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".

Sunday, December 19, 2010

Fresh Tagliatelle with Mushrooms, Chestnuts & Sage

Ack.  I had this whole post written and lost it while it was still in "Draft" mode.  Auto-Save is a great feature but can be harsh if you inadvertently lose text (or an entire post) and don't have a chance to recover it before it's automatically saved.  Lesson learned.  If I'm going to save something in Draft before publishing, copy the entire post's HTML code into a text or Word document.  That's my tip for the day!

(An apology is in order here:  My photos this week are particularly poor.  Not sure what my problem is, but I will do my best to get that figured out soon!)

I do so look forward to the weekends.  It not only means leaving the stress of the work week behind, but it allows me the time to do what I really enjoy... cook!  Though I do a little cooking during the week, weekends give me the opportunity to try new recipes and more time-consuming techniques that I don't have the time (or inclination) for after a long work day.  Which brings me to this week's Weekend Blog Showcase, hosted by Ann (Thibeault's Table) this week.

I've had this recipe on file to try for a few weeks now from Take Thou Food. Being the mushroom-lover that I am, I knew it was a dish I would love. Take Thou Food is written by Sean, a young guy who is obviously a talented cook and photographer.  I loved that he made the pasta from scratch for this dish even though the mushrooms are what really take center stage in the recipe.  While Sean used a rolling pin to roll out his pasta dough, though, I used my handy, dandy crank pasta machine.  I felt like a bit of a slacker in comparison, especially given the fact that his dough looks remarkably uniform and mine, well, ... doesn't.  Nonetheless, his pasta dough was simple enough to make and will be my go-to pasta dough recipe from now on.

Sean used a combination of shiitake, oyster, button and rehydrated chanterelles in his dish, which sounded delicious.  I remembered a small bag of dried lobster mushrooms I've had stashed in my pantry for quite some time, waiting for a dish where they would really star.  So I reconstituted them in some hot water for about 30 minutes, and sliced them up along with some shiitakes and baby bellas, saving some of their steeping liquid to enhance the dish.  Perfect.

I also had a jar of roasted chestnuts on hand.  Their slightly sweet flavor and soft yet chewy texture were a wonderful addition to the recipe.This dish was so easy and so delicious, I know it will be one I will make again and again.  Thank you, Sean!

Fresh Tagliatelle (Mushroom, Chestnuts, Sage) 
Inspired by Gabby's Fettucini from La Pietra Cucina

- mixture of wild mushrooms
- 2+ tablespoons of butter
- a bunch of sage, chiffonade
- roasted chestnuts, in little pieces
- dried or fresh fettucini or tagliatelle
- 1 tablespoon of fresh lemon juice

1) Make the pasta. This is so easy and simple to make at home. Just combine 100g of flour, 1 large egg and a tablespoon of olive oil and blitz until it resembles wet sand. Pour out to a lightly floured work surface and knead for a couple minutes until smooth and elastic. Wrap in cling film and chill for 30 minutes.

2) After the pasta's chilled, roll it out using a rolling pin (not recommended) or a pasta machine. After it's thin enough, cut into tagliatelle and set aside until you need it.

3) In a hot pan, add a tablespoon of olive oil (Lori's note:  I added an additional 2 tablespoons of butter to the olive oil). Add the mushrooms (rehydrate any dry mushrooms per package instructions) and saute until it starts to brown and reduce in size. Finish off with a tablespoon of butter to give it a nice, rich, nutty flavor.

4) Add in sage a minute before the mushrooms finish cooking.

5) This is where you gotta multitask: if you're using fresh pasta, cook it in salted, boiling water for 1 to 2 minutes before the mushrooms finish cooking. If you're using dried pasta, you want to cook it just before al dente and by the time the mushrooms finish cooking so about the same time you start sauteeing the mushrooms. Overcooking the mushrooms is more forgivable than mushy pasta though.

6) Add a splash of the mushroom stock from the liquid the dried mushrooms were in and squeeze about a tablespoon of lemon juice over the pan.

7) Toss in your pasta with the chestnut bits and toss a few times until well incorporated.

8) Finish the pasta with another tablespoon of butter and mix. Serve immediately.

Saturday, December 11, 2010

Orange-Pomegranate Tarts

We've made it to the weekend.  Thank goodness!  It's time for Weekend Blog Showcase.  Join Ann (Thibeault's Table) and me in showcasing recipes from the beautiful and delicious blogs that surround us in the virtual world.  Find out how to participate at the end of this post.

My blog of choice this week is the beautiful Amber's Sprinkled with Flour.  I was totally taken with her Orange Pomegranate Tarts.  The flavors and the colors are so stunning that I knew this was going to be my recipe to try this weekend.  And I was not disappointed.  The orange custard is amazing.  And the pomegranate arils? They so beautifully contrast with the pale orange custard visually while offering that amazing textural 'crunch' to these tarts.    I have to admit that I stayed within my comfort zone and made my normal pie crust (using all butter this time).  A little sugar added to the pie dough would have been in order, but I forgot it.  Nonetheless, the crust did turn out flaky.  When making the custard, instead of using the optional vanilla extract, I thought this would be a great opportunity to use the Fiori di Sicilia I have stored in my fridge. It's a lightly floral orange/vanilla extract, and this tart was the perfect foil for using it, though pure vanilla extract would have been wonderful, too.  (I often use the Fiori di Sicilia in oatmeal cookies.  It adds that background je ne sais quoi that people can't seem to put their finger on.  Really delicious!)

