Category Archives: Dinner

The Odd Couple: Texas Chili and Bubbles

Image

I made Texas-style chili (no tomatoes, no beans) for Christian and paired it with Cava De Pró. Who could have known that the balance could be so magical? The crisp, bubbly cava tempered the bold, spicy chili fabulously. Savor the flavor, y’all. (recipe credit: Homesick Texan blog)

2 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Food, Recipes, Wine

Pizza Night: Bitchin’

Pizza is my new taco. While living in Austin, TX, I ate tacos at least once a week, sometimes two or three times. Tacos are divine, but only when you’re living close to the Rio Grande. Up in Richmond, tacos are more like anglicized pitas. Ew.

Thankfully, there’s pizza to temper the sting of taco withdrawal. I can enjoy authentic, warm and cheesy pizza pie from pretty much any shop in the city. When my hubby and I order out, we prefer Mary Angela’s on Cary Street or Frank’s Ristorante (their white pizza with ricotta, mozzarella, garlic, and clams is ahhhh-mazing). For dinner-and-a-movie nights, we usually grab a pre-made pizza dough from our local grocer and commence the topping-mania. Here’s our latest creation…

Pizza Pie with Ricotta, Artichokes, Sun-dried Tomatoes & Spinach

Ingredients:
1 store-bought pizza dough (fresh or frozen)
1 c. whole milk ricotta cheese
1/2 c. artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
1/4 c. sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, julienned
1 c. fresh baby spinach
8 anchovy fillets packed in oil
1 shallot, chopped
1/4 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 cloves of garlic, thinly sliced
Freshly ground black pepper
1 /2 tsp. dried oregano
1/4 tsp. red pepper flakes
1/2 c. freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Method:
Preheat ceramic pizza stone in 450 degree oven (if you don’t have a pizza stone, you can use a cookie sheet while you shop online for a pizza stone). Heat olive oil and garlic in a small sauce pan over medium heat for about 5-7 minutes (do not let garlic burn). Remove from heat. On a floured surface, roll out pizza dough until it’s about 10-12 inches wide. Place dough on parchment paper. Brush dough generously with garlic olive oil. Dollop with ricotta cheese. Top with artichokes, spinach, tomatoes, anchovies, and shallots. Season with black pepper, oregano, and red pepper flakes. Top with 1/4 c. of the Parmesan cheese. Drizzle with a few more tablespoons of olive oil. Lift dough with the parchment paper and place paper on the pizza stone. Bake for 9-11 minutes. Serve with the rest of the fresh Parmesan cheese. Amen!

Too bad our dog (ehem, Orson!) ate the last two slices ;-(

WANTED: Pizza thief!

9 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Food, Photography, Recipes

Reasons to Gather: Friends, Risotto, and Pinot Noir

Our friends Kimberly and Scott invited us over for a taste of Scott’s famous risotto and some very special boutique wine (who could say “no” to that?). Alexander greeted us and gave us a whirlwind tour of their family’s holiday traditions: the tree decorating, the stockings (hung on the windowsill, not on the hearth), the nativity scene hand-made from corn husks by his grandmother, the nutcracker painting made by his brother Patrick, and the Elf on the Shelf game.

Meanwhile, Kimberly and Scott were preparing a knock-out blue cheese, grape, and walnut pizza (Kimberly is not a fan of blue cheese, so when I heard her rave about this pizza, I knew it had to be a winner). Scott corked some Road 31 Pinot Noir (formerly Green Truck Cellars), and we sank our teeth into the first bite of a very heavenly meal.

When we arrived, Scott had been preparing the risotto on the stove, but the boys – Alexander and Patrick – were in for a special treat: spaghetti and meatball marinara all the way from an Italian market in Cincinnati, OH. It had me wishing I had a seat at the kids’ table.

Scott didn’t let us adults down. We have been hearing rumors of his risotto for the past two months, and finally, the winter break from classes afforded us the opportunity to dine chez leur. The risotto (which included a full two cups of Albariño and a generous amount of freshly-grated Parmesan cheese) was topped with a warm sautée of sausage, onions, mushrooms, and tomatoes. Divinity!

Kimberly wasn’t about to let her husband steal the spotlight. She prepared a rich, yet fluffy, Mexican chocolate cake with walnuts. Served with a glass (or two) of Tawny Port, it was the perfect way to top off a holiday evening with friends.

We left Kimberly and Scott’s home with full bellies and a long list of restaurants and B&B’s to try in Charleston, NC. Thank you for a wonderful evening. The next one’s on us!

Leave a comment

Filed under Dinner, Food, Friends, Holidays, Photography, Wine

Creamy Sage Polenta with Roasted Shiitakes, Red Onion & Valdeón

The urge to cook overtook me last Sunday. I wanted a hearty, savory, and wholesome dish.  But this culinary escapade was far more than just an impulsive experiment. In fact, many events came together to inspire this meal.

