Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Roasted Butternut Squash Puree

Yeah, whatever, I know it looks like baby food. But it tastes really good. Rich and flavorful, this is a great healthy side dish. I think I may actually serve it at Thanksgiving as a dip. Plus, I'm ready to turn my squash addiction from the summer varieties to those of fall!

The Plan
Chop and Roast veggies. Puree.

The Ingredients
1 medium Butternut Squash, peeled and cubed*
1 Onion, rough chopped
2 cloves Garlic, smashed
1 Tbsp Olive Oil
1 Tbsp fresh Sage, minced
1/2 cup plain Greek Yogurt
1/4 tsp powdered Ginger
1/4 tsp powdered Cinnamon
Salt and Pepper

The Method
Preheat oven to 375F.

Place Squash, Onion and Garlic on a sheet pan. Drizzle Olive Oil and Sage over the veggies. Throw on a pinch of Salt and Pepper. Toss to coat. Roast for about 20 minutes, or until tender.

Remove from oven and let cool for a few minutes. Place veggies, Yogurt, Ginger and Cinnamon in a food processor. Puree until mixture has, well, turned into a puree. Your choice, you can leave it a bit chunky or continue pureeing until smooth. Salt and Pepper to taste.

*Don't be intimidated by the Squash. I know it looks a bit scary. Here's what you do: Cut off the top and bottom. Peel. Slice the neck into disks. Cube. Slice around the bulb area of the squash. You can still use the meat the surrounds the seeds.

**I served this with a Thyme roasted chicken breast.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

3 Things to do in Downtown Orlando on a Sunday Afternoon.

With this fantastic weather we have been having, I started thinking about some of the things I love to do in Orlando. If you're visiting and staying at a resort like the recently revamped Peabody Orlando, take a break from the theme parks and check out part of the local culture. So here's three things that an Orlando native enjoys downtown on a Sunday afternoon!

First, have Brunch at Hue. I've been a fan of this restaurant for quite some time. And it's not just because they have an awesome Bloody Mary Bar to kick start the relaxation on a Sunday. It's a great place to people watch and I've always had fantastic service. The brunch menu has a great variety of options anywhere from traditional sandwiches (my favorite is the Turkey Brie and Brandy Poached Pear Croissant) to fun breakfast items like the three different Scramble platters (go for number 2: ham, spinach and cheddar with the sweet potato mash). But I think my favorite brunch pairing with the Bloody Mary Bar is the Steak and Eggs: Petite Filets, Scrambled Eggs and Tater Tots.

After indulging at brunch, you'll probably get the itch to get up and walk around. So for your second activity, take a walk around Lake Eola and feed the swans. It's a time honored tradition here in the City Beautiful and a great way to enjoy not just the perfect weather, but our fantastic city as well. The walk should take about 20 minutes, and you'll be entertained by not only the wildlife and scenery, but also by some of our locals. Enjoy the strums of guitars or just make fun of the people who dress up their dogs. And carry them around in backpacks.

After your jaunt around the lake, make sure to check out the Orlando Farmer's Market. Open every Sunday from 10am to 4 pm, this is certainly one of the favorite farmer's markets in the state. Because who can resist not just the goods you can purchase here, but also the backdrop? Situated under the enormous oak trees with an urban backdrop, stroll around and check out local produce as well as art, jewelry, plants and food items. And be prepared, because you can also purchase the best and freshest orange juice on the planet. Or you can just sit back, relax and imbibe in the Wine and Beer garden. And then maybe take another walk around the lake!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Rick Bayless in Orlando!

Top Chef Master and one of my personal favorite chefs is heading to Orlando!

Chef Rick Bayless will be hosting a cooking demo and book signing next Sunday October 17th at 2pm at the Macy's at Millenia Mall.

I was lucky enough to eat at Topolobampo years ago and think it's pretty cool that he is now in kahoots with my favorite retail outlet by being part of the Macy's Culinary Council. Chef Bayless will be cooking samples of his trademark Latin cuisine and will be signing his new book, "Fiesta at Rick's". Reservations are recommended but not required.

You can make your ressies by calling 1-800-329-8667 of for more info, click here.

See you there!

Sunday, October 3, 2010

Citrus: Eat, Drink and Be Local

Years ago when I was a hipster in my twenties, I lived in an apartment building on Orange Ave, just north of Colonial. The Uptown area was not much to look at then, except for the large bank building that my windows overlooked. It's nice to see the area getting a bit of attention...and I have to admit that I wish Citrus had been open when I lived across the street.

I may have been lying when I told you that I was a hipster, but I'm straight up telling you with truth when I say that I really liked this restaurant.

Citrus, along with HUE and Cityfish, is owned by Urban Life Management Restaurant Group. The Citrus website describes their concept as being "our interpretation of Florida flavors and ideas like fresh, clean, local and independent". Hence the tagline, "Eat, Drink and Be Local". I like their thinking, and even though I don't see too much evidence of local fare on their menu, I guess it's good that they are supporting the cause. The space was really magnificent. Muted tones and eye popping art work adorned the walls. The open space lent that urban downtowny feel. And I'll probably visit again just to sit in the cool bar area and have a drink.

I started off the meal with the Skirt Steak and Cheese Flatbread. The thin and crunchy crust was covered with caramelized onions, Vermont Cheddar, Manchego and a Roquefort cream. Yikes, Urban Flats has a run for it's money with the appetizer. Decadently rich with the cheese and sweet with the onions, this flatbread really worked for me. I also tried a companion's Shrimp and Lobster Fritters. I found the fritters to be average, but they were served with a refreshing mint and pineapple chutney. And, truthfully, I have always enjoyed the odd juxtaposition of a fried item served with a light and fruity item. It really tends to lighten up the heavy fried feel of the other portion of the dish.

Then I did something wild and crazy that I hadn't done in awhile: I ordered pasta. And to tell you the truth, after being pasta free for quite some time, I almost fell out of my chair when I took my first bit of this homemade Chicken Ravioli. The pasta was perfectly cooked and practically melted in my mouth. The menu had described the chicken stuffing as being smoked, but I found it rather bland. Which was really no big deal because the Black Truffle Sauce and hunks of Wild Mushrooms brought the flavor to the table. One warning: this was a huge portion. Be prepared to take some home for lunch the next day!

I finished up my meal with the appropriate Orange Avenue Cake. The not too sweet orange cake was layered and topped with silky smooth cream cheese icing and some mini white chocolate chips. The promised Grand Marnier whipped cream was the big disappointment of the night-I don't think anyone would have served that if they had tasted it in the kitchen. But otherwise I'd highly recommend this dessert....especially to those of us who still have appreciation of the good-ole-fashioned creamsicle. You know, us hipsters.

Citrus Restaurant on Urbanspoon