Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Concert in the Park Piss-Up, a New Zealand Food & Wine Extravaganza!

Inspired by my Daring Bakers' Challenge of the month, Pavlova, I suggested New Zealand cuisine for our Sunday Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge of the week. Kai nominated John to prepare the traditional Maori hangi, but we attract enough attention as it is.  Can you envision John, getting to the park extra early, and digging a deep hole to be lined with red-hot stones and covered with vegetation, in preparation of cooking our Kiwi picnic fare? Our wagon is chocka, and now Big Ugly is chocka - that's just sammy short of a picnic!

So, what exactly is New Zealand cuisine? According to my web sources, New Zealanders enjoy quality local produce from land and sea. Similar to the cuisine of Australia, the cuisine of New Zealand is a diverse British-based cuisine with Mediterranean and Pacific Rim influences as the country becomes more cosmopolitan. For dishes that have a distinctly New Zealand style, there's lamb, pork and cervena (venison), salmon, crayfish (lobster), Bluff oysters, paua (abalone), mussels, scallops, pipis and tuatua (both are types of New Zealand shellfish), kumara (sweet potato), kiwifruit, tamarillo and pavlova, the national dessert. It's also good to know a little New Zealand slang before embarking on such an adventure, and you'll notice I've had a little fun with it throughout this post....

Ladies a Plate means please bring a dish of food to share; Entree is an appetizer or hors d'oeurve; Main is the primary dish of a meal; Take-away means food to be taken away and eaten; Tea is the evening meal, dinner; and my favorite, Piss Up - a party, social gathering, and excuse for drinking alcohol...BINGO! As if we need an excuse to drink wine!

Before I get into our entrees and main, please realize these Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge blog posts are primarily photo recaps, featuring one or two recipes and/or links to recipes that inspired us. I do not request recipes from everyone who participated each week. If you decide to host your own theme party, along the lines of one of our challenges, I hope these posts will simply provide you with ideas. Ok then, let's get started!

I'll begin with Kai's Rewena paraoa (potato bread), since kai is the Maori word for food. Nigel Olsen, author of Curious Kai, The Curious New Zealand Food Blog, dedicates three posts to the preparation of this bread, with the complete recipe and step by step photos. The first post starts here. Our Kai served two loaves, still warm from the oven, with garlic butter...we were very impressed that he went through the 3-day process to make this flavorful bread! Kai also served Grilled New Zealand Lamb Chops, but discouraged my photo shoot because they were served on one of Max's monkey plates ;-)

John pissed around for days before finally choosing a recipe I suggested from Hors d'Oeuvre at Home with The Culinary Institute of America, Lamb Brochettes with Mint Pesto (recipe provided at the end of the post).  John, and Minute Chef, Brad, made a mad rush to the store just hours before the concert. However, these brochettes turned out incredible, even with the shortened marinating time. Good on ya, mate!

When Alec and Nina started preparing Seared Scallops with Kiwi Salsa, I had to pinch myself repeatedly. Were we really dining at picnic tables in the middle of a park, or at one of the top restaurants in town! As Alec quickly seared the scallops in a pan on the grill, Nina plated the salsa on little white plates and had the fried parsnips ready for the final garnishing. A perfectly seared scallop that melted in my mouth...crash-hot!

Jim and Carmen arrived with a hot basket of Green Lip Mussel Fritters and Kiwi & Tomato Salad.

We were all fascinated how the lovely grape tomatoes and kiwi complemented each other in this simple, summery salad. Carmen said she used about ten kiwis, peeled and sliced; about thirty cherry tomatoes, halved; about two tablespoons of finely chopped parsley; and a splash of Temecula Olive Oil Company Citrus Reserve Olive Oil.

For her Mussel Fritters, Carmen started with the Chowhound forum, here, and adapted her own recipe. Chowhound links to a recipe by Pat Churchill, Cooking Down Under in that forum, and I am so tempted to try Emeril's Smoked Mussel Fritters with Roasted Red Pepper Aioli!

