Wednesday, July 24, 2013

Coronado Concert in the Park: It Never Rains at Hotel California

Thankfully, it didn't pour and the drizzle didn't keep us away from Concert in the Park with Desperado, an Eagles tribute band, and a fabulous spread of food inspired by Eagles' songs. Hotel California was a popular song choice and we even had Alec's custom sign to set the stage. I've seen the sign hanging on the wall in his home and it seems when you live in Southern California, especially in a home on or near the beach, your home becomes a hotel for visiting friends. The sign was a gift from friends who visited often.

Hotel California

Mirrors on the ceiling,
The pink champagne on ice
And she said "We are all just prisoners here, of our own device"
And in the master's chambers,
They gathered for the feast
They stab it with their steely knives,
But they just can't kill the beast

We welcomed Alec, Nina and Sonoma back in town after their annual trip to the East Coast to visit family and friends. They shared a big platter of Alec's signature Smoked Paprika Shrimp, which are enjoyed often at Hotel ALifornia, and a bottle of Pink Champagne on Ice.

Alec arriving with his Hotel ALifornia Smoked Paprika Shrimp

Pink Champagne on Ice

Michelle and Becky went in together on a Honey-Baked Ham, disguised as a beast. It appears they were successful killing the beast with their steely knives.

Honey-Baked Ham Beast

Peaceful Easy Feeling

I like the way your sparkling earrings lay,
Against your skin, it's so brown.
And I wanna sleep with you in the desert tonight
With a billion stars all around.

'Cause I got a peaceful easy feeling,
And I know you won't let me down
'cause I'm already standing on the ground.

Holli tore up the kitchen with two dishes for Concert in the Park, and a third (Summer Peach Crostini) for a second party later in the evening. It was quite PEAS-ful standing in the light rain, nibbling on her Peas-ful Easy Feeling Sweet Pea Crostini. There was a nice kick from the red pepper flakes and a bit of salt and crunch from crispy prosciutto.  As you'll see a bit later down this post, we also sucked and slurped on Holli's Tequila Sunrise Popsicles.

Holli's PEAS-ful Easy Feeling Crostini

The Greeks Don't Want No Freaks

So put a great big smile on them rosy cheeks, 
'Cause the Greeks don't want no freaks 
No, the Greeks don't want no freaks 
Said, the Greeks don't want no freaks 

Michelle and Pam

Good Day In Hell

Move in, 
Can't you see she wants you 
She has you deep in her eyes 
You been wond'rin' why she haunts you 
Beauty in the devil's disguise 
She can tell you all about it 
She sees it in the stars 
She'll burn you if you try to put her down

Jim flew solo with James Dean's Good Day in Hell Meatballs. Although he has impressed us with his culinary skills the past two Sundays, I'm sure he misses Carmen as much as we do. We're thinking of you and hope you're able to come home soon.

Good Day in Hell Meatballs

Kai made a few batches of Eagle Wings - "Take it to the Limit" spicy wings for the adults and a tamer version for the kids. Somehow I missed snapping a photo of the wings, but was able to capture Hillari's  culinary masterpiece Already Gone. Cute, Hill, but next time you'll have to eat your lunch all by yourself ;-)

Already Gone

Steve and Cindy, the New Kid(s) in Town, came down from Del Mar with Mary and Geoff. Cindy made Shrimp Spring Rolls.

It's always a welcome surprise to see Mary and Geoff, and we're glad they can make it down the coast to a few concerts during the season. Made famous by The Eagles' Hotel California, the Beverly Hills Hotel inspired Mary to prepare a few items off the Hotel's Polo Lounge Menu. Afternoon Tea in the Polo Lounge features a selection of miniature savory canapés and tea sandwiches, including Curried chicken salad, grapes, and almonds on marble rye. Carrot Cake with Carmel Sauce and Rum Raisin Ice Cream is offered on the dinner dessert menu. Not sure which recipes she used, but this chicken curry salad looks pretty close: Curried Chicken Salad with Grapes and Cashews. I loved her carrot cake and will try to add a link to the recipe, but these are also fantastic carrot cake recipes in my opinion: Classic Carrot Layer Cake with Vanilla Cream Cheese Frosting or Carrot and Pineapple Cake.

