Retro Boder’s Night ~ Coquilles St.-Jacques

There was one nice restaurant in the town where I grew up called Boder’s on the River. It was the place to go for any special occasion or event. I think the last time I was there was for my high school graduation dinner! They had a long history starting in 1929 until they closed in 2001. Amazingly, the restaurant was maintained over all of those years by several generations of the same family.

The classic restaurant came to my mind recently, and I thought it would be fun to have a retro Boder’s night dinner! I cooked a few of the dishes that used to be on the menu over the years. The dinner started with coquilles St.-Jacques for the appetizer. Then the main course was a crab-stuffed sole, and the grand finale was the famous schaum torte dessert.

It was a fun celebration dinner, and a lovely way to make an ordinary night special!

Coquilles St.-Jacques

Makes 6 small appetizers

2 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1 medium shallot, minced

Approximately 4 ounces white mushrooms, sliced

1/2 cup dry white wine (I used a Chardonnay)

6 large dry-packed sea scallops, the tough muscle on the side of each removed

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1/4 cup skim milk

Pinch of cayenne

1 teaspoon fresh tarragon, minced

1/2 teaspoon lemon zest, finely grated

Salt, to taste

Gruyère cheese, finely grated

Paprika, to taste

Preheat broiler. Set aside either 6 scallop shells or 6 shallow ramekins. If using scallop shells rather than ramekins, crumple some aluminum foil on top of a sheet pan to keep the shells level when broiling.

Over medium heat, in a medium sauté pan, melt 1 tablespoon of butter. Add the shallots, and sauté until they are translucent. Then add the mushrooms and cook until they release most of their moisture. Add the wine, and bring to a simmer. Add the scallops, and gently poach on both sides until they are just cooked through.

Remove the scallops, and set aside on a plate. Strain the remaining ingredients, reserving both the liquid and the solids.

In a food processor, pulse the mushrooms and shallots until they are the consistency of small pebbles. Set aside.

Wipe out the pan to make sure there are no bits of mushroom or shallot left that may burn.

In the same pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon of butter over medium heat. Once the bubbles subside, whisk in the flour to make a roux. Once the roux is golden, whisk in the milk, the strained liquid, and any liquid that may have accumulated under the scallops. While continuing to whisk, let the mixture cook until it is thickened.

Strain the mixture to ensure there are no lumps.

Off the heat, whisk the cayenne, tarragon, and lemon zest into the wine/milk mixture. Add salt to taste, (but keep in mind the scallops are naturally salty and the cheese added at the end will also be salty.)

Divide the mushrooms between either scallop shells or ramekins, and spread onto the bottom of each. On top of the mushrooms, add one scallop to each shell or ramekin. Top each scallop with the sauce. Grate a little cheese over the top of each.

Broil until the cheese is melted and beginning to brown. Watch very closely, because they can get too dark quickly. Remove from the broiler.

To finish, sprinkle the scallops lightly with paprika.

Iced Under ~ Lobster Fra Diavolo in Angel Hair Pasta Cups

I just finished a wonderful cozy mystery set in the midst of a frigid New England winter called Iced Under. It is part of a delightful Maine Clambake series from Barbara Ross. I think this latest installment was my favorite of them all! I love how it combines a family mystery with some real New England history. I would highly recommend it if you are looking for a cozy winter book. 🙂

In the back of each Maine Clambake mystery, there is a recipe for a lobster dish. This one happened to have a lobster fra diavolo recipe, which combines lobster and other shellfish with a spicy tomato sauce and pasta. I decided to transform the dish from a main course into hors d’oeuvres that can be eaten in one bite. It’s a perfect snack to enjoy while you read!Lobster Fra Diavolo in Angel Hair Pasta Cups

Makes about 24 hors d’oeuvres

For the cups:

Approximately 4 ounces whole-wheat angel hair pasta, broken in half

1 cup Parmesan cheese, finely grated

1 egg, beaten

For the filling:

1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

1 small shallot, minced

Red pepper flakes, to taste

1 garlic clove, minced

1/4 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 cup dry white wine

3/4 cup crushed canned tomatoes (I used San Marzano)

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Approximately 8 ounces precooked lobster meat, cut into a small dice

About 1 tablespoon Italian flat leaf parsley, minced

About 1 tablespoon fresh basil, cut into thin ribbons

For the cups:

Preheat oven to 375 F. Spray a mini muffin pan with cooking spray.

Cook the pasta according to the package instructions. Aim for a softer texture rather than a firmer texture, since they will dry out slightly in the oven.

Drain the pasta. Toss with cheese and egg until all of the strands of pasta are well coated. Divide the pasta between 24 mini muffin cups. Arrange the pasta strands in the muffin cups so they cover the bottom of each and form cuplike shapes.

Bake for about 7 minutes, or until the egg is set.

Cool slightly, and then remove the pasta cups carefully from the pan.

These can be made the day ahead and refrigerated in an airtight container. Gently warm the cups for a few seconds in the microwave before filling and serving.

For the filling:

Preheat a medium sauté pan over medium high heat. Add the oil, and allow it get hot and shimmering. Then add the shallot, and cook until translucent. Next, add the red pepper flakes, garlic, and oregano. Cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the wine, and bring to a boil. Scrape any fond from the bottom of the pan. Then add the tomatoes. Cook until the mixture reduces and thickens to your liking. Season with salt and black pepper.

Add the lobster meat to the tomato mixture, and cook until it is just heated through.

Turn off the heat, and stir in the parsley and basil.

Spoon a little of the lobster/tomato mixture into each pasta cup. Serve immediately.

