One woman's foray into cooking for herself, for her family, and for her friends. It's not always picture-perfect, sometimes a little messy,
but it's always delicious. Join me in exploring new recipes, savoring the "résultats" and learning from the "erreurs".

Friday, February 27, 2009

Foodie Friday

Welcome to my first contribution to dear Gollum's sponsored Foodie Friday. If you haven't yet had the opportunity to visit Michael's (Gollum) website, Designs by Gollum, please do. You will be amazed at her talent for design and humor. Thank you Michael for hosting. What fun!

The end of the week usually leaves me pretty wrecked and not feeling much like cooking... or anything else. But in preparation for the Darling Bakers' beach party tomorrow, I had to do a little grocery shopping after work today.
Strolling through Central Market, I happened upon the sushi department. Everything was so beautiful and fresh. Ta-da! Dinner was decided. Raw tuna, salmon, and spicy tuna rolls. Doesn't get much better than that!

Thursday, February 26, 2009

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

A while back, we had a little bake-off at the office. After struggling over my decision of what to make, I finally decided on a flourless chocolate cake. Now how can you go wrong with chocolate? (Answer: You can't!) I'm generally not a chocolate-cake-kinda-person, but give me fudgey chocolate cake, and I immediately reverse my position. This Bon Appetit recipe was not difficult to make, fudgey and decadent... a winner in my book AND at our little bake-off!

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Chocolate Glaze

For cake
12 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, chopped
3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, cut into pieces
6 large eggs, separated
12 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

For glaze
1/2 cup whipping cream
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
9 ounces bittersweet (not unsweetened) or semisweet chocolate, finely chopped
Chocolate shavings

Make cake: Preheat oven to 350°F. Butter 9-inch-diameter springform pan. Line bottom of pan with parchment paper or waxed paper; butter paper. Wrap outside of pan with foil. Stir chocolate and butter in heavy medium saucepan over low heat until melted and smooth. Remove from heat. Cool to lukewarm, stirring often.

Using electric mixer, beat egg yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar in large bowl until mixture is very thick and pale, about 3 minutes. Fold lukewarm chocolate mixture into yolk mixture, then fold in vanilla extract. Using clean dry beaters, beat egg whites in another large bowl until soft peaks form. Gradually add remaining 6 tablespoons sugar, beating until medium-firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture in 3 additions. Pour batter into prepared pan.

Bake cake until top is puffed and cracked and tester inserted into center comes out with some moist crumbs attached, about 50 minutes. Cool cake in pan on rack (cake will fall).

Gently press down crusty top to make evenly thick cake. Using small knife, cut around pan sides to loosen cake. Remove pan sides. Place 9-inch-diameter tart pan bottom or cardboard round atop cake. Invert cake onto tart pan bottom. Peel off parchment paper.

Make glaze: Bring cream and corn syrup to simmer in medium saucepan. Remove from heat. Add chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth.

Place cake on rack set over baking sheet. Spread 1/2 cup glaze smoothly over top and sides of cake. Freeze until almost set, about 3 minutes. Pour remaining glaze over cake; smooth sides and top. Place cake on platter. Chill until glaze is firm, about 1 hour. (Can be made 1 day ahead. Cover with cake dome; store at room temperature.) Garnish with chocolate shavings or leaves. Serve at room temperature.
Serves 10 to 12.

Source: Bon Appétit January 1999

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Pork Fried Rice

I marinated and roasted a pork tenderloin the other day, knowing I would be using the leftovers in a fried rice later in the week. The recipe I used to marinate the pork was an Emeril Lagasse recipe which flavored the meat really well and rendered the tenderloin juicy and delicious. I cooked up plenty of rice for that meal, as well as the fried rice dish, and a small third-world country... somehow my rice measurements got away from me. I also cooked up eggplant tempura to serve with the pork tenderloin.

For the fried rice, I sauteed some onions, garlic, and ginger in a couple of tablespoons of oil, added the rice once the vegetables were tender, threw in the remaining eggplant tempura which I sliced into strips, as well as the diced leftover pork tenderloin. I seasoned the dish with a little toasted sesame oil and soy sauce and let it cook a couple more minutes. I pushed the rice mixture to the side of the pan and cooked a couple of beaten eggs. Once they were set, I mixed the eggs in with the rice and tossed in some chopped romaine (no cabbage in the house). I think I liked the fried rice even more than the original pork dinner! And thanks to my lack of mathematical skills, I now have plenty of leftovers to take for lunch for the rest of the week!