I will be making this custard again, no doubt about it.  Thank you, Amber!

Orange-Pomegranate Tarts
Orange Pastry Cream

1 cup milk
1/4 cup sugar (divided)
finely grated peel from one orange
1/8 teaspoon vanilla (optional - I used fiori di sicilia)
3 large egg yolks
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon unsalted butter, room temperature

In a small bowl, whisk the egg yolks together with 2 tablespoons of the sugar, and the flour until well incorporated. Set aside. In a small, heavy-bottomed pan, place the milk, orange zest, and the other 2 tablespoons of sugar, and heat until barely boiling. Remove from heat and pour half of the milk mixture into the yolk mixture, whisking until combined. Pour the egg mixture back into the saucepan and put on medium-low heat, whisking constantly until mixture is thick (about 2-3 minutes). Remove from heat and add the butter, stirring until melted. If desired, press the pastry cream through a sieve over a bowl. Store in the refrigerator with plastic wrap pressed on the surface for up to 3 days.


1-1/2 cups flour
1/2 cup unsalted butter (chilled and diced into small cubes)
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup ice-cold water

In a food processor, place the flour, butter, sugar and salt.  Pulse 10 times.  With food processor running, stream in cold water little at a time until dough comes together.  Tip out onto a lightly floured surface, and pull dough together to form a disc.  Cover in plastic wrap and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 F.  Roll dough and cut out large enough circles of dough to fit into bottom and sides of 4-inch tart shells. Place into tart pans and prick bottom and sides.  Place tart shells on a cookie pan and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from oven and cool completely on a rack.

Remove the tart shells from the pans, and place on serving plates.  Fill the cooled shells with the prepared pastry cream, then sprinkle the pomegranate arils over the top.
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To participate in Weekend Blog Showcase, pick a recipe from a blog other than your own (Tastespotting and Foodgawker are great places for inspiration), make the recipe and post about it on your own blog, crediting the originating blog with the recipe.  Then sign into Mr. Linky.  That's all there is to it!  Ann and I look forward to your participation!

Saturday, November 27, 2010

Weekend Blog Showcase: Orange-Scented Macaroons

First, my apologies for missing Weekend Blog Showcase last week.  I came down with a horrible cold that had me asleep most of last weekend and a nagging cough that drove the few co-workers who had to work the week of Thanksgiving a bit crazy.  Ah well.  I'm much better and ready to cook!  My thanks to Ann (Thibeault's Table) for hosting last week!

I love just about anything almond.  So when I came across these on  Foodgawker one day, I did a little happy dance inside my head.  I hightailed it right over to Hungry Rabbit for the recipe.  These delicate little cookies are simple to make and have a wonderful orange-y almond flavor.  It's a terrific combination.  Ken advises to leave these alone for a couple of days as the flavor improves.  I'll take his word for it and pass along the admonition.  I know they were amazing as soon as they were cool enough to sample (you know I had to try one).  I love these!  And I also love Ken's blog.  Hungry Rabbit has wonderful photos and great recipes (seems that all my favorite blogs do!)  I'll be visiting often.  Thank you, Ken!

Orange-Scented Macaroons

2 large egg whites
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/8 teaspoon pure orange extract (optional)
1 pound almond paste, separate into 1 inch pieces
Pinch of table salt
1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, sifted, plus more for rolling and coating (about 1 cup)
Zest of 2 oranges
1 tablespoon orange liqueur, such as Grand Marnier or Triple Sec

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with nonstick baking mats; set aside.
2. Whisk one egg white and extracts in a small bowl until combined, set aside.
3. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, Add almond paste and salt, beat on medium speed until soft, about 2 minutes. Add egg white mixture and beat to combine, about a minute.
4. Reduce speed to low, add confectioners’ sugar slowly and beat until combined, about 1 minute. Add orange zest and orange liqueur; beat until evenly distributed, about 1 minute.
5. Lightly dust work surface with confectioners’ sugar. Turn dough out onto work surface; roll into 3/4-inch-thick logs (3 or 4), about 18 inches long. Cut each log crosswise into 1/2-inch pieces. Roll each piece into a ball.
6. Lightly beat remaining egg white. Coat each ball with egg white and roll in sugar, tapping to remove excess; transfer to prepared baking sheets. Let stand at room temperature for 30 minutes.
7. Pinch each piece of dough with three fingers to form an irregular pyramid shape. Bake until lightly golden, about 15 minutes. Transfer baking sheet to a wire rack and cool completely.

Yields about 6 dozen

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To participate in Weekend Blog Showcase, pick a recipe from a blog other than your own (Tastespotting and Foodgawker are great places for inspiration), make the recipe and post about it on your own blog, crediting the originating blog with the recipe.  Then sign into Mr. Linky.  That's all there is to it!  Ann and I look forward to your participation!

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Eggplant & Garlic Salad

When I have a chance to put my feet up for a little bit, I often find myself trolling the food photo sites like Tastespotting and Foodgawker, oohing and aahing over many of the beautiful culinary creations, the gorgeous photography, and the inspiration to expand my own recipe repertoire.  This simple but unbelievably delicious recipe is a result of one of those trolling sessions.

Eralda, of The Split Pea fame, posted this recipe from her parents' native Albania.  As a fellow eggplant-lover, I was anxious to give it a try.

I was unable to locate any Chinese eggplants at my local grocer's but was able to locate some slender Italian aubergines.  Perfectly acceptable!  I bought two but one sufficed for my meal.

While Eralda leaves her garlic totally raw, I decided not to mince mine quite so fine, putting the garlic along with the olive oil called for in the dressing into a small ramekin and microwaving the mixture for about 30 seconds.  It was just enough to take the "bite" out of the garlic, leaving it a bit softer and mellower.  Heating the oil a bit with the garlic also pleasantly flavored the olive oil.

This is a delicious salad and I will be making it often. Thank you, Eralda!

Eggplant and Garlic Salad

6-7 small Chinese eggplants (or 2 slender Italian eggplant)
3 tablespoons whole wheat or unbleached flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
2 tablespoons canola oil for frying
1 medium garlic clove, very finely chopped
1 tablespoon extra virgin olive oil for drizzling
1 teaspoon red wine vinegar
1/2 teaspoon salt for sprinkling the salad (Eralda used fleur de sel, so I did, too.  Perfection!)

Wash, remove ends, and slice the eggplants lengthwise (1/4 inch). Mix the flour, salt, and pepper into a dish or pie plate.  Heat the canola oil in a large skillet. Toss the eggplant slices in the flour mixture.

When the oil is hot, add the eggplant slices in on layer. Cook on high heat (the higher the temperature of the oil the less oil they will absorbe) until brown on each side, about 1 minute or less per side.  To test for doneness, pierce with a fork. If the fork is easily inserted, the eggplant is done.

Remove eggplant from heat and drain on paper towels. Arrange on a plate, sprinkle with the garlic*, salt, and drizzle with the olive oil and the vinegar.

*Alternatively, put the minced garlic and olive oil in a ramekin and microwave for 20 - 30 seconds.  Remove from microwave and whisk in the red wine vinegar.  Season the cooked eggplant with salt & pepper, and drizzle the garlic, olive oil & red wine vinegar dressing over the plated eggplant.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Weekend Blog Showcase: Homemade Almond Joys (sort of...)

We've made it to the weekend!  And that means it's time for Weekend Blog Showcase.  Join Ann (Thibeault's Table) and me in showcasing some of the best recipes of our fellow foodie bloggers. 

This week, I attempted a recipe I found at Joy the Baker.  She has created a homemade version of my very favorite candy bar, Almond Joy.  Her post for this delectable sweet contains great step-by-step photos (great photos, by the way), and a wonderful sense of humor.  My completed version of her recipe turned out to look more like Almond Joys on steroids, so my try at them resulted in only about 20 candy bars instead of her 30.  Ah well.  They are delicious, the perfect homage to my candy bar of choice.  Thank you, Joy!

Homemade Almond Joy
(Source: recipe found on
Yield: makes about 30 little bars

7 ounces sweetened condensed milk
1 cup powdered sugar
1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract
pinch of salt
2-1/2 cups unsweetened flaked coconut
30 raw almonds
about 20 ounces (a bag and a half) of good quality semi sweet chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F, spread raw almonds onto a baking sheet and toast for about 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and allow to cool.

In a medium bowl, whisk together sweetened condensed milk, powdered sugar, salt and vanilla extract.  Stir in the unsweetened coconut.  The mixture will be thick.  Place mixture in the freezer for 30 minutes for tom make the mixture easier to work with.

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Remove the coconut mixture from the freezer.  With clean hands shape one tablespoon of coconut into a little log about 2 inches long and 3/4-inch thick.  Press the logs together very well so they don't crack when dipped.    Place the log on the lined baking sheet and continue until all of the coconut mixture is gone.  Rinse hands occasionally if they get too sticky.  Press an almond on top of each coconut log.  (I pressed the almond into the mixture a bit.) It might not completely stick.  That's ok.  Place the baking sheet in the fridge to chill while you melt the chocolate.

Place a medium  pot with two inches of water over a medium flame.  Bring the water to a simmer.  Place chocolate chips in a heat proof bowl and place the bowl over the simmering water.  Stir the chocolate as it melts. nbsp;Turn off the flame once the chocolate has melted but keep the bowl of melted chocolate over the hot water. (I melted the chocolate in a bowl in the microwave. I started with 1-1/2 minutes at High power, and continued at 10 second intervals, until the chocolate was thoroughly melted.)

Remove the coconut candies from the fridge.  Place one coconut almond log on a fork.  Use a spoon to scoop a bit of chocolate over the almond.  This will help the almond stick to the candy and not fall off during dipping.

