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May 13, 2008

The Begining of my Blog...

I have decided to join that group of people know as bloggers. I didn't think that I would ever participate in this on-line endeavor, but then I joined a group known as the Sunday Slow Bakers. We choose a cookbook, then each week one person from the group chooses a recipe from that book. Sometime during the week we make the chosen item, then on Sunday we all blog about the results. Since I love to cook, and love to share food with others, I thought this would be a perfect way to do both.

The cookbook we began with is Dolce Italiano, by Gina DePalma. It is full of tempting desserts of all kinds. The first recipe I made was the Sicilian Pistachio Cookies, which I just loved. The next two weeks I was out of town on vacation and not able to participate. The choices, Babbo Breadsticks and Grappa-soaked Mini Sponge Cakes, were loved by all who did make them, so I will have to add them to my list to try at a later time. Sunday's choice was Biscotti di Limone e Semolina, or Lemony Semolina Cookies. These again were very good. The semolina gave a nice textural contrast to the flour. Then there was the lemon juice, lemon zest, and lemoncello liquor that added to a wonderful complex lemon taste. They were rolled in sugar, but still not overly sweet. Here's the final results:

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I'm now looking forward to next week's choice: Hazelnut and Grape Tart.

May 14, 2008

What's for Dinner Tonight? Venison...

I came home tonight after flying to Fairbanks for the day for work. I was craving meat, which I rarely crave. I looked in the freezer, and found a package of thin steaks a friend had given me. I thought they were caribou, then discovered they were venison, brought back from their trip to Minnesota. I thawed them in the microwave, and began to fix a quick dinner for myself (my husband is out of town tonight). I browned them in a skillet, with just a little salt and pepper, and olive oil. Then I made a quick pan sauce, using some veal demi-glace, and some spiced cherry jam I made last summer. Then I steamed some broccoli for the side. The combination of the sweet and spicy of the jam, along with the gameiness of the meat was really good. Nice to be able to throw together something in about 15 minutes.

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May 17, 2008

PASTA

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Last night I decided to make homemade pasta with porcini mushroom sauce for my husband. One of the things he loved while we were in Italy was eating all of the wonderful porcini mushroom dishes. Unfortunately, we can't get fresh porcinis here, but I had some dried ones I brought back and wanted to try a new sauce. The sauce recipe was from epicurious.com. We enjoyed this dish with a great bottle of DuckHorn Cab we brought back from Napa a couple of years ago.

PORCINI MUSHROOM SAUCE
1 1/2 oz dried porcini mushrooms
1 cup warm water

2 Tbsp olive oil
1 c. chopped onion
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 c. dry Marsala
1/2 c. dry white wine
1 tsp. minced fresh rosemary
1 c. chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 c. beef stock or canned beef broth

1 Tbsp. butter, room temp.
1 Tbsp all purpose flour

Combine porcini mushrooms and 1 cup warm water in small bowl. Let stand until mushrooms soften, about 30 minutes. Remove mushrooms from liquid, squeezing excess liquid from mushrooms back into bowl; reserve liquid. Place mushrooms in another small bowl.
Heat oil in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion and garlic;saute until onion browns, about 15 minutes. Add Marsala and white wine. Increase heat;boil until most liquid evaporates, about 7 minutes. Add rosemary, mushrooms, and both stocks. Pour in reserved mushroom liquid, leaving any sediment behind. Boil until liquid mixture is reduced to 2 cups, about 15 minutes.
Mix butter and flour into small bowl to blend;whish into mushroom mixture. Simmer until sauce thickens, about 2 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.


PASTA
Use 1/2 fine semolina and 1/2 regular(or bread) flour (if you can find it, 11 or 00 is best). Use 100 grams of flour per 1 egg. For 2-3 people, follow 1 egg per person. Cut back on quantity as you increase-for instance, 4 eggs for 5-6 people. Don't incorporate all of the flour to begin-see what it needs. Make well in center of flour, break eggs into well, then using your fingers or a fork bring in flour until it is ready to knead. Then knead until dough is smooth. Add flour if dough is sticky. When smooth, cover and let rest a while (30 min is good). Cut dough into 1/2s or 1/3s, and roll through pasta machine. Roll twice on #1, then once on each number after that. Go to 6 or 7. Let rest to dry out a little before cutting. As you cut, place on baking sheet and fluff with a little flour to keep from sticking.

This is the pasta recipe I learned while taking a cooking class in Florence. I love the recipe-it never sticks to the pasta machine like my old recipes did. Pasta is easy to make, and once you've made it a couple of times, it's very quick. Here are photos of the pasta being made:

Continue reading "PASTA" »

Dessert

I had leftover dough from the Hazelnut Grape Tart and made a quick crostata for dessert. Rolled dough into a round, and filled with a great new conserve I just bought-Heritage Country Living Collection Fruit Market Peach Pecan Conserves. Then I folded the edges over, and baked at 325 until browned. It was very sweet, but good. Desserts can't be too sweet for my husband.

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May 18, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-Hazelnut and Grape Tart

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This week's selection was Hazelnut and Grape Tart, from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma. I was intrigued to make this tart. I've not baked with grapes before, and I love hazelnuts, so I was ready to see what type of flavor and texture experiences this would offer. Most of the ingredients were pretty basic-eggs, sugar, orange zest, vanilla, grapes. Then the hazelnuts and grappa. Luckily my Safeway carries hazelnuts in the bulk section. They are quite pricey, so this tart isn't inexpensive to make. But I didn't know how inexpensive until I went to the liquor store to buy grappa. Now the only time I've ever had grappa was when my husband and I were in Italy having a wonderful dinner with Gloria and Marcel. We decided we had to try the common after dinner drink. If I remember correctly, Gloria was smart and ordered lemoncello. I only managed a sip or two of the grappa, and I thought it was the nastiest stuff I've ever tasted. Not an easy taste to get out of your mind either. Okay, back to the liquor store. They had 4 selections-1 was from California, so I wasn't buying that. One was 1/2 the price of the others, so that was out also-thought it might be close to the one I tasted in Italy. That left two-they were within a couple of dollars of each other, so I chose the more expensive (but it was a larger bottle). But the cost? $63! I hestitated for a long time about buying, with the taste of the grappa I had coming back.. But I thought it would be different-how could so many great recipes in this cookbook call for it if it didn't add to the flavor. So I splurged. And I was sorry. Tasted a sip when I got home, and although it wasn't as bad as the first, I did not like it. But I was still hopeful that it was just the strong alcohol taste, and still hoping that a tablespoon to toss with the grapes would add to the flavor. Wrong again. When the tart was completed and I tasted it, each bite of grape I got had a flavor I just did not like. Guess that saved me calories, because a friend ended up with most of the tart. If you like grappa, then by all means try the tart. If you don't, then do as others have suggested, and substitute an orange liquor.

Here's the process of making the tart:
THE CRUST: I love Gina's Sweet Tart Crust recipe. It's easy to work with, and has a nice hint of orange flavor. It's quick to make in the food processor. Pulse together flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, zest of an orange. Then pulse in cold butter. Next add a mixture of eggs, vanilla, and heavy cream. Knead a little, chill, then roll.

Pastry Rolled Out in Circle
I love to roll out pastry on my large silpat silicon pad.
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Placing Pastry into Tart Pan
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Trimming Edges off Tart Crust
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THE FILLING: Egg yolks, sugar, orange zest, and salt are mixed together. Hazelnuts are ground together with sugar and folded into mixture. Egg whites are whipped until soft peaks form, then are folded into hazelnut mixture.

Folding in the Egg Whites
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Filling is poured into prepared crust. Grapes are cut in half, and tossed with sugar and grappa. Then they are placed cut side down in concentric circles to completely cover tart. (Note: buy as large of grapes as you can find. The small ones take much longer to place on tart, and when tart bakes they sink into the filling.

Unbaked Tart
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The tart is then baked for 35-40 minutes, and you have a beautiful golden tart.
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May 19, 2008

My favorites-Bread, Cheese, and Wine

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Yesterday I worked out in the garden most of the day. I was tired and my back ached. I really didn't feel like cooking. Since my husband was out of town, I decided to have a light dinner of one of my favorite appetizers-crostini. I made a slight variation to a favorite appetizer: I toasted bread slices, spread them with goat cheese, placed a few rosemary leaves on the cheese, and topped with honey. The combination is wonderful-the tang of the goat cheese, the pungent rosemary, and the sweet honey. And a nice glass of Pinot Grigio alongside.

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The original recipe is from epicurious.com.

WARM GOAT CHEESE TOASTS WITH ROSEMARY, WALNUTS, AND HONEY
Yield: 18
1 8-oz French-bread baguette
8 oz soft fresh goat cheese
1/4 cup honey
1/2 cup chopped toasted walnuts
1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat over to 350 degrees. Cut eighteen 1/4-inch slices from baguette. Spread goat cheese on each slice. Arrange in single layer on rimmed baking sheet. Bake until edges are slightly golden and cheese softens, about 10 minutes. Set aside on sheet. Heat honey in small saucepan over medium heat until warm, about 2 minutes. Sprinke toasts with walnuts, then rosemary. Drizzle with honey and serve.

May 23, 2008

Angel Hair with Sun-dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese

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I wanted a quick pasta for dinner, and this was a recipe from Food Network I hadn't tried. It's a Giada De Laurentis recipe. It was very tasty, although I thought it only needed about half of the called for quantity of tomatoes.

Angel Hair with Sun-Dried Tomatoes and Goat Cheese
4-6 servings

1 (10 oz) jar sun-dried tomatoes packed in oil, chopped(oil reserved)
1 small onion, chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup tomato paste
2/3 cup dry white wine
8 oz angel hair pasta
salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 oz soft fresh goat cheese, coursely crumbled
2 Tbsp chopped fresh Italian parsley leaves

Heat 2 Tbsp of the oil from the sun-dried tomatoes in a heavy large skillet over med heat. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 3 minutes. Stir in the garlic and saute until fragrant, about 1 minute. Add the tomato paste and cook for 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add the wine and sun-dried tomatoes and simmer until the liquid reduces by half, about 2 minutes.
Meanwhile, bring large pot of salted water to a boil. Add the pasta and cook until al dente, stirring occasionally, about 5 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup of cooking liquid. Add the pasta to the tomato mixture and toss to coat, adding some reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper. Sprinkle with the goat cheese and parsley and stir. Mound the pasta into bowls and serve.

May 24, 2008

Island Pork Tenderloin Salad

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Tonight I wanted to fix a light dinner. I haven't fixed this salad in a while, but have always enjoyed it each time I've made it. It has a nice combination of spicy, sweet, and tangy. The pork is prepared in an unusual manner-it has a sugar mixture patted on the outside and baked. It seems like a lot of sugar, but a lot does melt and slide off during the baking. It is a great flavor combination with the brown sugar and tabasco (I know, it sounds odd!). The oranges in the salad just really make it sing with flavor. The recipe comes from Epicurious.com.

ISLAND PORK TENDERLOIN SALAD
For Pork:
2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp black pepper
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp chili powder
1 tsp cinnamon
2 pork tenderloins (2 1/4 to 2 1/2 lb total)
2 Tbsp olive oil

For Glaze:
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
2 Tbsp finely chopped garlic
1 Tbsp Tabasco

For Vinaigrette:
3 Tbsp fresh lime juice
1 Tbsp fresh orange juice
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1 tsp curry powder, toasted
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp black pepper
1/2 cup olive oil

For Salad:
3 navel oranges
5 oz baby spinach, trimmed (6 cups leaves)
4 cups thinly sliced Napa cabbage (from 1 med. head)
1 red bell pepper, cut lengthwise into thin strips
1/2 cup golden raisins
2 firm-ripe California avocados

Prepare pork:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Stir together salt, pepper, cumin, chili powder, and cinnamon, then coat pork with spice rub. Heat oil in ovenproof 12" heavy skillet over moderately high heat until just beginning to smoke, then brown pork, turning, about 4 minutes total. Leave pork in skillet.

Make glaze and roast pork:
Stir together brown sugar, garlic, and Tabasco and pat onto top of each tenderloin. Roast in middle of oven until thermometer inserted diagonally in center of each tenderloin registers 140 degrees, about 20 minutes. Let pork stand in skillet at room temperature 10 minutes. (Temperature will rise to about 155 degrees while standing.)

Make vinaigrette while pork roasts:
Whisk together juices, mustard, curry powder, salt, and pepper, then add oil in a stream, whisking until emulsified.

Prepare salad ingredients while pork stands:
Cut peel, including white pith, from oranges with a sharp knife, then cut oranges crosswise into 1/4" thick slices. Toss spinach, cabbage, bell pepper, and raisins in a large bowl with about 1/4 cup vinaigrette. Halve, pit, and peel avocados, then cut diagonally into 1/4" slices.

Assemble salad:
Cut pork at a 45-degree angle into 1/2" thick slices. Line a large platter with dressed salad and arrange sliced pork, oranges, and avocados in rows on top. Drizzle some vinaigrette over avocados and oranges. Pour any juices from skillet over pork.

Makes 6-8 main-course servings. From Gourmet, May 2003.

May 25, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers: Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze

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This week's selection from Dolce Italiano was Zucchini-Olive Oil Cake with Lemon Crunch Glaze. I grew up eating lots of zucchini bread, and I wondered if the recipe would be similar. I thought it was very similar in taste, although the glaze makes it extra-special. The recipe starts with sifting together flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon, ginger, and nutmeg. In another bowl, eggs, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla are beaten together. The dry ingredients are then added to the egg mixture.

After the dry ingredients are just incorporated, toasted chopped pecans and grated zucchini are mixed in.

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The batter is then spread into a greased and floured bundt pan and baked until golden, 45-50 minutes. While baking, the lemon glaze is made. Lemon juice and granulated sugar are whisked until smooth, then powdered sugar is mixed in. When the cake is done, it's cooled in the pan 10 minutes, then turned out onto a cooling rack. The lemon glaze is brushed onto the cake, and as the cake cools, the glaze hardens.

I found this cake extremely easy to make and very moist. I'm still eating it 3 days later, and I think it is even more moist than when first baked, and the flavors are more melded together. I cannot taste the flavor of the olive oil with the heavier spice taste, and I think you could easily substitue vegeatable oil if you didn't have olive oil on hand.


May 29, 2008

This Year's First Halibut

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I was visiting my mother in Missouri this past week, so I wasn't able to go out on the boat for Memorial Weekend, the first weekend we usually go out fishing. But my husband was in town, and went out with a friend to Whittier, in Prince William Sound. They were successful in catching some nice, small, tender halibut, which I cooked for dinner tonight. Halibut grow quite large-I think the record is 480 lbs or so, maybe larger. I caught one that was 120 lbs a few years ago. If we keep them, we always eat them no matter the size (we really try not to waste any fish we catch), but I am always happy to see small ones when I reel in the line. The 15-20 pound range are very tender and mild, and my favorite.

I saw a recipe in a cooking magazine I was looking at on the plane yesterday. I think it was Food and Wine. It was for grilled ratatouille. I thought that sounded good, so I stopped at the store after work tonight and bought some vegetables to grill. I didn't have the magazine close at hand, so I didn't follow the recipe, although I think what I made was close. I brushed the vegetables with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and grilled. I included eggplant, zucchini, yellow squash, sweet onion, and red pepper.

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I then cut the vegetables into small pieces, tossed them with quartered cherry tomatoes, chopped basil, salt, pepper, capers, and a small amount of red wine vinegar and olive oil. I quickly grilled the fish that had been brushed with olive oil, salt and pepper, and served the two together. Another reminder that spring is actually here. Spring can sometimes come late to Alaska. I left the state last Tuesday night, and the trees were just leafing out, and I came home last night to green everywhere, and my rhubarb at least twice the height of when I left. Yeah! Now, if the weeds just hadn't grown so tall also....

May 30, 2008

Tonight's Dinner - Bruschetta, and Orzo Pasta with Shrimp,Roasted Vegetables, and Goat Cheese

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Tonight we started out with Bruschetta with tomatoes, olive oil, basil, and Pecorino Romano cheese. My husband and I love bread, and eating this is one of our favorites, savored with a nice glass of red wine. I just broil the bread on both sides until toasted. Then top with a mix of tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. Then I top with slivered cheese, and put back under the broiler until the cheese is melted. Yum...

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Then for dinner, I decided that I needed to try to use up some of the shrimp we still have in our freezer that we caught last summer. We shrimp out of Prince William Sound, and there were several weekends last year when we came home with 15 pounds of tails! Needless to say, we eat a lot of shrimp and still have a lot in our freezer. I sauteed the peeled shrimp in olive oil and minced garlic until just cooked through. I tossed that with cooked orzo pasta, the grilled vegetables left over from last night, halved cherry tomatoes, fresh basil, olive oil, and crumbled goat cheese. It made for a very filling dinner, with lots of leftovers for tomorrow. That's good that I won't have to cook dinner tomorrow since I will be baking the Chocolate Polenta Torte for the Sunday Slow Bakers.

May 31, 2008

Blood Orange Cognac Marmalade

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I found a wonderful new marmalade that is absolutely addictive. The brand is mark & steven's, and the product is Blood Orange Cognac Marmalade. It is from Culver City, CA, and their website is www.markandstephens.com. I haven't looked at their web site yet to see what other items they make. I found this at a small specialty store just outside of Anchorage. I've only eaten it 3 ways and I've already finished a jar-on toast with butter, as a snack or appetizer (toast thin slices of ciabatta bread, spread with soft goat cheese, then top with marmalade), and with a teaspoon or so stirred into my morning oatmeal (1/2 cup old fashioned oats, 1/2 cup skim milked cooked in microwave for 1 minute 50 seconds). I'm sure you will find this product as addictive as I have.

June 1, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers : Chocolate and Polenta Tart

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This week's selection was Chocolate and Polenta Tart, again from Gina DePalma's book Dolce Italiano. I was anxious to try this tart-Gina describes the texture as an irresistible combination of smooth, silky chocolate with the chewy bite of polenta.

CHOCOLATE AND POLENTA TART
Makes one 10" tart; 8 to 10 servings

Polenta Tart Crust(recipe following)
4 oz bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, softened
2 large eggs
1/2 cup granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
3 Tbsp instant or fine polenta
1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and position a rack in the center.
On a floured board, roll the tart dough into an 11" circle 1/8" thick. Transfer the dough to a 10" tart pan with fluted sides and a removable bottom by rolling the dough around the pin like a carpet and then unrolling it onto the pan. Press the dough into the bottom and sides of the pan, then trim it so it is flush with the top of the pan. Chill the tart shell while you make the filling.
Place the chocolate and butter in a large, heatproof bowl and set the bowl over a pan of simmering water, whisking occasionally to combine the chocolate and butter while they melt. Remove the bowl from the pan of water and set it aside.
Place the eggs, sugar, and salt in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment and beat together on high speed until they are thick and tripled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla extract.
Add the egg mixture to the bowl with the melted chocolate mixture and fold the two mixtures together with a rubber spatula until they are mostly combined. Sift the polenta and flour over the batter and continue folding until no streaks appear and the dry ingredients have been completely incorporated.
Pour the filling into the prepared shell and place it on a baking sheet to catch any drips. Bake the tart for 25 minutes, or until the filling is puffed and cracking and the crust is lightly golden brown. Allow the tart to cool on a rack for 20 minutes before carefully removing the sides of the tart pan.
Dust the top with confectioners' sugar and serve the tart warm. Wrapped in plastic, it will keep in the refridgerator for a few days.

POLENTA TART CRUST
Makes one 10" tart shell

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup instant or fine polenta
3/4 cup sugar
1 tsp kosher salt
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, cold, cut into 1/4" cubes
1 large egg
2 Tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Place the flour, polenta, sugar, salt and lemon zest in the bowl of a food processor and pulse to combine them. Add the cold, cubed butter to the bowl and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse sand and no large lumps of butter are visible.
In a small bowl, whisk together the egg, olive oil, and vanilla extract. Add the wet ingredients to the food processor and pulse just until a ball of dough forms.
Form the dough into a disk and wrap tightly in plastic. Chill the dough until it is firm enough to roll, at least 1 to 2 hours.
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I've made a couple of Gina's tart crust recipes, and I like that they are easy to make using the food processor. But I found this one more difficult to work with. I chilled it for plenty of time, but had trouble rolling it out and placing it in the pan without it breaking. At least with a tart you can just press it back in place. The problem could have been that I made a mistake in the tart crust and used a corn meal that was not finely ground. Be sure to use instant polenta or regular fine cornmeal. I used a courser ground cornmeal, and the texture was way too hard in the tart crust.

This dough starts by combining the dry ingredients in the food processor, then adding cubed cold butter.
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Then the mixture is pulsed until no lumps of butter are left. The wet ingredients are then whisked together, and added to the food processor.
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This mixture is pulsed until a dough ball is formed.
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The dough is then formed into a disk, wrapped in plastic, and chilled until firm enough to roll.
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For the filling, the butter and chocolate are melted together in a double boiler.
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The eggs, sugar, salt and vanilla are whipped together, and then folded into the chocolate mixture. The flour and polenta are sifted over the top, then also folded in. The filling is then poured into the shell and baked.
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This tart tasted very good. Use really good chocolate-it makes a difference in this tart. The flavors of the corn and lemon zest in the crust come through. I will sure make this again, I will just make sure I either find some instant polenta or use regular cornmeal in the crust.

June 2, 2008

ASKINOSIE CHOCOLATE

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I have to tell you about a new chocolate you have to try. It is called Askinosie chocolate. Go to their web site at www.askinosie.com to see a really creative web site and read about their wonderful story. The company was started by Shawn Askinosie, and is located in Springfield, Missouri. Over the last year, they have been written up in numerous magazines and have been named one of the best chocolates by some highly-regarded food critics. Shawn used to be a criminal defense lawyer, and decided he wanted to make chocolate. When you go to the web-site, you will begin to see what makes this company unique. Their chocolate bars are made from authentic traceable single origin beans. They are the only small-batch chocolate maker in the United States that presses their own cocoa butter. They source all of their beans from small farmers, pay above fair trade price, and profit share with their farmers.

I love chocolate, and am always ready to try a new kind. But one other thing that makes this unique for me is that I went to high school with Shawn. It's a small world when you live in Alaska, walk into a gourmet store, see a display of chocolate, and then realize that it is being made in Missouri by someone you went to high school with. I was in Springfield last week and was able to visit the store and take a tour through their factory. And of course I had to buy more chocolate to bring home (San Jose Del Tambo 70% Nibble Bar, Saconusco 75% Nibble Bar, San Jose Del Tambo, Ecuador Natural Cocoa Powder, and some bulk chocolate to use in baking).

June 8, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-biscotti di cioccolato a nocciole (Bittersweet Chocolate & Hazelnut Cookies)

It's again time for the Sunday Slow Bakers weekly recipe. This week's recipe is Bittersweet Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies, from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano.

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Chocolate and Hazelnut Cookies Makes 5 dozen

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetend Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 cup whole hazelnuts, skinned or unskinned
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
5 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 1/2 cups confectioner's sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking powder, and salt. Place the hazelnuts in the bowl of a food processor and pulse them 2 or 3 times to chop them medium-fine. Add the hazelnuts to the bowl with the dry ingredients and stir to combine them.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until pale and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla extract and scrape down the sides of the bowl. On low speed, beat in the dry ingredients, followed by the chocolate, and beat just until combined. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and chill the dough until firm, about 30 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cookign spray or butter or line them with parchment.

Place the confectioner's sugar in a shallow bowl. To form the cookies, roll 1 scant tablespoon of dough into a 1 inch ball, then flatten it slightly with your fingertips to form a small disk. Roll the cookie in the confectioner's sugar to coat evenly and place it on the baking sheet. Repeat until all of the dough is used, spacing the cookies 1 inch apart on the baking sheets.

Bake until the cookies are puffed and cracking, 8 to 10 mintues. Rotate the baking sheets 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking. Allow the cookies to cool on the baking sheets for 1 to 2 minutes, then use a spatula to transfer them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. If desired, dust them with additional confectioner's sugar.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, and kept in a cool, dry place for up to 1 week.

Here is the process:
Chopping the chocolate- this was the most time-consuming part of making these.

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Combined batter-

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Making the cookies-(I use a small scoop. I scooped them all onto a cookie sheet, then went back and pressed them flatter with the bottom of a flat wine glass.

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Rolling cookies in powdered sugar-

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Cookies ready to bake- as you can see, I use silicon baking mats. No sticking, and very easy cleanup.

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Baked cookies on cooling rack-

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These cookies are just wonderful! If you love strong chocolate flavor, be sure to use bittersweet
chocolate. The hazelnuts add a little crunch, and just intensify the chocolate flavor. I baked my cookies for 10 minutes, and they still came out very soft. They seem to be firming up as they stand. These cookies would be great with an espresso, a glass of milk, or a glass of port. Your house will smell wonderful, and your mouth will have a smile!

Here is a close-up of the texture of the cookie:

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A Nice Relaxing Way to Spend a Day Alone

My husband was gone for the day, and I spent a nice, relaxing day doing things that make me happy-reading, drinking wine, and eating. It was cold and cloudy here today-46 degrees F when I got up, and it didn't seem to change much until late afternoon. It was one of those days when I just couldn't get warm. I used that as an excuse to lay on the couch, a good book in hand, under a nice thick throw for a good portion of the day. I am reading Passion on the Vine by Sergio Esposito. Sergio was born in Naples, Italy and moved to Albany New York as a child. At a very young age, he came to associate wine with the warmth of family and the memories of his former life in Italy. He now lives with his family in New York City and is the owner of Italian Wine Merchants. This book is his memoir about his childhood in Italy, his move to Albany, and his travels as an adult back to Italy. If you love wine and food, and reading about people who's passion is the same, I think you will find this book as captivating as I am.

This evening, I decided I had better drag myself off the couch and fix myself something to eat. As I looked through the refrigerator, I saw zucchini, Pecorino Romano cheese, and eggs, and knew it was time for a frittata. I sauteed the zuchhini in a little olive oil along with salt, pepper, hot pepper flakes, and spring onion.

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I then gently whisked together two eggs, salt and pepper. And I grated the cheese.

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I added the eggs to the skillet with the zuchhini, and let it cook till set on the bottom. I then sprinkled the cheese on top.

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I then placed the skillet under the broiler until the frittata was puffed and the cheese was beginning to lightly brown.

I served this with mixed grain toast spread with blood orange marmalade, and sliced apricots.

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I finished the evening off again reading the book, and enjoying a glass of Italian red wine and a couple of more of the Chocolate Hazelnut cookies. I discovered tonight why I like the cookies so much-the chocolate is chopped into very small pieces, but doesn't completely melt into the cookie and disappear while cooking. So when you eat the cookie, you feel some small chunks of chocolate, which then slowly melt on your tongue. Perfect with a glass of red wine! And now, back to my book....

June 12, 2008

RHUBARB

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It's been a cold spring in Alaska, and nothing in my garden/flower beds is doing well except for the weeds and the rhubarb. Since I've been baking so much with the Sunday Slow Bakers, I wanted to make something savory with the rhubarb. I remembered a recipe a friend gave me several years ago that combines pork chops with rhubarb.

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Pork Chops with Rhubarb Dressing
Serves 6

1/2 tsp dried rosemary
3/4 tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
6 pork loin or shoulder chops, cut 1" thick
2 Tbsp salad oil
1/2 to 3/4 cup firmly packed brown sugar
4 slices firm-textured bread, cut into 1/2" cubes
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground allspice
4 cup fresh rhubarb, cut into 1/2" pieces
3 Tbsp all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Mix together rosemary, salt, and pepper;sprinkle evenly over pork chops on both sides. Heat the oil in a frying pan over med-high heat. Add chops and brown on both sides;set aside with drippings.

Stir together remaining ingredients. Spread half of this dressing in a greased 9" x 13" baking dish. Arrange chops on top. Spoon over 3 Tbsp of drippings(adding water if needed to make this amount). Top with remaining dressing. Cover. Bake for 45 minutes. Then uncover and bake 15 minutes longer or until tender.

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I served this pork with a fig, goat cheese, and mixed green salad, with a fig balsamic vinegar dressing.

The recipe is pretty forgiving. I didn't measure anything. I forgot to put in the flour, which was fine since I used less rhubarb and more bread than called for. The rhubarb can be pretty tart, and I don't care for the dressing to be overly sweet, so by using less rhubarb and more bread, I don't use quite as much sugar.


June 15, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers-Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake

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This week's Sunday Slow Baker choice was another recipe from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. Gina talks about being obsessed with ricotta cheesecake, and develping this recipe as the ultimate. She says that by adding cream cheese to the ricotta, it gives it a creamier texture with less graininess. The recipe calls for candied orange and lemon peel, but if you don't like that, you can just use grated zest. I used only grated orange zest in mine, and also substituted Grand Marnier with a couple of drops of almond extract for the amaretto called for.

I was very excited to try this recipe, because I've never had ricotta cheesecake and the description sounds wonderful. But I was disappointed in how the cheesecake turned out. The baking time called for 45 to 50 minutes, and I had to bake it for an extra 40 minutes, which I still don't think was enough. So the texture is too soft, as you can see from the above photo. The taste is wonderful though. The combination of the orange zest and the Grand Marnier gives it a subtle, but very noticeable orange flavor. The texture is not dense and thick like many cheesecakes, but light and almost fluffy. Not sure if I overbeat it trying to get rid of some of the ricotta's graininess or if it is supposed to be that way. I will eventually try this recipe again with some variations of making it less runny-maybe draining the ricotta cheese first, or adding more cornstarch.

OBSESSIVE RICOTTA CHEESECAKE (torta di ricotta)
Makes oen 9-inch cake, approximately 12 servings

For the crust-
3/4 cup sliced blanched almonds, toasted and cooled
1/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
Pinch of kosher salt
1 large egg yolk
2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, melted and cooled
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the filling-
1 8-ounce package cream cheese
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt
4 cups(30 ounces) fresh whole-milk ricotta
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon amaretto
1 tablespoon cornstarch
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied orange rind(optional)
2 tablespoons finely chopped candied lemon rind or candied citron(optional)

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees and position a rack in the middle. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray, dust it with flour, and tap to knock out the excess.

To make the crust: Place the almonds, flour, sugar, and salt in a food processor and process until the nuts are finely chopped. In a small bowl, lightly whisk together the egg yolk, melted butter, and vanilla extract. Add the liquids to the nut mixture and pulse several times to moisten and combine the ingredients thoroughly. The mixture should come together easily between your fingers when pinched.

To form the crust, press the mixture onto the bottom and about an inch up the sides of the springform pan. Place the pan in the refrigerator for 15 to 20 minutes to firm up the crust, then bake for 10 to 15 minutes, or until the crust is light golden brown. Remove the pan for the oven and allow the crust to cool completely on a wire rack.

To make the filling-In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the cream cheese with the sugar and salt on medium speed until soft and creamy, about 1 minute. Add the ricotta and beat until the mixture is smooth and light, another 2 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl with a spatula. Beat in the vanilla extract, amaretto, and cornstarch. Fold in the candied fruits, if desired, with the spatula

Pour the filling into the cooled crust, smoothing the top with the spatula. Bake the cheesecake for 45 to 50 minutes, or until the center is set;it should be jiggly but not liquid. Remove the cheesecake from the oven and allow it to cool completely in the pan on a wire rack.

Chill the cooled cheesecake for at least 4 hours before serving; it is best served fully chilled on the following day. To serve, remove the sides of the springform pan and cut the cheesecake into wedges with a long, thin-bladed knife. Any leftover cake should be wrappted in plastic and stored in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

Here are a few photos of the process:
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Wet ingredients being added to the processed flour and almonds for the crust.

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Baked cheesecake cooling in pan.


June 20, 2008

A COLORFUL PLATE

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Wednesday's night dinner was Salmon, Salad, and Veggies. The salmon was cooked on the grill, and glazed using a mixture of spiced cherry jam, dijon mustard, and soy sauce. The veggies were just sauteed snap peas and carrots with a dab of butter. And the salad was baby lettuce, roasted beets, sliced spring onions, crumbled gorgonzola, and a balsamic vingegar dressing. A healthy and quick weeknight dinner.

SOUP AND SANDWICH

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I was tired after a busy day down on the Kenai Peninsula for work, but also feeling like I wanted something more than veggies for dinner. I knew I had gorgonzola cheese I needed to use, and a large red onion, potatoes, and fennel from my CSA shipment. The summer that I thought had finally arrived the day before was gone in a flash, and it was a cold overcast day. With that, a bowl of soup sounded good. So I decided to make a salmon chowder and roast beef, gorgonzola, and carmelized onion sandwich.

I don't have a recipe for the soup, but here's what I do. I saute chopped onions, and fennel in a little olive oil in a large sauce pan until just beginning to soften. I then add chopped potatoes, and continue to cook until they begin to soften(add a little water if needed to keep from sticking.) I season with a little dill, and salt and pepper. I added some sherry pepper sauce I had brought back from Bermuda, and then added a can of salmon I had canned last summer. After mixing together, I then add skim milk and some fat free half and half, enough to make into a soup consistency. Simmer until the potatoes are soft. That's it. I make this chowder quite a bit because it is low fat, and I always have canned salmon on hand. You could always saute a small amount of bacon with the onions, but I think it has a lot of flavor without it. I sometimes add corn, or red peppers, etc.

For the sandwiches, I first made the carmelized onions. Slowly cooked thinly sliced onions, balsamic vinegar, pinch of sugar, salt and pepper. I then split sour dough rolls, placed thinly sliced roast beef (the good kind from the deli) on one side, and gorgonzola on the other, and placed under the broiler until the cheese was melted. I then topped the beef with the carmelized onions, and baby arugula. I liked the combination of the salty from the cheese, the sweet and sour from the onions, and the peppery taste from the arugula. A satisfying dinner on a chilly evening.

June 21, 2008

FIG AND PROSCIUTTO PIZZA AND ARUGULA SALAD

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I received my July Food & Wine in the mail the other day, and one recipe that really caught my attention was Fig-and-Prosciutto Flatbreads. This is a thin pizza, whose crust is spread with fig jam, then topped with Gorgonzola cheese and prosciutto and baked. I just love the combination of sweet and salty together, and thought this would hit the mark. It did. I decided to grill the pizzas rather than bake them in the oven. I caught a quick look at Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants! blog and he made grilled pizza for dinner, and it looked so good that I thought I would try grilling this pizza. I made a variation of his dough, then followed the directions for making the pizza except I placed a rolled out piece of dough onto a hot grill for a couple of minutes to cook one side, then pulled it off the grill, and added the toppings to the cooked side, then put it back on the grill to finish cooking the other side and the toppings. It definately takes a watchful eye, and even at that, you get a pretty charred crust. But it didn't really taste burnt, and made the crust very crisp, and was very tasty. Just be sure as I mentioned to keep your eye on things, as it cooks very quickly. Also, I didn't weigh the dough to see how much I had. I thought I had less than called for, so I didn't measure the ingredients for the pizza, just guessed at what the correct quantity would be.

I served this pizza with a salad of arugula that I tossed with Date Balsamic Vinegar, olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground pepper. The peppery arugula went great with this rich pizza.

And to top off the evening, the sun came out(well, kindof) and we were able to eat on the deck (unfortunately the mosquitos were quite thick tonight, so we didn't last outside too long). Here's my dear husband enjoying the dinner.

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PIZZA DOUGH
1 Tbsp honey
2/3 cup warm water
1 envelope active dry yeast (I used rapid rise)
2 Tbsp olive oil
pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

In a large bowl, dissolve the honey in the warm water. Sprinkle the yeast on top and stir until dissolved. Whisk in the oil. Mix the salt into the flour, and stir into the yeast mixture. Knead until the dough is smooth. Cover and let rest about 30 minutes. Then knead again on a floured surface until smooth and elastic. Place back in a greased or floured bowl and cover again, and let rise until doubled in volume (up to an hour, faster if using rapid rise yeast).

Fig and Prosciutto Flatbreads
Makes two 13" round flatbreads
From July 2008 Food & Wine

Two 12-oz balls of pizza dough, at room temp
All purpose flour
1/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1 teaspoon minced fresh rosemary
Salt and freshly gound pepper
1/2 cup fig jam
1/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled (1 cup)
3 ounces sliced prosciutto
1 scallion, white and green parts thinly sliced

1. Place a pizza stone in the bottom of the oven and preheat the oven to 500 degrees. Allow at least 45 minutes for the pizza stone to heat thoroughly.
2. Meanwhile, on a lightly floured surface, roll out one piece of the pizza dough to a 13" round. Dust a pizza peel with flour and slide the dough onto it. Drizzle with about 2 tablespoons of the olive oil and sprinkle with half of the garlic and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Dollop 1/4 cup of the fig jam all over the crust, being sure to leave a 1" border of dough all around. Scatter half of the cheese and prosciutto over the dough.
3. Slide the flatbread onto the stone and bake for about 15 minutes, until puffed and golden. Transfer the flatbread to a cutting board and let cool for 10 minutes before slicing. Repeat with the remaining ingredients to make the second flatbread. Garnish with the sliced scallion and serve. Serve with a light, cherry-inflected Chianti Classico.

For dessert, we enjoyed the Strawberries in Chianti Wine with Ricotta Black Pepper Cream, which you'll read about on Sunday's blog.

June 22, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-STRAWBERRIES IN CHIANTI WITH BLACK PEPPER RICOTTA CREAM

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This week's selection for Sunday Slow Bakers was again from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. This recipe was a relief for many in the hot parts of the country-no baking, so no hot oven. This was a very quick and easy recipe to put together-marinate quartered strawberries in Chianti wine and sugar and make a topping of whipped cream, ricotta, and crushed black peppercorns. I had doubts about two things-I'm not crazy about the texture of ricotta, and I thought the peppercorn flavor might be overpowering. I didn't have to worry about either. Maybe it was the brand of ricotta I bought, but it seemed smoother than normal. And Gina says to make sure and crack your peppercorns(you can use the bottom of a small, heavy saute pan)-do not use ground pepper, otherwise the flavor would be way too strong. I wouldn't serve this to people who like basic plain food though-it is different having such a pepper flavor in dessert. When I went to make this, I also realized that I didn't have any Chianti wine on hand. I had an open bottle of a wine that was a mixture of zinfindel, petite syrah, and cab. I knew that it would be heavier, but I thought the peppery flavor of the zin would go well, and I was right. So if you want to make this but don't have Chianti, substitute another red wine.

STRAWBERRIES IN CHIANTI WITH BLACK PEPPER RICOTTA CREAM
(fragole al vino con ricotta e pepe) Makes 6 servings

2 pints ripe, fragrant strawberries(about 1 pound)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 cup Chianti Classico
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/4 cups fresh whole-milk ricotta
2 teaspoons black peppercorns, cracked

About 2 hours before serving the dessert, lightly rinse the strawberries if they are sandy and place them in a single layer on a clean dish towel to dry. Remove the hulls, then cut the berries in quarters or in half lengthwise, according to size, and place them in a large bowl. Sprinkle 2 tablespoons sugar over the berries and toss them to distribute. Pour the Chianti Classico over them. Using a large spoon, gently turn the berries to coat them wtih the wine. Place the bowl in the refrigerator to chill, giving them a gentle toss every so often.

