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Sunday, February 27, 2011

Oscar Night 2011: Tapas, Sangria and Doily Dresses

Okay, I'm getting old. I admittedly could barely stay up long enough for the post-Oscar show cleanup, let alone write my recap. I'm a day late and several dollars short. Here we go...

This recap will be a quick one on the big night and then I'll focus on the food. My bestie Kristy wrote The Masterpiece Recap on the night as a whole on Facebook and I'll quote her on a couple of things. Oscar Night 2011 was framed in an oddball setting here as it featured a background soundtrack of bizarre rolling thunderstorms. Lightning flashed and indeed the Tivo popped off once, but thankfully there were no long-term blackouts. It was great to be able to share the night with Ronnie again and doubly great that this was the first Oscar get-together that Jeff attended as well. Ronnie uttered some wonderful witticisms for sure but Jeff actually delivered some of the best lines of the night; though many of them are unprintable here. Some of the best lines inevitably accompanied the red carpet parade:

-Let me say this: Melissa Leo, I defended your right to conduct your own campaign and supported your win for Best Supporting Actress. I can't come up with anything supportive to say regarding the metallic doily you wore or the f-bomb you tactlessly dropped. Ronnie likened her outfit to the Gone With The Wind drapes worn by Carol Burnett's Scarlett O'Hara.

-Cate Blanchett is one of my favorite actresses but we couldn't decipher the dress. Kristy said that "it looked like a cameo brooch with the face left off". Ronnie said that it was like a "wreath of barnacles under a very gay boat". As the wreath in question surrounded Cate's chest, Jeff said, "....presenting....my breasts!"

-Mark Ruffalo's wife might have had a beautiful dress on underneath what appeared to be a black Snuggie that seemed to have featured a wing on the back.

Ok, I'm stopping. I could go on for days and frankly, its all in fun. One who sits in raggedy sweats typing about fashion shouldn't throw stones....but then I'm not attending Hollywood's biggest night, am I? Frankly,for the most part, the celebs looked striking. Mila Kunis was gorgeous, young Hailie Steinfeld looked age-appropriately beautiful and Matthew McConaughey's wife is a stunner. A few other observations...

-I'm at a bit of a loss over James Franco and Anne Hathaway as hosts. Anne looked amazing in every dress and is a consummate entertainer. Despite the snafus and discomfort, as far as I'm concerned, Hathaway = heavenly. I had hoped that Franco would add just enough WTF to keep things interesting and the drag moment was well, odd, but as Kristy said, "he looked either stoned, drunk, scared shitless or totally uninterested." I would add that he seemed outright pissed off at times. Bless Anne for at least killing it sartorially and giving it her all.

-God bless Kirk Douglas for being a true survivor but holy cow, did that get uncomfortable...wow. Speaking of uncomfortable, the costume design award went to someone who not only took forever to get to the stage but stumbled through her halted thank-yous. That was grueling...and Kristy texted the best take on that moment....hooked on phonics, anyone?

-I have always strongly disliked the Clap for Most Popular of The Dead Celebs moment or Death Montage. Jeff loves it. Thankfully, they managed to either keep the audience from clapping or turned off the audio. That said, why did they have to get Celine? Your heart needs to go on, sister, right off the stage.

-Go, PS 22! They were a classy and sweet way to conclude the night.

The acting awards went as I had predicted in the last post and that didn't exactly require psychic powers as the big five have been fairly set throughout the awards season. Bummer for Fincher, but that wasn't really a surprise.

We served up tapas and sangria for the watch party last night. Ronnie and Jeff brought an amazing antipasto plate that featured some truly unique and delicious cheeses such as Blueberry Cobbler, Sage and Chili-Lime. We served some Boursin cheese and pickled jalapeno garlic. We made, as mentioned in the last post, Blackberry Wine BBQ meatballs that were very good. Our tapas were Hot and Sweet Deviled Eggs (pictured with cream cheese and jalapeƱo jam), Sausage and Goat Cheese Crostini and Caper Rice Croquettes. All turned out very well. Ronnie also brought a wonderful layered chocolate cake for Jeff's birthday. The MVP award for the night went to Keith, who could really care less about the whole thing, but was the consummate host throughout the night.

We were all in agreement that Oscar Night 2011 was a night of few surprises. The only scares for me were the wild weather and Ronnie declaring, "Mama's out of Gogo Juice and needs dessert." Yikes! The recipes for the sangria and the deviled eggs follow and count as Cookbook Challenge #29 and #30.

