Mrs. Bentley’s Cooking Class

May 26, 2014

Quince de Mayo! OLE!

Cooking class #13

Grilling Corn Tortillas

I conducted my first cooking class at the home of a dear friend.  She asked that I put together a class for her networking group.  Since the class was scheduled for the 15th of May, I called it Quince de Mayo!  and came up with a Mexican menu.  Here’s what we made:

  • Corn TortillasCorn Tortilla Chips, Grilled with a Touch of Sea Salt for a No Fat, Crisp and Tasty Dipping Chip.  We laid fresh, uncooked corn tortilla chips on a hot grill and sprinkled them with coarse sea salt.  The heat of the grill causes the sea salt to stick to the tortilla.  Using tongs, we peeked at the undersides and when they had nice grill marks, we flipped them.  After just a few minutes, they were nicely charred and we tossed them into a bowl.  We kept grilling them until we had a nice big pile.  We cracked them by hand into approximate quarters.
  • GuacamoleSkinny Guacamole is Lightened Up by adding Roasted Tomatillos to Fresh Avocado – So Fresh and Yummy!  Tomatillos look like green tomatoes.  They come with a lose papery skin that feels like tissue paper.  They are very acidic and have a flavor similar to a lime, but a little more intense.  I discovered that if they are added to guacamole, the guacamole never turns that horrible grayish brown color.  Yeah!  Also, they are fat free and very low in calorie, so they thin down the calories in quacamole.  Yeah again!  Two problems solved!   Everyone loved this new twist on an old favorite!  It was so good, we had to make a second batch.
  • Roasted Tomato Salsa 500Roasted Tomato Salsa, Earthy and Surprisingly Light.  We grilled whole tomatoes for about 10 minutes, until they had nice char marks and the skin was beginning to peel off.  At the same time, we had pablano peppers on the grill.  The grill was set to high.  We grilled the pablano peppers until they were completely black on all sides.  Then, using tongs, we popped them into a zip bag and sealed it up so the pepper would steam.  After about 10 minutes in the bag, the blackened skin on the peppers slips right off.  We slipped them out of their skins over the sink because it can get a little messy.  Then, we cut the tops off the peppers and removed the seeds under running water.  The tomatoes and the peppers went into the food processor along with a few grilled tomatillos we had left over from the guacamole.
  • MoleChickenLegsSmallChicken Seasoned with Mrs. Bentley’s Secret Mole Spice Blend and Baked for an Aromatic Savory Treat!  I taught the participants how easy it is to make this delicious chicken, and it can me made for a crowd just as easily.  We had 30 chicken thighs in the oven while we made the other items on the menus.  Normally, a tray of chicken for a family dinner would cook in about an hour.  For 30 thighs on 4 trays, it took an hour and a half to cook.
  • GreenRiceI modified my basic Green Rice recipe by adding onions, peppers, garlic and cumin to give this dish a Mexican flair.

 

 

  • PannaCotta5My friend had asked that I make everything “healthy”, so instead of making a Mexican flan, I made Panna Cotta, the Italian gelatin based dessert.  This is another basic recipe that can be changed up in so many ways.  It is essentially, milk or cream and gelatin.  You can add any flavoring you like.  You can sweeten it with sugar or Splenda.  I’ve made chocolate, key lime, raspberry and vanilla before.  Look at the basic recipe and then use your imagination.
  • margarita2Everyone really enjoyed the Skinny Margaritas we made!  We made them with fresh lime juice, orange juice, tequila and the secret ingredient – Diet Mountain Dew!  I’m not kidding, we used Diet Mountain Dew and they were incredible.

 

Cooking class #1a

Participants Watching Intently As Salsa Is Being Made

Cooking Class #8a

Enjoying Skinny Margaritas!

PennySqueezingLimes

Our Hostess Squeezing More Limes Than She Has Ever Squeezed!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


Polynesian Grilled Shimp

July 1, 2012

Polynesian Grilled Shrimp With Peppers And Pineapple

The grill was calling my name but I hadn’t been shopping in over a week.

I scrounged around and came up with a bag of frozen shrimp, a red bell pepper and half of a fresh pineapple.  I had a little bit of left over barbeque sauce, but not enough for what I had in mind.  So, I added a bit of this and dash of that and I added the juice from the pineapple.   It came out great!  A little sweet, a little sour and a little bit more spicy.

I threaded everything on metal skewers and poured on some of the barbeque sauce.  I let the skewers marinate for a bit before I put them on a hot grill.  I turned them every few minutes and mopped them with more sauce each time I turned them.  I took them off after about ten minutes, all nice and glossy and charred.