Here's the recipe I used for the pork tenderloin:

Asian Pork Tenderloin

1/2 cup soy sauce
1/4 cup pineapple juice
1/4 cup coarsely chopped green onions
1/4 cup coarsely chopped shallots
1/4 cup loosely packed fresh cilantro leaves
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped fresh ginger
2 tablespoons honey
2 tablespoons rice wine vinegar
2 tablespoons Emeril's Asian Essence (I used a Pampered Chef Asian seasoning blend I happened to have on hand)
2 tablespoons chopped garlic
1 tablespoon sesame oil
1 tablespoon crushed red pepper
2 pork tenderloins (about 2 pounds total)

Combine all the ingredients except the tenderloins in a food processor and pulse several times to puree. (I didn't use the food processor but chopped and mixed everything but hand instead of pureeing the mixture.) Put the tenderloins in a large plastic storage bag and pour in the marinade. Seal the bag and refrigerate for 1 hour. (I placed the pork in a bowl and poured the marinade over the meat.)

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Heat a large nonstick ovenproof skillet over high heat. When the skillet is hot, add the tenderloins and sear, browning on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the oven and cook for 18 to 20 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 145 degrees F. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes. Alternatively, heat a grill to medium-hot. Grill the tenderloins, turning several times, for 25 minutes, or until an instant-read thermometer inserted in the thickest part reads 145 degrees F. Remove from the grill and let rest for 5 minutes.

Source: Emeril Lagasse (FoodTV)

Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Sea Scallops with Smoked Paprika and Orange Couscous

As soon as I saw this recipe, I knew I'd have to try it. I love, love, love scallops, and the thought of pairing them with smoked paprika and orange really intrigued me. I found some huge fresh sea scallops (three per person was seriously enough), and gave the recipe a whirl. The aromas in my kitchen were mouth-watering. The flavors are, in fact, perfect together!

Sea Scallops with Smoked Paprika and Orange Couscous
Yield: 4 servings

For couscous:
4 t. olive oil
1/4 t. saffron threads, crushed
1 1/2 cups instant couscous
1/2 t. kosher salt
2 T. unsalted butter, diced
2 t. grated orange zest

For scallops:
1 1/2 t. smoked paprika
1 1/2 t. ground cumin
3/4 t. coarsely ground black pepper
1/8 t. ground red (cayenne) pepper
12 extra-large sea scallops (1 1/4- 1 1/2 lb), side muscles removed
Olive oil
Kosher salt
1 T. chopped flat-leaf parsley
4 orange wedges

To prepare couscous: In a medium saucepan with a lid, bring 2 cups of water, olive oil and saffron to a boil. Remove from heat; stir in couscous, salt, butter and orange zest. Cover and let stand at least 5 minutes or longer while you prepare the scallops. Fluff couscous with a fork before serving.

To prepare scallops: Stir together paprika, cumin, black pepper and red pepper in a small bowl. Spread the spice mixture on a dinner plate. Pat scallops dry, then roll each one on all sides in the spice mixture.

Coat the bottom of a large, heavy skillet with a thin layer of olive oil; place over medium-high heat. When it's hot, add enough scallops to fit comfortably in a single layer. Saute until cooked through, about 2 to 3 minutes per side. Remove and continue, adding oil if needed, until all scallops are cooked. Season scallops with salt to taste.

To serve: Spoon a mound of couscous on each of 4 dinner plates; top each serving with 3 scallops. Garnish each serving with a sprinkle of parsley and an orange wedge. Squeeze the orange wedge over the scallops before eating.

Per serving: 345 calories; 11 g. fat; 4 g. saturated fat; 17 mg. cholesterol; 9.5 g. protein; 52 g. carbohydrate; 0.5 g. sugar; 4 g. fiber; 257 mg. sodium; 31 mg. calcium; 163 mg. potassium

Source: St. Louis Post Dispatch via hfpn

Monday, February 23, 2009

Mushroom Lasagna

Ever since I first saw Ina Garten make this on her Barefoot Contessa show, I've been wanting to try it. Her written recipe calls for portobellos, but I remember she visited a mushroom farmer and used a variety of mushrooms for the TV episode. I opted for oyster and crimini mushrooms. I also used 2% milk though you would never know. The bechamel sauce was still very rich and creamy. It's the first time I've made this dish but it certainly won't be my last!

Portobello Mushroom Lasagna

Kosher salt
Good olive oil
3/4 pound dried lasagna noodles
4 cups whole milk
12 tablespoons (1-1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1-1/2 pounds portobello mushrooms
1 cup freshly ground Parmesan

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Bring a large pot of water to a boil with 1 tablespoon salt and a splash of oil. Add the lasagna noodles and cook for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Drain and set aside.

For the white sauce, bring the milk to a simmer in a saucepan. Set aside. Melt 8 tablespoons (1 stick) of the butter in a large saucepan. Add the flour and cook for 1 minute over low heat, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Pour the hot milk into the butter-flour mixture all at once. Add 1 tablespoon salt, the pepper, and nutmeg, and cook over medium-low heat, stirring first with the wooden spoon and then with a whisk, for 3 to 5 minutes, until thick. Set aside off the heat.

