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By Eileen Mintz
All it took was a call from a reader who told me that he and his business partner had opened a restaurant, the Iris Grill, in Issaquah. So I checked it out.
What I found were two experienced restaurateurs and friends who grew up on Mercer Island and who were deeply involved in running their new establishment. So thank you Bill McIntyre and Matt Keigley for introducing me to your restaurant in Gilman Village. I was impressed. This art-accented upscale venue provides a grand dining experience on the Eastside.
A single long-stem Iris graced the tables when I stopped by on a Tuesday, which features half-prices from the restaurant's nearly all-Washington wine list.
The cozy bar was mixed with chic as well as comfortably dressed 30-something people. The dining room was filled with young couples on a night out as well as the more seasoned restaurant-goers enjoying a leisurely meal. I glanced around the room and spotted art on every wall and was told the patio offers live jazz on Friday and Saturday nights.
Sitting down, I saw a number of patrons receiving the most glorious dishes from chef du cuisine Jonathan Langley, formerly of the Sorrento Hotel in Seattle, and his sous chef, Katherine E. Dunsmoor, soon to be Katherine E. Langley.
There went the tomato basil soup, caprese salad, veal osso bucco, grilled wild salmon with golden fingerling potatoes, fire-roasted spring onions, haricot verts, tomato braising sauce. Then I noticed the huge steaks: luscious cuts of filet mignon, prime porterhouse and New York that arrived with seasonal vegetables and a choice of roasted garlic mashed potatoes or oven-roasted red potatoes. Co-owners McIntyre and Keigley call the food ``European-meets Northwest.''
I visited next door at the Iris Bakery, which they also own. It's open for a quick morning snack or a casual lunch. I spotted the cheesecakes available that day: traditional, chocolate, and white chocolate Grand Marnier. All I could think of was how to get that closely-guarded family secret recipe from ``Tim, the cheesecake baker!'' Maybe I could squeeze it out of Matt Bates, the pastry chef.
I am so jealous. I wish we had an Iris Grill and Iris Bakery on Mercer Island.
But in the meantime, enjoy some treasured recipes for summertime entertaining.
IRIS GRILL CAPRESE SALAD
And easy summer salad that serves 2
2 vine-ripe red or gold tomatoes
6 oz. fresh mozzarella cheese
10 fresh basil leaves, picked off the stems
4 TBS. extra virgin olive oil
2 oz. balsamic vinegar
salt and pepper to taste
Slice the tomatoes and mozzarella into rounds, (about five slices from each tomato).
Season tomatoes to taste with salt and pepper. Layer the tomatoes, mozzarella and basil in that order in a circular pattern (clockwise or counterclockwise). Drizzle the olive oil and balsamic vinegar around the plate to garnish.
IRIS GRILL OVEN-ROASTED CHICKEN, POTATOES & GREEN BEANS
Per 1 serving. Multiply for each guest.
1 free-range chicken breast and thigh, bone-in and skin on
2 Yukon gold potatoes, peeled
4 peeled shallots
4 oz. cleaned and blanched green beans or haricot vert
1 clove minced garlic
1 oz. white wine
2 oz. canola/olive oil blend
6 TBS. butter
3 oz. heavy cream
1/2 to 1 cup dark chicken stock
salt and pepper to taste
Cook the potatoes until fork-tender, drain. Smash with a potato ricer. Add 4 TBS. butter and warm cream. Whip until butter and cream are fully incorporated. Season to taste with salt and pepper and then cover. Set aside on top of the stove until ready to plate.
CHICKEN AND SAUCE
Preheat a large sauté pan until ``smoking hot.'' Preheat oven to 500 degrees. Coat pan with canola/olive oil blend and place chicken skin side down. Season with salt and pepper. Let the chicken sear on the stove top for about 30 seconds and then put in oven until the skin is brown and crispy, about 5 minutes.
Remove the chicken from the oven and turn so the skin is facing up. At this point, add the shallots to the pan and return to the oven. Cook until chicken reaches internal temperature of 165 degrees.
Remove the chicken from the pan and set aside. Deglaze the pan with the chicken stock, being sure to not burn the brown crispies left in the pan by the chicken. Reduce to desired consistency. Season with salt and pepper to taste.
Heat a small sauté pan and coat with canola/olive oil blend. Brown the garlic in the oil, deglaze with white wine, add the beans and remaining butter, season to taste with salt and pepper. Beans will be cooked when the butter is melted.
Serve on a large plate, mashed potatoes on bottom, then green beans, then chicken.
GRILLED PEACH SALAD
What a delicious way to serve peaches. Try grilling them on the barbecue and then toss into the salad. And to think I found it in the latest Susie Fishbein's book, ``Kosher by Design Entertains.'' Serves 4.
2 ripe, firm peaches, pits removed, cut each peach into 8 thick wedges
4 sprigs of mint, stems discarded, leaves minced
9 large basil leaves, minced
1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 TBS water
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/2 tsp. honey
freshly ground black pepper
5 oz. mesclun greens (grocery store, bulk or packaged)
optional, blue cheese, crumbled or skinless chicken breasts
Place the peach slices on a hot, oiled barbecue or in 1 TBS. of hot olive oil in a grill pan set over medium heat. To get nice ^lkgrill marks on the barbecue, don't move the peaches around. Grill for 3 minutes per side until well marked, fragrant, but firm. Remove from heat and set aside.
In a small bowl, gently whisk the mint, basil, oil, water, vinegar, and honey. Season with salt and pepper.
Place the greens in a large bowl. Drizzle with some of the dressing. Place on salad plates. Top with grilled peaches. Drizzle with more dressing to taste. Can add cheese or chicken if desired.
