Saturday, August 28, 2010

International Food Blogger Conference: Foodies Meet in Seattle

International Food Bloggers Conference 2010
I'm spending the weekend in Seattle at the International Food Blogger Conference in Seattle. After a long day of traveling, I arrived at the Hotel Monaco in downtown Seattle yesterday afternoon. The weekend's activities began at 5pm with drinks and appetizers from a variety of vendors. Although I came for the networking and to learn more about food blogging, I'm really mostly excited about all of the amazing food and wine that I get to enjoy over the weekend. And last night's party did not disappoint! There were three rooms full of all sorts of food and wine, portioned in small bites so that you could try everything. And try everything I did. Some of Seattle's best chefs were there to offer tastes of their food that would probably cost an arm and a leg at their restaurant.

For example, Chef Jason Wilson of Crush made the most amazing little sandwich I've ever eaten. The sandwich was entirely made from scratch, including the little brioche buns. The fish was salted and smoked in some very complicated process that I did not understand. I simply nodded and smiled as he explained to me how it was made. Whatever you say Chef. All I cared about was that it was absolutely delicious! The fish was moist, tender and slightly sweet. The tomatoes were juicy and bursting with flavor. The lettuce was crisp and the aioli was slightly smokey and salty with a the flavors of bacon. And those homemade little buns were buttery and flakey. It was a small sandwich but I savored every bite. There were tons of other great options at the party: a delicious banh mi with steak, homemade mango sriracha sauce, and pickled vegetables; lamb chops rubbed in garlic and herbs and cooked to a perfect medium rare; a delicious variety of hand crafted cheeses; and of course an entire table of cupcakes. But the fish sandwich from Crush was definitely the best item of the evening.

I promise I am also here to learn and hopefully make my blog a better place for everyone. So stay tuned for some more posts as I share the interesting, tasty, and funny moments of the weekend.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto

For Gavin's celebratory dinner (he just passed his citizenship exam), his main request was something with mushrooms. He loves mushrooms, as do I, and wanted some sort of dish that featured them. Being a very open ended request, I went searching for different mushroom recipes that would work as a nice side dish to grilled steak (another of his favs). This quinoa risotto dish I found on Epicurious looked delicious and used lots of mushrooms combined with healthy quinoa and the lemony taste of fresh thyme. This isn't a true risotto as the quinoa is cooked with all the liquid at once, instead of gradually added like a classic risotto. However, the wine and mushroom combination give it a creamy texture that is similar to risotto, only with a lot less work. The Parmesan cheese on top adds that salty, nuttiness that is present in most risottos as well. So regardless of the technical definition of this dish, it was easy to make, healthy, and absolutely delicious. I used some extra fresh thyme combined with rosemary, salt, pepper and olive oil to rub the bison steaks and simply grilled them to medium rare. This side dish was definitely worthy of our celebratory dinner but was easy enough to be worth making any night of the week.

Mushroom Quinoa Risotto
  • 1 cup quinoa, rinsed
  • 2 cups vegetable or chicken stock
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 large shallot, diced
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 8 oz crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
  • 4-6 oz shiitake mushrooms, stemmed, sliced
  • 3 tsp fresh thyme, chopped
  • 1 cup dry white wine
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese, grated
Combine quinoa and stock in a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 10-12 minutes, until liquid is absorbed.
Meanwhile, heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add shallot and saute until lightly brown and soft.
Add garlic and cook another minute.
Add mushrooms and thyme. Saute until mushrooms are brown and tender, about 10 minutes. Season with a pinch of salt and pepper.
Stir in wine and cook until the wine has reduced, another 5-8 minutes.
Mix quinoa and mushrooms together. Check seasoning.
Serve sprinkled with grated Parmesan cheese.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Honeyed Figs with Roasted Rosemary Goat Cheese

