Friday, July 31, 2009

A Trio of Pesto

Fred is headed south this weekend to hike through miles and miles of watery canyons in the Subway (click on the link for photos) at Zion National Park. Fourteen miles of fantastic scenery and pruney skin. FUN.

While he's gone, I'm headed to the Uinta Mountains to hike the Wall Lake Trail with some friends. Then, I will kick back the rest of the weekend and enjoy my time alone and eat pesto. Pesto is my new favorite topping for EVERYTHING. I like it on bread. I like it on pasta. I like it on veggies and pita and salad. I like it in the house. I like it with a mouse. I like it here, there and everywhere. I would even like it on green eggs and ham, Sam-I-Am. Well maybe not on green eggs and ham. The colors could be overwhelming.


Anyway, remember the pesto recipes I promised to re-create? I think I've done it. Lemon Artichoke, Pistachio Basil, and Sun Dried Tomato. All three are mouth-watering. Note: they all taste better after being in the fridge overnight. But let them warm up a bit before serving. Nothing worse than ice cold pesto.

Artichoke Lemon Pesto with Parmesan
  • 2 Cans Artichokes (14 oz cans packed in water) drain well
  • 1/2 Cup raw Pine Nuts
  • 2 to 3 Tblsp Lemon juice (start with 2, add the other if you REALLY like lemon)
  • 1/2 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
  • 1/3 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
  • 1/2 Tsp sea salt or to taste
  • A dash or two of Ground Cayenne Red Pepper
In a food processor, pulse the artichokes (drained!!) with the pine nuts until well chopped. About 15 to 30 seconds. Add Parmesan, lemon, oil and salt. Pulse a few more seconds. Don't over process!! Remove from processor and mix in the dash or two of cayenne. Vegans can skip the cheese and it will not affect the recipe. If your pesto seems too thick, add a small amount of oil until it loosens up.

Sun Dried Tomato Pesto
  • 1 Jar of Sun Dried Tomatoes packed in oil (julienned, whole, or chopped is fine)
  • 1/2 Cup cooked carrots (you can used canned)
  • 1 Small yellow onion, coarsely chopped and sauteed in 2 Tblsp oil until they are turning clear, then cooled
  • 2 Large garlic cloves (or 3 if you really like garlic)
  • 1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 2 Tblsp Lemon juice
  • 1/3 Cup basil packed down or 1 cup loose (basically a handfull)
  • 1/4 Tsp sea salt
  • 2 small Roma or plum tomatoes, cut in quarters
  • Dash of Ground Cayenne Red Pepper

Saute the onion until slightly soft. Don't cook down too much. Let cool slightly. In a food processor, pulse the sun dried tomatoes (including oil in jar), carrots, onions, basil and garlic for about 15 seconds. Add oil and lemon. Pulse a few more seconds until combine but not over processed. Cut the stem end off your plum tomatoes, cut in quarters and add to the processor. Pulse just 2 or 3 seconds until the tomatoes break up. Again, don't over process. Remove and mix in salt and your dash of red pepper. (makes about 2 cups)

Pistachio Basil Pesto

1/3 Cup roasted pistachios (shelled)
3 Large garlic cloves (or more!)
8 Cups loose basil (rinsed)
1/3 Cup extra virgin olive oil
2 Tablespoons lemon juice
1/4 Cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Add salt to taste if pistachios are unsalted

In a food processor, pulse the pistachio nuts and garlic about 10 seconds. Add basil leaves 2 cups at a time and pulse about 5 seconds after each batch. Then scrape sides and grind some more. You want the basil to be chopped very fine but DO NOT add any liquid yet. Once you feel the basil is fine enough, remove this mixture and hand mix in the oil, lemon and parmesan. You may need to add more oil if the consistency is too stiff. You want the oil to seep away from the basil a bit at room temperature. This is supposed to be oily! Add salt to taste. Again, Vegans can skip the cheese. The recipe will be fine without it.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

A Fish Story

Lauren and I had our 2nd Annual Mother/Daughter Lunch in the mountains above Deer Valley Ski Resort. It's our new tradition and a real treat. The area is beautiful and the 10 minute lift ride up to the restaurant is relaxing with great views of Park City and the surrounding mountains. Relaxing if you don't think about the fact that you're hanging from a wire 100 feet off the ground.

The Royal Street Cafe has a beautiful, shady porch and award winning cuisine with items such as Sauteed Prawns with Basil Pappardelle and Shrimp and Lobster Margarita. The temperature there is usually 10 to 15 degrees cooler than in the valley where we live. On this day it was 80, while the valley was roaring up to 95 degrees. We were certainly glad to escape the heat.

