Thursday, December 24, 2009

Romesco Sauce for the Holidays!

We had such a fun Spanish winetasting at the Greene's the other night - wish you were there:) The Romesco sauce was a big hit, and I promised to post the recipe to my blog. If you are not familiar with Romesco sauce, it is Spain's answer to Italy's red sauce. Delicious as a dip with seafood, pork, tenderloin or chicken, it can also play a starring role topping pasta. Whip up a batch for the holidays and watch it disappear!

Romesco Sauce
1 1/2 Cup Almonds
2 1” Slices Rustic Country Bread
1/2 Cup Sherry Vinegar
2 Roasted Red Peppers
2 TB Tomato Paste
1 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
1 TB Sweet Smoked Paprika
1/2 Tsp each Salt and Black Pepper, plus more to taste
Up to 3/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Step One
On a baking sheet, toast the almonds in a 350F oven for 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

Step Two
Cube the bread, and place in a bowl with the vinegar for 30 minutes.

Step Three
In a food processor, grind the almonds, add the vinegar and bread, the peppers, tomato paste, lemon juice, paprika, salt and pepper. With the motor running, slowly add the olive oil as desired. (You can also just drizzle a little oil over the finished Romesco.) Taste for salt and pepper and serve.

Sunday, December 6, 2009

A Gaggle of Googlers and Other Pix






Hey! Here's more great pictures from the fun foodstyling class. See the "Google This" post for the recipes for these delicious treats.

Google This!














A fun gathering of Google folks and I spent an afternoon last week creating and eating delicious holiday treats. Here's a sampling of the finished products...and the proud creators! And of course, the recipes the fun food stylists used is right here, too. (Check out the next post for even more great pix!)

Cheese and Date Filled Tartines
½ LB Prosciutto
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil, divided
1 Medium Red Onion, Finely Chopped
6 Large Dates, Pitted and Chopped
¼ Cup Balsamic Vinegar
1 TB Sherry Vinegar
1 (10 oz) Log Goat Cheese
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
1 Recipe Tartine Shells

Step One
Sauté the Prosciutto in 1 TB oil until crispy and brown around the edges. Remove from the pan and let drain on a wire rack. When cool, chop coarsely.

Step Two
Heat the oil in a medium saucepan, add the onion and over medium heat, cook and stir until beginning to brown, (about 5 minutes).

Step Three
Add the dates and vinegars to the onion and cook over low heat until the dates are soft and the liquid is syrupy. Remove from the heat and let cool.

Step Four
Add the goat cheese to the date mixture and stir to combine. Taste and season with Salt and Pepper.

Step Five
Place a rounded teaspoon of the cheese and date mixture in each tartine. Garnish with Prosciutto.

The Tartine Shells
1 Loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Whole Wheat Bread
Non-Stick Spray
3 Mini Muffin Tins
2 ¼” Cookie Cutter

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with Non Stick Spray.

Step Two
Cut each piece of bread with the cookie cutter, and carefully put it into the muffin tin. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until the bread begins to brown.

* Tartine is an open faced sandwich

Roasted Curry Cashews

2 – 3 Cups Raw Cashews
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt to Taste
1 TB Garam Masala or Curry Powder

Step One
Place the Cashews on a Sheet Tray. Put in a 350F Oven for 10 minutes, or until beginning to brown.

Step Two
Remove the cashews from the oven and immediately drizzle with the olive oil and season with salt and garam masala.

Grissini wrapped in Prosciutto

Take Grissini (Italian Breadsticks) and wrap the slices of Prosciutto around one end.

Grilled Pineapple and Chili Salsa

1/4 Cup Finely Chopped Red Onion

1 Fresh Pineapple, Cut into ½” Rings
2 TB Dark Brown Sugar

1 TB Minced Seeded Jalapeño
1 TB Chopped Cilantro
1 TB Cider Vinegar
1 TB Honey
½ Tsp Smoked Paprika
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Step One
Place the red onion in a bowl of Ice Water and set aside for at least 15 minutes.

Step Two
Sprinkle the pineapple rings with the brown sugar. Oil the grill, and grill the pineapple over medium high heat until grill marks appear. Chop the pineapple.

Step Three
Drain the red onion and pat dry. Mix the rest of the ingredients together, add the red onion and pineapple and salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips.

Brandied Apricot Butter on Pumpkin Muffins

Brandied Apricot Butter
¼ LB Unsalted Butter, Softened
1 TB Apricot Brandy
¼ Cup Apricot Jam

Mix all the ingredients together and place in a ramekin.

Pumpkin Muffins
3 Large Eggs
1 15 oz Can Pumpkin
3/4 Cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Water
1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 ¼ Tsp Salt
1 ½ Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 ½ Cups Toasted Chopped Pecans

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and Flour, (or use Baker’s Joy) 4 mini muffin tins.

Step Two
In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs. Add the pumpkin, oil and water. Whisk until smooth. Add the flours, sugars, salt, baking soda and spices. Mix well. Stir in the nuts

Step Three. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, bake 30 to 35 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center of a muffin comes clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, then remove from the pans and let cool completely. Serve with the Brandied Apricot Butter.


Paprika and Piquillo Crostini

½ Cup Coarsely Chopped Piquillo Peppers, (or Roasted Red Peppers)
¼ Cup Chopped Green Onions – Tops Only
2 Tsp Capers, Drained
2 Tsp Smoked Paprika
1 Garlic Clove, Peeled

1 Cup Ricotta Cheese
4 Ounces Light Cream Cheese
½ Cup Freshly Grated Manchego Cheese

Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
2 TB Olive Oil, Divided
1 Baguette, Cut into Spears

Minced Cilantro for Garnish

Step One
Combine the first 5 ingredients in a food processor and blend until almost smooth. Add all three cheeses and 1 TB of the olive oil. Process well. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Set aside.

Step Two
Preheat the oven to 375F. Arrange the spears in a single layer on a baking sheet. Brush with 1 TB of the olive oil and cook until golden – about 15 minutes.

Step Three
To serve, Place one end of the toasted spear in the dip and garnish with minced cilantro.

South Indian Spiced Shrimp
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
1/2 Tsp Ground Black Pepper
1 Tsp Garam Masala
1 Tsp Cumin
1/2 Tsp Cayenne

6 Cloves of Garlic, Chopped
1 Jalapeno, Seeded and Chopped
8 Green Onions, Chopped
1/2 Cup Cilantro, Chopped
Juice and Zest of a BIG Lime

1 Tsp Dark Brown Sugar
1/2 Cup Coconut Milk
1 1/2 LBs Large Shrimp, Peeled and Devined
Bamboo Skewers soaked for at least 30 minutes.
Lime Rounds for Garnish
*Raita for Dipping

Step One Prepare your spices, by measuring them, and placing in a bowl.

Step Two Place the next 5 ingredients in your food processor or blender. Add the spices, sugar and coconut milk. Process until it becomes a paste. Place the shrimp in the spice paste and set aside for an hour.

Step Three Remove the shrimp from spice paste, and thread onto skewers.

Step Four Preheat the grill or a grill pan on high heat. Brush grate or pan with oil, and arrange skewers on hot grate. Cook, turning once until grill marks are seen, and shrimp is done – about 2-3 minutes.

Raita is a “Cooling” dip for spicy Indian food. And, it’s fast and easy to prepare: to 2 cups of plain Greek yogurt, add 1/2 cup minced and drained tomatoes and 1/2 cup peeled, minced and drained cucumber. Add ½ Tsp Cumin and a TB of Lime Juice. Taste for salt, and serve immediately.

(When using vegetables with lots of liquid, like tomatoes, cucumbers or squash, chop the veggies and place them in a colander over a bowl. Salt lightly and let drain for at least 30 minutes before using them. Your finished dish will not turn out watery.)

