Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Beef Tenderloin with Rhubarb and Red Wine

Last year I purchased two large rhubarb roots to plant in my back yard. The rhubarb did produce a few stalks, but the directions said DO NOT PICK during the first year of growth, so I obeyed. Unfortunately only one of the rhubarbs made it through our Indiana winter, but the one I do have is producing like crazy!

My husband Mike, and his father Bert both adore a rhubarb pie.  I prefer a rhubarb crumble with lots of vanilla ice cream and did a posting on that very thing in May of 2010. With so much of the vegetable coming in I had to come up with other ways of preparing it and the April 2011 issue of Bonappetit did not let me down. The sugared tart rhubarb paired perfectly with the savory tenderloin.

Prep: 1 hour     Total Time: 1 hour

3 tablespoons whole grain Dijon mustard
2 tablespoons prepared cream-style white horseradish
1-3/4 pounds slender fresh rhubarb stalks, trimmed, cut crosswise into  3" long pieces, pieces halved lengthwise if thicker than 3/4 inch.
1/2 cup red wine (such as Pinot Noir)
1/2 cup sugar
1 21/4-to 21/3- pound beef tenderloin roast
Olive oil
Fresh Italian parsley sprigs (for garnish)

Mix mustard and horseradish in small bowl for sauce.

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F. Arrange rhubarb pieces in single layer in 13x9x2-inch metal baking pan. Pour wine over rhubarb, then sprinkle with sugar; set aside.

Place roast on small rimmed baking sheet. Rub roast all over with oil; sprinkle generously with salt and freshly ground black pepper.

Roast beef 20 minutes. Reduce oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Place rhubarb in oven alongside beef. Roast until rhubarb is tender but still intact and instant-read thermometer inserted into thickest part of beef register 125 degrees F for medium-rare, 12 to 15 minutes for rhubarb and 15 to 20 minutes for beef.

Remove rhubarb and beef from oven. Using a slotted spoon, carefully transfer rhubarb to plates, dividing equally. Pour juices from rhubarb baking pan into small saucepan and boil until slightly thickened, about 3 minutes; pour syrup over rhubarb on each plate. Transfer beef to cutting board; cut crosswise into 3/4-inch-thick slices and arrange beef slices atop rhubarb on each plate. Spoon mustard sauce over beef. Garnish with parsley sprigs.

My Thoughts:

The timing on this was a little off for me - for some reason it took me about an hour and a half. I cooked a couple of sides, egg noodles and green beans, and that may have thrown the timing off a bit. When I asked the butcher if he had a beef tenderloin roast his eyes got really big and he asked me if I realized how expensive it was. I guess that will teach me to go to the market looking like I can't afford something from The Dollar Store. I paid the $12.00 per pound and found that it was worth every cent.

I paired the meal with a bottle of Fortis Pinot Noir and my birthday flowers. It is also the wine that I used in the recipe.

Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Ice Cream Crunch Cake

In the May 2011 issue of The FoodNetwork Magazine there are recipes for foods that were featured on various sitcoms. The Ice Cream Crunch Cake was created because of an episode on 30 Rock. Here is the setup. Carvel, a company specializing in cakes, novelties and fountain ice cream products, sends Jenna Maroney a "Free Ice Cream for Life" card. With the help of underling Kenneth and guest star Kelsey Grammer they con the company by intentionally ordering misspelled cakes and returning them and demanding cash.

Yesterday my 5 year old friend Emerson and I had our birthdays.  We decided to celebrate them together, and I offered to make the cake. Neither one of us cares for icing, so this cake suited us both.

Active Time: 1 hour / Total Time: 5 hr 50 minutes / Serves 10 to 12

2 1-1/2 quart containers vanilla ice cream
1 9-oz package chocolate wafers (such as Nabisco Famous)
1 7-to-8 ounce bottle chocolate shell ice cream topping
1 1-1/2 quart container chocolate ice cream
5 cups whipped cream
Rainbow sprinkles, for decorating (optional)

1. Put a 9-inch springform pan in the freezer for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, let 1 container vanilla ice cream soften at room temperature.
2. Remove the pan from the freezer. Spread 1 1/2-inch-thick layer of softened vanilla ice cream on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. (If the ice cream gets too soft, return it to the freezer.) Freeze until firm, about 45 minutes.
3. Meanwhile, pulse the chocolate wafers in a food processor to break into large crumbs. Add the chocolate shell topping and pulse until the crumbs are moist, about 5 pulses; set aside.
Couldn't find the wafer cookies. There worked just fine!