Pam and Brad tossed together two outstanding summer salads. Pammy's Kiwi and Kumara Chippie Salad...

And Bradley's Pear and Gorgonzola Salad, inspired by Andrea's recipe at So D'lish, New Zealand's food blog website. 

Sparks, still trying to figure how to convert her unused kitchen into a day spa for Riley, elicited some crikey dick with authentic New Zealand Meat Pies, homemade by Aunty Devi's Meat Pies! Aunty Devi personally made the drive to the island to deliver a few dozen Steak & Cheese and Chicken pies from her Escondido kitchen. They were quite nice.

Nina's freshly baked Bran Date Muffins, a recipe shared by Linette at Plum Tree Cottage in New Zealand, and Spinach and Feta Muffins, adapted from this recipe, were both awesome.  Several Bran Date Muffins disappeared as take-aways for breakfast the next morning.

For pudding, I presented my various Pavlovas from the Daring Bakers' Challenge...Chocolate Pavlova with Whipped Cream and Brandied Cherries

And a more traditional Pavlova with Passionfruit-Orange Cream and fresh kiwi, mango and blueberries... Recipes and additional photos are in my previous blog post, Dancing in New Zealand with a Slice of Pavlova.

Finally, as promised, here is the recipe for John's Lamb Brochettes...

Lamb Brochettes with Mint Pesto
Makes 30 brochettes

2 1/2 pounds boneless leg of lamb
2 Tbsp lemon juice (about 1/2 lemon)
3 large garlic cloves, crushed
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp ground black pepper
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 Tbsp chopped mint
8 ounces pancetta, thinly sliced, or bacon* (about 15 slices)
2 cups mint pesto (jarred or homemade)


Cut the lamb into 3/4-inch cubes. Combine the lemon juice, garlic, salt, and pepper in a large bowl and whisk until blended. Add the oil and mint.

Toss the lamb in the mixture to coat well, cover, and marinate in the refrigerator, tossing occasionally, at least 4 hours.

Soak thirty 6-inch bamboo skewers in water for 30 minutes to prevent burning. Thread 2 pieces of lamb and 1/2 slice of pancetta onto each skewer; arrange on a sheet pan.

Roast the brochettes in a preheated 450 degree F oven until the lamb is nicely browned outside, yet still pink and juicy inside, 8 to 12 minutes.

Serve the brochettes with mint pesto sauce for dipping.

Note: If using bacon rather than pancetta, blanch it in a large saucepan of slowly simmering water for 5 minutes. The bacon will become opaque and firm. Drain and pat dry before using.

***John used bacon and grilled the brochettes at the park.

G'day mates, I'm buggered!


Sunday, June 27, 2010

Dancing in New Zealand with a Slice of Pavlova

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany: Exceptional Cookies, Cakes, and Confections for Everyone by Francois Payard.

Pavlova is a meringue-based cake with a crispy crust and soft, light, marshmallow inner. The dessert is believed to have been created to honor ballet dancer Ánna Pávlova, and her world tour performances in Australia and New Zealand, in the 1920s.

Pavlova is traditionally decorated with a topping of whipped cream and fresh fruit, such as strawberries, kiwifruit, passionfruit, banana and/or berries, but this dessert welcomes creativity in its creation. In fact, The Pavlova Story: A Slice of New Zealand's Culinary History, by Helen Leach, is a compilation of 667 pavlova recipes from more than 300 sources!  This is what makes Pavlova the ultimate Daring Bakers' Challenge!  Like a mob of Kaimanawa wild horses, the Daring Bakers galloped away with reckless abandon!

While vacationing at Triple Creek Ranch, earlier this month (the horses above are really Triple Creek Ranch's herd), I was thrilled to see Berry Pavlova on the menu one evening. Knowing I would be making Pavlova for the Daring Bakers' Challenge when I returned home, I took a photo for inspiration.  Of course, the plating by Triple Creek's pastry chef was nothing less than stunning, with fresh berries, crème anglaise, raspberry sorbet, a tuille, and tiny puddles of mint syrup!

