Monthly Archives: August 2016

Art on a Plate; Heaven on Your Tastebuds

The key to grilling a whole chicken, or large pieces, is patience (not my best virtue.) Starting with the skin side up reduces flare-ups, and medium heat gives you browned, not blackened, skin and juicy flesh.

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Ingredients are assembled for the meat marinade.

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The chicken starts getting happy in the anchovy garlic mixture.

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The final step to the marinade is adding the chopped oregano and sliced onion.

Ingredients (serves 6-8)

  • 10 oil-packed anchovy fillets, finely chopped
  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • cups green olives (such as Castelvetrano), plus ½ cup brine reserved
  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 1 tablespoon finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 small onion, thinly sliced
  • ½ cup coarsely chopped fresh oregano, plus leaves for serving
  • 1 3½–4-pound chicken, halved lengthwise
  • Vegetable oil (for grilling)

Directions

  1. Toss anchovies, garlic, olive brine, olive oil, and lemon juice in a medium bowl; season with salt and pepper. Place half of anchovy mixture in a large resealable plastic bag; add onion and chopped oregano. Cover and chill remaining anchovy mixture.
  2. Season chicken halves with salt and pepper and add to bag, seal bag, and toss to coat. Let marinate 4–12 hours.
  3. Prepare grill for medium heat; generously oil grate with vegetable oil. Remove chicken from marinade, letting excess drip back into bag (a few pieces of onion and oregano still clinging are okay); discard marinade. Starting skin side up, grill chicken, turning occasionally, until lightly charred and cooked through, 30–40 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, set out reserved anchovy mixture and let come to room temperature. Use the side of a chef’s knife to smash olives, crushing and pitting them at the same time (smash again if very large). Add olives and lemon zest to anchovy mixture.
  5. Place chicken on top of Tomatoes in Chile-Fennel Oil (recipe follows) and spoon anchovy-olive mixture around. Top with oregano leaves.
Do Ahead: Chicken can be grilled 4 hours ahead. Store at room temperature and assemble dish just before serving. (Although I am a bit distrustful of leaving meat out on the counter that long.)
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Assemble some of the dressed heirlooms on your plate, place the chicken on the tomatoes, spoon over the olive mixture, and top with some of those caramelized onions. Almost too pretty to eat!

Because it is so good and versatile, you may want to double the chile oil, keep it chilled, and drizzle over flatbreads, pastas, and all of your grilled meats and vegetables all season long.

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The heirloom tomatoes are dressed with the flavored oil and a sprinkle of sea salt before being arranged on individual plates.

Ingredients (serves 8)

  • ½ cup olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper flakes
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 3 pounds large tomatoes, preferably heirloom, sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
  • 1 tablespoon (or more) red wine vinegar
  • Flaky sea salt

Directions

  1. Cook oil, red pepper flakes, and fennel seeds in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, until oil around spices is sizzling, about 5 minutes.
  2. Reduce heat to low and continue to cook until oil is infused with flavor and rusty-orange in color, 20–30 minutes. Let cool.
  3. Arrange tomatoes on a large platter and drizzle with vinegar, then chile-fennel oil. Season with more vinegar if desired and sprinkle with salt.

Recipes by Alison Roman

 

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As a Matter of Fact, “The Temp” is Back

The Temperance House, an historical landmark in Newtown, PA which traces its lineage to 1772, reopened in September 2015 after shutting down nearly two years prior, to the dismay of many. Located in the heart of the shopping district, you can step back in time in their iconic tavern, housing an elegant wooden bar filled with wonderful spirits, international wines and craft beers—all sure to satisfy the thirsty traveler, or local resident 😉 It has had many incarnations, including a span of time when it did not serve any alcohol, hence it’s name.

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tavern copy

In addition to the tavern, for a more conventional dinner experience there is a formal dining area. Here, their famous murals depicting Newtown’s early history, still proudly occupy a couple of walls. Two stone fireplaces—one a “walk-in”—remind you that you’re dining in a room full of history, where many have feasted before. If you’re a history buff, this one’s for you.

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Patronage was light on a Friday night in late August—with speculation that Newtown folks hightail it to the shore on summer weekends. Friends of ours also agreed that dining out from late July through August is a much easier experience. However that theory was proven false the very next night on a Saturday when we attended another Newtown restaurant that was packed, in fact they were turning people away…

With a choice of seating, we asked for the 4-top by the large fireplace. After situating ourselves, Russ spied a wall-mounted speaker and politely asked if the music could be turned up a scooch. To his credit, the host appeased our request, but the sound only got louder in the tavern—the speaker in the dining room was apparently taking the night off. C’est la vie.

As we pondered the menus, the waitress (the only one working that night) was literally torching the dessert for a couple on the opposite side of the room. Mind you, this was no small kitchen utensil-type torch, but a large full-blown gizmo. It was so loud and noisy that Russ stopped conversing mid-sentence, amazed as he was by what was transpiring. I can’t imagine the end result was a lightly caramelized topping—but the couple dug into it like it was the best thing they ever ate!

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Known for its classic comfort food, the new owners have added a twist to many items. For instance, we shared the Salad Wedge which was a whole head of romaine lightly grilled and topped with a smattering of chopped bacon, halved grape tomatoes, large chunks of bleu cheese, and frizzled shallots all layered on a light bed of creamy bleu cheese dressing. WOW, was it good!

Our waitress apologized several times about the wait between courses, but we were enjoying the leisurely pace. With only a few other tables occupied, conversation was pleasant without having to shout. Although after about 30 minutes, one elderly couple, apparently regulars, must have been hard of hearing because we heard every word of the man’s exchange loud and clear, almost to the point of embarrassment.

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Drum roll please—our entrees. Still in the seafood frame of mind, I ordered the Baked Flounder served with sun-dried tomatoes, shrimp, jumbo crabmeat and finished in a basil lobster cream sauce served with a side of spinach. I chose roasted potatoes over mashed to round out the meal. (I mean really, serving mashed potatoes in the heat of the summer!? Why do restaurants insist on doing that?)

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Russ surprised me when he chose the Temperance Chicken, not his usual fare—you know, duck, lamb, beef, veal… The large chicken cutlets were sautéed in a mild blush sauce with jumbo shrimp and prosciutto and served with sautéed spinach and roasted potatoes. He loved it! Both very satisfied with the quality of the food, we know we will be back in short order.

There is a haunted aspect to The Temp. Printed accounts say that six clairvoyants, dozens of guests, and several employees have reported sightings of two childlike apparitions and unexplained incidents of doors slamming, window shades sliding up, and traveling footsteps throughout the hotel.

For those visitors from out-of-town, The Temperance House lets rooms upstairs for the night since it continues to function as a tavern and inn, just as it did for the soldiers, all those centuries ago.

Easy, Peasy Times Three

If you are into bold flavors, you’ll love this meal. All three different elements, the salmon, the vegetable side and the rice dish all came from various chefs at Fine Cooking.

The star of the meal was the Broiled Maple-Soy Glazed Salmon by Matthew Card. Though this glaze has just a few ingredients, it gives broiled salmon a tasty savory-sweet crust. Grade B maple syrup’s stronger flavor works well here. After the sauce is reduced, some minced fresh ginger would be a nice addition—maybe next time.

Have you ever eaten adzuki beans before? Perhaps I have unknowingly, mixed in with something, but until we made Sautéed Kale with Adzuki Beans and Tamari by Julie Levy, we had never cooked with them. This small bean is native to East Asia and the Himalayan region, and is commonly eaten in Japan, China, Korea, and other Asian nations. Additions of ginger, scallions, and tamari sauce give an unexpected Asian twist.

