Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Hot August Night, with Neil Diamond and Jewish Cuisine

Hello again, hello...

It was a Hot August Night, for the highly anticipated Diamond is Forever - The Neil Diamond Experience. This was the first Coronado Concert in the Park appearance for David Sherry's Diamond is Forever band, and Spreckels Park was rocking! You can check out a little video clip from eCoronado, here.

Our culinary group chose Jewish Cuisine as the theme of the evening, in Neil's honor (Neil Diamond was born in Brooklyn, New York, to a Jewish family descended from Russian and Polish immigrants).

We noshed and we shmoozed.  Ay, a mecheieh!   

John's Forever in Blue Jeans Sweet Potato Latkes

"Money Talks
But it can`t sing and dance
And it can`t walk
As long as I can have you here with me
I`d much rather be
Forever in Blue Jeans, Babe"

I take credit in finding the Food & Wine recipe, here, but John tweaked it slightly (he doubled the cayenne, and added a touch of celery salt, onion powder, garlic powder and parsley) and these were truly geschmak.

Kai's Love on the Rocks Chopped Liver

"Love on the rocks
Ain't no surprise
Pour me a drink
And I'll tell you some lies
Yesterday's gone
And now all I want is a smile"

Jack & Sandra's I Am, I Said Smoked Salmon, Bagel Chips and Cream Cheese

"I am," I said
To no one there
An no one heard at all
Not even the chair
"I am," I cried
"I am," said I
And I am lost, and I can't even say why
Leavin' me lonely still"

Kai's If You Know What I Mean Baba Ghanoush

"Took a drag from my last cigarette
Took a drink from a glass of old wine
I closed my eyes and I could make it real
And feel it one more time"

Kerry's It's a Beautiful Noise DZ Akins Corned Beef and Pickles Platter

"What a beautiful noise
Comin' up from the street
Got a beautiful sound
It's got a beautiful beat"

My Longfellow Serenade Aubergines with Cheese (from Kosher and Traditional Jewish Cooking: Authentic recipes from a classics culinary heritage: 120 delicious dishes shown in 220 stunning photographs).  Author Marlena Spieler says, "This dish is cooked in a thick cheese sauce that, when cooked, has a topping slightly like a souffle.  It is delicious hot but even better cold, and is the perfect dish to make for a picnic."  She's right; this was fabulous!

"Ride, come on baby, ride
Let me make your dreams come true
I`ll sing my song
let me sing my song
Let me make it warm for you"

Mom's September Morn My Favorite Roast Chicken (from Thomas Keller, here)

"September Morn
We danced until the night became a brand new day
Two lovers playing scenes from some romantic play
September morning still can make me feel that way"

Brad's Solitary Man Kugel

"Don`t know that I will
But until love can find me
A girl who`ll stay
And won`t play games behind me
I`ll be what I am
A solitary man
Solitary man"

My Sweet Caroline Apple Cake (from Kosher and Traditional Jewish Cooking: Authentic recipes from a classics culinary heritage: 120 delicious dishes shown in 220 stunning photographs).  "This cake is firm and moist, with pieces of apples peeking through the top."

"Sweet Caroline
Good times never seemed so good
I've been inclined
To believe they never would"

Mom's Play Me Majestic and Moist Honey Cake (from Smitten Kitchen, here)

"You are the sun
I am the moon
You are the words
I am the tune
Play me"

And, of course, many thought to bring some Red, Red Wine

"Red, red wine
Stay close to me
Don`t let me be alone
It`s tearing apart
My blue, blue heart"

Thank you to Alec for the Reubens!  And, I must express my deepest gratitude to Bob and Sandra, for contributing a few bottles of fine wine!  Couldn't handle the Manischewitz!


Monday, August 30, 2010

Paccheri Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream

The Restaurant Issue of Bon Appetit, September 2010, features The 10 Best New Restaurants in America.   Bar La Grassa, in Minneapolis, has a 24-seat pasta bar for the serious eaters, and a long list of pasta dishes, like Paccheri Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream. La Grassa means "The Fat" in Italian and refers to the legendary cuisine of Bologna. This pasta dish soaks up flavor from braised chicken, onions, garlic, saffron, white wine, chicken broth, whipping cream, and basil. I wasn't able to find paccheri pasta, and used Rustichella D'Abruzzo's Trenne. Bristol Farms and Whole Foods carries this wonderful brand of Italian pasta.  One of our favorites is the Rustichella D' Abruzzo Bucatini.

