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December 6, 2006

Let the Baking Begin!

I love to bake anytime of the year, but especially at Christmas! I kicked off this year's kitchen marathon with 30 mini-loaves.

Cranberry Orange Bread with Grand Marnier Glaze

1 1/2 c. unsalted butter
1 1/2 c. sugar
4 eggs
1 c. orange juice
1 cup sour cream
2 T. orange zest
2 t. vanilla
4 c. flour
1 T. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 1/2 c. dried cranberries

Glaze: 2 c. powdered sugar and 7-8 T. Grand Marnier

Preheat over to 330 degrees. Butter 2 6 cup loaf pans, or 6 mini-loaf pans.
Cream butter and sugar for 3 min. on medium speed of mixer. Add eggs one at a time. Add orange juice, sour cream, orange zest and vanilla until blended.
In a separate bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder and salt. Add flour mixture and cranberries to wet mixture. Do not over-mix. Pour batter into prepared pans. Bake 60 min. for mini-loaves, 70 min. for large pans.

In a small bowl, whisk powdered sugar and Grand Marnier. Glaze should have consistency of maple or corn syrup. Thin with more Grand Marnier if necessary. Let breads cool 10 min. Poke top with skewer and pour glaze over.

*For Cherry-Almond Bread, substitute 1 c. milk for orange juice, omit orange zest, and substitute 2 t. of almond extract for vanilla.
Use 1 1/2 c. halved dried cherries and 1 c. chopped almonds. Use Amaretto instead of Grand Marnier.

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Next I made two batches of shortbread. This year I dipped the corners in chocolate and toffee chips.

Old Fashioned Scotch Shortbread

1 pound (4 sticks) butter
3 cups flour
1 cup sugar
1 cup Rice flour (found in Asian section of any market)

Cream butter and sugar. Stir together 2 kinds of flour and add half at a time. Form six balls of dough and spread in a jelly roll pan. Flatten evenly with hands. Prick all over with fork. Run tines of fork across dough in both directions (creating pattern on top). Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. While still warm (after about 10 min.), cut into 1x2 inch rectangles.

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"World's Best Cookies" really ARE! Brad has always been a chocolate chip fan, but these are definitely MY favorite and at least tied for first place with him!

World's Best Cookies

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 cup brown sugar, packed
1 egg
1 cup oil
1 t. vanilla
3 1/2 c. flour
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 c. crushed Rice Krispies or Corn Flakes
1 cup oats
1 c. coconut
1 package Heath toffee chips

Cream butter and both sugars. Add egg, oil and vanilla. Add remaining ingredients. Spoon onto ungreased cookie sheet. Flatten with a fork. Bake at 325 for 11-12 min.
Makes six dozen.

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December 7, 2006

Candyland

I made three kinds of candy this year. First was Peppermint Bark:

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Next I made Microwave Caramels with seasalt! They are so delicious and EASY!
Here is the recipe:

http://www.countryhome.com/food/giftsfromkitchen_ss2.html

Finally, I made two batches of my annual toffee. It would not be Christmas without this stuff around! I have been making this for at least 30 years!

Toffee

1 cup butter
1 cup sugar
1 1/3 cup blanched almonds

Toffee is easy to make, but you must be prepared to STIR for a long time (at least 25 minutes)!

Here is a step-by-step of the process:

Melt all three ingredients in a skillet over med. high heat.

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As you keep stirring, it will eventually thicken, and turn a lovely caramel color. The almonds will begin to pop. That is time to remove from heat.

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Pour the mixture quickly onto an ungreased cookie sheet, and press it down flat with a spatula, spreading it as far as possible.

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Sprinkle a package (12 oz.) of chocolate chips over it.

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Spread the chocolate quickly. Toffee is still spreading farther in pan.

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Quickly sprinkle with sliced almonds.

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Chill several hours or overnight. Then break into small pieces. Keeps well for months in the refrigerator.

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December 28, 2006

Chocolate Ganache Cake

I dislike chocolate. Call me crazy, call me lucky, but I am a caramel or vanilla or lemon girl! However, I do live with a chocoholic, and my friends Joy and Roxanne cannot get through a day without the dark stuff. I like making this cake for occasions because it isimpressive looking, and I won't be tempted to eat any!

Start by making the two ganache fillings, as they must sit at room temp for 12 hours
(make them the night before you want to make the cake).

White chocolate ganache filling:

In a sauce pan, heat 1/2 cup of heavy whipping cream over medium-high heat until it just begins boiling. Remove from heat and pour over 8 oz. of chopped white chocolate in a bowl. Whisk until smooth. Let sit for 12 hours at room temp. covered with plastic wrap.

Milk chocolate ganache filling:
Repeat process with 1/2 c. heavy whipping cream and 8 oz. chopped milk chocolate or chocolate chips.

Cake:

2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
1/2 c. plus 1 Tablespoon good quality cocoa
1/4 c. milk
2 1/4 c. sifted cake flour
3/4 t. baking soda
1/2 t. salt
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
3 large eggs

Spray two rimmed cookie sheets with butter-flavored spray. Cut and place parchment paper with edges slightly longer on two sides. Spray again. Heat oven to 350.

1. Sift cocoa into medium bowl. Stir in 1/4 c. plus 2 T. boling water until smooth. Gradually whisk in milk. Set aside to cool.

2. Sift flour, baking soda and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

3. In mixer bowl, cream butter on low until fluffy. Gradually beat in sugar, scraping down sides of bowl. Add vanilla.

4. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition. With mixer on low, gradually add alternating amounts of flour mixture, and cocoa mixture, starting and ending with flour. Divide batter evenly into two prepared pans. Level with offset spatula.
Bake at 350 until cake springs back when felt. 16-20 min.

Dark Chocolate ganache glaze:

16 oz. chopped dark chocolate
2 c. heavy whipping cream

Place chocolate in a metal mixing bowl. Bring cream to just boiling, remove from heat and pour over chocolate. Whisk until smooth. Place about 3/4 c. of chocolate mixture
into smaller bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for 1 hour. Leave remaining ganache at room temp (uncovered).

Assembly:

Cut each cake (using ruler) into three even rectangles. (Mine were 4 3/4" wide.)
Alternate white chocolate and milk chocolate ganache between layers.

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Trim any uneven edges, and brush away any crumbs.
When dark chocolate ganache in fridge is consistency of buttercream, "seal" cake in chilled dark chocolate ganache. This step is optional, but will give finished cake a more professional, smooth, glossy look. Frost with chilled ganache on all sides.

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Using a soup ladle, "pour" room temp. ganache around cake edges first, then top, using spatula for a smooth shiny coat. There will be enough for two coats. Let dry about 20 min. between coats.

After first coat:

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After second coat:

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If you'd like to "decorate" at this point, you can add seasonal accents, or leave it plain. I used a little green fondant to make holly leaves, sprinkling them with green edible glitter, and added fresh currents. CAREFULLY, (as it is heavy), using a cake lifter, or two large metal spatulas, move to serving plate or tray (rectangular), and refrigerate.

TA DA!
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The Train Cake

In ANOTHER moment of insanity, I bought the train cake pan at Williams-Sonoma. I decided to launch it for my houseguests after Christmas. The recipe is a simple vanilla cake batter, and the pan does the rest. I made the cake (train cars) the night before, and kept them refigerated in tupperware over night. Now for the fun part...decorating the Christmas train.

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I collected various candies as soon as I bought the pan, as well as "point and shoot" cans of frosting, licorice for the tracks, cookie Christmas trees, and a good supply of powdered sugar for "snow". Each car would be different, and it would give me something fun to do as my guests were making their way south from Fresno through holiday traffic on I-5!

Here are close-ups of the cars:

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Everyone enjoyed the train as centerpiece on my kitchen table, but I had so many other desserts each night our guests were here, that we never ATE THE DAMN TRAIN!

Brad and had a silly conversation one night thinking of other themes for the cake pan:

A Slow Travel Train
Circus Train with animal crackers
International Train (flags from different countries)
Wine Train
Patriotic Train

It will probably be a while before I do this again.

January 6, 2007

Il Pane Perfetto!

As much as I love to bake cakes and desserts, I have never attempted making bread. I have been dying to try the no-knead recipe Chris posted on the Slow Talk Food Board. Today was the day! I made dough last night, let it rise until this morning at 10:00, sit until 12:00, and baked it in my new Le Creuset dutch oven! The kitchen smelled divine, and it tasted great! We each had a slice (mine slathered with butter), and then made a killer open-faced sandwich with soprasatta.

Here is my first EVER beautiful loaf:

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Here are the some slices that show the texture. Try it yourself, or come visit to experience the TASTE!

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Here is the RECIPE:

No-Knead Bread

3 cups all-purpose or bread flour, more for dusting (I used bread flour, and now I'm trying 1/3 whole wheat, 2/3 bread)

1/4 teaspoon instant yeast (I used Active Dry and it worked fine)

1 1/4 teaspoons salt (I followed the recommendations on the other message board and upped this to 1.5 teaspoons)

Cornmeal or wheat bran as needed.

1. In a large bowl combine flour, yeast and salt. Add 1 5/8 cups water (1.5 is enough with bread flour), and stir until blended; dough will be shaggy and sticky. Cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rest at least 12 hours, preferably about 18, at warm room temperature, about 70 degrees.

2. Dough is ready when its surface is dotted with bubbles. Lightly flour a work surface and place dough on it; sprinkle it with a little more flour and fold it over on itself once or twice. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rest about 15 minutes.

3. Using just enough flour to keep dough from sticking to work surface or to your fingers, gently and quickly shape dough into a ball.

Generously coat a cotton towel (not terry cloth) with flour, wheat bran or cornmeal; put dough seam side down on towel and dust with more flour, bran or cornmeal. (Next time I'm using parchment paper--the dough sticks to the towel.) Cover with another cotton towel and let rise for about 2 hours. When it is ready, dough will be more than double in size and will not readily spring back when poked with a finger.

4. At least a half-hour before dough is ready, heat oven to 450 degrees. Put a 6- to 8-quart heavy covered pot (cast iron, enamel, Pyrex or ceramic) in oven as it heats. (It's important to use a pan with a tight lid to keep the steam in. I used my 5.5 quart Le Creuset dutch oven. If you use this kind of pan, either remove the knob from the handle or wrap it in thick layers of foil to keep it from being damaged by this very hot oven.)

When dough is ready, carefully remove pot from oven. Slide your hand under towel and turn dough over into pot, seam side up; it may look like a mess, but that is O.K. Shake pan once or twice if dough is unevenly distributed; it will straighten out as it bakes.

Cover with lid and bake 30 minutes, then remove lid and bake another 15 to 30 minutes, until loaf is beautifully browned. Cool on a rack.
Yield: One 1 1/2-pound loaf.

Diva, here is my beautiful new Dutch oven I used to bake the bread:

Dutch%20Oven.jpg

January 9, 2007

Magic Muffins

It is diet time again! I am NOT really a carboholic. As Brad says, I only eat bread because it is a vehicle for fat: butter, cheese, mayo, whatever. But take away butter, and I would never eat bread again. Since I TRY not to clog my veins intentionally, I usually only have a piece of good bread if we go out to dinner, and then I HAVE to HAVE butter on it. I only buy bread when Brad is home to eat it, or it sits, and gets thrown out. Desserts, I can usually take or leave. I DO like ice cream, gelato, panna cotta, and anything caramel. I OCCASIONALLY enjoy a cookie, but am much more fond of cheese, meats, and salty snacks. I do love pasta in all forms, and they are off the menu for the next month! Ditto for potatoes, risotto and other carbs. I need a month of fruits, veggies, soup, fish, chicken, and magic muffins!

I first learned this recipe about 16 years ago when I was attending Weight Watcher's.
I won a bet that I could lose 25 pounds in three months (ANOTHER January diet...), and won a trip to Maui from my ex husband. I believe these muffins kept me on track.
They also helped me eat breakfast, a meal I almost always skip, having just coffee in the morning. One of these muffins keeps me full most of the day. We ended up buying a beachfront condo, I eventually gained back the weight, got a divorce, but I still have the condo, and the muffin recipe!

"Magic" Muffins (The basic recipe before substitutions)

5 c. flour
5 t. baking soda
2 t. salt
4 eggs, beaten
A 15 oz. box of Raisin Bran Flake cereal

*3 c. sugar
*1 quart buttermilk
*1 c. oil

Mix all ingredients in a LARGE mixing bowl. Bake at 400 for 20 minutes.
Batter keeps in fridg for up to 6 weeks.
Makes 4 dozen

* For "Magic Diet Version"

Substitute honey for sugar
Reduce buttermilk by 3/4 c.
Substitute 1 1/2 c. applesauce (no sugar added) for oil

The recipe makes a LOT of batter!

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I froze 3 dozen muffins, and gave some away.

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Kim, one of the Moderators on Slow Travel, gave me the "scoop" on calorie and Weight Watcher's counts:

Kim says:
"With the weight watcher subsitutions you're at 140 calories and 3 points but that's with sugar instead of honey (the caloric content is negligable so it's a taste issue, though honey does add a bit of fiber).

With the honey, you raise the calories to 155 but it's still 3 points on Flex.

Now, I did it with the oil instead of the applesauce and kept the honey and you get 192 calories = 4 points.

Lastly, and how I'd love for you to try it would be with honey (for moisture and fiber), 1/2 cup oil (b/c everything needs a bit of fat) and 3/4C applesauce - it comes out to 174 calories, still 3 points though and 15% fat.

Oh and this assumes unsweetened applesauce. Also, use canola oil instead of vegie oil. How's that?
Kim"

Thanks, Kim!

There is nothing magical about these muffins, in fact, I really don't even LIKE muffins. The last time I ate one was in May, 2006, when I was bored out of my mind at a conference. A Starbucks low-fat muffin is 360 calories. A blueberry muffin is 400 calories. These make me full, have fiber and fruit, and are only 155 calories. And I DO LIKE THESE!

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MAGIC would be sticking to it long enough to knock off 20 pounds!

January 18, 2007

My New "Hangout"

The most wonderful new place opened close to my neighborhood! I have been waiting for a year, and it is worth the wait! Though I live in an affluent community, there is nowhere to get decent Italian products! There are lots of Jewish deli places, but no Italian products outside of the chain grocery stores. There is a "designer cheese shop" on El Paseo, our version of "Rodeo Drive". On my last trip there, I bought a pound and a half of cheese, signed the credit card while chatting, and found out on the way to the car, I had just spent $76.00 for two pieces of cheese. I have NOT been back!

Our new Palm Desert treasure is a brand new Bristol Farms!!! (Those of you in LA, San Francisco or Orange County already know how exciting this is)!

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http://www.bristolfarms.com/home.html

On my first visit, this week, I spent an hour just walking around the store with my camera. I was AFRAID to get a shopping cart, as this is a potentially DANGEROUS place for my diet! They have a "bar" for EVERYTHING!

Coffee Bar
Juice Bar
Sushi Bar
Panini Bar
Gelato Bar (be still my heart!)
Soup bar (8 kinds)
Chocolate Bar (they are dipping fruits and making confections in front of you)

There is a fabulous floral section (like an upscale florist, with an unbelievable selection of plants, flowers, topiaries, gifts)

There is a cafe.

There is a meat carving station (you can eat there, or buy by the pound and take it home). I thought I was back at a porchetta stand in Italy!

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The butcher shop is wonderful.
The deli is spectacular.
The fish selection is amazing.
The produce is beautiful.
The housewares/cards/kitchen gadgets is perfect!
The wine ROOM will knock Brad's socks off. There were SHELVES just from Piemonte!
Did I mention the bakery?
But my FAVORITE is the CHEESE. Oh my goodness!

This section was just for CHEDDAR!
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Here is the Parmesano:
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Here is the Italian cheese section. Stuff I haven't ever seen or heard of!
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These are cheeses from France and all things blue!
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Tomorrow I'll show you more...

January 19, 2007

More on "My New Hangout"

I only bought a few items on my first scouting trip. I was trying to behave. We are going back this weekend to show Brad the store. My fist BF dinner was grilled lamb kebobs, a big green salad and risotto made with that pot of soup I'm getting pretty sick of!

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Since cheese is a diet NONO right now, let's see the healthy stuff! The produce area of the store was also wonderful!

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The Heirloom Tomatoes were "pretty as a picture"!
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The artichokes were HUGE!
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The strawberries were perfect!
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This is a BAD BLOG! Now I am starving. Am I craving a nice big healthy salad?
No! I was thinking more about the PIZZA BAR!

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Tomorrow, I'll show you the bakery, deli, and wine!

January 22, 2007

The Danger Zone

To all of you who have sent me encouraging messages about sticking to my diet, thanks, but I don't deserve them! I was so good the first week. I was even relatively good the second week (post first visit to Bristol Farms). I was SO BAD over the weekend! Where are the gremlins? I need several sad face ones here. I GAINED weight. I'm back on muffins, yogurt, and soup today through Thursday, then Vegas!

Today's photos are of the BF bakery. HOWEVER my dangerous place, as predicted, was the cheese! Brad and I sampled 4 kinds with salami on our Saturday night "picnic dinner"! I did abstain from wine (for all the good it did me!).

Back to the bakery: Here are SOME of the breads:

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The cakes were fun (AND EXPENSIVE):

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Here were three of my favorites: The Aquarium

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The Black and white daisies (chocolate):

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And the elegant white chocolate torta!
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Of course there are the usual cookies and pasteries.

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There are fresh hot cinnamon rolls, lots of bagels, and a "Cupcake Bar".
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If you read the "Six weird things about me", you know chocolate doesn't do it for me. I think many of you would enjoy the Chocolate Bar, where they are pouring, rolling, dipping, and making chocolate confections while you watch. (I found the lobster tank MUCH more entertaining).

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Finally, if you just want to smell the chocolate, this huge fountain as you enter the store, does a good job of spreading the aroma around the immediate area. See the big open bakery area through the plexiglass?

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The most delicious item I sampled over the "diet killing weekend" was a cherry flavoured BRIE!

The Last of It...I Promise!

OK, so I've been a little over zealous with the Bristol Farms thing! I promise this will be my LAST blog on this new store (but I took so many photos)!

Here are the last dribs and drabs. Brad teases me often about my dislike of olives. He swears I cannot be Italian if I do not eat olives (I do love good olive OIL).
Here is the Olive Bar at BF:

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Along with a "Teriyaki Bar" and a large Sushi Bar, there is a "Seafood Salad Bar".
I think I will sample that shrimp-mango salad on the end for guests in February.

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I have completely avoided the gelato! It is nowhere near as appealing as an Italian gelato selection, but it's all we have in the desert! It has been too cold to even consider, but spring weather is coming...

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I loved looking at their little stuffed wedges of brie. Good idea to make yourself for a pretty appetizer. Here are some stuffed with salmon or tomato/basil. I'm thinking apricot, fig, berries...or maybe that jar of walnut-sage pesto!

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Brad was happy with the wine selection. This photo show about half of the selections.

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OK, that's IT for the Bristol Farms tour! On to life, Italy, travel, and Palma's quirky ideas!

January 25, 2007

Countdown to Paso Robles

On Friday, February 2, we will be joining a large group of Slow Travellers for a wine and food GTG in Paso Robles, California! Twelve of us will be sharing a rental house, http://www.cottageatcapitolhill.com/, where large group meals will take place. Brad and I will be staying at the house with Shannon, Colleen, Marcia and David, Beth, Marta and George!

Friday night kicks off the weekend with a pizza dinner, and meeting old and new friends.

Saturday's wine tasting agenda is as follows:

11:30 AM Wild Horse Winery
12:45 PM Castoro Cellars, Templeton. Shannon will be serving up cheese, pate and bread at this stop.
2:15 PM This is where the group will split up! There are four wineries to choose from.
4:00 PM Back to the house for the party.

I am going to hit the shops in Cambria in the morning ( and a BEAD store). I will meet the group (and see how much fun they are having) at Castoro Cellars. Well, I might need a snack! Then I'm back in downtown Paso to check out the Olive Oil shop and cheese store, and maybe a nap. I'm guessing Brad will need one before the party!

I'm bringing crab lasagna for Saturday night's dinner. We made two big pans last weekend, and they are waiting in the freezer!

Crab Filling:

1 lb. fresh crab, cleaned
1 c. ricotta
1 egg
3 chopped green onions
1 T. butter
7 oz. gruyere cheese, grated
zest of one lemon
salt and pepper

Sauté green onions in butter for 2 min.
Combine with crab and other ingredients in a bowl.

crab%20filling.jpg

Bechamel sauce:

6 T. Butter
6 T. flour
4 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste

In med. saucepan, over med. heat, melt butter and flour, cooking for 2 min.
Whisk in milk. Cook, stirring until thick and boiling. Set aside.

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Makes one 9x13 pan or 7-8 individual ramekins

Layer:
Béchamel sauce
Sheet of fresh pasta
Crab filling
Parmesan cheese
Repeat

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Depending on pasta. If you use homemade pasta that is very thin, you will have 4-5 layers. If using purchased semolina pasta sheets, it will be 3-4 layers.
On very top, end with pasta, béchamel, parmesan, and pine nuts.

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Bake at 350 for 30 minutes. Can be made the day before and refrigerate until baking.

February 1, 2007

Pasta all Amatriciana Bianca

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This is a quick, easy recipe from Biba Gaggiano's cookbook, "Trattoria Cooking".
The recipe is called Bucatini all Amatriciana Bianca, but I used a pasta shape that I had called, "cellentani".

1/4 c. olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter
1/4 lb. thickly chopped pancetta
pinch of dried red pepper flakes
salt to taste
2 T. chopped fresh parsley
1/4 c. grated pecorino romano cheese
1 lb. pasta (I used above amounts for 1/2 lb of pasta)

Heat oil and butter in a large skillet over medium heat. When butter foams, add pancetta and red pepper. Cook 2-3 min. until pancetta is golden. Boil pasta until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup of pasta water when draining pasta. Add pasta to the skillet. Stir in reserved pasta water, parsley, and cheese. Mix over low heat until pasta is coated. Serve hot with more cheese if desired. YUM!

February 21, 2007

"Goopy" Low-Fat???

Sometimes you just feel like something goopy, cheesey and comforting! Well, I do, anyway! This recipe comes out about once a year for a night like that. Brad loves it too!

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White Chicken Enchiladas:

One pint low-fat cottage cheese
One pint low-fat sour cream (Light)
1 can Ortega chopped green chilies, drained
1 pkg. (10) flour tortillas (Low-fat or whole wheat)
4 cooked and diced chicken breasts
2 c. grated cheese: mixture of jack and cheddar
Additional cup of grated cheddar for top

Mix the cottage cheese, sour cream and chilies together. Spoon a little of this "sauce" in bottom of a 9x13 pyrex baking dish. In each tortilla, spoon a heaping spoon of cottage cheese mixture, some chicken, some cheese, and roll up into an enchilada. Top with remaining sauce, and additional cheddar cheese. Bake at 350 for 30-35 min.

They are filling. Serving size is ONE ENCHILADA. Serve with a crisp salad.

February 24, 2007

Slow Travel GTG at Mozza

On Saturday, we ran a few early morning errands, and by 10:30 we were off to Los Angeles. Our first stop was a bead shop, where I purchased beads for three new pieces of jewelry: some red coral to mix with my black coral beads, three strands of beautiful yellow citron stones, and some peachy polished nuggets. 30 minutes in and out! We arrived at Dennee's lovely home by 1:50. She and Ubaldo had prepared some delicious appetizers and a chilled bottle of prosecco we shared on the patio. We had a brief, but fun visit before heading to the Slow Travel GTG at Mozza, 5 minutes away.

We spent two hours with "old friends" Marcia and David, Juday and Bill, and Carole. Today we also met new friends, Roy (Carole's husband), and Robert and Peg. Though we were at two tables, we were able to connect with everyone.

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We started with wine and some shared Tuscan bean bruschetta. I enjoyed a Tokai, while Brad had Dolcetto. After much deliberation over choices, and anticipation, it was finally "Pizza Time"! Here is my "Bianco" with fontina, smoked pecorino and crisp sage! Check out Nancy Silverton's thin bottom crust with a terrific high edge too!

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The pizzas we had included Brad's fennel sausage with carmelized red onion and panna, Carole's fungi misti, fontina, taleggio and thyme, Marcia's goat cheese, arugula and bacon, Robert's Margherita with mozzarella di bufala, (rumor has it he ate TWO pizzas after running 12 miles that morning), and a couple of duplicates.

Dessert consisted mostly of gelato (David tried the meyer lemon gelato pie), and biscotti. I had caramel gelato, sitting on a pizelle with a drizzle of caramel sauce and very salty peanuts on top. It Tasted like a sea salt caramel! What a lovely break from a week of dieting! (I SO deserved it after a horrible visit to the dentist yesterday!)

Here are the food photos of the pizzas and dessert:

Here are photos of the pizza.

February 28, 2007

Artichoke-Gruyere Chicken

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Artichoke-Gruyere Chicken (for two)

Preheat oven to 350
Dip two boneless, skinless chicken breasts in egg, then lightly flour.
Brown them in 2 T butter and 1 T olive oil for about 6-7 minutes per side.
Remove from skillet and place in an oven-proof baking dish.
Add to skillet:
1 can artichoke hearts (packed in water), chopped
1/4 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. cream
salt and pepper
Cook for 5-6 minutes to reduce liquid
Pour over chicken breasts.
Top each breast with 1/4 c. grated gruyere, and bake for 15 minutes until cheese is melted.

A Quick, Tasty Dinner

It was Wednesday, and Brad would be home for dinner. The nights he's not here, I typically eat "diet food", a salad, or leftovers. I am finished with clients at 7:00, so I wanted to do something delicious, but simple and quick. I bought fresh pork chops that morning. Hmmm, looked like either asparagas or a salad for a veggie, but I was sort of tired of salad.

After a look in the pantry, and fridge, here's what I came up with:

Pork chops with gorgonzola sauce (Silver Spoon cookbook)
Sauteed apples with wine
Grilled asparagas

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Pork with Gorgonzola

Saute trimmed pork chops in 2 T butter 5- 6 minutes per side (depending on thickness) adding black pepper
Remove chops from skillet
Add 5 T. white wine to pan and reduce
Add three oz. gorgonzola to reduced wine, and stir until melted.
Pour sauce over pork chops

March 12, 2007

...That's Amore!

Saturday we had an enjoyable dinner at a La Quinta hotspot called Amore' Ristorante Italiano.

http://www.amore-dining.com/

We dined with Carole and Roy from Laguna Beach, and their friends, Barbara and Gary.
The couples were in town for the Pacific Life Tennis tournament (and shopping for the girls!)

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The restaurant is an a contemporary building with underlit glass entry, rounded walls of windows, a nice bar area, and a patio. We ate outside on thr terrace, and it was a pleasant 80 degrees most of the evening.

For my starter, I had a delicious crab-endive salad garnished with raspberries.

crab%20salad.jpg

Brad's pasta carbonara was disappointing. Too much cream, little pancetta, and no eggy taste! Other starters included Carole's Heirloom tomato salad, and a couple of Caesar salads.

Entrees were varied. Check out photos of my delicious "Veal Porcini" with prosciutto and smoked mozzarella. (what diet?) Brad had Veal Picatta, and the ladies enjoyed an attractice John Dory. Love those round "slanted toward you" plates!

Wine flowed, and nobody even considered dessert! I had a delicious cappucino!
Gary looks like he enjoyed the vino!

Here are photos of the food..

March 14, 2007

Dinner with Washington Friends

Sunday night we visited the home of our friends, Jan and Les. They travelled to Italy with us in 2005 for three weeks, and we are planning another trip together in 2008. Their longtime friends, Ann and Gary, are in town for the week, so we all got together for dinner.

We started with wine and appetizers at Jan's. Look at this gorgeous platter. Jan and I were a BAD influence on each other at those ceramics shops in Tuscany, Vietri, Ravello and Positano!

appetizers.jpg

We went to dinner at another popular La Quinta Restaurant, Arnold Palmers. Yes, Arnie has a home close by, and there is even a putting green off the patio, where you can practice while waiting for dinner!

http://www.arnoldpalmers.net/

The food is comfort food with a flair! There is a whole section on the menu of "Arnie's Favorites" like Mac and cheese (with lobster), lots of blue cheese dishes, and the most amazing homemade crinkle potato chips with blue cheese dip you ever tasted.

We chose lighter/healthier alternatives. The group was pleased with crab bisque with a pitcher of "add your own Sherry", grilled salmon, lamb chops, beef tournados with shrimp, a pork chop with applesauce, and beef medalions with blue cheese.

Here is Brad with Ann and Jan:

Brad%20and%20the%20girls.jpg

Here I am with Gary and Les:

Palma%20and%20the%20boys.jpg

March 17, 2007

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

I was dressed in green for my 7 a.m. haircut appointment! After morning errands, Brad will grill the corned beef I boiled last night, marinated in BBQ sauce, and wrapped in foil. It makes a tasty crust, chars off any remaining fat, and is delicious for sandwiches on fresh rye bread!

My table has been set for two weeks! I looking forward to taking out the Easter stuff tomorrow! I am feeling quite LUCKY, so maybe we'll visit the casino later!

St%20Pat%20table.jpg

Here is a "light" St. Pat's dessert:

8 oz. "light" cream cheese
1/2 c. powdered sugar (or Splenda)
7 oz. low-fat lime yogurt
zest from one lime
8 oz. Cool Whip

Whip ingredients together and pour into a graham cracker crust, or dessert bowls.
Chill. Makes 6 servings.

Lime.jpg

March 22, 2007

"Southern Cake"

Today is my monthly bookclub luncheon. I am bringing dessert. I haven't baked anything for a month, during the pseudo-diet. Our book this month was "Beach Music", by Pat Conroy. I really enjoyed the family saga, which takes place in South Carolina, and Rome. I decided to make a "Southern Cake", so I whipped out my dusty copy of Paula Deen's, "The Lady & Sons Too", and found:

caramel%20sour%20cream%20cake.jpg

Sour Cream Caramel Cake

1 c. butter
3 c. sugar
6 eggs
2 3/4 c. flour
1 t. salt
1/4 t. baking soda
1 c. sour cream
1 Tbl. vanilla

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 3 9" round cake pans (or one 9x13).
Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, one at a time, beating after each addition.
Sift together flour, salt and baking soda. Alternately add flour mixture and sour cream to the batter. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into prepared pans and bake for 25-35 min. (I baked mine for 30.) Bake 45 min. if using rectangular pan. Let cool in pans for 15 min., then turn on to racks to cool completely.

Easy Caramel Icing

2 c. packed brown sugar
1 c. butter
1/2 c. evaporated milk
1/2 t. vanilla 4 c. powdered sugar

In a large, heavy saucepan, combine butter, brown sugar, and milk.
Cook over low heat until butter melts. Increase heat to medium, and cook for two more minutes, stirring constantly. Remove from heat. Stir in vanilla. Whisk in powdered sugar, a cup at a time until smooth. Let cool slightly before frosting cooled cake.

I may bring home a piece for Brad, but THIS CAKE would not be safe at my house!

April 3, 2007

Stuffed Pizza (Focaccia Farcita) "Palma Sunday" Treat

stuffed%20pizza.jpg

I tried this recipe from the March, 2007 Italia magazine.

Dough:

2 t. dried yeast
350 ml water (Approx 11 oz.)
2 1/4 c. flour (500 g.)
1 1/2 t. salt
3 T. olive oil

Filling:
8 oz. Gorgonzola cheese (I used Cambazola)
8 oz. Mozzarella cheese
10 fresh basil leaves

Top:
1/2 sea salt
3 sprigs fresh rosemary
1-2 T. olive oil

Sprinkle yeast into 250 ml. (approx a cup) of water, leave for 5 minutes. Stir to dissolve. Mix flour and salt together in a large bowl, making a well in the center. Pour in the yeasted water and the oil. Mix. Add remaining water 3 T. at a time if needed. Dough will be sticky.

Turn dough onto floured surface. Knead until smooth (about 10 min.). Put dough into an oiled bowl, and cover with a cloth. Let rise until doubled (1 1/2 hr).

Punch down dough and divide in half. Form each half into a ball by pressing down on it with your hands while rotating it into an even round shape. (5 minutes). Let rest for 10 minutes.

Roll one ball into a 10 inch circle and place on an oiled baking sheet of pizza pan. Top with cheeses and basil leaves. Roll out second ball of dough, and cover pizza, sealing the edges. Cover with a towel and let rise again for 30 minutes.

Using fingers (I used end of a wooden spoon), form "dimples" all over top. Sprinkle with the coarse salt, and spread olive oil over top. Put a piece of rosemary in each dimple. Bake in preheated oven (425) for 30 min. until golden.

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This is a keeper, although I would cook it 5 minutes less! I will also try other fillings and sage leaves instead of basil.

pizza%20slice.jpg

April 6, 2007

Good Friday

I am SO far behind on this blog, and have much to share, but had a very busy week. Though it is now four days later, I will blog about last weekend.
On Friday, my friend, Jan, and I went to a bead show in Ontario, CA. We spent several hours browsing, choosing, and buying our new bead treasures. We both need more jewelry like an additional 20 pounds, however, we continue to amuse ourselves by making endless necklaces, bracelets, earrings to match every outfit in our bulging closets. Sometimes we work in reverse. We make a piece of jewelry, and then must find an outfit to match it!

After a happy shopping day (no bead show photos), I came home to prepare dinner for Good Friday. My childhood Catholic upbringing does not allow me to survive the guilt I would have if I ate meat on this day. Even though the Pope let us off the hook from the childhood Friday fish night (or Mac and Cheese if we were lucky), YEARS ago, I am a creature of habit.

I made this recipe from March '07 Bon Appetit:

Scallops%20in%20lemon%20cream.jpg


Pan-Seared Scallops in Lemon Cream Sauce:

I reduced the recipe to these amounts for two:

zest from 1 lemon (or curled, long piece of rind)
2 chopped shallots
3/4 c. white wine
1 clove crushed garlic (I used minced)
1 c. whipping cream
1/2 t. tumeric
1 lb. sea scallops
1 T. butter
1 T. olive oil
juice from 1 lemon

Combine wine, lemon zest, shallots, garlic in small saucepan. Boil and reduce to 1/2 c. (about 15 min.). Add cream and tumeric, and boil until mixture thickens, and is reduced to about 3/4 c. (13 min.). Strain mixture, remove solids. Add
juice from 1 lemon, salt and pepper to sauce. Meanwhile saute scallops in butter and olive oil, 2-3 min. per side. Pour a pool of sauce on plate, and arrange scallops on top. Drizzle with remaining sauce.

We had these with fingerling potatoes and a green salad.


April 7, 2007

Yummy Pasta with Shrimp and Gruyere

For dinner, we had the delicious pasta with shrimp, gruyere sauce and veggies from Jerry's Blog. I substituted leftover asparagas and grated zucchini for the peas in his recipe. It was quite a hit! Jerry and I must have the same taste in food, as we seem to like all the same recipes, and continue to share each others' "keepers".

Shrimp%20Pasta.jpg

8 ounces dry pasta
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups milk
5 ounces shredded Gruyère cheese, divided
1 tablespoon butter
24 ounces large shrimp, peeled and de-veined
4 garlic cloves, minced
2 tablespoons dry white wine
1/2 teaspoon ground red pepper
1 1/2 cups frozen green peas, thawed(or any veggie)

Preheat oven to 375

In a large pot of boiling water, cook pasta according to package directions - drain well when done.

Gradually whisk together flour, salt and milk. Pour into Dutch oven and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook until slightly thick, whisking constantly - about 2 minutes. Remove from the heat and stir in 3 ounces of cheese.

In a large skillet, melt butter over medium-high heat. Add shrimp and garlic - cook just until the shrimp are beginning to turn opaque - about 1-2 minutes. Mix in wine and pepper - cook until the shrimp are almost done - about 1 minute.

Toss together the pasta, shrimp mixture, and peas into the cheese mixture until well coated.

Scoop mixture into a 9 x 13" baking dish lightly coated with nonstick spray. Scatter the top with the remaining 2 ounces of cheese. Bake until cheese melts and begins to brown - about 20 minutes.

Makes about 6 servings.

April 13, 2007

Recipes for Sheena

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Hot Crab Dip: (I doubled this)

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 can crab
2 green onions, chopped
1 c. grated sharp cheddar
1/4 c. grated Romano cheese
enough mayo to blend (1/2 c.)
Black pepper

Combine ingredients and bake at 350 for 30 min. Serve with crackers.
Leftover crab dip is great on French bread, under the broiler. (Brad's Sunday dinner)

Brie%20bites.jpg

Brie-Prosciutto-Fig Jam Tartletts

Use frozen phyllo appetizer cups. Fill each half full with small amount of brie. Saute chopped proscuitto with olive oil, a splash of balsamic vinegar (I use FIG balsamic), and a little green onion. Fill cups with cooled and drained proscuitto. (At this point you can freeze if making ahead) Top with fig preserves and bake at 350 for about 7 min. for cheese to melt. They are great to have in the freezer (just add jam).

Artichoke-Lemon Pesto Lasagna (no photo...too busy eating it!)

Fresh sheets of pasta

Filling:
16 oz. ricotta
2 containers of Trader Joe's Lemon-Artichoke pesto

2 bricks of Gruyere cheese, grated

Parmesan, or Romano cheese

Bechamel Sauce:

6 T. butter
6T. flour
4 c. milk
salt and pepper to taste

Make filling. Make bechamel sauce. Begin layering by putting some bechamel on bottom of lasagna pan. Layer of pasta, Bechamel, Artichoke filling, parmesan. For the next layer, only pasta, bechamel, and gruyere. Repeat with layers of filling (3 total), and gruyere (2 total).

Lemon-Berry%20Trifle.jpg

Lemon-Blueberry Trifle:
(Can be made 2 days ahead)

Lemon curd: (or cheat and used 2 jars of purchased lemon curd)
1 1/3 c. sugar
3/4 c. (1 1/2 cubes) unsalted butter
2/3 c. fresh lemon juice
1 T. lemon zest
1/8 t. salt
5 eggs, beaten

Lemon Syrup (or cheat and use limoncello)
1 c. water
1c. sugar
1/3 c. lemon juice
1 T lemon peel

Filling
8 oz. cream cheese (room temp)
3/4 c. sugar
2 1/4 c. whipping cream
1/4 t. vanilla

3 half-pint baskets of fresh blueberries

12 oz. pound cake, cut into cubes (frozen like Sara Lee)

For curd: Combine first 5 ingredients in saucepan. Stir over med heat until butter melts and sugar is dissolved.Remove from heat.Gradually whisk in eggs. Return to med-low heat, continue whisking until it thickens (don't boil) Strain through seive, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

For syrup: Combine all ingredients and bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Reduce heat and simmer 5 min. Cool.

Filling:Beat cream cheese, 1/2 c. sugar, 1/4 c. cream and vanilla in large bowl until smooth. In another bowl, beat 2 c. cream, 1/4 c. sugar until peaks form. Fold in 2 additions into cream cheese mixture.

Puree 1 containter of berries with 1/4 c. lemon syrup. Transfer to bowl and add 1 1/2 container of berries (save half a basket for garnish), mashing with fork or potato masher for a chunky puree.

Assembly:
Arrange 1/3 of cake cubes in bottom of trifle dish or high glass bowl. Drizzle with 7 T of lemon syrup (or just use lemoncello) Spoon 1/3 of cream cheese mixture (2 c.), spread to sides of dish.Spoon half of berry puree, spreading to sides. Spoon half of lemon curd (1 1/4 c.), spreading to sides of dish. Repeat with 1/3 cake cubes, 7 T lemon syrup, 1/3 of cream cheese filling,remaining puree, remaining cake, 7 T syrup, remaining lemon curd. Spread remaining cream cheese filling over top and "decorate" with remaining berries and a lemon slice. Cover and chill overnight.

May 1, 2007

A "Big Scoop"... of GELATO!

As I patiently wait for this year's return to Italy, and the weather at home gets warmer, I can't help but think about the warm days ahead in Tuscany and Umbria. When I think of hot days in Italy, then the next logical leap for me is GELATO!

Brad and I have sampled our share of gelato in various parts of Italy, and we do have a top three list: In third place is the gelataria just outside Castellina in Chianti. Second would have to be Il Paradiso in Camiogli, and numero uno is Gianni in Bologna. These are all up for reconsideration, as I plan on spending some time at GROM in Florence this summer. We've enjoyed gelato from Piemonte to Puglia, and Venice to Capri. Since I haven't been cooking lately, I thought I'd just blog about what I'd LIKE to be eating!

Gelatoblog.jpg

Wherever there is a photo of Brad and I with gelato, his will ALWAYS have chocolate, and mine will either be a vanilla or crema based flavor with the closest thing to caramel I can find, or something fruity.

I even love the signs and logos for the Gelateria shops!

Gelatoblog2.jpg

I also love the NAMES of flavors. At Gianni in Bologna, they have names that make me smile BEFORE I choose a flavor: "L'Avvocato" (the attorney) is chocolate and nuts. There is a "Nessuno me capisce" (no one understands me), and "La Prima Volta" (the first time). Maybe they need someone to sample and name new flavors? I'd be happy to work for room and gelato!

How do you eat gelato? Brad is quick! I am the SLOWEST gelato eater I've ever seen. Brad swears he could reread War and Peace while I finish a double scoop!

In looking back on our Italy photos for a couple of trips, I see almost as many pictures of us with gelato, as there are of me with coffee, or Brad with wine!
Hmmmm... I think I need all three each day in Italy!

There are different ways to judge gelato. TASTE, of course is most important. I appreciate a variety of flavors, or at least something unusual or new to try. Appearance, or an attractive display is always a nice plus, but, not necessarily a predictor of quality. "Location, location, location..." will bring foot traffic, and usually raise prices, but it IS nice to have a gelateria close to your hotel, or "on the way home" from a vacation rental. Speaking of prices, of course it is least expensive to walk off eating your cone or cup of gelato. Brad is funny about this. About every 5th day, he wants his gelato in a GLASS BOWL, and wants to eat it at a table with a coffee or other beverage, and a nice big glass of ice water. I do NOT argue this point. I will eat gelato ANYWHERE, and ANYTIME!

Last fall, I was so excited about the gelato at Gianni in Bologna, I took pictures of all 48 flavors! Sure enough, I have enough gelato photos for a whole Slow Photo Album!
My favorite flavor EVER is that layered caramel one on the Bologna photo called "Gianni 6". YUM! There are no calories or fat grams in this album!

http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?cat=4125&page=1&ppuser=327

May 10, 2007

Brad's Birthday

I left for Scottsdale at 7:30 a.m., and arrived at our Marriott Suites by 11:30 (with one Starbucks stop). After checking in, I hit Nordstrom and bought two skirts and a pair of black sandals. From there I visited favorite shops in the Borgota (a shopping center modeled after an Italian village), Seville Center, and the Marketplace. It was 105 degrees, and by 4, I headed back to my room and cranked down the air conditioning. After ordering a snack and a drink from room service, I joined the Slow Travel Thursday chat, then took a nap. I got a phone call from Brad at 6:15 saying he had missed his flight to Phoenix! (This happened two years ago when we also came to Scottsdale for our birthdays.) He would be on the 7:30 flight, which was running late! So much for our 8:30 dinner reservation. I settled in by the pool with a diet coke and my book (after Googling restaurants under "late night dining"). Brad also did some research, and came up with plan B for dinner. He arrived at 9:50, and we were at "Twisted" by 10:15.

