Mrs. Bentley’s Last Saturday Supper Club

February 2, 2014
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Cheers! to Tracey and Chip

2014 ushers in my new project – Mrs. Bentley’s Last Saturday Supper Club.  I am hosting a dinner party once a month at my home.  I decided to hold the dinner party on the last Saturday of every month, thus  The Last Saturday Supper Club.  For now, I can only manage dinner for 8, so in addition to David and I, there is room for 6 dinner guests.  I am publishing the menu for each month at the beginning of the month.  The first 6 people that can get through to me have the seats.

Carol and Tracey

Carl and Tracey

The first dinner was held on the last Saturday of January, just a week ago.  I think it was a big hit! I chose a menu that was light and fresh.  I was thinking that after all the rich and plentiful holiday food, people would appreciate lighter fare.  I named the menu “Refresh”.  While the menu was packed with vegetables and seafood, I tried to make the dishes luscious and satisfying.

I served:

Steamed Mussels with White Wine and Garlic

Steamed mussels with white wine and garlic.  I had tested the recipe earlier in the week and it was delicious.   Too bad I didn’t prepare it the same way for the dinner party.  I guess I was feeling a bit anxious and I failed to double check my recipe notes.  I used too much wine, too much garlic and I forgot to add the celery all together.

Toasty Home Made French Bread

Toasty Home Made French Bread

Thank God I  decided to make my own fresh French bread to go with the mussels.  The bread turned out great.  Oooh but, I had a terrible feeling in the pit of my stomach when I took the first taste of the broth.  It was nothing like what I had tested earlier in the week.  Then, one of my guests, a restauranteur and fabulous cook himself, whispered to me, “not to worry, the mussels are delicious, and don’t say a word about the broth.  No one will be the wiser”.  What an angel!  I calmed right down and got on with the rest of the dinner, which was fabulous.

Wilted Greens with Chorizo, Chilis, Cashews and Pecorino Romano Cheese

Wilted Greens with Chorizo, Chilies, Cashews and Pecorino Romano Cheese

For the salad course, I served warm, wilted collard greens.  I know what you’re thinking -collard greens??? Really?? I thought you said this was going to be fine dining???  Ha!  They were so delicious, guests wanted to lick their plates.  It’s all in the toppings.  First, I made the toppings by sauteing spicy chorizo sausage and red chili peppers together.  Then, I added raw cashews and toasted them in the chorizo and chili oil.  I set that mixture aside and added a lemon and olive oil dressing I had made to the pan.  I Added the collards and tossed until they were nicely wilted but not overly done.  I served them, topped with the chorizo and cashews and with a healthy sprinkling of Pecorino Romano cheese.  Oh my goodness this combo is both unexpected and delicious.  Some of the guests said it was their favorite dish.

Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing

Lemon and Olive Oil Dressing

I mentioned a lemon and olive oil dressing I used for the greens.  This dressing is a new discovery to me and I am crazy about it.  I took a whole lemon and cut it into 8ths.  I removed the seeds.  Threw the rest into a blender and whizzed it up, skins, pulp and all.  I got it as smooth as I could, it was still pretty chunky.  I slowly added two cups of olive oil and kept blitzing until it was very smooth.  I added salt and whizzed some more.  It was a beautiful pale and creamy yellow color.  It was tart and a little sweet, balanced by the bitter of the rind and so creamy from the emulsified olive oil.  This dressing is great on a cold green salad, or drizzled on a piece of fish, or used on steamed vegetables.  Try it – it is so simple and so yummy!  I made extra and sent each of my guest home with a bottle.

Chilean Sea Bass with Fennel, Peppers and Citrus Slices

I think the entree was the star of the show.  I served Chilean Sea Bass on a bed of roasted fennel, red bell peppers, thinly sliced Meyer Lemons and Blood Oranges and fresh dill sprigs.  I sprinkled some freshly ground coriander seeds over top of everything.  Oh my!  The visuals on this dish are stunning.  The aromas of citrus, fennel, dill and coriander are swoon worthy.   The recipe is perfect for entertaining because it is slow roasted in the oven first.  Then, when you are ready to serve, it is put under the broiler for about 5 minutes and, voila!, everything is warm, with a nice bit of char, and ready to serve.

Chilean Sea Bass Plate

Chilean Sea Bass with Roasted Fennel and Citrus. Served with Orange Scented Black Rice.

Since the sea bass and the fennel are both pale colored, I thought a side of black rice would balance the plate nicely.  Black rice, also known as, the Emperor’s Forbidden Rice, has a nice chew, sort of like brown rice and the color is actually a very dark purple.  For the cooking liquid, I used half orange juice and half chicken stock.  I topped each serving with a bit of orange zest.  The flavor and the color was a perfect pairing for the Sea Bass.  Jonathan said this rice was his favorite dish.

