Friday, February 26, 2010

Chai-Tea-Tiramisu: Daring Bakers Feb. 2010

Want a "Pick-me-up"? How 'bout a semi-freddo (freezer-cold without being frozen) cake made with the richest of Italian cream cheese (Mascarpone), and a rich Italian sauce (Zabaglione) covering sweet sponge cookies (Savoiardi) that have been (hello?) soaked in dark ESPRESSO!?!

That's the classic Italian dessert called TIRAMISU, which translated means:
Pick me up. My twist on this classic was to infuse the pastry cream and soak the lady fingers in a hearty, cozy, spicy Chai Tea from Algabar Teas. I know, I know -- and it was--so, so delicious!

Kyber Pass Chai Tea Tiramisu

The February 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Aparna of My Diverse Kitchen and Deeba of Passionate About Baking. They chose Tiramisu as the challenge for the month. Their challenge recipe is based on recipes from The Washington Post, Cordon Bleu at Home and Baking Obsession.

For an Itali-phile like me, it wasn't very hard to get excited about this month's challenge. There are several stories about the history of Tiramisu, however it is generally considered to have been created in the town of Treviso in Northern Italy. The restaurant, Le Beccherie, claims it's origin and still proudly serves the classic version of this famous dessert. That version uses raw eggs in the pastry cream and dark bitter espresso soaked sponge cookies and smothered in deep dark powdered cocoa.

Our Daring Baker hosts did an amazing job of laying out the challenge with links and pics to help us enjoy the process. The process, by the way, included making our own home made MASCARPONE CHEESE. If you take nothing else from this post, PLEASE try making your own Mascarpone cheese. It could not be any easier (cream and lemon juice, that's it), and the taste and creaminess had me preaching it's glory to everyone I talked to for days.
The classic recipe uses Zabaglione, which we made, but we also added a pastry cream and whipped cream to our mascarpone. This made a full bodied cloud of sweet and spiked pudding to surround our Home Made Savoiardi cakes.
Once my cheese was made, my creams were chilling over night, and my sponge cookies were cooled, I carefully brewed my Kyber Pass Chai Tea.
Then I soaked my lady fingers in the Chai tea for a few moments on each side and experimented with several designs for my finished dessert.

Here: I placed plastic wrap inside a dessert cup and lined it with the cakes, then filled it with the cream, another cake, and finished with cream. I wrapped the tops and held these in the freezer overnight. I gently pulled the form out, unwrapped and set up to complete with sifted cocoa the next day. *You can hold Tiramisu in the freezer for several days, just leave out for a few minutes at room temp before serving.

Another design used a parchment paper liner inside a tube form. I layered cookie, cream, cookie, cream... to 3/4 way up. I removed the form and left these to chill in the freezer overnight also. The next day, I unwrapped and finished with cocoa...
OR: Added Grated Chocolate because..well..there's never enough chocolate for my taste!
I also served the Chai Tea Tiramisu (layered cookie, cream, etc.) in a cordial glass as a completed dessert, after chilling.
If you're reading this and thinking about making this (first of all, YAY!, but also), don't get thrown by the ingredients or length of the material. Read it over like a story, sit down with a pen and paper and map out your plan of attack. There are easier recipes, but this was very fun and the process was very therapeutic. If this is not new to you at all; I highly recommend these recipes, too.


Mascarpone Cheese – Vera’s Recipe (Baking Obsession) for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese.
Savoiardi/ Ladyfinger Biscuits – Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home
Tiramisu – Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007


(Recipe source: Carminantonio's Tiramisu from The Washington Post, July 11 2007 )
This recipe makes 6 servings

For the zabaglione:
2 large egg yolks
3 tablespoons sugar/50gms
1/4 cup/60ml Marsala wine (or port or coffee)
1/4 teaspoon/ 1.25ml vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest

For the vanilla pastry cream:
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1 tablespoon/8gms all purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon finely grated lemon zest
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
3/4 cup/175ml whole milk

For the whipped cream:
1 cup/235ml chilled heavy cream (we used 25%)
1/4 cup/55gms sugar
1/2 teaspoon/ 2.5ml vanilla extract

