Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Inspired by Columbus: The Cornerstone Deli Cafe

The Cornerstone Deli Cafe
3296 N. High Street
Columbus, OH
(614) 267-3354
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Cornerstone has been a Clintonville mainstay for awhile now, so it's hard to believe that even though we have lived in Clintonville for four years we have never been before.  Maybe it's because their unassuming facade hides their interesting menu menagerie.

The dining is more spacious than I would have assumed, even offering a separate room that could hold a large party privately. In the lower picture Isaac is standing in front of the salad case while Lyndsay looks at the rest of the menu, which is broken down into breakfast, hot and cold sandwiches and wraps, sushi, and rice bowls. Though we always dine-in when possible, it is worth noting that Cornerstone has online ordering and delivers in a 3-mile radius, giving people in Clintonville, North Campus, and even North Linden something else to eat other than pizza or subs.

Now what makes Cornerstone interesting is not anything specific on the menu, but the fact that you could get a bagel with lox and sushi and a chefs salad all at the same time and for a reasonable price. While Lyndsay and Isaac ordered a deli wrap and a bagel pizza respectively, I decided to embrace the menu by ordering an eel and avocado roll, some sesame chicken without the rice, and a small salad.

Rather than a salad bar you look over their salad case and tell someone behind the counter exactly what you want.  It is all pretty standard stuff, but the sheer amount of dressings puts it over the edge.  I built my salad to compliment the Asian food I would be having by adding carrots, broccoli, bean sprouts, almonds, sunflower seeds, and hard-boiled egg with a mango dressing. But you could just as easily make a Greek salad or a chef's salad or a chicken Caesar salad.

I alternated bites of salad with cool and creamy sushi  or hot and crispy sesame chicken. You would think that a place that offers bagels and sushi would do neither well, but this was not the case.  Everything was surprisingly good and I can't imagine anyone not finding something here to enjoy.  I am really looking forward to getting some sushi and bagel sandwich delivered to my house the next time I feel lazy.

How I was inspired.
America has given many great things to the world.  Jazz, barbecue, and of course, the salad bar.  I thought it would be fun to combine the American concept of the salad bar with culturally specific ingredients. So I spent the afternoon prepping and had my friends the Richettis over to share in the spread.

I decided to do a Thai theme and other than lettuce I had about 16 choices: four herbs, six vegetables, two meats, three dressings and  a couple of miscellaneous items.  Here is the breakdown of what I did.

From the top to bottom and left to right we have whole basil leaves, chopped cilantro, sliced scallions, whole mint leaves, chopped tomatoes, sliced cucumber, and shredded carrot.

Starting at the top there is spring mix, brown rice noodles, a sweet and salty fish sauce vinaigrette, a lemongrass and coconut milk dressing, and a thick and creamy thai peanut dressing. These dressings were a simple matter of mixing a few ingredients, though the coconut milk dressing was also simmered a bit and run through a fine mesh strainer.

Finally we have fish sauce and brown sugar marinated broiled pork tenderloin slices, minced jalapeno, chopped sauteed red snapper in a tamarind lemongrass sauce, and dry-roasted peanuts.

Everything worked really well together and everyone had seconds.  Everyone had their favorite, but mine was the pork.  When doing this, encourage everyone to make multiple small salads so they can experiment with different ingredients each time.

Thai Salad Bar

Salad ingredients

  • 1 lb spring mix
  • 1/2 package brown rice noodles, cooked and drained
  • 1/2 lb carrots, peeled and shredded
  • 1 cucumber, cut in half and sliced thin (peeled and seeded if desired)
  • 4 roma tomatoes, chopped
  • 6 scallions, sliced thin
  • 3 jalapenos, minced (seeded if desired)
  • 1/2 cup each basil leaves, cilantro leaves, and mint leaves
  • 1/2 cup peanuts
  • Thai peanut (mix)
    • 2/3 cup peanut butter
    • 1/2 cup coconut milk
    • juice from 2 limes
    • 3 Tbsp. fish sauce
    • 4 cloves garlic, minced
    • 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
    • 1 tsp. sugar
    • water as needed to get to desired consistency
  • Coconut lemongrass (gently simmer all ingredients together for 10 minutes then strain and cool)
    • 3 stalks lemon grass, trimmed and sliced thin
    • 2 shallots, peeled, and chopped coarse
    • 8 sprigs cilantro
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 can coconut milk
    • juice from 2 limes
    • 1 tsp. Thai red curry paste
  • fish sauce vinaigrette
    • 2/3 cup fish sauce
    • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
    • juice from 3 limes
    • 1/3 cup sugar
    • 3 seeded jalapenos, minced
    • 2 cloves garlic, minced
  • pork tenderloin (marinade for 3 hours, then broil until browned)
    • 3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
    • 2 Tbsp. fish sauce
    • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
    • 1 pork tenderloin, sliced into 1/8" thick rounds
  • red snapper with tamarind lemongrass sauce
    • 1/3 cup vegetable oil
    • 1 lb thick red snapper fillets
    • 2 Tbsp. minced lemongrass
    • 1 Tbsp. minced garlic
    • 1 Tbsp. peeled and minced ginger
    • 1 seeded jalapeno, minced
    • 2 Tbsp. tamarind concentrate whisked into 1 cup of boiling water
    • fish sauce and sugar to taste
    1. Heat the oil over medium-high heat in a nonstick skillet for 4 minutes.  Saute the fish for two minutes on each side and then set aside
    2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the lemongrass, garlic, ginger, and jalapeno and cook for two minutes.  Add the tamarind liquid and the fish, and bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, cover, and cook for 10 minutes.
    3. Remove the fish, increase heat to medium high and reduce the sauce until thick.  Add fish sauce and sugar to taste to make a nice balance between sour, salty, and sweet.
So that's it.  It was lot of work and should probably be saved for a party, but it was worth it.  I will be taking next week off as I go on vacation in New England.  See you in two weeks.

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