Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Baked Tofu Stir Fry

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know I love a good homemade stir fry. You probably also know I love tofu. And, luckily, Nate is a good sport when it comes to eating tofu. He may not seek it out, but he'll always finish a plateful of tofu veggie stir fry.

We hadn't made stir fry in a long time, so we whipped up some for Sunday night's dinner. I loaded up on some good stir fry veggies at Outpost, getting a big handful of each kind. I also used some veggies we already had on hand: button mushrooms, sugar snap peas, green beans, red onion and red bell pepper.
I chopped up the veggies and stir fried them in the wok in peanut oil and jalapeno grapeseed oil until softened but still crisp.

For the tofu, I did something I've never done before, but have always wanted to try -- rather than pan frying the tofu like I usually do, I marinated it for a while and then baked it. I took a block of extra firm tofu, pressed it between two towels with books to take some of the water out and then cut it into cubes. I mixed up a marinade of soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, sesame oil, garlic, cayenne pepper, ground black pepper and Sriracha and poured it over the tofu. I marinated it in the fridge for about an hour and then I baked it at 350 for about 45 minutes. Yum! The flavors were fantastic. I'll definitely do it again that way.

For the sauce, I got inspiration from one of my favorite food blogs, Iowa Girl Eats. Searching Kristin's recipes, I found a sweet and spicy peanut sauce. The sauce was simple and delicious, and forced me to buy a jar of chili garlic sauce. Yum!

For the sauce:
  • 3 Tbs chicken broth (I'd usually use veggie broth for a veggie meal, but we just happened to have ice cube-sized amounts of chicken broth)
  • 3 Tbs soy sauce
  • 1.5 Tbs chili garlic sauce
  • 1 Tbs peanut butter
  • 1 Tbs rice vinegar
  • dash of garlic powder, ground ginger, onion powder
  • 4 shakes of sesame oil
Microwave broth, soy sauce, peanut butter and chili garlic sauce for about 20 seconds. Whisk until peanut butter is smooth, then add in the rest of the ingredients. Whisk to combine.

When the veggies were ready and the tofu done, we mixed everything in the wok and poured the sauce on top and mixed well. I took Kristin's idea here, too, and added an egg, with a few drops of sesame oil, to the stir fry to make it into like a fried rice dish.

It was good, but I have to say, with all those flavors, you really couldn't even taste the egg.

We served the veggies, tofu and sauce on top of steamed brown rice. All in all, it was a great meal, and I would definitely make that sauce again.

Sunday, January 15, 2012

Restaurant Review: La Parihuela

How many people knew there was a Peruvian restaurant in West Allis? I certainly didn't until I saw a Groupon for La Parihuela a few months ago. I knew it was something I would want to try, as I've never had any Peruvian except for a plate of lomo saltado at Antigua about six months ago). So I purchased the $20 option to get one appetizer and two entrees during our visit.

We finally used the Groupon last Friday, just a week before it expired. The small restaurant, located on 90th and National Ave., was packed with people, and I assumed many of them also had Groupons to use up. Luckily, we snagged a booth that wasn't directly near the door, as the restaurant got pretty cold any time the door opened.

We started our meals with the two alcoholic beverages they serve. Nate ordered the beer, Cusqueña, which was a light beer and similar in taste to a Mexican Tecate and with a hint of lime. I had a pisco sour, which the waitress said was the national drink of Peru. It was really good, reminding me of a good margartia that wasn't too syrupy, but it got pretty sweet by the end of it.

For the appetizer, we ordered causa de pollo, which was a yellow potato puree seasoned with yellow chili powder, lime juice and olive oil, and then stuffed with what tasted like chicken salad -- cooked chicken with mayo. The entire dish was cold, which at first seemed odd, but it was really very good. Nate and I agreed it would be a good dish for a hot summer day. (Ugh, sorry for the silly picture -- I can't turn it!)

For meals, Nate ordered the ají de gallina. Translated, it means "chili pepper chicken," and the dish is made with shredded chicken in a creamy (not spicy) sauce, served with chopped pecans, potatoes and rice. It was really good -- the flavors were great and the flavors were fantastic.

I ordered the escabeche de pescado, which was a lightly fried fish under a mound of sauteed onions and served with a half a roasted potato and some white rice. It was good, but the piece of fish was relatively small, and I'm pretty sure the dish didn't come with the sweet potatoes, aji panea chili and red pepper it was supposed to. 

The service, unfortunately, wasn't that great, although I suspect it was because they were swamped with Grouponers and didn't plan for it. We weren't in a hurry, so it didn't matter too much, but we saw other tables in which two of the four diners received their meals about 15 minutes before the rest of the party, and a table of two sat at a dirty table, with no menus, for about 20 minutes. I'd definitely go back -- there are lots of things on the menu I'd like to try -- but I wouldn't go while they have a Groupon.  

The Soup Cookbook Everyone Should Own

I bought a copy of the Milwaukee Empty Bowls Cookbook from a friend at the December #MKEfoodies Cookies for Kids event. And I'm so glad I did.

First, proceeds from the $20 cookbook go to Milwaukee Empty Bowls, a nonprofit that "uses art to heighten hunger awareness and raise funds to help food pantries and meal programs in the Milwaukee area." The beautiful bowls are created by local potters, students and artists and are donated to the organization. Each year, on the second Saturday in October, the bowls are available for purchase and are meant to be filled with the wonderful soups available at the event.

Second, the cookbook is filled with wonderful recipes all from local chefs, restaurants and stores. And lucky for me, the book includes one of my favorite soups, which I always make sure I order when I'm at the restaurant.

I chose the chicken tortilla soup from Water Buffalo as my first recipe from the book. When ordered at the restaurant, this soup is always creamy without being rich, with the right amount of tender chunks of chicken and a hint of spice. 

The soup was souper (Sorry, had to!) easy to make and tasted pretty close to the real thing. I can't wait to make more from the cookbook!

Water Buffalo's Chicken Tortilla Soup 4-6 servings (We got closer to 4)
  • 6 Tbs (3/4 stick) of butter
  • 1 pound chicken tenderloins, cut in 1-inch pieces (we used a cooked rotisserie chicken)
  • 1/2 cup finely chopped onion
  • 1/2 teas. ground cumin
  • 1 teas. salt
  • 1/2 teas. pepper
  • 1/4 teas. dried oregano
  • 1/2 teas. cayenne pepper
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 3 cups chicken stock
  • 3/4 cup heaving whipping cream (I used 2% milk)
  • tortilla chips for garnish (we also used avocado and hot sauce for garnish)
In soup pot, melt butter, Add chicken and onion and cook over medium heat until chicken is no longer pink inside, about 5 or 6 minutes.

Add spices, then flour, and mix well. Cook, stirring for about 30 seconds. Stir in stock and bring to a full boil. Reduce heat and simmer 20 minutes. Stir in cream.

My Blog Promise Part 2

My new blog promise is that I promise not to make any more promises I'm likely not going to keep.

Remember back on Nov. 1 when I said I would blog twice a week and maybe once on the weekends? Yeah. Since then -- two and a half months ago -- I've blogged three times. So clearly I couldn't keep that promise, and I likely won't be able to keep another one like it.

But I will say that I've gotten the itch to blog again (in part because of some nice compliments and words of encouragement from friends and acquaintances, especially from those at the latest and greatest #MKEfoodies tweet up at Harbor House last week) and will plan on blogging when the mood suits me.

So without further ado, I present two new blog posts -- one from a fantastic new soup cookbook and the other a restaurant review.

Thanks for reading!