Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Sweet and Spicy mustard

So I hate to tell you but there are no great visuals for this one....even though I have made it numerous times. Quite frankly, it just looks like mustard - so not really earth-shattering photography, but here you go:

Regardless, I will tell you how to make it and then you can just see it for yourself, hopefully in better lighting!

First, you need to get out your saucepan (I am hoping you have all purchased one since I am forever invoking its name!) and start with some olive oil, enough to coat the pan, which you'll turn to a low/medium heat. Next you want to stir in mustard seeds (3 tsp should suffice) and some honey, maybe a spoonful. I personally use this sugar-free honey I find at WalMart and it is pretty damn good. Anyway, mustard seeds, honey, olive oil and stirring slowly over the low/medium heat. Then, use want to add some actual dijon mustard (2 tbsp) and continue to stir. Next up is chili powder - totally your call on how much to add, but start slow - and continue to stir. Now turn the heat down to low (the mustard should be quite hot by now) and let it thicken for a few more minutes. Give it a taste and add chili powder for spice/honey for sweet. I also sometimes add in a squeeze or two of lemon juice here if it is too thick - but that is optional.

I have served this with thin, boneless pork chops (shown above) and pork tenderloin, as a dip for cold shrimp and am planning to make it next as a side for simple grilled chicken. Let's just say it is versatile and a waaaaay better than slapping the grey poupon jar onto the table.

- Melissa

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Dijon Drumsticks

Ever wonder what to do with chicken drumsticks, aside from using BBQ or Buffalo sauce? What about a more presentable and *slightly* less messy dinner option? I stumbled upon a recipe and then made some alterations and now we have this...

Using your cast iron skillet, you want to coat the pan with a little olive oil and then place the drumsticks in, seasoned with just a little salt and pepper. Cook them over medium heat for at least 10 minutes, turning frequently so the skin all starts to brown. Then you want to add in 1/3 cup chopped shallots (onion will work too, but I prefer the shallots here) and 3 cloves of minced/chopped garlic. Let the shallots and garlic start to soften around the chicken and continue to rotate the drumsticks.

Separately, whisk/stir together 3 tbsp of dijon mustard (Grey Poupon is preferable), 2 tbsp of sour cream and some tarragon. The measurements for this can vary on taste, for instance, I added at least another spoonful of mustard and at least 2 tsp of tarragon.

Now you want to add 1 cup of chicken broth to the pan and then stir in 1 tsp of crushed coriander (whether jarred or fresh - the fresh seeds you can crush with a mortar and pestle). Let this all continue to simmer and then slowly mix in the whisked mustard mixture and reduce the heat to low so it can all thicken, which should take another 5 minutes.

Is your mouth watering yet? It should be, these were delicious.
Once the chicken legs are cooked thoroughly (I recommend slicing into at least one since legs and dark meat can be tricky, not to mention there's almost not enough damn meat to use the thermometer), you are ready to serve! Spread the stew/sauce/what-have-you around, I even topped the rice with it. 

Served with a side of brown wild rice and a salad.

- Melissa 

Monday, December 5, 2011

Oven Baked Pork Chops with Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes and a Homemade Raspberry-Jalapeno Reduction

So, despite having a Microbiology Lab final tomorrow morning, I am sacrificing for the greater good and posting something simple and delicious for our loyal followers.  This is so easy and so good you will wonder where the h#@^ your food went because you cleared your plate so fast!  It goes as follows.

Here is what you will need.

2-4 Boneless Pork Chops (Seeing as how this was an experiment, I used ones from Omaha Steak Co. because I did not want to risk the pork chops I got from the butcher.)
1-2 Lbs. of Baby Yukon Gold Potatoes (Use 1 pound if you are cooking for two and two if you are cooking for four.)
6-8 Oz. of Becky Crocker's Homemade Raspberry-Jalapeno Jelly. (My dear friend Becky sent me her homemade jelly and unless she sends you some, you have to stick to plain raspberry.  I would suggest going to a farmer's market and see if you can find some!) 
Salt, Pepper, and Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Here's what you do.

Reduce the Raspberry-Jalapeno Jelly for about 20-30 minutes in a saucepan over low heat.  You will need to stir this rather frequently to avoid burning the jelly.  This process does two things.  1.  Intensifies both the raspberry and jalapeno flavors.  2.  The sugar in the jelly actually candies the jalapenos and makes them amazing! 

Quarter the potatoes, place them on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet and drizzle them with extra-virgin olive oil.  When you are done drizzling, sprinkle salt and pepper on the potatoes.  (I used a fresh four peppercorn blend with pink Himalayan sea salt but regular salt & pepper is fine.  Snobby, I know, but it's delicious.)  Bake at 425 degrees for 20-30 minutes or until fork tender.  


Take the pork chops and pat the excess liquid off of them.  Rub them with extra-virgin olive oil and sprinkle them with salt and pepper.  (Again, I used a fresh four peppercorn blend with pink Himalayan sea salt but regular salt & pepper is fine.)  Bake at 425 degrees for about 6-8 minutes on an aluminum foil covered baking sheet, flipping them twice.  (The pork chops I had were kind of small so adjust your time accordingly.) 

When you are done, you will have a plate that looks like this.  Enjoy!

- Chris

Friday, December 2, 2011

Cornish Game Hens or that's perverse!

Sorry for the brief absence...the holidays do have a way of clogging up your schedule...though I am cooking a lot. Anyway, today's blog really stems from my deep and abiding love of Seinfeld. If you are unfamiliar with the episode, turn your television on any night of the week and you'll come across the exact one soon enough.

Unlike Frank Constanza, I was aware of what Cornish Game Hens were...and I'd even had one once...but I had never attempted them myself. So when I saw a huge display of them at the store (overflowing I might add, meaning no one was else was trying to make them either) I figured it was time.

First things first, you need to clean and 'empty' the little chickens just like you would with any whole piece of poultry. Then preheat the oven to bake at 450 degrees.  Next you want to season the birds' skin with just a little olive oil, salt and pepper. Next you place a fresh lemon wedge, two sprigs of rosemary and one of thyme inside the cavity of the birds. Jarred spices are ok a lot of the time, but here I'd opt for the real deal simply because you really want that flavor to permeate while the hens are roasting. Place your new little friends in the roasting pan and put them in the oven for about 20 minutes.

While that is happening you can mix together some white wine (dry people, always DRY) at your discretion, 1/3 cup chicken broth and about 1/4 cup olive oil.  After the 20 minutes have passed, you want to reduce the oven temp to 350/375 degrees and pour the mixture over the hens and into the pan. Next, place some cloves of garlic into the juices around the birds and return it all to the oven. *see below*

You want to them roast them for about another 30 minutes, though that can differ so have the thermometer nearby. When they are close to your preferred temp, pull them out and cover them with foil. Drain the juices from the pan, garlic included, and throw that into a small saucepan and boil them for a few minutes to thicken it into a sauce you can serve with the chicken. Presentation can either be friendly - a chicken on a plate, the end - or formal - cut each one in half before serving.

So next time you see them at the store, don't be afraid. They are affordable and seem decadent, so impress your guests with their own individual bird! Served with couscous and green beans.

