Sunday, August 22, 2010

Friday Night Bites #9

The last couple restaurants we have been to served thin bread sticks as a bar snack and I love the idea. They are thin and crispy and not too filling (as long as you don't eat too many). So I wanted to start things off with some homemade bread sticks. So I had to start of the menu with...what else??? I knew I wanted to try something new for dessert. I always make butter cakes when I make a cake as many people do. A butter cake starts with the creaming method (creaming butter and sugar until light and fluffy then add eggs and vanilla then incorporating the flour mixture in along with a buttermilk or sour cream kind-of-thing). I wanted to try a different method. I tried making a Genoise cake years ago and I remember thinking "I will never make that cake again, It's terrible", well that's why I wanted to make it. I know it's made by many pastry chefs as a go-to recipe and I wanted to concur it. It turns out I did a much better job this time and I will definitely make it again. I was also interested in making a Dacquoise which is a baked meringue that turns chewy on the inside and crispy on the outside (It has been a while since I made a dacquoise but in a different way, I made "mushrooms" and a "crust" for a "pizza cake" one time). I pictured the dacquoise layered with the genoise and chocolate and berries and whipped cream holding it together. Now I had to figure out the small bites between the bread sticks and dessert...

Herb Bread Sticks

My Bread: The Revolutionary No-Work, No-Knead MethodI wanted them crunchy and flavorful. I decided the best recipe to use would be by favorite new pizza crust recipe in the Jim Lahey bread book (which you can order by clicking on the link below) because I love the crunchy crust and this recipe never disappoints, and the ease of it. It's so easy you mix about 5 things together for 30 seconds and let it sit for 2 hours and you've got the dough. After it sat for 2 hours I rolled out the dough to about 1/4 inch and used a pizza cutter to make long thin strips, about 1/4 inch wide. You want to go pretty thin because they will rise slightly in the oven and end up being about double the size you cut them. Before putting them in the oven I brushed the strips with olive oil then seasoned them with salt, pepper and fresh herbs (rosemary, thyme and oregano). I baked them in a 350 oven for 15-18 minutes. We loved them. Next time I will try adding some Parmesan cheese to the dough too.

Beet Custard with Whipped Goat Cheese Salad

I have wanted to make this Wolfgang Puck idea for a while. Every so often I see an article or something about Wolfgang's recipe ideas and the combination of red beets and goat cheese both cut into disks and layered nicely is always there. I am assuming this is sort of one of his signature dishes. I have done many salads with goat cheese and beets but not for a Friday Night. So I had the idea of putting my own spin on it and making it special by making a beet custard, then whip the goat cheese maybe with some heavy cream to make it super creamy. So I found a recipe for a savory custard and I kind-of followed it but kind-of did my own thing too. I heated some olive oil in a pan and added a couple shallots minced. After the shallots softened I added about 6 small beets that I roasted the day before and cut into small pieces. I found some beet juice at Whole Foods so I added some of that along with some half and half and reduced it a bit. Pureed it with my stick blender and strained it, then let it cool. Once cool add more half and half, 3 eggs, Parmesan cheese and salt and pepper. I baked them in oiled ramekins in a 350 degree oven for 30 minutes (the ramekins were cooked in a water bath too). The goat cheese I just brought it to room temperature and whipped it with heavy cream until the consistency was just right then I seasoned with salt and pepper. I dressed some watercress with reduced beet juice and balsamic vinaigrette. I plated the watercress around the un-molded beet custard with a dollop of whipped goat cheese over top.

Fish and Sweet Potato Chips

I saw someone on foodtv make a skinny and long piece of fish that was battered and cooked in the oil in just about 3 minutes total, because it was cut so thin, about an inch at the most. It was stacked up on a plate with some fries and I thought that's a cleaver idea and it would make a good "Friday Night Bite". I found a batter on line for fish that was 1 cup flour, paprika, salt, pepper and then slowly whisk in 3/4 cup beer. I got some Halibut (I had never had halibut so it was new for me) I cut it in long thin strips and coated the fish with flour before dipping into the batter. I fried them in hot oil until golden and crunchy. I also threw in the oil some pre-roasted sweet potatoes just to crisp them up a bit (I saw someone do that on foodtv) I probably should have left them in longer to get them really crispy but they were still good. I served some lemon wedges on the side and I have to say it was pretty good.

