Monday, June 29, 2009

Spicy Pacific Tartares for Coronado Concerts in the Park - Challenge Chile Peppers

This week's Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge was Chile Peppers. Whew, we had the Scoville scale covered! Our chefs certainly spiced up my life for the evening, with creations featuring roasted red bell peppers, multi-colored jalapenos, smoked jalapenos (chipotle), serranos, habaneros, poblanos, chile de arbols, Thai, and New Mexico reds.

Mark Miller inspired me a second time this week, with his Spicy Pacific Tartares

Spicy Pacific Tartares - Ahi Tuna with Serrano-Cilantro Mayonnaise & Salmon with Smoked Chiles
From Mark Miller's Indian Market Cookbook, Recipes from Santa Fe's Famous Coyote Cafe

Tartare is a preparation of finely chopped raw meat or fish, optionally with seasonings and sauces. This recipe is prepared with 8 oz. fresh Ahi tuna and 8 oz. fresh salmon. The fish used must be extremely fresh and of the highest sashimi-quality. I found this beautiful Ahi and Salmon from the sushi chef at Bristol Farms.

It is also extremely important to keep the fish chilled. Mark recommends chilling your plastic chopping board prior to mincing the fish and then storing the Ahi and salmon, separately, in stainless steel bowls set over ice and water.

There are only a few ingredients for the Serrano-Cilantro and Smoked Chile Mayos...

Making preparation fairly simple.

For the Serrano-Cilantro Mayonnaise:

Roast 10 serrano chiles on a wire rack over a gas flame. Blister and blacken the skins evenly and then transfer to a bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the chiles to steam for 15 minutes. Scrape off all the skin from the chiles and cut off the stems, but keep the chiles whole with their seeds. Make sure the chiles are completely cooled before preparing the mayonnaise.

Transfer chiles to a blender and add: 1 egg, plus one egg yolk; 1 tablespoon fresh lime juice; 1 tablespoon fresh cilantro leaves; and 1/2 tablespoon salt. Puree until smooth. With the blender running, add 1.5 cups peanut oil, in a slow, steady stream, until completely absorbed and thick. Transfer to a bowl and keep chilled.

Similarly, for the Smoked Chile Mayonnaise:

Place the following ingredients in the blender: 1 egg, plus one egg yolk; 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice; 1/4 cup chipotle chile puree, and 1 clove garlic. Puree until smooth. With the blender running, add 1,5 cups peanut oil, in a slow, steady stream, until completely absorbed and thick. Transfer to a bowl and keep chilled.

The tartares are prepared by adding 1/4 cup of the Serrano-Cilantro Mayonnaise to the minced Ahi tuna, mixing well to combine, and 1/4 cup of the Smoked Chile Mayonnaise to the minced salmon, mixing well to combine. Again, be sure to keep the tartares well-chilled until serving.

The tartares are supposed to be served with toasted brioche. In my Martha Stewart's Hors d' Oeuvres Handbook, Martha cuts brioche rounds from 3/4 inch slices of bread with a 1.5 inch round cookie cutter, and then sautes the rounds in a little butter over medium heat. I was unable to find a loaf of brioche, and settled on the last 4 brioche rolls from the bakery counter. I sliced each roll into 3/4 inch thick slices, and did my best to cut out the little rounds (obviously, I recommend finding a loaf of brioche, or similar bread, rather than rolls, for ease of cutting and higher yield of rounds). You can also serve the tartares with crackers, such as Table Water Crackers.

These were fancy brioche rolls, but I was also able to manage one round from each nipple!

As I was sauteing the rounds, they reminded me of seared scallops and that's how I came up with my plating idea.

We have a collection of scallop shells for plating hors d'oeuvres, and they were perfect for my vision

In addition to my Spicy Pacific Tartares, our socks were knocked off by the following incredible dishes:

John's Cinnamon-Grilled Chicken with Spinach Couscous and Harissa Sauce

Kai's Thai Beef Lettuce Wraps

Kai's Stuffed out for that habanero!

Grilled Flank Steak with Chile Sauce, courtesy of Alec & Nina

Brad's version of Crunchy Jicama and Mango Salad with Chile and Lime, heightened by sauteed jalapenos and prosciutto.

Although I wasn't able to photograph everything, some of the other chile-inspired creations included: Pam's Spinach Salad with Chile Pepper Dressing; Jim's Margaritas, with a float of Jalapeno Syrup; Alec & Nina's Chile-Lime Butter with Crusty Bread; Chili served over Jalapeno Corn Bread; and Shrimp Salad. Thank you, everyone, for sharing your Sunday and all your wonderful food!

