Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Thai food: cure for a stuffy nose

Air travel tends to give me a cold almost every time I hit the skies. My latest trip was no exception. I woke this morning w/ a stuffy head and a sore throat so for lunch I decided to have something spicy hot to clear my head.

I trundled down to Thai Cafe to order something. I thought I would have the green papaya salad because it is cool and crisp one on hand and very spicy on the other. However, after looking at the lunch menu, I opted for grilled eggplant and grilled salmon with noodles. A red curry sauce coated the salmon, eggplant and noodles. It was topped with a garnish of lettuce which is a good foil to the hot curry.

I resisted the urge to buy some crab angels, also known as crab Rangoon, because I don't really need to eat any fried food today. I have a weakness for anything combining crab, cream cheese and a deep fryer, so resisting was no small feat.

With the onset of the cold season, keep in mind Thai food for stuffy nose relief!

Filet mignon w/ Roquefort sauce

At the weekend I was in Kansas City (Missouri, not Kansas) and I had dinner at the steakhouse called Pierpont's in the renovated Union Station. The decor was great and enhanced the old, magnificent train station. I ordered a filet mignon with a blue cheese cream sauce and a balsamic reduction. I could have licked the plate!

The delicious dinner inspired me to share this recipe for a Roquefort sauce that my mother picked up from a restaurant called Miss Aimee B's Tea Room in St. Charles, Missouri. It's a recipe that you should only fix for someone you really love because it is really expensive to make. The sauce could go with any steak, I suppose, but the flavors go well with filet. I also like that it is made with Roquefort and not just any old blue cheese. Roquefort is smooth, creamy, and pungent without being too sharp or bitter. It's perfect for this dish although it does kill me to cook such a fine cheese instead of putting it on a cracker!

To find a good wine to go with this dish, head down to the Wine Authorities on University Drive and ask them to suggest a Bordeaux. I like to serve skin-on mashed potatoes because the potatoes pick up some of the yummy sauce on the plate.

1. Preheat your broiler or grill.

2. Rub 3 or 4 filet mignon with minced fresh garlic, salt and pepper. Cook on grill (or broil) until the steak is done to your liking.

3. While the steaks are cooking, combine the following in a medium saucepan:

4 oz. Roquefort crumbled
1 stick unsalted butter
2 cloves minced garlic
2 T Worchestershire sauce
1/2 t. caraway seeds

Stir until cheese and butter melt.

4. Add to the sauce 1/2c. sliced green onions and 8oz mushrooms thinly sliced. Continue cooking 2 or 3 more minutes.

5. Pour over steaks.

Monday, September 22, 2008

Cheese puffs

I am not really eating cheese or cooking with it at the moment, but that didn't stop me from trying some tasty morsels at my friends' cocktail party. The puffed batter, similar to a popover and called a gougère in French, is airy and cheesy. I found them addictive so I had to stand far away from the platter they were on.

My friends who are devotees of the cooking channel found this recipe by the Barefoot Contessa, Ina Garten, on the FoodTV web site. It includes Parmesan and Gruyère seasoned with a touch of nutmeg. I've made a similar recipe with Roquefort and a tablespoon of fresh thyme. This recipe would be delicious with other combinations of cheese and herbs too.

Once my no-cheese diet is over, I'm going to make these. They have red wine written all over them as the accompanying beverage.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Mussels in wine sauce

Months that end in "-ber" are the best months for eating mussels. I've bought mussels from WholeFoods, Capital Seafood Market on University Dr., and Harris Teeter. The best ones were from Capital Seafood Market. Almost all of them opened and they tasted fresh. WholeFoods is second best. Don't bother buying them from Teeter. Most of the ones I got didn't open. That means they were dead on arrival.

Mussels are a great starter course for a group or a meal for two. Store them in fridge and cook within a day of purchase. When you are ready to cook them, rinse the mussels well in cold water. Pull out any remaining beard which is dark green, fuzzy looking stuff.

In a large pot combine 2 cups of wine, 6 T butter, 1/2 chopped shallots, 1/2 t. dried thyme or 3 sprigs fresh thyme, 1 bay leaf, 8 sprigs of parsley, pepper. Bring to a boil, then cook for 2 or 3 minutes until the alcohol burns off. Add the mussels to the pot and cover with a lid. Cook for 4 or 5 minutes or until the mussels open.

Serve the museels in a bowl and then pour the sauce over them. Garnish with chopped parsley. Serve with french bread.

