Thursday, December 30, 2010


 Christmas Eve in NYC, what a special time to be in the big apple.  Since my parents have temporary digs, so we decided that we would have one night out and one night at my sister's and brother-in-law.  My parents have been camping on the Upper West Side.  They have been hunting out the good restaurants Vareli was the winner for December 24th.  My Dad started with butternut squash soup with hazelnut oil.

I I ordered Flash Fried Cauliflower, Tahini, Chili, Lemon Juice
and Sage it was a like having sparklers on your tongue.

My Mom had Roasted Baby Rainbow Beets, Kefalograviera Cheese, Pine Nuts,
Pickled Onions, Red Beet Coulis it tasted like a sunset on the beach on the summer.

My sister had the scallops, Pan Seared Scallops, Pearl Onions, Breakfast Radish,
Baby Carrots,  Sugar Snap Peas
and Preserved Lemon Barigoule.  This dish has the freshness of sea with the sweetness of carrots.

I had the Mediterranean Dorade, Gigante Beans, Haricots Vert, Kalamata Olives and Roasted
Red Pepper Coulis.  Now this is for fish lovers only, it was a yummy filet with crispy skin and tender flesh.

But the winner of the night was the special risotto, with foam and mushrooms.  It was cooked just how your grandmother would make it (well not my grandmother).

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Le Monde

 So, I was treated to brunch at this upper west side in NYC, "Le Monde."  Here is the yummy cafe au lait, I love the designs that they make with the foam and coffee.

It came in a bowl, with the lions on the side, seriously, cupping a bowl of hot coffee is one of finest ideas that the French have had (many of the others can't be mentioned here due to the family nature of this blog).
So, I love a good eggs benedict, but I like to add my own hollandaise sauce. I get it on the side. Poached eggs are so easy, really, some of my favorite tricks are to add a little acid to the water (lemon juice or  cream of tartar)  Butter or grease the inside of pan so the eggs don't stick.  Swirl the water as you pour the egg into the pan of simmering water.  You can make the eggs a head of time and reheat if you have a crowd for brunch.  Try it at home, it won't be just a restaurant treat.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Baked Rice and Frozen Chinese Food

I have made a lot of bad rice in my time.  But baking brown rice is foolproof, there are a number of recipes that use enough butter to make Julia Child proud.  I have taken a bit of a few different recipes and made my own (Cook's Illustraighted and Alton Brown are the two that I remember).

1 1/2 cups long-, medium- or short-grain brown rice
2 1/3 cups chicken stock
2 teaspoons unsalted butter or vegetable oil

1. Adjust the oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice in 8-inch square baking dish.
2. Bring stock and butter or oil to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately pour stock over rice. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer of foil. Bake rice 1 hour, until tender.
3. Remove baking dish from oven and uncover. Fluff rice with  fork, then cover dish with  kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer; serve immediately.

Now, I had one of those coupon explosions not that long ago.  I am not a huge fan of frozen dinners that I don't make, but this was too good to pass up.  PF Chang has new frozen dinners.  I had a coupon for $2.00 off and a coupon to double the other coupon, so for $2.00 I was ready to try it out.  First, I had the orange chicken with some baked brown rice (cost for the meal less than $1.00).  PF Chang is on to something with how they have frozen the meal.  The sauce is in little cubes, so the parts are separate until you cook it.  This keeps the veggies crisp and the protein from falling apart.  I wonder if I can create this at home.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Ceviche in Orlando

 So to prepare for my trip to Wizzarding World at Universal Studios, my Dad and I went to Ceviche.  After a small GPS malfunction (note to self update maps).  Here are some of the photos of what we ate.  I'm sorry for terrible quality of photos, I just had my phone and we opted to sit at the bar rather than the main room after a 45 minute wait, so the light is perfect for a bar room romance not photography.

Here is a fresh sardine, it was as delicious as this photo is blurry.
 This is a creamy potato salad, with some hot peppers to keep you from getting bored with ho hum potato salad.
 Fresh Bruschetta with olives, the greens were fresh and added a nice touch to this classic dish. 
 Shrimp and scallop ceviche, the signature dish for the restaurant, this was a symphony in your mouth.
I had to get this escargot, with tomato sauce.  It was the perfect combination of sweet meat with spicy sauce.  All the dishes has fresh bread that added to small but powerful plates.

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Orlando, Florida--Big Fin Seafood

 On a recent trip Orlando, my Dad and I made a pilgrimage to city of theme parks.   After a day of enjoying Wizzarding World, we went to Big Fin Seafood.  We found this restaurant from Open Table on my phone when we got back to our hotel.