Place the heavy cream and the remaining 6 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer and use the whisk attachment on medium speed to beat the cream until soft peaks form. Add the ricotta and black pepper and briefly beat until the mixture is combined and makes firm peaks.

To serve, place a generous spoonful of the ricotta cream in each of six dessert glasses and spoon some of the berries and their juices alongside and over the top.

June 27, 2008

SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN SOUP

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I love to make flavorful, slow-cooked soups that take hours to cook, but there's not always the time, or maybe like today for me, you just don't feel well and want a fast recipe for dinner. I found this recipe for Southwestern Chicken Soup in Real Simple Magazine a couple of years ago. I love making it when I want something tasty that will give me leftovers, and be quick to cook. Most of the ingredients you'll have on hand, and you can make a quick stop at the store for a rotisserie chicken. It takes only about 20 minutes to have this soup completed. You can use low fat sour cream, and skip the tortilla chips if you want a low calorie soup. I double the recipe (use 24 oz salsa, 2 cans beans, 1 whole rotisserie chicken and as much chicken broth as needed).

SOUTHWESTERN CHICKEN SOUP
Adapted from Real Simple Magazine
Makes 4 servings

1 12-oz jar salsa verde
3 cups cooked chicken pieces(1 small deli-counter rotisserie chicken or leftovers)
1 15 oz can cannellini beans, drained
3 cups chicken broth
1 teaspoon ground cumin (optional)
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 cup sour cream
Tortilla chips (optional)
Empty the salsa into a large saucepan. Cook 2 minutes over medium-high heat, then add the chicken, beans, broth, and cumin. Bring to a boil, lower heat to a simmer, and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Top each bowl with a sprinkling of onions, a dollop of sour cream, and some tortilla chips. For a soupier dish, use 4 cups of broth.

I'm really looking forward to this week's Sunday Slow Baking recipe of Tangerine Chocolate Semifreddo, but am not up to making it yet. So dessert tonight was a feel-good-on-the-sore-throat sorbet from the grocery. Rasberry and Lemon Sorbet, scooped into a glass of Reisling wine.

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June 28, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-CHOCOLATE AND TANGERINE SEMIFREDDO

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Another day for the Sunday Slow Bakers selection. As has been for the last couple of months, the selection again comes from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. When I first bought this cookbook, I saw the photo for this dessert and couldn't wait to make it. I love chocolate, and I think the combination of chocolate with orange is one of the best. So how could you go wrong with a frozen concoction of chocolate, tangerine juice, mascarpone cheese and heavy cream? And to top it all off, a chocolate tangerine sauce!


There were no tangerines at my store, so I used mandarin oranges. This worked just fine, as would regular oranges. Be sure to garnish with the chopped pistachios-use the salted ones-the salty crunch of the nuts added a lot. I used a very high percentage bittersweet chocolate. I don't remember what percentage, as I had bought a bulk piece. While I loved it in the semifreddo, next time I would use a semi-sweet chocolate in the sauce. The sauce is not very sweet at all, and unless you really love a very dark, almost bitter chocolate, you might find this too much. Some Sunday Slow Bakers found their sauce was extremely thin, but that was not the case with mine at all. I'm already thinking about lots of varieties of this semifreddo you could make-what comes to mind the most is using pureed raspberries in place of the orange juice/zest, framboise instead of the Triple Sec and amaretto, and with fresh berries as the garnish.

Here are photos as the semifreddo is being made:

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MELTING THE CHOCOLATE, COCOA POWDER, SUGAR & TANGARINE JUICE TOGETHER

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FOLDING THE EGG YOLK MIXTURE INTO THE CHOCOLATE MIXTURE

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FOLDING THE COOKIE CRUMBS INTO THE CHOCOLATE MIXTURE

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FOLDING THE WHIPPED CREAM/MASCARPONE INTO CHOCOLATE MIXTURE

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SPREADING THE SEMIFREDDO IN THE PAN

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UNMOLDING SEMIFREDDO-as you can see, I lined my loaf pan with plastic wrap. So when I unmolded, I just had to peel the wrap off. No setting the pan in hot water to melt the surface, or worries about sticking.

CHOCOLATE TANGERINE SEMIFREDDO (semifreddo di cioccolato e mandarino)
Makes 6-8 servings
For the Semifreddo:
2 tangerines
4 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
1 tablespoon Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 teaspoons amaretto
4 large egg yolks
4 ounces chocolate wafer cookies, ground (such as Nabisco's Famous Chocolate Wafers)
1 cup heavy cream
3/4 cup mascarpone
Chopped pistachios, for garnish

For the Chocolate Tangerine Sauce:
1 tangerine
6 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1/2 cup boiling water
3 tablespoons heavy cream
2 teaspoons light corn syrup
2 teaspoons Triple Sec or other orange-flavored liqueur

To make the semifreddo: Zest the tangerines and squeeze them. Reserve 3/4 cup juice and set the zest aside.

Place the chocolate, cocoa powder, 2 tablespoons sugar, and tangerine juice in small saucepan and cook over medium heat, stirring constantly. The mixture will bubble and then begin to thicken; continue cooking until it is almost the consistency of pudding, about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in the tangerine zest and amaretto. Allow the mixture to cool for 15 minutes and transfer it to a large mixing bowl.

In the bowl of an electric mixer, use the whisk attachment to beat together the egg yolks and the remaining 3/4 cup sugar on medium speed until light-colored and thick, about 2 minutes. Fold the egg yolk mixture into the cooled chocolate mixture. Fold in the chocolate wafer crumbs.

Clean the bowl and the whisk attachment and whip the heavy cream with the mascarpone at high speed until it is thick and softly peaking. Gently fold the cream mixture into the chocolate mixture.

Pour the semifreddo into a loaf pan or another freezable container and press plastic wrap on the surface. Freeze for at least 6 hours, or until firm.

Before serving, make the chocolate tangerine sauce: Zest the tangerine and squeeze it until you have 1 teaspoon zest and 2 tablespoons juice.

Place the chocolate and butter in a medium bowl. Pour in the boiling water and allow the ingredients to sit for 30 seconds, then whisk them together until smooth. Whisk in the heavy cream, corn syrup, tangerine zest, Triple Sec, and tangerine juice.

To Serve: Scoop the semifreddo into individual bowls, or unmold then whole semifreddo by dipping the pan in hot water and inverting it over a plate and then slice it into portions with a hot thin-bladed knife. Drizzle each serving with some of the warm sauce and sprinkle with chopped pistacios.

The sauce can be made ahead of time and kept in a covered container in the refrigerator for 3 days. Before serving, heat in the microwave or the top of a double boiler.

June 30, 2008

SHRIMP ETOUFEE (sort of)

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It seems like most nights when I fix dinner, I don't plan a recipe I'm going to make then go to the store to buy the ingredients. Instead, I am looking through my fridge, pantry, etc. to see what I have on hand and what I can make with that. I guess that's due to the fact that I get my box from the CSA Full Circle Farm once every two weeks, and my meals need to be based around those fruits and vegetables. Some weeks I am scrambling to use up the things before I get my next box, and some weeks, like this one, I'm out of everything. I only had some lettuce that I had picked up at the store for a salad in the fridge. So it was time to look in the pantry to see what staples were there. I had thawed out some shrimp (I'm still trying to finish off last year's catch). I remembered a recipe for Shrimp Etoufee that was given to me years ago from a Louisiana girl I worked with, but I didn't have any onions or celery to make her recipe. So I invented my own. The recipe is not exact, since I didn't measure anything, but it made a nice spicy concoction to serve over rice.

SHRIMP ETOUFEE
14 oz can diced tomatoes w/ garlic & onion
7 oz can green chilies
8 oz can tomato sauce

Dump these into a large deep skillet, and heat. Add to taste (I added a lot) creole seasoning, garlic powder, black pepper, dried parsely, tabasco. Add about 2 cups or so of water, and let simmer for about 1 hour. About 20 minutes before ready, cook your white rice. Then about 10 minutes before the rice is ready, add your peeled, cleaned shrimp to the tomato mixture and cook until done (normally shrimp cooks in 3-4 minutes, but I had used a lot of shrimp-about 3 pounds with shells/tails intact, so it took about 10 minutes). When done, pull off heat and wait for the rice to finish cooking. Add more tabasco if needed, and serve the etoufee over the white rice.

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SHRIMP BEING ADDED TO SAUCE

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SHRIMP COOKING IN SAUCE

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FINISHED ETOUFEE

July 6, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-ALMOND FINGERS

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It's time for another Sunday Slow Bakers recipe from Dolce Italiano by Gina DePalma. For those of you who are new to my blog, I'm participating with a group of other bakers who frequent the www.slowtrav.com board and decided to start a baking group. We picked a cookbook to start with, and then each week one member chooses a recipe from that book. We all make the same recipe, then on Sunday we all post our results. This has been such a fun process. I am notorious for buying lots of cookbooks, and either never cooking from them or making one or two recipes and that's it. I think this has been the most I've ever made from one cookbook.

Okay, back to the recipe.

ALMOND FINGERS (ditti di mandorle)
Makes approx. 4 dozen cookies

2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
3/4 cup almond flour
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg, separated
Freshly grated zest of 1 lemon
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
2 cups sliced blanched almonds
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

In a medium bowl, whisk together the all-purpose flour, almond flour, baking powder and salt and set aside.

Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat together the butter and granulated sugar on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg yolk, followed by the lemon zest and vanilla extract, scraping down the sides of the bowl after each addition. Beat in the dry ingredients on low speed to make a stiff dough. Remove the dough from the bowl, flatten it into a disk, wrap it in plastic, and chill until firm enough to roll, about 1 hour.

Preheat the oven to 325. Lightly grease two baking sheets with nonstick cooking spray or butter or line them with parchment paper.

Place the almonds in a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, lightly beat the egg white with a fork until frothy.

Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces. Work with 1 piece at a time, keeping the other portions wrapped and refrigerated. Roll the piece of dough into a narrow log 1/2 inch in diameter. Cut the log into cylinders about 1 1/2 inches long. Roll each cylinder in the beaten egg white, then in the sliced almonds to coat it completely. Place the cookies on the prepared sheets, spacing them evenly, about 1/2" apart. Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.

Bake the cookies until they are firm and the almonds are lightly golden brown, 14 to 16 minutes, rotating the sheet 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheets for 1 or 2 minutes, then use a spatula to remove them gently to a wire rack to cool completely. Dust the cookies generously with confectioners' sugar.

The cookies can be stored in an airtight container, layered between sheets of parchment paper, in a cool, dry place for up to 4 days.

Let's see...I liked the flavor of the cookies, but had enough trouble with the dough that I'm not sure I would make this recipe again, at least not without a little tweaking. I chilled the dough for a little over an hour, but when I went to roll the dough into logs, it just wouldn't hold together well. I basically had to reroll each piece after I cut it off the log. I wonder if this affected the texture of the cookies, by overworking the dough, as they weren't as tender as I would have liked. As I dipped the cookies into the egg whites, the egg white was all used before I finished rolling all of them. I ended up having to use 3 egg whites to dip all of the cookies. I also needed more almonds, maybe about 2 1/2 cups total. My cookies baked for about 17 minutes before they were lightly browned.

There was another thing I did different, again which could have affected the texture, but I don't think so. I couldn't find any almond flour. So I made my own by processing in a food processor 3/4 cup slivered almonds along with 2 tablespoons of the flour. It did not get pasty or oily, and processed into a nice fine flour consistency.

I enjoyed the cookies more on the second day, as the texture was better. They're not a crisp cookie, the way a Mexican Wedding Cookie is, but a softer texture. Probably because of the ground almonds. I also found the outside of the cookies a little tough because of the amount of egg white that stuck to the cookie. Maybe a little water mixed into the egg white might have made a little thiner consistency. All in all, the flavor of the cookies was good, and I like the unique look of them with the sliced almonds clinging to the outside, but I have enjoyed other cookies from this book more,like the Lemony Semolina Cookies and the Sicilian Pistachio Bars.

Okay, an update-it's Saturday morning now (I baked the cookies Thurs evening), and I just had two for breakfast (isn't that a healthy breakfast!) I've changed my mind about the cookies now-I really like them. The egg white toughness is completely gone, even though the sliced almonds stayed crispy. I guess this is a cookie that is better after a few days.

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ALMONDS PROCESSED INTO A FLOUR

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DOUGH FORMED INTO DISK BEFORE BEING CHILLED

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FORMING THE COOKIES

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DIPPING THE COOKIES IN THE EGG WHITES AND SLICED ALMONDS

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BAKED COOKIES

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CLOSE-UP OF COOKIE

July 7, 2008

SALMON WITH SESAME AND ORANGE-GINGER RELISH AND CHEDDAR-CORN SPOON BREAD

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If you read my post from yesterday, you'll realize that we eat a lot of fish and shrimp. And even though I do try a lot of new recipes, I tend to most often fix those recipes that you come back to over and over (they're good, and also very simple). This weekend I organized the hundreds of recipes that I had printed off and had stuffed in folders here and there. I came across 2 recipes that I decided to try for dinner Sunday night-the Salmon with Sesame and Orange-Ginger Relish, and Cheddar-Corn Spoon Bread. They were both very good, and I will most definately make them both again in the future. The orange relish for the salmon was very flavorful with the sesame oil and they ginger. Nice contrast to the rich salmon. And the Spoon Bread was sweet from the fresh corn I used, with the tang of the sharp cheddar. Enjoy!

SALMON WITH SESAME AND ORANGE-GINGER RELISH Makes 8 servings
Adapted from epicurious.com

1/3 cup dry white wine
1/3 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 Tbsp soy sauce
1 2 1/2 lb. salmon fillet

3 large navel oranges

1/2 cup matchstick-size strips red pepper
1/2 cup thinly sliced red onion
2 1/2 Tbsp chopped fresh cilantro
2 tsps minced peeled fresh ginger
2 tsps grated orange peel
1 tsp oriental sesame oil
1/2 tsp coarse kosher salt
1/4 tsp dried crushed red pepper

Vegetable oil
1 Tbsp sesame seeds, toasted

Whisk first 3 ingredients in small bowl to blend; transfer to 13x9x2" glass baking dish. Place salmon, skin side up, in orange juice mixture;cover with plastic and chill at least 2 hours and up to 4 hours. Bring to room temp 30 minutes before cooking.

Using small sharp knife, cut peel and white pith from oranges. Working over bowl, cut between membranes to release segments into bowl.

Mix red pepper and next 7 ingredients in med bowl to blend. Fold in reserved orange segments and any accumulated juices. (Can be prepared 1 hour ahead. Let stand at room temp.)

The recipe calls for brushing with oil, placing skin side down, sprinkling with salt and pepper, and baking on a baking sheet, in a preheated 400 degree oven until opaque in center, about 20 minutes. Instead, I put mine skin side down on foil, folded the edges of the foil up to make a little tray, poured some of the marinade over, and placed on a hot grill and cooked until just done. Don't overcook salmon or it gets too dry. Then just slide a spatula between the fish and the skin and your fish comes right off and the skin sticks to the foil. Place on a platter, and mound the orange relish down the center of the fish, then sprinkle with the sesame seeds.


CHEDDAR-CORN SPOON BREAD Serves 6
From Everyday Food

1 Tbsp unsalted butter, plus more for baking dish
2 cups milk (I used 2%)
1 1/2 cups corn kernels, fresh or frozen, defrosted (I used fresh, and the crunchy texture was great)
2/3 cup yellow cornmeal
Coarse salt
Pinch of cayenne pepper
1 cup finely grated sharp white cheddar cheese
4 large eggs, separated

1. Preheat oven to 400. Butter a 2 quart souffle or casserole dish;set asid. In a med saucepan, combine butter, milk, corn, cornmeal, 1 tsp salt, and cayenne. Bring to a boil;reduce hear to med, and simmer, stirring frequently, until mixture is slightly thickened, 3 to 4 mintues. Remove from heat; stir in cheese. Let cool until just warm to the touch, about 15 minutes. Stir in egg yolks until combined.

2. In a clean mixing bowl, beat egg whites with a pinch of salt until soft peaks form. Stir one-third of the whites into the cornmeal mixture until combined, then gently fold in the remaining whites with a rubber spatula. Pour into prepared dish.

3. Place dish in oven; reduce oven heat to 375. Bake until browned on top but still slightly loose in the center, 25 to 30 minutes. (I cooked mine about 35 minutes.) Let cool 5 minutes before serving.

July 13, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-BALATON CHERRIES WITH GRAPPA AND MASCARPONE

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Time for another Sunday Slow Bakers. I might be the only one making this week's choice, as the recipe got changed and I wasn't aware until after I had already made this. As mentioned in earlier posts, we are still cooking from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This week's selection (that I made at least) was Balaton Cherries with Grappa and Mascarpone. I don't like Grappa, so I substituted Amaretto, and instead of Balaton cherries, I used Bing cherries. I also did not add the mint except as a garnish, as I wasn't sure if it would be good with the Amaretto. This was a very nice recipe. It is a cream that is similar to one we made a few weeks ago, with a combination of whipping cream and mascarpone cheese. This recipe had more mascarpone and the addition of vanilla bean, whose seeds looked really pretty among the cream. This cream would be good on top of any fruit. And the Amaretto flavor went so well with the cherries. Yum!!!

BALATON CHERRIES WITH GRAPPA AND MASCARPONE Makes 6 servings
(ciliege con grappa e mascarpone)

1 1/2 pints Balaton cherries or sweet dark cherries, pitted
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/2 cup grappa
10-12 fresh mint leaves
1 cup mascarpone
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 vanilla bean

Place the pitted cherries in a large bowl. Sprinkle 1/4 cup sugar on them and pour on the grappa, using a large slotted sppon to toss the ingredients together. Tear the mint leaves in half and add them to the bowl, tossing again to coat the cherries with the mint. Place the bowl in a cool place or in the refrigerator for 2 hours, stirring now and again to distribute the juices evenly.

About 35 minutes before serving the cherries, place the mascarpone, heavy cream, and remaining 2 tablespoons sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer. Split the vanilla bean lengthwise, scrape out the seeds with the blunt side of a small knife, and add them to the cream. Whip the ingredients together on medium speed until firm peaks form. Chill the mascarpone cream for 30 minutes.

To serve, spoon a portion of the cherries into each of six dessert glasses. Top with a dollop of the mascarpone cream and spoon on some of the juices. Serve with biscotti alongside, if desired.

ANOTHER SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-SWEET APPLE OMELET

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SWEET APPLE OMELET

it's time for the Sunday Slow Bakers again, with one of our final recipes from Gina De Palma's Dolce Italiano. This week the recipe had been changed, and I wasn't aware until I had already made the Cherries with Mascarpone Cream. I wasn't planning on making the Sweet Apple Omelet, until I saw a photo that one of my fellow slow bakers had posted. It looked too good to resist. So this became my dinner for Saturday evening. I cut the recipe in half, since I was by myself for dinner. I thought it was good, but too sweet for my tastes. The honey butter on top tasted delicious, but that was what put it over the top for me. I know if I make it again, I will cut back the sugar used with the apples, and then reduce the amount of honey butter on top. This would be a very nice brunch dish, or it could be eaten as a lunch or dinner.

SWEET APPLE OMELET (omelet con mele) Makes 2-4 servings

2 medium Golden Delicious, Rome, or Empire apples
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tablespoon grappa (I used Amaretto instead)
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon honey
4-5 large eggs
Confectioner's sugar, for dusting

Peel and core the apples, cut them into quarters, then cut the quarters into slices. Heat a large saute pan over medium heat and add the olive oil, followed by the apples. Saute the apples until they just begin to turn soft, translucent, and tender, about 5 minutes. Add the sugar and the cinnamon to the pan, shaking to coat the apples. Remove the pan from the heat and slowly add the grappa, then return the pan to low heat and let the apple mixture simmer for 2 to 3 minutes to cook off the alcohol and tenderize the apples.

In a small saucepan, melt 1 tablespoon butter over low heat; do not allow it to bubble. Add the honey and swirl the pan to combine the butter and honey thouroughly (I did this in the microwave). Set the pan aside, off the heat. Have ready a serving plate dusted with confectioner's sugar.

Crack the eggs into a medium bowl and whisk them until the yolks and whites are combined. In a nonstick 10" omelet pan, melt the remaining 1 tablespoon butter over med heat, swirling it around to coat the bottom completely. When the butter begins to bubble, add the eggs. Use a fork or spatula to pull any cooked egg toward the center of the pan while tilting the pan to move uncooked egg to the edges. Continue moving the eggs around gently until all the eggs are cooked, 2 to 3 minutes. Very quickly, spoon some of the cooked apples into the center of the omelet in a straight line spanning the diameter of the omelet. Shake the pan to loosen the omelet completely, then fold one side of the omelet over the apples.

Quickly slide the omelet onto the sugar-dusted serving plate, folding it over on top of itself with the edge of the pan or spatula. Immediately drizzle the warm honey-butter mixture evenly over the surface of the omelet, then dust it with confectioner's sugar.

Serve immediately, cutting the omelet into 2 large halves or 4 smaller quarters.

July 15, 2008

PARMESAN BLACK-PEPPER BISCOTTI

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We have family visiting for the next couple of weeks, and I wanted to have some type of savory on hand to enjoy with a glass of wine in the evenings. I wanted something that could be made ahead and stored for at least a week. I found a lovely recipe on epicurious.com. I altered the recipe somewhat-I added fresh chopped rosemary to the dough, and prepared the dough in a food processor, making it much simpler. I love the bite of the pepper and the saltiness of the parmesan, and they will be wonderful with a glass of red wine. And they can be kept in an airtight container for 2 weeks.

The process:

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UNBAKED BISCOTTI AFTER FORMED INTO LOGS

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BAKED BISCOTTI LOGS BEFORE CUTTING INTO SLICES


PARMESAN BLACK-PEPPER BISCOTTI Makes 5-6 dz biscotti

1 1/2 Tbsp whole black peppercorns (or you can use the mix of 3 colors)
4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/2 tsp salt
1 to 2 Tbsp minced fresh rosemary
4 1/2 oz Parmigiano-Reggiano, finely grated (2 1/4 cups) *see note below
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes
4 large eggs
1 cup whole milk

Put oven racks in upper and lower thirds of oven and preheat to 350 degrees.

Coursely grind peppercorns either with morter and pestle or in an electric coffee/spice grinder.

In a food processor, pulse until blended the flour, baking powder, salt, 2 cups cheese, and 1 tablespoon ground black pepper. Add the cubed butter, and pulse until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Whisk 3 eggs with milk and pour into tube feed, pulsing until a soft dough forms.

Turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and quarter dough. Using well-floured hands, form each piece into a slightly flattened 12" long log (about 2 inches wide and 3/4 inches high). Transfer logs to 2 ungreased large baking sheets, arranging logs about 3 inches apart.

Whisk remaining egg and brush some over logs, then sprinkle tops of logs evenly with remaining 1/4 cup cheese and 1/2 tablespoon ground pepper. Bake, rotating sheets 180 degrees and switching position of sheets halfway through baking, until logs are pale golden and firm, about 30 minutes total. Cool logs to warm on sheets on a rack, about 10 minutes.

Reduce oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Carefully transfer one warm log to a cutting board and cut diagonally into 1/2' thick slices with a serrated knife. Arrange slices, cut sides down, in 1 layer on a baking sheet. Repeat with remaining logs, transferring slices to sheets. Bake, turning over once, until golden and crisp, 40-50 minutes total. Cool biscotti on baking sheets on racks, about 15 minutes.

*I grate my parmesan by pulsing in a food processor with the metal blade. Place the parmesan, which has been broken into chunks, into the processor, then beging by pulsing, until chunks are beginning to break down, then leave turned on until the parmesan is completely grated and no large pieces remain. Much easier than grating by hand!


July 19, 2008

HONEY-ORANGE-PISTACHIO ICE CREAM

Okay, in 3 weeks the Sunday Slow Bakers become the Sunday Slow Scoopers. Too many people got tired of turning the ovens on when it was over 100 degrees outside. That sure hasn't been the case this summer in Alaska. In fact, in Anchorage, it has only hit 70 degrees twice this summer. But that doesn't stop Alaskans from eating ice cream. In fact, Alaskans eat more ice cream per capita than any other state.

For our Sunday Slow Scoopers, we are going to use the book The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz. I ordered it from Amazon, but before it arrived I decided to make ice cream to go with the Citrus Polenta Cake which will be posted tomorrow. I had a book called Ice Creams & Sorbets by Lou Seibert Pappas that I had never tried anything from. Well, what a nice book it is. Small, but with delicious-sounding ice creams. For the cake, I decided to try the Honey-Orange-Pistachio Ice Cream. I can't show you a photo, because I forgot to take one. This was a really good ice cream. The flavor of the honey really shines, so be sure to use a good one. You can also really taste the Gand Marnier in it. I served it with the cake, and then had to go out of town. A week later there was still some in the freezer, and I wondered if it would be icy. Not at all. In fact, it was even better than when I first made it. The flavors had mellowed out, and blended beautifully. Here's the recipe:

Honey-Orange-Pistachio Ice Cream Makes about 1 quart

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2/3 cup (3 ounces) pistachios (I used the roasted, salted ones)
2 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
2 tablespoons grated orange zest
2 cups half and half or milk (I used whole milk)
4 large eggs
2/3 cup honey
1 cup heavy (whipping) cream
2 tablespoons Cointreau, Grand Marnier, or other orange liqueur (optional)

Prepare a large bowl or pan of ice water.

In a small skillet, melt the butter over medium heat. Add the nuts, and sprinkle with the 2 tablespoons sugar. Cook, stirring continuously, until the nuts are toasted and caramelized, about 2 minutes. Set aside to cool.

In a small bowl, mash the zest with the remaining 1 teaspoon sugar to release the oils. In the top of a double boiler, heat the half-and-half over simmering water until steaming. In a bowl, whisk the egg yolks until blended, then whisk in the honey and sugared zest. Whisk in about half of the hot half-and-half and pour the yolk mixture into the pan of half-and half. Stir and cook over simmering water until the custard coats the back of a silicone spatula or spoon, about 10 minutes. Immediately place the custard pan in the ice bath and stir the custard occasionally until it cools to room temperature. Transfer to a container and stir in the cream. Cover and refrigerate until thoroughly chilled, about 3 hours.

Freeze in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. When the ice cream is almost frozen, spoon in the liqueur, if desired, and churn until blended in, about 1 minute more. Add the nuts and churn until blended in, about 15 seconds more. Transfer to a container, cover, and freeze until firm, about 2 hours.

July 20, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-CITRUS-GLAZED POLENTA CAKE

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Another Sunday, another Sunday Slow Bakers recipe. We're down to our last 3 choices from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This cake uses polenta, giving it a unique texture. I liked the citrusy flavor of this cake, but had some issues with the cake. I had to cook it at least 10 minutes longer than the called for time to get the center of the cake cooked. Then, after removal from the oven, the center fell, which meant that way too much glaze accumulated in the center of the cake. Because of the extra baking time, it was a little dry around the outside of the cake. I'm not sure what I might have done to create these issues. I served it with the delicious Honey-Orange-Pistachio Ice Cream that I wrote about yesterday.

CITRUS-GLAZED POLENTA CAKE (torta di polenta con agrumi)
Makes one 9" cake, approx. 10 servings

1 1/2 cups plus 1 Tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting the pan
1 lemon
1 lime
1 orange
3/4 cup instant or fine polenta
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups confectioners' sugar

Preheat over to 325 degrees and position a rack in the center. Lightly grease a 9" springform pan with butter or nonstick cooking spray, dust the pan with flour, and tap to knock out the excess. Grate the zest from the lemon, lime, and orange, setting the zests aside for the cake batter and reserving the fruit for the glaze.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, polenta, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the eggs and granulated sugar together on med-high speed until they are pale yellow and have tripled in volume, 3 to 4 minutes. Beat in reserved citrus zests.

Alternate adding the dry ingredients and the olive oil to the egg mixture; begin with one third of the dry ingredients, then add half the oil, followed by another third of the dry ingredients, beating only until each addition is incorporated. Stop the mixer and briefly scrape down the sides of the bowl. Beat in the remaining olive oil, followed by the last third of the dry ingredients.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan and smooth the top with a spatula. Bake the cake for 25 to 30 minutes, rotating it 180 degrees halfway through the baking time to ensure even browning. The cake is down when it springs back lightly when touched and pulls away from the sides of the pan, and when a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool the cake in the pan on a rack for 12 to 15 minutes, then carefully remove the sides of the pan and allow the cake to cool completely.

While the cake is cooling, make the glaze: Sift 2 cups confectioners' sugar into a large bowl. Squeeze 1 tablespoon of juice from each of the reserved citrus fruits. Add the citrus juices to the bowl and whisk until smooth. If the glaze seems too thick, add a few drops and whisk until smooth. If the glaze seems too thick, add a few drops of water until it falls easily from a spoon. Drizzle the glaze over the cooled cake and allow it to set until it is completely dry.

Carefully remove the bottom of the springform pan with an offset spatula and tranfer the cake to a serving plate. If desired, dust the cake with additional confectioner's sugar before serving. Any leftover cake may be wrapped in plastic and served the following the day.

OSSO BUCO-STYLE HALIBUT AND WHIPPED POTATOES WITH HERBS

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Today I wanted to feature a recipe that I've made a couple of times and just love. It's a recipe that if you see, you might not make because it is different than how you would normally think of the dish. Osso Buco is normally made with veal shanks, and is a rich, very filling dish. When I came across this recipe at Epicurious, I was intrigued. The sauce is made lighter than the traditional sauce by using orange juice and lemon grass. The sauce is so flavorful, I could eat it atop many things. This is a nice recipe for a dinner party, because you can make the sauce ahead. Don't forget the gremolata (like I always do!)-it really adds a spark to the dish.

Osso Buco-Style Halibut and Whipped Potatoes with Herbs Makes 6 servings

2 tablespoons olive oil
1/2 medium onion, chopped
3/4 cup chopped celery
3/4 cup chopped peeled carrot
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 cup white wine
4 cups chicken stock or canned low-salt chicken broth
1 cup crushed tomatoes in puree (from 15-ounce can)
1/2 cup freshly squeezed orange juice
1/3 cup chopped lemongrass* (from about 3 stalks)
1/4 cup soy sauce
4 fresh thyme sprigs
1 bay leaf
6 5-ounce halibut fillets
Cayenne pepper
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
2 tablespoons (1/4 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
Whipped Potatoes with Herbs (see following recipe)
Gremolata (see following recipe)

Heat 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Add onion, celery, carrot and garlic; sauté until brown, about 10 minutes. Add tomato paste and cook 2 minutes. Add white wine and simmer until liquid is reduced by half, scraping up browned bits, about 5 minutes. Add next 7 ingredients; simmer until mixture is reduced to 3 cups, about 50 minutes. Discard bay leaf. Season sauce with salt and pepper.
Preheat oven to 350°F.
Sprinkle halibut with salt, pepper and cayenne pepper. Heat remaining 1 tablespoon oil in heavy large skillet over high heat. Add fish to skillet and cook until brown, about 2 minutes per side. Transfer fish to plate. Pour off oil from skillet. Reduce heat to low. Add balsamic vinegar to skillet; simmer 1 minute. Add sauce. Whisk in butter. Season with salt and pepper. Pour sauce into 13x9x2-inch glass baking dish. Place fish atop sauce in dish. Bake until fish is opaque in center, about 10 minutes.
Divide potatoes among 6 plates. Top potatoes with fish and sauce. Sprinkle with Gremolata and serve immediately.

Whipped Potatoes with Herbs

1 1/2 pounds russet potatoes, peeled, quartered
5 garlic cloves
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, room temperature, cut into pieces
1/2 cup chopped mixed fresh herbs (such as basil, parsley, and chives)
Cook potatoes and garlic in large saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 25 minutes. Drain well. Return potatoes and garlic to pot.
Using handheld electric mixer, beat potato mixture at low speed until smooth. Add butter; beat until melted and smooth. Increase speed and whip potatoes just until light and fluffy. Stir in herbs. Season with salt and pepper; serve.

Gremolata

1 lemon
1/4 cup finely chopped fresh parsley
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped

Using vegetable peeler, remove peel in long strips from lemon. Mince lemon peel. Transfer to small bowl. Mix in parsley and garlic. (Can be made 6 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)


July 21, 2008

Salad with White Nectarines, Proscuitto, and Brown Sugar Croutons

I fixed this salad for the dinner where I served the Osso Buco-Style Halibut. I made the salad up, so I don't have any specific recipes. And I forgot to take a photo, but I enjoyed it so much I wanted to post it. I was in Anaheim this week and ate dinner one evening at Brennon's in Downtown Disney. The salad I ordered had brown sugar croutons on top. They had a hint of sweetness, but were not overly sweet. So I decided I would make a salad that would be good with the croutons. I cut a loaf of Pulgase bread into small cubes, tossed with olive oil, sea salt, and black pepper. I spread these out on a cookie sheet, then sprinkled brown sugar on top (not too much). I baked in a 350 degree oven, stirring occasionally, until browned and crunchy. I then took some proscuitto, chopped it up into small pieces, and cooked in a hot skillet until crispy. For the dressing, I combined Champagne vinegar, raspberry vinegar(a variety from France that is thick with pureed raspberries,dijon mustard, salt, pepper, and olive oil. I used baby greens, then drizzled with some dressing. Then I topped with the proscuitto bits, sliced white nectarines, and topped with the croutons. YUM!!!

July 22, 2008

ITALIAN PLUM TART

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I love almond flavor, and I have found the perfect tart to highlight that flavor. This recipe came from the book "Bringing Tuscany Home" by Fances Mayes and the recipe is by Nancy Silverton. I've made it using the plums it calls for, and also substituting apricots. It would also be good with pears. The filling is made with ingredients you would be likely to have on hand, and it turns out good every time.

Italian Plum Tart
1 recipe sweet pastry dough
2 pounds Italian Prune plums, pitted and quartered
1 egg
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 1/2 tablespoons all purpose flour, sifted
1/2 stick (2 ounces) unsalted butter
1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
2 teaspoons almond extract
6 tablespoons almond meal (blanched and finely ground almonds)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Adjust rack to middle position.

Roll out the sweet pastry dough on a lightly floured surface to a thickness of 1/8 to 1/4 inch. Butter a 10 x 1 inch flan ring and line it with the dough. (I use a 10" tart pan with removeable bottom.)

Whisk together the egg and sugar until combined. Beat in the flour until well mixed. Set aside.

In a small saucepan, heat the butter and vanilla bean over high heat until brown and foamy. Continue heating until the bubbles subside and the butter is dark brown and smoking and gives off a nutty aroma. Whisking continuously, pour the hot butter in a steady stream into the egg mixture, combining well. Remove the vanilla bean. Stir int he almond extract and almond meal, mixing well.

Spread the brown butter mixture evenly over the bottom of the tart shell, using the back of a spoon. Starting at the outside edge of the shell, place the plums on their sides in concentric circles, completely covering the surface. Arrange a few pieces in the center to fill in the gaps.

Bake for 50 to 60 minutes, until the crust is light brown and the filling is almost set. The tart may seem a bit juicy when you take it out of the oven, but it will firm up as it cools.

Sweet Pastry Dough
1 cup plus 6 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 inch cubes and frozen
1 extra-large egg yolk
2 tablespoons heavy cream

In a food processor with steel blade, combine flour and sugar and pulse on low. Add the butter and pulse on and off, until the dough barely comes together.

In a small bowl, whisk together the egg yolk and cream. Add to the butter mixture and pulse a few times until the dough barely comes together.

Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dip the heel of your hand in flour and, working with small sections, smear the dough away from you to blend it. When the dough has been all smeared out, using a metal scraper or spatula, scrape and gather it together. Gently knead and gather into a ball. Flatten into a disk, wrap in plastic, and chill at least 2 hours, until firm.

July 27, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-TARALLI WITH RED PEPPER AND OREGANO

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Only one week left of the Sunday Slow Bakers cooking from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano. This week was my choice, and I wanted to choose a savory item. Gina describes these crunchy, curly biscuits as the Italian version of a pretzel.

I'm not going to type the recipe here, as it is quite long. But here are the steps:
Mix flour, salt, sugar, oregano, & red pepper flakes in a mixer. Add olive oil and white wine. Beat until a dough is formed. After the dough has rested for 2 hours, you divide the dough and roll into long ropes. You cut those in lengths, then form them into their ring shape. You then drop them into simmering water, much like you would a bagel. After they cook and float to the surface, you drain them and place on a baking sheet. You then bake until golden brown. The cooking time was supposed to be 25 minutes, but I had to cook them over twice that length to get them done in the middle.

The results were not what I expected. Although they are kindof crunchy, it's not the dry crunch of a pretzel like we are used to. They are not dry inside. Not soft and doughy, but not dry and crunchy. I won't make them again (unless other SSBs have different results), but I have to say, the flavor is very addictive. I do love the heat from the red pepper flakes, and the taste you get from the olive oil and the wine. This is one recipe that I am especially anxious to read about the results that other slow bakers have had.

Only one week left for Dolce Italiano, and we decided we would transition into our Sunday Slow Scoopers by making a frozen concoction-Toasted Almond Gelato.

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-TARALLI WITH RED PEPPER AND OREGANO

Okay, I'm amending my comments about the taralli. After reading several other SSB blogs, I have decided that my Taralli came out as they were supposed to, or at least close. I thought they would be dry and crunchy like a pretzel. But Palma gave me a description that best fits them-more like the flaky-crunchy edge of a pie crust. I knew that the flavor was addictive to me, and that mine are all gone and it was me that ate almost all of them. But I kept telling myself they weren't good since they weren't what I expected. I will try this recipe again, and will order 00 flour to make these with. I think that probably does make a difference in this recipe.

July 30, 2008

DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE-FILBERT GATEAU WITH PRALINE BUTTERCREAM, A CAROL WALTER RECIPE

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Okay, I'm enjoying my cooking and blogging so much I decided to take on a new challenge-Daring Bakers. This is another baking group on the web where a recipe is chosen monthly, then we blog about the results. This is a more challenging group of recipes. In past months, they've made Opera Cake, Danish Braid, and other difficult recipes. They have very strict rules-the person who choses the recipe tells you what substitutions/changes are allowed, you make it anytime during the month, but are not allowed to post about it until the chosen date towards the end of the month. You're not even allowed to discuss what the month's challenge is.

This month's challenge was Filbert Gateau with Praline Buttercream. You were allowed to use a different nut, and a different buttercream. But the buttercream had to be praline. You could also use any kind of fruit glaze, and decorate it however you wanted, as long as the buttercream was used in the decoration. It could be made smaller, but had to be round and couldn't be cupcakes. Since I knew the cake would already be a lot of work, I didn't want to use hazelnuts (filberts) because I didn't want to go to the trouble of skinning them. So I decided to make my variety using almonds, with a raspberry glaze. The liquors in my cake would be Amaretto and Chambord.

