Tag Archives: Cheesecake Factory

Can A Simple Combination Of Pasta And Veggies Create Something This Divine?

By Lakshmi:

Anyone who has ever stepped into a Cheesecake Factory will vouch for the fact that indecision over what to order from appetizers to entres to desserts is tour de rigueur.  For us vegetarians, it is a bit of a blessing that the choices are more restrictive.  It is from this  more limited menu option that we decided to order Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta.  The description was mouth-watering.

“Penne Tossed with Broccoli, Oven-Dried Tomato, Roasted Eggplant, Peppers, Artichoke, Kalamata Olives, Garlic and Pine Nuts.”

After a non stop eating expedition visiting family and friends in DC, none of us was particularly hungry.  So a single dish of Evelyn’s Favorite Pasta was scooped up by five of us, leaving not a single morsel on the plate.  What was it about the dish that made it so delicious?  The richness of olive oil infused with sautéed garlic, the crunchiness of the pine nuts, the rich flavors of the oven roasted veggies blending in with the saltiness of the olives all melded to create a sensory experience which lingered long after the meal was over.

A few weeks later, sitting in my kitchen in New Jersey on a cold, wintry day, I craved for this pasta.  I did not want to drive, I did not want to wait in line, I wanted it now.

So, out came the ingredients from the pantry.  I had no penne, but my beautiful batch of bow tie pasta seemed to be the perfect substitute.  I heated up some extra virgin olive oil and on a lark decided to throw in some red pepper flakes to perk up the dish.  In went some crushed garlic and roasted pine nuts and the kitchen was already smelling heavenly.  I picked up some previously roasted eggplant bits, pulled out some sun dried tomatoes in olive oil, a small can of chopped black olives, some sliced orange peppers and a few quickly blanched broccoli flowerets.  A swish here, a turn there and behold……what emerged in the pan was this absolutely beautiful pasta dish that tasted like a million bucks.  And that’s the picture at the top of this post.

Since then, the dish has become a staple in our household and Evelyn has been relegated to the back room while Lakshmi has taken over:)

If you’ve experienced the joy of recreating a restaurant favorite in your own home, we would love to hear about your agony and ecstasy in getting there.

A Love Note to One of My Favorite Foods

(mealadvisor.us)

By Lakshmi:

You may not know me, but I am one of your biggest fans.  A foodie to the core, I am always trying new restaurants and dishes.  I do have one dietary restriction.  I do not eat meat.  And while the world has certainly become a temptation filled paradise for non-carnivores, there are certain dishes that simply sweep your taste buds away.

The fact that I had you at a chain restaurant surprised me.  You were one of those divine taste temptations that I would have expected at a hip fusion restaurant.  But no, you made your appearance on the appetizer list at this restaurant chain, when it first opened in my hometown of Chevy Chase.

I am not a huge fan of egg rolls, but love avocados, so when your name first caught my attention, my reaction was a mixed bag.  Do I really want to order this?  On an impulse I decided to make you my main order for the evening and from that initial meeting to every interaction since then, you continue to have the same impact on me, and that is put me in a state of culinary bliss.

You my friend, the Avocado Egg Roll are the main draw for my many visits to the Cheesecake Factory over the years.    From the first time I saw you presented as a diagonally sliced concoction where the crisp brown egg roll covering enveloped the green avocados, the red sun-dried tomatoes, the red onion and of course the barely there cilantro, I was hooked.  The tamarind sauce that accompanied you along with the fried rice noodles that formed a backdrop to your delivery completed the perfect visual presentation.

Now to the taste.  That first bite when the crisp, savory smooth taste of the egg roll melded into the sweet and tart taste of the tamarind sauce produced a state of joy that is hard to describe.  While I was there with company, I had no desire to share and went on to polish the entire plate, a complete look of contentment on my face which I wish someone had saved for posterity.

The next time I came to see you, I brought my mother along.  Her approval was important.  She fell equally in love with you, as has the rest of my family.  Now, you are the reason we keep coming back to the Cheesecake Factory and our meal there is never complete without you.

Just recently, my husband who is on a calorie counting kick decided that he would be generous and tell me how many calories you contained…just before I placed my order.  I was so angry at him for bursting my bubble, for making me feel guilty.  But did that stop me? Of course not.  I proceeded with full awareness to order you and relish my meal.

For many years, we did not have a Cheesecake Factory near us.  So to meet my cravings, I decided to clone you at home.  I would say my efforts have met with reasonable success, but you remain the original.

And I can’t wait to be reunited with you next week as a branch of this restaurant finally opens its doors near me.