Monday, October 13, 2008

Pesto Tuna Cakes

Halloween is right around the corner, which means we're throwing our annual party! Yippee for costumes and a full spread and friends!

I'm trying out a few new things this year, and had to get a jump on it early. First I made the pumpkin truffles- my first venture into ganache and real candy making. What a pain- but I'll post about that another day. Then I needed to try out a recipe that sounded great in my head, but I didn't know if it would actually taste good or not.

The idea is pesto tuna cakes. You know, like crab cakes but with tuna... and pesto. Really my motivation for this recipe is to get something filling, finger-food friendly, and green on the table. I was wary about the basil and garlic flavor with the fish.

Well my friends, turns out it is delicious! Although my original plan isn't very green as I had planned. I made two versions of the recipe, one with the pesto inside and one with the pesto just on the outside. The inside idea was the one I wanted- I though it would turn the cakes a nice green, but they stayed a normal tan and didn't have as much punch to the flavor. The ones with the pesto on the outside was really more in case the flavor was crummy so we could scrape it off! Turns out the way to go is a nice combo- put the flavor on the inside for a complete experience and the pesto on top for a lovely presentation.


Pesto Tuna Cakes

  • 2 Cans Tunafish, drained
  • 1/2+ C. Plain Breadcrumbs
  • 1 Egg
  • Dash Mustard Powder
  • Dash Paprika
  • 1 Batch Pesto, divided (see below for recipe)
  • Olive Oil

  1. In a large bowl, mix together the tuna, breadcrumbs, egg, mustard, paprika, and half of the pesto.
  2. Form this mixture into small patties; for appetizers they should be about 1-1.5 inches across, for entrees around 3-4 inches.
  3. In a large pan, heat around 1-2 Tbsp. olive oil over medium heat. When the oil is hot, place cakes in the hot oil to brown on one side. Flip to brown the other side.
  4. Remove from pan and spread a small amount of the remaining pesto on top of the cake. Serve warm.


Pesto Sauce
  • 1 C. Fresh Basil
  • 2-3 Cloves of Garlic
  • 3 Tbsp. (about) Walnuts (or pine nuts)
  • 1/4 C. Grated Parmesan
  • 1/4 C. (about) Olive Oil

  1. Combine all the ingredients in a food processor.
  2. Blend until smooth, occasionally scraping the sides of the bowl.
  3. I prefer to start with a little oil and then add more as it needs to be moistened.

Chicken Mole

Mmmmmm, Mole! That spicy, Mexican flavoring that combines the heat of peppers and the bite of chocolate into one savory meal sure to please the senses. I've made moles before, the most notable was back in like 6th grade when I was supposed to make a Mexican dish for some school potluck which turned out just terrible. I think I got a little overexcited by the chocolate and I hadn't quite mastered the whole cooking thing just yet. I've also used it as inspiration in a past Platinum Chef entry.

As I stated back then, this is not a dish made by grounding up small ground-dwelling mammals. This is a Moe-LAY- much different. And this time it was fairly traditional and oh so tasty! It had a great low heat that built up and was unexpected. I'm sure if I were going full traditional, I would have been roasting all sorts of peppers all day and pulled out about 20 spices, but this was something a little easier. I mean, c'mon, how many exotic peppers can I get my hands on here in Maine anyway!

I served this over white rice with some sweet potatoes that I roasted with a little brown sugar and olive oil. It would have also been great in corn tortillas or just on its own!


Chicken Mole
Based off various recipes at AllRecipes.com

  • 1.5 Lbs. Chicken (I used breasts, but thighs or other parts would be fine!)
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Tomato, chopped
  • 1 tsp. + 1 tsp. Cumin
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/2+ tsp. Cinnamon
  • 1/2+ tsp. Paprika
  • 1/2 Tbsp. Chili Powder
  • 1/2 tsp. Cilantro
  • 1/4 tsp. Dried Oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. Black Pepper
  • 1+ Tbsp. Chipotle Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Cocoa Powder
  • 1 Bay Leaf
  • 1/2+ C. Chicken Broth
  • 1/2 tsp. Sesame Seeds, plus more for garnish

  1. Cut the chicken up into large chunks, the kinds that would take 2-3 bites to eat. Season with 1 tsp. of cumin. (I actually did this once the meat was in the pan.) In a large pan, brown the chicken over medium heat, flipping occasionally to get all sides.
  2. Add in the onion, garlic, and tomato. Continue to cook over medium heat so the onions and garlic gets delicious and aromatic, and the tomato starts to break down.
  3. In a small bowl, mix together all the remaining ingredients to make the sauce. Add it in to the pan and bring to a low simmer.
  4. Cover and let it cook until the chicken is cooked through, about 10-15 minutes.
  5. Remove the lid, stir, and let the mixture simmer for another 5 minutes to let the sauce thicken up.
  6. Remove the bay leaf, sprinkle with some sesame seeds, and serve warm!

Sweet & Sour Tofu

In a continuing effort to make more vegetarian dishes, I'm trying to incorporate more tofu into our diet. Adam just loves tofu. I'm not sure why... I mean it is very versatile and the texture is ok, but I don't see why it is so great. That's ok though- I am happy to prepare and eat it even I have no passion for it!

So not to continue on the "Negative Nellie" trend, but I have up until now avoided any sweet and sour recipes for the sole reason that I'm not a huge fan of bell peppers when they are so forward in a recipe. For example, never will I make stuffed bell peppers or get a pizza with mostly pepper topping. So the idea of sweet and sour anything with those big chunks of pepper just lightly sauteed really had no appeal. But, in the spirit of trying something again with an open mind and palette, I went for it.

I have to say, it was really good and the peppers were not "too much" for me. The flavors all mixed beautifully and I dare say it was a lot like the take-out version, but much healthier! Go tofu!


Sweet and Sour Tofu
Based from AllRecipes.com

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 1 Clove of Garlic, minced
  • 1 Bell Pepper, chopped
  • 1 Carrot, sliced
  • 1 8 oz. Can of Chunk Pineapple
  • 1/4 C. Cider Vinegar
  • 1/4 C. White Wine
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Ketchup
  • 2 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch plus 1-2 Tbsp. Water
  • Pinch Red Pepper Flakes


  1. Press the tofu between 2 towels or thick layers of papertowels to drain. Once the tofu has been drained, slice it into large 1.5" chunks.
  2. In a large saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium-high heat and add in the tofu. Cook the tofu until it is browned on all sides.
  3. Add in the onion, garlic, pepper and carrots and saute until the onions start to become translucent.
  4. Add in the pineapple with juice, all the liquids & brown sugar and stir to mix. Let it simmer gently for a minute or two.
  5. Mix the cornstarch in the small amount of water and then add into the pan. Stir in the red pepper flakes and any salt and pepper you may want. Let it simmer so that the sauce thickens up.
  6. Serve hot over rice or noodles.

Monday, September 29, 2008

Pumpkin Bundt Cake

AUTUMN IS HERE!!!!!!


Oh, pardon, I got a little excited there! Fall is my favorite season and nothing heralds in the season better than pumpkin foods. After my disastrous jell-o mold, I thought I'd get back up on the horse with the new silicone bundt pan.


After a quick hunt on the 'net, I found a great, moist pumpkin cake. The cranberries and orange really added something special to the cake, although I still have not mastered the whole bundt pan thing. My impatience and the heavenly smell got the better of me and I didn't wait for my silly cake to cool all the way. One quick flip of the pan and I got 7/8ths of my cake, with the top happily stuck up in the curves of the mold and steam rising from the remains!

It didn't matter though- it was delicious! We've been munching it for both breakfast and for dessert. Sorry coworkers- I was going to bring it in to share, but I think we're going to gobble it down ourselves!


Pumpkin Bundt Cake with Orange Glaze
From Allrecipes.com
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 C. Shortening
  • 4 Eggs
  • 1 16 oz. can Pumpkin
  • 2 C. Flour
  • 1 Tbsp. Cinnamon
  • 2 tsp. Baking Powder
  • 1 tsp. Baking Soda
  • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. Ground Cloves
  • 1/2 Salt
  • 1/2 C. Whole Cranberries (I used Mariani brand.)
  • 1 C. Powdered Sugar
  • Grated Orange Peel from 1/2 orange
  • 1/2 C. Orange Juice


  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. If necessary, grease and flour your bundt pan.
  2. In a large mixing bowl, beat together the sugar, shortening, eggs, and pumpkin until smooth, 3-5 minutes.
  3. Slowly add in the dry ingredients, mixing as you go. I added in 1 cup of flour, then mixed, then a little flour plus the baking powder, baking soda, and spices (Not the powdered sugar, peel, or OJ), then mixed, then the remaining flour, and then one last mix.
  4. Make sure you batter is well blended. Fold in the cranberries.
  5. Pour the batter into you pan. Bake for 45-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
  6. Remove cake from oven and leave on a cooling rack in the pan for a good long time. This is where I got a little overexcited. Once it is relatively cool, flip out onto a serving plate. Then let it cool some more!
  7. While the cake cools, mix together the powdered sugar, orange peel and orange juice until you have a thick glaze.
  8. When the cake is just slightly warm to the touch, drizzle the orange glaze over the top. Serve warm or at room temperature morning, noon, or night!

Spanish Skillet Chicken

Have you visited my friend Thatgirl's blog? You really should. She is smart, witty, and an excellent cook. She also puts my blog to shame with the sheer quantity of blogging she does- I mean, I was lucky to get what I did in this month, and she's posting like every day! Show off... I kid, I KID!

