Monday, March 30, 2009

Meyer Lemon Lemonade

Nothing says summer like lemonade so why am I writing about it in March? Hate to inform any of my East Coast or Midwest readers but California has been hot lately and yesterday we dusted off the BBQ and pulled the cover off the pool. Personally, I have NO problem starting my summer early this year. I just need to remind myself to wear sunblock. This sunburn is brutal but worth it.

My mom and Mike have 2 Meyer Lemon trees in our yard and when we arrived I noticed the entire thing was loaded with ripe fruit. I grabbed a basket and plucked them one-by-one off the limp branches. First thing that came to mind on that abnormally hot day was to whip up some lemonade. I searched around for a recipe and played around with it a little. The 1/3 cup of sugar didn't sweeten it enough but I didn't want to add more sugar so I added 2 Splenda packets. I also crushed some mint in the glass which added a nice touch.

Meyer Lemon Lemonade

16 lemons, enough to make 2 cups of lemon juice
2 cups water
1/3 cup sugar, or to taste
2 packets Splenda (optional)
1 bunch mint

1. Juice the lemons and combine with water.

2. Add sugar and stir well.

3. Chill well and serve over ice.

If you like, top with sparkling water, or crush a few sprigs of mint and steep them in the lemonade as it chills.


Saturday, March 28, 2009

Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Spicy Mayo

We all know that Everything is Better with Bacon, especially when we're talking about scallops.  I love scallops but they are often overcooked.  These guys are best when seared or broiled otherwise the texture goes from silk to rubber.  This picture is dying for a garnish so mince up some chives to add some color to the plate.  

Bacon Wrapped Scallops with Spicy Mayo
1 1/2 pound large scallops
1/2 pound thin-sliced bacon
Extra-virgin olive oil
Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/4 cup hot chili paste (recommended: Sriracha Hot Chili Paste)
1 lime, juiced
2 tablespoons chopped cilantro, plus more for garnish
2 heads Bibb lettuce, washed
3 avocados, sliced
Heat the broiler. Wrap each scallop in a piece of bacon and secure it with a toothpick. Place the bacon wrapped scallops onto a baking sheet, drizzle them with olive oil, and season them with salt and pepper. Cook them under the broiler for about 10 to 15 minutes until the bacon is cooked through, turning once.

Make the spicy mayo by combining the mayonnaise, chili paste, lime juice, and chopped cilantro. Stir well and refrigerate until ready to use.

To serve, carefully peel away the lettuce leaves and line a large platter with the lettuce cups. Top each with a bacon wrapped shrimp, 2 slices of avocado, and a spoonful of spicy mayonnaise. Garnish with cilantro leaves.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Casserole Queens' Chicken Pot Pie

Did anyone else catch the Chicken Pot Pie Throwdown on Food Network last night? If you live in Austin, Texas you MUST call the Casserole Queens'. Now, I am not a casserole kinda gal but you cannot resist these two bubbly friends that bake and deliver goodies dressed up in 50's duds. They were adorable and you could tell that they love their job, their communities and their friendship. Watching this episode made me crave this comfort food so I'm going to whip it up for my sister and boyfriend tomorrow night. They use puff pastry for the crust which gives it a nice buttery, flaky texture.

P.S. I made this and it was great BUT you need to add way more flour. I would add 1/4 cup of flour and go from there. Sauce was way too thin.

Casserole Queens Chicken Pot Pie
  • 1 sheet frozen puff pastry
  • 2 tablespoons butter
  • 1 roasted chicken, shredded
  • 1/4 cup chopped red sweet pepper
  • 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  • 5 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried tarragon, crushed
  • 1/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 2 cups milk
  • 1 cup heavy cream
  • 1/3 cup dry white wine
  • 1 1/2 cups peas, blanched
  • 1 1/2 cups carrots, blanched
  • 2 potatoes, peeled, diced, and boiled
  • 1 egg plus 1 tablespoon milk, for egg wash

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt butter over medium-high heat. Add chicken, sweet pepper, and shallots and cook 5 minutes, stirring frequently. Stir in flour, salt, tarragon, and black pepper. Add milk and cream all at once. Cook and stir until thickened and bubbly. Stir in wine, peas, carrots and potatoes; heat thoroughly. Transfer the hot chicken mixture to a 1 1/2-quart casserole. Place pastry over the hot chicken mixture in casserole dish. Brush puff pastry with egg wash then cut slits in the pastry to allow steam to escape. Bake in the preheated oven for 30 to 45 minutes.

