Sunday, August 29, 2010

Celebratory Dinner

Tonight we had Tiff & Howie over for dinner to celebrate their sixth wedding anniversary. Seems like yesterday we were in Las Vegas attending their wedding which ended with dinner @Tom Colicchio's CraftSteak in the MGM Grand Hotel. Maybe by next year I'll figure out how to embed the Internet broadcasted video of their ceremony on this blog!!

We started out the day trekking out to Old Brookville to go to Rottkamp's Farm for corn and tomatoes. Of course we never come away from the Farm with only what was on our list! We got Field Tomatoes, Corn, Purple & Red Potatoes, Red Onions, Red Bell Pepper, Cucumber and Yellow Grape Tomatoes all for dinner. And just cause we couldn't leave them there a few peaches and a couple of Heirloom Tomatoes.

On the way home we stopped at Trader Joe's for the other ingredients and general grocery shopping.

The menu turned out to be:
Hors d'oeuvres
Roasted Yellow grape tomatoes & goat cheese tarts
Prosciutto wrapped Bread Sticks
Mixed Nuts
Trader Jose beers with lime

Purple & Red Potato Salad
Salad Plate: Field Tomatoes, Yellow Grape Tomatoes, Cucumber, Radishes and Deviled Eggs w/capers
Pickle Plate: Pickled Cauliflower, Green Cherry Tomatoes & Brussels Sprouts
Oven Roasted Corn
Marinated Filet Mignon Roast
Grilled Chicken Breasts w/Barbecue Sauce
Rosado Rioja Wine/Sauvignon Blanc/Iced Tea

Glazed Chocolate Cake
        (a Martha Stewart recipe you can find here.)


Salad Plate
Potato Salad

Dinner Table

BBQ Chicken/Corn/Filet Mignon

Chocolate Glazed Chocolate Cake

Friday, August 27, 2010

Odds and Ends

Scrolling through some pictures on the memory card, I discovered that my sous chef/master photographer, Nana, has a few pics I'd forgotten about. 

So here's quick descriptions of what you are seeing:

Lamb Cubes with Eggplant and Tomatoes served with Herbed Couscous with Raisins.  This is one of those dishes that I make for clients and never got around to making it at home.  It was well received here as it is with clients.  Works very well in the pressure cooker!

Another Naan Pizza for lunch, Chopped Ham, Provolone Cheese, Trader Joe's Garlic Mustard, Fresh Figs and a drizzle of Balsamic Reduction.  Simply delish!

New Orleans inspired Shrimp and Rice dish:

Rice/Broken Spaghetti/Red Onion/Red Pepper/Corn/Garlic/Capers/Cilantro/Saffron tossed with Shrimp w/Cajun Spices, Sauteed with Cherry Tomatoes and splash of Vermouth.

Impromptu Dessert:  Toasted Pound Cake, Sliced Strawberries, Vanilla Ice Cream and uncooperative Nutella!



Sunday, August 22, 2010

One heckofa Summer Party!

The team from Traveling Culinary Artist pulled off another fabulous party.  The team includes Darling Daughter Tiffany, Darling Son Burke, Darling Daughter-in-law Monica, and of course the World's greatest Sous Chef Nana!  The party is an annual event for a very creative client that has had us back for the fourth consecutive year now. 

Here's the menu with pictures of some of the hors d'oeuvres. Sadly, the photographer was too busy being the Sous Chef to successfully make an album of all the dishes served!

Hors d'oeuvres:
Roasted Garlic Shrimp Cocktail
Red Pepper Hummus, with Flat Breads, Pita Chips & Celery
Sun-dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Rollups in Spinach & Tomato Wraps
Shrimp & Asparagus Dijon Tarts
Steak Tartare with Mini French Toasts and Flat Breads
Chilled Avocado Soup Shooters with Crabmeat
Roasted Cherry Tomato & Goat Cheese Tarts
Grilled Teriyaki Beef Skewers
Barbecue Chicken Skewers
Grilled Lemon & Rosemary Lamb Chops

Beef Tenderloin w/Gorgonzola Sauce
Roasted Asian Chile Spiced Sea Bass
Rice & Mushroom Pilaf
Orzo Salad
Green Beans with Crispy Shallots
Creamy Roasted Corn & Red Bell Pepper Toss
Mesclun Salad with Pine Nuts & Cranberries and Roasted Garlic Vinaigrette

Desserts: (Purchased and gifted)
Assorted Cheese Cakes
David's Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie
Assorted Cookies

Many compliments on the great food and of course the impeccable service!  Thanx to my team we had another very happy client!!

