Ivory Lentil Mediterranean Salad

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The Stein Eriksen lodge is a beautiful hotel in Deer Valley, Utah. The namesake is the gold medalist Stein Eriksen, a downhill skier from Norway.

The hotel has such a wonderful Norwegian ambiance with its unique furniture, textiles, and design. We fell in love with the hotel itself, but best of all was discovering brunch at the hotel’s restaurant, the Glitretind.


We’ve been going back as often as we can – just for brunch. We’ve taken our children there, children with friends, then children with husbands, then grand children. The restaurant is family oriented, and definitely skier-oriented during ski season, but still maintains high-end, high-quality food in a cozy, European-style setting. The view from the Glitretind is also stunning, no matter what time of year.

Recently we took my mother there for brunch on her 91st birthday. And, as always, it was a perfect experience, including a surprise treat for my mother. And let me tell you, this brunch is a buffet. I’ve never been a buffet fan. Somehow, the Glitretind pulls buffet off well.

So, while brunching at the Glitretind with the birthday girl, and perusing the salads, one caught my attention. It was an ivory lentil salad. I’m familiar with tan, brown, green, and black lentils… but ivory?!! I just had to have it. And the salad was wonderful.

So I went to my favorite online grocery store, Amazon, and I found ivory lentils sold by Barry Farms, which is a company that sells high-quality grains and beans. Turns out ivory lentils are the insides of black beans!

This is my version of a Mediterranean salad using ivory lentils, with roasted vegetables and some extra goodies, all tossed in a creamy dressing.

Ivory Lentil Mediterranean Salad

16 ounces ivory lentils, pre-soaked for 4-5 hours

1 large purple onion, coarsely chopped
1 red bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1 yellow bell pepper, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup olive oil
Salt, pepper

1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
Juice of 1 small lemon
3 tablespoons mayonnaise
1 tablespoon tomato paste or a few sun-dried tomato halves
1 tablespoon agave syrup
1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic
Salt

Canned artichoke bottoms or hearts, quartered
Sun-dried tomatoes, julienned
Kalamata olives, sliced

Turn the oven to 400 degrees F, or to a high roasting position.

While the oven is heating, start the lentils cooking using water or vegetable broth. This step took me 20 minutes with the pre-soaked lentils.


Rinse gently and set aside to cool.

Toss the onions and bell peppers in a bowl and toss with the oil, salt, and pepper.

Pour the vegetables into a roasting pan, and when the oven is at temperature, roast the vegetables until nicely charred, about 20-25 minutes.

Turn off the oven, let the vegetables cool.

Place the slightly warm lentils in a large bowl along with the roasted vegetables and any remaining olive oil in the pan.

Add the quartered artichoke bottoms. I am in love with this product.

Meanwhile, prepare the dressing by combining all of the ingredients in a blender. Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary. Stir in about 1/3 of the vinaigrette and gently combine.


To serve, place the salad in a shallow serving dish.

Top with the sun-dried tomatoes and olive slices.

If desired, drizzle on a little more dressing.

So many ingredients could be included in this salad, like feta cheese for example. But I really liked the simplicity of what I created, which was inspired by the salad I enjoyed at brunch.

I will definitely purchase ivory lentils again, mostly because they’re so pretty. They don’t have the same flavor as Le Puy, which is my favorite lentil variety, but then, they’re really not lentils.

Bananas Foster

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My husband asked me to make Bananas Foster for his birthday recently, and how could I argue! Neither of us is much of a sweets eater, or we like to pretend we’re not, but with Bananas Foster, you make it to order and there are no leftovers! Unlike a cake or pie…

The recipe I’ve always used for Bananas Foster, is from the cookbook, American Cooking: Creole and Acadian.


From the book: This elegant dessert of flamed bananas and ice cream, created at Brennan’s over 20 years ago (this book was published in 1971!) for a regular patron named Richard Foster, has become one of the restaurant’s most popular dishes.

Bananas Foster
Adapted
To serve 4
printable recipe below

4 ounces unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
4 firm ripe bananas, peeled and cut lengthwise
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 cup banana liqueur
1/2 cup rum or spiced rum
1 pint good vanilla ice cream

Slice the bananas horizontally so they lay flat.

