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Tuesday, December 28, 2010

A Christmas Day Brunch

I prepared many of my "party favorites" for this family brunch for nine. I did add a new one, which I found in the December issue of Cooking Light, Polenta Squares with Gorgonzola and Pine Nuts. I used instant polenta mix and substituted olive oil for the butter. The recipe used currants but suggested dried figs or cranberries as substitutes, I used the cranberries. Basically you prepare the polenta, chill, cut into squares, and then cook on both sides in a fry pan until brown. The cheese, cranberries, toasted pine nuts and orange rind are combined in a bowl. Balsamic vinegar is heated and reduced. The squares are topped with the cheese mixture and then drizzled with balsamic vinegar. YUM!

Shrimp and Sauce. I purchase cooked shrimp and for the sauce I mix two parts chili sauce, one part prepared horseradish, lemon juice and a few drops of Worcestershire sauce.

Baked Brie Round. I have mentioned this in earlier blogs and it truly is one of our favorites. However I was unable to make it to my favorite grocer north of where we live so I had to serve it without the Rothschild Hot Pepper Raspberry Preserves. I guarantee this will not happen again...I am ordering a supply online!

Antipasti Platter. It was basically the same as I always do..roasted red peppers, prosciutto and olives, but I found olives very similar to what we enjoyed recently in Italy....fresh and green.

Smoked Salmon. Served with mini bagels, onions, capers and cream cheese.These mini bagels work well for a finger food buffet.

Puff Pastry and Mushrooms. This was a last minute addition. I had prepared a batch of mushroom soup base which is a favorite of my family and had promised to take some on Christmas Eve so they could add the broth and enjoy it sans me on Christmas Dinner. (It is tough having families in all different locations, not to mention step children and extended families) but the promise of mushroom soup for my mom, sister and her husband certainly diminished my absence. Well anyhow I forgot to take it with me to my mom's on Christmas Eve and the drive is a tad far to go back. This I rolled out the pastry, spread the mushroom base, baked and sliced. I do not believe that I have shared my mushroom soup, which I serve as a first course at most holiday sit down dinners.

The offerings were rounded out with cheese, cheddar and swiss, a variety of crackers, grapes and a platter of holiday cookies. For the latter I am appreciative of clients, friends and relatives who gift their holiday goodies. I did however make ginger bread. It is one of two baked goods that I enjoy making. This ginger bread is a recipe I found in the Silver Palate , (remember the cookbook that inspired me)and I have made it each Christmas for the past 25 years.

Hopefully these ideas will make it to your table or inspire other selections.

Wine/Champagne: Veuve Cliquot (always on Christmas.)


Holiday Greetings

I hope that you and yours are enjoying each other and the holiday season.

Next blog...a Christmas Day Brunch. The day may be past, but it may provide some great ideas for a New Year's Party, eve or day.

Peace and Happiness to all.


Monday, December 27, 2010

Greek Salad in the Round and Salmon on Zucchini Bed

Greek salad again, but this time with a different presentation. Earlier this month we attended a holiday dinner and the chef served a chopped salad in a cucumber ring. How clever, I thought and set out to duplicate it. His cucumbers must have been longer than mine. I had to take two strips and stick them together.

First Course: Greek Salad in the Round. The salad included the typical Greek Salad ingredients - olives, tomatoes, onion and feta cheese. The dressing was a balsamic vinaigrette with minced garlic and ground back pepper.

Second Course: Salmon on Bed of Zucchini. The salmon was prepared on the stove top grill. Following my favorite method with skinless salmon, it was cooked on one side until half done and then finished in the oven for 3 to 5 minutes. It was seasoned before cooking with a tad (just a tad) of sea salt and fresh ground black pepper. Sauce: Caper and Shallots. Shallots were sauteed in olive oil. White wine was added and reduced. Honey Dijon mustard was blended in, followed with a few capers. The salmon was plated on the zucchini and then topped with the sauce.