One of the best things about a number of her recipes is that they are simple. She uses good ingredients and lets them shine, and the meals are quick to prepare. And when this one popped up in my blog reader, I knew it was a keeper. In fact, I made it only about a week or two later to rave reviews. (Did I mention she's a lot better at posting than I am?)

This was perfect- my only tweaks were eliminating the parsley (that I didn't have on hand) and the addition of avocado. Which I can't believe she didn't add- she LOVES that green creamy fruit! It is so totally making a comeback to our kitchen, maybe in the dead of winter when we need a little of that Spanish sun feel!


Spanish Skillet Chicken
From Paved with Good Intentions

  • 1 Chicken Breast
  • 2 Tbsp. Butter, divided
  • 1 Shallot, chopped
  • 1 Clove Garlic, chopped
  • 2-3 Tbsp. Red Wine Vinegar
  • 3/4 C. Chicken Broth
  • 2-3 Tbsp Green Olives, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, cubed

  1. Melt 1 Tbsp butter in a large skillet over medium high heat and cook chicken, flipping once, until it is browned on each side. Remove from skillet and keep warm with foil on top.
  2. Add shallot, garlic, and vinegar to skillet and bring to a boil and cook 2 minutes.
  3. Add broth and return to a boil, reduce heat and simmer until broth is reduced to 1/2 cup.
  4. Remove from heat and stir in remaining butter.
  5. Serve chicken over couscous. Drizzle sauce on top and generously sprinkle olives and avocado for a delicious complete meal!

Eat to the Beat: Retro Coca-Cola Jello Mold

A.K.A. Not So Attractive Flesh Gelatin
A.K.A. Ballistics Jell-O
A.K.A. Very tasty, but very ugly dessert in my fridge we just can't get excited enough about to actually eat


Ok, so I really had such a great idea for this latest round of Elly's Eat to the Beat event. It's inspired by a song called "Jackie Will Save Me" by Shiny Toy Guns. It is about Jackie Onassis Kennedy and has a great angry techno electronica style. It's very good for blasting at the top of your car speakers with the windows down.



There is a verse that spoke to me for this event:

I think you're slipping
American Coca-Cola
Sugar Sweetness
1963


Cooking with Coke, now that was something different. And what about the retro aspect of diving into old school dishes? I did a little hunting for recipes and found a totally kitschy dessert I thought would be perfect- Cherry Coca-Cola Salad!

First point of note: turns out jell-o molds were really more of a 50's thing and not a 60's thing. Oh well, close enough. Second point of note: who in their right mind considers gelatin, cream cheese, fruit, and soda a "salad" of any sort!? I loved that some of the recipes were described as "congealed salad." Mmmmm... congealed, appealing, huh?

All of that aside, this seemed like it would be fun. I went out and bought a silicone bundt mold and picked up a single Coke since we don't really drink soda in our house. I prepped this according to the directions and gave it a taste- yummy and saccharine as expected! Into the fridge it went overnight to set.


Well my friends, the first issue in this minor disaster was removing said dessert from said silicone pan. I've never used this type of pan before and it was frankly a little weird. It also wasn't so effective- maybe I should have greased it after all since the poor mold had its top ripped off on about 2/3 of the ring. D'oh! I had to oh so gently pry out the rest and place it top of the base.

Sadly, once "assembled" the dish was, well, hideous. Red gelatin + white cream cheese = pink gelatinous mess that looks just like a slightly sunburned arm! For those of you that enjoy the show Mythbusters, you'll note this looks a lot like Buster the Ballistics Gel Crash Test Dummy.

So that's my entry. A very tasty, creative, and repulsive-looking dessert. Better luck next time, eh?


Cherry Coca-Cola Jello "Salad"
Based from Allrecipes.com
  • 1 16 oz. Can Cherry Pie Filling
  • 1 8 oz. Can Chunk Pineapple
  • 2 3 oz. Packages Cherry Jell-o
  • 3-4 oz. Cream Cheese, softened
  • 6 oz. Coke (or Diet Coke or Coke Zero)

  1. Drain all of the pineapple juice from the can into a glass measuring cup. Drain the liquid from the pie filling can into the same measuring cup until you have 1 Cup of total liquid. I probably had 2/3 cup of pineapple and 1/3 cup of pie goo. Dispose of the remaining liquid pie filling, leaving the cherries.
  2. In a small saucepan, pour in the liquid and bring it to a boil.
  3. Stir in the gelatin and whisk it together until everything is dissolved.
  4. Remove the pan from the heat. Mix in the cream cheese until the mixture is smooth.
  5. Add in the Coke and beat for 2-3 minutes. The original recipe says to mix until it is "fluffy" but I don't know what that means.
  6. Pour the warm mix into your mold. You may want to try greasing the mold or using a non-stick spray given the results I got. Then again, I'm no Jell-O expert, so maybe the fault is mine?
  7. Fold in the drained cherries and pineapple. Chill in the fridge for 6-8 hours or until the mold is set. Once ready to serve, cross your fingers and don't follow my example to turn out the mold onto a serving dish. Serve to blind or far-sighted guests!

Sun-Dried Tomato Risotto

Here in our house, we love the warm, creamy comfort that risotto brings to a meal. I think I've said it before, but I don't understand the idea that risotto is a difficult dish to prepare. Folks site the length of time involved or the amount of effort involved in "babysitting" the dish. For me, I am going to be in the kitchen prepping dinner for a good 30 minutes anyway, so what's a little stirring and pouring on the stovetop when I’m already involved in cooking!

So not only do I love that risotto fits into my dinner prep schedule, it is also so versatile! You can have your plain Parmesan version or you can kick it up with artisan cheeses, specialty mushrooms, savory vegetables, smoky meats, or fresh seafood. This chameleon dish is happy to be the star of the meal, or morph into a perfect complimentary side.

With all this adoration, I was pleasantly surprised to find a recipe for sun dried tomato risotto attached to the cap of my Bella Sun Luci bottle! We made it and devoured it- the flavors were fantastic together. It was the perfect addition to the stuffed chicken entree and will definitely be on the menu again soon.


Sun Dried Tomato Risotto
From Mooney Farms, Bella Sun Luci Sun Dried Tomatoes

  • 1 Onion, chopped
  • 2 Cloves of Garlic, minced
  • 1 C. Risotto (Arborio) Rice
  • 4-6 C. Chicken Broth, warmed
  • 1/2 C. Sun Dried Tomatoes (packed in oil), chopped
  • 1/4 C. Fresh Basil, chopped
  • 1-2 tsp. Dried Parsley (I didn’t have fresh on hand.)
  • Salt & Black Pepper
  • 1/4+ C. Parmesan Cheese, grated

  1. In a large saucepan, heat a few tablespoons of olive oil over medium heat. Saute the onion and garlic until the onion starts to become translucent.
  2. Add in the dry risotto rice. Stir to coat the rice with oil and let it sit for a minute to brown.
  3. Pour in about 3/4 cups of broth to the pan. Bring to a low boil and stir the risotto. As the liquid starts to absorb, add in the tomatoes, basil, parsley and salt & pepper to taste. Give a good stir.
  4. Continue to pour in 1/2 to 1 cup of broth and stir until the rice is al dente and creamy. Personally, I pour the liquid in, give it a stir, and then let it sit for a few minutes while it simmers away. I only stir every few minutes, usually in between chopping something else that will go into dinner. When I give a stir and the bottom of the pan is dry, that's when I add in more broth.
  5. You may not need all of the broth. Other liquids can be used as well such as water or white wine. The stirring will create the creaminess and the slow simmering will make the rice soft and chewable!
  6. Just before serving, stir in the grated Parmesan until it melts and is thoroughly mixed in.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce

There's a fun game I like to play... it's called catch up! The premise of the game is you go back through your food pictures and see that you have great recipes from, um, July that you haven't posted yet and then you spend a Sunday evening finally putting them up for the "world" to enjoy!

It's a lot of fun. The best is trying to remember what the heck you changed from a recipe- d'oh!!!

This meal was really good, and I do legitimately remember that these 2.5 months later. But really, how can you go wrong with a peanut sauce, right?! I'm trying to incorporate more vegetarian meals and tofu is a great way to do it. It is cheaper and I really need to eat more greens! Now we'll just see if I can blog about these lovely recipes sooner so I can recreate them again!


Fried Tofu with Peanut Sauce
Loosely based from Food Network

  • 1 Package Extra Firm Tofu
  • 1 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
  • 2 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Cooking Sherry
  • 1/2 can Coconut Milk
  • 1/2 C. Smooth Peanut Butter
  • 2 Garlic Cloves, minced
  • 1 Tbsp. Brown Sugar
  • 1 tsp. Curry Powder
  • 1 Tbsp. Lime Juice
  • 1 tsp. Sesame Oil
  • 2 tsp. Soy Sauce
  • Dash Cayenne and/ or Chili Powder

  1. Remove the tofu from its container and drain it by gently but firmly pressing the block between a few layers of paper towels. Does that make sense- gently but firmly? I mean that it is easy to break up the tofu if you are too rough, but you do need to apply some pressure to get moisture out.
  2. While the tofu drains, mix together the soy sauce, oil, and sherry from the start of the ingredient list.
  3. Slice the tofu into large chunks. In a large skillet on medium-high heat, warm up a splash of oil. Place the tofu pieces in the pan and let them sit so that they brown. It takes some time- I want to say a good 10 minutes. Once lightly browned, gently flip the pieces to brown the opposite side.
  4. I think at this point, I poured the sherry mix in the pan to season the tofu. But there is also a chance I either used it as a marinade as the recipe calls for, or I may have omitted that whole portion. (Sorry, the peanut sauce really was the star, so I didn't bother to remember these details!)
  5. While the tofu cooks, mix the remaining ingredients in a small saucepan over low heat. The peanut butter will melt and the sauce will thin out.
  6. Serve the tofu over while rice or Asian noodles and pour the peanut butter goodness generously over the top!

