Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Yes, it really was the best weekend ever!

Let the narrative begin...


We got up at a normal hour on Friday, packed the car and hit the road to NYC. Leaving the apartment around 9am, we had hardly any traffic the entire way, even as we hit the New Jersey Turnpike split (GW Bridge vs. Lincoln Tunnel). This was awesome. We almost always have some sort of traffic on the way up to NJ/NY!

When I first heard we were going to north this weekend, I only added on thing to the itinerary of fun. A visit to the New York Botanical Gardens to see the Chihuly Exhibit. Just over the GW Bridge, up the Henry Hudson Parkway, onto some other parkway and you're there.

Really easy actually.

Since the weather was so nice Friday would be the perfect time to visit. One thought was to wait until Saturday, so we could take our time getting north, but this was perfect.

After meeting a very spastic parking attendant, we got on our way into the gardens. The Chihuly Exhibits were really cool. Dale Chihuly is a cracker jack glass blower who's been making crazy glass art for years. I'll let the pictures speak for themselves. They really were spectacular, especially the pieces that were blended into the garden surroundings.

Sadly, the camera battery died half way through the visit. We'll have to see what the disposable camera picked up. Lovely! A great afternoon, perfect fall weather and really neat art!

After the gardens, we headed back to NJ to unload ourselves at The Kara's. After putting a short, quick charge on the camera (didn't work) and a bit on the phone, we rolled out to the NJ Transit bus and headed into Manhattan.

After a wee bit of a delay we arrived at Port Authority and phoned The Kara. We were going to meet her and her friend at a bar for a quick drink. Sounds great, but I had to warn them, I hadn't eaten since breakfast and the beast was getting hungry. No worries, we'll get a nibble at the bar.

Bar Centrale
324 W 46th Street
New York, New York 10036


We tried to go here back in the spring, but there was no way. No room. It's small. A few tables and chairs in the front, a handful of stools at the bar and a couple booths towards the back. The Kara had snagged a reservation, so we were in...this time! We set up shop at the booth in the back, ordered drinks and a quick side of guacamole. Although I do love the guac at Rosa
Mexicano...this was awesome! As good, if not better. A reminder that this comes from someone who wasn't really a fan until maybe this year...used to get grossed out by it. But this was good! And good chips too.

After I inhaled the chips and dip, and threw back my drink, we were off for actual dinner. In keeping with the theme, we headed a few blocks in one direction and then a few more in another...I think we went west, then north. We went to a Mexican place for dinner.

TA Cocina
714 9th Avenue
New York, New York 10019

The service was good, the drinks cold and the food filling. I was a bit suprised though when zucchini showed up in my fajitas...I don't enjoy the zucchini, so I had to swoosh those to the side. Now I was full and tired and wasn't sure if I was going to make it much longer, but The Kara had other plans.

We eased on down the road to a really awesome bar were we spent the rest of the night entertaining the dinners, bar guests and most importantly the staff!

44 1/2
626 10th Avenue
New York, New York 10036

We were greeted upon our entrance by Denver Rick (we found this out later) and were seated at "the table in the middle," a large high top table set behind the bar, but before the dining room...dead center!

We scootched up to the table and got our orders in. I contemplated switching from vodka to something else, but stayed with vodka and soda--a smart and foolish choice!

The Kara and J-lo ordered a bottle of Gruner Vetliner, a great crisp white wine.

And we chatted and drank. I ordered my second drink. Maybe started my third when I think our behavior went downhill! It was at somepoint mid-evening when we noticed the music. The Music! Short clips, 30 seconds, of the great old songs from the 80's. Next thing we know we're singing out loud, chair dancing and shouting out what might be the next song. We got some of the choices right, but not all of them. Our waiter stopped by and we had to ask...what CD is this. Oh no...not just any CD, but a compilation that Denver Rick himself created! So we had to pull him over and talk to him some more...sweet talking all we could we tried to ask for a copy of the disc. The Kara slipped him her card and now it's all in D.R.'s hands. Keep your fingers crossed...that CD would be worth a lot!