I did my research, and reviewed several Pavlova recipes, before choosing one by from Saveur, combining the best elements of versions by Robyn Hedges and Pip Hoar, two New Zealand bakers featured in Dave Lieberman's homage to the dessert, "Light Fantastic" (Saveur, August/September 2009).  Although the DB Challenge recipe sounded very decadent, I was persuaded to try the lighter, more traditional Pavlova.  I adapted Saveur's recipe slightly, by using passionfruit-orange flavored yogurt from Australia, rather than plain, and my own selection of fresh fruits.

Adapted from Saveur

Lemon Curd
1/2 cup sugar
1 egg
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbsp. unsalted butter, cubed, and chilled

1⁄4 cup cornstarch
1 tbsp. distilled white vinegar
1 tbsp. vanilla extract
2 1/2 cups sugar
8 egg whites, room-temperature

Whipped Topping
1 cup heavy cream, chilled
1⁄2 cup chilled passionfruit-orange yogurt

Garnish with assorted fruit of your choice, such as:
Kiwifruit, peeled and sliced
Mango, peeled and sliced

1. Make lemon curd: In a small saucepan over medium heat, whisk together 1⁄2 cup of the sugar, 1 egg, and the juice and zest of the lemon; cook, whisking constantly, until thickened, 8–10 minutes. Remove pan from heat and whisk in unsalted butter, letting each cube incorporate before adding the next. Strain curd through a fine sieve set over a small bowl; press plastic wrap against the surface of curd and refrigerate until well chilled.

2. Make meringue: Heat oven to 350°. In a small bowl, stir together cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract; set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat remaining 2 1⁄2 cups of sugar and egg whites on low speed until combined. Increase speed to medium-high and beat until soft peaks form. Add cornstarch mixture to egg whites; continue beating until very stiff and glossy peaks form, about 5 more minutes.

3. Place a 9" round cake pan in the center of a 13" x 18" sheet of parchment paper and use a pencil to trace a circle around the outside of the pan. Flip the sheet of parchment paper and transfer it to a baking sheet so that the marked side is face down. Transfer meringue to the center of parchment paper.

4. Using a rubber spatula, shape it into a 9" disk by making the meringue conform to the circular outline; smooth top and sides with rubber spatula.

Transfer meringue to the oven and reduce oven temperature to 215°.  Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes. Turn off oven and let meringue sit until cooled, 3–4 hours. Gently peel parchment paper from the meringue and, using 2 metal spatulas, transfer meringue to a cake stand. (*The key to a successful pavlova is patience: allow the meringue to cool completely before transferring it to the plate or cake stand. You'll prevent any crumbling that can occur when the process is rushed).

**I learned step #4 the hard way; although I did let the meringue cool completely for 3 hours in the oven, without any peeking, it stuck pretty well to the silpat and I had a hard time transferring it to a plate.  However, underneath that hard shell is a beautiful marshmallowy center, and the cracks are covered by the layer of whipped cream.

Round Two... two smaller pavlovas so they are easier to move! I did leave these in the oven overnight to rest and then very gently used a rubber spatula to loosen and move them to my serving platters.

5. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, beat heavy cream and yogurt on medium-high speed until stiff peaks form. Pour the whipped cream mixture onto the cooled meringue and spread evenly over meringue's top using a rubber spatula.

6. Decorate the top of the pavlova with fresh fruit. Remove the reserved lemon curd from the refrigerator and stir vigorously; drizzle the curd over the pavlova, reserving a few tablespoons for individual servings. Cut the pavlova into slices and serve immediately with lemon curd.

I tried a slight variation of the Daring Bakers' Chocolate Pavlova, by halving the above recipe and adding 3 tablespoons of cocoa powder to the meringue ingredients. I used a pastry bag with a large round tip and piped out eight Mini Chocolate Pavlovas.  I topped these with whipped cream and brandied cherries.

