Tango Sur and Chimichurri Avocado Bruschetta

This week, my dinner club and I went out to Chicago’s favorite spot for Argentinian food, Tango Sur. Before I went, I spent a while stalking the menu as I usually do, but  this one was particularly hard to narrow down my choices. I had more than 12 things I wanted to try! The one thing I KNEW I had to try were their empanadas. Thankfully, I got to try a few different ones: Spinach and cheese, ham and cheese and beef. For me, the ham and cheese topped the charts. Dipping it in the accompanying chimichurri sauce, the whole empanada was gone in about 30 seconds!

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While everyone at the table went with the the filet served with spinach mashed potatoes, I went a different route and got a chicken dish. It was HUGE but so delicious that I ended up eating the whole thing. The chicken was called Suprema a la Napolitana and was served breaded and fried and topped with ham, mozzarella and tomato sauce. 

El Filet:

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Suprema a la Napolitana:

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While I literally had nothing left on my plate at the end of dinner, I did get to bring something home with me. The delicious chimichurri! We asked for extra to dip our potatoes in and WOW, that stuff is delicious. The next night I decided to make an appetizer with the amazing sauce: Chimichurri Avocado Bruschetta. This is a super easy recipe to make if you already have pre-made chimichurri like I did. If you want to go all out and make your own, I certainly encourage it! You can find a great recipe for homemade chimichurri: here.

Basically all you do with this appetizer is toast some sliced baguettes, chop some avocados, toss those with the chimichurri and top on the sliced baguettes. It’s simple, elegant and delicious!

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Enjoy!

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Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Cajun Remoulade

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Fried green tomatoes are one of my favorite dishes from the South. Every time I go to visit my brothers down in Nashville I always make sure to get an order! These green tomatoes came from my Mom’s suburb-of-Chicago outdoor garden and were just as good as the Southern fried ones! Also, since these were picked fresh off the vine, they were twice as delicious. I like my fried green tomatoes spicy so this recipe kicks up the heat! If you aren’t into spicy-ness tone down the sriracha, hot sauce and Cajun spices a tad. This dish is a great for a starter before dinner and even substituted for regular tomatoes for a tasty twist on a BLT. Enjoy!

Fried Green Tomatoes with Spicy Cajun Remoulade

For the Spicy Cajun Remoulade

½ cup low fat mayonnaise

½ cup light sour cream

½ tablespoon sriracha

½ lemon, juiced

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

Salt and pepper

Combine the ingredients of the remoulade, stir until combined and refrigerate for 1 hour.

For the Fried Green Tomatoes

1 teaspoon Cajun seasoning

1 1/2 cups yellow cornmeal

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1 egg

1 1/2 cups skim milk

1 tablespoon hot sauce

4-5 Fresh green tomatoes

1/2 cup vegetable oil

Cajun seasoning, for sprinkling

Combine Cajun seasoning, cornmeal and flour into a bowl and toss to combine. Set aside. Combine egg, milk and hot sauce and beat until combined. Set aside. Slice tomatoes into ½ inch slices. Dip each slice into egg/milk/hot sauce mixture until well coated. Then dip each slice seasoning/cornmeal/flour mixture until evenly coated. Heat ½ cup vegetable oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium high heat. Once oil is hot, add tomatoes, flipping once, about 2 minutes per side. Sprinkle with Cajun seasoning and serve hot with the Spicy Cajun Remoulade.

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Strawberry Basil Lemonade

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Who doesn’t love a tall glass o’ lemonade on a hot summer day? It is definitely one of those cravings that lasts all summer long. For this recipe, I went off of a post from my new favorite food website, Food52.com. It combines lemonade with the sweet flavor of fresh strawberries and the subtle peppery flavor of basil. It turned out to be a really delicious and satisfying drink. I think it would make for a great cocktail too! Just splash in some vodka and bring it out to the pool with you for a cool-off cocktail!

Strawberry Basil Lemonade

Recipe taken from Food52.com

1cup sugar

3 cups quartered fresh strawberries

20 medium basil leaves, roughly chopped

1 1/2cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

Put the sugar in a heatproof bowl or cup and pour 1 cup of boiling water over it. Stir to dissolve and let cool. Combine the strawberries with the basil and 1/4 cup of the sugar syrup in a blender. Puree until smooth.

To make the lemonade, fill a glass with ice and add 3 tablespoons of lemon juice, 3 tablespoons of the strawberry puree, 1/2 cup cold water, and 1 to 2 tablespoons of sugar syrup, depending on how sweet you like it. Stir well and serve right away.

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Enjoy!

Mercadito

While I still have a lot of Chicago Mexican restaurants to check off my list, I think Mercadito will always hold the crown as my number one. They have my all-time favorite taco on their menu (the camarón featured below) and some of the most unique margaritas I’ve ever tried. I also devour their awesome mango guacamole each time I’m there! While Mercadito is a little on the expensive side, you are sure to never leave hungry as these tacos are certainly belly-fillers. Here is what I got the last time I was there for dinner, but their menu has so many options and you can never go wrong with what you order!