Lower fork into chocolate and spoon chocolate over candy to coat.  Lift fork and gently shake to release some of the chocolate.  Scrape the bottom of the fork along the side of the bowl and place on the lined baking sheet.  You might need a toothpick to help get the candy off the fork. Repeat until all candy is coated in chocolate.  If chocolate gets thick, just turn on the flame and heat slightly. (I used a candy-dipping utensil for a bit more ease of use.)

Let dipped candy harden in the fridge for 45 minutes.  Store in an airtight container at room temperature.  If you need to layer the candy in a container, use waxed paper to separate the layers.

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To participate in Weekend Blog Showcase, make a recipe from another blog, post about it on your blog, and reference the blog you are showcasing.  Place the WBS logo on your post and sign into Mr. Linky.  That's all there is to it!

Friday, November 12, 2010

Roasted Garlic & Grape Tomato Pizza

I love pizza.  I love a good NY-style pizza.  I love deep dish Chicago-style pizza.  I'll even settle for mediocre delivery on a rare occasion.  But my real love for pizza lies within my own kitchen.  The crust can be thin. Or not.  If I'm making pizza for a crowd, I'll bake them in  pans.  If I'm making pizza just for myself  (or 1 or 2 additional people), I'll use the baking stone that permanently resides in my oven.  I like that I can top it with whatever strikes my fancy.  When I add vegetables to my pizzas, I usually like to saute or grill them first:  sauteed onions and mushrooms, grilled eggplant or grilled zucchini.  Or thinly sliced potatoes. Or pepperoni, browned sausage, olives, hot peppers or sweet peppers.  With sauce, without sauce.  Or white pizza - I love white pizza.  Round, rectangular, big, small.  *sigh*  I love pizza.

My pizza this time was going to be a smaller-than-usual pizza.  I roasted a head of garlic. (Cut the top 1/4 of the head of garlic off, drizzle olive oil over the decapitated garlic and sprinkle with salt  pepper.  Wrap tightly in double layered foil and throw in a hot oven (450F.) for about 40 - 45 minutes.  Remove from the oven and open the foil.  Let cool until comfortable enough to handle. Squeeze the garlic out of its paper.  This is wonderful in mashed potatoes or spread over crostini.)  After pressing the dough out into a rectangle, I spread the roasted garlic over the dough, sprinkled shredded mozzarella over that, layered halved grape tomatoes over the cheese, and then strewed very thinly sliced red onion over the tomatoes.  A little salt, a little freshly ground black pepper, and a tiny drizzle of olive oil, and then into a hot oven (500F.) onto the baking stone for 15 minutes.  Oh my.  Delicious.

*sigh*  Have I mentioned I love pizza?

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Potato & Celery Soup

I've finally begun to realize that soup can be an easy thing.  It doesn't always mean caramelizing or roasting vegetables long and slowly or simmering away for hours on the stove.  It can mean a quick saute, a little simmering, a little pureeing, and then voila - good eats.  Monique, of La Table de Nana fame, has been a wonderful teacher in this regards.  All the recipes she shares are wonderful.  Many are great yet uncomplicated recipes with huge flavor.  And the recipe for Potato & Celery Soup is no exception.  I'd never had a celery soup before, but her (always) beautiful photos took me in.  And so I tried it.

More and more, I'm allowing myself to cook with what is on hand instead of having to run to the store for every ingredient, so I made a couple of substitutions.  With no onions on hand (an unbelievable oversight on my part), I did happen to have two generously-sized shallots.  Additionally, I  normally would have used  a russet potato in the soup, but alas, no russets on hand, so I used 2 smallish red potatoes, leaving their skin on.  The vegetables sauteed and simmered away in the water called for in the recipe until nice and tender.  After pureeing, the soup needed just a little more liquid for thinning out.  Since I had an opened bottle of white wine, that's what I added to the soup.  It was wonderful!

Now, I have no doubt, none whatsoever, that the recipe made as written was delicious.  So, if you have all the ingredients on hand, by all means, try it that way.  But don't be intimidated by the need for substitutions.  You never know what culinary concoction you come up with!!

Thank you, once again, Monique!

Potato & Celery Soup
(Serves 1 generously)

2 sticks celery, cut into small chunks
1 small yellow onion, diced (I used 2 large shallots)
1 floury potato, cut into small chunks
1 cup water (I used about 1-1/2 cups of water)
1/2 to 1 cup stock (I used about 1/4 to 1/3 cup of white wine)
Knob of butter
Croutons* (optional)
About 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese (optional)
Parsley optional)

In a saucepan, heat up a knob of butter. Fry onions until they begin to sweat. Add in celery and potato and cook for 2 to 3 minutes.

Pour in water and allow to simmer over a low-medium flame until the vegetables have cooked through and softened. The water would have been reduced considerably. Use a hand held-blender to mash everything into a smooth puree.

(If you do not have a hand-held blender, use a traditional blender (turn off the fire when you do this, obviously). Be careful, as the lids of blenders can get blown off by the hot steam. After you get a smooth puree, return it to the saucepan, on a low flame.

Add stock according to how thick or thinned out you want your soup to be. I added slightly less than 1 cup.

Add 1 tbsp grated parmesan cheese. This imparts a nice salty flavour. :) I did not need to add salt at all.

