Sunday, February 15, 2009

Happy Valentine's Day!

Scott and I celebrated Valentine's Day part II with a delicious dinner at home with some bubbly, vino, and one of my all time favorites...lamb chops! I don't know what it is about lamb chops, but I love them. However, the downside is that most restaurants just don't make great lamb chops, the ones I make at home are much tastier. Exceptions to this are Ousie's Table and Da Marco which have the best lamb chops in town.

We kicked off our evening with some Champagne since it was a special occasion. We like to drink while we are cooking, so of course that meant the Champagne wasn't going to make it through dinner, even though it was the recommended beverage for the menu. Our wine with the meal was a Cabernet. Both of these bottles are what we refer to as Ike wines, which means they survived the hurricane. Ike taught us a lesson about wine storage. We have a wine chiller, and since we were without power for a week, and our wines came up to temperature, the wines were affected...which meant they just weren't the same. If we had never put them in the chiller to begin with they would be just fine. Luckily these two tasted just fine.

The inspiration for our menu came from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining cookbook's Valentine's Dinner for Two. The Williams-Sonoma recipes are always delicious and I have yet to be disappointed.

Crab, Avocado, and Grapefruit Salad with Chive Vinaigrette
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining
serves 2

Chive Vinaigrette
1/4 cup EVOO
1/4 cup snipped fresh chives
1 Tbsp creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 tsp Dijon mustard
1/2 Tbsp Champagne vinegar
1/2 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
salt and pepper to taste

  • Combine the EVOO and chives in a blender and process until smooth, then set aside.
  • In a small bowl, whisk together the cream fraiche/sour cream, mustard, vinegar, and lemon juice.
  • While whisking slowly add in the chive oil.
  • Add salt and pepper to taste.

1/2 lb Dungeness jumbo lump crab meat, picked for shell fragments (or regular crab meat)
1 Tbsp finely chopped celery
1 avocado, halved, pitted, peeled, and sliced
juice of 1/2 lemon
1 pink grapefruit, peeled, sectioned (no membrane) and excess juice reserved
salt and pepper
2 cups mixed torn frisee and radicchio leaves
1/4 cup fresh chive pieces

  • In a bowl combine the crab meat, celery, and 3 Tbsp of the chive vinaigrette, and excess grapefruit juice.
  • In another bowl toss the avocado with lemon juice to prevent browning.
  • Then combine the crab mixture with the avocados, grapefruit sections, and 2 Tbsp of the chive vinaigrette. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
  • Divide the salad greens onto each plate, and top with the crab, avocado, grapefruit mixture. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette.

The great thing about salads is that if you are missing a few ingredients or can't find them you can easily improvise. I couldn't find Dungeness crab (and I went to two grocery stores), and while I could have just purchased regular crab, I have to buy it by the pound and I only needed a half instead I omitted the crab from the recipe. Also I only found one sad looking piece of frisee in the produce dept at Central Market (very unlike them) so I substituted my greens for a mix of arugula and radicchio.

Pink Peppercorn Rack of Lamb
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Entertaining
serves 2

1 rack of lamb, frenched with 6-8 ribs
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
2 Tbsp fine dried bread crumbs
1 Tbsp pink peppercorns, crushed
1 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tsp salt
1/4 cup EVOO
1/3 cup dry white wine*
  • Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
  • Rub the fat side of the lamb with mustard and set aside.
  • In a small bowl combine bread crumbs, peppercorns, rosemary, garlic, and salt.
  • Sprinkle the bread crumb mixture over the mustard and lightly pat it, so it adheres to the lamb.
  • Place a nonstick, ovenproof skillet over medium heat and add EVOO.
  • Sear lamb on both sides for about 3 minutes per side or until lightly golden.
  • Place skillet with lamb fat side up in the oven and roast until cooked to your liking. Medium Rare: 13-15 minutes.
  • Remove lamb from oven and transfer to a cutting board and tent with foil. Let lamb rest for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile place the skillet back on stove top over medium heat (don't forget the oven mit, the handle will be hot from the oven).
  • Add wine to skillet, scrapping up any brown bits from the bottom. Pour the pan juices through a fine-mesh sieve over a bowl, and discard solids.
  • Carve the chops and spoon the pan juices over the chops.

*Since we already had the bubbly open, we used Champagne instead of a dry white wine. If you were drinking red wine that could be used as well.

These lamb chops were so tender and flavorful, I even nibbled the remaining meat off the bone when I through eating. So yummy and so easy to make.

Cauliflower Gratin
adapted from Williams-Sonoma Holiday Entertaining
serves 8

2 heads cauliflower, separated into florets
5 Tbsp butter
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 1/2 cups whole milk, warmed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
1 cup+ shredded Gruyere or white cheddar cheese

  • Preheat the oven to 400 degrees
  • Steam cauliflower in a steamer basket over boiling water for 10 minutes or until barely tender.
  • Spray gratin dish with Pam and arrange the florets tightly in one layer.
  • In a saucepan over medium heat, melt 4 Tbsp butter, heat until the butter foams and then remove from heat and stir in flour, salt, and pepper. Return the pan to medium-high heat and while constantly whisking slowly drizzle in the milk. Reduce heat to low and simmer stirring occasionally until sauce thickens, about 15 minutes. Add red pepper flakes and half the cheese, stirring until the cheese melts, about 2 minutes.
  • Pour sauce over cauliflower florets, top with remaining cheese, and dot with remaining butter.
  • Bake 20-25 minutes or until top is browned and sauce is bubbling.
  • Serve immediately.

