Monday, August 15, 2011

Maru Sushi

Maru Sushi is out of place in West Lafayette. I'm not saying we don't have good food around here, we do, but Maru, it's on another level. I've had sushi in on the east coast and the west coast, but Maru is consistently my favorite.

Let me make a declaration first, Maru does not dabble in the high end, super expensive tuna cheek you can find if you travel with Anthony Bourdain, rather, they make really good nigiri and rolls that you can find variations of throughout the country. They just do it better, and you can stuff yourself for $20 or less

I dined at Maru Sushi last Friday for date night with my wife. The meal begins with water, soda, sake, or hot tea. The tea is barley, and is great even in the summer. No matter what you get on the menu, you are always presented with a few small appetizers such as pickled daikon, bean sprouts in sesame oil, or cucumbers with chili sauce. You also get a small bowl of miso soup. For free! Who does that? I'm surprised Texas Roadhouse still gives us peanuts.

When perusing the menu at Maru, there are loads of choices to please the sushi-fanatic and the sushi-phobe. For sushi, their platters are quite good, but the rolls are where the good stuff is. Crunch munch, white castle, chauncy, and the dragon are some of my favorites. Each are prepared with artistic detail and have a combination of fish and sauces that make you want more.

There are also noodles, noodle soups, and a few tempura dishes on the expansive menu. One item you need to take note of though, is the kopdol bibimbap. You see, Maru also serves some Korean food. And this dish, this is what I go back for time and time again. It's white rice, shitaki mushrooms, spinach, carrots, bean sprouts, bulgogi (a marinated beef), and a runny egg on top, all served in a very hot stone pot. You add some homemade chile sauce on top and mix. The rice gets crispy from the hot stone, the chile and egg fuse to make a binding, rich sauce, and the plethora of vegetables are all wonderfully cooked. Hungry yet? I am. Best part, it's $10. That's it!

Maru is one of my favorite places to eat in town, for lunch or dinner. It gets quite packed around dinner time, so plan accordingly, or you can order takeout or even delivery if you're close by.

111 N Chauncey Ave, West Lafayette, IN
(765) 743-2646 ‎

5/5 Sheepdogs

For other restaurant reviews in the Lafayette, Indiana area, you can visit my dedicated page or Eat'n Local

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Just Jammin

It's year three of jam making at my house, and it's still just as much fun as it was the first time, though quite a bit less messy. Growing up, homemade jam was a treasure that arrived from my grandma ever so often. I always thought it was magical and must take days to make. I also believed in Santa, so what does that say?

Jam making is really easy. If you own a large pot and a dishwasher, you can make jam. Don't go out and buy all that fancy equipment, you don’t need it unless you plan on starting a canning business. The only special piece of equipment I recommend is a canning funnel, simply because it makes adding jam to jars much easier. Other than that you need some water, some tongs, a spoon, and preferably a partner who can help you set up an assembly line.

The key point to jam making is cleanliness. You boil your lids and utensils to prevent contamination, so after they are boiled, try not to touch anything except the clean jars.

Mason jars, mason jar screw bands, mason jar lids (lids are not reusable)
Big spoon
Small spoon (teaspoon)
Canning funnel
Big pot
Slightly smaller pot
Kitchen towel
Wet paper towel

Blueberry-Strawberry Jam (adapted from a pectin insert)
Yields ~8 cups jam (do not double because pectin will not set, always make in smaller batches)

4 cups crushed fruit- This is about 4 pints of fruit, I usually split it down the middle between the two fruits, sometimes a bit heavier on strawberry
7 cups sugar
½ lemon, juiced
1 package liquid pectin

Wash jars in dishwasher. The best seal is hot jars with hot lids, so plan accordingly. In the smaller pot, fill ¾ full with water and add bands, tongs, ladle, small spoon, funnel, and lids. Bring water to just under a boil.

Cut up strawberries and lightly crush to achieve 2 cups crushed fruit. Crush blueberries to fill remaining two cups. Add to high-sided pot along with sugar and lemon juice. Heat pot over medium-high heat, stirring often with spoon until it comes to a rolling boil (it will expand, which is why you need the high sides). Add liquid pectin and return to a boil. Boil for 1 minute while stirring constantly and then turn off heat. Using little spoon skim off any foam off top.

Ladle hot jam into clean jars using funnel, filling to within 1/8 inch of top. Using tongs, carefully cover with flat lids, wipe any jam off sides with wet paper towel, and then place screw band over lid. Using the kitchen towel to protect your hands, screw bands on tightly. Invert jars for 5-10 minutes. After, turn jars upright to check seal. If lid springs back, the jar is not sealed yet and should be inverted for 10 more minutes. If it still springs back, the seal is bad and you must refrigerate the jam. Jam can be stored in a cool dark place for 1-1.5 years, and can be refrigerated open for 1 month.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Grilled Green Chile Chicken Pizza

It’s hot here. It's hot everywhere. It's that stretch of summer where I refuse to turn on my oven because it heats my house up by 25 degrees. No thank you very much. This leads to a lot of grilling, which I did plenty of this past weekend (along with some cold beer). Saturday night I was I was feeling pizza, which I normally make with fresh tomatoes from the garden, but those are still a few weeks away. I did have some leftover grilled sweet corn and fresh green chiles I pulled out of my garden.

