Sunday, March 14, 2010

In the Woods - Tana French

In the Woods In the Woods by Tana French

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
This book took me forever to read. Lots of words.... But I really, really liked it. A two fold mystery set in Ireland. The detective on the case had been the victim of a crime (two of his best childhood friends disappearred, he was there but has no memory) and he was solving a child murder that took place in the same location.

I agree with other reviewers who complain about the ending of the book. I didn't mind the resolution of the crime, etc, but I did not like the "wrap up". It was not necessary.

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Sunday, March 07, 2010

Weekly Recipes = #15

Focaccia Reubens

One 1/2-pound green cabbage, thinly sliced (4 cups)
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Four 4-by-6-inch pieces of focaccia, split
1/4 cup ketchup
1/4 cup mayonnaise
Eight 1/4-inch-thick slices of Gruyère cheese (4 ounces)
1/2 pound thinly sliced corned beef
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

In a large bowl, toss the cabbage with the vinegar, sugar and salt. Let stand at room temperature, tossing occasionally, until softened, about 30 minutes.
Heat a panini press or griddle. Arrange the focaccia on a work surface, cut sides up. In a small bowl, combine the ketchup with the mayonnaise. Spread the dressing on the bottom halves of the focaccia. Set a slice of Gruyère on the dressing. Top with the corned beef, pickled cabbage and the remaining slices of Gruyère. Close the sandwiches and spread the outsides of the focaccia with the softened butter.
Add the sandwiches to the press and cook over moderate heat until the cheese has melted and the focaccia is crisp and golden, about 6 minutes. Cut each sandwich in half and serve right away.
Make Ahead
The cabbage can be refrigerated for up to 2 days.
Pairing Suggestion
A sandwich this decadent needs a spicy, full-bodied red to cut through the richness. An earthy, cherry-rich Oregon Pinot Noir would be ideal, like the brambly 2006 Anne Amie Winemaker’s Selection or the earthy 2007 Bethel Heights Estate Grown Willamette Valley.

Poached Salmon with Corn and White Wine–Butter Sauce
4 medium zucchini (1 1/2 pounds), coarsely shredded
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 medium shallots—2 finely chopped, 1 halved
Freshly ground pepper
2 3/4 cups dry white wine
1 cup fresh corn kernels
2 lemon thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
Four 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets
1 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoons
1/4 cup thinly sliced basil leaves

Set a colander over a bowl. Add the zucchini to the colander and toss with 1 teaspoon of salt. Let stand for 20 minutes. Squeeze the zucchini dry.
In a large, nonreactive skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the chopped shallots and season with salt and pepper. Cook over moderate heat until softened, about 3 minutes. Add 1/4 cup of the wine and cook until evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the corn and 1/2 cup of water. Cover and cook until the corn is tender, about 4 minutes. Stir in the zucchini and cook until heated through, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper, cover and keep warm.
In a large, nonreactive saucepan, combine 2 cups of the wine with the thyme, bay leaf, the halved shallot and 2 cups of water and bring to a simmer. Season the salmon with salt, add the fillets to the saucepan and cook at a bare simmer over low heat, turning once, about 6 minutes.
Transfer the salmon to a plate and pat dry with paper towels. Discard the poaching liquid.
Add the remaining 1/2 cup of wine to the saucepan and bring to a simmer. Whisk in the butter, 1 tablespoon at a time, until thoroughly incorporated. Season with salt. Stir the basil into the vegetables and transfer to plates. Nestle the salmon into the vegetables, top with the butter sauce and serve.
Pairing SuggestionApple-scented, unoaked Chardonnay: 2008 Foxglove.

Grilled Flank Steak with Corn, Tomato and Asparagus Salad
1 1/2 cups dry red wine
1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
8 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
3 large shallots, coarsely chopped
2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon chopped thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
One 1 1/2-pound flank steak
2 tablespoons cider vinegar
1 tablespoon honey
6 ounces cherry tomatoes, preferably Sweet 100 tomatoes, quartered (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/4 small sweet onion, such as Walla Walla, thinly sliced
6 ounces thin asparagus
2 ears of corn, shucked
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
6 basil leaves, finely shredded
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
6 ounces fresh morel mushrooms, cleaned and halved if large, or a scant 1/2 ounce dried morels, reconstituted in boiling water for 10 minutes
In a large glass baking dish, whisk the red wine, mustard, brown sugar, garlic, shallots, parsley, thyme, 1 tablespoon of salt and 1 teaspoon of pepper. Add the steak and turn to coat. Let stand at room temperature for 2 hours or refrigerate for up to 8 hours.
Meanwhile, in a medium bowl, whisk the cider vinegar and honey. Add the tomatoes and onion and toss. Let stand for 1 hour.
Light a grill. Coat the asparagus and corn with olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Grill over moderately high heat, turning occasionally, until tender and browned in spots, about 3 minutes for the asparagus and 6 minutes for the corn. Transfer to a work surface; when cool enough to handle, cut the asparagus into pieces and cut the corn from the cobs. Add the asparagus, corn and basil to the tomatoes and toss.
Remove the steak from the marinade and pat dry with paper towels; season lightly with salt and pepper. Grill the steak, turning once, until medium-rare, about 10 minutes total. Transfer the steak to a work surface and let rest for 10 minutes.
Meanwhile, in a skillet, melt the butter. Add the morels and cook over moderately high heat until browned, about 3 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
Thinly slice the steak against the grain and transfer to plates. Season the tomato salad with salt and pepper and spoon alongside the steak. Top the steak with the morels and serve.
Pairing Suggestion
For cuts of meat with sweet-spicy rubs or marinades, try pouring similarly spicy, fruit-driven reds, like Argentinean Malbec or Petite Sirah from California. Two good choices are the raspberry-rich 2007 BenMarco Malbec and the blueberry-inflected 2006 Greg Norman Paso Robles Petite Sirah.