This recipe was provided by professional chefs and has been scaled down from a bulk recipe provided by a restaurant. The Food Network Kitchens chefs have not tested this recipe, in the proportions indicated, and therefore, we cannot make any representation as to the results.


Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Grilled Halibut with Smashed Fingerlings and Tomato Butter

Tomato butter? I mean, that's genius. Tomatoes are my boyfriend's favorite things on the planet so kudos to Caroline Styne, co-owner of the tasty eatery AOC, for giving me the great idea. We all know that I am not a fish person and I know that this slimy creature is my biggest culinary hurdle but I can appreciate a great dish when I see one. As far as prep goes, this is an easy one. The fresh herbs make it so definitely do not used dried.

Grilled Halibut with Smashed Fingerlings and Tomato Butter

  1. 1/2 cup chopped parsley
  2. 1/4 cup chopped tarragon, plus 1/4 cup whole leaves
  3. Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
  4. Four 6- to 7-ounce skinless halibut fillets
  5. 2 pounds fingerling potatoes
  6. Salt
  7. 1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
  8. 4 garlic cloves, thinly sliced
  9. 2 medium shallots, thinly sliced
  10. Freshly ground pepper
  11. 6 tablespoons unsalted butter
  12. 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  1. In a medium bowl, toss the parsley with the chopped tarragon and lemon zest. Rub the herbs all over the halibut; cover and refrigerate for 2 hours.
  2. In a large saucepan, cover the potatoes with water and bring to a boil. Salt generously and simmer over moderately high heat until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Light a grill. In a large nonstick skillet, heat the 1/4 cup of olive oil. Add the garlic and shallots and cook over moderately high heat until golden, about 2 minutes. Add the potatoes and cook over low heat, smashing them gently with a spatula, until they start to break apart. Continue cooking, stirring a few times, until the potatoes are browned and crisp, about 5 minutes total. Season with salt and pepper.
  4. In a medium skillet, melt the butter. Add the whole tarragon leaves and cook over moderate heat until the tarragon is fragrant, about 2 minutes. Add the tomatoes and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the tomatoes burst and the butter is browned, about 7 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  5. Drizzle the halibut with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill the fillets over moderately high heat until nicely charred and just cooked, about 3 minutes per side. Transfer the fish to plates and spoon the tomato butter on top. Serve immediately with the smashed potatoes.


Monday, March 16, 2009

Quiche Brunch with Green Salad and Roasted Potatoes

I wanted to host a fuss-free brunch so the first dish that came to mind was quiche. I haven't made a quiche since college so when I went online to refresh my memory on recipe ideas, I was shocked that there were no silver bullet. Some recipes partially baked the crust while others didn't. The ratio of egg to cream (or milk in some cases) was all over the map. I panicked and wondered how this go-to recipe became so difficult over the last 10 years? Then, I had a brilliant thought: Julia Child. Of course she would know what to do!

I flipped through my first edition of Mastering the Art of French Cooking and found a Quiche Lorraine recipe and decided to use that and then tweak the recipe to do a vegetarian option with asparagus. Of course the dish turned out perfectly but it did take longer than noted. My quiches baked for 50 minutes until they were golden and puffed. I used frozen pie crusts and partially baked them for 12 minutes at 375 degrees before I poured in the filling. Setting is key so make sure you wait 10-15 minutes before slicing and serving. These are quite rich so one slice per guest was plenty.

Quiche Lorraine
8 slices of bacon (thick cut), cooked and coarsely chopped
3 eggs (or 2 eggs and 2 egg yolks)
1 1/2-2 cups whipping cream or milk (or 1 1/2-2 cups half cream and half milk)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 pinch pepper
1 pinch nutmeg
1/2-1 cup grated swiss cheese
1-2 tablespoon butter, cut into pea-sized dots
8 inches pastry shells, partly cooked


To partly bake the pastry shell:
Prick thawed crust with fork. Bake in middle of oven at 375 degrees F. for 9-11 minutes.

For filling:.
Cook bacon on medium heat and coarsley chop.
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Place oven rack in upper third of oven.
Beat together eggs, cream, salt, nutmeg and pepper.
Stir in cheese and bacon. Check seasoning.
Pour into pastry shell and distribute butter pieces on top. Place on baking sheet.
Bake 25-30 minutes or til puffed and browned.
Slide quiche onto a hot platter and serve.


Build Your Own Bloody Mary Brunch

People are passionate about their Bloody Mary's. Just ask my best friend, Carrie, who likes to use a pickle spear instead of celery and adds olive juice to her mix. Me? I like mine spicy and I mean really spicy. So how do you make everyone happy? Have them make it themselves.

