Jiro Dreams of Sushi – Documentary Recommendation

Recently my friend Tom, a fellow foodie, recommended a documentary that he considers a “must see”.  It’s on Netflix right now and sounded interesting so I poured a glass of wine and queued it up. If you’ve followed my blog you know that I’ve made very few movie recommendations over the last four years, only doing so when it’s one that has inspired me to share.

Released in 2012, Jiro Dreams of Sushi is the fascinating, joyful story of Jiro Ono an 85 year old Sushi Master and owner of Sukiyabashi Jiro, a Michelin three-star restaurant. Sukiyabashi Jiro is a 10-seat, sushi-only restaurant located in a Tokyo subway station. Jiro Ono serves a tasting menu of roughly 20 courses, for a minimum of 30,000 Japanese yen ($281 USD). with a well deserved reputation of creating the best sushi in the world.  And his is the only Michelin star recipient whose restaurant doesn’t have its own restroom (though you can use one in the subway).*

The movie is sub-titled which is worth mentioning though it does nothing to detract from the fascinating and mesmerizing story.  I was enthralled by the artistry and mouth-watering sushi but Jiro is the star here.  His life story is incredible and his passion for his craft is inspiring.  The old saying that “when you love what you do you’ll never work a day in your life” has never seemed more accurate.  

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The movie is a feast for the eyes and a story that will stay with you long after you’ve seen it. Suffice it to say that this blogger feels compelled to share her recommendation that you make a point of watching this documentary.

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If you need more Jiro, check out YouTube as there are many short clips worth seeing.

* Some content is from Wikipedia with photos from Pinterest. 

Travels in Aruba 2016 – part fourteen

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At Bucuti and Tara Beach Resort, there is a very special, fine dining restaurant called Carte Blanche.  Seating only 14 guests per evening, the reservations must be made well in advance and re-confirmed 24 hours prior to dining.  We were celebrating my 60th birthday on this trip and I’m such a foodie that when I was able to secure reservations, I did so.

Promptly at 7:00 p.m., the doors open and the guests are ushered in.

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Hector puts the finishing touches in place as rose petals added to the romantic ambiance

Just a coincidence, when we sat down at the semi-circle, granite topped dining area, I’d chosen seats where the chef would be prepping and cooking right in front of us. Once we were seated Dennis and Glen, our chef, introduced themselves. Dennis would handle the adult beverages, offering a wine pairing with each of the chef’s special courses to come though diners could have anything they preferred. If you’ve visited this blog before, you may have guessed that we chose the wine pairing. Since we’d all be together for the next few hours they asked that we introduce ourselves, where we were from and if we were celebrating anything special.  Not surprisingly, we had anniversaries, newlyweds and birthdays.

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While Glen took drink orders, everyone had a glass of Prosecco (my favorite)  while we got a chance to talk with other guests, anticipating Glen’s first creation.

The Amuse Bouche was Grouper Ceviche, one of my favorite things in the world.  Dennis paired the Ceviche with a Reisling from Germany, Spence’s favorite wine.

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Absolutely delicious and such a refreshing start to the evening.

Glen prepared the appetizer next and to my delight it was a Seared Sea Scallop, wrapped in bacon and served over a Dutch-style potato salad with basil, capers, micro-greens, a dollop of creme fraiche, salsa verde and baby spinach.  Dennis paired this with a lovely Vin D’Alsace, French Pinot Gris.

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Presentation was perfection and the flavors were heavenly.

The next course featured white aspargus, finely chopped hard-boiled egg with ham and a white wine hollandaise with minced parsley and chives served with a Gruner Veltliner Terrassen, an Austrian white wine – perfect!

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Too pretty to eat (but I did)

Glen’s next creation was Red Snapper, Shrimp and Fennel with Carrot and Micro Mustard Greens plated over a Lobster Bisque cream sauce; Dennis paired this with Stag’s Leap Chardonnay.

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Seriously delicious!

Next up I saw the most succulent lollipop lamb chops that Glen was prepping.

The lamb chops were served with eggplant and basil roasted with tomatoes and spinach and paired with Malbec.

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What can I say?  Wow!

Around this time, Spence was nodding off a bit and I glanced at my watch – it was 10:30 and Glen was telling us that dessert was either a cheesecake or a chocolate choice, recommending we each try one and share.  As delicious as we knew they’d be, we were so stuffed, we opted to skip dessert and that last glass of wine.

All in all, a fabulous evening and a meal I won’t soon forget.

Scallops Chambord – in time for New Year’s Eve

Though I featured this post one year ago, it remains one of my signature recipes and one that we are having again tonight while ringing in 2016. It’s a tradition but also, it’s an amazing and delicious dish and so here it is once again! I hope you’ll try it!

Happy New Year!