SMOKED SALMON DUTCH BABIES WITH DILL SAUCE
Local best-selling author Braiden Rex-Johnson recently published through Ten Speed Press the ``Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook.'' It may be a little book but it's smartly-packed with shopping tips, cooking techniques and 50 recipes for fish and shellfish from chefs, restaurateurs and fishmongers who represent the Pike Place Market community. One of the highlights is a recipe for a savory Dutch baby with the addition of smoked salmon. Hint from Braiden: DO NOT open the oven door while baking pancake. Serves 4 as an appetizer or two as a savory brunch dish.
1 TBS. olive oil (or canola -- best for high temperatures)
1/2 white or yellow onion, chopped
1/2 red bell pepper, chopped
1 TBS. butter
3/4 cup low-fat milk
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
pinch of freshly ground pepper
4 eggs or 1 cup egg substitute
1 1/2 tsp. ground sweet paprika
1 (3oz.) package thinly-sliced cold-smoked salmon, such as Nova style or lox
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Heat the oil in a medium-high skillet. Add the onion and red bell pepper and cook until the vegetables are tender, about 5 to 7 minutes, stirring often. Remove from heat and set aside.
Melt the butter in a large, nonstick, ovenproof skillet in the oven until sizzling. Wrap the handle of the skillet with aluminum foil if it is not ovenproof and check the skillet frequently to make sure the butter doesn't burn.
Meanwhile add the milk, flour and white pepper to a food processor or blender and pulse until blended. Add the eggs and process until blended.
Remove the skillet from the oven and transfer the reserved vegetables to the skillet, distributing evenly. Immediately pour in the egg batter. Bake, uncovered, in the center of the oven until the Dutch baby has puffed up and turned lightly brown, about 12 to 15 minutes.
Remove the pan from the oven, sprinkle evenly with paprika, and arrange the salmon slices evenly over the top of the pancake. Cut into wedges and serve immediately or allow it to come to room temperature before serving.
To serve put 2 wedges on a plate and place a dollop of dill sauce beside the wedges.
Makes 1/2 cup
1/4 cup plain low-fat yogurt
1/4 cup low-fat sour cream
1 TBS. fresh-snipped dill or 1 tsp. dried dill, crumbled
Place the yogurt, sour cream, and dill in a small mixing bowl and stir to blend. Season to taste with Tabasco and salt. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
BRAIDEN'S BAKED SALMON WITH TARRAGON PESTO
From Braiden Rex-Johnson's new book, ``Pike Place Public Market Seafood Cookbook'' from 10 Speed Publishing. Serves 4.
1 1/2 pounds salmon fillets, bones removed, rinsed, drained and patted dry, and cut into 4 (6-ounce) pieces
1/2 cup lightly-packed fresh tarragon leaves, minced, plus tarragon sprigs for garnish
6 TBS. fine, unseasoned dry bread crumbs (Panko)
3 TBS. olive oil
1 1/2 TBS. tarragon vinegar or white wine vinegar
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 tsp. salt
1/8 tsp. crushed red pepper flakes (if you like a bit of heat)
lemon wedges for garnish
Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Lightly coat a baking sheet with oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place the fish fillets on a baking sheet, skin side down, evenly spread, without crowding. Set aside while preparing the pesto.
In a small bowl, mix the minced tarragon, bread crumbs, olive oil, vinegar, garlic, salt, and red pepper flakes. Spread evenly over the tops of the salmon fillets, pressing down the back of a spoon to help the topping adhere to the fish.
Place the fish in the oven and cook for 8 to 12 minutes, depending on the thickness of the fillets, until the fish turns opaque.
To serve, divide the fillets among the plates and garnish with the lemon wedges and tarragon sprigs.
BLUEBERRY, COCONUT AND LIME CRUMBLE
This incredible dessert came from David Tutera's artistically-presented cookbook, ``America Entertains: A year of Imaginative Parties,'' from publisher stewart, tabori, chang of New York. Inside, the acknowledgement mentions Mercer Islander Nina Barnett who graciously loaned me this fantastic cookbook. She deserves kudos for her design work. Recipe serves 6 or more.
1 cup fresh lime juice (10 limes)
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter
4 large eggs
3/4 cup sugar
grated zest of 2 limes (about 2 tsp.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup granulated sugar
6 TBS. (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
1 cup shredded unsweetened coconut
2 pints fresh blueberries
Make the lime curd: Heat the lime juice and butter in a saucepan over medium-high until the mixture comes to a boil. In a mixing bowl, whisk the eggs with the sugar.
Slowly pour the boiling lime juice mixture into the egg mixture, stirring constantly to combine. Return the mixture to the saucepan and cook over medium heat until it becomes thick and starts to boil again, 3 to 5 minutes. Stir in the lime zest and refrigerate for at least an hour.
Make the topping: Mix the flour, brown sugar, granulated sugar, and butter in a mixing bowl using a wooden spoon until the mixture becomes crumbly. It should form lumps about the size of a peanut. Stir in the coconut.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Spread the lime curd in a 10-inch pie pan. Top with the blueberries. Evenly spread the crumble topping over the berries and bake until the topping is brown and bubbly at the edges, 30 to 40 minutes.
Dust each serving of the crumble with confectioners' sugar. Serve warm with vanilla ice cream.
TIM'S FAMILY SECRET CHEESECAKE
It REMAINS a secret family recipe!
Eileen Mintz can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 232.1984. You can reach the Iris Grill at (425) 557-7899. The address is 317 NW Gilman Blvd. # 28A, Issaquah. For online information, go to www.theirisgrill.com.