Paccheri Pasta with Braised Chicken and Saffron Cream
Bar La Grassa, Minneapolis
Featured in Bon Appetit, September 2010
Serves 4-6


2 1/2 to 2 3/4 pounds chicken thighs with skin and bones
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 cups chopped white onions
6 garlic cloves, peeled, crushed
2 cups dry white wine
1 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed
2 cups (or more) low-salt chicken broth
1 pound paccheri (giant rigatoni) or regular rigatoni
1 cup heavy whipping cream
2 tablespoons (or more) fresh lemon juice
2/3 cup chopped fresh basil


Sprinkle chicken with salt and pepper. Heat oil in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add chicken, skin side down, to skillet and cook until golden, about 7 minutes per side. Transfer chicken to plate. Add onions and garlic to drippings in skillet; sauté until onions are slightly softened, 7 to 8 minutes. Add wine and saffron to skillet; bring to boil. Continue to boil until liquid is thickened and reduced by less than half, about 8 minutes. Add 2 cups chicken broth to skillet. Return chicken to skillet; bring to boil. Reduce heat to low. Cover; simmer gently until chicken is very tender (adjust heat to prevent boiling and turn chicken over after 30 minutes), about 1 hour total. Transfer chicken to plate and cool.

Reserve skillet with juices. Remove skin and bones from chicken and discard. Tear chicken meat into bite-size pieces; place in medium bowl and reserve.

Cook pasta in pot of boiling salted water until just tender but still firm to bite, stirring occasionally. Drain; return to pot.

Meanwhile, spoon off fat from juices in skillet; discard fat (I used my gravy separator with great results). Add cream to juices in skillet and boil until sauce is reduced to 2 1/2 cups and is thick enough to coat spoon, about 10 minutes (more like 15-20 minutes). Stir in 2 tablespoons lemon juice, then chicken pieces. Stir over medium heat until heated through, adding more broth by 1/4 cupfuls to thin sauce as needed (not needed) and adding more lemon juice by teaspoonfuls, if desired (mine was fine without more lemon juice), about 5 minutes. Season with salt and pepper. Add chicken mixture to pasta in pot and toss to coat. Stir in basil. Transfer pasta to plates.

This was a hit with everyone at our impromptu pasta dinner party!

Wine pairing:  Serve a floral, fruity white wine.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

This Little Piggy Went to Concert in the Park

Last week was really tough, with the sudden loss of Diver, our 3-year-old Newf. Thank you to all of you who expressed your condolences with phone calls, flowers, cards, e-mails, and comments on our Tranquil Thursdays post.

Our Concert in the Park season is winding down for the summer, with only four concerts, and culinary challenges, remaining. This past Sunday, I acquiesced to John's plea for Challenge Bacon. He threatened to make bacon ice cream, or chocolate truffles stuffed with lardons, but then decided to create his version of the Steamed Mussels in Bacon Broth we enjoyed at Triple Creek Ranch in June. He added cannellini beans and incorporated Aji Amarillo peppers in the broth. The mussels were perfectly cooked and the sauce was incredible!

I must have gone through every cookbook in the house, but eventually came across a recipe I've always wanted to try - Tyler Florence's Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Green Olive Sauce. Sweet and chewy dates, stuffed with crunchy Marcona almonds, wrapped in salty bacon, and served warm with spicy and salty green olive sauce. For our park version, I baked the dates just before leaving and then threw them on the grill for a quick reheating. Another excellent recipe, Tyler. You're the man!

Dates Wrapped in Bacon with Green Olive Sauce
Slightly adapted from Tyler Florence's Real Kitchen: An Indispensable Guide for Anybody Who Likes to Cook
Makes 30 pieces and 1 2/3 cups olive sauce


30 whole almonds (I used Marcona almonds)
30 Medjool dates, pitted
15 bacon slices, halved (I was able to cut the bacon slices into thirds)
Green Olive Sauce:
2 tablespoons, plus 1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 shallots, sliced
1 dried red chile, minced
1/2 pound green Spanish Olives, pitted (I used a Basque mix from Bristol Farms)
1/4 bunch fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons sherry vinegar

In a small skillet, heat 2 tablespoons of oil. Sauté the shallots and chili over low heat for 8 minutes until caramelized. Let them cool a bit, then scrape them into a food processor. Add the olives, parsley, vinegar, and 1/2 cup of olive oil. Puree a good 3 minutes until totally smooth. Refrigerate until ready to use.


Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lay the almonds on a cookie sheet in a single layer and bake for 10 minutes or until the nuts are lightly toasted.  Remove from oven.  (I skipped this step because my Marcona almonds were already toasted). When cool enough to handle, stuff an almond inside each date.

Wrap a piece of bacon around the date so the ends stick together and secure with wooden toothpick. Put them on cookie sheets and bake until the bacon is crisp, about 20 to 25 minutes. Serve the dates with the olive sauce for dipping.


