Sunday, October 31, 2010

Pork, Pizza and Pinot

Pork and pizza. Doesn’t that sound like a perfect combination? My son and his family came to visit again this weekend and my delightful daughter-in-law wanted to try a recipe for us. They went to a birthday celebration last weekend held in a private room in an upscale bar. She got only one bite of a party appetizer before they were ejected because Isaac, at three months, is underage. He’s off to an early start at getting thrown out of bars! But the good news was that she loved the appetizer and wanted to recreate the flavors.

Her goal was to make a quick version of pizza, since with a new baby, she doesn’t have much time to cook. The ingredients consisted of:

Trader Joes’ pizza dough
Gouda cheese slices
Trader Joes’ pork for carnitas
Honey Crisp apples, thinly sliced
Red onion, thinly sliced
Whatever barbecue sauce you have on hand

Bake the pizza dough according to directions on a pizza stone for a crispy crust. Cook pork in the microwave according to directions. Remove crust from oven and spread a thin layer of barbecue sauce on top. Layer slices of Gouda cheese, apple slices and onion slices. Spread pork on top. Return to oven and cook until cheese melts.

The apples remain crisp and are a nice contrast with the melted cheese. I wouldn't recommend substituting another variety of apple - Honey Crisp is perfect for this recipe. It is sweet and crisp and maintains its texture when cooked. Cilantro would have been a good addition, but what we found in the frig was past its prime. We served the pizza for a late lunch on Halloween afternoon with a favorite Pinot Noir, the La Honda “Sequence.”

Since it is Halloween, I'll share this photo of my grandson Isaac at the pumpkin patch. His mom and I took him there on Friday and he was not amused. Apparently our enthusiasm for pumpkins is not infectious. Maybe when he can eat pumpkin pie, he'll feel differently. I was chastised for feeding his dad pumpkin pie (among other things) when he was a baby. I suspect Isaac's parents will be far more discerning when selecting appropriate baby foods.

Friday, October 29, 2010

School's Out for Dinner

There was no baseball game on Tuesday night and we took advantage of the break to go to a winemaker dinner. We have visited Burrell School winery in the Santa Cruz Mountains and enjoyed both their wines and the excellent view. When I saw they were doing a winemaker dinner at the Red Crane, an Asian fusion restaurant 5 minutes from home, I thought it was worth investigating. The menu was appealing, the price reasonable and best of all there was no duck on the menu. It seems that most winemaker’s dinners have duck and I’ve never met a duck that I liked.

We were greeted at the restaurant with a glass of 2006 Teacher’s Pet Chardonnay while everyone got checked in and seated. The first course was a snow crab cake with papaya salsa, avocado and crisp pineapple chips. The crab cake was excellent and the pineapple chip was very unusual. I’d love to know how to make these. This course was paired with the “Teacher’s Pet” Chardonnay which is fruit-forward and citrusy with a hint of pineapple. It was perfect with the crab cake and it’s citrus accompaniments.

Next was brie-stuffed chicken breast served with roasted fingerling potatoes and a Thai basil pesto. This course was paired with 2006 “Principal’s Choice” Pinot Noir. I’m not sure I would have thought to select this pairing, but the silky smooth Pinot made a nice complement to the rich chicken and pesto.

The third course was filet mignon with roasted golden beets and a Li Hing Mui gastrique. I was not familiar with the sauce, but the chef explained it is a salted plum sauce, a little sweet, a little sour. This was served with the 2007 Estate Merlot “Honor Roll”. The rich juniper and cherry notes of the wine were excellent with the filet and the plum sauce.

And then dessert….by this time I’d eaten so much, I didn’t think I could eat another bite. But of course I did. And Larry ate two. Dark chocolate lava cake with balsamic vinegar ice cream served with 2006 “Probation” Late Harvest Zinfandel. Need I say more?

Chef Royce Mori of the Red Crane and Dave and Anne Moulton of Burrell School Winery created perfect pairings for this evening. For each course they explained their selection/creation process and described the flavor profiles that made the pairings successful. Details such as personalized, autographed menus made each guest feel special. We will definitely return to both the restaurant and the winery.

