Friday, September 26, 2014

TK dinner ~ September 2014

Little sign written by our 9 year old before she left on her date for the evening.

And then people started arriving and we started serving.
First up were these little bites of Phyllo filled with goat cheese, herbs and fresh strawberries.
Confession - these made an appearance because I had leftover cheese mixture from the mushrooms (below) AND,  since I was already making a GIANT mess with Phyllo dough (Good God what a mess) I decided I might as well make those cute little cups - and then fill them with stuff. (that all makes sense right?)
Next out went roasted mushrooms served with the same goat cheese concoction garnished with fresh chives. 

Carrot soup with curry and coconut milk and the cutest little carrot curls.

Then Plum, Radicchio salad with a lemon mustard vinaigrette 
(Is it just me? Every time I use the word vinaigrette I have to google how to spell it? .....sigh.....)

Main course for the evening was good ol' fashioned steak and potatoes.

Flank steak with a spicy Chimichurri sauce and thin slices of red onion.

Steak was served with Roasted potatoes done with cumin, coriander, caraway seeds and cinnamon.

And a little plate of fresh radishes and baby turnips served with more chimichurri sauce.

Finally it is time for dessert!

Lemon meringue Phyllo plates.
These were served with brownie bites (I had a friend attending who demanded something chocolate - I will refrain from naming her here on the world wide web) 
And spiced molasses cookies.

Whew.
Thank YOU to elizabeth d photography for some of the photos above!

Until next time!







Wednesday, September 24, 2014

watermelon gazpacho

One of the appetizers at the August TK dinner event was this Watermelon Gazpacho. I know, You're thinking "appetizer"? But those cups are actually pretty small so these servings are not nearly as large as the photo suggests.
What can I tell you about this? I think this is one of those love it or hate it dishes. I loved it. Totally refreshing and using an 'in-season' fruit that I had grabbed at the Farmers Market the day prior. Also, it's Gazpacho! NO cooking! A bit of chopping and then it all goes into the food processor.
This was Easy. It was filling. I was happy to serve it.

Husband and daughter thought it was weird. What can ya do...



YOU WILL NEED:

Gazpacho -

1 lb seedless watermelon - rind removed - coarsely chopped
1 large tomato -seeds removed - coarsely chopped
1 cucumber - coarsely chopped
1 jalapeno - seeds removed
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoons red wine vinegar
salt
pepper

Crema and assembly -

1/4 cup toasted almonds
1/2 cup Feta cheese - crumbled
1/4 cup sour cream
3 tablespoons milk
1 1/2 cups watermelon - cubed
1 cup cucumber - cubed
olive oil
salt
pepper

TO DO:

Chop that tomato up and let it sit in a colander over a bowl for about a half hour.
You want as much as possible of the liquid to drain out otherwise your soup is going to be super runny (you might be fine with this - I was not)

Puree the watermelon, tomato, cucumber, jalapeno, oil, and vinegar to desired consistency.
Transfer all this to a large bowl.
Taste for seasoning and add salt and pepper as needed.
Cover and refrigerate.
(I made this a day ahead of time and it was perfect)


For the Crema,

Make sure you toast those almonds.
Spread them out on a baking sheet and toast at 350 for about 7 minutes.
Remove and set aside.
Mash the Feta cheese into the sour cream until almost smooth.
Whisk in the milk.
Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

ASSEMBLY -

Divide the cubed watermelon and cucumber into each serving dish.
Pour the Gazpacho over the top of the cubed items.
Drizzle a teaspoon of olive oil.
Divide the Crema over the top of the oil.
Add the toasted almonds.
Sprinkle with a little salt and pepper.
Serve immediately.










Friday, September 19, 2014

chicken with kalamata olives & bacon

I should probably call this post "how to quickly (and relatively inexpensively) feed twenty five people". The last TK dinner was the largest group we've had yet. Bodies everywhere! 
It was awesome. 
I think I've mentioned before having twenty plus people in our house is not a rare occurrence, it's the sit-down dinner part that got a bit tricky. I served the chicken on a bed of orzo pasta in these big family style platters and just let everyone have at it.
Perfect.
So much easier.


YOU WILL NEED:

about 4 pounds of chicken thighs (or swap out some of the thighs for a few breasts if needed)

1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons chopped thyme + few extra sprigs
1 tablespoon chopped rosemary + few extra sprigs
1 teaspoon red chili flakes
10 garlic cloves - peeled
3 slices good peppered bacon
1 cup dry white wine (I used a Pinot Griogio)
2 handfuls kalamata olives (no need to rinse)
salt
pepper

TO DO:


oven to 450

Spray a large rimmed baking sheet with non-stick stuff

Rub all the pieces of chicken with the olive oil.

