I don’t know what it was or is.  I don’t feel like writing or even reading the blogs I really enjoy.  Just easily distracted and …meh.  I don’t know if it is the heat of impending summer or the business that preceded vacation coupled with the hit the ground running post.  I started two posts and had drama.  One deleted on accident somehow.  One never came together.  Then I just gave up.  I’ve variously heard – ‘just give it 12 minutes.’  ‘Go home and write a blog.  So, here I sit, gin and tonic with an extra squeeze of lime in hand and four or five topics I could write on.  I guess I’ll pick up where I left off.IMG_3376

I met Robert Irvine.  You know, of Food Network fame.  Restaurant Impossible?  He was the host of a fundraising event for Florida Hospital called the Gourmet Soiree and we were graciously given a pair of tickets to attend. The event kicked off with a silent auction – we bid on some cooking classes but were outbid.  They also had a live auction where the apparently wealthy bid on thousands of dollars of vacations and BMW’s.  It was fun though.  The event centered around the idea of living to a healthy 100 which is an initiative of Florida Hospital and each table was honored to have their own chef.  Our table had ‘chef’ Mark of a local(ish) butcher shop called the Meat House.  If you are looking for quality and rarer cuts and proteins, you should check it out.  Each table worked with their chef to prepare a healthy dinner, sort of in a Iron Chef Quick Fire kind of way.  We had to rush to the Whole Foods supply tables and pick up the other ingredients for our dishes.  We had something like 47 minutes to prep and cook dinner for 8.  Mark made us chimichurri marinated steak, lemon chicken and we all attempted zucchini cakes that ended up as zucchini …hash browns.  Only two pans and two burners at each station complicated the cooking and the room was FILLED with smoke.  Everything was tasty though and we were treated at the end to a Robert Irvine recipe of panna cotta with an interesting mango and avocado salsa on top and some funny black bean (I think) chocolate thingies on the side.  Each table snacked on hummus, tapenade and flatbreads and veggies while they made their own shallot vinaigrette for salad.  It was a fun night and we were glad to have gone.

cooking class – week six – the finale

today was the finale of a few things. It was the last day I had with my boss. I have applied for and accepted her position. (I am sure there will be much more on this.) It was also the last night of the gourmet cooking class and one of the recipes was worth the entire tuition. The recipes are a nod to St Patricks. Either green or Irish.

the menu

  • edamame dip with bagel chips – ok, that sounds bad but trust me, it was phenomenal. This recipe will follow.
  • green bean, chayote and tomato salad – fresh and interesting, chayote are those sort of bum looking squash that you see in the market.
  • reuben bake – really interesting and a green winter night treat.
  • glazed baby carrots – no thanks. I dislike baby carrots. unexplainable.
  • golden raisin irish soda bread – warm and comforting
  • no-bake grasshopper pie – oddly textured with gelatin and tasty at the same time – the crust made with Pepperidge Farm Milano cookies.

Edamame Dip with Bagel Chips
2 1/3 cups (12 oz) shelled edamame, unthawed
1/2 cup olive oil
5 cloves garlic
one lemon, zested and juiced
3 T chiffonaded basil
salt and pepper to taste
basil sprig for garnish

Cook edamame in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 3/4 c cooking liquid.
Place edamame, oil, garlic, and 1/4 c cooking liquid in food processor. Blend until smooth, drizzling in an additional 1/4 c cooking liquid and lemon juice.
Stir in zest, season with salt and pepper. If too thick, blend in more liquid by teaspoonfuls. Add minced basil. Pulse until basil is just mixed in. Do not puree.
Transfer to serving bowl and garnish with sprigs and a drizzle of olive oil. Serve with bagel chips.

Bagel Chips
2 unsliced bagels, halved from top to bottom (slightly stale is better)
1/4 cup butter
1 t seasoning mix (salt free) garlic powder or choice of seasonings

Heat oven to 375. Cut each bagel into 1/4″ slices.
Melt butter on rimmed baking sheet. Stir bagel chips into butter. Coating both sides. Sprinkle with seasoning. Bake at 375 for 10 to 15 minutes or until toasted, stirring several times while baking. Cool and serve or store.

cooking class recipes

I spent my early bad-dream waking hours typing in the one (and in one case, two) stand out recipes from my cooking class. One class to go and a busy couple days so today is the day. Sorry for the flurry of recipes one after the other.