The Daring Bakers' Chocolate Meringue with Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse, and Mascarpone Cream recipe can be found here.

My next post will feature our Concert in the Park Culinary Challenge of the week, New Zealand cuisine, inspired by this month's Daring Bakers' Challenge, where my Pavlovas made their debut, alongside a gourmet picnic of New Zealand lamb, Meat Pies, Green Lip Mussels, Scallops, bread, muffins, and Kiwi-inspired salads and relishes.

Concert in the Park Piss-Up, a New Zealand Food & Wine Extravagna post is up!


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

The Glorious Clark House on Hayden Lake, Idaho

John and I recently returned from Idaho and Montana. We flew into Spokane, WA so that we could rent a car and drive through Coeur d'Alene and Sand Point, ID on our way to Triple Creek Ranch, MT. On the way back to the airport, we drove along Flathead Lake, into Glacier National Park, and stayed a night in Whitefish, MT. In this post, I want to share our brief stay at The Clark House on Hayden Lake.

F. Lewis Clark, born June 21, 1861 in Bangor, Maine, was an American industrialist. In 1884, he established the largest flouring mill in the Pacific Northwest, C. O. Mill and Elevator.  He was also a founder of the America Cup race. In 1910, Clark constructed a mansion on Hayden Lake, Idaho as a private summer home. The "Honeysuckle Lodge" was the most expensive home in Idaho at the time. In 1914, Clark left on a business trip to Santa Barbara, California, mysteriously disappeared and was never heard from again. According to a New York Times' article published January 18, 1914, he was 'believed by police to have committed suicide by jumping from a pier' in Santa Barbara. Clark’s wife, Winifred, struggled to preserve the fortune, but in 1922 the bank took possession of all her holdings, including the mansion.

Thereafter, The Honeysuckle Lodge was home to various church groups, a boys home, the U.S. Navy, a resort, and a restaurant. Eventually, the property was abandoned. Vandals and thieves raped and pillaged the property, and the once opulent villa was scheduled to be used as a burn exercise for the County Fire Department.

Thankfully, Mark Danner discovered the property and brought his father, Monty, to Hayden Lake to see the old mansion. Monty Danner was in the process of retiring and wanted to leave the hustle and bustle of San Francisco in search of the perfect Bed and Breakfast. When Monty first laid eyes on this three story shell of a building with no windows or doors, banisters gone, burned wood floors, and plumbing ripped out of the walls, he thought his son had lost it. Mark suggested they go into town, pick up a couple sandwiches and some wine, and come back and picnic on the lawn. As they opened the second bottle of wine, Monty realized the place had potential.

In November 1989, Monty and his partner rescued the home and lovingly restored the 15,000 square foot mansion to its original glory. Today, The Clark House on Hayden Lake is one of the most elegantly restored historic homes in North Idaho, operating as a magnificent country inn, bed and breakfast, and restaurant. It's just 7 miles North of Couer d' Alene, and rests on 12 stunning acres of lake view property, adorned with rolling lawns, gardens, courtyards, Italian moss-covered stone walls, and towering pines.

John and I had the privilege of experiencing The Clark House, and the luxury of a bygone time, the first night of our recent Idaho and Montana trip. We were entertained, wined and dined by Mark, Monte’s son and Clark House’s gracious host. Mark gave us a full tour as he enthusiastically shared the history of the mansion. I could feel his passion as he spoke about his love for Clark House. He introduced us to Kevin, the executive chef, and we all chatted in the kitchen while Kevin prepared dinner for the evening. As guests of the Clark House, we were offered a three-course dinner, served by candlelight in one of the cozy private dining rooms. Gourmet three or six-course dinners are also offered to public guests with reservations.