FAST FOOD FACTS: Garam Masala.
The meaning in Hindi is “Hot” but don’t let the definition scare you away from this flavorful spice blend. It’s typically made with cinnamon, roasted cumin, cloves and black peppers. But, you don’t have to make it - just grab a bottle from the grocery and enjoy experimenting!

Golden Potatoes with Crème Fraiche and Caviar
24 Small Potatoes (Preferably Yukon Golds)
2 TB Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste

1 Small Dairy Container Crème Fraiche (OR Sour Cream with Added Lemon Juice)
¼ Cup Chopped Chives
Small Jar of Caviar

Step One
Preheat the oven to 400F. Hollow out the potatoes with a melon baller, making little boats, and toss in a bowl w/ a small amount of olive oil and kosher salt.

Step Two
Place on a parchment paper lined baking sheet and roast for 20 minutes or until golden.

Step Three
Remove from the baking sheet. Set aside until cooled before filling them. With a small spoon, place a dollop of crème fraiche in each potato and then garnish with chives. Top with a tiny bit of caviar and serve!

Marinated Cherry Peppers stuffed with Asiago
2 Jars Sweet Red Cherry Peppers, Drained
1 Recipe *Red Wine Vinaigrette
4 – 6 oz Asiago Cheese, cut in Cubes
4 oz Prosciutto or Speck, Sliced Thinly – Optional

Cut the stems and remove the seeds from the cherry peppers. Toss the peppers with the vinaigrette and set aside for an hour, or up to overnight. If desired, wrap the cheese in a slice of Prosciutto and stuff inside the pepper OR just place the cheese in the pepper.

*Red Wine Vinaigrette
1 Garlic Clove, Grated
¼ Cup Red Wine Vinegar
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Honey or Pomegranate Molasses
¼ - ½ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper to taste

Place the first 5 ingredients in a bowl. Drizzle in the olive oil to taste, and season to taste with salt and pepper.

FAST Food Facts
Speck is Smoked Prosciutto.

Friday, December 4, 2009

Cookie Swap!
























It was rainy and cold outside Wednesday - but warm and cozy inside. The delicious smell of sweet cookies wafted down the hall. Twenty of us of were baking, tasting and laughing as we shared stories and fun. There's nothing better than a cookie swap! So round up a group this holiday season and you'll be engaging an activity with a double payoff: baking with friends AND eating the luscious cookies for days to come. Here's some "eating better" quick, simple and yummy cookie recipes to get you started:

Toasted Coconut Almond Biscotti
1 ¼ Cup All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 ½ Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt
½ Cup Unsalted Butter (Room Temp)
¾ Cup Firmly Packed Dark Brown Sugar
2 Large Eggs (Room Temp)
½ Tsp Vanilla Extract
½ Tsp Almond Extract
1 Cup *Toasted Coconut Flakes
1 ½ Cups Coarsely Chopped **Toasted Almonds

Step One
Whisk the flours, baking powder and salt together in a small bowl.

Step Two
Beat the butter and sugar until light – with a mixer on medium speed. (About 3 minutes.) Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each one. Add the vanilla and almond extracts and the coconut and mix well.

Step Three
With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture until just combined. Add the almonds. Cover the bowl and refrigerate for at least 30 minutes. (The dough is very sticky – this will allow you to work with it.)

Step Four
Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Remove the dough from the frig and divide it into 2 long loafs. Bake until the tops are golden brown.

Step Five
Reduce the heat to 325F. Remove the loaves and cool about 20 minutes on a rack. Cut each loaf with a sharp serrated knife. Place the pieces on the parchment lined baking sheets and bake for 15 more minutes. Remove from the oven and place on rack to cool.

* To toast coconut flakes: Pre-heat your oven to 325F. Lay the coconut flakes on a baking sheet, in a single layer. Place the baking sheet into the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, checking periodically, in order to achieve the level of toast desired.

**To toast nuts: Set your timer for 8 minutes and place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 – 400F or until lightly browned and fragrant. If nuts are not done at 8 minutes, set your timer for 2 more minutes and remove at 10 minutes. (The softer the nuts, the less time needed for toasting.)

Toffee Chocolate Brownie Bites
2 TB Instant Coffee Powder or Granules
¼ Cup Hot Water
¼ Cup Unsalted Butter
¼ Cup Semisweet Chocolate Chips
1 Cups All Purpose Flour
½ Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 1/3 Cups Sugar
½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa
1 Tsp Baking Powder
½ Tsp Salt
1 Tsp Vanilla Extract
2 Large Eggs, Room Temperature
¼ Cup Toffee Chips

Step One
Preheat oven to 350F. Line small muffin tins with paper baking cups or spray with non stick cooking spray.

Step Two
Combine coffee granules and 1/4 cup hot water, stirring until the coffee granules dissolve.

Step Three
Combine butter and semisweet chocolate chips in a small microwave-safe bowl. Microwave at HIGH for 45 seconds or until the butter melts, then stir until thechocolate is smooth.

Step Four
Combine flours, sugar, unsweetened cocoa, baking powder, and salt in a large bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Step Five
Combine coffee mixture, butter mixture, vanilla extract, and eggs in another medium bowl, stirring with a whisk.

Step Six
Stir the coffee mixture into flour mixture until just combined. Fill the muffin cups 2/3 full with batter. Sprinkle with the toffee chips. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until wooden pick inserted in center comes out clean. Remove them from the pan to a wire rack. Cool completely

Ginger Rum Balls
1 Cup Finely Chopped Gingersnap Crumbs
1 Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans
1 cup Powdered Sugar
2 TB Unsweetened Cocoa Powder
1 TB plus 1 ½ Tsp Light Corn Syrup
1/3 Cup Dark Rum
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder For Finishing

Step One
In a large bowl, combine gingersnap crumbs, pecans, 1 cup powdered sugar, the cocoa, corn syrup, and rum; stir to blend ingredients.

Step Two
Using about 1 teaspoon of the mixture, form small balls. Roll each ball in cocoa powder to coat generously. Store in tightly covered containers.

Best if aged for about a week before serving. Before serving, roll again in powdered sugar.

**To toast nuts: Set your timer for 8 minutes and place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 – 400F or until lightly browned and fragrant. If nuts are not done at 8 minutes, set your timer for 2 more minutes and remove at 10 minutes. (The softer the nuts, the less time needed for toasting.)

FAST FOOD FACTS:
Cocoa powder is made when chocolate liquor is pressed to remove most of its cocoa butter. The remaining cocoa solids are processed to make fine unsweetened cocoa powder. There are two types of unsweetened cocoa powder: Natural and Dutch-Processed.

Natural Unsweetened Cocoa Powder tastes very bitter and gives a deep chocolate flavor to baked goods. When natural cocoa (an acid) is used in recipes calling for baking soda (an alkali), it creates a leavening action that causes the batter to rise when placed in the oven.

Dutch-Processed Cocoa Powder is treated with an alkali to neutralize its acids. Because it is neutral and does not react with baking soda, it must be used in recipes calling for baking powder, unless there are other acidic ingredients in sufficient quantities used.

Tangy Cherry Walnut Cookies
1 ½ Cups Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Tsp Baking Powder
1 Tsp Baking Soda
½ Tsp Salt
1 Cup Chopped **Toasted Walnuts
½ Cup Chopped Dried Cherries
1 Cup Sugar
½ Cup Smooth Unsweetened Applesauce
½ Cup Canola Oil
2 TB Freshly Grated Lemon Zest
3 TB Lemon Juice
½ Cup Raw Sugar

Step One
Whisk the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt together in a large bowl. Add in the toasted walnuts and dried cherries.

Step Two
In another bowl, whisk the 1 cup sugar, the applesauce, canola oil, lemon zest and juice together.

Step Three
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour in the applesauce mixture. Mix well and place in the oven for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350F and line a baking sheet with parchment.

Step Four
Put the Raw Sugar in a pie pan. Remove the dough from the frig, and rolling with floured hands, roll a ball and then roll in sugar to coat. (Place the balls about 2 inches apart on the cookie sheet, and bake for about 12 – 15 minutes or until just golden. Cool briefly and then place on racks to cool completely.