More Elegant Bites for Valentine’s Day ~ Lobster Thermidor Tartlets

We paired our lobster Newburg canapés with lobster thermidor tartlets. And we paired them both with a little wine of course! It was Valentine’s Day after all. 😉

You can buy premade tartlet shells or make your own with store-bought phyllo dough. I made my own, but only because my local stores didn’t have the shells. I think there was a run on them for Valentine’s Day! 😉 The filling for this appetizer can be made ahead and reheated in a warm pan. I love recipes I can make ahead. Then I can focus on the celebration instead of being back in the kitchen. This recipe also works really well with shrimp. This month, my Valentine tasted three batches with shrimp while I was testing the recipe before we enjoyed the lobster version on the big day, (but I don’t think he minded. 😉 )

Lobster Thermidor Tartlets

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

2 small raw lobster tails, split in half lengthwise and deveined

About 4 ounces white mushrooms, finely diced

1 small shallot, minced

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon brandy

1 cup skim milk

1/4 teaspoon paprika

1 1/2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

White pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Mini phyllo tartlet shells

Parmesan and/or Gruyère cheese

In a medium sauté pan over medium heat, melt 2 tablespoons of butter. Add the lobster tails, including the shells, and cook until the shells are red. They do not need to be completely cooked through at this point.

Pull out the lobster and set aside on a plate to cool.

In the same pan, add the mushrooms and shallot, and cook until they soften and brown slightly.

Remove the mushrooms and shallot with a slotted spoon and set aside.

Wipe out the pan to make sure you don’t have any bits of shallot or mushroom left that may burn. Over medium heat, melt the remaining 2 tablespoons of butter. Let the bubbles subside. Sprinkle the flour in the pan, and whisk to make a roux. Cook until the roux turns golden. While continuing to whisk, add the sherry, brandy, and milk, and cook until the mixture is thickened. Add the paprika, mustard, and pepper, and whisk to combine.

Strain the mixture for any lumps. Return the sauce to the pan off the heat.

Take the lobster meat out of the shells and cut into a small dice.

Add the lobster meat, mushrooms, and shallots back to the pan with the sauce. Mix until everything is well coated. Over low heat, cook until the lobster meat is just cooked through. Season with salt if needed, (but remember there will be salty cheese added as a final edition, so be careful not to over salt.)

Spoon the mixture into the tartlet shells. Grate a little cheese over the top of each tartlet. With a kitchen torch, melt the cheese. Add a little more grated cheese on top for a pretty presentation.

Serve immediately.

Elegant Bites for Valentine’s Day ~ Lobster Newburg Canapés

This year, rather than an elaborate Valentine dinner, I focused on hors d’oeuvres I could enjoy with my hubby later in the evening. 🙂 I made lobster Newburg canapés and lobster thermidor tartlets, two classic lobster dishes converted into small bites. I have to say, both went quite nicely with a glass of wine by the fire!

I’ll start with the canapés. I love that the topping can be made ahead and reheated in a warm pan, and the lobster can totally be substituted for shrimp for a more modest dish. I made a couple batches with shrimp as I was testing the recipe this month, and my taste tester (AKA, my hubby) loved it! The lobster was perfect for our special Valentine’s Day celebration, though. I think this is a recipe I will go back to again and again. It is fancy enough for a special occasion, but simple enough to make on a weeknight.

Lobster Newburg Canapés

Sliced artisan bread, cut into approximately 1 1/2-inch rounds with a cookie cutter

Extra virgin olive oil

3 tablespoons unsalted butter

2 small raw lobster tails, split in half lengthwise and deveined

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon dry sherry

1 tablespoon brandy

1 cup skim milk

Pinch of freshly ground nutmeg

Pinch of cayenne pepper

Ground white pepper to taste

Salt to taste

Preheat broiler. Cover a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Brush the tops of the bread with a little olive oil. Arrange the bread with the oil side facing up on the prepared sheet pan. Broil for a minute or two until the bread is golden on top. Watch them closely, because they can burn very quickly. Set aside.

In a medium sauté pan, heat the butter over medium heat until melted. Add the lobster tails, including the shells, and cook until the shells are red. They do not need to be completely cooked through at this point. Set aside to cool.

Continuing to cook over medium heat, sprinkle the flour in the pan, and whisk to combine with the remaining butter. Cook until the roux is golden brown. While whisking, add the sherry, brandy, and milk. Continue to whisk until the mixture is thickened. Add the nutmeg, cayenne, and white pepper, and whisk until well combined.

Strain the mixture for any lumps. Return the sauce to the pan off the heat.

Take the lobster meat out of the shells, and cut into a small dice.

Add the lobster meat back to the pan with the sauce. Mix until the lobster is well coated. Over low heat, cook until the meat is just cooked through. Season with salt if needed.

Spoon a small amount of the lobster mixture onto the toast rounds. Serve immediately.

It’s 2017! ~ Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesHappy New Year!! I hope this year is filled with many good things for you. 🙂

I made these little appetizers to help ring in 2017. They are fresh and flavorful with the unique addition of finger limes. The little vesicles of the finger limes pop in your mouth with a burst of freshness. It is almost like citrus caviar! Or nature’s Pop Rocks. 😉 If you ever see finger limes, I would highly recommend trying them. I think you’ll find them delightful!

Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger Limes

Makes 30 appetizers

1/2 block (4 ounces) reduced fat cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 large ripe avocado

Handful of fresh cilantro, big stems removed

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

Approximately 3 English cucumbers

30 medium shrimp, peeled and deveined

Approximately 1 tablespoon high heat cooking oil

Approximately 6 finger limes

In the bowl of a food processor, add the cream cheese, avocado, cilantro, salt, and pepper. Process until fully combined and smooth.

With a large peeler, peel strips of cucumber lengthwise. Stop when you reach the seedy centers. Neaten the ends of the strips with a knife. Gently pat the strips dry with a paper towel. Set aside.

Preheat a large sauté pan over medium high heat. Season the shrimp on both sides with salt and pepper. Once the pan is hot, add the oil. Wait until the oil is hot and shimming, and then add the shrimp. Sauté on both sides until the shrimp are just cooked through. Transfer to a plate, and let cool.

Spread a thin layer of the cream cheese mixture onto one side of each strip of cucumber. The spread should cover the whole length of cucumber. Place one shrimp on the end of each strip of cucumber. Make sure the tail is sticking up over the side. Roll the cucumber strip. Repeat until you have 30 appetizers.