The week prior, Christian and I had purchased some Valdeón bleu cheese at Whole Foods Market. Peter Murphy, our guest at the time, can attest to the Valdeón’s overall exquisiteness relative to other bleu cheeses.

Last Saturday, I had an inkling to make cornbread, but to my dismay, I discovered that I didn’t have enough cornmeal in the pantry. So my loyal servant (read: my husband) went to fetch me some more. But now I had an excess of cornmeal! What to do, what to do? A memory of distant past soon revisited me. When I asked Chef Sean Fulford of Flat Creek Estate what the difference was between cornmeal and polenta, he promptly replied, “one’s Italian.” And with that thought in mind, I decided to revisit my apprenticeship days and attempt to recreate Sean’s creamy sage polenta.

While at the grocery store on Sunday, I noticed that the shiitakes looked particularly ravishing, so I decided to buy some.  “How to cook these?” I asked myself. And I harkened back to the good ole days of being a Food & Wine subscriber. I vaguely remembered a roasted shitake recipe with bleu cheese (I had that in the fridge!) and red onions (I could buy that real cheap!).   So, all the ingredients assembled, I racked my memory, and this is what I came up with…

Creamy Sage Polenta á la Sean with Roasted Shiitake Mushrooms, Red Onion & Valdeón

INGREDIENTS

For the polenta

1 ½ c. of cornmeal
1 ½ c. light cream
1 ½ c. lowfat milk
1 c. low-sodium chicken stock
¼ c. fresh sage leaves, minced
2 cloves of garlic, minced
4 T. unsalted butter
½ c. finely grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

For the mushrooms

1 lb. shiitake mushrooms, stemmed and halved
1 red onion, sliced in ¼-inch-thick half moons
½ c. Valdeón cheese, crumbled
Extra virgin olive oil
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

INSTRUCTIONS

For the mushrooms

Preheat the oven to 425o F. Toss the mushrooms and red onion together with a generous amount of olive oil, salt, and pepper in a 12-inch cast iron skillet. Roast for 30 min., tossing every 10 min.  Just before serving, toss in the bleu cheese.

For the polenta

Everything good begins with butter

Melt the butter over medium heat in a medium saucepan. Sauté the garlic and sage for 1 min. until fragrant. Season with salt and pepper. Add the cream and milk and bring to a low boil. Add the cornmeal ½ c. at a time, whisking rapidly. Reduce the heat to medium-low and continue to whisk until lumps have disappeared and polenta is thick and creamy. Slowly add the chicken stock until the polenta reaches the desired consistency (it should be thick and creamy, slightly less thick than mashed potatoes). Season with salt and pepper to taste. Just before serving, mix in Parmesan cheese.

Serve polenta topped with roasted mushrooms and a glass of red wine on the side. Indulge.

Another happy customer chez nous!

2 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Food, Recipes

Moroccan Hot-Smoked Sockeye Salmon with Salsa Verde

It’s never too hot to grill (even in Texas). My husband and I recently tried our hand at smoking wild salmon, and I think it turned out pretty darn good…

Step 1 – If you’re going to be smoking fish at home, always start with a very fresh fillet. I used to work at a fish market, so I know how to finagle a fishmonger into giving me the freshest fillet in the market. Here’s how it works:

Monger: How may I help you today miss?
Savvy Customer: When did the sockeye arrive at the market?
M: Yesterday.
SC: Do you have any whole fish? (Some whole fish have a longer shelf life than fillets.)
M: No, I’m sorry we’re sold out.
SC: No problem. These fillets here, do you process them in-house?
M: No, they arrive already filleted.
SC: I like the look of these in the case, but do you have any in the back that might be fresher?
M: Yes, as a matter of fact we do have some cases that arrived this morning. Let me just go to the back and fetch one for you.
SC: (smiling politely) Why thank you!
M: Here you go. You can see the harvest date right here (points to the unopened case with his index finger, opens the case, and removes a glistening, sweet-smelling fillet). How about this one?
SC: Perfect! Thanks for all your help! (secretly to herself: Damn I’m good.)

Step 2 – Rub skin-on fillet with “smoky” rub of choice and season lightly with sea salt. I used a Moroccan spice blend that my sister Caitlin brought home from her trip to Morocco last January. There’s no other way to describe it other than divine. I think I detect hints of saffron and pimentón, if you’d like to try to recreate it.

Step 3 – Prepare charcoal grill; simultaneously soak planks or logs of your choosing (cedar, pecan, mesquite, maple, etc.). Spread the hot coals evenly over the grill, then top the soaked planks. Spray the skin-side of the fillet and the grill grate liberally with nonstick cooking spray. Place the fillet in the center of the grill and close the lid. Hot-smoke for approximately 15 min. Do not over cook!

Step 4 – Move fish from grill to serving platter and garnish with fresh cilantro.

Step 4 – Slice salmon and serve with salsa verde (preferrably homemade) and cool Greek yogurt to temper the heat.

5 Comments

Filed under Dinner, Food, Recipes