Monthly Archives: June 2015

Gone Girl

sheet cake

She flew the coop to LA! After many months of agonizing over whether she should leave her well-paying job and move cross-country, Russ’s daughter Julia hopped a plane today to the West Coast. But not before friends and family could send her a proper farewell. So this past Saturday, Julia’s mom Janine hosted such a bon voyage soirée at her home in Glenside.

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To the dismay of many, Mother Nature was not cooperating. In fact, that was the MOST rain we’ve had at one time in many months—causing concern on Julia’s part that guests wouldn’t venture out into the mess. But as a testimony to her popularity, the party was packed—standing room only!

With a nod to the Philly-to-LA theme, the house provided hoagies and Little Debbie cupcakes among other delectables. Julia made a request for my famous guacamole, a “Spanish/Mexican” dish, a sheet cake and some bottles of wine. Well the guac, cake and wine were easy enough, but what to do about the “dish”?? Initially, Russ thought of making chorizo, peppers and onions in the slow cooker, but in the end, not knowing everyone’s tolerance for spice, he made it with sweet Italian sausage—so much for the “Spanish/Mexican” connection…

The guac was a smash hit and was gone in no time. The crockpot sausage dish was also a winner and lucky for us, even though the sausage links disappeared, there was plenty sauce, peppers and onions to bring home and use for a quick week night pasta dinner—which is exactly what we did a few nights later.

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Uncle Steve’s gluten-free tiramisu.

Along with the sheet cake, Julia’s Uncle Steve made a gorgeous gluten-free Tiramisu presented in an oversized martini-looking glass. Having been a part of the family for many years, Steve is well aware of the celiac disease that some members have to deal with. Needless to say, there was barely a morsel of that dessert left!

Before we knew it, over four hours had flown by and it was time to venture out into the nasty night, praying we’d get home in one piece—which thankfully we did—and everyone else for that matter.

We wish you nothing but success Julia!
Now we can start planning a visit 😉

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The leftover sauce with peppers and onions was reheated with more browned sausage for a quick weeknight meal.

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Turkey Taco Salad

Dinner for two—Here’s a hearty, healthy spin on a classic taste combo; filling you up while keeping it fresh!

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Ingredients

  • 2 multigrain tortillas, cut into 1/4-inch-thick strips
  • 4 tsp plus 3 Tbsp safflower oil
  • 1/2 small yellow onion, diced
  • 1/2 lb ground turkey
  • 3/4 cup black beans, drained, rinsed
  • 3/4 cup fresh cooked corn kernels
  • 2 Tbsp chili powder
  • 2 Tbsp lime juice, plus lime wedges
  • 1 large scallion, finely chopped
  • 3 0z baby spinach leaves
  • 1/2 cup cilantro leaves
  • 1 avocado, cubed
  • 1/4 cup store-bought pico de gallo (optional)

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Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees. Arrange tortilla strips in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake until crisp and golden brown, about 6 minutes, set aside.
  2. Meanwhile, heat 4 tsp of the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until soft and translucent, about 4 minutes.
  3. Add turkey and heat until cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain off any liquid.
  4. Add beans, corn, and chili powder and cook until well combined and heated through, about 3 minutes. Season with salt an pepper to taste. Remove from heat; cool to room temperature.
  5. Whisk together remaining 3 Tbsp of oil, lime juice and scallion; season with salt and pepper to taste.
  6. Divide spinach and cilantro among 2 plates. Top with turkey mixture, avocado, tortilla strips, and pico de gallo. Serve with lime-scalllion dressing and lime wedge.

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I spotted this recipe in a recent issue of Redbook Magazine. We made a few adjustments by totally omitting the tortilla strips, using canola instead of saffron oil when cooking the onions, substituting a good EVOO in the vinaigrette, and dicing a white onion instead of a yellow one. You could also substitute tofu if you don’t eat meat.

This is definitely a keeper!

