Monday, April 28, 2008

Thats a Wrap!

I think its about time that I wrap this blog in butcher paper and put it in the freezer. Sorry folks, time is getting away from me and I am kind of over the food phase of my life. I don't take myself too seriously as a cook and NEVER have my camera around when I do make something new and different.
Reality is that my job and other responsibilities take me away from home too much these days to have time to keep up two blogs for now.

On the rare occasion that a new place to eat opens up within the 20 minute dinner drive from our house, rest assured that I will rip the place a new one on the other blog

Til then, catch you there. Thanks for sticking with this one for so long and through such a long, lame posting period.


Wednesday, April 23, 2008

We had some excellent meals while in Palm Springs this last week. Our last dining experience was at The Tropicale, a relatively new restaurant located just across from the Post Office downtown. Its done up in a Mid Century Modern decor with oversized banquettes on the inside and a nice big bar that runs from inside the restaurant to outside on the terrace. The terrace is where we had dinner, and our table was right where the photo below was taken.

What we all loved about the restaurant was the lighting and the paint colors. The wall around the terrace is painted a beautiful coral color and is planted out with small fan palms and desert bushes. When the sun goes down and the lighting comes on, the wall turns this deep, deep coral that just glows and really sets the mood. The chairs are comfortable and there is ample space between diners. The decor inside is very sexy with clean lines and lots of stone pillars. Bathroom is done up in black marble tiles and it seems that no expense was spared to give the diners a full atmosphere of chic 50s Palm Springs. Its a place where you expect to see William Holden and Dezi Arnaz holding court at one of the large banquettes.

The food didn't disappoint either. Large portions of delectable food at good prices in a fine dining atmosphere made all of us quite happy. For starters, I went for the Charred Filet Mignon Fajita Rolls with Sweet Onions and Pasilla Chiles, Guacamole and Salsa Fresca. It was beautifully presented and bursting with flavor. So good. Our hostess had the Chilled Lump Crab Louis Salad wedge with Hard-Boiled Egg, Avocado & Louis Dressing. It was enormous with about 1/2 a pound of crab. She loved it. Greg had Crispy Angel Hair Crab Cakes with a Sesame Mustard Sauce and Gingered Tomato Relish. He said they were excellent, but less crab and more filler than he usually likes. the cakes were made with corn and other veggies and then breaded. They were quite large and he said he should have stopped there for all the food there was.

For our entrees: I had a boneless Southern fried chicken with corn mashed potatoes with red-eyed gravy, and sauteed collard greens. If I liked smokey bacon flavor, this dish would have been awesome, I think. As it was, the red-eye gravy was loaded with bacon flavor, which spoiled the whole meal for me. I got down a piece of chicken, but couldn't eat the rest...that was my bad and not the restaurant's cooking. Our hostess had fish tacos which she said were some of the most delicious she had eaten. There was enough there for two people to share and she could only eat about a quarter of what they served her. The fish was paired with a crispy shredded cabbage, black beans and vegetables. She was in heaven. Greg had Grilled Butteflied Idaho Trout with Toasted Pecan Butter, Corn, Wild Rice & Chipotle Salad Stir-Fried Vegetables which he said was outrageous. The corn and wild rice dish was very spicy, which he loved.

All the food was beautifully prepared. and the service was excellent. Only our hostess had one of the speciality drinks, a Desert Pear Margarita with PatrĂ³n Silver Tequila & Desert Pear Juice Fresh Lime and a splash of Grand Marnier. It arrived in a tall glass encrusted with salt and was a deep purple color. Very tasty!

