Sunday, July 27, 2008

Bird’s in a Nest

This is the first "unusual" thing that I learned how to cook all on my own. When I was about 7 or 8 my Mom taught me how to make this cute little breakfast treat. I suspect that it was self defense on her part.

We were a Military family, my Dad was a career Naval man. Instead of moving from place to place with him, we were "stationed" in Florida and my Dad traveled to each of his duty assignments. Most of the time he was over seas, he served in WWll, Korea and Vietnam. Talk about tough!

Anyway, my mom had the 4 of us kids and no help. So she taught all of us to cook something easy at an early age. It’s funny but I think all of us have at least one simple dish that we cook today that reminds us of our child hood. For me it is these birds in a nest.

It’s just a piece of bread with a hole cut in the middle and then fried with an egg, but I really like them. Just the thing I needed when I got the news that I wasn’t selected for the Ultimate Recipe Showdown------again! But really, how cool is it that someone from Food Network was making one of my recipe’s? I am really proud that I’ve made it to the semi finals 2 times, next year is my year—I’m sure of it!

Bird’s in a Nest

1 slice of bread per person
1 egg per person

With a large glass or biscuit cutter, cut a hole in the center of each piece of bread. Heat a non-stick pan to medium heat. Melt a pat of butter, place the bread in the pan and crack the egg in the hole and season with salt and pepper. Fry a couple minutes or until the white has set slightly, carefully turn and cook a couple minutes on the other side. I fry the bread "hole" along with the egg, I like the crispy, butter toasty thing that happens to the hole.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

It’ s all about the dressing

One of my favorite restaurants in Sarasota is Columbia’s Restaurant on St. Armands Key. For those of you who aren’t familiar with Sarasota, St. Armands Key is known for the circle. The Key is known world wide for the round-about and very fancy stores and restaurants. As a kid it was one of the places that I would go, pressing my nose up to the windows of the fancy clothing shops and drooling past the fancy restaurants.

The first "real" restaurant I went to was Columbia’s on the circle, and the rich spicy spanish flavor of the authentic Columbian food always brings me back to my first "fancy" dining experience.

One of the Columbia’s signature dishes is The 1905 Salad. It’s a salad made with iceburg lettuce, sliced ham, sliced swiss cheese, ripe tomatoes and spanish olive. Sounds like a pretty average salad doesn’t it?

Well it’s all about the dressing. A friend of mine found the recipe a few years ago in the newspaper and passed it along to me. For the longest time I thought she left something out because I could never get it to taste quite as good as the restaurants. The answer is in the lemon juice. The recipe calls for the juice of one lemon, but it depends on how much juice is in the lemon. It also breaks all the ratio rules of oil to vinegar but it is Columbian after all.

This has become my go to salad. I make it all the time and often make it with mixed spring greens or just baby spinach leaves. I make it for picniks and potlucks instead of macaroni or potato salad and everyone always wants the recipe.

Columbia’s 1905 Salad

1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon worchestershire sauce
the juice of 1 lemon (about 1 tablespoon)
2 tablespoons fresh minced garlic

1 head iceburg lettuce (or 2 bags mixed spring greens)
1/4 cup grated parmesean cheese
1/4 lb. Sliced smoked ham
1/4 lb. Sliced swiss cheese
8 ounces ripe cherry tomatoes
4 ounces spanish pimento stuffed olives

Mix all dressing ingredients together in a small jar with a tight fitting lid. Shake well and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (Dressing is better if made the night before).

Shred the lettuce and add to a large salad bowl. Add the parmesean cheese and toss to coat the lettuce. Add the remaining ingredients and the dressing and toss to coat. Serve with a loaf of crusty bread. Enjoy!!

Wednesday, July 9, 2008

Panchetta Wrapped Baked Potato Sticks

Last week on The Next Food Network Star one of the contestants made a bacon wrapped potato wedge with a honey scallion sauce. The judges raved over it saying that it could be his "signature" dish.

It looked really, really good on TV, so I thought I would try my own version. I used russet potatoes that I partially cooked in the microwave. I cut the potatoes into small bite size pieces and wrapped them with small pieces of panchetta and fresh ground black pepper, put them on a baking sheet and baked them at 425 degrees for about 20 minutes.

The result was really good, but I’m going to make a few changes next time. I think I would like to try to marinate the partially cooked potatoes in some sort of vinegar dressing, them wrap in the panchetta.

The idea is to have a Warm German Potato Salad Stick. I think it will make a great starter or side dish for pork chops or steak.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Fettuccini Alfredo with Pan Seared Mushrooms

This is the dish that my husband used to win my heart. When we first met, a group of us would go to a small restaurant on Siesta Key that had a great late night bar menu. One of my favorite dishes was the grouper alfredo. Two of my favorite things, fresh Florida Grouper and Creamy Fettuccini Alfredo.

The combination of the Flaky fish and sharp parmesean cream sauce was really good. Since it was a bar menu, the serving size was smaller than a dinner serving but I thought it was just the right size. I got to know my future husband at those outings, talking and joking with a group of people we became really great friends.

He always bragged about his alfredo sauce, and how much everyone liked it. His version was made with pan seared scallops, (still my favorite), but over the years he has developed an allergy to shell fish, so the only time I get scallops is when we go out for dinner. Now he makes it with pan seared mushrooms and broccoli, and the alfredo is still the best I have ever had!

So here it is, the dish that won me over:

Fettuccini Alfredo with Pan Seared Mushrooms

1 pound mixed mushrooms, sliced
3 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
4 Fettuccini nests
1 stick salted butter
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup grated parmesean cheese

Heat a 12 inch non stick skillet to medium high. Add the olive oil and mushrooms. Saute 10 to 15 minutes or until mushrooms are carmelized.

Meanwhile, melt the butter into the cream over low heat stirring frequently.

Cook the Fettuccini nests according to package directions, drain well and return the pot to low heat. Pour the butter and cream mixture over the pasta, toss to coat. Mix in the mushrooms. Add the parmesean a little at a time until the sauce becomes thick and creamy.