Saturday, November 28, 2009

Team Celebration Lunch

Let the celebration begin! One of my offices won a challenge and the reward was a lunch prepared and served by me at the office. The goal was to make it special for everyone, if just for one hour.

The key to cooking for a crowd is in the preparation, simplicity, while making tasty food for everyone to enjoy. I absolutely love appetizers – in my mind these could be dinner every night. Prepared two appetizers - Parmesan and Edamame Dip with Endive and Green Olive Tapenade with Fresh Ricotta Quenelles. A quenelle is an haute cuisine term for a food item that is formed into an egg or oval shape.

Main course was gourmet BLT’s with applewood smoke bacon, pesto aioli, tomatoes, avocado, red onion and arugula served on a fresh crusty ciabatta roll. Created a side salad of mixed greens and arugula, pomegranate seeds, candied pecans and blue cheese crumbles. Used one of my favorite store bought salad dressings – Brianna’s and the flavor is “Real French Dressing” with the distinctive artichoke on the packaging.

Dessert was a handmade lemon tart with assorted berries which adorned the top. Everyone was full from the lunch; so we had a “pick me up” later in the afternoon and enjoyed the lemon tart. (not a slice left in the office) A perfect way to end the day, to celebrate everyone’s hard work through accomplishing the milestone goal! Congratulations PHC Team!!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Edamame and Parmesan Dip with Endive

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Are you looking for a super fast and flavorful appetizer, which is healthy at the same time?  Here is the answer: Edamame and Parmesan Dip with Endive.

2 C. Shelled edamame
1 C. Parmesan Reggiano – Cut into tiny cubes
1 T. Fresh thyme leaves
Grated zest of one lemon
1/2 C. Extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper to taste
6 to 8 whole endive leaves separated

In a large bowl, mix together the edamame, parmesan, thyme leaves, lemon zest and olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Separate the endive leaves. Place the edamame mixture in a decorative bowl on top of a platter. Arrange the endive leaves around. Serve with a spoon or just use the endive leaves as the vessel for the edamame dip.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Daddy's Birthday Dinner

What special gift do you give someone who has everything? What gift is better than any new sweater or wallet – a gift from the heart?

This year for Dad’s birthday, I wanted to put a different spin on my gift to him. Cooking and entertaining is a gift that I love to give. My parents are super busy people, but that keeps them young. We scheduled the birthday celebration for a few weeks ago, so they could be pampered and enjoy a four course dinner.

Pear and Proscuitto Crostini
Mixed Greens with Pomegranate, Blue Cheese and Candied Walnuts tossed with a French Vinaigrette
Asian Braised Short Ribs with Orange Hoisen Sauce and Creamy Sour Cream Mashed Potatoes
Brownie Sundae with Rocky Road Ice Cream and Chocolate Ganache Sauce accented with Homemade Toffee

Great Parents...Great Memories....Great Times!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Pear and Prosciutto Crostini

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Pear and Prosciutto Crostini

1 Sweet baguette
6 Slices Prosciutto
1 Pear
2/3 C. Crumbled blue cheese

1. Slice the baguette into 20 half inch slices. Lay onto a large cookie sheet. Using the broil setting on your oven, toast each side of the crostini until it is lightly brown.

2. In a large skillet, put the heat onto medium high and crisp up the six pieces of Prosciutto. Lay onto a plate lined with paper towel to drain the excess oil.

3. Slice the pear into twenty thin slices and squeeze a bit of lemon juice onto the slice to prevent browning.

4. To assemble: cover each crostini with blue cheese and bake in a 350 degree oven until melted. Let cool for a couple minutes. Place a pear slice on each one and a drizzle of honey on top of the pear. Top with a small piece of the crisp Prosciutto.

5. Arrange onto a platter and watch them disappear. Serve with your favorite bubbly or white wine.

Sunday, November 15, 2009

The Vine at Bridges in Danville

The Vine at Bridges in Danville is both a wine shop and casual hang out for the wine aficionado and novice who yearn to taste new wines and gain knowledge. The Vine sports a unique vibe that is casual yet sophisticated. Half is the retail side with a tasting bar and endless bottles of varietals of wines from California and the world. Boutique, limited production wines and intriguing and engaging for any collector. The other half is the wine bar with casual low leather seating ensembles, a long “L” shaped bar and multiple tall tables with bar stools. The walls are a golden color, awash with candlelight.  The concrete floors give it contemporary warmth.

My college friends and I decided to meet at the Vine at Bridges for wine and appetizers before attending a special pre-holiday shopping event in downtown Danville. Pam reserved the corner table which offered a 180 degree view of the place and a perfect position for people watching. Speaking of people watching, as the time passed, the population grew and it was a feast for the eyes. The pretty people abounded, sporting the latest designer jeans and expensive handbags. It was certainly a place to be and be seen. We are all married or taken, so we enjoyed the entertainment factor, good wine, food and spending time with great friends.