Separate the mushroom stems from the caps and discard the stems. Slice the caps 1/4-inch thick. Heat 2 tablespoons of oil and 2 tablespoons of the butter in a large (12-inch) saute pan. When the butter melts, add half the mushrooms, sprinkle with salt, and cook over medium heat for about 5 minutes, until the mushrooms are tender and they release some of their juices. If they become too dry, add a little more oil. Toss occasionally to make sure the mushrooms cook evenly. Repeat with the remaining mushrooms and set all the mushrooms aside.

To assemble the lasagna, spread some of the sauce in the bottom of an 8 by 12 by 2-inch baking dish. Arrange a layer of noodles on top, then more sauce, then 1/3 of the mushrooms, and 1/4 cup grated Parmesan. Repeat 2 more times, layering noodles, sauce, mushrooms, and Parmesan. Top with a final layer of noodles and sauce, and sprinkle with the remaining Parmesan. Bake the lasagna for 45 minutes, or until the top is browned the sauce is bubbly and hot. Allow to sit at room temperature for 15 minutes and serve hot.

Source: Barefoot Contessa at Home, copyright 2006

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Roasted Tomato Soup

When I was a child, I disliked tomato soup. Of course, the only tomato soup I knew came out of a can with a red and white label on it. I've since expanded my horizons and learned that real tomato soup comes from real tomatoes - what a revelation! Roasting the tomatoes intensifies their flavor, even when using the less than perfect tomatoes one usually finds this time of year. If you have the good fortune to have some homemade chicken stock on hand, your soup will be that much better for it.

Roasted Tomato Soup

2-1/2 pounds fresh tomatoes (mix of fresh cherry and plum tomatoes)
6 cloves garlic, peeled
2 small yellow onions, sliced
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 quart chicken stock
2 bay leaves
4 tablespoons butter
12 sun-dried tomato halves
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, optional
1/2 cup heavy cream, optional

Preheat oven to 450 degrees F.

Wash, core and cut the tomatoes into halves. Spread the tomatoes, garlic cloves and onions onto a baking tray. Drizzle with 1/2 cup of olive oil and season with salt and pepper. Roast for 25 to 40 minutes, or until caramelized.

Remove roasted tomatoes, garlic and onion from the oven and transfer to a large stock pot. Add 3/4 of the chicken stock, bay leaves, butter, and sun-dried tomatoes. Bring to a boil, reduce heat and simmer for 15 to 20 minutes or until liquid has reduced by a third.

Wash and dry basil leaves, if using, and add to the pot. Use an immersion blender to puree the soup until smooth. Return soup to low heat, add cream and adjust consistency with remaining chicken stock, if necessary. Season to taste with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Garnish with splash of heavy cream.

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence


This adaptation of How To Eat's pavlova is meringue taken to a whole new level. The topping of whipped cream makes the center decadent and almost marshmallow-y. Fresh berries and kiwi make this dessert... healthy?? Well, maybe not. But it does add beautiful color!


4 egg whites (room temperature)
pinch of salt
1-1/4 cups sugar
1-1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon white wine vinegar
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

1-1/4 cups whipping cream
1/4 cup confectioners sugar

Assorted berries, diced fresh fruit

Preheat oven to 350 F. Line baking pan with parchment paper.

Beat egg whites with pinch of salt until foamy. Add sugar to egg whites, beating in 1/4 cup at a time, until whites are shiny and stiff peaks form. Fold cornstarch, vinegar, and vanilla extract into beaten whites. Place on lined baking pan in circular shape, smoothing sides and top. (This time, I actually made 3 smaller pavlovas instead of 1 large one.) Place in oven and immediately reduce oven temperature to 300 F. for 1 hour. At the end of the hour, turn oven off and leave meringue in oven until completely cool.

Whip cream with sugar until soft peaks form. Add to top of meringue. Place berries and diced fruit over whipped cream and serve.

Source: Adapted from Nigella Lawson's How to Eat, copyright 2002

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Sticky Toffee Pudding

I'm always amazed when this dessert comes out of the oven. The batter is bathed in boiling water before baking but results in a very cake-like-looking product. That is, until you spoon it up into your awaiting bowl. Then you notice that luscious sauce hiding at the bottom of the baking dish. Because most sticky toffee puddings wouldn't be totally over-the-top without a little cream to 'dress' it, mine certainly gets the same treatment. Heavenly...

