Ginny and Juan’s Balsamic Showdown: Juan’s Creation

July 21st, 2009


I know you have been waiting for the revealing of Juan’s Balsamic Creation… without further delay… My boyfriend, Juan…

Our showdown came about a few weeks ago when I was visiting Ginny in Chicago. She was roasting garlic, and I casually mentioned my own technique. She looked at me quizzically and said that after over a year of dating, she had never known I could cook. “Drat!” I thought, “Now I’ll have to make her something!” No, I am kidding, of course. One of the drawbacks of a long distance relationship is that cooking is not something you discuss everyday, even if you’re dating a girl with a food blog. But since I lost our last round of mini-golf and I’m on the hook to cook a three course meal for her anyway, I figured we could give this showdown a shot.

I don’t consider myself a culinary expert by any means, but I realized fairly early in college that I was going to need to learn to cook if I was going to survive on items with actual vitamin and mineral contents. Over the years, I started making myself some foods that satisfied my requirements. Dinner must: (a) be healthy and tasted good, (b) use as few dishes as possible, and (c) make enough for several days’ worth of lunches for work over the week. I usually follow recipes pretty rigidly, but this time I decided to rig one up myself. The experience was certainly a new one. After getting some advice a few co-workers, I threw a tabouleh dish together:

- couscous
- ginny and juan’s awesome balsamic vinegar
- extra virgin olive oil
- sun-dried tomatoes in oil
- kalmata olives
- parsley (from the garden, but frozen)
- chick peas
- black pepper

I used more oil than I expected (I tend to use very little) and also sprinkled in some of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes. I also tend to err on the side of too much parsley. It turned out very tasty though. In the picture, it’s served with some grilled chicken, which added a good balance of lean protein to the dish. And, of course, there was enough left over for several days worth of lunches at work. Best of all, it only used two dishes!

So, now you have seen both dishes: Ginny’s Fig- Balsamic Ricotta Cheesecake and Juan’s Balsamic Tabouleh. Please vote for your favorite by leaving a comment below.

IRELAND: PART II and a recipe

August 11th, 2008

The thing I miss most about traveling and moving happens to be the lack of time and often space to cook. When I returned from Ireland, I couldn’t wait to get all floury again and I made Challah. With the some leftovers and the “starting to go stale” challah, I made a really good brie and balsamic onion sandwich that I chowed down as I packed. Now for the rest of Ireland…
Off I went to Galway, a fun, university town on the Western Coast. I spent my days roaming around the town, falling asleep by the river and doing a bit of shopping. I had two fabulous meals…One day for lunch, I stumbled into Anton’s Cafe, a cute and artsy cafe. Craving avocado, I decided on the Smoked Bacon, Avocado & Beef Tomato with Red Onion Marmalade sandwich. It was very good. A few days later, I had a lovely dinner at Ard Bia. This cute restaurant sits on the river near the Spanish Arch. It is like walking into the dinning room of your favorite artsy, bohemian and eclectic friend. Nothing traditionally matched but all the tables and decoration created a welcoming and comforting atmosphere. I had to wait for a moment as the servers finished writing down the menu on the blackboard, which was then placed in a chair next to me so I could decide what to order. I chose a seared white fish fillet with lentils and a fresh summer salad. It was a wonderful meal. They even had fennel and pomegranate seeds in the salad…yummy!
During one of my days in Galway, I took a day trip around the Connemera…a beautiful part of Ireland with mountains, hills and ponies. We went to this Franciscan Abbey and the Kylemore Abbey (below). The countryside was gorgeous!
After Galway, I went back to Dublin for a few days. I went shopping, got my haircut and saw a great art exhibit at Chester Beatty Library and Gallery of Oriental Art. I saw this cake in the window of the cafe, Leon, and like every good foodie…I stopped in for a slice. Although the picture is quite blurry, I think it speaks for itself. Yum!
That kind of sums up the highlights of my trip…The best part of my trip though, which I can not show you in pictures, was the many different people I met. I stayed in hostels and every night I would meet a new crew of people from Germany, France, Australia, Canada, New Zealand, Switzerland…and the list goes on. Often, we would go sit at the pub together, meet the locals and listen to the music. These people made my trip very fun and interesting. I have many memories and new friends that I will not forget.


Brie and Balsamic Onion Challah Sandwich

2 slices of Challah
Balsamic Caramelized Onions (Jennifer’s recipe)
1/2 Vidalia Onion
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
2 slices of brie
1 teaspoon Italian seasoning

1. Peel the Onion and cut in half. Slice the onions into strips.
2. In a frying pan, heat the olive oil over medium heat and sautéed the onions moving the onions around with a spatula until they soften and brown.
3. Drizzle the onions with the balsamic vinegar and mix with a spatula.
4. Cover the pan and stir occasionally until the onions have caramelized. Season with salt and pepper. Move to a dish.
5. In the same pan, toast the bread and melt the brie on both sides. Sprinkle with the Italian Seasonings.
6. Top with the onions and eat.

P.S. For more photos from Ireland, check out my flickr.

Confessions of a Food Blogger…

May 15th, 2008


My boyfriend jokingly commented that I’ve been eating like a five year old lately. So what if I have been making Kraft mac and cheese, ordering pizza and having peanut butter sandwiches? I am an adult and I can do what I want…Ginny whines, stomping her foot.

Yes, I know, I just wrote a post about trying to be more healthy but then I hit a few stressful days and found myself reaching for some quick comfort food. I had no inspiration to cook so I relied on some old favorites.

Before this short diet derailment, I had challenged myself by trying to make dinner without the use of olive oil or butter…yes, maybe, I should get a life but culinary games are so much fun. Recently, I made Allen of Eating Out Loud’s Citrus Quinoa with Roasted Vegetables served with seared scallops and some roasted salmon. It was absolutely fabulous! I highly recommend making it! This left me with some leftover red onion and asparagus. I decided to caramelize them with some balsamic and put it over my latest favorite find, Trader Joe’s Harvest Grains Blend with Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans, and Red Quinoa. I am sending this over to Ruth’s Presto Pasta Night. Check it out for more great pasta ideas!

And please do not stop reading my blog because I eat Kraft mac and cheese occasionally. With the Spiderman shapes, how can you resist? We all have our secret anti-foodie pleasure. Actually, what is yours?

Balsamic Asparagus and Red Onion Pasta

1/2 bunch Asparagus (chopped into small 1 in pieces)
1/2 red onion, chopped
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
1/2 pound of pasta

1. Spray frying pan with Pam and throw in the crushed red pepper.
2. Saute asparagus and red onion in the frying pan.
3. Mix in balsamic vinegar and cover with a lid to steam the vegetables. When they are tender and carmalized, remove from heat and mix with pasta.

P.S. I sprinkled some shredded mozzarella over it because I wanted something a little gooey. I wish I had some goat cheese instead as it would have added a good flavor to it. Michelle over at Tarheel Table just made a Pasta with grilled chicken and vegetables with a goat cheese sauce that would be great with something like this.