Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park - Basque Country

Alec & Nina chose Basque Country cuisine as our culinary theme of the week. They visited the region a few years ago and have fond memories of the wonderful food. Alec even dressed for the occasion.

Alec's lovely wife, Nina, wore a sexy red cami to taunt bullish Alec throughout the evening.

Now, for a recap of our amazing menu: The Basque Table, Spreckles Park, Coronado

Commencing with a selection of tapas, Chris impressed us with his last-minute discovery of Pata Negra Market, and adjoining Costa Brava restaurant, in Pacific Beach. They were extremely helpful in assisting him with a nice selection of Spanish cheeses and Revilla chorizo, Revilla Gold Iberian Ham to top his bruschetta, and a bottle of Muga 2004 Rioja Reserva.

Alec and Nina shared some red peppers stuffed with herbed goat cheese from Venissimo Cheese Shop in Hillcrest. Those were also delectable!

As one of my tapas, I offered Seared Piquillo Peppers Stuffed with Manchego Cheese, from Jose Andres' Made in Spain cookbook.

I seared the stuffed peppers table-side at the park so they would be nice and hot and oozing with cheese, and then drizzled the shallot, scallion, olive oil, sherry vinegar, and thyme dressing over the top.

My second tapa, Classic Potato Salad with Crunchy Trout Roe, is also from Made in Spain. Jose created a more modern interpretation, with homemade mayonnaise, potatoes, carrots, peas, hard-boiled eggs, Spanish oil-packed tuna, and trout roe. I substituted salmon roe.

Nina made this beautiful Basque Potato Pie

And Alec presented the Pommes Biarritz pictured below. In addition, Alec passed around Picon Punch, the National Drink of the Basques! The cocktail is made with Amer Picon, grenadine, soda water, lemon peel and brandy.

Kai wowed us with Oxtail Stew, Rabo de Toro, oxtails slowly braised with onion, celery, carrots, garlic, red wine, and herbs. What a presentation for our Basque picnic in the park!

Kai and Hillary sported new tattoos, in honor of their 11th wedding anniversary! They're off to Germany for three weeks to visit Kai's family. Max and Olivia can't wait to see their Oma and Opa. Oma and Opa may not be too happy to see the tattoos!

We had no shortage of food on this summer evening. Mark & Kerry lugged over their Basque Chicken a Clay Pot, flavored with onions, mushrooms and peppers.

Carmen made a zillion Basque Fishermans' Lunches, all wrapped in foil packages, composed of a nice piece of rustic bread, topped with shrimp and Tortilla Española.

Jack and Sandra made some little Ham and Brie Sandwiches with Apricot Preserves, and apologized because they weren't Basque. I recalled seeing something similar in my Made in Spain cookbook: Sandwich of Dried Pork Loin, manchego Cheese, and Quince Preserves. Without even realizing it, they just made an innovative version of that recipe!

Oh my, the food just kept coming. For dessert, John passed out another one of his fantastic ice cream creations, Strawberry Swirl, studded with balsamic marinated strawberries.

Our chocolate cravings were satisfied by Nina's Beret Basque, chocolate mousse drizzled with chocolate ganache. Max and Sonoma had several servings.

Alec and Nina encouraged me to attempt Gateau Basque, an exquisite tart from the Pays Basque region of France. I reviewed several different recipes and chose one from Pastry Studio because I liked the idea of using both pastry cream and cherry preserves. Here are a few other incredible-looking versions: Cannelle Vanille, Daniel Boulud, and Tartelette.

I experienced some pastry dough issues (the recipe made just barely enough dough for my tart pan, had to be rolled very thin to fit, and consequently stuck to my parchment paper in spots) and my preparation photos leave a bit to be desired. I followed Pastry Studio's recipe, but added a splash of Luxardo Maraschino Liqueur to the French cherry preserves.

The layer of pastry cream is blobbed on next

And then a second piece of dough is placed over the pastry cream, sealed to the bottom piece of dough, scored in a decorative crosshatch pattern, and brushed with egg wash.

Some magic must have occurred in the oven, because it made a complete transformation and came out almost perfect!

