My wife spent part of her youth in Chicago’s southern suburbs and her parents still live there. We often journey from our northern suburban home to meet them for dinner there and I’m always taken by the vast array of restaurants that I think of as old-school places down there as opposd to the fancier, nouvelle places we have closer to home.
By old-school, I mean places with classic dishes at good prices. Nothing fancy or new wave, which is just fine with me. These are the sort of restaurants that truly give you more value for your money. We recently went to one such place, Ciao, for my mother-in-law’s birthday and the food did not disappoint. The service was very slow. We were warned at the start though, seem the place is trying to get more help to deal with its weekend crowds.
My 10-ounce filet at Ciao.
Ciao in Palos Hills, Il., is a throwback to the Italian restaurants of my youth in New York. You walk in, Frank Sinatra is singing, what more could you ask for? The owners are there, so you know who is watching the food quality and service levels. It’s Italian comfort food with some new twists. Continue reading
Fennel was one of the fun foods of my Italian-American youth. We’d eat it raw, like celery, while playing New York’s many street sports in those days or just watching TV. It was also a fixture of our Thanksgiving table, again served raw and quartered as a palate cleanser before dessert came to the table.
Fennel at Trader Joe’s is a convenient package. Fennel is normlaly a fall product but many stores now stock it year-round.
In recent years, I’ve also cooked fennel and served it as a fun side dish. First I trim off the frowns and longer stalks, and the center top, which tends to be dirty and tough. I then boil the fennel until it softens and then transfer the quarters to a cookie sheet, sprinkle on low-salt panko breadcrumbs and put under the broiler for a bit to brown. You also can add low-fat, or fat-free cheese. Continue reading
Bread is one of the biggest carriers of evil salt in our daily diets. If you’re trying to eliminate salt as I have been since my angioplasty, you’ve likely given up breads, indeed baked goods, of all kinds.
Thomas’ multigrain English muffins
I have found one alternative, a whole wheat, salt-free bread at Trader Joe’s that I use in my Thanksgiving stuffing now. But I miss baked goods terribly, so I’m always on the lookout for other options. Continue reading
Fish has become a major part of my post-angioplasty diet. But no matter how good they are, salmon, ahi tuna and trout getting repetitious, so I’m always looking for new species to try. One that I enjoy is steelhead trout, a variation of the rainbow trout so prevalent in Midwest fish markets and supermarket fish counters.
Steelhead trout served simply with lemon on the side.
Steelhead spend part of their lives in the ocean and part in rivers, unlike rainbow trout which are river and stream dwellers. Steelhead is pinkish in color, causing many to confuse it with salmon (and I would think causing some unscrupulous retailers and restaurants to pass it off as salmon). But it’s not as fatty as salmon, nor quite as boney or fishy tasting as rainbow trout.
I tend to cook it as I do trout, however, which is to pan broil it in lemon juice, a very simple preparation that infuses it with lemon flavor.
Coat the pan with a spray olive oil to avoid sticking and put the fish in once the pan has heated. I cook it for a few minutes before adding the lemon juice and letting it poach a bit in that (cover the pan as this point). I just use a dash or two of juice, find the level you enjoy and go for it.
Start it in a pan coated with a spray olive oil.
Then add lemon juice and poach a bit by covering the pan.
Eight ounces of steelhead has 12 grams of fat, 4 grams of saturated fat and 80 mgs of sodium.
In addition to my food blog, I also write and co-produce plays with my wife. We’re in the midst of rehearsals for my newest play right now, Talking with My Dad, and so we’re doing some cast bonding that recently included going out to eat after a Sunday rehearsal.
I had checked the menu of the place we were going, the Valley Lodge Tavern in Wilmette, Il., before we went and knew there was nothing on it I could order on my low-salt, low-fat post-angioplasty diet The place is an offshoot of the long-time fixture Valley Lodge in Glenview, Il., where I had many a tasty fish lunch years back when I worked nearby.
My plain tilapia and squash at the Valley Lodge Tavern, Wilmette.
This new location didn’t list any plain fish options, but it did have some fish dishes I thought I might be able to get a bit plainer. A special the night we went was tilapia, covered in something I couldn’t eat. So I asked the waiter if I could just have plain tilapia and he said of course, which was very nice. I also got a squash side dish which I asked be cooked with no salt and no sauce. Continue reading
My wife and I took a recent vacation to the West Coast, starting in Seattle and then journeying to Portland where my daughter has settled down these days.
Meeting her for dinner our first night in Portland presented her with a logistical challenge: I am on a low-salt, low-fat, low-sugar diet, and her boyfriend is a vegan.Where could we eat that would satisfy us both, as well as being tasty for my daughter and my wife?
Her answer was a fun place not far from where she lives called Levant, which describes itself as French-Arabesque “serving modern representations of Middle Eastern dishes.”
An amazing beet salad at Levant in Portland, OR.
My daughter had been there before but apparently the menu had changed by the time we went with her. The four of us ended up ordering a variety of appetizers, salads and side dishes to create our own small plate extravaganza. Continue reading
Salt has become one of the evil triangle of foods in my life, along with fat and sugar, since my angioplasty two years ago. Salt is in every processed food we eat, and especially so in snack and baked foods.
Pepperidge Farm Goldfish, once considered a healthy snack, are one of many packed with salt. Read labels when buying for your children, and yourself.
So I wasn’t surprised by a recent headline I saw, Kids’ Food Cravings Mean Diet Too High in Salt, CDC Says.
“Kids love pizza, bologna, cheese and chicken nuggets. U.S. public health officials don’t like the salt in those foods and say a diet dominated by them may harm children’s future health,” the Bloomberg story notes. And the news just gets worse. Continue reading