Category: Restaurant Recreations

Restaurant Recreation: Chipotle Inspired Burrito Bowl


I don’t know about you, but one of my all time favorite “fast casual” meals is a burrito bowl from Chipotle.  I think it’s a good compromise between an indulgence and a healthful meal.  I don’t feel guilty loaded up my burrito bowl with lots of guacamole, some cheese and sour cream as long as a I ditch the large (and calorie laden tortilla) and add lots of fresh veggies.

And while Chipotle is never far and is always convenient, I thought that I could make this favorite as a delicious home made dinner.


The end result was fantastic and a really “fun” meal because you get to choose which ingredients to add and how much of each.  Each “bowl” because personal (ps – if you enjoy this kind of eating, check out my Thai Lettuce Wraps).

As for the various bowl components, I was inspired by my favorite toppings at Chipotle, including:

Three types of salsa: corn, pico de gallo and spicy restaurant style:


Guacamole and fresh romaine lettuce for some beautiful green color and delicious flavor:


A bit of cheese and sour cream for some moderate indulgence:


And finally some fajita veggies, steak carnitas, cilantro white rice and black beans for the main “substance” in the bowls.





The great thing about this meal is that you can add or subtract any ingredient to personalize it.  Love pinto beans? Substitute them for the black beans.  Prefer brown rice? Replace it for the white. Do you only eat fish or are you Vegetarian? Make some shrimp or skip the meat all together.  You can also whip this meal together in no time if you buy store bough salsa and guacamole.

No matter what ingredients you choose, make sure you line everything up buffet style and allow everyone to make their own bowls!  Each dish will be unique and perfectly catered to each person’s palate.  Enjoy!

Restaurant Recreation – Chipotle Inspired Burrito Bowl – Serves 4


  • 2 lbs pot roast (brisket will work too – anything that shreds)
  • 1 TB chili powder
  • 1 TB cumin
  • 1/2 tsp cayenne
  • 1 TB salt
  • 1/2 TB freshly ground pepper
  • 1 TB garlic powder
  • 1 TB onion powder
  • 1 Bottle of Mexican Style Beer (Modela is great)
  • 2 onions, sliced
  • 6 garlic cloves
  • 5 TB of vegetable oil
  • 2 bell peppers, sliced
  • 2 cups white rice
  • 6 cups water
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1/2 cup sour cream
  • 1/3 cup shredded cheese
  • 2 heads shredded romaine lettuce
  • 1 28 can of black beans
  • S+P to taste
  • Pico De Gallo
  • Guacamole
  • Corn Salsa


To make the carnitas, mix the chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, pepper, garlic powder and onion powder together in a small bowl.  Rub all over the pot roast and allow to sit for 30 mins to an hour. Once you have allowed it to sit, heat 3 TB of vegetable oil in a large dutch oven over high heat.  Once hot, brown the meat on each side for 4-5 minutes per side.

Add the beer, 2 cups of water, 1 sliced onion and peeled garlic cloves.  Bring to a boil and then reduce heat to low.  Cover and cook the beef for 3-4 hours until it falls apart and you can easily break apart with a fork.

While the beef cooks, you can prep all the other ingredients and place into individual bowls.  To make the rice, add the 2 cups of rice, 4 cups of water and about 1 TSP of salt to a medium sauce pan.  Bring to a boil and reduce heat to a simmer.  Cover and cook for 20 minutes. Once finished cooking, fluff the rice with a fork and add the cilantro. To make the fajita vegetables, add 1 sliced onion and the sliced bell pepper to a saute pan with 2 TB of oil. Cook until they are tender and slightly browned. Season with salt and pepper.

Serve everything together buffet style and let people build their own bowl! Enjoy!

Restaurant Recreation: Fried Polenta with Wild Mushroom


As I have mentioned before, one of my all time favorite restaurant dishes is grilled polenta with mushrooms from a restaurant in Chicago called Vinci.

The combination of the tender mushrooms with the fried or grilled polenta is absolutely delicious and is made even better with the addition of lots of fresh rosemary flavor  and rich tasting broth that is served along side.

One of the things that I haven’t been able to recreate with this recipe is grilling it with any amount of success. Instead of getting those beautiful grill marks, I get more of a grill indentation and end up with half of the polenta between the grill grates.  So instead of grilling, I choose to light fry my polenta. The result ended up working really well and still captured the essence of my favorite restaurant version – crispy exterior and creamy interior.


