Friday Fare

28 02 2009


As I’ve read through the blogs of some of my fellow Wednesday-Whiskers, I’ve noticed several of them also participate in Tuesdays with Dorie (Greenspan) and Fridays with (Tyler) Florence.  I simply cannot bake yummy goodies every week.  There are only 2 of us.  Neither of us need full recipes of yummies tempting us, so that’s out…but I sure do love to read the posts!  Once in awhile, I’ll add one of her desserts to the week, but…I just can’t do it every week.  And now, I’ve noticed Tyler Fridays…oh my.  A little less formal…darn tasty looking Friday foods…  The only problem was that I’m totally out of the Tyler Florence loop.  I know he’s part of the FN group, but I’ve never seen his show and never read one of his cookbooks…hadn’t even thumbed through one…  Still, the ladies were happy with their fabulous looking dishes, so…why not?  I ordered a book.   You know that song…. “Just one look….”  That was it.  A few pages in, and I was totally smitten and ready to COOK!!

I’ve also been trying to get my act together to participate in The Leftover Queen’s Royal Foodie Joust.  I like the idea of working with a set group of ingredients as a challenge.  I wanted to participate in Paper Chef too…but calves liver isn’t going to happen in my world.  I was extremely excited to see the ingredients for the March 1st Joust… Satsumas, shallots and edible flowers.  Interesting…that leaves the protein out there and up to one’s imagination! Yes!!

So…this is a double post.  It’s my first Foodie Joust and my first Tyler Florence Friday post at the same time.  However…I didn’t follow Tyler’s recipe completely.  I subbed out a couple minor characters and added a couple to suit myself.  The end result, however, came out fabulously.

Our cast of characters:


Fresh satsumas…which are grown here.  Those mandarin orange segments were hand-peeled, and while it was time consuming and a little messy, it went a lot easier than I expected.  A pair of either cuticle scissors or embroidery scissors would have made the task a little neater.  I cut along the core edge of the segment (of the already peeled mandarin) and peeled back the membrane.  The membrane pulled off the outer (peel) edge much easier than I anticipated.  That little task wasn’t half bad!  The shallot is obvious…I sliced it into very thin rings to garnish the salad, and minced about a teaspoon for the vinaigrette.  The edible flowers I chose are fresh rosemary blossoms. They had a lovely lavendar color to go with the light purple of the shallots.  The flavor of the rosemary came through as another layer of flavor in this dish.

Seared Tuna with Chinese Salad and Ginger-Soy Viniagrette


3 T low sodium soy sauce
Juice of 1 lime (I used juice of 1 mandarin)
Splash of rice vinegar
2 t fresh grated ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced (my addition)
1 t shallot, minced (my addition)
4 t Chinese Mustard (I used 1 T honey
1/3 c canola oil
1 T sesame oil (I used toasted sesame oil)
Freshly ground black pepper

1/2 head Chinese cabbage (I used napa)
1 bunch watercress, torn (I omitted)
1/4 c chopped cilantro
1 hothouse cucumber, thinly sliced (I only used half of one)
2 green onions, sliced diagonally (I used 1, and half a large shallot, thinly sliced and separated into rings)
2 radishes, thinly sliced (oops…forgot those!)
1 carrot, thinly sliced
1/4 c radish sprouts (I used 1/2 cup mixed tiny sprouts that included radish and broccoli-sprouted at home)
1/4 c slivered almonds, toasted
1/2 c mandarin orange segments, drained (used fresh, no draining)
1/4 c rosemary blossoms (my addition)

2 sushi quality ahi steaks (6-8 oz.)  (I only used 1)
2 T sesame oil
Sea salt and white pepper to taste
1/2 c sesame seeds
1 T canola oil

