Tag Archives: eggplant

Pusadee’s Garden


Right now, we’re experiencing some of the most beautiful weather one could ask for, so I ask you all this: Where have you been dining outdoors this season? At home? By the waterside? On the top of a mountain? At an upper Lawrenceville Thai restaurant dominated by its pastoral picture book of a garden?

If you answered the last option, than you have most likely made a recent visit to Pusadee’s Garden, a family owned Thai restaurant boasting an outdoor seating area as beautiful as its food is delicious. Time and time again, talk of Pusadee’s comes back to the garden – how lovely it is, how big, how lush – and it’s true that the restaurant’s major asset lies in its backyard (or, rather, side-yard). That’s not to say it’s not exceptional in other ways, however, especially considering how well it fares against its competition just up the hill in Bloomfield…

But oh, that garden. That garden!


There’s a special feeling when eating amidst such verdant beauty. You’re outside, but you feel tucked away in your own private garden. There are diners all around, yet somehow it feels sublimely intimate. All around you there is distraction – a cluster of interesting flowers, an imposing thrust of green leaves as thick as the napkins on the table, a scattering of herbs all around, and of course, the frame and trellis providing a modest barrier with only the barest of woodwork. It’s rustic, elegant, sophisticated gardening gone just wild enough on the edges to make one feel like you could get lost without the tables to guide your way.

To put it another way, although you’re seconds away from Butler Street, you feel as if you could be dining in a garden in the middle of nowhere. It’s a pastoral entrancement that translates into the meal itself.

More than uplifting the normal dining experience, the garden setting somehow accentuates the flavors of the meal. The psychic effect of so much fresh-grown flora is a heightened concentration on the fresh flavors of the food. When not distracted by the scenery, me and my dining companion, Jackie, focused in on the menu, a straightforward mix of Thai classics, including soups, curries, noodle and rice dishes, and “garden” specialties.

Pusadee's Garden on Urbanspoon

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CSA #8: Summertime? Time for Summer Squash!

By this past week’s CSA, I had assembled quite a collection of summer squash, specifically the yellow summer squash variety. Why have I been carefully sealing the squash up and storing it in my crisper when I could have been cleaning it, chopping it, and cooking it for breakfast, lunch, and dinner?

Well, the short answer is… I don’t really know. The longer answer, the answer that you know I’m going to expound upon because you read this blog and you know how long-winded I can get about trivial matters, is that I’ve become a bit of a hoarder when it comes to foods. Whether it’s a trip to the market or our weekly CSA, there are certain vegetables that I hold onto till the point of inspiration, and sometimes well past the point of inspiration. These are the foods that I can’t simply dump into just any old dish. These are the foods whose mere presence in my fridge makes me that much happier to be in the kitchen in the first place. These are the foods that are stored in the crisper until the brink of rot, just to be rescued at the last minute by whatever dish could use a little extra something. They were meant for so much more, but alas, time is a merciless force upon produce.

It’s a pseudo-fixation that is seemingly random as to the choice of its targets. For instance, though I use onions in almost every other dish I make, I have no intention of hoarding onions. It would make much more sense if I were hoarding onions, considering how often I use them, but instead, I hoard things like summer squash, for which I have limited (but delicious) uses. Is my hoarding inspired by my desire to keep close something that is not oft present in my fridge?

Or is it mere laziness and lack of knowledge? Perhaps I hold onto veggies that I don’t use on everyday basis because I simply don’t trust my ability to cook them effectively. Such was the case with the kohlrabi earlier in the CSA season. The bok choy. Even the radishes! (Although after finding that cold salad recipe, I haven’t had any issues using up my radishes.) Maybe my hoarding isn’t hoarding at all, but an insecure act of protection to keep the vegetables from being used incorrectly.

Anything in your crisper you’ve had trouble letting go of? If so, why?

Onto the bounty and bonus recipe!


Braising mix, sweet peppers, assorted tomatoes, summer squash.


Beets, purslane, eggplant, green beans.


Onions, Swiss chard, basil, carrots, potatoes.

