Monday, August 31, 2009

Rosie Prepares For Mr. Hawthorne's Birthday Partay. Corn Bean Tortilla Pie And Pesto Sundried Tomato Cheese Loaf.

On Friday, while Mr. Hawthorne was at work, I started clandestine preparations for a surprise birthday party for Mr. Hawthorne. First up was my corn bean tortilla pie. I always make this for my get-togethers and for neighborhood block parties. And there are never leftovers. This is quite the crowd pleaser.
First, I cooked some black beans. Heat salted water to a boil, put the rinsed beans in, simmer for about 25 minutes. Rinse beans and add fresh water. Simmer for about 20 minutes or until the beans are the texture you like. I like mine al dente and not mushy. To the beans, I added a can of drained corn and a small chopped onion.
Mix all together.
Slice some black olives for the topping.
Pepper Jack, Monteray Jack, Mozzarella, and cheddar cheeses.

Then just start layering the tortillas with the bean mixture and cheeses until everything is used up. (Save some for the topping.) This pie used 5 tortillas.
Brush the top and sides with melted butter.
Sprinkle cayenne pepper around the edges and top with corn/bean mixture and black olives. This went into my fridge in the utility room to keep it hidden from Mr. Hawthorne. Sunday, the day of the party, I pulled it out and added some sliced green olives.
And more cheese. One can never have too much cheese.
For the party, I put it in a 375 degree oven for about 45 minutes until it was heated through and the cheese melted. Slice into wedges and serve.
Trust me on this one. Everybody loves it.
Also on Friday, I made a pesto/sundried tomato cheese loaf. First, the pesto.
I'm making a huge batch of pesto.
Part of it will go for the loaf, another part for a pesto pizza I'll make the day of the party, and the rest is to be frozen in ice cube trays for later use in the winter when I want a nice fresh taste of spring and summer.
I have about 8 cups of loosely packed, washed basil leaves, about a cup of parsley, 5 garlic cloves, about 4 cups of pecans,
about 6 ounces grated Parmesan cheese about 1 1/2 cups ELBOO (Extra Light Bertolli Olive Oil)
I processed all the dry ingredients then added in the olive oil, processing, until I got the nice consistency I wanted. Yield: about 4 cups pesto. Pesto is a thing of beauty.
Next, I poured boiling water over 10 sundried tomatoes and covered, letting them soften.
While the tomatoes were softening, I mixed my cheeses: 16 ounces cream cheese 8 ounces blue cheese
Now, I'm ready to assemble. Line a loaf pan with plastic wrap ...
... and add a first layer of cheese and chopped sundried tomatoes ...
... then add a layer of pesto and another layer of the cheese.
Another layer of sundried tomatoes.
Another layer of pesto.
And a top layer of cheese.
Cover and refrigerate. When you're ready to serve this, you invert the loaf and let sit for about 30 minutes at room temp to soften. Note to self: Work on those layers. Two appetizers down and now I'm ready to prepare for Ticky's visit. Stay tuned for our world famous Caesar salad and my equally famous homemade croutons and a pesto pizza, made especially for Ticky.

Happy Birthday.

Happy Birthday, Mr. Hawthorne! Stay tuned for lots of good eats and the surprise birthday party he had last night. WHOOT!

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Rosie And Ticky Head To The Beach

My dear friend, Ticky, of Reinventing A Boomer blogdom, was kind enough to come and visit. We had thought that maybe T.S Danny would grace us with some precipitation. It was meh. But we took this tropical storm as a wonderful opportunity to get together, partay, break bread, drink wine, toss back margaritas, and generally have a lot of fun. We did not disappoint.
Now, Ticky has been waiting all summer to visit. She knew I had three children at home. And four dogs. I can't blame her for not coming. Hell, I wouldn't want to come, but I live here and have to be here. Finally, when the children were back at their respective colleges and their puppies with them, Ticky ventured down for a Tropical Storm Danny Par-Tay. Well, it was a Par-Tay. But no tropics. Just a few drops of rain Friday night. We were unimpressed. Oh. Guess who all showed up Friday evening. If you guessed Daughter Hawthorne and Giada and Youngest Hawthorne and Junior you would be correct. Arrrhhhhgggg. I thought they went back to college. For keeps. Sheesh. I remember when I finally got to college, I felt privileged and I appreciated that I was there. I did not drive back home each weekend. I didn't want to. But then I didn't have a Kewl Kar to drive. When I went back home, I took the train. I remember those wonderful train rides home. I always sat in the dining car and I would order a ham and cheese sandwich with a pickle and chips. They were delicious. I was 18. Good times. Lynchburg to Danville. I'm sorry. I've been wandering.
Fast forward to Saturday morning at about 6:45.
We made coffee, scrambled eggs with cheese, biscuits, bacon, country ham, and fried grits. Thusly, Ticky and I were fortified to go out and face the ocean. We wanted to see what T.S. Danny had spawned. Again, a big meh.
Click the pics to enlarge. I love the spray coming off the waves.
Ticky and I were down at the Albatross Access and guess who we ran into. Youngest Hawthorne on the right and our friend, William, on the left, framed by sea oats.
I liked this little bird. He didn't like for his feet to get wet. The surf would come up and he'd run to the sand and if the waves were going to hit his feet, he'd fly.
Here's Youngest Hawthorne catching a wave for maybe a nano-second before being wiped out.
On the way to the beach this morning, Ticky and I went by this house. We didn't take pictures at the time, thinking we'd do it on the way back. Then on the way back, I forgot what street I'd gone on and was trying to go back backwards and had no idea where the house was. Whoot! We found it!
Now. Look at this picture. What is wrong? What is amiss?
Close up. I'd hate to wake up one night and try to find my way to the bathroom and end up on the upper deck. NOT!

