Sunday, December 23, 2012

Maude's Tucker's Christmas Date Pudding

My grandmother made old English date pudding every single year for Christmas dinner.  This "pudding", which is really more like a moist cake, was served with whipped cream over it.  This is the stuff of childhood memories for me.
My grandmother was an incredible cook, a farm wife who measured intuitively (much to the chagrin of her daughter-in-law, my mother, who was not an inspired cook by any stretch!).  Over the final years of my grandmother's life this recipe began to change, and not for the better.  The moist pudding became a dry, less-appetizing cake.  I tried, tried, tried! over the years to reproduce the earlier, original version of her pudding, but never achieved it.

Then, by chance, I stumbled upon another recipe for date pudding and even though the ingredients were identical, the preparation was quite different.  Shazam!  I had it again!

So, here is the recipe for my grandmother's date pudding, back in its original format.  Served with lightly sweetened whipped cream, it is absolutely a taste of my childhood with my very English grandparents.  Please enjoy!



1 c. brown sugar
2 c. water
1 tsp. butter


1 c. flour
2 tsp. baking powder
1 c. chopped dates
1 c. brown sugar (additional)
1 tbsp. butter
1/3 c. milk
1 tsp. cinnamon

To prepare syrup, bring to boil 1 cup brown sugar, 2 cups water and 1 teaspoon butter. Pour into baking dish*.

To prepare pudding, mix flour, baking powder and all other ingredients. Mix well. Drop by spoonful into syrup. Bake at 375 degrees for 45 minutes. Serve warm. (NOTE: Batter will spread, dates settle on bottom.)

*This is the part that got lost.  It seems very odd, I realize, to pour this into the dish first.  Trust me.

Friday, December 21, 2012

Priscilla's Tesuque Pinon Dressing

My late sister made this incredibly delicious stuffing for the first time at our Thanksgiving celebration in 1991.  She still lived in Tesuque, New Mexico, and we had a wonderful time visiting her there.  I have great memories of that particular holiday.  Over the years I made the dressing even when my young children (and who can blame them?) turned up their noses at the nontraditional ingredients found in the recipe.  
Now, it is a ritual for me to make this dish.  I think of my sister while I make it, think about the fun we had making it together for the first time, and really, that is all I require of it.  The fact that it is absolutely delicious is a bonus!

I have taken a few liberties with the original ingredients.  I substituted red peppers for green because green peppers do not agree with me.  Why I can't eat them and love all the other, hotter peppers, is a great mystery to me.
Also, I have substituted craisins for raisins.  The taste and color are more appealing to me.
Recipes are "suggestions", really.  Play around with this one and "tweak" it to satisfy your own palette.
My sister would expect nothing less from you!

Priscilla’s Tesuque Pinon Dressing

(this recipe is adequate for a 10-12 pound turkey)

1/3 cup craisins
1/3 cup tequila or mescale
2 large red peppers
2 green chilis (or one small can chopped green chili)
1 large chopped onion
1 or 2 minced garlic cloves
½ cup butter
4 cups dry bread crumbs
2 T minced cilantro
1 teasp salt, or to taste
¾ tsp dried oregano (or 1 Tablesp fresh)
½ tsp chili (I use chipotle or ancho for a smokier taste)
½ tsp dried sage (or 1 Tablesp fresh)
ground pepper to taste
1 cup pinion nuts, lightly toasted

Soak craisins in tequila or mescale for at least 30 minutes.  Roasts and char skins of peppers, close in small paper bag and steam for 10-15 min.  Peel and remove seeds, pat dry, and chop coarsely.  Drain craisins and discard tequila.
Melt butter in large skillet over low heat.  Add onion and garlic, cook until tender.  Add mixture to dried breadcrumbs, then add cilantro, salt, oregano, chili powder, sage, and pepper.  Fold in pinon nuts, craisins, pappers, and chilis.

This can (and should!) be made the day before.  The flavors need time to meld.

Preheat oven to 500.  If stuffing turkey allow a bit more cooking time.  Otherwise,
350 to bake stuffing in casserole.

*Broth may be added to increase moisture of the stuffing and also as a way to reduce the butter content.  

