Friday, August 28, 2009

Happy Birthday to Three!

A year ago today I posted a little ditty about the idea behind Romantic Dinner for Three, and a savvy Thai Red Curry recipe. Since then there have been many tasty recipes, lots of great feedback, and over 100 regular subscribers! Not bad for an on-the-fly idea! Between our Facebook Page, Blogger, and Twitter, this project has been slowly but surely picking up steam, and I'm so happy for it!

To celebrate our 1st Birthday, I thought I'd make a Chocolate Mousse. Whenever I say "chocolate", I always think of my Grandma Crowley who, despite her thick Queens accent, always pronounces it "CHUK-ah-LATTE", as though she had just stepped off a ship from the motherland.

I've never been a big cake person, I' need to be in a very selective mood for ice-cream, but I can't EVER say no to Chocolate Mousse.

Chocolate Mousse

3 oz. Unsweetened Baking Chocolate
1.5 cups Heavy Cream
1/2 cup Sugar

1) Heat 1" of water in the bottom of a double boiler.

2) In the top of the double boiler, melt the chocolate (cut in to at least 1/2 oz. pieces).
*Don't have a double boiler? Cool, me neither. Just use a regular sauce pan, and place an aluminum mixing bowl on top!

3) In a large mixing bowl, whisk the heavy cream and sugar until medium peaks form.

4) Mix up the melted chocolate to make sure it is melted and smooth all the way through. Remove it from the heat and quickly whisk in 1 cup of the whipped cream. Mix it until it is thoroughly combined, smooth, and uniform.

5) Add the mixed chocolate and cream to the rest of the whipped cream. Fold it together until mixed completely and there aren't any lumps!

6) Let it chill out for 3 hours.


Isn't it amazing? It's so easy, yet when you go to restaurants it's like this super special delicacy.
"Should I get the mousse? I don't knowwwww... Well, it is a special occasion!"

This recipe goes a long way, because it is rich and decadent, and luxurious, and wonderful to share with people. Put it in little parfait glasses, pretty bowls, ice cream cones, cupcake foils... It's very versatile as far as presentation goes, and oh so, so good.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Monday, August 24, 2009

Striped Bass: Two Ways!

Oh, it feels good to be back! After my family and friends caught over 200 POUNDS of fish while vacationing in Block Island, we were not quite sure what to do it all. While the fisher-folk were bringing in their catch, my mom, our friend, Brenda, and I were brainstorming about what to do with it all.

Sell it? Eh.

Perhaps we could give it to a restaurant and have them cook it for us... but who wants to pay for a dinner that they caught?

Then I had an idea: Why not have a last hurrah at our house in Fairfield and cook all of the fish. With that quantity the possibilities would be endless! It was settled. I started planning what I was going to do with these fish, while my mom took the helm with the rest of the sides.

Most of the fish caught were Striped Bass. Bass is such a delicious, meaty, light, white fish that you don't want to overwhelm with too many cumbersome add-ons. My mom prepped the Bluefish to be roasted with bacon, and I decided on Striped Bass with a Mango Puree, and Lemon Poached Bass.

Grilled Striped Bass

2 Striped Bass Fillets, scaled
4 cloves Garlic
1/4 cup Olive Oil
1 tsp Dijon Mustard
2 tsp Salt
2 tsp Pepper

1) In a food processor, combine garlic, oil, and mustard until emulsified.

2) Brush one side of the fish with the oil and garlic, top with salt and pepper.

3) With the grill on medium heat, lay the fish oil-side-down across the grates. Be very careful when you put the fish down. The grill is hot and wherever you put that fish is where its going to stay -- it sticks immediately. You'll know when the fish is ready to flip when you can slide your spatula under the fish and it lifts without sticking.

4) While the fish is on the grill, brush the garlic oil to the other side, flip when its ready.

