Thursday, March 13, 2014

Second Sunday Supper - Mardi Gras Style: Gumbo, King Cake, etc.

I can't believe I haven't been documenting our Second Sunday Supper events! That all ends now...
Last year, Salt and I made a New Year's resolution to host a dinner party at least once a month.  We even went so far as to do what Saturday Night Live did and completely own a particular day...and Second Sunday Soup was born. We switched to Second Sunday Supper when the warm weather made soups a bit less appealing and that name stuck. year and a couple months later, we are still at it. This month was Mardi Gras/New Orleans themed. We had a smaller group this month, which was fine considering we were pretty worn out.

I made a pretty traditional Creole Gumbo with sausage, shrimp and smoked oysters. Salt made fresh biscuits and blondies with M&M's to represent Mardi Gras beads.
Robyn made a very delicious Bananas Foster cake - think pineapple upside down cake, but with bananas instead of pineapple.

Carmen made a King Cake, but with no plastic baby inside. 
Next month theme is still undecided, but we're hoping for something "springy".

Monday, February 24, 2014

Playing With Your Food - Molecular Gastronomy

Ok, so it's been a while since I've posted. But it is a goal of mine to start posting more regularly this year...and since we're already two months into this year, I'd better crack on.

My Introduction to Molecular Gastronomy
Last night I went to my first Meet Up with the Mid-Michigan Food Club.  I'd been getting the emails from the club for sometime now, but never took the plunge. However the topic of Molecular Gastronomy and the promise of getting to play with some unusual ingredients was too much for me to pass up.

We learned about emulsifiers, stabilizers, and thickeners that can transform every day cooking, from perfectly smooth mac and cheese to a vinaigrette that will never break.  Here are the aforementioned special ingredients we played with:
  • Liquid Lecithin (used for emulsifying pH neutral ingredients) which we used to make Buffalo Style Wing Sauce;
  • Xanthan gum (used for emulsifying and thickening) which we used in an Italian dressing for salad;
  • Sodium citrate (used to prevent protein curdling in dairy) which was used in a very delicious Mac and Cheese with smoked Gouda and white cheddar cheeses;
  • Wondra flour (an instant thickener) used to thicken the Beef Stew; and 
  • Tapioca maltodextrin (used to create powders from high fat liquids) which we used with Nutella and served with caramelized bananas and vanilla ice cream.
I would have like to play around with the presentation of the food we made a little more, since I think part of the fun of Molecular Gastronomy is presenting your food in innovative and unusual ways.  So "El Bulli" it was not. Nonetheless it was fun to play around with new cooking methods and we got to take home some samples of the ingredients to continue our fun at home.

Here's a link to the guy who ran the demonstration and the recipes we tried out last night.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Thanksgiving Virgin

Believe or not, but tomorrow will be the first time I have ever cooked Thanksgiving dinner for the family.  Salt and I decided to stay in Lansing this holiday, partly because we didn't want to schlep down to central Indiana for one day and partly because we have some dear friends here originally from Hawaii who can't go home for the holiday. Once we decided on staying, we casually invited my parents to come up from Indianapolis.  Since they have never visited us in the two-plus years that we've been here, we figured they'd pass as usual and take the easy hour drive down to Bloomington to have turkey with my sister and her family.  Surprise!  They decided to visit us this year.

So a-cookin' we will go. We're going mostly traditional as one might expect, but with a few non-traditional items thrown in to keep everyone on their toes.

Amuse bouche
I haven't decided yet...TBD


Mussel Chowder
Caramelized onion, mushroom and goat cheese crostini

Herb Roast Turkey
Roasted Carrots and Parsnips
Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Balsamic Glaze
Candied Sweet Potatoes (from our friends M and JC)
Cranberry relish (from Grandpa and Grandma)

Greens with cranberries and goat's cheese

Pumpkin Cheesecake
Mocha Pie
Lemon Cookies
Pecan Tartlets (from Grandpa and Grandma)

Saturday, April 23, 2011

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Bruschetta

Artichoke Goat Cheese Bruschettas

Artichoke and Goat Cheese Bruschetta Recipe
Yields: 18 bruschettas

18 baguette bread slices, cut on the diagonal about 1/4-inch thick Extra-virgin olive oil
2 jars (6 to 6 1/2 ounces each) marinated artichoke hearts
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons chopped flat-leaf parsley, divided
1/2 cup grated Parmesan cheese (preferably Parmigiano-Reggiano)
Freshly-ground pepper
6 ounces creamy goat cheese , crumbled
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

Brush baguette bread slices on both sides with olive oil and place them on a baking sheet. Bake slices until just crisp, about 3 minutes a side. Remove from oven and leave on baking sheet. (Bread can be toasted 3 hours ahead; cover loosely with foil and leave at room temperature.)

Drain artichokes, reserving about 2 tablespoons of the oil they were packed in, and place them in a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Add reserved 2 tablespoons artichoke oil, 1/2 cup of the parsley, Parmesan cheese, and several grindings of black pepper. Process, pulsing machine, until mixture is a coarse puree. (Puree can be prepared 3 hours ahead; cover and leave at cool room temperature.)

