Thursday, May 31, 2012

A Fun New England Dinner

Last Tuesday, we enjoyed a delightful dinner with wonderful friends. The dinner had a New England theme (except for the wines!).


- Crab salad appetizer
- Maine Tomato Summer Salad, made with my wife's incredible, home-grown tomatoes
- Lobster-Corn-Bacon Chowder
- B&M Brown Bread with Raisins
- Vermont Maple Cheese Cake

- Moët & Chandon White Star - for a toast
- Two white wines for the white wine lovers
1. Grgich Hills 2008 Napa Valley Chardonnay
2. Stag's Leap Karia 2009 Napa Valley Chardonnay
- Two red wines for the red wine lovers
1. Zenato Valpolicella Superiore
2. Mate 2005 Brunello

Crab Salad
The crab salad turned out better than my previous attempt ( because I used lump crab meat instead of claw meat. I would have preferred U.S. crab meat, but our local Publix only had imported Philippine crab meat.)

Maine Tomato Summer Salad
While the ingredients for the tomato salad were simple, the results were incredible because the celebrity tomatoes my wife is growing this year are mouth watering. I found the recipe at:

I made a couple of changes to the following recipe:
a. I only used one quarter of an onion, in order not to detract from the taste of the tomatoes
b. I used about 3/4 of a cup of basil instead of a full cup
c. I peeled the tomatoes because the skins are a tiny bit tough

3 lbs. mixed local tomatoes (all one variety from your garden is fine too)
1 large sweet onion
1 cup packed, washed fresh basil leaves
freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tsps. sugar
1/4 c. red balsamic vinegar
1/3 c. extra virgin olive oil

Wash, core and chop the tomatoes into chunks.

Put all  of the tomato chunks with their juices in a large salad bowl.
Peel the onion and cut it in half and then cut each half into small pieces by making 5 lengthwise cuts and then cutting along the horizontal axis.  If this seems too complicated or confusing, cut thin slices and then cut the slices into smaller pieces.

Add the onion to the salad bowl.

Gather the basil leaves together and cut them into thin ribbons (a sort of thick version of a chiffonade) as shown below.  You should previously have removed all the stems.

Add the basil to the salad bowl and grind fresh pepper over the top of the salad.  If you like the taste of pepper, use a lot -- if not, just a dusting.

Sprinkle the sugar over the vegetables, add the balsamic vinegar and olive oil, and toss the ingredients together until well-combined.

Allow to rest for at least 15 minutes and serve at room temperature. This salad is very juicy and may be also used as a bruschetta.  It is delicious with any grilled meat dish.

Lobster Chowder
This turned out as tasty as the last time I made it ( This time I made the full recipe because there were eight of us. I added a couple slices of bacon and a couple extra ounces of lobster.

B & M Brown Bread
B & M Brown Bread with Raisins is a canned, sweet bread made in Portland, Maine. It is a type of traditional New England Brown Bread/Boston Brown Bread. There is also a B & M version without raisins. Both breads are 99% fat free and sweetened with molasses. They B & M brand has been around since the late 1860s.

Vermont Maple Cheese Cake
This was my first attempt at a cheese cake. It was easy to make and I was delighted with the results. I found the recipe at one of my favorite recipe sites -


1. Crust
- twenty four 5 by 2 1/2 inch graham crackers
- 1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter
- 1/2 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B, which has a bolder taste)

2. Filling
- four 8-ounce packages cream cheese, softened
- 1 cup pure maple syrup (preferably Grade B)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon vanilla
- 1/2 cup heavy cream

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F

2. Make Crust
- In a food processor, finely grind graham crackers (will produce about 3 & 1/2 cups)
- Melt butter
- In a large bowl, stir together graham cracker crumbs, butter, and maple syrup.
- Press evenly into bottom and up side of a 10-inch springform pan. (I used a 9-inch pan.)
- Wrap bottom of pan with 2 layers of heavy duty foil to avoid leakage.

3. Make filling
- In a bowl of a standing mixer fitted with paddle attachment or in a food processor, beat cream cheese on low speed, scraping down side of bowl occasionally, until smooth.
- Add syrup and eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.
- Add vanilla and cream, and beat until combined.
- Pour filling into crust and bake into middle of over for 1 hour. (Cake will not be set in center, but will set as it chills.)
- Cool cake in pan on rack.
- Chill cake, covered, at least 8 hours, and up to 4 days.
- Remove side of pan. Serve cheesecake in wedges, drizzled with maple syrup.

The Wines
1. Moët & Chandon White Star - terrific. This champagne is the perfect way to begin an evening. My wife and I enjoyed a visit to the winery in Eparnay, Champagne, France in 2006.
2. Grgich Hills Estate 2008 Chardonnay. This wine is produced at the Grgich Hills Estate in Rutherford, Napa Valley, California by the iconic wine-maker, Mike Grgich, whose 1973 Chateau Montelena Chardonnay won the white wine portion of the famous 1976 Paris Tasting ( His chardonnays are produced without malolactic fermentation, so they do not taste buttery like those that do undergo that fermentation.

