January: Winter Salads

Here are a couple of winter salads to enjoy when more tender greens like lettuces and mesclun are out of season.

First Version:

1/3 head of celery, sliced across the stems
1/2 head of celeriac, julienne slice
1 head of Belgian endive, sliced
1/4 bunch of Italian parsley, coarse chop
1/4 sweet onion or to taste, sliced very thinly
1/2 head of fennel, sliced

Toss all of the vegetables with a simple fresh lemon juice and olive oil dressing.  Season with salt and pepper.

This was a very light and refreshing salad,  enough for 4 servings.

Second Version:

Equal amounts of thinly sliced:

green cabbage
fennel
celery
zucchini
chopped Italian parsley

Toasted salted sunflower seeds
Grated cheese ( whatever you have in the house )
A simple Balsamic dressing with a bit of honey mixed in

Toss your vegetables with the sunflower seeds, cheese and dressing and serve.

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February: Poached Pears

One of my favorite winter desserts is poached pears with pound cake. No frosting, just the rich delicate cake and the red colored pears in their syrup. A beautiful presentation on a cake stand with the bowl of pears beside it. I make my own pound cake but if you are in a rush there is always Sara Lee!

Ingredients:

5 lbs of Bosc pears
1 lemon, squeeze for the juice
3 cups of Zinfandel, rosy or red
1.5 cups of sugar
1.5 cups of water
6 black peppercorns
2 cinnamon sticks

Peal pears and cut into quarters or eighths. Drop in a bowl of water with the lemon juice while you prepare the rest.

Bring the wine, sugar, water, peppercorns and cinnamon to boil in a wide pot.

Let that boil for a few minutes. Drain the pears and add to the boiling liquid. Lower the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Remove from the heat and let cool. Store the pears in their liquid in a covered bowl in the fridge. They absorb more color as they sit.

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March: Easy Pineapple Dessert

I had to go to a dessert event one night and chose to garden instead of bake. I came up with this in a hurry. It was even better the next night.

Ingredients:

1 Pineapple, cut into eighths and sliced
1/4 cup chopped candied ginger or to taste
1/4 cup ‘Craisins’ (dried cranberries) or to taste

Toss all ingredients in a bowl and marinate.

Season with more lime juice or salt to taste.

Chill thoroughly before serving. At this point I put in in a glass and drink it. To be more formal they suggest serving it in a bowl with a drizzle of olive oil, basil chiffonade and black pepper.

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April: Revitalizing Salad

While traveling last month I had this salad at a little cafe. It was one of the most interesting and refreshing things that I ate on that trip. No numbers but here is the list of ingredients.

Ingredients:

BEETS, steamed lightly and finely julienned
SUNFLOWER SEEDS, toasted
QUINOA, cooked
ALMONDS, chopped
RAISINS
KALE, chopped fine
BLACK RICE, cooked
MINT, fresh and finely chopped
BEETROOT HUMMUS, really a puree of cooked beets as a topping

They served this with a hot relish / chutney, toasted red peppers and sprouted beans on the side.

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May: Thai Sweet Potato Curry

We did an event recently where we did this curry as the vegetarian option. Everyone loved it. It has a hot element so don’t say that I didn’t warn you.

Ingredients:

2 cloves of garlic, chopped
1 onion, chopped
2 shallots, sliced
1 whole Thai red pepper, do not cut unless you really like HOT
Lemon Grass, half a stem, cut into thirds
Carrots, half a pound, peeled and sliced
1 lb butternut squash, peeled and cut into pieces
2 sweet potatoes, peeled and cut up
3 cups of baby spinach
14 ounce can of coconut milk
half a cup of vegetable stock
1 – 2 tablespoon Thai curry paste, red or green, depending on your heat index
2 T. oil
1 T coconut oil
half a cup of chopped roasted peanuts
half a cup of chopped cilantro
1 lime cut into small pieces to squeeze

Heat both oils, add shallots, onion and garlic, saute. Add the coconut milk, Thai curry paste and vegetable stock. Stir until everything has mixed together. You may need more stock after adding the vegetables.

Add sweet potato, squash and carrots. Add thai chili and lemon grass.

Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook until all of the vegetables are soft.

Add the spinach at the end and cook until wilted.

Serve over brown or basmati rice. Garnish with peanuts, cilantro and lime wedges.

Serves 6 – 10.

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June: Ramp Sauce On Fried Eggs And Asparagus

I was about to make one of my favorite breakfasts this Sunday morning, fried eggs and asparagus on toast with grated Parmesan.  It was one of my father’s favorites. I’m not certain if he had the eggs, but living near Hadley, MA made this a frequent treat.

