A Four Course French-ish Spring-ish Dinner

2010/05/06

Most people I know had been surprised to find out that I had not seen the movie Julie & Julia. Since it is about food and blogging, I can see how it would be easy to assume that I would have been first in line to see it. Well it is no longer true, last weekend we rented the movie and I finally saw it. It was pretty good, too. I actually found it inspirational, particularly during the beginning of Julie’s challenge, when she makes artichokes with hollandaise sauce.

So tonight I decided to make a four course dinner with a spring theme and a French influence. Don’t ask me why I decided on four courses on a Thursday night, but I did. It took a while, but it was totally worth it.

Course 1: Appetizers

The first course was inspired by the farmers’ market this weekend. The restaurant Willow has a booth there in the “summer” months, and they served up this tasty bite. It was a green onion pancake topped with marscapone cheese and a saute of more scallions, shallots, and radishes. I didn’t follow the recipe they handed out exactly, because their pancake used a rolled out dough, and I didn’t want to deal with that, so I made the same pancake batter I use for my Americanized okonomiyaki.

Recipe:

  • 2 eggs
  • 1/2 cup flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • milk or cream as necessary (I usually use milk but I had cream on hand for another recipe)
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • oil for frying
  • 2 tbsp butter
  • 1/4 cup green onions
  • 6 radishes, sliced.
  • 1 tablespoon shallots, minced
  1. Mix eggs, flour, and salt together. Add milk or cream until the batter reaches a desired consistency. Stir in the green onions.
  2. Heat the frying pan over medium heat, and add canola or vegetable oil. Spoon the batter into the oil and fry on both sides until golden brown.
  3. In a saucepan melt the butter. Let it cook a few minutes. Add the radishes, green onions, and shallots. Cook until the butter starts to brown.
  4. Assemble each pancake with a teaspoon of marscapone cheese and a teaspoon of the radish/onion mixture.

Course 2: Main Course

For the main course, I wanted things to be simple, so I just made the artichokes with hollandaise. They take a long time to eat and are sufficiently filling that I didn’t think I really needed anything else. Note: I did buy a baguette, and forgot to serve it, but no one missed it.

The artichokes were simple to cook. I just cut of the tops and bottoms with a serrated knife treated with lemon juice, then trimmed the thorny tips off the leaves with scissors, then rubbed the whole thing down with a lemon. Then I boiled the suckers until they were tender, which took about half an hour, but for a while my water was simmering, not boiling.

For the hollandaise, I adjusted Julia Child’s blender recipe, which I found here, to use a bowl and electric mixer because I didn’t want to get the blender out and potentially make a mess, and I already had the electric mixer out for dessert. It worked really well. Note: this recipe makes a decent amount of sauce, which was good because I dropped the bowl and half of it ended up on the floor. The sauce that stayed in the bowl (and subsequently got spooned into these little dipping bowls and topped with chives) was quite good: very buttery and a bit lemony, but not at all eggy.

Course 3: Cheese and Course

I made a small cheese and salad plate to break up dinner and dessert, which I think it accomplished, because it was half sweet and half savory. The salad was a mixture of shaved asparagus, and arugula and spinach from my garden dressed with a grapefruit infused oil that I bought a couple of weeks ago.

I had three cheeses on the plate. Camenbert on a “biscuit for cheese” made with hazelnuts and figs (it is like a cross between a cracker and a biscotti) that I bought at Whole Paycheck (a rare splurge). Mimolette Francaise with Green Tomato Chutney, and a baguette round with French blue cheese and local Blue Aster honey.

Course 4: Dessert

For dessert I wanted to use up the leftover egg whites from the hollandaise, and I was tickled pink when I found this Mousse au Chocolat from Pierre Herme. Most mousses use egg yolks, too, but this was super easy; just folding a meringue into a ganache. It took less than 10 minutes. The mousse was super rich but also light. It really is a great dessert. Note: Measuring ingredients on a scale in grams is awesome, because when you want to scale a recipe to 3 egg whites instead of 5, the math in metric is so much easier than trying to work out fractions to 4/9ths.

So in all, this was a great dinner. I’m back baby!


Steak, Asparagus, and Pepper Fajitas

2010/03/21

Saturday, I took my sister Phillie and her boyfriend Curtis to the Arlington Farmers’ Market to show them around. We bought quite a few interesting things, including a skirt steak, which we decided to use for fajitas. Unfortunately, fajita fixings are not quite in season, so everything else I had to buy at the grocery.