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Fantastic Fall Soup

Soup is good lovin' in a bowl, isn't it?  As soon as the weather turns chilly I'm thinking about a nice pot of soup.  I raided my just-delivered farm box for a lot of the ingredients.

-Vegetable stock (mine was homemade and frozen in cubes).  You could use stock from the store, or even begin with a pre-made soup base found on most store shelves.  Anything will work!
-olive or grapeseed oil (about 2 or 3 Tablespoons)
-carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch segments
-potato (optional) cubed.  This will add some thickening to the soup base.
-yellow squash, cross cut into 1/2 inch segments
-grape tomatoes, cut in half (I used the equivalent of a cup, both red and yellow)
-2 bay leaves
-fresh cilantro (optional if you are a cilantro hater)
-3-4 baby bella mushrooms, thinly sliced
-2 garlic cloves, finely chopped
-1 cup yellow wax beans, snapped into 2 inch segments
-1 avocado, sliced into chunks
-salt and pepper to taste
(I would have added an onion but I forgot to get one at the store...duh)

I added the following to make it  a hearty soup.  Omit if you are vegetarian.  Add whatever you have available to increase protein.  It all tastes good!

-2 slices bacon, cut into 2 inch sections
-1 cup cubed roast beef
-1 cup pork
-1 lobster tail 

Other options as toppers:  
grated cheese
red sauce for more heat
sour cream

In a large soup kettle over a medium heat, allow pan to warm, then add oil.  Saute the garlic for a minute, and then if using protein add those ingredients to the oil and saute until cooked through.  
Add carrots & potato and allow to cook for several minutes to begin softening.  Add wax beans & tomatoes.  I like to "layer" the seasoning.  I added a small dash of dry curry mix (see link for recipe).  I did NOT add salt to this soup because I used bacon & lobster, which adds enough salt flavor.
Add squash, wait a couple of minutes, then add the mushrooms.  Once the vegetables have been "sweated" and begin to soften add the soup stock & the bay leaves.  Bring this to a slow, rolling boil and then reduce the heat and let the liquid reduce slightly.  The potatoes in the mixture will begin to thicken the soup base.

Prior to serving cut the avocado and cilantro and place in small bowls at the table.  Top the soup with these just prior to eating, if desired.   Some grated cheese or a dollop of pesto would be pretty fabulous additions, too.  The soup looks so colorful! 

One can add or subtract any combination of ingredients to suit your own taste.  Use what you have!
Taste, taste, taste with spoons (a new one each time!) to check the seasoning.  I suspect that my soup will be even better tomorrow, and I have enough to freeze a bit for later!  Isn't soup grand?

We ate our soup with a nice arugula salad, some noosa yogurt dotted with fresh blackberries for dessert.
Life is good!

Try some and let me know how it turns out!


Sunday, November 11, 2012

Sorrel Urban Bistro, Houston, TX

I found this restaurant on Open Table, when I was looking for a Farm to Table restaurant in Houston that was open on a Sunday night.  Sorrel was an excellent choice.  The restaurant was quiet enough to hear one another talk, which we all enjoyed.  I had Grouper for dinner and it was succulent, tasty and wonderful.

Now for the dessert, they were amazing.  This one was by far the favorite - plum crisp with homemade ice cream.  We each had bites of each dessert.

Salted caramel creme brulee

Chocolate Ganache

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Tidepools at the Hyatt, Kauai

The Tidepools restaurant in the Hyatt Regency Hotel and Resort is a magical place.  We dined here on our honeymoon, and we decided that this is the place that we wanted to eat at to celebrate of 25th wedding anniversary.  A cluster of pod like buildings with open windows all the way around and in the middle open up to the beautiful Koi pond. 

Here is another view of the restaurant, and you can see the open windows on the sides

For an appetizer, I had Hamachi & Compressed Watermelon, with a white soy vinaigrette, with jalapenos and a Lychee martini

For my entree, I had Filet of Beef, with caramelized onions on the top and veggies on the bottom - so delicious

Here's the Koi that gathered outside our window

The sun was setting about the time we received our cocktails

Hamachi - so colorful.

