12.31.2009

12.26.2009

The Bowls Are Coming!

Ahhh football! Love it. Are you planning to watch the games? Or hosting a party? How about trying one of our favorite dips! Not too filling (in case you are having a big meal after) and each has its own personality. Something that you can make ahead and, a big must for me, not take up stove or oven space. I like to serve something with some pizazz. Not the hackneyed clam, crab or onion dips... I think we've had enough of them.... but some others we really like around my house.

The first I posted a while back- a nice spicy eggplant dip. Delicious. You can find it HERE. But it takes a tad more time to prepare than you may wish to spend. The others are simple to make and can be made a day ahead- in fact I've found most dips are better the second day, haven't you?

Happy New Year everyone and Happy Bowl watching!

Sun Dried Tomato Dip
Adapted from Cuisine At Home



Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, room temperature
6 ounces plain yogurt
1/4 cup sour cream
3/4 cup oil packed sun-dried tomatoes, drained
1/3 cup shallots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1/2 teaspoon lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1/3 cup fresh parsley, finely chopped
1 tablespoon minced fresh tarragon
Crackers or bagel chips

Method:
Blend cream cheese, yogurt, sour cream, tomatoes, shallots, lemon juice, zest and salt in a food processor until smooth. Fold in parsley and tarragon, then chill for at least 1 hour.

Smoked Bluefish Paté
From Open House Cookbook by Sarah Leah Chase



 Ingredients:
1 pound smoked bluefish, skinned and flaked (I use whitefish)
12 ounces cream cheese, softened
6 tablespoons butter, softened
1 red onion, minced
1/4 cup chopped dill pickle
2 tablespoons capers, drained
3 tablespoons lemon juice
2 tablespoons cognac

Method:
Beat fish, cream cheese and butter in a bowl. Add other ingredients but do not over beat. Some texture is desired. Cover and refrigerate several hours. Serve with crackers. Makes about 3 cups.


Smoked Salmon Spread

From Barefoot Contessa, Family Style


 
Ingredients:
8 ounces cream cheese, at room temperature
1 teaspoon horseradish, drained
1/2 cup sour cream
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
1 tablespoon minced fresh dill
1/4 pound (4 ounces) good quality smoked salmon, minced

Method:
Cream the cheese until just smooth. Add the sour cream, lemon juice, dill, horseradish, salt, and pepper, and mix. Add the smoked salmon and mix well. Chill and serve with crackers or toasted baguette slices.

12.19.2009

Christmas Collections

It's Christmas week so I thought it would be fun to show you some of our ornaments, collections and decorations. My camera is old... excuse the poor photos. 
Santa Baby, can I please have a new camera? Been an awful good girl....

We live in Florida, love all things pertaining to the ocean, so our tree has a lot of sea-related ornaments. Such fun. We try to add to it each year.
I have collected Santas of all kinds since I was a child and several of the red ones pictured here belonged to my mother. Mixed in with both the red and blue Santas are Schaller's gift givers, now distributed by Radko. Each one opens up and there is room inside to place a very small gift. For those of you who would like to know more about gift givers, HERE is their fascinating history.














I made the Santa on the right many years ago. Looks like he's had too much punch! That's a Radko on the left; he's actually a pull toy, if anyone dared!


The blue Santas are all Schaller/Radko Gift Givers. The red ones are a mixture of Gift Givers, antiques, a nutcracker and even a little Santa Limoges.


The bowl on the left contains my mother's old ornaments; you can still see the flocking on them. The tree on the right was made by an elderly woman for my mother...back in the 50's and she got her ornaments from HER mother, who was a miniature collector. I have a pair. I treasure them and continue to be impressed with her patience to work with such tiny ornaments. They stand about 12 inches high.


My daughter brought me the adorable snowlady a couple years ago. I love her. And I made four of the needlepoint stockings. Can you tell which ones?




My sister made the Santa on the left. Isn't she talented? The tree on the right is a Radko tree. Many years ago, the Radko people offered a new ornament every month and if you bought all twelve, you got the tree and the topper. If you look carefully you can see each month; back to school is on the lower left.....you can see books hanging from an old schoolhouse. It depicts September of course. Difficult to see in a photo, but it is fun to look at.





Merry Christmas to everyone!!!
"Tis the season for kindling the fire of hospitality in the hall, the genial fire of charity in the heart"

Washington Irving

Happy Hanukkah!
… and May This Festival of Lights bring Blessings upon you and All Your Loved Ones for Happiness, for Health, and for Spiritual and Material Wealth, and May the Lights of Chanukah Usher in the Light of Moshiach and a Better World for All of Humankind.
Hanukkah blessing


12.17.2009

A Christmas Cake

May I introduce (again) Maida Heatter.... The Queen of Desserts. I've bought each of her books the minute they came off the press. I never stop singing her praises because her books are a delight, cover everything you've ever wanted to make AND her attention to detail results in no-fail desserts. Her instructions are amazing and she often relates an interesting background behind each recipe. 


