Archive for April, 2015
April 23, 2015
A few years back when I had the restaurant, my niece Blaine and I were eating at Ocean Prime. After our scrumptious meal, the waiter asked if we wanted dessert. Both of us were too full to partake. The waiter said ok – “but when you come back…you must try the peanut butter pie.”
Well, Blaine and I looked at each other and said: “bring it on.” It was heavenly. I said I’ve got to go immediately back to the restaurant and re-create this incredible dessert…which I did…and I even gave credit to Ocean Prime for my inspiration when we put it on Bailey’s menu.
It is so easy to make for the only baking that is required is the crust – and that’s only 10 minutes. Enjoy it tonight for dinner. Let me know how it turns out
- 3 cups Peter Pan peanut butter
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 2 cups heavy cream
- 5 egg whites
- 1 ¼ cups sugar
- ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 16 Oreo cookies
- 2 tablespoons melted butter
Pre-heat oven to 350 – spray 8” pie pan with cooking spray
Put 16 Oreo cookies in a Cuisinart – pulse 15 to 20 times until cookies are fine crumbs. Place in small bowl and add 2 tablespoons melted butter.
Add crumbs and form crumbs into the pie form. It is best if you press the crumbs with a ½ cup measuring cup holding your fingers against the edge of the pie plate pressing firmly to create a tightly formed crust.
Bake for 10 minutes – let cool. Turn off oven – that’s all the baking you will be doing.
Combine peanut butter and honey in a large mixing bowl and stir with a rubber spatula until totally combined.
Whip 2 cups of heavy cream with ¾ cup sugar and 1 teaspoon vanilla until soft peaks form. Gently fold into peanut butter honey mixture.
On high speed in a clean chilled bowl, beat 5 egg whites with ½ cup sugar, 1 teaspoon vanilla, and ¼ teaspoon cream of tartar until stiff points are created. Gently fold ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the peanut butter mixture until the whites are completely incorporated into the mixture. Then gently fold the remaining egg whites until all are combined.
Gently is the key word for you do not want the egg whites to deflate while folding them into the mixture. You are making a mousse and mousse translated from French is foam.
Place mixture into cooled Oreo pie shell. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or overnight. Can be frozen.
- 8 ounce package semi-sweet chocolate chips
- ½ cup heavy cream
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- ½ teaspoon soft butter
Place chips, butter, and vanilla into a small bowl. Bring heavy cream to a boil in the microwave – pour over chips and stir until the chips are smooth and melted.
Whipped Cream for Topping
- 1 cup cream
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
Whip until soft peaks are formed. I like to put my whipped cream in the freezer for about 15 to 20 minutes before it is served.
Cut each slice and drizzle with ganache and top with a dollop of homemade whipped cream.
April 23, 2015
What do you get when you have three hungry guys walk into a restaurant? Answer: A very happy waiter…because we ordered so many menu items to try, his tip just kept on climbing.
Three of us ate at ROUX this week and all agreed that it was the best lunch in town. Suzanne and Roger Perry, owners of ROUX and DATZ have created an authentic Cajun creole restaurant you must experience.
Since the age of 20, I’ve been to New Orleans so many times I stopped counting. While I am not an authority by any means, I do know Cajun and creole food – I cook it myself, and I love the cuisine.
From the moment you walk into ROUX your inner New Orleans soul will be channeled. The neat décor will put you in New Orleans faster than Scotty can beam you there. If you have never been to the Bayou – not a problem – it is right here in Tampa.
And Oh My Gosh – the portions are huge. We ordered way too much. What’s new???
The blackened redfish – perfect. The shrimp, chicken and sausage jambalaya – incredible. The barbequed shrimp – awesome. The hand cut Cajun fries with dipping sauce – stupendous. The skillet moist corn bread with a crumble topping, served with syrup & butter – it will make you want to kick your grandmother just to get to a slice. The fried shrimp and oysters were perfectly fried and served with a homemade creole cocktail sauce and remoulade – well, I’m going back just for this. They even make two different hot sauces if you want extra spicy.
I can make some mean red beans and rice – and you can find my recipe in the blog. However, if you don’t want to take the time to make them yourself – ROUX’s red beans and rice are not only authentic – they are exceptional.
Ok, you may be thinking that these guys couldn’t have eaten all this food in one sitting. WRONG. We ate and LOVED every last bite. And then ordered the Peanut Butter Bomb. Another must try.
I will be there this Friday at lunch for the fried shrimp, fries, and slaw – the absolute BEST in town…and try the gumbo, fried gator and a host of other things as well. Come join my table.
Thank you Roger and Suzanne for bringing authentic and tremendous Cajun creole to Tampa. Can you tell I’m a fan?
