Tuesday, June 23, 2009
Friday, June 19, 2009
I like to think that the Italian culture is appreciated in America as it seems that one of my favorite Italian treats has made its way to Charlotte! On Wednesday, my dear friend Crystal and I went to Cafe Mia in Birkdale Village for some after dinner gelato! It reminded me of walking on the old cobblestone streets in Florence wearing completely oversized sunglasses that one can only get away with in Italia, with my gelato in hand. Not only did it taste exquisite but the gelaterie had all of the flavors that we found in Italy! When ordering gelato, it's very common to enjoy two scoops in two different flavors...twice as nice! I chose straciatella which is the equivalent of chocolate chip and my personal favorite, nutella, a chocolate hazelnut concoction! Crystal went for the fruit variety of gelato, also known as "sorbetto" in blackberry pomegranate and kiwi that was absolutely divine! Other flavors on their menu included Tiramisu, Coconut, Butterscotch and Nocciola, which is a rich hazelnut. If I could walk to Cafe Mia from my apartment, I would be in big trouble. And so would my waistline! Thankfully, it's a 35 minute drive up I-77 North...
Tuesday, June 16, 2009
Thursday, June 11, 2009
As I racked my food loving brain on a rainy Friday last week, I was trying to think of a perfect little meal to cook up to jump start the weekend. I invited Mark over and the only request that he had was that I make anything but pizza! I went through all of my favorite "go- to" dishes but I just wan't feeling the magic. While sitting in my cube, I rolled my chair over to Sara and told her I needed some help thinking of something to create. I must gravitate to fellow food lovers because I have quite an extensive list of friendly chefs that I can consult with when I am in need of some flavorful ideas. As quick as the sprinkle of pixie dust, Sara picked up her phone and called her wonderful fiance John Clifford. He shared an easy salmon recipe that I knew would be something fun and different to try. I love experimenting with salmon because it can take on so many different flavors and you can transform it in countless ways. John's recipe was so easy and had the best flavor. It took all of about 20 minutes and was almost restaurant quality if I do say so myself!
Dijon Roasted Salmon
Salmon fillets (individual portions or one large filet)
Fresh cracked pepper
1 onion, sliced
Place salmon fillets on pieces of tin foil. Season the salmon with cracked pepper as desired. In John's words, "glob" the mustard on top of the salmon and spread over the entire piece of fish. Arrange sliced onion on top and add one sprig of fresh dill (while cooking in the foil, this adds an extra special flavor element that really makes the dish). Make a pouch with the foil and close tightly. These can be cooked on the grill for 20 minutes but can also be cooked at 350 degrees for 20 minutes in oven. Enjoy the unique aroma as you carefully open up the foil pouch!
I served this delecatble dish with my favorite Ilios inspired Greek salad and farfalle (bowtie) pasta with fresh pesto.
Small side note for all of my fellow health nuts, salmon is not only a "super food", but it does incredible things for your skin. The omega 3 fatty acids found in salmon help to reduce clogged pores and aids in reducing inflammatory agents in the skin that lead to skin damage. Salmon also contains loads of selenium, which is part of a healhy skin diet and can give you an extra special "glow".
Peace & love to Sara & John for sharing their culinary expertise!!
Monday, June 8, 2009
Last week, my mom and sister did a tastebud test with the Bailey family at Big View Diner, the newest restaurant in the Ilios Noche family. I listened to them rant and rave about how fantastic it was and not only did my mom proceed to enjoy the diner TWICE last week, but Mark took his mom there and could not stop talking about it either. I feel like the restaurant and its tastiness made its way into several conversations last week and I was so curious to try it for myself! On Sunday, Mark was nice enough to decide that it wasn't fair that everyone else had been lucky enough to try it and I was still left out and my food loving soul was very crushed over what I was missing! We enjoyed a scrumptious lunch and before we sat down, we set the intention of saving room for dessert (always the smartest mindset in my opinion!) Mark ordered an open faced steak sandwich and I opted for a Ruben which was probably the best I have ever had (and according to our waiter, the most popular item on the menu right now). I would also like to note, as I observed the retro ambiance of the restaurant and looked around at the small details, the ice cubes really impressed me as their slightly oversized and chunky cubic shape sat so nicely in the water glasses. It takes these small elements to add to the attitude of an establishment, and I'm all about detail.
While eating our lunch, our conversation turned to my top five favorite desserts and Mark got creative and advised that the dessert in my "top 5" could be up for grabs and substitutions, otherwise known as a Pinch Hitter! I immediately took to this term and am adopting it. Which brings me to the most important line of business when discussing Sunday's lunch- Banana Cream Pie. I personally LOVE banana desserts and could not have been happier with my dessert choice (other items on the menu: bread pudding, cannolis, strawberry shortcake, among other sweet delights...) I am pretty sure that we had the entire thing eaten in less than 5 minutes but believe me, I savored every bite and enjoyed it to every last heavenly crumb. The pastry- like crust was not too sweet and the cream above the well balanced banana pudding filling was like eating a cloud. White chocolate shavings provided a pristine garsish atop the magical slice. Big View's "Soon to be Famous Banana Cream Pie" is now the current Pinch Hitter on Nina's list of top 5 desserts!
As my Sunday continued, I had a lovely girls night planned with Crystal, Kealy and Laura at the Pops in the Park concert hosted by the Charlotte Symphony at South Park. The music theme for the evening had a country flair and I was so excited to hear music from one of my most favorite musicals, Oklahoma! I hope that the people on blankets around us didn't mind our loud voices as we sang along! On our way to the park, we stopped by Dean & Deluca for a quick bite to carry with us! I got my favorite Dean & Deluca house salad (mixed baby greens, roasted red peppers, toasted pine nuts, goat cheese and balsamic vinegarette) and all of us girls enjoyed a summer glass of wine and a small bite of Peruvian and Costa Rican dark chocolate for dessert! Our girls evening was enchanting, to say the least and the symphony provided for a perfect Sunday under the stars. Ciao!
Friday, June 5, 2009
I am going to try the Greek Country Salad tonight/tomorrow.
Oh and I also made a delicious spinach salad- Spinach with chopped figs, chunks of feta cheese, black grapes and sliced fennel with balsamic…inspiration – Illios Noche!
The truth is it takes time and planning to eat healthy and the last thing I want to do is spend 2 hours in the kitchen for dinner every night. So making quick healthy meals is fantastic. I don’t think believe in complicated methods to bring flavors out.
Lastly, a little loving shoutout to my wonderful cousins!!! (Andi...sorry you were stuck on the mountain when this picture was taken)
Happy Friday! Ciao!
Wednesday, June 3, 2009
Monday night's dinner was what we call a perfectly balanced meal. Tuna medallions were on sale at Harris Teeter and we picked up some fresh brussels sprouts over the weekend as well. (I know, not typical on the favorite vegetables list but we LOVE these little things and found a great recipe that called for roasting the sprouts with garlic, salt, pepper and olive oil) Normally, we marinate our tuna in teryaki sauce or some sort of lemon concoction but I decided it might be nice to try something different. I mixed some low sodium soy sauce and brown sugar and let the medallions sit for 10 minutes before searing them. The sauce created perfect glaze and just the right amount of salty/sweet combination. The brussels sprouts turned out better than we could have ever imagined and we added a side of our favorite Harvest Grains mix from Trader Joe's that includes red quinoa, lentils and israeli cous cous. You can't help but feel so healthy after eating fish and it was the perfect little meal to wind down with on a crazy Monday.