Wednesday, August 29, 2012

BBQ Raspberry Chicken Sandwich

This is what I like to call the Perfect Brunch Sandwich.  Sometimes for Sunday Brunch, I’m just not in the mood for breakfast.  And sometimes a heavy lunch causes too much lethargy even for a lazy day.  So, this sandwich fits splendidly in between.  I like to serve it small, because the ingredients are rich and sinful.  The combination of flavors in this sandwich marries beautifully.  It is smoky and sweet, with just the right amount of crunch. 

1 Grilled chicken breast, thinly sliced
4 Ham slices
3-4 T. Soft goat cheese
2 T. Raspberry preserves
3 T. BBQ sauce
¼ Red onion, thinly sliced
Cilantro, roughly chopped
Small loaf of French bread

In a small bowl, mix the raspberry preserves and BBQ sauce until combined. 

Slice the bread laterally.  Spoon a thin layer of sauce onto each slice of bread.  On the top slice, spread the goat cheese.  Set this slice aside.  On the bottom slice of bread, place the ham, chicken, onion and cilantro.  Carefully place the top and bottom layers together.  Slice the sandwich in half and share it with your best brunch pal.  Serve with a light salad on the side. 

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Gluten-Free Lemon Pound Cake

One of my favorite people came to visit last weekend!  My aunt Sara came in from San Francisco with my uncle Marty and my cousin Grady.  I met Sara when I was 15 – she and Marty invited me to SF for a week and I had an absolute blast!  They helped teach me to drive, took me to the Blue Man Group and Sara even taught me to make pasta from scratch.  She and I have shared recipes and food stories from the beginning and I’ve learned quite a bit from her inside and outside of the kitchen. 

This weekend, Sean and I joined Sara’s family for dinner with my aunt Mary Catherine and uncle Peter at a “fresh” restaurant called True Food.  I’ll be honest – I thought it was going to be a rough dinner because I’d heard you could only order raw food.  But, it ended up being delicious!  Everyone at the table enjoyed their meal.  I had a roasted corn and kale pizza that I’d order again in a heartbeat.  The reason we chose this restaurant is because Sara cannot eat any gluten.  The restaurant offered many options and we had a splendid time. 

The next day, Sean and I met with Sara again and this time we baked together!  Sara brought one of her favorite gluten-free recipes and Mary Catherine was kind enough to offer her kitchen.  It was so nice and relaxing to just hang in the kitchen and chat over food.  And I learned quite a bit about special flour combinations and a gluten-free diet in general. 

We made gluten-free lemon pound cake.  It was great!  The cake was light and soft.  It reminded me of sugar cookies with a hint of lemon.  Not your normal cloyingly sweet cake drenched in frosting, this cake was divine.  This recipe comes from the cookbook, The Blackbird Bakery Gluten Free 75 Recipes for Irresistible Gluten-Free Desserts and Pastries* by Karen Morgan.

Thank you for everything Sara!

1 C. Sorghum flour
½ C. Tapioca flour
½ C. Cornstarch
½ t. baking powder
¼ t. kosher salt
Zest of 1 lemon
1 C. plus 2 T. unsalted butter at room temperature
1 ¼ C. sugar
4 large eggs
2 ½ t. pure vanilla extract

Position an oven rack in the center of the oven.  Preheat the oven to 325 degrees (F).  Butter a 5-by-9-inch loaf pan. 

In a medium bowl, combine both flours, the cornstarch, baking powder and salt and stir with a whisk to blend.  Add the lemon zest to the dry ingredients. 

In a stand mixer, cream the butter and sugar on high speed for 5 minutes.  Add the eggs, one at a time and beat for a full minute after each addition stopping once or twice to beat for a full minute after each addition, stopping once or twice to scrape down the sides of the bowl.  Reduce the mixer speed to medium and add the dry ingredients all at once.  Beat for 3-5 minutes or until light and fluffy.  Beat in the vanilla.  Pour into the prepared pan, smooth the top and bake for 60-75 minutes or until the cake is lightly golden brown and a wooden skewer inserted in the center comes out clean.  Check the cake after the first 25 minutes of baking; if it has begun to darken, loosely cover with aluminum foil and resume baking. 
Remove from the oven and let cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.  Run a knife around the edges of the pan and unmold the cake a cutting board.  Cut into slices to serve. 

 Sara, Sean and I ate our pound cake with fresh fruit and peach and cherry sauces.  Yumm!

