Thursday, December 31, 2009

Cassoulet Bainbridge Style

Today is my wedding anniversary and the gift I’ve asked of my dear husband is  that we cook New Years Eve dinner together. 

Our traditional NYE dinner is cassoulet and this year we’re recreating the cassoulet dinner we had in Castelnaudry, one of the most enjoyable meals we had during our month in Europe. 

The Menu

Fois Gras with toast and balsamic reduction.  Mixed greens tossed in a light vinaigrette. 


Peeled fresh grapefruit segments frozen just until the outside is crunchy and the inside is ice cold; a riff on grapefruit sorbet.

Followed by:

Cassoulet de Castelnaudary with Duck Confit and artisanal sausages.


Mini-three cheese course and profiteroles


I’ll update later with pictures and tasting notes.  Happy New Year and all the best to you and yours.

The update:  There was so much meat in the cassoulet we skipped the fois gras and went straight to the main event.  Tender white beans and meat ragout studded with Uli’s garlic sausage; smoked kielbasa and duck confit (purchased in France this summer and stored until this special night).  Stunned by the food and champagne we retired to the hot tub and watched fireworks, then finished our meal:   frozen grapefruit; crunchy with ice crystals exploding with juice in each bite.

New Year's Eve 100 The finished product.

New Year's Eve 080 Built by layers.  First a layer of beans, then a layer of meat.

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Then another layer of beans…

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Topped by fresh bread crumbs drizzled with duck fat.  This is a rich and hearty meal…I have no idea how I managed to eat this entire menu  fois gras to profiteroles last summer in France.

For this recipe; click here:

Cassoulet in Castelnaudary.

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Golden Anniversary

Today is my parent’s 50th wedding anniversary. It is a rare and wondrous achievement and proves what I’ve always known:  My parents are rare and wonderful people.

Mom says it doesn’t seem like they’ve been married fifty years but then reflects on the world events and global changes they’ve seen together:  five children grown,  Man walking on the moon,  computers in every home (to list just a few). 

My mom’s family is long lived and loyal.  Her grandparents were separated by her grandmother’s passing just months short of their 60th wedding anniversary. Her parents celebrated their fiftieth and would have seen their 60th had not cancer intervened. 

My father’s parents were married until the day his father died.  Dad is witty and kind and has a certain nobility about him and he cherishes my mother; just the way I remember Grandpa Herb and Grandma Frances.  Sometimes while I’m stirring a pot at the stove Ross comes up and hugs me from behind just the way my dad does with my mom.  It makes me happy to think that maybe, just maybe with luck and health we’ll be them someday.

Happy Anniversary Mom and Dad.  I love you.

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Oh Fudge; revisited.

Whew.  Recovering from family holiday fest.  My mother made three kinds of fudge.  Sampled all weekend and still can’t pick a favorite.  I give you all three recipes (including the fudge disaster recipe, now totally foolproof):

Peanut Butter Fudge

2 cups sugar

½ cup milk

1 1/3 cups peanut butter

1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme

In saucepan bring sugar and milk to a boil; boil for three minutes. Add peanut butter and marshmallow creme; mix well. Quickly pour into a buttered 8 inch square pan; chill until set. Cut into squares. Yield 3-4 dozen bite sized pieces.


Chocolate Fudge

4 ½ cups sugar

1 can Carnation evaporated milk (12 ounces)

2 sticks butter

3 teaspoon vanilla

2 large bags chocolate chips (mom uses milk chocolate chips)


Mix sugar and milk in a saucepan. Bring to hard boil and boil for 6 minutes. Remove from heat and stir in butter, vanilla and chocolate chips. Pour in 9X13 pan and refrigerate until cool.


White Chocolate Peppermint Fudge

From: A Taste of Home

1-1/2 teaspoons plus 1/4 cup butter, softened, divided

2 cups sugar

1/2 cup sour cream

12 ounces white baking chocolate, chopped

1 jar (7 ounces) marshmallow creme

1/2 cup crushed peppermint candy

1/2 teaspoon peppermint extract

Line a 9-in. square pan with foil. Grease the foil with 1-1/2 teaspoons butter; set aside.

In a large heavy saucepan, combine the sugar, sour cream and remaining butter. Cook and stir over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Bring to a rapid boil; cook and stir until a candy thermometer reads 234° (soft-ball stage), about 5 minutes.

Remove from the heat; stir in white chocolate and marshmallow creme until melted. Fold in peppermint candy and extract. Pour into prepared pan. Chill until firm.

