Zento Contemporary Sushi

Sweet Potato Tempura Sushi at Zento
Sweet Potato Tempura Sushi at Zento

Somehow,  I’ve never seen sweet potato tempura sushi on the menu at any of the sushi places I’ve been to.  Holy delicious! Battered and fried sweet potatoes wrapped in rice and seaweed? Yum! I topped my roll off with a sweet inari (tofu skin) sushi. Senor Lanky thought the fish was very fresh, and the cute little restaurant is conveniently located in Old City, where I tend to not find many exciting food options.

I also had a delcious bowl of agadashi tofu – one of my favorite foods ever – beautifully topped with asparagus and mushroom tempura. Unfortunately, I had been hungry for about 3 hours before we settle on Zento, and I dove right in before taking a picture. Don’t worry. With prices this fair, service this friendly, BYOB and great location, I’ll be back.

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Roasted Pear Salad with mixed greens, arugula, goat cheese, and tarragon

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I have to keep shaking the salads up for the lunch programs I make at work, otherwise our guests (and our staff, and me!) will get bored. 

"Rosey Goat" cheese
"Rosey Goat" cheese
roasted Red Bosc pears with fresh tarragon
roasted Red Bosc pears with fresh tarragon
toasted walnuts
toasted walnuts

This salad was made with baby greens, some arugula, pears roasted in the oven for 10 minutes with fresh tarragon and just a sprinkle of sugar, toasted walnuts (also sprinkles with sugar), a hard, rosemary crusted goat cheese called “Rosey Goat,” and a simple dressing, pictured above, made with cider vinegar, shallots, vegetable oil (how I wish I had grapeseed oil) and fresh tarragon.

Roasted pear salad, compiled
Roasted pear salad, compiled

I tossed the greens with the dressing first, then added the walnuts, pears, and cheese. It was a subtle salad, but delicious.

Roasted Poblano Peppers, stuffed

Roasted Poblano Peppers, stuffed
Roasted Poblano Peppers, stuffed

I love roasted peppers, and goat cheese, and really, everything in this dish. It is based on a this recipe from the March issue of Body & Soul magazine  – finally they focused on vegetarianism as a way to live “greener!”  As is my way, I changed a few things. First, I didn’t read the recipe very carefully, and halved the peppers before I realized I was supposed to roast them whole, then slit and stuff them. Oh well. Different aesthetic, same flavor. I also substituted 4-pepper soft goat cheese for the goat feta, black beans for the black soy beans, red incan quionoa for the white quinoa, a whole dried ancho pepper with the Tbs. of chipotle (I’m not a big chipotle fan), and poured the sauce over top everything, instead of at the bottom of the pan and under the peppers. That said, it was delicious!

Salad with toasted pumpkin seed dressing
Salad with toasted pumpkin seed dressing

I served the roasted  poblanos with a simple side salad of red leaf lettuce, fresh tomato, and a toasted pumpkin seed dressing I found on epicurious.com. I reduced the oil significantly, and while the flavor was top-notch, Senor Lanky grumbled a bit because it was chunkier, and therefor didn’t spread as well throughout the salad.

Roasted Poblanos, casserole-style
Roasted Poblanos, casserole-style

Yum.  You can see all the choppped cilantro from the sauce, nestled on top.

Thai Cabbage Slaw, Mineola Tempeh and Kiwi salsa

Thai Cabbage Slaw
Thai Cabbage Slaw

I’m so glad that I discovered I love cabbage. This recipe is a variation on a recipe posted on 28 Cooks, itself a variation of a recipe from The Daily Raw Cafe. Or course, I made some changes based on what I had in the kitchen and pantry, and what I like best. It was crunchy, delicious, and just the right balance of sweet and spicy. What a way to brighten a winter evening!

Mineola Tempah with Kiwi salsa
Mineola Tempah with Kiwi salsa

You could also make this tempeh and salsa with a tangarine, but I love easy-to-peel mineolas in the winter, and I had a big giant bowl of them on my kitchen counter.

Thai Cabbage Slaw

serves 4 (hugely)

4 cups thinly sliced red cabbage

4 large carrots, julienned

4 Tbs. rice wine vinegar

1/2 c. almond butter

1 Tbs. peanut oil

2 cloves of garlic, minced

1 Tbs. fresh ginger, minced

3 hot red chili peppers, minced

1 Tbs. honey

juice and zest of one lime

salt, to taste

1/4 cup fresh cilantro

Instructions: Toss the cabbage, carrots, and rice wine vinegar in a large bowl.  In a smaller bowl, mix together the almond butter, peanut oil, garlic, ginger, chilies, honey, lime juice and zest and salt until smooth. Mix into the cabbage mixture, until evenly coated. The sauce is thick, and  you’ll probably need to use your hands to ensure an even distribution. Add the fresh cilantro, and toss. Garnish with additional chilies, or cilantro if you wish.

Mineola Tempeh

serves 4

16 oz. Tempeh

1 Tbs. peanut oil

marinade:

Juice of 2 mineolas, plus zest

4 Tbs. soy sauce

1 Tbs. sugar (I use demera)

pinch of cardamon

salt, to taste

Instructions: Mix all the marinade ingrediants in a shallow bowl. Divide the tempeh into 4 pieces, then cut each piece into 6 strips. Toss gently in the marinade, and allow to marinate for as much time as you have – 5 minutes to 1 day.  Heat the peanut oil in a large skillet. Add just the tempeh, lightly frying on one side. Flip the tempeh and add the marinade.  It will carmelize quickly, so keep a careful eye on the tempeh to prevent burning.

