Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Beef with Bleu Cheese Grits and asparagus two ways.

I thought up this recipe from a few ideas, techniques and flavors I'm familiar with and from watching cooking shows.  I saw a competitor on Chopped make Blue Cheese grits and thought that would be great with Beef.  I came up with the shaved asparagus salad from watching Tiffany in season 5 or 6 cure asparagus in water.  Tom Colicchio said it wasn't flavorful so I thought why not cure it in an acidulated ice bath so it would bring a really lemony quality to a rich dish.

Ingredients to Serve 2
2 ounces blue cheese
1 Bundle of asparagus
12-16 ounces of steak
2-3 Lemons
Grape Tomatoes
Chicken Stock
Oil and butter

1) Season the cherry tomatoes and on half of the asparagus with olive oil salt and pepper and then roast at 400 degrees for about 8 minutes, until tomatoes are ready to burst in your mouth.  Season tomatoes and put them in freezer or fridge to chill. (Depending on how fast you plan to work.) Set asparagus aside.
2) Squeeze the juice of two lemons and add about one part water to one part lemon juice.  Add ice and then shave the other half of the asparagus into the acidulated ice bath.  Put in fridge.
3) Season steak with salt, black pepper and cayenne.  Let warm to room temperature.
4) Grate Parmesan. 
5) Boil one cup water and one cup chicken stock to a rolling boil and reduce to low heat.  Slowly stir in one half cup of grits. Cover and cook for about 15 minutes stirring occasionally. 
6)While grits are cooking, get your pan smoking hot for steak.  Add canola oil and cook steak to desired temperature (medium rare unless you're a heathen:-) 
7)  Drain shaved asparagus combine with cherry tomatoes, season to taste.. 
8) Remove the asparagus from oven.  It should cook 12-16 minutes, again depending on how you like it cooked.  Season it with lemon juice, Parmesan, salt and pepper. Slice on a bias into three sections.
9) Rest steak. Remove grits from heat, add blue cheese, salt and black pepper to grits. They should be loose but not watery, run across the plate like a good risotto.
10) Put it on the plate.  I like the grits in the middle fanned into a little circle, the sliced steak on top and the asparagus preparations on opposite sides of the meat.

I like the contrast of temperatures with the cool acidic salad and the creamy rich grits.  Beef and Blue cheese go well together, Tomatoes and Blue cheese are a classic, asparagus and beef are also a classic pairing.  Cook time is probably about 30-45 minutes.

Sunday, October 30, 2011

Salmon en Papillote

This sounds French and fancy but its the easiest recipe in the world, whether you call it en papillote, en cartoccio or just steamed in a paper bag the prep to finish time for a couple or few servings is under 20 minutes and it uses only a few basic ingredients.  We borrowed it from Julia Child.


1.  Preheat oven to 425 degrees

2.  Finely mince the shallot, chop the parsley and tomatoes.  Mix and season well with salt and pepper. 

3.  Season the salmon well.  Place about one pat of butter per 6oz piece of salmon on top of the fish.

4. Place the fish in a paper bag, surround it with the tomato mixture, covering some of the fish.  Roll up the end of the bag until its tight sealed but still "puffy" (so the fish can steam)

5.  Place the bag in the oven for 10-12 minutes depending on what temperature you like.

6.  Remove from oven, break open the bag, squeeze lemon juice and season with salt and pepper. 

Note:  This dish has a lot of very mild, healthy flavors and really benefits from good assertive seasoning.  Don't skip the salt, pepper and especially lemon juice on the finish.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chicken Week Part 2: Arugula Salad with Pesto Dressing

This dish literally flies together.  Just about as fast as you can fry off some chicken tenders, you can cook this dish.  And it grows on you.  (We have a great quick burrito recipe that reminds me of this one for the same reasons) We buy a lot of grape tomatoes.  They are sweet, you can pop them in your mouth for a snack, they roast well and burst when you eat them and they fit well into a lot of different recipes.  The first time I had the salad I thought it was just ok... But then I thought about how healthy it is, how it takes one of the humblest, cheapest cuts of meat, the boneless chicken tender and utilizes it perfectly.  And I love Pesto, such a wonderful salty herbaceous flavor.  Its a healthy dish and for our purposes with Chicken Week, it shows the versatility of chicken because unlike the bone in thighs which are sultry and indulgent but take a long time to braise in order to serve a large table, this dish is light, fast can literally be brought together in 20 minutes or less.  It makes sense for one person for a lunch portion just as well as a light dinner when you're feeling a little rotund.   Plus its a very pretty plate.   You don't have an hour to cook every night but you don't have to sacrifice the integrity of your dish.

8 chicken tenders
Olive oil
salt and pepper
6c Baby Arugula
1 pint grape tomatoes, halved
1/2c fresh mozzerella, cubed
lemon juice from a fresh lemon
3 tbsp chicken broth
1/2 c pesto
4 tbsp toasted pine nuts

Toss tenders in a bowl with 2 tbsp olive oil, salt and pepper.  Let rest from 1 hour. 
Heat large skillet and then add 2 tbsp olive oil. When pan is hot, add the chicken.  Sear on each side, about 3 minutes per side. Remove from pan and rest.
Meanwhile combine the pesto, chicken broth, salt and pepper in a food processor. Pulse a few times til combined.
Put the fresh arugula in a bowl and toss with salt, pepper and fresh lemon juice. Add the tomatoes, mozzarella, pine nuts, chicken and drizzle with the pesto.

The salad in the picture shows three tenders.  That is because Matt is a human garbage disposal and can eat more than any human on earth :)

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Chicken Week Part 1~ Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

I've been working a lot lately and our sense of culinary adventure at home has been suffering... Sure I whipped up some shrimp and grits the other day, pretty tasty even though the grits were way too firm.  But overall, its been a steady diet of crackers, chips and whatever else we can grab to sustain ourselves (and fatten ourselves up) So Jessica woke up this morning and headed out to the neighborhood grocery where apparently, there was a big sale on chicken.  She returned with a whole chicken, chicken thighs and chicken tenders (not pre-breaded processed crap, just the cuts of chicken called the tender).  Chicken has to be one of the most versatile proteins there is. Just thinking about all the different cuts and things you can do with this humble, inexpensive ingredient gets my creative juices flowing and makes me hungry.  Hence the theme for our new blog series was born, Chicken Week.

I've mentioned before that my brother and his wife just had a child and for those of us with kids we all know what that is like.  You can read a book about how to be a parent but only being one will truly enlighten you as to how completely, albeit wonderfully, overwhelming it is.  So we decided to make them dinner at their place.  Autumn, the new baby is having some digestive issues and Liza has decided to stay off all dairy items.  Luckily chicken is her favorite protein so we set out to plan a menu that accommodated her tastes.  Fortunately one of Jessica's signature dishes, Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs fit the bill perfectly.  We served it with spaghetti in a classic bordelaise sauce and green beans with bacon.  It was a very comforting family style but intensely flavorful and balanced plate of food.  Recipes for all three components, courtesy of Jessica, are below.  This should serve a family of 4.