Hot and Sweet Deviled Eggs (Incredibly Easy Tapas)

Ingredients

6 hard-cooked eggs, peeled and cut lengthwise into halves
4 to 5 tablespoons mayo
1/4 teaspoon curry powder
1/4 teaspoon black pepper
1/8 teaspoon salt
Dash of paprika
1/4 cup dried cherries or cranberries, finely chopped
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives
Additional fresh chives

Directions

1. Scoop egg yolks into bowl; reserve whites. Mash yolks with mayo until creamy. Stir in curry powder, pepper, salt and apprika; mix well. Stir in cherries and minced chives.

2. Spoon or pipe yolk mixture into egg whites. Garnish with additional chives.

Sangria aka Mama's Oscar Night Gogo Juice (Mexican Cookbook by Jane Milton)

Ingredients

3 cups dry red wine
juice of 2 limes
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/2 cup brandy
1/4 cup sugar
1 lime, sliced, to decorate

Directions

Fill tall glasses with ice. Combine the wine, lime juice, orange juice and brandy in a large glass pitcher. Stir in sugar until completely dissolved. Pour over ice and garnish with lime.




The Confounded Oscar Picks

I missed my favorite night last year as I was taking care of my folks in WV. Thanks to Kristy's influence and Ronnie's rib-tickling texts, it felt as if I was right there on the red carpet. This year, we are back hosting an Oscar watch and we have been already cooking and prepping. The chocolate truffles from Oooey Gooey are on the table and the aroma of meatballs simmering in locally made Indian Creek's Blackberry Wine BBQ sauce is wafting through the kitchen. Ronnie and Jeff are coming over, its Jeff's birthday, we are serving up some tapas and there's a severe thunderstorm watch out...a few days after a snowstorm; go figure.

I'm popping on to give my picks and I'll do another post later to recap and showcase the food. My picks are who I think will win and in parentheses will be who I think should win. I'm only doing a few, not all, just some of my favorite categories.

Best Picture- The King's Speech ( I loved this movie, but think The Social Network should win it)
Best Actor- Colin Firth (and deserves it, too although Bridges, Eisenberg and Franco were all aces as well)
Best Actress- Natalie Portman (some folks think Annette Bening could sneak in and snatch this and she's deserving as well)
Best Supporting Actor- Christian Bale (will and should win; though some folks think Geoffrey Rush could pull an upset)
Best Supporting Actress- Melissa Leo (Well, this category just went a tad tits up, so should be interesting. I'm sticking with Leo; who gives a bloody hell if she created her own campaign....she wants to win the damn thing!)
Best Director - David Fincher (will and should win)

I'm tossing in best documentary because Exit Through the Gift Shop was one of the most interesting docs I've seen in a long time....Go Banksy!

Stay tuned for our recaps, Ronnie's wicked red carpet commentary and of course, the food!!

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Dignity In Defeat And The Beauty Of Brainstorming

Oh, the minutiae that clouds my mind in the course of one week. I need to find some clarity and focus as my easily-muddled mental state seems constantly under siege by dastardly and dark distractions...like, say, bright and shiny objects. I've always been the Dean of Distraction....my big, overstuffed chair at home looks like a Pop Culture Command Center. The Netbook sits open to my blog stats or Facebook; the TV flickers with a myriad array of mindlessness made even more accessible with our treasured Tivo and now, I've finally upgraded to a smartphone and my splintered cerebellum is strained once more.....and I love it that way. However, from the various film and food sites on my Netbook to the endless choices of programs to DVR, I'm distracted to the point of dangerous diversion. Two years ago this month, the K-Man bought me my Netbook and it wasn't long before I was lost in the world of Facebook and then, further on, deep into the addictive online gaming world of Mafia Wars. I was so ensconced in that game that it reminded me of when I first discovered the internet on my friend Kaki's computer: I was starting to become the Charlie Sheen of chatrooms; a ranting loon who needed to be physically extricated from the computer. So now, I have my new Smartphone and am awash in the world of apps and Angry Birds (check out the cool Angry Birds cake I found on Google!). Surrounding myself with this Triumvirate of Technology definitely has me feeling connected....and yet in a strange fog of disconnect as well.

