Thursday, June 27, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we saw Oklahoma. That was the first time I'd seen it and I liked it more than I expected. After the show, we went to dinner at Sienna on the Square. Here's what we ate:

  • Heirloom Tomatoes (Grilled Ricotta, Fermented Honey & Garlic Viniagrette, Fresh Mint, Lavash Crackers) [dressing on the side and no crackers for us because there's garlic in/on them]
  • Cantaloupe Gazpacho (Grilled Onion Jam, Creme Fraiche)
  • Mafalde Bolognese (Veal, Pork, Beef, Tomato, Milk, Onion, Carrot)
  • Special: Yellowtail (red pepper sauce, greens)
  • Dessert: Strawberry Parfait (Creamed Strawberries, White Chocolate Almond Cookie, Basil)

Everything was, as always, delicious, washed down with glasses of rosé and water. Still one of our favorite restaurants.

What We're Eating:

  • Pork Tacos
  • Pasta with Sausage Sauce
  • Dessert: Lemon-Ginger Ice Cream

What We're Watching:

  • Jessica Jones on Netflix. Three more episodes to go.
  • Luther ended. Not what I expected! I guess this is the end of the show? We'll see.
  • We didn't watch The Amazing Race finale last night so I don't know who won. Tonight we'll watch.
  • I watched The Wife. What a good movie! Glenn Close is terrific.
  • Women's World Cup Soccer. Monday was USA vs Spain and tomorrow USA plays France.

What I'm Reading:
Not much other than magazines. 

Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Grilled Zucchini with Red Pepper Sauce

In the summer, we often grill zucchini. Usually we just slice it into rounds, salt-pepper-oil it, and grill it. But the June/July 2019 issue of Cook's Country offered a new method: sliced in half lengthwise.
Seemed kind of obvious, but there's more to it. They also cut a crosshatch pattern into the flesh side. This helped the zucchini to give up its moisture and turn out firmer and less mushy. We tried it, making sure to buy the suggested medium size zucchini. The halved, medium sized zucchini came out so much tastier than our last few batches of grilled rounds from large zucchini.
We made the suggested red pepper sauce, too, which is really just a version of romesco sauce. We grilled our red pepper earlier in the day and made the sauce before starting on the zucchini and everything else for dinner that night.
I tried to make mine look like the magazine photo, nestled in a pool of sauce with a bit of sauce drizzled on top.
SP simply poured sauce down the center of his zucchini halves. It was delicious both ways.

Even if we don't make the romesco sauce, I think we'll definitely start grilling our zucchini this way. Also, we're going to make more of an effort to not buy the huge zucchini (or let them grow that large in the garden). According to Cook's Country, a medium zucchini should be about as wide as a banana, so we'll aim for those sized zucchini.

Grilled Zucchini with Red Pepper Sauce

4 medium zucchini

1 red pepper
2 tbsp almonds
1.5 tbsp red wine vinegar
1/3 c olive oil
1.4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp pepper

Roast the red pepper on the grill (we brush it with olive oil and then place it on the grill, turning it every which way until it softens/is charred all over). Place pepper in a bowl, cover, and let it sit/cool until you can handle it. Remove skin. Cut into smaller pieces and put in food processor/blender along with the almonds, red wine vinegar, olive oil, salt, and pepper. Process until smooth. Place in a small container, cover, and set aside.

Slice the zucchini in half lengthwise. Cut a crosshatch pattern into the flesh side of each half. Brush with oil. Season with salt and pepper. Grill, flesh side down, until browned. Flip and cook other side until zucchini is done (a fork inserted meets little resistance).

Serve zucchini with red pepper sauce.

