A new look at cooking and home decorating...with an attempt to add more greens to the plate, more vegetarian options & hopefully lots of new ideas to explore

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

White wine poached pears

Poached pears are easy to make, and they can be made a day or so ahead and left in the refrigerator until you are ready to use them. Layer them with puff pastry, whipped cream and chocolate sauce for an elegant dessert or serve them alone as part of a wine and cheese tasting. They are simple, sophisticated, and easy and I love them. I do not however, recommend red wine poached pears as highly. Sure, the flavor is there, but they tend to come out a pink color rather than the deep lush red, which you may see in cooking magazines. Then, to make matters worse, if in moving them you knick the edge of the pear, you end up with something that looks like chipped wooden furniture.

3-4 pears. Peeled, stems left on (you can with a paring knife remove the core working from the bottom, but this seems like overkill)
2 cups white wine
2 cups sugar
3-4 cups water (enough to cover pears)
Zest (in strips) of 1 orange, plus the juice
2 star anis
½ teaspoon vanilla extract

Place everything into a 5-quart stockpot and bring to a boil, then reduce to a simmer. Gently turn the pears once or twice during cooking. Cook until the pears are tender (about 25 minutes) Remove from liquid and serve.

Monday, July 28, 2008

Cooking, cooking and more cooking

I am just about to finish another summer reading book The Sharper Your Knife, The Less You Cry by Kathleen Flinn. The book is about a woman, who looses her job, then enrolls at the le Cordon Bleu cooking school in Paris. It is a joy to read through the story of her journey, as she goes form a corporate job to a cooking student fulfilling her dreams. A fun summer read.

A few days ago I made poached pears. Initially, the plan was to poach the pears, then, create little puff pastry squares. I wanted to layer puff pastry, poached pears and whipped cream for a stunning dessert. It never happened. I poached the pears, they turned out delicious and we ate them as is. Then yesterday, I took a cooking class at Sur la Table and saw another use for poached pears. In a tart! The poached pears were thinly sliced and baked into a delicious tart with an almond cream filling. It was love at first bite. I am happy to share with you my recipe for poached pears so you can create your own ways to use them.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pasta Puttanesca

Pasta Puttanesca is one of those dishes with a lot of stories about its humble beginnings. My favorite is that the dish originated in Naples, Italy and was named after the local “ladies of the evening” who would make it. Did they make it as a way to entice in more male “clientele” to their brothel? Did they make it for themselves as a quick meal? It doesn’t matter. It is fast and inexpensive, and if you do a lot of Italian cooking chances are good that most of the ingredients are already in your pantry or garden.

2 Tablespoons of olive oil
3-4 cloves of garlic, peeled and minced
3 anchovy fillets
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
1can (28 oz) whole tomatoes, drained of most liquid and crushed gently with your hands
½ cup black olives, pitted- I am certain that they would have originally served the dish with the pits, but it is easier eating the dish with the pits removed
3 tablespoons drained capers
Handful of torn fresh basil to garnish
Extra virgin olive oil to finish (I toss in almost ¼ cup)

This Puttanesca sauce is served tossed with 1 pound of cooked pasta. I am using cooked and drained Bucatini as that is what I have in my pantry; the long “spaghetti” shaped pastas seem to work well. Cook the pasta according to the instructions on the box then drain it before tossing it in the sauce.

So for the sauce place a large sauté pan on medium heat. Add in the olive oil, garlic, anchovy fillets, and red pepper flakes. Cook stirring often, for about 3-4 minutes, careful not to burn the garlic.

Add in the tomatoes, turn heat to high, then lower to a simmer for 10 minutes. Add in the olives, capers and torn fresh basil then toss with the pasta. I like to also add in the extra virgin olive oil and toss to coat the pasta. I serve this with a bit of Parmesan cheese.

* Feel free to adjust the amounts of the ingredients to your taste, if you like it spicy add more red pepper flakes etc.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Omelette aux Fines Herbes

(Omelet with fine herbs)
Serves 1

I think of this as a summertime treat, when herbs such as basil or parsley can be picked straight from the garden and incorporated into a basic omelet, it is also a very fast meal.

1 tablespoon butter
2 organic eggs
Pinch of kosher salt
Dash of heavy cream- about a teaspoon
1 Tablespoon minced herbs

In a small bowl beat together the eggs, salt and cream and herbs. Place your 7 or 8” non-stick omelet pan on high heat. Put in butter and swirl to melt but don’t let it brown. Turn heat down just a bit if necessary. Add in the egg. Stir rapidly at first then once the egg starts to set pull the edges of the omelet away from the sides just a bit so the uncooked egg can drizzle down and cook. Push the omelet forward in the pan so the top part rises above the top of the pan. Fold the bottom part over to enclose the filling then flip the omelet out onto a plate by first placing down the top part of the omelet then rolling the rest of the omelet over it.

