7.30.2009

Bevilacqua's Bistro

Last week I was on the road visiting, eating, etc. One of my stops was a wonderful little place that exists in the same format that Holly’s Diner exists, and it was wonderful!

I visited Bevilacqua’s Bistro for the first time last year when I was at the Gilroy Garlic Festival, but I was just getting over a mild case of food poisoning so it was a bit difficult to enjoy everything on the menu. This year was a different story – this year I ate it all!

We started out with champagne and a champagne cheese on the patio, both of which were wonderful! Then we moved into the dining room for grilled bacon-wrapped hand-cut filets of beef, roasted potato fingerings with rosemary, an amazing rustic tossed salad, warm crusty country bread with a soft pillow-y center (with lots of butter, of course!), roasted artichokes and a specially selected red wine from the wine cellar (I got a tour!)

As my table of six enjoyed the meal - enjoyed the conversation and enjoyed the breeze - I did not initially confess my lack of skills in eating an artichoke. I have never actually eating the “meat” off the leaves before, or the heart in that form. So I followed suit of the others at the table dabbing the leaves in mayonnaise and scraping them with my teeth, but somehow everyone finished their hearts before I did and I had no idea how to tackle the heart! Patiently I watched and waited and hope someone would have seconds. Thankfully the chief griller for the evening did, so I could mimic what to do.

As everyone finished dinner and asked how my meal was, I praised the chefs and confessed as to my first-time-ever eating an artichoke. Astonishment passed like “the wave” across the table! The artichoke was delicious.

Next it was time for dessert and the pastry chef presented his amazing creation. It was a layered sponge cake soaked in Grand Marnier (I think that’s what it was), with a creamy layer and topped with a chocolate Grenache. Three words – A May Zing!!! Apparently he had spent a few days getting it right, and it was incredible! You can see the photo above, along with the wine for the evening.

Next time you are in the neighborhood call ahead, there might be room at the table. I understand they even have a drive-through window for special guests! I give it - Four Stars

7.28.2009

Banana Bread

Summertime seems the time for zucchini bread, but for some reason there are no home grown zucchini at the Diner this summer. So banana bread will have to do. And there is new help in the kitchen today – Alyson and Brooke!

We made Donna’s Banana Bread today, boy does it smell good as it rises and cooks! We had fun cooking together, and hopefully the bread turns out okay since we traded off who did what from one recipe.

Brooke measured and mixed the sugar and shortening (being that there is shortening in the kitchen, some of you can probably tell that I’m not in my normal kitchen). Alyson beat in the eggs and measured in the lemon juice. Brooke peeled and mashed the bananas. Alyson measured the salt. Brooks measured the baking soda (How many tsps? Two. No three! Giggle, giggle) Alyson measured the flour. Brooke beat everything together. They took turns spraying the loaf pans, and they both worked on separating the batter into four small loaf pans. Chloe and Courtney helped them lick the beaters (don’t tell the health department we do that at the Diner!)

Reading, measuring, sorting, waiting. Teamwork.

Stop by the Diner and help us with the eating, Donna’s recipe is wonderful!

Donna’s Banana Nut Bread
½ cup shortening
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
1 cup mashed ripe bananas
1 tsp lemon juice
2 cups sifted flour
3 tsp baking powder
½ tsp salt
1 cup chopped nuts

Cream shortening and sugar together. Beat eggs until light and add. Press bananas through sieve and add lemon juice. Blend with creamed mixture. Sift flour, baking powder and salt together and mix quickly into banana mixture. Add nuts. Bake in greased loaf pan in moderate oven (375º) about 1 ¼ hours, make 1 – 1 pound loaf.

(We actually did four mini-loaves and reduced the cooking time to about 35 – 40 minutes.)

Note: This recipe card is typed with a typewriter (remember those!) and well seasoned. So a few notations may be a bit classic, which makes the bread even yummier!

7.19.2009

Potato Salad

There is a new hit at the Diner – potato salad! I did a test batch and it was gone before I could put it on the menu – HH polished it off!

Here’s the back story…
I DON’T LIKE PICKLES. PERIOD. (There’s a story behind this, but for another time.)

I’m not fond of mustard in my potato salad. I like my potato salad creamy, not tangy. So I have long searched for a potato salad that I like, and about ten years ago I discovered the Red Potato Salad with Dill at Ralph’s Market. This potato salad is in the deli section, but not always available, and it’s expensive.

