Tag Archives: best

Banana Cream Tarts

Banana Cream Tart

With most of the rest of the country sweltering in record temperatures, we’ve yet to see any real sunshine or warmth for more than a couple of days at a time this summer.  Although I’m not one to complain too loudly about it, generally content to be in my house or pottering around on the patio regardless of the weather, my husband is quite the opposite.  As in past years, he collected our youngest and a favorite cousin to hit the road for a guys-only adventure, first to San Francisco for the expected tourist destinations and a college dorm tour fit in for my son, and then to Sacramento for some wild and crazy white water rafting.  I was left with several days of solitude, chick flicks on a whim, and the promise of a few days in Las Vegas upon their return.

It’s been years since we visited Las Vegas in the dead of summer, preferring Fall with its football-betting fan-packed sports books and the more cost effective shopping over feeding slot machines.  The 110 degree heat quickly reminded us that our cool temperatures and grey July skies aren’t all that bad unless one enjoys searing, dry heat, especially intense when one is standing on street corners amongst the masses waiting for traffic lights to change.   Thank goodness for cool casino breaks, taxis, a cushy hotel room at the Mirage and fabulous food.

We like to try at least one new restaurant when we visit and this time, were able to try one that’s been on my list for a while; Joel Robuchon’s L’Atelier in the MGM Grand.  The red and black decor is swanky, and bar seating allows for an on-going view of all the kitchen goings on.  We indulged ourselves with the seasonal tasting menu and wine pairings.  From the L’Amuse-Bouche of avocado and cilantro grapefruit gelee, to the selection of cheeses and the smoked foie gras terrine layered with caramelized eel, the meal was truly exceptional.

And then there were the potatoes.  Saying they were mashed doesn’t quite cut it.  I wondered just how much butter had been incorporated into them to make us want to linger over each small spoon full, savoring it much like one would a popsicle on a warm day.  Well, maybe not quite like that, but you get the idea, right?  The potatoes stayed with us, as in, “Those potatoes…” muttered by one of us in the middle of something completely unrelated, like wound-licking after losing all of the 4,000 penny winnings from the royal flush because that’s what one does in Vegas.  “Mmmm…those potatoes…” I vowed to make them once we were home.

But it was banana cream pie that became an unexpected focus of our trip this year, in spite of the potatoes.  The banana cream pie seen on a deli menu very late one evening when we shouldn’t have been eating to begin with.  Banana cream pie my husband wanted but never ordered, instead of a light dinner with a bit of protein and vegetables.  Just banana cream pie and a glass of milk.  Joel Robuchon’s perfectly plated assortment of four lovely sorbets and decadent array of luscious tarts weren’t enough to keep banana cream pie out of his head, and that’s saying quite a bit.  I swear he asked the waiter if perhaps they had banana cream pie.

Of course I made banana cream pie for him almost as soon as we were home — but not until I’d made the potatoes.  “Oh, those potatoes…”

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Hot Wings with Gorgonzola Sauce

Hot Wings with Gorgonzola Sauce

I’ve often accused my husband of being a fair weather fan of our local sports teams, yet it couldn’t be farther from the truth.  No, I’d qualify for the position far more than he ever could given the amount of time he spends cheering and, yes, jeering about their wins and far too frequent losses.  As much as I’ve been right there in the excitement of recent years of Super Bowl possibilities, watching the resident menfolk high-five one another after a good play, and engage in exuberant chest bumping when the Chargers squeaked out a win, this year, I just don’t have it.  Sure, the game is on each Sunday and I usually can be found in the kitchen about that time, but I’m sadly just not interested.  I’m whispering, mind you, because you just can’t say that very loudly around here.

The best I can do is think about what to cook for the “occasion” knowing that I’ll have a small group of men interested in food when the action on the field isn’t going our way — and it often seems not to.  Although they’re often subjected to my routine experimentation, I do occasionally treat them to food that is more in line with what one may want on game day.

Like Buffalo Wings — or more accurately — Hot Wings.

My husband loves Gorgonzola, so guess what’s in the sauce?  And then there’s the crazy Asian hot sauce.  Mmmm….

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Cream of Asparagus Soup

Cream of Asparagus Soup

I’ve had greens on my mind quite a bit lately, and so it was only a matter of time that a vegetable not classified as a “green” but which is very green would surface.  Spring has exploded here, and it’s difficult to avoid the beautiful asparagus I’ve been seeing at the grocery store.  It’s a bit challenging to pass up a sale, so invariably a bundle is put in the basket even though it wasn’t on my list.  Unfortunately, the beautiful pencil thin stalks were pushed back in the vegetable drawer, and somewhat forgotten.  For a vegetable that has been referred to as the Food of the Kings, this is a sad state of affairs.

Often, recipes I’ve seen initiate a purchase, but in the case of the forgotten asparagus, it was the sale.  Once I’ve made the purchase, then a seed is planted in my brain and I head for the recipes.  Of course once I’d located a recipe, I realized I hadn’t seen the asparagus.  Had I really purchased it?  Not completely sure, I picked up another bunch  at the store, and when I went through the vegetable drawer, while putting the groceries away, I found the other bundle still wrapped in plastic and looking as fresh as ever.   Good thing we like asparagus because I now had quite a bit of it.

Soup was definitely in order.  Beautiful silky, creamy and very green Cream of Asparagus soup — quite different from the Campbell’s my mother used to purchase for me when I was growing up.

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Spicy Duo: Breaded Calamari and Jalapeno Poppers with Bacon

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I’ve been so jittery the last couple of days.  I know it’s the election — waiting, and waiting to find out.  The feeling is strangely like I felt waiting for Christmas morning to arrive when I was a kid, the anticipation just about doing me in.

But it’s not just the election.  Having to pack four rooms in our house to prepare for a big remodel isn’t helping.  It’s great to be busy, though,  since the time is flying by.  Each book or knick knack I take from the shelf to pack is accompanied by my nagging alter ego which is reminding me I should have gotten rid of this crap a very long time ago.

And then there’s the little matter of a trip I’m taking in a couple of days, leaving the hunkster to finish what I’ve not managed to do to prepare the house.  Maybe that’s why I’m giddy with excitement as well.  I’m headed to the Midwest to meet with several food bloggers.  In fact, it’s for a wedding:  Lis’ wedding.  You know Lis, right?  Co-founder of The Daring Bakers? La Mia Cucina Lis.   And guess who’s making the wedding cake?  Helen.  Helen, Tartelette Helen.  Now how exciting is that?

Seriously exciting if you ask me.  So I’m pretty much a basket case right now, stomach in nervous knots and finishing almost nothing that I start.

Wait.  That sounds somewhat like a normal day now that I think of it.  The not finishing anything I start part.  Whatever…

So food is definitely in the low maintenance zone at our house right now and since the hunkster wanted to know what was on the Election Day menu, I figured Batter Fried Calamari & Jalapeno Poppers would work just fine.  And I have the perfect accompaniment for both — a sauce made with a bit o’ spicy love.

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