My Fried Fiesta.

Every now and then my body gets a craving for something. Every now and then I want some greens and I have to have a salad with a mesclun and arugula and basil mix from the garden with fresh cucumber and heirloom tomato from the garden, with almonds, with red onion, with green pepper from the garden, with bacon and croutons and a hard-boiled egg. And some kind of cheese. And my homemade Eye-tal-yun dressing: balsamic/cider vinegar to the first line on a Good Seasons cruet minced garlic Italian seasoning oregano onion powder granulated garlic some Grey Poupon Dijon and some soy sauce. You get the picture. Every now and then I want some dark greens and I have to have some collard, turnip, and mustard greens with potatoes cooked in with them and served with vinegar and butter. It coats my very soul. Every now and then I want some red meat and I have to have a bloody rare steak. Tonight, it was fried food. I listen to my body. My body is a temple.
What I decided on for my fried tooth fix was a grit cake with a bacon vinaigrette and a shrimp cake with a chili citrus cream sauce. Sunday morning I had made sausage biscuits with gravy and a creamy, cheesy side of grits. It was the Hawthorne boys' last breakfast at home and their favorite. I saved the "leftover" grits and planned to turn them into "moreover" grits. Hence, the grit cakes.
I also followed my rule from the other week to divest my freezers of their bounty. I thawed out a bag of shrimp. Small steps. Small steps. Now I'll show you how to simultaneously peel and devein shrimp.
Take scissors and cut down the back of the shrimp, cutting deep enough so that you ...
... expose the vein. With my right thumb and forefinger, I slid the shell off and, with my thumb, swept out the vein. Rub the vein off on a paper towel. Cleans up your thumb and the vein sticks to the towel. Next, my ingredients for the shrimp cakes.
From top left going around: red onion green pepper celery parsley scallion red jalapeno 2 little hot-as-a-firecracker chiles that were volunteers in my garden egg thyme basil
After I compared the shrimp I had with the ingredients, I scaled back on the basil, red onion, green pepper, and celery. (See back of cutting board.) I'm getting my Cuisinart out for this procedure.
I put in the shrimp.
Added in the egg.
And the rest of the ingredients.
I just pulsed 6-8 times. You don't want a paste or a puree.
You want different sized chunks of shrimp. As you can see, I over-pulsed. Rosie bangs head and kicks self. BAD ROSIE!
I grated in the zest of 1/2 lemon.
A tablespoon of Grey Poupon Dijon mustard.
Next, I measured out a cup of oyster crackers.
I put the crackers in a baggie and crushed with a rolling pin. As with the shrimp, you want the crumbs multi-sized. As you can see, I didn't make the same mistake twice. My oyster crumbs are properly done.
Fold the crackers into the shrimp mix.
Cantcha jes see all the flavors??
To form the shrimp cakes, I scooped a quarter measuring cup of the shrimp mixture and plopped it out in my hand.
I had a biscuit cutter the same size as the quarter cup shrimp cake and put it over my cake.
I then inverted my shrimp cake onto a panko-sprinkled, wax-papered baking sheet.
I ended up with nine pretty little 1/4 cup shrimp cakes.
And I panko'd the tops of each cake.
Cover and set in the fridge for at least 30 minutes. Now, on to my Bacon Vinaigrette. For the Grit Cakes.
I chopped up 6 strips of bacon and let them cook while I prepared the rest of the ingredients.
My ingredients for the bacon vinaigrette: (Or, as Sandy would say, Vinny Garrette. And Mars Capone is Al's long lost brother. And Pauler and Guy Fairy both say pap-a-ree-ka. Pet peeves of mine.) Back to the ingredients. 1/4 cup Balsamic vinegar 2 TB Dijon Mustard 1 TB Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce celery green pepper red onion 2 garlic cloves thyme chives basil parsley
I chopped, sliced, minced,
When the bacon was browned and crispy, I added the green pepper ...
... and the celery ...
... and the red onions. Cooked for about a minute.
Dropped in the herbs.
A quarter cup of Balsamic vinegar.
A tablespoon of Lea & Perrins.
Two tablespoons of Poupon Dijon.