I'm still obsessed with baseball and it continues to impact my cooking, eating and blogging. I almost wish the Giants had lost in the playoffs so I wouldn't be tied to the World Series game schedule. And even though the Giants lead the series 2-0, I’m a nervous wreck. I hated Thursday's game when the Rangers walked in all those runs. My son was a pitcher, so I just can’t bear to see any pitcher suffer that experience, even if it’s my team scoring the runs. A brief break today and the Series continues...

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Food and Wine Pairing, TAGGED and Maybe You Have Been, Too!

Before yesterday's baseball game, we made the four hour round trip drive to Kendall Jackson to pick up our wine club shipment. There’s a reason we don’t have it shipped to us. We always find something interesting to do there. And we usually select another new winery in the area to try as well.

We’ve done the KJ food and wine pairing before, but it changes seasonally, depending on what is fresh from the garden. There were seven pairings on the menu and we had three extra wines thrown in for comparison as well as an extra course at the end. There are definitely advantages to being a wine club member!

On the left is a buckwheat crepe with smoked ham hocks and Bellwether Farms carmody cheese paired with 2006 Highland Estates Seco Highlands Pinor Noir. The smokiness of the wine was very complimentary to the ham hocks, but we thought the ham overwhelmed the wine just a little. The other two were absolutely divine. The middle is one of my favorites that is always on the tasting menu- sweet tea brined pork belly slider with syrah BBQ sauce paired with a syrah. On the right is a Korean Kobe beef lettuce wrap paired with the 2005 Highland Estates Trace Ridge Cab. They also poured the Jackson Hills cab for comparison, but we agreed the original selection was the better choice.

If you live near anywhere that offers food and wine pairings for a reasonable price, I recommend that you check it out. I learn something new every time. Plus it is a lot of fun. At KJ, the chef provides a very good explanation of how the pairings are developed and they enjoy hearing your input.

When I got home, I had a message from Kim at Liv Life that she had tagged me in a recent round of the blogger game of questions going around. I’ve been neglecting the blog due to the baseball games, so it was good that she gave me a heads up. Here are the responses to her questions.

1. What is your favorite restaurant? Ubuntu in Napa, California

2. When dining out do you prefer a fancy, dress up affair or casual with flip flops? Anywhere that the food is good, although it is fun to dress up occasionally

3. Do you do fast food? If so, what is your favorite? Way too often. There is an amazing place in Napa and now in San Francisco called Pica Pica that has the best fast food you could ever imagine. Venezuelan arepas, cachepas, empanadas and yucca fries

4. Do you remember one of the first recipes that you ever made? If so, do you still make it? It’s a tagliarini recipe from a neighbor when I was in junior high. I made it for a potluck at work recently and everyone thought it was a fancy lasagna.

5. The world is open to you. A personal private jet with pilot is waiting for your direction... Where will you go? All over Africa

6. How close do you now live to where you were born? 3,000 miles. I'm transplanted from NC to CA

7. Wine... red, white or bubbly? Never bubbly

8. Why did you start blogging? I was recovering from two surgeries and facing several months of additional treatment. I didn’t have the energy for the fiber art I had been doing for years. I wanted to write instead. But I didn’t want to write about being sick. I wanted to write about something fun that I loved. So I started my food and wine blog. It was great as therapy and a creative outlet. I’m fine now, but haven’t returned to fiber art and have continued to love writing.

Now to continue the game I’m supposed to pose eight new questions and tag eight additional bloggers. Many people I follow have already been tagged repeatedly and some are focused on Project Food Blog, so I’m going to try to tag some new people whose blogs I really enjoy. I NEVER participate in chain emails, but this has been fun and I've enjoyed learning more about the bloggers I follow on a regular basis. Hopefully, some of these bloggers will participate as well.

The new questions are:

1. What is your favorite menu to prepare for guests?
2. Do you have a favorite winery? What is it and why?
3. What do you refuse to eat, ever?
4. What has been your worse culinary experience?
5. What is the most unusual thing you’ve eaten?
6. What is your favorite food show?
7. How old were you when you started cooking?
8.What is your first food memory?

If anyone wants to know my answers, just tag me back. And now,

Carolyn at Food Gal
Foy at FoyUpdate
Kate at kateiscooking
Brian at A Food for Thought
Matt at Thyme in Our Kitchen
Dina at Leek Soup
Leila at My Barbarian Table

Your’re it!

