Thursday, April 30, 2009

Tarragon Walnut Brown Butter Sauce and the Mathematics of Mmm

There are people that will go through their entire life never having experienced the pure joy of fresh fish topped with a perfectly made brown butter sauce. That so many will not allow themselves to enjoy this tarragon walnut brown butter sauce makes me sad.

Now, there are lots of good reasons to not eat butter. If it's against your religion, God bless you - I have no issue with that, or the wet blanket of a deity that controls your thoughts. If you are on a legitimate no-fat diet (for health reasons, not tube top reasons), then I'm not talking to you.

Maybe you just don’t think we have the right to vigorously tug on the teats of other species for our own pleasure. Okay then. But, if you are simply afraid of the calorie count, it's time to do some math.

Consider the brown butter sauce recipe I just posted. A 6-ounce piece of white fish is about 200 calories. If you spoon over a couple tablespoons of this unbelievably delicious sauce (a very generous portion, by the way), you've only added 200 calories, for a grand total of 400!

That's like the best dietary value ever! So, get some nice fresh fish (everything works); poach, sauté, broil, grill, or bake it, and spoon over one of life's greatest simple pleasures. By the way, this sure was nice served next to that asparagus pie we made. Enjoy!

Ingredients for about 4 portions:
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 tbsp chopped fresh tarragon
2 tbsps chopped walnuts
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste

Butter photo (c) Robert S. Donovan

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Asparagus Pie - A Savory Green Take on Sweet Cherry Clafouti

It's not often a dessert recipe inspires a savory dish; it's usually the other way around, but this asparagus pie is a direct result of my love for cherry clafouti.

clafouti is a rustic French dessert that features whole cherries baked in a sweet egg batter. If you'd like, you can check out the clafouti video recipe I did last spring.

I've always thought the same batter, minus most of the sugar, would make a great base for a vegetable dish. Since I had a bunch of beautiful asparagus sitting on my cutting board, I decided to test my idea.

It came together almost exactly as I had imagined. I love it when that happens. The simple batter formed a delicious, creamy, lightly browned crust around the buttery asparagus. The flavor was pure, the texture luxurious. Enjoy!

1 pound fresh asparagus, trimmed, cut into 2-inch pieces
2 tbsp butter, plus extra for the casserole dish
1/2 cup flour
3/4 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cup milk
3 large eggs
1 tsp chopped fresh thyme
3/4 tsp salt
pinch of fresh ground black pepper
1 tbsp lemon zest

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Shortcut Green Chicken Enchiladas - Perfect for Your Americanized, Unauthentic Cinco de Mayo Fiesta!

This recipe doesn't pretend to be anything it's not - this is simply a super-fast casserole that shares a few similarities to chicken enchiladas. If you are Mexican, and were/are lucky enough to enjoy authentic enchiladas, this will not remind you of Mom's - or even Dad's.

But having issued the standard ethnic recipe disclaimer, I'll say, these aren't bad. As long as you choose a high-quality green sauce and a decently cooked rotisserie chicken, you should end up with a nice, easy, fast dinner.

Please buy some good cheeses and grate them yourself. You'll see me using a pre-grated Mexican cheese blend, which was me not wanting to waste a product sample I had received for a review (the verdict? Grate your own cheese!)

This low-quality video was posted on YouTube a long time ago, but for whatever reason was never posted here. In fact, I don't even have a decent photo of the final dish, which is why you see this crappy screen shot here. Enjoy!

1 rotisserie chicken
8 oz Monterey Jack cheese
8 oz cheddar cheese
1 tsp cumin
1 tsp salt
3 cups green enchilada sauce
10 corn tortillas
2 tbsp hot sauce

Photo (c) Flickr user Sung Sook

Monday, April 27, 2009

Back and Forth

We just returned home from the amazing Frick Winery, and I'm happy to report another successful Passport event. The weather was glorious, the wine spectacular, and the reviews on the food pairings ranged from delicious to "can I fly you to Dallas?"

