Monday, August 24, 2009

Corn Cakes and Fresh Dates

What a treat these past weeks have been! Along with acquiring new foodie goodies for my apartment (pasta machine, mini food processor, bistro table, stemless champagne glasses and an adorable rainbow whisk!), it was time for the infamous Restaurant Week. I was only able to dine at Grace and Eddie V's but it was a fabulous time regardless!

Some friends and I started off the week with cocktails and hors d'oeuvres at Eddie V's followed by dinner from the Restaurant Week Menu.

Cocktails started in the notoriously dark and hip V Lounge with The Westsiders singing Frank Sinatra, a Dirty Belvedere in my hand and spicy fried calamari with wok veggies and cashews in my chopsticks. Although I think the appetizer presentation was a bit overkill, it still hit the spot!

After our "happy two hour" sesh, we were seated in the dining room and hungrily awaited dinner. To begin, we chose the hot rock with raw, thin-sliced filet to quickly sear and savor with a soy sauce and wild mushroom accompaniments. The mushrooms were lightly dressed, the filet tender and the sauce was addicting!

To begin our next course, I chose the heirloom mozzarella salad and my fellow diners opted for the butter lettuce salad with a fried egg, pancetta and lemon thyme vinaigrette. To my dismay, the salads were pretty awful. The cheese on my salad was definitely not fresh mozzarella and was topped with greasy fried onions- I pushed it aside. On the bibb salad, the anticipated fried egg was replaced with a fried, cold, overcooked hard-boiled egg....not a fan.

Fortunately, our second course, seared scallop with homemade gnocchi and sun-dried tomatoes was quite lovely. The scallop was seared to perfection, the gnocchi was airy and the sundried tomatoes provided a tart, salty contrast.

For our entrees, we each ordered a different offering: mango-stuffed Ahi for Ms. Annie, grilled chicken with jus for my lovey and New England Cod with corn and bacon for me. Although the Ahi was cooked well, it was hardly stuffed with mango (more like injected with a 1/8 inch cube.) The chicken was a bit overcooked but the sauce was delicious. My cod was cooked to perfection and paired nicely with the sweet corn and salty bacon.

For dessert, I anticipated key lime panna cotta from the on-line menu but received so-so vanilla creme brulee covered with powdered sugar instead. Ouch.

Later that weekend, my parents, a friend and I dined at Grace. Warmly greeted at the door, we were seated in the jam-packed green marbled dining room and welcomed by our fabulous server, Michael. As we scoured the menu, I ordered a trio of St. Caroline cocktails with St. Germaine, Prosecco, soda and fresh thyme.

For my first course, I chose the roasted eggplant soup with creme fraiche and rosemary. I know it's completely taboo to add salt at a fine dining locale but I had to do it. After the hint of salt, I was able to enjoy the wonderful flavors...the bowl was cleaned.

The second course was a seared scallop and Berkshire pork "surf and turf" with black eyed peas and tarragon....this course was cleaned as well.

My entree was a beef filet with stone ground grits and a squash medley with marjoram and roasted cherry tomatoes. The filet was a perfect medium with a sweet caramelization. Although my dad wasn't a huge fan of the fragrant "marjoramed" veggies, I was quite happy with the freshness of the squash and the sweetness of the roasted cherry tomatoes.

For dessert, our table shared chocolate cake with vanilla ice cream and peaches with a cobbler-style biscuit. Both were understated and luscious.

Even though I was keen to try Restaurant Week menus around town, I was able to put some personal recipes together too.

This sandwich started with beautiful, sticky dates and went from there. I'm not trying to toot my own horn- wait, is that the phrase?!- but this sandwich was one of the best I've had....the salty bread with the woodsy rosemary, sugary dates, savory mushrooms, charred radicchio and creamy, tangy goat cheese.......agh! It was THAT good!

Dijon Chicken Breast on Open-Faced Rosemary Toast with Braised Dates, Cremini Mushrooms and Grilled Radicchio with Goat Cheese
serves 2

For dates:
1 c water
1/2 c brown sugar
salt to taste
1/2 cup dates, sliced in half with pits removed

Mix water and brown sugar in a saucepan. Simmer dates in sugar water until plumped (about 10 minutes.) Set aside and salt to taste.

For chicken:
1 large breast dijon-marinated boneless skinless chicken breast (I bought mine at CM)
salt to taste
1 T butter

Sear chicken in a saute pan with olive oil until brown color has developed. Finish in a 350 degree oven with a pat of butter until cooked through and juicy. Set aside to rest then slice in two portions for sandwich.

Sauteed mushrooms:
1 c creminis, sliced
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
2 T butter
salt to taste

Saute mushrooms in olive oil with rosemary and butter until browned but texture remains. Set aside and reserve leftover pan sauce to spoon over sandwich.