5) When the fish is white in the middle (but not translucent) it is ready to come off. Be careful not to over-cook the fish, it doesn't take a lot of time (maybe 8 minutes on the grill). When it's good to go, use two spatulas to lift it so it is supported and doesn't fall apart when you transfer it to your plate.

Serve with Mango Puree. That's the kicker!

Mango Puree

2-3 Ripe Mangoes, sliced
1/8 cup Red Onion
1 Chili Pepper
1/4 cup Chopped Cilantro
1/8 cup White Wine
1/2 a Lime, juiced
2 tbsp Coconut Milk
1 tbsp Extra Virgin Olive Oil

1) Puree all of the ingredients in a food processor.


The simply grilled fish and the fresh mango puree compliment each other so well. It's one of those things that you feel good about eating, and it just tastes like summer. Its savory, sweet, and has a little kick. My ideal pairing? Have it with wild rice, a caprese salad, and a cold glass of dry white.

The grilled bass with mango puree is a great dish. If you ever want something that requires a little less attention, poaching any fish is the way to go. You just set it up and leave it be. You can even poach fish on the grill (which, ironically, is how I started my summer off). This recipe may seem a little cliche, but its always a crowd-pleaser and takes very little effort.

Poached Striped Bass

1 Striped Bass Fillet
1/2 Lemon, sliced into circles
1/4 cup fresh Dill (whole sprigs)
2 cloves Garlic, chopped
1/8 cup of White Wine (or water)
Tin Foil

Preheat oven to 350*f

1) Lay the fish out on a piece of tin foil that is 5" longer than your fillet.

2) Arrange lemon slices, dill, and garlic on top of the fish.

3) Squeeze the remaining juice in the end of the lemon on to the fish.

4) Take another piece of tin foil (same length) and lay it over the fish. Fold over two sides (make sure you fold it over a few times to prevent any leaking during the poaching process).

5) Pour the wine (or water) on to the fish and fold the remaining two sides to make a completely sealed pouch. Place the pouch on a baking sheet (in case it does leak).

6) Cook in the oven for 10-15 minutes.

The best part? You can't over cook it. An even better part? You can also just throw the pouch on the grill for the same results. That makes for one classy beach barbecue! Another super point: You can cook for your friends and you don't have to be standing over a grill or a stove the whole night, enjoy yourself!

This dish is great year-round, not to mention you can apply this poaching recipe to sword fish, salmon, and just about any other white fish. It is so good!

We had such a blast trying the different fish. In addition to the two recipes above, my mom roasted the Bluefish with bacon, and our friend, Tom Black, made the best fried fish and "hush-puppies" I've ever had. He has it down to a science!

There were lots of great sides, too. My mom made some baked clams, there was a Caprese Salad (compliments of Brenda), a refreshing salad with watermelon and feta cheese, and roasted potatoes. I think everyone had a great time. Brenda and her husband, Jim, were also kind enough to bring some Mudslide mix that brought all of us back to warm, salty nights on Block Island.

I couldn't think of a better way to celebrate one of my favorite seasons than by indulging in fresh fish, mudslides, salty air, and the heat of a grill. So, happy summer everyone! There are more recipes to come as I get back in to the groove. I hope you've all enjoyed the warm months, been thankful for the sunny days, and relish the remainder of season!

Saturday, August 22, 2009

aaaand we're back! Block Island Reviews!

Okay, sports fans. After this summer's hiatus, I am excited (SO EXCITED)to bring you updates galore! Okay, so the new recipes are actually coming on Monday, but man are they going to be good!

I officially said sayonara to my summer the way I have been for years, which is by spending a few days in Block Island with my family, some friends, and a Jim, on the Black Rock Yacht Club 'Anti-Cruise'. It's always a laid-back and relaxing time, where the biggest stresses are: "Am I going to tackle the hill on my bike to get to Mohegan Bluffs", and "who has the best lobster roll?" Well, before we start, the answers are "Yes" and "try 'em all".

