12.29.2007

Happy New Year: Sun dried Tomato Polenta Bites w/ Roasted Garlic Brie & Cremini Mushrooms


Sun dried Tomato Polenta Bites w/ Roasted Garlic Brie & Cremini Mushrooms

A lot of flavor packed into a bite size appetizer. Polenta is an Italian specialty that can be served many ways.
Fresh, hot Polenta makes an excellent side to many hearty dishes, such as roasted chicken, braised beef, Osso Bucco, and is especially tasty with a perfectly cooked piece of salmon or sea bass. Polenta sets up quickly if poured into a mold. For this appetizer we will pour the Polenta into a rectangular casserole and refrigerate.

Be sure to buy dry Polenta or yellow corn grits, Bob's Red Mill makes a nice coarsely ground Polenta.
Yields 50-60 pieces.


ROASTED GARLIC BRIE CHEESE
1 bulb garlic
1 wedge brie cheese ( approx. 1/2 lb)
1 tsp olive oil
pinch sea salt
I use my toaster oven, since it is only one bulb.Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
Cut the top off bulb of garlic to reveal tops of cloves. Drizzle with 1 tblsp of olive oil.
Wrap bulb in foil, pinch foil shut at top of bulb loosely, to let some steam escape. Roast bulb for
35-45 minutes or until garlic is soft and golden brown. Open top of foil, wrap a kitchen towel around
foil to protect your hands from the heat. Squeeze firmly over a bowl to release garlic.
Mash brie cheese and roasted garlic together, add olive oil and sea salt. Set aside.

POLENTA
6 cups organic free range chicken broth
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups Polenta (Corn Grits)
3 tblsp Butter
2 cups Parmigiano Reggiano or Pecorino Romano cheese grated
1/4 cup sun dried tomatoes
Fresh ground pepper

Grate cheese and set aside. In a food processor, pulse sun dried tomatoes until chopped very fine, set aside.
Bring 6 cups chicken broth to a boil with sea salt. Slowly add Polenta and stir. Lower heat to simmer and stir very frequently for 25-30 minutes or until Polenta is very thick. It should be very hard to stir and pulling away from the saucepan when done. Turn off heat.

Add butter to Polenta, stir in grated cheese and sun dried tomatoes. Add a few grinds of fresh black pepper.
Pour into an oiled 15" X 10" casserole dish. (You can also use a sheet cake pan) Spread evenly and smooth with wet fingers if necessary. Cover with plastic wrap. Poke a few holes in the plastic wrap to let moisture escape as it cools. Refrigerate for at least 3 hours.

MUSHROOM TOPPING
1/2 lb cremini mushrooms, chopped
1/2 cup sweet onion, minced
4 tblsp butter
Sea salt
Freshly ground pepper
1/4 cup red wine
1 tsp aged balsamic vinegar

Over medium - high heat in a large saute pan, saute onion in butter until lightly golden (about 5 minutes), add mushrooms and saute until mushrooms are dark golden brown. De-glaze pan with red wine, add balsamic vinegar. Saute until wine and vinegar are absorbed, about 2 minutes. Add sea salt and pepper to taste, turn off heat and set aside.

ASSEMBLE

After Polenta mixture has become firm (3 hours in refrigerator), spread roasted garlic brie cheese on top of the firm Polenta. With a sharp, thin knife, slice Polenta into 50-60 square pieces. Top each piece with 1 tsp of the mushroom mixture. Place in a small cupcake paper or on assemble on a platter. Keep refrigerated until ready to serve. For best flavor, let Polenta bites come to room temperature before serving.
SPECIAL Presentation- take these delicious bites one step further by sauteing them in olive oil until the bottoms are crisp and golden brown, an entirely different flavor erupts from the Polenta, as the flavors of sun-dried tomato and roasted garlic are heightened. They will be devoured!

Excellent with meaty Cabernet Sauvignon or inky Syrah.

12.19.2007

Happy New Year: Stay up 'til 2008 with Tiramisu

This is my absolute favorite recipe for Tiramisu. Loosely translated Tiramisu means "pick me up" in Italian.
This dessert will keep you awake long enough to ring in the New Year with style!

If you have an in-home Espresso machine, by all means, brew fresh espresso!
If not, brew VERY strong coffee in your auto-drip or French press coffee maker.

This is a definite do-ahead recipe, the Tiramisu needs to be refrigerated at least 12 hours before serving.
The exact number of ladyfngers depends on the size of your baking dish. If there are any leftover, they are delicious for dunking in your morning coffee........a treat!

