dinner by peter!

We went over to our good friend Peter’s the other night for a lovely dinner!  This entry is somewhat of a guest blog entry… I’m writing it, but the dinner was all Peter’s work!  The meal centered around a Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009 that he had discovered recently.  Amazing.  It was crisp and citrus-y at the beginning, then got increasingly more herbaceous as it breathed and warmed to room temperature.

We brought along some good ole Humboldt Fog cheese (Whole Foods and Screwtop are both carrying it right now!), and it was a GREAT match.  Peter added champagne grapes for a perfect side spread.

Capture Sauvignon Blanc Les Pionniers 2009, Humboldt Fog, & Champagne Grapes

Peter cares a lot about where his food comes from, which is just awesome.  He gave us all the background details, so I will include them all!

The main dish was Chicken Pesto Pasta.  The pesto was made from scratch the day before with homegrown basil, store-bought pine nuts, shredded romano cheese, parsley, and garlic. Here it is being prepped…

Peter's Homemade Pesto (photo credit: Peter)

The chicken (from Magruder’s) was marinated overnight in lime juice, extra virgin olive oil, lemon pepper, and garlic seasoning.  Yum!  Then it was sautéed with a store-bought onion, pepper, and yellow squash from Biggs Riggs Farm in Romney, West Virginia.

Chicken Pesto Pasta

Dessert was amazing, in a jaw-dropping way!!  Peter sliced up some peaches from Toigo Orchards in Shippensburg, Pennsylvania and paired it with Trickling Springs Ice Cream from Chambersburg, Pennsylvania.  He topped it all with Trader Joe’s Vanilla Almond Granola!

By the way: I have not been to Pennsylvania many times, but I happened to have traveled to both Chambersburg and Shippensburg before!

Vanilla Ice Cream with Peaches and Granola

Thank you, Peter!  The meal was deliciously fresh, and the Sauvignon Blanc was so memorably intriguing!  What a perfect summer meal.  :)

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sauce workshop!

One of our wedding presents was a cooking class!  We were given a list of choices, and finally decided on a “sauce workshop.”  The workshop was quite an experience!  The beginning was a little funny as we all stood around waiting for everyone to arrive.  We read the handout, adjusted our aprons, and stared at each other around the room.  Once the class started, however, it was a FRENZY of action for two-and-a-half hours!  I thought about the phrase “too many cooks in the kitchen,” and marveled at how it all worked out somehow.

The class was full of characters.  Across the room, there was a Matt LeBlanc look-alike who kept confusing me when I’d see him out of the corner of my eye.  Our instructor reminded me (in looks and personality) of a (much nicer) Sue Sylvester.  She meant business, and definitely knew her stuff.

The most interesting character was our third teammate, “Stephanie.”  I put her name in quotation marks, because that is what her name tag read… and so naturally, that is what we called her for the entire class.  It wasn’t until the end that we figured out that she had replaced a Stephanie who couldn’t make it last minute, and had just decided to wear that name tag (and answer to that name) anyway!

“Stephanie” was super cool.  She was shorter than me, a grandmother, and an amazing cook.  I told her she needed to start teaching these classes herself.  “Stephanie” was very respectful of the chef teacher, but was constantly telling us everything she would do differently, as well as any additional tips she knew.  She had a quiet voice, so we would strain to catch these great bits of wisdom.  I was THIS close to asking her for her phone number after the class, because I would love to cook with her on a regular basis!

The instructor taught us about the mother sauces.  Apparently, tomato sauce is a fairly recent change to the list.  The first dish we made was Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis.  Even though it was a sauce workshop, we spent awhile making the crab cakes.  I definitely appreciated learning this, however, so no complaints from me!  Also, I actually found the same recipe we used here.

Crab Cakes with Roasted Red Pepper Coulis

Here are the other three recipes we made: Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc (maybe my favorite sauce), Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork (this pesto was awesome), and Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce (the instructor ended up demonstrating this one since we were running overtime).

