Friday, March 23, 2007

Cooking: Cous Cous Salad & Chicken Kebobs

I was stumped. To be creative or not to be.. that is the question. I had recently read on that he had invented a new recipe (Mimosa Braised Chicken). He was originally going to make orange soda chicken, but after much thought, he decided against it. I might try his recipe out sometime.

So, after being inspired by his creativity, I decided to try my hand at it as well. AND it ended up being a last minute idea. I thought about dinner after lunch and couldn't come up with anything. OK, so all of it might not be originally my idea since Justyn had been wanting to try this recipe out first. I stole it.

Justyn had this idea about making a cous cous salad which is basically cous cous mixed with Greek style salad. Since we had to go to Albertson's and after knowing they didn't have a good premixed Greek salad I made up my own. Let's see... the usual components that go into my favorite Greek salad are red bell peppers, tomatoes, feta cheese, red (I agree with Rachel Ray, they should be called purple onions) onions, some kind of lettuce (I used Romaine). The dressing for my salad would be the marinade I used for the asparagus (in my March 14th post).

Justyn was carrying the basket and by the time I was done gathering all the produce he said "Good God, do you need this much? It's a lot of vegetables!"

I said "You wanted salad right? I'm going all out!" (or something like that)

We got some pre-marinated chicken (lemon herb) from the meat section, grabbed the cheese and cous cous and checked out.

I prepped all the vegetation for the salad, cut the chicken in cubes and skewered them with some red onion and then cooked the cous cous with double the amount of butter (everthing's better with butter!). For the dressing, you just need to throw in the zest of one lemon, juice of two lemons, 1.5 tbsp of honey, chopped shallot, garlic, salt, pepper, and olive oil. Once the cous cous was done, I transferred it to a large tupperware and added the tomato, chopped red onion and bell pepper. I mixed that around until it was combined and added the feta cheese and lettuce. I mixed that until it was combined and then dressed it lightly with the dressing I had made. Easy peasy... In the meantime, Justyn cooked the chicken skewers.

Here's how it turned out. Justyn really liked it, although I thought the onion flavor was too overpowering. I had shallot in the dressing, salad & skewers. Next time I'll omit the shallot from the dressing and maybe saute the red onion for the salad first. For my first time being somewhat inventive, I was happy, but my mouth still tastes faintly of onion. Blech! Happy cooking everyone!

Review: Saizo

Yesterday, I was on yelp looking for a restaurant for lunch since I was bored. I stumbled upon Saizo which got high ratings on yelp so I decided to try it out. Justyn and I invited Angel along with us.
The restaurant is located in a strip mall on El Camino in Sunnyvale. Inside of the restaurant we were seated at a corner booth kind of set up. Along the wall on the right is a long wooden bench seat lined with pillows for seating comfort. We were immediately served green tea and water and perused the menu for eats.

I decided to be adventurous so I got the duck soba noodles and Justyn got beef katsudon (panko crusted deep fried beef over egg, onion & rice). Angel did the direct opposite of me by ordering beef teriyaki (be more daring come on!!). What suprised me was that the waitress asked Angel how she would like her beef cooked. I've never been to a Japanese restaurant where they ask you that. That's a good sign. Anyway, after five minutes of conversating we began to smell Justyn's egg for the beef katsudon being cooked. That led to conversation about who likes which part of the egg which I thought was wasteful. How do you eat one part of the egg and throw the other part out? Yeesh guys... tsk tsk.

Eventually, our entrees arrived. It was good.. the broth for my soba noodles had a lot of deep flavor in it. Slightly sweet, nice fresh taste from the scallions, good earthiness from the shiitake mushrooms.. Mmm.. I tasted a piece of Angel's beef teriyaki and it was good as well. Tender and juicy and sweet from the sauce. Justyn's beef katsudon was OK... it was weird. I'm used to having katsudon with a soy based sauce on top of the egg, but their was a BBQ like sauce squirted on top of the fried goodness. It was different, but good. I enjoyed my lunch and I'm sure the other two did as well. It was pretty quiet while we were eating since everyone was busy scarfing down their lunch except for the intermittent slurping of my noodles.

