Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Chicken... Again

We have chicken nearly every week, fixed numerous ways. I sometimes get so tired of it, but at less than two bucks a pound it is still one of the most economical proteins available and we usually buy the bulk pack with five or six breasts. On top of all that, I've been preparing dinner for two... that is a whole bunch of chicken to work through.  Inspiration hit tonight! Watching Rachel Ray in between TV news and she's doing up a stuffed chicken breast. Great idea! Naturally I went in a whole different flavor palette, but the results are worth writing down. My DH (dear huband) thinks it might be one of the best fixes ever! PS What DH brings home Spanish Jamón serrano as a wifey treat?

Greek Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Greek  Stuffed Chicken Breasts

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Creative Zest

Food, colors, creative play.... where and when do we let our creative side get crowded out by life?  Or for some art and creativity is scary, foreign and missing.  I've recommitted myself to play and just allow myself to act on the images and flavors that present themselves instead of shutting them down to something more staid and practical. That side of me, right now requires my attention.  And, the funny thing is, the risk of sharing is just a part the creative process. Does what you do resonate with anyone else?  Like a good meal, what fun is it if you are eating alone?  Open eyes, explore and challenge yourself...myself...  I started out just to push my cooking, get out of a rut and to envision and execute editable feasts for the eyes and tongue and now... Geez, look at me, posting on a blog, joining flickr groups and adventuring out in the social creative network. What are you doing to feed your creative side? I have to say, for now, "Love it!"
Cayenne Love

Saturday, September 25, 2010

Steak, 'Taters and Broccoli

Something about simple pleasures. You know what I mean? A great grilled sirloin, rubbed with Montreal Spices, bathed in Merlot and Worchestershire. Sided with oven roasted red potatoes with rosemary, garlic, and parmesan, simple steamed broccoli. Paired with a lovey Cabernet Sauvignon.  What are your go to simple meals that hit a home run every time?
Sirlion, Rosemary Roasted Potatos,  Broccoli

Friday, September 24, 2010

Kaspar's Curry Mussels - Modified

Kaspar's Curried Mussels - slightly modified
We all modify recipes, do with what we have, alter the spices, ingredients at will. This one, is spectacular on it's own. I just didn't have all the right stuff at the time and I wanted an additional green pepper kick. In California, Penn Cove Mussels are available at Costco. Got to love that. The real treat was I got to share it with one of my dear loves. That's what makes cooking special. My modifications added.

1 1/2 lb fresh mussels
3/4 c dry white wine (used chardonnay)... a little for the pot/a little for the cook
1 lg shallot finely chopped --- used 1/4 c finely diced red onion
2 garlic cloves chopped -- used 3
2 tsp curry powder -- used Spice Hunters No Salt Curry
1 stalk lemongrass -- cut into 2" lengths, outer leaves peeled
5 fresh kaffir lime leaves -- couldn't find so used 1 - 2 Tbl sp julienned lime zest (no pithe white)
2 thai chili split w/seeds removed - I added this, wanted a little green kick
3/4 c coconut milk --- used lite

Clean and debeard mussels
Combine shallots, garlic, chilis in a little olive oil, let it sweat and become soft - don't brown
Add curry powder, lemon grass, lime, wine and coconut milk, bring to boil.
Simmer over moderately high heat, add mussels and cook until all are opend (about 5 min) don't overcook.

For finish
With slotted spoon place mussels in indiv serving bowls, ladle broth top with.
2 green onions finely sliced
2 tbl fresh cilantro
Black ground pepper to taste

Origin Credit: Real Food, Spring 2010 Metropolitian Market Real Foods Recipe

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Music of our lives

I have to admit, I am blessed. While I am cooking away in the kitchen my darling dear is serenading me on the piano, creating the soundtrack to our mutual creativity. Music is so integral to my creative process. I need my tunes to drive, to write, to cook. What is on your play list? I often crank out the Santana, Gipsy Kings, Vivaldi, Duke Ellington, Diana Krall, Alicia Keyes.... My music is as eclectic as my cooking. Tonight, my darling shared this beauty. I hope you also enjoy.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Last of the summer peaches

Fall will be here officially in a matter of days and I am hanging on to all the bits of summer I can. Mornings are darkening, there is a crispness in the air and if you are on the central California coast you are relishing our own special time. Cool mornings and delightfully sunny days. Tourists have returned home and the beaches are local havens.

