Sunday, October 25, 2009

Grilled Portabello Mushroom Sandwich with Basil Mustard Sauce

This is a recipe from the spa cuisine collection of Guide to Day Spas and Stay Spas and was created in connection with the mustard festival held every year in Napa Valley.

The recipe is easy, fast, and rich -- it has an intense taste which is necessary when you are counting calories. As the recipe states, only a tiny bit of the sauce is needed or it's too rich. I used about a tablespoon on my sandwich and although it was delicious, it was too much and I scraped some off. The thin schmear was much better.

I like the idea of using small mushrooms and buns as "mushroom sliders" but for my version, I had a large portabello and a ciabatta roll, so I used those.

This is also an easy but thoughtful sandwich to make for vegetarians which will come in handy this holiday season when everyone else is eating leftover turkey sandwiches. Grill some mushrooms and set them aside for your vegetarian guests so you can make this for them day after Thanksgiving.

Get the entire recipe and tips by clicking the link above. This is my synopsis:

1 mushroom cap, brushed with garlic olive
1 bun, brushed with garlic olive
1 tablespoon of mayo
Splash of lemon juice
Dab of Dijon mustard
handful of chopped basil
salt, pepper, and cayenne

Grill bun and mushroom 4 min each side until cooked. Mix remaining ingredients, top bun with basil mustard sauce, and serve.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

I went to Napa and what did I buy? Well, it wasn't wine ...

My boyfriend and I made an impromptu visit to Napa, Yountville, and St. Helena this weekend, and, I can't believe the highlight of my trip to Napa Valley wasn't the wine. It was two things, entirely different, and one of them involved a bathroom. Sorry, but I speak true.

I enjoy wine, but I'm not half the oenophile my boyfriend is (as further evidenced by the fact I had to check and make sure I was spelling oenophile correctly). For instance, it never occurs to me to open a bottle of wine at home. I live alone, and no matter how nice a meal I make for myself, the thought to open wine for myself with a meal doesn't even occur to me. Nor when I take a bubble bath or try to relax, as a matter of fact.

For that reason, at lunch he had wine, of course, but I ordered a Moscow Mule with my lunch and I make no apologies for it.

The weather was spectacular, the food was wonderful, the tourists were non-existent (except for us, of course) and we wandered about dining on wonderful meals, buying picnic treats from Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery and Dean & Deluca, and then I saw it ... in the refrigerator case at Dean & Deluca ...

A tub of rendered Duck Fat.

"I've heard of that!" I exclaimed. "I heard roasted potatoes and fries in Duck Fat are out of this world."

My boyfriend and Michelle Obama share a trait: They've both said if they could get away with it, they would eat french fries every single day, maybe even at every meal. He loves them so. For me to exclaim that Duck Fat makes wonderful fried potatoes and is actually healthier than butter, made him give me the high sign and encourage me to buy it. He thought I was thinking only of him, but to heck with that. I want to try cooking with duck fat for me! Hoo yah! Duck Fat Fries and Moscow Mule? Mm mm.

I bought the tub of fat, brought it home, and began my Google Search. I found a thread on Chowhound which talks more about how to store it and make Duck Confit than anything else, and I found a post by Mark Bittman recommending I try it in my Buttermilk Biscuits (::Perk!::). Since I'm on a quest for Perfect Biscuits that tip will have to go into the rotation.

So, what say you all ... what do you do with your rendered duck fat that is out of this world? Roasted potatoes? Fries? Savory Collard Greens? I'm all ears and open to suggestions.

What we bought in Napa, while everyone else was buying wine (this is embarrassing):

From Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery

1) TKO's (Thomas Keller Oreos) (fantastic, swoon worthy, here's the recipe)
2) Pistachio Macaroons (too sweet)
3) Warm Brie Tomato Basil Sandwiches on Baquettes (excellent)

From Dean and Deluca Napa Valley

1) Rendered duck fat
2) Goat Cheese and Macaroni Mini Casserole
3) Roasted Chicken
4) Coconut Cupcakes (so damn good)
5) Alfajores
6) Old fashioned lemon mints; old fashioned spearmint gum
7) Beeswax hand creme
8) Apricot Morning Buns
9) Glazed Old Fashioned Donut
10) A small wire sieve I need when I'm roasting and sorting schezwan peppercorns.

From a collection of art galleries and shops:

1) A 3 strand necklace of seed pearls.

For lunch at Bardessono Hotel & Spa:

Heirloom tomato salad with basil oil and burrata cheese (oh my gosh...simplicity at its finest)
Marin Sun Farms Hamburger on Brioche with Aioli and Herb Fries
Oyster Po Boy

and the grand finale...

The bathroom at the Bardessono Hotel. My boyfriend said "You really must use the loo. You'll love it." I walked it...and just loved it. It's a mini spa all by itself. I won't regale you with the decor itself, which was lovely, but they have the Neo-Rest bidet system -- automatic toilets which gently lift the lid when the door opens and you walk in. The seats are heated. The controls on the wall let you take a nice little spa treatment right there, with warm water, mists, and a blow dryer with warm air for your nether regions. I so love a nice bidet system -- it's just so civilized, isn't it? I was in there a good long while testing out all of the various options and controls.