Red Pepper Hummus

Shrimp & Asparagus Dijon Tarts

Roasted Garlic Shrimp Cocktail

Sun-dried Tomato & Goat Cheese Rollups

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Cookies from Heaven

Nana cooked dinner for me Wednesday night, and it was delish!  She always apologizes for how simple her efforts are but let me tell you she nailed the Chicken Picatta, Parsley Potatoes and yes simple Green Peas.  It was beyond tasty it was delicious and even better because I didn't have to make it.  Sadly, she didn't photograph her efforts, she was too nervous about the timing!

After dinner there was one more surprise that truly blew me away! It was the cookies you see in the pictures!  The story is I saw them on the Simply Recipes blog. Turns out that they were posted by Garret McCord as a guest poster on Elise's blog. Thanx to both of you!!

They sounded awesome, so I copied the recipe into Mastercook, printed it out and dropped it on Nana's laptop on my way out the door with a note that we should try them someday!  I had no idea that she would pretty much run to the store to get the ingredients and surprise me with them!!  But boy am I ever glad she did.  They are sinfully good, they are the best chewy chocolate, chocolate chip, hazelnut cookie ever, oh did I leave out the Nutella??   What could be bad with those ingredients?

If you like any of those ingredients you must make these, then buy a cookie jar with a lock and key!  I'm serious, I can usually stop eating cookies after two, but these are in danger of disappearing all too quickly!  Here's the actual post on Simply Recipes and here's the recipe:

Chocolate Nutella Cookies

Recipe By : Garret McCord via Simply Recipes

1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter -- room temperature
3/4 cup brown sugar
3/4 cup white sugar
1 cup Nutella
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
2 eggs
2 cups -- plus 2 tablespoons of all-purpose flour
1/4 cup unsweetened cocoa
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup chocolate chips
1/2 cup chopped hazelnuts

1 Preheat oven to 350F. Cream butter in an electric mixer for 3 minutes until light and fluffy. Add the sugars and Nutella and mix well, scraping down the sides of the bowl to ensure even mixing.

2 Add the eggs, one at a time, beating for 30 seconds between each. Add the vanilla and mix for 10 seconds.

3 Sift together the flour, cocoa, salt, and baking soda (do not skip this step as sifting eliminates clumps of cocoa). Mix into the butter mixture on low speed until fully incorporated, scraping down the bottom and sides at least once to ensure even mixing. Fold in the chocolate chips and hazelnuts and refrigerate the dough for ten minutes.

4 Spoon tablespoon-sized drops of cough onto parchment paper lined cookie sheets. Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes. Allow to cool on the sheets for a minute or two before transferring to a wire rack to finish cooling.

Makes 6 dozen.
"Simply Recipes"
(Internet Address):


Monday, August 16, 2010

Fast, Fast, Fast Fresh Summer Meal

This is a really quick post for a quick light meal.  It's all in the picture! 

Grilled Galena Street rubbed Chicken Breasts
Grilled Romaine halves
Quick Grilled Grape Tomatoes
Grilled White Onion halves
Crumbled Blue Cheese
Blue Cheese Dressing
Drizzle of Balsamic Reduction
Garlic Bread Sticks
Olives for the heck of it!

That's it! So tasty, so easy, somewhat healthy!

Saturday, August 14, 2010

A Purely Adult Slushie!

Reading some of my favorite blogs this morning, catching up, and smitten kitchen had this post titled raspberry limeade slushies.  Her entry talks about the famous drinks from 7-11 and her associated memories.  Which of course, just sparked them for me as well, especially brain freeze and the reason I gave up the indulgence long ago.  Then I remembered the frozen drink craze and how I tried to like them, but never really got into that one! Too cold, too sweet, too easy to over indulge!

But, as a lover of all things lime and key lime, I've always enjoyed the combination of raspberry and lime so this recipe sounded perfect to me.  As we were shopping for ingredients needed for some recipe testing I'll be doing tomorrow, I grabbed the limes and raspberries with the intention of making this the first recipe test! 

Once we returned home I pulled the ingredients together remembering that, no, we don't have any soda water, but that's OK, I'll make it without. Then I remembered at the end of Deb's post she commented how good this might would be with some alcohol!  So I came up with Chambord, added a splash and it's officially a very refreshing adult beverage! YUM!  We enjoyed ours with straws in tall glasses (next time I'll definitely use freezer frosted glasses).  Good thing it's a comfortable 76ยบ here in Queens!  If it was hot and steamy one might want to have more than one, and that could be very dangerous!  Here's the recipe:

Raspberry Limeade Slushies

Serving Size : 4

1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 cup raspberries
1 cup water
4 cups ice
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup soda water
Lime wedges -- for serving
4 chilled glasses -- if you’re feeling fancy (or are interested in your slushie staying slushy longer)

In a blender, blend the lime juice, raspberries, water, ice and sugar until slushy. Pour into glasses. Top off with about 1/4 cup soda water and garnish with a lime wedge. 

