Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Cantal Cheese


Mmmm...look at that melting cheese. Lobster played chef tonight and cooked us a delicious gourmet meal. He made filet mignon with a balsamic syrup reduction. If you've never reduced balsamic vinegar like this, I highly recommend it. Once reduced, the vinegar becomes rich and sweet and you can pour it over anything...ANY-THING!! It's especially good over vanilla ice cream and strawberries.

But for tonight's meal, lobster paired it with steak. The combinatiom of sweet and savory was sublime - not to mention sweet and salty is my favorite combo. The meal took me back to a meal we had on our honeymoon in Florence at this restaurant. If you're ever in Italy, I highly recommend you give it a try. You can order a pasta sampler, meat sampler and even a dessert sampler in which they bring you three to five different dishes for each course - it literally is an endless orgy of eating. If you can't travel to Italy, you're in luck because they have a sister restaurant in San Diego. Alas, try the recipe and see if you're a fan of the sweet and savory too.

Filet Mignon with Balsamic Syrup and Cantal Cheese - 6 servings
Adapted from here

1 1/2 cups balsamic vinegar
3 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons butter
6 (5 to 6-ounce) filet mignon steaks (each about 1-inch thick)
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 ounces Cantal cheese, blue cheese, or goat cheese

Directions
Boil the balsamic vinegar and sugar in a heavy small saucepan over medium-high heat until reduced to 1/3 cup, stirring occasionally, about 18 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the broiler. Melt the butter in a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle the steaks with salt and pepper. Cook the steaks to desired doneness, about 3 minutes per side for medium-rare. Transfer the steaks to a baking sheet. Crumble the cheese over the steaks and broil just until the cheese melts, about 1 minute. Sprinkle with pepper.

Transfer the steaks to plates. Drizzle the balsamic sauce around the steaks and serve

Asparagus Frittata with oven roasted tomatoes


My favorite meal of the day is breakfast but I rarely ever make it at home for some reason. Today my sister and mom came over for brunch so I decided to whip up a frittata sammie. Frittatas are an easy dish to entertain with since they're not fussy and can be served hot or at room temperature. They're also great because you can add whatever veggies you have in your fridge and throw them in. I had a ton of asparagus so that was the main component of this dish. The frittata turned out okay but didn't have enough flavor b/c I didn't salt it enough. That was easily fixed with some salt sprinkled on top along with some Cholula hot sauce - which always makes everything better.

My favorite part of the dish was the slow roasted tomatoes. Cooking tomatoes this way releases their natural juices and even the most un-ripe tomato will be sweet and juicy. NUM! They are a great addition to any sammie, burger, and in between slices of melted ooey gooey grilled cheese sammies.

Frittata and tomato sandwich – 3 servings
Adapted from Michael Chiarello

• 1 pound asparagus
• 1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus extra for brushing
• Salt and freshly ground black pepper
• 1/4 cup fresh basil leaves, roughly chopped
• 7 eggs, lightly beaten
• 1/2 cup fontina or provolone cheese , grated
• 8 slices country-style bread
• Red pepper flakes, to taste, optional
• Oven roasted tomatoes

Directions
Preheat broiler.
Cut and discard tough ends of asparagus. Drizzle with olive oil, S&P. Put asparagus on a sheet pan and broil for 6 minutes. Remove from oven and cut into 1/2 inch bite size pieces. Stir the asparagus and basil into the beaten eggs. Season with salt and pepper.
Heat a 10-inch flameproof nonstick skillet over moderate high heat. Add the remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil. When skillet is hot, add the egg mixture. Let the eggs cook without stirring until they begin to set, then lift the edges with a spatula and let the uncooked eggs run underneath. Continue cooking until the eggs are mostly cooked but still a little runny on top. Place the skillet under the broiler just until the surface of the frittata no longer moist, about one to two minutes, then sprinkle the cheese on top and broil again until the cheese melts. Slide the frittata onto a serving plate and let cool to room temperature.
Set the oven temperature to 375 degrees F. Brush the bread slices on both sides with olive oil, season with salt and pepper, place on baking sheet. Bake until lightly browned and crisp.
Cut the frittata into slices, place on warm slice of toast, place tomatoes on top of frittata, season with salt and pepper and chili flakes to taste, and cover with another piece of toast. Serve


Oven roasted tomatoes
Vine ripened tomatoes or Plum tomatoes
Dash of salt and pepper
Dash of sugar
Olive oil

Pre-heat oven to 270F. Cut tomatoes in half and de-seed. Sprinkle with S&P, sugar and olive oil. Roast for two hours until tomatoes collapse. To store, keep in refrigerator in an air-tight container. Mine were done after two hours but if you keep them in there too long they will turn black, so check on them after about 1 1/2 hours.

