Tuesday, December 16, 2008

So Much to Blog About ... where do I begin?

I think it's because I recently read Julie and Julia... I am obsessed with cooking new things! (But tasty and normal, not French and involving bone marrow). It's downright kooky. Just yesterday I made Zuni Roast Chicken (absolutely, postively the BEST roast chicken recipe EVER!) and 2 batches of cookies (Chris's favorite, Reeses peanut butter cup cookies; and oatmeal chocolate chip for the teachers at school).

Before that I made blue cheese stuffed meatloaf and two chicken pot pies. It's crazy I tell you.

There's also the chicken pot pie...

Growing up, my mother let each of us "opt out" of a meal and have a hot dog instead. My opt out meal was chicken pot pie. Sorry Mom, I really didn't like the noodle/stew/soup concoction you slaved over -- and she did. She made the noodles from scratch. Now that I'm a mom, I understand how disappointing it is to really want to give your family something GOOD and have them ask for a hot dog instead.

That said, somewhere along the road to adulthood, I started trying other people's chicken pot pie. And guess what -- I loved it. So I searched my meager archives of recipes and found the follwing in the Silver Palate Good Times Cookbook --

I've made two so far, neither time did I make the crust. Once I used regular old refrigerated pie crust, and once I used puff pastry crust. Both times I followed the recipe as written, but I know we can lighten this baby up (that'll be next time).

My kids (ok, just Kate) complained about the cooked carrots I'm sure I could put some other veggie in there, but she'd still complain, so why bother?

I'm going to start a section for meals you can make for sick neighbors, new mothers, and potlucks... and this one is going in there first....

Chicken Pot Pie
4 whole skinless boneless chicken breasts (2 lbs)
1 c. heavy or whipping cream
4 carrots, peeled and cut into 1/2 inch pieces
2 zucchini, unpeeled, uct into 1/2 inch pieces
5 T. unsalted butter
2 small yellow onions (8 oz), coarsely chopped
5 T. flour
1 c. chicken broth
1/4 c. Cognac or dry white wine
1 T. dried tarragon
1 1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. pepper
1 egg
1 T butter

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
2. Place chicken breasts in a single layer in a baking pan. Pour the cream over and bake 25 minutes. Remove chicken from the cream; reserve the cream and cooking juices. Let the chicken cool and cut into 1-inch pieces.
3. Blanch the carrots in boiling salted water for 3 minutes. Add the zucchini and cook 1 minute more. Drain and cool under cold running water. Drain thoroughly.
4. Melt the butter in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add the flour and cook, stirring constantly, for 5 minutes. Do not let flour brown.
5. Add the broth andcook, stirring constantly until thickened. Stir in the reserved cream and cooking juices and the Cognac. Cook over low heat until thick, about 5 minutes.
6. Stir in the tarragon, salt, and pepper and simmer 1 minute. Add the chicken and vegetablesa nd mix gently into the cream sauce. Remove from heat.
7. Preheat oven to 425 degrees
8. Mix the egg and water in a small bowl. Pour the chicken filling into a deep 2-quart casserole or souffle dish. Roll out pastry and place on the dish. Trim the pastry leaving a 1-inch border. Brush the edge of the dish wiht egg was ten press the overhaning dough onto the dish. Crimp the pastry decoratively and brush the top with egg wash. Cut a steam vent in the center.
9. Place the dish on a baking sheet and bake on middle rack until the crust is golden, 25 minutes. Serve immediately.

Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Sesame Noodles with Chicken

This one was a hit with everyone. It's sort of like the peanut butter chicken I posted earlier, but I love the sesame and noodle additions. I've just got to find a place to buy sesame seeds in bulk!

(From Cooks Illustrated, Sept/Oct 2004, pg. 20)

1/4 c. sesame seeds
1/3 c. chunky peanut butter
2 medium garlic cloves, mince or pressed through garlic press
1 T. minced fresh ginger
5 T. soy sauce
2 T. rice vinegar
1 t. hot sauce
2 T. lightly packed light brown sugar
Hot Water
1.5 lbs. boneless, skinless chicken breast halves
1 T table salt
12 oz. dried spaghetti
2 T. Asian sesame oil
4 scallions sliced thin on diagonal
1 medium carrot, grated

1. Toast sesame seeds in medium skillet over medium heat, stirring frequently, until golden and fragrant, about 10 miutes. Reserve 1 Tb. sesame seeds in small bowl. In blender or food processor, puree remaining 3 tablespoons sesame seeds, peanut butter, garlic, ginger, soy sauce, vinegar, hot sauce and sugar until smooth, about 30 seconds. With machine running, add hot water (1 T at a time) until sauce has consistency of heavy cream, aobut 5 tablespoons. Set aside.