Twisted.jpg

Twisted has been open only three months. We ordered wine, and were brought a complementary pretzel appetizer.

Pretzle.jpg

Our appetizers were both great. I had ravioli gnudi in basil olive oil, and Brad had a spicy gazpacho with "Pueblo pesto".

ravioli%20gnudi.jpg

soup.jpg

Our entrees both could be categorized as "jazzed up comfort food". Brad had "Pepper, Coriander Crusted Pork Tenderloin" stuffed with goat cheese and cranberries, with carmalized sweet garlic green apples and pomegranate red wine reduction.

stuffed%20pork.jpg

I had "Rocky Mountain Range Meatloaf". At the bottom of the stack was a thick gorgonzola stuffed crostini, served open face with a large serving of meatloaf of organic buffalo, lamb, and wild boar; with Serrano bacon and Creole Sauce.

meatloaf.jpg

Brad cleaned his dessert plate of a Triple Layer Ancho chili chocolate cake with chipolte chocolate mousse and dark chocolate ganache. I had one of his berries and coffee! It was after midnight, and I was in a food coma!

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Even with the delay, Brad had a very nice birthday!

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May 11, 2007

Tween Dinner

We chose the casual patio dining at the Roaring Fork for our Friday night's dinner. We have passed this restaurant many times on Scottsdale Blvd, and the patio coverd with tiny white lights, and outdoor fireplaces always looked charming.

http://www.roaringfork.com/ScottsdaleAZ/roaring_fork_dining_menu.html

We shared an appetizer of shredded pork with chilies, onion and cheese, melted in a little black kettle, served with hot flour tortillas.

kettle.jpg

Brad had seabass with butternut squash risotto, and I enjoyed my pecan-crusted rack of lamb with cheesy potatoes. We drank a bottle of an Oregon Pinot Gris. Then we managed to save room for a scoop of passionfruit and raspberry gelato on our way home.

Seabass.jpg

lamb.jpg

May 19, 2007

Blend

We had our "end of season" dinner with friends, Jan and Les, on Saturday night. They will leave the desert next week to spend the next few months at their home in Vancouver Washington. We have already noticed a drastic change in traffic, and a general emptyness around town, as the snowbirds and Pacific Northwest residents leave town for the summer. This is both good and bad. It takes much less time to drive around town, there is always a convenient parking space in busy parking lots like Trader Joe's, but we miss our friends and our social life decreases considerably as many leave to escape the desert summer heat. The good news is more down time, pool time, and time for Brad and I to enjoy just being with each other, and our own vacation to Italy!

We had a fabulous "Goodbye Dinner" at Blend Restaurant in La Quinta.
http://www.blendrestaurant.com/

We started with seared Foie Gras, and Brad's steamed mussels in a green Thai curry and coconut lobster sauce.

Fois%20Gras.jpg

mussles.jpg

Then we had a wedge salad with smoked bacon, tomatoes and a "Cool Bleu Dressing".

wedge%20salad.jpg

Our entrees were a grilled ribeye with asparagas, roasted shallots and fingerling potatoes, and Brad's pan-seared venison chop with port foie gras sauce, turnip, potato, and onion.

ribeye.jpg

venison.jpg

Desserts shared with the table included a passionfruit panna cotta with blueberries, and a caramel and banana mousse tart with banana ice cream.
Passionfruit%20panna%20cotta.jpg

banana%20tart.jpg

Brad and Les, the red wine lovers, enjoyed a bottle of Oregon Pinot Noir, while Jan and I sipped our lemon drops and some Pinot Grigio.

June 4, 2007

BBQ Shrimp

An easy dinner on the BBQ:

Marinate shrimp in: light soy sauce, honey, hot red pepper flakes, and a teaspoon of olive oil. Grill for a minute or two on each side.
We had these with mango and blackberries with honey yogurt, and Maytag blue cheese slaw. Sweet and salty!

BBQ%20shrimp%2C%20July%2007.jpg

June 10, 2007

Dinner with Nancy and Bill at Trilussa

Trilussa.jpg

We had a wonderful early dinner at Trilussa, an Italian restaurant in Cathedral City, with Slow Travel friends, Nancy (Nancyhol) and Bill. After a glass of wine or prosecco, we made our menu selections. Conversation was lively about travel, Italy, pets, wine, and life in general!

We started with antipasti and salads. I had bruschetta with garlic and olive oil, Brad had carpaccio (gearing up for Italy), and Nancy and Bill had two beautiful salads. Nancy's was chocked full of gorgonzola and walnuts. Nancy brought their LAST bottle of vino rosso from Montalcino to share with us! This was even more lovely, since I MET Nancy and Bill, last year on the street in Montalcino!

Our entrees were pasta for the ladies, and veal for the guys. I had linguini carbonara (my favorite in the desert outside of my own), and Nancy had lasagna, "fatta di casa".
Brad had veal Limone, and Bill had his veal smothered in mushrooms.

Dinner%20with%20Nancy%20%26%20Bill.jpg

Yes, we had a little room left. It was 105 degrees outside, and we needed to "practice"
the daily gelato habit, so be sure to check out our refreshing desserts!

We enjoyed great company, good food and wine, and made it home in time for the LAST episode of the Sopranos! A wonderful evening!

Here are the food photos:http://www.slowphotos.com/photo/showgallery.php?cat=4136

June 21, 2007

Lamb for Dinner

How about a break from the jewelry? I finally fixed us a nice dinner. We had lamb chops on the BBQ, zucchini, and Brad's favorite baked orzo.

lamb%20chops.jpg

Baked Orzo:

1 cup cooked orzo
2/3 c. light sour cream (I used half low-fat cottage cheese this time)
1 can diced green chilies
salt and pepper to taste
4 oz. grated pepper jack cheese

Stir together first four ingredients with half the pepper jack. Top with remaining pepper jack cheese. Bake at 350 for 35 min.

Baked%20orzo.jpg

July 28, 2007

An Italian Evening

flowers%20in%20pitcher.jpg

We've been home a week. My body is on California time, my ankles are "normal", and I have survived a week of work and usual errands. My heart, soul, and most of the time, my brain, remain in Italy. Brad is as bad as I am in his Italy withdrawal. Normal things annoy us that didn't used to...like drivers, like competitiveness, like neighbors who don't say hello.

Friday night, Brad got home late, so we went out for a quick bite at 9 p.m.. As we were leaving the restaurant at 10:00, we looked at the traffic on a busy street. There was a tattoo parlour open, on the block where we parked our car. There were fast food restaurants on two corners. We both got the same sad look in our eyes. I said, "Let's go to the piazza. Oh, there ISN'T one!" No passiagiata for us. We went home and talked about some of the things we missed: the attitude, the beauty, the simplicity, the people, the warmth, the fresh local food, the sharing, the wine, the families out at night... I could go on for pages.

OK, so we live HERE! I decided to have an Italian evening at home on Saturday...and Sunday. I need to stop whining!

We had a truely lovely meal. We sat on our "terrazza" by the pool, with soft Italian music, wine, and twinkling lights in our olive trees. We made strozzapreti together (recipe to follow). We had a wonderful watermelon salad with watermelon, mozzarella, fresh basil, red onion, drizzled with Mauro's wonderful Umbrian olive oil. We drank wine. We laughed. We smelled the rosemary bushes next to us. We planned future trips. We sat outside until we had enough room to eat panna cotta with fresh peaches soaked in Ameretto. We WERE Italian.

watermelon%20salad.jpg

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July 29, 2007

Strozzapreti: "Priest Chokers"

According to one legend, these ricotta and spinach dumplings were named when a gluttonous priest ate too many too quickly. Another story says that wives would customarily make the pasta for churchmen as partial payment for land rents (In Romagna, the Catholic Church had extensive land properties given in rent to farmers), and their husbands would be angered enough by the venal priests eating their wives' food to wish the priests would choke as they stuffed their mouth with it. There are different recipes for the dish and it's ingredients vary from Emilia-Romagna to Tuscany. I used a recipe from Lidia Bastianich, which sounded closest to the dish I enjoyed at Osteria di Cinghale Bianco in Firenze.

I began with a large 12 oz. bag of baby spinach leaves from Trader Joe's.

bag%20of%20spinach.jpg

Though the spinach leaves are pre-washed, I washed the leaves thoroughly again, drained them in a colander, put them in a large pot, with just the water that clung to the leaves from rinsing. Place the pot over high heat, and cook until the little water at the bottom begins to steam (about a minute). Add a little salt, cover the pot, and cook for another two minutes. The spinach should be tender, but still bright green. Immediately drain the spinach in a colander and rinse under cold water until it is cool enough to handle. Squeeze as much water out as possible, so it is a very dry ball of spinach, about 1 cup. (I did this ahead, and refrigerated it.)

cooked%20spinach.jpg

Chop the spinach in a food processor. Lidia's recipe called for 1/2 cup, but I used all of it to get the green color I had experienced in Firenze.

In the food processor, beat two eggs. Add the chopped spinach and blend. Add 10 oz. of ricotta, 1 cup grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese, 5 T. of breadcrumbs, salt, pepper, and a pinch of nutmeg. Blend. (I chilled this mixture for an hour before we were ready to make dinner, and it may have made it even easier to roll into balls).

filling.jpg

Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil. Fill a plate with a handful of flour. Take about a tablespoon of filling, roll into about a one inch ball, and roll in flour, tapping off excess. Place these on a teatowel covered pan. The recipe made about 30 balls. I flash froze half for another meal, and we ate 7 or 8 for our entree. One recipe would feed four.

balls.jpg

When you have made all the balls, melt 1/2 cube of butter with about 12-15 fresh sage leaves over medium heat. Throw the strozzapreti into the boiling water. Cook for 1 minute after they rise to the top. (about 3 minutes total). Use a slotted spoon to remove and drain strozzapreti. Place in serving dishes, and top with browned butter and crisp sage leaves. Add additional parmignano if desired. YUM!

More Tastes of Italia

Sunday gave us time to make and enjoy another great dinner. Brad is really enjoying cooking together. He chops, grates, stirs, sautees, kneads, and basically does whatever task I ask of him to help me get several things done at the same time. We started with prosciutto and melon (Brad had some, and I decided to save mine for my lunch at work on Monday).

We had a yummy spinach salad with peaches and pine nuts with a peachy dressing.

Our entree was risotto with sausage, carrots and sage.

sage%20risotto.jpg

Dessert was a Florentine Cheese Tart.

tart.jpg

We ended the meal with a hoarded bottle of Brachetto di Acqui. We have two bottles left! It is SO refreshing in this heat!

brachetto.jpg

August 5, 2007

Eggplant Parm: I Did It MY WAY

Actually, I did it my mom's way.

I have learned a lot about eggplant parmiggiano this week on the Slow Talk Food Message Board (for Premium Members only). There has been an informative and passionate discussion going on (also known as the Great ST Eggplant War).
It inspired me to make eggplant parmiggiano for dinner.

Slice two large eggplant (10 to 12 slices each). Wash and sprinkle with salt. Let drain in a colandar for 30 min. Heat olive oil in a heavy skillet. Dry eggplant slices thoroughly patting with paper towels. (My mom used to lay them out on the patio table to dry in the sun.)

Dredge eggplant slices in flour, dip in egg, then coat in breadcrumbs. Fry coated eggplant slices quickly in hot oil.
frying%20eggplant.jpg

Drain on two layers of brown grocery bags.
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I used a quart of sauce I had in the freezer. Put a thin coating of sauce in bottom of baking pan. Layer fried eggplant slices with sliced fresh mozarella, sauce, grated parmignano, chopped fresh basil. Repeat. (I made one for dinner, and one to freeze.)


Bake at 350 for 40 min. That's my pretty new baking dish from Orvieto!
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August 11, 2007

Cool off with a Mojito...cupcake!

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It was 108 degrees yesterday, and after some pool time, I had an uncontrollable urge to bake. This requires turning on the oven in my otherwise cool and air-conditioned kitchen! I wanted to make something that at least SOUNDED cool and refreshing.

My friend Jerry, has been sipping rum in the Slow Travel chat room. It sounded good. I recently discovered a wonderful blog called Cream Puffs in Venice. Ivonna, or "Cream Puff", lives in Toronto, Canada, loves to bake, and has fabulous recipes to share. That is where I found these Mojito cupcakes! Just scroll down this category to find the recipe.

These start with a wonderful buttermilk cake recipe that is flavored with dark rum. Then they are infused with a butter, rum, lime zest and mint glaze. Finally, they are topped with a cream cheese butter cream frosting FULL of lime zest. "Cream Puff"
made mini cupcakes. I used regular muffin tins, and the recipe made 28 cupcakes.

Brad tells me they're great. I'm being GOOD, so I have not tasted one (although I did taste the frosting)! I will bring them to work on Monday.

Thanks, Cream Puff! These are keepers!

Jerry, THIS ONE is for you! (Don't worry, I froze some for you!)

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August 12, 2007

Just Peachy

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I love peaches. I have been thinking about a peach dessert since I got the August Cucina Italiana. They had a beautifully presented "Meringata with Peaches in Syrup" that was my inspiration for this recipe. Mine looks a lot like this, but the bottom and middle layers are completely different.

For the cake (bottom) layer, I used a butter recipe yellow cake mix, substituting peach juice for the water, and baked it according to package directions, using two 9" springform pans. (I froze one layer for another time.) After cooling the cake for 5 minutes, I poked holes, and infused it with some Amaretto.

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Next, I made a peach mousse layer:

Add one cup of boiling water to a 3 oz. package of peach jello (I used half od a 6 oz package).

In a blender or food processor, blend 3 fresh, sliced, peeled peaches with 2 T. honey and 1 T. almond extract. Add to hot jello. Chill for 1 1/2 hours.
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Whip 1 cup heavy whipping cream (may substitute Cool Whip here). Beat chilled peach puree-gelatin mixture on high speed for 4-5 minutes. Fold in whipped cream. Chill for 1 hour. (At this point, you may spoon into glasses for a light, refreshing dessert all by itself.)
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After mousse has chilled for an hour, carefully spread over cake layer. Chill again before decorating with fruit.

Peaches in syrup:
The recipe says to combine 3 cups of water with 1 1/4 cup sugar, and boil whole peaches for 3 minutes. I used 4 cups of water (to cover them in my pan), and reduced sugar to 1 cup. If I made this again, I would only boil the peaches for 2 minutes.
Cool, drain, remove pit, and slice into thirds.
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Garnish top of cake with peaches, berries, meringues (I bought mine at Trader Joe's), or dollops of whipped cream, mint leaves, and powdered sugar.

August 13, 2007

Stuffed Veal Chops

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We had a nice relaxing weekend and I got the baking out of my system for a while. We ran errands, had pool time, and enjoyed seeing the Bourne Ultimatum. On Sunday, after a trip to Costco and a nap, I was back in "a cookin' mood". I bought two luscious veal chops, and prepared them with what I had in the kitchen, or the garden.

Palma's Stuffed Veal Chops:

Marinate the chops for 2 hours in:

8 sage leaves (chopped)
2 sprigs of rosemary
a splash of balsamico
enough Evoo to coat in a ziplock bag
sea salt and freshly ground pepper

Cut a pocket in each veal chop. Sear each chop for 1 1/2 minute per side on the BBQ.

In a small pan combine:
1 c. chicken broth mixed with 1 T. veal demi glace, 4 sage leaves, and 1 rosemary sprig. Bring to a boil and reduce by half.

Stuff each pocket with two small slices of fontina (2"x1"), and three sage leaves. Secure pockets with toothpicks.

In a skillet with 1 T. butter and 1 T. olive oil, cook chops for 4 minutes on one side, then add reduction. Turn over and cook and additional 4 minutes (for medium on thick chops).

Delicious!

August 17, 2007

Summer Fruit Tart

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Company for dinner? Want an easy, foolproof, dessert that most will LOVE? This is my standby summer fruit tart.

My delightful Godson, Casey and his girlfriend, Sarah, are visiting! We have been relaxing in the pool, sipping cocktails, and eating well.

Dessert was the hit of last night's dinner, though everything else was also enjoyed.
With each bite, Sarah would smile and say, "I'm SO happy right now!" Casey and Sarah decided to "be happy" again with fruit tart for BREAKFAST this morning!

Our patio dinner included chicken Saltimbocca, zucchini, risotto and watermelon salad.

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Here is the tart recipe:

Crust:
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, softened and sliced

Filling: 
1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese, softened 
1/2 cup granulated sugar 
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Topping: 
Fresh strawberries, blackberries, blueberries, raspberries, peaches, or whatever fruit is in season.

Glaze: 
1/2 can frozen limeade concentrate 
1 T cornstarch 
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice 
2-3 T granulated sugar

(Enough glaze for one 12" tart)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
For the crust: In a food processor, combine the confectioners' sugar, flour, and butter, and process until the mixture forms a ball. With your fingers, press the dough into a 12-inch tart pan with a removable bottom, taking care to push the crust into the indentations in the sides. Pat until the crust is even. Bake for 10 to 12 minutes, until very lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

Cut fruit and arrange attractively on top of tart.

For the glaze: Combine the limeade, cornstarch, lime juice, and sugar in a small saucepan and cook over medium heat until clear and thick, about 2 minutes. Let cool. With a pastry brush, glaze the entire tart. You will not use all of the glaze.
Keep the tart in the refrigerator. Remove about 10 minutes before serving.

August 18, 2007

Ragu for You?

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My Godson, Casey, came for a visit, and brought his girlfriend, Sarah, for us to meet. Sarah and I bonded instantly, finding we had much in common: enjoying food and shopping (among many other things)! We spent two days and evenings talking and laughing in the pool, eating and drinking well, and sharing family stories.

Sarah was interested in learning to make "real" Italian meat sauce. I was happy to teach my methods! We had a large pot of sauce simmering (ragu of pork shoulder meat), and I made a simple ricotta filling for some packaged manicotti. Casey and Sarah stuffed the manicotti, and helped make dinner. They also did all the kitchen clean-up both nights of their visit! It worked for me! We had salad with balsamic dressing, mozzarella balls wrapped in prosciutto, and cherry tomatoes with shaved parmesan, and the pork meat from the sauce. We drank the Barolo that Casey and Sarah brought, and the kids polished off last night's fruit tart for dessert!
It was a lovely two-day visit that was quite a treat for THIS happy Godmother!

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August 19, 2007

A Surprise Gift

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Yesterday I received a wonderful surprise in the mail. Deborah, a Slow Travel friend, was inspired to send me two books! She had a book signing in her bookstore, and thought of me after reading my blog entry on "Missing Italy". Deborah, herself an accomplished cook and baker, sent me an autographed copy of Rosalie Fiorino Harpole's Rosalie Serving Italian! Besides the wonderful recipes, Rosalie shares stories of growing up in her large Italian family. Many of the recipes are very close to all the tastes and flavors I grew up with. This is a perfect addition to my Italian cookbook collection! (I'll tell about the second book in another blog post.)Thank you Deborah!

Here is the first recipe I made from the book: Frittata

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Frittata

2 T. olive oil
1 T. butter
1 large potato, or 4 red potatoes, unpeeled and sliced thin
1 small onion, chopped (1/2 cup)
1 clove garlic, minced
1/2 t. sea salt
1/4 t. ground black pepper

6 eggs beaten
2 T. half and half
1/4 cup grated Pecorino Romano cheese
1/2 c. shredded mozzarella
1 T. fresh chopped parsley
3-4 basil leaves, shredded (optional)

freshly grated parmesan to garnish
parsley or basil to garnish
salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 350. Put oil and butter in 10" oven-proof skillet.
Saute the potatoes, onion and garlic. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Fry over medium heat until potatoes are tender, 8-10 minutes.

Beat eggs with half and half until fluffy. Fold in cheeses and parsley. Pour egg mixture over potatoes and cook undisturbed for about 2 minutes, until eggs begin to set and bubble, but are still runny on top. Add basil if desired. Place skillet in oven for 8-10 minutes. Remove skillet and transfer frittata onto a large round serving plate. The frittata should easily slide out of pan. Garnish with parmesan, parsley or basil, salt and pepper. Cut into pie slices. Serves 6.

* Notes:
This was a lovely memory of my mom's frittatas. The scent of cooked eggs with potatoes, onions, and Romano cheese, brought me back about 45 years! While other kids had PB&J sandwiches, I had frittatas in my lunchpail.

*I added a few slices of salami, at Brad's request, and used fontina cheese instead of mozarella. We ate the WHOLE THING for dinner!

August 23, 2007

Pizza Rustica


Friday we leave for San Diego for a Slow Travel weekend. On Friday evening, we are looking forward to dinner with Jane and Ken. On Saturday, we will pick up Shannon, and meet Marcia and Dave, Cheryl and friends at Del Mar Racetrack. Saturday night we will meet up with Krista, Steve, and anyone else who can make it to The Vine for dinner. Hence the name of the event, "Pinot and Ponies", (even thought the ponies will come first).

At Shannon's request, I baked a savory torta, that my mom called "Pizza Rustica". This is a hearty dish full of eggs, ricotta, salami, prosciutto, ham, mozarella and pecorino!
In my family it was a holiday dish, traditionally made at Easter. Here is the recipe:

Dough

3 c. flour
1 stick unsalted butter
¼ c. olive oil
2 T. sugar
pinch of salt

Crust:
Combine flour, sugar, salt. Cream butter and blend with dry ingredients.
Stir in oil. Add 1/3-1/2 c. ICE WATER (1T. at a time ) until dough is consistency of pie crust. Knead, chill wrapped in plastic for 30 min. Roll 2/3 of the dough into a circle and place inside a 10” springform pan leaving an inch of overhang. Chill shell and the other half of the dough.

*I actually cut an 11" circle and press it into the bottom of the springform pan. Then I cut long strips to go around the inside edges of the pan, pressing them to fit like this:
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Filling

2 lb. ricotta
9 eggs, beaten
½ lb. procsuitto (chopped)
½ lb. ham (chopped)
½ lb. salami or soprosatta (chopped)
1 ½ lb. grated mozzarella
6 oz. grated Pecorino Romano
½ t. pepper

Filling
In a LARGE bowl, combine eggs and ricotta. Stir in meats, cheeses and pepoper. Spoon into shell. Roll remaining dough to top and pinch edges. (I usually make a lattice top, or for Christmas, I cut out holly or tree shapes and overlap them on top in a design) Brush top with egg wash. (one egg yolk and 1 t. water). Bake at 350 1hr. 15 minutes. May be served warm or at room temp.

Here is what it will look like after an egg wash. I did no top crust this time.
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Can you read my dough letters? Look closely!
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September 7, 2007

The Fabulous Foodie GTG: 1st Stop

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By 8:30, I had consumed a mug of hotel coffee, and a venti Starbucks nonfat latte. I was capable of complete sentences, so we met Ann and Scott, our gracious chauffeur for the day. We headed to meet the rest of the group at the Farmer's Market coffee truck. I passed on more coffee, deciding to hold off until our next stop with a restroom.
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The Trout Lake farmer's market was wonderful! There were lots of produce booths, flowers, cheese, herbs, and vinegars, chocolates, bread, and a few crafts. I LOVE to look at food! It was sunny and cool (for us), with just a hint of fall in the landscape. For some reason, I get very excited when I see pumpkins, and fall colors, as it is one of the most beautiful times of the year, and I associate the foods with family, sharing, and a bountiful harvest. Way before Thanksgiving, I begin to feel blessed, grateful and generous! It makes me want to nest even more than usual! It is almost time for butternut squash soup, pumpkin ravioli, and apple crostadas! People ask, "Do you dream in color?" YES! I dream of foods in all their glory!
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Brad gathered our spinach for our pasta course, and I found FABULOUS, huge bunches of sage (I forgot to take a photo) for a dollar each! I can't even tell you what I spend on sage a month at home! I've tried growing it, but the leaves burn in my yard even in shade! I must try again!

Ann found the most wonderful pomegranite vinegar. I must order some! Next year I will bring no scrapbooks and an extra EMPTY piece of luggage!

September 10, 2007

Cooking Ahead: Lamb Meatballs

I'm having a Slow Travel party in six weeks. It may sound early, but this weekend we began cooking ahead for the event on October 20. I'm not going to share the whole menu YET, but let's just say I'll be making 18 items for at least 43 people. This requires some planning. I do as much as possible ahead of time, so I've been emptying my freezer in order to FILL IT UP!

This weekend Brad and I made 192 lamb meatballs (plus a few for dinner in order to taste test)! We made mint pesto to go with them.

We used 7 pounds of ground leg of lamb. Here is the recipe for a 1 lb. batch:

1 pound ground lamb
1/3 onion, chopped
1 garlic clove, chopped
1/4 c. chopped Italian parsley
1 egg yolk
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1/3 c. grated parmigiano cheese
several mint leaves, chopped
salt and freshly ground pepper

Here is Brad mixing the ingredients into the meat as I added them.
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I rolled 192 meatballs while he worked on his "Party To Do List".
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We fried the meatballs quickly in hot olive oil.
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We let them drain completely and cool on paper towels.
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Then they went off to the freezer, and we had some for dinner with the fresh mint pesto!
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September 14, 2007

Breakfast AND Dessert

Since I've been emptying the freezer in preparation of filling it for the upcoming GTG, I decided to clean out my fridge on Sunday morning. I found an over abundance of fruit, along with a forgotten puff pastry sheet in the freezer. Hmmm.

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Slow Travel members Diana B., Jan, and Lesfaye have all posted similar recipes/instructions on their "tart or whatever you call it". I decided to treat my sous chef, Brad to this for breakfast. I had a peach, several figs and a variety of jams and preserves.

Pre-cook a puff pastry sheet for about 10 minutes in a buttered pie pan at 400 degrees.

Spread it with a little jam or preserves (I used the last of a jar of boysenberry), the cut fruit. Fold over the pastry in whatever shape you like, and brush pastry with an egg white. Bake 10-12 more minutes until dough is golden and crisp. It was a great breakfast for two, and we had the rest for dessert!

Pot Luck Zucchini-Yogurt Pasta

I love to read and try new recipes. I read at least four food magazines a month, but many wonderful recipes are posted on Slow Travel. There are many great cooks and even chefs as members, so each day you may find something new. It is fun to try recipes from people all over the world, and then meet them if possible! This week, I seem to be using LOTS of recipes from Slow Travel friends.

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We were invited to a pot luck dinner Sunday night, and I was to bring a pasta dish. The hostess was going to grill mahi-mahi and beef. I made a recipe Colleen found in Food and Wine magazine in June, 2007:

Pasta with Zucchini and Yogurt

1 lb. farfalle (bow tie) pasta
4 zucchini, grated
1 c. Greek Yogurt
1/2 cube of unsaltedbutter (1/2 cup)
1 cup Parmigiano or Pecorino-Romano (and more for serving)
freshly grated nutmeg

While pasta is cooking, melt butter In a large skillet. Remove from heat. Stir in yogurt and cheese, salt and pepper to taste. One minute before pasta is done, through grated zucchini in with the pasta. In a minute, drain pasta and zucchini together. Toss with yogurt mixture. I added lemon zest from 2 lemons to the yogurt-cheese mixture. In another pan, I sauteed some shrimp in butter, and tossed those in before serving.

It was a BIG hit!

September 15, 2007

Judith's Turkey Cutlets in Lemon Cream Sauce

My apologies to those of you who were looking for new posts, or trying to leave a comment. This blog's host, Slow Travel, moved it's server this week. We couldn't blog for a couple of days, and it lost a few of my previously published comments somewhere in cyberspace. I did NOT delete anything.

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We had a delicious dinner Wednesday evening with another Slow Travel friend's recipe. Judith, who lives in Umbria, teaches cooking classes, and often shares her wonderful recipes. This one is Cotellette alla Crema di Limone. I used turkey cutlets for the recipe, and we had broccolini and orzo with it. Delicious! Check out her blog, Think On It.

September 16, 2007

Panzarotti

This recipe is ambitious. If you have never made it before, you will have to get over two fears:
1. Fear of fillo dough (or phyllo)
2. Fear of using LOTS of butter

These are crispy fillo dough triangles filled with whatever filling you like. You can make spinach and goat cheese, mushroom-sausage, crab, or anything you like!
I used this, which is very similar to my "Pizza Rustica" recipe:
This was enough for TWO boxes of fillo dough, and made 168 panzarotti to freeze

2 c. ricotta
4 eggs
3/4 c. grated Romano cheese
8 oz. chopped prosciutto
8 oz. chopped salami
1 lb. grated mozarella
salt and pepper to taste

1 lb. butter (yes, I said POUND!)
2 boxes frozen fillo dough

Thaw fillo dough overnight in the fridge (works best), or two hours on the counter. Combine first 7 ingredients in a large bowl for the filling.

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There will be 2 rolls of fillo sheets in a box. Only open one at a time. Unroll one package (leave the other in the fridge until you are ready for it). Cover sheets with wax paper, and then a wrung out wet dishtowel. Melt a cube of butter, and use a silicone pastry brush. I make mine on a plastic pastry mat. Take one sheet of dough and lay the rectangle horizontally. Brush with butter. Lay a second sheet on top. Brush with butter. (about 2 dips with the pastry brush per sheet...not too much, or they will be greasy).Cut horizontally into four strips (the long way). Put a small amount of filling at the end of each strip of dough, and fold into triangles, like a flag. (I make my little globs of filling triangle shaped, so they fold easily, and fill the whole little panzarotti, which will come out flatter, with filling to the corners.) Place these on a disposable cookie sheet.
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Repeat, keeping fillo sheets covered, and butter hot. If a sheet rips, or sticks, don't worry. The fillo is very forgiving. "Glue" the broken one on top or patch with the butter. If sheets crack, you don't have them covered. If them stick, or get too moist, take the damp towel off for a few minutes.
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Cover with foil, and freeze filled cookie sheets. Thaw for an hour, and bake at 350 for about 10-12 minutes, until golden and crisp.

September 17, 2007

Anniversary Dinner

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I made Brad an early Anniversary dinner on Friday night. We both love rack of lamb, and I have cooked many over the years. This was the BEST I ever made, and the recipe came from September's Bon Appetit. It is Gordon Ramsey's (Hell's Kitchen's screamer) Cheese and Herb-Crusted Rack of Lamb. His recipe is for three racks, so I will post the amounts I used for one:

3/4 c. fresh breadcrumbs made from sourdough bread
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
2 T. chopped fresh Italian parsley
1 T. chopped fresh thyme
2 T. chopped fresh mint (I used 4 sprigs of fresh rosemary instead because I like it!)

One 1 3/4 to 2 lb. rack of lamb with most of the fat trimmed off
1-2 T. prepared English mustard (I used Dijohn)

Toss first 5 ingredients in a food processor until finely chopped and mixed together. (I added sea salt and freshly ground pepper.) Toss with 1/2 T. olive oil.

Preheat oven to 425.

Score lamb: Using a sharp knife, cut diagonal cuts on fat side of lamb rack, spacing about an inch apart. Make cuts in opposite direction, forming a diamond pattern. Heat 1 T. of olice oil in skillet, over high heat. Salt and pepper lamb, and place, scored meat side down into oil. Cook until golden (about 5 minutes). Let cool until you can safely touch meat.

Rub mustard over meat, and on sides. Coat with crumb-herb mixture, pressing to adhere. Place in a foil-lined baking pan, and cook at 425 degrees for 40 to 45 minutes for medium-rare, or until meat thermometer registers 135 for medium-rare. (Can be done up to 6 hrs. ahead and chilled.) Let cooked roast stand 5 minutes, then cut into chops and serve.

We had ours with a dab of mint pesto, smashed red potatoes, and steamed artichokes with garlic aioli.

September 19, 2007

How Much Do You Love Gelato?

I just HAD to share this video with my gelato-loving friends. Enjoy!

September 27, 2007

Caramels

Caramels.jpg

Nonstick foil

1 cup butter (no substitutions)

2 1/2 cups packed brown sugar 

1 cup light-colored corn syrup 

One 14-oz. can sweetened condensed milk

1 tsp. vanilla
Line a 9x9-inch baking pan with nonstick foil or buttered foil, allowing edges to hang over sides of pan; set aside.
In a large microwave-safe bowl combine butter, brown sugar, corn syrup, and condensed milk; cover loosely with parchment paper. Microwave on 100% power
(high) for 4 or 5 minutes* or until butter starts to melt. Whisk to combine mixture. Microwave on high for 4 or 5 minutes* more. Whisk well. Microwave an additional 4 or 5 minutes*. Whisk gently. Add vanilla. (Note: Bowl may get hot as mixture cooks; use hot pads to handle.)
Pour caramel mixture into the prepared pan. Chill for 1 to 1 1/2 hours or until just firm. Using foil, lift block of caramel from the pan. Use a buttered knife to cut into 1-inch squares.

*I used a 9x13 pan to get smaller caramels to dip in dark chocolate. After dipping, I sprinkled a little sea salt on top of the chocolate.

One batch of caramels cut into "petite" squares made over 200! I found it easier to work with the caramel "slab" when I kept it in the freezer. I'd cut a strip, cut into squares, dip about 20 caramels in chocolate, put them in the freezer to firm up, then put them in candy papers, and repeat.

September 28, 2007

Book Club Lunch

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I hosted this month's Book Club Lunch. We read One Thousand Splendid Suns, by Kahled Hosseini. It was an excellent, but very sad story about women and family relationships in Afghanistan during the past thirty years of political struggles.
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I served two appetizers while we were chatting and discussing the book: hot spinach-artichoke dip, and a cheese spread with pears. For lunch, we moved to the dining room and began with a little cup of thick broccoli soup. Oh how I love to set a table with a new set of dishes! Here are the "Zucca" plates from Montefalco.
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Next we had a spinach salad with peaches, carmalized onions, pancetta, and pomegranites with a pomegranite vinegarette. This was a slight varieation of Jen's salad at the Vancouver GTG. It was a HUGE hit (and pretty too).
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Our entree was a ramekin of "Cheese Monger's Mac 'n Cheese from September's Bon Appetit.None of us were able to put a dent in our entree, so everyone took their's home. I had two last minute cancellations, so a couple husbands (not mine) got the extras for their dinner.
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Finally, for dessert, I experimented with Diva's Tiramisu Brownies. Brad was happy with the results!
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October 6, 2007

Judith's Gorgonzola "Cookies"

I've been quietly scrapbooking a GTG album all week, as I have "cooked ahead" everything that can be cooked ahead. I had a large chunk of gorgonzola leftover from the ravioli, and remembered this great recipe I learned from Judith when she posted it on her blog over a year ago! The scrapbook is almost done, and I had an urge to cook. I love the cheesy smell coming from the oven when these bake. Better than chocolate chip cookies for me!

Gorgonzola Cookies (makes 4-5 dozen)

7-8 ounces of gorgonzola
4 ounces of soft butter
1/3 cup of flour
1/8 teaspoon of cayenne pepper (peperoncini in polvere)
3 cups of protein breakfast cereal flakes, but make sure they aren't sugar frosted!
(Palma used bran flakes and smashed them.)

Mix the gorgonzola and the butter together (You may use a food processor or mixer.) Mix in the rest of the ingredients. Divide the dough into 4 pieces and form each one into a long roll about 1" (2.5 cm) in thickness. Do this on a piece of plastic wrap and the wrap will help you roll them out evenly. Seal your gorgonzola ropes in the plastic and refrigerate for half and hour or more.
gorgonzola%20logs.jpg

Heat the oven to 325 F (160+C) and cut the rolls into 1/4 inch slices, placing them on big baking sheets (placca di forno) with plenty of room between them. One sheet at a time, bake them for 12-15 minutes, and using a spatula, remove them to cooling racks. Done!

gorgonzola%20cookies.jpg

You may store in sealed container in fridge, or freeze. You may reheat before serving if you want them to crisp again. These are GREAT with a glass of wine.

October 27, 2007

Recipes: Onions, Fig Sauce and Brie

So far, the MOST requested recipe is for the Cippolini onion dish:
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I doubled this:
3 pounds cipolline onions, stem and root ends trimmed
1 cup chicken stock or canned low-sodium broth
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1 tablespoon white wine vinegar
1 tablespoon sugar
1/4 cup Cognac
1 cup dried apricots
40 cooked and peeled unsweetened chestnuts (I used a jar from William-Sonoma,
but Trader Joes has them frozen during the holidays)
Salt and freshly ground pepper


Bring a large saucepan of water to a boil. Add the onions and blanch for 30 seconds. Drain in a colander under cold running water. Slip off the papery skins and pat the onions dry.

In a large, deep skillet, combine the chicken stock with butter, vinegar and sugar. Cover and bring to a boil. Add the onions, cover and cook over moderately low heat until crisp-tender, about 15 minutes. Uncover and cook over moderate heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions are covered with a deep-golden caramel, about 30 minutes longer; add a few tablespoons of water as the liquid evaporates.

Add the Cognac, prunes and chestnuts to the onions and cook just until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and transfer to a serving bowl. Add 2 tablespoons of water to the skillet and scrape up any caramel stuck to the bottom and sides. Pour the sauce over the onions, and serve.

*I made this dish two days beore the party, adding apricots and chestnuts to the carmelized onions. The night of the party, I added the cognac, and reheated the dish for 20 minutes.

Fig-Port Reduction Sauce (William-Sonoma) I doubled this.

20 dried mission figs, sliced in quarters with stems cut off
Soak in 1 c. port for an hour, reserve liquid

Use drippings from pork in a sauté pan with:
reserved port from figs.

Bring to a boil, stirring. Reduce heat to medium and add:
2 T. veal demi-glace
figs
¾ c. chicken stock
2 tsp. balsamic fig vinegar (or regular balsamic vinegar and some fig syrup)
¼ c. honey

Simmer 30 minutes until thicker and reduced by half Whisk in butter, one T. at a time.
Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Brie with Fig Jam:

This is a no-brainer appetizer. Fill a baking dish with brie with the top rind cut off.
Spread fig jam on top. Bake at 350 until melted (about 20 min.) OR microwave for 3-4 min.

October 28, 2007

Butterscotch Cake

Thankful Butterscotch Cake
Recipe from: Inspired by Ingredients
by Bill Telepan, Andrew Friedman,
Cookbook Heaven at Recipelink.com

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Servings: 16 to 20

BUTTERSCOTCH FILLING: (* I one and a halfed the filling recipe from past experience.)
1 1/4 cups dark brown sugar
1 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup corn syrup
8 tablespoons (1 stick) butter
3 cups cream
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon vanilla extract
3 tablespoon dark rum

CAKE LAYERS:
3 1/3 cups flour
1/4 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly grated nutmeg
18 tablespoons (2 sticks plus 2 tablespoons) butter, softened at room temperature
2 1/4 cups granulated brown sugar (Domino Brownulated or very fine turbinado)
4 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/4 cup dark rum
1 cup milk

BUTTERSCOTCH FILLING
Put all of the filling ingredients except the vanilla and rum into a large heavy-bottomed saucepan. Have another pot of a similar size ready and on the side. Over medium-high heat, melt the sugars, stirring continuously until the butterscotch boils. Once the mixture comes to a boil, stir frequently, taking care not to scrape any sugar crystals from the sides. Cook at a full boil until the mixture reaches 242 degrees F.
Immediately pour the butterscotch into the empty pot. (Do not scrape the sides or bottom of the cooking pot, which would cause the filling to crystallize.) From a height, add the vanilla and rum. It will steam (and burn you if you aren’t careful) right away. Stir to combine. Cool the filling for 20 minutes. It should be thick yet pourable.
CAKE LAYERS
Cut ten 8-inch circles (or squares if using square pans) of parchment or waxed paper. The baking will progress more quickly if you have at least three 8-9 inch cake pans. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Combine the flour, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and nutmeg in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk lightly to combine. Using an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachments, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each addition. Lower the speed and add half of the flour mixture. Blend well. Add the vanilla, rum, and milk. When the liquid is just combined, add the remaining flour mixture and beat until smooth.
Fill each cake pan, three at a time, with a heaping 1⁄2 cup of batter. Use a spatula to evenly spread the batter in the bottom of the pans. Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the cakes spring back when lightly touched. Cool the layers in the pans slightly, remove, wipe the pan sides clean, and continue to fill and bake. You will need 9 layers.
Line the inside of a clean, dry cake pan with plastic wrap. If the plastic wrap sticks out above the rim of the cake pan, fold it over the outside of the pan. Peel the paper from one cake layer and place the layer upside down in the pan. Ladle about 1⁄4 cup of warm filling over the cake. Top with another cake layer, paper removed. Continue ladling the filling evenly over each layer. The cake will grow higher than the cake pan as you fill. Don’t worry if the edges of the cakes are a bit ragged; they will be trimmed before coating the outside of the cake. Just make sure the cake layers are evenly stacked. It’s difficult to move a layer once it has been placed on the filling. If the butterscotch filling becomes too thick to pour easily, heat on low. Do not top the last cake layer with butterscotch. Chill the cake for at least 1 hour; it must be completely chilled to trim the edges.
Place an 8-inch circle of parchment on top of the cake. Carefully invert the cake onto a cake cooling rack. Remove the pan and lift off the plastic wrap. Hold a long sharp knife against the side of the cake. Trim off about 1/4 of an inch evenly all around, making sure you are not tilting the blade. The size should be uniform, not wider at the bottom than the top.
Gently spread (reheat the butterscotch if too thick) and pour over the top and sides of the cake. Let stand until the coating is firm. Slide a metal spatula under the cake and place on a serving platter. Keep chilled, but serve at room temperature. This cake is best if made a day ahead, and keeps beautifully for 5 days.

Fig-Fennel Bread

Fig and Fennel Bread Bon Appetit February 2002

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1 1/4 c. warm water
1 T. sugar
1 envelope or 2 1/4 t. dry yeast
3 c. bread flour
1 c. rye flout (I used whole wheat)
1 1/2 c. dried calimyrna figs, chopped
2 T. fennel seeds
1 T. salt

Mix warm water, sugar, and yeast in small bowl. Let stand about 10 minutes until it bubbles. Combine dry ingredients and half the figs in large bowl of mixer, fitted with paddle attachment. On low speed, gradually add yeast mixture until all flour has been incorporated. Replace paddle with dough hook, and knead until smooth and elastic. Then knead by hand on counter for about 5 more minutes. Place in and oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap, then kitchen towel, and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Turn dough onto work surface, and knead gently until deflated. Knead in remainder of figs. Shape into one large loaf, or two long thin loafs (for mini slices). Brush rimmed baking sheet with oil. Cover with plastic wrap, kitchen towel, and let rise again until almost doubled (35 minutes).

Preheat oven to 375. Bake about 45 min. Cool on rack.

It was yummy for breakfast with cream cheese and fig jam.
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Panna Cotta

I used Giada's recipe for panna cotta. This recipe makes 6 servings. (I made it 8 times...lol)

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1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 c. whole milk

Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a saucepan, and let sit for 5 min. Turn on heat to med high, and stir until ALMOST boiling. Turn down heat and add:

3 c. heavy cream
1 T. sugar
1/3 c. honey
a pinch of salt

Stir over med heat for about 2 min. until sugar and honey are melted. Cool in fridge for 10 min. until cool enough to pour into serving glasses. Chill overnight.