What we did differently:
*We didn't toast the almonds
*We omitted the garlic and the basil

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

Tortellini Pasta Salad (with asparagus & tomatoes)

This summer we seem to need a lot of quick & easy dinners for the week. Pasta is usually quick and easy, especially pasta salad. It can be made ahead of time, or each component can be made ahead of time and then assembled on another day. A couple of summers ago, we fell in love with this Mozzarella, Tomato & Tortellini Pasta Salad but we wanted something a little different. I remembered this recipe from The Make-Ahead Cook: 8 Smart Strategies for Dinner Tonight (from America's Test Kitchen) and we used it as our inspiration.
Cheese tortellini, blanched asparagus, cherry/grape tomatoes, fresh basil (or mint), and a lemon-olive oil dressing. We added some lemon zest and a lot more pepper. It was delicious! Very simple to make but very tasty and filling.

Tortellini Pasta Salad (with asparagus & tomatoes)

Ingredients:

  • 16 oz cheese tortellini
  • 3 lbs asparagus (the Costco package), trimmed and cut into 1" pieces
  • package of cherry/grape tomatoes (Costco package)
  • 1/4 c fresh lemon juice (from 2 lemons)
  • 1/2 c olive oil
  • fresh basil or mint
  • salt & pepper

Directions:

  • Cook tortellini according to package. Drain and set aside to cool. 
  • Blanch asparagus. You can use the water from cooking the pasta. Depending on the thickness of the asparagus, it can take 3-5 minutes. 
  • Make the dressing. A good starting point is 2 parts olive oil to 1 part lemon juice, depending on your personal taste, seasoned with salt & pepper..
  • Since we were making each part ahead of time and assembling the salad later in the week, we drained the asparagus well and then placed it in a paper towel lined container.
  • We drained the tortellini well, placed it in a bowl, and drizzled in just a bit of the dressing and tossed it with the tortellini. We snapped on the lid and put it in the refrigerator.
  • For us, this yields 3 dinners. The first dinner, I eyeballed it and transferred 1/3 the tortellini and 1/3 the asparagus to another bowl. I washed and halved 1/3 of the grape tomatoes, salted & peppered them, and transferred them to the pasta & asparagus bowl. We used about 7-8 big basil leaves, rolled up and sliced thinly. I also eyeballed & added 1/3 the dressing and zest from about half a lemon then mixed it all together. 
  • Season with salt and pepper to taste.
The official recipe is here. It includes shallot, garlic, and pine nuts.

Friday, June 21, 2019

Amsterdam Vacation - Stroopwafel, Chocolate, Fish, Fries, and Cheese

STROOPWAFEL
One food treat I definitely wanted to try while in Amsterdam was a fresh, warm stroopwafel. My wish finally came true when we went to Albert Cuyp Market and found Original Stroopwafels
I couldn't decide between chocolate and plain, so of course we bought one of each.
We huddled under the umbrella and ate the chocolate dipped one first. Yum! Warm and gooey. Next up we ate the plain one:
I can't decide which I liked better. The syrup inside was not too sticky or chewy, which was nice. As expected, I got chocolate and the syrup all over my hands, raincoat, lap. It was worth it.

CHOCOLATE

After we toured Anne Frank House, we set off walking around towards to the north area and Winkel 43 (but sadly didn't get to try their apple pie) and then I don't really know/remember where we were because we just kept wandering. Eventually we found this chocolate shop:
Puccini Bomboni. We went in planning to purchase, not just browse. There were a lot of flavor choices:
We each chose three. I chose mint, coffee, and cinnamon.
I don't remember which three flavors SP chose. I think one was port. We snacked on our chocolates in the evenings after we returned to the hotel room and we enjoyed them all.

BAD BAKERY AND GOOD BAGEL PLACE

Earlier in the day, before chocolates, we had to find lunch and we didn't have anywhere in mind. So we just started walking from Dam Square and the Royal Palace towards Anne Frank house, hoping to find lunch along the way. Naturally, it was actually lunch time and everyone was out looking for lunch. We came across Bagels & Beans but they were not wheelchair accessible and all the outdoor tables were taken. So we kept walking. We walked a bit more and ended up crossing the street to grab a sandwich at a bakery. What a mistake. I wasn't really feeling the place, it looked kind of dirty and yucky, but we were really hungry and didn't have time to debate and walk. Also, I hate when SP stops us in the middle of the sidewalk while he tries to Yelp up a suitable lunch place, which he had done, so add irritable and bickery to the list with hungry and thirsty.