To assemble the tiramisu:
2 cups/470ml brewed espresso, warmed (I used brewed Kyber Pass Chai Tea)
1 teaspoon/5ml rum extract (optional)
1/2 cup/110gms sugar
1/3 cup/75gms mascarpone cheese
36 savoiardi/ ladyfinger biscuits (you may use less)
2 tablespoons/30gms unsweetened cocoa powder

For the zabaglione:
Heat water in a double boiler. If you don’t have a double boiler, place a pot with about an inch of water in it on the stove. Place a heat-proof bowl in the pot making sure the bottom does not touch the water.
In a large mixing bowl (or stainless steel mixing bowl), mix together the egg yolks, sugar, the Marsala (or espresso/ coffee: I used Chai tea plus 1 TBLS. Port), vanilla extract and lemon zest. Whisk together until the yolks are fully blended and the mixture looks smooth.
Transfer the mixture to the top of a double boiler or place your bowl over the pan/ pot with simmering water. Cook the egg mixture over low heat, stirring constantly, for about 8 minutes or until it resembles thick custard. It may bubble a bit as it reaches that consistency.
Let cool to room temperature and transfer the zabaglione to a bowl. Cover and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the pastry cream:
Mix together the sugar, flour, lemon zest and vanilla extract in a medium heavy-bottomed saucepan. To this add the egg yolk and half the milk. Whisk until smooth.
Now place the saucepan over low heat and cook, stirring constantly to prevent the mixture from curdling.
Add the remaining milk a little at a time, still stirring constantly. After about 12 minutes the mixture will be thick, free of lumps and beginning to bubble. (If you have a few lumps, don’t worry. You can push the cream through a fine-mesh strainer.)
Transfer the pastry cream to a bowl and cool to room temperature. Cover with plastic film and refrigerate at least 4 hours or overnight, until thoroughly chilled.

For the whipped cream:
Combine the cream, sugar and vanilla extract in a mixing bowl. Beat with an electric hand mixer or immersion blender until the mixture holds stiff peaks. Set aside.

To assemble the tiramisu: (See my earlier mentions for variations)
Have ready a rectangular serving dish (about 8" by 8" should do) or one of your choice.
Mix together the warm espresso, rum extract and sugar in a shallow dish, whisking to mix well. Set aside to cool.
In a large bowl, beat the mascarpone cheese with a spoon to break down the lumps and make it smooth. This will make it easier to fold. Add the prepared and chilled zabaglione and pastry cream, blending until just combined. Gently fold in the whipped cream. Set this cream mixture aside.

Now to start assembling the tiramisu.
Workings quickly, dip 12 of the ladyfingers in the sweetened espresso, about 1 second per side. They should be moist but not soggy. Immediately transfer each ladyfinger to the platter, placing them side by side in a single row. You may break a lady finger into two, if necessary, to ensure the base of your dish is completely covered.
Spoon one-third of the cream mixture on top of the ladyfingers, then use a rubber spatula or spreading knife to cover the top evenly, all the way to the edges.
Repeat to create 2 more layers, using 12 ladyfingers and the cream mixture for each layer. Clean any spilled cream mixture; cover carefully with plastic wrap and refrigerate the tiramisu overnight.
To serve, carefully remove the plastic wrap and sprinkle the tiramisu with cocoa powder using a fine-mesh strainer or decorate as you please. Cut into individual portions and serve.


(Source: Vera’s Recipe for Homemade Mascarpone Cheese)
This recipe makes 12oz/ 340gm of mascarpone cheese

474ml (approx. 500ml)/ 2 cups whipping (36 %) pasteurized (not ultra-pasteurized), preferably organic cream (between 25% to 36% cream will do)
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

Bring 1 inch of water to a boil in a wide skillet. Reduce the heat to medium-low so the water is barely simmering. Pour the cream into a medium heat-resistant bowl, then place the bowl into the skillet. Heat the cream, stirring often, to 190 F. If you do not have a thermometer, wait until small bubbles keep trying to push up to the surface.
It will take about 15 minutes of delicate heating. Add the lemon juice and continue heating the mixture, stirring gently, until the cream curdles. Do not expect the same action as you see during ricotta cheese making. All that the whipping cream will do is become thicker, like a well-done crème anglaise. It will cover a back of your wooden spoon thickly. You will see just a few clear whey streaks when you stir. Remove the bowl from the water and let cool for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, line a sieve with four layers of dampened cheesecloth and set it over a bowl. Transfer the mixture into the lined sieve. Do not squeeze the cheese in the cheesecloth or press on its surface (be patient, it will firm up after refrigeration time). Once cooled completely, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate (in the sieve) overnight or up to 24 hours.
Vera’s notes: The first time I made mascarpone I had all doubts if it’d been cooked enough, because of its custard-like texture. Have no fear, it will firm up beautifully in the fridge, and will yet remain lusciously creamy.
Keep refrigerated and use within 3 to 4 days.

