Monday, February 28, 2011

Tortellini Gratinata with Mushrooms and Parsnip "Bechamel"

Bon Appetit provided the inspiration for dinner again tonight. Cooked parsnips were pureed in a food processor with some milk until smooth. More milk was added along with Parmesan cheese and blended again until smooth. The sauce went back in a saucepan and cooked until reduced and seasoned with salt and pepper.

Baby portobellos were sauteed with garlic and rosemary until browned and tender. Meanwhile some cheese tortellini were cooked and once done were added to the cooked mushrooms. This mixture then went into a buttered casserole dish and topped with the "bechamel" sauce and sprinkled with small pieces of a creamy Gorgonzola dolce cheese and a little Parmesan.

The casserole went into the oven to bake until bubbly and beginning to brown on top.

This pasta casserole was creamy, meaty with the mushrooms and cheesy. It was absolutely wonderful.

I'm looking forward to having this one again.

Sunday, February 27, 2011

Spiced Lamb Chops with Pickled Red Onions

Tonight's dinner was from my March issue of Bon Appetit. The lamb rib chops were marinated in a mixture of toasted whole cloves, small dried chile peppers, fennel seeds, cumin seeds and whole black peppercorns. Once the toasted spices were cooled they went in to a spice grinder. The spices were combined with yogurt and finely grated ginger and coated on the lamb chops to marinate for 30 minutes. They then went under the broiler to cook. These were served with Pickled Red Onions.

I started the onions by blanching a thinly sliced red onion in boiling water for 30 seconds and cooling under running cold water. They then went into a pickling mixture of hot water, white vinegar, sugar, salt, serrano peppers and crushed red pepper and allowed to marinate for 8 hours. I only had 4 hours of marinating and they were still delicious.

I rounded out the plate with some of the leftover mashed potatoes from last night.

A very nice Sunday night dinner.

Return of Dinner Club

We recently decided to start up our Dinner Club once again. We did this a couple of years ago trying to do one every other week. We picked a cookbook and planned a 3-course dinner, getting together and dividing up the cooking. Life got busy and it kind of fell by the wayside. It's back and we will aim for once a month.

We kicked it off with a recent Barefoot Contessa episode - Old School Retro Fit. The menu was Smoked Salmon Deviled Eggs, 1770 House Meatloaf, Classic Mashed Potatoes, and Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake.

The Deviled Eggs were the classic with the addition of finely minced smoked salmon and a garnish of chives.

The Meatloaf was a mixture of ground veal, ground pork and ground beef. It had the usual additions to make a meatloaf and was served with a chicken stock based gravy which also had roasted garlic added to it.

The mashed potatoes were made with whole milk, butter, salt and pepper, and finally sour cream. Yum!

We rounded out the meal with Mocha Chocolate Icebox Cake. This cake started with a layer of chocolate chip cookies in a spring form pan. These were topped with a layer of mocha whipped cream. Another layer of cookies, another layer of whipped cream and so on until the pan was full, ending with a layer of whipped cream. The cake sat covered, in the refrigerator overnight. Once out of the mold, the cake got a sprinkling of shaved chocolate.

The eggs were very good, the meatloaf got mixed reviews, several people missed the ketchup topping. I loved the meatloaf! The mashed potatoes were fabulous! The dessert is definitely a keeper!

Monday, February 21, 2011

Huevos Rancheros

Tonight was based on watching another taped cooking show; $10 Dinners with Melissa d'Arabian. I watched a recent brunch menu and decided that would work for Monday night. It started by cutting down a flour tortilla to fit in a muffin tin to make a tortilla cup. Some salsa was mixed with black beans and seasoned with salt & pepper. Some of the bean/salsa mixture went in the tortilla cups and they were topped with an egg. They went in a hot oven and baked until barely set, then they were topped with shredded pepper jack cheese and baked until done. Once out of the muffin tins, they got a garnish of more salsa and sour cream.

