Wednesday, June 30, 2010

Tuesday After Kickball "Dinner" - Cobb-Like Salad

Last night was kickball, so we got home late after an embarrassing ass-kicking. Neither of us wanted to go to the store, so we raided the fridge. This one was a little harder than my other fridge-raiding meals because we haven't been grocery shopping in like, two weeks. So, we had some chicken breasts left over from the pizza and lettuce from the spring rolls. It was obvious, salad! And my favorite salad with chicken on top? Cobb salad! We didn't have any bleu cheese, but we definitely had goat cheese. A quick Google search brought up this recipe for Goat Cheese Salad Dressing. Luckily, I had everything except fresh parsley, so I just added dried parsley flakes instead. Also, instead of milk, I used buttermilk. I hard boiled a farm fresh egg from my friend Stephanie and cooked up some bacon for bacon bits. Super simple and really delicious. A great after kickball entree, not heavy and kind of healthy (if you want a healthy version, omit the bacon and use a light bleu cheese or ranch dressing instead of the goat cheese dressing). Yum and yum! I was pretty tired so I apologize, but I didn't take as many photos as I should have. You'll get the idea, though.

Cobb-Like Salad with Goat Cheese Salad Dressing:
1 grilled chicken breast
1 head butter lettuce
Handful cherry tomatoes, cut in half
1 hardboiled egg
2 strips bacon, cooked, drained and crumbled
Fresh chives, snipped
Goat cheese salad dressing, recipe follows

Goat Cheese Dressing (from Daily Unadventures in Cooking):
2 tablespoons soft plain goat cheese
4 tablespoons fresh lemon juice (if you are using bottled, substitute one extra tablespoon milk for 1 of lemon)
1 tablespoon milk (I used buttermilk)
a pinch cayenne pepper
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley (I used 1 tablespoon dried parsley flakes)
salt and pepper

Mash goat cheese in a small bowl with a fork. Slowly add lemon juice and continue mixing to incorporate the liquid. Switch to a whisk and do the same with the milk and remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Arrange lettuce on a plate, cover with half of the salad dressing. Top with chicken, tomatoes, bacon bits and chives. Add hard boiled egg and drizzle with remaining salad dressing. 

Bon appetit!

Monday Dinner - Grilled Chicken Pizza with Roasted Garlic White Sauce

Remember how we made grilled vegetable pizza last week and I had dough left over? Well, that only meant we had to make another pizza sometime soon, right?! We used what we had on hand, in this case we used roasted garlic, chicken and basil from the garden. I found a great white pizza sauce recipe online - super easy, super quick, super tasty and used that for the sauce. For the cheese I used mozzarella and fontina. I wasn't sure this pizza would turn out very well, what with the dough being previously frozen and never haven tried the white sauce recipe before. But, amazingly, it was absolutely fantastic. I mean, really really good. I am so hooked on grilling pizza.

A note on the grilling process for this particular pie - I don't think I cranked the heat high enough for the first side of the dough, so it was a little soft even though the second side got cooked through. The cheese had melted, but there was no way I was gonna get that brown crispiness from the five minutes I had the cheese on the grill. So, my only option was to finish this bad boy off in the oven. Which is what I did and I was pleased with the results. See how the cheese got cooked nicely? That wouldn't happen on the grill. No way, Jose. So, it wasn't a 100% grilled pizza, but it turned out just perfect.

I reheated it the next day for lunch and it was just as good (right, Mom?!).

Grilled Chicken Pizza with White Sauce (basically this recipe):
1 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 teaspoon plus a pinch salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2 heads Roasted Garlic, recipe follows
Pizza dough - homemade or picked up from your local pizzeria
8 ounces fresh mozzarella, sliced
4 ounces grated fontina
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil leaves
2 grilled chicken breasts, cut into cubes or strips

Roasted Garlic:
3 to 4 heads garlic, upper quarter removed
4 teaspoons olive oil
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the garlic on a foil-lined baking sheet and rub 1 teaspoon of oil into the top of each head. Sprinkle lightly with salt and pepper and place, cut side down, on the baking sheet. Bake until the cloves are soft and golden, about 1 hour. Remove from the oven and let sit until cool enough to handle. Carefully remove each clove of garlic from the head. Squeeze each head of garlic to expel any cloves that you cannot remove individually. Set aside until needed.

For the white pizza sauce, gently heat milk in a small saucepan, just until barely simmering. Remove and keep covered.

