Sunday, May 31, 2009

the condiment kid.

they call me the condiment kid --

i can never leave well-enough alone; if something tastes good as is, i go and slather it with a little something extra.

-- catsup. relish. mustard. hot sauce. chutney. --

they're all a part of my arsenal. sriracha hot sauce is by far my favorite condiment of all time, but that's for another day...

today is all about eggplant caponata, the sicilian "chutney". chutneys are usually associated with indian cuisine, but the caponata's chunky texture and tangyspicysweet flavor is reminiscent of mango chutney, so i'm going to run with it.

this bold, arabian-influenced eggplant preparation can be enjoyed in a variety of ways:

as a condiment --
serve at room temperature on top of toasted bruschetta

as a side --
serve a pipping hot double portion under a grilled chicken breast of fish fillet.

as a main --
toss with your favorite pasta; thin with some pasta water, garnish and you're in business.

Eggplant Caponata

1/2 cup virgin olive oil
1 red onion, medium dice
1 tablespoon hot chili flakes, plus extra for garnish
3 cloves garlic, chopped
3 TBS pine nuts
3 TBS currants
2 TBS capers
1/4 cup kalmata olives, chopped
2 medium eggplant, cut into 1/2-inch cubes (to yield 4 cups)
2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon unsweetened cocoa powder
2 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves or 1/2 teaspoon
1/4 cup chopped Pomi tomatoes
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar

salt & pepper, to taste
fresh mint, to garnish

1. sauté onion, garlic and chili flakes in olive oil over medium heat until translucent; about 4-6 minutes.

2. add pine nuts, currants, capers and olives. sauté for 3-5 minutes.

3. add eggplant, sauté until just tender, tossing frequently; 5 minutes. add sugar, cinnamon, and unsweetened cocoa powder; toss to combine.

4. add tomato sauce, thyme and balsamic vinegar. bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer. simmer for ~5 more minutes.

--garnish with additional chili flakes, mint chiffonade and just a touch of sea salt.

this recipe is largely lifted from a batali original (suprise, suprise). i added some capers and olives and give a play-by-play.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

the dog pound

Hot Doug's
3324 North California (@ Roscoe Street)
Chicago, IL 60618

i said it once, and i'll say it again - chicago pizza does nothing for me - the hot dogs, however, are an entirely different story. Hot Doug's, the self proclaimed "Sausage Superstore and Encased Meat Emporium" is a vibrant north side haunt that has attracted the attention of foodies near and far. i would have never thought i'd wait 30 minutes in line at 11 am for a hot dog, but sure enough, there i was -- standing outside in the cold, like a rube. all-in-all i'd say it was well worth the wait, speaking strictly from a gastro-tourist's perspective, that is.

DUCK FAT FRIES: crispy, thin-cut. decadent. delicious. what's not to love?

the specialty dogs are provocative, to say the least:

-foie gras & duck
-spicy smoked alligator
-rosemary smoked chicken
-shiraz and cranberry wild boar

the foie dog (w/ Truffle Sauce Moutard, Foie Gras Mousse and Sel Gris ) was as good as it sounds and better than it looks - flush with unctuous goodness, delicately framed by rich
truffle earthiness.

however, insofar as traditional chicago-style hot dogs are concerned, i've had better; i like mine with sport peppers.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

feast food for the fit

this "Field Roast" inspired recipe is a sinless take on the iconic italian-american favorite, sausage & peppers. it's not quite the feast-time favorite we've all grown to love, but it's one hell of a substitute!

if you aren't feeling especially heart smart, this recipe can be enhanced with real sausage; simply slow roast sausage over medium heat until cooked through; about 20 minutes. reserve cooked sausage and use the rendered fat instead of olive oil. the rest of the recipe can be followed accordingly.

the best part of this recipe is that all of the juices get absorbed into the crusty ciabatta for a taste experience second to none. enjoy.

"Sausage & Peppers"

3 (tricolore!) bell peppers, roasted and cut into 3/4 inch strips
1 LARGE ciabatta loaf
1/4 cup olive oil
4 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
1 HOT serrano, thinly sliced
1 (15oz) can diced tomatoes, drained
1 sprig of thyme
4 links vegetarian sausage (field roast), sliced on the bias
1/4 cup white wine
1/2 cup stock
1 TBS of butter/smart balance (optional)

-- roast the peppers however you see fit; i usually scorch them directly over the burner then steam them in a plastic bag for 20 minutes before removing the skin.

