CombatCritic’s Favorite Recipes: Spaghetti Bolognese


Ingredients: 

1 lb Ground Organic Grass-Fed Beef
6 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)
1 Medium Organic Onion – Finely Chopped
1 Medium Organic Carrot – Finely Chopped
2 Oraganic Celery Stalks – Finely Chopped
1 1/2 Cups Organic Beef Stock
1/2 Cup White Wine
1/2 Cup Pomi Tomato Sauce
1/2 Cup Organic Milk 
Salt and Black Ground Pepper
1/2 Cup Parmigiano Reggiano – Grated
1 lb Spaghetti

Directions:

Saute the onion, carrot, and celery in a 6 quart stock pot or Dutch oven using half of the EVOO until soft, not burnt. Add the ground beef and mash with a potato masher or fork, adding salt and pepper and cooking until browned (no pink).

Add the beef stock, wine and tomato sauce, bringing to a boil then reducing to a simmer (low heat) for 30 minutes. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Boil enough water in a tall 16 quart pot so that the spaghetti, when added, is completely submerged, adding a teaspoon of salt and some EVOO. Add the spaghetti once the water comes to a full boil, following the package cooking directions and tasting until spaghetti is “al dente” (a bit firm, not chewy and not mushy).

Five minutes before spaghetti is done, add the milk (no cream) to the sauce and continue simmering. Drain the spaghetti when done, ensuring no excess water remains. Return the spaghetti to the 16 court pot, pouring all of the sauce over the spaghetti and tossing until the spaghetti is well coated with sauce. Add half of the parmigiano (parmesan cheese) to the pasta and continue to toss until well mixed.

Serve immediately and sprinkle additional grated cheese to individual taste.

Serves 4-6

Read Reviews By CombatCritic:

Yelp – Elite ’14/’15/’16

Tabelog – Official Judge (Bronze)

Zomato – #1 Ranked Foodie

View my food journey on Zomato!



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Tabelog Reviewer CombatCritic
View my food journey on Zomato!



Title: CombatCritic’s Favorite Recipes: Spaghetti Bolognese

Key Words: Bologna, Bolognese, parmigiano, pasta, Reggiano, spaghetti, recipe, favorite, Pomi, tomato, sauce, Italian, Italy, CombatCritic, TravelValue, travel, value, review, Yelp, Zomato, Tabelog
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Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus


Tahini

tahini

Tahini can be prepared homemade or purchased at a Middle Eastern grocer in a can. It is called tahini or tahina, depending on the region.

Prep Time: 5 minutes

Cook Time: 10 minutes

Total Time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

  • 5 cups sesame seeds
  • 1 1/2 cups olive oil or vegetable oil

Preparation:

Preheat oven to 350. Toast sesame seeds for 5-10 minutes, tossing the seeds frequently with a spatula. Do not allow to brown. Cool for 20 minutes.

Pour sesame seeds into food processor and add oil. Blend for 2 minutes. Check for consistency. The goal is a thick, yet pourable texture. Add more oil and blend until desired consistency.

Yield: 4 cups

Storing Tahini

Tahini should be stored in the refrigerator in a tightly closed container. It will keep for up to 3 months.

Hummus

Ingredients – Recipe makes 5 Cups/40 Servings

2 Cloves Garlic

2 (19 ounce) cans garbanzo beans, half the liquid reserved

1/2 cup lemon juice

1/2 cup tahini

2 cloves garlic, chopped

1 teaspoon salt

black pepper and cumin to taste

1/4 cup olive oil

hummus

Directions

  1. In a blender, chop the garlic. Pour garbanzo beans into blender, reserving about a tablespoon for garnish. Put lemon juice, tahini, chopped garlic, and salt in blender. Add salt gradually as the blending occurs. Blend until creamy and well mixed.
  1. To adjust the texture between creamy and more solid, vary the amount of liquid you drain from the can. The more liquid the creamier.
  1. Transfer the mixture to a large serving bowl and store the rest in your freezer. Sprinkle with pepper and pour olive oil over the top. Garnish with a few garbanzo beans.

Serve with baked pita chips or fresh vegetables…ENJOY!

