Thursday, July 31, 2008

Grilled Chicken Skewers

A very tasty platter of grilled chicken skewers and sauted green beans with shallots.

The chicken marinated overnight in a mixture of soy sauce (1/2 cup), fresh ginger (2 TB), minced garlic (2 large cloves), lime juice (1 lime) and brown sugar (2 TB). I won't marinate the chicken overnight again, just a few hours is enough. The flavor is pretty tasty though. The amounts of the marinade are not exact, but what I did this time around.

I thought I had shared my recipe for the sauted green beans, but I don't think I have...sad. So blanch the green beans. Then in a hot skillet saute some shallots in olive oil and butter, about 1 TB of each. Then add the blanched green beans and saute for about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper to taste...delish. It's my new favorite way to have green beans. I've made them a bunch in the past few months, so I'm surprised I haven't posted the recipe before. If anyone can find it, I'll give you princess points. was too darn hot. I couldn't bear to stand outside over a screaming hot grill in the heat and humidity tonight. So, dug out the grill pan! Woohoo.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Peppers and Sausage w/Pasta

This recipe is from the recent edition of Real Simple. I was drawn in my the promise of 20 minute meals on the cover. So I picked it up in San Diego to have as in-flight reading material. I forget that there is a whole bunch of this magazine that isn't geared to me, so I read the 5 pages of recipes and put the magazine away.

As I don't have the recipe in front of me and I made some changes, we'll have to say this is an adapation of Real Simple's recipe for pasta with peppers and sausage.

You need peppers. Get what you can. It's summer now, perhaps you can get a variety of locally grown peppers at your neighborhood farmer's market.

First you need to cook up some Italian sausage links. Then wipe out the excess fat from the pan, add some fresh olive oil and saute some onions and the peppers, until just tender.

Add some dry white wine and bring to a full simmer and reduce. Add garlic, cherry or grape tomatoes (cut in half if you wish) and some basil. Again, tomatoes and basil--fresh at your farmers market!

Slice the sausage and add to the peppers and tomatoes.

Toss with al dente, shapely pasta. Prior to serving add some cubes of fresh mozzarella and enjoy!

Pasta w/Sausage & Peppers
For 2-4 meals (depending on hunger!)
3-4 Italian Sausages
1 large pepper, or portions of multiple peppers (green, yellow, red, etc.), sliced
1-2 TB olive oil
salt/pepper to taste
1/4 medium onion, sliced
2-4 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes (optional)
1 cup cherry or grape tomatoes, sliced if you like
1/4 cup of basil, sliced
1/2 cup of fresh mozarella, cubed
1/4 lb box of shapely pasta, cooked to al dente (reserve 1 cup of cooking water)

Cook the sausages in a medium to large frying pan. Place the sausages in the pan and add water, about 2 cups. Bring to a boil. The water will heat and cook the sausages through and eventually evaporate leaving a little rendered fat to brown the cooked sausages.

When the sausages are browned, remove to a plate or cutting board. Wipe out excess fat and add 1-2 tablespoons of olive oil. Add the onions and saute for 2 minutes. Add the red pepper flakes at this point if you like. Add the peppers and saute for another 2 minutes, until just tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute. Add wine and deglaze the pan, scraping up any bits that have accumulated on the bottom of the pan. Bring to a simmer and let reduce by half.

Add the tomatoes and sliced basil. Cook for two minutes. Return the sausage and the cooked pasta. Toss to coat. Add some of the pasta cooking water if the pasta and peppers appear dry.

Add the mozzarella cubes and serve.

The leftovers are a great lunch. I had mine and really enjoyed it. The pasta really soaked up the flavor of the peppers and sausage. The peppers and tomatoes were a bit soggy, but tasty. Enjoy!

Monday, July 28, 2008

20 minute dinner

Pretty dang good. I'm fully satisfied. Pasta with sausages, peppers, tomatoes and later mozarella.

Recipe to follow.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Officially Back

Kind of sucks having to be back home after vacation. I've been exhausted, jet-lagged; but completely refreshed and happy.

Somewhere between Earth and Space.

A great restaurant in the Hillcrest neighborhood of San Diego. We had a great time and really enjoyed our server, Mandy. She embraced my mistake and didn't laugh at me, but with me when I said "69 the Okra." I meant "86 the Okra." Instead we 69'd it. Good times.

1220 University Avenue
San Diego, CA

I was enjoying our table.