So, crappy bakery that we did not find on Yelp, just that we saw. We decided to share a ham & cheese sandwich. That seemed safe. Unfortunately, what was not listed in the description was that there is a very garlicky pesto spread on the sandwich. It had already taken an absurd amount of time to get this crappy sandwich (horrible service, and we were 1 of 2 people there) and by that time, since I had been sitting at the table outside, I had discovered that the screw holding the footrest to the wheelchair leg was falling out and I was not happy because we didn't have an extra screw/nut (though I did have the Allen wrenches) and I was about to lose the footrest.
Solution: SP would eat the garlicky sandwich and return to Bagels & Beans to get me a sandwich that I would pick out online and text him while he walked over. I chose the Warm BLT Bagel (with Bacon (Livar), Lettuce & Tomatoes with a mayonnaise dressing & pine nuts).
I even got a nice little note and smiley in my bagel box! Also, it was a darn tasty sandwich. So, tip, Bagels & Beans is a good bagel chain for breakfast/lunch in Amsterdam.

I ate as fast as I could while SP looked up hardware stores in the area. We found one, hustled over, and lucked out because as the guy told us, he was one of maybe 2 hardware stores in the area selling English nuts/bolts. That never even occurred to me (the last time this happened on vacation we were in OR). He took it apart, compared everything, found that right stuff, and put it back together with our Allen wrenches (yes, I carry 2 in my purse when we travel), sold us an extra nut/bolt, and charged us like 2 euro. The hero of vacation! In about 10 minutes we were off again and headed to our ticketed time at Anne Frank House. 

FRITES AND FISH
One day we took a tour of the country side. One stop was Volendam, an old fishing village. It's on a lake and it was so nice to walk along the edge of the lake, past shops and cafes. It was a four hour tour and at this point we were at hour three and it was 1 pm and we were hungry. SP bought me frites with cheese sauce. They were yummy though as expected my fingers became a cheesy mess.
Our tour guide got himself the traditional raw herring with raw onions & pickles while SP opted for fried fish (kibbeling), which he really enjoyed.

CURRY MAYO & SNACKS

Another day we went to Keukenhof Gardens to see the tulips. There are, happily, several buildings where you can be inside (out of the cold, out of the rain) and have lunch and/or a snack. We did eat lunch but I forgot to take photos. I remember I got a chicken and cheese panini. We made sure it didn't have pesto/garlic. It did have a curried mayonnaise, which surprised me. At first I was like hmmm, what is that? It's yellow. Is it curry? Ugh my tummy might not like this. Hmmm wait this is pretty tasty. I can't stop eating this. I like curry mayo!
A bit before our scheduled departure, we decided to dry off and warm up with a snack. We both got hot tea and we shared a slice of lemon cake.
It was pretty darn good lemon cake!


CHEESE (KAAS)

Lastly, but not least, cheese. There are cheese shops everywhere in the touristy canal ring area.
Our first day, hours after landing, at the Floating Flower Market, SP was checking out cheese. The shops here were not accessible.
The cheese shops are what you'd expect, shelves and shelves of cheese and cheese samples and people eager to talk about their cheese and sell their cheese. We did not purchase our cheese until the day before we left. We were in the Dam Square area and went in one of the Old Amsterdam Cheese Shops. It was accessible and the guy was so nice, explaining all the different cheeses and having us sample so many cheeses. We bought three wedges, an aged one so it's quite hard/crumbly, a medium aged one, and a young one, aged just 2 months, which is my favorite and is so smooth and creamy.

