Archive | January 22nd, 2010

Shrimp Mixes Well With Lentils

Shrimp Mixes Well With Lentils

Garnish the lentil dish with chopped cilantro.

This Indian dish features the winning combination of shrimp and lentils in a stew seasoned with aromatic spices such as cinnamon,  cardamom, coriander and cumin. Do yourself a favor and gather all of the ingredients together beforehand.

Shrimp With Lentils (Jinghewale Dhal)

3/4 cup channa dhal or yellow lentils, washed and soaked for 1-2 hours (see note)
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
1 medium tomato
3 tablespoons sunflower or vegetable oil
1 (2-inch) cinnamon stick
6 green cardamom pods, bruised
4 cloves
2 bay leaves
1-3 green chiles, deseeded and finely chopped
1 (1-inch) cube ginger root, finely grated
2 teaspoons ground coriander
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1 1/2 cups cooked and peeled shrimp
1 teaspoon salt, or to taste
3 1/2 tablespoons cilantro, leaves and stalks, finely chopped, divided use
2 tablespoons lemon juice

Note: Channa dhal, also spelled chana dhal, can be found at Indian markets.

Drain the lentils and place in a saucepan with 2 1/2 cups water. Bring to a boil and add the turmeric and red pepper. Reduce the heat to low, partially cover the pan and cook for 25 to 45 minutes or until the lentils are tender. Using the back of a spoon, mash some of the lentils by pressing against the side of the pan.

Get your ingredients together before starting.

Boil the lentils with turmeric and crushed chiles.

About halfway through the time it takes to cook the lentils, peel the tomato, then cut in half. Scoop out the seeds and chop the flesh roughly.

In a frying pan, heat the oil over low heat and add the cinnamon, cardamon, cloves and bay leaves. Let them sizzle for 20 to 25 seconds. Add the green chiles and ginger, and fry gently for 2 to 3 minutes. Add the coriander and cumin, and cook for 1 minute before adding the shrimp, tomato and salt. Increase the heat to medium and cook for 3 to 4 minutes.

Add bay leaves, cinnamon, cloves and spices to oil.

Add shrimp and tomato to spice mixture.

Pour the shrimp mixture into the lentils. Add 3 tablespoons cilantro and lemon juice, and cook for 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from the heat and remove bay leaves, cinnamon stick and cloves, if you can find them. Garnish with the remaining cilantro. Serve with cooked basmati rice.

Stir shrimp mixture into lentils.

Add lemon juice and cilantro.

To make a vegetarian version, omit the shrimp and use more diced tomato as well as diced bell pepper, zucchini, celery or onion, to taste.

[amazon-product]1862056196[/amazon-product]Makes 4 servings.

Adapted from “Secrets From an Indian Kitchen” by Mridula Baljekar

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Smashburger Adds Fourth Location

Smashburger Adds Fourth Location

Smashburger is opening its fourth San Antonio location Jan. 22. It will be at 8802 Potranco Road in the Richland Hills Shopping Center near State Highway 151.

The other locations are at Evans and U.S. 281, Blanco Road at Loop 410, and Bandera Road at Loop 1604.

In addition to the Smashburger, the store offers wedge salads, a Baja Cobb salad, vegetable fries and Haagen-Dazs shakes. Visit for details.

Mushroom Swiss Smashburger

Baja Salad with Chicken

Wedge Salad

Chicago Style Hot Dog

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Bliss Leaves Silo, but Keeping SA as Home Base

Chef Mark Bliss may be leaving Silo, the restaurant he opened on Austin Highway in 1998. But, while tending to family business, he will also be considering his own. And, he won’t be relocating elsewhere.

“No, we’re staying here,” he said. “But I’m going to be thinking about my next project.” Considering restaurant concepts is one; starting to write his cookbook is likely, too.

Bliss spent a total of 13 years at Silo, on Austin Highway, with a two-and-a-half year break. Prior to that he worked as chef, with Bruce Auden, at the original location of Biga on Locust Street.

“I need to reunite with some of my relatives, make some family visits,” says Bliss. His departure from Silo was friendly, and he says he left an “open door” behind.

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Auden’s Kitchen to Open First Week in February

Chef Bruce Auden’s new restaurant, Auden’s Kitchen, will open during the first week in February, says Perny Shea, banquet and catering manager.

“We don’t have an exact day yet, but it will be announced on the new website next week,” she said. No soft opening or preview parties are planned, says Shea — the doors to the restaurant will simply be opened when they are ready to go.

The restaurant, which will be located in the Plaza at Concord Park, 700 Sonterra Blvd. at Sigma Drive, will be contemporary in concept, with an open kitchen, and moderate in price, according to Shea. “It has a great look, (local artist) Jill Giles did our design.”

“It will be comfortable and casual, just as if you were sitting in the kitchen at a friend’s,” said Shea. Lunches, featuring entrees such as fish and chips, burgers, pizza, chicken pot pie and so forth, will be in the $12-$15 range, and dinners at around $25.

The new wood-burning oven has now been installed and a Valentine’s Day brunch is in the planning stages, said Shea. The restaurant will be serving beer and wine, and taking reservations only for seven or more people when it opens.

Moving to this area at this time, says Shea, “just felt as though it was the right thing at the right time,” said Shea. Auden, she says, will be dividing his time between Biga on the Banks, downtown, and his new restaurant. Patricia Wenckus will be the chef at Auden’s Kitchen, while Martin Stembera will continue as chef at Biga on the Banks.

