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Thursday
Sep252008

Curried Butternut Squash Soup - It's a butternut squash Kind Of Day

After our blistering hot summer here in the South and almost everywhere around the country it’s been a welcome relief to see the palm trees rustle (not as in a hurricane strength winds) and feel the lack of humidity in the air.   I’ve lived here in paradise (Hilton Head, SC) for the past five years and my blood finally has thinned so a drop of temperatures to the low seventies spurs the feeling of autumn.   We don’t get the leaves changing colors like other places, the palm fronds just drop (just not the same visual spectacular) So, I wanted to bring the fall into my kitchen.   What better way than with butternut squash and soup? I made butternut squash soup last year for Thanksgiving and I made a vat of it, which was completely unnecessary given all the other dishes we had.   I had squash soup coming out of my and every one else’s ears.   So this time I made half as much.   I had some delicious homemade chicken stock in the freezer from a little catering job I did for the Evening of the Arts Artist Reception.   I made Coronation Chicken for one hundred and fifty.   After poaching five chickens, and reducing the liquid again, I had a rich batch of chicken stock left.   A perfect base for Curried Butternut Squash Soup.

  So here you are I was careful on the quantity, since I didn’t want it in the fridge forever again.   I didn’t need to worry about that, it was gone by the evening.   I’m off to Publix after I post for more squash and the ingredients for tonight’s dinner of Texas Beef Brisket Chili. I’m testing the recipe in this month’s Bon Appetite today.   I’ll report and post that tomorrow.   Now I can’t wait to pull out my All-Clad slow cooker.   A true sign in my kitchen that autumn has arrived.   The bread machine will be next…my son will love that!

Curried Butternut Squash Soup

serves 6

1 large butternut squash, peeled quartered and seeded

1 sweet potato, peeled and quartered

1 large onion peeled and quartered

4 tablespoons curry powder            

32 oz chicken stock

Salt and pepper to taste

Canola oil for roasting

Preheat oven to 425 ° F.    Make sure all the vegetables are cut into uniform sizes so they roast evenly.   In a baking dish large enough to hold the vegetables without crowding too much (you want them to have room to roast not steam in the oven) toss with the canola oil, curry powder and season with salt and pepper.   Roast for approximately 30 minutes until the squash is fork tender.   Transfer the vegetables to a sauce pan (my 9-quart Le Creuset worked perfectly) deglaze the roasting dish with a little stock scraping up any bits of stuck on vegetables, add to pan and cover with chicken stock.   Simmer gently for twenty minutes or so, then liquidize.  

It's All Delicious Notes:  The soup will be on the thick side, which I liked, but you may want to add a bit more stock.

 

Wednesday
Sep242008

Hearty Tomato Sauce

   

This is a nice and easy tomato sauce for a multitude of purposes.  I love the rich flavor that develops from roasting this in the oven rather than just simmering on the stove.  There's always a container of this in the spare fridge for those quick meals or whip ups for the kids.  This is a good basic for your repertoire, forget bottled tomato sauces from here on in!

3 cans crushed tomatoes (28oz)

½ large onion or one medium, chopped

1 tablespoon chopped garlic

2-3 tablespoons dried crushed basil

3 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

1 cup white wine

In a saucepan over medium heat (oven proof if you are going to roast it) cook onions and garlic until soften and aromatic in 3 tablespoons of olive oil.   Add crushed basil, stir then add the white wine, continue to simmer until reduced by half about 10 minutes.   Add crushed tomatoes cook over low heat for at least an hour on top of stove or two hours in oven – if time is on your side.

It’s All Delicious Notes:   When fresh basil is in season on my deck herb garden I grab a handful for the sauce and keep the dried stuff on the shelf.   Also, try and buy the best tomatoes you can.   San Marzano are great, so is the Pomi brand.   Hunts organic crushed pretty good too.  

 

 

Wednesday
Sep242008

Eggplant "Lasagna"


Features the home made ricotta from my "You Gotta Make Ricotta" entry just a scroll below...

2 large eggplant, peeled, sliced in rounds (1/4 inch thick), stem cut off

4-6 cups hearty basil tomato sauce

3 cups (approx) home made fresh ricotta

6 oz bag fresh baby spinach

Nutmeg, salt and pepper to taste

1 cup grated cheese like Parmesan or asagio

Olive oil

Pre heat oven to 350 ° F. Brush eggplant slices with olive oil, season with salt and pepper on both sides and bake for 15minutes until tender not mushy, turning once.

