Thursday, December 30, 2010

ON TOP OF SPAGHETTI

From time to time I'll try someone's recipe for meatballs, but I always return to the tried and true. While my mom fried hers--or sometimes browned them in the oven--I prefer to place mine in the sauce raw and let them soak up that delicious sauce as they cook. This recipe makes about 2 dozen meatballs so, should you have any left over, freeze them right in the sauce (as these were) to enjoy an easy night in the kitchen.

1 lb 85% lean ground beef
1 lb ground pork
1 small onion, finely chopped
1 clove garlic, finely minced
5 eggs, lightly beaten
1 1/4 cups bread crumbs
1/4 cup chopped parsley
1 cup freshly ground Pecorino Romano (I find Parmigiano too salty)
salt and pepper to taste

Place ingredients in a large bowl and use your hands to mix well. With dampened hands, roll the mixture into uniformly-sized meatballs. (I love tiny meatballs in my baked pasta, but it is labor intensive.) Place the meatballs into simmering tomato sauce and cook for at least 1 hour on low heat.
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TASTE NOTES
I'm setting aside all modesty. What can I say other than I think these are the tastiest meatballs on the planet. You'll just have to try them and decide for yourself, but I'd be very surprised if you didn't like them.


Tuesday, December 28, 2010

CROQUE MONSIEUR

I am a firm believer that if you can make a simple white sauce, you can turn a weekday meal into a feast. A simple white sauce is the backbone of any creamy casserole and learning to make one is a skill you won't regret having. I've been emptying out my freezer this week and saving my energies for holiday cooking. With this recent cold snap, we were ready for an encore of my beef soup. Since I had a small hunk of gruyere cheese left over, I decided that some open-faced croque monsieur was just the accompaniment we needed to round out this meal.

Croque Monsieur - 6 pieces
6 slices Italian bread (slice about 1/2 inch thick, on the diagonal)
6 slices ham
3 oz shredded Gruyere
6 tbs white sauce

Toast or grill (I used my panini press) the slices of Italian bread on both sides.
Place a slice of ham on each slice of toasted bread, top with a tablespoon of white sauce, and sprinkle with the Gruyere. Broil (watching carefully) until the cheese is bubbly and starting to brown.
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TASTE NOTES
It is absolutely true that the simple things in life are often the best. With a chilled glass of Pinot Grigio, this was one of our most enjoyable dinners. We both would have happily eaten several more open-faced sandwiches each, but it's all about moderation (unfortunately!). I have refrigerated leftover white sauce and used it within a few days of making it. It reheats best on the stovetop over low heat.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Antipasto

 Our favorite part of Christmas dinner has always been the antipasto. Because I am one of those people who doesn't love buffets because I don't like hot foods touching cold or dry foods coming in contact with sauces, I don't put all of the ingredients on one plate. However you plate it, this glorified salad remains the one constant of every holiday celebration. I hope you and your family enjoyed a very Merry Christmas. We did.

Friday, December 24, 2010

A CHRISTMAS TRADITION: STRUFFOLI








There are those who just don't "get" struffoli; they wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, it's little pieces of fried dough tossed in a honey concoction. I confess I've been lazy for quite a few years, buying struffoli in my favorite Italian bakery with the excuse that theirs is healthier because it's baked, not fried. The truth is that theirs is dry and at $15 for a small plate, it's highway robbery. After watching the episode where Giada and her aunt make struffoli, I decided to resurrect this Christmas tradition. I also decided to give Giada's version a try. Giada's recipe is here. The basic difference between her recipe and the one I've used forever is that she uses lemon and orange zest. Let me say upfront that I gave her method of rolling out the dough, cutting it into 1/2 inch strip, then rolling the balls a try, but immediately returned to the tried and true method of rolling out a rope of dough, cutting it with a pizza cutter, and then rolling. Why make more work; this is somewhat tedious to begin with. As you can see from the pictorial above, it's not rocket science. Making the dough is very easy. Making and frying the struffoli just requires a bit of patience.

I'm submitting this to I Heart Cooking Clubs. Be sure to head over to check out what other sweet treats by Giada were made.
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TASTE NOTES
The addition of the lemon and orange zest elevates the family favorite; props to you, Giada. I made just one batch of these because I find them positively addictive. I will probably resume the annual tradition of making struffoli based on the success of these.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

SIMPLE--AND SIMPLY DELICIOUS--LATKES


I believe in an ecumenical approach to eating. If something is delicious, I eat it. Its ethnic or religious associations don't have to be my own for me to appreciate something tasty. Latkes definitely fall into that category, so it's not surprising that every December as I'm planning my Christmas dinner, I'm also setting aside time to make some of these wonderful Hannukah treats.

Over the years I've made my latkes with hand-grated potatoes as well as with potatoes shredded or chopped in the food processor. All of them are delicious, but some are more labor-intensive than others. This recipe is by far the easiest; the results are equally delicious.

Makes 24-30 latkes
6 large Russet potatoes, scrubbed, peeled, and quartered
1 onion, peeled and quartered
1 large egg
1/2 cup matzoh meal 
1 tsp Kosher salt
canola oil

Use the blade attachment of your food processor to chop the potatoes and onion. Add the egg, matzoh meal, and salt, blending well. Process the mixture until it's the consistency of horseradish.



In a large skillet, heat canola oil (enough oil to measure 1/4 inch depth). Drop the mixture by scant 1/4 cupsful and fry 4 minutes on each side. Stir the mixture before forming each batch of latkes since liquid will form as it sits. Drain well on paper towels. Serve with applesauce and sour cream. (You can keep the finished latkes warm in a 200 degree oven until ready to serve. You can also cool them completely, then freeze them to serve at a later time.)
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TASTE NOTES
This is probably my very favorite way to eat potatoes. The first bite of that crunchy exterior followed by the creaminess of the center nearly made me swoon (I love that word; it's so Victorian!). I have to have a bit of applesauce and sour cream with each bite of latke, so this is definitely not a Weight Watcher meal. But it is so worth it. If you've never made latkes, this is, by far, the simplest recipe you'll ever find. And one of the most delicious.

Friday, December 17, 2010

SPRITZ COOKIES





I am incredibly excited about my latest food toy, a Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II cookie press. I never had much luck with mom's metal cookie press, so I don't think I've made spritz cookies in over 30 years. It all started when DSO and I went to cut our Christmas tree this weekend. We go to a local tree farm and the owners always put out mulled cider and a plate of Christmas cookies for the customers. It was those lovely little green Christmas trees that put the idea in my head. Our municipality has a volunteer group that provides services such as transportation to and from doctor's visits to local seniors and adults with disabilities. I coordinate the program and along with a number of volunteers will be delivering pointsettia plants to those neighbors this weekend. I like to include a small goody bag of cookies with the plants and thought that the spritz cookies would be this year's treat.

