Sunday, June 28, 2009

Saturday Night Steak Dinner

John's getting ready to take his medical school boards (step 2) on Tuesday- so I wanted to distract him from studying with a nice Saturday night steak dinner. He's been studying so hard, it was definitely time for a break! I picked up filets from the New York Butcher Shop which we love. When you step into the store, its like being teletransported to New Jersey. The store is not big but the guys have the best cuts of meat, homemade sausages, delicious handmade ravioli, a very nice but not huge wine selection, and GREAT subs with all of the real Italian deli meats you could think of. They make a great steak seasoning rub too- similar to a montreal seasoning but even better. They season the steaks for you after they cut them which is nice.
So the filets were ready to go, I decided to serve them with some sauteed spinach, garlicky green beans, roasted yukon gold potatoes and grape tomatoes- a fairly traditional steakhouse menu I'd say. John absolutely refuses to eat a steak without sauteed spinach- its his favorite.
I peeled three yukon gold potatoes and cut them into chunks. I then seasoned them with some olive oil, minced garlic, fresh rosemary, thyme, salt, and pepper- spread on a baking sheet and placed in a 400 degree oven for 20 minutes. Meanwhile I drizzled 1 cup of whole grape tomatoes with olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper in a bowl.
As soon as the timer went off on the potatoes, I gave them a shuffle around the pan, pushed to one side of the baking sheet and added the tomatoes to the other side. Back into the oven for 12 minutes.
While those finished- I started some olive oil and 2 cloves of minced garlic in a non-stick pan. Then added some haricot verts (french green beans) to the pan, seasoned with s&p and cooked about 5 or 6 minutes. My garlic was getting brown so I pulled it off the heat and transferred to a serving dish and covered with saran wrap. The beans needed cooked a tad more so I finished in the microwave - about 2 minutes- before serving. I then added a swirl more of olive oil to the same pan, and wilted 1 bag of baby spinach with some salt and pepper. I hit it with a splash of balsamic vinegar right at the end. I set the spinach in a bowl to the side, covered with foil to keep warm.
About this time- my timer went off on the potatoes and tomatoes. I removed them from the oven but left it on at 400 degrees. Now for the steaks! For filets, my preferred method is to sear them in a cast iron skillet and then finish in the oven. It ensures that you get a nice crust without over cooking. The grill just doesn't get hot enough to get a nice crust AND a medium rare temperature. So I put the skillet on med-high (closer to high) head for 2 minutes or so until really hot. I added a little bit of olive oil and then the steaks. I cooked about 2-3 minutes on one side, flipped them over, gave them 2 minutes more and then placed the whole skillet into the oven for about 3 minutes. Our steaks were approx 1.5, maybe close to 2 inches thick and they were PERFECTLY medium rare - if I do say so myself.
I made a garlic blue cheese butter to put over the top of the steaks and I think it REALLY pushed it over the edge to YUMMY. I used maytag blue- almost equal parts blue cheese to softened butter (about 2 tablespoons of each) and one garlic clove, pressed. Added a bit of salt since my butter was unsalted and some fresh cracked pepper.
I plated the steaks with a schmear of the blue cheese butter on top- placed a little pile of each of the vegetables around the plate. It all came together very very nicely and QUICKLY too! The tomatoes are on the verge of bursting and they make a delicious sauce almost as you eat everything.
So the steaks were a great excuse for a good bottle of red wine- and a good bottle of red wine is a great excuse for CHOCOLATE. So for dessert- we made molten chocolate cakes! I'm realizing as I write this that this was quite the decadent meal and therefore I really need to make it to the gym today....
Anyways- I actually made the cake batter earlier in the evening and then I had the ramekins in the fridge so that we just had to pop them into the oven after dinner. I used a recipe from my Gourmet cookbook and it was amazing. I melted 3.5 ounces of bittersweet chocolate with almost one stick of butter (I used about 1 T of the stick to butter and sugar the individual ramekin dishes). I set that aside to cook while I whisked together in my mixer 3 eggs with 7 tablespoons of sugar. I then added 1/3 cup flour, a pinch of salt, and 1/2 tsp vanilla and the chocolate mixture until combined. I filled 6 small ramekins with the batter. They baked at 400 degrees for about 14 minutes. I watched for the edges to look cooked but the centers still soft. Inverted them into plates, topped with vanilla ice cream and then devoured alongside the last of the red wine.
Speaking of the wine-we found a fantastic inexpensive bottle at Costco. I recently decided to sample a random selection of 6 or 8 bottles of wine, all $12 or less from Costo. All of them have been great so far- this one was called Palo Alto- it is from Chile and its a blend of cab (55%), carmenere (30%) and syrah (15%). It had a sticker on it that said it got 88 pts from Wine Spectator. It was $10 I think and turned out to be amazing! I'm definitely going to go buy more while its still there- great find!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Roasted Chicken with Summer Vegetables- Peach and Blackberry Crumble

