Weekend Lobster Dinner

One of the perks of living by the ocean is fresh seafood.  My Dad is a great scuba diver and while I was visiting last weekend, he caught some AWESOME lobsters.  It doesn’t get fresher than eating seafood the day it’s caught and the fresh difference is very evident.  My parents and I whipped up quite the feast.

Here’s what was on the menu:

Roasted beet, goat cheese, and arugula salad
Grilled lobster tails
Green beans with pancetta
Shells and Cheese 

Roasted beets are all the rage right now. I haven’t been to a nice restaurant in the past few months that doesn’t feature a beet dish of some kind.  My idea of beets were Nangie’s canned pickled beets that  were….. not one of her best dishes.  They just never did much for me.  Roasting the beet though gives it a whole new life!

You start by tossing the beets in a balsamic vinaigrette- 1/4 cup balsamic vinegar, 3 tablespoons thinly sliced shallots, 1 tablespoon honey, 1/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil, Salt and pepper

Reserve the left over vinaigrette. Roast them at 400 degrees for 45 minutes.

Then all you have to do is assemble the salad!  Arugula, chopped avocado, goat cheese, and the beats. Drizzle on the reserved vinaigrette. The different textures and tastes in this salad are really amazing.

My dad prepped the lobster. Since it’s so good by itself, there’s no need for lots of spices, sauces, blah blah.  Just some salt an pepper and a hot grill for about 10 minutes.  Don’t overcook!

The green beans were flavorful as well.  I chopped up some pancetta and sautéed it until it was nice a crispy.  I steamed the green beans and then threw them in the pan with the pancetta. 
I don’t have a picture of the mac and cheese :/ but here’s the recipe I use. I don’t do the tomato and breadcrumb topping.  It’s a great recipe. My only beef with it that the leftovers aren’t very good.   http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/mac-and-cheese-recipe2/index.html

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Tomato Soup with Grilled Cheese Croutons

Ina (as in Ina Garten- the creator of the most wonderfully, foolproof recipes. ever.) is realeasing a new cookbook at the end of the month which I have been actively counting down the days until I get to carefully page through it, read every word, and cook every recipe. This recipe was pre-released and I couldn’t help but give it a go.  The cookbook is called “Foolproof: Recipes you can trust” and this one rang true.  It’s a light, easy dinner that warmed my insides and tasted delicious.

I’ve found the secret to any tomato based dish:

San Marzano Tomatoes.

This isn’t a brand. It’s a TYPE of tomato.  They look as pictured on the can- long and thin.  The flesh of these tomatoes is much thicker with fewer seeds, and the taste is stronger, more sweet and less acidic.

The less acidic part is particularly important because no one wants an acidic sauce.

So this recipe calls for crushed tomatoes but whole foods only had san marzano tomatoes in whole form (imagine that- whole tomatoes at whole foods). No problem- I whipped out my handy dandy food processor.

I heated some olive oil in a dutch oven (taylor only knows this term to have one meaning- we won’t discuss it here) and threw in 3 cups of chopped onions.  I simmered them on low-medium heat until they were brown and soft.  You want to give them a full 20 minutes or they will be too crunchy. At minute 19, throw in 3 cloves of chopped garlic.  At minute 20, put in the tomatoes, 4 cups of chicken broth, 1 tbs of salt (it sounds like a lot but it’s needed), 1 tsp pepper, and a large pinch of saffron.  I’m not sure how much the saffron added. It’s a pretty expensive spice so if it’s not on sale or you don’t have it on hand, don’t worry about it.

Now let this simmer for 15 minutes.  During this time, cook the orzo.  Boil it for 5 minutes in salted water.  It will finish cooking in the soup. Drain it and throw it into the soup.

Here’s where you pour in 1/2 cup of cream.  I forgot about this and didn’t realize it until I wrote this post.  I’m sure it would have made it a lot richer but it was still very good without it.

While the soup was simmering on low, I got the grilled cheese croutons ready. I sliced some french bread in 1/2 inch slices and buttered them (all the way to edges) and toped the non-buttered side with little pieces of gruyere cheese.

Ina used a panini press but I don’t own one (hint: christmas gift). If you are without one as well, heat a pan on medium- not any higher. You want them nice and brown, not black. Place them in the pan and let them brown.

Cut them into halves or fourths.  You can either place them in the soup or serve them along side.