Gâteau Basque
Serves 8 to 10
From Pastry Studio

1/2 cup sugar
4 oz (1 stick) butter, at room temperature
Finely grated zest of 1 lemon
1/8 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon baking powder

Crème Patisserie (Pastry Cream)

1/4 cup sugar
3 egg yolks
1 tablespoon flour
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 cup milk
2 tablespoons butter
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1/4 teaspoon almond extract or 1/2 teaspoon rum

Preserved whole cherries and/or high quality cherry jam/preserves
Egg wash: 1 yolk and 1 tablespoon milk

For the pastry dough, place the sugar, butter, lemon zest and salt in a food processor and pulse until it is blended. Add the egg and egg yolk and pulse until mixed. Whisk together the flour and the baking powder and add to the processor and pulse until a dough forms. Turn the dough out onto a piece of plastic wrap and divide it into 2 pieces, one slightly larger than the other. Pat the dough into disks and wrap in plastic. Refrigerate until firm, at least 30 minutes.

For the pastry cream, whisk the sugar with the egg yolks until pale. Add the flour and cornstarch and whisk until smooth. Heat the milk just until it starts to show signs of coming to a boil. Gradually add 1/2 of the hot milk to the sugar-yolk mixture, whisking vigorously to prevent the eggs from scrambling. Pour this mixture back into the saucepan and cook over low heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture thickens and boils. Take off the heat and stir in the butter. Add the vanilla extract and almond extract or rum. Pour into a bowl and cool slightly. Press a piece of plastic wrap on the surface and refrigerate until chilled and firm.

To assemble, remove the dough and let it sit for a few minutes to take the chill off. Butter a 9-by-1-inch flan or tart ring and set it on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Working between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment and a bit of flour, roll out the larger piece of dough to about an 11” round. Ease the dough into the flan ring, pressing it into the bottom and leaving a slight overhang. Spread a layer of cherry preserves evenly over the bottom of the tart shell. Layer the pastry cream over the preserves and spread carefully. Roll out the second piece of dough to a 10” round and lay it over the pastry cream. Pinch the edges of the top and bottom crusts together to seal the crusts and trim the overhang. Using a bench scraper, knife or the tines of a fork, score the top crust in a decorative crosshatch pattern. Chill for 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325°. Brush the Gâteau with an egg wash made by combining the egg yolk and 1 T milk. Bake in the center of the oven for 45 - 55 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. Let the tart cool completely on a wire rack.


I went a bit overboard this week, with two tapas and a dessert. With all the food, Spanish and French wines, and Alec's Picon Punch, we certainly didn't need any more...but I couldn't resist. Somehow, I knew Jim would become an instant fan of 43 Cuarenta Y Tres Liqueur, the leading premium liqueur of Spain. Several others became fans too.

Cheers! Thank you fellow chefs for yet another incredible culinary journey. We're creating Russian cuisine on Sunday. If anyone out there has some ideas for me, please share!

Monday, July 27, 2009

July Daring Bakers' Challenge: Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies

The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. We had the option of baking one, or both.

I vaguely recall eating Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies, aka Mallomars, at some point in my life, but I'm not too adoring of marshmallows. I'm at least more educated now and had no idea there were so many variations around the world. Apparently, Denmark first created the Schokokuss about 200 years ago. In New Zealand, Mallowpuffs are available in varieties such as Banana Split, Double Choc, Jaffa, Original, Pineapple, Rocky Road and Toffee. (See Chocolate-coated marshmallow treats on Wikipedia).

My variation was inspired by our weekly culinary challenge for Coronado Concerts in the Park a few weeks ago, Passage to India. I added a touch of cardamom to the cookie dough, mango puree to the marshmallow, and curry to the chocolate. I think the flavors complemented each other quite nicely!

