Thursday, February 26, 2009

Rich Mushroom Soup

Here is the delicious mushroom soup I paired with Oregon Pinot Noir for the 2008 Wine Dinner. Earthiness plays off of earthiness. And the thyme and Sherry are also particularly wine-friendly. It's perfect for a winter supper.

Rich Mushroom Soup
This recipe comes from Karen MacNeil's great book Wine, Food and Friends.
Serves 8.

2 tablespoons flour
1 cup boiling water
1 cup dried porcini mushrooms (about 1 ounce)
2 teaspoons butter
1 1/2 cups chopped onion
2 teaspoons chopped garlic
2 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
6 1/2 cups thinly sliced shitake mushroom caps (about 1 pound mushrooms)
2 (8 ounce packages) sliced button mushrooms
4 cups fat-free, low-sodium chicken broth
1 cup 1% milk
1/2 cup half and half
1/4 cup dry Amontillado Sherry

Place flour in a small skillet over medium-high heat; cook 2 minutes or until flour turns light brown, stirring constantly. Transfer flour to a small plate; cool.

Combine boiling water and porcini mushrooms in a bowl; cover and let steep 20 minutes. Strain porcini mushrooms through a sieve over a bowl, reserving soaking liquid. Chop mushrooms.

Melt butter in a Dutch oven over medium-high heat. Add onion and saute 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, thyme, salt and pepper. Saute 30 seconds. Add shitake mushrooms and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add button mushrooms and cook 3 minutes, stirring constantly. Add chopped mushrooms and chicken broth to pan.

Combine reserved porcini soaking liquid and toasted flour, stirring with a whisk and add to pan. bring to a boil; reduce heat and simmer, uncovered, for 15 minutes. Add milk, simmer 10 minutes, stirring frequently. Remove from heat, stir in half-and-half and Sherry.

Place 2 cups soup in a blender; process until smooth. Return pureed soup to pan. Warm the soup over low heat or until thoroughly heated. Serve.

(Soup can also be refrigerated overnight and reheated before serving.)

Wednesday, February 25, 2009

An Oscar-Winning Champagne Cocktail

Here's a wonderful cocktail that someone came up with and christened the Kate Winslet. Fix a batch tonight in honor of her Oscar-winning performance in The Reader.

The Kate Winslet
Makes six cocktails.

2 tablespoons red currant jelly
1/4 cup water
1/2 cup London dry gin
1 bottle well-chilled Champagne or other sparkling wine

Heat the jelly and water in a small saucepan, whisking, until the jelly has dissolved. Stir in gin and chill until cold.

Divide gin mixture among six Champagne flutes, then top with Champagne.


Monday, February 23, 2009

Mardi Gras Snack: Oyster Tartlets

These delicious little nibbles were a hit at the Oscar party last night. They'd be the perfect Cajun snack for your Mardi Gras festivities.

Oyster Tartlets
Makes 24 tartlets.
From Food and Wine.

1 tablespoon unsalted butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
1/2 cup milk
1 tablespoon minced onion
1 bay leaf
1 1/2 teaspoons prepared horseradish
Salt and freshly ground pepper
3/4 cup panko (Japanese bread crumbs)
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese
2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
24 prebaked mini phyllo shells
24 small shucked oysters (or larger ones cut into 24 small pieces)

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a small saucepan, melt the butter over moderately high heat. Stir in the flour, then whisk in the milk until smooth. Bring to a simmer, whisking. Stir in the onion and bay leaf and simmer over low heat, whisking, until no floury taste remains, 10 minutes. Pass through a coarse strainer set over a small bowl; discard the bay leaf. Stir in the horseradish and season with salt and pepper. Press a piece of plastic wrap onto the sauce.

In a small bowl, combine the panko and cheese and stir in the olive oil. Arrange the phyllo shells on a rimmed baking sheet. Place an oyster in each shell. Spoon about 1 teaspoon of the horseradish sauce into each shell, and sprinkle the panko mixture on top. Bake in the upper third of the oven for about 10 minutes, until hot throughout and crisp on top. Serve right away.