2. Bring six quarts water to boil in stockpot over high heat. Meanwhile, adjust oven rack to 6 inches from broiler element; heat broiler. Spray broiler pan top with vegetable cooking spary; place chicken breasts on top and broil chicken until lightly browned, 4 to 8 minutes. Using tongs, flip chicken over and continue to broil until thickest part is no longer pink when cut into an dregisters about 160 degrees on instant-read thermometer, 6 to 8 minutes. Transfer to cuttin gboard and let rest 5 minutes. Using 2 forks shred chicken into bit size pieces and set aside. Boil the spaghetti. After it's done, toss noodles wiht sesame oil until evenly coated. Add shredded chicken, scallions, carrot, and sauce; toss to combine. Divide among serving bowls, and sprinkle each portion with sesame seeds.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008


I've got about one million things to do, but feel I MUST post these recipes first. I have finally become a person with a specialty -- or a "usual" -- for Thanksgiving I make a pumpkin praline torte. Husband found the recipe in the back of a Taste Of Home magazine years ago, and said, "I think that sounds good." The rest, as they say, is history. And so, here is the recipe.

Pumpkin Praline Torte

¾ c. packed brown sugar
1/3 c. butter
3 T. whipping cream
¾ c. chopped pecans

4 eggs
1 2/3 c. sugar
1 c. vegetable oil
2 c. canned pumpkin (or 15 oz. can)
¼ t. vanilla extract
2 c. all purpose flour
2 t. baking powder
2 t. pumpkin pie spice
1 t. baking soda
1 t. salt

1 ¾ c. whipping cream
¼ c. confectioners sugar
¼ t. vanilla extract
Additional chopped nuts

In a heavy saucepan, combine brown sugar, butter and cream. Cook and stir over low heat until sugar is dissolved. Pour into two well-greased 9-in. round baking pans. Sprinkle with pecans; cool. In a mixing bowl, beat eggs, sugar and oil. Add pumpkin and vanilla. Combine dry ingredients; add to pumpkin mixture and beat just until blended. Carefully spoon over brown sugar mixture. Bake at 350 for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted near the center comes out clean. Cool for 5 minutes; remove from pans to wire racks to cool completely. Place one cake layer, praline side up on a serving plate. In a mixing bowl, beat cream until soft peaks form. Beat in sugar and vanilla. Spread two-thirds over cake. Top witsecond cake layer and remaining whipped cream. Sprinkle with additional pecans if desired. Store in refrigerator.

This next recipe is from the Washington Post a few weeks ago... soft buttermilk rolls. I also made these this year, and will continue to make them as often as possible. I first made them for an office Thanksgiving party and everyone loved them. A drift on a cloud of good feelings, I made them for my mother-in-law's dinner and not a single person mentioned them.... typical. But don't despair, I know they are delicious and they are going up on the blog, darn it!

Soft Buttermilk Rolls

4 t. active dry yeast (do not use instant or quick rising)
¼ t. plus 1/3 c. sugar
¼ c. warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
2 large eggs
1 c. low-fat or regular buttermilk
¼ t. baking soda
8 T. (1 stick) unsalted butter at room temperature, cut into 1 tablespoon chunks. Plus butter for greasing muffin tins and greasing the proofing bowl.
4 c. flour, plus more as needed for work surface
1 t. salt

Combine the yeast, ¼ t. of the sugar and warm water in a measuring cup. Allow the mixture to stand for 6 to 7 minutes, until the mixture has swollen.

Whisk together the eggs and the 1/3 c. sugar in a medium mixing bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk and baking soda in a separate small cup. Add the buttermilk-baking soda mixture, the yeast mixture and the butter to the egg-sugar mixture, stirring to combine.

Combine the flour and salt in a large mixing bowl, stirring to mix well. Add the egg-yeast mixture and stir to combine with a wooden spoon or paddle.

At this point the dough will be dry in some parts and moist in others. Turn the dough out onto a work surface and knead lightly to bring the dough together; it will be sticky. Sprinkle the work surface with more flour as needed.