A recipe is included with the cookie press, though Wilton also has a website with many yummy-sounding recipes. I followed the recipe exactly and was amazed at how simple it was to form the cookies. I dyed one-third of the dough green and another third red. I chose just 3 discs, the Christmas tree, the flower (which was my pointsettia), and one that looks like an ornament. The recipe said the yield was 7-8 dozen, but I got 11 dozen. I baked the cookies exactly 11 minutes. I added colored sprinkles before I baked the cookies since I didn't want to use a frosting and they adhered perfectly and did not burn.

I can't say enough good things about the pro-plus. It is simple to fill, requires no wrist-turning or other special move to produce perfectly-formed cookies; it also washes easily. I was disappointed that one of my disks was broken, but emailed Wilton and a replacement is already in the mail.

Here is the recipe from Wilton's site.
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TASTE NOTES
In addition to being festive and dainty, these spritz cookies were a perfect buttery bite. I'll be making more during the week and will experiment with sandwiching some of them with apricot or raspberry jam. I'm in love with my Wilton Cookie Pro Ultra II!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

How easy is that? ROASTED SHRIMP WITH FETA

Most days I [try to] forget that I'm in my sixth decade, but when I kept coming across that head of fennel in my vegetable bin and couldn't, for the life of me, remember why I'd bought it, the prolonged senior moment just underscored that I am, in fact, getting older. I write a weekly menu, but there was no clue about why I'd bought the fennel. Then I grabbed my new Ina Garten cookbook, How Easy Is That?, for the recipe for roasted shrimp with feta and there it was!

This is just the second time I've ever cooked with fennel, but it is fast becoming a favorite vegetable. My new cookbook is just as quickly starting to look like my other favorites. I refer to them as my "scratch and sniff" books since the pages tend to be splattered with evidence of my culinary endeavors. This page has some "good olive oil" blots on it.

Serves 4
4 tbs good olive oil, divided
1 1/2 cups medium diced fennel
1 tbs minced garlic (3 cloves)
1/4 cup dry white wine (I had to open a split of champagne)
1 (14.5 oz) can diced tomatoes (use the fire roasted ones, yum!)
2 tsp tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbs Pernod (sorry, had to omit; the fennel took care of the anise flavor)
1 tsp Kosher salt
1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 lb (16-20) peeled and cleaned shrimp, tails on (I had colossal, so used them)
5 oz good Feta cheese, coarsely crumbled
1 cup fresh bread crumbs (I had 3/4 cup Panko, so used it)
3 tbs minced fresh parsley (had to substitute fennel fronds)
1 tsp grated lemon zest
2 lemons

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

Heat 2 tbs of the olive oil in a 10 or 12 inch heavy, oven-proof skillet over medium-low heat. Add the fennel and saute for 8-10 minutes, until the fennel is tender. Add the garlic and cook for 1 minute more. Add the wine and bring it to a boil, scraping up any browned bits. Cook for 2 - 3 minutes, until the liquid is reduced by half. Add the tomatoes with the liquid, tomato paste, oregano, Pernod (if you have it), salt, and pepper to the skillet. Simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally, for 10 - 15 minutes.

Arrange the shrimp, tails up, in one layer over the tomato mixture in the skillet. Scatter the feta evenly over the shrimp. In a small bowl, combine the bread crumbs, parsley, and lemon zest with the remaining 2 tbs olive oil and sprinkle over the shrimp.

Bake for 15 minutes, until the shrimp are cooked and the breadcrumbs are golden brown. Squeeze the juice of 1 lemon over the shrimp and serve hot with the remaining lemon cut into wedges.
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TASTE NOTES
I hope my house smells like this for the next few days! From the moment I tossed the ingredients for the sauce with the sauteed fennel and garlic, my mouth began to water in anticipation. Words can't do justice to this brilliant dish. The saltiness of the feta is the perfect foil for the sweet, fennel-laced tomato sauce. Those fire-roasted diced tomatoes are truly special because I do not care for diced, canned tomatoes and I loved these. I strongly recommend using the Panko in lieu of fresh bread crumbs because the crunch is a wonderful contrast to the creaminess of the cheese. DSO and I made many happy, yummy noises as we ate the shrimp, accompanied by some leftover polenta which I'd sauteed in a smattering of that good olive oil. In the happiest of coincidences, DSO had brought home a piece of baklava (thank goodness official weigh in day is 3 days away). I thought that was a lovely ending to our Mediterranean-inspired dinner. Ina has done it again; the woman never misses!



Friday, December 10, 2010

LUAU MEATBALLS


Ground turkey is such a versatile protein. I like to keep a package or two in the freezer since it's easy to defrost in the microwave and can be used to replace ground beef or pork in almost any dish. These Asian-inspired meatballs would make a tasty appetizer or, served with rice and some Chinese long beans, a satisfying dinner. We enjoyed them in the latter format. I call them luau meatballs because they are on the sweet and tangy side (kids will love them!).

Serves 4
1 lb ground turkey
1/2 cup panko bread crumbs
3 scallions, white and light-green parts, chopped
1 large egg
1 tbs soy sauce
1 tbs finely chopped ginger
2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
1/4 cup apricot preserves
2 tbs hoisin sauce

Combine the pork, panko, scallions, egg, soy sauce, ginger, and garlic in a medium sized bowl and mix thoroughly. Shape into 1 inch meatballs.

Mist a small slow cooker with nonstick cooking spray and add the meatballs.

In a small bowl, whisk together the barbecue sauce, apricot preserves, and hoisin sauce and pour over the meatballs.

Cover and cook on low 3 hours. Serve over brown rice. I served with Chinese long beans (recipe here) for a quick and tasty dinner.
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TASTE NOTES
It's unfortunate, but true, that most brown foods just don't photograph well. Don't let that stop you from making these yummy meatballs. They went together very quickly, then simmered away in the slow cooker for a few hours, filling the house with tantalizing smells. Gourmet? No! Crave-worthy? You bet!

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

"How easy is that?" LEMON CHICKEN WITH CREAMY PARMESAN POLENTA

I know I've said this before, but Ina Garten reigns supreme in my world. I recently purchased her latest cookbook, How Easy Is That, and have bookmarked quite a few recipes to try. At the rate she's going, I'll soon need an entire shelf just for her books. When you eat chicken as much as we do, you're always looking to change it up a bit. Sure I've made Ina's Tuscan lemon chicken, but the lemon chicken breasts looked divine. And, well, yes, we recently became reacquainted with grits and they were delectable, but I'm Italian, so that cheesy polenta was a must.