Here’s the end result, plated…


We truly enjoyed this meal.  It was a great Friday night, dinner for 2 salad.  We hate to rush Friday evenings, but…we don’t care to eat anything heavy late in the evening either.  This was a perfect way to end the week.  We had the lovely ahi steak,  quickly seared, just enough to form a sesame crust, and loads of flavorful crunch in the salad.  The mandarin was a fabulous touch.  It worked well in the dressing as well.  The shallot provided the same slightly warm crunchiness that radishes would have.  I wondered if the rosemary was going to overpower the other flavors, but the blossoms didn’t carry quite as much punch as leaves do, and they blended in exceptionally with the cilantro and sesame flavors.  I’d do this again in a heart-beat!  Next time I think I’d like to add some white wines to see what goes well with this.  My first instinct is to pair it with a Reisling.  But then…sake comes to mind.  Hmmm…what about a Chardonnay?  Too buttery?  We’ll have to see next time!


Whisk Wednesdays Winter Gift Exchange

28 02 2009

One of our group suggested we do a gift exchange to help pass the Winter.  What a great idea!  We found we were spread all over North America…wow!  I think everyone decided to participate, so little packages have been flying about for the past month.  My package is currently winging it’s way to…… in ……..  I can’t tell you….it’s a surprise!!

In the meanwhile…my package from ……….. has arrived!  Woo-hooo!!  What special gifts I received!  And how incredibly appropriate too!  See?


There was a gift bag from the Le Cordon Bleu Boutique.  I’ve never heard of such a place!! Oh how FUN!!!  Here’s what was in the bag…a LCB apron, and LCB tea towels.  They’re sparkling white with the blue LCB logos.  Thank you so much!!  We also found boxes of silicone muffin cups…regular and mini sizes. I didn’t have any yet, so I can hardly wait to try these out!  There’s also a liquid measure…looks like a great tool! And a silicone spatula…who can have too many of those?  This one is curved….love it!  My sender sent a couple of clues along…regional food treats…Honey Tarragon mustard (yumm!) and a can (how interesting!!) of pure maple syrup!  She also included a recipe for a Big Pancake…a favorite at their house.  Thanks so much!!  I’ve never made one, but I’ll have to give it a try!  Now, there’s no way that _____ could know that I stick small recipe cards to my fridge with magnets while I’m cooking, but there’s a magnet from LCB to help me out with that!  How fun!! I love it!!  And last, but certainly not least, is a little whisk.  Who could ask for a better gift??  Thank you soooooo much!!  I love every single thing and can’t wait to get back into the kitchen this weekend!!   *BIG hugs**

3/5/2009 ~

Finally…All the packages have arrived and I can thank SHARI (now how COOL is that???) for all the lovely gifts…especially the items from LCB!  I’m so enchanted!!  But, I’m betting I use the little 1/4 cup measure most.  It just has that sweet feel to it!  Shari, everything is so fabulous!  I can hardly wait to try out the little silicone muffin cups! I’ve put the silicone spatula to work already.  I have 2…flat ones.  This is my first curved…LOVE it!!  I’ll cherish the apron and towels…how special!!  The magnet has jumped to the front of the refrigerator!  I’m saving the maple syrup…canned…what a CONCEPT!  I love the tarragon-honey mustard!  I’m hunting for just the right sausage for that!!  I’m looking forward to the next rainy Saturday so I can fix the BIG Pancake!  I’ve never made anything like it…but it sounds marvelous!  And a whisk…LOL!  How appropriate!  Thank you SOOOOO much for my lovely gifts!  It really made my day!

For the love of wine tasting

15 02 2009

Once a month we have a reservation at Checkers, a little bistro that promotes young adults in the work-place.  Checkers is a training facility for food service workers.  Checkers is also one of Butte County’s best kept dining secrets.  The food is slightly skewed to Italian bistro, and they’re only open a few nights a week (however, Tues. through Fri. for the best lunch and lunch value in town), and they hold a reservations-only wine tasting-pairing each month. We started attending 2 years ago, on Valentine’s Day…one of their better and more-attended occasions.

