Friday, November 26, 2010

Crostata, Tarte or Pie - Good No Matter How You Slice It (Daring Bakers 11/10)

Tarte Aux Poires Et Chocolat (Pear & Chocolate Tart)

A little while back, I had the pleasure of being the Chef for an evening with Anne Willan (creator of LaVarenne in France). It was a small tasting event at the chic Algabar Tea in Los Angeles. The night was a book signing event with invited guests that included an evening of Anne's travel stories and a sampling of her chosen recipes prepared (gulp). Although I was nervous with desire to prepare and please with the courses from her book, "The Country Cooking of France" (and a bit intimidated for sure), the evening was a complete success. Anne could not have been more gracious, elegant and warm. She included me in the Q & A after the meal, and praised me generously. In a town like Los Angeles - where I have worked beside some people (celebrities) whose work I admired, only to find them lacking in the "how to not act like a jerk" department - Anne Willan was a treasure.When I read this month's Daring Baker's challenge was a crostata (an Italian tart), I immediately thought of the many Tartes I made that night for our tasting. Although, I love all Italian foods and I've made many Italian Crostatas, I also love to be connected to the process in a personal way. Besides, this time I was going to be not only cooking it, but eating it too, oh yeah.
The 2010 November Daring Bakers’ challenge was hosted by Simona of briciole. She chose to challenge Daring Bakers’ to make pasta frolla for a crostata. She used her own experience as a source, as well as information from Pellegrino Artusi’s Science in the Kitchen and the Art of Eating Well.

If we get very specific here: a Crostata (Italian) is very often a free formed pastry and a Tarte (French) is more structured. The actual ingredients may vary according to local supplies, the fruits that are in season and the availability of eggs, butter and sugar. In the United States, we often just use the word "Pie" for anything that is encased in pastry no matter how big or small, fruit or savory, baked or fried. No matter what you call it, when it's this good your mouth will be too full to talk about it anyway.

As part of the challenge, we were given the recipe for the pastry and it follows:

Pasta Frolla-

1/2 cup minus 1 Tbls. superfine sugar
1 3/4 cup all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1 stick (8 Tbls. ) cold unsalted butter cut into small pieces.
grated zest of half a lemon
1 large egg and 1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten in a small bowl
1) Whisk together the flour, sugar and salt in a bowl.
2) Rub or cut the butter into the flour until the mixture is coarse crumbs.
3) Pour the flour mixture onto the work board, make a well in the center of the mounded flour mixture and pour the beaten eggs into it.
4) Add the lemon zest to the flour/butter/egg mixture
5) Use a fork to incorporate the liquid into the solid ingredients and use your fingertips.
6) Knead just until the dough comes together into a ball
7) Shape the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plasic. Chill for at least an hour
8) When ready, remove the chilled dough and roll out thin and a little bigger than a 10" tart pan.
9) Carefully lift the dough and place into the tart pan, pressing gently around the inside edges and rolling your rolling pin over the top to trim the pastry so it fits the tart pan.
10) Chill the tart shell in the pan for about 30 minutes so the pastry doesn't shrink when cooking.
Fill and Bake as your recipe suggests, or blind bake (pre bake ) the tart shell for filling with a custard or fruit.

Tarte Aux Poires Et Chocolat recipe (* waiting for permission to reprint, please check back) and seriously consider getting a copy. I have probably made over 30 recipes just from her book.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Nutella Egg Nog - Simple Saturday

Nutella Egg Nog

Now that I've added Nutella to my egg nog recipe, I'm not sure if it's a drink or liquid dessert. Just when I thought the sweet lava decadence of whipped eggs, sugar and cream (sometimes with a kiss of rum) could not get richer for toasting the holidays, along came the idea for adding a sexy scoop of chocolate and hazelnut goo-dness.

The whole idea of Egg Nog goes back centuries and includes the colonial days in America.
In literal terms it's a glass of whipped "egg" drink served in little mugs (nogs). In true American form, I bet it was a great cover for sneaking a little "brew" into the cup and feeling the holiday cheer get a bit warmer as the shipped in Caribbean Rum heated up the blood in those tightly buckled shoes. Since then, the South added bourbon and good common sense added whipped cream and took out the alcohol so kids could toast along. This recipe doesn't include the "adult holiday cheer", but you could easily drop in a shooter just before serving. The steps look long because I wanted to break it down simply, but it doesn't take very long and it definitely is simple. NUTELLA EGG NOG:

1 qt. Whole Milk (don't make it with low fat, it's just not eggnog)

1 cup sugar (+ 1Tbls. for whipping cream later)

1 Tbls. Vanilla paste (you can use extract if you need to)

1 cinnamon stick

6 egg yolks (save the whites in the fridge for macaroons or meringue to make another time)

1/2 cup Nutella

1/2 cup heavy cream (for topping)

1 fresh nutmeg (to grate for garnish)

1) In a large saucepan, heat the milk, sugar, vanilla and cinnamon stick on med/high until just before boiling or you start to see tiny bubbles around the edges. Stir to dissolve the sugar.