All in all, we loved this place and would certainly return. Our hostess said it was going to become one of her new favorites in Palm Springs



Sunday, April 06, 2008

Dinner last night was a spontaneous invitation to friends to come to dinner rather than us all going out somewhere. I was in cook mode. First, I had to use the leeks up in the fridge. I had a few small Yukon Gold potatoes and a large sweet potato, so I made Sweet Potato and Leek soup with curry and rosemary and it was pretty good. The color was awesome!! I made a nice loaf of Tuscan Flat bread sprinkled with black sea salt and olive oil to go with it.
The next course was a stuffed pork roast with the fig sauce that I made with a veal roast several weeks ago. Both it and the pork roast were frozen, so I thawed and then stuffed and marinated. Interestingly, I trimmed all the fat off the roast to make it leaner (a good 1/4 lb of fat came off) and the roast was perfectly moist. I cooked it until about 160 degrees and then let the roast sit, covered in its pan for about 20 minutes and it was perfectly juicy and tender. I served couscous and pan seared wilted Swiss Chard. when I plated the meal, each diner had some nice juicy figs to accompany their meat. I thought it was delicious.

Last week we made a chocolate grand marnier fondue to bring to a dinner and we got the leftovers to bring home. I froze that and reconstituted it to pour over ice cream for dessert. It was great not having to go to the store to pick up anything to make this sumtuous dinner for four.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

We rewarded our swim yesterday with breakfast at the Elm Street Grill, what used to be the Cedar Crest Motel restaurant. Its apparently under new ownership and while we had a good meal there last time we went, I am changing my opinion of it now. It was awful!! I ordered tea and got a luke warm cup of water with a Lipton tea bag and those half and half cream containers that are about as big as your thumb...well the cream was sour...I have never had that happen cause the shelf life on those babies must be years...well, these were sitting in the sun for too long most likely.
The place was a mess! The server was filling up her salt and pepper containers right next to us at the next table. She was so busy that she kinda missed our food order and it sat on the server shelf for a while. Greg had eggs benedict and when it came, I thought the sauce looked a bit was a yellow transparent sauce that just made me kinda sick to my stomach. I had an omlette with spinach and came with two slices of yellow american cheese, some frozen spinach, and sliced breakfast sausage links. The toast was covered in "melted butter" and it was a bit gross.
I am not going back for a while, the place has started to give me the heebie-jeebies!
I cribbed this from the New York Times today. Interesting Reading

The book, “Eat This, Not That!” by Men’s Health editor-in-chief David Zinczenko, has become one of the hottest selling nutrition guides in book stores. The diminutive volume is filled with pictures of what not to eat and photos of better substitutes. It compares food choices at favorite restaurants, supermarkets and holiday items. The comparisons are always interesting and often surprising. Who knew a Starbucks Black Forest Ham, Egg and Cheddar Breakfast Sandwich is a better choice than the chain’s Bran Muffin with Nuts?
Chances are you won’t agree with every item. For instance, in a comparison of choices for a child’s Easter basket, I can’t figure out why Jelly Belly Jelly Beans, with 150 calories, are an “eat this,'’ while Marshmallow Peeps, with 140 calories, are a “not that.'’

The book includes a clever ranking of the country’s 20 worst foods in various categories. Here are some of them:

Worst Fast Food Meal: McDonald’s Chicken Selects Premium Breast Strips with creamy ranch sauce. Chicken sounds healthy, but not at 870 calories.

Worst Drink: Jamba Juice Chocolate Moo’d Power Smoothie. With 166 grams of sugar, you could have had eight servings of Ben & Jerry’s. Gimme 5 servings of Ben and Jerry's and we can call it even!

Worst Supermarket Meal: Pepperidge Farm Roasted Chicken Pot Pie. One pie packs 64 grams of fat. I was pretty surprised by this one. Not that I have ever eaten it, but WOW

Worst “Healthy” Burger: Ruby Tuesday Bella Turkey Burger. With 1,145 calories, not a very healthy choice.

Worst Airport Snack: Cinnabon Classic Cinnamon Roll. Packed with 813 hot gooey calories and 5 grams of trans fats. I LOVE these!! I swear that Cinnabon has made a perfume that they inject into the air circulation system

Worst Kids’ Meal: Macaroni Grill Double Macaroni ‘n Cheese. With 62 fat grams, it’s the equivalent of 1.5 full boxes of Kraft Mac ‘n Cheese. Yeah, where is the obesity trait coming from???

Worst Salad: On the Border Grande Taco Salad with Taco Beef. A salad with 102 grams of fat and 2,410 mg of sodium.