Combine the butter and brown sugar in a skillet and stir until the mixture becomes a smooth syrup.

Add the bananas and baste them with the syrup for 3 or 4 minutes, then sprinkle in the cinnamon.

Carefully pour in the banana liqueur and rum, and let the liquors warm for a few seconds. They may burst into flame spontaneously. If not, ignite them with a match.


Slide the pan back and forth until the flames die, basting the bananas all the while.

Place two banana halves in each elongated dish. Add a scoop of ice cream to each serving, then spoon the sauce over the top.

Serve at once.

And don’t forget some freshly grated nutmeg.

If you don’t have elongated individual serving dishes, slice the bananas evenly before sautéing, or at least cut them in half crosswise. Then serve in a shallow bowl.

Bananas Foster can also be prepared at the table in a flambé pan, such as a crepes Suzette pan.


Note: The original recipe calls for twice the amount of both rum and banana liqueur. If you enjoy alcoholic desserts, double your liquors!

 

Mille Crêpe Cake

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Mille. What is that – a million? Well, a thousand, but still, a lot. A Mille crêpe cake is one created from stacked crêpes that form layers. In between the crêpes can be just about anything from jam, curd, mousse, marscapone, whipped cream, pastry cream, and much more. The flavor possibilities are endless, with fruits or chocolate or nuts included.

Here are photos I discovered on Pinterest of Mille Crêpe cakes; photo credits below.

Aren’t they just stunning?

Just recently, my blogger friend Suzanne, from A Pug in the Kitchen, wrote a post that really spoke to me. She wrote about challenging herself in the kitchen, so as to present posts of her creations that were much more than “everyday” food.

All of us who follow Suzanne love her blog just as it is, plus admire her tireless work as a passionate animal advocate as well, but I completely understood what she was saying.

I actually went through this quite a few years ago, before I began my blog. It stemmed from the fact that my daughters had moved away, I had retired from catering, and I was only cooking for my husband. His meal requirements are simple, which is fine, but I missed the creativity from the years I cooked for others. And you can only have so many parties!

So I began making dishes that were “out of my comfort zone,” so to speak. One Christmas I made a yule log, for example, and it came out pretty darn well! And all of that led to me starting this blog almost four years ago, where I’m able to make dishes I consider fun, and use ingredients I personally love.

The only negative with food blogging, when there’s no one around to eat what you make, is that you must eat it all yourself, or feed friends who have similar tastes. That is challenging when my favorite foods are snails, steak tartare, pigs feet, pork belly, stinky cheese, and everything liver.

In any case, what also seemed poignant in Suzanne’s blog post was that she planned on taking a whole day off of work in order to make a Mocha Daquoise for her upcoming birthday!

I also had an April birthday, and I’d pondered making a Mille Crêpe cake for so long, that I decided it was finally time! In all honestly, Suzanne has a much bigger challenge on her hands.

To make this cake one must first make crêpes. Then I had to figure out a filling.


The very top middle photo is by Honestly Yum, and the filling is a mixture of marscapone and dulce de leche. I happened to have chestnut cream in my pantry. Mixed and lightened with marscapone will make a perfect filling.

For the top? So many options, but I thought of simply melted dark chocolate. Done.

Just to see if she had a Mille Crêpe in her book, I looked at Dorie Greenspan’s book “Around my French Table.”

She doesn’t have an actual cake recipe, but she had this to say.

To me, that sealed the deal. No recipe is really needed. Turns out this may not be as challenging as I previously thought, but still a little more attention to detail than what I typically put into a dish.

To make the crêpes, I followed my own recipe, adding a little vanilla extract. You might have your own tried-and-true recipe; just make sure you get 18 – 20 crêpes for the cake.


For the filling, I mixed together 32 ounces of marscapone and 12 ounces of chestnut cream, both at room temperature.

After refrigerating the crêpes overnight, I began the ordeal of stacking and filing them. It didn’t start well.

