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strawberry-almond cream tart

At an intersection just down from my neighborhood, there is a white canopy-style tent set up on the side of the road. The tent is the home of a fruit and vegetable stand, and, while it probably should be a temporary thing (city ordinances and all that), the fruit stand and the guy running it are always there. Pretty much every day. He usually sells Plant City strawberries, and occasionally the sign will read “beefstake tomatoes.” I never buy the tomatoes, mostly because I’m perpetually annoyed that he can’t spell beefsteak. I do buy the strawberries, however.

strawberry almond cream tart

Plant City is in Hillsborough County, about 25 miles east of Tampa. Plant City is most known for strawberries, and there is a big festival each year – the Florida Strawberry Festival – honoring and celebrating that fact. And those strawberries are good. Really, really good.

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So, since we’re overrun with fresh strawberries, I decided to put some to use. And, since I try to at least consider eating healthy (whether or not it actually ends up happening), I pulled a recipe from one of my favorite food magazines – Cooking Light. It was also a great chance to try out my new tart pan.

The crust is a graham cracker crust, and I followed the recipe instructions exactly. However, when I poured it into the tart pan and pressed the graham cracker mixture into place, there were some bare spots in the pan. It was easy to fix. I made another batch of the crust and just used what I needed to fill in the holes.

graham cracker crust

I also used the light cream cheese called for in the recipe. You could use regular cream cheese, but honestly? I don’t think you need to. It was plenty rich and creamy without the extra fat from regular cream cheese.

The strawberry puree glaze was wonderful, and the recipe actually makes about twice as much as is needed for the tart. I saved half of the glaze with the intention of using it over ice cream, or perhaps stirred in some steel cut oats.

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The strawberry-almond cream tart was so delicious that it’s easy to forget that it’s relatively healthy. It took us a handful of days, but the four of us managed to polish it off without too much difficulty.

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Strawberry-Almond Cream Tart

(Adapted from Cooking Light magazine. Note: in this version I increased the amount of cream cheese from 6 to 8 ounces and I used more crust, so the nutrition information for the original recipe is not going to be accurate. )
Crust:
  • 36 honey graham crackers (about 9 sheets)
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons butter, melted
  • 4 teaspoons water
  • Cooking spray

Note: I doubled this and only used what was necessary to form the crust without any bare spots.

Filling:
  • 8 oz light cream cheese, softened  (or feel free to use regular if that’s your preference)
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1/4 teaspoon almond extract
Topping:
  • 6 cups fresh strawberries, divided
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cornstarch
  • 1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons sliced almonds, toasted
Preparation
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. To prepare crust, process crackers in a food processor until crumbly. Add the sugar, butter, and water; pulse until just moist. Place mixture in a 9-inch round removable-bottom tart pan coated with cooking spray. Press mixture into bottom and up the sides to about 3/4 inch. Bake at 350 degrees for 10 minutes or until slightly browned. Let cool completely on a wire rack.
  3. To prepare filling, combine cream cheese, 1/4 cup sugar, and vanilla and almond extracts in a bowl; stir until smooth. Spread mixture evenly over the bottom of the cooled tart shell.
  4. To prepare topping, place 2 cups strawberries in food processor; process until pureed. Combine strawberry puree, 2/3 cup sugar, and cornstarch in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring with a whisk. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Reduce heat to low; cook 1 minute. Remove glaze from heat and cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally.
  5. Combine 4 cups strawberries and lemon juice; toss to coat. Arrange berries, bottoms up, in a circular pattern over filling. Spoon half of the glaze over the berries (reserve the remaining glaze for another use). Sprinkle the sliced almonds around the edge of the tart. Cover and chill for 3 hours.

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shaved rutabaga with butter

When I was growing up, I was forced to eat a lot of things that I didn’t want to eat. And my parents – I probably have to blame my dad for this one – were firm believers in the clean-your-plate philosophy. I have vivid memories of swallowing stewed tomatoes whole just to get them off my plate. Other foods that I learned to swallow without chewing? Cooked carrots, Brussels sprouts, and rutabaga. And there were probably more.

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Over the years, I’ve overcome my dislike for tomatoes. In fact, I adore tomatoes and would eat them with each meal if possible. I have learned to love Brussels sprouts, and they’re one of my new favorite vegetables. And, recently, I’ve learned to appreciate – and yes, even like – the rutabaga. At a recent dinner, my dad made rutabagas for a side dish, and they were delicious. Even my six year old daughter ate them, and she even wanted seconds.

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When I saw a recipe for shaved rutabaga in the latest issue of Food and Wine, I just had to make it. It was delicious – tender and slightly sweet, buttery, with just a hint of black pepper. Plus, I got to play with my new mandoline. And I didn’t lose a finger doing it.

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I still don’t like cooked carrots, in case you were wondering.

So, how about  you? Are there any vegetables you have had a love-hate (or hate-love or hate-hate) relationship with?

