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!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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


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


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!


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!!


Holiday Sides Lightened Up

November 17, 2011

Does the thought of facing Thanksgiving dinner have you dusting off your elastic waist pants?  I’m here to tell you, no worries if you use some of my tricks for taking out the calories but leaving in the flavor.

I have been transforming my holiday and party recipes into delicious, low fat, low calorie dishes.  I had to take a big leap to try recipes that don’t start with bacon fat, but I promise, you won’t miss it!  Honest!   Here are a few I’ve already tested:

Fresh Green Beans with Caramelized Shallots

Instead of green bean casserole, try green beans with caramelized shallots.  I am very pleased with how easy this recipe is, but, wowee-delicious!  I caramelized the shallots in a teeny tiny bit of olive oil in a non-stick pan.  I cooked them over medium-low heat for about 30 minutes.  They became lusciously browned with a bit of crunch.

GreenLine Trimmed and Washed Green Beans

I used the pre-cleaned bagged green beans that come in a microwavable plastic bag.  If you haven’t tried these yet, I must insist – try them – immediately!!  They have become my go-to vegetable, holiday or no holiday.  You poke a few holes in the bag with a fork and microwave them for four minutes.  Instant farm stand green beans with no fuss, no muss.

After I caramelized the shallots, I nuked the green beans.  I added them to the shallots and tossed to coat the beans with all that yummy shallot flavor.  Add a sprinkle of coarse ground sea salt and a bit of black pepper and serve.  I can’t believe how good these are!  And the best part, you can do the shallots ahead of time.  Let them hang out on the back of the stove until you are ready to serve.  Nuke the beans, toss together and this dish is ready in a flash.  Click here for the recipe.

Roasted Brussels Sprouts and Cranberries

How about fresh Brussels sprouts roasted with fresh cranberries?  Look how gorgeous they are.  And this is another, super easy side dish.  I tossed the Brussels sprouts with a tad bit of olive oil and spread them out on a foil lined cookie sheet.  I tossed the cranberries with a dressing I made from honey and orange juice (a tablespoon of each).  I sprinkled the coated cranberries over the Brussels sprouts and sprinkled everything with smoked sea salt.  Smoked sea salt??  Yeah baby, it’s all the rage and it has become my new favorite “tastes like bacon” ingredient.   You can find a wide variety of smoked salts in gourmet shops and online.

Hot from the oven and perfectly browned and beautiful!

Cut the Brussels sprouts in half and put them cut side down on a foil lined pan.  This way, they get evenly browned and beautiful.  Roast the sprouts and berries for 20 minutes at 435 degrees with no turning or stirring.   When you turn them into the serving bowl, give them a light spray of Pam and a fresh sprinkle of salt.  This dish will be a crowd pleaser!  Click here for the recipe.

Butternut Squash with Sage and Onion Brown Butter

Wait til you try this twist on the classic butternut squash side dish!  How about kicking up the flavor with sage and a hint of onion?  Who needs all that butter when you have those yummy holiday herbs and flavors added?  And my super-secret short cut for this dish – use frozen cooked butternut squash puree.  If you’re afraid you might be smited by the ghost of your great grandmother, then by all means, buy the fresh squash.  You can peel it, seed it, roast it and mash it if you like.  I tested the recipe both ways and couldn’t taste the difference when I used the frozen squash.  Ouch! Ouch! Ouch!  I think I was just poked by an ancestor!

Another trick to boost the flavor using less fat is to use “brown butter”  In a medium sauce pan, heat 2 teaspoons of butter until it becomes toasty and browned.  Be careful not to burn it, just lightly toast it until you can smell the nuttiness and see the slight browning of the butter.

Meanwhile, grate half of a large sweet onion.  Grate the onion on your box grater.  I guess you could use a food processor, but it is really easy to use the box grater.  You’ll end up with lot of onion juice and some onion pulp.  I like to use grated onion when I don’t want the onion chunks, but I want the fresh onion taste.  Add the grated onion and onion juice to the browned butter.  Saute over medium heat until most of the onion juice has evaporated.

Add a tablespoon of dried rubbed sage and saute for another minute or two.  I don’t recommend fresh sage for this dish.  I find fresh sage is good if it is cooked for a long time, but in a quick dish like this, fresh sage can taste bitter and has a medicinal flavor.

Add the pureed squash (fresh or frozen, I’ll never tell) to the onion sage mixture and heat through.  Season with salt and pepper and serve with a garnish of fresh sage leaves.  Delish delish delish!!  Two measly teaspoons of butter for the whole dish is plenty, thanks to the flavor boost from browning the butter and the onion and sage.  Added bonus – this dish can be made ahead of time and reheated.  Yay!!  I love make ahead holiday dishes!!  For the complete recipe, click here.

Pumpkin Pie Custard Cup

If you don’t have the calorie budget for pumpkin pie, or you can’t find your elastic waist pants, try this amazing knock off.  No-crust pumpkin pie custard cups with a dollop of fat free cool whip or fat free frozen vanilla yogurt.  You won’t miss the crust.  I tested this recipe by making a batch of the standard pumpkin pie filling, except I made a few substitutions.  I substituted fat free evaporated milk for the full fat kind.  Also, I used a little bit of real brown sugar and the rest Splenda artificial sweetener.  I used whole eggs because you need the yolks to make a good custard.  I added the standard spices and poured the mixture into custard cups that had been sprayed with Pam.  I baked them for about 50 minutes at 350.  Really really good.  Try the recipe by clicking here!


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.

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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.


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