Monday, June 30, 2008

Sir Pickypants Eat "Indian Gnocchi"

One my my favorite restaurants in my neighborhood is Rani Mahal. As Indian restaurants go, I think it's one of the best in the area and it's very conveniently located. The staff is wonderful. They seem to be one of the few places we go to often in the neighborhood where they actually recognize us as regulars. They have actually bothered to learn our names. That hasn't happened any place else we go.

What's really funny is that Kevin hasn't always liked Indian food. Once upon a time he told me he hated it. Then one day he started saying he liked chicken curry sometimes and the next thing you know, we were seeking out Indian restaurants trying to find him a good chicken curry. Of course whenever we go to Rani Mahal now he orders the chicken curry (with pakoras for appetizers and a side of naan). Actualy, I misspoke. He doesn't always order chicken curry. Sometimes he orders shrimp curry.

After eating there regularly for months I began to notice that he wasn't the only one ordering the same things all of the time. I ate more than one dish, but I tended to stick to a few favorites. One night I decided to branch out a bit. Rather than browse the chicken and lamb sections of the menu, I decided to try the vegetarian area. Something jumped out at me right away: Malai Koftas. They sounded really intriuging. I ordered them and absolutely loved them. The only thing I could complain about was that the ratio of dumpling-to-sauce was a bit low.

When I do Indian at home, it's usually vegetarian since I get so many ideas and recipes from the Indian veggie blogs like my favorite, Fun & Food. A few weeks ago I clicked on the random recipe generator on that site and guess what came up: A malai kofta recipe! It was like a gift. I knew I had to make it for myself some day.

Well, I hadn't gotten around to it until last night. I had to get past the sticker shock at Whole Foods for the cost of the paneer (Mansi does have a recipe for making it yourself, but I'm lazy), but after that I was good to go. I just had one little thing to worry about...

Would Sir Pickypants eat a paneer-based dish?

It's so hard to tell with him and dairy products. There is some stuff he wants to eat and he'll take a Lactaid. Other times dairy products seem to just gross him out. Even in Indian restaurants it's a tough call. He loves gulub jamun for dessert and he likes kulfi too (although the kulfi at Rani Mahal is more like ice cream). One time they gave us some complimentary rasmalai and he couldn't bring himself to eat more than a bite or two and he made all kinds of faces. He'll eat pizza and string cheese, but not fresh mozzarella. He won't eat just about any other kind of cheese cold. How could I get him to eat dumplings made from Indian cottage cheese?

I considered the ingredients. They contain potatoes. They contain a soft cheese. I've made gnocchi in the past and I have made them with both potatoes and with ricotta (which I guess technically makes them gnudi). I decided to tell him I was making "Indian Gnocchi." I even said the potatoes I bought at a farm stand in NJ this weekend would be part of the dish. The curry sauce would be an all-around pleaser.
I was going to get my malai koftas come hell or high water.

Here are the farm market potatoes. Aren't they a pretty color? They mashed up beautifully too. I think I'll make some home fries with the ones I didn't use for the koftas.
The dreaded paneer
I opened the paneer. It was a big block of white stuff. It could have been anything. Even I was afraid of it (even though I've eaten it before, this was the first time I ever handled a raw chunk of it). I began grating it and I kept thinking it smelled like housepaint. I finally just took a bite of it. The taste was reminiscent of mozzarella with a slight tang in the background. It wasn't bad at all. I have to stop letting my husband influence me so much.

Here is the dough mixed and ready to go. I'm still anxious.
Once I got everything mixed together I started frying them up. For some reason I really wanted them fried dark. I could have taken them out earlier than I did, but I had this internal insistence that they be fried a good long time.
Once they were cooked up, I put them in a bowl on top of basmati rice and topped them with the lovely curry sauce. I sprinkled some extra cashews and fried onions on top as well.

