Sunday, September 26, 2010

August - John Besh's restaurant in New Orleans

The chef's complimentary appetizer.  It had three layers and all were made with egg including an amazing egg custard.  The bread stick was brioche and it was topped with caviar.  Scrumptious.

The duck confit and duck liver appetizer.  Sublime.....

Amy's soft shell crab.

My redfish court boullion with shrimp and lump crab.  I wanted to lick the bowl but contained myself and used bread instead.

I will write more later.  I can tell you it was quite the tasty treat and I have more New Orleans posts to come.  Right now I am dealing with my father's cancer being very aggressive.  I need to be with my parents at this time and deal.  

Monday, September 13, 2010

Rotini with pesto, feta, chicken and tomatoes - What to fix when you don't want to cook.

I was hungry but I really did not feel like cooking so I decided to play Kitchen Roulette.  That is where I create something satisfying yet tasty with what is on hand.  Tonight's lucky winner a simple pasta dish. 

Rotini with chicken, pesto, feta and tomatoes
rotini boiled al dente
chicken thighs boiled with garlic, bay leaves, peppercorns and salt
ready made pesto
feta cheese (crumbled)
fresh, chopped tomato
freshly grated parmesan (optional)

I had everything on hand at home.  We had boiled the chicken thighs (our favorite parts) the day before.  All I had to do was open a box of rotini.  Gourmet?  No.  Homemade?  Technically, yes; however, I had lots of help with the ready made pesto.

To plate I spread a generous amount of pesto in the bowl and then added a tablespoon or so of crumbled feta and a sprinkle of parmesan.  I added the steaming rotini and tossed it to coat it.  I added the diced tomato and sliced chicken and another spattering of feta and parmesan.  Dinner was served in less than fifteen minutes.

I enjoyed it.  What's not to love?  Simplicity.  Ingo's comment was he could have done with a little less pesto.  To him it was bit too garlicky....  The nerve!  Hasn't he noticed the name of our blog?

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Ribeye Steak with Bleu Cheese Butter and Walla Walla Onions - Our Titans victory dinner

Ah, it is football season, my favorite time of the year.  If it were cooler out it would be perfect.  But our Titans beat the Raiders and all is good in the world.  To celebrate we grilled.  For us, the steak of choice on the barbecue is a ribeye - especially one that is nicely marbled.  We selected one a bit over a pound to share.

In my opinion a good steak needs nothing more than to be liberally sprinkled with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  If it needs more than that, well, it's not my thing....

To accompany tonight's hunk of cow I decided upon twice baked potatoes.  I love them and hardly ever make them.  I don't know why I don't so I decided today is time to remedy the situation.  I took two large baking potatoes, rubbed them with olive oil, sprinkled a generous amount of coarse salt on them and introduced them to a 400 degree oven for an hour.

The recipe we followed was from September's "Bon Appetit" in an article that featured a recipe from Portland,Oregon's Laurelhurst Market.  It is below....

1 pound ribeye (1 - 1 1/2 inches thick) sprinkled with on both sides with coarse salt and freshly ground pepper.  Grill to medium rare then remove and allow to rest for 10-15 minutes.

Bleu Cheese butter
3 tbls softened butter
3 tbls crumbled bleu cheese
1 1/2 tsps grated lemon peel
1 1/2 tsps chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 1/2 tsps freshly ground pepper

That was the original bleu cheese butter recipe.  Being the cheese and butter fiends we are, I manipulated it a bit.  I use 4 tbls each butter and bleu cheese.  The peel of one large lemon (I did not measure), a hefty pinch of ground Italian seasoning and about 2 1/2 tsps of freshly ground pepper.

Using a fork, mix all ingredients in a small bowl.  Season and let stand an hour before serving.  Can be made 24 hours in advance.

Walla Wally Onion Rings
1 cup all purpose flour
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup beer
2 tbls vodka
Canola oil
1 large sweet onion thickly sliced

I changed this one too.....  I added no vodka and almost an entire bottle of beer instead.  It is thick batter.  I might add a smidgen of sugar next time although it was very tasty as it was.  I started these when the steaks began the resting stage.