Using foil, lift fudge out of pan. Gently peel off foil; cut fudge into 1-in. squares. Store in the refrigerator. Yield: 2 pounds.

Monday, December 14, 2009

Oh… Fudge!

One must have stunning failures before achieving great success. 

I think I ruined a perfectly nice All Clad Stainless steel pan this afternoon.  My mom’s “foolproof” fudge recipe turned to carbon before my eyes and super-glued itself to my pan.  The house smells like burned marshmallows and I wince each time I approach the kitchen sink and the charred remains.

Guess I’ll finish the dishes tomorrow.

Does anyone have a foolproof fudge recipe?

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Butternut Squash Ravioli with Handmade Pasta

This, too was part of our Food Friday challenge and since none of us had fresh lasagna sheets tucked away in our freezers (the challenge was to make a meal with the contents of our pantries) we made the pasta from scratch.  Kudos to Veni who patiently and painstakingly made 36 perfect butternut squash raviolis:




Then made fettuccine with the leftovers.

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Making pasta is not for the faint of heart.  If you posses a pasta roller perhaps you disagree, but from where I was sitting (drinking wine and sneaking bits of fresh apple cake), it looked pretty hard. 

The results were worthy.  Tender noodles (drizzled with sage infused cream sauce) filled with sweet squash abundant with parmesan, cream and a hint of nutmeg. 

Thanks to Daniela of Bella Signature Design for the action photos above.

Winter Squash Ravioli

From:  Le Cordon Bleu Cookbook

12 oz butternut squash, baked.

2 tablespoons olive oil

3 oz prosciutto, finely chopped

1/2 cup grated parmesan cheese

3 tablespoons chopped fresh basil

1/4 cup chopped fresh sage

1 egg yolk

2 tablespoons whipping cream

Pinch of nutmeg

Combine all ingredients using the back of a fork to mash the squash.  Taste, adjust seasonings.  We didn’t use the prosciutto so added extra salt.

Fresh Pasta

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon salt

3 tablespoons olive oil

4 eggs, lightly beaten

Mix flour and salt then add the oil and egg, mixing well to a firm ball.  Let rest to relax the dough and roll into thin sheets.

Sage Infused Cream Sauce

This was a challenge so I couldn't run to the store to buy fresh sage and made do with dried instead.  So good that I may have to “make-do” with dried herbs more often.

1/2 cup cream (heavy or light)

Sprinkle of dried sage

Combine in heavy pot and bring to a boil; let simmer for as long as it takes to heat your pasta water and cook your pasta.  Will reduce to a few tasty tablespoons.  Drizzle over hot pasta.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Butternut Squash Risotto

OMG this was good.  We made it for Food Friday lunch and I swear I’ve never tasted anything so delicious.  The entire Food Friday challenge; to use up all the Butternut Squash that Aunt Sharron brought from her organic grocer, has been a great opportunity to  love Butternut Squash.

squash muffins 028 Creamy with parmesan zing in every bite.  So delicious, conversation momentarily ceased as we reveled in flavor.

Before last Monday I’m not sure I could pick a butternut squash out of a squash line up.  Today, however, I have four new recipes that I CAN’T WAIT to make again; all of them featuring butternut squash.

Part of Friday’s challenge was to make dishes from the ingredients in our pantry so we made this without pancetta. 

It took almost an hour to get the rice al dente and we used 2-3 more cups of chicken stock than Ina calls for; just letting you know in case you’re a) in a hurry to eat or b) low on chicken stock.

Cheers and enjoy.

Butternut Squash Risotto

From Ina Garten

1 butternut squash (2 pounds)

2 tablespoons olive oil

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

6 cups chicken stock, preferably homemade

6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

2 ounces pancetta, diced

1/2 cup minced shallots (2 large)

1 1/2 cups Arborio rice (10 ounces)

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon saffron threads

1 cup freshly grated Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Peel the butternut squash, remove the seeds, and cut it into 3/4-inch cubes. You should have about 6 cups. Place the squash on a sheet pan and toss it with the olive oil, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Roast for 25 to 30 minutes, tossing once, until very tender. Set aside.

Meanwhile, heat the chicken stock in a small covered saucepan. Leave it on low heat to simmer.

