Thursday, May 26, 2011

Etheral Mushrooms

This is a "Wow!!! What the heck is in this!!??" type of recipe. These mushrooms live up to their name and you will be the star of any party you bring them to. They are just heavenly and melt in your mouth. This is not my usual light dish, but remember I made these in honor of a chef and the occasion was special. If you generally eat healthy, a dish like this in moderation is perfectly fine to enjoy once in a while.

This recipe is from my parents' neighbor and she brings them to most gatherings, with all the neighbors drooling as she carries them in. After finally getting the recipe, my mom attempted to recreate them a couple of times and knew it just did not taste the same. She was sure her friend was holding out some secret ingredient. Turns out, the type of bouillon is the secret... try to use paste instead of the cubed version if you can find it. It does make a difference! This is the brand I found at Bristol Farms.
  • 2 lbs regular white button mushrooms
  • 2 cups Burgundy (Or just use pinot noir for a less expensive option)
  • 2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1/2 tsp dill seed (I could only find Dill weed at my grocery store which worked fine)
  • 1/2 tsp pepper
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 2 tsp beef bouillon paste (or use 2 cubes if you cannot find the paste)
  • 2 tsp chicken bouillon paste (or again, use 2 cubes if you cannot find)

Combine all ingredients except mushrooms in Dutch oven. Bring to a boil over medium heat. Add mushrooms.

Reduce to simmer. Cook 5-6 hours with pot covered.

Remove lid and cook another 3-4 hours.

This is really the most simple recipe, but it does have a very long cooking time. Plan ahead. I find it best to make the night before. I let it simmer all night (even though it says 5-6 hours, I cooked it longer and thought it turned out better) then continue cooking with the lid off the day of your party.

Serve as an appetiser with toothpicks. The mushrooms will be very dark.



Raw Brussel Sprout Salad

This salad idea came from a combination of two different recipes I had read recently. I decided to combine them together.

If you are afraid of these little stinky vegetables, you are not alone. It seems that most people who have a strong dislike for any vegetable seem to name this one. I don't get it... I love them roasted or steamed.. and now raw in this salad. This is a great side dish for the summer because it is served cool or at room temperature and its an unexpected healthy twist on the usual side salad. I hope you try it.

First, you need to make the vinaigrette. Mix all ingredients except for the oil in a bowl. then slowly whisk in the oil until everything comes together. This vinaigrette needs at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator before added to the salad, or you can make it up to 3 days ahead of time.

  • Juice of 2 lemons
  • 1 finely chopped shallot
  • 3 TBS finely chopped chives
  • salt and pepper to taste
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
Salad Ingredients:
  • 2 lbs brussel sprouts, thinly sliced
  • 1/4 freshly grated good Parmesan cheese (no green can!)
  • 1 cup shelled pistachios
Using a mandolin or food processor with a slicing blade, slice the brussel sprouts. Mix together with the Parmesan cheese and dress. Toss in the pistachios just before serving so they stay crunchy.


Book Club

This past weekend was my turn to host our monthly book club meeting. This month we chose to read a beautiful chef's memoir titled Blood, Bones, and Butter written by Gabrielle Hamilton. She writes in a way that appears to be effortless and it really captivated me right from the beginning. It is amazing that this woman has been gifted with both the ability to cook and to write! I highly recommend it for your summer reading list.

I had so much fun planning the menu and trying to capture elements of the book as well as try to put my own spin on keeping some healthy elements. I don't know if I have it in me to run a restaurant after reading about her journey and how much work it really does take, but I certainly love hosting people, especially my girlfriends. I literally jumped out of bed that morning to start preparing. My husband thought it was cute.

I will post each of these three recipes on separate posts but here is a preview:
  • Raw Brussel Sprout Salad made with a fresh vinaigrette, Parmesan cheese, and pistachios
  • Ethereal Mushrooms (cooked 15 hours and were heavenly like their name!)
  • Balsamic Marinaded Tomatoes served over fresh Burrata Mozzarella

I tried to incorporate elements on the book while also trying to add some healthy elements. This is a great way to entertain. Focus on an inspiration but stay true to the way you love to eat. Gabrielle spends a month a year in Italy so of course I had to include Italian elements. The Burrata Mozzarella was inspired by a specific scene in the book where she gets married and her and her husband choose to serve each other big heaping spoon fulls of the creamy cheese instead of wedding cake. How cool is that? A true food lover!

These recipes are for you, Gabrielle! And I hope everyone else loves them too!



Sunday, May 8, 2011

Asparagus and Mushroom Frittata

Today was Mothers Day. We celebrated by hosting brunch at our house and I made a simple and light meal with the women in mind. Fritattas are like a quiche except without the crust. It is started on the stove top and then finished in the oven. You can mold this recipe to whatever you have in the fridge. This can be a breakfast item... or served at lunch or dinner with a side salad. It really works with anything. This recipe makes a generous 6 portions.

  • 12 eggs
  • 1/4 cup milk
  • 2 TBS butter
  • 1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
  • 1 bunch asparagus, chopped into 1/2 inch pieces
  • 1 cup sliced mushrooms
  • 1 shallot
  • salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 350.