Whisk flour, salt and baking powder.  Add beer and whisk until blended.  Pour two inchs of oil into a large, heavy skillet and heat to 350 degrees.  Working with two to three rings at a time, dip into batter, shake off excess and gently drop into hot oil  Fry until golden brown.  Transfer to paper towels and salt.

Twice Baked Potatoes
2 large baking potatoes
olive oil
coarse salt
sour cream
shredded cheese
ground pepper

Rub potato skins with olive oil and sprinkle generously with coarse salt.  Wrap in foil and bake for an hour in 400 degree oven.

Remove from oven and allow to cool for about 10 minutes.  Slice in half and scoop out leaving skins intact.  Add a generous amount of sour cream, cheese and pepper and mash.  Place back into skins and top with more cheese and put back in 400 degree oven until cheese is melty and slightly browned.

We plated it with the onion rings as a garnish although I polished them all off without a second thought.

We enjoyed it completely; however, next time I can do without the compound butter.  I found it better suited for fish.  We think we are going to try it that way.  We'll keep you posted.

It was all in all a great meal.  Our view wasn't too shabby either....

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Pickled jalapenos - A recipe from my Grandpa

Grandpa always had a jar of pickled jalapenos.  It was an old Nescafe instant coffee jar.  He even traveled with it going so far as to put a jar in his carry-on luggage when he visited.  I vividly remember that he brought it out at every meal, pulled out a pepper, finely diced it and put it over all his food.  Being a foodie from an early age I had to know what it was he was doing.  Furthermore, I had to have some.  My Grandpa politely told me that "girls don't eat jalapenos".  Well I would have nothing with that!!  Of course I got my way.  I was a wily nine year old.  Plus he was trying to show to me that I would not like it.  Grandpa was right, I didn't like it.  I LOVED IT!!  So now that he had a companion in his jalapeno habit, he taught me how to make them so I could have some with me at all times just like him.  I have only tweaked the recipe to add one thing - carrots...  I adore the semi-crunchy sweet/spicy orange rounds and usually scarf them up first.  You can add pearl onions but that is just not my thing.  Maybe it's yours.  You can add it to a martini to bump it up a notch or three.

This batch is particularly special because the jalapenos come from my very own backyard.  Now that you know the history of the pickled jalapeno, I present you with the recipe from my late Grandpa, Salvador Lozano. 

I started with my freshly picked (and subsequently washed) jalapenos and organic carrots I picked up at The Fresh Market

8 jalapenos
1 bunch carrots (peeled and cut into fat coins)
5 cloves garlic (peeled and gently smashed)
1 tablespoon whole peppercorns
4 -6 bay leaves (I used all my broken leaves)
1 tablespoon sea salt
17 ounce bottle olive oil
17 ounces white vinegar
17 ounces water

First you empty the olive oil into a sauce pan.  Fill the empty bottle with vinegar and add it then do the same with cold water.  Add the garlic, peppercorns, bay leaves, salt, and carrot.  Slice one jalapeno in half and add to pan along with the other whole jalapenos.  Turn the heat to high and bring to a boil.  Once boiling, reduce to a simmer and allow to simmer 10 - 15 minutes until the carrots are at your desired tenderness.  I usually go with about 10 - 12 minutes because I prefer a bit of a bite on the carrots.

Discard the bay leaves.

Take a slotted spoon and ladle the veggies into clean mason jars.  I divide things up as evenly as possible.  I include the garlic and peppercorns because I am sassy that way.  Add the liquid and make certain all the veggies are submerged.  Be sure to leave enough room for the lid.  This will keep in the pantry for six months.  I do not think I've ever had a jar that long because I usually have eaten it all. 

The recipe above yielded two full pint jars and partially filled a quart jar.  It left me with a lot of extra liquid.  I kept about a quart of it and I use it to add a little heat to greens or a pot of pinto beans.  Trust me when I tell you it packs a punch and a little goes a loooong way so use your imagination.  Leave me a comment if you come up with some fun, funky way to use the liquid.  Oh!  Gently shake the bottle of liquid to blend before you add, trust me on this.