Philly Cheesesteak Night!

My husband is a good man... he eats just about anything I put in front of him. Not only that, he usually loves it and thanks me profusely for it! I find a lot of joy in cooking with exciting ingredients like new produce, cheeses, and other wonderful items from different regions of the world. I will spend 2 hours over the stove happily if it means creating a real gourmet masterpiece.

Adam... well, he loves all that stuff, but he find just as much delight in pasta with sauce from a jar, chicken patties on a bun (who doesn't love those though?), and mac n cheese from the blue box. So as a special treat a couple of months ago, I made the man Philly cheesesteaks for us! Oh man, he was so freaking happy!

They were in fact delicious. Nothing fancy, nothing gourmet- just simple comfort food.


Philly Cheesesteaks
From Hannaford Grocery fresh Magazine

  • Vegetable Oil
  • 1 Green Pepper
  • 1 Large Onion
  • 1 Package Premium Shaved Beef
  • Provolone Cheese Slices
  • 4 Submarine Rolls

  1. Slice the green pepper and onion into long thin strips.
  2. Heat a little bit of oil (1-2 tsp) over medium heat in a large skillet. Add in the peppers and onions.
  3. Cook veggies until they are soft, darker, and a little caramelized. This will take a little while- 10-20 minutes. You don't want them to burn; if things seem too hot, add a little water.
  4. When the peppers and onions are cooked, remove to another dish and cover with foil, tenting it to let steam escape.
  5. Increase the skillet's heat to high and add in a little more oil.
  6. When hot and smoking a hair, add in the beef. Grind a little black pepper over it if you are inclined.
  7. Allow the meat to cook on one wide for about 2 minutes, until it is nice and brown. Use a spatula or tongs to break up the beef into smaller pieces and to press it down against the pan to aid the browning.
  8. Flip the meat over onto the other side to cook it. Cover the beef in the pan with slices of provolone. Don't be stingy- nobody wants a cheesesteak that goes easy on the cheesy!
  9. When the cheese is melted, make the subs with the cooked steak and top with the pepper and onion mixture. Serve hot with a good cold beer!

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Homegrown Gourmet 11: Game Day Dishes

Welcome back, Homegrown Gourmet! My little blogging event dedicated to the joys of local cooking traditions has come back to me by way of a tasty margherita pizza. A big thanks to Elizabeth for a great round and the honor of hosting again!



The air is getting brisk here in New England and the days are getting shorter, which triggers some deep instincts in me- inadvertent smiling, a craving for soups and warm comfort food, and an undeniable desire to watch sports on lazy Sunday afternoons. Yes, I can't lie that September is one of my favorite months when it comes to sports. Football is back on the air with new season excitement and the Red Sox are usually making a sprint to the finish as baseball comes to a close. The only thing that could make it complete is if cycling moved the Tour de France a few months to round out my top 3 spectator sports.

With all these athletics making their way back into my yearly schedule, I can't help but choose GAME DAY DISHES as my theme for this round of Homegrown Gourmet!




I hope that this round brings out the creativity and international crowd- I'd really like to know what folks eat while watching cricket or sumo wrestling! Now first, let's face it- we don't want a round up that shows a collection of potato chips from a bag, Cheez Whiz dips, and plain ol' nachos. BORING! Let's get INNOVATIVE, my fellow chefs.

  • Do you have a special regional dish that you always serve to watch the Big Game? I want to see it!
  • If Doritos and Bud are you typical fare, why not take inspiration from your favorite team?
    • Minnesota Vikings fan? Why not make a Scandinavian entree!
    • Looking for the Chicago White Sox to take home the pennant? Make an all white dip!
    • Rooting for rugby stars the New Zealand All Blacks? A healthful fruit salad with Kiwi fruit is a fun play on words fit!
  • Not feeling that creative? Take those late harvest local fruits and veggies and twist that tailgating chili into something really special!
  • Maybe you have a spouse or roommate that insists on hogging the television all weekend, numbing their brain watching grown men or women be overpaid to play a game? Game Day for you might be all about a chance to have the kitchen to yourself for some fancy, not-suitable-for-a-stadium cuisine. Let's see that too!
Sound good? Great- here are the rules:

  • Anyone can play!
  • The theme will be picked by the host. Participants will make a dish that follows the theme (Game Day Dishes) and that somehow represents their home region- town, state, area. Representation can feature a local ingredient, be a traditional dish from your area, or be a creative twist.
  • Participants will have 3-4 weeks to complete their recipes and post them to their blog (or email the pics and text) and they notify the host via their preferred method as stated.
  • An explanation of your dish is required; it can be a story about the local custom or ingredient, how you came about eating/ making the recipe, or an explanation about how your creative dish fits the theme.
  • Please link back to this post in the host's blog.
  • Fresh and local foods are encouraged!
  • When the round is done, the host will announce their favorite dish by updating their blog. "Favorite" is completely subjective to the host- no one expects the host to make and taste test all the dishes, it is just something that strikes the host's fancy! The creator of the fave gets the honor of hosting the next round, if they so choose.
Deadline: Monday, October 13th

Please send the following to homegrown.gourmet@gmail.com:

  1. Your name
  2. Your location
  3. Your blog- name and URL (If you do not have a blog and wish to participate, please just send along a description of your dish and a brief story about it!)
  4. The permalink to your Game Day Dish
  5. A photo of your completed item
I look forward to seeing what wonderful treats you all come up with!

    Sunday, August 24, 2008

    Homegrown Gourmet 10- Local Margherita Pizza

    When the moon hits your eye, like a big pizza pie, that's... Homegrown Gourmet?! That's right- for the big 1-0 Homegrown Gourmet will be featuring local PIZZA recipes from all its participants!



    Sound like fun, huh? I think so too! Elizabeth from Elizabeth's Cooking Experiments is hosting this round and came up with that delightful theme. Who doesn't love pizza? Warm, comforting, filling, versatile... it's so many great things at once!

    So when I started to think about how to make pizza local to Maine or New England, well, I was a little shocked that I couldn't come up with a plethora of ideas! I considered a dessert pizza, but honestly I like my pies for dinner. A seafood pizza sounded gross (though I hope maybe another participant gave it a shot!) and there aren't really pizza traditions here in Maine beyond your standard fare.

    I gave it some more thought and decided to look for inspiration at the Farmer's Market. Greater Portland has a number of farmers' market, including a large one that happens twice a week here in Portland proper. On Saturdays, the booths set up in a park downtown where cut flowers, fruits, veggies, herbs, cheeses, meats, potted plants, honey, and baked goods are for sale in the fresh air with musicians and artists providing the backdrop. Hubby and I have enjoyed this weekly feast for the senses for a few weeks now. On a recent trip I was rewarded with an idea for this HGG round based on the gorgeous produce available.

    The inspiration came from a beautiful basket of multicolored cherry tomatoes. I remembered a pizza my husband used to love from a local southern New England chain called Bertuccis. (Man, I love Bertuccis- please come to Maine!) They had a traditional margherita pizza. It has no sauce, but rather fresh tomatoes, basil and mozzarella baked to perfection. After locating a bunch of beautiful basil and some amazing local goats' milk ricotta, I knew I had a twist on a Maine Margherita on my hands.



    It aome out deliciously! The tomatoes and basil were so fresh and flavorful and the ricotta had a wonderful nuttiness to it that I'm not used to with commercial cows' milk ricotta. The lack of sauce was not a problem as we got plenty of moisture from the veggies. Super yum.

    Thanks for hosting Elizabeth! Mangia!


    Local Maine Margherita Pizza
    • 1 Ball of Portland Pie Company Pizza Dough
    • 1 1/2- 2 C. Multi-Colored Cherry Tomatoes
    • 1 Regular Tomato
    • 8-12 Long Slices of Mozzarella (I wish I had used local here too.)
    • 8 oz. Tourmaline Hill Farm Fresh Goat Cheese Ricotta
    • 1/2 C. Fresh Basil


    1. Preheat oven to 450 degrees as dough instructions indicate. Place pizza stone in the stove from the start to allow it to heat slowly with the oven.
    2. Slice the cherry and full tomatoes into slices. The large tomato I was able to cut thin, but in order to keep the shape of the cherries, I used between 1 and 3 cuts on each.
    3. Slice the basil leaves into long strips.
    4. Work the pizza dough into a large, flat circle- you know, pizza shaped!
    5. When the oven and stone are warmed, remove the stone from the stove and sprinkle with cornmeal to prevent sticking. Place the dough on the stone.
    6. Spread the large tomato slices on the dough in a single layer.
    7. Cover with a single layer of the mozzarella. It does not matter if not everything gets covered yet as there are more layers to come.
    8. Cover the mozzarella with the cherry tomato slices.
    9. Sprinkle the fresh ricotta over the entire pizza.
    10. Bake the pizza for 10-12 minutes until the crust just starts to brown.
    11. Pull the pizza out of the oven and then sprinkle the fresh basil over the entire surface of the pizza. Continue baking for another 2-4 minutes until the crust is golden and the cheese is melty. You will not want the basil to get crunchy, so keep an eye on it if your oven cooks fast.
    12. Remove, slice, and enjoy hot!