Friday, September 12, 2008


Cheese accounts for a main source of protein, not to mention being my primary source of calcium, in my daily diet. Unfortunately a daily of intake of 2 to 4 oz of cheese isn't compatible with my vain desire to have washer board abs.

I could eat a piece of carboard if it was topped with melted cheese. Fortunately, I don't have to do that. So far my favorite pizza at Rockwood is the four cheese pizza. It's full of flavors. I especially like the blue cheese on it. Again, this is not compatible with my fitness goals.

I bought some pepper jack cheese made with 2% milk at Harris Teeter so I could make quesadillas when I have a cheese craving. Alas, a pepper jack quesadilla may be tasty but it does not satisfy my desire for a big hunk of triple cream brie! Yes, I'm one of the brie-eating, Chablis-drinking elitists that what's his name from Law and Order is complaining about on the campaign stump for McCain.

Anyway, I have a class reunion coming up in a few weeks so in addition to the exercise I've ramped up for the past month, I've decided to stop eating cheese for a few weeks. We'll see how that goes. I'll probably lose my mind. As soon as I reach my washer board ab phase or give it up entirely, I'm going to eat a four cheese pizza from Rockwood then drive down to Raleigh for hot Krispy Kremes!

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Roasted pepper and artichoke puffs

Saturday night I am taking one of my favorite hors d'oeuvre to a party. Usually I avoid recipes with more ingredients than I have fingers, but this one is worth the extra effort. It really isn't very difficult either.

Preheat oven to 400 F. Melt 2 T unsalted butter in a pan. Add 1 bunch of finely chopped green onions and 2 cloves of minced garlic. Cook until softened, and place in a bowl.

Add to the bowl, 1 can of artichoke bottoms chopped, 3 oz. prosciutto chopped, a handful of chopped basil, 1/2 c. Parmesan grated, 1/2 c. Gruyere grated, 1 T lemon juice, salt and pepper to taste. Combine, then add 1/2 c. mayonnaise to bind. Put in the fridge for an hour.

Meanwhile, remove the seeds and stems from 3 red or yellow bell peppers and cut the peppers into 2" squares and place on a baking sheet. Drizzle w/ 1/4 c. olive oil and 2 T balsamic vinegar. Sprinkle with some salt and pepper. Bake for 15 minutes. Remove from oven and cool.

Preheat the broiler. Remove the artichoke mixture from the fridge. Mound 2 t. of the artichoke mixture onto each pepper square. Arrange on a baking sheet and broil about 2 minutes or until the mixture is bubbly. Let cool for a minute or two and serve.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Dry rub for grilled pork or chicken

For a long time, I thought grilling was a guy thing. I think because my dad made such a big production out of firing up the grill. I figured it must be hard or something. Eventually I bought a grill because if I was going to wait around for a man to grill for me, I might wait a long while. If a girl wants something, she really should figure it out on her own. But I digress. Imagine my surprise to find out how easy grilling is. Dad, the gig is up, I'm on to your tricks.

Rifling through my old Cooks' Illustrated mags, I found a very tasty dry rub recipe to put on grilled pork tenderloin, though I would probably even eat a stick if it were covered in these yummy spices.

This recipe makes enough for two pork tenderloins. I bet that would equal four to six chicken breasts (bone-in, skin-on if you are going to grill them):

1 T fennel seeds
1 T cumin seeds (or ground cumin)
1 T coriander seeds (or ground coriander)
1 1/2 t. dry mustard
1 1/2 t. light brown sugar
3/4 t. ground cinnamon
1/4 t. black pepper

Toast the seeds in a dry pan until they turn fragrant (3 to 5 min); Cool, then mix w/ remaining ingredients and grind to a powder in a spice grinder or pestal and mortar or hammer or whatever it takes. I have a coffee bean grinder reserved for this purpose. You can use ground spices if you have them.

Brush whatever meat you choose to grill with olive oil and then sprinkle it generously with the rub. Cook according to whatever your preferred method of grilling is.

Monday, September 1, 2008

Grilled, stuffed peppers

My friend Kathryn told me this recipe that she and her husband fix with the peppers from their garden. It is my new favorite, quick recipe for the grill. It is rich and tasty but easy to make. It includes two of my favorite ingredients: cheese and bacon!

Cubanelle peppers or other long, mild pepper
Cream cheese

While the grill gets hot, carefully cut open one side of peppers and scoop out the seeds w/ a small spoon. Stuff each pepper with cream cheese. Wrap each stuffed pepper in a piece of bacon. Place peppers on grill. Cook for 6 or 8 minutes on each side until the bacon is crisp and the peppers cooked.

Serve with bread and a salad.