoky and flavourful and comes served with tortilla chips. I also tried the tuna tartare crispy taco with queso and iceberg lettuce, which was a beautifully presented dish jam packed with fresh tuna. I think it was my favourite of the night! Last but not least, I tried three different kinds of tacos: the ox tongue, the pork, and the crispy fish. All three were pretty mind-blowing, but I have to say that the ox tongue was a new experience for me. It was very smoky and rich, and I loved every bite!
All in all, El Camino was a fantastic experience. Another great spot in Ottawa for excellent food and ambiance!
Sunday supper: spicy chunky beef chilli
I adore chili: it is one of my favourite hearty wintertime meals. It is a blast to experiment in the kitchen with different chili recipes as they can each be so different in terms of flavours yet very much the same in terms of components.
During a recent trip to Bulk Barn, I noticed that they had chipotle powder in the spice section, so I got some to try. I thought it would be a delicious new ingredient to try in my classic chili recipe. I was right - but it was spicy! I have used canned chipotle peppers in adobo sauce before, and I knew to play it safe and that a little goes a long way. But I was not so safe when adding the chipotle powder to my chili, and it packed a spicy punch! But along with the spicy kick comes a rich, smoky flavour that I love, so this was a resounding success. We also had a box of cornbread mix on hand so I made cornbread muffins to accompany our chili - a classic accompaniment!
Spicy chunky beef chili (my own recipe)
- 1 to 1 1/2 lb extra lean ground beef
- 1 bell pepper (colour of your choice), seeded and chopped
- 1 8 oz package mushrooms, cleaned and chopped or sliced
- 1 yellow onion, chopped
- 2 cloves garlic, minced
- 1/2 cup frozen corn
- 1/4-1/2 cup red wine
- 1 28 oz (796 ml) can diced tomatoes (or pureed tomatoes)
- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free black beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 19 oz (540 ml) can sodium free red kidney beans, drained and rinsed
- 1 tbsp chipotle powder
- 2 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- salt and pepper to taste
- garlic powder to taste
Make the spice mixture - mix all of the spices in a bowl and set aside.
Heat a large pot over medium-high heat. Add ground beef and cook until no longer pink. Add onion, bell pepper and mushrooms and cook until softened.
Add the garlic and the spice mixture and cook for about 30 seconds. Add the red wine (you can use this at any point during the cooking process to deglaze the pain if the meat and veggies start to stick), the tomatoes, the corn and all the beans. Simmer for 20 to 30 minutes.
Serve topped with shredded cheddar cheese, sour cream, cilantro, avocado and your other favourite chili toppings.
Weeknight supper: pasta bake
I don’t really have a recipe for this pasta: I tweak it a little bit each time that I make it so it always turns out a little bit differently. Basically, I gather whatever vegetables I have on hand (usually onions, bell pepper, mushrooms and broccoli) and meat (usually pork sausage or ground beef), and cook them together, throw in some passata (strained tomatoes), some dried herbs and other seasonings (garlic and red wine). When that has all come together, I toss it with some cooked pasta, then pour into a casserole dish. I top the whole thing with some cheese and bake it off until good and bubbly. This is comfort food at its best!
Grand opening of Panera Bread in Ottawa!
The husband and I visited Panera Bread last night for it’s grand opening in Ottawa. This is the very first location in our city, so we were very excited to see how it compared to the U.S. locations that we have visited over the years.
When we arrived, the line up was almost out the door! But the restaurant itself seemed less busy; most of the tables were unoccupied. I think most people were taking their food to go.
Our wait wasn’t too long, and we didn’t mind since we were just so happy to not have to drive over 2 hours to our nearest location. The husband ordered his tried and true favourite Panera meal, the bacon turkey bravo sandwich with the mac and cheese for his side. I opted to try two items that I have never tried, the Napa almond chicken salad sandwich and one of their brand new salads, the Mediterranean shrimp couscous salad. Both were delightful! The salad was incredibly fresh, with a mixture of spinach and romaine, and topped with lemon balsamic dressing, Panera’s “signature couscous blend,” sundried tomatoes, feta, olives and shrimp. I would order both again in a hearbeat!