As is apparent, from my Southwest roots I developed an appetite for all things green chile. This is no exception, and along with the delicious peak season sweet corn, it turned out fabulous. If you're in a pinch, you can use leftover roast chicken instead of grilling your own, but make sure to spice it before sprinkling it over your pizza.

Grilled Green Chile Chicken Pizza
Makes 3 16-inch pizzas

Dough (adapted from Alton Brown)
3 cups flour (16oz)
2 ½ teaspoons yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 1/3 cups warm water

4 tomatillos, husks removed
2 green chiles
1 tablespoon chopped cilantro
½ teaspoon sugar

1 pound boneless, skinless chicken breasts, pounded to even thickness
Salt and pepper
1 teaspoon cumin
1 teaspoon coriander
4 medium ears sweet corn, grilled or boiled, cut off the cob
6 ounces Mozzarella cheese

For the dough: Combine the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand mixer. Start the mixer on low, using the hook attachment, and mix until the dough just comes together, approximately 1 1/2 minutes. Increase the mixer speed to medium and knead for 15 minutes. Be careful as your mixer may try to walk off the counter.

Tear off a small piece of dough and flatten into a disk. Gently stretch the dough until thin. Hold it up to the light and look to see if a see-through, taut membrane has formed. The dough will be quite sticky, but manageable. Fold the dough onto itself and form it into a smooth ball. Lightly oil the bowl of your mixer (olive oil or cooking spray). Place the dough in the bowl and roll it around to coat with the oil. Cover with plastic wrap and leave at room temperature to double in size, approximately 1 hour.

Split the dough into 3 equal, and then flatten each piece into a disk on the countertop. Form each piece into a ball. Roll each ball on the counter until they tighten into rounds. Cover the balls with a tea towel and rest for 45 minutes. While that's happening you can prepare everything else.

For the sauce: Preheat grill to high heat, grill chiles and tomatillos over direct heat, turning occasionally, until soft and charred. Let chiles cool for 5 minutes, remove skins, stems, and seeds. Place tomatillos, chiles, cilantro, and sugar in a food processor and blend until smooth. Adjust seasoning with salt and pepper

For chicken: Season chicken with salt, pepper, cumin, and coriander. Place on grill and cook, lid down, for 4 minutes. Move chicken to cooler part of grill (keep main burner on high but keep chicken off of direct heat) and grill, lid down, until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165°F, abut 5-6 minutes. Remove from grill and rest for 5 minutes. Shred with fork.

Assemble: Return all burners to high on grill, close lid. Lightly flour the countertop and flatten 1 of the dough balls. Use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a 16-inch round, rotating the dough as you go. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured pizza peel and stretch to re-shape if necessary (it will likely shrink so you may need to let it rest and then roll it out a bit more).

Oil grill grates and turn all burners to medium. Brush the dough with a small amount of olive oil and flip onto the hot grill. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of the crust is golden brown, 1-2 minutes. Brush the top side of the dough with a small amount of olive oil, then immediately flip using the peel or tongs. Spread 1/3 of the sauce over the pizza, sprinkle 1/3 of the chicken and corn followed by 1/3 of the cheese. Close the lid and cook until the bottom of crust is golden brown and the cheese has melted, another 1 to 2 minutes. Using the peel, remove the pizza to a cooling rack and let rest for 3-5 minutes before slicing. You can also hold them in a warm oven set to 200°F. Repeat with remaining pizzas and enjoy!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

DIY Fruit Spirits

After reading a magazine article about making flavored alcohol, I gave it a whirl.  I don't know why I never did this before!  Making my own infused spirits was not only easy, it was delicious!  I now have a rotating supply of spirits in my refrigerator depending on what's in season and on sale at the store.

The above picture uses strawberry vodka, and I also have peach and blueberry versions in the fridge at the moment.  It's rather simple

You need:
A clear spirit such as vodka or rum
mason jar

Cut the fruit into 1 inch pieces, or if using blueberries, give them a light mash.  Place in mason jar, cover with the desired spirit, screw the lid on, and give it a few gentle shakes.  Keep in the refrigerator and invert to stir every 2-3 days.  Most are ready after 2 weeks depending on how much flavor you want to infuse.  Strain off the fruit into a clean jar.  Keeps...well, I'm not sure, I usually run out before then.

For strawberry, I recommend a simple spritzer.  Juice half a lime into a class, add 2 ounces strawberry vodka, and top with soda water.

For peach, you could try Peach Sangria from one of my fellow bloggers over at "What's Cookin'"

I'm hoping I can work the blueberry into some sort of martini.  Ideas?