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Happy Turkey Day!

Heritage (Left) Diestel (Right)

Sorry I have been away for a bit. I started a new job in October and just haven’t had time to blog. I aim to do better in the new year! I hope you all had a wonderful Thanksgiving. As always we were given the task to cook the birds. We ended up making two this year… One 10 lb. Heritage bird from a local farm and a 12 lb. Diestel Natural from Whole Foods.

Heritage -400 degrees for 1 hr 45 min

The heritage turkey was running around up until the morning it was delivered to our house. I guess that’s why it looks so slim and trim! Both turned out delicious in the end. The main difference was that the heritage dark meat tasted much more gamey in flavor. Yum!

Diestel  -350 degrees for 2 hrs 15 min

Citizen Chef Healthy Meals


A new company in San Francisco called Citizen Chef just launched a line of fast, fresh,healthy stir fry meals to prepare at home. Each package comes with cut veggies, a grain and a gourmet sauce. All you need to add is a protein of your choice and dinner is served in 15 minutes.

inside the box

When asked if I would like to try the product it was a no brainer…fast and easy are my two favorite words when it comes to cooking. Of the 3 varieties I had I was the most impressed with the Thai stir fry because I’ve always found Asian cuisine the hardest to recreate at home and this Thai Sesame sauce blew me away. It tasted just like the massaman curry that I love to order from our local Thai restaurant.

Chicken w/ Thai Sesame Sauce (fresh coconut milk, roasted sesame seeds, & a hint of ginger)

I also enjoyed the couscous in the Limone Garlic package. We are in a grain rut and always end up with rice. This was a very nice change.

Shrimp w/ Limone Garlic Sauce (fresh garlic, lemon peel, & extra virgin olive oil)

Overall I was impressed with the quality of the meals. Mike and I would definitely purchase them in the future…the only bummer is that you can only find Citizen Chef in certain Bay Area Whole Foods markets. Hopefully they get picked up nationally. See if they are in your neighborhood here.
Get a $3 off coupon here

Website: http://www.citizenchef.com/

Risotto with Leeks, Shiitake Mushrooms & Truffle Oil


This was the  first recipe I made with items from my Full Circle organic produce delivery. Mike is not a fan of truffle oil but he loved this dish. All the ingredients worked together magically!

Tip: It was hot out and I was not about to turn on the oven… so for the mushrooms I just sauteed them in a pan!

shrooms & onions                     leeks & cream                              rice & stock

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | September 2007

Green Bean Spaghetti Carbonara


This was soooo good….like breakfast for dinner. I did add the egg to the noodles too early which ended up making my sauce more scrambled than oozy but that didn’t stop me from devouring every last bite. Next time, I will remember to let my spaghetti cool a bit before mixing all the ingredients. I had some spinach on hand so I added that to the bacon/onion mixture. Yum.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray Magazine /Oct 2011

Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Stew


We arrived late in the morning to the fish booth at the Los Gatos farmers market and missed out on the lobster tail special they had so the fish lady suggested we try her insanely huge prawns instead. She said they tasted just like lobster and she was not kidding! I knew exactly how I wanted to use them… I had just read the Feb. issue of BA and this recipe jumped out at me. To go with the massive shrimps we picked up some cod and halibut from Whole Foods. The result was a pool of wonderfully sweet, salty,clammy, smokey flavors. I will for sure make this again in the future.

BTW -we used polenta instead of the suggested grits but I’m sure it would be great with grits or rice.

Note: The real name of this dish is Bacon-Infused Carolina Fish Muddle but the word muddle is unappetizing to me so I changed it.

Recipe link
Bon Appetit magazine / FEBRUARY 2012

Potato Latkes


I’ve had the best of both worlds because I’ve grown up celebrating both Chanukah and Christmas. This year my parents came to my house to celebrate Chanukah and we made latkes. When I broke out my new Cuisinart food processor to grate the potatoes and onion my mom shook her head in dismay. “I always use a grater,” she said, “we are not making hashbrowns!”

My mom likes her potato and onion mixture to be like mush, not shredded. So after I used the shredder attachment and it was not to her liking I changed the blade and gave it a few pulses to get it to her perfect consistency. Making latkes is pretty simple and delicious. Happy Chanukah!

Crispy on the outside, soft on the inside

My Mom’s Latkes Recipe
Makes about 16

Ingredients:
2 large russet potatoes (peeled)
1 onion
1 tsp. salt
1 egg (beaten)
3 Tbsp. matzo meal
Vegetable oil to fry
Apple Sauce & Sour cream for serving

Instructions:
Grate the onion and potatoes with a box grater or as I described above (much faster!) into a bowl. Then mix with the remaining ingredients. Heat a skillet with vegetable oil (enough to cover 1/2 of the pancakes) over high heat. Drop spoonfuls of the mixture into the hot oil (don’t crowd) and fry until golden brown on both sides. Drain the latkes on paper towels and sprinkle lightly with salt. Serve with apple sauce and sour cream.

Baked Beet Ravioli with Poppy Seed Butter


Our CSA delivery was overflowing with beets in November. Since I was tired of making beet salads I started looking for a unique way to use them when this ravioli recipe grabbed my attention.

If you are not a fan of beets this is not going to convert you. You have to like the flavor because it is prominent. If you enjoy beets like I do you will find these truly satisfying. The only change I would make to the recipe next time is maybe use a more pungent cheese like blue. Other reviewers said they had tried that and I can see that really kicking up the flavor.


I made a few modifications to the  Bon Appétit  recipe.
1. I’m lazy so I chose to use wonton wrappers instead of fresh pasta (they suggested this option to save time)
2. Instead of boiling the ravioli’s I followed the directions on the wonton package to bake them. Preheat oven to 375. Mist a baking sheet with non-stick cooking spray. Place filled ravioli onto prepared baking sheet and brush tops of ravioli lightly with olive oil then bake for 10 minutes or until golden brown. Then I spooned over the poppy seed butter (which I added sage to).

This baked version would be better served as an Appetizer – cut in triangles with the butter on the side for dipping.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | May 2005

For more tasty beet recipes check out other bloggers participating in the Food Network’s Fall Fest (a season long franchise where Food Network editors team up with blogs to share tips and recipes about seasonal produce every week)…

 

 

What’s Gaby Cooking: Farro Beet and Herb Salad
My Angel’s Allergies:
Roasted Beet and Potato Vinaigrette Salad
Cooking Channel:
Garlicky Beet Salad With Walnuts and Dates
The Sensitive Epicure:
Simply Sauteed Beets
FN Dish:
Top 3 Beet Salad Recipes
And Love It Too: Raw, Vegan and Sugar-Free Red Velvet Fudge
Big Girls Small Kitchen: Beet Salad With Crispy Leeks and Bacon
Napa Farmhouse 1885: Roasted Beet Salad With Bacon Vinaigrette

Garlic-Pesto, Brie & Onion Burger


We love burgers…this time it was made with beef from our grass-fed beef club. The meat was fantastic. This recipe is from the burger queen herself, Miss Ray. Tasty…but not good for a first date.

Recipe link
Rachael Ray

Strawberry Blintz Ebelskivers


The ebelskivers are back and better than ever! Imagine a blintz and a pancake all rolled into one. These were over the top good. We again saved a little time by using the Williams Sonoma mix. The recipe suggests using 1 tsp. of filling but use close to 2 …you’ll thank me.


Recipe link

Ebelskivers from the past…
Chocolate Ebelskivers
Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver

Braised Lamb Shanks with Rosemary


Our glorious grass fed beef club sent us these bad boys. First time making lamb shanks in our house and we will be making them again. Fall off the bone yumminess!

Recipe link
Bon Appétit  | February 1997

Burgers with Blue Cheese Mayo and Sherry Vidalia Onions


Mmmm Mmmm good. The sherry onions were the best part. Even though summer is no where to be seen in the Bay Area we still BBQ’d in the rain this weekend.

Recipe link
Cooking Light Magazine /June 2011

Lemon-Garlic Shrimp and Grits


Today they are celebrating Fat Tuesday in New Orleans so here is a little Big Easy flavor for you. This Shrimp and Grits recipe is super easy and fast to prepare – you’ll be done in less than 20 minutes! How can you go wrong with plump garlicky shrimp and cheesy grits? You can’t….this was wonderful.

Note: next time I will double the sauce.

Recipe link
Food Network magazine, December 2010

Cider Bourbon-Glazed Roast Turkey with Shallot Gravy


Turkey, Turkey, Turkey why do you give us so much trouble every year (the time is never right and neither is the temp on the thermometer)? This Thanksgiving we decided to use the Cider Bourbon glaze from Williams-Sonoma. The turkey, once finally done, came out delish and moist. We really loved the glaze. It was sweet with a hint of spice. We followed the directions from WS but skipped the brine and instead used butter, salt & pepper on the outside and stuffed the cavity with fresh herbs. We brined last year and it seemed like a lot of work without much added benefit. The gravy was tasty but not sure it was worth having to buy $29 demi-glace.