I put on Frank Sinatra pandora, poured myself a glass of red, french wine and flipped through every page of the mega thanksgiving issue of the food network magazine. I highly recommend it.

Here’s the full recipe: http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/ina-garten/easy-tomato-soup-grilled-cheese-croutons-recipe/index.html 

Apple Cider Pork Loin with Cumin Parsley Rice

I’ve made this pork loin every fall since I was in 7th grade.  It’s my absolute favorite way to do pork loin. Its a wonderful start to fall and a great dish for a crowd of people.  I had the wonderful opportunity of cooking for 5 friends a few weekends ago while I was in Philly and I couldn’t think of a better dish to prepare.  Taylor (my amazingly wonderful man-of-my-dreams boyfriend) and I went to a small farm outside of philadelphia to pick pumpkins and much to my liking they had a farmers market that had fresh meat raised on their farm.  The pork loins were absolutely beautiful.  They had a deep red color that just screamed flavor.

He’s absolutely beautiful too 😉

And we’re beautiful together!

Back to food…

I apologize for my lack of pictures.. I was concentrating on how delicious the food was going to be.

This pork in marinated in apple cider then covered in a brown sugar, mustard pecan rub.  YUM!

Start by marinating the pork loin in apple cider.  Put the pork in a zip lock back or casserole dish and cover it with the apple cider.  Marinate it for 6-8 hours. I started marinating when I woke up and it was perfect by dinner time.

Take the pork out and throw away the apple cider.  Get your rub together- garlic, brown sugar, and mustard.  Generously rub this all over the pork loins.  Then roll them in chopped pecans.  Roast at 450 until it reaches 145 degrees about 30 minutes. Cover with foil and let it rest for 15 minutes.

The rice is easy!  Cook 2 cups of white rice with 2 can of chicken broth and 1/2 cup of water.  Then mix in the parsley, cumin, and pecans  I’m not a huge cumin fan but it’s absolutely amazing in this rice.

I sautéed some apples in butter and apple cider and topped the pork with it. Serve all together and enjoy!!

Here’s the recipe–

serves 6

2 cups apple cider
2 pounds pork
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 tbs spicy brown mustard
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/3 cup chopped pecans
Cooking Spray

Cover the pork with apple cider and marinate for 6-8 hours.  Discard Marinade.  Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Combine brown sugar, mustard, and garlic. Rub over pork. Roll pork in pecans until covered.  Roast on a broiler pan for 30 minutes or until pork reaches 145 degrees.

While the pork is cooking, make the rice.

2 cups rice
2- 14 oz cans chicken broth
1/2 cup water
2/3 cups of parsley
2 tbs. of butter
Salt and Pepper to taste
1 teaspoon Cumin

Bring water, chicken broth, and rice to a boil. Cover and turn heat on the lowest setting.  After 20-30 minutes the rice will be done.  Mix in the remaining ingredients.

Pumpkin Zucchini Bread

Fall is here. Well, fall is everywhere else but Florida. It still feels like the dead of summer but if you turn up the air conditioning and light a pumpkin candle you can pretend.  I LOVE pumpkin anything- pumpkin ravioli, pumpkin coffee, pumpkin pancakes, pumpkin cupcakes (I had 3 at work today :/) but my favorite is pumpkin bread! I decided to mix it with my other favorite sweet bread, zucchini bread.  It tastes just like fall.

I started by mixing the wet ingredients-

  • 3 eggs, lightly beaten
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 1 cup butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon vanilla extract

Then I mixed the dry ingredients-

  • 3 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cloves

Then combine them all together.

Then shred 1 cup of zucchini and add that in.

Take a moment here and eat some of the mix.  It’s fabulous. I almost like it better in this state than when it’s bread.

 Grease 2 bread pans with some butter. Don’t skip- you’ll regret it later.
Butter does wonders for your hands.  It’s the ultimate moisturizer.

Pour half of the mixture into each pan

Now throw them in the oven at 350 degrees for 45-50 minutes.
If you stick a toothpick in the middle and it comes out clean, it’s finished baking.

Yum!  Let them cool (if you can wait).  Wrap them nice and tightly in plastic wrap and keep them out on the counter.
They will go dry if they are put in the refrigerator.

Eat one yourself and give another to a friend.

The lucky receiver of my second loaf is my friend and faithful blog reader……..

DARREN MCGUIRE!!