Wednesday, April 30, 2008

The Cup

I had lunch today at The Cup, located at 625 S 25th St. I couldn't believe how many people were in there-- the place was basically full, and more people kept going in and out as I was there. The clientele was an interesting mixture of retirees and the teachers and students of the Arts and Humanities school. There were writings and paintings posted around the place from the school, which as a teacher, I thought was really cool. I got the impression that it's mainly a coffee/tea house and bakery, but they serve paninis, salads, and soup.

My aunt got a salad that had really nice, fresh looking greens, and a TON of fresh berries: strawberries, blackberries, and blueberries. She said the dressing was excellent. They had a nice selection of paninis, including turkey, chicken, and a couple vegetarian options, all served on what appeared to be Le Quartier ciabatta bread. I got a roast beef panini. They substituted the bleu cheese for provolone, (though I'm sure it would have been even better with the bleu cheese). It came with a little mini green salad and was quite delicious. I also got a fresh-squeezed lemonade. The bill for both of us was $15.

If you're looking for a nice, laid-back, locally-owned place to have lunch near downtown, check out The Cup.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008


I made meatball sandwiches for lunch today.

My friend Julee thought they were good.

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Sunday Dinner: Spaghetti and Meatballs

My family and I try to get together every Sunday night for dinner. My parents usually host and mom cooks. There are usually no less than ten different offerings at the table... I'm not sure where she gets the energy. When I offered to host this week, I decided to keep it simple: spaghetti and meatballs with roasted veggies on the side. I don't know if I'm just really slow or what, but it ended up taking me THREE HOURS to make dinner. My timing was all off. Here's what I should have done to shave the time down the time:

-1.5 hours: Make meatballs. Cover and put in fridge.
-1 hour: Assemble prepped ingredients (mis en place) for sauce
-45 min: Preheat oven to 400.
-45 min: Prep veggies for roasting. Put aside.
-30 min: Put meatballs in the oven.
-30 min: Put snacks out. (I put out these little toast things I got at Whole Foods with some sub-par goat cheese from Ghetto Russ's and some pistachios. Olives or pickled vegetables would have also been good choices. I find that people are usually very happy with store-bought snacks as long as you put them on an interesting plate.)

-25 min: Make sauce.
-10 min: Put veggies in oven.
-10 min: Put pot of water on to boil.
-5 min: Throw all the dishes in the sink. Pour yourself a glass of wine.
Arrival time: Greet guests. Offer snacks and drinks. Ask someone to set the table. If my sister Katie happens to be among your guests, she likes doing this job.
+10 min: If the water is at a rolling boil, dump a crap-ton of sea salt in there, along with a box of Barilla spaghetti. It really is better than Martha Gooch.
+10 min: Take meatballs out of the oven.
+19 min: Pull pasta out of the water with tongs and put it in your biggest bowl. Pour the sauce and cheese in there and mix it all up. Add pasta water until it reaches the right consistency. Dump meatballs on top. If you make the recipes below, you'll have a bunch of leftover meatballs. This is a good thing.
+25 min: Pull roasted veggies out of the oven.
+30 min: Serve dinner.

I guess that's still two hours. Oh well. It's fun to cook, and this dinner was delicious.

2 TBS olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
1 green pepper, chopped
1 large or two small carrots, chopped
(I prep all the veggies in my little food processor.)
2 TBS dried Italian seasoning, or better yet, a handful of chopped basil, oregano, thyme, and rosemary from your garden. If you use fresh herbs, wait to put them in until towards the end of the cooking process.
2 TBS brown sugar
2 TBS balsamic vinegar
2 TBS red wine (use something decent, something that you want to drink)
1 (32 oz) can of diced tomatoes. Don't drain.
1 (6 oz) can of tomato paste, or about a half a tube of the Annie's brand
4 bay leaves
1 pound of spaghetti
1/4 teaspoon of crushed red pepper flakes (or more)
1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

In large skillet, heat oil over medium-high hat. Add onions, pepper, and carrots. Saute for a couple of minutes, then add garlic. Saute until lightly browned. Add seasonings and stir until fragrant, about a minute. Add sugar, vinegar, and wine. Stir one minute. Add tomatoes and paste. Stir, bring to boil, reduce to simmer, add bay leaves. Cover and simmer for 30 min. Throw away bay leaves, season with salt and pepper, add cheese and red pepper, stir until melted.

This recipe comes from the Columbo Lodge of the Sons of Italy in Omaha. They serve meatballs every Thursday for lunch at their hall, located at 1238 South 10th Street in South Omaha. Each week they sell 3,000 meatballs and donate the money to a variety of charities and scholarships. They've been doing this since the '50s. If you don't have the time to make your own meatballs, I bet this would be a great place to check out. The recipe is incredible.

1 pound ground beef
1 pound ground pork (The Sons of Italy actually use a half pound of pork and a half pound of veal, but I couldn't bring myself to ask the butcher at Russ's to ground me some veal.)
2 eggs
2 TBS butter (BUTTER!)
Half an onion, finely chopped
3 TBS parsley, chopped
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp paprika
1 tsp lemon juice
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 TBS Romano cheese
1/2 cup Italian breadcrumbs (I substituted cracker crumbs mixed with Italian seasoning.)