(Source: Recipe from Cordon Bleu At Home)
This recipe makes approximately 24 big ladyfingers or 45 small (2 1/2" to 3" long) ladyfingers.

3 eggs, separated
6 tablespoons /75gms granulated sugar
3/4 cup/95gms cake flour, sifted (or 3/4 cup all purpose flour + 2 tbsp corn starch)
6 tablespoons /50gms confectioner's sugar,


Preheat your oven to 350 F (175 C) degrees, then lightly brush 2 baking sheets with oil or softened butter and line with parchment paper.
Beat the egg whites using a hand held electric mixer until stiff peaks form. Gradually add granulate sugar and continue beating until the egg whites become stiff again, glossy and smooth.
In a small bowl, beat the egg yolks lightly with a fork and fold them into the meringue, using a wooden spoon. Sift the flour over this mixture and fold gently until just mixed. It is important to fold very gently and not overdo the folding. Otherwise the batter would deflate and lose volume resulting in ladyfingers which are flat and not spongy.
Fit a pastry bag with a plain tip (or just snip the end off; you could also use a Ziploc bag) and fill with the batter. Pipe the batter into 5" long and 3/4" wide strips leaving about 1" space in between the strips.
Sprinkle half the confectioner's sugar over the ladyfingers and wait for 5 minutes. The sugar will pearl or look wet and glisten. Now sprinkle the remaining sugar. This helps to give the ladyfingers their characteristic crispness.
Hold the parchment paper in place with your thumb and lift one side of the baking sheet and gently tap it on the work surface to remove excess sprinkled sugar.
Bake the ladyfingers for 10 minutes, then rotate the sheets and bake for another 5 minutes or so until the puff up, turn lightly golden brown and are still soft.
Allow them to cool slightly on the sheets for about 5 minutes and then remove the ladyfingers from the baking sheet with a metal spatula while still hot, and cool on a rack.
Store them in an airtight container till required. They should keep for 2 to 3 weeks.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Moroccan Pickled Carrots - Oh snap!

Pickles aren't something I think of often. Yet, when good ones are served with a meal, or just put out on a plate on the table, I'm the first one to munch them down to their tiny little pickled stems. Pickles are the accent, that perfect piece of jewelry that brings the rest of the whole look together. February's ingredient for TigressCanJam is carrots, chosen by Doris and Jilly. Since I make jams a lot, I thought I'd spice it up a bit and can some pickles. Spice is a good word to use for these tongue trippers.

I was inspired by one of my favorite books: Jam It, Pickle It, Cure It by Karen Solomon. The colors in her photos and the simplicity of her recipes give you the confidence to use them, yet leave room for experimentation. Besides the spices (seen below), I also added Cumin and a pinch of tumeric.

I had a blast picking out multi-colored Heritage Carrots and Oranges at the Hermosa Beach Farmer's market.

After sterilizing the jars, I packed the peeled, and sliced carrots into the jars, added my spices and filled them with a concoction of acid and citrus.

This was a fun can/pickle session and I'm thinking of giving these as gifts to my friends who just aren't the sugar/jam/jelly types. These have crunch with a collection of sweet citrus, lively dill and mustard, and earthy cumin. I think I just made myself want to go pull another carrot out of the pickle jar.

Balsamic Prawns on Sweet Pepper Polenta w/Fennel & Shallot Jam AKA: Paper Chef #49 Winner Announced

What would you make with Prawns, Sweet Peppers, Fennel and the theme of Passion? Several extremely creative folks answered that question and generously gave us their recipes and how-to's. I am fortunate enough to have the difficult job, this month, of choosing a Paper Chef #49 winner. I'm really sincere when I say this: There is not a clunker in the bunch. These dishes could be their own site. I hope you'll bookmark this round-up and use it over and over!

Now, even though I'm not eligible for the challenge, I still wanted to play along, so I made a dish, too. I hope it's worthy to be with these other phenoms.