Lemon Chicken Breasts - Serves 4
1/4 cup good olive oil
3 tbs minced garlic (9 cloves)
1/3 cup dry white wine
1 tbs grated lemon zest (1-2 lemons)
2 tbs freshly squeezed lemon juice
1 1/2 tsp dried oregano
1 tsp minced fresh thyme
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 chicken breasts, skin on (mine were on the bone; Ina's called for boneless) 6-8 oz each

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.
Warm the olive oil in a small saucepan over medium-low heat, add the garlic, and cook for just 1 minute (don't allow the garlic to brown). Off the heat, add the white wine, lemon zest, lemon juice, oregano, thyme, and 1 tsp salt and pour into a 9X12 inch baking dish.

Pat the chicken breasts dry and place them skin side up OVER the sauce. Brush the chicken breasts with olive oil and sprinkle them liberally with salt and pepper. Cut the lemon into 8 wedges and tuck it among the pieces of chicken.

Bake for 35-45 minutes for bone in breasts (less for boneless), until the chicken is done and the skin is lightly browned. You can place the chicken under the broiler if you wish the skin to brown more; I didn't. Cover the pan tightly with aluminum foil and allow to rest for 10 minutes. Sprinkle with salt and serve hot with the pan juices.

CREAMY PAREMESAN POLENTA - Serves 6
4 cups chicken stock (I used low sodium chicken broth)
2 tsp minced garlic (2 cloves)
1 cup yellow cornmeal, stone ground (like Ina, I used Quaker)
1 tbs Kosher salt
1 tsp freshly ground pepper
1 cup freshly grated cheese (I prefer Asiago and used it in place of Parmesan; it's less salty)
1/4 cup creme fraiche (I substituted sour cream)
2 tbs unsalted butter

Place the chicken broth in a large saucepan. Add the garlic and cook over medium-high heat until the broth comes to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and very slowly whisk in the cornmeal, whisking constantly to make sure there are no lumps. Switch to a wooden spoon, add the salt and pepper, and simmer, stirring almost constantly for 10 minutes, until thickened. Be sure to scrape the bottom of the pot thoroughly while you're stirring. Off the heat, stir in the cheese, sour cream, and butter. Taste for seasonings and serve hot.
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TASTE NOTES
Where were these recipes when I was working full time and had to put dinner on the table in under 30 minutes or risk DSO falling asleep in his mashed potatoes? While there was some prep required for each dish,  both were uncomplicated and easy to get on the table in short order. The sauce on this chicken is the kind you want a loaf of bread to sop up. Given that we're both watching our weight and fat intake, this did not happen. But, in my next life, when I weigh 100 pounds, I intend to do just that. The polenta was a wonderful accompaniment to the chicken. The Asiago added the perfect nuttiness and it was hard not to go back for seconds. I'll be sauteeing the leftover polenta, another favorite way to eat this dish. DSO and I both prefer dark meat, so next time I'll make this with thighs and legs (and cut out the starch so I can enjoy some ciabatta, the better to capture that sauce.




Saturday, December 4, 2010

MAKE IT SIMPLE PASTA E FAGIOLI FOR I HEART COOKING CLUBS


Soup appears in The Food of Love kitchen on a regular basis during the winter months. It is a filling, [mostly] healthy dinner option, and, during these hectic "I have absolutely no time" weeks leading up to the holiday, a simple way to put nutritious food on the table in the shortest possible time. Though I confess that holiday madness is greatly reduced (one perk of growing older), the impending holiday along with my part time job, volunteer work, and quilting pursuits does mimic old times when many more faces appeared around the holiday table and holiday baking  began the day after Thanksgiving.

Pasta e fagioli (pasta fazool for those in the know) is a favorite winter soup. There are many versions of this dish. I favor the "non red" versions. I dislike any tomato whatsoever in my bowl of pasta e fagioli. Forgive me, mom, but the family version has never been a favorite. In a nod to another family favorite (NOT mine), pasta e pisselli, mom would put peas and tomatoes in her version. Peas are second only to the dreaded Z on the list of vegetables that do not pass my lips.

I decided to give Giada's version of pasta e fagioli a try. The biggest difference in her version was her use of red kidney beans; I always use the white (cannellini). Giada's recipe from Food TV is here. My only changes were the use of ditalini pasta instead of elbows, the substitution of prosciutto for pancetta, and the addition of a coarsely chopped carrot for sweetness. I'll add more carrot next time.
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TASTE NOTES
From start to finish, this hearty soup meal was on the table in under 30 minutes. In fact, I made it in the morning, the better to have the whole day to finish up my student evaluations, visit with my sweet great-niece Isabelle, and get to PT on time. Larry and I both enjoyed this version and agreed it was a nice change from the not-so-photogenic cannellini version. The 3 ounces of  pancetta wouldn't have added much fat, but I enjoyed the more delicate flavor of the prosciutto. Also, 3 ounces won't break the bank, but it's a nice little luxury. BTW, it's even better the next day--especially with some freshly baked ciabatta. Please hurry over to I Heart Cooking Clubs to see what other delicious time savers will save you from holiday madness.

Tuesday, November 30, 2010

BROWNIE WARS


Ask 5 people what kind of brownies they prefer and you're apt to get 5 different answers. Do you prefer fudgey or cake-like brownies? plain or nut-studded? thin or thick? The possibilities are endless.

 I don't bake often since I try to eat healthfully (and keep my butt in one zip code) and because DSO is diabetic and needs to watch his carb intake. However, once a year on the night before Opening Day of deer season, his hunting club has a big dinner and he asks me to make him a dessert to bring. This year he wanted brownies. I've made him brownies before and he always gobbles them up and compliments them...and then lets slip that he REALLY likes more cake-like brownies, though mine are delicious. Since I've been baking the standard Hershey cookbook brownie forever, I did a search for "cake-like brownies," evaluated the results, and decided to try the one I found on www.best-ever-cookie-collection.com.

 I baked 2 pans of brownies, one plain and the other with nuts. If you looked verrrry carefully at each pan, you might have noticed one brownie  about a half-inch shorter than the others. I did it for YOU, my readers. I had to be able to evaluate the results and report on them, didn't I?