The theme for this month’s wine tasting was, “For the love of wine tasting.”   And since most folks seem to love the reds, we had a majority of reds.  Each wine is paired with a small plate course orchestrated to bring out either qualities of the wine or qualities of the food, or both.  To see full size images, please click on the thumbnail image.

roastedbeetsaladWe began with a Sonoma Brut from the Gloria Ferrer Vineyards, paired with a roasted beet salad.  By itself, the wine was nicely dry with notes of almond.  Although said to have citrusy notes as well, I didn’t catch that so much.  The salad was pairs of roasted beets, golden and red, chilled, adorned with micro-greens and an herb dressing with crumbled cheese, perhaps feta?  The amount was so small it was hard to place the taste.  The red beets were sweet, but didn’t have the roasting-intensified flavor I anticipated.  All in all though, a nice starter; very light and cheerful.  A table partner didn’t care for the golden beets.  They felt there was an earthiness in the golden beets that almost tasted dirty.  Interesting.

crabgratineeNext up was a Williamette Valley Pinot Noir (2006) from the Argyle Winery, paired with a crab gratinee.  The description of the wine on our program was full of alliteration, but the upshot was the wine was full of fruitiness and aroma.  At first taste, it was indeed fruity-plum and cherry, but a bit acid as well.  The wine paired very well with the crab gratinee, which I really wanted to like.  For the most part, I love crab.  And ’tis the season of Dungeness.  But I just couldn’t get past the nose of the dish…it smelled fishy, and I can’t eat fishy smelling anything.  So I had another deep sip of wine…and its flavor had changed!  The herbs and crabby taste rounded out the edges of the wine so it was more full, more fruity, almost like jam.  I managed to eat half of the crab fiasco, because it made the wine so wonderful!

halibutharissaOur next dish was grilled halibut with a grilled red pepper harissa, paired with a Nebbiolo (2004) from the Caparone Winery.  When I see the word “camphor” I don’t exactly think of wine.  You know? I think of, well, medicine…tinctures…smelly stuff I’d never think of drinking.  So, when the term “aromas of camphor” was used to describe the wine we were about to sample, let’s just say it didn’t warm me to the soles of my feet.  It did, however, chill my heart.  Toward the end of the tasting notes there was mention that this wine could easily age 25 years…does that mean they’re still waiting to see if it gets any better??  Needless to say, this was not my favorite of the evening.  Most of us at the table agreed.  We all agreed, as well, that it became tolerable paired with the spicy harissa sauce.  The halibut was without flavor. It was dry on the outside, but moist inside, yet had no flavor.  It got all it’s flavor from the harissa…coriander, caraway and fire!

chcknchrizo_rojo1On to our next dish…Basque chicken with chorizo and a Juan Rojo Toro (2004) .  This was sure to be a better combination than that which preceded it!  And it was.  The Rojo Toro was delightful by itself.  It was full-bodied and fruity without being sweet.  It paired nicely with the chicken and chorizo.  The chicken and chorizo was a little sad though.  The chicken tasted as though it had been cooked separate of the other components, so although properly done and moist, it was bereft of all the layers of flavor that should have been throughout the meat.   Peppers, onion, mushrooms, artichoke hearts, Spanish chorizo…basil, thyme…as you can see, the chorizo was cut into serving size hunks, so it wasn’t able to give of its spicy flavor while accepting the sweet tomato juices. The artichoke looks like an after-thought here, rather than a member of the cast.  A piece of chicken, stacked with a bit of chorizo, dredged through sauce, and this was quite good.  The Rojo stole the whole show though.

porktenderloinpolentaRounding out the savory dishes for this evening was sliced pork tenderloin with a cheesy polenta, paired with a 2006 Weingut Allram Blauer Zweigelt.  Described as a “fruity red” this wine was pressed from blue cold-weather grapes in combination.  It did have a rich berry aroma and flavor, and paired excellently with the lovely pork tenderloin, served simply au jus with chopped red pepper and a dollop of cheesy polenta.  Although I didn’t care for the polenta in the least, the pork tenderloin was roasted to perfection.  Toward the end of the glass, I was able to pick up some chocolate-cherry notes in the wine.  Priced at $11.99 this is a lovely little find.

chocrasp_portConcluding the evening, we have a Lodge Reserve Port from Smith Woodhouse, paired with a molten chocolate cake with sugar-coated raspberries.  Silly me…I was thinking molten as in thick, gooey, semi-liquid…and sugar, as in granulated, coated raspberries.  That would be a be a “no” on both counts.  The chocolate cakelet was very tasty, however.  It paired wonderfully with the port.  And I usually don’t care a lot for port.  This was yummy though.  Bruce decided it was too rich for him, so I shared his piece with another tablemate…his was semi-liquid, and just the way I’d imagined…and the port was still good!