Grilled radicchio:
1/2 head radicchio
olive oil to grill
Grill radicchio on grill pan to develop grill marks. Set aside.
Additional ingredients:
2 slices rosemary bread, toasted
crumbled goat cheese as desired

To assemble sandwich, line toast slices with radicchio, dates, chicken, mushrooms then goat cheese. Spoon over reserved pan sauce.

Later that weekend, my folks came into town and I prepared:

Arugula Salad with Pistachios, Yellow Tomatoes, Avocado and Grapeseed Oil Vinaigrette

Grilled Chicken Breasts with Rosemary Oil and Nectarine Salsa

Corn Cakes with Scallions and Fresh Herbs

Blackberry Pie with Vanilla Sugar

serves 4

For chicken:
3 large boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1 c olive oil
2 T red pepper flakes
salt and pepper
2 T honey

Marinate boneless, skinless chicken breasts with other ingredients for 30 minutes. Grill chicken on grill pan to achieve grill marks, then finish chicken in 350 degee oven with a pat of butter until cooked through and juicy. Set aside to rest and slice before serving.

Nectarine salsa:
2 nectarines, diced
1/4 c minced red onion
1/4 c sliced yellow cherry tomatoes
zest and juice of one lime
1 t honey
2 T minced Italian parsley
1 clove shaved garlic
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients and let macerate until ready to serve.

Rosemary oil:
2 sprigs fresh rosemary, leaves removed
salt to taste
3/4 c extra virgin olive oil

Combine ingredients in food processor until blended well. Serve drizzled over chicken with nectarine salsa.

Corn Cakes with Scallions:

This recipe is an Epicurious recipe that I altered by using fresh corn and adding fresh herbs.

1 cup all purpose flour
1 tablespoon sugar
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon cayenne pepper
2/3 cup milk
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon white distilled vinegar
2 cups fresh corn kernels
1/2 cup chopped green onions
2 tablespoons (or more) vegetable oil
1/4 c minced herbs (I used sage and marjoram)

Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, salt and cayenne. Whisk together eggs, milk and vinegar and combine with dry mixture. Fold in corn, herbs and scallions to develop batter.

In a deep skillet, heat vegetable oil (1 inch deep) until flour sizzles in the pan. Add batter 1/4 cup at a time until browned on one side. Flip cakes until browned on opposite side then finish in a 350 degree oven on a baking sheet until cooked through (about seven minutes.) Serve warm and garnish with scallions if desired.

Arugula Salad with Pistachios, Yellow Tomatoes, Avocado and Grapeseed Oil Vinaigrette

3 c fresh spinach
1/3 c roasted pistachios
1/3 c sliced yellow cherry tomatoes
1/2 avocado, sliced and salted

For vinaigrette:
1 T honey
juice and zest of 1 lemon
1 t dried lavender
salt and pepper to taste
3/4 c grapeseed oil

Combine first four ingredients then slowly whisk in grapeseed oil until an emulsion has developed. Toss with spinach, pistachios and cherry tomatoes. Top salad with avocado.

This meal was summery, light, yet comforting with the fried-deliciousness of the corn cakes. My Dad scarfed about four corn cakes...

Saturday morning, I was bright-eyed and bushy-tailed headed to Cowtown Farmers Market. After half an hour and a sore arm from my heavy bag, I left with fresh dates, baby okra, baby eggplant, gorgeous emerald basil and tarragon, goat cheese, breakfast bread and pesto bread from Artisan Baking Company.

With my pesto bread, I cut the bread into chunks and roasted them into croutons to dry the bread. I then combined the bread with a simple custard base (eggs and whole milk), sauteed baby okra, zucchini (salted to release moisture then dried), fresh basil, goat cheese, salt and pepper. I popped the mixture in my Le Crueset casserole and a delicious side dish was ready 30 minutes later. Paired with browned chicken sausage and caramelized onions, it was a hearty spread!


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4 comments:

fabulousevents said...

The pesto bread pudding is GORGEOUS!!

callie said...

thank you! appreciate you reading!

13moons said...

HI. I have been enjoying your posts about food, your recipes and restaurant reviews. I haven't been to Eddie V's yet, but had heard that sitting at the bar and ordering a few appetizers was the way to go...but the scallop gnocchi dish sounds incredible. I fell in love with gnocchi in Tuscany; I'd like to re-create this dish myself. The corn cakes look fabulous, I'll have to try your recipe!
I was wondering, which culinary school are you attending??? And would you recommend their program?
Thanks again!
Anita

callie said...

Anita,

I was able to skim your blog and was intrigued immediately! You should definitely try Eddie V's soon. Appetizers and cocktails are a good idea- the bar is a fun atmosphere especially with live music. I attend the Culinary School of Fort Worth and would definitely recommend it. Visit www.csftw.com for more details.

Thanks for reading!
Callie