Tuesday, February 13, 2024

Love on the Rocks?


When I was in college, getting my degree in Geology, I was required to complete a "field training" course. I signed up for a class with Texas Tech, in which you were expected to map parts of the Colorado Rockies. After arriving a day late, I found myself (backpack and rock hammer in tow) ascending the side of a steep mountain, when I first heard his voice. He offered me a hand, (Thank God!), and then I looked up to see my one true love, standing there in a tie-dye Ben&Jerry's "Cherry Garcia" t-shirt, mirrored Serengeti sunglasses, and a Redskins baseball hat! What a get-up! Six weeks later, we were engaged, and the rest is history.

So, for my handsome man, I'm making "Goat Cheese-Arugula Ravioli with Tomato-Pancetta Butter." This dish tastes so fantastic and is so beautiful! It's perfect for a romantic Valentine's dinner! In fact, it's so perfect, you just may fall in love!


Goat Cheese-Arugula Ravioli with Tomato-Pancetta Butter

Serves 4-6, (Can be made ahead!)

Ingredients:

For the ravioli
2 tablespoons olive oil
3 large shallots, minced
3 ounces arugula, chopped (about 3 1/2 cups)
6 ounces soft fresh goat cheese (such as Montrachet), crumbled
1/2 cup (about 1 1/2 ounces) freshly grated Parmesan cheese
Nonstick vegetable oil spray
Approximately 30-40 wonton wrappers (from one 12-ounce package)
2 large egg whites, whisked just until foamy

For the tomato-pancetta butter
6 ounces thinly sliced pancetta or bacon, coarsely chopped
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter
6 large plum tomatoes, quartered, seeds and membranes discarded, tomatoes diced small
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme

For serving
5 tablespoons butter, melted
12 fresh basil leaves
Fresh thyme

Directions:

For the ravioli
Heat the oil in a heavy skillet over medium heat. Add shallots, saute for 10 minutes. Add arugula, toss until wilted but still bright green, about 3 minutes. Transfer the arugula mixture to a large bowl and cool. Mix in the goat cheese and Parmesan cheese. Season the filling with salt and pepper.

Line 2 baking sheets with heavy-duty foil, spray with nonstick spray. (I use 1 baking sheet lined with parchment paper and no nonstick spray. When the first layer is done, I place a sheet of plastic wrap over and stack the second layer on top. That way you can store in the fridge easier.) Place 4 wonton wrappers on work surface, cover remaining wrappers with plastic to prevent drying. Lightly brush entire surface of each wrapper with egg white. Spoon 1 generous teaspoon (I put 1 tablespoon) filling into the center of each wrapper. Fold wrappers diagonally in half, forming triangles. Press edges firmly to seal, avoiding any air bubbles inside the ravioli.


Arrange ravioli on prepared sheets. Repeat with the remaining wrappers until the filling is gone. (Can be made ahead. Cover with plastic and chill up to 1 day.)



For the tomato-pancetta butter
Cook chopped pancetta in large skillet over medium-high heat until crisp and brown. Using a slotted spoon, transfer pancetta to paper towel to drain and set aside. Pour off all but 1 tablespoon drippings from skillet. Add butter to drippings in skillet, melt over medium-high heat. Add tomatoes and thyme, saute until tomatoes are tender, about 5 minutes. (Can be made 2 hours ahead. Let stand at room temperature.)

To serve
Place melted butter in large bowl. Cook half of the ravioli in a large pot of salted boiling water until just tender, about 4 minutes. Using a hand-held strainer, transfer ravioli to a colander to drain, then place in the bowl with the melted butter, toss gently to coat. Cover to keep warm. Cook the remaining ravioli in the same pot of boiling water. Drain as before and transfer to the buttered ravioli. Toss gently to coat. Divide the ravioli among serving bowls. Rewarm the tomato butter over medium heat, add the reserved pancetta and basil, saute 1 minute. Spoon sauce over ravioli. Garnish with thyme and serve! (Don't forget some wine!)

This is an old recipe, adapted from Bon Appetit.

