Click here to see recipe listing or travel by country

Friday, August 24, 2012

Split Pea Soup for this Fall-like weather

I usually don't make soups in the middle of summer because I think it's too hot for such a dish. My mother, on the other hand, thinks it's completely normal to make a hot, spicy chili to eat on a hot, humid night in July.  It's a matter of opinion (and mines the right one ;)

In Monterey, even though the rest of the country is going through extremely hot temps, it's still in the 50's and 60's most days.  So, I decided a nice, big pot of split pea soup would be a perfect dinner this week.  Now, my husbands family has a thing about serving cheese and slices of summer sausage and crackers with soup, so I also prepared a nice appetizer platter to accompany the soup.

I first soaked the split peas overnight. Some say they don't require soaking but I did it anyways.  Your choice to soak or not to soak.  I started the soup by draining the water and filling up a big pot with the peas, two large ham hocks, two onions (thinly sliced), and some seasonings (salt, pepper and marjoram, to taste).  I covered it with chicken stock (you can use water but it won't be as good). I brought it to a boil and reduced to a simmer and let it cook for about an hour and a half.  I then added a diced potato, three diced carrots and three stalks of diced celery. I let it cook until the veggies were done (about 40 minutes). Pretty easy.

While the soup was cooking, I make the appetizer platter.  I bought a nice smoked Gouda and a Chianti salami from Trader Joes.  I also had some sourdough bread that we bought in San Francisco, so I thawed that out and popped it in the oven long enough to warm it up.  I used these awesome little dishes that I bought in Qatar and filled them with almonds, crackers, and an Italian olive spread. I added some grapes to the platter to finish it off.  Served it with some yummy Sierra Nevada Torpedo IPAs.

Perfect meal for this weather!

Friday, August 10, 2012

Mediterranean Chicken

I made a good, quick, healthy dinner a few nights ago that I 'd like to share.  It only took 30-45 minutes to prepare from start to finish.  First, I started the roasted squash - while the oven was preheating to 450, I chopped, tossed with oil, garlic powder, salt and pepper and then roasted for about 20 minutes (flipped half way through).

Next, I started the chicken -  I sliced an onion and crushed 3 cloves of garlic then cooked in a heated  sauté pan for a few minutes.  Then I added the chicken (I used 3 large breast and sliced them in half) and four slices of bacon (diced), turning after the chicken browned a little.  Next I added 8oz (pre) sliced mushrooms, 1/2 teaspoon oregano, 1/2 teaspoon italian seasoning, salt and pepper, a can of fire roasted diced tomatoes, artichoke hearts, and about 1/2 cup of sun dried tomatoes (the dried ones not the ones in oil). I covered it and let it cook for about 20 minutes.  While it was cooking I made a box of whole wheat couscous.  Quick, easy and yummy!

Wednesday, August 8, 2012

Not your average burger and fries

For tonights dinner, I made greek burgers, tabouli salad and sweet potato fries.  My husband loves these burgers but it can be a little work to put them together.  Well, not the burgers themselves but the sauces.  The burgers are made of turkey, box of spinach, 1/4lb feta cheese and seasonings (oregano, salt and pepper, to taste).  The burgers come with two sauces.  The first is made up of two roasted red bell peppers, kalamata olives (about 15), and a hand full of fresh parsley leaves - blend it all up in a food processor until smooth, season with salt and pepper and then refrigerate. The other sauce is a cup of yogurt, a clove of garlic, half of a seedless (or English) cucumber, a teaspoon of oregano, salt and pepper blended in a
 food processor.  Ok, the sauces aren't complicated either but it is just annoying having to make one then wash the food processor bowl then make the other and then wash it again.  Whatever.

You can grill the burgers or make them in a sauté pan.  I usually prefer burgers grilled but these don't stay together that well, so I make them on the stove.  Once the burgers are done, slather the delicious sauces on each half of the bun, add the burger and then top a salad made up of arugula, tomato slices, red onion slices, cucumber slices and lemon juice and olive oil.  These burgers are worth the effort - really, really yummy!

I made homemade tabouli to go with the burgers and fries. The most time consuming part of this recipe is mincing the parsley.  Be smart  and use a chopper or something.  I insist on doing it by hand.  I'm crazy like that.  Doing it by hand takes a long, long time. I used quinoa (1 cup) instead of bulgur because I had it on hand.  I chopped up two large tomatoes, 1 1/2 cucumbers, 3 or 4 green onions, a cup of fresh minced parsley, 1/2 cup of fresh minced mint.  I mixed it all together and topped with 6 tablespoons each of lemon juice and oil mixed together.  Last step is to season with salt and pepper then refrigerate until chilled.

