Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Scallops with Wilted Spinach, Grapefuit and Mint

Janet found the perfect summer supper and wanted to share it.  Scallops with Wilted Spinach, Grapefruit and Mint is delicious and quick to prepare.  A short cut is to use grapefruit sections from the produce department.  

Though this may seem like an odd combination of flavors, all come together beautifully and even a finicky husband will enjoy!

Brennan's of Houston

Another week in August, another week celebrating Houston Restaurant Weeks.  This week it was Brennan's of Houston and the food and atmosphere were both amazing! 

After being seated at our table featuring high backed chairs we ordered our three course meals.  Appetizers included shrimp and grits, the famous turtle soup and a salad featuring peaches and a sunflower seed brittle.  The shrimp and grits were my favorite even though I ordered the turtle soup!  The soup was thick and made from a brown roux and it was finished with a drizzle of sherry.  The salad was delicious and my second favorite appetizer.  I HAD to order the famous soup, which I did enjoy and finish, and fortunately my table mates were happy to share a taste of their dishes.

Entrees ordered were the filet of beef with delicious mashed potatoes over a bacon tomato jam and shrimp creole.  The steak was very tender and the bacon tomato jam gave the potatoes a bacon flavor that was very nice.  The shrimp creole featured large, fresh, perfectly cooked shrimp and a mild sauce that were served table side over a bed of rice.

All three of the dessert choices were ordered and these were strawberry shortcake, bread pudding and bananas foster.  All were delicious!  The strawberry shortcake had a strawberry puree with a biscuit covered in berries, fresh cream and another biscuit.  The bread pudding was accompanied by pecans and a whiskey sauce and was sinfully delicious.  Prepared table side, the bananas foster was served with a rum sauce, home made ice cream and a beautiful white bowl decorated with hearts made from powdered cinnamon.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

August 14, 2011

Some of the Gourmet Gals met at Mary's home for our August dinner with a theme of "light and refreshing".
Appetizer - Avocado Salsa and chips, Carol
Bread & Wine - Fabulous Focaccia and Pinot Grigio, Janet
Salad - Mixed Green Salad with Cilantro Dressing, Carol
Side - Ratatouille, Angie
Main Dish - Seafood Linguine, Mary
Dessert - Neapolitan Cheesecake, Carol (a trifecta of cheesecake and entrees from our saint Carol!!)
Janet started off the evening with two light and refreshing Pinot Grigios to compliment the seafood main dish. I preferred the Italo Cescon one, especially its label with the little ribbon and twig (not shown).
 The appetizer of Avocado Salsa was a delightful blend of fresh ingredients and the star was not the avocado but the fresh corn.  Carol adapted the recipe by omitting the shrimp and cucumber and adding:
  • 1 can of drained and rinsed black beans
  • two ears of fresh corn
  • red onion rather than green onion
  • 4 tablespoons of lime juice rather than 3

In Lauren's absence, Carol surprised us by doing triple duty and bringing a salad with the most delicious dressing!

Mixed Green Salad with Cilantro Dressing
Texas on the Plate
Terry Thompson Anderson
Mixed greens, including field greens if available ( Carol added 1 head of butter lettuce to the mixed greens)
Very thinly sliced red onions
Cherry tomatoes
Cucumber rounds
Cilantro Dressing:
Makes about 2 cups
2 cups lightly packed cilantro sprigs, leaves and stems
1 Tbs minced garlic
1 Tbs minced fresh jalapeno , seeds and veins removed
2 Tbs Champagne vinegar
1/4 teaspoon salt (or to taste)
1 teaspoon real maple syrup
1 Tbs freshly squeezed lime juice
3/4 teaspoons minced lime zest
1 c mayonnaise
Combine all the ingredients in work bowl of food processor fitted with steel blade.
Process until smooth. Refrigerate, covered for about 4 hours before using to allow time for the flavors to meld.
Arrange the mixed greens on individual salad plates and pour desired amount of dressing over the top.

Garnish the salad with slivered red onions, cherry tomatoes, cucumber rounds, and avocado slices (if using).


Janet prepared a wonderful bread, Tyler Florence's Fabulous Focaccia, and I could have eaten the entire pan.  It was very light and a bit crispy.


For a side I wanted to prepare vegetables as well as try something different and I found this recipe for Roasted Ratatouille and it fit the bill perfectly!  The preparation of roasting rather than stewing made it quick and simple and the original recipe also features two other recipes that can be made with left over ratatouille.  If I made this again I would add mushrooms too.


For the main dish of Seafood Linguine, Mary combined two recipes together:  one from Cooks and another from I Cannot Believe It's Not Butter.  Mainly we followed the I Cannot Believe It's Not Butter Recipe and we included:
  •  minced clams
  • dry white wine
  • freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • cornstarch slurry
  •  parsley for garnish
  • sour cream—tossed with the boiled pasta prior to topping with seafood mixture

We ended the meal with a beautiful, as well as delicious, Neapolitan Cheesecake with freshly whipped cream and sliced strawberries.  Carol truly outdid herself, again!  The recipe is below.
Neapolitan Cheesecake
Yield: 12 servings
Best of Taste of Home - 2011

1 cup cream filled chocolate sandwich cookie (Oreos!) crumbs
3 Tbs sugar
3 Tbs butter


4 packages (8 oz. each) cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 c sugar
2 Tbs all purpose flour
2 Tbs heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
4 eggs, beaten lightly
3/4 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup fresh strawberries, hulled
1 to 2 drops red food coloring, optional
1/4 cup seedless strawberry jam, warmed

Sliced fresh strawberries and sweetened whipped cream

1. Place a greased 9 inch spring form pan on a double thickness of heavy duty foil ( about 18 square).
Securely wrap foil around pan.

