Wednesday, July 28, 2010

A Relaxing Summer Evening

This was a lovely meal we had on the patio, it was a beautiful evening in June, before three digit temperatures, oppressive humidity, and swarming mosquitoes have forced us indoors at night.

Lovely summer flavors were enjoyed by all.

Smiling children helped create a relaxing atmosphere!

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Tomates à la Provençale

Finally, I have cracked open my copy of Mastering the Art of French Cooking. I'm surprised it took me this long to have a Jocelyn and Julia moment. My first attempt was not too complicated, just an easy side for roast chicken and a nice use of delicious ripe tomatoes.

I have been enjoying my usual summer love affair with tomatoes. I am loving them raw or cooked and often as you will see in future posts. Once again I am way behind on my entires, summer with two boys is taking it's toll. One month until school starts!

Without further ado, Julia's Tomates à la Provençale.

Serves 6

Preheat oven to 400 degrees

6 firm, ripe, red tomatoes about 3 inches in diameter
Salt and pepper

Remove the stems, and cut the tomatoes in half crosswise. Gently press out the juice and seeds. Sprinkle the halves lightly with salt and pepper.

1 to 2 cloves mashed garlic
3 T. minced shallots or green onions
4 T. minced fresh basil and parsley
1/8 t. thyme
1/4 t. salt
Big pinch of pepper
1/4 C. olive oil
1/2 C. crumbs from fresh white bread with body
A shallow, oiled roasting pan just large enough to hold the tomatoes easily in one layer

Blend all the ingredients above in a mixing bowl. Correct seasoning. Fill each tomato half with a spoonful or two of the mixture. Sprinkle with a few drops of olive oil. Arrange the tomatoes in the roasting pan; do not crowd them. May be prepared ahead to this point.

Shortly before you are ready to serve, place them in the upper third of the preheated oven and bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the tomatoes are tender but hold their shape, and the bread crumb filling has browned slightly.

Friday, July 9, 2010

Grilled Salmon with Chorizo and Fingerlings

Every month Cooking Light explores the food of a U.S. city in an article called The Hungry Traveler. In their June 2010 issue they shared recipes from restaurants in Santa Fe. This salmon inspired by a dinner at Amavi appealed to my taste buds. Based on this meal, if I ever make it out to Santa Fe, Amavi will be on my list of places to visit.

So, it's obvious that I enjoyed this, I love chorizo and Sous Chef grilled the fish to perfection. I was nervous about how the children would react to this. Fish, spinach, and spice, the usual complaint causing suspects were present. But to my surprise, they liked it! Alex loved it, I had to give up some of mine so he could have seconds. I'm so happy that he has opened himself up to experience new flavors.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Key Lime Cupcakes

Key Lime Pie is one of my favorite desserts, so when I volunteered to make cupcakes for a friend's birthday party I was happy to be reminded that she loves Key Lime too. So the search was on for a perfect recipe.

None of my trusted resources had a specific Key Lime Cupcake recipe, I had to improvise. I found this recipe for Lemon Meringue Cupcakes. I used only the cake part of the recipe and replaced the lemon zest and juice with key lime zest and juice. I tested one when they came out of the oven to determine how limey the frosting should be. The cake had a nice mild lime flavor, so I didn't have to hold back on the frosting.

I had toyed with the idea of doing a graham cracker crust on the bottom of the cupcakes, but instead decided to sprinkle the crumbs on top. The finishing touch was a slice of key lime dredged in bright white sparking sugar.

Sunday, June 20, 2010

Quick-Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti

This is a perfect dish for those expecting a bumper crop of cherry tomatoes this summer. If, like me, you don't have a veggie garden, store bought tomatoes work well too. The ease and quickness of preparation make this perfect weeknight fare. The amazing aroma of the tomatoes roasting is an added perk.

I served this with warm crusty bread. Three out of four of my household loved this. Dylan didn't like the tomatoes cooked. He is really hard to please these days!

Quick-Roasted Cherry Tomato Sauce with Spaghetti
Serves 6
Cooking Light, June 2010

4 quarts water
1 T. kosher salt
12 oz. uncooked spaghetti
2 pints cherry tomatoes
3 T. extra-virgin olive oil, divided
1 T. red wine vinegar
1/2 t. kosher salt
1/8 t. crushed red pepper
1/4 C. chopped or torn fresh basil leaves
1/4 C. chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
3/4 C. (3 oz.) crumbled semisoft goat cheese

Preheat oven to 450°

Bring 4 quarts water to a boil in a large Dutch oven. Add 1 tablespoon salt and spaghetti to boiling water; cook 10 minutes or until spaghetti is al dente. Drain spaghetti in a colander over a bowl, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water. Return spaghetti to pan; set aside, keep warm.

