Share This Page

The art of cooking

| Saturday, Feb. 23, 2013, 9:00 p.m.
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse combines eggplant, onion, garlic, coriander, cumin, zucchini, carrots, plum tomatoes, nutmeg, red wine, coconut milk, and other ingredients for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse presents his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse presents his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, Moroccan Vegetable Stew is prepared by chef/owner Michael Barnhouse, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, Moroccan Vegetable Stew is prepared by chef/owner Michael Barnhouse, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, Moroccan Vegetable Stew is prepared by chef/owner Michael Barnhouse, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse grates fresh nutmeg into a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse adds blended plum tomatoes to the simmering vegetables combined in a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse adds the garbonzo beans to the simmering vegetables combined in a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse mixes a variety of vegetables, including diced zucchini and carrots, in a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse adds the garbonzo beans to the simmering vegetables combined in a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse stirs the simmering vegetables combined in a sauce pot for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse prepares a bed of Israeli cous cous for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review
At the Lola Bistro on the North Side, chef/owner Michael Barnhouse plates the simmering vegetables, sauces, and spices on a bed of Israeli cous cous for his Moroccan Vegetable Stew, Tuesday, January 29th, 2013. Keith Hodan | Tribune-Review

Michael Barnhouse was an overweight art major at Ohio University when he started cooking to try to eat more healthfully and “get back to a healthy weight.”

But with his eye for aesthetics, he began to understand that “one of the finest arts there is, is cooking,” he says.

After earning his Bachelor of Fine Arts degree in painting, Barnhouse attended what is now the Natural Gourmet Institute in Manhattan and later cooked in New York; Seattle; Mendocino, Calif.; and San Francisco. While on the West Coast, Barnhouse was an executive chef for Wolfgang Puck, doing mostly catering. Having met his wife, Yelena, in Seattle, the two decided to move closer to his mother, who lives in St. Clairsville, Ohio.

Barnhouse cooked in a few area restaurants but always wanted to open his own place with his wife, a native of Siberia, who is a good cook and pastry chef. The two drove around looking at various neighborhoods and found the Mexican War Streets — “so charming, like the West Village (of New York City) or Georgetown (in Washington, D.C.).”

“I love these old row houses,” says owner-chef Barnhouse of the Mexican War Streets housing stock. “But there weren't that many restaurants, and there weren't that many casual fine-dining restaurants here.”

To fill that perceived void, the Barnhouses opened Lola Bistro in August. They chose the name because “every city in America has a Lola Bistro,” says Barnhouse, 44, of Bon Air.

The bistro has light-wood tables, black chairs, peach walls and the original brown-painted tin ceiling. Barnhouse and a friend did the renovation work, installing a small kitchen that “ensures everything is fresh” because there's not much room to store ingredients for long. And, Barnhouse's colorful paintings adorn the walls.

“I use Old World techniques and put my own twist on them,” Barnhouse says of his menu. The staff — which includes sous chef Brad Davis, a North Carolina native now living in McKees Rocks, and Yelena — make their own pasta and pates in-house. Yelena's specialities are desserts and pastries, including a sweetly scrumptious seven-layer Russian cake; and pelmeni, Siberian dumplings stuffed with lamb and beef, along with dill sour cream and white wine vinegar, which costs $7 for 10 as a starter.

Other starters include artisan cheeses and house charcuterie for $18, with selections changing daily.

“I like simple, acceptable food … hearty food,” Barnhouse says. “Most of our entrees are served in a bowl.” They include French cassoulet with duck confit, beef and lamb, house bacon, cannellini beans, tomato and fresh herbs, for $24. Lamb Bolognese features house-made fettuccini, Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese and orange-infused Castelvetrano oil, for $24.

But Barnhouse doesn't serve only French or Italian specialties.

“I was at the epicenter of Asian fusion, so I use a lot of Asian techniques,” Barnhouse says.

Sandra Fischione Donovan is a contributing writer to Trib Total Media.

Moroccan Vegetarian Stew

Michael Barnhouse, executive chef and owner of Lola Bistro in the Mexican War Streets, loves simple, comforting dishes with fresh ingredients. Such a dish is his Moroccan Vegetarian Stew, made with fresh vegetables and coconut milk. Crushed red pepper gives the dish zing, which the coconut milk balances with mellow flavor.

Vegetarians and omnivores will find the tasty and healthy dish a hearty comfort on a cold February evening. But carnivores can satisfy their appetite for meat by following the option that adds traditional Moroccan lamb.

1 tablespoon ground cumin

1 tablespoon whole coriander

14 cup olive oil

1 medium-size yellow onion, chopped

6 medium-size cloves garlic, chopped fine

Pinch of crushed red pepper

14 teaspoon fresh ground nutmeg

14 cup ground hazelnuts

2 medium-size carrots, cubed

2 medium-size zucchinis, seeded, unpeeled and cubed

2 medium-size parsnips, cubed

1 medium-size eggplant, unpeeled and cubed

1 cup red wine

1 can (12 ounces) whole plum tomatoes, processed in a blender or food processor

Salt and pepper, to taste

1 can (13.5 ounces) coconut milk

2 cans garbanzo beans, or 1 cup dried garbanzo beans, soaked overnight with 3 cups water

1 cup Israeli couscous, placed in a bowl with 2 cups hot water and steeped 10 minutes (see photo 1)

Additional parsnip strips fried in hot oil until crisp

Toast the cumin and whole coriander in a saute pan until you see a wisp of smoke. Cool the spices in the refrigerator, then grind together in a spice or coffee grinder or with a mortar and pestle. Set aside.

Heat the olive oil in a medium-size to large saucepan over medium to medium-high heat. Add the onions and garlic; sweat them until they are translucent, for about 2 minutes. Add the pinch of crushed red pepper and ground nutmeg (photo 2). Mix thoroughly; add the ground hazelnuts.

Add the carrots, zucchini and cubed parsnips; mix (photos 3 and 4.) Then add the ground cumin and coriander mixture, the cubed eggplant, the red wine and processed tomatoes (photo 5). Let stew for about 20 minutes, until the vegetables are softened but not mushy. Season with salt and pepper. Add the coconut milk. Add the prepared or canned garbanzo beans and heat through (photo 6).

Serve the stew over couscous; garnish with the fried parsnip strips and serve (photo 7).

Makes 6 servings.

Moroccan Lamb Stew option

1 12 pounds hind-leg lamb meat, cubed

14 cup olive oil

Water or chicken stock

Sear the lamb in the olive oil. Cover the seared lamb cubes with water or chicken stock and simmer gently for about 1 hour. Do not boil the meat or it will toughen. Coat the cooked meat with the ground hazelnuts (see stew recipe) and add it to the stew. Continue at the point at which the carrots, zucchini and parsnips are added.

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.