Monday, December 17, 2012

Afandi Restaurant & Market, Las Vegas!

     The Afandi Restaurant & Market is located at 5181 West Charleston just west of Decatur in Las Vegas.  It is nice to see a small middle eastern market in this area of Las Vegas.  Afandi is a Lebanese style restaurant and marketplace that offers permissible halal food.   
     Afandi is more like a market that has a to-go style restaurant kitchen.  There are only a couple of tables for indoor or outdoor dining.  The business seems to be more of an east coast or midwestern traditional to-go style mediterranean restaurant.  
     I visited Afandi shortly after the restaurant kitchen closed for the evening, but I had a chance to look at the menu.  All of the middle eastern favorites that you would expect are on the menu.  Shawarma, kafta, kabobs and kibbeh are offered.  Hummus, garlic dip and baba ghanoush are on the menu and they are nice items to share with company.  Vegetarian falafel is offered and there are many vegetarian items on the menu.  Many people think that middle eastern cuisine is mostly meat entrees, but more vegetarian food is eaten daily in the middle east than meat.  If you have been seeking traditional vegetarian food that has some great flavor, then middle eastern vegetarian food is the way to go.  The spices and cooking style of middle eastern vegetarian cuisine is very different than Indian or asian vegetarian cuisine.
     Taboulah, fatoosh and stuffed grape leaves are also in the Afandi menu.  Two items that caught my eye that are not seen everyday were the Sujuk Sandwich and the Nakanek Sandwich.  The Sujuk Sandwich is made with spicy hot beef sausage that is made in the Afandi kitchen.  Both dried cured beef sausage and fresh beef sausage are a popular traditional items in Lebanon.  The Nakanek Sandwich features sauteed Lebanese sausage.  Both sandwiches sounded good and I will return at a later date to try one of them.
     Since the restaurant was closed, I shopped at the Afandi Market!  The Afandi Market is small, but it is well stocked with quality goods.  Middle eastern breads, pastries and desserts were offered.  There is a delicatessen and meat case in the market that offers traditional style cuts of middle eastern meats, cheese, cold cuts and pre-made specialty items.  Fresh produce is also in stock.
     While shopping, I chose some Lebanese sweet cookies to send off as a holiday gift.  I bought a large piece of halloumi cheese.  Haloumi is a nice brine packed mild fresh cheese from Cypress.  I also purchased a bag of hand made Lebanese mughrabia.  Mughrabia is a traditional pea size couscous.  Hand crafted mughrabia has a superior texture when compared to mass produced large couscous.  I also purchased some necessities that I was running low on, like good olive oil and ginger paste.
     Even though the timing was not right and the restaurant closed for the evening, my visit to Afandi was a good one!  Now I know where a second good mediterranean market is in the Las Vegas Valley.  Next time I am in that neighborhood in the early evening hours, you can bet that I will give a few of the  Afandi Restaurant menu items a try.  After briefly talking to the employees at Afandi, I could see that they cook some great food and they did mention that the portions are nice!  
     I recommend Afandi Restaurant & Market for locals and visitors that crave authentic middle eastern food!  Afandi offers to-go style halal food in a Las Vegas neighborhood that does a lot of to-go business.  Casual dining limited seating is available.  The market at Afandi is definitely worth recommending!  Yum!  ...  Shawna           

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Gratin of Brandy Creme Gold Nugget Squash and Chanterelles a la St Agur

Winter squash!

     Winter squash do have a long shelf life if they are kept chilled.  Many people get their fill of winter squash early in the season, then a few winter squash sit for a spell.  After eating a bunch of different winter squash for a few weeks, they all kind of start tasting the same in a way.  Ce est la vie!
     Sometimes a new combination of ingredients or a new recipe helps to liven up the winter squash party!  There is nothing new about presenting a casserole or a gratin style recipe in the shell of a small squash.  Natural presentations like this are crowd pleasers!  People like to scrape the squash from the shell.  Scraping a baked squash shell and eating the squash meat possibly does trigger some hidden prehistoric recessed human trait from the caveman days of fine dining.
     There is nothing new about making a winter squash au gratin!  Most winter squash au gratin recipes call for mainstream ingredients and middle of the road cheese.  Why not liven up the party!  By adding a classic tasting autumn season mushroom and a mild tasting creamy French bleu cheese, a winter squash au gratin can be turned into gourmet winter wonderland.  The combination of rich sweet tasting gold nugget squash, chanterelles and French St Agur cheese creates a nice tasting gratin casserole!