We asked for a table on the porch which gave us great views of the mountains as well as the mountain bikers descending after riding the lift even higher with their bikes in tow.

As we were waiting for our table, I saw a plate pass by that looked wonderful. It appeared to have avocado and maybe something pink, like shrimp or crab with sauces drizzled on the side. So I stopped a waiter to inquire. He told me it was the Yellowfin Tuna Tartare. Hmm. Well, tartare usually implies the tuna would be raw. But I didn't see anything that looked very raw on that plate. Maybe, like sushi, the raw part was small and not that noticeable amongst all the other ingredients.

So we sat and ordered refreshments. Fresh Cherry Lemonade for me and Arnold Palmer fruit tea for Lauren.

Our waiter came around and I ordered the Tuna Tartare and Lauren ordered a salad with her favorite side dish, Parmesan Fries. A must-have when you are dining at an award winning restaurant on the top of a mountain.

Our plates arrived and my waiter said "Here's your tuna."


I said, "Noooo, no, no that's not the Tuna Tartar." My waiter said, "Yes Ma'am, that's the tuna." Hmmm. "Well what's that pretty dish over there with all the avocado and tomato? That's what I thought I was ordering."

"Oh, well, that's the Dungeness Crab Tower."

Uh oh.

I'm a pretty adventurous eater but I have to tell you that all that wiggling, jiggling, raw fish flesh about did me in. It was mixed with small amounts of chopped egg, beets, cucumber, onion and lemon. It was served with herbed toasts points drizzled with lime-caper aioli. But that didn't help. It was still a large wiggly mass of raw fish.

I wasn't sure what to do. My waiter offered to take it back and replace it with the Crab Tower but I felt really wasteful doing that. And besides, Demi Moore eats fish raw.

So I got brave. I would take one bite and if it was awful, I'd send it back. After all, I've eaten sushi. I surely could force myself to choke down at least one mouthful. So I held my breath and took a bite.

OH MY GOODNESS. What a surprise. It was awesome. My brain was completely confused. My eyes were sending one message while my taste buds were sending another. It was so lemony and limey and just plain good. Even the French Fry Lady tried some and liked it. VERY, VERY, good.

So look for a really great recipe with RAW TUNA coming to this blog soon. Yep.

We finished our meal with the dessert special of the day. Green Tea and Cherry Ice Cream on Shortbread. Ah, something safe! It was wonderful.

I ate every bite, even the Orchid flower. Next year it will be a very hard choice between the tuna and crab. Maybe I should just go with something safe like the Eel Tacos.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Sauteed Mushrooms with Sea Green Beans PLUS Farmer's Market Finds

My daughter goes back to Chicago this week after a beautiful six days of lunching, shopping and restyling my hair which was desperately needed.

Two little known facts about me - I hate shopping and I hate letting anyone cut my hair. Too many traumatic 'doos' in the past, I guess. Shopping is also torture, with two exceptions.

1. The Downtown Farmers Market and
2. Shopping with Lauren

Combine the two and I spend WAY too much money. Lauren is the Queen of Glam. She's REALLY good at the 'girlie' stuff (I'm not). So our Farmer's Market trip sort of ended up in a load of girlie purchases as she kept pointing out all these great bargains that I've overlooked in the past.

This is Lauren's idea of a great trip to the Farmer's Market.

This is mine! Onions, chard, pesto, honey.

I have to admit, this was a really cute bracelet at a bargain price of $10 - made by a really cute couple from Hawaii.

Aren't these great! Love the red and bone together. Fred has nicknamed them the 'poker chip' earrings. Also a $10 steal.

This beautiful bouquet came from a flower vendor. Also $10. Fabulous.

There was a little old man at the market selling his honeycomb. I didn't really need this but I kind of felt sorry for him. Any ideas of what I can do with this?

The pestos available at the market are wonderful! I am working on recipes to recreate these so you can make them at home.

We bought some crusty bread and topped with all three of these beautiful pestos for our lunch when we arrived home.

I also bought 1/2 pound of Shitake mushrooms and some NY strip for dinner. The mushroom man threw in some of these Sea Green Beans which add great flavor to salad or other veggie dishes.

I sauteed the mushrooms in a small amount of butter, about 2 Tbls, adding the sea beans. No salt needed. The sea beans do the trick. I served this with some grass fed NY strip and potatoes au gratin.

And finally, thanks to Lauren for my new 'doo'. She's finishing cosmetology school this fall and she showed enormous patience while I worried myself silly with each snip snip of the shears. I'm gonna miss my fashion coordinator and hair stylist something awful.

