Wednesday, July 28, 2010
It's only Wednesday and it's been a long week. I haven't had much time, energy or heart to cook and write. I'm physically and emotionally drained by events going on around me. I'm also under the weather with one of those stubborn summer colds that each day manifests itself wherever it damn well pleases. Today it's making itself cozy in my chest and lungs... while some of its friends still lag behind in my head. Here's the hot tea I'm drinking while hoping and praying the phone will ring with good news.
Sunday, July 25, 2010
My husband grew up in Alaska and has a serious love for Halibut. When we came upon some beautiful fresh fillets, there was no question Sunday night's dinner would be Beer Battered Halibut Two Ways! (The poor man has suffered through my Take it Off blog series long enough!) I wish you could taste, but based on photos and description - which one would you prefer?
Above (#1): Beer Battered Halibut Sliders with homemade tarter sauce, arugula and tomato. Here's how we assembled: Toasted slider bun on cast iron skillet, tarter sauce, fish, tarter sauce, tomato, arugula, tarter sauce on top of bun, YUM! (yes, tarter 3x!)
Below (#2): Beer Battered Halibut Soft Tacos with homemade pico de gallo and diced avocado. Chips on the side. YUM!
So, if you had to choose, which would it be?
Beer Battered Halibut
Adapted from Bon Appétit, May 2003
1 lb fresh Halibut fillet, skin removed, cut into strips or cubes
fresh lime juice
Simple Beer Batter:
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon fine kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground pepper
1 cup beer, room temperature
dash+ of garlic powder
dash+ of hot paprika (or whatever paprika you have on hand)
Vegetable oil - 2 inches deep in pan (about 4 cups)
Salt and pepper Halibut pieces. Squirt with lime juice. Let sit up to 15 minutes.
Mix together batter in large bowl and add fish pieces to coat.
Heat oil to 350 degrees. Carefully place 4-5 pieces of fish into the hot oil. Fry for 2-3 minutes. Drain on paper towel. If you need to keep warm, place in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. S&P to taste.
1/2 cup mayonnaise
2-3 quartered dill pickles, chopped
1 tsp. fresh chopped parsley
1 tsp. fresh lemon juice
pinch of salt
fresh cracked pepper
Mix all ingredients to taste. Serve or chill.
Thursday, July 22, 2010
What began as (in the words of Oprah) an, "aha moment" where I would "brilliantly" combine protein packed Quinoa, with the fresh and vibrant flavors of the authentic Greek dolma - somehow went terribly wrong. The idea of replacing the dolma's white rice filling with the "Mother of all Grains," meant dumping the sugar and starch, and replacing it with the ancient seed known for an array of innate health benefits (dating all the way back to the Incas). Like an overly confident contestant on Top Chef (having never attempted stuffed grape leaves before) I approached the lofty endeavor expecting the final product to elicit words of praise - not only for use of ingredients, but for flavor...texture ...and all around originality.
Without getting too in depth, my dolmas failed miserably to stay together and the grape leaves themselves (jarred and soaked in brine) never became tender (despite hours of simmering atop the stove). I kept trying to tell myself they were good, but when my husband's face (after popping one in his mouth) instantly morphed into what a camel looks like while gnawing away on hay...I knew I had failed. "Honey," he said, "please pack your knives and go."
But wait...I was in my own home, my own kitchen, and my husband (while looking good) is NOT Padma! Aha! Although my grape leaves unpalatable...their filling was delicious! Served hot or cold, this Quinoa Salad infused with lemon, mint and dill, tasted exactly like the inside of the dolmas I so coveted! An unbelievably healthy and delicious side dish with enough protein and vitamins to serve as a main course, eating this quinoa salad reminds me of dining alfresco amongst the open food stalls of historic Athens, Greece. ( <-- Never been, but a girl can dream!)
Now onto the WINNER of the $40 CSN Stores online giveaway! I'm excited to announce Rachel Crisman of The Dalai Mama as the lucky recipient! (Thank you random.org) The $40 gift certificate will be directly sent to your email via CSN Stores promotional team! Thank you to all those who participated and THANK YOU CSN Stores for approaching me to conduct this giveaway and for providing consumers an unbelievably broad spectrum of items at unbeatable low prices!