Buffalo NY Strip Steak with Cherry Sauce, Fresh Corn Polenta and Snap Peas

For the first time in Friday Night Bites history, we were so full and we still had dessert coming so we made this dish for lunch on Saturday instead of Friday Night. This portion would have been much smaller if we had it Friday. I got a Buffalo NY Strip steak at Whole Foods. They say it tastes the same as a NY strip steak you get from a cow but with a lot less fat (the same as a skinless chicken breast). I thought I'd give it a go. I thought a cherry sauce would be nice. I softened some shallots in oil then added a good handful of jarred sour cherries and about 1 cup of sour cheery juice. I reduced that down then added a couple Tbsp of balsamic vinegar. I had some beef stock in the freezer that I cooked down from a quart to about 1/2 cup and added that in. I tossed in some finely chopped rosemary (about 1-2 Tbsp) and cooked another 10 minutes just to meld the flavors and to thicken slightly and just before plating I swirled in a Tbsp of butter. The Polenta was from Bon Apetite August 2010. It was very good just simply cooked with water and course corn meal simmered for 30 minutes then add in some fresh kernels from the cob and cook for 5 minutes and finish with a little marscarpone cheese. We charcoal grilled the buffalo steak and I made a parchment pouch to cook the snap peas on the grill just olive oil, salt, pepper and a wedge of lemon along with the snow peas for about 7-8 minutes on the grill. It was really good, the fresh corn polenta was really good with the cherry sauce dripping down from the steak. The steak was good but slightly underdone for me but perfectly cooked for Tony (I only got one steak with the idea that we would each just have a few slices over the polenta). Because the buffalo has much less fat I didn't want to overcook it and dry it out but next time I know to leave it on the grill a bit longer. The snap peas were good too, they still had a nice snap to them and still bright green.

Layered Dacquoise and Genoise with Fresh Raspberries and Chocolate

As I said in the opening these were two things I wanted to try the Dacquoise was the cooked meringue combined with ground almond and hazelnuts and the Genoise was the chocolate cake part. I layered the four layers (2 of each) with sweetened vanilla whipped cream, chocolate ganache and the top was something else I wanted to make which was Seven Minute Frosting. Its a frosting that is very much like a soft meringue, it's heated to 140 degrees over a water bath beating the whole time then continue beating on high speed while still in the water bath for exactly 5 minutes, remove from the water bath and beat 2 more minutes to cool it down. Over the Seven Minute Frosting I mounded some fresh raspberries because my favorite thing with chocolate is raspberries. By the way I also flavored the whipped cream with raspberry liquor and brushed some on top of the cake layers for more raspberry goodness and moistness. I really liked my new adventurous cake.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Maine trip

I didn't do a "Friday Night Meal" this week because we went to Rockland Maine Saturday and Sunday with plans to eat well! Tony was watching his favorite show "Anthony Bourdain No Reservations" where he traveled to Maine on the show and went to a restaurant that looked great (and come to find out it was great)! Tony looked it up on line just to check out the menu and it looked very good so he booked the hotel and made a reservation. The restaurant is called "Primo".

Primo's is in an old house that was converted into a restaurant 11 years ago. Nice big Victorian style house where they grow all there own vegetables and the meats are from a local farm where the animals are grass fed. After looking at the menu I was excited to try it out. I love to see a menu with approachable foods that sound like new or different combinations of ingredients. I don't like fancy restaurants that serve brains or liver or loads of seafood (because I am still new at seafood).

