Sunday, June 27, 2010

Chocolate Cherry Pavlova - Daring Bakers June '10

Excuse me while I pass out from eating too many of these:
The June 2010 Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Dawn of Doable and Delicious. Dawn challenged the Daring Bakers’ to make Chocolate Pavlovas and Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse. The challenge recipe is based on a recipe from the book Chocolate Epiphany by Francois Payard
The Pavlova was named after a Russian Ballerina - and as light as this dessert is, I can't imagine anyone twirling and leaping after scarfing down this creamy, deep chocolate mousse.
I had a blast making these mini-pavlovas and they kept in an airtight container really well for at least 3 days until I had time to make the mousse and topping. The recipe for the mousse makes enough for another dessert; maybe with fresh fruit and cream on top.

Recipe: Chocolate Pavlova:
3 large egg whites
1⁄2 cup plus 1 tbsp (110 grams) white granulated sugar
1⁄4 cup (30 grams) (icing) sugar
1/3 cup (30 grams) Dutch processed cocoa powder

1. Place a rack in the center of the oven and preheat to 200o F (95o C) degrees. Line two baking sheets with silpat or parchment and set aside.

2. Put the egg whites in a bowl and whip until soft peaks form. Increase speed to high and gradually add granulated sugar about 1 tbsp at a time until stiff peaks form. (The whites should be firm but moist.)

3. Sift the confectioner into the white. (This looks like it will not happen. Fold gently and it will eventually come together.)

4. Fill a pastry bag with the meringue. Pipe the meringue into whatever shapes you desire. Alternatively, you could just free form your shapes and level them a bit with the back of a spoon.

5. Bake for 2-­3 hours until the meringues become dry and crisp. Cool and store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.
RECIPE: Chocolate Mascarpone Mousse-
1 1⁄2 cups (355 mls) heavy cream (cream with a milk fat content of between 36 and 40 percent)
grated zest of 1 average sized lemon
9 ounces (255 grams) 72% chocolate, chopped
1 2/3 cups (390 mls) mascarpone

pinch of nutmeg
2 tbsp (30 mls) Grand Marnier (or orange juice)

1. Put 1⁄2 cup (120 mls) of the heavy cream and the lemon zest in a saucepan over medium high heat. Once warm, add the chocolate and whisk until melted and smooth. Transfer the mixture to a bowl and let sit at room temperature until cool.

2. Place the mascarpone, the remaining cup of cream and nutmeg in a bowl. Whip on low for a minute until the mascarpone is loose. Add the Grand Marnier and whip on medium speed until it holds soft peaks. (DO NOT OVERBEAT AS THE MASCARPONE WILL BREAK.)
3. Mix about 1⁄4 of the mascarpone mixture into the chocolate to lighten. Fold in the remaining mascarpone until well incorporated. Fill a pastry bag with the mousse. Again, you could just free form mousse on top of the pavlova.

Friday, June 25, 2010

Roasted Sunflower Shortbread (Gluten Free) - Simple Saturday

Believe it or not, sometimes I like a cookie that is not smothered in chocolate. It's usually just after I've eaten several of the cookies that are smothered in chocolate, but still...there are times. For those times, when a nice "not so sweet", still buttery and maybe even a touch of salt treat fits the craving - try these.
Roasted Sunflower Seed Shortbread (Gluten Free)
I don't want to claim these are actually healthy, but...there is a nice amount of fiber and minerals in those Sunflower Seeds, folks - so just deal.

RECIPE: Roasted Sunflower Seed Shortbread (Gluten Free)
4 oz (1 stick) of butter, soft
1 1/2 cups Gluten Free Flour Mix (King Arthur or Red Mill works great)

1/4 cup sugar

3 Tbls. Roasted Sunflower seeds (plus more for topping)

1 tsp. salt

2-4 Tbls. Water

Mix all the dry ingredients in a bowl.
Add the soft butter and stir to mix in well.

Add the Sunflower seeds to the stirring to incorporate.

Add the water a little at a time, mixing with a fork, just until you have a soft dough.

Wrap and chill the dough for 1 hour at least, then roll to 1/2 inch thickness and cut with shapes or squares.

Sprinkle extra Sunflower seeds over the tops, if you like.
Place on a parchment covered baking sheet to bake in a preheated oven set to 350F for 12 -15 minutes.