Title: Middle-Eastern Staples … Tahini and Hummus

Key Words: Middle Eastern appetizer tahini tahina dip pita sesame seeds food processor Hummus lemon cloves garlic cumin garbanzo beans garnish lemon juice garlic blend salt pepper olive oil,

My “Top Secret” Broccoli and Bacon Pasta Sauce Recipe … If You Read This, I May Have To Kill You


Ingredients:

1lb Bacon
1 Medium Yellow Onion
2 Cups Chicken Broth
24 Ounces Broccoli Florets – No Stems
2 Clove Fresh Garlic
1/2 Cup Olive Oil
6-8 Fresh basil leaves
1 Tablespoon Oregano (dry is ok)
Salt and Pepper
1 Cup Grated Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese
1/2 Teaspoon Crushed Red Pepper
2 lbs (1 Kilo) Orecchiette Pasta (may substitute pasta)

Boil broccoli in a large sauce pan until tender. Set aside.  Pan fry bacon until crisp, but not burnt. Cut into pieces (size unimportant because bacon will be blended) and set aside. Add crushed, chopped garlic to bacon grease, adding chopped onion and simmering on medium heat until soft.

Add broccoli, bacon, garlic, and onion to large blender or food processor, bacon grease included. Add 1 cup of chicken broth, basil leaves, and oregano to mixture. Using a potato masher or similar object, push the mixture down into the blender, freeing additional space for broth. Add enough broth so mixture will not overflow when blended/processed. Blend on high speed, adding broth if necessary, until you have a thick puree.

Start boiling water in large pot, adding a small amount of olive oil and salt.

Pour broccoli puree into a large saucepan and heat on low, adding salt, pepper, Olive oil, Parmigiano (all to taste), and 1/2 teaspoon of crushed red pepper.  Cover and simmer on low heat for 45 minutes, stirring occasionally and adding broth if necessary.  Puree should not be so thick as to be clumpy nor so thin as to be runny.

Boil pasta for 12-14 minutes (times vary depending on type, altitude), drain well, and place in large serving platter. Spoon broccoli puree over pasta until well coated, stirring gently and adding extra Parmigiano if desired.

Mangia … e buon appetito!

Serves 8-12 hungry guests

Title: Yummmm … CombatCritic’s Secret Orecchiette with Broccoli and Bacon Sauce Recipe

Key Words: orecchiette, CombatCritic pasta broccoli bacon onion basil Parmigiano puree sauce oregano chili salt garlic blend salt pepper olive oil pasta TravelValue

Anatomy of a Perfect Taco


Dear Mexican Restaurants (particularly those in Lawrence, Kansas),

Photo #1 – Taco – Side View

Tacos are not meant to be served in pre-fabricated corn shells as is the case in every Mexican restaurant in Lawrence, Kansas and across the country for that matter. A perfect taco starts with a handmade corn tortilla filled with cooked/seasoned meat (beef, chicken, pork), sealed with toothpicks (note the toothpick holes in photo #1), and deep fried to crispy golden goodness. Shredded beef is the preferred meat filling, but ground beef will suffice in most cases if seasoned well.

After frying, the toothpicks are removed from the piping hot taco shell and cheese, fresh lettuce, and tomato are stuffed inside. The best tacos I ever ate were in California, prepared like this, with thin slices of fresh avocado added (guacamole can be substituted) before serving. There should only be enough room for some fresh, homemade salsa before the first bite is taken. The shell should be crisp enough so that you get the signature taco crunch as you take a bite, yet soft enough so that it does not fall apart as you inhale, I mean eat, the entire taco.

Taco – Top View
These tacos are from Rancho Grande Cantina in Parkville, Missouri and are as close to perfect as I have found in the Midwest (minus the requisite tomato and avocado). Take note amigos and LET’S STAMP OUT PRE-FAB TACO SHELLS IN OUR LIFETIME!

Key Words: taco, tacos, shell, tortilla, corn, meat, beef, recipe, menu, beef, pork, chicken, cheese, lettuce, tomato, pico di gallo, avocado, guacamole, CombatCritic, TravelValue

Mexquisito is Exquisito According to CombatCritico!