Knead the dough for 7 or 8 minutes until it is smooth and moderately soft, incorporating as much of the flour as needed to achieve that state.

Use butter to liberally grease the inside of a proofing bowl. Transfer the dough to the bowl, turning to caot it all over. Use kitchen scissors to make several cuts in thedough, then cover the bowl tightly with a sheet of plastic wrap. Let rise at room temperature for 1 hour and 45 minutes or until the dough has doubled in bulk.

Butter the inside of 24 muffin cups

Divide the dough in half. Cut each half into 12 equal pieces

To form cloverleaf rolls, cut each of the 12 pieces into 3 equal pieces. Use your hands to roll the pieces into smooth balls and place them in the prepared muffin cup.

Cover each pan of rolls loosely with a sheet of lightly buttered plastic wrap. Let the rolls rise at room temperature for 60 to 75 minutes or until they are puffy and have doubled in bulk (or overnight and up to 24 hours in the refrigerator).

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes at 375. Cool the rolls in pans for 15 minutes.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Dumplings -- kate's favorite

A bit time intensive, but worth the efforts when 4 out of 5 enjoy the meal. I got the recipe originally from Cooking Light.

1/4 c. sliced green onion
1/4 c. chopped cilantro
2 T water
2 t. minced fresh ginger
1/2 t. salt
1/2 t. dark sesame oil
1/2 lb. deveined peeled shrimp
1/2 lb. ground pork
1 garlic clove, halved
1 large egg white

Put all these ingredients in a food processor and process until coarsely ground.

36 wonton wrappers

working one by one, place a tablespoon of the filling onto a wrapper, wet the sides and fold up forming a triangle. Hold each triangle by the top point and tap on counter to flatten the bottom.

Heat 2 t. of oil in a large skillet and brown the pot stickers in batches. When they are all browned, return the first batch to the pan, pour in 1/2 c. water, cover and steam for about 3 minutes. Uncover and continue to cook another 2 minutes, remove the pot stickers and keep them warm while you steam the next batches.

Dipping Sauce
1/3 c. thinly sliced green onion
1/3 c. chicken broth
1/4. c. orange juice
1 T. rice vinegar
1 T. soy sauce
2 t. fresh grated ginger
1 t. dark sesame oil.

Monday, October 27, 2008

Lasagna With A Twist

Every fourth Saturday we bowl with our friends the Drissels. Their kids and our kids usually hang together while the parents bowl -- and we usually feed them dinner. Last Saturday I made this dish, I think it was pretty successful. My sister Karen sent me the recipe.

1 lb. ground beef (I used meatloaf mix)
1 jar (30 oz.) spaghetti sauce
1 pkg. (14 oz) twist pasta, cooked and drained
1 lb. ricotta cheese (I used cottage cheese)
2 c. shredded mozzarella cheese
1 T. grated Romano Cheese

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a large skillet brown the meat, drain the fat. Add sauce and simmer for about 5 minutes. Combine pasta and meat sauce. Combine the cheeses in a medium bowl. Place half the pasta mixture in a 13x9 inch pan, top with cheese mixture and then the remaining pasta. Bake for 30 minutes or until bubbly. I usually top with some additional mozzerella cheese.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Perfect Pizza Dough

One of my latest obsessions has been the pursuit of perfect pizza dough. I found this recipe in the Washington Post, and have tried it several times, and I think I've finally nailed it.

The kids love getting involved in the process (althought, truthfully I think the secret to the success of the pizza we made the other night was that I did everything and let their contribution act as "icing" on the process). Oh, and I went out and bought a $10 pizza peel -- the device used to move the pizza onto the pizza stone. I think I need to buy another so I can make two pizzas at once -- but I definately think it's worth the money.

Here's the recipe -- and this is definately going on the weekly hit list.

Heat the oven to 500 degrees

Heat 1 c. water in the microwave for 45 seconds
Add one package of yeast and 1t. honey
Let sit for 5 minutes

Combine 2c. flour, a pinch of salt in a food processor. Wtih the motor running slowly pour the water/yeast, until a wet ball forms. (HINT: Here's the place where, in the past, things have gone wrong. This time, I kept sprinkling in flour and running the processor until an actual blob of dough was in there)

Transfer dough to a work surface and kneed for 10 minutes (plus whatever the kids want to do)

Divide dough into two halves, forming two equal balls.
Put in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise for one hour

After the rise, punch down the dough and form into 2 10" pizzas.