Preheat oven to 400. Thoroughly mix meat and all other ingredients. When thoroughly mixed...mix some more. Roll mixture into 2 inch balls. An ice cream scoop makes the job faster and easier. Scoop the meat, round the top and pass to partner who finishes the process by rolling by hand. (Keeping fingers wet keeps the meat from sticking to your hands.) Place meatballs in a casserole dish or baking pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes. (It only took about 30-35 min in my oven.) Serve with pasta, in sandwiches, or by themselves. Mangia and enjoy!

Roasted veggies

This is so simple, you don't really need a recipe, but I'll give it to you anyway.

A variety of seasonal vegetables. For example:
-Asparagus (wash and chop off woody ends)
-Carrots (wash, peel and chop into hunks-- small ones you can chop in half, huge ones will need to be cut into 5-6 pieces)
-Onions (peel, cut into eighths)
-Sweet or regular potatoes (peel, cut into 1/2 inch squares)
-Zucchini or summer squash (cut off ends and cut in half, lengthwise)
-Broccoli (wash, cut into florets)
Olive oil
Sea salt
Fresh-ground pepper

Preheat oven to 350-400, depending on if anything else in your oven requires a specific temperature. Assemble vegetables in a single layer in a casserole dish or baking pan. Drizzle olive oil over vegetables. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Use your hands to coat veggies with oil, salt and pepper. Bake for about thirty minutes, or until veggies start to looks deliciously brown and slightly crispy on the edges.

Well, since this post took about as long to write as it did to make, I'll sign off here. Just so you know, I hope to include pics in my future recipe blogging, but I'm still having trouble getting my new camera to take good pictures.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Omaha review- Dario's

I first heard about Dario's from my Aunt Mary Kay who lives in Omaha and has excellent taste. So one night when my friend Katie came up to visit, my Dad and I decided to take her there to celebrate. The first thing I noticed about Dario's was its great location-- right between 49th and 50th on Underwood. The Dundee area is a great eating and drinking destination that I will cover more in future posts. We went to Dario's on a Monday night and the place was about half full. We were seated immediately and a very handsome and charming waiter offered a drink from their extensive list of micro brews and imports, focusing on Belgian beers. Unfortunately, I had to stick with Goose Island root beer since the docs won't let me have much alcohol. Honestly, I don't really remember what kinds of beer that Katie and Dad got... I think my dad had some sort of trippel, but they both really liked them. When it came time to order, the waiter was very helpful and knowledgeable in giving suggestions for food and beer pairings.

Since it was Monday night, they had a Lobster special. That night's was homemade pasta with artichokes and lump lobster meat. I was sold. While the noodles were, perhaps, slightly overcooked, they were delicious. The mixture of the flavors of lobster and artichoke were perfect. Katie got the smoked pork chops and Dad got the duck shepherd's pie (hunter's pie?), which were both big hits. All three dishes were excellent and well-portioned. There was plenty of food, but not so much that we couldn't join the clean plate club. The bill was $100 including a generous tip for our attentive and knowledgeable waiter. Considering the quality of the ingredients, beer, atmosphere and service, I thought it was pretty reasonable for a special occasion type place.

I went there again this past Tuesday and had an equally good experience. The place was a lot fuller this time (probably due to their Tuesday half priced draft beer special). I got the lamb steak, which was delectable. Another dish I really enjoyed was my mom's carrot-ginger soup. I ended up eating like half of it! The only small disappointment was a goat cheese and caramelized onion tart. It was delicious, don't get me wrong, but it cost $8 and was about the size of a small slice of pizza. I do plan to recreate a giant version of this puff pastry-goat cheese-caramelized onion delight at home as soon as I can though.

Dario's is the kind of restaurant I would like to open, had I the talent or inclination. It's just a great place to spend time. For one thing, they have a chalkboard outside listing the specials of the day. I love restaurants that have a limited menu and a variety of specials. Every day they have a different soup, crepe, entree, and vegetarian entree. They also have a little bar area in the back with high-top tables if you just want a beer before or after dinner.

To summarize, next time you're in Omaha, check out Dario's: big city quality and atmosphere without the big city prices or pretension.


I've noticed that there's a lot more Lincoln-based food blogs out there lately. I talking about, reading about, dreaming about food and restaurants, so I'm delighted. So delighted in fact, that I was inspired to throw my hat into the ring.

I'm envisioning the scope of my blog being a little bigger than the ones I've seen. For one thing, I've been spending a lot of time in Omaha lately due to extensive medical treatments at the Med Center, so I've had a chance to experience the good and not-so-good in Omaha dining. I'm also an amateur home cook, so I think it would be fun to include some recipes and stories of cooking successes and failures.

Due to my medical condition, unfortunately, my diet is somewhat limited right now. I can't have raw vegetables, fruits, fish, or meats, no buffets, nothing from a grocery store deli, no stinky or unpasturized cheeses, no miso... basically all my favorite foods. I manage though. Hopefully I'll have a more varied diet by the end of the summer.