UPDATE: Brush olive oil on bottom of baking sheet. Cut tomatoes in half and de-seed and flavor with salt, pepper, and italian seasoning. Place cut side down and roast at 200F for six hours. These make great additions to sammies or make into a sauce by adding slivered basil, capers, balsamic vinegar and garlic. OR use these in your next caprese salad.

Shabu Shabu


Tonight's meal was inspired from a potluck lunch I had with my girlfriends a few weeks ago. I love having a themed potluck meal since it's always so fun to see what everyone brings. Friend #1 made these mouth watering bacon wrapped dates stuffed with blue cheese. I helped myself to about four, five, six...I stopped counting after six. Friend #2 brought noodles and the portable stove for the meal and friend #3 made the shabu shabu. I was assigned the dessert course and got lazy and bought red velvet cupcakes from a bakery...GASP...didn't make anything homemade.

I've always had shabu shabu at restaurants and didn't realize how fun it is to make it at home - especially if you have your own portable stove. Since everyone participates in making their own meal it's nice to just veg and chat. I highly recommend having a shabu shabu theme night for your next potluck :D

As for the meal, there's no exact recipe but more of a method. For the broth I pretty much followed this recipe but just added a bit more ingredients since I needed more water. After you make the broth, the rest is up to you. The choices are endless. I made mine with five baby bok choys cut into 2-inch pieces, 16 oz firm tofu, and 2 packages of enoki mushrooms. As for the sauce, I grated one korean radish (daikon), thinly sliced one green onion, and poured 3/4 cup of store bought ponzu sauce and put them in three separate bowls. That way, lobster and I could create our own dipping bowls. We also added some "La-Yu" chili oil to our bowls for some extra kick. Light, healthy and num num.

Gumbo...YUM-OH!


This weekend was my favorite niece's second birthday. To celebrate, white man made his family's famous seafood gumbo. You may remember him from this post. I've been looking for a gumbo recipe to try but after eating his, the search is officially over. This gumbo was LEGIT. It was soooo good that for this post, and this post only, will I refer to him as GENIUS WHITE MAN. I'm even writing it in CAPS to emphasize the yummyness behind this dish AND maybe because he gave me the recipe.

The recipe itself is not that difficult however making the roux was quite a daunting task. I was tired from just watching him. You're literally stirring the roux non-stop for about thirty minutes until you achieve that dark brown color gumbo is known for. If you think risotto is difficult, do not attempt to make a roux. However if you do decide to make gumbo, this step must not be skipped since it gives the dish such a deep rich flavor that takes your taste buds to an entirely new level. Since this is his family recipe, I am sworn to secrecy and cannot share it with all of you but must hoard it all for myself. Who knew it would be such a benefit to have a Texan round eye for an in-law. Thanks GENIUS WHITE MAN :)

Tomato Galette


Since it's officially spring I thought I'd make a light dish to celebrate the season. This galette is now a new favorite. It had a rich, buttery, flaky crust and was filled with cheese, caramelized onions, oven roasted tomatoes and fresh basil. During the last ten minutes of baking the smells permeating from the oven were hypnotizing. I could smell the cheese melting and found myself sitting in front of the oven watching the timer count down. After the first bite I was hooked and had to stop myself from eating the whole thing. The galette tasted more like a thin crust pizza since the tomatoes made a sweet sauce and melted into the cheese, it was sublime!! This is a great dish to serve to company since it even tastes good at room temperature.

Tomato, Caramelized Onion, and Cantal Cheese Galette
Adapted from Chez Panisse Vegetables by Alice Waters
Serves 4-6 as appetizer, 3 as main dish

Galette dough:
1 cup all purpose flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp sugar
3/4 stick cold unsalted butter, cut into pieces
1/4 cup ice water

1. Combine the dry ingredients in a large bowl.
2. Cut half of the butter (it should be cool, but not too hard or cold) into the dry ingredients until the mixture has the texture of cornmeal.
3. Lightly cut the other half of the butter in, leaving it in larger pieces.
4. Mix in the ice water with a fork until mixture is just moistened. Gather the dough (it will be crumbly) onto a piece of plastic wrap and gently knead, forming into a flat disk.
5. Refrigerate dough for at least an hour and up to a full day.