Mary's Curried Chicken Salad with Grapes and Cashews

Mary's Carrot Cake

And speaking of surprises...when we see Holli's ice chest arrive on scene, it's tough to refrain from peeking inside before the unveiling. She set the standard pretty high when she toted an ice chest full of uni and quail eggs a few weeks back, but Sunday's Tequila Sunrise Popsicles were trendy, fun and thoroughly enjoyed by all - especially the boys.

Tequila Sunrise

It's another tequila sunrise,
stirrin slowly across the sky,
I said goodbye,
he was just a hired hand,
workin on the dreams he planned to try,
the days go by.

Holli's Tequila Sunrise Popsicles



"Take It Easy"

Well, I'm running down the road tryin' to loosen my load 
I've got seven women on my mind, 
Four that wanna own me, 
Two that wanna stone me, 
One says she's a friend of mine 
Take It easy, take it easy 

I know I'm missing some dishes and am not even sure I have credited all who contributed. Holli took notes for me but the Trapper-Man promptly found and chewed them up. Seriously, my dog ate my homework. Peri made the Take it Easy Cakes pictured below and I believe she also made Witchy Woman Sandwiches. I believe Teri made the Take the Devil Deviled Eggs. When you don't have time to cook, or are Desperado for something to bring, we always welcome one of Tartine's Lemon Tarts - thanks Kellee!

Peri's Take it EZ Cakes

Finally, for my contribution! When I started going through Eagles' song lyrics for anything food related, I came across Seven Bridges Road and stopped right there when I saw thyme sweetened honey. I found a few recipes that sounded interesting, but was sold when I stumbled across the gorgeous photo of Sunflower Honey Panna Cotta with Salted Honey Caramel in La Cucina Italiana magazineThe honey caramel also contains flecks of minced thyme. Chopped pineapple and toasted pine nuts garnish the top. This is a decadent and elegant dessert and one that I will definitely make again. I used orange honey, but will try to track down the sunflower honey next time. I will also add a little more gelatin to the panna cotta because it didn't firm up quite enough. A little sprig of thyme as an additional garnish would also be nice.

Seven Bridges Road

There are stars in the Southern sky
And if ever you decide
You should go
There is a taste of thyme sweetened honey
Down the Seven Bridges Road...

Sunflower Honey Panna Cotta with Salted Honey Caramel

Becky and Hillari enjoying the rain in Southern California

Brent's Bottle of Zin encroaching on my song!

Pammy brought Archie by for a quick visit before the concert

Aaron Broering, Desperado

Sorry I chewed up the notes, mom
For next week's theme, we must make something liquid or blue in honor of the great dance band Liquid Blue. This band is high energy and everyone loved them two years ago. They cancelled last summer, so let's hope they show on Sunday. Liquid choices are abundant and obvious blues are blueberries and blue cheese, but let's see who thinks outside the box.

Denise & Trapper

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Coronado Concert in the Park with Iliana Rose and Cuban Cuisine

We've reached the halfway point in our summer Concerts in the Park and the weeks are just flying by. I am already looking forward to the slower pace of life on the island when the tourists dwindle, kids return to school, and the locals seeks the comfort of more intimate morning gatherings at Starbucks and other favorite local hangs. With the summer crowds, and mixed emotions about too many things going on in my life, I'm finding it hard to keep motivated in the kitchen and cook/write/photograph for regular blog posts. I'm am working on some exciting new projects and hope to be able to focus again soon.

We had a small group around the picnic table for Iliana Rose and her Cuban band. Sadly, Carmen lost her mom and she was on a plane back to Mississippi early Sunday morning. My mom was sick, Holli injured her ankle badly, and a few of the group were out of town. Those of us who were able to come enjoy the fresh air for a few hours rallied with a nice little Cuban spread.

I was disappointed in my adaptation of Cuban sandwiches, prepared cinnamon roll-style and inspired by Kitchen Daily. The dough was very sticky and I probably layered too much meat and cheese, making it even more difficult to roll, slice and arrange in the pan before baking. My pan was also too small and the rolls all baked together into one gigantic mass, so I ended up cutting bite-sized squares out of the pan. Although the flavors of a traditional Cuban sandwich were still there, which I elevated slightly with dry-cured Lomo pork, Jamón serrano ham, Swiss cheese, Maille Dijon and Cornichons, I probably would have been just as happy making traditional Cuban sandwiches. So much for creativity and least this time.