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Weight Loss by Baseball

Baseball is ruining my life. My house is a wreck, my blog is neglected and I haven’t had a decent meal in over a week. My dinners have consisted of random selections of popcorn, a bagel, hot chocolate or even nothing. Don’t tell your children that intelligent adults eat like this. I’ve lost six pounds (not such a bad thing!). Since the first playoff game against the Braves, I have been consumed by San Francisco Giants baseball and have been glued to the television every night.

I'm not exactly a fair weather fan. I watched it snow on the World Series on television while bedridden during my pregnancy with my son, Matt, 31 years ago. By the time he was walking, he was mimicking batting stances in front of the television. By the time he could talk, he knew the statistics of the Atlanta Braves players. I have attended or watched hundreds, if not thousands, of games over the years. But since my son grew up and left home, I have more or less been on hiatus. Until now.

When I took Matt’s three month old son, Isaac, to his first game two weeks ago, it all began again. Only now I have a rivalry with my son. He’s still a Braves fan, but after 26 years in Northern California, I’ve converted to the local team, the Giants. My son lost a bet with all his friends who are Giants fans and Isaac has to wear a Giants jersey on his FaceBook page. I did a little editing on the photo and reposted Isaac  with a “Fear the Beard” motto. Matt was not amused. And it may get worse. The other night, they put Isaac to bed before the game was over and my daughter-in-law said he fussed and cried and wouldn’t go to sleep. When the game ended, she went into his room and whispered in his ear, “The Giants won” and he went right to sleep. This could be a problem.

Now that the Giants are going to the World Series, my nerves will continue to be tortured for another two weeks starting Wednesday. The house will remain a mess, I'll probably continue to neglect the blog and maybe I’ll lose a few more pounds while ignoring the food situation because I'd rather be watching the game. I'm just hoping my son will be talking to me when they come to visit next weekend.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Rainy Day at the Market

Our first rain in seven months began to fall softly this morning while we were at the farmers’ market. And no one seemed to notice. Not even the twin babies dressed in their matching tiger sleepers. There were no umbrellas, no raincoats – everyone just went about their normal routine of browsing the fruits, vegetables, flowers and artisanal food. Even though it was almost 40 degrees colder today than last week, Northern Californians just take the freaky weather in stride. But I do worry about the vineyards. The harvest is behind schedule due to the cool summer and the rain is early. Not a good combination. It could have a negative impact on the grapes not yet ready to pick and this year's red wines.

I can’t influence the weather, so I took the opportunity to practice using my new waterproof camera in the rain. What do you think?

Friday, October 15, 2010

Leftover Pumpkin

One day this week, I had back-to-back conference calls starting very early in the morning. There aren’t many things I dislike more than early morning calls, except maybe if I have to actually be in the office really early. Usually during those early calls, I just grab a bowl of cereal for my breakfast and try not to crunch too loudly. But this particular morning, we had leftover pumpkin from the pumpkin turkey goulash and I had a better idea for breakfast.

Larry often makes pancakes for his breakfast, but usually I don’t want anything quite so heavy early in the morning. But for pumpkin pancakes, I’ll make an exception. And they don't crunch. While on the call, I quietly pointed out the recipe I’d seen earlier at Liv Life. If you don’t follow Kim’s blog, you’re missing a good one. Then I whispered to Larry that he should take a photo when the pancakes were done. Those pancakes definitely made the conference call more tolerable. Wonder what all those other people were doing while they were listening! One day on a later morning call, a coworker in Europe was trying to talk and put his kids to bed at the same time. Pumpkin pancakes were definitely more fun than that!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Is it Really Autumn?

There are pumpkins on my walkway, so it must officially be fall. Only it’s 92 degrees outside! At least the Indian Summer heat doesn’t feel the same to me as a sweltering July 92 degrees. The days are shorter and the late afternoon sun is not so strong as it lingers closer to the horizon. Mornings and evenings have a crispness in the air that remind me it really isn’t summer, regardless of the number on the digital thermometer outside the kitchen window. In spite of the heat, my pumpkins by the front walk inspire me to cook for fall – I'm ready to eat pumpkin, one of my favorite flavors! There doesn’t seem to be a shortage of canned pumpkin like last year, but I’m stocking up just in case. I'll put it on the grocery list every week now.

