Friday, July 31, 2009

Oh What Treasures You Will Find…

I don’t know about you, but there always seem to be a few bottles of wine that keep getting pushed to the back of my wine cabinet. Bottles that someone has gifted when invited to dinner, or bottles that looked interesting on sale – but never quite interesting enough to open when purchased. When I was on vacation, my sister and I decided to unearth some really dusty bottles from the basement and give them a chance to sink or swim. (The wine storage at their house may be different than yours. Both my sister and brother in law are in the Foreign Service, so years can go by without a visit home.) Of course, we found lots of losers, but we soldiered on to find a real keeper. Who would have “thunk” that a 1995 bottle from a little known grape, Chasselas or Gutedel, would have held so nicely for 14 years? Specially a white wine from 1995.
I was thrilled when I Googled the name, and found this wine note: Weingut Seidel-Dudenhöfer 1995er Alsheimer Goldberg (Rheinhessen) Gutedel Trocken ($7.99) Very pale gold color. Light musk and mint and white fruit aromas; fresh, crisp and dry flavor with a pleasant musky-melon note that becomes especially evident in the long finish. Gutedel, German for the Swiss Chasselas grape, isn't generally highly regarded, but this one makes a nice quaff for a good value... (Sept. 25, 1997).
We agreed with the wine note – it was a light and flavorful wine with some nice complexity. So, I am up to the challenge on the home front! I am planning a dinner with friends; “Bring your own bottle from the back of the cabinet”. We’ll be intrepid tasters and see if we can unearth a few more winners. If we score, I’ll be sure to let you know.

Some Assembly Required

We needed a grill for our octopus. (That sounds really funny – but check out the blog from July 27th.) So we went to the local hardware store in Rock Hall, Maryland. No Home Depot, Lowe’s or even an Ace in this little town. But the great news is the store had a Smoky Joe! Most closely resembling a flying saucer, this is a Cadillac of tiny grills, with enough room for the charcoal to get the firepower we needed. We hefted the box into the car and headed home. About half way there, my sister said: Oh Boy, there are some really scary words on the side of the box, it says: Some Assembly Required.” Now for those of you who are skilled in putting together bicycles and wagons at the drop of a hat, you may think I am silly. But, I live with a husband who is a civil engineer by education, and a construction guru by vocation, and let me tell you that I am honest when I say that I have not put together ANYTHING in 16 years. As for my sister – lets not go there☺ Anyway, we got it home and I spread out the instructions on the table and carefully laid all of it’s hundreds of parts next to the instructions. (Okay, I am exaggerating – but not by much.) After screwing it together incorrectly the first time, wrong the second, and terribly wrong the third time, I finally got it together. And it had wing nuts! Woo Hoo! I had to take a picture and show you.
All kidding aside, when you go to look for a small grill, the best shape is round and deep. This gives you enough room for an adequate amount of charcoal. If you get a flatter bottomed grill, you may not be able to fit in enough charcoal to get your fire going to really sear your food. The Weber Smoky Joe was about $35 and anyone can assemble it!
In the spirit of grilling and giving - here is my recipe for Peach BBQ Sauce. It's wonderful on chicken and pork. Remember to baste your grilled meat only during the 10 minutes of cooking. (Otherwise the sugar in the BBQ sauce may burn). Just brush the chicken or pork with a little olive oil it, salt and pepper and put on the grill until you are ready for basting.
Easy Peach BBQ Sauce
1 TB Olive Oil

1 ½ Cups Minced Red Onion

2 TB Grated Ginger

1 Tsp Grated Garlic
1 ½ Cups Ketchup

½ Cup Peach Jam

1 Tsp Ground Allspice
2 Ripe Peaches, Peeled and Cut into ½” Pieces

2 TB Balsamic Vinegar

Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper
Step One
In a large skillet over medium heat, heat the oil until hot, but not smoking. Add the onion and cook, stirring occasionally, until light gold brown, about 10 minutes. Add the ginger, and garlic and cook, stirring frequently for 2 minutes.
Step Two
Stir in the ketchup, jam, allspice and peaches and vinegar. Bring the mixture to a boil, then reduce the heat and simmer until the mixture is reduced and thickened slightly, about 20 minutes.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Octopus for Dinner