In a heavy-bottomed pot or Dutch oven, melt the butter and sauté the pancetta and shallots on medium-low heat for 10 minutes, until the shallots are translucent but not browned. Add the rice and stir to coat the grains with butter. Add the wine and cook for 2 minutes. Add 2 full ladles of stock to the rice plus the saffron, 1 teaspoon salt, and 1/2 teaspoon pepper. Stir, and simmer until the stock is absorbed, 5 to 10 minutes. Continue to add the stock, 2 ladles at a time, stirring every few minutes. Each time, cook until the mixture seems a little dry, then add more stock. Continue until the rice is cooked through, but still al dente, about 30 minutes total. Off the heat, add the roasted squash cubes and Parmesan. Mix well and serve.

Monday, December 7, 2009

Butternut Squash Muffins with Sour Cream Glaze

I think Aunt Sharron has a crush on Jamie Oliver.  She arrived with two of his cookbooks and proceeded to make me want to fall in love with him, too.

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He had me at “sour cream glaze”.  At first I thought he’d made a typo; surely he meant cream cheese?  Lemon zest, orange zest, powdered sugar and sour cream?   But after I tasted the butternut squash muffins destined to be glazed, I decided to trust him. 

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These muffins were astonishingly moist , bursting with flavor and endearingly yummy.  Endearing because they’re healthy (veggie, organic eggs and olive oil) and  simple to make with no fussy ingredients.
We ate them for two days  before I got around to making the glaze.  Delicious without any topping I almost didn’t go the extra step.  Glad I did because this zesty, sweet and sour frosting took the muffins from really, really good (though a bit frumpy) to fabulous and so pretty all dressed up in frilly bonnets.  We shared them with neighbors to their great delight.

Butternut Squash Muffins with Sour Cream Glaze

Adapted from Jamie Oliver
14 ounces butternut squash, skin on, deseeded and whirled in food processor until finely chopped
2 ¼ cups light brown sugar
4 eggs
Pinch of salt
2 ½ cup flour
2 heaping teaspoons baking powder
Handful of walnuts, chopped
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¾ cup extra virgin olive oil
Combine eggs, oil and brown sugar, fold in squash. In separate bowl combine dry ingredients (including walnuts). Make a well in center of dry ingredients and pour in wet ingredients. Stir until just combined. Bake in 350 degree oven for twenty minutes or until toothpick comes out clean.

Sour Cream Glaze

½ cup sour cream
zest of one Satsuma (or whatever orange you have on hand); plus more for garnish
zest of one lemon
Juice of half a lemon
¼ cup powdered sugar
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Mix well and spoon over cooled muffins. Grate orange peel over frosting as garnish.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Butternut Squash Soup with Cilantro

You could call this week the Butternut Squash Challenge:  Three butternut squash go a long way and we’ve been working our way through them.

Yesterday we made butternut squash soup.  Spicy, hot and smooth, thanks to the garnish of cayenne pepper, sour cream and cilantro.  Joining those three big flavors with the creamy soup broke all kinds of taste records and had me (no fan of squash soup) going back for seconds.

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Today is Food Friday and we’ve challenged ourselves to use up the rest of the squash and a whole bunch of apples without going to the store for additional supplies.  On the menu:

Butternut squash ravioli with sage cream sauce or browned butter

Butternut Squash Risotto

Butternut Squash muffins with sour cream glaze

French Apple Croustade

Fresh apple cupcakes

…and whatever else strikes our fancy.  I’ll report in on Monday with recipes and tasting notes.  I’d blog it over the weekend but my dance card is already full with Christmas in the Country and the Bainbridge Island Studio Tour two of my favorite holiday events. 


Squash Soup

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 yellow onion, chopped

2 stalks celery ,chopped

1 carrot, chopped

2 Cloves garlic, finely minced

½ Habanero (or other hot chili), finely minced

5 cups vegetable or chicken broth, no salt

3 cups (1.5 Pounds) squash (Butternut) light flesh seeded, peeled cut into 1 inch cubes

¼ cup fresh parsley, minced

2 bay leaves

2 sprigs fresh thyme or 1 teaspoon dried

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/3 cup sour cream

Sour Cream for Garnish

Cilantro for garnish

¼ Teaspoon Cayenne Pepper

Heat oil in large stockpot over medium heat. Add onions, celery and carrot. Sauté until soft, but no t brown, about 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and chili and cook for 1 minute more. Stir in broth, squash, parsley, bay leaves, thyme and sugar. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat and simmer till vegetables are very soft, 25-30 minutes. Discard bay leaves and thyme sprigs. Puree soup in batches in food processor or blender until very smooth. Add water if too thick. Return soup to pan and stir in ½ cup sour cream. Simmer soup for 3 minutes more. Adjust seasoning and add salt and pepper to taste.

