Sunday, November 28, 2010

Sun-dried Tomato Alfredo Pasta

Pasta is almost always my default ingredient when I don't know what I want to eat for dinner.  It can be a really dressed up or simply tossed with olive oil, chili pepper flakes, parsley and parm.  Sometimes I like to make an in-between effort.  I made this sun-dried alfredo pasta for a friend of mine who was visiting.  I started to make plain chicken alfredo but then spied a jar of sun-dried tomatoes.  I've used the Classico Sun-Dried Alfredo sauce before and really loved the flavor that the sun-dried tomatoes gave to the sauce.     I figured that creating a similar recipe from scratch wouldn't be too difficult. 

Sun-Dried Tomato Alfredo Pasta
8 oz of your favorite pasta
1 boneless skinless chicken breast
1 cup broccoli, chopped into bite-sized pieces
1/2 cup sun-dried tomatoes
1 tsp minced garlic
1 roma tomato, diced
1/2 cup freshly grated parmesan
1 pint heavy cream
1 tsp olive oil 
Boil a large pot of water.   Add chicken breast to water and boil until cooked.  Remove chicken from water.  Slice the chicken and set aside.  
Add pasta to the chicken water and cook according to directions on package.  In the last 3 minutes of the pasta cooking, add the broccoli to the pot.  Drain, but do not rinse.  
While the pasta is cooking, prepare the sauce.
In a large sauce pan, sautée the garlic and sun-dried tomatoes in olive oil over low heat for about 1 minute.  Blend the sun-dried tomatoes and garlic with the heavy cream until smooth.  Add the cream mixture back to the pan and turn heat up to medium.  Stir frequently until sauce barely starts to simmer, about 10-15 minutes.  Turn off heat.  Add the pasta, broccoli, diced tomatoes and chicken to the sauce and stir.  Add parmesan and toss thoroughly.  Serves 3-4.

Not exactly as quick and easy as the Classico sauce, but close enough and it was yummies.

Friday, August 13, 2010

Garden Pesto Grilled Chicken

Since my herb garden has been growing out of control, I decided that the most logical thing would to make homemade pesto.  After all, that's why people plant fresh herb gardens, right?

Garden Pesto
about 3/4 cup basil  
3 sprigs marjarom  
2 sprigs lemon thyme
splash of raspberry vinegar
dash of sea salt
olive oil

Rinse all the herbs and put them in a blender/food processor, I used my handy handheld stick blender (I love that thing!).  Add just enough olive oil to cover half the herbs.  Blend until all the herbs are blended together into a paste.  Add the salt and raspberry vinegar.  Slowly drizzle in more olive oil by the tablespoonful and blend until you get a creamy consistency (like a creamy salad dressing).  And you've got pesto!  To store this, I froze individual pesto cubes in ice cube trays and then kept them in a freezer bag.

I marinated some skinless chicken thighs in the pesto for about 1 hour and then cooked them on the grill for dinner that night.  The meat got a good sear and was packed full of fresh herbalicous flavor.  Yums.  I love my little garden.

Garden Pesto Grilled Chicken Thighs

Monday, March 22, 2010

Classics Malt Shop

I was going through all my food photos and realized that I never did a post on the Classics Malt Shop, even though it's one of my go-to lunch spots.
This little gem is located in a food court on Midway Drive, next to Chase Bank.  Although their menu offers more exotic type burgers like ostrich and buffalo, it is not so overwhelming that it distracts from a good ol' fashioned regular beef burger with all the fixins.
I usually go for the Cheeseburger with fries and a regular soda.  Their shakes are also really good, made with real ice cream and can be a meal in itself.
The patty is well-done, but is juicy with the slice of American cheese melted right on.  The veggies and pickle are always crisp and fresh.  That all comes on a standard sesame bun.  The skin-on french fries are crispy and always hot.  Ketchup, mustard and mayo are available at the counter.  You can also ask for ranch dressing.  Nothing fancy, but just consistently good simple food and great service.
The place is family-owned and operated.  The guys who run the place are related to each other as brothers and cousins.  The chosen decor of the place reflects their love for classic cars.  Every now and again you'll see some mint condition classics in the parking lot.  Childhood pictures adorn the walls of this little place.  Try to guess who's who.  I always love this place because of the simplicity of the food, not to mention the warm and friendly service.  These guys make you feel like old friends everytime.
There's also more seating in the courtyard, which is surrounded on all sides by the other eateries in the food court.  And they ask if I want a free refill on my drink everytime as I get ready to leave.