I decided to make this on July 4th, because I was home by myself and it was supposed to be cool. It didn't end up being cool, and my house got up to 76 degrees inside. Maybe that was why I had trouble with my buttercream. I know it's a lot colder here in Alaska than other places, and it probably didn't even top 70 degrees, but when you have lots of south facing windows in your house and no air conditioner, it can get quite warm inside. Enough about the weather, and back to the cake. I started the morning by making as many of the components ahead as I could. I made the cake layer (which is later split into 3 layers), which didn't cause me any trouble. You do have to have all of your ingredients ready to go though, and work quickly. This was a very sturdy cake to work with. I made the sugar syrup, the raspberry glaze, and the praline paste. No problems with any of these, except the praline took a LOT longer than the recipe said it would. I then decided I would make the entire cake that day. I was planning on making the components the first day and assembling it the next, but things were going well and I decided I should go ahead and complete it. Next came the buttercream. Another poster on the Daring Bakers website said this was a pretty easy buttercream to make. They said it did kind of curdle when you added the liquor, but then it came back together. I've made true Swiss Buttercream twice before, and it is not my favorite thing to make. Today just added to my dislike. I did have trouble with it. I think it got too hot, and it was curdled looking and wouldn't come together. I put it in the fridge for a while and rebeat it, and finally got it to come together. The praline paste and Amaretto were then added to it. The instructions said to set aside 1 cup for decorating the top of the cake, which I discovered later was not near enough.

Here's the process I went through:

The baked genoise:
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The buttercream in its "curdled state" as I'm trying to get it to cooperate:
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The split cake layers as the praline buttercream is being spread in between:
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The filled cake layers awaiting their raspberry glaze:
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After the cake was glazed with the raspberry jam and chilled, the Ganache Glaze was poured over. That process was fine. Then the problems began-the decorating. First of all, my reserved 1 cup of praline buttercream wasn't enough. I discovered that when I was halfway through piping rosettes on top. No scraping those off a ganache glaze and redoing. Then my buttercream began breaking down and running (yes, running!) down the sides of my cake. I wasn't serving this cake at a special occasion or anything, but darn it, I wanted it to turn out perfect. So into the fridge to harden up, as I'm trying to soak up the runs with the edge of a paper towel. After a while in the fridge, I quickly finished piping the rosettes, then came up with an idea to help cover the problem-I used toasted slice almonds to edge the rosettes. Helped cover up some of the mess. That, and turning the cake away from the camera the best I could to hide those few runs.

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I had to try a slice the evening I made it. It was good, with the interesting texture a gateau cake has. And the praline buttercream did taste very good. I froze the cake, and liked it even better a few weeks later. Buttercream was even more flavorful. But after a full day of working on the cake, with the problems I encountered, I was thinking that sometimes the best cake is that easy, old fashioned cake with a fluffy easy icing swirled into a nice homemade-looking design.

I've decided not to type the recipe. It's just too long. Recipe for the Genoise, recipe for the sugar syrup flavored with liquor, recipe for the Praline Paste, recipe for the Swiss Buttercream, recipe for the Praline Buttercream, recipe for the Fruit Glaze, recipe for the Ganache Glaze, then the instructions for assembling it all. I think you might be agreeing with me that that Old-fashioned chocolate cake, or Carrot Cake with Cream Cheese icing is sounding pretty good...But, it is called Daring Bakers, and I'm glad I completed the challenge!

August 3, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-TOASTED ALMOND GELATO

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This is the last week that the Sunday Slow Bakers will officially be cooking from Dolce Italiano, the wonderful dessert cookbook written by Gina DePalma. I know that all of us have really enjoyed the recipes we have tried, and have enjoyed feeling like we have gotten to know Gina a little through her writings and recipes. I will continue to try new recipes from the book I have as of yet to make, and will continue to make recipes I've tried and loved, such as the Lemony Semolina Cookies and the Sicilian Pistachio Bars to name just two.

As we transition to our next book, The Perfect Scoop, and become Sunday Slow Scoopers, one of the members suggested that we try one of Gina's Gelato recipes. So this week I made Toasted Almond Gelato. This was a very easy recipe to make. I did make one change from the recipe. I had some leftover Almond Praline Paste that was used in my Swiss Buttercream from my Daring Bakers challenge, so I added that to the mixture at the end. This was a great gelato. It has a really nice almond flavor. Also, because it does not contain egg yolks, it is less rich than many of the ice creams I've made. The addition of the Praline Paste made it even better-with the bits of that intense praline flavor throughout, heightening the almond flavor even more. Dig out your ice cream makers and give this a try, and get ready for more great ice cream, gelato, and sorbet recipes to come.


TOASTED ALMOND GELATO Makes about 2 cups
gelato di mandorle

1 cup sliced blanched almonds
1 cup heavy cream
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
1 heaping tablespoon flavorful honey, such as clover or millifiori
Pinch of kosher salt
2 teaspoons amaretto
1/4 teaspoon pure almond extract

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Spread the almonds in a single layer on a clean baking sheet and toast them for 12 to 14 minutes, or until they are golden brown and aromatic.

Remove the almonds from the oven and place them in a medium saucepan. Add the heavy cream, milk, sugar, and honey and place over medium heat, stirring occasionally.

When the mixture comes to a boil, remove the saucepan from the heat and set aside to infuse the liquid with the flavor of the almonds.

Allow the mixture to cool to room temperature, then strain it through a chinois ro fine-meshed sieve and discard the almonds. Stir in the salt, amaretto, and almond extract.

Chill the gelato thoroughly in a covered container, at least 3 to 4 hours. Freeze it in an ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

August 11, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS-BUTTERSCOTCH PECAN ICE CREAM

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BUTTERSCOTCH PECAN ICE CREAM WITH PEACH PECAN BARS

I'm glad I didn't skip the first week of Sunday Slow Scoopers, because this ice cream was wonderful! Very rich, great butterscotch flavor, and salty pecans. What a combination. And when Deborah said that she was going to try to make an accompaniment to go with the ice cream each week, I decided that was a great idea. (At least this week-not sure I can keep that up every week!). So to accompany the Butterscotch Pecan Ice Cream, I chose Peach Pecan Bars. I'm not sure where this recipe came from. I had printed it off, so it likely came from Epicurious. The title was Apricot Walnut Bars, but I decided to make a few substitutions. These were quick bars to make, with a nice buttery crust and the crunch of pecans on top. I would suggest making the ice cream, the bars, or both! They were both very easy to make.

Butterscotch Pecan Ice Cream Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

5 tablespoons butter, salted or unsalted
3/4 cup packed dark brown sugar
1/2 tsp coarse salt
2 cups heavy cream
3/4 cup whole milk
6 large egg yolks
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
1 tbsp Scotch whiskey
Buttered Pecans (see recipe below), coarsely chopped

Melt butter in medium saucepan, then stir in the brown sugar and salt until well moistened. Whisk in 1 cup of the cream and milk.

Warm this mixture on the stove over med heat. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour warm brown sugar mixture into egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour mixture through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Add the vanilla and scotch , then stir until cool over ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refridgerator, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the Buttered Pecans.

Buttered Pecans
1 1/2 tbsp. butter
1 1/2 cups pecan halves
1/4 tsp coarse salt

Preheat over to 350F(175C). Melt butter in skillet. Toss pecans until well coated, then sprinkle with salt. Spread evenly on baking sheet and toast in oven for about 10 minutes, stirring once during baking.

PEACH PECAN BARS
1 1/3 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) cold unsalted butter, cut into tablespoon pieces
2 large egg yolks
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup peach preserves
3/4 cup chopped pecans

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 425 degrees. Butter a 9" square baking pan and line with 1 sheet of foil, leaving a 2" overhand on 2 opposite sides, then butter foil.

Pulse flour, sugar, cinnamon, and salt in a food processor until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles course meal with some roughly pea-size butter lumps. Add yolks and vanilla and pulse just until clumps of dough form, about 30 seconds.

Press three fourths of dough evenly onto bottom of pan, then spread with peach preserves. Crumble remaining dough over preserves and sprinkle evenly with pecans.

Bake until top is golden brown and preserves are bubbling, 20 to 25 minutes. Cool in pan on a rack. Lift from pan by grasping both ends of foil. Cut into 32 bars and lift bars off foil with spatula.

August 14, 2008

SHRIMP CAKES WITH CHILI-LIME SAUCE

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I wanted to make something a little different for dinner using shrimp, and I remembered a recipe that I had seen on Epicurious for Shrimp Cakes. These were really tasty. I baked them instead of frying them(just drizzled a little olive oil the tops first, and baked at 325 degrees until browned and cooked through. For making the cakes, I followed the directions and chopped up the shrimp in a food processor, but next time I will do as others suggested and chop the shrimp by hand, giving more texture to the cakes. The store was also out of panko, so I had to use regular bread crumbs (the kind in a can, plain (not the Italian flavor).

I am including the sauce recipe here that was on Epicurious, but that is not what I made. I wanted to save some calories, so here's what a did: I mixed a couple of large tablespoons of fat free mayo with a large tablespoon light sour cream, some lime infused olive oil, chili sauce, ginger, shallot, and fresh lime juice. I didn't measure anything, so you'd just need to do it by taste. But it was good, and it was nice not using 3/4 stick of butter.

I served these with a simple salad of mixed lettuces, pears, goat cheese, and a vinagrette made with sherry balsamic vinegar and olive oil.

SHRIMP CAKES WITH CHILI LIME CREAM SAUCE Makes 6 first-course servings

16 uncooked large shrimp (about 1 pound), peeled, deveined
1 large egg
1 green onion, sliced
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
1 tablespoon minced fresh cilantro
1/2 tsp hot pepper sauce
1/2 tsp salt
Pinch of ground black pepper
2 cups panko(Japanese breadcrumbs)

2 tablespoons (or more) peanut oil

Coursely chop shrimp in food processor. Add egg, green onion, lemon juice, mustard, cilantro, hot pepper sauce, salt and pepper. Blend using on/off turns. Add 1 cup panko and blend in using on/off turns. Form mixture into 12 3" diameter cakes. Roll cakes in remaining 1 cup panko;transfer to waxed-paper lined baking sheet. Refrigerate 10 mintues. (Can be made up to 4 hours ahead. Cover and refrigerate.)

Heat 2 tablespoons peanut oil in heavy large skillet over med high heat. Working in batches, fry cakes until cooked through and golden brown on both sides, adding more oil to skillet as needed, about 6 minutes. Spoon 3 tablespoons Chili-Lime Cream Sauce onto each of 6 plates. Place 2 shrimp cakes on each and serve immediately.

CHILI-LIME CREAM SAUCE Makes about 2/3 cup.
1/4 cup dry white wine
1/4 cup fresh lime juice
1 tablespoon chopped peeled fresh ginger
1 tablespoon minced shallot
1/3 cup whipping cream
2 tablespoons chili-garlic sauce
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temp, cut into 1/2" pieces

Combine first 4 ingredients in heavy small saucepan. Boil over high heat until reduced by half, about 3 minutes. Add cream and boil until reduced by half, about 2 minutes. Reduce heat to low. Mix in chili-garlic sauce. Add butter, 1 piece at a time, whisking just until melted before adding next piece.

August 17, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS-TIRAMISU ICE CREAM (AND TRIBUTE-TO-KATHERINE HEBBURN BROWNIES)

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This week, Krista chose Triamisu for our ice cream choice of the week. I am really liking David Lebovitz's book "The Perfect Scoop". The ice creams I have tried are all great. I was really looking forward to this one, because when my husband and I were in Italy last year, Tiramisu was his favorite flavor. This was expensive to make, at least to purchase the ingredients here in Alaska. One package of mascarpone cheese was over $5, and I needed two. So that, along with the half and half, and the Kahula, did add up, but it was worth it. If you like mascarpone cheese, you will love this ice cream. It tastes just like regular Tiramisu. It was very quick and easy to make, since there is no cooking (except for the Mocha Ripple). When churning in my Kitchenaid ice cream maker, the base didn't freeze up as hard as it normally does, so it did need to freeze overnight before serving.

I wanted to make something chocolatey to go with this ice cream, and chose a recipe for brownies from Dorie Greenspan's Baking from my home to yours. It is said that these brownies are similar to ones made by Katherine Hepburn, and that the key is to use just a small amount of flour. I loved the flavor (they contain some cinnamon), and they were very soft and gooey, almost like a fudge. I cooked them for 30 minutes as called for, but next time will cook for at least 5 minutes longer-the middle ones couldn't even be served as a brownie, as you had to scoop them up with a spoon! Served cold from the fridge, they were almost like fudge.

TIRAMISU ICE CREAM Makes about 1 1/4 quarts

2 cups mascarpone
1 cup half and half
2/3 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup coffee-flavored liquer, such as Kahlua
3 tablespoons brandy or dark rum
Mocha Ripple(see below)

Puree the mascarpone, half and half, sugar, salt, liqueur, and brandy together in a blender or food processor until smooth and the sugar is dissolved. Chill thorougly in the refrigerator.

Freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. As you remove it from the machine, alternate layers of Mocha Ripple with the frozen ice cream in the storage container.

MOCHA RIPPLE
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup light corn syrup
1/2 cup strongly brewed espresso (or use 1/2 cup water and stir in 1 Tablespoon best-quality instant coffee granules after you boil the mixture)
6 Tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Whisk together the sugar, corn syrup, water, and cocoa powder in a medium saucepan. Heat over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture begins to bubble at the edges.

Continue to whisk until it just comes to a low boil. Cook for 1 minute, whisking frequently. Remove from the heat, stir in the vanilla, and let cool. Chill in the refrigerator before using.

TRIBUTE TO KATHARINE HEPBURN BROWNIES

1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon(optional)
1/4 tsp salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into 8 pieces
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp finely ground instant coffee
2 large eggs
1 cup sugar
1 tsp pure vanilla extract
1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
4 oz bittersweet chocolate, coursely chopped

Put oven rack in middle of oven and preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter a 8" square pan and line the bottom with parchment paper. Butter the paper, dust the inside of pan with flour, and tap out the excess. Place pan on a baking sheet.

Whisk flour, cinnamon, and salt together.

Put the butter in a med saucepan and place over low heat. When butter starts to melt, sift the cocoa over it and add the instant coffee. Continue to cook, stirring, until the butter is melted and the cocoa and coffee are blended into it. Remove from heat and cool for about 3 minutes.

Using a whisk or rubber spatula, beat the eggs into the saucepan one at a time. Next, stir in the sugar and vanilla(don't beat too vigorously), followed by the dry ingredients, nuts and dropped chocolate. Scrape the batter into the pan.

Bake for 30 minutes, at which point the brownies will still be gooey but the top will have a dry papery crust. Transfer the pan to a rack and let the brownies cool for at least 30 mintues.

Turn out onto a rack, peel away the paper and invert onto a cutting board. Cool completely before cutting into 16 squares, each approx. 2" on a side.

August 19, 2008

LAMB BURGER PITAS WITH GOLDEN BEET AND ORANGE SALAD

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As I was flying home from Fairbanks this evening, I was thinking about what I would make for dinner. It had been a beautiful day in Fairbanks, and even though I thought it was cloudy in Anchorage, I thought it might be a good night for grilling. I remembered when I read Jerry's posting about Grilled Lamb Burger Roll-ups. I didn't have the recipe with me, so just guessed what was in them as I stopped at the store on the way home. I did buy a few wrong items, so changed the recipe some. Instead of cracker bread or flour tortillas, I used Greek-syle soft pitas. So these were more like gyros. Also, I didn't use hummus or spinach. I used some peppers from the olive bar, a mixture of feta/olives, and also made some tziki (yogurt, onion, cucumber, dill, salt, pepper). These had great flavor, were fast, and were something different than I've ever made. I will most certainly be making them again.

I also wanted to serve a salad, and last week I recieved Golden Beets in my CSA shipment. So I drizzled the unpeeled beets with a little olive oil, and wrapped them up in foil, and roasted them at 400 degrees until soft. I then sectioned a couple of oranges. I used the juice squeezed from the orange membranes, along with a little clementine olive oil and white balsamic to make a dressing. Mixed the orange sections, roasted beets, a little arugula, and the dressing for a nice salad.

Here's Jerry's recipe, which was from an old Better Homes and Garden magazine.

Grilled Lamb Burger Roll-Ups

1 beaten egg
3 tablespoons fine dry bread crumbs
2 tablespoons snipped fresh oregano
2 cloves garlic, minced
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1 pound lean ground lamb
2 14- to 15-inch soft cracker bread rounds or four 7- to 8-inch flour tortillas
1/3 cup prepared hummus (garbanzo bean spread)
4 cups torn spinach or red-tipped leaf lettuce
1/4 cup crumbled feta cheese
3 tablespoons sliced pitted kalamata or ripe olives

In a large bowl combine egg, bread crumbs, oregano, garlic, salt, pepper, and 1 tablespoon water. Add lamb; mix well. Form into eight 4-inch-long logs.

Grill lamb on the rack of an uncovered grill directly over medium coals for 14 to 18 minutes or until lamb is no longer pink, turning once.

Meanwhile, spread the cracker bread or tortillas with hummus. Sprinkle with spinach or lettuce, feta cheese, and olives. If using cracker bread, place 4 lamb pieces, end to end, near an edge of each round. Roll up, beginning with edge closest to lamb. Slice each roll-up diagonally in fourths. (If using tortillas, place 2 lamb pieces, end to end, on each tortilla. Roll up. Slice each roll-up diagonally in half.) Makes 4 servings.

August 24, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS-PINA COLADA SHERBET

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Another Sunday, another Sunday Slow Scoopers. This week the choice was Pina Colada Sherbet. I was really looking forward to this weeks choice, because I love both pineapple and coconut. This was an extremely easy sherbet to make-cut up pineapple, place in blender along with coconut milk, sugar, rum, and lime juice, puree, chill and freeze. How much easier could it be?

PINA COLADA SHERBET Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

1 pineapple, peeled and cored (4 cups)
1 cup sugar
1 cup Thai coconut milk
1 tablespoon dark rum
1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lime juice

Cut the pineapple into chunks. Puree in a blender with the sugar, coconut milk, rum, and lime juice untikl smooth. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

August 28, 2008

CINDY'S FISH SOUP

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I created a recipe for fish soup several years ago to use the odds and ends pieces of halibut, ling cod, and rock fish that we end up with after cutting the fish we catch into nice fillets. I wanted a healthy tomato based soup that was fast to make. I usually have all of the ingredients to make this on hand, except for the fennel, which my local Safeway supermarket always has. You can modify this soup in many ways, but here is basically what I do:

Cindy's Fish Soup
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3-4 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1 head fennel, chopped (this is in your produce section at the market, and might be labeled anise)
1/4 cup wine (can be white or red, whatever you have open)
2 tsp fish seasoning (can use Herbs de Provence if you can't find it-I use Dean & Deluca's)
1 15.5 oz can diced tomatoes
2 5.5 oz cans spicy V-8 juice
1 pound firm white fish, such as halibut, cod, or rock fish, cut into 1" cubes
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a large saucepan. Add the onion, fennel, and garlic, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes. Add the wine, and cook for a minute or two. Add the V-8, tomatoes, and fish seasoning. Bring to a boil, reduce heat to medium, and add the chopped fish. Season with salt and pepper. Cook until the fish is cooked through and flavors blended, about 15 minutes. Serve with slices of crusty bread that have been toasted in the oven and rubbed with a garlic clove. Variations: If you would like a spicy soup, you can add a chopped jalapeno to the onions when sauteing, or add some red pepper flakes. I've also made this with the addition of pototoes, or with chopped zucchini or yellow squash added if I want to have more veggies in it.

August 30, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - LAVENDER-HONEY ICE CREAM

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This week our selection from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop was Lavender-Honey Ice Cream. I thought that sounded like a very nice choice, since I love honey in ice cream. The recipe calls for fresh or dried lavender, which is heated with the honey and then steeped. I didn't have any lavender, and didn't want to spend hours trying to find it. But I did have a jar of a favorite honey, which happens to be lavender flavored. So that is what I used. The recipe below modifies David's recipe so that you just use the lavender honey instead of using fresh or dried lavender. That is the only variation from the recipe.

This ice cream was very good if you like the flavor of honey. It is very sweet, so probably not the best choice for those who don't like a very sweet ice cream. The lavender flavor was very subtle, and might be stronger if you used the actual lavender. This ice cream mellows out after a day or two in the freezer. I wasn't sure if chocolate would pair well with it, but I had leftover chocolate ganache in the fridge, and I heated that up and poured it over the ice cream, and the flavors really complemented each other.

Lavender-Honey Ice Cream Makes about 1 quart
1/2 cup lavender-flavored honey
1 1/2 cups whole milk
1/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks

Warm the honey, milk, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh stainer on top; set aside.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream. Cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture overnight in the refrigerator, or until completely chilled. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

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August 31, 2008

THE DARING BAKER'S AUGUST CHALLENGE - CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS

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For those of you who read my blog last month, you might remember that I joined a group called The Daring Bakers. This is on on-line group, who each month all bake a challenging recipe chosen by one of the members. They give you the recipe, and then state what modifications can be made. I thought this month might be a savory choice, but no, it was CHOCOLATE ECLAIRS. I have made pate a choux dough before (I made small puffs filled with shrimp salad and curried chicken salad as an appetizer once), but had never made eclairs. When they posted the recipe, they noted that it was from the cookbook Chocolate Desserts by Pierre Herme. I thought that sounded familiar, and after begining to look through all of the chocolate cookbooks I have, there it was! I had only made one thing from the book, and that was the Apricot and Ginger Chocolate Loaf Cake. I remember it being very good, but that was probably 5 years ago. So I was only happy to try the eclairs. This recipe has the regular pate a choux dough, a chocolate pastry cream filling, and a chocolate glaze on top. You were allowed to change either the cream filling or the glaze, but one had to stay the same. I decided to honor Pierre and make the recipe exactly as stated.

I began with the chocolate pastry cream. This consisted of bringing milk to a boil, then whisking in a mixture of egg yolks, sugar, and cornstarch. This is cooked for several minutes at a boil, then melted chocolate is stirred in. This mixture is then cooled in a ice bath. Once the mixture is cooled to a specific temperature, butter is stirred in. That completes the pastry cream. And let me tell you, it was delicious. It was hard to not keep sneaking spoonfuls out of the bowl.

Here is a photo of the pastry cream being made:
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And here is a photo of the completed chocolate pastry cream:
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Next, I made a chocolate sauce, which was one of the components in the chocolate glaze. This was made by heating bittersweet chocolate, water, heavy cream, and sugar together, bringing to a boil, then reducing the heat and cooking until thickened.

The next component was the pate a choux. When I made this in the past, every part of the mixing was done by hand, so I was glad to see a mixer played a part in this. You bring milk, water, butter, sugar and salt to a boil, and then all at once you add flour, and stir, stir, and stir. The dough comes together, and you continue stirring, cooking over medium heat for another 2 to 3 minutes. Your arm feels like it will fall off (at least mine did-maybe I need to lift more weights). Then you get to move it to a mixer (yea!) and mix in 5 eggs, one at a time, until all is incorporated.

Here's a photo of the dough before the eggs are added:
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And here's what it looks like after the eggs have been added:
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While the dough is still warm, you put it in a pastry bag, and pipe out "chubby fingers" to make the eclair shape. Some I made 4" long, as called for, and some I made more miniature. Then they bake for about 20 minutes. I somehow mistakenly turned the oven off when setting my timer, so while these were supposed to be baking at 375 degrees, I noticed my oven temperature was down to 270. I was afraid they wouldn't turn out, but I left them in the oven while I turned it back up, and cooked for the called for 20 mintues, then I reduced the heat to 350 degrees, and continued to bake until they seemed done. I did have problems with some of them deflating upon cooling, but it sounds like many who made this recipe had the same issue, and it didn't really affect the outcome.

Here's what they look like after being piped out (I didn't remember to take a photo until they were in the oven, so not the best photo):
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And here's what they looked like after baking:
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After they were baked, I made the Chocolate Glaze. For this, you bring cream to a boil, then slowly stir in chocolate until melted. Then when it has reached a specific temperature, you stir in butter, and the chocolate sauce that was made earlier. When this is at 95-104 degrees, the glaze is at its best for pourability and has a beautiful sheen.

I then cut the pastry dough in half, and filled then with the chocolate pastry cream:
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The tops were then spread with the chocolate glaze, and then placed on the filled bottoms.

Here's another finished photo, this time of the mini eclairs:
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These eclairs were very good. Both the pastry cream and the glaze used bittersweet chocolate, so they weren't overly sweet. Eclairs are not my favorite sweet, so I probably wouldn't make them again unless someone requested them, but I now know another pastry I can add to my repertoire. And the leftover chocolate sauce makes a great hot chocolate (I'm having a cup as I type!)

September 7, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - PEACH ICE CREAM

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PEACH ICE CREAM

This week our selection was peach ice cream. It's hard to get good peaches at the grocery stores in Alaska, so I ordered them from my community-supported agriculture, Full Circle Farm, in hopes that I would be able to get some very flavorful ones. I was disappointment in them this time. They were very juicy, but not very flavorful. I made the ice cream anyway, but I don't believe the flavor was as good as it would have been had my peaches been more flavorful. This is another uncooked ice cream, so very quick to make. This one called for 1/2 cup of sour cream. I was making this quickly before leaving town, and I forgot to buy sour cream. So I substituted 1/2 cup plain yogurt. The yogurt I had on had was fat free, which might have affected the texture of the ice cream a little. This ice cream was less creamy than the others I have made. Not icy, but less creamy. I served my ice cream with a topping of homemade raspberry jam, thinned with a little chambord, and toasted almonds on top. A take on peach melba. Although this ice cream was good, it was not my favorite, and with so many other wonderful ones to choose from, I probably won't make it again. But don't let that stop you from trying it.

PEACH ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart
1 1/3 pounds ripe peaches (about 4 very large peaches)
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup sour cream
1 cup heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
A few drops freshly squeezed lemon juice

Peel the peaches, slice them in half, and remove the pits. Cut the peaches into chunks and cook them with the water in a medium, nonreactive saucepan over medium heat, covered, stirring once or twice, until soft and cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, stir in the sugar, then cool to room temperature.

Puree the cooked peaches and any liquid in a blender or food processor with the sour cream, heavy cream, vanilla, and lemon juice until almost smooth but slightly chunky.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

September 13, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - PANFORTE ICE CREAM

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This week the ice cream selection was Panforte Ice Cream. For those who may not know, Panforte is an Italian cake, very dense, and flavored with spices, toasted almonds and candied orange peel. These same flavors are in this ice cream, and it is delicious. It is a very rich and creamy ice cream. The only change I made from the recipe was to add 1 tablespoon of Grand Marnier. This added a little extra flavor and kept the ice cream from freezing too hard. Give this ice cream a try-especially around holiday time when the flavors of cinnamon, cloves, and nutmeg are especially welcoming. I paired my ice cream with the Zucchini Olive Oil Cake from Dolce Italiano, which you can find on an earlier posting in my blog.

PANFORTE ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart

1 cup half and half
2/3 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick, broken in half
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
2 cups heavy cream
4 large egg yolks
3 Tablespoons full-flavored honey
1/4 cup candied citrus peel (see note below)
1/2 cup almonds, toasted and coursely chopped

Warm the half and half, sugar, and spices in a medium saucepan. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temp. for 30 minutes.

Rewarm the spice-infused mixture. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top. In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scraped the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the stainer and mix it into the cream. Discard the cinnamon stick. Stir the custard until cool over an ice bath. While it's cooling, warm the honey in a small saucepan, then stir it into the custard.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. During the last few minutes of churning, add the candied citrus peel and almonds.

Note: You can use good-quality candied peel or you can use the recipe below for Candied Citrus Peel.

CANDIED CITRUS PEEL Makes about 1 cup

4 large lemons or oranges, preferably unsprayed
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
1 Tablespoon light corn syrup
Pinch of salt

Wtih a vegetable peeler, remove strips of peel 1 inch wide from the lemons or oranges, cutting lengthwise down the fruit. Remove just the colorful outer peel, leaving behind the bitter white pith. Using a very sharp chef's knife, slice the peel lengthwilse into very thin strips no wider than a toothpick.

Put the stips into a small, nonreactive saucepan, add enough water to cover them by a few inches, and bring to a boil. Reduce to a gentle boil and cook for 15 minutes. Remove from the heat, strain the peel, and rinse with fresh water.

Combine the 2 cups water, sugar, corn syrup, and salt in the saucepan. Fit the pan with a candy thermometer and bring to a boil. Add the blanched peel, reduce the heat, and cook at a very low boil for about 25 minutes, until the thermometer reads 230 degrees F. Turn off the heat and let the peel cool in the syrup.

Once cool, lift the peel out of the syrup with a fork, letting the syrup drain away, and serve atop ice cream or sorbet.

Storage: Store the peel in the syrup, refrigerated, for up to 2 months.

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SLICING THE ORANGE PEEL INTO THIN PIECES

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COMPLETED CANDIED ORANGE PEEL

September 17, 2008

GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD

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GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD

I was having friends over for dinner last weekend, and I wanted to start with a salad. When my husband and I were in Glenn Ellen, CA last month, we had a great grilled ceasar salad. So I searched the web for a recipe, and found one on Food TV for Grilled Romaine Salad. It was terrific, and very easy to make. The recipe listed below was taken from FoodTV.com. I adapted the recipe by placing about 1/4 cup of the olive oil with lemon-infused olive oil. I also topped it with chopped tomatoes and home-made croutons. I will definately be making this again.

GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD Serves 4
2 heads romaine lettuce
Extra-virgin olive oil
Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette, recipe below
Parmigiano-Reggiano

Preheat grill to med-high.
Rinse and pat dry the lettuce. Cut the 2 heads in half lengthwise. Brush surface wtih olive oil and grill about 4 to 5 minutes total, turning occasionally. Place each wedge on a salad plate and drizzle with Citrus Caesar Vinaigrette. With a vegetable peeler, shave some pieces from a wedge of Reggiano-Parmigiano over each salad and serve.

CITRUS CAESAR VINAIGRETTE
1 clove garlic, minced
1 tablespoon grated lemon zest
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons anchovy paste
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
2/3 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Place all ingredients in a pint jar with a lid. Secure the lid, then shake to blend. Store, covered, in the refrigerator for up to a week.

September 27, 2008

DARING BAKERS SEPTEMBER CHALLENGE-LAVASH CRACKERS & TOPPINGS

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As you might know by now, I belong to on online group called Daring Bakers. Each month we have a challenge posted, and are given the recipe and told what changes we are allowed to make. There are many Alternative Daring Bakers, some Vegan, and some Gluten-free in this group. Two of the Alternative Daring Bakers made the choice this week. They chose Lavash Crackers from Peter Reinhart's The Bread Baker's Apprentice. We were allowed to make the crackers with wheat or gluten-free. I chose to use bread flour for mine. We also were to make a dip/spread for the crackers, which had to be gluten-free and vegan. I hope I met the criteria for that.

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I LOVE these crackers. They were fast to make, once the dough had 90 minutes to rise. The dough was very easy to roll out. I did make some variations from the recipe, and I'm posting the recipe as I made it. I divided the dough in half and rolled out to cover two baking sheets, not one as the recipe called for. This makes the dough much thinner, which makes the crackers very crispy. I also rolled the dough directly onto a silpat, covering it completely then just lifting the entire silpat and setting it down on my baking sheet. The recipe also called for spritzing the dough with water before sprinkling on any seeds, but instead of doing that, I very lightly brushed with olive oil then sprinkled on. I used fleur de sal (did I spell that correctly?) and freshly ground pepper on both, then added chopped fresh rosemary to one. You can cut the dough into shapes before baking (I used a pizza cutter to cut one tray into rectangles) or you can bake whole and break into shards after they have cooled. This dough can also be rolled thicker and made into pita.

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UNBAKED DOUGH

The dip I made was Beet, Chickpea, and Almond Dip. It sounds very strange, and the color is very unique, but make this dip-it is great! Very garlicy, and addictive. If the color really turns you off, use golden beets.

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LAVASH CRACKERS
Makes 2 sheetpans of crackers

1 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon yeast
1 tablespoon agave syrup or sugar(I used agave syrup)
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons water, room temp (watch this quantity-may need less)
Any toppings you want, such as poppy seeds, sesame seeds, paprika, cumin seeds, kosher salt, etc.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.

In a mixing bowl, stir together the flour, salt, and yeast. Add the agave syrup, oil and enough water to bring everything together to form a ball.

Sprinkle some flour on the counter and transfer the dough to the counter. Knead the dough about 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and satiny to the touch, not tacky, and supple enough to stretch when pulled. Lightly oil a bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with a towel or plastic wrap. Let set at room temperature 90 minutes, or until the dough doubles in size. (You can also retard the dough overnight in the refrigerator immediately after kneading.)

Lightly dust the counter with flour (or for ease, use a silpat) and divide the dough in two. Press each half of the dough into a square with your hand. Roll it out with a rolling pin into a paper thin sheet about 15 inches by 12 inches. If the dough stretches back, let it rest so the gluten can relax. Either lift the silpat directly onto your baking sheet, or if not using silpat, line a sheet pan with parchment paper and transfer the dough to the parchment paper.

Very lightly brush the tops with olive oil and sprinkle on your choice of salt/seeds/herbs. Press into dough. If you want to precut the crackers, use a pizza cutter and cut diamonds or rectangles in the dough. You don't need to separate the pieces. If you want to make shards, bake the sheets of dough without cutting it first.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, or until crackers are browned evenly. It helps to alternate racks and directions of the pans to evenly brown.

When the crackers are done, remove the pan from the oven and let cool about 10 minutes. You can then snap them apart or snap off shards and serve.

BEET, CHICKPEA, AND ALMOND DIP

1 large beet, peeled, cut into 3/4 inch cubes
1 cup drained canned garbanzo beans(chickpeas; from a 15 1/2 oz pan)
3/4 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup slivered almonds
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1 1/2 tablespoon red wine vinegar

Cook beet in med saucepan of boiling salted water until tender, about 12 minutes. Drain;place in food processor. Add garbanzo beans, olive oil, almonds, and garlic. Blend until smooth. Add the red wine vinegar and blend well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Transfer dip to med. bowl. Leftovers keep well in the fridge, but bring to room temp. before serving.

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SUNDAY SLOW BAKERS-CINNAMON ICE CREAM

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Okay, I'm a week late with this post. I was out of town last week, and had a busy week at work and couldn't find the time to make ice cream. But the weekend is here, I'm craving ice cream, and I just had to try the cinnamon ice cream (my husband was also looking forward to it). I guess I will miss the choice for this week, which is an unusual Roquefort-Honey Ice Cream, because I just cannot afford the calories that are involved with two ice creams in a week.

This recipe called for steeping broken cinnamon sticks in the warm milk/cream mixture for 1 hour. I got busy making my recipe for this week's Daring Bakers Challenge, and forgot about the ice cream. So it steeped for over 3 hours. This ended up being a good thing. The cinnamon flavor is very pronounced, but not overwhelming. The ice cream is very creamy and rich. I will be making this again. With apple pie, apple dumpling, apple cake, etc.

CINNAMON ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart

1 cup whole milk
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
Ten 3" cinnamon sticks, broken up
2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
Warm the milk, sugar, salt, and cinnamon sticks and 1 cup of the cream in a medium saucepan. Once warmed, remove from the heat, and let steep at room temperature for 1 hour.
Rewarm the cinnamon-infused milk mixture. Remove the cinnamon sticks with a slotted spoon and discard them. Pour the remaining 1 cup cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.
Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and into the cream. Stir until cool over an ice bath.
Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

I served the ice cream with a pear dessert. This was an adaptation of something I saw on Food Network. There is a Streusal Topping, and a separate Pear/Honey Mixture. Just sprinkle the streusal on top of the cooked pairs. I think this will be a great thing to keep in the freezer for when you need a quick topping. And no rolling out of dough! The topping tastes like a very sweet shortbread cookie.

Streusel Topping
1 stick unsalted butter
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup powdered sugar
Pinch of salt
1 cup ground almonds
Mix together the flour, sugar, salt, and almonds and set aside. In a large skillet, melt the stick of butter. Add the flour mixture, and stir until it is incorporated and small clumps form. Turn this out onto a baking sheet, and gently shake to spread evenly. Bake at 350 degrees until lightly browned, 15 to 20 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Pear/Honey Mixture
4 pears, peeled, cored, and sliced
1/2 cup honey
1/2 teaspoon almond extract
Heat honey in a large skillet. Turn heat to low, and simmer until honey is lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Stir in almond extract. Add pears, and saute until pears are beginning to soften. This will depend on how ripe your pears are. Maybe 5 to 15 minutes.
For serving, place some pears/honey mixture on a place or in a bowl, and sprinkle streusel topping over. Serve with ice cream or whipped cream.

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October 5, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - CREPES

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This week our Sunday Slow Scoopers selection was chosen by Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe Cooking. Sandi decided to choose crepes, one of the items that the author lists under "vessels". We didn't have to choose an ice cream to fill them with, but unfortunately for my weight, I'm now one who craves ice cream if I don't have it every week. Funny, because before we started Sunday Slow Scoopers, I liked ice cream but didn't eat it often.

The crepes were fast to make, and pretty easy. It does help to have the correct size pan though. Tilting the batter in a too large pan makes it hard to get even crepes.

I chose to fill my crepes with Turron Ice Cream. Turron is a Spanish sweet, formed into blocks and flavored with almonds, honey, and candied orange peel. The ice cream was another winner. The orange flower water gives it a very unique taste.

Turron Ice Cream Makes 1 1/4 quarts
1 1/2 cup half and half
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup good-flavored honey
Pinch of salt
1 orange
1 1/2 cups heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
1 teaspoon orange-flower water
2 tablespoons chopped candied orange peel
2/3 cup almonds, toasted and very coursely chopped
1/4 cup shelled unsalted pisachio nuts, very coursely chopped
I also added 1 tablespoon Grand Marnier

Warm the half and half, sugar, honey, and salt in a medium saucepan. Zest the orange directly into the mixture. Pour the cream into a large bowl and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm half and half into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and stir it into the cream to cool. Add the orange-flower water (and Grand Marnier, if using) and stir until cook over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. As you remove it from the machine, fold in the candied orange peel, almonds, and pistachio nuts.

Crepes Makes 8 crepes
3/4 cup whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon course salt
3/4 cup flour

Pour the milk and melted butter into a blender. Add the eggs, sugar, and salt. Blend briefly. Add the flour and blend until smooth. Transfer to a bowl and refrigerate for at least 1 hour. (You can make it in advance and refrigerate overnight.)

To fry crepes, let the batter come to room temperature, then whisk it to thin it out a bit.
Heat a 12 inch nonstick skillet over medium to high heat. When a few drops of water sprinkled on the pan sizzle, pour in 1/4 cup of batter and quickly tilt the pan so the batter covers the bottom. Cook the crepe for about 45 seconds, until the edges begin to darken. Use a flexible spatula to flip it over, then cook for another 45 seconds on the reverse side.

Slide the crepe onto a dinner plate, then repeat with the remaining batter.
To serve, fold the crepes in half and arrange them, overlapping slightly, in a buttered baking dish. Cover with foil and heat in a 300 degree oven for 10 to 15 minutes, until hot. Serve the hot crepes topped with a scoop of ice cream and a drizzle of sauce.

Storage-Crepes can be made in advance and, once cool, wrappted in plastic wrap. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 days. To freeze crepes, wrap them in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil. Crepes can be frozen for up to 2 months.