This dish was completely overpowered by the jalapeno, so I removed those, and ate it with the remaining elements, and the flavors were melt in your mouth delicious

The perfectly cooked filet of beef, with caramelized onions in a balsamic base, with mashed potatoes and spinach

A lovely tower of deliciousness - savory and divine.  Here is more information about the restaurant on yelp

Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Fennel Baked in Milk (Finocchio con Latte al Forno)

Last weekend I joined members of Art Cloth Network at one of my favorite San Antonio restaurants, Il Sogno, for a wonderful dinner.  Among the items we tasted was this wonderful fennel dish, or at least something very close to it.  The following recipe was found by Maggie Weiss on the Saveur website.

Mar 8, 2010

Fennel Baked in Milk (Finocchio con Latte al Forno)

In this creamy dish, the fennel is braised in milk until it becomes tender.
Fennel Baked in Milk (Finocchio con Latte al Forno)ENLARGE IMAGECredit: Todd Coleman
3 medium bulbs fennel, fronds reserved
4 cups milk
4 tbsp. unsalted butter
1 tsp. fennel seeds, crushed
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper,             
   to taste
1 cup freshly grated Parmesan 

1. Heat oven to 475°. Remove tough outer layer of fennel. Halve bulbs lengthwise and cut into 1⁄2" wedges. Combine fennel, milk, and 2 tbsp. butter in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium-high heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until fennel is just tender, 30–45 minutes. Add fennel seeds and season with salt and pepper.

2. Using a slotted spoon, transfer fennel to a 2-quart oval baking dish; pour 1 cup of the milk mixture over fennel. Sprinkle with Parmesan, dot with remaining butter, and bake until golden brown and bubbly, about 20 minutes. Serve fennel garnished with some of the fronds.

SERVES 4 – 6
Fennel Baked in Milk (Finocchio con Latte al Forno)
This article was first published in Saveur in Issue #128

Red Salt, Poipu Beach, Kauai

Red Salt is in the Koa Kea Hotel and Resort, which is wedged between the Kiahuna and the Marriott.  Inside it is modern, simple and beautiful.  Our table was by a curved window that looked out onto the pool and ocean.  It was a lovely setting.  Many people recommended this restaurant to us, so we canceled our previous reservation at a restaurant, with not so good reviews on yelp, and dined here.

They had a long narrow table with these glass bulbs on them.  The restaurant served the most delicious rolls with unsalted butter and a little container of red salt to crumble onto your roll. Nice touch.

One of the most brilliant choices on the cocktail menu were a flight of martini's.  There were 6-7 fabulous martini's to choose from.  I can't remember what they all were, but I loved the one in the front, with blueberries on the stick.  I went so far as to order one of these in the regular size.  Oh my! 

Dinner was amazing.  Mahi Mahi on black forbidden rice with avocado on the top. A wonderful blending of flavors, and then a drink of the blueberry martini - oooohhh, the icing on the cake.  Too stuffed for dessert.

Look at this - a real linen coaster for my cocktail - pretty classy!

The bar area of the restaurant.

Tuesday, October 16, 2012

Yum Cha Asian Eatery, Poipu, Kauai

Yum Cha Asian Eatery located at the Hyatt Golf Course.  We dined here five years ago when it first opened, and it was by far my most favorite restaurant that trip.  It was quiet, subtle decor, great service and each course was magical.  I love it, so my expectations were a bit high for this trip.  Would it be the same?

Menu that looked like wood.  Some text about the restaurant revealed that the original chef had moved on, which was disappointing.  The hostess said 'oh yea, it's not the same restaurant at all, changes have been made.'   I told myself to have an open mind.

and here is yet another version of the Lychee martini with Pomegranate

The dining room and bar (for the golfers).  We had dinner early, and the noise in the bar was quite loud, and kinda broke the ambiance of the restaurant, just a tad for me.

View of the golf course from our table

First course - Kalua Spring rolls (pork), which were great.  You wrap them in the lettuce, add some mint and dip in the sauce.

Bao tacos with duck, and this was utterly delicious.  The restaurant is starting to fill up at this point, and the most surprising thing is that it is filled with many families with children.  So, you can imagine the noise level at this point.