    Sunday, August 17, 2008

    Spicy Black Bean Cakes

    I love reading other food blogs for a few reasons. One is that I'm nosey; I like to know what other people are doing and being voyeuristic. Another is that I get so many great recipes and inspiration from others. Sometimes I see something that reminds me of something I wanted to make or gets my mouth hungry for a certain culture's cuisine. Sometimes there is a recipe that looks delicious and interesting just the way it is.

    These black bean cakes fall into that second category. Tara from Smells Like Home featured this Martha Stewart recipe and I was intrigued by the orange color (from sweet potatoes) and the healthy, vegetarian aspect.

    I've made these twice now and the hubs and I just love them! I never would have thought that you can take raw, grated sweet potato and prepare them like this to end up with such a flavorful addition to dinner. These have always been the star of the show. And don't tell, but they are super simply and quick to make! Bonus!!!


    Spicy Black Bean Cakes
    From Martha Stewart by way of Smells Like Home

    • 2 Green Onions, chopped
    • 2 Tbsp. Sliced Jalapenos, chopped
    • 2 Cloves of Garlic, chopped
    • 1 Tbsp. Cumin
    • 1 Can of Black Beans, drained
    • 1 Sweet Potato, peeled and grated
    • 1 Egg
    • 1/2 C. Bread Crumbs

    1. In a small saute pan, cook the onions, jalapenos, garlic, and cumin with a little olive oil on medium heat. The onions will be translucent when done.
    2. In a large bowl, pour in the drained black beans. Add in the mixture from the pan and mash everything using a fork. You will want the beans to be smashed, but it's perfectly ok to have some that are still whole. Don't go nuts about it!
    3. Fold in the rest of the ingredients until they are well mixed.
    4. Form small cakes, about 3" across and around 1/2" to 1" high.
    5. Place on a cookie sheet or flat pan. Broil on high for 10 minutes. Be sure they don't start to burn- if so, turn the broiler down to low.
    6. Flip the cakes after the initial 10 minutes and then return to broil for another 2 minutes.
    7. Serve warm. These are excellent with sour cream or a little lime juice.

    Saturday, August 16, 2008

    Classic Potato Salad

    We had a low key 4th of July this year. Many years we'd go to my parents' place to hang by the pool and eat cookout food. Recently we've been doing casual neighborhood get togethers where we eat cookout food. This year we kept it a private day with just the two of us... eating cookout. Are you seeing a trend?

    My neighbor Cathy makes a kick-ass potato salad, but I didn't want to call her for the recipe this year just out of the blue. The biggest thing I always love about her recipe is that it has tons of hard boiled eggs. Yum! This recipe that I used was based off a number of recipes and was really tasty. We kept picking at it for days afterwards and it will come back for the next cookout we have- with or without others!


    Red Potato Salad
    Based off recipes from AllRecipes.com

    • 6 Red Potatoes, scrubbed and cubed
    • 5 Eggs, hard-boiled
    • 3/4 C. Low Fat Mayonnaise
    • 1/4 C. Sour Cream
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Chives, chopped
    • 1 1/2 Tbsp. Dijon Mustard
    • 1/4 tsp. Dried Dill
    • 1/4 tsp. Paprika
    • 1 Tbsp. White Vinegar
    • 1 Tbsp. Pickle Juice

    1. In a large pot, bring water to a boil and cook the cubed potatoes, with skins on, until they are just tender. It should be around 15 minutes, but do check them by piercing with a fork because mushy potatoes are no good.
    2. Drain the cooked potatoes and cool. Add to a large bowl.
    3. Slice the hard boiled eggs. Add to potatoes.
    4. In a small bowl, mix the remaining ingredients to make the dressing.
    5. Pour the dressing onto to the eggs and potatoes and stir to coat. Cover and let sit for an hour or two to let the flavor meld together. Serve chilled with a good burger and local microbrew.

    Strawberry Ice Cream

    Summer is all about fresh berries and cool treats. And last time I checked, strawberry ice cream meets both of those requirements. I made this some time ago, but we really enjoyed it. It was creamy and fresh and perfect with the hot fudge I drizzled all over mine!


    Strawberry Ice Cream
    Based from Food Network

    • 1+ C. Fresh Strawberries, washed and sliced
    • 2 Tbsp. Sugar
    • 1/2 C. Sugar
    • 2 C. Heavy Cream
    • 1/2 Vanilla Bean
    • 3 Egg Yolks

    1. In a small bowl, mash the fresh strawberries with the 2 Tbsp. of sugar. Set aside.
    2. In a medium saucepan, heat the cream and 2 C. of sugar over medium heat to a low simmer. Slice the vanilla bean in half and scrape out the seeds into the mixture. Let the bean pod boil with the cream and sugar for extra flavoring.
    3. In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks. Add in a small amount of the cream mixture and whisk. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan.
    4. Let the mixture simmer for about 10 minutes. stirring regularly, until it coats the back of a wooden spoon.
    5. Remove from the heat. Pour in the fresh strawberries and allow the mixture to cool in a bowl for an hour or two in the fridge. You want the mixture cold when processing for the best creaminess.
    6. When the custard is cooled, process in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Let the completed ice cream solidify in the freezer for at least 30 minutes before serving.

    My Own Italian Rum Birthday Cake

    Yesterday was my birthday! I spent the morning at the doctors- a convenient way to justify a birthday sick day- then lunch with a former coworker and then the evening baking and being lazy. It was delightful!

    The baking I was doing was for a birthday cake for me. Now, before you scold me or my husband for making my own celebratory pastry, have no fear- I wanted to do it! It is rare I can justify making an extravagant dessert that is both involved and fattening. So it was truly a joy to try my hand at a new dish.

    I chose to make an Italian Rum Cake. My grandmother regularly would buy an Italian rum cake for my mother's birthday from La Cascia Bakery in Massachusetts. Their cake was always rich and fancy and as a kid I mostly wanted to eat the buttercream roses.


    This was a 2-day process. Yesterday I made the sponge cake and the pasticciera custard. I let the rum soak in last night while the custard cooled in the fridge. Today was assembly and the frosting. In the criticism department, I didn't cook my custard long enough, so it was a little runny, and my buttercream frosting was a little soft since I used more butter than shortening. In the complement department, oooooh-weeee, it's good! So many great flavors all tied in together and it really did look quite fancy.

    Happy 30th birthday to me!


    Italian Rum Cake
    Based from RecipeZaar.com
    Sponge Cake

    • 5 Egg Yolks
    • 1 Tbsp. Lemon Juice
    • 1 tsp. Vanilla Extract
    • 1 1/2 C. White Sugar, divided
    • 5 Egg Whites
    • 1 1/4 C. Flour, sifted

    1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
    2. In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1 C. of sugar until a light lemony color.
    3. In a stand mixer (or another bowl using a hand mixer), whip the egg whites until soft peaks start to form.
    4. Blend in the remaining sugar to the egg whites and whip again until stiff.
    5. Gently fold about 1/2 cup of the egg white mixture into the egg yolks. Layer the remaining egg whites on top of the yolks. Sift the flour on top of everything else.
    6. Fold in the flour until the batter is smooth and no veins of flour remain. During the mixing process you want to keep the eggs light and fluffy- this is what keeps the sponge cake airy.
    7. Pour into 9" round cake pan. I greased and floured mine and it was a bear to remove, so I can't offer much in the way of advice in that regard!
    8. Bake for 15-30 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
    9. Remove from oven and cool completely on a baking rack.

    Pasticciera Cream (vanilla and chocolate)
    • 3 Tbsp. Sugar
    • 3 Tbsp. Flour
    • 3 Egg Yolks
    • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract
    • 2 C. Milk
    • 1 Tbsp. Butter
    • 2 Heaping Tbsp. Cocoa Powder

    1. In a medium bowl, mix sugar, flour, eggs, and vanilla together until smooth.
    2. In a small saucepan, scald the milk. I think this means to take the milk until almost boiling... that's what I did right or not!
    3. Slowly pour the hot milk into the egg mixture, stirring constantly. When all combined, transfer back into the saucepan and cook over low-medium heat.
    4. At this point, you need to cook the custard over the right heat so that it stays nice and hot and steamy, but not boiling. You will want to cook it until the mixture coats the back of a wooden spoon. Your custard will need to be fairly stiff, but it won't cook down all the way- it will do its final thickening while cooling. This is where I didn't cook my vanilla enough. I went for about 15-20 minutes and probably should have done 30.
    5. When you are satisfied with the consistency, melt the butter into the mix and then remove half of the vanilla to a bowl. It will be about 1 1/2 - 2 C. worth. Cover this portion with plastic wrap right up against the surface (to prevent a skin from forming) and let cool on counter.
    6. Back in the pot, whisk in the chocolate. When smooth, pour into a another medium bowl and cover with wrap and cool.
    7. When the bowls are not too hot, finish cooling the custards in the fridge. They will need at least 3-4 hours, but I recommend just going overnight.



