Saturday, July 23, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Al Forno's Roasted Sausages and Grapes, July 22, 2011

This week I knew I wouldn’t have all day to cook on Friday, so I tried to come up with a quick menu…but still new and different.  So the new August 2011 Bon Appetit came in the mail and one interesting thing was in the “RSVP section”, which is where readers write in and ask for a recipe from a restaurant that the ate at and they want to make the recipe at home.  Someone asked for the recipe for Eggplant Fries from The Art Institute of Chicago (OK, there is the appetizer).  For the main dish I happened to catch a Barefoot Contessa show where she had one of the owners of Al Forno’s restaurant in Providence RI on with her. They were talking about an item that’s been on their menu for over 30 years and they were going to show how they do it.  Tony and I have been to Al Forno’s maybe 10 times over the years; we actually went there for the first time when Tony proposed to me in 1995.  Dessert was as simple as it gets and something I never do…

Eggplant Fries with and Herb and Lemon Dip
You know how eggplant is like a sponge?  Well one of the reasons I wanted to try this recipe is because they claimed to have a way of frying eggplant without it soaking up too much oil.  The eggplant is cut into ½ inch fry shapes and soaked in ice water for 2 to 12 hours.  The eggplant soaks in the ice water and later when you dredge them in the flour mixture and fry them, the cold eggplant hits the hot oil and makes a nice crust, and there is nowhere for the oil to soak in because the cold water has already soaked in, BUT it’s not watery or soggy which you may think.  It’s sprinkled with sea salt and lemon juice when it comes out of the oil and served with a sauce.  Its yogurt mixed with fresh oregano, lemon zest and relish of all things.  I found the recipe for you on line.

Al Forno’s Roasted Sausages and Grapes

We love Al Forno’s, so when I saw the owner giving therecipe to one of their dishes, I was all ears.  They were the first ones to do grilled pizza, which was a great idea!  The other recipe that I love from Al Forno restaurant is the Penne with Five Cheese, which I make on occasion.  They also make a killer rustic fruit tart.  This one Tony said he ordered one time, I don’t remember that, but it really is good.  You may think “what’s the big deal sausages and grapes?” but what they do is boil the sausages first before roasting and that removes some of the excess fat.  The grapes are cooked in butter then the boiled sausages go in with the grapes and red wine.  Roast turning once for 25 minutes and balsamic vinegar and reducing the liquid to a syrupy consistency to finish it off.  The sausage and grape combination with the reduced juices and served with red bliss mashed potatoes is really a comfort dish.  And best of all on this busy day, it took about 35-40 minutes from start to finish.

Cherry Garcia Ice Cream atop a Sugar Ice Cream Cone

I saw these sugar cones at Whole Foods one day and I thought I should do an ice cream cone one day.  I thought of that idea for tonight.  I’d say Cherry Garcia is in the top 2 of favorite ice cream flavors.  It doesn’t get any easier and it’s different (for us anyway).

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Grilled Sea Bass with Herb and Lemon Pesto, July 15,2011

This week I left the main part of the meal up to Tony (usually I don’t even tell him what I am making, I like to surprise him).  I like getting fish the same day that I cook it and since I shop on Thursday I would have to go out and drive 45 minutes to my favorite store…not this week.  I asked Tony to pick out a fish that would go well on the grill on his way home on Friday.  I got that idea from Laura Calder’s book (my favorite book these days).  I was reading the introduction to a lentil dish and she said it goes great with grilled fish, so there you go.  So he chose sea bass and it was a very good choice.