**To toast nuts: Set your timer for 8 minutes and place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 – 400F or until lightly browned and fragrant. If nuts are not done at 8 minutes, set your timer for 2 more minutes and remove at 10 minutes. (The softer the nuts, the less time needed for toasting.)

Jingle Balls
2 Cups All Bran Cereal
¾ Cup Chopped Dates
1/3 Cup **Toasted Pecans
3 TB Honey
2 TB Light Cream Cheese, Room Temp
2 Tsp Orange OR Lime Juice
1 TB Orange OR Lime Zest
½ Cup Finely Chopped Toasted Pecans OR ½ Cup *Toasted Coconut

Step One
Place the cereal, dates and pecans in a food processor and blend until finely chopped. Add the honey, cream cheese, orange or lime juice, orange or lime zest and pulse until a stiff dough is formed.

Step Two
With a tablespoon, shape the dough into small balls, rolling each one in either the chopped nuts, (for orange jingle balls), or the toasted coconut (for lime jingle balls). (Spraying your hands with a little Pam or wiping a little oil on them will help this process.) Place on a parchment lined place and let rest for 30 minutes before serving or storing.

* To toast coconut flakes: Pre-heat your oven to 325F. Lay the coconut flakes on baking sheet, in a single layer. Place the baking sheet into the oven for 12 to 15 minutes, checking periodically, in order to achieve the level of toast desired.

**To toast nuts: Set your timer for 8 minutes and place the nuts on a baking sheet and toast at 350 – 400F or until lightly browned and fragrant. If nuts are not done at 8 minutes, set your timer for 2 more minutes and remove at 10 minutes. (The softer the nuts, the less time needed for toasting.)

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

TDay Countdown


It's that time of the year. Time to start pulling out the recipes, deciding which oldies are still goodies, and what new ones you are willing to try. I was born on Thanksgiving, as was my sister, interrupting our mother's turkey day celebrations 11 years apart - of course this makes it my favorite holiday! This year I will be celebrating with my in laws, so the only requirement of me is bringing the wine. What a treat for a cook:)
I have a Friday Four reader who asked me to send her my recipes for Thanksgiving. She has been dating a guy from Norway who is having both parents and children in the States for the holidays. So far, she says my recipes have helped make the relationship a "go", so I am hoping these will be winners as well. Another friend told me she was going to buy dressing, (stuffing), for her turkey since she had never made it before. "Ooh! Don't go to the dark side - make it", I said. So here is my recipe for very traditional dressing for the turkey. Whether you stuff the turkey with it, (make sure to cook your turkey longer with a chest full of stuffing), or put in a side dish, dressing makes the meal.
This is a time to celebrate old traditions and create new ones. About 6 years ago, I entered and won a contest by Maxwell House to have Susie Coehlo help me reinvent my holidays. It was a blast - they flew me to New York and I spent the day with her, (and 5 other winners from across the country), remaking Thanksgiving. This inspired me to try some new ideas for my holidays - its always fun to shake things up. Below you'll find my recipes for the big dinner. Check it out and see if there are any you'd like to try for the turkey day table.

Hope you have a wonderful creative Tday with friends and family!

** Check out the blog post on October 23rd (Julie and Julia) for Turkey Tricks. All the tips for chicken work will with turkey, too!

Thanksgiving Menu

Feta, Apple and Spinach Salad
Roast Turkey with Jim’s Cornbread Dressing and Apple Cider Gravy
Spinach and Artichoke Gratin
Roasted Parsnip and Potato Puree with Rosemary
Tangy Cranberry Sauce
Orange Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
Toasted Pecan Pumpkin Cake with Whipped Cream

Feta, Apple and Spinach Salad
1 5-6 OZ Bag Baby Spinach
1/3 Cup Dried Cranberries, Coarsely Chopped
3 Green Onions, Greens only - Thinly Sliced
1 Large Granny Smith Apple, Chopped
½ Cup Red Grapes, Halved
1/3 Cup Chopped Pecans, Toasted*
½ Cup Feta Cheese, Crumbled

Step One
Place the Spinach in a large salad bowl. Place the remaining ingredients in the bowl and toss with the salad dressing.
* To toast nuts, place in a 375F oven on a sheet pan for 8 – 10 minutes. When you begin smelling them – they are done. Set the timer and you won’t burn the nuts!

Dressing
1 TB Apple Cider Vinegar
1 TB Lemon Juice
1 Tsp Honey
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher Salt and Black Pepper

Place all the ingredients in a jar and shake well.

Roasted Parsnip and Potato Puree with Rosemary

1 1/2 LB Parsnips, Peeled and Cut into 1” Pieces
2 Large Yellow Onions, in 1” Pieces
1 Tsp each Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper, Plus More To Taste
2 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

3 LBs Yukon Gold Potatoes, in 1” Pieces
4 TB Unsalted Butter
1/3 Cup Skim Milk
1 TB Freshly Chopped Rosemary, Plus More For Garnish
3 TB Light Sour Cream
1 TB Light Mayonnaise

STEP ONE
Preheat the oven to 400F. On a half sheet pan lined with parchment paper and sprayed with nonstick spray, toss the parsnips, onion, salt and pepper with the olive oil. Roast for 30 – 45 minutes or until the parsnips and onions are tender and beginning to brown. Cool slightly and transfer to a food processor. Process until slightly chunky.

STEP TWO
While the parsnips are roasting, cook the potatoes in boiling salted water until tender, about 20 minutes. Mash the potatoes with a masher until desired smoothness, then add the parsnip mixture.

STEP THREE
In a small saucepan, melt the butter with the milk and rosemary over medium low heat. Add to the parsnip/potato mixture and stir. Mix in the sour cream and mayonnaise. Taste for salt and pepper and garnish with chopped rosemary.


Spinach and Artichoke Gratin
2 Packages Chopped Spinach, Defrosted and Drained (Well!)
2 TB Finely Chopped Yellow Onion
1 TB Unsalted Butter
2 Pkgs Frozen Artichoke Hearts, Defrosted
1 TB Fresh Lemon Juice
1 8 oz Tub Light Soft Cream Cheese, Room Temperature
1 Tsp Kosher Salt
½ Tsp Black Pepper
Panko Bread Crumbs (Japanese Breadcrumbs)
Non-stick Butter Spray

Step One
Defrost the Frozen Spinach. Squeeze the Spinach in a clean kitchen towel or paper towels to remove all the water. Set aside.

Step Two
Toss the Artichoke Hearts with the Lemon Juice.

Step Three
In a sauté pan over medium heat, cook the Onion until softened but not brown. Set aside.

Step Four
Mix the Chopped Spinach with the Soft Cream Cheese, the sautéed Yellow Onion, and the Salt and Pepper.

Step Five
Place the Artichokes in the bottom of an ovenproof casserole dish. Add the Chopped Spinach mixture on top. Sprinkle the Panko Breadcrumbs over the Spinach, and spray with non-stick butter spray. Bake in a 350F oven for 20-30 minutes or until warm and crust is golden brown.

Roast Turkey with Apple Cider Gravy
Probably every one has seen this recipe somewhere - this is my take on this delicious classic!
2 cups Kosher salt
2 Quarts Apple Cider
1 Whole Bunch Fresh Thyme
¼ Cup Black Peppercorns
1 12 to14-pound turkey, neck and giblets reserved for stock

1 apple, halved
1 lemon, halved
1 large bunch herbs consisting of any combination of parsley, thyme, oregano, rosemary and sage
1 onion, peeled and halved
Kosher or Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper
2 Large Onions, Chopped
2 Large Carrots, Chopped
2 Large Parsnips, Chopped
¼ Cup Olive Oil

Apple Cider Gravy, recipe follows

Step One
Using a clean large heavy-duty plastic garbage bag, (or a purchased brining bag) combine 6 quarts water with 2 cups kosher salt, 2 quarts apple cider, thyme and black peppercorns. Add turkey, cover and refrigerate overnight.

