Thursday, June 28, 2012

Cherry Risotto

Whenever I visit my parents, my mom asks that I make up some risotto. So, after finishing dinner one night, I asked what kind of risotto the two of them wanted. Since mom had just bought some cherries, I suggested a savory cherry risotto. I figured the challenge of using cherries to make a savory dish would be a fun experiment, and that if I could make it work then it would be a great side for poultry.

4 cups low sodium chicken broth
1 tsp rosemary (half for broth, half on cherry/mushrooms)
½ tsp. ground white peppercorns
¼ tsp thyme
¼ tsp cinnamon
1/8 tsp chili powder
1 tsp orange zest
Pinch of nutmeg
4 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups cherries, seeded and halved
1½  cup sliced mushrooms
pinch of salt 
½ half an onion, cut into slivers 
¾ cup white wine 
  cup risotto
½ cup of arugula, chopped finely

  • Place a pot over medium heat.  Pour in broth and add all the spices (1/2 tsp rosemary, thyme, chili, peppercorns, cinnamon, and nutmeg) and orange zest.  Bring to a boil then reduce to a simmer. 
  • In a large pan over medium heat, sauté cherries in 1 tablespoon of the olive oil for 3 minutes.  Then, remove cherries, add three more tablespoons of olive oil and sauté  mushrooms.  When mushrooms are lightly brown, add the cherries back and pour in ¼ cup of white wine.  Sauté for about 5 minutes, or until most of the wine is cooked off.  Remove mushrooms and cherries to a bowl and season with 1/2 tsp of rosemary and a pinch of salt. 

  • In the same pan, add 2 tablespoons of butter and add onions.   Cook until brown and wilted (not quite fully caramelized, but close).  Then, add the risotto and stir until the grain is translucent, except for a white dot in the center (about 5 minutes).  Add the 1/2 cup of wine and stir until completely absorbed.  Add a ladleful of stock, stirring continually.  Wait until the stock is completely absorbed before adding another ladleful.  Continue to keep adding broth a ladleful at a time, only adding more once the broth is absorbed.  It should take about 20 minutes or more to get the risotto tender.  
  • When the risotto is soft and you have added all but the last ½ cup of broth, add the cherries and mushrooms.  Cover with a lid and let finish over a low heat for about 5 minutes.  When you are ready to serve, add the rest of the broth, a small pad of butter, and top with toasted almonds or goat cheese.   
    Created with photobucket slideshow.

Print Friendly and PDF

Monday, June 25, 2012

Jazz in June

In the month of June if you happen to be walking around Downtown Lincoln on a Tuesday night, you will find yourself in the middle of quite a music, people, and food filled event called "Jazz in June."  The website for Jazz in June says it is more than just a tradition, "it's a summer standard."   Judging from the large crowd and lawn packed with picnic blankets and collapsible chairs, I'd say Lincoln agrees with that statement.

Although I wish I knew enough of Jazz to speak with intelligence about the music, scene, and band, I'll stick with what I know--food.

Even if Jazz isn't your thing, come for the food.  I haven't had much of a chance to check out the portable food stall life of Lincoln's fairs, events, or outdoor shindigs, so coming to Jazz in June and seeing what types of culinary caravans show up was quite exciting.   The types of food carts that showed up to Jazz in June represent quite a smattering of food niches.
 For snacks, Stahl's Cotton Candy makes up freshly spun cotton candy.  Pop Art serves frozen popsicles, and the sounds of small popcorn explosions and the scent of butter and sugar wafts from Golden Kernel Kettlecorn.  Then, on the savory side, you can sample some of the 36 flavors of Smoky Gun's Jerky.  I tried the Honey Bourbon and it made my taste buds really happy.

For refreshment, you can try refreshing fruit drinks from Aloha Tea Room or get a bright smoothie made by Great Harvest Bread Co.  I went with what to me was the only logical route, a $1 glass of home-brewed root beer from the Root Beer Guy, aka David Stajner.  It has lots of vanilla, is nice and sweet, and is a great summer refreshment.

Nibbles and drinks aside, choosing a main course is hard when the selection is so wide and intriguing.  I was tempted by Greek fare at the Parthenon, crab rangoon from Manilla Bay, or "bombay sliders" made by Aloha Tea Room; all sounded intriguing.  Or, I could have had pizza from a portable wood-fire grill courtesy of Rolling Fire.  A  portable wood-fire grill, that is pretty unique.  After a couple investigative laps around the carts, two food options begged to be sampled. 

Food Stand Tasting #1: Shongaezee’s Native American Grill
Dough being tossed about in a deep frier will almost always catch my attention.  Who could be immune to such a combination?  Then, couple frybread with options of hot dog, taco, or burgers seems to take everything you love about fair food and put it in one ridiculously compelling taste argument. 

I have never heard of Native American Frybread.  So, this was a little food lesson for me.  According to the "Native American Frybread 101" poster on the stall, frybread came about from reservation living. The common rations where foods like flour, cheese, and lard.  So, frybread served a good use of those materials by frying discs of bread in lard.  Frybread isn't fried in lard anymore, but the recipe and prep have remained the same.
After snooping for a while to see what frybread option looked tastiest, Dennis and I went with the Native Burger: frybread, hamburger, lettuce, tomato, and cheese.  Frybread itself reminds you almost immediately of a doughnut.  It isn't sweet, but that combination of crunchy outside crust and ridiculously soft inside is exactly like a doughnut.  So, the experience of the Native Burger is like eating a hamburger on a savory doughnut.

In other words, heavenly.  The best part is the bit at the end when all the mustard and ketchup has run to the bottom and been soaked up by the bread.   

Food Stand Tasting #2: Daffodil Gourmet Catering
It is a rare thing to find Persian food in places other than metropolitan cities.  I've only had Persian once and that was in a trip to L.A.  It is a unique branch of food that isn't quite Greek, isn't quite Lebanese, and isn't quite Indian; instead, it is concoction of all three.  The dish I had in L.A. was Khoresht Fesenjan, a stew of pomegranate and walnut, and it was incredibly unique in flavor and texture.

Since I can always get Indian and Mediterranean, it seemed silly to pass up a chance at Persian.  After trying the food, I'd say that nobody should miss the chance to try Daffodil's food.  Dennis and I split a dolma, spinach pie, and a kotlet (a meat, onion, and potato patty).  The dolma has a hint of cinnamon and spice and so stands out from its tarter Greek counterparts.  The kotlet was moist and flavorful and worth eating repeatedly.  But, the spinach pie was the best.  So wonderful flaky and with a smooth spinach inside that was just what you want a spinach filling to be with the right balance of spinach, cheese, and seasoning.  I don't think you could go wrong with any of the items, but the spinach pie is a must. 

June 26th is your last chance to check-out the Jazz in June scene.  So, bring a blanket, sample some food, and have a great night of enjoying some jazz with friends. 

Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Pho Nguyen

On the day I set aside to try out Pho Nguyen, I arrived after the restaurant had closed.  And, since I am leaving town today, I won't get a chance to complete my Pho Tour with you until later.  

So, I've set aside this posting space to review Pho Nguyen.  Check back in early July to hear how my Pho Tour of Lincoln, NE, ends.  

Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, June 10, 2012

Green Papaya

 Next up on the Vietnamese food tour is Green Papaya.  Green Papaya was actually recommended to me when I first moved to Lincoln, but it took me a while to get around to trying it.  More recently, I was reminded that I need to go there and try their food when someone told me that they'll serve a whole shrimp (head and all) on one of their soups.  That clinched it for me as a must try place.

Green Papaya's menu offers a similar fare to Vung-Tao.  There are several Bubble Tea options, banh mi sandwiches, pho, other noodle soups, and rice noodle bowls.    There are also other fun drink options like Pennywort Drink, espresso, and ca phe sua da, or espresso coffee with condensed milk.  Two of the people I was eating with ordered the espresso and condensed milk, and it looked like fun.  You get a little metal container with the grounds and then you pass water through to make your own espresso at the table.
I got the Taro bubble tea.  I had sweet potato bubble tea in Korea and thought it was one of best bubble tea flavors I'd found.  I had heard that taro is supposedly the same thing; but, Taro was a little sweeter, almost marshmallow like, than sweet potato.  Even though it wasn't quite what I thought it would be, I still loved it.  The bubbles weren't at all stale and were squishy and chewy like they should be.   

For an entree, I should have made it a fair comparison to Vung-Tao by getting Green Papaya's pho. But, I was more in a seafood mood, so I went with the Special Rice Noodles with Crab, Shrimp, and Pork. It was  fantastic.  The broth was the rich, velvety quality you want from good stock, and the crab gave it a faint sweetness.  The meat was tasty, the shrimp really good (although there were only a few), and the crab (although imitation) a great vehicle for soaking up broth.
Dennis tried the Grilled Chicken with Egg Rolls bowl.  The egg rolls were unique with a hint of cinnamon and spice, and the chicken had a great flavor, but was a little dry.   I don't think he was that blown away, but his issues were what my issues with rice noodle bowls are.  They sound good, but are just kind of bland.  It is the only Vietnamese dish that I've come across that doesn't excite me.  I think it is because my noodle dishes from Asian restaurants usually have such full sauces, that rice noodle bowls just seem kind of straight forward in comparison; Plus, I also end up comparing it with all the flavor and nuance that you find in pho, which I will chose over rice noodle bowls any day.  