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Kale is a healthy power horse in itself, so when combined with adzuki beans, some added unique benefits include their ability to aid in weight loss, prevent and manage diabetes, optimize digestion, contribute to growth and repair, increase energy, lower blood pressure, and detoxify the body. Ask for a second helping!

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Rounding out this delicious meal was Short-Grain Rice with Quick Pickled Jalapeños by Ronne Day. Knowing our penchant for spicy, I’m sure my 1/4 cup of sliced chiles actually measured closer to a 1/2 cup. But you can always adjust the amount to suit your own preferences. Sliced jalapeños pickle in a mixture of vinegar, salt, and sugar in the time it takes to cook a pot of rice, and definitely add a WOW factor to plain rice. So get cookin’…

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Salmon Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably grade B)
  • 1/4 cup soy sauce
  • 1 Tbs. fresh lemon juice
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 4 6-oz. center-cut salmon fillets, pin bones removed

Directions

  1. Combine the maple syrup, soy sauce, and lemon juice in a 1-quart saucepan, and bring to a simmer over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to medium, and cook until syrupy, 7 to 10 minutes.
  2. Position a rack 6 inches from the broiler element and heat the broiler on high. Line a rimmed baking sheet with foil.
  3. Place the salmon on the foil skin side down, and season generously with salt and pepper. Broil the salmon until it looks opaque, about 3 minutes.
  4. Brush each fillet liberally with the maple glaze, and then continue to broil until cooked to your liking, 7 to 10 minutes for medium (the salmon will be dark pink in the middle). Immediately brush with the remaining glaze and serve.

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Kale Side Dish Recipe

Ingredients

  • 2 tsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 scallions, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp. minced fresh ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. ground cumin
  • 1/2 tsp. ground coriander
  • 8 oz. curly kale, stems removed, leaves torn into bite size pieces
  • 1/2 cup canned adzuki beans, drained
  • 2 tsp. tamari sauce
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • Rice vinegar, to taste

Directions

  1. In a 12-inch skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the scallions, garlic, ginger, cumin, and coriander, and cook, stirring, until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add the kale and stir until coated. Stir in the beans, tamari, and 1/4 cup water. Cover and cook, stirring occasionally, until the kale is bright green and tender, about 2 minutes.
  3. Season to taste with more tamari, pepper, and a splash of rice vinegar.

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Rice Recipe

Ingredients

  • 1 cup short-grain white rice
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced fresh jalapeños
  • 3 Tbs. rice vinegar
  • 1 Tbs. granulated sugar
  • 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
  • Regular or black sesame seeds, toasted
  • Asian sesame oil

Directions

  1. Prepare the rice according to package directions.
  2. Meanwhile, in a small bowl, combine the jalapeños, vinegar, sugar, and salt, and let sit at room temperature while the rice cooks.
  3. Toss the cooked rice with the chile mixture, sprinkle with sesame seeds and a generous drizzle of sesame oil, and serve.

 

You Had Me at Morimoto

Nearly in our own backyard, literally less than 5 miles from our house, Musashi Japanese Restaurant Vegan & Sake Bar reopened at their new location in Feasterville on July 12. Interestingly, it used to have a liquor license but is now a BYOB, how odd is that? Although I believe you can order flights of Sake.

The mission of Musashi is as Chef Nobu says, “Consuming healthy food for a long life.” It accomplishes this goal by bringing Bucks County its first Japanese restaurant with a focus on vegan (Shojin) a very traditional form of Japanese cuisine.

According to their website, Chef Nobu Miura ventured into Bucks County with 30 years of Japanese culinary experience. Trained by masters in Tokyo Japan, he arrived in North Carolina where he owned his first Japanese restaurant for 11 years and was awarded best in the area for three consecutive years and the title of Iron Chef of North Carolina.

He then moved to the prominent Baltimore sushi restaurant Edo Sushi At Inner Harbor, and finally to Philadelphia’s premier Japanese restaurant Morimoto’s, under Iron Chef Morimoto (well-known food network star), and lastly he worked at Philadelphia’s finest ramen restaurant called Ramen Bar.

OK, we were dually impressed! Chef Nobu’s healthy style places a focus on natural nutrition and is light on sodium, carbohydrates, fat and cholesterol. For some of you, this may not be an incentive, but to us it was definitely worth investigating…

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Decorated in a modest, yet somewhat kitschy traditional Japanese atmosphere in a tired-looking strip mall, the parking lot was packed, a good sign indeed. Walking in, we were greeted by a very enthusiastic hostess and when told we had reservations, she smiled broadly and seated us at our reserved table by a corner front window, arguably the best seat in the house (which is not saying a whole lot.)

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Side antidote: Ceramics was one of my majors in college with a particular interest in Raku. I immediately noticed these beautiful little dishes for soy sauce at each setting and it immediately put a smile on my face. Back to the present…

Their menu is quite extensive so it took a while for us to review all of the options and come to final decisions. While we did, our wine bottle was uncorked and our waiter, Erich, asked if we had any questions regarding the menu. Yes we did. What’s the difference between the regular Seaweed Salad and the Musashi Special Seaweed Salad? Erich explained the special one came with three different types of seaweed salad, the regular, only one.

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As you can see, we opted for the special and it arrived with an abundance of colorful veggies with two dressings on the side, one ginger, the other peanut. I think my favorite is still the original seaweed salad, shown in green, top right, between the black and purple.

Next question? Russ asked about the curry dishes, and with high praises from Erich he also wanted to know whether to get the Chicken or Pork Cutlet Curry. Without hesitation Erich said he loved the chicken best. But before we decided on entrees, I selected the steamed Wasabi Pork Shumai, five pieces of deliciously flavored, tender dumplings that arrived in a bamboo basket. They were excellent!

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For my main course I ordered the Dynamite Roll, eight pieces with spicy crab, spicy salmon, and wasabi pea topped with a thin slice of jalapeño with a dollop of wasabi sauce. Always accompanied by some wasabi paste and pickled ginger, I certainly got my quota of boldly intense flavors! The problem was, they delivered it on the same platter as Russ’s appetizer of Tekka Tuna Sushi Roll.

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Oh well, I just took the initiative to move his order to another plate. What we learned from other Japanese restaurants, but forgot to put into practice this time, was to let them know the order you want things delivered, and when, otherwise you end up getting everything all at once, or at the very least, out of order. Patience is a virtue, right?

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That curry entry Russ asked about? Well he did opt for the Chicken Katsu Curry which arrived while I was enjoying my sushi. Holy smokes, no small portion there! Large slices of breaded chicken enveloped a mound of white rice, flanked by four colorful, shredded vegetables. The curry sauce, resembling brown gravy, came in a separate container allowing you to add as much, or as little as desired.

All-in-all we were pleased with the caliber of the food and definitely plan to add this establishment to our growing list of neighborhood places to dine.

“Goshisousama deshita”

We Seafood—We Eat It

By the third week of August it’s obvious the sun is setting much earlier, and the feeling of Fall starts to permeate your senses in subtle ways. However, it’s too soon to throw in the towel—beach or otherwise. With summery temps still lingering in the high 80’s, we knew another patio party was in order—and having just returned from the Jersey Shore a few days prior, a seafood theme seemed appropriate…

With a familiar gathering of six, guests included Barb, Brad, Rosanne and Gary—no need for introductions. In a nod to the shore motif, Rosanne even bejeweled herself in starfish accessories. Now that’s taking a topic and running with it! Vittle-wise, we started off with Barb’s doctored up shrimp dip. Apparently the original recipe was too bland to begin with so she increased the old bay seasoning and celery salt—now that’s my kind of thinking!