This is a Sunday dinner recipe from this past week as well! We washed our pizza down with a fantastic bottle of Pinot Noir that our friends Tripp and Luci brought over- it was from the Willamette Valley however the name is escaping me... We were then ready for the main course. I had three chicken breasts still on the bone with skin- the ideal scenario for roasting. They were HUGE so I actually cut them in half. To go with the chicken, I cleaned sliced one fennel bulb, two zucchini, 1 bunch of asparagus, 1 red onion, and about 12 or so new potatoes (quartered). I also halved a whole head of garlic and threw it in as well. The purple and green theme was really pretty actually! I put the vegetables in a dish, keeping each vegetable in its own pile. I made a marinade earlier in the day- about 1/3 cup olive oil, juice of 1 lemon, 1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar, 1 sliced shallot, 1 minced clove of garlic, 1/2 tsp or so each of fresh thyme and rosemary, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tsp pepper, and a squeeze of honey. I put about half of the marinade in a large ziplock bag with the chicken (added a few whole springs of fresh thyme), and I poured the other half over the vegetables in a dish. I let it sit about an hour or so- wouldn't go longer than 2 hours given that the acid could start to cook the chicken. As I put the appetizers out-I put the potatoes, fennel and onion in a roasting pan and into the oven at 400 degrees, set the timer for 15 minutes. After 15 minutes, I gave the vegetables a shuffle around, pushed them to the outsides of the pan and then added my chicken breast halves- pouring the marinade left over in the bag over the top- back into the oven for 15 more minutes. Next, I added the asparagus and zucchini to the pan- back into the oven for another 15 minutes or so. My pan was a bit small once I had everything in, so I didn't get quite the carmelization that I would have liked. I think the crowded pan resulted in excess steam. Nonetheless, turned out pretty well! For dessert- we had a fresh peach and blackberry crumble which was also tasty. I think I've already ranted about fruit crumbles/cobblers in the summer recently so I won't go crazy here- but my one tid-bit would be that I use Ina Garten's struesel topping recipe and it is THE BEST. I use the one from her peach and raspberry crumble recipe: Combine 1 1/2 cups flour, 1 cup granulated sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, salt, oats, and the cold diced butter in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Mix on low speed until the butter is pea-sized and the mixture is crumbly. Sprinkle the streusel evenly on top of the fruit. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes until the top is browned and crisp and the juices are bubbly. Serve hot or warm, with desired accompaniments. (Mayfield Vanilla Ice cream is our fave) For the fruit, I always just eye ball it- add some sugar, flour, lemon zest and juice (Ina likes orange). Its hard to mess up. (Don't cut your peaches too small or they turn to mush.) Again, the ticket is the topping! It was the perfect ending to a perfect Sunday!

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Sausage, Red Onion, and Wild Mushroom Pizza

So I'm a few postings behind- this recipe was actually from last week's Sunday dinner. We had some friends over for dinner after a wonderful day of floating around their pool with cocktails in hand. I had some hot Italian sausage in the freezer so I literally searched Epicurious for recipes with sausage in them. Thankfully I found this one!
I'm normally a fan of Publix fresh pizza dough-but since I now shop at my neighborhood's Harris Teeter (best grocery store EVER) I've been relying on the Pillsbury pizza dough in a can. Much to my surprise, this past week I found that they have a new Thin Crust one! It fits perfects into a cookie sheet without much additional rolling or stretching which was fantastic. I always put some corn meal on the pan under the crust. Keeps it from sticking and adds a nice crunch.
I brushed the crust with olive oil, sprinkled with some fresh rosemary and thyme and some good parmesan reggiano cheese. I then added the browned crumbled Italian sausage, sauteed mixed wild mushrooms and caramelized red onion. For the one crust it was about 2 sausage links, a cup of mushrooms and one onion. (I added some rosemary and thyme to the mushrooms as the sauteed as well.) Layered everything on the pizza, sprinkled with a few generous handfuls of shredded mozzarella and baked at 450 degrees for about 14 minutes. Mine got a little brown, would check it after 10 mins.
Will definitely be making this again. Some goat cheese might be yummy in place of the mozzarella.
The four of us were a bit hungry after a day of floating in the sun- so the pizza didn't last long enough to get a picture of it. Thanks to, here is a visual for you.