The phone number for Auden’s Kitchen is (210) 494-0074.

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Ask a Foodie: What Is Vanillin?

Ask a Foodie: What Is Vanillin?

Q. I was given some vanillin sugar recently. What is it? And how do I use it?  –Judy

A. The thought behind vanillin was to produce a powdered version of vanilla.

The food dictionary at says there are two types of vanillin:  “Natural vanillin is a substance intrinsic to the vanilla bean, whereas artificial vanillin is made from wood-pulp by-products.”

The artificial variety is often included in what is sold as vanillin sugar. According to the Nordic Recipe Archive, “Vanillin sugar is slightly bitter in taste. It is added to foods only in small amount (usually 1 – 2 teaspoons per a batch of batter, dough, etc. ). It should be added to custards and sauces that are cooked on stovetop no sooner than just after cooking, otherwise it will turn bitterer.”

The following is a recipe for muffins that uses vanillin sugar as a dusting powder after the muffins have been baked. You could also use it on cereal or to dust lightly other dishes to which you want an added vanilla flavor.

Strawberry Muffins

1 cup strawberries, hulled, halved
6 egg whites
1 teaspoon vanilla bean paste
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
1 1/4 cups almond meal (also sold as almond flour)
1/2 cup flour
10 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, cooled
Vanillin sugar, to dust

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Lightly grease a 12-hole muffins pan.

Place strawberries on a large plate and use a potato masher to crush.

Place the egg whites and vanilla bean paste in a large bowl and whisk until just frothy. Using a coarse sieve, sift over the powdered sugar, almond meal and flour. Add the melted butter and crushed strawberries and mix with a wooden spoon until combined. Divide the mixture among prepared muffin holes and bake in the oven for 25 minutes or until muffins are golden and a skewer inserted into the centers comes out clean.

Stand in the pans for 3-4 minutes, then turn onto a wire rack to cool. Dust with vanillin sugar before serving.

Adapted from

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Friendly Vietnam Gardens Also Offers Thai, Chinese

Friendly Vietnam Gardens Also Offers Thai, Chinese

Buddha Delight

I have visiting Vietnam Gardens on Blanco Road at Jackson-Keller off and on for almost 10 years now. The food, whether you order Vietnamese, Thai or Chinese, has always been exceptionally good, and the prices have been equally fine.

The restaurant’s menu and website offer a hint as to why:  “We appreciate your patience in allowing us enough time to prepare your meal properly, since it’s prepared only after you order.”

That means no stock pots of gelatinous goo that has been bubbling away for hours on the stove, no frozen dishes popped in the microwave and partially reheated before serving, no rubbery egg rolls that tasted like they were made last week.

But I’m somewhat afraid not enough people have discovered this gem.

Food: 4.0
Service: 3.0
Value: 4.5

Rating scale:
5: Extraordinary
4: Excellent
3: Good
2: Fair
1: Poor

I stopped in on a recent rainy Monday and found myself the only person in the restaurant, which was a shame because the dish I ordered was truly special. It was a seafood salad ($8.95) from the Thai menu, and it featured a spicy stir-fry of shrimp and squid tossed with lettuce, celery, cucumber, onion, carrot and tomato.

The winning mixture of warm seafood sautéed with cool, crisp vegetables was inviting. One bite and I couldn’t stop eating until the last hot pepper was gone. I even ate the underripe tomato, a fixture at far too many restaurants this time of year. (It was my fault for not asking that they be left out.)

On another recent visit, I told our server, who is also an owner, that I wanted something spicy with pork in it, and I let the kitchen do its magic. The end result was a Thai-style stir fry with plenty of meat and plenty of heat. Just perfect.

Seafood Salad

From the Vietnamese menu, I love to sample their version of Ban Xeo ($6.95), a thin crepe with a delicate crunch. This version arrives with pork, shrimp, bean sprouts and lettuce inside, while fresh herbs and jalapeños arrive on the side so you can season it to your liking. Very simple, yet effective.

Shrimp Lemon Grass ($8.95) and Curry Squid ($8.95) are among the other Vietnamese dishes I would recommend.

Of the Chinese dishes, I’ve only had one of the vegetarian options, Buddha Delight ($6.95) with its blend of Asian eggplant and other favorites, on recent visits. But I will say that I remember enjoying the chop suey ($6.95 or $7.95, depending on style), the twice-cooked pork ($6.95 — and yes, I love the pork at Asian restaurants), and the egg foo young ($6.95 or $7.95, depending on style) in the past.

If you take a large group, think about sharing your orders family style around the table. Because the dishes are prepared individually, they are also served that way, so not all of the guests will receive their order at the same time. But passing the plates around will make the meal more communal, more intimate, more enjoyable.

So will bringing a bottle or two of wine to share. The folks at Vietnam Gardens welcome your bringing in your own wine to go with your meal. (You may want to bring your own glasses, too.) A spicy Gewurztraminer or off-dry Riesling would certainly go with the seafood dishes and anything with some heat. An icy rosé with plenty of strawberry or watermelon flavors might also work well. If you’re a red head, then think Zinfandel or maybe a peppery Syrah/Shiraz.

Whatever you take, including a pilsner, just relax and enjoy fresh food made for you at a reasonable price. That’s what makes Vietnam Gardens so inviting.

Vietnam Gardens
5433 Blanco Road
(210) 377-1989
Lunch and dinner: Monday-Saturday

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