Tag Archives: butter

Grill Thrill

5 Aug

For years I have said to my dining partners “If you want lamb, make reservations.”  I am not a huge lamb fan.  I usually had it at wine dinners, restaurants, and even in Scotland. But it was not something that I ever cooked or prepared. Having lamb paired with the appropriate wine is, like most food, amazing. Other than that, it’s just not on my radar.

Then one afternoon  I was out wine shopping.  I just happened to get an outstanding bottle of wine at a bargain price.  Red wine.  And it was begging to be paired with lamb.  So the adventure began.

Never having cooked lamb before, I had some homework to do. Finding a good butcher for top of the line lamb chops was a must. I found a local mediterranean market, and lucky me…they had a butcher. Not only did they have fresh lamb, they cut the chops to order. Score!

I decided to cook the chops outside on the grill. Like steak, I learned that lamb is delicious grilled.I also discovered that rosemary was perfect to flavor the chops.  I have a friend that grows rosemary in her yard in abundance, so I zipped over there and nabbed a handful!  I wanted to keep it simple.  Rosemary, salt, pepper, and some flavorful high quality olive oil is what I used to prepare the chops.

I started by letting the chops sit for a couple of minutes to come to room temperature, then I rubbed them with olive oil and sprinkled on the rosemary. Salt and pepper too. I placed the chops on a hot grill at about 400 degrees.  A quick flip after 4 minutes, and in another 4 minutes they were done.

I pulled them off the grill, put a pat of butter on each chop, and tented them with tin foil. Meat is at its best after resting for a few minutes. After letting the wine breath a bit, it was poured and the lamb plated. Roasted asparagus accompanied the chops, as did wild rice.  The bold full bodied wine paired with the meal was a show stopper.  Yum!

The outcome was incredible!  The chops were savory, the wine delish! It was a meal to enjoy at a leisurely pace to fully enjoy the food, wine, and dinner companions. The outcome of my adventure into cooking lamb was a success.  The discovery of a new mediterranean market which I will now frequent was an added bonus.  And exploring the savory taste sensation of well paired food and wine is always a win in my book!

 

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Naughty-again!

25 Apr

Naughty.  Last Friday night my home cooked meal was off the chain naughty.  Seriously.  The thing is…it started out innocently enough.  It took a turn to the dark side during a water cooler moment chatting with a coworker.

I wanted to make wild mushroom ravioli for dinner.  I like flavor with an earthy profile (some chefs call it a “dirt” flavor) like mushrooms, truffles, and beets.  And I was seriously craving some earth.  Wild mushrooms would be the food that was going to scratch that itch.  What could be the harm in that?  Enter stage left..my coworker Al.

Foodies get all excited when talking food and recipes.  Al is no exception.  He, like me, is a quirky foodie.  I am an amateur, he, as a certified chef, is a professional one.  I told him what I was making and wanted to pick his brain about a good sauce.  A creamy parmesan sauce? I wondered outloud.  Oh no!  Al had something else in mind.

“A brown butter sauce!” he loudly exclaimed.  Yes, that will be perfect for your ravioli, he said.  Brown butter, drizzled over the ravioli, along with fresh basil chopped, and a bit of fresh parmesan romano cheese.  Yes, he proclaimed.  That is the finish for your ravioli.  At this point my mouth was watering and I was mentally preparing for a much longer run on Saturday morning to counteract my naughty Friday night dinner.  That was that.  I couldn’t wait to try it.

Later in the afternoon, Al wandered into my office.  Clearly, as an eccentric foodie, my dinner was still on his mind.  “You need some acid on that dish, and a balsamic reduction glaze would be just the thing”.  Again, foodies are so quirky.  A “food moment” such as Al’s  hits like a flash, and you just gotta run with it.  And I did.

Here is the story, in pictures, of my naughty dinner.

Step 1...start the butter.  But remember to stir.  Burned butter is no fun!

Step 1…start the butter. But remember to stir. Burned butter is no fun!

The butter is getting brown and foamy.  The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

The butter is getting brown and foamy. The scent wafting from this dish is mmmmmmmm so creamy and luxurious!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich!  I removed the milk fat  (the foam) making it clarified butter.

The butter is getting nutty, browning slowly and oh so rich! I removed the milk fat (the foam) making it clarified butter.

