Sunday, March 29, 2009

A Craving For Soup

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Believe it or not, my most requested recipe is probably the recipe for my pumpkin soup. If you've never had a pumpkin soup, beware it's not sweet like you may imagine, the way butternut squash soup is. It's actually quite savory. This dish's popularity has become legendary. I've had friends remind me of this soup on more than one soup-less social occasion. Regardless of the season, canned pumpkin is readily available, so when the mood strikes you, do not fear! Pumpkin soup is here!!

Pumpkin Soup
Makes 12 servings
(From In Style Magazine)

3 T. olive oil
3 carrots, chopped
1 rib celery, chopped
1 large onion, chopped
1 can (48 oz.) chicken broth
1 can (29 oz.) pure pumpkin (not pumpkin pie mix)
2 tsp. chopped, fresh thyme
1 ½ cups heavy cream
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add carrots, celery, and onion. Sauté 7-8 minutes or until softened. Add broth, pumpkin, and thyme. Lower heat and simmer 15 minutes. Working in batches, purée soup in a blender or food processor. Alternatively, use an immersion blender to purée the soup. Return soup to pot and stir in cream, simmering until heated through. Season with salt and pepper and serve.

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Delicious Baked Eggs!

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As you may have noticed, I'm a pretty big fan of eggs. While Eggs Benedict may be the jewel in my breakfast world, this baked egg dish gives Eggs Benedict a run for its money. I first saw this recipe in an old issue of Gourmet magazine, and have since adapted it slightly. This version contains the original fillings, but I've also tried adding sauteed mushrooms (delicious), whatever you have on hand. You can even try a Mediterranean version if you want by adding crumbled feta cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, and Kalamata olives. Have a field day, but keep it simple! Just add your favorite omelet fillings!

I did once try putting two eggs in one ramekin with poor results. Unless your cooking dishes are much wider, I wouldn't recommend this since the egg layer then becomes very thick and then takes so long to cook the whites that you end up overcooking the yolks. Yuck! Stick with one egg per ramekin or use wider, shallower individual baking dishes if you want to make larger portions.

Baked Eggs with Cream, Spinach, and Country Ham
Serves 8

1/4 cup thinly sliced country ham, finely chopped
Scant 3/4 cup heavy cream
1 T finely chopped onion
2 T unsalted butter, divided
3/4 tsp finely chopped garlic
10 oz spinach, coarse stems discarded, and roughly chopped
8 large eggs
1/2 cup shredded cheese of your choice for topping (optional)
EQUIPMENT: 8 (6-oz) ramekins or ovenproof teacups

Preheat oven to 350 with rack in middle.

Bring ham and cream to a simmer in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, then remove from heat. Let steep, uncovered, about 10 minutes.

Cook onion in 1 T butter in a 12-inch heavy skillet over medium-low heat, stirring, until softened, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and season lightly with salt and pepper, then cook, stirring, 1 minute. Add spinach, 1/4 tsp salt and 1/8 tsp pepper and cook, turning with tongs, until spinach is wilted.

Divide spinach, then ham, among ramekins, spooning 1 T cream into each serving. Crack an egg into each ramekin and season lightly with salt and pepper. Spoon remaining cream evenly over each egg, about 1 tsp or so for each. Sprinkle each with a little shredded cheese if using (I've tried Gruyere and Parmesan on different occasions and both were great). Cut remaining butter into 8 small pieces and dot each egg with butter.

Put ramekins in a shallow baking pan and bake, rotating pan halfway through baking, until whites are just set but yolks are still runny, 15-20 minutes, removing from oven as cooked.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Crossing Over

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This recipe came together when faced with leftover roasted chicken. What to do with the leftovers? Eat them as is? Or incorporate them into another dish, perhaps a risotto (do not fear the mighty risotto, it's one of the easiest dishes to make!). This is how I divised this delicious cross-over dish. Is it risotto, or is it chicken marsala? It's both!

Chicken Marsala Risotto
Serves 6

4 T. olive oil, separated
1 1/2 cups Arborio rice
1 cup finely chopped onion
1 1/2 cups Marsala wine, separated
5-6 cups reduced-sodium chicken broth, or as needed, brought to a simmer
10 oz sliced mushrooms
2 cups chopped leftover chicken
1/2 cup grated Parmesan
Salt and pepper to taste

Heat up 2 T. olive oil in a large pot over medium heat. Add the onions and cook until softened. Add the Arborio rice and stir to coat with the oil. Cook the rice until almost opaque, about 5 minutes. Add 1 cup of Marsala wine and stir to absorb. Add a ladle-full of broth at a time, stirring to absorb before adding more. Continue adding broth until the rice is tender, but still has a bit of a bite (al dente) and the texture is creamy, about 25 to 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, add the remaining 2 T. olive oil to a saute pan and cook the mushrooms until they are golden and juicy. Add the remaining 1/2 cup wine and cook, saturating the mushrooms with the wine flavor. Add the chopped chicken and toss to coat. Season with salt, pepper and set aside.

