Sunday, May 3, 2015

A Trio of Spring Vegetable Side Dishes

This week I wanted to focus on adding more veggies to my diet so I looked for unique ways to serve my favorite seasonal veggies.  Fresh baby carrots were coated in a delectable butter glaze with bits of garlic and parsley, peas were braised in a rich and luxurious egg yolk and cream sauce, and artichokes hearts were given the royal treatment with a pinch of saffron.

Each side added a fun and inviting touch to our meals throughout the week. The Butter-Glazed Carrots added a gorgeous pop of color and flavor served next to some quinoa crusted fish and brown rice; Braised Peas with Egg Yolks was all sorts of yummy deliciousness next to a few ham slices; and the Saffron Artichoke Hearts are served cold, making them the perfect snack, but also a great accompaniment to the sandwiches in my lunchbox throughout the week! 

With such flavorful veggie options readily available I found myself (and my family) eating a lot more veggies.  No more boring buttered peas or plain mashed potatoes. Time to add some excitement to those veggies!

 Butter-Glazed Carrots
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

1 pound of baby carrots (about 4 cups)
2 tablespoons butter
2 teaspoons sugar
1/2 - 1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup water
1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh parsley
1 garlic clove, crushed and finely chopped

Combine the carrots, butter, sugar, salt and water in a pot, bring to a boil, covered, for 10 minutes.  Uncover and boil for another 5 minutes, or until all the liquid has evaporated and the carrots are just moist. Sprinkle with the parsley and garlic and serve.

Braised Green Peas with Egg Yolks
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

3 cups small fresh peas or frozen peas
3 tablespoons butter
1/2 cup water
2 teaspoons sugar
2 tablespoons minced fresh parsley
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
2 large egg yolks, well beaten
3 tablespoons heavy cream

Combine the peas, butter, water, sugar, parsley, salt and pepper in a stainless steel saucepan and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat and boil generously for 3 to 4 minutes if using frozen peas, until the peas are tender to the bite.

Mix the yolks and cream together. Gradually stir the mixture into the peas and cook over ow heat, stirring constantly, for a few seconds, until the sauce has thickened; do not allow it to boil.

Saffron Artichoke Hearts
Adapted from Essential Pepin
Serves 6

6 medium artichokes or 1 bag frozen artichoke hearts
1 cup water
1/2 cup dry white wine
1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice
3/4 cup thinly sliced onion
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper
1 bay leaf
1/4 teaspoon saffron threads, crushed

Combine all the ingredients in a stainless steel pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer gently for about 20 minutes, until the artichoke hearts are tender.  Transfer the artichokes to a bowl and let cool, then cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate.  This will keep in the refrigerator for a week. Serve cold.
Theme: April Potluck!

Sunday, April 26, 2015

Jacques Pépin's Crème Brûlée

Crème brûlée is the ultimate in classic French desserts.  Smooth creamy custard topped off with that crackly caramelized sugar...C'est Magnifique!  Light and luscious, it's the perfect way to end just about any meal.

Jacques' recipe is simple and straightforward. The custard, which we all know can be difficult, came together perfectly and was hands down the easiest and best custard I've ever made.  I poured the beautiful custard into my ramekins with great satisfaction and baked the custards in a water bath as directed. Jacques said to check the water bath to ensure the water didn't come to a boil. I checked ten minutes into baking and the water was still warm and not boiling. I felt 100% sure my crème brûlée was going to be perfect! However, I checked back a few minutes later and the water was boiling! "No, no, no"  I scream to myself as I throw ice cubes into the pan frantically. The water stopped boiling immediately but by that time I was feeling rather deflated. I carefully watched the water from that point on and allowed the crème brûlée to finish it's cooking time.

The crème brûlée was still delicious but since the water bath came to a boil for a few minutes they didn't have that smooth silky texture I was after.  I'm actually quite happy the crème brûlée turned out at all considering my faux pas.  Moral of the story: When making crème brûlée start with cool water and occasionally throw in ice cubes to lower the temp of the water bath. No matter how much time you spend in the kitchen you always learn new tricks and that is part of the fun. Looking forward to trying this one again so I can master it!
Crème Brûlée
Adapted from Essential Pepin
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

1 cup milk
1/2 vanilla bean, cut in half
1 large egg
4 large egg yolks
1/4 cup granulated sugar
1 cup heavy cream

6 tablespoons light brown sugar

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Combine the milk and vanilla in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Cover, remove from the heat, and let steep for 5 minutes.

Beat the egg and egg yolks with the sugar in a bowl and add the cream. Add the steeped milk mixture, stirring well to mix thoroughly.  Strain through a fine strainer. 