Bake for 12-14 minutes until cheese melts and crust is crisp.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

Pacific Rim Salmon

Okay, I know it's been awhile. I've been really busy. And although we've been eating (a lot) -- I feel like I just haven't been trying anything new lately.

The other night our dear friends came over for dinner and amidst the wine and fun, I somehow assembled a meal that everyone enjoyed (perhaps it was the wine and fun that made it so tasty...) Anyway... here's the recipe

Marinade for the Salmon
1/2 c. soy sauce
1/2 c. rice vinegar
2 or 3 cloves of garlic, minced
2 T. firmly packed brown sugar
2 T. hoisin sauce
1 t. ground giner
2 t. sesame seeds, toasted
1/2 t. lemon pepper
1 1/2 lbs. salmon fillets

1. In a small bowl combine soy sauce, vinegar, garlic, brown sugar, hoisin sauce, ginger, sesame seeds and lemon pepper.

2. Pour over salmon in a shallow glass dish

3. Cover and let marinade for 1 hour in the refrigerator.

4. Grill the salmon, flesh side down first, directly on the grill grate, for about 5 minutes

5. Carefully turn the fish, for another 5 minutes

We also had oven roasted asparagus with parmesan cheese (oven at 450, brush with olive oil and cover with cheese) roast for about 5-7 minutes -- and basmati rice.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Does Carbonara mean "with bacon"?

Okay, there were so many wonderful things about this dinner --
1. Everyone ate it
2. It had bacon in it
3. My husband made it
4. It had bacon in it

He's been surfing Yahoo Food every evening and found this recipe. He made it while we were at the school fair, so I came home to a plate full of pasta AND bacon! There is nothing wrong with that. Even my kids (who were already stuffed with cotton candy and popcorn) ate it. So totally make again... I couldn't even take a picture it flew off the plates so fast...

Linguine Carbonara
2 T. olive oil
2 T. butter
1/4 lb. bacon, cut into thin strips
2 cloves garlic minced
1/2 c. red wine
1/2 t. fresh ground pepper
2 eggs
1/2 c. grated Parmesan cheese
1/2 t. salt
3/4 lb. linguine
2 T. chopped fresh parsley

Heat oil and butter over moderate heat. Add the bacon and cook until brown but not crisp (about 4 minutes). Add garlic, wine and pepper. Simmer until the wine is reduced to 2 T., about 3 minutes. Remove from heat. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, cheese and salt.

In a large pot of boiling water, cook the linguine until just done (about 12 minutes). Drain the pasta, add it to the egg and cheese mixture and toss quickly. Pour the bacon mixture over the linguine. Add the parsley and toss just until mixed.

Serve immediately with additional Parmesan.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Paella Fried Rice

This is a recipe I found in my Gourmet Cookbook, they even said it was "wacky" so I thought I'd try it. Being the big gambler that I am, I made it for the first time for a church potluck. I forgot that I'd bought a red bell pepper and overlooked adding the baby peas -- and I doubled the rice, oil and chorizo, but kept everything else the same -- and it was STILL good. One lady even asked me to send her the recipe! Next time I'll stick to the actual instructions...

“Paella” Fried Rice
From the Gourmet Cookbook, edited by Ruth Reichl

¼ c. extra-virgin olive oil
1 T. cumin
½ t. red pepper flakes
1 large onion chopped
1 large red bell pepper cored, seeded, chopped
2 links mild Spanish chorizo, cut into chunks
4 c. cold cooked long grain rice (1 ½ c. uncooked rice)
11/2 t. salt
1 (10 oz.) package of frozen baby peas
1/3 c. pumpkins seeds, toasted
1 c. finely chopped cilantro

Heat oil in a 12” nonstick skillet over moderate heat until hot but not smoking. Add cumn and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring for 1 minute. Add onion and bell pepper and cook, stirring, until softened, about 5 minutes. Add chorizo, increase heat to moderately hgh, and cook, stirring, until sausage begins to brown, about 3 minutes (or longer, make sure sausage is completely cooked).

