Basil Fest!

 

 

 

 

Put basil in just about anything and I will try it.  Kinda like bacon.  I think it’s got a place in both sweet and savory dishes from apps to desserts and this time of year I can’t get enough of it.

If you’re lucky, and you’ve been an attentive gardener this summer, right about now your basil is blowing up.  Fortunately for me, my blooming basil timed out with my favorite sous chef (my sister) spending some time in town.  We love spending time in the kitchen together.  And we love preparing big family feasts together.  She had a brilliant idea this go ’round: Basil Fest.  We picked as much as we could from my garden, my parents, and a neighbor and went to town!

basil harvest

I had a bucket full of bright, big, flawless green leaves to work with, so coming up with the menu wasn’t tough.  There were still plenty of fresh, juicy strawberries to be had and tomatoes are just starting to ripen around here.  So those, plus all of our basil harvested, and another neighbor’s fig tree were the inspiration for the menu.

basil fest menu

I started with the lemonade.  I love making home made lemonade!  It’s a few extra steps compared to dumping the powder and mixing it with water of course, but I think the fresh tasting results are worth it.  I used Paula Dean’s recipe for strawberry basil lemonade.   I halved it, since I didn’t have the time or energy to juice a whole bushel full of lemons, and it was easy and fabulous.  Bonus: makes a good mixer for cocktails, too!

strawberry basil lemonad

Next, I moved on to my panzanella.  I like to let mine sit for a while to soak up all the juices and really marinate.  This is where my Cheftovers magic comes into play.  Panzanella is a salad that combines bread (leftover or stale, preferred actually) and fresh veggies.  So I cut a handful of rolls we had left over from the previous weekend’s barbecue into cubes, and toasted them up in a pan.  Voila!  What would have been trash is now an essential component to my colorful salad.

IMG_8176

There are plenty of routes you can take with panzanella depending on your taste and what yo’ve got on hand.  I used fresh tomatoes, yellow and orange peppers, cucumbers, red onion and a ton of BASIL, naturally.  I tossed everything together and dressed it with a simple red wine vinegar and olive oil dressing (seasoned with only salt and pepper).  If they made a panzanella print I would wear it as a dress!  Isn’t it beautiful looking?

panzanella

I took more of those same leftover rolls and used those for the base of my bruschetta.   No surprise, more tomatoes and basil at play here.  But instead of finely chopping the garlic to add to that killer combo, or painstakingly shaving garlic and scraping the freshly cut cloves on to the toasted bread, I decided to finally break in my “brand new” mortar and pestle I scored from cookbook author, Michael Ruhlman’s estate sale.  By using that tool, I created a smooth garlic paste to mix in with the fresh basil (minced) and tomatoes (diced).  Drizzle that with olive oil and pile it on to toasted bread and you’ve got a bright, crunchy bite with a more gentle and evenly distributed garlic flavor that other methods will deliver.

 

Now it was time to move on to the real work-the pasta.  This is where my sister shines.  I have tried, and tried and listened and watched.  But my homemades never seem to turn out the way hers do.  So I let her go to town, making fresh noodles with the help of my 3 year old, a real chef in the making.  The only secret I can share that maybe you won’t find in other recipes: she pours white wine into the shell of the empty egg she uses for the dough and adds it to the mix.  It’s magic.

While those beautiful noodles rested, I made the pesto.  More BASIL! Lots more basil.  Recipe follows.  One trick that will help you keep your pesto that beautiful bright green of the leaves, and not brown from bruising them-add a little ice to the food processor!  And if you don’t keep pine nuts in your pantry (I usually don’t because they’re so expensive but for this dinner we were sticking to tradition) substitute almonds for a cheaper, super food solution.

pasta with pesto

When it was time to cook and toss the pasta in with the pesto, I warmed it up in a large pan, and loosened it up with some olive oil.  I added grilled chicken for some protein, but shrimp is nice with pesto too.  And be sure to sprinkle your pesto generously with some Parmesan or Romano.  While the pasta was cooking we sliced up the fresh buffalo mozzarella, and more juicy tomatoes then hand picked the prettiest and largest basil leaves left to top off our caprese salad. (BONUS: We learned a new hack from the cheese vendor where we bought the log of buffalo mozzarella-slice it with dental floss for a smooth even cut)

better caprese salad

This is an easy finish after you’ve sliced and stacked the components.  Just drizzle it with the best olive oil you’ve got and then top it with balsamic vinegar, or even better, balsamic glaze for a sweeter touch.  Season with salt and pepper to taste and let the flag of Italy inspired salad sing!