Also, his wines are organic and biodynamic (

The word "Hills" in "Grgich Hills" does not refer to hilly terrain, but to Mike Grgich's founding partner at the estate - Austin Hills of Hills Brothers Coffee fame.

The Grgich Hills chard was nice, but I like the next chard better. My wife and I were wowed by the Grgich Hills Cabernet Sauvignon we tasted when we visited the estate last October (

3. Stag's Leap 2009 Karia Napa Valley Chardonnay

This wine is produced by Warren Winiarski at his Stag's Leap Wine Cellars. His 1973 Cabernet Sauvignon won the red wine portion of the 1976 Paris Tasting ( He is a very interesting person - originally a university professor, who decided he preferred wine making (

I thought this chard was very nice.

4. Zenato Valpolicella Superiore

We love this wine and enjoy it often.

Three of the four couples at our dinner did a wine tasting together in 2004 at the Zenato winery in Peschiera del Garda near Lake Garda in northern Italy. Their wines and hospitality were wonderful.

5. Mate 2005 Brunello di Montalcino

Brunello is one of my two favorite types of Italian wines. It is produced near the small and interesting hill town of Montalcino in Tuscany. (My other favorite type is Barolo, which is produced in the Piedmont in the northwest.)

The Mate Brunello is produced at a small winery that was founded and is operated by Candace and Ferenc Mate, a very interesting couple. She is an artist and he is an author of many books on topics such as sailing and Tuscany. Some of her paintings adorn the labels of their wines. I highly recommend his books - The Hills of Tuscany and A Vineyard in Tuscany.

Within a few years of establishing the winery, they were producing highly rated wines; e.g., their 2006 Brunello received 95 points from Wine Spectator.

We purchased the 2005 Brunello when we visited the vineyard with friends and our niece in 2005. I love this wine and wish I had purchased more. The Mates only produced 400 cases of it.

Candace by Her Vines

Candace with Her Cat

The Mates' Beautiful Tuscan Kitchen

Sunday, May 6, 2012

An Excellent Italian<>English Android Dictionary App

I have found a nice Italian<>English Android dictionary app. It is not on the level of the Larousse French<>English dictionary app I use or the Kabuto Japanese<>English app, but it appears to be the nicest of the Android Italian<>English dictionaries. It is the Berlitz Standard Italian<>English Dictionary by Langenscheidt KG and Paragon Software. It costs $29.95. (There is another Berlitz Italian<>English Android Dictionary app that is less expensive and not as good.)

This app allows you to search for a word by typing or by speaking. It also has the audio pronunciation of the words. It is very easy to use. I have it loaded onto both my Samsung Galaxy S II phone and my Archos G9 80 tablet.

An Incredible, Free Japanese<>English Android Dictionary App

I have a number of Japanese<>English dictionaries in book form and separate electronic dictionaries. However, the best one I've ever used by far is an android app, and it's free. It's called Kabuto and it's produced by Gakusoft. I have it loaded onto both my Samsung Galaxy S II and my Archos G9 80 tablet. It works perfectly on both, but is nicer on the larger tablet.

Not only is it an extensive dictionary, but it allows the user to search for words in many ways - by:
1. Typing in the Japanese word
2. Typing in the English word
3. The Kanji radicals
4. The number of Kanji strokes

(Kanji are the Chinese-style characters which Japan adopted from China centuries ago. The Japanese use thousands of them. They are constructed from building blocks called "radicals.")

I previously used this dictionary on my Windows Pocket PC phone. That version cost $24.95. This free version is superior because it is much easier to read.

A Nice & Easy Asparagus Side

I love asparagus, pancetta, and garlic, so this side turned out to be a perfect accompaniment for chicken piccata which I prepared recently. The recipe is from - It took a couple of minutes to prepare and a couple of minutes to cook. It serves 3-4.


- 2 teaspoons olive oil
- 3 ounces pancetta, diced
- 2 cloves garlic, thinly sliced
- 1 bunch asparagus (about 1 pound), cut into bite-size pieces
- 1 lemon, cut into wedges


1. Heat the olive oil in a large sauté pan over medium heat. When the oil is hot and shimmering, add the pancetta and stir to break it apart. Sauté until the pancetta starts to turn brown - 3-5 minutes.

2. Add the asparagus and toss to coat it with the pancetta and garlic. Sprinkle lightly with black pepper. Cook, stirring once or twice, until the asparagus turns bright green - 3-5 minutes.

3. Add about a tablespoon of water to the pan, scraping the bottom to release any browned bits. Cook until almost all the water evaporates and the asparagus is barely tender and bright green - 2-4 more minutes. Serve with lemon wedges.

Lobster, Corn, & Bacon Chowder - We Love It

If you like lobster, bacon, and chowder, try this fantastic and relatively easy recipe at

The recipe as posted at serves 8. Since there were only three of us, I cut the recipe in half except for the bacon. The following is the recipe for eight.