Savory Carrot Cake

I looked at the title of this recipe a few different times in, where else but my Laura Calder book, and flipped the page every time.  It sounded strange and a carrot cake without cream cheese frosting sounded weird to me.  But then I read the introduction to the recipe and she has a way of making me want to make a recipe, plus the fact that every single recipe I made from this book always amazes me.  Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a wide saucepan and sauté 1 lb carrots peeled and sliced, until lightly golden about 5-7 minutes.  Pour 1 cup chicken stock over the carrots and season with salt and pepper.  Cover and simmer for about 15 minutes.  Remove the cover and cook 10 more minutes to completely evaporate the liquid.  While the carrots cook, melt 1 Tbsp butter in a frying pan and soften 1 chopped shallot for about 3 minutes.  Add ¼ lb button mushrooms that you have chopped finely and cook until soft about 5 minutes.  Add one garlic clove that you have minced and cook 2 minutes.  Pre heat the oven to 450 degrees; line a 4 cup loaf pan with wax paper.  Mash the carrots and get them as smooth as you can.  Whisk 2 eggs into the carrot mixture then stir in the mushrooms.  Stir in 1 ounce of Gruyere cheese finely grated and 2 handfuls of finely chopped basil, chervil or parsley.  Put the mixture into the loaf pan and cover with aluminum foil and place the loaf pan into another baking pan that’s larger.  Pour hot boiling water into the larger pan until it comes halfway up the sides of the loaf pan.  Bake in the oven for 40 minutes.  She recommended this dish to have an orange dressing.  She says you can serve this as a starter with a salad or as a main course with other vegetables.  I didn’t get salad stuff at the store so I figured it would be great just as is with the sauce and a parsley sprig.

Grilled Sea Bass with Herb and Lemon Pesto

So Tony got the charcoal grill going and he also grilled the star of the show, the sea bass, to perfection (4 minutes per side).  I made some basil and lemon pesto just minutes before sitting down to eat.  I went out to the garden and got some basil and bashed it with my mortar and pestle.  I started with one garlic clove that I bashed first.  I then added the basil and bashed it, a couple Tbsp of capers, some salt and pepper, lemon zest, lemon juice and olive oil.  Taste it and see if it’s perfect. 

Summer Lentils

This was the recipe I was reading that said it’s great with grilled fish, and that’s how this menu started.  You start by cooking French lentils (lentilles du Puy) for 30-40 minutes until the lentils are al dente.  Drain and reserve.  Remove the skin from 3 tomatoes (by cutting an X in the bottoms and putting them in boiling salted water for 12 seconds, remove to a ice bath, then peel), seed them and chop them into a small dice.  Peel and dice one large carrot and blanch for a few minutes in boiling salted water.  She seeded and diced one red pepper and blanched that in boiling salted water (I diced a roasted red pepper instead).   Make the vinaigrette; whisk together 2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar, 1 tsp Dijon mustard and 7 Tbsp olive oil.  Season with salt and pepper and add 2 minced shallots.  Combine the lentils, vegetables, vinaigrette and 2 handfuls of chopped fresh chives in a serving bowl and check for seasoning.  Let this mixture sit at room temperature for an hour before serving. 

Fresh Apricot Pie

When I was at Whole Foods I couldn’t help but notice the fresh apricots.  They were calling to me.  I don’t usually buy fresh apricots so I thought OK, that will be dessert.  I grabbed about 10.  I had no idea exactly what I was making but I thought it might be a pie or tart and they were small so…10 it is.  I just watched an episode of Everyday Italian on and she made a pie crust with crushed up biscotti cookies and butter.  I wasn’t sure about that idea but I grabbed some biscotti from the bakery department.  I typed in apricot dessert and a lot of recipes came back that looked OK.  This simple fresh apricot pie caught my eye because the ingredients were simple and that’s what I wanted.  I wanted the freshness and quality of the apricots to be the star.So I followed this recipe, which is quite easy and basic, but I did a spin on the crust.  I started to make a regular pie crust, I love this one by Julia and Jacques.  But while I combined the butter with the flour in the food processor I also added a couple biscotti cookies.  I followed the rest of the recipe as you normally would.  I loved that biscotti idea.  It just gave it more flavor and I will do that again, for sure.  We just ate it as is without ice cream or whipped cream.  Really good as is, but I think vanilla ice cream would have been even better.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Friday Night Menu, Grass Fed Dry Aged Steak, July 8,2011

