Friday, July 31, 2009

Party Prep

Wednesday, July 29, 2009


rock star

Happy Birthday Ray


Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Frozen Strawberries

The banana soft serve trick doesn't work quite as well with strawberries, but it's still good!
More slushy and less sweet, with a texture that is more icy than creamy.
Just five minutes in a blender. . .


Monday, July 20, 2009

Jellyfish are my Favorite

I know this is a food blog. But. . . I like fish, so I'm saying it's appropriate.

Jellyfish don't photo well, but they are my favorite in any aquarium. I can sit and watch them flutter through the water for a long, long time.


Saturday, July 18, 2009

Can't Go Wrong with Basil, Tomatoes, and Cheese

This pizza begs for the grill, to be eaten al fresco and paired with one of my top 3 favorite wines of all time: 2006 Rombauer Zinfandel.
If you are not so fortunate with an outdoor grill and the weather, by all means use an oven and consume indoors.

The word of the day is fresh- from the fresh basil to the mozzarella, I didn't want to use anything from a can or a jar. I make a nut-less pesto most of the time, which I find lighter and more palatable than true pesto made with pine nuts.

Fresh Basil Tomato & Mozzarella Pizza
makes 2 small rectangular pizzas

semolina pizza dough (1/2 recipe), divided into two portions
1/4 cup basil pesto, recipe follows
3 tomatoes, seeded and chopped into small dice
1 ball fresh mozzarella, chopped as thinly as possible
olive oil spray and cornmeal for dusting the pizza peel

Basil Pesto (nut-less)

2 cups packed fresh basil leaves
2 cloves garlic
2 Tbs parmesan cheese
1/4 cup olive oil
salt and pepper

Place the basil, garlic, and parmesan cheese in a blender. Pulse a few times until starting to combine. With the motor running, add the olive oil in a slow stream until a paste has formed.


Place a pizza stone on your grill and heat to 475-500 degrees.

Meanwhile, spray a pizza peel with olive oil spray and dust liberally with cornmeal. Flour a clean dry work surface and knead, stretch, and roll the first piece of dough to desired thickness and size. Place on the pizza peel, then repeat with the second ball of dough. Spoon pesto onto each piece of dough and spread thinly with a spoon. Sprinkle with chopped tomatoes, and scatter the rounds of mozzarella on top.

Transfer from the pizza peel to the grill and close the lid. Turn off the direct heat beneath and grill for about 10 minutes. If you need to turn the heat back on to maintain the temperature, do so on low so as not to burn the bottom of the pizza. You want it brown, not black.


Let the pizza sit for a minute before you cut and serve, or else you will burn the roof of your mouth. I can never wait and so the roof of mine is raw and peeling.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Another Evening with Joel Robuchon

To celebrate our two year wedding anniversary, Ray and I spent the evening at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon at the MGM Grand. Robuchon is an exciting chef whose food we have had before, and it was an easy decision to make reservations at his second establishment in Las Vegas.
To quote Robuchon's website, the concept of L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon is "a kitchen opened on a circular bar with 36 seats that allows clients to follow the service, to watch the succession of dishes."

We've sat at the bar before, but this is an entirely different experience. From our perch, we had a unobstructed view of the action. For me, it was a dream of dinner entertainment, and even Ray couldn't help marveling at the precision and skill in front of us.

The chef de cuisine had the night off, so we got to see the chef de partie in charge. The intricate dance between him, the three cooks (including two women!) on the line, and three servers/runners, was seamless and fascinating to watch. Everything was calm and organized. The chef de partie had the enchanting heavy accent and slight bark of a Frenchman, but his care and friendliness came across when he personally came over to ask how things were.


Before our meal officially began, we received this beautiful amuse bouche. Beneath the white frothy crown lay a scrumptious pool of foie gras, rich and delicious like chocolate.

Presented on a porous stone (pumice? volcanic?) in a tiny egg cup, the two bites brought groans of delight from both of us.


Les Legumes Mediterranean vegetables with layered with buffalo mozzarella

This pretty tower of zucchini, tomato, and eggplant was fresh and liberally seasoned with salt and pepper to bring out the flavors. The dabs of pesto in the corners were brilliant with the vegetables. Despite the special buffalo mozzarella- don't get me wrong, the cheese was phenomenal- it was overshadowed by the flavor of the tomato and eggplant.


La Langoustine Crispy langoustine fritter with basil pesto

The only langoustines I'd had previously were frozen tails from Trader Joe's. They were good, but uncomparable to this whole, tender langoustine lightly fried in a bit of dough.
~I wondered out loud how to eat it (cut with fork and knife?); the chef de partie happened to be standing nearby and I will never forget his sly smile and accented "you can pick it up with your hands."~

Because of Ray's shellfish allergy, he received a different dish. This little tart with caramelized onions, ham, asparagus, and gruyere in pastry was perfect; you'd never know it was a substitute. Each flavor was strong in the little bite he gave me.