In a separate saucepan, melt butter. When foam subsides, add flour and stir until smooth. Cook for 1 to 2 minutes, stirring. Do not allow flour to color. Gradually add the warm milk, whisking to combine. Add the salt and cayenne and increase the heat to medium. Cook the mixture, whisking continuously, until the sauce comes to a boil and is thickened. Remove from heat and add cloves from 1 head of roasted garlic. Pour the hot mixture into a blender, cover tightly, and process until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl and cool slightly, placing a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface.

Preheat your grill to medium-high and your oven to 350 degrees. Flatten the dough into desired shape and brush one side with olive oil.

Place dough on grill and grill for about five minutes or until the bottom is crispy. Flip over and spread the cooled sauce over pizza dough, leaving a 3/4-inch border. Place sliced mozzarella on top of the sauce. Sprinkle with the grated fontina. Add your grilled chicken. Grill for another 5 minutes or so, or until the crust is golden and cheese is melted.  Remove from the grill and slide into preheated oven. Bake for another 10 minutes or until cheese is and bubbly and golden brown in spots. Sprinkle chopped basil over the top. Serve immediately.

 Bon Appetit!

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Sunday Dinner - Cafe Castagna

We've been trying to go to Castagna for a couple of years now, but it just never seemed to happen. Once, we went right as they were closing and then for awhile it was too expensive for us. But then on Friday a follower of this here blog (the only follower, I believe) posted on Facebook that he and his wife went there and that prompted me to go soon. On Sunday we were thinking about going to either Laurelhurst Market or Cafe Castagna - and after looking at both online menus it was an easy choice - Cafe Castagna. How can I turn down arancini? I cannot. For those of you who have not experienced arancini - you are missing out! They are basically fried risotto balls, and typically involve some type of cheese. I've made them before but they are a messy ordeal, and they take awhile to make so if I can get someone else to make them for me I am one happy camper.

The meal was fantastic. Well, mine was. Trey was trying to decide between the penne baked with gruyere, cheddar, fennel and leek and the razor clams. He told our waitress that he once had a bad experience with razor clams, but was willing to give them another try if they were delicious. She assured him they were great, and told him that if he didn't like them she wouldn't charge us for them. He also ordered fries, just in case he hated the clams. Turns out, he just hates razor clams. They were good, if you like razor clams (I don't either) so I am not knocking the dish. They just weren't up our alley. We did pay for them.

I don't want to treat this like a review, so I'll just say the food was amazing. The service was great, our waitress was knowledgeable and helpful and fast.  It was, however, a little more expensive than we would have liked. But I will certainly go there again (and again and again).

Here's what we ordered, pictures follow.

Me - Miss Scarlet (lemon drop with pomegranite)
Trey - Hurricane (light and dark rum with orange and lemon juice)

I like how the straw appears to be going up Trey's nose in this picture.

Starters (shared):
Sauvies Island Egg with Frisee, Lardons and Toast - You may be asking what lardons are. We did. They are the most amazing thing the world. It's basically just pork fat, fried. Yum.

Notice how the egg is perfectly poached AND breaded. I need to learn this technique. Also, please notice the cheesy goodness that is inside that arancini. I want one (or three) right now.

Me - Salmon with Lentils and Horseradish Creme Fraiche
Trey - Razor Clams (from the starter menu) and Fries (from the side menu)

The salmon was cooked perfectly and the horseradish creme fraiche was phenomenal. I will be adding that to nearly everything from now on. I typically am not a lentil person, but these were really good with the salmon and the mirepoix (fancy word for onions, carrots and celery).

I've already spoken to the clams, and the French fries were great. Light, crispy and thin. Just the way I like 'em.

Dessert (shared):
Manchego cheese with honeycomb and spiced almonds

One word: delish. I love cheese as a dessert, because you know, I love cheese. This came with local honeycomb and spicy almonds. Take some cheese, put some honey on top and pop it in your mouth with an almond. Heaven.

As far as the ambiance goes, this place is pretty great. It's right on Hawthorne, though, so you'll get the occasional motorcycle tearing by loudly, but the large trees and the small herb garden make it feel slightly removed. The tables are tiny - but it gives it an intimate feel. A good thing on a date night. Speaking of dates, mine is quite handsome isn't he?

Bon appetit!

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Saturday Dinner - Seared Ahi Tuna Salad and Shrimp and Mint Summer Rolls

Ah. Something healthy! It may seem to you readers of this blog that I eat totally unhealthy creamy sauces with large chunks of red meat every day. Not so! About once a week I get a hankering for a really light meal, like fish or salad. This particular salad is a perfect combination of the two. I've been making this salad for several years - and I usually do a different version of the dressing every time. Once a long time ago, I found the perfect dressing in a recipe I came across online. And then I promptly lost the link. Note to self: bookmark, bookmark, bookmark! But I came across what I think was the version yesterday here. You gotta love the Canadians! A side note on Canadians, kind of: I went up to B.C. last spring was completely amazed at what great food they have there. I'm gonna have to go back soon.

