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Italian Free-Form Apple Tart (Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana)


Italian Apple Crostata

I have been taking an Italian cooking series at the Institute of Culinary Education and it’s been an amazing opportunity to make fresh pastas, risottos, sauces and classic Italian dishes and desserts. I’ve decided I want to start baking more and was thrilled to learn how to make a lovely free-form apple tart called Crostata Di Mele Alla Romana. This delicious dessert is basically an Italian version of an apple pie but without a pie dish, made on a baking sheet. Super easy and super delicious, and perfect for the holidays.

The handmade dough is rolled out on to a sheet pan, with a delicious warm apple, rum, butter and cinnamon filling, then topped with a lattice crust and sealed together around the edges with rolled dough. The crusty is golden and flaky, with a buttery cake-like texture and is topped off with sprinkled confectioner’s sugar. You won’t be able to resist the smell of warm apples and cinnamon that permeate the kitchen making this the ultimate comfort food for your friends and family. Enjoy and Happy Holidays!

Pasta frolla:

3 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 1/2 sticks cold unsalted butter
3 large eggs

Apple filling:

3 lbs. tart apples, such as Granny Smith
1/2 cup sugar
2 tbsp butter
2 tbsp dark rum
1/2 tsp cinnamon

Egg wash:

1 egg well-beaten, with a pinch of salt

For the dough, combine the flour, sugar, salt and baking powder in a food processor and pulse to mix. Add the butter and pulse until finely mixed in. Add the eggs and continue to pulse until the dough forms a ball. Shape into a disk, wrap the dough and chill it for at least 1/2 an hour.

For the filling, peel, core and slice the apples thinly. In a medium saute pan, combine the apples with the sugar, butter, rum and cinnamon and simmer uncovered, over low heat until the apples exude their juices, about 10 minutes. Continue to simmer until the filling is fairly dry, about 15 minutes.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F and set a rack in the lower third of the oven. Cover a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment or foil.

making the crostata

Divide the dough in half, roll half into a 12 inch disk and transfer it to the pan. Using a plate or platter as a pattern, cut the dough into a perfect 11-inch circle. Spread the filling to within 1/2 inch of the edge of the dough.

Cut rolled pasta dough

Roll 2/3 of the remaining dough into an 8 by 12-inch rectangle and cut into sixteen 1/2-inch wide strips.

Making the lattice crust

Brush the strips with egg wash and arrange them on the filling in a diagonal lattice. Use the remaining dough and scraps to make a long cylinder.

Making the tart dough edge

Egg wash the edge of the tart and apply the cylinder. With the back of a knife, make diagonal impressions in the cylinder.

Bake the tart until the dough is nicely colored, about 30 minutes.

Italian Free Form Apple Tart

Top with powdered confectioner’s sugar, let cool slightly and slice. Serve with French vanilla ice cream.

*Note: You can also substitute 2 1/2 lbs pitted sour cherries or blueberries, (fresh or frozen) for the apples.

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Favorite Thanksgiving Recipes


Thanksgiving

Thanksgiving is rapidly approaching, one of my favorite holidays of the year. Celebrating thanks with friends and family around the table with a feast of delicious food – it doesn’t get any better. There’s so much for me to be thankful for: my health, my job, my friends, family and loved ones, the roof over my head, the amazing places I have traveled to and the people and things I have experienced along the way, and the mere fact that every day is a new adventure, with hopefully many more to come.

Throughout the years I have collected my favorite recipes from my family, friends and cookbooks, as well as created a few of my own. I want to share these with you to enjoy just as I have, wishing all my readers a delicious holiday filled with thanks this year..Enjoy and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Pumpkin Soup with Blue Cheese Toasts

1/4 cup butter
1/2 cup finely chopped onion
1/2 cup finely chopped celery
1 tbsp minced shallots
3 1/2 cups canned pumpkin puree
2 cups chicken broth
1 1/2 cups water
4 sprigs fresh thyme, chopped
1/2 cup heavy cream
sea salt and freshly ground pepper
1 small baguette, sliced into 1/4 inch rounds
blue cheese crumbles

In a large saucepan, melt butter. Add onions, celery, carrots and shallots. Saute over moderate heat until onions become transparent. Add canned pumpkin, broth and water. Cook until vegetables are tender. Remove from heat and puree the mixture in a blender or processor. Return the mixture to saucepan, add chopped thyme and cream. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Reheat over low heat until hot, do not boil. Place baguette slices on baking sheet and broil until golden brown and crisp. Remove from oven and sprinkle the toasts generously with blue cheese crumbles. Serve soup with toasts floating on top as garnish.

Serves 4-6.

Recipe from Whole Foods Market

Orange-Romaine Salad with Walnuts and Bacon

1 (10 oz.) package of chopped romaine lettuce
6 green onions, sliced
2 oranges, peeled and sectioned
1/4 c. walnut pieces or pine nuts (lightly toasted)
4 bacon slices, cooked and crumbled

Orange Vinaigrette
1/3 cup of red wine vinaigrette
1/3 cup of fresh orange juice (from 1 orange)
2 tsp sugar or sweetener

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Spread nuts in an even layer onto a baking sheet and roast for approx. 15 mins until golden brown. Set aside.

Preheat a saute pan and cook bacon until crispy, crumble and set aside.

Slice green onions, and peel and section oranges.

To make orange vinaigrette, whisk together red wine vinaigrette, fresh orange juice and sugar.

Toss together all ingredients, top with crumbled bacon and toasted nuts.

Serves 8.

Butternut Squash Puree

3 butternut squash, halved and seeded
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon black pepper
6 small shallots, halved
4 tablespoons orange blossom honey
6 sprigs fresh thyme
pinch of ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter

Heat oven to 400° F. Place the squash skin down onto a rimmed baking sheet lined with foil. Season with the salt and pepper and top with the shallots, honey, thyme, pinch of cinnamon and butter.

Cover the squash with foil. Roast until softened, 45 to 60 minutes. Uncover and set aside until cool enough to handle. Working in batches, scoop some of the softened squash and shallots from the peels into a mixing bowl.

Puree the squash mixture with a blender until smooth. Transfer to a serving bowl. Repeat with the remaining squash and shallots. Serve warm.

Serves 6-8.

Recipe adapted from Real Simple and Food Network.

Broccoli Casserole

2 eggs, beaten
1 can cream of mushroom soup
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup of cheddar cheese, shredded
1/2 cup whole milk
2 tbsp butter, melted
3 cups of broccoli, chopped (frozen or fresh)
1/4 cup dry bread crumbs
2 tbsp butter

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

In a large bowl, combine first 7 ingredients, fold in the broccoli. Transfer to a greased 1 1/2 quart baking dish.