Source: "smitten kitchen"
I'm thinking it might make a very interesting adult punch with sparkling white wine, Proseco or even Champagne!  Dangerously smooth! 

Thanx smitten kitchen for the temptation!  It is delish!

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Corn finally cooked!

Finally, got around to cooking the corn we bought at the farm over the weekend! I wasn't feeling like corn before today and kept wavering back and forth as to what I wanted to do with it.  This morning Mark Bittman was on the Today Show with fresh corn recipes which you can find here. They include Corn Salsa; Guacamole with Corn; Cornbread; Corn and White Bean Salad and Corn Chowder!  That's it, I want Corn Chowder.  He took the corn cobs and boiled them in water for broth and cooked other ingredients adding the broth and half and half. 

Chicken Corn Chowder is another childhood memory of a visit to a Lancaster, Pennsylvania summer fair where the volunteer fire department served the best soup I'd ever had at that point in my young life!  It was Chicken Corn Chowder, my Mother's Uncle was instrumental in making sure we got a good serving.  I've followed bunches of recipes over the years and while nothing was ever inedible nothing was star quality.  Even ones from "authentic" Pennsylvania Dutch cookbooks!

Tonight that is all changed.  Yes, I have learned a thing or two over the years about cooking, proper seasoning, how to combine flavors etc.  But, also, I have learned that trying to duplicate taste memories is folly for the most part!  So I've begun focusing on making a good quality, fresh tasting, well seasoned version of whatever I'm creating.  So I read another recipe of Mark Bittman's for Corn Chowder, from August 2008, and went to the kitchen.

Here's what I did:  I stripped the corn from the cobs and put the cobs in 4 cups of water and simmered them with some salt for 20 minutes.  Sauteed a diced yellow onion and 2 diced white potatoes with salt and pepper.  Added the corn kernels and sauteed a bit, added a pinch of sugar and a tablespoon of flour.  Strained the corn broth and added to the pot, stirring to fully mix. Simmered this for awhile to thicken a little. I might suggest a little more flour for a thicker soup, if that is your preference. I added 1 1/2 cups half and half and heated through, did not let it boil. Tasted and adjusted the seasoning, adding salt and white pepper.  Meanwhile I poached two boneless skinless chicken breasts simply in chicken broth with salt, pepper, sprigs of parsley and rosemary. 

For serving I pulled the chicken out of the broth cut into 1 inch cubes and placed in soup bowls, ladled the corn chowder over the chicken and garnished with chopped scallion and chopped roasted red pepper.  The tasty result can be seen here:

It was very good, and made a wonderful meal with a sliced heirloom tomato with Russian Dressing and garlic bread!  Can't beat summer farm fresh ingredients!

Monday, August 09, 2010

Road Trip: Farmstands in Old Brookville, NY

We drove out to Old Brookville on Long Island's "Gold Coast" on Saturday to visit two farms that we love.  Purchased lots of goodies.  The first one is Rottkamps on McCouns Lane see here: 

View Larger Map

Here we bought wonderful Tomatoes, yellow, green and red heirlooms; three colors of Eggplant: lavender, white and graffiti;. Yellow and Green Zucchini; Pale Yellow Hungarian Bell Peppers; Corn; Basil and Yellow Melon; Peaches and Nectarines.

Next we went to Young's Farm on Hegeman's Lane here: 

View Larger Map

At Young's we bought Blueberries, Blackberries and Red Onions in the produce section and in the Annex we got a delicious Dark Cherry Pie, Tangerine Shortbread Cookies and a jar of Tart Cherry Jam.

On Sunday I got busy cooking these wonderful finds.  First I made a gratin inspired by Claire Robinson on the Food Network show: 5 Ingredient Fix. Her recipe was with Green Tomatoes & Caramelized Onions with a Breadcrumb & Bacon Topping that you can find here.

In my version I cooked two strips of Bacon, removed them for later, caramelized a sliced Red Onion in the Bacon Fat and drizzled them with Balsamic Vinegar.  Placed them in the bottom of a glass deep-dish pie pan and layered thinly sliced Green and Yellow Zucchini on top.

Then I sprinkled with Dried Oregano, Olive Oil, Kosher Salt and shredded Parmesan Cheese. 