When the risotto is al dente, add the mushroom-chicken mixture along with the Parmesan. Taste and adjust the seasonings as necessary. There you have it, a risotto and chicken marsala in one!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Trip to the Carnival

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Hello everyone! Just a little update, a couple of my recipes have been featured in some Blog Carnivals (think blog special edition collections). In addition to my submissions, which are obviously included here on my site, there are a lot of other great recipes and ideas so check them out! One is called Soup-er Saturday, where you'll find great soup recipes, and the other is Make it From Scratch, including not only recipes, but some great craft ideas! Have fun :)

"You Think I'm Fruity, Huh?"

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Ah, Psycho. You may remember the quote above from this classic Hitchcock film, and one of my favorites of all time. This fruit tart is one of my favorite desserts of all time as well, and so simple to put together! You can use almost any soft fruits or berries you enjoy (harder fruits like apples wouldn't work here). Give it a try! You'll stop buying tarts from bakeries, I'll promise you that.

Fresh Fruit Tart
8 to 12 servings
(From Tartine)

1 fully baked and cooled tart shell (see below)
2 1/2 cups pastry cream (see below)
2-4 cups fruit, sliced or whole depending on type
3 T. apricot jam as glaze or honey to drizzle

Spoon pastry filling into prepared tart shell about three-fourths full. You may not use all of the pastry cream. Set aside the leftovers, or use them to fill extra tartlet shells if using (see below). Smooth out the cream, and decoratively top with the fruit.

In a small saucepan, heat the apricot jam over low heat until it liquefies, then strain it to remove any solid bits of fruit. Brush the glaze over the fruit. Alternatively, instead of glazing with jam, drizzle a little honey over the tart. This will give it a slightly more rustic look and a hint of that delicious honey flavor. Eat the tart right away or refrigerate for up to 2 days. Any longer than that and the cream will eventually soften the tart shell. Serve it cool.

Sweet Tart Shell
Makes 2 9-inch tart shells (you will only need 1 for this tart, so freeze the rest of the dough or double the recipe)

1/2 cup plus 1 T. unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1/8 tsp. salt
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour

Using a stand mixer with a paddle attachment, cream the butter, sugar, and salt together on medium speed until smooth. Mix in the egg and scrape down the sides of the bowl with a rubber spatula. Add the flour and mix on low speed until incorporated.

On a lightly floured surface, diving the dough into 2 equal balls and shape each into a disk 1/2 inch thick. Wrap well in plastic wrap and chill for at least 2 hours or overnight. This dough can also be frozen in a freezer bag for and later defrosted in the fridge the night before use. The dough will keep well frozen for a few weeks.

Place a disk of dough on a lightly floured surface and roll out 1/8 inch thick, rolling from center to edge in all directions. Lift and rotate the dough occasionally, to make sure it doesn't stick to the board. Add more flour if necessary. Work quickly to keep the dough as cold as possible throughout this process. Lightly wrap the dough circle over the rolling pin and carefully unroll it over a 9-inch tart pan. When the dough has been lightly pressed into the proper shape, use the rolling pin to roll over all the metal edges, thus cutting the overhanging dough perfectly. Do not stretch the dough into the pan or else it will shrink when baking. If the dough tears at all, patch it with leftover bits of dough, pressing firmly. This is a very forgiving dough, unlike some others.

If you happen to have small tartlet pans on hand and would like to use the excess dough to make a few extra tartlets, roll out the scraps and follow the same process to line as many tartlet pans as you can with the remaining dough.

Place the tart pan and tartlet pans into the fridge for about 15 minutes or until firm.

Preheat the over to 325 degrees F.

Prick the insides of the shells with a fork, and place them in the oven for about 12-15 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool completely on wire racks until ready to use. These baked shells will keep, well wrapped, in the refrigerator for 1 week, or in the freezer for 2 weeks.