Easy Sticky-Toffee Pudding

For the cake:
100 g dark muscovado sugar
175 g self-raising flour
125 ml full-fat milk
1 egg
1 tsp vanilla, extract
50 g unsalted butter, melted
200 g chopped rolled dates

For the sauce:
200 g dark muscovado sugar
25 g unsalted butter, approximately, in little blobs
500 ml boiling water

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F and butter a 1 ½ quart baking dish.Combine the sugar with the flour in a large bowl. Measure out the milk, beat in the egg, vanilla and melted butter, and pour this mixture over the sugar and flour, stirring just to combine. Fold in the dates, then pour into the prepared dish.

Sprinkle over the 200 g (3/4 cup) dark muscovado sugar and dot with the butter. Pour over the boiling water and transfer to the oven. Check after 45 minutes, though you might find the pudding needs 5 or 10 minutes more. The top of the pudding should be springy and spongy when it’s cooked; underneath, the butter, dark muscovado sugar and boiling water will have turned into a rich, sticky sauce. Serve with vanilla ice cream, crème fraiche, double or single cream as desired.

Serves 6-8.

Source: Nigella Bites, copyright 2002

Friday, February 20, 2009

Decadent Chocolate Cherry Bread

What can I say... chocolate and bread. *sigh*

Decadent Chocolate Cherry Bread
Yield: 2 loaves

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup very warm water (105° - 115°F)
1/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1-1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1 cup warm brewed coffee (90°F or less)
1 large egg, separated
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
1-1/2 cups bittersweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
1 cup dried sour cherries

Place yeast and water in a large bowl. Stir with a fork to dissolve yeast and allow to stand for 3 minutes.

Whisk sugar, flour, cocoa powder and salt together in a medium bowl. Set aside.

Stir coffee, egg yolk and butter into yeast mixture. Gradually add flour mixture, stirring until a shaggy mass forms and flour is moistened. If dough feels stiff, add 2 tablespoons of water. It should be moist and sticky. Move dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 7 to 8 minutes until it is smooth and elastic. Shape into a loose ball, cover with plastic wrap and let rest about 10 minutes.

Flatten dough and stretch gently with your fingers to form a rectangle about an inch thick. Spread chopped chocolate and dried cherries evenly over dough. Fold into thirds like a business letter, then knead 2 to 3 minutes until the pieces of chocolate and cherries are well distributed. Shape dough into a loose ball and place in a lightly oiled bowl, along with any loose chocolate and cherries. Cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until dough has doubled in volume, 1 to 2 hours.

Line 12" x 17" baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently pour dough onto lightly floured work surface, pressing any loose chocolate or cherries into dough. Divide dough into 2 equal pieces. Pull corners towards the center and press down in the middle to gather dough, turn dough over and seal shut by rotating closure against the counter to tighten the ball and form a seal. Be careful not to tear it as you are shaping it. Place one loaf on each end of prepared baking sheet allowing several inches between them. Cover loosely with oiled plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for 1 to 1 1/2 hours until doubled in volume.

About 15 minutes before baking, place one oven rack in top third of oven and another in bottom third. Preheat to 400°F.

When loaves have doubled, mix egg white with 1 teaspoon water. Brush each loaf gently with egg wash being sure to coat entire surface. Gently cut a small cross shape on top of each loaf but be careful not to deflate loaf. Place pan on top oven rack. Using a plant sprayer, mist top and sides of oven 6 to 8 times, and quickly close oven door.

Bake for 12 minutes, then reduce oven temperature to 350°F and rotate pan from top to bottom and front to back to ensure even baking. Bake for 12 to 20 minutes, or until tops of loaves feel firm but not hard when you press them slightly, and the bottoms are lightly browned. Loaves should have a thin, soft coating, not a hard, crunchy crust. Transfer to a wire rack and cool completely before serving.

Source: AMY'S BREAD - NYC/Dishesdone

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Cold Sesame Noodles

This is one of those recipes that lends itself well to adaptation. It's wonderful as is but is also delicious with the addition of sliced grilled chicken, grilled or boiled shrimp, or any of your favorite vegetables (broccoli, carrots, sugar snap peas, snow pea pods, etc.) If not finishing in one sitting, I'd recommend storing the pasta and vegetables (and protein, if using) separate from the sauce.

Cold Sesame Noodles
Yield: 4 servings

12 ounces udon noodles
2 tablespoons dark sesame oil
2 tablespoons peanut oil
1-inch piece fresh ginger, minced
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 teaspoon red chili paste, such as sambal
Juice of 1 lime
2 tablespoons brown sugar
1/2 cup peanut butter (creamy or chunky)
3 tablespoons rice vinegar
3 tablespoons soy sauce
6 tablespoons hot water
1 red bell pepper, julienned
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds
2 green onions, thinly sliced on the diagonal
Fresh chopped cilantro leaves, for garnish
Chopped dry-roasted peanuts, for garnish

Cook the noodles in large pot of boiling unsalted water over medium heat until barely tender and still firm. Drain immediately and rinse thoroughly with cold water. Drain noodles really well and transfer to a bowl; toss with sesame oil to flavor noodles and keep them from sticking together. Chill well.

