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Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Simple Lemon Sole

This is about as simple as it gets. And it was all about a bottle of wine. We previously had enjoyed a bottle of Craggy Range Pinot Noir so I thought we would try the Sauvingon Blanc. I needed a dish to go with the wine.

Entree: Lemon Sole.
The sole was brushed with a mixture of white wine, lemon juice and fresh ground pepper and sauteed in olive oil in a hot skillet.

Slices of Lemon were browned in the same skillet. When the lemon sole was flaky and plated I topped it with fresh chopped basil.

Side: Glazed Carrots. I recently found out that my husband likes cooked carrots and thought they would add color to the dish. I merely cooked the tiny baby carrots in a mixture of water, bourbon and brown sugar until they were coated.

Wine: Craggy Range Sauvignon Blanc. We were not disappointed.


Monday, September 19, 2011

Late Summer Gazpacho

On August 24 2010 I offered a Gazpacho dish. This is similar, but this time I did not add fresh kernels of corn and I pureed the vegetables more and then topped with larger chucks of tomato, cucumber, red bell pepper and onion, and garnished with large basil leaves. No matter which recipe is used, the final taste of any Gazpacho is so dependent on the freshness and variety of the tomatoes which makes each year's batch a little different.

Before starting I typically check the recipes in Mediterranean Diet Cookbook and the The New Basics Silver Palette. and then stick to the the one I know best:

Tomatoes - I used plum, locally grown fresh harvest
Cucumbers - peeled and seeded
Red Pepper
Small hot pepper
Olive Oil
Balsamic Vinegar - most recipes call for Sherry Vinegar, but I used what I had in the pantry
Tomato Juice
Fresh oregano, thyme and basil
Fresh ground back pepper

I slightly sauteed the garlic and shallot this time and then added to the rest of the ingredients (with the exception of the fresh herbs). The batch was then chilled and prior to serving I stirred in the fresh herbs and topped with the chunkier veggies.

The soup was served with crusty bread.

Wine: 2009 Paraiso Pinot Noir. An inexpensive PN recommended by the great guys at Binny's in Chicago.


Friday, September 9, 2011


This morning I will change it up a little from a daily dinner idea to answer a question from one of my followers. "I bought a bottle of capers, but am unsure when to use them...?"

According to the Silver Palate "The New Basics" capers are the unopened bud of a shrub that grow wild all over the Mediterranean, North Africa and India. The largest and fleshiest are from Sicily. The green buds are hand picked before sunrise while they are tightly closed and then pickled." The writers of the cookbook state that they use them to add "zip" to sauces, a variety of seafood, meat, vegetables etc.

I find myself using them in recipes for tuna, salmon, olive tapanade, certain tomato sauces. I also used them in the recent ratatouille dish. My favorite use of capers is in Chicken Piccata (shown here in the little white cup)...the lemon and capers combine to make a superb flavor.

Try them....


Thursday, September 8, 2011

Summer Veggie Pasta

I was not aware that I missed the entire month of August. It certainly was not for the lack of cooking, dining and enjoying! The rainy summer produced a beautiful lawn and flowers to provide the backdrop for several outdoor meals.

August dinners also included wonderful farmer's markets' vegetables. Here is one of several that we enjoyed.

Appetizer: Watermelon Squares with Feta. Watermelon and feta have become one of my favorite summer combinations. Here I just prepared a small dish for us to enjoy while I prepared the meal.

Entree: Mixed Veggies and Pasta.
Strips of zucchini, broccoli and red pepper and green beans were sauteed with diced garlic in olive oil with the onion and asparagus tips. When they were done the cherry tomatoes and fresh basil were added and stirred in. The cooked pasta was topped with the cooked veggies and shredded Parmesan.

More summer vegtable dishes will follow.


Quinoa Rotelle with Farmer Market Fresh Veggies

I had a box of organic gluten free Quinoa in my pantry. Not sure why, but it must have been a healthy shopping trip. Knowing that the veggies I purchased as the local Farmer's Market would be tasty, I thought I would try the pasta that claims "you'll never go back to plain noodles again."

