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2011 Meals in Review | part two


as promised…

2011 Meals in Review | part two

July

Gorgonzola Chicken Pasta Salad (a la D’Amico & Sons)

German Potato Salad

Summer Tomato Caprese Stacks

Bastille Day & a Little Liberté with Scallion and Chive Smoked Salmon Spread

 

August

Sour Cream Verde Enchiladas

 

September

Heirloom Tomatoes Bread Salad with Burratta

Zucchini, Summer Squash and Brown Rice Casserole

 

October

Tomato and Gruyere Tart

served with a little salad

Fresh Linguine with Mizithra Cheese and Lightly Dressed Arugula

Traditional Beef Empanadas (made mini!)

A little sampling of delicious items…cheese, olives, toasts, etc.

Niçoise Salad

 

November

Pumpkin Pecan Biscotti

Brioche French Toast

No-Knead Bread

Gougeres

Red Tea, Beef & Sweet Potato Stew

Pumpkin Stuffed with Everything Good

Excuse the phone photo…but that’s what’s left of a scrumptious braised rabbit with pappardelle from this place.

Chestnut Pancetta Stuffing for Thanksgiving

My Thanksgiving plate…and no I didn’t overdo it!

Couldn’t be complete without a slice of pecan pie!

The morning after was no let-down with Pheasant and Waffles topped with a Fried Egg and Mushroom Thyme Gravy!!!

 

December

A weekend trip up north found us eating at the Culinary Institute of America’s restaurant in St. Helena.  The Tasting included 5 delectable bites to whet our appetites.

The polenta sitting under the magnificently cooked piece of beef was quite possibly the best thing on the table.

Duck Confit with a Poached Egg and Frisee

Krumkake Christmas Cookies

Christmas Eve bites including Cremenelli Salami – a little hometown pride!

Christmas Dinner – Tenderloin of Beef, Creamy Dill Carrots and Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

Turkey Tetrazzini

The BEST use of leftover beef ever…sliced beef tenderloin topped with a cold Bernaise sauce

And last but not least, Short Ribs Italiano served over Pappardelle!

 

We’re making some artichoke dip and about to head over to friends to ring in the new year!  Tonight is for looking back and tomorrow, we start fresh.

A Whole New Year!

Happy New Year!

2011 Meals in Review | part one


As I’m a bit behind these days, I noticed while perusing my photos from the past year in search of a couple photos for a new year’s card to send out, how many delicious moments we had in 2011.  What follows is not only what we made, but what we enjoyed! 

The delicious moments of 2011…


January

Rosemary Sea Salt Dinner Rolls (recipe credit: Pioneer Woman)

Creamy Pheasant and Wild Rice Soup

Orechiette with Pheasant, Bacon and Spinach

Butternut Squash, Shallot and Goat Cheese Pizza

Pot Roast…good the first time, better the second…

Cumin-scented Butternut Squash with Onions and Wild Rice

Pot Roast Ravioli

Homemade Fettuccini

Boboli’s done right…!  (yes, you are correct…that is an egg cracked on top peeking out from underneath the arugula and parm!

 

February

yummm…pancakes

Delicate Scrambled Eggs with Truffle Salt

A Birthday dinner at Bouchon

Cod Brandade with Tomato Confit and Fried Sage Leaves

Frisée aux Lardons et Oeuf Poché

Croque Madame

Back at home…Cheese Soufflé

Lump Crab Cakes

Valentine’s Day Cheese Fondue

Tempura and Cold Soba Noodles

Baby Artichoke Gratin (recipe credit: latimes.com)

 

March

Fancied-Up Burgers

Seared Scallops with Cream of Cauliflower Soup

Welsh Rarebit

 

April

April brought with it a trip to Vienna for Woody’s work…

Käsekrainer – near perfect street food

Beef Tartare with all the appropriate accoutrements

Veal Medallions

Finally in the homeland…a full plate of spätzle just for me!

A celebratory meal at Meinl am Graben began with a Veal Carpaccio for Woody

Tortellini with Consommé and Crisped Prosciutto

Honestly…I can hardly remember what exactly this course entailed…but I DO remember that it  was incredibly amazing!

The third course of our prix fixe…again…perfection!