Worst Dessert: Chili’s Chocolate Chip Paradise Pie with Vanilla Ice Cream. At 1,600 calories, it’s like eating the caloric equivalent of three Big Macs.

Monday, March 17, 2008

You are looking at the start of my latest soup. Who knows what it will taste like, but its damn healthy. We ran out of onions, so its red lentils, Kamut berries, apples, snow peas, and carrots with garlic, salt and pepper, 1/2 a capfull of curry powder, and low sodium chicken broth. Once its tender, I will puree in my blender for a lovely, tasty treat for lunch. mmmmm

Thursday, March 13, 2008

I made a soup today that I think will be a tasty alternative to a high fiber lentil soup that has been a standby for a few weeks, with variations. I think the best of the lentil soups was a puree of lentil and lima bean soup. It was thick and lovely and froze really well. I used a homemade chicken stock for it, but one could use a vegetable stock for a vegetarian soup.

The one I made today is a varient on a cream of chinese celery soup that I saw online. Since I didn't want to go back to the store for more ingredients, I muddled through with what I had here.

Its a puree of leek and cabbage soup ##Note that the photographs here are of this soup made with onions instead of leeks...sorry no photos of the puree as Sebastian ate this batch before pureeing

I sauteed two chopped leeks
then added about three cups of diced nappa cabbage (I used the part more towards the bottom and reserved the top of the leaves for steamed pork dumplings as a main course)
Then I found about 6 small Yukon Gold potatos that were on their last legs and looking a bit green and chopped those up for the sautee.
I added a small portion of water at this point to help the cooking process along.
A handful of dried sage leaves that I had lying around were next into the pot
along with two small sprigs of fresh rosemary
and of course a dash of curry powder for good measure.

To that went enough chicken broth to cover the vegetables
cover and let simmer until everything is tender

Let cool and marinate for about an hour
then in batches, puree in a blender

force through a sieve and discard the solids

The soup should be a gorgeous celedon color and from here you can salt and pepper to taste, serve in small bowls with a garnish such as a bit of yogurt or some parsley leaves on top.



Sunday, February 24, 2008

Greg came down into the kitchen yesterday and said I was crazy for what I was doing, which was cutting out cookie shapes with a with a tin pudding mold. I told him I was having a blast, which is what cooking is all about right? He said "sure, what are you making?" I said "homemade milk chocolate covered oreos." He said I was crazy and left the room.

First, I made a decadent chocolate sugar cookie dough.
melt 3 oz of semi-sweet chocolate in a double boiler.
sift together:
2 1/2 cups flour
1/2 a cup unsweetened cocoa
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 teaspoon baking powers
l teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
cream 2 sticks butter
add 1 1/2 cups sugar and beat until light and fluffy
add one egg and 1 teaspoon or so vanilla
add melted chocolate
incorporate flour mixture
scrape into a ball and divide in two.
place onto wax paper and flatten into a disc
I used a trick I found on the food network of rolling out the dough between two pieces of waxed paper, BEFORE chilling the dough. When it comes out of the refrigerator, it needs but 10-12 minutes to relax and soften a bit before you start cutting your shapes.

place the shapes gently on parchment paper on top of cookie sheets and bake in a preheated 350 degree oven until the sides are crispy and the center is firm

While the cookies are baking, whip two cups whipping cream with 3/4 cup confectioners sugar until stiff and add 4 tablespoons finely chopped candied ginger or a cup of thawed frozen raspberries. Refrigerate.
When cookies are cooled, pipe cream onto middle of one cookie (make sure it is just enough cream and not too much so it won't ooze out of the sides. sandwich anotehr cookie on top and chill.

when chilled, dip cookie in melted milk chocoate. I simply dipped one side, but you could certainly set that side and then dip the otehr side in either dark or white chocolate for a contrast.
Enjoy...your guests will.