I ordered the fancy fried chicken. Tender, juicy and pretty tasty. The sauce was a honey mustard bourbon sauce? Maybe? I can't remember exactly. Good. I also ordered the mac n' cheese with bacon and roasted garlic. Nice!

J-lo ordered the beef. The beef was "terrorized." Mandy explained that was the flavor/spice blend. So the beef wasn't haunted and hunted, it was just flavored. You can see some of the 69'd okra on the plate. The beef was great, but the terrorizing seasoning didn't really work for us, with the beef. Maybe better with a chicken or pork. The beef should have just had salt and pepper and been better.

Much like a yeti or Loch Ness, this is a sight unseen until this point. I have never been golfing before...real, adult golf. I'm great on the putt-putt course, but this...well, Tiger has nothing to worry about.

Oh my! My balls!

Odd. Someone stuck a branch in the top of the sign. Cuz that's so West Coast.

To Recap:
We ate really great food.
Drank lots of wonderful wine.
Lounged and enjoyed the beautiful weather.
Beautiful friends.


Footnote: We went back to Olivetto and totally indulged! Perfect. Two visits, Lots of money and probably close to four bottles of wine! Can't wait to go back. Someday. Ordered gnocchi with a light tomato sauce...wonderful!

Friday, July 25, 2008

We visited the Temple twice!

While in San Diego, we were introduced to the Temple known as...

IN-N-OUT Burgers!
...and now we pray!

Simply perfect. Juicy and flavorful patties. Melted cheese and savory fried onions. Perfectly toasted bun and great hand-cut fries.

There is a very good chance this is the best fast food burger I've had in my life. Perhaps better than the Five Guys!

Don't go to In-N-Out looking for a chicken sandwich or a salad. They are burgers. That's it. You can have fries, soda and a shake. Save the chicken sandwich for Chick-fil-a.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pairing wine

All this talk of wine, I thought I would give some notes on pairing wine & food:
  • White with White, Red with Red is antiquated. If you need a singular rule, instead think of White with Light, Red with Rich.
  • Oil & Vinegar. The acid of the vinegar cuts the oil and vice versa. Apply the same rule to wine. Pair acidic wines with oily foods: Pinot Noir w/ Salmon.
  • Pairing food & wine is a balancing act. And with wine & food, the best balance can be opposites attract. Think lightly sweet white with spicy food. Gewurztraminer or Riesling with Thai or Mexican.
  • Or...match flavors. The grapefruit/citrus taste of Sauvignon Blanch goes with fish for the same reason lemon does.
  • In pairing, avoid wines that are predominated by non-food flavors. Oak isn't a taste you expect in food. Save oaky wines for fireside chats or curling up with a book, movie or...
  • Try not to pair wine with food that is sweeter than the wine. Save sweet, dessert wines for After dessert.
  • Number one rule. Drink wine to enjoy it and the company you share with it. Food and wine pairings are elusive and mythical. Drink wine you like with food you like, but never stop experimenting.
Notes totally cribbed from a brochure I picked up from San Diego grocer, Ralphs. For more on food & wine pairing, look up Andrea Immer (some books here & here).

More delicious wine

Here are two more Sauvignon Blancs I've enjoyed. I had one glass of each of these. Both very enjoyable and worthy of a full bottle purchase. Look for them.

I think this was my first Chilean S.B. I'm usually enjoy New Zealand or South African S.B.

I can only imagine how wonderful the Marlborough region of New Zealand must be. Anyone been?

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Wino is my name, Wine Tasting is my game

Hola from sunny San Diego.

Yesterday we participated in a wine tasting. There were over 50 different wines up for tastings. This was the first wine tasting I have really gone into. And I have to say, the people running the booths really weren't in the mood to be there. With a few exceptions, most of them could have cared less about talking about the wines they had available. This was very sad for me. I wanted to really do this. And on top of all this; we had the special passes which allowed unlimited tastings, others were based on tickets. So the staff would do double pours. No matter how often I said just a taste please they would do these double pours. This is great if you want to just drink...but after a few you start to loose you taste and nose. So as the tasting went on I was more and more likely to dump the wines I didn't like. I felt bad. Felt like I was wasting, but whatever, not my problem...if you can't listen to me, I'm going to have to dump your wine out!

All that said, I did have a great time with a handful of the wineries. My favorites are below.

(Sadly I don't remember too much of most of them, so the photos of the labels are the only thing I have to remind me.)

Big Tattoo

Straight Jacket
Sauvignon Blanc/Semillon
This was my favorite sauvignon blanc. Nice and dry, crisp.