Here’s the hot tip on grilling shrimp – leave them in their shells!  The frozen shrimp I had, was still in the shell, but had been deveined – perfect.  By leaving the shrimp in the shell, you can grill them long enough to get plenty of sauce to glaze up and long enough to get a nice char.  The sauce permeates the shrimp through the slit made in the back of the shell during the deveining process.  Also, the shells add more flavor.  It’s kind of a pain to peel them with your knife and fork at the table, but it’s worth it.  So, actually, the bigger the shrimp the better in this case.  The bigger shrimp are much easier to shell with a knife and fork.  I wish I had found larger shrimp in my freezer, but scroungers can’t be choosers.

What luck, I also found a bag of pre-cooked frozen brown rice in the freezer.  This is a great staple to keep on hand.  It’s super inexpensive and what could be easier at the last minute.  It takes me an hour and a half to make good brown rice.  The frozen stuff takes 7 minutes.  And, believe me, it’s good!

So, take a scrounge around the back of your fridge, your freezer and pantry and see what amazing dinner you can come up with.


Summer Menu With Ribs and Crisp Fennel, Orange and Beet Salad

June 30, 2012

If it’s summer, it has to be ribs for dinner.

Image

Moist and Sticky Barbequed Ribs with Summery Salad

I did baby back ribs and paired them with a luscious summery salad of crisp shaved fennel, juicy orange segments, roasted yellow beets and red onion on a bed of baby arugula.  I made the dressing with fresh orange juice and orange zest, fresh lemon juice, chopped shallots, grated ginger and extra virgin olive oil.  I topped the whole thing off with a few crumbles of feta cheese.  I used fat free feta, but you can use your favorite.

I just read through the new issue of bon appetit, the July 2012 issue.  On the cover is a picture of amazing looking ribs.  So, I was inspired to try their “ultimate do-ahead ribs”.  This is a great recipe for company because you can do the bulk of the cooking several days before the ribs are finished on the grill.

Crisp Shaved Fennel with Roasted Beets and Orange Segments on a bed of Arugula with a sweet tart Ginger Dressing.

First, I rubbed the slab of baby back ribs with a mixture of salt, pepper, brown sugar and ancho chili powder.  You could use any kind of chili powder.  Then,I wrapped the full slab in heavy duty tin foil.  I placed the packet on a cookie sheet and baked them in a 350 degree oven for two hours.  I drained off the liquid the ribs generated into a glass bowl and refrigerated for later. I wrapped the ribs back up in the same foil and put them in the refrigerator.

At this point, you can leave the juices and ribs in the fridge for up to 3 days.  When you’re ready to eat, add the reserved rib juices to store bought barbeque sauce or your own homemade sauce.  Put the cold ribs onto a hot grill and slather them with the sauce/juice mixture.  Turn the ribs over every minute or so and slather on more sauce each time.  Do this for about seven minute or until the ribs are heated through, nicely glazed with some nice char marks.  Delicious!!


Cedar Planked Salmon

July 10, 2011

Salmon with Brown Sugar, Coffee and Cumin on Cedar Plank

I call this salmon dish, “Cowboy Salmon” because it is an adaptation of a fabulous meal I saw prepared on Bobbie Flay’s grilling show.  He had a guest chef on the program, who is known as “The Epicurean Cowboy”.  He made this spice rubbed, cedar planked salmon as an ingredient for his fish tacos.  The spice rub is made from brown sugar, crushed coffee beans and cumin.  I was so intrigued by the idea, I just had to try it.

I made it a few weeks ago for a party I hosted for my tennis girlies.  It was our end of season bash and I opted for two different kinds of fish tacos, homemade chips and salsa, and margaritas.  The party was a huge success.  The gals are still talking about it.  However, I was so busy getting everything set up and served that I never had time to get photos of the party or the party food.  I knew I wanted to make this salmon again, so I could photograph it and publish the recipe.

The Epicurean Cowboy serves his salmon with a spicy coleslaw on warm corn tortillas, which is how I served it at my party.  But for my re-do I morphed the concept into something suitable for one of my Sunday dinners with my mother-in-law.  Tacos seem a little too casual for Sunday dinner, so I deconstructed the recipe for my own purposes.  I served the salmon, grilled and flaked.  I served a spicy coleslaw on the side.