Balsamic Prawns on Red Pepper Polenta w/ Spicy Fennel & Shallot Jam
I have a PASSION for all things Italian, so I challenged myself to use the Paper Chef ingredients with other classic Italian ingredients and add a modern presentation to them.

The PRAWNS/White Tiger Shrimp were simply broiled after being drizzled with Balsamic Vinegar, Fiorano Olive Oil, salt and pepper.


2 1/2 cups Vegetable Stock
1 cup Corn Polenta
1/2 cup Roasted Sweet Peppers (char roast, peel/seed and chop)
1 Tbls. Butter

Heat the stock and the peppers in a sauce pan til simmering. Sprinkle in the Polenta, a little at a time, stirring constantly to avoid clumping. Cook on low for about 15 minutes or until creamy. Take off the heat and stir in butter, salt and pepper to taste.

(this is not a recipe for canning jam, just for immediate or refrigerator jam)

1/2 cup of Fennel bulb (cut in thin slivers)
1/4 cup of Shallot (chopped)
1 tsp. Red Pepper flakes
2 Tbls. fresh lemon juice
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup sugar

In a sauce pan combine the fennel, shallots and red pepper flakes with 1/4 cup water. Heat on low to soften the fennel and shallots (for about 10 minutes). Add the sugar and lemon juice and increase the heat to Med/High. Stir often and boil til thickened (about 215F, or about 10 minutes.) Remove from heat and hold. Refrigerate any un-used jam (good for several weeks.)

To Plate:

Place an oiled circle mold on the plate and fill half way up with Polenta. Remove circle.
On top of polenta, place a Tbls. of Fennel & Shallot jam. Press 1-2 shrimp into the center of the jam and serve.

Quote from Teen-age son: (Nothing, but he handed me an empty plate after-wards. Sometimes words are not needed.)
And here is the Fabulous Passion-Peppers-Prawns & Fennel lineup:

Bill's Brew-B-Que
Using his passion for the grill, Bill made "Mothership Wit Superbowl Skewers"
. The picture of the beer made me want to reach up and grab/drink it. The marinaded shrimp sound delicious! His passion for cooking is contagious and a fun name for his blog.

Prospect: The Pantry created a cozy, inviting Seafood Pot-pie with Fennel and Peppers, even though she was snowed in (which played well into her passion that included resourcefulness and making the most of all things).

I Could Even Eat a Baby Deer has a really fun spirited post and a recipe for a Prawn Burger and Pineapple Salsa that looks very flavorful. Always a nice read, here, too.

Lucullian Delights created a beautiful dish of Grappa and Fennel seed infused Prawns on a bed of Chickpea Puree. As always, her pictures are amazing too. Ilva is the gracious and talented co-host of Paper Chef and we newbies are so thankful that she continues this fun food event.

Culinary Annotations has a colorful and hunger-provoking dish of Italian inspired Prawns and a burst of Cognac is introduced. I'm drooling just typing about it. I particularly loved the information that is shared in the post, also.

Spikey Mikey's wrapped these ingredients up in a Rice Paper wrapper where the stripes of the red pepper showing through are such a fun presentation. This also sounds like a dish you would eat and feel good about what you just did for your body. Mike is also a Co-host and has been extremely patient with my many questions.

I'm sure it's no coincidence that this is such a long running challenge AND the two hosts are so passionate and generous.

Oh, it's SO hard to pick only one. Sorry for rambling, but having entered a few of these online events in my "less that a year blogging" time, I just want to applaud ALL of these entries. My final decision is just a personal feeling (which has been said to me in the casting world a lot, too) and here goes:

The Paperchef #49 winner is: Prospect: The Pantry (the use of almost every morsel of everything: shells for stock, stems for flavor and the feelings of cold and warm coming across in this tasty looking flaky pie just played my heart strings on this one.)

Great job, and I'll be visiting all these blogs over and over!

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Amazing Mezze: Daring Cooks February 2010

If you're like me: one of those people who can't answer any question that starts with, "What is your one and only favorite...?", then you will love MEZZE. It's a way of eating, it's a bunch of different tidbits of flavor, it's a party on a platter!
Pita, Hummus, Curry Cauliflower, and Marinated Olives
The 2010 February Daring COOKs challenge was hosted by Michele of Veggie Num Nums. Michele chose to challenge everyone to make mezze based on various recipes from Claudia Roden, Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Dugid.