Did we do a cheese tasting? No, not because we didn't want to, we most certainly did, but the cheese tasting rooms at the various cheese companies were not wheelchair accessible. Does the cheese need to be refrigerated? Won't it spoil before you get it home? I had read online that it'd be OK but I asked the cheese shop guy anyway and he said it doesn't need to be refrigerated for, I want to say 3 months, but I might be wrong. Point is, even if we'd bought it 10 days earlier, it'd have been fine. We did put it in our carry on bag, not checked bag, on the flights home. The luggage did get pulled aside in Amsterdam and in Detroit for extra screening. They actually took out the cheese wedges and examined/scanned the wedges even though they were store wrapped and stamped with the store seal.

We've been slowly eating and enjoying our Amsterdam cheese.

And so this ends the Amsterdam posts. I'd like to go back for the food - kaas, stroopwafel, stamppot, poffertjes, croquette, Dutch apple pie. And to just wander around the canals and get lost!

Thursday, June 20, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last Sunday was Father's Day. SP & I took the two dads (and moms) to Cafe Io in Mt. Lebanon for dinner. We started out sharing two appetizers: Tenpura Green Beans and the Iovino (grilled sausage, fried mozzarella, salad). I had the Monster Grilled Cheese (pulled pork, bacon, fried egg, caramelized onions, cheese, spinach) with tomato soup. For dessert, we ordered Peaches & Cream Cake and Chocolate Cake with Ginger-Berry Sauce. SP's dad also ordered Coconut Cheesecake, but I didn't try it because I don't like coconut.

What We're Eating:

  • Huli Huli Chicken, Pat-in-the-Pan Buttermilk Biscuits, Fruit Salad
  • Cheese Tortellini Salad with asparagus and tomatoes
  • Dessert: Rice Krispies Treats

What We're Watching:

  • We finished Designated Survivor. I enjoyed it, but it seemed like they were trying to cover way too much. 
  • We started the final season of Jessica Jones. We only had time for 1 episode. Maybe it was 2? I forget, but so far we are enjoying Season 3.
  • We were sad to see XXX eliminated last night on The Amazing Race (no spoilers!). They were one of our "more favorite" teams. Down to 4 teams and next week is 2 hours and we'll find out which team wins.
  • One more episode of Luther. I'm curious to see how Luther explains Benny's death, how he (and Alice) neutralize George, and how/if they catch the crazy doctor.
  • Big Little Lies. Good golly every character is having their life fall apart! I've never much like Renata but gosh did I feel for her character. I'd be just as angry. What an idiot husband. 

What I'm Reading:

  • I read Deadly Distance from LT Ryan. It was the second Jack Noble book I've read. It was a decent read, a quick read. 
  • Magazines. Of course.

Friday, June 14, 2019

Het Groene Paleis

We walked by Het Groene Paleis a lot when we were in Amsterdam and we ate there twice. They had a pretty large number of outdoor tables with large umbrellas and heat and the table area was spacious, which was good for the wheelchair.  Here's what we enjoyed:
Rosé and sauvignon blanc.
Gin & Tonic and sauvignon blanc.
Miso Cured Salmon with grilled asparagus and lime.
Roasted Spring Chicken (whole chicken with lemon mayonnaise and seasonal bonne femme). Oh my gosh this chicken was so darn tasty. It looks so plain but had so much flavor. I couldn't stop eating it. The fries, too, were so good, especially with the lemon mayonnaise.
Arugula Salad with cheese and smoked salmon. SP said it was simple & tasty.
Homemade tomato soup (v) with crème fraîche and chives. I know I always tease SP about his soup (he almost always orders soup, even on 90+ degree days) but it was chilly and the soup was good. I might have helped him out more than he would have liked!
Grilled Chicken Sandwich with bacon, avocado with basil mayonnaise. Really good sandwich.
Tasty brown bread, lots of avocado, bacon - yum!
And as always, tea to warm up on the chilly evenings.
Earl Grey for me. I like that when we've been in Europe and ordered hot tea, it comes with a little treat. I wish places in the USA would do that!
SP's new tea love: Hot Fresh Mint Tea. We have 2 pots of mint this year so that he can have fresh mint tea.
His other new love: Fresh Ginger Tea. We now almost always have fresh ginger in our refrigerator so he can enjoy this at home.
Dessert: Dutch Apple Pie.
Look at all those layers of apples!
I was able to sample Dutch Apple Pie 2-3 times while in Amsterdam. We tried to stop by Winkel 43 which is famous for their apple pie but the line was way too long. This was my favorite of the ones I tried. I love the crust, it's more of a shortbread cookie like crust than flaky pastry pie crust. Yum! I'm hoping to find a recipe and try making Dutch Apple Pie at home.