One of my personal touches to this recipe is the addition of Hazelnut Kahlua coffee liqueur. The Kahlua adds a nice sweetness, and enhances the coffee flavor.

Tiramisu with Hazelnut Coffee Liqueur

4 cups heavy cream
4 oz cream cheese
4 oz mascarpone (Italian cream cheese)
1 cup granulated white sugar
4 eggs
3-4 cups brewed espresso or strong coffee
1/2 cup Hazelnut Kahlua coffee liqueur
1 pkg ladyfinger cookies (approx 24-30)
Cocoa powder for dusting

Let cream cheese and mascarpone come to room temperature. Combine heavy cream, cream cheese, and mascarpone with a stand or hand mixer. Add sugar and eggs. Combine well and set aside.

Prepare to assemble: Butter a 10 X 10 (or similar size) baking dish with deep sides (2-3 inches)

In a shallow bowl or pie plate, combine espresso (or coffee) and Kahlua.
Soak each lady finger in the coffee mixture for less than a second on each side. Lay soaked cookies side by side in a single layer across the bottom of the dish. Add a 2 inch layer of the cream cheese mixture. Soak and arrange more ladyfingers for the second layer. Add the remaining cream cheese mixture. Sprinkle with Cocoa powder.
Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 12 hours. Serves 8-10 people.



Happy New Year!
2008

12.06.2007

Recipe Request: Chicken Enchiladas Verde

For my "peeps" ......you know who you are! Bon Appetit!

Chicken Enchiladas Verde

1 whole chicken (4-5 lbs) - cooked- all meat removed from bones and chopped
1 small red or sweet onion- minced
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 cup chicken stock (or broth)
1/2 tsp sea salt (or more to taste)
1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp celery salt
1 tsp ground cumin
1 15oz can Black beans- drained
2 19oz cans Green Enchilada Sauce
2 8oz blocks (1 lb) Rogue Creamery Jalapeno Cheddar cheese - grated
Note: can use Rogue Creamery Chipotle Cheddar cheese, or Tillamook Pepper Jack
8-10 8" flour tortillas

In a large saute pan combine chopped cooked chicken, minced onion, garlic, and chicken stock. Cook over medium heat, add drained black beans and all of the spices. Cook over medium heat until chicken stock is reduced by half.
Taste and adjust seasoning if necessary.
On each flour tortilla place about two tablespoons of the grated cheese, put about 1/2 cup of the chicken mixture on top of the cheese. Roll up and place seam side down into a greased baking dish. Continue with remaining chicken mixture until baking dish is full (8-10 enchiladas). Pour Enchilada sauce over the rolled enchiladas, top with remaining grated cheese. Bake at 375 degrees F for 30-40 minutes or until cheese begins to brown on the edges. Enjoy!




Cookbook Review: King Arthur Flour Co.- best recipes for baking

My go-to recipes for Holiday Baking (or any other time of the year) are the series of books published by the King Arthur Flour Co.

This historical company has been milling flour since 1790. Started in Boston, MA, they are now based in Norwich, VT. With over 200 years of baking experience behind them, King Arthur's time tested recipes never disappoint.

Quite accustomed to changing with the times, King Arthur's expertise has been consistent right up until the present day. Their modern recipes inspire low fat, whole grain baking as well. Extremely explanatory in all aspects, King Arthur's books guide you through fool-proof recipes step by step.

The 200th Anniversary Cookbook
Cookie Companion
Bakers Companion
King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking


12.04.2007

Holiday Notebook: Christmas Brunch Scones

These scones are incredibly tender and they melt in your mouth. Being careful to just barely mix in the cream keeps them from becoming dense. This is just one variation, any flavor of jam can be spooned onto the scone before baking. Another delicious way to make these is to fold dried fruit (cranberries, blueberries) into the batter along with the cream and bake without adding the jam. Enjoy these with a steaming cup of coffee or tea on Christmas morning!


Christmas Brunch Scones

3 cups AP flour
1/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking soda
2 tsp baking powder
1/3 cup sugar
1 tblsp orange zest
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp real vanilla extract

1/2 lb butter (cold, salted)
1 cup heavy cream
1 cup (or more) orange marmalade

1/4 cup granulated sugar (for topping)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare 2 large sheet pans with parchment paper.
Makes approx 16 scones.