Galette:
1 recipe galette dough
4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes or 2-3 dozen cherry tomatoes
2 medium yellow onions
Extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
1 bunch fresh basil
8 oz Cantal cheese, grated
1 egg white

1. Roll the dough into a circle about 12 inches across (it does not need to be perfectly round). Place it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and refrigerate.
2. Slice the tomatoes into 1/8-inch-thick slices and lay them on paper towels to drain.
3. Peel and thinly slice the onions. Saut√© them in olive oil until caramelized and soft, 30–45 minutes. Season with salt and pepper and allow to cool.
4. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
5. Take the galette dough from the refrigerator and sprinkle it with half of the grated cheese, leaving a 1-inch border along the edge.
6. Spread the onions over the cheese and follow with a layer of whole basil leaves.
7. Arrange the tomato slices in a circular pattern, slightly overlapping them. Season with salt and pepper, and sprinkle remaining cheese on top.
8. Gently fold the edges of the dough up and over the filling to make an enclosed edge, leaving the center of the galette exposed.
9. Separate egg white from egg in a separate bowl and and brush over the edges of the dough.
10. Bake for about 50 minutes to 1 hour on the bottom rack of the oven until the bottom and top of the galette are golden brown.
11. Allow to cool on a baking rack.
12. Meanwhile, chiffonade a small handful of basil leaves to sprinkle on top.
13. Slice into wedges and serve either slightly warm or at room temperature.

**Mine took 55 minutes. Cantal cheese may be hard to find but it is worth the search. It is rich and buttery and a cross between parmesan and gruyere.

Spring Panzanella


Since it was BLAZING hot today I thought I'd make a refreshing salad for dinner. I was originally planning to make shabu-shabu tonight but I could just imagine lobster and I sweating over a steaming hot pot of water. Strangely I'm missing the cold days of winter since I have so many soup and stew recipes I still want to try.

Anyway, this salad is more of a throw everything you have in your fridge into your bowl kinda salad. BUT, the star of the dish was the dressing. It was light, garlicky :) and super tasty!! The best part is that it uses ingredients that you probably already have in your pantry, so no extra trip to the grocery store es necessario.

Spring Pazanella
4 servings for a main dish, 6 for a starter
Adapted from here

1 baguette loaf
4-5 vine-ripened tomatoes
10 basil leaves
3 tablespoons of capers drained and chopped
1 bunch of asparagus
Few handfuls of mesclun mix

Vinaigrette
1 teaspoon garlic, finely minced
1/2 teaspoon Dijon mustard
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/4 teaspoon fresh ground black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For the vinaigrette combine first five ingredients ad slowly whisk in olive oil until emulsified. Toss with rest of ingredients.

Cut bread into half inch cubes and toast in 425F oven for 5-7 minutes. Ideally you want the bread to brown on the outside but still be a little soft in the midle. It's okay if they get too crispy like croutons b/c the dressing will help soften them. Broil asparagus for 5-7 minutes depending on how crunchy you like them and then cut into bite size pieces.
Combine bread and the rest of the ingredients in a bowl and toss with dressing and serve.

Tofu, Broccoli, Asparagus Stir-Fry


I played Iron Chef tonight and rummaged through the fridge to see what I could throw together and this dish was born. I bring you a simple, flavorful, quick weeknight meal that will be on the table in less then thirty minutes. Well, I take that back. The tofu takes the longest to cook so it may take a little longer, but you cannot skip this step b/c it's the best part of the dish. Using this cooking method results in a crispy exterior with a soft middle which makes it taste DEEP FRIED...NuM! The sauce is also quite tasty and will definetely be a "go-to" recipe when it's the middle of the week and I can't wait for the weekend.

Tofu, Broccoli, Asparagus Stir-Fry - 2 servings
Adapted from here

12 oz extra-firm tofu
8 ounces broccoli florets
8 ounces asparagus
1 teaspoon vegetable oil
2 garlic clove, minced
1 slice fresh ginger, minced
2 tablespoons low sodium soy sauce
2 tablespoons oyster sauce
1/4 cup (60 ml) chicken broth
1 teaspoon of cornstarch