Pastry Cream
Makes 2 1/2 cups

2 cups milk (I use low-fat milk and it always turns out great)
1 tsp. vanilla extract (don't use imitation, it sucks)
1/4 tsp. salt
3 T. cornstarch
1/2 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 T. unsalted butter

Pour the milk, vanilla extract, and salt into a heavy saucepan and heat over medium-high, bringing the milk just to under a boil, stirring occasionally so the milk doesn't burn to the bottom of the pan.

Meanwhile, in a mixing bowl whisk together the eggs, sugar and cornstarch.

When the milk is ready, slowly ladle about one-third into the eggs, whisking constantly. Pour the egg mixture back into the hot milk and continue whisking over medium heat until the custard is noticably thicker, about 2 minutes.
To check the correct thickness of the cream, dip a wooden spoon into the custard, remove it and run your finger across it. It should leave a line where your finger crossed. When the custard is thick enough, remove it from the heat and strain it into a clean bowl.

Let cool for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Cut the butter into 1 T. pieces and whisk the butter into the cream, one piece at a time. To cool the cream, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and press the wrap directly onto the top of the cream. Once the cream is a little cooler, put it into the fridge to finish cooling. Pastry cream will keep in the refrigerator for 5 days.

Sunday, March 8, 2009

Spinach and Artichoke Swirls

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Once upon a time when I was a poor college student, in the tiny ill-equipped kitchen of the French House at Boston University, I created this masterpiece to take to a friend's Oscar party.


Before I headed off to the party, one of my housemates tested one out, and immediately begged me to make her a whole batch if she paid for all the ingredients. I, of course, accepted and happily turned out another batch the following day. Years later this recipe has stood the test of time.


Imagine your favorite qualities of spinach and artichoke dip wrapped with flaky, buttery puff pastry. Not only is it delicious, but it's seriously great for parties, and really impressive for something that's actually quite easy to make.


I've turned out many batches of this addictive pastry over the years. I find Pepperidge Farm brand puff pastry to be a bit easier to work with because it's thicker (it comes in the 17.3-ounce package) and less sticky. Also, because it's folded, the seams from the folds create an easy guide for cutting the pastry into slices.


I most recently used Trader Joe's brand of puff pastry (a 16-ounce package), which is rolled instead of folded, and it considerably thinner and sticky in comparison. You can easily flour your surface if working with it, but I just used the supplied piece of parchment wrapped around the dough. If your dough is on the softer side, you may want to refrigerate or freeze your assembled rolls briefly before cutting them, to ensure less messy slices.

*Note* Blog post, photos, and recipe updated 1/4/16.



Spinach and Artichoke Swirls
Makes about 30 to 35

1 tablespoon olive oil
3/4 cup chopped onion
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
Crushed chili flakes
1 (10-oz) package frozen chopped spinach, thawed and squeezed of extra water
1 (14-ounce) can (about 1 1/2 cups) artichoke hearts, drained and roughly chopped
5 ounces (about 1 1/2 cups) grated Gruyère, Comte, or Emmentaler cheese
1/4 cup grated Parmesan cheese
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 (16 to 17.3-ounce) package frozen puff pastry, thawed (the size will depend on the brand)
1 large egg

Heat oven to 400ºF. In small skillet over medium heat olive oil. Add onion, garlic, and chili flakes. Cook until softened, about 2 to 3 minutes. Remove from pan and combine in medium bowl with spinach and artichokes. Set aside to cool. Stir in Gruyère and Parmesan. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Unfold or unroll one of the two puff pastry sheets on lightly floured surface. If the pastry is folded, make sure the seams are running vertically and the "ugly" side is facing you. Top with half the vegetable-cheese mixture, leaving half-inch border. In small bowl combine egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the furthest edge with a little egg wash. Starting at the end closest to you, roll up pastry, jelly-roll-style, sealing the roll with the egg wash edge. Repeat with the other puff pastry sheet and the remaining filling. If the rolls seems soft, freeze them for about 10 to 15 minutes to firm up and allow for easier slicing.

Cut each roll into 1/2-inch-thick slices, using the puff pastry's seams to guide you, if they exist. Lay slices flat 2-inches apart on baking sheets covered with parchment paper. Brush with egg wash. Bake 25 to 35 minutes, or until golden. Carefully use a spatula to remove pastries. They will often stick in the center where the cheese melts. Serve warm or at room temperature. These are best the day they are made.