    Assembly
    • Cooled Cake
    • 1/4 C. Dark Rum
    • Vanilla Custard
    • Chocolate Custard
    • Light Buttercream or Whipped Cream Frosting (I used this reduced 4 servings with more cream and 2/3 butter, 1/3 shortening.)
    • Toasted Sliced Almonds
    • Strawberries or Cherries (optional)

    1. Using a long, serrated blade, slice the sponge cake into 3 layers. (That's 2 cuts for those like me who have to think hard about simple math!)
    2. On the cut sides of cake, brush on the rum, allowing it to soak in.
    3. On the bottom layer, spread the chocolate custard evenly.
    4. Place the middle layer on top of the chocolate custard.
    5. On the middle layer, spread the vanilla custard evenly. If desired, layer on any berries if desired. I like the sliced strawberries from the frozen section in the grocery stores.
    6. Put on the top layer of the cake.
    7. Frost the edges of the cake. Press the toasted almond slices into the sides. I kind of lightly threw them on with a cupped hand because my custard was oozing out and I couldn't roll the edges on wax paper with almonds.
    8. Frost the top of the cake. If you have extra frosting and are feeling ambitious, pipe on a border. This helped my rounded edges gain some height.
    9. I then made a Nutella glaze (Nutella, cream, hot water) to drizzle on top with a few strawberries for punch. More almonds or pretty flowers would also be lovely.
    10. Let sit for a little bit to let the rum soak in and the flavors meld. Be sure to keep refrigerated when not serving or else the frosting and custard will run.

    Fresh Thai Shrimp Spring Rolls

    I am once again playing catch-up on my little blog! This dish was made- I'm sad to say- on June 29th. It's not that these dishes aren't good or that I'm not into telling you, lovely readers, about them. It's just, well, I'm busy and I get sleepy after making dinner, which is usually around 8 PM.

    Ok, no more excuses- on to the food!

    So these spring rolls are so filling and light and perfect for a summer evening. The ingredients are focused on good simple flavors and can be modified to your taste. I've made them vegetarian style or with chicken before as well with equally good results. The two challenges? First, finding the weird rice paper wrapper things. I always have to go to my local asian market to find them. Second issue is then using the wrappers. They are finicky- kind of slimy, kind of flimsy, kind of, well weird. But truly, they make the meal and hold the fillings quite well once you get the hang of it.

    Whip up a nice spicy peanut dipping sauce and you're good to go!


    Shrimp Spring Rolls

    • 5-10 Raw Shrimp
    • 1 Garlic Clove, minced
    • 1-2 Tbsp. Lime Juice
    • Rice Paper Wrappers
    • 1 Carrot, peeled and sliced in thin ribbons
    • 1 C. Lettuce, sliced in ribbons
    • 2 Green Onions, sliced in long ribbons
    • Wide Rice Noodles, cooked, drained and cooled
    • Mint Leaves

    1. Remove any tails and shells from shrimp, and cut lengthwise/ butterfly if desired. I like to cut it down the length so that it leaves smaller pieces for the rolls.
    2. In a small saute pan, heat some olive oil over medium heat. Cook the garlic until softened.
    3. Add in the cut shrimp and lime juice. I always try to flatten the shrimp and attempt to keep them from curling. Cook through until pink.
    4. Remove from pan and allow to cool. When cool, cut into small bite-sized pieces.
    5. In a cookie sheet or other shallow large container, prepare the "water bath" for the stiff wrappers. This means filling with warm water until about 1/2 inch deep. The container must be large enough to fit the wrapper circle in so that it can be submerged.
    6. With the wrapper submergerd, gently rub the surface until the wrapper softens and becomes pliable and rollable. Be sure to rub all the surfaces so that the edges get soft too. No one wants crunchy edges!
    7. On a clean surface, spread the wrapper. In the center, being sure not to overfill as I usually do, layer the shrimp, carrots, lettuce, green onions, rice noodles, and mint leaves. Other fillings could be basil, cabbage, soy bean threads, or ginger.
    8. Gently wrap up the edge, tucking in the ends for a tight roll.
    9. Cut on the diagonal to showcase the lovely fillings. Serve with warm peanut sauce.


    Rice Paper Wrappers

    Peanut Dipping Sauce
    • 1/2 C. Peanut Butter
    • 3 Tbsp. Soy Sauce
    • 1 tsp. Ginger Powder
    • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
    • 1/4-1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
    • Water to taste for thinning

    1. In a small saucepan, heat the peanut butter over low heat, melting.
    2. Stir in the soy sauce, ginger, garlic powder, and pepper flakes. Mix until smooth.
    3. Add in water as desired to thin the sauce.
    4. Serve warm.

    Sing Me a Song

    Twice in one month I was tagged! Am I lucky? Or is it a curse?! It's unfortunate that I'm so slow in posting that I haven't gotten around to finishing this post until now.

    Truthfully, I like being tagged. As a Leo, one of my favorite subjects to discuss is myself. Call me blessed with ample self-confidence, call me egotistical- but either way I'm honest!

    When my friend Elly from Elly Says Opa! tagged me, I was leery what the tag was. I mean, how many random factoids can I come up with before I start repeating myself. Much to my delight, her meme is a musical one. Hoorah! I love music! I love to sing, dance, and back in the day I played a pretty good piano. (Don't ask about my trumpet playing skills though....)

    The rules:
    List seven songs you are into right now. No matter what the genre, whether they have words, or even if they’re not any good, but they must be songs you’re really enjoying now, shaping your world. Post these instructions in your blog along with your 7 songs. Then tag 7 other people to see what they’re listening to.

    1. John Mayer, Belief - This is totally my favorite song of the moment- very poignant and relevant to the hysterics that seem to be affecting people and the media these days. Off of his Continuum album, the music has a great dark and catchy tune. The lyrics though are what stand out for me. Two lines that really sum is up: "Is there anyone who really recalls/ Ever braking rank at all/ For something someone yelled real loud one time?" and "What puts the folded flag inside his mother's hand?/ Belief can, belief can." Powerful stuff.
    2. Lily Allen, Knock 'Em Out - Oh little Lily from the UK! She's a smart-mouthed teenager with a delightful, dark wit and upbeat hooks. This song is about any person's experience trying to dodge creeps out at a bar/ club. The song has a great little spoken bit over the catchy rhythm- "You're just doing your own thing and someone comes out of the blue and is like 'Alright, whatdya say, can I take your digits?' And you're like no, not in a million years, you're nasty, please leave me alone." Classic.
    3. Bebel Gilberto, Simplesmente - Bebel is the daughter of Astrud and Joao Gilberto, both of Girl From Ipanema fame. Bebel keeps the bossa nova tradition going with lovely Brazilian music. I can't understand the Portuguese lyrics, but the relaxing songs keep me happy at work.
    4. U2, Electrical Storm - I'm big U2 fan, particularly since I met my husband in high school 14 years ago. They have evolved so much over time but always have a fantastic musical ability no matter their current style. We danced to All I Want Is You at our wedding and left the wedding chapel to Beautiful Day and ended the reception to their rendition of Everlasting Love. But I love Electrical Storm for the dark sound, building emotion, and poetic lyrics. "Car alarm won't let you back to sleep/ You're kept awake dreaming someone elses dream./ Coffee is cold but it'll get you through/ Compromise that's nothing new to you."
    5. Dropkick Murphy's, State of Massachusetts - Rock. Celtic music. Politics. What a great combo! The Dropkicks are a Boston staple and I love their weaving of good American guitars with classic Irish fiddles. It sounds best with the volume turned way up!
    6. The Offspring, Hammerhead - Like the DM's above, The Offspring are all about hard rock and a political edge. Hammerhead sings out about a soldiers' mentality in battle. I think it's against the war in Iraq, or maybe the point is I as the listener can think it's about whatever I want. Either way, it rocks.
    7. Madonna, 4 Minutes - And the cheeseball entry. The alternative rock station in my area plays a lot of loud, chauvinist, crap rock. So I listen to the top 40 station, which is only slightly better. But man, that Madonna and Justin song makes me want to get out on the dance floor! If you see a brunette in Portland car dancing with the radio blaring, it's probably me.


    So now I'm supposed to tag a few folks to hear what they are listening to. Hm. This is often where I fail. And in the desire to actually get this posted, I'm going to accept failure and cheat by not passing this along!!!

    Thursday, July 24, 2008

    Fiesta!

    Many years ago my mom hosted a Pampered Chef party after attending one herself. She purchased a few things, including my first chef's knife and a pizza stone. Over the course of time, she upgraded to a better stone and I inherited her old one, as well as a random PC cookbook. The only thing I've ever made out of that little 30 page booklet is the Fiesta Tortilla Stack, known more commonly at our house as just Tortilla Stack. (I mean really, how many different variations could I have that warrant different names?) I probably first made it 7 or 8 years ago when I first got the stone and it is in fairly regular rotation in my kitchen.

    This thing feeds us for days, is gooey on the outside and crunchy on the inside, and is a nice change of pace for dinner. It is also heavy as a bag of bricks and a bit labor intensive to put together, but honestly it's worth it. My husband loves this meal and was so excited when I told him I was making it. We hadn't had it in ages and it totally hit the spot. With all the great ingredients though, how can you go wrong!


