Sunday, July 27, 2008

Battle Zucchini - July 27, 2008

We were thrilled to lure in new challengers, Jim & Carmen Beaubeaux, for Battle Zucchini. Carmen has been waiting for the perfect opportunity to share her Crespéou, pronounced cress-PAY-oo, and sometimes called gateau d'omelettes. “It is a gorgeous, layered omelet cake from Provence. Like ratatouille, crespéou can be made myriad ways. The easiest is just to cook up a stack of open-face omelets, of varying colors and with contrasting ingredients, piling them on a plate as they firm up and brown slightly, then cut the assemblage into wedges to serve right away. But it is much more common to stack the omelets and then weight them overnight so that they compress and cling together even more. The contrast among flavors in every layer is more pronounced.” Google “Crespéou, an edible ticket to Provence” for the Los Angeles Times article and recipe. Carmen’s Crespéou was beautifully presented, draped with ribbons of zucchini and roasted bell peppers, surrounded by fresh sprigs of parsley and rosemary, and drizzled with a creamy sauce. Happy 20th Birthday to Jim & Carmen’s son, Chris!

Brad wadded in a little over his head when he decided to bake Chocolate-Zucchini Cupcakes. He came over at least three times throughout the afternoon. The first time, he questioned the accuracy of his recipe...does three cups of flour and one cup of oil sound right? The second time, he needed to borrow the flour sifter. The third time, he wanted to know if we had a blow torch so he could “caramelize” the little zucchini rounds as garnish for the tops of the cupcakes. We later learned he soaked his shredded zucchini in Kaluha. Brad named his ultimate creation Brad’s Hell-I’ll-Never-Bake-Again-Chocolate-Kaluha-Zucchini-Cupcakes. No worries Brad, the cupcakes were a hit and you can now go back to your manly-man grill.

Pam went over the top this week with three dishes! She baked one of her childhood favorites, Zucchini Pie. She also made a Grilled Vegetable & Feta Salad AND baked Zucchini Bread. Don’t worry Brad, it’s because she’s a woman who is capable of multi-tasking; she can remain calm and collected with dishes in the oven AND veggies on the grill...

We had two delicious versions of Stuffed Zucchini, one prepared by Vicki and the other by Sandra. We’re glad Rick & Vicki joined us again and it’s great to have Jack & Sandra back for the rest of the summer!

Dean appears to be hooked after three weeks and has become quite the gourmet. This week, he presented a platter of Zucchini & Squash Cakes with Marinara dipping sauce. Dean also entertained us with a few smooth dance moves as he rocked out to Rockola.

Kai & Hillari returned from Napa in time to join us. Olivia and Max brought Grandma to the park and Kai was able to whip up some Zucchini Chocolate Chip & Pecan Bread.

I tried something new, Zucchini & Saffron Vichyssoise, topped with a small mound of julienne zucchini and a seared scallop. I’ve never made a Vichyssoise, but it was interesting and colorful.

For the finale, Jack & Sandra’s daughter, Madeleine, created a decadent Lemon Pudding, Cool Whip, Berry & Vanilla Wafer Parfait. Madeleine’s dessert was devoured within minutes! You go girl!

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Battle Rabbit - July 20, 2008

We all recall Fatal Attraction, the 1987 "sexy thriller" staring Michael Douglas and Glenn Close. Dan, a married New York attorney, has a casual fling with an acquaintance, Alex. When he tries to end the relationship, trouble begins and Alex proceeds to braise Dan’s family bunny.

Well, that is how this Sunday began...with Sparks calling me on my cell, calling me Alex, the Fatal Attraction Chef, just as Susan decided to kick it up a notch on our Sunday morning, beach power walk.

Sparks continued on, telling us she woke up with a "wild hair" and wanted us to join her at the Turf Club for the afternoon. Kicking and scratching, I was forced to decline so I could braise my $32 Bristol Farms bunny. Yes, the going rate for bunnies is $10.99/lb., but the butcher did do a fabulous job of deboning him in one piece! I encourage anyone who has not yet visited Bristol Farms, La Jolla, to do so. What an incredible, gourmet market!