This Calamari was unbelievable!  It was smooth as butter and sweet.  I would have ordered two had I known that it was going to taste like this!  Sorry the terrible photos, too many roller coasters made me forget my camera.
 This  Grouper with Panko Bread crumbs.  While this was very good,  the Calamari was the the home run.  Grouper is not a fish that I find in my home town, so I wanted to go with something that I can't get very easy chez moi.  Grouper is a tender white fish that can hold a lot of flavor. 
My Dad had the Mahi Mahi grilled with a Jamaican Jerk Sauce on the side.  His fish was cooked perfectly! The haricot verts were lovely, crisp garden fresh with the shallots giving that extra flavor.

Our dessert was Key Lime pie, but it didn't last long enough for a picture.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

The Winner Is.........

Jeanne, you are the winner of the Pantry Challenge!  You have your choice of a Susan Dinner (cooked at your house) or a gift card to your local grocery store, to get more in your pantry!  I'll email you the details.

Congratulations and thanks to everyone for playing along.

Winner selected by random number generator.  Not responsible to moldy items in your fridge or food gone bad.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Kickass Bakery Sommerville Massachusettes

 My love of cupcakes is very great!  So I was happy to get an invitation to go this Boston Cupcake Institution Kickass Bakery.  First they have the perfect size to get more than one.  This is  Chai cupcake.  The one below is keylime pie.  They each have a filling inside that made the cupcake moist and added that little extra zing.  Thanks to Sarah for invite!

I will definitely be heading back here for more.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Muscles with White Wine and Shallots

Today while at the grocery store, I found that muscles were on sale, so I got a few.  Less than $2.00 worth.  I cleaned them (scrub the dirt off the outside, soak in cold water, drain, soak again. pull the breads off and cover with a wet towel).  I sauted some shallots and garlic in butter, then added the muscles, then added some white wine and let it simmer down.  Discard any muscles that do not open.  I added some fresh parsley and nice bread.  It was a wonderful dinner.

Breakfast Egg Braid

I made this for dinner with a few modifications, here is the Cooking Light Recipe, but I just used Turkey Sausage, onion, cheese and tomato sauce since I didn't have the ingredients from Cooking Light.  It was yummy!  I would note that you need to put a fair bit of filling inside.  I will definitely make this again and maybe try other variations.  I would also try and make my own pizza dough as it is very easy to make.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Oliver & Co

On one of my many trips to NYC, I went to this gourmet store in the West Village, Oliver & Co. and I just found out they have a store in Boston.  Here is a picture of their window display.  So, I can't say too much about what I got,  as I did purchase some loyal followers of this blog holiday presents from this store.  But, the olive oil from here is WONDERFUL.  There are many kinds, but there were two that were as smooth as silk on your tongue and they had a wave of flavor that pulled you into the ocean before you knew what hit you.  The basil oil and Il Fornacio were my favorites.  They let me taste so many things, it was a wonderful end to a day.

Be warned, you might want to cash out your 401(k) to get some items here, but I did find some wonderful stocking stuffers (more on that later).    I am now on a quest for olive oil that tastes better than what I had here without putting me in the poor house.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Pumpkin Soup

I love a good soup!  This is one that I made from parts of many recipes that I like.  Take one sugar pumpkin, peal and remove seeds and string insides.  Dice one small onion, carrot, and parsnip, saute in olive oil until soft.  Then add pumpkin cubed and add enough chicken or vegetable stock to cover.  Add bay leaf, pinch of cinnamon, ginger and some fresh grated nutmeg.  Simmer for 30-45 minutes until pumpkin is soft.  Puree in batches in blender or food processor.  Add more stock if needed. 

I served this toasted bread with roasted garlic.  Delicious.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

A Wonderful Day with my Dad at the Pub

So, this summer, I went to Colorado to hang with my Dad, we went on a mission, we went to the museum to see the King Tut show.  Then we went to an English Pub across the street, Pints Pub.  Here is what we had:  Harvari Cheese on the world's largest cracker (it was bigger than my head).  While it was novel, I did enjoy the tart apple with the cheese.

My Dad had the pub classic,  you can hardly go wrong with burger and fries.

The real winner, was the lamb skewers.  Both my Dad and I could not believe how tender and tasty this dish was....just the right combo of spicy and savory.  The mustard curry sauce is something that I might have to try and create at home.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Grocery Store Challenge!

So, I have mentioned before that I love food bargains, could be a great sale,  but what I have been working on lately is wasting less food.  So I have challenged my self to spend $25 a week on groceries.  So the first thing that I have been doing is eating from my pantry.

