Sunday, November 21, 2010

Banana Bread

While I was growing up my mom would make this bread for me about every month because I loved it so much, and I plan to make it for my kids some day.  I made my a batch for a Thanksgiving dinner yesterday and received many requests for the recipe.  So I'm posting here for all to enjoy!

Brian's Famous Banana Bread

3/4 cup vegetable oil
3 eggs
1.5 cups milk
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup bananas (about 2 or 3 overripe bananas)

3 cups flour

2 cups sugar
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking salt
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1 box of Jello *instant* vanilla pudding

You'll also need Loaf pans (two 5x8 pans maybe?), and PAM (I like the Butter PAM).

1.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
2.  Mix all wet ingredients in one very large bowl.
3.  Mix all dry (powdery) ingredients in another bowl (can be smaller).
4.  Then, slowly mix the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients bowl a little at a time.  Don't go to fast and stir constantly.  I use an electric mixer (KitchenAid) for this part.
5.  When it's all mixed, you should get a thick banana bread soup that sticks to the beaters a little.  If you're not squimish about raw egg, this is a perfect time to taste test  ;)
6.  Completely spray the inside of the loaf pans with the PAM.  Then sprinkle some cinnamon on the loaf pans.  When baked, this will harden to make a flavorful crust.
7.  Now, pour your mixture into the loaf pans evenly.
8.  Put them in the oven and bake at 325 degrees for about 45 -75 minutes (depending on the oven).
9.  You can test to see if it's done using a toothpick or cake tester (nothing too thick or you'll let the air out of the loaf).  If the tester goes to the bottom and comes out fairly clean, it's done!  If it comes out really gooey, put it back in the oven.
10.  When it's done, remove from the oven and let cool for a while.  Once cool or cold, remove from the pans by flipping them upside down and gently rocking the bread out so it doesn't stick or tear.

You can eat them cold, but I like them warm with a little butter melted on top... mmm........

Thursday, September 30, 2010

Hot Spanish Nights

We knew from the beginning that tackling a beast like paella would challenge all of our faculties, but we had no idea to what extent. Paella is a tradition one-pot meal from the region of Valencia in Spain, and can contain anything from snails to last week's green beans. We've opted for a more traditional seafood version and sought to find fun ingredients like live clams, calspara rice, squid, and monkfish, and after visiting 7 stores (and one twice to recover a left-behind wallet) we were successful on nearly all accounts. While we would have liked to include sangria to match the meal, it was sadly out of our budget, but we'd be happy to spike your horchata with the spirit of your choosing from our bar. We hope you enjoy the collection of tapas we've selected to accompany the hearty paella as much as we've enjoyed putting this meal together!
Number of Guests: 10

Delicious Details:

Horchata (recipe)
We let rice and cinnamon soak for 48 hours in the hopes that deliciousness would ensue. It did :)

Sides & Salads

Nopales Ensalada (recipe)
Bel sacrificed her fingers to save dinners the effort of having to remove the cactus spines theselves, and tossed this traditional veggie with all the freshest friends...avocados, Roma tomatoes, cilantro, jalapeño and queso fresco with a light vinaigrette.
Higos con Balsámico y Avellanas (recipe)
One of the seasons finest offerings, we drizzled our green and black figs with balsamic vinegar, and sprinkled them with roasted hazelnuts and sea salt. A perfect blend of sweet and savory.
Melón Picante (recipe)
Here we took the sweetness of the melon and contrasted it with a sharp black pepper flavor, tossed it with a tangy white wine vinegar and sprinkled it with chives to create an unexpected balance of flavors.

Main Dish

Paella de Marisco (recipe)
Requiring the purchase of two paella pans, a specialty tool that cannot be imitated with a mere frying pan, Brian spent hours crafting the finest sofrito base--a blend of peppers, onions, tomatoes and garlic--and brewing an intoxicating concoction of chicken stock and saffron that he then combined with the difficult-to-find paella rice, and curious creatures of the sea. We topped it with pimientos, peas and lemons.


Flan de Naranja
After wasting several pounds of sugar and a couple hours owing to a poorly designed recipe, Bel finally struck it out on her own to create a new formula for the caramel that served as the classic topping to our orange inspired flan. The cream and eggs have been infused with citrus zest and fresh squeezed orange juice, with a hint of vanilla and almond. If you don't like this flan, it's possible you won't ever appreciate this traditional Spanish dessert. 

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Nopales Ensalada

based on the recipe from epicurious
serves 6 to 8

One of the underlying principles of our dinners is to try things we've never tried, learn a new skill, buy an interesting tool, and generally work from the rawest ingredients possible. So, rather than starting with canned nopales, or cactus pads, or even the prepared variety in the produce isle, we started with the whole ones...the ones that are still prickly. Sacrifice our hands we did, but we did manage to get every last spine peeled away before continuing to toss this menagerie of fresh ingredients together.

