4/28/2013

Sunday Dinner

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Grilled Lemon-Herb Cornish Game Hens
Grilled Asparagus, Fingerling Potaotes, and Shallots 
Mustard and Herb Vinaigrette

 Raspberry Custard Tart


This was not the Sunday dinner menu that I had planned for today, but the weather took a pleasant turn, making it perfect weather for pulling out the grill.  Since I decided to change up the menu on such short notice, I wanted something simple to put together.  Poultry and a salad is always a favorite, but I thought the game hens and a grilled vegetable salad would be a nice spin.    

This vinaigrette has a good balance of flavors.  A slight sweetness from the rice vinegar and sugar, a little pungent heat from the Dijon and Tabasco, and freshness from the herbs and lemon all come together.  I'm not a big fan of vinaigrettes overloaded with oil, so I did dial back on the amounts. I also use a combination of a neutral oil, like Safflower, and Extra Virgin olive oil because that's what I like.  I like it drizzled on mixed greens for a side salad, on shaved raw asparagus or carrots, or tossed with tonight's grilled vegetable medley (I might even drag a fork full of hen through a little pool☺).  I think you will enjoy the versatility of this recipe too.

4/26/2013

Spring Garden Strawberry Salad

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Spring... Garden... Strawberry... Salad... I only wish my garden was bursting with this bounty right now.  Fortunately, the markets I visit have all the ingredients on hand.  And who can say no to a little bacon and blue cheese??  

Like many salad recipes, this one is a guide.  Feel free to adjust/add/take-out according to your own taste.  With the vinaigrette however, leave as is.  It is seasonally sweet and spoonful worthy.  The salad is delightful on its own for a nice lunch or light dinner or as a delicious accompaniment to some leftover cold fried chicken☺.

4/23/2013

Fresh Strawberry Mousse Cake

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If you are a long time reader, you might recall the Strawberry Dream Cake that I shared almost two years ago. Well, this cake here is its kissin' cousin.  Where the dream cake uses frozen strawberries and tastes like homemade strawberry ice cream in cake form, this cake uses fresh berries and has all the flavors of strawberry shortcake.  Having said that, make sure you use the sweetest and ripest berries you can find.  The strawberry flavor of the cake really depends on the quality of the berries.  

The cake itself is a basic white cake made with egg whites.  This provides a light, shortcake-like flavor.  The mousse filling is made of puréed strawberries that are set with powdered gelatin and then folded with whipped cream.  The frosting is a simple confectioners' sugar buttercream with fresh berries beaten in.  But be warned.  Do not taste the frosting until you have actually frosted the cake or you will be subject to questioning as to why there is an empty mixing bowl and an unfrosted cake on the counter (a.k.a.-- the crime scene).  Busted!

4/21/2013

Sunday Dinner

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Deviled Vidalia Dip

Southern Green Beans
Rice and Gravy
Buttermilk Chive Biscuits



With the temperatures teasing us ever so slightly in Northern Illinois, I thought this menu would help jump start the warmth and maybe even get a few leaves to burst out of the buds now appearing on the trees.  Hey, it's worth a shot and the byproduct of this endeavor is some great food.  

The starter to this dinner is a deviled vidalia onion dip.  A few crackers or toasts topped with this spread will get the mind in the mood for some stick-to-your-ribs Southern fare.  There is a lot of flavor going on here, so splash a little Tabasco on it to bring out all of those great flavors listed in the recipe.  

Sunday Dinner one year ago
Sunday Dinner two years ago

4/19/2013

Lemon Squares

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April showers bring May flowers... boy, you are not kidding.  The amount of rain we have had over the past week has caused road closures, flooding, and school closures (that's a new one).  Needing a little sunshine in life, I thought I would bring in a sun-kissed baked good.  

There are countless lemon bar/square recipes out there, but this one is spot on.  It has a simple shortbread crust and the filling is somewhere between lemon curd and lemon custard.  It is a perfect balance of tart and sweet.  The filling bakes up with a very thin, meringue-like top.  This layer provides texture, giving these bars three distinct levels that you will be happy to ponder while enjoying the lemony taste .  A little dusting of confectioners' sugar and these little bars of bliss are ready to chase away any rainy day blues.

4/17/2013

Tomato-Fennel Soup

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Almost everybody has eaten tomato soup in at least one of its many incarnations.  Maybe you've graduated from the beloved Campbell's of your youth and tried making it in your own kitchen.  I think that one can never have enough recipes for it.  There are so many delicious variations on the classic that it begs for experimentation.  Which brings me to this one.