*optional - while warm, sprinkle a little Fleur de Sel or other flavored salts on top.

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Blackberry, Blueberry, Port Wine Jam - Sing it!

The path to my grandmother's house was through the woods. And, no matter how many times I was told as a kid to go straight through without stopping - I got distracted. A 2 minute walk turned into a 20 minute journey. Can you blame me? The path was lined with walls of wild blackberries.
This month's TigressCanJam ingredient was any product considered an "-erry". That meant strawberries, loganberries, blueberries, cranberries...get it? "-erries". Fun, right? It was almost TOO open for my easily distracted and multi-loving personality. I let the Farmer's Market decide for me, and when the "childhood memory" met with a great price, these black beauties won. But then, I got home to find my little Blueberry bush had turned into a it's own dark jeweled beauty and I couldn't resist having some blueberries join the jamming.
The Port seemed a natural mix and a way to sophisticate the flavors; I was hoping to actually create a jam for breakfast bread, but also a nice marinade or sauce addition to main entrees. I tried it on a nice lean Pork Tenderloin roast with mushrooms. It was the perfect addition to bring a little tang to the umami that was already there.
The recipe is a little from childhood memory (after a while, even Grandma recognized a good berry picker when she saw one), and a little experimentation. It's very simple and I've had great response to this jam as a biscuit topper and as an enhancer. Jam on!

RECIPE: Blackberry, Blueberry, Port Wine Jam

24 oz. Fresh Blackberries (crushed)

8 oz. Fresh Blueberries

1lb 6 oz. organic sugar

Juice of 1 lemon

1/4 cup Port (Warriors is a good balance)

Add the crushed black berries, the blueberries and the sugar to a large, deep pot. Heat on low, stirring often, until the sugar is dissolved.

Add the lemon juice and bring the heat up to Med/High, stirring to blend.
Cook until the berry mixture reaches 220F. Carefully add the Port, stir and reheat to 222F (or check the jam set on a pre-chilled plate in the freezer. If a dollop of jam doesn't run on the pre-chilled plate, the set is good.)

Remove from the heat and let rest for 3-5 minutes so the berries can mix with the syrup. If any obvious hard blackberry cores rise to the top, remove them for a smoother jam.

Pour hot jam into sterilized jars, seal properly and finish with a hot water bath for 10 minutes.
If you don't want to can this jam, just follow the recipe and pour into refrigerator containers, let cool and keep air tight in refrigerator (for 2 weeks).

Friday, June 18, 2010

Restaurant Style Pasta at Home (Sausage w/Mustard Cream Sauce)- Simple Saturday

Sometimes I have a hard time ordering Pasta Specials in just everyday Restaurants because I've worked in them and I know how simple it is to create that pasta at home. Of course, there are exceptions, but more often than not the recipe is very home-friendly. This same Pasta dish was over $20.00 a plate in a hotel in Southern California. You can make it at home for a couple dollars and in less than 20 MINUTES.
Sausage Pasta w/ Stone Ground Mustard Cream Sauce
The main ingredients for 4 servings, besides cooked pasta, are these three:

1) SAUSAGE (14oz) : This is already cooked Italian Sausage (You could choose Chicken, Turkey, Beef; It really just depends on your taste. It's exceptionally good with Vegetarian Sausage also, Mmmm.)

2) STONE GROUND MUSTARD (4 heaping Tbls): This can be found on the grocery aisle with the other mustards, the flecks of mustard seed give it a good zest - but it's also good with Dijon.

3) CREAM (1/2-3/4 cup): I use regular heavy whipping cream. Can you use non-fat? Yes, but it's not as tasty. I'd prefer to make my cuts by eating reasonable serving sizes.

You'll also need a small amount of Olive Oil, salt and pepper.

OTHER ingredients that can take it to a more complex level: Throw in crushed garlic, minced tarragon, a sprinkle of red pepper flakes, or a drizzle of white wine.

The DIRECTIONS are really quick and simple:


1) Slice your Sausage into bite size pieces

2) In a large skillet, drizzled with olive oil and heated on Med/High - drop the SAUSAGE pieces in to brown on all sides. (Even though the sausage is already cooked, this gives it a roasted flavor and adds flavor to the skillet for the sauce)

3) Remove the browned sausage and hold on a plate. Reduce the heat to the skillet and add the MUSTARD, pinch of salt and pepper, stirring to mix it in with the oils and toasty browned bits. This will take only about 1-2 minutes.