The koftas themselves weren't as good as Rani Mahal's (I guess that's why Jalil and his crew own a restaurant and I don't), but they were pretty good. The gravy was delicious. It was more flavorful than the restaurant's actually. I had to make some adjustments to it as I didn't have all of the required spices (or the spices in their required forms). I only have one kind of garam masala in my kitchen unfortunately. Still, I'm not complaining about the finished product. The taste and texture of the paneer was a bit overshadowed by the potatoes. For my husband, this was a boon. In fact, he absolutely loved them. "Indian Gnocchi" was a great idea.
I would definitely do this again, although I'll still order them at Rani Mahal.
(Now I only worry that Mansi will be angry with me for calling her dish Indian Gnocchi, but I'm hoping she'll be amused.)

Friday, June 27, 2008

It was The Company Picnic - And I didn't bake!!!

Yesterday the employees of John S. Herold Inc. celebrated their annual company picnic. It's like a combination of a cookout, a college frat party, and summer camp. Booze flows freely, the food keeps coming, and we play all kinds of silly games.

One of the best features of the picnic is the Bake Off. People make desserts and the office votes on them. The first year we had it, I won with Double Dark Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Filling. I haven't won since then. I have made chocolate hazelnut pie (beaten by chocolate toffee bars), chocolate cheesecake bars (beaten by carrot cake cookies - although I had some very interested people ask me for the recipe), and some cheap lemon-coconut bars made with Saltines (these were quickies I threw together that I had no intention of winning with and they were beaten by chocolate-peanut-butter buckeyes).

I had every intention of baking this year. I had a recipe for some bars that had a chocoloate cookie crust topped with a brownie-like layer infused with mini chocolate chips and Milky Way bars. I went to the store Wednesday night to pick up some ingredients, got home, and started to get to work. Then I took a second look at my recipe. It required a 9" square pan. I have an 8" square pan and a 9"x13" rectangular pan, but I don't havea 9" square. Who does? I looked through my book and found that just about every recipe called for a 9" pan. Desperate to make something, I went through all of my cookbooks looking for more things to make. It seemed all of my recipes required me to go back out to the store to get more ingredients. I gave up.

Even though I lost three years in a row, people were really disappointed that I didn't bake this year. That made me feel good. As our office manager put it, "It's not that we won't have enough desserts, but I love your baking." Awwwwwwwwwww shucks!

There was plenty of food without me baking. Food was catered by Clambake Connection. They provided all sorts of food for the seafood lovers as well as for us land lubbers. No one went home hungry.

Since no one ever believes we'll have enough food, the office manager went out and bought a cheese tray (mmmmmm....pepperoni....), crudite tray, and lots of chips.

We had a bushel of oysters brought in. They were quite popular.

There were plenty of lobsters.

Here they are in the barrel. Pictures like this frighten me a little. Have I mentioned my fear of crustaceans lately? I'm sure I've only done so a hundred or so times.

I'm a burger and dog person myself. The cheese on my burger looks kind of gross in this photo, doesn't it?

We didn't have many desserts, but there were a few.

This chocolate covered peanut butter cake was sort of disappointing. It had an off taste to it.

This cheesecake was obviously store-bought. I didn't bother.

I know it probably contained all kinds of bad ingredients, but I think this dessert called "Trailer Park Heaven in a Bowl" (Also, "Death by Chocolate" and "Trifle") was the one I voted for.

Coconut almond cake a close second. It was very popular and tasty.

I did my best to try it all.

They swore to me there was nothing illegal in this hookah. I'll take their word for it, but what exactly enabled us to eat all of those desserts? Besides, if there isn't anything illegal in it, what's the point? ;-)

We played all kinds of silly fun games all day.

You can see how successful I was at the egg toss.

Who doesn't love a tug o' war?

There was beer, wine, margaritas, Mike's, and Smirnoff Ice of course. No company picnic is complete without enough booze to make people feel silly enough to participate in all of this!

Can't wait till next year's picnic!

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Latest Compromise Meal - Lamb and Shrimp

I've been craving lamb lately. In past weeks it was pork. Now it's lamb. I have had the bug up my butt for a while now, ever since I read this post at We Are Never Full. I loved the idea of breaded lamb chops. They inspired me even further after I made this recipe. A nice hazelnut coating would be great on lamb.