To finish, squeeze a little finger lime over the top of each appetizer.

Serve immediately. They are best when they are freshly made.Cucumber Rolls with Shrimp and Finger LimesPS. Finger limes are also fun to add to your midnight sparkling wine! The little juice vesicles float up and down in the bubbles and give the drink a nice little pop of acidity.Sparkling wine with finger limes

Happy Fourth of July! ~ Northwest Salmon Burgers

Salmon BurgerHappy Fourth of July!

I made Northwest salmon burgers for dinner tonight to celebrate the date. 🙂 They were summery, festive, delicious, and easy to make. I will definitely keep this recipe in my collection for future summer celebrations.

Northwest Salmon Burgers

Based on a recipe from The New York Times

1 ½ pounds wild-caught salmon

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

2 medium shallots, chopped into approximately ¼ inch pieces

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

1 ½ tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed, roughly chopped

Salt to taste

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

High heat cooking oil, such as safflower

Remove the skin and the pin bones from the salmon, and chop into coarse pieces.

In the bowl of a food processor, process about ¼ of the salmon and the mustard until the combination forms a paste. Then add the remaining chunks of salmon and the shallots. Pulse the ingredients together in the food processor until the mixture comes together, but make sure it still has some texture. For best results, the chunks of salmon shouldn’t be bigger than ¼ inch, but they shouldn’t be a purée.

Transfer the salmon mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the breadcrumbs, capers, salt, and pepper until everything is well incorporated.

Form the mixture into approximately 6 patties and set aside on a plate.

Preheat a large nonstick skillet. When the skillet is hot, add a couple of tablespoons of oil. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the salmon patties. Be careful not to crowd the pan. You may need to cook them in two batches. Cook the first side for about 2 or 3 minutes, or until golden. Flip, and cook on the second side until the burgers are cooked through. Take care not to overcook.

I served mine on rosemary rolls with a little butter lettuce and a dollop of lemon mayonnaise on top.

A Lowcountry Wedding ~ Pickled Shrimp

Pickled ShrimpI just finished a delightful summer book called A Lowcountry Wedding by Mary Alice Monroe. It was the fourth book in a series I have enjoyed over the past couple of summers, and the finale was just as entertaining and satisfying as the first three novels! As in the first three, the story is set on picturesque Sullivan’s Island in South Carolina. There the characters I have come to know and love continue their journey, (and as the title implies, it’s time for a wedding or two!) If you are looking for your next book to read by the beach, I would highly recommend this one. 🙂

Inspired by the story, I made a Southern celebration dinner! I made three of the recipes included in the back of the novel. We had pickled shrimp as an appetizer, and a chicken and shrimp gumbo for the main course. I paired dinner with a cocktail called A Lowcountry Wedding, which combined sparkling wine with peach moonshine made by Firefly Distillery in South Carolina. All three recipes were quite delicious, but I think my favorite was the pickled shrimp. It is a light and easy appetizer that is perfect for summer entertaining. I’ll definitely keep this recipe on hand for future cocktail parties and celebrations.

Pickled ShrimpPickled Shrimp

Based on a recipe from A Lowcountry Wedding

1 1/2 quarts water

2 tablespoons Old Bay Seasoning

1 1/2 pounds large, wild-caught shrimp, peeled, deveined

4 tender inner stalks of celery, cut into thin 2-inch strips

1/2 medium sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla, thinly sliced

2 ounces jarred sliced pimento, drained

1 1/2 tablespoons capers, drained and rinsed

2 tablespoons fresh dill, minced, plus a couple of sprigs for garnish

3/4 cup light olive oil

1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar

1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/8 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

In a large pot, bring the water and the Old Bay to a boil. Stir in the shrimp, cover, and remove from the heat. Let the covered pot sit for about 5 minutes, or until the shrimp are cooked through. Drain the shrimp, but do not rinse.

In a large bowl, mix the shrimp, celery, onion, pimento, capers, and minced dill. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, and pepper. Pour the oil mixture over the shrimp mixture and toss to coat.

Cover and refrigerate overnight.

Before serving, drain the excess liquid and garnish with sprigs of dill.Lowcountry Wedding

Easter Brunch Addition ~ Quail Scotch Eggs with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesWhat’s better for Easter brunch than Scotch eggs? Two different kinds of Scotch eggs! 😉Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesIn addition to crab Scotch eggs, I made one more version with cute little quail eggs encased in smoked halibut mashed potatoes. It was a festive little dish that was a perfect accompaniment to our Easter brunch.Scotch Quail Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed PotatoesQuail Scotch Eggs with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

Inspired by a recipe from BBC Good Food

1 large russet potato

Skim milk, to taste

Smoked halibut, to taste

Salt and pepper, to taste

10 quail eggs

1 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour

2 beaten eggs

1 cup (approximately) panko

Peel and coarsely chop the potato. Add to a medium saucepan. Fill the pan with cold water so the potatoes are covered. Bring the water to a boil. Cook the potatoes until they are tender. Drain the water. Mash the potatoes, adding the milk a little at a time to thin them out into a thick and creamy texture that will hold up around the eggs. Flake the smoked fish with your fingers and add it to the potatoes. Mix well. Season the potatoes with salt and pepper.

In the meantime, fill a medium saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Once boiling, adjust the heat so the water stays at a gentle boil. Add the quail eggs. Cook for 3 minutes. Remove the eggs immediately after 3 minutes and run under cold water to stop the cooking. Carefully remove the shells.

Gently press and shape a couple of tablespoons of the fish and potato mixture around each egg. The result should be in the shape of an egg.

Preheat oven to 475 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Add the flour, beaten eggs, and panko to three separate shallow bowls.

Roll the potato-covered eggs in the flour, making sure they are completely coated. Gently knock off the excess flour. Then roll the eggs into the beaten egg until they are fully coated. Let the excess beaten egg drip off. Finally, roll the eggs in the panko. Press gently to make sure the crumbs stick.