Bring on the bacon!  

John's Steamed Mussels, with Cannellini Beans and Bacon (recipe at bottom of post)

Carmen's Bacon and Eggs Crespéou 

Carmen wowed us with her first Crespéou, for Challenge Zucchini, back in July 2008 (photo here). Crespéou is pronounced cress-PAY-oo, and sometimes called gateau d'omelettes. “It is a gorgeous, layered omelet cake from Provence. Like ratatouille, crespéou can be made myriad ways. The easiest is just to cook up a stack of open-face omelets, of varying colors and with contrasting ingredients, piling them on a plate as they firm up and brown slightly, then cut the assemblage into wedges to serve right away. But it is much more common to stack the omelets and then weight them overnight so that they compress and cling together even more. The contrast among flavors in every layer is more pronounced.” Read The Los Angeles Times' article, Crespéou, an Edible Ticket to Provence, here.  Carmen’s Bacon and Eggs Crespéou incorporated Summer Salad and Zesty Olive Spread,  adapted from this recipePotato Salad, adapted from this recipe; Roasted Red Pepper and Bacon Salad, adapted from this recipe, and a spicy mango and corn chutney. Another masterpiece!

Mom's BLT Salad with Buttermilk Dressing (Martha Stewart's recipe, here)

Sandra's Brown Sugar, Bacon-Wrapped Lil' Smokies

Carmen's Swedish Ginger Cookies - the key ingredient is bacon fat!
(Recipe published in The New York Times, here)

Bradley's Pig Lickers - Bacon dipped in white and dark chocolate


John's Steamed Mussels with Cannellini Beans and Bacon
in a White wine, Aji Amarillo, Saffron and Mustard Sauce
Serves 8-10 as an appetizer

3 pounds fresh, black Mussels (cleaned and debearded, method here)
12 ounces dry Cannellini beans
1 teaspoon salt
2 tablespoons olive oil
8 ounces applewood-smoked slab bacon
2 large shallots
2 tablespoons butter
1/3 cup flour
5 large garlic cloves, minced
2 Aji Amarillo peppers, minced (we found them in a jar at an Ethnic market)
1 cup white wine
2 tablespoons Stone Ground mustard
¼ teaspoon saffron threads
1 teaspoon celery salt
2 tablespoons white wine vinegar
2 cups fish stock
1 cup reserved cooking liquid from beans
1 baguette, sliced, drizzled with olive oil, and lightly toasted

For the beans:

Soak the beans in a large bowl of cold water overnight. Drain, place the beans in a large saucepan, fill with fresh water (at least one inch above the beans), and add 1 teaspoon of salt. Bring to a simmer, reduce heat to low, and cook for 30-45 minutes, or until tender. Drain, reserving 1 cup cooking liquid, and let beans cool.

For the lardons:

Thomas Keller’s method for lardons produces wonderfully textured, chewy lardons. Cut the bacon into lardons about 1 inch long and ½ inch thick. Pour 2 tablespoons water into a medium saucepan and set over medium heat (the water will keep the bacon from crisping as the fat begins to render). Add the bacon, reduce the heat to medium-low, and let the bacon render its fat for 30 minutes. The bacon will color but not become completely crisp. Transfer to paper towels to drain.

For the sauce:

In a large skillet, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add shallots and Aji Amarillo peppers, and sauté 3-4 minutes. Add garlic and sauté for 1 minute. Add butter.  When butter has melted, ,add flour and stir continuously until a light roux forms. Deglaze with white wine. Add saffron, mustard, celery salt, and white wine vinegar. Simmer until a light gravy forms. Add fish stock and 1 cup reserved cooking liquid from the beans and allow to reduce by half.

Final assembly:

Add mussels to the simmering sauce. Cover the pot and cook until all of the shells have opened, about 6 to 8 minutes. Discard any that do not open. Add reserved white beans and simmer uncovered until beans have warmed. Transfer mussels to a large serving dish and pour the sauce and beans over the top. Garnish with lardons and crostini, and serve family-style.


Everyone is looking forward to Sunday's concert, Diamond is Forever! The Neil Diamond Experience. The show starts at 5:00, and our culinary challenge is Jewish cuisine.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Tranquil Thurdays - Goodbye, Sweet Diver

There is a sacredness in tears.
They are not the mark of weakness, but of power.
They speak more eloquently than ten thousand tongues.
 They are messengers of overwhelming grief...and unspeakable love.
~Washington Irving

Wynship's Native Diver
April 16, 2007 - August 15, 2010

We love you, goofy boy, and will miss your endless supply of hugger-duggers