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

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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!


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


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


Tennis Party Quiche

November 14, 2010

My Tennis club had a season kick-off party yesterday.  There was a tennis round robin, exhibition matches put on by the pros, and a pot luck lunch.   I wanted to make something that could be served at room temperature and I didn’t want to worry about the dish going bad in the heat.  So, I came up with quiche.  I was able to make it the night before and re-heat in the morning just before the party.

Spinach Feta and Dill Quiche for a Crowd

You know I’m a big showoff, so I can’t make quiche Lorraine or some other passe, boring old quiche.  My quiche has to wow the guests.  So, for the first one, I made a spinach with feta cheese and fresh dill pie.  I used puff pastry sheets for the crust and baked it in a disposable, tin 9 by 13 inch pan.  It was really beautiful, smelled fantastic and was absolutely delicious.  There wasn’t a scrap left at the party.  Try this recipe for what I call, Spanakopita Quiche.

Tomato Mozzarella and Fresh Basil Quiche for a Crowd

For the second dish, I made a tomato, mozzarella and fresh basil quiche.  The recipe is a take off on insalata caprese.  I was thinking about how to incorporate fresh tomatoes into a quiche with all the moisture there would be in the tomatoes.  I had a brainstorm and decided to roast the tomatoes before assembling the pie.

I used Italian plum tomatoes cut in half lengthwise.  I cored them and laid them out on a cookie sheet.  I drizzled them with olive oil, salt, pepper and a little sugar (to help bring out the tomato flavor).  I roasted them at 450 degrees for about 40 minutes.

I used some of the roasted tomatoes, chopped up in the pie, and I saved some, whole to decorate the top of the quiche.  I used shredded mozzarella in the quiche, but thin sliced fresh mozzarella for the top of the quiche.  After scattering the top with fresh basil chiffonade, it looked a lot like a classic Margherita Pizza Pie.

I wanted this quiche to mimic the insalata caprese, which classically has good olive oil drizzled over top.  I din’t think olive oil in a quiche would work out, but maybe a few chopped green olives would give me the flavor I wanted.  I still have five pounds of green olives left over from the catering job.  If you recall, these are top of the line (expensive) large green olives.  I rough chopped a cup of them and scattered them throughout the quiche.  I was nervous about how that was going to work out.  Well, I was delighted when I finally got a taste at the party.  It was amazing!  A real WOW quiche recipe.  A nice twist on several classics.  I hope you give this recipe for “Tomato Basil Quiche” a try.


Thai Shrimp with Red Chili Glaze

November 8, 2010

 

Thai Shrimp with Red Chili Glaze, Spicy Bok Choy and Coconut Rice

 

My friends Carl and Rozana came for dinner Sunday evening before taking David and I to a comedy show at the Parker Playhouse in Fort Lauderdale.  We saw Dana Carvey and he was hilarious!

I hadn’t cooked for Carl in a while and I got the word that he was jonesing for something from my kitchen.  Carl is one of my favorite people to cook for because he loves, loves loves food!  Rozana enjoys a good meal as much as the next person, but she eats like a bird and generally doesn’t think much about food.  So, I always imagine Carl going hungry.  Of course it’s not true, but sometimes, I worry!

I served:

This menu is great for company because everything can be staged and ready to flash heat at the last minute.  I made the base chili sauces for the shrimp and bok choy ahead of time.  When it was time to serve, I turned the two burners on high and when the sauces were hot, I tossed in the shrimp in one pan and the bok choy in the other.  Both dishes take about five minutes to cook.  Meanwhile I had made the coconut sauce for the mock rice ahead of time.  The cauliflower only take about five minutes to cook in its sauce.  So, easy-peasey, everything comes out at the same time, piping hot and perfectly cooked.

Give this menu a shot, it was more delicious than I can possibly describe.  It was heavenly!


Grilled Boneless Pork Chops

August 4, 2010

Grilled Boneless Pork Chops with Shiitake Mushroom Sauce, served with Grilled Leeks and Endive with Broiled Tomato Mozzarella

Beautiful center-cut boneless pork chops were on sale this week.  I marinated them, grilled them and served them with leeks, shallots and endive done on the grill in a foil packet.  I also served thick slices of tomato with fresh mozzarella done under the broiler.

For the marinade, I used a shallot vinaigrette.  Then, I sauteed shiitake mushrooms in a little olive oil.  I like to use my marinades as a finishing sauce.  I know lots of chefs say to discard the marinade.  As long as you bring the marinade to a boil, you are not in any danger of poisoning yourself.  So, I used the shallot vinaigrette marinade.  I brought it to a boil and then cooked it until it had reduced to a nice thickness.  I added the sauteed mushrooms and dressed the grilled pork chops with the sauce.  It was delicious.

Building the Packet of Grilled Leeks, Shallots and Endive with Lemon

For the grilled vegetables, I used the foil packet method.  I use the extra wide foil so you can make a bigger packet.  I doubled it over to make it stronger.  I piled up leeks, shallots, and endive that I had cut in half.  I drizzled a little olive oil and seasoned with salt and pepper.  I squeezed a little fresh lemon juice on the vegetables to give them a bright flavor.  I decided to include a few thin slices of lemon in the packet for show.  In retrospect, I would not do the lemon slices in the packet again.  They became bitter and caused the vegetables to be a little bitter.  Next time will garnish the grilled vegetables with the lemon slices after the vegetables have been cooked.  The dish is really gorgeous and smells fabulous.  Try it for a nice change of pace.

Chocolate Mousse

For dessert, I made a light and cool chocolate Mousse.  Mum loves dessert and she especially loves chocolate.  So this dessert was a big hit.  It is so simple to make.  Check out the recipe.


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