The sun went down, and do did all of the light around our table.  Szechuan Beef, with long beans and asparagus was wonderful.  Great flavors, textures and good seasonings.  Sorry about the photograph.  Everything we had here was terrific, lovely and beautifully made and presented.

Shrimp Tempura, with a delightful dipping sauce.  And the noise level was so out of control, that I could not get our leftovers packed up fast enough, to get out of there into the beautiful Hawaiian air.  I asked about the 'kid' part, and they told us that they have a really good childrens menu.  Go figure.  So, they turned their lovely innovative and even magical restaurant into an Asian free for all.  More about this restaurant on yelp.

Monday, October 15, 2012

Brennecke's, Poipu, Kauai

Brennecke's Beach Broiler is a very popular spot for lunch and dinner.  The upper dining area overlooks the famous body surfing beach, by the same name.  We have only eaten lunch here in the past, but after hearing recommendations from other people, we decided to have dinner here.

The 808 Cosmopolitan, was yummy to say the least!

It was so refreshing and tasted great with my fish dinner

This is the view from our table.  The entire upper portion has huge open windows that look out onto the park and beach

I had mahi mahi and it was cooked perfectly, was moist and tender and exuded wonderful flavors.

Steve had a rib-eye steak on top of mashed potatoes, and it was also quite good.

Here is Brennecke's Beach Broiler, which is a block from the beach.  It also has plenty of parking and the service was outstanding.  We were happy campers after this dining experience and it was half the cost of dining at the Plantation.  Here is the link to yelp about Brennecke's

Sunday, October 14, 2012

Plantation Gardens at the Kiahuna, Poipu Beach, Hawaii

The Plantation Gardens at the Kiahuna has always been a favorite of ours for dinner.  The restaurant has an outside porch for seating that overlooks their gardens.
This is a portion of the appetizer menu - we had the Plantation Style Sampler
and it was amazing, every bite, and flavor. The perfect amount of creamy delight, mixed with a bit of crunch

Seafood menu
I had the grilled fresh fish - Opah.  My plate arrived, and I thought the presentation was a bit much.  I thought the fish was the focus point, and not the sauce.  If you have to dress it up this much, that had to be an issue.  The fish was dry and maybe a bit overcooked, and lack good seasonings.  The bok choy was good thought.

Steve had Seafood Lau Lau, which after it was unwrapped, looked like they took all of the leftover fish and threw it in.  So unimpressed with this dinner.  The appetizer was the best part of this meal, and the Lychee pear martini.  This was one of our favorite restaurants on the island and we ate here twice last time we were here.  In hindsight, read the reviews on yelp first before making the dinner reservation

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grinds Cafe, near Hanapepe, Kauai, Hawaii

We found this restaurant near  Hanapepe, and it didn't look like much from the outside, but the service and the food were another story.  Grinds Cafe. Their menu boasts  for their fresh and quality food, and not to be in a hurry to enjoy it.   Good coffee and very friendly service.  I had a hard time deciding what to have.  It was between the pancakes and an omelet.

Kalua pulled pork, spinach, onion and cheese omelet.  It's not folded over.  And it was delicious.  Needless to say, I did not consume the entire plate full.  About half was all I could eat, and I didn't want to stuff myself, because there was their own sourdough toast to eat.

A plate of yummy deliciousness

and this is the funny thing.  They give you grape jelly to put on your toast.  The Kuhio jelly factory is on Kauai, but hardly any of the restaurants offer it.  I guess the grinder would be considered a 'locals' place to dine.  Grinds on Yelp

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Green Table in Chelsea Market, New York City

The Green Table has become one of my favorite restaurants in New York City.  It is a "farm-to-table" venue, using local purveyors for all the ingredients.  Plus, it is very close to the High Line, another favorite spot in New York.
I was in NYC for an event last weekend so I made reservations for dinner with Jamie and her daughter.
We began with a cheese plate, an order of multi-cheese mac&cheese (all shared).

Jamie checks out the menu.

I had a fantastic hamburger and splurged for dessert.
This burger was served with homemade ketsup and kim chee.

Dessert:  cucumber mint ice cream, grilled peaches, and pavlova.

...and we walked the High Line before, and after, dinner