Spence and I have spent 24 New Year’s Eves together.  At some point I came across this recipe that sounded decadent, festive and delicious.  The first few New Year’s Eves I made this as an appetizer/first course, then onto lobster tails and maybe even fondue as the night progressed.  Too much food, too rich and the star here was the Scallops Chambord. Fast forward, our holiday routine now firmly established, Scallops Chambord is the whole meal! This year I prepped 4 skewers but decided to prepare two of them first, then about an hour later, two more.  This was brilliant as we savored them over the evening with a fire blazing, Prosecco and later a special bottle of Champagne. I use most cookbooks as a “guide” so this represents my version which is better than the original in my humble opinion (patting myself on the back now).

Scallops Chambord

  • 20-24 sea scallops
  • 5-6 slices of bacon (not thick cut)

Rinse the scallops and rest on paper towels, blot the top.  Stretch the 5-6 pieces of bacon, just pulling gently to lengthen.  Cut each slice in half.  Prepare a broiler pan and four skewers.  Wrap the bacon around each scallop so that there is a complete wrap with a little overlap.  Thread onto skewers, keeping space in between them.  Set aside.

Chambord Sauce

  • 1 c seedless black raspberry preserves
  • 1/4 c honey
  • 1/4 c Chambord liqueur

 

In a small saucepan, add the preserves, honey and Chambord liqueur.  Stir together on a very low heat to melt the preserves and honey together and incorporate the Chambord.  You’ll want it to reduce sufficiently to coat a spoon. I usually make the sauce earlier in the day to assure the consistency is right.

Set oven to broil.  Place the broiler pan with skewers in on an upper rack.  Set your timer for 10 minutes but watch the scallops during the process – your oven may be hotter than mine. Remove, flip the skewers and return to the broiler for 3-5 minutes – again, you want the bacon cooked but not burned.

While the scallops are broiling, ladle your sauce onto the plate as shown above.  When the scallops emerge from the oven, remove them and set onto the plate.  At this point, I pour Spence and I a glass of Prosecco which we enjoy with our plated Scallops Chambord.

 

Chef’s Note:  If you can’t find black raspberry preserves, a perfectly good substitute is seedless red raspberry preserves.  

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Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter

I’ve been growing herbs for almost 30 years. For a self-taught “gourmet”, it’s thrilling for me to go into my backyard and pick lush flat leaf parsley, flavorful chives, fragrant rosemary and thyme.  With our recent freezing temps and heavy snowfall, I was certain that I wouldn’t be harvesting herbs for this year’s Thanksgiving dinner. Then we had a thaw and under the weather damaged herbs, I was able to find an ample supply – hooray!

Fresh-Picked Herb Compound Butter

Fresh picked herbs & butter (not pictured crack black pepper)
Fresh picked herbs & butter (not pictured crack black pepper)
Start with 2 sticks of very soft butter (I use salted butter), add  1 generous tablespoon each of chopped flat-leaf parsley, thyme & rosemary, 1 teaspoon of chopped garlic chives and 1-2 teaspoons of cracked black pepper.  Stir together with a dinner fork.  Cover and store in a cool (not cold place) until ready for use.

As we speak, it’s the Monday before Thanksgiving and I just prepared mine. Making ahead allows the herbs to really flavor the butter. While there are many uses for compound butters, I’ll use this one after gently loosening the skin of the turkey breast then taking gobs of it, massaging and slathering it between the skin and the turkey.  As it roasts in the oven, the herb butter self-bastes the turkey.  Enjoy!

My Famous Roasted Chestnut, Sausage & Apple Stuffing (or Dressing)

Here's the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!
Here’s the ingredients, prepped and ready to go, plus a glass of wine for the cook!

I know, I know. It’s stuffing if it goes inside the turkey and dressing if not. Whatever you call it, mine is seriously without equal.  Here you see the ingredients of what goes into it.  It’s just Spence and I on Thanksgiving and what looks like overkill on the quantity that I make, I call smart.  At least half of what I make I freeze – unbaked in air-tight freezer bags and some in large size muffin tins (once frozen popping them into freezer bags as well).  I make rotisserie and baked chicken throughout the year and this makes the best side dish, lovely to have on hand – simply thaw and bake!

This recipe is flexible. I’m going to list the ingredients and you can make as much or as little as you need:

Cubed leftover bread (I always have a lot in the freezer) I use a mixture some artisan, bakery & grocery store “regular” bread – even cubing up leftover cornbread if I have it on hand.  Place all cubed bread on a sheet pan in the oven overnight with the oven light on to let it dry out. (turn oven on lowest setting for 30-60 minutes the day of assembly if it’s still too soft)

Additionally I use both the Pepperidge Farm seasoned Classic Stuffing & Country Style cubed stuffing

1 lb cooked sage breakfast sausage, use your spatula to crumble it while it’s browning, drain off any grease and blot with a paper towel

Apples – I generally use two kinds and don’t peel them, just chop into bite size chunks

Lightly saute chopped onion and celery (about 6-8 minutes), in several tablespoons of butter, add some poultry seasoning during the saute.  I use equal quantities of onion and celery.