Phillie took these pictures for me because my camera was dead. This is a mix of asparagus, red, orange, and yellow, peppers, onions, and jalapeno that was seasoned with salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder and then cooked in a little olive oil until slightly brown and caramelized. They were quite tasty, although the guys barely noticed they were there, so I will have plenty of leftovers to eat this week.

The steak, which was completely eaten, had been marinated in olive oil, lime juice, and tequila, with garlic, onions, cilantro, jalapeno, salt, pepper, cumin, and chili powder. I then cooked it in a frying pan over medium heat for five minutes on each side. It was cooked medium rare, but the cut was a little fatty and hard to slice.

We had tortillas for wrapping,

Salsa, Queso Blanco (homemade, but I’m not posting the recipe because it didn’t turn out well) and guacamole* for topping,

and Green Onions, Cheddar Cheese, Sour Cream, and Guindilla Peppers (from Trader Joe’s) for garnishing.

*Guacamole- My guacamole recipe varies seasonally (no tomatoes in winter) but generally contains the following ingredients to taste:

  • Jalapeno
  • Cilantro
  • Onion
  • Tomato (in summer)
  • Salt
  • Lime Juice
  • Avocado

For this batch, I used 3 avocados, about 1 tablespoon each of jalapenos, cilantro, onion, and lime juice, and 1 teaspoon of salt. I mixed everything but the avocado and let it sit for a while and added the avocado right before serving.

Phillie, who does not like fajitas, got a cheese and green onion quesadilla, and seemed rather happy with it. I think everyone was generally happy with the meal, which was nice after the long day we had at the zoo.


Back in Action with "Fried" Green Tomatoes

2009/06/24

Hey everyone! I have not written in a couple weeks, mostly because I was in Florida for a week and a half, and then when I came home, I didn’t really cook anything right away. I have a number of backlogged entries to post, including strawberry jam and a review of restaurants in Florida, so I will be writing a lot in the near future to catch up.

However, here is tonight’s dinner: “Fried” Green Tomatoes with Remoulade Sauce and Vegetarian Gumbo over Rice, followed by Fresh Peaches with Ice Cream

The appetizer and main course

The appetizer and main course

I love fried green tomatoes, and so does Ian, but taking a perfectly good vegetable, breading it, and frying it is not necessarily the healthiest thing to do. So I went online to find a healthier alternative, which I did. I read a bunch of different recipes for breaded but baked green tomatoes, along with eggplant and other vegetables, so I could get an idea for what to do.

The Recipe

  • 2 green tomatoes, sliced 1/8 to 1/4 inch thick
  • 1/8 cup fat free 99% egg product (or 1 egg, beaten)
  • 1/2 cup corn flour
  • Cajun flavored seasoned salt

    My particular brand of Cajun seasoned salt

    My particular brand of Cajun seasoned salt

  • Fresh black pepper
  • Parmesan Cheese (0ptional)
  • Cooking spray
  1. Preheat the oven to 425 degrees and spray a foil lined baking sheet with cooking spray.
  2. Mix the corn flour, seasoned salt, pepper, and cheese together in a shallow bowl. Pour the eggs into a similar bowl.
    Eggs...mmm

    Eggs...mmm

    The flour mixture

    The flour mixture

  3. Dredge the tomatoes in the eggs, and then the flour, then lay on the baking sheet.

    Ready to be cooked

    Ready to be cooked

  4. Spray the tops of the tomatoes with cooking spray.
  5. Bake for 20 minutes, or until they start to brown. If parts still look a little “dusty” spray them a little more and then cook for 5 more minutes. Then flip, spray the other side, and bake for about 5 more minutes.
The finished product

The finished product (I'm not sure why the pic is so small)

I served these on lettuce leaves with a remoulade sauce. The lettuce leaves were not purely decorative; while Ian did not eat them, I wrapped one of my tomatoes with one, and I thought the fresh, crisp taste was a good addition. The verdict: while not as amazingly delicious as regular fried green tomatoes, these were a good substitute for everyday occasions, especially with the remoulade. I see a sandwich in my near future.

The Recipe

  • 1/4 cup mayonnaise
  • 1 tsp prepared horseradish
  • 1 tsp sweet paprika
  • 1 tsp spicy mustard
  • 2 tsp chopped capers
  • 1 smallish garlic clove, minced
  • salt
  • pepper
  • juice of 1/3 lemon or so
All the ingredients, before mixing

All the ingredients, before mixing

Mix well. Chill for at least 1 hour before serving.

Just a dollop

Just a dollop

Note: This is just my remoulade, mixed up with whatever I had on hand, and is not a definitive recipe.

Originally, I was going to write up the whole dinner in one post, but I am tired now, so I will leave the rest until tomorrow…