This year something special happened. On Tuesday morning, three chartered fishing boats went out to sea with family and friends in the wee hours of the foggy morning. At 0830 hours the first boat returned full of happy men: 75 POUNDS OF STRIPED BASS CAUGHT! While preparing for my breakfast and coffee, we received good tidings from the second boat in: ANOTHER 75 POUNDS OF FISH! Stripes and Blues! By noon, all three boats were in, resulting in over 200 POUNDS of fish which yielded about 60 pounds of striped bass and bluefish fillet. HOLY COW MACKEREL!

So what's a food enthusiast to do? Last night we had a last hurrah with our Block Island crew to say so-long to summer and bask in all of our fishy glory. I'll save the details for Monday, when I'll be updating with Grilled Striped Bass with a Mango Puree, and Poached Striped Bass with Lemon and Dill recipes! Sound fun? Well it was.

Now that we're hungry, let's talk restaurants. Every vacation is a like a test. We go to different places to eat; we see what we like and what we don't; and we separate the good deals from the rip-offs.

Let's start with Champlain's Marina - This place advertises itself as a "resort", but we've been avoiding it like the plague since I was a ten-year-old. They have a movie theater, a restaurant, "bumper boats" (aka inner-tubes with dingy engines), and a small arcade. It's also the most crowded, noisiest place on the island, and not worth the effort. We ate at the Dockside Restaurant for lunch one day. The food was average, and after spending $13 Dollars on Fried Calamari w/Mango Coulis that tasted like rubber and honey-mustard, I found myself requiring a second lunch a few hours later.

If you're looking for a decent sit-down lunch, your best bets are the Tap and Grille at the National Hotel, or the Harborside Inn's Harbor Grill, both of which give you a diverse menu, generous portions, a reasonable price, and great views of the water.

If you are looking for a place to dock or moore your boat, I'd always recommend Payne's Dock in New Harbor. It's a friendly place that feels like home. It is less noisy/crowded than Champlain's, they have a bar, "Burger Bar" that serves lunch and dinner, and a snack bar that makes great clam cakes, lobster rolls, and by far the best homemade donuts I've ever eaten. There are also fishing charters, bike rentals, and kayak rentals near by. It's also a close walk to...

The Oar! The Oar is always crowded, but a good experience that everyone should do once. If you don't feel like waiting for a table for dinner, make sure you hit the bar for one of their famous Mudslides. Hang out in an adirondack chair overlooking the harbor, life doesn't get much better than that! They have great fish and they are reasonably priced.

We did dinner one night at Ballard's Inn ... lobster dinner to be exact. Located almost literally on the beach, we sat outside and watched a great sunset. They offered a fantastic spicy calamari dish, a very well done baked scrod, and the lobsters were cooked to perfection. Not to mention a raw bar with local shellfish. Prices were good. Not to mention, with 30+ people in our party, they were accommodating enough to make separate checks, and they got every order right. It was like Christmas.

As far as night life goes, it isn't a trip to the Block without a visit to the Yellow Kittens. A local bar with live music regularly and a good crowd. They have great beer on tap, too. I did get made fun of once for ordering a dark-n-stormy, but I won't hold it against anyone. I hear they have the best New Years party on the east coast, and I tend to believe it.

We played our mini-vacation fairly low-key. We dined casually, not venturing very far outside of tee-shirt friendly zones. The fish on the island is so fresh. If you're looking for a really special night, I'd encourage you to visit the restaurant at the Hotel Manises, which is a five star meal and accommodation from wherever you stand.

The best part is that Block Island is a great place to go in the last days of August and the beginning of September. First of all, the crowd coming off of the ferry isn't as big, so the island isn't as crowded. It's still warm enough to walk around, even in the fall. Most of the stores and restaurants are still open, and the rates are lower.

I personally wish someone could lend me a cool $3 million so I could build a house. I know those cheesy commercials advertise it as the "Bermuda of the North", but take it from someone who's been to Bermuda -- it's a good place to spend some time!