Mexquisito

712 Massachusetts Street
LawrenceKS 66044

Phone: (785) 856-8226
Web: Mexquisito

Prices: $$$$$


I recently reviewed Tortas Jalisco, one of my few favorite Mexican restaurants in Lawrence, a sister-establishment of Mexquisito in downtown Lawrence.  Like its sister, Mexquisito is bare-bones in terms of decor and ambiance, but the food more than makes up for the lackluster environment.

Being a Mexican food junkie from SoCal (LA-LA LAND) and used to some of the best Mexican food north of the border, I have high standards. I read about Mexquisito on Yelp where the restaurant seemed to get mostly very positive reviews.  I heard, like several Lawrence Mexican restaurants, that they charge for chips and salsa, something I have never seen in over 50 years of eating at hundreds of Mexican restaurants north and south of the border.  Not a good business practice from my perspective and a fact that may account for the reports of empty tables even on Friday and Saturday nights. When we arrived on Sunday night at 6PM, there were in-fact only two tables occupied by customers compared to 95 to 100 percent occupancy every Sunday night at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Kansas City or at Lawrence’s own El Potro (which serves not only free chips and salsa, but a free bowl of queso blanco as well).

Guacamole, Chips, and Salsas – $5.99

We ordered the guacamole ($5.99 compared to $4.99 at Tortas Jalisco) which came with a basket of chips and salsa (green/spicy and red/mild), bringing the price of the guacamole down to just over $3 after deducting the price of chips and salsa.   The “green” salsa I had heard so much in Yelp reviews was excellent with just enough heat and the “red” was also very good, being more mild than the verde (green) version. 

The guacamole was good, but a little too spicy for my wife’s taste and with too many tomatoes (and corn?) for mine. Tomatoes, much cheaper than avocados, are used by many restaurants as a filler even though traditional guacamole is not normally prepared using tomato (see my recipe below). There could have been much less tomato (no corn) and more guacamole for the price, but it was well seasoned and tasty although the price seems very high at $5.99 for a small cup.

I ordered the house margarita (frozen with salt – SPECIAL – $3.00), coming in a 12 ounce beer mug, a tasty concoction with a tangy lime base and enough tequila to stand out from other Lawrence Mexican restaurants that seem to serve more diluted drinks.  Twelve ounces did not last long so I ordered another margarita with dinner, getting two margaritas for the price of one at other restaurants.  After all, having a teetotaling wife and built-in designated driver is wonderful for a guy who enjoys a little booze with his dinner!



Tacos de Papa with Rice and Beans – $8.99

My wife is Italian, not a big fan of Mexican cuisine, and usually orders a quesadilla, but surprised me when she decided on the Tacos de Papa ($8.99 – mashed potato crispy tacos). An Italian that hates tomatoes, does not cook (thankfully, I am quite a good cook) and does not drink, as I mentioned earlier, she makes a great designated driver. However, trying to find Mexican food WITHOUT TOMATOES is like trying to find a tree in Greenland … good luck! My wife liked the Tacos de Papa even though they were rather bland because she does not like the sour cream that accompanied the dish. Containing mashed potato and white cheese in a crispy corn tortilla, the Tacos de Papa are an excellent choice for those who enjoy a vegetarian option. My wife asked for the tomatoes “on the side”, but the dish came without tomatoes. A small portion of sour cream accompanied the dish, but guacamole or pico de gallo would be have been a nice addition to the rather bland potato tacos.

I normally order the staples, tacos and enchiladas, when trying a new Mexican restaurant because if they cannot get those dishes right, there is little chance the rest of the food will be worth trying. Store-bought chips and pre-fab tacos shells are always a dead give away for mediocre food and Mexquisito came trough with flying colors!  

Tacos ala Carte – $1.79 each

The tacos ($1.79 each ala carte) are excellent, with the shells fried in-house, they were tasty, the shells thick, and the tacos withstood several bites without falling apart, beating out most Lawrence Mexican restaurants so far in my culinary journey (Fuzzy’s Tacos and El Potro being the only exceptions). 

Enchiladas Poblanos with Rice, and Beans – $9.99

Cheese and onion enchiladas in red sauce are not on the menu (available upon request), but the Enchiladas Poblanos ($9.99) with shredded beef were scrummy with just the right amount of filling covered with a homemade white Poblano sauce that was one of the best I have tasted. A small scoop of guacamole and some rather nondescript rice and beans accompanied the meal, adding little value or flavor.


