Friday, August 31, 2012

Great Summer Salad: Cantaloupe Carpaccio from The Chew

As part of our food fest in Phoenix, we made a recipe Barb spotted on The Chew.  We didn’t change a thing.  It’s absolutely perfect!  Yum!

Mario Batali’s Melon Carpaccio
1 Cantaloupe or Honeydew Melon (thinly sliced)
1/4 pound Spicy Salami (julienned)
1/4 cup Parmigiano Reggiano (shaved with a vegetable peeler)
2 tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 cups Arugula
2 Limes 

Thinly slice the melon and arrange on serving plate. (We used a cheese slicer to make the thin cantaloupe slices.) Sprinkle the salami & cheese over the melon.  Artfully arrange the arugula on top.  Finish with lime juice, olive oil and freshly cracked pepper.  (You’ll note in our photo that we placed the cheese on the top instead). 

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Cocktail Chemistry

Last night, we found ourselves in the back alleys of Scottsdale, seeking a local speakeasy, Citizen R+D to immerse ourselves in a fun, new trend in cocktails.  In true speakeasy fashion, we called the phone number listed on a clipboard hanging by a nail and then awaited our burly gatekeeper, Tony, to enter the intimate, swanky club.

This particular night, mixologists Kris and Tara, prepared for us three drinks we selected from an extensive list of 27 options -- this particular night's rotation of choices.  First up, was the Shell Shock, which tasted fabulously similar to the Pusser's Painkillers we wrote about last week.  This version was a concoction of rum, vanilla ice cream, pineapple juice, the coconut milk from the fresh coconut our drink was served in, all topped with a sprinkle of nutmeg. 

Next up, the Black Blazer.  Prepared table-side, this flaming combination of Jameson Irish whiskey, Blackmaker root beer liqueur, Stroh black strap molasses high-proof rum, maple syrup, topped with whipped cream and toasted orange peel, packed quite a wallop.  And, yes, before you exclaim that we ordered another drink, please note that there were three of us in attendance.

Our third, and final selection, was the La Flama Blanca, another table-side flaming creation (we like fire), this time with Patron XO Cafe, Stroh black strap molasses high proof rum, espresso, grated Mexican chocolate, and whipped cream on the top.  Similar in some respects to the Black Blazer, but it evoked a completely different flavor profile. 

Among the other concoctions we spotted in the club, were paint can punch (literally served in a paint can), and dry ice charged drinks that brought to mind a witch's brew.

Speakeasies are a hot new trend, with establishments like this popping up in cities across the country.  These aren't the old-fashioned speakeasies where you could get yourself a tumbler full of moonshine.  Back in the day, bartenders were forced to try to find innovative ways to hide the awful taste of the hooch.  Today, these modern speakeasies are the dens of creative mixologists who are taking old-fashioned drinks and reinventing them with unique ingredients and a flair for the dramatic.  While clearly not illegal in modern times, their hidden locations, nondescript entrances,  and limited capacity, make you feel like you just might be doing something illicit.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

A Peach Dessert Beyond "Just Peachy"

It's not too often that we (Barb and Sharon) have the chance to cook together in the same kitchen, but when we do, you can be sure that there will be a bounty of mouth-watering foods.  The other night was no exception (and we'll be sharing some more of the recipes we made in future blogs), but the piece de resistance had to be the original peach dessert Barb concocted.  The elements were simple, but they came together in a most amazing way!

Here's the recipe for you to try for yourself.  You won't be disappointed. 

Caramelized Peaches with Mint Mascarpone (serves 3 or 4)
4 oz. mascarpone
mint, leaves removed from two large sprigs, and chopped fine

1/2 stick butter
3 T. brown sugar
two peaches peeled and cut into eighths
1/8 cup pistachios, finely chopped

In a small bowl, combine mascarpone and mint. set aside. In a medium skillet over medium heat, melt the butter and add the brown sugar. Cook, stirring often until thick and bubbly, about 3 minutes. Add peaches and toss with caramel, about one minute.

Using a small dessert place (or perhaps a small bowl would be better) divide the mascarpone evenly between the dishes. Top with peaches and some of the sauce, and sprinkle with pistachios. Serve immediately.

Friday, August 24, 2012

Cooking for Two: Bacon, Tomato and Corn Pasta

Well, it has happened. Hubby and I are now "empty nesters" as our one and only went off to The University of Arizona. I worried a bit about cooking for two, as I'd heard many of my friends just "gave up" cooking when the kids left. But I LOVE cooking and enjoy providing hubby with a home-cooked meal.

After a few days of experimentation, I think I'm getting the knack of it. Some of it requires planning, and some of it requires math skills (eek!).

So, from time to time I'll share my recipes, tips and tweaks as I head down this new culinary path challenge.

Bacon, Tomato and Corn Pasta
(revised from The Chew's Michael Symon)

1/2 pound of pasta
salt for pasta water
1/4 lb. thick-sliced bacon, diced
1 ear corn, cut from cob
2 cloves garlic, sliced
1/2 pint grape tomatoes
1/2 bag baby spinach
1 t. mint, chopped
2 T. butter
parmesan cheese -- grate for garnish

Bring a large pot of water to boil. When at boil, salt liberally and add in pasta. Cook one minute less than box calls for.

In a large saute pan, heat the EVOO and cook the bacon until crisp over medium high heat. With a slotted spoon, remove the bacon to a paper towel. Remove all but 1 T. grease from the pan. Add in garlic, tomatoes, and cook and saute for one minute. Add in spinach and cook another minute until wilted.

