Monday, July 29, 2013

Lentil Bake w/ Caramelized Onions, Goat Cheese & Tomato Olive Relish

This isn't as good as the Oasis original (see previous post), but it is absolutely delicious.  The original dish was garnished with a tomato jalapeno jam.  I didn't feel like going through the hassle of such a thing, so I opted for a fresher topping.  I had some nice mixed olives and, like everyone it seems, I am loaded down with tomatoes; they seemed to be the natural pairing with this.  The lentil bake is a perfect vegetarian main course or would be a great side to some sort of roast instead of potatoes.

Lentil Bake
1 1/2 C sorted, washed brown lentils
6 C water
1 lrg clove garlic
1 bay leaf
1 vegetable bouillon cube
2 med onions, thinly sliced
1/4 C dry vermouth
1 tsp minced garlic
3-4 oz goat cheese
2 tsp fresh thyme (1 tsp dried)
1 1/2 tsp salt (or to taste)
2 egg whites
1/4 C shredded asiago or parmesan

   In a large pot, bring water, lentils, garlic clove, bay leaf, and veg bouillon to a boil.  Reduce to simmer (med-low), partially cover, cook 15-20 minutes until lentils are soft.  Drain, discard garlic and bay leaf.  Mash the lentils up a little.
   In a little bit of oil, cook onions over medium low until soft and brown (caramelized, it will take 15-20 min).  Add garlic, cook 1-2 min.  Deglaze pan with dry vermouth (or white wine).  Add to lentils.
   Add goat cheese, thyme, and salt to lentils.  Mix until cheese is distributed throughout. (Adjust seasoning to taste at this point.)
   Beat egg whites to stiff peaks.  Fold into lentil mixture.
   Pour into greased baking dish.  Top with asiago
   Bake 350 deg F covered for 15 minutes.
  Uncover, bake another 15 minutes, until cheese is browned.
   Serves 4 (main).

Fresh Tomato & Mixed Olive Relish
1/4 C chopped mixed olives
1/4 C chopped fresh tomato
2 tsp fresh chopped basil
2 tsp balsamic vinegar

   Combine ingredients, let sit together for at least 30 minutes.  The mixture may or may not need salt depending on the brininess of the olives.
   Serves 4

Monday, July 22, 2013

Roatan Oasis

I started a new job last week.  So far I love it, but it has a lot more lulls than the unnecessarily stressful environment of the grocery store.  Today, is rainy and dreary and uniquely lovely, but I can't keep my mind from wandering back to Roatan.  I keep reminiscing about the water, the sand, the people, and the food.

We were bummed when we found out Tong's was closed for the month due to ownership change.  The plan had been to eat there two nights.  So that was two nights we had to fill.  We asked our dive instructor of the week (and trusted local connection) where we should eat.  The first recommendation out of his mouth was, "Oasis!"

It is a little difficult to find, especially at night, because many of the cab drivers don't know where it is, because it is fairly new and it is technically in some people's house, but it was worth the hassle!  It is probably the most hipster joint on the island.  This place would have fit in perfectly to Nashville, except that everyone was tan and music was not the main topic of conversation.

The menu is based on what is available (in a very sensible manner, no pretension.)  When they are out of something, they are out.  No excuses made, some dishes are just that popular.  That was the case with the Szechuan pork (which we were all eyeing) the night we were there.  But that is ok, they had Szechuan chicken and it was absolutely delicious.  We also had a lentil, goat cheese, caramelized onion bake with jalapeno tomato jam that was heavenly!  Soon, I will attempt to recreate the light, souffle-like bake.  (They always have at least one vegetarian option, and will make vegan dishes when given prior notice.)

The atmosphere, like most island restaurants, is very relaxed.  Borderline too relaxed which leads to slow (though not unpleasant) service.  You learn to deal with that quickly though.  It sucks when you are hungry (which were very much so), but we ordered the house-made olive tapenade on garlic crostini to tide us over....  And then we ordered it again.

If you find yourself on the Caribbean island of Roatan, definitely make it a point to stop in at Oasis.  The setting is lovely, the portions are just the right size, and it is some of the most reasonably price food you could ask for.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Roast Chicken and Black Bean Baleada

(Apologies for the blog neglect.)

Early in June I made my long awaited return vacation to Roatan, Honduras.  It had been three years (two full summers!) since I had been on my beloved island.  This trip was extra special because I got to share it with my dad and Louis.  Damn, 4+ years of marriage and this was our first real vacation together!  I was so nervous he wouldn't be as infatuated with it as I am.  By the fourth day though, he was using the phrase, "The next time we come..."  My heart nearly flew out of my chest!

In all the years we've been staying in West Bay, we had never tried Celeste's.  It is literally just up the ally from the hotel we stay at, a 2 minute walk, but it just never happened.  This year I was determined to go and eat a lobster baleada.  Baleadas are sort of a free form burrito with a thick, fluffy flour tortilla.  Traditionally, they are filled with refried red beans, scrambled eggs, and cheese, some times with ham, chicken, etc.  They are probably the most iconic dish of Honduras, and some restaurants are elevating the humble food with fresher and more gourmet ingredients more suitable for lunch or dinner.

That lobster baleada was incredible.  Fresh lobster and homemade tortilla.  I'm not sure how to sell that better.

I don't have access to such tortillas here in Tennessee, and at the moment I don't have time to experiment with making my own.  So regular tortillas have to substitute.  You can make a good baleada with store bought tortillas at home, but it won't be the same, so clearly, you just have to go to Honduras at some point.

Roast Chicken & Black Bean Baleada
1/2 C diced onion
1/2 C diced green bell pepper
1/2 C diced (fresh) tomato
1 15oz can black beans, drained and rinsed
~1 1/4 C shredded, roast chicken
1 tsp minced garlic
1/2 tsp cumin
2 tsp chopped cliantro
4 large flour tortillas
1 Tbsp salted butter
1 C shredded monterey jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

In a little oil over medium heat, saute onion and bell pepper for 5-7 minutes, until tender.  Add tomato, chicken, garlic, black beans, and cumin.  Cook for ~5 minutes, just to heat through, really.  Salt and pepper to taste.  Toss in cilantro just before filling and serving.

Melt butter with a little oil over medium heat on a griddle or large skillet.  Griddle tortillas for about 2 minutes, until they get some color and just barely start to crisp around the edges.  Fill each tortilla with 1/4 of the filling, top with cheese, fold over, and serve.

Serves 4.  Top with sour cream (or crema), cilantro, and hot sauce, if you like.