Here is the original recipe provided for the Daring Bakers' Challenge:

Mallows (Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies)
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand, Food Network

Prep Time: 10 min
Inactive Prep Time: 5 min
Cook Time: 10 min
Serves: about 2 dozen cookies

• 3 cups (375grams/13.23oz) all purpose flour
• 1/2 cup (112.5grams/3.97oz) white sugar
• 1/2 teaspoon salt
• 3/4 teaspoon baking powder
• 3/8 teaspoon baking soda
• 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter
• 3 eggs, whisked together
• Homemade marshmallows, recipe follows
• Chocolate glaze, recipe follows

1. In a mixer with the paddle attachment, blend the dry ingredients.
2. On low speed, add the butter and mix until sandy.
3. Add the eggs and mix until combine.
4. Form the dough into a disk, wrap with clingfilm or parchment and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to 3 days.
5. When ready to bake, grease a cookie sheet or line it with parchment paper or a silicon mat.
6. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
7. Roll out the dough to 1/8-inch thickness, on a lightly floured surface. Use a 1 to 1 1/2 inches cookie cutter to cut out small rounds of dough.
8. Transfer to the prepared pan and bake for 10 minutes or until light golden brown. Let cool to room temperature.
9. Pipe a “kiss” of marshmallow onto each cookie. Let set at room temperature for 2 hours.
10. Line a cookie sheet with parchment or silicon mat.
11. One at a time, gently drop the marshmallow-topped cookies into the hot chocolate glaze.
12. Lift out with a fork and let excess chocolate drip back into the bowl.
13. Place on the prepared pan and let set at room temperature until the coating is firm, about 1 to 2 hours.

Note: if you don’t want to make your own marshmallows, you can cut a large marshmallow in half and place on the cookie base. Heat in a preheated 350-degree oven to slump the marshmallow slightly, it will expand and brown a little. Let cool, then proceed with the chocolate dipping.

Homemade marshmallows:
• 1/4 cup water
• 1/4 cup light corn syrup
• 3/4 cup (168.76 grams/5.95oz) sugar
• 1 tablespoon powdered gelatin
• 2 tablespoons cold water
• 2 egg whites , room temperature
• 1/4 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1. In a saucepan, combine the water, corn syrup, and sugar, bring to a boil until “soft-ball” stage, or 235 degrees on a candy thermometer.
2. Sprinkle the gelatin over the cold water and let dissolve.
3. Remove the syrup from the heat, add the gelatin, and mix.
4. Whip the whites until soft peaks form and pour the syrup into the whites.
5. Add the vanilla and continue whipping until stiff.
6. Transfer to a pastry bag.

Chocolate glaze:
• 12 ounces semisweet chocolate
• 2 ounces cocoa butter or vegetable oil

1. Melt the 2 ingredients together in the top of a double boiler or a bowl set over barely simmering water.

The recipe is not complicated. However, before you tackle this project, you should be aware of the following:

  • The recipe states it will yield about 2 dozen cookies. Let's amend that statement to about SEVEN dozen. And that's after all casualties were eliminated - the ones with grossly deformed marshmallow kisses (Piping the "kiss" on top of each cookie was much easier than expected, assuming the proper consistency of the marshmallow is achieved, and after piping skills normalize); the ones that manage to latch onto a finger or hand and refuse to let go until they are totally mangled...This will occur when you ever so gently try to rearrange the cookies to make room for another dozen, or move the cookie sheet just slightly (of course, for humane reasons, those must be eaten right away). I witnessed more casualties when a dozen or so stuck to my flowing piece of sheer white fabric, used cut the glare of the sunlight during photographing, when it blew off the window and over an entire cookie sheet full of naked Mallows!
  • Prep time, 10 minutes; Inactive prep time, 5 minutes. I think not. These cookies took me almost a day from start to finish, with the time required for air-drying the marshmallows and for the chocolate glaze to set. Sure, you are free to do other things during the drying time, just not anywhere near your kitchen where every square inch of counter space is covered with SEVEN dozen cookies! Did I mention this recipe yields at least SEVEN dozen cookies?!
  • Another fact according to Wikipedia: "Because Mallomars melt easily in summer temperatures, they can become difficult to find during the summer and they are generally available from early October through April." Therefore, do not try to make them in the peak of the summer, when the temperatures are hovering near 90 degrees F and you have no air conditioning. The marshmallow did not ever form a skin and remained sticky and my chocolate never did totally set. However, after completing the challenge and then going back to read through the wisdom of the more experienced Daring Bakers offered during the course of this challenge, it appears cocoa butter, rather than oil, in the chocolate, was the way to go.
Ok, I'm done bitching. Actually, I'm fairly content with the first half of my first Daring Bakers' Challenge. I had fun playing around with the chocolate glaze, dipping the entire cookie, half a cookie, and just the marshmallow top of the cookie. I also sprinkled a few chopped pistachios on some of the cookies. I even dusted curry powder over the top of a few, and these had a little added pizazz!

