Basil Wine Sauce Over Grilled Salmon

It’s been a very interesting week getting the new business off the ground.  Aside from opening up the Etsy shop I also did a local art show called Art in the Park.  It was a great experience as I was able to get advice from fellow artists and everyone was so positive.  In addition to getting a few sales I also got great positive feedback which lets me know I’m not tilting at windmills.

I also upgraded this site to the business level and spent quality time with the “happiness engineers” to get a shop set up on my blog.  It took several hours as I seem to have a knack to ask for stuff that require special coding.  I still have a few more things to do but it’s all a go now!

Earlier this summer, when we were in Swanage, we took my in-laws out to dinner to thank them for putting us up and putting up with us.  We tried an Italian restaurant in town which wasn’t too bad.  The highlight of the meal was for my daughter and I as we ordered poached salmon with an amazing basil sauce.  She and I raved about it.  Once all the summer adventures were over I knew I needed to make this again as a treat.

I will admit, using fresh basil in it’s prime is best.  Our basil in the garden is a bit past it’s prime but the flavour was still there.

Prep the salmon first.  Season with sea salt and pepper.  Slice a lemon to grill the salmon on.

Basil Sauce 2 2018

Pick a bunch, about three handfuls.  Wash and blend with a third a cup of dry white wine.

Basil Sauce 1 2018

In a saucepan melt 3-4 tablespoons of butter.  Add 2 cloves of garlic, finely chopped, along with the basil and wine.  Sauté on low to medium heat.  The goal is to have a hint of the white wine come through with the basil being the highlight.  If need be, add more butter to get the right balance.  Sometimes the wine can be a bit harsh.

Basil Sauce 3 2018

While this is cooking, grill up the salmon.  I also grilled chicken for my husband and son. Do up a fresh salad and top with the salmon and sauce.

Basil Sauce 4 2018

I was hoping this meal was the swan song of the summer but the summer just won’t quit!  My daughter enjoyed this and was happy I can recreate the dish for us.  I think the best trips down memory lane are food related.

Italian Potato Salad

I am very excited to say I’ve opened up my Etsy shop!  I’ve been working for months on researching what to do and getting my photos together.  I’m starting off with greeting cards but I’ll be adding enlargements and such as I go along.  It is call CreationsByOGP, for some reason Etsy doesn’t like spaces!

If you have a chance, please check it out at CreationsByOGP.

As we’re still battling a fierce heatwave with crazy humidity, dinners need to be easy to put together because standing over a hot stove isn’t my idea of fun in the summer.  The farmer’s market had new potatoes so I decided to make an Italian Potato salad.

I prepped the dressing first so it was ready.

Italian Potato Salad 1 2018

Mix 2 parts olive oil with one part lemon juice.  Add a healthy handful of fresh thyme and season with sea salt and pepper.  Whisk the ingredients well and set aside.  Next wash the potatoes and roast them at 425F/220C until they are cooked through and the skins are a bit crispy.  Take 4-6 rashers of streaky bacon and cook in a skillet until they are done to the way you like them.  We like them slightly crispy but not cooked too hard.

Italian Potato Salad 2 2018

Dice the bacon and set aside.  Once the potatoes are cooked, slice the larger ones in half as you want them bite size.

Italian Potato Salad 3 2018

Toss in a large bowl with the dressing and bacon.  Add fresh basil, tomatoes and mozzarella cheese.  Grate fresh parmesan to finish.

Italian Potato Salad 4 2018

For a bit of variation you can also add grilled chicken or grilled fish.  I have to say though, I’m ready for cooler weather so I can do some baking and such.  Hopefully it’s right round the corner.

Getting My Husband to Like Aubergine 

We all have a veg we’re not a fan of but the rest of the family likes.  I hate Brussel sprouts, our son isn’t a fan of asparagus and mushroom, and our daughter finds celery particularly weird.  Aubergine is what my husband would be happy to avoid.  I have made the Moroccan Lamb Stew that he likes but as we like to grow the veg I need to come up with more recipes to use up the harvest.


When we were in Little Italy our daughter ordered a starter that layered aubergine, tomato, prosciutto, and basil.  She loved it so this was the inspiration for dinner.  I wanted to use the strong flavours of sun dried tomatoes and garlic for this dish.  I wanted it to pop!  I also used chicken thighs as it is a less expensive cut of meat to use.  