Add rice, crubling it to break up lumps, and salt. Cook stirring until some grains of rice begin to turn golden, about 3 minutes. Add peas and cook, stirring just until heated through. Remove from heat and stir in pumpkin seeds and cilantro.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

This Blogging Thing Is HUGE

One of my work assignments was to reach out to "Mommy Bloggers" to promote Take Your Kids 2 Vote (and organization that advocates....wait for it.... taking your kids to vote). I got to spend all day yesterday looking for and emailing these women who are hugely talented and have either the fastest minds in the world, or lots of time on their hands... but it's amazing -- there are so many of them out there!

I want to sign up for the BlogHer convention and go make a difference TODAY. No more recipes and picky eaters -- I want to change the world (and get free trips to Disney on the way).

Anyway, back to brass tacks -- I found a great recipe for Spicy Peanut Butter Chicken last night and made it for the kids (Chris, the king of pickiness has been unavailable for dinner since Sunday -- and you know that means MEATLOAF tonight!)

Here's the link to the chicken -- PEANUT BUTTER CHICKEN

Here's the recipe, in case the link ever fails:
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup water
2T soy sauce, or Tamari (which is basically gluten free soy sauce)
1T brown sugar (if your peanut butter is sweetened skip this)
2T veg oil
3 cloves garlic, minced OR 6 cloves roasted garlic (30 minutes at 325)
1/2 tsp crushed red pepper (use more if you would like this anything but mild)
4cups broccoli
4 chicken breasts
Mix all the ingredients through the crushed red pepper into a mixing bowl.
Brown the chicken in a bit of oil in a large pan (do it in batches if you don’t have room)

Once browned, put all the chicken in the pan, add raw veggies (I used red pepper and snow peas, the recipe calls for broccoli) add some water, bring to a boil, put a lid on the pan, and then reduce heat to simmer, to steam everything for 7-9 minutes.
Once steamed, remove chicken and veggies to serving bowl, top with peanut butter sauce. Serve with rice.

I'll start my world changing blog (and promotion thereof) tomorrow.

Friday, March 7, 2008

Tex Mex Night is a Homerun

So last night I made the most well received meal I've created in a LONG time. It was one of those nights that I made all these new things, and everyone was running every which way and, unfortunately, when it was all ready to be served, we all had to be somewhere else BUT we heated it up in the microwave when we got home (at 8:30 pm) and had a metropolitan late night dinner, and everyone -- pretty much -- cleaned their plate.

I grilled chicken breasts, I made a sour cream/lime sauce (from Southern Living, March 2008) to go with that, I made black beans (also Southern Living, March 2008) and I made rice from a recipe I found on the internet that was credited to the Chipolte Grill.

My pickiest customer (Kate) gave it rave reviews.

Here are the recipes:

Cheesy Black Bean Mash
2 (15-oz.) cans black beans, rinsed and drained
1/ cup vegetable broth
1 small onion, chopped
1 jalapeño pepper, seeded and minced
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 garlic clove, minced
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (4 oz.) shredded Mexican four-cheese blend

1. Process beans and broth in a food processor 10 to 15 seconds or until smooth.
2. Sauté onion and jalapeño pepper in hot oil in a large skillet 4 to 5 minutes or until tender. Add garlic, and sauté 1 minute. Add black bean puree and salt, stirring until blended. Cook, stirring frequently, 3 minutes or until bean mixture is thoroughly heated. Stir in cheese until melted. Serve immediately.

Makes 4 to 6 servings

Creamy Lime Sauce
1 cup light sour cream
1 tablespoon lime zest
2 tablespoons fresh lime juice
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon ground cumin
1/4 teaspoon ground pepper

1. Stir together 1 cup light sour cream and remaining ingredients in a small bowl. Serve immediately, or cover and chill up to 3 days.
Makes about 1 cup

Southern Living, MARCH 2008

Chipolte's Basmati Rice
1 teaspoon vegetable oil or butter
2 tsp. fresh cilantro
2/3 cup white basmati rice
1 cup water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 Lime

In a 2-quart heavy saucepan, heat oil or butter over low heat,
stirring occasionally until melted. Add rice and lime juice, stir for
1 minute. Add water and salt, bring to a full rolling boil. At
boiling, cover, turn down to simmer over low heat until rice is tender
and the water is absorbed, about 25 minutes. Fluff rice with a fork.

Basmati is a long-grained rice, with a fine texture. It can be found
in Middle Eastern and India markets, as well as some supermarkets.

The source of these recipes is attributed to Chipolte's Executive Chef
(and CEO), Steve Ellis.