Step Two
Heat oven to 375F, Toss the onions, carrots and parsnips together with the olive oil. Season with salt and pepper. Place on the bottom of a large roasting pan with a rack in it. Rinse the turkey inside and out and pat dry. Rub the turkey inside and out with salt and pepper. Put the turkey on the roasting rack. Place the apple, lemon, herbs and onion in the cavity. Fold the wings under the body.

Step Three
Cook the turkey, about 2 hours or until an instant read thermometer registers about 165F. Remove from the oven and set aside while you make the gravy. The bird will stay warm for at least an hour. Make sure to not carve the bird for a half an hour to ensure the juices have settled.

Step Four
Discard the apple, lemon, herbs and the onion from inside the turkey. Holding it with a large fork or tongs inserted into the cavity, Tilt the turkey to release any juices into the roasting pan. Transfer turkey to serving platter.

APPLE CIDER GRAVY
1 cup Apple Cider
4 cups low fat/low salt chicken stock
1 large onion, minced (about 1 cup)
¼ cup (1/2 stick) unsalted butter,
4 fresh sage leaves, chopped
1/3 cup all-purpose flour
Ksoher or Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper

Step One
Remove the rack from the roasting pan, and *discard the vegetables. Pour the pan juices through a sieve into a large glass measuring cup. Place the roasting pan across two burners over high heat, add the cider and deglaze pan, stirring and scraping up any brown bits on the bottom of the pan. Cook until reduced to about 1/2 cup, about 5 minutes.

Step Two
Pour the roasting pan mixture into a glass measuring cup, skim off any fat. Add enough chicken stock to the roasting pan mixture to equal 4 cups. Set aside ¼ cup of the mixture.

Step Three
Using a large sauté pan over medium heat, add the butter and melt. Sauté the onions, stirring occasionally, until golden. Add the sage and cook for about a minute. Add the turkey stock mixture and any turkey juices accumulated on turkey platter and bring to a boil.

Step Four
In a small bowl whisk together flour and reserved 1/4 cup cup of the turkey pan mixture. Whisk into the gravy, reduce heat and simmer, whisking, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
*If desired, and the veggies are not too brown – you can puree some or all of them and add them back to the finished gravy.


Jim’s Cornbread Dressing
1 Recipe *Cornbread
3 cups fresh breadcrumbs
½ Cup Unsalted Butter

2 large onions, diced (3 cups)
1 large bunch celery, diced (3 cups)
2 – 3 TBs **Poultry Seasoning

4 eggs
32 Ounces Low Salt/Low Fat Chicken Stock, (plus more if necessary)
16 Ounces 2 % Milk
1 TB freshly cracked black pepper
Kosher or Sea Salt to Taste
.
Step One
Crumble cornbread into a large bowl; stir in breadcrumbs, and set aside
Step Two
Melt the butter in a large skillet, add onions and celery, and sauté until tender. Stir in the poultry seasoning, and sauté 1 more minute.
Step Three
Add the eggs, chicken broth, milk and pepper into cornbread mixture. It should create a very soupy mixture – if necessary add a little more chicken stock. Pour into a non-stick sprayed 13- x 9-inch baking dish. You may have a little extra left over – just bake in another baking dish. Bake, uncovered, at 375° for 45 to 60 minutes or until golden brown.
** if desired you can add up to ½ cup fresh sage or 2 TB Dried sage in place of the poultry seasoning.

*Cornbread
¼ Cup + 2 TB Vegetable Oil + more for skillet

1 cup Yellow cornmeal, (stoneground if possible)
2/3 cup all-purpose flour
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/3 cup sugar
1 Tsp salt
1/2 Tsp baking soda

2 Large eggs
1 cup buttermilk

Step One
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees and pour just a little oil in a 6” cast iron (or oven proof) skillet, wipe it out with a paper towel and place it in the oven while it preheats.

Step Two
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a separate bowl.

Step Three
Whisk together the eggs and buttermilk and the oil.

Step Four
Combine the wet and dry ingredients and stir just enough to form a batter. It is ok if there are a few lumps. Avoid overbeating as this will make the cornbread tough. Pour into the pan and bake about 30 minutes until golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just a few crumbs

Fresh and Tangy Cranberry Dressing
1 Bag Fresh Cranberries
1 Large Navel Orange, cut in 8 pieces (peel and all)
¼ Cup + Honey or Pomegranate Molasses

In the bowl of a food processor add all the ingredients and pulse until desired thickness. Taste and add more honey if desired.

Orange Bourbon Sweet Potatoes
3 lbs sweet potatoes. Peeled and cut into chunks.
4 oz Unsalted butter, melted
Zest of 1 Orange
¼ Cup orange juice
1/4 tsp salt
2 TBs Bourbon
1 Cup Chopped Pecans, tossed with 2 TB Brown Sugar
Bake sweet potatoes in a 400F oven until tender, Remove the skins and mash while hot. Add the butter, zest, oj, salt and bourbon. Mix well, (the butter should melt), and place in a non stick sprayed casserole dish. Top with the pecans and bake at 350 for 20 - 30 minutes or until warm.
** To add to the "wow" factor, scoop orange pulp from 8 oranges that you have cut in half. Load the sweet potato mixture into the oranges, sprinkle with the pecans and bake. A really pretty presentation on the Thanksgiving table!

Toasted Pecan Pumpkin Cake
3 Large Eggs
1 15 oz Can Pumpkin Puree
3/4 Cup Canola or Vegetable Oil
½ Cup Water
1 ½ Cups All Purpose Flour
1 Cup Whole Wheat Pastry Flour
1 Cup Sugar
1 ¼ Cup Light Brown Sugar
1 ¼ Tsp Salt
1 ½ Tsp Baking Soda
1 Tsp Freshly Grated Nutmeg
1 Tsp Cinnamon
1 ½ Cups Toasted Chopped Pecans
Whipped Cream and Powdered Sugar for Serving

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Grease and Flour, (or use Baker’s Joy*), a Bundt Pan.

Step Two
In a large bowl, whisk the 3 eggs. Add the pumpkin, oil and water. Whisk until smooth. Add the flours, sugars, salt, baking soda and spices. Mix well. Stir in the nuts

Step Three.
Pour the batter into the pan, bake 65 to 75 minutes, or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes clean. Let cool on a rack for 10 minutes, remove from the pan and let cool completely. Dust with powdered sugar and serve with freshly whipped cream

Friday, November 13, 2009

It's That Appetizer Time of the Year!



This is the time of year thoughts of delicious appetizers float thru my mind daily. So here are two of my favorites to add to your repertoire. Easy, quick and impressive, they can be made ahead of time, and just put together right before your gathering - whether it is dinner tonight, or a weekend party!

Wild Mushroom Tartines*

The Mushrooms
½ LB Wild Mushrooms, coarsely chopped
1 TB Unsalted Butter
2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped
Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Sauté the wild mushrooms until softened and the liquid has evaporated about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

The Goat Cheese
1 Log Goat Cheese, Softened
2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives
Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Mash the Goat Cheese with the herbs, salt and pepper

The Tartine Shells
1 Loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Whole Wheat Bread
Non-Stick Spray
3 Small Muffin Tins
2 ¼” Cookie Cutter

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with Non Stick Spray.

Step Two
Cut each piece of bread with the cookie cutter, and carefully put it into the muffin tin. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until the bread begins to brown.

Assembly
4 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped for garnish

In each tartine shell, place a tiny dollop of goat cheese. Top with mushrooms, garnish with fresh herbs.

