* – from Natural Grocers
For the pesto
- Toast the walnuts over medium-low heat in a large sauté pan for 7-8 minutes, stirring frequently, until lightly toasted. Transfer to a plate and wipe the pan clean.
- Remove parsley leaves from the stems and add them to the bowl of a food processor. Discard stems. Pulse until the parsley is well chopped. Add the toasted walnuts, lemon zest, and salt and process until the mixture is uniform, scraping down the sides as necessary. With the machine running, slowly add the lemon juice and 3 tablespoons of olive oil. Set pesto aside.
For the shrimp and zoodles
- Pat the shrimp dry with a paper towel and remove tails if desired.
- Heat the large sauté pan over medium heat. Once hot, add the remaining tablespoon of olive oil and the garlic. Sauté, stirring frequently, until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the shrimp, salt and pepper to taste, and cook, flipping shrimp about halfway through cooking time, until the shrimp are pink and curled, 4-6 minutes total.
- Add the zoodles and cook for one minute, stirring frequently. Add the pesto and stir to combine. Add the tomatoes and give the mixture one more stir to fully coat the veggies and shrimp with the pesto. Serve immediately.
Note: If your pan is not large enough to hold all of the shrimp and zoodles at the same time, remove the cooked shrimp from the pan before adding the zoodles. Cook the zoodles for two minutes, stirring frequently. Combine the cooked zoodles, reserved shrimp, pesto, and tomatoes in a large serving bowl and stir to evenly coat the veggies and shrimp with the pesto.
Tonight was fancy night at Mowry & Cotton. I met up with my long time foodie friends Andrea and Merichelle in a sort of reunion night. Mowry & Cotton opened up at The Phoenician in 2007. I was able to attend a fun Yelp event here last year. It is named after two businessmen (George Mowry and James Cotton) who came to Phoenix in 1872 and opened the first fine liquor establishment in downtown Phoenix. They were trying to create more of a community feel instead of the typical saloons that were around. Chef Tandy Peterson has created a nice rustic menu of comfort food that pays homage to meals that were cooked over a fire back then. The concept here is a shared dinner menu that you mix and match with the people at your table. They have several choices of meat and fish to choose from like salmon, sea bass, steak and ribeye. They also have a variety of popular flatbreads (thin pizzas). Other choices are salads, vegetables and appetizers. They have several cocktails to choose from like their signature Washington & 1st drink (named after Mowry & Cotton’s distillery location in downtown Phoenix). They are also open for breakfast and serve brunch on the weekends. The staff wears button down shirts, suspenders and leather boots to reflect the times. For decor, there are old distillery bottle all around the restaurant that plays off the lighting that comes in to create an ambiance feel of the Old West.
Mowry & Cotton has been running a special Summer Culinary Countdown menu that includes a Bottle and Board for $25. It comes with a choice of a bottle of wine and a flatbread. We tried the Roasted Squash Flatbread and the A to Z Wineworks Pinot Gris bottle of wine. For dinner, I ordered the Grilled Pheasant. It was tender and smokey and comes with lots of fixings like almonds, onions, broccolini and cherries. Others at my tabled ordered the Chicken Pot Pie, the Corn and Chorizo Dip (with Chicharrones!) and Grilled Potatoes. We enjoyed trying one another’s food over good conversation. This is a great new addition to The Phoenician. The rest of the evening was spent in The Phoenician Cactus Garden and enjoying the beautiful views of Phoenix from the lounge area.
Start to finish: 1 hour
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 pound hot Italian sausage, casings removed
1 onion, chopped fine
1 (15-ounce) can cannellini beans, rinsed
6 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 teaspoons minced fresh oregano or 1/2 teaspoon dried
1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds
1/8 teaspoon red pepper flakes
3 cups chicken broth
1 cup water
8 ounces (2 1/4 cups) orecchiette
12 ounces kale, stemmed and chopped
1 ounce Pecorino Romano cheese, grated (1/2 cup), plus extra for serving
Salt and pepper
Heat 1 tablespoon oil in Dutch oven over medium-high heat until just smoking. Add sausage and cook, breaking meat into 1/2-inch pieces, until lightly browned, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in onion and beans and cook until onion is softened, 5 to 7 minutes. Stir in garlic, oregano, fennel seeds, and pepper flakes and cook until fragrant, about 30 seconds.