 

Here it is.  My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness!   Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it?  Oh heck yes!

Here it is. My dinner is all of its naughty gloriousness! Wild mushroom ravioli with brown butter sauce and balsamic reduction, salad, and, of course, bread. Was it worth it? Oh heck yes!

Cheese, butter mayo…

8 Nov
How are these items related?

How are these items related?

 

This is a recent conversation between myself and my teenaged son.  In literary terms it is known as a drama.  Why? Because everything with teenagers has the potential to be a drama…

Quinn: Why do we only have hard butter in this kitchen?

Me: Because it is real butter and healthier for us than margarine.

Quinn: But I can’t spread it for a grilled cheese sandwich!  Ugh!  Stupid butter!

Me: Heat the pan up, melt the butter, and grill your sandwich that way.

Quinn:  Why can’t we just have the spreadable tub stuff?  Man! (insert a sarcastic cough/snort here).

Fast forward a couple of days.  I was chatting with a friend that happens to be an executive chef.

Me: My son was all ticked off because we didn’t have spreadable margarine for his grilled cheese sandwich the other day.

David: Just use Mayonnaise.  Its oil and egg.  And it makes a great grilled cheese.

Me: Do you mean use mayonnaise instead of butter on the bread grilling side?

David:  Yes.  Its simple.

Me:  Seriously?  (I realized my mouth was hanging open.  I felt a mixture of surprise at David’s suggestion and disappointment in myself because this did not occur to me unaided.  I was excited with the idea but mad at my big bad self for not thinking of this earlier…)

Oh yeah, this sent my mind spinning.  It made sense.  Mayonnaise is oil and egg.  So maybe, I thought, the grilled cheese would end up with a little “french toast” essence to it.  As far as chefs go, David has a fabulous palate with an opinion that I trust.  I couldn’t wait to try this!

Friday rolled around.  I grab a quick dinner on Fridays because my son is an athlete that plays varsity football on Friday nights in the fall.  I rush home from work, have a quick bite, and head out to the game.  It was the prefect time to make a quick grilled cheese sandwich before heading out.  It was time to go rogue!

Taste test in the making…one grilled cheese with butter and one with mayonnaise.  Yup.  I was going to try it.  I used the same pan, the same heat, the same bread and the same cheese on both sandwiches.  This had to be a true side by side taste test.

The results:  Both cooked up in about the same amount of time.  Both sandwiches browned nicely, and had a crisp outside bite with a creamy inside.  Surprisingly, the sandwich with the mayo on the grilling side was the favorite.  It had a “cheesier” flavor than the grilled cheese with butter.

At  first look at the picture in this blog, the food items do not look related.  But they are.   Try this.  Let me know what results and preferences come out in your household.  It is fun to experiment with food!

CSA

5 Oct

The first fall CSA box was ready this week.  What a wonderful fall bounty to kick off the fall farm season! It is time to continue making comfort food, switching from summer light and airy salads to more chowders and hearty pasta sauces.  And my fall CSA is feeding directly into that.  What is a CSA you say?  Well only the best thing since sliced bread!  If you aren’t involved with a CSA, now is time to get involved.

A CSA is a way to support a local farm that participates in Consumer Supported Agriculture.  Participating in a CSA is a fantastic way to become engaged with local farms. Supporting local organizations through attending and purchasing from local farmers markets is a wonderful connect to the community, and participating in a CSA is an extension of that support.

The farm that I support with the CSA program offers either a half or whole share per season, and there is a financial commitment.  You pay for your seasonal share ahead of time.  The amount of produce in the share is the difference in size.  Fall is very busy for my family, so this fall I opted for a half share.  What does that mean?

A share is a portion of local produce that the farm is seasonally harvesting.  With a CSA, the member goes to the farm or designated community location once a week to pick up their share of fresh produce.  The produce is fresh, local, and intended to be used within a few days.  By the time the produce is used, its time to go back to the farm for another share.

This week, my share included cucumbers, turnips, potatoes, an acorn squash, corn on the cob, and the bonus of a late season watermelon.   Last night, I used the potatoes and turnips to make a potato turnip gratin.  My children had not ever had turnips before, and making a warm hearty potato dish with turnips added was a great way to introduce the vegetable to them (for the record, the boys loved it, my daughter not so much…).