Aux Epinards
(With Spinach)
In winter, in place of the herbs 1-2 Tablespoons of cooked minced spinach can be added in the same manner as stated above


My Brioche breadmaking came out rather well so I though I should share a photo.

Sunday, July 13, 2008

Food Weekend

Well, yesterday was rather exciting, we as a family, went to see Mario Batali sighing his newest cookbook. I was able to get a shot of the kiddies NEAR Mario but decided not to wait in the gigantic line for a more up close photo. We were able to sample some of the items from his cookbook, Asparagus wrapped in Pancetta, Grilled Polenta with Ribiola (the Ribiola tasted just like Brie) and a flatbread with melted cheese. Also, we were able to taste a few of Mario’s wines, which was fun.

Last evening for dinner I made Red Snapper, marinated in Ponzu and served with baby bok choy and a mustard sauce. It was very good and seemed pretty healthy as well.

For the better part of the morning I have been working on a Brioche recipe. I love the eggy and buttery Brioche but am not a big fan of the more traditional recipes that require making the bread a day ahead, then refrigerating it over night. Who can wait that long?

All in all it’s been a productive “food” weekend, the photo of the red Snapper is above.

Tuesday, July 8, 2008

Ice Cream Base

This base is simply a larger batch of the French dessert sauce Anglaise. Allow it to cool in you refrigerator before placing it into the Ice Cream machine, then follow machine instructions. You may choose to add in Alcoholic, coffee, or other liquid flavorings before you put the sauce in the machine. As the Ice cream starts to firm up you will then want to add in solid items like chocolate chips, cookies or other items.

3 cups heavy cream
12 teaspoons sugar (1/3 cup)
6 egg yolks

Place the cream into a non-stick saucepan, and then scald (bring to just below the boil) the heavy cream. Whisk in the sugar then set aside. Whisk the egg yolks in a medium bowl then, slowly drizzle about a tablespoon of hot cream at a time into the egg yolks and whisk as you drizzle (to temper the eggs). Once you have added in about three or four tablespoons slowly whisk the egg yolk mixture into the non-stick saucepan. Place back on medium to high heat and stir constantly for about 2 minutes or until the mixture coats the back of a spoon. Strain mixture then place it in the refrigerator to cool.

Wednesday, July 2, 2008

Chicken Saltimbocca

In Italian Saltimbocca means, “jump in the mouth”. This tasty dish can be made with chicken or veal. You might not think of this as a summer dish, however, there is nothing more satisfying that walking out to your herb garden in July and picking the freshest sage leaves for this satisfying dish. Once cooked, I will sometimes top the chicken with a bit of cheese and warm the chicken in the oven, children seem to love it served that way. Creamy polenta is an excellent side dish.

5 chicken breasts- (about 2 ½-3 pounds)- You will want to trim and pound the chicken thin for scaloppini, worry not is the pieces aren’t all perfect. I use all the “scraps” for popcorn chicken. You can by the “thin cut” chicken and the work will be done for you already.
13-16 sage leaves (1 per slice of chicken)
13-16 pieces or prosciutto (1 piece or half a piece per chicken depending on the final size of the cutlet, better to have extra prosciutto than not enough)
2/3 cup flour
1/8 teaspoon freshly ground pepper
½ teaspoon kosher salt

For cooking the chicken-
3 tablespoons butter
3 tablespoons oil

To begin you will place 1 piece of prosciutto on top of each pounded thin “scaloppini” chicken piece. On top of each prosciutto place a sage leaf. Insert a toothpick through the sage leaf. Push toothpick down through the chicken and then up again through the sage leaf to secure the items together. Repeat with all of the chicken.

Into a shallow breading dish, add the flour, salt and pepper. Stir to combine. Dip each piece of chicken into the flour to coat both sides lightly.

To cook the chicken (I am using an non stick 14” pan) add the butter and oil and turn heat to high. When oil is hot, sear each side of the chicken for about 2 minutes per side (about 1 minute per side if cooking veal). Cook in batches, adding extra oil to pan as cooking progresses if it seems necessary. Remove chicken and set aside.

Chicken Saltimbocca- page 2

For the pan sauce-
Empty out your pan of excess oil.
2 cups chicken stock
2 cups white wine
3-4 tablespoons butter
Juice of half a lemon
Salt and pepper to taste
Over high heat add the chicken stock and white wine. Reduce to about 1 cup of liquid. Whisk in the butter and lemon juice, season with salt and pepper and serve over the chicken.