Sunday, February 22, 2009

Mardi Gras Madness: Chicken and Sausage Gumbo

Mardi Gras/Fat Tuesday is coming up this week. It's time to dust off those Cajun spices and let the good times roll!

Here's a recipe for gumbo that's on the healthy side. I "kicked it up a notch" by adding additional spices and seasonings.

Chicken and Sausage Gumbo
Serves six.

1/4 cup all-purpose flour (about 1 ounce)
2 tablespoons olive oil
2 1/2 cups finely chopped yellow onion (1 large)
1 1/2 cups finely chopped green bell pepper (1 large)
1 cup finely chopped celery
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 1/2 pounds skinless, boneless chicken breast, cut into 1 1/2-inch pieces
8 ounces light smoked sausage, cut into 1-inch pieces (such as Healthy Choice brand)
2 (14 1/2-ounce) cans no-salt-added organic diced tomatoes
2 (14-ounce) cans fat-free, less-sodium chicken broth
1/4 teaspoon Worcestershire sauce
2 bay leaves
1 tablespoon file powder
1 tablespoon Cajun seasoning blend
1/2 tablespoon blackening spice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
1/4 teaspoon hot sauce
3 cups hot cooked rice

Place flour in a large Dutch oven over medium heat; cook 20 minutes or until light brown, stirring constantly with a whisk. (If flour browns too fast, remove pan from heat; stir constantly until it cools down.) Remove flour from pan, and set aside.

Add oil to pan. Stir in onion, bell pepper, and celery; cook 10 minutes or until onion is tender, stirring frequently. Stir in garlic; cook 30 seconds. Remove onion mixture from pan; set aside.
Increase heat to medium-high; add chicken and sausage to pan. Cook 4 minutes or until chicken is done; return onion mixture to pan. Remove pan from heat.

Sprinkle reserved flour over chicken mixture; stir well. Return pan to medium heat. Drain 1 can tomatoes; stir in 1 can drained tomatoes and 1 can undrained tomatoes. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly. Add broth, Worcestershire, bay leaves, file and spices; bring to a boil, stirring constantly. Cover, reduce heat, and simmer 30 minutes, stirring occasionally. Discard bay leaves. Stir in salt and black pepper. Serve over rice with hot sauce to taste.

Saturday, February 21, 2009

An Elegant Appetizer: Mini Goat Cheese and Parmesan Souffles in Phyllo Cups

This canape takes a little prep work, but is worth it. Delicate airy little souffles that are just perfect with a glass of bubbly. That's what I paired it with at our recent multi-course wine dinner. (And using pre-made phyllo cups from the freezer case of your grocery store, as I did, makes things a little easier.)

They might just be the perfect thing for our Acdemy Awards party tomorrow night...

Miniature Goat Cheese and Parmesan Souffles in Phyllo Cups
Makes 24 hors d'oeuvres

2 packages (12 each) phyllo cups, thawed according to package directions
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 tablespoons flour
3/4 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons Dijon mustard
2 large eggs, separated
1/2 cup (1 ounce) finely greated Parmesan cheese
2/3 cup (5 ounces) soft mild goat cheese, crumbled

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Place phyllo cups in greased mini-muffin tins.

Melt butter in a 3 quart heavy saucepan over moderately low heat then whisk in flour, making a roux. Cook roux, whisking constantly, for 3 minutes. Add milk in stream, whisking, and bring to a boil, while continuing to whisk. Reduce heat and simmer, whisking occasionally, 5 minutes. (Lots of whisking, huh?)

Remove from heat and whisk in mustard, yolks and 1/4 Parmesan cheese until combined. Then fold in goat cheese.

Beat egg whites in a large bowl with an electric mixer until they just hold stiff peaks. Fold one third of whites into sauce to lighten, the fold in remaining whites gently but thoroughly.