Top with croutons, or plain toasted bread. Sprinkle parsley before serving.

*I made croutons from leftover challah bread:  Cut into cubes, toss with a little olive oil, then bake in a 400 F. oven for about 10 - 15 minutes, until croutons are golden, turning a couple of times during the cooking.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Weekend Blog Showcase: Orange French Toast

Welcome to this week's edition of Weekend Blog Showcase.  Visit Ann (Thibeault's Table) to see what she has made and to visit the other participant's entries.

This week, after a long work week, I needed a treat for breakfast.  Something satisfying and delicious.  I stumbled upon this Orange French Toast recipe, a la Nigella Lawson, at Paris Pastry.  I've been in an orange-y frame of mind lately (remember the Creamsicle Cookie debacle), and THIS time, I actually DID have oranges on hand!  And, coincidentally, a loaf of challah bread.

(By the way, if you've never made French toast with challah, you don't know what you're missing!  This bread wants to be French toast.  It just does.  It's the best.)

Okay.  So back to Orange French Toast.  I have to admit that I took some creative license with the recipe.  I added a little fresh orange juice to the egg mixture along with some vanilla extract (which I always add to the French toast egg mixture).  The other thing I didn't do, (okay - I really did get inspired by this recipe), was make the orange syrup.  I like my French toast with a little butter, and that's it.  So, I decided to forgo the orange syrup.  That said, I don't mind a little syrup on my pancakes, and I think this sauce would make a wonderful addition to a stack of hotcakes!  (Go with my stream of consciousness now:  a little orange zest in your next stack of pancakes, drizzled with Paris Pastry's orange syrup.  Sounds good, right?!  Note to self:  buy more oranges...)

I really did love the orange addition to the French toast.  It was so good.  My thanks to Paris Pastry for the inspiration.  Don't forget to give this gem of a blog a look-see.  She has many wonderful recipes and photos to inspire you, too!

Orange French Toast

2 eggs
1/4 cup whole milk
1/4  teaspoon ground cinnamon
Grated zest of 1 orange
2 large thick slices, or 4 thin slices of white bread
Juice of one orange
1/4 cup good-quality orange marmalade(Paris Pastry noted she used apricot jam - genius!)
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon butter

Whisk the eggs, milk, cinnamon, and orange zest in a wide shallow dish. Soak the bread slices in this mixture for 2 minutes a side.

While the eggy bread is soaking, bring the orange juice, marmalade, and sugar to a boil, then turn down to a fast simmer for 3 to 4 minutes. If you need to, let this syrup stand while you cook the bread.

Heat the tablespoon of butter in a skillet and cook the eggy bread for about 2 minutes a side over medium heat until golden.

Serve the French toast with some of the amber syrup poured over each slice, and a pitcher of extra syrup on the side.

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Join in on the fun with Ann and me.  Ann is hosting this week (thank you, Ann!).  To participate, find a recipe that appeals to you from another blog (Tastespotting and Foodgawker are great places to peruse to find ideas), make the recipe and post about it on your blog, referencing the blog you borrowed the recipe from.  Place the Weekend Blog Showcase logo on your post and sign into Mr. Linky.  That's all there is to it!  See you at Ann's!

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

French Onion Soup

When the weather is blistering, cold soups, like gazpacho and fruit soups are refreshing and the perfect light meal.  But when the temperatures start to drop, my thoughts turn toward heartier fare.  I make a mental list of all the wonderful soups I want to make.  Clam chowder and potato soup.  Squash soups.  And this one.  French Onion Soup.  It took me a moment, but I realized I've never made French Onion Soup before.  I often order this soup when I'm out, but why I've never cooked up a batch myself escapes me!

Of course, my first foray into French Onion Soup making meant I had to follow the master:  Julia Child.  Julia has you sweat the onions for about 10 minutes, then caramelize them, creating a rich depth of flavor in the soup.  Now we all know how much Mrs. Child loved her butter. And, truth be told, so do I.  But I have to admit that I found the call for 1/2 cup of butter to cook the onions in a bit much.  I didn't question the recipe when first making it but made a note that the recipe could easily reduce the amount of butter by half and still be delicious.

And then I realized she said 1/2 stick of butter.   Duh.  Thankfully, I had used a bit more onion than the recipe called for.  But, of course, the soup was still a bit... shall we say, buttery.  Overnight in the fridge rendered the excess butter easy to remove.  *whew*

As I've been guilty of doing a bit lately, I thought I had some beef stock in the pantry and was mistaken.  Thankfully, I did have chicken stock, and after perusing a few other recipes online, decided that it would make a decent substitution. Since the recipe also calls for a a glug of Cognac and a cup of white wine, as well as a long (1-1/2 hours) simmer, I knew the soup would definitely develop a great flavor.  And it did.  The flavor is obviously a little different but still very good.

A crouton made from some homemade French bread, along with a healthy sprinkling of grated Gruyere, and a run under the broiler produced the very soup I was craving.  Ah.  Thank you once again, Julia!