In a blender combine the peanut oil, ginger, garlic, chili paste, lime juice, brown sugar, peanut butter, vinegar, soy sauce, and hot water. Blend. Toss the noodles with the peanut sauce until well-coated. Serve at room temperature or chilled; garnish with the sesame seeds, green onions, peanuts and cilantro.

Source: Adapted from Tyler Florence

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Shrimp Curry

Shrimp is one of the easiest ingredients to cook with, especially for a working girl. If I don't remember to take some out of the freezer before heading for the office, it's only a few minutes under cold running water to thaw them out when I get home in the evening (which is standard operating procedure for me most of the time!) So having a repertoire of shrimp recipes at the ready has become imperative for me if I don't want to eat Cheerios every night for dinner. This particular dish is simple, extremely flavorful, and enough of a stand-out to serve to guests.

Shrimp Curry
Makes 4 servings

1 large onion, quartered
1 (2-inch-long) piece fresh ginger, peeled
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1-1/2 teaspoons Madras curry powder
1 to 2 fresh serrano chiles, halved lengthwise
1 cup water
1 (14-ounces) can unsweetened coconut milk (not low fat)
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
1 pound large shrimp in shell (21 to 25 per pound)
chopped peanuts (optional)
chopped cilantro (optional)

Cooked rice (for serving)

Pulse onion and ginger in a food processor until finely chopped. Cook onion mixture with salt and sugar in oil in a 12-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, stirring frequently, until onion begins to brown, about 5 minutes. Stir in curry powder and chiles and cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. Stir in water, coconut milk, and lime juice and simmer, stirring occasionally, until thickened, 5 to 8 minutes.

While sauce simmers, peel shrimp (devein if desired) and season with salt and pepper. Add shrimp to sauce and simmer, stirring occasionally, until shrimp are just cooked through, about 3 minutes. Add salt to taste and serve immediately over rice. Garnish with chopped peanuts and cilantro, if using.

Source: Gourmet, March 2005

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beef Bourguignon

Bouef Bourguignon is the perfect comfort food to soothe the secret Parisienne in me! Ina Garten's recipe for this country dish is not difficult to put together, and makes for a lovely meal. Start the meal with a mache salad dressed with a light lemony vinaigrette, and serve this stew (the word "stew" seems so Bourgeoisie for such a dish!) with a nice glass of red, and - voila! - I'm transported to a place I've yet only dreamed of visiting. C'est magnifique!

1 tablespoon good olive oil
8 ounces dry cured center cut applewood smoked bacon, diced
2 1/2 pounds chuck beef cut into 1-inch cubes
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
1 pound carrots, sliced diagonally into 1-inch chunks
2 yellow onions, sliced
2 teaspoons chopped garlic (2 cloves)
1/2 cup Cognac
1 (750 ml.) bottle good dry red wine such as Cote du Rhone or Pinot Noir
2 cups beef broth
1 tablespoon tomato paste
1 teaspoon fresh thyme leaves (or 1/2 teaspoon dried)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter at room temperature, divided
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 pound frozen whole onions
1 pound fresh mushrooms stems discarded, caps thickly sliced

For serving: Country bread or Sour Dough, toasted or grilled and rubbed with garlic clove
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley (optional)

Preheat the oven to 250 degrees F.

Heat the olive oil in a large Dutch oven. Add the bacon and cook over medium heat for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the bacon is lightly browned. Remove the bacon with a slotted spoon to a large plate.

Dry the beef cubes with paper towels and then sprinkle them with salt and pepper. In batches in single layers, sear the beef in the hot oil for 3 to 5 minutes, turning to brown on all sides. Remove the seared cubes to the plate with the bacon and continue searing until all the beef is browned. Set aside.

Toss the carrots, and onions, 1 tablespoon of salt and 2 teaspoons of pepper in the fat in the pan and cook for 10 to 15 minutes, stirring occasionally, until the onions are lightly browned. Add the garlic and cook for 1 more minute. Add the Cognac, stand back, and ignite with a match to burn off the alcohol. Put the meat and bacon back into the pot with the juices. Add the bottle of wine plus enough beef broth to almost cover the meat. Add the tomato paste and thyme. Bring to a simmer, cover the pot with a tight-fitting lid and place it in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours or until the meat and vegetables are very tender when pierced with a fork.

Combine 2 tablespoons of butter and the flour with a fork and stir into the stew. Add the frozen onions. Saute the mushrooms in 2 tablespoons of butter for 10 minutes until lightly browned and then add to the stew. Bring the stew to a boil on top of the stove, then lower the heat and simmer for 15 minutes. Season to taste.

