Saturday, August 29, 2009

Summer Gazpacho Soup

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Summer Gazpacho Soup

12 Medium yellow tomatoes
2 C. Water
1 t. Salt
1 Large clove garlic
1 C. English cucumber, seeded, small dice
1 C. Red bell pepper, small dice
1 C. Red onion, small dice
1 T. Sherry vinegar
Salt and pepper to taste
Olive oil to drizzle

Remove stems and core slightly each tomato. On the bottom of each tomato, cut with a knife an “x”. Place in boiling water for one minute. Remove from water and cool. Peel skin off each tomato. Cut into quarters and remove as many seeds as possible. Place into large bowl.

Peel and mince the garlic. Add the salt to the garlic and continue to mince until it is almost like a paste. Add to the tomatoes. Place the mixture into a food processor and pulse until smooth. Add half the water and pulse. Remove into large bowl and place the remaining water. Add the sherry vinegar. Taste to determine if salt and pepper are needed. Chill.

To serve, spoon into bowls and top with the bell pepper, onions and cucumbers. Drizzle with olive oil for added richness. Enjoy with crusty fresh bread.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Perfect French Madeleine's



History shows that dating back to the 18th century in the French town of Commercy, in the region of Lorraine, the story is told that a girl name Madeleine made them for Stanislaw Lezczynski, Duke of Lorraine, who loved them and subsequently gave some to his daughter, Marie, the wife of Louis XV. Their popularity grew after that. Made famous by Marcel Proust in his novel, 'Remembrance of Things Past' in which he wrote: "She sent out for one of those short, plump little cakes called 'petites madeleines', which look as though they had been molded in the fluted scallop of a pilgrim's shell”.
These are perfect little cakes that can be eaten plain, with a sprinkle of confectioner’s sugar or dipped in melted chocolate. The texture and flavor is extremely satisfying and I bet you can’t just eat one – I dare you!

Perfect French Madeleine’s

½ C. Melted butter
2 Eggs
1 C. Sugar
1 C. Flour
1 T. Brandy
1 t. Vanilla

Preheat oven to 350.

Melt the butter in the microwave and let cool. In a large bowl, whisk the eggs and sugar together. Over a double boiler, gently heat the mixture until luke warm and whisk consistently. Remove from the heat and beat until light and fluffy with the whisk. Strive to incorporate as much air as possible, so the little cakes come out light.

Gradually add the flour and whisk together. Then add the melted butter and combine well. Finally add the brandy and vanilla and combine.

Using a non-stick Madeleine pan (purchased mine from Williams-Sonoma). Spray each mold with non stick cooking spray to ensure they do not stick. Add about one tablespoon of the mixture to each cookie mold depression. Cook for about 9 minutes until delicately brown. Cool for a few minutes and then using a sharp paring knife gently lift each cookie onto a wire rack to cool with the shell side up. Once completely cool, then dust with confectioner’s sugar and enjoy! Store in an airtight container – best used within a day or two.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Chez Panisse in Berkeley
























Our monthly Restaurant Club is in full swing with our lunch at Berkeley’s landmark restaurant – Chez Panisse. Brenley and Lynette traveled from Marin to meet me there. While waiting, I enjoyed the wonderful music, admired the busy kitchen with young chefs abounding and the folks checking in at the reception area. It was Lynette’s pick this month and what a wonderful choice she made. Such a historical culinary landmark known all around the world and today was our opportunity to taste the cuisine that Alice Waters is so famous for.

Alice Waters, chef, author, and the creator/owner of Chez Panisse, is an American culinary icon whose philosophy maintains that cooking should be based on the best and freshest ingredients that are produced locally. Alice is the pioneer of “California Cuisine”. Over the course of nearly forty years, Chez Panisse has helped create a community of local farmers and ranchers whose dedication to sustainable agriculture assures the restaurant a steady inventory of fresh and pure ingredients. Alice is the author of eight cookbooks, including Art of Simple Food: Notes and Recipes from a Delicious Revolution.

Our waiter had worked there for six years and provided outstanding service. The Chez Panisse signature water vessel came with three small water glasses along with earthy bread and butter for the table to share. After reviewing the lunch menu we made our selections, so we would be able to steal tastes from each other to complete the entire dining experience. I started with a glass of 2008 Rioja Blanco, Ostatu from Spain. (Dry but fruity white wine which was perfect for my lunch choices.) First course was Celery Soup with Crème Fraiche and Chervil. Lynette ordered a glass of 2008 Touraine Sauvignon, Francois Chidaine from France. She began with Avocado and Beet Salad with Ginger Vinaigrette. Brenley was in the mood for coffee and they serve Blue Bottle Coffee – delicious! She started with the Baked Andante Dairy Goat Cheese with Garden Lettuces.

For our main course, Lynette and I chose the Northern Halibut Baked in the wood oven with Green Beans, Sweet Peppers and Aioli. The aioli was made with hints of tarragon and went perfectly with the baked halibut. Brenley selected the Magruder Ranch Pork Leg with Fried Shoestring Potatoes, Broccoli di Ciccio, and Tapenade. The shoestring potatoes were outstanding!

No meal is complete without dessert! We selected the Black Mission Fig Tart with wild Fennel Ice Cream and Donner Trail Peach and Raspberry Shortcake with Vanilla Cream. I was incredibly curious about the fennel ice cream and the slight fennel flavors, along with the creamy custard made this ice cream a complete hit. It balances the crispy tart and earthy baked figs. The shortcake was crunchy but tender and a complete classic.

Would return to Chez Panisse in a heartbeat and recommend that every person have this on their bucket list!


Saturday, August 22, 2009

Three Terrific Wines - Dumas, Kathryn Kennedy and Ehret Family Vineyards


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Dumas - Reserve Cabernet Sauvignon – 2006

This is a sophisticated wine that impresses from the first sip including the dense purple color, the scents of lavender and crème de cassis, the super silky smooth texture. Enchanting flavors include a symphony of ripe plums, blackberries, and deep dark chocolate and mocha in the mid-palate. The finish includes a hint of savory spices including truffle, cherries and toasty oak flavors. Only 56 cases produced. ($70 per bottle)

The bottle is has a brilliant red wax over the top of the bottle. Why wax? In addition to the aesthetic appeal, wax is generally regarded as the most effective method to preserve a wine bottle closure for long term aging.

Kathryn Kennedy – Lateral - 2005

What an amazing wine for only $36.00 – a terrific value! The complexity and mouth feel gives it the ability to pair with just about any dish. Medium full bodied blend of 54% Merlot, 17% Cabernet Franc, 17% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Petit Verdot and 6% Malbec. Lateral is inspired by the famous wines of the St. Emilion district of Bordeaux. The blending of the Merlot and Cabernet Franc is the cornerstone of this model. Lateral utilizes multiple vineyards and from more than one region. Marty Mathis and Chris Condos are the winemakers and have made over ten vintages.

Ehret Family Winery – Cabernet Sauvignon - 2006

This is such a lovely wine that is under discovered and a value at $40 a bottle. During fermentation skin contact lasted for about 21 days. The wine was aged in 100% French oak barrels (70% new oak) with medium toast for 20 months.

The taste of this wine has benefited greatly from the origin of, and agricultural practices used in the vineyard. It is currently dark in color displaying a fruit with rich, distinctive flavors and intense aromas. The mouth feel is soft, with tannins that are not overpowering, and silky with a long-lasting finish. This wine will age beautifully and will continue to thrive in the bottle for the next 10 years.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

BBQ Pork Sliders



BBQ Pork Sliders

Ingredients:
1 Pork Tenderloin
1 ½ C. Stubbs Original BBQ Sauce or your favorite
1 C. Red Cabbage, Finely Shredded
2 Medium Onions
5 T. Butter
1 t. Sugar
Salt & Pepper
8 Sweet Hawaiian Dinner Rolls, Cut in half and toasted


Pork Tenderloin:Take the tenderloin out of the fridge 30 minutes before cooking. Prep the tenderloin by removing the fat and silver skin from the meat. Salt and Pepper all sides of the tenderloin. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Put about 2 tablespoons of olive oil in an ovenproof skillet and sear the tenderloin over medium-high heat to brown all sides, about 3 minutes in all.

Place skillet in the oven and roast 30 minutes, until internal temperature is 145 degrees. Completely cool, so you can slice extremely thin and shred. Once the pork is shredded, place into a sauce pan with the BBQ sauce and cook until heated.