So we really liked Het Groene Paleis. Both times we were able to walk up and be seated right away without reservations. The servers were very friendly and helpful. Nice, spacious outdoor area. We weren't inside but I have the impression it's pretty large. Their website says they have several private rooms for large groups. The restaurant is wheelchair accessible. We'd go back and we recommend it to fellow travelers for a solid meal with good service.

Thursday, June 13, 2019

Thursday Thoughts

Last weekend we went to dinner at Pork & Beans. I was disappointed that the Brisket Grilled Cheese and Potato Skins with jarlsberg & pork belly are no longer on the menu. Here's what we ate this time:
  • Pork Rinds with sour cream, pub cheese. I'm meh about pork rinds, SP loves them. The pub cheese was delicious. 
  • Sunday Pastrami Special (house sauerkraut, boiled potatoes, half sour pickles, spicy mustard sauce) and a Side Salad
  • Three Little Pigs sandwich (fried pork cutlet, ham, pastrami belly, jarlsberg, beer mustard, slaw). It was good but not as good as the version Meat & Potatoes used to serve (pork milanese, ham, pork belly, Swiss, fried farm egg, grilled bread). I'm not a fan of pastrami belly. And I miss the fried egg.
  • Cocktails: Rose Spritz (Aperol, grapefruit bitters, Natrona seltzer, Rhinegeist bubbles) and P-N-B G-N-T (Bombay Sapphire Gin, Pork & Beans house tonic by Bittercube, juniper, orange, cinnamon). I liked my Rose Spritz a lot.
Saturday dinner was, well, we went to Restaurant A and were seated by the hostess on the patio. Fifteen minutes passed by without anyone coming over to say hello or we'll be with you shortly, no one had brought water, nothing, and several servers saw us sitting there and didn't stop to check on us. So we walked out, stopping at the front to tell the hostesses that we were leaving because after 15 minutes, no one had come to our table. A tip to restaurant workers: you never know who you might be ignoring. In this case, you ignored friends of PM, who works there, and we told her, and she told the manager. PM does not hold back.

We ended up going to Restaurant B, the place we jokingly refer to as our "local watering hole," a place where they know us, they bring our drinks right away without needing to ask, even those who are not our server that evening stop by and chat with us. It was fun and tasty and I don't know why we continue to occasionally try Restaurant A because we always leave feeling disappointed. Not so at the watering hole!

What We're Eating:
  • Salad
  • Prosciutto, Fontina, Tomato, Mixed Greens Panini
  • Dessert: ice cream, cookies from the freezer, leftover Easter candy
What We're Watching:
  • We finally had enough free time to go see John Wick: Chapter 3 - Parabellum. Keanu Reeves as John Wick - what's not to like? A couple hours of watching John Wick in brutal fights, not thinking much - it was quite nice.
  • Last week I watched The Mule with Clint Eastwood. I liked the movie quite a bit though it lacked the emotional punch I expected.
  • Last week we watched Season 1 of Dead to Me on Netflix. We loved it! Christina Applegate & Linda Cardellini are hilarious.
  • Big Little Lies - oh my gosh, Meryl Streep's Mary Louise! Her interactions with Reese Witherspoon's Madeline! So good!
  • We started The Handmaid's Tale on Hulu. We're not sure about it, not because it's not well done/well acted but because it's tough to watch. That's just from watching episode 1!
  • We started Season 3 of Designated Survivor on Netflix. We'll see if it can find itself. I felt like Season 2 was kind of lost, and then it got cancelled. It seems to see-saw between political show and thriller/mystery show.
  • We were so excited and happy and cheered when the Reilly sisters were eliminated from The Amazing Race last week. I don't personally know them so my dislike is based purely on their words, actions, appearance on TAR, which isn't fair, but, well, the TAR impression was not good. I'm not sure which of the remaining teams I want to win, I like them all. It was tough to watch Chris & Bret last night. We were surprised that the snorkeling challenge seemed so much more difficult than the poetry one.
What I'm Reading:
  • I read I Know A Secret from Tess Gerritsen. It's a Rizzoli & Isles novel. I liked it and it was a pretty quick read.
  • Magazines. I'm caught up on the food ones, I just have a stack of Smithsonian Magazines to read. A big stack. 