My brain has felt continuously cloudy and I attributed that to the events of the past several years that then concluded with Dad's passing. I've been working on regrouping mentally, emotionally and physically but the course is slow and steady. The weather doesn't help but I'm not doing a repeat performance of my seasonal woes.....though I will admit that this latest snowstorm has me feeling like the Salvador Dali clock that Claire got Keith. I struggled with writing the blog these past couple of months as I've lacked a bit of a spark lately and even the cooking itself has shown that. Keith and I together have made some bang-up grub but when I'm on my own; I'm still distracted and unfocused. Still working on cooking with on-hand ingredients, I made chicken tacos. They were some seriously sad-ass chicken tacos. I overcooked the chicken, overdid the spices and learned a tad too late that the tortillas were stale. The only successful part was the black bean sauce I whipped up with a blended up concoction of canned black beans and jalapenos with lime juice and a touch of Mexican seasoning. I continued to be a bit pissy in regard to my failed tacos until Keith reminded me that not every meal needs to be a masterpiece and sometimes,well, it just sucks. That's how we learn. My immediate reaction to his level-headed platitude was to smack him in the head with the copy of the Omnivore's Dilemma I was reading but realized quickly that of course, he was right. Be dignified in defeat and head back to the drawing board....or cutting board, in this case.

As for my befuddled brain, I rediscovered the power of a good brainstorming session. Many moons ago in my hometown region of West Virginia and Ohio, Kristy, Carl, and various other friends would gather at Kaki's charming Marietta apartment and toss out ideas on ways to improve and grow Kaki's family florist business. I've written often of the Greenhouse and this was another of those laugh-filled memories. Kak would whip up some munchies, such as her fabled curry dip and we'd crack a few beers and let the neurons fire. Today, this beloved business has grown into a store more special than our wildest imaginations....but the sparks for that wildfire were ever-present way back when.

Friday night, I accompanied Keith to another brainstorming session and this time I observed more than participated. Keith, in his job as the director of the Downtown Partnership was meeting with the Mayor and other folks for a strategic session of their own and I was invited to tag along. This time, the locale was Mayor Carolyn's stunning kitchen and luckily for us, her husband Jim was weaving some of his culinary magic. He made homemade pita bread and utilized a very sleek and cocky-looking tortilla maker when doing it. The steam in the tortilla maker created a high-pitched whine that established the moniker of Screaming Pita. That pita may have emitted an unholy scream but it was seriously delicious; particularly when served with some spicy roasted red pepper and cheese dip. I sat in on the brainstorming and my mind was sparked by their creative teamwork. It was not unlike that brainstorming session of old...a meeting of the minds over good food and drink in a room ablaze with hearty laughter and creative fire. This time, the table was strewn with iPads instead of legal pads but the process and results were much the same.

In both sessions, the group would head home, mentally exhausted yet creatively juiced. I watched it happen with a small but treasured hometown business and now I'm witnessing it occur with a small but treasured town by the name of Excelsior Springs. Thanks to the brainstorming session, my mind is once again feeling stimulated and I hope to maintain that. I can't wait to see the vision become something beyond our wildest dreams once again.

Monday, February 21, 2011

Cookbook Challenge: Honey-Spiced Pork Chops, Potato and Leek Gratin and Banana Pudding

The Cookbook Challenge introduced us to one of our favorite meals yet: savory Honey and Spice Pork Chops, a filling and delicious Potato and Leek Gratin and light and sweet Banana Pudding. The trick with these doesn't end with just meeting the Cookbook Challenge. We've been trying to watch our pennies and have really tried to use ingredients found in the pantry. We were largely successful with this but did splurge on a couple of ingredients, including Gruyere cheese(which did indeed give us a bit of sticker shock) and ground cloves. The author does say that you can use cheddar in place of the Gruyere and that would save some bucks as well but wanted to make the dish as close to the original recipe as possible. I'm also pleased to report that these recipes involved various kitchen gadgets and I emerged relatively unscathed after each use. I didn't splatter the kitchen with the electric mixer and most reassuringly, I didn't lop off a digit with the mandolin. We also tried to cut calories where possible. The Potato Leek Gratin from Vegetarian Cooking for Everyone by Deborah Madison wasn't lo-cal by any stretch of the imagination but we did use skim milk and it worked out deliciously. The amazing chops were from the 2003 Cooking Light annual best-of cookbook and the Banana Pudding is from Patti LaBelle's Lite Cuisine. These recipes will count as Cookbook Challenge recipes #26, #27 and #28.