In a medium saute pan, melt 2 tbsp butter and add bread crumbs, stir. Toast breadcrumbs until lightly golden, about 5 minutes.

Sprinkle breadcrumbs over the broccoli mixture and bake for 30-35 minutes until bubbly and heated through.

Serves 8.

Buttery Roasted Garlic Mashed Potatoes

1 head garlic
drizzle of olive oil
3 lbs. baking potatoes (Russet or Yukon Gold)
Kosher salt and pepper
1/2 cup unsalted butter
1/2 cup whole milk
3 tbsp minced chives

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Slice the head of garlic in half and drizzle with olive oil. Wrap garlic in foil and place in a small baking dish, bake for 30-45 minutes until the garlic cloves are soft. Set aside.

Peel the potatoes and cut into chunks and bring to boil in a large covered saucepan with salted water. Reduce the heat to medium low and simmer about 20 minutes, until potatoes are tender and pierce easily with a knife. Drain the potatoes well and return to the pan, over medium-low heat to remove any excess moisture.

In a large mixing bowl, place potatoes, butter, squeezed roasted garlic bulbs and half of the milk. Whip with a hand blender on high speed, slowly adding in the rest of the milk until potatoes have a creamy consistency.

Mix in the chives, salt and pepper to taste. Serve hot with additional butter if desired.

Serves 6.

Recipe from Williams-Sonoma, Comfort Food

Creamed Corn with Bacon and Garlic

4 slices of bacon, cooked and chopped
2 cups of sweet corn (white and yellow mix)
1 tbsp bacon fat or olive oil
2 tsp garlic, chopped
2 tbsp sweet onion, chopped
1/4 cup heavy cream
kosher salt
fresh ground pepper
sweet paprika, for garnish
2 tbsp chives, chopped fine for garnish (can also substitute fresh mint)

Cook bacon in a pre-heated saute pan over medium-high heat, drain on paper towels and set aside.

Remove all but 2 tbsp of bacon fat in the pan, add the garlic and onions and saute until soft and golden.

Puree 1 cup of corn in a blender, and add with the additional corn kernels into the pan with the onions and garlic, saute for 3-4 minutes.

Chop the bacon into a medium dice and add to the corn, garlic and onions mixture.

Finish the mixture in the pan with heavy cream, salt and pepper to taste, stirring through.

Garnish with paprika and chopped chives or mint.

Serves 4-6.

Roasted Turkey and Gram’s Sausage Sage Stuffing

1 c. butter (2 sticks)
¾ c. finely minced onion
12 c. coarse bread, torn into cubes, crusts removed
1 ½ c. chopped celery (stalks and leaves)
1 tbsp. salt
1 tsp. pepper
1 tbsp. poultry seasoning (to taste)
1/2 tbsp. dried sage or 1 tbsp fresh sage, chopped fine
1 can chicken broth
¼ c. hot water
1 lb. pork sausage, browned and crumbled

12 lb turkey
butter, softened
salt
sage, dried
thyme, dried
basil, dried
fresh ground pepper (black and white)
cayenne pepper

In a large roasting pan, break up bread into coarse cubes (about 2-3 loaves). Heat a large heavy skillet over medium high heat and brown pork sausage until cooked thoroughly. Remove the sausage and pour over the large roasting pan full of bread crumbs.

Next melt 2 sticks of butter in the same skillet that the sausage was browned in and cook onions and celery until soft and lightly browned, stirring often. Add salt and pepper and stir again, remove from heat and pour on top of bread crumb and sausage in the roasting pan.

Add the chicken broth, poultry seasoning, sage, additional salt and pepper to taste and stir thoroughly throughout crumbs and stuffing mixture. Add ¼ c. hot water to stuffing until moist (not wet but not too dry of a texture). Cover roasting pan and let sit in the refrigerator over night.

The next day, preheat oven to 400 degrees. Prep the turkey by rubbing it all over with butter. Wrap ends of legs and wings with aluminum foil to prevent burning while cooking. Sprinkle salt, sage, thyme, basil, and three peppers (black, white and cayenne) onto turkey and rub in well.

Loosely stuff the turkey with stuffing just before roasting and add any leftover stuffing to a roasting pan. Cook the turkey breast down for the first 45 minutes, basting occasionally with poultry juices. Place leftover stuffing in a roasting pan, cover with foil and cook for about 45 minutes to an hour, basting with turkey juices to keep it moist. Rotate turkey on its side and cook another 15 minutes, flipping sides and cooking on the other side for another 15 minutes. Flip the bird over breast up and keep basting and roasting the turkey about another 30 minutes until temperature reads 165 degrees in the breast and 170-175 in the deepest part of the thigh. Remove stuffing in roasting pan and turkey. Allow turkey to rest 20-25 minutes on a carving board before serving.

And don’t forget to make a homemade gravy with the crunchy brown bits and pan drippings (skim off the top layer of fat first), by adding a 1/3 cup of flour and 1-2 tbsp of butter, stirring for a few minutes to make a roux, then slowly add in the liquid (1-2 cups of chicken stock, some brandy or 1 cup white wine, 1 tbsp of cider vinegar and a little salt and pepper to taste) Whisk it into a creamy goodness right in the roasting pan on the stove over medium heat for about 7-8 minutes until it thickens, and serve hot on the side with the turkey and stuffing. Yum!

Makes 3 quarts of stuffing for a 12 lb turkey

Gram’s Stuffing recipe adapted from Betty Crocker’s New Picture Cookbook, 1962

Brown Sugar Buttermilk Pie

For the crust:
1 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 tsp sugar
1/4 tsp fine salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
3-5 tbsp ice water

For the filling:
3 tbsp all purpose flour
3 large eggs, plus 2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 cup packed dark brown sugar
1 1/2 cups buttermilk, room temperature
1/2 tsp ground nutmeg
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
6 tbsp (3/4 stick) unsalted butter

Make the crust: In a food processor, pulse flour, sugar, and salt until combined. Add butter and pulse until mixture resembles coarse meal, with a few pea-size pieces of butter remaining. Sprinkle with 3 tbsp ice water. Pulse until dough is crumbly but holds together when squeezed (you can add additional ice water if necessary, up to 2 tbsp, 1 at a time); do not overmix. Form dough into a disk, wrap tightly in plastic and refrigerate until firm, 1 hour.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. On a floured surface, roll out the dough to a 12 inch round. Place in a 9 inch pie plate, fold overhang under, and crimp edges. Prick dough all over with a fork. Place a sheet of parchment paper over dough and fill with pie weights or dried beans. Bake until edge is light golden brown about 15 minutes; remove parchment and weights.