Lay the panko-covered eggs slightly apart on the prepared baking sheet. Spray the tops of the eggs lightly with cooking spray to help them brown. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve immediately.

PS. I made mine with smoked halibut, but I think hot smoked salmon would also be delicious.

PPS. Here’s sending you one final happy Easter wish!!Quail Scotch Egg with Smoked Halibut Mashed Potatoes

Easter Brunch ~ Crab Scotch Eggs

Crab Scotch EggHappy Easter!

This year I made a couple different Scotch egg recipes to get into the spirit of the holiday. 🙂 A traditional Scotch egg is a boiled egg surrounded by pork sausage, breaded, and deep-fried. To make a lighter and more Pacific Northwestern version that also felt like a dish worthy of Easter Sunday, I made crab Scotch eggs. 🙂 Yum! My favorite crab cake recipe transformed (and got a little British!) to make this special dish. I made my Scotch eggs hard-boiled, but I’m sure the molten center of a soft-boiled egg would also be lovely.

Crab Scotch Eggs

6 large eggs

For the crab cake mixture:

1 pound cooked and shelled Dungeness crab meat

1/4 cup finely diced celery

2 tablespoons minced fresh chives

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1 large egg

2 teaspoons Dijon mustard

1/4 teaspoon hot sauce

1/4 cup panko

For the coating:

1 cup (approximately) all-purpose flour

2 beaten eggs

1 cup (approximately) panko

Preheat your oven to 475 F. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper.

Gently place the eggs in a medium saucepan and cover with cold water. Heat the pan over high heat. Once the water starts to boil, cook the eggs for 5 minutes. (Turn the heat down accordingly so the eggs don’t bounce around too much in the boiling water, but make sure the water continues to boil gently.) Remove the eggs immediately after 5 minutes and submerge in an ice water bath to stop the cooking. Peel the eggs. Set aside.

For the crab cake mixture:

Make sure your crab doesn’t have any hidden bits of shell mixed in before you begin. In a large bowl, mix the celery, chives, mayonnaise, egg, mustard, and hot sauce with a fork. Then add the crab and panko. Stir gently until everything is well blended.

Shape and gently press the crab mixture around the boiled eggs until they are completely encased.

For the coating:

Add the flour, beaten eggs, and panko to three separate shallow bowls.

Once the boiled eggs are coated in the crab cake mixture, roll them in the flour, making sure they are completely coated. Gently knock off the excess flour. Then roll the eggs into the beaten egg until they are fully coated. Let the excess beaten egg drip off. Finally, roll the eggs in the panko. Press gently to make sure the crumbs stick.

Lay the panko-covered eggs slightly apart on the prepared baking sheet. Bake until lightly golden brown, about 25 minutes. Serve immediately.Crab Scotch Egg

The Oscars ~ Steak Oscar Canapés

Steak Oscar CanapésToday is Oscar Sunday! What would I like to nibble on while I watch the show? Steak Oscar, of course! 😉 I couldn’t think of anything more perfect!Steak Oscar CanapésSteak Oscar is typically an entrée consisting of a beef tenderloin steak, crab, asparagus, and Béarnaise sauce. I made mine into bite-sized canapés that would be perfect to pass around an Oscar party. I topped a small rectangle of toasted bread with a Béarnaise-inspired sour cream sauce, small slices of beef tenderloin, a little bit of Dungeness crab, and an asparagus tip. Serve on a pretty platter, and it is ready for the red carpet! 😉Steak Oscar CanapésSteak Oscar Canapés

High heat cooking oil, such as safflower

1 small shallot, minced

Salt, to taste

Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1/2 cup reduced fat sour cream

1 tablespoon Dijon mustard

1/2 tablespoon champagne vinegar or white wine vinegar

1 1/2 tablespoons fresh tarragon, minced

4 slices artisan bread, crusts removed (I used The Essential Baking Company’s sliced Columbia)

Extra virgin olive oil, to taste

6 ounces beef tenderloin

1 bunch asparagus

2 ounces fresh lump Dungeness crab meat

To begin, make the Béarnaise sour cream sauce. Heat a small pan with a lid over medium heat. Add the high heat cooking oil and the shallot. Season with salt and pepper. Sweat the shallots with the lid on, stirring occasionally, until they are softened but not caramelized. Let cool.

In the meantime, mix together the sour cream, mustard, vinegar, and tarragon in a small bowl. When the shallots are cool, mix them into the sour cream mixture. Season to taste. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Cut the bread into small rectangles. Place the rectangles on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Drizzle the bread with a little olive oil and sprinkle with salt. Bake until warm and slightly crisp on the outside, about 5 minutes.

In the meantime, preheat a small skillet over high heat. Season steak on both sides with salt and pepper. Add high heat cooking oil to the hot pan, and when the oil is hot and shimmering, add the steak. Sear on both sides, until caramelized and cooked to your liking. Once cooked, set aside on a cutting board, tented with foil, and let rest for at least 5 minutes. Cut against the grain into thin slices.

In a medium skillet with a lid, add the asparagus and a splash of water. Season with salt and pepper. Steam with the lid on until the asparagus is tender crisp. Cut off the tips, and reserve the remaining asparagus as a side dish for another night.Steak Oscar CanapésTo assemble:

Spread a small amount of the Béarnaise sour cream sauce on each piece of toasted bread. Top with a small slice of beef, a tiny mound of crab, and the tip of an asparagus spear.

Serve immediately.Steak Oscar Canapés

Happy Halloween! ~ Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinTo celebrate one of my favorite days, I made a fun and festive dinner – A spicy Creole pumpkin soup served inside of a roasted pumpkin. 🙂

First I roasted a little sugar pumpkin. A friend of mine brought a larger version filled with fondue to a party, and it was a showstopper! I just had to try it! (Thank you for the idea and the tips, Karen!)

