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what to do with leftover mussels

leftover mussels

I don’t know if you noticed just how big that bag of mussels was in yesterday’s post. There were over 140 mussels in it! I steamed them all on Sunday and then made another meal out of the leftover 60 or so mussels for dinner on Monday. I’ll get to the recipe shortly, but first I want to share a new favorite ingredient of mine with you – capers packed in sea salt.

capers in sea salt

Most capers we see in the U.S. are packed in a vinegar brine after curing. Often the brine overpowers the wonderful fresh caper flavor. Capers packed in sea salt are more flowery, more like flower buds, which is of course what capers are. The caper plant, Capparis spinosa, can be found all around the Mediterranean Sea and spreads its long, spiny branches over rocks and open into beautiful white flowers with long purple stamens.

I used the capers directly from the jar, with the salt clinging to them, for this recipe. I didn’t use additional salt for the dish, just the salt that was already present on the capers. For a salad or another dish where not as much salt is needed, the capers need to be cleaned of their salt. To do so; cover the salt-packed capers with water. Swish to remove any clinging salt and let stand a minute to let it settle to bottom. Lift out capers with a sieve, and taste. If still too salty, repeat the process.

I bought the capers while I was in Canada last summer and have looked for them here, but haven’t run across any yet. You can find them easily on Amazon.

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April 3, 2014   No Comments

sausage and mussels

bag o mussles

Here is the second recipe I made on Sunday night with a portion of that huge package of sausage I’d purchased at Costco. I bought a huge bag of live mussels to go along with it.

mussels and chowder

Remember, I made the Corn, Potato & Sausage Chowder? We had steamed mussels too.

discard broken

It’s important to do two things with live mussels. First, pull out and discard any and all cracked or broken mussels.

cornmeal

The second thing; just before cooking,  pour a 1/2 cup or so of cornmeal into a large bowl.

add water

Add cold water and stir. Then add the mussels and let sit for about 20 minutes. As the mussels breathe, they take in the cornmeal and fresh water and expel sand and grit.

get rid of grit

Lift the mussels out of the water with a slotted spoon or spider and leave the sandy water behind.

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April 2, 2014   2 Comments

sausage to the rescue

sleep baby

I have a confession. It is really hard to get back into the swing of cooking and cleaning and real-life after nearly 3 weeks of being out-of-town and having company. I have no drive or motivation to do … ANYTHING!

Dave is knee-deep in tax season, so we are like ships in the night.

Connor works from 2:30 PM to midnight, five to six days a week, so he’s rarely home for dinner.

sleep kitten

And although I didn’t have jet-lag in the usual sense, I now realize that although I wasn’t waking up in the middle of the night…. I am tired all day long!

sleepy sloth

I mean, when 3:30 or 4:00 hits each afternoon… I’m ready for bed! It takes all my power to stay up. Seriously, I feel like I need toothpicks to hold my eyes open! I think the latest I’ve hit the sack since our house-guests left is 8:00 PM. My usual bedtime is 10:30 or 11:00.

Enough of my first-world woes. I did get somewhat inspired by a package of sausage, of all things.

aidells

It’s really good sausage! Aidells sausage from Costco. And one of my favorite flavors ~ Habanero with Pepper Jack!

I went on the Aidells website and found a recipe to zip up to our liking. Here is one of the two sausage dishes we had for dinner on Sunday night…

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March 31, 2014   2 Comments

Shrimp Canapes

entry welcome

Saturday night was our 10th annual neighborhood Progressive Dinner. The theme this time was “Speakeasy” and we had so much fun with it.

bently

We started with appetizers at Ronnie’s beautiful home, then split up to have dinner at the various host homes and finally gathered back together at our house for desserts.

wine barrel decor

This was what greeted guests when they entered our house.

lemom drops

At Joanne’s, my “dinner host” home, I enjoyed a wonderful meal where we indulged on Lemon Drops and…

chicken a la rose

… not only delicious, but beautiful Chicken a la Rose, made by Kim…

dinner

… along with Waldorf Salad and Rosemary Potatoes…

jazzy background

… all in a perfectly jazzy dining room! Pictured are Flapper Ronnie, Cool Cat Scott (with his faux cigarette) and Flapper Kim. Can you even imagine a more perfectly themed dining room than this one, with its life-sized jazz band mural?

ronnie's table

It all began at Ronnie’s and her beautifully set hor d’oeuvres table!

I made the appetizers for Ronnie’s house and she provided the desserts for mine. I made Piglets in a Warm Puffy Blanket, Bacon Wrapped Cheesy Mushrooms, Spinach Deviled Eggs, and the following recipe for Shrimp Canapes.

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March 3, 2014   5 Comments

#tbt

My life is spiraling out of control, out of my control. Others are currently pulling the strings. As a result I have nothing new to blog about so today I’m giving you a Throwback Thursday.

blackberry gin & tonic

Today is a special day for my longtime friend… who also was a bridesmaid in my wedding some 28 years ago …. today is her birthday.

meloncello

The two cocktails and appetizer in THIS POST are what I served when we had Birthday Girl Karen and her husband, Bob, over for dinner last year about this time.