- Melissa

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Grilled Ono fish....OMG

Chances are, unless you've been to Hawaii, you are unfamiliar with the Ono fish. It is also known as Wahoo on the island, and aside from there you can sometimes find it along the West Coast. I happened across in the frozen fish area at my local Trader Joe's and it was remarkably affordable AND very recently caught and packed. Anyway it is a dense, white fish and is similar enough to both Halibut and Mahimahi - so you can substitute those two fishes if Ono is just out of reach.

Anyway, the only way to prepare this is on the grill, which means that a marinade is in order. I used a simple marinade that just included 1/4 cup soy sauce, 1/4 cup white wine, two teaspoons of sesame oil, 1 minced clove of garlic (more if you like garlic...we used close to two cloves) and about 1 tbsp of chopped, fresh ginger. I let it soak, covered in the fridge for close to two hours (you can let it sit for more but I wouldn't exactly do it a day ahead of time or anything as if it was beef) then took it to the grill.

As it is a lean fish (no fat to trim!) you want to avoid overcooking, so do it over a medium flame. For timing figure something like six to eight minutes per inch of thickness of the filet - ours worked out to be closer to eight minutes a side but we kept a close watch!!!

To accompany the fish, I sautéed fresh spinach (stems and all) with a little olive oil, a few splashes of dry white wine and ground white pepper. Then I topped that with the garlic cloves I had roasted in the oven in more olive oil, savory and pink Himalayan salt (about 10-15 minutes, small ramekin, on 350 degrees).

Also served with a sticky brown jasmine rice.

- Melissa

Just a little inspiration for feeding guests....

Cheese plate extraordinaire intended to serve as a great and easy appetizer...perhaps for upcoming holiday gatherings? Clockwise from left: mixed olives, cracked pepper Toscano, fresh basil leaves, Dubliner cheddar, lemon spicy almonds and pistachios, sliced aged hard salami, aged provolone (never smoked!) and  rosemary olive oil triscuits.

So served with wine. Heh.

- Melissa

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Some things enjoyed in wine country...

I wish I could say that this post offered recipes, but it is truly just an excuse for me to, ahem, brag about a few things we ate on vacation as well as make a couple recommendations should you in the Mendocino, CA or Portland, OR areas. 

At Cafe Beajulois (www.cafebeaujolais.com) in Mendocino we weren't expecting to be impressed. We'd eaten at a place the night before (MacCallum House Inn - it is also a B&B - http://maccallumhouse.com) and found it to be ok, but certainly not up to the hype that preceded it. So when we arrived at the Cafe, which is a small house converted into a quaint eatery, we were hungry but hadn't been banking on what T is still calling "the best meal of my recent life."

Delicious 2009 Esterlina Vineyards Pinot Noir. Amazing.
Especially considering we'd had lunch at that very winery.
T's claim of the best thing he ever ate...as copied from the menu itself:

Petaluma Duck Two Ways (Crispy Skin Breast and Leg de Confit),
Caramelized Onion Buttermilk Spätezle, Wilted Kale & Balsamic Jus Lié. 
No mere filet mignon...more like a truffle-topped step into heaven. 
Again, as per the menu: Niman Ranch Filet Mignon, Yukon Gold Mashed Potatoes, 
Sautéed Broccolini, Truffle Butter,  Sauce Au Poivre. 
We concluded that meal by not only finishing our wine, but with a cheese platter that did not disappoint either.

On our way back we also stopped in Portland and ate a shockingly GREAT lunch at 50 Plates (http://50plates.com/) which is located in the historic and hip Pearl District of the city. The place has great service, a menu that is both mind-blowing while remaining fairly healthy and is affordable (at least for lunch, though I cannot imagine dinner would break the bank). 

Seafood Chowder, courtesy of 50 Plates in Portland, OR. Chock full of
seafood including mussels, clams and giants chunks of a white fish. Not to
mention the peppery, tomato-based broth and large cuts of new potatoes. 
More from 50 Plates...this is the BLT&T. So the amazing BLT,
on a crispy tortilla, coated with garlic aioli mayo and rare Ahi tuna.
What's not to love? Oh, and ps, the bacon was more of a chopped bacon
jelly, so while there were pieces of actual bacon, it was all over the sandwich!
So that's that. Now, assuming you have all enjoyed a little food porn, I will return to normal food posts with recipes next.....perhaps some grilled Hawaiian Ono and garlic clove & spinach salad? Stay tuned....

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Chicken with a Dijon Radish Sauce

So, uh, you have some radishes? Not sure what do with them outside of a salad? Better yet, do you see them in the store and wonder what in the hell people are doing with them at home? Well aside from my penchant for pairing them with sharp cheeses (believe me, it totally works), I was in that same boat. So with a little research and tweaking, I came up with this....

First things first - you'll need radishes. Just rinse them thoroughly (they tend to be fairly grimy), trim all the greenery off and set them aside. Next up is the chicken - I used boneless cutlets that I cut down further and pounded out a little, making more of a scallopini cut. Take the chicken and cook it over medium heat in a large sauté pan with a little olive oil, salt and pepper until it is browned on both sides, but not completely cooked. Now take the chicken out and place it onto a covered plate, but do not empty the sauté pan. Toss in some chopped shallots (1/4 cup, maybe a smidgen more) and let them cook for about a minute. Then stir in 1/3 cup of white wine and 3/4 cup chicken broth and let it all simmer to a slow boil.

Once it is boiling, turn the heat down a little and then stir in 2-3 tbsp of dijon mustard (seriously grey poupon is a must have) and 2-3 tsp of tarragon. Now return the chicken to the pan and let it simmer away in the sauce, while adding in some butter (margarine is my stand-by), say 2 tbsp and let it continue to cook. Halve the radishes (remove the roots too, by the way) and place them in the sauce and replace the pan's cover. Let the entire dish simmer over LOW heat for another 5 minutes and then serve. More tarragon can be added once it is plated.

Served with potatoes, sautéed with onions, and a salad.

- Melissa

Saturday, October 29, 2011

Simple, Delicious Pancakes

I am always looking for a great breakfast recipe and this morning I happened across the best pancake recipe I have ever found.  This quick, simple recipe is ready to eat in about 15 minutes and I guarantee you will love every bite!  I got the recipe from allrecipes.com and made one simple change to add a little extra deliciousness!

Here is what you will need:

1 1/2 C all-purpose flour
3 1/2 Tsp. baking powder
1 Tsp. salt
1 Tbsp. white sugar
1 1/4 C milk
1 egg
3 Tbsp. butter, melted
1 Tbsp. vanilla extract  (My addition!  Vanilla in pancakes is amazing!)

Here is how you make them:

Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and make a well in the center.  Pour the milk, egg, vanilla, and melted butter into the well; mix until smooth.  Serving size is 1/4 C mix.  This recipe makes about 10 pancakes.  Enjoy!

- Chris

Friday, October 28, 2011

Lemon, Basil & Pecorino Pasta

Ok, this is amazing. But don't take my word for it...make it and then you can share in the awesomeness! It is pretty easy (we're talking SIX main ingredients, all probably in the house) and doesn't take all that long. 

