Posts Tagged ‘Dinner’

Bruschetta.jpgJ. and I attempt, but don’t always succeed, to have a date night once a week. We usually head out to a nice restaurant or a movie but last week we were beat and just wanted to stay home. I had baked some wonderful crusty Italian style bread earlier in the day and we had found some beautiful tomatoes at the farmers market… Bruschetta was the answer.

I decided to make 2 different versions and after a quick trip to Wholefoods for some delicious meat we were set to go. I didn’t just want to make an ordinary tomato combination for the top. It was date night after all, I wanted something a little different and unusual. I went with garlic roasted tomatoes on Tomato and basilsoppressata or prosciutto with jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar to finish it off.

First off I put the tomatoes into the oven to roast. I only wanted them cooked for a very short time with some garlic and olive oil to really bring out the sweetness in these gorgeous tomatoes we found. I wanted them to hold their shape and keep the firm texture, not go all mushy.

ProscuittoWhile the tomatoes were in a 350F degree oven for 10 minutes, I sliced some chunky bits of our Italian crusty bread and smeared them will olive oil. I heated up our grill pan and toasted these on both sides. I tried to get nice crusty grill marks on the bread. I did ok for the most part but there were some slightly crispier parts.Soppressata

Once these were grilled I just rubbed them with some garlic and set them aside to dress. I did a few of each meat for J. and I. Layer 1 being either soppressata or prosciutto. To be honest a few slices of each magically disappeared between the two of us… I love that stuff!

Basil leavesAfter the first layer of meaty goodness I added some fresh basil leaves. We had also picked the basil up at the market since our basil plant hasn’t survived it’s first (and only) Arizonan summer. By this stage the tomatoes were out and cooling down.

I cut the tomatoes in half and put them in a bowl, seasoned them with plenty of salt and pepper and then generously drizzled jalapeno lime white balsamic vinegar over them. I mixed them together and placed them on each piece of bread.

After pouring some wine J. and I sat down to a yummy, simple dinner. I had some goats cheese on the side as well for us to eat with the bruschetta. The creamy rich flavor worked so well with the freshness of the bruschetta. J enjoyed it so much we actually had something similar for dinner the next night. The tomatoes were extremely sweet and juicy. I was happy with how crusty and delicious the bread was as well. Such an easy, quick date night dinner. A good way of keeping my boy J. happy too!

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Mushrooms and Polenta.jpgThis was a ridiculous thing to cook in the middle of summer in Arizona. With the sun beating down and the temperature rising to over 115 degrees, I decided I wanted to try making Wild Mushrooms with Cheesy Polenta. A nice light, easy meal to eat in the overwhelming heat!

J. and I shopped up a storm at Wholefoods and Lee Lee’s Asian Market to get as many different varieties of mushrooms we could find. We went a little crazy getting shitake, portobello, oyster, button, and enoki mushrooms. I knew that this was going to be delicious.

Once home from our mushroom adventure I started by cleaning all the mushrooms. J. finely diced some garlic (about 3 cloves) and 2 large shallots. We then both worked on slicing mushrooms. This took us a long time since we had gone crazy with the mushroom purchasing but we eventually made it through.

In an extremely large pan (you could use a wok – we used a deep skillet) I added 2 tablespoons of olive oil and brought it to a high heat. Once the pan was hot I added the dices garlic and shallots, slightly caramelizing these before adding the mushrooms (largest first and then adding more as they started to cook). I also added in some fresh thyme and oregano at this stage to boost up that flavor some more.

Once the mushrooms had started to cook down I added 1/4 cup of white wine and 1/4 cup of veggie stock. I let this cook until it had started to thicken, seasoning it at that stage with salt and pepper. The final stage of the mushrooms was to add 1 tablespoon of butter to finish it all off. Delicious.

While we were working on the mushrooms I had cooked the polenta just as the box told me to do. To the cooked polenta I added 2 tablespoons of butter and 1 cup of sharp cheddar cheese that had been grated. You can add butter and cheese to your liking… we made it very cheesy. Then I just seasoned the polenta again and we were ready to eat.

This was a hearty, rich, creamy dinner. We both absolutely loved it. The mushrooms were really well cooked, full of flavor with that delicious mushroom wine broth. The polenta was so cheesy, it was probably clogging arteries but I could have eaten a bowl just of polenta.