Chef Kevin's Clark House Avgolemono was one of the most light and refreshing soups I've tasted (he gladly shared his recipe, and it appears at the bottom of this post)

Alaskan Salmon with Lemon Caper Sauce, and roasted vegetables...

Decadent Chocolate Mousse Cake...

After savoring Kevin's Chocolate Mousse Cake, we retired upstairs to the Hayden Lake Suite, eased into the oversized soaking tub, and then crawled into our cushy bed as the sound of soft rain lulled us to sleep.

One of the upstairs wings with exquisite hand-painted murals...

The next morning, we returned to our private dining room for breakfast before departing on a scenic drive to our second destination, Triple Creek Ranch, MT.

This dining room once served as Mr. Clark's office...

Granola, yogurt and fresh berries...

Fluffy scrambled eggs and sausage...

Thank you, Mark and Kevin, for such a lovely evening and morning. We will definitely return in the future!

Clark House Avgolemono
(Greek Lemon Chicken Soup)
Recipe courtesy of Clark House Executive Chef Kevin Kneisly


1/2 lb. boneless chicken breast
2 Tablespoons each butter and olive oil
1 cup long grain rice
1 cup fresh lemon juice
1 large sweet onion
10 cups strong chicken stock
12 egg yolks
Salt and pepper to taste
Thinly sliced lemon and snipped scallions for garnish


Dice chicken and onion, and saute in butter and oil until soft;
Add chicken stock and rice and bring to a boil;
Turn heat down, cover, and simmer 20 minutes, until rice is just tender;
Meanwhile, in a large bowl, whisk egg yolks and lemon juice together;
When rice is done, remove soup from heat and whisk 4 cups of broth into the egg/lemon mixture (to temper the yolks) and add this back into the soup pot;
Return soup to medium heat and simmer, stirring constantly, until soup is steaming.
Do not allow soup to boil, or eggs will curdle;
Add salt and pepper to taste, and serve in warm bowls with lemon slices and scallions.
This soup is also nice served chilled.


Monday, June 21, 2010

The Exotic Cuisine of Thailand, featuring Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce

Our Coronado Concert in the Park Culinary Challenges continued last evening with The Exotic Cuisine of Thailand. Thai cuisine places emphasis on lightly-prepared dishes with strong aromatic components, and is known for its balance of the five fundamental taste senses in each dish or the overall meal: hot (spicy), sour, sweet, salty, and (optional) bitter.  A Thai family meal normally consists of rice, paired with several dishes designed to form a harmonious contrast of ingredients and ways of preparation. The dishes are all served at the same time.

I’ve said this before, but I find it amazing how our group always prepares such a harmonious offering of drinks, appetizers, main courses, and desserts. We've talked about trying to coordinate dishes and courses, but it's more fun being surprised as the dishes are unveiled on the picnic table.

Last night, our Thai spread featured a glorious balance of cocktails, wine, Spicy Roasted Coconut Cashews, Grilled Duck and Red Curry, Pineapple Fried Rice with Prawns, Thai Fish Cakes with Cucumber Salad, Waterfall Beef, Pork Satay, and Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Sauce.

Alec & Nina started us off with a giant My Thai cocktail, made with light and dark rums, Disaronno Amaretto, Grand Marnier, Triple Sec, and pineapple and orange juices.  We sipped our cocktails and nibbled on John's spicy Roasted Coconut Cashew Nuts.

We had two grills going, one for my duck breasts and the other for Jim and Carmen's Pork Satay. I've been salivating at duck recipes for quite some time, and used this opportunity for Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce.  I served the sliced duck on grilled Sweet Potato Rafts, a presentation inspired by a photograph in Big Small Plates (my Grilled Duck with Red Curry recipe appears at the end of this post).

A few slices of grilled sweet potato...

Followed by a few slices of grilled duck,  and a spoonful of red curry over the top...

Plating and photographing in the park has its challenges, but we often have curious visitors standing on the sidelines...

Olivia stepped in as Jim's sous chef and helped grill the pork satay...