Now, can someone please enlighten me on HOW TO MAKE PERFECT DOLMAS?
TAKE IT OFF FOOD #8
Quinoa Salad with Lemon, Mint and Dill
1 cup Quinoa
1/2 onion, diced
1/4 cup chopped fresh dill
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
juice from 1/2 a large lemon
2 T. pine nuts
4 T olive oil (2 for sauteing and 2 for drizzling at the end - optional)
Directions:Prepare 1 cup of Quinoa according to package directions (make sure to rinse before cooking) Usually takes 10-15 minutes to cook. In the meantime saute up onion for 3-4 minutes. Add mint, dill and pine nuts to the sauteed onion. Continue cooking 1-2 minutes. Remove from heat and add quinoa and lemon juice to the pan, incorporate well. S&P to taste, drizzle with olive oil.
Tuesday, July 20, 2010
By now it's pretty obvious, I don't bake much. I'm sure for the same two reasons many non-bakers would admit...I'm simply not into precise measuring and more importantly, if a plate of hot, chewy brownies resides in my home, I shamefully find them impossible to resist!
But when your 3 year old little girl, with hypnotic hazel eyes (only slightly obscured by bouncy auburn curls) points out the large black bananas sitting idle in a bowl (you swore before bed last night wouldn't go to waste) and says, "Mommy, we should use those to make banana bread, they're severely decaying." Wait? Severely decaying? Here's where I insert subtle underlying parental boast (with hand clenched over heart), "I don't know where on earth she gets it?" Except that's not what this is about...and quite honestly, don't most parents owe early vocabulary and scientific acumen to Nick Jr. and PBS Kids?
There I was knee deep into quinoa stuffed dolmas simmering atop the stove (or rather falling apart in a sea of olive oil and stock), when I gleefully abandoned one project for another. I mean what is a mom to do? I needed a super healthy banana bread that was simple to prepare. I cleaned up mess #1, washed our hands, gathered all necessary ingredients, secured her apron, and an hour later, Voila, banana bread! No butter...no oil...no granulated white sugar. The end result was a bread that tasted healthy, moist and delicious...the vanilla and lemon zest evident in each and every bite, without masking the succulent combination of crystallized brown sugar and overly ripe bananas.
The aroma emerging from the kitchen lured the husband from his office and the baby from his nap (make that three reason I don't bake). Cold milk and slightly warm bread...it was a treat to enjoy a rare homemade baked good with my family - in the middle of the afternoon.
Healthy Banana Bread
Adapted almost exactly from Pattycake, Grouprecipes.com
2 c flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp soda
1 tsp baking powder
3 lg very ripe bananas, mashed
1/2 c brown sugar
1/2 c milk
zest of a lemon
2 tsp vanilla
Mix dry and wet ingredients until just well incorporated.
Pour into a generously greased and dusted loaf pan (I used 3 small loaf pans and filled 3/4 up). Bake at 350 for about 50 min (for one large loaf) - my 3 loaves took 25 minutes on convection bake - a toothpick inserted in center should come out clean. Wait 10 minutes before removing from pan and placing on a rack to cool.
Sunday, July 18, 2010
He's the man behind the scenes, with superb knife skills and an eye for presentation. He's our expert griller and saucier - a master of charcoal - with a favorite whisk. He wears an apron and travels with knives. He used to commercial fish off the coast of Alaska. Our first date (in college) involved his buying a rice cooker. Our first walk was back to my dorm where he kissed me goodnight. That evening I said..."I will marry this boy." Five years later I married the man... and we've been cooking ever since!
Here are the Thai inspired Sea Scallops my husband made last night. So full of amazing flavors, these scallops are a perfect low carb dish when you're trying to eat healthy - yet want to focus on the food!
