Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Buttermilk Pie

Buttermilk waiting to be used up in the fridge?       Check.

Maple syrup looking a tad old?          Check.

Easy as pie recipe?                  Check.

Enter Maple Buttermilk Pie from 101 Cookbooks. So simple, so delicious, and if you bought the crust, a snap to make!

Of course being the DIY Queen that I am, the crust was homemade, and vegan at that! Chocolate and Zucchini featured a olive oil crust a while back and I have been waiting for the perfect time to make it. Ok, really, I have been putting it off, but when I finally did get around to it, I was sold! Really easy, so much less fat than a butter crust, and it is good both with a savory tart as well as this sweet treat.

Even if you think you're not a fan of maple syrup give this pie a try. With its 6 egg yolks it is more like custard; the maple syrup is more of a sweetener and with the lemon zest, the maple flavor does not overwhelm. Of course, knowing my palate, this is not a really sweet dessert. Definitely a keeper!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions: Part 2 - Appetizers and Desserts

Welcome to Part Deux of my Thanksgiving round up; Appetizers and Desserts. Let's dig in!

Marinated Olives Moroccan Style
Wow! These were so easy I almost felt guilty taking credit for them. They look so exotic but they are made with a few pantry items. Toss them all together and allow to marinate for 2 days and bring them to room temperature, and voila, you have fancy marinated olives!

Prosciutto Wrapped Dates
Ah, these were a lovely experiment that turned out beautifully. While the end result is less than gorgeous the taste is phenomenal! Slit dates open and stuff with goat cheese, wrap in decadence aka prosciutto and bake. Delicious!

Double Salmon Dip
This is a real treat for the salmon lovers - smoked and poached salmon is combined with herbs and cream to make this luscious dip. Make sure to get fresh herbs since they make all the difference!

Maple Rosemary Glazed Walnuts
These nuts are so simple and easy to whip up but so gourmet tasting! Be sure to make a large batch since they are so addictive people won't be able to stop eating them!

Classic Stuffed Mushrooms
These are simplicity itself - saute mushroom stems with garlic, butter, parsley and bread crumbs and stuff into the caps with some cheese and bake. While I have listed these as an appetizer, they could easily come to the big table as a side.

Almond Cake
As I mentioned in my original post, this dessert really wowed me. If you like almonds in your desserts then do yourself a favor and make this cake. Super easy and so delicious! It would be great with whipped cream, ice cream, or just some fruit as shown here. It makes a lovely alternative to the traditional apple or pumpkin pie or simply another choice!

Chocolate Ricotta Tart
Ricotta in desserts was a discovery of the Italians; whether the Sicilians can claim that particular brilliance I do not know, but it was Sicilian Americans who introduced it to me in the form of canolis. Thus, I pay tribute to them regardless of the authenticity! Either way, this tart is stupendous - rich, creamy and dense. If you're making something chocolate for your feast, make it this tart.

Goat Cheese, Walnut and Pear Galette This was one of my first fruit tart/galettes and I was so proud of how nicely it turned out. It has a rustic crust but inside is hidden so much elegant goodness that it will pleasantly surprise your diners. Choose bosc pears - yellow or red - for best results since they are ripe no matter how soft or hard they feel.

Happy Thanksgiving and may you enjoy every morsel and drop!


Saturday, November 19, 2011

Thanksgiving Menu Suggestions: Part 1 - Sides

And so it begins! If you are still planning your Thanksgiving feast, allow me to present a few dishes for your consideration. There were so many to choose from that I created two posts; first one is dedicated to sides - my personal favorite part of the meal. Next look for hors d'oeuvres and desserts. Enjoy!
Cornbread and Smoked Oyster Stuffing
The star of this dish is the smoked oysters - it takes only a few but they infuse the stuffing with amazing flavor and yummyness! Truly a show stopper!

Fennel, Celery and Herb Salad
is a fantastic side dish to cut through all of the richness of the turkey and gravy and mashed potatoes and sweet potatoes and creamed onions and need I go on? This is bracingly crisp and crunchy and just enough acid to refresh your taste buds for another round of all of the above!

Potatoes and Green Beans with Dijon Vinaigrette
Green beans always make an appearance on our feast table and this dish is a bit different. A fantastic homemade Dijon vinaigrette tossed with some warm potatoes.

Swiss Chard, Onion and Potato Gratin
Gratin usually means cream and cheese and a few veggies thrown in for good measure. Not this one. This is veggie goodness with out any dairy and trust me, it is stupendous. Having some vegans attending? Include this dish and they will be singing your praises into the new year!

Basque Beet Salad with Garlic and Parsley
If you are trying to cook seasonally, this beet salad is just the ticket. It is simple, easy and quick to make - let someone else put it together as you make the gravy - and wow folks with your elegant simplicity!

Braised Red Cabbage with Cranberries and Mint
Not only is this a gorgeous color, but the dried cranberries and mint are a match made in heaven. Red cabbage is sweeter than its green cousin and this simple saute is another delicious seasonal vegetable that just makes your table look pretty.

Cauliflower Gratin
Ahh, the decadence of cauliflower gratin. Really. This dish will make people swoon, fall out of their chairs in rapture. Be sure to make lots of it because it will astound you! A butter bread crumb topping over nutty melt in your mouth cauliflower with just a smattering of cheese. It's slap-your-neighbor's-hand-so-you-get-the-last-serving good. Don't say I didn't warn you!

And saving the best for last,  Caramelized Shredded Brussels Sprouts. Thanksgiving is just not thanksgiving without a huge bowl of these beauties. This is essentially a quick saute but if you make a big batch (2-3lbs depending on how many we're serving) they will take more like 15 minutes to cook up. But they are food of the gods, making a Brussels Sprouts lover out of any naysayer.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all! May your gratitude and love abound and live through the whole year!


Thursday, November 17, 2011

Manchego and Sorrel Mac and Cheese

Mac and cheese - is it possible that it is more American and apple pie? Quite possibly, but I am sure there are those who will dispute it. My savory tooth will always gravitate towards cheese rather than pie (and do not even talk to me about cheddar cheese with your apple pie! That abomination is not even acknowledged in my presence!) But this story is really about setting tradition aside for discovering interesting combinations and hiding healthy in cheesy goodness.

Sorrel, the distinctively French and lemony green, has made its fall appearance in the farmers' market. Last year I made a traditional sorrel soup and while it was delicious I was looking for a more substantial meal and thought of tucking it into some mac and cheese. The strong lemony flavor definitely needed some tempering and an aged manchego was just the cheese for the job.

Manchego is made from the raw milk of sheep that have fed on the mountainous hillsides of the La Mancha region in Spain. Aged manchego has the dry, nutty flavor of parmesan and melts unevenly like the Italian cheese. It also is perfect on a cheese plate and you have yet to try it, treat yourself and delight your guests!

Sunday, November 13, 2011

Refried Bean Enchiladas

During my adventurous cooking years - that would be my 7 years of poverty as a grad student - homemade refried beans were a staple. Once I discovered a recipe in New Recipes from Moosewood Restaurant, I was hooked. Their secret ingredient was soy sauce and it just makes them sing! Cooking up a batch of dried beans always makes me smug - pennies for such good food - and I love the smell of beans simmering on the stove. It has been a while since I made them and so when I had a hankering for bean enchiladas it reminded me that it was time to make a batch.

Being the DIYer I am, I also made the enchilada sauce, which was simple and shockingly easy. Pulling a few items from the pantry - tomato paste, chipotle in adobo (homemade sitting the frig) and some spices, I whipped up a delicious sauce in no time. My motto is why buy it when you can make it! I just have such a hard time spending money for someone else's labor. Of course, I just love the satisfaction of making it myself, so don't let me peculiarities get the way, buy sauce if you like!

Thursday, November 10, 2011

Rosemary and Juniper Brined Pork Chops

Growing up, pork chops were in the regular rotation of my mother's go-to meals. They were definitely one of my favorites but I have no idea how she made them or why they were so good (she doesn't remember doing anything particularly's a mystery!) But as I began eating meat again 3 years ago after a 15 year hiatus, today's pork chops were not meeting the rosy memories of my childhood. Until I discovered brine and marinades.

Pork may be the other white meat, but like the original white meat it generally needs some doctoring to boost its flavor. Marinades can provide lots of flavor like my  Miracle Marinade but I was looking for a more porkier tasting chop. That's where brine comes to the rescue. A simple brine of salt water and a few herbs ensures that your chop stays moist when you cook it and highlights the pork flavor. Delicious!

Monday, November 7, 2011

Kale and Slow Roasted Tomato Fusili

Someone on the Food Network has a show that is all about "five ingredients or less." While I"m a fan of short and easy recipes, there are plenty of dishes that are well worth the intimidation factor when it comes to a long list of ingredients. Fortunately for those who want short and sweet, this is the dish for you.

This was another quick and easy meal that uses the Slow-Roasted Tomatoes that I stashed in the freezer - thanks again to Eve of Garden of Eating for turning me on to this method. Of course sun-dried tomatoes would make a decent substitute, as long as they are well rehydrated. But the slow roasted tomatoes are just this side of dried, still soft and slightly plump but with that sweetness that sun-dried ones have. Preserved lemon adds some zip and zing but again is not necessary; substitute some fresh lemon zest after tossing all of the ingredients and you will get the same effect.

Friday, November 4, 2011

Strawberry Topped Lemon Cake-Muffins

Let's play a game. Say there is an ingredient sitting in your refrigerator that needs to be used up or it will be tossed upon the mountain of guiltily-thrown-away-food that lingers in your conscience. For this round of the game let's say the ingredient is buttermilk. You look through your saved-to-make blog posts and put a few aside, but none of them really get you jazzed. So then you use your favorite search engine, Food Blog Search and that pulls up some interesting cakes and biscuits and even a few brunch bread items, but they still don't stick. Then you notice that it is Sunday night and there is no bread in the house for your morning toast, no yogurt to go with your granola and the half and half will barely get you through your morning coffee let alone serve as milk for some granola. Muffins! That's the ticket! Use up that buttermilk and make some yummy muffins.

Finding Smitten Kitchen's brilliant new muffin recipe made it all sound too perfect. At last, the pieces were falling into place. But then you realize that your hand-held beater is still missing the piece that keeps the beaters in place and you have only one lemon. So McGyver it Miss Cook!

And that should be the name of this game. Did it turn out? Mostly, but what Deb of Smitten Kitchen didn't quite communicate is this is such a fabulous muffin because it's really cake disguised as a muffin. Cream 1 cup of sugar and 1 stick of butter? Sounds like the making of a cake to me! But it certainly is delicious! Of course, most muffin recipes are pretty high on the calorie scale, but just know that I warned you!

Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Eggplant "Bruschetta" Sans Bread

This post is for everyone south of the border or living in a temperate climate where it still feels like summer on a good day and spring on a "cool" day. I have been meaning to give Deb of Smitten Kitchen's recipe a try ever since I can across it. And as usual, she does not disappoint!

While her version called for fresh tomatoes, these beauties from a post by Eve of Garden of Eating were waiting to be devoured. Substituting them was a stroke of creative invention. I loved how the sweetness and chewiness of the roasted tomatoes paired with the briny capers and red wine vinegar.  You could easily leave out the ricotta salata to make it vegan - there is such an abundance of flavor that you won't miss it.