Chocolate Cake Like Brownies Recipe

  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 1/2 cups flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 cup milk
  • 1 cup chopped walnuts or pecans
  1. Preheat oven to 350F degrees.
  2. Grease a 15x10x1-inch baking pan and set aside. (I used 9X13 and increased cooking time to 30 minutes)
  3. Melt the butter in a saucepan over medium heat.
  4. Remove saucepan from heat and stir in sugar and cocoa powder until well combined.
  5. Add eggs and vanilla and beat lightly with a wooden spoon until just combined.
  6. In a separate small bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and baking soda.
  7. Add flour mixture to the chocolate mixture, stir in milk until well blended.
  8. Stir in nuts, if using.
  9. Pour batter into prepared pan and spread evenly.
  10. Bake for 25-30 minutes or until a wooden toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean.
  11. Cool two hours on a wire rack and cut your delicious cake like brownies into any size and shape you desire.
TASTE NOTES
These were, by far, the best brownies I've ever baked. The texture was perfect; they were just sweet enough. They held together beautifully and were a dream to cut. They needed no frosting, but were just a perfect mouthful of chocolatey goodness. I personally preferred the ones with nuts (DSO, of course, loved the plain).

Thursday, November 25, 2010

CREAMY (DREAMY) CHEDDAR GRITS

The last time I tasted grits was about 20 years ago when I traveled south and stopped in South Carolina for breakfast. While I love polenta, I didn't much care for the grits I was served with my eggs and I hadn't had them since. Then, while leafing through Barefoot Contessa Back to Basics, I lingered on the photograph of Ina's creamy cheddar grits and thought they'd be the perfect accompaniment to her Tuscan Lemon Chicken. Never having made grits, I didn't realize how generous this portion, which does note that it serves 6, would be. All the better to enjoy as leftovers!

2 tsp Kosher salt
1 cup fine quick-cooking grits (NOT INSTANT)
1 1/4 cups half and half (I used fat free half and half)
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 1/2 cups aged sharp cheddar cheese, grated, 4 oz (I used 2 % shredded cheddar)
1/2 cup chopped scallions

Bring 4 cups of water to a boil in a heavy 4-quart saucepan. Add the salt, then slowly add the grits in a thin, steady stream, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon. Reduce the heat to low and simmer, stirring occasionally, until the grits thicken, about 5 - 7 minutes.

Add the half and half and butter to the grits and stir. The mixture will be thin, but will thicken as it cooks. Bring to a simmer, stirring occasionally. Cover the pot, reduce the heat to low, and cook, stirring occasionally, for 45 minutes, until very smooth and creamy.

Off the heat, stir in the cheddar and scallions. Add pepper to taste.
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TASTE NOTES
Mmmmmmmmmmmmmm! These were just incredible! I loved the thick creaminess interspersed with bits of scallion and gooey, melty cheese. The wonderful chicken was almost forgotten in our grits-induced carb haze. I need to figure out how many calories per serving because I'm going to want these again and again (DSO says, "Me, too"). Ina is a genius!

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

GODIVA MOLTEN CHOCOLATE BUNDT CAKE

Lava cakes are turning up on menus in every venue from fine dining establishments to chain restaurants. Since I've been using the same recipe for lava cakes for quite some time, when I saw an advertisement for Godiva that contained a recipe in this month's Food and Wine, I decided to give it a try. DSO had asked for a cake to take to work and I thought "the guys" could be the guinea pigs for Eric's Original Recipe for Godiva Molten Chocolate Bundt Cake. Inspired by Godiva's new chocolate lava cake truffle, it sounded like a winner.

4 oz Godiva dark chocolate Callets
1/2 cup boiling water
1 tbs espresso powder
1 cup sour cream
2 cups all purpose flour
2 cups pecans (finely chopped or ground in a food processor)
1 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups confectioners sugar
3/4 cup cocoa powder (plus more for dusting pan)
4 eggs
2 egg yolks
1 tbs vanilla
2 1/4 sticks unsalted butter
1 cup light brown sugar
3/4 cup granulated sugar

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and grease a bundt pan and dust with cocoa powder.

In a medium bowl pour boiling water over the chocolate Callets and whisk until smooth. Whisk in sour cream and set aside.

In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, ground pecans, confectioners sugar, cocoa, and salt.

In an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the granulated sugar, brown sugar, and butter on medium speed until light and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Turn mixer to low and add eggs and yolks slowly, scraping down the bowl as necessary and until well combined.

Add the dry mixture in 3 additions alternating with 2 additons of the chocolate sour cream mixture.

Scrape the batter into the prepared pan and bake for no longer than 45 minutes. The edges should start to pull away from sides of pan and top will look cracked. A cake tester placed in center will be very wet. Let the cake cool in pan on a wire rack for 1 1/2 hours. Invert onto a serving plate and let cool completely, about 2 hours. Pour fudge glaze over the cake, if desired.

Fudge Glaze
3 tbs butter
1/2 cup water
1/3 cup heavy cream
2 tbs honey
8 oz semisweet chocolate
2 tbs rum

Melt the butter in a medium saucepan. Add the water, cream, honey and simmer over medium heat. Put chocolate in a bowl and pour mixture on top. Let sit for several minutes, then stir to combine.
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TASTE NOTES
This had to be the heaviest cake I've ever baked! I loved having the "lava" in each slice and the texture of the nuts, which I'd chopped rather than ground, added interest. "The guys" enjoyed the cake and the one slice I taste-tested was quite good, but I prefer the more souffle-like texture of my old recipe. I will, however, certainly use Godiva chocolate again when I make my lava cakes.

Friday, November 19, 2010

CHINESE CHICKEN WITH BROCCOLI


There was a time in my life when I couldn't get through the week without Chinese food. When I began cooking for myself, I began to amass a collection of cookbooks devoted to this cuisine. But no matter what recipe I followed (or what concoction I threw together), the results, though tasty, were never quite the same as what the local take-out joint offered. I learned a lot of great techniques (velveting, stir-frying, steaming) along the way, but the difference between the dishes I create and the ones that are served in a Chinese-American restaurant are parallel to the pasta and sauce I create at home and what's served in an Italian-American restaurant. With that in mind, I no longer fall for the "tastes exactly like take-out" reviews that accompany the various recipes for this dish that I've tried. I'm happy to acknowledge that my Chinese-style dishes are reasonable facsimiles.

My latest version of chicken and broccoli stir-fry comes to you courtesy of Food Network Kitchens (recipe here).

The secret to preparing stir-fry is your mise en place. Have everything measured out, chopped, and at the ready and the actual time from pan to table will be under 5 minutes.