Recipe link

BBQ Patty Melt


I was inspired by a recent article Serious Eats wrote called: How to Make The Ultimate Patty Melt. My favorite burger is a patty melt. Always has been, always will be. Forget about lettuce, tomatoes, fancy mustard’s, aioli’s and chipotle ketchup’s. For a perfect burger all you need is quality bread, meat, cheese and onions.

I was drooling as I read the article but I didn’t feel like stinking up the house by frying so I decided to challenge Mike to make the darn things on the grill. He happily accepted.

We headed out to the market to pick up the ingredients:

  • Jewish Rye bread (I never new there were so many choices)
  • Aged Swiss
  • Kraft American cheese
  • Large Sweet onion
  • 1 lb 80/20 ground beef (made 3 patties)
  • butter

When we returned we fired up the grill.

Mike made the patties kinda in the shape of the bread and added salt & pepper. I sliced up the onions and buttered one side of each piece of bread. Then we moved outdoors. Mike began to grill the meat and I started the onions on the grill’s burner (following the Serious Eats directions works well). When the meat was coming close to medium we placed some cheese on top and put the bread on the grill butter side down. Then we topped the bread with more cheese and the caramelized onions. Once everything was melty we sandwiched it all together and chowed down.

I don’t think I’ll ever make a Patty Melt on the stove again. This came out fantastic and not all greasy like it usually is. The meat was tender, the cheese gooey and the onions sweet. Perfection!

Scallops with Mushrooms in White-Wine Sauce


This was killer…literally. I could hear my heart cry as I devoured every morsel. Mike and I are trying to get back in shape by doing the P90X workout. This is not on the diet but this is what Mike decided to prepare for dinner the other night. He obviously didn’t read the ingredients before going to the store. Heavy cream, butter, cheese, egg yolk, and more butter! It was sinfully delicious though. The sauce was the one of the best I’ve ever tasted. It would be a perfect starter course. Really don’t attempt to eat this as a main dish as we did.

I just decided Mike was preparing us for our trip to Paris. We leave in 1 week!!!

Recipe link
Gourmet | January 2003

Shrimp and Fingerling Potatoes in Tomato Broth


My bread was super happy to slop up this broth. It was tasty and hearty but next time I would add some more variety of fish. Maybe scallops and halibut.

Recipe link
Bon Appétit | February 2009

Grilled Pizza

I’ve read articles about grilling pizza for years. We finally gave it a go. I don’t know if I’ve said it before but pizza may be my favorite food. I can eat it daily. To make life easy we used Trader Joe’s pre-made pizza dough. A 1 pound ball produces one large regular crust pizza with a crispy outside and soft inside or two thin crust pizzas. We had 2 balls one white and one wheat so we tried both sizes. It was much easier to make two small pizza’s… being able to flip raw dough onto the grill without making a mess takes mad skilz.

What we made:
Wheat pizza dough with onions,peppers, shrooms, buffalo mozz and tomato sauce.
White pizza dough with tomato sauce, buffalo mozz, fresh basil, crushed black pepper and sea salt.

Step by Step Instructions

The directions say to brush the raw dough with olive oil before grilling. We used olive oil mixed with crushed garlic cloves to add a little zing.

It was time consuming to make but well worth it. The pizza turned out delicious. Just like those fancy artisanal pizza joints with brick ovens.

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Filet Mignons with Whisky Mushroom Sauce


The first recipe we decided to prepare from Steven Raichlen’s new BBQ cookbook was Filet Mignons with Whisky Mushroom Sauce a dish from Uraguay. It’s beef wrapped in bacon smothered in a creamy wild mushroom sauce. What’s not to like?

Recipe adapted from PLANET BARBECUE!: An Electrifying Journey Around the World’s Barbecue Trail by S. Raichlen (Workman, May 2010).

Serves 4

Ingredients

Sauce:
12 ounces wild mushrooms (porcini, chantrelle)
2 tbsp (1/4 stick) butter
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tsp all-purpose flour
1 cup beef stock
1/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp scotch whisky
2 tsp dijon mustard
1/2 tsp finely grated lemon zest
kosher salt & ground pepper

Steaks:
4 filet mignons (each 1.5 inches thick & 6-8 ounces)
4 slices country style bacon
8 bay leaves (optional)
butcher string

Preparation

Make the sauce:  Trim/clean mushrooms and thinly slice. Melt butter in pan over medium heat. Add shallot and cook until translucent but not brown, about 2 minutes. Add mushrooms and increase heat to high. Cook until tender stirring often and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 3 minutes. Stir in flour and cook, stirring, until flour evenly coats the mushrooms, about 1 minute. Stir in beef stock and cream bring to boil, stirring well. Reduce heat and simmer until slightly reduced, 3-5 minutes, stirring often. Add whisky, mustard, lemon zest and stir until blended, about 2 minutes. Season with salt & pepper to taste. Sauce can be prepared up to 1 hour ahead and kept warm.

Prepare the steaks: Wrap a slice of bacon around the side of each filet, sandwiching 2 bay leaves, if using, between the bacon and beef on opposite sides. Tie bacon in place with butcher string. Season top and bottom of steaks with salt & pepper.

Set up the grill for direct grilling and preheat to high. To be authentic you’d grill over oak or eucalyptus embers.

When ready to cook, brush and oil grill grate. Arrange filets on the hot grate and grill to taste 4-6 minutes per side for med-rare. Don’t forget to grill the sides to brown the bacon.

Transfer steaks to plate and remove string. Spoon sauce over the top and serve at once.

See my review of the cookbook here

Buy the book here


Chicken Tostadas


I find Mexican food the most difficult cuisine to make at home. My tacos, fajitas & enchiladas never taste as good as they do in a restaurant… until now. This recipe blew me away.

Recipe link
Gourmet | July 2008

Chicken Pot Pie



This is not the pot pie I grew up eating. The filling is not thick and creamy it’s more of a broth base which makes it seem more healthy than it probably is. When the buttery pastry deflated down into the bowl and got all saucy it was delicious. We made 4 pies and ate 2 a few days later and it was just as tasty. It’s a very warm and hearty meal.

Modifications to save time: We BBQ’d a couple boneless chicken breasts instead of roasting and we used pre-made puff pastry for the tops.

Recipe link

Corned Beef Hash with Fried egg


We had a bunch of left over corned beef so I decided to try and make a hash. It came out pretty well for a first attempt. To save time I cheated a bit by using a bag of frozen “Ore-Ida Potatoes O’Brien” (cubed potatoes with onions & peppers). I also left out the cream as it seemed unnecessary. It was a meal indeed.

Recipe link
Gourmet | December 1999

Corned Beef Sandwich


I hope everyone had a wonderful St. Patrick’s Day! This year I kept things simple. Corned Beef, Swiss cheese and Emeril’s Horseradish Mustard on Irish soda bread. I really wanted to make rye bread but couldn’t figure out a way to do it in less than an hour so that’s how soda bread made it into the sando equation. Soda bread is the simplest thing to make and has a very similar flavor to rye. See recipe  here

We picked up the beef from Costco and prepared it according to the directions on the package. Drop in pot, cover with water, bring to a boil, cover and simmer 3 hours. So easy!

I’ve said it before and i’ll say it again…boiling meat sounds wrong but in this case it is sooo right! The result is succulent and tender.

If you want to see the Guinness corned beef we made last year go here

Yum!

Thanksgiving 2009 Recap


I hope everyone had a wonderful Thanksgiving. This year Mike and I were given the task to make a turkey, green beans, cranberry sauce and gravy.

After much deliberation and many hours looking through foodie magazines we decided to go with the following recipes:

  • Sage Butter-Roasted Turkey with Cider Gravy (Bon Appétit, November 2009)
  • Bacon Braised Green Beans by Emeril Lagasse (Food Network magazine, November 2009)
  • Cranberry, Pomegranate, and Meyer Lemon Relish (Bon Appétit, November 2008)

Mike and I have yet to master the art of cooking a turkey. It gives us problems every year. It just never seems to cook all the way through. Even with all the trouble the breast meat was nice and the gravy was fantastic but next year I want ham! The cranberries were tart and lovely but the green beans were the star of the meal. I lost track of all the compliments I received. These were super simple to prepare and I have a feeling I will be asked to make these again next year!

Recipe link – beans
Recipe link – turkey & gravy
Recipe link – cranberries

Tip: if you try the turkey recipe make sure you remove most of the salt rub before cooking the bird. Also, clean out the bottom of the pan so your gravy isn’t too salty.

