Monday, June 29, 2009

Gluten-free, meat-free, anything but flavor free.

Okay, bloggerspot and I have some issues with one another. For one thing... what's with all the spaces? No I did not want 10 lines between each item in the ingredient list. And why can't I add more than my one little photo over there? This is what happens when the tenchologically decrepit try to write a blog. Must devote some of that vacation time to figure out the ins and outs of this site. On to happier thoughts. How about Summer.....ahhhh.... Summer, only during this time of year can I say, I am recovering from vacation while I pack for the next one. The week in between the two trips gives me time to clean out my refrigerator, and buy just enough food to get by until we head out.

I am going home to Vermont for a week or so and when I used to go home to Vermont it meant one thing. Five Spice Cafe!!! A very quaint restaurant on Church Street in Burlington, Vermont. They had the best food, and a wonderful atmosphere, until new owners bought it and first ran it into the ground before it burned to the ground. It's been three years and they have yet to rebuild it.

My favorite dish to get was the Vegetarian Kung Pao substituting Tofu for Setan, with a side of spicy cucumbers. I feel like home just talking about it. Well when we moved here there was no Church Street Cafe, and only having it once a year didn't really seem doable so I made several attempts at recreating the dish. Here is the result. This recipe is gluten-free, assuming tofu is gluten-free, which I am assuming... sorry if I'm wrong, vegan, and spicy. Hot stuff for a hot month. Enjoy.

Kung Pao Tofu

1 tablespoon rice wine
1 tablespoon peanut oil
1 tablespoon soy sauce
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon cornstarch (is there wheat hiding in cornstarch... didn't think to check)

3 tablespoons soy sauce
2 tablespoon rice wine
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
2 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoon hoisin sauce

The rest
2 tablespoons peanut oil
4 dried or pickled whole chilis (watch out you don't eat these at the end... whooo baby)
1/2 inch ginger, peeled, sliced, and diced
1 garlic clove, smashed
4 green onions, chop the white part tiny, then the green in 1/2-inch pieces
1/4 cup peanuts
1/2 small head red cabbage, sliced thin
5 baby carrots, julienned
8 ounces of Tofu, cubed

Slurry/Thickening sauce
2 tablespoons water
1 tablespoon cornstarch or veggie stock
Mix together to form slurry

Put all marinade ingredients together in a bowl. Mix well. Dump into ziploc bag, add tofu, shake up, place in fridge for about 2 hours or overnight.

Mix ingredients for sauce, and set aside.

Over medium high heat add 1/2 teaspoon of peanut oil. Rub around bottom of pan. Add tofu. Let fry on one side until crispy, turn, try to get all sides toasty brown. Remove from pan.

Over high heat in wok, heat the remaining peanut oil until super hot. When wok is almost at smoking temperature, add the peanuts, fry for 30-40 seconds, remove and set aside on paper towel. Add the chilis, ginger, garlic, and white part of the onions for 30-40 seconds or until the chilis turn dark (this may not happen with pickled chilies).

Add the sauce and bring to a boil. Add the peanuts back to the wok. Thicken sauce with half the slurry.

Add the tofu, fry for 30 seconds. Add the rest of the slurry if necessary.

Add the red cabbage, carrots, fry until almost tender. Add in onion greens, continue to cook until everything is glossy and tender but still has crunch. Serve with jasmine or brown rice and side of spicy cucumbers (recipe to come).

Have a great holiday.

Monday, June 22, 2009

Garden Party Part II

We are on vacation, well we are off from work and on the road to attend a wedding, and being on vacation leaves little room for cooking. At least this particular vacation leaves little time for cooking, and lots of time in the car. Lots of time to think about my latest food trend, or should I say food torture device? I am attempting to go Gluten-free. I started last Thursday. That was the same day we started our mini vacation. When I say these things together they immediately lead to one thought. Bad timing!

If you have ever spent time in the real world and were trying to eat Gluten free you would quickly realize it is in everything. Which makes this recipe all the more painful to write about. It was easy and tasty at the time but now will have to be eaten sans bun. However, if you are one of blessed people that does not have Celiacs, a gluten intolerance, or the desire to torture yourself by attempting gluten free, such as myself, you will enjoy the burger that much more. If you happen to be avoiding gluten you might try this with two marinated grilled portabella mushrooms instead of the bun, let me know how it turns out.

Pancetta Cheeseburgers


4 thin slices of pancetta
1 ¼ lbs ground chuck
¾ teaspoon coarse salt
½ teaspoon chili powder
¼ teaspoon paprika
Freshly ground pepper
4 ounces fontina cheese, grated or thinly sliced
4 good quality hamburger buns, toasted if desired (or maybe gluten free if available)
2 tablespoons butter, melted
Basting brush


Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Place pancetta on a rimmed baking sheet. Bake, flipping halfway through, until crisp, about 15 minutes. Drain on paper towels.