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Shaved Rutabagas with Butter and Black Pepper

(Very slightly adapted from Food and Wine. The recipe calls for 8 tablespoons butter and I only used 5 tablespoons.)
Ingredients
  • 5 tablespoons unsalted butter
  • Two 1-1/2 pound rutabagas – quartered, peeled, and shaved to 1/8 inch thick
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preparation

In a very large skillet, melt the butter. Add the shaved rutabagas, season with salt and pepper, and cook over moderately high heat, tossing, until tender and browned in spots – about 10-15 minutes (be sure to taste towards the end of cooking to make sure the rutabaga is to your liking). Season with pepper, toss, and serve.

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spicy grilled pork tenderloin

We love to make pork tenderloin, especially during grilling season when we can just throw it on the gas grill outside on our back patio. And here in Florida, the weather is suited for outdoor grilling most of the year. Well, this winter has been cold, but I really can’t complain all that much.

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My brother-in-law turned us on to a really easy marinade for pork tenderloins using Dale’s Seasoning. It’s so simple just to marinade the pork for an hour or so before grilling, and the meat has wonderful flavor. In fact, it’s usually our go-to marinade for this cut of meat.

The April 2010 issue of Food and Wine magazine arrived in our mailbox this past week, and on page 48 is a recipe for Spicy Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin. Since we like lemon, rosemary, and most anything spicy, I thought we’d give it a try. I’ve listed the recipe below, but it’s really very simple — olive oil, fresh lemon juice, rosemary leaves, crushed red pepper, and garlic cloves. And pork tenderloins. That’s it.

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The recipe called for searing in a skillet, but since I’d been on my feet most of the day, I convinced my husband to fire up the gas grill and take over for me.

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The verdict? The meat was very tender, with great flavor from the marinade. And it was spicy. Probably a bit too spicy for the kids, and maybe a tad too spicy for me, but my husband really enjoyed it. When he gets seconds, I know we’ve hit on a good recipe. He went for seconds of this.

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I had been thinking of a white wine to cut through the spiciness of the marinade, perhaps a dry Reisling. Food and Wine recommended a Syrah, so I decided to go with their suggestion. The 2008 Mollydooker Two Left Feet is a mostly Shiraz (Syrah) blend. Great wine, very big and bold, and high alcohol (16%). I think a Reisling would have been a better choice for these spices, though.

mollydooker two left feet

Spicy Lemon-Rosemary Pork Tenderloin

(Only slightly adapted from Food and Wine. I grilled the pork instead of roasting it. Serves 4 easily.)
Ingredients
  • 6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup rosemary leaves
  • 2 tablespoons crushed red pepper (or less, depending on your tastes)
  • 6 cloves of garlic, chopped
  • Two 1-pound pork tenderloins
  • Salt and freshly ground pepper
Preparation

1. In a large resealable plastic bag, combine the olive oil, lemon juice, rosemary, red pepper, garlic, and pork. Press out any air remaining in the bag, seal, and refrigerate for 6 to 8 hours. Note: We let it sit for about 3 hours, which I thought was plenty.

2. Let the pork stand at room temperature for 1 hour. Heat a gas grill until fully heated, about 10 to 15 minutes. Remove the pork from the marinade and scrape off most of the garlic and rosemary. Season the pork with salt and pepper. Put pork tenderloins on hot grill grate. Grill, turning occasionally, until thermometer inserted into the thickest part registers 145 degrees, about 20-25 minutes. Remove from grill, cover loosely with aluminum foil, and let rest for 10 minutes before slicing and serving.

And if anyone is wondering, that side dish in the photos is rutabaga. A post on that is coming soon.

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misoyaki roast chicken

One of my favorite websites for recipes is Food 52, the brainchild of two New York food writers, Amanda Hesser and Merrill Stubbs. The recipes are from home cooks across the country, and selected recipes will wind up in a published cookbook. Since I never create my own recipes, I don’t contribute any recipes to the site (I’m more of a recipe follower, and I’m evolving into a recipe-modifier, learning to add my own flair). But, I am often inspired by the recipes that others post there.

served with rice

Misoyaki roast chicken with shoyu onion sauce, posted by timWuNotWoo caught my eye with it’s unique flavors. It generated a lot of attention, too. One of my favorite food bloggers, Jenn of Last Night’s Dinner, posted about it here. So of course I had to make it.

My first hurdle was finding red miso paste. At two grocery stores in my town, including the local Fresh Market, I was handed miso soup when I asked about miso paste. With some diligence, and a trip across town when I got off work early one day, I managed to find it at the Chinese grocery. Turns out they have a lot of neat things there, including the miso paste.

red miso

red miso and mirin

Instead of a whole chicken, I used bone-in, skin-on chicken breasts. I let the chicken sit in the marinade for about six hours, and I wiped off the bulk of the marinade prior to putting the chicken in the oven. According to the recipe, the miso will burn if it’s not scraped off. Turns out that’s true.

chicken, ready to roast

roasted chicken

The chicken was moist, with great flavor. The onion sauce was delicious over the roast chicken breast and the jasmine rice that I served it with. Umami all the way.

served with rice

For the recipe, please visit Food 52 yourself. It’s a great site to check out. The recipe is here.