We had this with Melissa's Brunch Cornbread which is now my favorite cornbread recipe. It is a very light cornbread made with 1 cup flour and 3/4 cup cornmeal along with all the other typical ingredients. It makes a very light cornbread. We had the cornbread with Maple Lime Butter and that too was delicious!

Sunday's Pork Tenderloin

I watched a taped episode of Secrets of a Restaurant Chef and decided it sounded great for Sunday dinner. We started with dates that were stuffed with a piece of Manchego cheese, and wrapped with bacon. They went into a hot oven for about 12 minutes, being turned halfway through and then brushed with Maple Syrup and back in the oven for another 3 minutes. It was a wonderful combination.

The entree was Cumin and Ginger Rubbed Pork Tenderloin. The tenderloin was seasoned with salt and pepper and then rubbed with a mixture of toasted cumin seeds and crushed red pepper processed in a spice grinder. The powdered spices were combined with finely chopped garlic and ginger. The rub was allowed to sit on the tenderloin for a couple of hours. The pork was seared in a skillet and then finished in a hot oven.

The sides were garlic mashed potatoes and a Broccoli and Tomato Stew. The stew was interesting, with both broccoli florets and sliced stems (coins) cooked in a tomato based sauce, seasoned with cooked onions, garlic, ginger and crushed red pepper. It was okay, but we probably won't be making that one again.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Valentine's Day

Since Valentine's day fell on a Meatless Monday, I decided to stick with the plan and go meatless. We had an Eggplant Gratin with Lemon Escarole Salad. It was from my Cuisine for Two cookbook and usually we love everything from this book. This was okay - we both finished it, but it will definitely not be one that we will make again.

The dinner started by slicing an eggplant into 1/2" thick rounds and brushing the slices with olive oil and seasoning with salt and pepper. The seasoned slices went under the broiler along with some sliced shallots that were also oiled and seasoned. The cooked eggplant was layered along with a mixture of ricotta cheese, skim milk, Parmesan cheese and tomato paste that was pureed in the food processor. The layered casserole was topped with more Parmesan and popped in a 400 degree over for about 25 minutes until the cheese was browned.

The side dish to this was chopped escarole, sprinkled with salt, drizzled with fresh lemon juice and olive oil and garnished with shavings of Parmesan.

The texture of the gratin was a little strange and the salad was a little too tart.

Hopefully, next year's valentine menu will work out better!

Sunday Super Bowl Challenge Dinner

Val and Gerry had bet on the Super Bowl with Gerry being a long-time Steelers fan and Val a long-time Packers fan. The bet was which ever team won, the other person had to cook a requested dinner in the winning team's gear. Since the Packers pulled off the win, Gerry got to cook Val's requested dinner in her Green Bay jersey.

Val picked Samosas (which I made). Little half-moons of potato and pea filled pastry - what a way to kick off a dinner. We then had Indonesian Grilled Swordfish steaks, which were marinated for 8 hours before being grilled to perfection. We had grilled sweet onions, zucchini, yellow squash, green beans and flatbreads. Everything was grilled perfectly and delicious.

Val's pick for dessert was (wait for it) - Cheesecake. This was Gerry's first cheesecake and it was perfectly respectable.

It was a great afternoon and after all, a bet is a bet.

Saturday Night Out

Having house showings on the weekends can be a problem in a day filled with house cleaning and errands and appointments. We spent the morning cleaning for an afternoon showing. I then had a hair appointment, shoe shopping, a tailor appointment and rounded out the day with a massage. All of this made it practical to simply go out for dinner. Gerry and I decided our favorite local Indian restaurant fit the bill perfectly.

We went to the Curry Pot and started with Paneer Pakora for an appetizer. I love paneer and this was coated with chick pea flour before being cooked. It was very good, but I love the samosas, so I will definitely order that again next time we go. I ordered my usual Chicken Tikka Masala with medium spice which is always perfect. Gerry had the Madras Curry with Lamb and requested it very spicy. He loved it and had sweat beads forming on his forehead before he was halfway through his dinner.

A very great meal as always!