Arrange six 1/2-cup souffle dishes or ramekins in a roasting pan and fill them with the crème brûlée mixture. Add enough lukewarm water to the pan to come halfway up the sides of the dishes. Bake for 25 to 30 minutes, until the crème is set. (The water around the dishes should not boil; if it begins to boil, add some ice to lower the temperature and stop the boiling.)  Remove the custards from the water bath and let cool.  When the custards are cool, cover and refrigerate until cold.  You can make the custards up to 3 days ahead.
 At serving time, or no more than 1 hour beforehand, preheat the broiler.  This can also be done with a propane torch. Spread 2 teaspoons of the brown sugar evenly over the top of each custard. Place the custards under the broiler and broil, moving them around and watching them closely, until the sugar bubbles and turns uniformly brown, approximately 3 minutes.  Let cool for at least 10 minutes, until the sugar surface hardens, before serving.
Theme: C'est Magnifique!

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Jacques Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques

I'm fairly certain there are no words, or pictures, that are good enough to describe how magnificent Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques were. This classical French recipe exceeded our expectations. It's fair to say it blew our minds!

Don't make the same mistake as me and wait too long to make this one.  Add it to the top of your list, move it to the top of your list, or do whatever you gotta do...but make this and make this soon!

Coquilles St. Jacques, or gratin of scallops, is fit for royalty! It's very impressive on the plate and oh so heavenly. It all begins with a mushroom puree that cooks down for 25 minutes resulting in a very earthy and concentrated mushroom flavor. This mushroom base is the first layer of flavor and this layer is so flavorful you need little seasoning elsewhere. Next up is a beautifully seasoned poaching liquid whereby the scallops are poached until perfectly tender. This poaching liquid is then reduced and added to a velvety cream and Gruyere cheese sauce that is the stuff of dreams. Seriously.  Layer this heavenly sauce over the scallops and broil until browned and bubbly for a sensational first course, or even main course, fit for entertaining royalty.

This is my selection for this months Mystery Box Madness over at IHCC. We were given a list of ten ingredients (Scallops, Tarragon, Sour Cream, Walnuts, Capers, Asparagus, White Beans, Gruyere, Yeast, and Rice) to cook with and had to chose at least three. I chose scallops, tarragon, and Gruyere simply because I have little experience cooking with scallops and I'm so happy I chose to make Pepin's Coquilles St. Jacques. It's one of our new favorite dishes!

Coquilles St. Jacques
Recipe found on Saveur
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 6

 8 oz. button mushrooms, minced
6 tbsp. unsalted butter
3 small shallots, minced
2 tbsp. minced parsley
1 tbsp. minced tarragon, plus 6 whole leaves, to garnish
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
¾ cup dry vermouth
1 bay leaf
6 large sea scallops
2 tbsp. flour
½ cup heavy cream
⅔ cup grated Gruyère
½ tsp. fresh lemon juice

Heat mushrooms, 4 tbsp. butter, and ⅔ of the shallots in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat; cook until the mixture forms a loose paste, about 25 minutes. Stir parsley and minced tarragon into mushroom mixture; season with salt and pepper. Divide mixture among 6 cleaned scallop shells or shallow gratin dishes. Bring remaining shallots, vermouth, bay leaf, salt, and ¾ cup water to a boil in a 4-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add scallops; cook until barely tender, about 2 minutes. Remove scallops; place each over mushrooms in shells. Continue boiling cooking liquid until reduced to ½ cup, about 10 minutes; strain. Heat broiler to high. Heat remaining butter in a 2-qt. saucepan over medium heat. Add flour; cook until smooth, about 2 minutes. Add reduced cooking liquid and cream; cook until thickened, about 8 minutes. Add cheese, juice, salt, and pepper; divide the sauce over scallops. Broil until browned on top, about 3 minutes; garnish each with a tarragon leaf.
Theme: April Mystery Box Madness

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Jacques Pepin's Pasta & Ham Gratin

This glorious gratin is a fantastic way to use up that leftover ham from Easter.  A comforting combination of pasta, ham, peas, and Gruyere cheese tossed in a creamy and smooth bechamel sauce then topped with a lots of Parmesan that gets all browned and crispy.  It's heavenly!

This is the first Jacques Pepin recipe that I've made and it was a smashing success! I'm really looking forward to cooking and exploring Pepin's recipes. He has a large variety of recipes from various cuisines around the world, but it's his traditional French recipes that really draw me in. Over the next six months I hope to get familiar with lots of classical French dishes, from Coquilles St. Jacques to Chocolate Mousse. Who knows, I may even try my hand at some homemade croissants!