I had been to the Farmers Market on Saturday morning and gotten fresh ramps from Amy. It occurred to me that they would make a great sauce. They did.  Here’s my recipe.

Ingredients:

Fresh ramps – 1 bunch thinly sliced across the leaf.
One pound of asparagus, break off the tough stems.
4 organic eggs
4 tbsp unsalted butter
2 -3 tbsp heavy cream
3-4 tbsp grated parmesan cheese
2 – 4 slices of whole wheat toast

Melt 2 tbsp butter in a frying pan.  Sauté the ramp leaves, they will wilt down as all greens do.  When the are soft, pour in 2 tbsp heavy cream and warm until blended together. Add the parmesan. Add more cream as needed. Hold.

Toast the bread slices.

Poach the asparagus in a shallow frying pan until semi soft.

In another frying pan melt the remaining 2 tbsp butter and fry the 4 eggs.

Assemble: Toast on the bottom, asparagus spears, fried eggs and ramp sauce on the top. Pass more parmesan as needed.

Salt and pepper to taste.

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July: Pavlova

This is a wonderful dessert. Sweet and time consuming but well worth the effort. The recipe that I like the best is from Epicurious. I like it with either lemon or lime curd and fresh seasonal berries. If you do not have curd you can always fill with jam and top with whipped cream.

Ingredients:

1 cup superfine granulated sugar
1 T cornstarch
3 lare egg whites at room temp.
3 T. cold water
1 tsp distilled white vinegar

Preheat oven to 300 F with the rack in the middle. Trace 6 – 7 approximately 5 inch circle on a sheet of parchment paper. turn over and place on baking sheets.

Whisk together superfine sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl.

Beat egg whites with a pinch of salt un a standing electric mixer at medium speed until they hold soft peaks. Add water, a little at a time, and rebeat until it holds soft peaks again.

Increase speed to medium and beat in sugar mixture 1 tablespoon at a time. After all of the sugar has been added beat for another minute.

Add the vinegar and beat at high speed until the meringue is glossy and holds stiff peaks, about 5 minutes more. If you are using a hand held mixer it might take longer.

Put the meringue into a piping bag with an open circle tip. Using the 5 inch guides, create a single bottom layer and then go out and up the sides two rounds. This is what will hold the curd in place.

Bake the meringue until it is a pale golden color and has formed a crust. About 45 minutes. Turn off the oven and prop the door open with a wooded spoon. Cool the meringue in the oven for 1 hour before removing.

You can make the meringue 2 days ahead or bake and freeze by wrapping each serving gently and separately.

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August: Summer Zucchini Basil Soup

This soup is a great way to use up late summer zucchini and basil.

Ingredients:

4 T butter
1/4 c olive oil
5 lbs zucchini,  sliced
1 lb yukon gold potatoes sliced
2 med-large onions, chopped
1/4 c fresh basil
2 Knorr (brand) vegetable cubes
1 c heavy cream
Boiling water to cover

Procedure:

Melt butter and oil together, and saute onions until soft.

Add veggies and basil, then cover pot with waxed paper and put the lid on (this is called sweating the vegetables and enhances the flavor).  Allow to cook on low for about 5 minutes.

Add boiling water to cover, stir and cook until soft.

Add cream, puree  in blender, food processor, or with submersion blender).

Salt to taste.

Serve cold or at room temperature.  Makes 1 gallon or 16 cups

Enjoy!

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September: Peach Cream Tart

Ingredients:

Butter crust for tart shell –  9 inch

3-4 peaches
.5 cup cream cheese softened
.5 cup ricotta
.25 cup sugar
a few grains of dried organic lavender

1 lemon, rind and juice
3 Tb. sugar for topping
1 egg

Apricot jam and lemon juice

Peach TartRoll out the crust for the tart. Freeze for half an hour. Prick bottom and line with aluminum foil, cover with weights.  Cook at 425 for 25 minutes.  Remove from oven, remove weights and foil and let cool.

Whisk the cream cheese, ricotta and one egg. Blend in the sugar and a few grains of lavender.

Blanch the peaches in boiling water for 30 seconds or until the skin starts to peel.
Remove to cold water bath and peel the peaches. The skins should slip off very easily.
Halve the peaches, remove pit and then cut each half into 6 pieces.

Line the pre-baked crust with the cream cheese mixture. Decoratively place the peach slices on the filling in a concentric pattern, overlapping as you go. When you have done this squeeze the lemon juice over the peaches.

Mix the rind with the 3 Tbl sugar and sprinkle on the peaches.

Bake at 350 for 40 – 50 minutes or until the peaches are bubbly and set.

Let cool.

Cook .5 cup of apricot jam with a little lemon juice to thin it. Let it come to a boil. Strain through a fine sieve. Using a pastry brush carefully spread the thinned jam over the peaches and let set.

I garnished mine with Borage flowers.

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October: Simple Side Veggies

SAUTED SPINACH

The simple things are always the best. I wanted a green to go with salmon one night. So I did the simplest thing possible.

Ingredients:

1 lb spinach
butter
a pinch of nutmeg.

Wash the spinach and wilt it in a frying pan. Swirl in 1 tbsp butter and finish with a pinch of nutmeg. Simple and could not be better.

Serves 1-2. Spinach really cooks down–I remember cooking 6 lbs for 4 of us in Alabama one night.

CELERY

We’re not used to cooked celery, other than braising, but as I had an abundance I tried this.

Ingredients:

1 bunch of celery.  Clean and cut across the stems. Use the leaves as well.
Unsalted Butter, 2-4 tbsp
4 tbsp heavy cream
Salt and pepper

Melt the butter in a saute or fry pan, and add the celery.  Cook until semi-soft.

Add the heavy cream, salt and pepper. Cook until the celery is coated.

Serves 4 – 6 as a side dish.

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November: Shrimp Remoulade Salad

This recipe was much requested by guests at a wedding I catered recently so here’s the recipe.

Ingredients:

3 cups of homemade Mayonnaise using Champagne Vinegar
1 tsp Salt
2T plus 2 tsp dry mustard
1T plus 1 tsp paprika ( not smoked )
8 drops of tabasco sauce
12 sprigs parsley minced
2 cloves of garlic mashed
1 tsp anchovy paste
1 tsp capers with 1 tsp of the juice. More if you like.

Mix the above in the cuisinart. Remove to a bowl and add the following:

10 scallions chopped
6 stalks celery, tiny chop
3 lbs small cooked shrimp chopped

Serve with dark bread.

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December: Almond Ricotta Cheesecake

When I was young my parents would often take us to NYC during  the Christmas holiday vacation. We always stayed with my aunt and uncle on Central Park West. Around the corner from their apartment was a little bakery that made Nesselrode Pie. If I tell you that I have been trying to replicate this recipe for the last umpteenth years I am not joking. You used to be able to buy Nesselrode in a jar. Probably you could find it on Amazon. This is the closest that I have come and I am going to stop here. So far everyone who has tasted it has given it the thumbs up. So try this for the holidays and wow your guests.

Ingredients

Cookie Dough

.5 cup unsalted butter
1 cup sugar
1 egg
.75 tsp vanilla
1.5 cup sifted all purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
.25 tsp salt

Pie

4 oz cream cheese
4 oz almond paste
1 lb container ricotta, whole milk
.25 cup sugar plus one tablespoon
dash of salt
1 tsp almond extract
4 large eggs
2 oz chocolate chips
1 oz. chopped citron – soak citron in brandy overnight.
1 oz Cognac or Amaretto
.25 cup toasted sliced almonds

9 inch springform pan
Confectioner’s sugar for dusting

I have made this with both Cognac and Amaretto. The Cognac flavor disappears into the cake. The Amaretto leaves a distinct almond finish.

Preheat the overn to 350

Cookie dough crust:  Cream butter and then add sugar and cream thoroughly. Add egg, beat well and then add vanilla. Mix dry ingredients together and add to butter mix. Stir until well blended.  Shape into a flattened ball, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for .5 – 1 hour.

Remove from frig and roll out on a floured board to 14 inch round.

Place in a 9 inch round springform pan, bringing the sides up about 2 inches. Pat into shape.

Be patient doing this. I have often had to roll it a second time as it can split.

Pie filling: Soak the citron and Cognac overnight. Cream the cream cheese and almond paste together until semi-smooth. Add the ricotta, sugar and salt.

Drain brandy, and add citron and almond extract to the cheese mixture. Gradually add eggs and Cognac to the mix.

Fold in the chocolate chips and toasted almonds.

Gently pour the mix  into the prepared crust in the springform pan. Smooth if necessary. Bake in the oven 45 min – 1 hour.  Let cool. Refrigerate overnight. Gently remove the outside of the springform pan and dust with confectioner’s sugar.  Cut thin slices to serve.

Serves 16 – 20.

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