Sunday, November 27, 2011

Saturday Night Dinner

Tony here again.  Making another guest appearance.  Jeanne was busy with something yesterday so I agreed to make dinner.  And I had a couple ideas.....

Jeanne had challenged me to do some one bite appetizers as part of the meal (mainly because we wanted to use these little app spoons (see salmon app below). I think she may have been just joking, but I thought it would be a fun challenge.

One bite app #1 - Gazpacho Shooter garnished with baby arugula and prosciutto chip
I did a google search on "one bite appetizers" and a slideshow on came up.  Something simlilar to this came up in their list.  It also reminded me that we had something similar at a wine tasting we went to a few years ago at Wentworth by the Sea in Portsmouth, NH.  I really enjoyed it there, so I thought I'd give it a try.  It's really simple, diced fresh tomato, cucumber, roasted red pepper, lemon juice, sherry vinegar, a bit of siracha, salt and pepper.  I put it all in the blender and blended until it was still slightly chunky.  The proscuitto chip was an experiment that worked out perfectly.  I put sliced proscuitto on a cookie sheet and baked it at about 300 degrees for 30 minutes.  It stuck to the pan slightly, but that worked out OK too as when I scraped it off it made the perfect size chips for garnish.  The last piece was just a small sprig of arugula.  The flavor was perfect.  A nice little shot of flavor to start things off.

One bite app #2 - Potato coin with salmon mousse & cucumber garnish
Jeanne is more into seafood lately and salmon has been her favorite.  This is great news for me!  Trying to take it to the next level (or maybe a level lower), I bought some canned salmon.  I remember my mother buying this when I was little.  I didn't like it back then, but I thought it was time to try it again and maybe find a low cost way to enjoy salmon.  For this recipe, I sliced a potato and cut it into "coins" using a ring mold that we had, then browned them in a pan.  I mixed some of the canned salmon with goat cheese, marscapone cheese, lemon juice, cilantro, salt, pepper and a bit of cayenne.  I assembled them on the little app spoons with a small piece of cucumber as a garnish.  I had the same reaction as Jeanne did.  The first bite was a bit fishy (from the canned salmon), but the next bites were fine.  The lemon juice and cayenne cut the fishy taste nicely.

Grilled swordfish with bernaise.  Served with sauteed baby kale and roasted golden beets
Jeanne had been talking about trying more of the "classic" sauces and we recently caught an old episode of the French Chef where Julia makes hollandaise and bernaise.  I jumped in and tried bernaise before she could!

The bernaise was easier to make than you would think.  I originally learned to make this way back in our Quidnessett Country Club days.  Credit to my chef mentor Rob V!  A bernaise is an emulsion!  In a nutshell you reduce vinegar, wine, tarragon and shallots.  You then add that mixture to egg yolks and beat over low heat while you add butter.  The result is a sauce that goes great with meat, fish, poultry, just about anything.  The swordfish, beets and baby kale were the freshest looking items at Whole Foods yesterday morning.  All were tremendous!

Jeanne's Apple Tart
Jeanne agreed to make dessert.  And she didn't disapoint with her Apple tart that was inspired by a visit to Alforno's many year's ago.  She served it with vanilla Haagen-Dazs ice cream.  Perfect combo.  Photo shows the tart ready to go into the oven.....

Saturday, November 19, 2011

Friday Night Dinner, Pork Chops grilled over Applewood, November 18,2011

I tried to think of a good fall menu for the Friday before Thanksgiving.  Pork chops came to mind, pumpkin ravioli, apples and a different squash that I stumbled upon in the grocery store called "Carnival Squash". 