We made far too much and ate far to many bowls of it. It really is the perfect winter dinner when you want something without meat but still filling and delicious. We will definitely make it again but wait until the endless heat of the Arizonan summer disappears and we can stop eating salads.

Panfried Scallops with Pomegranate Glaze.jpgI’m back from DC and still have more restaurants to blog about but I thought I would go back to some home cooking for an entry to keep things varied. As I mentioned last week, I made J. a three course meal as payment for a bet we had made. Although I started with dessert in my blog last week, I thought I would share the delicious first course we started our meal with.

J. had requested scallops… he hadn’t said anything about how he wanted them cooked or with what… just scallops. This left it open for me to try something new and a little different to how we would normally eat them. After looking through recipes and more recipes, I was inspire to mesh together a half dozen ideas to create my own Frankenstein of a dish. I shall call it “Pan-fried Scallops and Baby Spinach with Spiced Pomegranate Glaze.”

Pmegranate Glaze.jpg

I started on the glaze early so I could set it aside and concentrate on the main course but it was relatively quick and easy. In a small pan I combined 1/3 cup of pomegranate juice (use 100% juice for best flavor), 1 tablespoon of honey, a pinch or dried thyme, cinnamon and red chili flakes. I mixed this together and placed it on a medium heat to bring to a simmer.

While this was heating up in a cup I mixed together 1/2 teaspoon of cornflour and 1 tablespoon of lime juice. When the pomegranate mixture was boiling I poured in the lime mixture, stirring it in quickly. I then just left this to simmer for 15 minutes until it had reduced and become syrupy. Once syrupy I set it aside… that’s the hard part of this recipe done!

Scallops.jpg

A few minutes before we were ready to eat I cooked up the rest of the course.

I lightly oiled a pan and brought it up to heat. When the pan was nice and hot I added 6 large fresh scallops. I had seasoned these lightly with some freshly ground black pepper. I only cooked these for about 90 seconds on each side before removing them from the pan.

Into that same pan I put around 1 tablespoon of olive oil and 2 large handfuls of fresh baby spinach. As these cooked down I seasoned with salt and pepper. When the spinach was slightly wilted I turned off the heat and put together the dish.

Spinach in a small pile with the scallops on top and the glaze drizzled over the top… done!Baby Spinach.jpg

I was surprised by how delicious this was. I love scallops and could eat a plate of them with nothing else but salt and pepper. The pomegranate glaze really brought out the sweetness in the seafood which was amazing. This really was the perfect way to start the meal. Light, delicious and different. J. enjoyed them thoroughly which I guess is the most important thing but the fact that I loved the dish as well just makes it even better!

PeaandBaconBone.jpgI thought we would start back with an oldie but a goody! Pea and ham soup used to be one of my favorite winter dishes growing up… who would love the delicious combination that is the salty, savory flavor we get from split peas, ham bones, onion, potato… oh you get the idea.

Back in the colder months (seems so long ago since we have been averaging over 100F for what seems like eternity), I thought I would whip up this delight for J. He had never actually tried this before and he has an irrational aversion to peas… peas of any kind! I don’t understand the terror and disgust he feels when I suggest anything that could come even close to a pea!Carrot & Potato.jpg

Somehow I convince him he would like this since I puree up all the veggies and dried split peas aren’t anything like green peas!

Unfortunately we couldn’t find any ham bones and had to run the risk of using something I hadn’t tried before in bacon bones but I wasn’t too worried because it was bacon… bacon makes everything better! The night before I was going to cook this I soaked 500 grams of

Split Peas.jpggreen split peas in water. I just covered the peas with water and left them overnight.

The next day… I roughly chopped a large white onion, 4 large garlic cloves and 2 shallots. I softened these in some olive oil in our large soup pot. Once these had softened I added 3 diced potatoes, 3 chopped carrots and a bunch of celery. I recommend getting a large pot for this because it gets very full very fast!

I mixed all of those ingredients together and let them cook for a few minutes. While this was cooking away, I drained my The bones.jpgsoaked green split peas. Once I had got most of the water out of those I added them to the pot and mixed everything together. To this I added my ½ dozen large bacon bones and 1/2 cup of tomato paste.

I had tried to get some bones bits of meat still on them because I love getting those chunks when I am eating the soup.