4) Add the CREAM to the skillet, stirring to incorporate and cooking it into a rich sauce. Reduce the heat further if needed. If it's too thick, add more cream as needed (or stock if you prefer).

5) Return the sausage to the skillet and when the PASTA is finished cooking, use a strainer spoon or tongs to lift the pasta out of it's water and directly into the skillet of Mustard Sauce. Stir to combine, adding some of the pasta water to the skillet if desired, and season with salt and pepper.

Serve with shaved Parmigiano Reggiano Cheese or Pecorino and a sprinkle of chopped parsley.
As always, I'd love to hear or see pictures of your meal. And pat yourself on the back; If you served four people you just saved 80 dollars!
What are you going to buy with that? Hmmm?

Thursday, June 17, 2010

Home Cured Salmon on Mushroom Blini & Paper Chef #53 Winner

Sometimes my food blog is also my touch stone. Do you ever have those times when work and life's details feel like too much batter for one tiny bowl? It's been one of those weeks for me. Now, as my pages of TO-DO lists look a little more TO-DOable, I can sit and focus on the art of food.
Home Cured Salmon on Mushroom Blini
This recipe came about because of ingredients that were chosen for this month's Paper Chef Challenge. The ingredients (that I helped randomly facilitate) were: Vodka, Salmon, Thyme, and Dried Mushrooms. I'm not in the running, but I can't just sit by and watch the others without playing, so I created one just for fun. The fun turned into a nice Appetizer that I served at a catered party. The curing takes a few days and was very flavorful, but you could also use store bought Gravlax or Smoked Salmon. The Blini is incredibly easy to prep and cooking off takes only a few minutes. (Recipe for Home Cured Salmon with Mushroom Blini at the end of post )

As the winner of last month's Paper Chef (chosen by the talented Fiona of
Nice Profiteroles), it is up to me to pick from the lovely entrants on this Paper Chef #53 Roundup.
Karen's Salmon Terrine with Leeks and Mushrooms in Vodka Cream
Kizzy with a Wellington of Salmon
Pauline with a Flammekueche and mushroom soup Flammekueche and mushroom soup NOW THE IMPORTANT THING: The Winner: You can imagine how hard the choosing is when all these recipes sound so good and the pictures make me hungry in a thousand different ways. The Terrine is both gorgeous and company-friendly. The pastry encased Salmon sounds and looks so flaky and tender and satisfying. The Flammekueche sounds so unique with the Salmon addition and Mushroom soup is a favorite of mine. Since there MUST be a solo winner: I choose the Salmon Terrine by Karen. I'm a sucker for seasonal cooking, and the idea of a nice chilled luncheon dish on a hot summer day got the best of me. Congrats to all of you, every one of these recipes are in my files and I can' t wait to share them. Check back with Paper Chef for next month's ingredients and ask a friend to join, it's loads of fun.

ShowFood Chef RECIPE: Home Cured Salmon with Mushroom Blini

1lb. Salmon Fillet (all pin bones removed)

1/4 cup Salt

1/4 cup brown sugar

1/4 cup Vodka

1 Tbls. Fresh Thyme (chopped)

2 Tbls. (or several large sprigs) Fresh Dill (chopped)

1 tsp. Fresh ground black pepper

Place Salmon on several layers of plastic wrap. Create a paste with remaining ingredients. Rub Salmon with paste all over and pressing gently to reach creases in the Salmon. Lay any sprigs of fresh dill on top of Salmon.
Wrap the Salmon in the plastic and place in small pan.
Place the pan of Salmon inside a larger pan, and lay large cans or a small cooking brick on top of Salmon to help press out moisture.
Refrigerate for at least 36 hours, or up to 3 days. (Pour off liquid after the first 24 hours.)

Remove Salmon and wash off the brining. Carve Salmon on the diagonal in strips as thin as desired for serving.

1/2 cup Dried Mushrooms (reconstitute for 45 minutes in warm water, then chop into chunks)

2 eggs

3 Tbls. water

*Combine these into a blender and puree til creamy.

*Add puree into a bowl with:
4 Tbls. Flour
dash of salt and pepper

*Stir to form a paste.
*In a separate bowl:
Whip 1 egg white to soft peaks.
*Fold whipped egg white into the mushroom paste mixture til fully incorporated.
*In a skillet with drizzle of oil and heated to Med/High, drop little circles of batter (about 2 inches diameter) and cook like pancakes; when browned on one side, flip and cook for a moment to brown on other side.
*Remove to a warm plate to hold.

