Friday, August 29, 2008

Buzzed on Food Blogging

While part of me still feels very new at this whole blogging thing and I still feel that I have a lot to learn, it has come to be part of my life and part of who I am. It is no secret that I love food and cooking and here I have a forum to share and talk about it. And all of you are so good as to come and visit and comment from time to time.

One of the great things about blogging is visiting others. Learning about their sites, lives, talents and recipes. There are so many interesting, creative and talented people within this community. But last week it went even one step further.

Thanks to Foodbuzz, I was invited to a dinner with several other Southern California bloggers. There were about 20 total and all had so much to offer in the way of knowledge, food and personality. It was an amazing and enlightening evening. I am so fortunate to have finally met some of you and gained some new friends! I also really enjoyed meeting our two hosts from Foodbuzz, Kristen and Ryan. You girls are so much fun and did such a great job. Boy! What a job you have. I am envious. It is so fun for you. And thank you for making us all feel so welcome and at ease. Thank you Foodbuzz for the great food and wine!

The lovely event took place at Blanca in Newport Beach. It couldn't have been a better setting with the water at our side and the twinkling lights of boats as we sipped our wine. The night was warm and the company warmer. Here is a list of some of those I met. DO check out their blogs. I know I will be stopping in for plenty of visits!

Blog URL Name
An Easy Recipe David
Eat in O.C Daniel
Griffin Eats OC Griffin
I Nom Things Ila
LA and OC Foodventures Hiu Chung
Orange County Mexican Restaurants Christian
Pleasure Palate Abby
Rasa Malaysia Bee
RumDood Matt
The Delicious Life Sarah
This Man's Kitchen Hal
Wandering Chopsticks
Go Eggless Sarah
Panini Happy Kathy
Gourmet Pigs


First Course
Asparagus Salad
Burrata cheese, toasted hazelnuts, arugula, truffle vinaigrette

Main Course
Roasted Dover Sole (pictured above)
Tuscan white beans, Spanish chorizo, market carrots, parsley espuma

Roasted Flank Steak
Whole roasted garlic, Taleggio cheese potatoes, red wine reduction, herb salad

Manjari "Grand cru" chocolated decadence
Salted caramel, ice cream, coffee chips, Spanish almonds

Friday, August 22, 2008

The Classic Wedge

Okay. So you cannot really see my "wedge" shape all that well what with all the dressing, bacon and goodies on top but I assure you, I DID start with a wedge shape of iceberg lettuce on my plate.

There is nothing like this classic "oldie but goodie" salad. The KEY to making it good, however, is a really good dressing. Where do you get a really good dressing for your wedge? Make it yourself. Yes. This is the best way to do it unless you choose to drive to your favorite steak house and have them serve it up for you.

Once you have the dressing, assembling the dish is a snap. Place your wedge on a plate, pour on some dressing, add your favorite toppings. I suggest bacon and red onions. But I always throw in tomatoes too. I love tomatoes. And as simple as this is, it is sophisticated enough for a very elegant dinner party. Try it. I know you'll love this dressing recipe. Please.... DO NOT buy a bottle of blue cheese dressing for this salad. I just is not the same.

Blue Cheese Dressing

1 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/2 cup half and half
4 oz. good quality blue cheese (my family likes Maytag. It is expensive but worth it)
3 tsp. grated onion (I add more)
1 garlic glove finely minced (I probably use 2 or 3)
1 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1 tsp. hot pepper sauce (Tobasco)
1 tsp. worschester sauce

Whisk the ingredients together to blend and salt and pepper to taste. Feel free to add a little cayenne pepper for more subtle heat or depth. It is best to refrigerate your dressing for at least an hour before serving to help meld and marry the flavors. Can keep for up to 2 weeks in the refrigerator.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Leaving on a Jet Plane...

It is time for our annual trip to Vermont to visit with Paul's side of the family. This is really the only time we see them. While most of his immediate family lives in Virginia, the whole group congregates in Vermont (where the grandfather and his siblings grew up) for a very large extended family reunion on Saturday. There is over 100 people at the actual reunion some years.

We stay at a little hotel walking distance to Paul's grandparents home. Vermont is a beautiful state.

The whole family really enjoys Nona's spaghetti. This includes my children too! Here they are last year gearing up for the synchronized eating contest! Is there an Olympic event for such a thing? ;-) Maybe there should be!

This is going to be a short trip this year. So I will be back blogging and visiting in less than a week.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Little Sticks of YUM!

Some time ago, a friend referred to the ubiquitous fried potato (aka: french fry, fry, frite, chip) as little sticks of yum. This seems a very apt description! Personally if I see fries, I have a very very hard time resisting them. They are just so ... well yummy!

My very favorite are the really thin frites served often in French bistros or cafes. What is your favorite? Thick? Thin? Healthy? McDonald's? I do have to admit, I LIKE McDonald's fries!

I have tried making my own on a few occasions. I know you are supposed to blanch the potatoes in the oil first. I do that. But still my fries do not come out quite as crispy as I would like. Maybe I am too impatient and do not let them cool enough after the first blanch. I have also heard you can freeze them after the first blanching for a crisper fry. Maybe a deep fryer would do the job better. I am not sure. I do want to purchase one.

Do you have any tips for me on getting a crisper fry?

Despite the not-so-crisp nature of my own version, they did have a good flavor. As a family keen on dipping, I served them with ranch dressing and ketchup. I normally make ranch dressing using a packet of powdered mix, mayonnaise and milk (as per the directions). I highly recommend making your own dressing even if it is just with a packet. I cannot stand ANY bottled dressings. It just doesn't taste right to me at all. And making your own is so easy and can last in the refrigerator for about 3 weeks! So it needn't go to waste.

What are your favorite fry dippers?

Friday, August 8, 2008

And the story (party) continues...

Preparing food to bring to a party in the park is not always easy. At least not for me. First you have to decide, are you going to cook on the grills there? Or go with food that can be eaten cold? Then there is the factor of things that can withstand the warm weather and all the prep and transportation. Really for me to have a party at a park, is harder than at home.

Since the party was at 3:00 in the afternoon, I decided I didn't need to have a full meal. But wanted appetizers. But what? Dip? Well my sister made some dip for me and brought that. It is easy and always pleases but I wanted something more impressive. An antipasto platter seemed just the thing. I do an Italian style platter that is a huge hit with spicy marinated mozzarella and tomatoes and basil etc... But I wanted to do something new this time. I decided it should be somewhat Greek or generally Mediterranean in nature.

My platter above has cucumbers, bell peppers, tomatoes and basil, feta, salami, kalmata olives and drizzling of an olive oil mixed with lemon and fresh oregano.

I also wanted to serve more salamis, some Manchego cheese and more olives and roasted peppers.
I served a bowl of fruit with berries, grapes and pineapple. It looked prettier with out the plastic but the flies this year... The' flies!! So over them.

I digress. I placed a bowl of pita chips and pita bread on the table along with a purchased cilantro jalapeno hummus and my own basic hummus.

2 cans of garbanzo beans (drain and reserve liquid)
1/3 cup tahini
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice
5 garlic cloves (use more or less based on personal taste)
olive oil

In a food processor, combine the first 4 ingredients using olive oil and/or reserve bean liquid to thin to the desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper.

As an experiment, I took 1/3 of the hummus and put it back in the processor and tried to add roasted tomatoes and basil. It had a good flavor but was a little too thin and runny. I think it would be best to do this before adding the oil and reserved liquids.

The other sauce/dipper I chose was this Skordalia recipe I read about on Peter's site Kalofagas. I was immediately intrigued. I had never heard of skordalia before but it turns out it is more or less a Greek version of aioli! How perfect given the name of my blog. I do not have a good photo of this (or the hummuses) but let me tell you, it was GOOD!!!! If you don't like garlic, it may not be for you. It really packs a punch and is very very garlicy but that was fine by me and based on how much was eaten, my guests as well! It was great with the pita but I think it would also be wonderful on grilled white fish or chicken. Frankly I could probably put it on anything and love it. Thanks for the referral and recipe, Peter! This is definitely a keeper that I will make again and again.

Our guests seemed to like everything as it was mostly gone by the end of the party. Nothing makes me more pleased that to see everyone eating my food.

I did do one thing to make life easier on myself. I ordered pizza for the kids to be delivered to the park. Some also took fruit and veggies but pizza is always a kid pleaser.

We had a great day. And since most of the food was eaten, clean up and take home wasn't too too bad. Except for all the princess paraphernalia! (Don't you just love that word? So fun.)

Oh wait! You didn't think I would serve all this food without offering a special libation do you? I made a white wine sangria. I didn't really use much of a recipe but threw in some wine, brandy, simple syrup and my secret ingredient tea! I use lemon zinger herbal tea for white wine sangrias and cranberry or some other berry herbal tea for red sangrias. Of course there was a lot of fruit too-- Peaches, green apples, lemons, oranges, limes....

Drink up and enjoy your weekend! Cheers!

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Once Upon a Time...

There was a little princess of a girl who after months of planning and deciding and waiting and going to other parties...

FINALLY got to have her VERY own party! She felt quite big. Such a proud 4 year old!

It was her special day held at a local park. And she milked all the attention
and poses for all who were so gracious as to attend this royal event.

All the coolest of friends made it!

There were A LOT of presents. Most of them princess themed as that was her greatest desire.
Oh how she LOVES presents.
It was a very happy day.

But wait all you loyal and royal subjects! This is not the end.

Mommy made a lot of food for the royal guests. And she will post about it as soon as she can get all the photos loaded and the floors mopped and the custom invitations done and new orders to send out and put the invoices in the mail and the toys put away and the laundry done and....

Well you understand. Please partake in some of the cookies she made for the day. They were from a recipe on Orangette's blog. Molly adapted these chocolate chip cookies based on an article in the New York Times. Well after reading her post and part of the Times article (I still want to read it all but as you see above, there are many many things to do.)

But back to the cookies. I made them for Danielle's party (which was over a week ago). They were a HUGE hit and I think it was one of the best homemade cookies I have ever had and certainly the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever made. The only modification I made was adding walnuts to half the batch as my family really like walnuts in their cookies. You really ought to try them! Sooo moist and delicious that I am tempted to whip up another batch VERY VERY soon. The only hard part is waiting a couple days to cook them after you make the dough.

Check back very soon for the rest of the feast. I am giving you the dessert first so you will not loose too much patience with me.