    Fiesta Tortilla Stack
    From Pampered Chef, 'Season's Best Recipe Collection 1999 Fall/ Winter'

    • 5-6 Large Burrito Sized Tortillas (I always buy flour and don’t know if corn would be good.)
    • 2/3 Can Refried Beans (I use fat-free or vegetarian style.)
    • 1/2 C. to 3/4 C. Sour Cream (Again, I use fat free.)
    • 1 Tbsp. Chili Powder
    • 2 tsp. Cumin Powder
    • 1/2 tsp. Garlic Powder
    • 1 C. Cooked Chicken, chopped
    • 1 Medium Onion or 3-4 Stalks Green Onion, chopped
    • 1 Red/ Orange / Yellow Pepper, chopped
    • 1 Small Can Sliced Black Olives, drained
    • 1/2 C. Fresh Cilantro, chopped
    • 1-2 C. Shredded Cheddar or Mexican Blend Cheese
    • 1 Large Tomato, chopped
    • Olive Oil


    1. I always start by cooking the chicken. I will cut up 2 chicken breasts into bite-sized pieces and then cook them in water in the microwave. About 3-5 minutes in the zapper and my chicken is ready.
    2. Pre-heat oven to 375.
    3. In a medium bowl, mix together the sour cream, refried beans, and spices and beat manually until smooth.
    4. In a large bowl, mix together all the veggies and chicken and cilantro and cheese.
    5. On a pizza stone or large baking sheet, place a single tortilla in the middle.
    6. Here is where I can never decide which I like to do first- bean mixture or veggie mixture. It can go either way, so I'm just going to flip a coin... heads- bean spread!
    7. Ok, so slather on a quarter of the bean dip and spread it all over the bottom tortilla, getting it very close to the edges.
    8. Pile on a quarter of the veggie/ chicken mix on top of the bean spread. Again, try to push the goodies as close to the edges as possible. On the bottom layers it is most important to get everything out to the edges so the top layers don't slouch down.
    9. Top bottom layer with a tortilla.
    10. Repeat the process- bean spread, veggies, tortilla- for another 3 layers. On the very top layer, you may want to save a nice heaping tablespoon of bean dip stuff to use as "glue" underneath the top tortilla.
    11. Drizzle a little olive oil (just a little!) and use your fingers to spread it out across the top and along the edges.
    12. Bake for 25-30 minutes until the tortilla is golden brown and the mixture is lightly bubbling along the edges.
    13. Remove and use a sharp, large knife to cut slices. Serve with sour cream and salsa if desired.

    Thursday, July 17, 2008

    I'm It!

    I've been tagged by Joelen- yipes! I never was the athletic type- I guess I couldn't run away as fast as the other kids. Tee hee!

    This is a fun little getting to know you tag- in fact I have been hit with a similar meme about 6 months ago! But that's no reason to not play again, right? No one likes the kid that pouts on the sidelines! And to spice it up, I am going to do my best to not repeat.

    What was I Doing 10 Years Ago?
    10 years, eh? Summer of 1998... I was in between my junior and senior year of college, working in the IT department at a local to my hometown semiconductor company where I had previously temped. I was designing them a web site, which looking back now was absolutely terrible as well as poorly thoughtout. But then again, lots of websites were poorly thought out and terrible back then- so I was doing well!

    Five things on my To-Do List for Ttoday?
    How about things I was supposed to do, but haven't, and still may not do before bed?
    1. Fold cleaned laundry
    2. Wash some dirty laundry
    3. Review a best friends' wedding registry in preparation for buying
    4. Finish my office work that must get done before 7 AM tomorrow
    5. Run the dishwasher

    Five Snacks I Enjoy:
    1. Cheese
    2. Guacamole
    3. Pretzels
    4. Nectarines
    5. Yeah, and still Doritos, but I try to avoid that!

    Five Things I Would Do If I Were a Billionaire:
    1. Take the Orient Express, first class all the way
    2. Buy all the CDs and DVDs I could ever want- I love music and movies!
    3. Invest a significant amount to live off the interest and provide for my (future) children
    4. These days I'd like liposuction, but maybe with that much cash I'd have the time and money to find good use for a personal trainer
    5. Be totally frivolous and buy a Jaguar convertible and an Audi TT

    (Really though, with that much money you can donate a ton while still living reasonably well.)

    Five Places I've Lived:
    1. Suburbia, Massachusetts
    2. West of Boston, MA
    3. South of Boston, MA
    4. Tampa Bay, FL (blech)
    5. Portland, Maine!

    Five Jobs I've Had:
    1. Babysitter
    2. Accounting assistant
    3. Web designer
    4. Admin
    5. Corporate Trainer

    Now I'm supposed to tag other people... hmmm... these tags do get around quickly and I don't want to have repeat hits. I think I'll come back and edit that tomorrow when I'm bored at work!

    A Meal for an Old Zinfandel

    In keeping with the Napa theme, I have to tell you about this absolutely fabulous meal we had that resolved specifically around a very special wine we picked up out on the "left coast."

    We had the pleasure of sampling a number of wines by Jessup Cellars in Yountville, CA. (They are right down the street from the famous French Laundry.) After getting a small tasting at our hotel in Napa, we visited the winery with the intention of doing a "vertical" tasting- or so I think it is called. This is where you try the same varietals, in our case Zinfandel, from the same winery but from different years. It was fascinating! All of the wines were great- we tried (this was at the end of May, so forgive my spotty memory) an '04,'03, and a '99.



    We ended up splurging on the 1999 Jessup Dry Creek Valley Zinfandel as it was so rich, and woody, and just plain wonderful. (We also got a fantastic zinfandel port which has yet to be opened and a light, fresh rose.) Our zin was something to be savored and to be the centerpiece of a meal- not just something to suck back with burritos as an afterthought. Doing some research on wine pairings, I decided to serve a rich entrée of grilled steak with an indulgent blue cheese sauce along sides rice pilaf and salad.

    Oh my heavens, we thought our mouths were going to just melt off our faces it was so dang good. The wine opened up with the rich flavors to reveal it's complex headiness and we loved every sip. Sincere thanks to Patrick and Christina at Jessup for helping us with our tastings and purchase- not only were they knowledgeable, we enjoyed every minute of chatting with them!


    Grilled Steak with Blue Cheese Sauce
    Adapted from Epicurious.com
    • 1 lb. Good Quality Beef Fillet (Sorry- I never buy beef and forget what the cut was. All I remember is it was about 1.5" thick and it was plenty for 2 of us.)
    • Kosher Salt & Black Pepper
    • Olive Oil
    • 3 Tbsp. Butter
    • 2-3 Cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 Small Onion, chopped
    • 1/2 C. Sliced Mushrooms
    • 1/2 C. Beef Broth
    • 1/4 C. Brandy or Port
    • Heavy Dash Dried Rosemary
    • 1/2 - 1 C. Crumbled Blue Cheese (actual amount depends on your tastes- you can start with less and adjust it to add more)
    • Extra Blue Cheese for garnish

    1. Heat your grill to medium heat.
    2. Season the fillets with ample salt and pepper rubbed into the meat. Drizzle with a little olive oil and let rest for 20-30 minutes.
    3. When grill is good and hot, cook the steak to desired doneness. Hubby took care of this part as steak is not my specialty. Due to the thickness, it probably took about 20 minutes to get it to medium/ medium-rare.
    4. While the meat cooks, melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat.
    5. Add in the onion and garlic, sautéing until it they are just soft, about 3-4 minutes.
    6. Add in the mushrooms and continue to cook until they are soft and begin to loose their moisture, about 4 minutes.
    7. Pour in the broth, booze, and rosemary. Increase heat to high to bring mixture to a boil. It should reduce by about half.
    8. Stir in the blue cheese, adding in increments if desired, and stir until the cheese melts. Season with salt and pepper if desired.
    9. When steak is cooked, let it rest for 5-10 minutes and then serve with sauce drizzled on top and a sprinkle of extra blue cheese. Enjoy with a full bodied red wine for a divine dinner!

    Reliving Napa: Part II- Roasted Duck with Ginger Blueberry Chutney

    I recently posted a delicious creamy polenta dish that was from a fantastic dinner hubby and I had on our San Francisco vacation in May. We had gone to Restaurant Pearl in Napa, CA and I truly thought it was the best meal of the trip. Did I mention it wasn't the most expensive either? God I love that- good, uncomplicated food that doesn't cost an arm and a leg and had a friendly, down home feel.

    The polenta was definitely the less daunting of the 2 dishes we had. The dinner I had ordered, Fragrant Roast Duck with Pear and Ginger Chutney, had 2 things that were new to me- duck and a chutney. I looked up chutneys- they seemed simple enough with some cooked fruit and spices. One intimidating item down!

    I then set out to locate some duck. After seeing no duck at my regular grocery store, I figured the local Whole Foods would have the duck breasts that I needed since they have a fantastic meat selection. Wrong! I get there only to find the two options available are these breast slices that were like ham-steaks or a whole duck. The slices weren't going to be enough and were already cooked- no good. That left the whole duck. Figuring it couldn’t be that much different than a chicken, that's what I got.

    Did you know that ducks are fatty little buggers? I mean, seriously! The roasting took far longer than I anticipated and I literally sucked off about 2 cups of fat from the roasting pan while it cooked away- and it was far from dry when served! Luckily I had purchased the whole duck as my silly husband informed me last minute that my father-in-law was joining us. There was plenty for all! And my father-in-law enjoyed snacking on the various loose organs that I pulled out of the cavity and he then sautéed up!

    The end result was delicious. The duck was rich and moist, and the chutney- that I substituted blueberries for the original cranberries- was tangy, sweet, and spicy. Served with roasted potatoes, the dinner was a gourmet hit!