Monday, August 13, 2012

Raspberry Sorbet with Pinot Noir Sauce

I don't know about you, but I have lists upon lists of recipes.  And by lists, I mean an exorbitant number of files and folders, pictures, links, URL's, ideas, ingredients, menus, magazines, etc.  It's ridiculous really!  Sometimes I scare myself.  If I removed all of the food-related documents from my computer, I don't think I'd have anything left.  I tell myself though, that one positive thing about all of these food-related paraphernalia is that I will truly never go hungry.  

Some of the ideas I keep stock-piled away, take a v-e-r-y long time to come to fruition on the blog.  This post is a perfect example of that long process.  I've had Raspberry Pinot Noir Sorbet on my mind for a couple years now - (crazy, I know!) - and it has finally made it's way through "the process" onto the blog.  Don't get me wrong - sometimes I will just run to the supermarket and buy it, but that really takes all the fun out of it.  

        [idea spark]  +  [ingredients]  +  [sketch]  +  [experimental disaster]  +  [2nd attempt]  +  [plating perfection]  +  [photograph]  +  [excerpt/story]  =  acceptable blog post  

*2 spelling mistakes - goes to show how long perfection really takes ;)

For some reason, I've never been a huge ice cream lover.  I'll have the occasional scoop with birthday cake or an affogato on a special occasion, but I'd much rather have gelato (less heavy cream & fat) or sorbet.  I like the texture of these much better as well as the fresh fruit flavors.  Today's recipe pairs sweet raspberry sorbet with the rich flavors of Pinot Noir and chocolate.  It's a refreshing and seductive combination of flavors.  

The sauce is a bit thin, so I may work with it a bit more to thicken it up, but the flavors are wonderful!

Store-bought raspberry sorbet
Pinot Noir, cheap bottle is fine as long as you'd drink it
1 T. Berry jam or preserves
Melted chocolate, for garnish

In a small sauce pan, combine 1 C. Pinot Noir with the jam or preserves.  Bring this mixture to a boil and allow to reduce by half.  Set aside and allow to cool.

Drizzle your melted chocolate on your plate making sure to close off whatever shape you choose, so that the sauce can stay inside the chocolate.  Place a scoop of the sorbet on top.  

Monday, August 6, 2012

RR :: Valle Luna

A few months ago, my friend Kelsey told me about and their great deals on restaurant coupons.  They had a sale going on where you could buy a $25 gift certificate for only $2.  It was too good to pass by, so naturally, I told Sean.  The three of us ended up buying several certificates so we could eat out and save some serious cash.  What we didn’t know was that we all bought certificates for the same restaurant!  That’s right, we had each purchased gift certificates to Valle Luna.  I guess that goes to show you just how much we all love this restaurant!

We had a good laugh about our lack of coordination, but in the end, we were incredibly pleased because it just meant that we could eat at Valle Luna at least three more times. 

When you go to Valle Luna (and you know you want to!), make sure you arrive with time to spare because there will be a line out the door.  It’s a fairly large restaurant too, so you know it’s worth the wait!

Each time we eat at Valle Luna, we never miss out on the margarita of the day:  blue agave, melon, prickly pear, etc.  They’re all delicious and incredibly refreshing.  This, combined with the bottomless chips and salsa is a perfect start to our Mexicana meal.  Now, I have to be very honest with you.  Every time I eat here, I tell myself I’m going to try something new.  I try to convince myself to be adventurous and go out on a limb to explore the menu.  And everything on menu is good - I've tasted Sean and Kelsey's meals!  But, when it comes down to it, I lose my "cares to the wind" mentality and go with my trusty favorite:  The Machaca Beef Chimichanga with Green Chile sauce.  It's THAT good!  This dish is hearty and comforting and packed with rich flavor.  Exploring menus are great, but sometimes it's just as good to stick with a classic.  It's what I crave each time I think about Valle Luna and I will probably order it each and every time I go to this restaurant in the future.

Valle Luna
3336 W Bell Rd
Phoenix, AZ 85053
(602) 993-3108

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Cherry Limeade

This is one of my favorite drinks of all time.  It reminds me of my brother Spencer, with whom I’ve shared many of these quenching boissons.  It is sweet and tart with just the right amount fizz.  To make it truly authentic, buy your ice from the local Sonic drive-thru.  For spike, vodka or tequila works best.  

Juice from 8 limes
Lemon lime soda
Maraschino cherries and juice (or grenadine)

In a pitcher, combine the lime juice and grenadine in a 1:2 ratio.  Add lemon lime soda on top and stir to combine.  Adjust measurements to taste.  Garnish your glasses with a lime slice and lots of ice.