That meant I had to make something else for Sir Pickypants. As always, if I make something he won't eat for myself, I make him something I won't eat for him. I went with a simplified version of shrimp scampi. I usually go with Tyler Florence's recipe, but last night, I did a quick version.

The other big deal of the night was that I found a great recipe for roasted broccoli in Food and Wine magazine. Oddly enough, it wasn't in the editorial pages. It was in the advertising pages. It was in an advertisement section for Kendall Jackson wines where they gave suggestions for pairings their wines with their recipes. This one had lots of butter with garlic and parmesan cheese. As soon as I saw the recipe, I had to try it. I had to cut the proportions way down because the recipe originally called for four pounds of broccoli.

Because I wanted to give myself more headaches last night, I also made a basic risotto. It was a great way to use up all of the excess homemade stock I have in my freezer.

I made my lamb coating with garlic, rosemary, panko, and ground hazelnuts. I didn't deep fry them. Instead, I coated them as if they were chicken, browned them, and finished them in the oven. It peeled off a bit in one spot, but worked out well otherwise.

Into the pan they went. So far, so good.

I tossed the shrimp with salt and a little cayenne pepper before I threw them into the pan with some garlic, oil and butter. I added some rosemary leaves at the end of cooking as well.

I never said I was good at plating things. The broccoli is sitting on top of the risotto

Here are the finished lamb chops. They, at least, look pretty good. Next time I'll cook them a little less though.


Hazelnut-Rosemary Lamb Chops
4 lamb loin chops
Flour for dredging
1 egg beaten with 1 tsp water
1/2 cup panko
1/4 cup ground hazelnuts
2 cloves garlic
1 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves
1 tsp salt
2 Tbl olive oil

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Mince garlic together with salt and rosemary leaves to make a paste. Combine with panko and hazelnuts in a shallow bowl. Have flour ready in another bowl and eggs in a second bowl.

Coat chops lightly with flour, dip in egg, and coat with crumb mixture. Heat olive oil in a large pan and brown chops on all sides.

Transfer pan to oven and cook 10 minutes more or until your desire level of doneness.

The Short (dis)Order Cook's Simple Scampi
1 pound shrimp
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
2 cloves garlic minced
2 Tbl olive oil
2 Tbl butter, divided
1/2 cup white wine
Juice of 1 lemon
1 Tbl fresh rosemary leaves

Toss shrimp with salt and cayenne. Heat oil and 1 Tbl butter together in a pan. Add garlic and cook until fragrant. Add shrimp and cook until no longer pink. Remove shrimp from pan and keep warm. Add wine, juice, and rosemary to the pan. Add remaining butter and cook until reduced a bit. Pour over shrimp.

Basic Risotto Milanese
1 cup arborio rice
3 cups chicken stock
1 pinch saffron
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil
1 onion, finely diced
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 cup white wine
1/2 cup parmesan cheese
Salt and pepper to taste
Chopped fresh parsely for garnish (I didn't actually do this last night)

In a small saucepan, heat the chicken stock to a simmer. Crush the saffron a bit and add it to the stock.

Heat oil and butter in a saucepan and add onion and garlic and cook until onion is soft. Add rice and stir to coat, cooking until the rice becomes a little transparent around the edges. Add wine and cook until the liquid is absorbed.

Begin adding stock one ladleful at a time to the rice. Stir frequently. As soon as the stock is absorbed, add another ladleful. Keep adding stock and stirring until consistency is creamy and rice is al dente.

Remove from heat. Add cheese and adjust seasoning. Garnish with parsley.

Parmesan and Garlic Roasted Broccoli
1 bunch of broccoli, cut into spears
2 Tbl butter, softened
2 Tbl parmesan cheese
2 cloves garlic
1 tsp salt

Heat oven to 425 degrees. Lay broccoli on an oiled rimmed baking sheet and roast for 10-15 minutes.

Moosh together (is that a cooking term?) garlic, cheese, salt, and butter.