We're all looking forward to next weekend and Coronado's Fourth of July festivities. We'll meet again for Concert in the Park on the 5th, with Challenge All-American Fare - God Bless America!

Friday, June 26, 2009

Buffalo Sausage Tacos

I recently purchased Tacos, 75 Authentic and Inspired Recipes, by Mark Miller. The first taco recipe that caught my attention, due to the unique combination of ingredients, was the Buffalo Sausage Tacos. And, it so happens, this past weekend, we bought some frozen buffalo sausage from one of our favorite gourmet markets, Bristol Farms -La Jolla.

Mark Miller's recipe calls for oil-roasting the chiles, sauteing the apples on the stove, searing the sausages on the stove, and finishing the sausages in a 300 degree F oven. However, since it was such a nice summer evening, I opted to adapt the recipe for the gas grill.

Buffalo Sausage Tacos
Adapted for the grill, from Tacos, by Mark Miller
Makes 9 Tacos


3 medium New Mexico green chiles, roasted, peeled, cored, and seeded
2 tablespoons unsalted butter (for sauteing the apples)
2 Jonathan apples, cored and thinly sliced, and sauteed
9 oz. buffalo sausage
1/8 teaspoon dried Mexican oregano, toasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon cumin seed, toasted and ground
1/8 teaspoon fennel seed, toasted and ground
9 (5 ½ inch) flour tortillas
Garnish: crumbled goat cheese
Accompaniment: Mexican Crema or sour cream

I was unable to find New Mexico green chiles, but Mark says to substitute Anaheim chiles, and add a couple jalapenos to the mix, since Anaheims are milder than New Mexico green chiles. I roasted 3 Anaheims and 2 jalapenos for our tacos. However, the buffalo sausage was very spicy on its own, and I 'm not sure the jalapenos were necessary!

After rubbing the chiles with a little vegetable oil, John roasted them on the grill, until charred and blistered all over, and then put them in a sealed paper bag to steam for about 15 minutes.

Once steamed, I scraped off all of the skin, seeded and cored the chiles, and sliced them into strips.

I toasted the oregano, cumin and fennel in a pan for 1-2 minutes and then ground the spices into a powder with a mortar and pestle. The spices are then sprinkled over the buffalo sausages after they are grilled and sliced.

I cored and sliced 2 Jonathan apples. The original recipe calls for peeling the apples, but I chose to leave the peel on. My apple corer sliced the apples too thick, so I sliced each piece again.

I melted the butter, drizzled it over the sliced apples, and cooked the apples in a cast iron skillet, right alongside the sausages.

We quickly warmed, and slightly browned, the flour tortillas on the grill and wrapped them in foil to keep warm. We sliced the buffalo sausage into 1/2 inch, diagonal slices and then sprinkled the ground spices over the sausage.

We assembled each taco using a warm tortilla, about 4 pieces of sausage, 3-4 chile strips, 2-3 apple slices, crumbled goat cheese, and a dollop of Mexican Crema or sour cream.

We really loved the combination of spicy buffalo sausage, green chiles and apples. The apples, goat cheese and sour cream cooled the spiciness just a tad and added such nice flavors. This recipe gets 5 stars from me and I can't wait to try more interesting and tasty tacos from this book...possibly for Sunday's Concert in the Park, Challenge Chiles!

Monday, June 22, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park: Challenge BEER Featuring Bass Pale Ale & Hoisin Braised Buffalo Short Ribs

Finally, the sun emerged in Coronado and we were able to bask in the late afternoon rays while feasting on a gratifying mélange of beer-inspired cuisine. What more could a dad ask for on Father's Day?

Our day commenced with our morning walk, followed by most of the day in the kitchen. Around 4:30, we packed up the wagon for our trek to the park. We had a rather full load this week and the wagon totally collapsed, with the sound of snapping metal, about a half block from the house. John walked back and retrieved Big Ugly, his poor old van from his Navy deep sea diving days, which has now been converted to our NUV (Newfy Utility Vehicle). We quickly transferred the wagon contents into the van and continued to the park unloading zone, where we emptied the van and proceeded to lug 4 tables, 4 chairs, a Dutch oven full of ribs, a chafing dish full of mashed potatoes, an ice chest full of ice cream, our picnic basket, wine, et al., ad nauseam, across the park to our spot under the Jacaranda tree.