I served it with 3 toppings: Caramel, Fudge, and a berry sauce. The caramel and fudge were Mrs. Richardson's (from a jar).

The berry sauce is very simple:
Defrost 2 10 oz. containers of raspberries and or strawberries in syrup. (I used one of each). Drain syrup into a small pan with 2 T. cornstarch and a T. of lemon juice. Bring to a boil. It will be thick. Stir in berries and keep covered in fridge.

October 30, 2007

Let Them Eat Cake!

Bittersweet Cheesecake Torte (adapted from Better Homes and Gardens Holiday Baking 2007)

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2/3 c. whipping cream
8 oz. dark chocolate (chopped)
Nonstick cooking spray
2 boxes of your favorite brownie mix
3 8 oz. packages of cream cheese (softened to room temp)
3/4 c. sugar
2 t. vanilla
2 eggs, lightly beaten
3 oz. milk chocolate, melted
3 oz. white baking chocolate, melted
(optional) chocolate "pencils" or rolled cookies to garnish

1. For ganache: In a small saucepan, heat cream over med-high heat until just boiling. Remove from heat. Add 8 oz dark chocolate. Don't stir yet. Let stand 5 min. Then stir until smooth, and transfer to bowl. Cover and chill 2-3 hours.

2. Prepare two 9 1/2" cake pans by spraying with cooking spray, and preheat oven to 350. (I used a 10" springform...same pan twice for brownie layers). Make brownies according to package directions, EXCEPT, only bake for 25 min. until outer edges are done. Cool, and remove from pans.

3. In a mixing bowl, combine cream cheese, sugar, vanilla, and beat until combined. Beat in eggs until combined. Divide mixture evenly into two bowls. Into one bowl, add 3 oz. melted milk chocolate. Add melted white chocolate to other half of cream cheese mixture. Stir each until smooth.

4. Preheat oven to 350. Wrap heavy foil around an 8" springform pan, making sure doil come at least an inch up the sides of pan. (I used a 9 1/2" springform.) Using a sharp knife, cut (using the pan bottom as a guide) the brownie layers the size of the springform you are using, Place one of the brownie layers in your foil-wrapped pan. Pour over the chocolate cheesecake batter. Place the next brownie layer on top. Add the white chocolate cheesecake batter. Place your filled springform pan into a large roasting pan. Pour enough water around the edges to go up the sides half way. CAREFULLY, place roasting pan in oven, and bake for 60 min. Carefully remove pan from water (I poured water out so I could get my potholders around springform). Cool in pan for 15-20 min. Using a small, sharp knife, loosen cake from edges of pan. Cool for another 30 min. Remove springform edges, and cool completely on wire rack. Cover and chill overnight.

Remove ganache from fridge. Beat with electric mixer until smooth and fluffy enough to spread. If it is stiff, add a splash of cream. Spoon into pastry bag, and pipe decoratively on top of cheesecake using large star tip, and make mounds around edge of cake.

For chocolate "pencils" (I ordered them from Bristol Farms bakery by the box), I used a little ganache as "glue" around the edges of cake, then stuck them on, close together. You can break them into any height.

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November 1, 2007

Halloween Dinner and Recipes

We began the evening with Mango Martinis (basically a lemon drop with a float of mango nectar)

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Dinner was stuffed veal chops, baked pumpkin polenta, and stuffed acorn squash.

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Acorn Squash with Sausage-Cornbread Stuffing:
(Tweaked from the original recipe from: Better Homes and Gardens Our Best Holiday Menus 2007)

To serve 4:
Two acorn squash cut in half and scopped out
1 mini-loaf of cornbread (make from a mix, or buy some cornbread)
2 chichen-apple sausages removed from casing
1/2 red onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
1/4 c. chopped dried apricots
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/3 c. chicken broth
1 T. butter, melted

1. Make or buy cornbread. I bought a mini-loaf from Bristol Farms.
2. Spray a baking pan with cooking spray. Cut acorn squash, scoop out seeds, season with salt and pepper, and bake (flat sides down) at 350 for 30 min.
3. In a skillet, cook sausage, onion, and celery until sausage is browned. Drain off fat. Stir in sage and dried apricots. Cube the cornbread, and toss with sausage mixture.
Drizzle with chicken broth and melted butter.
4. Fill squash centers with stuffing. Cover and bake later, or bake now at 350 for 30 min. If you make and stuff squash ahead, cover with plastic wrap and keep in fridge, but take out 30 min. before final baking, so squash is at room temp.

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November 2, 2007

Apple Tart with Cheddar Crust

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From: Better Homes and Gardens Our Best Holiday Menus 2007

2 2/3 c. all-purpose flour
1/4 c. sugar
3/4 t. salt
3/4 c. butter
4 oz. grated cheddar (one cup grated)
3/4 c. cold water
2 1/2 lbs. apples, cored and cut into slices (I used 6 Granny Smith)
1/4 c. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
2 T. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 T. suagr, or sanding sugar
less than 1/4 c. apple jelly (I used a heaping spoon of pomegranite jelly), melted

Pastry:
1. In a large bowl, stir together 2 2/3 c. flour, 1/4 c. sugar, and salt. Using a pastry blender, cut in butter until pieces are pea-sized. Stir in cheese. A tablespoon at a time, stir in ice water, moistening a section of the flour mixture with a fork. Push moistened pastry to side of bowl. Keep repeating until all the flour mixture is moistened. Form pastry into a ball, then flatten into a large disk, wrap in plastic wrap and refridgerate at least an hour or overnight. Let pastry sit at room temp a few minutes before rolling it.

2. Preheat oven to 350. On a slightly floured surface, roll pastry to about a 15-16 inch circle. Carefully transfer pastry to either a 10-11 " oven-proof skillet, or a 9-10" deep dish pie pan. (I used a quiche pan.)

3. For filling, in a large bowl, toss apples with 1/4 c. sugar, lemon jiuce, 2 T. flour, and cinnamon, until combined.

4. Mound filling into crust, and bring up edges of pastry toward center, pleating dough as necessary to keep it flat against the filling. Brush top of pastry with a egg, and sprinkle with sanding sugar (or regular sugar). Cover filling that is showing with foil, and bake for 30 min. Remove foil, and bake 30-35 minutes more, until crust is golden.

5. In a small saucepan, melt jelly over medium-low heat (I melted it in the microwave), and brush over filling. Cool slightly, and serve warm or at room temp. If desired, serve with vanilla ice cream.

November 4, 2007

Tri-color Polenta Appetizers

We attended a birthday cocktail party last night, where I was to bring an appetizer. I wanted to try a new recipe. (From The Best of Fine Cooking: Appetizers Holiday 2007)

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Make a big pot of polenta. (8 c. water, 3 c. polenta 1 t. salt. Cook 30 min.)

Divide polenta into three equal size bowls.

Cover a jelly roll pan with plastic wrap.

In first bowl, add 6-8 oz. pesto. Stir well, and spread in pan.
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In second bowl, add 2 T. butter, and 1/4 c. grated parmigiano cheese. Stir well, and spread over green layer.
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In third bowl, and a jar of roasted red peppers (pureed) OR a jar (drained) of pimentos that you pureed. Stir well, and spread over plain polenta layer.
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Cover with plastic wrap, and chill overnight. (Do this the day before you want to serve the appetizers.)

Cut appetizers into any shape with a cookie cutter that is deep enough to go through all three layers. Place cutouts on a clean cookie sheet, and sprinkle with grated parmigiano. Broil until cheese begins to brown (2-3 min.) Garnish, and place on serving platter. I used grape tomatoes and Italian parsley leaves. You could use olive slices, green chilies, sour cream, pimento, red pepper cut out, marinara sauce, etc.

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Tomorrow...step-by-step apricot roses to garnish platter!

November 5, 2007

Apricot Roses: A Garnish

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This VERY simple garnish, takes less than 5 minutes, can be done ahead, and lasts for days! Here is the step-by-step:

It takes about 6-7 dried apricots for each rose. Choose plump ones for best results.

1. Cut each apricot in half down the side, with a small sharp knife.
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2. Lay apricots halves on a sheet of waxed paper (or parchment paper). Fold paper over to cover, and roll flat with a rolling pin.
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The halves will become the "petals" of the rose. The cut side is the "stickier side".
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3. Take the smallest "petal" and make the center of the rose. Hold it tightly with one hand.
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4. Add a petal at a time, using "sticky" side to overlap around the center of the rose.
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5. When rose is the size you want, stick a toothpick through the bottom (where your fingers were holding it together) and set it in the freezer for 30 min (or up to 3 days) on a paper plate. I think they look nice in a cluster of three. I add lemon leaves, and use them to garnish a platter or plate.
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Enjoy the "Ohhhs and Ahhhs"!

November 10, 2007

Rosemary Shortbread Cookies

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This might be a new favorite! The balance of flavors is wonderful, and I have TONS of rosemary growing like weeds in my yard. Cindy Ruth posted this recipe (from epicurious.com) on the "Cookie Swap" recipe thread on Slow Talk. I kept the ingredients the same, but simplified the technique. It is a keeper!

ROSEMARY SHORTBREAD

2 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1 tablespoon chopped fresh rosemary
1 1/2 sticks(3/4 cup) unsalted butter, softened
2 tablespoons mild honey
1/2 cup confectioners sugar
1 tablespoon granulated sugar
Garnish: rosemary sprigs

Preheat overn to 300 degrees F.

Whisk together flour, salt, baking powder, and rosemary in a bowl.
Mix together butter, honey, and confectioners sugar in a large bowl with an electric mixer at low speed, then add flour mixture and mix until dough is smooth. (My butter was really soft.) Gather dough into a ball and transfer to a lightly floured surface, adding a little flour if necessary. Knead slightly if necessary. (My dough did not need kneading, so I skipped the floured surface, and went straight to the pan.)

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Press into two 9" UNgreased cake pans (or one larger one). Score dough into design by making "lines" with a fork. Repeat in opposite direction. Press rosemary sprigs lightly into dough if desired for garnish. I used 25 tiny sprigs per pan. Sprinkle with tablespoon of sugar. Bake 20 minutes. Cool in pan on rack for 5-10 minutes, then cut into squares with a sharp knife, and remove from baking pan(s).

Enjoy with a cup of coffee, tea, or prosecco!
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November 11, 2007

Cranberry-Orange Bread Pudding

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This is a wonderful holiday recipe: (Adapted from Taste of the South: Christmas Cooking Southern Style Special Issue 2007)

3 1/2 c. half and half
1 can whole berry cranberry sauce
1 3/4 c. sugar
2 T. soft butter
3 T. Grand Marnier (or orange juice)
1 1/2 T orange zest
1/2 c. dried cranberries
10 1/2 c. bread cubes (I used 2/3 a loaf of French bread mixed with 4 croissants)

Preheat oven to 350. Generously grease (I used butter flavored cooking spray) a 9x13 baking dish.

In a mixing bowl, blend all ingredients except bread and dried cranberries. Beat on medium speed until well-blended. Put bread cubes in baking dish, and pour liquid mixture evenly over top. Sprinkle with dried cranberries, and press down with your hands, so all the bread is coated. Cover with foil.

Bake for 1 hour. Turn oven up to 400, and remove foil. Bake an additional 10-15 min.
Let cool for 15 min. Drizzle with Orange Glaze.

Orange Glaze:
2 c. confectioner's sugar
2 T. Grand Marnier
2-3 T. milk

Stir together until smooth. I poured the glaze into a small zip-lock bag, sealing the zipper. Cut off a tiny corner of the bag, and drizzle glaze onto cooled bread pudding.

November 15, 2007

Biscuit Experiment

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Shannon posted a recipe for Cheddar-Date Biscuits on Slow Talk. I am not a big fan of dates (even though they are grown and sold everywhere here in the desert). I of course thought...FIGS!

Cheese Date Biscuits!

1/2 c. (1 stick) unsalted butter, room temp
1/2 pound sharp cheddar cheese, grated (about 2 c. packed)
1 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. cayenne
1/2 t. salt
1/4 c. milk
1 8 oz. package whole pitted dates

Preheat oven to 375F. With a mixer beat together butter and cheese. Mix in flour, cayenne and salt. Add milk and stir until stiff dough forms. Wrap 1 tablespoon dough around each date, completely incasing date and forming small cylinder. Place on ungreased baking sheet (can be made ahead and refridgerated.) Bake until golden, about 15 minutes.

I had cheddar, some blue cheese, and I ALWAYS have figs, so I decided to do a little taste test. I made half a batch using cheddar dough, and half a batch using blue cheese dough.

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*In the blue cheese biscuits, I reduced the salt by half, and replaced the cayenne with ground black pepper. I also had half a cup of half&half (leftover from the bread pudding), and used this instead of milk, as I hate to use the skim milk for my coffee in baking.

Brad and I had the results for dinner with our butternut squash soup from Jerry's blog. (WHAT did I used to cook before Slow Talk recipes and food blogs?)
Butternut Squash Soup with Apple, Sage and Bacon
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Results: Brad and I both LOVED the blue cheese-fig taste combination the best. I will use the rest of the blue cheese dough to make and freeze these tomorrow. The cheddar dough is wonderful, but I wouldn't combine it with figs. I'm thinking I'll use the cheddar dough with something else as the "surprise" in the center...a slice of apple? A piece of rolled up prosciutto? We shall see.

November 21, 2007

Portobello Pizza

I needed to plan a quick meal...! Hmmm. I had mozzarella, I had mushrooms, I grabbed a "Boboli" at the store, and we had a very yummy, garlicy, and fast pizza dinner! Marta's photo inspired me. Brad didn't seem to notice there was no meat on his plate!

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November 22, 2007

Thanksgiving Dinner

We landed in Oakland at 2:05 on Thanksgiving Day. By 3:15, I was sipping a lovely lemon drop with a splash of Chambord (the house cocktail), at Garibaldi's.
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It was wonderful to see our old friends, Roxanne, Charlotte and Cindy, as well as Cindy's extended family! Lots of laughter, wine, and good food...the theme for the weekend!

Brad started with a yummy crab bisque, and I had a simple endive salad with blue cheese and pomegranites. Our entrees were lovely (no turkey at THIS table!).
Here is my ribeye, smothered with mushrooms, cipolini onions, and pancetta.
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Brad really enjoyed his squash ravioli with truffles on a bed of chard!
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Dessert was a simple choice. Brad had "chocolate budino" (espresso gelato drenched with caramel sauce and topped with tons of assorted nuts), and I had panna cotta with cranberries.
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November 29, 2007

THE Bread

Last year, of course I tried the 14 hour rising "bread that ate the internet" recipe, and ended up with a lovely green Le Cruset dutch oven (that I could hardly lift into the oven). Now, with this new, quick, lasts in the fridge for two weeks dough, we can have fresh bread, pizza, foccacia, etc. ANYTIME!

Here's the first crusty warm loaf:
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The texture and taste were great!
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For those of you who are not Slow Travel Premium Members (and why AREN'T you, I might ask???), or who may be "Google challenged", here is the recipe:

Adapted from “Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day,” by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007)
Time: About 45 minutes plus about 3 hours’ resting and rising

1 1/2 tablespoons yeast
1 1/2 tablespoons kosher salt
6 1/2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour, more for dusting
Cornmeal.

1. In a large bowl or plastic container, mix yeast and salt into 3 cups lukewarm water (about 100 degrees). Stir in flour, mixing until there are no dry patches. Dough will be quite loose. Cover, but not with an airtight lid. Let dough rise at room temperature 2 hours (or up to 5 hours).
2. Bake at this point or refrigerate, covered, for as long as two weeks. When ready to bake, sprinkle a little flour on dough and cut off a grapefruit-size piece with serrated knife. Turn dough in hands to lightly stretch surface, creating a rounded top and a lumpy bottom. Put dough on pizza peel sprinkled with cornmeal; let rest 40 minutes. Repeat with remaining dough or refrigerate it.
3. Place broiler pan on bottom of oven. Place baking stone on middle rack and turn oven to 450 degrees; heat stone at that temperature for 20 minutes.
4. Dust dough with flour, slash top with serrated or very sharp knife three times. Slide onto stone. Pour one cup hot water into broiler pan and shut oven quickly to trap steam. Bake until well browned, about 30 minutes. Cool completely.

Yield: 4 loaves.

Variation: If not using stone, stretch rounded dough into oval and place in a greased, nonstick loaf pan. Let rest 40 minutes if fresh, an extra hour if refrigerated. Heat oven to 450 degrees for 5 minutes. Place pan on middle rack.

December 3, 2007

Savory Bread Pudding

We were having pork chops. I wanted something warm and savory to go with it. I browsed through a few recipes, and then I tweaked a few things in a recipe from Emeril, and came up with this:

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Two large bags of fresh spinach leaves
2 T. olive oil
One half onion, chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
1 can quartered artichoke hearts (in water), chopped
1 T. basil
1 T. parsley
1 t. salt
1 t. pepper
4 eggs
2 c. cream
1 1/2 c. milk
1 T. lemon juice
8 oz. brie (rind removed, cubed)
1 c. grated gruyere (4 oz.)
1/2 c. grated parmesan cheese
1 baguette day-old French bread, cubed

Preheat oven to 350. In a pot of boiling water, cook spinach 30 seconds (just until wilted). Rinse, dran, and squeeze all water out. Wrap in paper towels to drain more before chopping.

Heat olive oil, and sautee onions on medium high heat until golden. Add garlic, herbs, and half of salt and pepper for a minute, and the drained, chopped artichokes for 2 more minutes. Set aside.

Combine eggs, cream, milk, lemon juice, remaining salt and pepper, and whisk in a large bowl. Add brie, gruyere, remaining salt and pepper, and half of parmesan. Toss cubed bread and chopped spinach into cream mixture, mixing thoroughly. Pour into a greased baking dish, and top with remaining parmesan. Bake 1 hour at 350.
8 servings. DELICIOUS!

*Next time I make this (for a December dinner party), I'm going to try baking it in large muffin cups, for crunchy individual servings!

December 6, 2007

Butter

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I have to admit I LOVE butter. A couple of weeks ago, I laughed at Jerry when he told me he had been buying and hoarding butter for holiday baking, and had 25 pounds of it in his fridge! (At the time I had ten pounds hoarded, and of course I had to buy more the next time I went to Costco and Trader Joe's.)

At the register in Trader Joe's with lots of nuts, figs, chocolate, and BUTTER in my shopping cart, the clerk asked me about the eight pounds of butter. He wanted to know if I was making HIM cookies. I shared that I had a friend who had 25 pounds of butter ready. (I'll let Jerry tell you how much FLOUR he bought!)

The clerk, proceeded to tell me that they have a regular customer, who lives in the mountains, an hour from here, and comes to the store on the first Saturday of every month to buy 35 pounds of butter. EVERY MONTH. I asked if they were bakers. He said "No". I asked if they had a cookie company from their home. Again the answer was "No." He said they were a "little old retired couple", and they CONSUME it. So that is over a pound a day!!! I asked if they looked healthy. He said they were NOT overweight, and seemed quite active. Hmmmmm. I'll just leave the speculation to you!

I MAY still run out! I have baked 50 dozen holiday treats SO FAR..., and it is only December 6. I have lots more to bake next week!

So far I've made:
3 batches of shortbread
2 batches of "World's Best Cookies"
2 batches of "Cherry-Pistachio Cheater Cookies"
2 batches of Peanutbutter-Chocolate Balls
2 batches of Oreo-Cream cheese Balls

Oh how I love this time of the year!

December 15, 2007

Dinner at Antonello's

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A holiday weekend to South Coast Plaza (now our fourth year, and starting to feel like a tradition), often includes dinner at my favorite Orange County Italian restaurant, Antonello's. It is decorated to the max, with lights, wreaths and holiday greenery everywhere, There food is amazing, and again, this year I ordered the pasta pinwheels with pink and bechemel sauce. Two sheets of pasta (long like lasagna noodles) are spread with a fontina, prosciutto, ricotta filling, then rolled up into a spiral, and served with the two beautiful sauces. I was already full after Brad and I shared a calamari appetizer, so I barely made it through one spiral, but luckily, there was a fridge in our hotel room.

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We decided to order one dessert for the four of us to share. Here was the best canoli I've ever tasted. (It's tucked back there behind the sauces, fruit, and spun sugar!)

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December 20, 2007

Make Ahead Breakfast/Brunch

I love make-ahead meals for company. Since I'll have a housefull next week, I thought I'd share this one. I "tried it out" on Brad last Sunday, and it was a keeper!

Puff Pastry Omelet (Serves 8-10)

Thaw a box of puff pastry. Roll out on floured surface and cut as shown in photo.
Scramble a dozen eggs with whatever you like: cheese, onion, bacon, sausage, prosciutto, etc. Spread half of cooked eggs down the center of each puff pastry sheet, and braid strips together. (Freeze now...or continue and eat) Bake at 350 for 25 min.
Remove from oven and brush with an egg wash (one beaten egg). Sprinkle with parmesan cheese and continue baking for 10 min. One package of puff pastry makes two.

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We're having ours with monkey bread and citrus salad. Buon Appetito!

December 24, 2007

Cream Cheese Almond Cake

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Cream Cheese Almond Cake with Almond Pastry Cream

Cake:
1 1/2 cups butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese
3 c. sugar
6 eggs
3 c. flour
1t. almond extract
1 T. Amaretto
1 recipe of Almond Pastry Cream (for filling and frosting)

Preheat oven to 350. Grease and flour 3 9" cake pans. Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add sugar, beating until fluffy. Add 2 eggs at a time, alternating with 1 cup of flour at a time. Repeat with remaining eggs and flour. Stir in almond extract and Amaretto. Divide evenly into three prepared pans. Bake 25 minutes. Cool in pans for 10-15 minutes, then remove and cool completely on wire racks.

Almond Pastry Cream

3 c. half and half
3/4 c. chopped (or sliced) toasted almonds
1 1/2 t. almond extract
2 vanilla beans, split
3/4 c. powdered sugar
1/3 c. cornstarch
6 egg yolks
1 T. butter

In a saucepan, combine half and half, almonds, almond extract and insides of vanilla beans over medium-high heat until mixture boils. Reduce heat to medium-low.
In a medium bowl, combine sugar, and cornstarch. Add egg yolks, whisking until smooth. Gradually add 1/4 of hot half and half mixture to egg mixture, whisking constantly. Then add all of bowl back into saucepan of hot half and half. Continue to cook, whisking constantly until thick and beginning to boil. Remove from heat. Whisk in 1 T. of butter until melted. Put mixture in a plastic bowl, and cover with plastic wrap, pressing gently so wrap touches mixture to prevent a skin from forming. Refridgerate 2 hours, or until cool.

Frosting:

8 oz. cream cheese
1 cup butter
10 c. powdered sugar
2 T. Amaretto
1 1/2 cups of almond pastry cream
Beat butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add powdered sugar, and Amaretto. Fold in Almond Pastry Cream

Assembly:
Spread 3/4 cup of almond pastry cream between layers. Top each layer with some slice toasted almonds. Frost sides and top of cake with frosting (I reserved a little frosting before adding almond pastry cream to pipe around base of cake, as almonds would clog pastry bag tip.) Garnish with sliced toasted almonds.

December 27, 2007

Cream Cheese Cherry-Vanilla Pound Cake

Yes, I'm still baking. Our "family" arrives soon, so the eating frenzy is not QUITE over until New Years! The good news is that while I LOVE to bake, I do not have a sweet tooth. I have actually LOST over five pounds this month! (Must be all that cooking and dish washing!)

This will be served for breakfast tomorrow with berries and those do-ahead puff pastry cheesy-bacon scramble egg thingies. (I need a better name for that recipe!)
cherry-vanilla%20cake.jpg

Cream Cheese Cherry-Vanilla Pound Cake (Taste of the South's: Christmas Cooing Southern Style)

1 1/2 c. butter, softened
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
3 c. sugar
5 eggs
3 c. flour (plus 1/4 c. for cherries)
1/2 t. baking powder
1/4 t. salt
Two 10 oz. jars of maraschino cherries, drained and chopped
1 vanilla bean, slpit and scraped

Preheat oven to 325. Grease and flour a 10-cup bundt pan. In a large bowl, beat butter and cream cheese at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy. Add sugar, beating until fluffy. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition.

In a medium bowl, combine 3 c. flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add to butter mixture, beating until combined. Stir in scraped vanilla bean seeds.

In a small bowl combine cherries and 1/4 c. flour. Toss to coat. Stir in to cake batter. Spoon batter into prepared pan. Bake 1 hour and 20 min., or until a wooden skewer comes out clean. Let cool in pan for 10-15 min. Remove from pan and let cool completely on a wire rack.

More Cake

Here is an Eggnog Pound Cake (from one of Williams-Sonoma seasonal mixes).
This is for dessert with eggnog ice cream and optional caramel sauce!
eggnog%20pound%20cake.jpg

OK, just one more CAKE this year...I promise! (I said nothing about any other desserts!)

The January soup diet is coming...soon!

December 31, 2007

Eggnog-Panettone Bread Pudding

Breakfast Sunday was a big hit with Shannon's recipe for Eggnog Panettone Bread Pudding! We served it with sausage and citrus salad (orange slices tossed with maple syrup and sprinkled with coconut).
Eggnog%20Pannetone%20Bread%20Pudding.jpg

One 1 1/2 pound box panettone, cut into 1 1/2 inch cubes (about 8 cups)
6 large eggs
1/3 c. baking sugar
4 c. eggnog
1 T vanilla
1 t. pumpkin pie spice
pinch nutmeg
powdered sugar for garnish

1) one day before preparing the pudding, place the panettone cubes on a baking sheet and let stand at room temp. overnight, or until the cubes are dried out.
2) The next day, butter a 9 X 13-inch baking dish. Arrange the cubes in the dish.
3) In a large bowl, beat the eggs with an electric mixer on medium speed or a whisk until frothy. Add the baking sugar and beat for 3 mintues, or until thick and light lemon colored. Add the eggnog, reduce speed to low, and beat to combine. Add the vanilla and spices and mix.
4) Ladle the eggnog mixture over the panettone cubes, using your fingers, if necessary, to distribute the ingredients evenly. Cover with foil and refridgerate overnight.
5) The next morning remove the dish from the fridge one hour before baking and preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Use a wooden spoon to push the cubes downand evenly distribute the eggnog mixture. Bake for 20 to 25 minutes. Open the oven door and wearing heavy oven mitts, push the panettone down with a wooden spoon. The remaining liquid will rise. Spoon it evenly over the cubes. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes more or until a skewer inserted into the center comes out barely clean. Let rest 10 minutes, then sprinkle with powdered sugar.

January 2, 2008

The BEST Dessert of 2007

With only hours left in 2007, I tried a new recipe on December 30, that was my absolute favorite dessert of the year.

cheesecake.jpg

Salted Caramel Cheesecake (from Food and Wine)

Cheesecake:
1/2 lb. cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 c. sugar
3 large eggs (room temp)
1/2 c. sour cream

Caramel:
6 T. light corn syrup
1/2 c. plus 2 T. sugar
3 T. unsalted butter
1/2 c. heavy cream
Fleur de sel

Make cheesecake: Preheat oven to 325. In a large bowl, beat cream cheese and sugar at medium speed until smooth. Add eggs one at a time, then beat in sour cream. Pour batter into 5 ramekins or custard cups.

Set the ramekins in a pan (I used a roasting pan) in center of oven. Add enough hot water to reach half way up sides of the ramekins. Bake cheesecakes for 10 minutes, until edges are set, but still jiggly in center. Turn off oven and leave cheesecakes in for 1 hour. Transfer ramekins to a rack and cool completely.

Meanwhile, make caramel. In a heavy medium saucepan, heat corn syrup. Stir in sugar and cook over moderately high heat, undisturbed, until a deep amber caramel forms (about 9 min.). Take off heat, and carefully stir in butter until melted. Stir in cream in a thin stream. Transfer caramel to a heatproof pitcher and let cool. Stir in 3/4 t. of fleur de sel.

Pour 1 1/2 T. of caramel over each cheesecake and swirl to coat tops. (If caramel is too thick, microwave at 10 second intervals.) Chill 3 hours. Sprinkle with a little fleur de sel just before serving.

*Can be made up to 2 days ahead.

January 10, 2008

Zucchini Soup

Zucchini%20soup.jpg

1 yellow onion, finely chopped
1/4 c. butter
6 large zucchini, grated
3 c. chicken broth
3/4 t. sea salt
1/2 t. black pepper
1/2 t. nutmeg
1 c. cream or half and half
3 oz. cream cheese

Saute chopped onion in butter until soft. Add grated zucchini and chicken broth. Bring to a boil, and then turn down heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Add salt, pepper, nutmeg. Return soup to processor or blender and blend until smooth, or use an immersion blender. (If making ahead, stop here.) Before serving, add cream or half & half, and cream cheese. Heat until cream cheese is melted and soup is smooth.

January 11, 2008

All-of-the-Lemon Tart

I finally made my first recipe from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano.
I have an overload of Meyer Lemons, so I decided to try using half regular lemons, and half Meyer in the recipe. You use EVERY part of the lemons, so Gina recommends using ones without too thick a rind. I used two smaller tart pans, from one batch of pasta froglia and one recipe of filling. The result was one tart for us, and one for a friend.
Tangy and delicious!
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See the little chunks of orange-colored Meyer Lemon rind?
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Delicious with whipped cream:
Lemon%20tart%203.jpg

January 12, 2008

Stuffed Pizza

In November, I blogged about the "5 Minute Bread". In the book, Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoë François (Thomas Dunne Books, 2007), there is a very similar recipe for pizza dough. This dough (which takes no more than five minutes plus resting and baking time) is SO easy! You can make pizza, foccacia, and stuffed breads or calzone.

The recipe is exactly like the bread recipe, EXCEPT, substitute 1/4 c. of the flour with olive oil, and add a T. of sugar. I decided to try a stuffed bread on my first try with it.

I made the dough the day before, and left it sitting in my fridge. Then I took about a third of the dough, spread it into a rectangle on a large cookie sheet (with some cornmeal...I used polenta on the bottom), and covered the dough with 3 oz. of prosciutto.
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Then I added a thin layer of fig-pear preserves, and 5 oz. of St. Andre cheese.
Stuffed%20pizza%202.jpg

I rolled up the dough, with seam side down, formed it into a circle, then cut slits half way through. I brushed the top with olive oil and added some sprigs of rosemary.
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Here it is after baking for 30 min. at 400 degrees. (Next time I would line the baking sheet with parchment, as a little jam oozed out.) Makes 8 servings. (6 are now in the freezer!)
stuffed%20pizza%204.jpg

YUM!
stuffed%20pizza%205.jpg


January 14, 2008

Apricot-Glazed Spareribs

I have an aversion to tomato-based sauces (except my ragu, or a Bolognese sauce), so I am always happy to try a new recipe for ribs that has no tomato products. This was based on a recipe from February, 2008 Food and Wine.

Apricot%20ribs.jpg

Preheat oven to 300. Line a roasting pan with foil. Remove membrane from bone side of a rack of ribs with a sharp knife.

Combine the following, and rub on ribs:
sea salt
chopped garlic
paprika
black pepper
Mesquite smoke spice blend

Bake, covered with foil for 1 1/2 hours. Pour pan juices into a small saucepan and return ribs (covered) to oven for another 30 minutes. Again pour off any additional pan juices. Add 4 oz. of apricot preserves to saucepan, and reduce, stirring occasionally for 10 minutes. Glaze ribs with apricot mixture, and bake another 30 minutes (basting again with apricot sauce half way through) OR broil for 10 min. on each side with apricot sauce.

We also had artichokes and white cheddar stuffed potatoes.
White%20cheddar%20potato.jpg

January 22, 2008

Rosemary's Restaurant

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We discovered Rosemary's restaurant about eight years ago on a weekend visit to Las Vegas. I was there for a therapy conference during the week, and Brad flew in from Oakland on a Friday. He read an article about up and coming chefs in the Southwest Airlines' magazine. We decided we'd check out Michael and Wendy Jordan's restaurant, far off the strip on Sahara Blvd. We had such an outstanding meal, we were hooked, and have returned every year since. Check out their website here.

We began with a cocktail.
Lemon%20drop.jpg

We were brought a tiny appetizer of asparagas bread pudding with balsamic reduction.
Asparagas%20bread%20pudding.jpg

For our first course, we shared an appetizer of barbequed shrimp over Maytag blue cheese slaw. (You can also order the delicious slaw as a veggie side dish.)
shrimp.jpg

Hugo’s Texas BBQ Shrimp with Maytag Blue Cheese Slaw
Serves 6

Ingredients:
36 each shrimp peeled and deveined
2 cups shrimp poaching liquid, well seasoned
2 cups Hugo’s Texas BBQ Sauce *recipe follows
½ head green cabbage, shredded thin
1 cup mayonnaise
½ cup Maytag Blue Cheese (plus ¼ cup for garnish)
3 each green onions, shaved thin
To taste fresh ground black pepper and kosher salt

Method:

In a shallow baking dish, combine the shrimp and poaching liquid. Place in the freezer and every 15-30 minutes gently break up the poaching liquid as it begins to freeze. When all the liquid is frozen place the contents into your vacuum bag, remove all the air and seal. Meanwhile set up your steamer and turn heat to low. Place your packet of shrimp into the steamer basket and cover. Cook until done, about 7-15 minutes. In a large bowl combine the cabbage, mayonnaise, blue cheese, ½ the green onions and toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper and taste. When the shrimp are ready, cut open the bag and drain well. On large plates put the slaw down first. Place 6 shrimp per plate around the slaw with one on top. Sauce each shrimp with the BBQ and garnish with a little more blue cheese, green onions and black pepper on the rim.

Hugo’s Texas BBQ Sauce
Makes 1 quart

Ingredients:

10 oz Lea & Perrins Worcestershire sauce
10 oz Kikkoman soy sauce
1 each lemon, juiced/strained
10 oz Hunts tomato puree
4 TBSP dark brown sugar
2 cups heavy whipping cream

Method:

Combine the first 5 ingredients in a small saucepan and on medium heat stir to dissolve the sugar (this is the base). Bring to a boil and simmer for 5 minutes, remove from heat. In a large saucepan heat the cream and simmer just until it begins to coat a spoon. Stir in some of the BBQ base until you like the flavor, usually about equal parts. Bring mixture back to a boil and simmer again until it coats a spoon. Strain through a fine mesh strainer. Hold warm until needed.

Our entrees were a bone-in ribeye with cippolini onions, mushrooms in an amazing apricot reduction sauce, and seared sea scallops on a bed of parsnip-potato puree, with an apple cider beurre blanc, crispy prosciutto, and fried parsnip strips. Fabulous!
scallops.jpg
ribeye.jpg

We were too full for dessert, but were served a plate of dolci for two (with lemon bars, peanutbutter balls and chocolate bites) with our coffee.
dolci.jpg

We really enjoyed Tony, our interesting and top notch waiter, who made my evening even more perfect by speaking to me in Italian. Another top notch meal at Rosemary's!

January 28, 2008

Working Night Dinner

I needed to make dinner AND work until 8:45PM. Luckily, I see my clients footsteps from my kitchen, so I could prep everything before 5:00, preheat the oven as my 5:30 client drove up, and run in the house before my 7 PM client to put the pork roast in the oven.

Brad got home at 8, and put in the prepared potatoes and carrots. I was done with clients at 8:45, and we ate at 8:50.

We had pork roast, Cheddar-Sage potatoes, and Jerry's Honey Roasted Carrots.
pork%20chops.jpg

Cheddar-Sage Potatoes:

3 large russet potatoes, sliced thinly and boiled until tender, drained
1 T. butter
8-10 sage leaves, chopped
1 c. cream (I used half and half)
3 oz. cheddar cheese
3 oz. white cheddar
salt and pepper to taste

Cook sliced potatoes until tender. Saute sage leaves in butter. Layer half the potatoes, half the cheese in a greased 3 quart baking dish. Sprinkle with half the sage, salt and pepper. Repeat with remaining potatoes, cheese, sage, salt and pepper. Pour cream over top. Bake at 350 for 45 minutes.
Cheesy-sage%20potatoes.jpg

January 29, 2008

Dolce Experiment

I was asked to bring a dessert to a dinner party. I didn't know who all the guests would be, so I decided to bake something I would like, and hope for the best. Of course, there are a NUMBER of recipes I've been wanting to try from Gina DePalma's Dolce Italiano.

I took the liberty of combining a couple recipes into a "custom edition"! I was thinking of a cheese filled tart, and was hooked by the "Three Cheese Tart (with Chocolate and Orange)", combining cream cheese, marcapone, and ricotta. But this recipe called for a chocolate crust, and a chocolate-orange topping, and Palmabella doesn't like chocolate (unless it is overpowered by caramel).

I used Gina's "pasta frolla", a sweet pastry crust I have made before. I "blind baked" it for 25 minutes before adding the cheese filling, then followed the recipe. When cooled, I topped the tart with a VERY SPECIAL jar of Jerry's "Blueberry-meyer lemon preserves" . Perfeto! This creamy (and easy) filling will become a favorite keeper.
I can see it tooped with all kinds of fresh summer fruits or berries in the future!
Berry%20Tart.jpg

February 5, 2008

Brunch at Artisan

Artisan.jpg

This topic could take DAYS, as I took photos of everyone's food!

We met on Sunday morning for brunch at 10. Going through wine withdrawal, many of us began with their version of peach bellinis.
bellini.jpg

24 attended brunch, but there were spots for 23 at the table. We originally arrived a little before 10, didn't see many cars, and Brad decided to hit the ATM around the corner. When we got back, right at 10, the table was full, so we sat NEXT to the large group, at "the Naughty Table". If you know Brad and I well, this is very funny, because I am ALWAYS early, and he always gets everywhere "in the nick of time". It turned out fine, as our wonderful friends at the big table, included us in conversations, and we could see everyone, take photos easily, and hear everything that was going on. We were definitely not left out!

The food was amazing: Brad enjoyed his "Shrimp and Grits". I tasted it, in order to prepare for Savannah. It was spicier and yummier and saucier than I was imagining.
Shrimp%20and%20Grits.jpg

I ordered the Crab Cakes Benedict. The two fat crab cakes on top of puff pastry, with eggs and hollandaise were delicious. I really liked the idea of the little puffs of pastry instead of large, filling English muffins. (Remember, I see bread as a VEHICLE for protein or fat.)
Crab%20benedict.jpg

Tomorrow I will post more tempting Artisan brunch creations! It was a lovely way to end our weekend before our long drive home. We had great weather until San Bernadino, then hit really ugly rain, very heavy sheets of it, and it was difficult to see the road. The last leg, we were in two cars, as I had left mine in Pasadena on Friday when I picked Brad up at work. We made it home safely, had a quick nap, and saw the exciting end of the Superbowl.

February 6, 2008

Bunches of Brunches

Slow Travelers are not slouches when food is concerned. We have a group of great cooks and good eaters!

After bellinis, part of the group began with an appetizer of "Smoked Gouda and Porter Fondue, garlic toast, andouille sausage, and broccolini". (no photo)

Here are a few more selections of entrees from the Artisan Brunch menu:
"Bananas Foster Malted Waffles, Vermont Maple syrup, Meyers Rum, walnuts, housemage sausages"
Brunch%201.jpg

"Ranch style eggs, blue corn tortilla chips, Spanish chorizo, avocado, spicy ancho chili gravy"
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"Wild mushroom omlet, sweet cream, Cypress Grove Goat Milk Cheddar, pancetta potato cakes"
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"Duck Confit Enchiladas, wild mushrooms, tomatillo, lime creme fraiche, black bean gratin"
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"Kentucky Hot Brown, house roasted turkey, grilled tomatoes, bacon, cheddar mornay"
Brunch%206.jpg

Can you see why we were happy and full campers? By the way, the COFFEE was great!

February 8, 2008

Tangerine-Orange Risotto with Chicken

I was dying to try my new Tangerine olive oil. I had chicken breasts in the freezer, fresh oranges, and risotto in the pantry. This is what I came up with:
Orange%20risotto.jpg

Tangerine-Orange Risotto with Chicken
3 T. Tangerine olive oil
1 onion, chopped
1 clove of garlic, chopped
1 1/2 c. arborio (or carnoroli) rice
3 1/2 c. fat-free chicken broth
1/2 can frozen orange juice concentrate
zest from one orange (divided)
1/2 c. Parmesan cheese

2 T. tangerine olive oil
3 chicken breasts
some of the orange zest
salt and pepper to taste

Cook onion and garlic in tangerine olive oil til soft. Add rice, and cook, but do not brown. Stir orange juice concentrate into hot chicken broth, and add to rice in batches, letting each addition soak up liquid before adding more, and stirring between additions.
While risotto is cooking, saute chicken in tangerine oil with salt, pepper, a spoon of orange juice concentrate, and orange zest until browned on both sides. Remove from heat and cut into smaller (bite-sized) chunks. When risotto is finished, stir in orange zest and parmesan cheese. Serve chicken over risotto.

We enjoyed the citrus flavor of the risotto and the chicken.

February 9, 2008

Slow Bowl Mac & Cheese (or should I say cheese and mac?)

Easy, and just the way Mom made it!

The key is GOOD CHEDDAR! Depending on where you live, use the best you can get. I like Wisconsin (and I have a source), but NY, Vermont, or Tillamook from Oregon will do.

1. I use TWO POUNDS of cheddar per pan. Yes, I said 2 pounds. If you are worried, don't make this. If you make it, use the cheese. Cut cheese into 1" x1" slices. I counted. I had about 180 slices...not too thick.

2. Make a white sauce (bechamel). I use 3T. of butter, 3T of flour, 1/4 t. salt for each cup of milk. For this batch of 1.5 lbs of penne, I used 4 c. of milk. Melt butter, flour and salt. I also add pepper. Add milk and stir until it boils and thickens. Remove from heat.
*Do NOT use skim milk (I used 2%), but skim milk is what we drink and use in coffee or on cereal. I made myself remember to buy a quart of what we call "real milk"
(While it is cooking, boil your pasta.)

3. Pour half of drained penne into baking dish (9x13). Toss with half of bechamel. Top with 1/3 of cheese. Stir remaining drained pasta into pan of sauce to coat well. Spread in pan. CRAM in the rest of the cheese. Use it all.
It looks like this unbaked:
Pre-baked.jpg

Bake at 350 for 35-40 min.

February 10, 2008

A Week of Valentine's Food

I will be blogging about Valentine's Foods all week. Brad assures me, that since we are blogging everyday in February, that he is eating better than usual!

We started things off yesterday with heart-shaped raspberry scones with Jerry's homemade black raspberry preserves. I used my favorite scone mix (hey, I was busy baking bread...), and crammed the dough into a heart cookie cutter on the baking sheet. Repeat.

Raw%20scones.jpg

Scones.jpg

For lunch: Turkey, bacon, brie panini!

Panini.jpg

February 11, 2008

Raspberry Sweetheart Cake

This is a pretty pink-swirled cake for Valentine's Day (especially if there are any other non-chocolate lovers out there).