Now that I've shared just a smidgen of my past with you I hope you will try this.  You just may discover what Grandpa knew and taught me, jalapenos are good on just about anything.  Try it in scrambled egg tacos, over a grilled chicken breast, on fresh corn...  Add a dollop in the next time you make guacamole or salsa.  You won't be disappointed.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Pork burger

I had a pound of freshly ground pork that was just begging to be grilled.  I wasn't exactly sure what to do with it since the original thought was to use it for meatballs.  However, it is too hot to turn on the stove so I decided to make burgers and have Ingo do the cooking outdoors.  Even though it was too hot to turn on the stove I did suck it up and make a fresh loaf of bread. 

What I decided to do was with the pork was this:

1 pound ground pork
1 Vidalia onion (grated)
4 cloves roasted garlic finely diced
2/3 cup bulger
2/3 cup boiling water
1/2 cup diced flat leaf parsley
1 egg
2 tbls freshly grated reggianon parmesan
1 tbl Italian seasoning
salt and pepper to taste

Add the boiling water to the bulger, cover and leave alone for a couple of minutes.  Then place in a sieve and rinse with cold water.  Squeeze to remove excess water.

Add all ingredients into a bowl and lightly mix.  Refrigerate for a couple of hours then form into four large or five medium/small burgers. 

Grill on lightly oiled aluminum foil on indirect heat until browned well on both sides.  Unfortunately we left them on a bit to long but they were still tasty.

We served them up on thickly cut sliced fresh bread.  First I generously spread it the slices with olive tapenade, dotted it with bleu cheese crumbles and put sliced roasted red pepper on it. We put that on foil over the grill until it was a bit melty.  Yum! 

PS:  Pardon the bad photo.  It was dark and the flash was not cooperating.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Charcuterie - a love story

To say I love to read is a vast understatement.  I have several hundred books in the house (not including the boundless volumes packed away in boxes in the garage).  I probably have read 90% of them.  Sometimes I have two or three different books I am reading simultaneously depending upon my mood.  With that being said, Barnes and Noble is my friend.  Much to the chagrin of my husband, I order books.  Lots of books.  I sneak them in and hide them on the shelves so I do not have to account for them.  I have a special affinity for cookbooks.  Today a new one was delivered....

I cannot begin to tell you how excited I am about this.  It has it all.  Pork, duck confit , pate and did I mention Ruhlman?  Can it get any better than that?  I'll keep you posted as I have a new book to digest (pardon the pun).

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Brunch at Allium - a belated anniversary celebration

It is hard for me to believe that over four years ago I was standing barefoot on the beach at Honeymoon Island... I was worried because it rained for the first time in four days that afternoon. But at 8:00, the sun was just about to set, there was a brilliant rainbow in the sky and there were dolphins putting on our own private show by jumping in and out of the water just behind us... But most importantly of all there was us.

It was almost surreal marrying him in that setting. The waning sunlight sparkled on the water and waves were practically dancing as they softly washed on the shore. We picked a spot with a single palm tree and a weathered picnic table. We sprinkled a few flower petals around on the ground to stand on for good measure although with the natural beauty of the place it was completely unnecessary. There were just five of us, the minister, Amber, Sven, my German and me.

There was no playing of “Here Comes the Bride” or anything by Wagner. Instead we opted for the lyrical sound of the gently lapping surf and the occasional bird. Standing there about to begin I was the kind of anxious that verges on nervous and was glad for the warm, gentle breeze that would blow to take the edge off of the hot July evening. I had nothing to be scared of because I was about to marry my soul mate, my lover, my best friend. I remember trying to not choke up but doing so none the less as my emotions got the better of me and a few stray tears trickled down my cheeks. Happy tears. It was magical to be holding hands and listening to him say to me "with this ring, I thee wed”.

I remember when we were pronounced husband and wife and the first thing I did was exclaim (and loudly) "Oh my God, we're married". Thankfully I managed to shut myself up so as not to ruin the moment. Instead I concentrated on more important things like kissing my husband for the first time as his bride.

