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Our Dinner with Les Dames

September 25, 2017 Menu 1 Comment

My wife Daria and I recently celebrated our 18th wedding anniversary. We don’t get to dine out as often as we would like, so we always make sure to honor our anniversary by going out to a nice, romantic dinner. This year, we decided to celebrate with our daughters over a nice breakfast. However, our romantic dinner took place at a special event that we will remember and cherish for along time to come.

Les Dames d’Escoffier is a worldwide philanthropic society of professional women in the fields of food, fine beverage and hospitality. Their mission is to foster a healthier, more fair food system; recognize women who have contributed to the industry; and to mentor young women in their field. Proceeds from their events go towards their scolarship fund. There are 36 individual chapters across the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and Mexico, the Philadelphia chapter being created in 1984.

My dear friend (and sister from a different mister!) Chef Jacquie Peccina Kelly, who is a member of the Philadelphia chapter, extended an invitation to Daria and I for a special farm dinner event honoring Ann Karlen, which was to be held at the beautiful Grace Winery, located in Glen Mills, PA. This was no doubt an opportunity that Daria and I could not pass up!

The Event

Before I get into the wonderful meal that was planned for the evening, I first must tell you about this inspiring event. Chef Jacquie, up to this point, was the only person who Daria and I knew who was involved with Les Dames. From the second that we arrived, we were surrounded by 120+ guests who were all there for the same reason. We all have a deep appreciation for locally grown and healthier prepared fresh foods, backed by a community of farmers, artisan producers, chefs, and the retail food community who all work together to offer us this healthier food system. The evening’s guest of honor, Ann Karlen, is the founding executive director of Fair Food, a non-profit organization formed in 2000 to build a local food economy for the Delaware Valley region by connecting family farms to the Philadelphia marketplace. In 2003, she opened the Fair Food Farmstand, Philadelphia’s first all-local food retail grocery store, in the Reading Terminal Market.

Before the award presentation, a number of friends and colleagues offered up praise and thanks to Ann for her passion and strive to help make the local food community a better place. As one person said, she was ‘farm to table’ before the phrase was even coined. Although I had never met Ann prior to this event, I felt an immediate bond with her, and to say that I was deeply inspired by her contributions to the culinary world would be an understatement.

The Dinner

The evening’s entire menu was planned out and prepared by the Philadelphia Les Dames committee, so we knew that we were in for a meal that would be top notch. Due to early predictions of rain in the forecast, the dinner was forced to be moved into the winery’s barn, instead of being set up in the vineyard as originally planned. The forecast fell through, and the sun was shining throughout the afternoon. We were allowed to wander around the vineyard with drink in hand, but the warmer than usual temperatures made the air conditioned barn setting quite comfortable!

We first entered the converted 1750’s bank barn, which housed a beautifully crafted wooden bar. The bar top is fashioned from the original steps of Independence Hall. Various beverages were offered, including the winery’s Chardonnay and Dragonfly Red, Three Springs Farm’s Ploughman Cider, craft beer, and a new seasonal favorite of mine, Rye Peach Smash. We then made our way to the huge, open spaced back area of the barn, which was set up this evening as a banquet hall. A beautiful Hors d’Oeuvres table was set up, featuring seasonal salads, various dips, roasted vegetables, oysters, flatbreads, local cheeses, salumi and jams, again all prepared by the chefs. Normally, I could make a meal out of this course alone, but I knew that we were in store for many more fantastic dishes to come.

The Hors d’Oeuvres table.

We were all seated at long tables that each stretched the width of half of the barn. Being that we were all there for the same purpose (good food and good wine), it was very easy to start up conversations with those who sat with us at our table. The main course was brought out family style, one scrumptious bowl being passed around after another. This also helped the overall flow of conversation and camaraderie at our table.

