Saturday, April 20, 2013

Some New Favorite Recipes

Chris and I had the honor of attending the Pebble Beach Food and Wine Festival.  Many talented chefs attended this event.  I had the opportunity to see several cooking demos, purchase cookbooks, and even meet a few of my favorite chefs.  When having the book, Cooking with Love, by Chef Carla Hall signed I asked her what her favorite recipe was.  She responded that the buffalo wing burgers were her favorite.  Inspired by meeting one of my favorite chefs, I had to try this recipe out when I got home.  We decided to make these burgers as sliders using mini baguette rolls from our favorite local bakery.  I must say the sliders were amazing.

 So amazing that we then decided to make her flank steak with red pepper tapenade the next night.  I was a bit skeptical of some of the ingredients in the tapenade, I am not a huge fan of capers.  But the balance of flavors in the tapenade was fabulous.  We were both full, but could not stop eating this wonderful meal.  If you have a chance, check out some of Chef Carla Hall's recipes.  We have enjoyed making them since returning home from the Festival.

More to come on the Food and Wine Festival, stay tuned.

Sunday, March 31, 2013

Elevating the Lowly Corned Beef

Corned beef is a mistreated dish.  A fatty cut of beef boiled for several hours (even using that traditional preparation it tastes better than it should).  Of course we eat this once a year on Saint Patrick's Day.  Last year, inspired by Michael Ruhlman, we "corned" (i.e. cured) our own brisket.  It was pretty simple and the results were excellent so we did it again.  This year I wanted treat the entire preparation differently.  Here is what we did with one corned beef brisket throughout the course of the Saint Patrick's Day weekend.

Saturday Night, March 16: Bacon Wrapped Corned Beef braised in Bell's Amber

After curing for a week we rinsed the brisket prepped it to cook.  Instead of the aforementioned crockpot boil we went for a basic braise which seemed appropriate for this type of meat.  First we seared all sides, then we wrapped in bacon and let the beef sit in a bath of carrots, celery, thyme and Bell's Amber Ale for five hours.  We ditched the dry Irish soda bread of my youth for salt-topped rye and Irish butter plus thyme roasted potatoes.

Pairing: 12 pints of Guinness

Sunday Morning, March 17: Corned Beef Hash 

A basic recipe that is pretty simple.  Leftover corned beef shredded and combined with onions and potatoes.  This is a simple breakfast that is far superior to that you'll get out of the can or at most diners.  Serve with a easy-over egg and thick cut bacon

Pairing: Coffee and Ibuprofen

Sunday Night, March 17: The Reuben


This is usually the big payoff to making a corned beef at home.  One of the world's greatest sandwiches, the Reuben tastes much better with real beef in favor the the slimy, odd lunchmeat version.  While I'm usually a Reuben purist, in this case I swapped out the Russian dressing for a basic remoulade and I dropped the saurkraut for a mustard based coleslaw.  It worked really well

Pairing: Potato Chips

Friday, August 17, 2012

Grilled polenta with pesto and shrimp

These are excellent and really easy.  You can marinade the shrimp in the same pesto that you use to finish the dish. This is a perfect summer meal or appetizer when grape tomatoes and basil are in season.

Friday, February 4, 2011

Pizza Sauce

I love making homemade pizza, but mine always was a bit flawed, or watery I should say. After doing some research I tried a few new techniques. Here they are:

1. Do not cook the sauce. I was skeptical of this. I always made a big pot of sauce, let it cook on the stove and then put it on the pizza and cook it again in the oven. Well, it's already cooking in the oven, so there is no need to double cook it. That's why it may turn a bit brown sometimes.

2. Use whole peeled tomatoes. When at the store, shake the can. If it sounds watery, then the tomatoes are too bitter, look for cans that when you shake them, do not have too much sound.

3. Rinse the tomatoes. Use a small colander and wash the tomatoes. This will help take some of the bitterness out of the tomatoes.