* Tartine is an open faced sandwich

Sesame Soy Pork Tenderloin Tastes

1 to 1 1/2 LBs Pork Tenderloin
1/3 cup Soy Sauce
2 TB Freshly Squeezed Orange Juice
Zest of an Orange
2 Large Garlic Cloves, Grated
2 Tsp Ground Ginger
1 TB Sesame Oil
1/4 Cup Honey
2 TB Dark Brown Sugar
1/8 Cup Sesame Seeds, Toasted
1/8 Cup Black Sesame Seeds

2 Oranges, Sliced Thinly - Spread out on a Large Platter

Step One
Cut the pork into 1” cubes.

Step Two
Combine soy sauce, orange juice, zest, garlic, ginger, and sesame oil; place in zippy bag with the pork. Turn bag to coat pork; refrigerate and let marinate for 3 hours, or up to overnight, turning occasionally.

Step Three
Combine honey and brown sugar in a bowl. Add the marinated pork and stir around to coat.

Step Four
Place the Pork on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Roast at 375° 25 to 30, minutes or until done* 145F – 155F Remove from the oven. Place on serving tray and sprinkle with sesame seeds.

Step Five
Serve the pork with toothpicks – Warm or room temperature

*The pork’s temperature will rise with carryover cooking – the USDA recommends 160F for pork.

FAST FOOD FACT Toasting Nuts (Seeds)
Place the nuts on a sheet tray and slide into a 350F oven. Set your timer for 7 minutes, check the nuts (seeds). If not done – set your timer for another 3 minutes – after this remove the nuts. They will continue cooking with carry over heat. Remember soft nuts and seeds like pine nuts and sesame seeds will take less time

Monday, November 9, 2009

You Want to Take Them Home With You!












Since it is November and a special time of the year to say thanks, this is my profound thanks to all the wonderful help I receive when teaching classes at the Cooks Warehouse. (Thanks too - to Wendy Allen, the director of the cooking school. You are the reason that the assistants know what they are doing!) The assistants in every class are really special. With the exception of the Principal Assistant, each volunteer is there for the love of food and cooking - and does not get paid. (Except in vouchers to take more cooking classes:) So this means they help me unload the groceries, prep the recipes, assist me during class, (and the class members, too), serve the food, pick up the dishes and clean up the kitchen. Sounds exhausting, yes? It is. And they do all this with a super attitude and an inquiring mind. So thanks to all the wonderful assistants I have had over the past 3 years. You know who you are - and you are incredible. You'll see pictures of the assistants throughout my blog, and on my website. Once you see those dynamos in action - you too will want to take them home, too!

Here is a recipe from my last class - a great use of the last of the summer's basil.

Macadamia Basil Pesto Salad
1 (15 oz) Tin Cannellini Beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) Tin Black Beans, drained and rinsed
1 (15 oz) Tin Chick Peas, drained and rinsed
2 Heads Romaine, Shredded
1 Recipe Macadamia Basil Pesto*
½ Cup Parmesan or Pecorino Romano Curls for Garnish
Toss the beans with a small amount of the pesto until well coated. Serve on a bed of the romaine and garnish with the parmesan curls.

Macadamia Basil Pesto*
1 Cup Macadamia Nuts
2 Cups Packed Basil
2 Garlic Cloves
1 Lemon Zest and Juice
½ Cup Grated Parmesan or Pecorino Romano
1/8 – ¼ Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to Taste
Place nuts, basil, garlic and lemon juice in a food processor or a blender, drizzle in the oil a bit at a time and blend until creamy.

Monday, October 26, 2009

Celebrate You, Celebrate Me, Celebrate Life!


Sunday was a fun day filled with food, friends and Pomegranate Sparklers! I held a class for the Wellness Center at Piedmont Hospital – in honor of breast cancer survivors and friends. The room was filled with beautiful people and lots of pink. Representatives from Local Breast Cancer Organizations attended. It’s absolutely wonderful to have national organizations that support us when we have problems, but how lucky we are in Atlanta to also have such great local resources. The Wellness Center was well represented by Director and “Rock Star” Carolyn Helmer and super-Sara Batts, along with exceptional facilitators from the center: Dr. Jody and Barbara. One of my favorite “feel-good” people, Jennifer Dickstein was there with Hair With Care, (the woman is a magician with wigs), Trissa Carlton from Anchored Images talked about how she can help women regain confidence, Laurel Sybilrud from It’s a Journey – a fantastic local group that supports the Breast Cancer 2 Day Walk told everyone about their incredible support of the Atlanta community, and Lisa Vingerling, the fun and enthusiastic founder of Pink Heels, a group that works with young women under 40 with cancer informed the group of the Pink Heels resources.

The assistants backing me up were the A team. From James, the wonderful lead assistant, to Mary Catherine, Ben, Debbie, Sherrie, Paula, Madeline and Brenda – I couldn’t have had better help. They are the ones that make the magic; I just get to talk about it! (Thanks too, to Mallory, who helped me acclimatize to the brand new kitchen.)

And the new Cooks Warehouse in Ansley Mall is beautiful! If you are in the Atlanta area, you have to stop by. It’s a candy store of fun tools and ideas. Can’t wait to teach there again.

Here are a couple of recipes from the class to enjoy at home, along with the recipe (and the wine) for the Pomegranate Sparkler!

Savory Shrimp Bites

½ Cup Rice Vinegar

¼ Cup Sugar

3 Carrots, Grated (or about 2 cups)

2 Cups Red Onion, Minced

6 Green Onions, chopped – green and white parts

1 TB Lime Juice

Zest of 1 Lime

1 Small Red Chili Pepper, trimmed with seeds removed, minced

1 Tsp Minced Garlic

2 TB Fish Sauce

2 TB Chopped Fresh Mint

1 TB Chopped Fresh Basil

1 LB Cooked Shrimp, Roughly Chopped

Butter Lettuce Leaves – you may see the Brand Name “Sweet Gems Cups” at the store

Step One

Pour the vinegar and sugar into a bowl and stir to dissolve sugar. Place the next 8 ingredients into the bowl and let sit for 15-20 minutes. Add the shrimp. (Depending on how much liquid has been exuded, you may need to drain it. Roll about a TB of the shrimp mixture in the lettuce leaves and serve.

FAST FOOD FACTS

In Thailand fish sauce is called Nam Pla. It is is often made from anchovies, salt and water, and is often used in moderation because it is intensely flavoured. Anchovies and salt are arranged in wooden boxes to ferment and are slowly pressed, yielding the salty, fishy liquid.

Spinach Salad with Strawberries, Lemon, Orange and Smoked Paprika Dressing

The Dressing

1 ½ TB Lemon Juice

1 Tsp Lemon Zest

2 TB Orange Juice

1 Tsp Orange Zest

½ Tsp Dijon Mustard

3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

Pinch of Freshly Cracked Black Pepper plus more to taste

Pinch of Smoked Paprika plus more to taste

Pinch of Kosher or Sea Salt plus more to Taste

Shake or Whisk all the ingredients together – taste for Salt and Pepper.

The Salad

¼ Cup Very Thinly Sliced Scallion Greens

6 Cups Spinach

1 Cup Freshly Shredded Carrot

1/2 Cup Sliced Strawberries

1 Orange, Rough Chopped

¼ Cup Sliced or Slivered Toasted Almonds

Toss the Salad ingredients together and drizzle about half of the dressing over the top. Toss again and check to see if more dressing is required.

FAST FOOD FACT

The white part of the orange, (pith) is the primary source of its flavonoids. Flavonoids are colorful pigments that support numerous metabolic processes in the body. The loss of flavonoids when you drink orange juice – or “supreme” an orange is one of the many reasons for eating the orange whole.

To Make a Pomegranate Sparkler start with Cranberry Pomegranate Juice. Add a couple of tablespoons to a wine glass and fill with either Sparkling Water or Sparkling Wine.