Although I can’t say the name of the place…the fare was delicious

A trip to Vienna without Viennese coffee would be a crime!

Back at home…Pacific Spiny Lobster with Fava Beans and Meyer Lemon

Grilled Cheese Invitational…who says no to that…?

Burrata with Cherry Tomatoes…there were plenty more sandwiches and a lot more cheese, but most disappeared before I could get a shot!

And of course, an annual batch of Deviled Eggs for Easter!

 

May

Fried Chicken Salad with Goat Cheese

Onion & Bacon Tart

Minted English Pea & Lemony Feta Crostini

Another birthday was cause for a trip to the Los Olivos region, some wine tasting and of course a meal or two…

Bistro Burger

Spring Vegetable Pot Roast

Ebelskivers

Savory Lentil Salad

House guests meant a trip to the Original LA Farmer’s Market and an Oyster Po’ Boy

June

Chicken Garlic Sausage & Swiss Chard Flatbread

Potato Salad – Two Ways

Poppyseed Cake with Strawberries and Mascarpone Frosting

Part two coming soon…

Brioche French Toast


I adore waking up in the morning, turning on the stove still a bit bleary-eyed, putting some coffee on while still in pj’s and making breakfast.

French toast is a favorite…although I’m not one for thick, fluffy and soggy French toast…I like it thin, dipped-but-not-soaked in egg and nicely browned in a pan. Topped with a dab of butter and just drizzled with real maple syrup.

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Indian Summer Tomatoes! (and what to do with them…)


I’m back.  Or at least I’m trying.  Life got in the way these past two months…though I can’t quite pin it down to one thing.  There were house guests, school starting again, typical work stresses, trying to actually have a vacation, last-minute chaperoning of an outdoor ed trip, and life in general.

As I was looking through all the photos that have accumulated over the last two months…a significant portion of the dishes include tomatoes.  Let’s review, shall we!

A lovely typical caprese with fresh tomatoes, basil from the garden, peppery and buttery olive oil, sea salt, fresh black pepper and of course fresh mozzarella and a drizzle of balsamic vinegar!

Then there was the tomato and zucchini herb tart with gruyere…

We can’t forget the late summer farmer’s market heirloom tomatoes…

…and the burrata, oversized buttered croutons and herbed vinaigrette that took these tomatoes from summer treat to inspirational dish!

Although only garnished with tomatoes…this dish seemed to be in line with the others…

Zucchini, onion and pasilla pepper omelet with goat cheese and herbs!

I sit currently near an open window with blue skies and plenty of sunshine, which means is slightly hard to imagine that the rest of the country is slowly slipping past the height of fall and right into that season the follows autumn (and must not be named yet).  With a radio report of record October snows in the east…I promise, I’ll try to get my fall on out here in SoCal!  I feel the pull of seasons, but when it’s still 80° outside, it’s hard to consciously turn the oven on and roast things, or make soups, or even bake.  The nights are becoming increasingly cool…I even brought out a down comforter for the bed…as lows are in the high 40′s.  (don’t laugh)

I’ve got a few more posts to come and the motivation and inspiration to get back into the kitchen is creeping back!  How is your fall going?  Anybody else still enjoying the last few tomatoes of summer?

French Onion & Bacon Tart


No quiche here…this is a tart! Plain and simple in all it’s glory.

This is serious onion-y goodness…topped off with a little bacon.  Who can complain?  NO ONE…that is the answer.  If you say you don’t like onions, and I make you try this, and you still don’t like onions…I don’t think we can be friends.  This tart has the essence of all things good about onions, and none of the bad, and I sweetened the deal with bacon…c’mon…just try a little bit!

French Onion & Bacon Tart
recipe from America’s Test Kitchen

Crust:
1¼ cup flour
1 scant tbsp. sugar
½ tsp. salt
1 stick (8 tbsp.) cold butter cubed
2 tbsp. ice water

Filling:
4-6 slices of bacon (your preference)
6 cups of sliced onions
1 sprig of thyme
2 eggs
½ cup of half & half
salt and pepper

Start with the crust.  This is a press-in crust, so no rolling of delicate pastry dough necessary.  You can mix everything and cut in the butter by hand…OR…you can use a Cuisinart or food processor.  Definitely the easier way to go.