Wednesday, June 12, 2019

Rijksmuseum Cafe

The day we went to Rijksmuseum we ate lunch at the museum's Rijksmuseum Cafe. Normally I wouldn't write an entire post just for a museum cafe but I really liked my meal. I suppose it was a bit pricey, as museums cafes tend to be. But it was yummy.

The cafe is up a flight of stairs (or an elevator ride). There was a line when we got there, but it moved quickly and soon we were seated at one the communal tables. Think cafeteria seating, long tables, but you're not super close to your neighbors. I remember it being very bright. All those white tables and lots of sunshine. We both ordered hot teas. Here's what we ate:
I had  Goat Cheese Pie (apple chutney, sage, caramelized walnuts, green herbal lettuce). This was really tasty. I was surprised how much I liked it. SP helped me a bit, but I almost ate it myself.
He chose Tomato Soup (with roasted red peppers & creme fraiche). He loves soup and I think he was counting on having to help me out more than he had to! He said the soup was good.

I usually expect museum cafes to be pricey and serve disappointing food so I was surprised how tasty lunch was. I wish I'd had more room for dessert (they had apple pie and lots of other baked treats) but I was just too full. But that pie (quiche) - I'd stop back in just for that!

Tuesday, June 11, 2019

O'Reilly's Irish Pub

I wouldn't normally think or want to eat at an Irish Pub while in Amsterdam but there was one day we had walked a lot, and we'd been gone from the hotel since 9 am, and we had tried to find a place to eat some dinner but somehow our exploring walk around dinner time didn't have us in an especially restaurant-filled area/one with available seats/one that was accessible. So we headed back to the Dam Square area and after passing behind the Royal Palace, since our tummies were growling and we needed to sit, as soon as we saw an open outdoor table, we grabbed it. It was at O'Reilly's Irish Pub.
Sadly, the table next to us was occupied by two chainsmokers. Ugh. One didn't seem to get the concept of the ashtray and kept flicking ashes and dropping her gross butts near my feet/wheelchair. Oh well. SP ordered a beer. I ordered hot tea because I don't drink beer and because it was starting cool off and our table was not in the sunshine.
We started with Oma Bob’s Cheese & Rucola Croquettes(famous old Amsterdam cheese & rucola croquettes). These were the first croquettes we tried in Amsterdam. These are the ones responsible for me ordered cheese croquettes almost everywhere we ate. Yum!
Interior photo of the croquette.
I chose the Club Sandwich (grilled chicken breast, crispy bacon, tomato, lettuce & mayo). It was just OK. My chicken was a little dry/tough. I ended up pulling the chicken & tomato off the bun & eating those, rejecting the lettuce and bun..
SP chose Classic Caesar Salad (Romaine lettuce tossed in creamy garlic dressing with croutons,
crispy bacon, boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes & parmesan with strips of grilled chicken breast). He said it was fine. It was a pile of veggies so he was happy.

I wouldn't seek out this pub. I wouldn't go back if we were in Amsterdam given all the other places we ate and how much more I liked them + they were Dutch food. But in a super crowded tourist area in a pinch it was fine.