Friday, March 6, 2009

Tastes Like Chicken

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Last night I was trying to decide what to do with a package of chicken that would be a delicious and un-boring dinner. There are a million things you can do with a chicken. It's probably the most versatile meat around. Still, we get set in our ways, and generally will choose between the same hand full of recipes every time. I decided to make a simple and juicy Chicken Milanese complimented with my absolute favorite Pomodoro sauce (adapted from Al Forno's version), which is excellent on everything! I've used it on pasta and even on pizzas and it is so much better than jarred sauces. It's thicker than marinara and is very easy to make. Definitely try the sauce on it's own, even if you don't want to make chicken or don't eat meat. Like I said, it all started out served over pasta! Also, the sauce freezes well, so I usually will make a large batch and then freeze it in individual containers for whenever I need some sauce. Chicken Milanese isn't traditionally served with tomatoes, but it can be, and is also sometimes served topped with fresh arugula. To be honest, I rarely measure ingredients for dishes like this. When breading chicken, use your judgment. If you need more bread crumbs, add more, and so on. Here is my take on Chicken Milanese...

Chicken Milanese with Pomodoro Sauce
Serves 6

6 skinless, boneless chicken breasts
1 cup flour, seasoned with salt and pepper
3 eggs, beaten with a little water
1 1/2 cups dried bread crumbs
Olive oil and/or butter for frying
Pomodoro Sauce (see below)

Place each chicken breast one at a time between plastic wrap and use the flat side of a meat mallet (or the bottom of a bottle if you don't have one) to pound the chicken breasts to about 1/4 inch thickness (the chicken will be very flat and large). Arrange a breading station with large shallow bowls or other containers side by side as so: seasoned flour, eggs, then bread crumbs. One by one, dredge each chicken breast on both sides with flour, then eggs, making sure to drain off most of the egg, then in bread crumbs and set aside.

When all the dredging is complete, heat up 1-2 T of olive oil and/or butter in a large saute pan over medium heat. Olive oil has a high burning temperature, so only fry with it if your meat is thin enough to cook through before the crust starts to burn. Never deep fry in olive oil. Your food will burn. Butter has a lower burning temperature, so feel free to use half olive oil and half butter to achieve the flavor of the oil and the burning temperature of the butter when cooking your chicken. If you hate both options, use vegetable oil and I won't tell anyone you did.

Add one or two breasts to the pan at a time, alternating their positions and flipping them over to ensure even cooking (since the pan is heated more in the center, the outer edges of the chicken won't brown or cook through as quickly, thus it is best to flip flop outside to inside once before flipping over, especially if you are using a large pan). Cook through on both sides, adjusting the heat as necessary so the chicken cooks through without burning the crust.

Remove the chicken to a paper towel-lined tray and set aside until all the chicken is cooked. Serve chicken topped with a generous spoonful of pomodoro sauce.

The Best Pomodoro Sauce You Will Ever Have
(Adapted from On Top of Spaghetti)
Makes about 5 to 6 cups

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 T minced fresh garlic
1/2 tsp salt
1 cup dry white wine
1 cup water
3 (14.5 oz) cans diced tomatoes, with their juices

Heat the olive oil, garlic, and salt in a medium saucepan over medium heat, stirring often. Keep a close watch and adjust the heat if necessary because you want the garlic to slowly turn from opaque white to slightly translucent golden without browning. As soon as the garlic is lightly golden, immediately add the wine and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer until the garlic is soft and has taken on a nutty color, and the liquid as reduced by half.

Add the tomatoes and bring to a boil. Use a potato masher to lightly break apart some of the tomatoes. The sauce will still be chunky, but this will help some of the tomatoes break down a bit and thicken the sauce. Lower the heat and simmer uncovered, stirring occasionally, for about 45 minutes to 1 hour, or as long as it takes for most of the liquid to evaporate and the sauce to thicken nicely. Yum!!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

The Freshest in Fast Food

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Believe it or not, I was once a very picky eater. As a child there were many things I would never put in mouth, including anything green (I thought herbs tasted like paper), basically all fruits and vegetables, and shrimp, among other things. Although my family was not a fast food family, and we regularly sat down together for home cooked meals, my absolute favorite thing in the world, and the only thing I would eat in certain "moods," was cheeseburgers, cheeseburgers galore! I prefered Burger King to all the others, and would even throw hissy fits when I was sick and refuse to eat anything but cheeseburgers. So I wouldn't starve, my parents would give in and allow me to eat cheeseburgers on these special occasions. I remember going to a fancy restaurant with my family once when I was young, and of course I wanted a cheeseburger. It was intended for adults, and was way too big to fit in my mouth, so my mom cut the whole burger into little pieces. Yes, I have always loved cheeseburgers whether they are fast food, gourmet, or homemade in the back yard.