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

Tuscan Polenta

Fred has been exercising like a fiend lately. He hiked to the top of Pheifferhorn on Saturday (which to his delight included using his ice axe). The hike took 9 hours to complete and included sliding down a snow field in his shorts. Wednesday he rode his bike many miles UP the 9% grade Little Cottonwood Canyon and then last night he climbed ropes for 4 hours on the granite cliffs near our home. Let's just say his appetite is hearty! This Tuscan Polenta recipe is one of his favorites and even though its more of a cold weather dish I thought I'd make it for him this week.
I start by browning one pound of Harmon's sweet Italian sausage with one medium chopped onion. We have tried a few different sausages in this dish and Harmon's is THE BEST. It may be that they have left out the stronger fennel taste or maybe the red pepper but all I know is we won't use anything else. But I am sure you will be happy with your favorite sausage in this recipe.
I then add one can cannellini beans and one can diced tomatoes. Be sure to rinse the beans. I like the SW brand tomatoes because there is less liquid than other brands I've tried. If you open your tomatoes and it looks too watery, just pour a little out. You will need some though to create a saucy consistency. Heat this all up on medium heat, cooking without a cover until you get a good consistency. Not too watery, not too dry. Is that too vague? (BTW, Fred and I like more beans and tomato so we add an extra can of each. But I drain off the liquid from the second can of tomato)
Next is the polenta. This recipe uses tube polenta. You may have to shop around a bit for this but should be available in the larger grocery stores near the other Italian foods. Split the wrapper down the middle and take off. Cut your slices about 1/3 inch thick (I get 12 to 15 slices), spray or brush olive oil or Pam on each side and grill for 5 minutes on each side.
Place 4 to 6 polenta rounds on each plate and top with your sausage mixture. I add a bit of fresh basil, basil oil or pesto on the side for flavor. Or you can mix it straight in to the sauce. Top wtih shredded parmesan.

Tuscan Polenta

1 pound Italian Sausage
1 Medium yellow onion, chopped
1 -14 oz can Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
1- 14 oz can dice tomatoes
(salt to taste)

1 tube Polenta
Olive oil
Shredded Parmesan

Brown sausage and onions until sausage is slightly pink. Add tomatoe and beans, making sure to rinse off beans. Cook about 10 minutes on medium high heat or until sausage is done and sauce is
reduced a bit.

Slice polenta in 1/3 inch rounds and spray or brush with olive oil. Grill for 5 min on each side. Place polenta slices on plate and ladle sausage mixture on top. Top with basil or a bit of pesto if you have it as well as parmesan.

A Spicy Contest

Well, we did it the old fashioned way. I had my daughter pull the winners from a hat!

And the winners are: Peggy and Stephanie - Congrats!! I will be in contact with the details on your certificate.

In honor of my daughter, Lauren, arriving to spend a week with me and because it's really heating up in SLC this week, I am THRILLED to announce my very first contest on TheMorsel.

After posting the Spice House entry on Monday, I sent an email to Patty and Tom Erd, who own The Spice House, letting them know I featured them. I received a wonderful response and the offer of two (2) $30 gift certificates to give away to my readers! Here's a little excerpt from The Spice House site about Patty and Tom.

Owners of The Spice House, Tom and Patty Erd, are second generation spice merchants. Their business was founded by Patty's parents, Ruth and Bill Penzey, Sr. in Milwaukee, Wisconsin in 1957. Patty grew up working in the shop. (To Patty, as a child, it seemed a pretty torturous way to earn an allowance but Patty's perception has vastly changed about the business since she became an owner!) The Penzeys sold the business to their firstborn child and son-in-law in 1992 as they looked toward retirement. The credit for the creation of The Spice House, its principals, and its dedication to quality goes wholeheartedly to Bill and Ruth Penzey. As is normal in the next generation taking over, Patty and Tom wanted to take the company a bit further, honor the dedication to its principles, but put some of their mark on the company.

Patty and Tom opened the second Spice House in Evanston, Illinois in 1997, close enough to home and parental business consulting to be comfortable, yet far enough to feel it was their own adventure. The opening of the shop in Evanston had really nice coverage by both the Chicago Tribune and the Chicago Sun Times. Wonderful things happened in this new venture, culminating with the Evanston Small Business of the Year award in the year 2000 and a really nice morning segment on FOX news. The business continued to grow. Patty and Tom became members of wonderful organizations involved in the culinary arts, and participated in many programs combining restaurateurs and chefs with educational spice programs. They spoke for the Culinary Historians of Chicago, Slow Food, Les Dames d’Escoffier, and were selected by the American Institute of Food and Wine as participants in the Best of the Midwest Festival. They were on the circuit tour as educators for the AIWF, although their daily duties as shopkeepers limited them to mostly events in the Midwest. They lectured regularly at Kendall Culinary College in Evanston. Alton Brown taped a segment in the Evanston shop, he began at 7am and was dragged out by his cameramen at 7pm only because they were from Atlanta and their baseball team was playing in the World Series that night. The “fruitcake” episode on Alton Brown’s Good Eats show has now aired five years in a row at Christmas time.