Spoon batter into phyllo cups and sprinkle with remaining Parmesan cheese. Bake in middle of oven until souffles are puffed and golden, about 15 minutes.

Friday, February 20, 2009

National Margarita Day!

It's National Margarita Day. So whip up your favorite version of the tequila-laced cocktail and sit down with some tortilla chips and one (or both) of these yummy Southwestern-style dips.

Corn Dip
Makes about six cups.

1 cup sour cream
1 cup mayonnaise
12 oz. grated Cheddar (or Mexican-style) cheese (So easy when you buy pre-grated from the grocery store)
1 small can chopped green chiles
2 cans Mexi-corn (includes red and green pepper), drained
2 jalapeno peppers, seeds removed and finely diced

Mix all ingredients together in a bowl and refrigerate for at least three hours before serving.

Chicken Enchilada Dip
Sometime I want to try this as a hot dip by baking for about twenty minutes at 350 degrees. Bet it's delicious that way.

3 large chicken breast halves, cooked and finely chopped (I poach three boneless chicken breasts I took out of the freezer for 35 minutes.)
2 8 ounce packages cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1 1/2 cups grated Cheddar cheese
1 teaspoon minced garlic
1 1/2 tablespoons chili powder (or to taste) (I use some green chile powder--a natural with chicken enchiladas that I found in New Mexico.)
1 teaspoon cumin powder
1 teaspoon dry oregano
1 teaspoon paprika (I'm a big fan of Spanish smoked paprika.)
Cayenne pepper to taste
Red pepper sauce to taste
1 bunch cilantro, chopped
4 green onions, chopped
1 can diced tomatoes with green chiles, undrained

In large bowl, blend cream and Cheddar cheeses until creamy. Add next seven ingredients and mix well. Stir in chicken, cilantro, green onions and tomatoes. Refrigerate overnight before serving.Makes six cups. Probably more than you need. You might consider doing a half batch, although it, like the corn dip, keeps well in the refrigerator for a week or so.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Crispy Fragrant Jumbo Shrimp

This is one of the appetizers that I paired with Prosecco at 2008's multi-course wine dinner. It's crispy, citrusy and herbal. It would pair well not only with dry sparkling wine, but also freshly light Chardonnays or Sauvignon Blancs.

The recipe (and the one for the lamb shanks I served that night also) come from a great cookbook featuring Jamie Oliver. Cook with Jamie is a soup to nuts guide with wonderfully simple recipes featuring flavorful ingredients. I'll be going back to it again and again.

Crispy Fragrant Jumbo Shrimp
Serves 4 as a starter, 2 as a main course.

Olive oil
3 cups breadcrumbs
1/2 cup chopped flat-leaf parsley
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
1/2 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
8 large shrimp, peeled and butterflied
Seasoned flour, for dusting
2 large eggs
Salt and pepper

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees. Rub a baking sheet with olive oil and set aside.

Mix breadcrumbs, parsley, lemon zest, Parmesan and 2 tablespoons olive oil in a medium bowl. Spread on another baking sheet to dry.

Whisk the eggs and place in a shallow pan. Dip the shrimp in the seasoned flour and shake off excess. Dip shrimp into the egg and let excess drip off. Place each shrimp in breadcrumb mixture and toss to coat. Press crumbs into shrimp so each is completely coated.

Put shrimp on oiled baking sheet and bake at 425 degrees for about 10 minutes or until crispy and golden.

Sprinkle shrimp with a little salt and serve.

Jamie suggests serving with a arugula lightly dressed with olive oil and lemon juice. He also says the same breadcrumbing technique works well on squid, scallops or sardines.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Beef and Sage Sliders with Gorgonzola

Don't worry...this isn't a recession-era recipe that cuts back on the size of your burger. Just a fun and different way to pack a lot of flavor into a little package. Go ahead...have two or three.

(I'm trying to figure out a way to make these and keep them hot for our Academy Award party this weekend. We'll see...)