Then we considered leaving...ha! Ordered up some more drinks and kept going. At this point I'm loosing my memory on what was discussed. Denver Rick came back to chat with us some more, as did Ali G...I think that's what he said his name was? I don't remember the little waiter, but he seemed particularly interested in our antics. One thing about the waiters, they wore silly shirts. We both own ones now. Mine says "Whipped" on the front...and "Beaten" on the bacK. J-lo's is "Over" and "Easy." Hot.

After a good couple hours it was about time for us to head back to NJ, but do we have to? Yes...out of the blue, a song by Brandy came on...they lost us. We did our adieu's to the staff and the remaining customers who were laughing at us and headed over to the ferry.

While sitting, the best brilliant idea people who have had a few drinks came to mind...why don't we call someone!!! I seriously can't think of the last time I drunk dialed someone...seriously...! Good thing for time changes and to Becca for taking the call...but here's the thing...it wasn't just one of us calling...all three of us tried calling and The Kara first...voice mail...Me second...voice mail...J-lo...he got through! What the? We all dialed at virtually the same time and he was last,
how did his call get through!?? Whatever...we shrieked our proclamations through the phone and boarded the ferry.

It was at this point that I realized how much I consumed. Here's an equation for you...More cocktails than you can remember + A rocking, wavy ride on a ferry = a really really close call. I didn't get sick, but whoa did I feel like it.

Eventually we landed in NJ and headed to The Kara's home.

Done and done...I don't remember going to bed, but I did remember the following morning one of my late night adventures...I GOT LOST IN THE BATHROOM! It was dark and somehow I ended up in the shower, I guess sliding open a door and taking a large step up would be the way most people get out of the bathroom? Mmmm? Eventually I made my way out and back to bed.


We slept in.

Then we were going to be lazy. Got a little something to eat at a deli down the road and moved to the movie theatre to see RUNNING WITH SCISSORS. Annette Benning was really good. The actress who plays Dr. Finch's wife was also really good. The rest...eh. I'm sad, because I really loved the book. The movie was just too slow.

After the movie we moved back home and rested a touch before beautifying for the night out back in Manhattan.

The Kara drove us to Times Square where we picked up our theatre tickets and we walked around bit before heading in for the secret dinner reservation.

Bond 45
154 West 45th Street
New York, New York 10036

Wow. Great! One of the better meals I've had in NYC.

Really, each and everything we had was great! Bond 45 is Italian. You can get your pastas, your antipastas, pizzas, salads, and steaks. We started with a really good bottle of prosecco and ordered the Salumeria Assorti to start. A large plate of prosciutto, sopressata and coppa with roasted peppers and buffalo mozzarella. Item 1: Best prosciutto I've ever had. Item 2: The peppers were amazing; tender and delicious. I think they sat with garlic and basil, absorbing some of their flavor. Item 3: The mozarella was so light, you felt like you were eating little bites of air. Perfect.

Now time to order dinner. I went with Lasagna alla Bond. Yep, I'm going to say it. Best Restaurant Lasagna. Sausage Ragu, mini meatballs, mozarella and parm. The first bite gave me the giggles. You know when that happens, the foods sooo good you can't help yourself! The
fork is placed on the plate and you close your eyes and just giggle. That good.

J-lo ordered the Gnocchi di Ricotta e Pesto. Soft ricotta dumplings with zucchini pesto and crispy pancetta bits. Pillows of heaven! Really amazing. The softest gnocchi I'd ever had.

After we ate way to much...but didn't force ourselves to finish our plates...no way no how...we did order dessert.

We watched the tables behind us order dessert and it was a production. Their was pouring!