Just cut off the top of the pumpkin, scoop out the seeds and goop, and then replace the top. Spread olive oil evenly all over the outside of the pumpkin, including the stem. Place the pumpkin on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper, and roast at 450 until the flesh inside is soft. My little sugar pumpkin only took 40 minutes, but a larger pumpkin would take a little longer.Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted PumpkinYou could use this pumpkin serving bowl with any favorite pumpkin soup recipe. The Creole pumpkin soup I made tonight was based on a recipe from a restaurant in New Orleans called Tableau. The unique soup was a little spicy, and perfect for our Halloween dinner!
Creole Pumpkin Soup in a Roasted Pumpkin

Creole Pumpkin Soup with Shrimp, Chicken, and Andouille Chicken Sausage

Based on a recipe from Tableau

2 pounds shrimp, peeled and deveined, shells reserved

8 cups water

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

12 ounces andouille chicken sausage, sliced

1 medium yellow onion, diced

1 stalk celery, diced

1/2 teaspoon dried thyme

2 garlic cloves, minced

1 15-ounce can puréed pumpkin

1 teaspoon mixed Creole or Cajun seasoning

1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg

1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Salt and pepper to taste

1 rotisserie chicken breast, shredded

In a large stock pot, add the shrimp shells and the water. Bring to a boil. Once it is boiling, reduce the heat to low, and simmer for about 20 minutes. Strain. Reserve the liquid and discard the shells.

Preheat a large stock pot over medium high heat. Once the pot is hot, add the oil. Once the oil is hot and shimmering, add the sausage. Brown the sausage on both sides. Remove the sausage from the pot, and set aside onto a plate lined with a paper towel.

In the same pot, add the onion, celery, and thyme. Cook until the onion is translucent. Then add the garlic, and cook until just fragrant, about 30 seconds. Add the pumpkin and cook until it starts to darken slightly, about 3 minutes. Add the shrimp stock, and scrape up the brown bits from the bottom of the pot. Bring to a boil, and then reduce heat to low. Simmer, stirring often, until the mixture starts to thicken, about 20 to 25 minutes.

Working in small batches, transfer the mix to a blender, and blend until smooth. Return to a pot. Add the Creole seasoning, nutmeg, and cinnamon. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the chicken sausage and the chicken breast. Simmer over low heat to combine all of the flavors, about 10 minutes. Add the shrimp, and cook until the shrimp are just cooked through. Serve immediately.

The Witches’ Brew wine bottle printable came from TheGraphicsFairy.com. They are free to use, and oh so cute! I hope you’ll check it out!Halloween Wine Label

Polynesian Adventure ~ Tuvalu Tuna, Samoan Tropical Salad, and ‘Otai

OtaiTonight I took a culinary trip to three different Polynesian island nations on this beautiful summer evening! I tried recipes from Tuvalu, Samoa, and Tonga.

All of the recipes were from an inspiring food blog I admire called Global Table Adventure. I discovered the blog when I read the author’s memoir in which she shared her journey to make the website. She went on a culinary voyage in her own kitchen, cooking a meal from every country in the world. (That is 195 countries!) Then she wrote about the recipes and her experiences making them, as well as facts about the countries from which they came. She also added beautiful photos of the food as well as the countries she featured. I have already tried a few of the recipes ranging from a chicken dish from Panama (Arroz con Pollo) to a breakfast dish from Israel (Shakshouka). I have learned about dishes I have never heard of before, and even countries that I wasn’t aware existed. The blog has helped to open up my corner of the world to the greater world, filled my wanderlust, and ignited my passion for cooking on days when I’m not feeling very enthusiastic about making dinner. It really is a wonderful website, and I hope you’ll check it out. 🙂 I plan to cook many more adventures from this collection of recipes.Tuvalu TunaOn tonight’s Polynesian adventure, the main course was called Tuvalu Tuna. Before perusing through the collection of recipes on Global Table Adventure, I wasn’t familiar with the island of Tuvalu. I learned that it is the smallest member of the Commonwealth of Nations. (Coincidentally, all of the nations featured in this meal are a part of the Commonwealth.) In fact, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge (Will and Kate) visited Tuvalu a few years back, and they experienced a little of the local food and dance. (If you need a smile, check out the second half of this video. 🙂 )

I lightened the dish a little from the original recipe by reducing the amount of oil to only 1 tablespoon, and using light coconut milk. I also served it with brown rice instead of white.

Tuvalu Tuna – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure

I served the tuna dish with a simple salad from Samoa, which was the perfect accompaniment. It consisted of an unlikely combination of spinach, papaya, avocado, and cantaloupe, which worked together nicely.

Samoan Tropical Salad – Follow this recipe link to Global Table Adventure Polynesian AdventureI paired our dinner with a classic drink from Tonga called ‘Otai. I can’t think of anything that is more summery than watermelon, coconut, and lime blended together! (This was my second batch of ‘Otai, since it is that good!) I used a light coconut milk beverage like this, rather than a can of coconut milk. Serve in a tiki glass for the full Polynesian effect! I think this would also be lovely with a little rum to kick it up a bit. 😉

‘Otai – Follow this recipe link to Global Table AdventureOtai

Happy Fourth of July ~ Part 2 ~ Trout Burgers with Tarragon Mayonnaise

Trout BurgerWhat could be more American than a thick, juicy burger on the Fourth of July? 🙂 I made trout burgers with a tarragon mayonnaise for our holiday dinner. The steelhead trout I used came from the Columbia River, which is just south of Seattle. I wanted my celebration of the USA’s birthday to include some of the things I love and appreciate about my corner of this county, like fresh seafood! 🙂

I based my recipe on a salmon burger recipe from Bon Appétit magazine. The two fish are related, so they can be swapped with each other in most cases. I also changed a few things besides the fish. Most notably, I reduced the amount of mayonnaise and increased the amount of nonfat yogurt for the tarragon mayonnaise spread. I also added lemon zest in addition to the juice, and I used freshly grated horseradish rather than the prepared variety. To serve, I used homemade whole-wheat brioche buns rather than buns made with white flour.