First you need to get some pasta (I know, how freaking easy!) Now, I happened to have some fresh toasted onion pappardelle in the house - farmers market - so I used that. Realizing that you might not have that, hell, I normally don't, I would suggest a spinach pasta, perhaps linguine. Regular or whole wheat linguine would also work, just think the spinach would compliment the sauce. But I digress. Now, as the water starts to boil (with a few pinches of salt in it) you can turn attention to the simple sauce. 

Take a bowl and combine the juice from 2 lemons, or about 2/3 cup of juice, with a LOT of shredded pecorino cheese, say 3/4 lb. Pecorino is similar enough to a parmesan - albeit much better! - so if you have that, it will work. But let me be clear, this needs to be freshly shredded from a block of cheese, not out of the shaker can in the fridge. Stir this together until it starts to get a little lumpy and then pour it into a small saucepan on very low heat. Add in about 1/3 cup of extra virgin olive oil and add in some ground black peppercorns, continue to stir. Lastly tear some basil leaves and stir some more then remove from the heat...it is only supposed to be slightly warm, not boiling or hot, i.e., the cheese is not supposed to be melted!

Now just toss the pasta with the sauce in a large bowl, zest some lemon on top and add a few extra basil leaves for a haughty-taughty look, haha. Served with a Cab Franc as we had no Italian wines in house.

Enjoy and think of me touring through wine country for the next week...hopeful to return with some names of great restaurants, wineries and photos of food porn galore! 

- Melissa

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Simple Sausage and Peppers

So.  I may have been told that our food is a little too "high class" for some of our followers.  To that I say, you need to live a little and experiment with all the wonderful deliciousness that nature provides us.  Look past a seemingly laborious recipe and bathe in the flavors and aromas of your hard work!  There is not a single recipe on our blog that I would consider too difficult to make and more importantly, not worth the effort.  Having said that, I have stepped it down a notch and I am sharing a simple, yet delicious recipe that takes all of 15-20 minutes to make.  Sausage and peppers...what's not to love?!  (Beware, this is mainly a grill recipe because I refuse to believe that grilling should be limited to a "season.")

Here is what you will need:

1/2 - 1 Lb. of pasta.  (Your amount is determined by the number of people you are feeding so you know better than anyone how much you need.)
4 - 6 Tbsp. of Extra Virgin Olive Oil (Can never use enough in my book.)
1 - 2 Red Bell Peppers
1 - 2 Green Bell Peppers
1/2 - 3/4 of A Large White or Red Onion
3 - 6 Cloves of Garlic (Again, you can never use enough in my book.)
4 Spicy Italian Sausages (We prefer to get them from our local butcher but, a more convenient alternative is Shady Brook Farms Hot Italian Turkey Sausage.  Don't knock it until you try it!)
Salt & Pepper to Taste


Boil water and cook pasta.  A brilliant chef, whom you may have heard of (Mario Batali), once said, "pasta water should be as salty as the ocean."  Very true!

Cut the peppers, onion, and garlic into strips.  Drizzle the olive oil on them, add salt & pepper.  Cook them
on the side burner of your grill using a perforated vegetable grill pan.  If you do not have a side burner or grill pan first, I am sorry.  Second, cooking them in a skillet on the stove will get you the same result.  You need to cook the vegetable mixture until the peppers are fork tender and the onion is caramelized.  (The picture is what the vegetables look like before you cook them.  This is to give you an idea of how to cut them.)

Grill the sausage at 425 degrees for about 8-10 minutes.  You know your grill better than I do, if it seems too hot, too long, or too short, make a judgement call.

When you are done your plate will look as amazing as the picture below.

Don't fret that there is no sauce to go with this.  The olive oil, sausage and tender vegetables will give you more than enough flavor and texture relief so you don't feel  like you are eating plain pasta.  We made this tonight and I hope you make it soon.  Enjoy!


Saturday, October 22, 2011

"Sicilian" Chicken

I know, I know. Chicken cutlets...again...really? But here's the thing - it is good for you (not fatty, high in protein) and it is versatile! If you are making the same 2 or 3 chicken dishes each time, no wonder you or those you are cooking for want a side of arson. That's your fault, you can do better! For instance, my Sicilian chicken (no copyright there - it just sounded good in my head) was something I threw together because we'd already had a week of poultry-palooza and I needed something NEW. 

So for starters, trim the boneless chicken cutlets. Get your pan out (see below, visuals are cool) and coat the bottom with olive oil, turning the heat to med/high. Add in a few cloves of crushed garlic, about a 1/4 cup of minced onion and let that brown a little. Once it is crackling and fragrant, you want to add the chicken, along with some salt and ground white peppercorns (you can use reg. pepper, I am just showing off). Cook the chicken evenly on both sides until it is starting to brown, yet not cooked all the way through. Olive oil can be added as needed so that the chicken is not sticking to the pan! Next you want to add some chopped artichokes (jarred works, don't add 5 steps, people), some chopped parsley (2 tsps) and about 3 tbsp of butter, plus a few pours of white wine. Turn the heat down to low/med (let's say 5 on an electric stove and a lower flame on gas) and let it all soak together. 

After a few minutes, add in sun dried tomatoes (how many is your choice, though I recommend the wet ones that have soaked in oil). Continue to move the chicken around a little and don't let it stick to the pan! Lastly, I added some Gaeta olives (jarred, soaking in olive oil brine) and I even poured a little of the brine/oil mixture in for good measure. Now again, I let it all sit together over low heat with the pan's cover on for about 5-10 minutes.

The result is an earthy, salty sauce that inhabits the chicken and the toppings that cover the cutlets are a Sicilian (my opinion) delight. Served with oven roasted new potatoes and seared green beans.

- Melissa

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Spicy Lemongrass Shrimp

Thai food anyone?
First things first, you need to make the marinade for the shrimp. You want to take about a pound of cleaned shrimp, tails off, and put them in a bowl with 2 tsps of fish sauce, 1 tsp of sugar or a packet of splenda, 1/4 cup of either rice wine or sake (I used a dry sake and more then 1/4 cup  won't hurt!), 2 cloves of minced garlic, 1 red chili - seeded and minced and the titular lemongrass. Now for this you can certainly use fresh and slice it OR you can find it sold already sliced in the jar. So if it is fresh, you want to slice about one stalk; if it is jarred, you want about a 1/3 cup. Now mix this all up, make sure the shrimp are coated and put it in the fridge for at least a half hour. 

Once the marinade has gotten its job done, you need to heat your wok. None of this throwing stuff in a cold wok and letting it heat together! Let it heat until the mere touch of oil makes a hell of a sizzle and then douse the wok with peanut oil. Next drop in another clove of minced garlic, a little salt and pepper and wait till your garlic is brown and/or your kitchen smells delicious. 

Next up in the veggies....and admittedly, I used a frozen mix that wasn't necessarily Asian but that I liked with the lemongrass.  It has broccoli, cauliflower and then orange and yellow carrots. It is simple but effective. However, any veggie mix you prefer will be ok or you can always just go with broccoli or green beans as a standalone. Let them cook for a few minutes and soften....

Now you want to add the shrimp and the marinade all in one shot. Stir it around with the vegetables until everything is coated and then let it cook on a lower heat in the wok for another five to seven minutes - or until the shrimp are cooked (they'll turn a lovely pinkish hue). 

Served with my usual brown jasmine rice and extra crushed red pepper flakes for more heat.