Grilled Polenta with Green Chiles and Cilantro

And instead of corn tortillas, I decided to make a grilled polenta.  Polenta is typically an Italian dish, but I mixed things up and made it with a Mexican twist.  I added roasted green chiles, green onions, crumbled Mexican cheese and a splash of lime juice.  I grilled the polenta and garnished it with a little fresh cilantro.  Wow, it was really amazing!  I liked the pairing with the salmon even better than the original corn tortillas.

MENU:

Cedar Planked Salmon and Grilled Polenta

For the salmon, I used a cedar plank I had left over from my party.  The plank needs to be soaked in water for at least an hour before it can be put on the grill.  The idea is for the plank to smoke and add smoky flavor to the fish.  If the plank is too dry, it will catch fire.  I set the plank in my utility sink on my patio and turned the water on.  It’s a big sink, and I wanted to fill it, so I left the water running, while I went back inside to work on another dish.  Well, I got busy and lost track of the running water.  When I thought of it, I ran out to see how bad it was.  As suspected, the water was pouring over the top of the sink onto the patio floor.  It was a nice little flood but no real harm done.  The patio floors are really clean and shiny now.  Terrific!  Maybe I’ll do things the same way, the next time I’m soaking planks.

Cedar Planked Salmon with Spicy Brown Sugar Glaze

The salmon is dusted with a heavy dose of the spice rub, about a cup per pound of fish.  I threw a handful of the rub onto the damp cedar plank, then set the filet on top of that.  I added another generous handful of the spice rub to the top of the fish.  I grilled it in the center of the grill on high.

The aroma from the smoking cedar is unbelievable.  The sugar in the spice rub, caramelizes and creates a beautiful glaze on both sides of the fish.

For the polenta, I used and instant polenta, which is sometimes labeled, “pre-cooked”.  It looks like fine corn meal.  The regular polenta requires about 45 minutes of cooking and stirring.  The instant kind cooks in about 5 minutes.  I used chicken stock instead of water for more flavor.  I added a small can of roasted green chiles, Ortega brand.  You can roast your own peppers if you want, but the canned or jarred ones are just as good.  I don’t take many short cuts when I cook, but I don’t mind using the jarred roasted peppers at all.

I added chopped green onions and diced Mexican cheese, queso fresco.  It is a fresh, mild white cheese.  I wished I had bought the melting kind, but instead I bought the crumbling kind.  It turned out great anyway.  The cheese cubes remained whole and they picked up nice grill marks for even more flavor when I grilled the polenta.  After cooking the polenta thoroughly, I poured it into a buttered 9 by 12 pan.  I covered it with plastic wrap and refrigerated it for about an hour.

Polenta with Roasted Green Chiles Ready for the Grill

I cut the chilled polenta into squares, drizzled it with a little olive oil and gave it a liberal sprinkle of coarse sea salt.  I grilled it on a hot grill and it took longer than I had expected to get good grill marks.  I checked it after 5 minutes and there were no grill marks.  I was a little surprised, but I let it cook on and I got great grill marks after about 10 minutes per side.

Baja Cole Slaw with Lime, Cilantro and Green Chiles

I love, love, love to mix up coleslaw to suit my tastes.  I use the bagged coleslaw mix and add my own dressings and add-ins.  Sometimes I give it an Asian twist with a little sesame oil, rice vinegar and soy sauce, or I might give it a Thai flair with fish sauce, chile peppers, sugar and rice vinegar.  For this menu, I used my “South of the Border” flavor mix.  I made the dressing out of lime juice and mayonnaise.  I added diced jalapeno peppers, red onions and chopped fresh cilantro.  It was so fresh and tasty.  An excellent complement to the rich flavored fish and starchy polenta.  It balanced the whole plate.

Mango Cheesecake with Lemon Basil Syrup

Some of you may think everything I serve turns out the way I want it to.  Trust me, that is not true.  Case in point, is the dessert I served with this menu.  I saw Giada De Laurentiis on the Food Network, make an unusual cheesecake.  She made mango cheesecake with a lemon, basil syrup.  It looked gorgeous on the television.  I really wanted to try to make it, and I thought it would go perfectly with this menu.  Well, my syrup turned out a weird shade of green that didn’t look appetizing at all.  The cheesecake was too wet and sort of fluffy.  I think cheesecake should be dense and flavorful.  This didn’t have much flavor and I just couldn’t get past the green sauce.  I’m not going to put the recipe on my site, but if you think it sounds good to you, Google it and you can easily find the recipe.


Jamaican Jerk For Cousin Jane

June 12, 2011

My husband’s cousin Jane flew in from New York for a sunny break from the miserable weather up north.  She  came in with David’s sister, Mary Anne, who lives in Connecticut.  Mary Anne and Jane are like sisters.  They grew up together and get together often as adults.  My regular readers know I like to put on the Florida/Tropical/Caribbean dog when the yankees come to visit.  I like to make sure my guests know they are not in “Kansas” anymore.