Preheat the oven to 375º.  Put the flour, sugar and salt in the bowl and pulse a few times to mix.  Dump in all the butter and pulse about 15 times total.  You want to cut the butter up smaller than you would for a flaky pie crust.

Now, add in 2 tbsp. of the ice cold water and turn the machine on for 5-6 seconds.  You’ll know that you have the right amount of moisture in the dough by removing the lid, reaching in and grabbing a handful, squeeze it together and if it clumps…it’s perfect.  If it is still crumbly and does not stick together, then put the lid back on, add another ½ to 1 teaspoon of ice water and turn on again for another 5-6 seconds.

Here’s the fun part…just grab some handfuls, drop them into a greased tart pan and start pressing it in.  Try and make it an even layer across the bottom of the pan.

Continue pressing and work the dough up the sides of the pan.  If it is too thick in one area, go ahead and pinch it off, then smush it back where it’s a little thin.  This took a little more time than I anticipated, but some saran wrap can do wonders to help you smooth out the surface.  Place a piece over the top of the dough, and rub the surface.  The heat of your hand and the pressure will smooth out all the lumps.  To avoid shrinkage…(no one likes shrinkage!)…place it on a plate and put it in the freezer to firm up and rest for at least 30 minutes.

While the dough is resting, you can prep your ingredients for the filling.  Slice up 1-2 onions in ¼ to ½ inch strips.  The onions will cook down quite a bit, so you’ll probably need more than you think.  Steer clear of sweet onions and red onions for this recipe.  The first is too sweet and the second will tint everything a bit of a mauve color…not the effect you’re looking for.

Throw your bacon strips into a cold pan.  Letting the strips warm up with the pan (only to medium heat) will make crispy bacon with a lot of the fat rendered out.  Putting bacon straight into a hot pan, will cook it faster, but you can end up with bacon that is over and under cooked all at the same time.  Once bacon is cooked, remove from pan and drain on paper towels.  Depending on how much bacon fat is left in the pan, you may want to drain some of it…but what you leave in the pan will add bacon-y smoky flavor to your onions!  (drool!)

Toss the onions into the pan, toss to coat, add in a sprig of thyme, a good sprinkling of salt and keep the heat medium or just below.  You want to almost steep the onions, and avoid browning them which can make them too sweet.  Once you’ve tossed them around a bit, throw a lid on the pan, turn the heat down and let them cook, sweat and steam for about 20 minutes.

Switch back to crust – pull it out of the freezer, place it on a cookie sheet, add a sheet of foil on top and press it in gently and then fill with your favorite pie weight (dry beans, rice, actual pie weights, marbles, ball bearings, something heavy that won’t mind some serious heat!).  Place in the oven for 30 minutes while the onions are cooking.

Custard Time!  The custard for this recipe is just a glue…binds it all together and is a tasty backdrop to the star of the show, Monsieur Onion!  Beat the eggs and add in the half and half, a grind or two of black pepper and a touch of salt, mix well and set aside.

You may wonder about the lack of pictures for this part of the recipe…well, there are moments while cooking, that I completely forget to get pictures and only later realize that I missed about half the process.  Use your imagination!

While you are waiting, try not to snack on all the bacon.  If we’re being honest, I find this step the most difficult.

Check on the onions, they should be translucent, soft and very fragrant.  Remove them from the heat and cool long enough that they won’t cook the eggs when added to the custard.  When the crust comes out, remove the pie weights and foil.  Remove the thyme sprigs from the onions and mix them into the custard.  Pour it all into the tart crust, sprinkle with bacon pieces and put it back in the 375º oven for 25-30 minutes on the middle rack.

You’ll know the tart is done when a) you can no longer handle how good your kitchen smells, and b) when the custard is fully set…it shouldn’t jiggle!

I love the bacon on top because it stays crisp, unlike when it is added to the custard of quiche’s and it softens up.  Carefully remove the rim of the tart pan, once it is cooled and then you can cut a slice and serve it up.  This made a perfect dinner with a simple salad of mixed greens dressed simply with lemon juice and olive oil and served with a crisp, dry white wine!

