Wednesday, June 10, 2009

Dinner On a House Boat

Last weekend was a very cool weekend.  

Some friends that I have catered for in the past, asked me to do another meal for them last weekend.  They were having an annual meeting with their board of directors and each year they like to treat them to a real nice meal.  It has been my honor to be the one to make that meal for them.  And as an added bonus, this meal was on the nicest, biggest houseboat that I have ever been on.  And I've snuck a few peeks at some houseboats on Norris Lake in TN.  None of them held a candle to this one.

The meal is different than what I usually do, because it is not a buffet.  We serve the meal with four courses.  Appetizer, salad, main, and dessert.  Is this as fancy as it could be?  No, but it is still a lot of food, and a good time.  

For the appetizers I served two items.  One was a kalamata olive, roasted red pepper dish.  I have described it here before.  (check my last dinner party blog)  I also made a scallop dish with mushrooms and asparagus.  It was delicious.  I will put the recipe on in the future.  

For the salad we did a very simple Caesar salad.  Nothing fancy, but good.  

For the main course, I offered New York Strip, or Salmon.  Both grilled.  For unbelievable Salmon I use Lemon zest, olive oil and Canadian Steak seasoning.  
First, rub a little olive oil onto your salmon filet.  Next, take the zest of a lemon and rub it into the meat as well, trying to distribute it evenly.  Finally, sprinkle a little canadian steak seasoning and you are good to go.  Grill until it is just cooked.  Do not overcook, or you might as well eat canned salmon.
Along with the steak or salmon, I served Roasted New Potatoes, with roasted garlic aioli,  and green beans with tomato concasse.  Also, I have talked about these sides before.  My friends had eaten them before, so they were fine with having them for this meal also.  You could say they were looking forward to the aioli.  

Finally for the dessert.  Chocolate Ganache Tart.  It was amazing, and I am going to link the recipe for you.  It is very easy.  You will need a tart pan and some time, but it is well worth it.


Check it out, it is great.

Unfortunately, I did not have the camera to take pictures.  I thought that my wife had it, but it turns out we just can't find it.  

I hope you try the tart, and I want to say thanks to my friends for letting me do the meal.  It sounds like it is going to be very good for future business, for more meals just like this.  

What Should We Drink?

Hey everyone.  So it has really been awhile since my last post.  I apologize.  I know I shouldn't make excuses but here are some.  1)  Time (not much of it).  2)  Lack of food inspiration.  3)  Our government is doing everything they can to control our lives, in ways that no other administration has before it.  Wait that last reason isn't an excuse as to why I haven't blogged, it is just a problem.  But really, reason number two is a real problem.

As things have been getting busier, it has been hard to find new and creative things to make.  Which has translated into fewer things to write about.  But I have been searching through my brain, and I have found some things to share with you.  No recipe in this blog, but the next one will have one, and you will love it.

Anyways, a few weeks ago I did a dessert tasting at a local assisted living home.  I made the cheesecake that I have told you about in the past, it was a big hit.  But while I was there I met a couple from my town of Marion that are roasting their own coffee.  They have become a follower of this blog, and I strongly encourage you to check them out.  I am really excited because they are local.  Of course, to some of you, you have great local coffee roasters in your area as well.  But this is Marion, and it really excites me.  Also, I have to admit that I am not a black coffee drinker.  I really wish that I was but I have not found the roast that does it for me.  I am confident that this couple will be able to help me with that.  Someday soon Lynsey and I will schedule a coffee tasting with them.  How cool is that.  I have been to wine tastings, food tastings, and soon a coffee tasting.  None of that Starbucks, (we are such a great company, but not really, because we pay very little for our beans, and charge you way to much for a cup of joe, because we want you to fund our social agendas without really caring for our employees) crap.  Just good organic, locally roasted coffee.  I look forward to it.
So with that I want to say, support your local people.  If you are in a position that requires you to buy goods and services from other people, why not buy those goods or services from your neighbor.  And really, who doesn't buy stuff.  

