Elevation Burger – Ingredients Matter

Most of us are frustrated In-N-Out won’t franchise, and unless you’re luckily in California, Nevada or Arizona, chances are, you’re missing out on a great burger (it’s my first stop when landing at LAX). With all the fancy-shamncy burger joints in Kuwait, I’m so glad they finally opened one as close a concept to In-N-Out as possible: informal, quick, organic-‘real-food’ concept and delicious. After tasting this delightful burger a few days ago, I looked up a few of their philosophies and practices and listed the benefits: 

100% organic and grass-fed beef 

100% olive-oil used for frying

Unprocessed Cheddar Cheese (i.e. real cheese)

Real Potatoes used for french-fries

Gluten-Free 

Non-Hazardous and Environmental Friendly run business


There are a few other pointers you can find on their site. Perks like this are so important, not just for enhanced and natural taste, but also in the awareness that you actually know what you’re eating, as opposed to (as is commonly served) a corn-patty that might only contain a fraction of a percentage of real beef. Now, not to say a burger is healthy, but I’m a strong advocate of eating “Real Food,” and not a science project.

 

I opted for the Cheese Burger with Elevation Sauce (a tart tomato-based sauce), with a side of cheese fries and a milk shake. In regards to the taste, I thought the burger was excellent – gorgeous sharp-cheddar cheese on a patty that wasn’t too greasy or heavy. I normally can’t stand cheese fries, as the processed-nacho-cheese slathered on top makes me a little queasy, but this is the first time I can rightfully say I enjoyed cheese fries! (I’m sure a big reason is that the cheese used is unprocessed, and mouth-wateringly good…) The plain fries were well-salted, crisp and a lovely side to the burger. The shake was thick and chocolaty: a great ending to the meal. I didn’t know this when I first went, but they have a protein burger option, which basically excludes the bun of the burger and wraps it instead in lettuce (so, no carbs, only protein) – a great option for carb-free dieters. They also have fresh salad side options, which I think is also good to have. All-in-all, I found it to be great. My biggest criticism would be the location – I really hope informal burger spots will start to expand and open outside busy, crowded malls and have drive-through service.

 

Definitely a must try, and a place I can’t wait to swing by again soon and try other items on their menu. 

 

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Posted in Kuwait, Restaurants, Review | Tagged , , | 4 Comments

Beer-Battered Vegetable Tempura

This was my first attempt at making tempura, and I wanted to do something different that you can’t always find at restaurants. Again, I’m trying to get creative with serving veggie’s (yes, I know, deep-frying isn’t always the healthiest option, even though it’s usually the most delicious)! This turned out just lovely – they were perfectly golden and crispy, and again, very easy to make.

Total Cooking Time:  20 minutes

Serving Portion: 4 persons

1 cup of cold non-alcoholic beer (I purchased mine from Lulu Hypermarket) 

1 cup of all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of baking powder

1/4 cup of corn starch

1/2 teaspoon of salt

1 egg

Mixture of vegetables: onion rings, zucchini strips, carrot strips, broccoli, sweet potato strips, etc.

Sea saltand chili flakes for garnish

 

Begin by slicing your vegetables. If they are vertical, you want to slice them into strips. If they are more round, like an onion, rings can be cut. Once the veggies are prepped, mix together all the ingredients, although make sure the beer is cold before you pour it into the mixture. Refrigerate the mixture while you heat your wok with oil – you want to use a decent amount of oil. Make sure the oil is hot by testing it with a tiny drop of the mixture – if it immediately sizzles, the oil is ready. (This step is crucial to having evenly fried tempura). Dip in a few of your veggies, and make sure they are fully coated in the tempura batter. Once coated, drop them into the wok. Because the mixture is quite light, they might float, which is fine – just stir them around to make sure they brown evenly. Once golden, remove onto a paper towel, and repeat with remaining vegetables. Once you finish frying all the veggies, garish with sea salt and chili flakes. 

 

The tempura came out absolutely delicious – steaming hot, perfectly crispy and golden brown. We just couldn’t eat enough and quickly ate through the entire bowl. For a dipping sauce, you can use soy sauce although it’s a bit strong. Most tempura dipping sauces use mirin (which is a hard Japanese ingredient to find here), but a few friends told me you could just dilute the soy sauce with water and a pinch of sugar. (I would add some more chili myself, cause nothing can be too spicy!) This recipe is a definite keeper.

 

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Posted in Easy Peasy, Recipe, Vegetarian | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Eggplant Gratin – A Vegetarian Dinner

Yes, yes – I know it’s been over a month now since I’ve posted! And after a month of a variety of diets, I’m back to cooking whatever my heart desires (yet still keeping in mind the need to stay healthy). Part of that is what inspired a new trend I am trying at home, which is to prepare a vegetarian dinner at least once a week – no meat, whatsoever. (I’m sure my vegetarian readers are excited about this).  I’ve always loved gratin’s, and found their sophisticated individual-sized portions lovely, and decided to start there, with this beautiful eggplant gratin (a favorite vegetable of mine).

Total Cooking Time: 30 minutes

Serving Portion: 3 persons

 

2-3 large-sized eggplants 

1/4 cup ricotta cheese

1 egg

1/4 cup of whipping cream or half-and-half

2 cups of Parmesan

1 cup of good marinara sauce (you can use store bought, I made my own)

Olive Oil

Salt and pepper for garnish


This recipe is super easy. First off, pre-heat the oven at 200C. If you have store-bought marina, you can use that, otherwise make sure you first have made your marinara sauce and are ready to use that (I included a quick marina recipe in a previous post). Begin by first slicing your eggplant about 1.5cm thick. Once complete, fry them on both sides in good olive oil, which should take about 5 minutes. Once complete, allow them to drain and pat the excess oil dry with a paper-towel. Leave on the side, and prepare your ricotta mixture – mix together the egg, whipping cream, 1/4 cup of parmesan (you’ll use the rest for layering), ricotta and 1/8 teaspoon of salt and pepper, each. Have your gratin dishes ready for layering – begin with a layer of eggplant on the bottom. Garnish with salt and pepper, then sprinkle with parmesan and spoon over the marinara sauce. Next, add a second layer of eggplant, salt and pepper, and then the ricotta mixture. Cover with additional parmesan – and you’re done. You can sprinkle on some bread crumbs to keep the top crispy if you like. Bake for 25-30 minutes, until top is bubbling and crispy. 

 

The recipe is that simple. It’s a matter of just layering. It’s also such a beautiful center-dish for a quick weeknight dinner. I served it with a side of goat cheese salad and some garlic bread. It’s sometimes difficult to think of delicious, filling and original vegetarian dishes but this is one that definitely won’t disappoint. Plus, if you have kiddies around, you can always chop up additional vegetables and get use this as a way to sneak in some healthy ingredients.

 

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Recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten

Posted in Easy Peasy, Healthy, Recipe, Vegetarian | Tagged , , | 2 Comments

Tatami Event – Japanese Inspired Brunch

I’m loving all the foodie events this week… I got an email the other day about an event this Friday and Saturday morning and found it too fun to resist. Tatami (I had blogged about their amazing cooking courses before) is having a Japanese brunch event, where groups can go and choose dishes from a special tasting menu. The menu will feature a few different categories of smaller portions, but a series of dishes – that way, you get to, potentially if you come with a group large enough, attempt to try the entire brunch menu! For people like me, who eat portions the size of baby birds, I just adore events like this that really get to play with your palette and explore different dishes that you might have initially hesitated to order.

The menu is described as a Japanese-fusion menu, including dishes such as shiitake mushrooms in a miso-braised eggplant, okonomiyaki (Japanese frittata), french toast, roasted pumpkin and ginger pancakes, smoked-salmon and herb omelet with wasabi-spiced cream cheese, ginger-infused maple syrup and Matchta green-tea pancakes.

The menu sounds entirely original, and like a fun opportunity to explore new dishes, plus the pictures look just marvelous. All information is below. 

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Posted in Breakfast, Brunch, Event, Kuwait, Restaurants | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Organic Home Gardening Class – Go Organic !

I can’t express how excited I am that something like this is FINALLY available: a class that teaches how to grow your own organic and fresh produce. As a home-cook that dedicates time to making my own stock to make sure there is no MSG, goes out of my way to make sure my meat is all fresh butchered and of highest quality available, and drives routine weekly trips to three different grocery stores to make sure my ingredients are composed of the freshest and most organic produce – this was definitely the next step in making sure that the food I serve my friends and family always is fresh and of the utmost best quality.  Although I already grow some of my own spices, I’ve been playing with the idea of growing my own produce, especially daily staples like tomatoes and onions – now, I have no excuse. And neither do you. Plus, if you don’t share the passion for fresh ingredients, it’s always nice when there’s a fun and different activity in town… All details are below.


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Penne a la Pink Sauce

As usual, I was skimming for quick recipes that don’t take too much time, but are just as filling and wholesome as time-consuming home made meals, and stumbled across this: “You Won’t Be Single for Long Pasta.” (I thought the name was just adorable). I have to say, not only was it quick, it tasted far more flavorful than some of the cream-pink pasta’s I’ve had here. The best pink sauce I ever had was at The Ivy in Los Angeles which I posted about earlier. I’ve yet to master that… but, this was a great and delicious start.