Ina's Lemon Pound Cake

Wow! I just googled Ina's Lemon Pound Cake so that I could include a link to the recipe and I noticed that I'm the third blogger to feature this one! Not surprised as it is delicious. I am surprised however that I've posted almost a dozen recipes at this point and I have not mentioned Miss Ina Garten yet. She is one of my favorite foodies of all time- actually probably my number one favorite. I think she has the most impeccable taste. Every recipe and every bit of advice I've learned from her (how to set a table, arrange flowers, put together a menu, etc) has been permanently added to my repertoire. You'll definitely see more from me on this subject... This pound cake was delicious. I followed the recipe exactly except that I skipped the lemon syrup. I'll definitely try it next time to compare but the cake and glaze alone really was yummy. I actually made three small loaves instead of one large loaf. John and I enjoyed one fresh (great with coffee in the morning), I gave one to my brother in law and then froze one. I actually pulled the frozen one out this past week- it was wrapped it saran warp and stored in a freezer zip loc bag for about 3 months and it was great! I made a blueberry sauce to go with it- this last time. I think Ina makes a blueberry sauce for a different lemon cake that she makes... Not a fine science- I put 1 heaping cup or so of fresh blueberries in a small pan with a few tablespoons of sugar, about 1 teaspoon flour, the zest and juice of a lemon, and a tablespoon or so of water. I cooked over medium heat unti the blueberries started to burst into a nice sauce. I arranged slices of the pound cake on a plate, topped with vanilla ice cream and the blueberry sauce. Very delicious! Next time I'd skip the ice cream... not really necessary!

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Linguini with Summer Vegetables, Goat Cheese and Seared Scallops

Pasta is in my opinion- a great way to use up miscellaneous fresh veggies or left overs in the fridge. This time, I had some grape tomatoes and spinach to work with, I added a yellow summer squash to the mix, picked up some goat cheese and fresh scallops... the rest just kind of came together as I went. First things first, I put on a large pot of water for my linguine. I started with half of a vidalia onion, sliced thin- sauteed that with some olive oil, a tablespoon of butter and the sliced yellow squash until it started to brown. Then I threw the halved grape tomatoes in- maybe a cup or so. As those started to get soft- I added one clove of minced garlic and a small pinch of red pepper flakes and let cook for 2 minutes more. I transferred the veggie mix to a bowl at this point- added a swirl of olive oil to the warm pan (no need to clean it) and then wilted 2 cups of fresh spinach. Removed from the pan, threw it on top of the veggie mix in the same bowl- covered with foil to keep warm Once my water was boiling- I added one package of linguine and a big pinch of kosher salt.. The directions called for 10 minutes, I always round down to 9 minutes to ensure that the pasta is al dente. I wiped the same frying pan clean and put back on the burner- med high/high heat. Rinsed 10 scallops (serves 2) and patted dry with a paper towel. Seared in olive oil, about 2 minutes per side. The trick is to not move the scallops at all until the 2 minutes is up. This ensures that you get a nice carmelization. Removed from pan when done and cover with foil to keep warm. To the same hot pan, I added 1/4 cup of white wine, a sprinkle of lemon zest, juice from half the lemon, and cook on med-high for 3 minutes or so until slightly reduced. Swirled in one tablespoon of butter at the end. I drained the pasta when done, returned to the warm pot and tossed in all of my vegetables. Added some extra olive oil at this point to keep the pasta from sticking. I plated the pasta into a rimmed soup bowl first, arranged the seared scallops around the top, sprinkled with crumbled goat cheese and topped it off with a few tablespoons of the sauce. (you'll have left over veggies and pasta for lunch the next day) Some fresh basil over the top would have been yummy - will remember that next time. John agreed that it was a very yummy dish. The lemon butter sauce REALLY makes it. It looks like a lot of steps but it really did come together quickly. I just made it up as a went along and even though I cooked everything separately- I was just working with one non-stick pan so clean up wasn't bad either. Just noticed the garlic toast when I added this picture! A little trick we learned on our honeymoon in Tuscany.... the world's BEST garlic toast! I toast the sliced bread (french, Italian, sourdough, anything you have) until the edges are golden. When I take it out, I rub the bread with a clove of raw garlic. It grates itself on the edges of the bread. Drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt and a usually add a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese as well. Its the best!