  • 8 Nopales (cactus leaves)
  • 1 Yellow Onion, quartered
  • 5 cloves Garlic, peeled and crushed
  • 1/4 cup Cider Vinegar
  • 1 tbsp dried Oregano
  • 1 tsp Chili Powder (we used New Mexico Chili Powder)
  • 3/4 cup Olive Oil
  • 3 Roma Tomatoes, chopped
  • 1/2 Red Onion, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Cilantro, chopped
  • 1 Avocado, chopped
  • 1/2 cup Queso Fresco, crumbled
  1. Using a potato peeler, remove spines from nopales. Wear gloves if you have them.
  2. Bring a large pot of salted water to boil. Add nopales, onion & garlic and reduce to medium heat. Cook until the nopales are tender, about 6 minutes. Drain and rinse under cold water. Discard onion & garlic. Chop nopales, cover and chill for 2 hours - 2 days.
  3. Whisk the vinegar, oregano, and chili powder together in a small bowl. Gradually whisk in the oil and season with salt to taste. 
  4. Combine the nopales, dressing, tomatoes, red onion, and cilantro in a large serving bowl. Top with avocado and queso fresco and serve immediately. 

Monday, September 27, 2010

Higos con Balsámico y Avellanas

based on the recipe from What's Cooking America
serves 12

Literally translated, Figs with Balsamic Vinegar and Hazelnuts, this is one of those dishes that are easy to assemble, and really wow the crowds. Sometimes just combining individually delicious (occasionally expensive ingredients) is all it takes.


  • 1 basket Green Figs
  • 1 basket Black Figs
  • 1 cup Hazelnuts, whole
  • your favorite Balsamic Vinegar
  1. Preheat the oven to 300 F. 
  2. Spread the hazelnuts on a cookie sheet and roast for 15 - 20 minutes until lightly browned and fragrant. As time winds down, check often, as the nuts will burn quickly. Remove from oven, allow to cool, remove skins (roll a couple around in your hand), and chop.
  3. Trim stems from figs. With a sharp knife, score an "X" on the top of each figs about halfway down. Squeeze the base gently until the "X" opens up. 
  4. Arrange the figs on a platter, drizzle with the balsamic vinegar, sprinkle with salt and top with a generous shower of the hazelnuts. Serve immediately. 

Sunday, September 26, 2010

Melón Picante

based on the recipe from What's Cooking America
serves 10

This end-of-summer salad perks up flavors that we didn't know cantaloupe was capable of. Easily one of the best dishes on the table, two melons were perfect for the ten of us.

  • curly Lettuce Leaves
  • 2 Cantaloupe Melons
  • Salt & Pepper
  • 1/3 cup Olive Oil
  • 1/3 cup White Wine Vinegar
  • 1 bunch Chives, snipped into small pieces
    1. Line a large serving bowl with curly lettuce leaves.
    2. Using a melon baller, scoop out 1-inch balls in a large bowl (not the one with lettuce)
    3. Sprinkle the melon with salt and pepper. Toss with olive oil. Then add vinegar and toss again. 
    4. Spoon melon onto greens. Top with chives. Can be chilled or served immediately. 

    Saturday, September 25, 2010

    Paella de Marisco

    based on the recipe from Iberia Restaurant
    serves 4 - 8

    This dish is the true inspiration for this menu. A couple years ago I had a team offsite at Iberia Restaurant where talented chef Jose Luis Relinque taught us how to make paella: all day and with lots of wine. I took copious, indiscernible notes, and this recipe is the result of a wonderful afternoon on the restaurant patio with good friends, good food and perhaps too much good wine. I highly recommend checking this place out for dinner or for offsites.

    Ever since then I have wanted a paella pan, and eventually an outdoor paella burner. I have a vision of having paella cookouts on the beach. We still don't have a burner, but we do have two paella pans, and even Alton Brown agrees, it is necessary for creating this dish.

    The original recipe calls for monkfish which was difficult to find, expensive to buy, and hideous to look at, so we dropped it. Paella rice was also terribly difficult to find, but well worth the effort as it cooked beautifully, Whole Foods had it in a canvas sack.

    Be forewarned, this dish takes hours to make. HOURS. We made the sofrito the day before and then proceeded on the day of. I think it took around 2 + 2.5 hours total in actual cook time, not including chopping. 


