Sunday, August 30, 2009

August 26th, 2009 - Tortilla Soup with Lime and Tomato

It was mid-week and I was feeling like something on the lighter side. It was also a busy workday so something low on the effort scale was definitely preferable. As I’m flipping through "Savor the Moment" I came across the Tortilla Soup with Lime and Tomato. I am a big fan of tortilla soup in general: the cheese the chicken, the spiciness – what’s not to like? Interestingly, this particular recipe happens to be a vegetarian version. Hmmmm. Now this is bound to come out sooner or later but I am a hopeless carnivore. The concept of a meal without some type of animal protein just does not compute. However, in the spirit of this adventure I decided to just stick with the recipe - as is. I actually purchased vegetable stock for the first time – BIG! In keeping with the theme of a lighter night on the eating front - no wine tonight; however, a Corona with lime would be a great choice if you are so inclined.

The Dish:
Tortilla Soup with Lime and Tomato (pg. 118)

The Drink:
Corona with Lime

The ingredients were easy enough to grab on my way home from work: fresh cilantro, tomatoes, jalapenos, Monterey Jack cheese, limes all present and accounted for. There’s a little bit of prep with chopping the fresh tomatoes, onion and chiles but it’s well worth it – everything’s so nice and fresh. Start to finish, the soup only took about 30 minutes to make. I used one jalapeno pepper but if you like it spicy you could definitely use two. Also, be sure to salt the tomatoes well prior to simmering so they release their juices. And I highly suggest using only fresh lime juice – no squeeze bottle here – the fresh lime really adds fantastic flavor. I have to say, when the soup was ready I was very pleasantly surprised. It really had lots of great texture and limey deliciousness and will definitely fulfill your daily vitamin C requirement. Now I must confess, naughty carnivore that I am, I panicked at the last minute and slipped in a cubed chicken breast before serving! Either way this soup is a nice, light dish perfect for a mid-week meal, vegetarian or not. Enjoy!

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Summer Fling: Fiesta Shrimp Salad & Crunchy Key Lime Cookies!


Ladies, I must confess, I am infatuated! Now don’t get the wrong idea – it’s with the Fiesta Shrimp Salad. This is one recipe I haven’t heard a lot about and let me tell you – go home and make it tonight!
It takes a little bit of time but it just sounded so light and summery and refreshing with the papaya, avocado, and grapefruit. In addition, the shrimp have an Asian, spicy twist to them which is just mouth-watering. To complement the dish, or rather follow it, I chose the Crunchy Key Lime Cookies. They are such an embodiment of Florida, calling for the zest and juice of the indigenous and wonderfully tart key lime. They have the perfect amount of crunch and key lime essence and are not too sweet. These two dishes paired together would be perfect for a light spring/summer luncheon. You might even want to make a little “extra” to have on hand, you know, just in case you have a hungry man in the house who insists on a second helping (and maybe a third, but I have to draw the line somewhere.) I’m not naming any names though. Needless to say it was very well-received!
As for the wine, we just happened to have one on hand that went perfectly with both dishes. It is a white wine from Spain made from 100% Moscatel de Alejandria grapes. It has a hint of sweetness but is light and crisp with floral and tropical fruit notes. A great summer wine! In addition, a Sauvignon Blanc or Riesling would be an equally great pairing.

The Dishes:
Fiesta Shrimp Salad (pg. 131)
Crunchy Key Lime Cookies (pg. 256)