2) Remove from heat, cover the pan and let sit while the cinnamon and vanilla infuse the heated milk with flavor, for about 10 minutes. Then remove the cinnamon stick.

3) In a separate bowl, whisk the egg yolks briskly until they are a pale frothy yellow.

4) Whisk a little bit of the warm milk into the eggs, slowly to warm up the eggs without cooking them. Then pour the whole mixture back into the saucepan and return to med. heat.

5) Continue to heat, stirring constantly for a few minutes. Do not let the mixture boil.

6) Add the Nutella to the pan and continue to stir while melting the Nutella. There will be small flecks of ground hazelnut and chipped chocolate that will stay.

7) Remove from heat and cool for a few moments, then cover with plastic touching the surface of the Nutella Egg Nog and chill in the refrigerator for several hours to over night.

8) When ready to serve the Nutella Egg Nog, then whip the cream and 1 Tbls. sugar to soft peaks.

You can either fold in the whipped cream, or just add a dollop to the top; depending on how thick you like your egg nog.
Garnish by adding freshly grated nutmeg over the top.

***** If you'd like to have a cocoa sugar rim on your cups like pictured: Mix 1 Tbls. cocoa with 2 Tbls. sugar and pour onto a flat saucer. Dip the rim of each cup into a glass of water, corn syrup, agave or simple syrup, then into the saucer of cocoa sugar. Syrups hold the cocoa sugar on longer, but water will work also.******* Happiest Holidays to my readers and stay tuned for more entertaining and food ideas. Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Apple Thyme Butter

If you could taste the seasons, Autumn would be this Apple Thyme Butter on a warm, flaky biscuit.

Apple Thyme Butter

Apples are so versatile, I almost take them for granted. For this month's "Tigress Can Jam" challenge the wonderful and talented Cosmic Cowgirl chose a Pome to be the star of November's canning/jamming rodeo. I could have used Quinces, or even Pears, but the Honey Crisp Apples were being sampled at the Farmer's Market and one nibble had me wanting to take them home.I've made apple jam, apple jelly, apple preserves, apple rings and apple cheese, but never apple butter. Of course, there is no real butter in apple butter (just like there is no cheese in apple cheese), it's more about the consistency. Apple butter is made from apple puree that has been cooked down, most of the liquid is evaporated and you're left with this...well..fruit butter. There's no better way to describe it.Then, of course, I had to give it my spin - my take - my "if this doesn't work I sure have wasted a lot of apples" challenge for myself. I'm more than thrilled to report; it worked. The addition of fresh thyme and a pinch of dried thyme created a warm earthy and savory balance to the natural and added sugars needed to preserve the apples.Now, when would you use Apple Thyme Butter, you ask? Here are just a few ways I have been [obsessively] using this sinfully flavorful and spreadable gold:

* Spread on (or as an ingredient for) Oat muffins
* Turkey Sandwich, with Arugula and Apple Thyme Butter - (It tastes like a hand-held Thanksgiving lunch)
* Served as a glaze on Pork
* Mixed into Mashed Potatoes while still warm
* Licked off a spoon while spreading more on a biscuit (yeah, I did)

(adapted from too many books to mention, just to make sure I had the ratios for acid/fruit and sugar correct)

3 lb Apples (peeled, cored and loose chopped)
1 cup water
2 cups 100% Apple juice (unsweetened)
1 large lemon (juice to equal 1/4 cup) and zest
5-6 branches, or more, of fresh thyme
2 cups sugar
1 tsp Dried Thyme leaves
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cloves

1) In a large pot, add apples, apple juice, water, lemon juice and fresh clean branches of thyme.
Bring this to a boil, then quickly reduce to lowest simmer for about 45 minutes until apples are breaking down and tender.2) Set pot aside to cool a little. Then press apple mixture through a fine sieve into a bowl to catch the puree.
3) Measure 4 cups of puree and return that to the pot. Add 1/2 cup sugar per 1 cup of puree (so, 2 cups of sugar) to the apple puree. Also add the dried thyme leaves, cinnamon and cloves.

