Thursday, June 28, 2012

Renny's Grilled Portobello Mushroom Caps: Revs 0, Crew 0

Two weeks ago I phoned in to The Rebel Alliance Podcast to talk food and Revs with Josh (@MrJNelson) and Renny (@RKSwan). If you're interested in hearing my lovely voice, click HERE and listen to the podcast.

During our chat, the topic of excellent grilled vegetarian dishes came up. Renny mentioned a method for grilling portobello mushroom caps stuffed with pesto that made my mouth water. So much that I set out to make them for the Revs home match vs the Columbus Crew.

They were delicious and easy to prepare. I served mine with grilled radishes, coleslaw, and macaroni salad. No formal recipe is included in this post, but don't despair! After chatting on #TRAP, I sent Josh and Renny some interview questions of my own. If you read on, you'll find Renny's own instructions for grilled stuffed portobello mushroom caps.
Six Questions with Josh and Renny of The Rebel Alliance Podcast:

Tell me about your podcast. How did you get started? What do you talk about?

Renny: We met on a rec league team, watched lots of USMNT, MLS, and Revs games.  When our team watched the Revs lose in MLS Cup twice it was open season on MLS jokes and questions for the Revs fan.  Josh followed both Dallas and Houston somewhat and our conversations about soccer inevitably bounced between USMNT and the Revs.  We went to the first two weeks of the 2010 World Cup in South Africa and the conversations got longer and longer.  After last season's collapse there was so much to discuss, what would grow out of that pile of compost?  I knew we could occasionally get interviews with other writers for - it is fun to talk smack with fans from other teams. So far it has been an awesome experience meeting other MLS fans and getting more voices from Revs fans talking about the teams.

Who would be your dream guest on #TRAP?

Renny: Evan Whitney or anyone else who was involved in the early Revs fanzine "Pictures of Chairman Mao," or POCM as it was referred to in the message boards.

Josh: Supa Shalrie, and if I could swing it, I would also like to talk to former Revs player (and native Texan) Clint Dempsey. 

When was your first Revs game? Do you remember who won?

Renny: I was in Foxoboro Stadium to see Darren Sawatzky's hair and the exciting Shoot-Out victory over DC United on April 27th, 1996.

Josh: My first exposure to the Revs was unfortunately watching them lose to Houston in the 2006 (and 2007) MLS cup while hanging with Renny at a pub. The first time I saw the Revs live was last season versus the Dynamo.

Tailgating for Revs games is kind of a big deal for us. You're in Texas - Do you keep any pre-game rituals from afar?

Renny: Current pre-game rituals include wearing something with a  New England reference: Five Island's Lobster Co. Or Sterling Fair t-shirts or a Revs t-shirt or jersey.  Nothing else has reached 'ritual' status, yet, though I do subject my wife to quite a bit of background and what-to-watch-for updates all day on Saturdays.  (Josh adds that we alternate watching the games at each other's houses and our wives have grown accustomed to startling yells at the tv)

Can you share your favorite tailgating recipe? (hint, hint, the portobello caps we talked about...)

Josh: Caramelized onions are good on everything.  Simply slice some white onions and put them, along with 2-3 tablespoons of butter and 1/2 teaspoon of sugar, in an aluminum foil pouch. Close it up and put it on the grill for 30 minutes or more. 

Renny: I like to make portobello caps with pesto and cheese.  Marinate the mushroom caps in balsamic vinegar (or a balsamic vinaigrette) ahead of time.  I cook them over a low heat on the grill, face up for a couple minutes, then down for a couple minutes, and then up again.  This is when to spoon into the cap a healthy dollop of pesto and then cover it with a slice of nice cheese - creamy harvarti or a good provolone.  Serve on a bun.

What beer pairing do you recommend with said recipe?

Renny: How about three beer recommendations?  Beer of choice is from Shiner, the Shiner Bock, the Shiner Light or anything else they make.  Sam Adams is always good, too.  The best Massachusetts beer I've recently discovered is Clown Shoes Brewery.  I certainly haven't sampled all of their brews, but I have like each one I've tried.