Blini can be warm or room temp. and topped with a dollop of sour cream, a small sliver of Salmon and garnished with dill or thyme.

Monday, June 14, 2010

Partay Pate! - Daring Cooks June, 2010

When I was first introduced to Pate, it reminded me of a childhood sandwich-spread in the South called, Liver Pudding. It wasn't a favorite of mine, even though my grandparents fried it, baked it and mixed it with cheese in an effort to convince me of it's "Pig-liciousness" Now that I have traveled enough to taste the different spices used regionally, appreciate the quality of farm raised stock, and found out you can make it from vegetables and still call it a Pate, well... I like it.
Our hostesses this month, Evelyne of Cheap Ethnic Eatz, and Valerie of a The Chocolate Bunny, chose delicious pate with freshly baked bread as their June Daring Cook’s challenge! They’ve provided us with 4 different pate recipes to choose from and are allowing us to go wild with our homemade bread choice.

The Daring Cook's Challenge this month was very timely as I had several catering/party gigs where I could share the Pate.
I used the recipes given (and included below) to make both a vegetable dish and a Country Pate of Chicken livers and Pork.
I even experimented with grinding my own pork belly - fun stuff.
It really was. There's always a special feeling in being so involved with the full creation of a food experience. Yeah, I'm a food nerd, I know.

I've made several Chicken Liver pates in the past, and this one was more complicated, but it did receive amazing comments and really had a complex and satisfying taste and texture. Definitely give it a try. It's a fantastic party plate, and you can freeze half of it for later.

I also used the bread recipe given, and I loved the addition of the starter.
It had a great rise and a fluffy texture with a buttery taste even without butter. It was also very involved in comparison to a lot of recipes.
Tricolor Vegetable Pâté

Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan

Line your pan with plastic wrap, overlapping sides.

White Bean Layer

2 x 15-ounce / 900 ml cans cannellini (white kidney beans), rinsed, drained thoroughly
1 tbsp / 15 ml fresh lemon juice
1 tbsp / 15 ml olive oil
1 tbsp / 15 ml minced fresh oregano or 1 teaspoon dried
2 garlic cloves, pressed

Mash beans in large bowl. Add lemon juice, olive oil, oregano and garlic and blend until smooth. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Spread bean mixture evenly on bottom of prepared pan.

Red Pepper Layer
7-ounce / 210 ml jar roasted red bell peppers, drained, chopped
3/4 cup / 180 ml crumbled feta cheese (about 4 ounces)

Combine peppers and feta in processor and blend until smooth. Spread pepper mixture evenly over bean layer in prepared dish.

Pesto Layer
2 garlic cloves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh basil leaves
1 cup / 240 ml fresh Italian parsley leaves
1/4 cup / 60 ml toasted pine nuts
3 tbsp / 45 ml olive oil
1/2 cup / 120 ml low-fat ricotta cheese

Mince garlic in processor. Add basil, parsley and pine nuts and mince. With machine running, gradually add oil through feed tube and process until smooth. Mix in ricotta. Spread pesto evenly over red pepper layer.

Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

To unmold, invert pâté onto serving platter. Peel off plastic wrap from pâté. Garnish with herb sprigs and serve with sourdough bread slices.

Chicken Liver Terrine

Yields one 25 by 12,5 cm (10 by 5 inch) terrine or loaf pan

1 tbsp duck fat, or butter
2 onions, coarsely chopped
300g (11 oz) chicken livers, trimmed
3 tbsp brandy, or any other liqueur (optional)
100g (3 1/2 oz, 1/2 cup) smoked bacon, diced
300g (11 oz) boneless pork belly, coarsely ground
200g (7 oz) boneless pork blade (shoulder), coarsely ground (or ground pork see note below)
2 shallots, chopped
1 tsp quatre-épices (or 1/4tsp each of ground pepper, cloves, nutmeg and ginger is close enough)
2 eggs
200 ml (7 fl oz, 3/4 cup + 2 tbsp) heavy cream
2 fresh thyme sprigs, chopped
Salt and pepper

NOTE: If you cannot find ground pork belly or blade, buy it whole, cut it into chunks, and pulse in the food processor. You can also replace the pork blade with regular ground pork.

