Saturday, June 4, 2011

Hello Sunshine!

Sorry...not you, the real sunshine..the sun - shine, OMG it's finally summer sunshine! What a gorgeous day to wake up to and what better way to spend it than at the swimming pool and later basking in the sun at the beach. I 'played' in water this morning and later bathed in sunshine at the gorgeous La Jolla shore while hubby and friends went kayaking (don't tell anyone, but I'm scared of water..ok, I'll go hide my face now). Guess what? Kayaking doesn't seem all that scary after all. I've conjured up every ounce of courage in me to give it a shot before the big trip to Alaska! This is going to be an adventurous summer for me, if you can call it that. Oh well, I just can't get enough of this season - especially when my weekends start with throwing a BBQ party on Friday evening. relaxing, so refreshing, so...Summer!
Reading a book at the beach - a perfect way to spend an afternoon!
We had to show off the new grill to our friends. Chilled drinks, yummy food, some buzzed people - that's what I'm talking about! There was a mix of omnivores and herbivores in the group. I prepared a few vegetarian dishes and hubby (how eagerly he was waiting for this!) prepared chicken and shrimp for the superior kind <rolling my eyes>. After a couple of glasses of wine and a bottle of beer, I kinda lost track of taking pictures of the cooking in process. I took some pictures of 'the before' while marinating and getting stuff ready though.

Our friends showed up soon after work battered by the usual hectic week. Of course they were in the mood to just sit around, chat and crack jokes from Family Guy and South Park. I was scurrying about ensuring there was one course after the other to accompany the sudden bursts of laughter and animated 'Did you know...exclamation, exclamation, exclamation'. For the starters, I made sweet potato fries (third time in two weeks) and grilled Gorgonzola-pear flatbread. I made my friends guinea pigs for my experiment of the latter who willingly tasted it - gobbled it would be more appropriate. You know how I love recreating my favorite dishes from restaurants, this was one of them. I had gorgonzola-pear flatbread at this amazing tapas place in Seattle (I forget the name). The combination of this cheese and pear is pretty classic, but toss in some caramelized onions and honey in the mix and you have something divine tasting. I remembered the flatbread having caramelized onions and the honey was my addition. This is a semi-grilled dish. Here's how I made it:

Before going on the grill - trust me, the after looked much more appetizing
A closer look

Gorgonzola-Pear Flatbread

3 Tortilla breads - or use regular flat breads
Gorgonzola cheese
1 Pear - ripe
1 Medium onion
Honey - as needed
Paprika - as needed
1 Teaspoon sugar
Olive Oil - as needed
Butter - as needed
Salt to taste

  • I used this as a guide to caramelize onions. Chop onions thinly into half moons. Heat a saute pan and cover the bottom barely with oil. Add chopped onions, saute for a couple of minutes, then sprinkle some salt and sugar. Slowly cook the onions until soft and sweet and caramelized on low heat (about 10-15 minutes).
  • Cut the pear in thin slices. Cook the sliced pear in saute pan as well in just a little bit of butter on each side (about 7-8 minutes all together). You can run these two processes in parallel. 
  • To assemble, spread some honey on flatbread with a knife or a brush, add the pear then onion and top it with gorgonzola crumbles. Sprinkle just a little bit of paprika on the top. You don't want to kill the sweetness of the pear and honey, but just a nice pop of flavor. 
  • Grill the flatbread for 2-3 minutes until the cheese melts and the bread gets crusty. You can do this in the oven as well. Cut into small pieces and serve this unbelievably delicious finger food in your favorite plate. 

After a couple of rieslings and zins, we were ready to move on to the next course. I made a berry refreshing salad as the second course - another one of those 'Oh this is so good, I must try it' restaurant items. I had a strawberry salad with strawberry vinaigrette at Souplantation a couple of days back. Nothing says 'Summer' like a salad this good.

Berry Good Salad

1 Box strawberries (the standard box with ~15-20 berries depending on the size)
Spring mix greens
Macadamia nuts - I got these at the farmer's market so added some. Use any of your favorite nuts.
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
2-3 Tablespoons olive oil
1 Teaspoon sugar
Salt & Pepper to taste

  • Puree 8-10 strawberries, balsamic vinegar, sugar, salt & pepper. Be a little conservative with the BV while pureeing and add later if needed. 
  • Take this puree out in a bowl and whisk in olive oil slowly. Adjust the amount of BV & OO as needed and per your liking. You should end up with a vinaigrette slightly thicker than Italian. 
  • Toss in spring mix greens, fresh sliced strawberries, some crushed macadamia nuts and drizzle a generous amount of the vinaigrette. Tastes much better cold so chill the vinaigrette for a little while before serving. This salad is like a burst of flavors in one bite! Can you believe my friends actually helped themselves to extra servings of the salad when there was this whole fare for the main course?

For the real grilling part, I made the usual Panner-Bell Pepper-Onion thing. I've grilled paneer so many times now that I just add whatever suits my mood at the time. This time it was just a yogurt, red chili, cumin-coriander powder, chaat masala, salt marinade.Don't forget to splash some lemon juice after you grill it though. That last touch does it!

Grilling Cheese with Salt-Pepper-Lemon Pepper
I tried something new this time. I found this grilling cheese at the grocery store which looked and tasted very similar to Paneer, just a bit chewier. I wasn't really sure what I was gonna do with it. When in doubt, add salt & pepper! I just added lots of fresh cracked pepper, some salt and lemon pepper (this is my hubby's go-to seasoning) and grilled it. Quite tasty I must say.

Hubby took over the 'man kitchen' after I was done with the puny vegetarian grilling. He made Indian style grilled chicken in yogurt-ginger&garlic-red chili-garam masala marinade that soaked up flavors overnight and his signature shrimp. He marinated shrimp in a bright green paste of cilantro-mint and some other spices overnight as well. Friends raved about his preparations till the minute they drove out of the parking lot. I totally validated their sentiment by tasting some of both (shhh...). Oh c'mon! I had to be a good wife! I'm not converted's okay.

Wanna feel like a kid again? How about a Popsicle!

To round up the meal, a very refreshing, all natural, homemade watermelon pops. Just fresh watermelon juice and nothing else! Mmmm..


stringOfPearls said...

I like your blogspace. I envy you your grill and warm winters :).

Snehal said...

Thank you! And I envy your beautiful garden - does that cancel out? :D


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