Time to break out the butter and Champagne.

Pasta, Ham, and Veggie Gratin
Adapted from Fast Food My Way
by Jacques Pepin
Serves 4

Jacques says, "My mother loved gratins, and leftover meat and cold cuts always found their way into our pasta, usually along with zucchini or peas. I have made gratins for my family through the years."

About 1-3/4 cups pasta shells or penne
1-1/2 cups diced cooked ham
3/4 cup cooked corn kernels (1 ear of corn)*
1/2 cup peas, fresh or frozen
1-1/2 cups cubed  (1/2-inch) zucchini*
3/4 cup grated Swiss/Gruyere/Emmenthaler cheese
salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste

White Sauce:
2 tablespoons butter
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
2 tablespoons freshly grated Parmesan cheese

Note: I didn't have corn or zucchini so I opted to use only peas. Broccoli and/or Cauliflower would also be nice.

 Bring about 2 quarts salted water to a boil in a large saucepan. Add the pasta, stir well, and return to a boil.  Boil, uncovered, until cooked but still slightly firm, or al dente, about 12 minutes. Drain, cool under cold running water, then drain again. (You will have 3 cups.)

Put the cooked pasta in a large bowl and stir in the ham, corn, peas, zucchini, salt, pepper, and cheese.

For the white sauce:  Melt the butter in a saucepan, add the flour, and mix it in with a whisk. Add the milk and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally with the whisk, especially at the edges of the saucepan. The sauce should thicken. Remove the pan from the heat, and mix in the cream. Let cool to lukewarm.

Heat the broiler.  Combine the sauce with the pasta mixture in the bowl and transfer to a gratin dish or shallow baking dish with about 6 cup capacity.  Sprinkle the Parmesan cheese on top.

Broil about 4 inches from the heat source for 6-8 minutes, or until bubbly hot and the surface is lightly browned.  Serve immediately.

Make Ahead Instructions: The gratin can be made ahead, sprinkled with Parmesan, and kept, covered at room temperature for a few hours or refrigerated for up to a day before it is finished in the oven. If refrigerated, bring back to room temperature and bake on a cookie sheet for about 30 minutes in a 425F oven until heated through and lightly browned on top. Do not try to keep the cooked gratin in a warm oven for more than 10 to 15 minutes, or the pasta will swell up in the liquid and become gooey.
I Heart Cooking Clubs
Theme: Bonjour Jacque Pepin

Sunday, April 5, 2015

My Top Five Diana Henry Recipes

Over at I Heart Cooking Clubs we've been cooking the recipes of Diana Henry for the past six months. Usually I have a tendency to chose main dish recipes, but this time around I mixed it up and cooked quite a selection. I made breakfast, lunch, and dinner. I made vegetarian dishes as well as meat-based dishes. I cooked some of her healthy recipes but also managed a few indulgent dishes. I even made a dessert! Everything I made was tasty, but these were my top five!

Click on recipe name to be redirected to original post

Of all the Diana Henry recipes I tried, this Kale Pesto with Pasta was my personal favorite. I'm rather biased since I happen to love kale, but I will say that everyone in my house thought this was delicious! Hearty, flavorful, robust and satisfying...I've made it a few times already.

If I were to pick an overall family favorite, it would be these Asian Pork Balls with Chili Dipping Sauce. They were pretty much exploding with flavor and incredibly fun to eat. They disappeared in record time.

Of course, it's hard to beat a good ol' indulgent bowl of creamy pasta and this Spaghetti with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese is just that. This dish is a mix between Fettuccine Alfredo and Spaghetti Carbonara and is perfect comfort food. My teenage daughter loved it!

Broccoli is pretty much our favorite veggie, hands down.  My entire family enjoyed this refreshing Broccoli with Ricotta, Lemon, and Parmesan. If you're looking for a fun new way to serve your broccoli give this a try!

Lastly, I love all things maple. This maple baked granola is perfect as a snack, served with milk, or sprinkled over yogurt. Doesn't really matter what type of fruit or nuts you mix into it. Just pour the maple syrup on your choice of ingredients and bake.
Theme: Farewell Diana Henry!
For the next six months we will be cooking the recipes of the one and only Jacques Pepin! It's going to be a wonderful adventure cooking up his recipes. If you would like to cook along, visit our site at I Heart Cooking Clubs, or click here to be directed to our Welcome page.

Sunday, March 29, 2015

Sweet Cinnamon Breakfast Pizza

This Sweet Cinnamon Breakfast Pizza has been on my must-make list ever since Giada made it on her original cooking show, Everyday Italian, which was quite frankly many years ago.  I suppose this proves my must-make list is way too long. I mean I actually have recurring nightmares about my list. In my dream someone is chasing me and I tell them I can't die because I have way too many recipes left to cook! The pressure...

