Monday, April 28, 2008

Courgette Salad with Fresh Herbs

I don't really like raw zucchini and other squashes, but I have to admit, doing it this way changed my mind. I just used two small straight zucchini and two fairly straight yellow squash and cut them into long match sticks on a mandoline. I made a simple dressing of 3 parts olive oil, 1 part fresh lemon juice, salt and black pepper to taste and a handful of chopped flat leaf parsley and cilantro. I tossed it all with some julienned radishes and some finely diced jalapeno and tried to pile it all high onto the dinner plates.... My kids loved it.... I was surprised at how crunchy everything was.... A great way to get your kids to each raw squash...

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Vanilla Bean Pots de Creme

I think that this has got to be my favorite dessert. Cream, eggs, sugar and vanilla... what can be better? If you ask my kids what they want for dessert, they always ask if we can make pots de creme. I just like the cool little moulds that we use for this dessert. We've tried infusing the custard with rich dark chocolate, cinnamon, or mint, but our favorite is just the simple vanilla bean. It just has a very clean taste to it. Chessa and I found these spoons (they had exactly 14... the same number of pots de creme moulds that we have) in a "misc" jar on the counter at the Sur la Table in Carlsbad... my kids love them. They only get to use the spoons when we have this dessert....

Cream, Milk, Sugar, Eggs and Vanilla Beans.... (that's it)

The custards ready for their water bath

The warm custards cool before going in the refrigerator to "age" for 24 hours

A happy five year old

Monday, April 21, 2008

Blackened Ahi with Soy Mustard and Beurre Blanc Sauces

Henry's had some good looking ahi on sale so I grabbed a small piece and decided to try some quick searing. The sauces come from Roy's fish and Seafood cookbook.... There are a lot of great fish recipes in that book. I love tuna this way, but I couldn't get my kids to eat a lot of it (they each tried a bite, but politely told me "no, I'm ok" when offered a second bite... I was missing some wasabi and ginger, otherwise, this was pretty tasty.

Blackening Spices
1.5 tablespoons paprika
.5 tablespoon cayenne pepper
.5 tablespoon chili powder
.25 tablespoon freshly ground white pepper
.5 tablespoon ground sandalwood (optional)

Mix all spices and place on a plate. Dredge your ahi to coat on all sides. Heat a couple of table spoons canola oil until almost smoking. Sear ahi over high heat for about 15-30 seconds on all sides. Remove and cut into thin slices

Soy-Mustard Sauce
1/4 cup mustard powder (colman's)
2 tablespoons hot water
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce

Mix mustard powder and hot water together in a cup to form a paste. Let sit for a few minutes to allow the flavors and heat to develop. Add the vinegar and soy sauce, mix together and pass through a fine mesh sieve into a bowl. Cover and refrigerate for at least 1 hour to allow the flavors to develop.

Beurre Blanc Sauce
1/2 cup dry white wine
2 teaspoons white wine vinegar
1 teaspoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon minced shallots
2 tablespoons heavy cream
1 stick cold butter, cut into slices
salt and white pepper to taste

Combine wine, vinegar, lemon juice and shallots in a heavy stainless-steel saucepan. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat and cook to reduce the liquid until it becomes syrupy. Add the cream and cook to reduce by half. Decrease the heat to low and gradually add the butter, stirring slowly; do not whisk. Take care not to let the mixture boil, or it will separate. When the butter is incorporated, season with salt and pepper to taste and strain through a fine-mesh sieve into the top of a double-boiler. Keep warm over barely simmering water until ready to use.

Sunday, April 20, 2008

"Date Night" Shrimp Pasta - Linguini with Shrimp, Shallots and Roasted Tomatoes

Our kids were complaining one Friday night that they never got anything good when Chessa and I went out on our date night. We had some frozen shrimp in the freezer and some pasta in the pantry so I threw a few things together and we came up with "Date Night Shrimp Pasta". You can have this dish ready in about 15 minutes. The most time consuming part is just prepping the tomatoes.

1/2 bag frozen shrimp (pre-cooked costco shrimp. I normally get 21/25's but I think that we used smaller ones in the picture above).
Few Roma Tomatoes (seeded and cut into diamonds)
3 cloves of garlic
2-3 shallots finely diced
jalapeno (seeded and finely chopped)
Olive Oil
Flat Leaf Parsley
Shaved Parmesan
(whatever other vegetable you want to add or none at all)
Choice of Pasta (I like angle hair or linguini)

Cook what ever pasta you plan on using according to the package directions. While the pasta is cooking do the following:

Heat the olive oil in a saute pan (I have a 14" chef's pan that's really easy to use for this recipe), and chuck in the shallots, garlic and jalapenos and saute for a few minutes until they're softened. I then add 1/2 the tomatoes and cook for another 1-2 minutes. (this will soften the tomatoes and will start to create the base of your sauce as they begin to release their juices). Add your frozen shrimp and toss to coat. As the shrimp cooks (or thaws as they are already pre-cooked), they'll release a lot of liquid. This is great as it will mix with the shallots, garlic and tomatoes creating the sauce that will coat your pasta. Continue tossing until the shrimp are hot all the way through. Add sea salt and fresh ground pepper to taste. Once your pasta is done, drain and return to the pan you cooked it in. Pour all of your shrimp/shallots/tomatoes/garlic over the top, add the rest of your tomato diamonds, and toss in your chopped parsley. Toss everything to coat the pasta in those great pan juices and to distribute all the ingredients. Plate the pasta in nice tall mounds in the center of a warm dinner plate, shave some fresh parmesan over the top and you're done. Your kids will love you for this one....