ROUX – Cajun Creole
4205 South MacDill Avenue
Tampa, Florida 33611
April 16, 2015
Lobster rolls may be one of my all-time favorite foods – and I am very particular (and exact) in how a good lobster roll should be prepared and taste. I am a purest when it comes to lobster, preferring it grilled, broiled, boiled, or steamed, served with melted butter and fresh lemon. That’s it. Can I eat a lobster Newburg or lobster pot pie – of course – but nothing tastes as good as a fresh lobster tail cooked perfectly with drawn butter and lemon.
This is the way I feel about my lobster rolls as well. The quintessential lobster roll is served at Mable’s in Kennebunkport, Maine (www.MabelsLobster.com). This restaurant has been at the same seaside location since 1953 – and serves up great seafood…especially their lobster roll.
Fresh steamed or boiled Maine or cold water lobster (and yes, you can use Florida crawfish – good, but not as good), small amounts of mayo, fresh lemon juice, parsley, Kosher salt and fresh cracked pepper…and the one thing in addition to the lobster, that makes a lobster roll authentic is the bun. It must, that’s MUST be served in a butter (lots of butter) grilled crust-less New England lobster roll…not a hot dog bun, not a hoagie, not even a brioche roll – only one roll will do for me.
- 2 pound whole live Maine lobster (steamed or boiled, chopped into medium small bites)
- ¼ cup Hellmann’s (or Dukes) Mayonnaise
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped parsley
- 2 teaspoons fresh squeezed lemon juice
- Salt & fresh cracked pepper to taste
- 2 Crust-less New England Lobster Rolls
- Soft salted butter for outside of the rolls
- Boston Bibb lettuce (optional)
- Sliced Heirloom Tomato (optional)
- Bacon (optional – but not on mine thank you)
- Sliced Haas Avocado (optional – but not on mine thank you)
Steaming versus boiling??? Steaming a lobster provides great pure taste of the lobster for all the lobster juices remain in the lobster as opposed to being extracted into the boiling water. However, steaming is much more time consuming and convoluted…while the lobster will need to steam only about 5 minutes longer than the boiling method – you will need a larger pot, a rack, and some seaweed. So I recommend boiling your lobster.
Fill a large 4 quart pot with water, add ¼ cup kosher salt (you want the water to taste like the ocean from which it came), and a squeeze of one whole lemon…throwing in the entire lemon rind after the juice has been squeezed into the pot.
When the pot comes to a rapid boil – put the entire lobster in the pot (take off the rubber bands around the claws)…boil for 12 to 15 minutes – stirring once or twice to get even coverage in boiling.
Let cool for 15 to 20 minutes. Crack shell, remove lobster meat, slice or cut into small chunks, add the ingredients and chill for at least 30 minutes. Butter the crust-less rolls and grill until golden brown. Stuff, yes stuff, the prepared lobster into the buttered grilled rolls – there is nothing worse than a lobster roll with little lobster…so stuff those rolls, and when you think there is enough, add more.
You will see a load of option items you can fill your lobster roll with – lettuce, tomato, bacon, avocado – admittedly, all are good, even great – but nothing beats the pure heavenly taste of lightly seasoned lobster stuffed inside a buttery grilled crust-less roll.
April 16, 2015
The English translation of BESITO is KISS, and I was kissed all over during my dining experience at the newly opened Besito Mexican restaurant at Westshore Plaza. I’ve never ever (really) had a dessert at a Mexican restaurant until Besito – and now, I will go and make room for dessert for I could take a bath in their Mexican chocolate pudding.
Even though life is short starting with dessert may be a bit daring – for there are many “must-tries” on the innovative savory Mexican menu. I found the salsa to be one of the best – a combination of chunky and smooth with the perfect amount of heat. The guacamole is delicious and fun to watch being prepared at your table.
The Enchiladas Mixtas (skirt steak, grilled chicken, chorizo, guajillo cream salsa, sweet plantains. Cilantro, and queso fresco), were perfect and I can’t wait to have tonight at midnight, along with the Tamale de Elote (fresh corn tamale, chipotle cream, onion, cilantro, and queso fresco) which I only took one small bite (and loved).
Being a guest at my table means that you must let me try your food (just a taste) – and yes you can try mine as well. So I know first-hand how good the Iron Skillet Tacos are – soft small corn tortillas are served in a little basket so they are kept warm. My friend had adobo marinated grilled chicken, and it all comes in a cast iron skillet with melted queso, pico de gallo, and avocado salsa verde and chile de arbol salsa were perfect drizzles. Everything is served with small pots of seasoned rice, and frijoles negros (black beans).
OK – dessert. Again, believe it or not – I have never had my first dessert at a Mexican restaurant, always have been too full. If I didn’t take half my food home, I would have been too full this time as well. I could take a bath in their Mexican chocolate pudding which is served with an unsweetened heavenly whipped cream…which contrasts perfectly with the sweet pudding.