In the bowl of a large food processor combine first eight ingredients. Chop butter into pieces, add to mixture.
Pulse until mixture is crumbly and butter is incorporated. Turn out into a large bowl. Gently fold in heavy cream. Scone dough should be thick and lumpy. Scoop dough out in 1/4 cupfuls onto prepared pan.
The scones should resemble little mounds. Leave lots of room between scones, about 8 per pan.
With your fingers, make a small indentation in each of the scone mounds, large enough to hold approximately two tablespoons of the orange marmalade. Spoon marmalade onto scone. Sprinkle with granulated sugar.
Bake for 15-20 minutes, or until bottom edges are golden brown. Cool 5 minutes, remove from pan. Best eaten still warm!





Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake


Chocolate Hazelnut Cheesecake

Graham cracker hazelnut crust

1 pkg (inner wrapped) graham crackers- crushed
3 tlbsp ground hazelnuts
3 tblsp granulated sugar
1/4 cup melted butter

Crush graham crackers and hazelnuts (chopped roughly) by pulsing in a food processor, fitted with standard blade.
Pour into 10 inch springform, mix in sugar, add melted butter, combine well. Press firmly into bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes, set aside.

OR Chocolate wafer cookie crust

Crush one package of Nabisco chocolate wafers in food processor, pour into 10 inch springform pan, add 1/4 cup melted butter, press firmly into bottom and slightly up the sides of the pan. Bake in a 350 degree F oven for 10 minutes, set aside.

Cheesecake filling

3 8 oz pkg's cream cheese (brick style)
1 cup sour cream
2 eggs
4 oz bittersweet chocolate
4 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tblsp heavy cream
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup hazelnut liqueur

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Bring cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, and heavy cream to room temperature (leave out for 1 hour).
Melt chocolate over warm water and let cool slightly. With a stand mixer or heavy duty hand mixer, blend together cream cheese, sour cream, eggs, heavy cream and sugar. Slowly add melted chocolate, mix well, but slowly, being careful not to incorporate too much air into the mixture. Add liqueur. Pour into baked crust.

Place filled pan into a large sheet of aluminum foil. Wrap foil around pan, make sure there are no holes in foil.
Place foil wrapped pan into a large high-sided baking dish, pour hot water into dish to measure one third up the side of the cheesecake pan. Bake cheesecake in this water bath for 60-75 minutes until firmly set in the middle.
Remove from oven and water bath, let cool in pan for 1 hour.
Run a thin knife around the inside edge of the springform before releasing the catch to remove pan ring.

Holiday Notebook: Yam and Rum Souffle

This recipe is a great way to replace the classic yam and marshmallow dish, with little bit of sophistication.It's easy and makes quite an impression at the dinner table. For an equally delicious variation use roasted butternut squash or canned pumpkin for a delectable squash souffle.

Yam & Rum Souffle

2 cups cooked yams- mashed
1/2 cup hot milk
1/4 cup dark rum
1/4 cup melted butter
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp mace
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 tblsp orange zest
4 eggs- separated

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Butter very well a 1 & 1/2 quart baking high-sided baking dish.

Combine mashed yams with hot milk rum, butter, salt, pepper and mace. Stir until thoroughly blended.
Add orange zest. Beat egg yolks in or with a mixer until they are light and lemon colored, add to potatoes.

Whip egg whites in or with a mixer until stiff peaks form. (Note: if you use the same mixer for the egg whites as for the yolks, wash & dry thoroughly before using for egg whites)
Carefully fold beaten egg whites into potato mixture, transfer delicately to baking dish, so as not to deflate egg whites.
Bake for 25 -30 minutes. Serve immediately!

Holiday Notebook: Christmas Morning Muffins

These muffins are breakfast within themselves. They can be made with only whole wheat flour for an even healthier touch. The dry ingredients for these muffins can mixed the day before, and set aside. The wet ingredients minus the butter, can be prepared a day ahead and kept refrigerated. In the morning bring wet ingredients to room temp and add the melted butter. Delicious as is or add cream cheese frosting once they are cooled.


Christmas Morning Muffins

Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
Prepare one Giant muffin pan (12), lightly greased or with paper liners.
OR Prepare two standard sized muffin pans the same way.

In a large bowl combine the following,
1 & 1/4 cups AP white flour
1 & 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 & 1/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tblsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp salt
2 tsp baking soda
1/2 cup chopped walnuts
1/2 cup raisins
1/2 cup flaked coconut

In another bowl combine,
2 cups shredded carrot
1 cup finely chopped apple
1/2 cup pineapple bits
1/2 cup melted butter
3/4 cup applesauce
3 eggs

All at once, pour wet mixture into flour mixture and fold gently until just combined. Do not over mix.
Portion into prepared muffin pans (lightly greased or with paper liner).
Bake giant muffins for 25-35 minutes checking carefully at 25 minutes.
Bake standard size muffins for 20-25 minutes checking carefully at 20 minutes.
Remove from muffin pan after 5 minutes and let cool to room temperature.
Tightly wrap any leftover muffins in plastic wrap, and they will keep for days.
Add a layer of foil to the plastic wrapped muffins and keep for a month in the freezer.