Before I start on the recipes, I would like to add that overall, chicken is usually not my protein of choice.  That is because too often when someone uses it in a dish they take off the two parts that give chicken its flavor, the bone and the skin.  Please do not do this... THE BONES AND SKIN ARE WHAT GIVE CHICKEN FLAVOR!!!

Lemon Garlic Chicken Thighs

10 bone in , skin on chicken thighs
     cayenne pepper
1/4c olive oil
2 heads(YES, the WHOLE head) of garlic smashed
3 lemons, quartered
1c dry white wine

Season both sides of room temperature chicken with salt, pepper and cayenne.
Heat a very large, oven safe pan over very high heat.  I like to use my huge cast iron Le Creuset for this.  Whatever pan you use it must have a lid.  After the pan is hot, add the olive oil.  Heat the oil until very hot.  Add the chicken, skin side down and cook approximately 5 minutes per side, until seared.  Add all of the garlic and cook for one minute.  Add the wine and cook for 2 more minutes. Remove from heat and add the lemons.  Cover and place in a 350 degree oven for 1 hour.  At the end of the hour, remove the lid and baste the chicken with the juices and return to oven for 30 more minutes, basting every 10 minutes.

Green Beans With Bacon

2lbs fresh whole green beans, ends trimmed
1/2lb bacon, cut into 1 inch pieces

Bring a large pan of salted water to a boil.  Add the green beans and boil for 2 minutes. Drain and immediately plunge into a bowl of ice and cold water.  This is called "shocking" and will help the beans maintain their vibrant green color.
Meanwhile add the bacon pieces to a large, cold skillet.  Cook over medium low heat until browned and cooked through.  Add the green beans, salt and pepper and toss for a couple of minutes, until the green beans are crisp tender.

Spaghetti With Bordelaise Sauce

1/4c olive oil
1/4c chopped green onion
3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 tbsp white wine
1 tbsp of assorted dried italian herbs such as basil, oregano, thyme
salt and pepper
3 tbsp unsalted butter
1/2 c chopped parsley
1c fresh grated parm

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente.  Drain.
In a medium sized saucepan, heat the oil over medium heat. Add the garlic and green onions and cook,  until fragrant about 2 minutes. Add the wine, herbs, salt, and pepper, and cook for 2 more minutes. Add the butter and parsley and cook for 2  more minutes.
Return the drained pasta to the pan Add the sauce and toss well to coat. Sprinkle well with the Parmesan.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011


The following review is of Perilla, Harold Dieterle's restaurant in New York City.  Harold was the inaugural winner of Top Chef.  This review is from September 11, 2009.

I will say first off that the meal, while very good, was not as good as I was expecting.

We arrived at 6:10pm for our 6 o'clock reservation and only 2 tables were seated. We were seated in a very small 2 top in the corner of a long row of 2 tops. While ordinarily this would not be an issue(I understand New York space costs) it is an issue while I am 6 months pregnant.
Our server while very attractive, was the caliber of server that I would expect to find at an Applebees. She spent a great deal of her time up at the bar socializing with the other waitstaff. Her answer for most questions about the food was "it is very good". Bleh. I frequently ask servers for their opinions and favorites because they are around the food the most and receive the most feedback and I expect an honest answer but she obviously did not feel as if that was part of her job description.
So we started with the duck meatballs of course. Very good. Nice presentation. Loved the quail egg. We also had a special appetizer "for 2". It was a housemade soft burrata with heirloom tomatoes, basil, balsamic vinegar and oil. This was by far the best bite of food that I had all evening. I was unsure if the cheese was pasteurized(almost positive that it was not) but I could not help myself. I wanted to order it again for my entree and I wish that I had.
Instead, I ordered the duck and Matt ordered the 3 little piggies. Although our server asked me if medium rare was ok and I said that it was, my duck was medium. When our server decided to tear herself away from her social hour to check on us, I informed her of this and she asked if I would like it recooked. She did not apologize or offer anything while I was waiting.
I had a few bites of the 3 little piggies entree while I waited. Matt described the dish as an appetizer, entree and dessert all on one plate. The pork belly wrapped in pastry(appetizer) was very good. The pate on toast(dessert) was sweet and easily the best third of the dish. The pork tenderloin, while I did not taste it, Matt described it as bland and boring and served on a bed of undercooked, bland lentils.
When the duck finally arrived at the table it was cooked correctly but was not as well seasoned as the bite of the previous duck dish. The purple yams were dry and bland.
For dessert, we ordered the vanilla scented doughnuts with peppermint refresher. While it was good, I did not feel a desire to fight over the extra 3rd doughnut that I normally would.
Overall, a good but slightly disappointing meal. I would go back and order different entrees and hopefully have a different server.

We felt very rushed to place our orders. We were hoping for a leisurely dinner and certainly did not get that. The restaurant did not fill up the entire time that we were there so there was no pressure to turn over the tables. 

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Heirloom Tomato Salad, French Onion Soup and Figs with Goat Cheese, Walnuts and Honey Port Drizzle

So tonight was my night to make dinner.  I really struggled with what to make because I hate the in between season time.  I love summer foods, tomatoes, light pastas, avocados, light and refreshing whereas fall and winter foods are heavy and meat based.
We went to Whole Foods last night(GREAT GROUPON, btw!) and of course, my eyes landed on the
heirloom tomatoes.  Knowing that this will probably be the last time that I get my fix this year, I scooped them up along with some Stilton and made the best salad in all of the world!  I also decided to go a little fall-ish with French Onion Soup. I wanted to veer away from the traditional Gruyere so I went with a french Gruyere called Comte.  It has the same nuttiness as Swiss Gruyere but it a bit sweeter.  As is standard for me, I perused several different recipes and picked and chose what I liked from each one.  I used a Cabernet for a little something different but when I make this again, I will not be adding the wine.  I felt like the wine flavor overpowered the sweet caramelized onions.  To finish, I went with a non traditional dessert.  I LOVE cheese plates.  If cakes did not exist, cheese would be my dessert of choice every night. These goat cheese stuffed figs,while good on their own, would be better as part of a grand cheese plate. Ahhhhhh, next time.

Here is the recipe for the French Onion Soup

4 tablespoons unsalted butter
3 pounds sweet onions, sliced 1/4 inch thick
2 bay leaves
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
3 quarts beef stock
1 loaf Italian bread, sliced
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
3c Gruyere, grated.