Special thanks to my in-la
ws Peggy and Al, who always do such a great job, and despite the long, hard days seem to enjoy themselves thoroughly.

This year also featured the debut of my cousin (Chef) Tony and his very significant other, Nora, who both did a fantastic job. They brought great energy and enthusiasm to the party, not to mention a couple of pair of 25 year-old legs.

So, our busiest week and weekend of the year is over, and after the briefest of breaks (basically, this afternoon) I will get back behind the stove and camera where most of you probable wish I would stay.

Here are a few photos I took (in order); the view from Bill's home overlooking the vineyards at dusk, beef bresaola and arugula, hoisin duck and green onions, one-bite tandoori Waldorf salad, chili-rubbed pork tenderloin with chocolate tortillas and pepper jam, cambazola cheese on fig bread, the post event dinner table featuring giant artichokes and grilled tri-tip.

By the way, if you enjoy great wine, and live in Northern California, do yourself a favor and take a ride up to meet Bill Frick and taste his delicious wines in person at his winery in Geyserville. If you live elsewhere, you can visit the Frick Winery website. Enjoy!

More Visual Evidence

Friday, April 24, 2009

Just Arrived in Healdsburg - Be Back Monday!

We just arrived for our weekend of work, wine, and wonderment. Hopefully I'll be able to chime in at some point, but if not, we'll be back Monday with some photos and maybe a few war stories. Cheers!

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Go Twitter Yourself

I've never been one to let common sense, or the belief that something is a silly waste of time, prevent me from joining in on a mega-trend. Here is the link to my twitter page, so you can "follow" me and read my "tweets."

You never know, as busy as I'll be this weekend, if you're following me on twitter you may read what I had for breakfast, or if you're really, really lucky I may even tell you about the weather. It should be great!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Adsense Claim

This post confirms my ownership of the site and that this site adheres to Google AdSense program policies and Terms and Conditions:  ca-pub-8156069870927849

Beautifully Bouncy Lamb Meatballs

Time is short and the work list is long as we get ready to head up to Sonoma for the Dry Creek Passport event (you can read more about it in last year's post), but I squeezed out enough time to finish this lamb meatball video recipe.

It tasted great, but I put in way too much breadcrumb, and as you'll see the results were extremely bouncy balls. The ingredient amounts below are the new and improved quantities in case you want to try these.

Speaking of being busy, I'll apologize in advance for blowing off your emails and/or comments until this event is over on Monday. I'll try to keep up, but if you are ignored, try again next week when things return to normal. Enjoy!

1 1/4 pound ground lamb
1/2 cup breadcrumbs
1/2 cup milk
1 egg, beaten
1 tbsp chopped rosemary
3 cloves minced garlic
1 tsp dried oregano
2 tbsp olive oil
pinch of cayenne
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1 tbsp cumin
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 tbsp tomato paste
2 tbsp chopped mint
3 cups tomato sauce
1 cup chicken stock
red pepper flakes

View the complete recipe

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

What We Had for Lunch

While running some supplies up to the Frick Winery in preparation for our big event this weekend, we made a pit stop in beautiful Healdsburg. I've wanted to try the famous pork cheek sandwich at Bovolo Restaurant for the longest time, and it was well worth the wait.

The tender, rich cheek sat on a crusty toasted roll, slathered in an intensely-flavored salsa verde and roasted sweet peppers. We also shared a charcuterie plate, and Michele had a lovely fried green tomato BLT. Enjoy!

Monday, April 20, 2009

A Grand Tasting - The Best of Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2009

Here's a little video recap I just put together of my favorite bites from inside the Lexus Grand Tasting tent at Pebble Beach. It was foodie nirvana - literally hundreds of the finest wine markers shoulder to chef coat with some of the most talented gastronomes in the country.

As I methodically worked my way around the giant white tent, I was pleasantly surprised to find the star chefs were not only present in the booths, in most cases they were the ones making and serving the food.