So we left around 10:00 am on Saturday, what's the rush? We figured it would be a 4 hour drive (well that's what the GPS said). We would stop for lunch somewhere in Maine where Tony could get a lobster roll (he was craving one). Well we hit traffic then more traffic and then more traffic!! We were hungry so we stopped off at Portsmith NH for lunch. We remembered a place we went to before with our friends that was good so we headed to "The Gas Light Co." restaurant. We sat in our favorite spot, right at the bar (this was more a food counter) right in front of the wood burning oven and watched the cooks at work. We had a beer and Tony got his lobster roll and I got a nice roll-up sandwich that had red pepper hummus, lettuce and onion flavored very nicely with a red wine vinaigrette. We both had coleslaw on the side. We got back on the road and hit a little more traffic but we finally got to the hotel at 4:30.

We had reservations at 5:30 and we decided we weren't going to be hungry in an hour, we felt like we just had lunch. We cancelled the reservations because on the web site for Primo's they said how there is ALWAYS a seat if you just walk in. We changed up for dinner and headed out about 5:30 with the idea we would go someplace for a drink first. We drove around a bit and soon decided we were ready to head to Primo's. We probably got there about 6:00 and he gave us a couple options of where we could sit and we chose the bar (of course, our favorite spot). The room was decorated just as I would do if it was my restaurant. The bar was covered in copper, the room was dimly lit, the wooden shelves to hold all the glasses and plates fit in perfectly. It was probably an old bedroom but you would never know it. On the bar they placed tall glasses every so often and filled them with long and thin bread sticks as a bar snack. There was a drink special on the chalk board and the other chalk board had a list of bottles of wine you could order that were newly delivered (a bit pricey, but I am sure delicious). The bartender handed us the rest of the bar menu. I ordered a drink that had rhubarb and prosecco, it sounded interesting with the rhubarb (he quickly said we are out of rhubarb, it will be made with nectarine instead) I was fine with that. Tony got the special drink of the day which was a "Rita Hayworth" it was made with Tequila, fresh cucumber puree, a splash of house made chili vodka and a salt rim. He liked that a lot. My second drink I wanted something more interesting so the ginger vodka cosmopolitan caught my eye (I love anything with ginger). It was very good.

We ordered dinner. I had the Farmer's Salad with Frisee, romaine and radicchio lettuces tossed with lemon and Parmesan vinaigrette, croutons, house made bacon and a poached egg. Then the Scaloppini of Pork "Saltimbocca" with roast garlic mashed potato, garden spinach, prosciutto and a sage-mushroom-Madeira jus. Tony got Pemaquid River Oysters roasted in the wood oven with lemon butter, chanterelles, cilantro and sweet corn. Then the Wood Grilled NY Strip Loin with crisp potato gnocchi, wild mushrooms and roast cipolline. We had to get dessert even though we were full (we did drive 6 1/2 hours to go to this restaurant). We shared two was a molten chocolate cake with espresso gelato and fresh berries (see photo below). The second was a really moist carrot cake with a carrot syrup and a "cream cheese-cake" so the idea of that was the cheese-cake is like the cream cheese frosting that you would normally have on carrot cake. I have to say I liked the carrot cake dessert better but the chocolate dessert was very good too. We had cappuccino with our dessert.

For breakfast on Sunday morning we saw a place that sounded good, we listen to a pod-cast called "The Splendid Table" and the host of the show always talks to this married couple that goes to many restaurants and talks about them. Tony said the guy on that pod cast said this was a good place to get breakfast. We found it and it was closed. While we were driving to find that restaurant we noticed another popular looking place called "The Brass Compass Cafe". We stopped there because there was a sign in the window that said "Bobby Flay's Throwdown..." . I guess he had a "Throwdown" ( a show on food network) with the owner on lobster BLT and the lady won. So I had Eggs Benedict with home fries and Tony had Penobscot Bay Benedict which is made with a clam cake at the base of the eggs. He also had home fries and a side of corned beef hash. It was a good breakfast but nothing to write home about (look at me writing about it at home...).