I use a bit more than the original because I like a hearty bowl of soup.  Having said that, I also cut back on fat/calories by using half-and-half instead of heavy cream.  (Swimsuit season is among us...at some point). The major taste change comes from the addition of balsamic vinegar. Not only does it add a depth of flavor, but it also adds a brightness that accentuates the bold flavors of the tomatoes.

This soup is a great bowl in its own right with crackers or bread, but also makes a winning combination when paired with a sandwich (calling all grilled cheese lovers!).

4/14/2013

Sunday Dinner

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Green Salad with Bacon, Peas, and Croutons

Chocolate Espresso Crème Brûlée


This Sunday dinner is a collection of some of our favorites.  And when you see a roast chicken on the menu, 9 times out of 10 there will be something chocolate for dessert.  Like the Meyer Lemon Molten Cakes, this recipe is a spin on the classic version of cream, eggs, and sugar.  The flavors of chocolate and espresso make for a whole new crème brûlée experience. 


I like to use a kitchen torch to brûlée the sugar.  It does the job nicely and provides a little after-dinner entertainment, but you can use the broiler element in your oven.  Just be careful that the oven doesn't warm the custard too much.   Once the sugar hardens, break the sweet "glass" and dig your spoon into the creamy goodness.


4/12/2013

Chocolate Peanut Butter Truffle Torte

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After teasing you by listing this dessert on our Sunday dinner menu and a few requests for the recipe, I thought it would only be fair that I share with you.  Chocolate and peanut butter is a much loved combination of flavors, and when you take those flavors and bake them up into a fudgy, flourless chocolate-like cake with a meringue top, and then serve it with a warm peanut butter sauce... my jaws are cracking.  Are yours??  

The torte itself is quite simple to make and it can be made in advance.  In fact, it is best made the day before because it needs to be served chilled. I served it with a peanut butter sauce, but it would also be nice with a crème anglaise or if you are short on time, just melt some good vanilla ice cream for a sweet ending to just about any meal.

4/10/2013

Magnolias Cream Cheese Butter

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Some of you may recall that I vacationed with my children in Charleston, South Carolina over spring break.  It was an overdue trip to see my parents' new home, visit with their friends, and get lost in all that the city of Charleston has to offer.  One of those offerings is the restaurant/foodie scene.  From a fine dining establishment like Husk to a low country seafood shack like the SeeWee Cafe, there is something for everyone.  

Years ago, my Aunt gave me a copy of Magnolias (another popular Charleston restaurant) cookbook, which I have used (coconut cream pie anyone?) and loved.  So naturally, it was on my to-do list.  Mom and Dad graciously went ahead and made reservations for lunch.  And a lovely lunch it was, starting with a warm and crusty loaf of sourdough with a side of cream cheese butter. What?? Why have I never thought about a cream cheese/butter combo?  Creamy butter and tangy cream cheese seasoned with fresh lemon juice and a little parsley spread on warm sourdough is a simple and heavenly nosh.  It was definitely something that had to be recreated for my own kitchen. 


Luckily my mother had all the ingredients on hand for me to experiment and whip up a batch.  Adjustment here, taste there, and a bit more salt... bingo!  It works well slathered on a tea sandwich, enjoyed with lox and bagels, or simply schmeared on warm bread.  This is bread and butter on a whole new level.

4/07/2013

Sunday Dinner

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Clams Casino

Grilled Thick Cut Bone-in Aged Ribeye Steaks
( I use the same method as I do for the boneless strip steaks)
Potato Crisps
Wedge Salad with Blue Cheese Dressing



There are two factors that have helped me put together this Sunday's dinner menu.  1. The return of Mad Men and 2. An allergy to bi-valve sea foods with my son, Jack (a recent discovery after a trip to Charleston, S.C.).  The menu is straight out of the early 1960s, although the arc of Mad Men now finds the characters navigating the late sixties and all of the societal changes that went along with those years.  The Clams Casino were picked to open dinner festivities on this beautiful Spring day, but due to the allergy, the roasted shrimp cocktail would have to serve as backup for appetizers.

Having a few of these little beauties on the half shell will really put you in the mood for some red meat, a full-bodied red wine, and then some well-written small screen drama.  Now that's a Sunday dinner that will have you loving life even as you watch Don Draper's hit the rocks....again.

***A big congratulations to regular Galley Gourmet readers and friends, Rob and Emma, 
on the birth of their son.***  

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