Price wise, I thought it was decent. It might be higher than what you're used to paying if you're eating fast food every other day. Our entrees were about $8-$10 each.
I'll give this place a 8.5 of 10 and I'd definitely go back to try their other dishes.
592 E El Camino Real
Sunnyvale, CA 94087
Phone: 408-733-7423

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

March 14th

Girls have Valentine's Day. We get chocolate, cute cards, stuffed animals, flowers, dinner... you know. The WORKS. But what do guys really get out of the holiday? Not really anything except the enjoyment of our company right? Yeah right. They get totally screwed on February 14th, so some genius came up with the idea for Steak & (I'm not saying it on here) Day. March 14th, the day when guys are the ones to be put up on a pedestal. On this day, I was supposed to make steak, but in my previous post, we were incredibly busy with work so Justyn wasn't able to celebrate it.

Last weekend, we were going to do it, but things just kept getting in the way. Enter yesterday... I finally got around to making the T-Bone steak, horseradish mashed potatoes w/ chives and grilled asparagus in a vinagrette (shallot, garlic, lemon zest, juice, honey & olive oil).

The yukon gold potatoes would take the longest so into a pot they went filled with cold water and on the stove to boil for 23 minutes. I then prepped the asparagus for grilling by snapping off the tough ends. I chopped up shallot and garlic, zested the lemon and extracted the juice. Those were added to the asparagus along with honey, olive oil, salt and pepper. I tossed to coat and let Justyn take care of the grilling. I then seasoned the steak. By the time I got done with all of that, the potatoes were ready to come out. I drained them and put them back in the pot for mashing. I added a couple generous scoops of sour cream, splash of milk and 2 tbsp of butter. I mashed those together until I got the right consistency and used a spoon to mix the chopped chives and wasabi.

OK, I know what you're thinking.. Wasabi?! Yes wasabi. I screwed up and got tube wasabi instead of horseradish. But you know what? It still turned out pretty tasty. So, after mixing all the ingrediants in with the potatoes, they were done. I set those on a warm burner and started to sear the steaks. I was generous with the pepper since I knew Justyn likes things over seasoned like that. The sear turned into a lovely deep brown color on both sides of the steak. I then popped them into the oven on 325 for 10 minutes to finish cooking while I prepared the topping for the steak. I sauted some sliced red onion and mushrooms until carmelized. I set the mixture aside and prepared the sauce by deglazing the pan with some brandy and let it reduce while scraping up all the fond. I added some beef broth and let that reduce by half. The splash of milk and blue cheese crumbles followed. I combined that into a soupy sauce consistency and waited until it formed into a nappe (which coated the back of the spoon nicely) - God I'm such a foodie now.

Time to serve. I removed the steaks from the oven, and plated.

Here's a shot of it:

I was careful to garnish with a couple chives, but I still feel like I could improve on presentation. In any case, it was delicious! The meat was tender and juicy at a medium rare. The potatoes were flavorful and the asparagus had a nutty taste from being charred on the grill. Mmm.... Justyn was a happy camper after that meal. Happy S&** Day lovely!

Monday, March 19, 2007

Review: Fiesta Del Mar

This week has not been very kind to Justyn and I. We've both been stressed out with work. Wednesday & Friday, Justyn was so busy that he had to stay at work a couple hours overtime and he still wasn't done with it. Since we carpool, I had to stay at work to wait for him to finish. Justyn felt bad about it so he took me out to dinner at Fiesta Del Mar. Whenever I go to a Mexican restaurant, I always get enchiladas. When I say "always" I mean ALWAYS. I love them that much.

When we sat down to order here's how our conversation went.

Me: I already know what I'm going to get.
Justyn: Enchiladas?
Me: Yep!
Justyn: Again? Why don't you try something different? Don't tell me, you're getting ground beef enchiladas aren't you?
Me: Actually.. no. I'm getting pork this time! Aren't you proud of me.