I was reminded yesterday by a new reader that I have been remiss in updating this blog with material. With that in mind, I want to share some photos of a few things simmering on my stove at the moment. I tried to photograph the mushroom risotto that I made last night, but it has the poor appearance of dog poop when put on a plate, so I will skip that visual aid all together! It was tasty, but I think I let it scorch in the cooking process, so the risotto came out a bit mushy. It was pretty damn good in our scrambled eggs this could it not be good with Prosecco, fresh grated parmesan cheese, and porcini and crimini mushrooms...yum!

One thing I did make this week that did come out beautifully were my pot stickers. We were invited over to friends house for stew on Friday night, so I brought pot stickers along as a starter. After six years of making these suckers, I finally have the wrapping down pretty well. I used to bring all four corners of the wonton together (thats after I stopped making my own wonton dough) and the pot stickers came out looking like they'd been made by someone with mittens on. Now, I use square wontons that one can buy in the produce section of their super market. I fill the center with maybe 1/2 a tablespoon of filling and fold the wrapper on the diagonal to make a filled triangle (well duh! some of you might think, but then I was never a master of the obvious) For the filling, I marinated 1 lb of lean ground pork with soy, seseme oil, scallions, rice wine vinegar, a tough of mongolian fire oil, and some pepper. I tossed it with chopped up 1 1/2 cups nappa cabbage that I salted in a collender in order to squeeze out some of the water. I also added shredded carrots and the green stem of the scallions. The mixture should be damp, but not watery. Lastly, right before putting the mixture in the wontons, I added some low salt chicken broth that I had reduced from a cup to about a 1/4 cup, so it was really concentrated. It adds a burst of flavor to the meat that will suprise you.
After stuffing the wontons, I steamed them on parchement paper in a bamboo steamer. Of course the steamer is covered. I have a two tray steamer that works so well in the wok. I can fit around 11 pot stickers in each tray. When I first started making pot stickers back when we lived in Chicago, I would fry them...sigh, that was the best.
This recipe makes about 45 pot stickers, so you can have them for lunch pretty easily the next day. I made 22 for our dinner with friends and four of us had no problems eating our fill. I brought along two soy based dipping sauces, one was a lime scallion sauce with a bit of rice wine and the other was a mustard and seseme oil sauce with garlic. Yesterday, we ran out of soy and so we made these for lunch and drizzled seseme oil on them...decadent!

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Another one bites the dust
I was dismayed to see that Abbracci's Cafe in Searsport was listed for sale in The Village Soup Times. I liked this place, former home of Periwinkles Cafe, and thought that the owners did a good job of it in terms of food. The place didn't even last a year....why can't restaurants make it on the mid-coast???

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

We are having a dinner party upon my return up North and so I am trying to get a jump on the menu. I read an article on the plane about a recipe using roasted figs and I can't get the roasted fig part out of my brain, though the rest of the recipe is lost to me. I found a recipe for a Veal Roast with fresh figs and rosemary that sounds divine and perfect for a winter's night. Recommend serving it with a porcini risotto, frise salad and an aged Bordeaux. Now of course, I just have to find a veal roast and fresh figs somewhere in Belfast!
I heard this recipe on NPR on my way down to Portland the other day to catch the plane to Florida. I totally want to try and make these Souffle Omelettes when I get home. I would try them here, but the kitchen is completely torn up from the fire my parents had a few months ago. The best trick I learned while listening to this recipe was about cracking eggs on flat surfaces to get a better crack.


Friday, February 15, 2008

I stopped at the store on my home last night and got fixins to make Beef Wellington, tortolini with a parmesan-champagne sauce, and a ceasar salad. We had brie and crackers first with a bottle of chilled Prosecco. Since we were both tired, we ate in stages, first the salad, then the tortolini and then the beef.

Io made the Wellington with two medium sized pieces of fillet, hand trimmed and lean. I was wondering what to put on the inside of the pastry to give the beef a fine taste, and for some reason I thought about using garlic hummous. When I got home, Greg wasn't into that, so I ended up using a cream of Rootebega soup that Brian, the chef from The Edge had given Greg for us to taste. (While I was away, Brian and his wife Tasha cooked a great meal for Greg and gave him leftovers...yea!!) You can see me use the soup here:

It gave the beef a great earthy and nutty taste. I then rolled the beef in puff pastry and cooked in a 450 degree oven until golden brown.