The flan was delicious – even though I was startled to find that it was topped with raspberry coulis instead of the traditional burnt caramel glaze…but don’t let that stop you. There is a tres leche cake that looks incredible, and fresh berries with a mango cream that I can’t wait to dive into…so my suggestion is to go with five friends – each order a different dessert – and prepare to live in a sugar coma for the rest of the evening.
And if that wasn’t enough they send you home with two cinnamon sugar churros (Mexican fried dough) in a little paper bag. My friend asked me what they were – I said: “you wouldn’t like them.” They were AWESOME.
The servers were friendly, fun, and all the staff couldn’t have been more pleasant and friendly. Please do let me know what you think about BESITO. Better yet, invite me along.
BESITO – MEXICAN
205 Westshore Plaza
Tampa, Florida 33609
April 09, 2015
We needed an extra appetizer one day for a catering event recently. We had chicken, beef, fresh vegetables, lamb, and seafood already on the menu, so we decided that pork would be a good addition.
What kind of pork, I asked my trusted GM and chef Barry Engh – he looked on the shelves and spotted some of his dry rub we use for ribs and chicken. We decided on a sliced dry-rubbed pork tenderloin topped with a pickled Asian radish and carrot slaw. It turned out delicious…so much so, I said this should be put on a dinner menu for an entrée selection.
Start with a simple dry rub.
BARRY’S DRY RUB RECIPE
- 1 ½ cups brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons garlic powder
- 2 tablespoons onion powder
- 2 teaspoons cumin
- 2 teaspoons chili powder
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1 teaspoon black pepper
- ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper
Set the oven to 450 degrees. Prepare the pork tenderloin by making sure all the silver skin is removed from the pork. Liberally rub Barry’s Dry Rub all around the tenderloin and press in so it is covered well. Let it sit outside of the refrigerator for an hour. For a more intense flavor, it can sit in the refrigerator overnight.
Place rubbed tenderloins on a baking sheet that has a ½” lip all around to collect the pan juices. Note however, you do not want a high lip around the baking sheet – for that will tend to steam the pork.
Surround the pork with a stick of fine salted butter placed on the baking sheet around the tenderloins. Place in the oven and bake for approximately 10 to 20 minutes depending on how thick your pork is.
My mom would always kill (overcook) pork to keep her beloved family from getting the deadly trichinosis. You don’t hear much about trichinosis these days, so you see restaurant pork tenderloin coming to your table medium – with a bit of pink inside. Frankly, this is the best way to cook it – so try not to overcook your tenderloin – you can always cook an undercooked meat more, but you can never change an overcooked meat.
Let rest for 15 minutes. You want the juices to stay in the meat – and if you slice it too soon, it will make your pork tough and flavorless.
Slice and dredge each piece in the pan juices. This is an essential process for you want each slice to have the wonderful flavor of the rubbed pork and butter juices.
#1: Roasted Tomatoes
Slice in half various colored (red, yellow, green) cherry and/or grape tomatoes. Many groceries have red and yellow, but if you can’t find them at Publix – try Fresh Market or Whole Foods.
Place them on a baking sheet, drizzle with extra virgin olive oil, Kosher salt, and fresh cracked pepper. Bake for exactly 6 minutes at 450 degrees…let rest – can be served at room temperature.
#2: Haricot Vert with Brown Butter
Haricot Vert is a thin cut green bean – often times called French green beans. Cut off hard ends of the green beans. In a pot of rapidly boiling water place the haricot vert in and boil for 2 to 3 minutes.
Drain and place in ice cold water (with ice cubes actually in the water) – this will stop the cooking process and keep the bright green color. Drain.
In a sauté pan over medium heat melt 4 tablespoons of salted butter until it becomes a nutty brown color. Add green beans to pan and toss, add salt and pepper to taste.
#3: Twice Baked Potatoes
Recipe on our recipe blog – type in Twice Baked Potatoes in the search box
#4: Pickled Asian Radish and Carrot Slaw
This is a simple and delicious side dish for pork. Since they do not carry Asian or Korean radish at many stores, it is readily available at Asian markets.
Julienned Asian radish to equal 3 cups. Julienned carrots to equal one cup (the carrots can already be purchased julienned at most groceries). Place in bowl, add 1 ½ cups natural rice wine vinegar, and 1 cup of white sugar. Stir. Let sit out for one hour, then refrigerate. Drain and serve chilled.
April 09, 2015
My friends Clay and Penn McElmurray started Thai Island restaurant on Davis Island in 2003 – and 12 years later, you can certainly say the restaurant gets better every single day – and it has always been good.