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beautiful things: wineglasses

Sometimes beautiful things just catch my eye, and it really doesn’t matter how much they cost. In fact, the less they cost, the better. My little town is fairly isolated — about two hours from any decent shopping — so when I travel, I like to shop.

During a work trip to San Francisco a year and a half ago, I went in a CB2 with some friends who were shopping for appetizer plates. I had no intention of purchasing anything, but these tumblers caught my eye. The glasses are technically double old-fashioned glasses, but they are just the right size for wine. And, of course, at about $2 per glass, it doesn’t matter much if one breaks.

wine on a spring evening

I usually use them for red wines. Sometimes I drink a white in it, but only if it’s a white wine that can tolerate a bit of warming up since hands tend to warm up the glass.

wine

And in this glass? A 2008 Mollydooker Two Left Feet, a shiraz blended with a bit of merlot and cabernet sauvignon.

a favorite wine glass

You can find the wine here, and the glasses here.

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shrimp risotto with peas

My life is crazy. Let me just put that out there. Since I finished medical school almost ten years ago, I have worked full time (and sometimes way more than full time). Almost 6-1/2 years ago, my daughter was born. And then three years after that, my son was born. And I still work full time, because I love what I do. My husband works a lot, too, because he loves what he does. My daughter is in kindergarten, and my son is in preschool. Both kids just started swim practice – this week, in fact – and that activity now takes up a good hour in the evening twice a week.

shrimp

So, my point? It’s really hard to make time to cook. Really, really hard. I have found some tools that help me survive these crazy work weeks. One of them is my husband, who shares in all the household and parenting responsibilities equally — but you can’t have him. A couple of other tools that I rely on are my slow cooker – an ancient appliance that was a hand-me-down from my mother-in-law and looks like it might be straight out of the 1960s – and my electric pressure cooker, a Cuisinart.

Earlier this week, during one of those usual crazy days, I decided to utilize my pressure cooker to make a risotto. It’s so simple and straightforward, and I can have a risotto prepped in no time. Thankfully, I like risotto. The pressure cooker is good for other things too, but the fact that I could make risotto in the pressure cooker was a bit of a surprise for me. Hence, this post.

shrimp

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As I mentioned in my last post, we have this great little fish market in my neighborhood. I stopped by on the way home from work and picked up some fresh St. Augustine shrimp. Everything else I had on hand. Turned out to be a perfect – and quick – weeknight meal, with plenty of leftovers for the next night.

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For the wine for this meal (both for cooking and for drinking), I opened a 2005 Franciscan Chardonnay from Napa. This chardonnay is a lighter, crisper style than one might think of in a traditional chardonnay. It worked well with this dish, but I probably would have preferred a sauvignon blanc or a riesling given the hint of spiciness in the shrimp from the crushed red pepper.

franciscan chardonnay

Shrimp Risotto with Peas

(Adapted from Bon Appetit; Directions are for using an electric pressure cooker. You can always use your traditional risotto recipe if you don’t have a pressure cooker.)
Ingredients for Shrimp

2 tablespoons butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried crushed red pepper

3/4 pound shrimp

1/2 cup dry white wine

Ingredients for Risotto

1 tablespoon olive oil

1 tablespoon butter

1 clove garlic, minced

1/2 to 3/4 cup finely chopped onion or shallot

2 cups arborio rice

1/2 cup dry white wine

1 teaspoon kosher salt

5 cups low-sodium chicken stock

1 cup frozen peas (more or less)

Preparation

In a skillet over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons butter. Add garlic and crushed red pepper. Add shrimp and saute for 2-3 minutes or until shrimp begin to turn pink. Add 1/2 cup white wine and simmer until shrimp are done, another 2-3 minutes. Remove shrimp with slotted spoon and set aside. Pour cooking liquid into bowl and reserve.

In the pressure cooker, place 1 tablespoon oil, 1 tablespoon butter and the chopped onion or shallot, and saute for 2 or 3 minutes until the onion/shallot is translucent. Add the garlic and saute for another minute. Add in the arborio rice and cook, stirring frequently, until the rice is opaque (about 3-4 minutes). Add the wine and salt and cook for another 2-3 minutes or until the liquid has been absorbed. Add 4-1/2 cups chicken stock, stir, and set the pressure cooker to high pressure and cook for 6 minutes. When the 6 minutes is up, use the quick release to release the steam in the pressure cooker. Open the lid carefully.

To risotto, add in 1/4 cup of reserved shrimp cooking liquid and the last 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Stir until absorbed. Add in the shrimp and peas. Serve immediately.

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