- Melissa

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Grandma's Homemade Applesauce

It has been a while since I have posted anything to the blog and I would like to thank my co-blogger Melissa for literally keeping us afloat!  That being said, I am bringing a wonderful fall treat to the blog this time that you are sure to enjoy.  This recipe does take time and patience but the reward is so worth it!  I remember my grandmother making this recipe on a wood-burning stove at the farm in Michigan, that's how good this recipe is!  Here is what you will need:

5 Lbs. of either Granny Smith or McIntosh apples (Or any combination thereof.)
1 C. Sugar
1 Tbsp. Ground Cinnamon
1 C. Water

Here is how you make it:

1. You have to peel, core, and cut the apples into eighths.  (An apple corer is perfect for this task.  Just be careful that you trim off the excess core left on the apple.)

2.  Place the apples, sugar, cinnamon, and water into a large pot and bring the water to a slight boil.  Ensure to stir the mixture occasionally.

3.  Once the water has come to a boil, turn the heat down and let the mixture simmer.  Stir the mixture frequently as the apples begin to break down.  (You may need to add a little water here and there if you see the mixture is getting too dry.  Adding water does not hinder the flavor at all, it actually enhances it!)

4.  When complete, the recipe will yield about a quart of the best applesauce you have ever tasted!  Enjoy!


Thursday, October 13, 2011

Rice & Beans, M style

So admittedly I am not hispanic, but I can make some decent rice & beans regardless. Now, so can you if you follow my lead...all in all, this is simpler than paella, but very similar. 

So first start the rice in a smaller saucepan - short grain brown, 1 cup, and 1 cup of broth (chix or beef, your call). Let that simmer on medium heat for close to 10 minutes, while stirring, until the liquid is absorbed. Then dump the rice into a large flat pan or a paella pan. You want to coat the pan with a thin film of olive oil, a pinch or two of saffron. Continue to stir this and add liquid by the 1/4 cup (water or more broth, again, your call). Stir frequently in the large pan and keep it over medium heat. When the rice firms up too much it is time for more liquid. Next up the beans. The key to the dark red kidney beans is to NOT drain them or rinse them. You want to open 1 can, dump it in with the rice and then scrape out the juice/residue in the can. It will add flavor, trust me! Now at the same time, you want to mix in about 1/2 minced, seeded serrano pepper and even a little taste of tabasco...if you're brave. This should all cook together in the pan for at least 35-30 minutes, over medium heat. 

Meanwhile, cook the sausage (I used spicy Italian actually) on the grill until it is about halfway cooked, so maybe 10 minutes of grill time. Then take the sausage, slice it and stir into the rice and bean mixture. Then you let it cook together for 20-25 minutes, stirring frequently over a lower heat than before. When you remove it from  the heat the rice should be partially crusted, but not hard. 

Served piping hot with half a lime for juice, as preferred. 

- Melissa

Monday, October 10, 2011

Tuna Steaks with Ginger, Star Anise and Soy

Sorry for the absence....it was my birthday week and thus, my meals were being made by other talented chefs aside from myself. However, now I'm back with a delightful Asian-inspired sauce for ahi tuna, whether it is cooked or served as sashimi. Despite the haughty ingredients (well, for some...not for me...and I hope my readers are becoming braver and snottier!) this is a fairly simple dish to execute.

First you want to chop some fresh ginger up - you still want it chunky, but smaller pieces - until you have at least 1/4 cup. Don't be afraid of more ginger, it is packed with vitamin C and good for you! Then you grind up the star anise (same flavor as fennel, think licorice-y) using a mortar & pestle. If you don't have a fancy-schmancy mortar & pestle, use some wax paper and a meat tenderizer or hammer. Same basic results, just a little harder, messier and less classy. However you smash, you want the star anise to be more of a powder than a chunky solid at the end - about 3-4 tsp. Now you put that, the ginger and some sesame oil (uh....a couple pours, not too much) into a small saucepan and start to cook it over very low heat. Stir frequently. Now you can add in soy sauce, about 1/3 cup, and continue to stir and heat. 

Visual for Star Anise..available at World Market, Trader Joe's,
Whole Foods, etc. Comparable to fennel, but you definitely
want this form of the plant for this recipe. 
Add in some wasabi paste - but not too much - and if you prefer it not spicy, just skip this step. Cook it all together over low heat for about 10 minutes, about the same amount of time you are searing the tuna steak with just some canola or grape seed oil and a sprinkle or two of toasted sesame seeds in a cast iron skillet or frying pan. Taste the sauce, you may wish to add more soy sauce.

Finally I drizzled the sauce over both the tuna and the brown, sticky jasmine rice. Served with edamame on the side.

- Melissa

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Chilean Pork Soak

So this is a two-parter, to include my own delicious take on a Chilean-style pork soak (read: marinade) and then my twice cooked oven potatoes...which are a recent mistake gone right in my kitchen!

Often if you look up a Chilean rub or marinade, be it for chicken, pork or what have you, there are about 45 ingredients listed. I tried making one of these two weeks ago and wound up pouring it all out before the meat ever touched it as I found it nauseating. So, I sort of chose the key ingredients, added something on my own and came up with this delightful 'soak' as I call it. I think it would work for chicken, but for me, the flavors lend themselves to pork like it was meant to be...so I opted for thick, bone-in pork chops.

The morning you plan to make your chops, place them in a sealed container with the following: 3 cloves crushed garlic, few splashes of tabasco (more or less depends on you), two pinches of salt (I used freshly ground pink Himalayan), 1/3 cup lime juice, 1/3 cup OJ and then 1 tsp cumin. As usual, my idiot savant-ness in the kitchen means that I am estimating these measurements since I don't believe in them....but this my best guess. Now you pop this in the fridge and forget about it until it is time to slap the chops on the grill. When you first place them on the heated grill, sear both sides (about a minute or two each side) and then let them cook on a lower flame for another 5 minutes or less each side...you want the thermometer to read 150 - no higher!  Then, as always, remove and let them sit under foil for 5 minutes. The pork should have great flavor and be moist...no need for sauces to dress this up.

I have since perfected the potato cooking time and they
are coming out crispier! (10 minutes is better than 5.)
As for the potatoes, you want to dice them up (shown size is above) and then put them in a pyrex dish with olive oil, salt, pepper, a little thyme and a splash of apple cider vinegar. Cook these for close to 45-60 minutes at 350. Once the liquid starts to really bubble and the potatoes are softening with just a little browning, pull them out and set them aside. Get a cast iron skillet (or a frying pan) and turn the heat to high, coating the pan with just a little PAM. Next you want to dump the potatoes and the remaining liquid (probably very little at this point anyway) into the skillet/pan. Now you stir these around for 7-10 minutes and watch as they develop a heavenly, crisp exterior. You want the insides to remain soft though, so be careful of how hot they get and make sure to keep flipping them every which way while they cook. 

Served with a salad and dijon vinaigrette. 

- Melissa

Friday, September 16, 2011

Quick Brie Appetizer

Ok, this is a SIMPLE little teaser you can throw together and impress your dinner guests...not really a recipe as much as 'inspiration' for exhausted hosts/hostesses on this weekend-eve.