I taste tested and added 2 tablespoons of cider vingegar and slightly less than a tablespoon of sugar. Heat through, cover, and set aside. Reheat before serving. Now, my chili citrus cream sauce.
The recipe: 1/4 cup lemon juice 1/4 cup lime juice 1/4 cup white wine 1 scallion 1 inch cube of fresh ginger 2 TB sweet chili garlic sauce 1/2 - 3/4 cup whipping cream 2 TB buttah
I squeezed 1/4 cup each lemon and lime juices and added 1/4 cup white wine. I sliced the scallion and nuked the piece of ginger.
Don't make me say this about the ginger again: Rosie's Tip #228: Keep ginger in the freezer in 1 inch pieces. Take out as needed. Nuke for about 20 plus seconds. And you can squeeze it with your fingers and juice it. Mince the rest of the pulp and add in.
I wanted to reduce this by half so I measured it with the end of my spoon.
And I marked it.
And reduced it over medium low heat by half.
I added the rest of my whipping cream left in my carton. It was halfway between 1/2 cup and 3/4 cups.
Check the level ...
... Mark it ...
... And reduce by half.
Add in 2 tablespoons sweet chili garlic sauce. Cover and set aside and wait for serving. At service, heat back up and enrich with ...
2 tablespoons of buttah. A tablespoon at a time, swirled in. Just a lovely finish to a qibswedyk sauce. My two sauces are done. I'm ready to fry. After I cooked Sunday morning's grits for my boys, I evenly spread the leftover grits in a 7 x 11 pan, covered, and refrigerated, planning moreover grits all the time. Moreover grits coming up:
I took a biscuit cutter and cut out 4 grit cakes, top left. The shrimp cakes are on the bottom right.
Heated up LOLB and ELBOO, slid my grit cakes in, and immediately covered with a lid since grits spit spectacularly.
Six minutes on the first side and it's nicely browned. I went to flip the cakes and I have no lovely little cakes.
The grits all broke up and became a smooshy grit pancake. Now, don't get me wrong. The grits tasted great and everything but I wanted a cake. Individual cakes. Crispy, panko encrusted cakes and creamy, buttery, cheesy, corny grits inside. I didn't get it. The cakes just dissolved. But HEY! That's why I'm here. To come up with an idea about a menu/meal. Then try to achieve it. And when it doesn't quite come up to my par, I try to tweek and correct it. I share with you my triumphs and my failures. And offer solutions. Actually, I don't look at is as failure. I look at it as learning. Next, I started on my shrimp cakes.
I slid four shrimp cakes into a hot mix of a peanut oil blend.
2 1/2 - 3 minutes on each side. Drain. And serve.
On the left, grit pancake/ wannabe grit cake/ with bacon balsamic dressing. Bacon and grits. Get it?
On the right, shrimp cake with chili citrus butter cream sauce.
My fried tooth is sated. Unfortunately, these pictures were shot without the benefit of natural light plus I forgot to show the inside of the shrimp cake, so the next afternoon, Mr. Hawthorne sauteed some tilefish and 2 more shrimp cakes for us. First he peeled and chopped one of our heirloom tomatoes.
Add some chopped green pepper.
Cooked over low heat for a while, and added freshly ground salt and pepper.
He finished his sauce with a sprinkling of basil. Here's the tilefish and the two shrimp cakes. The shrimp cakes went for about 2 1/2 minutes each side. The tile fish was a bit thick so it went for about 5-6 minutes each side.
I used the bacon vinaigrette and also the chili citrus sauce from last night's dinner. Just nuked them. I should have heated the citrus sauce on the stove top and whisked in butter at the end to keep it from separating like it did in the microwave, but it was still quite good. I loved the fresh tomato sauce with the tilefish.
Isn't that a lovely fish? Sweet and delicate. Here are the innards of my shrimp cake. So now, I'll tell you what I would have done differently with the shrimp cakes: 1) More shrimp. 2) Less cracker filler. 3) Chop/mince/slice by hand, not pulse by Cuisinart. 4) 2 - 2 1/2 minutes for sauteeing. That way ... perfection. As for the grit cakes, I'm still working on that. They were good tasting, but not what I was aiming for. I wanted a creamy inside and nice crispy outside. I got a crispy pancake. Still all good.