Because of my odd aversion to fruit cake I was thrilled to find this recipe in one of her books a number of years ago. It's basically a Christmas Cake. There's no candied fruit- it's chock full of nuts. And it's drizzled with brandy....a big plus for a Christmas Cake. The only resemblance to fruit cake is the dough before baking- loaded with nuts and not much batter.

When I'm asked to bring a dessert for a large group this time of year I always take Maida's Southern Nut Cake. Which I did last weekend and for three excellent reasons: it's very much a holiday cake and it looks super surrounded with holly; it serves a LOT of people and lastly, you don't need a plate because it's so firm a cake. This year I actually got phone calls from people who wanted to tell me how good it was and wanted the recipe. I've made it for tea at other times of the year by dividing the recipe in half and baking it in a loaf pan but this original recipe fills an angel food cake pan as you can see. Another winner from Maida! You'll love it.


Southern Nut Cake
From Maida Heatter's Book of Great Desserts




Ingredients:

1 pound walnuts (4 ½ cups)
1 pound pecans (4 ½ cups)
3 ½  cups sifted flour
2 teaspoons double acting baking powder
½ teaspoon mace
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup milk
¼ cup brandy or bourbon
¾ pound butter (1 ½ cups), room temperature
2 cups sugar
6 eggs, room temperature
extra brandy or bourbon for the finished cake

Method:

Adjust oven rack 1/3 the way up from the bottom. Preheat oven to 325°. Butter a 10 by 4 inch tube pan (like an angel food cake pan). Line the bottom with wax or parchment paper. Butter the paper and dust all over with fine bread crumbs.

Break or cut the nuts into large pieces. They should NOT be finely chopped. Place them in the largest bowl you have.


Sift together the flour, baking powder, mace and salt. Set aside. Combine the milk and brandy or bourbon. Set aside.

In an electric mixer, cream the butter. Add the sugar and beat for a few minutes, scraping the bowl as necessary. On moderate speed, add the eggs one at a time, beating until thoroughly incorporated after each egg and scraping the bowl when necessary to keep everything well mixed. Increase speed and beat until light and fluffy- about 3 minutes. The batter may look curdled at this point- that's OK.


On lowest speed alternately add the sifted dry ingredients in three additions with the milk mixture in two, scraping the bowl as necessary with the spatula and beating only until smooth after each addition.

Pour the batter over the nuts. Stir with a large wooden spoon until the nuts are all coated with the batter. Turn into the prepared pan and level the top.




Bake for 1 ¾ hours or until a cake tester comes out clean. Remove from the oven and place the cake pan on a rack. Generously sprinkle or brush the brandy or bourbon on top of the hot cake. Let cake cool in the pan for about 20 minutes.

Cover the cake with a rack and invert to remove pan and paper. Cover with another rack and carefully invert again to cool. It's better if it sits for 24 hours before cutting.

Using the cake for a tea: 



12.14.2009

Chocolate Chestnut Torte

Does anything say Christmas more than chestnuts? I mean really. Years ago I made some chestnut ice cream and served it with a dark hot fudge sauce. Oh man, it was sooooo good. But aside from using chestnuts in my stuffing at Thanksgiving (and a couple times in brussel sprouts), I haven't used chestnuts in very many dishes. I was going to try Mark Bittman's Chestnut Soup, but then I remembered how that hot fudge tasted with the chestnut ice cream and I dug up this old Gourmet recipe to try. (God I miss Gourmet!)

The batter is rather thick so be patient when you fold in the meringue. It's also important that you use canned or bottled chestnuts. Fresh chestnuts will not purée well enough. The recipe also calls for marrons glacés but I didn't care to spend a small fortune just for 8 or 9. So I made my own. Sort of. At any rate they served the purpose. I made a sugar syrup and then boiled them. Cooled them and boiled them again; the syrup got nice and thick so I removed them and stuck them in the fridge. Then continued on with the chocolate dipping as called for in the recipe. If you want to make these for real and have the time, the recipe is HERE.

The cake turned out  fudgy, dense and a chocolate lovers delight! I also think next time I will put a little less rum in the glaze.  ( I can't believe I actually said that!) And the whipped cream is a must.

Chocolate Chestnut Torte
Gourmet, October 1990



Ingredients:
For the torte:

3/4 pound (about 2 cups) canned or vacuum-packed whole chestnuts, rinsed, drained well, and patted dry if using canned
1 stick (1/2 cup) unsalted butter, softened
4 tablespoons dark rum
10 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped and melted
6 large eggs, separated
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar

For the glaze and garnish:

6 ounces fine-quality bittersweet chocolate, chopped fine
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tablespoon dark rum
8 marrons glacés (candied chestnuts, available at specialty foods shops)

For the whipped cream:

1 cup well-chilled heavy cream
1 tablespoon sugar, or to taste
1 tablespoon dark rum if desired
3/4 cup chopped marrons glacés

Method:

Line the bottom of a greased 9-inch springform pan with wax paper, grease the paper, and dust the pan with flour, knocking out the excess. In a food processor purée the chestnuts with the butter and the rum, scraping down the sides, until the mixture is smooth. Add the chocolate and blend the mixture until it is combined well. With the motor running, add the yolks, 1 at a time, and transfer the mixture to a large bowl. In a bowl with an electric mixer beat the whites with the salt until they hold soft peaks, add the sugar, a little at a time, beating, and beat the meringue until it holds stiff peaks. Whisk about one fourth of the meringue into the chocolate mixture to lighten it and fold in the remaining meringue gently but thoroughly. Pour the batter into the prepared pan, smooth the top, and bake the torte in the middle of a preheated 350°F. oven for 45 to 55 minutes, or until a tester comes out with crumbs adhering to it and the top is cracked. Let the torte cool in the pan on a rack for 5 minutes, remove the side of the pan, and invert the torte onto another rack. Remove the bottom of the pan, reinvert the torte onto a rack.




Let it cool completely. (The torte will fall as it cools.)

Make the glaze and garnish:

Put the chocolate in a small bowl, in a saucepan bring the cream to a boil, and pour it over the chocolate. Stir the mixture until the chocolate is melted and the glaze is smooth and stir in the rum. Dip each candied chestnut halfway into the glaze to coat it partially, transfer the chestnuts to a foil-covered tray, and let them set. (These are MY pitiful marrons glacés.)



Invert the torte onto a rack set on wax paper, pour the glaze over it, smoothing the glaze with a spatula and letting the excess drip down the side, and let the torte stand for 2 hours, or until the glaze is set. Transfer the torte carefully to a serving plate and garnish it with the coated chestnuts.




Make the whipped cream just before serving the torte:
In a chilled bowl with chilled beaters beat the cream until it holds soft peaks, beat in the sugar and the rum, and beat the mixture until it holds stiff peaks. Fold in the chopped candied chestnuts.
You may prefer no whipped cream, but trust me on this, serve the torte with the whipped cream.


12.10.2009

Holiday Scones

Oh no. More pumpkin? Sorry, but I just couldn't resist this recipe. And if you like pumpkin, you won't be able to either.
My daughter-in-law gave me a wonderful cookbook for my birthday a couple weeks ago.




 It's a delight and what's really a coincidence is my daughter took one look at it and exclaimed "I go there all the time....they're fabulous!" Turns out the authors have a store in NYC very near her apartment. Check it out HERE.

And they have a chapter on scones. I love scones. Any time, any place. For breakfast, for tea, for a snack. Lashed with butter and perhaps honey or homemade jam. But these scones are wonderful all by themselves. Not too sweet. Melt in your mouth delicious. They are indeed seasonal, but there were some other scone recipes in this cookbook that I can't wait to try. At any rate, I am going to freeze these for when the kids are here over the holidays. It's very difficult to sit typing when they are in the kitchen still warm and the house smells divine. But I am going to resist taste-testing more than one!

Spiced Pumpkin Scones with Fresh Cranberries

From Once Upon a Tart by Frank Mentesana and Jerome Audureau



Ingredients:

4 cups all purpose flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ teaspoon ground cloves
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
½ cup sugar
½ pound plus 6 tablespoons (2 ¾ sticks)cold unsalted butter, cut into 1/4 inch cubes
2 large eggs
¾ cup cold buttermilk
1 cup canned pumpkin purée
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 cup fresh cranberries, coarsely chopped
½ cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
½ cup golden raisins

Method:

Preheat oven to 400°, place rack in the center and line a baking pan with parchment paper.
Dump all the dry ingredients in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the cold butter and pulse until the mixture looks like coarse crumbs. Do not overmix. Dump the crumbs into a large bowl.
In another bowl, whisk the eggs, then whisk in the buttermilk, purée and vanilla. Whisk in the cranberries, walnuts and raisins.
Pour the wet ingredients over the flour mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon just until the mixture comes together. Then stop. Do not overwork the mixture.
Using a ½ cup measuring cup (or a large ice cream scoop like I did) and place the dough on the parchment paper about 2 inches between scones.




Bake 20 to 25 minutes or until a cake tester comes out clean.



Allow to cool slightly and then cool completely on a baking rack. Makes 12 scones.

12.07.2009

Traditions

On Christmas morning we pretty much follow what has become a family tradition: coffee, juice and miniature muffins to assuage growling tummys, then we move (with the former in hand) to the living room and take down the stockings, which Santa hopefully filled with goodies and not coal. Often, depending on the age and impatience of the kids, we let them go and peak at their stockings right away. We're not Scrooges, after all.

Gifts under the tree come next. We adults leisurely take turns, keeping half an eye on the kids who are at this point madly ripping and tearing. Long about 10 or 10:30, someone suggests Bellinis. Ah yes. Good timing. Excellent thinking. I'm up for that. Mmmmmm. We follow with brunch around 11 or 11:30.