Make the filling: In a large bowl, whisk together flour, eggs and brown sugar until smooth. Whisk in buttermilk, nutmeg and cinnamon until combined. In a small saucepan, heat butter over medium, swirling pan occasionally, until golden brown and most of the foam has subsided, 8 to 10 minutes. Immediately whisk into buttermilk mixture. Pour filling into pie shell and bake until set but still wobbly in center, 25-35 minutes. Let cool completely on a wire rack, 2 hours before serving. Can be refrigerated and wrapped in plastic for up to 3 days.

Serves 8.

Recipe from Martha Stewart Everyday Food, November 2011

Spiced Mulled Wine

1 bottle red wine (Merlot or Cabernet)
1 tsp almond extract
2 cinnamon sticks, plus a few extra for garnish
3 whole cloves
1/4 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tbsp honey

Pour wine into a double boiler (a metal mixing bowl over boiling water in a saucepan) and warm over medium heat.

Add the almond extract, spices and honey and stir until dissolved. Reduce heat, cover and simmer gently, stirring on occasion.

Serve in heat-resistant glasses or mugs, garnish with additional cinnamon sticks, if desired.

Serves 4-6.

Sweet & Simple: Black Cherry Clafoutis


Cherry Clafouti

Black Cherry Clafoutis

The other day I suddenly had a strong craving for dessert. Most likely this was result of my having eyed some gorgeous black cherries on the sidewalk at Todaro Brothers, my favorite local market down the street. I suddenly remembered a simple, delicious French dessert called Clafoutis that I learned how to make in cooking school, and decided this would be the perfect dish to satisfy my sweet tooth and take advantage of the delectable fresh cherries that were calling my name.

Cherries

Gorgeous Cherries

Clafoutis is a dessert originating in 19th century from the Limousin region of France. The name stems the verb clafir, which literally means “to fill” – (the fresh black cherries with a custard like batter). The dish calls for slivered almonds and butter along with a hint of almond and vanilla flavors, covered in a custard-like batter and baked. It is finished with a sprinkling of powdered sugar and served lukewarm. Clafoutis is also made with apples, plums, pears, blackberries or raspberries, and is even better with a dollop of fresh whipped cream or ice cream – the perfect remedy for a hot summer day.

Cherries

Cherries ready for pitting

The traditional way of making Clafoutis is to leave the pits in the cherries which give a more intense cherry flavor to the dish, but you can also choose to pit them before baking, giving it a milder cherry flavor and making it easier to dig in and enjoy this delicious creation. Either way it’s sweet and simple to make, so follow your heart’s desire. One bite, and you’ll be in love. Savourer!

Cherries and Almonds in Buttered Dish

Cherries and Almonds in Buttered Dish

Cherry Clafouti

Pouring the Custard Batter over Cherries

Ingredients

1 c fresh black cherries, pitted (or unpitted if you prefer)
1 tbsp slivered almonds
1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 tbsp brown sugar
1/4 c all purpose flour
pinch of salt
1/2 c whole milk
1/2 tsp almond extract
3/4 tsp vanilla extract
Powdered sugar (for dusting once baked)

Preparation

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Butter a medium size oven proof casserole or skillet and toss in almonds and cherries.

Whisk together eggs, sugar and brown sugar, salt and flour; mix together. Slowly whisk in the milk, almond and vanilla flavoring until you have a smooth custard-like batter and pour over the cherries into the baking dish.

Bake for 45 mins to an hour until the Clafoutis is lightly browned (you can test the doneness with a toothpick in the center – it is done if it comes out clean). Let cool to room temperature, then dust with powdered sugar and slice into wedges (or rectangular slices if made in a square or rectangular baking dish). Serve with freshly whipped cream or vanilla ice cream.

Serves 4. If baking for a larger crowd, double the recipe and bake in a large 9×9 or 10×7 baking dish – this will serve 6-8 people.

Clafouti with Powdered Sugar

Sweet.

Simple.

Simple.

Cherry Clafouti

and Oh So French.

Other Clafoutis recipes you may enjoy:

Dave Lieberman’s Blueberry Clafouti

Michael Chiarello’s Apple Clafouti

Julia Child’s Plum Clafouti (via Gratinee)

Ina Garten’s Pear Clafouti

Jamie Oliver’s Chocolate Clafoutis with Caramelized Oranges

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle :: Onion, Olive & Rosemary Focaccia :: Blood Orange Panna Cotta


A Classic Italian Dinner

The following collection of recipes are from an Italian cooking class I took recently with Chef Peter Johnson at The Institute of Culinary Education. The Ragu alla Bolognese we made is the official “Classic” Bolognese Ragu recipe (deemed official by the Accademia Italiana della Cucina in 1982). Bolognese Ragu originated in the city of Bologna in Northern Italy. This rich, chunky meat sauce is created with a base of finely chopped onions, celery, and carrots (the holy trinity otherwise known as ‘Mirepoix‘), white wine, ground beef or veal (or a mixture if you prefer), tomato paste, milk and a touch of cream and simmered on low for 1-2 hours to let all the flavors meld together. The key is to cook slow and low to ensure a tender flavorful ragu sauce.

We made the Tagliatelle Pasta from scratch, first making the homemade dough by slowly mixing eggs into a flour mound until all the flour and eggs are mixed through, then letting the dough rise for about an hour and running it through a pasta machine to create long, super thin bands of dough and finally cutting the individual pasta strips by hand. You’ll need a lot of space, a lot of time, a lot of patience, and a lot of love – but the handmade pasta is totally worth the effort!

We made a delicious Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia Bread to serve with the pasta and Bolognese Ragu and topped off the meal with a delicious Chianti and a Blood Orange Panna Cotta for dessert. Blood oranges have a crimson, blood-colored flesh, are smaller than an average orange and are grown in Texas and California, but originated in Sicily, Italy. They have a sweet-tart flavor that goes delicious with the sweet-tart Greek yogurt and cream in this light, refreshing dessert.

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese & Handmade Tagliatelle

Ragu alla Bolognese and Handmade Tagliatelle

Makes 2 cups; serves 6

1 (5 oz) piece pancetta, finely chopped

2 ribs celery, finely chopped in a food processor

1 small carrot, finely chopped in a food processor

½ small yellow onion, finely chopped in a food processor

¾ pound lean ground beef

½ cup dry white wine

2 tbsp tomato paste

1 ½ cups milk

2 tbsp heavy cream

Salt and Fresh ground Pepper to taste

Homemade Tagliatelle (recipe follows)

Put the pancetta into a heavy-bottomed medium pot (preferably terra-cotta) over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until its fat has rendered, about 10 minutes.

Add the celery, carrots and onions and cook, stirring frequently, until soft and lightly browned, about 15 minutes (caramelize the mire poix over low heat).