Stir in broth and water, increase heat to high, and bring to boil. Stir in pasta and half of kale. Cover, reduce heat to medium, and simmer vigorously for 4 minutes. Place remaining kale in pot without stirring, cover, and cook until kale is just tender, about 4 minutes. Stir to incorporate kale and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until most of liquid is absorbed and pasta is tender, 3 to 6 minutes.
Off heat, stir in Pecorino and remaining 1 tablespoon oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste; serve, passing extra Pecorino separately.
The newest edition to downtown Gilbert is nicely squeezed in between Bergie’s Coffee and Joe’s Real BBQ. Topo is a small walk-up food stall with a huge gopher on the roof (Topo means gopher or mole in Spanish). Leave it to owner Joe Johnston to add a little something fun, unique but weird to the growing downtown Gilbert area. This place draws you in like many of the weird roadside attractions do if you were driving on the Route 66 in northern AZ. What I like most is its very simple menu – burrito, beverage and ice cream. What else do you need in life? You can order a regular burrito (chicken or pork) or have it loco style with elote corn, fritos chips, tomatillo cream and hot sauce. They offer a small bowl of elote for a side. For dessert, they have vanilla or prickly pear ice cream cones that you can dip in chocolate, lime or prickly pear. That’s it – very quick and simple. I came on opening day and it took about 15 min waiting in line to order my food (I’m sure that will decrease over time). Food came out in a few minutes. Joe Johnston greeted people in line and offered us gopher stickers. The kitchen space is small and systems-based. I noticed they weigh every burrito that is made before they serve them. There are a few tables off to the side, but most people use the larger picnic tables next to Joe’s BBQ. This place is unique and fun and opens late. They should get quite a good crowd that just want a quick bite to eat.
I always enjoy wine tastings paired with good food. Tonight’s event was at Farmboy in Chandler. It was a reception-style evening that hosted James Callahan of Rune wines and was paired with Hors D’oeuvres from Chef Dennis Bagnasco. I just recently visited Farmboy for the first time for lunch a couple of weeks ago. Rune Wines (Rune means a mark or letter of mysterious or magical significance) was founded by Arizona native James Callahan in 2013 and is located in Sonoita – the heart of southern Arizona wine country. Tonight we got to sample four of his Arizona wines that were paired with samples of locally sourced cheeses, meats, and vegetables. Farmboy is all about using and highlighting local Arizona ingredients and was the perfect place to host this event. Both Oren Molovinsky of Farmboy (who owns Molovin Farm in South Chandler, AZ) and James Callahan of Rune wines were on hand to talk about their lasted endeavors.
Our first wine was the Rune 2015 Viogner paired with goat cheese and a rice cracker. Our second pairing was the Rune 2016 Rosé paired with a smoked chicken breast with arugula and topped with a aioli. Their third pairing was the Rune 2015 Grenache paired with a Mesquite grilled tenderloin with mushrooms. And the final pairing was the Rune 2015 Wild Syrah paired with a flourless chocolate cake topped with a raspberry. I really love the artwork on the wines and the story on the back of the bottles. The food was delicious and paired nicely with the wine samples. My favorite was the Wild Syrah – Rune’s flagship wine. Tonight was an enjoyable evening of meeting new people and supporting local businesses.
I love tacos. I especially love Taco Tuesdays! It has become such a big concept and everyone who serves up tacos puts out great deals for this day. Backyard Taco is a popular spot here in the Valley that serves up tacos al carbon. “al carbon” means to cook over charcoal and are very popular in Mexico. I was introduced to this place when I ate here with my foodie group a few years back. Backyard Taco was started by Ruben and Maricela from Mazatlan. Their business was birth from cooking tacos in their backyard for friends and neighbors. So hospitality and making customers feel at home is a big part of their business. They use fresh simple ingredients along with their amazing selection of meats to create the authentic taste of Tacos al Carbon. I love it when you walk into the lobby and get a glimpse (and smell) of the meat grilling on their mesquite grill. I came by for lunch and sampled a few of my favorite tacos – Carne Asada, Pollo and Al Pastor. Of course I grabbed a horchata to wash it all down. They also do quesadillas, burritos, tostadas, gorditas and a crazy potato. My favorite thing about Backyard Taco is the condiment bar which has a variety of salsas, onions, limes and jalapeños for toppings. Lunch was delicious and affordable as always and made for another fun Taco Tuesday.