Whisk Wednesday ~ Roast Pork Tenderloin…on hold

31 07 2009

If you’ve followed along as I’ve whisked my Wednesdays, you’ve realized that deep inland Northern California is NOT a culinary hot-spot. And we’re there again this week. I never know when it’s going to be utterly impossible to get something totally normal. This time it was pork tenderloins and raw, uncooked shrimp. I simply could NOT get UNSEASONED pork tenderloins in town. I could get marinated ones…thanks so very much. That pretty much defeats my purpose. The same for shrimp. I could get already peeled and cooked shrimp. I could get shrimp that were in the deep, deep freeze (they have a freezer where they keep all the seafood that doesn’t sell from week to week…you kind of get the picture…), but they’re in such shape you can’t even tell what kind of shape they’re really in. So…cooking is on hold until I can shop in Chico. I tried two different days, and the story was the same and worse. Sometimes, it just doesn’t work at all. As for us, we had tuna sandwiches and take out pizza. I’ll catch it up…this one looked kind of fun!


TFF~ Tacos Carne Asada

23 07 2009

Tyler’s recipes have become a mainstay around our house as the long California nights stretch out in heatwave after heatwave.  This week Tyler Florence Fridays finds us enjoying Tacos Carne Asada with pico de gallo made with freshly picked tomatoes, ripe from the garden.

TFF-CarneAsadaTacosFlank steak has been unusually available here lately, so I’ve taken advantage of the situation. It lends itself well to being marinated and grilled quickly, making it ideal for hot weather.  Tyler’s recipe called for the meat to be marinated up to 8 hours in the “mojo” or marinade – citrus juices, spices, peppers, cilantro, garlic, vinegar and olive oil.  Shhh. The Mexican market where I live has the best Mojo Criollo…and it has exactly the SAME ingredients! I swear it has to do with the orange juice…  While the steak was cooking, I threw together the pico de gallo, using poblano rather than jalapeno. I like chile flavor, I don’t care for searing heat. I sometimes get too much heat from jalapenos.   As you can see, we also had Mexican crema, which is a thicker milder sour cream, and fresh avocado slices with our “tacos.”

This was a fabulous after-movie, hot-summer night dinner.  We also had refried beans and Mexican rice to round out our plates.  We really enjoyed it a lot.  The remaining slices of meat were diced fine and became quesadillas for lunch today.  I softened “gordita” size flour tortillas until they would fold without breaking, then folded them and set them aside.  The diced meat was tossed briefly with it’s juices in the hot pan just to bring it up to temp, them turn into a bowl.  A few tablespoons of diced onion went to the hot skillet next, then joined the meat.  A tablespoon or so of chopped fresh cilantro joined the meat party and everyone did a little do-si-do and got a kiss of lime.  I spread grated co-jack on the insides of the warm flour tortilla and folded it back up, then popped it into a well oiled hot non-stick skillet.  A flip after about 75-90 seconds, and then a useless attempt at patience.  Slide that baby home to a plate with some Pico and crema and that’s a happy lunch.  Another two-fer Tyler! Thanks bunches Dude!!  I hope Life offers you some serious chill time soon!  This…is a serious keeper recipe!

Whisk Wednesday ~ Velouté Du Barry

22 07 2009


Velouté Du Barry, Cream of Cauliflower soup thickened with cream and egg yolk.  This was pronounced a “keeper” promptly upon being served.  I think my texture varied significantly.  I didn’t strain and remove the “solids” of the soup, so my soup’s texture texture resembled cream of broccoli soup…thick and rich, but not velvety smooth. I can see that it could have been that kind of smooth if I’d sieved it properly. I tend to be frugal that way.  Once I figured out what the difference would be, I put the solids back into the soup.