When broccoli comes out of the oven, coat with the parmesan butter. Place under broiler for 2-3 minutes, or until it starts to brown a bit.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Summer Solstice Supper - With Mint, Berries, Lemons, and the Funnest People on Earth

What better reason for a dinner party than the longest day of the year? Light up the grill and stay outside with a drink and some good friends and enjoy every last minute of extended daylight together. I'm so glad that my party this weekend fell on this date.

Well, to tell the truth, I can't keep dinner guests outside too long. I don't have a grill - or a yard to put one in. At least when they arrived I could serve drinks and nibbles on the balcony.

Flatbreads, pate, and spinach dip courtesdy of Trader Joe's, and chased with a pitcher of white zinfandel sangria . For once I relaxed and didn't insist on doing *everything* myself.

(Well I had to do something with that useless bottle of white zin in the fridge!)

The best part was that our guests were Kevin's friend Bryan and his wife. Kevin has excellent taste in friends. Kevin met Bryan when they were theater majors at Queens College. After graduation, they formed the comedy/music group Black Shabbos along with another friend, also named Brian (at least he spelled it differently). They spent several years touring clubs and campuses around the country, but eventually Bryan married Jenny and they began popping out the young'uns. The act was getting old. Bryan and Brian decided to pursue their show business dreams in L.A. Kevin opted to continue to pursue opportunities in New York (and for my sake I'm glad he did). For many long years Kevin was separated from two of his best friends. I never even got to meet them until our wedding where they served as ushers.

A few years ago Bryan and Jenny decided to return to the east coast. Now they're in New Jersey, a few hops, a few skips, and some big jumps away. It's great because we can get together periodically for dinner. Sometimes it's their place. Sometimes it's ours. Sometimes we meet in the city. No matter what, it's always a great time. I'm so happy that we have Bryan and Jenny to share the solstice with.

So, what was on the menu?

After the balcony started to feel a little crowded, I served the first course of Orechiette with the World's Greatest Pesto Sauce.

Okay. It's actually called Orechiette with Pistachio Pesto, but I'm telling you, the combination of pistachio and pecorino cheese is too good to be believed.

Mint carried over into the next course with a recipe of my own invention: Cornish Hens with Raspberry Mint Glaze.

The method I used was something that was sort of inspired by Emeril. I saw him butterfly a chicken once on his Essence show and he browned it in a pan before putting it in the oven. I decided to try something a little unorthodox and did the same for my hens. I split them (or should I say I - hee hee hee- spatchcocked them?) and browned them in a pan on the stovetop with olive oil and butter. Then I glazed them with a mixture of raspberry preserves, raspberry vinegar, and chopped mint leaves. They were then finished in the oven.

Check out the size of those suckers. Whole Foods, which usually is never in short supply of cornish hens, had none the day I went shopping. I ended up at Stew Leonards, which I know has every cut of meat on earth. Unfortunately, the only kind they had was Perdue and Perdue, besides being that weird yellow color, also breeds mega-hens. I saw whole organic chickens at Whole Foods that were probably smaller than these game hens.

Skin is brown. On with the glaze. Into the oven.

On the side is grilled lemon zucchini (grilled on a grill pan on the stove) which was inspired by a recipe from Proud Italian Cook.

Finally, we carried the berries and lemons into the dessert with Raspberry-Lemon Cake.

Although I didn't technically create this recipe, I did cobble it together from other recipes. This is a nice simple vanilla cake layered with lemon curd and covered with strawberry whipped cream. (I'm a bit of a klutz with the piping bag).


Cornish Hens with Raspberry-Mint Glaze
4 Cornish hens, backbones removed and pressed to flatten
1/2 cup raspberry preserves (no sugar added, fruit-only variety)
2 Tbl raspberry vinegar
2 Tbl chopped fresh mint
2 Tbl butter
2 Tbl olive oil

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together preserves, vinegar, and mint leaves.

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet. Sprinkle hens with salt and pepper. Place hens in the skillet skin side down and brown about 10 minutes. You will need to do two hens at a time. Keep the first two warm while you brown the others.

Place browned hens in a baking pan and brush glaze all over them. Place in the oven for another twenty minutes or until they reach 165 degrees.