Next, we shared an additional course to our dinner, chosen from the small plates menu: a poached egg over buttered brioche with asparagus, mushrooms, and a bit of prosciutto. The foam on top of the egg was milky and salty-sweet. I really liked the egg, but the spring asparagus was so fresh. I always forget how much I love it, so seldom is it available.

We had two options for our third and main course, and per usual we picked opposites. We watched the chefs with anticipation as we saw both dishes being prepared and plated for us. Ray had the filet de boef, cooked perfectly medium rare with a light glaze and served with a tiny pot of mashed potatoes.

For me, Scottish salmon with lemon, capers, tomato jam, and crispy won tons. The fish was moist and tender with a crispy flavorful skin and just the right amount of capers and concentrated tomato.

I also received a little pot of mashed potatoes. A liberal amount of butter and cream in here, so really, really good.

After this, a well-timed pause allowed us to enjoy some of our wine and digest a little before our last courses. I forgot the noisy casino was right behind us- sitting in one of Joel Robuchon's restaurants feels like another world.

I love cheese, but I'm not a huge fan of the course; any room in my tummy should be saved for dessert. I did taste each of them, and unfortunately I don't remember the names. The far left cheese is a Brillat Savarin and the far right is a soft mild goat's milk. The middle cheese was my favorite and I cannot remember what it was at all!

Each was nice, but Ray the cheese connoisseur made a good point: they were too similar- the course should have had some variation with a hard cheese and even a blue.

With the cheese came a plate of breads: a plain sweet batard, a walnut raisin, and a hazelnut bread. My favorite was the hazelnut on top, it was positively studded with toasted nuts.

For the final dessert course, we had two choices.

For Ray~ Glaces et Sorbet

l to r: vanilla bean ice cream, strawberry sorbet, pistachio and creme fraiche ice cream, raspberry sorbet

For me~ Les Tartes! The pastry chef's choice of traditional tarts.

l to r: chocolate ganache, meyer lemon, strawberry, chocolate caramel, sweet cheese, burnt cinnamon-sugar

We tasted each other's, but happily preferred our own so we didn't have to share too much :-)

With dinner, we had a half-bottle of Rex Hill Pinot Noir, a familiar wine from Oregon that paired well with everything we ate (especially the cheese course). An unexpected gift on the house, we were presented with this chilled dessert wine from Australia to toast our anniversary.

A sweet end


Last March, we discovered Robuchon when we visited The Mansion with two other couples. The 16 course tasting menu over 4 hours was over-the-top magic. It was grand and (very) expensive, and the company was just as wonderful as the food.

Photography didn't belong, interrupting the atmosphere in an inappropriate way, so I only have a handful of pictures most of which came out too dark.
The one good food shot that night was of my selections from the famous candy cart (after the 16 courses!)


Monday, July 13, 2009

At Mandalay Bay

. . . for two days, squeezing in a quick vacation and celebrate our wedding anniversary before Ray starts a new job.

This trip isn't the Las Vegas stereotype you know and love (or hate). Our agenda:

1. Swimming and lazing by the pool (I'm told it's the best in the city)
2. Reading and finishing The Help by Kathryn Stockett
3. At least one Miami Vice for me :-)
4. the Shark Reef Aquarium
5. anniversary dinner at L'Atelier de Joel Robuchon

Be back Wednesday ~

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Heirloom Bean Salad

Busy week! Thank goodness for dishes that keep me happy and interested for multiple meals.

I've been living off this bean salad for several days. I finally finished it today, and it never got boring. You can eat it as is, or do what I do and add it to some spinach and romaine with cucumber and more tomatoes. Some scallions would have been nice here but I didn't have any. I improvised by carmelizing an onion while the beans cooked- a brilliant accident! Don't you love it when the substitute is just as good or better?

I found these scarlet runner beans at Whole Foods; I was looking for cranberry (also known as borlotti) beans which are a particular favorite and this was the closest I could find visually. There are lots of interesting heirloom beans out there so you could substitute practically any I imagine, as long as they are large and meaty. I don't think canned beans really work here- they tend to be smaller and softer.

Heirloom Bean Salad

1 cup scarlet runner beans or other large heirloom variety
1/2 cup cherry tomatoes, quartered
1 cup broccoli-carrot slaw, steamed and chopped coarsely
drizzle basil oil
1 tsp dijon mustard
salt to taste
1 yellow onion, chopped and carmelized in a pan over low heat for 50 minutes with some salt and pinch of sugar

Put the beans in a small pot, cover with water and allow to soak overnight. In the morning, pour out and recover the beans with fresh water. Sprinkle some salt in the water and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and summer for about 45 minutes, stirring and checking occasionally to see how they are doing. The cooking time will vary by the type of bean you use. Mine took about 45 minutes. Drain the beans and place in a bowl. Add the cherry tomatoes, steamed slaw, drizzle basil oil, and dijon mustard. Add the carmelized onion (or chopped scallions if you want to substitute the original for the substitute :-) and toss together. Add salt to taste if it's needed. Serve the bean salad on its own or as a component in a larger leafy salad.


