Tuesday, February 28, 2012

Dinner with Cooper

My friend Cooper came over for dinner last week and I tried a recipe from the February issue of Food and Wine. I was intrigued with the combo of chicken and lentils and Pimenton de la Vera or smoked paprika. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/roast-chicken-thighs-with-lentil-stew by Jose Andres. I liked the idea of the Spanish flavors because it's so different from what I usually do. I served it with roasted broccoli tossed with olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper after roasting. Cooper loved it!

Roasted Chicken Thighs with Lentil Stew my way

4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 slices of bacon, chopped
1 small red onion, diced
1 quart chicken stock
9 whole garlic cloves, peeled, plus one cored and pressed
2 or 3 medium carrots, halved lengthwise
1 small leek, white and pale green parts only, halved lengthwise
1 large green bell pepper, seeds removed and quartered
1 cup lentils
1 teaspoon dried thyme
4 skinless chicken thighs
kosher salt
Pimentón de la Vera or smoked paprika
2 teaspoons sherry vinegar

Preheat the oven to 450°. In a large pot, cook the bacon over moderate heat until golden brown. Add the onion and cook, stirring, until translucent. Add the stock, 8 whole garlic cloves, carrot, leek, bell pepper, lentils and thyme and bring to a boil. Simmer over low heat for 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, in a baking dish, drizzle the chicken with 1 tablespoon of olive oil and season with salt and pimentón. Roast on the top rack for about 40 minutes, until cooked through.

Transfer the garlic, carrot, leek and bell pepper to a food processor. Add 1/4 cup of the cooking liquid and puree. Stir the pureed vegetables into the lentils.

In a small skillet, heat the remaining olive oil. Add the pressed garlic and cook over low heat for ~1 minute. Add 1 teaspoon of pimentón. Stir together to blend and add to the lentils and simmer for 5 minutes. Add the vinegar and season with salt. Serve the lentils in bowls topped with the chicken.

I really love smoked paprika, lentils and chicken and this was delicious, hearty and warming. We ate in the candlelight and it was so cozy. I'm always looking for new things to do with chicken and this recipe is a winner and a keeper. It was really wonderful catching up with an old friend over a nice meal. Hope to do it again soon. Enjoy!

Sunday, February 26, 2012

More dinner for 8...

In my last entry I blogged about our dinner party last weekend. I included recipes for the crab bread pudding and chocolate pudding. I also made a green salad with butter lettuce, cucumber, green onions and avocado. The dressing was a Green Goddess. I believe Green Goddess dressing is one of those recipes that has many variations. I used a recipe fron Bon Appetit by Molly Wizenberg as a starting point. It's a beautiful green color and was delicious. Here's the link http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2009/05/green_goddess_dressing?printable=true

Green Goddess Dressing my way

1/2 ripe medium avocado
1 garlic clove
1 teaspoon anchovy paste
teaspoons fresh lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon sugar
small handful fresh Italian parsley, chopped
small handful chives, snipped into small pieces
1 teaspoon dried tarragon
1 small shallot, chopped
~1/3 cup olive oil
1/4 cup half and half
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper

Blend first 9 ingredients in food processor until coarse puree forms. Add oil through feed tube; blend well. Whisk in cream. Season dressing to taste with salt and pepper.

This is clean, fresh tasting dressing that you can use many different combinations of herbs in. I decided to make it at the last minute so I did not have the fresh tarragon, cilantro and basil that the original recipe called for. I substituted the parsley and chives I did have and threw in dried tarragon. Use your favorite herbs. I also forgot to add the vinegar specified. It tasted good but I will add 3 tablespoons white wine vinegar next time. Check out Molly's recipe on bonappetit.com. This dressing would be delicious as a dip for steamed broccoli, cauliflower, carrots or any other vegetables you could dip like endive, celery or green beans.

I'm going to make it again tonight for the Oscars. I think I'll throw some steamed broccoli into the salad. I hope your favorite movie wins tonight. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Dinner for 8

I am behind on my blogging and so I'm going back to last Saturday and a dinner party Mike and I had. We invited 3 couples, all very good friends, all going back more than 20 years. I had a seen a crab bread pudding recipe I wanted to try (and eat) in Food & Wine and a dinner party was the perfect opportunity. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/buttery-crab-bread-pudding by Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall.

I love crab, bread and butter and it sounded like the perfect storm. I served it with grilled tri tip and a salad with Green Goddess dressing. I made Jean-Georges chocolate pudding for dessert. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/dark-chocolate-pudding-with-candied-ginger by Jean-Georges Vongerichten.

My friend from Charlotte, Cindy, who lives in Oakland brought her dad's caviar pie as an appetizer. It was a night of good food, good friends, good wine and lots of laughter.

