Thursday, November 25, 2010

Thanksgiving Day Butternut Squash Soup With Apples & Bacon

Audrie and i thought it would be nice to have a pumpkin soup "starter" this Thanksgiving.  She had a delicious one in Germany, and Laurence has been eating a pumpkin-cider soup in NY that he keeps raving about.  So i was determined to give them a good pumpkin-type soup this Thanksgiving. 

I made three different soups - all with pumpkin or butternut squash and apples - but two of them were disappointing.  One was so healthy that it had no taste; the second one, made with pancetta, was disappointing, but it had potential.  So i decided to modify the recipe with pancetta, and now i think i have the perfect Thanksgiving butternut squash soup!

Ingredients --
  • 8 slices of bacon, cut into 1/4-inch strips
  • 1 butternut squash, peeled, seeded and cut into 1/2 inch dices (yields about 6 cups)
  • 1 small Granny Smith or other tart-sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dices (yields about 1 cup)
  • 1/2 small Gala or other sweet apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2 inch dices (yields 1/2 cup)
  • 1-1/2 Tablespoons of finely chopped fresh sage leaves
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 3 cups of chicken broth
  • 1 cup of apple cider
In a large stockpot set at medium heat, cook the bacon, stirring occasionally, until crisp and golden.
Use a slotted spoon and transfer the bacon to a plate lined with paper towels.
Increase the heat to medium-high, and add the squash to the pot with the bacon fat and cook until lightly browned.  Try to resist stirring too often or it won't brown.
Stir in the apple, sage, salt and pepper and cook for about 4 or 5 minutes.  (You'll see more browning occurring on the bottom of the pot than on the veggies.)
Add the broth and apple juice, scraping up any browned bits in the pot with a wooden spoon.
Bring to a boil over high heat.
Reduce the heat to maintain a simmer and cook until the squash and apples are very soft.
Remove from the heat and let cool somewhat.
Add about half the bacon to the soup and, using an immersion blender, puree.
Add more salt or pepper if needed.
Reheat the soup and garnish with a dollop of sour cream and the remaining bacon.
The players!

Buon appetito, and a joyous Thanksgiving to all!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Schlag (fresh whipped cream)

Schlag, or Whipped Cream

1 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
1-2 tablespoon of confectioner's sugar

Put cold heavy cream, vanilla and sugar in mixing bowl.
With stand mixer, use the whisk attachment and, start out slowly otherwise you have cream all over your kitchen.

It's actually very easy and takes about 2.5 seconds if you use an immersion blender with a whisk attachment.

As the cream thickens, turn the speed up. As it gets foamier, start checking for a soft peak, which is what you want. The peak should bend over at the top when you remove the whisk. As it gets close, slow down, because if it goes too far, it will clump and separate (essentially become butter).

Delicious schlag!

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Pumpkin Bread, 3 ways!

Once upon a time, about 150 years ago, (apparently before we had to dial phone numbers preceded by the area code), my girlfriend Beth gave me a cookbook from her City of Hope chapter.  I decided to try the pumpkin bread recipe, primarily because it made 3 loaves (if it's good, why make 1 loaf when you can just as easily make 2, i mean 3 loaves?).  I've made this pumpkin bread just about every year since and it's always a hit!  And because it makes so much, i usually make one loaf with nuts and golden raisins (for mom), one loaf with chocolate (for everyone other than Debbie) and one plain loaf (for Jessica who doesn't eat nuts, raisins or chocolate).

The ancient book of pumpkin bread.

Ingredients --
  • 4 cups sugar (i use 1/2 dark brown and 1/2 white)
  • 1 cup butter, softened
  • 6 large eggs
  • 1 (29 oz.) can pumpkin
  • 1 cup water
  • 6 cups sifted flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1 Tablespoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1-2 cups of chopped nuts, raisins, dates, chocolate or a combination of your choice
In a very large bowl,
Cream the sugar and butter until light with an electric mixer.
Add eggs and beat thoroughly.
Stir in pumpkin, vanilla and water and blend.
Sift dry ingredients together and fold them into the liquid ingredients, mixing just until dry ingredients are thoroughly moistened.
Add nuts and fruit and chocolate.
Pour into 3 well-buttered loaf pans and let set for 15 minutes.
Bake in a pre-heated 350°F. oven for 1 hour.
Let cool before removing from loaf pan.