Add the beef and cook, stirring occasionally, until broken up and lightly browned and beginning to sizzle, about 5 minutes. Add the wine to the pot; cook until evaporated, about 4 minutes. In a small bowl, stir together the tomato paste and 2 tbsp water; add to the pot and stir well to combine. Reduce the heat to low and simmer the sauce, stirring occasionally and adding some of the milk, little by little, until all the milk is added and the sauce is very thick, about 1½ hours.

Bolognese Ragu

Simmering Bolognese Ragu

Season the ragu with salt and freshly ground pepper to taste. Stir in the cream right before serving and toss with the pasta. Top off the pasta with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano cheese.

Recipe from the Bolognese Chapter of the Accademia Italiana della Cucina, decreed as the official “Classic Ragu alla Bolognese” recipe in October 1982.

Homemade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

3 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp kosher salt

3 large eggs

1 egg yolk

1 tbsp olive oil

Form the flour into a mound on your work surface (stainless steel or cutting board) and create a well in the center. Sprinkle 1 tsp kosher salt over the flour. Add the eggs, yolk, olive oil and 2 tbsp water to the well.

Using a fork, incorporate eggs and liquid in a slow circular motion, pulling in a small amounts of flour until dough becomes stiff.

Knead dough, adding a little flour as necessary, to prevent sticking, until it’s smooth and elastic, about 10 minutes. Wrap in plastic wrap; let rest for 30 minutes.

Cut dough into quarters.

Flatten 1 quarter into a rectangle (cover the other quarters with a towel to prevent from drying out). Sprinkle some flour on your surface and on top of the dough and pass it through a pasta roller set (KitchenAid accessory or hand roller) set on the widest setting.

Fold dough into thirds, creating another rectangle; feed open edge through pasta roller set at widest setting. Fold again; roll twice more using same setting. (Keep sprinkling some flour on both sides of the dough to keep from sticking as you go).

Decrease setting one notch and roll pasta through again; repeat, decreasing setting by one notch each time until you’ve reached the second-to-last setting, creating a 1/16 inch-thick sheet. (The sheet will be quite long and continually get thinner as you go, so you’ll need two hands to do these last few rolls to keep the dough from ripping or sticking together).

Sprinkle sheet with flour; halve cross-wise. Transfer to a flour-dusted parchment paper. Repeat with remaining dough, adding flour-dusted parchment paper between each layer.

Handmade Tagliatelle

Handmade Tagliatelle

Tightly roll each sheet, from short end to short end; cut cylinder cross-wise into 3/8 inch-wide strips.

Unroll strips and toss with cornmeal or semolina; spread on a floured parchment sheet and cover with a kitchen towel. Let dry for 30 minutes.

Cook Tagliatelle in a large pot of salted boiling water until al dente, about 2 minutes. Drain; transfer to a bowl and toss with 2 cups of the Bolognese Ragu. Serve with grated Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Serve with warm Foccacia bread, an Italian green salad and a glass of Chianti. Mangia!

Serves 6.

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Focaccia

Onion, Olive and Rosemary Focaccia

Dough

2 ½ tsp (1 envelope) yeast

1 scant cup warm mashed potatoes

2 c warm water

½ c plus 2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil

5 c all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

¼ c extra-virgin olive oil

¼ c water

Toppings

2 tbsp fresh rosemary leaves

½ c thinly sliced onions

½ c pitted Kalamata or Gaela olives

½ c grated Pecorino cheese

Preheat oven to 425 degrees F.

Add the yeast to warm water and stir to mix through. Let the yeast and water mixture sit for a few minutes. In the bowl of an electric mixer, combine the yeast mixture, potatoes, 2 cups of water, and ½ cup of oil. Add the flour and salt and using the paddle attachment, mix at a low speed for 2 to 3 minutes. The dough will be sticky and rough.

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and allow the dough to ferment until doubled, 45-60 minutes. Coat half a sheet pan with the 2 tbsp of oil and press the dough evenly into the pan. Let the dough rest periodically if it seems too elastic.

Press the rosemary, onions, olives and cheese evenly into the surface of the focaccia and allow the dough to double, about 30 minutes. With the point of a pastry knife, pierce the dough gently at 2 inch intervals. In a squirt bottle, combine the remaining oil and water. Shake well and spray across the focaccia, moistening it well. Add your favorite toppings.

Bake until well browned on the top and bottom, about 25 minutes. Let cool slightly, cut into squares and serve.

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

Blood Orange Panna Cotta

2 ½ cups blood orange juice (fresh squeezed, approx. 12 oranges), divided

1 ¾ tsp unflavored gelatin

1/3 c. sugar, plus 2 tbsp, divided

7 teaspoons finely grated orange peel, divided

2/3 c. plain Greek-style yogurt (Fage)

2/3 c. heavy whipping cream

½ tsp fresh lemon juice

½ tsp cardamom seeds, crushed (from about 16 pods)

Pour 1 cup juice into medium saucepan; sprinkle gelatin over. Let stand 15 minutes.

Stir in gelatin mixture over low heat until gelatin dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes. Add 1/3 c. sugar and 5 tsp orange peel; stir until sugar dissolves, 1 to 2 minutes longer. Strain into medium bowl, pressing on solids. Discard solids in strainer. Cool juice mixture 10 minutes. Whisk yogurt, cream and lemon juice into orange juice mixture until smooth. Divide among six small goblets or sherbet glasses. Chill until set, at least 4 hours ahead.

Stir 1 1/3 cups orange juice, 2 tbsp sugar, 2 tsp orange peel, and cardamom in medium saucepan over low heat until sugar dissolves. Increase heat and boil until reduced to 6 tbsp, 16-17 minutes. Strain syrup into small bowl; chill.

Spoon some of the syrup over each panna cotta and serve. For extra garnish, serve with some berries and some sprigs of mint.

Recipe from Bon Appetit, January 2011.

In the Mood For Love


Recipes To Spice Up Your Valentine’s Day


“Aphrodisiac: any of various forms of stimulation thought to arouse sexual excitement. Aphrodisiacs may be classified in two principal groups: (1) psycho-physiological (visual, tactile, olfactory, aural) and (2) internal (stemming from food, alcoholic drinks, drugs, love potions, medical preparations)”.

We’ve all heard that there are certain foods that have aphrodisiac powers, but which ones and what effect do they have on romance? There are several foods that increase the passion and mood for love – Almonds, Arugula, Asparagus, Avocado, Bananas, Basil, Chilies, Chocolate, Coffee, Figs, Garlic, Ginger, Honey, Nutmeg, Oysters, Pinenuts,  Raspberries, Strawberries, Black Truffles, Vanilla and Wine, just to name a few. Truffles are said to stimulate and sensitize the skin for touch. Vanilla’s scent and flavor is know to increase lust. Chilies increase blood flow and sex drive. The chemicals in Chocolate trigger neurochemicals in the brain that increases passion. Red Wine relaxes and stimulates the senses. For Valentine’s Day, I rounded up a few recipes featuring some of these sexy foods, guaranteed to spice up your night and make it a LOVELY one to remember!