While spaghetti cooks, combine tomatoes, 1 tablespoon olive oil, vinegar, 1/2 teaspoon of salt, and pepper on a jelly roll pan, tossing well to coat. Bake tomato mixture at 450° for 10 minutes or until tomatoes are soft and lightly charred in places.

Add tomatoes and any tomato juice to spaghetti in Dutch oven. Add 1/4 cup reserved cooking water to jelly roll pan, scraping pan to loosen browned bits; carefully pour water mixture and remaining 2 tablespoons oil into spaghetti mixture. Place Dutch oven over medium heat. Add remaining reserved cooking water, 2 tablespoons at a time, until spaghetti mixture is moist, tossing frequently. Stir in basil and parsley. Sprinkle with cheese. Serve immediately.

Friday, June 11, 2010

Seared Duck Breast with Cherries and Port Sauce

When I eat out at restaurants, there are dishes I never order because I can competently prepare them at home. Chicken, salmon, and steak come to mind. I usually indulge in a fish that is not readily available to me at the market, rack of lamb, or my absolute favorite, duck breasts with crispy, fatty, succulent skin.

After spotting beautiful fresh cherries at the grocery store I found this recipe and decided it was time to tackle the duck at home. Harris Teeter sells Culver duck breasts, they are nice and reasonably priced.

As for cooking the duck in my kitchen, it could not have been easier or messier. The fatty skin that I love so much makes quite a greasy disaster area on and around the stove top, but we could forget about that until we were finished eating.

The duck turned out well, the boys liked it. Surprisingly, Alex, who can sit and eat bowls full of fresh cherries, didn't like the sauce. He says he didn't like the cherries cooked or the shallots. Oh well, I did, but I think I prefer to eat duck breast at a restaurant where there is a staff to clean up the mess!

Monday, June 7, 2010

Tomato, Goat Cheese, and Onion Tart

Many of my regular readers (all four or five of you) have had this delicious tart before. I served it at my sister's bridal shower with Silver Palate's Beef Tenderloin. I have also made it for dinner guests, as it is one of my favorite summer meals. It pairs very well with beef, but I also enjoy it as a main course with a lightly dressed green salad on the the side.

I first discovered this recipe when I received Gourmet's Five Ingredients as a gift. It's on the cover and I couldn't resist. The combination of caramelized onions, goat cheese, and tomatoes is genius. It's very easy to prepare, just remember to use a pie crust shield, so the crust doesn't burn like mine did.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010


A couple of weekends ago (yes, I'm way behind thanks to baseball and my new obsession with learning to parler français) we celebrated Sous Chef earning his Masters and my Mother-in-law's birthday. Perfect excuses for a fabulous bottle of bubbly and decadent cupcakes.

Oh my, these cupcakes were good. The Strawberry Buttercream was amazing. It would be delicious on white cake, chocolate cake, maybe even on a rice cake. The cupcake part of the equation wasn't half bad either.

Congratulations to my hubby for all the hard work he put in to earn his degree. He managed to get it done while working full time and being completely present for his family. What a guy!

Thursday, May 20, 2010

Irish Trifle

Alex's third grade class recently wrapped up their social studies unit on Ireland. At the end of each unit a parent volunteer prepares a food from the region for the kids to sample. Lucky for them, Ireland's goodie was this trifle and not Corned Beef and Cabbage. Their teacher provided the recipe and I put it all together and delivered it to the classroom.

Irish Trifle

2 (12 oz) containers whipped topping, thawed
1 (5.9 oz) package vanilla instant pudding
1 angel food cake, cut into 1 inch pieces
Fresh berries (strawberries, blueberries, and raspberries)

Prepare pudding according to package directions.

Layer ingredients as follows from bottom of trifle bowl to top; 1/3 of whipped topping, 1/2 of cake, 1/2 of pudding, fruit, 1/3 whipped topping, cake, pudding, fruit, remaining whipped topping.

My trifle bowl wasn't tall enough to add the last layer of Cool Whip, so it was dolloped on the individual servings. From what I hear, the kids loved it. I know Alex did, he would like me to make it again.