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Barb’s shrimp appetizer plated in my signature purple… Love it!

Libations time! What’s more beachy than Hypnotiq, a tropical-fruit liqueur made from a blend of premium french vodka, pure cognac and natural tropical fruit juices. Oh, and that gorgeous blue color! Throw in a pineapple chunk with a mini umbrella, and let the party begin!

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Onto the patio we gathered, carting out drinks and appetizers. Conversations ran the gamut from exactly what constituted a tomato pie (interesting how many variations we described), to the Pittsburgh area’s odd food combos, such as putting french fries on their salads, calling skewered pork and veal “City Chicken” and serving ham BBQ’s.

Here’s another: men’s shoes. I mentioned that Brad’s looked new—he confirmed they were. Gary was sporting similar docker’s, informing us it’s hard for him to buy shoes just anywhere because his are a triple-E—now that’s a wide foot! Throughout the night, Gary often consulted Siri as questions arose (where is this year’s superbowl being played?)—some of them down-right hysterical… yes, we were getting silly…

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The tables are set and waiting for the party to commence.

As dusk was settling, it was a clue for Russ to heat up the grill, and light the abundance of candles and turn on the strings of battery operated lights lining the knee wall for an added touch of ambiance. And it was also a tip-off for the ladies to put the finishing touches on the rest of the meal. While I finalized the side dishes, with her clever artistic talent, Rosanne assembled a tossed green salad replete with fish-shaped watermelon cut-outs!

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Rosanne assembles her salad that included watermelon cut with a fish cookie cutter.

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The main attraction was our Cedar-Planked Salmon which I blogged about a few weeks ago. (Remember we totally forgot to serve the horseradish-chive sauce?) Of course, this time around with six people instead of just two, we amped up the amount of salmon filets to over 4 pounds.

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The cooked salmon filets rest for a few minutes before Russ slices them into individual servings.

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One of the side dishes Buttery Balsamic Corn with Shiitake and Grilled Onion is perfect because you can make it ahead of time and serve at room (or patio) temperature. And because we crave heirloom tomatoes this time of year, our other side was an adaptation of the Heirloom Tomato Salad with Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette, found on FoodandWine.com (recipe without eggs follows.) The warm, garlicky anchovy dressing complements the assortment of juicy, peak-season tomatoes, topped with tangy pickled shallots, and herbs fresh-picked from our garden.

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Seriously, you have to make this delicious side dish while corn is at it’s peak.

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Grilled pineapple planks seasoned with Tajin add a tropical touch to the meal.

With a lot of pineapple leftover (from the drink garnish), I sliced it into planks, brushed with a little olive oil, seasoned with Tajin, and grilled them a few minutes on each side after the salmon was moved from grill to platter.

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The mermaid mascot oversees the bounty of food.

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Gary regales the crowd with Siri’s answers.

And for dessert, a rich, homespun moist chocolate pound cake flavored with espresso and studded with chocolate chips, topped with homemade strawberry ice cream and a generous drizzle of chocolate sauce. (Recipe follows at end of blog.)

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Here’s hoping for a few more months of dining al fresco!

Heirloom Tomato Salad with Warm Anchovy Vinaigrette

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Ingredients

This recipe will feed 8-10 guests, so cut in half if you plan to serve less.
  • 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
  • 8 anchovies, minced
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest
  • 2 mediums shallot, thinly sliced
  • 4 tablespoons red wine vinegar
  • 3 pounds assorted heirloom tomatoes—large ones sliced, small ones halved
  • Fleur de sel
  • Freshly ground pepper
  • Flat-leaf parsley, for serving
  • Marjoram leaves, for serving

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Minced anchovies, garlic and lemon zest are warmed in the olive oil.

Directions

  1. In a small skillet, combine the olive oil, anchovies, garlic and lemon zest.
  2. In a small bowl, toss the shallot with the vinegar and let stand for 10 minutes.
  3. Arrange the tomatoes on a platter and season with fleur de sel and pepper. Scatter the shallot and vinegar over the tomatoes.
  4. Warm the anchovy dressing over moderate heat to a gentle simmer; pour over the tomatoes. Scatter the parsley and marjoram over the salad and serve at once.

Double-Chocolate Expresso Pound Cake

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Ingredients

  • 1 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for coating the pan
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1/3 cup natural unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
  • 2 teaspoons instant espresso powder
  • 1/4 cup boiling water
  • 1 cup unsalted butter (2 sticks), at a cool room temperature, plus more for coating the pan
  • 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon fine salt
  • 5 large eggs, at a cool room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
  • 1/2 cup chocolate chips
  • Powdered sugar, for dusting

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Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, then dust lightly with flour.

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Our chips were on the large size so we chopped them down a bit.

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Mix in the cocoa mixture and the vanilla.

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Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are incorporated.

IMG_7034Baking our cake took almost 50% longer than described, so make sure you don’t take it out of the oven until it’s done.

Directions

  1. Heat the oven to 350°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Coat a 9-by-5-inch loaf pan with butter. Line the bottom and two sides with parchment paper. Butter the parchment paper, then dust lightly with flour, shaking out the excess.
  2. Sift the flour and baking powder together onto a piece of parchment paper.
  3. In a heatproof bowl, whisk together the cocoa and espresso powders. Add the boiling water and stir until smooth. Set aside to cool, about 5 minutes.
  4. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter, sugar, and salt on medium-high speed until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in the eggs 1 at a time, beating well after each addition. Scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula occasionally.
  5. Mix in the cocoa mixture and the vanilla. With a rubber spatula, gently fold in half of the dry ingredients until almost fully incorporated. Fold in the remaining dry ingredients and the chocolate chips just until the batter is smooth and the dry ingredients are incorporated.
  6. Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top. Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean, about 1 hour. (It took ours 85 minutes, so make sure to check starting at 60 minutes.)
  7. Let the cake cool in the pan on a wire rack for 5 minutes, then unmold the cake and peel off the parchment. Turn the cake top-side up and let it cool completely (cover the cake with a slightly damp kitchen towel so the outside doesn’t dry out). Just before serving, dust the top with powdered sugar.

Cake Recipe by Kim Laidlaw

 

 

Dining Finale at Rays Café

Night Three: Lobster Night, A Shore Thing

Trying to scout out a dining establishment that we hadn’t been to previously, we discovered Ray’s Cafe with a proud history of over 20 years of serving Spring Lake and Sea Girt, New Jersey. Mostly known for breakfast and lunch, luckily for us, they started serving dinner at the Spring Lake location a few years back.

Situated in the bustling shopping district, they are known for their Sunday night lobster specials—and guess which night we had reservations? The special runs from 5:00 to 8:00, but we noticed that even patrons who walked in at 8:00 or a little later were afforded the offer. Guess it depends how many crustaceans they have on hand…

After the previous night’s long wait at Brandl., we expected to see a crowd out the door at Ray’s (there’s really not an interior waiting area), but there were several open tables when we arrived and we were seated right away at an artistic, tile-covered 4-top, allowing for ample elbow room.

Ray’s is not pretentious or high-brow by any stretch, but rather, offers a low-key relaxed atmosphere with a sense of calm—at least on a Sunday night. Against one wall were beautifully crafted shelves and cupboards strung with mini-lights and displaying an eclectic array of artifacts. A local hangout, patrons exchanged pleasantries with the dressed-down, long-haired, affable manager.