We talked with a few of the employees both while waiting in line and while dining, and they explained that Panera is taking a new approach in their restaurants in terms of how the food is delivered. If you’re familiar with Panera’s current operating standard, you will know that, as the customer, you place your order at the cash, and you’re given a buzzer that advises you when you’re food is ready for pick up at the pick up counter. Panera’s new model (which they told us that they would soon be rolling out in their U.S. and all other restaurants) is that, after the customer orders, they are still given a buzzer and can go and sit down at a table (if dining in), and the food will be delivered by an employee right to your table. We were told that Panera feels this is what the customer wants and it will provide a more enjoyable experience. It also allows them to make a few subtle changes to the way they serve their food, such as serving the sandwiches on real porcelain/ceramic plates instead of the lightweight melamine plates.
We were pleased with the service: our food came very quickly and there was no confusion or mix-ups with our order. We are both looking forward to enjoying everything Panera has to offer, now close to home!
Weekend project: slow cooker ribs
I have achieved yet another first with my slow cooker: ribs! This is something that I have wanted to cook for a long time, but had not worked up the courage to do so. In fact, it took a push from the husband while at the grocery store for me to do it!
We were at our favourite grocery store, Farm Boy, doing our usual weekend grocery trip when the husband noticed that their pork back ribs were on sale. So we threw a couple of good sized packs in our cart and off we went!
We looked at a whole bunch of recipes online and ended up basically blending together quite a few recipes. Removing the silver skin (a thin layer of skin on the bone side of the ribs) was an interesting first time experience for me, but it came off quite easily. I’d recommend Googling this technique if you are not familiar with it as it is an important step in the preparation of ribs. We were very pleased with the result! The meat was fall-off-the-bone tender, and the seasonings were super delicious. We were quite proud for our first attempt!
Slow cooker bbq ribs (serves 2-4 with a side dish)
- 3 to 4 lbs pork back ribs (silver skin layer removed)
- 1 onion, chopped
- 1/2 bottle of beer (we used Bud Light Lime)
- 1 cup of your favourite bbq sauce (I like a smoky sauce)
For the dry rub
- 1 tbsp chilli powder
- 1 tbsp smoked paprika
- 1 tbsp garlic powder
- 1 tbsp dried oregano
- 1 tbsp freshly cracked pepper
- 1 tsp salt
Mix the spices for the dry rub together in a bowl. Using your hands, massage the spice rub into the ribs. You can do this either right before you cook the ribs or the night before.
Pour the beer and the onions into the bottom of the slow cooker. Place the ribs in the slow cooker standing upright, with the meaty side facing out.
Cook on low for about 6 hours. At this point, using a spoon or a basting brush, slather the ribs with the bbq sauce (if they won’t stand upright anymore, that’s ok, they can be laid down). Cook for another hour or two to let the flavours of the sauce soak in, and the meat is falling off the bone.
Weeknight supper: honey Dijon salmon with quinoa
It was one of those nights where the husband was craving a pizza and I was not, so I whipped up this delicious dinner for myself.
I constantly crave salmon. The flavour, the texture - everything about it is just so tasty. I topped my salmon fillet with a mixture of grainy Dijon mustard, honey and lemon juice, and baked it in the oven.
For the quinoa, this is one of my oldest and most favourite quinoa recipes, which has green onion and dried cranberries in it. It is similar to the recipe I posted here. I basically make different variations of the same quinoa salad depending on what I have in my fridge and pantry. Basically, this is my most perfect meal!
This is just one of the many incredible dishes that I shared with a few friends tonight at Supply and Demand. Beautiful, fresh raw albacore tuna crudo with lemon, truffle oil, puffed rice and cilantro. I could eat this every day for the rest of my life.
Dinner at Social
Every year for my birthday, the husband takes me out for a dinner of my choosing. This year, I chose Social!
Social isn’t one of the city’s hottest, newest restaurants or anything, but that’s why I chose it. It has been around since 2001, under the helm of numerous executive chefs, and I recently asked myself, why haven’t I tried Social? It must be doing something right if it has been around this long.
I’m sure the restaurant’s prime location on Sussex Drive in Ottawa’s Byward Market doesn’t hinder its success, nor does its extensive and unique dinner menu with ample choices for every appetite.
When it is my birthday, I go all out! I started off with an appetizer that appealed to my craving for surf and turf, and it did not disappoint! Three big sea scallops and one incredible hunk of jerk pork belly totally melted in my mouth. I savoured every.single.bite! The pureed sweet potato was like velvet on my tongue.