  1. Melt the butter in a large heavy casserole. Add the onions and bay leaves, cover and cook over high heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are very soft, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are deeply browned, about 1 1/2 hours longer. Add water as necessary if the onions dry out.
  2. Add the flour to the onions and cook, stirring, for 2 minutes. Add the wine and cook, stirring constantly, until evaporated, another 2 minutes. Add the beef stock and thyme and simmer over  low heat for about 30 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
  3. Preheat the oven to 350°. Brush the bread slices with olive oil and toast for 10 minutes, or until golden and crisp.  Preheat the broiler. Ladle the hot soup into oven safe bowls. Top with the toast and scatter the cheese on top.  Broil for about 2 minutes, or until the cheese has melted.

Matt's Note: This was a really good light menu. The nice thing about eating it was that a)It was delicious and even though it was better than you could expect at even a good restaurant, it was inevitably much cheaper having been made by my wife Jessica. But b) It was something different (except for the tomato salad which was exquisite) than what we're used to eating. The techniques Jessica did, we saw the upside and down side. Like for example we have leftover soup and when we serve it tomorrow there will be 3x as much cheese on my crouton:-) Secondly the figs in their own right were delicious but eating an entire plate was totally monotone. If we served them with some salty ham like a nice Serrano, and a couple different heady or spicy cheeses then along with the port syrup it would really be a dynamic five star cheese plate...

Glazed Salmon with Spinach, Potato Crisps and Orange, Hoisin Reduction

I like wild caught salmon better than farm raised generally.  Maybe its the inner pretentious jackass in me or maybe it just tastes better.  For me the general rule with salmon is the redder the better.  For that reason Sockeye salmon tends to be my favorite and Coho salmon is my second.  The fish in this picture is Coho salmon.  It's my take on Asian flavors which are traditional with salmon, but its definitely not a purely Asian dish,

Salmon (skin on or off if you prefer)
Orange (about one orange per serving or you could substitute orange juice)
Hoisin (you could substitute soy)
Small potatoes

1.  Cut potatoes in small thin rounds.  Think like 2 to 3x the width of a typical potato chip.
2.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat pan on.  Add a good amount of oil.  Fry potatoes on medium high heat, browning them on both sides.   I season the potatoes up right in the pan. Dry off and put on sheet pan with very very little oil.  Bake until slightly crispy around 10 minutes. 
3.  Reduce 3 parts fresh squeezed orange juice, orange zest, one table spoon Hoisin and one tablespoon honey on medium heat.  You don't need salt in this sauce, the hoisin should act as the salt.
4.  Heat pan to medium heat.  Add oil.  Place seasoned salmon skin side down glazing the top side with the sauce as you cook.  About 5-6 minutes on the skin side.  Flip fish over cook for 1-2 minutes on flesh side.  Remove from heat.
5,  Start out sweating finely minced ginger in butter on medium heat.  When ginger starts to caramelize add spinach cook for about two minutes. 
6.  Plate spinach first then potatoes around it, then finish with salmon on top of spinach and additional sauce. 

The sauce should be a little sweet which riffs nicely with some of the salty components going on.  Its pretty quick to prepare this dish, about 20-25 minutes start to finish.  I'm thinking of adding a little creamy silky potato puree underneath the tower next time I make this one.  I think it would potentially make a good dish great.  This dish is really textural as is but just writing about it makes me want to add that component to the plate next time.  I think I will and I'll let you all know if it was worth it!  For the time being, let me know if you try this one at home.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Tagliatelle with Parmasen and Pepper

This is a really simple, yet comforting, and quick dish.  It is also very filling but if you would like to have a bit more substance you can add chicken, shrimp, broccoli, peas, scallops, whatever floats your boat.  Kaia loves this dish so it gets made often in our home.

  • 1 tablespoon fresh ground pepper

  • Kosher salt

  • 1/2 pound tagliatelle

  • 1 cup freshly grated Parmasen

  • 2 tablespoons heavy cream

  • 1 tablespoon unsalted butter

  • 2 tablespoons fresh chopped parsley

  • Fill a large pot with water and bring to a boil over high heat. Add a couple tablespoons of salt and the pasta and cook until al dente. Reserve a cup of the pasta cooking water. Drain the pasta and return to the pot.
    With the heat on low, toss the pasta with 1/2 cup of the grated Parm, cream, butter and parsley, tossing constantly. If the pasta seems dry, add some of the reserved cooking water. Off the heat, toss in the remaining parm.
    One of the very nicest things about life is the way we must regularly stop whatever it is we are doing and devote our attention to eating

    ~Luciano Pavarotti

    Tuesday, September 13, 2011

    A little Irony and some tasty food at Alta Strada in MGM Grande

    I've mentioned on the blog before how one of the perks of Jessica being an "independant contractor" in the poker room are the comp points at Foxwoods/MGM Grand and that we use them for culinary adventures.  Monday night we took a trip down to Hopkinton to visit my brother's new baby, Autumn, and then headed off to MGM for dinner.  We were torn between our favorite pit stop in the casino, Craftsteak, and Micheal Shlow's Alta Strada.  Finally, possibly swayed by Jessica's craving for pizza cooked in a wood fired oven, we decided on Italian.

    For us the irony about going to this restaurant is that we both like many things on the menu but not the same things.  Everything I seem to think is incredible, like the chilled Shrimp Fra Diavlo and the crunchy Veal Meatballs with spicy tomato sauce, Jessica just thinks is blah.  And she's blown away by these really simple dishes on the menu that I just think are underwhelming, like the arugula salad.  It's literally just lemon juice, olive oil, lettuce and shaved parm.  For like 16 bucks.  Very weird to order this in a restaurant IMO, just sayin'...  One thing we both love is the herb oil they serve with the bread though.  This stuff is seriously delicious.  Its always a nice touch when a restaurant pays attention to the bread service. It really does set the tone for the rest of the meal.  Just look at the beautiful verdant color on that plate.  I love preparations that harness the flavor of basil without knocking you over the head with it and this is a great example. 

    Our first course was another one of Jessica's favorites on the menu, the Prosciutto and Arugula Pizza.  I half heartedly tried to talk her in to something else, but I gave in quickly because I knew I'd get the meatballs I was craving if I was a good boy and didn't complain too much.  Pizza was decent, underwhelming but tasty and fresh.

    Ok, I admit, meatballs are passe'.  They're totally 1980's.  But I don't really care because I love a good meatball.  The veal meatballs at Alta Strada reward my faith in the concept.  They deep fry them, but keep them moist in the center and serve them with a spicy tomato sauce, little bit of basil in there and I'm guessing some red pepper.  Nice rounded flavor, great texture and a big portion for an appetizer.  I have a hard time not ordering this when we eat here.   For me this simple looking plate of meatballs was the highlight of the meal.

    One cool thing at Alta Strada is that you can order half sizes of the pasta entrees.  That way you can taste and try more food which is what we love about eating out in the first place.  I ordered the Maltagliati with Spicy Pork Ragu and against my will (again) Jess picked the Ricotta Ravioli with brown butter, tomatoes and prosciutto.   I was all about the Maltagliati, until I tasted it.  For some reason the ragu reminded me of barbecue pulled pork.  I love the rustic hand torn feel of the pasta and the ricotta in this dish but I couldn't quite fall in love with it like I wanted to.  It was very spicy too, bordering on too spicy for the average palate and overall I was a little disappointed.  Continuing on our opposites theme, Jessica really liked it.