You can take them or leave them. Like I said in an earlier post, I didn’t learn much but it has been interesting road. The makeup of the class is everything from Karin (you can use both sides of the cutting board, really) to Paul, who bakes bread by feel (I wish I could) to a couple who cooks mass quantities for their church and everything in between to the teacher, who doesn’t seem to want to cook.

I hope you enjoy. The main thing I learned? Try new things (aka things you think you won’t like).

rummy cheese loaf

I know. Odd as it might be, I really like this. And the word loaf, is an homage to Z.

2/3 c walnuts *or pecans, as you wish
2/3 c pitted and chopped medjool dates
8 oz finely shredded sharp cheddar cheese
8 oz cream cheese, softened and cut into 1″ slices
2 T rum (calls for dark, but if you have light, I’d be ok with it.)

process nuts in food processor until coarsely chopped. remove and set aside. Add dates to processor and process until finely chopped. Add Cheddar, cream cheese and rum. Process abut 2 minutes, scraping occasionally.
Line a 2 cup mold w/ plastic wrap, extending over edges. Sprinkle nuts in first and then spoon in cheese pressing firmly with spoon. Bring ends of plastic over top and compress. Cover and chill between 4 hours and 4 days.

Serve with gingersnaps, crackers, apple or pear slices. I’d have wine.
Yield: 2 cups

mushroom leek soup with parsley dumplings

this soup is a knock-out. (vegetarian and amazing) A lot of work but well worth it.
2 c water
3/4 dried mushrooms (morel or porcini)
3 /2 T olive oil
4 garlic cloves, minced
1# crimini (baby bella) mushrooms, sliced
1 t finely chopped thyme
3 T dry sherry
1 1/2 c finely chopped onion
3 c (2 large) well washed and thinly sliced leeks (white and pale green parts only)
8 c vegetable stock
cayenne pepper

3/4 c low-fat cottage cheese
6 T butter
2 large eggs, room temp
1 c all-purpose flour
1 t. salt
pinch nutmeg
1/4 c ground parmesan cheese
3/4 c finely chopped fresh italian parsley

for the soup
bring two cups waer and dried mushrooms to boil in a small saucepan. Remove from heat and cover. Soak 20 minutes. Using a slotted spoon, place mushrooms on a work surface and thinly slice. Reserve cooking liquid. Set aside.
heat 2 T olive oil in a large skilled over medium high. Add garlic and stir for 30 seconds. Add crimini mushrooms and thyme. Sprinkle with salt and saute until mushrooms are browned, stirring often, about 12 minues. Add sherry and stir until liquid is absorbed, about 1 minues. Set mushrooms aside.
Heat 1 1/2 T olive oil in large heavy skilled over medium high heat. Add onion, cook until translucent and starting to brown, stirring often. Add leeks, reduce heat to medium, sprinkle with salt and saute until leeks are soft and golden, stirring often, (15 minutes or so).
Bring broth to simmer in a large pot over medium high heat. Pour in reserved mushroom cooking liquid (leaving sediment in saucepan). Add all mushrooms, onion mixture and cayenne. Simmer a few minutes and season to taste with salt.

dumplings (can be made ahead)
puree cottage cheese in food processor until smooth. Set aside.
Using electric mixer, beat 3 T butter and eggs in medium bowl. Add cottage cheese, 1/2 c flour, 1 t salt and nutmeg. Beat on low speed just to blend. Stir in 1/2 c flour, parmesan cheese and parsley.
Bring large pot of salted water to boil. Using a teaspoon, scoop spoonfuls of dough (cherry sized) and using a second spoon push the dough into the water. Repeat about 10 at a time until dough is used. When dumplings rise to surface, simmer about 3 additional minutes until cooked through. Can be made ahead to this point and refrigerated.
Melt 3 T butter in large skillet over medium heat (nonstick!). Working in two batches, add dumplings to skillet. Cook until toasted in spots. 2 or 3 minutes per side.
Drop into soup to simmer. Divide among bowls and serve.
Using a slotted spoon, transfer to a plate. Repeat as necessary. (Can be made ahead up to this point. Cover and refrigerate or…)
Melt 3 T butter in NONSTICK skillet over medium heat. Working in 2 baches, add dumplings to skillet and toast 2 or 3 minutes on a side.
Bring soup to simmer. Divide dumplings among wide shallow bowls. Divide soup among bowls and serve.
I think it would be nice with crusty bread and some good slivers of parmesan cheese.

serves 6 to 8