Spicy Peanut Noodles

1 pound spaghetti
3/4 cup smooth peanut butter
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar
6 tablespoons soy sauce
1/4 cup water
1 tablespoon toasted sesame oil
2 teaspoons crushed red pepper
One 2-inch piece of fresh ginger, peeled and coarsely chopped
1 large garlic clove
3 celery ribs, thinly sliced
1/2 cup coarsely chopped cilantro leaves and tender stems
Lime wedges, for serving

In a pot of boiling salted water, cook the spaghetti until tender. Drain and rinse under cold water until cooled. Drain well.
In a blender, puree the peanut butter with 6 tablespoons of the vinegar, 3 tablespoons of the sugar, the soy sauce, water, sesame oil, crushed red pepper, ginger and garlic. Transfer 1/2 cup of the peanut dressing to a bowl and toss with the noodles.
In another bowl, toss the celery with the cilantro and the remaining 2 tablespoons of vinegar and 1 teaspoon of sugar.

Transfer the noodles to bowls and drizzle with the remaining peanut dressing. Top with the celery and serve with lime wedges.
Make Ahead
The peanut dressing can be refrigerated for 2 days.

Penne with Asparagus, Sage and Peas

1/2 pound penne
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 pound thick asparagus, cut into 1-inch lengths
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups (10 ounces) shelled English peas or frozen baby peas, thawed
1/4 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the penne and cook, stirring occasionally, until al dente. Drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the olive oil. Add the garlic and asparagus and cook over moderately low heat, stirring occasionally, until the garlic is fragrant, about 3 minutes. Add the stock and boil over high heat until reduced by half and the asparagus are tender, about 5 minutes.

Add the peas and cream to the skillet and boil over high heat until the sauce has thickened, 3 minutes. Stir in the penne and cook until heated through. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter, sage and the 1/2 cup of cheese. Season with salt and pepper. Transfer the pasta to bowls and serve right away, passing additional cheese at the table.

Pairing Suggestion
Green vegetables can be hard to pair with wine, but Sauvignon Blanc, which has a bit of grassiness, can work well. Try the melony 2007 Kenwood Sonoma County or the grapefruit-scented 2007 Patianna.

Molasses-Gingerbread Cake with Mascarpone Cream
TOTAL TIME: 1 HR 30 MIN plus 2 hr cooling

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 3/4 teaspoons ground ginger
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 3/4 teaspoons baking soda
1/2 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons canola oil
3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons dark brown sugar
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons molasses
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons honey
2 eggs
1 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
3/4 cup boiling water

1 orange, zest peeled with a vegetable peeler and sliced lengthwise into 1/8-inch strips
4 cups water
1/2 cup sugar

1 cup mascarpone, at room temperature
3/4 cup heavy cream
3/4 teaspoon finely grated orange zest
2 tablespoons confectioners’ sugar
Pinch of salt

Make the Cake:
Preheat the oven to 350°. Spray a 9-inch square baking pan with vegetable cooking spray. In a large bowl, combine the flour with the ground ginger, cinnamon, baking soda and salt. In a medium bowl, whisk the canola oil with the brown sugar, molasses, honey, eggs and lemon zest until smooth. Whisk the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients until combined.
Whisk in the boiling water. Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour and 10 minutes, until a cake tester inserted in the center of the cake comes out clean. Set the pan on a rack and let the cake cool completely, about 2 hours.
Meanwhile, Make the Orange Confit: In a medium saucepan, combine the strips of orange zest with the water and sugar. Bring to a boil and cook over high heat until syrupy and the orange zest is soft, about 30 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, transfer the orange confit to a plate; discard the syrup.

Make the Mascarpone Cream:
In a large bowl, using an electric mixer at medium speed, beat the mascarpone with the cream, orange zest, confectioners’ sugar and salt until soft peaks form.
Cut the molasses-gingerbread cake into squares and transfer to plates. Dollop the mascarpone cream on top, garnish with the orange confit and serve.
Make Ahead
The cake can be wrapped in plastic and kept at room temperature for up to 2 days. The orange confit can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 3 days.