    • 1/2 cup Olive Oil
    • 3 Onions, chopped
    • 3 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 1 Green Bell Pepper, chopped
    • 2 Tomatoes, chopped
    • 4 cups Chicken Stock 
    • 8 Saffron Threads
    • 4 Chicken or Pork pieces, any (we used pork)
    • 1/8 lb Cured Ham, diced
    • 1/2 lb Squid, cleaned and sliced 1/4" thick
    • 1/2 tsp Pimento (Spanish Paprika)
    • 1/4 lb Bay Shrimp (the little ones)
    • 2 cups Spanish Paella Rice
    • 8 Prawns (16/20), peeled, deveined
    • 4 Large Sea Scallops or 16 Bay Scallops (we used bay scallops)
    • 1/2 lb Monkfish, or other white fish, cleaned, cut into cubes (we nixed this)
    • 2 Artichoke Hearts, quartered, parboiled (we used jarred hearts)
    • 8 Clams, scrubbed
    • 8 Mussels, scrubbed and debearded
    • 1/2 cup Peas (we used frozen)
    • 2 Roasted Sweet Pimientos, peeled, seeded and cut into strips (we used jarred, chopped pimientos)
    • 8 Lemon Wedges
    • Sea Salt, and lots!

    1. Add the saffron threads to the stock and simmer over low heat.

    2. Sprinkle the chicken, prawns, scallops, monkfish and squid generously with sea salt.

    3. Add 1/4 cup olive oil to the paella pan. Make sure paella pan is flat (oil does not spread in one direction). Over medium heat brown the chicken/pork thoroughly on all sides. Add the cured ham. Move to the edge of the pan. 

    4. Sofrito: Over medium heat, put 1/4 cup olive oil in the paella pan. Cook the onions and the garlic until translucent, stirring often. DON’T BURN. Add the bell pepper and cook until soft. Add tomato and continue cooking and stirring until most of the moisture has evaporated. Mix with the chicken/pork and move to the center. Spread homogeneously. 

    5. Increase the heat to medium-high and add the squid. Allow some of the moisture to evaporate, then mix with the sofrito, and sprinkle generously with paprika. Add the bay shrimp. Spread homogeneously. 

    6. Add the rice over the meat and sofrito. Distribute evenly by jiggling the pan. DO NOT STIR ANY MORE. When the pan regains its heat, ladle 1 cup of the stock gently over the rice and bring to a boil. Add more as necessary, once previous cup has evaporated. Reduce heat to a simmer. Arrange the prawns, monkfish, scallops and artichokes by pushing them down into the mixture. Allow the juices to heat and taste for seasoning. Arrange the clams in the same manner, placing them hinge side up. Sprinkle the peas over the paella. When the clams are barely starting to open insert the mussels in the same manner as the clams. 

    7. Cook uncovered until all the broth is absorbed and the shells have opened. Rice should be just about done. Add more broth if needed. Remove from stove and let rest for 10 minutes, covered with newspaper or a dishtowel. Decorate with pimiento strips and lemon wedges. 

    Monday, January 4, 2010

    Delicious Details

    Theme: Christmas in Vienna
    Number of Guests: 10

    To Warm Your Soul
    Weihnachtspunsch/Glühwein (Christmas Punch/Hot Mulled Wine)
    The entire time we were in Vienna the temperatures were below freezing, yet we were outdoors all day. How did we do it? Long underwear and Christmas Punsch! At all of the markets, you could buy a mug of steaming wine, intoxicated with fresh fruits, rum, spices and heated to just the right temperature (just before boiling, at which point the alcohol burns off). Best part? For the low price of 2 - 3 euros you could refill your mug, and no one minded that you were drunk. We've attempted to recreate this fragrant treasure for you with our own concoction of strawberries, blackberries, red wine, spice rum, oranges and spices. Just the right thing to keep you warm this winter :)

    Main Course
    Wiener Schnitzel recipe
    Nope, it's not a hot dog drenched in Chili, we were surprised too! It turns out this "Viennese Sliver" (literally translated), is a cutlet of veal, pounded thin, breaded and fried. Served with lemon wedges it is one of Austria's most famous and beloved dishes.

    Side Dishes
    Kartoffelpuffer (Potato Pancakes) recipe
    We didn't know how to pronounce it either, but another Christmas Market special, these garlicky treats were inhaled on the spot. A combination of shredded potatoes, onions and eggs, these are pan fried, usually in bacon fat. We're not claiming they are healthy, just that they are delicious.
    Gekochter Erdäpfelsalat (Potato Salad) recipe
    More potatoes? Yes! This traditional side dish to Wiener Schnitzel resembles your grandma's picnic recipe, but focuses on more delicate flavors. Seasoned with apple cider vinegar and pickles, it balances nicely with the veal.
    Rotkraut mit Äpfeln (Red Cabbage with Apples) recipe
    A regular at Christmas dinners, this salad is perked up with green apples for the holiday season. This savory, zesty dish is seasoned with apple cider vinegar, mustard and bacon.
    Gurkensalat (Cucumber Salad) recipe
    I couldn't remember the Austrian name for this, but I assure you it doesn't matter, the seasoned cucumbers play perfectly with yogurt. This cool salad works on the side or as a dressing.