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RaysMenu

Their menu has a variety of offerings ranging in price from $9 to $27. But we were there for the pound-and-a-quarter steamed lobster served with corn on the cob and a choice of baked potato, fries or mashed. Plus you can have either the soup of the day or a garden salad—all for only $23—what a steal! (Apparently you can get the lobster stuffed for a few extra bucks.)

While we did quickly skim the menu, we came with the mindset of ordering the lobster special, which is exactly what we did. My preference for the starter was the garden salad with house dressing, and I chose the baked potato as my side; while Russ opted for the Manhattan clam soup and french fries.

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IMG_6959I tasted Russ’ soup which was extremely flavorful!

With a leisurely pace between the starters and the entrees, I got to see all who entered with a street view of passersby, while Russ enjoyed viewing all diners toward the back and up on platforms. But when the meals were delivered, all of our attention concentrated on the main attraction.

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A plastic bib comes with all lobster orders, so Russ adjusts his before he digs in.

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Elegant in its simplicity, the plated lobster arrived clutching the cob of corn in its claws, complete with a container of clarified butter and lemon wedges; our potato sides came separately. Prior to the delivery, the waitress brought bibs, shell bowls and seafood cracker utensils which we promptly put into use.

That lobster meat was so moist and succulent, we were in heaven. The corn however, for this time of year especially, was not the best—although mine seemed to be better than the Mr’s. We took our sweet time enjoying every morsel. When we asked to have the shells packaged to go, the busboy wasn’t fazed in the least. Must be a common practice for folks to take them home and make seafood stock.

Properly satiated, we brought our bounty back to the B&B to refrigerate and strolled to the town’s namesake lake to sit for a spell and enjoy our last night in Spring Lake—at least until next summer…

Brandl. Period.

Night Two: Shorely Didn’t Expect the Long Wait. Period.

~One town north of Spring Lake is the lively town of Belmar. Located in Belmar Plaza off of Main Street in the former Bella Luna, Brandl. opened in 2002 and is aptly named for its personable owner and inventive chef, Chris Brandl. With a period at the end of the title, Chris explains “the period represents people who spell the name wrong, trying to add an additional vowel.”

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The restaurant dining room has evolved over the years to showcase works of supposed gallery-caliber art (although not necessarily in my opinion—seriously, look at that cow painting above). Their newest addition is the covered patio offering outdoor dining that can be enjoyed in Spring, Summer, and into Fall. As tempting as it was, battling the fifth heat wave of the summer season with temps in the high 90’s and feeling like 106 degrees, we opted to dine in once again.

Brandl is mostly a convivial crowd-pleaser of a restaurant, with know-your-neighbor tables. Leave your pretensions at the door.

According to some, Brandl. is not pompous or affected; it’s an ambitious restaurant that nonetheless remembers to have fun. Interior walls are painted a lively orange, humongous lights hang overhead, and some “interesting” art pieces all play to that fun factor. But with tin ceilings and very little to absorb sound, the noise level was almost painful at times, especially considering they were at capacity crowd with several large parties.

Arriving exactly at our 8:00 reservation time, we were told that there would be at least a 20 minute wait. Not pleased, we nonetheless decided to wait at the miniscule bar (it was too hot to sit outside) and enjoy our wine while waiting. Easier said than done.

Standing at the bar (stools were nowhere to be seen) we had direct vision into the busy kitchen. The manager, wait staff, and busboys were so busy scurrying in and out of the swinging door, that we couldn’t get anyone’s attention. I cringed every time I saw the potential for the workers to crash into each other as they flew through that door in opposite directions! Then of course, there was the fact that patrons and workers had to squeeze past us between the bar and table service… feeling gnarly, our patience was being tested.

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A stock photo obviously taken at Christmastime. The same manager is seen leaning on the bar, with the swinging doors into the kitchen to the left.

Finally after about 15 minutes I was able to flag down the sweat-soaked manager and he told me all wine glasses were in use and we’d have to wait until clean ones were available. (They are a BYO establishment but do carry a very limited selection of wine.) Another 5 minutes went by before we were handed hot glasses, and someone was able to uncork our bottle. Luckily it was only a few minutes more before we were seated in a back corner where the sound level was thankfully somewhat subdued.

Our first time here was about a half dozen years ago to celebrate my birthday and I clearly remember feasting on their infamous Lazy Lobster which is served out of the shell and poached in vanilla bean butter, served over asparagus risotto. Remembering how much I had enjoyed mine, Russ ordered it on our second visit to Brandl. and we both carry fond memories of the dish—plus the pace was a LOT less frenetic during those visits.

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Highlighted on the menu are their SOUS–VIDE entrees, which is a special French method of cooking. Meats are sealed in an airtight, temperature-controlled environment with delicious results supposedly yielding perfection with every bite. But we chose otherwise…

Our waitress Erin introduced herself and handed us menus all the while with a very pleasant smile and unruffled demeanor—a portrayal of calm in the center of a storm. Now able to relax, we took our time perusing the menu, weighing the pros and cons of salads versus appetizers versus tapas. The tapas won out!

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Russ started with the Crispy Oysters with sweet chili and tartar sauces; while I zeroed in on the Garlic Shrimp with three plump crustaceans, fresh snipped herbs, and a slice of crusty toast to mop up the fragrant sauce. Despite the earlier craziness, we were now in our happy place: good food, good wine, and away from the roar of the crowd—with any pretensions back at the door 😉

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I can’t remember the last time I had fresh fluke—it was probably down the shore a few decades ago! So when I saw Local Fluke Stuffed with Crabmeat on the menu, I knew I had to have it. It arrived with sautéed grape tomatoes, the most delicious pickled red onions, a squirt of fresh lemon, and topped with a sprinkle of chives. And the portion was huge, so I had leftovers to take with me.

Russ’s most-liked meal of our vacation was their Duck Breast Special—so much for the “Seafood Theme.” But we all know, duck is a fave of his. The entree arrived cooked to a perfect medium-rare, wonderfully seasoned, in a reduction sauce surrounded by gooseberries and topped with a sprig of rosemary. No leftovers for him!

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As a side dish we ordered their roasted mushrooms, which we both adore. But I was disappointed when the uneaten portion did not get added to my doggie bag 😦

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While they offer a handful of other desserts, they are known for their Brandl Signature Soufflés which have to be ordered 45 minutes ahead of time. You have two choices: DARK CHOCOLATE with Dark Chocolate Sauce, or WHITE CHOCOLATE with Raspberries and Raspberry White Chocolate Sauce. Too full to even think of more food, we ended our meal after the entrees.

So if you go, be prepared for a wait during weekend summer months—even if you have a reservation!

We Shore Ate Well!

With a trek to the Jersey Shore less than an hours drive from our house, we often book ourselves into a B&B for four or five days during the summer. This year, just as we were returning from our 12-day Michigan vacation the end of June, Russ was already scheming how to finagle a possible shore stay.

Concerned most reputable inns would be booked for the season, we lucked out to find one of our favorite places, The Ocean House, still had rooms available for a long weekend in mid-August. Located one short block in from the beach in Spring Lake—commonly called the “Irish Riviera” because of its large Irish-American population and where $1 million buys you a teardown—the area is a picturesque, friendly place with pristine beaches and a tranquil atmosphere that can calm the nerves of even the testiest of us. Time to unwind…

Here’s a sample of the Spring Lake “cottages”

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As you can probably see, it is not for those who want a Jersey Shore honky-tonk nightlife featuring a frenetic scene of arcades and loud overcrowded bars. Instead, imagine your day waking up to a wonderful breakfast prepared by the friendly inn staff, going for a leisurely (or fast) walk along the unobstructed boardwalk, lounging on the beach with a good book, and sipping wine on the veranda as the sun slowly sinks into the horizon and casts a magical glow in the night sky. Need I say more?