This year we're going to start with some Limoncello-drizzled fruit and a heavenly lemon curd/yogurt topping. I served it for the first time last year and it was a smash hit. You can find the recipe HERE. Then out comes our "souffle". Now my brunch dish is another tradition in our family... I have been making it since my kids were little. I must confess other than the egg to milk to bread proportion, I kind of fudge with the cheese and bacon amounts- sometimes using more than called for. And I often double or at least 1 1/2 the recipe. Everyone likes to pick at it in the kitchen all afternoon. You make it the night before and it bakes while we are opening gifts; the bacon and cheese aroma wafts through the house...can anything smell better in the morning? I think this year, just to add insult to injury, I may serve Ina's sticky buns. You will find Ina's recipe HERE. Do you think I've planned to serve enough fatty foods so far? On the 26th we're all going to need those wretched green drinks that (supposedly) cleanse our systems! And yet there is more to follow: we have our main Christmas meal in the evening!


Any traditions in your family? Please share.

My Christmas Brunch "Souffle"



Ingredients:
7 big slices bread- I use challah

8 ounces grated sharp cheddar cheese
3 cups whole milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon pepper
1 teaspoon dry mustard
3 strips bacon, cut in half
6 large eggs, beaten

Method:
Tear the bread in pieces and put them in a buttered baking dish. I use an oval one...see the photo. Beat eggs, add milk and then add the remaining ingredients. Sprinkle the cheese over the bread and pour the milk/egg mixture over everything. Lay bacon on top. Seal and refrigerate overnight. Bake 350° for 50 to 55 minutes. I bake it on a foil-lined baking sheet in case there is any spill over. Serves 6-8.

12.04.2009

A Lovely Torte, A Lovely Idea and Some Lovely Awards

The  Torte
My very first posting was a Chocolate Cinnamon Torte. It occurs to me we often post our favorite and best recipes first...and get few, if any, comments. Then they get lost in the shuffle of newer recipes. I was experimenting back then, not sure I would continue or not. It took me a while to understand you get blogger comments (aside from friends and family who rarely comment anyway) after you comment on other blogs. Helloooo. And then I read someplace that over 90% who read your blog don't comment at all. I find that hard to believe, but perhaps you all have an opinion on that astounding statistic.
Anyway back on subject... let's move on to the absolutely, positively MOST DELICIOUS TORTE YOU'LL EVER HAVE.

Chocolate Cinnamon Torte



Ingredients:

2 and 3/4 cups all purpose flour, sifted
1 and 1/2 cups butter, softened
2 cups granulated sugar
2 eggs (room temperature)
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
4 cups whipping cream
1/2 square grated unsweetened chocolate
1 tablespoon cocoa powder
2 tablespoons sugar
1 square of German cooking chocolate (make some decorative curls for the top)

Method:

Prepare the pans: I use 4 cake pans as I can fit this many in my oven at the same time. You will be making 12 cookies so you will cool, reline and reuse the cake pans. Cut wax paper circles to fit the bottom only of the cake pans. Lightly grease the bottom of the pans, put in the wax paper and then lightly grease the top of the wax paper. Set aside.
Preheat your oven to 375°.

Beat the butter and sugar well and add the eggs one at a time. Add the flour and cinnamon. When the dough is well mixed, use about 1/3 cup of dough in each cake pan, spreading it carefully all over the bottom. It will be very thin, but make certain the bottom is entirely covered. Bake for 8-12 minutes. Watch carefully as it burns easily. You want the "cookies" to be a little brown but remove them before the edges darken. You must take them out of the cake pans immediately while they are still soft; with the tip of a sharp paring knife lift up the edge of the wax paper under the cookie and slide the wax paper (along with the cookie) out of the pan. I spread newspapers on my counters as the cookies are greasy and they need to cool. You should have enough dough for 12 cookies.

While the cookies cool, whip the cream, reserving 1 cup. With the remaining whipped cream, layer the cookies, carefully removing the wax paper as you do each layer. I probably spread about 1/2 cup of whipped cream on each layer. End with a cookie.
To the remaining 1 cup of reserved whipped cream, add the unsweetened grated chocolate, the cocoa and the sugar. Place on top of the last cookie layer and top with chocolate curls.

Refrigerate at least overnight as the cookies are crisp and the cake will break if you try to slice it the same day. Overnight, the cookies soften. Serves 10-12 if not more.

The Idea
A friend of mine emailed this to me today. I think it is a fabulous idea and hope you will all join me.
When doing your Christmas cards this year, take one card and send it to this address. If we pass this on and everyone sends one card, think of how many cards these wonderful special people who have sacrificed so much would get. When you are making out your Christmas card list this year, please include the following:

A Recovering American Soldier
c/o Walter Reed Army Medical Center
6900 Georgia Avenue,NW
Washington,D.C. 20307-5001

The Awards
Forgive me for being so slow to acknowledge some awards I have received recently. No excuse for it, really.
I want to thank Shaz from Test With Skewer for the One Lovely Blog Award. It was my first.



And thank you to Julianna at Simple Recipes for the Kreativ Blogger Award.



Kristy  at My Little Space presented me with The People Love This Site Like Peas Love Carrots Award...thank you Kristy!



This week, Kate at Serendipity presented me with the lovely Honest Scrap Award. Thank you again, Kate.