In recent years, I've discovered the ultimate in my fast food fantasies: In-N-Out's Double Double Cheeseburger. Now for all of you who have never been to the West coast, you may have only heard of this famous burger, but never had the pleasure in indulging in one. Let me suggest you buy your plane ticket now! First of all, In-N-Out has very few items on its menu. People are often shocked during their first visit. There is a "secret menu" that offers additional items. Why keep this menu a secret? Because they can! And because enough people are die-hard fans and spread the word to all the newbies. Now you know too!

My personal favorite is a Double Double Animal Style burger. Imagine this: a fresh (never frozen) juicy beef patty. Now multiply it by two. Add perfectly melted, gooey American cheese. Top it with a pile of grilled onions (Animal Style) and some creamy "special" sauce. Add some lettuce and tomato and slap the whole thing between some buns and you've got yourself the most succulent fast food goodness you will ever try!

I don't usually indulge in fast food, but this is out of this world, and honestly does not carry as much guilt as other places do. Maybe it's the fact that all their ingredients are fresh. Their fries are freshly cut and their meat doesn't sit in a freezer for weeks.

Service here is also really great. If you are compelled to use the drive thru, you don't have to place your order through a microphone system that will result in you receiving someone else's order. An actual person stands outside, takes your order, answers your questions, and places your order through their computerized system. They ask you if you are eating in your car or not (they package your meal differently depending on your answer! A box if you are eating in the car, a bag if not) and then you drive up to the first window, pay, then drive up to the next and are given the most magical food you will ever receive from the hands of a fast food employee. This is the kind of service all fast food restaurants should offer!

Rock on! If you aren't drooling... you must be a vegetarian.

Wednesday, March 4, 2009

The Power of Pesto

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I'm sure at one point or another you've all tried pesto, whether it was tossed with pasta, slathered over chicken, or smashed into potatoes to make the most sensationally unique mashed potatoes you'll find (if you haven't tried it, you're missing out). The pesto you're all familiar with is the traditional Genovese pesto made with basil, garlic, pine nuts, Parmesan and olive oil. I'm here to tell you that there's a whole lot of pesto out there that you've maybe never tried. The recipes are simple and straight-forward and can generally be prepared in the time it takes to boil a pot of water. First, I will share a pesto cream sauce with tomatoes that I've made many times over the years. Next, it's time for an adaptation of Giada's sun-dried tomato pesto, followed by a recipe for tomato pesto from one of my favorite cookbooks On Top of Spaghetti, which will change the way you feel about tomato paste. It's a trio of pesto today at Mission: Food! Here we go!

Penne with Pesto Cream and Tomatoes
Makes 4 to 6 servings

2 cups fresh basil leaves
4 cloves garlic
½ tsp salt
1/8 tsp pepper
½ cup olive oil
½ cup grated Parmesan
¾-1 cups heavy cream
1 large tomato, peeled, seeded and diced
1 lb penne pasta, cooked al dente

Place basil, pine nuts, garlic, salt and pepper in food processor and process until basil is finely chopped. With blade running gradually add oil. Scrape down sides and process until mixture is well-blended. Transfer to bowl and stir in ¼ cup Parmesan. Over medium-high heat cook cream in saucepan until boiling; reduce heat and simmer until thickens slightly. Add Tomato, pesto and remaining cheese. Cook 3-4 minutes until heated through. To serve, toss pasta with sauce.

Cook's note: The fastest and easiest way to peel a tomato is as follows... Score an "X" on the bottom of each tomato with a knife. Bring a pot of water to a simmer and submerge each tomato into the water for about 30 seconds or longer if necessary, checking to see when the skin at the "X" is ready to be peeled. Remove tomatoes from the water, and let them cool slightly. The peel should come right off, sometimes with hardly any effort. To seed them, just cut them in half and very gently squeeze the juices and seeds into a bowl. Now you're ready to chop!

Penne with Sun-Dried Tomato Pesto


Makes 4 to 6 servings

1 lb penne pasta
1 jar (8.5 oz.) sun-dried tomatoes packed in olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1 cup (packed) fresh basil leaves
½ cup freshly grated Parmesan

Cook the pasta in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender but still firm to the bite, stirring occasionally, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1 cup of the cooking liquid. Meanwhile, blend the sun-dried tomatoes and their oil, garlic, salt and pepper, to taste, and basil in a food processor and blend until the tomatoes are finely chopped. Transfer the tomato mixture to a large bowl. Stir in the Parmesan. Add the pesto to the pasta and toss to coat, adding enough reserved cooking liquid to moisten. Season the pasta, to taste, with salt and pepper and serve.