The menu was made up of unbelievable dishes that all worked incredible well together:

  • Exotic Mushroom Ragout
  • Roasted Beets with Balsamic Glaze
  • Pan Seared Pocono Rainbow Trout with Lemon, Thyme and Horseradish Chive Yogurt
  • Succotash with Spicy Chile Glaze
  • Sautéed baby potatoes with green beans
  • Brisket with Fall Fruit

Dessert was also served family style, and again offered up phenomenal seasonal treats:

  • Home made croissants
  • Tahini Chocolate Chip Cookies
  • Palmiers
  • Weckerley’s Ice Cream Sandwiches
  • Spiced Apple Cake with Tartin Apple Compote and Calvados Cream (which, by the way, was out of this world).

Dessert…fully assembled!

As the evening came to a close, we exchanged contact information with our new friends and then said our goodbyes. The sun was starting to set on the vineyard, which made for a lovely, picturesque ending to a truly wonderful and romantic anniversary celebration.

The entrance to the winery.

 

The view from the winery.

 

We have to thank Chef Jacquie for extending this invitation to us. We really enjoyed ourselves and look forward to future Les Dames events. And congratulations once again to Ann Karlen. Your efforts and dedication to the culinary world are inspiring and encouraging!

With my good friend, Chef Jacquie.

For more information about Les Dames d’Escoffier, please click the following links:

www.ldei.org

www.ledamesphilly.org

 

For more information about Grace Winery, please click the following link:

www.gracewinery.com

 

To find out about Chef Jacquie’s Philadelphia tasting tours, please click on the following link:

www.taste4travel.net

 

To visit the Fair Food Farmstand, please click on the following link:

www.fairfoodphilly.org

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Chicken Cutlet Roll-Ups

September 15, 2017 Entrees, Menu No Comments

Chicken cutlets are a staple in just about every household. By adding just a bit of seasoning and a few everyday ingredients, this recipe takes chicken cutlets to a whole new level. The key to this recipe is to use thin sliced chicken cutlets. You want the cutlets to be easy to roll and fold. Instead of giving specific measurements, I am just going to share with you the basic steps that I take to make four to six roll-ups. You can adjust the filling ingredients to your liking!

 

 

 

 

Step 1

Lightly brush both sides of the cutlets with olive oil. Season both sides with a little salt, pepper and garlic powder.

 

Step 2

Place in single layers the filling ingredients that you choose.
Here are just a few tasty suggestions:

  • prosciutto, provolone and fresh basil
  • pepperoni and mozzarella
  • chopped artichoke hearts and tomatoes
  • chopped olive salad
  • sauteed mushrooms
  • crab meat

 

Step 3

Carefully roll up the cutlets, and either tie them with butcher string or secure them with a tooth pick.

 

Step 4

Place the roll-ups on a baking tray lined with parchment paper. Bake at 350˚ for 35-40 minutes, until chicken is done.

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Baked Eggs and Toast

July 25, 2017 Entrees, Menu No Comments

A while back, I shared with you my recipe for Italian Eggs in a Basket. This is a classic dish which is made up of a hollowed roll that is served with a seasoned egg baked inside of it. Not long after I shared this recipe, I came across a similar recipe on one of those trendy 30 second recipe videos that are popular on social media. Instead of using a hollowed roll, you were to use slice of bread that was flattened in the middle. I gave it a try, and I liked it. I thought it would have been a fun and enjoyable breakfast for my kids as well…but I was wrong. For as much as we enjoy eating eggs in our house, fried eggs are not the usual standard. We’re a big scrambled and omelette family. Heck, sometimes I feel like I trick myself into thinking that I like fried eggs more than I actually do.. There are so many recipes today that incorporate fried eggs, such as pizza, burgers and even pasta…it’s easy to get caught up in the hype.

Instead of giving up on this recipe all together, I decided to just incorporate my method of making eggs to the recipe. I followed the same preparation steps, but instead of cracking an egg into the center of the bread, I poured my standard scrambled mixture of one egg, some parmesan cheese, chives, salt and pepper onto the bread, After 10 minutes in the oven, we were all enjoying a tasty and filling new breakfast treat. It has since become a breakfast standard in our house.