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Salmon with Tomato Vinaigrette

Tried another new recipe last night. This one was reccomended by my friend Heather- she says it is her go-to easy entaining recipe and I see why! We really enjoyed it and I pulled it together in less than 30 minutes- Rachel Ray style.

I decided on roasted brussel sprouts as a side- so I got those going first. Cleaned them, tossed with olive oil, s &p and spread on a baking sheet. Into the oven at 400 degrees for 20 minutes. While those were working, I cleaned the salmon and did some prep for the "vinaigrette" (halved my cherry tomatoes, sliced my shallot and basil, etc). Whole Foods had skinless atlantic fillets which looked beautiful. I actually asked for a half pound piece but the fish guy tried to tell me to buy a whole pound for two people?? I looked at him funny and said that I don't eat that much so he gave me 3/4 lb which really was too much. I would stick with 1/4 lb per person next time.I rised the salmon, patted it dry, folded the skinny end of the filet under the thicker part so that it would cook evenly, drizzled with extra virgin olive oil, seasoned with S&P.

I wanted to time it so that the salmon could finish in the oven alongside the Brussel sprouts, so once the time was down to about 5 minutes, I drizzled some olive oil in a skillet on med-high/high heat and seared the salmon on both sides, approx 2 mins per side. At this point, I took my baking sheet out, gave the brussel sprouts a shuffle, moved to one side of the sheet and added the salmon to the otherside.

I put it back into the oven and set the timer for 5 minutes more. (My salmon was a good 1 inch thick.) Next I wiped some of the oil out of my skillet, added 1 thinly sliced shallot, approx 1.5 cups halfed grape tomatoes, 1 tsp capers, 1 tablespoon red wine vinegar, a splash of the white wine I was drinking, and half of a teaspoon of cumin- also added some S&P to taste. Mind you I was cooking for 2 so this is approx half of the recipe as outlined by Food & Wine Mag.

At this time my buzzer is going off- fish and sprouts are done. A minute later, the tomatoes are softened and also done. I threw in 2-3 Tablespoons of fresh basil at the very end. Plated the salmon with a generous scoop of the tomatoes over the top. Accompanied by a large helping of perfectly browned brussel sprouts with a sqeeze of fresh lemon juice - you have a super weeknight meal. Will definately be making this one again soon!

Sunday, June 7, 2009

Tuna Nicoise

Sunday dinner is the most important meal of the week. Making Sunday night festive makes the weekend feel longer some how. It is also the one night that I have time to try a putsy or time consuming recipe. This weekend we had delicious, decadent meals out Friday and Saturday so we were in the mood for something light. I decided on a Tuna Nicoise salad.
I did most of the prep in the afternoon when I got home from the store. I started with 2 eggs- hardboiled them. John and I found a recipe that works beautifully every time. Put your eggs in a pot, cover entirely with water and put on high heat. As soon as the water starts to boil, pull the pot off of the burner and turn it down to low. Put the pot back on for 1 minute. Remove from heat, cover the pot and set the timer for 12 minutes. This method ensures that the yolk is cooked through but not chalky and dry.
Next I put 4 new potatoes in a pot to boil. Once the water came to a boil-I blanched some fresh green beans in the same pot for 3 minutes and then put in an ice bath to cool. I drained them well, wrapped in papertowels and then placed in the fridge. You don't want them to be soggy.
While the potatoes continued to cook, I made a vinaigrette. As nerdy as it sounds, making vinaigrettes is one of my favorite things. I inherited this from my mother... We all have a slightly different recipes but I assure you, you won't find store bought in any Cobetto house hold... Anyways, I started with a teaspoon of dijon mustard, added the zest of a lemon (not quite the whole lemon), the juice from half of the lemon, a teaspoon of minced shallot, a tiny squeeze of honey, a pinch of salt, a few grinds of pepper, a tablespoon of red wine vinegar and 2-3 tablespoons of olive oil. Whisk together until emulsified. If you can make this in advance, I think the flavor gets better as the shallots marinate.
Then the tuna... I got a BEAUTIFUL piece of tuna from whole foods. I swear it was 2.5 inches thick. Drizzled it with olive oil and rubbed with salt, pepper and some herbs de provence. John grilled it so that it had a nice herb crust on the outside and it was still pink inside- just right. I don't like it too rare when eating it on a salad...
While the tuna rested, I assembled the salad. Baby spinach, blanched green beans, boiled new potato wedges, hard boiled egg wedges, santa sweet grape tomatoes and of course a mixture of green and kalamata pitted olives. Top the salad with the sliced tuna, drizzle generously with the vinaigrette and done.
Sunday is also a great day for DESSERT! Today it is blueberry cobbler day. (blueberries were on sale) Cobblers and crisps are my favorite summer time desserts. I love them particularly because it is not a fine science, you can kind of just wing it. I put three cups or so of fresh blueberries into a bowl with the zest and juice of 1 large lemon, 1/4 cup of flour and 1/3 cup of sugar or so. Mix carefully but well until you have a syrup coating the berries. I poured the blueberries into four individual, buttered ramekins.
I used the rolled pillsbury crust from the fridge section of the grocery (it's really hard to beat in my opinion). I rolled it out and cut circles to fit my ramekins- you want about 1/2 an inch or so to hang over the edges. I placed the crusts over the dishes, pressing around the edges to ensure that it doesn't shrink up while baking. I had some extra dough so I made some cute little leaves to decorate the crusts. I then brushed the tops with milk to help them brown nicely and sprinkled with raw sugar for some crunch. Cut some vents into the top of the crust and put them into the oven at 400 degrees for about 25 minutes. Let cool and served warm with vanilla ice cream of course.
(NOTE: you want to be sure that the blueberries are really heaping in the dish because they reduce and shrint way down as they cook.)
Already have a menu for tomorrow so we'll talk to you then!