Foodbuzz 24,24,24: Lobster Gram

live lobsters
I’ve been c-r-a-v-i-n-g lobster. The kind of lobster I had growing up in Massachusetts when my family would hop in our station wagon and drive to New Hampshire in search of the ultimate lobster meal. Since moving to California, long gone are the days of cheap, simple lobster eats. Lobster tends to be insanely expensive and come in extreme forms. I don’t want lobster sliders, sushi rolls or mac & cheese. I’m going back to basics…I want a lobster so fresh and tasty all it needs is a little drawn butter to make my mouth water. Head, tail, legs and guts. I wanna get my hands dirty and maybe even my shirt. Lobster Gram to the rescue!

Thanks to Foodbuzz and their monthly blogging event where they sponsor 24 people to create 24 meals in 24 hours Mike and I were transported back in time to one of my fondest childhood memories. We had LIVE Maine lobsters delivered to our door from one of the top lobster delivery services on the net…Lobster Gram.

WOW! what a day…the lobsters arrived right on time and were alive and kickin’, well actually they were a bit jet-lagged initially but they perked up. I was amazed to find that they were so fresh that there was no fishy smell at all. Not even the shipping container smelled. The box comes with everything you could possibly need to create the perfect dinner: lobstergramstuffa great detailed cooking guide, lemons, butter, bibs, crackers, picks and hand wipes. The entire process of ordering online to cooking was surprisingly simple. Lobster Gram makes things fool proof. The end result was FANTASTIC! The lobster was super tender and sweet. It didn’t even need butter… but that didn’t stop us from using it!

Here is a video that shows the delivery, prep and the plunge into the pot:

To complete our crustacean feast we prepared the following sides:

cheddarbis

Cheddar Biscuits with Garlic Butter

Corn

Corn on the Cob with Shallot -Thyme Butter

The only modification to the biscuit recipe we made was to double the amount of garlic. They were really fast and easy to make. Awesome right out of the oven. The corn had wonderful flavor. The only change next time would be to use corn off the cob so we don’t lose all the buttery shallot goodness on the plate!

and for dessert…

tart

Apple Galette with Caramel Sauce and Vanilla cream

This treat consisted of sliced apples on top of a 5″ circular puff pastry and what you can’t see is what makes it taste so unique – under the apples is a half dollar size disc of pure almond paste. We’d never used almond paste before and a little goes a long way. Yum!

If you’ve ever considered having  lobsters delivered — JUST DO IT!! This was a totally fun and rewarding experience! I can’t wait to do it again and again and again…

lobster

Beauty shot!

Recipe links:
Apple Galettes with Caramel Sauce
Corn on the Cob with Shallot-Thyme Butter
Cheddar biscuits

GET YOUR LOBSTERS HERE — Website: http://www.livelob.com/
$10 off coupon code: COOKMAN9   — expires 12/31/09

Beet Risotto

beet2

burrellpinotI wanted to try something new with our beets — no roasting or salads. The October 2009 Food & Wine magazine had the solution…risotto! Not only was it tasty but it was gorgeous to look at. To accompany the risotto Mike served a fantastic Pinot from Burrell School Winery. It had tons of berry flavor and a hint of spice which is what made it so nice with the risotto – it added a bit of a kick to the meal. Burrell is a hidden jewel in the Santa Cruz Mountains. The wines are complex, unique and very affordable. Stop by the old, red school house and taste some great wine, meet wonderful people and take in the spectacular view.

Recipe link
Burrell School website: http://www.burrellschool.com/

Pork Tenderloin with Figs and Port Sauce

pork&figs
We got a box of figs in our produce shipment and I had no idea what to do with them. We had never cooked with figs. I ended up winging it because I couldn’t find one recipe that had everything I wanted. First I slathered a pork loin with evoo, salt, pepper and fresh rosemary and thyme. Mike then threw it on the grill and did his thing. Meanwhile, I made a fig sauce using a Martha Stewart recipe I found online (below). I was low on port so I used 1/2 port & 1/2 red wine. It was not overly sweet so I added a little sugar. The sauce came together easily. It was thick, closer to a glaze. I could have thinned it out with some water but I liked the consistency. It was a wonderful complement to the pork.

Recipe link

Linguine with Herb Broth and Clams

clams
Usually when I make linguine with clams I make the pasta in one pot and the clams & broth in another. When I found this recipe where you cook your pasta in the clam broth I knew I needed to try it out. It seemed like a interesting idea. As I followed the directions I ended up needing to add a lot of extra wine & water to the pot in order to cover the pasta so it would cook. There just wasn’t enough broth. Because we used packaged pasta it needed time and liquid to get soft which left us with a thick starchy sauce instead of a broth. In the end it still tasted really good but I think this would work marvelously with fresh pasta.

Recipe link

KitchenAid Pasta Attachment

making pasta

I’d seen this bad boy on Iron Chef numerous times and I wanted one, but was leery to buy it because it almost cost as much as the mixer. My parents ended up giving the attachment to Mike as a birthday gift (thanks M&D!) The 3 piece set includes a roller/kneader attachment, a spaghetti cutter and a fettuccine cutter.

It was surprisingly easy to use and worked perfectly on our first try. I totally thought this would be a 1/2 day experiment but I guess to get it done on Iron Chef in 60 minutes it’s got to be fast. I would highly recommend this purchase if you like fresh pasta.

Mike in action:

Buy your attachment here

For our first use we made fettuccine with Ratatouille since we had a fridge full of veggies. The pasta turned out wonderful. We were missing the eggplant so we added portabella mushrooms to the sauce. It was delicious. The only thing we would change next time is add more garlic. We used the extra sauce to top some halibut a couple days later. It tasted even better!

ratatouille

Recipe link

Spicy Sauteed Fish with Olives and Cherry Tomatoes

orangeroughyolivestomatoes
Yum, Yum, Yum. I truly enjoyed this. It was so garlicky that it kinda tasted like a scampi. If you like garlic you should like this. The only modification to the recipe was we used half the amount of chili flakes. For some reason I prefer to taste my food and not have my mouth on fi-yah.

Recipe link

Quick and Easy Cioppino

cioppino
The title says it all. This was super simple to prepare. When you think of Cioppino you usually think of a pot boiling away for hours. This was done in 30 minutes but doesn’t lack flavor. Our modifications to the recipe included adding fresh basil and substituting chicken stock for the water. For the fish we chose jumbo shrimp, mussels and scallops. I think any hearty white fish would go well. Served with crusty garlic bread this was a fantastic meal that we were able to whip up after a long day at work.

Recipe link

Halibut with Capers, Olives, and Tomatoes

halibutwolives
Mike really loved this dish. The flavors were very Mediterranean inspired and would be grand with couscous (we didn’t have any). The topping was a wonderful combination of sweet and sour.

Recipe link

Eggplant Parmesan: Parmigiana di Melanzane

eggplantparm
OMG! This was awesome. Little stacks from heaven. Mario put his foot in this recipe. If you like eggplant, you’ll love this…heck, if you don’t like eggplant I have a feeling you’ll like this. It was time consuming and messy to make (why are eggplant recipes always so complicated?) but sooo worth it. The tomato sauce that went along with this will now be our go-to pasta sauce. I would of been happy with just a bowl of sauce!

Recipe link

Keller vs. Colicchio – Battle of the Bacon Fried Egg Sandwiches

tomvstom

Keller is on the left side

I was cravin’ a kicked up BLT and found two recipes online from Thomas Keller (French Laundry/Ad Hoc) and Tom Colicchio (Craft/Top Chef). I couldn’t decide which to try so I made both (on different days…I’m not that piggy!). I hate to say it but it ended up in a tie. Both sandos were good but definitely missing something.

The  Pro’s:

Keller – yummy bread and cheese selection
Colicchio –  frisee with oil/vinegar was a grand addition

The Con’s:

Keller – Needed a more flavorful sauce. Mayo just didn’t cut it.
Colicchio – This needed a big juicy slice of tomato. It was a tad dry.

Next time I will make a combination of the two.

Keller – Recipe link

Colicchio (from his new cookbook: ‘witchcraft) – Recipe link

egg sando battle

Ziti with Pesto Pantesco

batalipasta

I picked this Mario Batali recipe because we had not been to the grocery in a week and it included ingredients that we had at home. This is similar to a dish I have made many times but this is a bit more zippy in flavor. I love this kind of pasta sauce because you toss everything in a blender and you’re done. Super easy and fast. Make sure you don’t try this on a first date because the garlic is potent.

Recipe link (we used penne and 1/2 tsp. of red pepper flakes!)