Pumpkin Bread, 3 ways!
Optional:  Add a dolop of fresh schlag!

Spiced Cranberry and Dried Fruit Chutney

About 5 years ago, my friend Leslie turned me onto this easy cranberry recipe.  Like i said, it's easy and interesting and, with a few of my own touches, it's become my "go to" cranberry dish for Thanksgiving dinner.  It's actually good year-round with turkey or on top of yogurt or cottage cheese.

You can use any kind of dried fruit.  In fact, this year i ventured into a completely different variety -- figs, bing cherries, and blueberries.  But get creative and use whatever you like.

Dried apricots, figs, bing cherries, blueberries and fresh cranberries

All the fruits getting to know each other in this hot bath.

Ingredients --
  • 4 cups of fresh cranberries
  • 1 cup of dried apricot halves
  • 1/2 cup of dried blueberries
  • 1/2 cup of dried bing cherries
  • 1 cup of dried figs
  • 1/4 cup of chopped crystallized ginger
  • 2/3 cup of packed golden brown sugar
  • 1 cup of frozen concentrated cranberry juice cocktail, thawed i forgot to pick this up at the market, so this year i used apple juice instead.  Great alternative!
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground cayenne pepper
  • 4 teaspoons of balsamic vinegar
Stir all ingredients except vinegar in a large saucepan over medium-high heat until sugar dissolves.
Increase the heat to high and boil until thick, stirring often - about 4 minutes.
Transfer to a bowl and mix in the vinegar.
Season with salt & pepper.
Cover and chill.

Yields 5 or 6 cups.
Can be made 2 weeks ahead of time.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Delicious Truffled Potatoes & Onions

Who said quick and easy can't be delicious?

I've been slaving over a pumpkin cider soup, and decided to take a break to do something quick and easy with my Japanese Yam, fingerling potatoes and red onion. 

Karen and Enrico gave me a special bottle of black truffle infused olive oil for my birthday.  I decided it was time to mix all of these delicious ingredients together.  What a combination!  Because i sliced the onion on the thin side, i thought i might be better off adding it after the potatoes cooked for a bit, but then decided "easy" had to mean easy as 1-2-3. 
   1 - Quickly prepare the ingredients;
   2 - Pop them in the oven; and
   3 - Buon appetito!

Can you see the truffle in the olive oil bottle!
Ingredients --
  • Fingerling potatoes
  • Japanese Yams
  • 1 Red onion
  • Truffle-infused extra virgin olive oil
  • Black pepper
  • Herbes de provence
Chop the potatoes into small pieces.
Slice the onion into thin slices and separate from each other.
Drizzle a little olive oil over the potatoes and onion.
Sprinkle with fresh black pepper and herbes de provence.
Bake at 350°F. for about 30 minutes or until the onions are crispy and the potatoes are starting to crisp on the outside.

Onions are crispy, and potatoes are crispy on the outside and smooth and creamy in the inside.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Mom's Chille Relleno Casserole

On the heels of my last two posts, which were both very healthy, i'm posting this chille relleno casserole which, for the most part, i wouldn't suggest making unless you don't mind the calories or know others will devour it, because it's just too fattening for me. 

Most people that know me know i can't stand any type of peppers, other than an occasional peppadew or bell pepper, any variety other than green.  But when i was at my parents', my mom had made this chile relleno casserole that I never would get near, but this time decided to try.  Yummm... it was tasty and very easy to make.   This would make a great breakfast, snack, or even hors d'oeuvres. 

Layering the chillies and the cheese

Making the egg mixture to pour over the chillies and cheese.

Ingredients --
  •  4, 4oz cans of whole green chillies, rinsed and drained.
  • 1 cup of shredded cheddar cheese*
  • 1 cup of shredded jack cheese*
  • 4 beaten eggs or 1 cup of egg product
  • 1, 12 oz can of evaporated skim milk
  • 2 Tablespoons of flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon of garlic powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cumin
  • 1/4 teaspoon of cilantro
  • 1/2 teaspoon of black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon of salt
*Sidenote -- i used a pre-packagaed grated mexican cheese mix.
Grease a 2 quart baking dish.
drain the peppers, remove the seeds and pat dry with paper towels.
Layer half of the peppers lengthwise in the casserole.
Sprinkle with half of the two cheeses.
Repeat a layer of peppers and then the second half of the cheeses.
Combine eggs, milk, flour and seasonings in a bowl.
Stir well and pour over the peppers and cheese.
Bake uncovered at 350°F. for 30-35 minutes.