I'm so happy I finally got around to this Sweet Cinnamon Breakfast Pizza. It's so pretty! Imagine sweet buttery crust dusted with cinnamon-sugar, spread with a heavy-hand of creamy mascarpone cheese, topped with ripe juicy fruit. It's a little bit of heaven on a plate.

It's also the perfect treat for the season, whether you serve it for Easter Brunch, Mother's Day, Bridal Showers, Graduation, or any other spring celebration.  I also love that you can make this ahead of time. Let's face it. Hosting parties is always stressful and we all need as many make ahead gems as possible.  Feel free to change up the berries as you like. Use whatever is in season in your part of the world.  Just do me a favor and keep it in mind for your upcoming celebrations. You won't be sorry.

Sweet Cinnamon Breakfast Pizza
Adapted from Food Network
By Giada Delaurentiis
Serves 4-6

1 store-bought pizza dough
2 tablespoons butter, melted
4 tablespoons Cinnamon-Sugar, divided, recipe follows
2 cups mascarpone cheese
1 tablespoon heavy cream
2 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
2 cups mixed berries

1 vanilla bean
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon ground cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

To Make Cinnamon-Sugar: Cut the vanilla bean in half, lengthwise. Using the back of a knife, scrape along the inside of the vanilla bean to collect the seeds. Scrape vanilla bean seeds into a small bowl. Add sugar and cinnamon and stir to combine. Set aside in a small serving bowl.

To Make Pizza:  Using a rolling pin, roll out the pizza dough to a thickness of about 1/4 inch (Keep in mind how thick you'd like your pizza to be. I wish I had made mine a bit thinner).  Transfer the pizza dough to the lined baking sheet and brush the dough with the melted butter. Sprinkle with 2 tablespoons Cinnamon-Sugar and bake until golden brown, about 10 to 15 minutes. Cool the pizza crust on a wire rack.

To Make The Topping:  In a medium bowl, mix together the cheese, cream, lemon juice, and zest. Spread the cheese mixture over the cooled crust. Top with mixed berries and sprinkle with the remaining Cinnamon-Sugar. Slice like a pizza and serve.
Theme: March Potluck!

Sunday, March 22, 2015

Spaghetti with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese

This week at I Heart Cooking Clubs we're celebrating dishes that are Suitable For The Screen, or food that you can enjoy while watching TV.  I will confess that anything, and I do mean ANYTHING, is suitable TV fare.  Fruit, chips, nuts, popcorn, chips, candy, ice cream, cookies, cereal, fried chicken, fries, soup, pizza, and pasta to name a few.

For this particular screening, I wanted to be a total couch potato so I was looking for something extravagant, calorie-laden, and comforting. This Spaghetti with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese seemed like the perfect dish to enjoy while snuggled up on the couch settling in for a good old TV marathon.  Reminiscent of Fettuccine Alfredo, this dish is creamy, cheesy, and the epitome of comfort food. The bacon and fried eggs add that special touch that make this dish simply over the top. We're talking food coma. You can happily while away the afternoon cleaning off your DVR after enjoying a bowl. After all, someone has to clean off the DVR.

Cue the remote and grab a bowl.
Spaghetti with Bacon, Egg, and Cheese
Recipe found on Kitchen Flavours 
Adapted from Pure Simple Cooking
by Diana Henry 

12 ounces spaghetti
3-4 tablespoons butter or olive oil
8 ounces of bacon, sliced
4 large eggs
1 cup cream*
1/2 cup Parmesan, plus extra for garnishing
3 to 4 tablespoons parsley, chopped
salt and pepper

Note: The cream is my addition to this recipe. You could add a splash of cream or up to 1 cup of cream. I found my pasta to be somewhat dry so I added around 3/4 cup of cream. If you have leftovers simply add a splash of cream or milk and reheat.

Cook the spaghetti in plenty of boiling salted water until al dente. When it's almost ready, heat 1 tbsp of the butter, or olive oil, in a large frying pan and cook the bacon until crisp and well coloured. Transfer bacon to a dish. Fry the eggs in remaining bacon fat, spooning the warm oil up over the top of the eggs to cook the yolks. Season with salt and pepper.

Drain the pasta, then put it back in the saucepan. To the pasta, add the remaining butter or extra virgin olive oil, a little salt, pepper, the bacon, cream, Parmesan, parsley and, and toss. Sprinkle on extra grated Parmesan, and top each serving with a fried egg. Serve immediately.

Theme:Suitable For The Screen