    Sacher Torte (Chocolate Cake) recipe
    The Sachertorte is one of the most famous Viennese culinary specialties, and can only truly be obtained from Vienna and Salzburg. How is this possible? After a landmark case over the copyright of the famous Sachertorte (one word), it was decided that the Sacher Hotel could retain the rights over the dessert and all other imitations would henceforth be called Sacher Torte (two words), which is what we will be serving. The Sacher Hotel guards the recipe closely having originally created it the prince in 1832 demanded of his dessert chef "take care that you do NOT make me look a fool tonight." In other words? He didn't want his dessert to make him look girly. Insert the Sachertorte; a chocolate sponge cake filled with apricot jam, drenched in a fudgey frosting, and served alongside unsweetened whipped cream.

    Wiener Schnitzel

    based on the recipe in Cooking the Austrian Way
    serves 6 to 8

    This recipe caused us to slum the trenches of Walmart and proceed to get in an argument over a meat tenderizer. Thankfully we were later able to take out our aggressions on the veal.

    • 2 lb Leg of Veal, cut into 1/4-inch slices
    • Salt and Pepper
    • 1/2 cup Flour
    • 3 Eggs, well beaten with 3 tsp oil
    • 2 cups Fine Bread Crumbs
    • 3/4 cup Vegetable Oil
    • 2 Lemons, cut into 4 wedges
    • Fresh Parsley, for garnish
    • Baby Tomatoes, for garnish
    1. Pound veal slices with a meat hammer until very thin, about 1/8-inch thick. Sprinkle with salt and pepper.
    2. Place flour into a shallow dish and dip veal slices into flour. Shake off excess flour. Dip veal into egg mixture, then roll in bread crumbs, coating well, and set aside.
    3. Heat 1/4 cup oil over medium heat in a large skillet, then add as many veal slices as will fit, making sure not to overcrowd the meat.
    4. Cook for 4 o 5 minutes on each side, or until browned. Remove veal from pan and place on paper towels to remove excess oil.
    5. Repeat, adding more oil as necessary until all veal slices are browned.
    6. Serve on a preheated platter garnished with lemon wedges, parsley and baby tomatoes. After serving, squeeze lemon over the schnitzel.


    based on the recipe from RecipeZaar
    serves 2 to 5 depending on size

    • 6 medium Potatoes, scrubbed and grated
    • 1 medium Onion, grated
    • 2 cloves Garlic, minced
    • 2 Eggs, lightly beaten
    • 1/3 cup Flour
    • 1/2 tsp Salt
    • Cooking Oil or Bacon Fat (definitely use the bacon fat)
    1. Combine the potatoes, onions, garlic, eggs, flour and salt.
    2. In an electric frying pan (350) or a frying pan over medium heat (we used a cast iron pan), add 2 tbsp oil or fat per batch.
    3. Using a 1/3 cup, scoop the mixture and spread into a flat circle on the pan. Flatten out a but to about a 5-inch diameter cake.
    4. Fry for about 2 minutes per side, or until golden brown and crispy around the edges.
    5. Transfer cakes to a warm plate or keep warm in the oven. Best served immediately.

    Gekochter Erdapfelsalat

    based on the recipe in Cooking the Austrian Way
    serves 4 to 6

    I think this was by far most people's favorite, and was surprisingly easy to make.

    • 3 large Potatoes, washed and peeled
    • 3 slices Bacon, chopped (we used more than this, maybe double, may also be omitted for vegetarian option)
    • 1/4 cup White Onion, peeled and chopped
    • 2 tbsp Flour
    • 2 Chicken Bouillon Cubes, dissolved in 1 1/4 cup hot water
    • 1/2 tsp Salt
    • 1/4 tsp Pepper
    • 2 tbsp Sour Pickles, chopped
    • 1 tbsp Spicy Brown Mustard
    • 1 tbsp Apple Cider Vinegar
    • Pinch of Sugar
    • 1 tbsp Parsley, chopped
    1. Place potatoes in a large saucepan and cover with water. Bring to a boil, then reduce heat, cover and cook over medium heat for 15 minutes.
    2. Drain potatoes in a colander and allow to cool.
    3. Wash and dry pan. Sauté bacon and onion until onion is golden brown.
    4. Add flour and stir until lightly browned.
    5. Add bouillon, a little at a time, stirring constantly with a wire whisk to make a thick sauce.
    6. Add remaining ingredients, except parsley and potatoes, and turn heat to low.
    7. Cut potatoes into 1/4-inch slices and add to sauce.
    8. Cover pan and simmer for 20 minutes until potatoes are tender.
    9. Sprinkle with parsley and serve.