Once set up, and settled in with a large glass of wine, I was able to chillax and await the arrival of our fellow chefs.

Everything was so delectable, I don't know where to begin!

Kai outperformed once again with "Pork & Beer." OMG...German sausage, boneless leg of pork, and slab bacon, all cozily nestled in Amber Ale cabbage. Just look at that seductively-scored pork your heart out, Emeril! Kai even included homemade Beer Mustard as an accompanying condiment.

Kai's son Max approved wholeheartedly!

Alec & Nina graciously offered Beer-Braised Pork Tacos with Tomatillo Salsa Verde and the most incredible Boilermaker Brownies I've ever tasted. Nina added beer to the brownie batter and whiskey to the chocolate ganache, but the sprinkling of finishing salt really cinched the deal.

I must say, my man has become quite the Ice Cream Maker Extraordinaire! He created a very special Beer Ice Cream by incorporating Bass Pale Ale in the custard. He then reduced his new favorite beer, Speedway Stout, with some sugar, to create Caramel-Stout Syrup. Can you say "liquid sex?"

Jack & Sandra shared fantastic Beer-Simmered Brats with Grilled Onions and Peppers; Pammy whipped up a pitcher of her most-requested Trailer-Trash Margaritas, made with Tequila, Beer, and Limeade; Mom baked Double-Chocolate Stout mini cupcakes with cream cheese frosting and a dusting of cocoa powder; and Bradley, the one-hour chef, managed to have time for a matinee and grace us with his presence and offering of Gooey Beer Cheese smeared on Garlic Bread.

Yours truly, aka Miss Blogsalot (John's new pet name for me since I've plunged into the food blogsphere), managed to sweet-talk the butcher into some meaty buffalo short ribs for my Bass Pale Ale and Hoisin-Braised Short Ribs, served over creamy mashed Yukons.

Ok, they weren't really buffalo short ribs...I just wanted an excuse to share one of our Yellowstone National Park buffalo photos from our incredible Yellowstone and Jackson Hole vacation last year! Soon, I will figure out a way to incorporate one of our moose photos, most likely with a recipe for a bar appetizer we enjoyed in Jackson Hole, lovingly named Moose Mix.

Bass Pale Ale & Hoisin Braised Short Ribs
(Inspired by Fine Cooking's Barbecued-Braised Short Ribs with Sweet Vinegar Glaze and Dave Lieberman's Braised Hoisin Beer Short Ribs with Creamy Mashed Yukons)


4 lbs. beef short ribs, about 10 ribs
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
3 tablespoons vegetable oil for ribs, plus 3 tablespoons to saute the garlic, ginger and vegetable spice mix
10 garlic cloves, smashed
1-inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced into 1/4 inch slices
3 tablespoons It's Delish Vegetable Mix
18 ounces Bass Pale Ale
3 tablespoons Chinese Black Vinegar, or rice wine vinegar
1 cup hoisin sauce
5 tablespoons Chili-Garlic Sauce


Season the ribs generously with salt and pepper and drizzle with 3 tablespoons of the oil. Tie each rib with an 8" piece of cooking twine. Sear the ribs on a hot gas grill, approximately 2-3 minutes per side.

Heat the remaining 3 tablespoons vegetable oil in a large Dutch oven over medium heat and saute the garlic, ginger, and vegetable spice mix, for about 4 minutes. Add the beer and vinegar and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to low and add the ribs, meaty side down. Cover and simmer for 2 hours.

Pre-heat the oven to 300 degrees F.

Remove the ribs to a clean plate and strain the sauce. Remove the fat from the sauce using a fat separator and return the sauce to the Dutch oven. Add the hoisin and chili-garlic sauces and let the sauce reduce over medium-high heat for about 15 minutes. Put the ribs back in, meaty side down, and move the pot to the oven, uncovered, for 30 minutes.

Serve the succulent, fall-off-the-bone, meaty ribs with mashed potatoes and a sprinkling of minced chives or green onion.

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Giada De Laurentiis' Apricot and Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing

Although the theme of tonight's Concert in the Park is beer (my Bass Ale and Hoisin Braised Short Ribs are getting ready to go in the oven), I have been craving something with apricots since seeing this eagerly awaited summer fruit in the produce aisle. I started searching for recipes and was instantly drawn to Apricot and Nut Cookies, by Giada De Laurentiis. Not only is she beautiful, but Giada knows how to make good use of Amaretto, one of my favorite Italian liqueurs.