This is also delicious with a dollop of sour cream or salsa, or maybe both!


Friday, November 12, 2010

Indian Carrot Salad

A girlfriend brought me a bunch of beautiful Indian carrots at the farmers' market.  I had never seen such beautiful carrots.  They remind me of all the beautiful colors you see in both red and golden beets.

Indian carrots
I wasn't quite sure what to do with them, and most recipes i found were geared towards Indian cuisine.  I do love Indian food, but i've never made it and i wasn't about to try cooking Indian dishes on a school night.  With that said, i decided the easiest thing to do would be to turn them into a beautiful salad.  And beautiful & delicious it was!
Indians and Persians make a great duo.
Juicy pomegrantes

Ingredients --
  • 1 bunch Indian carrots (actually, any kind of carrot will work just fine)
  • 2 persian cucumbers
  • 3 Tablespoons of pomegranate seeds
  • 3 slivered scallions
  • 3 Tablespoons of dried cranberries or Craisins
Grate the carrots and cucumber.
Add finely sliced scallions, pomegranate seeds and dried cranberries.
I had planned to use just a splash of olive oil, but decided it needed more of a pop, so i threw together the following vinaigrette, but i have no idea what the measurements were --

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Autumn Beet and Kale Salad

I enjoy beets, and really appreciate the beautiful colors in "golden" beets.  Yellows, oranges and reds.  At the farmers market i picked up a bunch of baby golden beets and a bunch of baby purple beets.  The man said i can get a third one for $1, or pick any bunch of greens.  Since i only knew i wanted to make a salad, i opted for fresh kale.  And while i was there, i picked up mint and persian cucumbers.  How could i go wrong? 
Baby golden and purple beets
Fresh kale and mint

Then i suddenly realized that i can add golden raisins and dried cranberries to pick up the colors from the beets while adding a sweet touch.  Fun!  My only dilemma was what kind of dressing?  And then i remembered i still had some of the vinaigrette from Sunday Suppers at Lucques (recipe, below).  The dressing was delicious then, and equally good on the beet salad. 
Beets waiting for their jacuzzi to warm up

Cooked and peeled beets
Salad Ingredients -
  • 1 bunch of baby golden beets
  • 1 bunch of baby purple beets
  • 1 bunch of kale
  • 1 handful of fresh mint leaves
  • 2 persian cucumbers, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup of dried cranberries
Wash and scrub the beets well and cook in a pot with covered water until al dente.
I like to put on rubber gloves and then firmly rub the beets so that the peel falls off.
Cut the beets into bite-size cubes and refrigerate.

In a bowl, add chopped kale and fresh mint.
Add persian cucumbers, beets and then add golden raisins and cranberries.
Crumbled goat cheese and toasted nuts are a delicious option to this salad.

I then lightly tossed with Suzanne Goin's (Sunday Suppers at Lucques) vinaigerette (recipe below)...


The beginning of a delicious vinaigrette
Vinaigrette Ingredients -
  • 1 T oregano leaves
  • 1/2 clove garlic
  • 1 1/2 T red wine vinegar
  • 1 T balsamic vinegar
  • 1/4 t kosher salt
Using a mortar and pestle, pound the oregano, garlic and 1/4+ t of salt until it is a paste.
Transfer the paste into a bowl and stir in both vinegars.
Whisk in remaining 6 T of olive oil.

Buon appetito!

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Chicken apple butternut squash filled pumpkin

 The culprits - my beautiful pumpkins  
Last week i stopped at the pumpkin patch (no cameras allowed because g-d forbid we see someone famous without their hair and makeup done this is Beverly Hills) and found the prettiest little pumpkins.  I wasn't sure what i'd do with them, but i knew i would find something.  These pumpkins were larger than those baby pumpkins that you see in markets, but not as big as the good, carving pumpkins.  

I decided to bake the pumpkins and save the pumpkin meat for something i'll use later, but i'll use the pumpkin shell to stuff with my own concoction.  It turned out yummy!  Healthy, yummy, and easy.  What more could you ask for?