This gave the attendees a rare chance to hear what they were about to taste as described by the dishes creator. As you'll see in the video, while describing these offerings, most of the chefs had a twinkle in their eye that only shines through when you are truly enjoying what you're saying.

My favorite description was by Chris Cosentino, who created the ingenious "Liver and Kidney Pie" pictured here. Chris was beaming over every single component, and after one bite I knew why.

For the sake of time, and several star chefs' reputations, this video is not a complete catalog of the food, but a collection of my favorite bites. I thought it was going to be hard to decide on a favorite - that was until I tasted what Chef Mark Estee called a BLT. It was transcendent.

The little homemade English muffin topped with tomato gelée, pork belly, and romaine ice cream was simply amazing. It was a truly brilliant bite from concept to cocktail napkin.

In addition to the Grand Tasting covered here, I attended a couple demos by Chef Michele Richard (Chef Richard and Santa Claus have never been seen in the same room). They were a lot of fun, and I'll post more content this week as time allows.

I want to extend a special thanks to my friends at Foodbuzz who made covering this memorable event possible. For those of you who don't know about Foodbuzz yet, they're the ultimate social network for foodies, and I highly suggest signing up. Enjoy!

Chef Love

This short film is dedicated to everyone still searching for their one true love.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2009 Recap Coming Soon to a Video Recipe Blog Near You

I arrived back in San Francisco last night after an incredible day of food a
nd wine tasting at Pebble Beach. A very sincere thanks to Foodbuzz for the invite, and I hope they, and their community of curious culinarians enjoys the multimedia coverage I'll provide over the next few days.

Today we're headed up to Sonoma to take care of some business for our annual mega-catering at the beautiful Frick winery, which is happening this coming weekend.

This week will be crazy busy getting ready for that, but I will pull together some great video and photos I took down in Pebble and post it for your vicarious viewing pleasure.

It was a who's who of the West coast foodie universe and I was blown away by some of the things I saw and tasted. Stay tuned for the video and photographic recap, along with news about our big upcoming weekend.

By the way, save your "what the hell is that?" comments - all these dishes will be identified in the video(s), usually by the star chef that made them. Cheers!

Saturday, April 18, 2009

A Fishwife's Tale

Being so close to the sea had me craving a nice thick steak, but after checking Yelp for dining recommendations in Seaside, California, I decided to go for some fish instead.

I ended up at a cute little seafood place called either "The Fishwife's Turtle Bay Taqueria," or "Fishwife Seafood Café," depending on which sign you believe.

I started with a cup of Ciopino, which is usually a stew, but this was in soup form. It was pleasant, and filled with bay shrimp, clams, halibut, and faux crab.

It was hard not to get the New England clam chowder, which looked great at the next table, but geography won the day.

My main course was a small, but very fresh and nicely cooked piece of wild Pacific salmon. It was topped with a zesty habanero pepper butter sauce. The rice and black beans are always welcomed on my plate, but it was the cold broccoli salad that was the side dish star.

The perfectly cooked broccoli florets, dressing with a simple vinaigrette, topped with diced tomato and onion, have me planning a video recipe attempt very soon.

It was a very nice meal, and extremely reasonable for the location. I'm headed to Spanish Bay in the morning, so
stay tuned!

Friday, April 17, 2009

Pebble Beach Food and Wine 2009

Pebbles? You'd think with all the millionaires that live in the area, they could afford some sand. Anyway, I'm headed down to the stunningly beautiful Monterey peninsula today for a quick overnight foodie adventure.

The 2nd Annual Pebble Beach Food and Wine event began on Thursday and runs through Sunday, and I've been blessed with a pass compliments of my friends at Foodbuzz.

I'll be attending a couple demos Saturday, and will also graze, snap, and hopefully film my way through the Lexus Grand Tasting Tent, home to over two hundred wineries, partnered with a small army of star chefs.

This event is not for the financially challenged. Prices range from $100 for individual chef demos, to $4,750 for a complete package that includes a three-night stay, access to all events, including after-hour parties with the star chefs.