The two-mile stretch of expansive beach is always immaculate, making it a preferred destination for those who of us who want serenity without loud radios or tripping over stray beer cans and cigarette butts. The boardwalk, the longest noncommercial one in the state, is a favorite of joggers and leisurely strollers—bikes are no longer allowed except from 5-8:00 a.m.

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Even on the busiest summer weekends, there is room to spread out on the beach, although that may be because the cost of daily badges run $10 per, without an option to buy a weekly pass. Although, as part of our B&B package, we could purchase a beach badge for only $10 each to cover the entire stay—saving us a chunk of change to put toward dinner!

What about lunch? Food and drink are not allowed on the beach during the summer months—maybe that’s why it’s always impeccable? Many beachgoers will bring their coolers and lunches, place them along the boardwalk and return there to eat or drink. Or you can purchase any number of burgers, sandwiches, salads and fries at the concession stand and enjoy eating them under either of two semi-covered pavilions while gazing out at the ocean.

So let’s talk dinner. We booked reservations for our three nights a week in advance at some of the area’s finest. And being at the shore, I pretty much knew I’d be making seafood a priority—and not just in “I see food and I eat it.”

Night One: A Shore Bet at The Black Trumpet

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Black Trumpet, the in-house restaurant of the Grand Victorian garnered a #1 food ranking in the Jersey Shore Zagat Guide. This renovated Victorian home, built in 1883 is close enough to the Atlantic to hear the rolling surf and inhale the salty air. It offers contemporary American cuisine with an emphasis on seafood harvested from neighboring seaside locales.

In making the reservation, we had requested to dine al fresco on their lovely wrap-around porch where the only thing blocking a panoramic view of the ocean are a few scrub pines on the dunes. Plus they have live music, BUT, it was so friggin’ hot and humid that we asked for an inside table, luckily they had one available.

Unbeknownst to us, the restaurant now has a liquor license and they charge a $25 cork fee if you bring your own! Needless to say, we opted to choose from the wine menu…

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A special appetizer of the night featured a signature crab cake, and two large grilled shrimp accompanied by a mound of delicately sautéed mushrooms and microgreens—a tempting starter that we decided to split. It arrived artfully plated with the seafood bathing in three colorful sauces, in harmonious tones of amber and green. A good beginning indeed (except for the BYO misstep.)

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A closer look at the jewel-toned couscous.

Keeping with the seafood theme, I chose the Pan-Seared New Jersey Dry Scallops; four ginormous, delicately cooked and seasoned mollusks surrounding a bed of ruby-toned red beet couscous and topped with wilted arugula. The buttery-soft, succulent scallops were lightly tinged with a slight crisp and melted in my mouth. While I was unable to finish the mound of couscous, the portions were otherwise perfect without ending up with leftovers.

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Russ’s entree was the Trio of Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes in a red pepper remoulade with tender crisp green beans and Yukon gold mashed potatoes. Mostly made up of jumbo lump crab meat with very little filler, Russ thoroughly enjoyed his cakes, rating them an 8 out of 10. And although the mashed potatoes were good, he didn’t finish them nor did he think they made a very good side choice for a hot summer’s night.

A few years ago we were fortunate to dine on their wonderful porch, so if you get the chance and the weather is cooperative, ask to be seated outside where you can enjoy the melodic crash of the ocean waves. If you are not a seafood connoisseur, they also offer entrees that include chicken, steak, pork and pasta selections, so don’t hesitate to make a res if you’re visiting the “Irish Riviera.”

Bored of Ordinary Kebabs? These Will Have You Singing a New Tune!

If you’re into Indian food, you will definitely have to try the Indian-Spiced Chicken, Eggplant, and Tomato Skewers. Here chicken, eggplant, tomatoes, and red onion all get marinated in the same richly spiced coconut milk, then divided onto skewers by ingredient to ensure each is grilled to the optimal doneness—no overcooking the chicken because you’re waiting for the onions to cook. In fact, we apply this principle often when grilling kebabs.

As suggested by another reviewer (but not noted in the directions), I simmered the marinade components in a pot for about 10 minutes to soften the ginger and garlic. Once cooled, I tossed in the cubed (and I use that term loosely) chicken and marinated overnight. About 2 hours before we planned to cook, I put the eggplant chunks and cherry tomatoes in the remaining marinade. While the grill is heating up, thread the ingredients onto 12 to 15 metal or (water-soaked) bamboo skewers.

To accompany the skewers, Russ found this brown rice curry from Cooks Illustrated that paired perfectly. We decided to omit the peas, but that’s your call. Anywho, you can start singing that new tune now…

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Ingredients

  • 4 garlic cloves, finely grated
  • 1 (3″) piece ginger, finely grated
  • 1 (14-ounce) can coconut milk
  • 3 teaspoons finely grated lime zest
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
  • 2 tablespoons tomato paste
  • 3 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground turmeric
  • 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 2 pounds boneless skinless chicken thighs, trimmed, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 medium eggplant, cut into 1 1/2″ cubes
  • 1 small red onion, cut into 2″ pieces
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes
  • Canola or vegetable oil (for grill)
  • Naan or flatbread, cilantro, lime wedges, and plain yogurt (for serving)

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I whisked the garlic, ginger, coconut milk, lime zest and juice, tomato paste, salt, turmeric, cayenne, and cardamom in a pot and simmered over the stove for about 12 minutes.

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Once cooled, I measured the sauce, which equaled 2 cups, and poured half of it over the chicken chunks.

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The chicken with sauce will marinate overnight in the frig.

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After marinating the veggies for two hours, I threaded each type on its own set of skewers; followed by the chicken on another set of skewers.

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Start grilling the onion and eggplant skewers first for 15 minutes, followed by the chicken for 10, and the tomato by 5 minutes.

Directions

  1. Whisk garlic, ginger, coconut milk, lime zest and juice, tomato paste, salt, turmeric, cayenne, and cardamom in a large bowl. Transfer half of marinade to another large bowl. Add chicken to 1 bowl of marinade; toss to coat. Add eggplant, onion, and tomatoes to the other bowl; toss to coat. Cover and chill at least 1 hour.
  2. Thread each ingredient onto its own set of skewers: divide chicken among 6 skewers, tomatoes among 4, eggplant among 3, and onion on 1.
  3. Prepare a grill or grill pan for high heat; generously oil grates. Grill skewers, turning often, until well charred and cooked through, about 5 minutes for tomatoes, 10 minutes for chicken, and 15 minutes for eggplant and onion.
  4. Just before serving, toast naan on grill until warmed through, about 2 minutes. Top grilled chicken and vegetables with cilantro and serve with naan, lime wedges, and yogurt alongside.

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We plated all of the vegetable skewers onto one platter topped with chopped cilantro.

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The grilled chicken was strewn on another platter, also sprinkled with cilantro.

Do Ahead: Ingredients can be marinated 1 day ahead; cover and chill. Skewers can be assembled 1 day ahead; cover and chill.

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All of the ingredients made for a beautiful medley on the dinner plate.

