Sunday, September 16, 2012

Grilled Tuna with Pesto Sauce, with King Estate Backbone Pinot Gris

Shannon Rose (pictured right enjoying this meal) and I  collaborated on this delicious summer meal. The main idea was inspired by a note in our King Estate wine club shipment about submitting suggested pairings for their 2011 Backbone Pinot Gris for a recipe contest.

Let me show you around the plate:
At 4 o'clock we have some grilled fresh summer squash, lightly oiled and salted and peppered.

At 8 o'clock is a fresh cucumber and tomato salad, dressed with a little white wine vinegar, olive oil, salt and pepper.

And the main course (which is the inspired pairing), at 12 o'clock, is grilled albacore tuna with a yogurt pesto sauce.

Here's how we did it:
First, pour yourself a glass of nice Pinot Gris. It's always helpful to taste the wine you're cooking with or plan to drink with your meal so you have the flavors in your head.

Cut tuna loin into fat slices - 2 to 3 inches. Marinade for a half hour or so in olive oil, fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Place in a grill pan lined with foil, skin side down, and place over a hot grill. Add some pinot gris. Cook about 4 minutes and turn over. Add more wine and cook another 4 minutes. Voila! It should be ready to eat!

We found that the tuna was just a tiny bit pink in the thickest part (we like it that way), and really moist all the way through.

On top of the tuna, we put a homemade yogurt pesto (see recipe below) sauce. We just mixed the two together - about 1/3 pesto to 2/3 yogurt, but you could go as much as 1/2 and 1/2. The nutty and tangy flavors of the pesto sauce complimented the tuna nicely, and brought out the earthiness in the pinot gris.

To make fresh pesto:

What you need:
- Basil. A lot of basil.
- Pine nuts or hazelnuts
- Parmesan cheese, grated
- Fresh garlic, chopped
- Salt
- Olive oil
- Something tangy: lemon juice or balsamic vinegar work, but with different results
- A food processor or blender

What you do:
Wash or basil, allow to dry on towels, and then spend a LOT of time picking the leaves off the stems and putting them in a big bowl.

Fill up your food processor with basil leaves and add a healthy swirl of olive oil. Process until it's reduced and needs more stuff in the bowl. Add more basil and some of the other ingredients. Process again. I just take turns adding bits of the ingredients each time, scraping down the processor each time, and ALWAYS adding more olive oil. Do this to the taste and consistency you want. Be careful not to put in too many nuts - they are really flavorful and can overpower the pesto in my opinion. And don't skimp on salt.

When you're done, you should have a really fine sauce. And way less than you thought you would given how much basil you started with.

You'll want to eat it within a few days. If you store it in the fridge, be sure to smooth out the top of the sauce so only the top layer turns brown. It'll be nice and green underneath.

If I make enough, I like to freeze pesto for later use. If you're going to do this, I read once that you shouldn't put in the cheese, but should add it later when you thaw it out and use it. Not sure why, but that's what I do. I spoon pesto into ice cube trays and freeze it that way. When frozen, I pop them out and put them in a ziplock. That way you have nice usable pieces for adding to sauces or whatever later on.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Cocktail treats and gougeres

Hmmm, it's been awhile since I last posted. But don't worry, you didn't miss anything. I didn't grow anything in the garden or cook any delicious meals in the past 6 months. Really.

Yesterday Miss Rose co-hosted a lovely cocktail party with hubby and I at our place (she has such a tiny cottage!). It was a huge success, with delicious mulled wine, a Rose Signature Cocktail (a sparkly ginger cranberry concoction),
many fun friends, and fun snacks. Since this is a food blog, I shall focus on those snacks, and one in particular.
My co-hostess put together some very tasty shrimp cocktail, and made some mini loaves of yummy pumpkin bread. We had a simple platter of olives and pickles, and for this I opened my first jar of pickled cauliflower from this year's garden. They were delicious! The recipe calls for some curry spice, so the cauliflower had that nice flavor and was nice and crunchy. I also made some hazelnut brittle. A super simple candy, as candy goes. And oh so nutty. And good for your teeth.