Exciting news here in the home of Bull City Food: my hubby passed his citizenship exam! Gavin hails from our friendly neighbor to north, Canada, and has been in the US for about six years. But getting his citizenship gives us a sense of security and we couldn't be happier. So obviously this was reason to celebrate and in our house, we celebrate with food and wine. As soon as I heard the news, I began pulling out recipes I have been wanting to try and thinking of some of his favorite things to put together a meal worthy of such an occasion. Although I don't usually make an appetizer when it's just the two of us, I really wanted to try this honeyed fig dish I found on The Sensitive Pantry, a food blog featured on Fresh figs are very perishable and only in season for a short time so I've been trying to get my hands on some while I still can. They are available now at most grocery stores but tend to sell out quickly. If you can't find fresh figs, dates would also be delicious or even ripe peaches would work with these flavors. Grilling the figs brings out their natural sweetness as does the drizzle of honey and lemon. The goat cheese is creamy and slightly tart, making it a perfect pairing with the sweet figs. Besides tasting delicious, these figs look absolutely beautiful and would make an impressive addition to a cocktail party or buffet table. If you are serving them to guests, do everything except grilling the figs ahead of time and then grill them quickly right before service. You want to eat them warm as they taste the best this way and it also helps to slightly melt the goat cheese. Roasting the rosemary first mellows its flavor and adds a great dimension to the goat cheese. If you don't have figs, or don't like them, I would recommend just making the goat cheese and serving it with toasted bread or crackers. Any extra roasted rosemary could be chopped and spread onto grilled meat or sprinkled on top of focaccia. As this was only the appetizer for our celebratory dinner, I will have more to come on the rest of the meal soon.

Honeyed Figs with Roasted Rosemary Goat Cheese
  • 2-3 sprigs of fresh rosemary
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed and peeled
  • 2 tsp olive oil, divided
  • 1/2 cup goat cheese
  • 2-3 tsp honey, divided
  • 1 1/2 tsp lemon juice
  • 6-8 figs, cut lengthwise
  • Salt and pepper
Preheat oven to 400F.
Place rosemary sprigs on a piece of parchment paper big enough to fully wrap the rosemary.
Add the crushed garlic; drizzle with about 1 tsp of olive oil and season with salt and pepper.
Wrap the rosemary in the parchment paper and then wrap the parchment in aluminum foil.
Bake in the oven for about 12-15 minutes, turning over half way through.
Allow the rosemary to cool before removing the leaves and chopping finely.
Combine 1 tbsp chopped rosemary, 1 clove of chopped roasted garlic (optional), goat cheese and 1 tsp honey in a small bowl. Set aside.
In another bowl, combine lemon juice, 1 1/2 tsp honey and 1 tsp olive oil. Drizzle this mixture over the figs and season with salt and pepper.
Place the figs on a preheated grill or grill pan on medium heat, cut side down. Grill for 2 minutes, turn over and grill for another 2 minutes.
Plate the figs, cut side up, and sprinkle the goat cheese mixture over top. Drizzle with more honey if desired, for added sweetness and presentation.

For a printable recipe click here

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Peach and Tomato Salsa

People keep commenting on how summer's coming to a close. Schools are starting back up, it's mid-August, and I think a lot of people are just ready for fall. This summer has definitely been hot and it's hard to believe it's coming to end when temperatures are still reaching 100 here in the Bull City. Even though the summer season might technically be ending, I am still planning to take advantage of the great summer produce available for as long as I possibly can. Although I could do without the 100% humidity, I love summer and the delicious fruits and vegetables that come with it. This simple peach salsa is a perfectly example of the great produce you can get at the farmers' market. It is made almost entirely from things I picked up on one of my Wednesday evening visits. I love mixing the sweetness of peaches with savory tomatoes and cucumbers. Sauteing the peaches brings out their natural sweetness as well as making them a perfectly soft contrast to the crisp cucumbers. Although salsas often have the Latin flavors of lime and cilantro, I went with a more Italian style, using lemon juice and oregano. These two flavors work great together and pulled all of the ingredients of the salsa together nicely. Serve this with grilled meat, like pork tenderloin, or even as a side salad and enjoy the tastes of summer for a little bit longer.