By Anna Stockwell of Epicurious.com

Side Dish: Curried Brown Rice with Tomatoes and Peas

Ingredients

  • tablespoons unsalted butter
  • small onion, chopped medium (about ⅔ cup)
  • 1 ½ teaspoons curry powder
  • tablespoon minced fresh ginger
  • medium clove garlic, minced or pressed through garlic press
  • table salt
  • can diced tomatoes (14 ½ ounces), drained
  • 2 ⅓ cups low-sodium vegetable broth
  • 1 ½ cups long-grain brown rice or medium-grain brown rice, or short-grain brown rice
  • ½ cups frozen peas, defrosted (optional)
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For the rice side, cook the chopped onion for a few minutes until translucent.
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Next add the diced tomatoes for a couple of minutes, set aside.
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After cooking in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours, the rice will look like this before you stir it.
Directions
  1. Heat butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium-high heat until foaming; add onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until translucent, about 3 minutes. Add curry powder, ginger, garlic, and 1/4 teaspoon salt; cook until fragrant, about 1 minute.
  2. Add tomatoes and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes; set skillet aside.
  3. Adjust oven rack to middle position; heat oven to 375 degrees. Spread rice in 8-inch-square glass baking dish.
  4. Bring vegetable broth to boil, covered, in medium saucepan over high heat; once boiling, immediately stir in 1/8 teaspoon salt and pour broth over rice.
  5. Stir tomato mixture into rice and spread/rice tomato mixture in even layer. Cover baking dish tightly with doubled layer foil. Bake rice 1 hour and 10 minutes until tender.
  6. Remove baking dish from oven, uncover, and stir in peas. Cover dish with clean kitchen towel; let rice stand 5 minutes. Uncover and let rice stand 5 minutes longer; serve immediately.

Put a Little Spice in Your Life

Reality Check: It’s still grilling weather and you’re still short on time when it comes to making weeknight dinner—or frankly my dear Watson, you just don’t feel like expending the energy. So try this Grilled Pork Tenderloin with Spicy Pepper Relish recipe, it fills the bill in a very tasty, and healthy way!

Joining us for supper was daughter Julia who was in town for a few days while she finalized her belongings in the Philadelphia area. We had a lot of catching up to do since we last saw her during the surprise visit at Christmas.

We all agreed, the spice on the tenderloin was amazing, and the pepper relish was the star of the show. It’s easiest to buy the five-spice powder already made, but if you’re so inclined, I listed the ingredients below, which will be stronger than the store bought, so use caution when measuring.

One switcharoo that I made was incorporating Chili Bean Sauce ❤ instead of Chile Garlic Sauce, which has a more sour taste. I swore we had an open jar lurking in the frig somewhere, but for the life of me couldn’t find it. Noting we only needed one teaspoon, and that the condiments are similar, it wasn’t going to be a noticeable difference.

You can round out this quick sweet-and-spicy pork dinner with white rice. Even easier, I had some of that tasty Couscous with Cilantro, Corn and Melted Scallions leftover from the seared tuna meal, which Julia and I split; while Russ finished the curried rice leftovers. Paired with a simple salad, dinner was a breeze, and a mighty delicious one at that!

If you’re so inclined: Full bodied Zinfandel red wines are bold and fruity, allowing them to work well with this recipe.

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All of the ingredients are measured, prepped and ready to go.

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I find it’s easiest to mash garlic to a paste with some kosher salt and a mortar and pestle.

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After oiling with EVOO, sprinkle the five-spice powder mix evenly all over the tenderloins.

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Quarter a couple of sweet bell peppers, brush with oil and sprinkle with salt and pepper.

Ingredients

  • 1 Tbs. five-spice powder
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Olive oil, for brushing
  • 2 12- to 16-oz. pork tenderloins
  • 2 red, yellow, or orange bell peppers (or a mix), quartered lengthwise, stemmed, and seeded
  • 2 Tbs. plain rice vinegar
  • 1 tsp. chili garlic sauce
  • 1 tsp. packed dark brown sugar
  • 1 small clove garlic, mashed to a paste (not minced)
  • 2 medium scallions, thinly sliced

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The grilled peppers are cooling slightly before being sliced for the relish.

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Once combined, the pepper relish was so good, I could eat it by itself!

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After the tenderloins rest for 5 minutes, slice them down at a diagonal—and save those succulent juices to pour on the meat.

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Directions

  1. Prepare a medium-high (425°F to 450°F) gas or charcoal grill fire.
  2. In a small bowl, combine the five-spice powder, 2 tsp. salt, and 1 tsp. pepper. Lightly brush the tenderloins with oil, then sprinkle with the spice mixture. Brush the pepper quarters with oil and season with salt and pepper.
  3. Grill the tenderloins, turning a quarter turn every 3 to 4 minutes, until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part registers 140°F to 145°F, 15 to 18 minutes.
  4. Meanwhile, grill the peppers skin-side down until grill marks form on one side, about 5 minutes. Flip the peppers and continue to grill until crisp-tender, about 2 minutes more.
  5. Let the tenderloins rest for 5 minutes. Thinly slice the pepper quarters.
  6. In a medium bowl, combine the rice vinegar, chili garlic sauce, brown sugar, and garlic. Stir in the peppers and scallions.
  7. Cut the pork crosswise on a diagonal into 1/2-inch-thick slices and serve with the relish.

Adapted from Judith Fertig of Fine Cooking

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Five-Spice Powder Recipe

  • 1 tablespoon Sichuan peppercorns
  • 6 star anise
  • 1 ½ teaspoons whole cloves
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 2 tablespoons fennel seeds

Put all ingredients in a spice or coffee grinder and grind to a fine powder. Store in a tightly covered opaque container for up to several months.

Sehr Gutes Essen

Since 1734, the Newportville Inn has been a Bucks County hub for beer and authentic German food. It is situated in a former grist-mill along the Neshaminy Creek on Lower Road in its namesake town of Newportville, PA. Voted the best German restaurant in the county for three years in a row, it is locally known as the “American tavern with a German accent” and features 18 beers on tap.

Having survived many changes since its inception, the building resembles part roadhouse, part Swiss chalet with its shuttered windows and hillside setting. A winding paved path leads down to the inn, where you enter first a long hallway that serves as a waiting area when needed, complete with benches and a popcorn machine; and then their bar – a throw back in time with brass railings and dark wood.

A quick passing rain storm blew through the area shortly before we arrived which sent al fresco diners scurrying to find shelter inside. But the storm also blew out much of the oppressive humidity that blanketed the area all day. This was a plus for us along with dining buddies Barb and Brad, for we were all too happy to sit on the now deserted brick patio. The hostess asked which of the many tables we preferred and had the staff wipe everything down for us. Perfekt!

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The patio was nearly deserted due to an earlier shower. As we waited for our tables to be wiped down, we noticed one young couple sitting on the knee-wall, but they vacated the premises shortly thereafter.

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Barb and I wondered what was taking our men so long to follow us outside, and then they appeared each with a small tray of the aforementioned popcorn.

Instead of the usual bread basket, they served a bowl of pretzel bits with a side of their famous homemade stone ground mustard. It was so good, the bus boy brought around another batch when he saw we made quick work of the first round. The only negative to slightly dampen our outdoor enthusiasm was the occasional drop of leftover rain falling from the vine on the overhead trellis.

What’s to eat? If you are a meat lover, their menu lists every type of braten and wurst there is: knockwurst, bockwurst, bratwurst and sauerbraten, to name a few. There is always a “schnitzel of the day” and entrees that feature all the classic accompaniments to German sausage, including German spaetzle, sauerkraut, braised red cabbage, and potato pancakes.

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To be perfectly honest as far as ethnic food goes, German fare is not my first preference; nor is beer my beverage of choice. Not that I despise either mind you—but for those of us who are otherwise inclined, they offer alternatives including a veggie burger for vegetarians, and wines and mixed drinks.

