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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Last Saturday Supper Club February – OPA!!!

March 9, 2014

ImageAnother hit dinner party!  Aside from all the good food and drink, I found out:

Tracey SexyTracey was a “Food Stylist” in a previous life!  And a damn good one at that.

TimTim used to hang out in Greek town, Detroit, and drink Retsina wine and shout OPA! every time anyone lit a match.  LOL!

Jonathan and TraceyJonathan is a baklava loving Super Hero.  His secret power is “saving the day” before I even know anything needs saving!

Laura 2Laura and I burned our Weight Watcher point cards in the flaming saganaki – OPA!

Last Saturday January 015Chip FebruaryIf Angel didn’t keep Chip in line, he might get a job at the National Enquirer!  I’ll be your steno, Chip – OPA!

David is the best “morning after” wing man a girl could ever want.

And finally, Black Buca (Sambuca, Greek Liquer) should be drunk in moderation, if at all.  Ouch, my head still hurts!

saganakia I served Saganaki, the flaming Greek cheese, as an appetizer.  It was served with warm bread.  I made homemade French bread using the food processor method – no kneading.  I love that recipe!  I don’t usually serve appetizers at a dinner party, but how can you have a Greek dinner party without Saganaki??  OPA!!

Jonathan

While I was serving up the Cosmos, Martinis and Wine, the cheese was frying in the super hot pan on the stove.  La La, blab blab, oops, the cheese was getting a little over-melty.  Have no fear, Jonathan is here!  He swooped in behind me and effortlessly flipped all the cheeses and then helped me light it up – OPA!  Now, here is a man you want at every dinner party.

I had trouble finding the right kind of cheese and ended up ordering it from a Greek deli in Wisconsin, Parthenon Foods.  My research showed that three different kinds of cheese could be used.  Halloumi is a mild salty Cypriot cheese made from a blend of sheep and goat’s milk.  Raw, it is a little rubbery and sort of spongy.  Melted, it held it’s shape, but was still gooey enough to dip bread into.

The second most popular cheese is Kasseri, an ancient Greek cheese that is semi-hard, salty and made mostly from sheep’s milk.  This cheese made the best saganaki.  It fried easily and melted perfectly.  Not too melty, just enough to sink a warm hunk of bread into it and pull up some gorgeous stretchy, gooey cheese.  And really delicious.

The third cheese was Kefalotyri.  This Greek cheese is hard, made of sheep’s milk and it is aged.  It’s flavor is quite salty and very sharp.  A bit crumbly, but it still melted nicely.  This cheese is the best tasting without melting.  I would serve this cheese again, raw on a cheese platter.

Avgolemono SoupFor the soup course, I served a classic Greek soup, Avgolemono.  It is a lemony chicken and rice soup, thickened with egg yolks and served with dill.  I love this soup so much, I think I could eat it every day.  It is very easy to make, and despite it’s rich look and taste, it is actually quite light in fat and calories.

 

Sausage and OctopusI was a little nervous about the third course, grilled sausages and octopus – OPA!!  I wasn’t sure how my guests would react to the grilled octopus.  Apparently, my guests all have sophisticated palates.

No one looked the least bit squeamish, no one ran from the room screaming, and everyone tried it.  I served it on 2 platters, family style.  I wanted to give everyone the opportunity to pass on anything they may not have wanted to try.  As you can see from the gorgeous platter, it looked very appetizing.

Tracey SexyMy friend Tracey claimed to have been a “food stylist” in a former life, so she arranged this beautiful platter of goodies.  Very impressive, Tracey!

My friend and neighbor, Tim is quite the grill master and smoke aficionado, so he helped me with the octo-sausage grilling.  Great job, Tim, thanks!

Rack Of LambFor the entree course, I served my famous rack of lamb.  Easiest recipe ever, just make sure your oven is clean, because they cook at 500 degrees for 20 minutes.  If your oven isn’t sparkling, you are definitely going to get smoke in the house.

Greek Spinach Side DishI served the lamb with a spinach side dish I invented a while back.  I love Greek spanikopita, the little Greek pastries filled with spinach and feta cheese.  So I make the filling and bake it in a casserole dish, skip the fussy, fattening phyllo dough! It was the perfect compliment to the rich lamb.