TAKE IT OFF FOOD #7
Seared Sea Scallops with Lemongrass Sauce and Basil, Mint and Cilantro Salad
SELF, July 2008, Adapted from Anita Lo
2 teaspoons canola oil
1 onion, chopped
6 stalks lemongrass, dry leaves removed, stems pounded; cut into 3-inch lengths
4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
3 red Thai bird chiles, finely chopped (found in grocery stores' Asian section)
2 cups dry white wine
1 can (28 ounce) whole tomatoes, plus juice
1/2 cup Thai basil
1/2 cup fresh mint
1/2 cup cilantro sprigs
Juice from 1/2 lime
2 teaspoon canola oil
24 jumbo sea scallops
1 tablespoon canola oil
Heat oil in a large, nonstick pan over low heat. Cook onion with a pinch of salt until translucent, about 12 minutes. Stir in lemon grass, garlic and chiles. Add wine. Raise heat to high, then simmer 5 minutes. Add tomatoes and juice; break apart tomatoes. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 20 minutes. Force sauce through a colander and discard solids. Season with salt and pepper.
Toss all ingredients in a bowl; season with salt and pepper.
Season with salt and pepper. Heat a large nonstick pan over high heat 1 minute; add oil. Cook 8 scallops 1 minute; reduce heat to medium-high; cook undisturbed until golden, about 4 minutes. Turn scallops over; cook 3 minutes more. Remove from heat. Repeat. Divide scallops and sauce among 8 bowls and top with salad.
Saturday, July 17, 2010
Since I've been eating better...chickpea has become a dear close friend. We were always acquaintances (enjoying each others company on occasion), but recently I'm feeling we're inseparable! I'm glad too, as I know many people who can't stomach chickpea...many who can't stand to be in its presence - a "conflicting texture thing."
I quite like chickpea's soft bite and subtle earthy quality. I especially appreciate how chickpea seems open to whatever my mood. Whether pulsed into a soup, hanging in a salad or baked in the oven dressed in marinade of choice...chickpea is a friend I can count on time and time again ~ who leaves my stomach satisfied and my mind full ~ of creative ideas for our next encounter! (...we should all wish for a friend so loyal.)
Baked Chickpeas (adapted from recipes off the web)
1 can Chickpeas (drained and rinsed)
1-2 Tablespoons Olive Oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
pinch of salt and fresh cracked pepper
1 T. garam marsala
1T. brown sugar
1T. chopped, fresh cilantro
Preheat oven to 400. Line roasting pan with sides with aluminum foil. Place chickpeas in pan in a single layer. Drizzle with olive oil and minced garlic. Shake around to coat the chickpeas well.
Now this next part I've seen done different ways - some add other flavors and spices before cooking and some add them right out of the oven. Shown here: I added 1 T garam marsala and 1t. smoked paprika prior to cooking. After 12 minutes, I took them out of the oven and sprinkled with approx 1 T. brown sugar and 1 T. chopped cilantro. S&P to taste. Sweet and Spicy!
Makes a delicious snack or perfect side dish! Get creative with your spices!
Thursday, July 15, 2010
I'll begin by saying I prepared the shrimp cocktail (shown here) last night after we arrived back from our trip. I was dying for the real thing, which leads me to my quandary...
The other evening (while on vacation) I ordered a Shrimp Cocktail appetizer from a well established seafood restaurant known for its quality and freshness. I was craving the dishes classic presentation and beautiful simplicity. When our waitress delivered the plate, there in front of me sat 10 medium shrimp (atop crushed ice), shells on, undeveined, no lemon, and a tiny (and I mean tiny) bit of cocktail sauce served along the side.
Now DO NOT get me wrong, I'm a girl who loves to get her hands dirty (especially when it comes to shellfish) but a $12 first course...I was in the mood for elegance...in the mood for a no-fuss app before indulging in my salmon filet and sipping chardonnay. I scoured the menu in search of Pick-n-Peel Shrimp..."they must have gotten it wrong, right?" No...this was in fact, their version of shrimp cocktail.
I shrugged my shoulders, graciously began peeling and (having peeled many a shrimp in my day) quickly finished the plate. (The whole time engaged in imaginary conversation with Tom, Padma, Eric and Gail with us all in agreement... this is simply not shrimp cocktail!)
So my question...how do you define Shrimp Cocktail? Was the restaurant being lazy or am I being a Prima donna
TAKE IT OFF FOOD #6!