Preparation
1. Drain tofu, pat it dry and slice into one inch squares. Toast in a dry non-stick skillet and brown on all sides. After tofu is done browning, set aside on a plate. This will take about fifteen minutes.
2. Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Mix chicken broth, soy sauce, cornstarch and oyster sauce in a small bowl.
3. Prepare an ice bath. Fill a mixing bowl halfway with ice and enough water to cover it and set aside.
4. Cut broccoli into 1 1/2 inch florets and 1/4 inch thick slices. Cut asparagus into 1 1/2 inch pieces. Place veggies in boiling water and cook for about three minutes so they still retain their crunch. Using a slotted spoon, transfer vegetables to ice bath.
5. In a large skillet, heat oil over high heat for about a minute. Add garlic and ginger and stir-fry until fragrant. (At this point, you can add a pinch of dried re pepper flakes if you like it hot and spicy) Add the tofu and stir-fry until it is just heated through. Add the broccoli, asparagus, and chicken broth mixture and stir fry until sauce has thickened and vegetables are heated through. At this point, taste the vegetables for seasoning. Mine were a little under seasoned so I drizzled the dish with more oyster sauce.
6. Serve with rice.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes


This was my first time making pancakes from scratch and they were NUM! When I was younger my sister and I made pancakes a few times but they were from a box mix and were not nerely as good as THESE. The addition of buttermilk made these pillowy puffs of dough nice, moist and flah-fee! I topped these suckers off with a blueberry sleury, maple syrup, and it was the perfect start to the weekend.

Fluffy Buttermilk Pancakes
recipe from Radishes and Rhubarb
Makes 6, 6-inch pancakes

1 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1 cups well shaken buttermilk
1 large eggs
1/8 cup vegetable oil

Mix dry ingredients together in medium bowl. Add all wet ingredients at once and stir just until combined. Do not over mix, batter will be slightly lumpy. Lightly coat skillet with oil. Heat to medium low. Drop 1/4 cup of batter onto heated skillet. Cook on first side until bubbles begin to form on surface, 2-3 minutes. Flip over and cook another 2-3 minutes until golden brown and centre springs back when lightly touched. Serve warm with maple syrup and blueberry sleury. Keep warm in a 200F oven while you make the rest of the pancakes.


Blueberry Sleury
Frozen blueberries
Granulated Sugar
Water

Put a couple handfuls of frozen blueberries in a saucepan and add a tablespoon of water. Cook until blueberries begin to break down and soften (4-5 minutes). They will begin to release a bit of liquid. Add more water if sleury looks too dry and sugar to taste.

Almond Butter

I had an abundance of almonds in my pantry and recently saw an ad for Trader Joe's Salted Roasted Almond Butter and thought, "Hey, I can make that!" It was super easy to make and much better then buying a canned version from the store. By making the almond butter at home, you get to control the ingredients and tweek it however you like. Since I HEART all things sweet and salty, I added some koarse kosher salt and honey to sweeten it up a bit. It was NUM!

Almond Butter - 2 cups

2 cups raw whole almonds or peanuts
Peanut Oil
Koarse Kosher Salt
Honey

Roast the nuts in a 350F pre-heated oven for 10-12 minutes. Taste them, make sure they taste roasted and not raw or burnt. Let the almonds cool for a bit. It's best to ground the almonds while they are still warm. Grind almonds in a food processor until all the almonds are finely ground. This should take about 3-5 minutes. While the machine is running, add peanut oil until smooth and the consistency you like. Add salt into feeding tube while machine is running. This will incorporate the salt throughout the almond butter. Add honey to taste. Make sure to taste as you add your seasonings.

**This tastes fabulous over frozen bananas.

Risotto 101


Arancini, a.k.a. risotto balls....LUV IT!!! We had some leftover risotto from lobster's dinner last night so I "morphed" the ingredients and made this lovely dish. What could be better then a crunchy coating of warm comforting carbs hugging a big block of ooey-gooey cheese...NUM!! The best part is when you get a bite with cheese, it's just an explosion of the best flavor EVER in your mouth. I've always ordered these little guys at restaurants and was so excited to make them at home. Usually they're deep fried so I made a healthier version and baked them instead. Even though they were baked, these had a great crunch to them and were a nice contrast to the creamy risotto. An even better variation would be making these filled with mac and cheese...oh my gashee, my eyes just spun around in my head :)

**Close up of the ooey-gooey nummyness

Anyway, the inspiration for this post came from my friend who called me the other night asking for a risotto recipe. She has always enjoyed eating risotto at restaurants, but has been intimidated to re-create it at home because it seemed so difficult. I told her how easy it really is, but that it is very time consuming. She called me the next day with bad news - it had been a disaster. I couldn't understand why her risotto turned out so badly since it was a recipe I had made in the past, one that I enjoyed very much. Then, low and behold, lobster made risotto for the first time last night too and it all made sense.

