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Thursday, February 25, 2010

Caesar sans anchovies and raw egg

There are days that time, diet or middle of the week schedules prevent engaging in the art of planning, preparing and dining. When this happens I usually turn to some type of salad, that in the correct portion can serve as a meal. One of my favorites is a Caesar Salad topped with sliced salmon or chicken.

However I do not like anchovies, nor do I care for raw egg so when I found a Caesar dressing recipe in a cooking magazine several years ago that did not include the anchovies and the egg I was delighted. The recipe suggested Worcestershire sauce to replace the anchovies. It was the first I knew that anchovies were an ingredient in Worcestershire sauce, and therefore concluded that it was not the taste of anchovy but the texture and look that I did not like. And the exclusion of the raw egg did not diminish the taste (for me, and I'm the one making it...sometimes the cook needs to be selfish!)

Subsequently I discovered anchovy paste and a new husband (no causal relationship) who really liked anchovies so I began using the paste instead of the Worcestershire sauce. And being the good husband that he is, he is satisfied with the taste that the paste gives the home. When he dines out he continues to put those little slimy things on that beautiful bed of crisp lettuce.

Caesar Salad with Salmon: Usually I have salmon left from a recent meal (preserved in the freezer) to use for the salad. In addition to the anchovy paste my dressing includes, olive oil, balsamic or white wine vinegar, garlic, Parmesan cheese, fresh ground pepper and lemon juice...all portions according to taste.

I toss the romaine lettuce with the dressing, dish onto the plate, add more grated cheese and then lay the salmon on top. I do not put croutons in the salad, but prefer to serve a crusty bread on the side.

In the correct portion this is a meal.

We have not found a wine that goes well with vinegar salad dressings, so this dish is great for those days that wine is not in the picture.


Monday, February 22, 2010

Just pasta, but first a salad

Some days just call for a good red tomato sauce and pasta. But first a Salad: I have named it "Eastern Shore Arugula."

Many years ago I dined in a small town on the Eastern shore of Maryland. I did not know what arugula was and had never had a pine nut, but I was determined to try new food. I recall the salad included very fresh tasting arugula, crisp prosciutto, goat cheese, pine nuts and purple onion. It was a generous portion. The taste of that salad particularly the fresh peppery greens has always stayed with me and arugula quickly became my salad green of choice. I don't recall what the dressing was, but I use my standard olive oil and balsamic dressing.

Tonite the pasta is linguine (Barilla)with a Tomato Basil Sauce from Lucini. Every once in a while I will find a recipe and try to make my own sauce, but most often I turn to the jarred sauces at the grocery. There are many very good ones (Paul Newman, Barilla, local italian delis) and the idea here is quick and easy.

And one cannot do Italian with out crusty bread and dipping oil and a good red wine.

Wine: 2005 Cabernet Sauvignon from Passalacqua.


Saturday, February 20, 2010

Tomato Salad and Sea Bass

Salad: This tomato salad is a classic at one of our local restaurants. I use the best tomatoes possible, and top with purple onion and good blue cheese (Maytag is a favorite.) I use my standard balsamic and olive oil dressing seasoned with fresh ground pepper.

Entree: Asiago Crusted Sea Bass (recipe from West Point Market Cookbook). The crust includes Panko crumbs, asiago cheese, lemon zest, lemon juice, olive oil, parsley, garlic and fresh ground pepper. Spoon the mixture on the bass fillets and press down lightly. Bake until golden brown, about 15 minutes or to your taste.

Side: Broccoli with red bell pepper and shitake mushrooms. I use chicken broth instead of water to steam the veggies in the microwave for 2 1/2 mins.

Wine: Le Pierre from the Sonoma Cutrer Winery

Dessert: Poached Pear. I halve the pear and poach in Marsala wine. I remove the pears, top with a small spoon of blue cheese, reduce the Marsala and pour it over the pears and blue cheese.

Another great weekend evening of food, dining, wine and each other.