Cristallino Cava

When you are choosing a sparkling wine to go in a cocktail – you want to select a wine that is delicious on it’s own, but not the “top of the pop”. Cava from Spain is an excellent example of a crisp clean citrus sparkler that goes well with fruit juice. And Cristalino is a solid cava that lives up to that reputation. The grapes, a traditonal Spanish trio of Macabeo, Parellada and Xarello are grown in the Penedes region of Northwest Spain. When you consider the price – about $10 in the grocery store, you can’t beat the quality of this easy drinking, light and refreshing sparkler.

Appearance: Hay Colored

Aroma: Bread, Citrus – Lemon and Lime

Taste: Green Apples, Cookie Dough, Almonds, and Lemon

Finish: Medium

Committee 0f 200 Dinner




A fascinating group of women convened in Atlanta last week – The Committee of 200. These 400+ movers and shakers are
some of the world’s most

successful women entrepreneurs and corporate leaders. They represent over 100 industries in the U.S., Europe, Asia, Canada and Latin America, employ more than 2.5 million people, and generate more than $200 billion in annual revenues. So now that I have given you the amazing statistics, let me tell you how interesting, thoughtful and appreciative my dinner guests were on Saturday night. I had the pleasure of providing one of the “dine arounds” hosted by an extraordinary Atlanta member, whose gracious home provided a perfect background for a fun evening. The following is the menu for the evening, along with some of the favorite recipes from the evening, and wine choices with description.

COMMITTEE of 200 Dinner

MINGLE with Appetizers
South American Salsa with Corn Chips
Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake and Crackers
Garlic Marinated Olives and Fresh Roasted Almonds

SALAD
Fresh Crisp Lettuces Tossed with Lemon Vinaigrette

MAIN
Churrasco Style Beef and Fish Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Toasts
Herbed Green Beans
Peruvian Potatoes

DESSERT
Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche

Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake and Crackers
Check out this week's Friday Four - Basil Thyme Pesto Cheesecake -103009 for this delicious recipe and a Wine Pairing, plus a couple of great kitchen tips!

Churrasco Style Beef and Fish Skewers with Chimichurri Sauce
2 Lbs Beef cut into Strips
2 Lbs Fish cut into Strips

1 Recipe Churrasco-style Dry Rub
Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Bread to Serve

Place the steak and fish in separate plastic bags and add ¼ - ½ cup of the dry rub. Close the bag and massage to coat. Leave in the frig 1 hour up to overnight. Grill or broil until desired doneness. Serve with on Grilled Bread with Chimichurri Sauce.

Churrasco-style Dry Rub

2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

2 Tsp Black Pepper

2 TB Garlic Powder
2 TB Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin



4 TB Dark Brown Sugar


Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Add brown sugar and mix thoroughly. 


Chimichurri Sauce

1 Cup Parsley, (Packed)
1/2 cup Olive Oil

1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Cilantro, (Packed)
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled

¾ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Let set for at least 2 hours before serving.

Flourless Chocolate Cake with Dulce de Leche

4 oz White Chocolate
16 oz Bittersweet Chocolate
½ Cup Espresso or Very Dark Coffee
½ Cup Orange Liqueur
1 Cup Chopped, Toasted Pecans
1 LB Unsalted Butter
8 Eggs
Prepared Dulce de Leche, or a Very Dark Chocolate Bar
9” or 10” Springform Pan, lined with Parchment Paper and Coated with Non Stick Spray

Step One
Preheat the oven to 350F. Melt the chocolates, coffee, liqueur and butter in a double boiler, stirring until the chocolate is melted. Set aside to cool.

Step Two
Whisk the eggs; then add to the cooled chocolate mixture. Stir in the pecans and pour into the springform pan.

Step 3
Bake at 350F for 50 – 60 minutes, or until top looks set. Turn off the oven, open the door and allow to cool for 30 minutes. Refrigerate at least 8 hours before serving. Slice small pieces with a hot knife and top with whipped cream and if desired - Dulce de Leche. (Or for another “take on the cake” try grated a very dark chocolate bar over the whipped cream and the plate)

Crios Torrontos
A women winemaker with a fabulous reputation for high end Malbac, Susana Balbo is the mastermind behind this great-value-for-the-money white. Hailing from the slopes if the Andes in northern Argentina, this Torrontes is very fruity, floral and aromatic. If you are a fan of Viognier, Dry Rieslings or Gewurztraminers you will love wines made from the Torrontes grape.
APPEARANCE: Pale Straw
AROMA: Citrus, Stone Fruits like Peaches or Apricots, Floral
TASTE: Green Apples, Floral, Herbs, Good Acidity
FINISH: Medium


Catena Malbac
This winner comes from a winery that produces 4 labels from inexpensive and good – to expensive and great. Malbac, one of the traditional grapes used in fine Bordeaux wines has been embraced by Argentina. And perfected there. Serious quality and exceptional price make this an excellent partner to any kind of South American or North American grill or barbeque.
APPEARANCE: Deep Ruby tending towards Purple
AROMA: Black cherries, black berries, vanilla, spice
TASTE: Dark Berries, Chocolate, Spices and Mineral
FINISH: Medium to Long

Friday, October 23, 2009

My Three Favorite Inexpensive Wines at This Very Moment…

When someone asks me for a recommendation for my favorite delicious but inexpensive wine, I always have to preface my answer with “this is My Three Favorite Inexpensive Wines at This Very Moment…

So, as promised to my readers of The Friday Four, here are the wine notes and food pairings from last weeks Du More Improv wine tasting. It’s always hard to pick only 3 wines, but I have been doing a lot of tastings and research around South America lately, and of course I am just wild about Australian Rieslings, cause they are some of the most delicious “food” wines out there!

1. Heath Wines "Southern Sisters" Clare Valley, Reserve Riesling 2004 – Cost Plus about $15
APPEARANCE Light Yellow
AROMA Classic “Petrol” Nose – Mineral, Citrus
TASTE Dry, Crisp with good acidity. Complex for the price. Lemon/Citrus/Minerals.
FINISH Medium to Long

2. Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2008 – About $15 at Costco
APPEARANCE Straw Colored
AROMA Light, with Lemon, grapefruit and tropical flavors
TASTE Zingy Grapefruit, Pineapple. Medium Acidity.
FINISH Medium dry finish

3. Maipe Malbac 2008 – About $8 at Costco
APPEARANCE Dark Purple almost Opaque
AROMA Black berries, black cherries, herbal or floral
TASTE Fruit forward, hints of spice, blackberries, dark plums, medium acidity, smooth tannin
FINISH Dry but Jammy - Medium Finish

Heath Wines "Southern Sisters" Clare Valley, Reserve Riesling 2004

Cumin Crusted Lamb Chops

1 TB Cumin
½ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper
1 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

8 Lamb Chops
1 TB Olive Oil

Step One
Mix cumin with salt and pepper to taste in a small bowl. Baste both sides of each chop with a little oil, then sprinkle on the spice mixture. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Step Two
Non-stick spray a heavy skillet or grill pan, and place it over medium high heat. Cook chops for three to four minutes on each side for medium rare.

You can also prepare the chops outdoor grill. Ensure your grill grates are clean, and the grill preheated for at least 5 minutes on high. Cook the chops over medium low heat.

Creamy Cheese Polenta

4 Cups Water
Kosher or Sea Salt to taste
1 Cup Medium-grain Polenta (or Cornmeal, or Grits)
2 TB Unsalted Butter
1 Cup Shredded Pecorino Romano
1 8 oz Pkg Low Fat Cream Cheese

Step One
Heat water lightly seasoned with salt to a boil over high heat, about 5 minutes. Quickly whisk in the polenta until fully incorporated.

Step Two
Lower the heat to a low simmer, add the butter and allow the polenta to cook, stirring occasionally, for 30 minutes.

Step Three
Finish by stirring in the cream cheese and salt to taste.

You can prepare the polenta in advance: cool, cover and refrigerate. Reheat in the microwave, about 3 minutes on high, just before serving. Stir vigorously after reheating.