For the mango flavor, I simply folded in 1/3 cup mango puree to the marshmallow mixture and added a few drops of orange gel paste coloring to enhance the mango color.

I should have stopped while I was somewhat ahead. I then decided to attempt the Milanos. Bad decision.

Don't try these at home! Go with the store-bought Pepperidge Farm Milanos! I thought my Mallows had issues, but these puppies really frustrated the &*%#! out of me ;-(

They were sticky, didn't hold the right shape, and don't taste very exciting for the heartache involved. I had such high hopes for one of my favorite cookies! But again, I do blame the heat and humidity we've been experiencing on part of my problems.

Looking on the bright side, I joined the Daring Bakers to learn from all of the Pros. I'm hoping my second Challenge will be more of a success!

I did like my little photo shoot...at least they look authentic!

Here's the recipe, if you happen to get a wild hair. My suggestion is to spend your summer day at the beach and save these for a rainy or snowy day.

Milan Cookies
Recipe courtesy of Gale Gand, Food Network

Prep Time: 20 min
Inactive Prep Time: 0 min
Cook Time: 1 hr 0 min
Serves: about 3 dozen cookies

• 12 tablespoons (170grams/ 6 oz) unsalted butter, softened
• 2 1/2 cups (312.5 grams/ 11.02 oz) powdered sugar
• 7/8 cup egg whites (from about 6 eggs)
• 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
• 2 tablespoons lemon extract
• 1 1/2 cups (187.5grams/ 6.61 oz) all purpose flour
• Cookie filling, recipe follows

Cookie filling:
• 1/2 cup heavy cream
• 8 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
• 1 orange, zested

1. In a mixer with paddle attachment cream the butter and the sugar.
2. Add the egg whites gradually and then mix in the vanilla and lemon extracts.
3. Add the flour and mix until just well mixed.
4. With a small (1/4-inch) plain tip, pipe 1-inch sections of batter onto a parchment-lined sheet pan, spacing them 2 inches apart as they spread.
5. Bake in a preheated 350 degree oven for 10 minutes or until light golden brown around the edges. Let cool on the pan.
6. While waiting for the cookies to cool, in a small saucepan over medium flame, scald cream.
7. Pour hot cream over chocolate in a bowl, whisk to melt chocolate, add zest and blend well.
8. Set aside to cool (the mixture will thicken as it cools).
9. Spread a thin amount of the filling onto the flat side of a cookie while the filling is still soft and press the flat side of a second cookie on top.
10. Repeat with the remainder of the cookies.

Be sure to take a look at the slideshow of some of the Daring Bakers' cookies, here. You can also find the Daring Bakers' Member blogroll, here, if you would like to go check out their individual blogs.

Thank you, Nicole. This was a challenging first challenge!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Bucatini Carbonara and Opening Day at Del Mar!

It's Opening Day at the Races, where the surf meets the surf in beautiful Del Mar, CA. Sadly, I won't be making an appearance in a fancy hat today. A day at the races is another one of my favorite summer splurges, and I'm confident I will manage to indulge (and hurt my wallet) a few times during the short, 6-week racing season.

Another favorite indulgence in the pasta category is Carbonara. This heavenly Bucatini Carbonara comes from Chef Linton Hopkins at Eugene, Holeman and Finch, in Atlanta. He was featured in the recent Food & Wine article, Best New Chefs and their Easiest Recipes. Chef Hopkins adds his own Southern accent with house-cured pork and local eggs.

Requiring only a few fresh and quality ingredients, I love this for a quick weeknight dinner. Try to find Bucatini. To me, it elevates this dish to a new level.

