Last weekend, Ben and I had the distinct pleasure of cooking with two up and coming foodies- brother and sister- Jack (10) & Lorelei (5). Jack had expressed an interest in learning how to cook to his parents. In turn, we were contacted to see if we’d be up for the task of cooking a gourmet meal with them, and our answer was an enthusiastic yes. We arrived at the home of Jack & Lo ready to discuss the menu, and Jack knew exactly what he wanted to create- mini beef ravioli. We bulked up the menu with two bruschettas- our take on caprese and another with prosciutto, and for dessert fresh fruit kabobs with romanoff sauce. Jack and Lo proved to be worthy sous chefs in the making kneading and rolling out pasta dough, stirring, tossing, seasoning, and tasting- quality control. The young duo gave Ben and me the best compliment that we’d ever received in the kitchen. Jack said that Ben and I would be “great lunch ladies”- just as good as a James Beard award. We had such a good time and the reviews for the mini beef ravioli received so many thumbs up that we just had to share. So, without further ado.the mini, the beefy, the ravioli.
You Say Tomato, I Say Tomatillo
Forever now, anytime that I ever cooked anything that was of Mexican or Tex-Mex nature, I would jazz it up with a homemade pico de gallo that I learned at a restaurant (which will remain nameless) that I waited tables at years and years ago. I clearly remember that first time tossing fresh tomato, onion, lime, cilantro and jalepanos with naked hands. The memory of it still burns a little. You may be wondering why- that’s how they did it in the kitchen…while wearing latex gloves. Anyway, lesson learned, and it became my stand by- fresh, citrusy with just a hint of heat. Recently Ben and I have developed a new love for tomatillos and the wonderful verde sauce that I have been making. It all started with a trip to the grocery store shopping for the week’s menu, and there they were on sale 1 pound for a mere $1. Tomato. Tomatillo. I thought that I’d give it a whirl, and I’m so glad that I did.
Cooking is a simple yet complex process. The final dish is so much more then the sum of its ingredient. The use of the correct seasoning or the appropriate herbs can make a dish taste complete. Cooking throughout the country has opened my eyes to the beautiful subtleties each place carries. Baking a cake or soufflé in Denver is slightly different than in Portland, or in the midwest where I reside now. Moisture and humidity are factors that one naturally adapts to. Ovens and cookware are not created equally. This can change a recipe as well. One should view a recipe as a guideline or a set of parameters that can be followed, but can always be adapted to fit one’s taste or convenience of their pantry. This is when you begin to “make a dish your own” and when the fun really begins. For this dish we are cooking potato gnocchi. This is a classic dish that can be made relatively quickly, and will bring a real wow factor to a dinner party or a Tuesday night. It is a small list of simple ingredients that everyone has fof hand. Combined with patience and a little technique it is a wonderful thing.
This past weekend we helped celebrate our good friend Teri’s 30th birthday. We pulled out all the last minute stops for the monumental occasion and came up with a dinner featuring Surf & Turf along with fingerlings potatoes and roasted turnips. The dish was finished with a white wine reduction that created a nice balance of contrasting flavors. The finishing touch was an appropriate addition for us to pass on- several months ago, Teri asked if we had a wine reduction recipe that she could give to her in-laws, who are wonderful cooks as well- so we hear anyway. We developed this simple sauce to be a universal quick addition to meat, fish or vegetables.
I have had a long love affair with chillis. I have become addicted to a particular sweet chilli sauce that can be purchased in any Asian markets, and some grocery stores, that we’ve shared with many friends and family. Over the past few years we have taken an overall assessment of our food and what we are putting into our bodies. So, I thought that I would create my own simple chilli sauce that compliments different foods from potatoes, to eggs, chicken or pork, and replace the processed sauce. This is the first of many different sauces on the journey of learning to cook with chillis.
This is a rich summer treat that will satisfy the adult pallet- it’s sweet, tart, and fresh. We served this a few weeks ago for a 6 course dinner party that we hosted for some friends that are very near and dear to us- Joe, Gail, Dave, Jay, Brian, and our fellow Foodie contributors Mark and Jane.
First it needs to be stated that cooking a multiple course dinner for 9 in our petite house isn’t typical. It was a night that was way overdue as each of our guests have hosted wonderful meals in their homes for us, so we pulled out all the stops serving Pieper sweet corn shooters, homemade goat cheese beet ravioli, warm halibut salad, gnocchi with a Maytag bacon sauce, grilled herb encrusted beef tenderloin, and last but not least, homemade ice cream with the strawberry balsamic reduction and fresh berries.