Watching him battle the risotto I understood what my friend must have been going through. He kept asking me questions and I realized I had neglected to tell my friend about some of the details of the preparation....when do I add the broth? How do I know when it's done? Since it had been a while since I'd made risotto and I learned from watching it on TV, I never realized how difficult it might be for someone who has never seen it being made before. So I went back and re-read the recipe I had sent my friend, and realized it was not very user friendly for a first timer. (This is when I get to whip out my "first time blogger mistake" card) Sorry friend :) In fact, looking at several risotto recipes, I felt they were all pretty vague about the method involved when making risotto. Therefore, these are the Num Num's tips for making a risotto which will hopefully result in the restaurant dish we all know and love:

Now, before we get started repeat after me:
1) I will not get frustrated when my arm feels like falling off after an hour of stirring.
2) I will not get upset because the risotto is taking sooooo looooong. No pain equals no num num.
3) I will approach risotto with an open mind and not become an angerball!! >:(

Okay, now on to the actual directions:
1) If possible, use a pot that has a large surface area with high sides. This will make stirring the risotto easier.
2) When adding rice to the pan for the first time, stir and sauté coating the rice with all the oil in the pan until the outside of the rice becomes pretty translucent but the inside is still white, about a minute or two. You do this to prevent the rice from sticking together.
3) Make sure the broth you are adding to the risotto is at a simmer. You cannot use cold liquid because it will shock the rice and the outside will be flaky but the inside will stay hard.
4) When do I add the broth? This is a two step process. Always add the broth one ladle at a time. You will know when to add your next ladle of broth when you take your stirring spoon and starting from the top of the pan, insert the spoon into the risotto touching the bottom of the pan and drag a line to the opposite end of the pan. If your risotto starts to part like the red sea and you can see the bottom of the pan AND your line holds its shape for a couple seconds (the line will become very faint), THEN you can add another ladle of the broth. Do not wait until you can completely see a line in the bottom of your pan, that means too much liquid has been absorbed and your risotto will be too dry. Also, DO NOT add more broth when you can see the bottom of the pan but your line quickly disappears, then your risotto will become mushy and have a soup-like consistency. Don't worry, it's easier to understand once you're actually making it.
5) Stirring and cooking the risotto will ALWAYS take more time then what the recipe states, and you will more then likely need more broth then the amount the recipe calls for. I would give yourself a good hour to make risotto. I don't understand why recipes say you're only stirring for twenty minutes. Maybe that's how they sucker you into making one because if you really knew you'd be stirring a pot like a witch for an hour, no one would do it.
6) How do I know when it's done? Taste it!!! After about twenty minutes, taste the risotto. It will more then likely be chewy and leave yummy pasta starch stuck between your teeth. Therefore keep adding more broth, stirring, and tasting until it reaches your desired consistency - which will probably be another twenty minutes :)
7) Since you've been a good little chef and tasting your risotto every five minutes, when it's close to being done this is when you get to have fun and add all your fixins. Risotto is like a blank canvas so add whatever your heart desires. Seafood, cheese, veggies, cheese, fresh herbs...did I mention cheese? Just remember, you usually add all your ingredients in the last few minutes so they retain their texture and crunch.
8) Risotto is one of those dishes you prepare at the last minute, or should I say hour. You and your guests should always be waiting for the risotto to be finished. The risotto should never wait for guests because it will turn into a big gloppy mess if it sits for too long.
9) VOILA...you're done!!! Restaurant style risotto.
10) EAT, BE FAT, AND MERRY!! Aren't you proud of yourself. NuM NuM :)


Arancini
Any kind of leftover risotto
Eggs
Flour
Italian seasoned breadcrumbs
1/2 inch cubes of mozzarella cheese

1) Set up working station with three different bowls. In the first bowl place the flour. In the second bowl, whisk in a couple eggs. In the third bowl place italian seasoned breadcrumbs.
2) Take one tablespoon of risotto and put it in the palm of your hand. Place a cube of cheese in the middle and top with another tablespoon of risotto. Shape into a ball, roll in flour, then egg wash, then in breadcrumbs and place on oil lined baking sheet.
3) Bake in pre-heated 425F oven for 20-25 minutes, or until golden brown. Serve with warm marinara sauce and enjoy.

Variation: Use mac and cheese as the filling and pray you don't bust an artery.