Method for Strawberry Lemon Cake
Substitute the self-rising flour with 3 cups and 4 tablespoons cake flour, along with 1 1/2 teaspoons of baking powder and 1/4 teaspoon salt.

Make one recipe Ina Garten's Lemon Curd

Whip 1 pint of heavy cream with 2 tablespoons of sugar and 1 tablespoon grand marnier to soft peaks. Fold in 1 cup of pureed fresh strawberries. Whip again to stiff peaks.

Brush the cake layers with a fruity liqueur. Layer lemon curd in between. Frost with the strawberry cream.

Happy Summer Everyone!!!!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Top Chef Fans....

If you haven't seen this interview with Stephanie in The Onion, I'd suggest you check it out. Very interesting.

I like her hair.

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Further Proof That I'm Completely Insane

One skill that I've been slow to develop in the past few years is deep frying. It was not something I would dare do when I was first learning to cook. Deep frying never happened in my home. My mother was both a health nut and neat freak. She generally shunned deep-fried food (although she was never above an occasional indulgence when someone else prepared it). She also hated the idea that anything you deep fry might (*gasp*) spatter and make a mess. I used to cook a lot for my grandparents at their house and they weren't big on fried foods either. They were a little bit grease-phobic. (They would freak if you left the skin on their chicken when you cooked it. ) They also feared grease fires (because Grandma worried about EVERYTHING). Deep frying was something I came to fear. I feared greasy, improperly cooked food, big messes, and potential kitchen fires.

Now that I have been mistress of my own kitchen for a few years, I have ventured forth into deep frying territory. I have successfully made hot wings, doughnuts, and chicken fingers. Just a few weeks ago I deep fried some chicken kievs and they came out perfectly. The one thing where perfection (or at least full competency) eludes me is fried chicken (whole pieces rather than just boneless breasts or wings). I love fried chicken dearly, but the past two times I have tried to make it, I got chicken that was either overcooked or undercooked.

Yet I'm crazy enough to keep trying. I had leftover buttermilk in my fridge. I bought it to make a cake, used some of it to make biscuits last week (which I used as the bun for some mini turkey burgers), and still had half a container left. It was due to expire in two days and I wanted to use it up once and for all. The best way to use it seemed to be as a marinade for fried chicken. I'm crazy enough to keep trying, despite lack of success in the past.

The other reason I'm crazy? Who the (expletive deleted) fries chicken in 95+ degree heat?

How did it all turn out?

Into the marinade the chicken went in the morning.

Do I detect a pinkish color in that marinade? Might that be from the presence of a few shakes of sriracha? Mmmmm...could be.

I came home from work and started up the coating process. I mixed all-purpose flour with salt, pepper, and enough smoked paprika for the flour to have a nicely speckled appearance (sorry, no measurements of any kind here). I removed the breast from the bone for faster cooking (and because my chicken-breast-loving husband doesn't like bones).

Tyler Florence once suggested on one of his old shows that you double-dip the chicken. Put it back in the buttermilk after you floured it and re-flour it. (Is re-flour a word?) I liked that idea quite a bit.

Oil at 350 degrees. Time to get all of that yummy seasoned chicken in there. I'd say it was about 15 minutes on the first side, then cook to temperature on the second. I did not make the mistake I made previous times and messed with the heat level. I left the stove alone and let the chicken do its thing.

Here are the results (with some creamed spinach on the side).

My chicken was browned a little more than I wanted and the coating on two of the thighs were slightly burnt on the bottom, but otherwise the chicken was delicious. The flavor of the sriracha came through and the meat was moist and tender. I was a little worried that Kevin would remember the undercooked chicken from the last time and not be happy that I was making fried chicken for dinner, but he was very pleased when he came home and saw the chicken frying. When he finally ate it, he loved it so much that it completely erased his memory. I was a little bugged when I saw him eating the chicken meat and leaving the crispy skin, then I realized he was saving it for last. The thighs I ate were a tad greasy, but not unbearably so. I will continue my quest to make really topnotch fried chicken and quell my fears of deep frying.