Bayou Burger

bayouburger
Mike decided to surprise me with a new burger he found in the Great Burgers cookbook by Bob Sloan. Preparing us for our upcoming trip to NOLA he made the Bayou burger which is a lamb/andouille sausage patty packed with cajun flare. This had great flavor and was super juicy. I will warn you that these bad boys stay with you far after the time you eat them (if you know what I mean)…

Ingredients (adapted from Great Burgers- makes 4)
1lb ground lamb
1 andouille sausage (3 ounces) cut into 1/4-inch pieces
1/2 cup chopped onion
3 tbsp. chopped garlic
1 egg beaten
2 tsp. cajun seasoning
2 tsp. chili powder
1 tsp. ground cumin
1/2 tsp. dried thyme
1/2 tsp. dried basil
pepper to taste

Mix everything together to make burgers. Cook 5 minutes then flip for 4-5 more minutes. Serve with red onion, lettuce and mayo or creole mustard. We added tomato.

Buy the book

Hey! I’m in the process of planning our New Orleans trip. Any suggestions for food/fun please leave a comment here or send me an email.

Spicy Orange Chicken Stir-Fry

orangechicken
This was nothing like the orange chicken at Panda Express. This was much healthier because it’s not fried. I found this recipe in the 15 minute meal section of June’s Bon Appétit. As you can see we added mushrooms because they came along with the peas in our produce delivery and we used yellow onion instead of red. I have to admit I think I like the Panda Express version better but this was a tasty alternative and my waist appreciated it.

Recipe link

Seared Scallops with Roasted Garlic Cream

scallopswgarlic
I’m baaaack! Sorry for the sporadic posts… my real job has actually been keeping me very busy 😥

Welcome to another episode of Top Scallop (if you watch Top Chef you’ll know what I mean). We have been eating a lot of scallops lately. These were covered in a light garlic sauce. I know it’s hard to see but trust me it’s there. Of course it was good — they were covered in garlic cream and served with buttered rice!

Recipe link

Buitoni Wild Mushroom Agnolotti with Balsamic Brown Butter

shroompasta

buitoni

These Buitoni Agnolotti’s (similiar to ravioli) arrived at our house as another perk of being a member of the FoodBuzz Tastemaker Program. I love mushrooms so I was psyched to try them. Picture fresh pasta filled with a mixture of crimini & portobella shrooms, cheese and garlic. All good things. To go along with them Mike and I decided to prepare a  light sauce as to not mask the flavors. Good choice because the mushrooms were not overly flavorful. The balsamic brown butter sauce was a Giada recipe and was a perfect compliment — sweet and nutty. I would definitely pick these up if I saw them in the grocery and I was looking for a quick tasty meal.

Recipe link (we substituted pine nuts for walnuts)

Lemony Risotto with Asparagus and Shrimp

shrimp risotto

For a risotto this was easy to make (of course I say that because Mike made it 🙂 ). The first day we ate this the lemon just lingered in the background and gave a kiss of citrus. The next day it was much more pronounced. This was the first risotto I’ve had that was better the following day. Not at all clumpy or dry and the flavors matured. Good stuff!

Recipe link

Pan Sauteed Scallops with Fresh Herb Pasta Salad and a Parsley Coulis

parsleyscallops

Back to cooking at home…. after all that Food & Wine…

This dish is meant to be served cool (the pasta) so it would be perfect on a hot night. I actually think it would also be good served warm. The flavor is very floral with the many herbs used. It’s like a mouthful of Spring. This was light and tasty.

Recipe link

Lamb Chops with Pear and Kiwi Salsa

kiwilamb
The only reason we decided to try this recipe is that we received a whole bunch of kiwi’s in our produce delivery. I was extremely skeptical that the ingredients in the salsa would mesh but they did. It had a fresh, tropical vibe. I have to say that the broiling method of cooking the chops was fantastic. When Mike pulled them out of the oven I thought they were burned, but they were charred on the outside and perfectly pink on the inside. It’s a fast and easy dish to prepare.

Recipe link

Grilled Rosemary Chicken with Creamy Grits and Shiitake Mushroom Sauce

chickenandgrits
Ready to feel guilty? Then this is the dish for you! On day 3 of Mike’s birthday celebration I decided to make him this for dinner. It was outstanding but also used the majority of a carton of heavy cream. In reflection I could have forgone the cream in the grits and used 1/3 less in the sauce, but you only live once, might as well go all the way. No longer will grits be relegated to the breakfast table.

Modifications to the recipe: added a little parm to the grits, used bacon instead of pancetta in the sauce.

Recipe link

Halibut with Roasted Beets, Beet Greens, and Dill-Orange Gremolata

beetsandhalibut
We got beets! I’ve been waiting for beets to arrive in our produce delivery for months. Beets are the bomb and if you don’t agree, you haven’t had them prepared in a way that brings out their yumminess. After preparing this recipe we learned beet greens are not to be discarded. They are wonderful. At the suggestion of other reviewers we added garlic to the gremolata and once the fish was cooked I finished it with a little orange juice to give it a punch of citrus. The meal was light, healthy and delicious.

Recipe link

Guinness Corned Beef and Cabbage

cornedbeef

I married an Irish man so I now celebrate Saint Patrick’s Day. For the first time we made a St. Paddy’s day meal for Mike’s family.

pearsalad

Simple awesome salad

The menu:

  • Pear Salad with blue cheese, bacon, walnuts and shallot vinaigrette (recipe)
  • Guinness Corned Beef with cabbage, potatoes and carrots
  • White Soda Bread w/ caraway seeds (recipe)
  • Sprinkles Irish cupcakes

The main dish was corned beef. I am a corned beef fiend although I grew up eating it in another form… corned beef on rye with mustard and a dill pickle. This was the first time Mike or I had attempted to cook the beef at home. When I read the recipe Mike found I was very concerned that it would not turn out right. The whole idea of boiling meat just sounded wrong but I would find out it was sooo right. The result was amazing. It was tender yet firm and the flavor was perfection. I can’t wait to make it again next year. I’m already planning the menu. Seriously.

Happy St. Patrick’s day!

Beef Recipe link

Tasty Tip: Don’t be tempted to sample the braising liquid before adding the veggies. It will taste like a pool of salt. The Guinness flavor throughout is very mild. We will use 2 bottles of beer next time and less water.

Sautéed Chicken with Olives, Capers and Roasted Lemons

lemonchick
I was craving lemon chicken so I went on a crusade to find a new recipe. The first I came across was by Lidia Bastianich who is one of Mike’s aunt’s favorite celeb chefs. In her honor I thought we should give it a try. It looked like a light and fresh dish. The result was a smorgasbord of flavors: sour (lemon), tangy (capers) and salty (olives). The chicken paired nicely with the accompanying sauteed spinach & breadcrumbs. Winner, Winner chicken dinner! I now know why aunt Joan is a follower of the PBS star.

Recipe link

Roasted Cornish Game Hens

cornish-hen
This is one of my favorite winter meals. Hearty, scrumptious, comfort food. You can make side dishes to accompany this but we usually go Medieval and devour the birds in one sitting. Every time I purchase cornish hens (usually frozen but still super tasty) I am amazed at how cheap they are. It’s the best spent $7.

cornish-hensIngredients
2 game hens
butter
garlic salt
Secret ingredient… Lay’s classic potato chips (gives a salty crunch)

Preparation
Rinse hens, remove giblets (if any), pat dry, then arrange in a baking pan. Slather slightly melted butter all over the hens. Shake some garlic salt on and inside the cavity. Then lightly crush the potato chips by hand and sprinkle on and around the birds. Place in a 350 degree oven and roast until juices run clear when hens are pierced in thickest part of thighs, about 80 minutes. If at the 60 minute mark the birds are not golden brown on top turn up the heat to 400. Remove from oven, spoon some cooking liquid over hens and serve immediately.

Source:  Mom circa 1990

Scallops with Brussels Sprouts and Lemon-Chive Crème Fraîche

scallops

You say you don’t like brussel sprouts…I say you haven’t had them like this! I had to find an interesting way to prepare the brussel sprouts that arrived in our produce delivery because Mike is not a fan. In this recipe instead of leaving the sprouts whole you slice them up and sauté with BACON. While I made the sprouts Mike seared our scallops like a pro. When topped with the lemon creme fraîche the citrus combo was out of this world.


Recipe link

Food & Wine magazine /Feb. 2006

Sweet Chili

chili
I prefer sweet chili over spicy. This recipe is one of my mom’s. It’s super easy and fast to make. An official 30 minute meal that tastes like it was bubblin’ away on the stove top for an entire day.

Ingredients
1.5 lbs ground beef
garlic salt
1 can kidney beans (drained)
2 cans stewed tomatoes with onions and peppers
1T chili powder
2 pinches of cinnamon
sugar

Directions
Brown the beef in a large pot with a couple shakes of garlic salt. Drain any excess grease. Add beans, tomatoes, chili powder, cinnamon and sugar to your desired taste. I like it really sweet so I use about 2 tablespoons of sugar but put some in, stir and taste, to see how much you prefer. Simmer until thick about 20 minutes.