We headed out of Rockland and figured we would stop here and there on the way home. We drove a couple hours to York Maine to check that out and maybe there would be a good spot by the water to have lunch. We drove all around and there was some spots that looked ok but it was so busy and no place to park, we kept driving down Rt 1 and we ended up driving into Kittery Maine. We saw a place right in the middle of all the outlet stores called Robert's Maine Grill. We gave it a shot and it was great, for a lunch place to get some good eats. Tony tried again and ordered the Jumbo Lobster Roll (the last one didn't do it for him). I got Turkey on grilled cranberry, orange and walnut bread. It had goat cheese, red onion, tomato, tarragon mayonnaise and baby spinach. We were both very happy with what we got, I loved my sandwich. Tony got onion rings and I got coleslaw again. We got in the car and headed home.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Friday Night Bites #8

This week was perfect! The prep was easy and came together quickly. The amount of food was perfect, we didn't feel full until the last course. Everything was delicious ( if I do say so myself). I had an appointment in the morning so (because of the timing) I bought the ice cream for dessert instead of making it and also the pound cake. It just turned out that everything else was very simple to bring together.

Reuben Spring Rolls with Russian Dipping Sauce

I don't know where this idea came from...I think I thought of using sauerkraut in something and it started there. However it came, it came, and I'm glad it came. I just used spring roll wrappers from the oriental market, some good corned beef from Whole Foods, sauerkraut, caraway seeds and Swiss cheese. Then you must dip the finished spring roll in something, and what better than Russian dressing. The dressing was a combination of Mayonnaise, ketchup, hot sauce, chives, capers and lemon juice.

Tomato and Onion Salad with Tamarind Dressing

I have been wanting to use Tamarind in something so I found an easy recipe, this salad. There were many other recipes I could have tried (more complicated and probably very good) but I had never had it before and what if I didn't like it? Then I would be waisting all that time only to find out we don't like the flavor. This was simple and light it's cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red onion, green chili and cilantro. The dressing is tamarind puree, brown sugar and water. It was very good but I could only find one kind of Tamarind at Whole Foods and it was a concentrated one. I think there are better choices in the right kind of store. I served the salad in whole Romain lettuce leaves.

Fillet Mignon on a bed of Soft Potatoes with a Shiitake Madeira Cream Sauce

I wanted to use Madeira wine in something. Somebody was talking about Madeira wine and I thought "...I should use Madeira, I have some I haven't use lately..." So I looked on the Food for ideas, I typed in Madeira and this idea came out. I didn't follow the recipe exactly but I did take the idea. It was from Tyler Florance, one of his old shows "how to boil water". He did the whole beef tenderloin and roasted it in the oven and I just did 2 servings in a pan on the top of the stove and finished them in the oven while I made the sauce. I pretty much followed his recipe for the sauce except I didn't measure anything, just eyeballed it. You add some Shiitake mushrooms slice up into a pan with butter and cook over med-high heat for about 5 minutes, add shallots then salt and pepper and thyme. Add Madeira wine and reduce then add heavy cream and reduce until it thickens. I placed the fillet Mignon over a bed of mashed potatoes and then spooned the sauce over the fillet. I had just picked a tomato from the garden so I placed that on top sprinkled with flaky sea salt for a crunch.

Baked Alaska

I had been dying to make a baked alaska since our trip to NYC a few weeks back, when we had one for dessert at DBGB. I tried to make it look exactly like the one in NYC. I formed the ice cream in a loaf pan lined with plastic wrap for easy removal. First the vanilla ice cream and hollowing out a bit in the center for some raspberry sorbet. I topped it with a layer of chocolate ice cream and then I pressed a 3/4 inch layer of pound cake over that. I wrapped it with plastic wrap and into the freezer for a few hours. I made the meringue by whipping egg whites with cream of tarter and slowly adding sugar until it was stiff peaks but still shiny. I got out my piping bag with a big star tip and filled the bag with the meringue. I removed the ice cream from the loaf pan and put it on a serving platter (so now the pound cake is at the bottom and the vanilla ice cream is at the top). I piped on the meringue as I remember it looking then I took a blow torch and charred the meringue to look as it did at DBGB restaurant. I put it back in the freezer until we were ready for dessert. When I was ready to serve I cut two slices, each about an inch thick out of the center to get a nice pretty piece and placed them onto dishes. I poured over some Grand Marnier and lit it on fire. I loved the flavor the Chartreuse gave it at DBGB but we didn't have any. This came in at a very close second to the masterpiece at DBGB.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

New York City Trip!