4) Bring back to a boil and quickly reduce to the lowest simmer. Cook, stirring very often and be careful not to burn the puree as it reduces, for 1 - 1 1/2 hours (depending on the size of your pot).
5) When the Apple Butter is a good thick consistency and the sugars have caramelized and turned it into a deep dark golden hue - carefully pour into sterilized jars, seal and process for 10 minutes in a hot water bath. (If not preserving: pour into clean containers, cool and refrigerate covered, or freeze for later use.)
Now, that I've posted this, I'm going to try Apple Thyme Butter in a Butternut Squash Casserole. You just know that will be good. If you make this and try it, or have other ideas for it - leave them in a comment. Thanks for stopping by.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Savory Corn Madeleines

Savory Corn Madeleines
There are times when a rustic pan of crumbly cornbread really fits the meal. And, there are times that call for just a little more finesse. These beautiful savory madeleines sweetened with fresh corn add an element of chic and whimsy to everything from a bowl of soup to a dollop of Jalapeno Jam.They are whipped up so easily, stay moist for the whole meal and even freeze well for serving now and saving some for later.

I add a basket of Corn Madeleines to our Thanksgiving table; they make good gravy pals.
RECIPE: SAVORY CORN MADELEINES (adapted from Gourmet article)

2 Tbls. AP flour
1/3 cup cornmeal
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp. baking soda
pinch of salt/pepper
1/3 cup buttermilk
1 egg
Fresh corn (cut off 1 cob of corn) [optionally use 1/2 cup canned corn drained]
1 TBLs Butter (melted)

1) Preheat the oven to 375F, and butter a madeleine pan

2) In a large bowl, whisk together all dry ingredients: flour, cornmeal, sugar, baking soda, salt and pepper

3) Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the buttermilk,egg, melted butter and corn.

4) Stir all ingredients together just until mixed well.

5) Fill each madeleine mold space with the corn batter to 3/4 full. Bake for 6-8 minutes or til the sides begin to brown lightly.

6) Cool for a couple minutes, remove from pan and serve warm, cool to room temp on rack.

***For Freezing: place cooled madeleines on a parchment covered baking sheet. Freeze until firm, then remove from pan, bag and label. Later, crisp up the madeleines in a 350F oven for 2-3 minutes.

Friday, November 12, 2010

No Knead Pasta - Chard & Mushroom Soup with Fregola - Simple Saturday

Here's the secret to a no-knead pasta, called Fregola: Semolina, Water, and your fingertips. That's it! Fino!
Swiss Chard Mushroom Soup w/ Fregola
Fregola (pronounced, FRAY-Go-la) is Italian. In some parts of Italy the word is actually kinda naughty and means something like "messing around", if ya know what I mean. It has origins from Sardinia, but acts alot like couscous from the Middle East. When it's toasted, it has a little more warmth and nutty taste than couscous and you can't beat homemade anything, right? I first saw this pasta being made on television in Italy (their cooking shows are more like a variety hour sometimes and so fun!) I use Fregola in soups, salads, morning cereal, casseroles, and instead of rice or couscous. Once you make it, you can keep it in an air-tight container for many weeks. There are only 3 steps (2 if you don't want it toasted).
Pour SEMOLINA grains into a bowl (here, I'm using 2 cups)
Using your fingertips, sprinkle with water.
Using your fingertips, every now and then, stir in a big circle. The wet grains will start to form small pasta balls. Sprinkle again, fingertip stir, and repeat until most of the semolina has become small pasta.

Use a strainer to collect your Fregola and gather your unused or tiny fregola on a parchment paper or other bowl.Place your Fregola Pasta on a parchment lined baking sheet and bake/dry in an oven set on low/300F for about 45 minutes (stir the pan a couple times.)

You can also use your Fregola without toasting it. You would simply boil it like you do spaetzle or tiny dumplings.

Once oven dried/baked - you can let your Fregola Pasta cool to use now or later. You could make a lot to use some now and bag the rest in an airtight bag or covered container.

To use Fregola like couscous or rice: Bring 2 cups of stock or water, seasoned, to a boil. Add 1 cup Fregola and cook until liquid has been absorbed (usually about 10 minutes.)

