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Monday, February 28, 2011

A Special Meal in Honor of Love

February, the month to honor love, has come and gone, but the taste lingers.... For the past five years I have prepared a special dinner as a gift to "my valentine." This year I included many of my favorites, which have become the husband's favorites, or so I assume! For special meals I like to serve sauteed mushrooms made from the "Why French Women Don't Get Fat" book along with Veuve Cliquot. But on this night I was going to be serving a mushroom sauce on the chicken, so I had to mix it up a little.

I found one of my favorite (yes I know I have a lot of favorites) Bon Appetit issues from a few years ago (September 1993). I even remembered the meal I prepared from it, and my guests. I was in a "commuter marriage situation" living temporarily in a great apartment with a loft which had been an old creamery. I knew I was going to be moving soon, leaving a job I loved and wonderful friends and colleagues, so on this particualr night I cooked for two of them. The move and the marriage are stories for another time...because after all this meal is about love!

So back to this special meal...Other than the food and the wine, what made this meal special is the fact that I actually BAKED! Not just one thing, but two...the crackers for the first course and the lemon tart for the dessert. And if you have followed this blog for long, you know I do not like to bake because to be successful you must follow the recipes exactly...and that is stressful to me, not relaxing! I do admire those who seem to find calm and can spread joy through mom's pies are the best, and her cookies have made it to every grandchild's wedding; my sisters and nieces bake almost daily; and my daughter's sister-in-law's Scrumptious Swirls items are works of art.

Sorry to digress, but it is a blog.

Parmesan Crackers. I may have included these in a previous entry, but they are from a New York Times article. In a food processor combine 1/2 cup of unsalted butter, 1 cup flour, 1cup of grated Parmigiano-reggiano, place in plastic wrap and roll into a log, chill for two hours, cut into 1/4 inch pieces, bake for 12minutes at 325 degrees, remove from oven, turn heat up to 500, return to oven for 3 minutes.

First Course: Sherried Crabmeat Spread. Finding several recipes and not finding the one I had used before (guess I did not write it down, must have been before the blog), I settled on combining Crab meat, cream cheese, shallot, a touch of half and half and sherry. I heated this in the oven for about 10 mins.

The spread was served with the crackers. Accompanied by a glass of champagne and pre dinner conversation - an excellent way to start an evening.

Entree:Tarragon-Butter Chicken with Mushroom Sauce. The recipe from Bon Appetit used a whole chicken, but I used chicken breasts. I roasted the chicken in tarragon butter. When finished I removed the chicken, and deglazed the pan with white wine, and then added chicken broth. In another pan I sauteed shallots and added previously prepared sherried mushrooms. The two mixtures were combined and boiled till thick. The chicken was plated and topped with the mushroom mixture.

Side: Green Beans. I simmered the green beans in chicken broth.

Wine: 2003 Brunello Di Montalcino. Exquisite!!!

Dessert: The Lemon Tart. I follow the recipe in Bouchon cookbook. On this occasion I used a short cut for the pie crust, by using store pie crust and adding grated roasted pine nuts. The recipe calls for 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 3/4 c sugar, 1/2 c fresh lemon juice and 6 tb butter. Since I was only making two small tarts and not a large one I cut the ingredients in half.

Champagne - we finished off the champagne with the tart.

All in all a very special meal and evening.


Saturday, February 26, 2011


A sandwich I had at a Philadelphia Brewing House in the early nineties was memorable.I ordered the "Special BLT" and it came with arugula instead of iceberg lettuce and prosciutto instead of bacon. A few years ago in an Indiana town I had my first Salmon BLT. I adapted these two sandwiches and have served my Salmon, Prosciutto and Tomato sandwich several times over the last few years.

Entree Sandwich: Salmon, Prosciutto and Tomato with Arugula. The salmon is grilled, the prosciutto heated and placed on a bun with arugula, tomatoes and a mayo spread. This time I used a ciabetta roll. This is especially good when made with tomatoes that are in season. But "ugly" tomatoes, or "tomatoes on the vine" will do during other seasons.


Monday, February 21, 2011

Campanelle with Vodka Sauce, Artichokes and Salmon

When I was dating my husband he surprised me one night when he actually served a meal not out of a bag. It was pasta with vodka sauce (from a jar) and artichokes (from a jar). It wasn't bad so a few weeks later I made it but added smoked salmon which gave it an entirely different taste. He really liked it and somehow over the past few years when he talks about cooking when he was living by himself he describes this dish as his specialty. I'll let him have that "memory."

When we were in Italy last fall we had a dish made with a pasta that we had not seen before...almost looked like a small conch shell, but more open at one end. I recently found similar looking pasta in the grocery - Barilla's Campanelle.

Entree: Campanelle with Vodka Sauce, Artichokes and Salmon. I grilled a piece of salmon, cut into bite sized pieces and tossed with the cooked pasta, vodka sauce (jar), and artichokes, and topped with grated Parmesan. Although it was good, I think I prefer the smoked salmon. So the next time I will ask him to make "his specialty."

Wine: Robert Stemler Pinot Noir. Nice!!!


Saturday, February 5, 2011

A Polenta Duo and Colorful Side

This was a fun dinner to make and to eat! I remember the first time I had polenta...I was an adult and after a several hour drive on a winter night I came home to a polenta dish. At first I was disappointed thinking this was not much of a meal. But it was topped with a tasty mushroom mixture - a quite yummy and comforting dish.

When I made polenta squares for the Christmas Day Brunch I was reminded of that first time...and vowed that soon I would try to duplicate the mushroom topping for a meal. So I got carried away ...

The Entree: Polenta Duo. I followed the recipe on the Instant Polenta box, but added Parmesan cheese to the mixture and sauteed the squares in olive oil flavored with garlic cloves.

Mushroom topping - A variety of fresh, but a few dried mushrooms and shallots were sauteed in a small amount of butter, splashed with sherry and chicken broth, reduced, splashed with sherry and chicken broth and reduced.

Tomato topping - Small tomatoes, strawberry size) were sauteed with basil,and garlic in olive oil and seasoned with fresh ground pepper.

Aftr plating and topping with the two mixtures, Parmesan cheese was grated over the two polenta squares.

The Colorful Side: Julienned zucs and carrots were sauteed in olive oil, splashed with chicken broth and seasoned with herb de provence.

Wine: Viticcio 2007 Chianti Classico Riserva. These Italian wines are wonderful.

It is definelty a dish I will try again.


Tuesday, February 1, 2011

Combination Torts, Tuna and Spinach Salad

Just a simple week night salad, but with a good bottle of wine.

Salad Entree: Torts, Tuna and Spinach. The cooked 3 cheese torts were tossed with package tuna, mixed olives, diced purple onion, cherry tomatoes, thinly sliced cucumber, steamed broccoli tops, capers, basil and olive oil. The spinach was added, tossed and served. This was topped with Parmesan cheese.

Wine: Dominio Chianti Rufina Reserva 2003. Nice!


Onions and more Onions Soup

One more soup and then winter will need to be OVER!

The Soup: This soup included, shallots, yellow onion, purple onions and leeks. All were sauteed with chopped garlic on low heat until soft. I had a can of onion soup so I tossed that in along with bold beef broth and bold chicken broth. I simmered this for about an hour. The soup was seasoned with fresh ground black pepper, and prior to serving I added sherry. A piece of toasted crusty bread was topped with thinly sliced Pecorina Romano and placed on top of the bowled soup.

The wine: A local winery opened about 18 months ago, and there are a couple of the reds wine that are enjoyable. This bottle of Velluto Pinor Noir was another Christmas gift from a relative.