We went on a food trip this time with Lisa and John to NYC. We had a great time eating and drinking and figuring out the subway system. We stayed at The Thirty Thirty Hotel on 33rd and Park. It was a very nice hotel in a great location...and Lisa got it for a great deal. We arrived on Friday about 1:00. We parked the car and found the hotel then we set out for lunch. We headed to the closest place on Tony’s list.  That was “Blue Smoke”. Tony and I had already been there on our last trip but we only had a drink and an appetizer because we weren’t really hungry at the time. This time we would have a proper lunch. We shared a couple appetizers, “The BBQ Potato Chips with Blue Cheese Dressing Dip” and “Deviled Eggs” that had been seasoned with cumin and powdered mustard (if our guess’ were right). Then I got the salmon with fennel, onion and zucchini. Tony got the beef brisket sandwich and Lisa and John shared the muscles and a salad of greens, goat’s cheese, peas and radishes with a wine vinaigrette.

We walked on and decided to stop at Grand Central Station just to check it out again and maybe we’d find something to eat. We stopped at the Oyster Bar where John and Tony shared just 6 oysters (we still weren’t hungry really), they got 3 New Zealand and 3 Wellfleet. We had a beer or two and we were on our way. We walked through Grand Central Market and Lisa bought me some Madjool Dates and some fresh Lychee fruit.

We made our way back to the hotel to get ready for dinner; we had reservations at 6:30 at DBGB restaurant. DBGB is a Daniel Boulud restaurant. We definitely wanted to try this one after seeing it featured on a couple different shows and after we had a great lunch at Bar Boulud (another of his restaurants) last time. This was just as good, maybe less choices for Lisa and I but what we had was good. I had the pork, Lisa had the chicken, and Tony and John both got house made sausages (there specialty) and they shared so they got to taste 4 instead of 2. Lisa and John shared the Frozen Tiramisu Sandwich and Tony and I shared the Baked Alaska for two (which could’ve been for four, so Lisa and John were able to try that too). It was a fantastic finish to the dinner.

We headed back to the hotel with the idea we would stop and have a drink somewhere on the way. The sky was about to open up and it would be a doozey; we had to hurry and find something… We sat down in front of our hotel restaurant where that was a cover, so it can rain all it wants now, we made it! Then the sky opened and boy were we glad we were under cover. We had a drink and we really could only stuff 1 or 2 drinks in our bellies, after all we had been eating and drinking all day.

On Saturday morning we had reservations at 10:00 for brunch at Balthazar Restaurant. We met between our two rooms (only a few doors down) in the morning so we could head out and find our way to Balthazar. Lisa had a fantastic idea that we would take the subway and get an all day pass. We got there a little early so we walked around a kitchen store while we waited. At 10:00 we sat down at the restaurant. Tony and I had also been to Balthazar before, but thought it was a good place to bring Lisa and John for breakfast/brunch. Bobby Flay said Balthazar has the best French fries he’s ever eaten so after Lisa heard that she had to order them as a “home-fry kind-a-thing” and let me tell you, they are very good! I had the eggs Florentine with artichokes. Tony had the eggs with salmon, which Tony has had there a couple times and he can’t get enough of that dish. Lisa had eggs in a puff pastry shell with asparagus that she really liked. John had eggs benedict. We were served some nice French style breads (they are famous for there bread bakery attached right to the restaurant) and they were all good.

We headed out and got on the subway to go to the NYC Library. We found the right one after stopping at a very unexciting library first; Lisa was looking for the beautifully designed one with arches and murals on the ceilings. We headed to Times Square and walked around a bit and found a brewery for a snack and a beer. Tony and I shared BBQ chicken quesadillas and Lisa and John shared spring rolls. It was getting later now and we had to head back to the hotel to relax a little before dinner. But we couldn’t resist the sign outside the hotel on the other side of the building that said…” Happy Hour Specials”… so we stopped there and Lisa had a Cosmo special, the rest of us had beer (I think).

