The Weekend Gourmet: 6/19/11 - 6/26/11 F

Saturday, June 25, 2011

A Little Something Sweet...Review + Giveaway: Macarons from Sucre, New Orleans

I'm no psychic, but I'm seeing deep dish pizza and dinner at Frontera Grill in my immediate future. Sorry I've been a bit MIA the past few days...things are hectic at Casa Garcia gtting ready for our upcoming vacation to Chicago next weekend. We're looking forward to a few days visiting with family, cooler temps, lots of foodie adventures, a trip to Trader Joe's...and? We're going to see U2 in concert at Soldier Field!!! The concert was originally scheduled for LAST July, but was rescheduled when Bono injured his back and had to have surgery. So, this is sort of delayed gratification for us. But...before I go, I've a few more blog posts to share...starting with a fun gourmet food review + giveaway. 

I think I've mentioned before that New Orleans holds a very special place in my heart. Michael spent several long weekends eating our way around that great foodie city during out dating years. Then, Michael proposed to me under a gorgeous wrought-iron gazebo in the courtyard at the Ritz-Carlton New Orleans in 2001, and we spent a few days relaxing there after our wedding in December 2003. I think I've also mentioned my love of cookies a time or much so that my brother-in-law's nickname for me is actually Cookie. So? My latest review and giveaway is pretty much perfect for me: macarons from Sucre bakery in New Orleans. 

If you've never tried a macaron, they're a delicious French classic! They're basically a delicate egg-white based cookie that's sandwiched with fruit or nut-flavored buttercream or mousseline. It's easy to do, but don't confuse them with macaroons...the sticky coconut cookie. I love macarons, but have never attempted to bake them at home. Truthfully, they intimidate me more than bread baking ever did. Lucky for me, several bakeries offer mail order macarons...including Sucre.

The nice people at Sucre generously sent me a 15-cookie macaron sampler box this week. The package arrived complete with dry ice to keep the macarons chilled in the crazy Texas heat. The box itself is very cute and colorful, and the personalized note was a nice gesture. Inside was a guide to all the flavors in the sampler, and the cookies were covered by a hard plastic over lay to protect the delicate macarons...I'm happy to report that none were damaged in transit. The macarons are individually placed in paper cups and packaged so they don't touch, which provides them even more protection during the shipping process.

The sampler featured each of their macaron flavors:
  • Strawberry with Strawberry Cream
  • Chocolate with Semisweet Chocolate Mousseline
  • Lemon with Lemon Cream
  • Orange with Orange Cream
  • Pecan with Pecan-Infused Mousseline
  • Pistachio with Sicilian Mousseline
  • Almond with Almond Mousseline
  • Hazelnut with Hazelnut Mousseline

Wow...these macarons are simply AMAZING! The cookies are so tender that they almost melt in your mouth. And the fillings? They're full of flavor that perfectly compliments the macaron cookie -- not too sweet, and the perfect amount of filling. The box is perfect for sampling...and most flavors came two to the box, which made sharing with Michael very easy. No fighting over who got to sample each flavor. I can really appreciate a product that fosters marital harmony in a house of foodies. We enjoyed all of the flavors, but our personal favorites were the strawberry, lemon, and the pecan...the classic almond macaron with a southern spin!

I've been fortunate to sample macarons from several prominent bakeries, and I can honestly say that these are among the best I've tasted. The quality of the ingredients is evident from the very first bite. The fruit flavors are bright and vibrant, and the chocolate variety is the perfect balance of chocolate goodness without overpowering the delicate macaron. For those of you who live in the NOLA area or are planning a trip to visit that amazing city, Sucre has two locations where you can sample their entire line of baked goods in person: one on Magazine Street, and one Lakeside. Wait...I'm having another psychic moment: I predict I will be standing in this very spot during my next visit to NOLA:

Sucre has generously offered to give one of my readers their own 15-macaron sampler box just like the one pictured above! To enter, simply visit Sucre's website to see all of their delicious baked items. Then come back here and leave me a comment letting me know which macaron flavor you're most excited to try, along with your e-mail address. For a second entry...leave a separate comment telling me what fun foodie adventures you have planned for this summer. It's really important that you leave a separate comment for each entry since I use a random number generator to select my winners -- each post counts as one entry. Good luck...the contest is open until this Wednesday, June 30. I'll announce the winner before I leave for Chicago next Friday.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Dynamic Side Dish Duo: Garlicky Red Potatoes + Italian Roasted Broccoli

Let's talk side dishes...i.e., the supporting players of your meal. They’re not the main event, so they're sort of easy to overlook. However, that’s a big mistake...because they’re vital to the overall success of your  meal, much like an ensemble cast in a movie or play. The supporting cast is there to make the star of the show look good...but they can make or break the outcome of any production, be it onstage or on a plate! I’m going to share two simple side dishes with you that will make any meal that much better. Both feature recipe makes simple red potatoes jump off the plate, and the other will make you actually WANT to eat your broccoli...promise!