I used THIS recipe from Williams-Sonoma. I don't have that cute little rose cupcake pan, so I made it in a heart-shaped springform pan. You could dust the top with powdered sugar, and serve it with berries. Berries AND whipped cream...MY favorite! You could be "good", and just have the berries for dessert, and take the cake to work or to a lucky Valentine friend!

raspberry%20cake.jpg

February 12, 2008

Asparagus Heart Tart

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A favorite recipe gets a new shape! I posted this LAST February when I fixed this for a book club lunch. This year, I gave it a new shape in my heart-shaped tart pan. This peppery dough makes one of the tastiest savory crusts I've ever had! It really does melt in your mouth, and no mixer or other equipment is necessary.

TART CRUST
The crust can be made ahead and don't forget to chill the dough TWICE (the dough before rolling out, and again in the tart pan).

The filling is quick and easy! I just zapped the asparagus for 3 min. in the microwave.
I may have used a wee bit more than the listed 1 cup of gruyere too (where is that guilty face emoticon?)

FILLING

I had enough dough and filling for an extra mini tart to bake and freeze (and take to work for lunch on a LONG Monday).

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We enjoyed half of our tart for a quick dinner with a citrus salad.

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February 13, 2008

Amaretti Heartbreaker Waffles

waffles.jpg

I tried this recipe I found on the Williams-Sonoma website. Of course, THERE, they are called CHOCOLATE-Amaretti Heartbreakers. Yes, I deleted the dark chocolate and the coco powder, and doubled the amaretti! No syrup necessary. They are great with just powdered sugar and fruit. The amaretti gives them a very subtle crunch.

Ingredients:
3 large double amaretti (or 6 amaretti from 3
paper-wrapped packets)
2 oz. high-quality bittersweet chocolate
5 Tbs. unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 1/2 tsp. double-acting baking powder
1/4 tsp. baking soda
Pinch of salt
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/3 cup cocoa, preferably Dutch process
1 1/2 cups milk
1 tsp. vanilla extract
1/4 tsp. almond extract
2 eggs
Confectioners’ sugar, sweetened whipped
cream, ice cream and/or hot fudge sauce for
serving (optional)
Directions:
Place the amaretti and bittersweet chocolate in the work bowl of a food processor or in a blender and process until pulverized; set aside.

Preheat a waffle iron. If you’d like to serve the waffles warm, preheat an oven to 350°F.

Melt the butter; set aside. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt, granulated sugar and cocoa. In another bowl, whisk together the milk, vanilla, almond extract and eggs until well blended. Pour the liquid ingredients over the dry ingredients and stir with the whisk to combine. Fold in the amaretti-chocolate mixture and the melted butter.

Lightly butter or spray the grids of the waffle iron, if needed. Brush or spray the grids again only if subsequent waffles stick.

Spoon out 1/3 cup of batter (or the amount recommended by the manufacturer’s instructions) onto the hot iron. Use a metal spatula or wooden spoon to spread the batter evenly over the grids. Close the lid and bake until just set. Bake these slightly less than you do other waffles because chocolate has a tendency to burn easily. There’s no need to worry, but you do want to keep an eye on these. Transfer the finished waffles to a cooling rack while you make the rest. If desired, just before serving, warm the waffles briefly, about 2 minutes, in the oven. They’re good at room temperature, too.

Serving: You can present a full five-of-hearts to each person, shaking a dusting of confectioners’ sugar over the entire waffle and then scooping some whipped cream or ice cream onto the center. Hot fudge sauce is both luscious and luxurious over these. Broken into individual hearts and filled with ice cream, these make fabulous sandwiches. Makes about 10 full five-of-hearts or about six 6 1/2-inch round waffles.

Adapted from Waffles from Morning to Midnight, by Dorie Greenspan (Weldon Owen, 2001).


February 15, 2008

Valentine's Day Dinner

Our menu was geared for something special, that I could also pull off on a long work day (10 to 6:30 with two 1 hour breaks between clients).

Filet mignon with gorgonzola and balsamic reduction sauce
Polenta hearts with mozzarella and marinara
Broccolini with almonds, bacon and raisins
Chocolate tart

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The steaks were all last minute. Sear meat for two minutes per side. Top with crumbled gorgonzola. Bake for 15 minutes in a 450 oven (for medium rare).

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I made the polenta in the morning, and left it in a sprayed 9x9 cake pan to chill. While the steaks were searing, I cut hearts and topped them with mozzarella. I baked them right along with the filets and added the microwaved marinara at the last second.

broccolini.jpg

While those steaks and polenta hearts were baking, I sauteed broccolini in a drizzle of oilve oil, adding almonds, raisins, and bacon (that was already cooked).

I made the balsamic reduction during an afternoon break and reheated it. This is my standard recipe:
1 c. balsamic
1/2 c. port wine
3 T. brown sugar
Bring these three ingredients to a boil, and reduce to 1/2 cup. Remove from heat and stir in 2 T. butter until butter melts.

Choc%20tart.jpg

I made the tart crust and filling in the morning before work, then added the chocolate and decorated it during an afternoon break. I used the old standard fruit tart recipe, substituting tempered chocolate for fruit. (I think the chocolate ruins it, but Brad was a happy camper, and this saves me lots of extra calories!)

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February 16, 2008

Heavy Hearted

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This is the first BOMB recipe of 2008. It looked good, smelled great, and tasted fine, but the texture was NOT as advertised. I won't bother sharing the recipe (from a bread cookbook).

Brad "Kneaded" a workout.
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I was still hopeful.
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We each tasted a small slice when it was cooled. The rest went into the trash. But I promised a week's worth of "heart foods", and this is the end of it! Out with the red, and in with the GREEN!

February 17, 2008

Sublime Lime

This is what I threw together to try out my new lime olive oil from Pasolivo:
I sauteed some garlic and green onions in 2 T. of the lime oil, then cooked scallops, and added some red chili flakes, lime zest, and salt and pepper. I served it with a spicy chili sauce (mix mayo with a generous pour of Szechwan chili sauce).

Lime%20Scallops.jpg

We also had a limey orzo salad:
3 c. cooked orzo
zest from one large lime
2 zucchini, grated (raw)
8 oz. grated pepper jack cheese
toss with a little lime olive oil

Orzo.jpg

Another easy, quick dinner!

February 21, 2008

Apple Crumble Cake

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Crust:

1/3 c. butter
1 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger powder

Heat oven to 350. Melt butter in saucepan over medium heat, stirring until it just begins to foam and turn golden. Remove from heat and stir in flour, sugar, cinnamon and ginger. Mix well with a fork, and press into bottom of an ungreased 9x9 baking pan.

Filling:
2 eggs, beaten
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 t. baking powder
1/4 c. flour
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ginger powder
2 T. brown sugar
2 apples, peeled and sliced into small chunky cubes (slices cut in half)

Combine first 7 ingredients, then stir in apples to coat. Spread mixture over crust in pan.

Topping:

1/4 c. flour
1/4 c. brown sugar
1/4 c. oats
1/4 t. cinnamon
3 T. cold butter, cut into small cubes

Combine all ingredients in a bowl, blending in butter with a fork. Sprinkle crumble mixture over apple mixture in pan. Bake at 350 for 40 min. Cool on rack. Makes 9 servings.

February 23, 2008

Baked Fennel

We had a quick dinner. I worked late, and prepared a yummy baked fennel dish that Brad could pop into the oven for a half an hour. I had fresh shrimp cleaned and ready to go. He did the rest.

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3 large fennel stalks, (white part cut off core and sliced)
splash of olive oil
1/2 c. cream
3 T. sour cream
1/2 c. grated parmesan or Pecorino Romano cheese

Saute fennel in olive oil until tender and slightly browned on each side. Transfer to baking dish. Combine cream, sour cream and half of cheese. Pour over fennel. Top with remaining cheese and bake at 400 for 35 minutes until fennel is tender.

Brad made the shrimp. I saw oil, garlic, and a splash of white wine go into the pan.

February 24, 2008

Oscar Night Cake

We're going to an Oscar Night Party, and I'm bringing dessert!

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I made the Mile High Chocolate Cake from January '08 Gourmet Magazine.

Hope dinner is good, as I KNOW I'm not interested in all that chocolate!

I've been "crazy busy" lately, and I'm embarrassed to say, we haven't seen even ONE movie in the last several months! My favorite part of the festivities is the red carpet fashion nonsense!

February 28, 2008

Meyer Lemon Cake

I've been "forced" to endure chocolate desserts since before Valentine's Day! I have been a good girl and baked chocolate treats for others. I don't eat them! I've been craving a light, springy dessert that I will LIKE! I decided to make this for today's book club pot luck lunch (with a slight variation).

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Meyer Lemon Cake with Lavender Cream

I followed the recipe using Meyer lemons for both the cake and filling. I also used some of my tangerine olive oil for part of the olive oil in the cake. It looks great.
I did omit the lavender, and used Italian lemon honey and Meyer lemon zest for the whipped cream. I can't wait to try it. I will let you know how it turned out!

March 3, 2008

Crab Cakes

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Crab Cakes (I have seen many recipes, but none exactly like MINE)

8 oz. fresh crab meat
1 green onion, chopped
1 slice of bread, crusts cut off, torn into tiny pieces (I used ciabatta)
2 T. mayo
1 T dijon mustard
1 1/2 t. Old Bay seasoning
1 egg, beaten

Mix all of ingredients. Form into patties and chill for a few minutes. Fill a quart or sandwich size ziplock bag with potato chips, and smash them. I use Hawaiian Chips (or kettle chips). Smash them into tiny crispy, greasy crumbs! Now roll those chilled crab cakes in the potato chip crumbs and fry them quickly in some hot olive oil. Just a couple of minutes on each side for a wonderful crunchy crust with no additional salt needed.

March 5, 2008

The Spices Took Over My Kitchen

I think my spices are out of control. No, I KNOW they are! We are supposed to toss and replace them after a year or so, right? I think I might have some that were purchased when I was..., well, never mind!

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Here is ONE area of pull out spices, an easy reach while standing at my stove. Why are there 3 jars of ginger, and NO nutmeg? When I need nutmeg, I go over here:

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I love my "test tubes" from Dean and DeLuca. Brad got them for me one of our first Christmases together. Well, THAT was 11 years ago! I have refilled the mustard and cinnamon. The thyme is always empty, and I ALWAYS use the fresh rosemary and basil from my yard. There are juniper berries and four kinds of peppercorns. What the heck are "fine herbs"? It must be time to toss "herbs for meat" and "herbs for fish".
I can refill these with my Italian herb blend. I am fairly certain I have never used "anatto". Does anyone know what it is? Where is the damn nutmeg? I can NEVER find the nutmeg! I can toss the cinnamon, as I just bought a huge Costco jar.

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Then we have the baking section in my pantry. The vanilla is multiplying: "REAL" vanilla extract, the big jar that someone smuggled back from Mexico, the "condensed paste" from Sur la Table that I use for special recipes, and the Costco size box of vanilla beans I bought at Christmas.

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You don't want to know about the various jars of sea salt. You really don't want to hear about extracts or sprinkles or food coloring! It must be almost time to dye eggs!

March 6, 2008

Quick Wednesday Dinner

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Another quick Wednesday night dinner: grilled veal chops, artichoke and mashed potatoes. I worked until 7:30, Brad got home at 8:30, and we managed to eat by 8:45. I think of it as dinner "on Italian time". I had the artichoke steamed, the potatoes boiling, and the veal chops had marinated all day. Brad turned on the grill when he walked in the door, had a glass of wine, and we caught the last 15 minutes of American Idol.

March 7, 2008

Pretty in Pink

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I baked these buttermilk vanilla cupcakes last night. This morning, I made vanilla buttercream frosting, and decorated the cupcakes. I used grapefruit-flavored jelly candies I found at Trader Joe's, and gumdrop spearmint leaves. I sliced the triangular grapefruit candies in half, then cut the triangles in half with scissors. I put some of the "petals" sugared side up, and some down. They ARE pretty, aren't they?

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March 11, 2008

When Life Gives You Lemons...

Make lemon pasta!

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Brad walked in with these from our tree. BIG puppies! Hmmmm, what can I do with them? Another lemon cake? Nah, we just had one. I peered in the fridge and decided I could throw a few ingredients together for a lemon pasta sauce. I cooked my FAVORITE pasta: FAT spaghetti with a whole down the center. (I could do a whole blog on the various names for these, but I will call them bucatini.)

I took a scoop (serving spoon) of marscapone cheese, the zest from two lemons, a splash of milk, and a handful of grated Romano cheese and stirred it in a small pan util almost boiling. I added more lemon zest, and a little more cheese, and we had a very tasty lemon pasta!

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March 12, 2008

Bailey's Chocolate Mousse Pie

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Bailey's Chocolate Mousse Pie (From "Master Cook")

Make a chocolate crumb crust from chocolate wafer cookies or smashed Oreos, or buy a "Ready Crust".

1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 t. vanilla
3/4 c. milk
3/4 c. Bailey's Irish Cream liquore
6 oz. chocolate chips
2 c. frozen whipped topping (Cool Whip)

Sprinkle gelatin over milk in a saucepan. Let sit for 1 min. Stir over low heat until gelatin is dissolved (4 min.) Add chocolate, and stir until chocolate is all melted. Stir in vanilla and remove from heat. In five minutes, add Bailey's and stir. Chill chocolate-Bailey's mixture, and when mixture thickens enough to form mounds when dropped from a spoon (it looks like chocolate pudding, about 50 min.), fold in Cool Whip, and turn into crust. Chill 4 hours. Garnish as desired or add more Cool Whip before serving if you like.

March 13, 2008

BBQ Corned Beef

Cook a corned beef, simmering with spices, as directed, but remove 30 minutes early.
When cool, place in a large zip-lock bag with half a bottle of BBQ sauce. Let it marinate all day or over night. Heat the BBQ. Wrap corned beef in foil and heat through on BBQ (turning twice) for 30-35 min. Slice and serve.

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March 19, 2008

Dinner at Pacifica

Happy St. Joseph's Day! The swallows will return to Capistrano today.

On "Palma Sunday", we had dinner with Slow Travel friends Carole and Roy, Barbara and Gary, and my friend, Roxanne, who was visiting. We ate at Pacifica, a great seafood restaurant in Palm Desert. I began with a pomegranate martini.

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The food was great, and I took NO photos! We sampled several entrees: seabass in a Thai coconut sauce, swordfish in lobster sauce, shrimp stir fry, whitefish with spinach, calamari, and an assortment of fresh salads. Good wine flowed.It was a lovely evening!

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March 21, 2008

Dinner with Kim and Chris

We had a lovely evening last night with Slow Travel friends, Kim and Chris, who are visiting from New Jersey. Glad to share our sunny temperatures in the 80's!

It was a balmy night, so we enjoyed appetizers and prosecco by the pool during sunset, until Brad made it through traffic from Pasadena. Dinner started with pear-gorgonzola ravioli in brown butter-sage sauce and a King Estate Pinot Gris.

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Next: salad with mangos, raspberries and starfruit with a passionfruit dressing.

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The entree was veal saltimboca and broccolini with almonds, raisins and bacon, and a Barolo Brad has been saving. (Guess I'm really starting to think about Rome.)

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Back to the patio for dessert and coffee. Limoncello blast cake!

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I love my candy bees! (Yellow M&Ms, black jelly candies, almond slice wings and licorice antennae.)

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We were so busy eating, drinking and talking, we forgot to take a photo of US!

March 24, 2008

Easter Food

There was plenty of good food on our Easter Sunday.

We started the morning with some fresh buttermilk biscuits.
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They soon became Prosciutto Benedict.

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We had Easter dinner at Fiona and Steve's: pork roast, lots of great salads and fruit.

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Finally, Lemon Olive oil cake with lemon curd filling and lemon-honey whipped cream for dessert!

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There was not a chocolate bunny, egg or jelly bean in sight!

March 27, 2008

Warm Gorgonzola Potato Salad

Another quick, "Work Late on Wednesday" dinner:

Ida made this for Easter, and I have been craving it ever since. It is from The Hali'Maile General Store Cookbook by Chef Beverly Gannon (from my favorite restaurant in Maui).

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Warm Gorgonzola Potato Salad: (I halved the recipe)

2 lb. red potatoes (about 20 small ones)
2 T. olive oil
1 c. sliced shitake mushrooms (I used regular mushrooms)
1 red onion, thinly sliced
1/4 c. chopped chives
1/2 c. crumbled gorgonzola cheese (I used 6 oz.)

Cut and boil potatoes for about 10 min. until tender. In a saute pan, heat olive oil and saute mushrooms over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes. If mushrooms dry out, add a little chicken broth. Toss with onion, chives, and potatoes. Add gorgonzola and toss again, keeping it warm in a 350 oven until serving. Serve warm.

*I made it in the morning, kept it covered in fridge without adding the cheese. 20-25 minutes before serving, I added gorgonzola and put baking dish in a 350 oven for 20 minutes, melting the cheese.

We ate it with Korean ribs (Trader Joe's), and glazed carrots I put in the oven at the same time as the potatoes.

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Dessert was another quick no-brainer made with stuff I had around the kitchen.
Pre-made pastry shells, a jar of lemon curd (I like home-made better, but hey, I was working!) and some cream cheese softened with powdered sugar and lemon honey.
Fill the tart shells (or frozen phyllo cups) with cream cheese mixture, top with lemon curd, and berries or whipped cream.

March 28, 2008

When in Rome... Eat Spaghetti alla Carbonara!

When NOT in Rome, YET, eat it anyway!

It is said that this sauce came from the charcoal workers in the Appenines to sustain them during their long days of work. Others say, the pepper looks like charcoal dust, giving the dish its name. I like to use my favorite dried pasta, buccatini, instead of spaghetti for this dish.

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1 lb. pasta
1 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
6 oz. chopped pancetta
5 eggs (or 4 eggs and one yolk) at room temp
4 oz. heavy cream
salt and black pepper
1 1/4 c. freshly grated cheese (half Parmesan and half Pecorino Romano)

Beat eggs and cream together with a pinch of salt. Heat oil and butter in a large saute pan, and cook pancetta until fat is transparent, but not too crisp. Cook pasta until al dente, and drain pasta water into serving dish to keep bowl warm. Pour hot pasta into pancetta pan and stir well to coat. Remove pan from heat, and stir in eggs, cream a some of the cheese. Work quickly. The eggs will coagulate when they come in contact with hot pasta. They should not look scrambled or raw, but creamy. Add the rest of the cheese and toss with black pepper. Empty serving bowl of hot pasta water and serve. Delicious!

March 29, 2008

A Definite Keeper!

After making the Warm Gorgonzola Potato Salad the other night, I continued browsing through Beverly Gannon's wonderful Hali'imaile General Store Cookbook.
I found this recipe for "Coulibiac of Opakapaka with Passion Fruit Hollandaise" to try for dinner last night.
I really made a simplified version like this:

2 sheets frozen puff pastry (I always keep Trader Joe's in my freezer, but Pepperidge Farm is very good.)
a 2 lb Opakapaka fillet (may use salmon, halibut or sole) I used three chunks of fresh Alaskan halibut.
2 T. each of fresh basil, thyme, and chives
salt and pepper
2 T. melted unsalted butter
4 c. fresh spinach (I used a bag)
an egg yolk beaten with 1 T. water for an egg wash

Duxelles:
2 T. unsalted butter
2 chopped shallots
1 lb. finely chopped mushrooms (I used Baby Bellas)

Thaw puff pastry according to package directions (TJ's takes 10 min.)
Place 1 sheet on a floured surface. Season fish with thyme, basil, chives, salt and pepper, and set aside. Saute shallots in butter over medium heat. Add spinach, and cook for about 2 minutes (just until wilted). Squeeze out any moisture, and lay down the center of the puff pastry. Top with seasoned fish.

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Make Duxelles: Melt butter in a saute pan over low heat. Add shallots and mushrooms, and cook about 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Season with salt. Let cool for a few minutes. Top fish with mushroom mixture using a slotted spoon to avoid too much moisture.

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Top with second sheet of puff pastry, cutting away extra dough, and crimping the edges. Use scraps of dough cut in strips to decorate top, or make cut outs with a cookie cutter. Carefully move to a baking sheet. Brush with egg wash, and place in the fridge for 1 hour to chill. Bake at 375 for 30 minutes. Let sit for 5-10 minutes while you make the hollandaise.

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I cheated on the hollandaise. Here is what I did (EASY and delicious):

Mix the following in a blender:
3 egg yolks (room temp)
1 t. sea salt
some freshly ground pepper
1 T. lemon juice
a sprinkle of cayenne pepper

Blend those together. With blender on, slowly pour in one stick of unsalted butter, melted and very hot (from microwave) Add 2 T. of either guava or passionfruit jam (Lilikoi). Pour over slices of coulibiac on serving plates.

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* When I said I simplified the recipe, this is what I left out: There is supposed to be a layer of chive crepes under the spinach and fish. I decided there were ENOUGH steps to the recipe, and we didn't need them. The only thing I might change is if I made this for guests, I would make individual ones with portion-sized pieces of fish, instead of one large one which made 5-6 nice sized portions.

April 12, 2008

Paula Deen's Ooey Gooey Butter Cake

I tasted this at Lady and Son's in Savannah, and promptly bought Paula's cookbook:

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I needed a quick dessert to take to a Good-bye party at work, SO..........

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Sweet, rich, tastes like butter, cream cheese and sugar (it IS butter, cream cheese and sugar!) This can be made with any flavor cake mix, and Paula gives lots of ideas of tastes to try including chocolate, lemon and pumpkin! A small square goes a long way, but two of those little guys somehow ended up staying at OUR house!

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HERE is the recipe. Yields 20 bars.

April 14, 2008

Chicken Under a Brick

I made Diva's (Judy) "Chicken Under a Brick" (Pollo al Mattone) the other night. You can read how on her website.
It was delicious with creamy polenta and sauteed zucchini. I first ate this dish in Lucca on my first trip to Italy in 1987. I used LOTS of fresh sage, and boned chicken thighs, and cooked it on the stovetop. The skin was crispy and delicious, the chicken stayed juicy.

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April 21, 2008

Ricotta Sformata

I ate this as a first course last summer at Cibreo in Florence. It was their potato-ricotta version. Judy posted a recipe for me on her blog, Under a Tuscan Stove. I served it to our guests last night for a first course, garnished with some pesto, parmesan and sage.

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Cibreo Sformata

500 grams / 1 pound ricotta
3 large eggs
150 grams / 1 1/2 cups grated parmesan cheese
nutmeg
150 grams/ 3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
salt

( in cibreo’s cookbook it is made with additional 2 kg of spinach, washed cooked down and finely minced) Now it is made with mashed potatoes. I have made it like the appetizer version which is with chopped herbs
.
Butter a pan, the batter makes either the flatter appetizer one or the higher “flan” first course. Either an 8x8 or a rectangular loaf pan.
Bake uncovered at 350 to let form a film on top about 5 minutes.
Cover with foil and finish baking for 40 minutes for the higher one.
It is like a quiche,when the knife comes out clean it is done!


April 22, 2008

Patio Dining

We had Jan and Les over for a casual dinner Sunday night. I have been promising Les pasta carbonara, his FAVORITE, for months! We started with ricotta sformata, delicious prosciutto-wrapped grilled asparagus that Jan brought, and a bottle of Oregon Pinot Gris.

Next we enjoyed one of my favorite summer salads: spinach, fennel, oranges, and red onion with citrus vinegarette.

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Continue reading "Patio Dining" »

May 4, 2008

Grappa Soaked Sponge Cakes (and other flavors)

When I put Dolce Italiano on my Christmas list (because I had already read it cover to cover in Barnes & Noble), I also was wise enough to put the mini bundt cake pan from Williams-Sonoma on my list too. Brad LOVES grappa, so I figured he'd want me to make these enough to pop for the pan as a "stocking stuffer". My plan worked!

I decided to try out three different flavors:
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See that pretty bottle of grappa? I once HAND CARRIED two of those suckers home from Italy. One was a gift for my cousin, Gary. The other, I figured would make a lovely centerpiece when empty with a single stem Casablanca lily in it.

The cork was stuck. I tried a corkscrew (too fat). I tried an ice pick (no luck). I tried a skewer, and ended up with half a cork and the skewer attached in the bottle!

I made three syrups:
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I added a vanilla bean to the grappa, and lemon zest to the limoncello.

My batter grew to a huge amount. I divided it equally into three bowls. I added grappa to one, Amaretto to the second, and limoncello and zest to the third before folding one-third of the egg whites to each. I ended up with 22 mini cakes! All three cakes were delicious, but the lemon was voted #1, with the Amaretto a close second place. Next time I may try Frangelico.

Continue reading "Grappa Soaked Sponge Cakes (and other flavors)" »

May 5, 2008

The Farm: Artisan Foods

We took a "day trip" to Redlands, CA (about 50 minutes away) to try a restaurant I recently heard about, Farm Artisan Foods. It was a wonderful treat!

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The restaurant is smart looking with a clean, simple decor, nice bar, white tablecloths, and a single calla lily on each table.

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The Farm opened in 2003, and is owned by my friend, Elizabeth's, son-in-law, Roberto Argentina. Roberto was born in Brindisi, Italy, and grew up on his family's farm. After being a theater major during his university days in Texas, he moved to Chicago and trained for his career as a chef with Chef Keith Luce, a former chef at the White House. He moved to southern California and worked with the fabulous Chef Joachim Splichal.

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We were welcomed by our waitress, Colleen, with hot, fresh focaccia. The lunch special included choices of an appetizer, an entree, dessert AND a glass of wine, ALL for $25.00!

I began with a beautiful salad with a mustardy dressing, wedge of brie, and lovely presentation of veggie garnishes on the plate.

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Brad started with lentil soup that he enjoyed. The lentils were in a light briny broth.

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Continue reading "The Farm: Artisan Foods" »

June 15, 2008

Sunday Slow Bakers: Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake

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Another Sunday, and a great recipe for Father's Day! We baked "Obsessive Ricotta Cheesecake" from Dolce Italiano. It is a creamy cheesecake using both cream cheese and ricotta.

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I had some lemon curd left over from another recipe we had for breakfast, so since the cheesecake had lots of lemon zest, and drizzled some of the lemon curd on top.
Delicious! Next time, I'll try it with berries.

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June 21, 2008

Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

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My turn to host of one my book clubs. One group meets at lunch time. Sometimes we potluck appetizers for lunch, and some months the hostess decides to do it all. Last month I joined a second book club that meets in the evening. The first thing I was told is that "we are not about eating, we are about discussing books". I love to read, but I am definitely all about food. I went to the first meeting in May, and brought my own Starbucks. There was no eating. I offered to host the June meeting. Hmmmmm.

Ever since I baked the chocolate hazelnut cookies 2 weeks ago for Sunday Slow Bakers (No, I did not sample even one!), I have been craving a cookie. Brad long ago polished off the chocolate ones I left him, after bringing most to the office for their usual Monday morning treat in Group Supervision. I decided to bake Martha Stewart's cookie of the month with flavors I love! These may be one of my favorite cookies ever! They are bursting with flavor, simple to make, and pretty too! Definitely a keeper!

Lemon-Glazed Candied-Ginger Cookies

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They went well with a lemon-glazed zucchini cake and fresh organic lemonade for the book club evening meeting on a day that was 117 degrees! I feared being voted off the island. The first guest arrived and said, " I KNEW you would make something!"
Since she was a therapist, I told her it was a cultural issue. I'm Italian, and I would rather poke my eye out than have guests and not serve them anything. I will not force food on anyone (encourage, maybe...) but the zucchini cake and cookies were enjoyed or taken home to spouses or kids by all but 2 members. I am still in the book club!

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We discussed Kabul Beauty School by Deborah Rodriguez and Kristin Ohlson. This is a fascinating story of an American woman who goes to Afganistan to start a beauty school to empower women who live in a culture of fear, oppression by men, and marriages that are frightening by western standards. We all enjoyed this book and learned much about women in this country.

Deborah Rodriguez fought many battles and had constant challenges, before and after marrying "Sam", her Afghan husband. She certainly lived the saying, When life gives you lemons...make lemonade"!
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June 24, 2008

Lamb-Basil Risotto

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I saw a lamb-basil sausage at the grocery store, and thought, "That sounds like a fun risotto!"

I started the usual way, with a chopped onion in a little butter. I added a cup of canaroli rice for a minute or two, then began adding chicken broth. Meanwhile, I blanched half a bag of fresh spinach for about 30 seconds in boiling water, drained and got all the water out. When it was nice and dry, I threw it into the food processor with lots of fresh basil, and about 1/4 cup of ricotta I had left over from something. I continued to add chicken broth to the rice, and cooked the sausage in a separate pan (without the casings). When the rice was done, I stirred in the spinach mixture, some parmigiano, and the sausage. Oh, my goodness, a new favorite one dish meal was born!

We used the rest of the spinach in a salad with some fruit and a citrus dressing.

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For dessert: lemon sorbet with some lemon curd.
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June 25, 2008

Life is a Bowl of Cherries...or a Cherry Tart

Cherries in Rome:

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Cherries in Montelpulciano:

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Cherries in Palm Desert:

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Last week, I made this for Brad. As it involved chocolate, I didn't taste it, but did eat some of the yogurt-panna cotta filling in a bowl! When I saw this recipe in the Martha Stewart's Living magazine, I thought it was a very pretty dessert, and wanted to try the chocolate crust with a layer of "painted on" melted chocolate. The filling is a simple panna cotta with plain yogurt. It can be decorated with any fruit. I omitted the mint from the panna cotta filling, and Martha's tarts are much more beautiful, decorated with currants (out of season) or tiny wild strawberries.

recipe:

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Here is a close-up. Don't forget to pit those cherries!

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June 27, 2008

Charred Corn Salad with Grilled Scallops

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BBQ 4 ears of corn (wrapped in foil with a little butter) and let cool.
Cut corn off cobs and place in bowl with juice 0f three limes and a couple cloves of chopped garlic.
Add:
1/2 red onion, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
4 ounces grated pepper jack cheese
salt and pepper to taste

Dressing:
!/4 c. mayo mixed with one teaspoon ancho chili powder

I brushed the scallops with lime olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill 3-4 minutes on each side.

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Cheddar-Bacon Corn Muffins:

Preheat oven to 350.
Stir together dry ingredients:
1 c. flour
1 c. cornmeal
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/2 t. salt
2 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
pinch of cayenne pepper

In another bowl combine:
2 large eggs, beaten
1 c. sour cream
2 green onions, chopped
4 oz. melted butter
crumbled bacon (about 4-5 slices, cooked and crumbled)
1 c. grated cheddar

Mix wet ingredients into dry, and stir until just blended. Pour into paper lined muffin tins and bake about 20 minutes.

June 30, 2008

Very Berry Pie

Lots of berries! What to do? Make a pie!

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Crust: (From Bon Appetit)

2 1/2 c. all purpose flour
1 T. sugar
3/4 t. salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
5 T ice water

Whisk flour, salt and sugar in a large bowl. Add cold butter cut into small cubes using a pastry blender, until small, pea-size lumps form. Add ice water, one tablespoon at a time and mix with your fingers to blend. Gather dough together, and form into two balls. Flatten two balls of dough, and wrap in plastic wrap to chill for at least 30 minutes. (Can be made and chilled up to 2 days ahead.)

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Assembly:
Roll out one ball of dough to a 12 " circle for bottom crust. Fold in half, and carefully place in a 9 " pie dish. Trim dough to a 1/2-1 " overlap. Make filling.

Filling: (From Williams-Sonoma Pie and Tart book)

1 c. sugar
2 T cornstarch
2 T instant tapioca
6 c. berries (mixed or your favorite kind)
1 T cold unsalted butter

Rinse berries, and let dry in a single layer on paper towels. In a small bowl, mix together sugar, cornstarch, and tapioca. Place berries in a large bowl and sprinkle with sugar mixture. Toss to coat. Immediately transfer to pie dish with bottom crust in place. Dot with butter.

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Roll out second disk of dough, trimming edges evenly, and cut out 5 or 6 small circles, leaf, heart or star shapes with a knife or small cookie cutter for "vents".

Carefully position second round of pastry over top of filling, and bring up bottom crust dough to crimp edges together.

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Sprinkle top crust with an additional teaspoon of sugar.
Refrigerate pie until the dough is firm (30 min.)
Preheat oven to 350, and place pie on a cookie sheet with rack in bottom third of oven.
Bake until filling is thick and bubbly and crust is golden (about 60 min.) Cool on a wire rack. Serve at room temp, or heat for 10-15 minutes and serve with vanilla ice cream.

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July 2, 2008

Brad Grills on Wednesdays

Since Brad started his new job (this is his fourth week), he is in charge of dinner on Wednesday nights, because he is home from work earlier than I am finished with clients in the casita! He has planned simple dinners (and hopes I come up with a dessert for him), shopped for his ingredients, set the table, cooked, and cleaned up. I love waiting to see what he will do!

Since he has been in this "cooking mood", I love seeing him look for recipes online, or in a grilling magazine. Ego got him some BBQ toys for Father's Day.
He is already great with grilled corn on the cob in foil, but now he has a handy dandy corn holder, and one for sausages/hot dogs. He bought himself some apple wood chips for our 4th of July ribs.

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It seems he will soon be making "beer can chicken", and trying out his new rib rack for the slow cooking ribs with a rub, and his version of "Carolina Honey Ribs" on Friday.

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Week one of Wednesday Brad's night, we had grilled chicken with mangos, onions and pineapple.
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Week two, BBQ shrimp, asparagus, and bread to sop up the dipping sauce.
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Week three, he made bbq veal scallops with grilled cherry tomatoes in the arugula salad (and even his own dressing). I forgot to take a photo.

Continue reading "Brad Grills on Wednesdays" »

July 3, 2008

Pork, Peaches, and Dessert Made from Leftovers!

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I barbequed a pork loin marinated in olive oil, and lots of thyme. The peach sauce was delicious! We also had haricot verts with pancetta and sliced almonds, and some leftover polenta.

Peach Sauce:
2 peached, peeled and chopped
2 T lemon juice
2 T honey
red pepper flakes
black pepper
thyme

Bring peaches, lemon juice and honey to a boil, and cook for 2 minutes. Let cool slightly, and add seasonings. Serve warm over pork or chicken.

Dessert was made from leftovers! Leftover berries, leftover marscapone from last Sunday's semifreddo, and leftover pie crust dough from my blackberry pie!
I whipped the 2 oz. of marscapone with a little cream, and a sprinkle of fat free vanilla instant pudding. I could have used a little sugar and vanilla, but the pudding mix makes a great fruit dip when mixed with cool whip and Kahlua...HONEST!

I cut stars from the pie crust dough, and baked them for about 15 minutes until they started to crisp, then covered them with powdered sugar. You could use leftover puff pastry too. For being thrown together at the last minute, it made quite a nice dessert!

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Today, I'm cooking up a storm for our guests for 4th of July weekend. Hope everyone has a safe and happy holiday!

July 5, 2008

Food Hangover

We began with Babbo breadsticks and cheese spread with our triple berry cosmos before dinner. Then we ate Brad's BBQ ribs! LOTS of ribs!

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Warm gorgonzola potatoes with portabello mushrooms:
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Fennel-orange-spinach salad:
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We are RARELY home on the 4th of July, but when we are, this dish is a must! It is my favorite jello salad from childhood, called "Raspberry Velvet", made into a flag:
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After much wine, a front row seat and patriotic songs on the front lawn of Palm Desert's fireworks, we were home for an evening swim and desserts.

Berries with marscapone creme, and puff pastry stars:
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AND....the FINALE... Creme filled cupcakes with sparklers!
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Everyone is still asleep. They are still in a food coma. I weighed myself, and didn't gain an ounce. I think the cook gets more exercise than everyone else. I ate very little all day. I had two glasses of wine, and lots of diet Pepsi. I had berries and no appetizers. I love the fennel salad. I've had the potatoes many times. I do love my raspberry velvet though.

Right now, there is a beautiful monkey bread baking in my oven with cinnamon topping that smells heavenly.

July 7, 2008

Zucchini-Saffron Pasta

I wanted something different for dinner. I decided to try to create something I had seen once on a menu in southern Italy. I really wanted to try this beautiful curly pasta, and I had an over-abundance of zucchini!

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Grate 4 zucchini.
Chop 1/2 a yellow onion.
In a saucepan, add 1/4 c. chicken broth to onion and 3/4 of the zucchini (reserving 1/4 of zucchini). When broth heats to boiling, add a sprinkle of saffron, and stir.

Take this mixture and process in a food processor or blender with 3 T cream, and 4 oz. marscapone or cream cheese. (You may make this ahead, and keep in a sealed jar in fridge for up to 3 days. If made ahead, only grate 3 zucchini, and grate the fourth while pasta is boiling.)

Cook and drain pasta. Heat sauce, and toss with pasta and reserved grated zucchini.
Sprinkle with grated parmesan.

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Delicious!

July 8, 2008

Italian Almond Tart

I love good jam, and the flavor of almonds. I ran across this in my Williams-Sonoma book, Pie and Tart.

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This was quite a hit with my weekend guests! Here is this wonderful recipe:

Italian Almond Tart

Our friends, Charlotte, Cindy and Roxanne were here over the weekend, and left Monday after lunch. The house is very quiet. No one is in the pool. We had so much fun laughing and talking, and EATING! I have lots of leftovers, but we are never eating again. It is a day of watermelon, naps and laundry!

Here we are at "The River" on Saturday night on "The Babe Wagon".
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July 9, 2008

Ricotta Fritters

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On Sunday, I fixed brunch for the gang. We had an "Italian Amond Tart" (scroll down to yesterday's blog), a fritatta with gouda, bacon, green onions, and basil, and lemon-ricotta fritters with lemon curd.

To make the fritters:

Combine the following in a large bowl:

1/2 c. flour
1/2 c. cake flour
1 T. baking powder
1 t. sea salt

In another bowl, whisk together:

4 large eggs
1/4 c. sugar
1 lb ricotta
zest of 2 lemons
1/2 t. vanilla

Add wet mixture to flour mixture. Heat 3 inches of vegetable oil in a heavy saucepan over medium heat until it reaches 350 degrees. Using a small ladle or ice cream scoop, drop small amounts of dough into hot oil, turning 2-3 times until evenly golden brown on all sides. ( I drained them, and kept them on a platter in a warm oven until all the fritters were done.) Sprinkle with powdered sugar, and serve with lemon curd.

Here they are before the powdered sugar:
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They are also good with jam! Because I love my friends, I shared a jar of "Jerry Jam"!

July 10, 2008

The BEST Dinner Ever?

Sunday we spent the day in or near the pool from brunch on. It was HOT! My friends were trying for a marathon tan, continually putting on 30 sunscreen, and timing 20 minutes on a side on a raft, or just in a t-shirt in the shady corner of the pool. I promised no swim shots of their lily white Bay Area bodies. I look like I am a new ethnicity! (I might suggest "Princess Big Gut of the Desert" this weekend...) We kept hydrated. Gallons of water and 46 soft drinks were consumed over the weekend. Friday, we had berry cosmos. Saturday, we drank wine and went out to dinner. Sunday was margarita night before dinner.

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I thought I was making quite a simple dinner. Early in the day, Brad grilled me PERFECT corn, partly charred for my corn salad. Later he would sear scallops with lime olive oil, salt and pepper to go with the corn salad. I'd make some cheesy sage polenta (the only thing I had to COOK), and watermelon salad: a simple summer dinner. I already had lemon tiramisu chilling in the garage fridge.

At 5 we served margaritas and brie with fig jam, a little salami, and some blue castello cheese with crackers, as everyone wanted to eat around 8:30.

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Cheesy-Sage Polenta

Spray pan with cooking spray.
Heat oven to 350.
Combine:
6 c. water
1 1/2 t salt
1 ½ c. polenta
Bake uncovered for 40 min.

Stir together:
3/4 c. sour cream
1 c. parmesan cheese
2 c. grated gruyere
lots of chopped sage (20 leaves, fried in butter)
salt, pepper and nutmeg
Stir into cooked polenta.
Bake 25 minutes.

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Watermelon Salad
Combine watermelon, mozzarella, mint, and drizzle with a little olive oil, and a sprinkle of red chili flakes to make the flavors pop!

For some reason, the fans went wild. It must have been the combination of spicy, tangy, hot, cold, creamy, icy, etc. We had flavors of mint, sage, ancho chili, lime, jalapeno, garlic, etc. all going on at once. I thought it was all good, but they insisted it was the BEST dinner ever. I was amazed at that, as I can think back on other favorites of mine. Then Brad said, it WAS the best dinner ever! My vote is still out on that, but I'm glad everyone enjoyed the food!

Here is a taste of the triple lemon tiramisu!
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July 11, 2008

Monkey Bread

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4 c. flour
1/3 c. sugar
1 package dry yeast
6 T unsalted butter (room temp)
1 t. salt
2 eggs (at room temp)
1/2 c warm milk

To make the dough, with the paddle attachment on the mixer, combine 2 cups of the flour, the yeast stirred into 1/2 c. warm water, granulated sugar and salt. Add the warm milk and beat on medium speed for 1 minute. Add the butter, eggs and beat for 1 minute. Switch to the dough hook. Beat in the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time, until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Knead on low speed until soft, smooth and springy, about 5 minutes. Transfer to an oiled deep bowl and turn once to coat. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

When the dough has risen, put it on a floured surface, and cut into 50 small pieces.
Roll these into balls, and roll in 1/4 cup sugar and 1 t. cinnamon, and put them into a greased bundt pan. Pour glaze over the whole pan. Cover again and let rise another 1 1/2 hours, OR overnight in fridge, and then 1 1/2 hrs. in the morning before baking.

Glaze:

3/4 c. sugar
2 t. cinnamon
6 oz. butter
2 T. light corn syrup
2 T. water

Combine all ingredients and cook until sugar is dissolved. Pour over balls of dough, before second rising.

Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes . Let sit in pan for 5-10 minutes on a rack, then flip warm loaf on serving plate. Serve warm.


July 12, 2008

5 Minute Bread...Again

I promised my friend, Cindy, a lesson on "5 Minute Bread" from Jeff Hertzberg's wonderful book:

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I made two loaves for lunch, one plain, and one with a garlic-herb filling that I ordered from King Arthur Flour.

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We had a very happy lunch crowd!

July 13, 2008

Jammin'

I had WAY too many berries! I had never made jam before, but thought, how hard could this be? So I got some jars and pectin at the grocery store, and I had sugar and berries. The rest was easy. In less than an hour I had 9 jars of "Frutti di Bosco", or "mixed berry" jam, using up all my strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries. That still left lots of blueberries. Brad stopped for more jars, and in the morning there were 9 jars of blueberry jam!

Step 1: Sterilize the jars and lids.
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Step 2: Boil the fruit, sugar, and lemon juice.
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Step 3: Add pectin.
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Step 4: Fill jars, and put them back into the large pot of boiling water for 5-10 minutes.