Before you put on your "Eat the Rich" t-shirt, and start sharpening your pitchfork, you should know that last years Pebble Beach Food and Wine event raised over $100,000 for local charities.

To give you a little taste, I've embedded a video produced by Lexus, one of the main sponsors. Yes, it is basically a Lexus commercial, but will give you some idea of the event. I will be back Saturday night and hope to post something soon there after.

Photo (c) Flickr user Vaidy Krishnan

Thursday, April 16, 2009

A Few Asparagus Recipes: Celebrating Spring's Succulent Spears

Could there be a more representative image of spring than a couple ladybugs having sex on a spear of asparagus?

This great photo by Flickr user Benimoto inspired me to
post these links to some previously published asparagus recipes.

One of my biggest vegetable pet-peeves is undercooked asparagus. Many cooks are so afraid to overcook it, that they tend to not cook it long enoug
h, and this results in a crisp and still bitter stalk.

There's a perfect degree of doneness when the spears are barely firm, tender, and sweet. Go buy a couple bunches of fresh asparagus and give one of these recipes a try. Enjoy!

Asparagus and Chicken Noodle Casserole

Creamy Fresh Asparagus Pizza (note: uses old, original pizza dough recipe)

Pan-seared Spring Asparagus with Lemon, Balsamic and Parmesan

Pasta Primavera with Fresh Asparagus

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Maple-Brined Pork Loin - Water Has Never Tasted So Good

I've always thought that more home cooks would try recipes that call for brining the meat, if it were simply referred to (incorrectly, by the way), as a marinade.

Marinating sounds easy, brining sounds complicated. When people see "marinade" they think oil, vinegar, and a few spices rubbed on some meat. Mmm… marinade.

But, when
they see "brine" in a procedure, I think they anticipate formulas, ratios, and percentages. Mmm…math?

For all practical purposes, a brine is really nothing more than a water-based marinade. Molecularly-speaking there are big differences between brining and marinating, but as far as cooking skill, or amount of prep work, there is no difference.

This video recipe for maple-brined pork roast is a delicious way for you to experience just how easy a simple brine really is. What a brine does that a marinade doesn't do is force moisture and flavor into the roast. I love the way the meat gets infused with that subtly sweet maple flavor.

I paired this roast pork loin with the rocket beans side dish, which just recently aired, and it was perfect match. By the way, the leftover pork loin, sliced thin and served cold, makes a sandwich that's to die for. Enjoy!

Video won't play? Check out the Youtube version of Maple-Brined Pork Loin instead.

2 to 3 lb boneless pork loin roast
1 quart cold water
1/4 cup salt
1/3 cup maple syrup
3 cloves garlic, crushed
1/2 tsp red pepper flakes
3-4 slices fresh ginger
1 tbsp cracked black pepper
2 tsp dried rosemary leaves
1 tbsp vegetable oil
For the glaze:
2 tbsp maple syrup
2 tbsp Dijon mustard

Tuesday, April 14, 2009

Tuesday Tease: Chicken Roulade

UPDATE: What you are looking at is chicken breast wrapped around a filling of garlic-parsley breadcrumbs, prosciutto, and provolone cheese. The sauce is a roasted tomato and white wine reduction. In the center sits a cold lentil salad.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Rocket Beans - Soaring into the Side Dish Stratosphere

Over the last few years, Arugula has gone from rare and exotic, to common and mainstream. Bags of baby arugula line almost every lettuce case in the country, and it appears on restaurant menus with such frequency one could make the case it's over-used.

Another, infinitely cooler, name for arugula is Rocket. My sources deep within the European foodie subculture report that this is the term most commonly used. That's where this lovely, and extremely easy bean side dish gets its name.

While rocket is a wonderful green for salads, I really enjoy using it as an herb in hot dishes like this one. The secret is a very, very brief cooking so it keeps its fresh spicy flavor, and bright color.

This makes a great side dish for so many main courses, and in the video you'll see it next to a maple-brined pork loin that I'll be airing soon. By the way, don't let the bacon fat in this recipe scare you. Believe me, it's way more afraid of you than you are of it. Enjoy!