I totally cheated with the sweet potato fries.  I bought a bag and baked them in the oven.  Dinner is done!

Isn't that pretty?

Monday, August 6, 2012

Merci St Tropez!

We went out to dinner in Carmel by the Sea last weekend.  We changed plans at the last minute and decided to visit a restaurant  called Le St Tropez.  I was a little worried since I am one of those freaks that researches restaurants and reads thousands of reviews before stepping foot in the door.  All I knew about this place was that it was French and close by.  Oh dear.

Luckily, it was wonderful.  I mean really, really wonderful.  We had our almost four year old daughter with us and we've heard that children are frowned upon at most nice restaurants in Carmel.  Not this place!  They not only had a kids menu but they chatted with my daughter and made us feel very welcome.  The kids menu was not the typical kids menu either.  It did have some of the junk you find on all kids menus across America - pizza, chicken nuggets, hamburgers- but it also had nice, French dishes.  We ordered her crepes with chicken, bacon, and mushrooms.  It came with some wonderful vegetables on the side and it was delicious! (Of course I sampled it, I had to be able to blog about it :) She ate almost the entire thing and it was not a small portion!  They offered to bring it out as soon as it could be prepared, rather than wait to bring it out with our entrees (another kid-friendly thing to do).

But let's talk about the rest of the dinner.  Oh. My. Goodness!  Seriously, almost every dish was out of this world delicious!  Anyone in the local area should definitely put this on your list of places to eat!

First there was the appetizer.  There were lots of good choices and after some deliberation we went with escargot with brioche served with pernod scented garlic butter. Freakin delicious!  I wanted to lick the plate to finish all the garlic butter but I controlled myself (barely).   We also had a delicious basket of bread that I did use to dip into the crack garlic butter.  Actually that may have been what saved me from licking the plate.

Next we each ordered a salad.  My hubby went with the salad that had watermelon and feta.  It was really good.  I had a deconstructed Caesar salad that was good but had waaaaay to much dressing on it.  LOOK at all the dressing on that salad!!!  Does anyone eat that much dressing???  Hubby made the better choice on the salad course.  Hubby 1, me 0.

Entree round totally went to me, but truly there were no losers this round.  I ordered the veal sweetbreads (in case you didn't know sweetbreads are a very nice word used to describe veal thymus gland, because who would order that off the menu??).  I had never had sweetbreads and I've been on the lookout for a nice place to order it to increase my culinary repertoire.  It was served with polenta and a mushroom cream sauce.  I'm telling you, I had no idea that thymus gland could taste so good!  I think I actually get 2 points for that round because it was so delicious and I was able to mark it off my 'to try' list of foods. Hubby 1, me 2!!!

Finally for dessert, we went with the soufflé for two - one traditional Grand Marnier (my hubby) and one chocolate (duh).  Mine was way better because you can almost never go wrong with chocolate.

So, I won, of course.  Not just because I ordered better dishes but because I was able to have a wonderful night out with my two favorite people in the world!

Wonderful dinner, great service, kid friendly.  We will go again before leaving California.  LOVED it!

Friday, August 3, 2012

Tilapia Meuneire, Mushroom Risotto and Green Beans with Carmelized Shallots

Last night we had some good friends over for dinner.  Since it was a weeknight, I wanted to do something kind of simple.  I came up with  the titled menu.  The Tilapia was really easy - just dredge it in seasoned flour and pan fry it until golden brown on each side.  Then melt some butter in the pan until it gets frothy and top each filet with lemon juice, freshly minced parsley and butter.  Delicious and easy!!  Mushroom risotto is easy but you have to stay by the stove while cooking it.  No problem!  I had a nice glass of white wine (which I had to open since it was going in the risotto) while I stirred away.  The green beans and caramelized shallots is one of my favorite side dishes.  It looks so pretty and tastes phenomenal! (Can you believe I forgot to take a picture of the finished dish???!!)  I always feel weird about taking photos of my dishes when we have guests.  LOL!  This dish isn't difficult and I got it started earlier in the day.  I blanched the green beans in salted boiling water for about 6 minutes then shocked them in ice water to stop the cooking.  Drained them and put them in the fridge until needed.

The shallots I started a couple of hours ahead of time.  They take about 15-20 minutes to get a good brown caramelization on them and they fill the entire house with a wonderful smell.  Once everything else was done, I just reheated the green beans and shallots until nice and hot.

It was a wonderful dinner with good friends and conversation.  We finished off the night with some chocolate almond cake (with a raspberry glaze).  I love cooking for friends, especially friends who appreciate a good meal.  I was even asked to give cooking lessons!!


All recipes are on Petitchef