Buttery Crab Bread Pudding my way

10 ounces Dungeness crabmeat
small handful parsley, chopped
~1 tablespoon chives, snipped
2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
cayenne pepper to taste
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
1 stick unsalted butter, softened, plus more for greasing the dish
One sourdough baguette, cut into ~3/4-inch slices, ends reserved 
4 large eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup half-and-half

Preheat the oven to 350° and butter a 9-by-13-inch glass baking dish. In a medium bowl, toss the crabmeat with the parsley, chives, lemon juice and cayenne. Season with salt and black pepper.

Butter each baguette slice and stand up the slices in the prepared baking dish. Using a spoon, tuck the crab mixture evenly between the slices of bread and then lay the bread and crab down a bit so that it absorbs the custard as much as possible.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs with the milk, half-and-half, season with salt and pepper. Pour the custard evenly over the bread and let stand for 10 minutes.

Bake the bread pudding for 30 minutes, until the top is lightly browned and the custard is set. Let stand for 10 minutes before serving.

This was an amazingly delicious dish and everyone loved it. It is a beautiful party dish and could be a main dish for a smaller group with a salad and maybe a cup of soup to start. Dungeness crab is the crab of choice where I live but I'm sure any crab or lobster would be wonderful too.

Dark-Chocolate Pudding with Candied Ginger my way

1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
5 1/2 tablespoons cornstarch
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 quart half-and-half
3.5 ounces bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
whipping cream, whipped with sugar for garnish
crystallized ginger, chopped for garnish

In a medium bowl, sift together the sugar, cocoa powder, cornstarch and salt. In a large saucepan, add the half-and-half and whisk in the above mixture. Cook over moderate heat, whisking, until the pudding starts to bubble and thicken, about 4-5 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the bittersweet chocolate and vanilla. Pour the pudding into 6 ounce ramekins and let cool, then cover and refrigerate until chilled, about 1 hour. Top each pudding with whipped cream and crystallized ginger and serve.

These were beautiful and delicious despite their very ordinary name. It was nice that it was not a heavy dessert as well. Everyone loved this pudding and Cindy even called them chocolate pot de creme which is a much better name for this extraordinary dessert. I hope you can have as fun an evening as we did soon and maybe get inspiration from one of these recipes. Enjoy!

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Friday Nights

Mike and I often like to go to our neighborhood "Cheers", Matteuci's, on Friday nights for a couple of drinks. It's very close to home and homey. The problem is that they do not serve food except for special events like the Super Bowl. Usually we'll go early for a drink then order food after and watch a movie. This Friday I decided to make dinner first so we could come home and eat something healithier than the normal take out choices. In the March Food & Wine I had found a chicken and barley stew that made my mouth water. Since it's a stew it was a good choice to set on the stove for an hour while we were gone. There is something about barley cooked in chicken stock that is so delicious to me. Here's the link http://www.foodandwine.com/recipes/chicken-and-barley-stew-with-dill-and-lemon. Like chicken soup for the soul.

Chicken and Barley Stew with Dill and Lemon my way

~2-3 tablespoons all-purpose unbleached flour
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 skinless, boneless chicken (half) breasts, cut into bite size pieces
~2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
2 carrots, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 pieces of celery, sliced 1/4 inch thick
1 large leek, white and pale green parts only, thinly sliced
1 garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
1 cup pearled barley
4 cups low sodium chicken stock
small handful of dill, chopped
2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice
couple of sprigs of tarragon, chopped
freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese to taste

In a shallow bowl, combine the flour with ~1 teaspoon each of salt and pepper. Stir the chicken in the flour with a fork and shake off excess.

In a medium size pan, heat 1 tablespoon of oil. Add the chicken pieces and cook over moderately high heat until golden, about 2-3 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate.

Add the more oil if necessary and the carrots to the pan and cook over moderate heat for ~3 minutes. Add the celery, leek and garlic and cook until starting to soften, ~2 minutes. Add a large pinch each of salt and pepper and the barley. Toast the barley, stirring, for ~1-2 minutes. Add the stock and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the barley is almost tender, about 20-30 minutes.

Return the chicken to the stew; cover and simmer until cooked through and the stew has thickened, about 10 minutes. You can set it aside at this point if like me you want to go out for a drink with your sweetie. Return the stew to the heat and stir in the dill and lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. Serve the stew in bowls, sprinkle with the tarragon and cheese to taste.

