Sunday, July 13, 2014

Papa Ganouj

Considering what owner Khaled "K" Rahhal has meant to young Tulsans over the years, a restaurant named "Papa" seems appropriate.  I can only speculate what Ganouj translates to... maybe "made with passion"? The love for colorful, beautiful, flavorful food certainly shines through in all of the dishes at Papa Ganouj. Warning: this post contains much deserved gushing.

We started with an appetizer called Chicken Baklava. Tender, moist roasted chicken chunks artfully wrapped in flaky phyllo dough and drizzled with honey and pistachios with a swoosh of harissa on the plate. This is one of the best things I've ever eaten. I've craved this every day since we ate at Papa Ganouj on their first night to be officially open. I now expect everything I eat to be wrapped in phyllo dough. How could that not make a thing better? Here it is in all its splendor...

Next came the mezze, and we did the "Choose Two" option with mussels and dates and figs. Mussels were tender and perfectly cooked. The dates and figs provided a nice sweetness to play off of...

For our entrees, Hubby chose the Shawarma and I had the Coq Au Vin, made with white wine, presumably because it's summertime. I meant to mention that the menu is Mediterranean/French. I loved the pearl pasta served with the dish, giving me something of an excuse to eat spoonfuls of the delicious sauce. This whole dish was as perfectly an executed dish as I've ever had. The ambience at Papa Ganouj is casual and sleek, but while I ate this dish, I felt like royalty. It's like someone created a work of art just for me, knowing it would be destroyed in about twenty minutes. I told you'd I'd gush. Here is the masterpiece...

We had filled ourselves with amazing food all night, but had to take it over the top with one of their desserts made in-house. This was something they called "coffee and donuts". It's a cup of mocha-flavored mousse and a delicious flourless chocolate cake. Nicely balanced, not too sweet, and a perfect way to top off a spectacular meal.

We had a fantastic time and it's important to note, since it was the first official night, that the staff was not only well-versed in the menu, but had great enthusiasm for the food they were serving. We were well taken care of, and made to feel like our business was appreciated. All in all, this restaurant is poised to be a big success, and we will be its biggest cheerleaders. Go Papa!

Papa Ganouj on Urbanspoon

Monday, September 17, 2012

SHH - Oranges Part 1

I feel a little bit guilty doing the Halfway Healthy twist on oranges. I mean, they are pretty good right out of their skin. Anything I would do would just make them unhealthy. But, let's say you don't feel like peeling and eating a burst of sunshine every day, or you have a picky kid (or adult) that doesn't want to eat bare fruit. I have some sweet ideas to make the orange only halfway healthy, but full-on delicious!

First, a bit about oranges, from the SuperFoods book... its "sidekicks" are: Lemons, white and pink grapefruit, kumquats, tangerines (you may have seen my blog about Nigella's Clementine Cake), and limes. All yummy.

Why are oranges a SuperFood? Well, they do prevent scurvy. Oh, and Oranges contain the following:

Vitamin C

Did you know... Humans (and guinea pigs) can't manufacture Vitamin C in their bodies. It's water soluble and not retained in the body, so we need constant replenishment from dietary sources to maintain adequate cellular and blood levels.

The book says our levels of Vitamin C are on the decline, possibly in part to the ready-to-drink juices we now consume. They are easier and more convenient, but the frozen concentrate form of orange juice is considerably higher in Vitamin C than ready-to-drink orange juice. Also, the concentration of vitamin C in orange pulp is twice that found in the peel and ten times that found in the juice. Eat the pulp and buy high-pulp juice.

Did you know... A low intake of vitamin C can double the risk of hip fracture.

Okay, so I've already stated that oranges and pulpy orange juice is the best way to get your oranges in. But, here's a sugary recipe that reminds me of my childhood. Back in the days before the internet and FoodNetwork and before Todd Wilbur was cloning all kinds of restaurant recipes... back in the '70s when I was a kid... my mom happened upon an Orange Julius clone recipe. I don't know where she got it. You could only get recipes from friends, magazines and cookbooks in those days. Anyway, we went a whole summer making these almost every night. I may have only actually bought an Orange Julius drink at the mall a few times, but I've had this wonderful treat more times than I can count. If you want to make it even healthier, try soy milk or almond milk instead of the cow's milk. And you can probably cut the sugar pretty significantly and it would still be yummy.