French Onion Soup

1/2 stick butter (4 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon olive oil
8 cups thinly sliced onions (about 2-1/2 pounds)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon flour
8 cups homemade beef stock, or good quality store bought stock (or chicken stock, in a pinch)
1/4 cup Cognac, or other good brandy
1 cup dry white wine
8 (1/2-inch) thick slices of French bread, toasted
3/4 pound coarsely grated Gruyere

Heat a heavy saucepan over moderate heat with the butter and oil. When the butter has melted, stir in the onions, cover, and cook slowly until tender and translucent, about 10 minutes. Blend in the salt and sugar, increase the heat to medium high, and let the onions brown, stirring frequently until they are a dark walnut color, 25 to 30 minutes.

Sprinkle the flour and cook slowly, stirring, for another 3 to 4 minutes. Remove from heat, let cool a moment, then whisk in 2 cups of hot stock. When well blended, bring to the simmer, adding the rest of the stock, Cognac, and wine. Cover loosely, and simmer very slowly 1 1/2 hours, adding a little water if the liquid reduces too much. Taste for seasoning

Divide the soup among 4 ovenproof bowls. Arrange toast on top of soup and sprinkle generously with grated cheese. Place bowls on a cookie sheet and place under a preheated broiler until cheese melts and forms a crust over the tops of the bowls. Serve immediately.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Weekend Blog Showcase: Revisiting Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Arils and Drizzled Honey

Weekend Blog Showcase is upon us once again - Week 5.  Ann (Thibeault's Table) and I appreciate your visits and look forward to more participation in our weekly homage to the wonderful foodie blogs around the internet!

Work this week has been overwhelming so I decided to reach back into my 'archives' and revisit a recipe I've made from a wonderful blog called Tribeca Yummy Mummy.  When I saw this recipe for Vanilla Panna Cotta on Cate's blog, I knew I would have to make it.  It's so simple.  It's so DELICIOUS!  With pomegranate season upon us, it's the perfect time to whip up this beautiful dessert.  Thank you once again, Cate - I love this!

I've seen and heard of many ways to rid a pomegranate of its their arils/ seeds.  Many suggest taking the fruit apart under water, letting the inedible sections float to the top and then scooping up the seeds.  I say leave the watering for the garden!  I simply cut the pomegranate in half, hold the half over a bowl (rind side up) and thwack the rind side with a wooden spoon, letting the the little jewel-like arils drop.  No muss, no fuss!

Vanilla Panna Cotta with Pomegranate Arils and Drizzled Honey

2 tablespoons water
1-1/2 teaspoons gelatin
2 cups heavy cream
1-3/4 cups yogurt, whole milk preferably
pinch of salt
1/3 cup honey, or more to taste (plus additional for drizzling
2 t. vanilla
1 teaspoon orange flower water
the arils (seeds) of one fresh pomegranate

Measure the water into a small liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle the gelatin over the water and set it aside for the time being.

While the water sets, whisk together the yogurt, pinch of salt, honey, vanilla, and orange flower water together in a large bowl (a pouring lip is helpful for this recipe) is or very large liquid measure. Set this aside, too.

Pour the cream into a medium saucepan.

Bring the cream to a boil over medium heat, whisking a bit. As soon as the cream comes to a boil, remove it from the heat.

Pour the gelatin mixture into the cream and whisk them together well for a full minute to make certain that they are properly combined. Pour the cream mixture into the yogurt mixture.

Whisk the two mixtures together.

Pour the panna cotta into little sake cups or ramekins. Let the cups cool to room temperature. Place the little cups onto a rimmed baking sheet or tray. Cover the whole business with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for at least 5 hours or overnight.

When you are ready to serve your panna cotta, take them out of the fridge, sprinkle them with the pomegranate arils and drizzle on a bit more honey.

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Please join Ann and me for Weekend Blog Showcase.  To participate, make a recipe from a blog other than your own and post about it, giving credit to the blog you've borrowed the recipe from.  Put the WBS logo on your post and sign in to Mr. Linky. That's all there is to it!

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Creamy Polenta and Mushrooms

When I saw Ann's (Thibeault's Table) mushrooms over polenta a few weeks ago, I knew that was something I would love.  I have had sauteed mushrooms before, and I have had polenta before but never combined as a main course.  Following Ann's techniques, I ended up with a meal that left me sighing over its memory for hours after.

For the creamy polenta, I used a ratio of 4:1 liquid to fine cornmeal.  Wanting the flavor of the polenta to still shine through, I used a base of half chicken stock, half water.  The liquid was brought to a simmer, lightly salted, and the cornmeal was whisked in in a steady stream.  Added too quickly, the polenta will clump up.  Once the polenta had thickened up, I whisked in a nob of butter.  The consistency was perfect.

To top the polenta, I used a mixture of baby Bellas and button mushrooms, sliced thickly and sauteed in butter.  Once in the pan, I left the mushrooms alone - no stirring for several minutes - to let them saute and caramelize.  At that point, I stirred them, seasoning with salt and pepper and finely sliced sage leaves.  To create a sauce, I added Marsala to the pan (about 1/4 cup), let that reduce to an almost syrup-y state, then stirred in about 1/4 cup of chicken stock and let that reduce a bit until it was nice and thick.  The sauce was also finished off with a small nob of butter.