(Left overs are a favorite for Brennan in his school lunch the next day). You really can knock this one out in about 15-20 minutes. I think that the entire dish costs about $12 total to make... Much better than a bowl of mac-n-cheese and chicken dinos....

Tomatoes, Shallots, Garlic, Parsley, and Jalapenos

Sauteing the shallots, garlic, chilis and tomotoes

Shrimp and the sauce - all ready to be poured over the pasta

Friday, April 18, 2008

Beer Battered Fish Tacos with Fire Roasted Salsa

Festus Fox gave us some albacore tuna that he had caught on one of his deep sea fishing trips and we decided to whip up some beer battered fish tacos and have them over for dinner (don't worry... all the alcohol cooks out). The toughest part of this recipe is having to purchase just one bottle of beer and then hide the bottle from the kids... (It's best to make the batter when kids aren't around so that you don't have to explain anything)...

1 cup of flour
1 cup of beer
garlic powder to taste
black pepper to taste

I just portioned out the fish into taco sized pieces, sprinkled them with a little sea salt and then dredged them in the batter... Fry them in a deep fryer (or a pot with canola oil... be careful!) until golden brown. We served them with shaved cabbage, white sauce (equal parts mayonnaise and sour cream with a little lime juice), fresh lime wedges and a variety of salsas.... Warm some fresh corn tortillas and you're done.... Cod is also a great fish to use for these tacos... But if someone gives us albacore, we'll use albacore. Thanks Foxes....

Fire Roasted Salsa

Chad and Melanie Smith taught me how to make this salsa. We adapt the recipe to what ever chilis, peppers and tomatoes are fresh and on sale... We roast the vegetables on the barbecue until blackened, place them in a bowl covered with plastic wrap (so that the vegetables and steam which loosens the skins). I peel 1/2 the chilis of their skins but leave the other half on so that you can get that great smokey flavor in the salsa. Then just start pulsing everything in the food processor. We then cook everything for a while in a stock pot, adjust the seasonings (salt and black pepper), add some lime juice and chopped cilantro right at then end. Everything then goes into some boiled jars for canning. The salsa will keep in your cupboard for months. Great with chips or on top of eggs (or with fish tacos).

Roasting the Vegies

Nice and blackened

Reducing over gentle heat to intensify the flavor

Canned and ready to be stored (or eaten)

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Black Sesame Cornets
I had a bit of a learning curve making these guys. They need to be rolled while they are still hot and there's so much butter in the recipe that they come out of the oven like lava... So Chessa caught me wearing a bright new pair of yellow dish washing gloves so that I wouldn't burn my fingers trying to roll these around the cornet mould. Once they are formed, they go back in the oven to brown up. I served these with three different fillings. Spicey tuna with tobiko caviar and avocado, smoked salmon with shallots, dill creme fraiche, and capers, and tomato tartare (for those that don't like fish). They were a fun start to a dinner party with colleagues from work. I think that they would also be great as a dessert filled with home made ice cream, or sorbet... I'll have to play around with that one a bit more.

The cornet batter on the silpat ready to go into the oven

Tomato Tartare

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Sautéed Baby Octopus

I saw a picture like this in one of my culinary magazines a while back and decided that I had to try to make it. There was no recipe, just a picture, so I did a little research and came up with my own. We served this at a dinner party that we had for some friends and all but three people were brave enough to try it. (Chad & Rachel Gharring and even my wife refused to eat it). Those that did try it liked it or they lied to me, but either way, the plates came back empty... (I forgot to check the napkins...)

My grandfather liked serving baby octopus when he did shrimp and oyster bars at events that he was catering. I've always liked trying new things and learned to love the taste of baby octopus. They're much more tender than the more mature ones. You can generally find these guys in Asian markets (Like Ranch 99 down in San Diego). They come frozen in a block of ice already cleaned, de-beaked, and ready to use. For this dish, I poached them in salted boiling water until they were tender and then just sauteed them with a little garlic, shallots and olive oil. I served them on top of sliced fingerling potatoes and roma tomatoes. (Not too sure about the flavor combination, but the plate looked cool). Drizzle a little olive oil over everything, top with a lemon wedge with a few grinds of fresh black pepper and you're done.

My boys loved this.... the girls were horrified that I would even think of asking them to taste it.