    One thing I really believe in when it comes to food is having an open mind.  I was bored by the idea of the ricotta ravioli with brown butter and prosciutto.  Gotta admit, we've all seen this one before many many times.  But Alta Strada does a pretty good rendition of this classic.  The ravioli is actually three cheeses, fontina, mozzarella and ricotta and the flavors are subtle but nice. We thought the dish could use a little texture, like maybe walnuts or toasted pine nuts and Jessica found the filling a little grainy, but overall it left a good impression and we left with very full bellies. 

    We had a nice time and a couple of the Black Cherry Mojitos as well, which are very delicious.   If you like the Italian classics done well with a little bit of twist then this is a restaurant you want to check out.  The dining room is nice, service is good and for the most part the menu is moderately priced.   Jessica eats dinner there a lot when she's playing poker and she usually gets out for 25 bucks, tip included.

    Saturday, September 10, 2011

    Harrissa Rubbed Swordfish, Asparagus with Lemon Gastrique and Potatoes with Lemon Sour Cream

    This is a dish that has evolved from taking different preparations we've done and sauces we've made and combining them into what I think is a pretty cohesive dish.  I like swordfish cooked medium but still juicy and basted with lemon brown butter.  The  texture and flavor of the fish stand up to the Harrissa which is smoky and complex.  The asparagus is bitter but enhanced by the sweet tart gastrique and admittedly, I don't need to much of an excuse to put potatoes on a plate, but along with the sour cream they balance out your palate. Besides, whats better than scraping a potato through the last of your sauce anyway?

    Swordfish  (I usually do a 1/2 lb portion)
    Baby potatoes (if you only have larger potatoes on hand just cut smaller)
    1-2 lemons per serving
    1/2 cup White Vinegar per serving
    1/2 cup Sugar per serving
    Sour cream
    Garlic (minced)
    Parsley (minced)

    1.  Preheat oven to 400 degrees.
    2.  Mix Sour cream and lemon.  Season with salt and pepper.  Taste and adjust.  Keep cool.
    3.   Cut potatoes in half. Toss in sheet pan with olive oil salt and pepper.  (Save sheet pan, will re-use shortly for asparagus.)
    4.  Heat skillet to medium high.  Add oil, sear potatoes flat side down, reduce heat.  Add garlic and parsley and transfer to oven. 
    5.  While sauteing potatoes you should get your gastrique going.  Add 1/2 cup sugar per serving, 1/2 cup vinegar, the juice of one lemon, lemon zest and a pinch of salt to pan.  Heat to a boil, reduce temperature and simmer.  Reduce sauce.
    6.  Using sheet pan toss asparagus with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Put in oven and roast for about ten minutes. 
    7.  Season fish with salt, pepper and generous rub of Harissa.  Heat saute pan until med high heat.  You don't need smoking hot, you're not searing it like you would red meat or scallops.  Add oil, then fish.  Cook fish for 3-4 minutes on first side then flip.  Add butter and lemon juice to pan.  Reduce heat.  Baste fish for another 3-4 minutes or so, remove from heat and plate.
    8,  To plate I put the sour cream first.  Put the potatos in an neat pile next to it.  Cut the asparagus in half on a bias and make a V in the corner of the plate.  Then sauce the asparagus with lemon gastrique and put the swordfish on top of the greens.  Finish the swordfish with a little bit of the lemon brown butter from your pan and serve. 

    The finish on this dish is lemony and mildly smoky from the Harissa.  Its a I think it balances nicely, though.  There's lemon in every component but its a very subtle acidity.  The other things that's cool about this is that you could deconstruct it any number of ways.  Here's what I mean by that.  The vegetable, potato and fish preparation could all go into another dish.  Like say you wanted to do the asparagus with lemon gastrique and a piece of chicken with mashed potatoes.  To me that sounds delicious.  Any of these elements could go into another recipe or just stand on their own. The gastrique itself is a basic cooking technique and instead of lemon, you could infuse rhubarb, red wine, cherries and the list goes on and on.  But I do like the combination of these three elements together, I think the dish takes your palate from sweet to bitter to savory to smoky to creamy and back.  Try it at home and let me know what you think...

    Tuesday, September 6, 2011

    Banana Nut Bread

    I LOVE banana nut bread.  Too much.  I can usually go on about my life and forget that it exists until I get a few overripe bananas sitting on my counter, then my willpower goes out the window.  Then the problem becomes stopping myself.  I can't just make one loaf.  I convince myself that I need a loaf AND 12 muffins and by the time the last morsel has been consumed(usually a day and a half)) the craving is so firmly established that I HAVE to make more.  Who knew that a few overripe bananas could cause so much trouble?
    This is a recipe that has been perfected over the 20 years that banana bread has owned my soul.  It is moist, savory, sweet and delicious.

    1 stick of butter at room temp
    1 1/2c all purpose flour
    1 tsp baking soda
    1 tsp baking powder
    1 tsp salt
    1 tbsp REAL vanilla extract
    2 eggs
    1 c sugar
    3-4 very soft overripe bananas
    1/2 c sour cream
    1c chopped walnuts

    Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
    Butter your loaf pan.
    In a large bowl,  combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder and salt.
    In a small bowl, mash the bananas with a potato masher.  I like to leave the bananas a little lumpy.
    In a large bowl,  cream the butter and sugar together until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, 1 at a time. Stir in the bananas, sour cream and vanilla and beat until just combined. Add the dry ingredients and walnuts. Pour the batter into the pan and place on middle rack of oven.
    Bake for about an hour.


    Monday, September 5, 2011

    Who Knew Thoreau Was A Foodie?

    "He who distinguishes the true savor of food can never be a glutton, he who does not cannot be otherwise"

    -Henry David Thoreau

    Sunday, September 4, 2011

    Veal Chop with Roquefort Butter and Basil Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

    These are recipes that we have tried a few times and I like them better every time we make them.  The Roquefort butter is what makes this dish.  The creamy basil, Parmesan potatoes are such a nice foil for the slightly gamey meat and pungent blue cheese.  It's not a light dish but the basil in the potatoes and the green onion in the butter give it a little vegetal quality and lighten it up just a wee bit to the point where your palate stays excited. I am not a huge fan of Veal in general, but I would eat shoe leather if covered in Roquefort butter. It is expensive(as Matt likes to remind me every time I buy it) but a little goes a long way.  This log should last through two meals so try it on any red meat another evening.

    Veal Chops

    4 tbsps unsalted butter at room temp
    2oz of Roquefort
    1tbsp chopped green onions
    4 Veal chops

    Place the butter and Roquefort in a bowl and mix with an electric mixer on medium speed until smooth. Add the scallions and mix until combined. Using parchment paper or p;astic wrap, place the butter on the paperand roll into a log about an inch in diameter. Chill.