I am honored to receive all these wonderful awards and hope you won't mind if I combine rules on a couple awards- killing several birds with one stone as it were. I'll pass on the Honest Scrap award to seven bloggers.

Here are the rules for the Honest Scrap Award: Present this award to seven others whose blogs you find brilliant in content and/or design, or those who have encouraged you.
Tell those seven people they’ve been awarded HONEST SCRAP, inform them of these guidelines, and ask that they link back to you. (Here's the thing: some of you may not accept awards, some of you may already have this award and some don't want to bother with all the lists. That's OK with me. I still want to pass the award on. Whatever you decide to do is fine with me.)

Here goes:

1. Grace at A Southern Grace because her comments encouraged me from the start and she has a beautifully designed blog, let alone a wonderful way with words.

2. Lecia at A Day That is Dessert because I simply love her photographs
3. Heavenly Housewife at From Donuts to Delirium because of her sense of fun
4. Kathy at Sweet Up-North Mornings because she is amazingly creative, sweet and from Michigan!
5. TKW at The Kitchen Witch because she makes me roar with laughter
6. Pam at Sidewalk Shoes because I love her cats
7. Buffalodick at Opinions and Rectums, We All Got One because not only is he the first male blogger I followed, but he's a fellow Michigander and that counts for a lot.

And now 10 honest things about myself. 

1. Recently had a hip replacement. Arthritis has also attacked my shoulder. I am putting off doing anything about it. I'm chicken. PS: the hip is fine, I am back to normal.
2.  The Atlantic ocean is right across the street.
3.  Used to love duck hunting.
4.  I work out 6 days a week: step, weight classes and pilates.
5.  My hometown was Algonac, Michigan.
6.  Love and adore my three grown children: two sons and a daughter.
7.  Don't like really spicy food. (It doesn't like me, either.)
8.  Reading is my favorite thing to do, besides the computer.
9.  Love college football. M Go Blue! (Go Lions.) No groans and pity, please.
10.  I've traveled pretty much all over but have two favorite places, both in the Caribbean: Anse Chastanet on St. Lucia and Grace Bay Club on Providenciales, Turks and Caicos.

12.01.2009

More Christmas Cookies

When I hear anyone say fruit cake I practically run screaming from the room. I cringe with embarrassment when I remember how many I made for the kids' teachers years ago.  No doubt I was the brunt of many fruit cake jokes in the teacher's lounge...all of them trying to figure out how to dump them tactfully. I never liked fruitcake anyway but my mother, bless her heart, thought it was delicious- so she pried a secret family recipe out of her friend Martha Kirby and passed it on to me. I could have told her not to bother but by then she had the recipe and insisted I make it. Let me be blunt: candied fruit now makes my stomach turn over. (That fruitcake recipe's only saving grace: they were soaked in brandy.) Somebody must still make them because candied fruit takes pride of place in the supermarket- starting pretty much now.

On the other hand these dried fruit cookies are wonderful. They're nothing like fruit cake and to remove even the slightest suggestion, I don't use candied cherries, I use dried cherries. The problem with my substitution is you don't get that little bit of vivid red in your cookie. So if you want, replace my dried red cherries with candied red cherries. Won't bother me and that's what was in the original recipe. Keep in mind the dried fruit must soak overnight so plan to make these a day ahead.

This recipe makes a lot of cookies; you roll it into a log and you can keep it in the fridge, slice and bake them as you want. I don't know why you couldn't freeze the dough for maybe up to a month. Then thaw in the fridge overnight before baking. They travel (and ship) really well and keep for quite a while. They're kind of like peanuts though, nibble, nibble all day long.


Dried Fruit Cookies
(Adapted from Ina Garten)



Ingredients:

1/2 pound dried figs
1/4 pound raisins
2 ounces dried red cherries

2 ounces dried apricots, coarsely chopped
1 tablespoon honey
2 tablespoons dry sherry
1 tablespoon freshly squeezed lemon juice
6 ounces chopped pecans
Kosher salt
1/2 pound (2 sticks) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 teaspoon ground cloves
1/2 cup superfine sugar
1/3 cup light brown sugar, firmly packed 1 extra-large egg
2 2/3 cups all-purpose flour


Method:

Cut off the hard stems of the figs with scissors  and coarsely chop the figs. Combine the figs, raisins, cherries, apricots, honey, sherry, lemon juice, pecans, and a pinch of salt. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to sit overnight at room temperature.




In an electric mixer cream the butter, cloves, superfine sugar, and brown sugar on medium speed until smooth, about 3 minutes. With the mixer on low speed, add the egg and mix until incorporated. With the mixer still on low, slowly add the flour and 1/4 teaspoon salt just until combined. 
Add the fruits and nuts, including any liquid in the bowl. Divide the dough in half and place each half on the long edge of a 12 by 18-inch piece of parchment or waxed paper. Roll each half into a log, 1 1/2 to 1 3/4-inch thick, making an 18-inch-long roll. Refrigerate the dough for several hours, or until firm.



Preheat the oven to 350°.
With a small, sharp knife, cut the logs into 1/2-inch-thick slices. Place the slices 1/2-inch apart on ungreased sheet pans and bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until lightly golden.