Lay the pieces - skin side Down -  in a single layer on the rimmed baking sheet.
Generously sprinkle the Thyme, Rosemary, salt, pepper and red pepper flakes all over the chicken.
Flip the pieces over so they are now skin side up.
Repeat the sprinkling process and use up all the herbs and pepper flakes.
Add the herb sprigs around the chicken as well.
Add a few turns of salt and pepper.
Scatter the garlic cloves and bacon pieces all over the chicken.

Into the oven for about 20 minutes.


Carefully pull out the tray and shelf and add the white wine and olives to the tray.


Back into the oven another 15 or 20 minutes.

Check the temperature.

Remove from the oven, cover, let stand 10 - 15 minutes.


Grab some big serving spoons and serve it up! 


Wednesday, August 27, 2014

mint & cumin spiced lamb chops

 This...or These actually...the Lamb Chops.
Wow!

This was our main course for the July TK dinner. These are amazing! 
There does seem to be a lot of ingredients needed to pull the marinade together but actual hands-on time is minimal and the results are phenomenal.
Please try these.


YOU WILL NEED:

MEAT THERMOMETER - now I am not one for lots of kitchen gadgets (where do people put all this craziness anyway?) But I HIGHLY suggest you have a couple of good thermometers in your supply of absolute kitchen essentials. Just spend the money. Take care of them properly. They will make your life so much easier.

1 rack of lamb or 2 smaller racks - about 5 pounds or so
2 medium red onions
1 cup fresh cilantro
1 cup fresh parsley
1 cup fresh mint
1 tablespoon ground cumin
1 tablespoon paprika
2 teaspoons allspice
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper flakes
1 tablespoon olive oil
salt
pepper

TO DO:

In a food processor toss in the onions, herbs, spices and a little salt and pepper.
With machine running slowly drizzle in the olive oil.
Taste and add more salt and pepper if needed.

Rub the spice/herb mixture all over the lamb meat.
Cover the entire tray and stick in the fridge for a few hours.

(or do as I did once - I prepped all the racks of lamb - covered and put in the fridge then went to school - took the tray out when I got home to bring the meat to almost room temperature before throwing on the grill)

Remove the tray of lamb from the fridge and leave on the counter.
Heat your grill to medium high heat.
Remove whatever you had covering the lamb tray.
Cover the tips of the bones with aluminum foil.
(Yes - this is a bit tedious but necessary)
Turn the grill down to medium heat.
Oil your grill grates then grill the racks 3 to 6 minutes each side - depending how raw or well done you like these. I usually do them with the curved side down first.
We like ours at an internal temperature of around 130-135. I usually remove after about 6 minutes on each side.
Cover and let rest a few minutes before slicing.
Lay them on a platter and garnish with thin slices of red onion and fresh cilantro.
Serve and watch them disappear!


Not sure why I love this carcass photo but I do...I think I mentioned in a previous post that I love to see everyone has eaten and enjoyed the food?
Yes that's exactly why I love this carcass photo.....so there ya have it! HaHa
original recipe found in bon appetit magazine - july 2014 issue




Tuesday, August 26, 2014

TK dinner ~ August 2014

This month I was told "you sure aren't very good at telling people No". 
I guess this might be a true statement since we had the biggest dinner yet! We usually have ten to twelve people for these dinners and they can pretty much fit around the dining room table. This month? Twenty! 

Yikes!


Now twenty persons in our house is not an unusual event. But this many people at a sit down dinner gets a little tricky. My servers ran like mad for most of the night. In and out of the kitchen with plates and platters and water jugs and anything else the guests might have asked for.

Madness...

So fun...


We started with a Caprese salad. Classic. Easy.

Heirloom tomatoes are all over the Farmer's Markets right now so grab as many as you can until there are no more. They are gorgeous and delicious and need nothing but some Mozzarella, fresh basil and balsamic vinegar. Maybe some fresh ground pepper as well. Quick and easy.
Next I did pluot crostinis because, again, they are in season and homegrown. Another quick to come together appetizer that I will serve as long as I can. 
These were done with ricotta cheese, sea salt, wildflower honey and mint.
Thank you to elizabeth d. photography for the above photo - is it weird that I love all the hands in action?

Next up was a watermelon gazpacho. Made with tomatoes, cucumbers and jalapeno peppers. Topped with a sour cream and Feta crema, a drizzle of olive oil and some toasted almond slivers.

Several bowls of fresh grapes went out next.
(pic? what pic?)