For starters, take a baguette and slice it into thick slices. You want to then drizzle half of the slices with balsamic vinegar (I used regular, aged balsamic for some and a pear-infused balsamic for the rest) and then place a chunk of brie on top. I tore some basil leaves as well and added them to the balsamic doused slices. Then I used a fig jelly on the other unadorned slices and topped them with a chunk of brie as well. Really you can substitute any type of fruit-based jelly, within reason. For instance, if you are thinking grape or orange marmalade, just stop reading right now. If you are considering blackberry or perhaps some other fabulous berry (see: boysenberry, marionberry, etc.) then carry on. And for the record, we are not talking Smuckers or Polaner's here - though they are fine for toast. I mean a more high-end, fresh fruit containing type of jelly that is sold in the gourmet section of the store and not by the peanut butter.

After they are all dressed up, you want to throw them on a cookie sheet and bake them at 325 degrees for maybe 10 minutes, give or take. They get just crispy enough, the brie melts and heaven in your mouth can begin.

- Melissa

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Paella, Paella, Paella!

'What am I gonna do with all this Paella?' - Estelle Constanza said (screeched) that, but I digress. Today we're going to talk about my first attempt at paella...which was *almost* a complete success. For starters, I purchased a paella pan...not that you actually need to do this. In fact, you can sort of make the rice separately in a pan and then use another flat, cooking pan (cast iron, large skillet) to make the rest. Then just mix it all together when serving. I honestly think it will still be good that way, I just needed to have the right pan since I'm me.

Anyway, first, you need to start the rice and to make life easy, I did start mine in a smaller saucepan. Paella calls for short-grain rice, and while it is typically white, I used brown rice and it worked just as well. So start the rice - I used a 1 1/4 cups - in the pan with boiling chicken broth - little less than two cups. Let that simmer on medium heat for close to 10 minutes, while stirring and once the rice grows and softens a little, so the liquid is reduced some, turn to the paella pan (or flatter pan). You want to put some olive oil, garlic (two or three cloves, minced) and about 1/2 onion (yellow or Spanish) diced. Let that sauté over medium heat until the onion and garlic brown. The paella pan is large, so you want to sort of position it across two burners, the best you can.

Now, my attempt with the chicken was not spot-on. So rather than teach you that, I am going to teach you what I will do NEXT time to make it work! Take some chicken thighs and smaller breasts (bone-in), rub them with olive oil, paprika, salt and oregano and then you can preferably grill them outdoors or bake them in the oven on a cookie sheet, either way, cook the chicken pieces until they are almost done, but not entirely.

At this point, snag the rice pot and pour it all into the paella pan, along with a few pinches of saffron, which will give the rice its happy yellow glow. Continue to stir and pour a little more broth in as the rice stiffens, stir and pour and don't give up! I also toss in a bay leaf but remember to remove this and not let anyone eat it before serving. In a frying pan, you want to take the chorizo sausage (about three to four links, thickly sliced) and pre-cook/brown it a little, then set it aside.

Behold my Paella Pan! The red handles were just a bonus ;)
Take your chicken and now fold it into the rice, along with chunked/sliced (your preference) red and yellow pepper, and let it cook for about 10 minutes. Next, toss in the partially cooked chorizo and let it cook together until the sausage is done; note: being in the broth will speed this up a little. Once the sausage is looking a little better, it is time for seafood. ALSO at this point, stop adding broth - nothing should be really sizzling as the heat should still be on medium - plus some moisture will come from the next ingredients no matter what. As for seafood, I opted for shrimp rather than scallops, but you can totally include both and lobster, mussels, etc. If left to my own devices (and palate) I would've used it all....but I was cooking for a group, so shrimp are the most universally accepted shellfish :) Toss the shrimp in, cover them with the rice...they obviously will not take long, whether they are raw/fresh or raw/frozen.

I used frozen peas because canned is gross and, well, who the hell is shelling fresh peas?? Not this girl. So let the bag sit out for a few minutes to avoid a chunk of ice peas and then dump them in and let them all mix together. Once the peas and the shrimp are in, there should be maybe 20 minutes, give or take, left to the cook time. At the end of the process, you really want the rice that was on the bottom to have become crusty, which you can then stir up with the rest of the softer rice, as per the dish's authentic origins. If this isn't happening, let the dish cook a little longer to try and absorb more liquid.

Finally you want to pull out the larger meat, so the chicken basically, and then arrange it all nice and pretty over the rest of the paella. I do not have a photo of this plated as I was serving to a table full of friends who were eager to eat at that point. Served with a Tempranillo, as well as tabasco and wedges of lemon to squeeze on the paella, as desired.

¡Buen apetito! - Melissa 

Sunday, September 11, 2011

The BEST Vodka Sauce You Will Ever Make!!! (Courtesy of Tiffany James)

I figured I would attempt to redeem myself in the eyes of my fellow bloggers with the first blog post of September.  Danielle and I took the entire month of August off to participate in some family activities that ended up consuming our entire summer vacation.  That being said, I am coming back with a vengeance!  What I am posting for you today is a recipe that I had to beg for months to get from my dear friend Tiffany.  I am so happy to finally have it that I don't really want to share it with anyone...no offense.  This is a recipe for THE BEST VODKA SAUCE!  Hands down, without a doubt, this is what vodka sauce is supposed to taste like!  Here is what you will need:

1 Pound of penne
1-2 Cans of crushed tomatoes
1 Med. onion, chopped
3/4 Tsp. of crushed red pepper
1-2 Garlic cloves, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar, salt
Chopped basil leaves
1 Pint heavy cream
1/4 Cup vodka (or more) 

Here is how to put it all together.

1. Saute the chopped onions in EVOO.  Once they are clear, add the chopped garlic.
2. Add crushed tomatoes.  (1 can for 2 people, 2 cans for 4 people.)
3. Add red pepper, salt, sugar, and basil.
4. Simmer sauce for 30 minutes, or longer. 
5. Add vodka and let the mixture simmer for 30 minutes.
6. Cook penne and add cream to sauce.  Sauce should be ready when penne is cooked to al dente.

There is no picture to accompany this recipe because as soon as we make it, it is gone!  Enjoy!


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Pork Chops with Avant-Garde Applesauce

Who doesn't love pork chops? I mean, when they are done just right they can be so juicy, so flavorful and best of all, pork pairs pretty well with everything. While I have shared some of my various chutney recipes for pork tenderloins, I decided to try to make an avant-garde applesauce (AVA) the other night that would be a lot better than an individual cup of Mott's per diner and really do the thickly cut chops justice.

For starters, the chops need nothing other than to be rinsed and slapped on a grill for about 8-10 minutes each side. Much like with steaks, you want to almost cook them all the way and then let them rest inside under foil for 5 minutes before serving. For the AVA you want to first cut up one granny smith apple into small chunks, then put that into your sauce pan and let it simmer over medium heat with some grape seed oil (you can use olive oil, but it will alter the flavor) and a little apple cider vinegar. Then you want to add some sliced shallots (about 1/4 cup) and 1/2 a small habanero pepper, finely diced. Continue to let this all simmer and then add in about 1 tbsp of brown sugar (brown sugar Splenda for me) and lastly - surprise - pour in some tequila. As usual, you be the judge of how much booze you pour...it will mostly cook off anyway. Reduce the heat to low, cover and let this all meet & greet for about 5 minutes. If the chops aren't ready yet, just keep stirring and if need be, remove from heat.