ChocolateTartSo, ok, everything was nice and light, healthy, good for you food.  Time to break out the chocolate!  I made a tart.  A chocolate tart.  So rich and chocolaty.  The chocolate flavor was surprisingly intense, but so smooth and silky.  And just to “gild the lily”, I topped each piece with a dollop of freshly whipped cream and a drizzle of my homemade caramel sauce.  Well, it wasn’t exactly a dollop of whipped cream, Jonathan made gorgeous quenelles of whipped cream.  A quenelle is an elegant way to give a dollop a more formal and uniform shape.  They are oblong and sort of football shaped.  Well, he went to town and made each dessert plate look like it was from the finest dining establishment anywhere.

Last Saturday January 019

David and Rozana wishing they had room for more chocolate tart

I was a little surprised that my guests made very few comments about the tart.  I was wondering if maybe they didn’t care for it.  After discussing it the next day with my husband, David, we decided that they were just too stunned to comment.  Ha ha!  I really think so.  Stunned!

Mr. Bentley with that Martini Grin

I started the party off with a choice of cocktails, Martinis (my personal fav), Limoncello Spritzers (in keeping with the light menu), Cosmos (in honor of my friend Tracey) or Wine.  I did not serve any appetizers.  I don’t believe in appetizers at a dinner party.  One of my secret ingredients to any dinner is a pinch of  “hunger”.  Keep the guests waiting just a bit more than they expect.  Bring them to the table ravenous!  Not actually ravenous, but really hungry.  I know it sounds mean, but it works every time.  Try it.

Angel’s first time at Mrs. Bentley’s house. I think she’ll be back!

With dinner, I served a Barone Fini Pinot Grigio Valdadige that went well with the greens and the seafood.  David had the wine merchant help with this selection.  It was yummy.  With the chocolate tart, I served Sandeman Ruby Port.  I had read that chocolate and port made an amazing pairing.  I thought I might faint when I tried it.  I’m no expert on the art of beverage and food pairings, but I would like to learn more about it.  I would say, this pairing of chocolate and port went a long way toward giving me a good understanding.  After dinner, David served up some 18 year old Dewars to a few hearty souls.  There were no takers on the cigars.  Maybe next time.

Rozana and Angel enjoying Chip’s joke

I like to have seat assignments for a dinner party.  I like to mix up the guests, separate spouses, boy girl, boy girl, but not with their mates.  For this party, I took care to seat big talkers next to great listeners.  Carl and Rozan are “love birds”, and I thought Rozana might be nervous away from Carl, so I made sure they sat across from each other so they could gaze and one another all evening.  Everyone had a grand time, so I guess the arrangement was a success.   Odd, but there wasn’t a single photo of Jonathan.  You’ll have to use your imagination…..

Thanks to everyone for making the first Last Saturday Supper a huge success.  I can’t wait for the February party.  Menu to be posted soon!

Last Saturday January 010

Flaky and Silky Chilean Sea Bass with Fennel and Citrus Slices


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.


Pan Seared Tuna With Soba Noodles and Bok Choy

September 4, 2011

Mum was brave today!  I served a Japanese menu featuring seared ahi tuna, something, I’m sure, Mum has never had.  Her palate is decidedly English.  I imagine English menus as boiled, unseasoned plain food.   I suppose English food is sometimes dressed up with a bit of curry or some other spices rooted in their imperialist days, but generally, it has never sounded pleasant to me.  Kidney pie, kippers, clotted cream and all sorts of odd puddings – blech!

Seared Tuna with Soba Noodles and Bok Choy

Anyway, I digress.  For Mum’s big adventure, I served pan seared ahi tuna on a bed of wilted bok choy with a side of soba noodles sauteed with shiitake mushrooms and edamame.   I served a small cup of a sesame soy dipping sauce for the tuna.  I was so pleased with how it turned out.  Everything was super simple to make, but so delicious and very beautiful on the plate.

I marinated the tuna in soy, rice wine vinegar, sriracha sauce (sweet and hot Asian chili sauce), garlic, ginger and green onion.  And I added a bit of brown sugar to the marinade too.  I figured the sugar would help create a nice caramelization on the fish when I seared it.  It worked great!  I marinated the fish for about 2 hours.  I seared it on all sides in a pan of hot peanut oil.  Just a minute or two on each side.  I let it rest for 5 minutes before I sliced it.  While it was resting, I assembled the soba noodle side dish.

Soba noodles are a Japanese pasta made from buckwheat.  They taste sort of like whole wheat pasta, but a little more creamy.  While the soba noodles were boiling in salted water, I sauteed garlic, ginger, green onions, matchstick carrots and edamame.  Edamame are shelled soy beans.  They have a very delicate flavor and when cooked, their texture is somewhat like a sweet pea or a little like a lima bean.   I thought they added a nice touch of color and texture to the noodles.