Baked Cuban Sandwich Squares

Jim took over the kitchen in Carmen's absence and made the huge pot of Jubilee Gulf Coast Cuban Stew she had planned. He did an awesome job, thanks to Carmen's detailed recipe and instructions. The creamy chowder was loaded with shrimp, scallops, potatoes and corn, and was "Cubanized" by the replacement of some of the cream with coconut milk. 

Chef Jim serving his Gulf Coast Cuban Stew

Kai's Cuban meat pastries were still hot from the oven when he arrived. These flaky, buttery puff pastry triangles, filled with a mixture of seasoned ground beef, tomatoes, olives and raisins, were snatched up quickly. I'm not sure what recipe he followed, but this one looks and sounds similar. Very tasty!

Pastelitos de Picadillo

We enjoyed a variety of salads that rounded out the menu and added bold splashes of color and flavor: Pam's Cuban Bean Salad (top left); Minute Chef's Cuban-Style Cucumber-Tomato Salad with Banana (top right); watermelon salad (middle left); Cynthia's Black Beans and Rice (middle right); and Jim & Sam's salad tossed with tomatoes, peppers, artichoke hearts, capers and olives (bottom). Sean and Kerry brought a big pitcher of red sangria.

Colorful Medley of Salads

While Holli elevated her foot and drifted into Vicodin La La Land, her Black Calamari Rice and Kiwi Mojito Popsicles taunted us from afar. I wish you a speedy recovery BFF and look forward to tasting many more of your creations during the remaining concerts.

Arroz con Calamares and Kiwi Mojito Popsicles
(Photos courtesy of Holli)

Iliana Rose

Max and Jim showing off a few Cuban dance moves

Hillari in search of more Sangria

A few years ago, after a rat dog bit a little boy, dogs were banned from the park during the concerts. I'm so bummed because Trapper would LOVE to be there hanging out under the shade of the big trees and taking it all in. He is such a people-watcher and I know he would be a good boy. It's really too bad one badly behaved dog ruined the fun for the rest of us. The people who do bring their dogs must now line up along the park strip with their chairs and picnics to enjoy the concert. Romeo, a big St. Bernard who is also well known around town like Trapper, attracted most of the attention that evening.

Dogs banned to the park strip

Everyone is looking forward to this Sunday's concert with Desperado, an Eagles tribute band, making their first appearance at Spreckels Park. This will definitely be a packed house and I anticipate a very large group around our table. Our culinary inspiration is Music by The Eagles, since we had so much fun with a similar theme for the Rolling Stones tribute band earlier this season. As of this moment, I'm leaning toward Seven Bridges Road and a taste of thyme sweetened honey...

Denise & Trapper

Friday, July 5, 2013

Bon Appetit Cook the Cover - Sambal Chicken Skewers

The past two Bon Appetit covers have been gorgeous representations of summer - June's Spaghetti with Parsley Pesto and this month's Sambal Chicken Skewers.

The vibrant green pesto was packed with fresh parsley and chives, and this fiery red marinade showcases hot chile paste and Sriracha. The heat is balanced nicely with brown sugar, rice vinegar, minced ginger, and fish sauce. I'm betting this marinade would work equally well with steak or shrimp skewers.

Chile Marinade

Boneless, skinless chicken thighs are cut into pieces, bathed briefly in the sauce, and threaded on bamboo or metal skewers. The marinade is then reduced down to a glaze and the glaze is brushed on the chicken during grilling.

Only about 10 minutes on the grill

These kebabs come together quickly with only a few ingredients, one bowl and one pan, and about 10 minutes on the grill. Serve them with grilled asparagus and a refreshing salad, and pair with a crisp white wine or icy cold beer, and you'll be set for a relaxing summer evening on the patio. Deliciously moist and flavorful...but you better like it hot, baby!