Meanwhile, using your hands, combine ground chuck, salt, chili powder, and paprika in a bowl, and season with pepper. Shape into 4 patties (about 4 inches in diameter), if you want to avoid the fat center burger shape, you can make a small indent in the center of the burger, that way when it cooks it plumps to the same size as the rest of the burger.

Preheat grill to medium. Grill burgers 4 to 5 minutes. Baste with butter. Flip burgers, and top with cheese. Grill 3 to 4 minutes more for medium-rare, basting with butter. Remove and let rest 5 minutes. Top burgers with pancetta, and serve on buns.

Balsamic Mushrooms


¼ cup olive oil
1 pound baby bellas (quartered)
3 tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 teaspoon coarse salt
¼ teaspoon red-pepper flakes
Freshly ground pepper


Heat oil in a skillet over medium-high heat. Add mushrooms, and cook until golden brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in vinegar, salt, and red-pepper flakes, and season with pepper. Cook 1 minute more. Transfer to a bowl, serve warm or room temperature, I recommend room temp so you can do it before people come.

Serves 4

Sunday, June 14, 2009

Garden Party

I recently had a Mommy friend ask me, "How do you possibly still have time to have dinner parties?" Here is the answer.... ready? Wait for it..... I cheat. That's right! I'm shameless. I used to spend hours pouring over recipes to match up the courses and make extravagant dishes, with expensive ingredients. These days I steal a pre-set menu (this time from Martha Stewart Living, June 2007 actually I combined two different menus, but who's counting). I try to do as many pre-prep or pre-cook items as possible, and I usually buy dessert, I know pathetic right? However, I still get to cook, entertain, and enjoy myself so that must drop the level of pathetic. I'm sure foodies around the world are looking down their noses at me as we speak, I would have as some of you may know from listening to me complain about Sandra's semi-homemade on Food Network, which I still think should be called, Sandra takes store bought stuff out of a container, arranges it on a plate, and calls it homemade. My... awfully judgemental for the girl who bought brownies for dessert. Okay where were we? Oh yes....

We had a garden party last Saturday, it was full of quick and easy menu items that can be prepped around Blues Clues, Peek-a-boo and nap times. I also believe that this menu would be just as appropriate for a quick family dinner as for entertaining, and plan to use it again in the future. Here is the menu, I will give you two recipes this week, and two next week as I will be travelling for my lovely cousin's wedding. Also, I am trying to do a Mom friendly blog here, and if it would honestly take more time to write it all out than it did to cook it.

Italian Sangria

Shrimp with Herb Sauce

Pancetta Burgers with Grilled Zucchini and Balsamic Mushrooms

Brownie Sundae

The first thing served and the hit of the party was what Martha Steward (Living July 2002) calls Herb Fruit Carafe, but since I spent the night saying... It's like an Italian Sangria I think for my recipe collection I will rename it Italian Sangria and save everyone the trouble. This is a perfect drink for people who like drinks to be refreshing but not super sweet, however it is dangerously deceptive and you should remember that it does contain alcohol.

Italian Sangria


5 sprigs of basil
4 cups of fruit
3 tablespoons white sugar
1 bottle of sparkling Italian wine prosecco
3/4 cup vodka


Place basil, fruit, and sugar into a pitcher, mull together, pour vodka over the fruit let sit for at least an hour. Right before serving add a lot of ice, and pour the Prosecco over, stir to combine. Serve over ice, and garnish with small basil leaves.

We served two hors d' oeuvres .... pita chips with guacamole, and home made grilled jalapeno poppers (thanks mom) which are simple and a huge hit. Cut jalapeno in half, fill with cream cheese, wrap in bacon, grill until pepper skin blisters and bacon is crispy..... next!

Shrimp with Salsa Verde (also being renamed to Shrimp with Herb Pesto as Salsa implies tomato to me)


3 garlic cloves
2 tablespoons capers, rinsed and chopped
1 teaspoon coarse salt
1 cup fresh mint leaves, finely chopped
¾ cup chopped fresh flat leaf parsley
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 lemons, 1 juiced 92 ½ tablespoons), 1 cut into 6 wedges for garnish
1 tablespoon red-wine vinegar
3 lbs large shrimp
½ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
Wooden skewers


Soak skewers for at least 30 minutes. Place garlic, capers, and 1/2 teaspoon of the salt, mint, parsley, olive oil, lemon juice, and red-wine vinegar into a mini food processor. Give a quick spin so it's not too liquidy. Add the oil a little at a time and spin again.