But that's not what I want to blog about either... What's worth blogging about after all these months are the gruyere gougeres (say it 10 times fast, and that sounds like Grew-yare Goo-zhair) - or cheese puffs. What a fun and delicious appetizer! There are probably lots of very similar recipes out there on line, but I didn't do a lot of research - just went with a recipe in the newspaper from January 2011, which was in turn adapted from "The French Laundry Cookbook". The puff pastry dough was something fun and new to make - and apparently pretty fool-proof since it turned out perfect on my first try. The best part was that I made the dough and blobbed it onto cookie sheets in the morning, put them in the freezer all day, and then just had to pull them out and pop them in the oven a half hour before the party started. Easy! These were amazing fresh out of the oven, and still good a few hours later towards the end of the party. I bet they would work great with parmesan or cheddar too.  

Here's what you need: 
- cookie sheets
- parchment paper
- saucepan
- stand mixer
- ideally, a pastry bag with a 1/2 inch wide plain tip
- freezer space
- 1 cup water
- 7 Tblspns butter
- 1 Tblspn kosher or sea salt
- 1 tspn sugar
- 1 1/4 cup flour
- 4 eggs
- 1 1/4 cups grated Gruyere (5 oz)  

Here's what you do:
Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
In a medium saucepan, combine water, butter, salt and sugar and bring to a boil over high heat. Add all the flour at once, reduce the ehat to medium and stir with a wooden sppon for 2 minutes. It will turn into a thick ball as you cook and stir. Transfer dough to a stand mixer bowl and beat on low for 30 seconds or so to cool it off. Add one egg at a time to the mixture as the mixer stirs it on medium. Stop the mixer to see that the consistency is thick and silky, and the tips of the dough peaks fall over. If it's too stiff, add the white of one more egg - or the whole thing if needed.
Fold in 3/4 cup of the cheese. Then either load the batter in a pastry bag or use a spoon (it's messy) to drop about 1 Tablespoon blobs onto the lined cookie sheets, an inch or so apart. Sprinkle each blob with a teaspoon or so of grated cheese to use it all up.
Now you can put them in the freezer and cook them later, or cook them right away. When ready to cook, heat the oven to 450. Cook for 8 minutes at 450, then turn the heat down to 350 and bake for another 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and serve nice and warm. (makes about 4 dozen)

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Thai Pork Lettuce Wraps & Orange Sesame Asparagus Salad

We had a most delicious and healthy dinner the other night that came largely from our young spring garden. First, hubby's contribution: the thai pork lettuce wraps, recipe from Cooks Illustrated I believe.

What you need:
- 1 pork tenderloin (about a pound), cut into chunks
- 2 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce
- 1 Tablespoon white rice (any kind)
- 1/4 cup chicken broth
- 2 medium shallots, peeled and sliced into thin rings (about 1/2 cup)
- 3 Tablespoons lime juice
- 2 teaspoons sugar
- 1/4 teaspoon red pepper flakes
- 3 Tablespoons chopped mint leaves
- 3 Tablespoons chopped cilantro leaves
- 15 to 20 large lettuce leaves (ours weren't super big, but came from the garden)

What to do:
- Place pork chunks on a large plate in a single layer. Freeze until firm and starting to harden around the edges, but still pliable - 15 to 20 minutes.
- Chop the meat (in 2 or 3 batches) in a food processor until coarsely chopped, using several pulses. Stir in 1 Tablespoon fish sauce and refrigerate 15 minutes.
- Heat rice in a small skillet over medium-high heat and cook, stirring constantly, until golden brown - about 5 minutes. Cool 5 minutes. Grind in a spice grinder or mortar and pestle until a fine meals - you'll get about 1 Tablespoon of rice powder.
- Bring broth to a simmier in a big nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add pork and cook, stirring frequently, until about half cooked - about 2 minutes. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon rice powder over the pork, then continue to cook another 1 or 2 minutes until cooked through. Transfer to a bowl and cool 10 minutes.
- Add remaining 1 1/2 Tablespoons fish sauce, 2 teaspoons rice powder, shallots, lime juice, sugar, red pepper flakes, mint and cilantro to the pork and toss together.
- Serve wrapped up in lettuce leaves. Watch out, it's messy!

The Orange Sesame Roasted Asparagus Salad was a happy coincidence - it was in the paper and sounded like it'd go great with the lettuce wraps. And it did! I'd say this dressing needs some salt, but other than that it was delish.