OK... I know you anal foodies out there are cringing at the thought of ground beef, but it makes some kind of sense as to why I like that kind of enchilada. You see, ground beef soaks up all of the different flavors from the sauce and seasoning. Carne asada and pork don't really do that. Well, it does, but not as much. At least in my opinion.

Anyway, so I ordered my pork enchiladas and also decided to get a margarita. I looove getting drinks to match with dinner. I don't know what it is about libations and food. Oh wait! Maybe it's because that's the way it's supposed to be. Just like wine pairings with good food. So, I order my drink and Justyn gets a tostada and taco. Wait.. rewind. So I ask the waiter to recommend a drink for me and he points at the one that's the most expensive. However, I didn't know it at the time. The margarita cost $9.50!! Ouch, but whatever. The waiter then asked if I was over 21. I jokingly said "no", which made him seriously suspicious. I showed him my license, but that still didn't convince him. He asked me to take my license out of my wallet so he could inspect further. Once he was convinced he apologized. I didn't mind. I thought I was being funny, but I guess not.

My margarita arrived soon after I ordered it. What did I think of it? Hmm, well for $9.50 I was hoping for a bigger serving. Here it is. You be the judge if it was worth it or not.

Oh yeah, the chips and salsa. Those were good. I was pleasantly suprised that the tomatillo salsa had a nice heat to it. Normally, that kind of salsa is not hot and at times sour. So that was good. I think my new favorite snack food are chips and salsa.

Service was good. Our entrees arrived within 10 minutes of us ordering. Flavor wise, it was delicious. My enchiladas were seasoned well and the beans (which I normally never get) were good too. I scarved down the enchilada, beans and rice but I couldn't finish the second one. Justyn devoured his taco & tostada quickly as well.

The atmosphere at Fiesta Del Mar was good. It's no wonder why they were rated as top 2006 places to eat by Wave magazine. I'm giving this place a 8.5 of 10.

Fiesta Del Mar
735 Villa St.
Mountain View, CA 94041

Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Another Indian Dinner has been a super inspirational website with easy but flavorful recipes. Tonight I made her Ginger Chili Shrimp ( So goood! Justyn said it was near perfect.

By the way, those limes are the driest I've ever seen. I barely got a tablespoon of juice out of them. WTF? It must've been from the recent freeze that has damaged our citrus.

Monday, March 5, 2007

Review: Vung Tau Restaurant

My sister's birthday is on the 6th, so we wanted to take her out to a restaurant for lunch. So many to choose from... but which one?? I went on to help me make a decision. At first I thought Manresa would be good, but then I realized how expensive it was. I had heard good things about Vung Tau Restaurant so I made reservations there.

Sunday morning I wake up totally hungover from the night before (no suprise there!), but I make myself get ready despite wanting to just stay in for the entire day. How can I pass up what would be some great food? So, we printed out directions and went to Bed Bath & Beyond to get my sister a cheese board. She had invited me over one day for cheese & meats snack. Unfortunately she didn't have a cheese board or any means of cutting the various cheeses & meats. I thought this would be the perfect present for her. We also ran to Diddams to get a nice bag & tissue paper (best and easiest way to wrap presents if you're in a hurry).

With the present in hand, we drove to Vung Tau per the directions on Eventually we would have to be on Santa Clara St. in Downtown San Jose. For some reason, the directions told us to exit on San Jose Intl Aiport/Mineta. Uhm... that was wrong. We ended up having to get back on 280 to 87. We drove all the way to 12th St. from Santa Clara St and eventually made it to the restaurant. My family & Bryant were already seated.

We decided to order family style, getting enough rice for everyone, 4 dishes & a soup. Here's what we ordered:

Appetizers: Banh Khot (Crisp rice flour cakes w/ shrimp & scallions, Served with mixed greens) & Tom Qua Tien (Crisp shrimp imperial rolls) - Verdict: I liked the shrimp rolls over the flour cakes. The flour cakes were a little on the bland side, but I later found out it was because I didn't add enough sauce. Really really good though.