4. Let the chocolate ice cream soften at room temperature, about 15 minutes. Spread overt the vanilla layer firmly packing the ice cream into the pan. 

Spread the chocolate crumb mixture over the chocolate ice cream. Freeze until set, about 1 hour.

Whoops got Strawberry!

5. Remove the remaining container vanilla ice cream from the freezer 15 minutes before assembling the final layer. Spread the ice cream over the crumb layer, packing it tightly, then smooth the top with an offset spatula. Freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

6. To unmold, wipe the outside of the pan with a hot cloth, then run a hot knife around the inside; unlatch and remove the side. If the ice cream cake is too soft, refreeze 20 minutes.
7. Spread 3 cups whipped cream over the top and sides of the cake. Freeze until set, about 20 minutes. Put the remaining 2 cups whipped cream in a pastry bag fitted with a star tip; pipe along the top and bottom edges of the cake and decorate with sprinkles. Return to the freezer; remove 15 minutes before serving an slice with a hot knife.

Ta-Da! Happy Birfday Emerson

Although a bit time consuming this cake was surprisingly easy to construct. Have a friend help you in and out of the freezer since the cake is really heavy. I only used 3 cups of the whipped cream. Many thanks to Mike for writing the birthday message.

Life is good - enjoy!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Wine Tasting at McCormick & Schmick's

My husband and I love McCormick & Schmick's Seafood Restaurant.  This is a chain restaurant but you would never know it by its wonderful service, fantastic fresh food and lovely ambience. You can book your reservation through Open Table. This reservation system allows you to make special requests directly to the maitre d'. McCormick & Schmick's tries to honor these requests if possible. We have a special booth that we like to sit in, so I will request it and almost always get it. Once it was our wedding anniversary and they printed out a special menu congratulating us on our special day. I also asked to be put on their email list to find out about special events. One day in early March I got notice that they were having a cocktail dinner featuring a four course meal plus appetizers and deserts and wine parings for $60.00 per person including tax and gratuity!!! We usually pay at least that much for a bottle of wine, so we knew this was something we would not miss.

On April 8, 2011 we arrived for our 6:30 reservation. We were seated in a private dining area with about 30 other patrons. The winery hosting the event was Murphy-Goode a winery located in the Alexander Valley in Sonoma County.  The winery was founded in 1985 by three good friends and later sold to neighbor Jess Jackson in 2006. Although they have changed owners, according to their website "...the [original] tradition continues: friendship, hard work, a wicked sense of humor and, of course, a good bottle of wine."

We were quickly introduced to the wine representative, my apologies for not remembering her name, and McCormick's & Schmick's young sous chef Mr. Avery Blair. This was his first night to have total control of planning and supervising an entire menu and also talking before his patrons. By evenings end he seemed at ease and throughly delighted the dinners with his charming personality and good food.


Welcome Canapes
Lobster Mouse
Stuffed  Pea Pods
Mini Sushi Bites
Assorted Cheese and Crackers

This was paired with Murphy-Goode Gaga Blanc a blend of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Viognier with aromas of apricot and vanilla with flavors of crisp pear.

First Course
Ahi "Proscuitto" Wrapped Sea Scallop with Gorgonzola Grits
and Chardonnay Butter

This was paired with Murphy-Goode Chardonnay with aromas and flavors of red apple, pear and tropical fruits with streaks of lemon creme and hints of vanilla.

Second Course
Wild Boar Ravioli with Herbal Tonic, Field Mushroom Cake and Pinot Noir Syrup

This was paired with Murphy Good Pinot Noir with aromas and flavors of black cherry, dried sage and sweet vanilla.

Parsley-Lemon Granita

Fourth Course
Pan Roasted Airline Chicken Breast Stuffed with a Zinfandel Jardanier and Lacquered with Orange and Zinfandel, Paired with a Timbale of Herb Potatoes

This was paired with Murphy-Goode Liar's Dice Zinfandel which had tastes of the rich fruit flavors of black cherry and blackberry jam with soft tannins that perfectly balance the sweetness of the fruit.

Chocolate-Hazelnut Torte 
Nocello Au Lait-Hazelnut Brittle

This was paired with Murphy-Goode Cabernet Sauvignon that has bright flavors of black berries and cherries.

What fun we had. If you ever have the opportunity to go to one of these events you should. We were not familiar with the Murphy-Goode brand, but it will now be one we will keep an eye out for. All the wines we tasted that night were in the $14 to $15 per bottle range with the exception of the Zinfandel priced at $24.00. All the wines were good, but I have to say the Zinfandel was my favorite.

I tip my hat to sous chef Avery Blair and his kitchen and wait staff.  As always McCormick & Schmick's put on a fabulous dinner.