October 12, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - GREEN APPLE AND SPARKLING CIDER SORBET

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This week the Sunday Slow Scoopers selection was a Green Apple and Sparkling Cider Sorbet. I was looking forward to having a selection that wasn't full of eggs and cream. The recipe calls for Granny Smith apples. The process is to cook them in the sparkling cider and a small amount of sugar, leaving the skins on for more flavor. Then the apples are pressed through a food mill, leaving their skins behind. A small amount of lemon juice is added, and I added a little brandy (2 tsp). That mixutre goes into the fridge to cool, then is churned in the ice cream maker. The flavor of the sorbet is that of the apples you use. Although the flavor and texture were very good, I would prefer a small amount of this, and would prefer it as a palate cleanser in between courses. It would be a great addition to your Thanksgiving menu.

GREEEN APPLE AND SPARKLING CIDER SORBET Makes about 3 cups

4 Granny Smith or green pippin apples
2 cups sparkling dry apple cider, with or without alcohol
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup water
1/2 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice, or to taste

Quarter the apples and remove the cores and seeds. Cut the unpeeled apples into 1" chunks.

Combine the cider, sugar, and water and bring to a boil in a medium, nonreactive saucepan. Add the apples, reduce the heat to low, and cover. Simmer the apple chunks for 5 minutes, then turn off the heat and let the apples steep until the mixture is room temperature. (**NOTE: I cooked my apples closer to a 1/2 hour, as I don't have a food mill and I pushed them through a sieve and I needed the apples to be soft to be able to do that.)

Pass the apples and their liquid through a food mill fitted with a fine disk, or use a course-mesh strainer and press firmly on the apples to extract their pulp and all the liquid into a container. Discard the apple peels. Add the lemon juice. Taste and add more if you wish, since sparkling ciders can vary in sweetness. (NOTE: the mixture comes out yellow, not green, so I added a couple of drops of green food coloring to make a very faint green color.)

Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

October 13, 2008

CHICKEN TAGINE WITH APRICOTS AND SPICED PINE NUTS

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Saturday I was having one of those days when I just needed to get out of the house. I spent a great afternoon sitting in the bookstore looking at cookbooks for a couple of hours, then browsing through a local cooking and appliance store. I was drawn to the tagines, the vessels that the food by the same name are cooked in. They are earthenware pots with the unique conical lid that is designed to lock in moisture and flavors. They were glazed in beautiful shades of red and blue. But they were almost $200, so I settled on a cookbook instead. The name of the cookbook is Tagine, Spicy Stews from Morocco. Besides having great recipes, the book explains the history of tagines. The Tagine was originally a Berber dish, but has evolved with the history of the region as waves of Arab and Ottoman invaders. Moorish refugees from Andalusia, and French colonialists left their influences on the cuisine. Classic tagines include combinations of lamb with dried prunes or apricots; chicken with preserved lemon and green olives; duck with dates and honey; and fish cooked with tomatoes, lime, and cilantro.

Tagines are traditionally served as a course on their own, with freshly baked flat breads to mop up the sauces, and are followed by couscous. Today, the courses are usually combined and served with an accompaning salad.

The key to great tagines is to simmer the ingredients over a low heat, so that everything remains moist and tender.

Sunday I decided to make a tagine for dinner. I didn't have all of the ingredients for any of the recipes in the new cookbook, so I decided to do a search on Epicurious. I chose the recipe from that site. I made some changes, such as using boneless skinless chicken breasts. Since the breasts didn't need to cook as long as chicken pieces, I combined the two cooking stages into one, thus reducing the overall cooking time. If you want the original recipe, you can find it at Epicurious.com.

I served the tagine with buttery couscous, a recipe from the new cookbook. This was a different method of cooking than I have done in the past, and made for a much fluffier couscous.

I started the dinner off with a simple salad of oranges, radishes, and red onions, and dressed that with a sprinking of white balsamic vinegar and blood orange infused olive oil and sea salt.


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CHICKEN TAGINE WITH APRICOTS AND SPICED PINE NUTS
Adapted from Epicurious.com
Serves 4

For Tagine:
4 chicken breasts
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1/2 onion, finely chopped
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 tablespoon grated peeled ginger
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of saffron threads (optional)
1 cup water
2 tablespoons blood-orange preserves or bitter-orange marmalade
1 2" cinnamon stick
1 thyme sprig
6 dried apricots, chopped
1 tablespoon finely chopped cilantro or flat-leaf parsley

For Spiced Pine Nuts:
1 tablespoon olive oil
1/4 cup pine nuts
1/4 teaspoon turmeric
1/4 teaspoon sweet paprika
Pinch of cayenne

Heat olive oil in a 12" heavy skillet over medium heat, and lightly brown chicken breasts, which you have salted. Transfer to a plate. Wipe out skillet.

Melt butter in the same skillet, and add the chopped onions. Cook over medium heat until soft, stirring frequently, about 8 to 10 minutes. Add garlic, ginger, turmeric, and paprika, and cook, stirring, 3 minutes.

Add water, orange preserves, cinnamon stick, thyme, and apricots, and stir until mixed. Bring to a boil, then add chicken breasts and any accumulated juices. Turn heat to a low simmer, cover, and cook until breasts are cooked through and sauce has thickened, about 20 to 30 minutes. If chicken is cooked but sauce is too thin, take out the breasts and reduce sauce, then add chicken back to warm.

While chicken is cooking, make the pine nuts: Heat oil in a small heavy skillet over medium heat until it shimmers, then stir in pine nuts, turmeric, paprika, and cayenne, and cook, stirring frequently, until nuts are lightly browned. Transfer to a small bowl.

To Serve, place chicken and sauce over couscous and sprinkle with spiced nuts.

PLAIN BUTTERY COUSCOUS
Makes 4 servings
1 2/3 cup traditional couscous, rinsed and drained
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
1 3/4 cup warm water
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 tablespoon butter, cut in small pieces

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After draining, put the couscous into an ovenproof dish. Stir the salt into the water and pour it over the couscous. Cover, and leave the couscous to absorb the water for about 10 minutes.

Sprinkle the oil over the couscous, and rub the oil into the grains to break up lumps and air them. Dot the butter over the surface and cover with a piece of foil or lid. Put the dish in the oven for about 15 minutes to heat through.

Fluff up the grains with a fork and serve.


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October 15, 2008

ALMOND TART

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I love almond flavor, and I love tarts. I was recently looking at David Lebovitz's blog, and came across a recipe he had for an Almond Tart. The recipe comes from Chez Panisse, and let me tell you, you've got to make this. Rather than type the recipe, I'm linking to David's blog entry about this recipe. He gives a lot of tips. The recipe sounds rather fussy, but is actually very easy to make. And the results are to die for! Buttery flaky crust, chewy, caramel almond filling....

I served this with a scoop of Turron Ice Cream that was from David's book The Perfect Scoop. The tart is very rich, and would be good on its own, or with a scoop of vanilla ice cream or some lightly whipped cream.

This is one recipe that I will be making many times in the future.

For the recipe, click on this link:
http://www.davidlebovitz.com/archives/2008/02/chez_panisse_al.html


October 19, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - AZTEC "HOT" CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM

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Only 4 more weeks of ice cream left after this week. The decision to transform from Sunday Slow Bakers to Sunday Slow Scoopers, using David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop to make ice creams and sorbets has been a great choice. I have made more frozen concoctions in the last 2 months than previously in my lifetime. But although I have enjoyed this time, it's now winter in Alaska and I'm looking forward to turning my oven on each week rather than putting something in the freezer.

This week, our choice was Chocolate Ice Cream. But rather than using a specific recipe, we could choose any of the chocolate ice creams from David's book. I chose the Aztec Ice Cream. This ice cream is flavored with both cocoa powder and bittersweet chocolate, then spiced with cinnamon, chile powder, and brandy.

I decided to research the history of chocolate, and came across a great website called ALLCHOCOLATE. This website explains that it was not humans, but monkeys, who were the first to find the cacao plant edible. But it wasn't the bitter bean, or seed that they ate, but the sweet pulp. Man also began eating the sweet pulp, and the bitter seeds were discarded, spreading throughout Mesoamerica and making the cacao trees very plentiful in South and Central America. It's not known when or how it was first discovered that the bean could be used. It is known that the Olmecs, an ancient tribe from the tropical lowlands of South Central Mexico (1200 to 300 B.C.), were the first to domesticate the cacao plant and use the beans. They called the bitter seeds kakawa, or cacao, and they believed that these seeds held the secret to health and power.

The Mayans (Mayan Classic Age 300-900 A.D.) are considered the most culturally advanced among the Mesoamerican civilizations. They were the first true chocolate aficionados, believing that it was a restorative, mood-enhancing cure-all. It became an integral part of their society. They ground the beans into a course paste and mixed it with spices, water and chilies to create a variety of hot and cold bitter drinks.

The Aztecs led an empire of almost 15 million people between the 14th and 16th centuries. During this time, chocolate was reserved for the rich and the nobles. Because it was so highly prized by the Aztecs, it was their form of currency. The Aztecs also consumed chocolate in liquid form like the Mayans. It was served cold and frothy, and they believed the foam held the chocolate's fundamental essence. So creating the foam became a ritual. They would pour the chocolate mixture vertically from one vessel to another, and continue pouring it back and forth until a froth was formed.

At this time, chocolate was still a bitter concoction, but I'll let you read more about the history on the above website, and will just say that it wasn't until after the Spanish arrived in the New World that this would change.

Okay, it's now time for Ice Cream. This recipe contains heavy cream and whole milk like previous ones we've made, but it did not contain eggs. So no having to make the custard and trying not to curdle the eggs. As I had the heated mixutre ready to go into the fridge, I had to have a small drink. Let me tell you, even if you don't own an ice cream maker, or don't want something cold, make this mixture and serve it as the best, richest hot chocolate you will ever taste. One word of warning though-be careful how much chili powder you use. I used a wonderful chipotle chili powder that is very hot. The recipe calls for 2 to 3 teaspoons, and I used 2 thinking it wouldn't be so hot. I was wrong. Although I love it this hot, others might not.

I served my ice cream with Mayan Chocolate Mocha cookies. I'll post about those in the next couple of days.

AZTEC "HOT" CHOCOLATE ICE CREAM Makes about 1 quart

2 1/4 cups heavy cream
6 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
3/4 cup sugar
3 ounces semisweet or bittersweet chocolate, chopped
1 1/4 cups whole milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 1/4 teaspoons ground cinnamon
2 to 3 teaspoons chilie powder
2 tablespoons brandy

Whisl together the cream, cocoa powder, and sugar in a large saucepan. Heat the mixture, whisking frequently, until it comes to a full, rolling boil (it will start to foam up). Remove from the heat and add the chocolate, then whisk until it is completely melted. Stir in the milk, vanilla, salt, cinnamon, chilie powder, and brandy. Pour the mixture into a blender and blend for 30 seconds, until very smooth.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

October 20, 2008

THE BEST CHOCOLATE MOCHA COOKIES EVER!

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Last week, I made Aztec "Hot Chocolate" Ice Cream for our Sunday Slow Scoopers. I wanted to make something to go along with the ice cream, and I happened to be looking at the blog Zoe Bakes. She had posted a recipe for a mocha chip cookie that just sounded wonderful. How can you go wrong with chocolate and coffee? Her recipe was based on Jacques Torres recipe for Chocolate Cookies, but she made this her own by adding cocoa powder and espresso powder. I also wanted to add a few ingredients of my own, and since I was making Aztec Ice Cream, I decided on the addition of some of the ingredients that flavored it. So not only was there chocolate, cocoa powder and espresso powder(which I increased the amount of), but I also added cinnamon, chipotle chili powder, and brandy. I loved the subtle heat that the chili powder imparted, and these are now one of my favorite cookies. And besides tasting good, they are so easy to make, as they are slice and bake cookies. So make the batter when you have time, and keep a log of dough in the refrigerator or freezer to bake up when the urge hits.

AZTEC CHOCOLATE COOKIES Makes over 5 dozen(I forgot to count exact amount)
1 2/3 cup cake flour
1 2/3 cup bread flour
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoon course salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon chipotle chili powder
2 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, room temp.
1 1/4 cups light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
1 Tablespoon brandy
3 teaspoons instant espresso powder
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 pound bittersweet chocolate, chopped

Sift flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, salt, chili powder and cinnamon in a bowl; set aside.

Cream together butter, granulated sugar, brown sugar, espresso powder, brandy, and vanilla extract in a large mixing bowl until very light in texture and color, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition.

Gradually beat in flour mixture. Mix only until the mixture is combined. Stir in chopped chocolate.

Form the dough into logs on a strip of waxed paper.(You can make the logs any size you want. I made 4 logs with mine.) Wrap well and refrigerate overnight.

To bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Slice the cold dough into equal discs and place onto a baking sheet covered with parchment or a silpat.

Bake for 10-14 minutes, depending on your oven and how thick you sliced the cookies. If you bake more than one sheet at a time, be sure and rotate the sheets halfway through baking. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack until completely cooled.

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October 22, 2008

ROSEMARY SPICE NUTS

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Nuts are a great thing to have sitting out when guests come over. I love carmelized nuts, but they can be too sweet when serving before a meal. So here's the perfect recipe-a little sweetness from brown sugar, a little heat from the cayenne, and the earthy flavor of rosemary to tie it all together.

ROSEMARY SPICED NUTS

Around a pound of mixed nuts (Here I used a mixture of almonds, walnuts, pecans, and pistachios. The almonds, walnuts, and pecans were all unsalted, unroasted nuts. The pistachios were salted and roasted.)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary
1 tablespoon brown sugar
2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon cayenn
1 tablespoon melted butter

Place all ingredients together in a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Turn out onto a cookie sheet, and spread evenly. Bake at 375 degrees, 10-15 minutes. Cool, then serve.

October 23, 2008

ORCHARD MARTINI

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I was having friends over last weekend, and I wanted to start off with cocktails. I'm a wine drinker, and I rarely fix any type of a mixed drink. So where do I go to find good cocktail recipes? To Jerry's blog. He posted about an Orchard Martini last week that sounded like a great cocktail for fall. So I used his recipe and they were delicious. Of course I had to go to the liquor store first for Vodka and sour apple liquer and then I made a visit to Target(Alaska's first Target just opened last week) to purchase some new cocktail glasses. I had two of the martinis before our friends even arrived. Maybe I'll have to start having a cocktail before dinner more often!

Jerry's Orchard Martini
1 1/2 oz Vodka
3/4 oz sour apple liquer
3 oz apple cider
Pour all into a shaker with ice and shake, then strain into a martini glass. Garnish with a slice of apple.

October 26, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - MALTED MILK ICE CREAM

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This week with Sunday Slow Scoopers it was my turn to choose the flavor of ice cream we were going to make. I chose the Malted Milk Ice Cream. My husband and I met each other while we were both working at a Swenson's Ice Cream factory. We both love many flavors of ice cream, but one thing we are both partial towards are chocolate malts. Back in the days when we were 17 or 18 and didn't have to worry about our weight, we used to indulge in them a lot more than we do now. I thought this ice cream would bring back memories, and it sure did. This ice cream is great! It doesn't have any chocolate in the mix, just coating the malted milk balls that are chopped up in it, but it tastes like you are eating a chocolate malt. It is very rich and sweet, but that's okay just as long as you don't eat too large of a serving.

It was a little hard to find the malt powder. Both Safeway and Fred Meyer quit carrying it. I found it at a small specialty grocery store we have, next to the the hot chocolate mixes. What I found was by Carnation, and it says Malted Milk on the label.

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MALTED MILK ICE CREAM
Makes about 1 1/2 quarts

1 cup half and half
3/4 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
2 cups heavy cream
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup malt powder (don't use Ovaltine-it's not the same thing)
6 large egg yolks
2 cups malted milk balls, coursely chopped

Warm the half and half, sugar, and salt in a medium saucepan. In a large bowl, whisk together the heavy cream, vanilla, and malt powder and set a mesh strainer on top.

In a separtate medium bowl, whisk together the egg yolks. Slowly pour the warm mixture into the egg yolks, whisking constantly, then scrape the warmed egg yolks back into the saucepan.

Stir the mixture constantly over medium heat with a heatproof spatula, scraping the bottom as you stir, until the mixture thickens and coats the spatula. Pour the custard through the strainer and whisk it into the malted milk mixture. Stir until cool over an ice bath.

Chill the mixture thoroughly in the refrigerator, then freeze it in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions. As you remove the ice cream from the machine, fold in the chopped malted milk balls.


October 27, 2008

CARROT SPICE MUFFINS

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Saturday morning I awoke with a craving for muffins. I was thinking about pumpkin muffins, since I had read on several blogs the day before that was what they were making for Tuesdays with Dorie. I could almost smell the spicy sweetness as I was thinking about them. But I didn't have any pumpkin in the house, so I began to look to see what ingredients I might have. I don't participate in the Tuesdays with Dorie, but I have her wonderful cookbook "From My Home to Yours" by Dorie Greenspan. I saw a recipe for Carrot Spice Muffins, and saw that I had most of the ingredients to make them. I'll post the recipe below as shown in her book, but here are the substitutions I made: The recipe calls for 2/3 cup of flavorless oil. I didn't have any, so I used about 2/3 olive oil and 1/3 clemantine-infused olive oil. The recipe also called for 3/4 cup of whole milk-I didn't have enough, so I mixed together a combination of whole milk, heavy cream, and skim milk. These substitutions worked just fine. And I really loved the subtle orange flavor that the infused olive oil gave them.

CARROT SPICE MUFFINS
Makes 12 muffins

2 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup packed light brown sugar
2/3 cup flavorless oil, such as canola, safflower, or corn
2 large eggs
3/4 cup whole milk
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 cup shredded carrots (about 3)
1/2 cup shredded sweetened coconut
1/3 cup moist, plump currants or raisons
1/3 cup pecans or walnuts, toasted, cooled and chopped

Center a rack in the oven and preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Butter or spray the 12 molds ina regular-size muffin pan or fit the molds with paper muffin cups.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, baking powder, cinnamon, ginger, baking soda and salt. Stir in the brown sugar, making certain there are no lumps. In a large glass measuring cup or another bowl, whisk the oil, eggs, milk and vanilla extract together until well combined. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients, and with the whisk or a rubber spatula, gently but quickly stir to blend. Don't worry about being thorough-a few lumps are better than overmixing the batter. Stir in the carrots, coconut, currants, and nuts. Divide the batter evenly among the muffin cups.

Bake for about 20 minutes, or until a thin knife inserted into the center of the muffins comes out clean. Transfer the pan to a rack and cool for 5 minutes before carefully removing each muffin from its mold.

October 29, 2008

DARING BAKERS OCTOBER CHALLENGE - PIZZA & TOPPINGS

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I was anxiously awaiting what the Daring Bakers Challenge would be for October. We've made lots of gooey, sweet things in the past, and last month was a nice Lavash Cracker. I was hoping for another savory item this month, but wasn't holding my breath. But when I saw the challenge post, I was lucky-pizza and toppings. I've made lots of homemade pizza in the past, so I thought this would be a very simple challenge-until I read that you have to use the tossing method to make the crust, and take a photo of your tossing in action. Okay, I thought, this could be fun.

The challenge was to use the tossing method for at least 2 pizza crusts, then to use both a sauce and topping to complete the pizza.

So I invited another couple to come over and have a Pizza Party with us. The recipe says it makes 6 crusts, but since there were just 4 of us, I decided to make 4 different kinds of pizza. The first pizza was a fig jam, proscuitto, and gorgonzola pizza. The second one was a browned ground lamb, carmelized onion, tzatziki sauce, calamata olive, and feta cheese pizza. The third one was marinara sauce, gryere cheese, crispy pancetta, roasted garlic, and carmelized onions. And the last one was your basic margarita pizza-marinara, fresh basil, and mozzerella cheese. All of them were great, and I couldn't say which our favorite was, as we finished them all!

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November 2, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - SALTED BUTTER CARAMEL ICE CREAM

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This week's Sunday Slow Scoopers ice cream choice was Salted Butter Caramel. Instead of this recipe coming from the book The Perfect Scoop, it came from the website of the author, David Lebovitz's blog . This is another great ice cream. My husband declared it his second favorite, behind the Malted Milk Ice Cream. This ice cream is softer than most, and has that wonderful contrast of sweet and salty. It is a little more labor-intensive than most of the ice creams we have made, but the process isn't really hard, you just have to pay attention so you won't burn the sugar while it is carmelizing.


Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream
One generous quart (liter)


For the caramel praline (mix-in):
½ cup (100 gram)sugar
¾ teaspoon sea salt, such as fleur de sel (do not use ordinary fine table salt-it's too harsh. If you have to, use kosher salt)

For the ice cream custard:
2 cups (500 ml) whole milk, divided
1½ cups (300 gr) sugar
4 tablespoons (60 gr) salted butter
scant ½ teaspoon sea salt
1 cups (250 ml) heavy cream
5 large egg yolks
¾ teaspoon vanilla extract

1. To make the caramel praline, spread the ½ cup (100 gr) of sugar in an even layer in a medium-sized, unlined heavy duty saucepan: I use a 6 quart/liter pan. Line a baking sheet with a silicone baking mat or brush it sparingly with unflavored oil.

2. Heat the sugar over moderate heat until the edges begin to melt. Use a heatproof utensil to gently stir the liquefied sugar from the bottom and edges towards the center, stirring, until all the sugar is dissolved. (Or most of it—there may be some lumps, which will melt later.)
Continue to cook stirring infrequently until the caramel starts smoking and begins to smell like it's just about to burn. It won't take long.

3. Without hesitation, sprinkle in the ¾ teaspoon salt without stirring (don't pause at all), then pour the caramel onto the prepared baking sheet and lift up the baking sheet immediately, tilting and swirling it almost vertically to encourage the caramel to form as thin a layer as possible. Set aside to harden and cool.

4. To make the ice cream, make an ice bath by filling a large bowl about a third full with ice cubes and adding a cup or so of water so they're floating. Nest a smaller metal bowl (at least 2 quarts/liters) over the ice, pour 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk into the inner bowl, and rest a mesh strainer on top of it.

5. Spread 1½ cups (300 gr) sugar in the saucepan in an even layer. Cook over moderate heat, until caramelized, using the same method described in Step #2.

6. Once caramelized, remove from heat and stir in the butter and salt, until butter is melted, then gradually whisk in the cream, stirring as you go. The caramel may harden and seize, but return it to the heat and continue to stir over low heat until any hard caramel is melted. Stir in 1 cup (250 ml) of the milk.

7. Whisk the yolks in a small bowl and gradually pour some of the warm caramel mixture over the yolks, stirring constantly. Scrape the warmed yolks back into the saucepan and cook the custard using a heatproof utensil, stirring constantly (scraping the bottom as you stir) until the mixture thickens. If using an instant-read thermometer, it should read 160-170 F (71-77 C).

8. Pour the custard through the strainer into the milk set over the ice bath, add the vanilla, then stir frequently until the mixture is cooled down. Refrigerate at least 8 hours or until thoroughly chilled.

9. Freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

10. While the ice cream is churning, crumble the hardened caramel praline into very little bits, about the size of very large confetti (about ½-inch, or 1 cm).

11. Once your caramel ice cream is churned, quickly stir in the crushed caramel, then chill in the freezer until firm.

Note: As the ice cream sits, the little bits of caramel may liquefy and get runny and gooey, which is what they're intended to do.

Variations: Add some strong liquid espresso (or instant espresso powder) to the custard to taste, prior to churning the ice cream to make Coffee-Caramel Ice Cream.

November 9, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - TOASTED COCONUT ICE CREAM

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Sunday Slow Scoopers is about to come to an end. Only one week left after this one, and I have to say, I'm really glad. I have eaten a life-time of heavy cream and eggs in the few months of our ice-cream making. And unfortunately, I have developed a taste for having good, home-made ice cream. I can only hope that this taste will fade, and, along with the fading of my craving for this frozen treat, I am also hoping that those extra pounds that have shown up on my body will fade also. Enough about my problems, and on to the ice cream!

This week's choice by Deborah of Old Shoes, New Trip was Toasted Coconut Ice Cream. I love coconut, so I was looking forward to this one. I didn't read through the recipe very well before beginning, and was a little surprised when I came to the part where it told me to strain out the coconut. So basically this is a vanilla ice cream that is infused with toasted coconut flavor. And it was delicious. More sophisticated than having the pieces of toasted coconut in the ice cream. And the coconut flavor was very pronounced. I served my ice cream with Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes that were filled with a swirl of coconut-pecan. I'll post about those in a couple of days. Here is the recipe for the coconut ice cream:

Continue reading "SUNDAY SLOW SCOOPERS - TOASTED COCONUT ICE CREAM" »

November 11, 2008

MILK CHOCOLATE MINI BUNDT CAKES

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I was browsing through cookbooks last week to find an accompaniment for my Toasted Coconut Ice Cream. I was hoping to use the mini bundt pan I purchased a while back and had never used. I came across the recipe for Milk Chocolate Mini Bundt Cakes in Baking, From My Home to Yours by Dorie Greenspan. I thought they would be perfect with the ice cream. The only change I made to the recipe was to add a little coconut to the swirl mixture to help link the cakes to the ice cream. These cakes were good-moist with the sweet taste of milk chocolate.

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November 29, 2008

NOVEMBER DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE - CARAMEL CAKE WITH CARAMELIZED BUTTER FROSTING

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The recipe is courtesy of Shuna Fish Lydon of Eggbeater.
The host of this month's challenge is Dolores of culinarycuriosity. Her cohosts are Alex-Brownie of the Brownie and Blondie duo, and Jenny of Foray into Food. And for those of you who are alternative bakers, you can go to Natalie of Gluten-a-Go-Go for modifications.

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November 30, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #2 - MEXICAN TURKEY SOUP

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This is my first week for participating in the Sunday Slow Soupers. For those of you who may be new to my blog, we are a group from Slow Trav Website who began as Sunday Slow Bakers, then turned into Sunday Slow Scoopers. We started out with an Italian dessert cookbook, then moved onto ice cream. As Sunday Slow Soupers, we now are making a soup each week, and we'll post our results on our blogs on Sunday. Instead of using a cookbook this time, each member is submitting a recipe that we'll try.

The first week's selection was Porcini Mushroom and Chestnut Soup. I couldn't find chestnuts here, so decided to skip the first week.

This week the selection is Mexican Turkey Soup, chosen by Jerry of Jerry's Thoughts, Musings, and Rants. He thoughtfully chose a soup that would use leftover turkey we had from Thanksgiving. Very nice of him considering he lives in Canada and already celebrated his Thanksgiving I believe it was last month.

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December 4, 2008

BUTTERMILK - PEPPERCORN DIP

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For Thanksgiving Day, I wanted to begin with crudites and a dip. I found the recipe for this dip in the Martha Stewart's Hors D'oeuvres Handbook. It is a nice refreshing dip. It has a little tang from the sour cream and buttermilk, a little punch from the peppercorns, and is rounded out by the earthiness of the thyme and shallot. It was very easy to make, and can me made up to 2 days in advance.

BUTTERMILK-PEPPERCORN DIP
Makes 1 1/2 cups
1 cup sour cream
2 tablespoons buttermilk
1 teaspoon coarsely ground mixed peppercorns(black, pink, and green)
2 teaspoons minced chives
1/2 teaspoon finely chopped fresh thyme
1 large shallot, minced
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

Place the ingredients in a medium bowl and stir well to combine. Serve immediately or store, covered, in the refrigeratro, for up to 48 hours.

December 5, 2008

ICEBOX CRACKERS - PARMESAN ROSEMARY AND BLUE CHEES-PECAN

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For years now, I have seen the photos of the various savory ice box crackers in Martha Stewart's Hors d'oeuvres Handbook. But for some reason, I had never made them. When looking for a new appetizer to make for Thankgiving, I thought these would be the perfect thing. You can make the dough ahead of time, and either keep it in the refrigerator(up to 2 weeks) or in the freezer(up to 4 weeks) before you thaw, slice, and make them. Then they may be baked the day before. If you need to recrisp them(which I did), just pop them into a 250 degree oven for 10 minutes.

Both crackers were good. I used a strong blue chees in my Blue Cheese Pecan Crackers, so the flavor was very strong. Next time I'll try a gorgonzola. I like the texture of these better, as they were more sandy-textured. The Parmesan-Rosemary Crackers had a very nice flavor and I liked their rosemary sprig garnish. The texture was different on these, not as "mealy".

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December 7, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #3 - ROASTED BUTTERNUT SQUASH SOUP

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I was looking forward to this month's soup, as I love butternut squash. The recipe looked very simple, and was different than what I am used to making, as mine usually contains apple juice. I didn't have any butternut squash on hand, but had 3 other winter squashes - an acorn, a delicata, and a carnival. The Delicata came in my CSA box, and the other two were purchased to decorate my Thanksgiving table. So I decided to use the 3 of these, and I roasted them the evening before making the soup. Here's the photo:

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After the squash had roasted, I let it cool and then scraped the flesh out into a covered container, and put it in the fridge for the night. The next evening I made the soup, and it was extremely quick. I sauteed the onion until soft, added the squash, broth, and seasonings, and simmered until hot. I used my immersion blender to smooth, and in less than 30 minutes I had a great soup. I love the kick that the hot pepper added. For so few ingredients, this soup has lots of flavor, and this soup will be made many times in the future. I served my garnished with fat free yogurt, and served a salad of greens, sliced oranges, and a balsamic vinegrette and a thick piece of sliced bread. Perfect for a winter evening.

December 9, 2008

PEAR TART WITH PECAN CRUST

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What's better for a fall dessert than a pear tart? Here's a pear tart whose crust is flavored with toasty pecans and butter, the pear filling has the additional flavor of a vanilla bean, and it's topped with a whipped cream flavored with honey and toasted pecans.

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December 14, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS WEEK 4 - ITALIAN WEDDING SOUP

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I can't believe we are already on week 4 of the Sunday Slow Soupers. This week's soup was chosen by teaberry, and what a good choice it was. If you are looking for a very flavorful, filling soup, then try this Italian Wedding Soup. It contains small meatballs that are made from ground turkey and flavored with many things, including parmesan cheese, allspice, nutmeg and cinnamon. The broth is a flavorful mixture of onions, celery, and onions, enriched with chicken stock, balsmic vinegar and Marsala wine. It makes a nice large pot with plenty of leftovers. My suggestion would be to make a double batch of the meatballs, and freeze one half so that you'll have them on hand when you get a craving for the soup again (and believe me, you will).

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December 17, 2008

CRANBERRY ALMOND BISCOTTI

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I made a batch of biscotti today to add to my Christmas food gifts. The recipe is based on a recipe from the Tra Vigne Cookbook. I love the biscotti. It is made with turbinado sugar, which gives it a great texture. I changed the recipe by using a lot less aniseed, adding the zest of an orange, adding dried cranberries, and using slivered almonds instead of whole almonds. The results were excellent. The process does take quite a bit of time, but during the long cooking time, you can be doing other things.

CRANBERRY ALMOND BISCOTTI
Makes about 40 cookies

3 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup turbinado sugar, plus more to roll logs in
1/3 cup light brown sugar
5 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 tablespoon aniseed
Zest of 1 orange
1 cup dried cranberries
1 cup slivered almonds, toaste

Sift together the flour, baking powder, and salt and set aside. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the butter, crystal sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, orange zest, vanilla, aniseed an dmix to combine. Add the flour mixture and beat on low just until the dough begins to come together. Add the almonds and cranberries and mix until distributed. Do not overwork. On a floured board, shape the dough into a ball, flatten, put in a bowl, cover with wrap, and chill for 2 hours to allow dough to relax.

Preheat oven to 325 degrees Fahrenheit. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Divide the dough into 2 equal portions on a lightly floured work surface. Using your hands, roll each portion into a log about 3 inches in diameter. Roll the logs into crystal sugar to coat well. Place the logs on the prepared baking sheet and press down lightly to flatten slightly. Logs should be several inches apart.

Bake until firm and light brown, about 1 hour. When poked with a finger, the dough should feel firm to the touch and not collapse or cave in. Remove from the oven, then lower the oven temperature to 300 degrees.

Let the logs cool completely. Carefully move them, still on the parchment, to a cutting board, then peel off the parchment. Cut the logs with a sharp serrated knife into 1/2" thick slices. Lay the slices down on a baking sheet and return to the oven. Bake until toasted to a golden brown on both sides, about 50 minutes. Turn the cookies during toasting, as needed, to brown evenly on both sides. Let cool completely, then store in an airtight container

December 21, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS WEEK 5 - PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHEDDAR AND PARMESAN

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This week's soup came from Nancy. She had never made the soup before, but thought it sounded like a good soup for Christmas week. The recipe came from an old Bon Appetite issue.

I had never had pumpkin soup before-lots of butternut squash, etc. This recipe uses canned pumpkin. While the recipe was good, it wasn't my favorite. Could have been the canned chicken broth I used. I added some Sherry Rum Pepper Sauce to it, and that really helped brighten up the flavor. I think you could instead add regular sherry, or a type of vinegar.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS WEEK 5 - PUMPKIN SOUP WITH CHEDDAR AND PARMESAN" »

December 23, 2008

PROVENCAL ONION TART (PISSALADIERE)

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Provencal Onion Tart (unfortunately, not the best photo)

I have always wanted to make an onion tart, but like many other things I've wanted to make, I've just never gotten around to it. Last week I my husband and I were invited to a neighborhood gathering. I was still recovering from cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so I wanted to bring something tasty, but easy. As I was looking through recipes I've collected over the years, I came across one for Provencal Onion Tart. This recipe was adapted from Cakebread Cellars, from their website.

The tart was wonderful! The onions are cooked to a consistency where they just melt in your mouth. I followed the recipe as written, except before baking I topped it with finely grated parmesan cheese, and put the olives on before baking. Delicious!!!

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CHOCOLATE-ALMOND BUTTERCRUNCH TOFFEE

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Last year I made the matzo toffee, and it was great. I decided to try a different one this year, and it's another keeper. Very easy to make, as long as you have a candy thermometer. I messed up, and put all of the nuts on the bottom, and since there were too many, when I lifted up the toffe when cooled, half the nuts were still on the sheetpan. Darn, I had to make another batch. And this one wouldn't be given away. I actually like that there aren't as many nuts.

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December 24, 2008

GINGERSNAPS

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One of the cookies I made for my holiday gifts were Gingersnaps. I love this recipe-it's easy, and the cookies turn out good every time. If you want soft cookies, cook for a little less, and if you want crunchy cookies, cook a little longer. These cookies stay fresh for a long while. I use a small scoop to make evenly sized cookies, and they are very easy and much quicker than rolling all of the small balls.

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December 28, 2008

DARING BAKERS DECEMBER CHALLENGE

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As you all might know by now, I am a participating member of Daring Bakers. Each month we are given a baking challenge, and sometime during the month we complete the challenge, then post about it on the specified date at the end of the month. Before this month, I had participated in 4 challenges (I think that's right, unless I am forgetting about one) and some have been much more challenging than the others. This month's challenge rates up there with the most challenging. Before I tell you about the challenge, I'll say that when I printed off all of the instructions and recipes to begin with, it was 18 pages long! Okay, the Challenge this month is…

A French Yule Log!!!


This month's challenge is brought to us by the adventurous Hilda from Saffron and Blueberry and Marion from Il en Faut Peu Pour Etre Heureux. They have chosen a French Yule Log by Flore from Florilege Gourmand.

A little background about Yule logs: In France you can buy two kinds of Yule log, either the Genoise and Buttercream type that the Daring Bakers made last December, or what is more commonly purchased which is a frozen Yule Log very reminiscent of an ice cream cake, only often it’s not made of ice cream but rather frozen mousse of some sort. In French this is called an entremets which is sometimes loosely translated in English as simply a cream dessert. This also means that this recipe is not holiday-specific, it is also just a scrumptious dessert recipe.

The French Yule Log recipe contained 6 elements, all of which had to be included in our logs:
1) Dacquoise Biscuit
2) Mousse
3) Ganache Insert
4) Praline (Crisp) Insert
5) Creme Brulee Insert
6) Icing

Recipes were given for each element, along with a few variations. But you were allowed to make changes to the recipes and flavor the elements as you chose.

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This is the inside of my Yule Log. My elements were an Almond Dacquoise, a Dark Chocolate Mousse flavored with raspberry puree, a Dark Chocolate Ganache Insert, a Praline Feuillete (Crisp) Insert, a Vanilla Creme Brulee Insert flavored with Chambord, and a Dark Chocolate Icing.

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December 30, 2008

BRAISED ONION AND BRIE GALETTE

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I was having friends over for dinner the Sunday after Christmas, and was cooking a beef tenderloin as the main course. I wanted to make a fairly simple dinner, and decided that instead of making appetizers first, then having a salad next, I would fix something that would be both an appetizer/first course and a salad. I remembered a recipe that Jerry from Jerry's Thoughts, Musings and Rants had given me. This fall, I purchased a bottle of Ver Jus from Terra Sonoma Food Company. I was looking for recipes that contained Ver Jus, and Jerry gave me the following recipe. He got the recipe from Malivoire Winery, where I believe he took a cooking class there and they made the Galatte.

I was so pleased with this Galette. The dough was perfect-tender and flaky. The onions and fennel mixture were soft and sweet, and the Brie cheese was a great choice of cheese for this. The Galette is topped off with a simple arugula salad dressed with a light vinegrette (the recipe just calls for olive oil, but I also added a little Champagne Vinegar). I garnished it with toasted pine nuts and pomegranate seeds, which was very colorful for the holidays.

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December 31, 2008

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #6 - HOPPING JOHN SOUP

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Well, I'm late posting my Sunday Slow Soupers soup. I made it last week, but forgot to take photos, and froze half of it, and so I had to wait until I thawed it out to take a photo. Shannon chose this soup because it contains black eyed peas, a food that is eaten by many on New Years Day. She got the recipe from Kalyn's Kitchen blog. The soup is wonderful-very flavorful with the ham, quite salty, and healthier with the addition of greens. You can use any type of green-I used kale. I loved the soup the first few days I ate it, and as I mentioned, I froze the other half to be eaten at a later time. Today, I was so thankful to have that soup in the freezer. It has been about -10F for the past few days, and today it never got above that at our house. When we went to bed last night, it was nice and toasty. When I got up this morning, it was 54 in the house, and went down to 50. Our heater wasn't working!!! We have one bedroom/bath downstairs which is on a separate thermostat. Thank goodness that heater worked. What happened is that we had a valve that didn't work, and didn't allow hot water to flow through the pipes to the baseboard heat, and a pipe froze. Usually when we don't have heat it's because the electricity went out. At least we had that. We called the plumber and he came and replaced the valve, but said we'd have to try to get the pipe thawed. We could either build a fire, turn on all space heaters we had, etc. and see if they thawed. No luck. We called a guy who thaws pipes, but he couldn't make it out until tonight. We had to stay in the unheated portion of the house a good part of the day, because we needed to keep an eye on the fireplace, propane heaters, electric heaters, etc. to make sure we didn't start a fire. Around 7pm tonight, he came and thawed out the pipes (luckily, they didn't burst), and we now have heat.
Back to the soup-I thawed it out for lunch, and not only did the soup still taste great, it was very warming to have while in the cold house. I did make sure I saved enough to have a small bowl on New Years Day for good luck and prosperity.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #6 - HOPPING JOHN SOUP" »

January 2, 2009

ROAST BEEF TENDERLOIN WITH PORT SAUCE

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(I know, not a very good photo.)