This was a lovely dish to come home to and so much better tasting and better for us than any take out or delivery. The only thing I might try next is to add red chili flakes or hot sauce for a nice kick. The barley becomes so creamy cooked in the chicken stock and the veggies add some color and texture. Two thumbs up from Mike and me. Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Happy Valentine's Day

Mike and I had dinner at Bix in San Francisco Friday night at their bar. http://www.bixrestaurant.com/

We split 3 of their appetizers-a little gem salad with pickled vegetables and Ranch dressing, Dungeness crab rolls with Meyer lemon aioli on brioche and mini lamb burgers with dill, Harissa and cucumber slices. All of these were beyond delicious and doable at home. I decided to try and make the lamb burgers for Valentine's Day for Mike and I with slaw and my mom's pecan pie for dessert. The pie is Mike's favorite. I winged it with the burgers and they turned out well.

Lamb Burgers with dill, Harissa and cucumbers my way

~3/4 pound ground lamb
1 tablespoon Harissa
1 tablespoon fresh dill, chopped
kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
2 teaspoons extra virgin olive oil

thinly sliced cucumber slices
whole wheat hamburger buns

Mix together the lamb, Harissa, dill, salt and pepper. Form into patties. Heat oil in a skillet until hot. Cook patties about 3 minutes per side for rare. Spread more Harissa on each side of the patty for extra flavor.

Warm the buns slightly. Spread the cucumber slices on 1 half of the bun and place the patty on top of them. Let the patties rest for a couple of minutes before eating.

You could also grill or broil the lamb patties. These burgers were very flavorful and kind of rich so the tartness of the slaw paired well with them.

Simple slaw

1 teaspoon honey
3 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 small red cabbage, cored and thinly sliced
1/2 red onion, thinly sliced
2 small carrots, cut into thin strips
small handful fresh dill, torn into small pieces

Mix together the honey, vinegar and salt and  pepper. Stir in the cabbage, onion and carrots and let marinate for at least an hour.

My mom's pecan pie recipe is on my blog under November 2011 "Dinner Party with Friends". This was a fun and delicious experiment. Mike liked the burgers but was not crazy about it. I think he liked the mini ones at Bix better. I really loved the flavor combination of lamb, dill, Harissa and cucumbers. Back to the drawing board and maybe try them as sliders next time. I think I'll have a piece of pie now.  Happy Valentine's Day-enjoy!

Mom's Pecan Pie with Chocolate and Bourbon

Sunday, February 12, 2012

My Southern roots are showing....again

I am working my way through the February issue of the Bon Appetit  magazine and tried the Potlikker Noodles with Greens. This recipe is taking my mom's turnip greens cooked for hours with fatback or with bacon grease and turns it into a pasta sauce with a potlikker sauce made of kale, bacon and smoked turkey. Here's the link: http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/02/potlikker-noodles-with-mustard-greens. Feel free to use the leafy greens of your choice like mustard or turnip greens. You could also use a ham hock instead of the smoked turkey leg. Play with your food!

Potlikker Noodles with Greens my way

1 tablespoon extra virgin olive  oil
1 smoked turkey  leg
1/2 red onion, coarsely chopped
6 large garlic cloves, peeled and cored
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
tablespoons hot sauce like Crystal's
1 tablespoon sugar
5 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 bunch kale, tough stems trimmed, chopped, and reserved, leaves chopped
10 ounces fresh wide flat egg noodles
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 slices bacon, cut crosswise into pieces
2 large shallots, thinly sliced
~2-4 tablespoons finely grated Pecorino

Heat oil in a large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add turkey leg and cook, turning occasionally, until browned, about 8 minutes. Reduce heat to medium. Add onion, garlic, and bay leaves; cook, stirring occasionally, until onion is beginning to brown, about 5 minutes. Add vinegar and stir, scraping up any browned bits. Stir in hot sauce and sugar. Add broth and reserved kale stems and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until liquid is reduced to 2 cups, 1 hour. Set a fine colander over a large bowl. Strain potlikker into bowl. Remove the meat from the  turkey leg , set aside.

Cook noodles in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente per package instructions. Drain and set aside.

Meanwhile, heat a large pot over medium heat. Add bacon and cook, stirring occasionally, until crispy. Add shallots and reserved meat; cook, stirring occasionally, until shallots are soft, 4–5 minutes. Pour off any excess fat in pan. Increase heat to medium-high; add greens and cook, stirring constantly, until wilted. Add potlikker, scraping up browned bits with a wooden spoon, and bring to a boil. Add noodles; toss to coat, and heat through. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Transfer noodle mixture to serving bowls and sprinkle with Pecorino.