Spoon the AVA over the chops and enjoy. Served with grilled zucchini and warmed red potatoes. 

- Melissa

Monday, September 5, 2011

Chicken Balsamico with Broccoli and Tomatoes

Chicken Balsamico is one of my favorites, not to mention how much T loves it, so I've actually developed a few different varietals that pair with pasta or rice and involve different vegetable partners. This one combines full broccoli spears and sun dried tomatoes - though canned, diced tomatoes or even fresh grape tomatoes will work just as well.

For starters, you want to slice up some boneless chicken breasts so you have smaller, close to bite-size pieces. Place these into a hot pan, coated with just a little olive oil and about two cloves of crushed garlic. Let the chicken sear on both sides until it gets browned and then you add a little onion, some more olive oil and some crushed almonds (again, I use this but breadcrumbs are also useable here). Then you want to turn down the heat, add in some balsamic vinegar (say 1/2 cup) and let this all simmer until the sauce thickens up. Next up, mix in the sun dried tomatoes and the broccoli spears.

Let all of this simmer, covered, for close to 10 minutes or until the broccoli is softened. Note: this does not mean to make the broccoli less than crisp - in fact, you want to retain some green or else it will suck - for reference, see the done photo below! Pour in some more balsamic vinegar (1/3 cup or less if yore not a balsamic fan) and give it another few minutes over very low heat, with the lid off.

I served this stop some brown rice, drizzled it all with the balsamic mixture and grated some parmesan.

- Melissa

Sunday, August 28, 2011

M's version of Potato Salad

If you've ever been with me at a picnic or BBQ or cookout or whatever the damn kids are calling it these days, you may have noticed I don't eat the cole slaw, macaroni, pasta or potato salads...this is primarily due to my dislike for mayo, though the fact that the mayo has been baking under sun also makes me want to hurl. That being said, I sort of never eat potato salad and I decided to create a new strand so that I can offer it up for those that crave the standard BBQ fare at my house and dislike my offering them homemade hummus or couscous rather than a mayo-globbed broccoli salad (yuck!). 

For my take on potato salad, I use the same main ingredient - namely, potatoes - and I always opt for red ones, but that is negotiable. So you boil the potatoes and when they are cooked but still firm, you let them cool for at least an hour or more. PS - do not peel the potatoes, the skin is the best part, come on!

Served here with some pepper-crusted albacore tuna steaks.
So once the potatoes are cool, quarter them and then toss them in a bowl, skin and all. Now you want to douse them with olive oil (maybe 1/3 cup), some chopped onion that you can sauté for a few minutes if you're so inclined (I am), about 2 cloves of smashed/minced garlic, some gently torn basil leaves, a little bit of thyme and lastly balsamic vinegar (also about 1/3 cup). You mix it all up and tada - a new take on a standard where the only technical step is boiling the damn water. One caveat, don't add the olive oil and vinegar until you're fairly close to serving it or else it will get mushy.

- Melissa

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

Garlic Spears with Pasta, Chicken and Sundried Tomatoes

So admittedly, I made this maybe two months ago and have been holding onto it for a time when I was low on blog fodder - namely due to my own vacation, my co-bloggers having taken a sabbatical and, well, just cooking for one a lot of the time. (No, I will not admit on here what those 'menus' sometimes entail, though suffice it to say, wine and bagels are high on the list.) 

Anyway, I made this when garlic spears were in season and now they are not - sorry. Some of you may recall that I attempted this awhile back and it didn't work {http://foodbloggers1.blogspot.com/2011/06/full-transparency-loyal-readers.html} but this second time it was a huge success. In the meantime, since you can't get your hands on these babies till sometime in spring, you can substitute asparagus and then just dump in loads of actual garlic and it will still be yum. Deal? 

For starters, I opted for boneless chicken breasts, sliced into thick strips which I then began to lightly poach in some chicken broth, adding in just a pinch of onion powder and garlic. After they began to turn white (so semi-cooked) I drained the broth from the pan and then added the chicken back in with enough olive oil to just coat the pan and about 2 tbsps of butter, plus salt and pepper. Let this cook for about 5-10 minutes, turning the chicken at least once and letting it sear a little. Then you want to reduce the heat a little, add 1/3 cup white wine (please make sure it is a DRY WINE!!!) and then another 2-3 tbsps of butter (to be honest, I am sure I added more to create the sauce, but I am also using light, olive oil-based 'I Can't Believe Its Not Butter', so choose accordingly, I'm not advocating Paula Dean gluttony here.) Let that all stew together and meanwhile, make your pasta (I used whole wheat penne).

Now, I also added some crushed almonds into the chicken and sauce mixture, but that is totally not necessary if you're not a fan. You can likewise add some breadcrumbs if you want, I just prefer the almonds. Once the pasta is close to done, the chicken is cooked and the sauce is resembling sauce, you want to place the garlic spears in the sauté pan with the chicken and sauce. To prep them all you need to do is trim the ends and rinse - the entire head and bulb is edible! Let these cook for maybe 5 minutes*. I mean, you want them to get warm, seep into the sauce and then that's it. Anymore than that and the garlic flavor begins to loose its bite and the dish will take on another taste.

*If you are using asparagus instead you'll want to cook it longer, so add it earlier in the process...though for that, more than 10 minutes and you'll have mush.

Lastly, I grated some asiago cheese on top and arranged the sun dried tomatoes as garnish.

- Melissa

Friday, August 12, 2011

Spicy Thai Peanut Sauce with Shrimp and Stirfry

This was requested by a lovely reader that I call a friend and I have been remiss in getting around to making it happen. Yet, I found the time this week and I must say, I did a hell of a job making this dream come true! (Even if saying it was her dream is hyperbole, let me bask in the glow of satisfying a request, ok?)

So I made a homemade Thai peanut sauce and while there are hundreds of recipes out there, this is the one I use, which is a tweaked combination of two recipes and, in my humble opinion, is amazing without being complicated.

For starters, start your rice as it will take the longest. If you are besmirching this sauce and using microwave rice, which is ok (not really), ignore this and start the sauce first. For real rice, start the sauce when the rice is about 3/4 way done.

Now, in a sauce pan (mine is pictured above since I feel you all might be confused but what I refer to as my sauce pan...) over medium heat you want to pour 2 tbsp of sesame oil, crushed ginger (about 2 tsps) and then about 1/2 cup of peanut butter. I use chunky peanut butter, and I suppose you could use creamy, but trust me it loses something in comparison. Anyway, let it cook until the peanut butter starts to melt and thin out a little. Then turn down the heat to low and stir in 1 tbsp soy sauce and 2 tsps of wasabi paste (it comes in a tube in the 'international aisle' at the grocery; store it in the fridge, it is terribly useful!) and let it all cook together, while stirring frequently. Now, as always with my cooking, you'll need to taste and see if it needs more wasabi or more peanut butter and then add accordingly. After it is more liquid, remove from heat.