For this dish I used a little more than half a pound/10 oz of chicken.  Cut the chicken into small cubes and finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic. Slice a large handful of sun dried tomatoes while heating up a couple of tablespoons of olive oil in a skillet.  Toss in the three ingredients and sauté on medium low to pull the flavours of the garlic and sun dried tomatoes into the oil.  


Once the chicken is halfway cooked add the aubergine.  We grew small Italian finger aubergine which get to about 5in/12.5cm long.  For this dish I used four of the veg, sliced.


Cook for a few minutes then add a couple of tablespoons of balsamic vinegar.  Because we ran out of our chicken stock (gasp!) I used veg bouillon instead.  It worked really well with the strong flavours.  Use about a cup/8oz of the bouillon and simmer to reduce slightly.  For once we did really well growing basil this year.  Let’s face it, gardening can be a bit of a crapshoot.  But I tossed in a handful of the fresh basil.  Once the dish is nearly finished cooking add a handful of chopped prosciutto.  You don’t want this ingredient cooking too long as it can get tough and overpowering.


While all this was going on I oven roasted potatoes that I sliced about a 1/4 in/.625cm thick, drizzled with olive oil and sea salt.  Lay out the potatoes and top with the aubergine dish.  Grate fontina cheese over the dish and garnish with fresh basil.


Our daughter said it wasn’t exactly like the dish she had, which was fine as I wasn’t reproducing it, but that she loved it.  My husband’s response? “Congratulations on making aubergine edible!”  😄.  I do love cooking for my family.

Caprese Stuffed Chicken

Battle with the garden has commenced.  We may be winning but I’m not sure yet.  I find it ironic that the stuff we don’t want growing in the garden are the toughest to get rid of.  They are tenacious.  Our grass never grows as well on the lawn as it does in the flower beds.

Some of it is our own doing and not understanding how invasive something can be.  A few years ago, because we like to brew beer, we planted hops.  One was very lackluster while the other is determined to take over the world.  The first season or so wasn’t too bad, the hop plant just grew like gangbusters.  Hops can grow a foot a day, which is crazy.   But last year the hops broke the lattice that sort of held them and crawled across the rest of the flower bed.  It wasn’t pretty.

This year we’re rethinking the hops.  Not to get rid of them but we definitely need to put them elsewhere.  In the meantime we are being brutal with them.  The root system snakes everywhere under the soil.  We were taken aback by the length and thickness of those suckers. They were like tree roots.  I have a feeling there will be more battles with the hops.

Along with the work in the garden that comes with the warmer weather, the lighter dinners start up again.  Which I am very ready for!

Caprese stuffed chicken 1 2017

Recently I thought it would be fun to do a pan seared caprese stuffed chicken over salad. In a skillet heat up a tablespoon or so of olive oil.  Add about a cup of sliced sun dried tomatoes and cook on low to medium heat for a few minutes.  Finely chop 3-5 cloves of garlic, depending on size, and add to the skillet.

Caprese stuffed chicken 2 2017

Saute for several minutes until the garlic is nearly cooked and then toss in a handful of shredded fresh basil and a few splashes of balsamic vinegar.

Caprese stuffed chicken 3 2017

Slice 4 chicken breasts 3/4 the way through lengthwise.  Evenly distribute the caprese mix between the chicken breasts.  Season with sea salt and pepper and brown on both sides.

Caprese stuffed chicken 4 2017

Preheat the oven to 350F/175C.  Remove the chicken from the skillet and add fresh mozzarella cheese inside the chicken and bake until the chicken is cooked through.

Caprese stuffed chicken 5 2017

Serve on top of a salad.  A dish light enough for the warm weather but gives you enough energy to conquer the garden.  Which we definitely need!

 

Italian Salad and Being Exercised by the House

Negative space.  Great when it comes to artwork.  Not so much when it comes to a house.  Our house was built in 1895 and I have to say it was solidly built.  It’s still relatively square. But man, when we redo rooms or do projects we find some serious negative space.  While our kids are off on their summer adventures we redid my son’s floor.  Because the wood had been damaged we had to pull up the old flooring.  Which gave us a chance to put in new insulation.  And that is where we saw the latest example of negative space.  So we stuffed a lot of insulation in.  Our son will be quite toasty this winter.