We scaled this recipe down to 2 servings, but it was so tasty and a nice alternative to the standard potato. Roasted Yukon Gold potatoes were the suggested side for this menu, but I wanted to try something different and was very glad I did. I will have to member to add this dish to my Christmas 2009 menu.

I had also made some Rosemary Popovers from this cookbook for New Years Eve and had planned to make them for V-day because they were so good...but we got distracted and forgot.

Chocolate Raspberry Fondue
suggested by my friend Courtney on her blog
adapted from Betty Crocker

1 container chocolate frosting
1/3 cup seedless raspberry preserves
brownies cup into 1 inch cubes
dried apricots
  • Combine frosting and preserves in a microwave safe bowl and zap it on high for 20-30 seconds.
  • Stir to full incorporate ingredients and transfer to a fondue pot to serve.

This dessert is so quick, easy, and sinfully delicious. But if you have some fruit with it you can pretend its healthy.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Restaurant Review: Bedford

This past Saturday Scott and I celebrated Valentine's Day Part I at Bedford in the Heights. Yes we know Valentine's day isn't until this coming Saturday but we prefer to go out for a nice Valentine's dinner on a day other than February 14th. Restaurants are always so crowded and even with a reservation there is a sense of urgency for a quick table turnover to accommodate as many customers as possible on this Hallmark Holiday. And then there is a second issue...the prix fixe menu which drastically limits a diners choices for what they would like to order. So on the actual day we opt instead to cook a delicious gourmet dinner at home and enjoy some nice wine from our "collection" to go with it...stay tuned for the details on Part II next week.

We first heard about Bedford not from friends who had dined there, but from a show on the Food Network called the The Chef Jeff Project. The show is about helping at risk young adults live a better life learning skills used in the kitchen and cooking food. Robert Gadsby was a judge at the end of the show, and gave one of members of the project a job offer in his new restaurant Bedford. At the time the episode aired, Bedford hadn't opened yet. Scott and I immediately googled Bedford and found nothing, nada, zip. Well a few weeks later Bedford passed the google test, and several of our friends had dined at Bedford and all had glowing reviews. We knew we were in for a treat.

Bedford has an option to select an item from each of the 4 menu sections at a reduced portion for only $55 per person...we opted for the tandem selection so that we could try as many items as possible on the menu and not have to be rolled out of the restaurant. Scott and I prefer a mix-and-match approach when we go out to eat, and we both order something different so that we try some of each. Many of the items we ordered had a surprise Asian flare to them that we enjoyed as a little surprise in our mouths. Instead of ordering a bottle of wine, we went with wine by the glass options so that each item was paired with a wine that would compliment and enhance the flavors of the food.


Seared Scallops: Cauliflower Puree, Cucumber Red Pepper Relish, Lotus Crisps
wine: Pine Ridge Dijon Clones Chardonnay

Chinese Duck Ravioli: Mixed Shiitake Mushrooms, Stir-Fried Bean Sprouts
wine: house champagne

Fish & Crustaceans

Gulf Shrimp & Crab: Mixed Vegetables, Kaffir Lime Shellfish Sauce
wine: Pine Ridge Dijon Clones Chardonnay

Tellicherry Peppered Tuna: Celery–Apple Whipped Potatoes, Endive & Citrus BBQ Sauce
wine: Joel Gott Savignion Blanc

Poultry & Meat

Boneless Beef Short Ribs: Button Mushrooms, Fingerling Potatoes, Root Vegetables
wine: Kaiken Malbec

Pepper Glazed Texas Quail: Torn Pasta, Petite Vegetables, Minted Cilantro Pesto
wine: Rex Hill Pinot Noir

Desserts & Finales

Assorted Chocolate Truffles

Assorted Sorbet

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Thai Pesto Shrimp with Coconut Rice

This recipe is inspired by Southern Living, they actually have a "Healthy Living" section in their February 2009 issue. Not only is this recipe a tasty, quick to fix weeknight meal, but its good for you too. And my favorite can freeze the extra rice and pesto and save yourself the prep time next time you make it. I like freezing extra portions because its great to have on hand for quick meals, especially if I need my husband to cook dinner without my assistance.