This was an easy prep soup.  Since I was using canned broth, I put a small bouquet garni into the broth to simmer while I did my mise en place.  I used canned chicken broth, with leek, fresh celery, thyme, celery, and dried bay leaf, and added a splash of white wine to the broth.  That added a lot of underlying flavor to the broth.  When I was doing the mise en place, I realized I didn’t quite have enough onion on hand, so I improvised, like a good bonne femme (good wife)….I grabbed up a shallot and chopped it up to make up the difference.  I’m sure that’s within reason.  The aromatics are lightly cooked in butter with a touch of rice flour added.  The florets are simmered in the broth with the leeks and onions, all is pureed and strained, then thickened with a combination of heavy cream and egg yolk.  The soup is finished with croutons, a few parsley (or chervil) leaves and a grating of nutmeg.

Ahhh…a grating of nutmeg.  There’s an odd little story hiding here.  I’ve changed my use of herbs and spices some since beginning this cooking group. I’m now using some herbs regularly (thyme for instance) that I didn’t use much, and never used fresh in the past.  So, it didn’t surprise me much that I suddenly had a real desire to try freshly grated nutmeg.  Off to market…$9.99 a jar. Ouch.  It’s not a good time to indulge myself in a $10 whim.  My next stop was a little Mexican market…No kidding…whole nutmeg in bags 99¢.  Of course I bought it! Even the worst fresh beats ground in a jar how many years?  *grin*  I’ve since checked Penzeys, and they have reasonable priced product as well.  I have to admit…the nutmeg totally made the dish though.

Cooking Italy 3 ~ Bisteca Fiorentina

20 07 2009

Bisteca Fiorentina by any other name is Steak Florentine…a T-bone, actually preferably a big ol’ 2 pound porterhouse of the Tuscany region with virtually no seasoning…just a crack of pepper, the grill, a kiss of garlic, olive oil and sea salt and you’re good to go.  It’s the cut of meat in Italy that makes this dish…and the oil.  Here in the states…well…we’ll never see a white cut of beef.  All our beef is red, red, red.  Still, this is a tasty dish nonetheless. And it’s our dish for Cooking Italy this week.

So I want you to picture my lovely pair of 3/4 pound T-bones…grilled to perfection with nothing more than cracked pepper on them…then rubbed with fresh garlic, seasoned with fresh EVOO and sprinkled with olive oil…served with stuffed mini portobella mushrooms…  I don’t know why there’s no picture.  I thought surely there WAS a picture. I still think there IS a picture. I’m just not sure which camera we took it with, so I’m not sure which computer to look on. I’m not finding it on my computer, and I’m very organized! But…Mr. Green Jeans isn’t finding it either. Darn.  They were lovely. And tasty. And I really can’t afford to do them again right now. Darn it. LOL!  Oh well!

Not my picture

If you want to cook with us, dash on over to Spinach Tiger, Cooking Italy and drop Angela a note, then click on her link and pick up a copy of Marcella Hazan’s book and you’re good to go!  There are no hard and fast rules…we just have a good time learning together!  This is a lovely bunch of ladies…I’m sure you’ll fit in fine!  Ciao~

CTB ~ Last Chinese Chef

20 07 2009

CTB_7-8_cbwaTwice Dressed Beef Under Snow

What an interesting concept…an edible book report!  I love it!  LOL!  That’s what we do with Cook the Books, we create a dish inspired by the book we’ve read.  This one really worked for me.  A few pages in I found myself lost in a fog of imagined aromas (chicken and five spice for the most part, but with ginger and garlic wafting through on a magic carpet of braising pork).  I love good Chinese.  I found myself immediately giggling over the poached chicken…the method is one I’ve been using for years.  I had never considered (the “aha!” moment!) adding layers of flavor to the poaching liquid. Talk about DUH!

So I was inspired to think about layers of flavors…perfect little bites…each bite tasting exactly the way I want it to.  Lying atop a bed of shredded iceberg & hearts of romaine lettuce lightly dressed with a teriyaki-inspired dressing are marinated and grilled broccoli, carrots and cauliflower along with bites of very rare seared beef.  The salad greens were shredded and hand-tossed in a bowl with the dressing, then plated.  The veggies went straight from the resting plate to the salads.  A few fresh-from-the-garden cherry tomatoes were added because tomatoes go well in salads!  The meat was grilled, rested, carved, cut into bite sized pieces, dressed again and plated.  Snow, in the form of fried bean threads was added to the plates for contrast and crunch at the last moment.