When we plated everything up it made for a stunning tablescape of BASIL centric dishes.  I set a nice table and we feasted on our hard work.

AND-we couldn’t forget dessert! Using a recipe from Fabio Viviani’s new cookbook (Fabio’s 30-Minute Italian) as inspiration, I combined ricotta, honey, mascarpone cheese and put a dollop of that on a freshly picked fig (halved), courtesy my parent’s neighbor.  Drizzle that with more of the balsamic glaze and top it with another perfectly petite basil leaf and you have a sweet and savory finish to Basil Fest.

Now you know there is more where that came from!  Still plenty more of my favorite herb growing in my garden.  So, inspire me!  What are you making with your basil? What should I try? 

Basil Pesto

1/2 c. Pine nuts (pignoli) or almonds
2 c. Loosely packed fresh basil
1 Clove of garlic
1/3 c Parmesan cheese (or Romano)
Juice from half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste (careful with the salt as the cheese is salty already)
1/2 c. Of olive oil

Add the nuts to the food processor first. Blend until they are crumbs.
Add everything else but the oil. Turn on the processor and slowly pour in the olive oil. Taste and adjust (you add more of anything you like to find the perfect balance)

 

 

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Cru Uncorked, a new fine dining destination in CLE

Who said white tablecloths were out? Not so. A new fine dining destination is pulling out all the stops to reassure Clevelanders, and visiting guests, that fine dining is not dead in our culinary crazy city. 


Perched at the corner of Chagrin Boulveard and SOM Center Road in Morland Hills, Cru Uncorked is a French New American restaurant five years in the making.  


The property itself is impressive even before you walk in the double doors to the entryway.  It’s made to look like a French Chateau inside and out, and it delivers.


Inside you’ll find four intimate and themed dining rooms, The Wine Cellar Room, The Terroir Room, The Winery Room and The Vineyard Room.  All are decorated slightly different to reflect a certain mood.  General Manager Billy Cutler tells me guests can choose the “scene” they’d like to dine in.  Some are decorated with original vineyard photography, or murals created from such photographs. 


The restaurant seats about 100, plus space for private events in a separate banquet room drenched in natural light in the afternoons.  There’s also a spacious and secluded patio in the back. Everywhere you walk you’re reminded of the time and care that went into creating this space.  


There are thoughtful details like the cedar lined ceiling of the lounge which makes you feel like you’re inside a wine barrel, and the antique grape gathering baskets affixed on the wall.  I was fascinated by the collection of vintage corkscrews, cheese knives and tastevins (small metal cups worn around their necks used instead of wine glasses to taste wine) displayed on the wall of The Wine Cellar Room.


Inside the spacious kitchen I was introduced to Executive Chef, John Stropki, who said it is an honor to be at the helm at such a place.  He was busying working through a dessert from the menu.  No pastry chef here, Stropk says.  He’s behind every item on the menu, which ranges from a burger to halibut and beautiful pasta options. Prices range from $26-$55.  But side dishes are included in the menu price for each dish.  Reps say they believe this makes them competitive in the local fine-dining scene, as a la carte side dishes can add an $15-18 more per entree.


Guests will also be able to choose from more than 200 wines from all over the world, thanks to their massive wine cellar with the capacity for 6,000 bottles.  And for a sweet finish to a meal, they have several dessert wine flights to choose from.


Cru Uncorked is preparing for top of the line service and exquisite meals for those who crave the finer things in life.  They’re accepting reservations now, ahead of their May 16th opening.  Bon Apetite! 

Plated Landscape Dinner Series at Spice Acres

Time to dig in to the spring and summer calendar and plant some ideas in your head about some great upcoming events at Spice Acres.  

The innovative and creative culinary minds behind Spice Kitchen and Bar, and Spice Acres have announced the dates and locations for their Plated Landscape Dinner Series.

Plated Landscapes are held at the farm occupied by the Bebenroth Family, Spice Acres, in the Cuyahoga Valley National Park, and at select family farms that supply their kitchen with local sustainable foods.

These communal dining experiences are the brain child of Chef/Founder/Farmer, Ben Bebenroth and started in 2006.

For the $150 ticket guests receive a welcoming cocktail and passed hor d’oeuvres, followed by a guided farm tour, and a five-course meal with expertly paired wines.  And the setting can’t be beat.

Photo Credit: Genevieve Nisly Photography

The 10 night series starts in late June and goes through October, although you don’t have to commit to the entire series, of course!  Go to one, or one each season!  Advance purchase required via Spice’s Eventbrite page.