We ordered the chocolachino cake. This yummy, tender crumb vanilla cake with chocolate chips. Warmly resting in the middle was a cool scoop of vanilla gelato. Upon arrival to our table, a cool liquor, coffee flavored, but not Kahlua...maybe like those new Starbucks liquors? After that...hot chocolate sauce was poured over the top. Slap your mama! It was that good.

As this post is getting really long I'm going to skip over the after dinner chit chat and get right to the show, but only briefly...If you are heading to New York anytime soon and want to see something silly and really enjoyable, but also very smart and witty...The Drowsy Chaperone.

The Drowsy Chaperone
Marquis Theatre
1535 Broadway
New York, NY 10036

After the very well deserved standing ovation, we headed back to Bar Centrale for an after theatre cocktail. Before we left on Friday, The Kara recommended we make a reservation if we think we'd like to go back. We did and we did. It was great. We walked in and they lead us to
the "table we were saving for you." Sweet. Prime location. Perfect to be seen and to see! We had two minor celeb sightings...the actor who played Underling in The Drowsy Chaperone came in shortly after we did to have a few drinks. And mid-point through the evening we had a little former Saturday Night Live star come in. Chris Parnell! Cool. But he and his party--all ladies--were placed down the row from us and he faced away from him, so we couldn't become buddies. After about two hours of chilling, we made our way to back to NJ. Good Night!


There was talk about heading back into Manhattan, but I think we were just tired and wanted to make our way back...but not until a nice Jersey Dinner breakfast.

Eggs, Home Fries, Toast...all good! Including the giant collection of World Wrestling Entertainment actors headshots on the walls!

We loaded up on gas and headed our way south! 5 hours later, we were home and exhausted. As is always the case, the perfect weekend was blemished by the traffic...and to make it all the harder to deal with...the worst traffic was for the southbound lanes of 95 slowing to look at an accident on the far side of the north bound lanes! IDIOTS! ugh.

Anyway...it's been a long time preparing this post...partly due to blogger acting up, partly just to recoup the energy. Later tater tots!

PS: I had a few food photos, but they didn't turn out very well...so you'll have to deal with art photos!

These crazy Mums are being trained in some ancient Asian/Japanese (??) way for an exhibit next year. Very interesting...that is ONE PLANT!

Chihuly: The Sun

Chihuly: Baskets

Chihuly: Rose Garden Fiori

Chihuly: Ferns

Some roses from the Garden.

My last cocktail at Bar Centrale..a Cosmo. They served them in the little glass and give the rest of it to you in a little pitcher for later! The wine also comes in a small pitcher.

happy halloween!

Monday, October 30, 2006

Best NYC Weekend Ever

Chiluly at the New York Botanical Gardens

I never promised you a rose garden.

Stay tuned for a list of THE places to go, the next time you are in Manhattan!

...and a brief story about getting "lost" in a bathroom.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Honey & Thyme

Tonight's dinner is brought to you by the chef's at The Food Network Kitchens; with some minor changes provided by yours truly.
Delight yourself with a culinary trip to Provence with the romantic scent of honey and thyme.
Provencal Roasted Chicken
with Honey & Thyme

1 3-4 lb whole chicken, cut divided into 8 pieces
1 shallot, finely diced and divided
2 tsp fresh thyme, removed from stems
Zest from 1/2 a lemon
Juice of 1/2 a lemon
3 TB extra virgin olive oil
1 TB honey
2 tsp Herbs d'Provence

the reserved 1/2 of shallot
four sprigs of fresh Thyme
3/4 cup water
1 TB honey
Salt/Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 425.

Trim the chicken parts of excess fat.

Lay in a large oven proof skillet.

Mix together the olive oil, lemon juice & zest, shallots, thyme, honey, salt & pepper and herbs d'provence. Brush over the tops of the chicken parts.

Place chicken in the oven, uncovered, for about 30 minutes, until cook through (internal temperature should be about 170.) Remove from pan to a warm plate, tent with foil.