Mostaccioli with Tomato Pesto
(Recipe from On Top of Spaghetti)
Serves 6 to 8 as a first course or 4 to 6 as a main course

¾ cup (one 6-oz can) tomato paste, preferably organic
¾ cup plus 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
½ cup plus 1 tablespoon pine nuts
¼ teaspoon sea salt
¼ to ½ teaspoon cayenne pepper or crushed red pepper flakes
2 tablespoons tomato juice, preferably organic
2 plump garlic cloves, trimmed, peeled, and roughly chopped
1 pound dried mostaccioli, penne, or rigatoni
Freshly grated Pecorino Romano

Bring a large pot of water to a boil.

Combine the tomato paste, olive oil, pine nuts, salt, cayenne, tomato juice, and garlic in the bowl of a food processor. Run the motor until you have a smooth purée. Set aside at room temperature while you cook the pasta. (You can cover and refrigerate the pesto, but be sure to bring it to room temperature before boiling the pasta.)

Generously salt the boiling water and drop in the mostaccioli. Cook, stirring often, until al dente. Drain, reserving about ½ cup of the pasta water. Transfer the mostaccioli to a heated serving bowl. Add enough of the pesto to coat the noodles generously. Add a little pasta water, a tablespoon at a time, if it seems too thick. Sprinkle with cheese and pass more Pecorino Romano and any remaining pesto at the table.

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Bee's Knees

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Honey. It's the single reason I don't want to plan a mass attack on the entire bee population. That and, oh yeah, pollination. Honey serves many purposes, other than being delicious (which is obviously its main purpose). Unlike sugar, it contains antioxidants and vitamins, is unrefined and natural. It's also lower in calories and won't raise your blood sugar as quickly! It's perfect for sore throats and oh so delicious in your tea.

There are so many places you can use honey in your life that you may have never even considered. Try replacing jelly with honey for a peanut butter and honey sandwich. Your life will change forever. You can easily substitute honey for sugar in lots of recipes when baking. Here's how:

1. Use equal amounts of honey for sugar up to one cup. Over one cup, replace each cup of sugar with 2/3 to 3/4 cup of honey depending upon the sweetness desired (honey is actually sweeter than sugar).

2. Since products with honey brown faster, lower the baking temperature 25 degrees and watch your time carefully.

3. In recipes using more than one cup honey for sugar, it may be necessary to reduce other liquids by 1/4 cup per cup of honey.

4. In baked goods, add 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda per cup of honey if baking soda is not already included in the recipe. This will reduce the acidity of the honey, as well as increase the volume of your product.

Finally, here's something you've probably never tried. Honey ice cream! If you love honey like I do, this will become a popular recipe, since it's not something you can commonly find at supermarkets and ice cream shops. It's really worth investing in an ice cream maker if you don't already have one. You can buy one for about $50 (this is the updated version of the one I have) and once you've tried homemade ice cream you won't go back!

Honey Granola Ice Cream
Makes about 1 quart
(From The Ultimate Ice Cream Book)

1/2 cup mild honey (I used wildflower honey, but you can try clover, orange blossom, etc. Each will contribute a unique flavor)
6 large egg yolks
1 1/2 cups milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup granola

In a medium mixing bowl, beat the honey with the egg yolks until thickened and pale yellow. Set aside.

Bring the milk to a simmer (but not boil) in a heavy medium saucepan. Slowly beat the hot milk into the eggs and honey. Pour the mixture back into the pan and place over low heat. Whisk constantly until the custard thickens slightly, making sure it doesn't come to a boil or else the eggs will scramble. Remove from the heat and pour the hot honey custard through a strainer into a large clean bowl or measuring cup (this will make it easier to pour later). Let the custard cool slightly, then stir in the cream and vanilla. Cover and refrigerate until cold or overnight.

Stir the chilled custard, then freeze in 1 or 2 batches in your ice cream machine. When the ice cream is semi-frozen (about 5 minutes before you plan to turn it off), add 1 cup of granola to the machine and allow it to mix into the ice cream. When finished, the ice cream will be soft, but ready to eat. For firmer ice cream transfer to a freezer-safe container and freeze at least 2 hours.

Keep in mind that smaller bits of granola (you know, those oats that have strayed from the pack) will not stay as crunchy in the ice cream after the first day (but it will still taste delicious). You can either use slightly bigger clumps of granola or just eat all of it in one day!! Viva la honey :o)


Monday, March 2, 2009

Where's the Beef?