Then main course.

Individual plates of a nicoise salad.
This salad is a little crazy to assemble and then deliver twenty individual plates out at the same time. But manage they did and happy everyone was.
The above is loaded with a medley of potatoes, haricot verts, radish, green olives, kalamata olives, capers and a hard boiled egg. Finished with a dijon vinagarette and anchovies. 

Next I did the big family style serve thing and sent the main entree out on big platters.
(I highly recommend this technique for future use)
Roasted chicken with kalamata olives, white wine, peppered bacon and loads of garlic cloves. This we served over an orzo pasta done with heirloom tomatoes and chickpeas. 
Almost nothing was left to scrape off the dinner plates when we were cleaning the kitchen.

Finally, dessert.
Homemade HoHo's and mint chocolate ice cream. Yes, you read that correctly.
I was noticing that this year I seemed to be always doing variations of classic treats from my childhood. Figured HoHos were a logical next step? And mint-n-chip ice cream? Yes please!

We finally finished with what I named "The Meringue Mushroom Forest"
Little bites of meringue cookies held together by a dot of orange chocolate ganache, sitting on a swirl of lemon curd. So delicious and So fun to create.

then WHEW! Another dinner on the books. 

THANK YOU to all the attendees! My apologies again that I do not get to sit down and visit with every one of you - but hopefully I will see you somewhere soon.

And as usual, I will TRY to get all these recipes posted to share with all of you - as soon as I can.
Until then, invite twenty people over and have a party!

:-)













Wednesday, August 13, 2014

caramel sauce

In the photo above, there are several jars of Pear jam which I will get too shortly. But that jar on the bottom left? BEST Caramel Sauce EVER. My favorite recipe to use. The one I always have in the refrigerator. The sauce that is served with apples, and pears, and cookies, and cakes, and sometimes enjoyed with a spoon, secretly, when no-one is looking (not so much of a secret anymore is it?) 
What else can I tell you about this? I feel caramel sauce - as is the case with many other things but especially my favorite caramel sauce - is a matter of practice, and may take a couple of attempts. As you are cooking it, it will seem like it's taking forever. Then all of a sudden you start seeing that gorgeous amber color and you're all excited. Then within the next nano-second you smell it burning. And then it's a mad dash to get the heavy cream (carefully) in there and calm things down. But then that cream bubbles up like a creature out of Star Trek and you're wondering why you didn't just purchase the cute little jar at the grocery with the gingham checked lid.
Does it still smell like it's burning? You probably burnt it. And the family is going to ask "why does it taste like it's burnt?" And then they may refuse to eat it. And then you're going to toss the entire thing in the trash. And then a few days later you're going to try again and it's going to be perfect. Moral to this little peek into my first few attempts? Practice. It is completely worth the effort and expense to make your own caramel sauce. There will be no turning back after you do this. And the fresh vanilla beans that will require an entire week's paycheck? Just do it.

Here's how.

YOU WILL NEED:

2 cups of sugar
1/2 cup water
1 vanilla bean - split - seeds scraped 
1 cup of heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon good salt - preferably fleur de sel

TO DO:

Sugar into a large saucepan - pour the water around it.
Add the vanilla bean and seeds and cook over medium high heat.
Stir only until the sugar is dissolved.
Continue to cook without stirring until you get a deep amber color.
Should only be 7 to 8 minutes.
Swirl the pan occasionally to even out the color (cooking).

Remove from the heat and add the heavy cream.
Let the bubbling calm down.
It might look like one big glob of weirdness at this point.
It's okay.

Return to the stove and cook over medium heat stirring constantly.
That big glob will go away.
Cook until smooth.

Remove from heat.
Discard the vanilla bean.
Stir in the fleur de sel.

Let cool.

Sneak as many tastes as you can before anyone gets home.
OR...serve over this pear cake
Here's a link to the cake above (click here for Gateau de Poire)

note:
there is a post-it in my recipe binder that says this caramel sauce was found in an old issue of Epicurious magazine...okay...good luck if you go searching for it :-)


Monday, August 4, 2014

red onion flowers

These are GORGEOUS.
One of those dishes that makes you stop for a moment when you are reviewing your photos.
And taste? Delicious! Just as good as it looks. Super easy to create and quite the show-stopper when you bring it to the table.

recipe found in a special edition of Epicurious magazine.
plate by rae dunn clay

YOU WILL NEED:

6 medium red onions.
6 tablespoons of Olive Oil.
Fresh Rosemary and Thyme stems.
Salt.
Pepper.