Preheat oven to 200ºC (400ºF, Gas Mark 6).

Melt the fat or butter in a heavy frying pan over low heat. Add the onions and cook, stirring occasionally, for 5 minutes, until softened. Add the chicken livers and cook, stirring frequently, for about 5 minutes, until browned but still slightly pink on the inside.

Remove the pan from heat. Pour in the brandy, light a match and carefully ignite the alcohol to flambé. Wait for the flames to go out on their own, carefully tilting the pan to ensure even flavoring. Set aside.

Put the minced pork belly and blade in a food processor, then add the onion-liver mixture and the chopped shallots, and pulse until you obtain a homogenous mixture – make sure not to reduce it to a slurry.

Transfer to a bowl, and gradually stir in the chopped bacon, quatre-épices, cream, eggs, and thyme. Season with salt and pepper, and mix well. Spoon the mixture into a terrine or loaf pan, and cover with the terrine lid or with aluminum foil.

Prepare a water bath: place the loaf pan in a larger, deep ovenproof dish (such as a brownie pan or a baking dish). Bring some water to a simmer and carefully pour it in the larger dish. The water should reach approximately halfway up the loaf pan.

Put the water bath and the loaf pan in the oven, and bake for 2 hours. Uncover and bake for another 30 minutes. The terrine should be cooked through, and you should be able to slice into it with a knife and leave a mark, but it shouldn’t be too dry. Refrigerate, as this pâté needs to be served cold. Unmold onto a serving platter, cut into slices, and serve with bread.

NOTE: This pâté freezes well. Divide it into manageable portions, wrap tightly in plastic film, put in a freezer Ziploc bag, and freeze. Defrost overnight in the fridge before eating.

Saturday, June 12, 2010

If You Can Boil Water, You Can Poach Fish - Simple Saturday

In the time it takes you to make rice, you could have a nice piece of poached fish to go on top of it. Poaching is one of those cooking terms that send the new or non-cook running to a take-out joint. Even if you cook a lot, it may be a technique you've forgotten about.
Here's how easy it is:
in a
1) Choose a liquid and pour about 1-2 inches of it in a skillet (add flavors that you make you hungry), including something with a tang (acid), like white wine, lemon juice, or light vinegar.
2) Bring it to boil, then turn down a little to just barely simmer
3) Put in your fish
4) Cover the pan and cook for 5-10 minutes (depending on size or amount of fish).
Ta Da! You've poached! Now just a few great things about poaching, besides how easy it is:

1) This is a light and healthy way to prepare fish, no extra oils or fats are required in cooking.

2) Poaching is excellent for firm white fish, ie. Tilapia, Red Snapper, Halibut.
3) Infusing the liquid adds lots of flavor to the fish without processed additives.
4) The cooking liquid can be used as a sauce or base for fish soup at another time.
5) Poached fish is delicious served warm or chilled (makes an excellent light summer meal).

RECIPE: Lemon and Caper Poached Tilapia

1) In a skillet, add water (about 2 inches for fillets), lemon slices, fresh thyme, basil, a few peppercorns, dash of salt, few sprigs of fresh parsley. (*You can also add even more flavor by cooking a handful of chopped onions in a bit of olive oil before adding the water)
2) Cooking on Med. High, bring the liquid just to a boil and then turn in down to Low/Med.
3) Add your fish to the liquid (it should come about half way up the fish, not over the fish)
4) Cover the skillet and just simmer (not boiling) for 10 minutes.
5) Remove the fish and hold warm while you make a sauce with the remaining liquid.
6) Cook the liquid on Med/High until it has reduced (cooked down) about half-way.
7) Strain out the lemons and spices, etc.. and return the liquid to the skillet again.
8) Continue to cook on low, adding 1 tbls cold butter and whisking continuously.
9) Finally add 1 Tbls. capers, stir and serve the sauce spooned over the fish.
Now here's the most fun part - OPTIONS!

The liquid is up to you and your culinary imagination: fish stock, soup stock, orange juice, coconut milk, tea - go for it. Just remember that it does balance better with a touch of tang, something with acid like a drizzle of white wine, or citrus or a vinegar.

The flavors (aromatics) are up to you, think about what would go together and try it: spices, herbs, rubs, sauces, condiments, seeds and juices.

Let me know what you try, it's always fun for me too!