Meanwhile, as the sauce is simmering, heat up your wok to high heat (um, don't have a wok? $10 at Ikea, go for it) and drizzle it with some more sesame oil and a little soy sauce. Then add in 3 cloves of crushed garlic and let it all start to smoke just a little. Then add in the shrimp (if you are using chicken, add this in first and let it cook longer before the veggies since it will take longer) and veggies. Admittedly, I used frozen veggies for the ease of it...Trader Joe's makes a fine oriental blend that works for me. But if you are more energetic, I'd suggest chopping broccoli, carrots and adding in some onion, string beans and water chestnuts.

After the shrimp (or chicken) and veggies are looking a little more cooked/defrosted, dump in the peanut sauce and let it all marry together in a joyous thick clump of rich goodness. Once everything is coated with the sauce and you've let it cook for about five minutes together in the wok, serve it up. I used brown, sticky jasmine rice.

In order to up the heat for myself, I sprinkled the finished plate with some crushed red pepper, which does the trick if you're into that sort of thing.

- Melissa

Monday, August 8, 2011

Fish Tacos with Spicy Peach Salsa

So here is something I threw together the other night....we'd defrosted some 'fish pieces' (happened to be Alaskan Cod) and were trying to think of how to serve them. I recalled we had some pretty ripe white peaches and so I decided to make some salsa, from scratch.

First off, if you don't have access to fish pieces, you can just make some filleted white fish and then break it apart. Cod, mahimahi or even halibut if that's how you roll. To prepare the fish, I put it on a cookie sheet, drizzled some olive oil and then sprinkled it all with salt and pepper before baking it at 350 degrees for about 10-15 minutes. Once it looks white and not translucent you're safe, but you really want to leave it in there just long enough so that it begins to almost brown on the edges.

Meanwhile, in a saucepan heat up some olive oil and some chopped white onion, about 1/4 of a larger onion will do. Next dice up half a serrano pepper (um, this is HOT, you don't need more than this), one tomato and two peaches. You want to stir in the peaches first and then let them simmer over medium heat with the olive oil and onion. Pour in some apple cider vinegar (say 1/3 cup) and about 1 tsp of sugar (splenda works as well). Continue to simmer it away and after it gets soft and starts to gel together, toss in the diced pepper and tomatoes. After another 5 minutes, stir in some cilantro; if it is too sweet, add vinegar and if it is too tart, add sugar/splenda. Then let it all cook on low heat for close to 15 minutes and then remove it from heat and let it cool. You can make this in advance and put it in the fridge for up to a day or two.

This was served with shredded lettuce on whole wheat tortillas.

- Melissa

Friday, August 5, 2011

White Bean Tomato Dip

This is a quick, can prepare ahead of time, and easy dip that is great for company coming over or even to bring to someone's house. It is a little spanish influenced, so really, consider it a great Cinco de Mayo (or Agosto!) appetizer.
First you need to get a can of Northern White Beans...not Fava, not Kidney and not Pinto....Northern White, ok? Try the Goya aisle of the grocery store.
In retrospect, I wish I'd had some broccoli florets on hand to replace the carrots. Oh well!
Heat 1/3 cup of veggie broth in a saucepan until it is almost boiling, but not quite. Then add 1 to 2 cloves of minced garlic (depending on your love of the stuff) and let it simmer. Now you want to pour the broth/garlic mixture into a food processor, along with some olive oil, the drained can of beans and about 1/4-1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes. For the tomatoes, I used the ones that come in the jar with oil and did NOT rinse or drain them. Blend this all together until it is sort of smooth, then slap it in a bowl and let it sit in the fridge for an hour or more at least. 

Top it with some parsley and/or cilantro when you're ready to serve.
I served it with a sliced baguette that I toasted in the oven, blue tortilla chips and carrots. The carrots were because I forgot to get broccoli - so learn from my mistake! - though really, most vegetables will work, even though the chips and bread was far more complimentary in my mouth...um, I mean mind. 
- Melissa 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Oven Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Espresso Steaks

So. I've been away...not from my home really...but from my kitchen a lot lately, and for that I am sorry, dear readers. To make it up to you, I will be posting a few things this week and know for certain that my co-bloggers will be doing the same.

Today we're going to talk about a meal that is on the sweeter side, at least by my palate's leanings, but that may be because I combined these two items together. Feel free to separate them and pair with different partners, like the sweet potatoes with chicken (should've done that!) or the steaks with regular red potatoes. Anyway, for starters, you want to slice your sweet potatoes (2 large potatoes makes plenty), almost as if you were making little rounds. Not too thin though because they need to not fall apart during cooking. Then you want to coat them with olive oil, cinnamon and chopped shallots, about say 1/2 cup, and throw it all in a pyrex dish. Bake that at 350, and check on them to shift the potato slices around, for close to 35-45 minutes. Though if they start to get mushy, pull them out!

Now at the same time you want to create the rub for your steaks, speaking of which, a thinner cut here without a bone is better so look for the round cuts of tenderloin. Best part, those are typically the less expensive cuts and this rub makes them seem a lot more 'decadent' than they really are. So what you want to do is mix ground black pepper (1 tsp at the most), 2 tbsp brown sugar and 3 tbsp of ground espresso. Yes, you can use coffee if the espresso fairy hasn't visited your kitchen lately, but it does lose a little flavor. Simply dredge the steaks in the mixture until they are pretty well-coated on both sides and let those sit in the fridge for about 20 minutes so the rub sticks.

Once the potatoes are far enough along, you want to get a pan ready to sear these steaks - I used my cast iron skillet. Get that extremely hot and then pour in a little olive oil and toss those steaks in. You really want the middle pink and the outside charred, so you need to keep a close eye on these. It should take about 5-6 minutes per side, maybe less. Walk away for five minutes and I promise you'll lose the pink since they are thin cuts. While that is sizzling away, get those potatoes out of the oven and heat up a smaller teflon frying pan and then dump the potatoes into the pan with whatever oil is left in the pyrex dish. This sort of crisps the potatoes just a little bit...but if you think it is overkill, skip it!

PS- we totally had a salad with this and I should've added it the plate above for color contrast. Oh well.

- Melissa

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Mahimahi with Pineapple Rum Chutney

Yes, you read that right. There is rum involved...and it is a little spicy...and it is generally wonderful if you like fish (which you should because if not, you are so MISSING out!)

The chutney is your focal point here and the most involved...so let's start there. You may not have a designated 'sauce pan' like I do, which is ok, so use a deeper saute pan and set the heat to medium. Pour in some grape seed oil or canola oil (your call, just avoid olive for this recipe) and then add in 1 cup of finely diced onion, 1.5 tbsp of minced ginger, 1 minced clove of garlic and 2 tsps of a seeded habanero pepper, minced. Let this cook over the medium heat and stir constantly. After about 3-5 minutes, you want to add in some gold rum. Now this I don't measure....I just pour....but believe me, your nostrils will be on fire if you start to pour in too much! The liquid will evaporate within a minute or less, at this point, you add the juice from 1/2 a large lime, or about 2 tbsps, and 1/2 cup brown sugar (brown sugar splenda works just fine). Lastly, you stir in the can of crushed pineapple and let it all thicken over a lower heat for another 15 minutes; you can also add in a tbsp of cilantro at the end - I do - but many people dislike this spice. Though again, in this recipe, I promise it is worth it for the overall flavor.