Trout Burgers with Tarragon Mayonnaise

Based on a recipe from Bon Appétit magazine

Serves 4

1 pound skinless trout fillet, cut into 1/4-inch pieces (about 2 1/4 cups)

4 green onions, chopped

1 tablespoon drained small capers

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon fresh tarragon, chopped

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon fresh white horseradish, grated

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

2 tablespoons mayonnaise

1/4 cup dry breadcrumbs

1 tablespoon high heat oil, such as safflower

4 whole-wheat buns

4 large tomato slices

8 butter lettuce leaves

Tarragon mayonnaise (recipe follows)

To make burgers:

Combine first 10 ingredients in medium bowl, and mix well. (Can be prepared 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Mix breadcrumbs into salmon mixture. Form into four 1-inch-thick patties. Preheat a heavy large skillet over medium-high heat. Add oil when the pan is hot. Add salmon patties; cook until just firm to touch and brown and crusty, about 3 minutes per side.

Assemble each burger on a bun with a generous amount of tarragon mayonnaise, a trout patty, a slice of tomato, and lettuce leaves. Serve immediately.

Tarragon Mayonnaise

1/4 cup mayonnaise

1/4 cup plain nonfat Greek yogurt

2 green onions, chopped

1/2 tablespoon drained small capers

Zest of 1/2 a lemon

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 tablespoon chopped fresh tarragon

1 teaspoon Dijon mustard

1 teaspoon freshly grated white horseradish, or more to taste

To make mayonnaise:

Combine all ingredients in bowl and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover; chill.)

My festive Fourth of July wine bottle label came from Catch My Party. They have the cutest free downloads to kick up your celebration a notch. 🙂

Fourth of July Wine Bottle Label

One more culinary stop in Asia ~ Vietnamese Baby Clams with Sesame Rice Crackers

Baby Clams with Rice CrackersAfter my virtual stop in South Korea to try their famous bibimbap, I decided to try a Vietnamese dish on my next stop. After all, it’s only a 4 ½ hour plane ride from Seoul to Da Nang, so I’ll make a quick culinary visit, just long enough for an appetizer in Vietnam. 😉

This is a dish I order over and over again at one of my favorite Vietnamese restaurants, so I decided to figure out how to make it at home! Turns out, it is really easy! It just requires two special ingredients from the Asian grocery store. The first is a Vietnamese herb that is sort of like mint or cilantro called rau ram. The pretty little leaves are a little peppery and delicious. I also used black sesame rice crackers on the side to scoop up the clams. They puff up when they are cooked, which is so much fun to watch!

Baby Clams with Rice Crackers

Inspired by a recipe from Danang Cuisine

1 tablespoon safflower oil (or other high heat cooking oil)

2 small shallots, finely sliced

1 teaspoon lemongrass, minced

1 teaspoon fresh chili pepper, seeds and ribs removed, minced (I like jalapeño or serrano)

1 garlic clove, minced

5 oz canned baby clams or chopped clams, drained and rinsed (Just try to find an all-natural brand, without any added preservatives)

4 tablespoons (approximately) of rau ram, roughly chopped (Fresh basil also works if you can’t find rau ram)

1/2 teaspoon fish sauce

1/2 teaspoon soy sauce

Freshly ground black pepper to taste

1-2 sesame rice crackers

Preheat a wok or nonstick pan. Add oil. When the oil is shimmering and hot, add the shallots, and cook until caramelized. Add the lemongrass and chili pepper, and cook until fragrant. Add the garlic and cook until just fragrant, about 15 seconds. Add the clams. Toss until warmed through. Turn off the heat and add rau ram, fish sauce, soy sauce, and black pepper. Toss and serve.

Take one rice cracker and microwave for one minute until puffy. Break into pieces. Serve as a “spoon” with the clams.

Baby Clams with Rice Crackers

Special Dinner ~ Salmon Wellington

Salmon WellingtonBack in November, I made my hubby a beef Wellington for his birthday. Ever since, I have been interested in trying other versions of the dish with different savory fillings. When my birthday rolled around this month, I thought I would make a simple salmon Wellington to celebrate. 🙂 I was out all day, but these little Wellingtons came together quickly and easily. (Much easier than the beef version!) The tarragon really makes the dish, and the little fish cut out of the extra puff pastry on top made me smile. 🙂

Salmon Wellington

From Bon Appétit magazine

1 17.3-ounce package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets), thawed

4 3/4-inch-thick 6-ounce skinless salmon fillets

6 tablespoons minced shallots

4 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons chopped fresh tarragon

1 egg beaten to blend (for glaze)

Preheat oven to 425°F. Roll out each pastry sheet on lightly floured surface to 12-inch square. Cut each in half, forming four 12×6-inch rectangles. Place 1 salmon fillet in center of each rectangle, about 3 inches in from and parallel to 1 short edge. Sprinkle each fillet with salt, pepper, 1 tablespoon shallots and 1 tablespoon tarragon. Brush edges of rectangles with some glaze. Fold long sides of pastry over fillets. Fold short edge of pastry over fillets and roll up pastry, enclosing fillets. Cut off any excess pastry if necessary. Seal edges of pastry. Place pastries, seam side down, on baking sheet. Brush with glaze.

Bake pastries until dough is golden brown, about 20 minutes. Remove from oven; let stand 10 minutes.

Salmon Wellington

One More Small Anniversary Celebration ~ Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce and 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula

Spicy Salmon with Coconut Watercress SauceRob and I had our big wedding anniversary dinner celebration on Saturday of Labor Day weekend, which is the day of the week we got married. Our actual anniversary date fell in the middle of the week this year, but we couldn’t resist having a small, pared down celebration on the real date as well. We had lemongrass-crusted salmon with a watercress coconut sauce for dinner. Even though this salmon dish really was easy enough to make on a regular Tuesday, it was very delicious, and it felt like a dish fit for a special occasion. (Good thing, since I think this qualifies as a special occasion! 🙂 )

I was inspired once again by a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. I followed his recipe for the salmon crust, but I completely changed the sauce to make it my own. The original recipe used a cup of beurre blanc, but I replaced it with coconut milk. (It was a good use for the leftover milk from the cheesecake!) I don’t use a lot of butter in my cooking, and the coconut added an additional tropical element. It also mellowed the bitterness of the watercress nicely.