Josh: I really like IPAs and the IPA from local brewery 512 is really good. If I was going to pick a new England beer to go alongside some grilling, I was in Boston last November and couldn't get enough of the Harpoon winter seasonal, winter warmer.  I know it is summer, but that beer was amaze balls.

Want to hear more from Renny and Josh? Check out their website: and follow them on Twitter: @RKSwan and @MrJNelson.

By the way, my apologies for the long delay in posting about this two-weeks-old podcast...I was a little busy doing this:

I'm looking forward to making something super from our farm share for this Saturday's matchup against Seattle Sounders.

Before I go: Shameless plug! The Midnight Riders are running a super bus trip from Boston to Gillette Stadium for the 7/8 game vs. Red Bull NY. I'll be grilling up food to share...anyone who rides the bus can come find me for some free grub. And if that's not enough reason for you to join us, 7/8 is also Diego Fagundez Bobblehead Night! Come join us! Find out more and buy your bus ticket here.

Thursday, June 7, 2012

Grilled Apple & Brie Quesadillas: Revs 2, Fire 0

The Revs match last Saturday in Foxboro vs the Chicago Fire was the sort of event only slightly crazy fans turn up for. It rained. Sideways. Pretty much all day. These things are not ordinarily conducive to standing outside for three hours and grilling food.

Well, call me crazy, but there is something really fun about braving the elements for a foul weather game. For one, I knew going into the day I'd be surrounded by good friends. We huddled under tents (thanks, Julie). We got soaked through all 4 layers of clothing. We got free hot chocolate (thanks, Julie). The Revs won!

Gee, a girl could really get used to this "winning" (or, as some might say, "#nguyening") thing the Revs sometimes do this season.

On the menu this week: Grilled apple & brie quesadillas. I served it with a spinach, strawberry, and honey roasted almond salad. Apparently, I have a sweet tooth.

If you're a novice in creative veggie grilling, quesadillas are a pretty great place to start. They're really easy to make and you can put pretty much anything that tastes good with cheese inside.

Grilled Apple & Brie Quesadillas

  2 medium onions, sliced
  1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
  1/4 teaspoon sugar
  palmful of thyme
  palmful of rosemary, crushed
  1 tablespoon olive oil
  4 ten-inch tortillas
  2 medium tart apples, thinly sliced
  8 oz brie cheese, thinly sliced

1. In a small skillet over medium heat, cook the onions, vinegar, sugar, thyme and rosemary in oil for 10 minutes or until onions are soft and brown.
2. Brush one side of a tortilla with olive oil. Place, oiled side down, on heated grill. Layer apples, cheese, and spoonful of onion mixture on one side of the tortilla. Fold in half and cook until cheese is 
melted and tortilla is lightly browned.

Before I go, I have an unrelated, but very important aside to share: 

I took an adventure into East Boston to sample Lobster Rolls and fried clams at Belle Isle Seafood while my sister was visiting from out of town last week. Those of you familiar with Anthony Bordain may recall that this was the very seafood joint he visited in the Boston episode of his show, No Reservations. Our visit to Belle Isle was no accident - Chris is pretty obsessed with Anthony Bordain. It was, without a doubt, the best lobster roll I've ever had. And I got to watch planes land while I ate it!

Friday, June 1, 2012

Birthday Toasted Coconut Cream Cake

I don't love cake. Neither does Chris. Sometimes it's too spongy. Sometimes it's too dry. Sometimes the frosting is too sweet. Sometimes all three of these things, unfortunately, are true.

But when birthdays come around, there is no alternative. There must be birthday cake! For Chris's birthday, I was determined to bake a cake that was creamy and flavorful and not too sweet. This toasted coconut cream cake fit the bill. Baking it was a serious undertaking. I dirtied half the dishes in the kitchen: a baking sheet, a saucepan, three bowls (including the mixer), two cake pans. Not to mention it took me half a day to bake. 

The effort was worthwhile and the cake was delicious. If you are a fan of coconut, this cake's for you. I followed the recipe exactly, with no modifications. If you're giving it a try, I have two suggestions:
1. Make the custard and simple syrup a day ahead to save yourself a lot of time.
2. I can't believe I'm saying this, but the buttercream frosting was a little too buttery and not quite sweet enough. I would increase the ratio of powdered sugar to butter if I made this again.

