Monday, September 24, 2012

Austin Restaurant Week Review: Salty Sow

I had seen the name pop up a few times when it opened this summer but hadn't done much research. After seeing them on the list of Austin Restaurant Week participants, I had to check out what they were offering. Salty Sow's menu stood out to me far and away and I knew I wanted to make a visit! 

Located in East Austin on Manor street near Vivo and El Chile, Salty Sow is in a hip area and has a cool vibe inside and a large patio outside. I'll definitely be coming back for a cool fall evening happy hour soon to experience the patio.

One of my favorite things is that they had not only a $27 ARW menu, but also a $37. Both were three courses and looked delicious, so I figured I might as well try to the $27 menu since I have several more ARW visits in the next two weeks.

I started my meal with a ZenJen cocktail, starring gin and ginger liqueur - holy yum, this was so good I had to have two! I know the girls all really enjoyed their cocktails too, so I can't wait to come back and try more.

For starters, two of us had the beef hash with fried egg and veal jus (perfectly salty, a nice sized portion and a great start to the meal) and two of us had the goat cheese fritters (these were huge! Two nice slices of bread with fruit topping helped to cut the cheese). A very strong start on the appetizer front.

For dinner, three of us ordered the duck confit with sauteed greens and mushrooms. I always hesitate before ordering duck, because it can be TOO rich for my blood sometimes - this time it wasn't. Perfectly succulent and falling off the bone - I ate every last bite! My friend got the pork cheeks with grits which was to.die.for - wish I could've eaten both!

Dessert was nice and light - fresh berries glazed in Gran Marnier with freshly whipped cream.

Also as a bonus, some friendly diners sitting next to us had ordered the truffled parmesan fries that were part of the $37 menu and were kind enough to share after seeing how much we coveted them - AMAZING.

Will I come back? YES. Would I recommend their ARW menu to others? YES.

So, where will you be going for Austin Restaurant Week?

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Austin Restaurant Week is coming!

One of my favorite activities in Austin is 5 years old! The semi-annual Austin Restaurant Week is here again, starting this Sunday, 9/24. As always, it will run Sun-Thursday, for 2 consecutive weeks. What's to love? Let me count the ways:
  • It's a great way to try out a lot of dishes at restaurants you haven't tried yet (ARW offers 3 course menus for $27 or $37)
  • It's a good reminder to revisit your favorite restaurants
  •  Each ARW meal will donate $2 to Meals on Wheels
So here's what I want to know - where will you be dining for Austin Restaurant Week? What's on your wishlist? Here's mine!
  1. Andiamo Italiano - a reportedly awesome Italian spot that's just a mile from my house!
  2. Banger's Sausage House and Beer Garden -  just sounds like fun :)
  3. Olive and June - I lived just a few streets away from them when they first opened and have missed it terribly since we moved!
  4. Salty Sow - holy yum - truffle fries AND chocolate truffle cake on one menu? Yes please!
  5. Swift's Attic - I've been dying to try this place, and after sampling a few of their offerings at this week's ARW kick-off party, I can't wait to try more!

Delicious drinks at the bar. I had the paloma then switched to Hahn pinot noir - it paired well with all the passed apps!

Loved the ambiance. So different from what the space used to be - Kyoto.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Going bananas over pancakes

Luke and I love weekend breakfasts (as I explained in my sweet potato hash post), but they typically don't involve pancakes. Luke and I tend to enjoy more savory foods, but now that fall has hit, all bets are off when the high doesn't get past 84 degrees in Austin (woohoo!).

I don't know about you, but I have a sad pile of bananas in my freezer waiting for the day they will become banana bread. With just 2 people in the house, I don't often make banana bread since we can never seem to get through more than half a loaf. That's when inspiration struck and these pancakes were born. All together, this breakfast took at 15 minutes to make and cook!

Apologies for the lack of photo, we were in a rush and had to scarf these down!

Whole Wheat Banana Pancakes
Tweaked from this recipe by My Baking Addiction

Makes 6 pancakes (2 servings)

1/2 cup whole wheat flour (can use all-purpose flour here as well)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon cinnamon
Dash of salt
1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup milk

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 ripe banana, mashed (I thawed one that I had frozen overnight in the fridge)
1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon and salt. In a separate bowl, mix together egg, milk, vegetable oil, banana and vanilla.