Food & Wine suggests pairing this pasta with a tannic red to "refresh the palate after each luxurious bite." We tried Hey Mambo Sultry Red, an ensemble of Syrah, Barbera, Zinfandel, Petite Sirah, Malbec, and Alicante Bouchet grapes. Excellent!

Bucatini Carbonara
Food & Wine, July 2009

6 ounces bucatini
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
4 ounces pancetta, sliced 1/4 inch thick and cut into 1/4-inch dice
1 shallot, very finely chopped
1 garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, plus more for serving
4 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped parsley
Freshly ground pepper


In a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the pasta until al dente. Drain, reserving 3 tablespoons of the cooking water.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet, heat the oil. Add the pancetta and cook over moderate heat until most of the fat has been rendered, 7 minutes. Add the shallot and garlic and cook over moderate heat for 1 minute. Add the cream and simmer over moderate heat until slightly thickened, about 2 minutes. Add the hot pasta to the skillet and stir to coat, 1 minute.

Remove from the heat. Stir in the reserved pasta cooking water, the 2 tablespoons of grated cheese and the egg yolks. Season with salt.

Divide the pasta into bowls and sprinkle with parsley and pepper. Serve, passing more cheese at the table.

As Trevor Denman says when the horses are released from the starting gate...And away they go! Good luck to my favorite jockeys today!

Monday, July 20, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park: A Passage to India

It's the peak of the summer in Coronado, with temperatures hovering in the 80s this past week and Orange Avenue gridlocked from the bridge to the Del. As expected, Spreckles Park was jam-packed for the most celebrated concert of the season - Rockola. Vintage guitars, vintage clothing, and three decades of rock, pop, and soul have earned Rockola eight San Diego Music awards.

John and I made a quick run to the park hours early to reserve our coveted spot under the now bare Jacaranda tree, with Sparks' mammoth canvas tarps, and our tables and chairs. Many locals, also in the know, did the same. You would never guess the music was still 7 hours away.

A large part of our group went sailing for the afternoon on Jada, a classic 63 foot, Philip Rhodes Yawl sailing vessel. It would have been a beautiful day for sailing, but we experienced some extraordinary entertainment earlier in the week. John treated me to a night at the theatre for Fiddler on the Roof, Topol's Farewell Tour, and I whipped out my Il Divo concert tickets for Saturday night! Both shows were powerful and amazing.

Here are the men of Il Divo, who put me in a trance for most of the evening...David, tenor (USA); Urs, tenor (Switzerland); Carlos, baritone (Spain), and Sebastien, pop singer (France)

Sorry, I had to brag!

Back to Challenge India. The steadfast chefs in the group chained dedicated themselves to their kitchens, ovens, and grills, in order to create generous servings of traditional Indian favorites to share with their fellow chefs and the ravenous boat people. Seriously, we love to cook. Some have difficulty understanding the pleasure we derive from cooking. Others get it.

While John added to the summer heat with some Indian spices, I repeatedly frustrated myself with my first Daring Kitchen - Daring Bakers' Challenge. In keeping with our culinary theme, I added a little Indian twist to the Daring Bakers' recipe and it was ultimately a success. Unfortunately, I am sworn to secrecy until the official reveal date on the 27th, so please come back and visit then!

The Shiva Nataraja graced our table as we embarked on our gourmandizing adventure. We received more than a few puzzled looks on our trek to the park, pulling our overstuffed wagon, with Lord Shiva firmly affixed thereto, and our copper chafing dish leaking the tantalizing aroma of garam masala. I know, we're a bit elaborate, with copper chafing dishes, bronze statues, and all (I even found a slinky, vibrant, Indian Summer-ish dress for the occasion), but Concerts in the Park are a huge part of our summer fun and frolic!

John's Chicken Tikka Masala, served over Basmati Rice

The chicken is first marinated overnight in Masala Marinade, then skewered and grilled

John also poured small glasses of Mango Lassi, a popular and traditional yogurt-based drink. There are many versions. John made some slight modifications to Andrea's recipe at Cooking Books, here, and then put the lassi in the ice cream maker to make it the consistency of frozen yogurt. By the time we were ready for a glass, it had thawed to a perfectly chilled and sippable smoothie.