And wine lovers, this is a good one for your favorite big red. Check the end of the posting for my suggestions...

Beef and Sage Sliders with Gorgonzola
From Everyday with Rachael Ray.
Makes 12 sliders.

12 mini dinner rolls, split
1 garlic clove, halved
Extra-virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds ground sirloin
1 tablespoon Worcestershire sauce
10 fresh sage leaves, finely chopped
1 large shallot, finely chopped
2 tablespoons flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
Salt and freshly ground pepper
2 cups baby spinach, thinly sliced
3/4 pound Gorgonzola cheese, crumbled

Preheat broiler to high. Place the rolls on a broiler pan and toast until golden. Rub with the garlic and drizzle with olive oil.

In a medium bowl, combine the beef with the Worcestershire sauce, sage, shallot and parsley; season with salt and pepper. Divide into 4 equal pieces and form 3 sliders from each piece, 12 mini sliders total.

Heat a large skillet over medium-high heat with a drizzle of olive oil. Cook the sliders for 3 minutes on the first side and 1 to 2 minutes on the other side for medium.

Top each bun bottom with some spinach, a slider and a few cheese crumbles. Place under the broiler to melt the cheese a bit, about 30 seconds, then set the bun tops in place.

Food/Wine Pairing: I actually served this at a wine pairing dinner. The sage and Gorgonzola make these sliders a great match with a red like Merlot. Columbia Crest Grand Estates is a good one. At our dinner, I poured one of my favorites, the Crios de Susana Balbo Syrah/Bonarda mix.

Friday, February 13, 2009

Heart-Healthy Valentine: Wok-Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chiles

Take care of your heart this Valentine's Day. (Get it?) Here are some tips that will protect your ticker with a sense of romance.

Have a glass of wine.
A recent study says that moderate alcohol intake, especially wine drinking, boosts omega-3 levels in the body. These fatty acids, also found in salmon and other fish, can protect against heart disease.

Listen to some upbeat music.
Play some joyful music in the background as you celebrate with your sweetheart. These tunes can make your blood vessels to dilate and thus increase blood flow.

Prepare these edamame.
Eaten regularly, edamame can lower cholesterol levels and decrease your risk of a heart attack. So spice up your night with these!

Wok-Fried Edamame with Garlic and Chiles
From Bon Appetit.
Makes six to eight appetizer servings.

1 pound unshelled freash or frozen edamame (soybeans)
2 tablespoons soy sauce
2 teaspoons oyster sauce
1 jalapeno chile (preferably red), seeded and finely minced
1 teaspoon Asian sesame oil
2 teaspoons peanut oil
2 teaspoons minced peeled fresh ginger
2 garlic cloves, minced

Cook edamame in a large pot of boiling salted water until tender, about 5 minutes; drain.

Transfer edamame to bowl of ice water to cool. Drain, pat dry and set aside.

Stir soy sauce, oyster sauce, jalapeno and sesame oil in a small bowl. Set aside.

Heat peanut oil in heavy large wok or skillet over medium-high heat. Add ginger and garlic; saute until beginning to brown, about 1 minute. Add edamame and stir to heat through, about 2 minutes. Add soy sauce mixture; stir 1 minute to coat evenly and heat through. Transfer to platter and serve.

(These keep nicely in the refrigerator if you have leftovers and are yummy served cold or reheated for several days after you first prepare them.)

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Chocolate Chunk Bread Puddings

Here's the decadent dessert I served at the wine dinner a couple of months ago. It's wonderfully decadent and delicious with a glass of sparkling wine or Port. The perfect chocolatey dessert for Valentine's Day...

Chocolate Chunk Bread Puddings
Serves 2.

1 3/4 cups cubed (1/2 inch) Hawaiian sweet bread
2/3 cup 2% reduced-fat milk
2 tablespoons sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons unsweetened cocoa
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 large egg, lightly beaten
Cooking spray
1 ounce semisweet chocolate, roughly chopped

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Arrange bread cubes in a single layer on a baking sheet. Bake at 35o degrees for 5 minutes or until toasted. Remove bread from oven and reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees.

Combine milk and next five ingredients in a medium bowl, stirring well with a whisk. Add bread, tossing gently to coat. Cover and chill 30 minutes or up to 4 hours.

Divide half of bread mixture evenly between 2 (6 ounce) ramekins or custard cups coated with cooking spray. Sprinkle each evenly with half of chocolate. Divide remaining bread mixture between ramekins and top with remaining chocolate.

Place ramekins in an 8 inch square baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth if 1 inch. Bake at 325 degrees for 35 minutes or until set. Serve warm with whipped cream.

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Sauteed Eggplant with Cumin, Chili Powder and Garlic

We're about to join a CSA. That's short for Community Supported Agriculture and means that we buy a "share" of a local farmer's crops. Once a week, we'll head out to far southeast Dallas and pick up our produce. We'll never know what we're going to get. So it will be a challenge to incorporate it all into meals. But I hope it will help us continue to eat healthily.

I guess this is practice for those produce-packed days ahead. We've been eating a lot more vegetarian meals these days and the other day I picked up an eggplant at the grocery store...having no idea what I was going to do with it. But I consulted the eggplant section of a great cookbook called Perfect Vegetables and was ready to go.

The result was delicious and full-flavored. A great leftover use was to wrap in a tortilla the next day with a bit of sour cream and lettuce for a vegetarian soft taco. I thought it might be good in an omelet or scrambled eggs too, but didn't get to that one.

Sauteed Eggplant with Cumin, Chili Powder and Garlic
Serves four.

1 large eggplant (about 1½ pounds), ends trimmed, cut into ¾-inch chunks
1 tablespoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon ground cumin
½ teaspoon chili powder
2 medium cloves garlic, minced or pressed through a garlic press
1 teaspoon sugar

Place eggplant cubes on a rimmed baking sheet lined with paper towels and sprinkle with kosher salt, tossing to coat the cubes evenly. Let stand for at least 30 minutes.

Using additional paper towels, pat excess moisture and salt from the eggplant cubes.

(Note: Salting the eggplant helps eliminate liquid and air pockets that would soak up the oil when cooking.)

Heat the oil in a 12-inch, heavy-bottomed skillet over medium-high heat until almost smoking.
Add the cumin and chili powder and cook until fragrant, about 20 seconds. Add the eggplant cubes and cook about 4 minutes until they begin to brown.

Reduce heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally, until the eggplant is fully cooked and lightly browned, about 10 minutes.

Stir in the garlic and sugar. Cook to blend flavors, about 2 minutes.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Smoked Salmon Canapes

It's about time for our oh so refined Academy Awards party. It's a fun affair. We usually ask folks to dress up, serve lots of bubbly and delicious little canapes like these while we watch the interminable acceptance speeches and bad production numbers. I'm definitely going to try these on this year's menu. (They'd also be a romantic start to your Valentine's Day celebration...)

Smoked Salmon Canapes
Makes 4 dozen appetizers.

4 ounces (1/2 package) cream cheese, softened
1/4 cup sour cream
1 tablespoon honey
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
1/2 teaspoon salt
24 slices cocktail rye or pumpernickel bread
12 ounces smoked salmon
48 very thin slices cucumber
Minced purple onion
Freshly ground pepper
Fresh dill for garnish

Beat first five ingredients at low speed with an electric mixer until thoroughly blended. Cut each bread slice diagonally in half. Separate salmon into thin slices and cut into 48 pieces.

Spread 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese mixture onto each piece of bread. Roll a cucumber slice inside each salmon sliver and place on top of cream cheese mixture. Dollop an additional 1/2 teaspoon cream cheese on top of salmon. Sprinkle with onion and pepper. Garnish with dill.

Monday, February 09, 2009

Wine Dinner 2008: Part 2

I have realized that in my recent frenzy of healthy and/or Asian recipes, I have neglected to give the rest of the report on December's multi-course wine dinner.