Garnish with cayenne, cilantro and sour cream.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Whiskey Pecan Fruit Cake

This is my great-great grandmother’s fruitcake recipe.  Before you sprain a finger speed-exiting this blog, hear me out.

This is good stuff.  No one admits to liking fruitcake.  No one.  (Except my friend Heather, who just now confessed).  But even those people who say they don’t like fruitcake like this:  my dad and my uncle can’t get enough, my grandma loves it, my aunt loves it and dare I say…I …uh…like it a lot.  I figure it has to be good to survive five generations. (the recipe not the actual fruitcake.)

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Aunt Sharron is the keeper of family traditions.  If you recall, she’s the maker of the Irish Enchiladas a recipe passed down from my Great Grandma.  And, now the family fruitcake recipe:

(A word about family fruitcake recipes:  You have one too.  I guarantee there’s a great aunt out there somewhere making your family’s fruitcake recipe right now.  But I digress.)

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This cake is rich and dense, rife with nutmeg, potent with whiskey.  We pulled eight gloriously bronzed loaves out of the oven a bit ago and my house smells like the inside of a gingerbread cottage abundant with spice and roasted nuts.  We’ve yet to wrap them in whiskey soaked cheesecloth but I have plans to liberate a crumb or three.  This recipe makes A LOT of fruitcake:  eight small loaves and one big one…feel free to halve the recipe.

I’m a little concerned the fruitcake baton is being passed to me and soon I will be known as the keeper of the family fruitcake tradition.  The family fruitcake-er.  If this came with some sort of magical ability like levitation or lighting candles without a match I’d consider it a fair trade but for now I’ll watch and learn and try to keep away from the Black Velvet.

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By the way I just have to comment on this glorious day.  This morning:  glittery frost, snuggled in one of my mom’s quilts on the deck, cradling a cup of hot green tea watching dawn steal across the bay.  A family of geese glide by; silent  black silhouettes.  Followed closely by a raft of widgeons and buffleheads whistling and chirping. 

Life is good.


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Whiskey Pecan Fruit Cake

½ cup candied orange peel

1 pound mixed candied fruit;

2 pounds dates or raisins or mixed dates/raisins

1½ cup butter, softened

2 cups sugar

1 cup molasses

6 eggs

1 heaping tablespoon baking powder

4 cups flour

2 tablespoons nutmeg

2 1/4 pounds pecans, divided

1cup whiskey

Do not cut up the pecans or dates; leave whole. Reserve some fruit pieces and 1/4 pound pecans for decorating the finished loaves.

Combine remaining nuts and fruit in colander and rinse with boiling water to remove the sticky sugar coating from the candied fruit.  Drain well then place in the largest bowl you have.

Cream together butter and sugar and add eggs one at a time until incorporated.  Add molasses and mix well.  Add whiskey and mix well.

Combine flour, baking powder and nutmeg in bowl and whisk well.  Add to butter/sugar mixture.  Mix well.

Pour batter over the fruits and nuts.  Mix well.

Line bread pans with with greased waxed paper. Press batter into pans level with the top of pan.  Decorate with reserved fruits and nuts.  Bake at 250⁰ for 4 hours or until done.  It’s done when the batter hardens across the top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. When cooled, wrap in whiskey soaked cheese cloth and wrap in wax paper then foil. Store in cool, dark place for a month or two; from time to time adding a little whiskey.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Aunt Sharron’s Visit

Aunt Sharron arrived today, hidden behind two massive white teddy bears.  Each bear transported a special hug from Great Grandma Lorine, down south in Portland. 

Before leaving Portland Aunt S. cashed in on a buck-a-bag close out of seasonal, locally grown produce and this week’s challenge is to eat it all.  So far, we’re thinking of apple pie filling and butternut squash soup. The kiwi fruit are from my grandma’s backyard and the basket in the last picture is filled with a vast selection of teas from Firefox teas in Portland, including my favorite Wuyi blend (especially fine with a piece of Cost Plus Dark Chocolate with sea salt).  They’re a neat young couple making their business work and they’re always great, according to Aunt Sharron.  We’ll be making our way to Churchmouse yarn and tea room here on the island so I can return her generosity and send her home with Bainbridge’s best.

Veni has suggested Food Friday Challenge where we cook only with supplies on hand.  I love this idea with Aunt Sharon our guest cook and am looking forward to emptying out the freezer and pantry. 

How about I post a list of my ingredients and you all can tell me what to make?