-- preheat the oven to 450, slice the ciabatta in half and hollow out the middle.

1. heat olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium-high heat. add garlic and the HOT serrano pepper, sauté until garlic starts to lightly brown; 3-5 minutes.

2. add tomatoes and thyme, sauté for another 3-5 minutes until tomatoes start to break down. add roasted peppers and white wine, cook until wine has reduced dry. add the sausage, stock and a pad of butter, toss to combine and cook until stock has reduced by 3/4; 4-6 minutes.

4. meanwhile, lightly brush the ciabatta with olive oil and toast on the top rack of the oven until just golden brown; ~6 minutes.

-- arrange toasted ciabatta in the center of a large platter; top with a HEAPING portion of sausage and peppers. tear off pieces of the crust and enjoy like make-shift bruschetta.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Tuesday, May 5, 2009


even a self-proclaimed "scathing non-traditionalist" finds it hard to resist the exotic allure of CINCO DE MAYO.

i'll keep is short and sweet; as i'd hate to harsh your corona buzz with a wall of text.

-- but first, a bit of trivia:

did you know that the word "avocado" comes from the Aztec word for "testicle"?

-- the recipe is pretty standard, and pretty amazing. enjoy!

yield 1qt

3 large, ripe avocados
2 limes, juiced
3 ripe vine tomatoes, small dice
1 habañero chili, small dice
1 red onion, small dice
1 clove garlic, minced
1 heaping handful of cilantro, chopped

1 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp ground cumin

1. pit the avocados and get them into a bowl. scooping the flesh out from the skin with a large spoon makes this a breeze. hit it with the juice of ONE lime, MASH it up with a potato masher or fork. LEAVE CHUNKY!

2. add the rest of the ingredients, mix to combine. taste, then add reserved lime juice if you want some more tang.

fresh. simple. summer.

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -

Sunday, May 3, 2009

EPIC FAIL -" ghenet "-

Ghenet (pronounced how Forrest Gump says "Jenny") is one of a few ethiopian restaurants in NYC. i've heard the Ghenet buzz for years, however, it wasn't until recently that i had a chance to try their food.

i was NOT impressed.

Ghenet - CLOSED
248 Mulberry Street
New York, NY

aloof and inefficient, the service at Ghenet was some of the WORST I've EVER encountered in my ENTIRE life. no joke, this is how it went down:

i arrived and had to wait about 20 minutes to be seated; no big deal this is NYC. i was seated and left unattended for another 20 minutes, the water arrives. another 10 minutes goes by before a runner drops off some toasted pita-point type things and a yogurt dipping sauce. i don't know what they were exactly because no one bothered to let me in on the secret. starving, i devour the mediocre gnosh - 10 minutes later the waiter arrives. the waiter stands behind me silently with a notepad in his hand. my girlfriend had to let me know he was trolling around so I could order. i told him I was unfamiliar with ethiopian cuisine, to which he replied, "HrrM". what a useless slag! i ordered to the best of my abilities, a "Ghenet Combination" and two glasses of wine; the wine never came. it took another 20-30 minutes to push out a plate of what were, to the best of my knowledge, salty slop piles. the waiter didn't surface again until it was time to scoot us out the door.

i will readily admit that the poor service negatively skewed my first impression of ethiopian fare...BIG TIME. that being said, i wasn't impressed anyway; the food reminded me of over-seasoned indian, sans the cultural flare. it tasted like something starving people eat just to stay alive; i suppose it was pretty authentic to that effect. on the upside there are no utensils, and considering how i usually end up eating with my hands anyway, i felt that i was in good company. the prices were also reasonable, if the food wasn't slop and the service wasn't muck.

the Mulberry St. location is now gone, and to that i say, "GOOD RIDDANCE!" my sources tell me that there's a Park Slope Ghenet, please, DON'T GO. i know it's fun to try new things, but this adventure just isn't worth it.

"Chips & Dip"

-- "lackluster" is the word i'm looking for.

"Ghenet Combination"

Doro Aletcha -- SALTY SLOP
mildly seasoned chicken served in lightly sauteed onion sauce

Sega Wett-- SALTY SLOP
morsels of prime rib served on awaze and kibe sauce prepared with a blend of spices

potatoes, carrots and red beets in home made salad dressing

Shiro Wett-- SALTY SLOP
spicy bean dish in a sauce of flavored with herbs and spices

Shiro Aletcha-- SALTY SLOP
mild bean dish in a delicately flavored herb sauce

© 2009 c. c. villani @ "mission: insatiable" -