TO DO:

oven to 350.
Make 4 cuts through the top of the onion leaving the base intact (as best you can) Creating 8 wedges.
I also left most the skin on. It was easier to remove these little pieces after I sliced the onion.
Place all the sliced onions onto your baking tray.
Pour 1 tablespoon of olive oil into the center of each onion.
Add a few turns of salt and pepper over each onion.
Insert herb sprigs into each onion - careful you don't break the root ends here.
Add extra herb sprigs around the onions.

Into the oven for 30 minutes.
At this point carefully slide the tray out and press open the leaves to create your flowers - again being careful to not snap the root base.
Scoop some of the juices from the baking tray and spoon onto the tops and centers of the onions.
Back into the oven for another 30 minutes or so.
Until the outer petals are dark and crispy (these are the BEST pieces)

Remove.
Sprinkle with a few more turns of salt and pepper.
Serve hot or at room temperature.










Friday, August 1, 2014

gateau de Poire

It's that time of year again. Pears! Four cases of these beauties! (yikes)
Actually it feels a touch early to me this year. I thought I usually started this madness in late August - but maybe I am just not remembering correctly. 
The whole 'Pear, Peach, whatever fruit' episodes come about because I have a friend, who has a mother, who works at a job where she gets tons of stone fruit. Every year we are the lucky recipients of whatever she is able to throw our way. Right now it's all about pears and I have been in a frenzy in the kitchen trying to use them up. I've decided to avoid canning this year 
(i know...dumb...) 
(And especially dumb since we all know I will eventually be canning!)
But right now it's been all about cakes and jams.
Here's the favorite so far.

Gateau de Poire - Pear Cake.
I love this cake. 
Maybe because it's not too sweet? Maybe because of that to-die-for that crispy outside edge? Maybe because it's actually pretty quick to make and requires no fancy shmancy ingredients? Or maybe because the fruit choices are somewhat interchangeable depending on what is flooding my kitchen? Whatever it is, I hope you try this one. 
And grab your springform pan.

YOU WILL NEED:

12 tablespoons butter - divided.
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour.
6 firm pears.
1 cup + 2 tablespoons of sugar.
1 tsp baking powder.
1/2 teaspoon salt.
1 lemon - zest and juice.
3 large eggs.

TO DO:


Peel, core and chop 4 of the pears. I like big chunks.
In your stand mixer - place the flour, baking powder, salt and 1 cup of the sugar.
Zest the lemon into this mixture and give it a light stir.
Set aside.

In a large skillet melt 2 tablespoons of the butter.
To this pan add the chopped pears + juice from half of the lemon + the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar.
Medium to medium high heat.
Give it all a good stir and cook about 15 minutes - until the pears have softened but are still firm and until there is almost no liquid left in the pan.
Stir frequently to make sure the guys on the bottom don't get too crispy.

While the pears are cooking, melt the remaining 10 tablespoons of butter and let cool slightly.
Prep your spring form pan. Either butter and flour the inside really well - or use a nonstick spray.
Oven to 350 - middle rack.
Peel and slice the remaining 2 pears.
You need these to make the top all pretty (this is also totally optional)
I only wanted the pieces that were about the same length and pretty for decorating. The pieces from the sides that are too small, I chopped these in half and threw them in with the pears on the stove (no waste)
Use the last half of your lemon over the tops of these pears and give them all a rub - just make sure they are all coated with lemon juice. This helps to keep the fruit from turning yellow/brown ick.
Set aside.

Back to the stand mixer - give all that stuff a good mix. 
Add the eggs. 
Mix well.
Add the melted butter.
Mix just until most is incorporated.
There may be a little butter floating around the edge and that is fine.
Finish mixing the batter by hand.

Time to assemble the cake!
Scoop the cooked pears into your prepared pan.
Pour the batter over the top.
Level it out as best you can.
Arrange your pear slices all around the top.
Skinniest parts of the sliced pears need to be in the center.
Wide part of the pears on the outside edge.
Into the oven this goes for 35 minutes.
Check the center with a toothpick - a little crumb sticking to the toothpick is a good thing.

Remove and let cool for a couple hours IN the springform pan.

Serve with salted caramel sauce (recipe up soon)
Enjoy!





Friday, July 25, 2014

figs & prosciutto

This combination of figs and Prosciutto might be one of my favorite summer bites.
Quick to come together and easy to serve.  Every chef and cook I know is making some variation of this at this time of year. The only difficulty I usually have, is grabbing them at the Farmer's Market in the short window of time they are available. This summer it seemed they were only around for a couple of weeks - and only being sold by a few farmers. 
I, of course, scooped up whatever I could get my hands on and served them every chance I had. 