Orange Julius
1/2 of 6 oz frozen orange juice concentrate (1/3 C)
1/2 C Milk
1/2 C Water
1/4 C Sugar
1/2 tsp Vanilla
5-6 Ice Cubes

Put everything in a blender and whir till frothy. Enjoy!

One last little tip. There is another chapter in SuperFoods on the wonders of tea. Not herbal teas, but the black, green and white teas we drink all the time as iced teas. We make tea almost every day, and whenever I've just peeled a tangerine or orange, I throw the peel into the iced tea pitcher and brew the tea over it. It lends a subtle citrus flavor and you get some of the anti-oxidants that are plentiful in the peel. You can add even more if you zest it a little first.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Hark's BBQ & Wing Run Cafe

If you'd told me I'd get excited about a chicken place before I found Wing Run, I'd have scoffed. Literally scoffed. I like chicken. I like it fried. I like it tossed in a flavorful sauce. But, it's still just chicken and most of the places that do the wing thing are pretty ho hum and all alike. Oh, but not Wing Run. They are doing something special, it's just hard to put your finger on what it is that's so special about them. They have the chicken je ne sais quois. Basically, they just do everything right, and don't mess with a good thing. The first time we found this place, we ate there twice in the same week. We never do that.

I'm going to start with the least expected and least obvious thing, but possibly what I love the most... the dressing. They offer bleu cheese or ranch with your order. I don't use these for the chicken... I use them to dunk my fries into... very liberally. I can't even tell which one I love most, so I make my husband order the opposite, so we can alternate. Both are made in house. You'll know this because they don't have that chemical taste from the dressing bottles. Both dressings are rich and creamy and thick enough to be clingy. They give you plenty. It's just decadent.

While we're on the subject of fries (I'm kind of always on the subject of fries)... these are one of the top three fries in Tulsa. They are real potatoes, fresh cut, served super hot and freshly fried and very heavily seasoned. They are packed with flavor.

Kamikaze sauce on boneless wings. Prepare to sweat! 
How did I go three paragraphs and not yet even addressed how they do chicken? They offer some good combo deals and different ways to order. You can get the wings with bones in or boneless. I go for the boneless. There are numerous sauce choices. Hubby gets Kamikaze. I usually get Sweet BBQ. There are plenty more I'm going to try someday... lemon pepper, garlic parmesan, teriyaki, and more. They are fried up fresh and come well-sauced and piping hot.

So for weeks after finding this, we only ordered chicken. There are actually two businesses being run out of this awesome little place, always tempted to try the BBQ offerings, but really addicted to the chicken. Finally, I made the Sophie's Choice of food and tore myself away from the chicken to get a BBQ sandwich. You can order dinners or sandwiches with one, two, or three meats. I went with a two meat sandwich... pulled pork and hot links. Wow! This was also delicious. Grrrr... now I'll always have to make a tough choice. They have a regular sweet BBQ sauce and a hot sauce (not too hot). They'll bring both to your table when they deliver the order. I alternated the sauces. Can you tell I'd rather have EVERYTHING than to make a choice? Yeah, I'll work on that.

Hark's BBQ & Wing Run does have a few tables and we always eat there, but because this style of food travels so well, there are always a lot of people picking up To Go orders. There seem to be regulars that knew about this place before we found it. We're working up to that status quickly. They already act like they might recognize us, but maybe they greet everyone that friendly. No matter how busy they get, they seem happy to be there. I'm hippie enough to find myself marveling at the positive energy the place always has. I can't believe I just said that out loud, but it's true.

