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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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


Summer Soup

September 2, 2013
Summer Soup 026

Corn and Asparagus Soup Tastes Like Summer!

This soup was sort of an accident of good fortune.  I had boiled fresh corn on the cob the night before.  I had extra corn, and the water it was boiled in, left over.  I also had left over asparagus spears, minus the pretty tips.

I had used the asparagus tips for another recipe and couldn’t bear to throw away the naked stalks.  So, voila!  Corn and asparagus soup was born.

I cut the corn kernels from three cobs and set them aside.  I put the stripped cobs back in the corn water and boiled it until it had reduced to about 4 cups.  I removed the cobs and added the asparagus stalks that had been cut into one inch pieces.  I had a goodly handful of stalks.  I simmered the asparagus for about 5 minutes and added the corn kernels.  I simmered for another 5 minutes and turned the burner off.

After cooling, I ran the concoction through the blender in batches.  Watch out, when blending hot liquids.  The resulting steam can blow the lid off the blender and splash and burn whatever it hits.  I leave the feed hole open and put a dish towel over it to absorb the steam.

After I blended everything up, I wasn’t happy with the consistency.  It was too chunky.  So, I strained out the solids.  The result, was the most beautiful colored, creamy soup that tasted just like summer.  I added about 2 tablespoons of half and half for extra decadence.  No salt was added because the original water I used to boil the corn had been salted.  A few asparagus tips floated on top would have been the “piece de resistance”!   If I ever make this on purpose, I will make sure to save a few tips for garnish.

Corn and Asparagus Fritters

Corn and Asparagus Fritters

I can’t stand to throw anything away and I was left with the solids that had been strained from the soup.  They looked pretty good to me.  So, I turned  that wet veggie mash into fritters.  I added an egg, some rice flour and some corn flour (corn starch).

I’m pretty much gluten free, thus my flour choices, but you could add regular wheat flour.  I added salt and pepper and let the batter rest for 15 minutes to absorb the flours.  I dropped spoonfuls into a hot non-stick fry pan with a tiny bit of canola oil and a wee pat of butter.  Wow!!  These turned out to be amazingly delicious.  They went perfectly with my accidental summer soup of corn and asparagus.

I think I might be a genius.   Well, probably not, but I felt pretty good about turning some pretty sorry looking leftovers into this lovely summer lunch.

 


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!!


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