Top with grated cheese,chopped onion and sour cream then serve with a side of cornbread.

Pork Tenderloin with Sauteed Onion and Fennel and Fennel Cream

porkleaks

In our produce delivery we received fennel. I thought —Yuck! I despise black licorice so I thought that would also be the case for this vegetable. I was wrong, I found out I love fennel. It has the aroma of black licorice but the flavor of sweet onions once sauteed. This dish turned out to be brilliant.

We cooked the pork 10 minutes on the stove and 10 minutes in the oven and it came out just right. Juicy and tender. Pork is so easy to prepare and tastes amazing without having to do much to it. A little salt and pepper and it’s gold.

Recipe link

Amazing Taste Seasonings

chickencollardgreens

I received a sample box of Amazing Taste Seasoning packs in late December (Thanks Sara!). Mike and I decided to try out the poultry blend first. We’re always looking for easy ways to spice up a chicken breast. The seasonings can be used as a marinade or rub. It was a week night and I was starving so we applied the seasoning to the meat and quickly tossed it on the BBQ. The flavor was nice…kind of a sweet and spicy paprika. What I was most impressed with was the texture it gave the chicken. It was crispy and tasted like it had been baked or lightly fried. A dream come true…fried chicken on the grill without the messy grease!

We served the chicken atop a bed of creamed collard greens. The recipe for the greens was from the Neelys. The happiest couple on the Food Network (overly, if you ask me). It was a tasty union.

amazingtaste amazingchick1

I look forward to trying the many other Amazing Taste varieties. At 99 cents, it’s an inexpensive way to jazz up a meal.

Website: http://www.amazingtaste.com/

Shaking Beef

shakingbeef

I had a Slanted door Shaking Beef craving so I went in search of the recipe and I found it. I have to admit this wasn’t as good as the real deal but it was a close, close second. I guess if it was that easy to make at home Charles would be out of business. Oh, don’t omit the lime dipping sauce as it was divine.

Tasty Tip: The instructions say to cook the meat 6-8 minutes. Do that if you want your meat well done, if not go for 4-6 minutes.

Recipe link

Cherry Tomato Red Clam Sauce with Linguini

red-linguiniclams

I usually stick to a white sauce when it comes to linguini with clams but this was excellent. I think I’m a convert.

Ms. Ray, you did it again…

Recipe link

Rack of Lamb with Caramelized Shallot and Thyme Crust

rack-of-lamb

As mentioned in the previous post we decided to try out our Daregal fresh frozen herbs on a Rack of Lamb. This application really allowed the herbs to shine. The recipe we used was super simple to prepare and downright delicious.

Recipe link

Our Holiday Feast

Christmas dinner was at our house this year. Here was the menu:

Filet mignon with port sauce and horseradish cream, radish apple and onion salad, sherry vinegar and molasses glazed carrots, potato mushroom gratin and caramel banana bread pudding. It was a meal to remember!

Pics…

shroom-gratin

carrots

bread-pudding

Everything turned out fantastic. I would make any one of these recipes again and again and again…

Eggnog French Toast

This is our go-to Christmas morning breakfast. While Mike is excited to tear into his gifts, I’m waiting to tear into these bad boys.

eggnog-french-toast

Instructions: Cut up a loaf of crusty french or sourdough bread into thick slices. Then take slices and dip both sides in eggnog (no egg or milk needed). Toss in a pan with lots of butter and cook till golden brown. Serve with powdered sugar, Aunt Jemima and a slab of bacon. Mmm, Mmm good.

Katie Lee Joel’s Logan County Hamburgers

katie-lee-burger

A while back I read about “The Burger Bash” hosted by Rachael Ray at the Food Network New York Wine & Food festival (Oct 10th). Celeb chefs dueled to see who made the best burger and the winner of the night was Katie Lee Joel’s (Season 1 host of Top Chef ,cookbook author and wife to Billy) Logan County Hamburgers. I l-o-v-e a good burger so I had to give it a try. Most of the news coverage gave Katie Lee a hard time because they didn’t think she did anything spectacular to deserve the win. They basically called her burger an embellished grill cheese. I think it’s closer to a patty melt. Either way it tasted damn good! You hold your trophy high Katie Lee!

Recipe link

Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver

ebelskiver

What is a Cinnamon-Bun Ebelskiver? It’s basically a cinnamon roll and a pancake rolled into one!

We received the Williams-Sonoma ebelskiver pan as a gift a few years back. Last weekend we whipped it out and made breakfast for the family before we went to cut down Christmas trees. Mike and I have made nutella, boysenberry and peanut butter filled ebelskivers in the past but these were by far the best. Each bite oozed cinnamon sugary goodness (don’t go light on the filling). The drizzle of cream cheese frosting was awesome. It was light, airy and melted in your mouth.

Recipe link

(click images for a closer look at the preparation)
ebelskiverstep1 ebelskiverstep2 ebelskiverstep3 ebelskiverstep4 ebelskiverstep5 ebelskiverstep6

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Seared Halibut with Haricots Verts, Scallions, and White Wine Sauce

halibutwbeans
Another fine fish dish. If you like the classic combination of lemon, capers and white wine you should go gaga over this. The addition of scallions and tomato are a delightful bonus. Mike couldn’t find Haricots Verts so we substituted good old green beans. A quick and visually pleasing meal.

Tasty Tip: you can get away with using 1/2 the amount of butter and it still tastes grrrrreat.

Recipe link

Spicy Shrimp and Bok Choy Noodle Soup

shrimpsoup
This was phenomenal. I never thought we would be able to make a Pho like soup at home, much less in 30 minutes and all in one pot. I was astonished at how good this was. I slurped my bowl up with a side of hoisin sauce to add a little sweetness. I could eat this every week. Hats off to you Rachael Ray!

Tasty Tip: We cut the amount of ginger in half and used just under 1/2 tsp. of chili flakes in order to keep the heat to a minimum. It was perfect.

Recipe link

Tyler’s Ultimate Veal Osso Buco

osso-buco
When I saw the Osso Buco episode on Tyler Florence’s show I knew I had to make it. It looked unbelievably good. I’ll admit the online instructions were a bit confusing so I took the advise of other reviewers that suggested we use a less expensive wine, a smaller amount of wine (1/2 bottle) and increase the amount of veggies. I also decided not to throw an entire head of garlic in with the paper skin since the directions didn’t say anything about removing it. I in-turn used 7-8 pealed garlic cloves.

gremolata

Gremolata

The recipe called for a gremolata garnish. I made it even though I thought it might be unnecessary. Thank goodness because it took the dish to a whole new level. The orange zest, garlic, cranberries and nuts along with the succulent veal was an eye opening experience.

If you’re having guests over for dinner this is a real show-stopper.

Recipe link

Rotisserie Turkey

bbqturkey

butterballturkeyMike and I didn’t have Thanksgiving dinner at home this year which meant no left over turkey. So I decided to have a post Thanskgiving feast at our house yesterday. When I informed Mike of my plans he was not at all excited but when I told him we could BBQ he agreed. I picked up a Butterball Boneless Turkey Roast and Mike threw it on the rotisserie. After two hours and periodic basting with some Bone Suckin’ Sauce (a gift from mom’s trip to North Carolina) it was sweet, tender and juicy. What a super easy way to prepare a bird. Served with a side of Stove Top stuffing (the best 5 minute stuffing in the world) and cranberry sauce it was just like the real thing.

Halibut with Multiple Sauces

I am really behind in posting all the fish dishes we’ve been feasting on. Here are some pictures from the last couple months. Halibut has been a recurring favorite…

halibutpeppers

Grilled Halibut with Grilled Red Pepper Harissa

This was spicy. It made my nose run and eyes water but I still ate every last bite. I liked how all the ingredients were prepared on the grill. The pepper sauce is chunky so you get tiny crunchy bites of garlic. Recipe link

hallibutguac

Grilled Halibut with Creamy Guacamole Sauce

This guacamole was tart and smooth. I used the whole avocado instead of half. A colorful and satisfying dish. Recipe link

halibutsalsa

Pan Fried Halibut with Pico de Gallo Salsa

Very versitile salsa. Great with fish, tacos and chips. Recipe link

Chicken with Apples, Pears and Camembert Mashed Potatoes

chickapples

I’m such a sucker at the checkout. I don’t know why but I purchased the November issue of the Rachael Ray magazine. I didn’t need it. I’m already behind in reading looking at photos in my Oct/Nov issues of Gourmet, Food & Wine and Bon Appétit.