As for the mushrooms, I opted for a “mushroom medley” from the farmers market that featured porcinis, shitakes, creminis and portabellas.  If you don’t have access to porcinis and shitakes, cremini, white, and portabella mushrooms work just as well.


As for attempting to recreate the broth that goes with the Vinci version, I think I did a really good job! First, I created a broth using beef bouillon, the stems from the mushrooms and lots of fresh mushrooms.


After the sauce rendered down, I combined it with garlic infused olive oil and red wine and poured it over the polenta and mushrooms.


Finally, for presentation, I lightly (and carefully) burnt the rosemary right over my stove top to release its wonderful aroma and then placed it on top of the dish like Vinci does.

I think this is great as an appetizer or a vegetarian entrée.  If you increase the number of mushrooms you use, this will absolutely fill you up like a meat entrée would!

Fried Polenta with Wild Mushrooms – Serves 2 as an entrée or 4 as an appetizer


  • 2 lb mixed wild mushrooms
  • 1 cup course cornmeal or polenta
  • 1/3 cup freshly grated parmesan
  • 5 cups water, divided
  • 5-6 stems of fresh rosemary stems
  • 1 TB beef bouillon
  • 1/2 cup red wine
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • EVOO
  • S+P to taste


Bring 3 cups of water to a boil with about 1 tsp of salt.  Once boiling, add the polenta or cornmeal, whisking constantly.  Reduce the heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the polenta is tender (about 8-10 minutes). Add the parmesan and stir to combine. Taste and adjust for seasoning as necessary (I added some pepper at this stage). Pour into a bread pan or 8×8 baking dish.  Even out the top and allow to set, in the fridge for 2-3 hours until firm.

To prep the mushrooms, de-stem them (holding onto the stems!) and clean gently with a damp paper towel.  Brush the mushrooms with EVOO or spray with cooking spray and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Take the stems and combine them with 3 stems of fresh rosemary (no need to take off the stem as you will drain the broth), the mushroom stems and the beef bouillon.  Bring to a boil and rude heat so that it simmers, reducing and being infused with the mushroom flavor for 15-20 minutes.

In a separate sauté pan, add 2 TB of EVOO and heat over medium heat.  Add the smashed garlic gloves and sauté until slightly browned but not burned – about 3-4 minutes.  Remove the garlic cloves and pour in the red wine. Allow the alcohol to cook off for 1-2 minutes.  Add the drained mushroom broth and cook everything together for 5-7 minutes until it has thickened slightly.

While the sauce is cooking, grill the mushrooms outside or on a grill pan, or sauté in a skillet until they are slightly crisp on the outside and tender on the inside – 2-3 minutes per side.  Keep the mushrooms warm in the sauce.

In a large sauté pan, add 2 TB of EVOO and heat over medium high heat.  Remove the polenta from the fridge and cut into 4 portions.  When the pan is hot, add the polenta and cook for 4-5 minutes per side, or until the polenta is slightly browned.

Finally, carefully “toast’ the remaining 2 rosemary stems to release the wonderful scent.

To assemble, place the fried polenta in the middle of the plate and carefully place a variety of mushrooms around it.  Pour the sauce over each plate and top with the rosemary stems.


Restaurant Recreation–CPK Thai Chicken Pizza


My sister Kate, with her ever discerning palate, extraordinary cooking skills and love for the finest restaurant, is in many ways,  a simple woman when it comes to food.

For one, she absolutely lives for popcorn.  I have never met someone who needs to have popcorn in order to watch a movie (in the theater or not).  She also includes Dominos pizza and sunflower seeds among her can’t-live-without items.  See what I mean? Simple woman.

Additionally, for years, Kate would also couldn’t live without frozen CPK Thai Chicken Pizza.  In fact, she recently reminded me that for an entire year in high school, she would come home during a free period and eat one of these frozen pizzas for her lunch.

I can’t say that I blame her, because well, CPK Thai Chicken Pizza is delicious.  Really what’s not to love? Peanut sauce – Amazing! Lots of shredded cheese – Can’t live without it! Fresh carrots, scallions and bean sprouts for crunch – icing on the cake!

So in Kate’s honor, I decided I wanted to try and recreate her high school lunch experience.  But instead of feeding her a frozen pizza that has a laundry list of ingredients, I decided to recreate it using less than ten ingredients and made it healthier!