4 strips bacon, sliced
1 tbsp olive oil
salt and fresh ground black pepper to taste
15 oz jar or can butter beans, drained and rinsed
3 cloves garlic, minced
large handful arugula, chopped
1/2 lemon, juiced

Sunday, April 12, 2009

Happy Easter!

Whether you're celebrating for religious reasons, or you’re just in it for the candy (the real miracle is how much they charge for a hollow chocolate rabbit these days!), I want to wish you all a happy Easter. Today it's okay to keep all your eggs in one basket.

If you're a regular reader, you probably know about my goal to keep this blog virtually religion and politics free, but that doesn't mean I can't remind you to take a moment to think about all the miracles that happen all around us on a daily basis.

The latest example is pictured here, my new niece Malia Grace Manfredi. Congratulations Kenny and Josette! Now that's an Easter basket.

Enjoy the rest of your Sunday, and stay tuned for some great video recipes this week, including Rocket Beans, Maple-Brined Pork Roast, and Lamb Meatballs. Enjoy!

Photo (c) Flickr user tristanf

Friday, April 10, 2009

Pink Ice Ice Icing - It's Good Friday

It's not often I can work a Vanilla Ice song into a video recipe, but here it fit like a pair of baggy pants.

This quick and simple lemon icing recipe is what I fro
sted my Easter bread with, and it works nicely as an all-purpose glaze for all types of cookies, breads, and pastries.

You remember that comedian, the one with the big porn-stache, that did the, "you might be a redneck if" routine?

By the way, if you were at one of his shows, you were a redneck. This recipe reminds me of that bit. You could come up with a whole list of "you might be a bad cook if…" statements, but one of them for sure would be, "you might be a bad cook if you buy icing."

There can't be an easier recipe than a simple sugar icing. Can you stir? Good, then you have what it takes. I'm assuming if you do buy your icing, it's because you simply don't know the recipe, or just assumed (like everyone at a Jeff Foxworthy show is a redneck) it was too complicated. It's not. Enjoy!

1 cup powdered sugar
1 tbsp fresh lemon juice
2 tsp grated lemon zest, optional
1 tbsp milk
1 small drop food coloring, optional

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Italian Easter Bread - The Resurrection of a Great Family Recipe

Easter is a very underrated food holiday. What red-blooded, red meat eater doesn't salivate at the site and smell of a garlic-studded roasting leg of lamb?

I've always enjoyed the simple pleasure of a properly cooked hard-boiled Easter egg, and its colorfully decorated shell. And, of course, there's
the chocolate eggs, tucked down in pink plastic excelsior grass.

Remember how you would slowly lift the egg out of the basket and immediately gauge the weight. In a millisecond you knew if it was a feather-light, hollow chocolate shell, or heavy and dense - filled with solid chocolate or some other exotic goo.

If you were lucky enough to grow up in an Italian-American home, there's a good chance you got to enjoy the smell of freshly baked Easter bread, with its unmistakable anisette aroma filling the air.

The smell was heady, but so was the sight of those glossy iced braids, bejeweled with candy sprinkles (click here for the icing recipe). The sweet, spicy, eggy, buttery taste was complex, but at the same time, familiar and comforting.

This loaf of Easter bread is one of my favorite holiday traditions, and an authentic family heirloom recipe. Made the same way as my mother, and her mother, and her mother's mother made it. I hope you give this a try, and remember, it's never too late to start and old family tradition. Happy Easter! Enjoy!

1 package active dry yeast
1/4 cup warm water (100 degrees F.)
3/4 cup sugar
4 eggs
1 tsp aniseeds
1 1/2 tbsp anise extract
1 1/2 tsp lemon extract
1 tbsp lemon zest
1 1/4 tsp salt
2 tbsp vegetable oil
6 tbsp melted butter
1/4 cup milk
4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed

*CLICK HERE for the icing recipe!