Hazard Hill
Semillon/Sauvignon Blanc

A nice red, but it was just too warm to drink red wine.

Menage a Trois
Blend of 3 whites
(moscato, chardonnay, chenin blanc)
Oddly, this was favorite wine of the day. There was a great nose (chenin), nice body (chard) and a little sweet (moscato). Per my comment on the claret above, the opposite is true, this was a great wine to drink on a very warm day. Bring this one home for a warm day of lounging on you patio or porch. If you don't like sweet, you probably won't like this. It's not cloying sweet, but it's pronounced.

Innocent Bystander
A light, sweet, bubbly pink. Fun. A little silly, happy and enjoyable. This is more sweet than the Menage a Trois.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

800 From San Diego

Funny...turns out this is my 800th post! Who knew. And I'm in San Diego. Right now we're hovering around what feels like 70 and a little overcast. We're getting ready to clean up and head out for an adventure filled day. But I'd like to share with you some of what San Diego has offered us so far...

A lovely church in the distance. I love this mission-style architecture that is so common around Southern California.

We stopped in a little French gift shop. I love these French provincial fabrics so much. I didn't buy any as I'd have no idea what to do with them.

I love the honesty. None of this "curb your dog" business. Pick up the crap, thank you!

I do not condone graffiti, but I approve this message.


And then there was lunch. This was a great lunch, for San Diego, for us and perhaps the best meal out we've had in ages. Bravo!

Olivetto. The menu was covered in cork. I couldn't stop touching it. If I could...I would have kept it as a special reminder.

Olivetto: cafe & wine bar. They specialize in Italian dishes and great wine. I didn't notice a theme in the wine. There were about four of each main type of wine. 4 chards, 4 cabs, etc. Then a category of special whites and special reds. Very nice, not overwhelming.

Here's the deal. The restaurant was on it's second day of business. We stumbled in. A happy accident. Making this all the more perfect. I originally ordered gnocchi...but they didn't have it yet. Oh well. I had a pasta with a creamy pesto sauce. Very lovely.

J-lo ordered penne with a light tomato sauce with cheese , pancetta, onions and red pepper. Bright, slightly acidic.

You can't go to a wine bar without having wine! Have a glass or more!!!

This Drylands Sauvignon Blanc is my new mistress. We will be having a torrid affair over the next several months. She's so beautiful. She's bright with an acidic citric wit. But once you get to know her she's barefoot in the park with fresh grass and green apples.

Having finishing a few glasses of wine and our lunch, we had to try the dessert. The tiramisu was the way it should be. Just a touch of sweet. Light and airy, yet creamy. Paired perfectly with a lovely demitasse glass of espresso.

On Washington Avenue between Falcon & Goldfinch in Mission Hills, San Diego

(no cards or website yet...again it was their second day of business.)

And PS we might be going back for dinner on Monday!

Thursday, July 17, 2008

We're Off.

It's nearly 4 am. We're leaving in about an hour.
See you in Southern California. Have a good week.

Mission San Luis Rey in Oceanside, California

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Braised Ribs

Something went right last night! I did braised spareribs. They were tender, moist and had great flavor. Why did something go right? All the times I've tried to braise ribs before, they were dry, tough and had good flavor. Something went right. I'm guessing two things. 1) Low heat. I braised at 300 degrees for 90 minutes. In the past I braised for longer at a higher temp...maybe too long or maybe too hot? 2) I think I had the right amount of braising liquid! The ribs were just about 2/3rds covered. In the past I might have covered too much? As for the great flavor, I marinaded the ribs in a dry rub over night. Vann's Mesquite Rub. Perfect for pork, which I recently used here.

After your ribs marinate over night. Sear them in a medium hot pan with a little olive oil. You want to develop a crust and leave some flavor in the bottom of the pan, a.k.a. "fond." Don't pack the ribs in the pan or they will steam instead of searing, that's not good eats.

Once the ribs are seared you need to create your braising liquid. Add 1/2 an onion that has been diced. Add a little garli and a few pinches of hot pepper powder (I used Ancho Chile Powder), coriander, cumin, cinnamon, thyme, oregano and another spoon of the Mesquite spice rub. Add 1 TB of tomato paste. Pour in 1/2 cup of a pilsner beer. Simmer until the fond (good stuff stuck on the bottom of the pan) has scraped up and dissolved. Add the ribs back into the pan and add water until they are 2/3rds covered. Use a broth if you like for more flavor. Bring to a simmer, cover and put in a 300 degree oven for 90 minutes.