The Drink:
2008 Jorge Ordonez Botani Moscatel Seco Andalucia, Spain

For the Fiesta Shrimp Salad I started with the dressing. I used a blender to blitz all the ingredients and stuck it in the fridge to chill (I added the chives just before serving.) Then I tackled the shrimp - I like them with the tail on, I think it makes a great presentation. The marinade was easy enough to prepare. I used ¼ tsp. of red pepper flakes and just a pinch of sugar mixed with the other ingredients, added the shrimp, stirred well and popped them in the fridge for an hour. Meanwhile I sliced up the papaya, grapefruit and avocado. I saved the avocado for last so it wouldn’t brown. If you wanted to slice it in advance you could toss it with a little lime or lemon juice to prevent browning. I also think it looks really nice to segment the grapefruit which can take a little practice. If you’re feeling ambitious here is a link to a demo on how to do that and be sure to use a very sharp knife http://video.google.com/videoplay?docid=-3320000526185938826. For the salad I just bought a pre-washed, ready to go bag of really nice looking greens with radicchio, red leaf lettuce and baby romaine. I just followed the assembly instructions and before I knew it I had one gorgeous looking salad (see photo). I can’t wait to make this salad again – did I mention that?
For the Crunchy Key Lime Cookies the directions are pretty straightforward. Be sure to crush the Corn Flakes really well – I used a rolling pin & Ziploc bag. Good for getting out any aggression! The 16 minute bake time was also right on. They are truly worth the effort! So light and crispy with that nice hint of Florida key lime. After a fabulous meal of Fiesta Shrimp Salad they really do make you savor the moment.

Sunday, August 23, 2009

Welcome Home Dinner: Mizner Meat Loaf and Roasted Herbed Two Potatoes

OK, husband coming back from business trip tonight. What is the perfect Comforting-Husband-Welcome-Home dish? Hmmmm. The Beef Tenderloin with Bleu Cheese Stuffing? Roast Prime Rib with Horseradish Crust? I mean, I like him and everything but it is a school night after all.
After much deliberation I decided on the Mizner Meat Loaf with Roasted Herbed Two Potatoes. I have heard rave reviews about the meat loaf over the years. I have also heard the recipe is from Max’s Grille in Boca Raton. I have never actually made meat loaf before so am looking forward to it. I also feel a little more comfortable about it with some help from one of Boca’s best restaurants!
Now, for the wine. Steve is a big, red wine fan and would consider it essential for a welcome home meal. He usually sticks to California Cabs but I decided to try something a little different tonight. I decided to go with a Garnacha, a 100% Grenache-based, Spanish red wine. It received at 93 point rating despite its $12 release price. Score! So we shall see – fingers crossed!

The Dishes:
Mizner Meat Loaf (pg. 146)
Roasted Herbed Two Potatoes (pg. 34)

The Drink:
2001 Las Rocas de San Alejandro Garnacha Vinas Viejas

I must admit, the meat loaf was easy enough to put together. The only ingredient swap was for the ground veal. My Publix barely keeps milk in stock no less ground veal and because I was pressed for time I opted for ground pork. I knew Steve would be just fine with that. I mixed the ingredients and shaped it into a loaf and put it in the pan. After 45 minutes I took it out and arranged the bacon over the top, lengthwise. Then I brushed the molasses, brown sugar, and catsup mixture over the bacon and meat loaf and put it back in the oven (the house was smelling reeeallly good at this point!) I didn’t use too much of the “glaze” because I didn’t want it to get too “saucy.” Also, you definitely want to hang on to the remainder of it because it will come in handy when you’re eating it! The meat loaf baked for another 45-50 minutes and when I pulled it out, voila! A beautiful, mahogany-hued meat loaf for the Hubs. Be sure to let the meat loaf cool a bit so all the juices redistribute back into the meat (it is very juicy) and slicing it a few times makes it easier to lift it out of the loaf pan.
For the Roasted Herbed Two Potatoes I just cranked the oven up to 450 degrees when I pulled the Meat Loaf out. I opted to microwave the red potatoes for 2 minutes (I halved the recipe for the two of us) and then added them to the sweet potatoes to roast. Be sure to stir them every 15 minutes to prevent the sweet potatoes from burning. When done, the potatoes just melt in your mouth! I loved the combination of the 2 kinds of potatoes – a very nice contrast and a great everyday dish as well.
The wine also paired very well with the meal. In addition, a younger, fruitier wine with some spice would also have complemented the meat loaf as well. The delicious glaze is rich and sweet and spicy so a Syrah or Zinfandel would also work very nicely.
Welcome Home Dinner: Mission Accomplished!