Mix ricotta and spinach together, season with nutmeg to taste.

Spread 1 cup of tomato sauce in bottom of glass baking dish. Place eggplant slices on top of sauce, covering bottom of dish. Spread ricotta mixture over eggplant and then additional tomato sauce. Repeat, ending with a layer of eggplant on top.   Add enough tomato sauce to cover and sprinkle with grated cheese.   Bake until sauce bubbles about 25-30 mins.

 

 

Wednesday
Sep242008

You Gotta Make Ricotta

   

 La Cucina Italiana magazine is a favorite along with my de rigueur Gourmet and Bon Appetite’s. As I flipped through it I saw a short informative article about ricotta cheese written by Erica De Mane and her recipe followed.

The house was unusually and happily empty. The weather was a bit too chilly for my taste for any out door activities. I had all the ingredients so why not? Well, that was the dangerous thing. It was so good! The grilled ciabatta slices with ricotta, Parma ham and roasted tomatoes were nice. So was the eggplant “lasagna” with ricotta and spinach filling. Ricotta, peaches and strawberry short cakes weren’t awful to eat. And the toasted brioche with ricotta and honey in the morning wasn’t hard to choke down either. I am talking serious danger here but there is good news for the hips. Ricotta cheese is relatively low in fat about five percent (as long as you don’t make it with the heavy cream – it’s good without it and fabulous with it!).  

  Searching for or developing the perfect recipe, is always on my mind when I read my cookbooks or cooking magazines. As I have said before, some recipes you come across just don’t work or are too complicated. That is why this is a real find. It’s delicious, simple and a new one for the repertoire. Once you make this you will be hard pressed to buy a container of ricotta at the grocery store. 

Next week, when I whip up another batch of this snow-white sensation, I am going to make the famous "Three Cities of Spain"  cheesecake, substituting boring cream cheese for my wonderful ricotta.   Oh, I can’t wait!.

Just a few tips when you make this. Make sure you use a large enough saucepan; I used my 9-quart Le Creuset round oven pan, which was perfect for the full recipe. Also, make sure you have a large colander to drain the ricotta; I ended up using two smaller ones, which did not affect the outcome, just gave me more to clean up. The actual cooking/simmering took twice as long as the recipe said but that could have been due to me being extra careful. Be generous with the cheesecloth when you line the sieve, let the cheesecloth fall over the edges. It will make it easier to lift and drain the cheese.   Let me know what you think about this one. 

Homemade ricotta*

1 hour, 20 minutes, plus chilling – about 4 cups

1-gallon whole milk

1-pint heavy cream (optional)

1-quart buttermilk

½ teaspoon salt

Line a large sieve with a layer of heavy-duty (fine-mesh) cheesecloth and place over large bowl. In a large saucepan, slowly bring the milk, cream, buttermilk and salt to a gentle simmer over medium-low heat, stirring occasionally to prevent scorching, until little bubbles form on the surface, about 10 minutes.   Let the mixture bubble gently, without stirring until the temperature reaches 170 ° F on an instant read thermometer – curds will begin to form.   Remove from heat and let sit for 10 minutes without stirring (the whey will begin to separate from the creamy white curds). Gently pour or ladle the ricotta into the sieve, including any curds that have settled in the bottom.   Let drain for an hour, until most of the liquid runs off, but the ricotta is still moist. Chill covered until ready to serve.   The ricotta will keep up to four days in the refrigerator.

* Recipe from Erica De Mane – La Cucina Italiana, April 2008

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Frozen Caramel Mousse


Recipe from Grill meets Girl

1-cup sugar

1 ½ cups water

4 egg yolks

1-½ pints of heavy whipping cream

Make the caramel – in a saucepan combine sugar and ½ cup of water over low heat, stirring until the sugar is dissolved, continue cooking over medium heat (this could take up to 10 minutes) until the syrup is dark gold.   Remove the pan from heat and add one more cup of water, carefully and slowly since when you add the cold to the hot, the caramel will splutter and could burn.   Return the pan to the heat, bring to a simmer and cool.   Makes about ½ gallon.

Using an electric mixer beat the egg yolks until think and pail yellow; add the cooled caramel in a thin stream while continuing to beat.  