Anyways, while skimming through it I saw a recipe that could use 3 items from our recent produce delivery (apples, pears and potatoes). It was a 30-minute meal that actually only took 30 minutes to prepare. It tasted like a chicken-apple pot pie.

I hate to say this, but it was Yum-o!

Recipe link

Red Wine Pot Roast with Honey and Thyme

When the weather starts to get cooler I like to bust out my trusty dutch oven and make one-pot meals. We had a bag of potatoes from our produce delivery to use so I decide to make a pot roast. I found an interesting recipe online from Dave Lieberman. It was remarkably easy to prepare and tasted magnificent. The hint o’ honey and the wine (Santa Cruz Zin) made the dish sing. The veggies and beef sucked up all the flavors and were tender and sweet.

This was my first Lieberman recipe and I was impressed with the results.

Recipe link

Obama Burgers


To get in the election spirit we made Obama Pizza burgers. This was an online bonus recipe in the new Food Network magazine.

It’s a burger in between two pieces of garlic bread…what’s not to like?

Recipe link

Mike and I have already mailed in our ballets. Get out and vote Nov 4th!

Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto

check out those vanilla beans!

You all know I purchased Giada De Laurentiis’ new cookbook “Giada’s Kitchen” in order to attend the signing event. Well, the book is actually really nice. The pictures are beautiful and the recipes are inventive. The first recipe we decided to make was the “Butternut Squash and Vanilla Risotto” (we used acorn squash). Mike “the king of risotto” was intrigued by the use of vanilla in the stock*. I was super surprised to find out a single vanilla bean was $12 ($8 on sale)!!! The dish turned out fabulous. The vanilla was not at all overpowering. It just sits in the background adding a bit of sweetness. The modifications we made to the recipe included using 1.5 cups of wine (a santa lucia highlands chardonnay worked perfectly) and we puréed some of the squash and added it in along with the chunks. I would suggest serving this as a side or starter since it is a bit heavy.

Recipe:Buy the book or grab the recipe from Serious Eats.

*this was the subject of Mike’s chit chat session with Giada.🙄

Grilled Mozzarella Burger with Sundried Tomato and Arugula Pesto


Mike picked this recipe because we had a bunch of arugula and mozzarella to use up. This was our first attempt at a stuffed burger. I was a bit worried that the pesto would ooze out all over the grill but it remained in tact. The pesto did not use a lot of oil so the consistency was more like a paste. We chose to nix the buns and go with naan since we already had it in the fridge. I fell in love with naan ever since we made lamb burgers. It makes the meal much less heavy.

We both found the burgers to be marvelous. They were j-u-i-c-y and flavorful. Looking at those photos makes me want to fire up the grill. You must try this.

Recipe link

Tasty Tip: a blue or swiss cheese would probably also go nicely.

Chicken Parmesan battle

Bon Appétit “Classic” vs. “New” Chicken Parm battle

I found two chicken parmesan recipes from Bon Appétit. The Sept 2008 cover featured a classic version by Mario Batali’s Otto restaurant and the June 2008 issue featured a new somewhat healthier version. Mike and I made both to see… which recipe reigned supreme.

The “classic” version was pretty time consuming to make but worth it. The sauce was tangy and the chicken ooey gooey. Many dishes benefit from some time in the fridge –this is not one of them. Starve yourself for the day and tuck-in! This is best pipin’ hot out the oven.

Modifications to sauce : Mike added fresh oregano plus 1/2 can of tomato paste to thicken.   Classic Recipe link

Classic

The “new” recipe was fast and easy to prepare. The garlic chicken covered in cheese was super juicy, and the roasted tomatoes burst in your mouth and were a perfect complement to the chicken. It was a fresh and light dish but when all was said and done I didn’t really feel like I was eating chicken parmesan.

Modifications: I added Italian seasoning and fresh basil to the dish to punch up the flavors.  New Recipe link

New

THE VERDICT: both were good in their own ways but if I had to pick a winner it would be… the Classic … you can’t beat crispy chicken slathered with tomato sauce & bubblin’ mozzarella!

Creamy Pasta with Tomato Confit and Fresh Goat Cheese

Have you ever made pasta in the same manner as a risotto? Well, here’s your chance. It’s the same concept except you substitute small pasta for the rice. The result is a slow cooked masterpiece and well worth the time it takes to prepare. The sauce was so rich and creamy I actually felt guilty eating it. It tasted as though I would put on 5 pounds once I finished. Mike and I probably should have eaten smaller portions with a salad instead of devouring the entire pan. Next time, oh yes, there will be a next time, I think I will use 1/2 the amount of cheese and add a little more tomato. I’m sure it will turn out just as good and I will have a clear conscience 😀.

Step 1 - make Tomato Confit

Step 2,3 - brown the pasta and start adding stock

Step 4 - add tomatoes, cheese & herbs

Note: After checking the Chavrie Goat cheese label I see it’s not super high in fat but it sure tastes like it is…

Recipe link

Heirloom Tomato and Buffalo Mozzarella Pizza

Mike & I woke up to a pizza episode on the Essence of Emeril. Emeril’s Pizza Alla Napoletana was inspirational. We had a basket of cherry tomats to use up so we decided to create our own interpretation of his pizza. We rolled out a Trader Joe’s pre-made dough then rubbed it with a garlic clove. Next, we sprinkled our tomatoes (that had been salted and peppered), fresh buffalo mozzarella, torn purple basil (from our AeroGarden), chopped oregano (from our outdoor garden) and a drizzle of EVOO. Tossed it in the oven and 10 minutes later…

This was the best pizza we have ever made at home and quite possibly the best pizza we have ever had. Goes to show if you use fresh ingredients you can do wonders… The tomatoes were insanely sweet and the hint of garlic in the background was spectacular!

BTW- the tomatoes were from our first shipment of organic produce from Farm Fresh to You.

Tasty Tip: tools to prepare the perfect pizza

Chicken Tikka

Indian food has never been a favorite of mine, probably because the only times I have had it was when coworkers took me to all-you-can-eat Indian lunch buffets. It was always a bad experience where I ended up eating tons of bread and not much else. When I saw this chicken recipe in the October 08 issue of Food & Wine magazine I thought it was time to give Indian food another try. The mag recommended making a cilantro mint yogurt sauce to accompany the Tikka because it does bring the heat. Both had beautiful colors and flavors. Served with grilled naan and a simple cucumber & tomato salad I have a new found affection for Indian food.

Recipe link

Seared Scallops with Roasted Corn and Herbs

Pete, the winner of Rachael Ray’s Hey, Can you cook?! competition returned to the show to prepare a meal. His dish looked really good so we made it. What do you think? The scallops were grand and the corn I could totally see eating at our next Thanksgiving dinner. They were super buttery and had all those memorable holiday flavors. I think Pete deserves his win…

Recipe link

Sauvignon Blanc Steamed Mussels

I was in the mood for mussels. I order them at restaurants all the time but have never made them at home. I didn’t think it would be so easy. Once you take the time to clean them the actual prep/cook time is minimal. Mike and I picked up 2 lbs of farm raised black and New Zealand green lipped mussels for $10 at Whole Foods market. What a deal! We got a mixture because we didn’t know which was better. Now we know… go for the green lipped, they were much more meaty and sweet. I like my mussels drenched in garlic. The recipe I used only asked for 1 measly garlic clove. I used 3 and when I make this again I will probably use 4. We served this up with a side salad and crusty garlic bread (yes, more garlic). Excellent meal.

Recipe link

Tomatoes, Tomatoes, Tomatoes

Tis the season to be eating tomatoes! I was watching the Tomato episode of Jamie Oliver’s show Jamie at Home and decided to make a tomato feast. Mike and I went to the farmers market and got a bevy of heirlooms. They look soooo good this time of year.

We followed Jamie’s instructions for making the “mothership tomato salad”. As seen on the show this is the starting point for numerous dishes. From this we made a caprese salad as well as a tomato pasta salad. The tomatoes we purchased were perfect. Ripe and juicy. Jamie suggests that you salt your tomats before eating to concentrate the flavors. This salting process really does make a difference with the final product. Preparing the two dishes was super easy. For the caprese layer tomato, mozzarella, black pepper, balsamic, red chile and basil, and then you’re good to go.

For the salad you smash up the remaining tomatoes with your hands, add to cooked rotini pasta and dig in. Pop it in the fridge for a bit and it’s 10Xs better. Quick, simple and delicious recipes.

Recipe link

Caramelized Black Pepper Chicken

I was excited to see a recipe from Charles Phan of the Slanted Door in the Sept. issue of Food & Wine. I love Asian cuisine but I usually find it difficult to prepare at home. This dish on the other hand was extremely easy to make. One of the main ingredients was fish sauce. When Mike cracked open the bottle he made a funny face. This was our first time cooking with fish sauce and we were a bit worried about its pungent smell but it ended up tasting fantastic. After we finished eating Mike said, “I would make this again in a heartbeat.” It was that good. The sauce was sweet yet peppery and the cilantro gave it a fresh punch. Next time we fix this I might throw in some bean sprouts.

