Thursday, January 5, 2017

YOU SAY CASSEROLE, I SAY "CASSOULET"




YOU SAY CASSEROLE, I SAY "CASSOULET"


It's winter!  Even in Ojai. The holiday season is over.  Blizzards abound.  Well, not in Ojai.  We're just happy if it rains, but the temps dip low and logs have been burning in our fireplace.  It's cassoulet weather.  Recently Richard made a great one.  A few years ago he made a Christmas Cassoulet for one of our holiday parties and worked on it for days, because, well, that's what you do with a cassoulet.  But this recipe is for a quickie.  Cassoulet in a flash.  Takes about a half hour.  And I'm here to report that it's good enough to share with y'all.  Good enough for company.
So here goes.

Ingredients
 
3 ounces of duck sausage, casings removed.  Richard couldn't find duck sausage in our little hamlet so he substituted pork sausage.

2 ounces center-cut bacon, cut into 1/4 inch pieces
1/3 cup chopped onion
1/3 cup chopped celery
1/3 cup chopped carrot
1 tablespoon chopped fresh thyme
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 (3 ounces) boneless duck breast half (optional - Richard chose not to include the duck breast, although on another occasion he substituted a chicken breast.  He figured that afficionados would forgive him).

Cooking spray

2 (15.5 ounce) cans, no-salt added, white beans rinsed, drained and divided
2 tablespoons no-salt added tomato paste
1-1/4 cups no-salt added chicken stock
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1/2 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1 tablespoon chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
2 tablespoons walnut oil


Directions:

1.  Preheat the broiler to high
2.  Heat a large skillet over medium heat.  Add sausage and bacon to pan; cook 5 minutes or until lightly browned, stirring occasionally to crumble sausage.  Remove mixture from pan using a slotted spoon; place in a bowl.  Reserve 1 tablespoon drippings in pan; reserve remaining drippings for another use.  Increase heat to medium-high.  Add onion and next 4 ingredients (through minced garlic) to drippings in pan; saute 3 minutes, stirring occasionally.  Add onion mixture to sausage mixture.

3.  Remove skin from duck (or chicken) breast and discard.  Cut breast into 1/2 inch pieces.  Return pan to medium-high heat.  Lightly coat pan with cooking spray.  Add duck breast; saute for 3 minutes, turning to brown on all sides.  Remove from heat.

4.  Combine 1/2 cup beans, tomato paste, and stock in a food processor; process until smooth.  Add pureed bean mixture, sausage mixture, remaining beans, and pepper to pan w/ duck; bring to a boil over medium-high heat.  Cook 2 minutes.  Spoon 1 cup of bean mixture into each of 4 (8 ounce) ramekins lightly coated with cooking spray.  Combine panko, parsley, and oil in a small bowl; toss.  Divide panko mixture evenly among ramekins.  Place ramekins on a baking sheet; broil 2 minutes or until browned.  Richard says watch carefully.  The panko browns rather quickly and usually under two minutes.

Voila!



Serves 4 (serving size: 1 ramekin)
Calories - 383 (w/ duck breast)

Bon appetit!!!

Thursday, July 28, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - The Birds

Recognize this?

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
The Birds


Our excellent adventure was winding down, so Bob, Nguyen, Richard and I got back on the coast highway and made our way to the town of Mendocino for a leisurely afternoon.  We had done this drive twice already, so I knew what to expect and when to close my eyes so my heart wouldn't race as I imagined us careening off the cliff in the Pacific Ocean below.  I barely whimpered.

Once in town, we strolled the main street, filled with quaint buildings an interesting shops and galleries.

We walked the side streets with its picturesque homes surrounded by white picket fences.




And checked out the Art Center for a little local culture...

... and the theater...

Hungry, we had a late lunch in the beautiful yellow, three story hotel where Richard and I stayed some years ago..

...then after shopping in the town's fabulous gourmet market for the dinner Richard and Bob would made that night, we headed back to our cabin.

On our last excellent adventure day, the weather was dreary, so we stayed close to our cabins and explored Point Arena, the little town where we were staying and ended up at The Chowder House, an upstairs tavern for lunch...


... by the town's fishing pier.


By the time we got to the lighthouse for one more look, the sky way blue.




The next morning we had to say good by to our cabins in the woods...


... and head back to Bob and Nguyen's house in Sacramento - but not before stopping at The Dog House in Bodega Bay for dogs and square burgers where our excellent adventure first unfolded.  After lunch we drove to the town of Bodega (not to be confused with Bodega Bay) and stepped into a Hitchcockian nightmare.

There's the church!!!

And the schoolhouse!!!



and Tippi Hedren with a bird picking at her head!!!



The Buckners didn't get us, but will the birds?!?!?"

I cowered behind Hitch til he promised me they'd behave.  Richard and Bob reassured him I wasn't crazy, while wondering why Hitch seemed to have just arrived from Honolulu.



We said goodbye and headed back to the coast highway going south toward sea level.  Our excellent adventure was over.  But I still kept a lookout for birds!