Sunday, February 11, 2024

For My Non-Romantic Valentine

My husband detests Valentine's Day. Every year he touts that it is nothing more than a "Hallmark holiday," manifested merely to sell cards. Hmm... Well, listen up buddy, there is more to the story than manufactured greeting cards. Besides being rooted in the pagan fertility festival of Lupercalia, there are two other legends for the creation of the most romantic day of the year. The first legend begins in third century Rome. Valentine, who was a priest, secretly married young lovers after Emperor Claudius II outlawed marriage for young men because he believed unmarried men made better soldiers. When Valentine's actions were discovered, Claudius ordered that he be put to death.

The second legend is believed that an imprisoned Valentine fell in love with a young girl who visited him during his confinement. Before his death, he wrote her a love letter and signed it "From your Valentine." That's pretty romantic! Either way, Valentine's Day is celebrated in the middle of February to commemorate the anniversary of Valentine's death, approximately 270 A.D. In addition, the oldest known valentine is a poem written by Charles, Duke of Orleans, to his wife while imprisoned in the Tower of London in 1415. It wasn't until the 1840s, that Esther A. Howland (sans Hallmark) began selling the first mass-produced valentines in America.

Well, if that convinces my husband or not, I am still going to make perhaps the most elegant and seductive dessert I know, "Double Chocolate Pate!" This decadent recipe, from the luxurious Greenbrier resort, consists of a velvety chocolate center enrobed in a crisp chocolate couverture. This recipe requires that you freeze the velvety center in a loaf pan for 24 hours before encasing it in the chocolate coating. So, you will need to start at least a day in advance. In addition, have a pot of simmering water on the stove and two heat-proof bowls ready for make-shift double boilers, see Gadgets-No Double Boiler? before beginning. I like to serve it with a raspberry coulis, which is nothing more than a bag of thawed frozen raspberries pureed with some water in a blender, sweetened to taste with sugar, and passed through a strainer to remove excess seeds. And finally, while this dessert may be a little messy to make, it really is simple and definitely exceedingly romantic!

It really is beautiful!

  This is how I like to serve it!

This is how I serve it to my husband! Ha! Ha!

Double Chocolate Pate

Makes one 10x4-inch loaf.

Ingredients:
For the Pate
8 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
4 egg yolks
1/2 cup granulated sugar
4 tablespoons cognac (or other liqueur, such as Grand Marnier)
2 cups heavy cream

For the Chocolate Coating
8 ounces good-quality semi-sweet chocolate, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons unsalted butter
1/2 cup heavy cream

Directions:
For the Pate
Cut a piece of plastic wrap 15 inches long and 10 inches wide (or the length of the loaf pan). Line the pan with the plastic, keeping it as smooth as possible, so the 2 long sides and the bottom are covered by the 2 short sides stay bare (greasing the inside of the pan will help stick the plastic in place). Put the chopped chocolate in a double boiler and melt over low heat. Cool slightly.

In another double boiler, combine the egg yolks, sugar and cognac and whisk constantly over simmering but not boiling water (the bottom of the bowl should never be too hot to touch) until the mixture is very thick and fluffy and has tripled in volume, about 5 minutes.


Remove from the heat and fold in the melted chocolate. (The mixture may appear stiff at this stage.)


Whip the cream in a large bowl until it forms soft peaks. Stir a small amount of the whipped cream into the chocolate mixture; repeat until the mixture is fairly loose and the chocolate is well-blended with the cream, then fold in the remaining whipped cream.


Pour the mousse into the prepared loaf pan, rapping the pan lightly on the work surface to eliminate any air bubbles. Fold the plastic wrap securely over the top of the pan and freeze the pate for at least 24 hours.


The next day, make the chocolate coating; melt the chocolate and butter together in a double boiler, then stir in the cream.


Cut a piece of heavy cardboard so it fits exactly into the top of the loaf pan. (I use a piece of foil to make a pattern!)

Cover the cardboard with plastic wrap or aluminum foil. (To help remove loaf from pan, place in a pan with hot water and refreeze before continuing.) Remove the plastic from the top of the loaf and invert the pate onto the cardboard and remove the remaining plastic wrap and pan. Place the pate on a rack with a tray or plate (or bowl) underneath to catch the excess chocolate. Pour the chocolate coating evenly over the pate, spreading with a spatula if necessary to coat the top surface and sides, and reserving the excess.


Return the pate on the cardboard to the freezer to set.

When the coating is firm, flip the pate so the uncoated side is up. Remove the cardboard.


Reheat the remaining chocolate coating and pour it onto the uncoated surface, smoothing with a spatula.