Speaking of libations, when Jimmy our waiter inquired about our drink choices, I asked what types of red wine were available by the glass. His list started with Pinot Grigio, White Zinfandel, Merlot… causing our eyebrows to rise in unison. Clearly not the sharpest tool in the shed when it comes to knowing his wines, he at least was knowledgeable about the beer selection.

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The yummy Sauerkraut Bite appetizer.

Wanting to try something different in the appetizer arena, Russ talked me into sharing the Sauerkraut Bites—homemade sauerkraut and corned beef, breaded and deep-fried to perfection and served with a side of Opa’s mustard sauce. Not a usual consumer of deep-fried food, I have to admit, they were really good!

Brad and I both broke from tradition and ordered non-German entrees, much to Barb’s chagrin. Oh well, she and Russ did the authentic thing and went with real German food. Russ chose the Kassler Rippchen with smoked and pan-fried center cut pork chops, served with German potato salad and sauerkraut. There wasn’t a speck of pork left on his plate!

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Russ’s entree, Kassler Rippchen, featured two large smoked pork chops (one already mostly consumed!)

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An interesting array of sausages adorned Barb’s small plate order.

Barb opted for a “Small Plate” offering of Mixed Wurst Sampler that showcased a sampling of sliced weiss, knock and bratwurst accompanied by sautéed onions and apples and served with a side of potato pancakes. The offering allows one to try numerous sausages with out being overwhelmed.

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Lynn’s crab cake, even though fried, was filled with lots of lump crab and little else.

I liked the idea of a Small Plate because I usually end up taking half of my entree home anyway. Luckily the crab cake entree, which I was contemplating, also came as a Small Plate option, so I got the Single Crab Cake Platter with one homemade crab cake fried golden and served with fries and coleslaw. Alas, I still had some leftovers, but it made for a good little snack the next day.

Brad is our burger man, and he didn’t disappoint when he ordered their Alpine Burger which was topped with Swiss cheese and sautéed mushrooms surrounded with a pickle and hand-cut fries served with curry ketchup—a condiment he really enjoyed.

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The Alpine Burger was Brad’s dinner selection.

Dessert must be listed on a separate menu, because it wasn’t on the main one. All too full, none of us were interested anyway. But for those of you with a sweet tooth, I understand the German chocolate cake and the hot apple strudel are both winners and are made on the premises. Just sayin’…

Auf Wiedersehen

Lightning-Fast, and Oh So Tasty

Pressed for time yet still want a nutritious, tasty meal? Here’s your answer: Pan-Seared Tuna Steaks with Warm Tomato, Basil, and Olive Salad. Searing tuna steaks is lightning-fast; they cook to medium-rare in less than five minutes, and the accompanying zesty tomato-olive salad takes only a few minutes more. Viola! Dinner Done.

Couscous, our side dish, has never tasted so good. This hybrid recipe of couscous incorporates scallions and fresh corn, which I threw in because I had one ear leftover from a previous meal and wanted to use it up. No need to precook either. Just cut the kernels off of a fresh cob if necessary because the kernels will tenderize during the cooking process.

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Ingredients

  • 4 5-oz. boneless, skinless tuna steaks
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 2 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 medium shallot, finely chopped
  • 2 cups mixed yellow and red grape or cherry tomatoes, halved
  • 1/3 cup sliced pitted green olives, such as picholine or Cerignola
  • 2 Tbs. finely chopped fresh basil
  • 1/2 Tbs. fresh lemon juice

Directions

  1. Season the tuna with 1 tsp. salt and 1/4  tsp. pepper. Heat the oil in a 12-inch skillet over medium-high heat. Arrange the tuna in the skillet in a single layer and cook, turning once, until done to your liking (3 to 4 minutes for medium rare). Transfer the tuna to a large plate.
  2. Reduce the heat to medium and add the shallot to the skillet. Cook, stirring, until golden-brown, about 1 minute. Add the tomatoes, olives, basil, 1/2 tsp. salt, and a few grinds of pepper; cook until warmed through and the tomatoes are just softened, about 2 minutes more. Remove the skillet from the heat and gently stir in the lemon juice.
  3. Transfer the tuna to plates, top with the tomato salad, and serve.

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These two large tuna steaks were cooked perfectly at two minutes per side over a hot burner.

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After removing the fish, you may need to add some more olive oil to sauté the shallots.

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After the shallots are tender, toss in the grape tomatoes, olives and basil.

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Spoon the warm tomato salad directly over the platter of tuna steaks.

By Liz Pearson

Side Dish:
Couscous with Cilantro, Corn and Melted Scallions

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Ingredients

  • 4 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 1 bunch scallions (whites and 2 inches of greens), minced (about 1/2 cup)
  • 1/3 cup finely chopped fresh cilantro
  • 10-oz. (1-1/2 cups, or 1 box) couscous
  • 3 cups homemade or low-salt canned chicken broth
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • Kernels from one ear of fresh corn
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon or lime

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Directions

  1. Melt the butter in a medium saucepan over low heat, add the scallions and corn kernels, and cook, covered, until tender, about 8 minutes.
  2. Add the cilantro, couscous, broth, 1/2 tsp. salt, and pepper to taste.
  3. Stir, bring to a boil over high heat, cover, and remove from the heat. Set aside for 5 minutes.
  4. Fluff the couscous with a fork. Taste for salt, add a large grinding of pepper, and season with some of the lemon or lime juice.
  5. Top with some leftover scallion greens.

Green with Envy

As soon as I saw Green Beans and Olives in BHG, I knew I had to make it. On top of being easy, it requires minimum cooking — a real plus in the summer time — and is served at room temperature making it a star contender to bring to a picnic or BBQ.

Green on green on green—builds up to a surprising taste combination. This original recipe serves about 8-10, so I cut it in half which was more than plenty for the both of us, plus leftovers.

Don’t toss the celery leaves — scatter them on top before serving for extra flavor!

Ingredients:

  • 1 lb. fresh thin green beans, trimmed (if long, cut in half)
  • 2 tsp. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/2 cup pimiento-stuffed olives
  • 1/3 cup sliced celery
  • 1/4 cup thinly sliced shallots
  • 11/2 tsp. finely shredded lemon peel
  • 2 Tbsp. lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp. extra-virgin olive oil

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Directions:

  1. In a large skillet combine beans, 1/3 cup water, the 2 tsp. olive oil, and a pinch of salt. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat to medium. Cook covered for 5 minutes or until tender (I should have cooked mine a few minutes more because the beans were not necessarily thin).
  2. Drain, transfer beans to a large bowl and cool completely.
  3. Add olives, celery, shallots, and lemon peel; toss to coat.
  4. Drizzle with lemon juice and the 2 Tbsp. olive oil. Season to taste with salt an pepper.

Make Ahead:
Assemble salad without mixing. Cover; refrigerate up to 24 hours. Toss with olive oil and lemon juice before serving.

Better Homes and Gardens

Weekend BBQ. Make it Happen.

Psyched! Yes, we were pumped when we came across this fun recipe from Cooks Illustrated. While impressive looking, Gas-Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak, is not a time-intensive endeavor, especially the grilling aspect. One look at the number of steps and you may disagree, but trust me, it’s not a big deal. Exude some charm and persuade someone to assist you, it’ll be easier when you tie the rolled meat. Oh, and after tying, cut off the extra string so the pesky things don’t cause a fire.

It’s almost impossible to find a 2 1/2 pound flank steak. Ours was just over 1 1/2 pounds and it made 9 pinwheels, plenty for 4 people. If you plan on serving to a larger crowd—which next time we do—just purchase two steaks of near equal size.