For the fish, there is no need to season it as you'll be pairing it with the chutney, which brings enough flavor to the dish. Simply grill the cuts of mahimahi for about five minutes per side (depending on thickness) - ours were fairly thick as you can see below. If you are a) crazy and don't like mahimahi you could potentially make this with another white fish, maybe a orange roughy, or be a hedonist and make it  with chicken or pork; if you are b) unable to find decent mahimahi, see above, but know that I will reserve judgement due to your geographical issues.

Give the chutney - which should still be warm over low, low heat - one last stir and then spoon it out onto the fish.

We served it with brown jasmine rice and some edamame...mmmmm.

- Melissa

Monday, July 18, 2011

A Fig, Pear and Goat Cheese Salad

This one is ideal for mid-summer and throughout the fall. Since I live in the PNW, it is sort of always late fall, weather-wise, so my apologies if I am jumping the gun making this in July. Deal with it, I swear it is delicious and good to make starting when you can find figs in the store....which is now as currently there are green (Kadota) figs out in the markets, and the best Black Mission figs (which I used in this recipe) are starting to pop up too.

You want to use mixed Spring greens, and whether you acquire them from a bag, a container or tear up three different heads of greens to get there is your prerogative. Arrange it on a plate after rinsing and then turn your attention to the vinaigrette - did I mention I also made that from scratch?

Anyway, to make this dressing properly you need to remember to 'taste' as you mix, ok? For starters mix 1/3 cup dry white wine, 2 tsps of dijon mustard, 1/3 cup olive oil, 1 minced clove of garlic or a spoonful from your easy jar in the fridge, and then 1/3 cup vinegar. Now to be fair, I used pear-infused balsamic vinegar. As you are not all as crazy as me, let's go ahead and use regular balsamic and get all of our pear flavor from the actual pear (how boring!). Now the reason I say to taste is that I never measure when making vinaigrette even though I make them frequently. So if you taste it and it seems oily, you want to add more dijon and/or more vinegar. If it is too tart, try a pinch of sugar/splenda to cut the acidity in the vinegar. I'd refrain from adding much more oil, so try to adjust the other ingredients first.

Now you want to slice up your Anjou pear and then heat a small skillet to medium heat. Once the pan is hot, pour just a little of the pear-infused balsamic in (again, regular balsamic will suffice if your pantry is not as ridiculous as mine) and then cook the pear slices for a few minutes, turning them at least once. You want them to absorb the vinegar, get warm and a little soft - but you don't want mushy pear!

Now slice your figs in half and then you can arrange them any which way you choose on the plate - I choose to outline the circumference of the salad with them. Crumble the goat cheese across the salad and then lay the sauteed pear slices atop that with their juices from the pan. Lastly, drizzle the entire plate with the vinaigrette and serve.

- Melissa

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Super Seattle Center Spot for Drinks!

So this is not a recipe...unless you are a mixologist by trade and want to try your hand at the couple drinks I want to share with you...all of which were made by a bartender and not me. Anyway, next time you are in Seattle I urge you to stop into Tini Bigs (100 Denny Way) which is open 365 days a year, from 4 p.m. to 2 a.m. So no excuses as to why you missed a happy hour here, got it??

Anyway, the deal with this place is that it is a bar. Sure, they have a menu with food...but I'm not recommending you travel there to eat. You travel there to drink in a dimly lit bar filled with black lacquered booths, tables and chairs. And you love it for that.

Left, Dirty Vodka Martini. Right, John Wayne Manhattan.
 First up, I played it safe and had my boring Dirty Vodka martini, though I will say it was properly 'dirty', i.e., not too little or too much brine. T, however, was more adventurous and ordered the John Wayne Manhattan - bourbon, amaretto, orange bitters and an orange twist. He was not disappointed and said that while it was like a typical Manhattan, the extra orange emphasis really made it into an entirely new drink.

Best part is that if you're unsure what you want, you can tell the skilled bartenders what you like (let's say tequila with a spicy kick - my personal go-to) and they will point you in the right direction OR make you a unique drink.
The color-coded Martini specials...Pike Place infusion promises a good time in a glass.
Unfortunately for us, we were there after 6 p.m. and did not get to really partake in the special happy hour drinks, but I was smart enough to snag a quick photo so that you could all see what they have to offer...which is bright colors of the rainbow. Personally, I am going to make a trip back just to try the Pike Place Infusion, which actually involves staff at the bar taking a daily trip to the market and seeing what fresh and exciting ingredients for a cocktail they can get their hands on. Can you say awesome?

Bottoms up!

- Melissa

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Fennel and Tomato Risotto with Sausage

Let me start by telling you that my father-in-law, who recently visited and often is not as adventurous of an eater as myself or Tim, loved this dish! In fact, he told me numerous times how good it was...so if you are thinking it sounds weird or that it might not be worth the work, you're wrong on both counts! 

To start you need to find a fresh fennel bulb - jarred fennel will just not work - and that makes this integral to the meal. So, first, go to a decent grocery and get one. 

Once you've secured your fennel, you'll need to start off my making the risotto as it takes the longest. Turn the heat on high for one burner and place a large pot on it; once that is hot enough to make oil sizzle, add some olive oil, about enough to coat the pan, and some smashed garlic and minced onion. Then you want to pour in a cup of arborrio rice (which is one of the grains that can be used to make risotto - it is the easiest to find in a decent store). Next place a smaller saucepan on another burner and slowly heat up 4 cups of chicken broth. Once the rice grains are coated in the oil, garlic, onion mixture, turn down the heat to medium (about a 4 or 5 on an electric stove) then you want to add a little saffron,      a large pinch of this pricey spice will go a LONG way, and turn the contents a delightful bright gold color.

Next is the really crucial step when making risotto and what people most often a) mess up and b) decide is too labor intensive. You need to begin to pour SOME of the heated broth in. Now the broth should be warm, but NOT boiling which would be bad. In fact, the risotto and the broth should never be boiling. So anyway, you begin by pouring some of the broth in and continue to stir it all around. Every 5-10 minutes, as the risotto dries out and the liquid is absorbed, pour more broth in. In total you will use about 4 or 5 cups of broth and maybe 1 or 2 cups of water…all of which gets heated in the smaller pan.

Now in another wider pan, start out over a medium heat and add a little olive oil, then either diced tomatoes OR halved grape tomatoes (which is what I used) and the minced fennel. Note: with the fennel bulb, you want to cut off the top stalks removing all the green and then the entire white part is useable. Sauté this all together, let it soften then cover the pan up and keep it over super low heat for a bit. 

After the risotto has been absorbing liquid and softening for about 30-35 minutes, slap the Italian sausage (your choice on spicy, regular, sweet, etc.; I used some handmade regular Italian that has just a little spice to it) on the grill. Then when you think you have at least 10 minutes left on the sausage, spoon the fennel and tomatoes into the risotto pot and stir it all in together. If there is still broth left, pour the rest of that in too. 

While this has all been stewing together and blending flavors, your sausage should be just about done on the grill. Bring that in, let it sit under foil for a few minutes and then slice it up into bite size pieces. 

Finally you mix the risotto mixture in with your sliced sausage, grate some Parmigiano Reggiano cheese (or whatever breed of Parmesan you have) and tear a few basil leaves for good measure. 


- Melissa 

Want an email when new posts are up?