Decadent Chocolate Custard

I have been making these chocolate custards since the 1980's. This classic recipe is open to many variations as the mood strikes. I often replace the vanilla extract with mint or orange extract. For a party -like touch replace extracts with Kahlua, Grand Marnier or any other liqueur that goes well with chocolate. Decorating the top with chocolate shavings is always a nice touch. This recipe also works well as a pie filling, pour into a prepared 8 inch chocolate wafer crust and bake as directed.

Decadent Chocolate Custard

16 oz Semi Sweet Chocolate- chips or broken bars
1 cup heavy whipping cream
6 eggs
2 tsp real vanilla extract
1/3 cup cake flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat oven to 325 degrees F.
Melt chocolate over warm water. Let chocolate cool while preparing remaining ingredients.
In a separate bowl, beat together until well incorporated, eggs,vanilla and sugar.
Add cake flour slowly and mix in well. Fold 1/4 of this mixture into melted chocolate. Add melted chocolate to remaining egg mixture and carefully fold. Do not over mix.
Portion custard into six 1/2 cup ramekins that have been lightly coated with nonstick spray. Place filled cups into a large baking pan (glass, preferably). Pour warm water into the pan until the water comes halfway up the sides of the cups.

Place carefully in oven and bake for approximately 30 minutes, checking at 25 minutes. Custards should be firm, yet just a little jiggly in the middle, not soupy.
Remove from water bath, and cool to room temperature. Garnish with whipped cream or creme fraiche before serving.

11.17.2007

Holiday Notebook: Favorite Pumpkin Pie

Pumpkin Pie

1 can (15 oz) pumpkin puree
3/4 cup granulated sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground ginger
1/4 tsp ground cloves
2 large eggs
1 can (12 oz) evaporated milk

1 unbaked 9-inch deep-dish pie shell

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
Mix sugar, cinnamon, salt, ginger and cloves into pumpkin, add eggs. Gradually mix in evaporated milk.
Pour mixture into pie shell, bake for 40 to 50 minutes or until knife inserted near center comes out clean. Cool on wire rack for 2 hours. Serve immediately or refrigerate.

11.16.2007

Holiday Notebook: Turkey Day notes

Preparing for Thanksgiving can seem like an overwhelming task, especially when you have crowd to feed. To help your Turkey Day game plan succeed, do as many things ahead as possible.



Remember, if you only have one oven ( like I do) baking ahead and freezing is always a good option. The loaf breads in the Holiday Notebook can all be made ahead, wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and foil, and frozen.



Shopping for your staples before the stores are insanely crowded, is also a less frenzied way to prepare. Believe me, fighting over the last can of Redi-Whip on Thanksgiving morning is not my idea of fostering Holiday Spirit!



Give your turkey several days to thaw in the refrigerator, trying to thaw too quickly opens the door to unsafe practices and invites unwanted germ-laden guests to your dinner. A 16-20 lb turkey takes 4-5 days to thaw in your refrigerator. This is the safest way to thaw. If you do run short of time, good advice can be found on the USDA website "Let's Talk Turkey".














Holiday Notebook: Cranberry Orange Bread

CRANBERRY - ORANGE BREAD

2 cups all purpose white flour (may use 1 cup white & 1 cup whole wheat flour)
1 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
½ tsp baking soda
¼ cup butter or margarine
1 egg beaten
1 tsp grated orange peel
¾ cup orange juice
3 cups chopped cranberries

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Butter a 9 X 5 X 3 inch loaf pan.

Sift flour, sugar, baking powder, salt & baking soda in a large bowl.
Cut in butter with fork or pastry blender until mixture is crumbly.
Add egg, orange juice and peel all at once, stir just until mixture is evenly moist.
Do not over mix, leave it a little lumpy.
Fold in cranberries. Spoon mixture into prepared pan.
Bake for about 1 hour, test for doneness with a skewer inserted into center of loaf,
it should be clean when removed. Let cool for about 20 minutes in the pan, carefully remove and transfer loaf to a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.