Thankfully that is a few months off.  On Father’s Day we joined our friends in the traditional Father’s Day BBQ and I had made a twist on the caprese salad with bacon and lettuce.  I didn’t have the time to get stuff together for a blog post then but I thought I’d remake it for my husband and I but added chicken.  Because why not?

Italian salad 1 2016

In a skillet start cooking 4-5 rashers of streaky bacon, chopped up.  Once the bacon is half cooked add about a third of a cup of chopped onion and a couple of cloves of garlic, chopped.  Add a teaspoon or so of fresh thyme.

Italian salad 2 2016

While this is cooking make up the dressing and grill the chicken.  I just seasoned the chicken with sea salt and pepper as it will be dressed before adding to the salad.  In a bowl add olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.  The ration was about 1:3/4 oil to vinegar.  Whisk to emulsify. Season with sea salt and pepper.

Italian salad 3 2016

Cut up the chicken into small pieces.  Add the chicken and the bacon mixture to the bowl and toss in the dressing.

Italian salad 4 2016

Add to lettuce and top with chopped tomatoes, mozzarella, and basil.

Italian salad 5 2016

A super easy, flavourful salad for summer nights.  Without leaving you feeling stuffed.

Italian Potato Salad

My husband and I have been enjoying exploring the bike paths that run through our area.  I’m still surprised at how much I love biking.  And it’s great along the shady paths with the little breeze we work up.  Keeps the humidity off of us.  Still tweaking the bike so it fits  me better.  I found a memory foam seat cover which eases the bumps we go over.  Today I’m bringing the bike back to adjust the handle bars.  My husband and I tried but damn if we couldn’t shift it.

Of course after doing a ride we don’t want a heavy meal and to be frank I lack the energy to whip up anything complicated.  Still building up the stamina!  We bought some lovely new potatoes from the farmer’s market this past weekend and a potato salad is an easy thing to make before the ride.  As my husband isn’t into things with mayo I decided to make an Italian potato salad.

Italian potato salad 1 2016

I made up the marinade first so the sundried tomatoes could soak a bit.  I used the ratio 2:1 for olive oil and white balsamic vinegar.   Whisk to bring the two ingredients together and add a couple of cloves of garlic chopped, a few teaspoons of fresh thyme, and sea salt and pepper to taste.

Italian potato salad 2 2016

Cook up the potatoes until soft, drain and add to the marinade.  Some potatoes will soften and fluff a bit with this, more than others.  The ones I bought definitely fluffed a bit.  Stir to coat evenly in the marinade.  Add chopped proscuitto, freshly grated parmesan, mozzarella, and fresh basil.  Chill then serve.  Though you could have it warm if you prefer.

Italian potato salad 3 2016

Prior to the ride I marinated steak with thyme, sea salt, pepper, garlic, olive oil, and white balsamic vinegar.  Easy to grill up and dinner is ready in no time at all!

Baked Eggs and Getting on the Right Path

Yesterday I started my physio for my hip.  Something I should have done when I fell in January.  I have no excuse but after a total of about 3 months resting the back in bed over the course of this year I wised up.

Because I had two severe falls within 5 years on my left hip I shifted the SI joint.  Which apparently is really hard to do.  But I seem to want to excel in the worse areas.  The woman who is guiding me through physio said that while a lot of people say they’ve shifted the SI, it’s not common.  Injuring that area is but not the shifting bit.  It’s been an interesting look into body mechanics.  The muscles reacted so quickly to protect the area and “locked” things down.  But I didn’t do anything to fix the ligaments so now that I’ve been fixing the muscles things are disabled.  Loosey goosey, if you will!  So I have to have a brace round my hips as they said I need to treat it like, in layman’s terms, I sprained my bum.  Oops.

But I’m thrilled we now have a plan action.  Spending a crazy amount of time heating and icing my lower back and hip gets very boring very quickly.  I have too many things on my list!

One dish I’ve been trying to get down is baked eggs.  I had been trying to do a French recipe from Barefoot Contessa for baked eggs.  She had said to broil them and I’ve had no luck.  I got the flavour down but not the cooking part.  Jovina Cooks Italian posted about marinara baked eggs.  Actually baked, not broiled and I had some marinara sauce to use up.  I can take a hint.  🙂  This is my take on it.

Preheat the oven to 425F/220C.

Baked eggs 1 2015

In a small baking dish add a third cup of marinara sauce.  Heat this up in the microwave.

Baked eggs 2 2015

Add three eggs.

Baked eggs 3 2015

Top with freshly grated parmesan cheese.

Baked eggs 4 2015

Baked until the egg whites are firm and the yolks are runny.  This is the tricky part.  So don’t get discouraged if you struggle with this bit.

Baked eggs 5 2015

Top with basil and season with sea salt and pepper.  Buttered toast is perfect to go with this.

Baked eggs 6 2015

This was a great way to start the day.  Full of flavour and hearty.  And it went way better than the French recipe but I’m not giving up on that one.  Once I get that down I’ll post it.

Gorgonzola Risotto with Filet Mignon and Sundried Tomato Sauce

Last week I passed the three year mark for blogging.  One of the changes WordPress seems to have made is they now make it very low key.  Basically it’s “So, yeah, you are another year down, don’t forget to take out the trash” tone to it.  I liked how it was before where they gave you a great breakdown on how you are doing, what was a hit, what wasn’t.  I’m ok with a little woot, woot!

And with three years of recipes sometimes it’s hard to come up with something new.  Things have been somewhat calm this past week which would allow me more time to cook.  But then instead of writer’s block, I was having a bit of cooking block.  Broke that on Wednesday!  I wanted a special meal with flavours that wouldn’t be subtle.  We had a couple of filets in the freezer and some sundried tomatoes to use up.  Off to the store to get some gorgonzola and oyster mushrooms and I had a very good idea of what I wanted to do.

Prep the ingredients beforehand for everything.  To add a bit of crunch to the dish I toasted a third of a cup of pine nuts.  Do it in a dry skillet.  And keep an eye on it!  It can take awhile to toast but can burn quickly.

Gorgonzola risotto 1 2015

Remove the pine nuts from the skillet and set aside.  In a larger skillet start the risotto.  This recipe is for 2-3 people.  First by melting 2 tablespoons of butter.  Add a finely chopped small shallot and 2 cloves of garlic.

Gorgonzola risotto 2 2015

Add 1/2 a cup of risotto and saute for a minute or so.  Then add a tablespoon or so of champagne vinegar.  Stir well.

Gorgonzola risotto 4 2015

This recipe needs about 2 1/2 cups of chicken stock.  This current batch I made was the best so far.  So much flavour!  Add about a 1/2 a cup at a time and allow the risotto to absorb the liquid.  At this point, in a small skillet, melt a couple of tablespoons of butter.  When it is hot add the filets to the skillet.  Make sure they are seasoned well with sea salt and pepper.  Baste with the butter as you cook.

Gorgonzola risotto 5 2015

Finish the steak off in the oven at 350F/175C until the desired doneness.  Allow it to rest while you finish the meal. In the same skillet, add a bit more butter then saute some shallots, garlic, and sundried tomatoes.  Saute for a couple of minutes to soften the tomatoes then add a handful of the oyster mushrooms.

Gorgonzola risotto 7 2015

Once the risotto is almost done add a third of a cup of crumbled gorgonzola and about the same of mascarpone cheese to the risotto.

Gorgonzola risotto 8 2015

Mix well.  Just before serving add the pine nuts and a small handful of basil.

Gorgonzola risotto 9 2015

Serve with the filet and top with the mushroom sundried tomato sauce.

Gorgonzola risotto 10 2015

There were a few strong flavours in this dish but it was balanced and delicious.  When I mentioned it to my daughter she said I could make it for them.  Anytime.  I think I can swing that.

PS.  So I started this post this morning but got interrupted by doctors appointments and things.  The whole day went pear shaped and I only just remembered I hadn’t finished this when we were walking the dogs.  My husband called it postus interruptus.  🙂  As we are getting ready for date night I’ll be further behind on reading posts but I promise to catch up!

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce

Summer, at least in relation to school, is coming to an end.  Tomorrow my daughter has her orientation for high school tomorrow and my son has his meet and greet at the middle school.  So we’ve had fun the past couple of days playing games and letting them be lazy.  Because after today we are off and running with a new year. And back to doing the school lunches.  Though with the days starting earlier as they move up schools I’ll have to do them in the evenings but that’s ok.  I’ll survive.  🙂

I’m just thrilled they are still into board games and such.  I hope they don’t outgrow that.  We have so much fun with family time.

Given that all that went on last week, quick meals were the thing.  This dish couldn’t be simpler.  But it has a lot of flavours and falls into the comfort food category.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 1 2015

It’s hard to go wrong when you have sundried tomatoes and garlic.  We also had on hand some apple smoked chicken sausages.  These are fully cooked so this was added at the end.  If you start with raw sausages, brown them first and set aside to cook off near the end.  In a skillet melt 2 tablespoons of butter and add a few cloves of garlic that have been chopped.  Also, add several chopped sundried tomatoes.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 3 2015

Chop up a few mushrooms and slice the sausages and add that to the skillet.  One of the towns we went on our honeymoon was San Gimignano which is famous for the towers.  It also has very good white wine.  I wanted to use this for the sauce.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 2 2015

Add about 1/2 a cup of a good white wine to the skillet. Bring to a simmer.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 4 2015

While this is cooking prepare the spaghetti.  Near the end of cooking add 1/2 a cup of cream and 1/2 a cup of freshly grated parmesan cheese.  Mix well.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 5 2015

Add the spaghetti and a handful of fresh basil.  Toss well and serve.

Sundried Tomato Cream Sauce 6 2015

Quick and easy comfort food.  When it’s a tough week, it’s perfect.  In fact I did a similar dish at the end with tomatoes from our garden.  Seems to be my go to flavour profile!

Nearly Lost the Battle with the Charcoal….

So apparently chickens are flammable.  I found out the hard way last night while cooking chicken for the non fish lovers in the family.  I’m still getting used to cooking with charcoal and I made the mistake of walking away after I put the chicken thighs on the grill.  I had other parts of the dinner to prepare.  The grill didn’t think that was a good enough excuse.  When I checked the chickens were balls of flame.  I removed the grill part with the chicken from the heat and started blowing the chicken out like candles.  Oops.  Fortunately they weren’t flaming chickens for long and they turned out ok if you ignore the blackened outside.  Forgive me but I was too busy to take a pic. 

Luckily everything else went smoothly.  The other day a few of us popped down to Saumur to check out the market.  It was a lot of fun and quite large.  It wanders through a lot of streets but we found the food side and found some wonderful ingredients.  One was selling fresh mushrooms including pink ones.  I have no idea what they are called but he also had shiitake mushrooms so I got a bit of both.  I also found a lovely piece of salmon.  There was a bit of language juggling as we sorted out I wanted the skin on but the scales off.  But we got there in the end.  

  
 Following the suggestion from the mushroom man, I minced up some fresh garlic, sliced the mushrooms, and prepped the basil to sauté.  

  
In a skillet heat up a few tablespoons of olive oil.  Once it is hot add the mushrooms and garlic.  Stir as it begins to cook so the mushrooms are evenly coated with the olive oil.  The mushrooms will shrink a bit.  As they begin to brown add a bit of lemon juice to taste along with salt and pepper.  Near the end add a healthy handful of the basil.

  
Once they have browned nicely they are ready to serve.

  
In addition to setting the chicken on fire I also grilled salmon.  I was much more successful with that.  I added a bit of lemon juice and thyme along with salt and pepper to the salmon and cooked it medium rare.  

 
Yesterday we went to Fontevraud Abby which was very interesting.  The scale of it is immense.  It has been sanitised quite a lot and almost looks brand new in some areas.  Still I was glad we went.  

   

  

  

I’m not sure what rose this was but it was stunning.  It was like it was lit from within.  The gardens were lovely though in the cisterns I thought ducks were stuck given the sounds.  Turns out to be two frogs.  Not sure if there was a massive argument or one of them was hoping Barry White music would break out.  But one was running and one was chasing!

Roger from Food, Photography, and France was kind enough to email me about Les Halles in the towns.  So I went back today as I didn’t know what market was on and this one came recommended.  It had some amazing cheeses to chose from.  And there was a fresh produce stall.  So thank you Roger!  

We found a bistro to have lunch.  They seriously know how to do cheese plates here.

  
I also spotted pork belly on the menu.  The flavour was really good.  I think they should have slow cooked it more as it was pretty firm though.

 
As you can see, I’m still having loads of fun.  It’s going to be hard going home.  Tomorrow I’m taking an art lesson so I’m excited for that.  Life is good!