Kiwi Salsa

2 whole kiwis, peeled

1 mineola, peeled

1 tsp. olive oil

2 diced hot chili peppers

pinch of salt

Instructions: Dice the kiwi and mineola. Add the olive oil, chilies, and salt, tossing gently. Allow to marinate for a few mintues before serving.

Take a look at that gorgeous red cabbage!
Take a look at that gorgeous red cabbage!

Vientiane

Eggplant Sweet Basil
Eggplant Sweet Basil

Senor Lanky and I love Vientiane, our local Laotion family-owned restaurant so much, we actually ended up there on Valentine’s Day with with our fancy bottle of Spanish wine. The restaurant was dimly lit, and on every high surface the staff had placed little glimmering votives in wine glasses. For about a year, I ordered the same thing over and over, because I loved it so much, but in the last two years I’ve allowed myself to branch out, and have never been disappointed. I ordered the above Eggplant Sweet Basil with basmati rice that night. While it was sweet, the basil had a enough bitterness left in it’s ample skin to balance the flavors.

Pad Ke Mao
Pad Ke Mao

Senor Lanky ordered the pad ke mao with tofu, so that he could share with me (what a sweetheart!). This is one of my favorite all-time dishes, and never disappoints. When it gets too spicy, just bite into one of those juicy chunks of tomato to cool your mouth off. Vientiane does NOT mess around with spice. Seriously. If it’s your first visit, let them prepare it they way they suggest, and add chili if you still want it after tasting your dish. On a rating system from one to five chilies, most people I know can’t handle more than two, and Senor Lanky and I (true chili lovers) never go higher than four, though five chilies, accomplished only by my friend Ryan who basically drinks hot sauce for breakfast, is a goal we continually strive for. We actually forgot to specify our spicy level, so you can see the extra crushed, dried chili the friendly staff brought for us.

Banana Chocolate Spring Roll
Banana Chocolate Spring Roll

We never make it to dessert (I always want to eat my entire dinner), but it was Valentine’s Day, so I took half of my entree home and we went for the sweets. Senor Lanky was head-over-heels for these banana chocolate spring rolls – and entire banana dipped in chocolate, fried in thin dough, and served with a mango dipping sauce.

Coconut Rice Pudding
Coconut Rice Pudding

My favorite was the coconut rice pudding – not too sweet and served in two cute little bowls – the perfect size.

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Eggplant Rollitini from Veganomicon

Eggplant Rollitini from <em>Veganomicon</em>
Eggplant Rollitini from Veganomicon

I’ve been eyeing this Rollitini in Veganomican for quite awhile. The writers make it sound very difficult, but it’s really not. If you get all the steps going in order, you can have the whole thing completed in about an hour. The key is to slice the eggplant very thinly. While the have you cut-off the sides (to avoid more of the peel), I say peel the eggplant and use the whole thing! Note the vegan Parmesan – called “Almandsan” in Veganomicon. Made of crushed almonds, toasted sesame seeds, lemon zest and garlic, it adds texture and a pleasing flavor to vegan Italian dishes.

Rolled, pre-sauce
Rolled, pre-sauce

The most amazing part about this recipe, I think, is the tofu ricotta. It was so easy to make, and really, I couldn’t tell the difference at all. Success! Here are the eggplant slices fried, stuffed with spinach and “ricotta” and rolled up. I added extra breadcrumbs on top, for added textures.

Rollitini - smothered in sauce
Rollitini - smothered in sauce

I made this with a basic marinara sauce, but added aged Greek olives and about a half a cup of red wine. I tend to like my food smothered in sauce, so that’s the way I make it.

goat cheese and fresh tomato basil Bruchetta
goat cheese and fresh tomato basil Bruchetta

On the side, I served some bruchetta I made with a delicious seeded baguette from Metropolitan Bakery, spreadable goat cheese, and just a quick tapenade of tomatoes, fresh and ripe from Iovine’s that day, fresh basil, a bit of herbed olive oil, and some salt. Scrumptious.

Whole Wheat Fussili with Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Sauce

Whole-wheat Fussili with Roasted Eggplant Tomato Sauce
Whole-wheat Fussili with Roasted Eggplant Tomato Sauce

This pasta was another mid-week experiment meal. I had an opened jar of roasted eggplant, meant for another purpose it turned out to be unsuited for, aging in the fridge. Thinking about the  pasta dish I had at La Laconda the other week, I whipped up a sauce with fried garlic, roasted eggplant pulp, canned plum tomatoes, and fresh basil. I toss the cooked fussili in the sauce, then topped the whole thing with a whole-grain breadcrumbs and crushed almonds, and used a vegetable peeler to add nice big shavings of pecorino. Into the oven at 400 for 15 minutes, and the cheese was crispy and delicious. If I had it to do over though, I probably wouldn’t bake it, as it resulted in a drier pasta than I was aiming for. I served the pasta with a simple sides of steamed broccoli and zucchini lightly fried in a bit of olive oil.