11.27.2009

Shrimp Remoulade

Christmas Eve never got officially underway in our family until my mother arrived with her Shrimp Remoulade. I think everyone wished we could have it on other holidays as well, but it was understood, if unspoken, we'd only have it Christmas Eve. Mother served the remoulade in a particularly hideous plastic clam shell. It was huge. God it was a frightful thing......can't imagine where she got it. Anyway, when Mother got older and cooking anything at all got beyond her (it happens) I took over the responsibility. And although the clam shell was passed on to me, it mysteriously disappeared.

I don't make the remoulade as often as I used to which is strange because my boys especially love it. This year though, they are going to be surprised: we are going to a friend's home for Christmas Eve and the hostess is going to make it. Mother's recipe was included in a family cookbook I did a couple years ago and she has a copy.

Because I made the remoulade for a cocktail party last week, I took photos as I went along (The blogger's ongoing obsession with photos!) so I could eventually post it. It's always a big hit and while I suppose you could eat it right away, it really needs to sit in the fridge for 24 hours so the flavors can meld. We never serve it with crackers, just some pretty party picks placed nearby.

Mother's Shrimp Remoulade




Ingredients:

3 pounds cooked shrimp, shelled and deveined
1 1/4 cups salad oil

1/2 cup Dijon mustard
1/3 cup white wine vinegar
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons paprika
2 teaspoons red hot pepper sauce
2 chopped hard boiled eggs, chopped fine
1 cup celery, small dice
1/4 cup parsley, minced
2 tablespoons scallions, sliced thin
1 tablespoon green pepper, small dice

Method:

Combine oil, vinegar, mustard, salt, paprika and hot pepper sauce in a bowl. Whisk briskly and then add remaining ingredients.



Add shrimp. Mix well. 


Cover and refrigerate overnight. Stir often. We never served this with crackers, just had some pretty toothpicks alongside.

11.20.2009

Ina's Pumpkin Mousse

Still need something for Thanksgiving dessert?

Well you might want to mull this one over. Ina Garten has a bunch of pumpkin mousse recipes in her repertoire. Some have a banana in it, some dark rum, some are made with a graham cracker crust. I prefer the one with dark rum. Quelle surprise.

You make it a day (or two) before Thanksgiving and stick it in the fridge. And flavorful? Oh yes. No last minute fussing on Thanksgiving day either. You just stick a whole gingersnap in the top and serve. Only takes about 15 minutes to make too. Can't beat that. And you can really play around with nice glasses to serve it in. I like the wine glass best (although I filled it too full). I've also made it in small ice tea glasses, highball glasses and once in some pretty glass bowls. Ya gotta have glass so you can see the layers.

If you can't use it this year, copy it and save it for next year. I have a whole file like that!
 
Pumpkin Mousse
(Adapted from Barefoot Contessa At Home)
 

 
Ingredients:
 
1/4 cup dark rum
1 packet (2 teaspoons) unflavored gelatin powder
1  15 ounce can pumpkin (not pie filling)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar (lightly packed)
2 extra-large egg yolks
2 teaspoons grated orange zest
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
1 1/2 cups whipping cream

1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 chopped gingersnaps
8-10 whole gingersnaps

1 1/2 cups whipping cream, whipped and sweetened lightly

Method:

Place the rum in a bowl and sprinkle the gelatin on top. Set aside for 10 minutes or so.
In a large bowl, whisk together the pumpkin, sugar, brown sugar, egg yolks, orange zest, cinnamon, nutmeg and salt. Melt the gelatin over hot water until it is clear. Immediately whisk the gelatin into the pumpkin mixture.
Whip the heavy cream with the vanilla until soft peaks form. Mix into the pumpkin mixture.
In another bowl, whip the last 1 1/2 cups whipping cream and sweeten it with sugar slightly.

To assemble: spoon some of the pumpkin mixture into glasses. Add a layer of whipped cream, some broken gingersnaps and repeat the layers, ending with a layer of pumpkin. Top with a dollop of whipped cream.



Cover and refrigerate for 4 hours or overnight.
To serve, place a whole gingersnap into whipped cream.
Serves 8-10 depending on glass size.

11.17.2009

Port Wine Gelée

Years ago when we lived in Michigan we went to a dinner party hosted by Peter, a bachelor friend. It's been a while, but what's remained in my memory is the excellence of the meal. Not one of us had a clue our old friend was such a talented chef. We were served a perfectly dressed tossed salad, individual filet mignons, a lovely spoon bread and Port Wine Gelée for dessert. And he did all the cooking, no help. Very impressive. Who knew? After all, he could have taken the easy way out and done his entertaining at a restaurant; most single guys did back then...we were a pretty big group.

Of course I just had to have the spoonbread and gelée recipes. Wasn't easy. Peter didn't want to part with the gelée recipe... turned out it was a very old family recipe, handed down from his grandmother. In the end he relented - I pestered him unmercifully. He had get an OK from his mother and sister too. There are lots of recipes that use port wine, but I've never found one like this.