Poached Halibut in Hot and Sour Broth

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Very low in calories and fat, this delicious broth hit all of the right flavor notes! For this “Meatless Monday” dinner, we exchanged fresh cod for the expensive halibut, swapped out Sriracha sauce in place of Tabasco, and used fish broth instead of chicken, making it truly vegetarian. The vibrant greens of the scallions and cilantro add an attractive visual pop.

Because we were cooking for only two of us, we reduced the amount of fish from 2 pounds to 1 pound, but kept the stock ingredients the same. Hot steaming rice went into our bowls first, with the fish fillets next, then ladled with broth and topped with the greens. You almost feel instantly healthier after eating this meal!

Ingredients

  • 2 Tbs. soy sauce
  • 4 halibut fillets, 1/2 lb. each (about 1-inch thick)
  • 1 qt. homemade or low-salt chicken broth
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 3 Tbs. tomato paste
  • 2-1/2 Tbs. cider vinegar
  • 12 quarter-size slices fresh ginger, cut into thin strips
  • 1/4 tsp. Tabasco or other hot sauce
  • 1/4 cup sliced scallions (greens included)
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro

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Fish fillets simmering in broth.

Directions

  1. Drizzle the soy sauce over both sides of the halibut fillets. Cover and refrigerate.
  2. In a 12-inch sauté pan, combine the chicken broth, honey, tomato paste, vinegar, ginger, and Tabasco. Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook gently for 12 minutes, stirring occasionally and skimming foam as necessary.
  3. Add the fillets, cover, and poach gently at a bare simmer over medium-low heat until the flllets are slightly firm to the touch and the centers are almost opaque (make a small slit with a knife to check), 6 to 8 minutes; the fish should be slightly undercooked at this point. Turn off the heat and let sit covered for another 2 minutes.
  4. Divide the halibut and broth evenly among four shallow bowls. Sprinkle generously with the scallions and cilantro and serve with a spoon for the broth.
  5. Set a mound of white or brown rice into the broth with the fish.

-by Arlene Jacobs from Fine Cooking-

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Our side dish of fresh steamed green beans topped with broth.

Bridgetown Mill Inn

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In April of 2003, the charming historic Bucks County Inn (c1791) on Langhorne-Newtown Road opened a full service restaurant The Bridgetown Mill House, making it a true country inn… In addition to regular seasonal menus, a Tapas menu is offered on the outdoor brick patio—and, the Zagat Survey rated it Excellent from 2003 through present day… Read more at the Neighborhood Joints tab…

An Anniversary Dinner with a Surprise Ending

Our third wedding anniversary—and 16th anniversary from the day we met—fell on a Sunday this year. To celebrate the occasion we made online reservations at Seasons 52 in the Princeton Market Fair. (Thanks Wendy for the tip!) With restaurants all over the country, they are noted for their handsome arts-and-craftsman styling, autumn ledgestone walls, awesome lighting, and an open kitchen—LOVE the vibe!

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A seasonal menu features designer ingredients, many of them organic, from signature flatbreads and mini-indulgence desserts to an international selection of 100 wines assembled by a master sommelier, including more than 52 offered by the glass—thus the name? They use only fresh, in–season ingredients and prepare them with rustic techniques like oak-fire grilling and brick oven roasting to highlight natural flavors.

Seasons 52 is a celebration of what’s good now. Seasonally inspired ingredients at their peak of freshness. Rustic cooking techniques that bring out natural flavors. And an ever-changing selection of global wines. All in a casually sophisticated setting.

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The crispy prosciutto and asparagus flatbread.

Seated within minutes of our arrival, our friendly waiter, Pierce, brought us menus and gave us time to review our drink selections. Finally deciding on a bottle of Tuscan Santa Christina red, we proceeded to scrutinize the food menu and noted that many surrounding tables were ordering versions of their signature flatbreads, so we opted to share the “Chef’s Suggestion” Crispy Prosciutto and Asparagus with melted Camembert cheese and chervil. We loved the thin crisp crust and the toppings were perfectly proportioned.