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TASTE NOTES
I could tell just looking at it that the broccoli needed more time than the recipe directs and even doubling the time, it was still quite firm to the bite. Other than that, the flavor was good and the chicken moist. My personal preference is to velvet the chicken and to have a bit more sauce, but if you're a novice to stir-frying or to trying to cook your favorite Chinese take-out, give this simple recipe a try.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

STUFFED CABBAGE

There have been many times over the past two and a half years since my mother passed away when I've regretted not having asked her to write down some of her recipes.. I have a very small number of recipes that she did write down, but have to rely on memory for so many more. Stuffed cabbage isn't a dish she made often--probably because it wasn't a family favorite back in the day. I find that with age a great many foods that I wouldn't eat "back in the day" are now comfort foods, in no small part, I'm guessing, because of the nostalgia factor. I decided to give stuffed cabbage another try despite some not-so-stellar attempts in the past.

1 large Savoy cabbage
2 lbs 93% lean ground beef
1 1/2 large Spanish onions, diced
2 tbs butter
3 eggs
1 cup brown rice, cooked according to package instructions
salt and pepper to taste
2 cans tomato soup
1 can chicken broth
1/2 cup bloody Mary mix

Part of my difficulty in the past was that I tried to boil the cabbage. This time, on the advice of a few friends, I cored the cabbage, then placed it in a bowl filled a third of the way with water and microwaved it on high for 10 minutes, checking after 5 minutes. Remove from the microwave and cool until it can be handled. The leaves should come apart at a touch. Place on paper towels to drain.

Meanwhile, in a large skillet melt the butter and saute the chopped onions very slowly until golden brown. Set aside to cool. Prepare the rice according to package instructions, then set aside to cool.

In a large bowl combine the onions, rice ground meat, eggs, salt and pepper. Use your hands to combine thoroughly.

Look over the cabbage leaves and use kitchen shears to carefully cut away any large, tough veins.

Spray a large casserole dish (or two) with nonstick spray.

Place 1/3 to 1/2 cup of the meat mixture at the bottom of a cabbage leaf and roll up, tucking the sides in. Place seam side down in the casserole dish. Repeat until all meat is used up.

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees.

In a large bowl combine the tomato soup, chicken broth, and bloody Mary mix (or tomato juice, V-8, Clamato). Pour evenly over the cabbage rolls. Cover with foil and bake for 2 hours. Remove foil and serve or let cool before covering with plastic wrap and refrigerating.
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TASTE NOTES
Finally! I could tell as these were cooking that they were going to be the closest to the ones I remember my mother making. I believe the difference was the use of tomato soup instead of tomato sauce (she may have mixed the two, but I prefer the taste of all soup). The rolls were very easy to make because the core had been removed from the cabbage and the microwave produced perfectly pliable leaves. The brown rice added some fiber and the onion, salt, and pepper was all the seasoning needed. The bloody Mary mix, which I used because we had no tomato juice, added just a little kick. I'm sure these could be frozen if we weren't planning to give some away and eat the leftovers tomorrow. Please take the opportunity if your parents and grandparents are still with you to preserve your food history by writing out their recipes for family favorites.

Friday, November 12, 2010

SENATE BEAN SOUP

Please don't judge this soup by the insipid photo above. It may not be photogenic, but it is delicious. The recipe is from this month's Food Network Magazine and is purported to be served in the US Senate. I had a lovely ham bone from a spiral ham, so it was a perfect fall dinner with lots of leftovers for lunch and the freezer.

1 lb dried navy beans
1 lb ham (preferably with bone)
1 large russet potato, peeled and quartered
Kosher salt
1/2 cup milk
2 tbs unsalted butter
1 large onion, chopped
1 stalk celery, chopped
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
freshly ground pepper

Put the beans in a large bowl and cover with about 3 times their volume of cold water. Soak overnight in a cool place.

Drain the beans and transfer to a large pot or Dutch oven. Add 10 cups of water and the ham. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, then reduce the heat to low and cook until the beans are tender, about 1 hour, 30 minutes. Transfer the ham to a plate to cool slightly, then remove the bone and dice the meat. Return the meat to the pot.

Meanwhile, cover the potato with water and season with salt. Bring to a boil over medium high heat, then reduce the heat and simmer until the potato is fork tender, about 20 minutes. Drain the potato, transfer to a bowl with the milk, and mash. Add the mashed potato to the bean soup and stir until combined.

Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onion, celery, garlic, and parsley and cook until translucent, 7 - 10 minutes. Add the vegetable mixture to the soup, reduce the heat to low, and cook 1 hour, adding up to 2 cups more water if the soup is too thick. Season with salt and pepper.
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TASTE NOTES
This is one item that Democrats and Republicans are sure to agree on. The soup, while not as thick as many bean soups, was quite filling. The sauteed vegetables really added flavor and very little salt is needed because of the ham. We enjoyed the soup for dinner with a simple cheese panini. Leftovers made a hearty lunch with a few slices of rye crisp and some soft cheese.


Tuesday, November 9, 2010

ACORN SQUASH WITH ROSEMARY AND BROWN SUGAR

It's hard for me to believe that acorn squash belongs to the same family as the dreaded "Z." For those of you who don't know me, that's zucchini. I loathe zucchini. Whenever a dinner is described as being accompanied by seasonal vegetables, I immediately ask if the dreaded "Z" is part of the melange. And yet, I love butternut squash, acorn squash; I like yellow squash and spaghetti squash. But, I digress.

I generally halve or quarter the acorn squash, sprinkle liberally with cinnamon and brown sugar, brush on some butter, and bake until done. In looking through my foodie magazines this month, I saw another treatment that included my favorite savoury, rosemary.

Serves 4
1  2-lb acorn squash, unpeeled; halved lenthwise, seeded, and cut into 8 edges
1 tbs unsalted butter
1 tbs extra virgin olive oil
1/2 cup dry white wine
3 tbs brown sugar
1 tbs chopped rosemary
1 tbs fresh lemon juice

Score each wedge of squash. Heat the butter and oil in an 11-12 inch straight-sided saute pan over medium high heat. Arrange the squash in a single layer and cook, flipping, until deep golden brown on all sides (12-18 minutes).

Carefully pour the wine into the pan, then scatter the brown sugar, rosemary, lemon juice, salt, and pepper over the squash. Cover the pan, reduce the heat to low, and simmer until the squash is almost tender (about 10 minutes more).

Uncover the pan and increase the heat to medium. Flip the squash and cook until the liquid thickens and the squash is tender (another 5 minutes). Transfer to a platter, season with salt and pepper to taste, and drizzle any remaining liquid over the top.
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TASTE NOTES
I love having acorn squash as our starch. I served this with roasted cauliflower and garlic and spiral ham. I don't know that I've ever prepared acorn squash without cinnamon and I thought I'd miss it. I didn't. The sugar and wine cook down to a wonderful syrup and the rosemary balances this sweetness perfectly. I was low on white wine, so I used up some dry vermouth and it worked just as well. This is a perfect Thanksgiving side dish if you're not already overloaded with family favorites.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

APPLE KUCHEN
























I've subscribed to Cooking Light since it's inception and though  I don't use many of the recipes, I pick up a lot of good information about how to cook more healthfully. Since DSO was diagnosed with diabetes last winter, I've done very little baking. To keep within his daily allocation of carbs, he must be very selective about the desserts he eats.