For my main, I had a difficult time making a decision, but, in the end, I went with the salmon, which is served with curry-flavoured smoked mussels, fingerling potatoes, roasted cauliflower and Marcona almonds. This is one of the most unique salmon dishes I have ever enjoyed (and I’ve eaten a LOT of salmon at restaurants). There were so many delightful textures and flavours at play: the softness of the fingerlings and the cauliflower; the crunch of the toasted almonds; and the smokiness of the mussels. All of this combined with the delicate and expertly cooked salmon: this was dinner perfection!
The husband ordered the burger, which comes topped with shredded beef short rib and havarti, and served with fries. He loved it - he even shared a bite or two with me, so I can corroborate his story!
Overall, we had a great experience at Social: the food, the service, the ambiance - everything was excellent. We wouldn’t hesitate to return.
Happy early birthday to me (at Social).
Dinner at Tennessy Willems
The husband and I finally made it to yet another place we’ve been wanting to try for some time. We were hungry for an early supper and decided to beat the rush at this hopping little restaurant in Hintonburg.
What interested me about TW is their support for local products, and the amount of work they do in-house to make their food the best that it can be. A great deal of what goes into their dishes is made in-house, like their double-smoked bacon (O.M.G.).
The husband and I decided to share a couple of mains, and he ordered the caesar salad to start. He really enjoyed the caesar, and I really enjoyed the giant hunks of double-smoked bacon and rich croutons that he kept feeding me bites of from his salad! The husband thought that it was an all-around solid caesar with fresh and delicious ingredients.
For our mains, we shared the Elmdale pizza (fire roasted tomato sauce, spicy Genoa salami, roasted red peppers, cremini mushrooms and fior di latte) and the mac n’ cheese (double-smoked bacon and mushrooms baked in a parmesan and cheddar tarragon sauce). We were both blown away by the mac n’ cheese: there is just something so incredibly rich about tarragon, bacon and mushrooms infused together with cheese and pasta! We have both tried a lot of different fancy restaurant mac n’cheeses, and we both agreed that this one tops our list!
We were also very pleased with the pizza - the toppings were ample and fresh, and the crust was light and fluffy. It is a very thin crust underneath which was unique and tasty, and made for a less heavy supper.
Overall, our experience at TW was great, and we will be back to try more of their delicious menu items!
Weeknight supper: spicy pork, red pepper and corn soup
I made this hearty and spicy soup forever ago - but I still wanted to share it with you!
Once again, I had great success with a recipe from Serious Eats. Their recipes are tried, tested and true! I made this soup exactly as directed except that I used red bell pepper instead of green bell pepper, and I used red wine vinegar instead of sherry (it is noted as an acceptable substitution in the notes for the recipe). This soup was fantastic - incredibly hearty and fulfilling, which was exactly what the husband and I needed during the recent cold spells in Ottawa. I will definitely make this soup again!
Click on my photo above to link to the recipe. Happy soup-making!
Happy Sunday! Homemade pizza night at our house.
Sunday supper: chicken with balsamic bell peppers
Recently, I decided that I was going to face my fear of pan-frying chicken and finishing cooking it in the oven. You might even call it a New Year’s resolution. You see, we don’t like to bbq in the winter: it is just too cold and too annoying to strap on your boots and put on your big coat and stand outside and freeze to death. This presents a problem as eating baked chicken breast gets really boring pretty quickly. Enter the pan-fry technique, which allows you to get a nice crisp, brown crust on your chicken (which, although not totally like bbq’d chicken, is along the same lines) while keeping it moist inside by finishing the cooking in the oven.
I felt better about facing this task after finding this recipe (click on my photo above to link to the recipe) on myrecipes.com. A little trick that I figured out for myself is to use chicken breast cutlets: the ones that I found at my local grocery store (Farm Boy) are about the same size as a regular chicken breast, but about half the thickness. This makes cooking the meat easy and safe since you don’t have to worry as much about cooking through a thick chicken breast.
The other great thing about this recipe is that the pan-seared chicken is then topped with bell peppers and onions that have been simmered with balsamic vinegar for for a delicious kick. I served the chicken with a side of whole wheat couscous spiked with herbes de provence, lemon juice and olive oil. This was one delicious healthy Sunday supper, and now I’m excited about trying this cooking technique again soon.