Monday, February 14, 2011

Crispy Chicken Thighs

Gerry's choice for Friday night was Crispy Chicken Thighs with Golden Raisin Compote. He started with the compote by melting some butter in a skillet and cooking some diced butternut squash for 3 minutes. A diced shallot went in next and cooked for a minute. Next some diced Granny Smith apple went in along with some cinnamon and cayenne and cooked for a minute. Lastly raisins, white wine, honey, and chopped fresh thyme were added and allowed to cook down. The final touch was seasoning with salt and pepper.

Some bone-in, skin-on chicken thighs got a nice browning in an oven proof skillet on the skin side until the skin was crisp. The chicken was turned over and finished in the oven to roast through.

Gerry also made a side dish for Farro salad using a Giada recipe. Farro is one of those ancient grains we had not tried before and it was delicious.

The entire meal was fabulous!

Thursday's Broccoli Cheese Soup

This soup started with the typical saute of onion, carrot and celery in butter. Once softened, flour was added and cooked for a little before the chicken stock was added and simmered for a few minutes. Some shredded American cheese went in next and was stirred until melted. Lots of freshly blanched broccoli joined the party and everything got seasoned with a little cayenne pepper and salt. This was a pretty soup, golden in color with the specks of orange carrots, green celery and bright green broccoli. It tasted as great as it looked.

Our side dish was an apple and walnut salad. The vinaigrette was made first by combining white wine vinegar, olive oil, chopped fresh chives, sugar, salt and cayenne pepper and then some heavy cream was whisked in. The salad was radicchio, slices of a Granny Smith apple and sugared walnuts all tossed with some of the vinaigrette.

Both dishes worked really well together!

Roast PorK Tenderloin with Potatoes and Fennel

Wednesday night's dinner started by searing a pork tenderloin in a skillet on all sides. Some quartered potatoes, sliced red onion and sliced fennel were added to the skillet around the meat. A bit of olive oil was combined with some fresh lemon juice, minced rosemary, garlic, fennel seeds and salt and pepper. This was brushed over the pork and vegetables. The entire skillet went into the oven for about 40 minutes until the pork was done. The flavor of the sliced fennel and the fennel seeds was really good.

This was quite simple to prepare and full of flavor.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Greek Chicken Roulades

Tonight's recipe came from my Cuisine Light cookbook and was delicious. A boneless, skinless chicken breast half was pounded to 1/4 inch thickness. Some kalamata olives, breadcrumbs, sun-dried tomatoes, lemon zest, garlic and oregano were processed to a spread in the food processor. The flattened chicken breast halves were spread with the olive mixture, rolled up and secured with toothpicks. The roulades were sauteed until browned and then removed from the skillet. Chopped onions were sauteed in the same pan before the pan was deglazed with white wine and reduced. Chicken broth was then added and once boiling, diced olives went in along with the browned chicken roulades. The skillet was covered, heat reduced and simmered for about 10 minutes. The chicken came out and a mixture of fresh lemon juice mixed with cornstarch was stirred in and simmered for a minute to thicken.

The side dish was Creamy Orzo with feta and sun-dried tomatoes. The orzo was cooked in some chicken broth and when done, minced sun-dried tomatoes and feta cheese were stirred in.

The two dishes really complemented each other.


Monday, February 7, 2011

Cuban Black Beans and Rice

Tonight's dinner was a combination of drained, canned organic black beans mixed with sauteed onions, red pepper, green pepper, and garlic. Once the veggies were sauteed a can of tomatoes was added along with vinegar, ground cumin, ground coriander, oregano and hot pepper sauce and all was allowed to simmer together. This wonderful spicy mixture was served over some perfectly cooked basmati rice. It was perfect with an additional sprinkling of hot sauce. This is an old Weight Watchers recipe that I go back to periodically because it's quick, inexpensive and very flavorful!!! It's a perfect meal for a Meatless Monday entree.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

Change of Pace with Top Chef

As I have mentioned several times I love to watch cooking shows and I enjoy watching Top Chef. This season is Top Chef All Stars which has chefs from previous seasons that did not win. I decided to make dinner from a winning recipe I had recently seen on the show. It was Richard Blais' Chicken Fried Codfish with Brussel Kraut and Ginger Beer.