Summertime Pasta with Eggplant and Summer Squash

Ingredients
– 1/2 lb to 1 lb of whole wheat pasta, prepared as directed
– 1 medium-sized eggplant, sliced into half-inch rounds
– 1 large summer squash, sliced into quarter-inch rounds
– 1 medium onion, chopped
– 1/2 cup of roasted red peppers, sliced
– 1/2 cup of unsweetened non-dairy milk
– 3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
– 2 tsp dried rosemary
– 2 tsp dried basil
– 1 tsp smoked paprika
– Salt
– Ground black pepper
– Olive oil (for the summer squash saute)
– Vegetable oil (for frying the eggplant)

Prepare the squash saute
– In a medium-sized pot with a lid, saute the onions in olive oil until translucent. Add the squash, roasted red peppers. Allow to simmer at low heat until everything is tender, adding salt and pepper to taste.

Prepare the eggplant
– Pour the non-dairy milk into a shallow bowl. In a second bowl, combine the flour with the rosemary, basil, smoked paprika, salt and pepper.

– Coat your eggplant by first dipping the rounds in the milk, then by tossing them in the flour. Make sure to get a light, even coat around the whole piece, including the sides.

– Heat vegetable oil a large frying pan on the stove. Add the slices, frying until each side is golden brown. Set eggplant rounds on a paper-towel covered plate to cool and drain.

Plate your pasta
– A top of a generous helping of pasta place two eggplant rounds, then a scoop of the squash saute. For non-vegans, add a sprinkling of Parmesan or a few chunks of Gorgonzola.

La Casa

Pittsburghers are often criticized for their so-called lack of sophistication when it comes to dining, but as a recent comment in the Pittsburgh City Paper pointed out, the attention and following of food trends has significantly increased in the last couple of years. We might not be New York City or San Francisco or Chicago or even (thank goodness) Seattle, but we’re not slacking in developing a contemporary culinary landscape.

Well, not slacking as much. We’ve gone from being several years behind the times in trends to several months behind, and that’s progress that I’m happy with, especially when you consider how much other cities have had to sacrifice to make both physical and consumer room for hot new eateries. It’s all well and good that you can try great culinary feats of unbelievable invention and quality, but that doesn’t mean you’re not going to miss those greasy spoon, all-night diners when they’re all but an indigestion-causing memory.

We still have space enough for both the upscale and lowbrow, and as a result, there is plenty to be found in both directions. But if one we’re looking to sample a stretch of businesses that are strictly in the realm of the posh, Ellsworth Avenue in Shadyside is a good street to try, and La Casa is the right place to start.


Nestled in the far corner of Ellsworth, La Casa’s back patio feels miles away from its neighbors, and yet, just peeking over the fences, there is the neighborhood. It’s the magic of Moroccan and Spanish tapas combined with killer sangria, the romance of little golden lights and big, artfully shabby umbrellas. As a spot for pre-dinner drinks and snacks and conversation it works splendidly.

La Casa on Urbanspoon

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Sababa Middle Eastern Grill

When it comes to online coupon deals like Groupon, Townhog, etc, I’ve become a bit of an obsessive. For someone who relishes the chance to try new places to eat, these sites offer daily slices of opportunity. Now, most of the time, the opportunity isn’t something I’m particularly interested in. Many mornings I have rushed to my email to see what is in store for me and my appetite (and my wallet) today, and many mornings I have immediately dismissed the 50% off of manicures, or hot air balloon rides, or new carpeting.

Other mornings, I’ve come across a restaurant deal that sounded pretty appealing, but I hesitated too long, coming back to sign up for it only to find that it had sold out. Groupon, especially, seems to take a sadistic pleasure in disappointing people who are silly enough to pussyfoot around a good deal. (Good deal or not, sometimes it takes a lot of thought before I’m just willing to spend twenty bucks. I don’t have the kind of income level that affords me flippancy with that amount of money. Sorry, Groupon.)

It’s those ten-dollar deals that always get me. Ten for twenty. Not a lot of initial investment, especially when the deal is for a place you’ve been dying to try. Hence, when Townhog was offering a ten for twenty on Sababa Middle Eastern Grill, I jumped so immediately on the deal, my computer shook with fear.

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