Sunday, June 29, 2014

June 28, 2014 - Jennifer's Birthday

Good Morning!  2 posts in one day, very exciting!  Last night, we cooked Jennifer's annual birthday dinner - a couple weeks late, but T and I spent three weeks in Italy, so we had to postpone.  Let's chat about Italy for a second - yes, the food is divine.  Plan on seeing a lot of Italy inspired dishes coming up.  I really think its the fresh pasta and seafood that makes a difference.  That, and the simple preparation with quality ingredients.  Fresh herbs, olive oil, and lemon.  No butter, no crazy spices - just perfection!

On to important topics, though.  What were Jennifer's ingredients?  I know what you're thinking - some exotic fish or meat with a spice from somewhere in the world that no one has ever heard of.  NO!  She totally threw me for a loop when she said "watermelon and peaches."  What?  Really?  We have that all the time!  But the challenge really did come about, because it's not like we're going to just find some boring peach pie recipe for a birthday dinner, right?  

Cocktail - Watermelon Ginger Mojitos

Oh yeah.  Let me walk you through this quickly.  Ginger simple syrup is how you infuse the ginger flavor - mix equal parts sugar and water, bring to a boil, and then let cool.  Add some sliced ginger to the syrup while cooling so it infuses.  I then basically just juiced some watermelon, and mixed syrup, watermelon, and white rum until the flavor worked for me.  Mix it with muddled mint and then top with some Polar Seltzer "mint mojito".

Appetizer - Grilled Shrimp, Orange, and Watermelon Salad with Peppered Peanuts and Zesty Citrus Dressing

OMG.  I could eat this every day as a meal in itself.  I did make some changes - so let's take this step by step.  Lots of it was done in advance.  Obviously, I was cooking with a lot of peaches and watermelons, so those were all diced and big bowls and put to the side.  The edamame - cooked it up, chilled it, put it in a to go cup for later.  The dressing/marinade - prepped it and put it in a to go cup.  Instead of oranges - save yourself the hassle and use canned mandarin orange slices.  I also skipped all the herbs at the end.  I then used a box of mixed spring greens.  Once I arrived at Jenn's, we brushed the shrimp with the glaze and then brushed again once on the grill.  Simply assemble salad to your liking, top with a shrimp skewer, and drizzle with more glaze/dressing.  Delicious!  I'm actually using the leftover glaze/dressing/whatever on some chicken for the grill tonight!

Appetizer - Peach and Tomato Gazpacho

See it right next to the prosecco?  We served it in shooters, because it is thick and heavy.  It was fantastic!  A great way to combine your fruits and veggies into a healthy dish!

Appetizer Wine - Ponte Prosecco 

Okay, let me give a HUGE shout out to the people at Stew Leonard's Wines.  John went there with our menu and they really had some fun helping him pick out a perfectly matching combination.  This was, hands down, the best Prosecco we have ever had.  I can't explain it.  It's the perfect balance of fruit, bubbles, and flavor!

Entree - Tamarind Glazed Duck Tacos with a Peach-Watermelon Salsa

BAM!  There you go!  Didn't think I could find something creative with peaches and watermelon, right?  Look no further for a truly impressive meal!  Okay, we only did the duck part of the recipe above - but we followed to a T and it was perfect!  (I can only find Tamarind at Whole Foods, if you're a local and looking for it, by the way.)  Tamarind is a sweet and sour type of thick glaze.  Then I made a peach and watermelon salsa (see recipe below - I just subbed watermelon for the mango) and it was divine!  On the side - we did a stone fruit slaw and it tied into the recipe perfectly!  Side note - make sure to put the ginger in that slaw - I think it really brought a flavor profile that helps propel this dish into "delicious-ness."

Entree Wine - 2011 Meiomi Pinot Noir

I will never be the same after this wine.  By far, the best wine we have ever had on this blog!  This California Pinot was unbelievable and unexpected!  It was strong and bold and full of dark berry flavors.  It also had a smooth cocoa and vanilla undertone to it that really made it stand out.  Seriously - Stew's Wines - you hit this one out of the park!

Dessert - Strawberries and Peaches with Balsamic Zabaglione

Light and refreshing and a perfect end to the meal!  I'm not sure what a zabaglione is to be honest, but it was pretty much a thickened jazzed up whipped cream.  It was a perfect complement to the fresh fruit and sweet sauce.  What is vin santo?  No clue.  I wasn't about to spend $30 on a bottle of it to find out.  So I simply used a $12 ice wine and then we finished that off for dessert.  :-)

There you go - another stunning birthday dinner for the books!  And the best thing is - we have two more birthday dinners this summer!  John is in August, and Tony is excited for his, which we will probably do next week!

Next Post - Antonio's Birthday Dinner

May 30, 2014 - Small Plates of Big Flavor

Good Morning, all!  Jennifer and I did an impromptu CS meal on Friday night since both the men were out doing their own thing... after all, when the cat's away, the mice will play, right?  Anyways - we decided to forgo the big, heavy meal and go for a lighter "small plates" type affair - and it turned out perfectly!  Enjoy!

Cocktail - Watermelon Cucumber Margaritas

Watermelon is in one of our small plates, so we figured we would put that juicer to use and engage in some fresh margaritas... it was delicious!  We simply juiced cucumber and watermelon - then mixed it with tequila until it tasted up to par.  (We also muddled a little mint, too.)  Light, refreshing - goes down too easy.

Plate 1 - Watermelon Mozzarella Salad

Oh. My. Goodness.  Yes.  Why haven't we done this before?  Follow the recipe exactly and you will not go wrong!  Juicy crisp watermelon with creamy mozzarella - more, please!

Plate 2 - Baked Fig Crostini

If I had to pick one dish to eat for the rest of my life - this may be it!  Gooey, sweet, tart - I can't even begin to explain it.  You want to make something to impress?  Here you go - look no further.  BUT - let's modify a couple things.  First off - you don't need the crostini.  If you were doing crostini - I would recommend spreading the goat cheese and then a fig jam.  The way we built it - it was too cumbersome to eat.  Just serve the figs themselves - bite sized pieces of heaven.  Also - we used cooked sliced pancetta that we then chopped - it has a nice pepper to it and is a little easier to eat than chopped bacon.  Finally, a little drizzle of honey never hurt anyone.

Plate 3 - Asian Braised Pork Belly

I give up on pork belly.  It was good, don't get me wrong - but honestly, not worth the time it took to make it.  I'm just going to have to rely on good restaurants to serve the pork belly I'm craving.  Still - if you're up for a challenge - go for it!  Let me know how to improve!

Plate 4 - Roasted Sweet Potatoes with Garlic and Rosemary

See picture above.  Delicious!  Great side dish and a wonderful way to use up potatoes!

Wine 1 - 2011 Daglia Cannon Cabernet

Great with the pork, this oaky and dry red wine has strong berry notes in the background and a leathery type of finish.  Strong tannins but they are very refined and help with the flavor.

Wine 2 - 2007 Aspaldi Rioja Reserva

Good with everything, this Spanish red was a hit!  Black cherry with a little smokiness and a sense of Asian flavors coming out!  Delicious!

Dessert - Boozy Watermelon Cupcakes

Cupcakes made with alcohol?  You can never go wrong!  These sweet little babies packed a punch but were so good!

So there you go - a small plates meal that was delicious and very much enjoyed on our ladies night.  Next post is special - it's Jennifer's birthday dinner... which means themed ingredients and a big challenge!

Next Post - Jennifer's Birthday