OR: use this recipe I developed for one of my favorite twitter groups of talented bloggers, called #LetsLunch. (To join us each month or check out the tweets - just type the # sign followed by LetsLunch into Twitter online.)
A few years ago, during a time of not so great financial position (aka: barely keeping your head above water) the kids and I used to have "Soup Parties". It was one of those ways that we parents try to cover the stress of "stretching our grocery budget" for the week. The kids loved "Soup Parties" because they got to pick from several different soups on the stove and go back as often as they liked, and the whole table buzz was fun and laughing. Good thing, because "soup party" really meant; lets take everything we have left in the refrigerator and turn it into dinner.
Here's the thing: it has become a family tradition - a memory of great times instead of lean.

Fregola Pasta adds the fun noodle mouth play and some rib-sticking thickness to this very colorful and healthy soup:

RECIPE: Chard & Mushroom Soup w/ Fregola
3 Tbls or so of Olive Oil
salt/pepper to taste
1 cup chopped carrots
1 cup chopped celery
1 1/2 cup chopped onions
1/4 cup of white wine (or stock, or apple cider)
1 large can of Whole Tomatoes chopped or hand squished
1 bunch fresh Chard
1 cup chopped Mushrooms
1 qt. Chicken Stock ( or vegetable stock, or water if preferred)
1 can Cannelini (or other white beans) drained
2 cups Fregola (handmade as above recipe, or store bought, or quick rice)
1) In a large skillet or pot, heat the olive oil and add the carrots, celery, and onions. Cook til tender (about 10 minutes)
2) Add the wine, and stir as the vegetables soak up the flavor. Season with salt and pepper.
3) Stir in the tomatoes, the mushrooms and the chard. Toss to combine.
4) Pour in the stock and bring to a simmer. Cover and cook for 20-30 minutes to develop flavor.
5) Add the Fregola and the Cannelini beans. Continue to cook for about 10-15 more minutes, stirring now and then. Add water or stock as needed.
This soup is one of those foods that actually taste even better the next day reheated; or maybe that's just me loving that it's right there waiting. :D
For more INCREDIBLY inventive and soul-warming Fall Soups - check out my #LetsLunch pals:

Cheryl Tiger In The Kitchen - Winter Melon Soup

Danielle Bon Vivant - Carrot Soup & Chicharrons

Ellise Cowgirl Chef - Potimarron ("Frenchy Pumpkin" Soup)

Emma Dreaming of Pots And Pans - Roasted Tomato Soup

Linda Free Range Cookies - Oven-Baked Soup

Mai Hoang Cooking in The Fruit Bowl - Apple Beer Cheese Soup

Steff The Kitchen Trials - Carrot Habanero Soup

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Roasted Golden Beet Tart - Foodbuzz Fest Part Two

I couldn't find a T-Shirt that read; "ShowFood Chef Went to FoodBuzz Festival and All I Got Was This T-Shirt". So instead, I'm giving you this recipe that was inspired by one of the exquisite courses prepared for our Gala Dinner.
My Roasted Golden Beet Tart
w/Balsamic Candied Red Beets & Arugula
I really enjoyed the dinner catered by Paula LeDuc Fine Catering in San Francisco. I was amazed at the consistently well-cooked scallops and lamb. Those are not easy to cook well for a crowd. Everything was presented so beautifully and paired perfectly with Bonny Doon wines.

Here's part #2 of my first FoodBuzz Blogger Festival that includes a dinner recap along with pics of the fun. If you weren't there, hopefully I'll make you feel like you were, then leave you with a nice Roasted Golden Beet Tart recipe to make on your own:

Saturday morning began with several casual breakout sessions:
I attended the Video Blogging session with ChezPim, RhodeyGirl and FoodWishes. The biggest take-away from the session was a renewed sense of ambition - just do it, go for it, try new things.

I also attended the Writing session lead by three of my favorite bloggers: SaltySeattle, Sippity Sup and FoodWoolf. In the session we were encouraged to stretch our brains and creativity further, to stay away from the over used words to describe food (awesome, tasty, delicious, yummy). We were also given a chance to play in a Twitter game during the Tasting Pavilion: tweet a 140 characters (or less) comment about the food without using any of the forbidden words. Guess what? I won $100.00 with a winning tweet that admittedly was pushing not only creativity, but rating's boundaries (according to my mom.) I'll still include the tweet under the picture of its inspiration. (See if you can guess my winning words.)

Just about the time I was getting hungry, I attended the Alaskan Seafood session and met this guy:
He would be fish cakes in the hands of the gorgeous and adorable Mary Sue Milliken of Border Grill, etc. fame.
She turned salmon and halibut into these tantalizing teasers -
...but we could only take pictures and not eat until later at the Pavilion.
Once, at the Metreon, we enjoyed the sky-high views of San Francisco and blogger-blabbered in the sunshine until they opened the doors.
Once the chow-bell rang, all food heaven broke loose:Poached Gulf Prawns And Chile-Gazpacho from the Waterfront Hotel.