After relaxing we headed to LeHalles for dinner. Tony and I had been to this restaurant before too and it was always very good (lunch and quick snack) but we were all a little disappointed in our dinner tonight. The excitement though was when Tony ordered Steak Tartar for an appetizer and Lisa who doesn’t eat red meat couldn’t believe the guy who made the Tartar tableside wasn’t going to bring it back in the kitchen to cook it. Tartar is freshly ground tenderloin or a good cut of meat that is mixed with a few flavorings and served raw. The problem was that the kitchen was way too fast in making our main course that we think it sat under a heat lamp for 15 minutes before it was served to us because we were still on our appetizers and that was just enough time to overcook every one of our (cooked) steaks and Lisa’s chicken which was JUST DRUMSTICKS, no breast! Very disappointing! We still had to pay the bill, I felt very bad.

We started walking (this time) to make our way to the southern most tip, to sit by the water and have a cocktail. We walked back up the eastern edge until we found a nice place to view the water. We sat outside and it was dark out so you could see Lady Liberty in the distance holding up her torch. There was a concert on one of the islands and so the ferries were busy bringing everyone over to the island. Lisa ordered some fried plantains and some chips, we all had some beers. After walking that much Lisa’s and My feet were killing us so we found the subway for the way back.

The next morning (Sunday) we decided we would have breakfast and hit the road. Right in the hotel there was a nice little restaurant that served breakfast and we just did that. We checked out and got the car. We couldn’t resist one more meal together as we were driving through Connecticut, Frank Pepe’s Pizza. Tony and I had made the drive from home a few times because it’s so good and really only about an hours drive from home. This may have been Lisa’s favorite meal. Lisa loves a good pizza, like the rest of us. We had a pitcher of beer and great fresh tomato, garlic, mozzarella cheese pizza and it hit the spot!

Monday, August 2, 2010

Friday Night Bites #7

I usually start cooking for dinner as soon as Tony leaves in the morning for work on Friday's and I end up in the kitchen all day. I forced myself to start after lunch so I had some time in the morning to do some other things. It worked out pretty good. I got everything done still ahead of time so I got to relax outside in the later afternoon too. Compared to two weeks ago when I took it too far.

Blinis topped 3-ways

I never made blinis before and I liked them. I saw a recipe in Bon Appetit, January 09 for Whole Wheat Blinis with American Caviar. Since I didn't want to do the caviar I tried to come up with other ideas for toppings and I thought of three and figured I'd try them all. One was a dollop of sour cream with grated lemon zest over top and then some finely diced roasted red peppers. Another was goat's cheese that I rolled in ground pistachio nuts, I chilled it then sliced into rounds and topped it with Balsamic Jelly (that I saw a recipe for in Bon Appitit, Aug 10). The third way was caramelized onions topped with blue cheese. Our favorites were the last two. The sour cream and roasted red pepper was good but when we ate the other two there was an explosion of flavors in our mouths.

Suppli over Micro Basil Salad

Suppli [SOO-plee] is an Italian style Croquette made with risotto and stuffed with cheese, coated in egg wash and bread crumbs and deep fried. I always thought the name of that was Arancine [ah-rahn-CHEE-neh], but I looked up arancine for the spelling in my "Food Lover's Companion" book and the description was a Sicilian specialty with the use of Saffron rice balls that are filled with meat, meat sauce or cheese and deep fried. So they are almost the same but I was using risotto so I thought I would use the correct name. So anyway...I made the risotto first thing after lunch so it would have time to cool in the refrigerator, the risotto has to be cold in order to form it into balls and for it to hold (the origin of this recipe comes from having left over risotto).