Whip the cream in a separate bowl until it holds soft peaks, fold into caramel mixture.   Freeze for at least 5 hours or over night.

It's All Delicious Notes:   I froze the mousse in a large bowl and used an ice cream scoop to serve it on the side with the Angel Food cake and fruit salad. You could easily freeze it in individual ramekins and serve with fruit on top.

 

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Summer Berry and Mascarpone Tart*


Recipe from Grill meets Girl 

16oz mascarpone cheese – room temperature

2/3-cup heavy whipping cream

½ cup plus 1tablespoon fine sugar

1-teaspoon vanilla

2 cups strawberries topped and halved

1 cup each blueberries, raspberries, blackberries

2 tablespoons sweet orange marmalade

2 tablespoons Grand Marnier (optional)

1 ready to use piecrust

Loose-bottomed tart pan – 9 inch

Sprinkle piecrust with 1 tablespoon of sugar and roll out to fit tart pan.   Chill crust for 20 minutes.   Line crust with parchment paper and pie weights (use oven proof ramekins if you don’t have pie weights) Bake for 10 minutes at 375, remove weights and continue baking until golden color another 10 minutes.   Cool completely.

Whip cream gradually adding the sugar. Add vanilla and fold cream mixture into the mascarpone.   Spread mixture into cooled tart shell, chill for an hour.

Mix berries together in a bowl.   Melt the marmalade and Grand Marnier in a saucepan.   Cool slightly then pour over berries. Stir gently to coat, and then mound the berry mixture on top of mascarpone and cream mixture.   Refrigerate until ready to serve.  

It's All Delicious Notes: *Adapted from Gourmet July 1998

Sunday
Sep212008

Grilled Peach, Arugula and Endive Salad with White Balsamic Vinaigrette


 Recipe from Grill meets Girl 

1 5oz package of Arugula

2 heads of endive – sliced in pieces

½ pint of grape tomatoes

15-20* slices of grilled peaches

4-6oz crumbled Gorgonzola cheese

3 tablespoons of white balsamic vinegar

1 tablespoon of Dijon mustard

2 tablespoons of light olive oil

3 tablespoons of canola oil

Toss the salad ingredients in a large bowl, adding the peaches and cheese last.   Whisk the vinegar, mustard and oils together and dress the salad with half of the mixture.   Serves 6

It's All Delicious Notes:  I cheated and used Delmonte Sun Fresh packed peaches and grilled them in a lightly oiled pan on the stove.

Sunday
Sep212008

Lemon Chili Sauce for Shrimp


Recipe from Grill meets Girl

¼ cup reduced fat mayo

3 tablespoons Asian chili sauce

3 tablespoons lemon juice

Whisk the lemon juice and chili sauce into the mayo until smooth – serve on the side with grilled or poached shrimp

 

Sunday
Sep212008

Whole Beef Tenderloin on the Grill from the Girl


Grill meets Girl - The New way to BBQ - it's a man free zone!

A version of this article was first published in Pink Magazine August 2007

It’s a great afternoon. The sun is shining of course. The girls are by the pool yapping about everything.   The cooler stocked full of Chardonnay.   Marie brought the fruit salad, Cindy made the angel food cake and I was in charge of the grill.

Time to fire it up and throw a whole beef tenderloin on.  

I don’t like to trim any type of meat or poultry for the simple reasons that I’m not very good at it. I like to leave that job to the professionals, but a tenderloin is the only thing I will tackle.

When I trim it I work on the basis that if it looks tough, get rid of it. Since it’s going on the grill, I do leave some fat on, but not a lot. I’ll cut the “chain” out, which is the part that runs down the length of the tenderloin and also cut/pull away the tough silver skin.

I leave it completely intact from the head through the Chateaubriand to the tip. With the varying degree of thickness there is something for everyone from rare to medium when it’s finished cooking. A whole tenderloin will serve around ten people. The most uniform part of the tenderloin is the Chateaubriand and if cut out serves around four to six depending on how you slice it.

When you’re buying an untrimmed cut,   keep in mind, the firmer it feels when you push down on it the more fat you are buying and then trimming. Depending on the size and density of fat you could find yourself trimming up to five or six pounds of fat off, which turns a bargain of say $7.00 a pound to full price piece that you had to trim to boot.