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It's pretty well known to the people in my life that I'm not only an avid "meatetarian" but that I'm also a big fan of France and all that the French have given us, both in the culinary world and elsewhere. With this knowledge in mind, it's not surprising that Beef Bourguignon rocks my world. Take a basic beef stew, with its tender meat and delicious vegetables, raise it ten notches, and you will have this kicked up French version. It's surprisingly simple considering it stews for several hours. I made it last night and got rave reviews all night! My grandma, who loves beef and pasta but doesn't eat either very often because of her dentures and her diabetes, said it was the best meal she's ever had! My family doesn't like bacon (which is traditionally part of the dish) so I omitted that, but you can easily dice up about 6 oz of bacon, fry it up, and set it aside to add to the stew later with the rest of the browned meat. Bon appetit!

Beef Bourguignon with Buttered and Herbed Noodles
Serves 6 to 8

3 1/2 lbs lean stewing beef (chuck or shin)
6 T unsalted butter, at room temperature, separated
4 T olive oil, separated
3/4 lb frozen pearl onions
3/4 lb mushrooms, sliced or halved depending on their size and your preference
1 onion, finely chopped
1 carrot, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, finely chopped
6 T flour, separated
3 cups red wine, preferably Burgundy
1 1/2 T tomato paste
2 1/2-3 cups beef broth
3 T chopped fresh parsley, separated
1 lb wide egg noodles
Salt and black pepper to taste

1. Cut the beef into 2 inch pieces. In a large casserole, heat half the olive oil at medium-high heat. Add the beef in batches, as to not crowd the pan. Sear beef on all sides until well browned and set aside.

2. When all the beef has been browned and set aside, add the onion, carrot and garlic to the pot over medium heat and cook for a few minutes until softened, stirring frequently. Sprinkle 3 T of the flour over the vegetables and cook for a couple minutes, then add the wine and tomato paste. Whisk until smooth.

3. Bring to a boil and return beef (and bacon if using), and then cover with beef broth. Cover the pot and simmer over low heat, stirring occasionally, for about 3 hours or until the beef is very tender.

4. Mash 3 T of the soft butter with 3 T of flour with the back of a spoon until completely smooth to form a beurre manié. Gently whisk some of the cooking liquid into the beurre manié, and then whisk the mixture back into the stew. It will thicken very nicely! Season with salt and pepper to your liking.

5. While the meat is stewing away, in a separate pan, heat the remaining olive oil at medium heat and add the mushrooms. Sauté, stirring frequently, until golden, then set aside until ready to use.

6. Meanwhile, bring a pot of water to a boil, then generously salt the water and add the egg noodles. Cook until al dente and drain. Toss with the remaining 3T butter and half the parsley. Set aside and keep warm.

7. After the meat has simmered for 3 hours, add the sautéed mushrooms and pearl onions to the stew and cook, covered, for 30 minutes more. Stir in the remaining parsley before serving. Serve the stew over the egg noodles.

Sunday, March 1, 2009

The Incredible Edible Egg!

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Photo courtesy The Pioneer Woman

My absolute favorite breakfast dish is a Heart Attack on a Plate, which in some circles is referred to as Eggs Benedict. The origins of this heart-stopping dish are unclear, but all trace back to famous eateries in New York City in the late 1800's. Was it Mrs. LeGrand Benedict's desire to try something entirely new at Delmonico's one day that led her to try some ham and poached eggs on an English Muffin with Hollandaise, or was it Lemuel Benedict seeking a hangover cure at the Waldorf-Astoria which consisted of toast, bacon, poached eggs and a pitcher of Hollandaise? In any case, I'd like to thank all parties involved in its creation! You've put a smile on my face (and perhaps a lining of fat in my arteries)!

Let's take a look at all the great variations in creating this classic dish!

The Base (so important as it soaks up all the gooey egg and buttery sauce):

English Muffin: This is the traditional base for Eggs Benedict. Most restaurants will stick to this ideal as the bread element for the dish.

Toast: Mr. Benedict's version of the dish was served on toast, as opposed to an English Muffin.

Brioche: A fancier version of toast. This sweet egg bread has sopped up yummy egg and Hollandaise at some of the fancier breakfast joints I've tried. It is a happy substitute for the traditional English Muffin. Try cutting it out in a circle to mimic the shape of an English Muffin.

Biscuit: A country-style version can be served over a split biscuit, using a sausage patty as the meat and substituting gravy for the Hollandaise. Also, try a Southwest version also using a biscuit but spike the Hollandaise with a little Chipotle for a spicy kick!

Scone: Yes, much like a biscuit, a savory scone can be split and used as the base for this delicious dish!