Lemongrass-Crusted Salmon with a Watercress Coconut Sauce

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2, with leftover sauce

Salmon and Lemongrass Crust:

2 salmon fillets, about 6 oz each

1 tablespoon minced lemongrass (white part only)

½ tablespoon minced garlic

½ tablespoon grated fresh ginger

½ tablespoon minced shallot

½ tablespoon shichimi

Watercress Coconut Sauce:

1 bunch watercress, stemmed (reserve 4 sprigs for garnish)

½ tablespoon ginger juice (fresh ginger squeezed through a garlic press)

½ cup coconut milk

Safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil for cooking

Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Combine lemongrass, garlic, ginger, shallot, and shichimi in a bowl, and stir to blend. Set aside.

Bring a saucepan of water to a bowl. Place the watercress into a strainer, and when the water is bowling, pour over the watercress to wilt. Warm coconut milk. Combine watercress, milk and ginger juice in the bowl of a food processor, and pulse until it is to your desired texture. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

Preheat a medium non-stick saucepan over medium high heat. Evenly coat one side of the salmon fillets with the crust mixture. Drizzle the fillets with a high heat cooking oil, such as safflower, sunflower, or peanut oil. Carefully transfer the salmon to the hot pan, crust side down. Sear until the crust is a little browned. Turn, and finish in the oven for about 10 minutes, or until baked to desired doneness.

To serve, plate the salmon crust side up. Spoon the sauce on the top or side of the salmon fillets. Garnish with reserved watercress leaves.

We paired our dinner with a bottle of 2000 Columbia Winery Peninsula red wine. We got married in 2000, and we had our wedding reception at Columbia Winery, so we bought a case of this wine several years ago.  We like to open a bottle on our anniversary every year. It is aging nicely, which I’ll take as a good sign for us! 😉

Funny note: It began to absolutely pour down rain by the end of our dinner. Luckily, we decided to eat inside with the French doors open once again, so we could enjoy the thunder and showers instead of scrambling inside for cover. 😉 This bottom photo was taken in the middle of the downpour. It was actually kind of fun! It was definitely an anniversary to remember!

2000 Peninsula Red Wine

Wedding Anniversary, Part 2 ~ Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Macadamia and Panko Crusted OnoThe main course of our anniversary dinner was another recipe inspired by Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. We had a macadamia nut and panko crusted ono fish, otherwise known as wahoo. (Wahoo! Sorry, couldn’t resist. 😉 ) It’s a Hawaiian fish with a dense but flaky texture, and a mild flavor. We also had a side dish of rice to accompany the fish. The cookbook calls this recipe Happy Rice. 🙂 So all in all, I’d say this is one of the happiest dishes I have ever made. 😉 Wahoo and Happy Rice!

We are lucky enough to have a Hawaiian fishmonger around Seattle called Tim’s Seafood in Kirkland. In addition to a wide selection of Northwest fish, he also gets fresh Hawaiian seafood. I had my choice of some beautiful fish for our dinner! He even makes his own poke.

I used coconut oil on the fish, and it gave it a subtle coconut flavor that was a nice compliment to the macadamia nuts. The original recipe used quite a bit of butter, but the coconut oil was a really nice alternative. This crust would work well with any firm white fish I think. The original recipe was for opakapaka, which I couldn’t find at the fish store that day, so I think any mild fish with a fairly firm texture would be lovely.

Macadamia Nut and Panko Crusted Ono with Happy Rice

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood

Serves 2, with leftover rice for later

Happy Rice:

1 cup Japanese short-grain rice

1 cup water

1 tablespoon grated fresh ginger

1 tablespoon furikake, plus more for top

Macadamia and Panko Crusted Ono:

4 tablespoons macadamia nut halves

4 tablespoons coconut oil

½ cup panko breadcrumbs

Salt and pepper to taste

2 6 oz fillets of ono

Preheat oven to 350 F.

To prepare rice:

Put the rice in a fine mesh strainer and rinse under cold running water, until the water runs clear. Drain the rice and transfer to a bowl. Cover with fresh cold water, and let soak for 1 hour.

To cook the rice on the stovetop, place the drained rice in a saucepan and add 1 cup fresh water. Bring to boil, decrease heat, cover, and cook until the rice is soft and sticky and the water has just evaporated, about 15 minutes.

Combine the rice with ginger and furikake. Use small cookie cutters to form rice into compact shapes. Alternatively, dip your fingers in a bowl of slightly salted water to prevent the rice from sticking and mold 1 to 2 tablespoons of rice into triangles, cubes, or balls. Set aside and keep warm. Sprinkle the tops with more furikake.

To prepare fish:

In a food processor, pulse the nuts until they are cut into course pieces. Add the panko and oil, and pulse it all together until it is a thick paste, but still has some texture.

Coat one side of the ono with the paste. Preheat an oven-safe sauté pan over medium high heat, and when hot, place the ono in the pan, paste side down. Cook until golden, and then flip. Finish the fish in the oven. Cook until flaky, about 7 to 10 minutes.

Taste and say “Wahoo!!” OK, I have that out of my system now. 😉

Stay tuned for our Hawaiian dessert in the next entry!

Anniversary Dinner

Wedding Anniversary, Part 1 ~ Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke and Dragon Fruit Lychee Sparkling Wine Cocktails

Ahi Poke Martini

We celebrated our wedding anniversary this year with a special Hawaiian-style dinner. We love to explore foods from all around the world. For Valentine’s Day (also our engagement anniversary), we made a sushi dinner, so we decided to go with a twist on that theme for our wedding anniversary by making a few Japanese-influenced dishes from Hawaii. It was a summery meal from the land of endless summers!

