Wednesday, June 17, 2015

June 14, 2015 - Jennifer's Birthday Round 3

OMG, this is our 3rd year of birthday blog dinners.  Wowza.  Time flies.  So by now you know how this works, so let's get down the nitty gritty - this is a long post as it is...

Tonight's ingredients:  Ostrich, Balsamic, Blueberries

And away we go...

Cocktail - Strawberry Balsamic Bourbon Cocktail

1 part balsamic vinegar.  2 parts strawberry syrup.  4 parts bourbon.  Shake it up and pour it over some muddle strawberries and lemon slices.  Top with seltzer if necessary.  It's lighter than you think and has a delicious heaviness to it from the balsamic vinegar.  (The balsamic used is a classic aged balsamic vinegar of Modena.)

Hors d'Ouevre - Basil Whipped Goat Cheese Stuffed Strawberries with Balsamic Glaze

Aren't they cute???  This was soooo simple and easily put together a few hours before everyone came over.  A nice bite of sweet and savory in one!  (The balsamic used is a reduced balsamic glaze.  A balsamic glaze is a well reduced balsamic vinegar that then gets a very syrupy consistency and a sweet flavor.)

Hors d'Ouevre - Blueberry Basil Balsamic Mozzarella Crisps

Oh.  My.  God.  I made only one mistake with this dish - I didn't make enough.  If you look in the back, you'll see some classic tomato bruschetta lurking - that's because I really didn't know how this was going to turn out.  I was wrong.  The sweet and savory blueberries worked perfectly with the ooey gooey cheese and the fresh basil.  Did I mention the balsamic vinegar used in this dish?  We used a fig vanilla balsamic, and it definitely gave it an extra wow factor!

Appetizer - Massaged Kale Salad with Blueberry Balsamic Vinaigrette

This salad was jam packed with flavor - goat cheese, blueberries, grilled corn, almonds, cherry tomatoes - perfection!  And yes, you literally massage the kale and it slowly breaks down and becomes more tender.  The blueberry balsamic with rich and thick and really held up against the coarse greens and fresh ingredients!  This will be next week's lunch!!

Appetizer Wine - 2014 Domaine Houchart Cotes de Provence Rose

Summer = Rose season.  Deal with it.  Embrace it.  This salmon colored wine was lively and fresh with notes of strawberries and citrus.  It didn't overwhelm the salad and instead helped accentuate all the flavors and create a clean palate for the rest of the meal.

Entree - Ostrich Steaks with Cassis and Blueberry Sauce

Ostrich is a bird.  But it really looks and tastes like beef.  It's also extremely lean, so therefore healthier for you than a lot of your other options.  But being that it is a game meat, it is best to serve with something a little fruity, and this sauce was divine.  (It also took pretty much all day to reduce, but if you've learned anything from our blog - its that reducing is time consuming but key.)  And we did use a classic balsamic vinegar in the sauce reduction.

Side Dish - Horseradish Whipped Potatoes

You really don't taste the horseradish!  And the fact that you make it early on and then just reheat is sooo convenient!  Delicious!

Side Dish - Honey Roasted Brussels Sprouts

There's no real recipe for this, because its simply become a staple in my life.  Halve brussels sprouts.  Toss with olive oil and kosher salt.  (The saltier, the better.)  Roast at 400 until they get caramelized and crispy.  At that point, I usually drizzle with honey and add whatever else I want and then throw them back in the oven for a few minutes.  (I would recommend additions like bacon, pancetta, dried cranberries, almonds, etc.)

Final Plate

Entree Wine - 2013 Seghesio Sonoma Zinfandel

This well structured red is packed with jammy fruity aromas yet has a rich and well-structured balance of black cherry and smoky pepper.  A delicious addition and a perfect match!

Dessert - Blackberry Balsamic Chocolate Mousse with Blackberry Balsamic Truffles

So I found a blackberry balsamic vinegar and realized it would be perfect for a dessert.  The chocolate mousse was great in concept - just to rich and filling for ending what had been a long and filing meal.  It was also rather sweet.  The truffles were good - just a pain to make.  Next time, I'll just buy some.

Aperitif - Homemade Basil Blueberry Liqueur

Let a bottle filled with blueberries and chopped basil and then filled with vodka sit for a month in the fridge.  Then drain and add simple syrup.  Serve cold..  This was tasty - but too sweet.  Next time, I'll add simple syrup in smaller quantities to taste.

May 24, 2015 - Cucumber Melon

If you are my generation (let's say your childhood existing somewhere in between the 80's and the 00's), then you are very familiar with the phenomenon that was the "cucumber melon" fragrance from Bath and Body Works.  While this dinner wasn't inspired by the fragrance, it definitely brought back some memories, and I am now the proud owner of some cucumber melon body wash just for old times sake.

Cocktail - Cucumber Melon Martini

Please ignore the lighting that gives these martinis a rather puce looking color.  We kept this one simple and refreshing.  Juiced cucumber and cantaloupe with some vodka - can't go wrong with this classic!

Appetizer - Cucumber Gazpacho with Shrimp and Melon

Did you say you were looking for something to bring to lunch this coming week that was tasty and healthy?  Look no further!  We did use cantaloupe for this, not watermelon, as there was a theme here, people.  Light, delicious and guilt-free!  We followed the recipe exactly (halved it), and literally just grabbed a handful of fresh herbs from the backyard.  I believe they were parsley, basil, mint, dill, and possibly thyme.

Appetizer Wine - 2013 Banfi Centine Toscana

We may have blogged this one before, and that's ok, because its lovely!  I had the pleasure of visiting the Banfi Vineyards when I was in Tuscany last summer and therefore I'm probably a little biased.  This wine is fermented part of the time in stainless steel and then part of the time in oak, leaving a rich flavor full of apricot, pear, lime and herbs.  It's dry and well balanced with a good acidity.

Entree - Grilled Swordfish with Cucumber Melon Salsa

I almost feel bad because there was barely any effort involved this week.  Yet, it still came out a dynamite meal!  Follow the salsa recipe as is, grill swordfish to your taste, and voila!

Side Dish - Melon and Prosciutto Risotto

I know you're thinking to yourself "where does this come from?"  Well - it came out of left field and it was fabulous!  You always see prosciutto and melon together as an appetizer or finger food - so why not add some starch?  Trust me - give it a shot!

Entree Wine - 2014 Babich Sauvignon Blanc

This fresh and fruity wine has a strong minerality to it which was a nice complement to the fruit-heavy meal.  It was well balanced with medium weight and equal flavors herb and fruit.  Great pick!

Dessert - Melon Gelato

So, let me take you back to Italy and try to explain the heavenly dessert called gelato.  No, its not ice cream.  No, its not sorbet.  There is absolutely no comparison for it, and it deserves a league of its own.  Sadly, it is simply nothing that I have found replicated on this side of the ocean.  Our fruits or creams or whatever must not be the same, because store bought and even homemade gelato still does not compare.  It had a granular texture almost, and unfortunately, the melon just wasn't strong enough to really give this dessert some standout flavor.  That's ok - we'll just keep on perfecting it.

Aperitif - Duck Walk Blackberry Wine

I know I've mentioned the Long Island vineyards before, and Duck Walk is one of my favorites!  Besides one of my favorite people ever working there (hey there, Michael!), it does make some great wines at very reasonable prices.  This dessert wine cannot be beat!  Full and luscious with tangy and sweet notes!  

Soooo... there you go.  Another blog dinner... and guess what - another post coming up tonight as well!  It's that time of the year folks - birthday blog dinner!!!  You'll never guess what Jennifer came up with!