You have jam! How cool is that!
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July 15, 2008

A Great Burger

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Eating in Las Vegas can be a very expensive proposition. There are world class restaurants and famous chefs everywhere you turn. You can sample food from Bradley Ogden, Bobby Flay, Emeril Lagasse, Mario Batali, Thomas Keller, Joachim Splichal, Todd English, Michael Mina, Wolfgang Puck, and Tom Colicchio!

OR you can have a great burger!

We were at the Fashion Show Mall, and stopped here for lunch. The house specialty is a blue cheese burger that was perfectly cooked, delicious, and costs 9.95. (No fries needed.)

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A couple at the next table were drinking good looking lemonades with vodka and huge sprigs of rosemary filling their mason jars. It was a great cheap meal!

Check out the menu!

July 18, 2008

Summer Dinners

Summer dinners need to be quick, cool, and easy. Here are a few of our recent meals:

Macadamia crusted tilapia with orzo-zucchini salad:
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Fritatta: Take whatever you have around and throw it in. I LOVE breakfast for dinner!

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We have salads a couple times a week. Here is one Brad made with a creamy Italian dressing:

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Buon Appetito! Stay cool!

July 21, 2008

You Know You're a Foodie When...

Wikipedia defines FOODIE as an informal term for a particular class of aficionado of food and drink. The word was coined in 1981 by Paul Levy and Ann Barr, who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook.

"Although the two terms are sometimes used interchangeably, foodies differ from gourmets in that gourmets are epicures of refined taste who may or may not be professionals in the food industry, whereas foodies are amateurs who simply love food for consumption, study, preparation, and news. Gourmets simply want to eat the best food, whereas foodies want to learn everything about food, both the best and the ordinary, and about the science, industry, and personalities surrounding food. For this reason, foodies are sometimes viewed as obsessively interested in all things culinary."

Answers.com says FOODIE is a slang term for a person who has an ardent or refined interest in food, a gourmet: "in the culinary fast lane, where surprises are expected and foodies beg to be thrilled." (Boston Globe)

I think I am just food-OBSESSED!

Last month when reading Judith's blog, Think On It, I came across this recipe for hot dog buns. As several friends asked me, "Who MAKES hot dog buns?" Brad and I decided, since we both thought this was a good idea, we should try them. 4th of July made me crave a once a year grilled hot dog, so why not?

This was my first time using "quick rising" or "instant" yeast. I began laughing as I thought about three of my favorite chefs and food mentors. Judy Witts of Divina Cucina, tells us to use instant mashed potatoes for light gnocchi. I have never bought instant mashed potatoes! For this week's recipe from Dolce Italiano, Gina DePalma has me send Brad out to find instant polenta to make the delicious Citrus-Glazed Polenta Cake. I have only used the coarser, long cooking polenta. Now Judith's recipe calls for instant yeast! I do realize the reason behind all of these ingredients, but it still struck me as funny!

This week, I will collect YOUR answers to "You know you're a foodie when..."

I'll start the list with a few of mine, and collect yours for the next week before posting a complete list:

You know you're a foodie when...

You make hot dog buns from scratch!
You read food blogs more hours a week than you read the newspaper.
You read 5 or more food magazines a month.
You watch Top Chef, Next Food Network Star, and even admit to Hell's Kitchen!
Your family and friends know not to take a bite until you've snapped a photo.
You have planned menus for events more than four months away.
The internet makes you hungry.
You have 5 or more kinds of flour in your pantry.
You sharpen (or have your butcher do it) your knives more often than you wash your car.
You plan your trips around food experiences or restaurants.


Read on to see my hot dog buns!


Continue reading "You Know You're a Foodie When..." »

July 23, 2008

Parmesan-Garlic Pull-Apart with Pancetta

Our "favorite neighbors", Diana and Walt, came over for dinner last night. I guess
I need to add to my "You know you're a foodie when..." post the fact that Diana and I took at least 12 photos of food, and NONE of people!

We had this as an appetizer. It is a savory version of cinnamon "Monkey Bread".

Heat over to 375. Spray an 8 or 9" cake pan with cooking spray. (or use a loaf pan)
I used one can of refrigerator biscuits: Flakey, buttermilk, GRANDS, or even breadstick dough will work (a roll of 10).

Cut each biscuit in fourths, and roll into 40 balls of dough.

Roll each ball of dough into melted butter, then garlic and herbs, then parmesan.

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Starting in center of pan, make a "spiral" of the covered dough balls. Pour any remaining butter, herbs and parmesan over top. I added a little cooked pancetta.

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Bake 20 min. and let cool for 5 minutes before removing from pan. Serve warm.
Serves 8

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July 24, 2008

Shortcut Lemon Tiramisu

One of my favorite desserts this spring/simmer has been lemon tiramisu. I have made it for guests 2-3 times since the initial experiment in Montisi. The problem with that recipe is that we always have so much left over. I decided to make 4 individual portions for our dinner party, so there would be no leftovers. A couple of easy shortcuts can be applied.

Step 1: Put 2 ladyfingers in the bottom of small bowls.

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Step 2: Brush with lemon syrup from recipe, or just use limoncello!

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Step 3: Spoon on some lemon curd. I had some home made lemon curd in the fridge from our last large batch. It keeps well for a few weeks stored in a glass jar, but you can use some purchased lemon curd if you don't want to make it.

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Step 4: Whip some cream with a little sugar. Just before it begins to peak, add about 2 oz. of marscapone, and finish beating. Put a dollop of cream on top. Repeat with another ladyfinger, syrup/limoncello, curd and cream. Garnish with fresh berries.

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We decided to have some fun playing with garnishing. I showed Diana how to use a spoon of lemon curd with some raspberry sauce to make a design on the plate. Then we made up other designs.

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We were having fun playing with our sauces, but Brad and Walt were ready to EAT dessert!

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July 25, 2008

Summer Salads

WAY too hot to cook! We have lots of salads during these intensely hot evenings.

Last night was curry chicken salad, and white peaches with berries in Amaretto.

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This spinach, nectarine, blueberry salad with blueberry-pomegranate dressing was great with our grilled fish. Brad made a foil packet, then brushed the tilapia with olive oil, garlic, pepper and sprinkled it with white wine. Grill for 5 minutes per side (just flip the whole foil packet).

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Curry chicken salad: combine cubed cooked chicken, celery, red onion, grapes, water chestnuts and cashews. The dressing is 1/4 c. mayo, 1/4 c. light sour cream, a generous splash of Worchestershire and curry powder to taste.

July 27, 2008

Taralli

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This was the most EMOTIONAL recipe for me that the Sunday Slow Bakers have made yet. I grew up on taralli. (I don't remember a packaged cracker until I discovered Ritz in high school). I'm sure I must have been given these as teething biscuits. I buy taralli on every trip to Italy, and hoard them, until just before we are leaving to go back. I usually end up with a bag of stale, broken pieces. I don't care. I used to think I couldn't get more, and they were never as good as my memory of mom's. As you can see the freshness date on these expired in May '08.

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About once a month, my mom and three aunts would get together at Aunt Annie's, and make taralli...HUNDREDS of them for each family to share. There were two big pots of water going on the stove, gallon bottles of wine that the uncles were "stealing" glasses of, the huge tin can of olive oil, and "taralli flour" on the formica kitchen table. Each sister had their job: one kneaded and rolled dough (no Kitchen Aid in sight), they took turns boiling and filling stacks of cookie sheets to go into ovens in the kitchen and the "summer kitchen" in the renovated garage. We would bring home huge tupperware containers of the taralli to our house until it was time to make them again. They were a daily snack for me, and ALWAYS served after dinner with wine and fruit at my aunts' houses.

I vaguely remembered that they seemed "complicated", and have not thought of tracking down a recipe to try them myself. During our visit to Puglia in 2003, I was given a regional cookbook with a recipe (in Italian). I was able to discern the ingredients and amounts, but the directions were vague at best. ("Boil until a fava bean floats".)

Gina's recipe from Dolce Italiano is like a smell and taste memory come true. As the scent from the first batch filled my kitchen, I felt 9 years old. I literally cried with the first taste. I LOVE these taralli. I just don't even have words.

Gina's Recipe:

4 1/2 c. "00" flour
2 T. kosher salt
1 T. granulated sugar
2 t. crushed red pepper flakes
2 T. finely chopped oregano (I used Rosemary)
1 c. plus 2 T dry white wine
1 c. extra virgin olive oil
* for half the dough I added 1 T. freshly ground black pepper and 2 T. grated Grana Padano
additional flour for dusting the bowl and kneading


I divided my dough into two pieces before adding the herbs and red pepper flakes.
I then added red pepper flakes and fresh rosemary to half and fresh cracked black pepper and grana padano to the other half. Mom made hers with "finnoccio" (fennel seed). You can experiment with herbs.

Place flour, 1 T. salt, sugar, herbs OR pepper and grated cheese into the bowl of an electric mixer. Add wine and oil, and beat to make a smooth dough. Continue beating for about three minutes for a firm and velvety dough.

Lightly brush a bowl with olive oil and sprinkle it generously with flour. Place dough in the bowl, and dust the top with flour. Cover with plastic wrap and let dough rest for 2 hours. You can also refrigerate dough overnight in an airtight container, and bring it to room temperature before proceeding.

Preheat oven to 375 with rack in center of oven.

In a large stockpot or Dutch oven, bring about 4 quarts of water to a boil over high heat, then reduce to a simmer. Season with 1 T. salt. Prepare two baking sheets by brushing them lightly with olive oil. Have paper towels ready to drain taralli as they come out of the water.

Turn the dough onto a floured board or counter, and knead it lightly. Divide the dough into 4 pieces, leaving 3 pieces in the bowl, covered, while you work with the fourth piece. Roll dough into a long rope, and cut into 4-6 pieces. Roll each piece into a ring, and press together, or make a small "knot" at the top.

Working in batches of 4 taralli at a time, drop rings into simmering water. They will sink, and then rise to the surface. Let them float for 30-45 seconds, then remove with a slotted spoon or Chinese skimmer. Place boiled taralli on paper towels to drain. Then transfer them to prepared baking sheets, until all your taralli have been boiled. Bake taralli for 25-40 minutes until they are golden. (My oven took about 40 min.) Let cool on a rack. Store in an air tight container for up to 2 weeks. Pour yourself a nice glass of vino and enjoy!

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The dough rested, and I tried to imagine how much 00 flour I will be able to fit in my luggage on our return from Italy in September. I am almost out!

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It was fun to watch the 'little guys" float to the top.

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Later, Brad became my floater/timer, while I rolled out more.

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My anticipation was almost overwhelming when I put them in the oven.

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I called Brad in for the taste test. We ate one warm and the tears started. The texture and taste are exactly what they should be. It was a moment of many feelings. Bittersweet joy, wonder, and much gratitude to Gina.

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I served the first batch to Fiona and Steve with wine that night. Ego stole one off my napkin. This recipe is a TREASURE to me.


July 29, 2008

Another Great Dinner

Last weekend, Fiona and Steve came over for a drink on our way out to dinner. We munched on taralli and these appetizers with our wine. I took leftover corn salad, added some sour cream, and put a spoonful on some round tortilla chips. It worked!

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We went to Amici's, an Italian restaurant in Rancho Mirage. We enjoyed it so much, we reserved a space for the Friday night of our October Slow Travel Get Together weekend.

We started by sharing a lovely asparagus salad with tomatoes, red onion and gorgonzola with drizzled olive oil.

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My entree was pork loin with figs and roasted red potatoes. I was a happy girl!
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The ladies were stuffed, but Brad and Steve managed to save a little room for dessert.
Here is Brad's cheesecake with berries.

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Check out Amici's whole menu.

July 30, 2008

Due Risotti or "Who Needs Spinach?"

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We love risotto for dinner. I learned a trick on our recent visit to Rome. Take whatever vegetable (raw or cooked) you want to add to the risotto, and stir it with a serving spoon full of ricotta before stirring it into the risotto. I first tried it with chopped blanched spinach. I made a "normal risotto" with onion and butter, Italian rice (I alternate between arborio and carnaroli), and broth (usually chicken, but sometimes vegetable or fish stock). When the risotto is done, stir in the veggie/ricotta mixture with some parmagiano. For a one dish meal, I then add cooked sausage (remove casings), or shrimp, or whatever I need to do so Brad will think this is dinner! Sometimes I add white wine, prosecco, or something else as part of the liquid.

Yesterday I planned a risotto with some sausage I wanted to try from Trader Joe's:
Spinach, fontina and roasted garlic. I thought I'd add some chopped spinach, and call it a day. I had planned to make an extra large batch, and bring some to my friend who just returned from a knee surgery. Then I found out that because of a med she is on, she isn't allowed leafy or green veggies, so NO SPINACH! I ran back to Trader Joe's and bought chicken-apple sausage and some carrots and fresh thyme.

Then I began BOTH risottos at once at my stove. These were both an experiment with no recipe. I chopped lots of carrots with some vidalia onion and lots of fresh thyme for "Barbara's risotto". Hers was made with vegetable stock and 1/2 c. of apple cider for part of the liquid. I stirred in the carrots (with that spoon of ricotta), and started to cook the chopped chicken-apple sausage. Then we had an EARTHQUAKE! All I did was set down my wooden spoon, and all my hanging copper pots started banging together. The pot rack and kitchen and dining room light fixtures started swaying.
Brad called to see if "I felt it". YEP! But the risotto would wait for no one. I added the chicken-apple sausage, and Barbara's was done.

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"Our risotto" was ready for more liquid. I went to the fridge to get my half a Costco size bag of fresh spinach, and it was mush! Ohoh! Was it THAT long ago this went into the crisper? Plan C! I picked a TON of fresh basil, washed it, chopped it, and added my ricotta. I cooked the sausage. After delivering dinner to Barbara and her husband (peaches and berries, risotto, and lemon gelato), I saw clients, and we had some of BOTH risotti for dinner. Barbara's was good, but "Plan C" was the BEST risotto ever! Who needs spinach?

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August 1, 2008

Armed and Dangerous

I am armed with a dangerous new kitchen toy!

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We are transitioning this week from the "Sunday Slow Bakers"
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to the "Sunday Slow Scoopers"! Thanks, Sandi for the great logo!

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Of course I wanted to do a trial run... just to make sure it worked before Sunday's debut. We had lots of lemons, so our first recipe from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz was for "Super Lemon Ice Cream".

2 lemons
1/2 c. sugar
1/2 c. lemon juice (from about three lemons)
2 c. half and half
pinch of salt

Zest lemons into a food processor or blender. Add sugar and blend until the zest is very fine. Add the lemon juice and blend until the sugar is completely dissolved. Blend in the half and half and salt until smooth.

Chill for one hour, then freeze the mixture in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's directions.

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Oh this is way too easy! I may have to keep this machine locked up during the week, and hide the key from myself! Gelato, sorbetto, granita, oh my!

August 5, 2008

Pork Tenderloin in Orange Caramel Sauce

I am on a caramel kick. Yesterday, I made a double batch of "Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream". When I decided to make a caramel cake with caramel-marscapone buttercream and butter-toffee crunch for my dinner party, i began to browse through my Caramel cookbook by Trish Deseine, that I haven't read in a while.
I tried a pork recipe from the "Sweet and Savory" chapter. it was easy and delicious with a tasty sticky sauce.

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Pork Tenderloin in Orange Caramel Sauce (from Caramel by Trish Deseine)

1/4 c. light soy sauce
1/2 c. sugar
1 T. fresh ginger grated
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 T. fish sauce (I used Hoison sauce)
Juice from one lime
zest from 2 oranges and 4 T orange juice
1 pork tenderloin (1-1 1/2 lb.)

Put all the ingredients except pork in a non-stick skillet over moderate heat. Stir until sauce thickens. Add butterflied (cut in half ALMOST all the way through, and opened flat) pork, and cook, turning frequently and basting with sauce. Cook for about 30 minutes until pork is tender and cooked through. Remove pork, and let sit for 5 minutes before slicing. Pour remaining sauce over pork.
Serves 3

Brad grilled figs with gorgonzola, and we drizzled them with rosemary honey.

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Grilled asparagus and smashed potatoes made it a wonderful dinner. The pork was a hit! No dessert tonight! That gelato is for the dinner party!

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August 6, 2008

Stuffed Chicken with Mango Buerre Blanc

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This is a great way to clean up leftovers. Stuff chicken breasts with them! I defrosted 2 chicken breasts, then pounded them flat. I topped each with two slices of prosciutto, some herbed cream cheese (I mixed some up in a flash), and 5 asparagus spears per breast. Roll them up, holding them together with a couple toothpicks, and browned them in a little butter. Bake at 350 for 35-40 minutes for large chicken breasts. Slice and serve. Don't forget the toothpicks!

I had pureed some mangos in the morning for another recipe, so I decided to go all out and make a sauce for the chicken. I made a simple buerre blanc and added 1/4 c. of pureed mango. Now this was a "company pretty" dish. We enjoyed it with salad and some grilled polenta.

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Mango Buerre Blanc

2 tablespoons shallots, finely minced
1/4 cup white wine
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
4 ounces unsalted butter, cut into pieces
Salt and pepper to taste

Combine shallots with the wine in a sauce pan. Reduce until syrupy. Add the lemon juice and reduce again. Remove from heat and whisk in one piece of butter. Slowly add all the pieces of butter until well combined. Stir in 1/4 c. pureed mangos and heat again over very low heat. Pour over chicken. This sauce would also be great with fish.

August 8, 2008

Mango Sorbetto

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Mango Sorbetto from The Perfect Scoop by David Lebovitz

two large, ripe mangoes (2 pounds)
2/3 c. sugar
2/3 c. water
4 t. freshly squeezed lime juice
1 T (or a little more) dark rum
pinch of salt

Peel mangoes and cut flesh away from the pit. Cut the flesh into chunks and put them in the blender with sugar, water, lime juice, rum, and salt. Squeeze the mango pits hard over the blender to extract as much of the pulp and juice as possible. Puree the mixture until smooth. Taste, then add more lime juice or rum if desired. Chill the mixture thoroughly, then freeze in your ice cream maker according to the manufacturer's instructions.

*I cheated. I used a package of frozen fresh mangoes from Trader Joe's! I ran them under warm water to defrost, then threw everything in the blender. Easy-peasy!

I just learned that is short for "easy-peasy-lemon-squeezy". I guess in this case that would be "lime- squeezy". YUM. Refreshing on a hot summer day!

August 13, 2008

A Lovely Dinner

Last night I had the pleasure of hosting a dinner for 10 people who are colleagues as well as new friends at the non-profit agency where I am now supervising the professional counseling services in Palm Desert. Catholic Charities is the organization I began working for in July, and we have a great team! The idea for this dinner was an opportunity to brainstorm possibilities for expanding services, networking, and using the strengths and energy of this group to help more people in our area. Our mission is to "provide help and create hope" through a variety of programs and services, 80% of them at no cost to families. Last year, Catholic Charities San Bernadino/Riverside provided vital social services to over 43,000 people. We provide professional counseling to families, couples and individuals, parenting and anger management groups, school counseling, emergency assistance, disaster relief, food and clothing distribution, help with immigration issues, and many more services. The needs are great and resources are available. It is exciting and energizing to be a part of getting people the help they need. My dinner guests were directors, administrators, therapists, program coordinators, marketing/PR experts, and even our CEO for Catholic Charities in San Bernadino-Riverside Counties was present.

Now, let's get to the FOOD!
We began with homemade taralli, mini-caprese, olives and cheese with honey and prosecco.

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We were at two tables in the backyard. The appetizer course was a Sicilian fig stuffed with gorgonzola-pecan spread and drizzled with honey, sformato in a pool of pesto with shaved grand padano, and melon with prosciutto.

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The "primo piatto" was crab lasagna. I forgot to take a photo, but you can see me making them here. We drank Pinot Grigio with the pasta.

We had refreshing lemon shells stuffed with honey-thyme-sorbet to cleanse our palates.

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Our salad was spinach, fennel, red onion, and oranges with an orange vinegarette.

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The entree was a pork roast stuffed with figs and gorgonzola with a port wine reduction. (I'll blog the step-by-step how to do it tomorrow.) Side dishes were cheesy sage polenta, and honey glazed carrots along with a Lamole Chianti Classico.

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Fig-port reduction sauce:
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Dessert! We found a little room left for this "All About Caramel Cake" with Salted Butter Gelato.

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Here are my very happy and full guests!

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August 14, 2008

Stuffing a Pork Roast

The pork loin roast weighed 4.5 pounds. I had my butcher butterfly it for me, and then I pounded it slightly to get a nice, even rectangle. I layered spinach leaves first.

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Next, some crumbled gorgonzola:

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Finally, a layer of dried mission figs that had been soaking in port wine (drained).

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Before rolling pork, cut 4 long lengths of kitchen string (24-30 inches), fold them in half, and lay them under the roast. Then roll tightly.

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Make a slip knot with each of the doubled strings, pulling snugly.

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Tie remaining ends of two pair of strings together, and trim strings.

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*I stuffed a piece of foil into each end to keep the stuffing from coming out the sides during cooking.

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Rub roast with olive oil, sea salt, and freshly ground black pepper.

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Sear the roast for a minute on each side. I did mine on the BBQ, but you can also do it in a large skillet.

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You can do all of the above the morning of your dinner. Then place the roast in a roasting pan and refrigerate. Take out to room temp an hour before cooking.
Bake at 350 for 1 hour and 30-45 minutes. Let roast sit for 10 minutes before slicing.

Fig-Port Reduction:

I have tried two recipes for this sauce: one from Williams-Sonoma, and one from Giada DeLaurentii's Everyday Italian cookbook. I used a combination of the two recipes, and I've made this enough times, that I don't really measure any more. I just sort of pour things in the pan.

One tub of Trader Joe's black mission figs (25-30 figs), stems cut off
2 c. port wine

Reduce for 10 minutes, then add:

1 c. chicken broth
a tablespoon of veal demi-glace (optional)
2 cinnamon sticks
2 rosemary sprigs
2-3 T honey
a splash of balsamic fig vinegar (optional)
salt and pepper

Cook 15-20 min. until reduced by half. Remove cinnamon sticks and rosemary. Stir in 2 T. butter. Puree sauce in blender and food processor. Can be made ahead. Reheat before serving, and stir in some of the pan juices from the pork roast.

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August 17, 2008

Tiramisu Ice Cream and Brownies

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The Sunday Slow Scoopers selection this week was Krista's choice of Tiramisu ice cream. Great choice, Krista.

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Rich with marcapone, and yummy with both Kahlua and brandy, this ice cream has a ripple of fudge. Brad thought it was a hit, and it wasn't too chocolaty for me either.
Don't you love my mom's ice cream spoon/forks?

I served it with Diva's "Tiramisu Brownies".

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Judy's recipe for Tiramisu Brownies:

Espresso Brownies:
1 c. all-purpose flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 c. butter
4 oz. bittersweet chocolate
4 eggs
1 c. sugar
2 t. instant espresso coffee or espresso powder

Melt chocolate with butter over low heat. Stir and let cool. Combine flour and baking powder. In another bowl whisk eggs with sugar until light. Add flour mixture, espresso, and chocolate. Make "Marscpone Swirl".

Marscapone Swirl:

6 oz. marscapone
1/2 c. sugar
2 eggs
2 T. flour

Whip marscapone with sugar. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir in flour. Pour brownie mixture into a greased 9x9" pan. Cover with marscapone cream. Swirl with a skewer.
Bake at 350 for 40 min.

Tiramisu pairing:

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August 18, 2008

Market Food: Eat Your Veggies!

I can't put down my camera (except when I am tasting of buying) at a food market. Everything is so beautiful and fresh! Someday, I will do something fun with all of my food porn photos (besides the ones I have framed all over my kitchen).

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And what would a summer market be without... (2 for $1.00)

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August 21, 2008

All About Caramel Cake

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If you want the caramel equivalent of a "death by chocolate" experience, this is the cake for you. In fact, this may be the BEST cake I have ever made! (chocoholics may disagree) I may have to make it again for the Desert GTG. (That's DESERT, not Dessert...)

This is one of those cakes that is even better after a couple of days as the flavors continue to intensify in the fridge. I combined several recipes to come up with it.
The cake itself, the marscapone buttercream, and the BEST salted butter caramel sauce are from Caramel, by Trish Deseine. The toffee on top is a variation of my Christmas toffee I have made for over 30 years, without the chocolate.

Cake:

3 ½ c. flour
1 ½ c. less 2 T brown sugar
1 c. plus 2T white superfine sugar
8 eggs
2 c. salted butter, softened
2 T. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350. Spray and flour 2 9” cake pans. Put all cake ingredients into bowl of mixer, mix until you have a smooth, creamy batter. Divide mixture equally into two cake pans. Smooth with spatula and bake 40 minutes, or until golden brown. Toothpick or tester should come out clean.

Caramel Buttercream with Marscapone

1 ½ lb. powdered sugar
1 ½ c. butter, softened
5 T caramel sauce
4 T. marscapone

Beat powdered sugar and butter until smooth. Add caramel sauce and marscapone, and beat together. Allow to set up for a few minutes in the fridge. Save about 1/3 of butter cream for top layer of cake. Use remaining buttercream to frost the other 3 layers.

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Salted Butter Caramel Sauce (the BEST you will ever taste)

1 cup sugar
¼ c. water
½ c. salted butter (1 stick)
4-5 T. marscapone

Make a caramel: Put water and sugar in a medium saucepan and stir together before placing on medium high heat. Let it boil. Do NOT stir or touch it. It will bubble and boil for a few minutes, then begin to turn golden. Don’t stir! When it is beginning to turn amber (the color of honey), take it off the heat and whisk in butter. Then whisk in the marscapone. Store (up to 2 weeks) in a glass jar in fridge. May be served hot or cold.

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Toffee Crunch

1 c. sliced blanched toasted almonds
1 stick butter (salted)
1 c. sugar

Spread almonds on a cookie sheet and bake at 350 for 8 minutes until they start to turn golden. Let cool. When almonds are cool, scoot them into a circle on the center of the baking sheet in a single layer.

Stir together butter and sugar in a skillet over medium heat. Continue to stir until mixture thickens, and then turns a caramel color (10-15 minutes). Pour hot toffee over almonds, and immediately press down and flatten with a spatula, covering circle of almonds. Let cool in fridge for at least an hour. Then break toffee into small pieces. This can be stored in the fridge for 2 months.

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Assembly:
Cut two cake layers in half horizontally to make 4 layers.
Spread buttercream on tops only, of first three cake layers, stacking them, and saving 1/3 of buttercream for top of fourth layer. Let frosted cake chill.
Before serving, heat caramel sauce, and srizzle over top, letting it run down the sides.
OR, do this ahead, and let cake chill again.
Top with sliced toasted almonds, or small pieces of toffee crunch.

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Now if you REALLY want to die happy, pair this with Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream.
Just don't think about it! One of my guests ate TWO pieces of cake with ice cream. He is still happy. Since getting my ice cream machine last month, I have made 11 batches of ice cream or sorbet. This is hands down the best. I can't imagine anything better.

Salted Butter Caramel Ice Cream (from Caramel, by Trish Deseine (I doubled this for 10 guests)

5 egg yolks
2 T. super fine sugar (for the ice cream)
2 c. whipping cream
1/2 c. sugar, less 1 T. (for the caramel)
2 T. water
1/4 c. salted butter

In a heatproof bowl, beat the egg yolks with the 2 T. of super fine sugar until thick and pale yellow, and doubled in volume.

In a heavy bottomed saucepan, bring 1 1/4 c. cream to a boil and pour over the egg and sugar mixture, whisking constantly. Return this to the saucepan, and cook over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon until it is thick and coats the back of the spoon. Remove from heat and let cool.

In another heavy-bottomed saucepan, make a caramel with the 1/2 c. less 1 T. granulated sugar and the 2 T. water. Remember: DON'T STIR. Let it boil and turn honey-colored. Remove from heat, and immediately add the butter and remaining cream. Return to heat if necessary to melt any sugar crystals that have formed.

Combine the cooled custard, and warm caramel mixtures. Chill completely, and freeze in your ice cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions. Freeze until ready to serve.

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August 23, 2008

Pretty Leftovers

Lots of leftovers, not much motivation...

We started with a delicious salad of leftover figs, gorgonzola and spinach.

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2 ounces of leftover marscapone mixed with leftover pesto sauce made a delicious, creamy pasta!

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This was the platter of stuffed fruit I took to my book club meeting:

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A couple of those leftover stuffed apricots made a great dessert!

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August 24, 2008

Sunday Slow Scoopers Pina Colada Sherbet

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This week, Terry chose a wonderful and creamy version of pina colada sherbet. This is a very simple and delicious recipe from David Lebovitz's The Perfect Scoop.
It contains a fresh pineapple, and thai coconut milk. Light, creamy and very refreshing!

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I paired mine with coconut shortbread:

1 1/2 cup flour
1/2 c. rice flour
1 c. butter (soft)
1/2 c. sugar
3/4 c. coconut

Mix together flours, butter, and sugar in a food processor or mixer. Dough will be VERY soft. Smush it together with your hands. Add coconut. Spread into a 9x9 baking pan, and flatten with a spatula. Using tongs of a fork, make indentations across the dough in both directions. Then prick the dough 10-12 times. Bake at 350 for about 30 min. until edges begin to brown.

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The ice cream in my freezer is getting out of hand. This is one devoted shelf in the kitchen, and there are two more tubs in the garage fridge! This weekend it was time to get rid of some. All the rest will go to our dogsitter soon!

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I gave away two tubs. One went to work, and one to a friend. Then we made floats!

Here is a "guava colada" with coconut rum, guava nectar, and diet 7-up!

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Remember that thyme-honey sorbet? It was nice with some thyme and lemon muddled in the bottom of a glass, with citron vodka, lemonade and a splash of a lemon-lime soda.

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Finally, I used some mango sorbet, Alize liquor, mango nectar, and diet lemon-lime soda for this float:

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August 25, 2008

Bursting Summer Flavors

What to have for dinner? This is a constant topic for thought and discussion at our house.

Last night I came up with lemon-garlic orzo with grilled squash and peach-bourbon-rosemary pork brisket.

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I gathered a few ingredients to combine with the lemon-garlic orzo I bought in San Diego.

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I roasted garlic, cooked the orzo, and added torn basil leaves, a little olive oil, the garlic, some lemon zest, grilled zucchini and yellow squash, and a little shaved grana padano cheese.

The pork was on sale at Costco. I had never heard of pork brisket, but I bought it.
I marinated the pork slices in bourbon, brown sugar, olive oil, and fresh rosemary. Brad grilled them, and then grilled a peach with rosemary and a drizzle of honey. The peaches served on the pork were wonderful.

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August 26, 2008

Baked Pasta

On June 27, 2008, Judy (Diva) blogged about her visit to an agriturismo (working farm in Italy) where the BEST pasta is made in Gragnano.

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Coincidentally, a friend received a bag of this pasta from an Italian house guest. She had no idea what to do with it, so she gave it to me! Whoo Hoo!. It has been in my pantry for two months. I took it out on Sunday.

I boiled the pasta, and made of mixture of ricotta, 10 oz. of frozen spinach (drained and chopped), one egg, beaten, and some parmigiano. Inside each tube, I put a small piece of buffalo mozzarella, and some of the ricotta-spinach mixture.

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I made a basic bechemel sauce. Melt 4 T. butter with 4 T. flour, then add 2 c. milk, stirring until it boils and thickens. I added 4 oz. of leftover gorgonzola cheese to the finished bechemel.

Place a little of the sauce in bottom of a baking dish. Stuff all the pasta tubes. Top with remaining sauce, and sprinkle with parmigiano. Bake 30-35 min. at 350.

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We somehow convinced ourselves, that by eating a spinach salad with the spinach in the pasta, we were eating a great vegetarian meal. But it was delicious!

August 27, 2008

Blueberries!

Lots and lots of blueberries. I had already made blueberry jam, so...

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We started the day with Blueberry French Toast with marscapone cream.

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and ended it with

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I didn't use a recipe. I threw everything I wanted to get rid of into the blender. Blueberries, buttermilk, a little sugar, some honey, a little cream. It looked the right consistency, and tasted good, so I chilled the mixture in the morning, and tossed it in the ice cream maker around 4:00. At 9:00, it was frozen and delicious.

August 28, 2008

Cantaloupe Gazpacho and Lamb Burger Wraps

It is clean out the fridge week, before we leave on Sunday. I had a canteloupe, and was browsing soup recipes when I came across this simple cantaloupe gazpacho recipe from Gail Gand, The Food Network

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1 canteloupe seeded, skinned and cubed
1/4 c. rum
1/4 c. cream
4 fresh mint leaves (I used 8)
2 T. orange juice concentrate (I used 4 T. passion fruit juice concentrate)
zest from a lemon

Throw it all in the blender, and chill.

A few weeks ago, Jerry posted his recipe for grilled lamb burger rollups on his blog. I thought they sounded great, and filed the idea away in the back of my head.

Last week, Cindy Ruth put her spin on them and posted her recipe for lamb burger pitas on her blog, Baked Alaska.

Mine were simple and straightforward. I used wraps from Trader Joe's, red onion, fresh basil leaves, and some creamy Caesar dressing, some leftover grated gruyere along with the ground lamb, seasoned only with salt and pepper. Yum.

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THREE MORE SLEEPS!

September 30, 2008

O Food for Ovarian Cancer Awareness

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O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month

September is Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month. In honor of Gina DePalma, author of Dolce Italiano: Desserts from the Babbo Kitchen and Executive Pastry Chef of Babbo Ristorante in NYC, who was recently diagnosed with ovarian cancer, Sara of Ms Adventures in Italy, Jenn of The Leftover Queen, and Michelle of Bleeding Espresso are asking you to donate to the:

Ovarian Cancer Research Fund (via FirstGiving.org)

and then, out of the goodness of your hearts and to be eligible for the O Foods for Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month Contest, please do the following:

1. Post a recipe to your blog using a food that starts or ends with the letter O (e.g., oatmeal, orange, okra, octopus, olive, onion, potato, tomato) and include this entire text box in the post;

OR

2. If you’re not into the recipe thing, simply post this entire text box in a post on your blog to help spread the word about the event and Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month.

AND

3. Then send your post url [along with a photo (100 x 100) if you've made a recipe] to ofoods[at]gmail[dot]com by 11:59 pm (Italy time) on September 30, 2008.

We will post a roundup and announce prize winners on October 3.

Prizes:

1 Recipe Prize for best “O food” concoction: $50 gift certificate to Amazon;
1 Awareness Prize for only publicizing event: Copy of Dolce Italiano cookbook.
———

From the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund:

Ovarian cancer is the leading cause of death from gynecologic cancers in the United States and is the fifth leading cause of cancer death among U.S. women; a woman’s lifetime risk of ovarian cancer is 1 in 67.
The American Cancer Society estimates that 21,650 women will be diagnosed with ovarian cancer in the U.S. in 2008 and about 15,520 women will die from the disease.
The symptoms of ovarian cancer are often vague and subtle, making it difficult to diagnose. There is no effective screening test for ovarian cancer but there are tests which can detect ovarian cancer when patients are at high risk or have early symptoms.
In spite of this patients are usually diagnosed in advanced stages and only 45% survive longer than five years. Only 19% of cases are caught before the cancer has spread beyond the ovary to the pelvic region.
When ovarian cancer is detected and treated early on, the five-year survival rate is greater than 92%.
Please donate to the Ovarian Cancer Research Fund
and help spread the word!

I'm a little late for the contest, as I've been down all week with the flu, but here is my late "O recipe".

Last night I made Risotto with Sweet Basil Pesto Chicken Sausage, pesto, and fresh basilico.
It was a hit!

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!/2 yellow onion, chopped
2 T butter
4 1/2 c. chicken stock
4 basil pesto chicken sausages (from Trader Joe's)
1 heaping tablespoon of your favorite pesto
1/4 c. grated parmigiano
fresh chopped basil

Saute onion in butter. Add 1 1/2 c. arborio rice, and cook for 4-5 minutes. Add chicken broth, one cup at a time, letting rice absorb the liquid. Do not over-stir! just give it a quick turn with each addition of broth.

In a skillet, brown sausage, and cut into bite-size pieces. When risotto is done, remove from heat, and stir in pesto, parmigiano, and cooked sausage. Sprinkle with fresh chopped basil, and enjoy!

October 3, 2008

Easy Fat-free Apple Cake

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Apple cake always feels like fall. I have several good ones, but this is quick, easy, and has no butter or oil. I dug around for this old recipe I hadn't made in ages.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
Grease a 13x9-inch baking pan.

Mix together in a bowl:
1 cup all purpose flour


1/2 cup sugar


1 teaspoon baking powder


1/2 teaspoon salt


1/4 teaspoon nutmeg


1/4 teaspoon cinnamon

Add:
2/3 cup milk


1 egg



In another bowl, combine:


4 apples (3 c.), peeled and sliced


1/2 cup chopped pecans


1/2 cup raisins
1/3 cup sugar


1 teaspoon cinnamon

Spread batter mixture into the greased baking pan. Sprinkle fruit/nut mixture evenly over the top of the batter.
Bake for 30 – 40 minutes until edges are a light golden brown and the apples are tender.

Comfort food!
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October 20, 2008

What's for Dinner?

Dinner? I forgot about dinner! I was busy doing party things all day, some "once a year" cleaning jobs, and finishing a scrapbook of our recent trip. It was 6 PM, and Brad would be home and hungry in about 45 minutes. I checked the pantry, freezer and fridge. Well, EVERYTHING in the freezer was party food. Wait...there is some meat sauce crammed in there. The pantry had pasta and polenta, but we already had pasta this week. There is always cheese in the fridge, so........

I threw together this concoction: Polenta lasagna! I admit I was inspired by Judith's blog entry, and also knew I had some chopped pancetta on the door shelf of the freezer, because I moved it there last week.

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I always bake my polenta...foolproof: 6 cups water, 1 1/2 c. polenta, 1/2 t. salt
Stir that together and bake for 40 minutes.

Then I thawed a little meat sauce, and in a clean baking dish, layered sauce, polenta, cheese (I used grated cheddar/parm, because it was readily available), a little more sauce, polenta cheese, and cooked pancetta on top. I baked it another 30 minutes and made a salad.

Instant dinner!

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October 29, 2008

Spicy Corn Salad and Hot Artichoke Dip Recipes

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Spicy Corn Salad (Brad grilled 12 ears and tripled everything except the cheese.)

4 ears of corn, grilled and cooled
2 cloves garlic, chopped
2 green onions, chopped
1/2 of a red onion, chopped
zest of 2 limes
juice of 2 limes
2 c. grated pepper jack cheese

Dressing:

1/2 c. mayo mixed with adobe chili powder to taste (1/2-1 teaspoon)

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Hot Artichoke Dip
(This is a double batch to fill my baking dish.)

2 cans artichokes (packed in water), chopped
16 oz. cream cheese
one pound brick of swiss cheese, grated
1 c. parmigiano, grated (I used Pecorino-Romano)
1 package Knorr vegetable soup mix
2-3 green onions, chopped
1 c. mayo
salt and pepper

Mix all ingredients. Top with crumbled bacon. Bake at 350 for 30 min.

October 30, 2008

More Party Recipes

Shrimp Dip

This is a no-brainer!

8 oz. cream cheese (softened)
1 pint sour cream
2 packages of powdered Hidden Valley Ranch Dressing mix
1 pound salad shrimp (bay shrimp)

Mix together the night before to let it get "friendly". Good served in a hollowed out breadbowl with cut up sourdough.

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Bacon-wrapped "Drunken" Shrimp

Another easy one! Brad cleaned 5 lbs. of shrimp (20-25 per pound), and then donated 2 c. Jack Daniels to pour over shrimp in ziplock bags. Let them get "happy" overnight. Wrap each shrimp with half a slice of bacon and skewer. (soak wooden skewers first) Sandi and I did this Saturday morning. Broil for 5-7 minutes.

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Scallops

This can't get easier. Saute scallops in olive oil (I use lime infused oil from Pasolivo...time to stock up at the Slowbowl!), salt and pepper, and LOTS of lime zest for 3 min. per side. (Use a T. of oil, and zest of 2 limes per pound of scallops.)

Sauce: Combine 1/2 c, mayo with 1/2 c. chili sauce.

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November 2, 2008

Orange Pumpkin Soup

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Friday, I made soup. On another HOT Halloween, I was craving a touch of fall. Since the weather was not going to cool off yet, I made delicious fall scents in my kitchen.

I used this recipe from Emeril Lagasse:

Ingredients
1 small (2 pound) pumpkin, halved, strings and seeds discarded (or seeds reserved for roasting)
1 acorn squash (about 1 pound), halved, strings and seeds discarded
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 teaspoons salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more for garnish
4 sprigs fresh thyme
2 medium yellow onions, peeled and halved
3 medium carrots, peeled and halved lengthwise
2 medium shallots, peeled and halved
1/2 medium orange
3 bay leaves
1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 cup dry white wine
6 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon balsamic vinegar
1/4 cup heavy cream
Directions
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

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Rub the pumpkin and squash halves with 1 tablespoon olive oil and season with 1/2 teaspoon salt and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper; place flesh side down in a large roasting pan. Place thyme sprigs under each half. Toss the onions, carrots, shallots, orange and bay leaves with the remaining 1 tablespoon olive oil, 1/2 teaspoon salt, and 1/4 teaspoon black pepper and place in the roasting pan. Roast until the vegetables are well browned, about 1 1/2 hours, occasionally stirring the vegetables (except the pumpkin and squash). Remove the orange if it begins to brown before other vegetables.

Remove the pan from the oven and let sit until the vegetables are cool enough to handle. Meanwhile, remove the thyme and bay leaves and discard. Once cool, scoop the flesh from the pumpkin and squash and transfer back to roasting pan. Place the roasting pan over 2 burners over medium heat. Season with the remaining 1 1/2 teaspoons salt, cloves, and allspice and add wine to deglaze the pan. Add 2 cups stock and bring to a simmer. Cook for 20 minutes. Remove the orange and discard.

Transfer the soup in small batches to a food processor or blender and puree until very smooth. Strain the mixture through a sieve into a medium saucepan or soup pot. Add the remaining 4 cups stock, orange juice, brown sugar, and balsamic vinegar and bring to a simmer. Add cream and stir to combine. Garnish with freshly ground black pepper.

***Palma's note: i followed the recipe, except I used a small pumpkin, a butternut squash and the striped squash you see in the photo. It didn't all fit in my roasting pan, so i used two side by side. I put half an orange in each. i also deleted the brown sugar, as the veggies and orange juice made it sweet enough. I added some orange zest.

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After our soup, we had some of Diana's delicious gingerbread jack-o-lantern cookies!

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November 3, 2008

Too Many Leftovers

I thought I'd share what we did we all those leftovers from the Desert GTG! Four pans of uncooked appetizers went back into the freezer, so I am ready for holiday entertaining with sausage bundles and cheese puffs! Lots of lamb chops in the freezer too. YUM.

Brad helped by taking corn salad for lunch a couple of times. We had great salad bar fixings for dinner too. Then I had to get a little more creative.

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I had four flour tortillas. I stuffed them with leftover scallops, shrimp, swiss cheese, and made a sauce from the shrimp dip! The bacon wrapped around those shrimp was amazing. Rich as hell, but who wastes scallops at $18.95 a pound. That made two meals for each of us.