We profusely thanked the minister as he made his was to another little oasis on the beach to marry yet another couple that beautiful summer evening. So it was time for a few photos to capture the moment for not only us but for those whom we love who were not able to join us. Amber is an excellent photographer and she had us posing up and down the beach and managed to depict what it was we wanted memorialized.

There was real champagne. And beautiful flutes to drink it with... A wedding gift from Amber and Sven. There were more exclamations of "Oh my God, we are married". I must have said it 10 times. I heard it when I watched the video. We just set the camera down and let it roll and you can hear me pipe in every so often with my little declaration.

Back at Amber and Sven's home there was a celebration with their friends and neighbors. There was cake and fireworks. There were phone calls to parents, mine in Tennessee and his in Germany. There were more toasts. And even without the benefit of music, there was dancing. The sound of the water kept the beat. Perfect.

Today we finally made it out to celebrate.  We were fortunate that a new friend gave us a Groupon for Allium.  We decided that brunch was the way to go and have a relaxing way to wrap up the weekend.  We started with the warm, complimentary cinammon sugar beignets.  There was a delightful strawberry butter to slather on them.  The beignets were fabulous on their own; however, how are we to resist strawberry butter?

We sipped our lovely cocktails as we perused the menu.  (Truth be told, I had already decided what I wanted long before having drooled at a couple of things while reading the menu online.  Don't tell Ingo I cheated, please.)  Ingo had a Bloody Mary with house-made mixer.  It had just the right peppery spice to it.  Neither of us care much for Tabasco overkill.  Unfortunately, he beat me to the olive....  I had the luscious French Mimosa with fresh squeezed orange juice on the side to add at my discretion.  What made it French you ask?  It was the addition of one of my new favorites....  St. Germain....

Anyone who knows us knows that we enjoy food and eating well.  And when it is good we can really eat.  With that being said we both decided upon appetizers.  Ingo had the warm trout salad over spinach with beluga lentils and a walnut vinaigrette.

Due to my passionate obessession with all things cheese, I opted for red onion goat cheese tart.  Either of our appetizers easily could be a nice sized meal by itself; however, did I mention we love to eat?

Neither of us are quitters. Of course that means that we need to move along to a main course! Ingo is a German National. So when he saw sliced Black Forest ham as an ingredient on the Allium Benedict, he had to try it. Not to mention that he is also a total sucker for hollendaise...


I mentioned previously, I had already made my choice.  I wanted Shrimp Benedict and I wanted it immediately! 
I must admit that although we both have a "go big or go home" mentally, we hit the wall and could not even think about getting dessert.  We left relaxed, happy and very full. 
We enjoyed our belated anniversary celebration and look forward to what our fifth year anniversary holds for us.  We also send a thank you "shout out" to my new friend for the gracious gift of the Groupon.  Ingo and I are very grateful to you for helping us to celebrate.  The next time I see you out, I owe you a cocktail.

Friday, July 09, 2010

Veggie Pizza or When the moon hits your eye like a big pizza pie, that's amore

Pizza is one of the basic food groups in our home.  Unfortunately, it is usually some delivered pie from a local place.  Expensive and not very good, yet we keep ordering thinking to ourselves that maybe, just maybe we will be wowed this time.  Never works.

While scanning other blogs I came across a dough recipe and decided to make pizza at home with tons of flavor and loaded with some of our favorite things.

I got the dough rolled out and started layering on the goodies. 

And layering...

For this colorful version I opted for what turned into way too many toppings.  Don't get me wrong, it was tasty; however, we already know how we are going to tweak it.  Because there will be a next time...

Start with the dough recipe. Once you have it rolled out you can top as your choose.   Instead of marina we opted to use black olive tapenade.  I then dotted ricotta and chopped roasted garlic over it.  Next came sliced roasted red pepper, feta, and carmelized sweet onion.  I continued with mozzarella and spinach.  I know, I know, that is a whole lot of items each with intense flavors on their own.  Combined it was a happy sensory overload.  We liked it but our favorite part was this...

