Tag Archives: recipe

F&W: Dine & Dash

One minute we were dining alfresco. The next, I was alone-o.

That’s what happens when your friends dine & dash on you on a Fire & Wine night.

(For those of you who are new, Fire & Wine is our weekly girls’ night cooking event wherein I try to create something new without burning down the kitchen. )

To be fair, everyone had a legitimate reason to cut out early this week.  And they told me in advance. 

What I loved about this week’s Fire & Wine creation is that the fire risk was very low. In fact, had I managed to start a kitchen fire on this dish, we would probably have to ban me from ever stepping a toe in any kitchen again.

And that would be a sad thing.

Kind of like when your friends leave you after dinner.

I kid. I kid.

Back to the meal. I decided to try my hand at Salade Niçoise. I love nicoise salad. I’m pretty sure I first tried it in Germany when my folks  lived there. It’s really much more than a salad. It’s quite the meal. And it’s nice and refreshing in the summer.

I served it family style, but you could plate it in individual portions.

I started looking in some of my cookbooks , but then I saw Elise at Simply Recipes had one. It was kind of over then, because if Elise has tried it, then it’s going to work and be delicious. It’s just that simple.

So I went with the Simply Recipes Nicoise Salad. And it was perfect. The only modification I made was a little extra Dijon in the dressing because I love Dijon. Also, do to a unfortunate incident, I only had five eggs.

But wait! You think I’m done yet?

In a unprecedented Fire & Wine occurence, I made dessert!

The perfect dessert for a summer meal. I’m pretty sure it will be a regular in future Quirky household meals.

Behold: raspberry sherbet.

 Sherbet is something I’d never considered making because I don’t have any of that high fangled ice cream machinery.

This is not a statement of complaint. I don’t have room for any more gadgets, gizmos or processors in my kitchen.

But when I was searching for a salad recipe, I found myself reading one of my first cookbooks. Remember Anne from the bra party? (Don’t forget- special custom bra offer for Queen of Quirky readers!) Years ago, her mom introduced my mom to this fantastic cookbook gem out of Kansas City.

Image courtesy of Amazon.com where you can still buy it used

It’s called Beyond Parsley and it was published in 1984 by the Junior League of Kansas City. I call it a cookbook gem because it is really rather remarkable – both in the recipes and the photography.

When I got married the first time, Anne’s mom gave me my own copy of the book. It’s moved all over the country with me, but rarely been used. I wasn’t much of a cook in my first marriage. (My ex-husband would snort if he read that. But seriously. He was a picky pants and cooking just wasn’t fun with him. Mr. Quirky loves to try my food — even foods he historically hasn’t liked. He encourages me all the time, even in my mistakes. He’s kind of Mr. Amazing Quirky.)

So the cookbook was really just waiting for me to find myself in the kitchen. I’m so glad I did.

I’m also glad I tried the raspberry sherbet recipe. I’m even more glad I doubled it. You are going to freak out when you see how easy it is.

Ingredients

1 10 oz bag frozen raspberries, thawed

1 scant cup sugar (I love saying “scant cup.” My recipes never sound so fancy.)

1 cup of sour cream (I used light)

1/2 tsp of vanilla

Directions

Mash berries (I used a potato masher.) Combine ingredients. Stir well. Freeze.

You should really make this for your Fourth of July gathering. But be sure to double it because this only serves four, and I don’t know what kind of portion size they were  thinking because my doubled recipe served five of us and there isn’t very much left.

Enjoy and keep it quirky this weekend!

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Funky little funghi quesadillas

The supporting star award at my Bras, Booze & Bites party goes to these guys.

Mini mushroom, cilantro & goat cheese quesadillas. So simple, so delicious and so adorable. I love anything “mini.” Mini to me says, “please, eat more of me because I’m small and I don’t count.” What’s not to love about that?

If you’d like to create  these bite-size treats for your next party, here’s what you’ll need:

1 10 count package of taco-sized tortillas

3 Tablespoons butter (divided)

2 cloves garlic minced

2 cartons of diced button mushrooms

1 cup of cilantro leaves

1 small log of goat cheese

2 cups of Monterrey jack

Salt & pepper to taste

To assemble them:

Preheat oven to 400.

Take a cup and press 2-3 circles into your tortillas. Then trace with a knife to cut out the mini tortillas. If you are clever, figure out what to do with the scraps of tortilla. I was thinking maybe a casserole  or something, but sadly, mine just went in the trash.

Chop the sliced mushrooms roughly. I used a chopper, but made sure I didn’t get the pieces too small. You want a bit of texture to the quesadillas.

Chop the cilantro leaves.

Heat 1  Tablespoon of butter in the pan and add the garlic. Heat until frangrant then add the mushroom bits and cilantro.

Cook until tender and just browned.

Salt and pepper to taste. Turn off heat.

Mix in the goat cheese until well combined and then transfer to a mixing bowl and combine with the jack cheese.