To serve, toast the bread in the toaster or oven. Rub each slice on 1 side with a cut clove of garlic. For each serving, spoon the stew over a slice of bread and sprinkle with parsley.
Source: Barefoot in Paris: Easy French Food You Can Make At Home, copyright 2006

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Arancini di Riso

I love risotto. Absolutely love it. When it's made correctly, it's creamy and decadent. So, it's hard to imagine that I would ever have enough leftover to make these little delicacies. And it's a rare occasion that I would. I have actually had to make a batch specifically for arancini (and try to keep myself away from it in order for it to cool down enough to make them). This recipe of Giada deLaurentiis is well worth it. Crispy on the outside, tender and flavorful on the inside, with a little bit of fresh mozzarella as a nice little treat in the center. Leftovers never tasted THIS good!

Friday, February 13, 2009

Herb-Lemon Zest Popovers

I love popovers for breakfast. They're lighter than muffins or scones (though I'm not adverse to having either on occasion!). This version is even lighter than a traditional popover. I used lemon thyme to up the lemony factor, though it was still more of a background flavor. They'd be a wonderful accompaniment to a light dinner or lunch, but they were lovely with breakfast!

3 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup unbleached white flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 teaspoons grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme (optional - if using, try lemon thyme!)
2 tablespoons butter, melted

Separate the eggs, and beat the whites until they hold soft peaks.

In another bowl, beat the yolks with the milk until well-blended.

In a third bowl, stir together the flour, salt, pepper, lemon zest, and thyme (I used lemon thyme).

Stir the milk mixture into the dry ingredients just until blended. Stir in the butter. Don't over-mix or the popovers will be tough. Fold in the egg whites.

Pour the batter into twelve small or ten medium-sized muffin tins, filling them two-thirds full.

Put the pan in a cold oven, and turn the heat to 425 F. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the popovers are puffed and browned. Remove them from the oven and run a small, sharp knife around each cup to loosen the popovers from the pan. (They took very little coaxing to get them out of the tin!)

Source: Breakfast in Bed, copyright 1997

Thursday, February 12, 2009

You say potayto, I say potahto...

Homemade Gnocchi

I love gnocchi but the thought of making it myself always intimidated me. I researched a lot of recipes, most of which impressed upon the reader that when adding flour, you just have to know when the dough feels right. As an inexperienced gnocchi-maker, how would I know how the dough was supposed to feel?? I threw caution to the wind and decided to give it a try. Since many of the recipes I found called for 1 egg for every 3 potatoes, I began by beating an egg with a pinch of salt & pepper and a scrape or two of fresh nutmeg against my handy microplane and added about one-third of the egg mixture to one potato (which had been boiled whole, then peeled, and riced). I also decided not to subject any unsuspecting, innocent bystanders to this experiment, hence the reason for using just the one potato. Bad call. After kneading in about 1/2 cup of flour, the dough seemed 'right'. The dough was then divided in half, each piece then rolled into long ropes, sliced into 1-inch pieces, and rolled down a gnocchi paddle. Wow - they really looked like gnocchi! Now for the real test - how would they taste? Not to worry - after dropping them in boiling water, and letting them cook for an additional 1 -2 minutes once they floated to the top, I then sauteed them in a little butter and chopped fresh rosemary until they were slightly golden. A sprinkling of grated parmesan (Parmigiana Reggiano, to be exact) and the taste test was on. They were delicious - light and airy. My first attempt left a lot to live up to. Hope I can do this again!

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sweets for your Sweetie

This has got to be the easiest truffle in the world to make! Crush oreos, mix with cream cheese, form into balls, chill until solid, then dip in melted chocolate and decorate as you wish. They're dense, rich, and oh so chocolatey. What's not to love?!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

White Chili

I have nothing against a good beef chili. Nothing at all. But sometimes I want something not quite so earthy, and white chili is just the ticket. This chicken chili recipe is from a quaint little restaurant in Waxahachie, Texas called The Dove's Nest. Their little gem of a cookbook contains some really nice recipes, but this is my favorite. A pot of this simmering on the stove is the perfect thing to warm you up on those last few really cold days of winter!

The Dove's Nest White Chili
3 tablespoons olive oil
1 medium onion, chopped
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 1/2 cups tomatoes, chopped
6 whole tomatillos, diced
1 whole jalapeño, seeded and minced
2 cups chicken stock
1 cup chopped green chilies, 17 ounces
2 cups cooked chicken, chopped
1/2 teaspoon oregano
1/2 teaspoon cumin
4 tablespoons fresh cilantro, chopped
2 cans cannellini beans and liquid, 19 ounces
1 tablespoon fresh lime juice
salt and pepper, to taste

In a large pot, heat olive oil over medium-high heat. Add onion and cook until onion begins to soften, 3 to 5 minutes. Add garlic and cook 1 to 2 minutes longer. Do not brown. Add tomatoes, tomatillos and jalapeño, and cook until tomatillos are soft. Add chicken stock, green chilies, cooked chicken, oregano, cumin, cilantro, beans and lime juice. Heat through and season to taste with salt and pepper.