Herbed Baked Oysters recipe

Herbed Oysters

Ingredients:

24 fresh oysters
¾ cup of breadcrumbs
2 cloves garlic, chopped
1 teaspoon of Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon of olive oil
½ teaspoon of fresh thyme, chopped
½ teaspoon of fresh basil, chopped
¼ teaspoon of fresh marjoram, chopped
Zest of one lemon
2 tablespoons of grated Parmesan cheese

Directions:

Shuck the oysters and set aside on the half shell. Discard the remaining shells.

In a bowl, mix the breadcrumbs, garlic, mustard, olive oil, thyme, basil, marjoram, lemon zest and Parmesan.

 Top each oyster with about 1 teaspoon of the breadcrumb mixture and place the oysters on a baking sheet. Cook under high broiler (grill) for about 6 minutes or until the oysters are crispy and golden brown.

 Serve hot, with a wedge of lemon and your favorite hot pepper sauce on the side.

Recipe originated from www.oysterrecipes.org

Milk Soup with Truffles au Gratin

Truffle Gratin

Ingredients:

2 c. of chicken juice (gravy)
2 + 2/3 c. of milk cream
1 oz. of fresh truffle
2 lbs. of fresh bread
2/3 c. of truffle juice
1/3 c. of milk
2/3 c. of egg whites
Salt, white pepper

Preparation:

Reduce the chicken juice to half.

Add the milk, milk cream and reduce again.

Add the truffle juice and reduce until you get a nice texture.

Check on seasoning and put aside for the moment.

Preparation of the bread toasts:

Whisk 2/3 c. of cream, season with salt and pepper.

Cut the bread into 1 inch thick slices and cut them into circles (2 inch diameters)

Toast both sides of the bread pieces, dig one side on the piece and pour the wiped cream into it, bake it “au gratin”
under the broiler for a few minutes until lightly browned around the edges.

Recipe originated from French-Truffles.com

Chocolate Chicken

Chocolate Chicken

2 lbs. chicken, cut up — (2 to 2 1/2)
3 Tbsp. vegetable oil
2 cups chicken stock
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa
1 Tbsp. vegetable oil — (1 to 2)
1/4 tsp. cloves
1/2 tsp. cinnamon
3/4 tsp. anise seed
1/2 cup almonds, chopped
1/2 cup peanuts, chopped
1 Tbsp. sugar
1 tsp salt
3 tomatoes, chopped
2 medium onions, chopped
1/2 tsp. fresh pepper
2 tsp. hot crushed red peppers
1/8 tsp. cayenne (or to taste)
Sesame seeds

Brown chicken in a medium skillet in hot oil. Remove to a large (13x9x2) cake pan or baking dish. Pour oil from skillet and add the stock. Simmer 5 minutes. Mix cocoa with vegetable oil to form a paste. Add cloves, cinnamon, anise seed, and blend. Stir spice mixture into simmering stock and simmer 5 minutes more, stirring occasionally. 
Pour mixture over the chicken parts. Cover and bake in preheated 350-degree oven until chicken is tender (around 1 to 1 1/2 hours). Serve sprinkled with sesame seeds over a bed of rice.

Spicy Scallops with Capellini

Scallop

Ingredients:

1 pound sea scallops, quartered if large
6 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1/4 cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons coarsely chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tablespoon minced garlic
1 small dried chipotle chile with seeds, stemmed and chopped
Fine sea salt
1/2 pound capellini

Directions:

Preheat the oven to 400°. In a large shallow glass or ceramic baking dish, toss the scallops with the oil, wine, parsley, garlic and chipotle. Season with salt and bake for about 15 minutes, or until the oil is sizzling and the scallops are firm.

Meanwhile, in a large pot of boiling salted water, cook the capellini until just al dente, about 3 minutes. Drain; transfer to a serving bowl. Add the scallops and their juices, toss well and serve immediately.

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food and Wine magazine.

Coffee and Chocolate Braised Short Ribs

Chocolate-Coffee Braised Short Ribs

Ingredients:

Olive oil or lard
5 lbs beef short ribs
Salt and Pepper
1 large onion, chopped
1 large red bell pepper, chopped
1 jalapeno pepper, seeded and chopped
2 cloves of garlic, minced
2 Tbsp brown sugar
1 tsp chili powder
1/2 tsp oregano
1 tsp cumin
2 cups strong coffee
1.5 cups chopped tomatoes, with juice (or one 28 oz can)
1 Tbsp tomato paste
1 cup unsweetened chocolate (70% or higher cacao)
Cilantro, chopped (for garnish)

Preparation:

Remove the short ribs from their package and rinse them under cold water. Pat them dry. Season the short ribs liberally with salt and pepper. (Use more salt than you think you will need). Heat the olive oil or lard in a cast iron pan or Dutch oven over medium high heat.

Place two or three of the short ribs in the pan. Be careful not to crowd the short ribs. You want to brown them, not steam them. Brown the short ribs well on all sides. You want the outsides of meat just a tad under burnt. Transfer the browned meat to a plate and continue to brown the rest of the meat. When done, remove all of the meat to the plate.

Reduce the heat to medium. If you used a cast iron pan for the browning, heat more oil in a large oven safe covered casserole dish. If you’re using a Dutch oven, just keep on cooking.

Add the onions and peppers and cook until the onions are translucent, approximately 5-10 minutes. Next mix in the garlic and cook for another minute. Stir in the brown sugar and spices and cook for 5 minutes longer. Add the coffee, chopped tomatoes, and tomato paste and bring the whole mixture to a boil.

Return the short ribs to the pot and cover. Braise in the oven for 1.5 to 2 hours. Mix in the chocolate until melted. Season with the cilantro and salt and pepper.

Cook’s Notes: I cooked my ribs in a Dutch oven, but the next time I make this dish I’ll brown the ribs in the cast iron pan and then transfer them to the Dutch oven. I also think the chocolate makes a big difference. I received some Scharffenberger chocolate as part of a gift bag and I used that. However I think the Theo chocolate had a smoother taste, even though they were the same percentage cacao.

We served the short ribs over pasta, but I think rice would have been a better side kick to this dish. The sauce is very flavorful with the coffee, chocolate, and the peppers, and rice would just soak it all up. Cook the rice and plate a bed of it. Then serve the short ribs and sauce over the top. Mashed potatoes would also work well here and the addition of some sort of starch would make this a complete meal.

