Thursday, July 30, 2009
Tuesday, July 28, 2009
Monday, July 27, 2009
Duck Breasts with Peach and Pear Sauce
Green Beans with Garlic
For the duck, I did my skillet on the grill routine. Duck is wonderful, but SO messy and smokes up the whole house unless you cut the fat off. But it's perfect for outside in a really hot pan. I just salted and peppered it, then threw it skin-down in the 600 degree cast iron skillet, then got out of the way. After it was nice and crispy on that side (and there was about an inch of melted duck fat in the pan), I flipped it over briefly and pulled it off to let it sit.
For the sauce, I sauteed a minced shallot in some olive oil, then deglazed the pan with about 1/2 cup white wine and 1/2 cup pear nectar. Then I added sliced pear and peach and simmered that until it was reduced. I sliced the duck and poured the sauce on top.The grits were just prepapred normally and then I added a dollop of goat cheese and stirred it in at the end. Hittin'!
Friday, July 24, 2009
Wednesday, July 22, 2009
Scraping the trim took longer than we thought.
So after scraping paint all day long, I was in the mood for something hearty and kind of Italian-y. I made a simple marinara sauce with onions, crushed tomatoes and fresh oregano and basil from the herb garden. Then I fried slices of eggplant in a little olive oil and drained them. Then I coated a chicken breast with panko crumbs mixed with a little parmesan cheese and put those in the hot olive oil, browned it on one side, flipped it over, and stuck it in the oven at 250. When it was about done, I put the sliced eggplant on top of the chicken, then topped that with a little mozarella cheese and heated it up until it was nice and melty, melty.
For serving, I put some whole wheat spaghetti noodles on the plate, topped it with a little of the marinara sauce, then topped that with half a chicken breast for each of us. It was exactly what I wanted. And leftovers for lunch the next day!
Monday, July 20, 2009
Let's begin with the length of the selection. They announced the competition and nominations at the beginning of the year, then there was vote after vote after vote to narrow the field. I lost track, because honestly, I lost interest. The whole process really ought to be trimmed down to a month or so. Leaving the voting open that long just brings about its own problems, which brings me to my second complaint. People should be allowed to vote ONCE. This is not difficult. If the newspaper can post stories on the interwebs, and have something as complex as a login and preferred story interests, they can set up a voting online method that forces you to register so you can't vote multiple times. Given the finalists and the word on the street, some restaurants sent many email blasts out to their patrons and urged them to "vote early, vote often". To me, this makes the "Top Chef" moniker meaningless. It's a popularity contest. If that's what you're after, instead of who actually cooks the best food in Wilmington, so be it. But if you're really after who is the best chef, limit votes to one, and nip this sucker in the bud earlier so it doesn't drag on for months and months.
We weren't even going to go this year, but Sara invited us to help her at the Marc's on Market booth. Marc wasn't competing this year since he won last year - he got to judge instead. We helped Sara serve their dessert sampler - strawberry buckle with honeyed goat cheese and pistachio. Now, I can say this here, because my readership is not far and wide, but that's MY recipe (she said proudly) adapted by Marc, that helped win last year's Top Chef for him. It's an old family recipe of Apple Squares. I've had it growing up, and it's one of the easiest desserts in the world, and seriously tasty. Marc and Sara were over here for dinner one night, and Marc actually raved about it (which was high praise in my book for sure) and he asked for the recipe, which I gladly gave him. Then he turned it around, modified it for whatever fruit was in season, and added the goat cheese, which was perfect, of course. Genius. So obviously I can't take too much credit. But the base is mine and my family's and I'm proud anyway.
Back to Taste of Wilmington. Phillip and I went and did the booth tour pretty soon after we got the booth set up. This year, I think the restaurants had it together a little better. Last year it was kind of a chinchy little tiny bite here and tiny bite there and we couldn't really get a feel for what the restaurants were all about. Not so this year. Most restaurants had a pretty wide variety of samples (no small feat for something like this) and generous servings. By the time Pootie and I waddled back to the booth, we were stuffed and happy.
Our favorites: Big Thai - which is one of our favorite restaurants anyway. They had a couple of new things they were trying out for their menu, which I hope make it. There was a cabbage leaf with larb (chopped chicken and herbs topped with peanuts), some spring rolls, and the two new things, which I couldn't catch the name of because it was loud, but they were delicious.
Another favorite was Double Happiness, which I shamefully haven't blogged about. I need to get back there so I can. Really good Chinese. They had some wonderful selections at their booth. Pot stickers, a curried beef that I could have eaten all night, spring rolls, and more.