Soup: Canh Chua Tom Thai / Do Bien (Thai style soup w/ shrimp, mushrooms, lemongrass, tomatoes, basil & seafood) - Verdict: Packed full of flavor! You can really taste the lemongrass and kaffir lime leaves in this. It was so good that as I finished my bowl of soup, I added some rice to get every last drop.

Dishes: Dia Suon Non Nuong (Grilled baby pork ribs marinated w/ lemongrass) Verdict: The meat was a little on the tough side, but the flavors more than made up for it.

Ca Tuyet Chien Thai Lan (Crisp seabass Thai style w/ chili, onions & Thai sauce) Verdict: Mmmmmmmmmmm, just thinking about it makes my stomach growl.

Bo Xao Can Ca (Beef wok tossed w/ tomatoes, celery, onions in an oyster & tomato sauce) Verdict: This was the only dish that was a let down. The veggies were cooked to a near pulp and the sauce had a weird flavor to it. Despite this, the dish was devoured quickly as well.

Tom The Rim Man (heh that sounds funny... Tiger Prawns carmelized w/ garlic, onion, fish sauce & black pepper) Verdict: Probably the highlight of the meal. The prawns were sweet and succulent and the flavors of the ingrediants really complimented the prawns well. Someone kill me now, I'm so hungry!

My dad and I wanted to get frogs legs, but we all agreed that this was already a lot of food. Next time for sure!

Dessert: Fried bananas with tapioca. This wasn't on the main menu, but it was recommended by our waiter. Verdict: Ugh... not good. Just... forgo dessert if you try this place. The bananas had a pink blush tint to it in the middle which we had no idea what it was. I took one bite and wanted to spit it out. Justyn lapped up the tapioca though. He loves that stuff, and I don't know why.

So overall? Really good! I give it a 10 of 10 which would be a first for my foodie blog. I'd go again and again just to try everything on the menu. The food came out extremely fast. Within 10 minutes of ordering, our dishes came out, one after the other. It's not really a gripe, but my mom did feel rushed as she was eating, but Justyn said it's probably because everything was so good. I agree! In fact, here's the aftermath of lunch.

Vung Tau Restaurant
535 E. Santa Clara St.
San Jose, CA 95112
Phone: 408-288-9055

Review: Spice Island Cafe

Spice Island Cafe. Ohhh.... what did you do to deserve the following review? We arrived there around 12:30 since I was held up talking to my boss about issues. It was busy, but we were seated promptly. Unfortunately, our table was right next to another.. and by "right next to", I mean like 6 inches away. WTF? Why not stagger the tables so you can't hear what the other table is saying? I dunno. We ordered an appetizer of poh piah (spring rolls filled with some nasty foul tasting stuff), lamb curry, okra with shrimp paste & coconut rice. OK, I was going to type a bunch of stuff about this place but I'm just going to tell it straight. This place was horrible. The lamb was tough, the okra was bland, the coconut rice was just that. AND I paid $35 for lunch. It was expensive and not good. Bah… At least you have pictures to look at.

Review: The Armenian Gourmet

Last week some time, we went to The Armenian Gourmet. I asked Justyn to mapquest it so that we'd know how to get there. When we arrived, we discovered that it was in the same shopping center as some of the restaurants we'd already been to. We took the long way there. Stupid... Anyway, we had gotten there early since we take early lunches. We were promptly greeted and seated. I had yelped the restaurant earlier which is incidently how I found the place and people had given their salad compliments. I got the Mr. Fields Salad which came with rice pilaf and a couple lamb kebobs (IIRC). Justyn ordered the combo platter. Presentation wise, not so good. My plate was piled high with salad which was very yummy. Who cares about looks when the food's delicious right? That's all I really need to say about this place. Justyn loved it.. I liked it. It wasn't pretentious. In fact it was comforting on a rainy day. The only thing that stuck out was that the clientel. There were a lot of older men that appeared to be VPs of companies. I ran into the ex-VP of Operations at Extreme Networks where I used to work. Back to the food, give it a try. It's very similar to Greek/Mediterranean cuisine. I give it a 9 of 10.
The Armenian Gourmet
929 E Duane Ave.
Sunnyvale, CA 94085
Phone: 408-732-3910