11.10.2007

Holiday Notebook: Roasted Butternut Squash

Roasted Butternut Squash


2 med- large Butternut squash

PREHEAT OVEN TO 400 degrees F

Cut each squash in half- VERTICALLY stem to blossom end
Scoop out seeds & stringy stuff
Cut squash halves into 4 pieces- peel each piece

Cover the bottom of a large roasting pan or oven proof casserole dish with olive oil (for savory squash) or melted butter (for sweet squash).
Pour in squash pieces and toss around to coat with oil or butter.
For savory squash, sprinkle with salt & pepper.
For sweet squash, sprinkle with cinnamon & nutmeg.


Roast squash uncovered for 40- 60 minutes, turning & moving occasionally, or until soft, and beginning to caramelize around the edges, roast until you reach the desired degree of caramelization around the edge of the squash, be careful not to burn.

Serves 6-8 people (large servings)

Holiday Notebook: Easy Stuffing

Easy Stuffing

2 loaves of any kind of bread you like / or mix white & wheat .. etc
Homemade style bread is best – heavy & substantial is best
Lay out bread on cookie sheets over night to dry out and get stale!!!

In a large pan sauté in olive oil
1 large onion -chopped
2 cups chopped celery
Minced fresh garlic or garlic powder to taste
Saute until celery is tender & translucent

Add 1 stick butter to sauteed veggies and let melt.
Turn off heat when butter is melted

Tear or chop dry bread into small pieces place in a large bowl
Salt & pepper to taste
2 tblsp Poultry seasoning or more to taste
Mix in with dry bread, taste a piece
Add ½ bunch chopped parsley- fresh
Mix in with bread
Pour sautéed onion & celery with butter over dry bread mix well

Add warm canned chicken broth 1-2 cans.(14 oz cans) to moisten bread well.
Or if you have drippings from roasted turkey add them.

Pour into a 9x13 rectangle sheet cake pan.
Bake at 350 degrees for approx 30 minutes – or until golden brown

10.28.2007

Holiday Notebook: Harvest Pear Salad with Caramelized Walnuts

Beautiful and delicious, elements of the Autumnal equinox come together in this salad. Choose firm, yet ripe local pears. Freshly harvested walnuts from the Farmer's Market are especially good in this salad.

Caramelized Walnuts
Make these days ahead and keep in an airtight container

1 lb walnuts- shelled and briefly toasted in pan or oven.
2/3 cup granulated sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/4 cup water

Prepare a sheet pan with parchment paper, have toasted walnuts nearby in a glass or metal bowl.
In a heavy saucepan, over medium-high heat, combine sugars, cinnamon and water. Stirring occasionally, let mixture come to a boil, continue to boil over medium heat until the sugar is of a very thick, honey- like consistency. Pour hot sugar over walnuts and toss to cost immediately. Pour coated walnuts out onto sheet pan with parchment paper. Let cool briefly and break apart any clumps.

Pear Vinaigrette courtesy of my friend Kris

1 large pear- peeled and cored
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1 tblsp sugar
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup olive oil

Puree all ingredients in blender or food processor, adjust seasoning if necessary.

Assemble the salad using fresh mixed baby greens and fresh sliced pear. Drizzle salad with pear vinaigrette and sprinkle with caramelized walnuts. For color and flavor, add dried cranberries.

Holiday Notebook: Banana Spice Bread





While Banana Bread is fabulous year round, adding it to your Holiday repertoire is always a good idea. Especially easy to "throw together" when you are invited to Holiday parties and don't want to show up empty handed!

Banana Spice Bread

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 5 X 7 loaf pan with butter.
You can also divide batter among 3-4 mini loaf pans and cut baking time in half.

2/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup butter- very soft room temperature
2 eggs
3 tblsp soured milk
Note: To sour milk add a few drops of apple cider or white vinegar to the milk and let set for a few minutes.
3 very ripe bananas -mashed

1 cup unbleached white flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
1/2 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

In a large mixing bowl combine sugar, butter, eggs, soured milk, and mashed banana. In a smaller bowl combine all dry ingredients, including nuts. All at once, add dry ingredients to wet and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Pour into a well greased 5 X 7 loaf pan. Bake at 350 degrees F, for about 1 hour, or until skewer inserted in middle, comes out clean. Cool in pan for 10 minutes before turning out onto a cooling rack. Cool completely before slicing.





Holiday Notebook: Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Icing

This recipe is a Holiday staple for my family. Adapted from the 1960's children's book by Wende & Harry Devlin "Old Witch & the Polka Dot Ribbon". The recipe is originally named Old Witch's Magic Nut Cake.

Pumpkin Bread with Cream Cheese Frosting

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Grease two 5 X 7 loaf pans with butter.
You can also divide batter among 6-8 mini loaf pans and cut baking time in half.