For the Tortolini, I made a bechamel sauce, melting two tablespoons butter and 3 tablespoons white flour in a pan, wisking and strirring to cook but not brown. I added 1 cup of milk and stirred it to a boil, thickening all the way. I then added 1 cup parmesan and about 1/2-3/4 cup of the Persecco and cooked and wisked until smooth. Poured it over a batch of fresh 3 cheese tortolini and we were good to go.

It was a nice way to spend Valentine's day.
You can eat healthy on road trips! I went down to Boston the other day on one of my speed runs, this time during the snow and rain storm we had on Wednesday. I was on the Maine turnpike around lunchtime and I was starving, having had only two bananas and some bottled water that morning. I was able to stop at the Kennebunk Oasis and with a bit of shopping around in the t-shirt shop, was able to come up with lowfat yogurt, two things of part-skim string cheese, unsalted cashews, and an Odwalla fruit powerbar plus water. I ate about half and was sated for a good 2 hours and then I ate the rest...not too bad in terms of fat and caloric intake.

I won't tell you how I cheated on the way home the next day, but I am still broken up and guilty about it, so my changed eating habits are working on me. I didn't like how full I felt after cheating.

I came home and made a decadent dinner for Greg for Valentinies day.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

Greg made the best dinner last night. It felt a bit like junk food, but it was mildly healthy. I was too lazy to go to the store yesterday, so we had to make due with a larder full of rice and beans with some cheese and an avacado. Greg made quesadillas with couscous, black beans, avacado and low fat cheese. They were excellent. His had some fish in it, but mine were plain jane. Then we snuggled up and watched no only the second part of Elizabeth I, but also "Mrs. Brown" Two old queens watching two old screen queens. A perfect Friday night.

Tonight is that last night that Three Tides will be open before their mid winter break. They'll be back in the saddle for Saint Patrick's day.


Friday, February 08, 2008

Greg and I had lunch yesterday in Rockport at the Three Dog Cafe on Route 1. It was quite a pleasant suprise to walk into a restaurant that was filled with light and had bright, vibrant colors on the walls. It was very warm and inviting with large leather club chairs and couches to sit on and read current magazines while waiting for our food. A big stone fireplace, open on both sides, dominated the space and separated the kitchen and ordering area from the dining area. A roaring fire made the space nice a cozy too. There are lovely paintings on the walls to gaze upon and overall the space is really nice.

Now to the food. I ordered a grilled sandwich with a fruit cup and Greg had the chicken ceasar salad. We both had bottled water and the bill was $21.00. I think thats a bit of a rip off if you ask me. No wonder the place was filled with chattering "ladies who lunch," they are the only ones who could afford it! The grilled turkey sandwich with sharp chedder, cranberry mayo and stuffing was tasty, but for that price, one would expect about 3/4 of a pound of turkey in a real deli sandwhich. Nothing doing. Though the turkey was fresh, there were about four pieces of breast meat and one slice of cheese...better for me in the end, but still not worth $8.50. Greg's ceasar had grilled chicken with a dijon mustard sauce over about an entire head of lettuce with Newman's own dressing on the side. It was an enormous amount of lettuce, without fresh cheese to accompany it. I was disappointed to say the least. One has to order lunch and then go pick it up. There was a self-service bussing station for plates, so I dunno what the extra costs were for!!!
We skipped dessert and headed out. This is a nice stopping place to eat, if you save up for it first.


Saturday, February 02, 2008

I think I've dropped about a trouser size in the two weeks that I've been watching the food intake. The Go Lean hot cereal in the morning has really made a difference. I have been getting frozen fruit and thawing about 1/2 a cup at night and then adding it to the cereal along with a banana. That gives me about three of the six servings of fruit and vegetables that I need for the day. About 10, I'll have half a grapefruit or an orange and some tea and that works just grand.