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

House Husband

John is at home this month studying for boards which means I get to abuse him every so often with house chores. I tasked him with a recipe Monday evening and it turned out great! Great, easy, weeknight recipe- yet again from Epicurious. The marinade was fantastic- John let it go for about 4 hours. He then grilled it up, schmeared it with the most AMAZING Gorgonzola Dolce that we've been hooked on from Whole Foods and served with an arugula salad. We transformed the left overs tonight into a yummy salad. I peeled and sliced an heirloom tomato, sliced an avocado, sliced the left over chicken thin, and arranged on the plate. I of course needed to make room for the gorgonzola in there somewhere so I whirred it into a dressing. Crumbled a couple of ounces of cheese into the food processor with a heaping spoonful of mayo, juice of a lemon, and S&P. Then with the blade running, I added a splash of half and half to thin it out a bit. We drizzled the dressing over the salad, crumbled some bacon over the top and done! Same great chicken- totally new dinner!.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Beach Livin

What an amazing weekend in Charleston. Driving home yesterday from a long day of beach, sun, and boating in the lowcountry, I realized that I honestly live in most people's idea of vacation! Every weekend of the year is full of great excuses to get outside, enjoy the beach or an evening grilling out on the back deck with friends. I will say it is also slightly de-motivating however when it comes to things like house chores... while the weekend was a fun one, didn't get too much done. Our Friday night routine has recently consisted of a trip to Whole Foods, cooking dinner for two over a good bottle of wine. This week it was crab legs with drawn lemon butter, an arugula salad full of dried cranberries, candied pecans and crumbled gorgonzola and a bottle of Veuve Cliquot champagne. (a wedding gift that we've saved for 2 years) We have an amazing screened in back porch where we spend many an evening listening to music and the choir of tree frogs that live behind our house. We've found that the majority of our social plans are now revolving around this peacefully relaxing setting- for those of you who have fallen prey to the late nights on the Lacy porch, you understand what I'm sayin. After a long day at the Beach on Saturday we decided to do a low country boil for a handful of friends- also referred to as frogmore stew. John has absolutely PERFECTED his boil recipe. The corn deliciously sweet, the red potatoes buttery soft without being mushy, the sausage plump with the juicy flavor of the crab boil seasoning and the shrimp cooked to perfection. He says he uses the Coastal Living recipe as a guide for cooking times though he's tweaked it to his own. Beyond the traditional cocktail sauce, I've also added my own twist with my Old Bay Butter accoutrement. I melt one stick of butter with a heaping tablespoon of Old Bay Seasoning, a big pinch of salt and the juice of half a lemon. Spoon it over the corn and potatoes and I promsie you, you won't ever attempt a boil without it. A shrimp boil is really a one-huge pot-meal. No sides are really necessary however we served a huge plate of fresh watermelon on the side and finished off the meal with a key lime pie from Simmon's Seafood shop on Isle of Palms. We religiously buy our boil shrimp from Simmon's. They are fresh off of the boat that morning and always local caught just off the Carolina shore. The pie is an added incentive of course to make the drive. Hands down THE BEST KEY LIME PIE around. Turned out to be another wonderful early-summer evening on the back porch. Looking forward to many more of them over the coming months!