Melt the remaining butter (You probably won’t use it all. I didn’t.) Spray a large baking sheet with no-stick spray. Place a batch of the mini tortillas on the baking sheet (spaced out.)  Take a spoonfull (smallish) of the mushroom cheese mix and place in tortillas and fold over, pressing to secure. Be careful not to over-fill. Or they will ooze too much.

Brush the tops of them with butter.

Bake for 3-4 minutes, or until golden brown and then flip. You can brush the other side with butter too, but I was in a hurry and didn’t. Cook on other side for about 2-3 minutes, or until golden brown.

This made about 30 mini quesadillas.  I had to cook them in 3 batches.

You might want to have a fly swatter handy to slap your guests’ hands because they are going to start grabbing these fast once they taste them.

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Fire & Wine: On a diet, but not diet food

I’m so over diet food.

Ok, sure I just wolfed down a burrito made of meatless meat, but I didn’t consider it “cooking.” It was just something I ate for dinner so that I could justify the tater tots I stole off my friend, Jimmy’s plate at lunch. But when it comes to food and real cooking, I don’t think you have to sacrifice to eat well. And I decided to prove it this week.

When I saw Elise at Simply Recipes Sea Scallops with Asparagus Sauce, I knew it would be the perfect Fire & Wine on-a-diet meal. Served with crusty whole wheat bread and a fresh  salad, it satisfied every craving — creamy, rich, decadent, crunchy, savory and tangy (salad dressing with fresh lemon.)

But the key to this dish is finding good scallops. Now here in the Midwest, that’s easier said than done. But I knew I could count on my friends at Hen House Market to find some good ones.

So I tweeted http://twitter.com/henhousemarket and within a few hours, I was deciding between U10 (10 scallops per pound) and U12 (12scallops per pound.) I went with the larger variety, because larger is always better.

[Insert “That’s What She Said” joke here.]

But seriously, just look at these scallops.

Another secret: my fabulous cast iron skillet. Getting it hot enough to create a crunchy sear gave these even more texture and body.

(Wow, that burrito I just ate seems really lame right now.)

I’m sorry, but I just had to throw in another picture of the scallops.

So the final secret is not crowding the pan. I cooked these in two batches and we each had three (and trust me, that was plenty.)

We had an extra special guest this week, so there were four of us total.

Now, I will admit, the asparagus sauce is very….green.

I think as a culture we are a little leery of green mushy foods.

But I know that anything Elise makes can’t be anything short of awesome.  But I did add a clove of garlic to it, because I love garlic and I just thought it would enhance the sauce.

I also subtracted a tablespoon of butter. So we could have a glass of wine with it. (duh.)

But that sauce was fantastic. And the crusty bread was put to use as a vessel for the sauce. All in all, a fantastic meal. Special thanks to DD Girl for footing the bill this time. She decided Fire & Wine would be her treat. I think it was a wise investment…

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Worth-the-wait duck ragu

Two melt downs and several glasses of wine later, I produced this culinary masterpiece. My Italian grandfather would have been so proud. But getting here was not short of sweat and tears.

On Wednesday night, I had stage one of my pre duck ragu melt down.

It was over the parpardelle pasta. In my mind there was no other pasta worthy of  this savory duckatent (sorry) dish. I really, really wanted to make my own. But without a pasta press, the odds of me getting more of a thick, dumpling-like noodle were far more likely than me nailing pasta  on my first run. I owed the duck confit so much more than lumpy starchy noodles, don’t you think? I shopped pasta press attachments for my mixer, but just couldn’t commit didn’t want to spend $100 on my first try at pasta.

Go ahead. Call me a pasta pansy. I deserve it.

Over martinis (Martini Wednesday), DD Girl helped convince me not to have a nervous breakdown over not making the pasta, and it would be okay if I sacrificed cooking pride for quality noodles. (Just this once, I said.) So a call was placed to my favorite Italian market. If you can’t make it yourself, Cupini’s can make it for you. Only parpardelle isn’t a pasta they keep in their fresh supply. It has to be pre-ordered.  And they prefer 48-72 hours warning. Thinking that my duck ragu was to be made on Thursday, I asked if just this once I could pick up my pasta in 24 hours later.

It took a bit of sweet talking (they did my rehearsal dinner and I have a connection to a former store manager) but Cupini’s saved my pasta crisis and promised to have two pounds of fresh parpardelle by 5:10 on Thursday evening.

But personal events (crisis #2) led me to cancel Fire & Wine night on Thursday and reschedule for Friday night. Which was okay because DD Girl and I had already planned for a girls’ night on Friday night. It also gave me more time to confit the duck in advance so that the night of the dinner, I could focus on the ragu.

For a week, I combed recipes for duck ragu. But I couldn’t find one that used duck confit. So I did some combining and came up with….well, I’m not going to hold back – perfection, really.

Here’s how it came together:

1 carrot, 1 celery stalk, and 1 onion (all finely diced) went into my dutch oven along with two tablespoons of duck fat from the night before.

