February 2010 Archives

Spinach Calzone

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FoccaciaPizza.jpgI wanted to make a spanikopita but did not have any phyllo pastry. I had the ingredients to make a pizza crust and decided to make a spinach pie -- part Italian part Greek. Serve as a light main course for dinner or as a party dish cut into slices.


Spinach Calzone


2 tsp. dry yeast

1 c. warm water

2 T. sugar

3.5 C flour

1 T salt

¼ C extra-virgin olive oil


Fresh spinach about 1 lb

2 heads of roasted garlic

cottage cheese

Parmesan cheese

1 egg

1 pinch nutmeg, to taste

salt and pepper

Make the dough: dissolve the yeast in the warm water with the sugar.

Using a food processor, add the flour, salt and water and extra virgin olive oil. Mix it up and knead to the desired consistency by hand. Put the dough in a plastic bag and let it rise in the fridge. Let the dough come to room temp before trying to knead.


Make the filling: put the clean spinach in a sauce pan with a cover and cook on low heat until wilted. Pinch into a colander and let it sit and drain.

After garlic has roasted for about 40 minutes in foil and cooled, squeeze roasted garlic cloves from their skin into a mixing bowl. Chop cooked spinach and add to roasted garlic. Stir in cottage cheese and parmesan, stir in raw beaten egg. Season to taste with nutmeg, salt and pepper.


Take dough out of fridge and let come to room temp. Preheat oven to 375 f. Divide dough in half and roll out each half to about ½ inch thick.


Put  one half of dough on a cooking sheet. Put filling onto dough and smooth out to about 1 inch in depth. Place second half of dough on top of spinach mixture. Roll the bottom selvage up around the top and crimp to seal edges. Brush with egg wash, salt and pepper.


Brush with egg wash, sprinkle with salt and pepper and bake at 375 for 20-30 minutes, rotating for even baking. Let it rest before cutting.

Serve with a tomato salad.


Seafood Stew

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seafood_stew.jpgIt's February, so Steuart is making a hearty seafood stew. Mussels were on sale -- so we took a pound of those, and abouta 1/4 pound of shrimp, fresh barramundi also on sale at WholeFoods, and a calamari steak. All together,  we spent less than $10 on fish and that made enough stew to serve four people.

The broth was created by, first, sauteed the onion, garlic and bell pepper, then adding a can of tomatoes and about 1/2 can of water. Steuart let that simmer while he watched a little of the Winter Olympics.

vegetable-stock.jpgtomato-stock.jpgseafood_stew_calimari.jpgseafood_stew_shrimp.jpgseafood-stew-mussels.jpgSeafood Stew
-1/2 onion, chopped
-3 cloves garlic
-1 bell pepper (this, or a few mushrooms, a mild chili pepper) chopped coarsely
-1 tsp dried oregano (or herbs de Provence) and 1 tsp. fresh parsley
-1 14 oz.  can tomatoes
-1  c. water
-1/3 lb. ($3) unpeeled shrimp (8 shrimp)
-.25 lb.  ($1.75) calamari steak
-.25 lb. ($2) barramundi skinless
-1 lb mussels
-1 tsp. flour
-1 Tbs. olive oil
-2 Tbs. fresh parsley

When we were fifteen minutes from the time we wanted to serve the stew, Steuart lightly floured the calamari steak, and cooked it quickly in the pre-heated olive oil. (Burner on medium).

He peeled the shrimp and kept the shells. They are waiting in the lid for the pan he's using to cook the calamari.

After the calamari cooked for a minute on each side, he removed it. Added the shrimp shells and 1/2 cup of water. This will make a flavorful broth so there is no need for a canned fish stock or clam juice. While this simmered, he chopped the calamari into cubes.

A quarter cup of white wine was brought to a boil with a clove of garlic and the mussels tossed in. These should cook just until they open. The ones that don't should be discarded. The shrimp, fish are added to the vegetable stew, then the mussels and wine, and stock strained from the shrimp shells.  Let the last minute additions warm up a minute while you chop some fresh parsley to put on top, and open the wine.

We drank a 2007 Valpolicella made by Cantina del Castello. This is a medium bodied Italian wine from the Venetto region. Winter and tomatoes are to key to why a red will go well with this stew. But the delicate tastes of the different fish can be overwhelmed by a heavy red.


Fleuraison Blanc de Blancs

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Fleuraison-champagne.jpgFleuraison is a botonical term in French, which mean to produce flowers. It's a more technical word than the French for blooming (floraison), and the experience of this sparkling wine's smell is not pushy flower smell but a nice aura. This blanc de blancs is crisp, smooth and yes, floral. Crisp like an apple, smooth but not completely off the chart like a French champagne, and the floral is not one smell but a nice melange -- not tropical kind of flowers, but a light lavender.

So this is what I think about this bubbly that I pay less than than $13 for at the neighborhood great wine store called Divino.