For some reason it's very much a recipe for the holidays. Special. Festive. Unusual. Light. It seems to me that Christmas would be the ideal time to try this. You have to make it ahead - just whip the cream at the last minute. It serves a lot of people and your biggest problem will be finding a pretty tray on which to unmold it and some lovely fruit for decorating or perhaps even some holly. I used the biggest (unfortunately also the most boring) mold I own. Why I have never purchased a prettier one I can't imagine.

A couple times I have cut the recipe in half when I didn't need quite so much. At a guess I would say this recipe easily serves 12-16 people.

Peter's Port Wine Gelée




Ingredients:

5 envelopes Knox gelatin (approximately 12 1/2 teaspoons)
1 1/2 cups cold water
2 lemons, rinds and juice
1 orange, rind and juice
4 cups water
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
2 cups sugar
2 cups good quality tawny port wine
2 jiggers whiskey
2 oranges, sections only
4 grapefruit, sections only
1 bunch of any small seedless grapes, halved
1 cup sliced almonds
2 cups whipping cream, whipped and lighly sweetened
candied ginger cut in bits, to taste

Method:

Soften the gelatin in the 1 1/2 cups of cold water for 5 minutes. Bring 4 cups of water to a boil. Sliver the rinds of the lemons and orange, add to the boiling water along with juices, cinnamon, gelatin mixture and sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Remove from heat, let the mixture steep for 5 minutes. Strain and then add the wine and whiskey. Set this mixture aside to cool to room temperature and then place it in the refrigerator. You want it to begin to get thick. If you add the fruit when it is thin, the fruit will sink to the bottom.


Section the 2 oranges and the 4 grapefruit. Halve the grapes. When the port wine mixture is very thick and syrupy, add the fruit sections, grapes and almonds. Pour into your favorite mold and refrigerate overnight.

Whip the cream, add a little sugar and then dice some candied ginger into the whipped cream. Unmold the gelée, surround it with fruit or holly and serve with the whipped cream.

11.13.2009

Cookies For Christmas



♪♪ I'ts beginning to look a lot like Christmas....♪♪




I couldn't resist making these this week....I've been saving the recipe since last year. Such fun. Even unfrosted the chocolate cookies are delicious. Boring looking, but really good. I wasn't certain about the peppermint extract- worried about the amount and that it might be too strong a flavor for the cookies- but it wasn't. Very mild and just the right touch. (Frankly, leaving enough cookies to dip in the white chocolate will be your main problem!)

Are you thinking Girl Scout Mint Cookies here?


So. I thought it might be clever to arrange the cookies and candy the way it was done in the magazine photo. Never had so much fun alone in the kitchen. Choked. Up. With. Laughter. First: take a hammer to the candies. Then: trying to balance uneven peppermint candies in a tall pile is a simply absurd idea. There was even supposed to be one standing upright on top of the tall pile of candies (which in my photo resembles the leaning tower of Pisa). Cute idea to balance the candy on top, but it won't work. Short of using super glue anyway. The pile fell a dozen times before I finally threw in the towel. No doubt the magazine hot-glue-gunned it all together. In the end I licked 'em and hoped they'd stick together. So you are seeing the real thing here- no glue, all imperfections of the amateur (understatement of the week) food designer showing. It was still fun.
The contortions we go through to get decent photos!

Now for a couple practical notes: You can melt your chocolate in the microwave. Carefully. In 20 second increments, stirring after each 20 seconds. Stop before it is completely melted and stir until it's all melted. Then spoon the chocolate over the cookies while they are on a rack...forget the dipping by hand experience. Messy. You may need to give it a quick zap to reheat your chocolate a couple times to keep it as thin as possible-which isn't easy with white chocolate. No real need to cover the bottom of the cookie with the chocolate anyway unless you are an extreme chocoholic OR taking a photograph.


Chocolate Peppermint Cookies
(Adapted from Martha Stewart Living, December 2008)


Ingredients:

1 cup all purpose flour plus more for surface
1/2 cup unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
5 tablespoons unsalted butter, room temperature
3/4 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 large egg yolk
3/4 teaspoon pure peppermint extract
8 large candy canes or 30 peppermint candies, crushed
2 pounds white chocolate, coarsely chopped

Method:

Preheat oven to 325°. Sift flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl.
Beat butter and sugar with a mixer for 1 minute. Add egg, then yolk, beating well after each addition. Beat in peppermint extract. Slowly add flour mixture and beat just until incorporated. Mold dough into 1 large disk and cut in half. Wrap each in plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, at least an hour (or up to two days).
Roll out 1 disk on a lightly floured surface to 1/8 inch thickness. Use a 2" cookie cutter to cut out circles and place them on parchment paper. Freeze until firm, at least 15 minutes.
Repeat with remaining disk.




Bake until cookies are dry to the touch, about 12 minutes. Transfer parchment, with cookies, to wire racks and allow to cool. Try not to eat all the cookies at this point. (Undecorated cookies will keep up to 3 days, covered.)