Peach and Tomato Salsa
  • 1/2 tbsp olive oil
  • 2-3 medium peaches, peeled, pitted and sliced
  • 1 pint cherry tomatoes, halved if large
  • 1 medium cucumber, diced small
  • 2-3 tbsp lemon juice, from 1 large lemon
  • 2 tbsp fresh oregano, chopped small
  • Salt and pepper
Heat olive oil in a skillet over medium heat.
Saute the peaches, allowing each side to caramelize lightly.
Remove from heat and let cool before dicing into large chunks.
In a large bowl, combine tomatoes, cucumbers, cooled peaches, lemon juice and oregano.
Toss to combine and season with salt and pepper.
Can be made a few hours ahead, as flavors continue to blend as it sits. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.

For a printable recipe click here

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Roasted Beet with Arugula Pesto Sandwich

I made a pizza the other night using similar ingredients from the roasted beet salad I've made many times. I topped the pizza with goat cheese, roasted beets and prosciutto and then served it with an arugula salad dressed simply with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Don't get me wrong, the pizza was very good, but this post is not about that pizza. Instead I wanted to write about what I did with the leftovers since this sandwich puts the pizza to shame. I would usually just toss the arugula and beets together and make a simple salad for lunch. I do enough cooking for dinners that I rarely put much effort into my lunch. But after a good workout at the gym, I felt inspired to do something more exciting for my midday meal. Since I love pesto, and know that it can be made with arugula, I decided to make a pesto to spread on a sandwich with the roasted beets. I wanted to also include the tangy, sweet taste of balsamic vinegar since I love the way it pairs with both beets and the peppery taste of arugula. Instead of just pouring it onto the sandwich and making the bread soggy, however, I chose to saute the beets in the vinegar, infusing them with the balsamic flavor, while also warming up the beets. Between the lightly toasted whole wheat bread, the sweet and tangy beets and the nutty, peppery pesto, this sandwich was pretty spectacular. Because beets take about an hour to roast, I recommend making a few extra for dinner some night when you want to make roast beet salad or use them on top of pizza, and then use the leftovers for this sandwich. Or make dinner a casual affair some night and serve up these sandwiches with a side of potato salad or mixed fruit.

Roasted Beet with Arugula Pesto Sandwich (makes 2)
  • 1-2 cups arugula
  • 1/3 cup feta (I used a Mediterranean spiced feta)
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 2-3 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 cup roasted beets, sliced into thin wedges
  • 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 slices whole wheat bread
In a food processor or blender, combine arugula, feta and pine nuts. Reserve a few arugula leaves to garnish each sandwich. Process to combine ingredients.
Add about 2 tbsp of olive oil and blend till smooth. If too thick, add a bit more oil. Season with a pinch of black pepper.
In a small saute pan, heat a couple drops of olive oil.
Add beets and balsamic; season with salt and pepper and saute until vinegar is absorbed and beets are heated through, about 5 minutes.
Toast the bread; spread with arugula pesto and top with roasted beets; garnish with reserved arugula leaves and serve immediately.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, August 16, 2010

Israeli Couscous with Snap Peas and Asparagus

I love dishes that mix great ingredients into one bowl to be served together. This works especially well when combining grains with vegetables for a side dish. Although I'm a huge fan of carbs, especially healthy whole grain ones, adding vegetables to a grain can significantly lighten a dish and add a lot of nutritional value. It also makes serving a delicious side dish that much easier. This dish is my adaptation of a recipe from Epicurious and it combines a unique grain--Israeli couscous--with healthy snap peas and asparagus for both flavor and texture. The lemon dressing and Parmesan cheese ties everything together and makes it worthy enough to be served on its own as a simple lunch as well. Israeli couscous is a wheat-based baked pasta, similar to the rice shaped pasta known as orzo. If you can't find Israeli couscous, regular couscous, orzo or any small pasta would work really well too. But I found it to be a nice change and a delicious soft counterpoint to the slight crispness of the snap peas and asparagus.