Put the skillet over medium high heat. When the pan starts to sizzle, toss in the shallots. Saute, until tender, about two minutes. Add the water and deglaze your pan. Toss in the sprigs of thyme and add the honey. Simmer until reduced about by about half. Serve the chicken on a warm plate, spoon the reduced sauce over the chicken. Serve with Roasted Rosemary Fingerling Potatoes and Carrots.

Chicken is done!

The sauce could have reduced another minute or so...but it was great all the same! The flavor was really great. The honey provides a subtle, creamy sweetness and the thyme a woodsy, herbal aroma that complement each other perfectly!


I hope everyone has a great week. I forsee this being the only post this week, until maybe Sunday night. Wednesday I work late. Thursday I'm out for a friend's birthday. Friday we're off to a trip to NYC. Stay tuned, you never know what's going to happen upon the return!

Sunday, October 22, 2006


I took my inspiration from a few different recipes for tonight's dinner. Sort of.

A few days ago, I took a pork tenderloin out of the freezer and then wasn't able to do anything with it...to busy. So today, finally, today I was able to whip something together.

My first thought was to do carnitas enchiladas. Could be interesting.

Carnitas Enchiladas

Start with one pork tenderloin. Get one from your store that isn't sealed in a marinade. Most pork tenderloins come two per package. I used one for this recipe which could make dinner for 2-4, or even six, depending on what else you might serve.

Cut the tenderloin into thirds and remove any extra fat or 'silverskin.' Pat the tenderloin dry and season with salt and pepper.

In your sexy new Le Creuset dutch oven, heat 2-3 TB of olive oil over medium heat. Gently place the tenderloin pieces into the hot oil and sear on both sides for about a total of 5-6 minutes.

Meanwhile, chop a medium onion into a large dice and smash 4-5 garlic cloves. After the tenderloin has seared, remove to a plate. Toss in the onions and garlic, lightly season with a wee pinch of salt and pepper. Saute until just translucent, 4-6 minutes.

Add 1-2 TB tomato paste and allow to carmelize quickly in the bottom of the pan. Add 1 TB of oregano and 2 TB of Chimayo Chile Powder. Stir to incorporate. The bottom of your dutch oven will be collecting many bits of the seasoning and onions. Add about 1-1 1/2 cups broth, chicken works fine, work up all the yummy bits. Add one can of whole tomatoes, juice and all. Crush the tomatoes.

Bring to a very light simmer. Add the pork pieces into the simmering liquid. Toss in one stalk of fresh thyme, one small stick of cinnamon and a quarter cube of bakers chocolate. Stir until the chocolate is melted. Cover and simmer for about 30-45 minutes.

The pork tenderloin is very tender in the first place, but when it starts to gently fall apart, remove from the simmering liquid. Set aside.

Blend the liquid in your blender or food processor until smooth. Add back into your dutch oven and add about one cup of your favorite flavorful beer. Bring back to a simmer.

Meanwhile, shred your tenderloin pieces into strips. Add back to the simmering liquid, cover and allow to dance for 30 minutes.

Now it's time to assemble your enchiladas. Take a medium-sized flour tortilla and fill with a fork full or two of the pork, a few pieces of sliced, sauted green peppers and a sprinkle of some cheese. Roll your enchiladas up and place in a baking dish. I made four, could have made six, but saved some of the pork for leftovers. Spoon some of the sauce over the top of the enchiladas, but don't drench them. Cover with more cheese.

Place in a 375 degree oven for 5-10 minutes until the cheese to totally melted and the edges start to get a little crispy.

Place on a hot plate, spoon a little extra sauce one the enchiladas and add a dollop of sour cream. Serve hot!

To make this a bigger meal, I'd consider making these with smaller tortillas and serving with some rice and beans, or some soup. But overall, really good!

Oh, the inspiration of thise recipe came from a basic braised pork recipe, a not quite authentic mole sauce and one of Chilefire's chile sauce recipes.

The shredded pork. This is the quantity I had left after making four enchiladas. Will be a tasty lunch!