Caramelized Onions:Peel and cut in half lengthwise the onion. Then proceed to thinly slice each half of the onion. Melt the butter gently in a large saucepan and add the onions. Toss to completely coat the onions with the melted butter. Add the sugar, salt and pepper. Cook the onions over medium heat until caramelized. (Lightly brown) Set aside to cool.

Assemble:
Lay each roll in half with toasted side up. Spoon about 2 tablespoons of BBQ pork mixture on the bottom bun, then top with one tablespoon of caramelized onions and a big pinch of the shredded cabbage. Top with the other half of the toasted bun. Enjoy!

Saturday, August 15, 2009

César on Piedmont Avenue

























It is customary in the Mediterranean region to enjoy Tapas with friends and family. Tapas are small bites or appetizers or little mouthfuls. In Spain, this tradition began in the southeastern region where sherry is made when innkeepers would put little plates on top of the sherry glasses (copitas) to keep out the flies and dust. In time, they began to add little bits of bread, cheese or ham to the little “covers,” or tapas, and a wonderful tradition was born. Tapas bars and restaurants are popping up all over the United States and are a wonderful way to enjoy an abundance of flavor profiles. They can be enjoyed before the meal or as the meal – you decide.

Chef Maggie Pond, chef at César recognized the Tapas tradition by offering authentic tapas made from the finest Spanish ingredients combined with the unparallel fresh meat, seafood, and produce found all over the San Francisco Bay Area. Maggie has traveled throughout Spain and continues to go back each year to scour the markets for new ingredients, and to eat and cook in the finest tapas bars in Barcelona, Madrid, and San Sebastián.

Today my long time friend Helen and I ventured to Piedmont Avenue in Oakland to try this recognized restaurant – César. We enjoy adventuring to new places around the Bay Area and César certainly did not disappoint. From the friendly service to the intensely delicious flavors of the tapas, we were in foodie heaven.

We decided to sit outside, since the temperature was a perfect 78 degrees and not windy. (Great people watching too) We figured it was 5:00 somewhere in the world and ordered a couple Sangrias. One word – WOW! The red wine flavored with a ting of brandy and fruit and finished with fizzy water was absolutely refreshing.

Reading through the menu there were so many choices that looked incredible. We started with the Gazpacho and it was like no other gazpacho I have ever had. Not the typical diced vegetables in tomato juice. It was finely pureed yellow tomatoes pushed through a sieve and water was added. Lightly seasoned with sherry vinegar, salt and pepper and accented with small dices of cucumber, red bell peppers and red onions. Garnished with a rustic piece of toasted bread and a drizzle of olive oil.

Next we feasted on “Albondigas con Garbanzos” which was lamb meatballs with garbanzos and spinach in a smokey paprika broth. Rich, hardy and extremely flavorful. Now onto the “Montaditos on Toast” and we had the dry cured pork loin on a baguette slice with quince jam. The combination of sweet, yeast and earthy pork was out of this world. Final tapas were “Fried Manchego Cheese with Romesco Sauce”. It was perfectly executed with a crispy crust of herbed bread crumbs and an earthy romesco sauce that had just a slight crunch of almonds.

What would a great meal be without a dessert? Staying true to the Spanish tapas theme, we decided to share the “Churros con Chocolate”. The churros were still warm with sweet sugar coating and the warm chocolate dipping sauce has a slight orange flavor. Perfect ending to a perfect lunch!

Cesar
4039 Piedmont Avenue
Oakland, CA 94611
(510) 985-1202
http://www.barcesar.com/piedmont/

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

Celebration Lunch



Celebration Lunch

One of my teams had a milestone goal to hit and they achieved it earlier than expected. The reward was a lunch cooked by me at the office. I set up the table with a nice table cloth, poppers for celebrating and nice dishes and flatware.

Everyone has been working extremely hard and to take an hour out of our busy day to celebrate and enjoy each others company was a rare event.