I threw a Build Your Own Bloody Mary brunch and it was a huge hit. Forget the food, these cocktails are a recipe on their own. It took one friend 10 minutes to make theirs. He put lemon juice around the edge of the glass and rolled the rim in celery salt. Next, he smashed up olives and hot peppers over the ice on the bottom before adding any liquid. It was quite fascinating, really. My guests really took their Bloody seriously and that made it even more fun.

If you're ever in Chicago make sure to hit up Stanley's on the border of Old Town and Lincoln Park. They have a DIY Bloody bar on the weekends and they have the best fried chicken on the planet. Oh yeah, karaoke night is not to be missed. Midwest celebrities like Eddie Vedder and Kid Rock like to break it down for locals.


Friday, March 13, 2009

Seared Salmon with Linguine and Ramp Pesto

Spring's bounty is almost here which means ramps! Well, not just ramps but they are one of my favorites. Soon, your farmer's market and grocery stores will have fresh asparagus, peas, artichokes and more. Spring is such a great time of year to put on that apron and cook 'till you drop.

Ramps are wild leeks and can replace onions and garlic in most culinary cases. This spin on pesto from the recent edition of Bon Appetit looks like a great weeknight dish to make at home.

Seared Salmon with Linguine and Ramp Pesto
  • 2 tablespoons plus 1/2 cup olive oil, divided
  • 2/3 cup thinly sliced trimmed ramp bulbs and slender stems plus 3 cups thinly sliced green tops (from about 8 ounces ramps)
  • 1 cup freshly grated Asiago cheese*
  • 1/3 cup Marcona almonds
  • 2 tablespoons chopped fresh tarragon
  • 12 oz linguine
  • 6 6-ounce salmon fillets
  • *Available at some supermarkets and at specialty foods stores and Italian markets.
  • Heat 1 tablespoon oil in large nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add 2/3 cup ramp bulbs and stems to skillet and sauté just until soft but not browned, reducing heat if necessary to prevent browning, about 5 minutes. Transfer sautéed ramps to processor (do not clean skillet). Add green tops, cheese, almonds, and tarragon to processor; process until finely chopped. With machine running, gradually add 1/2 cup oil and puree until almost smooth. Transfer pesto to bowl. Season to taste with salt and pepper. DO AHEAD Can be made 1 day ahead; cover and chill.
  • Cook pasta in large pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally.
  • Meanwhile, heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in same large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle salmon with salt and pepper. Add salmon to skillet and cook just until opaque in center, about 4 minutes per side.
  • Drain pasta, reserving 3/4 cup pasta cooking liquid. Return pasta to pot; add all but 1/4 cup pesto and toss to coat, adding enough pasta cooking liquid by tablespoonfuls to moisten. Season with salt and pepper. Divide pasta among plates. Top with salmon. Spread remaining 1/4 cup pesto over fish and serve.


Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Iceberg Wedge with Warm Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing

Sorry for the delay Dear Reader, I had a last minute jaunt to Chicago to satisfy my Big Bowl peanut sauce craving!

If I see a wedge salad on a menu, I usually order it. I love the crunch of the Iceberg lettuce, the creaminess of the dressing and the saltiness of the bacon. My uncle once told me that he ordered this salad at a restaurant in Las Vegas and they drizzled maple syrup on top as well. That would definitely be worth trying. I dip my breakfast bacon in syrup anyway so it's not so far fetched.

If you don't want to make your own dressing (which I would recommend) I love Marie's blue cheese dressing that you can buy at the grocery store. I usually find it by the produce and not in the isles. Grab a jar on your next visit.

Iceberg Wedge with Warm Bacon and Blue Cheese Dressing
  • 1 1/2 cups mayonnaise
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • 1 tablespoon coarsely ground black pepper
  • 1 teaspoon hot pepper sauce
  • 1 cup coarsely crumbled blue cheese
  • Buttermilk (optional)

  • 1/2 pound thick-cut bacon, cut crosswise into 1-inch pieces
  • 1 large head of iceberg lettuce, cut into 6 wedges, each with some core attached
  • 1/2 red onion, very thinly sliced

Mix first 4 ingredients in medium bowl. Add blue cheese and stir until well blended. If too thick, thin with buttermilk by tablespoonfuls to desired consistency. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover and chill.)

Cook bacon in large skillet over medium heat until golden brown and beginning to crisp. Arrange lettuce on plates. Spoon dressing over. Using slotted spoon, transfer warm bacon from skillet onto salads, dividing equally. Garnish with red onion.


Sunday, March 1, 2009

refind. underground. dining.

The new dining destination of San Francisco. See what the hype is here.