Ben has been making this sauce for years, and every time someone new tries it they love it. It is a concoction of simple ingredients that you wouldn’t typically put together that creates complex flavors that are complimented by a sweet vanilla ice cream. This isn’t a recipe to be intimidated by, and store bought ice cream works just as well. We just happened to have broadened our kitchen arsenal with the ice cream attachment for our Kitchen Aid and have been putting it to good use. This strawberry balsamic reduction is truly an explosion of flavors that your taste buds will love, and we’re proud to say that we knocked our guests’ socks off with this sweet treat.
Number 9 on the list of essential tools. Everyone should have a pepper mill in their kitchen. One main thing to consider is the mill should be adjustable and easy to clean. As you start to cook often you will realize that it is the small details that will elevate your dishes, and often they are affordable as well. Fresh cracked pepper has a fresher, more pure flavor than pre-ground pepper, and peppercorns don’t have an expiration date. Do a taste test if you’re skeptical. Not only that, you have the option of the size of the pepper you add to your dish from a fine ground to a large, rough ground. I’m sure that most of you have a pepper mill, but if not you should buy one for they are one of the most simplest pleasures of the kitchen. We are doing a spin of a classic dish with beef seared with pepper.
Here is Round 2 featuring the cast iron skillet. We truly use the cast iron skillet more often then any other pan our house. It’s a universal pan that can go from as a non-stick for frying eggs to searing meat or fish- it is just a workhorse that gets the job done. The cast iron is known for its heat distribution which allows you to sear meat evenly through out the pan and not just in the hot spots. Because of its heavy dutiness, the pan doesn’t suffer from heat loss when adding any room temp or cold foods, and this allows you get the killer crust on your fish or meats.
Ok, we went with pork tenderloin for our featured dish, and as an added bonus we threw in a wonderful red wine reduction sauce.
So Ben and I have been together for quite some time (just shy of 12 years). We’ve been blessed to celebrate many a Valentine’s Day, maybe not together because Ben would be preparing romantic dinners at restaurants for other couples out celebrating during our different stints in Kansas City or Denver. That’s not to say that the “holiday” didn’t go unacknowledged, but maybe it was a day late or a week early. We’re lucky in the way that we know we love each other and don’t need a designated day out of the year to express our undying love for one another. Even on those rare actual Valentine’s nights when we were able to do the traditional dinner out, we would find ourselves ending the evening with friends that we love that love each other. Last year, we had the honor of celebrating the day with our dear friends Teri & Joe just 2 weeks before their nuptials. We kept it simple and cooked at home knowing the way to our loved ones’ hearts is down the hatch and straight to the belly. We kept the newfound tradition with Teri & Joe going this past month with the addition of our new friends Lexie & Rob. The menu went down like this: blue cheese spinach salad, artisan bread with a compound butter, “Mid-Century Modern Shrimp,” a balsamic cherry phyllo roll up with homemade almond ice cream, and the main event was our version of filet oscar with a homemade hollandaise sauce..nothing says love like a special sauce.
OK we know that this entry is late, but it doesn’t have to be a Holiday to enjoy Filet Oscar. The basic components that make up a traditional Oscar is hollandaise or bernaise sauce, crab meat, and asparagus. Our recipe will focus on the hollandaise sauce.
It’s pretty customary that when we dine at our house or a friend’s house there is bread- or there’d better be bread. We can’t deny that we enjoy a buttery biscuit from a Pillsbury can, but there’s nothing that compares to fresh bread, and we’re blessed to have Farm to Market Bread Co.’s amazing selection of artisan breads available. They have a unique variety of breads that includes French Farm, Rosemary Olive Oil, Crisp Ciabatta, Asiago, and I could go on but, you’re better off visiting their website www.farmtomarketbread.com. So, here’s the thing about Farm to Market bread- you do not and I repeat do not put anything that’s not real on this bread, and that means margarine. A while ago our niece Sunny and her husband Chris were over for dinner, and we had a fresh loaf of the Rosemary Olive Oil, and I’d made a compound butter. Sunny made the comment that it was a nice change from the olive oil and balsamic that they typically use for their breads. What I love is that they took a restaurant “thing” home and implemented it there. What I love even more was that this simple compound butter got kudos from a couple that I like to think know their food. So, what’s coming is a couple of recipes for what we believe are worthy and unique spreads for any artisan bread.