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Must go, have lots of sewing, cooking, chatting and tea drinking to attend to. Cheers!

Friday, November 27, 2009

Wine Society: Crab Cakes with Cilantro Lime Sauce and Parmesan Herbed Shortbread

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Hope all had a happy Thanksgiving.  My favorite part is when we go around the table and say what we’re thankful for.  This year (again!) I am thankful for my family; my loving husband and children, and good health enjoyed by all.

The holidays have a way of distorting time.  It seems ages ago that we had wine society but really, it was just last weekend and I continue the recipes for the fabulous meal we enjoyed at Victor Alexander’s tasting room.

That memorable meal started with crab cakes.  Moist and delicious, bursting with crab and sautéed veggies with just a hint of Old Bay seasoning.  The big taste twist came with the lime cilantro ginger sauce.  Sweet, then hot , then a cool burst of ginger;  layers of flavor, easy to make and versatile.  I used the leftovers for a sparkling cocktail I’ve yet to name.

This course was served with VA Semillon a light and fruity wine and parmesan herb shortbread.  Buttery, flecked with fresh herbs with a satisfying squeak against your teeth crunch.  These would go well with just about anything and a great replacement for cheese straws which often make their way to holiday tables (and cost a lot).wine society nov 059

This weekend kicks off the holidays.  We’ll hang our wreaths and set up the snowy village with the live ice skaters that E can’t keep her hands off.  We’ll take advantage of this lovely weather to wrap our outdoor trees in white lights.  Tomorrow we’ll bundle up for the tree lighting ceremony at city hall and sip hot chocolate at the newly remodeled Pegasus coffee house.  Before we head home for bed, we’ll stroll the boardwalk looking for boats adorned in holiday lights.  Bring on the canned holiday jingles!

But hey!  Before I forget… shop the Indie Banditas Bazaar today and tomorrow at Woodward Middle School.  I’ve vowed to make or buy local as many gifts as possible and the indie bazaar is a great place to start. 


Crab cakes

From:  Barefoot Contessa

2 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 tablespoons olive oil

¾ cup small-diced red onion (1 small onion)

1 ½ cup small-diced celery (4 stalks)

½ cup small-diced red bell pepper (1 small pepper)

½ cup small-diced yellow bell pepper (1 small pepper)

½ cup minced fresh flat-leaf parsley

1 tablespoon capers, drained

¼ teaspoon Tabasco sauce

½ teaspoon Worcestershire sauce

1 ½ teaspoon Old Bay Seasoning

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

½ pound lump crabmeat

½ cup plain dry bread crumbs

½ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 extra-large eggs, lightly beaten

Place the 2 tablespoons butter, 2 tablespoons olive oil, onion, celery, red and yellow bell peppers, parsley, capers, Tabasco sauce, Worcestershire sauce, Old Bay Seasoning, salt, and pepper in a large sauté pan over med-low heat and cook until the veggies are soft, approximately 15 to 20 minutes. Cool to room temperature. In a large bowl, break the lump crabmeat into small pieces and toss with the bread crumbs, mayonnaise, mustard, and eggs. Add the cooked mixture and mix well. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Shape into bite-sized crab cakes.

Heat the butter and olive oil for frying over medium heat in a large sauté pan. Add the crab cakes and fry for 4 to 5 minutes on each side, until browned. Drain on paper towels; keep them warm in a 250-degree oven and serve hot.

Parmesan & Thyme Crackers

From: Barefoot Contessa by Ina Garten

¼ pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature

4 ounces freshly grated parmesan cheese (about 1 cup)

1 teaspoon minced fresh thyme leaves

½ teaspoon kosher salt

½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 ¼ cups all-purpose flour

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream the butter for 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, add the Parmesan, thyme, salt, and pepper and combine. With the mixer still on low, add the flour and combine until the mixture is in large crumbles, about 1 minute. If the dough is too dry, add 1 teaspoon water.

Dump the dough onto a floured board, press it into a ball, and roll into a 9-inch log. Wrap in plastic and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes or for up to 4 days.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Cut the log into 3/8-inch-thick rounds with a small, sharp knife and place them on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Bake for 22 minutes, until very lightly browned. Rotate the pan once during baking. Cool and serve at room temperature.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Wine Society at Victor Alexander Winery: Polenta Cakes with Parmesan and Cream Cheese

Normally I’m not a fan of polenta but I wanted our vegetarian society member to have something pretty and tasty on her plate when we served the pork tenderloin.