The result was amazing and tasted a lot like the original.  I think the key to making it taste authentic was by adding  some sweetness to the peanut sauce.  My typical peanut sauce is really simple and includes peanut butter, soy sauce, sriracha and either water or chicken broth to thin it out.  For the sauce I used on the pizza, I added some coconut butter and agave nectar for some added sweetness.  If you don’t have either of these on hand, I would recommend substituting brown sugar or honey.  With that said, I don’t think the added sweetness is necessary, I just wanted to make it as similar to the CPK pizza as I could, so feel free to omit it.


The last thing I will say about this pizza is that it really is a “one dish” dinner.  What I mean by that, is that if you use a lot of veggies as the topping (I chose carrots, scallions and bean sprouts but bell peppers, cucumbers or celery could work too!), you essentially have all of your nutritional needs satisfied – protein from the chicken, carbs from the dough, healthy fats from the reduced fat mozzarella cheese and peanut butter, and of course lots of veggies. 

So if you are in the mood for this CPK original, but not in the mood to deal with the hoards of high school students that make that restaurant their home (myself in high school included – I used to go at least twice a month!), then this recipe should be right up your alley!

Thai Chicken Pizza (CPK Restaurant Recreation) – Serves 4


  • 1 pizza dough (I buy mine at Whole Foods and typically get the multigrain variety!)
  • 3 cups grated mozzarella cheese
  • 3/4 lb chicken meat, shredded or cut into large cubes (I used the meat from a rotisserie chicken, but feel free to cook off some boneless breasts or thighs and shred it)
  • 2 cups shredded carrots
  • 1.5 cups sliced scallions
  • 1.5 cups bean sprouts
  • 1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter
  • 2 TB sriracha, plus more to taste
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock, plus more to thin out sauce as needed
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 2 TB coconut butter
  • 2 TB agave or honey
  • Cornmeal + Flour for the pizza


Pre-heat oven to 450 degrees.  If using a pizza stone, you want to pre-heat the pizza stone while you are heating the oven.  Otherwise, if you put a cold pizza stone in a hot oven, you risk cracking the stone.

Roll out your pizza dough to desired thickness on a floured surface.  The CPK original is actually pretty thick, but because I like my pizzas a bit thinner, I rolled my dough pretty thin.  To do this, I actually cut the pizza dough in half and made two thinner pizzas instead of one thick pizza.  If you like your dough thicker, I would recommend just doing one larger pizza. 

After you roll your out your dough, remove the pizza stone (if using) from the oven and sprinkle with cornmeal to prevent the dough from sticking.  Place the raw dough on the stone and spray with a bit of cooking spray.  Sprinkle the dough with salt and pepper.


Place the dough back in the oven and precook for 7-10 minutes, or until the dough is slightly browned.   Remove the dough and pizza stone from the oven, flip the dough and cook on the other side for 2-3 minutes.  Remove from oven.

While the dough is precooking, prepare the peanut sauce by adding all ingredients in a small sauce pan and cooking until incorporated, about 5 minutes.  You want the peanut sauce to be thin enough to spread, so add more chicken broth or water to get to desired consistency.

Spread the peanut sauce on top of the precooked dough.


Add 1/3 of the cheese atop the peanut sauce.


Top with the shredded chicken and the remaining cheese.


Cook the pizza for approximately 10 minutes or until the cheese is melted and slightly browned.


Add the cilantro, carrots, bean sprouts and chopped peanuts to the cooked pizza.


Serve the pizza with some extra sriracha and enjoy!!


Restaurant Recreation–Rosemary Chicken Pasta

There is a small restaurant located in Needham, MA called Sweet Basil, that Tommy and I have been going to for years.  We first started going as students at Babson College when the restaurant literally had less than 10 tables and you had to walk through the kitchen to get to the bathroom.  To make matters worse, Sweet Basil has never taken reservations, so if you wanted to have dinner there, you usually had to arrive around 5:30 to ensure that there wouldn’t be a long wait.  Luckily, since the early years of us going there, the restaurant has expanded.  While it still isn’t huge, there are more like 20 tables now.  There is usually still a wait if you go during prime time hours on the weekend, but it is definitely not as bad as it used to be.