The weekend after Christmas, we had friends come over for dinner. I decided to make a Beef Tenderloin. I was a little nervous about this, because I rarely cook beef and have never cooked a beef tenderloin before. I bought the meat at Costco, and the tenderloin was about 5 pounds. There were only 4 of us, so I cut the tenderloin in half (froze the other half for later), trimmed it, and tied it. I followed the recipe with a few exceptions-I seared it in a skilled in a small amount of olive oil before roasting, and instead of making homemade beef stock, I used a box of Swanson's beef stock. And innstead of cracking the peppercorns, I just lightly coated the tenderloin with pepper that I ground at a course setting in my mill. The resulting beef tenderloin was so tender and flavorful. The port sauce was very good and a perfect accompaniment. The sauce does need to reduce for about an hour, and I still thickened it with a little cornstarch. I served the tenderloin with Herbed Garlic Mashed Potatoes and Sauteed Green Beans, Shallots, and Red Peppers.

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January 3, 2009

BUTTERSCOTCH-COCONUT BROWNIES

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Last week, I recieved a small package in the mail. Upon opening it, I discovered it was from Hawke's Winery, a winery located in Healdsburg, CA. If you aren't familar with them, you should check them out-they make great Cabernets, and are very reasonably priced. Anyway, we belong to their wine club, and they sent all wine club members so home-made Butterscotch-Coconut Brownies that Paula Hawkes made. They were really good-chewy, salty, sweet - everything you would want in a treat. I went to their website where Paula has some recipes posted, and discovered that these are the easiest brownies you could ever make. It only takes one pan to make them! Yeah, not too many dishes to wash. So I made a batch of the brownies, which is a nice small batch (8x8 pan), which is a good thing since you'll be tempted to eat them all. It's a simple recipe, with ingredients you probably always have on hand, and can be made quickly at the last minute. Just allow time to cool, or they'll be too soft. (Also, make sure you cook them long enough. I didn't test mine, and I pulled them out of the oven after 25 minutes, and when I turned the brownies out onto a board to cut them, the center of my brownies stayed in the pan because they weren't cooked through. Oh well, fewer to eat...)

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January 4, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #7 - CINDY'S FISH SOUP

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This was my week for the selection for our Sunday Slow Soupers. I decided to go with my fish soup. I came up with this recipe to use the halibut and cod that we catch from our boat each summer. I like this soup because it is healthy and easy to make. It is low fat, only good carbs, and lots of good lean protein. You can make lots of changes/additions to the soup. Add chopped zucchini or summer squash, add kale or swiss chard, etc. I hope you enjoy this soup!

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January 11, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #8 - CALDO VERDE

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This week's soup was chosen by Deborah of Old Shoes, New Trip. Deborah decided to choose a Portugese soup called Caldo Verde, or Green Soup. Her soup comes from Jean Anderson's cookbook: The Food of Portugal. Here is the history of the soup, taken from pg. 97 & 98 of Jean's book:

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January 18, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #9 - LEEK AND ASPARAGUS SOUP WITH FRIED LEEKS & AMARETTI

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This week's recipe was chosen by Palma, of Palmabella's Passions. She chose a soup that I was interested to try-Leek and Asparagus Soup. This is a Roman dish, that is traditionally served at Easter time. This soup was very easy to make. You saute sliced leeks and chopped potatoes, then add chopped asparagus, chicken broth, and pancetta if you choose. Simmer 30-40 minutes, then puree. Then the soup is put back on the stove and half and half is added. The soup is garnished with fried leeks and crushed Amaretti cookies. I made only two substitutes-I garnished with fried shallots instead of leeks, and I used Fat-free half & half instead of regular. I loved the addition of the garnishes, but the soup was also good a few days later without any garnishes. It tastes like a potato-asparagus soup, and is very flavorful.

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January 25, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #10 - GUMBO

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GUMBO WITHOUT OKRA OR TOMATOES

Another week of Sunday Slow Soupers, and another great soup. This week it was Sandi from Bugalu at Whistlestop Cafe turn to choose the soup. She chose her Gumbo. She says the key to good gumbo is fresh ingredients. When reading the recipe, I noticed it didn't call for okra or tomatoes, which I thought every gumbo contained. But Sandi said this is a Louisiana recipe that just has a roux base and that it is usually more of a coastal recipe when it contains okra and tomatoes. I decided to make two versions-one with okra and tomatoes and one without. I liked them both, but the one without the tomatoes was more intense in it's flavor. As far as seafood, I used, I decided to use items we had in our freezer that we caught this summer. So I used the chicken thighs and andouille sausage called for, and I used shrimp and rockfish. No scallops or oysters. Be sure and take the time to make a proper roux-it really adds flavor to the dish. If you need any help, click here for more detailed directions.

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January 29, 2009

JANUARY DARING BAKERS - TUILES

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Time for another Daring Bakers. I wasn't sure what to expect for this month-would it be a savory recipe, or another detailed cake? I was pleasantly suprised when I saw the challenge-Tuiles. Traditionally, tuiles are thin, crisp almond cookies that are molded over a rolling pin while they are still warm. Once they set up, their shape resembles the curved French roofing tiles after which they are named. There is also a Dutch angle to these-traditionally this batter was used to bake flat round cookies on December 31st, representing the year unfold. On New Years day, the same batter was used, but the shape of the cookie was different-they were shaped as cigars and filled with whipped cream, symbolizing the New Year that was about to roll in. The Dutch sometimes refer to this batter as tulip-paste.

This month's challenge is brought to us by Karen of Bake My Day and Zorra of 1x umruehren bitte aka Kochtopf. They have chosen Tuiles from The Chocolate Book by Angélique Schmeink and Nougatine and Chocolate Tuiles from Michel Roux.

They chose Tuiles because they thought we all needed something lighter after the holidays. We were instructed to make our tuiles using one of the batter recipes we were given, then shape them either prior to baking, using a stencil, or molding them after baking. We were then to pair them with something light.

I topped mine with two very simple things-a small slice of Brie and a thin slice of pear drizzled with honey and sprinkled with finely chopped pistachios, or a small slice of Brie and a small dab of blood orange cognac marmalade, again with a sprinkle of pistachios.

The Tuiles were easy to make and had a nice subtle vanilla flavor.

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February 1, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS # 11 - SPLIT PEA AND GREEN PEA SOUP WITH FRESH DILL

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It's Sunday, so time for another soup. This week's soup is brought to you by Marcia of Happy Trails to Us: My Reluctant Blog. She chose a soup that she tweaked slightly that was orginally published in the December 2006 issue of Bon Appetit. The soup is Split Pea and Green Pea Soup with Fresh Dill. This soup is very good. The addition of the frozen green peas and the fresh dill make it much more lighter and fresher tasting than most split pea soups usually taste. I followed the directions with a couple of exceptions: I forgot to buy a leek, so I used chopped yellow onion. I also used chicken broth and added a ham hock for flavoring while cooking. I'll make this soup in the future again for sure. It's healty also. Next time I might add some chunks of ham to make it more filling, and also double the recipe.

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February 3, 2009

MUHAMMARA - A WONDERFUL DIP TO TRY

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When visiting Anaheim, CA a couple of months ago, I ate lunch at Uva Wine Bar in Downtown Disney. We had a variety of wonderful tapas, but one I just couldn't get out of my mind was a dip called Muhammara. It was served with pita bread, and I knew it contained roasted red peppers, but I didn't know what else. I looked up on Wikipedia the history of Muhammara, and here's what it says:
"Muhammara is a hot pepper dip originally from Aleppo, Syria and now found in many places in Anatolia and the Levant. The principal ingredients are usually fresh or dried peppers, ground walnuts, breadcrumbs, and olive oil. It may also contain garlic, salt, lemon juice, pomegranate syrup, and sometimes spices (e.g. cumin). It may be garnished with mint leaves. Muhammara is eaten as a dip with bread or a spread for toast. It is also enjoyed as a spicy sauce for kebabs, grilled meats and fish. Muhammara is referred to as Acuka in western Turkey while southeastern regions call it Muhammara.

I went to Epicurious and found a recipe I tried today. It was a great dip. I did adapt the recipe, which I'll note my changes after the recipe. Try this recipe-you won't be sorry.

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February 6, 2009

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? NICOISE SALAD

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I couldn't decide what to fix for dinner last night. Then I remembered that I had one jar of tuna left that my husband's cousins had given us from their catch in Mexico. So I decided to fix a Nicoise Salad. Minus the olives (I forgot to put any on the salad). A quick stop at the store on the way home for some green beans and eggs. I didn't follow any recipe-just made a simple dressing of lemon juice, olive oil, Dijon mustard, parsley,garlic,salt, pepper, and some caper juice. I hard boiled some eggs, blanched green beans, and cooked a couple of potatoes until soft. That was placed on top of lettuce that was tossed with the dressing, then tomato wedges were added and capers were sprinkled on top. Maybe this isn't a true Nicoise, but I love this salad. I sometimes make it with a simple salmon fillet on top instead of the tuna. A healthy, delicious dinner with a slice of toasted bread and a glass of wine.

February 8, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #12 - FIVE ISLANDS SEAFOOD CHOWDER

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I am just loving the Sunday Slow Soupers. I love soup, and have even been making other soups during the week, not just the one for our group. They're filling, usually healthy, and make lots so we've got leftovers.

I rarely eat or make chowders, because they're usually so rich, full of cream and butter. When I first saw that this recipe from Sheena called for 1 stick of butter, I thought I can't make it. I usually save my fat and calories for desserts, not for my main course. Then I saw that the recipe serves 12. I knew I would cut the recipe in half, so I was down to 1/2 stick of butter. But I decided to modify this recipe even more, and it turned out great! I cut the recipe in half, but used only 2 tablespoons of butter, and instead of whole milk I used 2%. For my seafood, I used halibut, salmon, and shrimp, and a can of baby clams. For the liquid, I used one bottle of clam juice, and then the juice from the can of clams, with the addition of water to make the correct amount. This chowder has so few spices that I thought it was going to need some hot sauce or something, but it didn't at all. Even though I cut back on the butter, the buttery taste came through and I just loved it. I will be making this again many times, and I'm glad to have a chowder recipe in my repetoire.

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February 11, 2009

POACHED PEAR SALAD

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We had friends come over for dinner this past weekend, and I wanted to try a different salad. I had eaten salads in the past that had poached pears in them, and I really enjoyed them. I went to the web to find a recipe, but now I can't find out what source it came from. I changed it around quite a bit, so I'll post it as I made it. It was very good, and will be added to my list of salads I'll make in the future. The dressing is very good-a little sweet, with the bite of shallot. And the cheese and toasted pecans really add that special touch. You could use any cheese, but I used White Stilton with Lemon Peel. If you haven't tried this cheese, try it. It is wonderful, and they also make it with mango, which is also very good.

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February 15, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #13 - BAKED POTATO SOUP

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This week our soup is Baked Potato Soup, brought to us by Anne. At first I thought, oh no, this is going to kill my diet. Then I read that she got this recipe at a Weight Watchers meeting years ago.

This was an interesting soup to make, as it is very different from the way I usually cook. I don't buy prepared foods often(other than gourmet items), and this recipe called for frozen shredded potatoes and a package of country gravy mix. I decided to follow the recipe as written, and add a couple of additions-I added frozen corn, and cubed ham.

This turned out to be a very filling and tasty soup. I loved the addition of the ham-it gave it more flavor, plus added more protein.

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February 17, 2009

VALENTINE'S DINNER - CHOCOLATE RASPBERRY MARTINI AND CAPRESE SALAD

We started the evening with Chocolate Raspberry Martinis. The recipe (from a Chambord brochure I had) called for 1 part of Chambord, 1 part of Creme de Cocao, and 1 part of Vanilla vodka. Although they tasted great, they were WAY too sweet. I added a nice splash of tonic water and they were perfect. I didn't get a good photo of this drink, so I won't post a picture of it (although I did think about making one right now to take a picture of, but thought it might not be a good idea to drink one at 9:45am!)

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Our salad was a Caprese salad. I alternated slices of mozzarella, tomatoes, and basil leaves, and drizzled a good olive oil over the top, then sprinkled with Fleur de sel and freshly ground black pepper. Served that with a nice crunchy baguette. I won't go into detail on this post, but I made the mozzarella. It was my first attempt. It was fairly easy to make, and was good, but not as creamy as I was hoping. I absolutely love this salad. You have to have the basil or it's just not as good. I think I could eat nothing but this everyday for a month, and not tire of it.

Tomorrow, I'll post the recipe for the Pasta with Rabbit Ragu, and on Thursday I'll show you the dessert I made.

February 18, 2009

PASTA WITH RABBIT RAGU

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Last week, I fixed Palma's recipe for Roasted Rabbit with Fennel. It was SO GOOD!!! You have to try it. I unfortunately forgot to take photos before we ate it. I will make it again in the future, and post it on my blog. Anyway, I was so excited when I found rabbits for sale here. They were in a meat market, were frozen whole, and only $3.99/lb. My only disappointment, and one I'm trying not to think about, is after visiting the market again and bringing home 4 more, I saw they had a sticker that said they came from China. Unfortunately, that conjurs up all kinds of thoughts of things I don't want it to, but this rabbit is so delicious I'm just not going to think about where they came from again.

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February 19, 2009

CHOCOLATE AND STRAWBERRY MOUSSE

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For Valentine's Day dessert, I thought a chocolate mousse would be nice. I had received a box of strawberries in my CSA shipment that week, so I thought I would incorporate them also. I remembered a strawberry mousse I had made probably 20 years ago, and thought it would be nice layered on top of the chocolate mousse.

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February 22, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS # 14 - FRENCH ONION SOUP

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This soup was so good. I rarely eat French Onion Soup, but I was quite happy when I saw that Sharon L had chosen it. The recipe sounded very easy, and I don't think I've ever made it before.

Sharon said the key to the soup was cooking the onions very slowly until they carmelized. This did take some time, but the recipe was very straight-forward and easy to make.

Guess what I had for lunch today?

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February 24, 2009

APPLE GALETTE

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Last week it was a friends birthday, and I wanted to make her a yummy treat. So I made an Apple Crostata along with Cinnamon Ice Cream. For the ice cream, I used a recipe I had made before and knew was great-from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop". For the crostata, I combined several recipes. The crust was from "Baking with Julia" by Dorie Greenspan, and the filling was combined from several various sources. I loved the filling, combining tart and sweet apples with vanilla bean and sugar. The crust was flaky and tender, with some extra texture from the cornmeal. A nice winter treat.

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February 28, 2009

FEBRUARY DARING BAKERS - CHOCOLATE VALENTINO CAKE

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Time for another Daring Bakers challenge. Since February is a month that is often associated with chocolate and Valentine's Day, I thought the challenge might have a chocolate component, and it did- Chocolate Valentino Cake.


The February 2009 challenge is hosted by Wendy of WMPE's blog and Dharm of Dad ~ Baker & Chef.
"We have chosen a Chocolate Valentino cake by Chef Wan; a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Dharm and a Vanilla Ice Cream recipe from Wendy as the challenge."

The Chocolate Valentino, inspired by Malaysia’s “most flamboyant food ambassador”, Chef Wan, is a flourless chocolate cake. The recipe comes from Sweet Treats by Chef Wan.

This was a very straight-forward cake to make. You need to use good chocolate. Since that's the main ingredient, your cake is going to taste just like the chocolate. We were given the recipe for two vanilla ice cream recipes we could use, but I decided to use the Raspberry Ice Cream from David Lebovitz's "The Perfect Scoop".

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March 1, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #15 - LENTIL SOUP

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I can't believe today is March 1st. I have to say I am glad that February flew by. Now if only March and April will do the same. Those months are still winter here, so I will be glad to come to May. (Except when I'm on vacation in April, then that time can go really slow!)

I also can't believe that we have been making soup for 15 weeks now. This week's soup was chosen by Kim. It is her mother's recipe for Lentil Soup. I made it yesterday, and it was a perfect day for soup-snowing and cold.

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March 8, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #16 - WINTER MINESTRONE

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This week for our Sunday Slow Soupers, we had a bit of a misunderstanding. We didn't have anyone who was participating assigned. So we decided to use a recipe that Shannon found in Gourmet, for a Winter Minestrone. I was extremely happy with this choice, as I love minestrone, and I was suprised no one had chosen it as their soup. This ended up being a very expensive soup for me to make, as the swiss chard and escarole cost $3.99 each. But it made a very large pot, and the rest of the ingredients(besides the pancetta) were relatively inexpensive. I had never used escarole before. When raw, it's rather bitter tasting. But cooked, it really mellows out. I like that this soup is full of lots of healthy greens. I have frozen quite a bit of the leftovers, which will make some nice meals in the future. I served mine with just a sprinkling of grated parmesan reggiano over the top, and some toasted chewy bread on the side. And of course, a glass of red wine.

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March 9, 2009

CHOCOLATE ORANGE CHIP ICE CREAM

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I met my husband when we were both working at a Swenson's Ice Cream factory in Springfield, Missouri. We were both seniors in high school, and I was assistant manager, working after school and weekends. It's funny the things we remember from 30 years ago (that can't be right, how has it been that long?). He remembers how I used to tell him he didn't clean the ice cream freezers good enough, and I remember him being sweet and changing out tubs of ice cream for me. I guess things never change. Another thing we both remember is the Swiss Orange Chip Ice Cream. It was a dark chocolate ice cream flavored with orange, with chocolate chips. I have never tried to recreate that flavor, but have thought about it often.

Then, I decided it was time. Even though I'm trying to lose some weight and not cook too many fattening things, I had some nice heavy whipping cream leftover from a dinner I made a couple of weeks ago, and I didn't want to waste all of the nice cream. So, Chocolate Orange Chip Ice Cream is was. I used the Chocolate Ice Cream in David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop as my base recipe. To it, I added orange zest, orange extract, Grand Marnier, and chopped chocolate. The ice cream turned out luscious. It is one of the creamiest ice creams I have made, with a nice fluffy texture. The orange is pronounced, but not overly so. And the extra chocolate from the chips is just perfect. I know this is one I will be making again in the future. Next time, instead of chocolate chips, I might have to chop up some chocolate covered candied orange peel...

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March 11, 2009

NOODLE SALAD WITH SHRIMP

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I love to try different types of jams and jellies, and I bought a new one the other day-Papaya Orange Habanero Preserves. I thought it would be good to glaze shrimp with. So while I was out and about, I called my husband and asked him to thaw out some shrimp. When I got home and looked in the crisper-I realized I was out of most vegetables, and what was I going to make? So I decided to make a noodle salad. Okay, I've never made one before, and have never looked at a recipe for one before. But here's what I did-grilled the shrimp, and glazed with the jam. Set aside after cooking. Cooked bean thread noodles, put in cool water, and drained. When cool, I mixed in some chili galic sauce, some sesame oil, and some soy sauce. I then thinly sliced and mixed together 1/2 head of savoy cabbage(leftover from the Minestrone soup), 1 red bell pepper, 2 carrots and 1/4 red onion. That cleaned out my fridge. In a big bowl, I tossed together this vegetable mixture, the noodles, and the grilled shrimp. I made a little dressing to pour over the top-some of the pineapple habanero jam, soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, and more chili garlic sauce.

This turned out to be a really nice salad (even though the picture didn't turn out very well). Light and refreshing. Sometimes when you throw things together, they turn out well, and then, sometimes they go down the garbage disposal. Luckily, this one was very good.

March 15, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #17 -ONE OF EACH SOUP

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It is almost impossible to believe that we are at Week #17 of our soupmaking. I guess in some ways the winter has flown by (only in some ways though).

This weeks soup was chosen by Jan. She said that she originally found this recipe in the Dec. 2001 issue of Gourmet, and has been making it ever since. The recipe called for serving it cold, but she enjoys it more hot. It is a very unusual soup that we really enjoyed(who ever heard of banana in a soup?). It calls for a combination of fruits and vegetables, which are cooked in chicken broth, pureed, then cream and curry powder are added. I used 1 teapsoon of regular curry powder, but decided I wanted more of a kick, so I added another 1/2 teaspoon of Sri Lankan curry powder, which is more spicy and hot. I also used a combination of skim milk and fat free half and half instead of cream, and skipped the butter.

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March 16, 2009

BEEF BOURGUIGNON

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We had friends over for dinner this past weekend, and I wanted to fix something that I could make ahead. It is still cold here, so a nice stew or similar hearty dish sounded good. I usually head to Epicurious, but this time decided to make use of some of those cookbooks I have. I found what sounded like the perfect recipe in "Chocolate & Zucchini-Daily Adventures in a Parisian Kitchen" by Clotilde Dusoulier. Some of you may be familiar with her from her blog Chocolate and Zucchini. She described Beef Bourguignon as the epitome of a soul-warming dish for chilly winter nights. That had me convinced. Well, I've found the perfect recipe. Extremely flavorful, tender, just wonderful. Okay, two quotes from my friend's husband: "When you eat this, you know there is a God." and "This is the best beef dish I have ever eaten." Makes you want to try this recipe, doesn't it? You won't be disappointed. For the wine in the marinade, I used a Pinot Noir from Washington(or maybe it was Oregon), about $15/bottle. I served it with a few small steamed Yukon Gold potatoes, and some bread for getting every last drop of the sauce from your bowl. Along with a refreshing salad of mixed baby greens, orange segments, avocado, sliced toasted almonds, and an orange vinegrette it was the perfect meal. (Okay, it didn't hurt that we started off with "Taste of Summer" cocktails and gougeres, and finished with Chocolate Mousse, but more about that later.

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March 17, 2009

CLASSIC GOUGERES

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Yesterday, you read about the Beef Bourguignon I made this past weekend. I decided to base the entire meal around a French theme. I hadn't decided what to make for appetizers, and as I was thinking about it, I flipped through the April issue of Bon Appetit I had just received. There was what I would make: Classic Gougeres. I had thought earlier about making them, and after seeing this article, knew it was meant to be. And the recipe was by Molly Wizenberg, whose book "Cooking Life" I had just bought and was reading.

If you're not familiar with gougeres, they're basically a French cheese puff. They are made from pate a choux, which is the same dough cream puffs and eclairs are made from. But they have the addition of Gruyere cheese. I made them a few hours ahead, and just reheated them at 350 degrees F. until they were warm. They were great-the four of us ate the entire batch, which was about 2 dozen.

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March 22, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #18 - CARROT ORANGE GINGER SOUP

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Okay, I know, I say this every week-I can't believe I've been making soup every week for the past 18 weeks. I was almost a little late with this one. It's Sunday morning, and I just made my soup, and just had a cup for breakfast.

This week's soup was chosen by Debrah. She chose a soup that she's been making for at least 20 years. It was a very easy soup to make-saute onions, garlic, ginger, and carrots in a little olive oil, cover with chicken broth and simmer until tender, puree, and add orange juice. How much easier could a soup be? I think you could also add different things to change the flavor of the soup-a little cream to make it richer, or a little curry powder, a little red pepper flakes... The orange flavor is really strong in the soup, and if you don't want a strong orange flavor I would suggest using maybe half of the amount of orange juice called for and use extra broth. Thanks Debrah for sharing a flavorful, healthy soup with us.

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March 23, 2009

CHOCOLAT MOUSSE

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Last weekend, when I cooked the Beef Bourguignon and Gougeres, I also wanted to fix a French dessert. The first thing I made was a lemon yogurt cake, but after baking quite a bit longer than what it called for, it still wouldn't cook properly in the middle (not sure what happened there!). So I looked through my cabinets for the makings of another dessert, and decided to make Chocolate Mousse. I found the recipe I used on David Lebovitz's web site. You can always count on David for a good dessert. The recipe posted was one he adapted from Julia Child's Mastering the Art of French Cooking. It is a nice, gooey, but airy mousse made without whipping cream. I have decided that this is my favorite type of mousse, because you taste pure chocolate. So be sure and use good chocolate, as that's what you will taste. Also, have fun eating this dessert-it's fun to feel the air bubbles from the whipped egg whites pop in your mouth.

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March 25, 2009

CURDS OUR WHEY - MONTH 1 - 30 MINUTE MOZZARELLA

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Today is the first post of a new group I belong to - "Curds Our Whey". A group of us from the Food Forum on Slow Travel Talk decided we were interested in making home-made cheese. I decided to take the lead on this and plan the logistics of this group-what cheeses we would make, what ingredients we needed, etc.

The book we decided to use for our recipes is Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll. You can order this book from Amazon, purchase it at your local bookstore, or order from Ricki's website at New England Cheesemaking SupplyCompany. I ordered all of my supplies from New England Cheesemaking Supply Company.

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March 27, 2009

DARING BAKERS MARCH CHALLENGE - LASAGNE OF EMILIA-ROMAGNA

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Time for another Daring Bakers Challenge!!! What would it be this month-another fancy cake, some type of pastry using a special dough, maybe Macaron cookies? And then it was announced-Lasagna. What? I thought this was a baking group. I didn't think of Lasagna as baking, but I love Italian food and was quite happy with the choice.

The March 2009 challenge is hosted by Mary of Beans and Caviar, Melinda of Melbourne Larder and Enza of Io Da Grande. They have chosen Lasagne of Emilia-Romagna from The Splendid Table by Lynne Rossetto Kasper as the challenge.

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Lasagne is a dish that has successfully transcended borders and is today made around the world, albeit with many variations from the Italian original. Even within Italy, there are many variations and each region has its own lasagne tradition. But, as Lynne explains in her introduction to the recipe –and Enza, as our Italian expert for this dish, also agrees - the dish should always be a “vivid expression of the ‘less is more’ philosophy of cooking. Mere films of béchamel sauce and meat ragu coat the sheerest spinach pasta. Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese dusts each layer. There is nothing more; no ricotta, no piling on of meats, vegetables or cheese; little tomato, and no hot spice. Baking performs the final marriage of flavours. The results are splendid.”

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March 29, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #19 - COCONUT CURRY CHICKEN NOODLE SOUP

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This week's soup was brought to us by Marta of Postcards From the Trail.
Her choice was a delicious-sounding Coconut Curry Chicken Noodle Soup.

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April 5, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS #20 - HOT AND SOUR SOUP

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We're coming to an end with our Sunday Slow Soupers. I think we have 3 weeks to go. Even though I've been making soup for 20 weeks now, I'm still enjoying it, and each week brings a new suprise.

This week's soup was chosen by AnnieNC. She chose Hot and Sour Soup. She found the recipe online years ago, and has been making it ever since. It's not like a tradional Chinese Hot and Sour Soup-it's not thickened with cornstarch.

I followed the recipe with a few exceptions: I used 3 cans of broth, the entire block of tofu, and also added brocolli and carrots. The soup is very easy to make, and very flavorful. My husband hasn't eaten tofu in years, and has never liked it, and he really liked this soup and said he didn't mind the tofu at all. Another easy, healthy soup to add to the recipe collection.

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April 7, 2009

GINGER RICOTTA CHEESECAKE

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I made home-made ricotta cheese (that will be posted on April 28th), and was trying to decide what to make with it. I knew that I was going out of town soon, and was trying to use the things that were in my refrigerator instead of going to the store and buying more ingredients. I searched Epicurious.com for any suitable recipes, and I came across a recipe for Cannoli Cheesecake. The recipe called for a graham cracker crust, a filling of ricotta, sugar, eggs, candied orange peel, and chopped chocolate. It sounded good, but I didn't have graham crackers, and didn't want to candy orange peel. But I did have gingersnaps. candied ginger, and chocolate. So I decided to make a Ginger Ricotta Cheesecake with Gingersnap Crust.

The cheesecake was very good. I had never had ricotta cheesecake before, and wasn't sure what to expect. It is not like regular cheesecake made with cream cheese at all, the texture is totally different. But it is really good in its own way. If you haven't tried Ricotta Cheesecake, you should give it a try.

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April 9, 2009

GINGER CRUNCH CAKE WITH STRAWBERRY SAUCE

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Last week was a friend's birthday. A few of us were getting together for a late lunch and I was the one who was going to bring the birthday cake. I couldn't decide what to make. I knew I had a large container of whipping cream that I needed to use, so I began to hunt for a recipe that was iced in whipped cream. I came across a recipe on Epicurious.com that I thought sounded interesting: Ginger Crunch Cake with Strawberry Sauce.

This was a very delicious cake. It did have the flavors of gingerbread, but was lighter and contained a little less molasses, so not as intense of a flavor. The strawberry sauce was wonderful with it, and made it much more appropriate for a Spring dessert, as did the whipping cream that covered it. Give it a try-I think you'll really like it.

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April 12, 2009

SUNDAY SLOW SOUPERS # 21 - GULASCHSUPPE

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This is the last week I will be participating in our Sunday Slow Soupers. There is one week left, and I'm sure the last soup will be very good (Cream of Artichoke), but I will be out of town and unable to make the soup. I am really going to miss our soup-making. We've had some great soups over the last 21 weeks. But soon warmer weather will be here, and we'll be moving on to Salads. But, in the meantime, our soup this week is Gulaschsuppe, or Goulash Soup. This soup was chosen by kayee. Another great soup. I think I cooked mine a little too long, as I ended up with very little broth left in the pan. But on the otherhand, my beef was extremely flavorful, and the broth that was left had a wonderful intense flavor of paprika.

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April 14, 2009

SWISS CHARD TART

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This is not a good photo, but it was the best I had and I wanted you to see this tart.

I'm not sure where I got this recipe. If it was from any of you reading this, I'm sorry I haven't given you credit. I printed it off a long time ago, and although it notes where this recipe was adapted from, I don't know who adapted it.

I'm going to be leaving town for a while and am trying to clean out all of the items in my refrigerator. I had a large bunch of swiss chard that I got from my CSA, and decided on this tart instead of my usual saute. I also had leftover ricotta cheese that I had made, and didn't want to throw that away. So I added it to the tart also.

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April 21, 2009

FISH TACOS

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Yesterday, bright and early(5am) my husband and I returned from our trip to Maui. We had a great time, with beautiful weather the entire trip. I'll post about the trip over the next week or so, showing you some of the sights we visited and some meals we had.

For dinner last night, I wanted to make something that brought us memories of our trip, and I decided that would be fish tacos. I make them on occasion here, but hadn't made them in quite some time. I don't really have a recipe that I follow, so I'll try to tell you how I make them.

Fish-I used rock fish, and just sprinkled with salt, pepper, and chipotle pepper powder. Place them on the grill until cooked to your desired doneness.

Salsa-I brought back some pineapples, but didn't want to go to any trouble with dinner. So I mixed some Salsa Verde (Safeway brand) with some chopped pineapple.

Sauce-I mixed a couple of tablespoons fat-free mayo, a large tablespoon low-fat sour cream, juice of 1 small lime, a teaspoon or so of garlic chili sauce, a couple of teaspoons of lime-infused olive oil, chopped ginger and chopped shallot together.

To make the tacos, I heated corn tortillas in the microwave until warm, topped with some of the fish, sauce, and salsa. Then I added a little grated mexican cheese (I forgot to put this on most of them, and it wasn't missed) then topped it all of with shredded cabbage.

These were light and healthy, and something I will probably make a lot this summer. I served them with a bottle of pineapple wine we brought back from the winery on Maui, which went very well with the tacos (with the pineapple salsa).

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April 23, 2009

HOW TO SEGMENT AN ORANGE

Someone recently mentioned that they hated cutting up oranges for a salad because it took so long. I remember when I used to think the same thing, because I would peel the orange first, then try to get the membrane off, etc. Somewhere along the way I learned this easy way of segmenting oranges. It is so quick you can segment 2 or 3 oranges in less than 5 minutes. Hope this helps someone who doesn't know this method.

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You begin by slicing both ends off an orange. You want to get all of the skin and pith. Using a serrated knife is much easier. Then set the orange on one of the flat sides you just cut, and begin to slice off sections of the peel. Just follow the curve of the orange. You want to again get the peel and the white membranes. Complete this all the way around the orange.


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Next, take your knife and place it just inside one of the membranes. Slice through to the center. Next place the knife on the other side of the membrane and do the same thing. With your next cut, you'll have your first segment.

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Continue around the entire orange like this. You will be left with the membranes only. Squeeze that over a bowl to get the juice. If your orange is really juicy, cut the segments out over a bowl so that you'll capture the juices. If you're segmenting for a salad, the juice is good to use in your salad dressing (in a small food processor, pulse together orange juice, champagne vinegar, small amount of dijon mustard, salt and pepper, and shallot if you want. Drizzle the olive oil in slowly (through the holes in the top of the lid if yours has them) until emulsified. I use about 1/3 to 1/4 parts vinegar to oil.)

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You're left with beautiful segments in just a few minutes. If you want slices rather than segments, then after you've cut off the peel, then just slice across instead of segmenting.

April 26, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #1 - FORAGING THE CITY SALAD (OR GREEN SALAD WITH BLOOD ORANGES)

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It's now Spring, and time to move away from the weekly endeavor of making soups. It is now onto salads. Today begins the first week of our new Spring/Summer Endeavor- Sunday Salad Samplers.

This week our recipe was chosen by Eden of My Blog: Wanderings and Wonderings. Her choice is a lovely green salad with a variety of fruits. Eden posted this on her blog recently, and we all thought the salad looked so good and fresh that we were happy she chose it. The reason it is named "Foraging the City Salad" is because it can be quite a challenge to find blood oranges. I was not successful. I did find Cara Cara oranges, which also have a nice pink color and are very sweet.

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April 27, 2009

DARING BAKERS APRIL CHALLENGE - CHEESECAKE!

It's time for another Daring Bakers Challenge. There's always such suspense when waiting to see what the choice for the month will be. I was very happy when I saw the post - Cheesecake!

The April 2009 challenge is hosted by Jenny from Jenny Bakes. She has chosen Abbey's Infamous Cheesecake as the challenge. She decided to pick a basic cheesecake recipe, and our challenge was not only to make the cheesecake, but to come up with a unique flavor and presentation.

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I decided to create a Pina Colada Cheesecake. I recently returned from a trip to Hawaii, and brought some fresh pineapple back with me. I wanted to incorporate that into the cheesecake, and what a better way than combining it with the flavors of coconut and rum.

This cheesecake is baked in a water bath, which allows it to cook at a slower, more even temperature. The texture was so nice-light, almost fluffy. Not the heavy dense cheesecake you might be used to. It is really a nice recipe. A hint-if your springform pan isn't completely watertight, be sure and wrap a couple of layers of heavy-duty aluminum foil around the pan to prevent water from seeping in and making the crust soggy.

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April 29, 2009

CURDS OUR WHEY - MONTH #2 - WHOLE-MILK RICOTTA

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Time for another selection of home-made cheese. This month our selection is Whole-Milk Ricotta. For those of you who may not have read my last Curds Our Whey post, we are using the book Home Cheese Making by Ricki Carroll, and each month are making a different cheese.

This ricotta was very easy and quick to make. Like the mozzarella, the cheese will taste very similar to what your milk tastes like, so use a milk you like and don't try to go with the cheapest.

I used my ricotta in a Ricotta Cheesecake, which wss posted on April 7th. I also mixed some of the ricotta with chopped basil, thyme, and chives, spread it on half of sliced baguette, then on the other half topped with sauteed shallots and grilled chicken, then placed under a broiler for a minute to heat the cheese. Yum!!

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May 3, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK # 2 - BLACK BEAN SALAD

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Time for the second week of Salad Samplers. This week our recipe was chosen by Judy. In honor of Cinco de Mayo, she chose a recipe for a Latin flavored Black Bean Salad. This recipe was given to her by a former co-worker who is also a caterer, and she said the instructions begin "It's not a recipe fixed in stone...", so quantities and ingredients are flexible.

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May 10, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #3 - RAW ASPARAGUS, PEA, AND ARUGULA SALAD

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Another Sunday, another salad. This week's salad was chosen by Amy of Amy's Travel Blog-Destination Anywhere. She chose a delicious spring salad containing asparagus and peas. It was unusual in that the stems of the asparagus were raw. I really loved the salad. The crunchiness of the raw asparagus, the saltiness of the Parmesan cheese, and the earthyness of the toasted nuts. The salad was very quick to put together and I will be making it again in the future I am sure.

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May 13, 2009

GINGER SCONES

For those of you who read my blog, thanks for continuing to check during those times when I'm not posting. I've had a very busy month, then suddenly couldn't seem to get in the cooking mood (or posting on my blog mood). Maybe it's because the weather is finally nice here, and I'd rather be outside than in my kitchen or on the computer. Anyway, I think I'm back with some recipes you'll enjoy.

Last weekend I had a wedding shower brunch for one of my co-workers. I'll be sharing some of the recipes I made over the next week. There was just a small group of us, and we had a nice selection of food. I prepared a Three Cheese Quiche, Ginger Scones, a fruit platter, Caprese salad, chicken/apple sausages in a horseradish applesauce, and a German Chocolate Cake.

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Today, I'll share the Ginger Scone recipe with you. This is my FAVORITE scone recipe.

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They are so good! I got the recipe from Epicurious, and it's also in my cookbook Nancy Silverton's Pastries from the La Brea Bakery. They are very rich, but boy, are they addictive. They are very easy to make except for one thing-chopping the candied ginger. It doesn't chop up in the food processor, so you have to chop it by hand, which can take a little while since it's so sticky. But it's worth it. They keep well also-I made them the day before, then just put them back in the oven the next morning to re-crisp them. Yum--I wish I had one right now. With a latte, and a few nice strawberries.

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May 14, 2009

DARING COOKS FIRST CHALLENGE - RICOTTA GNOCCHI

For those of you who follow my blog, you probably know that I belong to Daring Bakers. This is an International group that bakes a monthly challenge we are presented with, then we post our results on our blog on a given date. The challenges vary in difficulty, and have been a lot of fun. They often move you outside of your comfort zone into something new to try that you probably wouldn't have tried otherwise.

The Daring Bakers have evolved, and their website is now The Daring Kitchen. Check it out-it's a great site. And now, in addition to the Daring Bakers, we have the Daring Cooks. It will work in the same way-one of the members chooses a recipe for us to make that month, we are given the rules of what we can change and what part of the recipe has to stay the same, then we all post on our blogs on the given date.

The first month's challenge was chosen by the 2 ladies who started the Daring Bakers 2 1/2 years ago. Ivonne, of Cream Puffs in Venice, and Lisa, of La Mia Cucina. For the first ever Daring Cook's Challenge, they chose...

RICOTTA GNOCCHI

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They chose a recipe from the cookbook by Judy Rodgers, named after her restaurant, The Zuni Café Cookbook. They say that on the surface, it's a very straightforward recipe. The challenge is in the forming and handling the gnocchi. What we do to the gnocchi, and the sauce we use is totally up to us.

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May 17, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #4 - THAI CHICKEN SALAD

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This week our salad was chosen by Jerry of Jerry's Rants, Musings, and Recipes. He chose Thai Chicken Salad. The recipe was modified from one he learned to make at a cooking class he took. If you like the flavors of Thai cooking, you'll love this recipe. You get that citrusy tang from the lime, the saltiness from fish sauce, and the heat from chilie peppers. It was easy to put together, and the leftovers will probably taste even better tomorrow when the flavors have had a chance to meld. Thanks Jerry for the recipe!