Fill pot with 2 inches water. Bring to a boil. Place shrimp in pot, cover for 2 minutes. Quickly remove shrimp with slotted spoon and place into ice bath. Peel and devein shrimp (leaving the tip of the tail intact). Serve on crushed ice with plenty of homemade cocktail sauce (ketchup and prepared horseradish) and lemon wedges on the side.
Tuesday, July 13, 2010
So we're on vacation which is making it difficult to find the time to post. I was all excited yesterday because we made the trip to a dockside restaurant and boat with camera in tow, only to have our 20 month old completely melt down before our eyes! So there we were...after a nice family day at the beach, showered, dressed ready for out on the town...walking past relaxed vacationers slurping down clams, cracking crabs and drinking ice cold tap beer out of clear plastic cups (basically my heaven on earth) and he decides he's simply not having it. I was so aggravated I could barely speak, but in his defense he's entirely off his normal routine. He had a horrible nights sleep (so did we all) and virtually no nap. So what were we thinking, right? I know... but in the spirit of vacation... we wanted to give it the old college try.
We literally ended up taking the kids back to the car and stopping at the seafood market for a quart of Manhattan clam chowder, fresh Nova Scotia halibut and salmon that we brought back to the house and grilled. I'm embarrassed to admit the ONLY photo I shot was of the green beans with shallot dressing we ate on the side. It's one of our favorite ways to prepare greens beans (prefer it with haricot verts) and/or asparagus anytime of year. So versatile...it's perfect for a summer picnic or along side the Thanksgiving bird!
Today's another day. We had a better nights sleep so Take Two! I'll bring along the camera and try my darnedest to get some shots! Wish us luck!
Haricots Verts with Shallot Dressing, Gourmet Magazine 1999
1 1/2 pound haricots verts (thin French green beans), trimmed (green beans shown here)
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 teaspoons white-wine vinegar
1 shallot, minced
Steam beans until just tender, 3 to 8 minutes. While beans are steaming, whisk together remaining ingredients and salt and pepper to taste. Toss beans with dressing and season with salt and pepper.
Saturday, July 10, 2010
Continuing with our fixer-upper story, we had a room to dine , yet still no place to cook and were pretty certain George, Martha and the little dancer were tired of watching us gorge ourselves on take-out general tso's and vegetable lo mein. (What do a first president, first lady and first ghost have to do around here to get a decent surf n' turf?)
Unlike the dining room's rich history, we honestly didn't know much about the kitchen. We knew most of the room was not original to the house, but by the multiple layers of wall applications, it was clearly showing its age. When the house was built in (what some people date back to) 1780, the shell of a fireplace down in the basement, was its main cooking source and served as the homes original functioning kitchen (at least that's what we've been told). This kitchen you see pictured below, required a complete gut job! We had a dream, a blank slate, loving help from our parents (labor), solid plans atop a beer laced napkin...and yes like most...we had a budget.
The original plan, was to completely open up the wall between the family room and kitchen, allowing in ample sunlight and creating one large, versatile room. Full exposure inside the wall, unveiled a stubborn gas line with no intention of moving. The two posts you see below, were the end result of smart thinking and adaptability on behalf of the group. Serving as a visual anchor to the kitchen island, the posts also do a wonderful job dividing and ultimately defining each respective room. A perfect example of how when undertaking a renovation, you need be flexible, open minded and able to maintain that fine balance, between respecting the bones of a house...yet remaining its captain, in total control.
Unfinished and messy but okay shot of the posts:
There are still many things we need to do with this kitchen (a list too long to note), but we tried our best to utilize its space. Granite counter tops, a slate floor painstakingly laid by my husband and me, subway tiles for a back splash and higher end appliances purchased on sale...with the unyielding support of the parents...our hearts and souls were literally poured into every inch of this room. It's that same heart and soul, that with every meal emerging from this kitchen today... makes it taste that much more rewarding!
These classic popovers were one of the first things we made in our new kitchen. I took this photo on New Year's Eve a few years ago (long before I started this blog). They're worth sharing! That night we ate them along side a medium-rare, prime standing rib roast. Since then we enjoy the popovers whenever we're in the mood for an extra special treat...for instance at tea time with a homemade herb butter and rhubarb-strawberry jam!
*While the recipe calls for a 45 minute bake time, in our oven on convection bake, they took a mere 25.
