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Saturday, May 28, 2016

Dinner Parties!

One of the few cooking magazines I can't get via Texture (aka Next Issue) on my ipad is Kraft Food and Family.  I know.  Pretty much the last cooking magazine you'd expect me to subscribe to.  But I do because on occasion I find a gem.  It's easy to read through too.  This month I've found two gems thus far.  It seems that they've gotten on board the bandwagon of fresh ingredients, which is good. 

The first recipe we tried was for spicy grilled potato salad.  We left the office during a torrential rainstorm. It wasn't much better when we got home.  And, then poor Connie had to head off to the grocery in the same.  I stayed home and started cleaning up and prepping for a dinner party.  I'd read this recipe and another for blackberry glazed bbq chicken thighs on the way to work.  Let's just say that we give VERY few 2's out.  The chicken deserved that rating.  We also give out very few 5's.  The potato salad was a 4 pushing a 5.  It's super easy and super good.  And great leftover too.  I will note the recipe was to pop the potatoes in foil and grill them.  I decided to skip that and save time.  I don't think it made much difference since the potatoes were tossed with the dressing when very hot so they should have absorbed an equal amount of the dressing...

Then, the next evening it was time to get the rosemary roasted chicken ready to go and to keep getting ready for Saturday.  One of my very favorite bloggers and her delightful husband are coming over along with two of their best friends - one of whom happens to be a good friend of mine from high school and the other happens to be his incredibly wonderful wife.  Life gets in the way all too often so the six of us are behind on getting together.  Here's what the chicken looked like as I prepped it:

I was going through all the recipes I'd printed off looking for the gingered iceberg salad recipe when I ran across a recipe that'd be perfect for dinner.  Dean Fearings Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare.  It's a dish that's been inhaled at parties.  We had a couple of bags of smoked salmon.  And, I had all the other ingredients.  The night before I'd made the quinoa radish and snow pea salad.  All I needed to do was make a Greek dressing. Of course, in the magazine the recipe was written to use a Kraft Greek dressing.  I really prefer to make my own.  Usually the only store-bought dressings I'll use are a robust or zesty Italian as a marinade or a poppyseed.  It's so wonderful to have fresh herbs on hand again.  I headed to the herb garden and got a handful of oregano and basil and headed back in to make a dressing.  While I was doing everything else, I'd been using up the crepe batter from Mother's Day with the intention of freezing the crepes.   Then, inspiration struck.  What if I served the smoked salmon tartare with a couple of the crepes?  Perfect!  As was the quinoa salad.  I added a bit of chopped red onion on top but you could add pretty much any vegetable you'd like.  Or, for that matter, shrimp or chicken would be great in it. 

Now, I have to add in that the herb crepes were originally served with grated gruyere and thinly slice ham then napped with hollandaise sauce.  They're incredible that way.  But, they're also VERY versatile and would be perfect with many other fillings...  Mushrooms, chicken, shrimp, beef, eggplant...  And, you can use just about any sauce you'd like.

Well, now, since I've been gabbing about all these wonderful dishes it's probably time to share them...

Spicy Grilled Potato Salad


2 lbs small red potatoes, halved (I cut mine into 1/2" chunks)
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 c Zesty Italian dressing
1/3 c mayonnaise (the recipe called for Hot and Spicy so I added Tabasco Chipotle)
4 slices bacon, cooked and crumbled
4 green onions, sliced

Directions (the way I actually made the recipe)

Cook the potatoes over medium heat until they're done.  Have a mixing bowl ready with the garlic and half of the Italian dressing.  As soon as the potatoes are done, drain them then toss them with the dressing mix.  In another bowl, combine the rest of the Italian dressing, the mayo and the Tabasco.  Toss that with the potatoes, bacon and green onions

Texas Smoked Salmon Tartare


2 oil-packed anchovies, drained and coarsely chopped
2 t roasted garlic paste (I just used crushed garlic)
1 t ground cumin
1 T extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 c sour cream
2 t fresh lime juice
one 1/2 lb piece of skinless smoked salmon cut into 1/4" dice
1 small jalapeno, seeded and minced
1/4 c finely chopped red onion
1 T capers, drained and coarsely chopped
1 T finely chopped cilantro
salt and pepper
4 dozen sturdy corn tortilla chips


In a medium sized mixing bowl, mash the anchovies and garlic.  Add in the cumin, olive oil, sour cream and lime juice and mix well.  Fold in the other ingredients.

Snow Pea and Radish Quinoa Salad
makes 12 servings
photo is up top


3 c cooked quinoa (one cup of uncooked)
1 c snow peas, cut into thin slices
4 green onions, sliced
6 radishes, quartered then sliced thinly
4 oz feta cheese, crumbled
1/2 c Greek dressing
2 T finely chopped fresh mint (I omitted this and added finely chopped red onion)


Toss the ingredients together and serve.