After the veggies were softened, I added four cloves of garlic for about 30 seconds before deglazing with 1/2 cup of red wine (Malbec, because it was what i was drinking.) I let that reduce for a few minutes before adding a large can of whole peeled tomatoes, finely diced, 1 cup of chicken stock and two tablespoons of tomato paste. Also, a pinch of salt and pepper.

Then I turned the heat to low and put the lid on to let the flavors combine.

After about 30 minutes, I added most of the tomato juice from the can of tomatoes, a little more broth (maybe half a cup) and a tablespoon each of dried thyme and oregano.

30 minutes later, I diced up all my duck meat (and maybe gave Gertie a nibble.) Into the dutch oven it went.

Can I pause for a minute and tell you how much I love duck meat? I could eat it every day. Also, did you notice? I finally got a dutch oven! Thank you in-laws!

I waited for as close to 30 minutes as I could, but my house was smelling really good and I couldn’t wait to get the pasta in.

Delicious pasta. You are my friend.

I probably should have withheld a little. Two pounds is quite a bit of pasta, but I used up every ounce of my self-control the night before and so all the pasta went into the salted boiling water.

(And now that I’ve been enjoying leftovers for two days straight, I’m kind of glad I didn’t hold back.)

After a quick 2 minute swim in the boiling water (a little longer because I was frantically trying to locate my tongs, which I had set down absent mindedly) I combined the pasta and a bit of its salty water with my sauce.

I wish this blog had taste-o-net.

Because I’m not sure you truly get how good this was.

I think DD Girl summed it up pretty well…

Sitting outside on the porch, with several bottles of wine, lots of laughter, good friends, fantastic food. I live well.

I may have had a great big bowl of leftovers for breakfast at 9 a.m. Saturday morning. I couldn’t wait for lunch.

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Self-control

I want you to know the Quirky family exhibited insane amounts of self-control last night.

Gertie, Mr. Quirky and I were all waiting with little pockets of drool forming in the corners of our mouths as the savory aroma of the melting duck fat wafted through our home.

Gertie sat by her bowl for a while, just in case any of the delicious meat might show up.

Mr. Quirky grabbed a paper towel, just in case a juicy duck leg was placed in front of him. (We’re not fancy enough to keep official napkins in the house. The words napkin and paper towel are interchangeable in my book.)

I paced. I fussed. I read. I stuffed my face with Chinese food. Anything to keep my mind off the crisply duck skin sizzling in my oven. (But I didn’t do any laundry. Note this fact.)

Finally, the legs were released from captivity.  

I carefully drained the precious nectar of duck fat into a container. Then I waited. Waited because my recipe said to. Waited because I knew nothing else to do.

Finally, it was time.

But what happened next shocked even me.

I carefully shredded the meat into a container and put the container in the fridge.

(There may have been a few nibbles here and there, a drop in Gertie’s bowl and a few pieces of crispy skin and savory meat taken to Mr. Quirky.)

But for the most part, the delicious duck meat was put away.

For what?

To be continued…

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Queen of Quirky’s Philly Stuffed Quackers

Fire & Wine night this week was quacksolutely fabulous.

I took on my second Real Women of Philadelphia challenge with the support of DD Girl, Roomie and friends Paul and Andy, and of course my #1 producer, Mr. Quirky. (Who says I need to take direction better…)

Now I know friends Paul and Andy were really invited b/c Roomie forgot it was Fire & Wine night and she had dinner prior to coming, so we had more duck to go around. And that’s ok. But now that we’ve opened the vault into our top secret Fire & Wine night activities, I fear they are going to want to come weekly.

Special thanks to my friends at Hen House Market who ordered two whole duck breasts for me. If you are ever looking for specialty meats or seafood, Hen House is fabulous to work with. (They also were the source of my lobsters – RIP.) And DD Girl who has eaten more duck in her life than I have raved about how delicous and fresh tasting our duck was.

Next week we plan to confit our duck legs (which are waiting in my freezer) and do something similar to Elise’s pasta dish. Stay tuned!

Anyhow, the video has been submitted, the duck breasts were demolished and several bottles of wine were killed on the front porch. Good times. 

(Note, Gertie made her national debut in this video – she pops in toward the end to see what’s going on and why her kitchen smells so good. Can you blame her? She’s a bird dog, afterall.)

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The best non-bagel and lox salmon and cream cheese combo you’ll ever have

There is this little itty bitty ($25,ooo prize) cooking contest going on now over in Philadelphia land. (The cream cheese, not the city.) I decided to take a stab at it. The concept is, you have to submit a recipe in a selected category (last week it was side dish) using cream cheese.

I couldn’t think of anything more delicious than smoked salmon and cream cheese risotto. I mean, come on! It has it all. Creamy risotto, velvety cream cheese and savory smoked salmon and capers. Not only do you have to create a recipe, you have to film yourself making it.

Thanks to Mr. Quirky, we pulled off our first non-screaming in the kitchen Queen of Quirky cooking video.

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