This month's COOKING LIGHT featured a recipe for Apple Kuchen. The nutritional information  is:
cal 251; fat 11.4g; protein 3.9g; carb 35.1g; fiber 1.7; chol 51mg; sodium 185 mg per serving. A serving is a small square and, while the carbs are still high, as a special treat, I decided to give the recipe a try.

Yield:  15 servings (serving size:  1 square)
3 Fuji apples, peeled, cored and sliced
2 tbs fresh lemon juice
1 cup sugar, divided
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (more! more! more!)
1/2 tsp salt, divided
1 tsp baking powder
6.75 oz all purpose flour (about 1 1/2 cups)
1/2 cup butter, softened and divided
3 oz cream cheese, softened
2 large eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup nonfat buttermilk (make your own by adding a small amount of white vinegar to skim milk)
cooking spray
1/4 cup apricot preserves (I only had orange marmalade; it worked great)
2 tsp apple juice (didn't have anyI used freshly squeezed lemon juice)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Combine the apples and juice; toss. Add 1/4 cup of the sugar, the cinnamon, and 1/4 tsp of the salt and toss to combine.

Weigh the flour and combine with the remaining 1/4 tsp salt and the baking powder in a bowl, stirring well.

Place the remaining 3/4 cup sugar and 6 tbs of butter, and the cream cheese in a bowl and beat with a mixer until light and fluffy. Add the eggs, beating well. Stir in the vanilla.

Add the flour mixture and the buttermilk alternately to the butter mixture, beginning and ending with the flour mixture, beating just until combined.

Scrape the batter into a 13X9 inch baking pan coated with nonstick spray (be lazy like me and use a disposable one). Arrange the apple slices over the batter. Melt the remaining 2 tbs butter and brush over the apples.

Bake at 350 degrees for 45 minutes, until set. Combine the preserves and juice and microwave on high for 30 seconds. Brush apricot mixture over apples and cool. Cut into 15 squares.
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TASTE NOTES
You would never know by the taste that this is a "light" cake. Admittedly, it is a small piece of cake for the calories, but it is rich and satisfying. It has a dense texture that makes it seem like you're eating a lot more of it than you are. It's so good, in fact, that I'm going to make it for Thanksgiving. I will definitely add a sprinkling of brown sugar to the top next time.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

BISTRO-STYLE SHORT RIBS


For those of you who have never eaten or prepared short ribs, they are a cut of meat that are perfect for braising or slow cooking in a crockpot. If you're unfamiliar with this cut of beef, Wikipedia defines short ribs as follows:

Short ribs (UK cut: Thin Rib) (Commonly known in UK as 'Jacob's Ladder' ) are a popular cut of beef. Beef short ribs are larger and usually more tender and meatier than their pork counterpart, pork spare ribs. Short ribs are cut from the rib and plate primals and a small corner of the square-cut chuck...The ribs can be separated and cut into short lengths (typically about 2 inches long), called an "English cut", "flanken cut" across the bones (typically about 1/2 inch thick), or cut into boneless steaks (a style recently introduced in the U.S.A. as a cheaper alternative to rib steak). 
I love short ribs and order them whenever they're on the menu at several of our favorite local restaurants. Living in the Hudson Valley, many of our local chefs are graduates of the CIA (Culinary Institute of America), so I searched for a CIA-inspired recipe. What I found on the FoodTV site were several recipes by favorite chefs that used a puree of vegetables as the base of the braising liquid. I "ultimately" chose Tyler's recipe (sorry, former English teachers love a good pun), which is here.

My local Shoprite had no short ribs the day I shopped, but the butcher offered me some of the boneless variety mentioned in the Wikipedia definition. Since these were totally lean, I happily accepted.

I would normally dredge the beef in flower before browning them, but I chose to follow Tyler's recipe exactly as written, so I braised them "naked." I used my monster LeCreuset, though I could have done them in a crockpot, adjusting the time, of course.
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TASTE NOTES
The pureed veggies created a flavorful sauce for these short ribs which I thickened with a slurry. While they were very tasty, they were not as tender as those that fall off the bone. I'll wait until the butcher has bone-in beef short ribs next time. They were also not the CIA-inspired version I was seeking. I think I'll send an email to that website and ask if they'd feature that recipe on their web page soon.

In the meantime, consider this a CALL FOR SHORT RIB RECIPES.  I'd love to do a round up of your favorite short rib recipe, so please consider leaving a comment with a link to your recipe.

Friday, October 29, 2010

CHICKEN AND CORN QUESADILLAS WITH GUACAMOLE



I had hoped to make a roasted turkey breast this week and to use the leftovers to try out this recipe from the October/November FINE DINING magazine. There wasn't a turkey to be found in Shoprite (building up anticipation for Thanksgiving?), not unless one counts the frozen turkey loaf-thingy. While I will eat Jennie-O turkey burgers or sausage or London broils, I knew enough to take a peak at the nutritional information on the side of this frozen product. Each serving (just a few ounces, mind you) contained over 1000 mg of sodium. I could as well serve salt lick for dinner! So, it was another "perfect roast chicken" a la the Barefoot Contessa. This one I stuffed with lemon, garlic, and a big bunch of scallions as well as a cheesecloth bag of herbes de Provence. The leftovers were gobbled up happily the next evening in their new incarnation. I know exactly how I'm going to use up my leftover Thanksgiving turkey this year

Makes 8 - 10
2 medium ripe avocados
1/4 cup finely chopped red onion
1 medium lime, one half juiced and the other half cut into wedges
1 serrano chili, seeded and minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground pepper
4 cups shredded roast chicken (or turkey)
2 cups fresh corn kernels, blanched (2 ears)
1/2 cup packed, coarsely chopped cilantro
2 cups grated Pepper Jack cheese
8 - 10 flour tortillas (6 or 7 inch)
canola oil

Preheat oven to 200 degrees.

Halve and pit the avocados. Scoop the flesh into a bowl and mash. Stir in the onion, 1 tbs lime juice, the chili, and 1/2 tsp each of salt and pepper. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the guacamole to prevent it from browning.