Sambal Chicken Skewers

Sambal Chicken Skewers
Bon Appetit, June 2013
Serves 4


1/2 cup (packed) light brown sugar
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar
1/3 cup hot chili paste (such as sambal oelek)
1/4 cup fish sauce (such as nam pla or nuoc nam)
1/4 cup Sriracha
2 teaspoon finely grated peeled ginger
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, cut into 1 1/2-inch–2-inch pieces

  • Prepare grill for medium-high heat.
  • Whisk brown sugar, vinegar, chili paste, fish sauce, Sriracha, and ginger in a large bowl.
  • Add chicken and toss to coat.
  • Thread 4 or 5 chicken pieces onto metal skewers, or bamboo skewers that have been soaked in water for at least an hour.
  • Transfer marinade to a small saucepan. Bring to a boil, reduce heat, and simmer until reduced by half (about 1 cup), 7–10 minutes.
  • Grill chicken, turning and basting often with reduced marinade, until cooked through, 8–10 minutes.

Sambal Chicken Skewers

I'm really enjoying using my new grill this summer with a charcoal starter and hardwood lump charcoal and The Bon Appetit Primer: 25 New Tips, Tricks and Recipes for Grilling a Better Chicken is loaded with tempting recipes like Chicken Under a Brick, Beer Can Chicken, and Grilled Citrus Chicken. 

Monday, July 1, 2013

You Can Eat Just One - Bouchon Bakery Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

Bouchon Bakery recently joined the collection of Thomas Keller cookbooks on my sideboard as one of my birthday presents to myself! Although I've only cooked a handful of recipes from French Laundry and Bouchon, I have cooked often from Ad Hoc at Home, and I sense I will also reach for Bouchon Bakery on a regular basis. I can easily spend an evening curled up on the couch just reading these books and admiring the photography.

New to the cookbook collection

I need to become a better baker. I tend to blame most of my failures on the cheap ovens that have been in my rental kitchens over the past few years, but I know my baking knowledge and skills aren't state of the art either.

The first recipe I tried from Bouchon Bakery provided both therapy and a refresher course in baking techniques. Therapy in the sense that I love to get lost in a recipe like this which requires full attention to detail - quality ingredients, exact weights in grams, and required methods for achieving successful results.

Quality ingredients measured precisely in grams

There is a chapter on the importance of weighing, advising to throw out measuring cups and spoons before using the book. I do prefer weighing to measuring, but first straining whisked eggs before weighing them, as opposed to using "2 large eggs" was new to me. It's definitely a good way to capture any tiny bits of shell that may get lost, but it also removes the chalazae (white spiral bands attaching the yolk to the membrane).

The rest of the methodology is pretty basic - sifting and whisking the dry ingredients; creaming the butter and sugar; chilling the dough; rotating the baking sheets half way through...but there are precise methods and timing for some of these steps as well.

Flour, cinnamon, baking soda and salt whisked together

Light brown and granulated sugars whisked together

The unsalted butter needs to be room temperature and then creamed until it is the "consistency of mayonnaise and holds a peak" when the paddle is lifted. Sugars are added and mixed until fluffy. Next the eggs and vanilla paste. And the rest of the dry ingredients, in two additions, mixed until just combined. Finally, oats and raisins are briefly "pulsed" in to incorporate (the recipe calls for a combination of dark and golden raisins, but I used about 3/4 golden raisins and 1/4 currants because that's what I happened to have in the pantry). The dough is refrigerated, scooped out with a 2 1/2-inch ice cream scoop, divided into 6 equal portions at 145 grams each, rolled into balls, and placed on the baking sheets (but only three to a baking sheet). The dough is allowed to come to room temperature before baking. I baked one sheet pan at a time because I don't have a confection oven.

These are BIG cookies - too big in my opinion. If you take just one, you'll end up with a stomach ache because you won't be able to eat just half and put the other half away. It's best to follow the note at the bottom of the recipe and make smaller cookies by dividing the dough into 12 portions at 72 grams each. I made three large and 6 smaller cookies.

A tad crunchy on the outside and chewy within

These oatmeal raisin cookies have more cinnamon and salt than most, but that's what I really enjoyed about them. If you choose to make the four-inch size, you can eat just one...but you'll be sorry. Trust me, go with the smaller cookies. You can find the recipe here, but buy the book because there is so much in it to make you a better baker.