Monday, January 9, 2012

Caviar, Oysters, Pizza & Pasta

My sister, Trang, spoiled me BIG time this Christmas.  She had me as her Secret Santa and got me some paddlefish caviar and truffle butter (among other kitchen goodies) from the The Seattle Caviar Company.

With such tasty gifts, I thought we should have a night in and cook some tasty dishes for family.  With such fancy gifts we needed to some fancy starters - Quail Eggs w/Paddlefish Caviar and Pan Fried Oysters topped w/Paddlefish Caviar.  

Quail Eggs with Paddlefish Caviar

This is such a simple appetizer!  It also goes so nicely with some champagne or white sparkling wine.  All you need are the following item:

10 fresh quail eggs
Paddle fish caviar
1 bunch of fresh chives chopped

Boil the quail eggs for 3-5 minutes.  Remove egg shells. Cut eggs in half.  Spoon just a little bit of caviar on each egg half and sprinkle with chives.  Wah la!

The pan fried oysters was also a nice appetizer to go along with the quail eggs.  This appetizer was also very simple to make. I just used some cornbread crumbs my mom had in her pantry and coated the oysters with them.  I pan fried it with some olive oil and topped the finish product with a touch of the Paddlefish Caviar and chopped chives.

CJ and Trang made some of their homemade thin-crust pizza for us.  BTW - thin crust is my favorite!  Pizza is surprisingly not very complicated to make.  I may attempt to make some at home myself now that we have a Kitchen Aid Mixer.  Here is CJ rolling out his dough.

And now the finished goods!  Pepperoni with mushrooms and olives.

And for you bacon lovers - Bacon Pizza!

Oh yes...and for the finale I made Ina Garten's Truffle Butter Linguine (click for the recipe).

This was such a rich and delicious recipe!  Truffle butter is a great alternative for the actual truffle.  It's also much more potent in flavor than truffle oil.  I am glad that this dish came at the end.  There was just enough for this to be served on tasting plates.  For dessert, Cuong and Julia brought over some creme brulee.  It wasn't homemade but did the job nicely!

I had so much fun cooking and spending time with my family.  It was a wonderful night in at the Pham's!

Thursday, January 5, 2012

Tomato Pasta Salad

1/2 cup oil-packed sun dried tomatoes, drained
1-2 cloves garlic, crushed
1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons oil, from sun-dried tomatoes
1/2 cup olive oil
1 lb bow-tie pasta
1 bunch of fresh asparagus (sometimes I will substitute zucchini if asparagus is out of season or add some extra greens in there)
8 oz cherry tomatoes
8 oz yellow pear tomatoes
1/3 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
salt and pepper
fresh basil leaves, to garnish

Combine sun-dried tomatoes, garlic and oils in food processor.  Process until all ingredients are combined.  Cook pasta in a large pan of boiling, salted water until just tender.  Plunge the asparagus spears into a bowl of boiling water for 2 minutes until vibrant green.  Drain and then plunge asparagus in cold water.  Cut into 1 inch pieces.  Cut cherry tomatoes and pear tomatoes in half, lengthwise.  Assemble salad while the pasta is still warm: combine the pasta, tomatoes, asparagus and parsley in a large serving bowl; mix in tomato dressing.  Add salt and pepper, to taste.  Garnish with basil leaves and enjoy!

*For a gluten-free option, use corn pasta instead of wheat pasta.  Can be found at Trader Joe's or Whole Foods.

First Thanksgiving Away from Home...

Thanksgiving is a HUGE deal in the Pham Family.  It is a holiday that has traditionally been hosted by my family for many years and each year we have about 30+ guests at my parents' home.  This was the first year I spent it away from Portland.  I was extremely bummed about the thought of it and kept trying to secretly plan a mini getaway (that we could drive to of course).  I was in complete denial.  But after all my brainstorming and wishful thinking, in the end we decided to spend Thanksgiving with our friends here in Santa Barbara. I am happy to say we had an amazing time!


Starters & Salads
- Crab Wontons
- Kale & Brussels Sprout Salad
- Tomato Pasta Salad
- Homemade Rolls

Main Entrees
- Turkey
- Beer Ham

- Gluten-Free Mac n' Cheese
- Cheesy Potatoes
- Green Bean Casserole
- Sweet Potato Casserole

- Banana Cream Pie
- Pecan Bourbon Pie
- Pumpkin Pie

Yes...the menu was quite extensive for a party of only 8 people.  Our Santa Barbara Thanksgiving was held at Brian and Michelle's place.  They are the sweetest couple you will find, both to their friends and seriously to each other!  The late lunch/early dinner feast was done pot-luck style.  B & M were in charge of the main entrees - Turkey and Ham along with some sides and a pie.

Michelle's ham was so delicious.  The recipe belongs to her mother and all I know is that the darn ham took 3 days of marinating in beer. I was never a huge fan of this cut of pork but this recipe seriously turned me onto ham.