Source: The Dove's Nest, copyright 1996

Saturday, February 7, 2009

Orange-Cardamom Madeleines

Cardamom is one of those spices that's a bit difficult to describe to someone who's never tasted it before. I find it to be a flowery, but not over-powering, flavor that gently permeates whatever the spice is added to. The recipe for these little shell-shaped cakelets came from Martha Stewart's Baking Handbook. I opted to use blood orange juice and zest in the glaze, giving them a pretty pink hue. The perfect little treat!

Friday, February 6, 2009

Roasted Squash Soup with Port

I love homemade soups. I especially love creamy soups... unfortunately, creamy soups don't particularly love me (well... they do... they attach themselves to my hips and refuse to ever leave...) The perfect compromise is this recipe from a now-out-of-print Paul Newman cookbook - it is rich and creamy with no cream. Not much to this compromise - the wonderful flavor and rich, soul-satisfying appeal of this creamy concoction does not leave me feeling compromised at all!

1 butternut squash (4-5 lbs), halved and seeded
1/4 cup olive oil
1 russet potato, peeled & chopped
1 yellow onion, chopped
1/3 cup whole cloves garlic (about 6 medium cloves)
6 - 8 cups chicken stock
1/4 cup ruby port
1/2 teaspoon ground allspice
salt & freshly ground black pepper to taste
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
toasted pumpkin seeds for garnish (optional)

Preheat the oven to 450 F.

Brush the cut surfaces of the squash with 2 tablespoons of the oil and bake on a cookie sheet until tender, about 45 minutes. Let cool and scrape out the flesh into a bowl.

Heat the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil in a soup pot over high heat until hot. Add the potato, onion, and garlic, and cook, stirring, for 5 minutes. Add 6 cups of the stock and bring to a boil. Stir in the cooked squash, port, and allspice, and cook at a low simmer for 40 minutes.

Puree the hot soup with an immersion blender. Add additional stock if necessary to arrive at the desired consistency. Add salt and pepper. Swirl in the butter. Serve in soup bowls and garnish with the pumpkin seeds.

Adapted from Newman's Own Cookbook, copyright 1998

Profiteroles with Ricotta Mascarpone

Pate choux is brilliant culinary alchemy! A little mound of dough puffs up in the oven, rendering a crisp exterior and a pocket of emptiness, begging to be filled with something sweet or savory. Giada deLaurentiis has come up with a deliciously decadent mixture of ricotta and mascarpone to fill these little gems and gilds the lily by topping them with melted Nutella and chopped, toasted hazelnuts. Heaven!

Thursday, February 5, 2009

Seville Olive-Oil Wafers

My curiosity was piqued when I came across this recipe in Martha Stewart's recent Baking book. This wafer-thin 'cookie' contains sesame seeds as well as aniseeds, and, loving the flavor of aniseed, I knew I'd have to give it a try. Instead of sprinkling regular, ol' granulated sugar across the top, I went for superfluously glistening sparkling sugar. I not only loved the little extra sweetness the sparkling sugar gave the wafer but absolutely adored the shimmer these cookies then took on. The crispy shards the wafers are broken into are perfect with a hot cup of tea or coffee. A new favorite!

Seville Olive-Oil Wafers

1-1/2 cups plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/4 cup hulled sesame seeds
3 tablespoons sugar, plus more for sprinkling
1 tablespoons anise seeds
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons ice water
2 large egg whites, beaten until foamy

Preheat oven to 400 with racks in the upper and lower thirds. In the bowl of a electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, mix flour, sesame seeds, sugar, anise seeds, baking powder, and salt on low speed until just combined. In a small bowl, combine the olive oil and water; add to flour mixture. Beat on low speed until just combined, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed.

Shape a 1-1/2 tbls. of dough into a ball. Place two balls at a time on a piece of parchment, at least 5 inches apart, and cover with another piece of parchment. Roll out into very thin 8 x 4 inch ovals. Transfer dough and parchment to a baking sheet. Lift off top piece of parchment. Generously brush ovals with egg white, and generously sprinkle with sugar. Repeat with 2 more balls of dough.

Bake, rotating sheets halfway through, until the cookies are brown around the edges and in spots on top, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer parchment and cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with remaining balls of dough. Cookies can be kept, stacked between layers of parchment paper, in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 4 days.