Oh, and Mom, there were very few grease spatters on the stove.

(You know what I'm making for dinner tomorrow night? This. It doesn't take any more cooking than boiling water and it doesn't take more skills than pushing the food processor button. I can handle that. Thanks Val!)

Monday, June 9, 2008

Heat Waves, Horse Trials, Strawberry Sandwiches, and Ice Cream (Oh my!)

My family keeps their horses in a rural northwest corner of NJ. My mother's pony Baby and my husband's horse Jenna reside at Oxbow Stables in Hamburg, and Mom and I keep our other pony, Riddle at TLC Stables in Wantage. This is a NJ you never imagined. It forces you to throw away all preconceptions of what you think you know about NJ. It's rural and beautiful and filled with farmlands and mountains.

Mom and I were traveling between Oxbow and TLC on Saturday afternoon and decided to stop at one of the many farm stands that dot the long road between. Strawberries are in season now, so it was impossible not to pick up some.

I was planning to have them for breakfast yesterday morning. I just wasn't sure how. Did I want to just slice them on my cold cereal? Should I make a smoothie? Nothing was calling to me.

Then I had a crazy idea. My uncle lives in Cochester, CT, near Cato Corner Farm, where they make excellent cheese. Whenever my uncle comes over for dinner, he always brings me some cheese. I still had a decent amount of cheese left over from the birthday party. I had a small chunk of Dutch Farmstead cheese and a big hunk of Bloomsday cheese (which rhymes a little too much with Doomsday for my comfort).

My crazy idea took shape. How would a nice warm cheese sandwich taste with strawberries on top? Strawberries are great with warm brie, right? Strawberries are good with cream cheese? Why not a grilled cheese with strawberries?

The experiment began.

I used the Bloomsday cheese and a nice wholewheat bread. After I took this picture, I sliced the cheese thinner and put the strawberries between the cheese slices to help the sandwich hold together and help the cheese to melt faster. In keeping with some kind of health advantage, I simply sprayed a pan with cooking spray instead of soaking the sandwich in butter.

The sandwich wasn't bad. I think a different cheese needed to go with the strawberries, but I'm not sure what kind I would use. The idea was strong, but the sandwich itself was lackluster. I probably won't make it again until I find the perfect cheese. Of course how can I find the perfect cheese if I don't make it again?

Too bad I couldn't call it a day and go back to bed. I had a long day ahead of me. Oxbow Stables was having one of their monthly horse trials in the middle of the biggest heat wave of the year. Every time we have horse trials, I end up being roped into being a cross country fence judge.

What does a cross country fence judge do? Well, you have to just sit there next to a jump in the middle of a field and mark down whether or not the horse goes over it and if there are penalties. If the horse has a penalty, you call it to the scoring booth over a walkie-talkie. Fun huh? I find myself nodding off. I raise my head when I hear the sound of hoofbeats approaching.

All clear. I can go back to sleep now.

No amount of sunscreen could keep me from getting burnt and my clothes were sticking to me all day.

There was some relief on the horizon though. Storm clouds were brewing.

Unfortunately, the heavens decided to open up just as Kevin was starting his dressage test.

Jenna does not like thunderstorms - at all!

(But she's very pretty, you have to admit.)

Sadly, he didn't get a very good score as Jenna was spooking all over the place.

Kevin sought consolation and I sought relief from the heat at the Bellvale Creamery on our way home. Have I made too many posts about how much I love the Bellvale Creamery? Probably. However, I'm probably not going to stop making posts about it because they have the best ice cream ever! (Just as I'm never going to stop posting about how much I love the Iron Forge Inn because it's the world's greatest restaurant.)

We both had the same ice cream.

This one is called Meadow Muffins. It's chocolate ice cream with brownies and peanut butter swirl. It's heavenly.

Before finally heading home, I took a picture of Bellvale's fantastic view. There is no better way to enjoy your ice cream than to look out on the valley. Too bad it was hazy this day.

A crazy, hot, and disappointing day was just made a little sweeter.