Thai Pesto Shrimp (Southern Living, February 2009)

yield: 6 servings*

1 1/2 pounds unpeeled, large raw shrimp (16/20 count)
1 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
3 tablespoons fresh lime juice
2 tablespoons unsalted dry-roasted peanuts
2 tablespoons minced fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon kosher or 3/4 tsp. regular salt
2 teaspoons honey
1/2 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper
4 Tbsp olive oil, divided

  • While the rice is cooking you can make the pesto and cook the shrimp.
  • Thaw shrimp, peel, and devein.
  • In a food processor or blender process the cilantro, lime juice, peanuts, ginger, garlic, salt, honey, red pepper, and 3 Tbsp of the olive oil until smooth.
  • Taste pesto and make adjustments as needed, if its too tangy add more honey, if you want more a kick add more red pepper flakes.
  • In a large skillet over medium heat, heat remaining Tbsp of olive oil, then saute shrimp for 2 minutes per side or just until the shrimp turn pink (you don't want to over cook the shrimp or they will become rubbery).
  • Stir in the cilantro pesto and serve over rice.

300 calories, 13.9 g fat

*Since this recipe makes 6 servings, I scaled part of it down to two servings. I bought frozen shrimp and only used 1/2 lb of the shrimp. However I did make the full Thai pesto recipe so I could freeze the extra for future use. The extra small Ziploc containers are 1/2 cup and are the perfect size for freezing small portions of pesto or chicken broth.

Coconut Rice**

yield: 2 servings

3/4 cup + 2 Tbsp light coconut milk
¾ cup water
½ tsp kosher salt
¾ cup basmati rice
½ tsp lime zest
1 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 tsp thinly sliced green onion (both white and green parts)

  • In a small saucepan over high heat bring 3/4 cup coconut milk, water, and salt to a boil.
  • Add rice, reduce heat to low, and cover saucepan.
  • Simmer for about 15 minutes until most of the liquid is absorbed.
  • Keep pan covered, but remove from heat and let cool for 5 minutes.
  • Spoon in additional 2 Tbsp of coconut milk, lime zest, lime juice, and green onions.

**I have another recipe that I prefer over the Southern Living recipe, so I'm going to share it instead. The Southern Living version is 104 Calories, 2g fat per serving, so we are going to guesstimate this one is close to the same.

Monday, February 2, 2009

Pomegranate-Glazed Shish Kebabs

I recently acquired a Weight Watchers cookbook so we can try some easy and healthy recipes for weeknight dinners. These kebabs were very quick and easy to make and also very tasty and filling. Its a great way to incorporate a variety of veggies.

WW Pomegranate-Glazed Shish Kebabs

1/4 cup low sodium low fat chicken broth
2 Tbsp pomegranate molasses (this part takes a long time to make and needs to be done in advance)
1 tsp salt
1 lb boneless sirloin, trimmed and cut into 1 inch pieces
4 mushrooms halved or 1 portobello mushroom cut into 8 pieces
1 green or red bell pepper, cut into 8 pieces
1 red onion, cut into 8 pieces
1 zucchini, cut into 8 pieces

  • Make pomegranate molasses if it cannot be purchased at the store (click link for recipe)

  • Spray a broiler rack with Pam and preheat the broiler.

  • Combine broth, molasses, and salt in a small bowl.

  • Thread 4 skewers with veggies, mushrooms, and meat.

  • Place skewers on the broiler pan and brush with half the broth mixture.

  • Place broiler pan under broiler and broil for 4 minutes.

  • Then turn and brush with remaining broth mixture and broil for an additional 5-6 minutes.

4 servings (1 skewer = 1 serving)
189 cal, 6 g fat prep 10 min, cook 10 min

Sunday, February 1, 2009

Restaurant Review: Ruggles Green

This week Scott and I had our weekly date night at Ruggles Green, followed by the Wine Bucket. It was my first time to eat at Ruggles Green, which is sort of a miniature, green version of Ruggles Bakery. We arrived around 7:30 and the place was packed, and its a good thing we got there when we did because after we finished ordering the line went all the way to the door. This is a great spot for good food with a casual atmosphere. We will definitely make the effort to eat at Ruggles Green more often, and that shouldn't be too difficult since its located by our favorite place the Wine Bucket.

So here is what we ordered...

Hummus with homemade flat bread
This was a great way to start the meal, the hummus was creamy, the flatbread tasty, and it even had some sundried tomatoes and a few other garnishes to add.

Roasted Corn Chowder
This had a great corn flavor, but was also light enough that I could still eat my salad. I ordered the cup which was a rather large cup since it was more like a small bowl.

Honey Fried Goat Cheese Salad: Gundermann Farm Organic Arugula, Almonds, Raisins, Mango, Parmesan, Sliced carrots, Cracked pepper with a Home-made Mango Ranch Dressing This was a very tasty and unique salad. I love anything with goat cheese so I knew I would not be disappointed. My only complaint was that I felt the salad had a little too much dressing on it, so next time I will remember to request the dressing on the side. There was a light hint of honey on the plate, and I wasn't sure if it was part of the goat cheese batter or if the plate had been brushed with it, but it added a hint of sweetness with each bite.

Buffalo Burger: 98% Lean Buffalo Burger - Micro Greens & Fresh Mozzarella, Lettuce, Tomato & Red Onion, served on a Whole Wheat Bun
Scott ordered the burger and I'm guessing that it was really good because he did not even offer to share it with me. He did say though that it was better than the Barnaby's Buffalo burger.