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While I often gravitate to seafood as an entree choice, for some reason the Oak-Grilled Filet Mignona trio of roasted mushrooms, Yukon Gold mash, roasted asparagus, with red wine sauce—was calling my name (and they were out of the Cooper River Salmon anyway.) It was the tastiest and most succulent piece of beef that I’ve had in ages! And I’m glad there wasn’t a deluge of mashed potatoes, but just enough to compliment the meat. Unable to finish my meal, Russ gladly accepted my offer to help me out 😉

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What did Russ choose? The Oak-Grilled Rack of Lamb, with spring vegetables, Yukon Gold mash, and shallot jus. It arrived gorgeously plated and grilled to a perfect medium-rare. As we enjoyed our meals, I commented that it was easy to hold a conversation as the noise level didn’t overwhelm.

However, just as we were finishing our dinners, a screaming fire alarm went off, causing much confusion amongst diners and staff, with some walking out, while others continued to eat—like us as we finished our last few bites. When it was clear the alarm was not turning off, everyone was ordered outside. I was dismayed to see many patrons just go to their cars without paying their tabs.

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Dining patrons waiting outside after the first alarm went off.

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The waitstaff and cooks congregate together as they wait for reentry.

It seemed like 10-15 minutes before the cops and fire chief arrived. After doing their due diligence and silencing the alarm, we were allowed back in. At that point I did notice a fire truck had pulled up out front. Once reseated, Pierce came to our table and asked if we’d like to see dessert, and I nudged Russ to say yes because I wanted to get a photo of the slick way they present the offerings.

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The police arrived first, then the fire chief and finally the fire truck.
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As soon as Pierce walked away, the alarm starting blaring again!! An audible moan was heard from the diners as we once again were ordered to vacate. While preparing to leave, Pierce asked if we’d care to reconcile our tab, so as Russ settled up I waited outside. One of the chefs was apologizing for the inconvenience and to reward those who stuck around, handed out $52 vouchers for a future meal. I urged Russ to obtain one also, so now we have $104 worth toward a future visit. And we were some of the lucky ones who actually got to finish our delicious entrees and bottle of wine.

That had to be an extensive night for them with a good number of diners leaving without paying their tabs, food cooking on the grill that had to be thrown out, and diners with reservations that hadn’t yet put in an order—not to mention all of the waitstaff that probably got stiffed. Well, we did our part, and it paid off handsomely!

Lynn’s Easy Thai Shrimp Salad

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Many years ago when I first started dating Russ, I made a version of this salad from scratch on one extremely hot summer day. We were getting ready to attend an outdoor concert and it was so ungodly hot and humid out, I couldn’t fathom the idea of cooking. It escapes me where I even obtained the recipe from, and have since lost the instructions. Then a short time ago, we wanted to throw together a quick dinner using up some raw shrimp and discovered the jar of Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Sauce in our pantry.

Since much of the wonderful flavors are already in the jarred sauce, all I had to do was enhance the meal with some colorful veggies and/or fruit. Luckily I happened to have a red bell pepper and a ripe mango on hand too. And we already had mint growing outside, so I was able to snip enough to use as a garnish.

I love this tasty, super-easy summer salad as lunch, dinner or as a picnic contribution (just increase the amounts.) It is chockfull of flavors and can be served at room temperature and made a day ahead of time if needed. (But don’t incorporate the mint and cilantro until you’re ready to use.) And if you’re just not a seafood person, shred up some rotisserie chicken from the supermarket instead.

Ingredients

  • 2 cups cooked white rice
  • 1 jar Trader Joe’s Thai Green Curry Sauce
  • 1 1/2 lbs. small to medium uncooked, cleaned, deveined shrimp
  • 1 medium red bell pepper, cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 ripe mango, peeled and cut into 1/2″ cubes
  • 6 scallions, greens only, chopped into 1/4″ pieces
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
  • 1/4 cup chopped fresh cilantro
  • 1/2 small fresh jalapeño, minced (optional)

Instructions

  1. Cook the rice according to instructions. While rice is cooking, warm the Trader Joe Green Curry sauce over a low heat.
  2. Bring large pot of water to boil. Once boiling, add shrimp for a mere one to two minutes until just pink and done. Drain over colander and set aside.
  3. Cube all peppers, mangoes, and scallion greens. Mince jalapeño if using. Place all into a large bowl.
  4. Add rice into same bowl and mix together. Add the shrimp, herbs and sauce over the rice mixture and stir all until well melded. (If not eating the salad right away, wait until ready to use to mix in fresh herbs.)