My filling was a bit on the thick side, even though it was at room temperature. At that point I probably should have added some whipped cream, but I didn’t. I pursued. I discovered that pressing with the top crêpe with my fingers was the best way to get the filling spread evenly, all the way to the edges.

This is important otherwise the cake would be domed in the middle. This was definitely tedious, but I persisted.

I covered the cake with plastic wrap and put it in the refrigerator. Then I proceeded to melt 12 ounces of dark, bittersweet chocolate. One bit of advice I read in a cookbook is that when you are tempering chocolate, you are melting it. You are not cooking it. I always have remembered that, and even if it takes a bit longer, I melt chocolate over very low heat.

Now comes the challenging part for me, as I am no pastry chef. If you haven’t figured that out already, you will definitely come to that conclusion on your own.

I gently poured the chocolate over the cake, and let some dribble down the sides. Then I refrigerated the cake for 30 minutes.

The cake sliced easily enough, although the hard chocolate shell wanted to crack.

That was when I realized I should have made a chocolate ganache instead of using melted chocolate. Oh well.

The cake itself was delicious, although a ganache would have made the “icing” more pleasant.

Will I make a mille crepe cake again? Probably not. But I’m glad I made it and survived my challenge. It was truly delicious. And, I ended up with a birthday cake that was just as enjoyable the next morning with coffee!

The green matcha cake is from http://matchatearecipes.co.uk/post/122421717800/matcha-mille-cake
The black and white cake is from https://www.buzzfeed.com/emilyhorng/awaken-your-dessert-love-sensors-with-this-black-white-mille?sub=4201473_8372322&utm_term=.nnJJKl0pQ#.vbZNyXZOz
The red velvet cake is from https://www.sweetandsavorybyshinee.com/
The Boston cream cake is from http://www.willcookforsmiles.com/2013/08/boston-cream-crepe-cake.html

My Surprise Birthday Dinner

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Recently my husband and I flew to New York City for my week-long 60th birthday celebration. I picked NYC because our younger daughter lives there. Since we hadn’t seen her since Christmas, it was great timing.

I typically make all of the dining reservations when we travel, however, I asked that my actual birthday dinner be a surprise. So my daughter made the plans. And she knows me so well!

On the evening of my birthday, we taxi’d to the surprise location. And there it was – Gramercy Tavern!
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I’ve wanted to dine at Gramercy Tavern for years, but it’s never worked out.
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There is a lively tavern at the front of Gramercy Tavern, but our dinner was served in the actual restaurant of Grammercy Tavern. The room is gorgeous and has great ambiance. (photo below is not mine)
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We chose the 6-course tasting menu with paired wines. I mean, why not?!!


I can’t go into every detail of our food and wine extravaganza because there were so many impressive pairings.

One of the highlights of our dinner was our waiter, who seemed to always make things more complicated by switching out wines, and accidentally serving the wrong course. But he was incredibly entertaining! And the wine pairings were absolute perfection.


One dish I must point out is the dessert of whipped cheesecake served with nettles ice cream. Nettles must be the new big thing, because I saw it on so many menus served in a variety of ways. My husband forced me to try the ice cream even though I was too satiated to eat another bite. It was really wonderful!
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After forcing myself to sample the ice cream, I was then surprised with a special birthday cake! Oh no! But I managed to eat the whole thing. There’s always room for cake?
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The Gramercy Tavern experience was a wonderful, four-hour food and drink adventure. I was also gifted with a signed copy of the Gramercy Tavern cookbook – something my daughter sneakily and thoughtfully planned.

The book is gorgeous and could be used as a coffee table book as well as a cookbook. Besides the impressive photography, included are stories honoring everybody who takes part in making Gramercy Tavern the top-notch restaurant that it is, from the farmers, the florist, to the woman who polishes the wine glasses.

Chef Michael Anthony, who has been at the helm of Gramercy Tavern for ten years, is not well known, maybe because he occupies himself with his restaurant and community activities, instead of becoming a TV personality. I find that really admirable!


Overall, this was an extremely memorable birthday dinner for me. I just wish the rest of my family could have been there.