Here are a few items that I have to use up:  dried mushrooms, canned crab meat and escargot...stay tuned for what I end up making with this.

So quick, run into your pantry, what do you have in there that you need to use?  I'm happy to make any suggestions.  One random poster will receive a prize for posting what is their pantry.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Braised Chicken

Now that it is getting colder, I love to have something on cooking slowly in the oven.  Braising is a wonderful technique that is easy to do and has the results of tasting like you spent all day working in the kitchen.  Here is a chicken that I braised with pears and rosemary.  All About Braising: The Art of Uncomplicated Cooking is where I found this recipe.  My favorite braising tip is to put parchment paper under the lid to keep the juices from burning on the top of the pan. 

Here is the recipe:

  • 3-4 pound whole chicken
  • Salt and pepper
  • 3 pears
  • 4 Tbsp butter (divided)
  • 2 rosemary sprigs
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large leek
  • 2 shallots
  • 1/4 cup white wine
  • 1/2 cup chicken stock
  • 2 tsp sugar
  • 1 tsp rosemary
  • 1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
First, prepare the chicken.
Preheat the oven to 300.
Rinse the chicken (inside and out) and pat it dry. Remove any large chunks of fat around the neck.
Remove the last two joints of each wing. Season both the inside and outside of the chicken with salt and pepper. Quarter the pear and stuff it inside the chicken cavity. Truss the chicken with kitchen string. Bind the drumsticks close to the body and then wrap the string back around the chicken’s body and tie it behind the neck.
Brown the chicken
Heat 1 Tbsp of oil and 2 Tbsp of butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. The butter will foam and then settle down. Pat the chicken dry again and lay it breast side down in the hot pan. Brown the chicken for at least 3-4 minutes and then gently lift it up with wooden spoons to see if it’s browned. If not, let it go another few minutes. You’ll want to carefully turn the chicken so that it browns on all sides. Once the chicken is completely browned, remove it carefully to a plate.
Add any chicken pieces (such as gizzards, heart, neck, and those wing tips you cut off) to the pan and saute them until browned, about 7-10 minutes. Remove those to the plate as well.
Drain the pan of all fat. Turn the heat to medium and add a tablespoon of butter. Now add the leek, shallots, and rosemary sprig, along with some salt and pepper. Cook for about 7-10 minutes, or until the vegetables are soft. Add the wine, turn the heat up to medium-high, and boil for 2 minutes. Add the stock and vinegar and boil for an additional 2 minutes.
Braise the chicken
Carefully lay the chicken on top of the veggies. Tuck the chicken parts in with the vegetables and cover the dish with parchment paper. Cover and slide into the oven. Baste every 20 minutes for about an hour and 20 minutes or until the chicken registers 170 between the breast and thigh on a thermometer.

Moist chicken with sweet and tangy pears
About 10 minutes before you take the chicken out of the oven…
Peel the last two pears, core them, and slice them into 1/2 inch thick slices. Mince the rosemary and set aside. Heat 2 Tbsp of butter over high heat in a large, nonstick skillet  – the largest skillet you have.
Once the butter stops foaming, add the pears and toss to coat. Add the sugar, rosemary, salt, and pepper. Cook, stirring and turning the pears frequently, until the pears have started to caramelize.
Add the balsamic vinegar and cook for another 30 seconds. The balsamic vinegar will form a glaze that will very quickly thicken. Pull the chicken out of the oven. Using those same wooden spoons (or a meat fork), tip the chicken so any juices inside the cavity run into the Dutch Oven. Set the chicken on a cutting board and cover with foil for a few minutes. Strain most of the vegetables and other chicken parts (wings, heart, etc) out of the pan, keeping all of the juices. Boil the juices over high heat for 5 minutes, stirring frequently, to thicken.
Carve the chicken. Top with pears and balsamic glaze, and then spoon some of the pan finished juices over the whole thing.

I have a Le Creuset pan that I've had for years.  One item that I recommend for any pan that you braise in, is a metal knob.   I used one large chicken and I got 6 meals for one out it.  The cost for the meal, $9.00 (I like to buy my meat buy one get one free).  

Oh my where did the time go?

So, sorry to have been away.  I started a new job in August and the time has just flow away from me.  Here is a yummy dish I made last week.  The chicken is left-overs from my braised chicken (more on that later).  The grains are from Trader Joe's
Harvest Grains (with Israeli Style Couscous, Orzo, Baby Garbanzo Beans and Red Quinoa.  This was  a quick disk to whip up.  The grains take 10 minutes and beans I just blanched in boiling water for 2 minutes.  This is one of my favorite type of dishes, quick, uses up leftovers and has minimal dishes.