Tuesday, February 23, 2010

fresh savory and wasabi cream

L a t e l y ,

my focus has been on writing recipes

(for my lovely readers)

and trying all of the new Fort Worth eateries, bars and attractions that I've been fiending to investigate.

I was finally able to sip cocktails in the modern, streamlined and newest funky bar on Magnolia: The Usual-- known to serve prohibition-era cocktails and provide extra special touches to Sidecar's, Gin Martinis and Old Fashioned's.

I arrived for a birthday fĂȘte and immediately armed myself with a gin-laced classic boasting one of my favorite bitter liquors: Campari. The Negroni cocktail was finished with a torched sugar cube, orange peel and a sweet cherry. Nice and stout for the $15 price tag.

On an increasingly-brisk Monday evening, some foodie gals and I gathered at my humble abode to:
sip and rate a cocktail I concocted
(appearing in the Spring issue of Fort Worth Foodie)
and take some photographs of the spiced delight.

More details to come...my lips are sealed!

I also provided a handheld hors d'eouvre that is perfect to make ahead, serve room temperature and keep the hostesses' hands untied when she should be pouring cocktails instead!

Roasted Eggplant Flatbread with Tomatoes, Savory & Fleur de Sel

Serves 4-6 as an appetizer.

Roasted eggplant:

1/2 eggplant, sliced in 1/4 inch rounds
1 T olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. While oven is preheating, salt eggplant rounds and let excess moisture drain on paper towels. Rinse rounds to remove excess salt and pat dry. Arrange rounds on a baking sheet and drizzle with olive oil. Roast eggplant approximately 20 minutes until golden brown and dried. Set aside while assembling flatbread.


Homemade or pre-made pizza crust (12 inch round)
1 c plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
2 T extra virgin olive oil
1 t red pepper flakes
fleur de sel to taste
1 T fresh savory, minced
Drizzle pizza round with olive oil and top with arrange eggplant and tomato slices. Sprinkle with red pepper flakes, savory and fleur de sel. Bake in 400 degree oven until tomatoes soften and crust is golden brown approximately 10 minutes.
After our cocktail cheers, we headed to the Hospital District to try Magnolia's newest eatery: Cat City Grill. We were seated near the full-length windows at a cozy, stainless steel four-top. Amongst glasses of cab and Makers 7, we noshed on the addictive asparagus tempura with a spicy wasabi cream and sesame seeds.

On another eating incident, I had greasy, bar food on my mind. My boyfriend and I headed to the just-opened Pour House on 7th street. Ok, everyone knows I can be a bit on the picky side-- I was really impressed! Good music (Cake, Rolling Stones, Madonna), attentive service and the food was better than mere "bar food."
We started with nachos (ehh...) but were wowed with our sandwiches: cheesesteak with gooey cheese, mushrooms and onions for him and turkey melt with red onion, guacamole and habanero mayo for her. The produce was fresh, the flavors were attractive and everything was piping hot! The only bothersome part of the evening was the heavy cigarette smoke-- sit outside if this bothers you.

I wanted to close with a simple, filling and pretty breakfast perfect for a lazy weekend morning:

Hot Tea with Honey & Lemon and Toasted 7-grain with Almond Butter and Sliced Anjou Pears

Boil water, steep tea, toast bread, spread butter, slice pears-- lovely morning!


Thursday, February 11, 2010

shortbread refined & my funny Valentine

Walking to my mailbox has never been so fun! After Fort Worth was graced with inches and inches of snow this last quiet Thursday, all I could do was stare at the blanketed-white splendor. The roads were isolated, coffee shops were bustling and the city was quiet.

After work was canceled, I spent the evening swaying to Van Morrison, sipping wine and baking a warm comfort perfect with a cup of hot, Sleepytime tea with lemon.

Blueberry Rosemary Shortbread
I love the ease of being able to bake with what you have. Obviously, a trip to buy eggs at the market was not an option due to the inclement weather. I always keep fresh blueberries in the freezer to pour over my morning cereal and make my milk icy cold. This recipe used the same blueberries as well as woodsy rosemary that keeps fresh for weeks in the refrigerator.
2 c AP flour
3/4 t salt
1.5 t baking powder
1 T fresh rosemary, minced
1 1/2 plus 2 T unsalted butter, cold but softened slightly
2 t honey (I used Acacia honey)
1/2 c confectioner's sugar
1 T vanilla sugar
1/2 c fresh blueberries, chilled in freezer to prevent bleeding

Preheat oven to 30o degrees. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking soda and rosemary in a bowl.

Mix together butter, honey, vanilla and confectioners sugar in a separate bowl with a stand mixer on low until combined. Add flour mixture and mix until butter is combined and pea-shaped. Add frozen blueberries and gently mix until just combined. Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a sheet of parchment paper. Between 2 sheets of parchment, quickly roll out dough with a rolling pin into a uniform disk (about 1/2 inch thick) . Remove top layer of parchment and cut out heart-shaped cookies with cutters. Transfer immediately to lined cookie sheet.

Bake shortbread until golden and set, approximately 18-20 minutes. After shortbread has set a few minutes, gently transfer cookies to a rack to fully cool.

Makes approximately 20 small cookies.
After nibbling on these
warm, butter-layered delights,
I sat on my balcony around midnight in awe. The snowy white landscape made the cold air still and the usual darkness of late night was brightened like an early morning. Magical.

...speaking of cookies...

My apartment runneth over with sweets during my crazy, work-filled, red-wined Valentine's weekend. For my cookie monster boyfriend, sugar-filled delicacies are truly the way to his heart.