There are two types of people in the world, those who eat meat and those who don’t. Contrary to popular belief, based on the fact that a majority of our recipes focus on an animal protein of sorts, we have a great admiration for vegetarians. On a philosophical level we understand the reasons why people choose not to consume meat. We on the other hand are not strong enough to not indulge in the occasional steak, drumstick, burger, pork chop, hot dog……this is going somewhere. Not long ago we got together with some friends where the line was clearly drawn between the “carnivores” and the “herbivores.” It was an easy menu that we came up with- one couple brought a salad with homemade vinaigrettes & artisan breads; another came packing an apple pie ala mode (chocolate & vanilla- yeah, I said chocolate), and we threw down the main event- eggplant and chicken parmesan with a Mediterranean spin on the red sauce that we could all enjoy harmoniously.
There are many joys that cooking can provide for one‘s life. Making homemade ravioli is one simple practice that can provide great satisfaction and anaffordable delicious meal for your loved ones. It is easy to lose yourself in the process. We decided to make a simple pumpkin ravioli using the remaining pumpkin from our cheesecake recipe. This is a unique hearty pasta that will have your audience wondering why they haven’t tried this before.
The Four Foodies are landlocked- over 1,200+ miles to the nearest coast going east or west. So, it was an amazing gift that was given to us by our neighbors, Sarah, Bill & Townes, just passed through our fence- filets of halibut. Not just any halibut- this halibut was the product of a fishing trip that Sarah’s father, Dan Darling, had made on a two week trip to Alaska late in late June- early July with his brother-in-law and two other gents. Mrs. Pam Darling provided me with some of the details of the trip that make this dish so special. Dan and his 3 comrades planned this dream trip (I say dream, b/c I dream of doing this with the Foodies) to go fishing in Alaska. From my understanding, this was a serious fishing trip with true professionals that knew the sweet spots to get the goods. Each day the men would venture out on the Pacific Ocean on a fully equipped boat for a two-hour trip (one way) before dropping their lines. Over the course of three days, these four men caught a total of four hundred pounds of fish including lingcod (a gnarly looking fish by the way), rockfish (equally fugly but I’m sure tasty), and the coveted halibut. When they made their way back to land, a crew would be waiting to immediately process the fish which involves cleaning, filleting, flash freezing, weighing and packaging the catch to be shipped back to the lower 48. And so, a generous small portion of halibut was passed to the Foodies. We did our best to prepare it in a way that would maintain its integrity skipping the battering, deep fat frying, hush puppy, crunchity extravaganza, and it went like this.
This video represents a series of 2600 photos edited down from the 6400 we captured that day.
It all started with a bet. Ben and I were at Mark & Jane’s house enjoying the typical weekend together with cooking, dogs, wine, jousting, cards, and crafting (not necessarily in that order). Ben was helping Jane load the dishwasher- Mark and I were a) pouring another glass of wine and getting our glue sticks ready to scrapbook b) giving Oliver & Sobe (The Dogs) their gourmet doggy kibble or c) putting our helmets on or d) all of thee above, and Ben made The Bet. Which movie had the scene with the timed dishwasher loading scene in it? Dan in Real Life or Rachel Getting Married? As soon as Ben named the stakes and asked me which one it was, I start jumping up and down with Jane screaming that we won, and once again Ben realized that he shouldn’t bet against the “Steel Trap.” Rachel Getting Married was what brought sweet, tasty, victorious, satisfaction in the form of four courses, for four foodies, for under $40.
So the following is the menu that was prepared for the victors of the bet. Now, we love food. We love good food, and Ben and Mark came up with the idea to do this gourmet meal on a budget. Based our experiences dining out, we figured that this meal could easily be $40/person, so the challenge was set and the menu was written. We do have copies of receipts with our purchases minus any pantry staples i.e. salt, pepper, flour, water, etc. Keep in mind that the bubbly and any wine consumed with the meal was not budgeted with good reason- had that been the case, we would’ve been drinking our dinner : )
The first meal that we all cooked together almost three years ago was pizza. We all showed up with our store bought crusts, our packaged Hormel pepperoni, Kraft shredded cheeses, jars of, and metallic flavored canned olives. Mmmm- nothing beats the taste of brine. Don’t get me wrong- they were good, but we’ve stepped it up a few notches since. Homemade sauce. Pizza dough- not just baked, but grilled. Our feature pie of the night was the traditional using fresh tomatoes from the local farmers’ market, basil from Mark & Jane’s back yard, oregano from Ben & Kim’s back yard, and buffalo mozzarella fresh from the refrigerator section of the (can’t win ‘em all).