The Adventure Begins: Ginger Chicken Rumaki & Curried Couscous Salad!

OK, so no pressure here, none at all. But the question at hand is: WHERE to start? For those of you familiar with “Savor the Moment” you know just how fabulous this cookbook is. There are so many fantastic recipes that choosing 1 or 2 to kick off this project is a little (gulp) daunting. So, I suppose, why not start at the beginning. I turned to page 16, the first page with recipes, and saw two: Spicy Oysters with Mango Dip and Ginger Chicken Rumaki. Now I am not the biggest oyster fan. My husband is, however, he was out of town and my Mom was joining me for dinner tonight (also, not a big oyster fan.) This left the Ginger Chicken Rumaki. Recipe 1 decided. Gaining momentum!
Now for a little help with Recipe 2 I enlisted the help of my wine chiller. I had been wanting to try a Gewurztraminer from Alsace, France I had recently purchased. It is a delicious spicy, white wine that pairs wonderfully with curry and ginger dishes, among other things. I had the ginger part taken care of so, for the curry portion of the evening, I opted for….drumroll…the Curried Couscous salad. These two items would make for a nice light dinner which Mom would appreciate and go perfectly with the wine. Whew!

The Dishes:
Ginger Chicken Rumaki (pg. 16)
Curried Couscous Salad (pg. 124)

The Drink:
2002 Domaines Schlumberger Gewurztraminer Fleur

Now I love just about anything wrapped in bacon. For our Rehearsal Dinner a few years ago I requested a whole plate of scallops wrapped in bacon just for me (when else are you going to be able to do that?) I finished every single one…no regrets. So I was very excited to make the Rumaki. According to Wikipedia, Rumaki is an hors d'oeuvre of mock-Polynesian origin. It was probably invented by Victor Bergeron, known as Trader Vic. Its ingredients and method of preparation vary, but usually it consists of water chestnuts and pieces of duck or chicken liver wrapped in bacon and marinated in soy sauce and either ginger or brown sugar. The earliest known reference to it is on the 1941 menu of the "Don the Beachcomber" restaurant in Palm Springs. The name may be an alteration of Japanese harumaki 'spring roll'.
While preparing this recipe, the smell of the marinade made my mouth water! I probably marinated the chicken for a total of 2 hours. Assembling them was easy enough after partially cooking the bacon. I also purchased the sliced water chestnuts instead of the whole ones and they were still delicious. The tricky part with this dish is selecting the appropriate toothpicks that can stand up to the cooking process. If they have the cellophane tips, they will melt. Also, the wooden ones turned black so, after cooking and for presentation purposes, it is very easy to just replace them with clean ones. Perhaps soaking them would prevent the blackening, if anyone has tried this please let me know. They are WELL worth any additional effort – they are DELICIOUS! Also, adhere to the cooking time of 3-5 minutes under the broiler - they really do cook that fast!
Now, the Curried Couscous Salad is the perfect “make ahead” dish. It just gets better and better with each passing hour. And, what they don’t tell you in the book is that it is also highly addicting! The combination of flavors in the dressing (red wine vinegar, curry powder, lemon juice, etc) is just perfect and the textures of the garbanzo beans, almonds and celery is fantastic – a great crunch factor! I opted for the golden raisins instead of the brown (personal preference) and they were also delicious. I really look forward to making this dish again.
In addition, both of these delicious dishes paired perfectly with the Gewurztraminer! My Mom also came up with a great idea for an appetizer or first course: serve the Curried Couscous salad in a martini glass with 1-2 of the Ginger Chicken Rumaki on top. Thanks, Mom, and session one completed!
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