The word, Mezze, is used in Middle Eastern dining, and usually comes before a larger meal like: Appetizers, Tapas, Dim Sum, Hors d'Oeuvres and Antipasti. There could be as many as 50 different small servings that make up a Mezze course - or just a couple. Very often it will include Pita Bread and Hummus. "Mezze" has become a sort of trendy term to use in restaurant names across the country in the last few years, too.

I was visiting my Mom, Brother, and his wife in North Carolina when I made my Mezze platter for this challenge. We got snowed in for 3 days and luckily I had already bought all the ingredients. Having mezze was a perfect way to sit around, chat, graze,watch the snow fall, laugh, eat some more, play a board game, and nibble some more. The lighting was not so great for photos inside, but you get the feel: cozy, golden and casual.
The Pita recipe is easy, the hummus couldn't be quicker, and the cauliflower takes no time at all. The olives I had added to some spiced up olive oil earlier in the day, so we never missed a beat chattering away even while I was putting the Mezze platter together. There are a gazillion recipes online for different Mezze and even a helpful YouTube video on making Pita right here.

Quote from my Brother - (with a mouthful of Pita and hummus, giving me a big OKAY sign, then..) "Is there garlic in this, I mean it's the perfect amount, seriously good."
Pita Bread – Recipe adapted from Flatbreads & Flavors by Jeffrey Alford and Naomi Duguid

Prep time: 20 minutes to make, 90 minutes to rise and about 45 minutes to cook

2 teaspoons regular dry yeast (.43 ounces/12.1 grams)
2.5 cups lukewarm water (21 ounces/591 grams)
5-6 cups all-purpose flour (may use a combination of 50% whole wheat and 50% all-purpose, or a combination of alternative flours for gluten free pita) (17.5 -21 ounces/497-596 grams)
1 tablespoon table salt (.50 ounces/15 grams)
2 tablespoons olive oil (.95 ounces/29 ml)

1. In a large bread bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water. Stir to dissolve. Stir in 3 cups flour, a cup at a time, and then stir 100 times, about 1 minute, in the same direction to activate the gluten. Let this sponge rest for at least 10 minutes, or as long as 2 hours.

2. Sprinkle the salt over the sponge and stir in the olive oil. Mix well. Add more flour, a cup at a time, until the dough is too stiff to stir. Turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Rinse out the bowl, dry, and lightly oil. Return the dough to the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise until at least doubled in size, approximately 1 1/2 hours.
3. Place a pizza stone, or two small baking sheets, on the bottom rack of your oven, leaving a 1-inch gap all around between the stone or sheets and the oven walls to allow heat to circulate. Preheat the oven to 450F (230C).
4. Gently punch down the dough. Divide the dough in half, and then set half aside, covered, while you work with the rest. Divide the other half into 8 equal pieces and flatten each piece with lightly floured hands. Roll out each piece to a circle 8 to 9 inches in diameter and less than 1/4 inch thick. Keep the rolled-out breads covered until ready to bake, but do not stack.
5. Place 2 breads, or more if your oven is large enough, on the stone or baking sheets, and bake for 2 to 3 minutes, or until each bread has gone into a full balloon. If for some reason your bread doesn't puff up, don't worry it should still taste delicious. Wrap the baked breads together in a large kitchen towel to keep them warm and soft while you bake the remaining rolled-out breads. Then repeat with the rest of the dough.

Hummus – Recipe adapted from The New Book of Middle Eastern Food by Claudia Roden
Prep Time: Hummus can be made in about 15 minutes once the beans are cooked. If you’re using dried beans you need to soak them overnight and then cook them the next day which takes about 90 minutes.

1.5 cups dried chickpeas, soaked in cold water overnight (or substitute well drained canned chickpeas and omit the cooking) (10 ounces/301 grams)
2-2.5 lemons, juiced (3 ounces/89ml)
2-3 garlic cloves, peeled and crushed
a big pinch of salt
4 tablespoons tahini (sesame paste) OR use peanut butter or any other nut butter—feel free to experiment) (1.5 ounces/45 grams)
additional flavorings (optional) I would use about 1/3 cup or a few ounces to start, and add more to taste

1. Drain and boil the soaked chickpeas in fresh water for about 1 ½ hours, or until tender. Drain, but reserve the cooking liquid.
2. Puree the beans in a food processor (or you can use a potato masher) adding the cooking water as needed until you have a smooth paste.
3. Add the rest of the ingredients and mix well. Adjust the seasonings to taste.