After a refreshing salad and refreshing rosé wine, it was time to get down to some heavy-duty eating.

Fifth Course: Rich Mushroom Soup
I paired a creamy soup made with three kinds of mushrooms and infused with Amontillado Sherry with an Oregon Pinot Noir. The earthiness of the wine and the earthiness of the mushrooms complemented each other perfectly. (Don't forget to float a crisp crouton of bread in the center of the bowl!)

Sixth Course: Roasted Lamb Shanks
Rustic was the theme for this course. Lamb shanks slow-roasted with vegetables. Paired with a rustic (but refined) Spanish Rioja Reserva. Enough said.

Seventh Course: Cheese
To accompany a nice bottle of vintage Port I received as a Christmas gift last year, I served several cheeses. Walserstolz, one of my perennial favorites. A Farmer's Cheddar from England. And the classic pairing of the course: Stilton. Yummy.

Eighth Course: Chocolate Chunk Bread Puddings
This was a make-your-own pairing. Folks had their pick of wines we'd already had...Prosecco, the big Rioja or the Port to go with this decadent bread pudding made from sweet Hawaiian bread and good-quality chocolate. As a good host, of course I had to try all the pairings. They all worked.

Watch for these recipes and others from the first courses soon.

Sunday, February 08, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Tequila Sunrise Spritzer

Martha Stewart had a cutesy name for this cocktail when she published it in her magazine. So that it could be served at her Super Bowl party, she called it a Tequila Touchdown. However, when you deconstruct it, it's just a Tequila Sunrise with a top-off of club soda. That said, it's still delicious. Perfect for a unseasonably warm Sunday afternoon on the deck...just like today!

Originally, this was published as a pitcher cocktail. I shifted things around a bit. Here are the directions for two at a time.

Tequila Sunrise Spritzer
Makes two cocktails.

4 ounces orange juice
2 ounces tequila
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
1 tablespoon grenadine
6 ounces club soda

Mix first four ingredients together in cocktail shaker. Divide evenly among two ice-filled glasses. Top each glass with 3 ounces of club soda and stir.


Saturday, February 07, 2009

A Field Trip to the Asian Market

I love going to the grocery store. Especially when they're "exotic." Whenever I travel internationally, the grocery is one of my favorite stops. Spain for saffron and paella rice. London for curry ingredients and tea biscuits. And even "international" stops here in the U.S. like New York's or San Francisco's Chinatowns for spices and sauces. (And, of course it's important to eat the local specialties when you travel also...seafood on the shore. Steak in the Midwest. And so on.)

We, of course, have wonderful "exotic" markets here in the Dallas area. Central Market for gourmet ingredients, beautiful seafood and fresh-baked breads. And Whole Foods for all of the above and more with an even more organic slant.

But we do well with international groceries as well. There is a new Indian market in our neighborhood which I am looking forward to perusing. And I wouldn't dream of buying avocados, peppers, tortillas and other Mexican ingredients anyplace but the Fiesta down the street.

The latest on my list is the Asian World Market in Plano. With a stack of recipes like this and this and my grocery list in hand, I headed north. It was incredible...

The produce was fully stocked with a seemingly never-ending variety of bok choys. More mushrooms than at any other grocery I have seen. And Chinese long beans which I used in a delicious recipe.

And I guess it's time for me to learn to like tofu. They have scores of brands and varieties. As well as miso, the other soy-based ingredient so important in Asian cooking.

The meat and seafood section included more basic things like ground pork and shrimp, but also exotic ingredients like jellyfish. There are aisles and aisles of sauces needed for Thai, Vietnamese, Cambodian, Korean, Japanese and Chinese cuisine. And things quite "foreign" to many of us like dried shrimp.

There are many more culinary adventures to be had after future visits. Maybe I'll run into some of you there!

Friday, February 06, 2009

Meyer Lemon and Rosemary Creme Brulee

We have a potted Meyer lemon tree on our back patio. We baby it all summer with plenty of water and put it in the garage in cold weather to help it survive. In return, we get a couple of burst of sweet-smelling blooms over several months..and a crop of thin-skinned and wonderfully sweet lemons. Not many...this year only about twelve...but I hoard them until I figure out what to do with them.

This year, I gathered several recipes in a folder. Homemade limoncello which I made as Christmas gifts and a really yummy lemon confit. But the creme de la creme was to be a sour cream pound cake with streusel topping. A la Martha Stewart, it called for two layers of thinly sliced Meyer lemons for extra punch. As I made it, I worried that it was one of those "more trouble than it's worth" recipes. I was right. It had all the ingredients to make it one of my favorites. But it just fell flat somehow (not literally...just taste-wise). Definitely NOT bloggable.

This recipe is a very nice consolation prize though. Luckily, even after the cake failure, I had enough lemon left for the rind needed. The rosemary adds a wonderful herbal undercurrent to keep things from getting too sweet. (And, of course, if you don't have or can't find Meyer lemons, regular lemons work just fine.)

Meyer Lemon and Rosemary Creme Brulee
From Cooking Light.
Makes four servings.

1 cup whole milk
1/2 cup evaporated fat-free milk
1 tablespoon grated Meyer lemon rind
1 teaspoon chopped fresh rosemary
1/2 cup sugar
3 large egg yolks
2 large eggs
1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 tablespoons sugar

Combine the first 4 ingredients in a medium saucepan. Heat mixture over medium heat to 180° or until tiny bubbles form around edge (do not boil), stirring occasionally. Remove from heat.

Cover and steep 10 minutes.

Preheat oven to 325°.

Combine 1/2 cup sugar, egg yolks, and eggs in a medium bowl, stirring with a whisk. Strain milk mixture through a sieve into egg mixture, stirring well with a whisk. Stir in vanilla. Return mixture to pan. Cook over medium-low heat 5 minutes or until mixture coats a spoon.
Divide the mixture evenly among 4 (6-ounce) ramekins. Place ramekins in a 13 x 9-inch baking pan; add hot water to pan to a depth of 1 inch.

Bake at 325° for 30 minutes or until center barely moves when ramekin is touched. Remove ramekins from pan; cool completely on a wire rack. Cover and chill at least 1 hour or overnight.
Sift 2 tablespoons sugar evenly over custards. Holding a kitchen blowtorch (We pull out the industrial strength home version.) about 2 inches from the top of each custard, heat the sugar, moving the torch back and forth, until sugar is completely melted and caramelized (for about 1 minute). Serve immediately.

Wednesday, February 04, 2009

Pesto Puffs

I know I post a lot of appetizers on here, but I always need five or six good ones when we're having a big party. And sometimes I'll make a batch of nibbles like these and have them for dinner. With a nice white wine, it's a nice small meal.

Pesto Puffs
Makes 12 appetizers.

2 sheets puff pastry, thawed
1/4 cup pesto
1/4 cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
2 tablespoons ricotta cheese
1 egg, beaten

Roll puff pastry on a lightly floured board to 15 by 15 inches. Cut into 24 three-inch circles or squares. Place half of puff pastry pieces on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Brush with beaten egg.

Top each puff pastry piece with 1 teaspoon pesto, 1 teaspoon Parmesan cheese and 1 teaspoon ricotta cheese. Lay another puff pastry piece on top and press edges with the tines of a fork to make a tight seal.

Brush tops with beaten egg and sprinkle with Parmesan cheese. Bake for 15 minutes, until golden brown. Remove from oven and serve.

Tuesday, February 03, 2009

Cocktail of the Week: Lemon and Rosemary Rummy

It was unseasonably warm here in Dallas last Sunday, so I decided to break out the rum as I watched the Super Bowl. I've made vodka cocktails with herb-infused simple syrups, but not rum concoctions. This one is nice. Citrusy and fizzy. It's perfect for a day by the pool...or a cold day when you just WISH you were by the pool!