I carefully mixed all of this together and then added 2 cups of chicken stock and then water until everything was just covered.  This just sat and bubbled away for 2 hours while we did whatever we did back then… we were probably watching football knowing how we usually spend our winters.

Tomato paste.jpg

When this had cooked for 2 hours I carefully removed all the bones, scraping off any meat that was still somehow clinging to the bones! With a stick blender I puréed everything together and it was ready!

We served up giant bowls of soup with some crusty bread and sat down to eat. J studied it carefully before tasting it slowly… then he took a second spoonful, and then another! Yay! I had him eating peas, even if it was mixed with bacon and puréed beyond recognition.

So even though it is over 100F here back home in Australia it is the perfect weather for something like this… and those of us lucky to be in summer will just have to keep for the colder weather… whenever that arrives!

Valentine's Dinner.jpgWe aren’t really ones to celebrate Valentine’s Day, even in the early days of our relationship we didn’t exchange gifts. The most we would do is wish each other happy Valentine’s Day.

So last night we didn’t do anything special… we headed to the gym because we knew it would be nice and quiet with everyone else celebrating the holiday. J. also got a new BBQ (read grill if American) delivered this week so he decided to cook me dinner and try that out.

He fired up his new Barbie and I sat down and watched… and drank a beer. We had some meaty lamb shoulder chops ready to thrown on. We eat a lot of these and our freezer tends to be well stocked with these chops. It is also one of the cheaper options here when it comes to lamb.

Lamb on the Grill.jpg

Anyway, he cooked the lamb beautifully… the BBQ worked as it is meant to work and most importantly J. thoroughly enjoyed cooking on it.  He had prepared some quinoa earlier in the rice cooker so that was going to be our side dish. He had just sautéed some chillies and garlic and thrown that into the rice cooker with the quinoa. We have been eating a lot of quinoa instead of the mountains of rice we usually consume.

 

It was all very yummy and great that I didn’t have to cook! He even cleaned up. So even though we don’t celebrate Valentine’s Day I still got that as a gift…. And really what more could I want besides love & lamb!

BBQ Lamb.jpgA few weeks before we jetted off to Australia, J and I did our own version of marinated grilled lamb. It was delicious, I was pretty happy with it. However, we also requested for our trip home that my Dad make us his herb & garlic barbeque lamb. Even though ours was good it didn’t come close to what his is like.

That first Sunday we were home Dad whipped this up to go with our Wombok Salad.

First thing first. You need to be able to get a de-boned butterflied leg of lamb. If your local supermarket does that for you great! Otherwise you might need to find a specialty butcher shop (not something we have a lot of here in AZ). This recipe uses a 2kg piece of lamb.

In a bowl 1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil, 3 cloves garlic, peeled and sliced thinly, 1/2 teaspoon cracked black pepper, 2 tablespoons of wholegrain mustard, 3/4 cup dry white wine and 1 tablespoon of chopped fresh rosemary leaves. Mix this together well. Then, in a shallow dish lie the lamb out as flat as you can and pour the marinade over the top. Cover this and then you refrigerate for a minimum of 3 hours… I always like to do this overnight.

Dad cooks his on the BBQ, and I think this is why his tasted better than ours, which we cooked inside on a grill pan… The BBQ just makes everything taste better.

After marinating for a few hours/nights, remove the lamb from the marinade. You can use the marinade as a sauce later so put it into a shallow pan and set aside. Place the lamb flat on the pre-heated BBQ over low heat, sprinkle with salt – we use around 2 teaspoons of salt. Cover the top of the lamb with foil if you aren’t cooking it in a covered BBQ.

Cook for 15 minutes and then turn and cook for another 15. You can cook more or less depending on how you like your lamb cooked. This comes out a medium – medium rare. After the 30 minutes cooking time brush the lamb all over with mint jelly. Cook for another 3 minutes on each side. This should get the lamb nice and brown with a thin crust. Remove from the BBQ and rest.

Meanwhile, inside… add ¼ cup of chicken stock to the leftover marinade and slowly bring to a boil. Reduce heat, simmer uncovered for 5 mins. Slice the lamb and then drizzle the sauce over the top.

Now I am sure it is obvious how much we love this. I won’t go on and on and on… I will the photos and the recipe speak for themselves… But you do have to love some Aussie lamb on the BBQ!