Jerk Chicken On The Grill, Whole Split Chicken Plus Extra Legs

So, in that vein I came up with the following menu for Mary Anne and Jane’s visit:

I was doing my no-carb thing, so everything was made with no or very little carbs.  For the coconut rice, I used my “mock coconut rice”  recipe.  It is actually made out of fresh cauliflower that is riced in the food processor.  Most people can not tell the difference and are truly amazed when I tell them it is not rice.  Jane was no different, she was shocked!

Apparently Jane does not eat vegetables because she hates them.  I wasn’t aware of this, so I felt pretty pleased when she absolutely loved my mock rice and – shock of all shocks –  she had seconds on the creamy Jamaican greens!

Callaloo - Jamaican Greens With Smoked Turkey and Coconut Milk

I was wanting to stick as close as possible to my Jamaican theme, so I used Jamaican Callaloo, a hearty and sturdy green native to Jamaica.  You can easily substitute Collard Greens, Mustard Greens, Kale or whatever you normally like.   The method is to boil the greens with a smoked turkey wing, leg or neck, whichever you can find.  The salty smoked meat imparts a fabulous flavor to the greens.  Callaloo takes a long time to get tender, so I boiled it for about an hour.  I drained it, and drizzled a little coconut milk over it and tossed in some of the turkey meat that I pulled off the bone.  It was really delicious.  Jane proved it!

Mock Coconut Rice Made With Cauliflower

The mock coconut rice is a synch to make if you have a food processor.  I put the ricing blade on and pushed the cauliflower through it to get the small, rice-like pieces.  I pulled out the bigger pieces and set aside for another use.  It cooks really fast, so I brought some chicken stock with some coconut milk to a boil and added the cauliflower.  I only cooked it for about seven minutes.  I drained it, added my secret ingredient, a couple of drops of coconut extract.  I seasoned it with salt and onion powder.  I added chopped green onion and fresh cilantro, reserving some of both for garnish.  I swear, you will fool your guests and yourself with this clever lo-carb side dish!

I found the dried hibscus flower buds at a large Jamaican market in the Fort Lauderdale area called Broward Meat And Fish Company.   It is an amazing market!  The first time I went in, I was so overwhelmed I left without buying anything.  Everything was so exotic, so foreign to me, I didn’t know where to start.  But I went back, and now I go all the time.  They have tons of specialty food items from Jamaica, Haiti, Brazil, as well as other places.

Refreshing Jamaican Cocktail

They have a huge fresh seafood counter, another huge meat counter and a fabulous prepared food counter.  You can buy goat meat or oxtails along with the usual chicken, beef or pork.  They sell fish I’ve never even heard of!  I found a package of what I thought was dried morel mushrooms.  When I got them home, I realized the package said, Dried Sorrel – oops!  It turns out dried sorrel is Jamaican hibiscus flower buds.   So, I did a little research and came up with a very refreshing cocktail made with Hibiscus/Sorrel flower tea and ginger ale.  I used Splenda to sweeten the tea and sugar-free ginger ale, but you could use sugar if you like.  I offered the cocktail “virgin” or “slutty”, as I am want to do.  The “slutty” version had a bit of Jamaican rum added – yummy!  As I recall, we were all “slutty” that evening.

Key Lime Panna Cotta

When I’m doing the no-carb thing at my house, everyone has to do the no-carb thing.  So, for dessert I made a sugar free panna cotta and flavored and colored it with key lime extract.  It was very pretty and everyone loved it.

It was great to see Jane and Mary Anne and I hope I may have inspired Jane to eat a vegetable once in a while!  Come back soon, gals!

Jamaican Jerk Chicken Hot Off The Grill


Up With People Kids In Town

April 20, 2011

My husband and I had the pleasure of hosting four young men from the international traveling troupe, “Up With People”, while they were performing in Fort Lauderdale.  The boys stayed with us for eight days.  Some folks might think the task of feeding four hungry young men every day for eight days overwhelming, but me?  I was in heaven!

We had two boys from Japan; Hiroaki and Yasuhiro and two boys from Mexico; Packo and Sergio.  All spoke beautiful English, so communicating was no trouble at all.  Each morning David took them into Fort Lauderdale where they did community service work or rehearsed.  Each evening, David picked them up and they arrived at our house tired and hungry.  What a boon for me!  I planned my menu trying to choose things that were universally likable, taking special consideration for the “clean” food style of Japan.