PS - The Nocello Au Lait-Hazelnut Brittle is to die for! 

Life is good - enjoy!

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Chili-Rubbed Tilapia With Asparagus & Lemon

It is asparagus time in America. The stores produce section is full of this wonderful vegetable.  I planted 10 roots of asparagus last spring, unfortunately only a few of them made it through the winter.  Here is my first stalk coming out of the ground.

I hope I get more than this one stalk, but if not the grocer can keep me supplied. I'm always looking for new ways to enjoy this vegetable. This week I found a recipe supplied by Eating Well. Not only is it delicious it is extremely easy to prepare and only has 210 calories per serving. That what I call a WIN-WIN!

4 servings/Active time: 20 minutes/Total time: 20 minutes

2 pounds of asparagus, tough ends trimmed, cut into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons chili powder
1/2 teaspoon garlic powder
1/2 teaspoon salt, divided
1 pound tilapia, Pacific sole or other firm white fish fillets
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 tablespoons lemon juice

1. Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a large saucepan. Put asparagus in a steamer basket, place in the pan, cover and steam until tender-crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to a large plate, spreading out to cool.
2. Combine chili powder, garlic powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt on a plate. Dredge fillets in the spice mixture to coat. Heat oil in a large nonstick skillet over medium-high heat. Add the fish and cook until just opaque in the center, gently turning halfway, 5 to 7 minutes total. Divide among 4 plates. Immediately add lemon juice, the remaining 1/4 teaspoon salt and asparagus to the pan and cook, stirring constantly, until the asparagus is coated and heated through, about 2 minutes. Serve the asparagus with the fish.

Per serving: 210 calories; 10 g fat; 1 g sat; 1 g mono; 48 mg cholesterol; 3 g carbohydrates; 24 g protein; 4 g fiber; 418 mg sodium; 645 mg potassium

I sometimes worry about using lemon juice - that it might overwhelm the food.  That is not the case here. The lemon enhances the flavor of both the fish and the asparagus making this a light and clean tasting dish.

Life is good - enjoy!

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Spice-Rubbed Pork With Quinoa

If your looking for a high protein dinner to keep you and yours full and happy you won't have to look much further than Food Network Magazine's Spice-Rubbed Pork With Quinoa. The April 2011 issue has this easy and quick recipe. If you have never used quinoa it is a high quality protein grain similar to couscous. I found a four pound bag of organic quinoa at Costco for less than $8.00.

Active Time: 15 minutes  Total Time: 35 minutes  Serves 4

2 teaspoons smoked paprika
1/2 teaspoons red pepper flakes
2 teaspoons ground cumin
Kosher salt
2 pork tenderloins (1 3/4 pounds total) halved crosswise
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for drizzling
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 1/2 cups frozen corn, thawed
2 scallions, thinly sliced
Freshly ground pepper
Jarred salsa verde, for serving (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F. Combine the paprika, red pepper flakes, cumin and 2 teaspoons salt in a shallow dish. Rub the pork all over with the olive oil, then roll in the spice mixture to coat. Transfer to a roasting pan and roast until a thermometer inserted into the thickest part of the meat registers 145 degrees F, 15 to 20 minutes. Transfer to a cutting board and let rest, 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the quinoa and cook until tender, about 10 minutes. Drain and fluff with a fork. Toss with the corn, scallions, and salt and pepper to taste.
3. Slice the pork and drizzle with olive oil. Serve with the quinoa and salsa verde, if desired.

Per serving: Calories 512; Fat 17 g (Saturated 4 g); Cholesterol 111 mg; Sodium 1060 mg; Carbohydrate 42 g; Fiber 5 g; Protein 47 g

I ended up having to buy a large pork tenderloin, so my cooking time was closer to 40 minutes to reach the 145 degree mark. Don't be afraid of the spices - they give the meat a great flavor and the salsa verde is a wonderful addition. You can also reduce the sodium by not having a heavy hand when tasting and I left it out of the water for the quinoa.

Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, April 11, 2011

Balsamic Chicken Sandwich

Balsamic Chicken Sandwiches
I love cooking on Sunday afternoons.  The week is about ready to ramp up but there is still time for cooking casual comfort food. I found this savory recipe in the Sunday Parade Magazine on March 20th of this year. It was created by Jessica Seinfeld who is the author of two cookbooks and who also happens to be married to Jerry.  I saw her on Oprah one day explaining that she couldn't get her children to eat certain fruits and vegetables - so she created recipes where you puree these type foods and disguise them in foods that kids liked. You know like pureed carrots and beets hidden in meatloaf. Sounds OK to me.