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Now, until I made this polenta I thought you vegetarians were way healthier than us meat eaters.  I also thought you were missing out on some really good stuff (fat, for one)…however, once you sauté shallots in butter, add three different cheese and fry the whole thing in peanut oil you’ve stepped way off the calorie high road and boarded the express bus to trans fat heaven with the rest of us, happy to be onboard I say because these crispy cakes are worth the sit-ups and power walks to come.  So good in fact, that I narrowly talked myself out of making more of them today. 

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Fresh from the hot oil these have a cracker thin exterior that once breached yields a gooey cheese-fortified interior that literally melts in your mouth.  If you’ve never liked polenta give this recipe a try and you’ll change your mind.  For the meat eaters we placed it beneath the pistachio crusted pork tenderloin where it could soak up the pomegranate port reduction.  Tasty and pretty darn impressive looking.

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Polenta Cakes with Cream Cheese and Parmesan

Adapted from: Master Chef José Gutierrez

1 cup stone ground polenta

¾ cup shallots, diced

2-1/2 cups vegetable stock

½ cup Mozzarella cheese. grated

2 tablespoons Parmesan cheese, grated

1/3 cup cream cheese

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons butter

1/3 cup flour

2 teaspoons peanut oil

Preheat oven to 350º F. In a medium pan, sauté shallots in butter until translucent. Add polenta, mix well. Add stock and bring to a boil. Mix with spatula, cover, and bake in oven for 45 minutes. Remove from oven and add cheeses and salt. Pour into a small sheet pan about 3/4 of an inch thick. Place in refrigerator and chill until firm. Cut into small squares. Roll in flour. Heat peanut oil in frying pan, place cakes in hot oil until golden brown.

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Wine Society: Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin with Pomegranate Port Reduction

Looking for an alternative to turkey this Thanksgiving?  Try this simple and elegant pork tenderloin recipe:

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There’s so much that I like about this dish.  First off, I love how we got sweet and savory, salty and crunchy, fresh and fried all on one plate.  And, I swoon over Daniela’s port sauce swirl; that girl has a way with a squirt bottle.  


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The polenta cake, which is coming in tomorrow’s blog ,was the perfect foil for the tenderloin and the Pomegranate Port reduction is just too divine.

I was in charge of sauces for this event.  By the time I got to this one, I’d destroyed three different dips for the crab cakes and was doing some deep breathing on the kitchen floor.  I’d cursed my way through Ina, Mr Napa Style and an aioli that blinded my taste buds with so much lime I couldn’t taste anything else for an hour.  Thoroughly fed up with recipes not working, I vowed to create my own port reduction that would be good and tasty and just right. I’ve credited chef Gutierrez but the genius is in the brown sugar and the pomegranate flavor, both my additions.  I’ll never make another port reduction recipe again.  This one is a keeper.

A word about the wine.  If you haven't been to the Victor Alexander tasting room then you’re missing out on some very nice wines and an even nicer wine maker.  This is Charlie Merrill’s first vintage and he’s on the right track.  The wine society attended the Islandwood wine dinner back in August and when the VA Sangiovese came along all sat up a bit straighter and paid some attention.  Much more sophisticated than any freshman has a right to be, the Sangiovese paired beautifully with this dish, not one bit intimidated by the sweet and savory, salty and crunchy, fresh and fried all on one plate. 

Stop in to 120 Madrone Lane, Suite 100 and enjoy the art, say hello to Charlie and taste some wine.  You’ll be glad you did.


Pistachio Crusted Pork Tenderloin

Pork Tenderloin, marinated.

2 tablespoons olive oil

1/4 cup Dijon mustard

1 cup pistachios, finely chopped

About an hour before cooking, remove tenderloin from the fridge and let come to room temperature.   Before cooking rinse the meat under running water to remove any excess marinade.  (Most marinades contain some sugar and if you try to sear the meat without rinsing you’ll end up with black soot in your pan.)  Heat olive oil in a frying pan then sear the meat on all sides.  Save the pan for the Pomegranate Port Reduction.

Place meat on a broiler pan in a 450 degree oven and cook for five minutes then reduce to 280 degrees and cook until meat thermometer registers 170 degrees.  Remove from oven and tent with foil.  When the meat has rested for five minutes; coat with mustard then roll in chopped pistachios.  Slice and serve immediately.

Here’s a tutorial on coating the meat with pistachios:

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Pomegranate Port Reduction Sauce

Adapted from Master Chef José Gutierrez.