Potato Cakes: Another starchy variation. A cool idea would be to incorporate a filling such as lobster into the mashed potato cakes themselves and then top immediately with a poached egg. You could also try making latkes with grated potato instead.

Fried Potato Skins: One of my favorite discoveries was at The Griddle Cafe in West Hollywood, California where they serve their variation over three fried potato skins and a huge slab of ham. You can only imagine how great this is! I suggest you try this immediately. It can easily be recreated at home, since frying potato skins doesn't require the greatest culinary skills imaginable.

The Filling (this can change the whole perspective--and name--of the dish):

Ham: Oh so traditional, but always yummy.

Canadian Bacon: Kind of like a circle-shaped ham, perfect for layering this "round" breakfast dish.

Bacon: Yes, bacon. It's like what pigs were born to create.

Prosciutto: It's the other thing that pigs were born to create. Don't cook it like you would with the other meats, or you'll dry it out. Use thinly sliced Prosciutto di Parma--it's the best and will melt in your mouth!

Pancetta: Can you say "round bacon?" A perfect fit!

Spinach: This makes it Eggs Florentine, which is usually served with a cheesy Mornay sauce as opposed to Hollandaise. I once had a great version served over brioche with ham and spinach, with a traditional Hollandaise at the Farm of Beverly Hills. It was definitely a winner!

Smoked Salmon: One of the great upgrades to this dish, many restaurants now offer this version, but you can easily try it yourself at home with a slice of your favorite smoked salmon.

Crab Cakes: As if it couldn't get any better! The only thing better than a crab cake, is Crab Cakes Benedict! The cakes are obviously smaller so they can fit on the the English Muffin (or in the case of the photo to the left, on round slices of brioche), but what's lacking in size is not lacking in flavor. Yum!

Lobster: The King of all seafood. You can't get much fancier than this. Cook yourself a lobster tail and just slice it into medallions. One or two slices should be more than enough to transform this dish into one fit for royalty.

Avocado and Tomato: Yup, vegetarians can take part in this sumptuous dish. Try freshly sliced or mashed avocado and a slice of tomato. You can even call this Eggs Tomavo if you want to be clever ;-)

Asparagus: You can easily add some steamed asparagus on it's own or with a meat filling, such as ham or lobster. You get the picture!

The Eggs (it wouldn't be Eggs Benedict without them!):

The Eggs: Poached. That's all.

The Sauce (what makes this dish so bad for you, but also taste so good):

Hollandaise: The classic emulsion of egg yolks, lemon juice, melted butter and seasonings. There are many variations on this sauce that can enhance the dish, like spicier versions with chilis or enhanced with orange making it a Maltaise Sauce instead. You can even do a tomato spiked Hollandaise or Bearnaise (called a Choron sauce) depending on what goes with the filling you've chosen.

Mornay: This is basically a Bechamel sauce (or white sauce) with grated cheese (usually Gruyere) melted into it. This is traditionally served over Eggs Florentine.

The Recipe:

Alas, I think this is a pretty good foray into the world of Eggs Benedict. Finally, check out the egg song, which will not only get stuck in your head, but I promise it will change your life forever!

I will leave you with a simple recipe to get you over your craving...

Eggs Benedict with Blender Hollandaise Sauce
Serves 2

2 English Muffins, halved, toasted and buttered
4 eggs
4 slices ham or Canadian bacon (or filling of your choice)

Hollandaise:
3 egg yolks
2 tsp fresh lemon juice
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted
A dash of cayenne pepper
Salt to taste

1. Prepare the sauce. Place the egg yolks, lemon juice and seasonings in the jar of a blender and blend on high speed for a minute. With the machine running, slowly add the melted butter in a steady stream. When all the butter has been added (about a minute later), the sauce should be thick. If not, process on high speed for about 20 seconds more. Keep the sauce warm by placing the blender jar in warm water.

2. Next poach the eggs. Boil some water in a skillet with a couple teaspoons of vinegar. This will help the eggs hold their shape. When the water comes to a simmer, crack each egg into a bowl and one by one, slip them into the simmering water. Cook for about 4-5 minutes and then remove with a slotted spoon and let "dry off" momentarily on a paper towel.

3. While the eggs are cooking, toast your English Muffins (using a broiler will get it done faster), butter them, and cook your ham or Canadian bacon and layer the slices onto your English Muffins, which you can keep warm in the oven until the eggs are ready.

4. Top each English Muffin and ham with a poached egg and then blanket with a generous drizzle of Hollandaise. Enjoy!

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