Grilled Red PeppersI also served grilled sweet red bell peppers, dressed in olive oil, lemon and dill, served over white rice.  I make these grilled peppers all the time.  They are easy to make and look gorgeous on the plate.

 

 

BaklavaOh my Lord, the dessert I served, that baklava, I really think it was the best I’ve ever tasted.  I used a recipe from Mario Batali.  One package phyllo dough, 4 sticks of butter, 3 cups of sugar, 1 cup of honey and pistachio nuts and walnuts.  It makes for a beautiful presentation.  Everyone loved it.  I sent most of it home with my guests.

There were  a few hiccups hosting this dinner, but nothing worth writing about.  My advice to anyone hosting a dinner party, is to relax, let your guests help, and serve everything with a big smile and pretend it all turned out perfectly.  Generally, your guests will not notice the missteps.  And, even if they do, the good company will make up for it.  Enjoy yourselves and be fearless in the kitchen!

Baklava 2


Pork Tenderloin with Onion Jam and Apple Cider Molasses

June 23, 2013
Pork Tenderloin with Onion Jam and Apple Cider Molasses

Pork Tenderloin with Onion Jam and Apple Cider Molasses

Visually stunning, aromatic, lean and healthy, this menu will become your new “go-to” menu when company is coming for dinner.  Two homemade condiments make this dish a wowee, wowee entree.  They are Apple Cider Molasses and Onion Jam.

 

 

Apple cider molasses is made by boiling down a gallon of apple cider until it is thick and syrupy.  It has a surprisingly bright sweet tart flavor,which is fantastic with pork.  Very simple to make, it lasts for months in the fridge.  Next time I make it, I think I will preserve it in small canning jars to make it last even longer.

OnionJam

Caramelized Onion Jam

The onion jam is also simple to make, but a bit of a pain in the eye to peel all those onions.  I like to make a big batch so I have it on hand for recipes like this.  But you can try a small batch for the first time, to see if you really like it.

I peeled eight large sweet onions and chopped them using my food processor.   I did a rough chop.  The onions are then, slow cooked in a big saute pan with a little butter, some salt and a splash of vinegar.  After about an hour and a half the onions will be reduced to a thick, jam-like consistency.  Thanks to the vinegar, the jam lasts a long time in the fridge.  You can use this jam in so many ways; with cream cheese on crackers or crostini, baked with chicken, pork or beef, on pizza or pasta, used in marinades, etc.

Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Caramelized Onions

Grilled Pork Tenderloin With Caramelized Onions

For this pork recipe, I made a marinade with olive oil, the cider molasses, soy sauce, Worcestershire  sauce, Fresno chili peppers (red jalapenos),  salt and pepper, and herbs.  After marinading, I grilled the pork tenderloins.  I reserved the marinade for a finishing sauce.  I added some onion jam to the marinade and cooked it down until it was thick.  I like to add a small pat of butter at the end for glossiness.  The end result is a savory sauce with a hint of sweet, balanced with the tartness from the cider molasses, a little bit of heat for excitement and made rich by the caramelized onions.  You can see from the picture how beautiful the sauce looks on the sliced tenderloin.  For a detailed recipe click here.

Beet and Fennel Salad with Walnuts and Orange Vinaigrette

Beet and Fennel Salad with Walnuts and Orange Vinaigrette

And just to take this menu over the top, I served this gorgeous fennel, orange and beet salad.  The flavors in this salad compliment the pork beautifully.  The salad has roasted beets, fresh sliced raw fennel, orange segments and toasted walnuts.  The dressing is made with orange juice, rice vinegar, and a splash of canola oil.  The trick to keeping this salad looking its best, is to dress the fennel separately from the beets.  Then, ever so gently, mix the two.  Otherwise the red beet juice turns the whole salad red.  It is much prettier when you can see the contrast of the white fennel, the orange segments and the red beets.  Finish it by zesting a bit of orange peel on top.  For a detailed recipe click here.

4Various 098a

Creamy Polenta With Sage Butter

To round out this fabulous company menu, I prepared creamy polenta with sage butter.  I prepared the polenta according to the package directions.  Then, I added fresh chopped sage leaves that had been sauteed in butter.  Of course, I added the butter as well!


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.

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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.


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


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