What you need:
- Lettuce (4 cups or so)
- 1 orange
- 1 pound asparagus
- 1/4 cup orange juice
- 2 teaspoons grated ginger root
- 1 1/2 teaspoons sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil, more flavor)
- 1 Tablespoon toasted sesame seeds

What to do:
- Preheat oven to 425 and wash and trim the asparagus.
- Zest the orange and set zest aside. Finish peeling orange and break into segments.
- Arrange lettuce on plates and add orange segments.
- Place asparagus on a baking sheet and spray with nonstick spray or toss with a little olive oil. Roast in oven for 10-12 minutes, until tender. Take out and set aside for a minute.
- Whisk together orange juice, grated ginger, orange zest, and sesame oil.
- Place asparagus on top of lettuce, and pour dressing over. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Thursday, May 19, 2011

Spinach salad with Caramelized Onion Balsamic Dressing

The spinach in my garden is going crazy and is ready to eat! (So is the lettuce.) I had a few people over for dinner last night (I made the chicken parmesan chronicled here), and wanted to do something special with the spinach. I found a good recipe in my Rachel Ray cookbook called "Caramelized Onion-Dressed Salad with Toasted Hazelnuts". With a few modifications, this was fantastic!

Here's what you need:
- 1/2 cup toasted (in advance or day-of) hazelnuts, coarsely chopped
- 6 Tablespoons olive oil
- 1 large onion, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 3 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
- 1/2 Tablespoon Dijon mustard
- 1/2 to 1 cup chopped red pepper (the recipe calls for tomatoes, but red peppers looked better)
- 4-6 cups fresh spinach (it says you can use arugula or other greens, but spinach was awesome)
- 1/4 to 1/2 cup crumbled blue cheese

Here's what to do:
- Heat 2 Tablespoons of oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and cook for 10 minutes, stirring frequently.
- Add 1 Tablespoon balsamic and 1-2 Tablespoons water. Cook and stir for another minute or so.
- Transfer onions to a bowl and add the mustard and remaining balsamic.
- Whisk in the remaining olive oil until the base is creamy (but with onion chunks, of course).
- Add salt and pepper to taste.
- Assemble the salad in a large bowl - the spinach, peppers, hazelnuts, and blue cheese. Top with the dressing and toss until well-combined.
- Eat and enjoy!

Friday, April 1, 2011

Moroccan Lamb Chops

I believe I've blogged about our lamb before - where we get it and how tasty it is. I decided to share some of the chops with Mr. and Mrs. Modern Monkey (our lamb connection) and made a tasty Moroccan Lamb Chop recipe I had saved out of a February 2005 Sunset Magazine. Good thing I'm a saver cuz this was delicious!

This recipe is for 4 people - I had 5 but two were hungry men so I made about 1 and a half times what this called for.

What you'll need:
- 1 Tablespoon olive oil
- 8 lamb chops (smallish ones)
- 1 onion, peeled and chopped
- 3 cloves garlic, peeled and minced or pressed
- 1 tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 tsp ground cumin
- 2 cups chicken broth
- 1 Tablespoon tomato paste
- 1 cup dried apricots or pitted prunes (or a mixture) - whole or very coarsely chopped
- 1 can (15 oz) garbanzo beans
- 1 Tablespoon chopped fresh parsley
- Rice or couscous (I used Israeli couscous) to put the stew over

What to do:
- Pour oil into a large nonstick frying pan over medium-high heat. Add lamb chops and cook, turning once, until browned on both sides - about 4 minutes total. Transfer chops to a plate.
- Add onion and garlic to pan and stir until limp, about 4 minutes. Add cinnamon and cumin and stir for another minute. (Don't let it burn!)
- Stir in broth, tomato paste, apricots/prunes, and garbanzos. Stir together and then bring to a simmer.
- Add the chops back into the stew and simmer, turning chops once, until the fruit is plump and the chops are barely pink in the middle - about 10 to 12 minutes. Cover if you wish, but it's not necessary.
- Meanwhile, make some rice or couscous to have ready when the stew is done.
- Dish up the rice or couscous on a plate or bowl, set 2 chops per person on top, and then spoon the garbanzo mixture around the meat. Top with parsley.

This was a super simple meal to make, and we had it with a salad and a rich red wine. Yum!

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Ultimate Banana Bread

The title of this recipe does not disappoint. It's from Cook's Illustrated (July/August 2010), which did extensive tests to figure out how to cram 6, that's right, SIX bananas into this recipe. And it is amazing!

So, if you have a whole bunch of bananas you forgot to eat and are getting to an uncomfortable ripeness (like I had), try this. If you like bananas, you will be very happy with the results.