Montes Sauvignon Blanc 2008

Shrimp in Avocado Vinaigrette

1 LB Large Shrimp. Peeled and Deveined

Dressing
1 Large Haas Avocado, peeled and pitted
2 ½ TB Fresh Lemon Juice
4 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Tsp Dijon Mustard
1 Tsp Grated Onion
¼ Tsp Crushed Red Pepper

Kosher or Sea Salt and Freshly Ground Black Pepper, to Taste

Shredded Romaine
Grape Tomatoes, Quartered

Step One Cook the Shrimp in heavily salted boiling water until just pink. Drain and rinse with cold water immediately.

Step Two Prepare the dressing by placing the ingredients in a food processor and blending until smooth. Season to taste with Salt and Pepper

Step Three Serve the Shrimp on a bed of shredded romaine. Scatter the grape tomatoes around and drizzle with the Avocado Vinaigrette.

FAST FOOD FACTS
It’s pretty obvious why the grape tomato earned it’s name. But did you know that you can’t grow more tomatoes from the seeds? (You’d have to order special seeds.) That’s because it is a hybrid – bred specially for it’s thick skin and flavor, which is noticeably sweeter than a Roma or cherry tomato. Some bars in Asia offer customers bowls of grape tomatoes instead of peanuts!


Maipe Malbac 2008

Peruvian Potatoes

2 1/2 LBs Fingerling Potatoes
3 Cloves Garlic, Minced or Grated
2 TB Chopped Fresh Cilantro
3 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1/2 Tsp Kosher or Salt
½ Tsp Freshly Ground Black Pepper
2 Tsp Thyme

Preheat the oven to 400F. Scrub potatoes well and cut into halves or quarters. (Your goal is to have 1” pieces). Toss with the garlic, cilantro, olive oil, salt, pepper, and thyme. Arrange in one layer on a parchment or aluminum foil lined sheet pan. Cook, turning occasionally, for 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned and tender

Churrasco-style Sirloin

2 Lbs Sirloin cut into 2” chunks
1 Recipe Churrasco-style Dry Rub
Chimichurri Sauce
Grilled Bread to Serve

Place the steak in a zippy bag and add ¼ - ½ cup of the dry rub. Close the bag and massage to coat the meat. Leave in the frig 1 hour up to overnight. Grill or broil until desired doneness. Serve with on Grilled Bread with Chimichurri Sauce.

Churrasco-style Dry Rub

2 Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

2 Tsp Black Pepper

2 TB Garlic Powder
2 TB Smoked Paprika
2 Tsp Ground Cumin



4 TB Dark Brown Sugar


Mix all spices together in a small bowl. Add brown sugar and mix thoroughly. 


Chimichurri Sauce
1 Cup Parsley, (Packed)
1/2 cup Olive Oil

1/3 Cup Red Wine Vinegar

½ Cup Cilantro, (Packed)
2 Cloves Garlic, Peeled

¾ Tsp Red Pepper Flakes
½ Tsp Cumin
½ Tsp Salt

Combine all the ingredients in a food processor or blender and blend well. Let set for at least 2 hours before serving.

Chicken For Julie, Julia and Us!


This August, almost 50 years after the book was published in America, Julia Child's ode to the food of France, “Mastering the Art of French Cooking" was number one on the New York Times Bestseller list in the “How To” category. How amazing is that? Because of the fun movie, (and even more fun book), Julie and Julia, a whole new generation of Americans are embracing the cooking and techniques of the grande dame of French cuisine.

Here’s what I found when researching Julia’s classic Roast Chicken recipe for a cooking class. Times have changed – and the birds we buy today, rather than the ones Julia had access to 50 years ago - have probably changed, too. So I cook my roast chicken a little differently than hers. But I think the take-away from Julia’s influence is her careful consideration and the precise instructions to the American home cook. The book is not just about aspic or tripe – but has some beautifully easy and delicious recipes that anyone can incorporate in their menu repertoire. Check out her quick Blender Mayonnaise, her incredibly delicious Onion Soup Gratinee, or the perfect Tomatoes stuffed with Bread Crumbs, Herbs and Garlic.

Just like Julia, I have definite opinions about how to Roast the Perfect Chicken. Here's a couple of my ideas, that I hope will make your bird better every time!

1) Chicken on The Veggies – Often you will see a recipe for roast chicken that places the bird right on top of vegetables in the bottom of the pan. My experience is that the bottom of the chicken is soggy – and the veggies don’t roast correctly. Setting the chicken in a “V-Rack” in the roasting pan is my answer to allowing proper browning of both veg and chicken.

2) Starting at a very high temperature, then lowering it does not result in a crispier skin. A constant temperature maintained by a convection oven that circulates warm air is what creates the crispiest-crunchiest exterior.

3) Starting the bird breast side down, then turning it over, doesn’t make the meat any moister. Julia Child calls for rotating the chicken from side to side as the chicken cooks. Not only is this a lot of trouble, (AND dangerous – Hot! Heavy! Chicken!) I can’t see any difference in the results. Putting the chicken in the V-rack with the breast up results in juicy, juicy chicken.

4) Rubbing the bird with butter or oil before roasting does not make an appreciable difference in the end result. Also, basting the chicken constantly only makes the skin soggy – not crisp.

5) I like Big chickens. The “Roasters” often go on sale, and are a wonderful value for the money. Dinner for company tonight, leftovers tomorrow night, and soup for the weekend.

6) I think Beer Can Chicken, (or Vertical Roasting) is great. But I love being able to make almost entire meat in one pan – and the taste of the delicious roasted vegetables. So unless I am grilling outside, I’d still choose the V-rack.

7) Letting the Chicken Rest after removing it from the oven is a key point to remember. How easy is this? You can let the chicken rest for a half an hour after cooking. This allows the chicken to redistribute it’s juices, instead of having them run all over the cutting board. And speaking of carving:

HOW TO CARVE A CHICKEN

Step One
Set the chicken breast side up. Pull the leg and thigh back to expose the joint that attaches it to the body (you can move the thigh section and pull it away from the body to help find the joint). Separate the leg and thigh from the carcass. Repeat the process with the other leg and thigh.

Step Two
The breastbone runs along the top center of the chicken carcass. Feel for it with your fingers. Slice along both sides of the breastbone and remove the entire half of the breast meat with the wing attached. Do the same to remove the breast meat on the other side.

Step Three
Now that you have all the parts off the bird, slice the parts into serving pieces:
• Turn the leg over and use the knife to cut through the joint that connects the leg to the thigh.
• Remove the wings from the breast halves and slice each half of breast meat crosswise, making 5 or 6 slices per breast half.

If you made it to the end of this really long blog post - I think you deserve a fun food fact ...
Here’s something about Julia Child that you might not know. What was Julia’s first meal for her new husband Paul? Believe it or not – Brains in Red Wine! (After trying to eat it, they threw it out, and had something else for dinner:)

Friday, October 16, 2009

Tea for Two




When I looked at the beautiful women gathered last Saturday at Cancer Wellness - I got choked up. What a incredible group of survivors, each with their own story of perseverance and bravery. How lucky I am to get to work and share with them! And not only are they smart and funny – they look great in hats, as I am sure you will agree when you check out the pictures accompanying this blog.

I promised to post the recipes for the plate of tea treats I served on Saturday. Although I used them for a tea party – most would be perfectly appropriate at a cocktail party as well.

Dried Cherry and Toasted Pecan Goat Cheese Lollipops

½ Cup Chopped Dried Tart Cherries

1 10 OZ Log Goat Cheese, Room Temperature

1 Cup Toasted Chopped Pecans

24 Pretzel Sticks

Add the cherries, goat cheese and 1/4 cup of the toasted pecans to a large bowl. Mix well to combine. Put the remaining pecans on a plate. Using a teaspoon, scoop the goat cheese and roll into small balls. Roll in the pecans to cover all sides. Place the pretzel stick in the center of each goat cheese ball and serve.