Begin by melting the butter over medium-low heat in a large non-stick pan. Chop the shallot and cook for 2 minutes. Add the asparagus and mushrooms and cook for 5 minutes or until the asparagus is tender.
While the vegetables cook, combine your eggs, milk, cheese, salt and pepper in a large bowl. Add to the pan. Do not mix, simply allow the majority of the mixture to cook until only the middle of the egg mixture is a bit wiggly. For me, this was about 8 minutes. Transfer the whole pan to the oven and cook for another 10 minutes. The frittata should puff up slightly and turn a golden brown around the edges.

I grated a little extra cheese over the top. Cut into wedges and enjoy. I served the frittata along with smoked salmon and whole wheat bagels, and a mixed berry salad. I love how colorful the plate is!

Now, I know this is not the typical healthy recipe I like to post... but today was a special occasion. You could very easily trim this down by using egg whites only and eliminate the cheese.


Thursday, April 21, 2011

Bob's Salsa

My husband loves tacos. And he was lucky to grow up eating them about once a week at home. His father makes the most delicious salsa, and I recently learned how simple it is to make. When I lived with girlfriends, we used to do a taco salad night at least once a week. We would cook lean ground turkey meat with taco seasoning, chop up some lettuce, add some black beans or lard free refried beans, and top with taco sauce or store bought salsa. I wish I would have had this recipe then!

The canned tomatoes in this recipe are sweet and the rest of the ingredients are fresh. You can easily double to triple if you are doing a taco night for a large group.

  • 1 large can organic whole peeled tomatoes (I prefer Cento or San Marzano)
  • 1/2 cup cilantro
  • 1 yellow onion
  • 4-5 cloves of fresh garlic, finely diced
  • 1 can diced green chilies (he uses the Ortega brand)
  • 1/8 cup red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste
Chop and combine all ingredients in a large bowl. I am sure it can be done with a food processor... but I have only ever seen Bob chop by hand so I suggest you do the same. It is that simple. Oh, and make sure to include the juice from the tomatoes.

Your taco night just got healthier.


Peggy's Salad Dressing

Stop buying salad dressing from a bottle. Stop it. You know you never use it all, and you have several bottles just waiting to go bad in your refrigerator door. Most of them are full of additives and preservatives - gasp! And its tacky on the dinner table. Make your guests or family something from scratch. It takes 2 minutes, its delicious, its better for you, and everyone will ask you what brand it is and admire you longingly when you tell them you made it yourself.

My dear friend Madeline taught me this recipe when we were in college. She learned it from her mother, Peggy. This is the original recipe, but I have made it with garlic instead of shallot, with walnut oil instead of olive oil, I sometimes add fresh lemon juice, and I have tried all different types in vinegar.

  • 1 small shallot, finely chopped

  • 2-3 TBS good olive oil

  • 1 tsp balsamic vinegar

  • 1 TBS Dijon mustard

  • 2 tsp honey

  • salt and pepper to taste
I usually start by chopping the shallot and mixing it with the salt, pepper, and mustard until it makes a thick paste. Then I incorporate the honey and vinegar. Last, I slowly pour in the olive oil while mixing all the ingredients together.

Drizzle it over mixed greens right before serving.

My Hiatus

OK, so its been many months since a new post. Let me explain:

First, it is not for lack of cooking. In the past months, I have perfected my chicken and rice soup with beautiful healthy greens blended into the base, gained a new level on comfort with many white fishes, and hosted many many dinner parties. I have developed a love affair with linen napkins and if it weren't for our 900 sq foot beach cottage limitations, I would probably have a more extensive collection.

So the truth is twofold 1) I got discouraged by other cutsie-fancyman-coloful-technical blogs. I don't know how to do those things, and I have come to terms with the fact that I honestly don't care to learn. I just don't. I just want to cook good food and write about it... not spend more of my time in front of my screen feeling lost and frustrated trying to compete with other more professional food blogs. 2) I started wondering why I was doing it? I'm not trying to make money, I am not trying to sell ad space, and many times its not my original recipe - I am simply sharing a recipe from someone else (yes, Ina Garten, it is usually you). I would post my updates on facebook and sometimes just felt a little too boastful about the whole thing.

I have talked to friends and my husband about this struggle and I needed a few months to just figure out my motivation. But I have come to the conclusion that I don't have a conclusion. I am over thinking the whole thing. I am not trying to brag, my original motivation actually came when my friend Ashley one evening asked me how I knew how to roast a chicken. She asked me to send her the recipe. So that night I posted my first blog. I love entertaining and I love cooking, and I thought this would be a wonderful way to share my ideas with others. It may very well be a recipe I got from someone else... or it may be my own adaptation... or it may be an original. Whichever it is, it is something I think is worth sharing.

I feel many women in my generation are not confident in the kitchen. I do not mean this as a judgement or to say that just because my comfort level is high that I am any better at cooking. But I started out following recipes EXACTLY and then slowly started learning it was OK to make little changes here and there and slowly my preference for kitchen flavors and themes evolved. It continues to evolve. I also feel like people eat out too often and too casually. Its important to eat right, and its important to check in with your family and friends over a wonderful meal. Its intimate to have someone in your home. And its an amazing gift to make them feel comfortable and taken care of. And since getting married and taking ownership of my kitchen, I have really developed a greater appreciation for men and women who have the ability to cook and entertain well.

Anyway, all that said to announce that I am back. I am ready to recommit to blogging. I will try not to post it too often on facebook. And I hope it inspires you to cook more.