Rolled and sauced.

And cheesed.


Sauced and ready to serve!

A little peek inside. YUM.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Oh man it's been busy...I think I might finally have my life back for awhile! Yeah.

I really want a drink!This was a Cherry Vodka Gimlet at Bar Americain in NYC this past spring. Very delicious and I could certainly have a few more. Sour Cherry and Vodka! YUM. We're going up to the city this coming weekend.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Need to evolve?

*American White Wine (Oregon)*
*Sokol Blosser Winery*

9 Varietals blended to produce a lush, off-dry, somewhat tropical wine with a crisp finish!
We want more! But we drank it all! Have to find more locally.
Got this bottle in Sharpsburg, MD.

The Grand Bazaar

Grand Bazaar (Oil on Canvas by Haydar Hatemi)

You may have noticed a theme lately. For the past month I have really had a hankering for Middle Eastern cuisine. Thank you very much The Language of Baklava-fun book.

Tonight I thought I'd go for broke and make something up.

So we have Braised Baharat Chicken and Bazaar Middle Eastern Couscous.

Middle Eastern Couscous-cooked. Also known as Israeli Couscous, Pearl Couscous...among other names. Regular couscous consists of small grainy little bits of pasta that need to be fluffed to serve-tasty stuff. This couscous is larger with nearly round tender bits. I found this at Whole Foods this weekend...after looking for many months. I'm really excited I found it and plan to get more the exact next time I find it...love it so much more than regular couscous!

Let's Get To It!

Braised Baharat Chicken
2 Large Bone-In, Skin-On Chicken Breasts
1 Medium Onion
5 Cloves Garlic, Crushed
2 TB Baharat Spice Blend
1 Cup Dry White Wine
1 Cup Water
4 TB Olive Oil

Preheat oven to 350.

Oh...oh! What's this? It's my new Le Creuset enameled Dutch Oven! I had no intentions on buying it this weekend, but we had a new Marshall's store open in our mall and I went looking for frames and found this beauty hanging out in the back. HALF OFF! Still spendy, but HALF OFF! I'm very happy with how well this little beast worked!

In a medium skillet or dutch oven over medium high heat, bring the olive oil to temperature and add the chicken breasts, seasoned with salt & pepper. Allow to get all browned and crispy. Turn over and saute for another few minutes. You're not cooking the chicken through, just getting a nice carmelization on the bottom and some color on the skin. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions and garlic, stirring around to coat with the oil in the pan and allow to saute for about five minutes until the onions are tender. Season with a pinch of salt. After five minutes, stir in the Baharat seasoning, until the onions and garlic are coated and the spice scent is filling the kitchen. Add the wine and allow to simmer for a minute, bringing all the flavors together. Stir in the one cup of water. Bring to a simmer and gently add the chicken back to the pan, cover and place in the hot oven for 40 minutes, or until the chicken is 160 degrees on the inside.

Onions and Garlic!

Wine and seasoning has been added.

Serve on a warm plate and spoon the onions and sauce over the top of the chicken.

Bazaar Middle Eastern Couscous

3/4 dry middle eastern couscous
1/4 cup toasted pine nuts
1/4 cup toasted pistachios, chopped
1/4 cup golden raisins
1/4 cup dried cherries, chopped
1 medium carrot, sliced thinnly
1/3 orange bell pepper, sliced
1/2 small onion, diced
2 tsp Zatar spice blend
3 TB Olive Oil

Happy Happy Joy Joy, unload the cupboard into this treat!

Bring a medium pot of water (at least 8 cups) to a boil. Add two medium pinches of salt and a small pinch of saffron. Add the dried couscous. Boil for ten minutes, until al dente. Drain and pour into a warm bowl. Add half the olive oil, stir and set aside until the rest of the goodies are done.

Cover the raisins and dried cherries with hot water, set aside.