Israeli Couscous with Snap Peas and Asparagus
  • 4 tbsp olive oil, divided
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 1/2 tsp grated lemon zest
  • 1 cup Israeli couscous
  • 1 1/4 chicken or vegetable stock
  • 1 bunch thin asparagus, trimmed
  • 6-8 oz snap peas, about 2 cups
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • Salt and pepper
  • 1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, plus more for garnish
Whisk together 3 tbsp of olive oil with lemon juice and lemon zest. Set aside.
Heat about 1/2 tbsp olive oil in a sauce pan over medium heat.
Add the Israeli couscous and a pinch of salt. Saute until lightly browned and fragrant.
Stir in the chicken stock and bring to a boil.
Turn the heat to low, cover and simmer for about 8-10 minutes, until the liquid is absorbed and the couscous is tender.
Meanwhile, heat the remaining 1/2 tbsp of olive oil in a large saute pan.
Add the snap peas and minced garlic and cooked for a couple of minutes.
Cut the asparagus into 1-2 inch pieces and add to the saute pan.
Season with salt and pepper and saute until crisp-tender, about 8 minutes.
Place the cooked vegetables into a large bowl. Add the couscous, lemon dressing and Parmesan cheese. Toss to combine.
Check the seasoning and serve garnished with a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.
Can be served warm or at room temperature.

For a printable recipe click here

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto

Pesto is generally a pureed mixture of basil, Parmesan, pine nuts and olive oil. It's a delicious sauce that can be spread on sandwiches, used as pizza sauce, or tossed with pasta. Another great thing about pesto is that the method can be adopted to use a number of different ingredients, each making a unique pesto sauce that can be used with all sorts of dishes. I have had pesto made with mint, with asparagus, and even with red bell peppers. This dish, however, was the the first time I had tried, or even heard of, pesto made with fresh corn. I love corn on the cob during the summer when it's in season. Nothing can compare with the sweetness of good corn and it's sadly only available for a few short months. Although I could just eat it all the time on the grill, I loved looking through the section in a recent Bon Appetit Magazine dedicated to recipes featuring fresh corn. This corn pesto looked the most interesting and was definitely a unique way to use the fresh ingredient. The pesto was so thick and creamy that the pasta tasted almost like an Alfredo dish but without the fat of a lot of cream. It was amazing how rich a dish made almost entirely of vegetables could taste. I served this pasta as a main dish with just a simple side salad or it would be great as a side dish with grilled chicken or steak. August is peak season for fresh corn, so get some while it's still at its best.

Pasta with Fresh Corn Pesto
  • 4 cups fresh corn kernels (from about 4 large ears of corn; see tip below for technique)
  • 1 garlic clove, minced
  • 1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese, plus some for garnish
  • 1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus 1 tbsp
  • Salt and pepper
  • 8 oz thick cut pasta, such as fettuccine
  • 3/4 cup fresh basil, coarsely chopped
Heat 1 tbsp olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat.
Add corn, garlic, about 1 tsp salt and 1/2 tsp black pepper.
Saute until corn is tender but not brown, 3-4 minutes.
Reserve about 1 1/2 cup of corn mixture in a small bowl.
Place the remaining corn mixture into a food processor.
Add Parmesan and pine nuts and puree to combine.
With machine running, add in olive oil and blend until pesto is almost smooth. Set aside.
Cook pasta in a large pot of salted, boiling water until just tender.
Reserve about 1 1/2 cups of the pasta water and drain pasta.
Return pasta to the pot and combine with corn pesto, reserved corn kernels and 1/2 cup basil leaves.
Toss over medium heat, adding pasta water by 1/4 cupfuls to thin out the pesto.
Cook until warmed through and of the desired consistency.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.
Serve pasta garnished with fresh basil and a sprinkle of Parmesan cheese.

Technique Tip: To remove the kernels from an ear of corn, place a small bowl upside down in a larger bowl. Peel the corn, removing all of the strings. Cut the ear in half to make it easier to work with. Place one flat end of the corn on top of the small bowl. Run your knife from top to bottom of the ear, allowing the kernels to collect in the larger bowl; repeat on all sides with each ear of corn.

