Saturday, May 31, 2008

Rustic Bruschetta & Asparagus Salad

It's been awhile, and it wasn't because I was ordering pizza every night....its just that our meals have been simple, quick and not worth documentation as of late. We're talking tacos, enchilada casserole, turkey burgers and salads topped with chicken nuggets. Hey, I never claimed to be gourmet!

Anyways, tonight I finally had a little time to throw together something. Here is the appetizer we cooked up from ingredients bought at TJ's today. The "par baked panini rolls" were something new to me and were great because by the time you toast the cheese on top, the rolls are not teeth-breaking crunchy as they might be if the rolls were already fully cooked.

Here's how I made it: Melt a frozen cube of crushed garlic (or 1 tsp chopped fresh) in one Tbsp. of olive oil. Brush over the rolls or baguette slices, and give them a quick toast. Add sliced basil, sliced tomato and sliced fresh mozarella. Sprinkle with a little sea salt and toast until melty.

I love the size of Trader Joe's box of basil. It is the best bargain around. I will have to get creative with the rest of it later this week....if anyone has a great basil dish, please let me know. Here is the rest of our dinner, caught in the very last of the natural daylight around 7:30 pm.

Sauteed Asparagus on Field Greens with Chevre and Lemon Zest

Perfectly served with the honey baked chicken over rice recipe from an earlier post.

Saute asparagus with cooking spray and generous salt/pepper. Meanwhile, dress the greens in your favorite salad dressing. Mine is a dijon vinaigrette made from lemon juice, dijon, rice wine vinegar, olive oil and a dash of honey. Place hot asparagus on top of dressed greens, and add the chevre and lemon zest.

I personally love how the hot veggie melts the cheese and wilts the lettuce a bit. I wonder if that's weird. Just like some people cannot handle sweet pineapple on their pizza, I bet the consensus is that a salad should be all cold ingredients. Hmph.

On a side note, I want to congratulate Shawn this week for trying a new dish for her family - chicken picatta. I heard it came out great (maybe a little tart) and she's ready to move on to veal. Way to go!

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

BBQ Pork Sandwich

This was so easy that it's almost ridiculous to even post. However, I am delighted to be using my new crockpot and you are getting this recipe whether you like it or not.

I used a frozen pork loin that I salvaged from the depths of my freezer and cooked it overnight. In the morning, I shredded the meat, added the sauce and popped it in the fridge (pic below), so I could assemble the sandwiches that evening. I'm sure you could just do it in the morning and shred it when you get home from your long hard day at work.

BBQ Pork Sandwiches

For the meat:
2-3 lb. pork roast or loin
1 chopped onion
3 cloves garlic
1/2 cup water
salt/pepper to taste

1 bottle BBQ sauce (I like Sweet Baby Rays)

For the sandwiches:
onion slices
squishy buns

Directions: Put onion, garlic and water in the crock and plop the meat on top. Season with salt and pepper. Cook on low for 8 hours. Shred meat and add the BBQ sauce. Assemble the sandwiches to your liking.

Monday, May 19, 2008

Bobby Flay's Mesa Grill

My annual pilgrimage to Vegas is over. Anticipated for months, and over in a flash. While most of my days and nights are spent playing in a pool tournament, any free time is usually consumed with eating and drinking....the highlight on this trip was the Mesa Grill in Caesar's Palace. We had planned to spend it with friends, but could never figure out a time when everybody was not required to be on the pool table.

Tall guy and I had no reservations and decided to take a chance anyways. I told him that I would be taking pictures, and luckily, it doesn't seem to faze him at all anymore. Admittedly, since this would be embarrassing to the average dining partner, I promised to be quick and discreet, which is why I used no flash and the pics turned out a little blurry. So when we got there, the hostess told us that the dress code was "no hats" unless you want to eat at the bar. We opted for the bar. This turned out to be a great choice because the service was attentive and friendly, and we got to watch the mixologists at work. We never mustered up the courage to order a $15 prickly pear margarita, although they looked heavenly.

It was Saturday at 1:00 pm and it turned out that we had to choose from the brunch menu. Fine by me, since a hearty breakfast and a bloody mary would be a perfect first meal of the day. You heard that right. While on vacation without children, it is mandatory to stay up until 4 am and sleep until least that is my rule of thumb.