This was also the perfect recipe to submit to Mansi at Fun and Food, who's hosting the June edition for SHF (Sugar High Friday) - Fruit & Nut.

I also learned apricots are one of California’s prized specialty crops - my Golden State produces over 95% of all the apricots grown in the United States!

The dough is filled with chewy dried apricots, toasted, slivered almonds, and toasted pine nuts

Once the dough is mixed, it is rolled into a log, wrapped in plastic wrap, and refrigerated until firm enough to slice.

The icing is a simple combination of confectioners' sugar and Amaretto...oh, but wait until you taste it!

The cookies are then bathed in the luscious icing and allowed to dry

Here they are, nestled in a cute little basket and steel blue napkin I found yesterday during our food photography props shopping spree!

Apricot and Nut Cookies with Amaretto Icing
Slightly modified from Giada De Laurentiis
(Makes approximately 2 dozen cookies)


1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 large egg
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup slivered almonds, toasted
2 tablespoons pine nuts, toasted


1 3/4 cups confectioners' sugar
5 tablespoons almond flavored liqueur, such as Amaretto


For the Cookies: In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon, and salt with an electric mixer until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg. Stir in the flour until just blended. Mix in the apricots, almonds, and pine nuts.

Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide it in half. Shape each half into a log, about 6 inches long and 1 ½ inches wide in diameter. Roll each log in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Line 2 heavy baking sheets with parchment paper. Cut the dough log crosswise into 1/2 inch-thick slices. If the dough isn’t firm enough to slice cleanly, freeze for 15 minutes. Transfer the cookies to the prepared baking sheets, spacing evenly apart. Bake until the cookies are golden around the edges, about 15-18 minutes.
I wanted the cookies perfectly round, so I used a round cookie cutter, just slightly smaller than the cooked cookies to cut the cookies when they were still hot out of the oven.
Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely before icing.

For the Icing: Place the confectioners' sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Gradually whisk in the almond flavored liqueur, until the mixture is of drizzling consistency.
Place the wire rack over a baking sheet. Using a spoon, drizzle the cookies with the icing, allowing any excess icing to drip onto the baking sheet. Allow the icing to set before serving, about 30 minutes.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Provencal Vegetable Soup - Soupe Au Pistou

Provencal Vegetable Soup - Soupe Au Pistou
Gourmet, May 2009

During the spring and summer, I love to take advantage of the fresh fruits and vegetables in our Farmers' Markets. This soup is packed full of beautiful vegetables, cooked only briefly until tender so they retain their vibrant colors. Edamame is used instead of the traditional white beans. It takes only about an hour, including prep time, so it's a simple, healthy, and delicious dinner for a week night.

Leeks, carrots, celery, garlic and thyme

Edamame, green and yellow zucchini, green beans, Swiss chard, and potatoes

Swiss Chard

The leek, celery, carrot, garlic, thyme sprig, potatoes, and Swiss chard stalks are sauteed first, and the edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, and chard leaves go in after the water is added and comes to a boil.

Soup Ingredients & Preparation

1 large leek (white and pale green parts only), washed and thinly sliced (2 cups)
1 celery rib, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 large carrot, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
1 large thyme sprig
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 pound boiling potatoes, peeled and cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/2 pound Swiss chard, stems cut into 1/2-inch pieces and leaves coarsely chopped
8 cups water
2 cups thawed frozen edamame (fresh soybeans)
1/2 pound zucchini, cut into 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 pound green beans, trimmed and cut into 1-inch pieces
3/4 cup medium pasta shells

Cook leek, celery, carrot, garlic, and thyme sprig in oil with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon pepper in a 5-to 6-quart heavy pot over medium heat, stirring occasionally, until vegetables brown and stick to bottom of pot, 10 to 15 minutes.

Add potatoes and chard stems with 1/2 teaspoon salt and cook, stirring occasionally, until beginning to soften, about 5 minutes. Add water and bring to a boil, stirring and scraping up brown bits.

Stir in edamame, zucchini, green beans, pasta, chard leaves, and 1/4 tsp salt and simmer, uncovered, until pasta is al dente and vegetables are tender, about 10 minutes. Discard thyme sprig.

Remove soup from heat and stir in half of pistou and salt and pepper to taste. Serve soup with remaining pistou.

Pistou Ingredients & Preparation

1 small tomato
1 cup packed basil leaves
1/2 cup packed flat-leaf parsley leaves
2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 cup coarsely grated Gruyère (3 ounces)

Heat a dry small skillet (not nonstick) over medium heat until hot, then char tomato on all sides. Core tomato, then purée with basil, parsley, and garlic in a food processor. Add oil and cheese and blend well.