Monday, May 4, 2009

Asian Salad

Hello all. Lynsey here. Derek hasn't updated his site in awhile, so I thought I'd write a little something about a salad we made yesterday. I was inspired to make this salad by a drug-rep lunch we had at work several months ago. I wish I could remember who catered it, because it was good! So anyway, I've been wanting to try to recreate it for a while now, and I have to say, this was pretty darn close. 
Ingredients were as such:
Mandarin oranges
Asian accents- almond slivers, rice noodles and sesame sticks
Asian ginger dressing
grilled chicken
sesame seeds

The strawberries weren't part of the original salad, but I thought it needed something extra, and I had these on hand. It mingled well with the rest of the ingredients. If you're into wasabi, I thought wasabi peas would be a good extra as well, just didn't have any on hand. Let me know what you think! (Sorry I didn't take a picture of the finished salad- but it was beautiful and delicious!)

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Make Your Grill Happy, Make it an Italian Sausage.

As it is getting warmer, my grill has been on a lot. Mostly at work it seems, but at least once or twice at home. Of course I am excited about it because the grill just does something to food that can't be done in any other way. All winter long you eat the food that you can make well indoors. But for me, usually come the second week of "too cold to stand outside weather" I am missing a good grilled burger, or steak, or fish, or brat, or anything for that matter. Yes, you CAN go to a restaurant and get a grilled item, but isn't it just better to stand next to that box of charcoal (or gas, because sometimes it's just easier) and grill your own food? I would say that the answer is yes.

So now that it is warmer and we are starting to grill we have to decide what we are going to make for the first meal of the season. I almost got the grill out for some brats one day, but then realized that they weren't brats at all, they were just glorified hot dogs that my wife inadvertently picked up from the store not realizing my disgust. They were certainly not going to be the first thing on the grill this year, they are meant for the microwave as far as I am concerned.

One day the mood hit me for a GOOD Italian Sausage. It would definitely be ok start to the grill, but it took me awhile to find one that was really tasty. I had bought a roll of sausage, it was 4 feet long I think, and cooked it for the staff. It was "ok." Then I went to one of my suppliers test kitchens and they made me one.

IT WAS AWESOME, and now I can't quit thinking about it. All of the flavors were there, and the seasoning of the sausage was right on. Plus the toppings that were with it, were just fantastic. I want another. And I am going to tell you how to do it also.

So if you haven't gotten the grill out yet, this could be a good meal to pull it out.

First, slice up some onions, and pepper. Wrap these up in some foil, with a little salt and olive oil, and set them over the heat on the grill. Start doing this a little ahead of time, as it will take a little while.

Next put your sausage on the grill to start cooking. Meanwhile take a "good" hoagie roll and butter the inside. If you can use garlic butter you will not be disappointed. Continue cooking your sausage until it is near done. Just before you take it off, toast your hoagie roll.

Now for the magic. Spread a little pizza/tomato sauce on the bun. Add the sausage, then the pepper/onion mix, and finally top it off with some mozzarella cheese, and eat away. You are going to love it.

And as far as the grill is concerned. It will be much happier knowing that you didn't throw a lousy hot dog on its grate for the first use of the year. That would be like waking up a bear from hibernation, just to give it a piece of lettuce. That bears going to be ticked.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

How bout some "Za" (man I hate when people call it that)

Man, its been awhile since my last post. I apologize that I haven't been on top of my blog. The fact is though, that when it comes to food, I just haven't been that inspired lately. It seems that as it gets warmer my attention is drawn outside and away from the kitchen, which I will admit, has been very nice.

So as I was thinking about what to write on next, I decided that I would tell you about one of my favorite things to make with the staff at work. Pizza.

Now typically if you wanted to make pizza from scratch you would have to make a dough and roll it out, and go through all of the work of making your crust from scratch. Now while I really do think that is the way to do it if you have time, sometimes you want pizza within 30 minutes and you don't want to make your own dough. And maybe the thought of eating Dominoes makes you gag, and all of the other good pizza places out there are a little more than you want to spend. Then this pizza is your solution.