I had washed and chopped the bok choy ahead of time.  I also sauteed the crunchy lower stems ahead of time.  At the last minute I reheated the pan and added the chopped leafy green portion of the bok choy.  It wilts in seconds, so a quick toss in the hot pan and it was ready to plate.

For the dipping sauce, I used the left over tuna marinade.  I heated it to a boil, added just a drop of sesame oil (no more than a drop, that stuff is potent!) and poured a little into some pretty sake cups I have.  They made the perfect vessel for the sauce.

Mum ate the noodles first and quite enjoyed them.  I could tell she was very leery about the tuna on her plate.  She pushed it around a bit, cut a few small pieces, pushed them around for a bit longer and then, finally took the plunge!  A quick dip in the sauce and into her mouth.  I so enjoyed the look on her face.  A combination of relief and pleasure.  She finished all the tuna and everything else on her plate.  She actually enjoyed all of it.  I was a little relieved myself.

I searched for Asian dessert recipes and fell a little short.  I ended up making a fruit compote of pineapple, mango and banana with dark rum and cinnamon.  I served it warm over vanilla ice cream.  It was delicious.  It seemed more tropical than Asian, but rather exotic, none the less.

I was inspired to prepare this menu by a Food Network show starring Anne Burrell.  I love her style and her quirky personality.  She is an amazing chef and she prepared a similar menu and made it look so easy.  As it turned out, it was very easy to make and it looked and tasted fantastic!


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.


Retro Revival

June 26, 2011

Grilled Bacon Wrapped Scallops

Sometimes all things trendy seem a little too far inside the box for me.  Does all good food have to be the latest fad from the outer reaches of the world?

Once in a while I like to go back to a good old standard, a classic.  That’s what I did here.  I went retro with bacon wrapped scallops.  They were so easy and so good, I may try that other old retro, bacon wrapped Filet Mignon for next week!

To prevent the scallops from becoming over done, I pre-cooked the bacon in the oven for about 15 minutes.  Then I wrapped the scallops and secured them with double skewers and popped them on the grill.  They took about 10 minutes total on the grill.  I rolled them over to the bacon side to make sure the bacon was nice and crispy.  They came out perfectly!  The scallop was so tender and juicy, not overdone at all.  And the bacon was crispy and delicious.  The bacon added such a gorgeous flavor to the scallops.  I’m not sure why anyone would ever prepare scallops without it.

Bacon Wrapped Scallops With Summer Squash and Pine Nuts

The bacon and scallops are fairly rich and I wanted a vegetable that was light and fresh.  I paired the scallops with a summery zucchini dish, “mixed summer squashes with toasted pine nuts”.  Super simple to make, it was surprisingly tasty.   I loved the way it looked on the platter with the scallops.

Ensalada Caprese

I went with one of my old standbys for a side salad.  I prepared ensalada caprese, family style.  It’s the classic Italian combination of fresh tomatoes, fresh mozzarella and fresh basil.  I chop it all up, passing dish style.  Then, drizzle with a little olive oil, splash a little rice wine vinegar and toss it with a generous amount of coarse sea salt.  Yummm!  Everyone always loves this salad.

The Menu:

 

Bacon Wrapped Scallops


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


Classics Rock! Shrimp Scampi

January 18, 2011

Baked Shrimp Scampi with Panko Crumble

I was feeling nostalgic and decided to go for a classic, Shrimp Scampi.  My husband had some amazing shrimp scampi about 30 years ago and he has been on a quest to find the scampi of his memories ever since.  Sadly, nothing ever seems to compare.  Is it the scampi or is it his memory?  Hmmm…

Shrimp Scampi with Roasted Vegetables

Do I get discouraged?  Hell no!  I keep trying every scampi recipe I can find.  “Is this the one dear?”, I ask each time.  Well, those of you who know me or know my husband, know what the answer is.  So, I keep trying!

The one I made this time was Ina Garten’s baked shrimp scampi recipe.  It is crusted with panko crumbs, butter and garlic.  It sounded like a wonderful recipe.  I thought it was fantastic!  My guests loved it too.  My husband loved it, but it was not the scampi from the bowels of his memories.  Do memories have bowels?  Probably not, but you know what I mean.

Roasted Vegetables with Parsley

I paired the scampi up with a very colorful vegetable roast. I roasted small new potatoes in three different varieties, red skin, Yukon golds and purple fingerlings.  I added cherry tomatoes and fresh green beans for a one dish wonder.

 

I didn’t take any pictures of dessert.  I took the easy way out and served ice cream with chocolate sauce.  Mum adores ice cream and so does David, so even though I consider it cheating to serve ice cream for a meal that I’m blogging, I went with it just this once.


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