Tasty Tip: Make a little extra sauce – Mike and I had to duel over who would get the last spoonful!

Recipe link

Penne with Triple Tomato Sauce

This was the first pasta sauce I have made where you throw everything in a Cuisinart — no stove top cooking involved. When finished it looked like a cream sauce, yet no dairy was added. It was simple and flavorful. Perfect for a hot summer night. This was one of the “30 best fast recipes” featured in the Sept. issue of Food & Wine mag.

Recipe link

Elvis Presley’s Peanut Butter and Banana Sandwich

I was viewing TV the other night and a show came on all about sandwiches. One place in NY that serves up Elvis’ favorite sando made an impression on my mind. After watching I was determined to make one. I found a version of the recipe and whipped out one of my favorite wedding gifts…THE GRIDDLER!

I love this 4-in-1 grill. It transforms a regular sandwich to a warm, ooey gooey, crispy delight. Instead of following the recipe exactly I decided to kick it up a few notches by adding nutella and honey. I’ve read that bacon is also a good addition.

I personally enjoyed the honey version best and Mike liked the nutella. Next time I would slice the bananas instead of mash. The consistency was a little too babyfoodie for my taste. Overall a sweet sandwich.

Chicken 2 ways – Baked and Braised

Everyone is always looking for new methods to prepare chicken. I challenged Mike to whip up the bird in ways he hadn’t made before. Here are the results:

Meal #1 → Baked Chicken Breasts with Tomatoes, Smoked bacon, and Madeira. This originally called for ham but things are always better with bacon! Served over buttery rice this was delicious. Smokey, salty, sweet — a great treat. Trust me…it tasted a lot better than that photo looks. I was too hungry to make this look pretty.

Meal #2 → Braised Chicken Cacciatore with Polenta. Mike used chicken thighs for this. The meat fell right off the bone and was tender and moist. This was actually better after time. Cook a day ahead and watch the flavors meld. Both dishes will be added to our chicken rotation. You can find the recipes in the Joy of Cooking: All about Chicken cookbook. This book is packed with poultry!

Spanish Tortilla

We were in Napa for a family reunion last month. For dinner one evening Francisco (Mike’s cousin’s husband) prepared traditional Spanish Tortillas. Francisco is from Spain. When I heard tortilla I immediately thought of the Mexican version but this was completely different. It was more like a frittata composed of eggs, onion and potatoes. Francisco let me watch him prepare the tortillas. The prep actually took most of the day since he was cooking for 25 people. He did everything from memory so there was no recipe. The tortilla was served up with a delicious tomato gazpacho. The tortilla was light and fluffy yet hearty. The flavors were very subtle — it would also pair nicely with a simple salad of baby greens and tomatoes drizzled with evoo and balsamic.

Gracias Francisco! Mike and I will try to make this on our own someday soon.

From what I remember (I started drinking beer around the time of the flipping, which is the most difficult part of the process) this recipe is very similar to Francisco’s.

More photos (click to enlarge):

Francisco @ work                       Frying Potatoes                   Potato & Egg Mix

Fajitas

I was craving Fajitas but didn’t know how to prepare the steak. I ended up using a Paula Deen recipe. The result was displeasing due to the lack of flavor. It probably wasn’t the best idea to look to the kooky southern cook for a Mexican recipe but it was called Gold Medal Fajitas. It sounded like a winner. Oh, well… at least it looked good. Anyone have a tasty Fajita recipe to share with me?

Recipe link, if interested

Cheddar Burger with Balsamic Onions and Chipotle Ketchup

So which burger looks better? On the left you have the cover model of the July 08 bon appetit mag and on the right you have our version. We made a couple substitutions to the ingredients. First, we didn’t have cheddar so we used swiss. Next, instead of searching for canned chipotles we mixed in a ground chili chipotle spice to the ketchup that we had on hand. Finally, I wasn’t in the mood for an english muffin so we used soft, fresh ciabatta. They said they used a muffin but that sure looks like a bun. If you ask me the bon appetit burger had some work done and some retouching.

Either way you look at it, it was a bangin’ burger. The ketchup had a spicy kick and the onions were sweet. Variations of this burger will grace our table for years to come… gotta add some bacon and maybe avocado or shrooms next time!

Recipe link

Fried Chicken

Once a year, maybe twice I will dust off my deep fryer and make Fried Chicken. It is one of the few meals I create without Mike’s help. I LOVE my fried chicken. It’s so simple to make I hate to even say it’s a secret family recipe. There are no eggs or buttermilk. I use 3 ingredients: flour and large amounts of Lawry’s Seasoned Salt and Garlic Salt. To prepare I mix them all together then dredge the wings and drop into hot oil (365 degrees/7 minutes/8-10 wings). This produces a thin, salty, crispy skin. I don’t like thick batter covering my chicken.

Once again, I outdid myself. 😆 Having a portable deep fryer makes preparing this dish really easy. I can do all my frying outside to keep the funk in the house to a minimum, and clean up is a snap.

Note: Stay tuned for the Ad Hoc part II review. Mike and I will be returning to Ad Hoc at the end of the month to try the Fried Chicken everyone is going gaga over. We’ll see if it deserves all the accolades.

Curried Lamb Burgers

So did the h-u-g-e burger on the July cover of bon appétit call to you as you stood at the checkout in the grocery store? That burger looked so darn good I had to have it. The cover story gave recipes for a variety of burgers. The 1st burger Mike chose to recreate was the Curried Lamb Burger with Grilled Vegetables and Mint Raita.

I found the texture of the lamb patty to be wonderful and it was super juicy. Much nicer than regular beef. The sauce was minty fresh, and I will use that naan more often. It is a nice alternative to a bun. The only thing I wasn’t crazy about was the curry flavor. I have never been a fan. It was cool to be adventurous and try something new but I think I’ll stick to my royale with cheese.

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Next on the list: Cheddar Burger with Balsamic Onions and Chipotle Ketchup. The bon appétit covers have been really enticing this year, so much that I just ordered a subscription. It’s much cheaper than buying the individual issues.

Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers

For some reason Mike really wanted to cook some bone-in chicken breasts. The thought of a chicken dinner never makes me overly excited but if he’s cooking, I’m eating. I did my part by finding a recipe in my new go-to cookbook. The dish was entitled Zesty Braised Chicken with Lemon and Capers.

This chicken was fab-u-lous. The skin was crispy and the sauce buttery and tangy. It was so good I actually did a happy dance in my chair. It was really something special and on a Wednesday night…

Man, I am really lucky to have a husband that likes to cook.

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Grilled Buffalo Steak with Radicchio-Beet Skewers

Yes, that says Buffalo. How did we come about preparing such a unique kind of meat? Here is the scenario…

Setting – Whole Foods Meat Counter

Mike: “That london broil looks nice”
Me: “I think that’s buffalo”
Mike: “No, the meat above that is buffalo”
Me: “No, I’m pretty sure that is also buffalo”
Mike (to the butcher): “I’ll take that nice london broil”

Setting – Our Kitchen unpacking the groceries

Me (looking at the wrapped meat label): “I knew it was buffalo…”

So that’s how we ended up eating a weird cut of buffalo. Oddly after scouring epicurious and foodtv.com I couldn’t find that many preparation options for our broil. We ended up using a recipe I found on the Eating Well website. Because Buffalo is a super lean meat you have to cook it pretty rare to avoid making it tough. Mike as always did a bang up job grilling and everything turned out nice. The sauce was similar to a Greek tzatzikiz and went perfect with the meat and the bitter radicchio. I adore beets so those were the highlight of the dish for me. Although tasty I don’t think this will go on our list of things to make again.

Rotisserie Chicken

Mike bought a big, new, manly grill. It has a Rotisserie… we decided to take it for a spin.

Two hours and two birds later we had this…

Juicy, fall off the bone chicken. That grill was worth every penny!!

Recipes used:
We made one sweet and one savory. Huli Huli Hawaiian glaze and Lemon and Rosemary marinade (Warning: this stuff is potent — Mike’s hands after numerous washes smelled like garlic for 24 hours).

Eggs Benedict

I finally attempted to make Eggs Benedict at home. I have been traveling to all kinds of breakfast cafes trying to find the Best Benedict of the Bay when I thought “Hey, I can do this.” So I decided on a ham AND bacon benedict smothered in, of course, Béarnaise. For a first try at pouched eggs I was pretty impressed with the creation Mike and I concocted. Our eggs were a little less runny than I would have liked but other than that it was pure heaven. Now all I need to do is work up a mean potato side dish and I could be in the running.