Tuesday, February 26, 2008

My New Electric Skillet

My mother-in-law gave me an electric skillet for Christmas, and I am thrilled. So far I've made meatballs and fried chicken, but I'm sure it's only the beginning of what will be a long and happy relationship. We use our griddle every weekend (pound of bacon and buttermilk pancakes) -- and I can see me doing the same here.

The secret ingredient in the meatballs is lemon zest, and my girl Giada and her marinara -- well I cannot say enough about her.

The fried chicken is a work in progress, I did the whole soak in buttermilk thing, but ever since I served bloody chicken to party guests at Kate's 3rd birthday party, I'm honestly a bit gun shy about the dish.

Meatballs (from the Perfect Party Food Cookbook)
2 lbs. of ground meat (I used leftover pork, meatloaf mix, beef)
1 c. finely chopped onion
1 clove garlic, minced
grated zest of 1 lemon
1 1/2 t. salt
1 t. freshly ground black pepper
1/4 c. chopped fresh parsley
1 1/2 c. soft bread crumbs
2 large eggs, beaten
olive oil for frying

Marinara Sauce (from Everyday Italian)
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 small onions finely chopped
2 celery stalks, finely chopped
2 carrots, peeled and finely chopped
1/2 t. sea salt
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper
2 32oz. cans crushed tomatoes
2 dried bay leaves

In a large pot, heat oil over a medium-high flame. Add the onions and galric and saute until the onions are translucent, about 10 minutes. Add the celery, carrots, and 1/2t. each of salt and pepper. Saute until all the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes. Add the tomatoes and bay leaves, and simmer uncovered over low heat until the sauce thickens, about 1 hour. Remove and discard the bay leaves. Season the sauce with more salt and pepper to taste.

Buttermilk Fried Chicken (from www.elise.com)
With a few notes:
1. I didn't use any veggies in the overnight buttermilk soak
2. It took WAY longer to cook the chicken (see note about serving bloody chicken above) -- I'd say it took at least 20 minutes longer
3. I didn't use all the cayenne pepper she calls for, I was worried it would be too spicy for the kids.

Pretty much a make again, although I served cold leftover fried chicken to the kids last night (which in my book is almost as good as a BLT), and got some negativity about the temperature of the meal. These kids need to expand their horizons!

Banana Cream Pie Redux

Fear not! I have conquered the banana cream pie... and all it took was a graham cracker crust, a little bit of gelatin and about 3 different saucepans. No worries, it was delicious. Kate wasn't thrilled, and Zachary refused to try it, but that just left more for me. Next is coconut cream....

Old-Fashioned Banana Cream Pie
From The New Good Housekeeping Cookbook (mine is from 1986)
1 1/4 c. milk
1/8 t. salt
3 eggs separated, at room temperature
1 envelope unflavored gelatin
1 t. vanilla extract
1 c. heavy whipping cream
1/4 t. ground nutmeg

1. Pre-bake a store bought graham cracker pie crust according to package directions.

2. In a heavy 1-qt. saucepan, beat milk, salt, egg yolks, and 1/4 c. sugar until well mixed. Sprinkle gelatin evenly over mixture; let stand 1 minute to soften gelatin slightly. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring constantly, until mixture thickens and coats a spoon (do not boil or mixture will curdle). Remove saucepan from heat; stir in vanilla. Refrigerate gelatin mixture, stirring occasionally, until mixture mounds slightly when dropped from a spoon, about 40 minutes.

3. In large bowl, with mixer at high speed, beat egg whites until soft peaks form; gradually sprinkle in 1/3 cup sugar, beating until sugar completely dissolves and whites stand in stiff peaks.

4. In small bowl, using same beaters, with mixer at medium speed, beat heavy cream until stiff peaks form. With rubber spatula or wire shisk, gently fold whipped cream and gelatin mixture into egg whites. Spoon mixuture into pie shell; sprinkle filling with ground nutmeg. Refrigerate pie about 3 hours or until filling is set.

5. Line cooled pie shell with sliced bananas just before spooning in filling.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Dinner Party

So instead of having all our friends over at one time, we've decided to try and have grown-up, sit down, dinner parties. Our first attempt was last weekend, four couples (counting us) -- and, for the most part, I'd say it was a success.

Among our guests were two reknown neighborhood pastry chefs, and for some strange reason I thought I'd try to make a dessert I'd never made before -- some would say gutsy, some would say insane... so I made my own dough and everything, and created a raspberry chocolate tart (YUMMY).

