Monday, August 23, 2010

The One & Only Mike & Tony's

They claim to be the "Greek Answer to McDonald's", but in my opinion, that really doesn't do this place any justice.  They are nothing like McDonald's.  NOTHING.  They don't look like a McDonald's, they don't operate like a McDonald's, and they sure as hell don't taste like a McDonald's.  The main reason being, their food is FRESH.  Yes, FRESH.  It is made to order.  It hasn't been sitting under a heat lamp all day.  It's made from REAL ingredients.  I banned McDonald's from my body long ago.  I don't even let my friends bring their McDonald's into my house.  It's not welcome here.  You eat outside.

Back to the lecture at hand...(thanks Snoop).  My dad taught my sister and I a LOT about food.  Mainly, to not be afraid of it.  To try new things.  So it's no wonder my dad knows a ton of little hole in the wall restaurants in Pittsburgh.  One of them being Mike & Tony's

I can't tell you the first time I ate at Mike & Tony's in the South Side of Pittsburgh.  It's probably because I went into a state of bliss with the first bite I took.  I'm pretty sure I was young, maybe twelve or so.  I can tell you that I've only ordered the gyro and french fries and I've never eaten anything else off the menu.  There is no need to.  The gyro is the best gyro you will ever eat.  Ever since I've moved away from Pittsburgh, I've been searching for my Mike & Tony's gyro, with no luck.  That's 19 years people.  For 19 years, I've been searching for my Mike & Tony's away from Mike & Tony's.  

Fortunately, my dad still lives in the 'Burgh and makes SURE to put aside some time to visit my favorite gyro place in the world.  On my last visit, we tried to figure out what makes them so good.  My dad thinks it's the tzatziki sauce they make.  Which is so fresh and cold and is a great contrast to the hot spicy lamb meat!  I think it's their pitas.  They are so soft.  They taste like they just came out of the oven.  Which is usually my problem with OPG (Other People's Gyro's ~ thanks Naughty by Nature).  The pitas seem old.  I am most definitely not down with OPG.    

But honestly, I think Mike & Tony's just makes their gyros with such love.  The meat is so juicy and well seasoned and they don't skimp on the amount they give you.  The lettuce, onion and tomato are fresh as can be.  The pita is soft and delicious.  And the tzatziki is fresh and flavorful.  If you are ever in Pittsburgh, please do yourself a favor and head to Mike & Tony's for the best gyro in the United States and maybe even the entire world!  I will forever be in search of my Mike & Tony's away from Mike & Tony's, but I'm pretty sure they are a one-of-a-kind.  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Ciao Bella Panzanella

Translation ~ Hello Beautiful Bread Salad!!

Yesterday I woke up feeling like crap.  Not only did someone break out the window of my broken car I was going to try to sell, to steal my broken CD player, but I had a little too much Saki at sushi dinner the night before.  Whose brilliant idea was it to pair alcohol with raw fish?  That's not drinking food!  That's a hangover waiting to happen!  Needless to say, for lunch I ate the heck out of some Mexican food to relieve the headache.  So for dinner, I needed something light and semi-healthy to get me back on track for my weekend at the Lake.

I was inspired by a show I saw on Food Network, Barefoot Contessa, where I first learned about Panzanella.  Basically, Panzanella is an Italian bread salad that consists of pretty much anything you have on hand.  Usually it has tomato, onion, bread, basil, oil and vinegar.  But there are many variations.  Here's how I made mine:

First I took a loaf of Italian boule and cut it into 1 inch chunks.  Then I put about 1 tablespoon of olive oil in a pan and added the bread with some salt (I use Kosher salt...I like it so much better than table salt).  While the bread browns (make sure you stir it often), I cut up tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper and red onion and tossed it all in a bowl with some salt & pepper, a tiny bit of olive oil and a tiny bit of vinegar.  Forgive my lack of measurement.  Just do it to your taste.  If you don't like vinegar, don't use much.  I personally can drink olive oil out of the bottle, so I use a little more when I cook the bread than most might.

Once the bread is to your desired level of crunch (again, do what you like, I like my bread to be cut-the-inside-of-my-mouth crunchy) add it on top of your veggies.  Top with some shaved Parmesan and you've got yourself a delicious Italian bread salad.    


Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Wham, Bam, Thank you, Lamb!

As most of you know, Craig and I try to make at least one elaborate dinner each week. It's either something we know and love or sometimes we try to conquer something only a seasoned chef could pull off, most times with no problem, (toot toot on my horn!) We don't do dinner parties very often, mainly because I have the same fear that George Costanza's dad did on Seinfeld - poisoning all my guests! But this week I got creative during one of our dinners and took photos of our Roasted Rack of Lamb dinner with a dijon, garlic, rosemary, breadcrumb crust, so I thought I'd share the recipe with you all since it's definitely one that will win over guests, or if you're in trouble with the wife/husband, will most likely win back their affection. 

First things first, I'm not a professional chef, as you may know. So I'm not going to give you exact measurements, especially for this dish because as far as I'm concerned, you can't add too much of anything to it! Here is the list of ingredients. 

1 rack of lamb (we get ours at Costco - cheapo!)
Dijon Mustard
3-4 cloves of garlic, minced
3 sprigs of rosemary, finely chopped
1 handful of parsley, chopped
Olive oil
about 1 1/2 cups of Breadcrumbs 

Pre-heat your oven to 425. Wash & dry the lamb.  Then put the dried rack on top of a cooling rack, fat side up and place that on top of a sheet pan covered in aluminum foil (for easy clean up). Next, generously salt and pepper both sides of the lamb.  Cover the rack with the dijon mustard and sprinkle on the chopped rosemary (I like my rosemary chopped pretty fine so I'm not chewing rosemary branches while I eat). 

Next, mix the garlic, parsley and breadcrumbs in a small bowl. Add olive oil until the mixture is no longer dry but don't add so much olive oil that it's pasty - you want a crumby mixture, that sort of resembles wet sand. Once you get the desired consistency, take the breadcrumb mixture and pack it onto the rack of lamb until it's completely covered. 

Cover the bones with aluminum foil so they don't burn. I insert a meat thermometer into the meaty part of the chops first so that I can just pull out the meat at 135 degrees (for medium rare), approximately 25 minutes. Then let the rack rest for 10 minutes to keep in all those yummy juices. Cut between each bone (your knife will pretty much tell you where you can go) and enjoy!  I usually eat the outer chops since they are usually cooked slightly more, while Craig eats his meat while it breathes! 

I kid you not, you will say wham, bam, thank you lamb when you take your first bite.