Here is what I served each day:

Saturday

  • Poached Salmon with Fresh Dill and Lemon
  • Steamed Green Beans with Butter
  • Roasted Multi-Colored New Potatoes
  • Key-Lime Pie

Poached Salmon with Fresh Dill and Lemon

Mixed Roasted New Potatoes

Sunday

Puerto Rican Pork Roast

Coconut Rice

Monday

  • Grilled Chicken Thighs with Crispy Skin
  • Bow Tie Pasta with Chunky Fresh Tomato Sauce
  • Insalata Caprese Salad
  • Roasted Summer Squashes
  • Ice Cream Sundaes

Insalata Caprese

Grilled Chicken with Crispy Skin

Tuesday

  • Salmon Burgers
  • Big-Boy Mac and Cheese
  • Tossed Green Salad
  • Warm Brownies with Chocolate Sauce

Big-Boy Mac N Cheese

Wednesday

  • Pulled Pork Sandwiches with Mango Salsa
  • Sweet Potato Fries
  • Ice Cream Sandwiches

Pulled Pork Sandwich

Thursday

  • The boys had a concert at the Bank Atlantic Center during a Florida Panthers Hockey game, so they ate dinner on the road.

Friday

  • Sister Patti’s Grilled Ribeye Steaks
  • Baked Potatoes with the Works
  • Fennel and Feta Salad with Lemon and Dill
  • Apple Pie

Crisp Fennel With Feta, Lemon and Dill

Saturday

  • The boys had their big concert and ate during all day rehearsals.  The show was fantastic!

Sunday

  • The boys cooked for us!
  • Mole Chicken Breast
  • Mixed Vegetables and Rice
  • Japanese Cabbage & Bacon Pancake (Okonomiyaki)

It was an honor and a pleasure to host these fine young men in our home.  We wish them well in their travels and performances.  I heard they were in the Czeck Republic when this article was posted.

Yasuhiro, Packo, Hiroaki and Sergio Cooking

Japanse Pancake with Crispy Seaweed Flakes

Hiroakis Skillfull Flipping

Mixed Vegetables and Rice With Mexican Seasoning

Packo and Sergios Mole Chicken

Fun With Wigs and David's old "Up With People" Albums Yasuhiro, Hiroaki, Sergio and Packo


Labor Day Mixed Grill

September 10, 2010

Rustic Tart with Mixed Stone Fruit

The highlight of this Labor Day’s menu was dessert.  The low and slow grilled beef and pork ribs were an adventure as well.   Let’s start with the dessert.  I made a rustic tart with mixed stone fruit; peaches, three kinds of plums and fresh cherries.  I used a puff pastry sheet, which always simplifies a dish.  See the recipe for the details on how to make this beautiful and delicious dessert.

Hickory Grilled Beef and Pork Ribs

I have never made beef ribs before and they have been calling to me lately.  I think Labor Day is probably one of the biggest grilling days of the year, so I thought grilled ribs would be perfect.

And since I am always seeking that extra WOW in my menus, I decided to do a mixed grill; beef AND pork ribs.  I followed a recipe from the Food Network cooking couple, the Neeley’s.  The Neeley’s are famous for their barbecue.

Well, it turned out to be a disaster!  All my efforts to make these ribs ended in over-cooked, dry and inedible ribs.  Thank goodness Mum is such a good sport.  She insisted her charred beef rib was delicious.  What a dear!

I can’t leave well enough alone, so I went out the next day and bought more ribs and tried again.  I went with the same basic method, but cut way back on the cook time.  The ribs were amazing the second time around.  I especially loved the beef ribs.  I will feel confident to try my modified recipe again.   Check it out on the recipe page.

So Simple Potato Salad

I am not a big fan of potato salad, but it seemed that potato salad would be perfect for a Labor Day barbecue.

I reached back to my Connecticut days and resurrected a recipe that a co-worker would always bring to office pot lucks.

It is a very simple recipe and the only potato salad I have ever liked.  It is very simply; potatoes, chives, mayonnaise and salt and pepper.  I also added a dollop of sour cream.  The trick that makes it so tasty is to mix everything while the potatoes are still hot from the boiling pot.  Peel the potatoes and chop them before boiling them.  That way, you can drain them and immediately mix everything while the potatoes are still hot.  They absorb the mayonnaise and seasonings so much better when they are warm.  This salad is very delicious.  Give it a try and see what you think.

Grilled Veggies

The entire menu:

Mixed Stone Fruit Tart with Vanilla Ice Cream


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