    Roasted Duck

    • 1 Whole Duck, organs removed, rinsed, and patted dry
    • Salt & Pepper
    • 2-4 Cloves of Garlic, partially crushed
    • 1/4 - 1/2 C. Blueberry-Pear Chutney (see recipe below)

    1. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
    2. Place the duck in a large roasting pan, preferably up off the bottom in a roasting rack. You will want to line your roasting pan well with foil as duck is VERY fatty and will dribble an excessive amount of oil while cooking. I’m sure there is a side that you should face up (the breasts?) but I seriously can never figure out which way is up, so I'm not going to try to tell you how to do it!
    3. Gently pierce the skin all over. This will help drain the fat.
    4. Insert the garlic cloves into the cavity. Drizzle the chutney over the skin and pour 2-3 Tbsp. into the cavity as well. Use your hand to rub the chutney around the skin evenly.
    5. Roast uncovered in the oven until the internal temperature of the thigh is 180 degrees. This can take up to 2 hours for a 4-5 lbs. bird. (The juices are not supposed to be pink when it is cooked, however we cooked our 4 pounder for about 1.5-2 hours and I swear the juices were still almost red. We ate it anyway and seemed to have no problems.)
    6. You will want to take a look every 30-45 minutes to see about removing the pools of melted fat. Having a good heat resistant baster and a warm glass bowl/ measurer handy make this an easy task. If your skin is starts to get too brown towards the end of cooking, cover it loosely with foil.
    7. When the bird is cooked, remove it from the oven to rest. If you haven't already covered it with foil, now is a good time to do so to keep it warm. Let the meat rest for 15-20 minutes before carving.
    8. Serve with a drizzle of chutney over it, or in a pool on the side for dipping.



    Blueberry, Pear, and Gingered Chutney
    Loosely adapted from Epicurious.com
    • 1/4 C. Cider Vinegar
    • 2/3 C. Onion, finely chopped
    • 1 tsp. Ground Ginger
    • 1 tsp. Ground Mustard
    • 1/2 tsp. Red Pepper Flakes
    • 2 tsp. Lemon Juice
    • 1/4 C. Raisins
    • 1 C. Blueberries, frozen or fresh
    • 2 Bosc Pears, peeled, cored, and diced
    • 1/4 C. Brown Sugar
    • Salt & Pepper to taste

    1. In a small saucepan, heat the vinegar over medium heat.
    2. Add in the onion and spices. The mixture should boil and cook the onions until they are soft and the liquid has reduced some.
    3. Stir in the lemon juice, berries, raisins, pear, and sugar while increasing the heat to medium-high. Boil the chutney while stirring often. The berries and pear will start to break down into a smoother (though not entirely smooth) consistency.
    4. Continue to boil until it thickens up. Taste for heat and sweetness. Add black pepper, cayenne, or red pepper flakes for more heat. If it becomes too thick, either water or vinegar can be added.
    5. Keep warm either on low heat or with a lid. Serve warm with poultry or even pork.

    Thursday, July 10, 2008

    Reliving Napa: Creamy Polenta

    Adam and I took a week long trip to San Francisco and Napa at the end of May for a much needed vacation. When choosing any destination to visit, we must have two things- beautiful free things to see including nature and architecture AND delicious food! Italy had been our first choice- too pricey. San Francisco was a wonderful runner up. You just can't go wrong with so many cultures blending in one lovely progressive area!

    The highlight of the culinary adventure (which is hard to identify with all the great things we ate) was in Napa at a place called The Restaurant Pearl. We both just had excellent meals- simple in their ingredients, excellent in their execution.

    When I returned home, I wanted to relive a little piece of that California experience, so of course I went to the kitchen! I figured Adam's dish was the easier of the two to try- Soft Polenta with seasonal veggies and roasted tomato sauce.

    This was my first time making polenta from scratch. Wow, so simple! With the addition of fresh vegetables and a spicy prepared tomato sauce, this dinner was healthy, flavorful, and hearty. Polenta is going to show up in the line up more often I thnk!


    Creamy Polenta with Veg and Sauce
    Inspired by The Restaurant Pearl

    • 1 C. Cornmeal
    • 3 C. Water
    • 2-4 Tbsp. Heavy Cream
    • 1-2 C. Spicy Tomato Sauce (homemade or jarred)
    • 2 Carrots, sliced into long discs
    • 1 Zucchini, sliced
    • Handful Asparagus, chopped into 3" pieces
    • 1 Summer Squash, sliced


    1. In a medium saucepan, heat water to boiling. Stir in the cornmeal and continue to let boil over medium heat. Stir the meal regularly to prevent sticking, burning, and uneven cooking.
    2. The polenta should thicken up to a thick but not solid state. You want to be able to stir it, although the spoon should not just slide right through- it should resist a little. Add more water or cornmeal as you see fit.
    3. When cooked, stir in the desired amount of cream until it is a consistant thickness and delicious! Add salt and pepper to taste if desired.
    4. While the polenta cooks, steam the veggies until just tender. You will want them cooked through, but still with a little bite to them. I believe I started the carrots in first, then the asparagus, then the squashes. It only took a few minutes to cook them all.
    5. Just before you are ready to serve, heat a couple of cups or so of sauce in a small saucepan.
    6. To serve, place a large helping of polenta in the center of your bowl. Pour a small amount of sauce around the edges of the polenta and pile the veggies on top. Eat each bite with a nice mix of all the flavors together!

    Wednesday, July 9, 2008

    Lemon Meringue Pie to View- Not so much to Eat

    A few weeks ago I wanted to try something new- something sweet, something summery, something challenging. With a bunch of lemons in the house, I thought lemon meringue pie would be the perfect solution. The custard AND the meringue would be a new experience for me, and I had a graham cracker crust just waiting for a purpose in the fridge. Oh, but it was not to be such a perfect endeavor boys and girls...

    I pulled out good ol' Betty Crocker- she seemed to have the right idea on how to make a classic pie. The best part of lemon meringue pie is how efficient it is with ingredients- 3 egg yolks for the custard, and 3 egg whites for the meringue- love it! I started off with the custard- it seemed perfect!

    Then I started on the egg whites and sugar and tartar. In go the ingredients and the Kitchen Aid was on full whip... for 10 minutes... with no results. What the heck is going on here? {grumble grumble} After checking back with Betty, I read in the tips that "Make certain no yolk gets into the whites, as even a speck of yolk or grease will prevent whites from beating properly." Hm. So, the shell and yolk I accidentally dropped in there is screwing things up? Dammit. Unfortunately I needed to crack 3 more eggs, but the good news is this time it worked!

    I assemble the pie. I bake the pie. I remove the pie. Oh, she is a beauty to behold- perfectly browned meringue, lovely lemon scent, and well toasted crust. So I chill the silly thing for a few hours in the fridge. I cut into it. Hm. Again. The meringue- gorgeous. The custard? Oozing EVERYWHERE! No setting up to be found. I figure it needs to chill longer.

    Well, let me tell you, there was no setting to really be had. Although the custard got a little firmer over the next few days, unfortunately a great deal of liquid seeped out from somewhere and made the crust quite soggy. The flavor really was fantastic- but the texture was a disaster. I think I'd reduce the water and chill it way longer next time.

    Hope you enjoy the visuals, if nothing else!


    Lovely!


    Hm.Not so lovely.

    Lemon Meringue Pie
    From Betty Crocker's New Cookbook (no modifications made)

    • Prepared Graham Cracker Crust
    • Meringue (see below)
    • 3 Large Egg Yolks
    • 1 1/2 C. Sugar
    • 1/3 C. plus 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
    • 1 1/2 C. Water
    • 3 Tbsp. Stick Butter
    • 2 tsp. Grated Lemon Peel
    • 1/2 C. Lemon Juice
    • Yellow Food Coloring

    1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2. In a small bowl, beat the yolks.
    3. In a small saucepan, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Stir in the water slowly and cook over medium heat. Keep stirring until it thickens and boils. Allow to boil for a minute or so.
    4. Immediately stir in at least half of the hot mixture into the eggs and then plop it all into saucepan again. Boil for a minute and then remove from the heat.
    5. Stir in the rest of the ingredients (not the crust and meringue of course!) and mix it up.
    6. Pour lemon filling in the crust. Then gently spoon the meringue on top, pushing it all the way to the edge of the crust. (Betty says this prevents shrinking or weeping- maybe this is where I went wrong!?)
    7. Bake for 8 to 12 minutes until the meringue is light brown.
    8. Cool, cover, and then refrigerate and cross your fingers that yours works better than mine!



    Meringue
    • 3 Large Egg Whites (NO YOLKS AT ALL!)
    • 1/4 tsp. Cream of Tartar
    • 6 Tbsp. White Sugar
    • 1/2 tsp. Vanilla Extract

    1. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar in a stand mixer or with a hand held mixer on high until it is foamy.
    2. Slowly add in the sugar in small amounts, beating heavily, until it is all added. Keep beating on high until it is "stiff and glossy." This means you need to keep going and keep going until you get a big, fluffy mess of whiteness!
    3. Beat in the vanilla and you're done!

    Happy birthday to blog!

    That's right readers, Bean's Bistro, my little corner of the web, is 1 years old!



    Ok, so it was 1 year yesterday, but as you may have noticed, I'm a little lazy on the blogging lately. I called out in my very first post that there was a distinct possibility that I would get bored with blogging shortly after starting, and honestly I'm impressed I lasted this long! A big reason is you- my dear readers. I know in the world of blogging, my readership is low, but I'm so honored that anyone wants to track the treasures and trash that I cook, and I feel an obligation to keep pushing forward.

    I promise, I've got a whole slew of delicious foods (and a few amusing stories) just waiting to hit the web- it's just so much work and it's so nice out this time of year! Yeah yeah, I know- excuses, excuses. I will put them up soon!

