Sunday, May 24, 2009

Tallahassee Supper Club, May 2009

Another wonderful cooking club event took place on Saturday evening. It has been raining for days and the evening was just ripe for a club get together. This month's theme was Greek . The theme is always selected by the person who hosts the dinner and this month our event was hosted by Shirley. As always, she did a great job hosting her guests. Wow! The food, wine and the fun. You can't ask for a better way to spend your an evening eating a great meal with friends who like you, share a passion for food. The evening began with a selection of wines from France, Spain, California and Yes, a wine from Greece was included too.

With our wines we enjoyed grape leaves stuffed with lamb, beef, onion, oregano, rice and lemons. Served with fresh hummus and pita chips.

Fred and I had the salad which was the easiest part of the meal. The Greeks have a traditional chopped salad that included romaine, thinly sliced fennel bulb, red bell pepper, kalamata olives and feta cheese. The dressing was a fresh vinaigrette that included ample amounts of olive oil, ground black pepper and oregano.

The main dish was shrimp, artichoke, tomatoes and feta served along side a traditional moussaka and Greek style roasted potatoes as a side dish.

The dessert was a Greek Odyssey Sampler that included three distinctly different desserts, just slightly bigger than bite-size.  A homemade honey thyme ice cream with a caramel sauce and pistachio-pine nut cookie. A basil creme baklava with roasted nectarine and a tahini cake soaked in Greek liqueur with date whipped cream.

We enjoyed another great evening and are already thinking about our next cooking club event. 
If you are interested in starting your own cooking club and need information, please do not hesitate to send me a comment or drop me an email.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

The Duck is Daffy

Let me say up-front I was no fan of duck. No reason, maybe, duck was not part of my food experience. Perhaps, I was too easily accepting the opinions of others in which duck was not part of their food experience either-too greasy, too difficult to prepare.  Duck has an unwarranted bad reputation. A few good restaurants later, a willingness for a new food experience, I order the duck. To my surprise, I found the duck very moist, very rich and prepared correctly can provide a heavenly experience. The key phrase is "prepared correctly" So, that is our task this weekend, to prepare duck correctly.

(2 servings)
2-6 oz. duck breast halves or one 12 to 16 ounce duck breast half
2 Tablespoons (1/4 stick) chilled butter, divided
1/4 cup finely chopped shallot (about 1 large)
1/2 cup low-salt chicken broth
8 halved pitted sweet red cherries, fresh or frozen, thawed
2 Tablespoons tawny port
1 Tablespoon orange blossom honey

Place duck breast halves between 2 sheets of plastic wrap or parchment paper. Pound lightly to even thickness (about 1/2 to 3/4 inch).

Discard plastic wrap. Using sharp knife, score skin in 3/4-inch diamond pattern ( do not cut into the flesh). Do AHEAD Can be made 8 hours ahead. Cover and chill. 

Melt 1 tablespoon butter in heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Sprinkle duck with salt and pepper. Add duck, skin side down, to skillet and cook until skin is browned and crisp, about 5 minutes. Turn duck breasts over, reduce heat to medium, and cook until browned  (or in our case slightly charred,laugh) and cooked to desired doneness, about 4 minutes longer for small breasts and 8 minutes longer for large breast for medium rare. Transfer to work surface, tent with foil to keep warm, and let rest  10 minutes.


Meanwhile pour off all but 2 tablespoons drippings from skillet. Add shallot to skillet and stir over medium heat 30 seconds. Add broth, cherries, Port, and honey. Increase heat to high and boil until sauce is reduced to glaze, stirring often, about 3 minutes. Whisk in 1 tablespoon cold butter. Season sauce to taste with salt and pepper.