I cooked these onions down for almost a full hour in a olive oil and butter with a sprinkle of sea salt and a generous dose of fresh ground pepper.  It turned out to be the best part and next time we are going to eliminate the olive tapenade and use olive oil in its place.  We will probably also go with a smattering of feta and a mozzarella.

The whole thing was popped into a 500 degree oven and fifteen minutes later dinner was ready.  I did; however, allow it to sit for five minutes so it would cut a bit better.  All in all, a good pizza that will not be completely repeated.  I'll keep you posted about how round two goes....

Thursday, July 08, 2010

Homemade Ricotta or Blessed are the cheesemakers

I am channeling my inner Monty Python....  Seriously. 
(Audience members at the back of the crowd having trouble hearing the Sermon on the Mount.)
"What was that?"
"I don't know.  I was too busy talking to Bignose."
"I think it was 'Blessed are the cheesemakers'."
"Ah, what's so special about the cheesemakers?"
"Well, obviously, it's not meant to be taken literally.  It refers to any manufacturers of dairy products."
~ Monty Python's Life of Brian

Ahhh, now that I've gotten that out of my system I am prepared to carry on.

Kase, fromage, cheese, (sorry, much to Ingo's chagrin I cannot get the Umlaut for over the "a" in kase).  We adore cheese.  A few years ago our fridge died.  We were not as concerned about actually buying a new one.  On the contrary, we were devastated that we lost over $50.00 worth of cheese.  It still brings a tear to our eyes.

As much as we love cheese, I never once thought I would actually attempt to make it.  We can easily go to Whole Foods or Fresh Market and get many delectable choices.  Even better, we can visit the Bloomy Rind at Nashville's farmer's market.  However, I found a ricotta recipe that I wanted to try to see if it would be good for our homemade pizzas or some kind of baked pasta venture.

It worked fabulously!  The texture was just right and the flavor was what I was hoping for - just creamy enough, just salty enough and begging for a place on tomorrow's dinner.  Right now my little friend is taking a much deserved rest in the fridge awaiting its destiny as part of tomorrow's evening meal.

So blessed are the cheesemakers of which I am now one.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Alsterwasser - Is it swamp water? Nah, it is my Americanized version of Alsterwasser

When Ingo and I last were in Germany last he introduced me to a local drink.  It is a mix of Pils and Limon Brause.  Roughly translated, limonbrause is sparkling lemonade.  The closest we can find here is Sprite.  Make sure the Sprite is cold and just basically pour it together 50/50 and enjoy.  This is a delightfully refreshing beverage to have on a hot Summer day.  Ingo and I especially enjoy this with a really good Pils.


Hot tamales

Earlier this year, Mama and I met up with some other ladies from church.  We do this on occasion to learn to make some new, tasty treats.  This time we were creating something Mama and I adore.  Tamales are some of our favorite things.  Both she and I grew up in San Antonio and to say we are tamale snobs is a HUGE understatement.  We have wanted to learn to make tamales forevah.  Finally, we were going to actually do it...  Sweet!

If you are going to make tamales, you're going to need to do a little prep.  And by a little prep, I mean a lot.  First you have to soak the corn husks to make them pliable.  You will need boiling water and something to hold them down.  It takes a bit of time but the 'males need jackets.

Your other assignment, should you choose to accept it, is to make the filling(s).  Here is where you can be creative.  For our group session we had several things we all found on the net:  venison, beef, pork, chicken, beans, and some sweet version that involved raisins.  I despise raisins and I think someone ruined a perfectly good tamale, but that's another story.

After the husks are soaking and the fillings are doing whatever it is they do until it becomes an edible work of art, you need to mix the masa.  The recipe for that is on the bags of masa harina.  You can find that in either the Hispanic aisle or near the flour in your local grocery.  This will be thick and will need to be kept moist while you work.  This is why making tamales is generally a group activity.  It takes many hands.

Once everything is in order, assembly begins.  Each of us had our own cookie sheet so we did not make quite as bad a mess.  You take a corn husk (or what Mama and I call tamale shucks) and smear a good layer of the masa on it.

Then you add the filling of your choice.  Not too much, not too little, just the right amount.