To get the filling to stay put in the stuffed flank steak, butterfly the meat, split it horizontally and open it like a book. Once stuffed and rolled, the meat holds up well on the grill when you use both skewers and twine to secure the layers. When you are done with the prep work, they resemble large meat lollipops!

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Freezing the steak for 30 minutes helped make the butterflying easier. Make sure to have both wooden skewers and twine for this recipe. Depending on the steak’s size, you may have between 8 and 12 pinwheels of stuffed meat at the end of step 2.

Don’t be surprised if some of the wooden skewers catch fire while grilling, ours did and we had soaked them all day! Just blow out the flames as needed.

A pictorial of preparing the meat roll:

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Freeze the meat for 30 minutes before you try to slice into it.

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Butterfly without cutting completely through the other edge.

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Pound flank steak into an even thickness and a rough rectangle.

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Spread herb mixture evenly over surface of steak. 

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Lay prosciutto evenly over steak, leaving 2-inch border along top edge. 

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Cover prosciutto with even layer of cheese, leaving 2-inch border along top edge.

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Starting from bottom edge and rolling away from you, roll beef into tight log and place on cutting board seam-side down.

Gas-Grilled Stuffed Flank Steak

  • Servings: 4
  • Difficulty: moderate
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Ingredients

  • medium garlic cloves, minced or pressed through garlic press (about 2 teaspoons)
  • small shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
  • tablespoons fresh parsley leaves, finely minced
  • teaspoon sage leaves, finely minced
  • tablespoons olive oil, plus extra for oiling grate
  • flank steak (2- to 2 ½-pounds)
  • ounces thinly sliced prosciutto
  • ounces thinly sliced provolone
  • 8 – 12 skewers soaked in water for 30 minutes
  • Kosher salt and ground black pepper

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Starting ½ inch from end of rolled steak, evenly space 8 to twelve 14-inch pieces of butcher’s twine at 1-inch intervals underneath steak, tying middle string first. Cut off any additional string above the knot to prevent flare-ups.

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Skewer beef directly through outermost flap of steak near seam through each piece of string (almost impossible), allowing skewer to extend ½ inch on opposite side.

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Using chef’s knife, slice roll between pieces of twine into 1-inch-thick pinwheels.

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Once sliced down, sprinkle the pinwheels with salt and pepper.

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Notice the small extra pieces of meat thrown in with the pinwheels? After we rolled the log, we had to trim the rough edges and Russ didn’t want to toss them away, so he tossed them on the grill instead… a mini appetizer!

Directions

  1. Combine garlic, shallot, parsley, sage, and olive oil in small bowl. Butterfly and pound flank steak into rough rectangle.
  2. With steak positioned so that grain runs parallel to edge of counter and opened side faces up, spread herb mixture evenly over surface of steak. Lay prosciutto evenly over steak, leaving 2-inch border along top edge. Cover prosciutto with even layer of cheese, leaving 2-inch border along top edge.
  3. Starting from bottom edge and rolling away from you, roll beef into tight log and place on cutting board seam-side down.
  4. Starting ½ inch from end of rolled steak, evenly space 8 to twelve 14-inch pieces of butcher’s twine at 1-inch intervals underneath steak. Tie middle string first; then working from outermost strings toward center, tightly tie roll and turn tied steak 90 degrees so seam is facing you.
  5. Skewer beef directly through outermost flap of steak near seam through each piece of string, allowing skewer to extend ½ inch on opposite side. Using chef’s knife, slice roll between pieces of twine into 1-inch-thick pinwheels. Season pinwheels lightly with kosher salt and black pepper.
  6. Turn all burners to high and heat with lid down until very hot, about 15 minutes. Scrape grate clean with grill brush. Dip wad of paper towels in oil; holding wad with tongs, wipe cooking grate. Leave primary burner on high and turn off other burner(s).
  7. Grill pinwheels directly over hot side of grill until well browned, 3 to 6 minutes. Using tongs, flip pinwheels; grill until second side is well browned, 3 to 5 minutes longer.
  8. Transfer pinwheels to cooler side of grill, cover, and continue to cook until center of pinwheels registers 125 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 1 to 4 minutes (slightly thinner pinwheels may not need time on cooler side of grill).
  9. Transfer pinwheels to large plate, tent loosely with foil, and let rest 5 minutes. Remove and discard skewers and twine and serve immediately.
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Served with fresh corn on the cob and caprese salad, yum! 

 

Summer Salad Finale

Last of this three-part series— 
Finally to use up the leftover salmon from the cedar-planked dinner on Sunday, we made this Salmon Niçoise Salad with Kalamata Vinaigrette. This delicious riff on a Niçoise salad—minus the hard-cooked eggs and with salmon instead of tuna—comes together in about 30 minutes when you have leftover Cedar-Planked Salmon (blog posted July 27).

I ran out of red onion the night before, and being too lazy to run to the supermarket for one onion, I sautéed two large shallots instead—a serendipitous swap out. Additionally, we had one ear of corn leftover and half an orange sweet bell pepper, so they both got chopped up and thrown in.

In the end, I STILL had leftovers, resulting in a ready-made lunch to tote to work the next day…

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Ingredients

For the vinaigrette
  • 6 Tbs. extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1/3  cup Kalamata olives, pitted and minced (about 1/4 cup)
  • 3 Tbs. white balsamic vinegar
  • 1 medium clove garlic, finely grated
  • 1/2  tsp. finely grated lemon zest
  • 1/2 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (optional)
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
For the salad
  • 3/4 lb. baby red potatoes (each about 1-1/2 inches in diameter), cut into quarters
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
  • 1/2 lb. green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-1/2-inch lengths
  • 1/2 lb. cherry or grape tomatoes (preferably mixed colors), halved
  • 1/2 small red onion, thinly sliced
  • 1/2  medium fennel bulb, cored and thinly sliced
  • 2 cups baby arugula
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 3/4 lb. Cedar-Planked Salmon (or other cooked salmon fillets), skin removed, cut into 4 pieces, at room temperature

Directions

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The black olive vinaigrette is prepared and ready to dress the ingredients.

Make the vinaigrette

In a small bowl, combine the oil, olives, vinegar, garlic, lemon zest, and red pepper flakes (if using). Whisk to combine and season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

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These baby red potatoes were more like fingerlings, so instead of quartering them, I made 3/4″ slices.

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All but the arugula, which gets tossed at the end, is mixed with the vinaigrette.

Make the salad
  1. Put the potatoes in a 4-quart saucepan, cover with 2 quarts water, add 1 Tbs. salt, and bring to a boil over high heat. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer gently until the potatoes are just tender when poked with a skewer, about 5 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the potatoes to a large bowl (save the cooking liquid).
  2. Whisk the vinaigrette to recombine, drizzle 2 Tbs. of it over the potatoes, sprinkle with salt and pepper, and toss well. Set aside and let cool to room temperature.
  3. Bring the water in the saucepan back to a boil over high heat. Meanwhile, fill a large bowl with ice water. Drop the green beans into the boiling water and cook until bright green and no longer raw but still very crisp, 1 to 2 minutes. Drain the beans in a colander and plunge them into the ice water to stop the cooking. Drain again and spread the beans on a clean dishtowel to dry.
  4. When the potatoes have cooled, add the green beans, tomatoes, onion, fennel, and all but 3 Tbs. of the vinaigrette and toss well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the arugula and toss gently. Transfer to a platter and top with the salmon. Drizzle with the remaining vinaigrette and serve.

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After the salad is plated, the salmon tops the mound with a drizzle of the remaining vinaigrette.

Adapted from Dawn Yanagihara-Mitchell from Fine Cooking