Curry Cauliflower:

Wash and trim Cauliflower. Place buds in a single layer on a baking sheet. Sprinkle Salt and Pepper, then drizzle with Olive Oil. Place in oven preheated to 350F for 15 minutes. Sprinkle with your favorite Curry or Curry blend and squeeze a fresh lemon over the pan of curry. Toss gently and continue to cook for about 10 more minutes. *Optionally, toss in a few sprigs of fresh cilantro in the last 10 minutes.What would YOU add to this? Got a favorite one? I also LOVE the eggplant spreads.

Friday, February 12, 2010

Aphrodisiacs for Lunch? It's Gettin' Hot in Here: Let's Lunch Bunch

Is there any doubt that food and sexuality are partners in life? One viewing of the movie, THE BIG NIGHT, would convince you of that. For this month’s Let’s Lunch Bunch, our theme is APHRODISIACS. Being a lover of variety, mood and narrative, I used several acclaimed Aphrodisiacs, including LOCATION.

When thinking about Aphrodisiacs, the first thing that popped up in my mind was CHOCOLATE (maybe not the first thought, but the first “food” thought.) Since chocolate is a daily addiction of mine, I wanted to go a little further. I considered OYSTERS. If I’m honest, I only considered them for a moment. Then I did a little research into the history, medical and fantasy background of Aphrodisiacs. It seems the reoccurring theme with a lot of the recipes that purported to have success read a lot like this: A little of this, a little of that, then…POUR IN THE TEQUILA. The more medically inclined articles listed herbs and barks, and VIAGRA. Since some of those were a little harder to find and even harder to turn into enticing pictures (no offense to the charming Viagra commercials), I continued my journey. Another route for “aphrodisiacs in food” seemed to be the shape, and the psychological suggestion that if we SEE something, that LOOKS even a little bit like a sexual organ, it stimulates our desire to…to…engage with such (just trying to keep it clean, folks.) Therefore: asparagus, bananas, peaches, long twisty sweet…uh..Licorice sticks were included. Lastly, there were opinions that the only real honest aphrodisiacs come in the form of foods that increase our health, immunity and well-being. Nutritious energizers like: almonds, green tea, quinoa, and bananas (aren’t they popular?).
I can understand the logic regarding the “healthy” tantalizers. I mean, if you don’t feel good or have the energy to even stay awake, how are you going to do much else, right? Thus, the “yes, if you don’t mind that I just lay here” kinda evenings. You know what I’m talking about, Ladies.

With all these thoughts and imaginations stirring inside me, I figured why not a whole mixed tray of healthy, inhibition lifting and visually stimulating food?
And while we’re at it, let’s just save time (it’s lunch hours, remember) and take it to the bedroom. My real advice: make these nibbles the night before, either stay in bed all morning or meet your “intended” at home for a delicious surprise lunch meeting. Cheeses: Your choice, but here I have a Mimolet and a Compte.
Banana Chips: Slice Banana onto a sprayed pan, heat for about 2 hours at 200F. Turn once or twice during the drying heat.
Matcha Green Tea Almonds:
1 egg white (beaten til frothy),
1 cup of almonds,
1 tsp. Matcha Green tea powder, 1 Tbls. sugar.
Whisk the egg white in a small bowl. Add the almonds in and coat thoroughly. Mix the Matcha and sugar together and sprinkle over the almonds. Toss to coat. Spread the almonds out in a single layer on a sheet pan. Bake on 200 for 40 minutes. Turn over half way through.

Buttermilk Fried Shallot Rings

1 small Shallot (peeled and sliced into thin rings)
1 cup Buttermilk
¼ cup flour
salt/pepper to taste

Separate the Shallot rings and soak them in a cup of Buttermilk for at least 30 minutes. Drain and toss in salt and pepper seasoned flour. Using tongs will help the rings stay separate and not clumped together.
In a deep saucepan, bring vegetable oil to 325F and fry small batches of shallots at a time til lightly browned. Drain on Paper towels before plating.

