Pear Salad, Halibut, Vegetable Ragout & Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes, oh my!

I took the day off today.  Dave and I decided we'd have some fun.  We did work a little in the morning, I logged in while he ran off to base for an hour or so then we went to a movie and out to lunch.  We had lunch at the Downtowner in St. Paul.  While we were there we decided what I would make for dinner.

We bought a cookbook a couple of years ago called "Tasting the Wine Country" by Sharon O'Connor.  I never made a recipe out of it!  It was time!

We decided on three recipes all from the same B&B, Madrona Manor, in our favorite place in the wine country, Healdsburg.  We've never been to the Madrona Manor but after making these recipes it will be on our list for the next visit!

The first recipe was Pear Salad with Watercress, Blue Cheese and Port Wine Vinaigrette.  I'll be honest, we didn't search out watercress and frisee as the recipe stated, we just bought some very nice mixed greens!

This vinaigrette is delicious!  I'm not a port drinker.  We have a couple of bottles in the house that are probably 10 years old!  We have a friend who enjoys port so our bar stocks it.  We haven't seen our port drinker in far too long (where have you been Kevin?!) so there was plenty more than the cup I needed for the vinaigrette.


The port is reduced to 1/4 cup and added to three tablespoons red wine vinegar, one tablespoon of minced shallot, 1/2 a cup of extra virgin olive oil, salt and pepper.  It's delicious!  The salad is the greens, diced pears and blue cheese.  We had some yummy Moody Blue blue cheese that went perfect with the pears!  To make the garnish, use a melon-baller on a pear!


Honestly the recipe for the vinaigrette made far too much.  Had I dressed the salad as directed it would have been soup!  The good news is there's some left over for tomorrow!

The starchy side for dinner was Olive Oil Mashed Potatoes. Simple.  Yukon gold potatoes, milk, butter and EVOO are mashed together to make a wonderful side!  I did use a garlic infused EVOO in the potatoes.  I just couldn't help myself!

Our veggie side was Spring Vegetable Ragout.  This one really shocked me.  I wasn't even going to make because I don't like lima beans and I'm not a huge fan of peas either.  Then decided that I had to at least try it.  The veggie mixture was fa-fa-fava beans and peas.  I'm not a fan of fava beans.  I don't like the texture and they just taste, well, green.  I can't say that any more, I'm a convert, these were delicious.

To start the veggies you blanch a bunch of basil then puree it with olive oil and let it drain.  The beans and peas are boiled in vegetable broth then the basil puree and a little butter are added.  I ate them all!

An added benefit to these veggies is you end up with some extra basil infused olive oil to use another day!

Finally the main course, Pan-Seared Halibut.  Dave and I love halibut!  The fish is simply seared in a pan until done and served over the veggies and potatoes.


We opened a Seghesio Home Ranch Zinfandel to go with it.  I know, god forbid red wine with fish but they're the recipe and the wine are both from Healdsburg so we figured we were ok!  The recommended wine for the meal was a marsanne. Well, we didn't have any of that in the house!

We're both stuffed.  We're going to head out with the dogs for walk then I'm making bananas foster for dessert!  Even picked up some Haagen Dazs!

Tomorrow... treadmill.... definitely the treadmill!

Hidden Flag Cake

Earlier today I posted an entry for the Cheeseburger cake.  If you're looking for that one, just scroll down a bit!

I made this cake for the 4th of July and am just now getting it up here.  I thought it was a pretty cool idea and it turned out perfectly!

You start with three layers of cake, one red, one white and one blue.  I used two full cake batters and just made cupcakes with the leftovers!


The red and white layers are sliced longways so you have four layers of red and white.


Stack one layer of red, one layer of white and the blue layer. 


Place a bowl on top and cut a circle out of the three layers.  Stacking them makes sure that the hole is in the same place in each layer.



Discard the outer ring of cake for the red and white layers and discard the middle of the blue layer so you have a ring of blue and two small circles, one red, one white.


I put one full layer of white on the cake board and topped it with frosting, then topped it with one full red layer.  Again, topping that with frosting.




Next I laid the blue ring on the cake and put the small white circle in the middle of the ring.  I topped that with frosting then added the final small red circle of cake.



I then frosted and decorated the cake.  The recipe I found online called for a cream cheese frosting but I had used a slightly almond flavored white cake recipe so I topped it the vanilla buttercream.  This is my favorite cake flavor combination!


Then the unveiling!  Cut a slice of cake and what do you have?  A hidden flag!  How cool is that?!


Cheeseburger Cake!

Got another issue of Foodnetwork Magazine.  When I first ordered it to help out one of the neighborhood boys fundraisers, I wasn't sure I'd keep it up.  Well, it has great recipes and tips including one for this great Cheeseburger Cake!

You may remember my Spaghetti and Meatballs cake from the same magazine.  This one was just about as easy and it turned out pretty darn cutetoo!

It's huge!  Two full cake mixes plus a lot of extra ingredients to make the cake.  One layer is baked in a bowl, the other two in 8" rounds.


While the cakes are cooling I made the "lettuce" and the "cheese".  For the lettuce you need 8 mint leaf gummy candies.  Roll them flat, slice in strips and set aside.



For the cheese I used orange fondant.  As many of you know, I "don't do" fondant. Well, that might change!  I don't remember what brand of fondant I tried in the past but it was dry and very hard to work with.  Duff Goldman now has a full line of cake decorating supplies, including fondant so I bought that (mostly because it was already colored orange so I wouldn't have to tint the fondant myself).  It was much easier to work with than what I remembered!



The top and bottom "buns" are trimmed flat and the trimmings are crumbled to be used later for the hamburger.

The recipe calls for tub frosting.  Yuck.  So I made vanilla and chocolate buttercream.  To make the "bun color" you mix a little chocolate and a little food color in the vanilla frosting.  It really does look pretty authentic!

I frosted the "bottom bun" and added the "lettuce".



Next, I frosted the "hamburger" with chocolate buttercream then covered in the cake crumbles.


Then the hamburger is placed on the bun and topped with cheese.


Finally the top bun is frosted and added to the burger.  Rice Krispie treats finish it off as sesame seeds!


Pretty cute!

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