Here is the complete list of events.

Ohio City Farm Urban Landscape Dinner: Friday, June 2

Spice Acres Late Spring Dinner: Thursday, June 29 and Friday, June 30

Yellow House Cheese Farm Dinner: Friday, July 28

Spice Acres Summer’s Bounty Dinner: Thursday, August 24 and Friday, August 25

Killbuck Valley Mushroom Farm Forage Dinner: Sunday, September 24 

Spice Acres Autumnal Harvest Dinner: Thursday, October 12 (VEGETARIAN) and Friday, October 13

Quarry Hill Orchards Apple Dinner: Friday, October 20

Photo Credit Genevieve Nisly Photography


And also in the fall Spice Acres has some really cool
family friendly farm events throughout the summer/fall – The best part? FREE admission!

Toasting of the Fields, May 21 – live music, lawn games, planting activities, food/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co.

Pizza + a Movie Night, July 14 – games + activities, movie screening in the barn, make your own pizza/drinks for purchase by Spice Catering Co. 

U-Pick flowers – $10/bouquet from 8-11am the first Saturday of the month (July-Oct). No registration needed.

I’m making a serious effort to eat closer to the earth this summer, expanding my own garden and shopping at farmers markets.  This event falls right in line with that.  I hope you’ll join me!   

Note: Photo credit for the feature/title image goes to Full Bloom Photography

A Celebration of Beef: MEATing of the Minds

I’ve eaten so much beef in the last week, that there is a serious chance I might actually turn in to cow.  But how do you turn down the kind of meals I’ve had of late? (Brazilian steak house, Ruth’s Chris VIP night for example). Two incredibly talented chefs and their teams put together a 7 course menu that would satisfy the most sophisticated foodie and the hungriest of cowboys.  Chefs David Kocab and Matt Mytro combined forces and creativity to put together a “Celebration of Beef,” part one of a two part partnership that puts Ohio beef on a pedestal.


The host for the first night was Restaurant Trentina, the University Circle location known for its innovative Menu Bianco, inspired by the Trentino region of Italy.  Mytro’s restaurant, Flour (Moreland Hills), will host part two.  The pair called it a tasting menu series, but the portions were more generous than your standard tasting meal (see the whole beef shin that came out family style to a table of just six!)


Before service began we were treated to beef charcuterie prepared by the in house chef for Certified Angus Beef Brand, Ashely Breneman.  Then the beef flood gates opened.


First course: Beef Tartare with smoked oysters, toasted yeast emulsion, and pickled radish.  Chef Kocab came out to the dining room to explain his first offering which used strip steak to put his spin on it.  It takes a brave stomach to start here, but I was all in.  And it was a great entry into this well known classic.


Second course: Beef Carpaccio with Nduja, bone marrow Laredo, lemon and shiso.  This was more bright and spicy than you would expect at first glance, and the perfect portion size.


Third course: Potato Gnocchi with pot roast, braised greens and ricotta salata.  This delivered that melt in your mouth flavor that you want from a comfort food that often gets a bad wrap from fine dining restaurants.  Not this time! This dish even made my kale-hating husband a believer in the super food.


Fourth course: Beefy Bucatini.  This dish fooled the eyes and the palate.  Chef Mytro said the mushroom bolognese didn’t actually contain any meat.  Instead they used mushrooms to provide the meaty mouth feel of a classic bolognese, and the pasta was cooked in beef broth to impart the beefy taste.  Genius.

Full yet? Yes, but that wasn’t stopping us.


Fifth course: Braised Beef Shin Peposo.  Made in their pizza oven, wrapped in a tender and tearable bread and served with an herb salad. This, to me, was the show stopper.  It was grand and impressive, served family style.  So. Damn. Good.


Sixth course: Short Rib with Farro, fermented tomato sugo and wood oven carrots.  I think I can count on one hand how many bites of vegetables I took during this meal.  #sorrynotsorry.  These carrots were a welcom respit from meat on meat on meat, as was the skillfully prepared faro.  But that’s not to take away from the short ribs which didn’t require a knife.


Seventh course: Bone Marrow Budino with ricotta cake, sour cream semifreddo and toffee. How do you incorporate beef into dessert? Make toffee with beef fat, of course! Flour’s pastry chef, Emily Laboue created a balanced sweet finish that incorporated the impossible (beef, as dessert) for a last course that even those of us who said we were stuffed, couldn’t help but finish.

Like what you’re reading?  Licking your lips?   You didn’t miss out. Round two of this Celebration of Beef is already on the calendar for May 1st, with a BRAND NEW MENU.  Call Flour for tickets.  Can’t wait to see what these beef ambassadors have in store.  