In the same pot, bring the remaining olive oil to a shimmer. Add the onions, peppers and carrots and a pinch of salt, saute for five minutes. Pour the reserved couscous into the pan; add the Zatar seasoning and stir to incorporate. Drain the soaking fruit and add to the couscous. Prior to serving, stir in the nuts.

Serve hot or warm. Room temperature or cool is fine as well, but warm is better!

Nearly done. So much color!

Done! I gave the name Bazaar Couscous because everything I had is in there...everything the market had. So good. The sweetness from the fruit. Crunchy nuts. Crisp carrots and tender onions and peppers. And I'd say pretty healthy. Some olive oil and that's really it for added fat.

Dinner. After braising, the chicken took on a rich, dark mahogany color, which was perfectly set off by the confetti colors of the couscous. Make sure to put some sauce and onions on the chicken.

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Treasured Gems???

I thought I'd give a try to one of Nigella's recipes from How to Be A Domestic Goddess. I'll give myself a B for effort. Nigella recieves an A for flavor and combined, I think we each get a B-ish, for combined results. The major structure of these treats is the macaroon--the results of beating egg whites to airy perfection. I might have gotten there, but then I dropped the ball on the folding. I could tell as soon as I went to pipe the mixture onto the baking sheets that I messed something up. It had gone from volumeous to almost runny. Sad. But I continued forward. I was not suprised to see the results that came out of the oven; nearly flat pallid greed discs that had fused together. I was able to pry about a few small pieces to make a macaroon sandwich--didn't look too bad, but not as good as Nigella's photos...but the taste! Really wonderful. And one small note...Pistachio Buttercream! Divine!!!

One of the final macaroons. The bottom piece was barely holding together.

Pistachio Macaroons
Makes 20 sandwiches.
These are the world's most elegant macaroons. The color alone, that waxy pale jade, perfectly matches the aromatic delicacy of their taste; and their nutty chewiness melts into the fragrant, soft paste with which they are paired.

These are perfect at the end of dinner alongside some confectioners'-sugar-dusted raspberries; or alone with coffee, gracefully piled on a plate or a cake stand.

For the Macaroons:
1/3 cup pistachios
3/4 cup confectioners' sugar
2 large egg whites
1 TB sugar

For the Buttercream:
1/4 cup pistachios
1 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 baking sheets, lined with parchment

Preheat the oven to 350.

Grind the pistachios in a food processor along with the confectioners' sugar (this stops them turning into an oily mess), until as fine as dust. Whisk the egg whites until fairly stiff, but not dry, sprinkle the sugar over and whisk until very stiff. Fold the whites into the pistachio-sugar dust, and combine gently. Pipe small rounds onto your lined baking sheet. Let them sit for 10 minutes to form a skin. Then put in the oven and cook for 10-12 minutes: they should be set, but not dried out.
The pistachio and confectioners' sugar dust.

Remove from the oven and let cool, still on their sheets, while you get on with the filling. This is simple work: grind the nutes and confectioners' sugar in the processor as before; then cream the butter and continue creaming as you add the nut dust. Make sure you have a well-combined soft buttercream. Then simply sandwich the macaroons together.

Flat and welded together.


Saturday, October 14, 2006

Successful Test Kitchen Recipe

Joyous came for a late dinner tonight. Had a great dish from a new America's Test Kitchen cookbook. I should have the recipe posted on Sunday sometime.

Chicken Breasts with Bacon, Rosemary and Lemon, served with Parmesan Mashed Potatoes and Roasted Carrots.

Chicken Breast
w/ Bacon, Rosemary and Lemon
Serves 4

5 slices bacon, chopped
1/4 cup flour
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 TB butter
4 garlic cloves, sliced thin
1 TB chopped fresh rosemary
1/8 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup chicken broth
2 TB fresh lemon juice

Fry the bacon in a large skillet over medium-high heat until crispy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to a paper towel-lined plate. Spoon off all but 2 TB of the bacon fat.