Bon appétit!

Roadblocks and Fettuccine


Dear Reader.  I’ve been neglecting you.  I know, I know…what could be so hard about cooking up some dishes, taking some photos and then writing about it?  In theory…not much.  Add in an unrelenting work schedule, a trip out-of-town, a (pathetic) attempt at getting some regular exercise and it gets more interesting.  But all of those are just excuses.  Yep, I just admitted it…just excuses…which is really no excuse at all.

courtesy of savagechickens.com

More importantly, I’ve been feeling some mental blockage when it comes to posting.  I have thought long and hard about this…which has gone nowhere.   Maybe you too have been thwarted in your projects and tasks.  Alright, I know part of it is wanting to make sure that everything is the best it can be…but being the best and being timely don’t always play nice together.  So…I’ve got to pick one and clearly lately I’ve been on team best without actually doing any work.  Also…I always want to post a lot of photos…and volume + photos I love = time-consuming.  Let’s loosen things up.  New goals: a) post more even if it means posting fewer photos; b) stress less about the words and the photos and get the post up.  Simple, right…?  Let’s start now.

Fresh Fettucine with Pheasant, Butternut Squash, and Bacon

Fresh pasta is a beautiful thing.  From the delicate but firm mouth feel to the slight chewiness…it just might be one of my favorite things…and when I make it I feel like I’m playing with the Play-doh noodle makers again!  This pasta recipe is the same one used in this post and can be found here courtesy of Jamie Oliver.  Obviously, you can cut your own fettucine with a pizza roller or pastry cutter/knife…I went with the KitchenAid attachment since I had yet to use mine! Originally I was planning on drying this pasta for use at a later date – until I realized I didn’t know very much about drying pasta and let’s not forget to mention that it is winter here in Southern California and that means rain, and dampness, and running a de-humidifier constantly in the house…so drying pasta is pretty much the opposite of what was going on in our house.

{Notes to self regarding future attempt to dry pasta:  1.  Air circulation is key – place drying rack underneath pasta.  2.  Although pretty, resist urge to pile pasta in a heap on counter.  3.  Portion out pasta for predicted serving size.}

Okay, moving on.  We threw this dish together with leftovers and items we already had in the fridge – diced and roasted butternut squash, chunked up pheasant breast (shot by none other than Woody himself) and bacon (our house is rarely without an open package of bacon in the fridge).  These ingredients along with some fresh herbs, heavy cream, parmesan and sliced shallots made a fine dinner!

Bon Appétit!

 

 

Pot Roast Ravioli with Pea Shoots


Day 1

Step one – make pot roast.

A lot of the flavor comes from all the little brown bits stuck to the pan after you sear the meat, known as the fond.  I season the roast well, and dust with flour and sear in a dutch oven on very high heat.

Next, toss in all the chunked up vegetables, I used onions, carrots, celery and parsnips. Give ‘em a little time on the heat just to get them going.  Depending on how much fat is in the pan, I might drizzle a little olive oil over the top.  Next, add in a few tablespoons of tomato paste, and one can of chopped tomatoes.  And, of course, don’t forget to season the vegetables as well.

Add the meat back into the pot along with your broth of choice.  Bring to a boil, cover the pot and put it in the oven at 350° F for at least 2½ hours…the longer the better.  Once it is done, I pull the meat out and let it rest for a bit covered with a piece of foil.  Then I remove about half of the vegetables and cooking liquid and purée it.  I like to use an immersion blender to save on dishes and hassle.  Add the purée back in with the rest of the vegetables and keep warm.  For the meat, I like to tear it apart a bit, while still leaving some big chunks.

Step two – enjoy pot roast with your starch of choice – it is as good over pasta as it is with creamy mashed potatoes.

Step three – put leftovers away in the fridge – very important step…pot roast just gets better and better as it sits.

Step four - reinvent the leftovers into a whole new meal!