I am so upset I did not get a photo of the rolling process.  It is a tad tricky but once you get it going you get into a rhythm.  When you have them filled and rolled, tie them off with a bit of kitchen twine.  We cut strips so we could keep on keeping on...

We made oodles and oodles of them.  Some of each flavor (with the exception of the dreaded raisins).

Here is my beautifull Mama with one of the 5 or 6 bags full of tamales we left with...  Yum!

Now onto the cooking process...  To cook these little bundles of happiness, you need to steam them.  Do not double stack them.  Instead try standing them up like delicious little soldiers.  Allow them to steam for a couple of hours.

Mine were not the prettiest; however, what they lack in looks they make up for in flavor.

Dinner is served!!

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Erdebeere Bowle (or as I call it, German sangria)

Ingo introduced me and several of our friends to this fab beverage called Erdebeere Bowle.  That translates to strawberry punch.  Believe me when I tell you, this is not your grandmother's punch!!  We have made this in different variations and all have been a hit.  Regardless of which version you prefer the beginning is the same.  Diced strawberries are put into the bowle to let the magic happen.

Here is the basic recipe: 

Vanilla sugar
White wine (we use either a Riesling or a Sauvignon Blanc)

Additional ingredients can be:

St. Germain
Tonic water
Other soft fruit (peaches, kiwi, raspberries, etc.)

For our version for the two of us, I used two quarts of strawberries (diced) that were sprinkled with vanilla sugar (sugar with vanilla beans scraped into it and allowed to sit for a few days).  After the strawberries juice up a bit add a bottle of well-chilled wine and well-chilled cava.  For fun, I added a splash of St. Germain into mine.  It added just the right sweetness and made mine like dessert in stemware.   

Ingo told me that it is supposed to be festive so the photo is of his glass.... The pick is for reaching those sumptious berries....

The party size version is as follows:

Eight quarts diced strawberries sprinkled liberally with vanilla sugar (about two cups)
One litre well-chilled vodka
Four bottles well-chilled vino
Two bottles well-chilled cava
Two bottles chilled tonic

Stir gently and have a designated driver.

Homemade bread or Thou shall not live by bread alone

Let me start by saying I am usually not a bread kind of girl. Hubby; however, goes through a loaf of bread as quickly as I go through water and that's saying something. Since Ingo is European he is a bit of a bread snob. He will gladly tell you how as a young boy he would ride his bike to the bakery daily to bring home fresh bread for family meals. Now that I have had that kind of bread I understand why he is picky. Since then I have been on the prowl for a simple yet tasty bread recipe. I am not a "kneady" person so it had to be easy. What I found was so easy.

Can you smell it?!  Omigosh, it completely permeated the entire house and I came rather close to drooling.  We went through an entire mini-loaf in one evening.  It had an amazing crust, chewy texture and was dense and fluffy at the same time.  I opted for no butter as it was delightful completely by itself. 

Even better, the dough yields enough to make a few loaves.  Bonus!  Now I just have to be careful not to let it go straight from my lips onto my hips.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Lamb Kebobs or The untraditional 4th of July BBQ

Being the rebels that we are, hubby and I decided to make something decidedly different for the Independence Day holiday. It was my husband's decision to have ground lamb kebobs. Sounded yummy to me. Now all I needed was a recipe. I started looking at all the blogs that I adore when I stumbled upon this... Simit Kebab (σημίτ-κεμπάπ) from the blogroll of a Nashville foodie. Perfect!

We decided not to deviate from the recipe. One pound of ground lamb yielded eight good sized portions. The only thing we did do differently was to not skewer the meat. Our's more resembled a ground lamb sausage. The bonus was one less thing to wash...

Hubby made the tzatziki. He grated an English cucumber, added a fine dice of red onion, minced garlic, salt and Italian seasonings into Greek yogurt. Quite tasty!

We threw the pita on the grill to warm it, smeared the tzatziki on it, crumbled on some feta and called it dinner. We also added some fresh cucumber, sliced red onion and tomatoes from our own backyard.

Traditional? Nah, but then again, we never are.