This appetizer started our most recent TK dinner.
I did some with Goat cheese and some with Parmesan cheese. I like both although usually I prefer the hard cheese. These were pan fried in the one non-stick pan I own (was just easier) Then finished with a drizzle of wildflower honey, fresh pepper and thyme.
Easy.
Delicious.

YOU WILL NEED:

Figs
Prosciutto
Goat cheese or Parmesan cheese
Honey
Fresh thyme
Pepper

TO DO:

Slice all the figs in half lengthwise.
Slice all your prosciutto so you have long thin pieces.
Pick your cheese then put a small piece right in the center of each fig.
Wrap each fig/cheese segment with Prosciutto.

Pan to medium/medium high heat.
Place several bites in the hot pan with the seam side down.
Doing this side first helps to keep the fig wrapped and everything looking pretty.
Cook just until the prosciutto is crisp. 
Then flip and cook the other side.
Remove to a plate lined with a paper towel.

When ready to serve, arrange as many pieces as you can onto your serving platter.
Drizzle with a scant amount of honey.
Add pepper then finish with the thyme leaves.

Enjoy.

The following photo I am adding because these were the tiniest, cutest figs I've ever seen! Probably about the size of cippolini onions. So cute!






Wednesday, July 23, 2014

TK dinner ~ July 2014

A while back I was told "you live a magic life". I can't remember who said this to me but I didn't really give it much thought beyond my reply of Thank You. Then this past weekend we had the monthly dinner and this photo was taken.































I have named this the Clown Car photo since it looks like "how many people can we cram into that itty bitty kitchen?!" And I love this moment. I can't tell you what was said, or what might have been so funny, but this was one moment during the dinner service where we all decided we needed to stop for two seconds and finish our laughter. Perfect. There have definitely been many moments in my life that I would wholeheartedly title "magic" - the above is one of them.
So, on to what we were all doing in the kitchen to begin with! 
July dinner was a larger group than normal with the usual amount of kitchen incidents and shenanigans.  (always shenanigans - see above photo)
We started the evening with little fig, prosciutto bites - some of these were stuffed with goat cheese and some had a little square of parmesan cheese. Finish with fresh thyme and a drizzle of wildflower honey.

Next were these little pluot crostini bites with ricotta cheese and basil. Nice and easy. Quick and simple.
We then served some fresh fruit before starting entree.
Main course for this meal were lamb chops served on a bed of greens. The greens were sauteed with onions, garlic and bacon. The lamb chops were seasoned with cumin, allspice and a lot of mint. DELICIOUS.
Confession time here - during the Sunday dinner I completely massacred one of the racks of lamb and of course THAT plate was served to the one person who photographed and posted to Facebook ( I cannot apologize enough to Greg for serving him such an ugly dish) The above photo is from the Thank you dinner I served last night to part of my kitchen staff. I guess it's sort of a redemption photo? Believe me, if you saw the original pic you would understand.
Anyway, the lamb chops were finished with pepper, sliced onions and cilantro.
With the lamb we served some roasted fingerling potatoes spiced with paprika.
We also had the most amazing looking red onion flowers.
These were gorgeous! And delicious. And super easy.

Finally dessert.
What can I say here? Have you ever made Piroulines?
I told everyone to enjoy these because they will most likely never see them in my kitchen again. Holy Hell! An entire day dedicated to rolling these little creatures. They were originally being served with chocolate mousse so I opted to not fill them - thought it might be too much richness. But, my stand mixer seems to be having some issues therefore chocolate mousse did not make an appearance. We had brownies instead.
Served the above brownie tart with raspberry coulis, some fresh berries and a semi-sweet chocolate sauce.
I did actually serve the Piroulines alongside the above. And they got rave reviews. And I sincerely hope everyone enjoyed them and knows where they might find them in their local grocery.

I mentioned above I had a little thank you dinner for part of my kitchen staff.
Here are a couple photos from last night. They totally deserved this. This is an awesome group of friends who tolerate me a great deal.
And the carcass.
I really love the carcass photo - it makes me happy to see people loved the meal.
I even made them the official dessert - sans Piroulines.

Whew!
Now on to the next project right?

I know I say this every time - but I will get many of these recipes posted to share with all of you soon.

Tremendous Thank Yous to all the people who have been attending these dinners. It's sort of frightening and hugely humbling all at the same time. The response to these invitations blows my mind every time I send it out. Thank you.
And my absolute FAVORITE part? Standing in the kitchen and listening to all the chatter and tons of laughter floating in from the dining room. That part is magic.