Way too much information, but I thought you really needed to know that the highlight of my trip to Napa Valley was a coconut cupcake, a Thomas Keller Oreo, a tub of duck fat -- and a wash and style for Miss Virginia.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

The Omnivore's 100 List

I'm passing on the Omnivore's 100 list which I found today at Ginny's "Just Get Floury" blog. I remember blogging something similar but this had more interesting items on it. Let me know in the comments if you elect to pass it on, I'd like to see what you guys think.

1) Copy this list into your blog or journal, including these instructions.
2) Bold all the items you’ve eaten.
3) Cross out any items that you would never consider eating.
4) Optional extra: Post a comment at linking to your results.

The VGT Omnivore’s Hundred:

1. Venison
2. Nettle tea
3. Huevos rancheros
4. Steak tartare
5. Crocodile
6. Black pudding
7. Cheese fondue
8. Carp
9. Borscht
10. Baba ghanoush
11. Calamari
12. Pho
13. PB&J sandwich
14. Aloo gobi
15. Hot dog from a street cart
16. Epoisses
17. Black truffle
18. Fruit wine made from something other than grapes
19. Steamed pork buns
20. Pistachio ice cream
21. Heirloom tomatoes
22. Fresh wild berries
23. Foie gras
24. Rice and beans
25. Head Cheese
26. Raw Scotch Bonnet pepper
27. Dulce de leche
28. Oysters
29. Baklava
30. Bagna cauda
31. Wasabi peas
32. Clam Chowder in Sourdough Bowl
33. Salted Lassi
34. Sauerkraut
35. Root beer float
36. Cognac with a Fat Cigar
37. Clotted Cream Tea
38. Vodka Jelly/Jell-O
39. Gumbo
40. Oxtail
41. Curried goat
42. Whole insects
43. Phaal
44. Goat’s milk
45. Malt whiskey from a bottle worth $120 or more
46. Fugu
47. Chicken tikka masala
48. Eel
49. Krispy Kreme original glazed doughnut
50. Sea urchin
51. Prickly pear
52. Umeboshi
53. Abalone
54. Paneer
55. McDonald’s Big Mac Meal
56. Spaetzle
57. Dirty gin martini
58. Beer above 8% ABV
59. Poutine
60. Carob chips
61. S’mores
62. Sweetbreads
63. Kaolin (CLAY? Oh, gotcha)
64. Currywurst
65. Durian
66. Frogs’ legs
67. Beignets, churros, elephant ears or funnel cake
68. Haggis
69. Fried plantain
70. Chitterlings or andouillette
71. Gazpacho
72. Caviar and blini
73. Louche absinthe
74. Gjetost or brunost
75. Roadkill
76. Baijiu
77. Hostess Fruit Pie
78. Snail
79. Lapsang Souchong
80. Bellini
81. Tom Yum
82. Eggs Benedict
83. Pocky
84. 3 Michelin Star Tasting Menu
85. Kobe beef
86. Hare
87. Goulash
88. Flowers
89. Horse
90. Criollo chocolate
91. Spam
92. Soft shell crab
93. Rose Harissa
94. Catfish
95. Mole Poblano
96. Bagel and Lox
97. Lobster Thermidor
98. Polenta
99. Jamaican Blue Mountain coffee
100. Snake

Monday, October 5, 2009

Thomas Keller TKO Cookies

These cookies are sold at Thomas Keller's Bouchon Bakery in Yountville, California, and are so delicious, I'm surprised how simple they really are. The salty, sandy cookie is perfect on its own, if you don't want to bother with the white chocolate filling.

I only had one complaint about these cookies when purchased fresh from the bakery: They were too large -- about the size of an English Muffin! That actually makes them too sweet as they don't divide easily, so you're essentially eating three very sweet cookies in one. By making your own, you can select the size of your choosing.


1 1/2 cups plus 3 tbsp AP flour
3/4 cup sugar
3/4 cup plus 1 tbsp unsweetened cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
15 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, at room temperature


1/2 cup heavy cream
8 ounces white chocolate, chopped


For the Filling: In a small pan, bring the cream to a boil. Remove from heat and add the chocolate. Let stand for 1 minute, then whisk to melt the chocolate until smooth. Transfer to a small bowl, and let stand for at least 6 hours to thicken up.

For the Cookies: In a large mixing bowl, combine the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda, and salt, and mix on low speed. With the mixer running, add the butter, a piece at a time. The mixture will be dry and sandy at first, but over 2 minutes, will form pebble-sized pieces that start to cling together. Stop the mixer and transfer the dough to your board.

Preheat oven to 350°F.

Separate dough into 2 pieces. Roll each piece of dough between 2 pieces of plastic wrap or parchment paper to 1/8" inch thick. Using a cookie cutter, cut into rounds. Scraps can be pieced together and rolled out again. Place 1/2" apart on baking sheets lined with Silpat liners or parchment paper.

Bake for 12-15 minutes, rotating halfway through baking. Remove and cool in the pan for 5 minutes, then transfer cookies to a cooling rack. Cool completely.

To Assemble: Lightly whip the white chocolate cream to aerate and fluff up. Transfer filling to a pastry bag fitted with a 1/4" plain tip. Pipe about 1 1/2 tsp in the center of half the cookies. Top with another cookie to sandwich. Gently press down until the cream comes to the edges.

Cookies can be stored in a container for up to 3 days. Loosely cover.