We tried the pastries from La Gemma. Oooo, they were pretty! Tasty, too! Someday when I'm skinny after doing P90X, I'll pay them a visit. Last night I had a couple of bites of a few things and everything was good.
We had a "Martini Meatloaf" from Trebenzio, which has apparently been downtown by the Post Office for three years and we've managed to miss. I think it's kind of a martini lounge, which could explain why we've missed it, but I sure did like their tiny little meatloaf meatball on top of a bed of mashed potatoes.
What's Cooking did some excellent shrimp and grits, and we hadn't been there before either. This was obviously a good chance for us to discover some new places. Mad Boar was another one we didn't know about. They had some pork that was beyond tender on a bed of decent risotto.
Other places didn't dazzle so much. Temptations, which I used to love, was kind of "meh", which reflected the change since the new owners took over. I have stopped going there for lunch because the food just isn't as good and I feel ripped off. Portions are tiny (and I'm NOT a big portion fan) and it's just not the warm, inviting place it once was. River Landing gave us some potatoes wrapped in beef over a bed of corn that was just bland and boring.
We didn't taste any of the wine, because Sara was gracious enough to bring some for us, and our experience last year put is in a "why bother" mood. The samples were ridiculously small, and most (not all, but most) of the wines being poured were cheap and bad. And I am seriously not a wine snob.
What impressed me a LOT was the military food service folks. Wow! They were serving a beef bourguignon and a creme brulee' that looked hittin'! I hope that our military get to eat that stuff periodically instead of the rations my dad showed me in the closet from when he was in Viet Nam. I didn't try it because it was at the very end of our tour and I was about to pop. But Greg, who is another Marc's fan who worked the booth with us said it was great.
Final score, competition - 0, Booths 9. I think if they can streamline the competition and make it genuinely fair, it will be a much better event. And if they'd kill the fluorescent lights at the Convention Center and use the other incandescent lighting they already have in place, it will look less like a triage unit in a field hospital and more like the event it wants to be.
Sunday, July 19, 2009
Yesterday was busy. We only played a couple of games of Freecell all day! We got up, went to the farmer's market and stocked up on fresh veggies and fruit. Then came home and unloaded all that. Then we went to Costco, started out buying groceries, and wound up also picking up two Henry Miller office chairs. I HATE our current office chairs. They're huge, haven't held up well at all, and mine just kills my back. It supports in all the wrong places. So we were overdue for new ones. These were a great deal and Henry Miller makes some seriously comfortable office chairs. We came home and unloaded all THAT stuff, put the chairs in the attic (we have limited space in the house right now with all the office furniture all over the rest of the house), then went out again, this time to the Teeter for remaining groceries.
A couple of reasons, actually. First, once we got back and put all the groceries away, we did KenpoX. By then it was 3:30 and we still hadn't started working on the office. And yesterday was "Scrape Day". (whee.) Second, I had promised my husband I would cook cheeseburgers for dinner. Bless his heart, while we were in there scraping away, he kept saying "It's OK. Cheeseburger's comin'." Now how can you disappoint someone who is standing there scraping paint off window mullions?
We're helping Sara with the Marc's on Market booth for Taste of Wilmington tonight, so there won't be anything to report for dinner tonight. That should give me some time to come up with something a little more blog-worthy for a meal.
Friday, July 17, 2009
Thursday, July 16, 2009
Shredded Romaine Lettuce topped with some of the leftover white bean salad, and some shredded roasted chicken and reheated roasted potatoes. Very tasty!
Ned and Melissa are on something of a break, having sent their children packing to Camp Grandparents for the week. We booked this night a couple of weeks ago or more, and had them come over straight after work - their office is right down the street from us.
So what do you do when you have to work all day, fit in three workouts, desperately need to run the vacuum, then discover that you also need to clean up the catalogue your dog shredded in the bedroom before company crosses the threshold at 5:00? You roast chickens, that's what. And you look at your pantry staples and your farmer's market veggies and say "what can I toss together out of this?" So here's what I came up with:
Hopefully it wasn't too much of a hodge-podge menu, but I thought it was good. Of course, that could have been the Prosecco talking.
The chickens are pretty self-explanatory. I pulled a couple of whole chickens out of the freezer, thawed them, salted and peppered them, stuffed an onion and a sprig of rosemary up their hinders, and put them on a baking sheet on the grill. Ten minutes prep time. Then the nice part - put it on the grill and forget about it for about 45 minutes.
For the White Bean Salad, I drained and rinsed two cans of white beans, added about a cup of diced tomato, 1/4 cup of chopped Kalamata olives, sauteed 2 minced cloves of garlic with about 2 tsp. of chopped rosemary, then added that to a dressing of the juice of 1/2 lemon, generous pinch of salt, 1 tsp. of dijon mustard, and 1/4 cup olive oil. Then I tossed the whole thing and let it sit while we visited. That whole process took me another 10 minutes.There's not a bunch of it left, so I'm going to assume it was well-received.