Meanwhile, place teh flour in a shallow dish. Pat the chicken dry with paper towel and season with salt & pepper. Dredge the chicken in the flour and shake to remove excess. Melt the butter with the reserved bacon fat in the skillet over high heat. When the foaming subsides, reduce the heat to medium-high heat and cook the chicken until browned on both sides, 3-4 minutes per side. Transfer the chicken to a plate and tent loosely with foil.

Reduce heat to medium and add the garlic, rosemary and pepper flakes. Cook until the garlic is browned and crisp, about 2 minutes. Stir in the broth and lemon juice and simmer, scraping up the browned bits, until slightly thickened, about 4 minutes.

Return the chicken and bacon to the pan and simmer, turning the chicken once or twice, until the sauce is thick and glossy, 2 to 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste and serve.

Sugar-Glazed Roasted Carrots
Serves 4-6

1 1/2 lbs medium carrots, peeled and cut into 2 by 1/2 inch pieces
2 TB butter, melted
1 TB dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper

Adjust the oven rack to medium and heat oven to 475. Heat a rimmed baking sheet in the oven for 10 minutes.

Toss the carrots, melted butter, brown sugar, salt and pepper in a medium bowl until thoroughly combined. Remove the hot baking sheet from the oven and place the carrots on it in a single layer. Roast until the carrots are beginning to brown on the bottom, about 15 minutes.

Remove the pan from the oven, toss the carrots to redistribute and continue to roast until tender and deep amber in color, about 3 minutes. Serve.

Joyous and I both enjoyed this dinner...alot! The chicken was perfect. The dusting of flour helps create this thick, rich sauce of bacon, rosemary, garlic and lemon. Really divine. The bacon was such an awesome touch! The sauce was a sort of less piccata picatta...make sense? The lemon and garlic flavors pop, but the bacon and rosemary really mellow those flavors.

The carrots...yum! I loved the dark little carmelized pieces. Can't wait to try these again.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Pumpkin Risotto

Yes my friends, I made my infamous, world renowned Pumpkin Risotto last night for dinner! Glory be they name!

Just like regular risotto, the pumpkin risotto is really easy. And if you follow a straight up risotto recipe, you can just add some par-cooked pumpkin and be done with it. Yum.

But there are some secrets...especially this time that I think really elevated this batch of pumpkin risotto to truly sublime. Perhaps the best I've made...yes, I'm admitting it.

After you clean up the pumpkin and cut it, I dropped the diced pieces into the simmering broth, along with two large sage leaves and some onion. As an after thought, I dropped a few whole cloves into the broth. Letting this all simmer together is where this risotto really comes together. Instead of simmering the pumpkin in water and pouring that down the drain, the pumpkin gets some flavor from the mild broth mixture and it releases some of it's flavor to the broth. When you scoop out the pumpkin, toss the onion, sage and cloves. You really want the pumpkin to be "just" tender, it will cook for about another minute towards the end of cooking.

I took a suggestion I had the last time I made this and added some chopped sage. Perfect. Really just wonderful. Sage can be a very strong dominate flavor, so don't do too much. I had two large leaves, chopped up. I tasted the risotto before I added the chopped sage and you could really pick up the tiny bit of clove I had added to the broth. Once the sage was added, the clove enhancement was covered by the sage. This time I had three cloves...I'll probably double that.

As a final bit of flourish, I garnished the risotto with some freshly roasted pumpkin seeds. The salty, crunchy texture was a great extra touch. I LOVE Autumn!


I have a little specialty. I don't make it all that often. It is seasonal as you can see by our main ingredient. I'm going to brag a touch and say...last night's version was as near perfect as it's ever been. I'm so pleased. Any guesses what it is???

I'll try to have a full post this evening.

Sunday, October 08, 2006

So Meaty!

Vegetarians, please look away and stop reading now.