Carmen was able to join us this week, but most of the summer will be dedicated to putting the finishing touches on her play, The Perfect Daisy. Carmen discovered two outstanding recipes on Food Network, courtesy of Guy Fieri: Taj Maholla! Chicken and Bollywood Basmati Rice. She lugged a huge pot of her Taj Maholla, which was more than enough to feed all 35 in our crowd! I even managed to abscond with a Tuperware full of leftovers. Thank you so much - both dishes were unbelievably sensational.!The addition of pomegranate seeds was brilliant and the basmati rice, studded with apricots, currants, and toasted almonds, was flavorful and scrumptious.

Guy's Big Bite episode also included a recipe for Lassi Come Home. Although Brad is enjoying John's virgin Mango Lassi in the photo below, he's acting like he has downed several shots of Guy's Lassi Come Home, made into an adult version with vodka and dark rum...

Kai's Naan was deliciously complemented by Dal and Raita

In addition our chefs' outstanding homemade dishes, we sampled several menu items from Monsoon, courtesy of Alec and Nina, as well as Royal India's Chicken Curry, courtesy of Bradley. Both restaurants are located in the San Diego Gaslamp District.

After savoring one of the most successful challenges of the concert season, we delighted in the music and danced a few songs.

Olivia persuaded daddy Kai to take her for a twirlWhile Max and mommy Hill hammed it up for the camera

When the sun sets at the end of the day, in India or in Coronado, this inspirational couple on the picnic blanket next to us reminded us what life is all about... I hope you dance

Chicken Tikka Masala
Slightly modified from Food & Wine

Masala Marinade

1 cup plain low-fat yogurt
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon finely grated fresh ginger
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 1/2 teaspoons ground coriander
1/4 teaspoon ground cardamom
1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
1/4 teaspoon ground turmeric
Salt and freshly ground pepper

In a large glass or stainless steel bowl, combine the yogurt, garlic, ginger, cumin, coriander, cardamom, cayenne and turmeric. Season with salt and pepper.


4 pounds skinless, boneless chicken thighs, fat trimmed
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon vegetable oil
1/4 cup blanched whole almonds
1 large onion, finely chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh ginger
3 tablespoons garam masala
1 tablespoon smoke paprika
1/2 teaspoon cayenne pepper
Two, 28-oz cans peeled tomatoes, finely chopped, juices reserved
Pinch of sugar
1 cup heavy cream

Using a sharp knife, make a few shallow slashes in each piece of chicken. Add the chicken to the marinade, turn to coat, and refrigerate overnight.

Prepare gas or charcoal grill. Remove the chicken from the marinade, cut into pieces, (approximately 1 inch wide and 2 inches long), and thread on skewers. Grill the chicken, turning once or twice, until just cooked through and golden brown. Remove from skewers and set aside.

In a small skillet, heat 1 teaspoon of the oil. Add the almonds and cook over moderate heat, stirring constantly, until golden, about 5 minutes. Transfer the almonds to a plate and let cool completely. In a food processor, pulse the almonds until finely ground.

In a large enameled cast-iron casserole, heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil until shimmering. Add the onion, garlic and ginger and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until tender and golden, about 8 minutes. Add the garam masala, chile powder and cayenne and cook, stirring, for 1 minute. Add the tomatoes with their juices and the sugar and season with salt and pepper. Cover partially and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the sauce is slightly thickened, about 20 minutes. Add the cream and ground almonds and cook over low heat, stirring occasionally, until thickened, about 10 minutes longer. Stir in the chicken; simmer gently for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, and serve with Basmati rice.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Coronado Concerts in the Park: Sailing the South Seas

Oh, how I dream of Sailing the South Seas...better yet, Cruising the South Seas, on a mega yacht. Dooley and Diver would love it too! Yeah right, dream on! At least Sunday's Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge provided us with a taste of the South Seas.

Diver settled for a romp in the fountain.

There were so many choices this week. I knew I wanted to create something with seafood, and maybe something with pineapples or mangos.