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Shannon's idea for lamb hash was a big hit! Potatoes, lamb chops and the rest of those grilled veggies were fabulous together!

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Finally, there was the half crab dip, half artichoke dip pizza!

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By Thursday, I couldn't look at any of it any more! We needed NEW FOOD! Thank goodness we are now on the "Soupers diet"!

November 11, 2008

The Cellar

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We decided to try a newish wine bar in Palm Desert. The Cellar on El Paso was an unexpected pleasure. With brick walls, arches and a warm dark wood floor, it is comfortable, cozy, and charming.

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There is a nice selection of wines by the glass, or just a 2 oz. taste. If you choose something from the selection of bottles, which are reasonably priced, add a $10 corkage fee, and drink something from your favorite winery.

We arrived at 6:30, and an hour later, we decided to make appetizers our dinner. I ordered a fabulous flatbread with prosciutto, asiago, fig jam and green onions.

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Brad tried the meatloaf sliders with onions and BBQ sauce. They were fabulous. Either dish was more than enough for two!

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Brad was quite happy! We both had a very fun evening!

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Did I mention they have a chocolate sampler plate? or a collection of artisan cheeses and breads? We will just have to come back!

November 16, 2008

MacArthur Park

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When I lived in the Bay Area, one of my favorite comfort food restaurants was MacArthur Park in Palo Alto. We met our friend, Roxanne, there Friday after a full day of shopping at Stanford Mall. We had been up since 4AM, so a couple glasses of wine and a hearty meal were just what we needed. I enjoyed some crisp Savignon Blanc from Cinnabar winery in Santa Cruz mountains. Brad drank bourbon, and Roxanne enjoyed the margarita special.

After a stack of the famous onion strings, we each had our favorite comfort plate. I had lost a crown on Thursday, and worried that my mouth full of dental wax would prevent me from enjoying good food this weekend. No problem! I managed almost all of my half rack of ribs.

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Brad enjoyed his steak!

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Roxanne loved her salmon with persimmon salsa. What a good idea!

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Dessert? Of course! Brad devoured a slice of mud pie.

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I managed half of a warm caramel sunday (my caramel sauce is better). Roxanne's turtle pie was gone before I could get my camera out!

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November 17, 2008

Saturday at Wood Tavern

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Our visits with friends always seem to revolve around meals! Saturday was no exception. We met for lunch at Wood Tavern in Oakland. Reservations are a must. We walked in at 11:30, and the place was empty. By 11:45, there were no tables! I was anxious to see why.

Our foodie friends, Charlotte and Cindy, never let us down when choosing a restaurant. They come here often, and knew to start with the crispy pork belly with salt pork braised green lentils, spinach and a poached egg.

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Brad was the only one of us who had eaten something besides coffee, so he chose a light lunch of the house cured salami with marinated olives, and a cheese tasting of "Explorateur", a French triple creme cow's milk cheese.

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The rest of us all went with Charlotte's recommendation of the rigatoni in a veal-pork Bolognese with Lucques olives. It was spicy and delicious!

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Save room for the desserts! Cindy had a spiced persimmon cake with persimmon coulis.

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Charlotte had an affogato with Jameson Irish Whiskey!

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Brad and Roxanne, the chocoholics, had to have the warm chocolate cake with hazelnut ice cream.

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I was in panna cotta heaven with a buttermilk panna cotta with pomegranate sauce.

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Here are the hungry, happy campers. Soon we were ready to walk off our food coma by a little shopping on 4th street.

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November 19, 2008

Turkey Meatloaf with Bacon and Swiss

The last time I cooked a Thanksgiving turkey was in 1988. Why change that now? We will be in Las Vegas next week, and I have NEVER ordered a turkey entree in a restaurant. We eat deli turkey sandwiches on occasion, and I have probably cooked a turkey breast or two since then. We have turkey cutlets a couple of times a year, but haven't had anything closely related for quite a while, so when at the grocery store yesterday, some ground turkey flew into my cart.

Thanksgiving food doesn't do it for me. I only like stuffing (which I make on occasion to go with chicken or pork) and cranberry sauce. I hate gravy, won't eat yams, and am not fond of either pecan or pumpkin pie. I like pumpkin in savory dishes like soup or polenta. Actually, what inspired the ground turkey purchase was a jar of chili cranberry sauce that Jane brought as a hostess gift. I love cranberries, and was dying to try it!

I decided on some kind of meatloaf. I browsed a few meatloaf recipes, but didn't find anything appealing. Here is what I came up with:

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Turkey Meatloaf with Bacon and Swiss

20 oz. lean ground turkey
4 slices of bacon, cooked and crumbled
1/2 a yellow onion, chopped
1/2 c. bread crumbs
1 egg
10-12 sage leaves, chopped
4 oz. grated swiss

Fry bacon until crisp. Drain and crumble bacon. Drain grease from skillet and cook onion until tender (3 min.) Let onion cool. In a large bowl, combine turkey, bread crumbs, egg, sage, cooled bacon and onions. Mix with your hands. Grate and mix in most of the swiss cheese, reserving some thin slices for the top. Shape into a loaf and bake in a sprayed loaf pan at 350 for 45 min. Remove from oven, place sliced cheese on top and bake another 15 minutes, until cheese is melted, and turning golden. Let rest a few minutes before serving.

We had ours with leftover pumpkin polenta, and the delicious spicy chili cranberry sauce from San Diego's "Old Town". This is a keeper! There is enough left to have one more "turkey dinner" in 2008. This is probably as close as we will get!

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November 20, 2008

Persimmon Ice Cream and Cake

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I LOVE persimmons! I am lucky to know someone with a huge persimmon tree who gives me persimmon pulp to freeze each year around the holidays. I realized I still had two tubs from last year in my freezer. It was time to use them to hopefully, make room for more! Since we began making ice cream last summer with the "Sunday Slow Scoopers", I have thought about trying persimmon ice cream. I searched the internet, and chose a recipe from Bon Appetit October 2008. I was fascinated by the black peppercorn syrup. When shopping for persimmons, remember that there are two kinds. Hachiya persimmons have the pointed bottom, and get nice and squishy when they are ripe. These are used for baking. Fuyu (pictured above), are rounder and squatter, stay hard, and are eaten like an apple. They are great in salads.
Try a persimmon this year. They are a healthy, spicy, delicious fruit and only about 30 calories each!

Here is the step-by-step:

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Put 1 1/2 teaspoons of black pepper corns in a skillet on medium heat. Cook for 3-4 minutes until they begin to smoke and pop. Remove from heat, and let cool. When they are cool, crush them with a mortar and pestle, (or put them in a ziplock bag and crush them with a meat mallet).

Transfer pepper to a small saucepan. Add one cup of water, 3/4 c. sugar, and a scant 1/4 t. salt. Bring to a boil, stirring until sugar dissolves. Boil until reduced to 1 cup (4-5 min.)

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Strain pepper syrup into a large bowl. It will be a lovely dark amber color. Set aside.

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Cut, seed and scoop the pulp from 8 large ripe Hachiya persimmons into a blender. Puree persimmons, and strain to get approximately 2 cups. Add persimmon puree, and one cup of cream to pepper syrup and chill mixture. After tasting the mixture, I also added some cinnamon.

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Well, you know how it goes. You make ice cream, then you feel like baking something to go with it. I still had more persimmons!

I found this recipe for Hachiya Persimmon Cake on Rachel's Fresh Approach Cooking blog.

4 to 6 very ripe, hachiya persimmons, yielding 1 1/4 cup pureed pulp
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon baking powder
2 cups unsifted flour
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp each fresh nutmeg and ground cloves
3/4 cup butter
½ cup white sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 egg
½ cup buttermilk
1 tsp orange zest

Preheat oven to 350F.

Puree persimmon pulp until smooth.

Sift together the flour, baking soda, baking powder, nutmeg, cloves and cinnamon.

In an large bowl, using a hand mixer, beat butter and sugar until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add the egg and combine well. Add the persimmon puree. Add half the flour and just combine. Add the buttermilk and persimmon puree and just combine. Add the remaining flour and stir until it just comes together, then stir in the orange zest.

Spoon into a 9 inch cake pan that has been greased with butter. Bake for 40 minutes, or more until knife comes out clean. Allow to cool in the pan for 10 minutes, then invert onto a platter to cool completely.

Before serving, dust lightly with powdered sugar.

This is also great served with a crème anglaise sauce or whipped cream with rum.


I used my mini-bundt pan, and cooked the cakes for about 16 minutes. They are light, moist, and the kitchen smelled delicious. When they were cool, I glazed them with a rum-butter glaze (1/2 stick butter, a big glug of rum, and enough powdered sugar to get the right consistency (about a 3/4 cup).

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The recipe made 18 mini bundt cakes. We had two with ice cream, and the rest are in my freezer for holiday guests.

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November 21, 2008

Pie for Dinner?

I spend lots of time looking through the King Arthur Flour catalog, and also on their
website. I placed an order for some baking supplies the other day, and browsed through their recipes. This is a brunch dish, but I thought it sounded great for dinner!

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The recipe is straight forward. Make dough for crust and topping. Chill. Roll out crust and blind bake. Peel and slice apples. While apples are cooking , you can also brown the sausage. Assemble, bake, and eat warm! With a salad, it made an interesting dinner.

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When I make it again (next time for breakfast for my holiday company), I will tweak the recipe. Though I didn't use all the liquid from the apples, I would use even less. It was a little too "juicy". I would also decrease the butter and apples by half, use a whole pound of sausage and 2 cups of cheese to keep the sausage-cheese-apple balance a little more even.

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It is really a delicious flavor combination, and the flour, brown sugar, cinnamon, butter topping is so good with the sausage and cheese!

December 12, 2008

Gingerbread Cheesecake

I made Martha's Gingerbread Cheesecake for my book club.

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First make Gingerbread Cookies. This is the Fanny Farmer recipe:

1 cup butter
1 c. sugar
1 egg
1 c. molasses
2 T. vinegar
5 c. flour
1 1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
2 1/2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp cinnamon
1 tsp ground cloves

Cream together butter and sugar. Stir in egg and liquids and beat well. Add flour and spices. Wrap and chill for at least 3 hours. Roll to 1/4" thickness. Cut with cookie cutters and place on a greased cookie sheet. Bake at 350 for 6 min. Let cool for 2-3 minutes before transferring to cooling rack.

The Gingerbread Cheesecake is a Martha Stewart recipe.
Smash cookies in a food processor to make 2 cups of crumbs. (about 1/4 of above recipe). in a bowl, combine 2 c. cookie crumbs, 1/4 c. sugar, and 1/2 stick melted unsalted butter. Wrap outside of a 9 in springform pan with 2 layers of foil. Press crumb mixture into bottom and up half of sides of pan. Bake at 375 for 10 min. /let crust cool, and reduce oven temp to 325.

Cheesecake filling:

2 pounds cream cheese
1 1/2 c. sugar
1t. vanilla
4 large eggs
1/4 c. molasses
1/4 t. salt
1 1/2 t. ground ginger
1 t. ground cinnamon
1 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. ground cloves
1/2 t. lemon zest
6 gingerbread men for garnish

Beat cream cheese with a mixer on medium speed until fluffy, about 3 minutes. Beat in 1 1/2 cups sugar and the vanilla, scraping down sides of bowl as needed. Reduce speed to low. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating well after each addition and scraping sides of bowl as needed. Beat in molasses, salt, spices, and lemon zest. Pour filling into cooled crust.

Place cheesecake in a large, shallow roasting pan. Transfer to oven, and carefully add enough hot water to roasting pan to come about halfway up sides of springform pan. Bake until cheesecake is set but still slightly wobbly in center, 65 to 75 minutes. Carefully remove springform pan from roasting pan, and let cool on a wire rack. Refrigerate, uncovered, for at least 8 hours (preferably overnight).
Before serving, run a hot knife around edges of cheesecake to loosen, and remove sides of pan. Arrange gingerbread cookies in center of cake in a circle

Brad got the last piece!

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December 18, 2008

Beef Stew

It poured down rain all day yesterday. I was released from jury duty selection, and asked to return tomorrow (today) at 9:30 AM. I returned home, made this hearty beef stew which filled my kitchen with wonderful scents of beef, onions, red wine, thyme and bay leaves. There is a generous addition of balsamic, and a nice balance of veggies. This one pot meal cooks for over three hours in the oven. The recipe is in this month's Gourmet Magazine.

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Beef Stew with Potatoes and Carrots
Gourmet | December 2008

by Maggie Ruggiero
This full-bodied stew will bring the crowd running when you lift the lid. First, pieces of chuck are browned to develop their flavor, then they’re braised in a red-wine beef broth. Adding the potatoes and carrots toward the end of cooking keeps their character and color bright.
Yield: Makes 12 servings
Active Time: 1 1/4 hr
Total Time: 4 1/2 hr

For braised beef:
5 pounds boneless beef chuck (not lean), cut into 2-inch pieces
3 tablespoons olive oil
3 carrots, quartered
3 celery ribs, quartered
2 medium onions, quartered
1 head garlic, halved crosswise
3 tablespoons tomato paste
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
1 (750-ml) bottle dry red wine (about 3 3/4 cups)
2 Turkish bay leaves or 1 California
2 thyme sprigs
3 cups reduced-sodium beef broth
3 cups water

For potatoes and carrots:
2 1/2 pounds small white boiling potatoes
1 1/2 pounds carrots

Equipment: a wide 6-to 8-quart heavy pot with a tight-fitting lid

Accompaniment: crusty bread

Braise beef:
Preheat oven to 350°F with rack in middle.
Pat beef dry and season with 2 1/2 teaspoons salt and 1 teaspoon pepper.
Heat oil in pot over medium-high heat until it shimmers, then brown meat, without crowding, in 3 batches, turning, about 8 minutes per batch. Transfer to a platter.
Reduce heat to medium, then add carrots, celery, onions, and garlic and cook, stirring occasionally, until well browned, about 12 minutes.
Push vegetables to one side of pot. Add tomato paste to cleared area and cook paste, stirring, 2 minutes, then stir into vegetables.
Add vinegar and cook, stirring, 2 minutes.
Stir in wine, bay leaves, and thyme and boil until wine is reduced by about two thirds, 10 to 12 minutes.
Add broth to pot along with water, beef, and any juices from platter and bring to a simmer. Cover and braise in oven until meat is very tender, about 2 1/2 hours.
Set a large colander in a large bowl. Pour stew into colander. Return pieces of meat to pot, then discard remaining solids. Let cooking liquid stand 10 minutes.

Cook potatoes and carrots:
While beef braises, peel potatoes and cut into 1/2-inch-wide wedges. Slice carrots diagonally (1-inch).
Add potatoes and carrots to stew (make sure they are submerged) and simmer, uncovered, stirring occasionally, until potatoes and carrots are tender, about 40 minutes.

Cooks’ note:
Stew improves in flavor if made at least 1 day ahead. Chill (covered once cool) up to 5 days. Reheat, covered, over medium heat or in a 350°F oven.

December 23, 2008

Pastitsio

On Sunday, I had less cooking to do. In the morning I assembled this recipe to bake for dinner. I used my own ragu (meat sauce) that I always keep in the freezer. We loved it with a salad, and dessert.

Pastitsio
3 cups of any meat sauce (or red sauce of your choice)
2 lb. ziti (or penne, or rigatoni, or mostacioli)
1 3/4 c. fresh breadcrumbs
1/4 c. grated parmigiano cheese
1 recipe Bechamel sauce

For Bechamel sauce:

7 T. unsalted butter
6 T. flour
7 c. whole milk
1/4 t. nutmeg
1 cup grated parmigiano cheese
1 t. salt
5 large egg yolks

Melt butter in a heavy pot over medium heat. Whisk in flour, whisking frequently. Cook until golden (5-6 minutes). Meanwhile, heat milk in another saucepan until just before boiling. Add hot milk to roux in a stream, whisking constantly until very smooth. Bring sauce to boil over medium heat, whisking, then cook for one minute. Remove from heat and stir in nutmeg, cheese and 1 t. salt.

Lightly beat egg yolks in a bowl. Gradually whisk in 2 cups of bechamel, then whisk yolk mixture into remaining bechamel in saucepan. Cover with a round of buttered wax paper.

Preheat oven to 375. Cook pasta until al dente. Drain and transfer to a large bowl. Toss with 1 c. bechamel sauce. Arrange 1/3 of pasta in bottom of a large baking dish (all facing the same direction).

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Spread with half of warm meat sauce. Arrange a second layer of pasta, and the remaining meat sauce.

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Top with third layer of pasta, and spread remaining bechamel sauce over top. Stir together bread crumbs and cheese, and sprinkle evenly over top. Bake until crumbs are golden, and sauce is bubbly, about 45-50 minutes.

*If making ahead of baking time, bring to room temp and bake 50 minutes, or 1 hour if still chilled from fridge.

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We all LOVED this. The bechamel with the cheese and egg yolks is delicious. This is much more fun than lasagna, and was delicious!!!

Dessert was Cheddar-crust apple pie and cinnamon ice cream.

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Here is our annual "bow picture" (we must wear all ribbons after opening gifts).

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And here is this year's Godmother Christmas shot with Casey and my WONDERFUL soon to be new Goddaughter, Sarah!

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December 24, 2008

Stained Glass Cookies

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2 1/2 c. flour
1/2 t. salt
2 sticks (1 c.) unsalted butter
3 oz. cream cheese
1 cup sugar
1 egg yolk
1 T. vanilla
2 rolls of assorted color lifesavers, crushed by color

Sift together flour and salt. In mixer, cream butter for 1 minute. Add cream cheese, and beat 2 min. Add sugar, and beat on medium-high for 3 min. Beat in egg yolk and vanilla until smooth.

Reduce speed to low, and add flour in three additions, scraping down sides of bowl.
Turn dough onto a floured surface. Form into two portions and wrap in plastic wrap. Chill dough for 3 hours or up to 3 days.

Preheat oven to 325. Line cookie sheets with parchment. Let refrigerated dough rest for 10 min. Roll out dough, and cut with cutters dipped in flour. Put cut cookies on parchment. Smash lifesavers, and spoon a tiny bit of crushed candy in cutout places of each cookie. Bake 10-14 minutes (I baked mine for 11 minutes). Wait a few minutes before removing cookies from cookie sheets. Decorate with icing, sprinkles or small candies.

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December 26, 2008

A Quiet Christmas Eve

We had a very quiet and restful Christmas Eve. Brad wrapped my gifts, as it was his first free moment, after weekend guests. At least he wasn't still out shopping! I napped, trying to get rid of my cold, and made dessert.

Brad picked up a pound of fresh crab and this guy:

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He swam around in the sink, a little stunned, but still kicking. Then he quietly passed away sometime before dinner. I guess that beats his fate of being plunged into boiling water!

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I made a simple pasta dish.(Can use lobster, shrimp or a combination)

Saute 3 cloves of chopped garlic and 2 scallions in butter. Add 1 c. chicken broth and 1 cup white wine. Reduce by half. Stir in lobster, just to heat. (If using shrimp, cook for 5 min. until pink.) Remove shellfish. Add 1 c. cream and cook for 1 minute. Remove from heat, and stir in cooked pasta. Top with lobster/shrimp, and chopped parsley.

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I made up a crab cake mixture, but decided to save it for the next day.

Dessert was our traditional cream cheese pie.

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December 28, 2008

Season's Eatings: Rosemary!

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Thank you to Katie, from Thyme for Cooking for organizing a group of food bloggers from all over the place, into Secret Santas sharing ingredients and recipes. Those who wanted to participate emailed her our names, addresses and blogs, and she matched us up with someone to send a local ingredient and recipe. Much to my surprise and delight, I got my friend, Jerry's name. The ingredient we sent, was supposed to be local, so Jerry got a package of dried dates from the desert. He blogged about it here.

Krista in Baltimore (whose link I am still looking for) sent me this lovely package, fresh from her garden:

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Krista suggested this recipe for Crisp Rosemary Flatbread from Gourmet, July 2008.

1 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon chopped rosemary plus 2 (6-inch) sprigs

1 teaspoon baking powder

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup water

1/3 cup olive oil plus more for brushing

Flaky sea salt such as Maldon

Preheat oven to 450°F with a heavy baking sheet on rack in middle.
Stir together flour, chopped rosemary, baking powder, and salt in a medium bowl. Make a well in center, then add water and oil and gradually stir into flour with a wooden spoon until a dough forms.

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Knead dough gently on a work surface 4 or 5 times.
Divide dough into 3 pieces and roll out 1 piece (keep remaining pieces covered with plastic wrap) on a sheet of parchment paper into a 10-inch round (shape can be rustic; dough should be thin).
Lightly brush top with additional oil and scatter small clusters of rosemary leaves on top, pressing in slightly. Sprinkle with sea salt.

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Slide round (still on parchment) onto preheated baking sheet and bake until pale golden and browned in spots, 8 to 10 minutes. Transfer flatbread (discard parchment) to a rack to cool, then make 2 more rounds (1 at a time) on fresh parchment (do not oil or salt until just before baking). Break into pieces.

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Flatbread can be made 2 days ahead and cooled completely, then kept in an airtight container at room temperature.

THANKS Krista and Katie!

January 2, 2009

Comforting Shredded Beef

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I bought a 3 pound top round roast, and was thumbing through my Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook. I decided to try this:

2 T. unsalted butter
3 T. olive oil
one bottom round or top round roast (3-4 lb.)
salt and freshly ground black pepper
1/2 c. cognac
2 c. beef stock
3 c. Chianti wine

Rub roast with salt and pepper. Heat butter and oil in a dutch oven or deep saucepan over medium-high heat. Brown roast on all sides (about 10 min.).

Pour cognac in pan, heat it and flame it with a match.

* Brad did this for me as I had gotten a nasty burn that morning baking another recipe, so I wasn't going to "play with fire" again that day. It hurt like hell just to wash my hands! He used a candle lighter, but be careful, and stand back, as the flames go pretty high!

Pour in beef stock and 1/2 c. of wine. Cover and simmer at least 3 hours. Every 30 minutes, add another 1/2 cup of wine.

Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Shred beef into small pieces, following the grain of the meat. Delicious for sandwiches!

January 5, 2009

Potato-crusted Onion Quiche

This was a weird combination of something like a quiche that I made up for dinner. For the crust, I used Emeril's recipe for a "Manly Quiche", and sort of made up the rest.

Crust:

3 cups frozen hash brown potatoes
1 T. melted butter
1/4 c. grated parmigiamo

Stir together and spread mixture into a 9 " glass pie plate. Bake 23-30 minutes at 425. Then reduce oven temperature to 400.

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Filling:

4 slices of cooked bacon
1 large onion, thinly sliced
pinch of sugar
1 c. cream
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
salt and pepper
1 c. gruyere cheese, grated
1/2 c. cheddar cheese, grated

Cook bacon, drain all but 1 T. of drippings. Add onion and pinch of sugar, and carmalize onion.

Whisk together cream, egg, egg yolk, salt and pepper.

Layer onion, then bacon, then cheeses over crust. Pour liquid mixture over top.

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Bake at 400 for about 25 minutes.

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January 6, 2009

Pistachio Chicken

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Pistachio Chicken
2 chicken breasts, each cut into 3-4 pieces
1/4 c. mayo
2 T. dijon mustard
1 T. honey
3/4 c. chopped pistachios
1/4 c. bread crumbs

Preheat oven to 350. Combine nuts and bread crumbs. Stir together mayo, mustard and honey. Dip chicken pieces into mixture, then into pistachio-crumb coating. Place in sprayed baking dish, and bake at 350 for 40 minutes.

January 9, 2009

Persimmon-Ginger Jam

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Nancy gave me a beautiful box of fresh, ripe persimmons. A couple months ago I made persimmon cakes and persimmon ice cream. I decided to make jam this time. After reading a few different recipes, I came up with my own:

Persimmon Ginger Jam

4 cups persimmon pulp
6 c. sugar
1 c. mango juice
1/2 c. finely chopped candied ginger
1 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. nutmeg
zest of one orange
1/3 cup lemon juice
1 envelope of liquid pectin

1. Sterilize a dozen half-pint canning jars and lids.

2. I put all of the persimmon pulp through a mesh strainer, except for two persimmons that were not as ripe of the rest. They were the consistency of ripe peaches, so I chopped them and added them to my puree, so there would be a few "chunks" of fruit in my jam.

3. Next I made a ginger syrup with 1 cup of the sugar, the mango juice, candied ginger, orange zest, ginger and nutmeg. I brought those to a boil in a large pot, and let it reduce for about 8 minutes on lower heat.

4. Add the persimmon puree, the other 5 c. of sugar and the lemon juice and bring to a boil. It will start to boil around the edges toward the center.

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5. It needs to get to a big rolling boil, and stay there for one minute.

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6. Remove from heat, and immediately stir in liquid pectin. Ladle into the warm, sterilized jars, put lids on and seal the rings tightly.

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7. Process the jars in kettle of boiling water for about 9-10 minutes.

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8.Carefully remove jars from water bath, cool and tighten rings.

I have 11 lovely jars of jam and Nancy gets the first one!

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January 12, 2009

Coniglio al Forno con Finoccio

Roasted Rabbit with Fennel
The Splendid Table: Recipes from Emilia-Romagna, the Heartland of Northern Italian Food by Lynn Rossetto Kasper

2 1/2-2 3/4 lb rabbit, cut into 8 pieces

Seasoning the Rabbit
1 large clove of garlic (I used 4)
1 1/2 inch sprig of rosemary (I used 4)
1/2 t. salt (I'm sure I used a t. of sea salt)
1/8 t. pepper (you got it)

Cooking the Rabbit
2 bulbs fennel cut into 1 1/2 " wedges (I used one huge one)
1 large onion, cut into 1 1/2 " wedges
3 oz. pancetta, minced
3 cloves of garlic, split
1 t. fennel seeds
1/2 c. coarsely chopped fennel leaves
4 T. extra virgin olive oil
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1/2 c. white wine

Pan Sauce
1/4 c. white wine
1/2 c. chicken stock

The rabbit tastes best when seasoned one day ahead. I blended the first four ingredients in the food processor with a drizzle of olive oil to make a paste. Rub on the rabbit pieces, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

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Two hours and 15 minutes before you would like to eat, preheat the oven to 350. use a roasting pan or baking dish large enough to hold the rabbit pieces and onions and fennel. Scatter fennel, onion, pancetta, garlic, and fennel seeds around and between the pieces, and put half the fennel leaves on top. Sprinkle with olive oil, salt and pepper. Roast 30 minutes.

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Add wine, and roast for another hour. Baste every 15 minutes with pan juices. If pan becomes too dry, add a little more wine or water. (Mine was nice and juicy.)

Raise the heat to 450. Cook 15 more minutes until rabbit becomes golden brown. Turn rabbit pieces, and roast another 15 minutes, basting once more. Veggies should be caramelized.

Transfer rabbit and vegetables to a heated platter and keep warm in the oven while you make a quick pan sauce. Set the roasting pan over two burners on high heat, and deglaze with the wine and stock. Scrape any brown pieces from pan and boil down liquid to about half. (Be careful of heat level if you are using a pyrex pan). Deglaze for 3-5 minutes. Scatter remaining fennel leaves over rabbit and serve sauce in gravy boat or bowl alongside rabbit.

I have wanted to cook a rabbit for years. We occasionally ate one when I was a child, and I have eaten coniglio countless times when in Italy. I have tasted several different variations in different regions of Italy. I recently found out that Bristol Farms has fresh rabbits on once a week. Brad and I stopped there, and he said, "I'll buy you a bunny to cook." I asked the butcher to cut it up for me, because i was slightly squeemish. There are dozens of bunnies in our neighborhood eating everyone's flowers. Not a day goes by that I don't see a rabbit on my front lawn. I am OK with the idea of eating the CONIGLIO raised for food. But I didn't want to be butchering a bunny in the kitchen with its cousins scampering across my patio. I figured, if the butcher cut it for me, it would look like chicken pieces, right?

They say timing is everything. The night we brought the CONIGLIO home from Bristol Farms, unfortunately there was a rather disgusting rabbit roadkill in front of the house next door. UGH! The scents of the roasted rabbit, caramelized onion and fennel and wine filled the kitchen. It was all worth it. FABULOUS.

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January 14, 2009

Lemon CreamTart

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The first recipe I tried from my new cookbook, Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson, was this one for "Lemon Cream Tarts".

Sweet Tart Dough
(This makes enough for 4 9" tart shells, or 12 4 " tartlet shells, so I halved it.)

1 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour

Using a mixer, combine butter, sugar, salt, and mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour all at once, and mix on low, just until incorporated. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 4 balls, and shape each ball into a flattened disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to make tart, place dough on a floured surface, and roll out to 1/8" thickness, and two inches larger than pan you are using. Fold dough, spread it into tart pan, pressing gently into place on bottom and sides of pan. Trim dough from top of pan with a knife, and chill dough in fridge or freezer for 15 minutes.

Any remaining dough can be frozen for future use.

For this recipe, tart was cooked completely. Preheat oven to 325.
Using a fork, prick tart shell every two inches. Bake for about 15 minutes, until shell is light golden color. Bake smaller shells about 5 minutes less. Cool on a wire rack.

*This dough is really easy to work with. This dough is used for all of the sweet tart fillings at the bakery, Tartine, in San Francisco. The recipe originally came from a bakery in the south of France.

Lemon Cream

1/2 cup plus 2 T. lemon juice
3 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
3/4 c. sugar
pinch of salt
1 cup unsalted butter

Simmer some water in bottom of a double boiler, or saucepan that a stainless steel bowl will fit inside the rim without touching the water. Combine lemon juice, whole eggs, yolk, sugar and salt in a stainless steel bowl or top of double boiler. Whisk ingredients constantly for 10-12 minutes until thickened and mixture coats a spoon.
When lemon curd mixture is done, remove from heat. Meanwhile, quickly cut butter into 1 T. pieces. Using either a regular blender, or an immersion blender, add pieces of butter to lemon mixture, blending after each addition of butter. The cream will be pale opaque yellow, and quite thick. Refrigerate in air tight container, or after chilling for a few minutes, spread into baked tart shell. I chilled my tart until serving.

Both the pastry and the filling were easy and delicious. KEEPERS! The lemon filling would be great in a trifle!

January 19, 2009

Whole Wheat Pizza

It was an experiment. We decided to try whole wheat pizza dough. I like whole wheat bread, so why not?

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I HATED it! Brad wasn't crazy about it either. I ate a piece, then forced down a second, since that was dinner.

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Usually if there is lots of cheese on almost anything, I will eat it. This was just mozzarella, portobellos and red chili flakes. It looked good. Brad took the rest for lunch, but we won't be doing THAT again.

January 20, 2009

Balsamic Pork and Leek-Corn Pudding

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Something a little different for dinner! We both really enjoyed both recipes. Easy, too!

For the pork chops, I browned 2 pork chops in a little olive oil. When they were half way cooked, I removed them from the skillet. I added 1/3 c. balsamic and 1 t. sugar, stirring until thick. I then returned the pork to the pan and let the chops finish cooking. Add a little water if glaze gets too think. Serve with the glaze on top.

Leek-Corn PuddingFrom Woman's Day:"Best Ideas for Christmas"
2008

2 T. butter
2 leeks, (white and light green parts only), chopped
4 large eggs
1/2 c. cream
3 T. cornstarch
2 T. sugar (I used one)
1 t. vanilla
1/2 t. salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/8 t. cayenne pepper
1 15 oz can of corn
1 15 oz can creamed corn
1/4 c. grated gruyere cheese (duh! I used a cup)

1. Heat oven to 350. Spray a 1 1/2 qt. baking dish with non-stick cooking spray.

2. Cut rinsed leeks in half lengthwise, then slice crosswise. Melt butter in a skillet.
Cook leeks for about 2 minutes. Set aside.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together all ingredients except 2 cans of corn and leeks.
Then fold in both types of corn and stir in cooked leeks.

4. Pour into prepared baking dish, top with cheese and bake, uncovered, for 45-50 minutes until cheese is just starting to brown. Let sit for 5 minutes before serving.

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January 21, 2009

Persimmon-Rum Pudding Cake

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This was my contribution to this month's book club. I really sort of made this up after reading lots of recipes for persimmon puddings and persimmon cakes. The cup of rum and ripe persimmons would have probably made any combination of ingredients work! The ginger syrup was my idea, and gave the cake another subtle layer of flavor. There is one tablespoon of oil, and no eggs in this. I might try cutting back on the sugar the next time I make it.

Persimmon-Rum Pudding Cake

1 c. raisins
3/4 c. dark rum

ginger syrup

2 c. flour
1 1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1/2 t. nutmeg
1/2 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground cloves

3 c. persimmon puree
2 c. sugar
2 T. lemon juice
zest of one lemon
3/4 c. milk
1 T. olive oil
1 t. vanilla

1. Soak raisins in rum.

2. Preheat oven to 325. Spray a bundt pan with cooking spray, or butter and lightly flour bundt pan.

3. Make ginger syrup: In small saucepan, combine 4 T. water, 1 t. ground ginger, and 2 T. sugar. Bring to a boil, stir, and remove from heat. Let cool.

4. Puree persimmon pulp, or put through a fine mesh strainer into a medium bowl.

5. In a large mixing bowl, sift together: flour, salt, baking soda, cloves, cinnamon and nutmeg.

6. Whisk together (into persimmon pulp): sugar, lemon juice, lemon zest, vanilla, oilive oil and ginger syrup.

7. Add persimmon mixture to flour mixture. Stir in milk and raisins in rum.

8. Pour into bundt pan and bake 1 hour and 20 min.

Rum glaze: Whisk together 4 T. melted butter, 1/4 c. rum, and 1 c. powdered sugar. Add more powdered sugar to reach drizzling consistency.

This was very moist and flavorful. It was a big hit at Book Club.

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January 22, 2009

Butterscotch Tart

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Remember that lemon tart? Here is what I did with my second disk of sweet tart dough.

Butterscotch Tart From A Whisk and a Spoon

3-4 T butter

1 1/4 cups light brown sugar

3 cups whole milk

2 eggs

7 T all-purpose flour

1/4 t salt

1 t vanilla extract
a splash of dark rum (optional)

fully baked crust or tartlette shells

Melt the butter in a 2-quart saucepan. Add the brown sugar and stir until reaches 220°F (will bubble up and look slightly browner). Add 2 cups of the milk and whisk to combine.

In a bowl, whisk the eggs, flour and salt to combine. Then whisk in the remaining cup of milk.

When the sugar/milk mixture is hot but not boiling, slowly stir in the egg mixture (I tempered my eggs with some hot liquid first). Treat this like a pastry cream, whisking constantly over medium-low heat until it just bubbles. Turn down the heat (very low) and cook one or two minutes longer. Take off the heat and beat in vanilla.

Strain through a fine sieve into a clean bowl, press plastic wrap directly on surface and cool to room temperature. Turn into baked, cooled crust. Smooth surface with on an offset. Press plastic wrap on surface and refrigerate until fully chilled, about three hours.

Top with lightly sweetened whipped cream (or rum whipped cream!).

*I garnished the top with a smashed Heath Bar.

January 28, 2009

Zucchini Tart and Stuffed Veal Scallops

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This is my same old asparagus tart, but with zucchini and a new square tart pan. (Brad bought me the pan a couple weeks ago to cheer me up!) I really liked how the veggie tart worked in this pan. I have made this with asparagus, zucchini, and once I added crumbled sausage. I'm sure you could add a little pancetta or bacon, and use any vegetable you wanted. I did not cook the baby zucchini first, and they were perfect.

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This makes 4 servings:
For the veal, I began with 4 large, thin slices of veal, and cut each scallop in half. Butter each slice with soft, room temp butter, as if you were going to make 4 sandwiches. Yes, I said BUTTER. Get over it. On four of the veal pieces, place a thin slice of gruyere, a thin slice of ham or prosciutto, and two sage leaves. Top with another piece of veal (butter side down). Now take the four "sandwiches", dredge them in flour, and refrigerate for at least an hour. (The butter will chill, and help keep the filling inside the sandwich.)

Heat oven to 350. (I cooked mine at 375 along with the tart.)
Remove chilled veal from fridge. Mix together 1/4 c. flour, 1/4 c. breadcrumbs, and a little parmesan cheese. Dip veal stacks into a beaten egg, then the crumb mixture.
Saute in a little olive oil or butter for 2-3 minutes per side, then place veal sandwiches in a greased baking dish, and bake in oven for 25 minutes. I cooked a few extra sage leaves along with the veal, and put them on top for garnish.

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February 3, 2009

Lemon-Filled Cookies

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I ordered these little molds from King Arthur Flour in December, after browsing through their recipes online. I thought they looked pretty and might be fun to make for some occasion. Slow Bowl seemed like the perfect opportunity.

Cookies
1 cup soft butter
1/2 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon lemon powder (from King Arthur)
1/8 teaspoon lemon oil (from King Arthur)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 cups Flour
1/2 cup Hi-maize® Natural Fiber, or 1/2 cup cornstarch

Beat the butter, sugar, lemon powder, lemon oil, salt, and vanilla until blended. Mix in the egg yolk, flour, and Hi-maize or cornstarch until well blended. Press 1/2 teaspoonful of dough into each lightly greased mold.

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Place molds on a baking sheet, and bake in a preheated 375°F oven for 10 to 12 minutes.

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Cool and remove cookies from molds. Just let them cool for about 10 minutes. the molds have a built-in "handle". Just grab it and lightly bang the edge of mold against your counter. The cookies will pop right out.

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They can cool completely on drying racks while you bake the next batch!

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Now make the filling/glaze:


1/4 cup melted butter
1 tablespoon lemon powder
1 1/2 cups confectioners' sugar
yellow food coloring (optional)

Beat together, and spread a little filling on the flat side of each cookie. Work quickly, as the icing thickens quickly. If this happens, just add a small splash of milk, and stir.
Press two cookies together to make a "sandwich".

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Let set completely before dipping each "lemon" into the remaining glaze to coat it completely. (I had to make a whole second batch of glaze, and thin it even more to "dip" the cookies.) Place on parchment paper to allow glaze to set.

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Arrange on a plate or in a basket with fresh lemon leaves for garnish.

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King Arthur also has a nutty cookie recipe for these molds with a chocolate filling. Then they look like little walnuts.

February 4, 2009

Caramel-Toffee Cheesecake

Caramel-Toffee Cheesecake from Better Homes and Gardens "Holiday Baking" 2008

1 1/2 c. crushed gingersnap cookies
2 T. sugar
1/4 c. butter, melted
5 8 oz. packages of cream cheese, softened
1 1/3 c. packed brown sugar
3 T. flour
5 eggs
2 egg yolks
Caramel topping
2 chocolate covered English toffee candy bars, crushed (Skor or Heath)

Preheat oven to 350. Lightly grease bottom of a 9 inch springform pan. Wrap a double layer of foil tightly around pan to form a watertight seal. For crust, combine cookie crumbs and 2 T of sugar. Stir in melted butter, and press into bottom of foil-wrapped pan. Bake about 14 minutes. Cool.

In a large bowl, beat cream cheese with electric mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add brown sugar and flour, beating until smooth. Add eggs and egg yolks, one at a time, beating after each addition, just until combined. Beat in vanilla. Pour over crust.
Place foil-wrapped springform pan in a roasting pan. Pour enough hot water into roasting pan to reach halfway up sides of springform pan.

Bake about 1 hour and 15 minutes. (I baked mine 70 min.) until edges appear set, and center appears nearly set when gently giggled. Carefully remove springform pan from water. (I drained most of the water first.) Cool cheesecake on wire rack for 15 minutes. Using a sharp knife, loosen edge of cheesecake from sides of pan. Cool completely for 1 3/4 hour. Remove foil, cover and chill overnight.

Top with caramel topping and chopped English toffee.

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February 10, 2009

Mandolina Wine and Orchetti con Broccoli e Salsicce

Our favorite find in Solvang was the tasting room for Mandolina wines, a division of Lucas & Lewellen Vineyards. The tasting room itself is a wonderful shop full of Italian gourmet food products, cookbooks, gifts, art, ceramics and wine-related items. The wines are Italian varietals including Barbera, Pinot Grigio, Sangiovese, Nebbiolo, Moscato, and a "Super-Tuscan". We are even considering joining their wine club.

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We had each sampled Mandolina wine with our dinner at Cafe Angelica. I enjoyed the Pinot Grigio, and Brad liked his Barbera. We bought a bottle of each to add to our Slow Bowl offerings. All cookbooks were 50% off, so I couldn't resist this one.

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With the money I saved on the cookbook, I also brought home this "Cucina" sign for my kitchen.

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The first recipe I tried from the cookbook was a real keeper! OMG, it is a perfect rustic pasta dish. Use the best olive oil and imported pasta you can find in this one!
I used Umbrian oil and this imported pasta called "Casarecce" from Costco.

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1 bunch tender broccoli
3 T. extra virgin olive oil (plus another T. for drizzling)
3 garlic cloves, peeled and minced
1/2 lb. sweet Italian sausage (I used hot)
1/2 c. water (I used white wine)
salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
1 pound imported orchiette (I used Casarecce)
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese (I used aged Parmigiano-Reggiano)

Trim and clean the broccoli, and cut into quarters. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil, and blanch broccoli for about two minutes, until tender, but still crisp. Drain and chop broccoli medium fine. Combine the garlic and olive oil in a large skillet. Cook over low heat for several minutes, until garlic releases aroma. Remove sausage from casings, and crumble into skillet with the garlic and oil. Cook until sausage looses its raw color. Add broccoli and toss. Add water/wine, salt, and pepper to taste.
Cook until broccoli begins to breaks down, and sausage is thoroughly cooked, pressing with back of wooden spoon.

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Meanwhile, cook pasta in salted water until al dente. Drain pasta, drizzle with additional olive oil, and toss. Add broccoli-sausage mixture and grated cheese. Toss until cheese is integrated into the sauce. Oh it is SOOOOOOO good!

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February 11, 2009

Aebleskivers

It's time to finish up my posts on Solvang, but what would a trip to Solvang be without a breakfast of Aebleskivers? Of COURSE we had an aebleskiver breakfast before we left for our drive home.

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Aebleskivers are traditional Danish pancakes that are round like a ball. They may be served with jam, syrup, powdered sugar, for breakfast, or even for dessert. They may be "stuffed" with fruit, jam, or cinnamon and sugar.

The Solvang Restaurant has a LARGE built-in pan that stays busy all day.

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Here's a fresh batch ready to go.

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I have fond memories of our college sorority house cook making aebleskivers occasionally for a special breakfast. I bought my mom a pan one year for Mother's Day, and still have the pan. I pull it out about once a year. I bought a bag of mix in Solvang. Just add milk and eggs, and heat the pan on your cooktop. Use a knitting needle or a wooden skewer to flip them in the pan.

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We used some of my mixed berry jam with some, and persimmon preserves with the other half.

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I think we're good now for another year!

February 16, 2009

Valentine's Dinner

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We had a wonderful meal on Valentine's Day evening, and we also had fun preparing it together. The menu was grilled veal chops, baked mashed potatoes with gruyere and sage, and baked fennel.