I created delicious Garlicky Red Potatoes after Salt Works Gourmet Sea Salts recently sent me several sample packets of their delicious products to try out. Included in my package were several flavored salts from their Fusion line. I was very impressed with the quality of all their products, but the Roasted Garlic Sea Salt flavor really caught my attention. It packs much more garlic flavor than the typical garlic salts I've tried, and it was a more mellow flavor since the garlic was roasted. My potatoes have an amazing garlic flavor thanks to a two-pronged flavor approach of fresh garlic and this amazing flavored salt! Click on the links above to check out Salt Works and all of the amazing gourmet salt products they offer. 

The Italian Roasted Broccoli recipe is my slight tweak on Ina Garten's AMAZING Parmesan-Roasted Broccoli. This broccoli is light years beyond boring steamed broccoli -- it's full of Italian-inspired flavors, and roasting brings a slightly sweet taste to broccoli. As soon as I saw the recipe, I knew that I had to make it eventually. I just needed to find the right occasion since Michael never met a broccoli floret he liked. Even if you think you hate broccoli, you’ll love this dish: it’s full of interesting flavors and textures! 

This dynamic duo of tasty side dishes definitely deserves their moment in the spotlight! So, without further ado...

Garlicky Red Potatoes
a Weekend Gourmet Original Recipe

Step 1:  Heat 2 tbs. olive oil in a medium non-stick skillet over medium heat. While the oil is heating, combine the following ingredients in a mixing bowl: 1 lb. diced red potatoes (skin on), 1-2 tbs. chopped flat-leaf parsley, 1 tbs. garlic salt, 2-3 grated or finely chopped garlic cloves, 1 tbs. olive oil, and salt & pepper to taste. 

Step 2:  Toss well to combine all the ingredients,and add the potatoes to the heated skillet. Raise the temperature to med-high and cook, stirring often, for about 10 minutes.

At that point, lower the temperature to medium-low, cover, and let the potatoes steam for about 5 minutes. Uncover, add 1 additional tbs. olive oil, and increase the temperature back to med-high. Cook about 5 minutes longer, until the potatoes are golden brown.

Step 3:  To serve, place the potatoes in a serving bowl. Add more salt & pepper if necessary and sprinkle a bit of parmesan cheese on top. 

Italian Roasted Broccoli
adapted from Barefoot Contessa, Back to Basics

Step 1:  Preheat oven to 400. Line a large baking sheet with parchment or a Silpat. Cut one bunch of broccoli into florets and spread evenly in one layer on the baking sheet. I left a bit of the stem -- maybe 1/2 inch.  Top with three thinly sliced garlic cloves and about 3 tbs. olive oil...sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste, and give it a toss with your hands to make sure all the broccoli has a light coating of oil and seasoning.

Step 2:  Roast the broccoli for about 20-25 minutes. While the broccoli is cooking, combine the following ingredients in a small bowl: the zest of one lemon, 1/3 cup grated parmesan reggiano, 1 tbs. julienne fresh basil, and 2 tbs. toasted pine nuts. Toss to combine and set aside.

Step 3:  When the broccoli is done, remove from the oven. You'll know it's ready when it's slightly browned on the edges. Place the broccoli in a serving bowl. Add 1 tbs. olive oil, the juice of one lemon, and the reserved mixture in the bowl. Toss to combine and add more salt & pepper if needed.

Boy, is this broccoli ever delicious! The lemon and zest gives it a bright flavor, and the basil/parm/pine nuts give it a fresh and nutty flavor. This broccoli is good warm or at room temperature, so it's great for entertaining. You can make it ahead and let it hang out until it's time for the meal to be served. This dish will make even the most avowed broccoli hater come around. 

These two side dishes would be a great one-two punch with simple grilled meats for a lovely summer dinner, but I didn’t actually serve these dishes at the same meal. I served the potatoes as part of a recent breakfast-for-dinner weeknight meal, and the roasted broccoli was one of the sides for my Foodbuzz/Electrolux dinner party last weekend.

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