Mom spends some time surfing the net these days and has been able to join us for most of the Concerts in the Park since moving back to Coronado. Now that I have the food blog bug, she also spends a good amount of time looking at recipes and photographs of food. During her surfing, she came across a blog post by Carolyn Jung, author of Food Gal, who was one of the lucky ones to receive a promotional brochure for the upcoming “Ad Hoc At Home” cookbook (Artisan) by Thomas Keller, including the recipe for his rendition of Pineapple Upside-Down Cake. I wonder how one gets on that mailing list?

Mom also found a blog post by Elaine, of The Italian Dish, featuring her beautiful Cheesecake with Roasted Rum Pineapple and Pineapple Flowers, inspired by the April Daring Bakers' Challenge.

We combined Thomas Keller's cheesecake (recipe on Food Gal, here) with Elaine's pineapple flowers, and voila!

My favorite part of this recipe is the "schmear” of softened butter, light brown sugar, honey, dark rum, and vanilla

The recipe makes enough schmear for three cakes, so I decided to make two

The schmear is spread over the bottom of a silicone cake pan, and then sprinkled with a little salt

Next, quartered rings of fresh pineapple are overlapped in the pan before the cake batter is added.

True to Food Gal's word, the cake is inverted "onto your serving platter — with no fuss, no bother, and no dialing 911."

Of course, I couldn't stop at just one dish for our gourmet picnic in the park. I couldn't resist the sound of this recipe either, from Food Network...

Macadamia Crusted Halibut, Oven Roasted Asparagus, Spicy Mango Salsa, Ponzu Sauce, and Coconut Sticky Rice
by Ming Tsai and Budi Kazali
Show: East Meets West With Ming Tsai
Episode: Hawaiian Halibut

I've made macadamia-crusted halibut and a similar salsa before, but I liked the addition of the coconut rice, garlic chips, and ponzu.

The Spicy Mango Salsa is composed of pineapple, mango, papaya, red onion, jalapeno, and lime juice

The Coconut Rice was fun to make. Glutinous rice, also called sweet or sticky rice, is soaked in water overnight, steamed on top of a banana leaf, and combined with coconut milk and unsweetened coconut flakes

For plating, the recipe states: Form the rice into a small flat disk in the center of the plate. Spoon some of the Salsa on top of the rice. Lean the fish against the rice and drizzle the sauce around the plate. Place the asparagus against the fish and garnish with the garlic chips. I did not make the full Ponzu sauce because I wasn't able to find Dashi. I did drizzle a little bottled Ponzu sauce around the plate prior to serving. Here is it prior to the Ponzu drizzle.

Chris made his way over the bridge to join us. He showcased this magnificent platter of Grilled Colossal White Mexican Shrimp & Tropical Salsa (mango, pineapple, coconut, jalapeno)

Here's Kai's Hamachi Poke and Hamachi Ceviche, served on tasting spoons. Poke (pronounced "PO-keh") is a Hawaiian fish salad, usually raw, served as an appetizer.

And Kai's Pani Popo, a Samoan dish that literally means “buns in coconut milk.”

I think I'll blame Jim's shots of Hang Loose Pineapple Rum, but my photography skills were severely lacking and I did not come home with many decent photos.

Use your imagination and envision the rest of our impressive Sailing the South Pacific menu. It would not have been complete without...

Sandra's encore performance of Alton Brown's Cuban Sandwiches, which we all loved when she made them last summer. Although technically not part of our theme, we'll let her slide because they were so delicious ;-)

Alec's & Nina's Lamingtons, a sweet treat very popular in Australia, consisting of a small square of white cake (sponge, butter, or pound) that is dipped in a sweet chocolate icing and then rolled in desiccated coconut;

Pam's Shrimp Coleslaw Salad, with Ginger-Sesame Vinaigrette, taken up another notch with her addition of diced pineapple, mango, papaya, almonds and coconut;

Brad's dessert of Grilled Pineapple, first marinated in a little coconut milk and cinnamon, topped with Coconut Ice Cream and a sprinkling of toasted coconut flakes; and

Madeleine's Fruited Pizza, a cookie crust brushed with apricot preserves, topped with cream cheese frosting, and embellished with blueberries, kiwi and strawberries.

I'm all blogged out after my Daring Cooks' reveal post this morning, and finishing up this post this evening! Enjoy the rest of your week!