Prosciutto Wrapped Asparagus
1 bunch Asparagus, trimmed and cleaned
6 slices of prosciutto, cut length wise to make 12 long strips
Olive oil, salt, pepper

Toss the Asparagus in a bit of Olive oil just to coat, then wrap a piece of prosciutto around the bottom third of each stem. Sprinkle with pepper and salt to taste, but remember that prosciutto is already a bit salty.

On a sheet pan, place the Asparagus with the loose end of prosciutto facing down. Bake in oven at 375F for about 12 minutes. Turn at least once during cooking.

Creamy Mints
4 oz. Cream Cheese softened
3 cups of Confectionary Sugar (sifted) (you may need more or less depending on moisture)
1 Tsp. Peppermint Extract
Drop of red or pink food coloring

In a mixer bowl, beat the cream cheese til smooth and soft. Gradually add the Confectionary sugar a little at a time until a dough is formed. Remove and knead a drop of food coloring in if desired, and also knead in the remainder sugar until a very stiff dough is formed. Roll out on Confectionary sugar sprinkled parchment to ½ inch thick. Cut out using tiny garnish shapes or designs of your choosing. Leave for 24 hours at room temp to dry and harden over just a bit. These can also be frozen for later.Chocolate Hearts w/ Candied Ginger
2 oz. of 70% Chocolate
1 cube of candied ginger minced

Melt chocolate slowly in a microwave or over a double boiler. Spoon out round dollops onto a parchment cover sheet pan or silpat. Drop a couple tiny pieces of ginger onto the chocolate. Using a toothpick or skewer, drag the tip from just above the round dollop, through the center and out the bottom. Lift the skewer. As the melted chocolate moves back together just a bit, this should leave a heart-shape with a quill-like tail. Chill for just a few minutes to set the chocolate, and then remove from the pan.

Happy Valentine's Day and I hope everyday is an aphrodisiac for you!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Handmade Mushroom Pasta w/Pork Tenderloin & Sage

Oh Mama, don't you love Umami? That's the earthy warm 5th taste that shows up, even in the air, when you heat up mushrooms. When you add that flavor to the dough for handmade pasta - - - Che buono!
HANDMADE MUSHROOM PASTA with Pork Tenderloin & Sage
I love being a multi-tasker so I'm constantly looking for ways to add to, double up, and extend things. One of my very favorite things to make is flavored pasta. Being able get some of my "vitamins from vegetables" while practicing my "addiction to carbs" just makes me smile. I've made Dandelion Pasta, Roasted Red Pepper Pasta, Chocolate Pasta, you name it. And this Mushroom Pasta Dough is one of my favs. It's very simple and the only real work comes in the kneading, which is so important. I really enjoy the feel of dough and kneading is like therapy, but a lot cheaper. I'll warn you; While showing the steps to this process there's no way to make a mound of mushroom paste look pretty, but it's a lot like pate at that point. Start with 1/2 cup of Dried Wild Mushrooms and 1/2 cup sliced Baby Bellas. Cover the Dried Mushrooms with a cup of boiling water, to reconstitute them. Drain them and reserve the mushroom water for later. Saute the mushrooms on Med/High in a small amount of Olive oil for just a few minutes to bring out the juices. Let cool, then add the mushrooms from the pan to a blender with 2 eggs. Puree to a smooth paste. On a work board, make a mound of 2 cups of All Purpose Flour and 1 tsp of salt. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour the mushroom paste into the well. Gradually pull the flour from the sides into the mushroom paste, kneading as you go. When and if you need moisture, add a couple Tbls from the mushroom water that you reserved. Continue kneading the dough for about 10 minutes until you have a smooth, blister free dough that when pressed with your thumb returns quickly. Cover the dough and let rest for 20 minutes. Cut the dough into two parts and cover the half you're not working . Press or roll out the first half until it's flat enough to be rolled through the widest setting on a pasta machine. Continue to roll the dough thinner through the machine, cutting sections as you go to make it manageable. Roll the cut sections through the Fettuccine blades to create your Mushroom pasta.