Yes, Miss Patti makes another appearance in the blog; bless her. For the story of Keith and I sharing an elevator with Miss Patti and Mary J. Blige at the Marriott Marquis in New York City, enter the title Aunt Bonnie and Miss Patti in the search engine at the top of the blog. I loved her recipe for her banana pudding because it used low calorie ingredients and therefore resembled my Mom's banana pudding. The recipes follow with Lady Marmalade's at the end....


Honey and Spice-Glazed Pork Chops

Ingredients

1/4 cup honey
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
Cooking spray
4 (4 oz) boneless center-cut loin pork chops (about 1/2 inch thick)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

Directions
1. Combine first 5 ingredients in a bowl.
2. Heat a large nonstick skillet coated with cooking spray over medium-high heat. Sprinkle pork with salt and pepper, cook 2 minutes on each side or until browned. Reduce heat to medium-low; add honey mixture. Cook 10 minutes or until done, turning pork once. Yields 4 servings.

Potato and Leek Gratin

Ingredients

1 garlic clove and butter for the dish
3 pounds russet of Yukon Gold potatoes, peeled and thinly sliced
1 quart milk
1 bay leaf
3 thyme sprigs or 2 pinches dried
3 garlic cloves,thinly sliced
2 large leeks, white parts only, thinly sliced
Salt and white pepper
Grated nutmeg
1 to 2 cups grated Gruyere
2 tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375. Rub a 9 x 12 inch gratin or baking dish thoroughly with the garlic, then with the butter to coat well.

Put the potatoes in a pot with the milk, herbs, sliced garlic, leeks and 2 teaspoons salt. Slowly bring to a boil, then simmer until the potatoes are barely tender but not to the point of falling apart. Discard the bay leaf and thyme. Drain.

Make a single layer of potatoes, leeks and garlic in the dish. Season with white pepper, a little nutmeg and cover lightly with the cheese. Repeat until all of the potatoes and cheese are used up, ending with a layer of cheese. Add enough of the milk to come up to the last layer of potatoes-about 1 1/2 cups-dot with the butter, then bake until a golden crust has formed on top, about an hour.

Layered Banana Pudding

Ingredients

2 1 ounce boxes fat-free, sugar-free instant vanilla pudding mix
1 cup reduced-fat sour cream
1 8 oz. tub frozen light whipped topping, such as Cool Whip, thawed
3 cups fat-free milk
2 5.5 oz. boxes sugar-free Nilla Wafers
4 ripe bananas, sliced
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon sugar substitute, such as Splenda

Directions

In a large bowl, using an electric mixer on low speed, beat together the pudding mix, sour cream, whipped topping and milk until creamy, about 2 minutes.

Arrange a layer of Nilla Wafers on the bottom of a 13 x 9 inch rectangular pan, using a little less than half of the cookies. Set aside 12 cookies for decorating on top.

Layer half of the banana slices on top of the wafers in the pan. Pour half of the pudding over the bananas.

In a small bowl, mix together the cinnamon and sugar substitute. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon-sugar mixture over the pudding. Repeat the layers, using the remaining cookies, sliced bananas, pudding and cinnamon-sugar.

Decorate the top with the 12 reserved cookies. Cover with foil and refrigerate for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day, before serving.

This pudding is 270 calories per serving.

Thursday, February 17, 2011

French Wine Dinner At The Inn On Crescent Lake

The intention of a planned evening out is just that; an opportunity to enjoy a pleasant dinner on a pleasant evening and really, that in itself is a treat and I can't ask for more. However, every now and then, said evening morphs into something wholly unexpected and in this case, far more meaningful. This is our evening at the Inn On Crescent Lake.

I had sadly only driven by this inn in Excelsior Springs previously and had never had the pleasure of entering its welcoming gates. The Inn had been under new ownership for the past year and I had heard wonderful things about the new proprietors and the Inn itself. Patrick and Beverly Delugeau moved from Normandy, France to find their dream bed and breakfast here in the States. Patrick had lived his entire life in France up until this point and was born in the Loire Valley. They had traveled around the U.S. and were thrilled to discover the charm of the Inn On Crescent Lake. Welcomed with open arms by the community and pouring their hearts and souls into the bed and breakfast infused a new energy into the Inn and it enjoyed a renewed reputation as a cherished retreat. Tragically, after a year spent with their dream destination, Patrick passed away unexpectedly and the community surrounded Beverly and her family with love and support. This was just a few months ago. Beverly's family and staff have helped her keep the dream alive and one of the ways they are honoring Patrick's memory is with these wine dinners. I had never met Patrick but amongst his many abilities were that of gourmet cook and great admirer of fine food and wine. I was excited to learn of these wine dinners that the Inn had begun hosting and we quickly moved to secure seating for the next one on the day after Valentine's Day.