And so kindly the Wine Curmudgeon filled me in on what he knows about the wine. Fleuraison is made of Spanish grapes by a French producer. He says the smoothness that was eluding my explanation is between cava, the Spanish sparkling wine, and a true French Champagne. Yes, that's it.

We opened this to have with an appetizer and put a cork in it. I was happy to drink another glass of it the next night and it really was not unpleasant. Bubbles remained, the taste was still fine, and the aroma still there. If I can get two nights out of bottle, I don't feel so guilty opening a champagne. I'm not required to down it all. Great. More champagne can be opened.

Atrea 2005 Old Soul

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Atrea-red-wine.jpgOpening night of the Winter Olympic Games 2010, and we're dog sitting for friends with a taste for wine. And we open the 2005 Atrea Old Soul Red and it was pow of red fruit flavor. Zin-ish but not one dimentional, and it went well with the over-done chocolate pastry from the French bakery in Breckenridge, La Francaise. Atrea fruit juice and Versailles, the name of the pastry.

Use some discretion, said the dog's owner, as he gave us the okay to open a bottle of wine. We usually drink French or old world wine, so we thought it would be fun to try to learn more about new world stuff. What we used as discretion was looking up every single wine we had in our hand until we found one that was under $20. I liked the stark, simple label.

I've read reviews of this wine that called it heavy in tannins. It was substantial but not overbearing. Fruit first. We had a second glass the next night, with a homemade pizza and it was almost better because the flush of fruit was not so bright. 

The 2005 Old Soul Red is a blend of 46% Zinfandel, 34% Syrah, 11% Petite Syrah, and 9% Malbec, from Northern Mendocino County, California.

Valentine's day Menu

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Menu for Valentine's Day 2010

East coast oysters on the half shell

crackpie.jpg I found the quail at WholeFoods at Belmar. They were a bit pricey... around $17.00 for about a pound and 1/4, but the quail were partially boned, so that was worth something. Preparing quail in the classic French style, I cut off the legs and wings and put them in a roasting pan with some carrots, onions and celery. I roasted until everything was browned. At that point, I pulled the tiny legs out. Added some chicken stock and white wine and put it back in the oven to deglaze.

When you think the flavors have gone from the bones to the broth, strain the liquids from the solids. Thicken by reduction or if you want, you can thicken the sauce with butter/flour mixture. Correct seasoning and set aside until ready to serve.

Trim the breasts of any extra skin. Salt and Pepper. Melt some butter with olive oil and saute the breasts until just cooked through. Serve with the warm sauce, potato pancakes and spinach.

Serve the quail legs on a green salad as you would duck legs confit.

Pizza with three cheeses and meat

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pizza_meal.jpgThe best pizza crust sits around for a while.  We learned that from our trip to Virgilio's Pizzaria in Lakewood. This explains why when I make pizza dough it just doesn't have the feel in my hands that comes from a crust from our local pizzeria. Abo's is a local pizza chain that started in Boulder, and has a branch near our house. We can walk or ride there and carry back a large pizza dough in the Tupperware we bring from home (no Styrofoam box that can't be recycled) and we're out $4.  Well spent.
Three cheese with more Pizza
1 lg. pizza dough
1 tbls. olive oil
2/3 lb. ground beef
1 tbs. French thyme
1 tsp. oregano
1/2 onion, in round thin slices
2 oz. goat cheese
1/4 cup of half & half
1/2 cup mozzarella cheese
1/2 cup of Parmesan cheese
salt & pepper
5 cloves of garlic, chopped fine

Stretch the dough to fill a large cookie sheet preferably with small sides (I think you call this a jellyroll pan). I do this by letting the dough hang itself. Width, then lengthwise. My pans aren't round so I've not gotten into the spinning but I can see how it works. I let the dough hang from my hands and forearms until it's square then let it hang longer to fill the length and then lay it down on the sheet. It's probably contracted and is too narrow by now, but I carefully pull it out to the sides, tucking it into the edges of the pan. If I'm going for a really thin crust I set something in the middle so that the dough can ease into it's space while I prepare the toppings.

Preheat the oven to 375 F.
For this pizza, Steuart browned hamburger from our cow.  He added oregano and thyme, brushed the crust with olive oil, and likewise, the onions. Steuart put these onions in the oven while it was heating. 

Mash the goat cheese (if it is a dry variety like our local Haystack Mt. Cheese) with the half & half. Add enough so that the cheese is the consistency of school paste. Brush the goat cheese mixture onto the dough. Spread the meat over the top, add the onions, the mozzarella, the Parmesan cheese and finally the chopped garlic. Cook for 20 minutes and check doneness. If the cheese isn't browned to your liking let it go a few more minutes.