Friday, June 6, 2008

10 Years Ago

Ten years ago I went on a first date with a guy I had been corresponding with on I didn't know how it was going to turn out. He was a bit older than what I was looking for, but I couldn't resist his emails. When I first laid eyes on him, I couldn't believe how cute he was. He definitely didn't look his age. We had dinner at Chef Antonio and then headed to Rye Playland to play minature golf and stroll along the boardwalk. Was it the beginning of something beautiful? Well, once the first date was over, I'd say it was a total mess for quite some time. It was the kind of relationship I wasn't sure why I was in for those first few weird months. Nonetheless, three years and four months after our first date, I married him. I'm glad I stuck it out those first few months because the ensuing years have been wonderful.

It's sometimes hard for Kevin to get home at a reasonable hour to go out on weeknights, so it's nights like this I make what I call a "compromise dinner". I make the kinds of things we might order when we go out, which are the things that only one of us likes. I'll make myself some meat and I'll make him some kind of seafood. (You know it's love because he's the only guy I have ever made seafood for.)

I have been in a crazy mood for pork lately. I don't know why it is, but I'm constantly craving pork. Something is making me want pork all of the time. I just had to have some pork for some reason. For me I opted for a pork tenderloin rubbed with jerk-ish type seasoning, seared and finished in the oven.
For Kevin I went with crab cakes. They're one of his favorites. Although I've winged it and come up with my own recipe before (I use mustard, mayo, and scallions for flavor and use Ritz crackers for filler), it's a little scary to wing it with seafood because I'll never taste the results. For this special occasion I opted for a recipe I found on Sticky Gooey Creamy Chewy (whose lovely host get an unofficial award from me for "Sweetest Person in the Food Blogsphere").
Even though I don't like crab, I liked the flavor combination in these. Do you know why I liked the flavor so much in these?

You are my sunshine, my only sunshine...

The side dishes on these plates are cornmeal hoecakes and a tropical cole slaw with mango, avocado, and lime juice.

Dessert was dulce de leche ice cream layered with toasted almonds and bits of crushed biscotti. I splashed the whole thing with amaretto and topped it with fresh whipped cream.

Nothing like a wineglass to make an idiot-proof dessert look classy

I wish I could come up with even more rewards for him for putting up with me for the past 10 years. He deserves more than just dinner.

Spicy Jerk-ish Pork Recipe
1 Pork tenderloin
1 Tbp Allspice berries
1 Pinch cloves
1 tsp. cinnamon
1 tsp. salt
1 Tbp brown sugar
A few grates nutmeg
1 habenero pepper*
1 Tbp olive oil

Toast allspice and cloves in a pan for a few minutes until they are very frgrant. It should smell like Christmas in your kitchen.

In a grinding/chopping/mashing method of your choice (I used the mini food processor attachment on my stick blender) blend allspice, nutmeg, cloves, cinnamon, sugar, pepper, salt and olive oil into a paste. It should smell like Christmas in Hell in your kitchen.

Rub the spice mixture all over the pork and let sit for as long as you possibly can. Massage it in well. Pretend you're the Neeleys. Make dirty jokes.

Brown the tenderloin on all sides in a lightly greased pan. Get that rub to form a nice crust.

Put the pan in a 400 degree oven and roast for about 30 minutes or until it reaches 165 degrees.

*I know in jerk seasoning traditionally uses scotch bonnet peppers, but Whole Paycheck only had habeneros available. (Yes, I do mean Whole Paycheck. You would not believe the cost of this meal!)

Hoecake Recipe

2 Cups cornmeal
Enough cold water to make a paste
Add a couple of tablespoons of butter and vegetable oil to a pan and heat well. Form cornmeal paste into cakes. Brown on each side until crispy. Takes about 30 minutes.

Tropical Cole Slaw
12 oz Cole Slaw mix
1 diced mango
1 diced avocado
2 Tbp fresh cilantro
1 Chopped scallion
1 tsp Salt
2 Tbp olive oil
1/4 Cup lime juice

Combine olive oil and lime juice and set aside. Combine other ingredients and mix well. Pour lime juice dressing over salad and mix well again. Let sit so flavors combine.