    I'm going to try to push out an update or two tonight, but in case I lose enthusiasm and opt for eating my frozen yogurt, then doing my nightly work for the office, and then slacking off, I'm going to put this post out for you as a way for you to know I'm still out here and eager for your attention!

    I thought a nice item for my 1 year anniversary might be the origin of my blog name. Bean's Bistro- ok, so bistro is clearly an indication this is a food related blog. Duh. But what about Bean? Was that chosen because I have a particular affinity to Mexican food or vanilla or something? Nope. Is it because I went to school outside of Boston? Not that either. In fact, it has very little to do with me, and more to do with my husband!

    So I married my high school sweetheart, though I admit I broke up with him twice and we spent a few years separated in college and beyond, which was a good thing. Way back when I was still in high school and he was off to college in Boston, I would go and visit him in the city. We'd wander around the city in a poor college kid manner, looking for free things to do. Often we'd end up at the Prudential Mall, window shopping and making fun of people.

    It was on one of these afternoon jaunts that I came to have the nickname Bean.

    We were being our usual dork selves as we rode the escalator up into the main mall area. My darling boyfriend (now husband) looks over to see the Gourmet Bean Coffee Shop on our right. He lovingly looks at me and the coffee fiend that he is, says "Baby, I love you almost as much as coffee." Sweet, huh? He then says, "You're my little Gourmet Bean!"


    Well, we had a good long laugh over that oh so romantic comparison to the caffeinated beverage of choice and it kind of stuck. Over the years it was shortened to G-Bean and then just Bean. Now I am told, again by my husband, that I am very "beanular"- as in my toes and nose and head and cheeks are round like beans, thus solidiying the nickname for all eternity.

    And that's my story. And my blog- Bean's Bistro. Thanks for reading- it really means a lot to me.

    Sunday, June 29, 2008

    Homegrown Gourmet 9 - Celtics Win!

    Homegrown Gourmet, my precious little blogging event, is celebrating round 9 with a delightful theme of PASTA! Fabulous!



    My friend Megan at Joy Through Cooking is hosting this round. I was really excited at the idea of basing a recipe on pasta- we eat lots of spaghetti and ziti and all that great stuff.

    But as I got thinking about it more, well, what the heck is a New England pasta recipe!? I mean, sure, my husband and I have our favorite restaurant in the North End of Boston, but that's just Italian. And my Italian grandmother makes stuffed shells for many holiday meals, but what's so special about that?

    There was always lobster ravioli, but I am not fan of dealing with ravioli and lobster isn't on the top of my list. My mom always made American Chop Suey but I also always hated it. What to do, what to make?

    Then it hit me... I wanted to celebrate the Boston Celtics recent NBA Championship win with a gorgeous green and white dish! Adam and I hadn't made fresh pasta in ages, so a lovely batch of spinach pasta was whipped up. Then to top it, I chose a very New England choice of a white clam sauce.

    I've got to say, this was delicious. Adam thought the sauce was buttery (only 3 Tbsp!)and flavorful, and I thought it was tender and just the right amount of seafood. We devoured the entire batch in one night and I thought it was a great tribute and a fun Homegrown Gourmet entry!


    Champion Celtics Spinach Pasta with White Clam Sauce
    Spinach Pasta based on MangiaBenePasta.com
    • 1+ C. Fresh Spinach
    • 1 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    • 2 Eggs
    • 2 C. Flour
    • 1/2 tsp. Salt
    • 1 Tbsp. Warm Water

    1. Bring a few cups of water to a boil in a small pot. While the water heats up, remove any stems from the spinach leaves, leaving just the smooth flesh.
    2. Blanch the spinach in the boiling water for just 1-3 minutes, until it is bright green.
    3. Quickly remove the spinach from the water with a slotted spoon or similar utensil and rinse it with cold water.
    4. Squeeze the spinach in your hands, getting as much moisture out as possible. I also gave it a quick run through a paper towel. You should have about a 1/2 cup of cooked spinach in that mushy ball.
    5. Put the spinach in a food processor with the olive oil and puree into a smooth consistency. Add in the two eggs and blend it up again.
    6. Now here is where I wish I had gone with my gut instead of the instructions. The original recipe calls for you to add the salt and flour into the food processor to work the dough. I put in the salt and some flour and mostly ended up with a gooey mess. My processor wasn't big enough for all the flour, so I had to attempt to get the dough out and then work in the remaining flour- what a pain! When I do this again, I will mound up the flour on a clean surface and make a bowl in the center of the flour. I will pour in the egg mixture and slowly work it into the flour to make the dough. Or I'll just use my Kitchen Aid stand mixer.
    7. Regardless, you need to work in the flour gradually to form a solid ball of dough. Knead the dough until it is firm, yet springs back to the touch. I let my dough rest for 30 minutes only to start extruding it from the machine to find it was way too soft. We added more flour (getting up to 2 cups total) and then went right into making the pasta. If your dough is too dry, use little splashes of the warm water until the dough softens up.
    8. Use your Kitchen Aid pasta attachment or other pasta maker to form the fettuccine. Let it sit, separated, and dry for 10-15 minutes.
    9. Get a large pot of water boiling. Cook the fresh pasta for 3-5 minutes until it is just al dente. Drain and serve topped liberally with clam sauce below.


    White Clam Sauce based on AllRecipes.com
    • 3 Tbsp. Butter
    • 3 Tbsp. Olive Oil
    • 1 Small Onion, chopped
    • 3 Large Garlic Cloves, minced
    • 1/2+ C. White Wine
    • 2 (6.5 ounce) Cans Chopped Clams, with Juice

    1. In a small saucepan, heat the butter and oil over medium-high heat.
    2. Saute the onions and garlic until translucent and delicious smelling!
    3. Pour in the white wine and simmer until reduced by about half.
    4. Pour in the clams with all the juice and continue to simmer, until slightly reduced. Serve hot over pasta.

    Thursday, June 26, 2008

    Eat to the Beat II: Purple Rain

    Eat to the Beat is back!



    You remember, right? The event that challenges food bloggers to make a recipe inspired by a song? I'm psyched it is back, but I had kind of hoped we'd have some constraints this time. However it is another open free for all, so I went with an idea I came up with after last round. Something 80's inspired...

    I'm more of a 90's alternative or pop or jazz or classical or techno girl- 80's are not my style. Last round I went with the alternative angle with Hell cupcakes. They were fun to make and I loved that I had to challenge myself and got to be really creative.

    So like I said, this time I went to the 80's for inspiration, specifically, Prince. I'm not a big fan of 80's music, and Prince is right up there in things I generally dislike. But thinking about his song "When Doves Cry" I found an idea.

    Chorus:
    How can you just leave me standing?
    Alone in a world that's so cold?
    Maybe I'm just too demanding;
    Maybe I'm just like my father- too bold.

    Maybe you're just like my mother,
    She's never satisfied.
    Why do we scream at each other?
    This is what it sounds like
    When doves cry.


    The idea of doves with a bold flavor, or maybe salty like tears,- sounded good. I looked through a cookbook I have called Perfect Chicken Dishes and found something perfect! It called for Cornish hens- doves? It called for a unique stuffing- bold? And it had port and grapes- purple! Perfect!

    My submission for Elly's Eat to the Beat Summer '08 is below! I hope I made that weird little rocker man proud!


    When Doves Cry Cornish Hens with Port Sauce & Grapes
    Modified from Perfect Chicken Dishes
    • 2 Cornish Hens
    • 1/2 C. Chicken Broth
    • 1-2 Tbsp. Kosher Salt and Black Pepper
    • 1/2+ C. Port
    • 1 C. Purple Grapes
    • 1-2 Tbsp. Butter
    • 2/3 C. Chicken Broth
    • 1 Tbsp. Cornstarch
    • 2 Tbsp. Water
    • 1/4 C. Heavy Cream
    • 1 C. Couscous
    • Toasted Almond Slices
    • Chili Powder

    1. Prepare the Cornish hens to be roasted in a slow cooker; remove innards, rinse and pat dry the skin, and rub in the salt and pepper on the skin and in the cavity.
    2. Place Cornish hens in the crockpot with the 1/2 cup of broth. Cook on low heat for about 6-7 hours until tender and cooked through.
    3. 30 minutes before the chicken is ready to come out, heat the port on medium heat to a low simmer in a small pot. (That's a lot of size adjectives, huh?!) Simmer it down to a little more than half.
    4. Place the grapes in the pot and stir them around to coat with the port reduction and to soften a little. After 2-3 minutes, remove the grapes with a slotted spoon and set aside.
    5. Add the butter to the sauce and melt. Slowly add in the chicken broth, stirring continually. You will want the heat to remain on medium and the mixture to keep simmering. Boil until it is reduced by about half.
    6. Mix together the cornstarch and water in a tiny bowl until smooth. While the sauce boils, slowly drizzle in the cornstarch mixture and stir. This will thicken the sauce up.
    7. Turn the heat down to low and blend in the cream until the mixture is smooth and rich!
    8. As you are finishing the sauce, boil 1 cup of water for the couscous. The couscous gets added to the boiling water, is covered and removed from the heat. It is cooked after about 5 minutes. You can then add the chili powder and almonds. Truthfully, my side dish was the weakest part of the meal, and you should make whatever you think is appropriate!
    9. Serve the hens on a pool of sauce, with the grapes and couscous (or whatever) on the side. I also added some steamed broccoli to finish off the plate.


    Keep on rockin' on in the kitchen all! And Eat to the Beat!