Even when we have to wait, Tommy and I always think its worth it.  The food at Sweet Basil is delicious, reasonably priced and comes in HUGE portions.  The portions are so big in fact that you can’t even order an appetizer or salad and an entrée unless you want to bring a significant amount of leftovers home.  Additionally, Sweet Basil serves this AMAZING pesto dip alongside their fresh bread as soon as you sit down.  This pesto is so good, you cannot help but eat at least two pieces of bread with it.  Well, maybe somebody with extreme willpower could, but I certainly could not.

While we absolutely love going to Sweet Basil (as if you couldn’t tell!), it was a wonderful surprise when Tommy told me that he had received the Sweet Basil Cookbook as a Christmas gift from his mom.  The ability to make your favorite dishes from Sweet Basil without having to leave my kitchen?  It was a dream come true!

When Tommy visited Chicago over the New Years holiday, he brought the cookbook with him and we decided to make something out of it while he was here.  And this wasn’t just any dish we were choosing, we selected Tommy’s all time favorite dish at Sweet Basil (and maybe even anywhere?!?): Rosemary Chicken Pasta.


This dish is admittedly extremely rich thanks to the TWO CUPS of heavy cream in the recipe.  But don’t be deterred, because a little portion goes a long way.  Plus, I opted to up the veggie content from the original recipe to get a little additional nutritional boost.


You could use whole wheat pasta in place of semolina pasta to increase it even further.

I served the pasta alongside a giant arugula and grape tomato salad.  I like to think that a big salad always negates a heavy pasta dish.  That’s how it works, right?  Don’t answer that.


I have a feeling that this is just one of many recipes that I will be making from this cookbook as there are so many dishes that I love from Sweet Basil.  I thought that having this cookbook would reduce the number of times I would have to come face to face with the pesto dip because I could visit Sweet Basil less frequently, but as luck would have it, Sweet Basil included that recipe in the book as well!  I’ll just have to remember to make one recipe at a time and enjoy these delicious meals in moderation!

Restaurant Recreation – Rosemary Chicken Pasta – Serves 6 (Inspired by the recipe from Sweet Basil’s Cookbook)


  • 1 lb Rigatoni pasta
  • 3 round slices (approximately 1/4 inch thick) pancetta, chopped
  • 1 1/2 lb chicken breast (preferably organic), cut into large chunks
  • 1 TB EVOO
  • 1 TB butter
  • S+P to taste
  • 1 TB garlic, minced
  • 1 tsp rosemary, minced
  • 1 cup asparagus, cut into 1/2 inch pieces (approximately 12-15 asparagus stalks)
  • 4 plum tomatoes, chopped (approximately 2 cups)
  • 2 cups heavy cream
  • 1/2 cup white wine
  • 1/4 cup chicken broth
  • 1/2 cup parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 cup asiago cheese, grated


Bring a large pot of water to a boil, season with salt.  Cook pasta according to package instructions, drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, add chopped pancetta to a large sauté pan.  Turn pan to medium and cook pancetta until brown and crispy, but not burnt.  Drain the fat from the pancetta on a paper towel lined plate, keeping the excess oil in the pan.

In the same pan, add the butter and olive oil and melt together over medium heat.  Season the chicken pieces with salt and pepper and add to the pan.  Brown both sides of the chicken. 

Meanwhile, mince the garlic and rosemary.


Add the minced garlic, rosemary and reserved pancetta to the pan with the chicken.  Continue cooking for another 3-5 minutes, until the garlic is cooked.  Deglaze the pan with the white wine, scraping the brown bits from the bottom of the pan.  Cook for 5 minutes or until the wine has almost evaporated entirely.

Add the chicken stock, heavy cream, chopped tomatoes and asparagus to the pan.  Cook everything together for 5 minutes.


At this point I removed the chicken so that the sauce would thicken more quickly.  Once it is thickened to your desired consistency, add the shredded asiago and parmesan cheeses.  Stir until well combined.  Add the chicken back to the sauce and cook for another 2-3 minutes until heated through.  Taste and adjust for seasoning (we needed to add a little more salt at this point).

Add the sauce to the pot holding the drained pasta noodles and stir everything to combine.



Serve a couple of spoonful’s (trust me that’s all you will need) in a bowl and enjoy!


This dish makes great leftovers because the flavors seem to come together even more after a day or two in the fridge.

After Tommy and I were pleasantly full, instead of the usual overstuffed feeling we get after visiting Sweet Basil, we took some cider to the living room and enjoyed a nice big fire during a cold Chicago night!




It was the perfect way to kick off our five day New Years Vacation!