Pulled Pork and Hot Link sandwich (the hot links are sliced into thin rounds and are hiding under all that sweet pork)

Wing Run Cafe & Hark's BBQ on Urbanspoon

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

SHH - Wild Salmon Part 2 - Alaskan Halibut

I'm not gonna lie, this halibut meal was delicious... but it was expeeeeeensive. We had a salmon meal recently that our dog got plenty of, so it's not more expensive than throwing food away. My husband, who is not a picky eater at all really doesn't like salmon, no matter what you do to it. And the best salmon I have had was not that great. I might like it if it were prepared by Gordon Ramsey, but it's not going to wow me when prepared by Applebee's. And, if I'm ever served by Gordon Ramsey, I've got my heart set on the Beef Wellington they always have on Hell's Kitchen.

I may or may not blog about our epic fail salmon meal. I'm still under the impression I can somehow make salmon delicious. But, this halibut meal was amazing. We really are trying to do the right thing and eat a few good meals a week at least. The book lists Alaskan Halibut as a "sidekick" to salmon, so off I went to my fish monger. We are in quite a landlocked state in middle America. But, we do have an exceptional fish market. I asked him how much a portion should be, like what you would get in a restaurant. He told me ten to twelve ounces per person. I think that's on the high side, but I didn't want one of those limp thin strips like you get of tilapia. Next time I think I'll get about six or seven ounces per person. That would be plenty. The filets he cut for me were ten ounces and at least an inch and a half thick, and I had him take the skin off. It came to $26 with tax. OUCH!

Once I was home, I checked the internet to see how to cook it. Oh, the pressure of cooking $26 worth of food. And I've always been nervous about cooking fish. Turns out this was one of the easiest things I've prepared. Back to the internet, though, I have to say, one person said "fifteen minutes in 375 degree oven" and another person said "an hour and a half in a 350 degree oven". Jeez, that's a giant window of potential error. I guess it depends on the thickness, but I realized I was going to have to wing it and pray to the fish gods. The following is a pictorial on just how simple this was...

You need halibut filets, parchment paper, seasoning (I used Louisiana Fish Fry Products' Cajun Seasoning. You can use Old Bay or Emeril's Essence, or any other seasoning you like), pats of butter, lemon slices, rosemary sprigs.

One at a time, place a halibut filet on a piece of parchment paper in a baking dish. (The baking dish is necessary for easy cleanup later. This won't leak much, but it does a little.)

Season it well with your favorite fish seasoning. 

Lay pats of butter on top, or you could be healthier and drizzle EVOO. I might try melting the butter next time and see if it makes a difference. 

Lay lemon slices over. Like little owl eyes. Yes, I'm silly. 

Add a sprig of rosemary. Or thyme. Or the whole Scarborough Fair song. 

Roll it to seal the sides, then fold the ends under. Repeat the process with more filets.  Place the baking dish in a 375 degree oven. This size took about 30 minutes to cook. 

Open your prezzies. They should be white and flaky. You can poke the side of them in the middle with a fork and tell if it's going to flake. These were perfect. 

I served this with an arugula and parmesan salad with my favorite lemon vinaigrette and rosemary roasted potatoes. Oh, and wine. Must have wine. If you want the dressing recipe, you can find it here

Saturday, August 25, 2012

SHH - Oranges Part 2 - Tangerines

I'm embarrassed to say that until recently, I thought Clementines were just a small variety of orange. Nope. They are tangerines. And here I thought I was smarter than a fifth-grader. Anyway, they are still in the family of oranges and they are pretty tasty. I won't post a video of me singing "Oh my darlin'..." to them. But, I do have a certain fondness for the little cuties.

They are pretty yummy just to eat as a snack. After I peel one to eat, I put the peel in the pitcher of our Mr. Coffee Iced Tea Maker and let it lightly flavor the tea. You can strain it out when pouring. It's pretty delicious.

As I was surfing the internet, I came across Nigella Lawson's recipe for Clementine Cake. Well, I love Nigella and this cake sounded delicious and easy. It's so easy, if you can use a food processor, you can make it. (Note: there's a little toggle button on this website that lets you switch from metric measurements to imperial. Wish I'd seen that before I did all the Googling for conversions. I'm not the most observant sometimes.) Oh, and 190 degrees C is 375 degrees fahrenheit.