When pasta is done, drain, reserving one cup of the pasta water. Add pasta to saute pan. Add in mint and butter and 1/4 c. of pasta water. Continue to cook for one minute, adding in pasta water as needed to make a sauce but not make it soupy.

Garnish with parmesan, and cracked black pepper if desired.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Pusser’s Rum Painkillers

Back in a previous life, Sharon and I both found ourselves on the British Virgin Island of Tortola -- she on her honeymoon in 1991, and me with my hubby and friends during a cruise in 1996. There's not a lot to do on this island, other than go to Pusser's Bar and enjoy their (in)famous Painkiller cocktail. I don't remember much about that day after a few of these tropically tasty beverages, other than the fact that we DID make it back to the ship on time.
Sharon & Dan on Honeymoon circa 1991
Flash forward to last weekend, we went to Beckett's Table, an excellent restaurant here in Phoenix, and lo and behold, they offered up a Painkiller on their cocktail menu. Hubby ordered one immediately. One sip took us back to our Caribbean adventures. They were so good he had a second.
So, there's a holiday weekend coming up next week that marks the "end" of summer. Go get yourself some Pusser's Rum (here's a link that will help you locate it in your town) and whip yourself up a Painkiller (or two or three -- the website has a recipe on how to make them in batches) and lounge by your pool, lake or sprinkler. Cheers!
The Painkiller® is a blend of Pusser's Rum with 4 parts pineapple juice, 1 part cream of coconut and 1 part orange juice served over the rocks with a generous amount of fresh nutmeg on top. You have a choice of numbers 2, 3 or 4, which designate the amount of Pusser's Rum! Cheers!
  • Painkiller #2 ... 2 parts Pusser's Rum
  • Painkiller #3 ... 3 parts Pusser's Rum
  • Painkiller #4 ... 4 parts Pusser's Rum

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Product Review: Robert Welch Signature Knives



Many moons ago, my dear husband Dan made what conceivably could have been a fatal mistake.  Having grown up in a household where “practical” gifts – aka anything related to household chores – was unacceptable, imagine my surprise when I opened my birthday present from him and it was a set of knives.  I was torn.  Should I use them to stab him, or should I gratefully admit that I had secretly been longing for better knives for some time.  I chose the latter when I saw that he had indeed purchased good knives – Wusthof knives.  These knives made cooking an even more pleasurable activity and I’ve put them to good use ever since. 

Fast forward, to the present.  A colleague hooked Barb and I up to test run a line of high-quality knives, cooking utensils and kitchen accessories by UK designer Robert Welch Designs.  His lines were recently introduced in the United States, and can be found, among other locations, at Crate & Barrel.

Wow.  Sorry Wusthof.  My heart now belongs to Robert Welch.  His knives actually give me goose bumps.  Not only are they incredibly sharp (sort of a must-have for a good knife), but they fit so beautifully in my hand and the weighting between blade and handle is superb.  And, they’re beautiful!  SIG Knife Cooks 14cm moodThe past few days, I’ve been choosing things to cook that require a lot of knife work, just so I can use these knives. 

I test drove three different knives from Welch’s Signature line – a vegetable paring knife, an 8” chef’s knife, and a 5 1/2” Santoku.  The latter sliced so effortlessly through a cantaloupe, my friend Sylvia actually gasped.  She used the paring knife to cut up veggies for kabobs the other night and kept commenting on how wonderful the knife felt in her hand.   

The Robert Welch Signature line not only features a broad range of hand-crafted knives, but also utensils that are as beautiful as they are functional, and they include those wonderfully lipped ends on the comfortably round handles for storage/display on kitchen utensil rails.  Even his salt and pepper grinders are aesthetically pleasing – almost like setting a piece of contemporary art on your counter.


I couldn’t agree more. I too have a knife set of Wusthofs, but after putting these Robert Welch Signature knives in my hand, I packed up those old knives to give to my daughter when she moves into her apartment. The Robert Welch Signature knives felt heavier in my hand, but not too heavy to cause arm fatigue. I’ve been using a Wusthof Santoku knife for a few months but the Welch one sliced effortlessly through everything I cut. The paring knife was a dream to use…my old Cutco had given up the ghost long ago. Wow, so nice to use great knives.



Thursday, August 9, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Tales of the Cocktail 2012 Trends

Profile PictureIn our far-reaching and never-ending quest for the latest, greatest and most delicious cocktails, we stumbled upon a recent Food Network blog post on the Top 5 Trends in Cocktails, based on the writer's experience at Tales of the Cocktail 2012, an annual event that FeedingFrenzy aspires to attend -- perhaps next year? 

One of the highlighted trends is barrel-aged spirits.  You'll increasingly find barrel-aged options appearing on drink menus at the best cocktail bars.  Why should you say yes to a barrel-aged option?  Because the aging process changes the cocktail's character and flavor, mellowing and creating new subtleties that, like a good wine, are fun to sample and dissect.  Barrel-aging can take a traditional cocktail to a whole new place.  

So, next time you're out, give barrel-aging a try and let us know if you can taste the difference!  


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Thirsty Thursday: Super Horse!

Our friends at Seviche, A Latin Restaurant, in Louisville posted this absolutely delightful looking drink today. Made with yummy Buffalo Trace Bourbon, it's sure to please on these super hot summer days.

Super Horse Cocktail:
Buffalo Trace
muddled ginger
fresh lime

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Well, shucks, thanks!

Chow Bella, the online food forum from Phoenix New Times, has been running a segment called "Tastemakers." They've identified 100 folks in Phoenix who have some influence/interest in food. We were thrilled when our own Barb Harris was asked to take part. Here's the link to her post: