Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Delicious Cosmopolitan Cranberry Sauce

Delicious Cosmopolitan Cranberry Sauce 
I had never given cranberries a second thought, including the cranberries served at Thanksgiving.  I always thought of them like parsley... they're on the plate to look pretty, but they're nothing special.  And for most of my first forty-something Thanksgiving dinners, the cranberries were either my grandmother's standard homemade tart cranberries with orange (and my grandmother was the "Queen of Garnish", so sitting center and proudly among the cranberries would be a rose that Gramma made out of the orange rind, and then she would dip the tips in food coloring), or the gelled cranberries that you slide out of a can.  And then about 10 years ago a friend told me her cranberry chutney is a hit, and oh so easy.  I found the chutney to be interesting, filled with a variety of dried fruits, ginger, pepper and balsamic.  I must say it appeared to be a hit wherever i brought them, or so i thought.  Last year i showed up with my cranberry chutney only to find those round, jiggly slices from the can on the table.  Nobody would admit to not liking my chutney, but this year someone suggested i might want to do something simpler.   

I decided to search for a special cranberry recipe, otherwise i knew the cans would make a reappearance.  These cosmo cranberries (named after the famous and delicious drink) were a hit when i tried them at my office.  However, I would think twice before making these if there are small children or recovered alcoholics at our dinner.  Or people driving!  Yes, they're made with vodka, and a lot of it, and the liquor does not get cooked out.  In fact, the original recipe called for 1/3 cup of vodka but i reduced it to 1/4 cup.  My sister thought it could be reduced even further.  I say live wild and see who winds up dancing on the table!  Perhaps these cranberries will create some everlasting Thanksgiving memories.

Ingredients --
1, 12-ounce bag of fresh cranberries
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. water
1/4 c. Vodka
3 T of Grand Marnier (or another orange-flavored liqueur)
  • Wash the cranberries well.
  • In a heavy mediums saucepan over moderate heat, combine the cranberries, sugar and water.
  • Bring to a boil, stirring often to dissolve the sugar.
  • Then, reduce heat to moderately low and simmer, stirring often, until thickened and reduced to about 3 cups -- about 15 minutes.
  • Transfer to a medium bowl and cool, stirring often, until tepid, about 30 minutes.
  • Stir in the vodka and liqueur.
  • Refrigerate until chilled and set – at least 2 hours.
This should be served either chilled or at room temperature.
Yields about 3 cups cooked.

Buon appetito, and happy Thanksgiving!

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Jardiniere, or Pickled Veggies

Last Saturday my mother and i went to Nordy's for some serious shopping, which we know can make one work up a good appetite.  So we popped into their new cafe which i was really impressed with.  The only thing it lacked for a department store restaurant would be the handful of models showing off the latest fashions.  (Perhaps that's dating me.  Besides, they called that a "tea room", not a cafe.) The waiter brought us a small plate with pickled veggies -- a couple pickle wedges, carrots (my very favorite pickled food) and cauliflower.  It was delicious... very mild, and surprisingly no dill.  In fact, the waiter was so nice he brought us a second plate.

Nordstrom's Pickled Veggies
We asked the waiter what the secret is, and he said the chef boils the veggies and then throws them into the jar of brine that the pickles came in.  Who woulda thought it could be that easy.  Well, since nobody knew what kind of pickles they served, and that's probably key to flavoring the veggies, i concocted my own recipe using rice vinegar, which i think is one of the mildest vinegars.  The other thing i decided to do is use Splenda instead of sugar.  I know... i probably should have stuck with the real thing, especially when you think about how little of the sugar you're actually absorbing.  Ok... next time.  But for now...

The marinade, or brine:
  • 3 cups of plain rice vinegar
  • 3 cups of water
  • 3/4 cup of sugar
  • 5 Tablespoons of kosher salt
  • spices (use as much as you want; because i wanted my marinade to be mild, i used about 1T of each of the following):
    • mustard seed
    • peppercorns
    • garlic
    • crushed red pepper
Bring to a boil, and stir until the sugar is dissolved.
Set aside to cool.

Obviously you can use whatever you want.  It's important not to cook them too long; you want them snappy.  I blanched them in boiling water, as follows:    Carrots for 4 minutes; broccoli and celery for 2 minutes; persian cucumbers and pearl onions just "took a dip" and immediately took them out of the boiling water as quick as they went in.

Other veggies to try are:  cauliflower, string beans, and hearts of palm. 

Immediately after you take the veggies out of the boiling water, put them into an ice bath so that they keep their vibrant color.  After the ice bath (as little as a few minutes, otherwise you can keep them in until finished with the entire cooking process), lay them on clean towels to drain.  I found the broccoli was like a sponge, so i gently pressed out the water the florets held. 

Put the veggies in jars... mixed up... individually... whatever way you want. 
Then, pour the marinade directly on top. 

Then you have the fun of figuring out what kind of hats to put on your jars.

Carrots taking an ice bath... quite relaxing.
I enjoyed these, although they were a little sweeter than i wanted.  Next time i'll definitely use real sugar, just not as much.

Don't forget to make your veggies an adorable hat.

Buon appetito!

Monday, September 10, 2012

A Quaint English Kitchen

Is this not a great white kitchen?  Although natural wood beams would have been my preference.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

Fregola with Fresh Corn and Scallions

About a year ago i discovered an interesting pasta called fregola.    I generally stay clear of pasta, but these were so small and interesting... like tiny beads, similar to Israeli couscous.  Originally i had it in a salad which i enjoyed, but outta sight - outta mind.  Until i came across this little delight at Bay Cities.  I bought a package and then looked online to see what others have made with it.  It looks like the most popular additions are corn or peas... i guess anything small so that you don't lose the little fregolas in a dish with large ingredients.  I decided fresh corn right off the cob, and a lot of scallions would do the trick, but then a little truffle oil never hurt anything, so...

Ingredients --
  • 1 pound of Fregola
  • 4 ears of corn
  • 2 cups of freshly chopped green onions
  • 1/4 cup of grated reggiano parmesan
  • extra virgin olive oil
  • a tad of truffle oil
  • salt
  • pepper
Boil the fregola in water with a lot of salt, or as the package instructs.
Meantime, shave the corn off the cobs, and chop the green onions.
Add all 3 ingredients to a large pan with enough olive oil to coat the bottom of the pan, and a dash of truffle oil. Unfortunately, this is all done by "eye" so i can't say how much to use.
Add the parmesan stirring frequently.  After about 10-15 minutes, add salt and pepper to taste and stir until the aroma tells you "finito!  Time to eat".  This dish can be served either hot or cold.

Buon appetito!

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

A friendly kitchen

Kitchen with a warm heart.
I'm usually drawn to more contemporary kitchens, but i just love the warmth of this kitchen.
I think it looks very "friendly".  I'd love to plan a brunch here.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Prince William's Yummy Chocolate Crunch Bars

I couldn't help but read about this dessert since i adore just about anything having to do with Prince William and his bride.  These seem to be the Brits' version of our rice krispy treats.  Maybe that's why i insisted on adding marshmallow fluff!

I made and tested them at the office, figuring if they're a hit i would bring them to Beth & Richard's on the 4th.  Elliot, Rosa and Karen loved them (even with the raisins).  I never heard from Laurence and Jessica, so i'm thinking that it was too sweet for them, or Debbie forgot to bring them home and they're still in her car.  (Oh no!)

Ingredients --
  • 1 box of graham crackers
  • 1/4 cup of golden raisins
  • 1/4 cup of chopped nuts (i used peanuts)
  • 1 jar of marshmallow fluff (optional; this was not in the original recipe)
  • 5 ounces of milk chocolate
  • 5 ounces of dark chocolate
  • 1 stick of butter (at room temperature)
  • 1 14oz can of condensed milk
      For the topping --
  • 9 ounces of dark chocolate 
In a large bowl, mash all of the graham crackers.  I found it easiest to use the bottom of a small metal bowl.
Add marshmallow fluff, raisins and nuts.
Melt both chocolates, butter and condensed milk.  (I suggest doing this slowly so that the chocolate doesn't burn.)
Add it to the graham cracker mixture and stir.
Pour into a parchment-lined, 11x7" baking dish.
Refrigerate for at least 2 hours.