To hold the pasta for cooking, toss serving size amounts in a bit of flour and make mounds of them on a parchment covered baking pan. These can also be frozen, then bagged for later.
Cook fresh pasta in salted boiling water until it floats to the top, or about 3 minutes. Drain and serve with your chosen sauce, optionally adding chopped sun-dried tomatoes, capers or olives. Ingredients: 1/2 cup Dried Mushrooms 1/2 cup Baby Bella or other button (sliced) 1 cup boiling water (for reconstituting dried mushrooms and reserve this) 2 Tbls. Olive oil 2 Large Eggs 2 cups All Purpose Flour salt/pepper to taste *Optional* Sun-dried tomatoes olives capers chopped parsley chopped fresh sage.

To prepare the Pork Tenderloins as shown in the picture:

6 oz. Pork Tenderloin (slice into 1/2 inch rounds)

2 Tbls. Olive oil
1/3 cup white wine
1 small onion (sliced )

12 oz. Stock (veggie or meat)

2 Tbls. chopped fresh sage

1/4 cup cream

Saute the Tenderloins in olive oil on Med/High just til browned and reserve. Turn down to Low/Med and add onions to the pan. Cook onions til caramelized, adding salt to taste. Deglaze pan (add in) white wine (or just a bit of stock if you don't want to use wine). Cook this til most of the moisture is gone, for about 5-10 minutes. Put the Tenderloins back into the pan, add the stock and cream. Cover the pan and cook on Low for about 10 minutes. Add sage and turn up heat to reduce liquid by 1/3, about 3-5 minutes. Stir to make sure nothing sticks. The Pork Tenderloin is ready to serve.
You can add the pasta into the pan, or serve separately over the pasta when ready. Garnish with chopped parsley.

Thursday, February 4, 2010

Nutella Cocktails (Three Ways) for WORLD NUTELLA DAY!

"We are the worllllld, We love Nutella" Everybody sing!
All over the internet today, there will be Nutella inspired goodies created and Blogged and Facebooked and Tweeted and Flash video'd for the sharing. In celebration of this sweet, nutty day I've taken Nutella into "adults only" land and created not just one Nutella Cocktail, but THREE NUTELLA INEBRIANTS:Here's a fun quip (from Wikipedia) about the history of the cocktail. According to the May 13, 1806, edition of the Balance and Columbian Repository, a publication in Hudson, NY in which an answer was provided to the question, "What is a cocktail?" It replied:
“Cocktail is a stimulating liquor composed of spirits of any kind, sugar, water, and bitters — it is vulgarly called a bittered sling and is supposed to be an excellent electioneering potion, inasmuch as it renders the heart stout and bold, at the same time that it fuddles the head. It is said, also to be of great use to a Democratic candidate: because a person, having swallowed a glass of it, is ready to swallow anything else.”
When it comes to drinks, I'm the "do you have something with fruit juice or sugar in it?" kinda gal, but my husband is a "Martini - Belvedere, straight up, dry, a little dirty with extra olives" kinda guy. I take a swig of his martini when I need to clear my sinuses. These Nutella spirits covered it all.

Nutella Espresso Cordial w/Raspberry Vodka

With a pastry brush, paint the Cordial glasses with Nutella (this can be done ahead of the party also).

Then pour in a little raspberry vodka to taste. Lastly, pour in espresso to fill and drizzle with cream.

Nutella Vanilla-tini

Warm 1/2 cup Nutella and a shot of Frangelico in a saucepan on low, stirring until Nutella is melted and hold off the heat. Using a clean napkin, rub the rim of the Martini glass with water. Then dip the edges of the glass into a shallow bowl with a half and half mixture of crystal sugar and grated chocolate. With the glass upright, carefully pour in a shot of the Nutella syrup, followed by 3 shots of Vanilla Stoli that has been "shaken over ice".

Nutella Baileys con Caffe

Warm 1/2 cup of Nutella in a sauce pan with 2 cups of dark brewed coffee. Pour shot of Baileys into a handled cup, fill with Nutella/Caffe, top with Nutella Whipped Cream (made by whipping 1 cup of chilled heavy whipping cream to a soft fluff, then add 1 Tbls. of Nutella and continue to whip until incorporated.)

Tomorrow, you can return to making Nutella ice cream and crepes, but for one night -- The Nutella is all ours...and the world's! Happy World Nutella Day!

Quote from my husband,"I really like being your taste-tester today!"

The 4th Annual World Nutella Day was the delicious idea of:
Ms Adventures In Italy and Bleeding Espresso, and I'm thankful!