I have wanted to make my own potato salad for a while, but have not actively looked for a recipe that would suite my taste buds – until this week. It’s summer and time to get back to cooking at the Diner, but something that could be served cool. So I started looking for a recipe that did not include pickles or mustard.

I have a few recipes from family, but they have relish, pickles and one has mustard only – no mayonnaise! What’s up with that?!

I knew mayonnaise would be the base of the creaminess in my potato salad, but I also knew that the flavor I was looking for was a bit softer, not as much “bite” as the mayonnaise would provide. And, viola! Sour cream is the secret ingredient! Now I know I lost some of you with the mayonnaise, and you have completely tuned out with the addition of sour cream. Sorry about that, but that’s how my taste buds work.

For those of you still with me, I decided to make a small batch of potato salad. HH arrived at the Diner and turned his nose up a bit when he heard the ingredients – it was the dill that did him in! He said he likes his Mom’s recipe, but I told him there were pickles and mustard, he said leave out the pickles, and I told him it was MY recipe and I did not want mustard. He did encourage me to include hard boiled eggs like his Mom, which was fine.

I used red potatoes with the skins on, some green onions, hard boiled eggs, sour cream, mayonnaise, black pepper, Hawaiian red sea salt, Old Bay seasoning and some dill. Now THAT’S what I’m talking about! It was perfect!

HH was still a bit skeptical. Then he tried it, he loved it! It was his favorite – well next to his Mom’s, of course. I can live with that. And it was gone within 24 hours.

So today was batch #2. More potatoes, more green onions, more eggs, and measured amounts of seasoning (well, sort of.) And here’s the recipe. Enjoy!

Potato Salad – Holly’s Diner style
9 large red potatoes, cubed to little larger than bite size and cooked to fork tender
1 bunch of green onions, chopped
3 hard boiled eggs, chopped
1 ½ cups sour cream
1 cup Best Foods mayonnaise (is there any other?!)
(Here’s the tricky part, because it’s to taste…)
1 tsp Old Bay Seasoning + one sprinkle at the end to taste
½ tsp ground black pepper + one sprinkle at the end to taste
1 tsp Hawaiian Red Sea Salt (any sea salt would probably be fine)
Dill, a few good sprinkles to taste

Place potatoes, half the green onions, eggs, 1 cup sour cream, mayonnaise, sprinkle 1 tsp Old Bay over top, sprinkle ½ tsp pepper over top, sprinkle sea salt over top to a large bowl. Gently fold together, combining ingredients. Let rest for about five minutes. Add remaining sour cream, gently folding – don’t worry if the potatoes fall apart a little, it will help break down their size. Sprinkle a bit more Old Bay, pepper and dill to taste, just turn into mixture only as necessary. Sprinkle remaining green onions over top. Refrigerate, if you can – HH will hardly let me before he starts digging in!

7.18.2009

Home Grown Tomatoes

Can you believe it?! It’s been four weeks since the last post to Holly’s Diner! The busiest time of year just past, and many of you have been very understanding since Father’s Day (it’s actually quite astonishing that there were five posts in June!), but I’m hearing rumblings (or it is growling bellies) for more stuff from the Diner.

Well, its summer time, and quite honesty there is not a lot of cooking that actually takes place during the summer. I try very hard to keep the oven OFF, even in Southern California. So let’s focus on what IS happening – TOMATOES!!

The tomato plants that were planted in the garden of the Diner in March are producing in great abundance. There are more tomatoes than I can serve! Even our best server, Miss Audrey Rose, can’t keep up with the bumper crop and she’s on roller skates!

So here’s what’s on the menu these days:

BLTs
BLTAs (that’s “A” for avocado)
Fried egg sandwiches with lettuce and tomato (and bacon for HH!)
Homemade salsa
Homemade guacamole
BBQed burgers with wonderful thick slices of tomatoes
Tomato sandwiches – just fresh whole wheat bread, Best Foods Mayo, lots of tomato and a little pepper (okay, a lot of pepper!)
Scrambled omelets with sautéed tomatoes and onions
Homemade tacos (coming soon!)

And there are STILL so many tomatoes we are giving them away! I think I’m going to try blanching them and freezing them for Fall when I make Art’s Special Sauce again, and try with some home grown tomatoes – I’ll let you know how that turns out.

It’s off to another festival next week, so stay tuned for more Fairs, Festivals and Food Frivolity very soon….