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Sage-Gruyere Baked Mashed Potatoes:

4 large potatoes
2 c. grated gruyere cheese
about 20 sage leaves
2 T. butter

Peel and cut potatoes. Boil until tender. Meanwhile, fry some sage leaves in butter til browned. Mash the potatoes with some butter and milk. Add salt and pepper, and stir in 1 1/2 c. grated gruyere. Place half in buttered baking dish. Add half the sage. Put remaining potatoes on top, and top with remaining 1/2 c. of cheese and the rest of the sage. Bake at 375 for 25 minutes.

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For the fennel, we used Lidia's recipe for "Finnocchi alla Parmigiana con Prosciutto".

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Brad and I work very well together in the kitchen. He is the perfect sous chef, as he follows directions, and does whatever I ask him to do. He loves his knives, and is happy to prep!

Veal: I marinated the chops in the morning with lots of rosemary, garlic, olive oil , sea salt and black pepper. Brad grilled them to a perfect medium rare.

Potatoes: Brad peeled and I cut and boiled the potatoes. I fried the sage, he grated cheese and mashed. I layered the potatoes.

Fennel: Brad is a great fennel cutter! I blanched them while he cut the prosciutto.

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Dessert? Of course! But this is my department. I made this on Friday, when Brad was flying home from Seattle. I usually make him something chocolate for Valentine's Day, but Brad requested something we would both eat - an ice cream pie. I made a chocolate cookie crust, and used Dryer's Butterfinger ice cream, combining two of our favorite flavor combinations: chocolate and caramel!

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It was quite a memorable feast! Back on the soup diet now!

February 18, 2009

Plans for May: A Grand FOODIE Event!

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Our birthdays are two days apart in May, and we have made amazing foodie plans for a special weekend. "Vegas Uncorked" is a 4 day food and wine event sponsored by Bon Appetit magazine.

We have three free nights at the Paris Las Vegas, so we will arrive on Thursday evening. Here is a description of the events we will be attending! (We are still considering a Thursday night chef's dinner at Guy Savoy's as well.)

Friday:

1:30-2:30 Culinary Workshop: A Passion for Pasta
Learn to prepare and cook fresh pastas with chef Carlos Buscaglia of FIAMMA at the FIAMMA Trottoria & Bar, MGM Grand
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3:00-4:00 Culinary Revelations: Sweet Classics Gone Contemporary
Bellagio pastry chefs Sarah Kosikowski (Michael Mina) and Robin Swenson (Olives) take a new look at traditional dessert recipes in this fun and informative live cooking demonstration. Each guest will get a taste of this sweet sensation.
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4:30-5:30 Wine Immersion Experience: Bellagio's Tuscan Kitchen
Immerse yourself in the world of wine with Bellagio director of wine and master sommelier Jason Smith.
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7:00-10:00 GRAND TASTING: Poolside at Caesars Palace
Savor signature dishes and wines from 75 of Las Vegas' top chefs and vintners.

Saturday:

3:00-4:00 and 4:30-5:30 Rising Star Culinary Pro-Am Session 1 and 2
Watch as rising star chefs take on the pros in this spirited and high-profile cooking competition. Cat Cora, Bon Appetit's executive chef, will emcee and make sure that you don't miss one dice or chop on the cutting board.
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Sunday:

11:30-1:30 Mother's Day Brunch at Craftsteak

Join award winning chef and "Top Chef" host and judge Tom Colicchio at the MGM Grand. You will receive a signed copy of his cookbook, Craft of Cooking.
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OMG, I can't wait!

February 20, 2009

Apple-Blueberry Turnovers

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Recipe from Baked From the Heart, by Stephanie Greenleigh, Kathryn Kleinman, and Jennifer Barry

Pastry:

1 c. unsalted butter, chilled and cut into 1" pieces
2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
1/2 c. ice water

Filling:

6 Granny Smith or pippin apples
3 T. sugar (more if you want filling sweet)
2 T. unsalted butter
1 T. Calvados or applejack
1 c. blueberries, rinsed and drained
1 large egg, room temp, slightly beaten
1 T. milk
1/4 c. apple jelly, stirred (I omitted this)

In food processor with the metal blade, pulse butter, flour and salt until pea-sized pieces form. Slowly pour water through feed tube, and pulse until dough comes together to form a loose ball. Flatten ball into a disk, and chill about an hour.

Meanwhile, make filling. Peel, core and coarsley chop apples. Cook apples, sugar and butter in a saucepan over low heat until just tender, about 12-15 min. Remove from heat and cool mixture. Stir in blueberries and Calvados and set aside.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. On a lightly floured surface, roll dough to a 1/8 " thickness. Cut 8 six inch circles, and transfer them to the baking sheet. Spoon 1/3 cup filling into center of each round of dough.

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Fold the rounds in half, and gently press edges together. Mix together egg and milk, and brush tops of turnovers. Chill 10 minutes. Heat oven to 400.

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Bake turnovers 10 minutes. Reduce heat to 350, and continue to bake turnovers until lightly browned, 20-30 minutes more. Remove turnovers from oven and brush with apple jelly. Transfer to a wire rack and let them cool slightly. Makes 8-9 turnovers.

February 23, 2009

Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze

I had heard about a fabulous recipe for shortribs, and decided to try Molly Stephens' Short Ribs Braised in Porter Ale with Maple-Rosemary Glaze. The first challenge was to find fresh horseradish for the glaze. Bristol Farms came through. The recipe calls for "prepared horseradish", but Brad wanted to grate some fresh stuff.

The recipe has several steps. It looks more time consuming than it actually is, and much of it can be done ahead. First you trim and salt the short ribs.

Next you brown the short ribs in oil, then create the braising liquid of onions, carrot, Porter Ale (a dark rich beer), and stock.

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You drain any fat, add rosemary and bay leaves, and return the ribs to the dutch oven.

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They are ready to cook in the oven for 2 1/2 hours.

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You will remove the short ribs from the liquid, reduce it, and be ready to make glaze.

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At this point, the short ribs would already be delicious, but now you make a wonderful glaze with maple syrup infused with rosemary.

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Then stir in some horseradish. We used about 1 teaspoon grated, as it is very powerful in this form.

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The glaze goes on the short ribs, and they go under the broiler. We served ours over creamy polenta. OMG, these were the BEST short ribs I have ever tasted!

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February 24, 2009

Lemon-Buttermilk Pudding Cake

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This simple recipe is a combination of a light lemon cake with a delightful creamy layer of lemony bliss pudding at the bottom! Baked in a souffle dish, the layers magically separate, and the result is an amazing dessert. Eat it slightly warm, and enjoy the lovely lemony tang.

Lemon Buttermilk Pudding Cake, from Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson

1 c. sugar
1/3 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
4 large eggs, separated
*1 1/2 c. full fat buttermilk ( I used 2%)
zest of two large lemons
1/2 c. fresh lemon juice

Preheat oven to 325. Butter a 2 quart souffle dish, and fill a roasting pan (for water bath) with enough water to go 1/2-3/4 way up side of souffle dish. Heat the roasting pan with water in the oven as it preheats. (OR use 8 1/2 cup ramekins)

In a mixing bowl, whisk together sugar, flour and salt. In another mixing bowl, whisk together egg yolks, buttermilk, lemon zest and lemon juice until blended. Make a well in the flour mixture, and pour egg yolk mixture into center. Whisk mixtures together until smooth. Meanwhile, beat egg whites with whisk attachment of mixer until peaks form. Carefully fold in 1/3 of egg whites into lemon mixture, and stir to lighten mixture. Then fold in remaining egg whites, being careful not to deflate the batter.
Transfer to souffle dish or ramekins.

Pull out oven rack with roasting pan and hot water. Carefully place souffle dish in center. Add water if necessary to go 3/4 way up side of souffle dish. Bake until golden on top, rotating once during baking, about 40 minutes (I needed 45). Carefully remove water bath from over, and take out souffle dish. Let sit for a few minutes on a wire rack and serve warm or at room temp. Keeps up to 3 days in fridge. Rewarm in a 300 degree oven for 20 minutes when serving again.

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February 25, 2009

Palma's Chicken Pie

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I read the recipe "Moroccan Style Chicken Pie" in this month's Bon Apetit magazine, and thought, "That really sounds good. Let's have that for dinner." I defrosted some chicken breasts and read the recipe again.

It sounded like a fabulous recipe, but I decided to make a spin-off with my own familiar flavors. I deleted and changed so much, that, it would be easier to just write my recipe than to tell you what I did differently. Basically, I deleted the cinnamon, ginger, tumeric, saffron, golden raisins, cilantro in the filling, and used pancetta, fresh sage, caramelized red onions, white wine and gruyere inside the pie, and substituted parmigiano and some nutmeg for the cinnamon and powdered sugar in the phyllo crust. My process was the same as the original recipe.

Filling:
2 T. olive oil
1 red onion, sliced and caramelized in oil and 1 t. sugar
3 oz. chopped pancetta
4 chicken breasts
4 large sage leaves, chopped
2 T. Italian parsley, chopped
2 c. low-salt chicken broth
1/2 c. Pinot Grigio (or any dry white wine)
1 1/2 c. grated gruyere

Phyllo Crust:
1/2 c. ground almonds
1/4 t. sea salt
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/2 c. parmigiano
6 T. melted butter

Thaw 1 roll of phyllo dough for 2 hours at room temp.

Heat oil in skillet over medium heat. Add red onion and sugar, and saute until caramelized (10-15 min.) When onions are starting to caramelize, add chopped pancetta, and stir. Sprinkle flour over. Add broth, and bring to a simmer. Sprinkle chicken breasts with salt and pepper, and add to pan. Cook chicken for 10 minutes on each side. Remove from heat, and let chicken cool enough to handle. Chop/shred chicken, and return meat to pan. Add wine, parsley and sage. Heat until sauce is thick, and chicken is coated.

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Cool filling completely, or make ahead, cover and chill.

Crust:
Combine almonds, salt and nutmeg. Have parmigiano in another small bowl. Unroll phyllo sheets, six at a time, and prepare for pie dish, by cutting into half round shapes the size of your pie pan. My pie pan was larger than the width of the phyllo, so I used 2 sheets (2 half-rounds), for each layer. (It would be much faster to use a square 9x9) pyrex, and then you would only need to trim the phyllo to a square, and could use scraps to make the next layer.)

Melt butter. Using a pastry brush, butter pie pan. Place first layer of phyllo in dish. Brush with butter, sprinkle with a scant teaspoon of nut mixture, and another of parmigiano. Repeat 4 more times.

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Put half of chicken filling into pie, spreading evenly. Top with 3/4 c. of gruyere.

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The original recipe had phyllo layers on the bottom and on the top. I decided to have a center layer as well. For the center layer of phyllo, I used three layers of phyllo dough. Repeat the melted butter part with the nuts and parm. Mound remaining chicken filling in pie. Top with remaining 3/4 c. gruyere. 5 more layers of phyllo, butter, nuts and parm and you are done! Cut 4 large slits in top of pie for steam to escape. Can be made 6 hours ahead.Cover and chill. Bake at 375 for about 40 minutes. Let sit for 10 minutes before serving.

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This was a delicious dinner with a crisp green salad with lettuce, arugula and blood oranges with a citrus vinaigrette.

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February 26, 2009

Buttermilk Panna Cotta with Caramelized Blood Oranges

Tis the season... for blood oranges!

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We've been eating these in salads, but I thought I'd try something new. I took a cup of water, a cup of sugar, and brought it to a boil until the sugar was dissolved. I caramelized two oranges, sliced, to make a pretty pink syrup, and sweeten the orange slices.

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Then I made a panna cotta with low fat buttermilk, and the orange syrup and slices were the perfect complement.

Panna Cotta (from www.Epicurious.com)

2 tablespoons water
2 teaspoons unflavored gelatin
(*I used one ENVELOPE of gelatin and 3 T. water)

1 cup whipping cream
7 tablespoons sugar

2 cups reduced fat buttermilk (2%)
3/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

Pour 2 tablespoons water into small custard cup; sprinkle unflavored gelatin over. Let stand until gelatin softens, approximately 10 minutes.

Combine whipping cream and sugar in heavy medium saucepan. Stir over medium heat until sugar dissolves and mixture is hot but not boiling. Remove from heat; add gelatin mixture and stir until gelatin is completely dissolved and mixture is smooth. Cool mixture to room temperature, about 45 minutes.

Stir buttermik and vanilla extract into cream mixture. Pour mixture through fine strainer into 4-cup measuring cup. Divide mixture among six 3/4-cup custard cups or ramekins. Refrigerate until panna cotta is set, at least 6 hours and up to 1 day.

Run thin sharp knife around sides of each panna cotta to loosen. One at a time, place bottom of each custard cup in 1 inch of hot water 30 to 45 seconds; immediately invert custard cup onto plate. Using both hands, firmly grasp custard cup and plate together, shaking gently and allowing panna cotta to settle onto plate.

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February 27, 2009

Olive Oil

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There was recently a thread on Slow Talk about "How many kinds of mustard are in your fridge?" I have two: yellow and dijon. That's it. I guess I am not into mustard. I put the yellow stuff in egg salad, or once a year on a hot dog. I use the dijon for cooking or in salad dressings, never on a sandwich! Ok, enough about mustard...but it made me think, "How many kinds of olive oil do I have?" I AM into olive oil! I decided to take an inventory.

There is the GOOD oil. This is for savoring, drizzling, or enhancing. The BEST I have had is from Le Case Gialle in Umbria. I only have two bottles left. Also pictured is the "Olio Nuovo" from Pasolivo, and a bottle from Banfi vineyards in Tuscany. I really love olive oil from Puglia, but haven't found any in a while.

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Can you tell the beautiful GREEN color?

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Then there is the FLAVORED oil I use for cooking, or baking. Lime, mandarin, basil, garlic and lemon oils are shown here.

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Then we have the CHEAP STUFF from Costco. This is this year's Toscano oil in the GLASS bottles. Costco only has it once a year, and when it is gone, it is GONE. This is fine for frying and recipes where it won't make much of a difference.

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I guess I have enough olive oil. !2 bottles should hold me until next fall. I better not buy any more. But I can still paint it!

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March 2, 2009

Book Club and a Lime Curd Cream Cheese Tart

Last month one of my book clubs read Change of Heart by Jodi Picoult.

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Synopsis: From Jodi Picoult

Shay Bourne - New Hampshire’s first death row prisoner in 69 years – has only one last request: to donate his heart post-execution to the sister of his victim, who is looking for a transplant. Bourne says it’s the only way he can redeem himself…but with lethal injection as his form of execution, this is medically impossible. Enter Father Michael Wright, a young local priest. Called in as Shay’s spiritual advisor, he knows redemption has nothing to do with organ donation – and plans to convince Bourne. But then Bourne begins to perform miracles at the prison that are witnessed by officers, fellow inmates, and even Father Michael – and the media begins to call him a messiah. Could an unkempt, bipolar, convicted murderer be a savior? It seems highly unlikely, to the priest. Until he realizes that the things Shay says may not come from the Bible…but are, verbatim, from a gospel that the early Christian church rejected two thousand years ago…and that is still considered heresy.

Change Of Heart looks at the nature of organized religion and belief, and takes the reader behind the closely drawn curtains of America’s death penalty. Featuring the return of Ian Fletcher from Keeping Faith, it also asks whether religion and politics truly are separate in this country, or inextricably tangled. Does religion make us more tolerant, or less? Do we believe what we do because it’s right? Or because it’s too frightening to admit that we may not have the answers?

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I had limes on my tree that needed to get used up, so what could I do, but make some lime curd? Then I had lime curd, so I made a lime curd-cream cheese tart.

I made this half recipe for Sweet Tart Dough from Tartine, by Elisabeth M. Prueitt and Chad Robertson

1 cup plus 2 T unsalted butter, room temperature
1 cup sugar
1/4 t. salt
2 large eggs at room temperature
3 1/2 cups flour

Using a mixer, combine butter, sugar, salt, and mix on medium speed until smooth. Mix in eggs, one at a time. Scrape down sides of bowl. Add flour all at once, and mix on low, just until incorporated. On a lightly floured surface, divide dough into 4 balls, and shape each ball into a flattened disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and chill at least 2 hours or overnight.

When ready to make tart, place dough on a floured surface, and roll out to 1/8" thickness, and two inches larger than pan you are using. Fold dough, spread it into tart pan, pressing gently into place on bottom and sides of pan. Trim dough from top of pan with a knife, and chill dough in fridge or freezer for 15 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325. Using a fork, prick tart shell every two inches. Bake for about 15-20 minutes, until shell is light golden color. Cool on a wire rack.

Cream Cheese Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese (room temp)
1/2 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla

Lime Curd:

1 stick butter
6 large eggs
½ cup sugar
1 cup freshly squeezed lime juice (I used 4 limes)
zest from 2 limes

Place the butter in a medium sauce pan and melt over a low heat. In a mixing bowl, whisk together the eggs with the sugar and lime juice until frothy. Add lime zest.
Pour into melted butter and whisk over a medium-low heat until it thickens and coats a spoon.

Curd keeps in fridge for a week.

Spread cream cheese mixture over cooled tart shell. Top with lime curd.

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March 4, 2009

Berries All Day

We had an over abundance of luscious blackberries over the weekend. We started and ended the day with them with some soup in-between the berry meals!

Breakfast was berry bread French toast with some homemade berry jam and fresh berries.

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Remember that buttermilk panna cotta with the blood oranges? There were two left that were great with berry sauce and the last of the berries!

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Berry Sauce:

3/4 c. berries
1/2 c. water
3 T sugar

Heat ingredients over medium-high heat. Cook for 10-12 minutes.
Puree and strain. Cool.

March 5, 2009

Favorite Kitchen Tools

What can you not live without in YOUR kitchen? (OK, we could probably live without a lot of conveniences, and I don't mean anything BIG, like your oven or fridge!) But what are your favorite kitchen tools or gadgets?

Of my appliences, I most love my Kitchen Aid mixer...but could use a hand mixer if I had to. (or even a whisk, I guess.) I don't know how I did without one of these! We have spent many happy hours together! It sometimes gets used three times in a day!

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What do I love, and use a lot? My 1980s Cuisinart food processor. Yes, this comes out of the pantry at least once a week. This baby has been though many years with me, grated a gazillion pounds of cheese, and made lots of dough! I hope this doesn't hurt feelings of the blender, ice cream maker, or panini grill! I do not own a crock pot!

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Let's get down to smaller items that make cooking more fun and convenient. Of course we must have knives! Brad has his, and I have mine. He takes care of sharpening, but I often let the butcher at Bristol Farms sharpen mine for free.

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My three favorite "convenience items" are:

1.My egg separator (so quick, with no mess). Of course I can separate eggs using just their shell, but why?

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2. My handy dandy battery powered sifter (just push the button, and what sounds like a phone on vibrate will zap those dry baking ingredients through in 2 seconds!) I'd like to think a woman thought of this!

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3. My microplane grater/zester is something else I don't know how I lived without for years. It gets quite a workout with citrus.

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Just for fun? My spatulas match the season or my mood:

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and how fun is it to whisk with these?

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What is YOUR favorite kitchen tool or gadget?


March 6, 2009

Pub Food: Welsh Rarebit

Tomorrow, Brad leaves for Middle Wallop, Stockbridge, Hampshire, UK. He will be there for five days to visit his company's plant, and meet with the HR exec. to revamp their pay structure. Never having visited England, the first thing we did is find it on a map.


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I know VERY little about English food, but I do remember as a child, my mom made a wonderful dish called Welsh Rarebit. I always thought it was called "Welsh Rabbit". It is a cheese sauce, usually containing some kind of beer, which is served over toasted bread. We used to have this occasionally on Friday nights when Catholics couldn't eat meat. This was a favorite. No fish sticks or tuna casseroles at our house. We had meatless pastas, crab cakes, grilled or baked fish or Welsh Rarebit!. After searching several recipes, I made up my own version, and we added bacon. Seems like something you could get at a pub in the UK.

1/4 c. butter
1/4 c. flour
1 tsp. salt
1 T dijon mustard
1 tsp. Worcestershire
3/4 c. milk
1 c. Porter Ale
1 lb. grated Cheddar cheese

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I have a relaxing few days planned. I will be painting, having dinner with a friend, enjoying the spring weather, and doing a jigsaw puzzle of Varenna. Exciting, huh?

March 8, 2009

Zuppa di Finnochio: Fennel Soup

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It is Sunday, but I am taking a break from the Sunday Slow Soupers, because Brad is not around to eat minestrone, and I made this soup this week already. I sort of made up this simple recipe, and it is a keeper!

1 T olive oil
3 oz. pancetta, chopped
5 fennel bulbs, chopped
1 onion, chopped
3 c. chicken broth
2 T. Sambucca
1/2 cup Half and half
salt and pepper

Cook pancetta, then remove meat from pot. Saute onion and fennel in pancetta drippings for 10-15 , until tender. Add chicken stock, salt and pepper, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 30 minutes. Remove from heat, add cooked pancetta, and blend with immersion blender. Stir in 1/2 and 1/2 and Sambucca.

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March 10, 2009

Tropical Fruit Salad and Papaya-Mango Bread

I fixed this plate in the morning, and ate off it all day! Pineapple, papaya, mango, banana, kiwi, starfruit, and some mango yogurt. The papaya bread is a favorite from when I used to hang out in Maui during the summers.

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Papaya-Mango Bread with Coconut Rum Glaze

1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temp
1 cup firmly packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 t. vanilla
zest from 1 lime

1/2 ripe papaya
1 ripe mango

2 c. flour
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. baking powder
1 t. cinnamon
1/2 t. ground ginger
1/2 t. allspice
1/4 t. nutmeg
1/4 t. salt

1 c. diced dried papaya
1/2 c. chopped candied ginger
1 c. shredded coconut

Heat oven to 350. Spray a loaf pan with non-stick cooking spray. Stir together dry ingredients and set aside.

Puree mango and papaya in a food processor until very finely chopped.

Cream butter and sugar. Add eggs, vanilla, and lime zest. Add pureed mango and papaya. Beat in dry ingredients in three portions until evenly mixed. Stir in dried papaya, candied ginger, and coconut. Pour into loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes.

Coconut Rum Glaze

3 T. butter
4 T Coconut Rum
1 c. powdered sugar

Heat butter and rum in a small saucepan until butter is melted. Stir in powdered sugar until smooth. Add more rum if necessary for glaze consistency. Brush on warm cake with a pastry brush.

This bread/cake freezes well.

March 11, 2009

Food and Cooking Meme

I got this from Nancy, who got it from Amy.

What is your go-to ingredient?
Definitely pasta! So many easy ways to use it! Chicken is a close second.

What nationality of food do you like the best?
That is a no-brainer. We eat Italian 75% of the time.

What’s your favorite meal of the day to prepare?
Dinner, although we enjoy making breakfast on Sundays.

What is/are your signature dish? (What dish are you ‘known’ for?)
Just one? Gosh...I guess I am known for lasagnas (crab, pesto, artichoke) or fresh ravioli. I think it might actually be desserts! Cheesecakes, caramel cakes, lemon tiramisu, panna cottas.

What is your favorite comfort food?
Definitely Cheese&Mac! (2 lbs of cheddar, so the cheese is listed first!)

What cooking shows do you watch?
Top Chef, Chopped, Hell's Kitchen, No Reservations

Your top three favorite cookbooks are:
The Splendid Table, Silver Spoon, and Dolce Italiano

Your must-have kitchen accessory is:
My Kitchen Aid stand mixer!

Do you ever eat fast food? If so, what?
Maybe once or twice a year on a road trip, if I have to! Probably a Jack in the Box Chicken Club. Unless you count Starbucks...

Most memorable meal you’ve had while on vacation:
Agata and Romeo in Rome, I Caffi in Acqui Terme, and Cibreo in Florence.

What restaurant do you want to eat at that you haven’t yet?
Cafe Firenze in Moorepark, but I will next week!

What’s your favorite dessert?
A caramel sunday or a lemon tart.

What scent in the kitchen do you love?
Taralli baking, or pancetta cooking.

What ingredient(s) do you avoid/dislike?
Tomatoes (Except in a meat sauce), beans, cauliflower!

What’s your secret splurge at the grocery store?
Veal chops, sopresatta salami, good cheese!

What’s the most decadent dish you’ve ever had?
Decadent, huh? That sounds like dessert, and I usually don't have dessert out.
Probably something with a gorgonzola sauce!

What’s your favorite midnight snack?
I NEVER eat a late night snack. Maybe gelato in Italy!

March 12, 2009

Chicken-Apple Salad

I have been subsiding on salads and leftovers all week while Brad has been in England. He will be home tonight. Last night was my long day at work. I start at 9, have an afternoon break, but then do an evening Teen Anger Management Group, and get home a little after 8 PM. I had nothing planned for my dinner, so I began hunting the fridge and pantry to see what I could throw together.

I took a Granny Smith apple, a leftover grilled chicken thigh, some celery, red onion, a few raisins and candied pecans, and a tiny bit of grated cheddar. I ended up with this delicious salad. Dressing? Just a spoon of yogurt to hold it all together. There was enough left for my lunch today. YUM! (I have been eating my meals on salad plates. Makes less seem like more.)


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March 17, 2009

Bailey's Irish Cream Cupcakes

Happy St. Patrick's Day!

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These cupcakes have an extra treat inside, with a bite of Irish Cream filling, and are topped with Bailey's Cream Cheese Frosting. Here is what I did:

1. Bake 18 cupcakes using your favorite cake recipe, or a chocolate, white, or yellow cake mix. Try my Vanilla cupcake recipe if you like:

Vanilla Cupcakes 
 350 degree oven

3/4 cup (1-1/2 stick) unsalted butter, room temperature
1-2/3 cups vanilla sugar
2 large eggs, room temperature
2-2/3 cups flour
1-1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup + 2 tablespoons milk
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 vanilla bean, seeds scraped out

1. Beat butter until softened. Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes.
2. Add eggs, one at a time.
3. Measure the flour, baking powder, and salt into a medium bowl and whisk to combine.
4. Measure out the milk and vanilla and stir to combine.
5. Add about a third of the dry ingredients to the butter/sugar and beat to combine. Add about a half of the milk/vanilla and beat to combine. Continue adding, alternating between dry and wet and finishing with the dry.
6. Scoop batter into cupcake cups about 2/3’s full. Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake cupcakes for about 22-25 min. Makes 18-20 cupcakes.

While cupcakes are cooling, make Baileys Cream filling: (these are approximates, as I just threw stuff in a bowl until it tasted right!

4 oz. softened, unsalted butter (1/2 stick)
A nice splash of Baileys (maybe 4 T.)
enough powdered sugar to get a good consistency (about 1 1/2-2 cups)
Beat three ingredients together with a fork until smooth.

When cupcakes are cooled, use an apple corer, and press down into the center of the cupcake to remove a round section of cake. Do NOT pop it into your mouth, as we will replace these!

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Fill centers using a pastry bag with large tip, or, a ziplock with one corner cut off.

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Now replace those "lids".

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Baileys Cream Cheese Frosting:

4 oz (1/2 stick) softened unsalted butter
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
a nice splash of Baileys (3-4 T.)
enough powdered sugar for frosting consistency (about 3 cups)
Beat all butter and cream cheese until smooth. Add Baileys and powdered sugar, and beat. Chill for a few minutes before frosting cupcakes. Decorate with green sugar, or sprinkles. (Keep refrigerated until shortly before serving.)

Frosted Baileys Cupcake:

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I tried to get a photo of the center:

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Two glass cake plates, stacked, made a great centerpiece!

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March 18, 2009

St. Paddy's Dinner and Brownie Pops

Yesterday morning, I was reading blogs, and saw a couple great recipes for Irish Soda bread. I checked my fridge, and yes, I had just about a cup of leftover buttermilk. So I whipped up a loaf of Marcia's bread. YUM! That was a treat for lunch!

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Our dinner was simple. I had already cooked our annual corned beef on Tuesday, and it was marinating in BBQ sauce in the fridge. 30 minutes in foil on the BBQ and Brad sliced it for our corned beef panini with some broccoli slaw.

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Yesterday's cupcakes went to my interns, so I needed a little St. Paddy's dessert for Brad. I had seen these treats on the internet, and while wandering through Michael's craft store last week, saw a brownie pop silacon pan. Bake a brownie mix, pour in the mold (in three batches - 8 at a time), pop them out, put a stick in them, and dip, decorate as you'd like. End result is a brownie n a stick. I thought Brad might like some for St. Patrick's Day, since the cupcakes were going to my interns at work. Since I'm not a chocolate fan, I figured they wouldn't tempt me!

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The first batch went in, and stuck, as I followed the directions. Forget the directions, I then sprayed the mold first! The next two batches were easy as...brownies! I baked mine for 30 minutes per batch. They got better looking.

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When they were cool, I put in a stick, dipped them in some candy melts I had laying around since the holidays, and dipped them in colored sugar. Put them on a parchment lined baking sheet, and pop them into the fridge. Dessert on a stick, and just the right size!

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March 20, 2009

Tortino di Polenta con Verdure (Polenta Tart with Roasted Veggies)

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I've been wanting to make this for a while. I found the recipe in an Australian Italian magazine called Italianicious, Vol.4, Issue 3. (isn't that a great name?) It is a great way to use up leftover polenta. We had baked tilapia with creamy polenta the other night, and I made extra on purpose!

If you are making new polenta, simply take 1 cup of polenta (NOT instant), and mix it with 1 cup of chicken broth. Add this to 2 1/2 c. boiling water. Slowly add polenta and broth mixture to water, stirring, until it boils. Reduce heat to still keep a boil, and cook for 10-12 minutes, stirring occasionally.

Remove from heat, and stir in 1 T. butter and some parmesan cheese. Let cool slightly.

Take cooled polenta, and spread it in a tart pan. I used a 9" square, but any shape will do. Cover and refrigerate. (I made my polenta Friday night, and the tart on Sunday.)

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Grill or roast veggies of your choice. I used asparagus tips, a portabello mushroom, and some grape tomatoes.

Top polenta with 2 c. grated fontina cheese, and sprinkle on some parmigiano. Bake at 350 for 10 minutes, then broil for 5 until cheese starts to brown.

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Carefully remove bottom of tart pan, and transfer to a plate. Top with veggies, and serve. The polenta makes a wonderful cheesy crust for the veggies.

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We had ours with grilled Italian sausages. The rest made a great lunch!

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March 22, 2009

Fabulous Fabio at Cafe Firenze

Fabio Viviani won my heart during the first episode of this season's Top Chef. Each week, besides turning out some great looking Italian dishes (often underrated by the judges), Fabio showed more of his wit, personality, and delightful "Italianess". Every week, there was a memorable quote, endearing him to us, almost as if he were a friend. When it came down to the last four "cheftestants" in New Orleans, and Fabio left the show, I cried! He may have left before the finale, but he certainly didn't leave Palmabella's radar! There was no doubt he would be voted "Fan Favorite", even without my 20 votes!

Yes, I joined Facebook and became Fabio's "friend". He was kind enough to answer a direct inquiry about a possible Slow Travel GTG, thanking me for my support. I was happier than a pig in polenta! Then I learned he was hosting a "Fan Favorite Appreciation Party" at his Moorepark restaurant, Cafe Firenze. What is a three hour drive for a friend? I immediately made a reservation, booked a hotel, and invited friends to join us for dinner and the party!

Brad and I arrived early in the afternoon, and did a "drive-by", so we knew exactly where the restaurant was.

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We picked up Marcia and David, and arrived shortly after 7 PM for a glass of wine at the bar before dinner. Upon entering, we were transported to Florence, with gorgeous carved wood ceilings and crystal chandeliers from Italy. There were Tuscan colors, stone walls and arches, luscious velvet drapes, and arched windows. Large leather furniture outside the front doors offer a relaxing place to wait or sip your cocktail.

Immediately, the "Fabio sightings" began, as he walked through the crowded bar and dining rooms, stopping to greet regulars, and graciously say hello to friends. I was well-behaved, and kept my camera in my purse, sipping a Pinot Grigio from the terrific list of Italian wines and cocktails on the martini bar menu.

Krista and Steve arrived at 8PM and we were seated in the adjoining dining room. We met Jennifer, perhaps the best waitress in California, and our new best friend! We let her know we were there for the "long haul" (dinner and the party), and that we were planning on taking our time. She was lovely and entertaining, sharing a lot about Fabio's endless energy and dedication, his hard work, and the success of the restaurant. Jennifer spent three months in Italy visiting Fabio's family and friends. She even taught us how to cut the foil and attach the wine cork to the bottle.

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We were able to order course by course. We started by sharing two appetizers for the table: fried calamari and tempura zucchini, and bruschette with toppings of wild mushrooms, artichoke and cheese, and roasted zucchini and shrimp.

Fabio was busy in the kitchen, but Jennifer promised an introduction when the dinner rush was over.

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We moved on the the second course. For me, the true test of any Italian restaurant is the pasta. Brad and I each ordered a pasta dish while the rest of our table began with absolutely luscious looking salads.

Here is Krista's gorgeous caprese:

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Check for Marcia and David's selections soon, on Marcia's and Krista's blogs.

Brad had the evening's pasta special: caramelized onions, brussel sprouts and pancetta, tossed with fresh linguini. SPECTACULAR!

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I had Tortellacci di Zucca: exquisite pasta, a perfectly blended, slightly sweet butternut squash and ricotta filling in a light sage and cream butter sauce, with shaved parmesan and black pepper. It is a taste memory I will not forget. Oh I hope this is in the new Cafe Firenze cookbook coming out next month!

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It was now almost 10. They were still seating new groups for dinner. Fabio was again making rounds in the restaurant. Hoards of beautiful young woman flocked behind him. Families asked for photos, everyone wanted his time and attention. We were patient, and watched as he graciously gave each guest their personal attention. Finally, it was our turn! Jennifer spotted us, and was ready to introduce us, when an older couple just in front of me took FOREVER to pose him for a digital photo. Fabio was as patient as a saint. I walked up and said, "Che piacere". I handed him a bag of homemade taralli.

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Every muscle in his face relaxed, and he lit up like I had given him the keys to a new Ferrari. He said, "Oh my God! You do not KNOW how much I love taralli! You HAVE TO send me the recipe!" He said, "They will be gone in an hour!" Three cameras, captured the moment (Krista, Marcia, and Jennifer with mine!)

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Here, Fabio is talking to Krista about Edible Santa Barbara, her new magazine.

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Wow, a kiss, and a group shot to boot! What a gracious guy! We were happy campers, and after I invited Fabio to drop his mom off at "Casa Palmabella" for a visit, we returned to our table for the next course.

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For our entrees, Brad enjoyed the cioppino.

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I thought I would try the special pistachio crusted grouper, but it was so popular, they ran out, so I tried the homemade Italian salsiccia. YUM! Just spicy, just right!

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Steve's penne arrabbiata looked great.

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David's tagliata di filetto had me drooling.

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After dinner, we finished the second bottle of wine, and lingered over coffee of all types.

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Fabio's food exceeded all of our expectations. He has earned the respect of his fellow chefs and pleased customers! Will we return? You BET! Brad would like to eat his way through the pastas, and I think we may have to try, well, EVERYTHING on the menu. The food, the excellent service, and the bonus of a charming executive chef makes Cafe Firenze a winner!

It was ten minutes before midnight. I had brought three 8x10 color photos I printed of Fabio, hoping for autographs as party favors for the ladies. We forgot to bring a felt pen, so my patient "Brad'll Do It" husband, went off in search of a Sharpie. We wondered when he didn't come right back from the Albertsons in the same shopping center. It was closed, but he took the car and found a 24 hour Ralphs, returning with not one, but two Sharpies! We gave the three photos, a pen, and our names written on paper to Jennifer to see what she could do. She returned with our photos, and Fabio's interpretation of the message. He wrote ALL of our names on EACH photo. It was a perfect souvenir of our evening. Here are two of my favorite guys:

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Fabio thanked everyone for coming, and for supporting him. There was a Top Chef jacket tossed out to the crowd like a bridal bouquet. I HAD it, but a young man in front of me was stronger, and wrenched it out of my hand, giving it to his girlfriend. I was too polite to take him down! There will be a drawing on Monday for additional prizes, so check out the restaurant's website to see if I win!

It was truly a wonderful evening with friends. Fabio has a lot of new ventures coming up: new restaurants, new cookbooks, promotional tours for several products and his project http://kidshealthcafe.com. What a joy to see that he is as genuine and adorable as he appears to be on TV.

March 26, 2009

"Clean Out the Fridge" Wontons

What to have for dinner? I diced one pork chop into tiny pieces, and sauteed it in a little sesame oil.

Into the food processor went:
a handful of baby carrots
1 zucchini
half a portobello mushroom
1 green onion

I added the veggies to the cooked pork. Then I mixed 1 T. soy sauce, 1 t. sugar, a pinch of salt and one beaten egg. Fill wonton wrappers and fold like tortellini. Fry in hot oil until golden brown.

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March 27, 2009

Pollo con Finoccio

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This was a variation on the wonderful rabbit recipe I made a couple of months ago, only I made it with chicken thighs.

In a food processor or mini chopper, mix together:
4 sprigs of rosemary leaves
3 cloves of garlic
1 t. sea salt
1/2 t. black pepper
2 T. olive oil

Cover chicken with this paste and marinate all day (or even overnight).

Bring chicken to room temp, and heat oven to 350 about 2 hours before you want to eat. Cut one onion, one large head of fennel into wedges, and surround chicken pieces in pan. Add another couple cloves of garlic, split into quarters. Top with 3 oz. chopped pancetta, salt, pepper and some of the green fennel leaves, chopped. Drizzle with olive oil, and bake for 30 minutes.

Add 1/2 c. white wine, and cook another 45 min., basting with the pan juices every 15 minutes. Turn oven up to 450, and cook for an additional 20-30 minutes until chicken is brown, and veggies are caramelized.

Remove from oven, and put chicken and veggies on a warm platter in the oven while you make a pan sauce. Add 1/2 c. of wine (or chicken broth) to pan juices if necessary. I had lots of juice, so this wasn't necessary, as the chicken was jucier than the rabbit. Reduce this liquid by putting roasting pan over two burners on the stove, and bringing it to a boil. Reduce for about 10 min. on medium heat. Liquid will reduce by about half. Serve sauce along side, or drizzle over chicken. Garnish with additional chopped fennel leaves.

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We had this with lemon-garlic orzo and asparagus. Boil the orzo in some chicken broth or water. Drain. Stir with 1 T. butter, shaved parmigiano, and some lemon zest.

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Lemon-garlic orzo is available here:

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March 30, 2009

Devane's

Friday night, we were invited to go out to dinner with our friends, the Wolfs.
We began by having drinks in their lovely back yard.

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Jan made a delicious plate of goodies to go with our cocktails.

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Then they took us to a new restaurant in La Quinta. Remember the actor, William Devane (most recently in a major role on Season 5 of 24)? He and his three sons live in La Quinta, and have two restaurants in the desert. This one is managed by Josh. Can you see the family resemblance?

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The food was great! I enjoyed a salad and delicious lobster and shrimp risotto. I'm looking forward to the other half of it in my fridge.

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Brad had sauteed sand dabs with jasmine rice and veggies.

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We always enjoy an evening with Jan and Les!

March 31, 2009

Pasta with Caramelized Onions, Brussels Sprouts, and Pancetta

I recently had a lovely surprise in my mailbox. Fabio sent me a Thank You photo for the taralli I brought him on our recent visit to Cafe Firenze. I might just have to make him a whole batch when we return! Obviously his mamma did a great job in teaching him good manners! Fabio, Grazie a Lei!

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We decided to try to recreate the flavors that were in the pasta dish Brad ate at Cafe Firenze: caramelized onions, brussels sprouts and pancetta.

Brad made a batch of pasta dough, and we let it rest in the fridge. 30 minutes before dinner, we ran it through the pasta roller, then the pasta cutting attachment. We made some fettuccini and some linguini. In the past, we have used fresh pasta dough to make ravioli or lasagna sheets, so it was our first time making noodles.

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We thought our small batch of pastas were beautiful!

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Meanwhile, I caramelized an onion in 2 T. of olive oil.

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After 15 minutes, I added 10 sliced brussels sprouts, and 3 oz. chopped pancetta. I also added salt, freshly ground black pepper, and some red chili flakes. After a few minutes of cooking, while the water boiled for the pasta, I added 1/4 c. white wine, and let it reduce.

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The pasta was done in about 1 1/2 minutes.

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We tossed the cooked pasta with the onion-brussels sprouts-pancetta sauce.

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Add a little grated parmesan, and it was wonderful. (It was not as good as Fabio's, but it was really damn tasty!)

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April 3, 2009

Cowboy-Grilled Rib Eye Steak

Brad has been reading his new book, Grill Every Day, by Diane Morgan.
The other night he tried out this simple recipe before grilling a steak. We only grilled one, but here is the recipe for 4.

4 rib-eye steaks 1 1/2 inches thick
extra virgin olive oil
2 T. finely ground coffee (we used espresso)
Ground chipolte chile for dusting
sea salt

1. Prepare a hot fire in a charcoal grill or preheat a gas grill on high.

2. Remove steak(s) from fridge 30 minutes before grilling and place them on a rimmed platter. Rub the steaks lightly with olive oil on both sides.

3. Liberally season the steaks on each side with the coffee, then chile, lightly pressing the seasonings into the meat.

4. Oil the grill grate. Place steaks directly over hot fire. Grill steaks on one side, 4 min. for rare, 6 min. for medium-rare. Turn and cook for four minutes more, or until an instant-read thermometer registers to 120 F for rare or 130 to 135 for medium-rare.

5. Remove steaks from the grill, and let rest for 5 min. Sprinkle steaks with fleur de sel just before serving.

The steak was juicy and delicious. You could not taste COFFEE, and the amount of chili was just right.

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April 6, 2009

Fabio's Ravioli and Lamb

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We had an incredible dinner last night to celebrate Palma Sunday. We made fresh pasta on Saturday and tried out Fabio's recipe for the filling of Cashel blue cheese, marscapone and potato. Oh, what a wonderful combination.
On Sunday, we made the mushroom reduction sauce, sauteed mushrooms, and roasted a rack of lamb. The combination of flavors, the filling and sauce, were all fabulous. We could only eat about half of what was on our plates, so we have some great leftovers too.

When I make ravioli, I flash freeze them on parchment-lined cookie sheets.

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Then I put two layers (with parchment) of six in ziplock bags to freeze. This give us bags of one dozen which are plenty for the two of us for dinner, or for four appetizer portions.

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Here is Fabio's recipe from Bravotv.com: Ravioli with Lamb and Roasted Mushrooms

I made a few minor changes to the recipe. I reduced the amounts as I was cooking for two. I used less veal demi glace (at $30 a jar, I just used two tablespoons and some beef stock. I did NOT strain and blend the mushroom sauce, and I did finish it with a splash of cream after it was reduced. It was amazing. I think there must be a typo on the amount of butter in the mushrooms. I used about 3 T. instead of 1/2 pound. I also used my standard egg pasta recipe, and have not YET tried Fabio's.

I can't wait for that cookbook to come out! This dish was a WINNER!