The real Chicago store that Patty and Tom had dreamed about for many years while they operated only the Milwaukee shop opened in 2001. More wonderful things continued to happen. Now they fell into Mayor Daley’s “made in Chicago” category. (The mayor LOVES things made in Chicago) The Ethnic Chicago line of seasonings they created to reflect the background and favorite flavors of various immigrant groups brought from the homeland as they joined the “melting pot” of Chicago received a little more attention. (These were developed in Evanston, but Chicago does not count Evanston in the “made in Chicago” category) Tom and Patty were invited to speak at a fancy surprise birthday party for Hizzoner where some of the most famous Chicago chefs prepared food with these same ethnic blends. The special guest that dropped by at the end of the meal was none other than then President Bill Clinton who shook all of our hands at the chef table.

In 2002, Tom and Patty won the prestigious Good Eating award from The Chicago Tribune food section. Patty and Tom continue to have wonderful educational lecturing opportunities including the Newberry Library, the DePaul Geographical Society and the now nearby Cordon Bleu affiliated culinary college CHIC. They had radio interviews with WGN’s Dean Richards and Rick Kogan. They did several really nice interviews with Michele Norris on National Public Radio’s All Things Considered. Patty was featured as the spice expert on the new PBS show, Real Simple. Patty also served as a spice expert at the most recent IACP conference in Chicago. She sat on a panel with Madhur Jaffrey, Jill Norman and Nina Simmonds, some of the top spice experts in the world! Tom was on Channel 2's Table for Two this November as a salt expert.

Thank you so much, Patty and Tom. And without further adieu, today I will be giving away two $30 gift certificates. All you need to do is go to The Spice House site, look at the variety of spices and leave a comment on TheMorsel telling me which spice(s) you would love to try and what you would create. Deadline for entries will be 7pm Mountain time (8pm Central) today, Wednesday July 8th. To make this fair, I will randomly draw two names and announce the winners tomorrow morning. Each winner will receive one $30 gift certificate.

Thanks for reading! Good Luck!

Monday, July 6, 2009

The Spice House

Remember that little box that arrived on my front porch a few days ago? Remember I told you it held some tastes of Chicago? Remember my chicken obsession? It may be over. For now.

(Not really)

I was looking for a recipe to jazz up some salmon and halibut and happened upon a site called The Spice House that sort of flipped my switch. The more I read the more I wanted. I was all settled on just buying a few jars to replace some very old spice jars in my cabinet. But then it turned out shipping started at $12. It made no sense whatsoever to buy $12 worth of spices and then pay $12 for shipping. So I said to myself, well hey, I might as well get everything I was planning to buy over the next year in one fell swoop. So TA DA! Wow! And they are beautiful, sleek and so Chicago-esque. And, hey, those of you in Chicago and Milwaukee can actually drive to one of their four stores. How cool is that?

So let's take a tour. I love the name of this one and the color. I'll be using Lake Shore Drive to make Halibut or Lake Shore Drive Grilled Potatoes.

I am really excited about this one. Gateway To The North Maple Sugar Seasoning. Isn't that an awesome name? This is great for salmon or homemade bbq sauce. The Spice House has a recipe for Northern Nuts. That would make a great neighbor gift. It could be a great seasoning for fish or pork as well.

Salmon Seasoning stands up to the stronger taste of Salmon. Ingredients are salt, sesame seeds, dill seed, black, white, and green pepper, garlic, lemon peel, mustard seed, onion, caraway, rosemary, dill weed, and cayenne.

Smoked Spanish Paprika can be used as a marinade for grilled salmon. I can use this for Paprikash too.

And this, this is true cinnamon. Ceylon cinnamon is lighter, more delicate than the cinnamon we know called Cassia. I am so excited to try this in rice pudding, and blended in whipped cream as a topping for pie.

I bought two kinds of cocoa. One is dutched and one is natural. The natural is used in baking, is stronger flavored. The dutched is processed and takes some of the bitterness out and is used for dusting on whipped cream and to make hot cocoa. Coming soon, a lucious chocolate cake recipe. There is also The Spice House's Freedom From Tranquility Hot Cocoa recipe.

This Chicago Old Town Spiced Sugar is also used for sprinkling on toast or in coffee and tea. It would make a great topping for sugar cookies.

Pure Madagascar Vanilla Extract, Anise and Almond Extracts. I will use these in my Italian Pizzelle and Swedish cookie recipes. I've got to make this Almond Milk recipe.
Thanks for taking the tour!