I prepped the fish by setting up a traditional breading station, dredging the fish fillets first in seasoned flour, dipping them in beaten eggs with hot sauce, and finally in panko breadcrumbs with chopped parsley.

I made the Ginger Beer Sauce by reducing some ginger beer, chopped ginger, honey, soy sauce, veal glaze, and 2 dried hot peppers. The sauce was strained before serving.

I made the brussel kraut by sauteing some diced bacon with diced potato and diced ginger until softened. I added some shredded brussels sprouts and allowed them to soften slightly. This mixture was finished with some chopped tomatoes, parsley, dill, lime zest, fresh lime juice and salt and pepper.

The breaded fish fillets were pan fried until golden on both sides.

The brussel kraut mixture went on the the middle of the plate, topped with the fish fillet, surrounded by the sauce and garnished with some blanched brussels sprout leaves.

This was a superb dinner and Gerry and I agree on this rating:

The show picks a top recipe every week, so I am looking forward to trying many more of these winning recipes.

4 Consecutive Bad Weather Days in Texas???

We were expecting a dusting to possibly an inch of snow for Friday morning and woke up to a good 5 inches of snow on the ground and it was still snowing. We live in North Texas not the Northeast of our country, but it was really hard to see the difference Friday morning.

For dinner we had the last of the meals we had made on Sunday which was a Spicy Zucchini, Pepper and Potato Soup. This was a really hearty soup which also had tomatoes in it. It was hot, spicy and satisfying. I decided to make some homemade French bread to serve with it since I had all the time in the world (no work, no errands). The bread came out okay, it was a little dense - didn't quite have the air bubbles and lightness I like in a bread.

It was still a satisfying meal.

Yet Another Snow Day and Buffalo BBQ Chicken

On day 3 of our bad weather, I pulled out the Buffalo BBQ chicken mixture that we had made on Sunday. It was some of the poached chicken which we shredded and tossed with a mixture of cooked onion, carrot and celery which was all tossed with hot wing sauce. I just had to reheat the chicken mixture and then I topped it with a prepared Corn Muffin topping to which I added blue cheese and chopped scallions.

This mixture was really pretty good, but Gerry and I both added Louisiana hot sauce to the chicken mixture to kick it up a notch (to quote a famous chef).

We would make this again, knowing we need a little more heat to the mixture.

Another Snow Day

Again we were off because of the ice we woke up to Tuesday morning and so I decided it was a good Lasagna day. I simply popped the Lasagna with Veal Ragu that we had made on Sunday in the oven to cook through. This was sort of a deconstructed lasagne consisting of ground lamb meat cooked with onions and garlic with tomatoes and chicken broth added just as you would make a meat sauce for a traditional lasagna. The lasagna noodles were broken into pieces before being cooked in the usual way. The lasagne was assembled by mixing the cooked lasagna pieces with the meat ragu and pouring this combination in a casserole dish. This mixture was topped with a box of frozen chopped spinach that was thawed and topped with dollops of ricotta cheese and Parmesan cheese. The whole thing was topped with a Bechamel sauce and sprinkled with more Parmesan.

This was good, but if I want a lasagna, I would much rather have a traditional one. I won't be saving this recipe.

Tuesday Snow Day and Chicken Noodle Soup

We had a snow day on Tuesday (really an ice day) and I decided we would have the Chicken Noodle Soup that Val and I had made on Sunday. It was good, but I thought the fennel in it was a little overwhelming. It was made from some of the poached chicken we had started with on Sunday along with the broth from the poaching liquid. It had the usual suspects of onion, carrot, celery and the addition of a sliced fennel bulb. The cooked egg noodles were added to the bowl when serving. It was good but I liked my other chicken noodle soup recipe better.