Classic Malt Shop
3615 Midway Dr
Ste B

(between Fordham St & Kemper St)
San Diego, CA 92110
(619) 226-1600

Sunday, January 31, 2010


Last night VT and I decided to check out Petrushka, a new Eastern European restaurant that just opened up between Pomegranate and Dao Son last night before heading up to Stone Brewery for a birthday celebration.  There was a guy manning the skewers of meat on the grill outside of Pomegranate.  My tummy growled in response.  What a great advertising technique. There was a long wait for Pomegranate as we walked by.  We got seated as soon as we walked into Petrushka.
The decor is very rustic trendy with a warm, welcoming feel.  Artisan lamps at every table.  The menu hinted that Petrushka was somehow related to Pomegranate, which serves Georgian-Russian dishes.  There are plenty of good vegetarian options on the menu that sounded so good that even carnivores like me would enjoy with out missing the meat.  Main dishes ranged from $10-20.
Our server made sure we knew that this was a cash only establishment as he filled our water glasses, which looked like a smaller version of mason jars, with ice water and lemon wedges.  When I asked if they had a drink menu, he replied: "Yes, that is me."  All 30 selections of Eastern European beers, California wine and Australian Malbec was stored inside his head.  Or so he claims.  I was tempted to ask him to list all the beers from light to dark.  As this thought entered my head, he started naming all the countries of beers they had.  That list alone overwhelmed me.  I told him I liked dark beer.  He started his detective work to figure out how dark by asking me if I wanted something like a stout or a porter.  Obolon Okcauumobe, the 5.3% Ukranian beer he recommended to me had a sweet, caramel malt flavor.  I wonder where I can get a whole case of this.
VT got what I think is called the Balkan coffee.  It seems more like an espresso drink than just coffee.  It came in a cute little metal pitcher and she was brought a little espresso cup and saucer.  It had a hint of sweetness and wasn't as bitter as regular espresso.  Very yummies.
We munched on some sweet and dense darkly colored pieces of bread and a mini loaf of soft white roll with a crusty outside that came with herbed butter.
VT was going for a sliced steak dish, but got talked into the chicken special instead.  I ordered a chicken dish that I couldn't pronounce.  A different server delivered our food and I think that he might have given me VT's dish and vice versas.  I got a plate that consisted of two skewers of seasoned ground chicken with couscous, savory tomato sauce and slices of green bell peppers.  VT got a plate of pita bread w/ a piece of skinless boneless fried chicken thigh (?) and thick slices of roasted red bell peppers sitting on a mix of green peppers and onions.  VT thought her chicken could have used more seasoning.  Since the piece of chicken from her plate that I tried was cooked to a golden brown on the outside and juicy on the inside, I thought a little salt and pepper would have saved it.  Or maybe the idea was to put a little of everything on the pita bread so that the flavors would be mixed together.

My chicken skewers were very flavorful and moist.  The only other time that I've had couscous was when I tried to make it from a box.  What I made tasted like cardboard.  Petrushka's couscous was much better.  It was seasoned with what looked like finely chopped dill and cilantro.  I felt fine afterwards, which leads me to believe that I was wrong about my dill allergy.
After about my second bite, I realized that the menu description of my dish included roast red bell peppers.  I mentioned to VT that I think we might have gotten each other's dishes, but she rejected my theory.  Since I was happy with what I ended up getting, I didn't disagree with her.
When I asked for a box, I got a styrofoam container.  The menu boasted the restaurant's sustainable food policy and I had expected one of those biodegradable to-go containers.  Other than that, the food, service and atmosphere was great.  On our way back to the car, the guys manning the grill outside of Pomegranate asked us what we got and what we thought of the food.  I still have yet to try Pomegranate, but this is becoming my favorite block in this town.