Day two

Step one – make pasta (Recipe is from Jamie Oliver, and you can find it here)

Yet another reason I love my kitchenaid…the pasta attachment.  I have never made homemade ravioli before and was not totally sure how thin the pasta should be.  When rolling pasta, there are a few important things to remember – first, the dough should not be sticky, err on the dry side, and flour liberally if it begins to stick.  Second, try not to ruin a good thing, don’t get carried away with putting the dough through the roller.  I know.  It’s very satisfying…but important to know when to stop.  Third, make sure to begin with an oval shape and pass it through the thickest setting a couple of times, then fold in thirds, rotate 90º and pass through the thickest setting again, and then crank the setting down one notch at a time until you reach the desired thickness.

Although it held together, I think the pasta was a little thin.  I laid out the sheet of pasta and started plopping down small dollops of shredded pot roast mixed with a little of the puréed vegetables on half of the sheet.

With the filling in place, I folded the other half of the pasta back over the filling, but only after giving the pasta a spritz of water with a spray bottle.  *This is important.*  Why deal with moistening the border of each ravioli with a brush or your fingertip, when, in one fell swoop, you could use a spray bottle and moisten the entire sheet!  I chose spray bottle of course…and was quite pleased with the short cut.  I’ll try to remember it next time I make wontons or egg rolls!

Once the sheet is folded, carefully press down around the filling of each ravioli to make sure it is well sealed.  You’ll also want to see if you can squeeze out any air pockets, which can lead to exploded ravioli in your pot of water.  I cut the ravioli with a fluted cutter-wheel…kinda like a mini-pizza slicer.

Once sealed, I sprinkled a little semolina flour on them to prevent sticking.  Toss them into salted boiling water for 3-5 minutes.  While they are cooking, melt some salted butter in a sauté pan, and add in some sliced shallots to soften.  When the ravioli’s are just about done, toss is fresh pea shoots (so pleased to find these at Trader Joe’s!) and season with salt and pepper.  Add in the ravioli straight from the pot as well as a little bit of the pasta water.  Toss to coat, then plate them up and serve immediately.

Our ravioli were a little large and probably would have looked a little more elegant on a larger plate…but regardless, the end result was delicious.

Pear Clafoutis


Perfectly ripe pears are like gold…(think Harry and David fruit packed in foam delivered to wintry doorsteps).  Pears rarely need much to improve them…and this dish is simply a different vessel to deliver pear goodness!

This recipe is originally from my training at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris (hence the metric measurements).  A traditional clafoutis is made only with cherries, using any other fruit (including pears or berries) the dish is called a flaugnarde.  I still call it a clafoutis…as it has been a family favorite for 10 years now.

Pear (Flaugnarde) Clafoutis

  • 100 grams (2/3 cup ±) Sugar
  • 120 grams (1/2 cup ±) Flour
  • 3 eggs
  • 200 ml (1 cup ±) milk, lukewarm
  • 50 ml (1/4 cup ±) cream
  • 5 grams (1 tsp.) baking powder

Butter and lightly sugar a heavy tart pan, or similar shallow baking dish.  Chill.

Place fruit in a single layer in the chilled dish.  Quantity is up to you, but pieces of fruit should not touch.

Mix all other ingredients for batter.  Pour into dish without displacing fruit.  Bake at 160°C (350°F) for 40 minutes until just beginning to brown.

Serve warm or at room temperature, plain or garnished with powdered sugar, cream or a fruit coulis.

 

 

Leftover Sunny Side Up Egg…it’s not what you think…


I think I mentioned I love cooking eggs…especially in ways that I don’t like eating them.  Leftovers from the previous night’s dinner always allow me to throw something together for Woody in the morning.  He added a little sriracha and had a unique and tasty breakfast.  I had coffee.

Dinner Last Week…


Bacon, Onion, Herb and Gouda Quiche

Last week was hectic.  I was getting over a cold…it was a week where we tried to see everyone before they left town on summer adventures, where we barely cooked…and where I had to think about and actually do lots of packing.  If you know me at all…you know I have issues packing.  We managed to pull off a quiche on Sunday night, hoping for leftovers for lunches during the week.

This quiche is slightly different.  You might notice the crust looks a little flakier, a little puffier – well…it’s puff pastry.  Besides being a little raggedy…it works very well.  The filling was onions, bacon, herbs and some aged gouda.  We were scrounging the dregs of the fridge since we left town on Friday…so it’s a bit of a hodgepodge.

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