Pumpkin, Mascarpone and Vanilla Bean Ravioli with Sage Pesto Cream Sauce

So I made this up and didn't measure anything.  I had this can of organic pumpkin I bought one day sitting in the cabinet and decided to use it for this dish.  I combined about 1/2 the can, about 4 oz of mascarpone cheese, the seeds of a vanilla bean, salt, pepper, nutmeg, allspice, cinnamon, Parmesan cheese, chopped pine nuts and a couple handfuls of almond flour.  Tasting as I go to see if it needs more of this or that.  I added the almond flour because it was too thin for stuffing ravioli and I thought the almond flour would thicken it and it did.  I mixed in 2 egg yolks for richness and to help bind the mixture.  I made the pasta dough using just OO flour and 2 eggs.  I kneaded the dough for about 10-12 minutes to ensure silky pasta and let it sit until I was ready to roll it out and fill it.  I got a pot of water boiling and rolled out the pasta; drop by tablespoons full of the filling on one sheet of pasta dough and cover with another sheet of pasta dough pressing down around the filling; I used a cookie cutter to cut out circles around the filling; make sure they are tightly sealed and drop into the boiling water; cook about 3-4 minutes and remove to a pan with a couple tablespoons of butter melted with a couple sprigs of fresh sage; Cook the ravioli in the butter for a couple minutes; grate some Parmesan cheese over and plate.  I made some sage pesto using a combination of sage and parsley I combined it in the food processor with garlic, the herbs, salt, pepper, lemon zest and juice, Parmesan cheese, pine nuts and olive oil.  I heated this pesto and mixed in some heavy cream to make it a cream sauce and spooned it over and around the ravioli.  I topped with a sprinkling of pea tendrils.  I loved the pine nuts in the ravioli, it added a nice texture to the otherwise soft pillow-like ravioli.  Tony wasn't sure the pesto went with the sweetness of the ravioli filling.  We will have to taste it again at lunch and see if we still think that.

Pork Chop Grilled over Apple wood

Simply just how it sounds Tony got the charcoal ready by adding some soaked apple wood to the embers and he did the grilling.  I prepared them with a good sprinkling of kosher salt and roughly ground black pepper and olive oil.  They were very nicely done.

Roasted Carnival Squash with Garlic and Apple

I thought I would roast this different squash and mix it with roasted apple and garlic and that's what I did.  I cut the squash in quarters, sprinkled on salt, pepper and olive oil.  On two of the quarters I added maple syrup.  After 40 minutes at 400 degrees they were roasted.  I removed them and roasted the apples chopped into 1 inch dice with lemon juice, cinnamon and butter.  I also separated some garlic cloves leaving the skin on and drizzled them with olive oil and roasted them at the same time but separate from each other.  After about 30 minutes they were done.  I spooned all the flesh out of the skins of the squash and put it into a baking dish, added the apples and squeezed the caramelized garlic out of the skins and lightly mixed the three ingredients.  Top these ingredients with a couple pieces of butter and just before eating I put it in the oven for about 20 minutes at 400 degrees.  Yum!

Sauteed Baby Kale with Shallots

This was the biggest surprise of all.  I found these baby kale at Whole Foods and figured I would saute them.  I heated butter and olive oil then added sliced shallots, after just a couple minutes I added the kale and a sprinkling of dried cranberries.  From start to finish they took 5 minutes.  Season with salt and pepper, they were sooooo goooooood!!

Creme Brulee with Fresh Berries

I have made creme brulee many times, but not lately, and it was so good!  To make 8, 4 oz ramekin servings heat in a small saucepan 3 cups heavy cream, 1 vanilla bean and the zest of an orange; bring to a simmer and remove from the heat; cover and let steep for 5 minutes; meanwhile whisk 6 large egg yolks and 1/2 cup granulated sugar in a mixing bowl until the mixture becomes thick and pale yellow and forms a thick ribbon when dropped from the whisk back into the bowl; slowly incorporate the heavy cream mixture into the egg mixture while constantly whisking; strain the custard and pour into the ramekins and place the ramekins in a shallow pan lined with a kitchen towel; pour hot water in the pan to come half way up the sides of the ramekins; bake in a 350 oven for 30-35 minutes; remove the ramekins from the hot water and let cool slightly; chill in the refrigerator for at least 4 hours; sprinkle on a thin layer of brown sugar and use a kitchen blow torch to caramelize the sugar; let sugar harden for about 3-4 minutes then serve with or with out fresh berries.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Friday Night Bites #14, November 11, 2011

I have missed a few weeks of blogging. It's been busy but we are back from vacation and I am ready to cook.  I thought it would be nice to do "bites" this time. 

