Friday, May 23, 2008

Fisherman's Stew & Fruit Parfait - 05/21/08

I was in a soup mood since I have not made one in a while, so I chose this recipe from my collection.

Fisherman's Stew

This is fisherman's stew. It has a tomato base with vegetables and seafood. You start by cooking up some garlic and onion in olive oil. Remember with soups: you don't need to brown the onion, so just cook it until it is translucent. While the onion is cooking, you steam some mussels for only a couple of minutes. Be sure to discard any mussels that do not open. Then you add a can of tomato puree and some clam juice to the onion-garlic mixture. Add to this 2 sliced zucchinis and some corn. Since corn is more readily available now, I used a variety that has some slight purple color to the kernels. This is cooked for a few minutes until the zucchini is a little more tender, but not soggy. Add salt (a good deal since the canned tomatoes need a bit before you can start to taste a difference), pepper, chives, basil, and a bay leaf. At this point, you can let it simmer for about 10 minutes. When you are ready, you add 1 pound of fish (I used red snapper), scallops (I would have preferred the larger sea scallops but I could only find the smaller bay scallops), and shrimp. Simmer until the seafood is cooked, discard the bay leaf and add in the mussels and some parsley. I ended up supplementing in some garlic powder in the end to kick it up a bit. I also served the soup with a torn-off piece of crusty bread (in this case, a 5 grain baton).

Fruit Parfait

One of my favorite simple, easy and relatively healthy desserts is a fruit parfait. I also like trifles, but I did not want to put cubed cake into this (I think that's the only real difference between the two desserts, but don't quote me on that). Starting from the bottom up, this parfait had lite whipped topping, sliced banana, chocolate pudding (Swiss Miss is fantastic), quartered strawberries, more whipped topping, and a couple of banana coins and a fanned strawberry for an accent on top. This is the first time I have successfully fanned a strawberry, but it was rather easy. You just make a series of successive cuts starting from the tip and going almost to the top, then just spread out the slices a little bit. This dessert could be made in literally 1 minute and it was quite delicious.

Wednesday, May 21, 2008

Burger Piccata - 05/18/08

I was watching a show on Food Network that showed a competition to build a better burger. I decided to recreate my own challenge at home.

Burger Piccata

My idea was burger piccata. I wanted to infuse the flavors of a piccata dish into a burger. My original intent was to use ground turkey or chicken, but, much to my chagrin, the store was out of both. I ended up using ground pork since I did not think ground beef would handle the flavors well. I found a nice pane rustico with rosemary for the bun. To the pork I added capers (with some of their juices), salt, pepper, breadcrumbs, and a little rosemary to echo the flavor in the bread. For the lemon flavor, I made a lemon butter sauce using butter, garlic, onion, lemon zest, and lemon juice. After cooking the burgers until they were done but still moist, I put them on the bun, spooned on some sauce and arranged some arugula on top for a nice peppery bite. I think this burger was a good effort, but I need to incorporate more lemon flavor in the meat itself. Maybe some lemon zest would help. The capers went well with the meat though and made a nice, flavorful addition.

Friday, May 16, 2008

Happy Mothers' Day! - 05/11/08

I know this is a little late, but happy Mothers' Day! I've been traveling and graduating a bit lately, so the blog pretty much fell by the wayside. But here is a smörgåsbord for your eyes and mouths.


Mom wanted the meal to be simple since I had put so much effort into the graduation day festivities. I decided to stop by Fresh Market and pick up some of their pinwheels. The one in the center is Italian with some cheese, spinach and ham. The other two have portabellas and cheese rolled into them. They take about 30 minutes in a 375 degree oven, but cut into them to be sure as it is very easy to undercook them.

Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

As the starchy (i.e. carbohydrate-filled) side dish, I made some roasted garlic mashed potatoes. Earlier in the day, I put two heads of garlic (tops cut off, bottoms wrapped in foil and tops lightly covered with olive oil) into a 400 degree oven for about 30 minutes until they were golden brown. After boiling the potatoes until they were tender and draining them, I returned them to the pan and got out the good old hand masher. The masher is quite easy to use and recommended if you want more rustic potatoes with some lumps or just very chunky. After a light mashing, I squeezed out what garlic I could onto the potatoes and added a little salt, pepper, spray butter, and warm milk. I kept adding a little bit of milk at a time until the potatoes were the consistency I wanted.

Garlic Mashed Potatoes with Fixins

To jazz up the potatoes, though they were quite good already, I served optional sour cream, shredded cheddar cheese, scallions, and mild goat cheese. I had mine with goat cheese and thought it made a good combination.

Broccoli Rabe

As a "healthier" side, I served broccoli rabe. This leafy green has small broccoli florets attached and is a nice vegetable to serve. First, you should blanch the broccoli rabe for about 2 minutes. This means to place it in boiling water for 2 minutes, then shock it in some ice water to stop the cooking process. You can do this with other vegetables that you do not want to steam until they are too soft and disgusting to eat. The main key to flavoring the broccoli rabe for this meal was pancetta. Pancetta is pretty much Italian bacon, except it is salt-cured instead of smoked. You can have it cut into nice, thick slices. I cut one slice into small cubes and cooked them until they were golden on the outside. I removed the meat from the pan and used their grease to start cooking the broccoli rabe. Once it was heated through, I added the pancetta back to the pan to finish it off very briefly. This dish is pretty much the same idea behind some Southern dishes such as collard greens cooked with bacon or some other pork fat.


With dinner, we served my new champagne discovery: Petalo, Il Vino dell'Amore (Moscato Spumante). This is the champagne I had for New Year's Eve and my family has now adopted it as one of their favorites. It is smooth and sweet, but still not expensive. It makes wonderful mimosas. I would recommend it to anyone who says they do not like champagne because it is not as dry as the other stuff that is out there.

Flourless Chocolate Cake & Cookie

For dessert, the main feature was a flourless chocolate cake that I served at graduation. It is made with many eggs, some sugar and a little Kahlua. My guess is the Kahlua adds the coffee taste to accent the chocolate instead of actually adding coffee. On the side are some flourless dark chocolate cookies that also turned out to be one of my best chocolate cookies to date. You can find them in June issue of Bon Appetit magazine.

Mothers' Day Bouquet

Last, but not least (and not food), are the flowers I arranged for my mom this year. Usually, I pick out some tulips, but I felt this year was time for a change. I went to (you guessed it) Fresh Market and found some lovely lilies (two types), some purple bell-looking flowers and pink peonies. They also had some nice vases there in which I could place the flowers. Though I had no idea what I was doing, this arrangement turned out pretty good. You never know what you can do until you give something a shot.