This dressing is really good, but of course, if you have your own version it's not really a big deal. Do whatever feels and tastes good to you.

I found the summer roll recipe on my new favorite obsession, Serious Eats.  They were definitely the highlight of this meal for me. I love trying new stuff - and I always resign myself that I may mess up the recipe. But this was super easy and they turned out great. Better than I've had in a restaurant ever. I encourage you to try them. The peanut sauce is a creation from my friend Ashley and her boyfriend with some alterations here and there. It, too, was super easy and delicious. It was a little chunky for Trey's taste, but I loved its peanut-y flavor.

Shall we?

Seared Ahi Tuna Salad (adapted from of all places):

1 tbs fresh ginger minced
2 tbs green onion minced
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup olive oil

Whisk olive oil, lime juice, orange juice, soy sauce, sesame oil, onions and ginger in a small bowl and blend.  Season with salt and pepper to taste.  Set aside.

Mixed baby greens
16 sugar snap peas
24 cherry tomatoes, halved
1 large carrot, shredded
Wonton wrappers, cut into strips and fried
1 package Ramen noodles, cooked, drained and cooled (I love this addition, but I completely forgot to add it last night. Drats!)

Blanche snap peas until tender crisp. Mix together with cherry tomatoes, carrot and mixed baby greens.  Set aside.

4 5 oz fresh tuna steaks (3/4 to 1 inch thick)
2 tbs Montreal Steak Spice
1 tsp Five Spice
6 tbs toasted sesame seeds    

Preheat grill to medium-high. Mix toasted sesame seeds, Montreal steak spice and 5 spice together on a plate.  Dip fish into the seeds coating all sides and pressing fish so that everything adheres.  Oil grill and sear fish until it is just opaque in the center.  About 3 minutes per side, this will depend on the thickness of your ahi steak as well as the heat of your grill. Our new grill has its quirks - the back gets really hot while the front stays fairly cool. As a result, one steak was overcooked and one was too rare. Oh, well. We'll overcome the learning curve!

Toss the salad all together with half of the dressing.  Place cooked Ramen noodles on a plate.  Top with salad. Thinly slice the tuna and overlap slices on top of the salad.  Top with fried wonton strips. Drizzle with remaining sauce.

Shrimp and Mint Summer Rolls with Peanut Sauce (from Serious Eats):

For the rolls
2 ounces thin rice noodles, (about 1 cup cooked)
12 (8 1/2-inch) round rice paper wrappers
12 large shrimp, peeled, deveined, cooked, and cut in half lengthwise
1 cup peeled seedless cucumber, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup carrots, sliced into thin strips
1/4 cup fresh mint leaves
12 pieces fresh green leaf lettuce (3 by 5 inches), cut along the rib and rib removed

In a large pot, bring 6 cups of salted water to a boil. Cook the rice noodles until softened, 2 to 4 minutes. Drain and rinse with cold water. Shake off the excess water and set aside.

Spread a damp clean towel on a counter. Fill a pan with hot water. (Keep a bowl of hot water next to the pan and towel, as you will need to occasionally refill the pan with water.) Arrange all the ingredients within reach.

In the pan of hot water, dip one sheet of rice paper to wet it completely. Set the paper on the damp towel; the rice paper should become soft and pliable immediately. Arrange 2 pieces of shrimp in a horizontal line on the bottom third (2 1/2 inches from the bottom and 1 inch from right-hand side) of the rice paper wrapper. Place a small portion of rice noodles over the shrimp. Distribute some cucumber, carrots, and 4 to 5 mint leaves over the noodles. Place one lettuce leaf over the mint leaves. Fold the bottom half of the rice paper wrapper over filling, while using your fingers to press down on the ingredients. Fold the right-hand side of the rice paper over to enclose the ingredients at the bottom of the roll.

Pressing gently on the ingredients with your fingers, tuck in the ends, and gently roll the rice paper up tightly to form a cylinder. Repeat these steps to make the remaining spring rolls. Serve immediately with the peanut dipping sauce.

Peanut Sauce:
1 c. roasted peanuts (you can "roast" them in the microwave for about 2 minutes on high)
1/4 c. hoisin sauce
Dash Sriracha sauce
1/4 c. peanut butter
Olive oil to thin the sauce out

In a blender or food processor add all ingredients and process until well mixed. Drizzle olive oil until you reach the desired consistency. The sauce will be chunky - and delicious.

Bon Appetit!