Return the pate to the freezer until ready to serve. To serve, slice the frozen pate with a thin-bladed knife into 1/2-inch slices (to make slicing easier run the knife under hot water, wipe dry, then slice.) (I find that by setting the pate out 5-10 minutes before slicing helps to prevent the coating from cracking.) Arrange each slice on a dessert place and let rest 4-5 minutes to soften slightly before serving.

Recipe from The Greenbrier Cookbook: Favorite Recipes From America's Resort.

Happy Valentine's Day!

Thursday, January 25, 2024

Harry Potter's First Birthday Cake!



We just celebrated an 11th birthday at our house, and I could think of no better cake than "Harry's First Birthday Cake: Chocolate Layer Cake," from The Unofficial Harry Potter Cookbook, by Dinah Bucholz. After all, Harry received his first birthday cake when he turned eleven. That Aunt Petunia was a real *#%*! Anyway, the instructions for this cake seemed a little laborious, but actually was quite easy to make. To my surprise, this was one of the best chocolate cakes I've ever had! Two layers of rich chocolate cake, enveloped in the creamiest chocolate butter-cream frosting, and the final touch of a rich chocolate ganache glaze! A true chocolate-lovers dream!

To manage my time in the kitchen, I made the chocolate cake layers a day in advance, stacked them between parchment, wrapped them in plastic wrap, and refrigerated them overnight. This allowed me to make the frosting, glaze, and icing the next morning. To truly enjoy the creaminess of the butter-cream frosting, this cake is best served at room temperature. One thing to remember, this cake is supposed to look homemade and a little messy; after all, Hagrid made it! So, if you are about to celebrate an 11th birthday, or any birthday for that matter, this is the cake for you!

Here's a look inside:

Harry's First Birthday Cake: Chocolate Layer Cake

Serves 16

Ingredients:
For the Chocolate Cake
3/4 cup boiling water
1/2 cup unsweetened cocoa powder
1 teaspoon instant coffee (I used instant espresso powder.)
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar
3 large eggs, at room temperature
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Chocolate Glaze
8 ounces chopped bittersweet chocolate (I used Ghiradelli chips.)
3/4 cup heavy cream
1/4 stick (2 tablespoons) butter
1/4 cup corn syrup

For the Chocolate Frosting
1 stick (8 tablespoons) butter, at room temperature
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon heavy cream
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 of the above Chocolate Glaze recipe

For the Green Icing
1 cup confectioners' sugar
1 tablespoon water, or more if needed, to form a paste
Green food coloring

Directions:
For the Chocolate Cake
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour two 8-inch round cake pans and line the bottoms with parchment paper cut to fit. Whisk together the boiling water, cocoa powder, and instant coffee in a measuring cup or small bowl until smooth; set aside. In a separate bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.

In the large bowl of an electric mixer, beat the butter, granulated sugar, and brown sugar until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides of the bowl as needed, about 5 minutes. Add the eggs one at a time, beating after each until incorporated and scraping down the sides as needed. Add the vanilla extract and beat until combined. Add the hot cocoa mixture and beat until combined, scraping down the sides as needed. Add the flour mixture and stir on the slowest speed until combined. Finish by scraping the bottom of the bowl with a spatula and folding it in. Divide the batter evenly between the prepared pans and bake for 20 minutes, until the cakes feel firm and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with a few crumbs attached. Be careful, as this cake overbakes easily. (I set my timer for 15 minutes, checked it with a toothpick, and it was already done!) Cool the layers in the pans for 10 minutes, then invert onto a wire rack and cool completely. (Can be covered and refrigerated overnight.)

For the Chocolate Glaze
Place the chocolate, heavy cream, butter, and corn syrup in a bowl and microwave for 1 to 2 minutes. Whisk until smooth. Cool the glaze until it is thick but still pourable.

For the Chocolate Frosting
Place the butter, confectioners' sugar, heavy cream, and vanilla in a large mixing bowl and beat until light and fluffy, scraping down the sides as needed, about 7 minutes. Add half of the cooled glaze and beat until combined. If the frosting is too soft to spread, chill for 10 minutes and beat again. Chill another 10 minutes and beat again if necessary.

For the Green Icing
Add 1 tablespoon of water at a time to the confectioners' sugar and mix to form a thick paste. (The icing should be as thick as possible, yet smooth enough to be piped onto the cake. If it is too thin, the writing will run.) Work in the food coloring to tint it to the desired shade of green.