The liquid will reduce further and the ribs will be very tender. Serve and spoon a little of the liquid on top.

Ribs with cornbread. Serve with slaw or mashed potatoes or polenta name it. Very tasty.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Living My Life Like It's Golden, Golden!

Oh sweet heaven. Cornbread is a beautiful thing.

Especially when warm out of the oven with a little butter, maybe some honey. Mmmmm.

Delicious, easy and I've been lazy

Hi all,

Last week seemed virtually non-existent. I was out of town for work for a bit. We went to the beach for our annual planning session. Good times. We got a lot of great work done. But that kept me away from the blog for a few days. Then I'm back and was super lazy, so we had dinner out at The Alamo. A delightful Tex-Mex joint on Kenilworth Avenue. Check it out if you haven't. They recently changed the format of their menu. But the food is the same! And the margaritas...three will knock you out.

Ahhh, the beach.

Last night, Sunday, was the first night I cooked in a week. I made my favorite Rosemary Cream Sauce for some pre-fab fresh pasta I bought at the store. Easy. Super RICH and very delicious.

You need to start with the best butter. IMHO, this is the best. Way back when, I was able to participate in a butter tasting. It's hard to tell what's what, but the Kerrygold ranked right up there at the top.

Then you need some fresh rosemary. This is from my garden. On a side note, my basil, which was looking beautiful, has been devoured by some type of buggies. I'm sad. I love the gardening stuff, but I don't know how to deal with pests. We did buy some stuff to keep squirrels away. You spray where you want to keep them is nasty! Putrified egg whites, vinegar and I think some pepper oil. Ugh!

Melt some onions and butter....yes melt...low and want to sweat out those onions, until they are very tender and translucent! You don't want color, or your cream sauce will be brownish. When the onions are done. Add some roasted garlic for more richness!

And you need some freshly grated Parmigiano Reggiano. Only the best.

There is also cream in this recipe. But I was having some technical difficulties* at that time, so no photo!

I dressed some tortellinis with the sauce this time. It's great with any fresh pasta. Ravioli, fettucine! All good.

*So, my technical difficulties. It was boiling the pasta. I filled my pot with water and dumped the pasta in. Too much pasta for the amount of water I had. The tortellinis immediately poofed up and were nearly floating out of the pot as water kept pouring out. It was a huge mess and very frustrating. I should have only cooked half the amount of pasta at a time. But again, laziness is the key for the past week, so I didn't want to take the extra time. Lesson learned!


Well folks. I'm not sure how productive I will be over the next three days. Hopefully I'll have another one or two posts. Then on Thursday I head out for Sunny San Diego for several days. We were out there for a week about three years ago. I'm sure I'll have a post or two from So.Cal., but no promises.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Corn Saute

Last night was a fast dinner. I took some chicken, chopped it up and seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, coriander, oregano and a pinch of a grilling spice. I sauted in some olive oil. When done I set the chicken aside on a plate and moved on to the corn.

Start with three fresh ears of corn. Remove the kernels.

Chop 1/2 an onion. Add the onion to the pan the chicken was cooked in. When soft and starting to brown add 2 heaping spoons of roasted garlic. Stir to incorporate. Then add the corn. Stir.

Season with salt, pepper, cumin, pinch of hot pepper. Add a pat of butter. Saute for 3-5 minutes. Add a bit of chopped parsley. Stir in 2-3 tablespoons of heavy cream. Heat until warm. Serve immediately.

This was very delicious and totally satisfying. The chicken was a little lackluster. I might have overcooked it. But once you add the creamy corn, you don't notice the chicken. We had this with a fresh flour tortilla from the market. I'd say, if you want a burrito without rice, you could use the corn saute as the bulk of this burrito! It was very nice. This recipe was a slight variation of this recipe.

Corn on the Pancakes

On Saturday night we were sitting around playing a game and I had an AH-HA! moment. I would make pancakes in the morning with fresh corn added in. It wasn't that bad. A flavor/texture I wasn't really expecting, but I cleaned my plate and really enjoyed them. I know what I'll change next time. First. Start with this recipe!

Cut the kernels off the corn cob. Scrape the corn juice off the cob as well.

Add the kernels to the final batter.

Great with just butter.

Very nice with some fresh fruit jam.

Very nice with maple syrup!

*My note for next time. I think I used extra cornmeal in this batch, which created a very fragile pancake. They almost broke when I flipped them. The flour hadn't had a chance to develop enough glutton to hold the pancakes together and the cornmeal didn't help.