Next I sliced the Green Tomatoes and seasoned them with Kosher Salt, Dried Basil, Olive Oil and placed them atop the squash layer.

I toasted Bread Crumbs with a chopped Garlic Clove in the remaining little bit of Bacon Fat and added the crumbled bacon.

I placed this on top of the tomatoes and put it into the oven for 40 minutes and then topped with shredded Parmesan Cheese and baked for another 5 minutes.  The aromas were incredible! 

While cleaning up I went to pour the remaining bread crumb mixture into a ziploc bag for storage and had a slight mishap as  you can see here:

My beautiful breadcrumbs literally down the drain!

This was dinner along with a salad of Roasted Yellow Beets, Crumbled Goat Cheese, toasted Marcona Almonds and Arugula. My vinaigrette was Orange Muscat Champagne vinegar, dry mustard, chopped shallot, sugar, olive oil.  It was very tasty and good pairing with the cheese and Arugula.  Found some frozen Sun-dried Tomato Foccacia in the freezer and heated it up and served it with a dollop of basil pesto sans Parmesan!  Another highly flavorful summery meal! 


I also made roasted vegetables using the Lavender and Graffiti Eggplants, Green & Yellow Zucchini, the Yellow Pepper, Red Onion, and Garlic.  Will use these as side dishes and on top of grilled Polenta Squares as an accompaniment to the Sun-dried Tomato Sausage and Diced Tomato Saute I cooked up. 

Used the Basil for a batch of Pesto most of which I froze without the Parmesan Cheese added. This way it's more versatile when used in the future. 

Need to cook the Corn tomorrow, still considering what I want to make with it, am leaning towards a Corn, Red Pepper Risotto!  Sounds interesting!  Or maybe a corn puree like we had @The Mermaid Inn on Friday night! It was under Grilled Scallops with cubed Bacon and Fava Beans!  Awesome dish!

Although, honestly, I have been really craving old fashioned Corn Relish!  Stay tuned, I'm sure it'll be interesting!


Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Summer Lunch @Home

Do you think maybe, watching DVR'd cooking shows while working out on the Elliptical is a bad thing?  Today I caught a dated Molto Mario where he made a salad with a frittata.  It's called:
Frittata Salad: Frittatine Verdi in Insalata  it sounded wonderful. But I didn't give it a second thought as I didn't have a lot of those ingredients on hand.  After exercising I watched another stored episode where he stuffed a veal roast--saved that idea for the winter!

However, when I went foraging through the fridge for lunch fixins' I thought of the frittata and wanted a salad with eggs.  The herb drawer proved to be a big disappointment today, so much for Mario's inspiration.  So I grabbed Arugula, two Eggs, Sun-Dried Tomato Gouda Cheese, a small remnant of Parmesan Reggiano, and a Cantaloupe. Still not sure where this is all gonna fit, and at the last second before closing the fridge door I grabbed bacon.  Cause everyone says everything is always better with bacon.  Also the left over piece of French Baguette, which is hard as a rock!  Think like a "Chopped" market basket of ingredients!  I was up for the challenge!

First I rub the baguette with water and tightly wrap in foil. Preheating the oven to 375 and prepping the bacon, I decide not to go the brown sugar route and used freshly ground Black Pepper.  Pressed the pepper into the bacon placed on small rack on small sheet pan and put into the oven along with the bread.

Thinking of what to do with the eggs I plan to add Fines Herbes from the dried collection to the lightly beaten eggs.  Heated butter and olive oil in nonstick skillet and added eggs gently pushing the edges to the center until a nice "pancake" is formed. Drizzle on some shredded parm, flip the frittata when I feel the center is almost completely set and finish less than one minute later!  Set this on the cutting board to cool before cutting into strips.  Why? Because Mario said frittata's are good warm, room temp and even chilled.

The Cantaloupe is cut in half, one half wrapped and stored for later use, the other peeled and cut up into pieces and served as a side dish to the salad rather than in it. Since now I've decided to grab a lemon and make a quick vinaigrette with lemon, dijon mustard, fines herbes, black pepper and what else?  Bacon Drippings! Cause everything goes better with Bacon!

Plating--Sliced the Frittata into strips tossed with arugula and chunks of the still warm bacon and a drizzle of vinaigrette.  Two slices of Sun-dried Tomato Gouda and several very thin slices of the crunchy baguette. I was using the soup and sandwich plates we have from IKEA, for this so I placed the melon chunks in the bowls and sprinkled them with sea salt and freshly ground black pepper.  I know, never heard of seasoning your Cantaloupe?  This is the way we ate it at home with biscuits and butter, and it was perfect following to the peppered bacon and pepper in the vinaigrette!  See, a peppery theme!  