Flank Steak with Portabella and Cremini Mushrooms

Mike and I took our dog Edison to Mendocino for a long weekend. We rented a beautiful house on the coast with Mike’s cousin John and his wife Raquel.

John and Raquel are wonderful cooks. On our first night they prepared a foodie feast. Here was the menu:

Cesar salad with giant crouton

Grilled Flank Steak with sauteed Portabella and Cremini mushrooms and garlic mashed potatoes. They found the recipe on epicurious. The steak was marinated in a soy mixture and grilled to perfection. The mushrooms were combined with a hefty amount of balsamic so they had a peppery kick. Everything turned out delicious.
You would think that the meal was complete but NO… there was more. Raquel had made a Tomato and Cheese Tart the day before so we all had a slice of that too. I had not had anything like it before. For some reason I was expecting egg but all it contained was a light flaky crust with dijon mustard covered in Parmesan cheese and sliced tomatoes. It was finished off with a drizzle of garlic herb oil. Very unique and tasty.

After all that I was completely stuffed but then came dessert…. see deep dark chocolate cookie post.

Pork Sliders with Corn Salad

When I saw the special June Grilling issue of Gourmet magazine I was inspired to make the pulled pork sandwich gracing the cover. After I read that it takes 10 hours to prepare I decided to make my own version of a pork slider. Here is my creation:

PORK
Mike’s parents have a no-fail recipe for preparing pork tenderloin on the grill. It comes out perfect every time Mike makes it. First you marinate the meat in equal parts of vermouth, oil and soy. You can drop some fresh thyme leaves in if you have it. Marinate for at least an hour then remove, add salt and pepper and toss on the grill for 10 minutes a side. You may have to adjust the time depending on the size of the loin.

COLESLAW
I did use the recipe from the magazine for the coleslaw. I like my slaw a bit sweeter but other than that it turned out well. It actually tasted better the day after I made it.

Assembly: I took a couple slices of the pork and placed them on a soft roll then topped it with the slaw and a dollop of bbq sauce. Delish!

For a side dish I decided on a roasted corn and tomato salad by Emeril Lagasse. I found this recipe while cruising the Food network website. I r-e-a-l-l-y wanted to love this salad. I mean look at it, it’s gorgeous! Unfortunately, the taste didn’t live up to the beauty. It was bla. Maybe it was because I left out the jalapeno peppers. I didn’t want it to be spicy. 😳

Lasagna-Style Baked Pennette with Meat Sauce

Mike and I hosted a get together last Friday night. Since we both had to work during the day I came up with the idea to make a lasagna because we could make it in advance. I ended up using a recipe I found in the December 07 Food & Wine Magazine. It was a variation on a lasagna and looked really yummy. It consisted of penne pasta, a hearty amount of lamb and veal, some tomatoes and a creamy cheese sauce. It turned out really good. A small amount goes a long way with this dish. It’s very rich. We easily fed 9 people and still had leftovers for two more meals.

Minor modifications for next time would include more tomatoes and maybe some garlic. This was my first Italian dish without any garlic…

Photo gallery (Click to enlarge):

You can also find the recipe in the 2008 Food & Wine Annual Cookbook

American-Italian all’Amatriciana

rachelpasta

I have been watching Rachael Ray hammer out her 30 minute meals for the past 3 years and not once have I actually been motivated to try to recreate her dishes. That is until now…
Last weekend on an episode called “Believe in Bacon” she made American-Italian all’Amatriciana and for some reason I was moved. I went to the grocery, picked up the items I needed and set the clock for 30 minutes. I wanted to see if I could beat her time. I soon realized that she is a really fast chopper and she doesn’t follow all the steps that are listed on the recipe during her show. Looking at the instructions it takes 25 minutes just for the sauce to cook. That leaves me with 5 to organize, clean, chop and grab pots –IMPOSSIBLE. When I had finished it took me about 55 minutes. But it was worth it. Mike loved it and so did I. The pasta called for pepper bacon and fire roasted tomatoes so it was smokey and had a bit of heat. I was super surprised. Rachael knows her stuff.

Recipe link

By the way I didn’t use the cheddar. I stuck with Parm and I added chopped basil like she did on the show.

Rachael 30 minute meal cookbooks:
Classic 30 minute Meals
30 minute Meals
30 minute Meals 2

Veal, Mushroom and Asparagus Risotto

Mike went and did it again. Another killer risotto — this time with veal, shiitaki mushrooms and asparagus tips. The recipe can be found in our favorite cookbook: Risotto. If you make this dish, add more veal and double the amount of asparagus. We chose to omit the cream and add Emmentaler cheese. Serve with a simple green salad, some crusty bread and a hearty Pinot. You will not be disappointed!

Homemade Pizza

pizza stone

Mike and I finally broke out the pizza stone we got as an engagement gift (2 years ago!). We decided to make a vegetable pizza with whole wheat crust. I don’t know why we didn’t do this earlier. I loooove pizza. We have it at least 4 times a month. I actually worked at a pizza place for 2 years during high school so I’m no newbie to the art of pizza prep. To make things easy we purchased the dough pre-made from Trader Joe’s which is a nice alternative to making dough from scratch. To start things off we sauteed the onions, peppers and shrooms before putting them on the pizza to ensure the crust didn’t get soggy. Next we rolled, sauced, cheesed and assembled everything then baked the pizza for 10-12 minutes at 450 degrees. It turned out magnificent. The dough was perfect — using a pizza stone really makes a difference. The pizza seemed a lot healthier. There was no grease and the veggies were crisp. Next time we are going to try more exotic flavors and fresh herbs. This was a great test run… I have a feeling we will have a lot less pizza deliveries in the future.

Tasty Tip: Invest in a pizza stone if you want authentic pizza crust. We got ours from Sur La Table but you can also order online from Amazon

Pics of the process..

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Cod with tarragon butter sauce

Mike whipped up this classic french fish dish the other night. He got the recipe out of the “best of Cooking Light 9” special edition magazine. It can also be prepared using sole or flounder.

Take the cod and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Heat a large skillet over medium heat then coat with cooking spray. Add fish. Cook 2 minutes on each side or until flaky. Remove from pan, cover and keep warm. Add 3/4 cup dry white wine and chicken broth plus shallots (1/3 c) and garlic (1tbsp). Bring to boil. Simmer 10 minutes. Remove from heat; stir in 5 tsp butter, 1/4tsp salt, 1 tbsp chives, and 1.5 tsp fresh tarragon. Spoon sauce over fish and serve.

cod

Smokey Beef Stew

We finally made a one pot meal. The Feb 2008 issue of Sunset magazine titled “slow-cooked comfort” had a recipe for Smokey Beef Stew.

The preparation was fairly easy and it was all done in a single pot. I love that! The main ingredients included a 4lb beef chuck, smoked bacon, potatoes, onions, carrots, chipotle chile powder, smoked paprika and TWO full bottles of dry red wine. After 4 hours we had ourselves a delicious dinner for 8 (Yes, we had guests coming over!). It was garnished with chives and blue cheese.

The finished product was very hearty and had a spicy kick but the blue cheese helped tame the heat.

pot roast

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Orange Roughy and NapaStyle salt

In an attempt to eat more healthy (during the week) Mike and I have been feasting on tons of white fish. Last night we tried orange roughy. We decided to cook on the grill so we placed the fish in some foil with a drizzle of evoo, lemon slices and a sprig of rosemary and thyme from the garden. I tossed in a few slices of tomato in mine. We seasoned it with some Citrus Rosemary salt from the NapaStyle salt box I gave Mike for Xmas.

orange roughy napastyle salt

It was super easy to prepare and surprisingly scrumptious. It tasted like butter.

Lobster Risotto – The Ultimate Valentine’s Day Meal

If you ever get an invite to our house for risotto don’t pass it up! Mike is a risotto master. It doesn’t matter what kind he makes it always turns out fabulous. It is so good that I can’t order risotto in restaurants because they can never compare. For this special day he decided to make Lobster Risotto. It was his first attempt at preparing anything with lobster and he did a wonderful job. He chose this variety because he knows I am a lobster fanatic. My family lived in Massachusetts for many years so I have been eating lobster since I was young. Below are some pics of the fruits of his labor…

lobster stock phelps ovation lobster risotto

Mike started things off by making his own lobster stock which infused the rice with even more yummy lobster flavor. The final dish was silky and luscious. You can’t celebrate a special occasion at our house without a bottle of Joseph Phelps wine. This evening Mike chose a 2004 Chardonnay called Ovation which is what I gave him after I finished my 3rd helping of risotto!

Mike’s risotto cookbook of choice is by Judith Barrett and Norma Wasserman. It’s a winner. Purchase it here: Risotto

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