2312 El Cajon Blvd.
(between Louisiana St & Texas St)
San Diego, CA 92104

Saturday, January 30, 2010

Mitch's Seafood

A couple of months ago, my boss treated me to lunch at Point Loma Seafood.  After lunch, we noticed Mitch's Seafood, located on the 1st floor of a 2-story building sitting by the water.  My boss and unofficial boss decided to treat me to lunch again this past week.  We decided to head over to Mitch's and found a whole lot of construction going on over there.  The building that houses Mitch's was also under construction.  Thankfully, they had a sign up saying that they were open during construction.  We went for an early lunch, so there were only 2 tables taken up when we walked in.  The menu is written on a chalkboard above the counter.  There is a decent selection of local beers on draft.  Too bad it was a work day.  There is a great view of the water and boats.  The girl at the counter was very nice and offered to answer any questions.  They had 3 different types of fishes on special: yellowtail, corvina and something else I can't recall.  I asked what corvina was and the girl said it was a mexican sea bass.  I was very close to ordering a grilled corvina fish taco, but then I spotted the calamari platter on the board.  My boss got the fish and chips and wasn't too impressed with the portion size.  There was 3 or 4 large pieces of fish in his order, which would be okay if you didn't compare his platter and mine.  Unofficial boss got 2 grilled yellowtail fish tacos.  Nice sized fillets that looked grilled to perfection. We ordered and paid at the counter and the girl brought the food to our table.  It looked great.  I love that they gave you a choice of batter fried or grilled fish for your tacos.  I always preferred a grilled fish taco.

My calamari platter was enormous and cooked perfectly.  Underneath all those crispy fried tentacles and tender rings, were crispy golden french fries.  The cocktail and tartar sauce didn't taste like they came out of a jar.  I couldn't decide which I liked more, so I alternated.  The homemade coleslaw was crunchy, not too soggy.  Though I could have used more acidity.  Not bad for $9.50.  I managed to finish off all of the calamari, but couldn't stuff more than a couple of pieces of fries.  This would be good to split with another person.  Oh, how I wish I could have ordered a beer to go along with this.  As it got closer to noon, construction workers and fishermen started drifting in for lunch.  Still, not as crowded as Point Loma Seafood.  The food came out within minutes of ordering and the prices were also great.  I definitely look forward to coming back.
Note: This place does not share the free parking lot with Point Loma Seafood.  There is an ACE parking lot in front (right across the street from Captain's Quarters).  The first 1/2 hour is free and then $1 per hour after that.  We only had to pay $1.  I can't wait to come back an try everything else on their menu board.

1403 Scott St
(between Fenelon St & Garrison St)
San Diego, CA 92106
(619) 222-8787

Tuesday, January 26, 2010


Checked out Acqua at the Mission Bay Hilton for Restaurant Week this season and I was pleasantly surprised.  I normally don't expect very much from a hotel restaurant.  Especially when my friend and I arrived to an almost empty restaurant with no host(ess) in sight.  Luckily, one of the other staff members noticed us standing there and took it upon himself to get us seated.  Once we were seated, things started to get rolling.  The gentleman who seated us came back with a basket of rolls and asked us to select from at least 3 different types.  I usually prefer having the bread basket left at the table, but not in this case.  My rosemary bread tasted like it was fresh out of the oven.  The butter was whipped and at the perfect temperature for spreading.  As soon as I finished the last bite of my roll, there he was again with the basket!  Each roll was warm and tasted oven fresh.
The server came over shortly after we were seated and set down our complimentary glasses of champagne, which was a little fruity and sweet.  Then returned with an amuse bouche, compliments of the chef.  Isn't it just so pretty!?!  The acidity from the drizzle of sauce balanced out perfectly with the saltiness of the generous piece of pancetta, sliver of beet and shaving of parmesan (?).  The apricot preserve that the red endive lettuce was sitting on provided just the right amount of sweetness when I picked it all up and ate it in one perfect bite.
One may argue that I was bribed and therefore can no longer be trusted.  To this, I say: Yeah, I can be bought.  But when the chef and kitchen puts this much effort into conceptualizing and then executing that perfect bite with a freebie, I get really excited thinking about the food that I'm actually paying for.  I mean, they set the bar pretty high with this first bite.
The empty tables started filling up by the time our appetizers arrived.  My friend gave me a taste of her 5-Spice Roasted Butternut Squash Soup.  It was very creamy with a hint of savory.  The generous pieces of lobster meat was served on the side for the diner to mix into the soup so that it would not sit in the hot soup and become tough and stringy.  I almost wished I had ordered that, until I tasted my perfectly cooked jumbo seared diver scallops.  The chantrelle mushrooms were cooked to a perfect crispiness.  I love crispy mushrooms.  I don't know what that foam is that's sitting on top, but I hardly noticed it.  Again, I love pancetta. 