To assemble the Cake
Place one layer top-side down on a cardboard round. Spread 3/4 cup of the frosting over the cake and smooth it to the edges. Place the second layer top-side up over the first and spread the remaining frosting over the top and sides. (At this point, I recommend placing the cake on a cooling rack with a piece of parchment or plastic wrap underneath before adding the glaze.) Pour the remaining glaze over the cake and smooth it to the edges, allowing it to drip unevenly over the sides. (If the glaze is too stiff, warm briefly in the microwave and whisk to distribute the heat evenly. You may need to wait again for the glaze to cool.) If you have any frosting left, use it to pipe a decorative border around the bottom of the cake. Place the icing in a pastry bag fitted with a #3 round (or you can use a sandwich bag with the tip snipped with scissors) and write "Happy Birthday Harry" on top of the cake. (I wrote "Happee Birthdae" because that's how it was in the movie!)



Thursday, January 4, 2024

Oh My Darling, Clementine

The holidays are over and my decorations are put away. Sigh. All I'm left with is a plethora of clementines. Clementines are a variety of mandarin orange, specifically a hybrid of the Mediterranean Citrus xdeliciosa and a sweet orange. They are typically seedless, easy to peel, and in season from mid-November to late-January. French born Brother Clement Rodier is credited with creating the variety by cross-pollination in the garden of an Algerian orphanage in 1902. In Latin, the name Clementine (the female form of Clement) means clemency or merciful. It is also the name of the lost love in the American folk song "Oh My Darling, Clementine," the daughter of a miner in the 1849 California Gold Rush. The song credits her tragic demise to a splinter in her toe that causes her to fall and drown. At the end of the song, Clementine's lover quickly forgets her after kissing her little sister. Poor Clementine.

In desperation to use up my ample supply of clementines, I found this exciting recipe for "Winter Salad with Clementine Dressing and Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts" from rachelcooks.com. While Rachel raves about the vanilla bean candied walnuts, I was not immediately excited about the results on their own. That is, however, until I added them to the salad! Fantastic! My family and I love this salad so much that I have been making it over and over to the point that I had to run out and buy more clementines! In addition, the vanilla bean candied walnuts makes enough for three salads, making them well worth the effort. This bright, citrusy recipe is just what you need to get over the post-holiday doldrums. Thanks Rachel!


Winter Salad with Clementine Dressing and Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts

Serves 4

Ingredients:
For the Dressing
1/4 cup clementine juice (about 2 clementines)
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon red wine vinegar
1/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

For the Salad
1 head of red leaf lettuce, torn into bite sized pieces (I have been using 1 head of Romaine with great results)
1/2 cup roughly chopped fresh parsley (I have been using 1/4 cup)
1/2 cup dried cranberries (I have been using 1/4 cup)
3 clementines, peeled, segments separated and cut in half (I have been using 2 clementines)
1/2 cup vanilla bean candied walnuts (recipe follows)
Dressing to taste (there may be extra)

Directions:
For the Dressing
Mix all ingredients together in a jar (shake shake shake!) or a small bowl (whisk whisk whisk!)

For the Salad
Add all ingredients to a large bowl. Add dressing and toss immediately before serving.


Vanilla Bean Candied Walnuts

Makes 1 1/2 cups

Ingredients:
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/2 cups raw walnut halves and/or pieces
The seeds scraped from one whole vanilla bean

Directions:
Toast walnuts in a dry frying an over medium heat stirring frequently, about 3-5 minutes or until fragrant. Pour onto plate to cool. Also prepare a large rimmed baking sheet with a Silpat mat or parchment paper.

In a medium saucepan, combine sugar and vanilla bean seeds. Cook on medium until sugar melts and starts to turn the color of amber. (Once the sugar starts to melt, I began stirring with a metal tea spoon to help prevent burning.) 
The sugar/vanilla bean mixture is done when it looks like this!
Remove from heat, add walnuts and stir to coat. Work quickly.

Pour the walnuts out onto prepared lined baking sheet and separate walnuts with two forks, working quickly. If you don't get them all separated, it's no biggie, you can cut or crack them apart once they cool.

Cool completely before storing in an airtight container. If you don't eat them all first.

*Note: If you've never dealt with melting sugar, soaking the pot and any used utensils makes cleanup a breeze!