2 tablespoons butter, divided

½ cup onions or shallots

1 teaspoon flour

1 cup red wine

1 cup tawny port

1 teaspoon fresh thyme sprigs

¼ cup pomegranate seeds or 1 tsp pomegranate molasses

1 teaspoon brown sugar

In the sauté pan pork was cooked in, add 1 tbsp. butter, melt and cook onions until translucent. Add flour and cook over low heat for 4-5 minutes. Slowly whisk in the wines and bring to a boil. Flambé! The reason to flambé is to remove bitterness from wine. Add thyme and pomegranate seeds and simmer. When the sauce is the desired consistency (8-10 minutes) remove from heat and whisk in remaining tbsp. butter. Strain, making sure to press the onion-seed mixture to get every last drop.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Wine Society at Victor Alexander Winery

Saturday night was the third meeting of the Bainbridge Island Wine Society. Five courses paired with three great wines; ten friends and a jovial wine maker. 

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The Menu:


Paired with Victor Alexander Semillon

Fresh Dungeness crab cakes with lime cilantro dipping sauce and parmesan herb shortbread

Crisp local greens with pomegranate shallot dressing


Cheese Interlude: 

Paired with Victor Alexander Pinot Noir

Triple cream Brie, herbed goat cheese, Camembert and Comte cheeses with a variety of breads and crackers served with smoked salmon pâté


Main Course

Paired with Victor Alexander Sangiovese

Pistachio crusted pork tenderloin on a crisp parmesan and cream cheese polenta cake with a pomegranate port reduction. 



Paired with Victor Alexander Sangiovese

Pomegranate truffles


I’ll be posting recipes all week…stay tuned.

Friday, November 20, 2009

Food Friday Brunch: Cranberry Orange Muffins and Holiday Spritzers

Food Friday!  Today we’re prepping the small bites for Saturday’s wine society meeting.  Charlie Merrill at Victor Alexander Winery here on Bainbridge Island will host us in his elegant tasting room at 120 Madrone Lane.  He’s got three great wines and we’ve paired them with everything from pomegranates to seafood to truffles.  I’ll give you all the details next week because today’s post is about breakfast.
cranberry muffins and spritzer 068 Last weekend while being master of the clam universe, I stopped in at the Gray’s Harbor Public Market and bought some cranberries fresh from the bogs.   Littered with stems and imperfectly shaped these glossy orbs were as fresh and wild as they come and I knew I’d be making muffins soon.
Food Friday starts early today so Hollind can get a front row seat at A’s poetry recital this afternoon.  I can’t find a way to justify drinking wine at 9am so we're testing brunch drinks instead; a scrumptious tonic that combines rosemary infused simple syrup, cranberry and orange juices and club soda.  The perfect fizzy, refreshing start to Food Friday. 
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I’m a morning gal and I love to bake so you’d think I’d have muffins down pat.  I don't, but I took a cooking class at Greystone the imposingly..uh …grey stone Culinary Institute of America in Napa Valley where I learned to never over mix muffins.  It makes them dense and dry; you want to stop stirring  (do not even think about using a mixer!) while tiny streaks of flour are still visible. 
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I made these in mini and large sizes.  I sprinkled the minis with large crystal of sugar and glazed the others. 

Cranberry Orange Muffins

1 cup fresh cranberries
2 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon kosher salt
1 egg
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup orange juice
zest from one orange (about one tablespoon)
sugar for sprinkling
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons orange juice

Chop washed berries in the food processor. (don’t get carried away and puree them).  Set aside.
Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and whisk well, add the chopped cranberries and whisk again.
In a separate, larger bowl whisk remaining ingredients.  Pour dry ingredients on top of wet ones and stir until ingredients are barely incorporated. 
Grease muffin tins well or use paper liners.  Fill 2/3 full.  You can sprinkle with sugar now or glaze them after baking.  Bake at 400 until toothpick inserted in center comes clean.  about 8 minutes for mini muffins and about 17 for the larger ones.
To make the glaze combine sugar and orange juice in saucepan and heat, stirring constantly until boiling.  Reduce heat and simmer for a few until you get the desired consistency.  Peirce hot muffins with a toothpick in and drizzle with warm glaze.