    Getting a good sear on any chop is very important.  That is where meat gets all of its flavor!  This is how its done. Sprinkle both sides of the veal chops generously with salt and pepper. Allow to sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Heat dry pan until very hot on medium high heat.  Add canola oil and heat until almost smoking.  Cook 6 to 8 minutes on each side, until almost cooked through. Remove from pan and cover with aluminum foil. Rest for 5 minutes. Serve with 1 or 2(as I do!) slices of Roquefort butter on each

    Basil Parmesan Mashed Potatoes

    2lbs Yukon Golds
    2c basil leaves
    1c freshly grated parm(DO NOT USE THE GREEN CAN)
    1c heavy cream

    Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill another small bowl with ice water. Add basil to the boiling water for 20 seconds. Remove basil and place the leaves into the ice water.  Drain.

    Peel and cut potatoes. Add the potatoes to the same pot of boiling water and return to a boil. Cook the potatoes until tender. Drain and return to the pan until the potatoes are dry.

    Heat the cream and parm until the cream simmers. Place the basil in a food processorand puree. Add the cream mixture and process until smooth.

    Beat the potatoes and slowly add the hot basil cream, the salt and pepper and beat until smooth.


    Saturday, September 3, 2011

    Developing your dish

    For me cooking is a give and take process.  I'm not naturally all that good at it, I just want to be, and at the end of the day the meals I cook are usually more soul satisfying than your average dinner in a box just because I'm trying.  Every once in a while I screw up and make something that's inedible.  A month ago I bought this pasta that I've never worked with before, its called Filei Calabresi and its basically a rolled pasta in the shape of a green bean.  There was no cook time on the bag and just for the record, stuff probably needs to boil for 25 minutes to get it al dente.  Needless to say, I tasted the one piece of pasta in the pan that was cooked after 17 minutes and pulled the rest.  Raw pasta is inferior to Mcdonalds.  You got me there.  At least at Mickey D's, the burger will be cooked.  

    Two nights ago for dinner, Jessica and I made a dish that we've collaborated on before, Roast Carrot and Scotch bonnet puree with Butter roasted Halibut.  Its not a great textural dish, just flavorful.  I added a few well seared oyster mushrooms for a little bit of texture, pic is on our FB page.  Two issues with this dish were as follows:  I guess theres some kind of Halibut shortage on the East Coast right now... Damn.  Hurricane related maybe, I don't know... ...  The closest substitute we could find was Cod and the Cod really didn't stand up to the preparation or the sauce. 

    The second problem was the sauce. First time I made this one, when I finished the onions I added a little white wine vinegar before adding the carrots and stock, well this time I forgot to add vinegar and then amidst the dogs and our two year  running around I decided to add it late and had a heavy hand to boot.  Doh.  Bad move there.   Stock tasted like pure vinegar, so I had to cook it down and add more stock, thusly the flavors weren't developing while the carrots were cooking more than I needed them too.  All in all sauce was too spicy, not well balanced and broken.  Along with the underwhelming cod it took a dish we were ecstatic about and muddled it to the point where it was just dinner.  The mushrooms were pretty good though.

    There was plenty of leftover sauce so I saved it.  I figured, why not turn it into a soup?  So the next day for lunch I added a little more stock, and some honey and made quesadillas with tomato and cheese and had a little soup and sandwich with Kaia.  Flavor was still mediocre at best.  Quesadilla with Kumato Tomatoes was the better half.

    But we had leftover carrots.  About 1/3 of a bag and we had a couple Thai Bird Chiles and half a box of chicken stock left.  So tonight, I got to work on redeeming myself.  The end result of all this failure was an outright success and a very soulful, economical, warm and comforting carrot soup.  Here's the recipe.

    1 bag baby carrots (I like these for their sweetness, you could use any variety of carrot you like)
    1 box chicken stock
    1-2 small red or orange chiles (be sure to taste for spiciness)
    Mascarpone, creme fraiche or similar
    1 Yellow onion
    Bay leaves
    Good Olive Oil

    1.  First toss the carrots in olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them with a couple bay leaves for 20-30 minutes at about 400 degrees.
    2.  Chop half an onion and about 1 chile.  (I usually chop a whole chile, save 1/3 to add as desired)  Saute in sauce pan until onions are translucent.  Don't forget to season.  (season late with onion not at the beginning)
    3. Add roasted carrots and stock to and bring to a boil. 
    4.  Reduce temperature.  Add about 2 tablespoons of honey.  Continue reducing stock. 
    5,  When carrots are fork tender, remove pan from heat. Remove bay leaves, taste and season.
    6.  Add Carrots and stock to blender with about a tablespoon of mascarpone or creme fraiche.  Puree until smooth consistency.  Strain if desired.
    7.  Serve and enjoy.

    The soup tonight was just spicy enough, and the flavors were harmonious.  I can't decide whether to make another batch tomorrow night or start a new culinary adventure... ...

    Wednesday, August 31, 2011

    My Thoughts Exactly!

    "The only time to eat diet food is while you're waiting for the steak to cook."
    -Julia Child

    Sunday, August 28, 2011

    Eggplant Parmesan Recipe

    As promised yesterday, here is the recipe for the Eggplant Parm that I made for dinner last night.  I cannot stress enough how important it is to make your own sauce.  It is simple, inexpensive and will taste 1000xs better than anything that you can find in a jar.  I also recommend buying fresh mozzarella instead of the shredded stuff.  It will make for a creamier, cheesier taste.  I prefer my sauce chunky and tomatoey but if you prefer a smoother sauce, just run through a food processor before assembling the dish.
    This recipe served two for dinner.

    1 28oz can San Marzano crushed tomatoes
    1 28oz can San Marzano diced tomatoes
    1 sweet yellow onion, chopped
    3 cloves of garlic, chopped
    1/2 teaspoon crushed red pepper
    10 basil leaves, torn
    honey to taste

    Heat two tablespoons of olive oil in dutch oven over medium high heat.  Add onion and cook until soft, about 5 minutes.  Add garlic and crushed red pepper.  Cook for 1 minute.  Add both cans of tomatoes and bring to a boil.  Turn down heat and simmer for 20 minutes. Remove from heat. Add the basil and honey to taste.