I was proud of myself yesterday. I had the hot cereal and then went to attend an auction where they had all the sugar coated breakfast doughnuts and pastries one could want. I passed them up for two bottles of water. Of course I was starving on my way home at 2, so I stopped at Big G's in Winslow and had a small chicken finger basket (2) and sweet potato fries. MMMMMM its good to cheat. Greg and I had a grilled chicken and spinach salad for dinner. I dredged the chicken in panko for effect and it worked out beautifully.

Today for soup, I made a puree of Bob's Red Mill soup mix (split peas, lentils, pasta, and other stuff), carrots, celery, turnips and butternut squash and low sodium chicken broth. I made it a few days ago and pulled it out of the fridge today only to find that it was the consistancy of ...well it was hard??!!?? We scooped it into cups and microwaved it to a hot beanie consistancy and it was good and hearty and so filling for only about 350 calories for a cup full.

I used an online calorie counter yesterday that asked several questions before calculating what my daily calorie intake should be for me to lose 1.5 lbs a week. It asked me m/f? asked me my current weight and the target weight, and how much time I was planning to lose the weight. How tall I am (6'6") and what my exercise regime is during an average day. (light to moderate) I plugged in 75 lbs as a target loss and a target date as next January 1. After the calculating, the counter came up telling me that I could eat 3300 calories a day and easily hit my target weight in 11 months. WHAT??? I can have cake too???? is about all I thought when I saw that...I'm probably taking in around 2000-2300 calories a day now. I never realized how high in calories beans are....they are just low in fat calories...the best.

Sunday, January 27, 2008

I have to tell you that I skeptical about my split pea soup. It looks a bit like baby food, but I tell you its delicious! It is so filling that just a 1/2 cup of it was enough for me for this last meal.

My plan is to treat this whole eating thing not as a diet plan, but as a temporary shift in eating habits. I've been listening and reading a lot on how Americans have really upped the portion levels in the last few decades and have the three squares a day down pat. A program on NPR last week (I wish I could remember more about the program) had a health official talking about the Joy of Cooking and how in the original version, their chocolate chip cookie recipe yielded 2 dozen cookies. Today, the unchanged recipe is listed as yielding a dozen cookies! That hit home with me. I have decided to dispense with the "three squares a day" in favor of five smaller meals with a handful of nuts in between instead of peanut butter and toast! For instance, this morning I had the Go Lean hot cereal with a cut up banana and flax seeds in it. 3% fat, 20% protien, and 16% fiber. That was just a few hours ago. I just came back from walking the dogs and I had a 1/2 cup of my pureed split pea soup. Its 1pm and I am totally full. We'll see how long this lasts. It'll be a week tomorrow. \

For the split pea soup I sauteed 1/2 a yellow onion in a tablespoon of olive oil and then added about 2 cups of rinsed and picked over dried split peas, the leftover red lentil and green bean salad I made two days ago, a handful of shredded carrots, and low sodium chicken broth. Then I added a capful of curry powder, salt and pepper to taste and I think that's it. The soup has to cook awhile for the peas to cook (I suppose you could soak them overnight) and I found myself adding more chicken broth (or vegetable broth)
After I covered it and it simmered for about 45 minutes, I let it cool and then liquified it. The soup is super thick and really tasty, a real rib sticker.

Around 4pm, I will cook a 96% lean burger with lowfat cheese and then have a spinach salad with tomatos and carrots around 7 or so. Perhaps a half a grapefruit before bed.

Since Greg has to eat this way too for his high blood pressure and reflux, its been easier to stay on this new eating plan. I feel better already. About 2 months ago I cut out bottled iced tea from my diet, so I am not craving sugar as much as I have in the past.

Eating this way makes it easier to survive going out too. We treated ourselves and went to Seng Thai last night and I tried to be as good I felt nessesary, So I had the Thai chicken with carrots and pineapple with brown rice. Tastes good, not as bad as a pizza! We drank water and skipped the pot stickers and cripy potatoes :-( But it was mmm mm good.