Holiday Brunch Spritzer

Adapted from:  Cooking Light
1/2  cup sugar
1/2  cup water
4 rosemary sprigs
4 cups cranberry juice cocktail
2 cups fresh orange juice
3 cups club soda chilled

Combine sugar and water in a small saucepan, bring to a boil.  Reduce heat and simmer 4 minutes or until sugar dissolves.  Add rosemary; simmer five minutes.  Remove from heat. Pour sugar syrup into a bowl, cover and refrigerate overnight.
Uncover sugar syrup, remove and discard rosemary sprigs.  Combine the sugar syrup, juices and soda in a large pitcher.  Serve immediately over ice.  Yield 12 servings of 3/4 cup.
To make ahead:  Fill pitcher leaving out the soda.  When it comes time to serve; pour juice/sugar mixture into a glass and top with desired amount of soda.

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Razor Clam Chowder and a Day at the Beach

And a great weekend was had by all.  This is another verbose entry so get a cup of tea and settle in because I have a treat for you; my cousin Teresa’s beach photos.

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Razor clam digging can take a lot out of you so we started carbo loading first thing Saturday morning with my dad’s legendary cabin breakfast.

Dad’s pancakes are silky and rich and mouth melting thanks to the hefty swirl of bacon grease he adds to Krusteaz.  Served alongside steaming, grease slicked eggs  and crisp bacon … I need no other reason to get up in the morning.  My cousin Tim who felt a teensy bit left out of the Fred Meyer vs Safeway conversation swirling around the breakfast table offered his best money saving grocery tip:  buy beer at the store and drink it at home to save oodles in bar fees.  Love that guy.

Breakfast over and daddy daughter day commenced.  Ross took J and E kite shopping and dad took me to the hardware store where we got gutters and downspouts and this green accordion pipe thing to solve the soppy wet spot at the front of the cabin.  I love handing my dad tools as he does dad stuff high atop a ladder.

Soppy spot subdued and off for a walk on the beach where I froze but was nonetheless entranced by the thousands of tiny sandpipers racing the tide and the stark beachscape.

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Once home, fortified with creamy cocoa and ample refills of whip cream we baptized the new fondue pot I scored at the local thrift store for three bucks.

Hard to improve on bread swirled in kirsch spiked cheese washed down with fresh pressed cider.

Thus fortified, we hit the beach.

Clam tides happen only once a month, only in the winter.  You'd think the combination of cold, dark, rain and the occasional snowstorm would keep all but hearty he-man types off the beach.

But no, clam tides attract thousands of clam lovers from kids to grandparents:

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But it’s no cakewalk.  First you must obtain highly specialized equipment and attire.  There seem to be two sartorial schools of thought.  One group goes stealth with camo hip waders and matching neoprene jackets; (I especially like the his and hers matching sets).  The opposite end is the barefoot tank topped gal with wild hair, flat on her belly probing a clam hole with her bare hands.  This is not me, I lie somewhere in between with blue daisy rain boots from Bay Hay;  and my dad’s fleece lined raincoat. 

Next, you’ve got to have the right equipment. We dig with clam guns; stainless steel tubes you press into the sand with a rocking motion.  They slice through the beach layers and if you’re lucky and skilled you come up with a clam on the first pull.

The thing you need to know is that razor clams don’t just lie there.  The second your clam gun hits the sand they start digging.  Take your time, worry about your manicure or get girly about sticking your hand into an eighteen inch hole filled with frigid sea water and your quarry high tails it.

The last one to limit gets a cheer squad and lots of help spotting the show; the dimple in the sand that indicates a clam.

It’s then, when the whole group has limited and we prepare to leave the beach that we realize the true reward;  the grandeur all around.  The Pacific ocean froths and swirls; windswept trees arch along the ridge; the sand shimmers with twilight.  Against the roar of the ocean; migrating birds soar, calling their locations to each other much the way families up and down the beach keep track of their youngsters, bantering about who has the largest clam, who limited first and how many bowls of dad’s clam chowder we’re going to eat.

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A great big thank you to my cousin Teresa Harpster, a very talented artist and photographer, for loaning me these wonderful photos.


Razor Clam Chowder

This is my dad’s recipe; one we all love.  You can make it with any clams you like.

3 strips bacon chopped into 1 inch pieces

½ cup onions, diced

1 cup potatoes, cut into 1 inch pieces

1 cup water

1 cup chopped clams with juice

1 quart half and half

4 tablespoons butter (1/2 cube)

Potato flakes or left over mashed potatoes

Cook bacon pieces add onions until they are slightly browned. Add water, bring to a boil. Reduce heat, add potatoes and cook until slightly done. Add chopped clams and juice. Cook 20 minutes. Add half and half and butter. DO NOT LET MIXTURE BOIL. Season to taste. Add potato flakes or mashed potatoes for desired consistency. Test to see if it is edible…enjoy!