This particular recipe was a sandwich that Jerry had eaten in Italy. He loved it so much he wouldn't stop talking about it.  So through experimentation Jessica finally hit upon the following recipe.  Evidently Jerry was thrilled.


For a healthier version, substitute whole-grain rolls or whole-wheat bread. It's delicious any way you serve it!


2 lb boneless, skinless chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon pepper
1/4 cup whole-wheat flour
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup low-fat, reduced sodium chicken broth
1/2 cup balsamic vinegar
6 tablespoon firmly packed dark-brown sugar
1/2 cup broccoli puree (Cook florets 6-7 minutes. Puree about 2 minutes. Add a few teaspoons of water for a smooth, creamy texture.
6 ciabatta rolls
6 large slices of tomato
1/2 cup grated part-skim mozzarella
fresh basil (optional)

1. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Spread flour on a sheet of waxed paper. Toss chicken chunks in flour to coat completely. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2. Warm oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat and continue to cook until chicken begins to brown and garlic becomes fragrant, 8-10 minutes.
3. Add chicken broth, vinegar, and brown sugar. Bring to a boil. Cover and simmer 10-15 minutes, until chicken is cooked through and is no longer pink in the center. Add puree and cook 2 to 3 minutes, more until flavors are blended.

4. Place rolls on a large baking sheet. Top each of the 6 bottom halves, with a tomato slice (and fresh basil, if desired);

divide chicken among them and sprinkle with mozzarella. Bake until cheese is melted and edges of rolls are crisp, 5-7 minutes. Serve immediately.

I gotta say this was quite satisfying. The flavors meld well together and your kids will never know they are eating broccoli although I think you should tell them after they clean their plate. Although Jessica says the basil is optional I think she is wrong. No one eats a good Italian Sandwich without their basil. It will also give your kids something to complain about!

Makes: 6 
520 calories, 53 carbs, 45g protein, 15g fat, 730 mg sodium, 3g fiber, 95 mg cholesterol

Life is good - enjoy!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Chicken Breasts With Fontina and Prosciutto

In  bon appetit magazine there is a section called "Weeknight Cooking." The recipes are generally quick and easy and overall are great to eat.  One of the selections, in the March 2011 issue, was for Chicken Breasts With Fontina and Prosciutto. (What is not to like about all  those delicious nouns?) The chicken breast are boneless, so that they cook quickly.  I prefer to buy them with the bone in so my local butcher does not steal the tenderloin! (Did you know they do this?) If you are not good at deboning a chicken check out Chef Paul and his YouTube video:

One of the problems I had was keeping the stuffing under the skin. The skin shrinks and the goodies ooze out while browning the breasts. It really isn't a problem if some of the goodies end up in your gravy. The second time I made this I used twine to tie the skin around each chicken breast - the stuffing still oozed out but the finished product looked a little better. No matter how you do this the end results are moist, tender and above all an absolutely delicious dish.

Chicken Breasts With Fontina And Prosciutto
Prep: 40 minutes     Total Time: 40 minutes

1/2 cup coarsely grated Fontina cheese
1/3 cup (packed) soft garlic-herb cheese (such as Boursin)
1/3 cup (packed) chopped prosciutto
2 tablespoons chopped fresh basil
4 large boneless chicken breasts halves with skin
2 tablespoons chilled butter, divided
3/4 cup low-salt chicken broth
1/2 cup Marsala

Looks like I've got everything! It that gin and tonic part of the recipe?

Preheat oven to 300 degrees F. Combine cheeses, prosciutto, and basil in small bowl. Season stuffing with freshly ground black pepper.

Run finger under skin of chicken breasts to loosen. Spread stuffing under skin. Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper.

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in large nonstick skillet over medium-high head. Add chicken, skin side down, and cook until brown, about 3 minutes per side. Reduce heat to medium, cover, and cook until chicken is cooked through, turning once, about 10 minutes Transfer to rimmed baking sheet; place in oven to keep warm.

Add broth and Marsala to skillet; bring to boil and cook until sauce is reduced to scant 1/2 cup, scraping up browned bits, 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat; whisk in 1 tablespoon butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper. Place chicken on plates. Add any juices from baking sheet to sauce. Spoon sauce over chicken and serve.

This dish easily divides in half for you and yours and would be a terrific supper for entertaining your "we like to be in the kitchen" kind of friends. Bon appetit suggests a side of orzo with a green salad and a light Italian red wine like Dolcetto. Finish with sorbet and chopped dark chocolate.

What's not to like!
Life is good - enjoy!