"That’s ok, says Sparks, we can leave the track early and be home by 4:30 or 5:00, how long do you need?" As you know, this was coming from I-only-have-a-Kitchen-because-it-came-with-the-House and I patiently tried to explain I am not one of the true Iron Chefs who can prepare even one dish, and do this rabbit justice, in an hour.

So, home I stayed, playing a mix of Nora Jones, James Blunt and Michael Buble loudly on the Zune, my laptop propped up on the kitchen counter so I could easily access my TVG online betting at Del Mar, while I simultaneously prepared my rabbit and dessert AND managed to bet on all the losing horses.

Brad came to my rescue, arriving promptly at 5:15 to assume Wagon Duty, and we loaded up his grill and all the tables, chairs, food and wine, and headed for Spreckles Park.

Although many of our Coronado kitchens were dark for the day, we did end up with three authentic rabbit dishes. Dean was first to plate his Faux Rabbit Potato Salad. Emeril Lagasse typically goes a little over the top with his garnish, but Dean definitely out-BAMMED Emeril with his plaster bunny plopped down in the middle of his salad.

Kai was next to unveil his Rabbit and Wild Mushroom Terrine with Onion Marmalade, another fabulous dish from the Schoettke kitchen. Kai also shared a priceless video of sous-chef Olivia bouncing the rabbit carcass up and down on the kitchen counter.

As Brad grilled his Rabbit on a Stick tableside, rubbed with Brad’s Secret Rabbit Rub, I dished out mini-servings of Mario Batali’s Braised Stuffed Rabbit with Walnuts, Prosecco, Dried Cherries, and Apricots. I’ve never cooked rabbit and had never heard of Prosecco. I found a selection of Prosecco at Cost Plus World Market and learned it is a variety of white grape grown in the Veneto region of Italy, and also gives its name to the sparkling wine made from the grape. My rabbit was very happy cooking in an entire bottle of this stuff, minus the itsy bitsy glass I siphoned to help soothe my loneliness without my man. As evidenced by the photo , Max was thoroughly enamored with the braising liquid and stood there for a full 10 minutes taking spoonfuls out of the pan. Daddy Kai was assured the alcohol had been cooked off and/or Max would sleep very well.

The Orrs joined us this week and Victoria shared a platter of Lemon Pepper and Buffalo Rabbit Wings and some gooey Garlic Cheese Bread. Pam and Monica joined us after dropping birthday boy Deano off at the boat with a supply of beer, and our Turf -Clubbers, Mary, Susan, Kerry & Jack, made it in time to relax after their day in beautiful Del Mar. Susan even had time to whip up a Rabbit Pizza!

I also made Giada De Laurentiis’ Almond Cake for dessert, with a touch of Amarretto in the icing. Of course, the cute, fuzzy bunnies on the top were there to remind us what we had eaten earlier. It was another successful Coronado Iron Chef Challenge with an interesting secret ingredient. The sexy thriller, aka DH on Palm, continued after the music stopped and the sun went down, but we won’t go there...

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Battle Blackfish - July 13, 2008

Five chefs accepted the challenge of Battle Blackfish. Todd & Kate presented Nobu Matsuhisa’s signature Black Cod with Miso, inspired by Todd’s dining experience at The Hard Rock Hotel’s Nobu Restaurant. Todd marinated the Black Cod fillets in a Nobu-Style Miso (mirin, sake, miso paste and sugar) for three days before baking. He then arranged the delicate and succulent morsels on a banana leaf bed and garnished them with green onions and fresh flowers...Wow!

Brent & Leonore prepared Grilled Mako Shark Kebabs, with huge chunks of shark, marinated in teriyaki and citrus juices, and colorfully skewered between pineapple, tomato, orange bell pepper and purple onion. We were most impressed to learn Brent reeled in this 140 lb. shark 4 miles off the La Jolla coast!