1 box of penne pasta (I use brown pasta, but it doesn’t matter)

1 tablespoon of extra-virgin olive oil

1 tablespoon of butter

2 cloves of garlic, minced

2 shallots, minced

1 cup of apple cider (the recipe calls for vodka, but apple cider is a good substitute)

1 cup chicken stock (I use homemade, but again, you can use bouillion cubes or whatever you have)

2 cans of 15 oz. whole tomatoes (if you have diced that’s fine)

1/2 cup heavy whipping cream

10-15 button mushrooms

fresh shrimps, peeled and tails removed (enough for 2 persons)

2 tablespoons of fresh basil leaves, chopped

salt and pepper for garnish

good quality parmesan cheese, shredded, for garnish

 

First begin by melting the butter in a large skillet – when ready, add the shallots and garlic. Allow the shallots to sweat and soften which will take around 4 minutes. Once ready, add the apple cider and allow about half of the portion to evaporate – this takes an additional 3-4 minutes. Once ready, then add the chicken stock and tomatoes – if the tomatoes aren’t crushed, use a masher to crush them further in the sauce. Allow the sauce to then simmer on low, covered. While the sauce is simmering, boil your pasta and begin to sautee your mushrooms in a separate small pan. When sauteing make sure to add 1 tablespoon of butter and a pinch of salt and pepper – allow to brown well. Once complete add the mushrooms to the sauce. At this time, also add the shrimp and allow them to cook for about 3-5 minutes. Once complete, pour in the whipping cream and give the sauce a good stir. Strain the pasta and in a large bowl, toss the pasta together with the sauce and basil. Add salt, pepper and parmesan on top for garnish. The recipe is incredibly easy and so flavorful! It doesn’t call for chili, but I added a teaspoon of red chili pepper flakes to add a kick, which was great. The portion size is also large enough to store some on the side and freeze for a rainy day or surprise guests.

 

This is one of those great additions to include in your personal cookbook and provides a template to either play with it as a vegetarian, seafood or meat dish. My family loved it and I’m sure I’ll be making it again soon… only this time, I’m going to try and match The Ivy’s…

 

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Recipe, adapted from Rachel Ray and Smitten Kitchen

Posted in Easy Peasy, Pasta, Recipe | Tagged , , | 7 Comments

Couscous Mixed with Fresh Parsley and Pine Nuts – A Healthy Side

Recently, I’ve been very interested in making healthy side dishes, and couscous definitely fits that profile. I had read it has a 1% fat-to-calorie ratio, compared to white pasta (5%) and white rice (3%). Plus, the best part, is that it’s perfect for a filling dinner in replacement of heavy pasta or rice.

Again, when cooking with a new ingredients I find it a bit intimidating, but it’s almost laughable how easy it is to make couscous… It’s nearly fool-proof.

4 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 cups yellow onion, chopped

3 cups chicken stock (I used my homemade batch, but you can buy the cartons in Lulu)

1 teaspoon of salt

1/2 teaspoon of ground pepper

2 cups of couscous (the recipe calls for this, but keep in mind it makes a lot – 1 cup is more than enough for 2 persons)

1/2 cup pine nuts, toasted

1/2 cup parsley, minced

 

First roast the pine nuts in a small pan with a drizzle of olive oil. Roast them until they begin to turn a medium-shade of brown, while making sure to constantly toss. Then allow to rest on the side. In a medium size pot, warm the butter and add the onions – allow them to sweat for about 5-8 minutes on low heat. Once soft, add the chicken stock, salt and pepper. Bring to a full boil then add the couscous. Once you mix in the couscous, turn off the heat and cover the pot, allowing the couscous to absorb the liquid. Keep the pot covered for 10 complete minutes. Once removed, the couscous will be puffed up with a bed of the spices and onions resting on top – fluff all together with a fork. Add in the parsley and pine nuts, and mix further. That’s it!

 

I can’t stress how great a replacement this is to so many rice-based dishes. It’s a new staple I’ve introduced to our house and something I’ll be repeating a lot more often – the couscous turned out so light, fluffy and flavorful (I have to stay, homemade chicken stock is also, a great addition). Also, you can play with the additions to couscous and instead of parsley, use currants, a variety of different nuts and shallots. And, again (me with my presentation), it sits beautifully on a plate to serve with a few extra shreds of chopped parsley garnished on top.

 

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Recipe, courtesy of Ina Garten

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