2. In a small bowl, combine the cookie crumbs, sugar, and butter. Press onto the bottom of pan: set aside.

3. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Beat in flour, cream, and extracts. Add eggs,
beat on low speed just until combined. Divide batter into thirds.

4. In a microwave, melt chocolate chips; cool to room temperature. Stir melted chocolate into one portion of batter.  Pour over crust.

In a food processor, puree strawberries. Add pureed strawberries and food coloring if desired, to another portion of better. Gently spread over chocolate layer. Place spring form pan in a large baking pan; add 1 inch
of hot water to larger pan. (water bath)

5. Bake at 325 degrees for 40 minutes or until center is just set and top appears dull. Gently spread remaining plain batter over top. Bake for 25 - 30 minutes or until top appears dull. Remove spring form pan from water bath. Cool on a wire rack for 10 minutes. Carefully run a knife around edge of pan to loosen; cool for 1 hour longer. Refrigerate over night.

6. Remove sides of pan. Drizzle jam over cheesecake ; garnish with strawberries and whipped cream.


A delegation of the Gourmet Gals dined at Haven on August 17, 2011 in celebration of Houston Restaurant Weeks. This is a month long celebration where restaurants offer 3-course $20 lunches and $35 dinners and money is donated to the Houston Food Bank.

We chose Haven and its southern cuisine from the long list of wonderful restaurants and the food was outstanding. So far almost $11,000 has been donated and Haven is hoping to break last year's record of over $20,000.

Appetizers enjoyed included the corn soup, baby arugula and peach salad and fried chicken livers with biscuits and gravy. YES, chicken livers! They were delicious and coated in a crispy, golden brown batter.

For entrees, most ordered the Akaushi steak which comes from cows raised in Texas that are the same breed as the Kobe cows in Japan. (More information can be found here). The steak was amazingly tender and stuffed with a thin line of brie cheese that oozed out with each bite. One brave soul faced her fear of shrimp heads and ordered the wild head on shrimp with shrimp boudin, andouille and grits. All entrees were delicious.

Finally, for dessert there was coconut tres leches bread pudding with a Swiss meringue and chocolate layer cake with homemade vanilla ice cream. YUM.

The Houston Restaurant Weeks is a great way to try trendy restaurants without spending $100 AND it all supports the Houston Food Bank. The Haven menu can be found here.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Treebeard's Butter Cake

I may have posted this recipe before but it is worth repeating! Treebeard's is a restaurant in Houston that I discovered when I worked downtown, straight out of college. The location I went to was in a beautiful church with gardens and on Fridays there was a band. The food is amazing, southern, comfort food. I usually ordered the fried chicken and mashed potatoes.

Fast forward ten years and two jobs later, and I eat Treebeard's once a month in a 24th floor conference room overlooking the Greenway Plaza area. It is the MUST HAVE menu at this board meeting. (One month a different restaurant catered and there was a near revolt.) Served is gumbo, shrimp etouffee, red beans and rice, a gorgeous salad, grilled chicken breasts with sweet bell peppers and greens. Normally, I opt for the chicken and greens so I can eat at least two pieces of Treebeard's Butter Cake. This cake is not really a cake but more like a blondie brownie. It has a crispy top and very moist center. It is an interesting bar that you cannot figure out how it is made until you see the recipe. There is a boxed cake mix bottom and a cream cheese and powdered sugar top that come together to create perfection. Anytime I bring these treats (I made them last night for a weekend trip) I get rave reviews and requests for the recipe. And the recipe is perfect as is. Do not change anything and no need for any of the toppings suggested in the recipe.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Banoffee Pie

I was reading a new cooking blog, Three Many Cooks, and found this recipe for Banoffee Pie and had to try it.

There is an interesting first step: simmer a can (sans label) of sweetened condensed milk for three hours in a pot of water. The first thing that comes to mind when imagining a simmering can is AN EXPLOSION. I did some research and was assured there would be NO EXPLOSION of hot milk lava to burn my skin off.

Apparently in Europe, simmering condensed milk happens quite often and in some countries the final product is sold in stores. The final product being caramel/toffee. When I opened the can the next morning, it looked like condensed milk and I thought what a waste of three hours of holding a pillow over my head least I get hit by shrapnel. I decided to push forward and poured it into the crust and after the first bit of yellow milk then the brown toffee appeared and I mixed it together in the crust. I do not know if there will always be a part of the can that does not caramelize or if it all would have had I covered the can completely with water.

The name of the pie, banoffee, is the combination of the words "banana" and "toffee". It was VERY delicious. The night before I was serving the pie I prepared the crust, toffee and whipped cream. I stored all separately (the cream in the refrigerator, the rest at room temperature) and assembled the pie in the morning and served it at dinner. I was afraid it would make the crust soggy, but it did not. The recipe says you can assemble it a few hours before serving but I think a day in advance would be fine.

My pie was not as solid as in the original posting and I think it would be beneficial to put it in the freezer 30 minutes to an hour before serving. The toffee is sweet and creamy and just the right amount. Any more would be too sweet. The bananas are a nice surprise, since you cannot see the slices mixed with all the cream. The cream, lightly sweetened, is a great way to cut the sweetness of the toffee.

I sprinkled the top with left over graham cracker crust crumbs. I did not think it needed any more flavors like the chocolate called for in the original recipe.