It was a beautiful late summer evening for dinner on the deck - amazing how green the lawns are at this time of year (hopefully we will not pay for it during the winter months!)

Entree: Rotelle with Veggies. I sauteed the garlic, tiny purple onions, eggplant and red bell pepper in olive oil. As the pasta was finishing and prior to taking the veggies out of the skillet I stirred in tiny cherry tomatoes, fresh basil and oregano. When plated, I added a splash of olive oil and shaved parmesan.

Bread: French Bartarde. This loaf cam from a local bakery that has a table at the Farmers Market. It was very crusty and quite good.

Wine: 2005 Carparzo Brunello. One of our favorites.


Ratatouille (Veggie Ragu) on Pasta

My husband and are very fortunate to have our mothers, both widowed, still with us. His in the same town and mine a little more than an hour away. These two magnificent women have over come several illnesses in the past few years - strokes -infections - cancers, but continue to be "in charge" and the "head" of their respective families. Holidays and special occasions (which there are many)find them surrounded by their children, grandchildren and great grandchildren. Every so often we manage to get the ust the moms together and on an early August Sunday afternoon we had them to ourselves!! Simply delightful.

Inspired by the seasonable vegetables available and remembering that my mom liked a ratatouille dish, I threw together what I had on hand.

The Entree: Ratatouille on Pasta. After sauteing until soft, a couple cloves of garlic in olive oil, I added chopped eggplant, zucchini, red pepper, purple onion, green beans and cherry and plum tomatoes. When the veggies were soft, with the exception of the green beans which remained slightly crunchy, I added chopped fresh basil, oregano and thyme, capers, fresh ground black pepper and Italian olives. The mixture cooked for a few more minutes to blend the flavors. A generous portion of the ratatouille was plated on top of a small portion of pasta.

Wine: Prisoner. We discovered it a couple of years ago when it was the "in" wine and it remains one of our favorites. Neither mom shared the stuck with water the other her manhattan.


Salmon with Red Wine Sauce and Wild Rice

Combining two households can result in some "favorite furniture" being put aside in a spare room. Such was the case a few years ago - a dining room table and chairs that had been a part of six residents in five different cities over three decades were relocated in order to make room for a larger dining room set.

I was growing tired of the "country looking" oak table in our dinette (are they still called dinettes?)and my husband actually did not like it, so I decided to revive my old friend - the round mahogany table. It blends very well with its surroundings and adds a french feel to the area. So to mark our first meal on this table in this space I wanted to prepare a special dinner. So I shopped for a couple of bargain plates and table linens, because some times it is all in the presentation, or so someone said. As it turns out my husband thought it was the best salmon I ever made. I don't totally agree with him, but I'll take the compliment.

First course: Pureed Gazpacho
. I had about two cups of gazpacho left from a batch I made two days earlier. At a recent dinner in Philadelphia we were served a liquid gazpacho in slanted glasses, which I thought was pretty "cool." I am not sure what was in "Mica's" mix, but I put my gazpacho in the food processor with a splash of sherry and blended until it was a drinkable texture. I served it in newly purchased tulip glasses, with stuffed olives along the side.

Entree: Salmon with Red Wine Sauce. Using the pan that I sauteed the mushrooms and onion in for the rice, I deglazed the pan with red wine and then added chicken broth, and stirred in french demi-glace. After reducing the liquids I added fresh ground pepper and fresh thyme. I seasoned the salmon with black pepper and brushed half and half on the top. Thomas Keller uses canola oil when cooking salmon and I like his one-side cooking method so I heated the oil and then placed the salmon, half and half side down. This time I did flip it because as I was lifting the salmon it started to slide off the spatula quick action of flipping it was better than seeing it land elsewhere. (Physical grace is not one of my attributes but I am quick!)

The sauce was poured over the salmon after plating.

Wild Rice with Mushrooms. While the wild rice was cooking in half water and half chicken broth I sauteed shitake and crimini mushrooms and white onion in olive oil. Prior to serving I added the rice to the mushroom/onion mixture to blend the flavors.

Side: Broccoli. The broccoli was microwaved in about a fourth of a cup of chicken broth.

Wine: Hook and Ladder Cabernet Franc