Next month I believe we’re off to another region of Italy.  I didn’t quite catch it when it was announced.  I did get reservations for next month though.  *Ü*  And I have plans of partaking in a Greek cooking class…now doesn’t that just sound like fun??

Perfect Shrimp…every time

8 02 2009


Everyone needs a solid standard recipe for pre-cooking shrimp for appetizers and other quick-fix meals.  This is my all-time standby.  I found it in a regional cookbook about 20 years ago.  It comes from the Favorite Seafood Recipes by the Noyo Women for Fisheries, Fort Bragg, CA.   They don’t suggest their recipes are “original” just their favorites.  Out of all my cookbooks, this is one recipe committed to memory!

Perfect Shrimp

Peel and devein the quantity of shrimp you need.  Or, if you want to make “peel and eat” shrimp, just devein them.

In a deep, heavy pan, heat the amount of salted water it will take to cover the shrimp completely.  Add any flavorings to the water that you desire (shrimp or crab boil, lemon, etc.).  When the water is boiling briskly, turn off the heat and add the shrimp, stirring once to circulate.  Put the lid on and set aside.  Leave small shrimp 3-4 minutes, large shrimp about 6 minutes.  Drain completely and submerge in an icy water bath to stop the cooking process.

Shrimp prepared this way may be kept, tightly covered in the refrigerator up to a week.  They may be eaten as it, marinated, used in a salad, crepes, etc.   They’ll never be mealy or dry prepared this way.

This particular batch had 1 tbsp. of pickling spice added, with extra crushed red peppers for a little extra zing.  We ate the first half of the batch with just lemon and cocktail sauce…and we were very happy with them.  I’m not sure what I’ll do with these, but I’ll bet they get eaten today sometime!

Class 21 – Tilapia aux almandes

6 02 2009

It’s already been established that my trout escapade didn’t go well.  Still, I wanted to try the recipe, so I selected another fish.  Tilapia.  Although the fish are not the least bit alike, tilapia fillets were available.  There are few fish available whole here.  Fewer yet that are pan size, unless you happen to fish for yourself.  Tilapia is one of my favorites.  It’s mild.  Doesn’t smell or taste fishy (when properly cared for)…

Following the recipe from LCB, I seasoned the fish, dredged them in flour and cooked them in hot olive oil and butter.  Actually, all the dishes in this meal were cooked in the same pan.  The rice was fried with garlic, green onions and scrambled egg, then seasoned with soy sauce and toasted sesame oil.  It was scooped off into a bowl, the pan rinsed, and then we sauteed the asparagus.  The asparagus was cut on an angle, at one inch intervals, with the tips set aside.  Using only olive oil, the asparagus stem pieces were flipped and tossed with a bit of salt, until almost crisp tender.  Then, the tips were added, and the cooking continued until the asparagus had a great crunch, but was juicy inside.  The asparagus was poured off to a shallow dish while the fish cooked.


We paired this with a Beaulieu Vineyards Riesling.  I don’t know where I saw to pair either tilapia, or the trout almondine with a riesling, but it did go well.  We had a great deal of fun tasting the wine with the different dishes to see how the taste changed.  Tasted behind the almonds, the riesling tasted a bit acid, a tad sweet and had a bright flavor.  Tasted behind the rice, the wine was much more acidic which wasn’t bad, but not at all as exciting as behind the almonds.  Alone, the riesling is a bit sweet, a bit dry, a bit acidic, a bit fruity.   A complete and total change in flavor was discovered when we tasted the riesling behind the asparagus.  It became velvety smooth and rich with almost buttery sweetness and fruit.  It was such an incredible difference!  The BV Riesling was find, but I still prefer the Chateau Ste. Michelle, WA Riesling.

I think that catches me up to the point where I’m totally backwards.  Oxymoronic?  More than likely.
Until the next time….

Class 21-Basa-swai en papillotte

6 02 2009

Actually, this week’s dish was Bar à la Normande, or Sea Bass Normandy which is sea bass with mushrooms and cream.  However, we were chatting about our “en papillotte” recipe for next week, and discussing which fish would substitute well for what we couldn’t locate locally.  We’re so wide-spread that item availability is a laughable subject.  I’m still hunting the elusive veal bones.  Back to the story at hand, I completely neglected to look at the schedule and double check.  I happily did up a fish I was unfamiliar with (this class is encouraging us to try new varieties and do some cutting) in a foil pouch according to a recipe from LCB Complete.  Then I started reading other members posts about their dishes…but they all cooked something different than I did…  Aw…PIFFLE!  I cooked the wrong dish!!  So…here’s a sneak peek at next week’s “en papillotte” dish.  Next week I’ll be doing the rewind.  I’ll get this schedule thing one of these days! LOL!!

Basa-swai…  It may be sold as basa, swai, or perhaps even tra.  Basa has been raised in cages in the Mekong River in Cambodia and Vietnam for decades, thereby proving its value as a sustainable fish.  A white, tender, mild-flavored fish, it is similar to catfish and often referred to as Vietnamese Catfish, yet it’s not of the same species as catfish.


The recipe I followed called for a quantity of fresh thinly sliced fennel to be sauteed in butter for 25 minutes.  While that was going on, we needed to cut a teardrop shaped from folded parchment or foil.  I chose foil this time.


The recipe called for the raw sea bass to be placed on top of a few fresh basil leaves, then topped with the fennel.  I did it in reverse.  I wanted to see the fresh basil sprig on top of the fish.  As I gathered the basil, I wondered how many of my classmates were picking fresh basil…in their living room?


Next, we fold up the edges to create a tightly sealed foil (or parchment) pouch.  This is quite similar to what I do when we’re camping.  I fill foil pouches with vegetables, seasonings, and a protein –  usually chicken or fish – and grill them.  If you do apply this technique over a barbecue grill or fire, double up the foil and make sure it’s the heavy duty stuff.


I found the cooking time was off a little for me.  Maybe it was because I folded the fillets in half.  It took easily twice as long as the recipe called for.  No big deal…we just sealed it back up and popped it back into the oven.


The aroma that came out of this little packet when it was opened was fabulous!  Oh my gosh.  I can’t wait to play with this some more!  I can think of all kinds of applications to do this with!  We had green and white plates.  I decided that Jasmine rice would be a lovely, additionally aromatic contrast with the fennel and basil.  Echoes of Thai…


We really enjoyed this dish.  The liquid in the cooking pouch was wonderful with the rice.  The fennel was really nice too.  We’d never used it on it’s own as a veggie…what a lovely touch!  The jasmine rice added it’s own notes and complemented the aromas of the fish and aromatic seasonings.  As I’ve already said, I’m interested in seeing what else I can do “en papillotte!”  Until the next time…which I believe will be Tilapia aux Almandes.  After last week’s experience, I’m subbing tilapia for the trout, and that’s tonight’s dinner.  Happy whisking!

Class 21 – Fish fillets in an envelope

4 02 2009

I went and got myself all backwards.  We’ve been chattering amongst ourselves for the past week about what we could do about this particular lesson.  The book we used didn’t have this recipe, so we agreed to some options.  With all the chit-chat I didn’t even think to review the schedule.  I’m supposed to be cooking a sea bass this week.  Oops.  That didn’t happen.  Sorry about that.  So, since I cooked it, I’ll put up the post, but not tonight. It’s been a busy week at the school. I’m plum tuckered.  This recipe was perfect for someone a little on the tired side.