I am back after skipping two Friday Night dinners in a row. We were in Naples Florida for ten days. We bought a second home that we will use for vacations and renting out. The last thing on my mind was coming up with creative food ideas these past couple weeks, my mind was instead filled with paint colors and decorateing rooms. So Wednesday night was here and then I realized I hadn't planned my Friday night menu yet "Oh No!" So at 8;30pm I turned on the tv for some ideas. We watched "the best thing I ever ate" and a half hour later I had the menu, so now I could go to bed (we live in the woods so it's much easier to get all ingredients on my way home from work on Thursday).
Tapenade Crisps
This was actually not from watching TV that night, it was something I read in Laura Calder's book and so I kind of had this idea already. Her recipe in the book was Tapenade which I have made many times. In her introduction to this recipe she talks about a few ways to use this tapenade, and one of the ways was this way. I thought why didn't I ever think of that. Tapenade is a combination of Calamata olives, capers, anchovies, lemon juice, olive oil and pepper. It's all blended together to a paste and there are slight variations like mine is made without anchovies. So once you make that paste you mix together 1 cup tapenade, 3/4 cup all purpose flour and 2 tsp of lightly beaten egg whites. Once you get a smooth paste you spread it out onto a Silpat, grate on some parmesana reggiano and bake in a pre-heated 375 degree oven. She says it takes 10-12 minutes but I put them back in for another 10 minutes. These were great with drinks...the two of us ate the whole batch...
Grass Fed, Dry Aged, NY Strip Steak
So this was one out of three of the ideas I got from watching “The best thing I ever ate”.  It was the “Old school” episode and Alex Guarnaschelli was raving about the aged strip steak from a restaurant in Tampa Florida called Bern’s Steak House.  Its aged 5 weeks and they grill it with butter, salt and pepper.  I love strip steak and I was intrigued by the idea of using butter instead of olive oil (which is what I always do).  So I got the “oldest” steak at Whole Foods which was dry aged for 3 weeks.  I made some clarified butter and when I was ready to grill it I just brushed on the butter, salt and pepper.  As always I bring the steak closer to room temperature by just removing it from the refrigerator an hour or two before grilling.  I really liked the use of butter, I think it made a crispier crust and it had a buttery flavor.

Frites with Béarnaise Sauce

This was the second Idea from the food show.  It was John Besh’s best thing and it was Pommes Soufflé or Souffléd Potatoes.  I didn’t do the soufflé part but the way they serve these at Galatorie’s restaurant in New Orleans is with béarnaise sauce.  I decided to just roast “fries” by cutting russet potatoes into steak fry shapes, tossing them with olive oil, salt and pepper.  After 45 minutes or so, tossing with a spatula a couple times during cooking, you’ve got great steak fries.  The béarnaise sauce was easy.  I found this blender béarnaise from Tyler Florence.  I had made it a couple hours ahead and it kept perfectly, just by the stove.

Steamed Broccolini

Just how it sounds, I steamed broccolini and tossed some butter, salt and pepper.  You have to serve something green with this meal.

Chocolate and Peanut Butter Mousse Tower with Banana Tuile and Bourbon Banana Rounds

This was the third idea from the food show and it was from the same restaurant as the steak, Bern’s Steak House.  This one was Sunny Anderson and it was a great combination.  I couldn’t find a good recipe for peanut butter mousse so I just followed a chocolate mousse recipe, substituting peanut butter where the chocolate would go.  Since I had to make a chocolate one and a peanut butter one I made the base of one full recipe of the mousse which is whipping egg whites with sugar and then whipping heavy cream.  I divided them in half and with multiple bowls I combined half the chocolate with half the egg whites and cream, and with the other half of the egg whites and cream I folded in some freshly made peanut butter (from the peanut butter machine at Whole Foods).  So now I got the mousses…I combined crushed chocolate wafer cookies and melted butter that I then pressed into the bottom and slightly up the sides of a ring mold that I lined with parchment paper (so I’d be able to get it out later).  I spooned in a little of each mousse and chilled the towers until I was ready to serve.  I made a banana tuile {tweel} cookie, by kind of following two different tuile recipes and they were ok.  The problem was that they stick to your teeth.  I will have to perfect that recipe before I give it to you.  I cooked some banana rounds in some melted sugar and butter then deglazed with Bourbon.  To plate I removed the ring mold and the parchment paper from the towers and placed them on the dessert plates.  I then placed a banana tuile on the top of the tower and then spooned the bourbon bananas around the plate. It was really good, I felt like I just ate at Bern’s Steak House in Tampa Florida.