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May 19, 2009

HAM, LEEK, AND THREE CHEESE QUICHE

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As I mentioned in a post last week, I made a quiche for a wedding shower brunch for one of my co-workers. I wanted to share this recipe with you, because I think it is really good.

The recipe came from Epicurious.com. The source of the recipe if from Bistro Jeanty, in Yountville, California. This quiche is very creamy and flavorful. I've made it twice now, and both times had to cook it for a LOT longer than what is called for. It calls for baking 1 1/4 to 1 1/2 hours. I forgot to keep track of how long it actually took to bake, but it was probably around 2 hours. The quiche is good served at room temperature also, so just plan on allowing enough time in case yours takes an extra-long time to cook also. The recipe also says it can be made a day ahead and reheated, but I haven't tried that.

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May 20, 2009

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CAKE

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Last week I talked about the shower I had for a co-worker of mine. I shared a few recipes I made (the ginger scones, and the three-cheese quiche), and now I want to share the last one- German Chocolate Cake.

I found this recipe on David Lebovitz's blog. I was excited to give it a try, because growing up, German Chocolate was always my favorite. I'd never made one from scratch, and this was a really good recipe. The cake is a very rich dark chocolate, then there's the wonderful buttery, coconuty, pecany topping (I know those are not real words), and then it's all iced in a very rich dark chocolate buttercream. It was very easy to make, and the only problem I had is the icing didn't set up enough to ice it. I put in the refrigerator for a short time, and that did the trick. The cake kept very well, and was even better on the second and third day because it just kept getting more moist.

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May 24, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #5 - GRILLED TUNA SALAD NICOISE

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This week our salad was chosen by Debrah. She chose Grilled Tuna Salad Nicoise. I love Nicoise salad, so I was happy with this choice.

But...it was Saturday evening, and my husband was out of town. I was feeling very lazy, and didn't want to drive to the store for ingredients. So I decided that I would make this salad only with things that were in my refrigerator or freezer. The salad was wonderful, but I did change it quite a bit. But I have no doubt that if you follow Debrah's recipe below, it will be just as good if not better.

I rarely allow myselt to go to the store and buy fish. We just have too much in our freezer. So I knew that the first substitution I would make would be to use salmon instead of tuna. I just rubbed it with olive oil, sprinkled with salt and pepper, and grilled it. I have substituted salmon for tuna many times when making a nicoise salad. Then I had to decide what other ingredients I could use. I am watering a neighbor's garden while she is out of town, and I had access to her greenhouse while she was gone. So I cut fresh lettuce for the base of my salad. I didn't have any green beans or asparagus, but I had recieved 2 artichokes in my CSA shipment this week. So I cut out the hearts, drowned them in olive oil, lemon juice, salt, pepper, and herbs de province, put them in a covered pan, and baked at 375 degrees until tender. My other components were boiled new potatoes, hard boiled eggs, cherry tomatoes, and mixed olives. Then it was time for the vinegrette. I knew I would make the classic version, as I just wouldn't consider it a nicoise salad with an asian version (see recipe below). But as I started to make it, I realized I was out of anchovy paste. So I added a little fish sauce, since I heard that was made from anchovies. It worked perfectly.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #5 - GRILLED TUNA SALAD NICOISE " »

May 27, 2009

DARING BAKERS MAY CHALLENGE - STRUDEL

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STRUDEL!!!

It’s the end of May, and time for another Daring Baker’s Challenge. The May Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Linda of make life sweeter! and Courtney of Coco Cooks. They chose Apple Strudel from the recipe book Kaffeehaus: Exquisite Desserts from the Classic Cafés of Vienna, Budapest and Prague by Rick Rodgers.

This was going to be a challenge for me, because I couldn’t imagine being able to make a dough that would stretch to a 2 foot x 3 foot rectangle. Yes, that’s what the recipe said to do. And you know what? I was able to stretch it that much.

We were able to use the apple filling that I’ve listed below, or choose our own. I decided to use what I had on hand-a combination of apples, rhubarb, and strawberries. I added some spice with cinnamon, ginger, and cardamom. It was a delicious combination. The dough was nicely browned with multiple flaky layers, and the filling was juicy and flavorful. Just what you're looking for in a strudel.

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May 28, 2009

CURDS OUR WHEY - MASCARPONE CHEESE

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Our choice for the May Curds Our Whey cheese was Mascarpone. I love mascarpone, so I was really excited to make this. I loved the flavor and will definately make it again, but it did not taste like mascarpone to me. It tasted like creme fraiche. It uses a creme fraiche starter, so now I'm not suprised. I did drain it in the refrigerator most of a day to get an even thicker cheese. You can use this in a variety of ways. I would probably just use it anywhere creme fraiche or sour cream is called for. It made a wonderful topping for a fruit crostada. I whipped a little heavy cream, mixed in some vanilla sugar and mascarpone, and continued whipping. The flavor was so good. I also made a sauce out of it to top a purchased ravioli I bought(asparagus and cheese). Put a large tablespoon or serving spoon of mascarpone in a skillet, add zest of 1/4 to 1/2 a lemon, and enough juice to thin (I probably used a tablespoon or two). Add a little salt and pepper. Cook pasta as directed, drain, and add to skillet with the sauce. Stir to combine, then serve topped with grated parmesan.

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May 31, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #6 - FAJITA SALAD WITH CREAMY CILANTRO LIME DRESSING

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This week it was Kim's turn to choose the salad. She had a little trouble deciding on which to choose-would it be a Cashew Chicken Salad with Mandarin Oranges, or a Chicken Ceasar Salad? In the end, she chose a Fajita Salad with Creamy Cilantro Lime Dressing.

This salad tasted really good, and was low-fat also. A great combination. I followed the recipe, except I sauteed the onions and red peppers in the skillet before I cooked the chicken, and since my husband doesn't like cilantro I made two versions of the dressing-one with cilantro, and one with chives.

If you're looking for a quick healthy salad with lots of bold flavors, give this one a try.

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June 2, 2009

PASTICCIO DI RISO

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Last week, I had friends from out of town over for dinner. I rarely have anyone over for dinner on nights I work, because it's just too much stress trying to get everything done in the short period of time after you get home and before your guests arrive. But this was the only night we could get together, so I just thought I'd make something I could do most of ahead of time. I happened to be looking at Palma's blog that day, and saw a recipe I thought I had to make. It was a rice dish that could be made the day before, and it was just perfect. You cook all of the layers separately, then layer them into a spring-form pan. The layers consist of cheesy arborio rice, a ricotta/mozzeralla cheese filling, a broccoli/pancetta layer, a sausage layer, and it's all topped with a Parmesan-Cream topping. I assembled the whole thing, and covered it with foil. The next evening, I preheated my oven then baked it about 1 hour 15 minutes. While it was baking, I made a salad dressing using strawberry vinegar, blood orange olive oil(darn, I used the last of it), dijon mustard, salt and pepper. Then I tossed a salad of mixed lettuces, orange segments, and sliced strawberries. Heated up some bread, and that was it. Served with a nice red wine, it was a perfect meal. I have no pictures of dessert, but it was the mixed fruit crostada that I talk about on the post for mascarpone cheese.

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June 4, 2009

PEANUT BUTTER TORTE

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Saturday I was attending a baby shower for a friend of mine, and I was also bringing the cake. I knew she liked peanut butter and chocolate, so I decided to make a recipe that I had seen in my cookbook "Baking with Dorie" by Dorie Greenspan. How could you go wrong with a combination of peanut butter, whipping cream, cream cheese, chocolate, and oreo cookies? Well, you can't. This was a really good torte. Very (no, EXTREMELY) rich, so you'll just want a small piece. The recipe says it serves 6-8, but I think you can very easily serve 12. The torte is easy to make-it's an oreo cookie crust, the filling is like a peanut butter mousse, and it's topped with a chocolate ganache. My photos don't do it justice, but it is very impressive-looking. Not like home-made, but like you picked it up from the fancy bakery.

This keeps in the refrigerator for a couple of days. Just make sure you don't set it out too much before you serve it. I found that it gets too soft very quickly.

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June 7, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #7 - ROASTED CORN AND WILD RICE SALAD

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Time for another great salad. This week's salad was chosen by Deborah of Old Shoes, New Trip.. She chose a salad that she found on the internet years ago. It's a wonderful Roasted Corn and Wild Rice Salad. My husband and I both loved this salad. It's very healthy-it is full of fiber with the wild rice and vegetables, and only has 1 tablespoon of oil in the entire bowl. It's also very flavorful, and it makes a very large bowl so it would be great to take to a get-together or if it's just for two of you, you'll have leftovers for the week.

The original recipe calls for wild rice blend, but Deborah suggests using 1 package of wild rice. I forgot to purchase this at the store, but knew I had some at home. I wasn't sure the quantity of rice 1 package makes, so I just guessed. I used 3/4 cup wild rice and 1/4 cup wild rice blend. A couple of other subsitutes I made-I used plain frozen corn, as I've never been able to find frozen roasted corn here in Alaska. I chopped my carrots instead of grating them (I was lazy), and lastly, I used strawberry vinegar instead of raspberry vinegar, as that's what I had on hand.

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June 9, 2009

WHAT TO EAT ON A HOT SUNNY DAY

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Sunday was a beautiful day here in Eagle River. Sunny with not a cloud in the sky. On days like that, I get a craving for chips and salsa, and either a Mike's Hard Lemonaid or a margarita. For dinner I decided to make a cold salad. I had 2 avocados I needed to use, and shrimp in the freezer, so I decided to make a Shrimp Guacomole. For the chips, I took corn tortillas, cut them in wedges, sprayed with Pam, sprinkled with sea salt and cumin and baked at 350 until crispy. The salad was a mix of shrimp I had sauteed with salt, pepper, and cumin, avocado, tomatoes, jalapeno, red onion, lime juice, and a few splashes of hot sauce. Of course, I had to have a couple of Mike's Hard Lemonaide to go along with it.

June 14, 2009

WHEN YOU WANT COMFORTING FOOD - IRISH SODA BREAD

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I've been feeling a little sorry for myself this last week as I recouperate from my foot surgery. I am not the most patient person when I'm not able to get around and do as I please. And it hasn't helped that I told my husband to go fishing for the weekend, and to make things easier, we boarded Bella at Doggie Daycare until Monday. It's been a cold, dreary weekend, and I've been lonely.

This afternoon I decided I needed some comfort food. I knew I wanted to bake (I had already built a fire to keep warm, so the oven being turned on would be a bonus.), but knew it would have to be something that took almost no time to put together. Then I thought of Irish Soda Bread. I hadn't made it in years, so I went to Epicurious.com to find a recipe. The recipes were simple, with most ingredients you would have on hand. I didn't have buttermilk, but I used 1/2 skim milk and 1/2 heavy cream, and added a tablespoon or so of lemon juice.

The bread was just what I needed. Lightly sweetened, with soft golden raisins throughout. With butter melting on top, and a nice dollop of jam, it was perfect.

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June 16, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #8 - SHRIMP SALAD

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Okay, it's not Sunday, and for those of you who checked, I didn't post a Sunday Salad Samplers recipe this past Sunday. I still wasn't up to standing long enough to cook. But I'm back to being able to stand for a short while, and so I'm back to cooking.

This week our salad was chosen by Jan of Keep Your Feet in the Street. She chose a Shrimp Salad, which she said was simple, summery, and good. She was right. The hardest thing about making this salad was peeling the shrimp. And I got lucky with the shrimp. My husband came back Sunday night from a weekend out fishing, and with two pulls of the shrimp pots, got 5 gallons each time. 10 gallons of shrimp is a lot for 1 weekend out. Most went in the freezer, but I was sure to save enough for this salad. Enjoy.

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June 21, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK # 9 - GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD WITH CITRUS CEASAR VINAIGRETTE

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It's time for another Sunday Salad Samplers, and this week I was the lucky one who got to choose what we would make. I chose a Grilled Romaine Salad with Citrus Ceasar Vinaigrette. I got the original recipe off of Epicurious.com, but have adapted it a little for my tastes. This is one of my favorite salads. You grill romaine lettuce for a short period of time, and it gives the edges a nice smokey flavor. Then it's topped with a tangy citrus vinegrette and topped with chopped tomatoes, home-made croutons, and shaved Parmigiano-Reggiano. It can't get much better than that. I encourage you to use the anchovy paste in the dressing. You can cut back the quantity if you don't like a strong anchovy flavor, but it really does add another dimension to the dressing that you won't have otherwise. The tubes of anchovy paste work really well. I also make one change to the recipe. I substitute part of the olive oil with a lemon-infused olive oil. It just makes it more tangy and lemony.

I served my salad with grilled halibut. I put it on a piece of foil, and spread it with a topping made of maui onion mustard, lemon juice, capers, and a little olive oil. Top with salt and pepper and grill. Be sure and don't overcook it, or it will be really dry.

Give this salad a try. I think you'll really enjoy it.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK # 9 - GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD WITH CITRUS CEASAR VINAIGRETTE" »

June 24, 2009

SPICED RHUBARB CAKE

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It's that time of year when the rhubarb in my garden is turning into a monsterous clump, and I need to find ways to use it. Unfortunately, I often waste a lot of it. In the years where I'm ambitious, I chop it and freeze it, but I stiff often have bags of it left in the freezer the following summer. And I do like almost all of the rhubarb recipes I have ever tried.

Here's one for you to try: Spiced Rhubarb Cake. I'm not sure where to give credit for this recipe to. I think it was probably pulled from the web. I'll post it as I have it, but here's the changes I made. I didn't put the pecans in the cake, but instead put them all in the icing. (I used walnuts also as that's what I had on hand.). I also used 1/2 cup butter in the icing, and didn't measure the powdered sugar, just added it until the consistency was right. I was also in a hurry, so I didn't sift the powdered sugar. And lastly, I scraped vanilla seeds from 1 pod into the icing.

This cake is flavorful and very moist. I took it on a camping trip with us and it was devoured by our friends.

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June 28, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #10 - GRILLED CHICKEN SALAD WITH TARRAGON PESTO

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This week our salad was chosen by Marcia. As she was deciding what salad to choose, she received her copy of the April Bon Appetit in the mail and on the cover was a salad-Grilled Chicken Salad with Tarragon Pesto. She decided to choose it as her salad.

This salad is very tasty. Make a tarragon pesto, which is very flavorful and unusual. Toss greens, radishes and cucumbers with a lemon vinegrette. Grill chicken and bread. Place on plate.

I made 2 changes to this recipe, one which you've probably already noticed in the photos. Instead of chicken, I used Sockeye(red) salmon that my husband caught when we were out camping this weekend. The other change I made was to add about 1 teaspoon dijon mustard to the vinegrette.

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June 30, 2009

Spiced Bing Cherry Jam

On Tuesday, June 27th I talked about the Daring Bakers Challenge of Bakewell Tarts. I used homemade Bing Cherry Jam in them. I meant to post that recipe at the same time, but evidently, I forgot. So here it is. It's a really nice cherry jam that spiced with cinnamon and cloves. It's great on biscuits, scones, etc. but my favorite way to use it is to glaze a pork tenderloin. It would also be good on chicken and duck, and I think I've also used it to glaze salmon with.

SPICED BING CHERRY JAM
4 cups pitted Bing cherries, chopped
1 (2 oz) pkg powdered pectin
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup almond liqueur
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
4 1/2 cups sugar

1. Place all ingredients, except sugar, into a 6-quart kettle. Bring to a full rolling boil that cannot be stirred down.
2. Immediately add sugar. Bring mixture to a full rolling boil and continue to cook for an additional 2 minutes.
3. Skim mixture.
4. Pour into hot, sterilized jars, leaving 1/4-inch head space. Seal.
5. Process 10 minutes in boiling water bath.
Yield: 5 to 6 half-pints

July 1, 2009

CURDS OUR WHEY - CHEVRE

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I'm a few days late, but it's time for the June Curds Our Whey. This month I chose for us to make Chevre cheese. Chevre is the French word for "goat".

I was really looking forward to making the Chevre until I began my search at the grocery stores. When making cheese, you want to use pasturized, but not ultra-pasturized. The curds don't usually form properly when using ultra-pasturized. I checked every grocery store and health food store I could think of in Anchorage, and the only goat's milk I could find was ultra-pasturized. The recipe also called for a gallon of goat's milk, and the only size available to me was quarts. At around $6/quart, and when I didn't think it would turn out, I wasn't willing to try with more than one quart. So I divided my package of starter into quarters, and proceeded to make the cheese.

This recipe is very easy. Heat the milk, add the starter, and let it sit at room temperature for 12 hours. I needed to go to bed, so mine only set for about 10 hours. But it did already have the "yogurt texture" called for. Well, a little softer than yogurt, but I didn't have a choice. So before going to bed, I drained it. I let it drain overnight, and it was still too soft. This was Friday morning, and I was leaving town for the weekend, so I decided to tie the muslin to a long spoon, hang the cheese over a bowl, and refrigerate until I came home on Sunday. When I checked it on Sunday, it was perfect. A little softer than the kind I buy in the grocery store, but still firm enough that I could cut into rounds to place on a salad.

Another thing that suprised me about the cheese was the yield. I thought by using only a quart that my yield would be next to nothing. I forgot to weigh the cheese before I used it, but it was a little more than a small ball or log that you would buy at the store. So maybe between 6 and 8 ounces? If I used an entire gallon of milk, I'm not sure what I would do with that much goat cheese.

I'll post in the next couple of days how I used the Chevre. One thing the cookbook suggests is to use it as a spread, flavored with herbs and spices. Or it also can be used as a substitute for cream cheese.

Here's the ball of Chevre that was my end result.
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July 2, 2009

CROSTINI WITH HOME-MADE CHEVRE

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This is one of the things I made using the fresh Chevre I made this week. Toast a nice chewy bread in the broiler until lightly brown (both sides). Remove from oven, and spread with Chevre. Drizzle with honey, and top with chopped toasted walnuts and a little chopped fresh rosmary. A great flavor combination.

July 3, 2009

FRESH PEACHES WITH CHEVRE HONEY CREAM

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Here's another item I made this week using the Chevre that I made last weekend. I had some fresh peaches from my CSA. I sliced them into serving dishes. In another small bowl, I whisked together Chevre, honey, and a little heavy cream that was very lightly whipped. Place a dollop of this on the peaches, and top with crumbled amaretti cookies. This was a nice easy dessert, combining the sweetness of the peaches and honey, the tanginess of the chevre, and the almond flavor from the amaretti cookies.

July 5, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS - WEEK #11 - WATERMELON SALAD

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This week's salad was brought to us by Nancy. Nancy said she chose a Watermelon Salad because it's 4th of July weekend. But she couldn't decide which recipe to choose, so she gave us 3 different recipes and allowed us to choose the version we wanted.

I have seen a lot of recipes for Watermelon and Feta salads, and for some reason, I just couldn't imagine them tasting good. I only eat watermelon by itself, or at the most in a basic fruit salad. But I was determined to try this salad, and boy, am I glad I did. It is really good! I do think the key is to use a red onion that's not too stong (or soak it in some lime juice first to make it more mild). The combination of the sweet watermelon, the salty feta and olives and the earthiness of the red onion is really a winner.

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July 7, 2009

SALMON WITH PINOT NOIR SAUCE

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Since it's summertime, I've been fixing a ton of salmon. Some of it is the fresh that we've(okay, my husband) has been catching, and some of it last year's vacuum-packed and frozen, as I'm trying to make room in the freezer for this year's catch.

Last week, I decided to try recipe that I came up with. I fixed a Grilled Salmon fillet with a Pinot Noir sauce served on top of sauteed bok choy. The bok choy was a simple saute-olive oil, a little chopped proscuitto, sliced bok choy, and salt and pepper.
The salmon I just rubbed with olive oil, salt and pepper and grilled until just barely done. You don't want to overcook salmon or it is very dry.
Pinot Noir Sauce
1/2 cup Pinot Noir
1/8 cup honey
1/8 cup mustard seed
1/8 cup red wine vinegar
1 tablespoon chopped shallot
1 teaspoon chopped tarragon
Salt and pepper to taste
1 tablespoon butter

Place wine in a small saucepan over high heat and boil until reduced by half. Remove from heat and stir in honey until dissolved. In a separate small skillet, warm mustard seeds until they begin to pop and are fragrant. Remove from heat and add to wine mixture. Add the vinegar, shallot, tarragon, salt and pepper to the wine mixture. If the mixture seems too thin, bring to a boil and reduce to desired consistency. Before serving, whisk in 1 tablespoon butter.

To plate, place the sauteed bok choy on a plate. Place the salmon fillet on top, then spoon on the pinot noir sauce. Delicious served with Pinot Noir.

July 12, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS #12 - CEVICHE

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It's hard to believe we're into our third month of salads. Today's salad was chosen by Candi and it was perfect for the warm weather we've been having. She chose Ceviche. Normally, Ceviche uses fish/shellfish that is "cooked" in lime juice. But this recipe was a little different in that the fish and shrimp were poached in a liquid first. This is a nice choice for someone who is hesitant about eating "raw" fish.

The recipe was adapted from a recipe from Ageless Face, Ageless Mind by Nicholas Perricone. It's a very easy recipe to make, and can handle lots of adaptations. Try this for a light entree for a tasty appetizer.

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July 15, 2009

Pain D'Amande Cookies

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A few months ago I saw a recipe on David Lebovitz's blog that I just had to try. It was for a cookie called pain d'amande. The recipe comes from Flo Braker, who David had do a guest post about these cookies.

Flo says that these are a traditional Belgian cookie, known as almond bread (pain d'amande). It was a favorite from her catering baking business in the early 1970s. They contain raw sugar, which is similar to turbinado-style sugar, and gives the cookies an unique taste, texture, and appearance. They are baked slowly and turned over during the baking process, developing a crispy texture and toasty flavor.

I had to hunt to find some appropriate sugar, and brought some back from a trip to the lower 48. I made the cookies this week, and they were well worth the wait. If you like a crispy cookie that packs lots of flavor, give these a try. I've been enjoying them with a cup of tea or coffee in the afternoon (although I have to admit they were my breakfast one morning).

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July 17, 2009

CHINESE POTSTICKERS (A DARING COOKS CHALLENGE)

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Those of you who read my blog know that I participate in Daring Bakers. A few months ago I also joined Daring Cooks. I was not able to participate in last months challenge. That was when I had my foot surgery, and couldn't be on my feet long enough to get these made. But I knew that I wanted to try the recipe, because the comments that all of the participants made were all so positive.

I'm so glad that I made these, because they were SO GOOD! If you've made them using wonton wrappers, try making this dough. It was easy, and so much better. The longest part of making this recipe is mincing all of the ingredients. But it was so worth it. I had a lot of filling left over, so I made them into little meatballs, froze them, then later added them to a basic soup of chicken broth, ginger, soy, chilie paste, and vegetables like bok choy, carrots, and broccoli.

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July 19, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #13 - ISRAELI SALAD

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This week's salad was chosen by Terry. She chose a recipe from a cookbook that I've had for many years-Molly Katzen's book, The Enchanted Broccoli Forest. Terry first ate this salad while in Israel, and said they eat salads like this a lot for breakfast. I'm not sure that I was too thrilled to make this salad. I just couldn't imagine a salad with pickles in it. Well, I made it and LOVED IT! It's so fresh-tasting. I followed the recipe except I used a red pepper instead of green, and I didn't measure anything. I also minced everything by hand instead of using a food processor. I topped mine with some plain yogurt. My husband really liked this salad also, and he doesn't care for olives or pickles.

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July 21, 2009

RABBIT, MUSHROOM AND TARRAGON STEW

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I had a couple of rabbits in my freezer I needed to cook, and went in search of a recipe. I found this recipe on the blog We Are Never Full. I've tried a few other recipes from their blog, and they've always been very good. This was no exception.

This stew was very flavorful due partially to the bacon and cream in the recipe. Obviously it is rich. If you've never tried rabbit you should-it is really delicious. I just have to get better at cutting it into pieces-unfortunately, I tend to have little bones where there probably shouldn't be any bones.

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July 22, 2009

BLUEBERRY AMANDINE TART

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I had fresh blueberries that I wanted to make a tart with, and I found a delicious recipe in the cookbook "Chocolate & Zucchini" by Clotilde Dusoulier. The crust is a buttery Pate Sablee, there are juicy blueberries on the bottom, then it is topped by an almond cream. I served it with Lavander Honey Ice Cream.

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July 27, 2009

JULY DARING BAKERS - COOKIES!

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The July Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Nicole at Sweet Tooth. She chose Chocolate Covered Marshmallow Cookies and Milan Cookies from pastry chef Gale Gand of the Food Network. She had been wanting to try Gand’s version of her favorite store bought cookies which were the Peppridge Farm Milano Cookies and the Mallows (Chocolate covered Cookies).

I had high hopes for these recipes, but unfortunately, I was disappointed.

The Mallow cookies were the best. The problem with this recipe was it was hard to get the chocolate coating to harden, and the yield was way off. I forgot to count, but it made dozens of cookies. I followed the recipe for the cookies and coating, but used a different one for the marshmallows. I've posted it below. The homemade marshmallow filling was flavored with strawberry puree and orange flower water. They were really yummy and I'll for sure be making more homemade marshmallows in the future.

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July 28, 2009

TARTE CHOCOLAT CARAMEL

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I was going to dinner at a friends house, and I offered to bring desert. I decided I would try to make something with ingredients I had on hand. I had used all of the eggs, so I knew that would be a challenge. As I was looking through cookbooks, I found what I thought would be the perfect recipe-Chocolate Caramel Tart. This recipe is another one from the cookbook Chocolate & Zucchini by Clotilde Dusoulier. Last week I made her recipe for Blueberry Amandine Tart, which was delicious. So I figured this would be another winner.

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August 2, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #14 - THAI BEEF SALAD

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Okay, I'm a week behind on this one. Might be the first time all season that I've been so behind. Today is supposed to be Palma's Tropical Rice Salad. I'll post on that in the next couple of todays. So today, it's the salad for last week.

The recipe was chosen by Maria. Here's her description of the recipe: "This salad is one of the favorites in restaurants and home kitchens alike in Bangkok and Central Thailand. This version was given to me by my niece Isabel who for many years assisted her Thai mom in Atlanta-area restaurants."

I followed the recipe as written, with a few minor changes. I added a little sugar to the dressing. I also forgot to add the Thai chilis to my salad, but I had added garlic-chili sauce to the dressing also so it was very spicy. I also used sweet onion instead of red onion.

I loved this salad. It is so flavorful, and very healthy as long as you use a cut of beef that isn't too fatty. The dressing has no oil in it, but you don't miss it at all. You can also substitute shrimp for the beef.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #14 - THAI BEEF SALAD" »

August 4, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #15 - TROPICAL RICE SALAD

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We're almost at an end to our salad-making, and wouldn't you know this is the time I get behind. This salad was our chosen salad for last Sunday. It was created by Palma. For those of you who don't know, Palma is a fabulous cook. She came up with this recipe while looking for a salad for a tropical-themed wedding shower.

The salad is really flavorful. I followed the directions with only a couple of changes-I used a mixed rice blend(brown, wild, etc.) instead of the white rice called for, and used orange bell pepper instead of red. Great with grilled fish or chicken. Thanks Palma.

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August 9, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #16 - COUSCOUS SALAD

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We're almost at the end. Only 2 more salads to go after today. And I think I've really liked every single salad we've made. And I haven't tired of making salads. But I guess eventually all things have to come to an end...but not yet! This week, Annie chose our salad, and picked a recipe for a Couscous salad. Here's what she says about the recipe: "I found this recipe on the McCormick spice website after a friend brought me a big bag of cinnamon from Vietnam and I started looking for savory recipes to use it in. The recipe was created by Suzanne Goins from the Los Angeles restaurant Luques. I use whole wheat couscous and sometimes substitute dried apricots for the dates. You can also use vegetable broth instead of chicken broth. Vietnamese cinnamon is pretty strong so if you're using regular cinnamon, you might want to use a little bit more. This is a great party/potluck recipe (it keeps and travels well)."

This salad was very good, and can make a meal by itself. I ate it warm and cold, and enjoyed it both ways. The sweet from the dates, contrasting with the savory from the onions, is really good.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #16 - COUSCOUS SALAD" »

August 14, 2009

DARING COOKS AUGUST CHALLENGE -

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It's August,so time for a Daring Cooks Challenge. This month's challenge was chosen by Olga from Las Cosas de Olga and Olga’s Recipes. She chose a delicious Spanish recipe, Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes by José Andrés, one of the most important Spanish Chefs at the moment. He trained under well-known Ferran Adria at his three Michelin star restaurant El Bulli. José Andrés lives now in Washington DC and he owns several restaurants in Washington DC area (El Jaleo, Zaytinya, Oyamel…). This recipe is from his US TV show Made in Spain.

While I enjoyed this dish, I thought it lacked a little in flavor. I would suggest using all of the Sofregit, not just a tablespoon or two. Also, be sure and make the aioli-it also adds a lot of flavor. And you also might try adding a spicy sausage, such as Chorizo. I used frozen artichokes in mine, and used squid as I couldn't find cuttlefish. Most of my squid was previously frozen squid steaks, then I bought a couple of fresh squid to have the experience of cleaning them and to have the tentacles to make the dish look nicer.
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Continue reading "DARING COOKS AUGUST CHALLENGE - " »

August 16, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #17 - SOUTHERN MUSTARD POTATO SALAD

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Only one more week left of making salads. I'm going to miss that. This week, Sandi of Whistlestop Cafe chose our recipe. She chose a good, old-fashioned potato salad. I followed the recipe except I didn't have spicy mustard so I used Dijon, and I didn't really measure the ingredients, just threw them together. Loved it! I don't make potato salad often, and when I do, I wonder why I don't make it more often. I served mine with a halibut with a lemon caper sauce on top. Perfect.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #17 - SOUTHERN MUSTARD POTATO SALAD" »

August 23, 2009

SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #18 - TORTELLINI SALAD

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I guess all good things must eventually come to an end. This is the last week for our Sunday Salad Samplers. We've made 18 salads, and I've loved every one of them.

This weeks salad was chosen by Ida. She said she's been making this salad for years, and it makes a large batch, so it's good for parties or buffets. It's a recipe that you can adapt to your likes/dislikes, or to fit what ingredients you have on hand.

I used 2 different fresh tortellinis in mine. One was spinach with cheese, the other was filled with chicken and proscuitto. I used feta cheese instead of mozzarella, and instead of the sundried tomatoes, garlic, black olives, marinated artichokes, and marinated red peppers, I used a couple of mixed things from the olive bar at Safeway. The mixtures contained marinated artichokes, black olives, hot peppers and pickled garlic. This salad was really good. Flavorful and colorful. You can add shrimp or chicken to it for a complete meal, or serve it as a side dish. I served mine as a side to salmon salad sandwiches.

We're taking a week off, then we begin our next cooking adventure-Sunday Small Bites. This will be a little diffferent than we've done in the past. Each week, someone will chose an ingredient. We all make an appetizer with that ingredient (and it has to be one we've never made before) then post on our blog. All of us will have different appetizers, which will give us a lot of new recipes to try for ourselves in the future.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SALAD SAMPLERS WEEK #18 - TORTELLINI SALAD" »

August 25, 2009

Garlic Shrimp Pasta

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Here's one of my favorite things to throw together for dinner. It is very quick to make. If you have peeled shrimp, it would be even faster.

I don't have a recipe I follow, so here's what I do: In a large skillet, saute a lot of chopped garlic(I use about 5 large cloves) in a couple of tablespoons olive oil. Cook at low temperature until soft. Add a large pinch of red pepper flakes, and deglaze the pan with some white wine(maybe 1/2 cup). Add your shrimp, and cook until done. In the meantime, put on a lg pan of water to boil and cook spaghetti until al dente. Drain, and add to pan of shrimp. Toss to coat. If it's a little dry, add a some more olive oil.

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August 27, 2009

AUGUST DARING BAKERS - DOBOS TORTA

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Another month almost gone. August sure did fly by fast (I know, we still have a few days left in the month). I decided to make my Daring Baker's Choice at the beginning of the month this time. No scrambling for me, except for one thing-I almost forgot to post it. Only a few hours late though, so all is well. But I am struggling here typing this in-I cut my index finger 2 days ago with a nice, sharp knife, and now have 7 internal and 7 external stitches in that finger. The finger hurts and is partially numb at the same time, so typing is not an easy thing. Ignore any typos I may have here please.

The August 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Angela of A Spoonful
of Sugar and Lorraine of Not Quite Nigella. They chose the spectacular Dobos
Torte based on a recipe from Rick Rodgers' cookbook Kaffeehaus: Exquisite
Desserts from the Classic Caffés of Vienna, Budapest, and Prague.

Do you want to know about the history of Dobos Torta? Well, the Dobos Torta is a five-layer sponge cake, filled with a rich chocolate buttercream and topped with thin wedges of caramel. (You may come across recipes which have anywhere between six and 12 layers of cake; there are numerous family variations!) It was invented in 1885 by József C. Dobos, a Hungarian baker, and it rapidly became famous throughout Europe for both its extraordinary taste and its keeping properties. The recipe was a secret until Dobos retired in 1906 and gave the recipe to the Budapest Confectioners' and Gingerbread Makers' Chamber of Industry, providing that every member of the chamber can use it freely.

This cake tasted really good, but the buttercream was difficult to work with. It tasted SO good, but as soon as it was set out at room temperature, it softened up too much and the cake began to slip and slide. And it was even a cool day here in Alaska when I made it.

If I make it again, I'll skip the caramel on top-it was too sticky to eat, and just got in the way of slicing. I know, it's not a Dobos torta without it.

Looking forward to seeing what kind of creation I get to make for the September challenge!

Continue reading "AUGUST DARING BAKERS - DOBOS TORTA" »

September 1, 2009

ANOTHER HOMEMADE CHEESE - LACTIC CHEESE

The cheese I'm making for August is called Lactic Cheese. Here's what the recipe's author has to say: "This is a delicious, soft, spreadable cheese that is easy to make and ready to eat in 24 hours. You may add herbs in a variety of combinations for truly tantalizing taste treats. I find that a combination of freshly ground black pepper, 1 clove of chopped garlic, chopped fresh chives, and a dash of paprika makes a savory cheese. Try rolling plain or sweetened cheese in crepes and topping with fruit sauce for a gourmet desert. I like to make this cheese at night and drain it in the morning."

This cheese was very easy to make, and very versatile. I think you could substitute it anywhere for goats cheese or probably homemade ricotta. Tomorrow I'll post a recipe I made with it for Vegetable Tarts.

I'm not going to show a photo of the cheese, mainly because I forgot to take a picture. It looks basically like a cream cheese. If you drain it less, a little softer.

Recipe from "Home Cheese Making" by Ricki Carroll.

LACTIC CHEESE
1 gallon pasteurized whole or skim milk
1 packet direct-set mesophilic starter or 4 oz prepared mesophilic or prepared fresh starter
3 drops liquid rennet, diluted in 1/3 cup cool, unchlorinated water
Cheese salt(optional)
Herbs(optional)
1. Heat the milk to 86degrees F. Add the starter and mix thoroughly.
2. Add 1 teaspoon of the diluted rennet and stir with an up-and-down motion. Cover and let set, undisturbed, at a room temperature of at least 72 degrees F for 12 hours, or until a solid curd forms. The curd will look like yogurt.
3. Slowly pour the curd into a colander lined with butter muslin. Tie the corners of the muslin into a knot and hang the bag to drain for 6-12 hours, or until the cheese reaches the desired consistency. A room temperature of at least 72 degrees will encourage proper drainage. If you want the curds to drain more quickly, change the muslin periodically.
4. Place the curds in a bowl and add the salt to taste, if desired. Add the herbs, if desired.
5. Store in a covered bowl in the refrigerator for up to 2 weeks.(If the cheese has a hard, rubbery texture, add less rennet next time. If the cheese is too moist, add a little more rennet.)

September 2, 2009

Herbed Cheese Tart

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A week or so ago I was looking at David Lebovitz's blog and saw a photo of a Herbed Ricotta Tart that looked mouthwatering. I decided to make it and instead of using fresh ricotta cheese, I would use the Lactic Cheese that I made and posted about yesterday.

I decided to use just ingredients I had on hand, so I decided to skip the chorizo sausage and use just a slice or two of bacon. I had a package of frozen bacon, and stupidly tried to pry off one slice and this is what I ended up with:
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Seven internal stitches and seven external stitches. Ouch!!!

After a trip to get the stitches in, I came back to finish the tarts. I already had my pastry crust done (well, it was in the oven when the unfortunate accident happened). It's funny, but I now can't even remember whether I put bacon in the tarts or not!

I used the recipe for Pate Brisee from Clotilde Dusoulier's "Chocolate and Zucchini" cookbook. I followed David's recipe as mentioned above. These tarts were so good. Wonderful for a dinner with a green salad, or for breakfast the next morning. You could adapt them to your tastes in so many ways.

Continue reading "Herbed Cheese Tart" »

September 6, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK 1 - INGREDIENT:SHRIMP

RECIPE: SHRIMP WITH OREGANO AND GARLIC

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It's the beginning of a new cooking group. Our group began long ago as the Sunday Slow Bakers, then changed to the Sunday Slow Scoopers, then became the Sunday Slow Soupers, then recently were the Sunday Salad Samplers. We are now beginning a new chapter, and we will now be making Sunday Small Bites.

This one is a little different. Each week, someone picks our featured ingredient. That week, everyone makes a small plate using that ingredient. The rules are that you are to make a recipe that you've never made before. I'm challenging myself a little more. Unless I really can't find a new recipe any other way, I'm using cookbooks I already own to find my recipes. I have lots of cookbooks, but don't cook from a lot of them. I usually go to epicurious.com to find recipes. That would be so easy for this challenge, because all I would have to do is a search for appetizers with the ingredient listed.

This week was my week to choose our ingredient. I chose SHRIMP. I elected to make an appetizer that is very easy to make, from a Williams-Sonoma cookbook I don't think I've made anything from.

The shrimp were good, but I wouldn't make the recipe as stated again. I really liked the oregano flavor, but I didn't like the texture of the dried oregano. Next time I'll use fresh and I think it will be much better. I also used more garlic than called for-I used 5 cloves. And instead of the 1 cup of olive oil, I used 1/3 cup, which was plenty. I don't agree with the cookbook author that this is the flavor of paella. I make a shrimp that's similiar with just garlic, rosemary and olive oil that I love, but the oregano is another flavor choice that would be a nice appetizer to certain dishes when you might not want a rosmary flavor.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK 1 - INGREDIENT:SHRIMP " »

September 8, 2009

DULCE DE LECHE BROWNIES

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I love David Lebovitz and all of his wonderful recipes. He has a recipe for Dulce de Leche Brownies in his book "The Sweet Life in Paris". I made these brownies, but instead of Dulce de Leche, I used a caramel sauce I had a jar of. It's called Spice Walnut Currant Caramel Sauce, made by The King's Cupboard. The brownies are so good. Moist, chocolatey, and the spiced caramel sauce was just perfect in them.

The photos are not very good, but I wanted you to get an idea of what they look like.