3 eggs
1 -1 lb can pumpkin
3/4 cup vegetable oil (may sub canola oil)
1/2 cup water
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (may sub 1/2 of the flour with Whole Wheat)
2 1/4 cups sugar
1 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 1/4 teaspoon salt
3/4 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1 cup golden raisins (optional)
1/2 cup chopped walnuts (optional)

Combine eggs, pumpkin, oil and water in a small mixing bowl. In a larger bowl, combine remaining ingredients.
Add wet ingredients to dry and mix until just combined. Do not over mix. Divide batter into two well-greased 5 X 7 loaf pans. Bake at 350 degrees for approximately 1 hour, or until a skewer inserted in middle comes out clean. Cool completely before frosting.

Frosting:
4 oz. cream cheese
3 tablespoons butter
1 teaspoon vanilla or lemon juice
1/2 box confectioners' sugar
chopped walnuts to sprinkle


Cream together ingredients for icing.
Frost tops and sides of loaves and sprinkle with more chopped walnuts if desired.

10.21.2007

Recipe: Lamb Meatballs filled with Smokey Blue Cheese & Chevre

Sounds hard? It's incredibly easy. A tender, nicely spiced lamb meatball reveals a center filled with melted Smokey Blue cheese from the Rogue Creamery, and tangy Cypress Grove Fresh Chevre.

For 18 medium sized meatballs you'll need:
2 lbs freshly ground lamb (you may substitute finely ground lean beef)
1 egg
1/4 cup dried bread crumbs
1/4 cup fresh flat leaf parsley-minced
1/4 cup fresh sage leaves- minced
3 cloves garlic-minced
1 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp celery seed
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper

1 tsp freshly ground black pepper
2 tsp sea salt

For the filling:
Mash together at room temperature:
5 oz Rogue Creamery Smokey Blue Cheese
5 oz Cypress Grove Fresh Chevre

Mix ground lamb with egg, breadcrumbs, fresh herbs and spices.
With about two tablespoon of the lamb mixture roll lightly into a ball, flatten slightly, and make an indent with your finger. Pinch off about 1 -1/2 teaspoons of the cheese mixture and tuck into the indentation. Wrap meatball around cheese, and re-roll lightly into a ball. Repeat with remaining lamb and cheese.

Heat a large saute pan over med- high heat with about a 1/4 inch of good olive oil in the bottom.
Gently place each meatball into the pan, not touching. Saute until meatball is no longer stuck to pan. Turn gently to another side of meatball and let cook until deep golden brown. Repeatedly turn meatballs until all sides are deeply golden. Internal temperature should be at least 155 degrees F.
Remove and serve immediately, alone or over your favorite pasta tossed with some sauteed mushrooms, onions, sundried tomatoes and olive oil... grate a little Parmigiano -Reggiano ....yum!!!



10.14.2007

Travel Journal October 2007

While recently in Arizona, we took our second trip to the Queen Creek Olive Mill located in Queen Creek, Arizona (45 minutes Southeast of Phoenix). We were lucky to get a tour from the owner himself, Perry Rea, seems the regular tour guide lost her voice! I can see why, the in-depth one hour talk & tour was insightful, and full of good information, I know a heck of a lot more about Olive Oil than I ever did! You can taste just about every product they make in the tasting room.The infused olive oils are delicious and when owner Perry makes up a new flavor, it makes it to the tasting room very quickly.
They have also recently added a Mediterranean style cafe, Del Piero, serving breakfast, fresh salads and Panini sandwiches. Most of the menu choices include an Olive Mill made ingredient. The offerings are cleverly named after different types of olives. The cafe was PACKED while we there on a Saturday afternoon. Del Piero also has Gelato for dessert. Very tempting in the hot Arizona weather!
I stock up on their Tuscan style olive oil and the White Truffle infused olive oil whenever I'm there.Our daughter-in-law, Joy, has deemed visiting the Olive Mill a family tradition, and we are completely on board.We usually purchase the fresh crusty baguettes, brought in daily from a local bakery. Then we always get our favorite tapenades, Sundried Tomato and Basil, and Artichoke Roasted Garlic, then we rush home to make Bruschetta...it's a great tradition!

The Olive Mill happened to be hosting a Fudge tasting that afternoon.
Heritage Fudge Company had us stopped in our tracks to taste some very yummy concoctions.The favorite was a sweet & salty roasted peanut fudge, naturally it was so good, it was sold out! Handmade in small batches, it is a family enterprise that seems to uphold an old fashioned tradition of fudge making. The young man hosting the tasting was the owner, and relies on his grandmother's fudge recipes for inspiration. The ingredients are all natural, and the amount of sugar is much less than traditional fudge, so the real flavor of the ingredients, really shines through!