The salad worked well…there were layers of texture and flavor.  The book had layers of texture and interest.  I really enjoyed it. I was a little saddened that I could script parts of it, but I’m a voracious reader, and that’s a side effect. Still, Ms. Mones captivated me with her descriptions of the food items and the layers of flavor execution.  I came up for air drooling on more than one occasion.

This is my favorite read with the group Cook The Books so far. I’ve truly enjoyed this one. I’d consider checking out some of her other works just to see if her writing style stays steady.  I’m sure she’ll come back around somewhere along the line if it does.  In the meanwhile, we have another book on the horizon, and others will surely be selected as we head into the Fall and Winter.  On my own, I’m currently reading Garlic and Sapphires by Ruth Reichl, and have the Julie Powell (Julie & Julia) book on order.

TFF ~ Grilled Corn on the Cob

16 07 2009

Nothing goes with BBQ’d ribs like corm on the cob…unless it’s Tyler Florence’s Grilled Corn on the Cob! Grilled over either hot coals, a gas grill or using a stove-top grill pan, Tyler’s recipe is out-of-this-world good.


Not only does it feed the eyes with the bright colors, it feeds the sense of smell with the slightly smoky aroma that wafts up from the grill. Lastly this recipe tantalizes the taste buds. The sauce cloaks the creamy sweet corn with more creaminess, the deep musky flavor of the chiles and the tang of lime juice. We were sorry there was only one ear of corn each this time!


The ingredients are simple…fresh corn, mayonnaise, sour cream, chile powder, parmesan cheese and fresh chives.  Our mise en place was easy to put together while the corn was grilling.  Since the corn takes about 20 minutes to cook, I started it while I was letting my ribs rest to redistribute the juices.  I used my grill pan, and everything went exactly as the recipe stated.

TFF-GrCorn2I found several versions of this recipe on-line.  Food Network has one that calls for 12 ears of corn.  That’s a lot for two people, even though I was ready with the math to reduce the recipe.  Then I ran across an article in the San Francisco Chronicle for the same dish, but in a lesser quantity…4 ears of corn.  The recipes differ by the addition of lime zest, which is not included in this recipe.  I know I’m going to fix these again, so you can be sure I’ll post an update of how the lime zest affects the outcome.  In the meanwhile, why not try this one yourself?  I wouldn’t hesitate putting this out for company either.  Treat it like Tried and True! It’s that easy and that yummy!

Cooking Italy ~ Pesto, Pasta, Potatoes, and Green Beans

16 07 2009

I love pesto. I remember my first introduction to it. Rich, sinfully rich. Neon green. Luscious. I was hooked. It was commercial. I was still hooked! It wasn’t long before that particular variety of pesto was no longer available. The really best commercial varieties rarely are. They’re too good to last for a very good reason.  They’re cost prohibitive.  I survived though.  I found an Italian cookbook so I could make pesto.  And that was my introduction to Marcella Hazan back in 1989.


We loved the pesto…it was fabulous and went together perfectly easily.  I was disappointed at the quality of the basil from the market, but that’s how it goes sometimes. I’ll keep an eye out at the farmers’ market.  The pesto developed a lovely texture and color. and mixed with the pasta perfectly, clinging to each strand of fettucini and green bean.  I gave way on making my own pasta this time. It was 103º outside which messes with the usual humidity.  I just happened to have imported Italian fettucini on hand (Great tip Angela!) so I used that.

Sadly, we didn’t care for this dish put together.  I found I liked the green beans with the pesto more than the fettucini or the potatoes.  I did find the pesto and potatoes amusing though.  We also had a caprese salad on the side, and used some of the pesto in that as well where it sang and danced admirably.  I don’t know…perhaps it’s because we’re used to having pesto with ravioli.  It’s no problem though.  The law of averages is still very much on our side.  The next time I want to give some green beans a happy face, I’m tossing on some pesto!