We served this with a bottle of Italian wine we'd bought on sale at Argonaut Liquors. A 2004 Secco-Bertani Valpolicella Valpantena Ripasso. Drinking the first sip of this wine, it tasted like a thin veil of forest. With the pizza, it was in its element. Elegant velvet.

Enchiladas: Stack them up

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enchilada-sauce.pngEnchiladas are simple. The key to great enchiladas is the quality and flavor of the red chili powder. Find a great one and keep it around.

Simply, enchiladas are corn tortillas (flour are an aberration) with a filling -- usually cheese, then most commonly onion, a meat, and or a vegetable like squash. This is not a bean dish. It should not be smothered with green chili or tomato sauce. It is smothered and baked with a pure red chili sauce.

enchilada-stacking.pngIt is the dish to eat when in Northern New Mexico in towns like Taos, Santa Fe and Albuquerque. And one of the very best fillings you can get is Adobado, which like the enchilada is cooked in red chili.

The best red chili we've every bought was from the Shed in Santa Fe. It was expensive per pound, but we've never found its equal on any shelf. We buy it in powder because it last a long time, and we make enchiladas for lunch or dinner at least once a week, so we want it handy. You could soak dried red chili pods in water, after removing seeds and stems, and scrap the meat off the skin as you would do with a vanilla bean but that would add hours of work to this simple recipe. Instead make the sauce with a little sauteed onion, light flavored stock and your great dried variety, as mild as possible so you can taste more chili flavor with less heat. Too much heat prevents the taste coming across to your brain.
Enchiladas, N. New Mexico Style.
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tsp. olive oil
1/2 tsp flour
2 tbs. red chili
1 cup stock or water
four corn tortillas
1 cup cheese, Monterrey Jack

enchilada-filling.pngPreheat oven to 350. Saute the 2 tbls onion in oil, stir in a little flour to make a lumpy roux, then add chili then stock. Whisk until smooth and simmer until it is the thickness of cream.

Place a little sauce on a plate that can take oven heat. Lay on the first tortilla and spin to distribute the sauce below it. Add a spoonful more of sauce. Lay on the cheese and other filling. We usually blanch the remainder of the onions in boiling water while the sauce is cooking for the filling. Zucchini is a nice addition, shredded meat or spinach. Other cheese can be used and may spark your imagination to find another filing that will make the perfect match.
Add a few more tbs. sauce. Lay the second tortilla on top and cover with sauce spreading it carefully to cover the top without a lot pooling up on the plate. If you have extra sauce, keep it warm and add on top before serving. Finish with a little cheese on top, and place the plates in the oven. Bake until the cheese is melted inside and out. Serve on a charge or separate plate because the baking plate will be very hot.

In New Mexico, a fried egg is often placed on top. Or the enchiladas are garnished with cilantro, fresh tomatoes, olives or other fresh thing.

Sole Meuniere

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sole_finished.jpg Julia Child's story of the first meal she ate in France, in the book My Life in France, was so moving it turned Sole Meunier into a dish of romance for us and Steuart has perfected browning the butter, tossing in the chopped parsley and cooling the sauce with a bit of lemon juice.
sole_floured.jpgsole_flipped.jpg sole_remove.jpg sole_brown_butter.jpg sole_parsley.jpg
Kale sauteed with onions and mushrooms, and Julia Child's steamed carrots accompanied this meal.

Dover sole is about $10 per pound at Whole Foods. When it's in the store, it's fresh. You can get it cheaper, but it won't be as good. Spend more per pound, but buy less. Enjoy more. What we have here is .45 pound of sole. Plenty for two people.

Sole Meuniere

1 Tbls. Olive Oil
1/2 lbs. Sole fillets
1 tsp. flour
dash of salt & pepper
1 Tbls. butter
1/3 c. chopped parsley
1 tsp. lemon juice.

Heat a tablespoon of olive oil on medium, then carefully fry sole fillets that have been dredged lightly in flour seasoned with salt and pepper.

Cook 3 minutes, or until fish is slightly firm. It is very easy to over cook the fish. Do yourself a favor and flip it as soon as it is firm enough. Have a glass of wine, sip and check the fish. If it starts to flake as you go to flip, it's ready.

Flip, cook another few minutes, then remove. Add 1 tbs. butter, melt while scraping the pan.

Let the butter brown. Stainless steel pans are best for this job because they allow you to see the browning.

Add the chopped parsley, cook for a minute and then add the lemon juice, blend and pour the butter, parsely -- everything onto the fish filets.

Alternatively, you can melt the butter, scraping up all the bits as before,  put the chopped parsley on the fish, cool the butter with the lemon juice and pour it over the parsley and fish. The parsley is less covered in butter, and the whole dish is more saucy, but you know what that sauce is ... butter. The first method is the way we prefer it. Because it uses less butter and tastes great. I also think this is the better choice if the fish is not filleted. (When would you have this in the U.S.?) But in France, the last time we had Sole Meuniere it was a whole fish.