This recipe is incredibly easy to make, and you can adjust the egg batter to your liking. I would suggest to avoid adding too many heavy ingredients, as the toasted bread may fall apart. You could always serve the additional ingredients, such as vegetables or heavier breakfast meats, on the side. I would also suggest using a toaster oven as opposed to a standard oven, if possible, for one or two servings. The toaster oven will warm up much quicker with less power needed. If a standard oven is your only option, it’s totally fine. However, the toaster oven method will make things a bit easier for you for one or two servings.

 

Baked Eggs and Toast

Makes one serving

Step 1: Pre-heat your oven or toaster oven to 375˚. Take one piece of bread (white or wheat), lay it on a baking tray and flatten the center area with the back of a spoon or the palm of your hand. Lightly coat the edge of the bread with butter.

Step 2: Mix together one egg with your choice of omelette seasonings or spices. I prefer a teaspoon of parmesan cheese, a teaspoon of chives, and a dash of salt and pepper. Pour the egg batter into the center of the bread.

Step 3: Sprinkle some shredded cheddar cheese around the buttered edge of the bread.

Step 4: Place the tray into the oven or toaster oven, bake for 10 minutes or until the egg batter has set.

Serve and enjoy!

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Grilled Honey Lime Garlic Shrimp

July 1, 2017 Entrees, Menu No Comments

In my previous post, I shared with you ideas on how to grill with foil-wrapped packs. The recipe that I’m sharing with you today could be prepared in a number a ways, a foil-wrapped pack being one. Plus, it’s a great recipe for your Fourth of July cook-out!

The measurements that I am using for the marinade are for a half pound of shrimp. I used 21/25 sized shrimp, you can use whatever size you prefer. Simply double up the ingredients for a pound of shrimp, and increase your measurements accordingly per every additional half pound. It’s all about ratio! There are a number of methods that you could use to grill the shrimp. Three of my favorite methods are listed below.

 

 

 

Grilled Honey Lime Garlic Shrimp

1/2 pound raw shrimp (your size preference), shelled and deveined
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup olive oil
1 clove garlic, minced
zest of one lime
pinch of red pepper flakes

Mix the honey, olive oil, garlic, lime zest and pepper flakes. Soak the shrimp (defrosted if previously frozen) in the marinade for at least 30 minutes in the refrigerator. Remove shrimp and discard marinade for the basket and skewer methods, reserve the marinade for the foil pack method.

 

Grilling Basket Method
The easiest method would be to cook the shrimp in a grilling basket. Place the shrimp in a grilling basket over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally. Grill for 7-10 minutes, until shrimp are pink and fully cooked.

 

Bamboo Skewer Method
Another method that you could use is skewering the shrimp with bamboo skewers. Be sure to soak the skewers in water ahead of time for at least 30 minutes in order to avoid the skewers from burning. You could also add pineapple, peppers, or any other choice of vegetable to the skewers to make your favorite shrimp kabob. Place the skewers over medium-high heat, leaving the bare portion of the skewer off of the grill for easier handling. Cook the skewers 3-4 minutes on each side, until the shrimp are pink and fully cooked.

 

Foil-wrapped Pack Method
The method that I preferred to use is the foil-wrapped pack method, because the marinade cooks up with the shrimp, making a glaze. Following the steps that were described in my previous post, you will need to use two pieces of 12″ aluminum foil, stacked. Only use 1/2 pound per pack, making sure that you don’t overload the pack. Place the shrimp and the marinade in the middle of the pack. Fold the foil packs crosswise over the shrimp to completely cover. Roll the top and bottom edges to seal closed. Place the pack on a heated grill, let it cook for 10-15 minutes or so (depending on the heat of your grill), until the shrimp are fully cooked. Carefully open the pack and serve immediately.

 

Grilled shrimp, cooked in a foil pack

 

Ready to serve!

 

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