Saturday, April 21, 2012

April BespokePost.Com: SALT


Last month I shared my March "Box Of Awesome" from with you.  This months box just arrived!  From the website, the description(s) below with my photos!

April 2012

This month we bring salt to your doorstep like never before. We've partnered with James Beard award winner Mark Bitterman to show even the most novice chef how to impress a room by using a 500 million year-old salt block from the Himalayan Mountains. 


This 8"x8"x2" Precambrian crystal is harvested from the foothills of the Himalayas. Use it as a serving tray to infuse a subtle salt flavor into vegetables, fruits and cheeses. Cold-cure carpaccio or sushi-grade fish right in front of your eyes. Or heat it to 500 degrees on your stove or grill to sear vegetables, meat or fish. Watch how...

Finishing Salt Selection


These three artisan salts will change your palette. Red Alder Smoked salt adds a smoky flavor to your food. Rosemary Flake adds a woody herb flavor to your lamb or ice cream. The Fleur de Sel improves upon the old standard.

Who Doesn't Like a Gift Card?


New Orleans' Rare Cuts takes care in delivering premium ranch-to-table cuts of chicken, steak, pork, lamb and more. Herbivores can find solace in their seasonings and marinades for the perfect BBQ.
This box is worth its salt.

Monday, April 16, 2012

Houston Eats: The Grove

I am in Houston on business this week and am lucky enough to be close to one of my favorite restaurants: The Grove.

The Grove is right across the driveway from the Houston Hilton and really close to the convention center. It is located on the South end of Houston’s12-acre urban park, Discovery Green.  The Grove is the definitive see-and-be-seen culinary hotspot in Houston’s urban core and has redefined downtown dining since opening in January 2008.

The architecture is the "other star" besides the food.  Architecturally stunning. Very mid-century modern. Plopped down smack dab in the middle of this beautiful park setting. It's pretty awesome.  I love this building. 

The Grove - Interior

I could convert this thing into a house in a heartbeat.

The grilled skirt steak... in a word? Succulent.  And can you tell me where in the world you can get world class food for a $15 entree?  Really? I've ordered it four times in the past.  I first had it with fries smothered in chili, but now, it is more traditionally served with Chiliquiles! I love it.

Grilled Skirt Steak with Chilaquiles!
If you find yourself in Houston, give it a try. You will not be disappointed. The staff is friendly. The drinks are stiff and well made. The scenery, including the clientele is pretty nice. It's definitely a repeat performance.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Sunday Dinner: Cabernet Braised Short Ribs With Mushrooms

One of my favorite meals is a hearty braised short rib recipe.  I change it up occasionally depending on the mood and the ingredients on hand.  This time, we are having Cabernet braised short ribs with mushrooms.

They are remarkably easy to make and almost foolproof.  For years I had to scavenge the butcher shops and supermarkets for these wonderful, succulent pieces of goodness.  Now they are almost always available.


3# Beef Short Ribs (room temperature)
1# Whole Button Mushrooms
1 Medium Yellow Onion Diced
2C. Beef Stock
1.5 C Cabernet Sauvignon 
(Use something you could drink)
1 Tsp  Dried Thyme 
(because I forgot to buy fresh)
1/2 Tsp Chipotle Chile Peppers 
(or 1/4 Tsp Chipotle powder)
2 Whole Bay Leaves
4T.  Tomato Paste
6 Cloves finely smashed garlic

Preheat your oven to 325 degrees.  I use a LaCreuset porcelain over cast iron dutch oven for this recipe. I have a big one (10Qt) for larger meals, but this is the 5 quart size; just enough for me and the Old Girl for a meal. Heat it until very hot over Medium High heat. Add the olive oil and brown the ribs on all sides. VERY IMPORTANT: Get a nice CRUST on them. Don't be afraid to almost char them This is where flavor develops in the "fond" left stuck to the bottom of the pot.

Once beautifully browned, remove them to a platter and cover to keep warm. Add the onion to the fond and oil and let them brown.  The smell is incredible.  Once well browned, add 1/2 cup of the wine and deglaze the pan.  Talk about smell? Oh man. If your stove exhausts to the outside, prepare to have the neighbors "drop by to say hi!"

Combine the stock, remaining wine, tomato paste, garlic, thyme, Chipotle and bay leaves.  Pour over the ribs you have just put back in the pan on top of the onions.

Bring this to a rolling boil.  It really needs to be HOT before you continue.

Once boiling, top with the washed mushrooms., Cover and place in the preheated 325 degree oven.  No peeking.  Leave it alone for 2 hours before you check it out.

When done, I remove everything to a platter and keep warm while I thicken the sauce a bit.  I use a French method: equal parts of room temperature butter and flour made into a paste and gently whisked into the very hot liquid. Raise the heat to thicken and then either return the ribs and mushrooms to the pot or pour the sauce over - I use a HUGE stainless platter.  A little fresh oregano or chives from the garden chopped over the top. Delicious.

Today, the ribs are being served with smashed potatoes and peas and roasted asparagus ... but that's another story.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Craving Satisfied: Chocolate Cake In A Mug

I love chocolate. Anyone who knows me knows it.  A friend mentioned recently in a FaceBook post that she recently made a "Cake In A Mug".  I Googled it and found so many hits it was crazy!  I had a really strong craving for chocolate after dinner, fueled by an 80 year old chocoholic mother, so I whipped it up; cooked in a tall Starbucks mug!

Chocolate Cake In A Mug

It totally hit the spot.  Here's the recipe as modified by me. I like to add a little something so here is my take on it!

4 tablespoons cake flour
4 tablespoons sugar
2 tablespoons cocoa powder (Use GOOD cocoa powder)
1/2 tablespoon instant espresso
1/8 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg beaten
3 tablespoons milk
3 tablespoons oil
2 -3 drops vanilla 

In a small bowl, mix the flour, sugar, cocoa, tiny pinch baking powder and tiny pinch salt. (This can also be mixed directly into a large mug). Add egg and mix into dry mixture. Add oil and milk and mix well. Grease a tall, large mug, and pour in this mixture, scraping out with a spatula.

Place in microwave on High for 2 1/2 - 3 minutes.

Best slightly undercooked, so be careful. Microwave ovens vary - mine is mad powerful.  I cooked mine for 2:30.  Delicious topped with a scoop of frozen yogurt!


Delicious Food: Boiled Shrimp & Datil Pepper Cocktail Sauce

Tonight I wanted just an easy meal: boiled shrimp and a salad with a crisp white wine, or maybe an ice cold beer.  I love this. The Old Girl loves this. So its one of our easy "go to" dinners.  Shrimp can be tricky.  Overcooked shrimp is NARSTY and inedible.  So I try to always use fresh, not frozen shrimp and cook them like we always have: in the shell, and with reverence.

GENTLY Boil These Puppies!

I boil together 4 quarts of water,  a quarter cup of Old Bay Seasoning, a lemon cut in quarters, a bay leaf and a few peppercorns. When they get to a rolling boil, drop in the shrimp (I used a little over a pound) and boil for 4 minutes.  NO LONGER.  Remove them to a container filled with ice and let them cool.

BRRR!  Ice them down immediately!

While the shrimp cool, I make a cocktail sauce that is a little different.  First off, I hate bottled cocktail sauce. Please, PLEASE don't do it to yourself.  Make a quick sauce with your own twist. Here's mine:

Great Ingredients Make Great Sauce
I use a good quality catsup, a very good quality grated horseradish (only because I couldn't find fresh today), some of my favorite hot sauce (this one made in my old home town of St. Augustine), some very finely mined green onions for texture, a bit of Old Bay to taste, a squeeze of lemon and VOILA!  Its delicious.  I have also substituted a Chipotle Tabasco for the Datil Pepper sauce - whatever you like makes it your own.


Friday, April 13, 2012

Good Eats: Caprese Reimagined

My favorite warm weather salad is the classic Caprese.  Vine ripened tomatoes, Buffalo mozzarella, basil and EVOO.  Instead of the usual "stack it up and tear it down" variety ..

Classic Caprese Salad

... I like to do a "put it all in a bowl" variety.  I dice up the tomatoes and mozzarella, roll up the basil and cut in "chiffonade"  - long thin strips.  I added some fresh oregano from the backyard planters where the basil came from, some roasted garlic grey salt I buy from, throw in some EVOO and black pepper... delicious.

My Caprese Salad

Let's Eat There Again: R+D Kitchen, Dallas

Photo Courtesy: Hillstone Restaurant Group

I recently had lunch with a colleague in Dallas.  I live in the area but I don't get there much because I am always on the road. So when the chance to have lunch came up I made a reservation at a favorite: R+D Kitchen in University Park at Preston Center. Part of the Hillstone Restaurant Group with siblings in Newport Beach and Santa Monica, this local hot spot is really great for watching the "ladies who lunch".

Reservations are a must, even at lunch unless you want to sit at the bar.

Carnitas Sandwich

The food is great. Reasonably priced and served by a staff that constantly uses your name; but it's not in a weird or cloying way.  You feel like they really want you to have a good meal and a good time. They make you feel like is is not all about "turning" your table so they can get someone else in it.

Newporter Salad
I had the Newporter Salad.  Delicious.  Fresh spinach with melt-in-your-mouth grilled chicken (still slightly warm), with shaved parmigiano reggiano, cashews and sweet red pepper julienne.  All served in a champagne vinaigrette - really nice.  My compadre had the Carnitas Sandwich which looked REALLY good too.


So if you are visiting Dallas, or are a resident, make a reservation.  Ask for a booth on the top tier.  Its awesome.  Really!

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eat This: Grilled Asian Chicken Thighs

I love chicken. My favorite marinade is an Asian influenced flavor base.  A trick I have is to marinate them overnight in a zip-lock bag.  I grill them until just barely done.  Remove them to a heat proof container like a Corning ware or Pyrex container with a top. I wrap them in a heavy towel and let them cool.  They finish cooking and stay juicy and moist.

Asian Marinated Chicken Thighs


I grill up plenty and they keep in the fridge for a few days, or they can be frozen and reheated. They are great on salads or as the protein component of any meal. Here we go:

8-10    Boneless Skinless Chicken Thighs
1/2 c.  Low Sodium Soy (Tamari)
1/4 c.  Thai Chili Paste (I like a little more because I like it HOT)
4T.      Ground Cumin
1/2 c.  Minced green onions
3T.      Grated Fresh Ginger
1/3 c.  Flavor Neutral Oil (Canola is what I use)

Combine it all in a heavy zip-lock freezer bag.  Seal and evacuate out the air.  Squeeze and massage the whole thing until everything is evenly coated.  Chuck it in the refrigerator and leave it until the next day.  I grill it on a well oiled very hot grill turning a few times until they are a little charred and almost done.  Throw them all in a covered container and wrap in a towel to finish on their own. When cooled, refrigerate or freeze til you are ready to use.  They are delicious. Spicy hot. I am addicted.