*Instead of butter, my husband likes to grease the muffin tins with drippings from the standing rib roasting pan. (Unbelievably Good!) If you're not making them w/meat, obviously butter is perfect.
*Serve leftovers the next morning with butter, jam, cheeses or a savory spread!
Gourmet, January 1996
2 large eggs
3/4 cup milk
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, melted
1 cup minus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
Preheat oven to 375°F. Generously grease six 2/3-cup popover tins or nine 1/2-cup muffin tins
In a bowl whisk together eggs, milk, and water and add butter in a stream, whisking. Add flour and salt and whisk mixture until combined well but still slightly lumpy. Divide batter among tins and bake in lower third of oven 45 minutes. Cut a slit about 1/2 inch long on top of each popover with a small sharp knife and bake 10 minutes more.
Wednesday, July 7, 2010
For my first GIVEAWAY post, where you'll have an opportunity to win a $40 gift certificate to any of the 200+ CSN Stores, featuring furniture, health and fitness, home decor, cookware, dining room sets, and more...I thought I'd share the recipe and photos from last night's dinner (Ina's amazing Crab Strudel) along with a glimpse inside my home. My favorite room in our early 1800's house...you'll see the dining room's before/after shots (when we moved in), and hear our short story associated with the walls that serve as a canvas to so many dishes appearing in this blog.
For a shot at winning the $40 gift certificate (sent to your email directly from CSN for one time use), simply post a comment below... or... DOUBLE your chances of winning and Tweet, blog about, OR Facebook this CSN Stores giveaway linking back to this post and mention you did so in the comments form below. (Do 2 of the above, you'll have 2 spots in the drawing, do all four and you have four!) You get the gist! A random winner will be announced Thursday, July 22. So welcome into my dining room...make Ina's crab strudel, visit CSN Stores and Good Luck!
Arguably the most beautiful room in the house, upon moving in five years ago...we couldn't wait to begin its transformation! Ten foot ceilings, thick moldings, wide brick fireplace surrounded by delft tiles, anchored on both ends by original built-in cabinets, even in the rooms tired state, it was easy to envision its potential!
Long time residents of the town, tell us the house acquired the delft tiles back in the mid 1800's, when a foreign diplomat's grand home in the center of town burned to the ground. As the story goes...people in town were told to salvage what they could from the homes debris and thus began the beautiful tiles new reign in what is now our dining room.
The built-in cabinets need detail work, a task I've been avoiding since hearing "their story." Our neighbor tells of a scholarly gentleman who used to own the home, insisting the cabinets were haunted by a little girl who loves to dance. We have never seen her, but in searching for clues have come across mysterious looking spots on our dishes and trays resembling an almost footstep like pattern.
Four layers of dirty, old wall paper, mudding, sanding, taping and painting brought this room back to life. A new light fixture, large expanding walnut dining table and a few other pieces we've acquired through the years, make this room a favorite place for family dinners and special space to entertain our guests. We can't help but wonder how many meals have been consumed in this dining room and of all the conversations it's been pleased with (if not burdened by) throughout its centuries. We can only hope the room is content with our efforts to restore its rightful beauty and that perhaps we've provided our little dancer... a grand stage... better suited for her performance!
*Note: I substituted Old Bay Seasoning in place of the curry
2007, Ina Garten, All Rights Reserved
12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
3 scallions, chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon curry powder
1 pound lump crab meat, drained and picked to remove shells
2 teaspoons fresh flat-leaf parsley, chopped
1 lime, juiced
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
10 sheets phyllo dough (Athens brand)
1/4 cup plain dry breadcrumbs
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Heat 2 tablespoons butter in a medium saute pan, add the scallions and garlic and cook over medium-low heat until the scallions are soft, approximately 5 minutes. Add the curry powder and stir.
Shred the crab meat into a bowl and mix with the parsley, lime juice, salt, to taste, and pepper. Add the crab meat to the scallion mixture.
Melt 10 tablespoons of butter in a small pan and set aside.