Here is Bobby Flay's recipe, unedited. It can be found at

Throwdown's Toasted Coconut Cake with Coconut Filling and Coconut Buttercream

Recipe courtesy Bobby Flay, 2008


Toasted Coconut:

  • 2 cups sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Simple Syrup:

  • 1 1/2 cups water
  • 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup sweetened flaked coconut

Coconut Custard:

  • 3/4 cup whole milk
  • 3/4 cup unsweetened coconut milk
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped
  • 4 large egg yolks
  • 1/3 cup granulated sugar
  • 3 tablespoons cornstarch
  • 2 teaspoons coconut rum (recommended: Malibu)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Coconut Filling:

  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above), cold
  • 3/4 cup very cold heavy cream

Coconut Buttercream:

  • 3 stick unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/3 cup confectioners' sugar
  • 3/4 cup coconut custard (recipe above) (cold)
  • Pinch fine sea salt


  • 2 tablespoons softened butter, for pans
  • 2 1/4 cups cake flour, plus more for pans
  • 1 cup whole milk, at room temperature
  • 6 large egg whites, at room temperature
  • vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon fine sea salt
  • 12 tablespoons unsalted butter, cut into 12 pieces, slightly cold

For the toasted coconut:


Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Spread the coconut evenly onto a baking sheet and toast until lightly golden brown, stirring once, 8 to 10 minutes. Turn off the oven and let the coconut sit in the oven until very dry and crunchy, about 15 minutes longer.
Bring water and sugar to a boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat and let sit for at least 30 minutes and up to 4 hours. Strain the liquid into a clean saucepan, bring to a boil and let cook until the mixture is slightly reduced, about 5 minutes. Let cool.

For the custard:

Combine the milks and vanilla bean and seeds in a medium nonreactive saucepan and bring to a simmer over low heat.
Whisk together the yolks, sugar and cornstarch in a large bowl. Slowly whisk the warm milk into the egg mixture then return the mixture to the pot over medium heat and bring to a boil, whisking constantly, until thickened. Scrape the mixture into a bowl and whisk in the rum and vanilla extract. Let cool to room temperature then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until cold, at least 2 hours.

For the filling:

Combine the custard and cream in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form.

For the buttercream:

Beat the butter and sugar in a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Add the coconut custard and salt and beat until combined and smooth.

For the cake:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter and flour 2 (9 by 2-inch) round cake pans and line bottoms with parchment paper.
Whisk together the milk, egg whites, vanilla bean seeds and vanilla extract in a medium bowl.
In the bowl of a mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix together the flour, sugar, baking powder and salt. With mixer running at low speed, add the butter, one piece at a time and continue beating until mixture resembles moist crumbs. Add all but 1/2 cup of milk mixture to crumbs and beat at medium speed until the mixture is pale and fluffy, about 1 1/2 minutes. With mixer on low speed, add remaining 1/2 cup of the milk mixture, increase speed to medium and beat 30 seconds more. Scrape sides of bowl and mix for 20 seconds longer. Divide the batter evenly between the cakes pan and smooth the tops using a rubber spatula.
Bake until a toothpick inserted into the center comes out with a few crumbs attached, 22 to 24 minutes. Cool in the pan on baking rack for 10 minutes. Run a small knife around the side of the pan and invert cakes onto the baking rack, removing parchment paper, and let cool completely, about 45 minutes.

To Assemble:

Using a long serrated knife, slice each cake horizontally into 2 layers. Reserve 1 of the flat bottom layers for the top of the cake. Place another layer on a cardboard round cut side up and brush with some of the coconut simple syrup. Spoon 1/3 of the coconut filling onto the cake and using a small offset metal spatula, spread it into an even layer, leaving a 1/2-inch border around the edge of the cake. Repeat with 2 more layers. Brush the cut side of the reserved cake layer with the remaining syrup. Place the layer cut side down on top of the cake.
Frost the sides and top of the cake with the buttercream. Pat the coconut onto the sides of the cake and sprinkle the remaining coconut on the top of the cake.
Yup. That's a seriously long recipe. If you're brave and you try it, let me know how it turns out! 

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