Nigella had already made this pretty healthy, using no flour and using ground almonds instead. I used her recipe exactly as she wrote it, but I added a shot of Triple Sec (wishing I had Grand Marnier, but oh well). Not for health's sake. Just because I had it and I wanted to throw it in.

Here are my little Clementines after they've been boiled and cut to remove the little stem part. Nigella said to remove "the pips". I had to look that up. Apparently it's the seed, but mine didn't have any seeds.

Nigella didn't say what size springform pan to use, so I transferred the batter to my Pyrex bowl to see how much there was of it. It was 5 1/2 Cups.  Then I realized that didn't help because my springform pans weren't marked for volume. Oh well. 

I used a 9" springform and it worked perfectly. Isn't that the prettiest batter you've ever seen? I didn't know whether to bake it or paint my walls with it! 

Must wait to dig in. Must wait to dig in. Must wait to dig in. 

The resulting cake is very simple, very dense, so much moister than you'd expect. As Nigella said, it's even better the next day.  I had some with my dark roast coffee for breakfast the next morning. 
This cake will stay moist as long as you have it. It never loses moisture. You can wrap in foil or a ziploc baggie and leave on the counter for a few days. If you're going to have it around longer than four days, put it in the fridge to keep it from getting moldy.

Finally, we need a little Tangerine music, don't we? Who knew there were so many songs about Tangerines?

Thursday, August 9, 2012

SHH - Quinoa

In the SuperFoods Rx book, quinoa is a "Sidekick" to Oats. I've had quinoa before, but it was in the form of pasta. I wanted to try actual quinoa and see what I could do with it.

I bought this box at Wal-Mart, so it should be relatively easy to find now.

I'm going to say up front, I didn't love it. At least not plain quinoa. You cook it and use it similarly to rice. A friend told me they commonly eat it for breakfast in Bolivia.

To prepare it, I rinsed it, even though the box said "no rinsing". Someone on the internet said they always rinse, and if it's on the internet, it must be a good idea, right?

First, I took about a tablespoon of quinoa and toasted it, then added butter. I got this idea from something I saw on "Sweet Genius". Their mandatory ingredient was quinoa and one of the contestants used toasted quinoa atop a cupcake. This was nice, crunchy, nutty with a little "brown butter" flavor, although I didn't purposely brown the butter. Nice garnish. A little "seedy".

Next, I cooked some quinoa according to the box instructions. It had a mild, but not particularly pleasant, earthy flavor. I added brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. But, while there is not a lot of flavor to this, there is a hint of a vegetable-like flavor that can't be covered up with the brown sugar and honey. Well, maybe if I'd kept adding, but I felt like I was already using too much.

Here's what the cooked, undoctored quinoa looks like. You are supposed to see those little white rings in it when it's done.

The "doctored" quinoa with brown sugar, cinnamon, and honey. 

But, then I had the most wonderful brainstorm. Shrimp and grits! Decadent, homey, Southern shrimp and grits. I had some cooked quinoa leftover (that's the toasted quinoa on top).

I sauteed some chopped garlic with some butter in a big pot. I took about half the quinoa and added it to the garlic and butter, then used my immersion blender to make this sort of creamy. Then I added the rest of the cooked quinoa, some heavy cream, some sharp cheddar, a little Velveeta for creaminess, lots of Louisiana Cajun seasoning, lots of cayenne pepper, some black pepper, some garlic powder and Tabasco. I added each of these until I got the heat right for me, knowing my hubby would add even more. Then, I quickly cooked up some shrimp (about a half pound for two people, maybe about eight medium sized shrimp each).

Creamy, cheesy, garlic, and hot. Mmmmm comfort food. 