Friday, January 25, 2008

We have been trying to eat better, but this tim, both of us are into it. I have decided to do a colon blow for a few weeks by eating a lot if fiber and lean protein. On the heels of eating the pureed red lentil soup at Sik Sak in New York, I decided to make it at home and have discovered that it is a fantastically easy and tasty treat. I add a lot of madras curry powder to red lentils and onions simmering in low sodium chicken broth. I also add a bit of paprika and some garlic powder and the results are a stunning, filling soup that is incredibly healthy for you. Last night I made it with carrots and celery added in for extra healthy vegetable servings.
We had a friend over for dinner the other night and I served the lentil soup along with a spinach and roasted pear salad with 50% fat free mozzerella and cashew encrusted chicken strips that I baked in the oven. The chicken came out super tender. What I decided to do was grind up cashews in an electric chopper, take chicken breasts and trim off the fat, dredge in egg and milk and then coat in the cashew dust. I put the breasts in the oven at 350 and cooked them for a half hour or so until just done. I was able to roast the pears (witha sprinkling of olive oil and pepper) in the oven at the same time. All went into the spinach salad and it came out beautifully.

The next night I made roasted acorn squash and red lentil stirfry with fresh cut green beans and sauteed swiss chard stems along with a cold black beans and rice dish. It was delicious, but we were hungry after about an hour and had to order a sandwich with our drinks down at 3Tides. Sigh.....One has to cheat every once in a while! time.....colon blow casserole!

Monday, January 21, 2008

I just tried to make a puree of red lentil soup and it was perfectly awful! had absolutely no taste...well, I take that back, it tasted a bit like watered down cardboard that had been dragged through the dirt before being made into soup. I was chatting with my sister on the phone and trying to fix the soup.
Let me backtrack...I wanted to emulate the soup we had at the Turkish restaurant in NY, so I went to Hannaford's and bought about 2 lbs of organic red lentils from the bulk aisle. I soaked a few cups in water and they split apart fairly easily. So I sauteed some scallions and some celery in olive oil, added two cups of red lentils (soaked in four cups of water) and then sauteed for a while. I added to this mix a dash of organic minced garlic, some paprika, and some cayanne/ black pepper mix. I stirred it around and then added about a carton and a half of organic chicken stock....I know, GASP, I didn't make it myself, but cut me some slack, I've been away.
I let the whole simmer on the stove for about twenty minutes and when I came back the whole looked like faded mush! Shit! wasted all those ingredients on shitty soup again.
Well, I kept at it and pureed it in my blender. If was a real chef, I might force it through a sieve, but honestly, who has the time? So, with a fresh pot for the soup, I dipped in a spoon to taste....YUCK! damn, damn, damn...tasteless.
I quickly cut up some fresh rosemary, added more paprika for the color, ground in some pepper and added sea salt, and hot madras curry powder. Still, it wasn't up to snuff, so I thought some more and realized that I had forgotten the fresh lemon juice! So I squeezed out the juice of one lemon and added a bit more curry powder (about 1/2 a cap full at this point total) and heated it all up.
All of a was AMAZING! I love this soup. It turned out to have tastes on so many levels and the watery finish turned into this rich stock taste. Mmmmm....I had a cupful for dinner and will serve the rest tomorrow night for dinner when we have a friend coming over for a farewell meal. mmm mmm good!