Goat Cheese, Mango Salsa and Sweet Soy Syrup with Flat bread Crisps

This idea came from Tommy Bahama restaurant in Naples Florida.  We order this every time we go and I thought I'd try to recreate it.  So I formed some softened goat cheese in a small bowl I have just to make it look like it does at the restaurant, I did that earlier in the day and just put it in the refrigerator.  I made a mango salsa by combining finely diced mango, lime juice to taste, salt, chopped scallions, diced red bell pepper and fresh cilantro.  The salsa is a no recipe, recipe, it's all about tasting as you go to see if it needs more salt or lime or whatever.  I made a soy syrup by combining 1/2 cup of soy sauce and 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked it over medium heat until it started to thicken and the sugar dissolved.  The "flat bread crackers" they serve at the restaurant looked a lot like the Lavash flat bread wraps, that are cut into rectangles and toasted in the oven, and that's just what I did.  I heated the oven to 375 degrees, cut and sprayed the flat bread with Pam and it took about 6 minutes for them to get lightly browned.  Cool on wire racks and they were perfect.  Tony was very impressed and it tasted like we were back in Naples, so we were very happy with this.

Mung Bean Pancakes with Scallion Dipping Sauce

We were watching a new show called Kimchi Chronicles with husband an wife team Marja and Jean George Vongerichten, and this recipe that Marja was making was so crazy and unusual, I had to try it.  First I needed kimchi which is fermented cabbage.  I planned on buying the kimchi already made but the store I went to didn't have any, so I decided to make it myself and got a head of cabbage.  After coming home and looking for a recipe, I noticed that all the recipes called for Napa cabbage and I got regular green cabbage.  I can imagine the the Napa is better because it's thinner but I didn't want to bother with getting another cabbage, I just used what I had.  I found this fast kimchi recipe (usually it needs to sit for weeks, but this one would be ready in just a few hours) by Tyler Florence.  I made it and allowed it to sit for 2 days.  I soaked the mung beans for 24 hours and here is the recipe for the pancakes.  I was worried as I made it that it would taste too healthy but really with the dipping sauce it was healthy and very delicious.  It reminded me of pot stickers while eating it, mostly because of the soy dipping sauce but the texture too.

Roasted Artichoke Hearts Filled with Chanterelle Duxelles and Served with a Spicy "Pork Sausage Steak"

I got these artichoke hearts packed in water one day at Trader Joe's and I loved how the stem was long and I imagined I would fill them with something, and today was the day.  I made duxelles by sauteing shallots in butter and then adding finely chopped chanterelle's.  Cook until the mushrooms are slightly browned then add a pinch of salt and a spash of Madeira wine.  Cook out the wine and remove from the heat.  I added some fresh parsley chopped fine.  I dried the artichoke hearts well, cut them in half lengthwise and removed some of the center so I would have a place for the duxelles.  Fill each half as much as you can and top with Panko that's been moistened with olive oil.  Bake in a 400 degree oven until toasty and they start to smell good which takes about 10-14 minutes.  For the sausage I first simmered it in water over medium low heat for about 10 minutes just so I can easily cut it in half, remove the skin and sear it like a steak.  I just browned the sausage in a skillet and served it with some watercress, the roasted artichokes, some sauteed chanterelle's and some homemade lemon aioli.  This was very good. 

Fresh Fruit and Berry Sorbet with Balsamic Syrup and Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

I have been looking for fresh passion fruit and I found some the other day.  I wasn't sure what to make for dessert tonight and I figured I would use this passion fruit.  After a few different ideas I realized I would have to remove the seeds because they were too hard and that left me with a juice.  I came up with a sorbet, but I didn't have enough to make a cup of juice, which is what I would need for the recipe.  So I had some blueberries and raspberries in the refrigerator and decided to go with a trio of fruit and berries.  I melted I cup of sugar in 2 cups of water on the stove top then let that cool.  To the cooled sugar syrup add the cup of fruit and berry juice, chill and freeze in an ice cream maker.  What do you serve with sorbet????  I had to have something with it, and I came up with a balsamic syrup (like the chocolate sauce you would have on ice cream).  I didn't measure but I probably poured 1/2 cup to 3/4 cup of balsamic into a small sauce pan and added about 1/8 to 1/4 cup of sugar and cooked it until it starts to thicken.  I chilled the sauce until I was ready to serve.  I also had and idea for a cookie and this rosemary shortbread cookie idea popped into my head.  I remembered Mario Batali talking about this rosemary shortbread cookie one time and I have always been curious.  So I found this recipe on line and made it.  Wow, I wasn't sure all these would be perfect together, I hate to toot my own horn, but it's a match made in heaven!!!