Lemon and Rosemary Rummy
Makes one cocktail.

1 tablespoon herb-infused simple syrup (Recipe follows.)
1 1/2 ounces white rum
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
4 ounces club soda or sparkling water

Measure first three ingredients over ice cubes in a highball glass. Top with club soda and stir. Garnish with a small sprig of rosemary if desired.

Herb-Infused Simple Syrup
Makes about 3 cups.

2 cups water
2 cups sugar
8 fresh rosemary sprigs
8 fresh thyme sprigs

Simmer all ingredients in a small saucepan over medium heat until sugar is dissolved. Cool before using.

Monday, February 02, 2009

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffing

Here's a recipe that is easy enough for a weeknight but elegant enough for guests. I modified it slightly to help it brown more while in the oven. (And halved the recipe for the two of us. Still had plenty left over.)

Walnut-Crusted Chicken with Spinach and Goat Cheese Stuffing
Serves 4 (generously if your chicken breasts are as large as the ones I had on hand.)

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 large garlic clove, finely chopped
10 ounces baby spinach (about 12 cups)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
4 ounces goat cheese, crumbled
8 ounces chopped walnuts (about 2 cups)
1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 large eggs
4 skinless, boneless chicken breast halves, pounded 1/4 inch thick

Heat the olive oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the garlic and cook for 30 seconds.

Add the spinach and wilt, about 3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. When cool, squeeze excess water out of the spinach and chop. In a bowl, toss the spinach with the goat cheese.

In a food processor, pulse the walnuts with the 2 tablespoons flour until finely chopped; transfer to a shallow bowl. In another shallow bowl, beat the eggs with 1/4 teaspoon salt. Place the remaining 1/2 cup flour on a clean plate.

Coat 1 side of each chicken breast with the flour, then dip in the egg mixture and in the walnuts. Place the chicken on a work surface, coated side down, and spread the top with one-fourth of the spinach mixture, leaving a 1/2-inch border. Roll up from the long side, jelly-roll style, and place, seam side down, on a baking sheet. Drizzle with additional olive oil to help them brown. Refrigerate for 20 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350°. Bake the chicken until cooked through, about 30 minutes. Let stand, covered loosely with foil, for 15 minutes; slice into rounds.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Martha Does It Again: Martha Stewart's Cooking School

We all know Martha Stewart has built a media empire. Magazines. Websites. TV shows. Even satellite radio channels. (And of course she has the money that goes along with all that.) But what I find most interesting is the way she is building a CONTENT empire. She is fast becoming the go-to expert for all things "home." And her expertise is being codified into tomes of almost Biblical proportions that serve many of us just as a dictionary or Thesaurus did in our school days.

Last year it was the Homekeeping Handbook. And at least two of the Martha Stewart cookbooks have been republished. And the books on entertaining are dog-eared in many kitchen libraries. The most recent volley is Martha Stewart's Cooking School: Lessons and Recipes for the Home Cook.

At just over 500 pages, it certainly would be a great gift for a new cook. But it's just as valuable to those of us who are proud of our kitchen skills. It puts tips and techniques all in one reference manual. What tools we should have in the kitchen. How to make classics like chicken and French onion soup. How to poach an egg and make the perfect omelet. And I understand from friends that the braising recipes are excellent.

What intrigued me most were the steaming recipes. I have a bamboo steamer that I had never used. So when I saw Martha and her co-author Sarah Carey steaming salmon and English peas on her tv show, I was intrigued. This despite the fact that salmon is not really my favorite.

I won't post the recipe here, but here's a link. It's a simple technique. And I've discovered I really like salmon prepared this way, especially when topped with a little yogurt and dill. I've been buying salmon pieces and cutting them into individual portions to have on hand for a quick lunch or healthy snack. With peas, broccoli, or whatever other veggies I have on hand.

It's started me on a bamboo steamer kick. Dumplings and the like. So stay tuned for more recipes.