I stopped by McKinely's Bakery and Cafe on University and filled a box to the brim with a chocolate ganache cupcake, chocolate-dipped strawberry, peanut butter cookies, snickerdoodles and my favorite-- thumbprint cookies. After stocking the fridge with his beloved whole milk, the box was dismantled immediately.

After two nights of cooking up decadent prix fixe for Valentine's date patrons, I returned home sweaty (with a particular duck fat aroma) to find gorgeous flowers and dinner on the table-- savory filet of beef with a succulent herbed pan sauce, smoked paprika mashed potatoes, spicy sugar snaps and champagne.

After this spicy tease, I made tapas the next evening before a romantic (gush...gush) evening out. Amongst a fiesty Tempernillo, crustly prosciutto and black pepper baguette, I served the perfect skewered companions to tantalize our tastebuds:
Skewered Shrimp with Lemon-Marinated Olives, Rosemary, Manchego and Almond Romesco

Serves 2.
Romesco sauce:

1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 orange bell pepper
1/4 red onion
1/4 c toasted almonds
2 cloves garlic
1/4 c olive oil
1/4 t red pepper flakes
1/4 t rosemary
zest and juice of 1/2 lime
salt to taste

Roast bell peppers and red onion at 425 degrees approximately 45 minutes until skin has charred on peppers. Remove skin and seed from peppers. Add roasted vegetables to food processor with remaining ingredients. Pulse until a smooth consistency is reached- sauce will be a bit grainy as a result of the almonds.

Shrimp skewers:

1/4 lb peeled and deveined 21-25 shrimp
lemon-marinated green olives with juice reserved
1 T olive oil
salt and pepper to taste
aged manchego cut into 1/2 inch cubes
fresh rosemary, minced to garnish
2 wooden skewers

Season shrimp with salt and pepper and quickly cook in a heated saute pan with olive oil on both sides until just opaque. While still warm, coat shrimp in reserved olive juice. To assemble skewers, rotate olives, shrimp and manchego cubes. Drizzle with romesco, garnish with minced rosemary and serve immediately.


Monday, February 1, 2010

cocktail in hand & a gruyere-laced gratin

I've been reminiscent of growing up in Austin and my usual weekend breakfast with Mom and Dad. We lived downtown amongst the funky-hardwood homes of historic Hyde Park- far from suburbia. Every lazy Sunday, we would perch atop rickety wooden bar stools at the water-stained butcher block and chat amongst ourselves in the sun-drenched, sea-foam painted kitchen.

My mouth waters thinking about:

freshly-ground Anderson coffee and tart, grapefruit juice;
toasted wheat berry toast with apple butter and sour cherry jam;
softly scrambled eggs with a dash of cream;
paper towel-patted turkey bacon;
fresh berries & creme fraiche.

I've always been a juice addict (especially for fresh, tart grapefruit) so I recently took it upon myself to splurge on a juicer to fulfill all of my fresh-squeezed needs. After seeing Chef Wylie Dufresne juicing arugula on the tube- I knew the contraption was right up my alley. I designed this recipe to make by hand (no juicer needed) for those of you who don't impulse-buy kitchen appliances like me.

Ginger, Grapefruit and Habanero Juice

Serves 1.

juice of 1 grapefruit
1 T ginger, grated on a microplane
1/8 t habanero, grated on a microplane
Combine, chill then strain if desired. Garnish with grapefruit rind.

That evening, I couldn't pass up buying some gorgeous sea scallops at Central Market for dinner. For this recipe, I was inspired by some emerald, local thyme and a brightly-hued bunch of radishes. The savory shellfish were paired with these bright peppery vegetables, the lemon-laced herb, artisan salt and whole wheat pasta for depth.

Sea Scallops and Linguine
with Thyme Pesto, Easter Egg Radish & Black Sea Salt

Although the ingredients in this dish sound complicated, the dish is very simple to make.

Three steps:

1. make pesto
2. boil pasta
3. sear scallops

and you're finished!

Thyme Almond Pesto:

1/4 c fresh thyme
1/4 c almonds, toasted
3 T parmesan
zest and juice of 1/2 lemon
1 t honey
salt to taste
1/2 c olive oil

Combine all ingredients except olive oil and pulse in a food processor until smooth. Slowly stream in olive oil until desired consistency is reached. Season with salt to taste and set aside to later combine with linguine.

Pasta with scallops:

Serves 2.

1/2 lb fresh sea scallops, cleaned
1/2 lb pasta (I used whole wheat)
2 T unsalted butter
1/4 c easter egg radishes, sliced thin
fresh thyme to garnish
black lava sea salt to garnish

Put water on to boil for pasta. Meanwhile, season scallops with fresh ground pepper and a bit of salt. When water is boiling, add pasta and heat saute pan for scallops. Add 1 tablespoon olive oil to hot pan and sear scallops on both sides until golden brown, about three minutes per side depending on thickness. Drain pasta and combine with butter and thyme pesto. To plate dish, place scallops atop swirled pasta and top with radishes and a sprinkling of black sea salt. Serve immediately.

I was spoiled silly on Superbowl Sunday with a decadent meal fit for a king (errr...saint)! Amongst camaraderie, tequila shots and birthday cake at my boyfriend's family's house, they served quite the spread:

Grilled beef tenderloin;

marsala glazed cremini mushrooms;
fusilli with fresh mozzarella, kalamata olives, sundried tomatoes, red wine vinegar
& a zucchini gratin with bumbling panko and gruyere.

I decided to end this post with an "Ode to Fred's" after a recent Sunday evening burger rampage. For some reason, I forget how truly delicious these greasy delicacies are until I sink my teeth into a new one. I decided on the smaller, 1/4 lb Fred's burger after a few too many jalapeno cheese fries. The savory beef, just-melted cheese and hand-cut fries were perfect with my frosty brew!