My friend's filet mignon was so melt-in-your-mouth tender that it could be baby food.  Why can't all steaks be cooked like that?  WHY!?!?!  The chef recommended medium rare for my venison.  Note to self: Always order rare.  The general population might like their meat pink (or worse, well done to death).  I like my red meats red.  The acidity from the calvados sauce and the sweetness from the slices of grilled asian pear balanced out the gaminess of the venison with out covering it up.  I love gamey meats, alot of my friends don't.  I think if they had this, they could be converted.  I thought my sauteed spinach was too salty, but I always complain about too much salt when everyone else swears its perfectly seasoned.  The rosemary aroma also added a little something something to the taste of the meat with out really flavoring it.  I don't know how that happened, it just did.
Does my main course look really skimpy for a main course?  Well, I didn't photograph the bowl of spaetzle that came with my venison.  It was sauteed in butter to a nice golden brown.  It heated up wonderfully for my lunch the next day.  How was it you ask?  It was sauteed in butter, need I say more?
Have you ever been full but couldn't stop eating because what's in front of you is just too good for you to stop?  That's what happened when I got my crepe w/ vanilla gelato.  The marzipan filling was so addictive that I couldn't stop.  Anyone know where I can get a whole jar of this stuff?
Props to our server and the rest of the staff for always showing up exactly on our last bite to clear away the plates and making sure the kitchen fired the next dish at the exact perfect moment.  Each dish tasted like it was just cooked at that exact moment and we didn't have to wait in between each course.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Woking - Soy Sauce Noodles w/ Stir-fried Pea Sprouts

Soy Sauce Noodles with Stir-fried Pea Sprouts
My cast iron wok from the Wok Shop in San Francisco arrived last week.  I followed the instructions for seasoning before use.  I wiped the entire surface down with vegetable oil and 'baked' it in the oven at 250 and let it cool.  I repeated that process three times before I actually used the wok, just in case.  To test out my handy work, I decided to make stir-fried pea sprouts and soy sauce wok fried noodles.  Success!  No sticking whatsoever :o)

The wok kit came with a lid and wok ring.  The people at the Wok Shop decided to include a little recipe book and some accessories as well.  The metal spatula, bamboo spoons and wok cleaning brush are great extras.  But can anyone tell me what that little back scratcher-like thing is for?

Soy Sauce Noodles
2 rounds of dried egg noodles
3 tbsp soy sauce
1/2 tsp sugar
2 tsp rice vinegar
1 tsp sesame oil
3 tbsp vegetable or canola oil
1/4 cup minced green onions, green parts only
Cook noodles in boiling water for about 3 minutes, or until the noodles loosen from the 'nest' form.  Strain the noodles and rinse in cold water.  Leave the noodles in the strainer, we want all the excess water to drain away.

In a small bowl, mix the soy sauce, sesame oil, sugar and vinegar together until the sugar dissolves.  In a big bowl, toss the noodles and the sauce mixture together.
Heat wok.  Add oil once wok is hot.  Add the noodles and stir-fry for about 5 minutes.  Add the green onions and stir-fry for another minute.  Serve.  This is a common breakfast item in Hong Kong.

Stir-fried Pea Sprouts
1 bunch pea sprouts
1 tbsp garlic
2 tbsp olive oil
salt to taste
Heat wok. Add oil once wok is hot.  Stir-fry garlic and pea sprouts over med heat until sprouts are wilted.  Add salt to taste.  Serve.