Chestnuts – I roast my own (check my blog for how-to roast chestnuts, link is below) if you want substitute toasted pecans, walnuts or hazelnuts.  (But the chestnuts are what make this special in my humble opinion)

Fresh herbs – flat leaf parsley, thyme, rosemary – adds both a pop of color but also lots of flavor, chop them. I use a mezzaluna (pictured above).

Poultry seasoning

Lots of chicken stock – have more on hand than you think you’ll need, trust me on this.

I assemble this using two very large mixing bowls and put half of the ingredients (except chicken stock) into each, little by little – and adding chicken stock and poultry seasoning along the way, stirring and then building more ingredients, seasoning and stock (you get it) until the prep station is cleared.

I fill a large oval baker and refrigerate this overnight – really packing it in (and fill a second one to refrigerate and bake later with leftovers. Freeze the rest). I take the oval baker (or casserole dish) out of the fridge on Thanksgiving morning to take the chill off. It will have absorbed a lot of stock overnight so drizzle an ample amount over the top. Bake this at 350 degrees for 45-60 minutes, uncovered, until it’s browning a bit and there’s some crunch happening on top. If you’re making this and have your oven set at another temp when this goes in it’s not a problem – just watch the top and feel for the crunch.

Bon appetit!

Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!
Assembled and ready to be baked tomorrow!

As promised, here’s the link on how-to roast chestnuts:

Roasting Chestnuts

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi

I love Gnocchi and when I saw this recipe being prepared on Cooking Channel’s Extra Virgin, by actress Debi Mazar and her husband, talented Italian chef Gabriele Corcos, I went out immediately bought the ingredients and made it for Mom and Spence.  It was a huge hit – the fried fresh sage leaves from my garden made it extra delicious.

Fast forward to last night.  My lifelong BFF were attending a Harvest Meal, all plant based, locally sourced and delicious.  She has been a longtime advocate of meat free Mondays (and primarily eats vegetarian/vegan meals). It so happens that we are spending the next three days at her beautiful second home in the gorgeous Traverse City Michigan. Over dinner we discussed what we’d like to do while there and I suggested that I prepare dinner for Monday night.  I’d told her about this meal and she readily agreed.

I’ve kept the recipe very close to the original with only a few modifications.

Spinach & Ricotta Gnocchi – serves 2 as an entree, 4 as a sidedish

  • 1 lb fresh spinach
  • 8 oz ricotta cheese (not low fat)
  • fresh grated Parmesan
  • 2 egg yolks – beaten
  • 4 T butter
  • sea salt & fresh ground black pepper
  • fresh grated nutmeg
  • fresh lemon zest
  • fresh sage leaves

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.  Bring a large pot of water to a boil (I use a huge pasta pot with a strainer.

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Add the spinach to the boiling water, pushing it down over the next minute to wilt it.

Pull the basket and drain the spinach immediately, plunging it into an ice water bath to halt the cooking.  Drain the spinach and squeeze out the water completely.  (I wrap it in several paper towels, then place that bundle inside a clean kitchen towel and squeeze it)

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Squeezed out, it looks much smaller

Chop the spinach very fine.

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Chopped

Place the spinach in a large bowl, add the ricotta, 4 T of parmesan, eggs yolks, salt, pepper, nutmeg and lemon zest.

Stir to combine.  Shape the mixture into balls about the size of large walnuts.

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Butter a casserole dish and lay the gnocchi in it, dressing it with a few thin slices of buttter and more parmesan (I use a generous amount of parmesan).

Bake the gnocchi for 20 minutes then set under broiler for 5 minutes to brown the top.

In a medium skillet, melt 1 1/2 T of butter and saute the sage until it starts to brown.  Serve the gnocchi, dressed with the sage and butter sauce, sprinkle on more of the parmesan.

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Prepare to fall in love….so yummy.

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Chef’s note: You could use frozen chopped spinach in this recipe.  If I weren’t retired, I think I might do that as the blanching step is time consuming (but worth it).  I added the nutmeg and lemon zest which really puts this into the “over the top” amazing category, in my humble opinion. 

Mole Sauce/Wet Beef Burritos with Mole

I have loved Mole Sauce since I was first introduced to it at age eighteen.  My co-worker Loretta,  was of Mexican descent and one evening after work made us homemade cheese enchiladas with Mole sauce from scratch.  I was hooked.  Over the years, I’ve experienced everything from average mole sauce to spectacular mole sauce when dining at Mexican restaurants around the world. What I’ve never done is attempt to make this complex and richly nuanced sauce myself. That is until yesterday….