Speaking of wine and food, let’s talk! They offer three choices for the wine - 3 oz. taste, 6 oz. glass or by the bottle. Flights of wine were very popular and are delivered in an artistic metal carrier, holding three glasses. Tricia and I began the evening with a taste of the Frank Family 2007 Chardonnay - incredibly rich, buttery and smooth. Once Natalie and Pam arrived, we decided to share a bottle of the 2005 Bridesmaid Meritage from Napa Valley. It is a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Syrah. This wine ignited with flavors and aromas of rich berry fruits, currant, espresso, chocolate and oak tannins. The texture is velvety polished, elegant and luxurious.

Now onto the food – I looked around to see where the kitchen was positioned and realized that all of the food is produced at the Bridges Restaurant next door. There is a waiter who certainly gets his exercise, by bringing trays of food over as it is ordered. We pondered the menu and selected the Warm Phyllo Wrapped Brie Cheese with roasted pear, hazelnuts, toasted brioche and truffle honey. Our second appetizer was the Wild Mushroom Pizzetta with wild mushrooms, parmesan cheese, fines herbs, and truffle oil. The final selection was the Lettuce Wraps with Chicken and Prawns.  By far, the Phyllo wrapped brie was my favorite.

We had terrific service by the staff and they were extremely friendly and knowledgeable.  The wine shines in the spotlight. The food is tasty, but did not evoke the "wow factor" for us. Overall, if you are looking for a hip Wine Bar in the East Bay, head down to The Vine at Bridges for a nice evening with friends or that special someone.

The Vine at Bridges
480 Hartz Avenue
Danville, CA 94526

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Winter Vegetable Soup

What is better on a cold winter’s night than a hearty bowl of soup? It warms the soul and is extremely satisfying. The secret ingredient to this soup is the parmesan cheese rind – adds that extra richness and flavor. Enjoy with beer bread or your favorite crusty bread.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Artisan Beer Bread

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Beer Bread

I remember being a child and my Mom would make beer bread a few times a year. I just loved the yeasty, earthy and slightly dense texture of the bread. Last night it was a bit drizzly and cold outside, so I thought soup and bread would be a perfect dinner menu. A good friend of ours was coming over and a casual wind down kind of evening was in order, after a long week of work. Made a homemade veggie soup (blog post coming shortly) and enjoyed a bottle of Nicole’s Red from Lancaster Winery. In a word………Perfect!


3 Cups Flour
1 T. Brown sugar, packed
1 T. Sugar
1 T. Baking powder
1 t. Salt
1 Bottle beer (12 oz), Light colored
4 T. Melted butter

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Prepare a 9 x 5 loaf pan – I use a non-stick spray to make it easy.

Use a large bowl; add flour, sugars, baking powder and salt. Stir to combine. Open the beer and add all of it at once. It may foam a bit. Stir quickly until combined and will be lumpy. Pour into prepared loaf pan and drizzle with the melted butter.

Bake for about 35 to 40 minutes, until the crust is crusty and golden. Let rest for about 5 minutes and then remove from the pan. Slice and serve with butter. If you have leftovers, it makes incredible toast!

Quick Note:  Depending on what type of beer you choose, the flavors will vary.  Try your own artisan beer bread today!

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Lemon Tart

My husband asked me last week if I would make something for him to bring to work for a potluck.  I was going to make my famous Orzo Salad, but atlas, someone was already bringing that.  My lemon tart is always a winner, so that was the selection that I emailed him with.  When we both got home from work, I asked him how everyone liked it, he said that there were several folks who thought it was store bought.  I guess that is a compliment?

This Lemon Tart is a quick and easy dessert that is a complete crowd pleaser, especially with the ultimate lemon lovers. I suggest serving with fresh assorted berries and a dusting of powdered sugar.

Lemon Tart

1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
3 T. finely grated lemon zest
1 - 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 - 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 t. of salt
6 large eggs
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1/3 cup heavy cream
Assorted berries for garnish

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in the middle of the oven. Use a 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Melt the butter in a small saucepan over medium heat, add 1 tablespoon of the zezt, and let stand for 5 minutes. Whisk 1/4 cup of the sugar, pinch of salt and flour together in a bowl. Add butter mixture and stir with a fork. Continue until the dough begins to come together when a small bit is pressed between your fingers. Pour into tart pan and press with your fingertips evenly up the side and into the bottom. Bake for 20 minutes and let cool on wire rack while you prepare the filling.

Process the remaining 1 cup of sugar and the remaining 2 tablespoons of zezt in a food processor until the zezt is finely ground.

Whisk together the eggs, the sugar and zezt mixture, the lemon juice, and another pinch of salt in a medium bowl until smooth. Beat the cream with a whisk until thickened, in a seperate bowl. Sitr the cream into the egg mixture until blended.

Place a baking sheet in the oven, place the crust on the baking sheet, and pour the filling into the still warm crust. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, or until the filling is just set in the center. Let the tart cool on a wire rack. Just prior to serving, decorate with assorted berries after you cut into wedges.