Kai presented two dishes, Thai Fish Cakes with a Cucumber Salad, and Waterfall Beef.  One of my inspirational bloggers, Jen at Use Real Butter, just posted a beautiful Thai Cucumber Salad recipe, here.

Mom, tempted by Elissa's Chocolate Marble Cheesecake with Coconut, Lemongrass and Kaffir Lime, ultimately opted for Pineapple Fried Rice with Chicken and Prawns, a signature dish of Thailand.  With inspiration from Almost Bourdain's recipe and presentation in a beautiful pineapple boat, Mom made her own version with the addition of red bell peppers, green onions, and cashews.

For dessert, Carmen served Grilled Pineapple with Coconut Dipping Sauce.

Alec & Nina's Sonoma, and Kai & Hill's Olivia - our precious and charming girly-girls...

Olivia may be growing up a bit too fast, but she's learning to appreciate fine food and wine at a young age...now promoted from Jim's sous chef to our after-dinner wine connoisseur ;-)

A handsome sailor, from the Navy Southwest Band, belted out America the Beautiful....

We closed down Spreckels Park, and enjoyed every last drop of daylight...and Dean's wine!

John and I devoured the leftover Duck with Red Curry for dinner tonight. We added some roasted chicken, sweet potatoes, onions, red bell peppers, and peas, and served it over rice. On the spice scale, this is a 7/10. You can reduce the curry paste to 2 tablespoons if you're a bit timid. We like it hot, baby!

Grilled Duck with Red Curry Sauce
Adapted from Williams Sonoma
Serves 6


1 garlic clove, minced
1 Tbs. granulated sugar
1 Tbs. rice wine or dry sherry
2 tsp. light soy sauce
1 1/2 tsp. Asian sesame oil
1 tsp. dark soy sauce
1 tsp. peeled and minced fresh ginger
1/2 tsp. Chinese five-spice powder
1/2 tsp. salt, plus salt, to taste
6 duck breast halves, each 4 to 6 oz.
2 cans (each 13 1/2 fl. oz.) unsweetened coconut milk
2 to 3 Tbs. Thai red curry paste
1 to 2 Tbs. Thai fish sauce
1 Tbs. palm sugar or dark brown sugar
8 fresh or frozen kaffir lime leaves
4 red chilies, seeded and sliced
1 cup diced fresh pineapple
1/2 cup fresh Thai basil or sweet basil leaves, plus leaves for garnish
Freshly ground pepper, to taste


In a large glass bowl, combine the garlic, granulated sugar, rice wine, light soy sauce, sesame oil, dark soy sauce, ginger, five-spice powder and 1/2 tsp. salt. Using a fork, prick the duck skin at 1-inch intervals. Add the duck to the bowl and turn to coat evenly, rubbing the marinade on both sides of the breast halves. Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours.

Meanwhile, open the cans of coconut milk without shaking them. Spoon the thick layer of cream on top into a bowl. In a wok over medium-high heat, combine 1/2 cup of the cream and the red curry paste and cook, stirring frequently, until the cream is aromatic and beads of oil float on top, about 3 minutes. Add the fish sauce, palm sugar, lime leaves, chilies and the remaining coconut cream and milk. Cook, stirring occasionally, until heated through, about 5 minutes. Stir in the pineapple and 1/2 cup basil leaves. Remove from the heat and keep warm while grilling the duck.

Prepare charcoal or gas grill.  When medium-hot, remove the duck from the marinade, discarding the marinade, and place directly on the grill rack, skin side down. Grill until the fat is rendered from the skin and the skin is crisp, about 8 minutes. Turn and grill until the duck is fully cooked and, when pressed, feels firm to the touch on the other side, 3 to 5 minutes (internal temperature of 165 degrees F).  Cut the duck across the grain into slices 1/4 inch thick.

To serve, arrange one sliced duck breast half on each plate. Spoon the curry sauce over the top and garnish with the basil leaves.