Cobbling together multiple recipes and then pulling ingredients from my pantry, fridge and freezer, I went to work.  It turned out incredibly well (Spence rated it A+ and 5 star). Of course, I neglected to write it down precisely while making it. That said, I’m going to share the steps I followed and what I used.  I’d encourage you to try it and play with these flavors until it tastes perfect to you. Was it alot of work? Yes.  Was the effort worthy of the outcome?  Oh yeah.

Mole Sauce

  • 3 cloves minced garlic
  • olive oil
  • 2 T chili powder
  • 1 t cinnamon
  • 1 t cumin
  • salt & coarse ground pepper

Place the garlic, olive oil and dry ingredients (above) in a saute pan set at a medium-low heat, warming and softening the garlic – not browning it – for 7-10 minutes. In a sauce pan, add the following

  • 1/2 c chopped fresh tomatoes
  • 1 – 2 T Chipolte in Adobo
  • 1 16 oz can of chicken broth
  • 1 T olive oil
  • 1 T grated or finely chopped sweet onion

Place these items in a sauce pan, bring to boil then reduce to simmer for 8-10 minutes. Pour through a strainer, place liquids back into sauce pan, discard solids.  Increase heat (not to boiling), adding these next ingredients:

  • 2 T tomato paste
  • 2 T smooth peanut butter
  • semisweet chocolate chips – between 1/4 to 1/2 cup (start with less, add more to taste)
  • 1-2 T sesame seeds – lightly toasted in a dry skillet

Stir together until smooth and allow to simmer at a low temp for at least 1 hour, stirring occasionally.  The sauce will reduce and if it becomes too thick, add a bit more chicken stock.

Wet Beef Burritos with Mole

  • 1 recipe Mole Sauce – heated
  • Taco Meat – Ground Beef seasoned with garlic, onion, red pepper flakes, cumin, salt, pepper & Mexican seasoning blend
  • Finely Shredded Mexican Four Cheese Blend
  • Flour Tortilla

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Heat each tortilla, one at a time, on the burner of your stove until soft and pliable (20-30 seconds).  Assemble by spooning in meat, then cheese – rolling up like a burrito. Place in baking dish. Continue assembling the remaining burritos. Spoon a generous amount of mole sauce over each burrito covering top and sides, top with more cheese.

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Bake for 20 minutes or until cheese is nicely melted on top.  IMG_7576

Passionate about Food

A gift from my life-long BFF that adorns my kitchen!
A gift from my life-long BFF that adorns my kitchen!

I’m a foodie and proud of it.  There are those who live to eat or eat to live. I’m in that first group.  There’s something that nourishes my soul when I’m preparing a meal, the creative process, the aromas.  Then savoring that meal – bliss. There’s a joy that I get from reading cookbooks, food magazines and an obsession for the Food Network that hasn’t diminished over time. I’ve always photographed food that I’ve prepared. I do the same at restaurants and have filled many travel journals with detailed descriptions of what Spence and I’ve eaten as we’ve traversed the globe.  When still working (ironically I worked with foodies) time between customers was filled with talk of food, recipes exchanged, restaurants recommended, what we wanted to have for lunch that day.  It was through a co-worker that I learned of Pinterest which further fuels my passion; I have no less than 10 specific food boards. Since retiring, I’m making more things from scratch as I have that luxury of time.  And though my first from-scratch batch of gnocchi wasn’t perfect (but darn good) with my potato ricer spewing potatoes all over the kitchen, I won’t be deterred.  And I’ll learn to make crepes and tamales within this first year of retirement, my to-do list knows no bounds. Stay tuned for more recipes and stories of my foodie ways…..

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Simple Entertaining Charcuterie

Spence and I recently had a dear friend staying with us who, among her other great qualities, is a fellow foodie.  I pulled out all the stops (and more than a few bottles of vino).

On our final night, I decided to go with a lighter charcuterie “buffet” style meal and hope sharing it might inspire you on these hot summer evenings.

Pictured: Shrimp Ceviche, Prosciutto, Cappicola, Calabrese Salami, Rosemary & Sea Salt Marcona Almonds, Dijon Mustard, Aged White Cheddar, Fontina, Manchego, Brie, Pickled Okra, Cornichons, Herbed Boursin, Fresh Pineapple, Multigrain & Flatbread Crackers, Strawberries and fresh Italian bread
Pictured: Shrimp Ceviche, Prosciutto, Cappicola, Calabrese Salami, Rosemary & Sea Salt Marcona Almonds, Dijon Mustard, Aged White Cheddar, Fontina, Manchego, Brie, Pickled Okra, Cornichons, Herbed Boursin, Pineapple, Multigrain & Flatbread Crackers, Strawberries & Italian bread

For my Ceviche recipe, click here:

https://www.spencesgirl.wordpress.com/2015/04/22/2015/ceviche