Unfold 1 sheet of the phyllo dough. Brush the sheet with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs. Repeat the process by laying a second sheet of phyllo dough over the first sheet, brush it with melted butter and sprinkle with bread crumbs until 5 sheets have been used. Spoon a 1-inch wide row of the crab mixture along 1 edge of the phyllo dough. Roll it up. Brush the top with butter and set aside. Repeat the entire process using the all the phyllo dough and crab filling.
Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper. Score the crab strudel diagonally into 1 1/2-inch pieces and bake for 12 minutes, or until the top is lightly brown. Slice and serve.
Tuesday, July 6, 2010
Cooking (and thinking about cooking) to me, is therapeutic. When all else seems crazy with the world, I get lost in freshly picked basil, chili peppers, brown sugar and soy. I get lost in the sound of chopping onions, cracking eggs and whisking a sauce over the stove. So... when there's a lot going on in my life (so much so I don't know where to begin)...the kitchen grounds me and serves as an escape...if only for a little while.
Tonight's escape was this Spicy Thai Beef Salad. Number 4 in my series, Take It Off ...this skirt steak salad was so full of sweet-n-spicy flavors, colors and textures ...your senses (I promise you) will not miss the carbs!
Oh FYI - I finally started a Design Wine and Dine Facebook Page hope you'll visit me there! Just click the link above or on the Facebook badge on the sidebar!
*Flank steak, filet, etc...can be used in place of skirt steak
Spicy Thai Beef Salad Dressing
Adapted over time from recipes found on the Web (I'm always adjusting but you will NOT go wrong with this combination of flavors!)
3-4 tablespoons fresh lime juice
Zest from 1/2 the lime
1 tablespoon Rice Wine Vinegar
3 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons sesame oil
2-4 tablespoon soy sauce (to taste)
1 tablespoon fish sauce
1-2 tablespoon brown sugar (depends how sweet - to taste)
1 hot pepper (Thai, Serrano or jalapeno) seeded and diced fine (leave out if do not care for spicy)
1 tablespoon fresh ginger peeled and finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely sliced
1 shallot thinly sliced
1 tablespoon fresh mint,basil (Thai if possible) and cilantro chopped (I didn't have cilantro and I missed it - but it's optional)
Mix all ingredients together with a whisk. Serve atop the salad. Can be made in advance.
We simply salt and peppered 1 lb. of skirt steak and cooked on the grill 3-4 minutes each side until medium rare. Let sit 5 minutes after cooking and cut across the grain into strips.
Spicy Thai Beef Salad Preparation:
We added grilled thin asparagus and sliced plum tomatoes to 2 heads fresh, chopped Romaine lettuce. Topped with the steak strips, tomato, asparagus and dressing over top. Garnished with additional mint, Thai basil, sliced scallion and thinly sliced hot pepper slices.
Sunday, July 4, 2010
Our dear friends John and Erin are both so busy with work (John just returning from South Africa and Erin Nashville, TN) when they decided to squeeze a trip in here for the 4th, we were thrilled! It's Sunday morning and while everyone is still fast asleep, I'm up with the baby planning the final touches for today's spread.
So far, the past few days we've enjoyed a jumbo lump crab and avocado salsa; garlic, soy, brown sugar, and cumin grilled pork tenderloin and last night... a sushi spread so delicious...twelve rolls and 10 pieces later...we were left wanting more!
I'm off to go make breakfast and start prepping for the day, but thought I would sneak in a post and share with you the cold & refreshing, minty, fizzy, lime infused mojitos my husband prepared last night. With an overabundance of mint growing in the garden and temp's promising to soar into to 90's...there are sure to be more of these little beauties in our immediate future! Wish you were here! Cheers!
Oh FYI - I finally started a Design Wine and Dine Facebook Page hope you'll visit me there! Just click the link above or on the Facebook badge on the sidebar!
- 1 1/2 oz light rum
- 1 tbs superfine sugar (or simple syrup)
- Juice from 1/2 a lime (+/-)
- Lime wedges
- Club soda
- Mint sprigs
Muddle mint leaves, superfine sugar and lime juice in a mixing glass. Add 1 1/2 oz light rum and ice in a cocktail shaker and shake. Strain the mixture into a glass and top with club soda. Garnish with fresh mint leaves and lime wedges. Simple syrup can be used to replace superfine sugar.