I have this pitiful little peach tree in my yard. Every year it tries valiantly to produce peaches, we thin them out, water and wait and wait. By now most orchards are finishing their harvests, some early varieties appear in June for heaven's sake! But not our little one, it's few large globes are still green and the hopes of ripening before the weather turns is pretty much improbable. The green fruit drops and the dogs chase after them like so many tennis balls. Just the wrong tree, in the wrong place planted by someone with a idealistic heart.  Lucky for me it is easy enough to satisfy my peach cravings at the local grocery store or farmer's market. Good grief, they're selling for .87 cents a pound!

Thus, today's peachy entry is.... Drunken Peach Crisp with a Triple Ginger Twist... Crisps are an autumnal comfort food and could be a great cocktail title too!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nothing wrong with doctoring...

Thai inspired salad with Peanut Ginger Dressing
I just like having my ingredients, ya'know what I mean? Tonight I was bone tire, not wanting to cook anything, yet, didn't want to succumb to unhealthy eating. Why waste the calories! It took me nearly a year to lose 35 pounds and it has been tough enough the last two to keep it off.  So tonight was a take-off on yummy lettuce wraps--converted to a salad and a little help from a prepared jar of dressing, some fresh cilantro and basil and a yummy Santa Fe Pepper. Dinner for 2!  What are you "doctoring!?"

Modified Ginger Peanut Dressing
1/3 cup Ginger Peanut Dripping Dressing/Cooking Sauce
1 tablespoon creamy peanut butter
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons olive oil
1/8 tsp granulated garlic
pinch of cayenne pepper

Whisk together until smooth

Salad Greens for two
Mixed greens (napa cabbage, green leaf lettuce, romaine)
3 chopped green onions
1/2 carrot (1/4 cup) julienne
1 celery stalk, diced
1/4 yellow pepper julienne
2 tablespoons fresh chopped basil
2 tablespoons fresh chopped cilantro
2 tablespoons diced Santa Fe Pepper
2 grilled chicken breasts, sliced on the diagonal

Assemble greens, mix fresh herb throughout, top with yellow pepper, onions, celery, and carrots. Drizzle 1/2 dressing on greens, then top with sliced chicken. Pour rest of dressing on chicken and sprinkle with diced red pepper.

Saturday, September 11, 2010

What's on the wine list?

Briccontondo Barbera
Wine, with food or alone can be either a delightful pairing or disappointing oh well.  I am an explorer, willing to take a chance and let my heart pick from label design, vintner, or bargin worth trying. Oh, and I try not to spend too much per bottle, just in case I really like it and want more. What great wines can I find priced for regular folk, not a connoisseur, but seeking another palate pleasing good fix. Is it "drinkable now?" Really important, why wait!

On the wine list today are a few recently tried and worth sharing.

  • 2007, 2008 Fontanafredda Briccotondo Piedmonte Barbera- found this at Costco about a year ago and keep an eye out for more.  Sources include Bev Mo and World Market (Cost Plus) 90 points and a "Best Buy" designate, Wine Spectator : "Displays lovely plummy, chocolaty character. Full and silky smooth, this is packed with flavor. So delicious. Drink now." (12/08) 90 points from Wine & Spirits Magazine: "A vibrant and youthful barbera with fresh plum and cherry flavors, this feels balanced and cool. An everyday red to enjoy with grilled sausage." Prices range from 8.99 - 12.00
    Bonny Doon Vineyard
  • 2009 Vin Gris de Cigare - delightful pink wine, summer's friend! Crisp, floral and hint of fruits. Bonny Doon Vineyward, a light pressing of the Noir.  Lucky local me, found at World Market at about 11.99. Or can buy from the vintner.  Bonny Doon Vineyards
  • Fortino's Burgandy Reserve - One of my Dad's favorite red table wines come from Fortino's in Gilroy, CA.  The Burgandy Reserve, a blend and he identified it as a good ole "italian jug wine." He would often buy a case and just enjoy.

