Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Miami, Tacos and Blog Lies

JR and I spent the early part of this week in Miami, it was part birthday present, part "GET ME THE HECK OUT OF WINTER!" We flew down Saturday morning and were out by the pool sipping peach coconut pina coladas by noon!

I had never really spent any time in Miami before, but I knew the food was supposed to be great, so JR and I both did some reconnaissance before we went. By the time we got down there, we both had lists of recommended places to eat and the only restaurant on both lists was El Rancho Grande. It was of course a no-brainer, we had to go there to eat!

We started with the margaritas, which I heartily approved of, and then shared their guacamole and salsa with chips. I was thrilled because their salsa actually had a little zing to it, which I find to be rare in most restaurants.

I always order fajitas at Mexican restaurants, I love them and it's fun to compare. These were without a doubt some of the best. It wasn't anything fancy, but the seasoning of the chicken, steak, pepper and onions was awesome.

JR got the El Rancho Grande Taco Special which was a chicken taco, a beef taco and a pork taco. The soft taco shells were fresh and again the flavors were rocking. It was the perfect dinner before the NCAA mens basketball finals and we were both thrilled with the recommendations.

On the other end of the spectrum, we went to Wish at The Hotel. Their outdoor patio dining room was beautiful (the photos really don't do it justice.) I didn't do photos of the food, I forgot because I was too busy eating it. I ordered their heirloom tomato salad which blew me away because the tomatoes were August-delicious and it's only April!! I would pay tons of money for tomatoes like that this time of year!

For my meal I had the branzino, which was done perfectly on a bed of Israeli couscous with currants, onions and olives. JR had a scallops which were big, plump and tender. JR asked the host to take a photo of us, and then proceeded to tell him I was a "famous" food blogger and would write a rave review of the place. For that we got to go to their roof top bar (which was closed for the evening) and watch South Beach pass us by from above. It was so spectacular I might have JR lie about my blogging status more often!

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Easter + Passover = Eastover

This weekend is not only my birthday but it's also Easter AND Passover! JR and I spent Friday night out celebrating my birthday at Match (and had a wonderful time) and celebrated Easter and Passover together on Saturday with both our families. The weekend has been a wonderful, glutenous affair filled with friends and family, what more could a girl ask for?

For my birthday, my parents sent me 3 fancy blue cheeses from the Rogue Creamery in Oregon. They are really quite spectacular. My favorite is the Crater Lake Blue which is one of the sharpest and smoothest blue cheeses I have ever had. Their most famous blue, the Rogue River Blue has won all kinds of awards and also has a very distinctive flavor. JR's favorite was the Smokey Blue which is a smoked blue cheese that I can imagine will be amazing on burgers.

I spent Saturday making a Turkey and Eggplant Passover Lasagna. If you aren't familiar with Passover, it's the Jewish celebration of their exodus from Egypt (you know the story, it's the one about the 10 plagues and Moses parting the waters). During the week of Passover, you are only supposed to eat unleavened bread, which means matzo, a large flat cracker. This recipe is a fantastic Passover option, using egg soaked matzo instead of noodles and a delicious turkey, eggplant, mushroom, carrot, tomato and cinnamon filling. I changed up the recipe slightly, and my version is below.

My mother-in-law made lots of traditional Passover items including homemade Matzo ball soup and potato kugles. My favorite, and which I must learn how to make is her beef brisket. It's melt in your mouth tender and deliciously flavored. I managed to take a tupperware full of it home and today we made brisket and blue cheese sandwiches that were so good I cried over my last bite.

It was a delicious weekend and I think I need to run an extra mile every day this week!

Turkey and Eggplant Passover Lasagna


  • 2 pounds ground turkey
  • 2 tablespoons ground cinnamon, or to taste
  • 1/2 cup Olive oil
  • 2 medium onions, diced
  • 1 pounds fresh mushrooms (button, cremini, or shiitake), sliced
  • 1 bag julienne carrots
  • Kosher salt and fresh ground pepper, to taste
  • 1 large eggplants, peeled and diced
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves
  • 3 cloves garolic, minced
  • 10 thick, unbroken matzo crackers
  • 2 liquid egg cartons
  • 2 (15-ounce) cans tomato sauce
  • 1/8 cup honey
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
  2. In a large frying pan, brown ground turkey, approximately 10 minutes. Once brown, drain, then sprinkle 1 tablespoons of cinnamon onto mixture, and set aside.
  3. In another large frying pan, heat 1/8 cup olive oil and saute diced onions until browned. Add sliced mushrooms and carrots to onion mixture, and saute together with seasoning, pinch of salt and pepper, until cooked. Place cooked mixture in large bowl and set aside.
  4. Using the same frying pan (do not wash), add remaining 1/8 cup oil and saute with pinches of salt and pepper, diced eggplant and garlic, until soft. Add these ingredients to onions, mushrooms and carrots in the mixing bowl. Add minced parsley, salt, freshly ground pepper, and remaining 1 tablespoons of cinnamon.
  5. Add 1 can of tomato sauce to vegetable mixture. Combine browned turkey with vegetable mixture; adjust seasonings. Add 1/8-cup honey to taste, and set aside.
  6. Use 2 aluminum roasting pans, 1 for matzo-soaking process, and 1 for egg dipping process.
  7. Fill 1 large aluminum roasting pan halfway with almost boiling water. Add matzos, 1 at a time to this "bath" and soak until wet through, not falling apart, but pliable (10-20 seconds). Remove and lay on paper towels. Place more towels on top of matzos to soak up excess water, if necessary.
  8. Fill second large aluminum roasting pan with about 3 cartons of liquid eggs. (You will dip the softened matzos into egg mixture, 1 at a time as you layer.)
  9. Grease 1 (9-1/2 by 13 inch) glass baking dishes lightly with olive oil. Open remaining cans of tomato sauce, pour into mixing bowl, and set aside.
  10. Start layering in Pyrex baking dish. First with a thin amount of tomato sauce on bottom, then with 2 to 2 1/2 egg dipped matzos (these are used similarly to lasagna noodles), then with filling mixture, then several dollops of tomato sauce, continuing to repeat process until the baking dish uses 6 to 8 matzos. Finish with a layer of matzos brushed lightly with tomato sauce. (Note: the baking dish should have 3 matzo layers total.)
  11. Bake at 350 degrees F for 40 minutes, until top is firm and golden.