  Also look at the grade.   Angus and Prime is the best, choice next and select after that. If you buy the latter two you may want to make a sauce or gravy. Choice and select grades can taste anything from bland to livery or metallic, with a grainy texture. Save those cuts for Stroganoff.  

By far the best ever tenderloin I have had to date was from Niman Ranch. It was expensive, but the beef melted in your mouth and you could cut it with the side of your fork. I have yet to venture and buy a Kobe beef tenderloin since I already have a mortgage on my house. A two-pound Kobe beef Chateaubriand roast will set you back around $275.00.   A whole tenderloin (7.5pounds) will burn a $500.00 hole in your pocket so by those standards for something special the $150.00 Niman Ranch tenderloin is a bargain.  

While the tenderloin was the showcase, the desserts weren’t too bad either. A summer berry and mascarpone tart, angel food cake with caramel frozen mousse and summer fruit salad.   The tart was delicious, easy and beautiful with all the colors. The caramel mousse was perfect with the angle food cake and fruit salad. We made a salad of endive, arugula, grilled peaches and Gorgonzola cheese with a light vinaigrette. We grilled local shrimp and served them with a lemon chili sauce. You can’t have steak without potatoes so we made steak fries in the oven seasoned with sea salt and whipped up a caramelized onion and mushroom sauce to serve on the side, if anyone desired.

Ingredients

Whole beef tenderloin trimmed and tied

4 Tablespoons minced garlic

Paul Prudomme rub for meat – the blue one

Olive oil

Rub the seasoning all over tenderloin; spread the garlic over entire roast and coat with oil. It’s messy but use your hands.   Cover and refrigerate until ready to grill.   Heat grill to 450F.   Roast for five minutes on each side over direct heat.   Roast for another 20-30 minutes over indirect heat or until an instant read thermometer reads 120 - 125F for rare. 125-130F for medium rare.  


It's All Delicious Notes:  Check the page links to the side for the rest of the recipes mentioned in the article.  I think you'll like them.

 

 

 

Thursday
Sep112008

Summer Pudding

The Berry Best Summer Dessert!

First published in Pink Magazine August 2008

Being back in London for a week in the midst of Wimbledon and strawberries, cream, and champagne brought back to my mind another English traditional favorite of mine… Summer pudding .

  I remember the first time my friend Janey (Sophie’s Godmother) explained it to me…   Bread soaked in berries and juice made in a bowl and then turned upside down.   YUK, I thought. Fruit and bread all soggy and cold? Yup, sounded like a perfectly horrible English day or now a dessert along with the other perfectly horrible English dishes I avoided like: sweetbreads, marmite on toast, and blood pudding (which is not a dessert).   All in my top ten hated foods and one’s to miss list. I didn’t understand what all the hoopla was about, but after my first taste, I too became hooked and can think of nothing better than a gorgeous deep red summer pudding, turned out and then sliced to reveal a cascade of stunning regal colors immersed in a rich sauce topped off with crème fraiche, whipped cream or better yet, home made ricotta!   It is an easy dessert to make as long as you keep it simple. Some recipes make is seem that unless you received an A in geometry and calculus you shouldn’t even try it…cut the bread into even isosceles triangles with the berry ratio of 10:5:3 – while the triangles do make it easier to fit snuggly in a round bowl, as long as you over lap the bread so there aren’t any gaps (you don’t want the berry juice to escape). You can cut it in squares, rectangles, circles…whatever, no need to pull out and dust off high school protractor. Which goes back to my theory… that some recipes are made too difficult and discourage the average cook from trying and at the same time confirming the thought that perhaps you did something really wrong, since it did not turn out. One recipe I read, called for several different sized round cookie cutters and a charlotte mold. Again, I understand that, but reading it put me right off…EEK, what if you don’t have a charlotte mold, or a bunch of round cutters? Does that mean you can’t make this?   No, you don’t need anything fancy. A Pyrex bowl, saucepan, plate and bread knife…that’s it! Give it a go and cheers!

Ingredients

2 pints strawberries

2 pints raspberries

½ pint blackberries

1-pint blueberries

¾ cup sugar

2 tablespoon Framboise (optional)

A loaf of good (hearty) white bread crusts cut off and each slice cut on the diagonal.