For a printable recipe click here.

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Zucchini Ribbon Salad

I've written numerous times about dishes that include zucchini and other summer squash. They've been so beautiful at the farmers' market and grocery store, that I keep buying them and coming up with new combinations so we aren't always eating exactly the same thing. Generally, I only like zucchini when it's cooked, but not at all when served raw such as on a veggie and dip platter. However, I was intrigued by yet another recipe in Bon Appetit magazine that uses thin slices of zucchini "ribbons" combined with Parmesan cheese and pine nuts. My love of those two ingredients helped me push past my usual distaste of raw zucchini and prompted me to give this salad a try. Am I ever glad I did! The zucchini is sliced so thinly and then dressed with a delicious mix of lemon juice and olive oil, that it tastes nothing like the bland sticks of raw zucchini found on most veggie platters. To make the thin ribbons of zucchini, I used a regular old vegetable peeler but a mandoline would have also worked wonderfully if you happen to have one. Because I used a vegetable peeler, I found that it was easiest to make ribbons out of about 3/4 of the zucchini, leaving the remaining 1/4 for something to hold on to. I used the leftover thick piece of zucchini chopped up into a stirfry. A mandoline would allow you to slice the entire thing in to ribbons but either system works. This makes a delicious, light salad as a starter or even as a simple lunch with some leftover chicken.

Zucchini Ribbon Salad
  • 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil (always use good oil for salad dressings)
  • 2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice, about 1 large lemon
  • 1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper flakes
  • Salt and pepper
  • 5-6 medium zucchini
  • 1/2 cup fresh basil, chopped
  • 1/4 cup pine nuts, toasted
  • Small wedge of Parmesan cheese
Whisk together olive oil, lemon juice and crushed red pepper. Season with a generous pinch of salt and black pepper. Set aside.
Slice the ends off of the zucchini and peel long ribbons from top to bottom with a vegetable peeler or mandoline. You want about 4 cups + of ribbons.
Toss the zucchini ribbons with basil, pine nuts and most of the dressing. Add more dressing if desired.
Season with a bit more salt and pepper if needed.
Plate and shave strips of Parmesan cheese over the top or sprinkle with grated Parmesan.

For a printable recipe click here

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Salmon with Blueberry Sauce

I love blueberries. During the summer when they're in season, I eat them just about every morning over cereal. Lucky for me, blueberries are one of the world's superfoods. They are super healthy and full of things like antioxidants that help prevent cancer and other great anti-aging properties. Although I love blueberries in their pure natural state, I was intrigued when I ran across this recipe in Bon Appetit Magazine for grilled salmon with a simple blueberry sauce. Generally people think of fruit as a sweet ingredient only, usually used in desserts. But I love using fruit in savory dishes as well (peach salsas, roasted pears with pork, etc.), so this blueberry sauce was something I definitely wanted to try. I was a bit worried that it would be too sweet but the vinegar and spices balance the sweetness of the berries perfectly. The salmon also has enough flavor on its own to stand up well to bold flavors of the sauce. We ended up putting some sauce on the whole meal--brown rice and sauteed snap peas--since it was that good. Blueberries will be available in abundance for a bit longer so give this recipe a try while they're still at their peak.

Salmon with Blueberry Sauce
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil, plus a bit for the salmon
  • 1 large shallot, thinly sliced
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme, divided
  • 1/4 tsp ground allspice, divided
  • 1 cup fresh blueberries
  • 1/4 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
  • Salt and pepper
  • 4 6-7 oz salmon fillets or steaks, with skin
  • 3 tablespoons fresh mint, thinly sliced
In a large pan, heat 1 tbsp olive oil over medium heat.
Saute the shallots till softened, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic, about 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp dried thyme, 1/8 tsp allspice and a pinch of black pepper. Cook until fragrant, 30 seconds to 1 minute.
Add blueberries, 1/4 cup water and balsamic vinegar. Smash the blueberries with the back of a fork and stir to combine.
Simmer until sauce thickens, stirring often, about 5-6 minutes.
Adjust seasonings and remove from heat. Stir in 2 tbsps mint before serving.
Heat a grill pan or large skillet over medium heat. Brush with a thin layer of oil.
Season both sides of the salmon with salt and pepper and the remaining 1/8 tsp of thyme and allspice.
Cook the salmon, skin side down, until the skin is crisp, about 4 minutes.
Flip over and continue cooking until desired doneness, about 4 minutes for medium rare or continue until it's opaque in the center.
Spoon the sauce over the salmon fillets and sprinkle with the remaining mint.