I've also been sort of obsessed with the idea of banana cream pie, and found a recipe for sour cream bananna cream pie in the New York Times cookbook. I had the extra dough, all the ingredients, I figured, what the heck -- I'll throw that together too. Well I'm not sure what went wrong, perhaps it was the fat free sour cream, but to make a long story short, the pie never set and I served runny banana pudding on dough. My guests were very gracious, and said it was delicious, but it was quite unsightly.

BTW -- I made another banana cream pie today -- from good old Good Housekeeping Cookbook -- it's looking WAY better. I'll post more about that later...

Our menu:
Appetizers were Olive Tapenade and Parmesan Salsa
Grilled Tenderloin Steaks topped with blue cheese and scallions
Green Beans with shallots, garlic and lemon
Roasted potatoes
Dessert was raspberry chocolate tart and a failed banana cream pie experiment

The recipes:
Parmesan Salsa
1/3 lb. parmesan cheese
1/3 lb. asiago cheese
3 cloves garlic, minced
2 t. dried oregano
1 t. freshly ground pepper
1/2 t. red pepper flakes
3/4 c. extra virgin olive oil

1. Chop the cheeses into small chunks and place in a food processor. Pulse until they are the size of peas.
2. Transfer the cheeses to a medium-sized bowl and add the garlic, oregano, black and red peppers and oil, stirring to blend.

Cover and let stand at room temperature for at least 4 hours or refrigerate for up to 1 week. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Olive Tapenade
1 c. green olives (pimento-stuffed)
1 c. pitted kalamata olives
1/2 c. capers, drained
1 T. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, peeled
grated zest of lemon
1/2 c. extra virgin olive oil
2 t. red wine vinegar
1/4 c. packed chopped fresh Italian parsley

Put the olives, capers, anchovy paste and garlic in the food processor and pulse until finely chopped. Tranfer to a bowl and add the remaining ingredients. Cover and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Serve at room temperature.

Chocolate-Raspberry Tart (from Perfect Party Food by Diane Phillips)
1/2 c. seedless raspberry jam
1/4 c. Grand Marnier
One 9-in. pie shell, prebaked and cooled
1 1/2 c. heavy cream
One 12 oz. bag semisweet chocolate chips
Whipped cream and fresh raspberries for garnish

1. In a small bowl, blend together the jam and 2 T. of the liqueur. Spread over the bottom of the pie shell.
2. In a small saucepan, heat the cream and chocolate chips, stirring, over medium-low heat until the chocolate is melted. Reduce the heat to low and stir until the mixture thickens a bit. Remove from the heat and let cool completely, about 1 hour.
3. Add the remaining 2 T. of liqueur to the chocolate mixture. With an electric mixer, beat until smooth and creamy. Spread over the jam in the pie shell and smooth the top.
** At this point cover and refrigerate for at least 4 hours and up to 2 days, or freeze for up to 1 month.
4. Garnish each slice of the tart with a dollop of whipped cream and arrange a few berries on the plate.

Friday, January 4, 2008

Wild Success! This One Got Rave Reviews

Even Kate, probably my most persnickety customer, tried it and gave it thumbs up. It was so good, I'm eating it for lunch again today -- it was quick to make and so yummy.

From Everyday Italian by Giada De Laurentis.

Salsa All'Amatriciana
2 T. olive oil
6 oz. pancetta, diced
1 yellow onion
2 cloves of garlic minced
Pinch of dried crushed red pepper flakes
1 (28 oz. can) tomato puree (I used crushed tomatoes)
1/2 t. sea salt, plus more to taste
1/2 t. freshly ground black pepper, plus more to taste
1/2 c. grated Pecorino Romano cheese

In a large heavy skillet, heat the oil over a medium flame. Add the pancetta and saute until golden brown, about 8 minutes. Add the onion and saute until tender, about 5 minutes. Add the garlic and red pepper flakes and saute until fragrant, about 30 seconds. Stir in the tomato puree, and 1/2 t. each of salt and pepper. Simmer, uncovered, over medium-low heat until the sauce thickens slightly and the flavors belnd, about 15 minutes. Stir in the cheese. Season wiht more salt and pepper to taste.

The sauce can be made 1 day ahead. Cool, then cover and refrigerate. Rewarm over medium heat before using.