In a large bowl, toss the shredded chicken, corn, and cilantro with 1 tsp salt. Top half of each tortilla with equal part of the filling and about 1/4 cup of the cheese. Fold the uncovered half of each tortilla over the filling.

Heat 1 tsp oil in a large nonstick skillet . Add 2 quesadillas at a time and cook until golden brown and a bit crisp on each side (1-2 minutes per side). Transfer to a baking sheet in the preheated oven. Wipe out the pan, add another teaspoon of oil, and repeat until all quesadillas are done. Cut the quesadillas into wedges and serve with the guacamole and lime wedges on the side. Salsa and sour cream are optional.
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TASTE NOTES
DSO kept saying, "These are better than any restaurant quesadillas" (that, of course, garnered the leftovers for his lunch). I would have to say that the addition of the fresh corn and the cilantro made these very simple ingredients sing. The homemade guacamole put to shame any of the pre-made variety available in grocery stores these days. A big tossed salad made this a perfect meal after a tough day. This is definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

CAULIFLOWER SFORMATO



I'm going to share a secret:  a sformato is an Italian version of a souffle. BACK AWAY FROM THE DELETE KEY. Trust me, you CAN make this dish and you can make it on a weeknight. I try not to fall into the mindset that I have to have a starch with every meal and have been successful at substituting 2 veggies for the more typical veggie and a starch. Let's just say that this cauliflower sformato is a "carbie" veggie. It paired beautifully with a roasted chicken, but would work as well with pork or beef or lamb. If I weren't already serving brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving, I'd serve this in place of mashed potatoes.

Serves 6 - 8
1 small cauliflower (about 2 pounds)
2 tbs olive oil; more for the gratin dish
Kosher salt
1 3/4 oz freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano
3 3/4 cups whole milk (I used fat free)
4 oz unsalted butter
2 1/4 oz all purpose flour
3 large eggs
2 large egg yolks
2 tbs extra virgin olive oil
freshly ground black pepper

Position a rack in the center of the oven and heat the oven to 375 degrees.

Core the cauliflower and separate it into florets. Cut the florets into 1/4 inch thick slices. Put the cauliflower on a rimmed baking sheet and toss with the olive oil. Spread in an even layer, season with 1/2 tsp salt, and roast until tender, 30-35 minutes. Cool briefly.

Raise the oven temperature to 400 degrees. Brush an 8 X 10 gratin dish with olive oil and evenly coat with about half of the grated cheese.

Heat the milk in a heavy saucepan until just about to boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a heavy saucepan. Whisk in the flour and cook, whisking constantly, until the mixture turns light golden, 2 to 4 minutes. Slowly add the hot milk, whisking constantly, until very smooth. Bring just to a boil and reduce the heat to maintain a simmer. Add 1 tsp salt and cook, stirring frequently, for 10 minutes, to develop the flavor. Transfer to a large bowl.

In a small bowl, whisk the eggs, yolks, and olive oil. Roughly chop 1/2 cup of the cauliflower and puree the rest. Stir the chopped cauliflower, puree, egg mixture, and remaining cheese into the sauce. Season to taste with salt and pepper.

Pour the mixture into the prepared gratin dish and bake until the sformato is just set and browned around the edges, about 30 minutes. It should jiggle slightly when you remove it from the oven. Let the sformato rest for 10-15 minutes before serving.

NOTE:  the accompanying photo pictures half the recipe baked in a smaller glass dish; you could also bake in individual ramekins


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TASTE NOTES
I could have been satisfied with eating this dish as my main course. The flavor, combined with a wonderful creamy texture, made it an instant hit. In fact, having sampled the roasted cauliflower as it came out of the oven, I intend to serve that as a veggie side very soon. Since a simple white sauce is key to so many wonderful dishes (think macaroni and cheese, pastitsio, to name two), it is worth learning to whip one up as a regular skill in your cooking repertoire. As a postscript, don't be disappointed if this doesn't look like your normal souffle--it doesn't puff up. It's the light, airy texture that likens it to a souffle.







Friday, October 22, 2010

CHICKEN MARSALA CREPES


Don't worry if your family doesn't enjoy leftovers. They'll never even ask if these chicken Marsala crepes are in any way "related" to that perfect roast chicken you made night before last. Because I had bought such a large chicken (8 pounds), I had more than enough meat left over for lunch the next day and this lovely dinner.

I used Alton Brown's recipe for crepes. I didn't make them savoury because I felt the Marsala sauce should stand on its own. I adapted one of Giada's recipes to make the Marsala sauce. I then combined 8 ounces of medium chopped leftover chicken with the Marsala sauce, rolled each crepe around a hearty 1/4 cup of filling and placed them in a buttered 9 X 13 casserole dish, sprinkled with freshly grated Asiago cheese, and baked, covered in foil, in a 325 degree oven for 40 minutes.





TASTE NOTES:
Don't be afraid to make crepes. Thirty years ago I bought this silly "crepe maker" that took up precious storage space and was no easier than making crepes the conventional way. I used a 6 inch nonstick skillet which I brushed with melted butter after each crepe. The first two looked a bit wonky, but that part was hidden on the bottom. Other than some overcooked fingertips, they were very easy to make. I measured out 1/4 cup of batter for each crepe and the recipe yielded 11 delicious, buttery crepes. Giada's Marsala sauce was very flavorful; shallots always add a bit of sophistication that onions lack. The Asiago cheese...well, I confess that I can eat this on nearly every form of protein as well as out-of-hand. This dish was assembled and ready to bake in under an hour. I then refrigerated it to cook later in the day. A glass of Corvo reserve made it go down even easier.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

BAREFOOT CONTESSA PERFECT ROAST CHICKEN


Note to Yankee Candle:  your housewarming candle collection would be greatly enhanced by a Perfect Roast Chicken aroma. This new candle could be used by homeowners desperate to sell their homes. Trust me when I say it's better than the smell of cookies baking. When DSO came home from work, the smell was so enticing he was ready to have dinner at 3:30 PM!

I've roasted many chickens over the years and up until this point my favorite has been the one based on the dish served in Boston's Hammersley's Bistro (click here). As delicious as that preparation is, the Barefoot Contessa's recipe is everything she promises and more. One would guess that my Italian ancestry might mean that fennel is a staple of The Food of Love kitchen. That has not been the case, though I love the flavor anise imparts. However, I can tell you that it will soon become a regular on the veggie rotation; it was that good.

The recipe for this quintessential chicken is available on the Food TV website (click here). I usually read the comments to see what others think of the dish and what caught my eye immediately was the suggestion to roast the chicken in a Dutch oven. Since I love my Le Creuset monster Dutch oven, that's just what I did.