If you have a gas stove, I think it's easier to char the tomato in this fashion.

Beautiful basil combines with the tomato, Italian parsley, garlic, olive oil and grated Gruyere to make the Pistou

Half the pistou is stirred into the soup and the remainder is served with the soup.

Accompany the soup with grilled baguette slices brushed with olive oil, and a glass of wine...Bon Appétit!

Monday, June 15, 2009

Espresso Pots de Creme with Pistachio Biscotti

For those of you following our Coronado Concert in the Park Culinary Challenges, yesterday’s Challenge was “Nuts & Balls”…food containing nuts and/or shaped like balls. I didn't come up with this one, but there were many options. However, with my recent Gyoza "reveal" for The Daring Cooks' June Challenge, I decided to take it easy this week with a fairly simple, but delectable dessert headlining pistachios.

The June gloom burned off by noon, the weather was absolutely beautiful, and Breez’n played a great mix of music. The Nuts & Balls offering included: Two varieties of Cheese Balls rolled in nuts; Chicken Meatballs sprinkled with almonds; Grilled Chicken, Sausage and Vegetable Salad with pinenuts; Floating Melon Balls in vodka aka Ballaritas, Apple and Blueberry Crumble with pecan and granola topping; and...
My Espresso Pots de Crème with Pistachio Biscotti

Espresso Pots de Crème

Egg yolks and strained coffee cream and vanilla before tempering the egg yolks and sugar mixture

I have a set of 12 of these little cups, from Crate & Barrel Outlet, and they are perfect for miniature desserts. I drizzled a little more strong coffee over the tops before baking. They look like baby lattes!

After baking, they look like this - sort of Crème brûlée-ish

Pistachio Biscotti

Make the dough and stir in the pistachios

Divide the dough and form into two logs

Bake the logs, slice diagonally into 1" pieces and bake again briefly on both sides. Here they are plated at the Park

Espresso Pots de Crème with Pistachio Biscotti
Slightly modified from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen

Espresso Pots de Crème

3 cups heavy cream
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 cup whole black coffee beans
6 egg yolks
1/2 cup sugar
3 tablespoons brewed espresso coffee, cold

(Notes: I didn't feel there was enough espresso flavor, so I added a tablespoon of instant espresso powder to the saucepan as the cream, vanilla and coffee beans simmered. Crushing the coffee beans slightly would also help enhance the flavor)

Pistachio Biscotti

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter
3 eggs
1 cup sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cup pistachios, toasted


Combine cream, vanilla, coffee beans [and espresso powder if using] into a saucepan and bring to a brief simmer over medium-low heat. Do not let it boil. Remove from heat and strain into medium bowl to remove coffee beans.

In a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar until egg yolk is light yellow, about 3 minutes. Temper the yolks by gradually adding and whisking the cream mixture into the egg yolks and sugar mixture. Whisk in the the brewed coffee.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Transfer the custard into a glass measuring cup and pour the custard into ramekins (my custard filled 11 small ramekins). Carefully place the ramekins in a large, shallow baking pan and fill with 1/2 inch of hot water (to prevent the ramekins from sliding around, put a thin dish towel on the bottom of the baking pan). Bake about 35 minutes. The center should jiggle slightly. Remove from oven and let cool, with the ramekins still sitting in the water, for 10 minutes. Take the ramekins out of the water and transfer to another holding container and place in the refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

For the biscotti, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. With an electric mixer, beat the butter until light and fluffy. With the mixer running, gradually add the eggs, sugar, and vanilla, and mix until creamed. Gradually add the dry ingredients and mix until smooth. Using a wooden spoon, mix in the pistachios.

Put dough on lightly floured surface and cut in half. Roll each half into a log, about 12 inches long and 1 inch high. Place logs on ungreased cookie sheet and bake for 35 minutes. Let the logs cool for 5 minutes, transfer carefully to a cutting board, and slice each log diagonally into approximately 12, 1 inch-thick pieces. Put the cookies back on the baking sheet and bake again for 5 minutes; turn the cookies over, and bake for another 5 minutes.

Serve the Espresso Pots de Creme with the Pistachio Biscotti on the side for dipping.

This dessert is so luxurious, light, silky and creamy, and relatively guilt-free in small portions. It also reminds me of another dessert favorite, Thomas Keller's Coffee & Doughnuts!