Seared Salmon with Raspberry Beurre Blanc

Cilantro-Pepita Pesto with Seared Pork

Steamed Asparagus with Hollandaise Sauce

The class was great, and it really whetted my appetite (ha) to learn more about sauces.  Seriously, I had no idea that there was SO much to learn.  Here is one website I found that does a good job of explaining the basics.  I learned a lot of great cooking tidbits, like how to cook salmon in a pan, how to cook great gravy (hold back 2 degrees so that it can keep cooking off the heat, then strain it through paper towels), and the art of slowly adding ingredients.  Cooking classes are the best.  What a great present!

lazy pasta.

So we got back in town from Cape Cod Sunday night (a fun little getaway around a wedding!), and we were starving.  It’s always such a nice surprise to open up the fridge and realize you have more unspoiled food than you thought!  I love pasta dishes, because you can really throw in whatever you happen to have on hand.  (Omelets are the same way.)  I must say, pasta is sometimes my go-to carb.  If I’m ever craving carbs, and have run out of all things salty and crunchy, I generally cook some pasta!  Lather it up with some olive oil + sea salt, and I’m a happy camper.  This probably isn’t any healthier than most carb snacks, but I like it.  :)

Back to the meal.  This is nothing fancy, but here is what I used in this EASY BREEZY and QUICK-to-make pasta dish:  rotini, broccoli (cooked in the microwave, because I was tired!), goat cheese (later I realized I had some feta that might have been even more exciting!  Oh well!), and homemade pesto (which I retrieved from the freezer!  Thank you, Past Jacqueline, for thinking to make a lot of pesto!).

Pesto Pasta with Goat Cheese & Broccoli!

Like I pleaded with you last month, make your own pesto!  It’s easy, and you’ll never want to buy it again!  Yum, yum.  :)

i just can’t get enough goat cheese & pesto!

Some foods are just made for each other:  Peanut butter and jelly.  Chips and salsa.  Goat cheese and pesto!  This heavenly combo won me over in pizza form on Saturday night.  This morning, the memory was lingering so strongly that I decided my usual bagel with cream cheese just wouldn’t do.  (Sometimes when I find a food combo I love, I become a serial eater.)

First, the pizzas.  I had been intrigued by a recipe in Food & Wine Magazine’s Quick From Scratch Italian Cookbook (can also be found here).  We made some adaptations though.  Chris and I don’t like eggplant, so we used portabella mushrooms instead.  We also added some chopped onions and pizza sauce, because I don’t know about you, but when I’m really in the mood for pizza, a sauce-less one just will not make the cut.  Finally, whenever we’ve been making pizzas lately, we use garlic-and-herb pizza dough from Trader Joe’s.  It adds a lot of party to a pizza.

We are unfortunately between pizza stones right now, so we used a quiche dish (actually turns out beautiful results!) and a 9 x 9 pan.

Pizzas in the Oven

By the way, Gwyneth Paltrow’s latest newsletter was on homemade pizza.  I think the main things I took from it were: 1) Don’t use too much sauce, and 2) I really want a wood-burning oven someday.

Trader Joe’s was our source for wine again.  A Lazy Bones 2009 Cabernet Franc from Paso Robles (very cheap, as usual).  Chris has been loving Cabernet Francs lately.  Though this one was from CA, it is a very popular grape in VA wines.  He read to me from The Wine Bible that Cabernet Francs usually have pepper and violet aromas.  I’ve never noticed the violet aspect, but the pepper definitely always stands out to me.

Goat Cheese, Portabella, & Pesto Pizza with Cabernet Franc

Finally, my Memorial Day brunch meal.  It felt like such an elegant way to start a day-off.  Basically, I toasted a plain bagel very lightly.  Then I brushed it with olive oil, adding freshly ground sea salt and black pepper.  Then came globs of goat cheese, drizzles of pesto, and some chopped sweet red peppers.  I popped it all back in the toaster oven for a few more minutes, and the meal turned out AMAZING.

Goat Cheese, Pesto, & Red Pepper Bagel

Also, I highly recommend making your own pesto.  It is SO easy, and SO worth it!  I always use a recipe out of a vegetarian cookbook I have, but it is similar to this.  You can refrigerate the pesto for up to a week, and freeze it for even longer!