More Greek and Salmon

I enjoy noshing on appetizers and sipping on a glass of wine while I prepare the rest of the dinner. It is great time to share the day's news (personal or the world) with my spouse or family and friends.

Appetizer: Mini Greek Salad Rounds. Taking MY basic Greek Salad ingredients, I slice crusty bread, top the slices with arugula, and a thin slice of cucumber and then arrange the olives, tomatoes and feta cheese. I pour a little olive oil over them and put in a warm oven for less than two minutes.

Dinner: Salmon on a bed of parmesan risotto and red bell pepper, shitake mushroom, purple onion and broccoli stalk. I used the one sided method for salmon, used vegetable and chicken stock for the risotto, and sauteed the veggies on high while the salmon was cooking.

Wine: Melville, a pinot noir favorite


Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Cheese, egg and veggie dish

A fritatta? a crustless quiche?...not sure what to call this, but it was tasty. Once again I used what was in the frig.

Five eggs (two whole and three egg whites)
Two cups of cheese(cheddar and provolone)
Zucchini, asparagus, broccoli, onion, leeks, sundried tomatoes
Parmesan (sprinkled on top)
Seasoning black pepper
Splash of water, splash of heavy cream
Dash of cayenne
I sauteed the veggies, then poured over the egg and cheese mixture. When the eggs were set, I sprinkled the Parmesan on the top and paced under the broil to brown it.

Earlier in the day I was somewhat adventurous and made flatbread, adapting a recipe from the Mediterranean Diet Cookbook. I added several herbs, fresh thyme and rosemary, garlic, and dried basil and oregano. I say adventurous because I am not very good at baking. I do not have the patience to follow exact recipes and with baking disasters usually result if you vary from the recipe. True to form I had dough everywhere, on my person and all over the kitchen.

I served the flat bread with little dishes of olive oil.

Typically I would not serve wine with an egg fritatta, but this dish was more the consistency of a cheesy quiche, so we enjoyed a bottle of O'Reilly's Pinot Noir.

It's quick, you can use any veggies...but use lots of cheese!


Monday, February 15, 2010

MY Greek Salad

A few years ago I swore off Greek salads or anything heart was broken and my life as I had known it for years was shattered in Athens Greece. I never wanted to see a Greek olive or taste Feta cheese again! However if you like olives, and the tangy rich taste of Feta, you can't avoid them forever. So I forgave the Greeks and created MY Greek Salad.

And yes I am happy to report that my heart has not only healed but it is full of love and joy, and my life as I know it today is beautiful! I am sure it was not a direct result of my forgiveness of all that is Greek, but food and dining can be a very powerful attraction for the giver and the receiver!

Intimate dinners enhance relationships and sharing dinners with friends and family add laughter and harmony to our lives.

Now back to MY Greek Salad. Typically it includes, the best olives I can purchase (which sometimes is tough here in Ohio) the freshest Feta I can find, tomatoes (out of season I use "Ugly" tomatoes or small grape tomatoes) cucumbers, purple onion and pieces of hard crusty bread. The dressing is olive oil and balsamic vinegar seasoned with crushed garlic, oregano and black pepper.

This can be made as the full dinner, but I have prepared mini versions for a first course (leaving out the crusty bread). MY Greek Salad has also been enjoyed as a side dish. My daughter helped prepare this a few years ago at a summer family gathering and she chopped the ingredients all the same size and it was a big hit.

There are many recipes for this wonderful salad and mine may not be the best but it is MY Greek Salad and I guess my way of saying I hold no grudges for the people of Greece and their food!


Sunday, February 14, 2010

Last night's dinner

Here are a few pics from last night's dinner. The bed of leeks and zucchini were an excellent bed for the salmon. I prepared the salmon following the method recommended by Thomas Keller in "Bouchon." It was superb! The appetizer of mushrooms turned out very nice, the bisque was not as thick as I would have liked and the cheeses and fruit were a fine way to end our evening in front of the fire.

I hope your Valentine's day was full of love...