Recipe originated from www.cooklocal.com, adapted from the Washington Local and Seasonal Cookbook

Arugula and Avocado Salad With Shaved Parmesan and Toasted Pine Nuts

Arugula Avocado Salad

Ingredients:

2 bunches arugula, washed and dried ( about 6 cups)
1 avocados, peeled and sliced
Shaved parmigiano-reggiano cheese, to taste

Lemon Dressing

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 medium garlic cloves, finely minced
4 -5 tablespoons olive oil
salt and pepper

Directions

To make the dressing, in a small bowl, combine the lemon juice and garlic. Slowly whisk in olive oil until the mixture is creamy. Season with salt and pepper.

Place arugula in a serving bowl and add dressing to taste. Mix well. Top with avocado slices, drizzle a bit more dressing over them and season with a pinch of salt. Using a vegetable peeler, shave slivers of Parmesan over the top.

Top off the salad with some toasted pine nuts for an extra crunch (and spice to your Valentine’s Day!)

Serves 4.

Recipe originated from Food.com

Bananas Foster

Bananas Foster

Ingredients

¼ cup (½ stick) butter
1 cup brown sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ cup banana liqueur
4 bananas, cut in half 
lengthwise, then halved
¼ cup dark rum
4 scoops vanilla ice cream

Instructions

Combine the butter, sugar, and cinnamon in a flambé pan or skillet. Place the pan over low heat either on an alcohol burner or on top of the stove, and cook, stirring, until the sugar dissolves. Stir in the banana liqueur, then place the bananas in the pan. When the banana sections soften and begin to brown, carefully add the rum. Continue to cook the sauce until the rum is hot, then tip the pan slightly to ignite the rum. When the flames subside, lift the bananas out of the pan and place four pieces over each portion of ice cream. Generously spoon warm sauce over the top of the ice cream and serve immediately.

Recipe originated from Brennan’s Restaurant in New Orleans.

Chocolate Honey Mousse

chocolate mousse

Ingredients

12 oz of dark crispy chocolate
5-6 dessert spoons of pure honey
3 cups of fresh cream

Instructions

Mix together dark chocolate (should be crushed into pieces), 5 dessert spoons honey and ¾ cup of fresh cream. The ingredients
should be mixed over luke warm water. This mixture will need to be stirred constantly, till the dark chocolate stats to melt and combines itself with the honey and cream.

Once all three ingredients have blended into one another, keep it aside for it to cool.

While the chocolate mixture is kept aside to cool, start whipping the remaining cream (2 ¼ cups) but not very firm.

Once the cream is whipped and the chocolate mixture is cool, gradually and slowly fold the cream into it. Blend this mixture well.

Take a special serving dish and carefully pour the whole mixture into it and keep it to set in the refrigerator.

The chocolate honey mousse can also be poured into separate individual bowls as it does make a lavish amount.

If the mousse is poured into one whole serving dish, the chocolate honey mouse might take about 3 to 4 hours for it to set well.

Chocolate honey mousse can be served with creamy vanilla ice cream. Garnish with crushed nuts as a topping.

White Chocolate Raspberry Tart

Raspberry Tart

Ingredients:

1 ¼ cup of walnuts, finely chopped
¾ cup of unsalted butter, softened
3 tablespoons of sugar
1 ½ cup of flour
1 teaspoon of freshly-grated orange zest
1 large egg, lightly beaten
3 cups of fresh raspberries
12 oz of white chocolate, chopped
½ cup of heavy cream, warmed
½ cup of whipped cream, to garnish

Directions:

In a bowl with an electric mixer, blend walnuts, ¾ of the butter, sugar, flour, orange zest and egg until thoroughly combined, and press into an 11-inch tart pan with removable bottom.

Freeze the shell for 15 minutes.

While the shell is freezing, preheat your oven to 375°F.

 Bake the shell in middle of your oven for 25-30 minutes, or until golden brown.

 Allow the shell to cool on a rack.

Remove the side of pan and transfer the shell to a plate.

 Fill shell with 2 ½ cups of raspberries.

In a large metal bowl set over a saucepan of barely simmering water, melt the white chocolate. 

Remove the bowl from the heat and whisk in the cream and the remaining butter, whisking until smooth.

 Spread the white chocolate mixture over the raspberries, smoothing top and chill, covered, for 3 hours or overnight.

Garnish the tart with whipped cream and remaining ½ cup of raspberries.

Serve at room temperature.

Recipe originated from www.raspberryrecipes.net

Read more about Aphrodisiac Foods and History

Kristen in Wonderland: Eataly NYC


Welcome to Eataly – a journey through Mario Batali’s
Italian Wonderland

Ah, Eataly. The hottest buzzword in the New York food scene over the past few months. Grand Opening: August 31st, 2010. Mario Batali and Lidia Bastanich’s dream child venue – I needed to get there. Fast.

After hearing all the buzz about this grand Italian Wonderland, I decided to make several attempts to get a quick glance at this gem, but after two attempts of around-the-block lines of people, I started getting discouraged, as my anticipation grew to get a peek at this amazing palace, just taunting me with the sight of it. I could only peek through the windows with my jaws open, chomping at the bit to get in there. As if I were peering through the looking glass, into another land, surreal and far away from mine.

spices and tease

After waiting over a month to get in this place, I was determined to make my way in and begin my foodie excursion. One Sunday afternoon, my boyfriend and I went on a stroll to Madison Square Park, and on the way encountered a pop-up mini food festival and market. There we bought a variety of fresh herbs and spices and French salt concoctions, and then bought some artisan cannolis (Almond Joy coconut and chocolate, Pistachio Cream, and Chocolate Peanut Butter Cup – um, heaven!) while taking in all the other food stand delights, all the while holding ourselves back to pigging out on fresh Bavarian pretzels, gourmet burritos and Fatty Cue BBQ, knowing our Eataly destination was next.

espresso machine

When we arrived at Eataly, the line was surprisingly non-existent and we bolted through the front door like a couple of kids in a candy shop. We walked in the Coffee Bar entrance, and immediately my eyes grew large and my blood started pumping, taking in the crowds and grandeur of this palatial food hall. First stop: the Cappuccino/Espresso Bar with its enormous, shiny espresso machine and customers milling around it as if they were sitting in a café on the sidewalks of Italy, crowding around the bar, sipping their strong shots of Italian roast, with not a care in the world but to laugh and tell stories with their friends for hours on end. A few counters down and across were imported chocolates and homemade fine desserts such as pastry tarts and mousses, tiramisu and the like. My heart was really pumping now.

desserts

As we passed down the hallway, the floor to ceiling shelves seemed to swallow us in with rows of Lavender Honey, Italian teas, nuts and other bite-sized delights that flickered before our eyes at every angle. I felt like I was Alice in Wonderland, who fell down the rabbit hole and woke up in a strange, new land – intriguing and familiar, enticing and strange. I wanted to explore more and this was just the beginning.