- Two 10-ounce, uncooked frozen lobster tails, thawed, or 1 pound freshly cooked lobster meat cut into bite-size pieces
- 8 cups frozen yellow corn kernels (about 2 & 1/4 pounds), thawed
- 3 cups low-salt chicken broth
- 8 bacon slices, chopped
- 2 cups chopped onions
- 3/4 cup peeled, finely-diced carrots
- 2/3 cup finely diced celery
- 1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper
- 3 cups bottled clam juice
- 1 & 1/2 cups whipping cream
- 6 tablespoons sour cream
- 2 tablespoons butter
- 3 tablespoons chopped fresh chives


If using thawed frozen lobster tails, cook in pot of boiling water until almost cooked through, about 6 minutes. Drain. Cool. Using kitchen shears, cut lobster shells open. Remove lobster meat. Cut into bite-size pieces. Discard shells.

Purée 4 cups corn with 1 & 1/4 cups broth in food processor until almost smooth.

Sauté bacon in large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer bacon to paper towels. Pour off and discard all but 3 tablespoons of drippings from pot.

Add onions to pot and sauté until light golden, about 5 minutes.

Add remaining 4 cups corn and sauté 3 minutes.

Add carrots, celery, and cayenne. Sauté until vegetables soften slightly, about 5 minues.

Add clam juice and 1 & 3/4 cups broth. Simmer 10 minutes.

Stir in corn purée and whipping cream. Simmer 5 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper.

(Lobster, bacon, and soup can be prepared 1 day ahead. Cover and chill lobster and bacon separately. Cool soup slightly. Chill uncovered until cold. Then cover and keep chilled. Before continuing, bring bacon to room temperature and bring soup to simmer.)

Remove soup from heat. Stir in sour cream.

Melt butter in medium nonstick skillet over medium heat. Add lobster meat and sauté just until heated through - about 2 minutes.

Ladle soup in bowls. Garnish each serving with lobster pieces, bacon, and chives. Serve. 

Delicious & Easy Crab Salad

I recently made an easy-to-prepare crab salad that we loved. It was from one of my go-to recipe sources - ( While the recipe was tasty with crab claw meat, the next time, I'll make it with lump blue crab meat. While the recipe says it serves 4, I think it would easily serve 6. As an appetizer, it would serve more. Also, I used one pound of crab rather than the two pounds called for in the recipe.

The author of the recipe suggests serving it on crackers, on lettuce, or in puff pastry shells.


- 2 pounds crab meat
- 2 & 1/2 cups of chopped celery
- 8 tablespoons mayonnaise
- 2 teaspoons of celery seed
- 1 pinch paprika
- 2 & 1/2 tablespoons of white sugar
- 1/2 tablespoon ground black pepper
- 1 teaspoon Old Bay seasoning
- 2 teaspoons of dried parsley


In a large bowl, combine the crabmeat, celery, mayonnaise, celery seed, paprika, sugar, pepper, Old Bay, and parsley. Mix well, and refrigerate until chilled.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Maemi Peruvian Cuisine - Edible, But Forgettable

After reading a review of Maemi Peruvian Cuisine ( at 1535 Main St. in Sarasota, we decided to give it a try. While our meal was decent, we would not return. The appetizer and a side dish were terrific, but our entrées were unexciting.

Our meal started out with a free amuse-bouche of large, crisp kernels of corn with a spicy mustard sauce. It was delicious.

We then shared an appetizer that was wonderful - Tamales - crushed Peruvian corn stuffed with pork and covered with a sauce of tomatoes, onions, and lemon juice for $5.99. It can also be ordered with chicken rather than pork. These tamales are very different from Mexican tamales.

My wife thought she was ordering an entrée called, "Tacu Tacu con Seco," which was described as "slow-braised lamb with cilantro sauce, over mixed rice and beans." She asked for "the slow-braised lamb with cilantro sauce." It turns out that there is another entrée called, "Seco de Cordero," which is also described as "slow-braised lamb with cilantro sauce." The latter description does not include the mixed rice and beans. Are you confused yet? She received the latter dish which came with sticky white rice and steamed potatoes. The lamb was very tender, but the sauce was tasteless and the flavor of cilantro was undetectable. The dish cost $15.99.

She had a side dish of Platanos Maduros (ripe plantains). It is a dish that she loves, and this version met her expectations.

My entrée was seafood fried rice (Arroz Chaufa de Mariscos) for $16.99. The portion was large, but the taste was nothing special.

The chef/owner is a Peruvian whose heritage is partially Japanese. (There is a large Japanese-Peruvian community.) Consequently, the menu includes some items of Japanese origin, including edamame, tempura appetizers, spring rolls, miso soup, tofu salad, and seafood salad.

Two wines were available - merlot and chardonnay. We each had a glass of merlot for $6.99. It was decent.

There were only two desserts - dulce de leche and another which I don't remember. We passed on the desserts.