Saturday, July 11, 2009

Banana Soft Serve

Food chemistry. Awesome. I still can't believe this was a bunch of frozen bananas.

Light and fluffy, this recipe is definitely educational and will make you do a double-take.
Reading food blogs is useful, let me tell you!

A bunch of frozen bananas dumped into a food processor and blended for five minutes.
Presto chango, you'll never guess that's all you're eating. We had small bowls with some strawberry freezer jam and some nuked chocolate chips.

The question I'm left with this evening? Will it work for other frozen fruits? . . . . :-)


Saturday, July 4, 2009

Everyone Loves a Good Crumble

My freezer is straining at its seams right now, and I'm determined not to repeat any of last year's recipes. This is taking some serious brain power and imagination, so I'll be stretching these out for a while. Sit tight and watch for more!


I'm heading to my in-laws' house for an annual Fourth of July visit. It's a nice day- hanging out by the pool (score!) and barbecue for dinner (I hear we're having fish- yippee!!). Ray and I leave when it gets dark and watch every fireworks show in Silicon Valley during the 1 hour drive.

I asked my mother-in-law if I could bake something to bring with me, so I made this strawberry crumble. It's sitting on my counter looking lovely and tempting; I haven't tasted it yet so I will return with an update after tasting it.

I looked at my Peach Crumble recipe as well as this crumble belonging to Deb from Smitten Kitchen. My recipe was great, but I wanted to try her topping with the baking powder. I only used my strawberries so I cut the sugar so it wouldn't be so sweet. I *hope* I got the proportions right.
If you use frozen strawberries, you don't need to get them completely thawed. Frozen or room temp the baking time will be about the same. But you do need to slice them so let them thaw a bit so you can get your knife through them. I woke up this morning and placed them on the counter before going to work out for an hour. When I came back they were just right to slice.

4th of July Strawberry Crumble
serves 4-6

1 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup rolled oats
1 tsp baking powder
3 Tbs light brown sugar
3 Tbs regular sugar
zest from a lemon
6 Tbs unsalted butter, melted

about 6 cups strawberries (fresh or frozen and slightly thawed), hulled and quartered
juice from a lemon
2-3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs cornstarch
pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

In a large bowl, toss the strawberries, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt. Scrape into an 8x8 baking dish (I used an oval baking dish because I'm traveling with it and it will fit better in a paper bag) and smooth the top.

In a mixing bowl, combine the flour, baking powder, sugars, and lemon zest. Add 1/3 of the melted butter and mix into the dry ingredients. Add another 1/3 of the butter and stir again, and finally the last 1/3. There should be large and small clumps.

Cover the fruit evenly with the topping. Place the dish on a baking sheet (optional, but a good idea in case of any leakage) and bake for about 50 minutes, until the topping is folden brown and the fruit is bubbling. Cool on a rack.

As you can see, my filling bubbled up quite a bunch. I'm hoping the crumble top survived and it still tastes good. Just looking at it, the topping method for the peach crumble seems superior, with more crunch and body after baking. I'll be back with that update!


Delicious! The amount of lemon juice/sugar was spot on, and the crumble topping was nice (still think the version for the peaches is better, will make that next time). A scoop of vanilla ice cream is mandatory.

Thursday, July 2, 2009

Funny Bunnies

This is the most phallic baking experience I have ever had.

Shaping these was definitely interesting. I was having a bit of an immature afternoon. . .

These hot dog buns taste great, but are definitely misshapen. You need one of those hot dog pans to make these the correct shape. Didn't detract from taste though, and I'm all about flavor above appearance. These were a home for some chicken apple sausage for the men, and a nice grilled veggie sammich for me.

My recipes for "hamburger buns" and "hot dog buns" are identical- I just shape them differently. I made 8 but they were large- I've written on my physical recipe to always do 10 or 12 from now on, but by all means make 'em huge.

Hamburger or Hot Dog Buns
8 large or 12 regular sized

1 cup lukewarm water

2 Tbs unsalted butter

1 egg

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/4 cup toasted wheat germ

1/4 cup sugar

1 tsp salt

1 Tbs yeast

Put all ingredients in a bread machine and set for the dough cycle. When the cycle ends, turn out on a floured work surface. Knead and separate into 8-12 even pieces of dough. Shape into logs for hot dog buns or flat rounds for hamburger buns. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for at least 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 375 degree Fahrenheit. Whisk one egg and a splash of water in a small bowl. Brush the tops of the buns with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 12-15 minutes, until golden brown. Let cool on a rack before slicing and serving.