  •  4 small pumpkin to your liking
  • 1 red apple, chopped
  • 1 onion, chopped 
  • 1 butternut squash, chopped
  • 1 cup of sliced mushrooms
  • 1 package (4 or 5) of chicken-apple sausages, chopped
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins and/or cranberries
  • 1/2 cup of chicken stock or apple juice
Slice off the top of the pumpkin and scrape out the seeds.  (I later roasted my seeds and they were delicious - not very meaty, but had good crunch.)
Bake the pumpkin bowl, lid and butternut squash in a 350°F. oven until it's al dente, or just tender.  The butternut squash should be easy to slice, but not too easy otherwise it will not hold it's shape when you chop it.  When finished baking, allow to cool overnight in the refrigerator.

Spray a pan with olive oil and saute the chopped apple and chopped onion, gradually adding some of the liquid stock or juice.  
When the onions are starting to brown, add the mushrooms, chopped sausages and butternut squash. (I tried chopping all of the ingredients to be pretty much the same size.)
Add more of the liquid, if necessary.
Add the raisins and/or crandberries.
Continue cooking until you can't take it any more.

 Bon appetito!

Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Ann's Plum Cornbread

Years ago i enjoyed making cornbread, but in those days i "cheated" since i would use a popular brand that comes in a can - all you would do is add milk or water.  But today, i'm proud to say no more boxed or canned mixes for Lollie!  I saw this recipe on The Food Network's show with Ann Burrell.  I thought it sounded nice and hardy and since it's made with a little honey (although i used agave), it would be a tad sweet.  And how could you go wrong with delicious, sweet cooked plums! 

It was easy to make and looked very homey.  I especially liked the outside part which came out a little crispy.  And the cooked plums were delicious!  However, i was a bit disappointed because the cornbread was very dense.  But as i'm writing this post, i can't help but wonder if i remembered to include the 1 cup of milk.  Oh my!  I just got back from the fridge and found my new quart of milk was in fact opened and missing one cup.  This means i didn't omit anything, yet the cornbread is dense.  It's still good; just don't expect light and fluffy.   

Ingredients -
  • 4 to 6 black plums (if they are large, use 4, if they are small use 6), sliced
  • 3 tablespoons sugar


  • 1/2 stick melted butter
  • 3/4 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup yellow cornmeal
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup milk
  • 3 tablespoons honey (I used 4 tablespoons of Agave Nectar)
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 pint vanilla ice cream, for serving
In a small bowl, combine the sliced plums and sugar and let sit at room temperature for at least 30 minutes.
Sliced plums mascerating.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Butter or "spray" an 8-inch cast iron skillet or an 8 by 8-inch square baking pan.
In a large mixing bowl, combine all of the dry ingredients.
In another mixing bowl, combine all the wet ingredients and whisk to thoroughly combine.
Make a well in the dry ingredients and pour the wet ingredients into the well.
Mix gently to combine.
When the mixture has just come together, transfer it to the prepared skillet or baking pan.
Sprinkle the plums in an even layer over the top of the batter.
Bake in the preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes.
Remove from the oven and let cool before cutting.
Serve topped with vanilla ice cream (ok... i forgot the ice cream)

Fresh plum cornbread, fresh out of the oven
Only missing the vanilla ice cream

The stars

Sunday, September 26, 2010

An apple crumble a day...


I really enjoy making desserts with apples this time of year.  I think it starts with Rosh Hashanah and i stick with apples for a while.  Especially since i found a "keeper".

Beth and I were talking about our Rosh Hashanah dishes, and we both mentioned that we do an apple crumble (or maybe she calls hers an apple crisp).  She told me hers is a super easy apple crumble that her sister-in-law made and everyone loved.  I thought the apple crumble i made for Rosh Hashanah was good, but apparently there was room for improvement.  I then decided to make Beth's/Andrea's apple crumble for break fast, and i practically got a standing ovation.  Debbie said this latest one was definitely much better than the earlier one, and Enrico devoured two plates full.  So now we're all making Andrea's super easy apple crumble, and this is definitely a keeper.