Lunch was greatly appreciated and once again the opportunity to utilize ingredients on hand saved a trip to the store in the heat!  Now I need inspiration for dinner!!  To quote a chef friend:  "...chef advantage, we can always come up with something!"  Thanx for that tidbit Christine! 

Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Another No-Recipe Meal

Last night I started with the Trader Joe's Ciabatta Flatbread and some desire for Mexican flavors.  Next I pulled together a quick homemade salsa with black beans, orange bell pepper, red onion, garlic, jalapeno, drained canned diced fire roasted tomatoes, cilantro and lime juice.

After that I marinated shrimp in lime juice, olive oil, cilantro, garlic and jalapeno.  Sauteed the shrimp quickly in hot pan. 

Brushed the flatbread with olive oil, spread the salsa over the bread, topped with shrimp sprinkled with chopped scallions and cilantro then shredded Mexican cheese blend.

Awesome: Mexican Shrimp Pizza!

Pulled out of the oven added more chopped Scallions and Cilantro!

On the side we had Corn, Tomato, Cucumber, Radish & Avocado Salad over Romaine.

Recipe free, but a little bit labor intensive, yet a great light summer dinner!  Worth the effort, leftovers very welcome for lunch today! The leftover salad was served like a salsa with grilled chicken breasts for tonights dinner.

Monday, August 02, 2010

Fresh Figs Calling My Name

Can't even begin to think of how many times I've purchased figs at the Natural Food Market in Forest Hills, or Fairway in Red Hook, Brooklyn, or anywhere I stumble across them, and put them in the fridge and forgot about them until they were well past their prime!  It's probably the one ingredient that I've thrown out unused more times than any other!  Though, I must confess that this is one area in which I have improved greatly.  I buy less for "experimentation" just because I saw it!  Or maybe I've just gotten better at follow through in using things quickly after purchased. 

Anyway I purchased a plastic container of figs the other day where they are sitting individually separated, think egg carton!  This promotes freshness as when they are touching each other in those little berry baskets if one decides to over-ripen before you separate them the whole inventory is doomed!

On Saturday I used the first of them to make Fresh Fig and Goat Cheese Naan "Pizza" for a yummy Saturday Lunch.  You can read about it on The Amateur Gourmet's Community Blog here.

So today I set out to use the rest but am bored with the typical: fig and goat cheese on arugula; fig and prosciutto; fig tarts; etc.  This spurned me to search the Internet for some fresh fig recipes that I've never heard of, or much less tried.  I must have found 40 that called for chopping and mixing with goat cheese and stuffing chicken breasts!  Also found 100's using dried figs, even though I put in Fresh Figs for my search!

Then I found one that really piqued my interest.  It is on a blog called Kitchenelly and the specific recipe with detailed prepping pics is here.  My search was looking for fresh fig and chicken breast recipes.  This one came up from October 2009 and intrigued me immediately.  I liked the idea of the combination of ingredients salty and sweet.  I probably would never have thought of using Capers (undrained, no less) with Honey in the same recipe.  Capers, wine, onions, garlic, figs sounded fine. As did Wine, onions, figs, honey.  Now add Stilton and Rosemary to either but to both?  I really needed to try this to see what's up with this combo! 

Only went to The Natural today, after all it is Sunday, and the stores are crazy busy.  They didn't have plain Stilton, only mixed with apricots or cranberries or walnuts.  Standing at the cheese counter mulling over my choices I remember reading a few decent recipes using Blue Cheese so I selected a Buttermilk Blue Cheese from the good ol' USA.  I figured that the other ingredients were an eccentric blend how far off could this cheese be?

At home, a quick taste test of the cheese proved to be an excellent Blue Cheese, the buttermilk tang works so well you find it hard to distinguish from the tang of the blue veins.

Pulled the dish together easily using 3 very small boneless, skinless chicken breasts and the remaining 6 figs.  The smells were awesome.  I didn't reduce the quantity of sauce makings proportionately to the lesser amount of chicken and thusly did not have to baste more than twice during the 20 minutes in the oven.  Pulled the chicken and other solids from the sauce and reduced to a medium bodied gravy/glaze and served over the chicken breasts, figs, onions, etc.  On the side was Riced Potatoes w/olive oil and parsley and a salad of Baby Arugula, Matchstick Radishes, Sea Salt and a drizzle of Miso Salad Dressing.  A french Baguette and a bottle of King Estate Pinot Gris and we'll call it another fabulous dinner @ the NY Huff's!