Optional ingredients: fresh corn kernels, cubed avocado, or additional coconut milk to up the sweetness quotient.

Strawberry Fields Forever

Here’s an interesting twist on an old favorite: chocolate covered strawberries. But in this case the chocolate is on the inside of the inverted berry and stored in egg cartons—Inside-Out Chocolate Strawberriesbrilliant! I saw it on Pinterest and can’t wait to make some of my own for an upcoming party.

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Get the recipe and read more about fresh strawberries under the Bits N’ Pieces tab…

Grilled Lamb Kofte

From Cook’s Illustrated, July 2013.

In the Middle East, kebabs called kofte, feature ground meat—not chunks—mixed with lots of spices and fresh herbs.

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The night we cooked these bad boys, our package of ground lamb was about 1.34 lbs. which made seven koftes (figure on about 2, maybe 3 per person.)

To accompany our kofte, I made a compound butter with chili powder, fresh chives and a squeeze of fresh lime juice to brush on the sweet white corn on the cob, and served a side dish of curried couscous. There were a few kofte left over, so a couple of nights later we made pita sandwiches dressing them up with the yogurt sauce and sliced red onion. Two meals from one… waste not, want not!

SERVES 4 TO 6

INGREDIENTS

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YOGURT-GARLIC SAUCE

  • cup plain whole-milk yogurt
  • tablespoons lemon juice
  • tablespoons tahini
  • garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

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KOFTE

  • 1/2 cup pine nuts
  • garlic cloves, peeled
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons hot smoked paprika
  • teaspoon salt
  • teaspoon ground cumin
  • 1/2 teaspoon pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground coriander
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 1/2 pounds ground lamb
  • 1/2 cup grated onion, drained
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh parsley
  • 1/3 cup minced fresh mint
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
  • large disposable aluminum roasting pan (if using charcoal)

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INSTRUCTIONS

1. FOR THE YOGURT-GARLIC SAUCE: Whisk all ingredients together in bowl. Set aside.
2. FOR THE KOFTE: Process pine nuts, garlic, paprika, salt, cumin, pepper, coriander, cloves, nutmeg, and cinnamon in food processor until coarse paste forms, 30 to 45 seconds. Transfer mixture to large bowl. Add lamb, onion, parsley, mint, and gelatin; knead with your hands until thoroughly combined and mixture feels slightly sticky, about 2 minutes. Divide mixture into 8 equal portions. Shape each portion into 5-inch-long cylinder about 1 inch in diameter. Using 8 (12-inch) metal skewers, thread 1 cylinder onto each skewer, pressing gently to adhere. Transfer skewers to lightly greased baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour or up to 24 hours.
3A. FOR A CHARCOAL GRILL: Using skewer, poke 12 holes in bottom of disposable pan. Open bottom vent completely and place pan in center of grill. Light large chimney starter filled two thirds with charcoal briquettes (4 quarts). When top coals are partially covered with ash, pour into pan. Set cooking grate in place, cover, and open lid vent completely. Heat grill until hot, about 5 minutes.
3B. FOR A GAS GRILL: Turn all burners to high, cover, and heat grill until hot, about 15 minutes. Leave all burners on high.
4. Clean and oil cooking grate. Place skewers on grill (directly over coals if using charcoal) at 45-degree angle to grate. Cook (covered if using gas) until browned and meat easily releases from grill, 4 to 7 minutes. Flip skewers and continue to cook until browned on second side and meat registers 160 degrees, about 6 minutes longer. Transfer skewers to platter and serve, passing yogurt-garlic sauce separately.
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