Stir flour mixture into banana mixture; batter will be slightly lumpy.

Heat a griddle over medium high heat and spray with cooking spray. Pour or scoop the batter onto the griddle, using 1/4 cup for each pancake. Cook until pancakes are golden brown on both sides; serve hot.

Note, we topped ours with scoops of Justin's maple almond butter - my current obsession - and drizzles of maple syrup and honey. Do this if you want the most delicious breakfast ever :)

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

How to cook dried chickpeas

How many times have you breezed past the dried beans in the bulk section, not giving them another look? I can't even count. One of the perks of working so close to the team who does recipes for Whole Foods Market is that sometimes there are bonus ingredients from recipe testing in the communal kitchen. I saw the dried chickpeas innocently sitting there, overlooked for more than a week by my colleagues and thought to myself, I'm going to give this a try! I took them home and let them sit in my pantry for 2 weeks, intimidated and afraid. Finally, on a leisurely Sunday I bucked up and did a little research. It sounded surprisingly easy, and I figured I didn't have much to lose. 

The end result? AMAZING chickpeas. I didn't know what I was missing! Now of course, the canned variety are tasty and handy in a pinch, but I'm incorporating dried chickpeas into my regular rotation for sure.

How to cook dried chickpeas

1. Buy chickpeas (1/2 cup dried is usually good and I think will end up equating to a can). The fresher you can buy, the better as they tend to cook more evenly and end up tender. Buying them from the bulk section of a busy supermarket is your best bet since you can be sure they run through products faster.

2. Soak the chickpeas in cool water for 5-6 hours or overnight. 

3. Drain and lightly rinse the chickpeas.

4. Put the chickpeas in a small saucepan and cover with 1-2 inches of water. Add a teaspoon of salt.

5. Bring the chickpeas up to a boil then reduce to a simmer, and let cook for 1 hour.

6. Drain and use like you would canned chickpeas!

Bulgur and Chickpea Salad

1 cup bulgur
2 cups chickpeas 
1 lemon, zest and juice
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 ounces feta
6 leaves basil, chopped
Salt and pepper to taste

Bring 2 cups of water to a boil. Remove from heat and add bulgur and let sit 20 minutes. Drain any excess liquid.

Add bulgur to a medium bowl with chickpeas, lemon zest and juice, olive oil, feta and basil - toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Note that I served my portion over a bed of spinach with a handful of halved cherry tomatoes and a hard-boiled egg for a more complete dinner. It's great on its own, however, too!

Monday, September 10, 2012

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash

I'm officially declaring 2012 the year of breakfast - at least in our house. Weekday breakfasts have evolved for Luke and I, especially now as he starts grad school on top of a full-time job, so we are no longer able to eat together every morning while reading the paper. That helps make our weekend breakfasts that much sweeter. Now that we live up north and are further away from sassy brunch spots, we value and enjoy making elaborate breakfasts that much more. And while they usually aren't accompanied by unlimited mimosas (sigh!), it's just as much fun.

I'm determined to start cooking fall meals, even though as I'm writing this it's 104 degrees. This weekend ushered in cooler temps, and so with it, a cool-weather breakfast. Enjoy!

Sweet Potato and Black Bean Hash
Serves 4

2 pounds sweet potatoes, peeled and cut into 3/4-inch pieces
2 tablespoons olive oil - divided
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, seeded and chopped into 3/4-inch pieces
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon chipotle pepper powder
1 teaspoon paprika
1 can black beans, rinsed and drained
Bacon grease or canola oil
4 eggs

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Spread sweet potatoes on a baking sheet and drizzle with 1 tablespoon olive oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 35 to 40 minutes, flipping potatoes halfway through. Meanwhile, warm addition tablespoon of olive oil in a cast iron or nonstick skillet over medium low heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes, then add bell pepper and spices. Cook another 5 minutes until vegetables are softened. Stir in black beans and cook until warmed through. When potatoes are ready, add them to the cast iron and stir to combine. Taste and add additional salt and pepper as needed.

Heat a skillet over medium high heat and add 1 tablespoon grease. Fry eggs to desired doneness. Plate the sweet potato mixture and top with fried egg. Enjoy!