For a printable recipe click here

Monday, August 2, 2010

Ricotta Gnocchi with Spinach and Mushroom Tomato Sauce

Gnocchi are delicious little "lumps" of dough, usually made from a mixture of flour and potatoes and served with any type of sauce.  Different varieties of gnocchi have been made in Italy for centuries. Gnocchi can be found frozen or vacuum sealed at most grocery stores but they are also incredibly easy to make at home and infinitely better that way. Because they are free-formed dumplings, they are much easier to make than homemade pasta since there's no rolling to be done. And looks are not as important as taste (as can be seen by my less-than-perfect looking gnocchi). This particular version of gnocchi is made with ricotta cheese as the base, making them incredibly creamy and delicious. When topped with tomato sauce, this dish is reminiscent of lasagna but lacks the many steps involved in making a traditional lasagna. The sauce is a delicious combination of fresh mushrooms, spinach and tomatoes but any sauce would be great over these gnocchi. The tomatoes pair really well with the ricotta but a pesto or butter sauce would also work. I came across this gnocchi recipe while browsing headlines on from the blog Houseboat Eats. The sauce I came up with on my own and could easily be modified based on what you have on hand. I would have much preferred to use fresh basil and thyme, but unfortunately I only had dried. If you have fresh, leave out the dried and add about 1 tablespoon of basil and a couple of sprigs of fresh thyme toward the end of the cooking process.

Ricotta Gnocchi
  • 1 15 oz container part-skim ricotta cheese
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup All-Purpose flour
  • 3 tablespoon Parmesan cheese
  • Salt and pepper
In a large bowl, combine the ricotta cheese and egg yolk. Stir to incorporate yolk and remove any lumps from the ricotta.
Fold in the flour and Parmesan cheese. Mix until just combined. Avoid overmixing to keep the dough light. If the dough is too sticky, add a bit more flour.
Season with salt and pepper.
Roll the dough into logs about 1 inch thick. Cut the logs into 1.5 inch dumplings.
Place the dumplings on a floured baking sheet and refrigerate for one hour.
Bring a large pot of water to a boil and cook half of the gnocchi for about 2 minutes. They will begin to float when done. Remove with a slotted spoon and cook the remaining batch.

Spinach and Mushroom Tomato Sauce
  • 5 oz (1 large bag) baby spinach, washed
  • 1 tbsp olive oil
  • 1 small shallot, diced
  • 3 garlic cloves, crushed and peeled
  • 6 oz (or so) sliced mushrooms, any variety
  • 1 15 oz can petite diced tomatoes
  • 1 8 oz can tomato sauce
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • 1/2 tsp dried oregano
  • 1/4 tsp dried thyme
  • Salt and pepper
  • Parmesan cheese
Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cook half of the spinach by fully submerging it in the water for about 30 seconds. Remove with a slotted spoon and put into a colander. Repeat with the remaining spinach. Let the spinach drain, pushing out as much water as possible, while making the sauce.
Heat oil in a large pan over medium heat.
Add shallots and garlic and cook until fragrant, 2-3 minutes.
Add mushrooms and cook until browned, 8-10 minutes.
Season with a pinch of salt to release any remaining moisture in the mushrooms.
Add both cans of tomatoes. Season with basil, oregano, thyme, salt and pepper.
Simmer for about 10-15 minutes, until sauce begins to thicken.
Stir in the drained spinach and adjust seasonings.
Spoon sauce over cooked gnocchi and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese.

For a printable recipe click here