Sunday, September 27, 2009

Nip in the air menu!

OMG this menu was the best so far!! Also one of the easiest!! A grand slam home run, a touch down, a hole in one. a goal....etc. If every one from now on is as good as this, we will all be in great food shape. There is a nip in the air, color in the leaves and geese on the lake ready to make their escape. That is where these recipes evolved. It is from Ina Garten's "Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics" The menu today is:

Roasted Butternut Squash Salad with Warm Cider Vinaigrtette
Easy Fish Fillet Meuniere
French Apple Tart

The salad is incredible, maple roasted squash, dried cranberries, arugula, toasted walnuts and cider vinegratte with Parmesan cheese. Served warm and is wonderful.. Will use it again. Other nuts and cheese can be subtituted. A gorgeous salad!

The fish dish is also flexible I use tilipia though sole is given. Cooked briefly in browned butter and lemon, the fish and sauce is flakey and execllent.

The tart is fun and easy using seasonal apples (Granny Smith) I cheated and used frozen puffed pastry. The glaze is jam and rum or Calvados.

The menu today is excellent. Next week will approach some of the fall comfort foods.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Cooking from the Low Country

An interesting week....a bit of overachieving. I used 2 books for the menu "Hoppin' John's Lowcountry Cooking' and 'Cooking from the Lowcountry from The Old Post Office Restaurant' Low Country is a term that refers to the coastal plains and sea islands of South Carolina and Georgia. The cuisine has roots in Western and Central Africa culture knows as Gullah. Gullah culture is known for storytelling, music, quilt making and sweet grass basket making.

Firefly Sweet Tea
Benne Crackers
Pimento Cheese Spread

Shrimp & Cheese Grits
Okra and Tomato Skillet
Sweet Potato Biscuits
Bourbon Balls

Sweet tea is a favorite in the south. Firefly Sweet Tea has the addition of vodka. I mixed it half and half with lite lemonade. A sort of Arnold Palmer taken up a notch. A refreshing drink with the crackers (Benne's are toasted sesame seeds and are thought to bring good luck) and pimento cheese (not the pale stuff you see in a jar in the dairy case) The cheese is another southern favorite and served alone or on hot dogs and burgers. I was very happy with all of these.

The Shrimp and Grits was an excellent choice and I had a lot of great dishes to choose from. The addition of sharp cheddar gave the grits a rich flavor. I used half cheddar and half the pimento cheese in the mixture. The grilled shrimp look great on top of the pale yellow grits.

The Tomato and Okra dish was not my favorite, but I have never liked okra... The seasonings were a bit sharp, but it is a pretty dish. The sweet potato bicuits were a nice surprise. The bits of potato gave the lightly browned biscuit some extra color.

I finished dinner (a couple of hours later) with a cup of tea and Bourbon Balls. A no bake cookie. The ingredients go in a food processor, rolled into balls and rolled in powdered sugar. Pretty strong cookies, but a simple end to a rich meal.

This was an educational week. I learned about the culture and history of the Low Country. Next week? Don't know. Stop by and take a look!

Monday, September 14, 2009

2 from Giada's Kitchen

Giada de Laurentis is one of my favorites on Food Network. Her recipes are easy and I have not tried any I didn't like. This week I made:

Asparagus and Zucchini Crudi
Pork Chops with Sweet Onion Marmellata

For those of you who don't speak Italian (And I am one of them) 'crudi' means raw. I did blanch the asparagus however, don't care for it raw. This was easy to put together and is very tasty. The vegetables are tossed with a lemon dressing and topped with slivers of Pecorino Romano. Will do this again.

The chops are 'marinated' with thyme, rosemary and garlic for 30 minutes before grilling. The herb theme continues in the sauting of the onions and at the end orange marmalade is stirred in. Excellent addition to the onions. I am looking forward to the leftovers!

Dessert was another look at last weeks 'sauce' I grilled a nectarine and basted it with the lime/butter/brown sugar mix. Liked this better than the baked bananas.

Also did a snack for the Bears game (Turned out much better than the game) Roasted drained garbanzo beans with EVOO and some spices. Yummy! Went well with my favorite drink these days...Arnold Palmer's. Lemonade and iced tea.

Until next week, bye for now! Happy Cooking!

Monday, September 7, 2009

A Meal Worthy of a 'Silver Palate'

In the early 1980's Sheila Lukins and Julee Rosso co-authored and published "The Silver Palate Cookbook" They introduced home cooks to sun dried tomatoes and goat cheese, now considered staples. Sheila took on the challenge of Chef of a Shoestring on the CBS morning news. She passed away this last week of brain cancer. I have prepared one of her 3 course meals for 4 for $40 for my entry this week. The menu is:

Roasted Beet and Walnut Salad
Chicken Marbella with Orange Scented Couscous
Lime Baked Bananas

First the salad, I know you're saying beets again?? Well this is a very different presentation and a winner in my book. Beets are roasted, cubed and marinated in a Dijon mustard vinaigrette. Served on a endive leaf with blue cheese and toasted walnuts. Endive is a perfect vehicle for serving bite sized servings of various fillings. One of my other favorites is a BLT salad on the leaves.

Second is the chicken. It was a standard dinner party favorite when introduced in the 1980's. The chicken is marinated overnight in an unusual variety of ingredients: prunes, green olives and capers in a garlic dressing. The chicken is roasted with a sprinkling of brown sugar, the marinade and white wine. The chicken is moist and tender, but the marinade ingredients sort of disappear... It is served over orange couscous. I found Israeli Couscous at Trader Joes and it was perfect. The consistency is that of tapioca and perfect for the chicken and juices. I would likely do the recipe again, but perhaps make some marinade changes.

Last was the dessert: Lime baked bananas. The idea of baking bananas is foreign to me, but I bought bananas that were just slightly ripe. They are basted with lime juice, butter and brown sugar. An interesting combo which I think would be better served with a stone fruit (peach, nectarine, or plum) The sauce is lovely. It is served with vanilla or coconut ice cream. The ice cream isle is not one I spend much time in and after 3 passes I decided coconut was not a common one. Instead I purchased 2 tiny containers of vanilla bean which I softened, stirred in a couple of drops of coconut flavoring and some toasted coconut. Quite nice and would use it again.

All in all I think this was as successful menu. I have the yearning to spend a couple of days over my birthday in November at Wickwood Inn in Saugatuck Michigan, owned by Julee Rosso and Bill Miller.

What will next week bring?

Thursday, September 3, 2009

A slight change in plans

I had originally planned to do 'indoor grilling' for the Labor Day Weekend. However, the culinary world lost a special person this week so I am rethinking the menu.