What you'll need:
- 1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- 1 tsp baking soda
- 1/2 tsp salt (I used a bit more)
- 6 large ripe bananas (highly speckled), peeled
- 1 stick unsalted butter, melted and cooled slightly
- 2 large eggs
- 3/4 cup packed light brown sugar (I did a little less and topped it off with white sugar. I don't know why)
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- 1/2 cup walnuts, chopped (NOTE: I decided to get creative and substituted some macadamia nuts and shredded coconut. Guess I just needed some tropical flavor. It worked, but walnuts would have been better.)
- 2 tsp granulated sugar

What to do:
- Put your oven rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350. Spray a 9x5 inch loaf pan with nonstick spray.
- In a large bowl, stir together flour, baking soda and salt.
- Put 5 bananas in a microwave-safe bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Cut some steam vents in it and microwave for 4 or 5 minutes. The bananas should be soft and sitting in juice.
- Transfer bananas to a fine-mesh strainer and place over a bowl to collect the juice for 15 minutes.
- Transfer liquid to a small saucepan and cook to reduce to about 1/4 cup. [NOTE: I skipped this and instead just used 1/4 cup of the liquid. But you'll get a more concentrated flavor if you reduce it like the recipe says.]
- In a medium bowl, mash the bananas and add back in the juice. Stir in the butter, eggs, brown sugar, and vanilla.
- Pour banana mixture into the flour mixture and stir until just combined. Add the nuts and stir in - but don't stir too much.
- Scrape into the loaf pan. Slice the remaining banana and layer on top of the batter, leaving a good strip down the middle without any slices so it'll rise properly. Then sprinkle with sugar.
- Bake until a toothpick comes out clean - about 50 minutes to an hour. Cool on wire rack in the pan for 15 minutes, then turn out onto a rack and cool until you can't stand it anymore and need to eat it.

Friday, February 18, 2011

Valentine's Dinner 2011

Another year with my special Valentine, and another lovely dinner at home. This year we were joined by Miss Single USA - she's our best friend and single, she needed dinner!

This was a great collaborative dinner. Hubby made tri-tip steaks, Rose made an amazing kale salad, and I made some smashed potatoes and a pie. We also opened a really nice Domaine Drouhin 2006 Pinot Noir. Yum!

For the steaks:
Rub the steaks with your favorite spice mix. Sear in a hot cast iron skillet on the stove top on both sides - just until brown. Put the skillet in the oven and broil about 4 or 5 minutes on each side.

Meanwhile, reduce about a 1/4 cup red wine in a saucepan with some dijon mustard and fresh rosemary.

When the steaks are done, pour off the juices into the saucepan and cook a bit longer while the meat rests. Use the sauce to dress the steaks and potatoes on your plate.

For the Chopped Kale Salad, which was in the Eugene Weekly's Winter 2011 "Chow!":
- large bunch of kale
- 1/2 cup toasted pine nuts
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries (unsweetened)
- 1/4 cup fresh lemon juice (about 2 lemons)
- 1/4 cup good olive oil
- 1 tsp+ honey
- salt and pepper
- 1/4 cup grated parmesan

Remove the stems from the kale and chop it up into ribbons or bite-sized pieces.
Mix the lemon juice, oil and honey in a bowl (heat the honey a little so it mixes better). Toss the mixture with the kale in a large bowl with the cranberries. Let sit for 30 minutes or more (this allows the kale to marinate and break down a bit). When ready to serve, toast the pine nuts and toss them in with the cheese, salt and pepper.

We ate ALL of this. It was SOOOO good.

For the potatoes:
These were super simple. I just cut up one yukon gold potato per person and boiled them until they were nice and tender. Then I tossed them with a mixture of 1/4 cup olive oil, two cloves minced garlic, some chopped fresh rosemary, and salt and pepper. In mixing, they get kind of smashed up.

For the pie:
I've blogged about pie crust before here. I've never bought canned pie filling before, but I did this time. I found a large jar of local cherry-raspberry pie filling to use. I thawed out a cup of blueberries I had picked 2 years ago and added those too. So this was super easy - make the crust, roll it out, pour in the fruit mixture, and top with more crust. Cut some holes in the top for ventilation and decoration. I covered the edges for baking at 400 for 20 minutes, then took the foil off and cooked another 10 minutes at 350. It was delicious!