We arrived through the stately gates with our friends Betty and Linda and were warmly welcomed by Beverly. I had never met Beverly and I instantly realized that she is one of those people who carry a wonderful presence....a true light. How fitting that she would be the proprietor of this charming inn. I would also meet her equally charming daughter Leah, who's been handling a lot of the day-to-day operations of the Inn. After the rest of the evening's diners arrived; around 20 of us, we were split into two groups and taken on a tour of the mansion and grounds. The breakfast nook with its panoramic view of the lake and its snow covered banks was first, and soon, we climbed the grand staircase and viewed the many rooms; each featuring their own romantic flourishes. The various inviting beds, some with willowy canopies were highlights but the centerpieces for me were the private baths.....in particular, the one that featured the sexy cherry-red claw-foot tub. We strolled the grounds as well and my favorite area there was of course, the wine cellar. Originally an old root cellar, Patrick had been working to evolve it into a wine cellar and the project was completed after his passing.

We returned to the cozy dining room for the main event. Leah would introduce the wine that would be paired with each course and Beverly would describe the dishes, in this case, French dishes with American similarities. The wines were from the family winery: Domaine Les Terres Chaudes. The description of the winery comes from the family themselves...

"Five generations of the DeLugeau family imbued the winery with a sense of its deep roots in the Loire Valley of France. They have a commitment to honor these roots, the estate and the family tradition through every wine produced. The DeLugeau's family winery, Domaine des Terres Chaudes, has an enduring reputation for elegant wines with a beautiful balance of finesse, power and complexity."

The first course was an array of tasty appetizers: small, savory cheese-filled pastries, prosciutto-wrapped melon slivers and bacon-wrapped prunes (an unexpected delight) and this was served with a glass of Rose D' Anjou, a blend of Cabernet Franc, Grolleau Gris(I loved listening to Beverly pronounce this) and Gamay. The salad course was mixed greens with a beautifully simple Dijon-based dressing and this was accompanied by a diminutive yet decadent chicken pot pie. I suddenly wished that I had brought something with me to take notes with as I was missing the French pronunciations on much of the meal.....so bear with me as I continue to describe the meal.

A quick aside....The previous day I had found the holy grail of cookbooks, Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volumes 1 and 2 on clearance at my store at a ridiculously low price.....75% off of its originally $100.00 price and with my extra discount dropped the price to about seventeen bucks and some change. I brought it home and poured through the recipes, snickering as if I'd committed a master culinary heist. The next day, at this wine dinner, Beverly began describing the approaching main course and not only was I swooning over the delicious details but found that we would be enjoying some of the amazing dishes that I read about in Julia's Gold Standard Bible. A wonderful Pork Normandy was served featuring a luscious apple-based sauce atop baked apples. It is traditionally made with Calvados, a French apple brandy and when I read the recipe, I wondered if that could be found locally. We were then entertained by a story of how Patrick enjoyed the brandy right in that very dining room. The Pork Normandy was served with a to-die-for Gratin Dauphinois or French scalloped potatoes made with homemade creme fraiche as well as a julienned vegetable ragout. The entree was served with a glass of the Anjou Rouge, a Cabernet Franc that was my personal favorite.

Dessert was served; a sultry strawberry eclair that was accompanied by a glass of Cabernet D'Anjou, a blend of Cabernet Franc and Cabernet Sauvignon. The entire meal itself was nothing short of spectacular but it was the warm and loving tales shared by the ladies that added that something extra to the evening. The serving of each course was interwoven with stories of Patrick including witty bon mots that he would say. He loved to say that there was nothing better than good food and wine shared with good friends. As we sat, completely sated, Beverly shared the many photos and scrapbooks of her life and travels with Patrick and continued to tell wondrous stories. I was particularly mesmerized by the story of how they traveled this country looking for their dream bed and breakfast and had nearly given up when they discovered the Inn. She spoke of when they first laid eyes on the property and how upon entering the gates, Patrick whispered in French, as if he'd entered hallowed, sacred ground.

The entire experience was one that had left me not only completely satisfied by the meal but spellbound by the experience; as if I'd just shared a truly intimate experience with old friends, new friends and complete strangers. As I said before, I regretfully had never met Patrick but in the course of this magical evening, I felt his presence throughout and by night's end, I'd felt not only that I now had a wonderful portrait of what an amazing human being Patrick was but that we had been welcomed into the family of The Inn At Crescent Lake.