I always have to hand it to my sister – she is fearless in the kitchen. Pat picked up some octopus in DC and we invited a good friend over for an adventurous dinner, lots of wine and stories.
Well, lets start with the very good news. Our briny buddy was cleaned at the fish market – Woo Hoo! We have both enjoyed octopus in a variety of different preparations but, after deciding that it should be grilled, we set out to find out just how. I researched on the Internet – let me share with you there are some funky posts out there for cooking octopus! We couldn’t beat it on the rocks as they do in Greece. It didn’t sound right to just sauté it briefly and then grill – visions of rubber bands were floating in our heads. So, we decided to defer to the master of scientific cooking, (Harold McGee), and used his advice along with some hints and tips from Mark Bittman’s video blog to turn our slimy cephalopod into dinner.
First, my ever-intrepid sis cut off the arms and swimmers. (I’ve spared you a picture of this step – but basically she just trimmed off the arms and the webbing around them). Next, she blanched the octopus arms for 30 seconds in boiling water, and then placed them into a covered, dry cast iron pot, for about 4 hours at 200 degrees. Look at the beautiful maroon juices it gave off! (She used the juices to boil some potatoes, which were served on the side in a beautiful Greek salad). Finally, a quick turn on the grill to brown and caramelize the exterior and a bath in olive oil and spices. Our fun and delicious dinner was accompanied by Tzatziki, grilled flatbread and much laughter.

Here’s a quick and flavorful recipe for Tzatziki, a Greek Yogurt, Cucumber and Garlic Dip, great with flatbread, pita chips or raw veggies.

1 Cup Diced or Grated, Peeled and Seeded Cucumber
16 oz Plain Greek Yogurt
6 Garlic Cloves, Minced or Grated
1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 Tsp Fresh Lemon Juice
2 TB Chopped Fresh Mint or Dill or Combination of Both
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Extra Virgin Olive Oil for a Drizzle

Step One
Place the Cucumber in a fine strainer over a bowl. Salt the cucumber lightly and leave to drain about ½ hour. Remove the cucumber from the strainer and place in a paper towel. Roll to remove moisture.

Step Two
Place the yogurt, garlic, oil and lemon juice in a bowl and stir. Add the cucumber, and the herbs. Salt and pepper to taste. Mix well and transfer to a serving bowl. Drizzle with oil and enjoy.

BLT Steak

That’s not Bacon Lettuce and Tomato – it’s Bistro Laurent Tourondel, a restaurant from a charming and celebrated chef with an empire of New York restaurants. What fun to have a chance to indulge in a dinner at a much-lauded spot like this one. I’m sharing our salad-to-dessert photos of some incredibly delicious food. One regret: neither one of us had been to a steakhouse recently, so we totally forgot about the fact that they usually have stevedore-sized portions. (And BLT did not disappoint in that arena.) Check out the gruyere popovers – the size of my head - and the lovely (and large) salads. It’s unfortunate that the picture of dessert is not as pretty as the others – it was a moist carrot cake with slightly spicy ginger ice cream. Something fun about the restaurant is in it’s desire to educate diners about what they are eating. Here’s a shot of the place mats with the parts of the cow explained. And, they will roll them up so you can take them home for future reference. Be prepared to bankroll the visit with a large wad of cash – we spent about $150 per person. (Ooh la la!) Of course if you read this blog first – you will know that everything is big enough to share, and you will be able to save some money for your next fun restaurant adventure…

Kinkeads – A Delicious DC Institution

If you’ve been to Washington DC in the past fifteen or so years, chances are you have eaten at – or at least heard of Kinkeads. Located close to the White House, State Department and the Mall, here’s where you’ll often find the movers and shakers in DC. We popped in the other night for dinner at the bar. Couldn’t resist the soft shell crabs, and of course, we had to take advantage of the chef’s choice of oysters. Here’s a shot of the fun presentation for a couple of the juicy bivalves, along with a picture of the evening’s closer – a chocolate “bombe” filled with dark chocolate mousse and a topped with a tiny bit of edible gold foil.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Chesapeake Good Eats

In the middle of a cold, wet, damp winter in Atlanta I start craving two things from the Eastern Shore of Maryland: Rock Fish and Soft Shell Crabs. Of course this is because I think of both as a vacation treat, eaten with friends and family, and accompanied by laughter and wine. Rock Fish is a striped bass with rich white flaky meat and a lovely texture. And, (although it doesn’t sound good), Soft Shell Crab is a blue crab that is eaten while it is molting – and it’s shell is soft and delicious. Here are pictures of both of my favorites, taken at Julia’s in Centreville, MD. I am enjoying dinner with my sister, her husband and a wonderful friend who is visiting from Serbia.