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Greg and I went to have excellent Turkish food in New York with some good friends. The restaurant, Sik Sak, is on Second Avenue between 49th and 50th, right near our favorite hotel. We went with some of Greg's old friends and had a fabulous time...good food, great company and moderately priced. The restaurant is painted a deep iron ore color and has these wacky deep red murano glass chandeliers everywhere. The atmosphere was festive and cozy and we actually had some elbow room around our table, a total rarity in NYC. We started with stuffed grape leaves that were out of this world, stuffed with a spicy rice mixture. I had the red lentil soup which was pureed and delicious. Scott had a Greek salad to start that was HUGE and out of this world with lots of feta and cukes. I also ordered stuffed meatballs, a mixture of lamb and walnuts and spices that was just amazing. Everyone voted that my dish rocked and was the best of the night. Greg had some chicken and vegetable dish that was savory and flavorful...really beautifully presented. Everything was served with giant pyramids of rice, so the presentation was great. We went next to the top of the Beekman Tower for drinks where we had a great view of the East River and Long Island. Greg and his friends had champagne dashed with cognac...can you say headache city?
mmmmm...gotta love NYC in some way
I have it on good authority that a fine foods store akin to the Market Basket in Camden will open up in Belfast by the summer months. They are currently looking for a space but have the business plan and financing all ready to go.
We were at beautiful dinner party last night where the future proprietor of the market told us a bit about the plan.
I have thought about a store like this in Belfast for a long time. It would be nice to have somewhere to go and get prepared foods that are good and have a place to run for wierd things for my own dinner party ingredients. The proprietor is a local person and so would do well in this enterprise.
Lets keep our fingers crossed.

Friday, January 11, 2008

I noticed with curiosity that the Cedar Crest Motel Restaurant on Rte 1 in Camden has changed its name to the Elm Street Grille. Greg and I went in the other afternoon around 3:30 and had a sausage and chicken alfredo pizza with spinach and it was really good! I like the ski chalet atmosphere of this place and also like the fact that its a bit off the path while still being on Route 1. There are no windows facing the road, so you are pretty cut off when you go into the place. I think there are some kinks that need ironing out, like the salad bar being right at the front door and having no hostess station, but other than that, we like this place and would go back for the regular menu anytime.
We tried valiently to go to dinner in Camden on Tuesday night and try someplace that we've not been before. Apparently though, almost everything is closed on Tuesday nights in that town! We ended up going to the Waterfront and having an ok time. The service sucked to the point that "J," one of the diners at our table, went to the front of the house and complained that we'd sat for 20 minutes without a drink!
Greg and I both had pear and goat cheese salads, I had the potato and cheese soup, which was ok, but had large lumps of grilled cheese floating around in it, making the texture something I didn't want. Greg had lobster crepes. We were both sick as dogs the next morning with stomach problems. Luckily for me, I didn't get it so bad as I had to do my Salem Mass and back trip that day. Greg was hurting though and thought about the emergency room for a while before spilling his guts and relieving the bloat....Not recommending the Waterfront in Camden anytime soon.

Friday, January 04, 2008

We had a party the other day, a New Year's Brunch where the guests were witty and wonderful and hungry. They ate us out of house and home. Everything was gone, which was perfect. I decided instead of making a lot of one thing and have it left over, I made a bit of a lot of things and everyone was sated. I think the two biggest hits were the camelized bacon wrapped sea scallops.

For the scallops:
I took thick slab bacon and dredged it in brown sugar sprinkled with red and black pepper and baked it in the oven at 350 degrees on the broiler pan. At the same time, I roasted several heads of garlic in butter and rosemary salt in the same oven. The smells in the kitchen were incredible!
Beware not to get the bacon too crispy! turn the strips once in the oven and then remove when flat and done. Let cool and then wrap around small sea scallops... I can usually get two scallops wrapped per piece of bacon and then I put them on skewers (about 8 per wooden skewer) and here is where you can make them ahead by one day and place in ziplock bags in your fridge. When ready, grill on gas grill for about 5 minutes, turning frequently and serve. I made 60 and they were gone in minutes.

Click the link for a picture and recipe of the leek tart. This time, to save time, I opted for puff pastry crust, which I bought frozen from the grocery. It got so many raves and was also gone in 60 seconds.

Other items for the brunch included a roast loin of pork grilled with sage infused olive oil, served with a sage aioli and roasted heads of garlic with good locally made breads; a spinach and apple salad with feta; a fruit salad; cooked shrimp with cocktail sauce and Ducktrap Maine smoked salmon with lemon and cilantro on buttered crackers.

I had on hand some small lemon poppy seed muffins and mini cinis (miniature cinnamon rolls from Hannaford) that went fast cause they are so good!! I also made a Louisiana Crunch cake on the morning of the brunch, which was a lot to do seeing as we partied until 2 and then came home.