This afternoon at lunch, Karen mentioned that she wants this recipe, and I realized i never blogged about this delicious crumble since i had forgotten to take pictures of it.  When i went into the market today the Fuji apples were staring at me so i decided to buy a few apples to add to the ones i have at home and make this "keeper" to bring to my office.  I'm hoping it comes out as good as the last one because i realized while making it that i have one big problem -- no oats.  Instead of going back to the market, i decided i could use a cereal i have that i use in my morning yogurt.  It's Nature's Path Organic Pumpkin Flax Plus Granola.  I was confident this would work.  The question is: will it be as good as using regular oats?  We'll find out tomorrow.  (Debbie, Karen, Elliot, i hope you'll post your honest opinion of this crumble.)

Oops... one more ingredient i didn't have was brown sugar.  I opted to use three-fourths demerara (partially refined cane sugar, as opposed to regular brown sugar which is fully refined with molasses) and one-fourth muscovado (unrefined natural cane sugar with a natural flavor of molasses).  I guess i should have some regular brown sugar sitting around, just in case.

Now that i've finished cooking this dish, my only question is, why did this dish come out with much more liquid than the last two?  Perhaps we should pat the apples dry before adding them to the baking dish.  (I keep the sliced apples in an acidulous bath until i've finished peeling and slicing all of them.  Perhaps they take on too much water.)
 Mixing oats, flour, sugar...
... and now i've added the melted butter.

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup of brown sugar
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 7 apples, peeled and sliced
  • a few hand fulls of berries (I used raspberries, but Beth's recipe called for blueberries)
  • 1/2 cup of white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons of cinnamon
Preheat oven to 350°F.
In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, oats, flour and melted butter and mix until crumbly. 
Place half the mixture in a baking dish.
Spread apples and berries over mixture.
Sprinkle with white sugar & cinnamon.
Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake 40-45 Minutes until golden brown.

Ready to pop in the oven.
Serve  warm, and enjoy with fresh whipped cream or vanilla ice cream!


Sunday, September 19, 2010

Jammin! Go fig-ure.

Fresh fig jam
I've often thought how fun it would be to make jam.
  1. the choices and combinations are endless;
  2. i love the idea of using fresh fruits (especially summer fruits) and enjoying them all year long; 
  3. how wonderful to make something delicious, made with love and enjoy it for weeks or months to come; and
  4. probably my favorite reason -- those cute hats and bows that you can do to decorate the jars!
Sweet and delicious mission figs
 So a few weeks ago i decided i would make a fig jam since i so love figs and they're in season right now. I kept thinking a fig jam with balsamic vinegar and vanilla would be good. Although it has no vanilla, i was leaning towards Thomas Keller's recipe in ad hoc at home.  In fact, last week i was in the Santa Ynez Valley and found a fun little olive oil and vinegar store.  The store was darling - about the size of my kitchen (tiny) and you could sample the various vinegars.  I immediately saw a balsamic with vanilla and fig and had to try it.  YUMM!  This was the best.  It was also aged 18 years so it was nice and thick.  This over ice cream or grilled stone fruits would be wonderful.  Or even on a piece of french bread.   And if you still haven't figured out how much i enjoyed it, let me tell you that straight from the little tasting cup was perfect for me.  The deliciousness of this vinegar confirmed that i had to make a vanilla balsamic fig jam. 

Other than adding a vanilla bean, i stayed pretty true to Thomas Keller's recipe from Ad Hoc at Home. Let me tell you, this jam came out absolutely DELICIOUS!!! It would be wonderful with goat cheese, on a slice of toast, or just a spoonful out of the jar.  Perhaps even on a piece of turkey.

Figs and company macerating before turning on the heat.
And i had a lot of fun with the fabric and the bows.  I'm really looking forward to giving my mother a jar.  She's the ultimate fig lover, and taught me, whether a fig newton or a fresh fig, they're all pretty delicious!

Ingredients -
  • 2 pounds of fresh figs (i used mission figs)
  • 1 lemon (both zest and juice)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1-1/2 cups of sugar
  • 1/2 cup of balsamic vinegar
  • 1 teaspoon of black peppercorns tied in a sachet
Mix all ingredients in a large pot and put on medium-high heat on the stove.
After the mixture comes to a rolling boil, turn the burner down and simmer for 20-30 minutes, or until the consistency is syrupy.
Remove from the heat use an immersion blender to chop up any large chunks, then pour into sterilized jam jars.
That's it for the cooking... now you get to find cute ribbons and fabrics and go to town.

I'm looking forward to making more jams.  In fact, next on the list is a blackberry bourbon jam that Laurence's name on it!