Mexquisito’s interior is quite basic, yet clean, and the service excellent with Jose (our server and the owner) being very friendly, helpful, and attentive even though he appeared to be doing everything himself (we saw no other workers in the hour we were there). The chips, thick, crunchy, and also made in-house, were excellent with just the right amount of salt.  I would recommend that the owners consider providing free chips and salsa like the vast majority of Mexican restaurants, silencing their few critics.  As far as I can see, having to pay for chips is the only flaw Mexquisito has, but as I said, ordering an appetizer solves that dilemma quite easily.


CombatCritic gives Mexquisito 7 out of 10 Bombs … Bombs are good!



CombatCritic’s “Gnarly Guacamole” Recipe:



4 Ripe (dark and soft, not too soft, to the touch) Avocados

1 Tablespoon Diced Garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/8 Cup Fresh Chopped Cilantro (or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro)


Remove the avocados from their skin by cutting them in half, removing the seed, and scraping the contents into a large bowl with a tablespoon.  Smash the avocados with a mashed potato masher until all large chunks are well smooshed.  Add the garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro to the bowl and stir well, ensuring all ingredients are thoroughly distributed (the lime will keep the avocado from turning black too quickly from oxidation – lemon juice can be substituted depending on your taste).



Serve with fresh baked chips (cut corn tortillas in half, distribute evenly across a baking sheet, spray with Pam or other cooking spray, coat with salt, and bake at 325 for 20 to 15 minutes – until brown and crispy) and salsa or pico de gallo.


Mexquisito on Urbanspoon


Key Words: Mexquisito, Mexican, food, restaurant, taco, tacos, enchilada, enchiladas, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, eat, tasty, delicious, CombatCritic, recipe, Lawrence, Kansas, 66044

Finally … Delicious Mexican Food in Lawrence and Reasonable Prices Too!


Tortas Jalisco
534 Frontier Rd
LawrenceKS 66049
(785) 865-1515
Prices: $$$$$

Being a Mexican food junkie from SoCal (LA-LA LAND) and used to some of the best Mexican food north of the border, I have high standards. I read about Tortas Jalisco on Yelp where the restaurant seemed to get mostly very positive reviews.  I hesitated going there only because I heard they charge $2.69 for chips and salsa, something I have never seen in over 50 years of eating at hundreds of Mexican restaurants north and south of the border.  Not a good business practice from my perspective and a fact that may account for the reports of empty tables even on Friday and Saturday nights.  When we arrived on Sunday night at 6PM, there were in-fact only two tables occupied by customers compared to 95 to 100 percent occupancy every Sunday night at our favorite Mexican restaurant in Kansas City.

We ordered the queso blanco (white cheese dip – $4.99) and guacamole (also $4.99), both coming with a basket of chips and salsa (green/spicy and red/mild), bringing the price of each appetizer down to $2.30 each after deducting the price of chips and salsa.  The queso blanco was not very thick and barely attached itself to the chips when dipped, but very tasty nonetheless.  The guacamole was also good, but too spicy for my wife’s taste and with too many tomatoes for mine.  Tomatoes are much cheaper than avocados, so many restaurants use them as a filler even though traditional guacamole is not normally prepared using tomato (see my recipe below).  Their could have been less tomato and more guacamole for the price, but it was well seasoned and delicious from my vantage point.

I ordered the house margarita (frozen with salt – $4.50), coming in a 12 ounce beer mug, a tasty concoction with a tangy lime base and enough tequila to stand out from other Lawrence Mexican restaurants that seem to serve more diluted drinks.  Twelve ounces did not last long so I ordered the “signature” margarita with dinner, coming in a pint size glass on-the-rocks with premium tequila and a splash of Grand Marnie liquor (with salt – $6), well worth the additional $1.50 compared to the house variety and quite delicious.