My Palma Sunday was lovely: weather around 80, treats, a card, a gift, flowers, and a great dinner! Thanks for all the nice comments yesterday too!

April 7, 2009

Coconut Cream Pie

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This recipe was written out on a recipe card in my Jr. High handwriting. I have been cutting out or copying down recipes for YEARS! I do not know its original source.

3 c. half & half
2 eggs
3/4 c. sugar
1/2 c. flour
1/4 t. salt
2 c. toasted coconut, divided
1 t. vanilla

1 c. whipping cream
2 T.sugar

One baked pie crust

Spread coconut on an ungreased cookie sheet, and bake at 350 for 8-10 minutes, until golden brown. Stir once during baking.

In a medium saucepan, combine half & half,eggs, sugar, flour and salt.
Stir over low heat, and bring to a boil. Remove from heat and stir in 1 c. coconut and vanilla. Pour into pie shell. Chill at least 2 hours. Beat whipping cream and two T. sugar, and spread over pie. Top with remaining cup of toasted coconut.

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April 9, 2009

Cooking with Friends

Last week, my friend Jan suggested that once a week or whenever we had the time, we spend an afternoon cooking together. She would like to learn how to make some of the recipes she has seen on my blog. We began on a Tuesday, when I was done with clients early. We had our ingredients ready and made slow cooked beef short ribs with Porter Beer and a maple-rosemary glaze. Jan arrived at 3:30, and we began slicing veggies, and browning the meat. The short ribs did the rest in two huge Dutch ovens in my oven.

At 6:30, Brad picked up Les on his way home from work. We were happily finishing up a bottle of wine with some appetizers on the patio when they arrived. We made a quick pot of polenta, glazed the ribs, and we all ate dinner together. We each had an extra large container full of extra short ribs to freeze, so we would get a total of 5 meals (two each for another time), out of one afternoon of cooking together. It was lots of fun. Next week we are on for some homemade pasta dough, and some form of lasagna.

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April 10, 2009

How Do You Like YOUR Eggs?

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So many choices! I like eggs most ways. Some of my favorites are:

Benedict: With ham, bacon, sausage, or crab cakes!

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Or a nice fritatta!

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Scrambled, or over easy also work for me.

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I like 'em hard boiled, deviled, or in an egg salad sandwich.

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It's fun dying eggs at Easter.

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I loved the egg my friend, Maria, painted me last year.

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Our friend, Les, loves his eggs in my carbonara!

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Brad likes his made out of chocolate!

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This versatile little food gives us 13 essential nutrients for 75 calories. So many ways to use, cook with, and eat eggs!

April 16, 2009

Pork Chops with Gorgonzola and Balsamico

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There has been a recent discussion on using balsamic vinegar on the Slow Talk food forum. I posted my simple glaze, and I realized I haven't made it for quite a while.

The salad was a leftover from the night before. We went to Stuft Pizza in La Quinta, and I ordered a wonderful Calamari Spinach Salad. It consisted of baby spinach, with lots of mangos, gorgonzola, (I deleted the tomatoes and avocado), tossed in a delicious balsamic vinaigrette with crispy calamari on top. I ate half my salad and half the calamari for dinner, the rest of the calamari for lunch, and added a few more spinach leaves to the rest for our dinner. We STILL couldn't finish it! That lump on the right is half a roll.

Brad grilled pork tenderloin chops. I used 1/2 cup of balsamic with 1 t. of sugar, and reduced it by half for the glaze over a little gorgonzola. The chops went into the broiler for a minute or two. Delicious!

April 19, 2009

Sunday Slow Soupers: Cream of Artichoke Soup

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It is the last week of Slow Souping! Brad has eaten more soup this year than in the last ten years put together! The temperatures around here are much more appropriate for salads. This recipe, from Ida, was a great way to end the soup season!

The recipe is from "The Best of Bon Appetit Cookbook" the 1982 edition.

4 to 6 servings:

3 T. butter
4 T. minced shallots
1 and a half T. flour
3 and 1/2 cups Chicken Stock
3 cans of artichoke quarters in water (drained)
1 cup half and half ( I have tried fat free half n half and it was ok )
Salt and Pepper

Melt butter in a skillet over medium heat, allowing it to brown just lightly. Add shallots and saute briefly till softened . Stir in flour and cook 2 to 3 min.

Heat stock or chicken broth in a 2 qt. saucepan. Add flour mixture, stirring constantly.Cook over medium heat until slightly thickened, about 3 to 5 min.

Add chopped artichokes to thickened chicken stock and half n half. Blend thoroughly with an immersion blender. Season with salt and pepper.

It can be made ahead, refrigerated and reheated to serve.

April 21, 2009

Jackalope Ranch

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Did we zip off to Hawaii? No, but we enjoyed an evening at a not-so-new anymore desert restaurant: Jackaope Ranch in Indio. It opened in January, but it was new to us. This beautiful spot covers more than 6 acres, and cost 37 MILLION to build. It has quite a story.

A "jackalope" is an mythical animal of folklore which is a cross between a jackrabbit and an antelope, goat or deer. There is actually a species of jackrabbit in the southwestern U.S. called the antelope jackrabbit, because of its ability to run fast, like an antelope. If you imagine antlers or horns, you would picture a jackalope.

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Don Callendar, of the Marie Callendar's restaurant chain, opened a restaurant called Babe's in 2002. It was quite a hit for BBQ ribs, chicken sausage and has a huge bronze pig in front.

Don dreamed of a new Southwestern, BBQ, steak restaurant in a spectacular setting with great food and wine, entertainment, a huge outdoor area, and gorgeous scenery.
He purchased land in West Indio, and a chain link fence went up while construction began. No detail was overlooked. The bronze artworks on the property (not counting the pigs) were sculpted from photos of his children. Waterfalls, huge trees, gorgeous light fixtures, flowers, wood railings, and fountains abound. The stone building is stunning by day and night.

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Unfortunately, during the last few months before completion, Don, then age 80, suffered a fall in his Newport Beach garden. He was in a coma for months, and died in January, 2008, the day Jackalope Ranch opened. The project was purchased by the Kaiser Restaurant Group.

Continue reading "Jackalope Ranch" »

April 22, 2009

Shower Preparations

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My Godson, Casey, is getting married to my soon -to-be Godaughter, Sarah, and I am co-hosting a

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The shower is this Saturday, April 25, in San Diego. Sarah and Casey will be honeymooning at my beachfront condo in Maui, so the shower theme is tropical!

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I couldn't find any tropical wrapping paper liked, so I painted my own on butcher paper.

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I have been busy shopping and preparing all the food for the event. I am bringing the food, a couple of games and prizes and serving platters with me to San Diego.

Menu:

Appetizers:
Hot crab dip
Puff pastry palmiers with ham and gruyere
Brie with passion fruit jam and macadamia nuts

Lunch:
Coconut shrimp with citrus-honey-mustard dipping sauce
Hawaiian chicken
Mandarin Cole Slaw with Asian Dressing
Tropical Rice Salad
Fresh fruit with pina colada dip
Mango-Papaya Bread

Dessert:
Mini coconut cream tarts
Mini cheesecakes with lilikoi (passion fruit) curd
Tropical sheet cake squares

Sarah's sister, Beth, is co-hosting the shower at her home, and will take care of decorations, tableware, tropical flowers, and tropical drinks! There may be a pina colada in my future!

I made 25 party favors, but will save those for tomorrow's post.

Tomorrow, I am not working, and will complete all the baking, and food prep. I LOVE days like that, spent in the kitchen with my to-do lists!

April 27, 2009

A Tropical Shower

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It was a fun and busy weekend in San Diego, as I co-hosted a wedding shower for Sarah and Casey. My happy Godchildren loved their flip-flop cookie favors.

I also got to hang out all weekend with my "sisters" Connie (right), and Joy (who flew in from Stockton).

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Ok...let's get to the food! That's why you are here! Appetizers included hot crab dip, brie with guava jam and macademia nuts, and palmiers with gruyere and ham.

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Continue reading "A Tropical Shower" »

April 28, 2009

Room for Dessert?

Saturday's bridal shower got Sarah and Casey in the mood for their Maui honeymoon.

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Sarah's sister, Beth, was the gracious co-hostess. I took over her kitchen, and she managed decorations, drinks, and all of us in her home with her new month-old beautiful baby!

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We enjoyed a trio of tropical desserts while Sarah opened her gifts.

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For the mini coconut tarts, you can find the recipe for the tart shells, and this recipe for the coconut cream filling on older blog posts..

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The mini lilikoi (passionfruit) cheesecakes were a big hit too.

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Recipe for 12 (I made 24) A mini-cheesecake pan with push-up bottoms is needed for this recipe. Recipe and pan available at www.kingarthurflour.com

Crust:
1 cup flour
1/3 cup almond flour or ground almonds
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons (3 ounces) butter, cold

Batter:
8 ounces (1 large package) cream cheese, room temperature
1/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons heavy cream OR sour cream
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

To make the crust: Preheat your oven to 425°F. Whisk together the flour, almond flour, sugar, and salt. Cut in the butter with a pastry blender or two knives, or rub together with your fingers until the mixture resembles coarse sand. Sprinkle in a teaspoon or two of water if the dough is too crumbly to hold together when squeezed.

Divide the crumbs among the 12 cups. Press them firmly to the bottoms and about 1/2-inch up the sides. Bake in the preheated oven for 8 to 10 minutes, until set and just beginning to color. Remove from the oven and let cool. Reduce the oven temperature to 325°F.

To make the batter: In a medium-sized bowl, beat the cream cheese and sugar until smooth. Add the cream, egg and vanilla; mix well. Spoon the batter into the cooled crusts, using about 2 tablespoons in each.

To bake: Bake the cheesecakes in the preheated 325°F oven for 18 to 20 minutes, until just set. Remove from the oven and let cool for at least 30 minutes - the tops will sink slightly. Use a knife to gently loosen the edges, then carefully invert the pan and push the cheesecakes out. Immediately turn the cheesecakes right-side up and chill them. To remove the metal plates before serving, run the blade of a table knife under hot water to warm it, then run the knife between the crust and the metal disk to free up the cheesecake.

Palma's Lilikoi Curd:

5 egg yolks
1 c sugar
1/3 cup passion fruit nectar
zest from two limes
1 stick (1/2 c. ) unsalted butter

Using a double boiler, bring water to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Whisk egg yolks and sugar until smooth (1 minute) in a metal bowl or top of double boiler. Add nectar. Whisk until thickened (about 8 min.) over pot of simmering water. Mixture should coat a spoon. Remove from heat, and whisk in butter and lime zest. Chill, and when cool, store in a glass jar. (May be made up to two weeks ahead.)

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Tropical Sheet Cake: (From www.cooks.com)

Bake a yellow cake mix in a jelly roll pan.

Mix together:
8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1 package instant vanilla pudding
1 c. milk
1 can crushed pineapple (drained well)

Spread on cooled cake. Spread with Cool Whip, and top with toasted coconut.

The desserts were sweet, but nothing was sweeter than Sarah's new 1 month old niece, baby Maura.

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Finally, I want to thank Saint Brad for all his help with the shower, loading and unloading the car with two ice chests full of food, ingredients, and many stacks of platters and serving trays. He and Joy were also my pre-shower kitchen helpers. Thanks to Connie for the clean-up help!

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April 29, 2009

Buon Appetito

Last Friday night, after wine at Sogno Di Vino, next door, we had a fabulous meal at Buon Appetito!

We shared Connie's calamari, and Joy, Brad and I had the creamiest polenta ever, with porcini and gorgonzola sauce.

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Our entrees included a filetto al gorgonzola, and Brad's coniglio, prepared in a Tuscan style with vegetables and olives.

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Check out the whole wonderful menu HERE.

April 30, 2009

Hawaiian Chicken

I served Hawaiian Chicken at the shower, but tried out the recipe at home a couple weeks ago using chicken thighs and pineapple chunks. (For the shower, I tripled the recipe and used a 5 pound bag of chicken tenders from Costco. I brought it to San Diego frozen and already marinated. There I used drained, crushed pineapple.)

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Hawiian Chicken
Ingredients:
4 boneless, skinless chicken breasts or thighs
1/4 cup soy sauce
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 cup pineapple juice
2 tablespoons red wine vinegar
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
2 clove garlic, minced
1 1/2 cup crushed macadamia nuts
1 can (15 1/4 ounces) crushed pineapple (reserve juice for sauce)

Sauce:
juice from can of crushed pineapple
1 tablespoon cornstarch
1 tablespoon dry sherry
1 teaspoon grated ginger root
zest from one lemon (or orange)


In large resealable plastic bag, mix together soy sauce, sherry, pineapple juice, vinegar, sugar and garlic. Marinate chicken in refrigerator for 1 hour (or freeze in marinade and make later). Remove chicken and discard marinade. Coat chicken in crushed macadamia nuts and place in baking pan lightly sprayed with nonstick cooking spray (or just throw the nuts on top. Bake in 350 F. oven for about 30 minutes or until fork can be inserted in chicken with ease.

Sauce:
With juice from crushed pineapple, mix 1 tablespoon cornstarch and stir until smooth. Stir in 1 tablespoon dry sherry and 1/2 teaspoon grated ginger root. Place in small saucepan over low heat and cook about 2 minutes, stirring. Remove from heat and add 1 teaspoon grated lemon rind.

Pour crushed pineapple over chicken and top with sauce.

May 1, 2009

Another Food Meme

The is a food meme from www.slimcoincidence.com

Favorite food to crunch: Green apples, Maui chips

Favorite comfort food: Homemade Mac and Cheese (We call it Cheese & Mac for obvious reasons.)

Favorite picnic lunch: Bread, prosciutto, gorgonzola dolce, fruit and vino!

Favorite food scene in movie: Harry and Sally in the diner.

Favorite food lyrics: "That's Amore" and “Sugar Sugar" come to mind.

Best food smell memory: Mom's huge coffeecakes baking, especially holiday ones. Platters of grilled lamb on Easter, Christmas Prime Rib.

Favorite summer snack: Fresh juicy peaches or watermelon.

Food that reminds me of the ocean: Fresh crab with bread and melted butter.

Favorite winter snack: World's Best Cookies, or assorted cheeses and wine.

Most likely to eat for lunch: Usually yogurt. A sandwich on Saturday. Chicken or tuna salad. Soup.

Least likely to eat for lunch: Fast food.

Makes me gag: Beans!

Food tradition I love: Holiday baking, Pizza Rustica, pork ragu

Food tradition I loathe: Thanksgiving Turkey

Favorite wild foods: Mushrooms

Favorite medicinal food: Pomegranates

Food that reflects my heritage: Pasta in all shapes and sizes with various ingredients and sauces.

Food most like me: lasagna? Soft, creamy, with many layers.

Favorite raw food smell: Just about any citrus fruit: lemons, limes, oranges

May 4, 2009

Scallops with Lilikoi Beurre Blanc

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I sauteed sea scallops in a little lime olive oil. The scallops I had were huge, so I cut them in half horizontally.

For the Lilikoi Beurre Blanc: (4 servings)

1 shallot, finely minced
4 oz. white wine
2 oz. passion fruit nectar (normally use lemon juice)
1 T. cream
6 oz. cold unsalted butter, cut in pieces
salt and white pepper

Combine shallots, white wine and lemon juice. Reduce to 2 T. over high heat. Add cream. Once liquid bubbles, remove from heat. Whisk butter into reduction, a piece at a time until the butter is fully combined, and is a thicker sauce consistency. Season with salt and pepper. Serve immediately over scallops, and top with lime zest.

May 6, 2009

Fresh Strawberry Tart

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I bought luscious, ripe strawberries at a fruit stand on my way home from San Diego on Sunday. I had sweet tart dough in my freezer, and cream cheese in the fridge. Beautiful and delicious!

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1. Make "Sweet Tart Dough" and bake tart shell.

2. Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup sugar
1 t. vanilla
Beat three ingredients until smooth. Spread over cooled crust. Arrange washed and cut strawberries on top of tart.

3. Glaze:

6 oz. frozen limeade concentrate
1 T. cornstarch
1/4 c. sugar
1 T. lime juice or lemon juice

Combine all ingredients in a small saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture boils and becomes thick and almost clear. Remove from heat and cool in fridge. When cool, brush glaze over entire tart.

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May 7, 2009

15 Minute Dinner

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While Brad grilled baby lamb chops marinated in garlic, rosemary and olive oil, I cooked some creamy lemon-garlic orzo. I also sauteed some sugar snap peas with a little pancetta. The 15 minutes included setting the table and pouring a glass of wine.

May 11, 2009

Vegas Uncorked: Fiamma

Wow. What a frustrating day for a blogger who is bursting to share our Vegas weekend. The battery on my laptop DIED. I was finally able to get a new one this afternoon, but then it had to charge for a few hours. I started trying to post this blog at 7 AM, and now it is 8 PM!

It will take me a few days to completely describe our weekend at Vegas Uncorked, the foodie event hosted by Bon Appetit magazine. We celebrated Brad's birthday yesterday, and mine is tomorrow, so we splurged on a number of amazing venues over the weekend. We drove to Las Vegas on Thursday evening, and checked into the Paris for our three free nights (earned by gambling on Thanksgiving weekend).

Friday, the gourmet festivities began for us at the MGM Grand.
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The MGM, while not one of my top five hotels on the strip, does have an impressive list of famous chefs and restaurants!

Joel Rubuchon and L'Atelier: "Chef of the Century", Joel Rubuchon
Craftsteak: Tom Colicchio, Exec. Chef: Matt Seeber
Nobhill Tavern: Michael Mina
Fiamma Trattoria: Carlos Buscaglia
Shibuya: Stephane Chevet
Pearl:Kai-Wa Yau
Seablue:Michael Mina, Exec. Chef: Stephen Hopcraft
Wolfgang Puck Bar and Grill: Dustin Lewandowski
Diego: Noel Santos
Emeril's: Emeril Lagasse

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Our first event was a pasta class by Chef Carlos Buscaglia at Fiamma Trattoria.

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We were greeted with prosecco, and given lovely goody bags. The goody bags have pasta, olive oil, seasonings, recipes from lunch and a $50 gift certificate for dinner. We shall return!

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Pasta stations were set up where Carlos and his assistants demonstrated three kinds of pasta: gnocchi, agnolotti, and tortellini.

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Each pasta was demonstrated, dough passed around, and we had an opportunity to walk up and try "hands on" any of the processes of rolling, cutting and filling. While we watched, we were served a orancini (risotto ball), stuffed with braised short rib filling.

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I have made three of the four pastas, but Brad and I were intrigued by the angolotti process using a pastry bag for the filling, spray bottle of water to seal the dough, and quick cutting technique.

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Continue reading "Vegas Uncorked: Fiamma" »

May 13, 2009

Friday Night:Grand Tasting

Friday evening from 7-10PM, we attended the Grand Tasting event, poolside at Caesar's Palace.

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It seemed like almost every famous chef was there. For the price of your ticket, you could taste signature dishes from an amazing list of top restaurants. As you grazed and drank wine, you ran into a long list of foodie celebrities. Of course, I was more interested in getting photos of the food and people than in eating! It was very crowded during the first hour, but then the lines at each station were much shorter.
Each restaurant had a "booth" or "set" from which to serve their plate.

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If you are a foodie, or watch the Food Network, you will recognize some of these names.

RESTAURANTS
Aureole Las Vegas, Vincent Pouessel
B&B Ristorante, Zach Allen
Beijing Noodle No. 9, Yu Li & Zheng Jin
BLT Burger, Laurent Tourondel & Greg Cook
BOA Steakhouse, Jose Aleman
Border Grill, Mary Sue Milliken & Michael Minor
Botero, Mark LoRusso & Renieri Caceres
Bradley Ogden, Bradley Ogden & Todd Williams
Craftsteak Las Vegas, Matt Seeber
David Burke Modern American Cuisine Las Vegas, Dan Rossi & Marisa Scarpulla
Diego Mexican Cuisine, Noel Santos
Dos Caminos Las Vegas, Scott Linquist & Roberto Hernandez
Eiffel Tower Restaurant, Jean Joho & Joung Sohn
FiAMMA Trattoria & Bar, Carlos Buscaglia
Fleur de Lys, Hubert Keller & Steven Wolf and Burger Bar, Hubert Keller & Laurent Pillard
Isla Mexican Kitchen & Tequila Bar, Richard Sandoval
Joël Robuchon Restaurant, Claude Le Tohic and L'Atelier de Joël Robuchon, Steve Benjamin
Mesa Grill Caesars Palace, Bobby Flay & Paul Del Favero
Mix in Las Vegas, Bruno Davaillon
Nero’s Steakhouse, Daniel Waked
Nobhill Tavern by Michael Mina, Sven Mede
Okada, Masa Ishizawa
Payard Pâtisserie & Bistro, François Payard & Gregory Gourreau
Rao's Caesars Palace, Carla Pellegrino & Nicole Grimes
Restaurant Guy Savoy, Guy Savoy & Eric Bost
Rick Moonen’s RM Seafood, Rick Moonen & Adam Sobel
Sea Harbour, Tony Ho & John Deng
SEABLUE, Stephen Hopcraft
Shibuya, Stephane Chevet
Simon at Palms Place, Kerry Simon
Sinatra, Theo Schoenegger
Social House, Joseph Elevado
Society Café Encore, Kim Canteenwalla
Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada, Nick Lorenz
Strip House, John Schenk
SushiSamba Strip, José Mendín
Table 10 (an Emeril Lagasse restaurant), Diana Davey
TAO Asian Bistro, Mark Andelbradt and LAVO Restaurant, Ralph Scamardella
The Country Club, A New American Steakhouse, Rene Lenger
Valentino, Luciano Pellegrini
Wazuzu, Jet Tila
Wing Lei, Richard Chen
Wolfgang Puck Bar & Grill, Dustin Lewandowski

WINES & SPIRITS
Beer
Unibroue / Unibrew USA

Sparkling Wine
Chandon

Spirits
Banzai Beverage Corporation
The Patrón Spirits Company
Harbrew Imports LTD. / Danny DeVito's
Limoncello
Mystique Brands, LLC / Barsol Pisco
Preiss Imports
Private Brands, Inc.
Ty·Ku

Wineries
Charles Krug Winery
Chateau Montelena Winery
Click Wine Group
Dreyfus, Ashby & Co.
Enomatic Wine Serving Systems
Foster’s Wine America
Icon Estates
Kautz Family Vineyards / Ironstone Vineyards
Laetitia Vineyard & Winery
Prestige Wine Imports
Rémy Cointreau USA, Inc.
Rodney Strong Vineyards
Ste. Michelle Wine Estates
Sort This Out Cellars
Southern Wine & Spirits of Nevada
Terlato Wines International
Trapiche
W.J. Deutsch & Sons, Ltd.

Hungry? Check out these tasty bites.

Continue reading "Friday Night:Grand Tasting" »

May 14, 2009

Saturday Afternoon: Vegas Uncorked

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Saturday morning we were able to relax by the pool at the Paris. It was 93 degrees, but the water was quite chilly (unlike my 86 degree pool at home). We relaxed, had a nice poolside lunch, then showered and headed to our afternoon event.

We attended the Pro Am competition. Two identical kitchens were set up in a ballroom at the MGM. Iron Chef, Cat Cora, hosted the event.

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The first competition was between Caesar's Palace chefs, Pro: Todd Williams and Rising Star: Ryan Ososky, and MGM Grand chefs, Pro: Mary Sue Milliken and Rising Star: Carlos Buscaglia. Each pair had 20 minuted to prepare two dishes for the judges.
The competition worked just like a shorter version of Iron Chef. The "secret ingredient" for the first team was prawns.

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The chefs worked very quickly to prepare their dishes for the distinguished judges:Bon Appétit Editor-in-Chief Barbara Fairchild, Bon Appétit's restaurant editor Andrew Knowlton and Las Vegas restaurant expert John Curtas. The team from MGM won the challenge.

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Continue reading "Saturday Afternoon: Vegas Uncorked" »

May 15, 2009

Saturday Night at the Bellagio

As you can imagine, Vegas restaurants were packed all weekend with all these food and wine lovers in town for Vegas Uncorked. For our "pre-birthday dinner", we tried to get in to one of the Bellagio restaurants, reservations were all sold out. This actually worked out for the best. After all the food involved in the events, we just felt like some appetizers.

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We ate at FIX, where we shared four great appetizers, and drank some wine! We began with fig, gorgonzola and prosciutto flatbread and red chili shrimp.

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Next were the "Adult Mac & Cheese" (fried with cheese-truffle oil sauce), and mini lobster tacos! No, we did not finish any of them.

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We gambled a while, then on our way out, who was standing alone near the Valet entrance waiting for his driver? TOM COLICCHIO! I walked up, said hi, and he remembered us from Friday night's tasting. He asked about our dinner, and we told him we were holding out for his brunch tomorrow at Craftsteak. He was so adorable. Then we chatted with him about business in NY and LA, and his restaurant, Craftsteak, in Las Vegas. He was so friendly and down-to-earth. We talked until his driver arrived. (I behaved and did not pull out my camera..., but add a tie, and he looked exactly like this:

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It was a memorable evening!

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Don't forget to come back to see our Mother's Day Brunch at Craftsteak on Monday!

May 18, 2009

Mother's Day Brunch: Craftsteak

This is the LAST food post about Vegas Uncorked,but the best meal! Last Sunday morning, we slept in (gambled until 2 AM last night), had some coffee in our room, got ready for brunch, and checked out of the Paris. It was Brad's REAL birthday, as well as Mother's Day.

Top Chef host and head judge, Tom Colecchio, is the winner of 5 James Beard awards, and the founder and co-owner of 13 Craft restaurants across the country. He grew up in an Italian family in Elizabeth, NJ. Shortly after the 9/11 attacks, he was part of a volunteer army serving food to rescue workers at ground zero.

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After our first two "Tom sightings", it was lovely to walk into Craftsteak, and be greeted by a warm smile, and a "Nice to see you again" from Tom in his white chef jacket.

Of all the weekend activities, we were most excited about this brunch event! Brad thought it was nice of Tom Colecchio to throw him a birthday brunch.

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We were served mimosas or Bloody Mary's upon entry.

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If you are hungry, I suggest coming back at another time. This was quite a spectacular meal! We were seated at a table for 10, and each course was served "family style". Tom spoke about his mother, a cafeteria worker, and growing up in an Italian family. He spoke about hunger in the world, and encouraged us to "give back" by donating to help feed families in need.

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The first course was wonderful. I did skip the pickled egg, but the lobster was divine, and I had two servings of the porchetta and mostarda!

First Course
Scone Basket, Crème Fraîche, Market Preserves
Seasonal, Fresh Fruit
Pickled Farm Egg, Roasted Beets, White Anchovy
Chilled Maine Lobster and Artichoke Salad
Wild Arugula, Shaved Pecorino
House Made Porchetta, Mustard Fruits, Chicory Salad

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Continue reading "Mother's Day Brunch: Craftsteak" »

May 22, 2009

Marscapone Panna Cotta

After tasting panna cotta that contained marscapone, and experiencing the fabulous creamy texture, I decided to try my own version. Here is what I came up with.

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1 cup whole milk
1 envelope unflavored powdered gelatin
2 c. heavy cream
8 oz marscapone, softened to room temp
1/3 cup honey
1 T. sugar
pinch of salt

Place milk in medium saucepan. Sprinkle gelatin over top and let stand for 5 minutes to soften. Stir over medium heat until gelatin dissolves, but do not let the milk boil. Remove from heat and stir in cream, honey, salt, sugar, and marscapone. Stir this mixture over medium heat until all ingredients are smooth (about 2 minutes). Remove from heat and let mixture cool slightly (5 minutes). Pour into ramekins, custard cups, or wine/martini glasses and refrigerate. Can be made up to 2 days ahead. Makes 6.

If using ramekins or custard cups, to unmold, fill sink with 2-3 inches of very hot water. Run a sharp thin knife blade around edges of panna cotta. Place ramekins (one at a time) in water, being careful not to get custard wet for about a minute. Place upside-down on serving plate, tap bottom, and unmold.

Serve with berries, caramel sauce, or any fruit sauce. My photo shows lilikoi (passion fruit) curd and blackberries.

May 25, 2009

Strawberry-Balsamic Ice Cream

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Lots of ripe, luscious strawberries. What could I do?

Strawberry Balsamic Ice Cream (recipe from Linda at Tender Crumb)
makes approx 2 qts

1 1/4 lb fresh strawberries- rinsed, hulled, and sliced
3/4 c. sugar
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp vodka (keeps the ice cream from turning rock hard in the freezer)
1/2 c. creme fraiche (or sour cream)
1 1/2 c. heavy cream

1. Combine the strawberries with the sugar, balsamic vinegar and vodka (I used vanilla vodka) in a large bowl. Cover and let stand at room temp for an hour or so.

2. Pour strawberry mixture into a food processor. Add the creme fraiche and heavy cream and process until just combined. I like to see chunks of fruit in my ice cream. If you prefer a smoother version, process further until smooth.

3. Chill the mixture, then freeze in an ice cream maker.

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Brad thought this was the BEST strawberry ice cream he had ever tasted! It is smooth and creamy, and the balsamic really brings out the flavor of the berries. Hope everyone has a happy, safe Memorial Day!

May 26, 2009

Pasticcio di Riso

I got the idea for this recipe from Janie at Panini Girl. I decided to use what was in my fridge, and create a version without tomato sauce. Here is what I used.

For the rice, I used Janie's recipe except for the cup of sauce. I used a cup of white wine instead.

Rice

1 pound Arborio rice (2 cups)
3-1/2 cups rich chicken stock
3 eggs beaten
1 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese

Combine the rice, chicken stock, and 1 cup white wine in a 4 quart saucepan. Bring to boil over high heat, stirring several times with a fork. Reduce heat to low, cover and cook 20 minutes or until the rice is still a little firm to the bite. Combine eggs and cheese and stir into rice. Set aside.

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In the cheese Filling, I substituted fried sage leaves for the parsley.

Cheese Filling

1 pound ricotta cheese
8 ounces fresh mozzarella cheese, chopped
10 fresh sage leaves, fried in 1 T. butter, crumbled
Salt and freshly ground pepper

Combine all ingredients.

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Broccoli Layer

Finely chop one large head of broccoli.
Saute it with 2-3 oz. chopped pancetta and 1 T. olive oil.
Set aside.

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Sausage Layer

Saute 1 pound of bulk Italian sausage (or remove from casings) until browned. Drain.

Parmesan-Cream Topping

Bring 1/2 cup chicken broth to a boil.
Quickly whisk in 1 c. grated parmesan cheese and 3 T. olive oil.
Whisk in 1/4 c. cream or half and half.

Assembly:

Heat oven to 350.
Spray a 9 or 10 inch springform pan with cooking spray.
I made each component (rice, broccoli, sausage, cheese filling) ahead and let cool.
I assembled the whole thing, then made and topped it with the parmesan-cream topping while the oven was heating up.

Begin with one-third of rice, pressing it firmly into pan, evenly. Top with half of cheese filling, then sausage. Press in another third of rice, the remaining cheese filling, then broccoli. Top with the rest of the rice. Spread parmesan-cream filling on top, leaving one inch all the way around for it to spread to the edges when cooking.
Bake 1 hour. Let cool 10 minutes before cutting into wedges to serve.

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I can't even tell you how delicious this is! The flavors all ran together perfectly, so that with each bite, the ingredients rolled around on your tongue with tastes of each of the main ingredients. This is a definite keeper! Looks great, tastes better, and is perfect for a fun summer dinner party. The best part is that it can all be done ahead and baked when your guests arrive!

May 27, 2009

Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut: Craft Style

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After coming home from Las Vegas with my own SIGNED copy of Tom Colicchio's cookbook, Craft of Cooking, I was dying to try a recipe. The first one I made was a simple choice, and a real keeper! I used the recipe for "Sturgeon Wrapped in Prosciutto", and did it with halibut instead.

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Prosciutto-Wrapped Halibut

2 pieces of fresh halibut
kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
4 slices prosciutto
1 T. olive oil
2 T. unsalted butter
2 sprigs of fresh thyme

Season fish with salt and pepper. Wrap two slices of prosciutto around each piece of halibut. Heat olive oil in skillet. On medium heat cook fish on one side until browned (1-2 minutes). Flip fish and brown second side for 1-2 minutes. Add butter and thyme and cook fish on all four sides (edges too) until browned evenly, a total of 6-8 minutes, depending on size of halibut. Plate and top with butter and thyme from pan.

May 28, 2009

Tea House and Wine Bar: La Quinta

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Last weekend we celebrated late birthdays, Les and Jan's 30th anniversary, and our last dinner together before we meet up at the end of June at the Rome airport for our ride to Umbria and our PalmabellasItaly trip!

After prosecco at the Wolf's, we began with appetizers at the Tea House and Wine Bar in La Quinta. This is a fairly new restaurant, we had visited once for appetizers and a glass of wine. The name is a little confusing, as I , along with many, assumed it would be Asian food. The menu is actually a combination of "European and Fusion Pan Asian". It is a great place to visit for appetizers, a full dinner at moderate prices, a $7 glass of wine, or a cup of tea! Menu items include a "Tuscan stuffed pork porterhouse", red snapper with Szechwan spices, and grilled duck breast. Word is spreading fast with the locals, but for now, there is no problem getting a reservation, or walking in and finding a table. Many "snowbirds" have already left the desert for the summer.

Jan and Les shared a crispy duck pizza:

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Brad and I shared lobster quesadillas on crispy wontons with bechamel sauce.

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Brad enjoyed his grilled duck breast with baby green beans and parmesan mashed potatoes.

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The other three of us ordered the rack of lamb. It was delicious with a mustard-panko crust, and grilled endive with grapes! It was also a bargain at $19.

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Next time you visit us, check it out!

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June 3, 2009

Grilled Caesar Flank Steaks with Lemon-Anchovy Butter

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I received a faulous new cookbook from Jan for my birthday: BIG NIGHT IN: More Than 100 Wonderful Recipes for Feeding Family and Friends Italian Style. She told me she had a secret agenda, and hoped I would try out many of the recipes when she and Les come for dinner. They are happy to be my guinea pigs!

Jan and Les have returned to their home in Vancouver, WA, and we won't see them until we pick them up at the Rome airport at the end of June, so we had to try our first recipe from the book without them! Oh well...next fall, they will be back in the desert!

The flank steaks must be marinated a day ahead. The recipe calls for 3, so I marinated all 3, and froze two in ziplock bags, marinade and all, for a BBQ next weekend.

For the Flank steaks: (may marinate up to 2 days ahead)

4 cloves garlic, pressed
3/4 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. freshly squeezed lemon juice
3 T Worcestershire sauce
3 T dijon mustard
freshly ground pepper to taste
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
3 flank steaks (about 4 pounds total)

Lemon-Anchovy Butter (make up to a week ahead)

8 T. unsalted butter at room temp
4 anchovy fillets (one can) any small bones removed
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. lemon zest
freshly ground pepper

Mash all ingredients together with a fork. Shape into a log and wrap in plastic wrap or waxed paper. Chill overnight.

To grill the steaks:

Take the meat from the fridge up to one hour before grilling. Remove the lemon-anchovy butter from the fridge 15 minutes before serving.

Prepare a charcoal grill, or turn on gas grill, and lightly oil (or spray) grate. Set steaks on the grill over direct heat and grill 5-8 minutes per side. (130 degrees for medium-rare.) Remove steaks to a carving board, and tent with foil for 10 minutes.
Slice meat across the grain into 1/2 inch slices and arrange on serving platter lined with lettuce leaves or arugula. Cut lemon-anchovy butter into slices, and place here and there on meat.

Serve with Caesar salad and grilled veggies.

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June 4, 2009

BBQ Chicken Pizza

What to have for dinner? There always seems to be extra grilled chicken in my fridge. When we BBQ, I always make extra for all the week night salads we are eating. Try this great way to use the leftovers:

Your favorite pizza dough (homemade, bought, or even a Boboli)
1 T. olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup cubed cooked chicken breast
1/2 c. BBQ sauce
1/4 of a red onion, thinly sliced and separated into rings
4 oz. mozzarella (I used fresh buffalo mozzarella from Costco)
4 oz. grated smoked gouda

Toss chicken in BBQ sauce 30 minutes before making pizza.
Heat oven to 475.
Brush pizza dough with olive oil and sprinkle with garlic. Add mozzarella, chicken, onions and smoked gouda. Bake until cheese is melted and bottom is crisp.

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June 5, 2009

Terra's Good-bye Luncheon

On Wednesday mornings, I am usually at Catholic Charities providing supervision to individual interns as well as "Group Sup" to 4-5 unlicensed therapists-in-training who work under my Marriage Family Therapist license. I have a great group of interns who are experienced, dedicated, mature (we are all within the same age group, give or take), and fun to be with. They discuss the clients they have seen during the week, ask questions, and I read and sign off all of their paperwork and charting.

This week, I hosted a luncheon for one of our group, Terra, who is getting ready to take her licensing exams. We held the morning supervision hours at my house, ending with a luncheon for six to honor Terra's last week at the agency.

The table was bright and cheerful.

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My "do ahead" menu was a selection of salads:

Curry Chicken Salad (an old luncheon standby that is always a hit)

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Creamy Orzo Salad with Asparagus, Zucchini and Pistachios

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Spinach-Strawberry Salad with Strawberry-Walnut Dressing

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Deborah's Wild Rice-Roasted Corn Salad (Sunday Salad Samplers weekly recipe will be featured on Sunday, June 7

Ciabatta bread

One of my interns, Alicia, a wonderful cook from Uruguay, also brought a Spinach Pie and delicious flan.

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For dessert, I made a Blackberry-Marscapone Tart

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We all had a great time, and will miss Terra! She makes us laugh a LOT!

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Brad feasted on leftovers. We'll have lots of salads for a few nights!

Recipes:

Chicken Curry Salad:

4 grilled chicken breasts, cubed
1/2 c. chopped celery
1/2 large red onion, chopped
1 can sliced water chestnuts, chopped
large bunch of red seedless grapes
freshly ground black pepper
1 cup salted cashews

Dressing
1/2 cup mayo
2 t. curry powder (adjust to taste)
1 T. Worcestershire sauce

Mix all salad ingredients except cashews. Toss with dressing. Add cashews just before serving.

Creamy Orzo Salad:

2 c. orzo, cooked
1 bunch blanched chopped asparagus
3 raw zucchini, grated
1 tub Light Rondele cheese (Garlic-Herb)
1/2 c. parmesan cheese
1/2 cup toasted pistachios

Cook orzo, and let cool. Toss with other ingredients and top with pistachios just before serving.

Spinach-Strawberry Salad

Large bag of fresh spinach
2 c. sliced strawberries
3/4 c. candied pecans

Dressing:

Whisk together:
1/2 c. raspberry vinegar (pomegranate is also good)
1 T. walnut oil or olive oil
1/4 c. ground walnuts (very finely ground) mixed with 2 T. sour cream or yogurt)
freshly ground black pepper

Blackberry-Marscapone Tart:

I aways keep tart dough in the freezer, so I made one 9 " tart crust and baked it. I sort of made up this recipe with what I had at hand.

Filling:

8 oz. cream cheese at room temp
8 oz. marscapone cheese at room temp
1/2 c. powdered sugar
1 t. vanilla
2 t. Chambord or other berry liqueur
2 cups blackberries, rinsed and chopped (I cut each berry into 2-3 pieces)
Beat first 5 ingredients until smooth, then stir in the berries. Spread into pastry shell and chill. Garnish with whole berries.

June 15, 2009

Sweet and Salty Watermelon Salad Bowls

For this refreshing salad I mixed together the following:

2 c. chopped seedless watermelon
1 c. chopped jicama
2 jalapeno peppers, chopped
1/2 red onion, chopped
3 peaches, chopped
4 oz. crumbled feta cheese
12 mint leaves, finely chopped
zest of 1 lime
juice onf 1 lime stirred with 1 T honey
sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

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Create a "bowl" for each person by cutting a 1-1 1/2 inch slice of watermelon. Cut a square from the center. Hollow out with spoon, a place for the salad. Trim edges. Use the rest of watermelon slice to cut up for the salad.

Topping:
1/4 c. sour cream or creme fraiche
1 T. honey

Top with lime zest and mint.

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June 16, 2009

Berry Pocket Pies

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I wanted to use my new kitchen toy from Williams-Sonoma: pocket pie molds. I had an assortment of leftover berries, so I made a quick filling:

2 1/2 c. assorted berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
1 T. cornstarch
1/3 c. sugar
pinch of salt
1 t. vanilla

Stir together over medium heat until mixture boils and thickens. Cool.

I used the Williams-Sonoma recipe for the pie crust and procedure:

2 1/2 cups flour
1 t. salt
2 T. sugar
2 sticks (1 cup) unsalted butter, cut into 1/2 " dice
6-8 T. ice water

Using a standard mixer, beat flour, salt and 2 T. sugar on low speed for 10 seconds. Add butter, beat 30 seconds. Increase speed to medium-low, beat 1 1/2 minutes more. Add 6 T. ice water, beat on low 20 seconds. If dough is crumbly, add more water, 1 t. at a time. Beat 5 seconds after each addition. Divide dough in half, wrap in plastic. Shape dough into a disk. Refrigerate at least 2 hours or overnight.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Roll out chilled dough. Cut out solid hear shapes (bottoms), and hearts with cutouts (tops). Place bottom dough inside mold, pressing gently. Spoon 1-2 T. filling into mold. Top with second piece of dough with cutout. Close mold to crimp edges and seal pie. Chill pies in freezer for 30 minutes, then bake 20 minutes. Cool for 10 minutes. Serve with ice cream.

* My advice is to spray baking sheet. I also had to crimp some of the edges with a fork to be sure filling would not leak out. Recipe says it makes 8 pies, but I got 10.
8 are in my freezer.

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June 19, 2009

Passionfruit Poundcake

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This cake is creamy, buttery and juicy with a delicious lilikoi flavor!

Passionfruit (Lilikoi) Pound Cake

12 tablespoons butter, softened
8 ounces cream cheese, softened
3 cups sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
3 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup passionfruit juice
1/4 cup Lilikoi jelly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the Syrup:
1 cup passionfruit juice
1 cup sugar

For the Glaze:
2 cups confectioners sugar
1/4 cup syrup
3 T. Alize liquore

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Butter and flour a 10-cup bundt pan.
Cream butter and cream cheese in mixer on medium speed until fluffy. Add sugar and beat well. Add eggs, one at a time. Stir together flour and salt. Add to butter mixture in 2 or 3 additions. Add juice, jelly and vanilla, mixing thoroughly. Pour into prepared bundt pan and bake 60 minutes. Let cake cool completely.

Make syrup by stirring juice and sugar in small pan until syrup boils. Remove from heat and cool. Poke holes in top of cake (still in pan), and pour or brush on 1/4 cup of syrup. Let sit until completely cool. Flip cake onto serving plate, and brush top and sides with an additional 1/4 c. syrup. Let sit for a few minutes before glazing.

Mix together remaining syrup, powdered sugar and 2-3 T. of Alize. Add more powdered sugar if needed. Drizzle glaze over top and sides of cake.