Recipe: Classic Manicotti

I had the opportunity to make Manicotti in Arizona for dinner one night, we are a family that LOVES pasta & cheese. This recipe gives us the chance to have it all in one dish and use a variety of cheese for the filling. I do like the shortcut of jarred pasta sauce, since there are so many really good sauces available now. One of my favorite jarred sauces is Muir Glen Organic, sweet and mellow sauce with practically no acidity or bite, which is a detrimental feature of some other sauces.

Boil one package of manicotti shells short of al dente, because they will finish cooking in the oven covered in sauce. Toss them with a little olive oil to prevent them from sticking together until you are ready for them. Note that you can also use jumbo shells for this recipe.

CHEESE SEGWAY........
Since I am a cheese nerd, I feel compelled to offer my humble opinion on the cheese you may use in this and other recipes. For best flavor use fresh cheese, pre-packaged shredded or pre-grated cheese is usually a sub-par product. If I haven't begged you to throw out the "green can" yet, please do....it's as far away from real cheese as you can get. If you have access to a quality cheese shop you are going to want to splurge every so often for some excellent cheese. High end grocery stores are paying much more attention to their cheese tables, and you are much better off purchasing hunks of real Parmigiana Reggiano, and fresh Mozzarella for your cooking. Even Costco carries decent
Grana Padano, Parmesan and fresh Mozzarella. If it seems like a lot of work to grate large amounts of cheese by hand for recipes, hint heavily that you are in need of a food processor, a 10-12 cup Cuisinart style is perfect for the job.... besides it's almost Christmas, and your partner will be thankful that they know of a least one thing you want under the tree!

Basic Cheese Manicotti Filling
16 oz tub fresh part-skim ricotta cheese
8 oz freshly shredded Grana Padano cheese (or Parmesan)
16 oz freshly shredded Mozzarella cheese (save half for top)
1 egg
2 tablespoons minced fresh basil
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
Freshly grated nutmeg to taste
Salt and pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 375 F, lightly oil a baking dish with olive oil. Stuff manicotti with a small spoon, pastry bag or your fingers. Arrange in baking dish, pour 1- 2 jars of your favorite sauce, depending on how "saucy" you like your dish. Sprinkle remaining shredded Mozzarella on top. Bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until everything is bubbling and cheese is lightly golden. Let stand 15 minutes before serving.

Variations on the filling:
Try 8 oz of fresh Goat cheese (Chevre) and 8 oz of Ricotta mixed together.
If you have a favorite cheddar, (I have access to
Rogue Creamery's Rosemary Cheddar), shred an 8 oz block of that in place of the Mozzarella, then shred 8 oz of Mozzarella just for the topping.
In place of the Grana Padano, you can use
Vella Dry Jack, or Mezzo Secco.
You can also add chopped, drained spinach to the cheese filling, very yummy!

Sauce variations:
Try adding sauteed, drained ground beef, Italian sausage, lamb, veal or turkey to your jarred sauce before pouring over the manicotti shells.




Recipe: Compound (Flavored) Butters

A friend of mine recently asked about flavored butters, also known as compound butters. They are very easy make with endless possibilities. Choose a stick or a pound of butter, depending on how much you want to make. Try not to use anything except real stick butter, salted. Let the butter soften at room temperature. One of the most popular compound butters is made with fresh herbs. Fresh herbs contain oils that add to the flavor of the butter, the further ahead you make your butter mixture, say the day ahead, the butter will develop more flavor.
Small amounts of butter can be worked by hand with a pastry blender or fork. Large amounts of butter, say a pound or more, are better worked with a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.

Chive Butter is a good place to start and is great on baked potatoes, fish & steamed vegetables.
Chive Butter
2 sticks softened salted butter
2 tablespoons fresh chives, chopped
1/4 tsp fine sea salt
Work chives and sea salt into softened butter, cover and refrigerate for at least a day.

From Chive Butter you can use the same concept and add as many fresh minced herbs as you want to your softened butter. Amounts of the herbs and seasonings can be adjusted to your taste, don't be afraid to taste your butter and add more herbs, salt or even pepper to your liking.
Some ideas for savory butters include, garlic and basil butter for spreading on slices of baguette, dill butter for halibut,
herbs de provence butter, spicy cayenne and cilantro butter, the possibilities are endless!

Sweet compound butters are equally as fun and tasty! Blend butter with confectioner's sugar and vanilla, you will have the perfect pancake and waffle butter. Butter blended with honey is a classic spread on fresh, dark, whole grain bread.