The next wine dinner is scheduled for March 8 and needless to say at this point, I highly recommend it. If you can't make one of the dinners, at least go check the Inn out. They specialize in relaxation and who couldn't use some of that these days? Check them out at http://www.crescentlake.com/index.html

Ladies, what a fantastic evening. Merci!

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Moroccan Salmon and The Garden of Eatin'

We motored down to the venerable American Royal to attend an event that signals the much-anticipated arrival of spring...The Home and Garden Show. Held in the Royal's vast event spaces, this show celebrates all things home and to Keith's particular delight; gardening. Powell Gardens, our local botanical gardens, featured The Garden of Eatin', an immense display on growing our food. Rows of lettuces, herbs, tomatoes and other edible goodness filled the space and the aromas were incredibly enticing. I loved the deep colors of the purple cabbage and the Merlot lettuce and dug the contorted hazelnut tree. We bought a really terrific indoor composter as well and that thrilled me to no end. Seem like an odd thing to be thrilled by? Keith is an intrepid composter but our composting area is behind the shed in our back yard and as the snow piled up back there, so did our composting. Inside. In Bowls and Cannisters. Get the smelly picture? This indoor composter is huge, sealed and hidden away and it breaks down the food itself and that makes for far less hikes to the shed. Exxxxcccelllent.

We strolled the beautiful orchid displays and enticing food tasting booths and I stared longingly at the landscape displays with stunning outdoor kitchens; wishing and hoping for the future. I also geeked out to the Tornado Chaser's Tankmobile at left....I so wanna go on a chase. Eventually, we settled into the cooking demo area and watched Chef Linda of the Price Chopper grocery chain work her culinary magic. Linda prepared some healthy dishes in partnership with Fit KC and I got to try them all. She made Frittata Muffins, her twist on Waldorf Salad (which was the first time I really enjoyed Waldorf Salad) and Cornmeal Apple Cinnamon Pancakes. All were very good and I can't wait to try the muffins. When I do, I'll share the recipe.

Finally, I returned to the Cookbook Challenge where I consulted an unlikely resource. The purpose of the Cookbook Challenge, as I've written, is to cook one recipe from every cookbook we own in a year's time and we own over 80 cookbooks. I've discovered one that neither of us realized we had and don't remember buying. Its the Mary Englebreit cookbook that celebrates the artist and well, neither of us are exactly fans of the artist so we are not sure of how we came to own it. If someone reading this gifted us with this cookbook, forgive us, we don't seem to remember how we received it but since we do, it's in the challenge. So be it.

I dug out the remainder of the snow on the deck thanks to the Big Melt and busted out the grill for its 2011 debut. I chose the Charmoula Grilled Salmon recipe that featured a zesty Moroccan sauce to marinate the salmon in. The sauce is wonderful....as the cookbook says, "it's spicy heat tempered by lemon juice and a generous amount of cilantro". As the cookbook suggested, we served it with couscous that we kicked up with some fresh Parmesan and garlic. The salmon was wonderful and the sauce was delicious on the salmon without overwhelming the fish.

The garden show and the grilled salmon were the perfect early kickoff to a hopefully early spring. The recipe follows and this is Cookbook Challenge #25...

Charmoula

1 1/2 tablespoons paprika
1 teaspoon ground red pepper
1/2 teas. ground cumin
3 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup fresh lemon juice
6 tablesp. olive oil
1/2 cup chopped fresh cilantro

Ingredients

8 5-6 oz. skinless salmon filets (frankly, we only grilled 2 and still made the same amount of charmoula.....to use for other marinades)

Coarse or kosher salt
Cilantro sprigs, for garnish

Directions

1. Make the charmoula: Combine all the ingredients in a blender and process until smooth, scraping down the sides of the container as necessary. (The charmoula can be made up to 2 days ahead, covered and refrigerated.)

2. Put the salmon in a shallow baking dish and pour the charmoula evenly over the fillets, turning to coat. Cover and chill for 30 minutes to an hour, turning the salmon once or twice.

3. Preheat the grill to high and oil the grill rack.

4. Sprinkle the salmon with coarse salt. Place the fillets skinned side up on the grill, turning once, until just opaque throughout, 8 to 10 minutes. Garnish and serve immediately.