This is a big cereal bowl. We got stuffed on what appeared a small portion and fed a couple of our shrimp to our grateful little doxy. 
I'm sorry for the lack of measurements in this recipe. I was cooking while HUNGRY! For the next quinoa experiment, I may tried a fried rice recipe. The texture reminds me of fried rice.

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Smokie's BBQ in Broken Arrow

Well, folks, this is my new favorite place. My parents live out past this joint and watched every day for months waiting for it to open. Smokie's teased us by putting the sign out front back in March. Then they had people working there almost every day getting it ready until they finally opened in late July. Every time I'd drive by there on my way to visit my parents, I'd say my little mantra "Open, open OPEN".  Anyway, they finally got everything just the way they wanted it and opened their doors.

When you walk in, you will be greeted by a sweet smell of smoke and the warm, friendly owners. The owners here might be the most genuine and earnest people in the restaurant business right now. Eager to please, eager to hear feedback, and so good-natured. It's clear they aren't experimenting or testing things out, though. They honed their smoking skills well before opening because they are proving to be consistent... which is the hardest thing about serving barbecue.

You will not go wrong with anything you order here. But, just in case you can't decide... and I just love this... they have a "Two meat plate" that includes 2 ribs on top of your two meats. Ha! So, I can daintily order a two meat plate and get three meats? They just get me. Anyway, I've now had their ribs, sliced brisket, pulled pork, and hot links. And since they were all good, I might need them to add a four meat plate.

Here's the menu...
I cut off the smoked meat selections. They have Brisket (Chopped or Sliced), Pork, Ribs, Bologna, Sausage, Hot Links and sometimes they will have chicken as the special of the day. 

Now, a word about each of the meats. I'll start with the ribs. These are the best ribs I've had in the Tulsa area and perhaps further out. They don't fall off the bone, but are very tender and come clean off the bone when you eat them. They are not fatty or chewy. They have a nice pink color to them to prove they've been smoked long enough. They have a flavorful rub. Before I forget to mention it, Smokie's has a sweet choice of barbecue sauces. They don't make their own. Instead, they have bottles of Oklahoma-made Head Country, Ranger Creek, Sa-mokin', and Hot at the table. I like mixing and matching. The ribs go really well with the Sa-mokin' sauce, which is on the sweet side. Next, the hot links. These impressed me because I immediately knew they made their own, and owner Aaron Latsos confirmed this. The flavor is sort of breakfast-sausage-y, but with more heat. I liked these with the Sa-mokin' sauce as well, because the heat and the sweet played off of each other so nicely. This might be the best bite of food I've had in quite awhile. On to the brisket. Here was something that surprised me. I tend to like a thick slice of brisket, but theirs is sort of shaved. It's very lean... leaner than I usually like, but still tender and just sort of flakes apart on the fork. I like the Head Country sauce on the brisket because the tanginess works well with beef. But, I alternated with the Ranger Creek because I was having trouble deciding. Finally, the pork. I kind of expected it to be "pulled pork", but this was sort of thin slices like the brisket. The pork had a deep pink smoke ring and was well-seasoned, which gave it sort of a hammy flavor, but not a hammy texture. That's a win in my opinion. The pork went well with all the sauces.

I contend that people will drive anywhere for good 'cue. Unlike other cuisines, barbecue just tastes better after a little drive. And BBQ snobs never like meats smoked inside city limits. So, yes, this is way out east, but it's well worth it. Aaron's dad, also an owner, told us he wanted Smokie's to become a destination spot. They are building out a deck on back and want to have music. Plus, he did all their artwork, including the juke-box front door and the mural of Broken Arrow businesses on the wall inside. I hope this place becomes the destination spot they dream of and that it brings people out for years to come.

Two Meat Plate with Ribs, sliced brisket (peeking out from under the ribs) and hot links. The beans are a family recipe, thick with added meat and very onion-y. The fries are freshly fried and well-seasoned. 

Really yummy onion rings! 

Hubby had a brisket sandwich and cole slaw. He loved their slaw! 

The juke-box styled screen door welcomes you. 

Smokie's BBQ on Urbanspoon