Continue reading "DULCE DE LECHE BROWNIES" »

September 13, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES - WEEK 2 - CRAB

STEAMED CORN CUSTARDS WITH CRAB
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It's Week 2 of the Sunday Small Bites. This week's ingredient was chosen by VicoGirl. She chose crab. Yeah! I rarely eat crab. Even though much of it comes from Alaska, it is just as expensive here as it is elsewhere.

I was trying to challenge myself by not going to Epicurious.com to find my recipes. By today I gave in. Kindof sad considering it's only week 2. I wanted to try to use ingredients I had on hand. I did have to send my husband to the market to buy crab, and he bought a few nice King Crab legs. I had recieved some fresh corn on the cob from my CSA this week, so I searched on Epicurious for corn and crab and found the recipe I made - Steamed Corn Custards with Crab. This would be a very nice starter at a fancy dinner party. They tasted really rich, even though the custards didn't contain any cream or butter. I might have been a little heavy-handed with the butter that the crab was sauted in.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SMALL BITES - WEEK 2 - CRAB" »

September 14, 2009

SEPTEMBER DARING COOKS - INDIAN DOSAS

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It's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge.
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This months challenge was brought to us by Debyi from http://www.healthyvegankitchen.com. Here's what she had to say about the recipe she chose: "I am so excited to be your host for the September 2009 Daring Cooks challenge. It took almost a month to decide which recipe that I wanted to do. I wanted to choose something that could be easily adapted for our GF'ers and other Alternative Cooks, as well as still being tasty for everyone else. So, I finally decided on Indian Dosas from the refresh cookbook by Ruth Tal. My hubby and I had the wonderful pleasure of visiting one of the Fresh Restaurants (www.freshrestaurants.ca) in Toronto, Canada during a business trip. We ate 3 out of our 5 meals there, it was that good. If you ever get a chance to visit, I highly recommend it, they have 3 locations in Toronto. If not, their cookbooks are amazing, everything we have tried has been great."

Here's what our requirements for the challenge were-Must be free of animal products. That means no cows milk, butter, meat, poultry, fish, chicken/beef broth, etc. This dish is also 99% oil free, using only what you need to keep the dosas from sticking (I used a quick spritz of cooking spray on the first dosa only), which isn't too bad with a nonstick pan. (I did use a little olive oil when sauteing the onions, because my pans are not non-stick.) We could use a different filling/sauce if we wanted , but it had to be free of animal products.

I chose to make the recipe almost as written. I did add some zuchhini to the garbanzo bean filling. The curry powder I used is Sri Lankan curry powder. It's wonderful tasting, but very hot. So I did use a little less than called for.

This was an interesting challenge. I've cooked with many of the flavors before, so that wasn't new to me. But I had never made the dosas. The dosas were easy to make and tasty, and it was nice to know that this was a healthy meal. I can't say it was low in fat because of the coconut milk, but I used light coconut milk, so that helped. I served the leftovers over rice, and that was also good.

If you're looking for an interesting, authentic Indian dish, give these Dosas a try.

Now I just have to figure out what to do with all of the leftover spelt flour...

Continue reading "SEPTEMBER DARING COOKS - INDIAN DOSAS" »

September 20, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #3 - SUNDRIED TOMATOES

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TOMATO, PINE NUT & CHORIZO LOAF

The theme for this week's Small Bites was Sun-Dried Tomatoes. Our theme this week was chosen by Amy. This was a fun choice.

I looked through my cookbooks, trying to find something out of the ordinary, when I found the recipe I wanted to try - Cake Tomate, Pistache, & Chorizo. This was in the wonderful book Chocolate & Zuchhini by Clotilde Dusoulier. Everything I've made from this book has been wonderful. She says that in French, cake can mean a variety of baked goods made in a loaf pan. For this cake, it is suggested that it is cut in slices or cubes, and that they're great for a picnic, buffet, or as a finger food for the apertif.

This cake was excellent. The chorizo gives it a nice spicy kick, and the flavor of the sun-dried tomatoes is really strong. I made it the night before as suggested, and it was very moist the next day. This is one I will definately make again.

Continue reading "SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #3 - SUNDRIED TOMATOES" »

September 22, 2009

GERMAN CHOCOLATE CUPCAKES

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My husband asked me if I'd make a German Chocolate Cake for him to bring to a friend at work. He really didn't need an entire cake, so I decided to make cupcakes so that he could more easily share.

I searched the internet and came up with this recipe from Martha Stewart's web site. The cupcakes were delicious. Extremely moist, mild chocolate flavor that blended really well with that wonderful icing.

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September 26, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #4 - AVOCADO

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CHILLED CREAM OF AVOCADO SOUP

I know, I'm a day early. I'm out of town and have something else posting tomorrow, so I'm breaking the rules and posting a day early.

This week's ingredient was chosen by Annie. She chose avocado. I didn't want to make a typical dip, and I found a lovely recipe for Chilled Cream of Avocado Soup from the cookbook The Culinary Institute of America's Gourmet Meals in Minutes. This is a healthy, very refreshing starter to a meal. The avocado flavor really comes through.

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September 27, 2009

SEPTEMBER DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE - VOLS-AU-VENT

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The September 2009 Daring Bakers' challenge was hosted by Steph of A Whisk and a Spoon. She chose the French treat, Vols-au-Vent based on the Puff Pastry recipe by Michel Richard from the cookbook Baking With Julia by Dorie Greenspan.

Vols-au-Vents are puff pastry cases filled with anything we chose to make (savory or sweet). The real challenge here was making puff pastry from scratch. Puff pastry is in the ‘laminated dough” family, along with Danish dough and croissant dough. A laminated dough consists of a large block of butter (called the “beurrage”) that is enclosed in dough (called the “détrempe”). This dough/butter packet is called a “paton,” and is rolled and folded repeatedly (a process known as “turning”) to create the crisp, flaky, parallel layers you see when baked. Unlike Danish or croissant however, puff pastry dough contains no yeast in the détrempe, and relies solely aeration to achieve its high rise. The turning process creates hundreds of layers of butter and dough, with air trapped between each one. In the hot oven, water in the dough and the melting butter creates steam, which expands in the trapped air pockets, forcing the pastry to rise.

Well, I've always wanted to make puff pastry so this was a perfect challenge for me. And I loved it! The process did take most of the day, but much of that time was waiting for the dough to chill between turns. The pastry was easy to work with, and tasted sublime. When my husband was eating the vols-au-vents, he was actually moaning! Crisp, flaky, and buttery.

I chose to fill mine with 2 very simple fillings that could be used as a brunch or appetizer. One was a very basic egg salad and the other was a simple smoked salmon salad (smoked salmon, capers, mayo). And I have 3/4 of the dough still in my freezer, and I can't wait to make a decadent pastry dessert with it!

One day when you are feeling adventurous and are craving a crispy buttery delight, try making your own puff pastry. You won't be sorry.

Continue reading "SEPTEMBER DARING BAKERS CHALLENGE - VOLS-AU-VENT" »

October 4, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #5 - GOAT CHEESE

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The ingredient for this week's Sunday Small Bites is goat cheese. This ingredient was chosen by h. In case you're new to my blog, Sunday Small Bites is a group I participate in. Weekly, one of us choses an ingredient, then all of the participants make a small plate or appetizer that contains this ingredient. One rule is that you can't have made the recipe before, therefore you try new things. Each Sunday, we all post the recipe we made that week.

This week I decided to make pizza. While pizza can certainly be a main dish, it can also be an appropriate starter. Maybe make the pizza more oblong and cut it into small squares. I chose to make a Goat Cheese, Zucchini, Leek and Walnut Pizza. I made a second pizza where I also added sliced cooked peanut potatoes. I liked the one without the potatoes best, and it was a fabulous pizza. I have pizza dough left over. Guess what we're having for dinner tomorrow night?

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October 11, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #6 - SMOKED SALMON

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It's time for another Sunday Small Bites. The theme this week was chosen by Marcia. Marcia chose Smoked Salmon as our ingredient. She was on an Alaskan Cruise this summer, and had purchased some smoked salmon. She wanted some ideas on how she could use it.

Well, since I live in Alaska, catch a lot of salmon, and smoke it myself, this was a good choice for me. I will be anxious to see what dishes others created. The smoked salmon we make is probably different than most people buy. It's not lox, which I don't care for. Our salmon is thicker fillets, which are soaked in a sweet-salty brine, then smoked until they are lightly cooked through. So the flavor is more smoky, and the taste isn't as "fishy" tasting.

We usually just eat ours plain with some crackers. I also on occasion make a dip, a really good one that has cream cheese, sour cream, and toasted pecans. Or sometimes I crumble it into scrambled eggs or a salmon chowder. This week I decided to use up more of that home-made puff pastry and creating Smoked Salmon Puffs. Since I made up this recipe, I can't give you exact quantities, but you'll get enough of an idea that you could try it if you'd like.

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October 14, 2009

OCTOBER DARING COOKS - VIETNAMESE PHO

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It's October 14th, and time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The October 2009 Daring Cooks’ challenge was brought to us by Jaden of the blog Steamy Kitchen. The recipes are from her new cookbook, The Steamy Kitchen Cookbook.

I was really excited about this month's challenge, as I love Pho. If you don't know what Pho is, it's a Vietnamese noodle soup. The broth is simmered for hours with either beef knuckle/leg bone or with a whole chicken. The broth is unique in that it is simmered with warm spices like coriander, star anise, cloves, cinnamon, and ginger. Accompaniments include cilantro or basil, a wedge of lime, fresh bean sprouts and sometimes fresh sliced chilies.

I have only tried the beef version of Pho. Jaden gave us two options for this challenge-use the quick version she developed, which uses store-bought chicken broth, or use the recipe on her blog for a slow-cooked version. I opted for the slow-cooked version of her Beef Pho. You can view the recipe on her blog here.

I made a double-batch of broth, which I would not do in the future. It was a HUGE pot of broth, almost unmanageable. But I now have a freezer full of spicy broth, just waiting to make me a steaming bowl of Pho in the future. And I will make this in the future. The warming spices, mixed with the tender beef, and the punch of the basil and cilantro, makes a great bowl of soup. Don't forget the bean sprouts either, as the crunch they provide is really good.

Take a look at Jaden's book for the quick recipe, or go to her blog and try the long version, or if you're not up to making a big pot of soup, then get yourself to your nearest Vietnamese restaurant and try a bowl of Pho for yoursel.

October 24, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES - WEEK #7 - PECANS

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I was out of town last week and didn't complete the Sunday Small Bites, so I'm catching up now. This week our ingredient was Pecans, which was chosen by Sheri. I had plans to make all kinds of elaborate things, but when it actually came time to make something, I went very simple-Rosemary Pecans. I got this recipe from a friend a couple of years ago, and I don't know where the recipe came from. The original recipe calls for cashews or mixed nuts, or you can use all pecans like I did. It's a nice combination of sweet, salty, and spicy, although not too extreme on any of those qualities.

ROSEMARY NUTS
1 1/4 lb. cashews (or mixed nuts)
2 Tbsp chopped fresh rosemary
1 Tbsp brown sugar
2 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 Tbsp melted butter.
Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. Place on a baking pan and bake at 375 degrees F for 10 minutes.

October 25, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #8 - PUMPKIN

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This week our Sunday Small Bites ingredient was chosen by Deborah. She chose pumpkin. I had to do a little searching to find an appetizer using pumpkin. I thought of making a soup, but wanted to try something different. I have a cookbook titled "The Foods of the Greek Islands" by Aglaia Kremezi. I chose a recipe from this book called Bourekia Me Kolokytha, or Savory Pumpkin and Fennel Pies. The book says that these pumpkin and fennel pies, with or without cheese, are made all over Chios. The cheese versions are more common in hte southern villages of the island. Traditionally, these are wrapped in homemade phyllo pastry, but the book suggest using spring-roll wrappers instead. I had some wonton wrappers in my fridge, so that's what I used. The recipe calls for frying these. Just in case you think about saving the fat and baking them instead, don't bother. I tried, and the wrapper just comes out tough and chewy, not crisp and crunchy. These are really tasty, and would be a wonderful start to any meal or as part of the selection at an appetizer party.

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October 27, 2009

OCTOBER DARING BAKERS - FRENCH MACARONS

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It's almost the end of October, which means it's time to share our October Daring Bakers challenge. The 2009 October Daring Bakers’ challenge was brought to us by Ami S. She chose macarons from Claudia Fleming’s The Last Course: The Desserts of Gramercy Tavern as the challenge recipe.

I was so excited when I saw this, because I've always wanted to make French Macarons. I've read about how difficult they can be to make, so I had never attempted them. Until now. Oh yeah, for those of you who don't know what a French Macaron is, it's a cookie based on either ground almonds or almond paste, combined with sugar and egg whites. The texture can run from chewy, crunchy or a combination of the two. Frequently, two macaroons are sandwiched together with ganache, buttercream or jam, which can cause the cookies to become more chewy.

A lot of people said they were having trouble with the recipe we were to use for this challenge, so I decided to not only make the challenge recipe, but two others as well! I'll give you a brief overview of what I made, but I'll give more detailed posts later on the other recipes. Today I'll concentrate on our challenge recipe.

We were given Claudia Fleming's recipes for the macarons. We were required to use that recipe, but we were allowed to flavor them as we pleased, along with choosing any filling we wanted.

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November 1, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES - OLIVES

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FIG, APRICOT, AND WALNUT TAPENADE

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This week's ingredient for our Sunday Small Plates was chosen by Jerry. I love olives, but my husband doesn't like them. This was a good week to have olives as the ingredient, because he was out of town all week and I had a party to go to Friday night where I needed to bring an appetizer. I chose to make an olive tapenade. This recipe was unusual in that it also contained figs, apricots, prunes, and walnuts. To balance out all of that sweet, there was also capers and balsamic vinegar. The tapenade is not the most beautiful to look at, as you'll see from my photos. It's kind of a mess to look at. But it tastes delicious. I served it on crostini (bread drizzled with olive oil and sprinkled with salt and pepper, then grilled until toasted). A layer of goat cheese is spread on the crostini, then it is topped with the tapenade. I followed the recipe as listed, except that I didn't want it as chunky, so I put about 3/4 of it in the food processor to grind it a bit, then stirred the last 1/4 of it into the other 3/4 to keep some of the chunk. (That was a really bad sentence, wasn't it?)

The recipe came from the website InnCuisine.com. I had never seen that site before. It came up during a google search for Olive Fig tapenade.

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November 8, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL PLATES - WEEK 10 - MUSHROOMS

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I've been a little busy around here, and haven't been cooking a lot. When I'm busy, I tend to make a big pot of soup that we eat all week. That's what's been happening this week. But I sure wanted to participate in our Sunday Small Plates. This week's ingredient was chosen by Candi. She chose mushrooms as our ingredient. I looked through a lot of old recipes I had cut out. This one came from an old Bon Apetite magazine. I decided on it because I still have some of that puff pastry I made in the freezer. Probably only one more recipe to use it up after this. But back to the recipe. I chose Mushroom and Goat Cheese Tart. It was so good. As anyone who has read my blog knows, I love goat cheese. And I love it paired with mushrooms. Throw puff-pastry into the mix, and you can't go wrong. This is quick to make also.
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November 14, 2009

Chocolate Macarons

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SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #11 - GINGER

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I can't believe that we are already on Week 11 of Sunday Small Bites. Life just flies by a little too fast. This week, our ingredient was chosen by Palma. She chose ginger. I love ginger, but had trouble deciding what to make this week. While a lot of recipes contain ginger, I was looking for one that really featured ginger, not just had it as an ingredient.
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I chose an interesting recipe called "Roasted Garlic Dipping Sauce with Fresh Ginger and Tamari. I'm sorry I can't name the source it came from. I did lots of google searches to find it, now can't seem to located it again. The sauce is meant to be served as a dipping sauce for bread, like you might serve olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

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November 16, 2009

Granola

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I love Granola. I don't make it often though, because I quite simply eat too much of it when it is around. I eat it for breakfast. Usually sprinkled over yogurt. Sometimes a bowl of it with milk on top. Then, where I really go wrong is I tend to reach into that jar multiple times a day for a little snack. While it's a healthy item filled with fiber, vitamins, and minerals, because of all of the nuts it is quite high in calories.

But fall makes me think of Granola, and when I came across a recipe on David Lebovitz's blog a couple of weeks ago, I had to make it. His version was adapted from Feast, by Ngella Lawson, and I have adapted it a little more. I have my favorite granola recipe that contains oats, maple syrup, lots of different kinds of nuts and dried fruit. But I was intrigued by this recipe because it contained no dried fruit and one of the "wet" ingredients was applesauce. I thought the applesauce would not allow the granola to crisp up, but in fact, it does the opposite. This is a very crisp, crunchy granola full of good things like multi-grain flakes, almonds, sesame seeds and sunflower seeds. I gave my husband the warning about eating it in small doses, because of the high fat content of the nuts, but somehow, I haven't been heeding that warning. Well, I do eat it in small doses, one, after another, after another...
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November 21, 2009

PAIN D'EPICE (HONEY SPICE LOAF)

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I've read on both David Lebovitz's blog and in Clotilde Dusoulier's book "Chocolate & Zucchini" about a French cake called "Pain D'Epice. I guess this is a very traditional cake that is flavored with honey and spices. It's usually baked in a loaf pan. I've been wanting to make this for a long time, and finally got around to it. The cold weather we've been having is perfect for baking. I used the recipe in the book "Chocolate and Zucchini". It's unusual in that there's no butter or oil in the cake. I added a lot of chopped candied ginger, which I loved in this cake. Clotilde mentioned that she loved to eat it toasted for breakfast. That's the way I enjoyed it the most. It was also great as a snack with a mug of hot apple cider. It's a great flavor combination of honey, molasses, cinnamon, cloves, nutmeg and ginger. And it keeps for days wrapped in foil on the counter. Made a nice breakfast with a piece of fruit this week.

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November 29, 2009

SUNDAY SMALL BITES WEEK #13 - POTATOES

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I've not been too active on my blog lately. Not sure what's wrong, but I have no motivation for working on the blog. Maybe it's because I'm trying to lose some weight and am trying to watch what I eat. Maybe it's because I don't follow recipes for most of my meals, so the results are hard to put on a blog. Or maybe it's because I've gone back to work full-time and I don't have time to play around with cooking or at the computer like I used to. I don't know. But I do know that I have to decide if I want to keep the blog going, or stop for a while or for good. Those of you who blog probably know my dilema. You work hard to get your readership up, and don't want to lose that.

Okay, enough about my problems. How about a recipe? Last week I did miss Sunday Small Bites. Sorry about that. But I'm back for this week. This week our ingredient was chosen by Maria I. She chose potatoes. I'm tired of heavy, fattening stuff after the holidays, and found a recipe for a lighter roasted potatoe meant to be served as an appetizer. These are flavored with Garam Masala, red chili powder, tumeric, and sage, so they have a really nice flavor. Next time I think I'd make a yogurt-based sauce to dip them in. Also, the recipe calls for fingerling potatoes. The store was out of them so I used baby red potatoes.

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December 2, 2009

BORSCHT SOUP

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I cook dinner every night (okay, except when we're having leftovers). You wouldn't know that by looking at my blog, because I don't post that often. But the reason that I don't is that I don't follow recipes very often. When I'm busy at work, I like to make a soups that will last us a few days. Or a lot of stew-type dishes. I decided that I'd start to show you more of these dishes that I just throw together. I won't give you recipes, but I'l tell you what I did. Maybe it will give you ideas for yourself.

Tonight, I wanted to use some beets that I roasted a couple of nights ago, and roasted garlic I had leftover from Thanksgiving. I don't think I've ever made Borscht soup, but that's what I thought I'd do. I had a small piece of sirloin in my freezer, probably about 1/4 pound. I chopped it into small pieces, and browned it in some olive oil. I then added 1 large chopped shallot(I was out of onions), the chopped roasted garlic, and about 8 or so baby red potatoes, chopped. And seasoned with salt and pepper. It began sticking, so I deglazed the pan with a good splash(okay, more than a splash) of red wine. I cooked that on low to let the potatoes soften while waiting for my husband to come home from the store with my beef broth and cabbage.

When he arrived, I add the beef broth, and thinly sliced cabbage. I adjusted seasonings, and added dill. I also added a big squirt of tomato paste and a few dashes of worchestershire sauce. I cooked this until the potatoes and cabbage were soft. I served it with some low-fat sour cream on top. It was very flavorful and I will have to remember to make this again.

So this is the type of soups that I throw together without recipes. I try to make them low-fat, quick, and use up produce or other left-overs that need to be eaten.

Let me know if this type of post is of interest to you, or if you only want to see recipes.

December 14, 2009

DECEMBER DARING COOKS - SALMON EN CROUTE

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It's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2009 Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Simone of Junglefrog Cooking. Simone chose Salmon en Croute from Good Food Online.
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The challenge of this recipe was to make Salmon En Croute. There was a recipe given for Shortcrust Pastry. This was not mandatory to make. Since I've made it before, and was short on time, I used homemade frozen puff pastry.

Since I live in Alaska, have a boat, and catch a lot of salmon that we vacuum pack, it was nice to find a new recipe I haven't tried. This entree was very quick to put together, and was very good. It's also impressive to look at, so it would make a good dish for company. I used arugula in my sauce, and if it had been available, I would have liked watercress even better. I seasoned my fish with a spice blend that's similar to a lemon pepper.

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December 19, 2009

MAPLE-GLAZED PECANS

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Today I'm finally able to start my holiday baking. We'll see how everything turns out-I pulled a muscle in my neck, and am on a nice strong muscle relaxant. I will have to be careful to not fall asleep while cookies are in the oven.

I started out the baking with something simple-Maple-Glazed Pecans. These were very quick to make, and taste wonderful. I make a lot of candied nuts to put on salads, and I think these are my new favorites.

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December 21, 2009

PANETTONE

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This year I decided to make Panettone. For those of you who might not know what it is, it is an Italian bread, typical of Milan. It has a cupola shape on top of a cylidrical base. The traditional way to make it is a long process which involves the curing of the dough, which is acidic, similar to sourdough. The proofing process alone takes several days, giving the cake its distinctive fluffy characteristics. It contains candied orange, citron and lemon zest, as well as raisins. It is served in slices, vertically cut, accompanied with sweet hot beverages or a sweet wine.

Okay, first, the version that I made did not take several days. It took one day. I have never eaten Panettone fresh from a bakery, but from the large red boxes containing a nice big Panettone you can buy in the grocery store at Christmas time. My Panettone turned out as good, if not better, than that I've had before. You could taste the orange and lemon zest in the batter, and it was nicely sweet and rich. It should be rich-it contains 4 eggs, 3 additional egg yolks, and 1 1/2 sticks butter. I had ordered miniature Panettone paper molds from King Arthur, so mine were a little smaller than the recipe called for. I made 12 of them, and 2 miniature loaf pans. When they were finished cooking last night, I was too tired to stay up to wait for them to cool before wrapping them. So they sat out, uncovered, all night, and I did find that today they were drier than when I tasted them last night. But that's okay, because leftovers can be toasted, turned into French toast, or made into a bread pudding.

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December 25, 2009

SEASON'S EATINGS - FOUGASSETTE

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Each year, Katie from Thyme for Cooking hosts a holiday exchange. Any food bloggers who are interested can e-mail her with our name and address. She draws names for all of the participants. You are then to send the person you drew a food-related gift based on where you live, and a recipe to use the item in. The gift can be an herb from the area, etc.

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This year I recieved my gift from Meridith in France. Her blog is
here. She sent me a wonderful gift- a bottle of French olive oil and a bottle of orange flower water. She sent a recipe for Fougassette, which is a slightly sweet bread flavored with orange flower water. This bread is one of the thirteen desserts that are eaten after Midnight mass on Christmas eve. It was wonderful to read about some of the Christmas traditions that are followed in France, and even more wonderful to try this bread. It has a nice tender crumb and a wonderful orange fragrance. We had it warm from the oven the night I made it, and am getting ready to have it again, this time toasted and topped with orange marmalade. I will be making this again in the future-I love the flavor of the orange-flower water. Thanks again Meredith, and Merry Christmas!

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December 29, 2009

GRILLED LEG OF LAMB WITH SPICED MUSTARD AND ROSEMARY

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For Christmas this year, I decided to fix a leg of lamb. I was at Costco shopping for a beef tenderloin (what I had intended to cook) and they were sampling the Leg of Lamb. Gave it a try, and it was great. I bought one (a great price also) and went searching for a recipe. I came across one on Epicurious.com for Grilled Leg of Lamb with Spiced Mustard and Rosemary. The recipe sounded very simple to make, and I thought it would be nice to free my oven up for something else. I will be making this again in the future for sure. The meat was very tender, and the mustard coating added a lot of nice flavor. So far we've had it for 3 or 4 meals, and there's still more left. I think the one I bought was around 4-5 lbs, and it would feed 10 people. At $18, that's quite a bargain also. I served it with roasted root vegetables and a really nice bottle of Benzinger Tribute cabernet. Then for dessert, it was Panettone Bread Pudding, which I'll share with you next.

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December 31, 2009

PANETTONE BREAD PUDDING

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If you saw my blog a week or so ago, you know that I made Panettone this year. It was very good, but made quite a lot. I was able to have toasted Panettone for breakfast for a week. And I still had plenty left over to make this bread pudding. And I was SO glad! This bread pudding is just wonderful. It is very rich, but oh so flavorful. And I switched out a few things from the original recipe and used orange liquor, which really accented the orange rind in the panettone. This made a big pan, and my husband and I were quite happy as we were able to eat this great dessert for several days in a row. I was going to make an orange sauce for the top, but decided it was already very sweet and rich, so I just served it with some lightly sweetened whipped cream that I flavored with Grand Marnier.

Gosh, if I just had one more serving left....

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January 2, 2010

PANFORTE

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This year, after Christmas, I made another Italian specialty that I had eaten before, but never made. That was Panforte, a version of an Italian fruitcake, from the town of Sienna. I hate to call it a fruitcake, because it is nothing like fruitcake we have here in the states. It is more of a confection-chewy, and rich in dried fruit and nuts.

I had a lot of candied fruit left over this season. I planned on making stollen, but never got around to it. So for my Panforte, I used a mixture of what I had- candied orange, candied citron, a mixture of fruits used in fruitcake(orange, citron, cherry, etc.) and prunes. (Yes, the mixture had those awful-colored green cherries, but I didn't want to waste the mixture.) For nuts, I used a mixture of almonds, pine nuts, and pecans.

I was concerned that this confection would be nothing like what I had tasted in Sienna. But it was very similar! And a nice surprise was that it was very easy to make, except for it is difficult to get all of the sticky ingredients mixed thoroughly. I so enjoyed making this that I think it will be my Christmas gifts for next year. All wrapped up in fancy paper. I'd love to bring paper back from Italy next fall to use, so I'll have to keep that in mind.

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January 19, 2010

ZUCHINNI, BACON & GRUYERE CHEESE QUICHE

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On Christmas Day, I wanted to make a nice brunch. I decided to make a Zucchini, Bacon and Gruyere Quiche recipe that I found on Epicurious.com. It was a wonderful quiche. The great flavor of bacon combined with the gruyere. It was easy to make also. I don't use frozen pie crusts, so I've also listed the recipe that I used for my crust.

If you're looking for a nice quiche recipe, give this one a try-I think you'll really like it.

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January 23, 2010

ROASTED VEGETABLE SOUP WITH POLENTA CROUTONS

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A couple of days ago I wrote about the challenge I am having with what to put on my blog. I was sick last week, and off work, and have had a little time to browse a few blogs. I came across a few healthy recipes that got me to thinking about cooking again. I began with this soup - a Roasted Vegetable Soup with Polenta Croutons. I saw this on Tartelette's blog and I just had to try it.

It is a very flavorful soup. The turnips make it a bit on the sweet side. You can adapt this recipe to whatever you have on hand. I only had one very small potato, but it turned out just fine anyway. I also forgot to add any olive oil, and it was still great. I topped it with the Polenta Croutons that came from the blog Lisa's Kitchen. They added a nice hearty flavor to the soup. I followed the recipe except I added a little parmesan to the polenta before cooling.

Hopefully, this will be the beginning of my wanting to cook again, for now making healthy recipes.

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February 8, 2010

LAMB AND FETA PATTIES WITH RED PEPPER RELISH

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If you read my blog a couple of days ago, you know that for Daring Cooks we made Mezza, Middle Eastern appetizers. As long as we made pita and hummus we followed the directions. It was okay with our Mezza if we went more Mediterranian. I was across the board with mine. One thing I made that I really enjoyed were Lamb and Feta Patties with Red Pepper Relish. The combination of the lamb and feta is a little strong, but I love those flavors. There's also mint in the mixture. And be sure and make the relish-it really added a lot to the flavor. And you can do a lot with the relish. Last night for dinner I added the leftover relish to sauteed mushrooms and baby spinach, and served that wtih sauteed Alaskan Ling Cod.

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February 11, 2010

BAKED MEATBALLS FROM SYROS WITH WALNUTS, ALMONDS, AND PRUNES

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(Sorry about the poor, unappetizing photo. No time to make "pretty" when I had to get it ready for guests.)

As I mentioned in my last post, recipes I used for my Mezza table were from multiple regions. This recipe came from a cookbook called "The Foods of the Greek Islands". I've only made a couple of things from this cookbook, but am now thinking I need to try more, because these meatballs were really good.

The recipe calls for beef, but one of my guests for that night doesn't eat beef, so I used Bison instead. It worked perfectly. These meatballs have a very soft texture, not like a regular meatball. Different in that they have ground almonds and walnuts, and pine nuts in them. They are cooked along with prunes in a sauce of chicken stock, red wine, and red wine vinegar. I would definately make these again.

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February 12, 2010

PITA BREAD

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I posted the recipe for the pita bread a few days ago, but I thought I'd go a little more into detail on these. These are really fun to make because of the way they puff up. You can't tell from the photos above how much they puffed up, because I had to take a knife to them and deflate them some so I could fit some of them into the serving bowl.

They're made with a pretty basic bread dough. The dough is nice to work with-very puffy and really melds into itself. You make a sponge first, let it rest up to 2 hours, then make the dough, which then needs to rise for about 1 1/2 hours. You cut the dough into small pieces, form in a ball, roll out into a circle, and place on a very hot pizza stone. Then watch them puff!

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February 15, 2010

CARDAMOM YOGURT PUDDING WITH ORANGE AND CINNAMON HONEY SYRUP

I don't have a photo to show you of these puddings. I was busy with my dinner, and forgot to take a picture. But I wanted to be sure and give you the recipe, because they were really good, and they are a healthy alternative to a dessert full of fat and butter.

These have a texture similar to Panna Cotta. The recipe calls for full-fat yogurt. That's not what I used, I used low-fat yogurt. You can use Greek yogurt, but instead, I just dumped my yogurt into a strainer lined with cheesecloth and put in it in teh refrigerator to drain overnight. It was very thick the next morning. The orange cinnamon syrup adds a very flavorful topping.

Note: I didn't heat my water that the gelatin was dissolved in very hot. When I stirred it into the yogurt, the gelatin set up into little lumps. So I then put the entire yogurt mixture into a saucepan, and gently heated it up wihile whisking until the gelatin had dissolved. Worked perfectly.

Another note: The recipe listed below is for 1 serving, so you can just multiply it times the quantity you need.

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February 16, 2010

THAI LIME SHRIMP

Last week, a friend told me she was cooking Thai for dinner, and I thought that sounded really good. I thawed some shrimp, and began to think about what I wanted to make. I remembered seeing a recipe on Jerry's website for Thai Lime Chicken. I thought I would adapt that to include the vegetables I had on hand, and use shrimp instead of his chicken.

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Here is what I came up with. It is a healthful dish of shrimp, peppers, onions, mushrooms, and brocolli rabe. The sauce is wonderful. You could serve it with rice, or cut down on the carbs as I did and just serve it by itself. I can't wait to make this again.

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February 20, 2010

SQUID INK PASTA WITH SHRIMP AND ZUCCHINI

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I love pasta. As I'm trying to lose weight, I've not been eating much of it lately. But it is my go-to dish when I want a quick flavorful meal. My favorite dish is to cook garlic in olive oil, add shrimp, red pepper flakes, and a splash of white wine. Simple and delicious.

Last night I couldn't calm my craving for pasta, so I decided to give in. I had a package of Squid Ink Pasta that I had purchased at a specialty Italian market here in Anchorage. I topped that with a quick dish of a variation of my favorite. I sauteed sliced garlic, leeks, and zucchini in olive oil. Added shrimp and red pepper flakes. Added a large splash of white wine. That was it. It would have been okay if I hadn't eaten a huge bowl. But I was satisfied.

February 21, 2010

WHAT'S FOR DINNER? HALIBUT!

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How do you like the title of this post? I made up a creation for dinner tonight, and couldn't figure out what to call it. So I didn't call it anything.

I got a box from my CSA on Thursday, and it contained avocados. I had tomatoes from Costco on hand also, so thought I'd make some type of a salsa or guacamole to top the halibut. SInce I didn't follow any recipe, I'll loosely tell you what I did.

The creation is seared halibut, served on a bed of quinoa, black bean, corn and tomato stew, and topped with a chunky guacamole and a lime chili sour cream.

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March 14, 2010

MARCH DARING COOKS - SHRIMP RISOTTO

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It's time for the March Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2010 March Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Eleanor of MelbournefoodGeek and Jess of Jessthebaker. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make risotto. The various components of their challenge recipe are based on input from the Australian Masterchef cookbook and the cookbook Moorish by Greg Malouf.

I've made risotto several times before, and as I really enjoy it I thought it was a great challenge. For this challenge, the requirements were to make our own stock and the risotto base. Then we could flavor the risotto in any way we chose.

I decided to make Shrimp Risotto, as I have a lot of shrimp in the freezer. I made my shrimp stock with the shells, and it was very flavorful. I followed the recipe as noted, except that instead of removing the onions I kept them in. And I added a little thyme. A couple of minutes before adding the butter and the last of the stock, I added uncooked shrimp. They only take a few minutes to cook, so it all finished at the same time. When I went to serve the risotto, I topped each serving with a drizzle of Truffle Oil and a shaving of lemon zest. It was a very flavorful, creamy risotto that I'll be making again.

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March 20, 2010

DINNER LAST NIGHT-SALMON WITH MUSTARD PANKO TOPPING AND GRILLED ROMAINE SALAD

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I decided to grill last night-it was warm enough to go outside, and the snow had melted off the deck. I didn't follow recipes, so I can't give you the exact recipe, but I'll give you the steps I went through because dinner was really good.

For the salmon, I mixed in a small bowl some dijon mustard, lemon juice, olive oil, and a little maple syrup. I spread that on top of salmon fillets, then topped with panko, salt and pepper. I placed that on foil, skin side down, on a grill until cooked to your desired doneness (don't overcook or it will be too dry). Oh, one other thing. The topping started to get soggy, so I place it under the broiler for a minute or two until it was crispy.

For the grilled romaine salad, make a lemon vinegrette. In a small food processor, I mixed 1 clove garlic with a variety of vinegar (I was using the remains of a bottle of sherry vinegar and something else similar). I added a big squeeze of lemon juice, salt and pepper. I then drizzled in olive oil-I used a mixture of extra-virgin, then some lemon and orange I had. The lemon is best. Then for the salad, cut your romaine in half lengthwise. Drizzle olive oil on it and place it on the grill until it starts to char, turning often. Take it off the grill, and top with the dressing, chopped tomatoes, shaved parmesan, and home-made croutons. If you do a search on my blog, you'll find the recipe for this salad.

I served it with a wonderful Pinot Munier wine from August Briggs, and enjoyed the taste of spring!

March 27, 2010

MARCH DARING BAKERS - ORANGE TIAN

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ORANGE TIAN

It's time for another Daring Baker's challenge. The 2010 March Daring Baker’s challenge was hosted by Jennifer of Chocolate Shavings. She chose Orange Tian as the challenge for this month, a dessert based on a recipe from Alain Ducasse’s Cooking School in Paris. The dessert is made of different layers: a pate sablee with orange marmalade, a flavored whipped cream topped with fresh orange segments and served with a caramel and orange sauce.

This was a nice dessert to try. Nice and citrusy, but light. It begins by making a pate sablee for the cookie base. I've made lots of pate sablees, and this was a pretty standard recipe. Next is the orange marmalade. This I was really impressed with. I've never made it before, and often don't like it because of it's bitter quality. But in this marmalade, there was no bitterness at all. You cook the orange slices in water three different times, changing the water between each, to get rid of any bitterness. It really worked well. I'm sure I'll be making more of this marmalade in the future to enjoy on toast. The next layer is whipped cream, to which I added a little Grand Marnier. The whipped cream is topped with orange segments that have soaked in a orange caramel.

I followed the directions as listed except for the assembly. Instead of assembling upside down as instructed, I just used the cookie cutter to assemble in right-side-up. I placed the cookie inside the cookie cutter which was sitting on my serving plate, then I spread the top with marmalade. I then spread the whipped cream on top of the marmalade, then arranged the orange slices on top. I then carefully lifted off the cookie cutter. Maybe because my whipping cream was quite firm, everything stayed nicely in place.

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April 3, 2010

Slow Roasted Lamb Shoulder

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The other day, I was at my grocery store and I saw they had lamb shoulder. They don't normally carry it, and since I had asked them about carrying it a couple of times, I felt compelled to buy one. I'd never had lamb shoulder before, but had read that it was a very flavorful cut of meat.

I went to the internet to search for a recipe I that sounded good. One popped up from the blog chocolate and zucchini. I've made quite a few things from both her blog and book, and have loved every one. The recipe I chose to make was called "Slow-Roasted Shoulder of Lamb Rubbed with Rosemary, Anchovy, and Lemon Zest".

This recipe was extremely flavorful. The lemon and rosemary were the predominant flavors, but not overwhelming. My problem wasn't with the recipe, but with the cut of meat. Since I've never had it before, I'm not sure if it was just my piece or if it's always like that. But there was so much fat. Out of a 5 lb shoulder, I got only enough meat for maybe 4 or 5 servings. And the worst part of it was that the meat was in layers throughout the meat. Not marbeling. Large, thick layers I didn't want to eat. So while I would definately use this recipe again, personally I'd put it on a nice boneless leg of lamb.

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April 14, 2010

APRIL DARING COOKS CHALLENGE - BRUNSWICK STEW

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Are you looking for a flavorful soup that's a little different from the soups you make all of the time? I have one for you to try-Brunswick Stew. It's April, so it's time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The 2010 April Daring Cooks challenge was hosted by Wolf of Wolf’s Den. She chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make Brunswick Stew. Wolf chose recipes for her challenge from The Lee Bros. Southern Cookbook by Matt Lee and Ted Lee, and from the Callaway, Virginia Ruritan Club.

I had heard of Brunswick Stew, but had no idea of what it was. I am going to quote Wolf here because she gives a wonderful history of the stew. "Brunswick Stew has a long, and oft debated history. Brunswick, Georgia claimed that the first Brunswick Stew was created there in 1898. There is, at the Golden Isles Welcome Center on Interstate 95, a bronzed stew pot with a plaque proclaiming this fact.

However, Brunswick, Virginia claims that the first Brunswick Stew was created there by a camp cook named Jimmy Matthews in 1828, for a hunting expedition led by Dr. Creed Haskings, a member of the Virginia State Legislature for a number of years. He was said to have used squirrel in the original Brunswick Stew created for the group when they returned. The hunters were at first skeptical of the thick, hearty concoction, but upon tasting it, were convinced and asked for more.