salumi

We made our way down to the Salumi area and picked up some Italian Proscuitto, spicy Sopressata and a big block of Parmigiana Reggiano – hmmm, appetizers for our Italian feast I have already started creating in my mind. Fontina, Romano, sheeps milk cheese, the selection was endless and daunting. The seafood counter was next, with shiny silver, pink and red whole fish, smoked salmon, baby octopus, clams, mussels, shark and swordfish. Some of the creatures were a bit eerie and scary, but fresh and beautifully displayed on ice with handwritten signs describing the fare.

seafood

Next we entered The Piazza – the grand food hall in the center of Eataly with grand arches and domed ceilings carved in fine architectural detail. You could feel a buzz in the air and the energy of a European outdoor marketplace where the Italians gather with family and friends for an all day feast. It emanated a sense of awe and drama, with its tall ceilings, food and wine stations in every corner, a bar and tall tables with stools in the center, as the waiters flew by with massive platters of gourmet cheese, fresh sliced meats, crusty bread and tall flowing glasses wine. I felt a bit claustrophobic as people were fighting their way through the crowds to get a seat in this hectic maze of food heaven.  I was excited. Amazed. I felt as if we had arrived at the Queen’s palace in all its glory and I wanted in.

piazza

We sat at the bar and ordered an Italian dry red, as we sampled some bread and cheese on a cutting board, watching the other patrons eat and drink with a zest for life. In one corner there was a fresh Mozzarella bar, around the corner “Il Pesce”, the seated counter raw bar and antipasto area. We took our wine glasses with us and made our way to the book store near the beer and wine area, and down to La Pizza & La Pasta, a seated counter and table area that serves artisanal dried and fresh pastas and Napoleon 10” pizzas. The smell of baked bread and garlic overwhelmed us as my hunger grew to find my own tasty morsels to whip up an Italian feast at home.

fresh pasta

We made our way to the shelved dry goods, an array of pastas, olive oils, imported cans of tomatoes, capers, artichokes and balsamic vinegars and my hunt became full on for the perfect ingredients for our feast. We bought some whole Cherry tomatoes, Extra Virgin olive oil and garlic, fresh Italian bread, artichokes and jarred basil pesto. I felt dizzy by the overwhelming selection of imported goods, and eventually our shopping cart was so heavy, we needed to take a quick rest from all the madness. We found a hidden kitchen in the back corner of the venue, where Lidia Bastanich holds cooking demos and classes and wine tastings, known as “La Scuola”. This kitchen was stocked and fit for a King as we sat in awe, sipping our wine.

balsamic vinegars

Our journey was slowly coming to an end, 2 hours later, and we passed through Manzo, the formal dining, and meat-centric restaurant, headed up by chef Mike Toscano. It was dark and moody, with a quiet elegant atmosphere. We felt a bit out of place as we snuck through to get back to the main hall to find our way out. We passed the Rotisserie meats bar, eyeing the roasted chickens and meats, and stood at the crossroads signage trying to figure out where to check out. With a slight head buzz from our wine, we passed through the gourmet hall once again, eyeing the chocolates and coffees and desserts. I resisted as the tiramisu and layered cakes and tarts taunted me from the countertops, as my taste buds said yes, and my wallet said no. Pure Torture.

rotisserie chicken

We finally made our way out and headed home, anxious to savor our Italian goodies and prepare our feast. Cracking open a bottle of red, we crushed the cherry tomatoes and garlic, sautéed the zucchini in olive oil, and threw in the parsley and garlic salt we bought from the Spice vendor in the park and our sauce was underway. Sipping our wine and waiting for the Spinach penne and Garlic bread to cook, we nibbled on breadsticks and basil pesto and smiled at each other as I grated the fresh Parmigania Reggiano for our pasta dish.

spinach pasta with cherry tomato sauce

I felt proud and accomplished, as if I had gone to a strange land on an adventure and learned something new. Bettered myself in some way. A fantastical getaway, if only for a moment…I was happy and complete. It felt good to be in the comfort of my own home, enjoying a homemade Italian meal with my man on a Sunday evening. Check. Mission Complete.

Check out all the pictures from my foodie excursion here: http://www.facebook.com/album.php?aid=314572&id=775480967 or in my Flickr Photo album here: http://www.flickr.com/photos/artfulgourmet/sets/72157625504117944/

An Intimate Gathering: Holiday Dinner Party Menu


Since the holidays are rapidly approaching, I’m planning an intimate dinner party with friends featuring some of my favorite recipes to make a delicious, warming and elegant meal. Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce for the entree, Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese as a side, Pear, Arugula and Pancetta as an accompanying winter salad, and rich, decadent Chocolate Mousse for dessert.

Filet Mignon with Mushroom and Rosemary Sauce

Filet Mignon has always been one of my favorites, and it is one of the most elegant cuts of steak, and served medium rare is juicy, tender, and succulent. Top it off with a Mushroom wine sauce, serve it with a Pear, Gorgonzola and Walnut salad with Vinaigrette and a Cheesy Pasta side dish with a kick, and you’ve got an elegant dinner party menu for a small group of friends. I saw this recipe on Giada DeLaurentis’ show Giada at Home, and it caught my eye as the perfect dish for an intimate dinner party with friends around the holidays.

steak with mushroom sauce

Ingredients

Steaks:

Vegetable oil cooking spray

2 (8-ounce) filet mignon steaks

Kosher or Sea Salt and freshly ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

Gravy:

2 tablespoons olive oil

2 large or 4 small shallots, minced

2 cups (about 5 ounces) assorted mushrooms, such as cremini, shiitake and button, coarsely chopped

Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1/2 cup dry Marsala wine

1 1/2 cups low-sodium beef broth

1 1/2 tablespoons chopped fresh rosemary leaves

1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

3 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

Preparation:

Steak: Put an oven rack in the center of the oven. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Spray a small baking sheet with vegetable oil cooking spray. Set aside. Season the steaks with salt and pepper, to taste. In a large skillet, heat the oil over medium-high heat. Add the steaks and brown on all sides, about 4 minutes. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes for medium-rare doneness. Let the steaks rest for 5 minutes on a cutting board.

Gravy: In the same skillet used for the steak, heat 2 tablespoons of oil over medium-high heat. Add the shallots and mushrooms and season with salt and pepper, to taste. Cook until the shallots are soft, about 5 minutes. Add the wine and scrape up the brown bits that cling to the bottom of the pan with a wooden spoon. Cook until most of the liquid has evaporated, about 2 minutes. Stir in the beef broth and rosemary. Whisk in the flour until smooth. Bring the mixture to a boil. Reduce the heat to a simmer and cook, stirring occasionally, until half of the liquid has evaporated and the sauce has thickened slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the butter until smooth. Season with salt and pepper, to taste.