Three Pork Chili Verde

Are you still full from Super Bowl Sunday? I indulged in plenty, lemme tell ya.  And our four course game day feast (one for every quarter of play, right?!) included an original chili recipe that I want to share! It’s inspired by our annual chili cook off we have in the fall.  My husband likes to make a green chili with pork.  He always wins, always.  We do it a little different every time.  So, we never seem to write down the recipe.  Not this time.  I carefully selected the ingredients and wrote everything down…added a few special touches…and damn, it was good.  You don’t have to include all the finishing elements to still get the idea…but if you incorporate all of it, you won’t be disappointed.  

BONUS: You can skip the cooking and still enjoy my new favorite chili recipe on #NationalChiliDay, Thursday February 23rd.  I’ve teamed up with Parkers Downtown for a “Chili Throw Down.”  Chef Andrew Gorski, from Parkers, will be preparing his favorite chili recipe.  And they’ll also prepare a batch of my recipe!  They’ll both be on the lunch and dinner menus for the day.  And there will be a friendly bet about which one gets ordered more.  Be sure to follow @Cheftovers and @Parkersdowntown on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook for updates on the chili battle.  


Three Pork Chili Verde

1/2 lb chorizo

2.5 lb pork butt

1 small onion, diced

3 jalapeño peppers, seeded and diced

3 cloves garlic, diced

3 10 oz. cans of green enchilada sauce

4 oz. chopped green chilies

1 c. Chicken stock or water

1/2 tsp. Cumin

1/4 tsp. Chipotle chili powder

1/4 tsp. Black pepper

1 tsp. Salt

1 T. Fresh chopped cilantro

Juice of 1/2 a lime 

1 can black beans

Pork belly (optional)


Garnish:

Crispy pork belly, fresh chopped cilantro, shredded Monterrey Jack cheese and sliced avocado.

Season and sear pork butt in a dutch oven. Remove and cut into bite sized pieces.  Remove chorizo from casings and brown, breaking up in to chunks. Set that aside as well. In same pot add the onion, garlic and jalapeños, season with salt and pepper and cook in vegetable oil until vegetables soften.  Add meats, enchilada sauce, chilies, stock and spices. Simmer for 30 min. Add lime juice, black beans and cilantro and simmer for another 10 min.  Garnish and serve!

I rarely post original recipes.  Most of the time I just like to share ideas in leftovers.  But this one I’m particularly proud of.  Hope you enjoy it. 




Bring me food! Delivery options for hungry Clevelanders this winter

I don’t know about you, but lately I have been equal parts busy, hungry, tired and cold.  It’s January in Cleveland.  And that combination has inspired me to look around for new, or established favorite options for making mealtimes easier and more comfortable for my day and my household.  


Meal Prep delivery: Get perfectly planned and measured ingredients for gourmet home cooked meals brought to you once a week.  Blue Apron is the monster in this category but there is also Hello Fresh, Home Chef and Plated, among your options.  Cheftovers bonus: these options minimize waste, as the meals are precisely portioned for the number of people you sign up for.  I have tried several of these. For me, the meal in a box is interesting because it invites and guides me in preparing home cooked meals outside my comfort zone.  However, it does not cut down much on prep time, but it takes the thinking and grocery shopping off your plate.  Pun intended.  

Mod Meals


No cooking required: Mod Meals offers you restaurant quality, chef inspired meals from local chefs.   Bonus: they will also deliver beer from Goldhorn Brewery and desserts from Cafe 55.  Sprinly deliveries within 30 miles of Cleveland (including Akron) and offers organic, plant based meals developed by nutritionists.  For less commitment, and more options from the local favorites you love to chow on, call up Uber Eats and Grub Hub.

Door to Door Organics, photo courtesy Instagram


Grocery Delivery:  Door to Door Organics arrived in the market in spring of last year.  They can bring you fresh produce and natural groceries to your doorstep, with lots of options to swap for your preferences, in the weekly box you sign up for. Presto Fresh will give you unlimited deliveries of locally sourced and specialty groceries from Zagara’s for a year for $89.  If you are loyal to Giant Eagle, they have a curbside express option.  You’ll have to pick out your own groceries online, but they will pluck everything from the shelves and have them bagged and ready for you at an agreed upon time and day.  No need to get out of the car! This was a life saver for me when I had a newborn in the winter. 