Perdue roasters had been on sale, so I bought an 8 pound chicken. Needless to say, there was plenty of leftover chicken. Stay tuned for chicken marsala crepes which I'll post toward week's end.
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TASTE NOTES:
Where to begin? The onions break down and sweeten the carrots and anise even more. The lemon, garlic, and thyme in the cavity of the chicken truly does flavor every bit of the meat with punches of flavor. The breast meat was moist--no gravy is needed for this chicken. The skin (yes, I sneaked a bite) is better than any potato chip. Anyone who can read and tell time can make this chicken. If you've never tried Ina's version of a Sunday classic, this is the perfect weather for it.

Friday, October 15, 2010

BLACK FOREST CAKE


This week has been filled with events for the volunteer group that I coordinate. Being short on time and having to produce two desserts in as many days, I was looking for quick and easy as well as delicious. Being a big fan of Mennonite Girls Can Cook, I perused their website for something to fit the bill. This version of a favorite dessert, Black Forest Cake, immediately caught my eye. Normally I'd make a chocolate ganache filling, bake my favorite chocolate cake, whip some cream, and, if the season were right, make a cherry pie filling. The beauty of this recipe is that you can use a good boxed cake mix, instant chocolate pudding, canned cherry pie filling (though a wonderful recipe for homemade cherry filling is given), and just whip your cream and assemble.

Since there were mainly crumbs left when I went to collect my cake carrier, you can be sure no one cared that this was the quick and easy version. If you've never visited the "Mennonite Girls" blog, be sure to do so. They have just shared the exciting news that they're publishing a cookbook whose proceeds they will use to feed hungry children.

The recipe for the cake is here.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Roasted Brussels Sprouts with Mushrooms and Cream


It's good to be home, though our week in Longboat Key was punctuated by gorgeous weather and fabulous seafood. Before we left for home, I'd scheduled this post, but I wanted to add a "pre-script" to say how much I missed the ability to keep up with my blogging friends. Sadly, we're not "connected" since we don't spend large blocks of time in Florida. I'll be catching up soon, though--promise!

I don't know about you, but I've already started planning this Thanksgiving's feast by auditioning some new sides. We've been happily eating some form of roasted brussels sprouts for the past few years, but when I saw this recipe in the October/November 2010 issue of FINE COOKING, I thought it was time for a change. Since we would be eating this on a regular weeknight, I did cut back on the fats, reducing the olive oil and butter and cream by more than half. I also used sliced white mushrooms instead of wild mushrooms since that's what I had on hand. My changes are in red.)

Serves 6 (yeah, right!)
1 1/2 lbs brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved lengthwise
5 tbs olive oil (2 tbs)
Kosher salt
3 tbs unsalted butter (1 tbs)
3/4 lb wild mushrooms, halved or cut into 1 inch wedges
1 large shallot, thinly sliced
1/4 cup dry white wine (sherry)
1 cup heavy cream (1/2 cup)
freshly ground black pepper

Position rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 450 degrees.

Put the brussels sprouts on a rimmed baking sheet, and drizzle with the olive oil; toss to coat. Spread them into a single layer and season generously with salt. Roast until tender and browned, about 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Heat a 12 inch skillet over high heat. When the pan is hot, add 1 tbs of the olive oil and 2 tbs of the butter. When the butter is melted, add the mushrooms in an even layer and cook, stirring occasionally, until golden-brown and tender, 5 to 8 minutes. Season to taste with the salt and pepper and remove from the skillet.

Set the skillet over medium-high heat and add the remaining 1 tbs of olive oil and 1 tbs butter. When the butter is melted, add the shallot and cook until tender and golden, about 4 minutes. Add the wine and cook until reduced by half, about 1 minute. Return the mushrooms to the pan, add the brussels sprouts and cream. Stir in a few grinds of pepper and cook, stirring, until the cream thickens and coats the vegetables, about 3 to 4 minutes. Season to taste and serve immediately.
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TASTE NOTES
Note to self:  buy lots and lots of brussels sprouts for Thanksgiving so others can taste the dish, too. These were, in a word, magnificent! Because I make lots of side dishes, I like to be able to prepare as many of them as possible the day before. This dish can be made up to the point where you saute the shallot, then set the dish aside to be finished at the last minute. I did this for dinner just to make certain it wouldn't suffer from sitting around. Believe me, it didn't. The carmelization on the roasted sprouts is what has made this the only method THE FOOD OF LOVE kitchen uses for this vegetable. The cream just coats the vegetables and adds another layer of sweetness to that imparted by the shallot. I don't know if it's necessary to add back any of the oil and butter (DSO is lobbying for that), but I will add the full complement of cream, but only for holidays. :)

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Chicken Noodle Soup


For many years Martha Stewart was my domestic goddess of choice. That changed a number of years ago when I discovered that despite her fondness for butter and cream, Ina Garten created food that I could eat on a regular basis. Move over, Martha, there's a new queen in town and she doesn't necessarily raise her own chickens and grow her own vegetables before putting a meal on the table.

I've been cooking my way through several of her cookbooks and decided it was time to try Ina's take on chicken noodle soup (Barefoot Contessa Family Style). Ina has convinced me that baking chicken breasts for chicken soup or for chicken salad is far superior to poaching them. I was converted the first time I made her spectacular chicken salad (recipe here).

Serves 6
1 whole (2 split) chicken breast, bone in, skin on
olive oil
Kosher salt
freshly ground black pepper
2 quarts homemade chicken stock
1 cup medium-diced celery (2 stalks)
1 cup medium-diced carrots (3 carrots)
2 cups wide egg noodles (about 3 oz dry) - I use the no yolk variety
1/4 cup chopped fresh parsley

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

Place the chicken breast on a sheet pan and rub the skin with olive oil. Sprinkle generously with salt and pepper. Roast for 35-40 minutes until cooked through. When cool enough to handle, remove the skin, then remove the meat from the bones and dice the chicken meat.

Bring the chicken stock to a simmer in a large pot and add the celery, carrots, and the noodles. Simmer uncovered for about 20 minutes, until the noodles and vegetables are cooked. Add the cooked chicken meat and parsley. Season to taste and serve.
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TASTE NOTES
This is not rocket science. This is a straightforward recipe for those nights when you don't have time to start with a whole chicken and work your way through making stock, then turning it into soup. Either use chicken stock you've made and frozen ahead of time, or cheat and use one of the many stocks available in the market.  This is soul-satisfying soup that we enjoyed as dinner with some cheesy garlic bread. Leftovers make a wonderful lunch, or eat half and freeze half for another, "I got home late and don't have time to cook." This is a filling, yet relatively low-calorie food.