This would make an excellent side dish to a roast beef or even a roasted chicken.  But it also made for an amazing meatless main dish.  Of course, for it to be truly vegetarian, a vegetable stock could be substituted for the chicken stock.  So delicious!  Thank you for the inspiration, Ann!

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Thank you once again to Michael for hosting Foodie Friday! Please join me in drooling over the dishes of all the other participants!!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

Butternut Squash and Cannellini Bean Soup with Bacon

I came across this soup on, one of my very favorite places!   I love butternut squash and was happy to find another soup recipe using one of my favorite ingredients.  While the recipe directions have you dicing the squash and boiling it in the stock, many of the reviewers indicated that they had roasted the squash first before adding it to the soup.  I decided to halve the squash, drizzle the halves with extra virgin olive oil and seasoning with salt & pepper, then roasting in a 450 F. oven for 1/2 hour.  I then scooped out the roasted squash flesh into the stock.  I also decided to puree the soup save for 1 of the cans of cannellini beans, which I added back to the pureed soup and cooking long enough to heat them through.  By the way, I also rinsed all the cannellini beans - adding all that starchy, sodium-ridden liquid was not all that appealing to me.  I was very happy with the result.  Delicious!  Here is my version of this soup:

Butternut Squash and Cannellini Bean Soup with Bacon

2 thick bacon slices, chopped
1-1/2 cups chopped onion
6 garlic cloves, minced
3 cups low-salt chicken broth
1 butternut squash (about 1-3/4 pounds)
3 15-ounce cans cannellini (white kidney beans), drained & rinsed,divided
14-1/2-ounce can diced tomatoes in juice, drained
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary

Preheat oven to 450 F.

Halve the butternut squash lengthwise.  Place skin-side down on baking sheet.  Drizzle with extra virgin olive oil and season with salt & pepper.  Roast for 30 minutes, or until squash starts to take on some caramelization.  Remove from oven and set aside until cool enough to handle.

Sauté bacon in heavy large pot over medium heat until crisp, about 4 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain. Add chopped onion and garlic to drippings in pot; sauté until golden, about 10 minutes. Add chicken broth; bring to boil.

Separate roasted butternut squash from skin and transfer to soup pot.  Add 2 cans cannellini, drained tomatoes, and fresh rosemary. Cover and simmer until flavors blend, about 10 minutes. Puree soup with stick blender (or, alternatively, puree in blender in batches.  Return to soup pot.)  Add remaining can of drained cannellini beans.  Season soup with salt and pepper. (Bacon and soup can be made 1 day ahead. Wrap and chill bacon. Chill soup uncovered until cold, then cover and keep refrigerated. Rewarm bacon and soup separately before serving.)

Ladle soup into bowls. Garnish with chopped bacon and serve.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Poached Eggs on Toasted Baguette with Goat Cheese and Black-Pepper Vinaigrette

I'm loving Bobby Flay's new show, Brunch at Bobby's.  My weekday breakfast is pretty routine - oatmeal at my desk with a cup of coffee.  So, when the weekend rolls around, if I have time, I like to treat myself to something a little more special.  And if I have weekend guests, I love to serve a really nice breakfast at least once during their stay.  It might mean a coffee cake or danish, maybe pecan waffles, or a really special egg dish.  This is a very special egg dish!

When I watched this episode, Chef Flay actually prepared a 'goat cheese vinaigrette', mixing the soft, fresh goat cheese with the rest of the vinaigrette ingredients, which is slightly different than the recipe I found online.  I opted to follow his on-air recommendation.

I used French Bread I had just made for the base.  The flavors are really amazing together.  I admittedly did not have heirloom tomatoes on hand, nor the micro greens recommended for garnish.  A nice end-of-season beefsteak tomato filled in nicely, and some minced spring greens served as my garnish.  It was a wonderful weekend treat!

Poached Eggs on Toasted Baguette with Goat Cheese and Black-Pepper Vinaigrette

Baguette, sliced lengthwise*
Olive oil, to brush
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 thinly sliced heirloom tomatoes
4 large eggs, poached
1 cup micro arugula
Black Pepper-Tarragon Vinaigrette (recipe follows)
Fresh chervil leaves, to garnish
*Cook's Note: Not the super skinny kind of baguette
    Goat Cheese/Black Pepper-Tarragon Vinaigrette
    3 ounces fresh goat cheese 
    1/4 cup white wine vinegar
    1 teaspoon Dijon mustard
    1 1/2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh tarragon
    1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
    1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil
    1 teaspoon honey
    1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
    Heat a grill pan and broiler.
    Brush the halved baguette with olive oil, and season with salt and pepper. Put the bread onto a hot grill pan and grill cut-side down over high heat. Remove the grilled bread and spread the top of the bread with the goat cheese. Place the bread under the broiler and broil until the cheese is lightly golden brown. 
    Top each slice of bread with a few slices of tomato and a poached egg. Garnish with the micro greens.

    Whisk together the goat cheese, vinegar, mustard, tarragon, and salt in a medium bowl. Slowly whisk in the oil, until emulsified. Whisk in the honey and black pepper.