     If fresh are available, use them!  If only dried chanterelles can be found, then soak 5 or 6 thick dried chanterelle slices in water overnight in a refrigerator.  After the dried chanterelles become soft, cut them into small bite size pieces and set them aside.  Save the mushroom soaking liquid for later in this recipe!

     Gold Nugget Squash Preparation:
     Select a large gold nugget squash.
     Cut the squash in half, to create a serving bowl with the bottom half.
     Scrape the seeds and loose pulp out of both halves of the squash.
     Place the squash haves in a roasting pan, so the squash cups face up.
     Place 1 pat of butter in each squash half.
     Bake the squash in a 300 degree oven, till the gold nugget squash meat starts become tender.  Try not to allow the squash shells to brown.
     Allow the squash to cool to room temperature.
     Leave the bottom half of the gold nugget squash in the roasting pan.  
     Trim the skin off of the top half of the squash.
     Cut the baked squash meat into bite size pieces and set them aside.

     Chanterelle Brandy Creme: 
     This recipe makes enough for 2 sauce portions!  The mother sauce for this recipe is bechamel.  For a small portion of bechamel sauce, it is easier to just add a loose onion and a clove and then strain the sauce before serving.  Small piquet of onion and clove tend to fall apart and the sauce will need to be strained anyway.
     Brandy can be substituted for cognac and it usually is substituted in restaurant kitchens as a cost saving measure.  The quality of the brandy should be the same as what you would be happy to drink.  Brandy and cognac taste about the same, after they are cooked in a cream sauce.  Save the fine French cognac for an evening aperitif!     
     Heat a sauce pot over medium/medium low heat.
     Add 4 pats of unsalted butter.
     Add an equal amount of flour, while constantly stirring, to form a roux.
     Stir till the roux cooks to a white color, with very little hazelnut aroma.
     Add 3 ounces of brandy.  
     Note:  Caution!  The hot roux will instantly cook the alcohol out of the brandy, so be careful around an open flame.  The brandy will attach its flavor to the roux, when added first and the brandy flavor will be more pronounced in the finished sauce.
     Add 1 1/3 cups of milk while whisking.
     Add 1/4 cup of cream.
     Stir as the sauce heats and thickens to a very thin sauce consistency.
     Reduce the temperature to low heat.
     Add 1/2 of a clove.
     Add 1 tablespoon of coarsely chopped onion.
     Add sea salt and white pepper.
     Add 1 pinch of nutmeg.
     Gently simmer and reduce the sauce, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Pour the sauce through a fine mesh strainer into a second sauce pot.
     Add the chanterelle mushroom pieces and the mushroom soaking liquid.
     Simmer and reduce the sauce a second time, till it becomes a thin sauce consistency.
     Add 1 pat of unsalted butter, while gently whisking.  (monte au beurre)
     Keep the sauce warm over very low heat. 

     Gratin of Brandy Creme Gold Nugget Squash and Chanterelles a la St Agur:
     Place the reserved baked golden nugget pieces in a sauce pot.
     Add just enough of the chanterelle brandy creme to cover the squash.
     Add 1 pinch of thyme.
     Add 1 small pinch of marjoram.  
     Gently warm the sauce and squash over low heat.
     Place the warm squash and sauce mixture into the baked golden nugget squash bowl, but only fill the baked squash bowl, till it is about 1/4" from the top. 
     Place a few small pieces of St Agur bleu cheese on top of the sauced squash.
     Sprinkle 1 pinch of minced Italian parsley over the ingredients.
     Sprinkle plain fine French bread crumbs over the ingredients. 
     Bake in a 350 degree oven, till the gratin topping turns a light golden brown color.  
     Note:  Bleu cheese of any kind tastes awful when it is heavily browned while baking.  Bleu cheese turns bitter when it is browned, so only bake the gratin till a golden crust forms. 
     Allow the baked squash bowl and gratin to cool to a serving temperature.
     Use a spatula to place the squash gratin on a plate.
     Garnish with Italian parsley leaves.

     Rich and delicious!  This is a nice tasting gold nugget squash recipe for the holiday season.  Yum!  ...  Shawna