Cutting across the grain, slice the steak into 1/4-inch thick slices and arrange on a platter. Pour the sauce into a serving bowl and serve alongside the meat.

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Green Chile Macaroni and Cheese

Macaroni and Cheese is a classic comfort food and every year I go on a search for a new recipe and this one caught my eye. (Bon Appetit magazine Dec 2010 issue). This recipe originates from the popular Seattle restaurant, Roaring Fork by Chef Robert McGrath. It’s made with roasted poblano chile peppers which gives it a nice kick and extra texture and flavor to the cheesy goodness. The recipe calls for macaroni and red onion but I decided to substitute penne for the macaroni and shallots for the onion, and added a teaspoon of smoked paprika, extra cheddar cheese and a few slices of crumbled pancetta on top to dress it up a bit. You can also toss the pasta in a cast iron pan and top it off with some buttery panko bread crumbs and throw it in the oven for 30-40 minutes on 350 degrees for a crunchy delicious topping. It makes 6 appetizer or side-dish servings.

green chile mac and cheese

Ingredients:

1 whole fresh poblano chile plus 1/4 c. chopped fresh poblano chiles

1 tbsp corn oil

1/4 c. chopped red bell pepper

1/4 c. chopped red onion (or shallots)

1 garlic clove, minced

4-5 slices of pancetta, diced and cooked

1/2 c. fresh or frozen thawed corn kernels

3/4 c. whipping cream

1 tsp smoked paprika

2 c. fresh cooked macaroni (2/3 c. dried) or penne (or any tubular shaped pasta)

1/2 c. grated hot pepper Monterey Jack cheese

1/2 c. grated cheddar cheese

Topping: Melted butter and Panko bread crumbs, put entire dish in a cast iron pan, top

with buttered crumbs and bake in oven until topping is crunchy and golden

Preparation:

Char whole chile directly over gas flame or in broiler until blackened on all sides. Transfer to paper bag, seal. Let stand 15 mins. Peel, seed, and coarsely chop chile. Transfer to processor, puree until smooth.

Chop the pancetta and cook until crisp in a heavy large saucepan over medium-high heat. Remove bacon and drain on a small plate with paper towels and reserve some of the bacon drippings and add the oil back in to the pan.

Add 1/4 c. chopped chile, bell pepper, onion, and garlic. Saute until soft, about 4 mins. Add corn; stir 1 minute. Add cream and chile puree; bring to boil. Add macaroni and cheese; stir until cheese melts and mixture is heated through. Season with salt and pepper to taste and top with pancetta crumbles.

—————————————————–

Pear, Arugula and Pancetta Salad

This is one of my favorite winter salads made with peppery arugula, fresh sliced pears, pancetta and a crisp Champagne Vinaigrette. It goes perfect with the steak and pasta and gives a fresh flavor to the meal.

pear and arugula salad

For vinaigrette:

1 tablespoon Champagne vinegar

1 tablespoon mild honey

1/2 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1/8 teaspoon salt

1/8 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

3 tablespoons olive oil

For salad:

2 oz thinly sliced pancetta (4 to 5 slices)

1 tablespoon olive oil

2 firm-ripe pears

4 cups baby arugula or torn larger arugula (1 1/4 lb)

3 oz ricotta salata, thinly shaved with a vegetable peeler

Toasted Walnuts for topping

Make vinaigrette: Whisk together vinegar, honey, lemon juice, salt, and pepper in a salad bowl. Add oil in a slow stream, whisking until combined well.

Make salad:
 Cook pancetta in oil in a 10-inch heavy skillet over moderate heat, turning frequently, until just crisp, about 5 minutes. Transfer to paper towels to drain (pancetta will crisp as it cools). Tear into bite-size pieces.

Halve pears lengthwise, core, and cut lengthwise into 1/4-inch-thick slices. Add pears to dressing along with arugula, cheese, and pancetta, tossing to coat. Top with a handful of toasted walnuts for some crunchy texture.

Read More: http://www.epicurious.com/recipes/food/views/Pear-Arugula-and-Pancetta-Salad-235734#ixzz16appSya9

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Chocolate Mousse

I can’t think anything else on the planet that I love more than chocolate. Whip up this delicious ingredient with brandy and cream and you’ve got the perfect French dessert – chocolate mousse. Dark and rich, creamy and decadent – it’s the perfect ending for a special dinner party with friends during the holidays. I found this recipe on Molly Wizenberg’s blog, Orangette (she’s one of my favorite Bon Appetit food writers, ever!). This recipe is adapted from the original recipe in Cook’s Illustrated, 2006.

chocolate mousse

Ingredients:

8 oz. Ghiradelli bittersweet chocolate, 60% cacao, finely chopped

2 Tbsp. Dutch-processed cocoa powder

1 tsp. instant espresso powder

5 Tbsp. water

1 Tbsp. brandy

2 large eggs, separated

1 Tbsp. sugar, divided

1/8 tsp. salt

1 cup plus 2 Tbsp. cold heavy cream

For serving:

Very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings

Combine the chocolate, cocoa powder, espresso powder, water, and whiskey in a medium heatproof bowl. Place over a saucepan filled with 1 inch of gently simmering water, and stir frequently until the chocolate is melted and the mixture is smooth. Remove from the heat.

In another medium bowl, combine the egg yolks, 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, and salt. Whisk until the mixture lightens to a pale yellow color and thickens slightly, about 30 seconds. Pour the melted chocolate mixture into the egg mixture, and whisk until combined. Set aside for about 5 minutes, until just warmer than room temperature.

In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites on medium-low speed until frothy. Add the remaining 1 ½ teaspoons sugar, increase the mixer speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Detach the whisk and bowl from the mixer, and whisk the last few strokes by hand, making sure to scrape up any unbeaten whites from the bottom of the bowl. Using the whisk, stir about ¼ of the beaten egg whites into the chocolate mixture, to lighten it. Then, using a rubber spatula, gently fold in the remaining egg whites until only a few white streaks remain.

In the now-empty mixer bowl, whip the heavy cream at medium speed until it begins to thicken. Increase the speed to high, and whip until soft peaks form when the whisk is lifted. Using a rubber spatula, fold the whipped cream into the mousse until no white streaks remain. Spoon into 6 to 8 individual serving dishes – I like to use teacups – or, if you’re feeling casual, mound it up in a single serving bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate until firm, at least 2 hours and up to 24 hours.

For best texture, let the mousse sit at room temperature for 10 minutes before serving. Serve with very lightly sweetened whipped cream and chocolate shavings.

Makes 6 to 8 servings

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