Downtown lunches: My new favorite downtown spot can make a quick hot meal, or a quick delivery. I’m pretty picky about my Italian food, but Fanucce’s on the CSU campus is legit! Cleveland Pickle always makes an effort to bring their delish sandwiches and pickles to the masses, and cut out the parking problems that plague downtown restaurants.  

Who are your favorite delivery places in town? 

Resolution-Friendly Menus in CLE

When January rolls around, many of our resolutions and goals center around food and our waistlines. Eat better, eat less, eat local, etc.It’s hard enough to stick to a plan when you’re preparing meals at home. But many people on a new diet plan often avoid going out to eat, or joining in on social events because they fear (or know) that a place or an event won’t offer them choices that fit in to their new plan.

But menus and chefs in Cleveland are keeping up with diners’ increasingly complicated and conscientious eating habits. So I’ve crowd-sourced a list of tasty local establishments that offer plenty of options for people who are eating more particularly or carefully in the new year.

Townhall Offers all non GMO menu items as well as Paleo and Vegan menu nights.  It’s also one of the largest menus in the city so you can go back again and again and not repeat dishes.

REBol Sister restaurant to Town Hall, they offer a 100% Non GMO menu, meats are all organic when possible, dressings and sauces are free of refined sugar and they use coconut oil for cooking. 

Courtesy:Facebook, REBol’s Thai Chicken Broth Bowl


Cleveland Vegan There’s an extensive menu, plus catering options and a bakery with GF, vegan and raw options. They have a raw dinner night this Saturday, January 14th. 

The Root Cafe The community cafe and vegetarian eatery has lots of pizza and calzone options, and beans and rice to leave you feeling satisfied.

Forage Public House A large percentage of the Lakewood gastropub’s menu is GF, vegan or vegetarian, and  Thursday is vegan night.  But there is also a lot on the menu to appease those you’re dining with who may not need those options.

Tommy’s This Coventry institution has been meeting the needs of vegetarians for decades.  As their slogan goes, “Whether you’re a vegetarian, a meat-eater, vegan, or just plain hungry, Tommy will take care of you.” 

Sweet Melissa‘s Rocky River ad University Heights locations has a whole line of GF and vegan pastry and a host of GF options on their menus. 

Pure Vida I trust Brandt Evans to make great food (Blue Canyon, another one of his, is one of my favorite spots in town.  The Public Square location offers great GF, V and Veg lunch items for those struggling to stay on your program during busy lunch hours. 

Courtesy: Facebook, Lobster Thermidor from Fire Food & Drink


Fire Food & Drink Headed by one of my other favorite chefs in town, Doug Katz, Fire is always on the cutting edge.  It’s a great date spot.  They use local meat whenever possible and only use sustainable seafood. 

Spice Kitchen & Bar If locally sourced ingredients are of new importance to you now, seek out places like this, which creates their menu based on what Spice Acres (their farm in the Cauyhoga Valley Natioal Park) is producing.

Toast Is so proud of their locally sourced products, they actually list the purveyors on their menu.  So you can support multiple local vendors with each bite.

Sustainability also ranks high on the list of priorities at places like Flying Fig, Greenhouse Tavern and Urban Farmer.  

John Mango’s World Cafe This Ohio City favorite has been doing vegetarian since before it was cool.  They have an entire section of their menu entitled “The Ballad of Meatless and Delicious” Vegan, gluten free and a juice bar on site too.

Cafe Avalaun In Warrensville Heights, Chef Brian Doyle’s place is the city’s first and only 100% gluten free restaurant. And they have a Fresh Meals Club that they’re running a special trial on right now.  Subscribers pick up 6 dinners every Tuesday. They’re all Paleo, grain free, dairy free, soy free, low carb nearly whole30 compliant type meals. 

Courtesy: Facebook, Good to Go Cafe and Anna in the Raw


Good to Go Cafe in the IMG building has a daily variety of raw foods and coolers full of Chef Anna Harouvis’s killer organic cold pressed juices, from her line Anna in the Raw, popular with her professional athlete and rock star clients alike (she is the juicer for the Cavs and the Indians, among other high profile clients).

If you’re goal in 2017 is to juice related, there is also Restore, and CLE Juice Box which both offer cleanses and clean eats. 

When you don’t feel like going out, try Sprinly.  They’re a personal, plant-based chef and nutritionist service…delivered.  They have plans with 6-20 meals per week.  And they’re local.  

Note: Destination Cleveland also put together a great list, with some overlapping ideas, and some new bones.  Check our theirs at www.thisiscleveland.com.  

Courtesy: Facebook, Good to Go Cafe

Please help me add to this list.  Where are you finding delicious foods that meet your new needs??