Monday, September 6, 2010

Artichoke and Green Olive Crostini

Marinated Artichoke and Olive Crostini
Makes about 1 cup / 12  Crostini 

Still savoring my adventure in Olive Month! This appetizer was part of my Heart of the Mountain Menu. Lovely, flavorful crunchy bites and so quick and easy to make in 15 minutes or less!

1 Sourdough Baguette
6 marinated artichoke hearts
12 medium pitted green olives*
3 tablespoons grated parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 tablespoon chopped mixed fresh herbs (flat leaf parsley, italian oregano, basil)*

Slice baguette on the diagonal, 12 pieces about 1/2” thick.
Drain artichoke hearts, cut in half if large pieces
Wash and chop fresh herbs

In food processor (I use my mini-processor for this recipe, just the right size!) put artichoke hearts, pulse to rough chop. Add green olives, herbs and olive oil, pulse to combine. Add parmesan cheese and final couple of pulses. You want a chunky consistency, not a puree.

Place baguette slices on cooking sheet (9” x 12”) Toast at 350 degrees about 5 minutes. Remove from oven and turn over, and toast other side about 3 minutes. Don’t over cook, these are not croutons and you’ll want a little give to the bread.

Spread your artichoke and olive mixture on your bread slices, sprinkle with chopped chives (optional) and serve.

Cook’s  Tip
* Use about a tablespoon of dried italian seasoning as a substitute for your fresh herbs.
* Use pitted green olives, I used olives I had marinated in fennel, garlic, peppers and coriander for a flavor boost.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Roasted Broccoli Soup with Bacon

Sometimes inspiration comes from a trifecta of random thoughts... this week I had an abundance of broccoli that I had to do something with, International Bacon Day was coming up, and my Aunt Janna was about to celebrate her 84th birthday!  Seemingly unrelated, but somehow pulled together for this very rich and flavorful twist on cream of broccoli soup.

My Aunt Janna is a wonderful cook, one of my most favorite memories is that quintessential summer potluck salad of chopped broccoli, tangy red onions and lots of bacon. I think as a youngster that salad made a huge impact on my tastebuds. Imagine! Broccoli something more delicious than the boiled variety (with mayonnaise) that was a dinner staple. That food memory calls to me every summer. Now that fall is approaching, how can I capture it's essense and give it my own zest.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Heart of the Mountain Menu

Sometimes, you just want to go all out and push your own limits. Take inspiration from where you can and proceed full throttle is my motto. After spending a lovely afternoon at the Scotts Valley Art and Wine Festival I came home with two bottles of the 2007 Heart of the Mountain Pinot Noir. I was particularly impressed by the intensity of fruit and interpretation of the vintner's craft.  The Santa Cruz Mountains are continuing to gain notoriety with the quality vineyards and wineries. What a delight to live in such a beautiful and fruitful appellation. I have been searching for a Pinot Noir that was not generic, bland and run of the mill. So many I have tasted lately have been sub-par. This certainly fit the bill! 

This estate vintage is produced on what was the old Alfred Hitchcock estate in Scotts Valley, CA. For those of us, "of a certain age" the Hitchcock name is legend and his films and TV show were mainstay thrillers well beyond the normal sensibilities of the 1960's and 1970's.  What is your favorite Hitchcock film? Rear Window, Vertigo, North by Northwest, The Birds? I am partial to Rear Window myself. My Dad, a glazing contractor often visited the estate, doing work for the Hitchcock family. Nonplussed with celebrity, he would just talk about the installation, problems solved or creative solution deployed.

Inspired by the Pinot on hand, and promise of the Hitchcock legend,  I concocted the following menu designed for a summer's eve dinner al fresco. Summer heat dictates finger food and lovely salads... and ice cream.  The duck confit was something new for me and I wanted to bring out the special "a la orange" one normally associates with duck, but still have the traditional fall off the bone deliciousness and flavor. This was a "no occasion" meal, just cooking to stretch my wings. My husband kept looking at me wondering... when is the other shoe going to fall? What is going on? He was expecting that some big announcement was in the ofting. The big surprise was there is no surprise.

Have you ever gone all out, the dinner scape, the menu, the wine.. just so you could? And why not!