Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sunday night dinner with friends

I am lucky enough to have good friends that are great chefs.  And at work they cook innovated, food all week long and so when we get together at our house, I like to cook good home style food.

When I asked my husband if he was in the mood to have some friends over for Sunday dinner he said, "We'll talk about it."  And when he came to see me at the market that Saturday I asked again if he wanted to have friends over and he looked at my baskets full of Market veggies I purchased there and said, "I guess we are having dinner."

I just couldn't help myself.  There were so many beautiful vegetables at the Market.  Brussel sprouts from Mr. Jim, beautiful  baby carrots from the Monicas, greens from Lucy...It all just dictated to me what supper would be.

Of course there are many vegetarians who would stop there but we are a group of meat eaters.  So we picked up a large beef tender loin and some charcoal and headed home.

You can choose any meat you would like so here are the recipes for the vegetables since they were the star to the meal.  And I have left out amounts because the amounts are not important it is the methods that you'll want to follow.

Lets start with the baby carrots...

Oh so simple... First you'll need to clean the carrots, just remove the green leafs. You can leave a little of the stems. Next get a ice bath ready. Blanch the carrots for about 2 to 3 minutes in salted water until they are slightly flexible.  Remove from the water and right into the ice bath.  What is great is that you can blanch them ahead of time and finish them off before dinner.  To finish them just place them on a sheet pan and toss them in olive oil and honey, salt and pepper and roast in an oven heated to 350 degrees for 10 to 15 minutes.

Next the tomatoes...Again so simple.

I love, love, love roasted tomatoes.  And these cherry tomatoes were wonderful.  Sometimes they are called Capri tomatoes.  I love the look of them still on the vine...there is just something beautiful about it.   And like the carrots I just place them on a sheet tray.  sprinkle them with olive oil, salt and pepper and roast them in a 350 degree oven for 20 to 25 minutes until they just start to shrink and burst.  Serve warm or at room temp.

Now the brussel sprouts.

Once more....blanch trimmed sprouts in salted, boiling water until knife tender.  Place in ice bath to stop cooking.  In a large saute pan saute sliced pancetta in a little olive oil.  Once the pancetta starts to get a little crispy add the blanched brussel sprouts,  salt and pepper.  Go light on the salt because sometimes  pancetta can be salty. Taste for saltiness.  Saute for a couple minutes.  Add some julienned mint and plate.

And for dessert I made a beautiful Triffle that I like to call, "Strawberry Sue"  Here is a photo of it I will post the recipe in a later blog.


Tuesday, March 9, 2010


Growing up, we spent a lot of time in Mexico.  My family had a cotton ranch in Sonora Mexico. And one of my favorite memories is being in line at the border coming back into the states, and the men with churros carts, weaving in and out of the lined up cars.  And my parents always obliged our pleas for a bag of Churros. 

And they did come in a bag.  A bag stained with grease and filled with warm, crispy on the outside and chewy on the inside, cinnamon sugar covered heaven.  I know I am going a little overboard, but I am just channeling my former child self, and I remember how much I loved them. I still remember that they were 10 for a $1.

A few nights ago I decided to make a batch.  And my husband and I watched the last season of the Sopranos and ate Churros.  And it was great. 

(Pate a Choux)
 1 cup bread flour or all purpose flour
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1/2 cup whole milk
6 tablespoons (3/4 stick) unsalted butter
4-5 eggs

 Sift together the dry ingredients and set aside.  
Bring the water, milk and butter to a boil in a large sauce pan over medium heat. When it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and ad the flour mixture all at once.  Using a sturdy spoon, stir vigorously to combine.
Return the mixture to the heat and stir constantly.  Cook for at least 4 minutes or until the dough becomes smooth. 

Transfer the hot mixture to a mixing bowl fitted with a paddle attachment or use a hand mixer.  Mix on low speed for a minute to cool the dough down to 180 degrees or until the steam evaporates. Add the eggs one at a time mixing after each so the dough has time to absorb the eggs.  Scrap down the bowl after each before adding the next. Before you add the last egg you have to test for consistency. Pinch off a little of the dough and with your thumb and index finger, then pull your fingers apart.  The dough should stretch and not break.  If it breaks add the 5th egg.  The dough should be shinny. 

Place the dough in a piping bag fitted with a large star tip.  Heat canola oil to 350 degrees. Pipe strips of dough into the hot oil.  Use a knife to cut the dough off at the tip.

Once they are golden brown, remove them from the heat onto a paper towel.

Now the finishing touch. Toss the hot Churros in cinnamon sugar. (1 cup sugar, 1teaspoon cinnamon) 

Now all that is left is to eat them.  FYI they don't last over night.  They get soft and soggy.


Saturday, March 6, 2010

Chocolate chip cookies

The age old question when it comes to Chocolate chip cookies, "Thin and crispy or big and chewy?"  Well my preference is the first. Thin and crispy.  And when I started to bake them for the farmers market, I soon learned that there are a lot of people out there that would agree with me.

Don't get me wrong, I always have room for a chewy chocolate chip cookie.  But what I like about a thinner, crisper one, is the lovely buttery flavor and the slightly nutty caramelized crunch you get.  So if you can't already taste it in your mouth here is the recipe so you can whip some up for yourself. 