Karen & Bob * G&T's

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February 27, 2014   1 Comment

Frico with Smoked Paprika Aioli and a birthday wish

Tarbell's

Chef/Restauranteur and longtime friend, Mark Tarbell of Tarbell’s Restaurant, was the guest teacher at Les Gourmettes on Monday and Tuesday nights. His menu was inspired, fun, and delicious. The first course was Frico with Smoked Paprika Aioli.

frico round

Frico, is an Italian savory food, typical of Friuli, in the northeastern tip of Italy, which consists of a thin crisp wafer of shredded cheese, baked or fried until crisp. The customary cheeses used include Montasio, Parmesan or mozzarella. Mark used Montasio cheese, but Parmesan is easier to find and works just as well.

I’ve sung the praises of smoked paprika or pimentón many times here before. I don’t know why I didn’t think of making a pimentón mayonnaise – brilliant!

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February 26, 2014   4 Comments

Orgeat and Zsa Zsa Gabor

We don’t enjoy going out to dinner on Valentine’s Day.

queens affinity at the swim up bar

It’s overcrowded, the service isn’t always the best and working in the food industry, I can not relax and enjoy myself knowing that the restaurant is desperate for you to finish and leave so they can sit their next reservation.

Since Valentine’s was on a Friday this year, it made it easy to go out for our Valentine’s celebration on Saturday night instead. We wisely chose Bink’s Scottsdale.

binks scottsdale

Via

Bink’s Scottsdale is the newest more casual and relaxed venture for Kevin and Amy Binkley, chef-owners of the best restaurant in the Valley, Binkley’s Restaurant in Cave Creek.

There is also Bink’s Cafe in Cave Creek and Bink’s Midtown in Phoenix.

the queens affinity

Dinner was, of course, fantastic. The one thing I had that I thought I might be able to recreate was the Queen’s Affinity Cocktail. The menu said that it was made with Bombay Sapphire, Orgeat, and muddled Lemon and Mint.

Before I made the cocktail at home, I had to figure out what the heck orgeat is and then find out where to buy it or how to make it.

Orgeat

Orgeat is pronounced “or-zsa” – “zsa” as in Zsa Zsa Gabor.

After some research, it appeared that orgeat should be easy enough to find at any liquor store. I also learned that homemade orgeat is far superior to store-bought. As a result, I made my own.

First I shall share with you a recipe for my Queen’s Affinity Cocktail Knockoff and then for the Homemade Orgeat.

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February 24, 2014   2 Comments

The Burma Cookbook

rich semolina cake

On Tuesday night at Les Gourmettes Cooking School, we had two very charming gentlemen teach a class on Burmese cooking. Robert Carmack and Morrison Polkinghorne also happen to be the authors of The Burma Cookbook – Recipes from the Land of a Million Pagodas.

the burma cookbook

The class was not only informative and delicious but really fun – thanks to Robert and Morrison and their exceptionally outgoing and fun personalities.

For dessert they made one of the most popular of all Burmese desserts, a semolina cake.  Semolina is the coarse, purified wheat middlings of durum wheat used in making pasta, breakfast cereals, puddings and couscous.

The book is beautiful, the guys were great and the cake was sublime.

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February 20, 2014   No Comments

pancake muffins

lemon pancake muffins2

I have a loyal follower who has commented here a couple of times, but most often she emails me with comments and kind words.

The day after Christmas, Sharon, emailed me the photo below and said,

“A friend sent this; have you tried muffin pancakes?”

pancake muffins

Pancakes in muffin tins, no I haven’t tried that, but it looks and sounds kind of like Dutch Baby Pancakes, also known as German Pancakes, and what we’ve always called a Magic Pancake Basket.

magic pancake

My first intuition was to use my magic pancake batter, then instead of pouring the batter into a cast iron skillet, use the muffin tins and see if it would turn out the same. But since the photo Sharon shared indicated that regular pancake batter was used, I decided to go that route.

I used a classic lemon pancake batter I found in The Joy of Cooking, only adapting slightly, substituting yogurt for sour cream.

After about 9 of the 15 minutes of baking time, I could see that the pancakes were not going to puff up and create a crater in the center, as the photo showed. I pulled them out and used a spoon to press down on the muffin and make a crater of my own in the center. I then returned them to oven to finish baking and that worked just fine. They were cute little pancake muffin baskets and they tasted great! Next time, I’ll use my Magic Pancake batter though. I’m sharing both recipes with you today.

Thanks for the inspiration, Sharon. Even if it did take me over 6 weeks to get to.

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February 19, 2014   3 Comments

pasta and lamb

Yesterday it was pasta and beef – today it’s pasta and lamb.

Pappardelle with Lamb Ragu1

What’s going on? Honestly, it’s just a coincidence. This was my Valentine’s dinner gift to my guys. After dinner we went to see The Lego Movie – loved it!

The beef and pasta dinner was a couple of days later. Sometimes we all crave pasta.

pasta

The pasta used here is pappardelle which is a large, very broad, flat pasta noodle, similar to wide fettuccine. Pappardelle can be difficult to find in the grocery store. I found mine at Whole Foods.

scissor tomatoes

Tip: This recipe calls for canned diced tomatoes. If you only have canned whole tomatoes, an easy way to dice them is by using kitchen shears and cut the tomatoes right in the can.

This particular recipe is one that I adapted from a recipe I found in Food & Wine magazine.

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February 18, 2014   5 Comments