Herb Crepes
makes 12 crepes

1 3/4 c flour
3 eggs
1 1 /4 c milk
1/2 c water
1/2 t salt
1/4 c chopped mixed herbs (parsley, thyme oregano, tarragon)
4 T unsalted butter, melted


Add the flour and eggs to your food processor.  Process just until the dough comes together.  Slowly add in the milk water and butter.  Pour the batter into a bowl and mix in the herbs and salt.  Make crepes using 1/4 cup of batter per crepe.  If you don't have a crepe pan, a small skillet with sloped sides will work well. 

Friday, May 13, 2016

Asian Halibut with Bok Choy and Eggplant with Peanut Sauce

My 99 cents find is managing to leave all the other cookbooks in the dust!  The Frugal Foodie Cookbook was published in 1999 by a couple who had a blog of the same name.  At one point they moved from BlogSpot to WordPress.  Now, all I can find is the old BlogSpot blog.  So, I'm hoping it's because they found themselves with wonderful, busy careers and a couple of kids and they just don't have time to blog anymore.  We've made two more dishes from the cookbook and both were clearly a five.  And, we've got a couple dozen more that I've listed to try.  Actually, I'm blogging instead of doing my grocery list for the week.  I like to have my menus and grocery list done by Friday but that wasn't happening this week.  A very dear friend had a house fire.  She's in the burn ICU and her house is going to need a lot of help.  Her brother is down in Louisville so we'll be the point people for heading there every day and checking out the progress.  She's doing better and may actually have her breathing tube out by today so she can talk.  It's going to be a long and rocky road!

Well, let's get back to happier news.  Like good recipes.  The most recent recipe was for a dinner party.  I managed to snap a photo as I was cooking the halibut but not as I plated it.  The goal was to get dinner on the table while warm :-)  Along with the halibut I made our new favorite salad - Endive with Blackberries and Blue Cheese.  For dessert - super simple angel food cake with frozen berries, whipped cream and toasted almonds.  I whirred the berries with a bit of liqueur in the food processor and added a bit of the same liqueur to the whipped cream.  But, the star of the show was the halibut.  This was a restaurant quality recipe.  And, shockingly, I made it almost as written.  I know, that never happens.  LOL  I'd not had the recipe handy when I made the grocery list for Connie.  So, I had him get a head of bok choy.  I used four big leaves instead of the baby bok choys.  And, we were out of lime juice so I subbed in lemon juice.  The recipe said four servings would run $27.  Wrong.  The halibut alone was $56.82.  But, it was worth every bite.

Halibut with Warm Mushroom Salad


6 head baby bok choy, leaves separated and washed
1/2 c water
4 T soy sauce
4 T white wine
2 t fresh ginger, minced
2 lbs halibut, divided into four pieces

for the mushroom salad:

4 T olive oil
6 c mixed mushrooms, coarsely chopped
4 T white wine
1/2 c soy sauce
6 T rice wine vinegar
1 T fresh ginger, minced
2 T chives, chopped very finely
juice of one lime


In a large skillet - preferably one that has a lid - lay the bok choy.  Let it steam uncovered for a few minutes until it's softened just a bit.  While it's steaming, make the sauce with the soy sauce, white wine and ginger.  Then, lay a piece of fish on each leaf or piece of bok choy.  Pour the sauce over, cover and steam until the fish is flaky - about 6 minutes.  In another skillet, heat the olive oil then sauté the mushrooms.  Make the dressing and set it aside.  To plate the dish, put a fish filet with it's bok choy in the center of the plate.  Scatter some warm mushroom salad over then pour on some of the mushroom salad dressing.

The other recipe we made was for Japanese eggplant with a peanut butter sauce.  Connie got kind of a funny look on his face when he started eating it.  I said, "What's up?"  He said, "This is turd sauce."  I'm thinking ooops, he really doesn't like this stuff.  Then, he goes on to say, "You could put this on a turd and it'd taste good."  Ok then, we have turd sauce.  I'm still laughing at that one!!!

Japanese Eggplant with Peanut Soy Sauce


2 eggplants, cut lengthwise into 1 1/2" thick slices
2 T peanut butter (I used crunchy since that's what we have on hand)
1 1/2 T soy sauce
1 1/2 T sake (or dry white wine)
1/2 t sugar
1/4 t chipotle chili powder


The recipe called for steaming the eggplant slices in the microwave for 2-3 minutes, then rinsing under cold water to stop the cooking.  Then, it called for mixing the sauce in a small saucepan on medium heat for five minutes.  I first tried grilling the eggplant and when that didn't work, I sautéed it.  Next time I'll steam it!