The weather was not very Hawaiian-like for our celebration, though. Ha! (But it was very Seattle-like!) It was a little drizzly, and cooler than it usually is around our anniversary. We decided to use that opportunity to set the dinner table in a new place…We kicked open the French doors in the guest room, and ate inside overlooking a sea of candles and tiki torches. 🙂 Luckily it wasn’t too rainy, so the candles stayed lit. It was really beautiful!

I also found some sweet little printable paper orchids on Elli.com. They were free, very easy to assemble, and I think they added a fun tropical touch to our table.

Ahi Poke Martini

I based two of our dishes on recipes from a cookbook called Roy’s Fish and Seafood: Recipes from the Pacific Rim. Chef Roy Yamaguchi has several restaurants in Hawaii and the mainland, and this book is a nice collection of a few of his Hawaiian seafood recipes. It was hard to choose what I wanted to make! I may continue to explore the recipes throughout our anniversary month. 🙂

We started our meal with a classic ahi poke, one of our favorite Hawaiian dishes. 🙂 I loved the cookbook’s idea to serve it in layers in a martini glass, and then garnish with micro-greens, fish eggs, and thin strips of nori seaweed. I dressed the ahi much more lightly than the recipe called for. I used salmon roe instead of tobiko, because it’s local and also natural. I also doubled the avocado, since we love avocado. 🙂

Martini of Spicy Tuna Poke

Based on a recipe from Roy’s Fish and Seafood cookbook

Serves 2 as an appetizer

6 oz center-cut ahi tuna, cut into ½ inch dice

¼ cup mayonnaise

2 teaspoons sriracha

½ teaspoon fish sauce

A few micro-greens

¼ sheet nori, cut with scissors into thin strips

1 tablespoon salmon roe

1 avocado, cut into ½ inch dice

Juice of ½ lemon

Salt and pepper to taste

Combine mayonnaise, sriracha, and fish sauce. Salt and pepper to taste. Add as much or as little of the mixture to the ahi as you like. Stir to combine, and set aside.

Combine the avocado with the lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste.

Chill 2 martini glasses. Layer a few pieces of avocado in the bottom of the glass, then add a layer of ahi, another of avocado, and finish with a layer of ahi. Top with micro-greens, roe, and nori strips.

We also made fun dragon fruit and lychee sparkling wine cocktails to go with our first course. The dragon fruit added pretty little seeds and a very mild flavor, and the lychee gave the cocktail a nice sweetness. In a blender, I added a couple of slices of dragon fruit with about a ½ cup of lychee juice. Then I strained the mix, added a little to each champagne glass, and topped the juice with sparkling wine.

Stay tuned for the main course in my next entry!

Ahi Poke Martini

South Carolina Kind of Summer ~ Lowcountry Boil

I got hooked on a mystery that was set in South Carolina, and became fascinated with that part of the country. This summer, I continue to read more stories from that region. It’s an interesting and beautiful place that I have not had the pleasure of visiting in person (yet, it’s on my list now!) Reading feels like a kind of virtual vacation, though. 🙂 I am getting to know the place through the stories. I just started a beach read that is set on Sullivan’s Island in the Lowcountry called The Summer Girls. To celebrate that part of the state, I made a Lowcountry Boil, also known as Frogmore Stew. It is a simple one-pot seafood boil, but it feels festive and summery! It would be perfect for a summer party.

I used Trader Joe’s smoked andouille chicken sausage rather than a full-fledged pork sausage. I also used shelled shrimp for ease, but unshelled shrimp would be more authentic. Your choice. 🙂

Lowcountry Boil AKA Frogmore Stew

Based on a recipe from Southern Living magazine

5 quarts water

1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning

4 pounds small red potatoes

2 pounds chicken kielbasa, chicken andouille, or other hot smoked link chicken sausage, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces

6 ears fresh corn, halved

4 pounds unpeeled, large fresh shrimp (or peeled and deveined shrimp for easier eating)

Old Bay seasoning, for serving

Cocktail sauce, for serving

Bring 5 quarts water and 1/4 cup Old Bay seasoning to a rolling boil in a large covered stockpot.

Add potatoes; return to a boil, and cook, uncovered, 10 minutes.

Add sausage and corn, and return to a boil. Cook 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender.

Add shrimp to stockpot; cook 3 to 4 minutes or until shrimp turn pink. Drain. Serve with Old Bay seasoning and cocktail sauce.

Winter Olympics ~ Smoked Salmon Blini

As the winter Olympics in Sochi, Russia are coming to a close, I wanted to try a Russian recipe to celebrate the occasion! I made blini with smoked salmon. 🙂

I used Ina Garten’s recipe as the base, but I made it a little healthier. I substituted the butter with Earth Balance, and used much less of it than the original recipe called for. Rather, I used a good non-stick pan, so the butter was unnecessary to keep the pancakes from sticking. I also used nonfat milk and reduced fat sour cream rather than the full fat versions.

Blini with Smoked Salmon

Based on a recipe from Ina Garten

1/3 cup buckwheat flour

2/3 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons nonfat milk

1 extra-large egg

2 tablespoons Earth Balance

1/2 pound smoked salmon, thinly sliced

1/4 cup reduced fat sour cream

Fresh dill sprig, for garnish

Combine both flours, baking powder, and salt in a bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the milk, egg, and 1 tablespoon of Earth Balance. Whisk the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Heat 1 tablespoon of the Earth Balance in a medium non-stick sauté pan and drop the batter into the hot skillet, 1 tablespoon at a time. Cook over medium-low heat until bubbles form on the top side of the blini, about 2 minutes. Flip and cook for 1 more minute, or until brown. Repeat with the remaining batter. Set aside.

To serve, top the blini with a piece of smoked salmon. Add a dollop of sour cream and a sprig of dill.

Blini are often served with caviar on top rather than the smoked salmon. That could be something to try for the Oscars next week! 🙂