Mini Italian Frittatas

Non Stick Cooking Spray

2 – 12 Hole Mini Muffin Tins

1 TB Extra Virgin Olive Oil

½ Cup Minced Shallot

¾ Cup Chopped Speck - Smoked Prosciutto (you can find this at Costco. If you can’t find it, use regular Prosciutto)

¾ Cup Reduced-Fat Sharp Cheddar Cheese, Grated (I like Cabot brand)

2 TB Chopped Chives, plus more for garnish

¼ Tsp Italian Seasoning

¼ Tsp Kosher or Sea Salt

¼ Tsp Freshly Cracked Black Pepper

4 Large Egg Whites

2 Large Eggs

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with non stick spray. Warm the oil over medium heat in a large skillet. Add the shallots and sauté 3 - 4 minutes or until wilted. Add the speck and sauté for an additional 3 minutes. Remove from heat and set aside.

Step Two

Combine the remaining ingredients in a large bowl and whisk. Add the cooked shallot and ham mixture. Spoon into 24 miniature muffin cups coated with cooking spray. Bake at 350F for 20 minutes or until just set. Serve with additional chopped chives for garnish.

Dark Chocolate Tea Truffles

Okay, this is not health food – indulge in just a couple for a real treat!

8 ounces Bittersweet Chocolate (at least 60% Choc Liqour), chopped finely

¾ Cup Heavy Whipping Cream

2 TB Unsalted Butter

2 TB Very Strong Brewed Black Tea

½ Cup Unsweetened Cocoa Powder

Step One

Place the chocolate in a bowl and set aside. Heat the cream and the butter on the stovetop until it comes to a boil. Immediately remove it from the heat and pour it over the chopped chocolate. Let it stand for about 5 minutes to soften the chocolate, then whisk the chocolate and the cream mixture together. Be patient, it will get smooth. Add the tea.

Step Two

Pour the mixture in a 9 x12” pan and cover it really well with plastic wrap. (Fats like butter and cream pick up off odors in the frig very easily, so you really want it well covered.) Place the pan in the frig for at least 8 hours, or overnight – or until it firms up.

Step Three

Place the cocoa powder on a plate. Remove the chocolate from the frig. Using a teaspoon, scrape the chocolate mixture into a small ball and place it in the cocoa mixture. Roll it around until it is coated, and then place on another plate. At this point you can return them to the frig, or serve them right away.

Apricot Stilton Stuffed Strawberries

Hull and slightly core ripe strawberries. Cut a cold, large wedge of Apricot Stilton, (or any other soft flavored cheese – or even just plain Stilton) into small cubes. Let the cheese soften to room temperature and then stuff each strawberry with the cheese.

Wild Mushroom Tartines*

The Mushrooms

½ LB Wild Mushrooms, coarsely chopped

1 TB Unsalted Butter

2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped

Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Sauté the wild mushrooms until softened and the liquid has evaporated about 5 – 7 minutes. Add the herbs and salt and pepper to taste. Set aside

The Goat Cheese

1 Log Goat Cheese, Softened

2 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives

Kosher Salt and Freshly Cracked Black Pepper to taste

Mash the Goat Cheese with the herbs, salt and pepper

The Tartine Shells

1 Loaf Pepperidge Farm Very Thin Sliced Whole Wheat Bread

Non-Stick Spray

3 Small Muffin Tins

2 ¼” Cookie Cutter

Step One

Preheat the oven to 350F. Spray the muffin tins with Non Stick Spray.

Step Two

Cut each piece of bread with the cookie cutter, and carefully put it into the muffin tin. Bake at 350F for 10 minutes or until the bread begins to brown.

Assembly

4 TB Parsley, Thyme, Tarragon or Chives, finely chopped for garnish

In each tartine shell, place a tiny dollop of goat cheese. Top with mushrooms, garnish with fresh herbs.

* Tartine is an open faced sandwich

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Turning Point Dinner

Last night I was off to the suburbs – to the lovely land of Sugarloaf in Duluth, Georgia. Yours truly, a couple of super assistants, a generous family and fun guests all participated in a benefit dinner for Turning Point, a women’s healthcare center in Alpharetta. The hosts selected a Mediterranean themed menu for the dinner, so I paired the courses with the following wines – all widely available and all great values for the quality of wine!

Burgans Albarino Rias Baixas, Spain
A perfect partner for grilled or smoky flavors of cumin and smoked paprika, also for Spanish Tapas like olives and roasted peppers. Albarino is often considered the premier quality white wine from Spain. The name of the wine and the grape are the same. Burgans is a great value for the money – fantastic with grilled fish as well. Wonderful aroma of peaches and apricots with a good hit of lemon and tastes of limes and mangos.

Henry Estate Pinot Noir Umpqua and Williamette Valley, Oregon
Pinot Noir is often praised as the most versatile and accommodating red wines, and this one is no exception. Pinot Noir is an excellent choice as an “entry level” red wine, and can often bridge a gap when you’re not sure what to choose, red or white. Delicious fresh cherry aromas are what you smell and when you taste the Henry Estate – those cherries are evident along with a nice snappy acidity to back them up. Pinot Noir, (the prominent grape from Burgundy, France and in the wines of the same name), has made an excellent home in Oregon, where the weather is ideal for the cultivation of the sometimes difficult-to-grow but incredibly delicious grape.

Domaine La Garrique Cotes du Rhone Cotes du Rhone, France
From the Southern end of the Rhone Valley, comes this ripe blackberry/blueberry tasting wine with a fragrance of dark black cherries, smoked herbs and a hint of leather or tobacco. Grenache is the dominant grape in this wine along with a quarter Mourvedre and a little Syrah. Cotes du Rhone is always an unrivaled choice with roasted meats or chicken. One of my favorite easy to drink quaffers to accompany a casual dinner for friends. 

Vinosia Primitivo Salentino, Italy
Primitivo, the “cousin” grape to our much beloved California Zinfandel is a wine loaded with fragrant deep dark dusty flavored black fruit, berries and spice. Fruity and Jammy, this one is easy to drink by itself or with any red sauced pasta. Pairs well with anything off the BBQ and matchless with a traditional Chicago pizza topped with meat and anchovies.

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Taste Club South America




Too much fun at the Taste Club last night! That's my monthly wine and food pairing dinner held at Cooks Warehouse Brookhaven. We tasted 9 wines from South America and ate like cowboys - 
Churrasco style Steak with Chimichurri Sauce and Peruvian Potatoes. Here's a couple of pictures from the kitchen - the fabulous assistants and the beautiful food. Couldn't do it without the assistants - they make everything go run like clockwork. I feel very fortunate to have such good help!  I'll share the recipes in a couple of Friday Fours, but until then - here's my list of wines from last night. South American wines are such an incredible value for the quality. And it's so easy to recognize the wines - almost all their wines are labeled by the grape variety. Every delicious wine we had last night cost less than $20 - can you believe it? 

Crios Torrontes: Argentina's answer to Chardonnay. Light and crisp with peach and honey aromas, followed by a crisp citrus taste. If you like Viognier - you will like this as well.
Montes Sauvignon Blanc: Somewhere between a French Sancerre and a New Zealand Sav Blanc this makes a perfect accompaniment to shellfish
Alfredo Roca Pinor Noir: Not your ordinary Pinot! This one is light and red berry filled - One of the best surprises of the evening
Casa Lapostolle Merlot: Tasty Merlot from one of Chile's biggest vineyards
Montgras Reserva Carmenere: One of the six grapes that are allowed in a Bordeaux, Carmenere is a up-and-comer grape from Chile. Similar to a Merlot but with more leather, toasty flavors.
Catena Malbac: Classic dark purple Malbac from a wonderful producer, can't get much better than this...
Maipe Malbac: The winner! Who knew a wine this good could be bought for less than $10? Amazing find from Costco
Norton Privada: This 92 rated blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbac is a beautiful big powerful red that was a perfect evening "ender" with our chocolate almond cake