I used the cucumbers to make some refreshing cucumber water to keep in the fridge.  With the acorn squash, I simply cut it in half, scooped out the seeds and baked it in a 400 degree oven.  I put a little butter, brown sugar and maple syrup in the center before baking.  Easy and delicious.  I served it along side a baked chicken.  It is fun to be creative with the ingredients.

I can’t wait to see what is in my CSA share this week.  I pick my share up on the actual farm that grows and harvests the produce.  Leaving my office during a busy day, driving 10-15 minutes down the road to the farm, and having a chance to talk to the farmers while getting my share is something I look forward to all week.  My family is excited to see what I bring home, and we have a blast with the ingredients.  Best of all, I get a chance to support local farmers and have fresh, healthy seasonal produce.

If I am delayed and don’t make it to the farm one week to retrieve my share, it is donated to the local community food pantry or food bank.  Look for a CSA in your community and let me know what you come up with!

My CSA share this week.  I am having a blast experimenting.

My CSA share this week. I am having a blast experimenting.

Sweet fragrant and decadent  late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Sweet fragrant and decadent late season watermelon was a bonus this week with my CSA share.

Valentine Cake

18 Feb

Food is center stage in my home many days. Well, family is really front and center, but the kitchen is truly the heart of our family home, and we hang out there often. When I say that food is important to my family, I don’t mean constantly eating junk food. Taking the time to prepare healthy food with family is enormously rewarding. It is a family value and time well spent together in a warm comfortable and accepting environment.

We have great meals and nutritious food, but we have loads of fun too. I enjoy cooking, but am not much of a baker. I can sure improvise though. And have a blast. My kids do too! I love to cook, but the teeny tiny side of me that bakes rears its ugly head every now and again. Not really one for cookies, I turn to making cakes with the children. We put a spin on it though. We will make fun cakes for most any occasion!

Make a round cake and a square cake.

Make a round cake and a square cake.

When I make cakes, I use a high quality cake mix. Those work just fine for non bakers like myself. But I always make the

Cut the round cake in half.  Place half on 2 sides of the square cake.

Cut the round cake in half. Place half on 2 sides of the square cake.

  frosting from scratch. I learned how to make out of this world frosting from my mom. She    very wisely advised me to “always make a little too much frosting by accident”. Was she ever right! I was never voted Prom Queen, but when I make frosting I am Prom Queen for a moment..the most popular girl in the kitchen! What do I mean by popular? Let me tell you!

When I bust out my frosting, a line forms in the kitchen. Kids. Denis. His mom. More kids.  Everyone lines up to grab a spoonful of frosting before it makes its way to the cake. Everyone but my youngest son that is. The baby of the family (I am one too!) is a scrappy bunch. We learn survival of the fittest at a very young age! Anywhooo, my son doesn’t grab a spoon and stand in line. Nope, not him. The moment he notices a naked cake cooling on the counter and a stick of butter softening nearby (a main ingredient in my frosting), he loudly calls the beater from the mixer. Now that is the holy grail when making frosting, let me tell you! He is a

Then frost your cake with love!

Then frost your cake with love!

smart kid. No line, no waiting, and a solid guarantee of a good dose of moms incredible buttercream frosting. Yup, that’s my boy!

But I digress! Back to the cakes. I do not have lots of room in my kitchen for a bunch of specialty cake pans. So I improvise. I make 2 round cakes, or a round cake and a square one, and cut it to fit the occasion. I have also made a rectangle cake for my sons, and with colored frosting made everything from a football field cake with action figures to a construction site cake with matchbox bulldozers. So much fun, and the creativity flows. Food should be fun, so go have a blast!

So why blog about making a valentine cake right after Valentines Day?  No, I have not been hitting the cooking wine today.  It is    because I don’t celebrate Valentines Day.  Well, at least not on February 14th that is.  I celebrate it all year.  I detest the idea that there is “one day of love” a year.  Nope,  I am not having any part of that.  I live more of a robust life.   I tell people I love them every single day.  Genuinely.  Confidently.

Yep.  I say I love you every day to the people in my life, not just on February 14th.  The calendar does not define any “day of love” for me because it is every day.  So make valentine day cake.  Any day you want.  And tell the people in your life you love them 365 days  a year.  It is great for the spirit, the soul, and a full happy heart.