Menu:

Pecan and Parmesan Dip with Endive
Grilled Ham & Cheese Finger Sandwiches
Roasted Tomato Soup
Chocolate Torte with Pecan Crust and Artisan Caramel Sauce

Monday, August 10, 2009

Summer Corn Soup with Crispy Bacon

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Corn Soup Recipe

4 Cups Fresh Corn Kernels (Can use frozen)
7 Cups Chicken Stock
2 large onions, diced
3 Garlic cloves, minced
½ t. Red pepper flakes
Salt/Pepper to taste
8 oz. Bacon, cooked and crumbled
2 T. Chives, finely diced
1/3 cup whole milk or half n half

With a sharp knife, cut off the kernels of corn off the cob into a large bowl. In a large stock pot, add the bacon and cook until crispy. Set aside on a paper towel to drain and cool. Keep 3 tablespoons of the bacon grease to cook the onions and corn in. Sauté the onions for about 8 minutes over medium heat until soft and translucent. Add the garlic, corn and red pepper flakes. Cook for another 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock, salt and pepper. Increase the heat to medium high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes.

Use a food processor and blend the soup in batches until smooth. Return to the pan and add the milk or half n half. Season again to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish with the bacon and chives.

Enjoy!

Friday, August 7, 2009

Impromptu Dinner with Friends


















Last Sunday we had an impromptu dinner party at our house with our friends Geoff and Kim. The four of us were out all day together on a flying adventure and decided to enjoy dinner together. I had made a Fava Bean Crostini the night before, so the appetizer was taken care of. Now for the starter course – I was inspired by all of the fresh corn from Brentwood and decided to make a corn soup on Saturday night. With soup, there is typically enough for an army, so I was able to check off the starter for our dinner.

Now onto the main course - I purchased from Trader Joe’s the Mango/Papaya Salsa and fresh Salmon. In addition, my neighbor recently took a trip to Alaska and caught Halibut and brought over a couple wonderful filets for us to enjoy. For the side dish, cut up carrots and blanched them. Just before serving, sautéed in olive oil and garlic. Dessert was super simple – coffee ice cream with chilled espresso poured over it. I used the instant espresso powder and diluted with hot water, then chilled.

Libations
Our friend Geoff makes his own beer at home and brought a bottle of his stout over for us to enjoy. It was absolutely delicious! We also enjoyed a bottle of Kim Crawford, Sauvignon Blanc from New Zealand. It is one of my favorites with the forward flavors of citrus, grapefruit, herbaceous aromas and firm acidity. Wonderful with seafood and vegetables.

Five Tips to Impromptu Dining:
(1)
Appetizers can be as simple as cheese and crackers or small frozen appetizers you simply heat up in the oven. Keep puff pastry in your freezer at all times, you create simple appetizers with just a few ingredients.

(2) Make it simple! Create quick pasta dishes by adding some fresh ingredients and your guests will think you spent hours creating. Toss together a simple salad.

(3) Keep the basics on hand at all times for last minute get dinners.

(4) Set your table with fresh flowers from the garden, along with nice linens and candles. Your guests will be impressed and think you are the “hostess with the mostess”.

(5) Have your favorite music playing in the background to add to the ambiance. I create different play lists on my ipod, so I have the right background music ready at all times. I have a cocktail mix, dinner music and background sounds.























Menu

Appetizer: Fava Bean Crostini with Parmesan, Lemon and Thyme.
Starter: Corn Soup with Bacon & Chives
Main Course: Pan roasted Salmon and Halibut with Mango/Papaya Salsa and sautéed Carrots
Dessert: Coffee Ice Cream with Espresso

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

Keenan - 2004 - Cabernet Sauvignon - Napa Valley


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Keenan Cabernet Sauvignon was an amazing bottle of wine. We enjoyed it a few weeks ago at Lark Creek Steak in San Francisco and the wine seemed to get better and better. The bottle is moderately priced at $45.00 but the aroma and flavors will knock your socks off.

The 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon is composed primarily of grapes grown on Keenan’s Spring Mountain District Estate, with the other fruit from selected vineyards within Napa Valley. Typically the grapes are harvested at the beginning of September and the final ones at the end of the month. Grapes are processed and fermented for almost two weeks. The barrel is a combination of new French oak and American oak, and the wine is aged for twenty months.

Excerpt from Robert M. Parker, Jr.'s, The Wine Advocate
Issue # 168, December 26, 2006


92 Points

“Classic aromas of cedar, black currants, licorice, graphite,
and spicy oak emerge from the full-bodied, powerful,
opulent, opaque purple-colored 2004 Cabernet Sauvignon.
This concentrated, rich, impressively-endowed Cabernet is a
steal for the price. Moreover, it should drink well for 15 or
more years."
 
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