I am trying to eat more greens like kale as they are not my favorite but how can you go wrong with smoked turkey, chicken stock, bacon and pasta. Mike and I loved this dish, it was smoky and spicy and the greens were delicious. My friends, Duke and Jan, made it this week too and loved it. They also used kale. It makes me think of a soup Jan makes with kale that I love. I need that recipe. Enjoy!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

New ways with lettuce

I am working my way through the Bon Appetit February issue and saved Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crispy Shallots for last. Stir fried lettuce reminded me of something my mom used to make-Scaled Lettuce. It's a recipe from my great grandmother. My mom loved it but the rest of my family were not fans. So  I was curious about cooked lettuce but not sure if I was going to like it. I got the scalded lettuce recipe from my mom for comparison. I made the BA recipe tonight and will try hers another night. I also Googled stir fried lettuce and saw that it is a popular Chinese dish. Here's the BA link http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/quick-recipes/2012/02/stir-fried-lettuces-with-crispy-shallots.

Stir-Fried Lettuces with Crispy Shallots my way

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
1 large shallot, thinly sliced 
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/4 pound pepperoni, salami or Chinese sausage, sliced and quartered
large garlic cloves, peeled, cored and thinly sliced 
small knob ginger, peeled and minced
1/4 teaspoon crushed red chili  flakes
~1/3 head coarsely chopped iceberg lettuce
1 bunch watercress, stems removed
cup cooked brown rice cooked in chicken stock

Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over low heat. Add shallots; cook, stirring often, until golden brown, about 12 minutes. Remove with a spatula to a paper towel-lined pan and season lightly with salt and pepper.
Increase heat to medium; add pepperoni and next 3 ingredients to same skillet; stir for 2 minutes. Add 1/4 cup chicken stock. Increase heat to medium-high; add lettuce and watercress and cook, tossing often, just until wilted, 1–2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Sprinkle fried shallots over. Serve with brown rice.

Here's my great grandmother's recipe via my mom, Nenie

Nannie Kesler's Scalded lettuce

head of lettuce better if it is home grown
4 strips bacon
saute 1/2 chopped onion in some of drippings
mix and add to drippings 1 egg, 1/2 -1 C. milk, 1T. vinegar ,salt,
pepper, little sugar
Cook until curdled
Pour over chopped lettuce, crumble bacon over
Eat immediately
Have cornbread to sop up left over liquid

The stir fried lettuce was very good and I can't wait to try my family's recipe and will definitely make some cornbread to go with it. Thanks Mom!

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Fresh Dungeness crab pasta

Dungeness crab is in season in Northern Ca, always a favorite time of year. There's so many ways to enjoy it, freshly cracked with sourdough bread and champagne, in light salads where the crab shines through and with pasta. Bon Appetit had a recipe in the January 2012 issue that was irresistible. Here's the link http://www.bonappetit.com/recipes/2012/01/linguine-with-crab-lemon-chile-and-mint.

This is a light and fresh recipe and I chose fresh spaghetti to go with it. I went with another favorite winter item and roasted Brussels sprouts with extra virgin olive oil. We drank Viognier with it and what a mid-week winter treat it all was.

8 ounces fresh spaghetti or linguine
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
3 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided
~1 tablespoons olive oil, divided
1 shallot, minced
large garlic clove, peeled, cored and pressed
jalapeño, seeded and ribs removed, sliced into half rounds
finely grated lemon zest
juice of 1 lemon
8 ounces cooked, shelled Dungeness crab
small handful of fresh mint leaves, gently torn

Cook pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Remove pasta from water with tongs or Chinese hand held colander and drain. Reserve pasta cooking liquid.

Meanwhile, melt 1 tablespoon butter with ~1/2 tablespoon olive oil in a large non-stick skillet over medium heat. Add shallots and stir until just soft, ~3–4 minutes. Add garlic and jalapeño and cook, stirring often, until fragrant, ~1 minute.

Add 1/2 tablespoon lemon juice and 3 tablespoons pasta cooking liquid to shallot mixture; add a pinch of pepper. Stir until liquid is almost evaporated, about 1 minute.

Transfer pasta to skillet and add 1/2 cup reserved pasta cooking liquid. Increase heat to medium-high. Cook, tossing pasta or stirring with tongs, until liquid is almost evaporated and pasta becomes glossy, about 2 minutes. Add the remaining 2 tablespoon butter, 1/2 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon lemon juice, 1 teaspoon lemon zest, crab, salt and pepper to taste and half of the mint.

Stir pasta until butter melts and pasta is well coated, adding more pasta cooking liquid if dry. Divide between bowls; top with remaining lemon zest and mint.

This pasta dish was really delicious. It was also very quick and easy. It felt like a special dinner with the yummy wine from Vina Robles Viognier 2010 Paso Robles Huerhuero Estate. Mike really enjoyed this too-he was very quiet. So if you don't live in Northern CA grab some king crab or jumbo lump crabmeat and make it special. Enjoy!