We started off with a duo of their house-made guacamole. Choosing the Traditional, that had tomatillo pico de gallo, jalapeño, garlic, key-lime, cilantro and the Mango with jícama, chipotle, pico de gallo were two very wise decisions!

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I’ve been trying to work my way through their cocktail menu, so each time I go I try a couple different ones. The last time I went I got the most unique margarita I’ve ever tried called the “Smokey Pablo” which reminded me of a blueberry barbecue sauce– very different! This time I went with two that were more refreshing. The first was the V-9  which had pineapple, greens, ginger and lemon. It was quite tasty.

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The second margarita I tried was their Pera Te which had black tea infused tequila, pear, lime juice and agave nectar. While I didn’t like this one as much as the V-9, it was still enjoyable!

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For dinner we did what most people do when they come to Mercadito- share the tacos to try as many as possible before getting stuffed! The first to come out was the Estilo Baja with beer battered mahi-mahi, some spicy aioli and mexican-style coleslaw. YUM.

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The next taco we ordered was my personal favorite, the Camarón. I mostly like this because of the always cooked-to-perfection tender pieces of shrimp and the really spicy sauce they drench this taco in. It is heaven on a homemade tortilla!

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The last taco we got was on special that night and incorporated some Italian flavors, which I can never say no to! This was a meatball taco with mozzarella, basil and cherry tomatoes. I’ve never had anything like it, it was so so good! And it was a good thing we ended on this one because it was the most filling out of all of them.

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If you are ever craving some never-fail-delicious Mexican in Chicago, Mercadito is the way to go!

Little Goat

An hour wait? No problem! As long as I get to try Stephanie Izard’s new restaurant Little Goat. Located across the street from her now famous Girl and the Goat, this place is set up diner style, but with Izard’s own flair planted on the design and menu items. All traditional foods you’d find at any average diner come with a spin at this place. Think pork and toffee milkshake or sloppy joes with goat meat. Everything we ended up ordering was a-maz-ing, I just wish we had the stomach space to try more!

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“The Little Goat” Coffee was rich and creamy and made with steamed goat’s milk.

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The spiced apple pancake with cream cheese butter and oatmeal crumble was just….decadent!

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Gluten free sourdough pancakes for my gluten free friend!

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“Los Drowned” with braised beef, avocado, buttercase cheese, pickle and spicy mayo on a hoagie. This came with a delish au jus type dipping sauce.

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Of course had to get the side of mac and cheese with breadcrumbs for the table! No complaints, no complaints at all.

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And last but not least was my order: Chicken Cordon Bleu with breaded chicken, ham, brie cheese sauce, kraut, and pickled peppers on a homemade potato bun. Even though this was probably the messiest sandwich I’ve ever had, so messy a fork and knife were definitely necessary, every bite was so well balanced and tasty that the mess stopped mattering. I loved it all.

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You can really tell that Stephanie puts her heart and soul and creating each and every dish. This is a place where you can really taste the passion!

Balena

So glad I finally got to try Balena in Lincoln Park! I have been meaning to try this place for a while, so 5 friends and I went to check it out last week. Chris Padel, the restaurant’s head chef, was in the running for a James Beard Award for Best New Restaurant; that’s some serious stuff! Balena was also nominated for Best New Restaurant in the Chicago Foodie’s Bible- Time Out Chicago. I always trust the food writer’s opinions in that magazine and that was the big reason I was so tempted by this restaurant’s tantalizing menu.Image

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Balena means “whale” in Italian, and after feasting on these delicious menu items, I think we all felt pretty whale-like…(but well worth it).

We started with two pizzas. The first, and all around favorite of the two, was the Spicy sausage pizza with red onion, tomato and mozzarella. The crust was so fresh and all of the ingredients melded perfectly together for a cheesy, spicy, warm slice.

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The second pizza was the brussel sprout pizza with pancetta, pecorino and red onion. It had a salty/lemony flavor with the crisp leafy texture from the sprouts. Still a really good pizza, but nothing compared to the spicy sausage which was scarfed down by the table within 10 minutes. The brussel sprout pizza had two slicing remaining. The winner was clear.

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Everyone got their own pasta dish for the main course. I like how the pasta dishes weren’t humungous like most Italian eateries. I was happily able to eat every last bite of mine. The most popular dish at the table was the Tagliolini Nero which was an ink pasta with crab, sea urchin and chili. Three people at the table ordered it! This dish reminded me exactly of the pasta I ordered at RPM Italian and I have to say, RPM take the cake on that one. Everyone at the table really enjoyed Balena’s Tagliolini Nero, for me, it was my least favorite.

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I ordered the Orecchiette based off of the waiter’s heartfelt recommendation for it. I was very impressed! This dish came with kale, lemon, chili and toasted breadcrumbs that added some great texture on top of the creamy sauce. I only let one person at the table take a taste and I ate all the rest!

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The last thing I tried was the Rigatoni with pork ragu and porcini mushrooms. Mushrooms are probably the only food I do not enjoy so I poked at the pasta and pork sauce which was really delicious.

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Everyone really enjoyed their dinner at Balena, I hope to go back soon and try some more of their amazing-looking pizzas!