Saturday, March 06, 2010

Weekly Menu #14 - Heather

Black Bean Burgers

This is a great recipe. It made about 8 patties, so we had leftovers. The next day, I ate one of the patties with salsa, a little shredded cheese and a dab of cottage cheese. It was great.

1 15 oz. can of black beans, drained and rinsed
¼ cup of onions, finely chopped
⅓ cup of whole kernel corn
¼ cup thick and chunky salsa
1 garlic clove, pressed
2 tablespoons snipped fresh cilantro or parsley
¼ teaspoon salt
⅛ teaspoon black pepper
½ cup dry bread crumbs
2 egg whites, lightly beaten

Mash up the beans in a mixing bowl. Add the other ingredients, bread crumbs and egg last. Mix it all well. Form into patties and fry as you would hamburgers. Fix on buns as you would burgers, adding tomato, lettuce and other condiments as you like.

This is a decadent dish. The cream cheese is super delicious. When I made this I had a revelation about frozen spinach. Why buy it? Instead, since I always have fresh spinach on hand, I steamed a bunch and then chopped it up. There was no need to squeeze the liquide out or anything. Plus it was really tasty.
8 oz uncooked rigatoni1 tablespoon olive oil
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 10 oz pkg frozen chopped spinach, thawed
3 cups cubed cooked chicken breasts
1 (14.5 oz) can Italian style diced tomatoes
1 8 oz container chive and onion cream cheese
½ tsp salt
½ tsp pepper
1 ½ cups of shredded mozzarella cheese

Prepare rigatone according to package directions

Meanwhile, spread oil on bottom of an 11x7 baking dish: add onion in a single layer. Bake at 375 for 15 min or just until tender. Transfer onion to a large bowl, and set aside.

Drain chopped spinach well, pressing between layers of paper towels. Stir rigatoni, spinach, chicken, and next 4 ingredients into onion in bowl. Spoon mixture into baking dish and sprinkle with cheese.
Bake, covered, at 375 for 30 min. Uncover and bake 15 more minutes until bubbly.

Amy's Yummy Flatbread Open Faced Sandwich
At Amy's house this last weekend they made a really yummy flatbread. It may sound odd, but it was really tasty!! I'll probably choose a nice salad from previous recipes to add to the meal. -H
We didn't quite make this recipe as listed. It was a rushed night so we put hummus, tomato, chicken and feta on our flat bread. Will keep idea for another time.

WW Crust...they used a Mediterranean flatbread
Layered on top... Salsa...Newmans own, cnunky mild
TONS of fresh minced garlic
Sliced red bell peppers
Mozzarella cheese

Chicken Enchiladas
Jill said this was great and that only 1-2 chicken breasts are needed.
4-6 chicken breasts, cooked and shredded
1 green pepper, diced
1 small can mild Jalapeno peppers, diced (opt)
1 onion, diced and sauteed
¾ cup almonds, slivered
½ lb Monterey jack cheese, grated
½ lb cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup sour cream
Flour tortillas 8-10 inch diameter
2 cans of enchilada sauce
FILLING... in a bowl, combine chicken, almonds, most of the onions, peppers, olives, and cheese. Mix in sour cream and some enchilada sauce to make a moist filling.

PREPARATION... in skillet large enough to hold tortilla, warm enchilada sauce. Dip tortilla in warm sauce to soften and coat. Fill tortilla with approx 1/4 cup of filling. Roll up and place in a baking dish. Don't crowd. When pan is full sprinkle with remaining peppers, onions, olives and cheeses on top. IF you think it needs it, add enchilada sauce.

Bake uncovered 350 for 25 in or until bubbly and heated.

Serves 6 Hands-On Time: 15m Total Time: 30m

* 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved (about 2 cups)
* 2 tablespoons olive oil, plus more for drizzling
* 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
* 1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
* 10 sprigs fresh thyme
* 1 pound pasta (such as rigatoni or penne), cooked according to the package directions
* 1 1/2 cups fresh ricotta
* zest of 1 lemon


1. Preheat oven to 425º F. Arrange the tomatoes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Drizzle with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil; season with the salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper. Scatter the thyme on top. Place in oven and bake until the tomatoes are soft, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Divide the cooled pasta among 6 large bowls. Spoon some the ricotta over each serving. Top with some of the tomatoes and thyme sprigs. Drizzle with olive oil and sprinkle with lemon zest and pepper to taste just before serving.

Quick Tip
Cook the pasta and tomatoes in advance to assemble this dish in no time.

P.S. I usually make full recipe but only bake half and freeze the other half for another meal later.

Friday, March 05, 2010

The Help - Kathryn Stockett (book group)

The Help The Help by Kathryn Stockett

My rating: 4 of 5 stars
Great book. Set in the early 60's in Jackson, Mississippi. Written in first person from the viewpoint of two maids and a white woman who is writing a story that documents the life of a maid during that time. Very interesting.

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