Melt chocolate in a heatproof bowl set over a pot of gently simmering water. Remove from heat and dunk cookies into the melted chocoate. Turn cookies using a fork; let excess drip off and gently scrape the bottom of the cookies against the edge of the bowl. Place on parchment lined baking sheets and sprinkle with the crushed candy.




Refrigerate until set, up to 3 hours. Decorated cookies are best served the same day.

11.10.2009

Little Pockets of Squash

This looks complicated.
Totally not.
All you need is a bit of time and then you can freeze these babies and use them whenever you want.

Here's the thing:
When I look at a butternut squash (or any large squash for that matter) I'm dead certain I'm going to chop off a finger while cutting it in half. It wouldn't be the first time I cut myself badly in the kitchen, but let's not discuss that. (shiver) Then one day I read  about a safe method for cutting any large squash in half. You get a nice long, sharp knife and a hammer. That's what I said: a hammer. Set the knife where you want to cut the squash, hold on to the handle of the knife with your left hand and tap the knife firmly with the hammer along its length until it works on through the squash. Try it, it works like a charm. On any squash. No appendages lost. No ER.

These squash pockets are another of Giada ("The Rack") De Laurentis's recipes but I changed a few things. I'm at a loss to explain why she added amaretti cookies to the filling- not my taste at all. Texture? A touch of sweet? Sometimes I think Giada adds something "Italian" merely to make the recipe different without much thought to flavor. It doesn't always work. I've seen her do it several times and without even tasting it I thought to myself: she just ruined that recipe.

My opinion.

Anyway-I put some dried sage in for more flavor. I think this dish is better as a savory- not a sweet. And while I like acorn squash with brown sugar this seems better with just the dried fruit and nuts to give it a touch of sweetness. As for the brown butter sauce, if you put the fruit and nuts in when she says to, you end up with tasteless dark brown pebbles. So I browned the butter, then added the sage, nuts and fruit at the end.

As for the scrumptious filling, I scarfed down the leftovers for dinner. 

Butternut Squash Tortellini in Brown Butter Sauce
(Adapted from Giada De Laurentiis, Everyday Italian)


Ingredients:

1 butternut squash, approximately 2 pounds, peeled, cubed (about 3 cups)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, plus 2 tablespoons
1 1/2 teaspoons herbs de Provence
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
2 large shallots, chopped (about 1/2 cup)
2 garlic cloves, chopped
1 cup whole milk ricotta cheese
4 small amaretti cookies, crushed (I omitted these, add if you like)
1/4 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1 package small wonton wrappers

For the Brown Butter Sauce:
3/4 cup butter (1 1/2 sticks)

2 tablespoons torn fresh sage leaves
1/2 cup toasted walnuts, coarsely chopped (I used pecans)
1/2 cup dried cranberries, or chopped dried cherries, or mixture of both
1/4 teaspoon kosher salt, plus more to taste
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/3 cup grated Parmesan cheese

Method:

Preheat the oven to 375°. On a foil-lined baking sheet toss together the butternut squash, 2 tablespoons of olive oil, herbs de Provence, salt, and pepper. Bake in the oven until soft and golden, about 25 minutes. Meanwhile, heat the olive oil in a small saute pan over medium heat. Cook the shallots and garlic until lightly golden, about 3 minutes.


In a food processor, combine the butternut squash mixture, the shallot mixture, and the ricotta cheese and pulse a few times to blend. Add the crushed amaretti cookies (which I omitted and instead added 1/2 teaspoon dried sage), the nutmeg, and sprinkle with salt and freshly ground black pepper. Pulse until smooth. The tortellini filling can be made one day ahead.

To make the tortellini, lay out 6 wonton skins, (I used a silpat) keeping the remaining skins inside the package or under a very lightly dampened paper towel. Place 1 large teaspoon of squash mixture in the middle of each skin.

Dip a pastry brush in a little water and wet the edges of the skin all the way around. Gently fold the square wrapper into a triangle, making sure the edges are securely closed and there are no air pockets inside.


Dampen the two bottom corners of the longest side of the triangle and gently bring them together, pressing lightly to secure.


Place the formed tortellini on a baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Before laying out another 6 wonton sheets, be careful to dry the work surface.  Continue until all the butternut squash mixture is used. There should be approximately 36 tortellini. (The tortellini can be formed, frozen on the baking sheet, transferred to a tightly sealed plastic bag or container and stored for up to six months. To cook, simply toss the frozen ravioli into the salted boiling water and cook for 4 minutes.)

To cook the tortellini, bring a large pot of salted water to a boil.

Meanwhile, melt the butter in a large, heavy skillet over medium heat. Allow the butter to foam and then begin to turn golden. Watch carefully because it only takes seconds to go from a lovely brown to burned. Add the sage, walnuts and cranberries and let everything warm through. Turn the heat off and season with salt, and pepper.


Place the tortellini in the boiling water and gently stir. When they begin to float they are done, about 3 minutes. Using a slotted spoon,  spoon the tortellini onto a serving platter, Top with the brown butter sauce, sprinkle with Parmesan cheese and serve.


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