Tuesday, May 11, 2010

Thai Green Curry Shrimp

I now know, amazing Thai food is possible at home. The ease and deliciousness of this dish will have me thinking twice about ordering take out. I look forward to having this again with chicken, tofu, or fish.

The recipe is from the June 2010 issue of Cuisine at Home. I made one small change, I could not find bamboo shoots, so I cut up a medium sized onion and cooked it with the red pepper. I guessed the texture would be a close match, but I'm not sure that I've ever had a bamboo shoot. I used 4 tablespoons of curry paste, I found the spice to be milder than expected. Next time I will spice things up a bit more!

Thai Green Curry Shrimp
Serves 4

1 can coconut milk (13.5 oz.)
4-5 T. Green Curry Paste
2 T. fish sauce
1 t. brown sugar
1 C. diced red bell pepper
1 lb. large shrimp, peeled and deveined, tails left on
1 can bamboo shoots, drained (8 oz.)
1 C. frozen green peas, thawed
1/2 C. torn basil leaves
Jasmine rice
Lime wedges

Remove cream from the top of the coconut milk; heat over medium-high in a large sauté pan, stirring frequently until bubbles form on the surface, and it separates.

Add curry paste, stirring to combine. Cook until paste becomes very fragrant, about 5 minutes. Add remaining coconut milk and stir to combine. Bring to a boil. Season with fish sauce and sugar; simmer 5 minutes.

Stir in bell pepper; cook until pepper begins to soften, 5 minutes. Add shrimp; cook until opaque and no longer pink, 3-4 minutes.

Add bamboo shoots, peas, and basil; cook just to heat shoots and peas through, 1 minute. Serve with Jasmine rice and lime wedges.

Monday, May 10, 2010

Chili-Rubbed Baby Back Ribs with Espresso Barbecue Sauce

Sous Chef got a new grill for his birthday, since our old one was slightly rusted out and the whole inside of it caught on fire last time we used it. The popular choice for the inaugural dinner was ribs. We had our neighbors over and dined al fresco. It was a fun night with good food and friends.

This is my go-to ribs recipe. I always follow the cooking instructions, but sometimes change the spices in the rub and use plain barbecue sauce. On this particular night, I followed the recipe as written. The rub provides a nice level of heat and the espresso in the sauce has a nice flavor. We had baked sweet potatoes and cole slaw with dried cranberries on the side.

Sous Chef gives the grill two thumbs up, he's excited about the increased cooking space and the more precise heat control. I'm excited that he's done with school and he'll be home more often to cook with it!

Friday, May 7, 2010

Pan Seared Salmon with Spinach and Shiitake

I found this tasty recipe in The Best of Fine Cooking publication, Fresh & Quick. It is full of lovely recipes that are healthy and quick to prepare. Surely, I will prepare many more of the dishes and let you know how they turn out.

It is great to find new ways to prepare salmon. This recipe did not disappoint. It is a perfect weeknight dish, yet elegant enough for guests. The kids loved the fish, Alex had seconds. They were troopers and tried the mushrooms and spinach, but were not as impressed as the adults.

Pan Seared Salmon with Spinach and Shiitake
Serves 4

3 1/2 T. extra-virgin olive oil
2 medium shallots, finely chopped
1/2 lb. fresh shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and sliced 1/4 inch thick
1/2 C. heavy cream
1 t. chopped fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 C. lightly packed baby spinach leaves
4 6 oz. boneless, skin-on Salmon fillets
3 T. fresh lemon juice

Heat 2 T. of the oil in a 12-inch nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 2 minutes. Add the mushrooms and cook, stirring occasionally, until softened, 3 to 4 minutes. Stir in the cream, thyme, 1 t. of salt, and 1/8 t. of pepper. Reduce the heat to medium and cook, stirring often, until thickened, 1 to 2 minutes. Remove the skillet from the heat and stir in the spinach until wilted. Transfer to a bowl and cover with foil to keep warm. Clean the skillet and return it to the stove.

Heat the remaining 1 1/2 T. oil in the skillet over medium heat. Season the salmon fillets all over with salt and pepper. Arrange the salmon in the skillet, skin side up, in a single layer and cook, turning once, until golden brown and just cooked through, 7 to 9 minutes total. Transfer the salmon to a large plate.

Mix the lemon juice with 1 T. water, add to the skillet, and cook, scraping up any browned bits, until just thickened, about 30 seconds. Drizzle the pan juices over the salmon and serve with the warm shiitake mixture.