Saturday, February 13, 2010

Love is in the air

In celebration of Valentines Day "After a perfect meal we are more susceptible to the ectasy of love than at any other time.... H.Bazli

Appetizer: Fricassee de champignons sauvages (inspired by "French Women Don't Get Fat"- M Guiliano) on Parmesan toast.

Champagne - Veuve Cliquot Brut

First Course: Lobster and Shrimp Bisque (adapted from several different recipes)

Entree: Salmon on a bed of leeks and zucchini

Donum 2007 Pinot Noir

Ending Course: Cheese and Fruit -Brie and Blue with apples and pears

Enjoy your meal, enjoy your love

Sunday, February 7, 2010

Snowed in....pantry again!

The snow forced us to cancel plans for a much anticipated evening of fine dining and fine wine. So, for the second time this week I needed to use what was in the pantry to create a meal. Several years ago I read in one of my cooking sources a list of items that one should always have on hand. And although "my list" has varied from time to time I have found this suggestion a very valuable one. My current stocked items include:
Garlic, shallots and onions
Sun-dried tomatoes
Parmesan Cheese
Dried mixed mushrooms
Olive Oil and balsamic vinegar
Sherry, Marsala and Madeira
Basic pesto mix (my own) of garlic and basil
Chicken broth
Pine nuts
Roasted Red Peppers (my own)
Anchovy Paste
Dijon Honey Mustard (Maille)
Various dried herbs
Whole Black Pepper

In addition I am hardly ever out of fresh vegetables and fruit and frozen seafood (althou I prefer fresh), Greek and Italian olives, tomatoes, various cheeses, hard crusted bread, and various greens.

And now to my Saturday nite meal. One of the cookbooks that I mentioned in an earlier blog "West Point Market Cookbook" has a recipe for Lemon Artichoke Chicken. Since we had chicken the nite before and because I did not have any on hand I used the basis of the WPM recipe to inspire a Lemon Artichoke Pasta.

My pasta included chicken broth, white wine, lemon juice, basic pesto paste, roasted red peppers, artichokes, Kalamata and Greek green olives, pine nuts, grape tomatoes and Parmesan.

Our wine for this dinner was Hook and Ladder Pinot Noir from another Sonoma winery that we found a few years ago.

Even if you are not snowed in, try this Pasta some was very tasteful.



Friday, February 5, 2010

Chicken piccata

It is the end of the week and it is an evening to relax. The next ten days are full of travel and "grab meals as you can," so we are going to take advantage of tonite.
Entree: Chicken piccata. It is one of our favorite dishes and it is one that I do prepare more often than most.There are many recipes and there is no one that I follow each time. However I always flatten the chicken breasts and use lots of lemon, capers, garlic and white wine as well as herbs. I tend not to use butter, but I do add a small bit to the olive oil when browning the chicken.

Side: Steamed broccoli

Bread - good chewy whole grain served with olive oil and herb dip

Wine - J Pinot Noir. We discovered J on our 2007 trip to Sonoma Valley and have been ordering it ever since.

enjoy cooking, enjoy the meal and wine and of course the one you are with.


Thursday, February 4, 2010

no time to think/shop

I arrived home late last night and do not have much time to plan and shop. So it is one of those...what's in the "cupboard dinner."
Therefore I am trying a roasted garlic shallot broth with asparagus and tortellinis.

Fortunatley the asparagus I bought four days ago is still fresh. I usually find that asparagus goes soggy after three days in the frig. But here is what I am doing:

Roast the shallot and whole garlic cloves (not peeled) in chicken broth in the oven. I check after an hour to see if they are soft..if so pull it out...if not leave it in and test after another 20 minutes or so. When done remove and set aside. Put some chicken broth in a skillet and bring to a boil, drop in appargus for one to two minutes. Drain asparagus, keep broth.

Puree a bit of the aspargus with the garlic and shallot broth. In a saucepan add the broth used in cooking the asparagus, add enough new broth to boil the torts. When the torts are about done add the puree of shalots and garlic, asparagus tips, and pepper and let simmer together to blend flavors but not enough that the asparagus cooks further.

Scoop into soup bowls and top with grated parmesean cheese.