We had a turkey tenderloin left over from a couple of days ago, so last night I made pumpkin goulash from Bon Appetit magazine. You could look up the original recipe if you’re a purist, because I made a lot of changes. I dramatically cut down on the number of servings and I used different paprika based on what I had. The original recipe called for a combination of Hungarian sweet and Hungarian hot paprika. I substituted Hungarian smoked and added some chili garlic paste for the heat. Chili garlic paste is my go-to ingredient when I want a dash of heat for any dish. I’m sure I got a different flavor from the original intention, but it was delicious. I also left out the caraway seeds, because Larry HATES caraway seeds and I did want him to eat dinner. The recipe is definitely a keeper and I think next time, I’ll add carrots and substitute sage for the thyme for another variation. Or some Indian spices – that would go well with pumpkin also.

Pumpkin Turkey Goulash

1 turkey tenderloin, cut into 1” cubes
1/8 c Hungarian smoked paprika
1 tsp chili garlic paste
½ tsp kosher salt
½ tsp fresh ground black pepper
1 large onion, cut into chunks
1 large russet potato, cut into 1” chunks
1 can low salt chicken broth
½ can pumpkin puree
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 large sprig fresh thyme plus 1 Tbsp fresh thyme chopped

Olive oil

Egg noodles (for 3-4 servings)

Sour cream

Place turkey, paprika, chili garlic paste, salt and pepper in resealable plastic bag. Seal and shake bag to coat turkey. Heat oil in large pot over medium high heat. Add turkey to pot and cook 5 minutes, reserving spice mixture left in bag. Place onions and potatoes in bag with spice mixture. Seal and shake to coat. Add vegetables to pot with turkey and cook 5 more minutes, turning occasionally. Add broth, pumpkin, garlic, bay leaf, and thyme sprig. Bring to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, about one hour until potatoes begin to fall apart. When cooked, discard bay leaf and thyme sprig.

Cook noodles per package directions. Divide noodles among bowl and top with stew. Sprinkle with fresh thyme and serve with a dollop of sour cream.

Stay tuned for how we used the other half of the can of pumpkin. I could never let pumpkin go to waste!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Figgy Feast

My friend Bina brought me figs from her tree - she loves starring in my blog! This is an extraordinary treat since sometimes figs cost $5 for a small basket at the farmers’ market. This provided an abundant supply, so I decided to make the fig and balsamic jam from Kitchen Konfidence. I halved the recipe but as is often the case, I was missing an ingredient. No lemons. How could I be out of lemons??!! So I substituted fresh orange juice. It probably doesn’t have quite the same tang, but it worked out fine. I also didn't have any cheesecloth in case you think the photo looks a little funny. That's sterile gauze from my first aid kit holding the peppercorns. I will share my jam with Bina since she was so kind as to bring me the figs.

Lunch today was a celebration of figs. We spread goat cheese on pita crackers and topped them with the jam and a chiffonade of basil. We also had this salad from Bon Appetit Magazine:

Arugula and Goat Cheese Salad with Fig Vinaigrette
(2 servings)

5 figs, stemmed and quartered
¼ c water
½ Tbsp fresh lemon juice
½ Tbsp aged balsamic vinegar
½ Tbsp white wine vinegar
2 tsp fresh basil, chopped
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
Pinch of sugar
Salt and pepper

4 - ½” thick rounds soft goat cheese from a log
1 egg, beaten
½ c panko
1 Tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 cups arugula
4 slices prosciutto
5 fresh figs, stemmed and halved

Vinaigrette – Combine figs and water in medium saucepan. Bring mixture to simmer over medium low heat, mashing until mixture softens and coarse puree forms. Transfer to a strainer and set over bowl. Press on solids to extract as much mixture as possible. Whisk lemon juice, vinegars, basil and sugar into filtrate from fig puree. Whisk in oil. Season with salt and pepper.

Salad – Dip goat cheese rounds into beaten egg. Coat both sides with panko. Chill 10 minutes. Heat oil in non-stick skillet over medium-high heat. Add goat cheese to skillet and cook just until golden, about one minute per side. Transfer to paper towel.