    Source:  Brunch at Bobby's

    Saturday, October 23, 2010

    Weekend Blog Showcase - Creamsicle Cookies

    We're into Week 4 of Weekend Blog Showcase.  Thank you to Ann (Thibeault's Table) for hosting this week.

    This week I'm showcasing a blog that is evidently the envy of many a blogger!  Christy at The Girl Who Ate Everything has a wonderful blog FULL of great-looking and and great-sounding recipes.  (I want Christy's secret to staying beautiful and thin and STILL eating everything!!)  When I saw her Creamsicle Cookies, I knew I had to try them.  As a young girl, the tinkling of the ice cream truck bells meant a Creamsicle was in my very near future.  That creamy, orange-y/vanilla flavor was heavenly, so these cookies went directly to my "Short List".

    Now look at Christy's cookies.  Go ahead.  I'll wait...

    Now look at my cookies.  Quick:  what's missing in my cookies??  If you said specks of orange zest, you would be absolutely right. (And very observant.  I'm impressed.)  I violated one of the basic rules of cooking/baking:  make sure you have all the ingredients before you start making your recipe.  I was positive that I had oranges on hand.  Now that I think about it, they would be rather difficult to miss, so I'm not sure what I was thinking.  So, as I got to that part of the recipe, I tried to think on my feet (a challenge even at my best...).  What could I substitute?  Orange extract?  I found a rather antique-looking package of orange extract in my pantry.  As I tried to gingerly pour in a few drops, I carefully tilted the bottle ever so slightly, then tilted it a little more, then turned it upside down.  Whatever was in there at sometime in my distant past had long since evaporated.  Hrmph.  Back to the pantry I went. I found an unopened jar of orange marmalade.  That has rind in it, right?  So I put in a good tablespoon of orange rind filled marmalade.  In retrospect, a little Grand Marnier might have done well here, but I thought of that well after baking was underway.  Unfortunately, the marmalade, while a good idea in theory, didn't exude the "oranginess" I was looking for. Ultimately, I ended up with delicious vanilla cookies.  But this was such an easy recipe to put together, I will definitely make them again!  And I can see a lime version down the road, too.  Yum! Thank you, Christy!

    Creamsicle Cookies

    2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
    3/4 teaspoon baking soda
    1/2 teaspoon salt
    1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter, softened
    1/2 cup sugar
    1/2 firmly packed brown sugar
    1 large egg
    1 teaspoon vanilla extract
    2 tablespoons orange zest
    2 cups white chocolate chips

    Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

    In a small bowl, combine flour, baking soda, and salt; set aside.

    In a large bowl, cream butter and sugars until light and creamy. Beat in egg and vanilla until smooth. Gradually add flour mixture until combined. Stir in orange zest and chips.

    Drop rounded teaspoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Do not flatten cookies; it will make them dry. Bake 8 - 10 minutes or until golden brown around edges. Do not overcook! Cookies will be plump. Cool for several minutes on cookie sheets before transferring to rack to cool completely. Store in airtight container.

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    Join Ann and me for Weekend Blog Showcase.  To participate, make a recipe from a blog other than your own, post about the dish, referencing the originating blog in your post, placing the Weekend Blog Showcase logo on your post as well.  Then sign into Mr. Linky (over at Ann's this week).  That's it!  Hope to see you there!

    Friday, October 22, 2010

    Jalapeno Popper Dip

    I'm a football fan, (though my beloved Dallas Cowboys are trying very hard to change that this season...), and so I'm always on the lookout for different and interesting and tasty (!) snacks to munch on while watching the game.  Almost 30 years ago, when I first moved to the Dallas area from New York, many of my friends were eating poppers - jalapenos filled with cream cheese, or Cheddar cheese, or even tuna salad (trust me, it's better than it sounds).  When I saw Kevin's (Closet Cooking) Jalapeno Popper Dip, I knew it would be something I'd love.

    Now, to be absolutely honest, I have dumbed down this recipe quite a bit.  I knew I would love the cream cheese element, as well as the jalapeno part, of course, but I wasn't sold on the Cheddar and parmesan part.  I realize I'm odd in that I don't like cheese in EVERYTHING (my girlfriend, Donna, thinks I'm crazy).  So, I mixed the cream cheese, mayo, and jalapenos, and gave it a little squeeze of lime.  The panko topping was good - gave the whole thing a nice texture.  And Kevin's suggestion to serve this dip with lime-seasoned tortilla chips was genius.  Easily, a little of this goes a long way - my jalapeno tolerance is not what it was when I was 20.  But it was a great addition to my football-watching-snacks repertoire!  Thanks, Kevin!

    Jalapeno Popper Dip
    1 (8 ounce) package cream cheese, room temperature
    1/2 cup mayonnaise
    juice of 1 lime
    1 (4 ounce) can sliced jalapenos (pickled)
    1/4 cup panko bread crumbs

    Mix the cream cheese, mayonnaise, lime juice and jalapenos in a bowl and pour into a baking dish. Sprinkle the panko bread crumbs over the dip. Bake in a 375F oven until bubbling on the sides and golden brown on top, about 10-20 minutes.

    Serve with lime-seasoned tortilla chips.

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