Between the tastier soup and fresher bubble tea, Green Papaya made a better impression.   

Print Friendly and PDF

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Vung-Tau Deli

Vung-Tau Deli was the first stop on my Pho tour.  I drive by it all the time on my way to work and with every pass was increasing curious as to what a Vietnamese Deli entailed.  I also saw a sign for Bubble Tea, and I can't pass up a place with Bubble Tea.

I went for lunch on a Wednesday and the place was really well trafficked.  When I mentioned this to the waiter, he said that this was actually a slower day.  The place has about ten tables and those were rarely empty for long; so, if that is a slow day, I can't imagine the turnover of a regular day.

In overhearing the conversations at other tables (yes, I eavesdrop when eating on my own), I heard lots of oohs, aahs, and praises.  One table had three 20-somethings and one of them was orienting the other two on Vietnamese food, bubble tea, and how to eat the noodle bowls.  Another table contained four people visiting from Texas who liked the place so much that they had come two days in a row.

Over all the tables, the most common dish being eaten appeared to be a noodle bowl with pork and slices of small fried egg rolls.  I was going to try a banh mi, but they were out.  So, instead, I got a bowl of pho and a lychee bubble tea.

The lychee part was great; but, the bubbles were a little stale.  The bubbles weren't that jelly, squishy, and chewy texture so essential to bubble tea; instead, they were a little frozen tasting and a little hard.  I do give them props for offering lots of great bubble tea flavors, including durian, which I was a little too scared to try.  I'm working up to trying durian, but it is taking some mental prep.
As for the pho, I also wasn't completely blown away.  They don't offer tofu as a pho option and tofu is my favorite topper; it soaks up all the broth and becomes a little pho flavor explosion when you eat it.  Instead, I got slices of beef, which were good, but just not as fun as tofu.  The broth itself had a nice richness, but was really cinnamon strong.  Instead of a subtle warmth, you got all the aroma and taste of the cinnamon, making the pho a little sweet.

In this experience, I have a pretty strong disjoint between my own impressions and the positive reactions of others.  So, I think it sort of comes down to preference.  The other customers and Urbanspoon reviews give Vung-Tau a lot of high praise.  Plus, the waiter, who must also help run the place, was really friendly and nice.  He knew lots of the people who came in, suggesting that Vung-Tau has a strong following.  I was really impressed by how many names he knew, how often he remembered what they liked to order, and how well he picked up on small clues.  Those qualities alone speak to a restaurant you would like to keep going to. 

As for the food, I think I would go back and try the banh mi or a noodle bowl; but, as a far as the pho, I'd keep looking. 

Vung Tau Restaurant on Urbanspoon

Print Friendly and PDF

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Lincoln’s Pho Food Fight

Click Here for the Image Source Site
As I mentioned in my first “Ethnic Side of Lincoln” blog post, Lincoln has quite a large Vietnamese population.  The population is so sizable that in applying for a public library position, one of the application questions is if you speak Spanish, Russian, or Vietnamese.  

The prevalence of Vietnamese food in Lincoln makes me super happy.  The bulk of my Vietnamese food experiences have come from my friend Kathy's mother.  Kathy's mom loves to feed me and I love to eat her cooking.  When she found out I was moving to Lincoln, she was worried about where I was going to get Vietnamese food.  So, I am pleased to report to her that there is lots of tasty Vietnamese food to be had here, and I am slowly but surely trying it all out.   

The bulk of the Vietnamese restaurants are on North 27th Street.  Within 1/2 a mile, there are about three Vietnamese restaurants, and that is not counting the Vietnamese/Chinese duos.  Traveling north on 27th, you hit Pho Nyugen, Vung-Tau Deli, and Green Papaya.  There is a fourth restaurant, Pho Factory, which is coming soon, making North 27th fairly pho centric. 

Over the next week or so, I'll give you a three post series giving the pros and cons of each.  This way, you’ll know where to go for the best Vietnamese and Pho in Lincoln.

Print Friendly and PDF
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...


Copyright © 2011 KM Robbins. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without permission. All rights reserved.
Blogging tips