Thinly slice duck. Fan slices out on plates. Spoon sauce over and serve
WHAT TO DRINK: With duck, pour a medium bodied red from Spain. We chose Panarroz Jumilla 2006

Recipe from: Bon Appetit, June 2009

Friday, May 8, 2009

Rustic Berry Tart

The farmer's markets are beginning to burst with fresh berries in the south. Next time you are at the market pick up a few extra pints of berries and consider making a rustic tart. The crust for this tart is everything you want: It's easy to make, buttery and flaky.

rustic berry tart
Recipe from: Cooking Fresh

For the Crust 
6 3/4 oz. (1 1/2) cups unbleached all-purpose flour
2 tsp. granulated sugar
1/2 tsp. table salt
5 1/2 oz. (11 Tbs.) cold, unsalted butter
1 large egg yolk
3Tbs. whole milk
For the Berries                                            
4 cups fresh berries (raspberries,blueberries,black berries or a mix),rinsed and picked over
1/4 cup granulated sugar; more to taste
1 Tbs. all purpose flour
1 tsp. finely grated lemon zest 
Pinch of salt
To Finish                                         
1 whole large egg, beaten 
Granulated sugar for sprinkling 
Whipped cream or vanilla ice cream 
for serving (optional)
Make the Crust                                                 
Combine the flour,sugar and salt in a stand mixer with a paddle attachment. Cut the butter into 1/2- inch cubes and add them to the flour mixture. On low speed, mix for 1 to 2 minutes. If there are still lumps of butter larger than the size of peas, break them up with your fingers. With spatula, loosen anything stuck to the bowl.

In a small bowl, mix the yolk with the milk and add this to the flour mixture. On low speed, mix for about 15 seconds; the dough will be somewhat soft.

Turn the dough out onto a sheet of plastic wrap, press it into a flat disk, wrap it, and let it rest in the refrigerator for 15 minutes (or up to three days). before rolling it out, let it sit at room temperature for 10 to 15 minutes to become more pliable.

Line a heavy-duty rimmed baking sheet with parchment. On a floured surface, roll the dough into a round that's about 13 inches in diameter. It's all right if the edges are a little ragged. Transfer the round to the baking sheet and put in the refrigerator while you prepare the berries.

Prepare the Berries
Toss the berries with the sugar, flour, lemon zest, and salt. If too tart for your taste, add up to another 2 Tbs. sugar.

Assemble, Bake, And Finish The Tart
Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat to 350F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator and let it sit at room temperature for about 5 minutes to keep it from cracking when you fold it.

Heap the berries in the center of the dough. Using your fingertips, fold the edges of the dough over the fruit to create a rim about 2 inches wide, pleating the dough as you go.

Brush the pleated dough evenly with the beaten egg. To add a crunchy touch to the crust, sprinkle about 2 Tbs. sugar over the dough and fruit.

Bake the tart until deeply golden brown. (it's all right if some juices escape.) Transfer to a rack and let cool to room temperature. Slice and serve with a dollop of whipped cream or a scoop of vanilla ice cream, if you like.

Sunday, May 3, 2009

The Winemaker's Son

Imagine a sun soaked day, some time on our hands, and a promising looking wine shop beckoning us within. Now imagine three twenty-something dudes in surf shorts and flip-flops hanging out in front of the beer cooler. While that visual in itself is not necessarily unusual, one would think you'd more likely see such dudes milling about the beer cooler at the 7-Eleven. As it turned out, the leader of this pack was the son of a winemaker. His comfort and knowledge of beer, liquor, and all things wine was far more than would be considered fair for his age or any age. Armed with two Belgian (750ml size of a standard wine bottle) bottles of beer in each arm and a couple of happy friends, he speaks to us in a friendly and even charming way. No doubt he can't help but notice us forty-somethings as we find ourselves unwittingly eavesdropping on their conversation. We did not mean to look so obvious, but he feels compelled to include us in his conversation anyway.  We came to just peruse the impressive wine and liquor selection; instead we leave with an armful of the winemaker's son recommendations. Where were these guys when I was his age, drinking frozen strawberry daquiris and thinking I had finally arrived at cool sipping white zinfandel? I am now appreciating what could have been gained from having friends like that!

The Winemaker's Son's Recommendations:

Duvel Belgian Pale Ale ($9) 750 ml
Honey, floral in nature with a hint of pepper

Delirium Nocturnum Belgian dark ($9) 750ml
strong, complex with lots of flavors and character

2005 Leal Vineyards, Carnaval Meritage ($35)
A full-bodied fleshy wine with flavors of ripe berries, dark chocolate 
and espresso. Great with everyday American fare , including chili, burgers and pizza.