1 ½ quart bowl (preferably glass) or an 8inch soufflé dish (but the rounded shape is traditional)

Crème fraiche, Chantilly cream or vanilla ice cream to serve

Mint leaves and a handful of berries for the top as garnish.

Top and slice strawberries in half pick over the other fruit discarding stems, or collapsed berries. In a large saucepan gently cook all fruits, sugar and liquor until the berries slightly break down, do not let them turn to mush, basically cook them until they begin to render juices and are warm to touch. Stir gently as the berries cook being careful of the raspberries in particular.

  Line the bowl with the bread pieces, making sure there are no gaps and the bread slices overlap at the edges (this will make sure that all the fruit juices are absorbed and do not leak out – you want to keep as much juice as possible in the pudding). Push the bread pieces into the bowl using your fingers or knuckles.   Carefully ladle the berries and juice into your bread-lined bowl.   Spoon as much juice into the bread bowl as possible. Top with additional pieces of bread to create a top. Reserve any leftover juice or berries.   Place a piece of a parchment paper on top, then a plate to fit snuggly slightly inside and weight it with a heave can (like 28oz of tomatoes) Place the pudding on a plate to catch any juices that may leak out initially – chill overnight but two days is better.

To serve: remove paper, run a sharp knife around edge of pudding to loosen, place a round platter with an edge (not too much larger than the bowl) and invert…you may have to carefully shake the pudding or lift and edge and ease one side out with a spatula…the rest should fall into place and un mold in a dome form.   If there are still any white sections of the pudding, pour over the reserved juice for uniform color.   Garnish with left over berries on top and a few mint leaves.

  Cut through the pudding with a knife or spoon and serve with Chantilly cream, ice cream or crème fraiche…depending on your preference…welcome to a proper English summer dessert!

It's All Delicious Notes: Challah or brioche is perfect if you can find it.   If not a fresh bakery loaf is fine.   Using a glass bowl allows you to see the juice as it absorbs into the bread.   

Wednesday
Sep102008

Coronation Chicken

 
Chicken Salad Fit for a Queen

First published in Pink Magazine September 2008

 In keeping with the English theme from last month, another one of my long lost favorites is Coronation Chicken. Again, I had completely forgotten about it or didn’t even think to make it since in the past, when I lived in London, we would only make it for parties or picnics around Ascot week (English version of the Kentucky Derby except in England it’s a week long fashion, food and filly extravaganza)

My best friend Deb is not a big cook, in fact she hates it, but kind of like her roast potatoes, there are some things only an English cook can do. Deb is a reluctant cook except when it comes to a Sunday Roast and her Coronation Chicken.

So when I got back home, I thought, hmmm. Coronation Chicken it is. And it really is a perfect dish for our hot hot summers, especially when you want to give your significant other a break from his newfound love of cooking and the hot BBQ.  

Coronation Chicken is a type of chicken salad, but with a punch and twist. It’s not just chicken mixed with some celery and mayonnaise. How could it be? After all it was developed in 1953 for the Queen Elizabeth’s coronation. A queen wouldn’t stand for some chicken slapped together with a bit of mayo. No Sir-ree. This salad’s twist is curry powder and apricots.

I combined Deb’s recipe with an original (circa 1953) one I found and stuck in a bit my own flavors (I added mango chutney and sliced almonds) it was a hit and it was delicious.   Add the summer pudding from last month, crack open a bottle of champagne and you have a typical English summer day, just without the rain.

Ingredients

Serves 6

1 4lb whole chicken

1 small onion (diced)

1/2-tablespoon canola oil

2 tablespoons tomato paste

3 tablespoons curry powder (give or take a bit according to taste)

1 ½ cups white wine

1 9oz jar of mango chutney (I like Major Grey’s by Cross and Blackwell)

½ cup sliced almonds

15 dried apricots (minced)

2 cups mayonnaise

Cooked rice – cooled to room temperature

Lettuce

Poach your chicken, leave it to cool and shred the meat.   Put a side.   Cook the onion in oil until soften and translucent over medium low heat. Add the curry powder, cook for a minute, add the tomato paste and wine, stir to combine, reduce heat and continue to cook until well reduced about ten minutes. Let cool completely.   In a large bowl, mix cooled curry sauce, mayonnaise, chutney, almonds and apricots.   Mix in the shredded chicken and stir to combine all flavors.   Serve on a bed of lettuce, with rice on the side. 

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