So I used an ice cream scoop to make them uniform in size and I made an indent in the ball and placed a chunk of fresh mozzarella in it and formed more risotto over the cheese to enclose it and form a perfect round with cheese in the middle. I let it sit in the refrigerator for a couple hours until I was ready to fry them off. It's a good idea to let them sit in the refrigerator anyway so they get really solid (you don't want them falling apart in the oil). I coated them with beaten egg and then Panko bread crumbs, I let them sit about 10 minutes and then I fried them in canola oil just until they turned a golden brown and I removed them from the oil and onto a sheet pan and into a 375 degree oven for 5-7 minutes just to make sure the inside is hot and the cheese is melted. I put one on top of a little basil salad I made with "Globe Basil" from my garden and a small dice of tomatoes. I drizzled olive oil and lemon juice over the salad with a little salt and pepper. This was a winner! Anybody would love this and it really is easy.

Two Cheese Flatbread Rounds with Asparagus Tips, Egg Yolk and Parsley Chive Oil

I love a dish that has egg yolk oozing somewhere in or on it, and that's where this idea started. I wanted a really crunchy crust to hold up to the oozing egg yolk so instead of my regular recipe for pizza dough (which is very good) I used Jim Lahey's recipe which I made a couple other times and it's a really strong and really good crust. I formed the flatbread into rounds (Friday Night Bites sized) and topped it with some cheese. We love Boucheron cheese and I used Emmenthaler cheese too. I place three asparagus tips on the top and popped them in the oven at 400 degrees. After 15-20 minutes when they were pretty much done, I took them out and placed an egg yolk in the center of the asparagus, then popped them back in the oven. Set the timer for 3 minutes and they were perfectly done... (it made a perfect breakfast this morning too, using the leftover's). I smashed up some chives and parsley in my mortar and pestle then added olive oil and salt, and after letting it sit for an hour and letting the herbs soak with the oil, I had chive and parsley oil that I drizzled on the flatbread just before serving. Delicious!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Turnips, Cauliflower and Goose Berries

On our "Food Trip" to Chicago a few weeks back we had this dish at Avec Restaurant and it was a highlight from that trip. I got the gist of the recipe down and it was really good but I couldn't remember if there was lemon or balsamic or something like that in it. I basically seared some boneless skinless chicken thighs in a pan with oil, removed the chicken and poured off the extra fat. To the hot pan I added cauliflower, turnips, onions and salt then scrape up the bits at the bottom of the pan and deglaze with white wine, let it reduce and add chicken stock and the chicken back in. I put the lid on and into the oven at 350 degrees for 20 minutes. I knew I would reheat it later so I didn't want to cook it too long at this point. I left it in a low oven for an hour and when I was ready to serve I put the oven on 400, took the lid off and let it cook about 20 minutes more. The dish we had in Chicago had fresh currents added at the end, I couldn't find them at the store but I came across goose berries so I gave that a try. It was super tender and really good. Next time I would put the cauliflower in later, they were a little too soft, I would have liked some more texture to them.

Mint Julep Panna Cotta

This was in our new favorite magazine called "Imbibe Magazine" which is all about fancy cocktails and non alcoholic drinks too, and they have a handful of food recipes in each one. This one was Tony's request. You cook down some bourbon in one pan and set aside. You very slowly (30 minutes) bring up to a simmer some milk, cream, sugar, vanilla bean and fresh mint, this gives plenty of time for the mint to get infused into the cream mixture. Then basically you add some softened gelatin and mix in the reduced bourbon and pour into serving cups or ramekins to set up in the refrigerator. Panna cotta of any kind is so easy to do. It tasted like a mint julep and it was very good.

Friday Night Bites #6

I started the dough for the mini French Baguettes on Thursday night, (it's the Jim Lahey method of a slow 12-18 hour rise). On Friday morning I made the ricotta cheese from whole milk and lemon juice for the Ricotta Panna Cotta and the stuffed squash blossoms. After that I made the custard for the homemade vanilla ice cream and got that chilling while I went on the treadmill for a work-out. After my shower I made the pastry dough for the Almond Cream and Blueberry Tart and got that chilling, then the homemade pasta sheets and the dressing for the salad and the............