Saturday, July 16, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - Back to Gualala




ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Back to Gualala


Another day in Mendocino county.  The fog had lifted and so far the murdering Buckners were a no show.  Praise the Lord.
After a lazy morning, Bob suggested we go back to Gualala and seek some "culture."  But first we decided to check out the nearby Point Arena Garcia River Casino.  You've heard of casino culture, right?


 We left there wallets intact.

Though Gualala is known for its bevy of artists, I had no idea this small town also had such an impressive art center.  The exterior is dotted with pieces of sculpture...




Inside a stunning exhibit of Native American portraits was proudly on display.

We did the 'new age' thing and found stillness in the meditation center on the property.

And danced on the Art Center's outdoor stage.

No audience flocked to see us.


By the time we finished exploring the Art Center, we were in the mood for a "tasting," and, as we drove here and there and up and up a mountain, we discovered the Annapolis Winery.

But first Richard had to photograph the view.

While Bob and Nguyen spooned.

Finally we went inside and sipped some wine.



We headed back to our cabins in the woods as the sun set on another day of our excellent adventure.  Because we were once again high up on the coast highway, I kept my eyes closed the whole time and wondered what Bob and Richard were going to make for dinner.

------------


GARCIA RIVER CASINO
22215 Windy Hollow Road
Point Arena, Calif.  95468
707-467-5300

GUALALA ARTS CENTER
4650l Old State Highway
Gualala, Calif.
707-884-1138
info@gualalaart.org

ANNAPOLIS WINERY
26055 Soda Springs Road
Annapolis, Calif.  95412
707-886-5460


Wednesday, June 29, 2016

ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE - Gualala Here We Come






ILONA & RICHARD'S EXCELLENT ADVENTURE
Gualala Here We Come



After a full day walking the beige cliffs of Ft. Bragg, we slept like the dead in our cabins in the woods and woke up the next day with all appendages intact.  After a quick perusal of the perimeter of our cabins, no Buckners appeared to be hiding in the early morning mist waiting to dismember us, so we all gathered in Bob and Nguyen's cabin for breakfast and planned our day.

When we first arrived in Mendocino county an artist studio tour was happening in the town of Gualala.  We were able to meet some fine painters and sculptors and see where they worked, but we didn't get a chance to actually explore the area.  We decided to remedy that and return to Gualala which meant, of course, a return to the coast highway.  I was getting used to sightseeing in the car with my eyes half closed.

After tooling around the town's neighborhoods and driving into the forests, I wanted to go back to the coast highway (yes - voluntarily) and check out the St. Orres Inn, nicknamed The Russian House, an imposing structure perched on the coast highway that we had passed earlier.  Designed by Eric Black the main building echos a romantic Russian heritage.  I imagined seeing the brothers Karamazov gallop by.


Was that the ghost of Anna Karenina or abused Patricia Buckner peeking out of a tower window?  Hopefully, it was a just a real live guest of the Inn.


Entering inside the main building you'll find the soaring tower windows which give off a dramatic effect... 


... and a stunning dining room that serves northern coastal cuisine.  What, no borscht?  


It was time for lunch, but you've heard of "no room at the inn" - well, here there was "no lunch at the Inn" so we drove into town and discovered the Gualala Hotel Restaurant & Saloon. My imagination again ran rampant as I pictured dance hall girls and dollar-a-night hookers dressed in red satin and black garter belts walking the long balcony beckoning passersby to "come on in."


First opened in the late 1800's the hotel was a place that housed loggers and mill workers and their "ladies of the evening," as well as guests traveling north from San Francisco.  Sadly, the original hotel burned down in 1903, but was soon reopened serving tourists, travelers and workers ever since.  If walls could talk, this hotel would have many tales to tell.

Before sitting down to eat I had to explore the interior of the restaurant.  Wyatt Earp and Doc Holiday would love the saloon.


The dining rooms were smartly designed with a minimalist decor, highlighting the artwork and the white linen.


The hotel's executive chef, Christian Anderson's breakfast, lunch and dinner menus features fresh local fare with a wide variety of choices.  From the lunch menu, I opted for the chicken Caesar salad with a creamy lemon and anchovy dressing.  I love Caesar salads and eat them often.  This one was a favorite.  More chefs need to remember the anchovies - whether in the salad or the dressing.  It's just an ordinary grilled chicken salad otherwise.


Richard went for the fish and chips.  Crispy on the outside and oh so good on the inside.  The same can be said about the hand cut chips.


Bob and Nguyen shared the fish tacos - simply delicious.


Before leaving we met Christian, who baked us a loaf of sour dough bread to take back to our cabins.  Still warm when he brought it out to us, the aroma was so intoxicating I wanted to tear into it even though we had just finished lunch.  I refrained.  We saved it for dinner.


I was sorry to leave the Gualala Hotel, but it was time to continue our excellent adventure.

----------------

ST. ORRES INN
36601 S. Highway One
Gualala, Calif.  95445
707-884-3303

GUALALA HOTEL - Restaurant & Saloon
39301 S. Highway One
Gualala, Calif.  95445
707-884-3341