Kai & Hillari arrived with a platter of Kai’s Fish Cakes with Remolade. Kai made them with Basa fish, "a type of catfish native to the Mekong River Delta in Vietnam and Chao Phraya basin." Isn’t this educational??

Pam, our Salad Queen, tossed together her Wasabi Tuna Salad, made with romaine lettuce, tuna and wasabi mayo, sugar snap peas, carrots, dried fruit, and mandarin oranges.

I must admit, I was not too motivated and inspired this week without John. We enjoy our Sunday afternoons so together, listening to music, drinking a little Champagne or wine and going to the park just wasn’t the same without him. I had a tough time making a decision, but went with Wild Rice, Sugar Snap Pea and Smoked Fish Salad, garnished with hard-boiled eggs and cherry tomatoes.

In addition to the wonderful offerings by all of the chefs, we enjoyed a selection of appetizers and dessert, including hummus and pita chips, buffalo wings, turkey and cheese, crackers and rolls, and chocolate cake. We lingered in the park to soak up the last of the sun, and wine, before making the long trek home with our wagons in tow. It was great to visit with Mary & Geoff, who made the trip down from Del Mar. It was also nice to meet Todd & Kate's neighbor, Susan. Thank you all for coming!

Are you ready for Battle RABBIT??? I’m up to the challenge if you are! Don't worry Sparks, it tastes like chicken.

Denise & John

Sunday, July 6, 2008

Battle Blue Foot Chicken - July 6, 2008

We had a small, but lively group for Battle Blue Foot Chicken. The Park was jammed packed with the remaining July 4th crowd and the Corvettes put on a great, up-tempo show of Rock & Roll oldies.

Our menu was fabulous again. Although Pam hinted at painting her toenails blue and sweet-talking Colonel Sanders at KFC for a bucket of chicken, she surprised us with Pam’s No-Time-for-Chicken Macaroni Salad (see the cute picture of sous-chef Olivia getting ready to serve the salad).

Kai made Larb, "the unofficial national dish of Laos and also a common dish in Thai is a meat salad, most often made with chicken, beef, duck, turkey, pork, or even fish, flavored with fish sauce and lime...the meat is minced and mixed with chili, mint and, optionally, assorted vegetables" (yes, I got this from Wikipedia). We wrapped Kai’s tasty Larb in lettuce leaves and it was excellent.

Chef Brad came through with Tomatoes Stuffed with Brad’s Famous Chicken Salad. Brad’s Chicken Salad is not your everyday chicken salad...his is complemented by Pistachios and roasted garlic (check out the photo of Max oohing and awing at those tomatoes!)

If you couldn’t taste the garlic in Brad’s tomatoes, you most certainly tasted it in my Chicken with Forty Cloves of Garlic, from Ina Garten’s Barefoot in Paris cookbook. White wine, Cognac and a little cream finish off the gravy.

John made his famous Chicken Nachos, with a hint of chipotle, all the fixins' and surrounded by blue corn tortilla chips, and then bid us farewell before leaving for a 3-week diving gig in Oregon and Washington.

Congratulations to Bill and Janice, who joined us and shared the happy news of their engagement and wedding plans. It was a great evening and finale to a festive and long holiday weekend!

We now must deal with Battle Blackfish. After consulting Google, I learned the following: Blackfish, also known by its Native American name Tautog, is found from Nova Scotia to South Carolina and most abundant from Cape Code to the Chesapeake Bay. They are distinguished by their large lips and teeth, which are used to catch and eat their favorite foods, shellfish and crabs. Blackfish has a relatively firm white meat, which makes it well suited for a variety of different preparation methods including fish stews and chowders. In fact, in many seaside towns, blackfish is the traditional ingredient in fish chowder. "It's a mild tasting fish somewhat like sea bass," says George Leeman of the Shinnecock Fish Dock. Blackfish can be used in almost any recipe that calls for lean white flesh fish with a mild taste like cod, sea bass, tilefish or halibut.

Again, because it is probably impossible to find this fish locally, I consulted Kai and we both agreed all chefs may substitute any "lean white flesh fish with a mild taste." Let the Battle begin...

Denise & John