I did too much! I have been missing my Friday Nights the past few weeks because of our anniversary and the prep for the big party and then the party, so I wanted to cook, but I went too far. Everything was good but by 7:30 PM I was wiped out!

Spring Mix Salad with Fennel Foliage and Fried Chick Peas with Homemade Bread and European Butter

The dressing included shallots, garlic, lemon juice and zest, spicy mustard, salt, pepper and olive oil. I coated some canned chick peas (that I drained, rinsed and dried) in rice flour and fried until golden in Safflower Oil, removed to paper towel and seasoned with salt and pepper. Picked some Fennel tops from the garden and tossed it with the spring mix lettuce. A handful of really good olives (about 4-5 different ones) from Whole Foods. I combined all the components of the salad and topped with the dressing. Served some crusty homemade baguettes and really good European butter from the cheese department of Whole Foods along side. It was lemony and fennel-ly goodness to start things off.

Ricotta Panna Cotta with Crispy Ricotta Stuffed Squash Blossoms

I found a recipe in a Bon Appetite magazine a while ago for homemade ricotta cheese, and I have used this recipe to make goat cheese, by just substituting goat's milk instead of cow's milk. Its 1/2 gallon of whole milk in a sauce pan and 1/2 tsp salt; bring to a simmer and add 3 Tbsp of fresh squeezed lemon juice; continue simmering and after about 2 minutes, remove the cheese curds that form with a slotted spoon to a cheese cloth lined colander; let sit for 1 minute to drain and transfer cheese to a bowl. I made the panna cotta by following a recipe in my "joy of cooking", and in place of the milk I put in the ricotta (1/2 the sugar and no vanilla and a pinch of salt). For the squash blossoms I mixed together the ricotta with an egg, salt, pepper and fresh tarragon (for a change). I have planted squash in the yard just to get the blossoms and it seems to work out good, I am letting a couple actual squash grow too. I usually make a tempura batter for the squash blossoms and that works fine, but I saw that someone on line dipped it into egg and flour and I tried that (that's what Friday Nights are all about, trying new things), I won't do it that way again, tempura is better. As far as the panna cotta goes, it was good but I should have used no sugar at all.

Swiss Ravioli, Chicken Tenders and Crispy Prosciutto on a Bed of Soft Eggs, topped with Sage Cream Sauce

We were watching a show and they showed a chef (who was making small dishes) who was finishing a dish by taking some just boiled ravioli and putting it into another pan that had eggs, and tossed that pan to cook the eggs in and around the raviolis, he plated it and put on a sauce. I did a spin on that idea. I put just a square of Swiss cheese into small ravioli shapes and boiled that up, and put it into eggs that I had beaten and just started to cook. I also made a sage cream sauce, I cooked off just about 6 pieces of chicken tenders, put slices of prosciutto in the oven to crisp up and brought it all together for form kind-of-a...saltimbocca--cordon bleu kind of thing. It was good I'd like to taste it again today (but I only made a small amount) to really tell you if it was perfect, it may have been too much sauce and egg and cheese in one dish, a little too heavy, but the flavors were really good together.

Blueberry and Almond Cream Tart wit Almond Strusel topping and Homemade Vanilla Ice Cream

I didn't have a good idea for dessert but I knew I wanted to use some blueberries I had in the refrigerator (there was a two for one special at the store), and I wanted to make an almond cream, which is basically a mixture of eggs, almond flour, butter and sugar that can be the base of a tart. I also was interested in a strusel topping I saw Ann Burrell do on her show. It looked different and it had whole wheat flour and oats and vanilla, I put everything together to come up with this. It was very good, if I had a few more blueberries I would have put a bit more in. I served it with the homemade vanilla ice cream. I used my vanilla sugar in my pantry, which is just regular granulated sugar in a mason jar and every time I scrape the seeds from a vanilla bean, I submerge the vanilla pod into the sugar, the sugar picks up all that great vanilla flavor and you just keep adding sugar and vanilla pods and it will last forever.