    • 1 1/2 cups breadcrumbs
    • Butter, for greasing the dish
    • 1 tablespoons finely chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
    • 1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh oregano leaves
    • Salt and freshly ground black pepper
    • 2 large eggs, beaten
    • 1 tablespoons water
    • 1-2 medium eggplants, cut into 1/2-inch-thick round slices (need about 12 slices)
    • One fresh medium sized mozzarella ball.
    • 2 cups freshly grated Parmesan
    • Flour for dredging
    • Canola oil for frying
    Raise the temperature of the oven up to 400 degrees F. Lightly butter the bottom and sides of a baking dish.
    Place the bread crumbs into a large shallow bowl. Add the herbs,salt and pepper. In another medium shallow bowl, whisk the eggs and 1 tablespoon of water together.
    Season each eggplant slice on both sides with salt and pepper. Dredge each eggplant slice in the flour, tapping off excess, then dip it in the egg, and finally dredge it in the bread crumb mixture. Shake off any excess breading and transfer the egg plant to a baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
    Heat 1/2-inch of oil in a large straight-sided saute pan over medium heat until the oil reaches a temperature of 385 degrees F. Working in small batches, fry a few of the eggplant slices, turning once, until golden brown, about 3 minutes per batch. Using tongs, transfer to a paper towel-lined baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining eggplant.
    Cover the bottom of the prepared baking dish with some of the tomato sauce and arrange 1/2 of the eggplant over the sauce. Cover the eggplant with some of the sauce, a slice of the mozzarella and some Parmesan. Repeat.
    Place in a 400 degree oven for 30 minutes and until the top is golden brown and bubbly.  Let stand 10 minutes before serving.

    Saturday, August 27, 2011

    Seafood Risotto

    We made Jessica's shrimp tostadas the night before I made this one.  The leftover shrimp shells, along with some grape tomatoes and basil from our friend Kurtis were the inspiration for it.  Jessica has taught me a few tricks about cooking risotto.  Key is that you have keep stirring and let the liquid reduce all the way out before adding more but without burning the rice.  As far as this recipe goes, its one I came up with using a few ingredients and tequniques I am familiar with and a couple new ideas for me (frying basil for one)

    Grape Tomatos
    Shrimp and enough shells to make stock
    Arborio Rice
    Chicken Stock
    Mascarpone cheese
    Red Pepper flakes
    Pine nuts
    butter and oil

    1. Heat chicken stock in a saucepan with chopped jalapeno, shrimp shells and lemon juice.  Broth should be spicy and salty from the shells with a lemony finish.  Stain stock and keep warm. 
    2. Begin rendering bacon fat on low heat.
    3. Start arborio rice in oil and butter on medium low heat.   Add some bacon fat if desired. Toast for 3-5 minutes.
    4.  Begin ladling stock into risotto and stirring rice.  Continue until rice is al dente, 25-35 minutes.
    5.  While rice cooks preheat oven to 375. Prep tomatoes and shrimp.  In separate pans season with olive oil, salt and pepper.  Add red pepper flakes to shrimp.  Roast shrimp for about 8 mins (depening on size) and tomatoes for 8-10 until they burst in your mouth but before they pop.
    6.  Heat canola oil in saucepan.
    7. Toast pine nuts in dry pan.  (no oil or butter, just until they are warm and golden brown)
    8.  Grate Parmesan.  Remove mascarpone from fridge. 
    9. Season scallops with salt and pepper. 
    10.  Once bacon is rendered remove from pan.  We just want the fat for this dish, so feed to your doggies if you have them.  Heat bacon fat till pan is smoking hot.  Sear scallops till golden brown about 2 minutes then turn flip over reduce pan heat to medium and cook for about another two minutes and finish with fresh lemon juice. 
    11.  Add grated Parmesan and about one spoonful of mascarpone per serving to arborio rice.  Stir and taste.  Remove from heat.
    12.  Deep fry whole basil leaves in canola oil.  About 30 seconds is all you need.  Set basil on dry towel.
    13.  Plate risotto. Then scallops, shrimp and tomatoes.  Sprinkle pine nuts over top, then additional lemon juice or broth if desired and finally deep fried basil leaves.  Enjoy.

    The dish should have a subtle but consistent spiciness from the broth but not overwhelming a more consistent seafood flavor.  The idea behind all the garnishes is not to bury the rice but to provide texture, vibrancy and color to the plate.  Fried basil is a winner in this one.  If I were going to leave an ingredient out it would be the bacon or the pine nuts.  If I were going to add an ingredient it would be lobster... Of course!  I would chop up the claw meat and mix it in with rice at the end of cook and then butter poach the tail and plate it on top alongside the scallops and shrimp.  Jessica's the big lobster fan around so if we make this one when she's home we'll do it that way... Let me know what you think or if you decide to try out this recipe at home...

    Friday, August 26, 2011

    Garden to Table, Eggplant Parmesan

    The other day our good friend Kurtis Radock came up for a visit.  He brought us a sixer of Blue Moon (one of Jessica's favorite brews) and a huge assortment of fresh vegetables from his awesome garden.  Heirloom tomatoes (whipped up a quick tomato stilton balsamic), a variety of chiles including a scotch bonnet and a few jalapenos, a green pepper, cucumber, lemony basil and a couple beautiful eggplants.   We had a few beers and I thanked my good friend for the copious bounty of vegetables.

    I don't want to sound awful or unsentimental but I'm usually not a great appreciator of gifts.  I'm a minimalist and if somethings going to take up space and require dusting, then I'm not sure you've aided my cause or spent your 29.99 wisely.  But this bounty of wonderful veggies from Kurtis was and is a gift that I can truly appreciate.  Right away Jessica and I got our creative juices flowing about what to make.  How could we not?  After all, its inspiring and perfect for the season to make food that celebrates vegetables.

    Tonight we made a classic Eggplant Parmesan.  Now I don't want any of you reading the blog to think that Jessica I only appreciate "fancy" food.  While we are all about pushing the culinary envelope, sitting down for a perfectly made Italian/American dish, especially on a night like this, in the calm before Hurricane Irene approaches is still just about as warm, comforting and soul satisfying: as a baby's bright eyed smile:-)  Here's the recipe, courtesy of Jess.

    Wednesday, August 24, 2011

    LA Farm is calling my name....

    I want this.  Now. 

    Yes, I have just finished dinner.  A very delicious and satisfying meal and then one look on Facebook and Stefan Richter sent my mouth drooling.  This delectable looking treat is crispy scallops with sweet corn puree, fried parsnips and pumpkin seed oil.

    If you have never enjoyed the cuisine of Stefan, I suggest you book a flight to LA right now.  LA Farm is the restaurant and I enjoyed every bite of food that I had there.