Preheat the broiler or prepare a grill. String shrimp onto wooden skewers for easy turning. n both sides to lay flat. Season with the remaining ½ teaspoon of salt and the pepper. Broil or grill for 2 minutes per side. Place 4 shrimp on each plate and spoon some of the sauce on the plate next to them so picky eaters can tread lightly. Serve with lemon.

Serves 6

Stay tuned next week for the rest of the menu.... enjoy your week.

Thursday, June 11, 2009

First post... missing oh so many elements

I used to spend a lot of time cooking. I mean a LOT of time. It was my escape, it was my respite, it was my love. These days I have a new love that takes up my time, my one year old, Monkey, or M, we'll use both here (I believe Blogger ettiquette says not to use names). Now this in not our first child, but it is our first child in many years. My daughter, K, now seventeen, just graduated from high school, and, while still one of the loves of my life, no longer requires watching around hot stoves, or help putting shapes through cut outs in a box. We also have a cat, Liaden (I think she is safe using her real name), that's her. She takes up a lot of time as well. She is standing in for a picture of the food as I did not take photos, as will be addressed later, I did not expect to start a food blog, so I didn't know I would need the photo at all. Will work on that, food blogs should probably contain photos of food now and again.

I once dreamt of a fancy food blog, with gorgeous pictures, and a lovely little following, but then thought... like I have time or the talent for that kind of thing. I am a hack photographer at best with my point and shoot, I spend my days thinking up menus that might tempt a toddler rather than a small cult following, or the eight course dinner parties I used to throw a few years ago, but I still love food and cooking and know how quickly time can pass. In the blink of the eye he will go from toddler to teenager, and when that time comes I will probably be sad that I am once again baking cakes rather than playing pat-a-cake.

My one nod to the elegant site I wish I had time to produce is the Blog's name. Not that I have a particular fondness for Coulis or Compote, or that they are inherently elegant, I just like the sound of it, and it does sound a little more snazzy than say...frazzled crazy woman trying to cook for cranky child. Maybe a better name for the blog would be something like... Misadventures in Cooking, Cooking for Baby, or something along those lines, but for now I'll just stick with what makes me smile.

So let's jump right to something simple. I had this salad once in NYC at the Hudson Hotel restaurant where it was made with little peppermint beets, which could possibly be a made up name as I have never found nor heard of them since, but they did look like little peppermint candies all red and white and lovely. The second time was at Smokejacks, on Church Street in Vermont. I could be completely wrong on my recollections of the salad's but this is how I remember them. I also came up with this recipe as a combination of a two or three recipes on-line that I did not note because I did not know I would need to until now. I will do better with this in the future. So if you have a recipe on line that resembles this, it is quite possible I read it and used it for my very own.

Roasted Beet, Blue Cheese, and Candied Pecan Salad


Candied Pecans
¼ cup white sugar
½ cup pecans, coarsely chopped

1/3 cup olive oil
3 tablespoons white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon white sugar
A good shot of honey
1 ½ teaspoons Dijon mustard
1 garlic clove, minced
½ teaspoon salt
Lot o’ground pepper

1 beet per two people
½ cup celery
Baby arugula or baby romaine
Stilton blue cheese (to preference), I used gorgonzola the first time and I know that plain old blue will work much better. AND stilton is my favorite for blue so there we have it.


Candied Pecans
Prepare the pecans first, to allow them to cool. In a skillet over medium heat, stir ¼ cup of sugar together with the pecans (watch carefully, as these will burn eaily- you want it hot enough to melt the sugar but not so hot that it scorches it. Continue stirring constantly until the sugar has melted completely and the pecans are beginning to turn a beautiful caramel color. Carefully transfer nuts to a cutting board and separate them from each other using a fork or spatula so you don’t burn yourself on the molten melted sugar. Allow to cool. Once cooled, eat one to ensure they are fantastic… only one, or five… not all of them.

Roasted Beets
Wrap the beets individually in foil and place on a baking sheet. Bake at 350 degrees until tender, about 1.5 hours. Cool for 20 minutes, then peel the beets by holding the under cold running water and rubbing off the skins. Cut into small cubes and place desired amount on top of salad, I recommend more than the cheese.

Blend vinegar with all ingredients except oil. I do this by cheating really. I place them all in a small disposable plastic ware and shake until it is all combined. Mix well, allow sugar to dissolve. Add oil and whisk together. Mix well before dressing greens and any veggies you may add like the celery.

Put it all together....

Dress greens, pile on plate, top with cheese, beets, and pecans, serve.

Keep all parts separate if you want to eat leftovers. Only dress the greens you will eat.