Cooking Italy~Tomato Bruschetta

5 07 2009

One of the marvelous things about cooking with on-line groups is the fascinating group of folks you meet!  Our new friendships made at Whisk Wednesday had an unexpected bonus…Angela of Spinach Tiger is of Italian decent, has been to Italy, and is willing to share her expertise in this cusine! And thus, Cooking Italy was born.  We’re cooking out of Marcella Hazan’s Essential Italian, and will be presenting a weekly dish.

To start us off, Angela selected Tomato Bruschetta…an Italian classic.  While the history of this dish is rooted in the Fall season, with the bread being grilled over an open outdoor grill, the recipe is equally fitting for Summer dining.  Crusty Italian bread is grilled, rubbed with garlic, seasoned with salt and pepper, then topped with tomatoes and grilled again, and served with fresh basil topping the toasted, smoky bread.  This is a perfect starter for any grilled meal.  You can set it out while you or your partner is putting the finishing touches on your supper, and they won’t mind at all if it takes a little time.

Our rendition has us still using up odds and ends of the great refrigerator debacle (see previous posts), so we used *shhhh* French bread.  Regardless of the origin of the bread, this was wonderful!   We used it in place of a salad with our grilled 4th of July supper.  Grilled chicken breast, garlic sauteed asparagus and bruschetta…mmmmmm!  We found it absolutely delightful, and can hardly wait until we have our own, fresh off the vine, tomatoes available.  We had a few very small tomatoes ready, but no big ones yet. We did have fresh from the garden herbs though. I thinned a bowl of basil starts for this dish…truly fabulous flavors!

What a great start to a new cuisine!  I’ve been reading what Ms. Hazan has to say about Italian cookery, and the similarities between Italian and French are many and varied.  I suppose that’s to be anticipated. When you look at a continental map, they’re part of the same land mass…much like two sides of the North American area, where there are a lot of similarities, yet differences depending on local availability.  But the history…oh my gosh! The Americas can’t begin to touch the history…simply because no one recorded ours! LOL!

TFF~Chicken Fajitas

2 07 2009

I really didn’ t expect to be able to do a post this week.  We’ve been nursing our refrigerator for a couple of weeks, and the situation was getting no better. Exit one; enter the next. Seamlessly. Except for the food that got thawed while the freezer wasn’t doing so well. With all the odds and ends that thawed (can’t these things happen in January or February when it’s COLD?) we haven’t had a lot of choice about what’s for dinner. This time…things worked out perfectly.

I was surfing the web earlier that evening, and noticed that Tyler’s web blog has a section of clickable menu items with recipes!  This is the coolest place! So many of the recipes we know and love and share are right there at the click of a mouse! It saved me a bunch of hunting, later, when I realized that we had chicken breasts that needed to be cooked PRONTO!! I had seen Tyler’s recipe for Fajitas earlier while I was looking at the recipes available on his site.  I though quickly about all the odds and ends…onions-yep, peppers-yep, chiles-yep…now what about the marinade…off to visit our man, Tyler!   Even in the midst of all the weirdness of changing out a refrigerator, we had everything we needed to make the marinade (ok, it helps that we have citrus trees in our backyard).


I apologize that you’re getting the tail end of the dinner… I was on a roll and didn’t even think about pictures until we’d finished eating.  The fajitas were superb!  I toasted the cumin seeds in a small skillet, with some peppercorns until they were fragrant, then ground them by hand. Mmmm!  I love that aroma!  I cooked the marinated strips of chicken separate from the veggies, but basted the veggies with the remaining marinade as they were cooking. The sugars in the fruit juices helped carmelize the peppers and onions.  All were tossed together at the end.  One word of warning though…the chipotles go with the beef… I threw them in with the chicken breast before I realized they were for the beef.  Not that that was a bad thing…it just made them a tad spicy!  I think a good tablespoon of adobo wouldbe fabulous with the chicken though! That smokiness….MmmM!  We dressed our tortillas with lettuce, tomato cheese and crema. What a meal!  Thanks again Tyler!