    Tuesday, August 23, 2011

    Mama Kim's Korean Barbecue Food Truck

    Kaia and I were up in Providence today around lunch time and we decided to swing by Mama Kim's Korean Barbecue Food Truck.  I had been wanting to try their offerings for a long while now but their schedule doesn't usually fit in with our schedule.  They serve lunch from 11-2, when I am still thinking about breakfast and dinner from 5-8 and 8o'clock is when I am beginning to just think about dinner.  But today was perfect.  It was 12:45, we were just getting out of an appointment and, according to GPS, we were 4 minutes away from their normal lunch location, Kennedy Plaza.
    This place has a cult following in Providence so I was not surprised to see the line of 20 or so at the window.  The three other trucks, parked in a secession next to Mama Kim's, had no lines and no customers in the 15 minutes that I was there. The menu is not a large one, 5 sliders(that you could also order in wrap form), the same five sliders but served as a rice bowl instead of the bun and their daily special, which today was beef dumplings.
    I am the adventurous type and always afraid of not ordering the best thing on the menu,so I ordered 1 of each slider, with the exception of the Vegan slider, as I am a HUGE meat loving carnivore, 1 bulgogi ricebowl and one order of dumplings.  There are 3 little tables set up outside of the truck but knowing that Matt would appreciate a yummy lunch, I took our order to go.
    Sitting down to eat we took alternating bites between the sliders.  The Beef Bulgogi slider consists of shaved sirloin, sautéed onions, mushrooms in a "house marinade" with a wasabi-aioli sauce.  Yummy.  The wasabi aioli made this one, imo. We really didn't get a strong mushroom flavor from the sandwich but it was not missed.  They would not share all of the secrets of the house marinade but they did reveal that the star of it  is ground up Korean pear. The Beef Galbi is boneless short ribs in house marinade with ground Korean pear-sesame oil sauce.  The short ribs were sliced and tender.  Next up the Chicken Gochujang.  Chicken thigh in house marinade, grilled in gochujang which is a house Korean red pepper paste.  This was the only one that had a little heat to it.  I like heat which is why this was probably my second favorite slider.  The absolute best slider, which Matt and I agree wholeheartedly on was the Pork Kimchi. Pork belly and loin in the house marinade, grilled with fresh house kimchi.  This one took me straight to heaven. The kimchi on top of the flavorful, slightly spicy pork sandwiched between the Portuguese sweet bread, to die for. Yes, all of the sandwiches are served on soft Portuguese sweet bread slider rolls. Not traditional, but insanely delicious.

    For a side we went with  the beef dumplings served with a soy sauce based condiment, Matt kept calling them gyoza, they were similar to other gyoza we've had, if that helps you envision the flavor and texture. We ate about half an hour after ordering so they weren't as crispy as they would've been otherwise, but a nice little side dish for 6 bucks.  Good size order too.

    The Bulgogi rice bowl is being saved for lunch tomorrow so for $25 I got 3 lunches out of it. 

    Overall a fantastic meal for a great price.  I'm already thinking of excuses to head up to Providence for round 2.

    Monday, August 22, 2011

    David Burke Part Deux-He Said

    As promised, this is our friend Nick's take on our dinner at David Burke Prime. His take is a bit different than mine, as illustrated below......

    My dinner at David Burke consisted of a large three course meal. There were 5 of us eating so we all ordered different things and swapped tastes.

    For an appetizer I had the Caesar salad prepared table side and an order of the Double cut maple pepper bacon strips. I really enjoy Burke's Caesar salad because it's prepared table side. It allows you to control how much of what topping is used. I've been searching for a better Caesar salad across New England and have not found one that comes close.

    The first time we ordered the bacon strips they were over cooked and slightly burnt, not very good. I didn't plan on ordering them again but I was with one of my friends who loves bacon, so I gave in and decided to give it another chance. I am very glad I did because this time they were prepared perfectly. They were not over cooked, just crispy enough.

    For an entree I had the chicken parm with two sides: tempura green beans and home made french fries. The chicken parm is one of two chicken entrees offered at David Burke, the other is the oven roasted brick chicken. I much prefer the chicken parm, partially because the brick chicken is served with a bone but also because the chicken parm is served with fontina cheese, that is delicious. If I was going to change anything about the chicken parm it would be the green sauce they add around the edge of the plate. I do not really like the taste, though I'm sure some people do.

    The tempura green beans are my favorite side on the menu. Tempura has been a favorite of mine since I was a kid going to fairs, so it's naturally a must have for me. It is served with a sweet and spicy dipping sauce. The hand cut french fries are also enjoyable, though they are average for a high end steak house. When ordering these make sure to ask for the spicey mustard on the side!

    For the last course of our meal we were treated to another round of the double cup bacon strips, only this time they were covered in hot chocolate. This isn't on the menu, though it is available if you ask for it (be sure to ask ahead of time, they have to chill the bacon)! This was my first time ever eating chocolate covered bacon, and I was not disappointed. I won't be ordering this all the time, because it's clearly filled with calories... but it is worth it if you're feeling adventurous.


    Roquefort butter is sublime.  I wish to have it every day

    Celery Salad with Figs and Pecorino

    Per request, I am sharing this recipe for Celery Salad.  It is light, crunchy, salty and sweet all at the same time.  I originally made it for Thanksgiving but it is very refreshing during the summertime.  This recipe is about 8 side dish servings.  The key is to slice the celery as thinly as possible on a bias.  If you own a mandoline, I would definitely use it for this recipe!

    1. 1 1/4 cups walnuts
    2. 1 shallot, minced
    3. 2 tablespoons sherry vinegar
    4. 2 tablespoons walnut oil
    5. 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
    6. Salt and freshly ground pepper
    7. 2 bunches celery, thinly sliced on the bias
    8. 3/4 cup dried figs, thinly sliced 
    9. 4 ounces pecorino or parmesan cheese, shaved thinly with a vegetable peeler

    1. Preheat the oven to 350°.  Toast walnuts until fragrant, 8-10 minutes. Let cool , then chop.
    2. In a small bowl, combine the shallot with the sherry vinegar. Whisk in both oils and season with salt and pepper.
    3. In a large bowl, toss the toasted walnuts, celery, dates and pecorino. Add the dressing and toss.
    4. Enjoy!

    Sunday, August 21, 2011

    Pan seared Sea Scallops with Ginger creamed Corn, Bacon and Cilantro

    For starters, I love scallops.  Jessica likes scallops, but for her, for the price, it's rarely what she would choose.  Every once in a while she'll grab a nice Ribeye, a seasonal veggie and pick up a scallop and just throw it on the plate for me, so I can get my fix.  Mainly, I like scallops cooked best in bacon fat with a good hard sear on the outside, translucent in the middle with just a touch of acidity at the end of the cook. 

    Jessica plays poker 8-12 nights a month and honestly I wish she played more because shes a terrific player, a proven winner and even though it exaggerates her neuroses, she also enjoys it immensely.   When she's gone, I'll usually pick up a piece of fish, sometimes meat and try to create a little dish for our amazing little 22 month old daughter Kaia and I.  Kaia is a big fan of seafood.

    If the recipe works, I try to think of ways to improve it, without overcomplicating or muddling it (which is always a challenge) and then I'll make it for Jess, who is a far superior cook with more discerning taste buds.
    Here's a dish I came up with, using Alton Brown's creamed corn recipe for a baseline.  Cook time from prep to finish is about 30-45 minutes depending on portions.