When ready to serve, spread each bread slice with a mound of artichoke puree and top with some crumbled goat cheese. (Bruschetta can be assembled 1 hour ahead; leave uncovered, at room temperature.)
When ready to eat, bake until cheese is melted and bruschetta are warm, approximately 5 to 6 minutes. Sprinkle bruschetta with black pepper and some of the remaining parsley. Serve warm on a platter.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Picnic for the Planet

In about a month, we will celebrate Earth Day (April 22).  This year The Nature Conservancy is celebrating Earth Day by highlighting the food we eat.  Groups are being organized all around the world for a global Picnic for the Planet.

I am working on getting a picnic event right here in Lansing, MI.  It will be at the Lansing City Market on April 22nd from 11:30 to 1:30.  More details on the event will come shortly!  Check out the meetup group here: 
In the meantime, mark your calendars for April 22, eat locally, support restaurants that use local or sustainable foods...and go have a picnic!

I will be highlighting foods and recipes native to Michigan here on this blog, so if you have any good suggestions for me please share!

Friday, January 7, 2011

Hungarian Beef Stew

This is one of the best stews I've ever turned out beautifully.  One change that made to the recipe below was that I roasted a red pepper and used that instead of the jarred variety.  I just couldn't find jars of roasted red pepper at my grocery store.  One of the downsides of moving to a new location...not being comfortable in the places you want to be, like a grocery store. 


1 (3 1/2- to 4-pound) boneless beef chuck-eye roast , trimmed of excess fat and cut into 1 1/2-inch cubes

1/3 cup sweet paprika 
1 (12-ounce) jar roasted red peppers , drained and rinsed (about 1 cup)
2 tablespoons tomato paste
3 teaspoons white vinegar
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
4 large onions , diced small (about 6 cups)
4 large carrots , peeled and cut into 1-inch-thick rounds (about 2 cups)
1 bay leaf
1 cup beef broth , warmed
1/4 cup sour cream

Ground black pepper


1. Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 325 degrees. Sprinkle meat evenly with 1 teaspoon salt and let stand 15 minutes. Process paprika, roasted peppers, tomato paste, and 2 teaspoons vinegar in food processor until smooth, 1 to 2 minutes, scraping down sides as needed.

2. Combine oil, onions, and 1 teaspoon salt in large Dutch oven; cover and set over medium heat. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions soften but have not yet begun to brown, 8 to 10 minutes. (If onions begin to brown, reduce heat to medium-low and stir in 1 tablespoon water.)

3. Stir in paprika mixture; cook, stirring occasionally, until onions stick to bottom of pan, about 2 minutes. Add beef, carrots, and bay leaf; stir until beef is well coated. Using rubber spatula, scrape down sides of pot. Cover pot and transfer to oven. Cook until meat is almost tender and surface of liquid is ½ inch below top of meat, 2 to 21/2 hours, stirring every 30 minutes. Remove pot from oven and add enough beef broth so that surface of liquid is ¼ inch from top of meat (beef should not be fully submerged). Return covered pot to oven and continue to cook until fork slips easily in and out of beef, about 30 minutes longer.

4. Skim fat off surface; stir in remaining teaspoon vinegar and sour cream, if using. Remove bay leaf, adjust seasonings with salt and pepper, and serve.

(Source: Cooks Illustrated)

Monday, October 11, 2010

Pumpkin and Squash Soup

It seems like Salt and I were on the same page the other day...she came home with a cooking pumpkin and I bought two acorn squash (one golden, one regular). I think the fall weather inspired us both. I decided to use all three and make a soup.

Pumpkin and Acorn Squash Soup

First step: cook the pumpkin and squash

1 small cooking pumpkin and 2 acorn squash, together makes about 8 cups when cooked
4 shallots
6 garlic cloves
3 T. olive oil
1 T. salt
1 T. pepper

Preheat oven to 350. Cut the pumpkin and squash in half and scoop out the seeds. Cut a flat spot on the bottom so they'll sit flat. Line a baking sheet with foil and arrange the squash. Put some of the shallots and garlic in each half, drizzle with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper.
Roast until tender and slightly caramelized, about 1 hour.
Note: The pumpkin doesn't take quite as long as the acorn squash, so keep an eye on that.

Remove from oven and when cool enough to handle, remove the squash from the skins.
Reserve the roasted shallots and garlic with the squash.

Step 2 - Make the soup

2 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
2 shallots, diced
4 cups chicken stock
1/4 t. cayenne pepper
1/4 t. white pepper
2 t. Italian seasoning (not usually what I use, but it was on hand)
1 cup heavy cream
1/3 cup Parmesan cheese, grated

In a large pot, heat 1 tablespoon of the olive oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter over medium-high heat and when the butter is starting to foam, add the diced shallots and saute until they are starting to caramelize, about 5 to 6 minutes. Deglaze the pot with 1/2 cup of the chicken stock. Reduce the heat to medium-low and add in the reserved squash, roasted shallots and garlic and then the remaining chicken stock. Stir to combine, then puree with a handheld blender or carefully transfer to a blender to puree. The mixture will be very thick. Add in the cayenne, white pepper and the seasoning. Stir in the cream and heat slowly over medium-low heat. When the mixture comes to a slow simmer, mix again with the blender and stir in 1/4 cup of the cheese and turn heat to low. Serve with a fresh crack of black pepper, a nice drizzle of olive oil and a light sprinkle of remaining Parmesan. Ladle into bowls and serve.

We served it with open faced grilled cheese on french bread with roasted red peppers.

Great for fall weather!