Source: Martha Stewart Baking Handbook

Caprial & John's Pork with Honey, Mustard, and Herb Glaze

Adapted from Caprial & John's Pork Chops with Honey, Mustard, and Herb Glaze
Serves 6

2 (about 12 ounces each) pork tenderloins
1 tablespoon Herbs de Provence
Salt and cracked black pepper
2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1/3 cup honey
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 small shallot, chopped
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
Sea salt
1 tablespoon unsalted butter
1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

Preheat oven 350°

Rub the pork with herbs and salt and black pepper. Heat olive oil in a very large pan until smoking hot. Add the pork tenderloins and sear well on all sides. Mix honey, garlic, mustard, shallots, lemon juice, lemon zest, and a pinch of sea salt. Pour over the tenderloins, place in the oven and cook, until the pork reaches an internal temperature of 140 degrees about 20-25 minutes. When the meat is cooked, place on a serving dish. Place the pan on the heat and bring to a boil, add the butter, and adjust the seasonings. Slice the pork tenderloins, pour sauce over meat, and serve hot.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Rice Pudding with Vanilla Bean, Orange & Rum

Giada deLaurentiis' intepretation of rice pudding is rich and creamy, particularly because it uses arborio rice, the rice classically used for risotto. There's just enough rum to give it that warm feeling in the back of your throat as you eat it but definitely tame enough for the under-18 crowd. My favorite rice pudding recipe!

Upside-down Chicken Pot Pie

Pot pie is comfort food at its best. This is an easy take on this dish. Saute some chopped onions, thinly sliced carrots and small chunks of potatoes in a little butter, add a little flour to coat the sauteed vegetables, and let it cook for a minute. Add enough chicken broth to make a gravy/sauce, throw in some chunks of cooked chicken, corn and chopped parsley (thyme is also great in this!), and season to taste with salt & pepper. Serve in a puff pastry shell. Voila! Upside-down chicken pot pie!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

Stir-Fried Shrimp & Asparagus

2 pounds large shrimp, shelled & deveined with tails intact
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon toasted sesame oil
1 tablespoon light soy sauce
1 bunch asparagus, ends trimmed and stalks peeled if they are thick and fibrous
2 tablespoons peanut or canola oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon peeled and minced fresh ginger
1 green onion, cut on the diagonal into 1-inch pieces
2 tablespoons Chinese rice wine or dry sherry
Fresh cilantro leaves for garnish
Steamed white rice

In a glass or ceramic bowl, place shrimp and add salt, sesame oil, and soy sauce. Toss to coat. Cut the asparagus on the diagonal into pieces about 2 inches long.

In a large wok or sauté pan over medium-high heat, heat the peanut oil until the oil is shimmering. Swirl the pan to coat evenly with the oil. Add the garlic, ginger, and shrimp and toss and stir until the shrimp are evenly pink on both sides, about 1 minute. Using a slotted spoon or a skimmer, transfer the shrimp to a clean bowl.

Add the asparagus to the pan and toss and stir over medium-high heat until bright green, about 1 minute. Add the green onion and wine. Cover the pan and cook until the asparagus is tender-crisp, about 2 minutes. Return the shrimp to the pan and toss and stir just until heated through, about 1 minute. Pour into a shallow serving bowl and garnish with cilantro leaves. Serve immediately over the steamed rice.

Makes 4 main-course servings.
Adapted From Williams-Sonoma Seafood, copyright 2005.

Apple Galette with Caramel Sauce

I have a love affair with anything caramel: caramel candy, caramel apples, caramel ice cream. Homemade caramel sauce, though, has to top it all. It makes just about any dessert taste that much better!

This little dessert was made by taking storebought puff pastry and cutting into a circle. Put a little almond paste in the middle, then layer sliced apples over that, and bake. A little homemade caramel sauce (sugar, water, cream) and NOW it's dessert! Pay no attention to that little dab of ice cream in the middle...

Scallops Provencal

This is another one of Ina Garten's recipes using one of my favorite shellfish: scallops. Easy and delicious! Thank you, Ina!!

Scallops Provencal

1 pound fresh sea or bay scallops
All-purpose flour, for dredging
Kosher salt
Freshly ground black pepper
4 Tbsp (1/2 stick) unsalted butter, divided
1/2 cup chopped shallots (2 large)
1 garlic clove, minced
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 lemon, cut in wedges

Sea scallops should be cut in half crosswise, but leave bay scallops whole. Season the flour with salt and pepper and dredge the scallops. Melt half the butter in a very large sauté pan over high heat Add the scallops and reduce heat to medium. Brown scallops on each side, being careful not to overcook. Add remaining butter, shallots, garlic, and parsley. Sauté a couple of more minutes, stirring gently to mix. Add wine and cook about another minute. Taste and adjust seasonings. Serve hot with lemon wedges for squeezing.
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