With the weather being a little cooler (and rainy the past few days) we decided to go with a good old fashioned beef pot roast for dinner tonight. And I love my recipe; it's particularly nice for a weekend, when you have the time to get everything together. You need three to four hours for prep and cooking.

Pot Roast
Serves 4-6

2-3 lbs Beef Roast (I can't remember the cut of meat--Rump? Chuck Roast?)
2 TB Olive Oil
1 Large Onion, diced large
6 Cloves Garlic, sliced
3 TB Tomato Paste
1 tsp Oregano
1 tsp Thyme
1 tsp Marjoram
1/2 tsp Cayenne Pepper (optional)
2 Bay Leaves
1 cup dry Red Wine
1 cup boiling water
1 Beef bouillon cube

3 Potatoes, cubed
1/2 pound Carrots, large dice

Preheat oven to 325.

Pat the roast dry with a paper towel and season with salt and pepper.

Heat a large oven proof skillet with a cover, or large dutch oven over medium high heat. Add the olive oil and then gently place the roast into the pan. Sear on both sides for about 5 minutes per side. Remove to a plate.

Add the onions to the pan and allow to saute for about 4 mintues. Add the garlic and stir into the onions and cook for a minute. Clear the middle of the pan and add the tomato paste, smear it around and stir the onions and garlic into the paste. Add the spices and stir. Gently pour in the red wine and stir to incorporate with the tomato paste and onions. Add the water and the bouillon cube. Bring to a simmer.

Add the roast back into the pan, cover and place in the oven for one hour. At the one hour mark, remove and turn the roast over. Cover and return to the oven for another hour.

After the second hour, check to see how tender the roast is. If it's starting to easily pull apart, or fall apart in the pan, it's time for the veg. Add the potatoes and carrots. Cover and place back in the oven for another 30 minutes (maybe a little longer, depending on how large your veg are cut).

When the potatoes and carrots are tender it's time to eat! Remove the roast to a plate. Spoon the vegetables into a bowl. Pour the gravy through a sieve to remove the garlic bits and smushy onions (this is optional, but nice).

Plate up the meat and vegetables. Serve with some gravy and garnish with chopped parsley.

Out of the oven and ready to plate up.

There is something to great about potatoes and carrots that have been slow cooked in a rich beefy brothy.

The cut of meat I had was particularly fatty, so a little work was needed to clean up the meat before serving. But it was so easy, as the meat was just falling apart, meltingly tender.


About 20 minutes...

We're heading to brunch with "The Brunch Bunch" in just a short while. I didn't really know what to bring so I went with a favorite standby-Ginger Scones!

I just tried one to make sure they are acceptable for consumption by friends. Mmmmm!

I've worked through this recipe a few times that it now only takes me about 20 minutes from start to finish. I love that. A quick inventory of the supplies and I got started...flour, sugar, salt, soda, cream of tartar, ginger whizzed in the processor. Butter whizzed in. Ginger whizzed. Didn't have milk, so I went with cream. Flop out on the counter, form, cut, put on the baking sheet, brush with glaze, sprinkle sugar and bake! 12 minutes later, golden brown and delicious!

This batch was sooo much better than the last batch I made. I've decided that the recommended "12 scones" the recipe makes is a little off. They get too thin and don't look good. So I went with eight scones. Much better. They are large and tender; delicious.

Saturday, October 07, 2006

Needed to Purge

Last week I recieved my newest order of replacement herbs and spices from Penzey's and today I recieved a little suprise b-day package from Chilefire. All of this and my overloaded cupboard full of herbs, spices and other seasonings. Some old. Some new. Time to purge!

This was everything, old and new.
I tossed about a quarter of it.
And created a list of about 10 items I need to replace.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Admission of Guilt

Sometimes I just need something lazy for dinner.
Yes, the few cocktails I had before hand helped with the "lazy." Fish Sticks and Tater Tots! So "Five Year Old" of me!

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

Scotte was naughty!
It's sooo delicious!
Flaky and Buttery and Nutty!

More details coming soon.