Roasted tomatoes and mushrooms.jpgJ. and I decided we would have our own little private Christmas celebration yesterday. This way we didn’t have to cart presents to Australia and we get to continue some of our own traditions.

As part of our early Christmas celebration J and I wanted some roasted vegetables with our lamb (post still to come). Usually when were are having a roast dinner, whether it is chicken, pork, beef or lamb we go with the traditional roast veggies, pumpkin, sweet potato and potatoes. We had already decided to do something different with the potatoes (again, stay tuned for that delicious entry!) so I had to come up with something new for our other vegetables.

Now, I love J. and he eats pretty much anything I put in front of him but when it comes to vegetables he hasn’t really progressed in the last thirty years. Sorry, that may be a little unfair, he eats salads now if we drench them in dressing and I have also convinced him sweet potato is delicious when covered in gravy… it’s all about small steps.

So in the endeavour to make something he would happily eat I really had to think. In the end I made Roast Tomatoes with mushrooms and red onion.

First I cut 7 delicious red roma tomatoes in half length way, laying them skin side down in an oven proof dish. I peeled, quartered, and then quartered again a large red onion. While wiping away the tears (I react really badly to cutting onions) I scattered them around the tomatoes. I then washed and dries a small container of button mushrooms and scattered these around the tomatoes and onions.Onions and rosemary on top.jpg

That is all the vegetables so now for some additional flavor. I peeled and halved 4 cloves of garlic and put these into the dish. I broke up 2 large rosemary sprigs and scattered those across too. Lastly I seasoned with salt and pepper, quite generously before drizzling olive oil across everything.

I put these into a 420F degree oven for 30 minutes.

When these came out they smelt delicious. The tomatoes had somehow become sweeter and more tomatoey. The onions though softened had held their shape and taken on the tomato and rosemary flavor. The mushrooms were juicy and delicious. Then it was the critics turn to try them.

J. thought they were excellent and really enjoyed the medley of vegetables. I like this recipe because compared to other vegetables it is quick and doesn’t take hours of peeling… I really hate doing that sometimes. I was happy with the outcome and now have another type of roasted vegetables I can make that J. will love!

Yesterday I wrote about the finger food we had for our dinner party Saturday, the delicious Cheesy Bacon Bites. Today I thought I would tell you about the main course, which too starred the magical animal, pig! One of our mates doesn’t like lamb so I decided to do Roast Pork Leg and Veggies with Red wine Gravy and Crackling.

Mmmmm pork… my mouth is watering just thinking about it.

I decided to just keep this really simple. I roasted sweet potato and potatoes with some olive oil, garlic, salt and pepper along with some tiny red onions. These were prepared well ahead of time and were ready to put in the oven when the pork was half way done.

We had bought an 8 pound piece of pork since it was 4 guys eating and me. I figured they wouldn’t be eating many of the vegetables! I brought the pork to room temperature and sliced diagonally across the skin so it was scored for the cracking. I turned it skin side down and using a knife pushed 1/2 a dozen cloves of garlic deep into the meat. I seasoned this side well with both salt and pepper and a little dried thyme.

Next I heavily salted the skin side, rubbing ridiculous amounts of salt into it. Placing it in my roasting pan skin side up I drizzled with some olive oil and put it into a 500F degree oven for 20 minutes. This high heat helps the skin to crackle.

After the 20 minutes I turned the heat down to 380F degrees and left the pork in for another 2 hours. I also let the smell of the roast permeate through the house so when the boys got home it smelt fantastic and they were ready to eat!

When the pork had around an hour to go I put the vegetables in to cook. I turned these every 20 minutes for the last hour of pork cooking.

After the two hours I took the pork out to let it rest, gently removing the crackling. I put the crackling under the broiler for a few minutes just to crisp up a couple of small parts that weren’t quite crunchy enough for my liking.

While J. carved the rested meat I used the juices from the pan, I put into a pot 1 cup of red wine and a cup of beef stock to make the gravy. I also added some salt and pepper, plus a tablespoon of cornflour to thicken. Gravy made!

I did steam some green beans for myself and anyone else who wanted something a little healthy in there.

I served this all family style and let them all help themselves! The dinner table got pretty quite so I think it was a hit. The pork was cooked well and most importantly the crackling was salty, crunchy and unbelievable! I could seriously eat a plate of that.

A yummy dinner thanks to the wondrous pig!

Stay tuned for dessert!