Saturday, August 14, 2010

Welcome to The Weekend Gourmet!!

Why The Weekend Gourmet, you may wonder? This entire idea came about after my husband, Michael, challenged me last month to actually USE my large collection of cookbooks instead of just reading them for ideas/kitchen inspiration! He had just given me two cookbooks for my birthday: Rick Bayless's Fiesta at Rick's and The French Laundry Cookbook. I like a good challenge in the kitchen, so I vowed to make him dinner the following Saturday from my TFL cookbook. While I'm an experienced cook, I'll admit that I was a little intimidated by the length of the recipes and the culinary skills they seemed to require...Thomas Keller I ain't!

I decided to make my own menu using recipes throughout the book and simplifying things where I could. Two hours and $70 later, I walked out of Central Market with all the ingredients I needed to make us a gourmet dinner that night. This was the menu: field greens with TFL balsamic dressing, toasted baguette slices with whipped brie, carnaroli risotto, and seared mahi with an orange-soy reduction. The end result was even better than I had hoped!

Bolstered by my success, I decided to cook a Rick Bayless menu the following Saturday. I picked out recipes from Fiesta at Rick's and Mexican Everyday.  Back I headed to Central Market to pick up a few missing ingredients. Once again, I stretched my culinary expertise...this time, I roasted fresh poblano peppers for the first time. This was our menu: Luxurious Guacamole, Arroz Blanco with Fresh Corn and Roasted Poblanos, and Grilled Chicken Tacos with Knob Onions and Fresh Pico de Gallo. We really enjoyed this meal!
I quickly discovered that I truly enjoy turning on some great music and spending my Saturday afternoons and evenings cooking in the kitchen. During the work week, I'm tired and pressed for time in the evenings. That means our dinners need to be healthy, quick, and tasty. But on the weekends? I have time to plan a special menu, shop for all the necessary ingredients, and spend time really cooking!! I was starting to think this should be something that I do on a regular basis. So...I planned a third cookbook-inspired dinner last week, this time from Thomas Keller's ad hoc at home.

Michael and I were lucky enough to have dinner at ad hoc when we vacationed in Napa Valley last spring. It was one of those meals that you look back on a year later and it still brings a smile of contentment to your foodie face!! When the cookbook came out last fall, Michael bought it for me for Christmas. Because, let's face it: it's more economical to buy the cookbook than to fly to Napa every time we have a craving for ad hoc! This was last week's menu: Chicken with Tarragon Sauce, Puree of Garlic Potatoes, and Creamed Summer Corn. This was truly upscale comfort food!

As some of you already know -- and the rest of you will soon find out -- I rarely bake. The measurements have to be precise, and I'm more of a "cook by feel" kind of gal. I like to take liberties with recipes, and baking can be so unforgiving when you do that! But...last week I found a killer recipe for boozed-up strawberries in a brunch cookbook that Michael bought at Williams-Sonoma. I began to think of ways I could use these strawberries in a simple dessert. Since it's summer, I immediately thought of strawberry shortcake. 

Luckily, the amazing artisan bakery at Central Market had some gorgeous pre-made shortcakes that day. I bought a two-pack and brought them home. I made the strawberries and let them marinate for a few hours, whipped some cream with powdered sugar, and assembled. The results were phenomenal...and potent...this one is DEFINITELY for grown ups only!!
After the meal last week, Michael said that I really should be blogging about my weekend culinary adventures. I've been posting the pictures on Facebook, but agreed that a blog might be the ideal forum for this! When a friend mentioned it to me as well, I knew that it could really be a fun idea! I am. My plans are to blog on the weekends and share the meals that I make. Most of the time, these meals will be on Saturday, but they could just as easily happen on Sunday!

I hope that I can give you some ideas for cookbooks to add to your collection, and I hope that you'll give me ideas from your collection. My plan is to cook either from a cookbook or a featured website each week. I'm taking a break from the kitchen this weekend to get this blog kicked off...and because Michael is back home in Houston visiting his family. I plan to put my Weekend Gourmet hat back on next Saturday. Oh...I want my readers to help me pick what I cook next week. There's a poll at the bottom of this page, so please make sure to vote for which country's cuisine you'd like me to feature!!


  1. Wendy... I'm so glad you started writing!! We have a lot in common, I don't like the precise measurements of baking either, as such my baking is not always totally successful, but most times it's just fine. I'm trying to use all of my cookbooks too, I have purchased so many over the years and I really need to dig into them and remember what I have. I'm really looking forward to your future posts! Thanks for stopping by my blog too!!

  2. Looking just lovely, Wendy! I voted for Greece for next week, and it looks like I'm not alone! :) Tickled that you've decided to bring back your foodie blog and I'm looking forward to each week's installment! Have a great week!

  3. Looks great, Wendy! I have quite a collection of cookbooks, too many to count! lol Looking forward to following you!

  4. Welcome, Kim and Kristy...looking forward to following your blogs too. I think my last blog fizzled because I set it up as something that I needed to do daily, and it was too much. This concept is MUCH better for me...I'll mostly be blogging Fri/Sat/Sun, but could pop in during the week from time to time.'

    Laura - Wouldn't you know the one country that I don't have a cookbook from is Greece! If it wins, I'll need to check one out from the library or find a website to feature next week :lol:!

  5. Love the blog, Wendy. I need Eric to give me the same challenge with all my baking books! Soon as I get the new kitchen set up, I must really start to use it!
    BTW, when I was in Portugal, I had the most amazing Baked Apples, which was simply ripe apples cooked low and slow in a very good port wine and a sprinkle of sugar on top. I think Port is one of the most underused liquors here in baking.
    -Martina xoxo

  6. Martina - isn't Low and Slow a Beastie Boys song? Wait...nevermind, it's Slow and Low :lol:!
    -WWG xoxox

  7. OMG Wendy - congrats on the blog. I'll be following.


I love hearing your feedback!!!