Brennan loved playing with the thawed octopus

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Duck Confit with a Sour Cherry, Merlot Reduction

This is another Thomas Keller recipe adaptation. Duck Confit is featured in his Bouchon Cookbook and it is fantastic. I didn't know that duck could be so tender and so flavorful. The duck legs are first salted for 24 hours with a green sea salt (Kosher salt blended with parsley, thyme, bay leaves, and black pepper corns). The legs are rinsed and then placed in a roasting pan and covered with rendered duck fat. (not the easiest ingredient to find, but if you buy enough duck, you can render your own). The legs go into a 210 degree oven for 10 hours... (this is the secret to very tender duck... long slow cooking). I've done this dish a couple of times and I normally put it in the oven a few hours before I go to bed and then wake up and pull them out of the oven. The legs are removed from the fat and allowed to cool. The fat is strained and then poured over the legs. Everything then goes into the refrigerator until you're ready to use them. We've served the meat on the bones before as they do at Bouchon, but this time we pulled the meat off and served them with roasted garlic mashed potatoes... We topped the potatoes with mache and then drizzled a sour cherry merlot sauce around the duck. (dried sour cherries are soaked in a bottle of red wine over night. The wine and cherries are then simmered with a little cinnamon until the cherries are nice and soft and then everything is pureed and passed a few times through a fine mesh strainer. Solids are discarded and the liquid is reduced further, mixed with a little duck stock and then finished with cold butter... It's a great tasting richly colored sauce that goes perfectly with the duck).

When we ask our kids what they want for a special occasion dinner (like Christmas dinner) they ask for duck confit... It cracks me up.

Making the Green Sea Salt

The Salted Duck

Rendering the Fat

A long, slow 10-hours of cooking

Friday, April 11, 2008

Spinach Ravioli with Grilled Asparagus, Shaved Parmesan and Rosemary Flowers
Another pasta dish... Ravioli is fun to make because you can stuff it with so many different ingredients. We chose spinach and three different cheeses (ricotta, mozzarella and Parmesan) for this one. We tossed some asparagus with our standard marinade (sea salt, garlic, pepper corns, rosemary and olive oil - all bashed together in a mortar and pestle) and then grilled them on the barbecue for 3-4 minutes. The rosemary bushes that we have are in bloom right now so I had the girls strip a handful of the flowers and sprinkle them over the top of the pasta for color. We added some shaved Parmesan and a good drizzle of a peppery olive oil and we were done. Another favorite of the kids.

Grilled Asparagus

Rosemary and Rosemary Flowers

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Pumpkin Ravioli with Glazed Brussels Sprouts, Brown Butter and Amaretti Crumbs

This is a dish that we made last Fall. I had this at a restaurant in San Francisco last October and was able to email the chef to get the recipe. (I'll start adding recipes to these dishes as soon as I figure out how to do it). He used a Japanese pumpkin called Kabocha. Surprisingly I was able to find Kabocha at Ralphs. The pumpkin is roasted, passed through a food mill and then mixed with two different cheeses and amaretti crumbs (an Italian cookie similar to a macaroon). The Brussels sprouts are "poached" in water and butter (a lot of butter...about 2 TBS per person). Once the sprouts are perfect, they're removed and poaching liquid is reduced until you're left with a rich, nutty-flavored brown butter. Sage is mixed with the butter and spooned over the ravioli and sprouts. Shave some Parmesan, grate some Amaretti over the top and you're done... I was surprised that my kids actually loved this... They polished off the Brussels Sprouts first... What kid likes Brussels Sprouts?

Maddyn loves being my assistant when we make pasta. She pulls and folds the pasta dough as we crank it through the past rollers.

Brushing the dough with water before putting on the top pasta sheet.

Stamping out the Ravioli

Sunday, April 6, 2008

Lemon Sorbet
Citrus Sorbet takes about 15 minutes to make. Just squeeze and strain the juice, mix with a simple syrup and freeze in an ice cream maker. You're done. The hardest part of this dish was hollowing out the lemons without ripping them to shreds. The kids think that this is a cool way to eat dessert.

Saturday, April 5, 2008

Sauteed "Cod" With Cod Cakes, Parsley Oil and Chowder Vegetables....

This is a fun dish to make because it's small, but very flavorful with a lot of color (thanks to the chowder vegetables and parsley oil). I adapted this Thomas Keller recipe with the ingredients that I had on hand.... No cod or clams, but plenty of Costco Tilapia fillets. We decided that they would be an acceptable substitute. The saltiness of the "cod cakes" and the sweetness of the chowder vegetables complement nicely the mellow flavor of the sauteed tilapia. The sauce is just a reduction of some of liquid that the fish trimmings were poached in with garlic, thyme, shallots and some cream. The "chowder" vegetables (potatoes, carrots, and celery) are finished in butter and mixed with a couple tablespoons of a vegetable brounoise (just finely diced carrots, leeks and turnips). I like how this dish plates up with the bright green parsley oil...