I’ve known Clay since our Plant high school days and when he married Penn who was from a rural village in Thailand, she came with a built-in authentic Thai cook – her mom, who is the head chef.
This nondescript Thai oasis is nestled on the outside corner of a strip center with other island shops and restaurants. The glass topped wood tables are lined with colorful patterned tablecloths, around a room decorated with an eclectic array of Thai pictures and art.
Recently, I dined with my sister and brother-in-law, all ordering something different. The sampler platter (with chicken satay, corn fritters, crab Rangoon, and spring rolls) is a must – but so too are the crispy asparagus (wrapped in filo and lightly fried), and the incredible pork dumplings…all coming with various sauces that enhance the flavor of the apps. Yes, by the way, we ordered all three appetizers…research, ya-know.
Sometimes at restaurants, I get stuck on one favorite menu item and don’t venture forth. I was like this at Thai ordering the Garlic Pepper chicken, at least until I saw so many of their dishes passing by me looking so beautiful and smelling so wonderful – I just had to try others.
All their dishes can be ordered with chicken, pork, beef, seafood, tofu, or totally with just fresh vegetables…and I especially recommend the green curry’s, and pad Thai. While I order take-out often – it is most fun to go with friends and explore each other dishes.
Please do let me know what you think about Thai Island.
Thai Island – Davis Island
210 East Davis Boulevard
April 02, 2015
How many people remember Castellano & Pizzo’s on Henderson Boulevard? Carol who baked from her home was the one who supplied all their luscious baked goods. And boy-o-boy, they were homemade and sensational. I especially loved her pillowy-soft-cake-like ricotta cookies. They were $2 each 10 years ago – and I paid it happily.
Every bite is like biting into a soft cake – I’ve heard the texture described like the black & white cookie – but I think it is better than that by far. When you bake them, please call me so I can come taste them. Happy Easter.
Makes between 5 and 6 dozen cookies
- 2 sticks room temperature salted butter
- 2 cups sugar
- 15 ounces (1 small container) whole milk ricotta cheese
- 2 room temperature eggs
- 4 cups flour
- 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
- 2 teaspoons baking soda
- ¾ teaspoon Kosher salt
- 2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice
- Zest from one lemon
- 4 cups confectioners sugar
- ¼ to ½ cup whole milk
- Vanilla bean from 1 vanilla bean pod
- Colored sanding sugar (I like purple and green together) – can find at Williams Sonoma
OPTION FOR ICING
- 1 teaspoon vanilla instead of vanilla bean
- Lemon zest of one lemon
- Various liquid food colors to achieve desired colors – split white icing into many small bowls and add a drop at a time until your color is reached
Preheat oven to 350 degrees – line baking sheets with parchment paper
Cream butter and sugar until light and airy, add eggs one at a time and beat until fluffy. Add ricotta cheese, vanilla, and beat until well blended. Add salt, flour (1 cup at a time), and baking soda and mix on low speed until combined.
Place cooking on parchment lined baking sheet 2” apart. You can use a tablespoon or an ice cream scoop.
Bake for 12 to 15 minutes. Try one batch and adjust time to secure a pillowy cake-like texture.
Take cookies off the pan and place onto a wire rack for cooling. Ice when cooled.
Add confectioners’ sugar, ¼ cup milk, and vanilla and whisk until a medium thick icing appears – add more milk a tablespoon at a time if needed.
Add food coloring or flavored extracts and zest.
Generously spread on cooled cookie – sprinkle with colored sanding sugar.
April 02, 2015
As a kid, I had my first pastrami at the original Wolfie’s in Miami Beach, and many times thereafter at their location in St Petersburg. A close second to my memory of Wolfie’s is the existing Lenny’s Deli in Clearwater.
Once you place your order they bring you a complimentary deli salad tray of 3 items that could include: slaw, beets, pickles, macaroni salad, or thick round slices kosher dills. This salad tray is a great touch, reminiscent of the good New York City delis of yester -year.
In addition to Wolfie’s, my favorite New York deli’s are Katz, Carnegie. Artie’s and 2nd Avenue. In the 80’s I remember stopping by Katz Deli on the way to the airport to pick up some pastrami and a bag of rye – to bring on my Delta flight back home. Well, as luck would have it – the pilot saw the bag, told me I’d get bumped to first class if I shared. All the flight crew and I enjoyed hot pastrami sandwiches on rye…it was the best flight ever.
Lenny’s has been a landmark since 1958 with the same ownership today. The wait staff is fun and inviting, the décor is surrounded with signed pictures of celebrities and memorabilia, and the Danish Basket is a must whether you are having lunch or breakfast…you can bring it home and enjoy in front of the TV.
Serving breakfast and lunch all day
6:00am to 3:00pm – everyday
21220 US Highway 19 North
Clearwater, Florida 33765