My wife is Italian and not a big fan of Mexican cuisine, so she usually orders a quesadilla and did not surprise me here. An Italian that hates tomatoes, does not cook (thankfully, I am quite a good cook) and does not drink wine, she makes a great designated driver. Trying to find Mexican food WITHOUT TOMATOES is like trying to find a beach in Greenland … good luck! The quesadilla was stuffed with tasty cheese and came with a side of guacamole nearly the size of the $4.99 appetizer ($.99 on the menu). After all, the name “quesadilla” comes from the word “queso”, meaning cheese, and my wife liked it even though it was bland because she does not like the sour cream that accompanied the dish or the accompanying guacamole (which was too spicy for her taste).

Torta Cuban

The name “Tortas Jalisco” literally means “London cakes”, but Mexican tortas are actually Mexican sandwiches. The torta Cuban, one of nine sandwich selections (right – $6.00 – see menu below), comes with a pork cutlet, ham. cheese, adobo sauce, lettuce and tomato, and is served with a small side of guacamole. The bread was fresh and lightly toasted and the torta was good, but not even close to some of the best Cuban sandwiches I have had (arguably at Cuban restaurants), lacking a bread with the flavor and consistency of a true Cuban sandwich. A side of French fries would be a welcome addition to help round-out the dish.


Crispy Beef Tacos ala Carte ($1.79 each)

I always order the staples, tacos and enchiladas, when trying a new Mexican restaurant because if they cannot get those dishes right, there is little chance the rest of the food will be worth trying. Store-bought chips and pre-fab tacos shells are always a dead give away for mediocre food and Tortas Jalisco came trough with flying colors!  The taco shells are fried in-house, were very tasty, and the shells thick, the tacos withstanding several bites without falling apart and beating out any Mexican restaurant in Lawrence so far in my culinary journey (Fuzzy’s Tacos being the only possible exception). The cheese and onion enchiladas were scrummy with just the right amount of filling covered with a homemade red sauce that was one of the best I have tasted in recent memory.  Finally, the “green” salsa I had heard so much in Yelp reviews was excellent with just enough heat and the “red” was also very good, being more mild than the verde (green) version. 


Cheese and Onion Enchiladas Dinner

In all, the interior is quite basic, yet clean, and the service was a bit slow as I had heard from several Yelp reviewers, but Carlos (our server) was very friendly and helpful, and attentive even though he appeared to be doing everything himself (we saw no other workers in the hour we were there). The chips, thick, crunchy, and also made in-house, were excellent with just the right amount of salt.  I would recommend that the owners consider providing free chips and salsa like the vast majority of Mexican restaurants, silencing their primary critics, and raise the price of their relatively inexpensive dishes by thirty to forty cents each to make up the difference.  As far as I can see, having to pay for chips is the only flaw Tortas Jalisco has, but as I said, ordering an appetizer solves that dilemma quite easily.


CombatCritic gives Tortas Jalisco 7 out of 10 Bombs … Bombs are good!






CombatCritic’s “Gnarly Guacamole” Recipe:


4 Ripe (dark and soft, not too soft, to the touch) Avocados
1 Tablespoon Diced Garlic (or 1 teaspoon garlic powder)
1 Tablespoon Fresh Lime Juice
1 Teaspoon Sea Salt
1/2 Teaspoon Ground Black Pepper
1/8 Cup Fresh Chopped Cilantro (or 1 tablespoon dried cilantro)

Remove the avocados from their skin by cutting them in half, removing the seed, and scraping the contents into a large bowl with a tablespoon.  Smash the avocados with a mashed potato masher until all large chunks are well smooshed.  Add the garlic, lime juice, salt, pepper, and cilantro to the bowl and stir well, ensuring all ingredients are thoroughly distributed (the lime will keep the avocado from turning black too quickly from oxidation – lemon juice can be substituted depending on your taste).

Serve with fresh baked chips (cut corn tortillas in half, distribute evenly across a baking sheet, spray with Pam or other cooking spray, coat with salt, and bake at 325 for 20 to 15 minutes – until brown and crispy) and salsa or pico de gallo.


Asta la vista baby!

Tortas Jalisco on Urbanspoon




Key Words: Tortas, Jalisco, Mexican, food, restaurant, taco, tacos, enchilada, enchiladas, rice, beans, guacamole, salsa, eat, tasty, delicious, CombatCritic, recipe, gnarly, bombs, Lawrence, Kansas