Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Vegas, Baby!

Hmm... Well, I am pretty sure (okay, positive) that last Wednesday I promised you recipes for two awesome summer salads - tomorrow.  Yeah, tomorrow has come and gone and then some.  So, I'm stuck with a dilemma.  Do I just admit that I was having way too much fun in Vegas to be bothered with posting?  Or, do I wait until this week Thursday and post as if no time had elapsed.  It would be kind of fun to see if I could convince anyone that they imagined a whole week.  I've had busy enough weeks at work where I might almost believe that...

But that seems like a lot of work, and besides, I had way too much fun in Las Vegas to not brag about it.

This past weekend was the Las Vegas Belly Dance Intensive, at which my dance troupe performed.  It was a great time.  We danced on Saturday, and took in some shows - including "Peepshow" featuring ex-girlfriend of Hugh Hefner, Holly Madison, as Bo Peep.  Yay!  Famous boobies!

Now, I don't gamble.  Mostly because I'm cheap and I don't see the point.  I want to spend my money doing things, not sitting in front of a slot machine.  It's just not for me.  "So what do you do in Vegas?" you might ask.

Silly.  I eat.  What else would I do?

I feel about celebrity chefs the way that teenage girls feel about Justin Bieber.  That's embarrassing, I know, but I don't care.  I will scream and shout and jump up and down and cause a scene.  I will go to their restaurants every opportunity I get, even if I know they're probably not there.  Even in Las Vegas, when I know for a FACT that they're not there, because that's not their real restaurant, it's just a copy of their real restaurant.

We went to Hubert Keller's Burger Bar (which I have been to the original of in San Francisco), and Rick Moonen's RM Seafood.  The food was amazing (which is true of ALMOST all of the celebrity chef's restaurants I've been to.  These two were Top Chef Masters for a reason!)  At Burger Bar I built my own burger with asparagus, shrimp, peppered bacon, and a creamy peppercorn sauce, and I had a Chocolate Cowboy shake.  I have to admit that the burger looked so good, I devoured it without remembering to take a picture.  But it was pretty.  The chocolate cowboy, though, was really the star of the show.  A chocolate shake with whiskey.  I don't usually care for whiskey, but it seems to pair very well with chocolate. It started a conversation at our table about shakes, and why they never taste as good when made at home.  And, especially after being introduced to the glories of alcoholic milkshakes, we all decided (I went there with the troupe) it was something we NEEDED to be making at home.  The only solution, it seems, would be to get one of these.

At RM's Seafood (where just Jeff and I went), I got the Cioppino, and Jeff got a Lobster pasta dish.  They were both AMAZING.  Cioppino is one of those foods that I get when I am at an Italian restaurant that seems like it should have good seafood.  I can't decide which kind of seafood I want, and I don't want to pick just one, so I go with the seafood stew.  That might not be an option anymore, as this blew everything I've ever had in a Cioppino out of the water.  It was the perfect temperature, just spicy enough, and just the right thickness.  It had fish, crab, shrimp, mussels, and clams.  Those loops that you see - they're not calamari, they're pasta - perfectly cooked and just rough enough to hold onto the spicy tomato broth.  I bought the cookbook (Signed.  That's what I do when I go to celebrity chef restaurants, and then I put them on a high shelf to be admired but probably not to get dirty), and the waiter told me that this recipe is in there, but I'm pretty sure I'm not cooking at a Top Chef Masters caliber.  Yet.

Jeff's pasta was also delicious, but very rich, and my bowl was very full, so I did not try a lot.  My personal favorite part was the Bucatini pasta, which is like a thick spaghetti with a hole down the middle.  Since I was a little kid, I have always thought this kind of pasta is super fun, because you can breathe through it while you eat!  I am easily amused.  

We had other good food too.  Dinner at BB King's with a really good blues band, stuffing our faces at the Rio's Sunday Morning Champagne Buffet (I had the worst daytime hangover that I can ever remember having), and dessert at Jean Philippe Patisserie.  Basically I stuffed my belly as full as I could, and then showed it off!  Good times were had by all.

And, as promised, here are your summer salad recipes.  These seem very similar, but the first has a much stronger flavor that the second.  The first would be better with something that has a more intense flavor, like spicy pork or beef, while the second would pair better with a cleaner flavor - like grilled chicken.

For both of these recipes, save your watermelon rind.  I'll tell you why later!

Tomato Feta Salad:
 (Makes a large batch to share.  If you are just looking for one meals worth, you may want to halve or even quarter this recipe)
  •  4 cups watermelon chunks (L).  If you're feeling fancy, pull the seeds out.  I left this for the eater to deal with!
  • 1 cup crumbled feta cheese (L)
  • 1 medium Valida or other sweet onion, thinly sliced (L)
  • About 2 tbsp fresh basil, sliced thinly (L*) I used a combo of red and green basil, just to make it look prettier.
  • 1 tbsp sea salt
  • 2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
  • Freshly ground pepper
Mix together watermelon, feta, and onions.  Sprinkle with basil.  In a separate bowl, mix together vinegar, salt, and pepper, then pour over watermelon and stir gently to combine.  This tastes better if allowed to chill for a few hours, up to a day, before serving.

Tomato, Watermelon, and Cucumber Salad
(This is a smaller batch - good for dinner and leftovers for lunch the next day)
  • 2 cups watermelon chunks (L)
  • 1-2 large or 3-4 small thickly diced tomatoes (about 2 cups) (L*)  I would recommend using a flavorful tomato, that doesn't have a lot of seeds.  
  • 1 small cucumber, quartered and sliced, skin on if it's not too tough (L*)
  • 1/4 cup feta cheese (L)
  • 1 tbsp champagne vinegar
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1/2 tsp fresh dill, minced (L*)

Combine all ingredients and stir gently to combine. 

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