At this point, with getting things out of the freezer, prepping and tossing, I'd spent all of half an hour getting dinner ready. Rock!
Melissa and I picked on the chickens when they came off the grill. That's just the best. I served the whole thing family style and everyone seemed to enjoy it. We ate inside because the cushions are still damp. We left them out after our dinner with Heather and Walt the other night and it rained in the middle of the night. Whoops. We also hadn't sprayed for mosquitoes, so figured we'd be more comfortable in the house.
Now we go on an in-house entertaining hiatus for a couple of weeks. We begin the office redo tomorrow, and most of our office will be strewn across the house, so it's not really conducive to entertaining. Feeding ourselves will be kind of a challenge as well, since both of us get kind of obsessive about stuff like this and we'll be spending a lot of our time scraping and painting. We may be eating a lot of black bean and turkey burgers in the next couple of weeks. Stay tuned!
Tuesday, July 14, 2009
I'll admit that I overcooked the salmon a little. Oops! I got busy yapping with everyone and left it on the grill a little too long. It wasn't burned, but it was drier than I like. I'm hoping I gave them enough pomegranate margaritas before dinner that they didn't notice.
We ate outside again, and this time the bugs weren't bad at all. We were sorry when they had to leave, and even sorrier that they had to drive as far as they did, since the used to be able to just walk back next door. They were good neighbors. We love our new neighbor, but still miss having them right there.
So here was the menu:
The beef was done the way I love it - turn all three burners on the gas grill as high as they'll go, stick the cast iron skillet on there and let it heat up, then sear the bejeezus out of the salted and peppered filets on each side. Let 'em rest for about five minutes, then slice thinly and serve with some sea salt for sprinkling. The beef had that nice caramelized "crust" on the outside, and was rare and gorgeous on the inside. We tried two reds with it - both were wonderful. One was a really black-cherry juicy one and the other one was slightly sweeter, but both delicious.
We ate outside and talked about all kinds of stuff, including wine. We always learn so much from them. Then I started getting bitten by something and we headed back in the house for some ice cream with warm fruit compote. Really great evening and no, I was not hungover the next day. I tasted all, but partook modestly. And knocked back a couple of ibuprofen with a big glass of water before I went to bed. Ready to roll the next day!
Hey Natalie. Send me your Chinese Chicken Salad Recipe! And the lettuce wraps one! And later today, I promise I'll post from the last few days.
Thursday, July 9, 2009
Here's Dinky (Love Boat). He's a punk. He's slightly blurry because a.) he's always drunk and b.) he's a spaz. Steamboat is a little easier. He's pretty stationary most of the time.
Here's dinner. It wasn't moving. And thanks to the tripod, neither was I. I mean, the camera. I was probably still wobbling all over the place.
Next I'm thinking a backdrop (maybe white) and a light that's brighter than the one on the buffet. I know the pictures are kind of dimmish. But honestly, the flash is just horrible.
Back to dinner. Tonight was just the two of us, which is nice now and then.
Turkey Cutlets with Dijon Mustard Pan Sauce
Roasted Squash with Rosemary
I dredged the salted and peppered turkey cutlets in a little flour, then pan browned them in some olive oil. Then added about a half cup of white wine to the pan, a teaspoon of dijon mustard, and scraped up the brown bits. I had to add a little water to get it the right consistency, but then it was good to go. The squash I just sliced thin, drizzled with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and chopped rosemary, and roasted at 450 for about 35 minutes. The brown rice is, well, brown rice. Wahoo.
One of my standbys, actually. I like the pan-browned cutlets with a pan sauce. You can do chicken, turkey, whatever, and any kind of flavor that suits you for the sauce. And tonight I just didn't feel like "bringing it" in the kitchen. But I also didn't want to go out. What I wanted was to sit in the living room and mess with my tripod and figure out how it worked. Which I did while the rice and the squash were cooking. I think this is going to pay off. Whoo hooo!
Tuesday, July 7, 2009
Thursday, July 2, 2009
Here was the menu:
We had a great time sitting out in the dusk, talking about farming, produce, composting, the fact that Dinky was sitting on Christin's leg under the table and knocked off her shoe, crappy grocery store food, rats, roaches and other pests, (including Dinky), what their work schedule is, and how they manage to do what they do. I learned a ton and was very impressed with how hard they work at something they're passionate about and devoted to. And something with which they do a really bang-up job. I'm looking forward to seeing them again on Saturday and replenishing our fresh produce supply!