First, I will say, this is a thin crust pizza. Of course, deep-dish pizza is my favorite, but I am no hater towards thin crust. And the way that this pizza is made, there is no option but thin.

Ok, take two tortillas. Yes two, and no I haven't switched the topic to tacos instead of pizza. On top of the first tortilla put a thin layer of mozzarella cheese. Lay the second tortilla on top of that one. Now top the pizza as you like. A little tomato/pizza sauce, some pepperoni, sausage, olives ANYTHING. Then finish it off with some more cheese.

Now this is where I might get a little crazy and this isn't for everyone. But here is where I put on a little BBQ sauce. Right on top of the cheese. Usually, I make is look like a spiral for artistic flair, it really gets the ladies. Then I also drizzle some extra virgin olive oil, or e.v.o.o for you Rachel Ray fans, but whatever. Also, feel free to season however you want with garlic salt or basil, italian seasoning, whatever your fancy.

Stick it in the oven at 350 and cook until the cheese is golden and you have a great made at home pizza. Perfect in about 30 minutes. And as a good family idea. Use 6 inch tortillas and let everyone make their own. The kids will love it, and they won't have to eat the stuff you like.

If you haven't ever done this and you try it, let me know how it goes. I think you will really enjoy it.

Also, I just thought of this. Lynsey (my wife) will put olive oil on a single tortilla then a layer of mozzarella and some garlic salt. This makes a good cheesy garlic "bread."

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

A different kind of hunger!

Sometimes, I will admit, that by making this a food blog I cannot always share the things that I think would be cool to share.  My wife gets to tell everyone the goings on in our family and share cool stories that everyone is interested in, and I just blog about food.  Well what if you hate food?  Or what if you don't hate food, but you just have really bad taste?  Then you probably don't read this blog.  So for this one post (and maybe some in the future as well) I am going to talk about something else.

I just finished reading Donald Millers book "Through Painted Deserts."  He is the same writer who wrote "Blue Like Jazz", and "Searching for God Knows What."  Anyways, I could not put the book down.  For one, I just love the way that he writes.  I feel like I am listening to him in a room as he is telling the story.  Second, he has a way of getting deep about his thoughts on God and spirituality that really seem to connect with me.  

It seems like that as Spring approaches, and the world outside starts coming alive again, I cannot help but look at myself, and wonder where my growth has been.  I think it is Spring time in me as well.  It has been Winter for me long enough.  Staying dormant has been to easy.  Lynsey and I have started going to a new church, and I really think that it is good for us.  (For those of you whoever had a Dave Wheeler class, it is his old church)....(to those of you who have no idea of who I am talking about...that's ok).  My job at the camp gives me all the room to grow spiritually that I could need.  In fact, we are required to spend an hour a day, a day a month, and a week a year in sabbatical, and study.  I think I will start taking advantage of that time.  I need to, not just for me, but for my family.  

For me I think it comes down to relationship.  I haven't really figured out how to have a meaningful relationship with a God that wants nothing but a relationship with me.  What I need to figure out is how I can hang out with Jesus in my garage.  He was a carpenter, and when I am in my garage I am doing carpentry.  How cool would that be?  And when we were done building whatever Lynsey wants me to build for Annabel, we would sit in lawn chairs overlooking the driveway, and maybe sip a beer together.  But not any beer, and good micro-brew in a warm glass.  And who is to say that we couldn't smoke a pipe, and blow smoke rings into the air and talk about whatever is on our mind at the time.  That is the kind of relationship that I want.  

While reading, I wished several times that I could go on a road trip and experience the same things that were talked about in this book.  That maybe if I was on a trip like that I would have the same thoughts that would lead me to a greater understanding of God, and the relationship that He wants with us.  That wouldn't be the case, I would think about stupid things like what type of food I want to make, and can I grow a few different varieties of potatoes in a garden this summer.  I always seem to find a way to push the important things out. 

All this to say that I am thankful for writers that have a way of helping me to get started heading in the right direction.  That direction is towards a real relationship.  Now if I could just figure out how to get the same message from the Bible.  I know its there.