An Italian Wedding Shower

This past weekend, My mom and my aunts put on a beautiful wedding shower for my cousin. Their hard work paid off in everything from the food, to the decorations to the music- it felt like we were in Tuscany! Check out some of the highlights:

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The amazing stuffed shells were made by Aunt Jo! She made them based off of the colors of the Italian flag- Pesto Chicken for the green, Lemon Basil Ricotta for the white and Turkey Sausage and Artichoke with Marinara for the red. She put her own little spins off of the below recipes, like using her own homemade marinara sauce and adding ricotta instead of cream cheese to the pesto shells. Try them out! I have a hard time choosing my favorite because they were all so yummy, but I think I lean towards the awesome pesto shells!

Pesto Chicken Stuffed Shells

Lemon Basil Ricotta Stuffed Shells

Turkey Sausage and Artichoke Stuffed Shells

Chicago Restaurant Week – Union Sushi + Barbecue Bar

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Chicago Restaurant Week is upon us! That wonderful time of year when many restaurants in the city of Chicago gather their favorite menu items and put the choices on their pre-fixed menus. $22 for lunches and $33 or $44 for dinners. It’s a great way to try some of the great places to eat for a more affordable price. Two of my friends and I went to Union Sushi and Barbecue Bar on Friday night for the perfect start to February. Between the three of us we got to try almost every item on their Restaurant week menu…here are the highlights!

Some silky smooth miso soup.

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Truffled tuna with avocado and wonton chips.

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Black pepper shrimp. Had a really good punch of heat in each bite.

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And my favorite of the appetizers was the Cobia Carpaccio. How pretty is this?! It was very citrus-y with grapefruit and orange flavors that really made the dish taste fresh and awake.

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One of the main courses we tried was the Surf and Turf with beef, jumbo shrimp and sweet potato cream

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And we also got the sushi platter with the Black Rice Tuna roll and the Shrimp Tempura roll. Both were awesome and I loved trying black rice sushi for the first time.

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Here is J from the lifestyle blog Lace and Lacquer enjoying her sushi.

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For dessert we enjoyed a “Killer Yuzu Pie,” which was much like a key lime pie, as well as a Pumpkin Mochi Cake that had cream cheese ice cream, caramel and pumpkin brittle.

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Go here. It’s real tasty.

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

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The first thing that comes to mind when I think Chicken Pot Pie is season 8 of Top Chef, when Carla Hall literally almost had a joyful heart attack upon learning that she’d be cooking chicken pot pie in that episode. She was going on and on about how she was going to cook that pie with so much love packed inside. Needless to say it bordered on the edges of hilarious and crazy…but she won!  And in a way she was right, chicken pot pie is one of those home-goodie kind of dishes that definitely makes a difference when its cooked with care. I went off of Ina Garten’s recipe in this post but used the store bought pie crust to cut down on the time. I liked the fact that each person got their own mini pot pie. It turned out delish and was certainly satisfying!

Individual Chicken Pot Pies

3 boneless, skinless chicken breasts

5 cups chicken stock

2 chicken bouillon cubes

1 stick unsalted butter

2 cups yellow onions, chopped

3/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/4 cup heavy cream

2 cups carrots,chopped

1 (10-ounce) package frozen peas (2 cups)

1/2 cup minced fresh parsley leaves

1 package of prepared pie crust

1 egg

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Boil the chicken breasts until cooked through, a little more than a half an hour. In a saucepan heat the chicken broth and add the chicken bouillon cubes until dissolved. In a large, deep skillet melt 1 stick of butter then cook over medium-low heat until onions are translucent, about 10-15 minutes. Add the flour and cook over low heat for two minutes, stirring constantly. Next, add the chicken stock and stir until smooth. Add carrots, peas, cooked chicken and parsley. Mix well.

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Spoon mixture into oven safe bowls. Place on cookie sheet.

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Cover with pie crusts and slit 2-3 small holes at the top for venting. Whisk one egg and white are combined. Brush the top of the pie crust with egg wash. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.

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Place in oven and bake for 30 minutes, or until the crust is golden brown.

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Dig in and ENJOY!

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Nutella Cookies

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I just love Nutella. When I studied abroad in Italy, I discovered my deep love for this creamy, chocolaty hazelnut spread. I used to put it on anything from  baguettes to bananas. Basically anything is delicious if it is topped with Nutella! Here is a simple chocolate cookie topped with Nutella to make it the perfect sweet bite.

Nutella Cookies

1 cup of flour

1 cup powdered sugar

1/3 cup cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup of butter

2 eggs

1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract

Nutella, to top

Preheat oven to 350. Mix together flour, sugar, cocoa powder and salt. In a separate bowl stir together the butter, eggs and vanilla extract. Add to dry mixture and mix until well combined. Roll dough into 1 inch balls and arrange on a greased cookie sheet, 1 inch apart.

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Press thumb into center of cookie to create a dent that will hold the Nutella.

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Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool completely.

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Take a spoon and top the cooled cookies with a heap of Nutella.

Enjoy!

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