All other guests either brought sides or desserts.  I signed up for more than I could handle for side dishes.  Luckily, Dao (sis-in-law) drove up from LA to spend the long holiday weekend with me and the husband.  She was also my right hand gal in the kitchen!  I could not have done it without her.  We started off prepping crab wontons.  One of our friends at the feast was gluten-free.  Of  course I love a kitchen challenge and hate leaving people out,  so I made gluten free mac n' cheese.  I also contributed my Phamous (among the Pham's) sun-dried tomato basil bow-tie pasta salad (recipe in next posting).  I also made a gluten version by using corn pasta from Trader Joe's.

I knew there would be many rich dishes so I made a kale and brussels salad recipe I found from bon appetit magazine.  So fresh and simple!

We had sooooooooo much food!

After dinner we immediately fell into deep food comas.  We napped, snacked, watched a movie and went home bellies full with tons of left-overs in hand!

Monday, December 5, 2011

It's been awhile...

I have SOOOooo many great things to post about.  Although I have documented so many fun events with my camera over the last few months, life has been SUPER hectic!  I also owe some of you photos.  I will start up with the postings as soon as I get a chance.  I just don't know where to start.  Stay tuned...

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Santa Barbara Shellfish Company

When you think of Santa Barbara - you think of the beach, wine and SEAFOOD.  A local favorite seafood restaurant of mine is the  Santa Barbara Shellfish Company, situated at the very end of the Stearn's Wharf.  The husband and I first discovered this causal seafood joint on our first trip to Santa Barbara.  We enjoyed each a glass of wine and shared a crab sandwich.  They have tanks and tanks of live crabs and daily catches behind the bar.  So you are always guaranteed fresh seafood every time you come in.

It's also a place where I like taking my guests when they come to visit.  If you love oyster, you MUST have  whatever is on special for the oysters served on a 1/2 shell.  I can't remember the name of these oysters but they were so yummy!

I often times do not like to order crab when dining out because I feel like it's too much work for the amount of meat that you get.  Not to mention the mess that I always make.  However, the Rock Crab at this place is filled with meat and is worth all the work.  Guaranteed.

Now if you don't want all the commitment of an entire crab and are looking for more variety, the Cioppino includes crab legs, shrimp, scallops, clams and mussels served with their homemade cioppino sauce in a large bread bowl.  Heaven in a bread bowl! 

I've taken my friends, cousin and parents all on separate trips. I find myself ordering the same things!  What can I say?  The seafood is so yummy!  Oh and you can't beat this view...

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Beach Time

Butterfly Beach, in Montecito, is a favorite among the locals.  This beach is smaller than the ones that you would find in Downtown Santa Barbara but you can't beat the location. Being situated right in front of the The Biltmore - Four Seasons Hotel, it's the perfect place to catch some rays and grab a drink afterwards if your schedule permits.

Since my out of town guests came to Santa Barbara for a little R/R, I decided that there was no better place to chill out than at this tucked away beach.  Before heading out, we filled up our beach bags with sunscreen, books/magazines and of course wine.  The three of us happily sat on the sand to soak in the sun and sipped on some vino in our coffee mugs of course (*wink wink*).

BEWARE!  There is one thing you must know about before you step on any beach in this area.  Due to the oil drilling off the coast, you may come across some tar while strolling on these beautiful sandy beaches of Santa Barbara and won't even know it!

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Drink Up!

This past Labor Day weekend, my dearest friend, Yen, and cousin, Uyen, made a visit to stay with us for a few days.  We had a weekend filled with lots of wine, food and more food!  Every activity was planned around a meal or an alcoholic beverage of course.  Sadly we weren't hungry even once.

Since moving down to Santa Barbara, I have been dying to go wine tasting but really wanted to wait to do it with some out of town guests.  So this was the perfect weekend to take my over-aged guests (I do mean that in the most endearing way!) to the San Ynez Valley, central coast wine country.  Our first stop was Bridlewood Winery, one of the larger estates in the area.  The Spanish influence landscape gave the winery a rustic charm.

After sipping slowly on the classic tasting flight, we decided that we yet again needed a snack.  Luckily, we were given precise instructions to head to a nearby market, Los Olivos Grocery.  Although the market was small, it had all the essentials to pair with wine - cured meats, pate, crackers and even free picnic plasticware!

After picking up our goodies, we made our way Firestone Winery only to find that the tasting room was closing down for the day.  However, Uyen was successful in purchasing a bottle of white but unsuccessful in her attempt to run into Andrew Firestone. We ended up shortly back at Los Olivos Grocery.  The cute grocery store had a little picnic area out front.  We opened up a bottle of wine that we had just purchased and made ourselves at home.

I was soaking in the wonderful afternoon and swinging in the hammock chair listening to Yen and Uyen complain about how much we ate and drank.  However, it was too much fun to stop and did not want any food or wine to go to waste!

Great company and great conversation made it a wonderful afternoon in wine country.