Note:  Don Miller has some really cool things to say about our relationship with God in "Searching for God Knows What."  I think that I will read that again, also.  

Friday, February 13, 2009

Time for some Cheesecake

Well, I sort of mentioned it in my last blog, and as I eat the very last piece of the (hopefully) last cheesecake that I will make until next December (unless someone wants to buy one), I thought I would tell you how to make one.  The recipe that I use is pretty basic, but it is so so good.  I don't top mine because there is no use messing with it.  The only thing that I will put on top of it is something like a strawberry puree, or caramel.  But no pie filling or turtle topping.  Though don't get me wrong, I LOVE turtle cheesecake.

The recipe is as follows:
1 cup graham cracker crumbs
3 Tablespoons butter, melted
1 cup +3 Tablespoons sugar, divided
2.5 pounds cream cheese.  (that is five packages that you would get in the store)
3 Tablespoons flour
3 eggs
1 Tablespoon Vanilla
1 cup Sour Cream

Now I always use a 9 inch spring form pan, because that is what I have.  There are other methods that some people use but I will tell you about mine.

First, soften your cream cheese.  SERIOUSLY MAKE SURE IT IS COMPLETELY SOFT!!!!!!  This is best done on your kitchen counter.  I don't recommend the microwave, because it tends to cook it.

Second, take your pan and spray it with non-stick spray.  In a separate bowl, combine graham cracker crumbs, butter and sugar, and mix well.  Press the crust into the pan.  (As a note, I like to double my crust for a thicker crust).   Bake the crust in a 350 oven for 8-10 minutes, just until starting to brown.

While your crust is baking, start mixing all of the other ingredients.  Best done with a stand mixer, mix your cream cheese with the sugar and flour.  Next crack three eggs and put them in a bowl with the vanilla.  Add your eggs, one at a time, to your cream cheese while mixing.  Finally add your sour cream.  If you don't believe me about the sour cream, I need you to just trust me on this one.  I have a friend that thinks he hates sour cream and hates anything that has it in it.  However he loves the cheesecake and usually buys 2 or 3 from me each Christmas.

At this point if you are seeing little balls of cream cheese in your mixture it is because it was not quite softened enough.  It will not ruin the taste, but i think it may affect the way that it sets up.  I only had one cheesecake crack on me this year, and it was when I did not soften the cream cheese enough.  If I am wrong about why the little clumps of cheesecake are still there, I am sorry, and if you know the other reason that it would leave these clumps, I would like to know.  But that is my best guess.  

Anyways, once you have it all mixed, pour it into your pan with the crust.  Did, I mention that you will want something like a 3-4 inch tall pan.  This is a thick cheesecake.  

Now for the moment of truth.  Cheesecakes crack.  It seems like you can do everything right and they still crack.  Some people think they are supposed to crack, but they are not.  I make it my goal to not have any cracks in a season.  After nearly 10 cheesecakes in December and January, I only cracked one.  So here is how I keep them from cracking, as best I can.  

Fill a pan with hot water and place it in the bottom of your oven.  Since you are using a spring form pan, you cannot put the cake in the water but you can put it above, and there will still be plenty of moisture in the oven to help with the cake.

Bake the cake in a 300 degree oven for about an hour, or until the middle has set up.  The edges are usually slightly brown, I haven't figured out how to stop that.  Once the middle is set up, (and don't shake the cake too much) open the door for about a minute, to let out some heat.  Also turn your oven off.  Then shut the door again and allow the cake to cool very slowly for another hour or more.  You have to cool them very slowly.  Once they are cool enough to take out without oven mits, take it out and set it on the counter.  Let it cool some more, and then stick it in the fridge.  The counter part may be a little much, but I hate the cracks. 

Let it chill in the fridge and then cut it and eat it.  You will love it.  

If you don't want to make one, let me know, I can make one for you.  Only 15 bucks.  You will thank me for it, but it will be a great reward to make it yourself.