    1 to 1.5 ears of corn per person
    Yellow Onion
    Yellow Cornmeal
    Sea Scallops (larger and fresher the better, about 3-4 per person)

    1. Render the bacon fat on very low heat, until crispy.

    2. Peel corn husks, removing all silks then using a sharp knife take the corn kernels off stem.  Dice yellow onion (about 1/4 medium onion per person), mince ginger into paste like consistency.

    3. While bacon cooks, sweat diced yellow onion in butter. Medium heat, be careful not to burn the butter.  Add pinch of ginger and the corn.  Season and taste.  While corn cooks, use potato masher to mash corn to a mixture of textures.  Some of the corn should be crunchy and whole still and other parts should be pulpy.

    4. Once bacon is crispy remove from pan.  Strain bacon fat removing all solids and put back on high heat.

    5. Add cream, a pinch of sugar and about a tablespoon of cornmeal (1/2 tablespoon per ear of corn in recipe) to the pan with corn and onions.  Stir while cream reduces.  Season and taste.

    6.  Season scallops with salt and pepper.  Once pan is smoking hot, put scallops in bacon fat.  Cook for about 2-3 minutes until scallop forms a golden brown crust.  Turn over, reduce heat to medium and cook for 1-2 minutes longer.  Then hit them with a squeeze of lime juice and remove from pan. Scallops should be seared on the outside but rare in the middle.

    7.  While scallops cook, attend to corn, stirring until cream reduces.  Mix should have a texture similar to a risotto.  Remove from heat. 

    8.  Chop bacon and cilantro. 

    Don't waste the bacon fat, hit each scallop with a dash more once you put them on the plate.  Sprinkle bacon and cilantro over top. 

    The dish is sweet, but not cloyingly so.  The pic above is from the first time I cooked it.  On the second take I seared the scallops better but the pics didn't turn out right.  The flavors should be subtle and you should be able to taste each ingredient.  Jessica tried this one for the first time today and she was really pleased.   She gave it a 7.5 out of 10 as is (which is a very high score from her:).  We talked about adding a little red chile oil over the top for spice.  We were wondering if this extra dimension would help the dish by giving it more depth or if it would be a distraction from the flavors we're concentrating on.  I think it would certainly improve the look of it, but not sure about the flavor.  What do you think? 


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    Saturday, August 20, 2011

    David Burke Prime Steakhouse

    Jessica and I have mixed feelings about this restaurant.  We've eaten there many times.  Its inside Foxwoods, she spends a lot of time there and its a change of pace from Craftsteak, which we really and truly enjoy, and Shrine (pan asian fare) which are the two restaurants we frequent most often when she's playing there.  David Burke is a nationally renowned Chef and Prime is one of the many restaurants he owns.  Admittedly, neither Jess or I has ever dined at his flagship, Townhouse, or any of his other restaurants, but we have seen him on Top Chef, trolled his menus online and have a general idea about his cuisine.  Its all about turning a classic idea or recipe on its ear and having a little fun with it, while providing explosive flavors and a little subtle East meets West concept as well.

    In the past at Prime Steakhouse, we've felt like the food, while good was kind of a sanitized version of the cuisine that the owner would really develop in his own kitchen.  Don't get me wrong, in a three course dinner one or two of the dishes has always wowed us, like the pretzel crusted crab cake with mustard sauces that we order habitually and the Kung Pao Lobster which is spicy and evocative of Thai cuisine.  But some others have fallen flat or overpromised but underdelivered.  I never intend to be a harsh critic and the fact is, I've been there many times and would go back again, especially after hearing about the meal Jessica and our good buddy Nick "Ooch" Uchenick had there on Friday night...  The following is Jess's take on the experience.

    We had 5 diners with us which, in my experience, is a nice number.  We can order numerous menu items and get to sample things that we may not have ordered if left up to our own devices.  We started with the Double Cut Maple Pepper Bacon Strips.  I have had this dish before and was underwhelmed, to say the least.  They were burnt, excessively chewy and was reminiscent of beef jerky.  Last night, they were sweet and spicy with the perfect amount of bite to them.  They were served on top of a delicious lemon mustard sauce.  While I don't think that this is a must order upon every visit, every other would definitely work.  We also tasted the Pretzel Crusted Crab Cake.  Always spot on.  The crab was moist inside with a nice crspy pretzel crust.  There will not be a drop of the maple poppyseed honey that is served with it left on the plate.  I do feel at $17, this is a wee bit overpriced.  I also had an Heirloom Tomato Salad with Stilton.  I just need to give up on ordering this here.  Our home version is far superior. The few tomatoes on the plate were under ripe and covered with enough blue cheese for several salads.  I will not order this again.

    Entrees and desserts to follow......

    Thursday, August 18, 2011

    "Cooking is like love; it should be entered into with abandon or not at all."

    Monday, August 15, 2011

    Heirloom Tomato Salad with Stilton

    I love Heirloom tomatoes.  I love plain, generic, run of the mill tomatoes.  I love tomatoes in every form.  Tomato sauce, tomato juice but mostly a tomato, raw, sliced, with just a touch of salt and pepper.

    This is a dish that I have eaten at a few high end steakhouses lately.  At Craftsteak, various heirlooms with Stilton and microgreens.  At Burke, tomatoes too thinly sliced,covered in a thick balsamic syrup and way too much Stilton.  I tried to take the best from both dishes and make the perfect Heirloom Tomato Salad.

    I started with several variety of tomatoes, sliced thick.  I generously added fresh ground salt and pepper.  I made a balsamic vinaigrette with brown sugar, balsamic, extra virgin olive oil and salt and pepper.  I used restraint in the drizzling.  I then crumbled the yummy, salty bleu cheese over the top.  It was perfect.

    After making this for lunch, I fantasized about it all day so I decided to make another for dinner.  I prepared it the same way.  Sliced tomatoes, S&P, balsamic......bleu cheese?...not in the refridgerator, not on the island.  We retraced our steps since lunch.  Neither of us remembered putting the Stilton away.  We frantically searched the fridge over and over.  Nothing.  There was only one conclusion.  Our two 3 1/2 year old pitbulls.  They ate the $20 per pound Stilton.  So, as to not waste the glorious tomatoes, I toasted some pine nuts, chiffonade of basil and scattered them over the tomatoes.  Eating it, I felt like I had not done the tomatoes justice.  Wasted.

    So tonight, with 3 tomatoes left, Matt headed up to Whole Foods to grab some more bleu cheese.  I made another salad.  Not as perfect as the first but damn close.

    Food Is Memorable

    Hi to all of you foodies out there.  My wife Jessica and I are starting this blog to share our love of cooking and eating.  To us, food is not just fuel for the body but for the mind, spirit and soul.  The art of creating beautiful dishes that taste great and the inspiration that comes from experiencing the cuisine of different cultures is our common ground.  We've recently gotten in to food photography, which for us is a keepsake of the memorable meals we've had ranging from fine dining restaurants to indulgent street foods to our own creations.  We hope you enjoy reading our blog and getting to know a little more about us through the food we cook, eat and photograph in the coming days...