Wine: Etude


Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rome Inspired Pasta Jo 1 an 2

As promised from my last entry here are two dishes that were inspired by our meals that last night out in Rome. The first was without red sauce and my husband "liked it," but the second one with sauce he "loved."

Entrée 1: Penne Pasta with Goat Cheese, Cherry Tomatoes and Crispy ZucchiniThe zucchini was thinly julienned with a mandolin and tossed with Parm cheese and roasted in oven. The cooked pasta was tossed with goat cheese, and then the tomatoes, crispy zucchini and ground black pepper were added in. The zucchini clumped, but the dish was tasty.

Entrée 2: Pasta with Mushrooms, Crisp Zucchini and Marinara SauceI found “bucatini” pasta in the local Italian Deli. It is a round thick, very long pasta,
I julienned the zucchini as before but this time roasted them alone. Because they are so thin they do not take long in the oven. While warm I tossed them with the Parm. They did not clump as much but still were not like what I had in Rome. So I will take this on as a challenge. The mushrooms were sauted in olive oil. The pasta went in the dish, then the topped with sauce, followed by the mushrooms and then the crisp zucchini.

I forgot to note the wine we enjoyed with each of these dishes, but I know it was red!


Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Pasta Roma... Pasta Jo

On our last night in Rome I chose a restaurant for its name (similar to the new granddaughter's) and the ad featured the chef, a female. Call it uncanny, but I have never randomly chosen a restaurant in a "new" city and been disappointed. One of my best was the "Chardonnay" in Naples Florida. At that time my wine of choice was chardonnay. I have dined there three times on return trips and was never disappointed. I am not sure if it still exists, but I hope it does. Now back to Rome. From the moment we were greeted and shown to a table at Clemente Alla Maddalena, we knew we had chosen well. Fresh roses on the table ...and the wine list included several choices of Brunello and Barolo wines. It was a night to splurge...I had limited my shopping to one Italian scarf, so my vacation budget could adequately cover a very good bottle of wine.

First course: Roasted Porcini Mushrooms. We were advised that this was the season for Porcini mushrooms and an order would make a good first course. We shared an order and savored each bite.

Entrees: My husband chose the Tagliolini with Shrimp, and Artichokes, but immediately asked if it had "red sauce." It did. Remember he has a hard time eating pasta without red sauce. I chose the Pasta with Parmigiano, Ewe Cheese, Crisp Zucchini and Pepper. Both sounded ordinary, but so far the pasta dishes that we had enjoyed in Italy, surpassed anything we made at home. Plus we wanted something that would compliment the wine. We do have priorities. Neither dish disappointed us, and I was particularly enamored by the crisp zucchini and made a mental note to recreate this dish in some form at home, I just needed to figure out how they crisped the zucchini.

Wine: 2005 Dagromis Barolo. A fine, fine bottle.It was a grand way to end our 12 day trip, Rome, Tuscany and back to Rome for this last night.

To be continued....Next entry, my inspired dishes, Pasta Jo, from these entrees.


Monday, December 13, 2010

Talapia on Bed of Spinach

I so not typically eat fried or battered fish, but recently enjoyed a seafood entree in a favorite local restaurant that had a very light crusty coating. When I inquired I, the server explained that the coating was "Ritz" crackers. I don't think I have had a "Ritz" in years. I remember my mom and her contemporaries serving the trendy appetizer of the day...Ritz crackers and jarred pimento cheese!

When I looked for Ritz crackers in the grocery, I was delighted to see that one of the varieties was "Reduced Fat."

Entree: Cracker Coated Talapia on a Bed of Sauteed Spinach. The Talapia loins were dipped in egg white, and rolled in finely ground cracker crumbs which were seasoned with back pepper and herbs de provence. The talapia was sauteed for 2 minutes on each side and finished in a 400degree oven for 15 minutes.

The spinach was sauteed with garlic and olive oil. The Talapia was placed on top of the plated spinach.

Sides: Sweet Potato Fries and Steamed Broccoli. Nothing special here - the fries were frozen and baked according to the package and the broccoli was steamed in the microwave.