Every year, there is an Annual Brunswick Stew Cookoff that pits ‘Stewmasters’ from both Virgina and Georgia against their counterparts, and takes place every October in Georgia.

In the early 20th Cent, the rivalry of the two Brunswicks helped make this dish as popular as it is today, and it quickly became a pan-Southern classic. Some recipe call for the original addition of squirrel, but most allow for chicken, turkey, ham, or pork, even beef on occasion. Rabbit is also used. The vegetables can vary widely from variation to variation, however, the Brunswick Stewmasters recipe says *exactly* what is used in competion stews, and states that “Adding any additional ingredient(s) will disqualify the stew from being an original Brunswick Stew.”

As Daring Cooks, we had two choices of recipes to make. One was a much longer version than the other. I chose the long version, but did make one exception-I used Swanson's Chicken Broth instead of making my own. I figured if the stew was going to cook for over 3 hours, it would be flavorful enough, and I was right. When I tasted it, I would have thought for sure I had used home-made broth. In my version, I used rabbit and chicken. I only had boneless, skinless chicken breasts, so that's what I used. I was afraid they would be dry and unflavorful, but that wasn't the case at all. When I make this again, I'd use a whole chicken, but if you're like me and need to use what's in your freezer, the chicken breasts worked just fine. But also know that I had a whole rabbit in the freezer, so the dark meat and the bones of the rabbit really added to the flavor here. Don't skip the rabbit and use only boneless chicken breasts, or you'll have no flavor. For the vegetables, I used potatoes, onions, carrots, celery, frozen corn and frozen lima beans.

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May 2, 2010

ALASKAN CIOPPINO

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Tonight I wanted to make a dinner that used the fresh halibut and shrimp that my husband caught this weekend. It was the first time out on the water this season, and it's nice to have the fresh seafood again. I also wanted to use what I had in the refrigerator as far as produce goes. I had fennel I received in my CSA box this past week. So I decided to make a variation of Cioppino. I didn't have any clams or mussels, so I decided to use just halibut and shrimp. Maybe it was more like a fish stew, but it really didn't matter, because it wth as delicious. Halibut and shrimp in a garlicy tomato broth, spiced with thyme, bay, and red chili flakes. It was a quick meal to put together, and tasted like it had cooked for hours. I served it with thinly sliced bread that was drizzled with olive oil, sea salt and pepper, placed under the broiler until crisp, then rubbed with fresh garlic. Serve with a nice glass of red wine and you have a fabulous dinner.

ALASKAN CIOPPINO
1 fennel bulb, chopped into small dice
1 medium onion, diced
3 garlic cloves, chopped
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
1/8 teaspoon dried hot red-pepper flakes
1 28oz can crushed tomatoes in puree
1 1/2 cups water
1 cup full-bodied wine, such as a zinfandel or syrah (I used a malbec)
1 8oz bottle clam juice
1 lb skinless fillets of halibut, cut into 1" pieces
1 lb peeled shrimp

Heat olive oil in large saucepan. Add fennel, onion, and garlic, and saute until soft, about 10 minutes.

Add bay leaf, thyme, chili flakes, 1 teaspoon salt,a nd fresh black pepper. Cook, over medium healt, stirring occassionally about another 5-10 minutes, until vegetables are softened.

Add tomatoes with the puree, water, wine, and clam juice. Bring to a boil, turn down to medium, and simmer 20-30 minutes. Add the halibut and shrimp, and cook until the seafood is cooked through, about 10 minutes.

Discard bay leaf and serve in bowl along with crostini.

May 8, 2010

Halibut with Avocado Tomato Salsa

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I don't follow recipes very often for our weeknight dinners, so I thought I'd show you a simple thing I made the other night. I seared a halibut fillet, that was just seasoned with salt and pepper. I placed that on top of quinoa that had mango salsa stirred into it. Then I topped it all with a salsa that was made with avocado, tomato, green onion, jalapeno pepper, salt and pepper. I thought I had a lime to squeeze on top, but I didn't. I improvised and splashed on a little margarita mix, which worked perfectly. It was a light, flavorful dinner.

May 16, 2010

STRAWBERRY MUFFINS

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The other day my husband brought home a big box of strawberries. It's not strawberry season here in Alaska yet-in fact, the plants haven't even begun blooming. I knew I needed to find some uses for them, so this weekend I decided to make strawberry muffins and strawberry smoothies for breakfast. The muffin recipe is one I made up from multiple recipes, and is quick and easy to put together. They're very flavorful, and while best the first day, they were still okay heated up in the microwave on the second day. The muffins are flavored with cinnamon and cardamom, which give them a nice spice. Chopped pecans would be good as an addition.

STRAWBERRY MUFFINS
Yield: 8 muffins

1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon milk
1 egg
1/2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp cardamom
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp vanilla extract
zest of 1 orange
1/2 cup white sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 3/4 cup flour
1 cup chopped strawberries

1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Line muffin tin with paper liners.
2. In small bowl, combine oil, milk, egg, vanilla, orange zest, and brown sugar. Beat lightly. In large bowl, mix flour, salt, baking powder, white sugar, cardamon, and cinnamon. Toss is chopped strawberries and stir to coat with flour mixture. Pour in the milk mixture and stir until just combined.
3. Fill muffin tins. Bake at 375 degrees for 25 minutes or until toothpick inserted in center comes out clean.

June 6, 2010

It's Pizza Time!

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Friday afternoon, I was looking at Facebook. I saw a post from a friend, Jen, who was making pizza in her outdoor pizza oven her husband built a year or two ago. I don't have a pizza oven, but I have a pizza stone and an oven that does a great job heating up to 500 degrees F. I was planning on making a fish stew for dinner, but I couldn't get pizza off of my mind. I called my husband to see which he wanted, and it took him less than a second to say PIZZA.

I used my favorite dough recipe:

4 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp salt
1 pkg yeast
1 teaspoon honey or sugar
2 tablespoons olive oil
12-16 oz warm water

Combine the flour, salt, yeast, and sugar or honey in a lg bowl. Pour in olive oil and most of the water. Stir (I just use one hand, no utensil) to combine and make a soft but not too sticky dough. Add more water as needed. Turn out onto surface and knead for about 10 minutes( if I'm lazy that night, I only knead about half that time.) place in oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until double in size.

Divide in half. Will make 2 14" pizzas.

I wanted to use simple toppings that I had on hand. So I chose to top the dough with olive oil, sea salt and freshly ground pepper, sliced zucchini, sliced sun-dried tomatoes, and grated pecorino-romano cheese. It was delicious.

I had dough left over, so what did we have for lunch on Saturday? Pizza again. Here's what I made on Saturday:

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Basic Pizza Marguarita. Again, top dough with olive oil, salt and pepper. Then add freshly sliced tomatoes, mozzeralla cheese (best to use the kind packed in liquid), and torn basil leaves.

How I love pizza...

June 21, 2010

It's Ice Cream Time - Malted Milk Ball Ice Cream

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It's been 2 years since a group of us called Sunday Slow Scoopers worked our way through "The Perfect Scoop" by David Lebovitz. If you love ice cream, you need this book.

My husband's favorite from the book was the Malted Milk Ice Cream. It's a very rich ice cream. It has malt powder added to the base, and then the crunch of malted milk balls are added at the end.

I had some heavy cream that needed to be used, and my husband asked if I'd make this ice cream. It is very easy and quick to make. I didn't have any half and half on hand, so I substituted half skim milk and half heavy cream, and it worked beautifully. I meant to add a little liquor at the end to keep it from freezing too solidly, but I forgot. It really didn't matter because the ice cream does not freeze rock hard.

The only problem I've had with this ice cream is in NOT eating it all. My husband left town the day after it was made, and I keep sneaking bites from the freezer. They're only small bites, but somehow that container is looking quite barren.

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June 27, 2010

June Daring Bakers - Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse

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It seems like a long time since I posted a Daring Bakers' challenge. I think missed the past month or two, but I'm looking forward to participating again.

The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard.

When I saw this recipe, I was really looking forward to trying it. I haven't made any desserts in a while, and they used to be my favorite to make. I knew this had to be a hit, as how can you go wrong with chocolate and mascarpone cream?

Well, I did have one thing go really wrong. My chocolate meringues did not turn out. They tasted good, but looked awful. I realized they were not going to turn out when they were just partially cooked. So I made up a batch of vanilla meringues, and they worked nicely.

If you don't like bittersweet chocolate, you might want to use a chocolate that has a lower percentage of cocoa. This recipe called for 72%, and it's not a very sweet mousse. I liked it bitter, but others would have preferred it a little sweeter. The recipe makes more mousse and mascarpone cream than what you will need. I think I got 6 meringues from the recipe. We enjoyed the leftover mascarpone cream over berries for many nights after that.

Thanks Dawn, for a great challenge!

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July 5, 2010

Sunday Slow Sides - Petits Pois a la Francaise

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For those of you who follow my blog, you know I've participated in several Sunday Slow Travel cooking groups. We were Sunday Slow Bakers, Scoopers, Soupers, Salads, and I don't even remember what else. I sat out the last group, but I'm back again. This time we're Sunday Slow Sides. This group was started as a way to find new recipes to use the fruits/vegetables of summer.

I'm a day late on the first challenge, but life goes on. This first recipe was chosen by Amy.. Her ingredient was peas, and she chose a French recipe for us to try.

It was a lovely recipe, and one I'm sure I'll make again. Very easy also. Saute shallots in a little butter, add chopped lettuce or spinach (I used all Romaine lettuce), cook until wilted, then add peas and a little chicken broth and cook briefly. Top off with salt, pepper and a little chopped fresh mint. A light, fresh side dish.

Petits Pois a la Francaise

Measurements are estimates, use what you have--all lettuce, all spinach, or a combination. This made four servings.
If you're not watching your weight, feel free to add more butter!

2 shallots, sliced
1 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 head lettuce, (I used romaine one time, buttercrunch another)carefully washed and roughly chopped
6 cups spinach, carefully washed and roughly chopped
1/4 cup chicken broth
2 cups fresh shelled peas; or frozen peas, slightly defrosted
salt and pepper to taste
1 tsp. (more to taste) chopped mint

1. In a large skillet, melt the butter and saute the shallots until soft.
2. Add the lettuce and spinach. Saute until almost wilted.
You may need to do this in batches--just add it all together when the batches are cooked down.
4. Add the broth and peas, and slam on the cover. Cook until the peas are just tender--2 minutes or so. (just one minute if using frozen peas)
5. Add salt and pepper to taste, and the chopped mint. Stir well and serve.

July 11, 2010

Sunday Slow Sides - Avocados

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This week the ingredient for our Sunday Slow Sides was avocado. I love avocados, and it was Shannon who picked our recipe this week. Shannon grew up in California where there were a lot of avocado trees, and one recipe came to her that she wanted to share. It is a sandwich that her grandmother used to make.

I know it's not really a side dish, but who cares, because it is so good. It's basically an egg-salad sandwich with mashed avocado. It couldn't be any easier.

Grandma's recipe, inShannon's words:
Avocado
Hard Boiled Egg
A Little Mayo
Onion Salt (or regular salt.)

Basically, smash these four things up until it is good and mashed. You can use more egg, more avocado, whatever. I think it is probably one avocado to 2 eggs. She says you don't need to add mayo even, unless you want to.

Shannon's grandmother used to put it on HomePride Buttertop bread. A great bread for kids. I put it on multigrain bread. I would have loved to top mine with tomato slices and lettuce, but I didn't have any. So I served it open-faced, plain. It really didn't matter what I topped it with. It was so good, I immediately went into the kitchen and made myself a second one.

July 19, 2010

Sunday Slow Sides - Green Beans

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This week it was Annie's week to choose our ingredient. She chose Green Beans. She offered us two recipes to choose from. I chose the Summer Green Bean Salad. Although I couldn't find any local green beans, I was able to purchase a nice large bag of them at Costco.

This was a really good salad. And very filling. It's what I had for dinner last night, along with a glass of Sauvignon Blanc. The recipe calls for frisee, but I used a variety of leaf lettuces I had growing in my garden. Don't skip the hazelnuts-they really make this dish special.

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July Daring Cooks - Nut Butters

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It seems like I've been late on many of my challenges lately, and this one is no exception. Time for another Daring Cooks Challenge. The July 2010 Daring Cooks’ Challenge was hosted by Margie of More Please and Natashya of Living in the Kitchen with Puppies. They chose to challenge Daring Cooks to make their own nut butter from scratch, and use the nut butter in a recipe. Their sources include Better with Nut Butter by Cooking Light Magazine, Asian Noodles by Nina Simonds, and Food Network online.

I chose to make peanut butter and use it in the Asian Noodle Salad with Peanut Dressing. It was delicious. First of all, I guess I never really thought about how easy making nut butter is. Put the nuts in a food processor and whirl away. That's it. I followed this recipe as written and added a little thinly sliced cabbage to it. You can also make it using cashews instead of peanuts.

I was glad that I made this late for one reason-I made it on a day when my husband had been out shrimping, and I used shrimp that had just been pulled from the water a few hours earlier. They were sweet and delicious.

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July 27, 2010

July Daring Bakers - Swiss Swirl Ice Cream Cake

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It's the end of July, so time for another Daring Baker's Challenge. The July 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Sunita of Sunita’s world – life and food. Sunita challenged everyone to make an ice-cream filled Swiss roll that’s then used to make a bombe with hot fudge. Her recipe is based on an ice cream cake recipe from Taste of Home.

We had a lot of leeway with this recipe. We could change ice cream flavors, fudge sauce, or cake flavor. I chose to make small cakes-the perfect size for 2 people to split. I went with a vanilla chiffon cake that was filled with whipped cream flavored with home-made orange marmalade and Grand Marnier. The first ice cream I made was Vanilla-Orange, a vanilla bean ice cream flavored with orange zest and Grand Marnier. The second was a very rich chocolate ice cream, flavored with Bailey's Irish Cream. The fudge layer was a basic cocoa recipe to which I added chopped bittersweet chocolate. A very rich dessert indeed.

I'm sorry, but tonight I'm too lazy/sleepy to type in 4 different recipes, none of which are on-line. I'm going to post the recipe that was given to us by our host, and then tell you what I changed.

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October 27, 2010

October Daring Bakers - Doughnuts!

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The October 2010 Daring Bakers challenge was hosted by Lori of Butter Me Up. Lori chose to challenge Daring Bakers to make doughnuts. She used several sources for her recipes including Alton Brown, Nancy Silverton, Kate Neumann and Epicurious.

I've been absent from Daring Bakers for a month or two now. I've been so busy with my other cooking projects (Pomodori E Vino) that I simply ran out of time. Well, that, and I just got back from a 3 week vacation to Italy and France.

When I saw the October Daring Bakers Challenge, I knew I didn't have long to complete it, but I was excited to do so. I have never made doughnuts, and I rarely fry anything and have a deep fryer I've never used. All of the recipes sounded good, and I didn't have time to do a lot of searcing of others to possibly make. So I chose the recipe on Epicurious for Pumpkin Doughnuts. This fall weather has me thinking of squashes and those spices that go with them such as nutmeg and cinnamon.

It was a great choice! I made the batter on Saturday afternoon, and made some doughnuts that evening. What a nice dessert. I can only imagine how good these would be made as doughnut holes and served with a vanilla ice cream and a caramel sauce. Or just a caramel ice cream. Yum!!! On Sunday morning, I fryed up the remainder of the dough. It was still perfect after being in the refrigerator all night. I did get them a little crunchier than they probably should have been. My fryer only has set temperatures, and I had a choice in this range of 350 or 375. I chose 375. I was afraid the center wouldn't cook, but it did. Next time I could make them a little thicker and probably still have the center cooked.

The pumpkin flavor really comes through in the doughnuts, as does the spice flavors. I didn't do the glaze, but simply coated them all in the Sugar Spice mixture.

I know that doughnut making is now something I will have to do again in the future. I was really suprised at how easy they were

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February 23, 2011

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon

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I thought I'd share a recipe with you I made for dinner last night. I was surfing the internet the other night when I found this. I scribbled the recipe on a piece of paper, and forgot to note where it came from. Sorry about that.

The salmon turned out really good. It was cooked perfectly, and the glaze on top was perfect. Very sweet, but I still really liked it. And it's a nice calorie count too. Makes me think this recipe might have come from Cooking Light.

Sweet-Spicy Glazed Salmon
4 servings

3 tablespoons dark brown sugar (I used light brown)
1 tablespoon low-sodium soy sauce
4 teaspoons Chinese-style hot mustard (I didn't have any, so I used a combination of powdered mustard and powdered wasabi)
1 teaspoon rice vinegar
4 (6 oz) salmon fillets
Cooking Spray (I used olive oil instead)
salt
pepper

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Combine first 4 ingredients in saucepan. Bring to boil. Remove from heat. (Another direction I didn't follow. I just stirred everything together.)

Place fish on foil-lined jelly roll pan. Coat with cooking spray (or oil). Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Bake at 425 degrees for 12 minutes. Remove from oven.

Preheat broiler. Brush sugar mixture evenly over salmon; broil 3 inches from heat 3 minutes or until fish flakes easily. Do not overcook.

Calories: 252
Fat: 10.3 gr
Protein: 27.7 gr
Carbs: 11 gr

That's it! A fast, flavorful dinner for the family.

February 25, 2011

Cooking with Kids

A friend of mine called me a couple of weeks ago and said her son, Sam, had his first biscotti. He wanted to know if she could make them, and my friend told Sam that she bet she knew who could - Cindy. So I knew I would have my first experience cooking with children, which I thought would be a lot of fun.

Sam doesn't like nuts, but loves chocolate, so I decided we'd make a chocolate biscotti. The recipe I normally use, which comes from "Baking with Dorie", uses cocoa in the the batter, chunks of chocolate, and almonds. So I just left out the almonds. When I was pulling the ingredients together, I thought it doesn't matter if these are for me, or kids, I'm using the best ingredients. So I brought out the Vahlrona cocoa and the wonderful dark chocolate I brought back from Paris.

So, it threw me for a loop when Sam asked if we could use M&Ms instead of the chocolate I brought. Pink and red M&M's from Valentine's Day. But I quickly recovered, and said we'd split the dough in half, and do M&Ms in one half, and chunks of chocolate in the other, and judge which was better. And then I had a sip of my wine.

The experience of cooking with Sam was a lot of fun. He was a very good helper. I didn't expect a 6 year old to be able to crack an egg without getting shell into it. And he sifted the ingredients together perfectly.

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Little brother Owen was all into watching his big brother make cookies.

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Doesn't the dough look good?

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March 3, 2011

Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking - Sauteed Zucchini Rounds with Onions

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I love zucchini. Every year I try to grow it in my garden with no success. I'm not sure why. Last year I got blooms, but they just developed into tiny zucchini and that was it. I would love to be able to go out to my garden and pick fresh zucchini. It has such a better flavor and texture than the ones I often purchase in the grocery store.

I had every intention on making this dish this summer when I had access to locally grown zucchini (from a farmer's market, sadly not my garden). But for some reason, I never made it. So this week, I had to resort to the zucchini from the grocery store. Unfortunately, it was not as fresh as I would have liked, but the recipe still turned out very good.

It's a simple recipe. Saute sliced onion in butter until light brown, add thinly sliced zucchini, and cook until tender and light brown around the edges. It's only seasoned with salt. For those of you who have never cooked zucchini this way, you wonder if it could be a little bland. It's absolutely not, it's sublime (can I use that word to describe a vegetable?). The flavors of the golden onion really meld into the zucchini. I cook my zucchini like this a lot, but have always used olive oil instead of butter. I think the butter adds another element here. When cooked slowly with the onion, the nutty flavor really shines through. So as soon as you can get your hands on some good zucchini, give this dish a try. It just might become your new favorite vegetable.

March 18, 2011

Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad

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A couple of nights ago I was looking through my copy of the book "Around my French Table" by Dorie Greenspan. I've only made a couple of things out of it so far, and they've all been great. I couldn't keep from turning back to the page showing this fabulous looking salad with asparagus, bacon, and a running-yolked egg on top. I had all of the ingredients in my refrigerator and decided to make it for myself for dinner.

The recipe is pretty straight-forward. I made a couple of changes to the recipe, the main one by accident. I cooked my egg longer than planned, and the yolk was set. So I just chopped it into small pieces and topped the salad with it. Next time, I'll be sure and cook the egg for even less time so I have that runny yolk mingling with all of the other tasty ingredients. The other change I made was in using some of the bacon fat. Dorie has you roll the eggs around in a little of the bacon fat before placing on the salad. I decided that 2 slices of bacon for me would be enough fat for my diet.

Bacon and Eggs and Asparagus Salad (serves 4)
Adapted from Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan

Vinegrette:
1/4 teaspoon Dijon mustard (I used more)
1 teaspoon sherry vinegar
1 tablespoon extra-virgin olive oil
1 tablespoon walnut oil
Salt and pepper

Salad:
4 fresh eggs
20 asparagus spears, trimmed and peeled
6 strips bacon, chopped
Mixed salad greens
Salt and Pepper
1/3 cup toasted chopped pecans or walnuts

Vinegrette: Place all ingedients in a jar, cover, and shake until mixed.

Salad: Soft cook eggs. (Takes about 6 minutes to cook), then run under cold water and peel.
Bring a large skillet of water to a boil, add salt and asparagus. Cook until the asparagus is tender, 4 or 5 minutes. Drain.

Rinse the skillet, and then heat on stove. Add the chopped bacon and cook on medium heat until crisp. Drain on paper towels.

Toss the salad greens with enough dressing to lightly coat. Divide on 4 plates. Toss the asparagus with the remaining dressing, then place on top of lettuce. Cut the eggs in half, and place on the asparagus (or if you don't like a runny center, then do as I did and cook longer, then chop and place on top). Sprinkle bacon and nuts on top.

April 3, 2011

Ultimate Chocolate Cupcakes with Peanut Butter Frosting

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I've been wanting to make these for a long time. I was browsing through a Cook's Illustrated Magazine last spring, and saw an article for the ultimate chocolate cupcake. I love a lot of the recipes in Cook's Illustrated because they do the hard work for you - testing to see if the recipe really turns out the way it should.

Here it is a year later, and I'm finally making them? Was it worth the wait? Absolutely! These cupcakes are heavenly. And they are very easy to make. The recipe is a little different from most in that it uses bread flour. It's nice, because it produces a crumb that doesn't crumble much when eaten, which is really nice for a cupcake. I forgot to mention that the cupcake is filled with a chocolate ganache filling. Dark chocolate cake with a creamy peanut butter frosting - what more could you ask for?

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July 21, 2011

Spaghetti Squash Topped with Kale Saute and Goat Cheese

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As I mentioned on my last post, I've been trying to get my motivation back to begin blogging. Sometimes it only takes simple moves like having the camera handy while I'm cooking dinner. I'm also trying to lose weight, and eat very healthy. So you're going to see somewhat of a change to my blog.

I don't follow many recipes. Yes, I do if I'm baking, or having company over for dinner. But most evenings, I see what's in my fridge and pantry and throw together a dish based on that. And since I don't follow a recipe and don't measure what I put in, it's hard to give you quantities on my blog. So in the future, you will see recipes when I've followed them, and some of the items will be fattening decadent desserts. But more often you'll see a photo of what I've fixed for dinner with a summary of what ingredients I've used and a description of how I made it. Experiment for yourself and come up with new dishes of your own.

I also joined a CSA again. And this time, instead of the every 2 week box like I used to get, I'm getting a box weekly. Alaska is hard for CSA's because our growing season is too short. So some of them also source organic fruits/vegetables from other states to supplement the box. The company I'm going with, Glacier Valley Farms, uses mainly Alaskan vegetables this time of year. That means I'll be cooking a lot of potatoes, and after that lots of carrots, cabbage, and other cold-season vegetables. So you'll be seeing lots of vegetables, supplemented with the salmon, halibut and shrimp that makes up a huge majority of our meals.

Okay, let me describe what you're seeing in the photo above. I love spaghetti squash, and it's a good alternative to pasta. I sliced it in half, scooped out the seeds, placed the halves in a covered baking dish (I had to cook each half separately), added about 1/2" water, and placed in the microwave for 10 minutes. When done, let cool, take a fork, and "rake" off the strands of squash. In the meantime, I heated a little olive oil (maybe a tablespoon) in a large skillet. When hot, I added 1 chopped onion and 1 chopped red bell pepper. Cook until beginnning to soften, then add 1-2 bunches thinly sliced kale. Salt and pepper to taste. I also added a big spoonful of a Peruvian pepper paste I had, but you could just add some red pepper flakes. I also threw in some chopped fresh herbs-I had rosemary and sage. Cook until the kale is softened, maybe 15 minutes. If it dried out too much, add a small amount of water to the skillet. To serve, place the squash on a plate and top with the kale. Then sprinkle over as much soft goat cheese as you'd like. It was so delicious and very filling, and really low in calories, as long as you don't use too much cheese. Along with a glass of wine, or was the perfect meal.

August 16, 2011

Panko-Breaded Fried Razor Clams

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This past weekend, my husband went digging for razor clams. In a little over 2 hours, he had his limit of 60 clams. It was a lot of hard work on his part, but I shared in that work by helping clean them all.

That evening, I fixed a dinner of Panko-Breaded Fried Razor Clams. I only fry things about once a year, but these were well worth it. Paired with a salad topped with radishes, tomatoes, and citrus ceaser dressing, they were delicious. Tender and full of that taste fresh from the sea. Don't they look good?

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RECIPE:
I didn't really follow a recipe, but here's what I did. In one bowl, I mixed flour, salt, pepper, and garlic powder. In another bowl, I mixed a couple of eggs. In a third bowl, I placed panko crumbs. To make, dip the clams in the flour mixture and shake off the excess. Then dip in the egg, then finally in the panko. Then place on a cookie sheet that is covered in parchment or waxed paper. After all of the clams are dipped and placed on the tray, place in the freezer for a little while, at least 15 minutes. This will make the breading stick better.

Heat oil in a skillet. I used olive oil in a cast-iron skillet. Fry until light browned, no more than a minute or so on each side. Overcooking them will cause them to be very tough and chewy. Drain on paper toweling, then serve.

October 2, 2011

FLAVORS - OUR NEW BLOG

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Many of you might have followed the last cooking adventure I participated in, which was Pomodori E Vino. For that challenge, we cooked our way through Marcella Hazan's Essentials of Classic Italian Cooking. It was a great project, and I learned a lot about Italian cooking. But when we were through, I was ready for it to be over. I was tired of having to cook a recipe each week, whether it sounded good to me or not. One of our rules was we had to follow the recipe exactly as written. And because they weren't our recipes or adaptations of them, we didn't post the recipes. A lot of blog readers really missed that.

After several months of not having any challenges, I began to miss a cooking project. Deborah, the orginal creator of Pomodori E Vino, asked if I was interested in starting something new. We tossed around ideas, and Deborah came up with the suggestion that we use The Flavor Bible, by Karen Page and Andrew Dornenburg, as the base of our blog challenge. We recruited 5 other participants, one for every day of the week. And the challenge just began today.

The idea behind The Flavor Bible was to study the way flavors were being combined. They interviewed many many chefs, discussing with them flavor combinations. The book is not a cookbook. It is more of a reference guide. There are over 600 ingredients listed, with the most compatable flavors also listed. The matching flavors are in BOLD CAPS if they were very highly recommended by a lot of experts, and in bold if they were recommended by a number of experts. Abd the flavors in regular type were suggested by one or more experts.

Our rules for this blog were that we would run the blog for 1 year, or 52 weeks. Each week one ingredient will be the theme. Then each of us 7 participants have to create a recipe using at least one bolded capped ingredient, one bolded, and at least one other ingredient of our choice. While there's very little that's never been created before, these were to be mainly our own creations. No looking up a recipe and just changing a couple of things to make it your own. We would then post our recipe on our "given" day.

I will be posting my recipes each Monday. You'll find those recipes here on my blog. But if you'd like to follow along for the entire blog, go to Flavors. I think you'll enjoy following along. And if you like to cook and have a blog, think about buying the book and cooking along with us. Make your recipe and post it on your blog, then come to the the Flavors blog and leave a message about your creation and leave a link to your blog. It would be fun to see what everyone comes up with.

October 3, 2011

PROSCUITTO-WRAPPED SALMON WITH PLUM SALSA

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For those who don't know me, my name is Cindy and I reside in Eagle River, Alaska. I love to cook, and seem to go through spells of being creative and challenging myself, and being in a rut cooking basic things like grilled fish and steamed vegetables. I love to bake, but as I try to lose weight I find myself cooking more with the fish and shrimp that stocks my freezer. That's one of the advantages of living in Alaska, having a boat, and a husband who loves to fish.

Today is my first posting for the Flavors challenge, the first of fifty-two. I'm really looking forward to this challenge, as I think this challenge will make me a better cook. We will learn about our key ingredients, their flavor profiles, seasons, and their most complimentary ingredients. Then we will develop our own recipe which you'll see here along with photos of our completed dishes.

As Deborah told you yesterday, our first ingredient is PLUMS. I decided to pair those plums with the following complimentary ingredients: ORANGE JUICE AND ZEST, ginger, mint, olive oil, red onions, black pepper, and prosciutto. I'm starting off using a lot more than the 3 required ingredients. Each week, I'll let you know what complementary ingredients I have used, and I'll also list them as they are in the book-either BOLDED IN CAPS, bolded, or just plain type.

I really enjoyed this recipe. The saltiness of the proscuitto contrasts perfectly with the sweetness of the plums. The salsa is also made more flavorful with the addition of fresh mint and ginger. The salsa sounds like it has a lot of ingredients, but they blend really well and make a flavorful salsa that would also go well with chicken or pork.

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October 10, 2011

APPLE, FENNEL & WALNUT SALAD WITH CAMEMBERT SOUFFLE

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Today I chose to make an Apple, Fennel, & Walnut Salad with Camembert Souffle. If you've started following our blog, you know that we need to pick 3 ingredients that are listed as complementary. My complementary ingredients for apples were LEMON JUICE, Camembert cheese, fennel, honey, mustard, olive oil, black pepper, sherry, and WALNUTS. Wow, I didn't realize I used so many complementary ingredients until I was typing this up just now.

I thought that this salad paired really well with the Camembert Souffle. The tart Granny Smith apples are tamed by the honey in the Vinegrette, and the earthiness of the toasted walnuts really makes a difference. The souffle is a lighter version, using low-fat milk and more egg whites than yolks. It made a very nice lunch when paired with a nice glass of Viogner.

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I can't wait to read about what you were inspired to make, so be sure and leave a comment with a link to your blog showing us a recipe that you created with Apples.

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October 17, 2011

GRILLED MUSHROOM, SWISS CHEESE AND TRUFFLE OIL SANDWICH

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Deborah introduced you to this week's ingredient, mushrooms. I love mushrooms, and had to really think about what I wanted to create that was different than what I usually do. I decided that I was going to make a Mushroom, Swiss Cheese, and Truffle Oil Pizza. I stopped at the store on the way home from work to purchase some mushrooms, but I had a hard day at work and by the time I was home I was tired and hungry and I didn't want to make pizza dough. I had some home-made wheat bread that a friend had given me the day before, and I decided that the same topping that I was going to put on the pizza would be great in a grilled sandwich.

This recipe is pretty loose on the quantities. You can really use as many mushrooms and as much cheese as you'd like. I'll tell you what I did, but feel free to adapt as you see fit. I have to admit-this is one of the best sandwiches I've eaten. At least the best I've made.

This week our main ingredient was mushrooms. The complimentary ingredients I used were BUTTER, unsalted, Swiss cheese, OLIVE OIL, and fresh thyme.

GRILLED MUSHROOM, SWISS CHEESE, AND TRUFFLE OIL SANDWICH
Serves 2 (you could probably get 3 or even 4 sandwiches out of the filling)

12 ounces fresh mushrooms (I used a mixture of shitake, cremini, and oyster), thickly sliced
2 shallots, thinly sliced
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1 1/2 tablespoons olive oil
6 ounces Swiss cheese, thinly sliced or grated
Truffle oil
Butter, for cooking in
4 slices sturdy bread, your choice of variety

Place olive oil in large skillet. Heat on med-high. When hot, add mushrooms, shallots, and thyme. You want the mushrooms to sear, so don't stir at the beginning. Wait until they are browned on one side before you stir. Continue cooking, stirring occasionally, until the mushrooms and shallots are tender and browned. (If they start to burn, turn heat down a little.)
Remove to a plate and set aside.

With a paper towel, wipe out the skillet. Turn heat on med to med-high, and place butter in skillet to melt (I used about 2 teaspoons butter.). When butter is melted, place the bread in a single layer in the skillet. Top each slice with 1/4 of the cheese, then place the mushroom mixture on two of the slices. When the bread is beginning to brown, turn down the heat to allow the cheese to melt and the bread to brown. When the bread is nice and brown and the cheese is all melted, drizzle truffle oil over the mushrooms (I used about 2 teaspoons). Place the halves together so you have two sandwiches. Slice in half, place on a place, and serve.

I hope you enjoy these as much as my husband and I did. The topping could also be placed on crostini, pizza, or flatbread.

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October 24, 2011

Sweet Potato Cakes with Duck and Red Wine Cherry Reduction

As I'm reading some of the entries to our Flavors blog, I'm realizing that you don't always know who the person who made the recipe is. So I'll probably begin starting my posts with some dorky sentence like "It's Cindy, and ....". Okay, now you know it's me.

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The ingredient for this week is duck. I enjoy duck whenever I eat it, but it is not something that I eat often. I've only cooked it a couple of times, and I just cooked duck breasts. This time as I was at the meat market contemplating between duck breasts and a whole duck, I decided to challenge myself even more and choose the whole duck. I can now add that to my repertoire.

I knew that I was going to be using some of the shredded duck for my appetizer recipe, so first I needed to decide how to cook the duck. I decided to roast it, and I used the recipe from Barbara Kafka's "Roasting, a Simple Art". I'm not going to post that recipe since it's not really part of the recipe I did today, but I can tell you it's a great way to cook the duck. You place it in a pot of simmering stock for 45 minutes before you roast it. This melts away a large amount of the fat, so the duck wasn't greasy at all. I ate the duck breasts with some of the Red Wine Cherry Sauce one night for dinner, then used the thighs, etc. for this appetizer the next day.

Now onto today's recipe. I decided to make an appetizer. I wanted a little sweet potato cake topped with the other ingredients that you could hold in your hand for a small bitefull. These didn't turn out where you could hold them in your hand, you definately needed a plate and fork. I think you could play around with the potato cake recipe to come up with the consistency of one that you could hold. If you make them smaller, and finely shredd the potatoes that might make the difference.

The flavor of this appetizer was delicious. Making (and eating) these was the first time I kinda blew my weight watcher diet since I joined a month ago. I just couldn't stop eating them. They provide a mouthful of contrasting flavors. You have the crispy sweet potato pancake, topped with some tangy goat cheese, the rich duck meat, and topped off by the tang of a dried cherry/red wine/balsamic vinegar reduction. I think this will be another one I'll be making in the future. I think you could do lots of different kinds of meat here also. Chicken thighs or shredded pork are a couple of suggestions.

The complimentary ingredients I used in today's dish are CHERRIES, honey, leeks, shallots, sweet potatoes, thyme, and balsamic VINEGAR.

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October 31, 2011

Carrot Soup

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This week our ingredient for Flavors is carrot. I had an abundance of carrots, because they're a vegetable that grows very well here in Alaska. I get lots of them in my weekly CSA box.

I didn't want to try to come up with some oddball recipe here. I made Carrot Soup. This is something that I make quite a bit, and never follow a recipe for. I made this one a little different than I usually do, using some complementary ingredients that I normally wouldn't use. The result was delicous. Fresh carrots are usually quite sweet, and with the addition of maple syrup in my soup, I wondered if it would be overly sweet. It was not. I think the orange juice cut the sweet, maybe because my orange was more tart than sweet. I garnished my soup with a swirl of plain Greek yogurt, which also added a nice tang. Another keeper as far as I'm concerned.

The complementary ingredients I used were onions, olive oil, thyme, ORANGE JUICE, MAPLE SYRUP,and allspice.

CARROT SOUP
5 cups carrots, sliced
1 large onion, diced
1 tablespoon olive oil
2 teaspoons fresh thyme leaves
1/2 teaspoon salt
Pepper, to taste
4 cups chicken broth
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tablespoons pure maple syrup
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
Greek yogurt, plain (optional)

1. Heat olive oil in large saucepan. When hot, add diced onions, salt, pepper, and thyme. Cook, stirring occasionally, until onions are soft.
2. Add sliced carrots and chicken broth. Cook until carrots are tender.
3. Puree soup. I used a hand immersion blender. You can leave it a little chunky if you'd like.
4. Add juice from 2 oranges, maple syrup, and ground allspice.
5. Return to cooktop and reheat to serve.
6. If desired, garnish with a dollop of plain Greek yogurt.

November 7, 2011

Almond-Crusted Pork Chops with Rhubarb-AppleSauce

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This week our ingredient was pork. I purchased a couple of local, organic pork chops at one of our farmer's markets here to try. I was hoping they would be good, because they were expensive. There are very few pigs raised around here, so the pork sells for $12-$15/pound. Doesn't take much to add up there.

The complimentary ingredients I used this week were almonds, APPLES, cinnamon, cloves, and sage.

I made this recipe about a month ago, and unfortunately, I didn't do the write-up then like I thought I did. I did jot down what I did for the sauce, but that was all. So today, as I'm typing this, I'm stuggling to remember exactly what I did. It was a pretty easy recipe, so if you follow this recipe, yours should turn out just fine.

I really liked this dish. I loved the sweet-tart of the Rhubarb-Applesauce. It paired nicely with the rich pork. My pork was pretty fatty, so the tartness also helped cut through that fat.

Pork with Rhubarb-Apple Sauce
Serves 2

2 thick pork chops
Almonds, finely ground (this is where I forgot quantity-probably about 3/4 cup
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage
Salt and Pepper to taste
Rhubarb-Apple Sauce (see recipe below)

1. Mix together the finely ground almonds, chopped sage, and salt and pepper to taste.
2. Coat both sides of the pork chops in the nut mixture. Place in the refrigerator for 15-30 minutes, which will help the coating adhere.
3. Over medium heat, heat about 2 teaspoons olive oil in a large saute pan. When hot, place pork chops. Cook on one side until nuts are golden, then turn and sear other side. Reduce heat and cook until meat is cooked to your preferred doneness. (Unfortunately, this is where having notes would have helped. I don't remember the time it took. My pork chops weren't thin, but also not real thick. If yours are really thick, you may need to place the pan in the over to cook through without burning the nuts.
4. Top with the Rhubarb-Applesauce and serve.

Rhubarb-Applesauce
1 cup rhubarb, chopped (I used frozen I grew this summer)
3 apples, peeled, cored, and chopped
1/4 cup white sugar
1 tablespoon maple syrup
1/8 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium to medium low heat until apples and rhubarb are tender, about 15-20 minutes. When tender, use a fork to mash until chunky.

November 14, 2011

Cranberry Pumpkin Muffins with Streusel Topping