Arrange arugula on plate. Drape prosciutto slices over. Arrange fig halves and top with goat cheese slices. Drizzle with honey and spoon vinaigrette over salad.

You will notice that our prosciutto is cooked. Not what I intended, but Larry cooked it before I realized it, while I was off taking the photos of the crackers. Not that I object to cooked bacon! It was a glorious autumn day and we enjoyed our figgy feast on the patio.

Saturday, October 9, 2010

Ballpark Fare

It’s baseball playoff season and the San Francisco Giants are there for the first time in years! I haven’t been to a game recently, but my son had tickets for us to attend Friday night’s game at AT&T Park. But to him it was a Braves game, not a Giants game. I don't really care. Having been a Braves fan prior to becoming a Californian, I can enjoy a good game and be happy for either team.

I heard the food at this gorgeous stadium by the bay has gone downhill and now I would agree. I have to admit we weren’t very discriminating in our selection and grabbed the first thing we could find outside our entrance that wasn’t hot dogs. As un-American as it may sound, I don’t eat hot dogs under any circumstances. I had chicken strips and fries. Larry had a burger and garlic fries. It was horribly expensive and all pretty bad, but the garlic fries were especially disgusting – a soggy, sloppy mess. There was a record crowd of nearly 44,000 attendees, so maybe you can’t expect much in feeding the masses. Vendors were out of some choices by the second inning.

The Giants won, but the best part was taking Isaac to his first baseball game. If he’s like his dad, he’ll be quoting stats by the time he can talk. Our household lived and breathed baseball until Matt grew up and left home. You’ll notice Isaac is wearing a Braves jacket, but waving a Giants rally towel. At two months old, it is wise to be bi-partisan. Soon I’m sure he’ll formulate his own allegiances. He loved the lights and all the activity, so we had a great time (except for Matt since the Braves lost). Next time, I think we’ll eat elsewhere before the game.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Seafood Week

Last week seemed like Seafood Week at our house. We ate salmon one day, halibut another and then scallops. I am new to cooking scallops because I always thought that I didn’t like them. When I was growing up, I heard my mother saying she didn’t like them and I thought I didn’t either. Or maybe I ate them greasy deep fried at the beach once and formed my opinion there. Only recently have I started to appreciate their delicate flavor and tried preparing them myself. This was only the second attempt.

I saw this recipe while perusing my Bon Appetit magazine collection and decided to convert it from an appetizer to a main course. We had one ear of corn left from the weekly farmers’ market trip so I added it to the salad. No need to cook good corn, just toss it in raw. As always, I adjust the ingredients based on experience and our personal preferences. This recipe is a keeper!

Grilled Scallops with Vegetables and Orange Hoisin Sauce

4oz hoisin sauce
1/3 c orange juice
1 Tbsp rice vinegar
1/2 Tbsp grated orange peel
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced

3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
2 Tbsp sesame oil
1 tsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp fish sauce
1 bunch watercress, trimmed
1 medium cucumber, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
1 medium carrot, peeled, cut into matchstick-size strips
Fresh corn, kernels from one ear, removed
¾ c cilantro leaves
½ red onion, very thinly sliced
Salt and pepper

1 ½ tsp whole coriander seeds
1 Tbsp sesame oil
1 Tbsp fresh ginger, peeled and minced
10 large sea scallops

Vegetable oil

For Sauce: Mix all ingredients in a bowl. Cover and chill.

For Vegetables: Mix first four ingredients in a large bowl. Add cucumber, carrots, corn and onion. Toss to blend. Season with salt and pepper. Let stand for 30 minutes. Just before serving, add watercress and cilantro. Toss to coat with dressing.

For Scallops: Stir coriander seeds in small skillet over medium heat until fragrant and slightly darker, about 2 minutes. Transfer to plastic bag. Using a mallet or hammer, coarsely crack seeds. Combine sesame oil and ginger in medium bowl. Mix in coriander seeds and then scallops. Let stand at room temperature 30 minutes.

Prepare barbecue for medium high heat. Thread scallops onto skewers. Brush barbecue with oil to prevent sticking. Grill scallops just until opaque in center, about three minutes per side. Place vegetables on plate and serve scallop skewers on top. Drizzle sauce on top of scallops, serving additional sauce for dipping.