The original recipe calls for melting 5 ounces of dark chocolate and pouring over the refrigerated mixture.  But i wanted to temper the chocolate so that it didn't melt in your hands.  Tempering is actually easy, but takes patience.  You'll see i have a cheat sheet i keep in my baking drawer.  You need to slowly heat the chocolate to 115° and then take it off the stove and let it cool to 84°.  It can take a while to cool down, so one trick is to add more finely chopped chocolate -- about 1/3 as much as you melted.  Once it cools to 84°, put it back on the stove and heat to 90°.  You can then remove and pour on top of the chilled pan of chocolate crunch cake.  You'll see the chocolate start to harden.

My cheat sheet

Buon appetito!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

One happy kitchen!

I find this to be one happy kitchen.

I'm guessing the pots and pans are this organized.

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Summer Berry Crumble

This is based on the apple crumble i made in the past, but since berries are so sweet and delicious (and i forgot to buy apples) i doubled up on the berries and used all strawberries and blueberries.  I also used whole wheat flour instead of regular white flour, and demerara instead of brown sugar... my attempt to make it a bit healthier in a natural way.  And then i decided to get creative and made an individual serving in a small dish.  This might be fun to do with a small dinner party.  Now the question... is this crumble as good as the last? 

Ingredients -
  • 1 cup of demerara or brown sugar
  • 1 cup of rolled oats
  • 1 cup of whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, melted
  • 6 fuji apples, peeled and sliced
  • 1 large basket of blueberries
  • 1 2 large baskets of strawberries
  • 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 and cinnamon.
Top with remaining crumb mixture.
Bake 40-45 Minutes or until golden brown.

Serve with vanilla schlag (whipped cream) or vanilla ice cream.  In fact, a little of both is great!
Berry crumble for one... or be nice and share it with someone for a smile.
By the way, this posting is after i served the berry crumble, and this was a hit!  It was completely devoured as was the schlag.  I'm a happy blogger.  :)

Buon appetito!

Monday, May 28, 2012

The best chocolate banana bread!

Delicious chocolate chip banana bread.  Yummm.

My lovely sous chefs... Miz Em (L) and Miz Jess (R)
It's been a rough road since my fall last June, but with the help of my two sous chefs (Miz Jess and Mizz Em), i've finally cooked something and am blogging about it.  Yay, and thank you both for your help.  You came over to swim, and I put you to work.  But seriously, I wouldn't have done this without your help!

So a couple weeks ago i had a delicious banana bread and Colleen said it's really easy and the reason she thinks it's so good is it's made with buttermilk.  I found this recipe online and thought it sounds like Colleen's, so i'll give it a try.  The only thing i did different, is i used whole wheat pastry flour instead of regular baking flour, and then my sous chefs convinced me a little dark chocolate couldn't hurt.  Yes, we could have opted for nuts, but why use nuts when you have good dark chocolate?  One other thing... next time i see no reason to use the stand mixer.  It would have been just fine to use a large bowl and fork to mix it.  I think it came out delicious!  Dense, but not too dense; Nice banana aroma but not too much banana; and a hint of chocolate, without over doing it!

Ingredients --
  •  2 eggs, beaten
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup mashed bananas (overly ripe work best)
  • 1-1/2 cups white sugar
  • 1-3//4 cups all purpose flour  whole wheat pastry flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • Optional:  1/2 cup chopped nuts (or chocolate or raisins)
Preheat oven to 3258° F.
Spray or grease one 9x5 inch loaf pan.
Blend together the eggs, buttermilk, oil and bananas.
Sift together the sugar, flour, baking soda and salt.  Add to the banana mixture and stir in nuts, chocolate or raisins.  Mix well.
Pour into prepared loaf pan and bake 1 hour and 20 minutes or until a cake tester inserted in the center comes out clean.

And remember... next time you have bananas that are overly ripe, don't throw them out... make banana bread.

Buon appetito!