Now here is the process of making the sauce:

Once the tomatoes have been rinsed, take off the top yellowy part of the tomato and if you so choose squeeze out the seeds, the extra water is not necessary, and could make your pizza watery in the end. Once all the tomatoes have been seeded, place in a bowl and mash them. I used an immersion blender. I think this worked really well. If you don't have an immersion blender on hand, a potato masher would work too. Then add salt, a tad of sugar, oregano, and grated romano (all to taste). I could not find grated romano at the store so I substituted with grated parmesan and added a bit more salt. If you do use romano, be careful as to how much salt you add because this already is a salty cheese. Mix together, add more spices/cheese after a taste if need be. You can store this sauce in the fridge. But when you are ready to use the sauce, get it to room temperature first. This sauce was delicious and will be the only way I make pizza sauce from now on.

I learned one other technique to help pizza not turn out too watery. Dry out your fresh mozzarella. A lot of times, fresh mozzarella comes in containers stored with water. I would usually slice it up and put it on the pizza, well this could be the problem too as why homemade pizza can turn out to be too watery. I took the mozzarella balls out of the water and wrapped them in paper towels for awhile so that the moisture would be taken out of them.

Our pizza turned out wonderful, not watery at all, the crust was nice and crispy, not soggy. Hope you enjoyed these pizza making tips.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

Summer Bruschetta Two Ways

We made these two different versions of bruschetta for a cookout with friends. Both have sweet and savory combinations that play off each other really well.

Cracked Olive and Grape Tomato with Parmesan

I think I saw Jamie Oliver make some version of this recipe years ago. I’ve been making it ever since as my go to bruschetta. Cut a good loaf of Italian bread into quarter inch slices and put them on the grill. While the bread is still warm, cut a garlic clove in half and rub it on each slice. Set the bread aside and in a colander, crush grape tomatoes, and a mixture of good olives (kalamata, greek, green, I usually get the “olive medley” from the olive bar at the grocery store) together and shake to drain. Place half a handful of the tomato-olive mixture on each piece of grilled bread. I finish by shaving a few pieces of parmesan on each piece and drizzling with olive oil. The combination of sweet grape tomatoes with the olives makes this dish work really well.

Goat Cheese and Strawberries with Black Pepper and Aged Balsamic

A couple years ago Kara and I were at a restaurant called Pinot Brasserie in Las Vegas. The meal was fantastic but I was skeptical when Kara picked the dessert which consisted of fresh strawberries, goat cheese, black pepper and a balsamic reduction. It turned to be delicious so we used the same combination for a bruschetta. Start with the same grilled bread (don’t rub with garlic this time) and pile on sliced strawberries, soft goat cheese and generous amount of black pepper. Finally, drizzle with balsamic vinegar. A couple of months ago we bought a bottle of 25 year old balsamic vinegar at an olive oil and vinegar tasting room called The Olive Mill. It was perfect to finish the dish.

Sunday, January 3, 2010


It's always been a tradition to do appetizers on New Year's Day with my family. So when I saw this recipe by Giada Di Laurentis, I knew it would be perfect for this holiday tradition. Pizzettes are basically mini pizzas. You could put any toppings you like on top of the pizza crust. I used store bought dough and used a glass to cut out the rounds as we do not have a round cookie cutter for some reason. What is interesting about this recipe is the way you cook the onions. I have carmalized onions many times, but never for as long as this recipe called for. I kept them on low heat for about one hour and forty-five minutes. They were cooked in 3tbs. of butter, 1tbs. sugar, and some chopped fresh thyme and oregano. They turned out perfect. I then topped the dough with the onions and crumbled goat cheese. They baked in a preheated oven for about 10 minutes. Then topped with prosciutto. Delicious.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

Manchego Cheese with Brown Butter Sauce

We had some leftover manchego cheese and we were looking for a simple way to use it up. I found this recipe from Tyler Florence as part of a series of Spanish tapas. It was delicious. I really like the sweet and salty trend that seems to be more and more popular.

For this dish you just cook butter in a sauce pan until it is golden brown, and then add honey. Pour the sauce over the cheese and sprinkle with sea salt.