Prather Ranch Meats - "Whiskey soaked maple sausage - hello, are you dating anyone?"

Several Food Bloggers were giving demos for recipes that had won them a spot in the Tasting Pavilion (including Julie from Willowbird Baking and Josie from DayDreamer Desserts. )

Cream of mushroom from Americano at Hotel Vitale.

Mission Minis cupcakes
Olive Oil with Meyer Lemon that really shined from, Inna Jam and
Go Pop Candy found on along with many of the artisan foods that popped.

After a quick rest (AKA: more drinks in the lobby bar) it was time for the Gala Dinner presented by Cooking Channel and wines by Bonny Doon Vineyard.

Our first course (also the inspiration for my recipe)-
Roasted Golden Beet Tart
Crimson beet, Feta, Currants & Basil Puree
(paired with 2009 Bonny Doon Ca'del Solo Albarino)

Seared Scallops w/Braised Fennel and Fried Fonds
(w/Bonny Doon Vineyard Verjus Beurre Blanc)
Our next course (not pictured) was a Rosemary Garlic Infused Rack of Lamb w/Wild Mushrooms and Butternut Squash Puree (paired with 2006 Bonny Doon Vineyard Le Cigare Volant).
Dessert: Tarta de Almendras
w/ Orange and garnished with a toasted Parmigiano nest.
(paired with 2008 Bonny Doon Vineyard Vinferno)

Good Food and wonderful people - they're hard to forget. Blogging is one way to journal about moments and meals that you want to share. I loved the idea of Show and Tell in school, it always gave me a chance to see into my class mates lives and personalities beyond the playground and tiled world of plastic desks.

Show Food Chef is my way of letting you (when you have time and desire) into my world. This week I wanted to develop a recipe that captured the taste of the mellow tart served to me during the Gala Dinner. This is NOT their recipe, but I have to say it was damn good. I hope you have the chance to try it.

RECIPE: Roasted Golden Beet Tart -

Classic 3-2-1 Pastry Dough for pie shell *(See below)

3 Golden Beets (roasted - see instructions)
3 Tbls. Buttermilk
2 eggs
1 tsp. lemon zest
1 tsp. fresh ground pepper
1/4 tsp. ground cinnamon
pinch of salt
4 oz. goat cheese (room temp)
[Makes 4 6inch tarts or 1 9inch tart]

1) Wash and cut the Golden Beets in half. Place cut side down into a baking dish. Pour in 1/4 cup water, cover with foil and roast the beets for about 40 minutes at 350F (or until fork tender).
2) Remove from oven, uncover and let rest/cool for a few minutes. Peel the tender beets and cut into large chucks.
3) Put the beet cubes into a food processor and puree.
4) Add the buttermilk, eggs, zest, cinnamon, salt & pepper.
5) Puree together until a smooth custard
6) Pour beet custard into a bowl and stir in the goat cheese until just incorporated.

When the pie or tart shells are ready and prebaked, pour the beet custard into the shells and bake at 350F for about 20-30 minutes, depending on size of tarts or pie. They are ready when the center of the custard is just set and not loose. Remove and cool for a few minutes before carefully taking out of pans.

Serve with lightly dressed Arugula on top, and garnished with candied red beets or a drizzle of cilantro glaze.

Classic 3-2-1 Pie Dough:

1 1/2 cups AP Flour
pinch of salt
1/2 cup cold butter
5-8 Tbls. iced water

1) In a food processor - pour in flour and salt, then add the butter cubed. Pulse to cut in the butter, just until its small pea-size bits.

2) Pulse in the water a little at a time just until the dough starts to hold together.

3) Remove dough to floured board and using palm of one hand, push dough forward and then pull into a ball (about 2 times only). Divide dough into halves, form a disk, wrap in plastic and chill for at least 1 hour.

4) Roll each disk out between plastic wrap, removing and sprinkling with tiny bit of flour as needed to roll easier.
When the dough is rolled, cut into size as needed for tart or pie pan and place in pan.

5) Chill the pie shells for about 30 minutes (this helps keep them thin and solid when baking).

6) Cover the bottom of pie shell with parchment and fill with pie weights or beans. Bake in 350F oven for about 10-15 minutes (depending on size of pans). It should not brown, but just get a nice pre-baked texture to help prevent soggy crust when filled.

7) Fill pie/tart shells and bake as instructed by your recipe.
Thanks for stopping by - let me know your thoughts :D