Anyways, everything on the menu is inspired by Southwestern flavors, if you couldn't guess. Our meal started off with a delightful complimentary bread basket consisting of tiny Jalapeno Cheese Biscuits, a Yellow and Blue Corn Muffin and Coffee Cake with Blueberries and Pecans. We loved everything here...the muffin was moist and perfectly sweetened by the fresh corn kernels. The biscuit was fluffy and still warm with a lovely pepper kick. Coffee cake? Yum!

Next up - an appetizer called Goat Cheese "Queso Fundido" (12) with Rajas and served with blue corn chips. This was so gooey and rich, but oh, so good. It seems the goat cheese was mixed with jack cheese and other spices and baked to bubbly perfection. By the time we (almost) polished this off, I was actually pretty full. But wait, there's more.

We decided to share our entrees, and this one was the star for both of us. It's one of Flay's signature dishes. The menu read like this exactly: "spicy chicken + sweet potato hash + poached eggs + green chile hollandaise". (18) Everything on the menu was like that, with a lot of plus signs. I would have given it some cute name like "fiery hash benedict" or "benedicto diablo". The flavors were very diverse, with the sweet creamy potatoes mixed in with the spicy chicken and chiles.....when eaten together with the over-easy egg and hollandaise, it made for rich and satisfying burst of flavors. However, my one problem with the dish was that it may have been a tad too spicy for me, and after a few bites, it was hard to taste anything but heat.

Tall guy ordered "new mexican spiced pork tenderloin sandwich + grilled red onion, arugula, and ancho chile mayonnaise + southwestern fries" (15) Bartender warned us that the pork was cooked medium and that it had some pink. We agreed to the terms. The foccacia bread was too crunchy, and while the pork was so extremely tender and delicate, the sandwich lacked a depth of flavor that we were expecting. As Randy Jackson would say, "Dog, it was just alright for me"

Overall, I was pleased with my visit to Mesa's huge windows overlook the gigantic sports book, and it just happened to be the day of the Preakness horse race, so the buzz and energy outside the restaurant was fun to watch. The service was great at the bar. Next time, I would like to go for dinner.......then again, there is so much competition for fine dining in Vegas that it seems like a crime to go to the same place twice. At least I have a year to think about it.

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Berries on Sale

So I told myself "no more blogging until after vacation" and when I say "vacation" I mean competing in an International 8-Ball Pool Tournament in Vegas next week. All my free time until then will be spent practicing in the garage. Wellllllll, I was doing drills extremely diligently, thank you very much, when I got to thinking about how I could really use a refreshing snack, and those berries I picked up this morning looked so juicy, and then I started washing them and realized the colors were vibrant and beautiful....and hey, wouldn't that look good in a picture?

Anyways, if you are a foodie in this area, blackberries and strawberries are on sale at Raley's/Nob Hill this week for $1.47 per basket. Well worth it!

Sunday, May 4, 2008

Honey Baked Chicken

This is a fairly new recipe to me, but it will probably be put on the rotation for sure. There is some curry in it, which gives it a delicately sweet Indian flavor (and I am no expert on Indian cuisine; in fact, I'm embarrassed to admit that I've only had it twice - please don't hold it against me!)

I served it this time with boneless skinless thighs, which were on sale, but the breasts also work great, especially if you cut up each one into 2-3 pieces. It is best served drizzled with the sauce over rice and a nice healthy green side like my sauteed red chard spiked with fresh garlic.

I know some of you may not appreciate the amount of honey and butter, but really, if you keep your drizzling to a minimum, its not THAT bad for you. I bet you could also play with the amounts to give it an acceptable level of health for your diet. Trust me when I say that this is worth a try and super easy to boot.

Honey Baked Chicken

2-3 lbs boneless skinless chicken parts
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup melted butter
1/4 cup brown mustard
1 tsp. curry powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1 tsp minced garlic

Mix ingredients in your baking dish (save a bowl) and add the chicken parts. Poke holes in the chicken with a fork and move around so they are coated with sauce. Let sit for about an hour in the fridge. Pop into a 350 oven, covered in foil for 30 minutes. Remove foil and bake for another 30 minutes, basting with the sauce every so often.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Green Garlic?

Does anyone know if this is "Green Garlic"? Or is it just fresh garlic with the stem still on? I got it from the side of the road on my way to Sacramento where the nice lady didn't seem to speak English. She just said "garlic one dollar".

Update: It's not green garlic...just fresh.
Here is the inside view: