Thursday, March 27, 2014

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad

Finally, signs of warm weather have emerged in NC. I was really getting tired of the rainy, cold crap that Mother Nature kept sending our way. I hope it is done!

The other day was amazingly beautiful outside. I got out of work at a decent time and stopped at the store, only to see the last signs of blood oranges. I snatched up a few thinking I could use them for something and decided to make a salad to fully motivate me for Spring and it's delicious produce.

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad |

I am a big fan of blood oranges, mostly because they are super photogenic. Yep, that's what I said, a fruit looks good behind a camera! Blood oranges are also very sweet, with almost a hint of berries sometimes. The flavor makes for great cocktails or desserts. I went a different route and added it to a salad. I cut off the rinds and pith, so that the bright colors really show up in the salad.

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad |

I chose to combine the blood oranges with Hearts of Palm, which is one of my favorite snacks. Heart of palm is pretty much what it sounds like, a vegetable that is harvested from the the inner core and growing bud of palm trees. I usually buy them in cans and jars (located on the canned vegetable section in a grocery store). I also just used the red wine vinaigrette from a previous recipe - Caramelized Pancetta and Fennel Salad. Any vinaigrette or a good quality olive oil would work as a dressing though.

Blood oranges might also be hard to come by, so substitute any sweet orange in the salad. It will be just as tasty. To create the wedges in this salad, slice off the top and bottom of the orange to create a flat surface. Then cut off the skin one section at a time to reveal the crimson red (or orange) flesh of the orange. With a sharp knife, cut into the orange (from top to bottom) along the section edges and a little wedge should come out. Repeat this all the way around the orange.

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad |

The only disappointment was that the orange I cut open for the salad wasn't as crimson red as the usual ones. It is the end of blood orange season, so if you find them, snatch them up while they are here!

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad

Yields: 4 salad 
Prep Time: 15 minutes

2 blood oranges, peeled, sliced
1 jar Hearts of Palm, drained, sliced
1/4 cup hazelnuts, lightly toasted and chopped
Mixed greens (mache, spinach, arugula, romaine)
Fennel, thinly sliced (optional)
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon honey
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

In a small bowl, whisk the red wine vinegar, lemon juice, honey, salt and pepper together. While whisking, slowly add in the olive oil to help emulsify the dressing. Add more salt and pepper to taste and set aside.

If the hazelnuts need to be toasted, heat them over medium heat in a small skillet. Watch them carefully and toast until slightly fragrant. Do not let them brown or burn!! Cool and chop.

To assemble the salad, layer mixed greens onto the plate and add on the sliced Hearts of Palm and fennel if using.

Citrus and Hearts of Palm Salad |

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

Irish Coffee

The cold weather is back and I am not happy. I am starting to think that "Spring" is just some mythical season that people talk about so they can make it through Winter. This weather is totally throwing off my planning though. I am usually really good about seasonal changes, but when it is 70 one day and snowing the next, it makes it hard to plan meals. We also hate how much our thermostat is changing, I feel like we are using so much energy!

Irish Coffee |

After fighting the cold, freezing rain all day, I just wanted something warm when I got home. In honor of St. Patrick's Day this week, I decided to make an Irish Coffee to thaw myself out (and relax me after a stressful day). The last time I had one, I was with the Hubby in San Francisco. We decided to take a stroll around Fisherman's Wharf and stop in at Buena Vista Cafe, which is famous for its Irish coffee. We both love coffee, whiskey and cream so it sounded like the perfect combination....and it was! The cafe shares the iconic recipe on the website for all to try.

Enjoy and stay warm! Oh....and GO PACK!!!

Irish Coffee |

Irish Coffee

Recipe from Beuna Vista Cafe
Yields: 1 drink

Fill a glass coffee cup with hot water to warm the glass.

Pour in hot coffee into warm glass until it is about 2/3 full. Stir in 2 sugar cubes or about 1 teaspoon of sugar. Stir until the sugar dissolves and then stir in a jigger (or shot) of Irish whiskey.

Top with lightly whipped cream by pouring it gently over a spoon. Enjoy while hot!

Irish Coffee |

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops

Warning: Vegetarians look away. This post contains delicious, meat goodness!

Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops |

I don't eat a ton of read meat, but when I do, I am very selective and picky about it. I look for tender cuts cooked at medium rare or below, don't care what type of meat it is.

We are lucky enough to be surrounded by a lot of wonderful chefs in our life - family, friends, coworkers, great shows like Top Chef. Not only does this mean that we eat well most of the time, we have a growing stack of fantastic recipes from trusted referrals. Several of these recipes have come from family friends over the years, like the (now famous) Buttermilk-Brined Pork Chops, Grilled JalapeƱo Poppers, or the Ultimate Bloody Mary.

Even though we are usually more inclined to try a recipe if a friend recommends it, we still always have to test it for ourselves before it becomes number one, blog-worthy and number two, added to our repeat pile. Enter Lloyd's Lamb Chops.

Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops |

Let's start with who the heck is Lloyd?! Lloyd is one of my fathers closest friends that has literally known me for my entire life. He has a boisterous laugh and loves his red wine! He also happens to be a damn good cook. One of his staples is a simple, but delicious lamb chop - caveman style - no utensils needed here.

There is no big secret to this lamb chop recipe beyond just getting good quality meat. A bad cut of lamb can ruin someones palate for life! So in light of that, there are a few easy rules to make this recipe a success:
  1. These must be grilled. Stove top just doesn't cut it.
  2. Rare or Medium Rare. If you like well done meat, then don't make this recipe.
  3. Trim the chops, but not too much. The fat is what gives the flavor.
Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops |

More on Rule #1 - Grill these babies. I have tried them on the grill pan on my stove top and while they are still good, it doesn't bring out the peak flavor of the meat. The Hubby and I also have a slight obsession with charcoal grilling! Since I don't usually do the grilling, I asked the Hubby Grill Master to provide comments:

  • Make the grill as hot as possible (make sure grill plate is clean)
  • Lightly brush both sides of the chops with high-heat cooking oil (Grapeseed)
  • Chops should sizzle when placed on the hot grill
  • Cooking time varies for thickness of chops - 2 minutes per side for 1 inch thick and 3 minutes per side for 1.5 inch thick. Keep an eye on them.
  • Covering the grill is NOT necessary.
  • Flames will jump up from coals as the oil and lamb fat drippings hit the coals. This is a good thing as it adds char and flavor to the outside of the chops. If the flames get out of control, calm with sprayed water.

More on Rule #2 - Rare or Medium Rare. Really, all I have to add here is that overcooked lamb is dry and tough to eat. I don't know about you, but I don't want to eat something like that!

More on Rule #3 - Trim the chops, but not too much. This depends on where the meat is bought. If you get from a trusted butcher, most likely you won't have to do this. We usually buy a rack of lamb that is already "Frenched" or trimmed, which means the butcher has trimmed the fat and meat from between the ribs and most of the bones are scraped clean. We then slice into chops ourselves. Most of the time, there is no trimming needed. However, I have seen some very fatty racks and chops at meat counters that I would probably trim myself. I don't want to bite into all fat, just a little bit.

The final comment I will add is about the portion size. Lamb chops are small. Don't compare them to a pork chop when you are thinking about portion sizes. Lamb chops make a great appetizer for a large crowd because the prep is minimal and the cooking time is short. However, these chops also make a great dinner for 2-4 people.

Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops |

Lloyd's Grilled Lamb Chops

Yields: 8-10 chops
Prep Time: 5 minutes
Cook Time: 1-3 minutes per side

1.5 pound rack of lamb chops, "Frenched"
1 tablespoon cumin powder
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon ground pepper

Trim the rack of lamb of any excess fat. Then slice the rack in between the bones to make chops.

Prepare the grill to high heat (see notes above). 

In a small bowl, combine the cumin, garlic, salt and pepper. Distribute the spice mix over each side of the lamb chops and gently press into the meat with your fingers. Set aside until ready to grill and serve.

Over a high heat grill, cook the lamb chops about 2 minutes per side for 1 inch thick chops or 3 minutes per side for 1.5 inch thick chops.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew)

Everyone knows by now that we had to cancel our recent trip to San Francisco. For my final attempt to make up for this disappointment (that can be blamed on the weather), I brought San Francisco to him (and his belly).

We have always enjoyed watching the Oscars, trying to guess the winners of all the movies (most of which we have not seen). We like star-gazing and laughing at Ellens tasteful jokes! I wanted to come up with a fancy meal to enjoy while we watched the Oscars, but what to make??

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew) |

I was perusing the seafood counter in Whole Foods, trying to decide between scallops, shrimp, fish, clams....when it hit me! Why not all of them?!?! I had the perfect recipe tucked away that needed one more test run before becoming blog-worthy, Cioppino.

Cioppino is a fish stew that originated in San Francisco. It usually combines the fresh catch of the day with a tomato-wine sauce. How perfect! A San Francisco-inspired meal full of some of our favorite ingredients (crab, wine, garlic).

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew) |

I will admit, this is not the cheapest dish to make, so we only bust out for special occasions, and ONLY when there is worthy seafood for the recipe. This recipe is most fun when it is just the two of us, especially when crab legs are involved! It can get a bit messy when you are trying to crack crab legs and open clams in a red broth!

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew) |

A few tips for this recipe:
1. Definitely prep all the ingredients prior to starting the cooking process. This recipe cooks quickly in the beginning and at the end.
2. If you are making for 2 people, make the same amount of the broth, but cut down on the seafood. I find that seafood doesn't make a good leftover meal. For instance, when I made this on Sunday, I bought two small crab clusters, 8 shrimp, 4 scallops and 10 clams. Even that was too much for our large appetite!
3. Any type of seafood can be used here. If you don't like mussels, try clams. Not a huge shrimp fan, try squid or a sturdy fish. If you are making this for a dinner party, cut out the crab so it is not as messy to eat.
4. Don't wear a white shirt when you eat this!

I should also add that the long list of ingredients shouldn't turn you away from this recipe. It really is quite easy - mostly just adding everything into one big pot. Stash this recipe away for a special meal to impress your loved one.

Another option is to make the "stew" part ahead of time (everything but the seafood). Just reheat it in a large enough pot and cook the seafood right before you are ready to serve it.

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew) |

Spicy Cioppino

Yields: 4-6 servings
Prep Time: 20 minutes
Cook Time: 45 minutes

2 tablespoons olive oil
2 tablespoons butter
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 fennel bulb, finely chopped
1 celery stalk, finely chopped
4 large garlic cloves, minced
1 bay leaf
1 teaspoon dried oregano
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/2 teaspoon dried basil
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
2 tablespoons tomato paste
1 1/2 cups dry red wine (such as a Rioja or Chianti)
1 (28 ounce) can whole plum tomatoes and juice, chopped
1 (8 ounce) bottle clam juice (about 1 cup)
1 cup chicken broth (vegetable broth works also)
salt and pepper to taste

1 pound Dungeness crab leg or cluster, thawed if frozen (might need to cut if pot is smaller)
1 pound mussels or clams (scrubbed and de-bearded)
1 pound large shrimp (16-20 count), shelled and deveined
1 pound sea scallops, tough muscle removed from side of each if necessary
1/4 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped

Serve with:
Sourdough bread slices
Roasted garlic
Parmesan cheese, shredded

Start by chopping the fennel, onion and celery to the same size pieces. In a small bowl combine the oregano, thyme, basil, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper and set aside.

Heat the butter and oil in a large heavy pot or dutch oven. Saute the onion, fennel and celery until softened, about 5-7 minutes. Stir in the minced garlic and cook for 1 minute, then stir in the spice mixture. After about 30 seconds, add in the tomato paste and stir until well combined.

Pour in the wine and bring this to a boil and reduce by about half, while stirring occasionally. Add in the broth, clam juice, chopped tomatoes and their juice and the bay leaf. Bring this to a simmer, cover and cook for 35-40 minutes.

While the broth cooks, pull out the seafood and prep anything (peel and devein the shrimp, clean the mussels, cut the crab clusters, etc.). When the broth is finish, taste and add salt and pepper accordingly. Prep any side dishes or set the table at this point before adding in the seafood!

Add the crab and mussels (or clams) in the pot first, pushing them into the broth so they are covered. Cover the pot and cook for 2-3 minutes, then add in the scallops. Cover and cook another 2 minutes. Finally, throw in the shrimp, cover and cook another 1-2 minutes. Garnish with fresh parsley and shredded Parmesan cheese. Serve immediately.

Spicy Cioppino (Seafood Stew) |