Cheese butters are decadent and really great for entertaining. One of my favorites is to blend
Rogue Creamery's Smokey Blue cheese and Cypress Grove's fresh Chevre with softened butter. Spread this intriguing mixture on a fresh baguette slice, from there you can top it with fig jam, onion jam, or you can slide it under the broiler until just barely melted.... not to be missed when you top with fresh garden tomato!

Hope this gives you some inspiration, with Holiday entertaining right around the corner you may be able to showcase your favorite compound butter. Most of these butters will stay fresh and ready to eat for up to one week. Keep in mind that strongly flavored butters will only get stronger with time, something to keep in mind when working with the garlic based butters.





9.22.2007

Recipe: Portabello Tortellini Soup

The requests for warm & comforting soups are more than I expected! This soup was the hands down favorite at my cafe (2002-2005), and was once served to 600 people at a charity event.
I will never forget that undertaking!

Alot of people ask how I came up with this recipe, it was an early Saturday morning at the cafe, and the soup on Saturdays was always a "cook's special".
Pretty soon, I was putting this together, never dreaming it would have "cult following". It has been 2 years since I sold my cafe, but I still get comments on this soup.

Portabello Tortellini Soup

2 oz butter melted
4 stalks celery- chopped
1 sweet onion- chopped
2 cloves garlic minced
4-5 lg Portabello mushrooms chopped
1 lb ground beef
2 tblsp balsamic vinegar
2 tblsp honey

Sauté all of the above in a large stockpot, over med- high heat until ground beef is well done.

add
1 -2 cans diced tomatoes (14 oz) (depending on how much tomato you like)
32 oz beef broth or consommé (approximately, put less broth for chunkier, thicker soup)

Let simmer gently for 30 minutes to 1 hour, the longer the better. TASTE.

season to your taste with:
fresh basil minced
fresh parsley minced
salt & pepper
granulated garlic

Prepare fresh (refrigerated) 3 cheese tortellini according to pkg directions. Drain, rinse with cold water, and set aside. When soup is finished, put tortellinis in bottom of soup bowl and ladle hot soup over them. Garnish soup with freshly shredded, excellent quality parmesan cheese!

9.16.2007

Recipe: Corn Chowder

When the temperature drops a few degrees and there is an unmistakable chill in the morning air, I realize that my appetite has seasons as well. Summer appetites are easily quelled with salads, seafood, fruit & the like.

My Fall appetite has bigger demands, hot, comforting, and filling. I find that I have more memories of these types of foods than any other, all my memories of comforting food, usually include cheese, sausage, eggs, bread, and squash, in most any combination, and of course, anything baked!

What to do when the morning air begs for slippers, and warmer PJ's, but the warm days let summer linger a little longer? I usually dig into my creative collection of soup recipes, I can choose the lighter versions of old favorites and let summer slip away with a new & delicious season to look forward to!

One of my favorite soup recipes for late Summer. Take advantage of the late crop of sweet corn on the cob from your local Farmer's Market, and enjoy outdoors on a cool September evening.

Corn Chowder

1/2 sweet red pepper- chopped
1 medium sweet onion- chopped
4 stalks celery -chopped
2 cloves garlic -minced
1/2 stick (2 oz) butter melted
Sauté all of the above items in a large stockpot until onions are golden brown.

add
2 lbs potatoes, (Yukon Gold) peeled & diced
1 qt chicken broth/ stock - add more if needed to cover potatoes

simmer until potatoes are almost done

add
6-8 ears fresh sweet corn- kernels removed (may sub 2 lbs frozen sweet corn)

simmer until corn is just heated through,

add
2 cups heavy cream (use whole milk for a lighter version)
1/2 bunch fresh cilantro – minced
2 tblsp honey
2 tsp granulated garlic
salt & pepper to taste

As with most soups this is best made at least one day ahead & reheated.

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Cincinnati, OH, United States
A dedicated foodie, with a passion for the best food. Favorite food crushes include; Cheese, Wine, Breads, Seafood, anything made with eggs, ...there's actually no point in a list, there isn't much out there I don't have a crush on. Transplanted from the Northeast at age 18, a whole new frontier of food was opened up to me. I have fished for Salmon, hunted for mushrooms, cracked open fresh oysters from the sea and devoured them on the spot. Figs, pears, peaches, so many indigenous jewels! I dedicate this BLOG to the endless variety this region provides. My hope is to live here for a very long time & continue to discover and experience it's unique bounty! Alas, my life has now taken me to Cincinnati, OH where the food culture is like none I have ever experienced.

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