2 cups of all purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/2 pound (2 sticks) roomtemp butter
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 whole egg plus 1 egg white
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
12 oz bittersweet chocolate chips

In a bowl combine the dry ingredients. In the bowl of a mixer fit with the paddle attachment cream the butter and sugars until light and fluffy. Add the egg, egg white and vanilla. Mix until combined. Add the dry ingredients again, mix on low until combined. Add the chocolate chips.
Pre-heat the oven to 350 degrees.  Using a small ice cream scoop, scoop small balls on to parchment lined cookie sheets.  About an inch apart. Bake for 15 to 20 minutes rotating once. bake until golden brown on the edges.

If you don't want to bake off all the dough you can make rolls with parchment paper and keep in the freezer and slice rounds when needed.



Thursday, March 4, 2010

Baked Drum with Caponata

I know I say it all the time but I am a lucky, lucky girl.  I have fresh seafood available to me at the Farmers market every Saturday.  Of course the great vendors are at the market every Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday.

I am a big fan of Caponata.  It's a Mediterranean dish consisting of mostly eggplant.  There are many combos of vegetables you can use.  Well this week I had my taste bud set on Fennel, which I thought would really liven up the caponata.  And it did.  

I had guest coming for dinner at 7:30 and had an Italian group meeting at 6:00 so I started the prep early and was able to get dinner on the table with time to spare. This is a very user friendly dish that can be started ahead of time.

I used Drum because Clara, from the farmers market, had some beautiful fresh sides. You could use any white fish. Sea bass would be yummy and hold up great to the flavors. You could also substitute chicken for the fish. You would just have to precook the chicken a little before topping with the caponata.

2 medium eggplants, diced
2 fennel bulbs, jullienned
1 medium red onion, jullienned
4 garlic cloves, diced
2 cups mixed olives
1 16 oz can good quality diced tomatoes
Salt and pepper to taste
1/2 cup olive oil
1 bunch jullienned basil

In a large skillet, heat the olive oil and saute the fennel, garlic, and onion until softened and slightly translucent. Salt and pepper to taste. Add the eggplant and cook until softened Salt and pepper again to taste. Next add the olives and tomatoes.

Finish off with basil.

At this point you can refrigerate until you need it. But we are going to get started on our fish.  

In a baking dish, place your fish and toss with olive oil and salt and pepper on each side. Lay side by side. Top with the finished caponata and place in a 400 degree oven for about 1/2 hour or until the fish is flaky and cook through. 

I Served the fish with a potato pancake. This is what my mom calls a "Hash Brown" and it works as a great balance to the acid in the caponata.

(Potato pancake)
2 large Idaho potatoes, shredded and squeezed
Salt and Pepper to taste
1/2 cup canola oil

Place the shredded potatoes in a bowl and toss with Salt and pepper.


Heat the canola oil in a large non stick skillet.  Add the potatoes and spread over the bottom of the skillet. Press to form a compact cake. Cook on medium low heat until golden brown.  Flip and cook the other side until it is also golden brown. Remove from pan and cut into wedges.




Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Yellow cupcake with Chocolate ganache

Sometimes I wounder if it is a good thing that I always have on hand, what it takes to make a treat when ever I want.  But last week, when I was really craving a cup cake, I was very glad that I just had to open the pantry and start baking to satisfy my craving.

So I enlisted the help of my Godson, K. and went to work.  And let me tell you that they were indeed exactly what I wanted.  I really like the old combination of yellow cake and chocolate frosting.  Here I made a dark chocolate ganache frosting. 

(Chocolate ganache)
 12 oz bittersweet chocolate
1 2/3 cups heavy cream
2 oz unsalted butter, softened

Break the chocolate into pieces and process in a food processor until very fine.
Heat the cream to the boiling point and, with the motor running, pour it through the feed tube in a steady stream.    Process for a few seconds until smooth. 



Transfer to a bowl and stir in the butter,  Allow to cool for several hours until it is frosting consistency.

(Yellow cupcakes from the Cake Bible)
6 large egg yolks  
1 cup milk
2 1/4 teaspoons vanilla
3 cups cake flour, sifted
1 1/2 cups sugar
1 tablespoon plus 1 teaspoon baking powder
3/4 teaspoon salt
6 oz unsalted butter, softened

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Line cupcake pans with cupcake wrappers.

In a medium bowl lightly combine the yolks, 1/4 cup milk, and the vanilla.   In a large mixing bowl combine the dry ingredient and mix on low speed for 30 seconds to blend.  Add the butter and remaining 3/4 cup of milk.  Mix on low speed until the dry ingredients are moistened.  Increase to medium speed and beat for 
1 1/2 minutes to aerate and develop the cakes structure.  Scrape down the sides.  Gradually add the egg mixture in 3 batches, beating for 20 seconds after each addition to incorporate the ingredient and strengthen the structure.  Scrape down the sides.  

Fill the cupcake wrappers 3/4 the way full

  Bake for 20 to 25 minutes until they spring back  when touched.  Remove and let cool on a rack.  Once cooled you can frost them.